Friday, December 23, 2011

Week 16 Christmas Picks

Another in a series of Sad Fitz photos

Merry Christmas, y'all. I'm writing this one from the heart of Dolphins country, South Florida. The weather's nice, and the team is better than the Bills. Buffalo really is cursed. Once again, missed the Thursday Night Pick. Would've gone Texans win, Colts cover, so at least I got an ATS win. As for the last two weeks (I forgot to tally up the Week 14 picks), 13-3 Overall and 7-9 ATS for Week 14; 9-7 overall and 6-9-1 ATS for Week 15. Yikes against the spread, folks, but at least I can pick winners.

Oakland at  Kansas City (-2.5)
Oakland's gone through a horrible slide and their bet that they could make the playoffs with Carson Palmer is looking like a huge mistake. Good thing this team won't have a number one pick for the next two years to get any better! As for the Chiefs, they just beat the Packers and have some serious momentum under Romeo Crennel (yes, I was very wrong about him last week. The Chiefs definitely hated Todd Haley). The AFC West is basically a crapshoot, so, of course, the Chiefs will take this one to further muddle the picture.
Pick: Kansas City wins, covers

Denver (-2.5) at Buffalo
Do you really think Tim Tebow is going to lose on the eve of the birth of his savior? Do you really think the Bills can compete against the Broncos' great running game and defense? Absolutely not. It might not be pretty, but the Broncos should win pretty easily. The only way this would not happen is if the Bills pulled a classic 'Bills' move and won out and got a worse draft pick because of it. (*long, exasperated sigh on behalf of all Bills fans). Still, losing seems more likely.
Pick: Broncos win, cover

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-7.5)
The Titans just lost to the Colts last week and they're getting seven over a just as good Jaguars team? Sorry, can't trust the Titans to comfortably win this one. The Jacksonville defense is good enough to hamper a middling Titans offense for long enough in the game to keep it close. The Jaguars just won't be able to win because of Blaine Gabbert's bad quarterbacking, throwing to the worst corps of receivers in the league.
Pick: Titans win, Jaguars cover

Arizona at Cincinnati (-4.5)
The Bengals have faded a bit since their hot start, as their schedule has become increasingly difficult. The Cardinals have gone on a mini run to get back into longshot playoff contention behind proto-Tebow John Skelton. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they're away from home, and the Bengals are fighting for their playoff lives and are overall a better team. It'll stay close, but I like the Bengals.
Pick: Bengals win, Cardinals cover

Miami at New England (-9.5)
New England's been great this season, what with their fancy two tight end offense that masks their terrible defense. But I love the Dolphins- Reggie Bush is finally living up to his potential, Matt Moore has a weird connection with Brandon Marshall, and the defense is very good. I like the Patriots to take this by sheer dint of their offense, but I think the Dolphins will make it pretty interesting.
Pick: New England wins, Miami covers

Cleveland at Baltimore (-12.5)
The Ravens have a chance to clinch their division this week, and the Browns are still the Browns: nothing to see here. The Ravens have had a terrible habit of playing down to opponents, but were able to smack down the Browns last time they played, so I'm hesitantly picking the Ravens to cover as well as win.
Pick: Ravens win, cover

NY Giants "at" NY Jets (-3)
I hate both these teams, picks wise, because they are maddeningly inconsistent. I guess I'll pick based on either team's best possible performance; and in that case, I like the offense of the Giants and their pass rushing defense better than the Jet's ground and pound offense and not-as-good-as-the-hype defense.
Pick: Giants win, cover

Minnesota at Washington (-7)
The Redskins have made something of their previously doomed season behind the resurgence of Rex Grossman and a slightly better running game. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson back, though, and the Redskins aren't great on defense, so I see the Redskins victimizing the Viking's poor pass defense and the Vikings making a game out of it before ultimately losing.
Pick: Redskins win, Vikings cover

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-7.5)
While Tampa Bay has been pretty bad this season, the Panthers haven't been nearly good enough for me to trust them with 7.5 points. It should be a close battle between these two NFC South also-rans, and I like Cam Newton and the Panthers to win, but the Bucs will stick around.
Pick: Panthers win, Buccaneers cover

St. Louis at Pittsburgh (-12.5)
Charlie Batch always comes in and plays decently for the Steelers, and that should be quite enough against the Rams, who have been the most disappointing team of the season. Remember when we all thought the Rams would take the NFC West? Ha!
Pick: Steelers win, cover

San Diego at Detroit (-2)
I wish I wasn't getting tricked into another Chargers late season run, but here they are, and here I am, picking them to beat a Lions team that only has a playoff chance because Matt Forte and Jay Culter got injured. Feel like I might hate this pick, but here goes: Chargers win.
Pick: Chargers win, cover

San Francisco (-1) at Seattle 
If the spread wasn't just a point, I would pick the Seahawks to cover, because they're at home and have been playing increasingly well. The 49ers shocked me in dismantling the Steelers last week (albeit without a healthy Ben Roethlisberger), but I don't think they'll find this game quite easy. Still, they should win, probably on a Akers field goal or something.
Pick: 49ers win, cover

Philadelphia at Dallas (-1)
The Eagles have finally stopped making the dumb mistakes that led them to their horrible start. The Cowboys seem long overdue for another Romo-led collapse. Plus, the Eagles have been playing lights out recently. Dallas' defense is horrible against the pass, got beat by a worse version of this Eagles team already, and the offense is still sometimes wonky thanks to Romo. Like the Eagles here, even if the game becomes meaningless for them with a Giants win.
Pick: Eagles win, cover

Chicago at Green Bay (-11.5)
Green Bay may have lost last week, but they're still far and away the best offense in the league. The Bears are starting Cade Josh McNown at quarterback, so even with all the motivation in the world to beat the hated Packers, I don't see them being able to keep up.
Pick: Packers win, Bears cover

Atlanta at New Orleans (-7)
Anyone watching Drew Brees lately should know that this doesn't even seem fair. The Saints offense has been ridiculous lately, and as much as the Falcons wish they had the same kind of firepower, Matt Ryan is no Drew Brees. Both defenses aren't that good, so it'll come down to the offense, and the Saints have a clear advantage.
Pick: Saints cover, win 

Season: 148-76 overall, 110-109-5 ATS

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week 15 NFL Picks- the Return of Losman!

J.P Losman makes his triumphant return to Buffalo!

Hi Folks. Sorry to have missed the Thursday and Saturday Night games, but, on the mystical honor code once again, I would've gone 2-0 overall and against the spread. It's not that impressive a feat, considering both those games were huge mismatches. Let's quickly get into Week 15. I can't really muster any excitement for the season anymore with this Bills losing streak. Getting up on Sundays is a chore. Let's go on ahead.

Washington at NY Giants (-6.5)
The Giants finally got off the schneid and won a close game with the Cowboys, giving the Giants control of the NFC East. The Giants are prone to disappointing performances coming off big wins, and the Redskins have hung around in their games lately, but I don't see the Giants letting up now that the division title is within their grasp.
Pick: Giants win, cover

Green Bay (-14.5) at Kansas City
Kansas City just fired their coach, and now the venerable Romeo Crennel steps in just in time to face off against the juggernaut that is the 2011 Packers. No amount of new coach motivation will be able to lift the Chiefs above their mediocrity to even keep up with the Packers.
Pick: Packers win, cover

New Orleans (-7.5) at Minnesota
The Saints are rolling right now, with Drew Brees on pace to destroy Dan Marino's single season passing yards record and an offense explosive enough to hide their poor defense. The Vikings have the worst pass defense in the league, Adrian Peterson is only just returning from injury, and Christian Ponder is still the quarterback. It should be pretty easy for the Saints in this one. 
Pick: Saints win, cover

Seattle at Chicago (-3.5)
Is Caleb Hanie still starting for the Bears? Yes? Well I certainly can't pick them. The offense without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte is effectively dead. No matter how good the defense is, the offense can't put up enough to win every week; the Seahawks are on a mini-run and have Marshawn Lynch in beast mode right now, and should be able to get enough points to beat the decrepit Bears offense.
Pick: Seahawks win, cover

Miami at Buffalo (-1.5)
Maybe I'm still too hopeful about the Bills, but I still think they should be able to beat J.P. Losman. A loss here would be the final blow on my psyche. The Bills offense is very hit or miss, and could hit, and the Dolphins offense should struggle under Losman (I've seen enough Losman games to predict this- watch for a backbreaking interception or three!)
Pick: Bills win, cover

Carolina at Houston (-6)
Houston's found a way to grind out victories against any opponent without Matt Schaub or Andre Johnson behind a great defense and running game. The Panthers have Cam Newton and a terrible defense. It won't be the most exciting win, but the Texans will take this one handily, even if the highlights are focused on Newton's exploits.
Pick: Texans win, cover

Tennessee (-6.5) at Indianapolis 
The Titans aren't even that good, but the Colts are very bad. I'm still hedging my bets here, because it's hard to go 0-16 in this league, and if the Colts were going to win any game, this might well be it. These winless teams always come out and shock one team a year... and why not the Titans? I'm not betting on it, but I could see it.
Pick: Titans win, Colts cover

Cincinnati (-7) at St.Louis
The Rams have been atrocious all season, despite their one shining moment win over the Saints. The Bengals have struggled against quality opponents this year, but they finally get a break here. The Bengals are in the thick of the playoff race, need this win, and will take care of business of the hapless Rams.
Pick: Bengals win, cover

Detroit (-1) at Oakland
Both these teams are poorly coached, ceding way too many penalties per game in an effort to be 'tough' or 'nasty.' It's only intimidating until it costs you points, or a game, which has happened to both of these teams. Based on their recent runs, I'll go with the Lions, because the Raiders have been atrocious lately. Plus, Ndamukong Suh is back to stomp on more people!
Pick: Lions win, cover

New England (-7.5) at Denver 
Tim Tebow has gotten his seven wins against teams with decent to bad offenses. The Patriots have one of the best offenses in the league, although their defense lets teams hang around too long. While Tebow should be able to keep the Broncos close, the Patriots offense will be too much for the Broncos defense (the real key to Tebow's success), limiting any more 'miracles' from Tebow. Finally.
Pick: Patriots win, Broncos cover

NY Jets (-3) at Philadelphia 
The Jets have managed to become playoff contenders behind a strong running game and their typically tough defense; still, I don't see them as a really good team as long as Mark Sanchez is still at QB. The Eagles have underachieved all season, are still hanging by a thread in the NFC East race, and have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. I might be once again going down with this infuriating team, but I like the Eagles here.
Pick: Eagles win, cover

Cleveland at Arizona (-6.5)
John Skelton is even more Tebow-y than Tebow, in that he just wins game and he doesn't even have Tebow's run ability. The Cardinals are also inexplicably very good at home. Once again, I can't come up with anything about the Browns, who remain steadfast in losing ugly. Cleveland! Feel the excitement!
Pick: Cardinals win, cover

Baltimore (-2.5) at San Diego
San Diego has rattled off two straight wins against crappy opponents; now they're up against the Ravens, who have a real defense and an efficient offense. The Chargers haven't shown they can win against a good team yet, and Baltimore will be able to grind out a win here.
Pick: Ravens win, cover

Pittsburgh at San Francisco (-3)
While the 49ers are built in the same vein as the Ravens, a team that has beat the Steelers twice this season, I thought the 49ers-Ravens game exposed the 49ers fatal flaw- they're too safe on offense. On 3rd and long, they were running draw plays, trying to prevent turnovers. The Steelers have a good enough offense to score points on the 49ers defense (probably through the air), and the defense should be able to shut down the extremely conservative 49ers offense- field goals will not be enough for the 49ers, and that means a rare 49ers loss.
Pick: Steelers win, cover

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Week 14 NFL Picks: The Wave of Apathy

Sad Fitz sums up the season thus far
Welcome to Week 14, folks, where good games go to die. There's only one game this week between teams that could be considered good- Cowboys vs Giants- and that's about it. The rest is either big mismatches or horrible teams having to play one another. Even better, the Bills continue in their five game losing streak, which is really brightening up my holiday season. So, to this week, I give a big ol' "meh." On to the picks. Last week I was 12-4 Overall and 9-7 ATS, which continues the trend of good overall, decent against the spread. Hey, it's not my money you're hypothetically spending.

Indianapolis at Baltimore (-16.5)

Here's one of the 'massive mismatch' games of the week, as the winless Colts take on the occasionally transcendent Ravens. I would usually take the Ravens to cover, but given their propensity to play down to their opponents, and the Colts spirited backdoor cover of the Patriots last week, I can't put my full weight behind the Ravens coming out and winning by at least 17. The Ravens love to make things interesting, no matter who the opponent is. Side note: With the way things are going now, I can't wait to see NFL Films Season Recap film for the 2011 Colts. The pinnacle of the season is a seven point loss to the Patriots, with swelling orchestra music behind it.
Pick: Ravens win, Colts cover

Houston at Cincinnati (-3)

Houston, without QB/WR duo Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, have managed to win football games the old fashioned way- run the ball and play great defense. Heck, even TJ Yates looked half decent last week. The Bengals have faltered a little bit now that they've started playing good teams; the offense has been exposed as limited and the defense, without CB Leon Hall, has struggled to completely contain offenses. With that in mind, I like the Texans to take this one with a steady diet of Arian Foster and a stifling D that should shut down the Bengals "Huck it to AJ Green" offense.
Pick:Texans win, cover

Oakland at Green Bay (-12)

Oakland is still without Darren McFadden, the running back that made the offense explosive, and the defense let the Dolphins destroy them last week. The Packers faced their hardest test remaining last week in a close game with the Giants, still managing to win despite Aaron Rodgers only playing merely "well" instead of his usual "ridiculous." The Raiders don't have the weapons on either side of the ball to really challenge the Packers, which means another week of effortless perfection by the Packers. They make it look so easy, don't they?
Pick: Packers win, cover

Kansas City at NY Jets (-10.5)

Tyler Palko was bad enough to get benched last week, but finagled his way back in after Kyle Orton hurt his finger. His only touchdown so far was a goofy Hail Mary last week. The rest of it has set back the art of quarterbacking 50 years or so. The Jets have their own terrible quarterback, but he has a solid running game and a good defense surrounding him, so they get by just fine.
Pick: Jets win, cover

Minnesota at Detroit (-9.5)

The Lions have barely fared better than the Bills have after their hot start, going 2-5 after a 5-0 start. Their offense has no running game at this point, and teams can shift coverage onto Calvin Johnson and effectively shut down the passing offense. On defense, the Lions are still without Ndamukong Suh (suspension) and are otherwise unimpressive on defense (Nick Fairley's made a huge difference, huh?) The Vikings aren't any better, of course, and they're still without Adrian Peterson, but all I'm saying is, I don't get the ten point spread here-the Lions aren't that good. The Lions should still win, but it will hardly be dominating.
Pick: Lions win, Vikings cover

New Orleans (-3.5) at Tennessee

The Saints have had some trouble on the road this season, especially against inferior opponents, but they seem to be on a roll right now. Drew Brees is playing absurdly well right now, the running game has kind of shown up, and the defense isn't bad enough to get them in trouble. After watching the Titans last week, I'm less than impressed- the defense isn't especially good, and the offense will have trouble keeping up with the Saints, especially if Chris Johnson can't get it going. The Saints should be able to end their road woes here, and perhaps hurt the Titans' chances at a wild card or the AFC South.
Pick: Saints win, cover

Philadelphia at Miami (-3)

Even with Michael Vick back under center for the Eagles, can you really trust the Bizarro Eagles? All season they've completely underwhelmed expectations at every turn, exposing a horrible defense (turns out hiring an offensive coordinator for the defensive coordinator job doesn't work) and an offense that seems like the playcaller doesn't want the team to score. LeSean McCoy, perhaps the best running back in the NFL this season, spends pockets of the game ignored while the offense runs another deep pass to DeSean Jackson, who doesn't even look back for the ball before it's picked off. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have spend the last four weeks just winning football games behind a solid defense and a weirdly explosive offense. I'll take that any day over the failed potential of the Eagles.
Pick: Dolphins win, cover

New England (-8) at Washington

New England keeps taking care of business: another three touchdowns for Tom Brady (all thrown to Rob Gronkowski) and a defense that's found a way to bend but not break. The Redskins are running business as usual, but only in the Bluth Company sense- completely dysfunctional. Top tight end Fred Davis, for instance, was just suspended four games for an offseason drug test that came up positive, giving a whole new meaning to the label "Offseason Champs" that the Redskins usually get. The ruthless efficiency of the Patriots should be more than enough to take down the Rex Grossman led, falling apart Redskins.
Pick: Patriots win, cover

Atlanta (-3) at Carolina

The Falcons continue to be the best boring team in the NFL, while the Panthers manage to be the worst exciting team in the league. Unfortunately for Cam Newton and all his exciting plays, the defense is basically non existent. The Falcons should be able to plod their way down the field enough times to pull out the victory here, while the Panthers will win in style points alone.
Pick: Falcons win, cover

Tampa Bay (-3) at Jacksonville

Oh God, this is not a fun game to even think about. The Jaguars have a pretty good defense that has been eroded by defense, and Blaine Gabbert seems to be regressing from week to week, probably because he doesn't have any receivers to throw to; they might as well put Air Bud out there. Tampa has a terrible defense, but the offense can be decent, provided that Josh Freeman plays. And, lucky for them, the Jaguars don't have enough on offense to challenge them (sorry, just Maurice Jones Drew is not enough). In the battle of "Not South Florida," I'll go with Tampa, but I hope I don't have to watch a second of it. (Though I would watch if the Bucs kept wearing their Creamsicle Orange jerseys)
Pick: Buccaneers win, cover

San Francisco (-4) at Arizona 

Arizona is only getting four points here because of their home field advantage, but, unlike the Cowboys, the 49ers don't have some sort of jinx in Arizona. The 49ers will do their usual 49ers thing- great defense, run the ball, and kick field goals. Arizona will counter with "Kevin Kolb just wings it for 60 minutes, hope the other team ices their own kicker, and randomly win in OT," but that's not a blueprint for long term success. Just like acquiring Kevin Kolb as your quarterback of the future.
Pick: 49ers win, cover

Chicago at Denver (-3.5)

Last week I said that Caleb Hanie was a lot better than Donovan McNabb. Oops! Caleb Hanie is awful, and the Bears have lost Matt Forte for the next couple of weeks. This leaves Chicago without an offense, basically. Now they have to face a suddenly nasty Denver Broncos defense, which won't help matters. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos have this quarterback you might've heard about, and he plays well at the end of football games, and wins most of them. The Bears still have a great defense and wicked special teams, but their lack of offense will not be enough to keep up with whatever Tim Tebow is able to pull out at the end of this one.
Pick: Broncos win, cover

Buffalo at San Diego (-7)

Sigh. Last week, I ranted about how much I hated the Chargers and how they were basically the AFC version of the Eagles, and then they go out and trounce the Jaguars. The Bills continued to show their 2010 form in another "close but no cigar" loss last week to the Titans. The Chargers have far from a great defense, meaning the Bills could theoretically stick around, but the Chargers weapons on offense should be more than enough to beat a Swiss Cheese Bills defense. It feels like it will be a classic "Bills stick around and then lose in the end" game, which should mean another great Sunday for me. Hoo-ray. It's not too early to think of draft position, is it?
Pick: Chargers win, Bills cover

NY Giants at Dallas (-4)

The Giants just gave the Packers the hardest game they've played in months, while Dallas just choked away a game against the lowly Cardinals. And yet this is the spread? I'll happily take the Giants to win, then- they have a better offense and an at least equal defense to the Cowboys, and Tony Romo has infected the rest of the Cowbiys with a case of the choke-sies- even their coach. It's hard to believe, but Eli Manning has put together a top 10 (or even top 5) season this year, and that should continue against a vulnerable Cowboys defense.
Pick: Giants win, cover

St. Louis at Seattle (-10)

Remember when these two teams played for the division last season? Ha! While the Seahawks stick around in the playoff race (improbably), the Rams have fallen off a cliff this season. Now they're starting their third string quarterback, who I won't even make the effort of looking up. To add to that, they have a historically bad run defense, meaning Marshawn Lynch should be able to get all BEAST MODE against them. Oh yeah, the Seahawks are at home as well, where they have an obscene advantage. So yeah, the Seahawks should take this one pretty easily.
Picks: Seahawks win, cover

Also, I swear, at one point, I will weigh in on Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, The Bulls, Albert Pujols, the Cubs, and OH YEAH the Sabres. Once I have time.

Season:126-66 Overall, 97-91-4 ATS

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Week 14 Thursday Night Pick

Pretty simple: (Won't get into any details of how I did last weekend. Without thinking, pretty good? More on Sunday.)

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-14)

It's Cleveland. They have no weapons on offense besides a barely-invested Peyton Hillis. Their defense has been decent-to-good all season, enough to make most of their games extremely boring- their offense doesn't score, and they prevent the opponent from scoring too much. Fortunately, the Steelers have enough fire power to beat the Browns defense, and the Steelers D shouldn't be challenged all too much. All that makes me think it'll be smooth sailing for the Steelers. Another great game on the NFL Network! (They get the last choice every week!)
Pick: Steelers win, cover

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 13 NFL Picks, Just in Time

Stevie Johnson, When it Counts.

Happy Sunday everyone! I'll get through this semi-quickly, since I'm running out of time. Last week, I went 11-5 Overall and 8-8 ATS, which is for all accounts pretty decent. (And I nailed the Thursday Night pick this week!) I don't even want to talk that much about the Bills; I'll get to that in the picks. Sorry, no huge theme for the column. Just picks. It's final exams time.

Tennessee at Buffalo (-1)

Last week was a pretty classic sucker punch Bills loss. The team came out and actually played well against the Jets, seemingly saying, "Oh, you thought we were going to just get blown out? No! We're going to play well and make this loss even more infuriating!" Just when you think it's done, they pull you back in. (As a side note: I thought Stevie Johnson's TD celebration was hilarious, going to the ground and drawing a flag was not, along with Dave Rayner's inability to kick off correctly. And Stevie's drop in the clutch? Well, no one likes that, and if he wants #1 receiver money, he has to perform in the clutch.) Anyway, I'm not getting suckered into picking the Bills again. The Titans have a division title to play for now that TJ Yates is starting at QB for the Texans, and the Bills still have no defense and a streaky offense. It might be close, but not seeing the Bills winning this one; they've destroyed my homerism this season.
Pick: Titans win, cover

Kansas City at Chicago (-7.5)

Donovan McNabb could be starting for the Bears and I'd still pick them. Tyler Palko is that bad as the Chiefs' QB. The Bears have the defense and special teams to get it done; Caleb Hanie needs to just hand off to Matt Forte and limit mistakes, and it should be smooth sailing for the Bears. Also, Bears fans hoping to sign Donovan McNabb- really? Why would you want that ever? McNabb, at this point, is leagues away from Hanie. Not worth it.
Pick: Bears win, cover

Oakland at Miami (-3.5)

Miami is actually pretty good. Matt Moore is inexplicably playing well, and the defense, which was very good last year, has returned to that form. Oakland won mostly on field goals last week against a weakened Bears team; and they're coming on a cross country flight. I'll take the Fins to win and further shake up the AFC West division race.
Pick: Dolphins win, cover

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-6.5)

Cinci just barely scraped by the Browns last week, and now come into Pittsburgh. The Bengals still have a good shot at the playoffs, but I can't see them beating an elite team like the Steelers. Steelers have too many weapons on offense and a better defense than the Bengals. The Bengals will stick around, but eventually, the cream rises to the top.
Pick: Steelers win, Bengals cover

Baltimore (-7) at Cleveland

The Ravens just came off a big win against the 49ers; and here comes the inevitable letdown against a crappy opponent that has characterized the Ravens this season. The Browns remain the most uninteresting team in the NFL; literally nothing jumps out at me to talk about. The Ravens have to break out of this play-down-to-their-opponent funk sometime (their coach has been preaching it this week), and I guess I'll go with this week as the one. Although I could definitely be cursing this when it's 13-3 Browns in the 4th quarter.
Pick: Ravens win, Browns cover

NY Jets (-3) at Washington

The Jets are still not that good; Mark Sanchez had the worst 4-TD quarterback performance I've ever seen, and the defense is not impenetrable anymore. Good for the Jets, the Redskins are still pretty bad, despite Rex Grossman's good play the last three weeks. Can't see Rex doing much better than Fitz did last week against the Jets, and the Redskins have a defense that's as good as the Bills- which all leads to another Jets win. As much as it pains me to say.
Pick: Jets win, cover

Atlanta (-1.5) at Houston

Welcome to the T.J Yates era in Houston! Can't think of anyone successful who goes by the name "T.J"in the adult world- so that's never a good sign. The Falcons should be able to stack the box and prevent the Texans run game from taking over the game, forcing Yates to throw. On offense, the Falcons offense goes against the newly tough Houston defense. In the end, I think the Falcons offense will be able to have more success against the Texans defense than vice-versa. Which leads to a Falcons win, but I doubt it will be that easy.
Pick: Falcons win, cover

Carolina (-1.5) at Tampa Bay

Since I'm writing this an hour before the games begin, I get the benefit of knowing that Josh Freeman is out for this game. Which means that an already stagnant Bucs offense will be worse off. The Panthers have no defense, but against Josh Johnson, it won't matter as much. Cam Newton will be able to get it done against a mediocre Tampa defense, and we've got ourselves a fourth Carolina win. Oh yeah, Josh Freeman injured himself because he went to a firing range with an injured thumb on his throwing hand and decided to shoot with a DESERT EAGLE. This story should be much bigger.
Pick: Panthers win, cover

Detroit at New Orleans (-9)

The Lions are without Sir-Foot-Stomper Suh, and their defense already wasn't that good with him on the field. A week after being lit up by Aaron Rodgers, well, Drew Brees comes into town, and it won't be much prettier. Brees is well on his way to breaking Marino's season-passing-yards record, and the Lions won't be a hiccup in that chase. The Lions are still woefully one dimensional on offense (chuck it to Calvin Johnson!), and they will not be able to keep up with Brees and the Saints.
Pick: Saints win, cover

Denver (-1) at Minnesota

Denver is without Von Miller (another benefit to writing so late!), meaning the defense that has kept Tim Tebow is every game will not be quite as good. Lucky for them, Adrian Peterson is still out for the Vikings, and Christian Ponder isn't quite lighting up the stat sheet these days. Once again, Tebow should be able to pull this one out; one they play a good offense without Von Miller, this might be a different story.
Pick: Broncos win, cover

St. Louis at San Francisco (-14)

Yep. St. Louis is that bad, San Francisco has a chance to clinch the division. The NFC West: Clinched by Week 13! And it's not even close!
Pick: 49ers win, cover

Dallas (-4.5) at Arizona 

Dallas, for some reason, sucks at Arizona, but Kevin Kolb is returning for the Cardinals, and yes, it's a bad thing when he returns as starting QB. He's taken the crown of "ill advised back foot throws" from Jay Cutler. Dallas will probably win this game; they have more talent all over the field; but I'll take the Cardinals to cover, just in case Dallas continues to struggle in Arizona.
Pick: Cowboys win, Cardinals cover

Green Bay (-6.5) at NY Giants

Remember what Drew Brees did to the Giants last week? Aaron Rodgers has been better than Brees this season; this should be a cakewalk for Rodgers and the Packers' extremely efficient offense. The Giants are not as bad as previous Giants team that swooned in December; I still see them grabbing the division or a wild card. This week, though, will not be pretty.
Pick: Packers win, cover

Indianapolis at New England (-20.5)

Peyton Manning for MVP! There's the effect of not having Manning this year- the Patriots are twenty point favorites, and I'm very willing to take that spread, especially now that Dan Orlovsky is under center for the Colts. They might as well just put their punter at QB; it would be just as apparent that they have no interest in winning games this year.
Pick: Patriots win, cover

San Diego (-3) at Jacksonville

Screw the Chargers. I'm done believing in the talent this team as long as Norv Turner is still the coach. Jacksonville should be energized under their new coach and still have a great defense. Enough for me to believe that they can pull out a win over the underachieving, listless Chargers.
Pick: Jaguars win, cover

Season:114-62 Overall, 88-84-4 ATS (not including Thursday's results)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Battle of the Birds Thursday Night Pick

Thursday Night Football comes off a great Thanksgiving Night game to give us...this. Eagles-Seahawks. Yet again, how could any TV executive think this is a good game before the season started? Does the NFL Network get like the 8th pick for its' games? Well, anyway,

Philadelphia (-3) at Seattle

I know Seattle's pretty bad, but they do have a pretty hefty home field advantage, and they run the ball consistently, if not always well. The defense is pretty good against the run, with a crappy pass defense. The Eagles have been underperforming all season, looking less than impressive in most games. With Vince Young under center instead of Mike Vick, they've hardly looked any better. The short week should aid the Seahawks (the underdogs have performed better in the Thursday Night games so far), and they have a good enough run defense to limit LeSean McCoy, the most productive Eagle. The Eagles have a bad run defense, and the Seahawks should be successfully pounding the ball with Marshawn Lynch. While I have trouble trusting either team, I'm going out on a limb and predicting a Seahawks win, further torpedoing the Eagles season.
Pick: Seahawks win, cover

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week 12 NFL Picks: Yes, It's All Downhill from Here

CJ Spiller steps into the spotlight this week
In my last post, I posited that the Bills were basically doomed from this point onwards, and little hope remained for a playoff run. Well, with the distressing news of Fred Jackson's season ending leg injury, I can pretty much say that there's no hope for this team. Jackson accounted for 40% of the offense this year. One player! 40%! If the Bills were struggling on offense before this, well, it can't get any better without Jackson. The only silver lining from this development is the chance for CJ Spiller, so far a total bust, to get a starter's workload in the backfield. Who knows, maybe he'll flash the talent that made him the #9 pick. It doesn't look good for the Bills from here, though.

Anyway, I failed to make my Thanksgiving picks because I was traveling, but I would've gone (cross my heart, hope to die) Packers win, Lions cover; Cowboys win, Dolphins cover; Ravens win, cover. Which puts me at 3-0 overall and 2-1 ATS for this week. Or I'm a big, filthy liar, but that's the honor code for you.

Last week I went 9-5 Overall and 5-7-2 ATS-continuing my streak of good picking overall and poor against the spread. To be fair, it's my first year really picking spreads, and a lot of these games were a lot closer than expected. Anyway, onto the rest of Week 12, in the post Thanksgiving hangover.

Arizona at St. Louis (-2.5) 

Um...(plays eenie-meenie-minie-moe, throws at a dartboard blindfolded...) I'll take the Rams here? Honestly, both of these teams are awful, I wouldn't let any of my loved ones watch this game, and it's near impossible to pick between the two, like picking between spending time in a Turkish prison or the Gulag. In the end, no one is a winner.
Pick: Rams win, cover

Buffalo at NY Jets (-9.5)

The Jets aren't even that good of a team, as evidenced by last week's loss to the Broncos. Their offense is painful- they can't run and Mark Sanchez is still nowhere near a good quarterback.The defense is still very good, but not always enough to pick up the slack for the offense. And I still think they'll crush the Bills in their current state- injured and exposed on both sides of the ball. The Bills will lose this and we can stop pretending they're in the playoff race.
Pick: Jets win, cover

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-7.5)

The Bengals have lost their last two games to the elite of the AFC North, but have shown a lot of resolve in keeping both of those games close; right now, they look like a wild card team. The Browns are mediocre and boring on both sides of the ball; there's just nothing interesting or dangerous about this team. They were good enough to beat an offensively defunct Jaguars team, but I can't see them doing much damage against a stout Bengals defense and a talented offense.
Pick:Bengals win, cover

Houston (-6.5) at Jacksonville 

Houston has lost Matt Schaub for the rest of the season, and now the revered (for his partying) Matt Leinart steps in to take over what looks to be a playoff bound team. Fortunately for the Texans, he won't have to do much- the Texans defense is really good this year, and the run game is what makes the offense work well. Plus, it doesn't hurt that big target Andre Johnson is coming back, giving Leinart a big safety blanket if he needs it. Jacksonville, for all its quality on defense, can't do anything offensively. So even if Leinart crashes and burns, the Jaguars won't be able to benefit from the wreckage, and the Texans should be fine relying on Arian Foster anyways.
Pick: Texans win, cover

Carolina (-3.5) at Indianapolis

For all the excitement Cam Newton has brought to the Panthers, he's only provided them with two wins (although their porous defense is much to blame as well.) Lucky for him, the Panthers face off against the Colts, a winless team that seems close to resigned to not winning till 2012, with either Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck under center. Even with an awful defense on his side, Cam should be able to get it done against the listless Colts.
Pick: Panthers win, cover

Tampa Bay at Tennessee (-3.5)

Both of these teams confuse me; I can't tell what their relative quality is. Both have some offensive issues and mediocre defenses, but manage to hang around in games. Matt Hasselbeck is still the starter for the Titans, despite a Jake Locker appearance last week. As long as Hasselbeck and Chris Johnson are the main players in the Titans offense, I don't trust them much, while Tampa has a young nucleus of offensive players that have struggled this year, but could be breaking out right now. So I'll go with the Bucs here.
Pick: Bucs win, cover

Minnesota at Atlanta (-9.5)

Minnesota is without Adrian Peterson, far-and-away their best offensive threat, and their passing defense is pretty awful. Atlanta has righted the ship after a rocky start, playing their methodical offense and just good enough defense to pull out victories. It ain't always pretty (Julio Jones has brought a modicum of flair to the offense), but against a weak Vikings team, it should be more than enough to win.
Pick:Atlanta wins, cover

Chicago at Oakland (-3.5)

Even without Jay Cutler, the Bears have an astonishingly good special teams unit and a great defense. The offense was always predicated on Matt Forte, so Caleb Hanie's biggest responsibilities will have to be handing it off to Forte or throwing screen passes to Forte. The Raiders have risen above the squalor of the AFC West, but I still don't see them as a great team; their recent wins haven't been against quality teams, and they haven't been dominating in either win. The Bears can survive without Cutler, and this is the start.
Pick: Bears win, cover

Washington at Seattle (-3.5)

Yes, the Redskins were surprisingly competitive last week in taking the Cowboys in overtime, but can you really expect Rex Grossman to be consistently good? No, especially not on the road at the loudest stadium in the NFL, that of the Seahawks. The Seahawks have found an offensive identity in giving Marshawn Lynch the ball 30 times a game, no matter what, and hoping Tavaris Jackson can string together a couple plays of offensive competency. And their defense is OK. The Redskins have a bad defense and a potentially catastrophic offense (depending on which Rex shows up). I'll take consistent mediocrity over potential for mayhem.
Pick: Seattle wins, covers

New England (-3.5) at Philadelphia

The Eagles are yet again without Michael Vick, and while Vince Young's "Tebow" impression was cute last week, I don't see him being able to match an offensively gifted Patriots team. While the Bills defense has gotten worse and worse, the Patriots defense has managed to get better as the season has progressed- the sign of a true contender. The Eagles playoff chances will take a nosedive in this one, while the Patriots will move closer to an AFC East crown.
Pick: Patriots win, cover

Denver at San Diego (-5.5)

Tough to trust either team, as Philip Rivers has been terrible this season and Tim Tebow can't play quarterback well for more than five minutes. The Chargers are all hype with no substance, while the Broncos have a stingy defense to match their overhyped quarterback. The Chargers need this to stay alive in the AFC West, and have to put together a complete game sometime; the Broncos have gotten a little lucky these past five games under Tim Tebow. Something's gotta give, so I give it to the Chargers, though reluctantly.
Pick: Chargers win, Broncos cover

Pittsburgh (-10.5) at Kansas City

Tyler Palko is still at QB for the Chiefs, and he led the Chiefs to three whole points last week against an improving, but still weak, Patriots defense. Now he faces the Steelers defense, and they won't be as forgiving (if you consider a field goal forgiving). The Steelers also have a high powered offense as good as the Patriots, and the Patriots were able to put up 34 points against the Chiefs. All told, this should be easy sledding for the Steelers as they challenge the Ravens for the AFC North crown.
Pick: Steelers win, cover

NY Giants at New Orleans (-7)

New Orleans is rested, coming off a bye, and have what is probably the second best offense in the league (behind Green Bay's.) The Giants are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Eagles and have shown a propensity for infuriating inconsistency. I don't think their corners will be able to contain the Saints offense, and the Saints defense, far from world beaters, should be good enough to stop a Giants offense that's in a semi-funk. You never know, though, with the Giants, so I'll take them to cover, in case they decide to be competitive.
Pick: Saints win, cover

Season: 106-57 Overall, 82-77-4 ATS (counting Thanksgiving games)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paradise Lost in Buffalo

"he with his horrid crew/ lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf/ confounded though immortal: but now his doom/ reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought/ both of lost happiness and lasting pain/ torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes/ that witnessed huge affliction and dismay/ mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate"
-Paradise Lost, John Milton

The above passage describes Satan himself, in the aftermath of his expulsion from heaven, waking up in hell. But you know what? It perfectly describes the pain of this Bills season so far. Stick with me here as I get extremely English-Nerdy.

See, the Bills season started off unbelievably. There was the drubbing of the Chiefs in Week 1, the come from behind, thrill a minute shootout with the Raiders, and then, finally, the Patriots game. The Bills hadn't beat the Patriots in 15 tries. 15! That's about eight seasons of being the punching bag for the Patriots. Yet here were the Bills, going down 18 points in the first half, then storming back to win on a last second field goal. Heavenly. The Bills lost the next game, but only by three, hung on to beat the Eagles, barely lost to the Giants, and then convincingly beat the Redskins.

It all seemed so good. The offense was prodigious, seemingly able to score at will. Fred Jackson made the engine purr, was capable of busting off 10+ yard runs at will, he ambling down the field, changing direction subtly, like water. Ryan Fitzpatrick was accurate, made good decisions, and the quick passing game seemed good for at least seven yards every time. Also, they were deadly efficient in the Red Zone. The defense had a better run defense than last year and were creating turnovers at key times by either undercutting routes or pouncing on tipped balls. Chan Gailey was making perfect half time adjustments.

But now they have fallen precipitously. As Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson said, "Same Old Bills." The offense has suddenly stalled, scoring 11, 7 and 8 in their last three, all blowout losses. The short route spread offense is no longer working-teams are simply playing the receivers tight at the line, meaning that the quick routes aren't open. The Bills don't have a deep threat at receiver, so there's no need to play off at the line of scrimmage. Without the threat of the pass, Fred Jackson has been severely limited, although he's still the best player by far on the offense. (In addition, Chan Gailey seems to abandon the run on some drives, which is infuriating.) Fitzpatrick has shown that he's too inconsistent to be a franchise QB, and has made his big new contract look like a huge mistake. Chan Gailey has lost his touch play calling, sticking to an offensive plan that has been figured out. The already thin wide receiver core and offensive line have been hit by injuries, along with every level of the defense. The defense isn't creating turnovers anymore, which means it's the same defense as last year- awful. There's a receiver open on every play and the run defense wears down. It's a total breakdown. A fresh hell.

The pain of this fall comes from the fact that we, the fans, have seen the flash of potential that this team has shown. They looked to have the talent and resolve to make a playoff run, to end the playoff drought that's plagued Buffalo since 1999. Last year's 0-8 start was less painful than this, because they were always bad- there's no sense of loss there. But this, this is cruel. It's like the flash off a disposable camera- it hits, it hurts your eyes with its strength, and the mark remains burned in your eyes. When you close your eyes, you can still see that mark, the remnant of the bright flash that once was, and now it's fading. "lost happiness and lasting pain." There's the mix.

Yet, despite this, hope springs eternal. The Bills are still only one game out of the playoffs, due to the bungling by other teams in the NFL. It will take a drastic turnaround by the Bills to make the playoffs, and they'll probably have to go at least 4-2 (with some help) to make the playoffs. The way they've been playing recently, I don't see them winning another game on the schedule. But there's always the chance they can reinvent themselves into winners for the final stretch of the season. It starts with this week's game against the Jets. The Jets are certainly not an elite team; one simply has to watch their game against the Broncos to prove that. The Jets defense was the first team to really shut down the Bills; if the Bills somehow can make the adjustments necessary to win, it would probably be the monumental win needed to turn it around. I don't see it happening, frankly, but it could. We've seen the peak this team can hit, we've seen its' low point, and now it's left to see if they will ascend again. The pain is worse, the cut deeper, and yet, I'll probably keep watching, and keep hoping. What else can we do, anyway? Give up? No, not until the bitter end. I'll let the Devil provide the rallying cry:

"We may with more successful hope resolve/ to wage by force or guile eternal war/ Irreconcilable, to our grand foe/who now triumphs..."
-Paradise Lost, John Milton

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 11 NFL Picks: Up or Down From Here?

The only highlight for the Bills last week. Literally. Yet, they're still in the playoff hunt.
It's weird to think that we're getting very close to the end of this NFL season. Huh? I've watched 9 weeks of Bills football? That's three months! It's now the crux of the season; teams can either fade away, as the Bills seemingly are right now, or they can fight through November, rising as the season enters its' last quarter. As I said before, the Bills have faded since their hot start;  they started 3-0 and, since then, have gone 2-4. But they remain alive in the playoff race, because the AFC is seriously muddled right now. There isn't one dominating team in the AFC so far, every team has a fatal flaw, and everyone is basically sitting in a muddle between 7 and 5 wins.

The Texans, at the top of the conference, just lost starter Matt Schaub for the rest of the season, putting revered partier, not so revered football player Matt Leinart at the helm. The Ravens are blisteringly inconsistent. The Steelers, for all their improvement, can't beat the Ravens. The Patriots have an atrocious defense and Tom Brady has looked decidedly mortal. The Bengals and Jets don't have good offenses (with the Jets being appreciably worse than the Bengals.) The West is a logjam of mediocre teams. The Titans are struggling on offense and defense, but have managed to stick around. And, of course, The Bills.

The Bills have a bad, bad defense that can't generate pressure. When they don't force turnovers, they're dead. The offense has become stagnant, and teams have figured out how to beat the spread. Basically, their flaws have been badly exposed. But due to the uncertainty in the AFC, they still have a shot at turning it around and making a playoff run. It has to start this week, or the beginning of the season was just a flash in the pan, a brief vision of what a competitive team in Buffalo could look like.

Anyway, onto the picks. My Thursday Night pick was once again wrong. The short weeks are definitely helping the underdogs so far. Also, Tebow. More than enough has been said about him. It's bizarre to watch him, because he looked horrendous through all four quarters; then led an amazing 95 yard game winning touchdown drive. I've never seen anything like it; a complete and utter transformation. The defense kept him in the game, and then he delivered. If he can ever put it together for more than just the end of a game, then there's a world of potential for him, even if he defies almost every convention of NFL quarterbacking. So, yes, 0-1 this week, but I'm happy about it, because the Jets lost. And that can never be a bad thing.

Last week, I went 10-6 Overall and 9-7 ATS. Can't complain.

Tennessee at Atlanta (-6)

The Titans are now back to being AFC South contenders, without even trying. Now that Matt Schaub is down for the Texans, it looks as if the Titans can contend for the AFC South (unless Matt Leinart keeps the ship from sinking). Still, they haven't been very good all season; last week, they beat up on an overrated (yes, a two win team can be overrated) Panthers team. The Falcons, on the other hand, have shown a propensity to lose close games this season, but also have a stouter defense than the Panthers, which should stop the Titans somewhat anemic offense. The Falcons offense is still the plodding, methodical unit of last year, and, while not always pretty (Julio Jones has brought some excitement to it, though), they can usually put up enough points to win. The Titans are going to be playing harder, because they have a new hope for the division title, but the Falcons, at home, should be able to get it done- they are playing for their playoff lives, too- they either need to catch the Saints in the division or win a wild card spot in a crowded NFC race.
Pick: Falcons win, Titans cover

Buffalo at Miami (-2)

Well, who woulda thought that Miami would be a home favorite in this game even two weeks ago? The Dolphins have ripped off a two game winning streak, and the Bills have faltered badly in two straight, setting up this line, where a 2-7 team is favored over the 5-4 one. As I said before, the Bills are still in the playoff hunt and REALLY need this one; they've been embarrassed the last two weeks, and they are (hopefully) looking to get back on track. Also, them being underdogs to a 2-7 team should light a fire under them. If they lose this one, it's done. If they win this one, and the Jets game next week, they would have sufficient momentum to get a Wild Card or even challenge the Patriots for the division. They were handed a gift when the Jets lost on Thursday; now they need to respond and try and make a playoff run out of it. I know the Dolphins have been playing well for the past five weeks or so, but they've only beaten the Chiefs and Redskins, two sub-par teams. Blinded by homerism, I will once again go with the Bills. They need it. I need it. Let's hope this is the start of an upward trend, a rising from the trench they've dug for themselves the past two weeks. Squish the Fish!
Pick: Bills win, cover

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-7)

The Bengals are without AJ Green and Leon Hall for this game, which should make this a comfortable Ravens win. Unfortunately, the Ravens play to the level of their opponent, beating very good teams and falling to the bottom feeders. The defense is still top class; it's the offense, stuck with an identity crisis, bringing the team down. Specifically, the Ravens have an elite running back in Ray Rice, and they barely use him, instead depending on the inconsistent Joe Flacco. It's not pretty. This game has playoff implications, though, and I think Baltimore will be up for the game. The Bengals, despite their injuries, should keep it close, but I see Baltimore taking it- as long as they care about this game.
Pick: Ravens win, Bengals cover

Jacksonville at Cleveland (-1)

Guhhhhhhh. Every game that Jacksonville is involved with turns out to be terribly boring. This one might set new records, replacing "Watching Paint Dry" as the go to descriptor of a boring activity. The Jaguars have a great defense and Maurice Jones Drew on offense. That's it. The Browns? Nothing of note.
Pick: Jaguars win, cover

Oakland at Minnesota (-1)

Tough to figure this one. Oakland is leading the AFC West, currently, while the Vikings sit at 2-7. Yet, the Vikings are the (slim) favorites. I'm having trouble picking either way, so I'm going with what I saw last week- the Raiders were impressive last Thursday in beating the Chargers (and get the long week to rest after that), while the Vikings just got blown out (admittedly, it was against the Packers). Adrian Peterson could take over this game and win it for the Vikings, but, barring that, I like the Raiders. Carson Palmer actually looks to be growing into the QB role for the Raiders, and just in time for a divisional race. Should be enough motivation to beat an underrated Vikings team.
Pick: Raiders win, cover

Carolina at Detroit (-7)

The Lions, like the Bills, have fallen off the face of the planet after a hot start to the season. The Panthers started the season as possible spoiler team- they always managed to keep it close, even against far superior opponents. Both teams have basically been figured out. The Lions still have no running game, and the defensive front can't mask their bad secondary. The Panthers have a horrible defense, and the Cam Newton show on offense isn't as productive as it was to start the season. Detroit's at home, needs to stay in the wild card race, and has more quality on both sides of the ball. I'll take them to win, but the Panthers should be able to stay within a touchdown because Matthew Stafford has lost his accuracy, and the Lions offense is hampered.
Pick: Lions win, Panthers cover

Tampa Bay at Green Bay (-14)

Have you watched a Packers game recently? Yeah, they're pretty good, in case you haven't noticed. Have you watched a Buccaneers game lately? Well, they have a stagnant offense and a horrid run defense to go with a decent pass defense. Easy pickings for Aaron Rodgers and co.
Pick: Packers win, cover

Dallas (-7) at Washington

As I saw last week, when Dallas has all its cylinders firing, they are scary good. DeMarco Murray is a talented back, and Tony Romo, when on his game, is among the top ten quarterbacks in the league. The defense can create pressure consistently. (All Cowboys praise comes through gritted teeth.) The Redskins are just bad. Very bad. When John Beck and Rex Grossman are fighting for the quarterback job game to game, well, it's not going well. The offense has no appreciable weapons without Santana Moss, and the defense isn't good enough to bail out the offense. This is one rivalry game that shouldn't be close.
Pick: Cowboys win, cover

Arizona at San Francisco (-10)

Yep, the 49ers are for real. Stout defense, mistake free offense. The Cardinals have won two straight, somehow, behind the quarterbacking of John Skelton. I don't his success continuing against the 49ers, especially on the road. The 49ers should be able to take this one easily and get one step closer to locking up this division.
Pick: 49ers win, cover

Seattle at St. Louis (-3)

Can't find a compelling reason why I'm picking the Seahawks here besides the fact that they've looked better than decent the past two weeks (giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch a lot more), while the Rams win over the Saints, their only quality game this year, was an aberration from the norm (see: last week's win against Cleveland which came thanks to a missed field goal.)
Pick: Seahawks win, cover

San Diego at Chicago (-3.5)

The Chargers are infuriating; they have a wealth of talent, but squander it away in every loss. They haven't played an impressive game all season. The Bears, as much as I hate to say it, have hit a stride on both sides of the ball. Jay Cutler has learned to succeed behind a bad offensive line, and Matt Forte has shown the form of his rookie season. Now let the Bears fans Super Bowl proclamations proceed- it's never too early for them. Consistency wins over the potential that the Chargers show but never go through with.
Pick: Bears win, cover

Philadelphia at NY Giants (-5)

No Mike Vick for the Eagles? Vince Young starting in his place? The Giants, at home, coming off a tough loss and looking to take the reins of this division? Check, check, and check. The Eagles are the NFC version of the Chargers, yet somehow worse. The Giants have the defense to neutralize Vince Young and an offense that can exploit the Eagles sub par defense. This is another NFC East rivalry game that shouldn't be close.
Pick: Giants win, cover

Kansas City at New England (-15)

New England silenced the doubters with a huge win over the Jets last week. Now they can take further control of the division with another win, and, lucky for them, they get the Chiefs. The Chiefs have reverted back to their early season form- bad- and are going into this game with Tyler Palko at quarterback. Who? Exactly. New England's defense won't be tested in this game, and the Chiefs offense doesn't have the personnel to slow down Brady and the Patriots.
Pick: Patriots win, cover

Season: 94-52 Overall, 75-69-2 ATS

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Night NFL Pick

Jets (-6) at Denver

Even looking at this game before the season (without any of the hindsight we have now), I'm not sure why the NFL Network thought this game was the best fit for this week's Thursday Night game. The Broncos weren't supposed to be good at the start of the season; and so far, they're holding up their end of the bargain. The Jets were considered to be good before the season and, lo and behold, they are a quality team. So this has been a mismatch from the start. Still, in this wacky, Tebow-filled world, the Broncos have managed to get to 4-5. They even beat the Chiefs last week with an old school, run heavy "T-Bone" offense, with Tim  Tebow completing two passes...for the whole game. It may have worked last week, but I don't see it working against a very angry Jets team, sore after losing to the Patriots. The Jets will be able to stuff the box, denying the run, and have the ability in the defensive backfield to leave their corners in man-to-man situations. Basically, the Jets can put about eight or even nine people in the box, lock Darrell Revis on Eric Decker (or whoever the #1 receiver is on the Broncos in the post- Brandon Lloyd era), and capably cover the other receivers. Tebow will be forced to throw, and that's usually not pretty. On the other side of the ball, the Jets aren't amazing on offense- see: last week, when they got effectively shut down by the Patriots defense- but they should be able to put up enough points against an improving, but not great, Broncos defense. It won't be a pretty game, or high scoring, but the Jets should take it.
Pick: Jets win, cover

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Rest of My Week 10 NFL Picks

Marcell Dareus, head of the Bills defense now that Kyle Williams is out

Well, my picks started off rough after the Chargers crapped the bed Thursday Night, giving Carson Palmer a career renaissance en route to a seven point Raiders win. So I started 0-1 this week. Also: the AFC West is insane and whoever comes out of this cluster**** cannot be foreseen at this point. Last week, for all my picks, I went 7-7 overall and 8-6 ATS. Nothing special. Some big whiffs, but some big hits, I guess.

What of this week? Well, there are no bye weeks, probably because of some weird lockout scheduling. It's also extremely difficult to pick; there are only two lines above seven points, with the rest ranging from "PK" to 6.5. There are some games easy to pick overall, on just winners, but picking these spreads is tricky. If I had real money to bet, I'd be saving it this week.

Pittsburgh (-4) at Cincinnati

The Bengals have been the shock of this season; behind rookies Andy Dalton and AJ Green, along with a stifling defense and a mistake free offense, they've climbed to the top of the AFC standings. Dirty little secret time, though: they haven't beaten a good team besides the Bills, and even that was a 23-20 victory. The rest of their games have been close wins over bad teams. Now they're running into the tough part of the schedule: two games against the Steelers, two against the Ravens, and the Houston game (along with a couple of creampuffs). The Bengals are in a good spot now, but look to be headed for a little bit of a fall. The Steelers have been really good lately, notwithstanding a last second loss to the Ravens last week. Their defense is alive and kicking (after they were presumed dead) and the offense has become a passing juggernaut. The Bengals are facing their first real test, and I don't see them passing this one: the Steelers are too good right now, and the Bengals have been lucky so far.
Pick: Steelers win, cover

Denver at Kansas City (-3)

Honestly? I have no idea about this game. The Chiefs got absolutely destroyed last week by THE DOLPHINS. The Broncos blew out the Raiders last week because they instituted the option. This is some bizarro universe I can't even come close to understanding. The Chiefs should have a week to prepare for the option attack (which somehow the Raiders couldn't react to), but they also just got BLOWN OUT BY THE DOLPHINS. Fine. I'll go with the Broncos. No idea why. The option works again? If it makes no sense, it makes sense in the AFC West.
Pick: Broncos win, Chiefs cover

Jacksonville (-3) at Indianapolis 

If you want to cry tears of boredom, watch this game. Jacksonville has a terrible offense- rookie Blaine Gabbert is struggling more as the season moves on and his receiving core is comprised of cardboard cut outs of real NFL wide receivers. They have a great running back, though, and a really good defense. The Colts are just bad on both sides of the ball- a solid fantasy play is just to play whatever defense goes against the Colts. Seriously, the Colts have nothing going for them. The Jaguars should manage to win this one, and it certainly won't be pretty.
Pick: Jaguars win, cover

Buffalo at Dallas (-5.5)

Last week the Bills got flat out beat down by the Jets on both sides of the ball. The Bills looked flat and never were in the game, even when it was 3-0. Flat out, they laid an egg in one of the key games of the season. Once again, the Bills need a win here to stay in the playoff race and prove their legitimacy as a playoff contender. They haven't won against a good team on the road yet, and they're facing a stretch of tough road games. A loss here puts them in precarious position for the rest of the year, and squanders their fast start. The Cowboys are similarly in need of a win. At 4-4, they're in the middle of their division and losing ground to the Giants, and the NFC South and North look to have strong contenders in the wild card race. My homer side is picking the Bills here; the Cowboys don't have the same personnel as the Jets to shut down the Bills passing offense, and the run defense should be able to be exploited by Fred Jackson. My logical side is saying that the the Cowboys are at home, and even though they're missing Miles Austin, they have an explosive offense and plenty of talent on defense. The deciding factor for me, in the end, is that Dallas hasn't looked impressive against any good teams yet (besides one game against the Patriots which they managed to fumble away in typical Cowboys fashion.) I'm just not impressed, ever, by the Cowboys. So, without much logic behind it, I'm going with Bills. Let's hope my homerism is not once again misplaced, and the Bills actually come out to play- because a loss here would be damning for this season. Also, screw the Cowboys, their fans, their owner, and whoever called them "America's Team."
Pick: Bills win, cover

Houston (-3) at Buccaneers

Houston is rolling through the AFC South, and, with the Titans fall from contention, look to be a lock for the division. The Buccaneers seem allergic to scoring points and have no run defense. That's perfect for the Texans, who have Arian Foster leading the way on the ground and a decent passing offense without Andre Johnson. The Texans have a much better defense than last year, and the Buccaneers have none of the offensive explosiveness they seemed to show last year. It looks to be an easy game for the Texans.
Pick: Texans win, cover

Tennessee at Carolina (-3.5)

The Titans had a strong start to the season behind Matt Hasselbeck's unexpected career resurrection, but have fallen off their pace after the injury to Kenny Britt. The offense has nothing (hey, Chris Johnson, where are you?) and there's nothing special about the defense. Carolina is rested, coming off a bye, and they have Cam Newton (have you heard of him?). The Panthers have an awful defense, but against the Titans, it should be OK; and Cam Newton should keep doing Cam Newton things and win this game.
Pick: Panthers win, cover

Washington at Miami (-4)

I think it says a lot about John Beck that the Redskins can go into Miami, a 1-7 team who are 2-12 in their last 14 home games, and still be four point underdogs. The Redskins have just died after a 3-0 start. The Dolphins have been playing well enough to stay in games for a while, and finally pulled out a win last week in shellacking the Chiefs. I'll take the team that's made an effort versus the team that's dead in the water. Although I do think the Dolphins are crappy enough to let the Redskins hang around.
Pick: Dolphins win, Redskins cover

New Orleans at Atlanta (PK)

The Saints have an extremely efficient offense and a pretty bad defense; and they're prone to dropping games they should win. Atlanta has been inconsistent all year, but has managed to win three games in a row against opponents of varying quality. So far, I just know that Atlanta is no longer as dominant as they once were at home, and the Saints just look like a better team: more explosive on offense, better quarterback, and the defenses are just a draw. In the end, I'll take the Saints, even though they could easily drop this game.
Pick: Saints win/cover

Detroit at Chicago (-2.5)

The Bears have managed to figure out how to use Matt Forte, their defense is still making plays, and Jay Cutler has managed to survive and thrive despite his offensive line trying to kill him. The Lions shot out at the beginning of the season but have slowed down due to injuries; Jahvid Best is still not playing, and the offense has become somehow less than one dimensional (they just throw it to Calvin Johnson.) The Bears have seemed to figure it out, they're at home, and I see them taking this game.
Pick: Bears win, cover

St. Louis at Cleveland (-2.5)

If you hate yourself, you'll switch between this game and the Jags-Colts game during the 1 PM games. I can't say anything of note for these teams: both quarterbacks are kind of awful, both teams don't have any receivers of note (although Brandon Lloyd is trying to make a difference in St. Louis), and the defenses, well, they're both not very good. I guess I'll take the Rams in this one, if only because the Browns have too good of a record already at 3-5.
Pick: Rams win, cover

Arizona at Philadelphia (-14)

Despite the Eagles loss to the Bears last week, they still have incredible talent and have been playing much better since their horrid start. The Cardinals can only beat bad teams, and have John Skelton at QB, who managed a win last week only because of Patrick Peterson's heroics. I can't see John Skelton and the Cardinals horrible defense sticking around with the Eagles and their wealth of talent.
Pick: Eagles win, cover

Baltimore (-6.5) at Seattle

The line for this game is only so low because Seattle's at home and the Ravens have a terrible habit of dropping games against bad teams. The Ravens are clearly a better team than the Seahawks, and I feel like their big win over the Steelers last week should propel them through this game, even if they let Seattle hang around a little too long. Baltimore should pull away in the end. Seattle is just bereft of talent.
Pick: Ravens win, cover

NY Giants at San Francisco (-3.5)

The Giants were impressive last week in limiting the Patriots offense and engineering a last second drive to beat them. The 49ers have been impressive all year, with a stifling defense and a mistake free offense. When I look at this game, I think that the 49ers defense will be able to limit the Giants passing attack, but won't be able to stem it completely. The Giants defense, on the other hand, should be able to stop the 49ers offense, and that's why I like the Giants on the road. The 49ers are due for a let down, anyway.
Pick: Giants win, cover

New England at NY Jets (-2)

This one is huge for the AFC East. The Patriots are coming off two straight losses, something they seemingly never do. The Jets are riding high on a four game winning streak which has put them back at the top of the division (albeit in a three way tie). I'm taking the Patriots in this one, because I think their offense should be better than the Bills was last week and able to move the ball against the Jets. The Jets offense still didn't impress me last week; and while the Patriots defense is horrible, they can limit the Jets. I still see this as the Patriots division (although if the Bills can beat the Jets, they'll have something to say about that), and I find the Patriots suited to win this game. Plus, the Patriots NEVER lose three in a row. They won't let it happen, especially against these Jets.
Pick: Patriots win, cover

Minnesota at Green Bay (-13)

Minnesota was able to keep things close the last time these two played, but with more tape on Vikings QB Christian Ponder, that doesn't look likely to happen. The Packers are, offensively, unstoppable right now. There was a moment in last week's Packers game, where Aaron Rodgers was chased out of the pocket and rolled right. On the run, he whipped a forty yard pass to Jordy Nelson. It was unreal. No one can touch Rodgers right now, and as long as he's behind center, the Packers have a chance in every game. The Vikings aren't anywhere near elite, and they'll get blown out by this Packers juggernaut.
Pick: Packers win, cover

Season: 84-46 Overall, 66-62-2 ATS

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno, Penn State, and Idealism vs. Reality

Before I dive into some weighty matters, let me just put down my pick for tonight's Thursday Night Football game, so it can go on the official record:

Oakland at San Diego (-7)

Oakland is still without Darren McFadden, who was the main weapon in their offense. The recently acquired Carson Palmer has stepped into play quarterback, and has performed in a manner that is vintage 2010 Carson Palmer- sure, he can make some nice throws, but he's also going to throw some awful interceptions, and his arm strength is suddenly gone. The Chargers managed to keep it very close against the Packers despite 3 interceptions from Philip Rivers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Sure, the Chargers defense looked silly against the Packers, but most defenses do. The Chargers seem to have hit a stride on offense, and the Oakland offense is nowhere near as good as the Packers. Looks like the Chargers should be able to break their three game losing streak, winning easily at home.
Pick: Chargers win, cover

Ok, massive switch in tone here, but here goes: Let's talk about the Penn State scandal and Joe Paterno.

As everyone knows by now, Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions, has been charged with 40 sex crimes against various youths in his "Second Mile" program, one which aimed to help impoverished children. This man had complete access to the youths and (allegedly, but the evidence is pretty overwhelming) abused his authority to gain sexual access to many underage children. This is obviously a horrible crime, and Sundusky has rightly been vilified; but now the story has mostly shifted from Sandusky to Joe Paterno, the long time head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Paterno, according to the legal briefs, was informed by a graduate assistant that Sandusky had been seen in the showers at the Penn State facility raping an underage boy. What the graduate assistant actually told Paterno is unclear (he might've said Sandusky was raping the boy or just doing sexually inappropriate things to him); what Paterno passed on to his superior, the athletic director of the school, was that Sandusky had been seen fondling or doing other sexually inappropriate things to an underage boy. And that's all Paterno did. Passed on the news to his superior, the bare minimum of what he was legally supposed to do.  (In addition, he might've even downplayed the graduate assistant's report to his superiors.)

In the wake of this scandal, Paterno has been fired. In response to this, a good portion of the Penn State campus erupted into a riot, defending Paterno. They carry signs that say, "We love you, Joe!" and vilify the board of directors that ruled to fire him. Their main argument is that Paterno's been made the scapegoat for the whole mess, and that he deserves to have the whole legal process run through before any judgement can be passed. By then, say all the defenders, we'll know what was truly reported to him and what he did. Here's the issue: Joe Paterno became some weird, mythic father figure to a whole institution. He became the figure head of a school, the shining exemplar of how to run a college football program. Unfortunately, he made a huge mistake.

When we're young we idolize our fathers. Everything they do is perfect. But there comes a time when we realize that our fathers are fallible (sorry, Dad. I still think you're awesome, though.) That they make mistakes. It's certainly a shock for most people-no one wants to believe it, and they fight against it. But there comes a time when everyone must accept the facts: there is no perfect person. Humanity is rife with mistakes. Everyone has something they're hiding or wish they had done better; humans simply are never perfect. Joe Paterno made a mistake. Even if the report he got was only that there was fondling of a child, he (and the rest of the administration) had a moral obligation to report it to the police. If it was your kid, or if it was a relative of yours, you'd feel the same way: the bare minimum is not enough in this situation.

Joe Paterno was Penn State's father figure. He built the program into a model for college football programs and made sure his players got an education. On the way, he became a legend. These student riots are just people struggling against the realization that he's not perfect. You can still love the man for all his accomplishments as a coach and in building the Penn State program, but that does not excuse his mistakes. People don't reside on opposite sides of a good and bad, black and white moral spectrum. There's shades of grey. Paterno was built up to be something more than human, more than fallible; a white knight of pure good. But there's no one out there like that in reality. The sooner Penn State students can realize this, the better off they are. It's okay to love the man, but his faults must be recognized. "We love you, Joe!"Well, at least the idea of you, instead of the reality.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Week 9 NFL Picks: Welcome to the Gauntlet, Bills


I'm just going to try and pretend that the Sabres' Wednesday game against the Flyers did not happen. And  that I didn't irrevocably jinx them with my optimistic little piece about them last week. All I can say is, Friday's game (as I'm writing, that's tonight) against the Flames shouldn't be this important, but it is. 7-5 seems like a gift from the gods as opposed to 6-6 at this point. They just need a win, a complete 60 minutes of hockey, to assay some long term fears that have started to crop up. If they lose, well, just wait for a sky-is-falling-already post. Suddenly having the highest payroll isn't such a good thing; the expectations are stifling.

Anyway, onto Week 9 in the NFL. The Bills stand at 5-2 and at the top of the division (via a glorious tie breaker over the Patriots).  Now comes November, which very well might decide the Bills chances at a division title or a wild card. They play both their games against the Jets this month, and winning one or both of these games would be instrumental in crippling the Jets chances for the season (which would be wonderful). Sandwiched in between these two Jets games are away games at Dallas and Miami. One of them is not a worry (the Dolphins are allergic to winning at home, and the Bills would have to seriously play down to lose that one), but the Cowboys have talent on both sides of the ball that alternates between brilliant and awful, meaning the Bills could catch the Cowboys playing at peak-level, and the only thing that can stop that is Tony Romo "Romo-ing" the game away. Basically, the Bills have to beat the Jets at least once and go 2-2 or better in this four game stretch, which is certainly possible, but it won't be easy. Good teams win on the road. Good teams thrive in November. I'm hoping the Bills are truly a good team, built to play well over the whole season, and not just a first half flash in the pan. Yikes.

Last week I went 10-3 overall (nice!) but 6-7 ATS (good thing I'm not gambling). So maybe you should ignore that part where I try and pretend I can pick spreads.

Atlanta (-7) at Indianapolis

Atlanta's coming off the bye and off an unexpected (to me) win over the Lions. They may be boring, but at least they've figured out a way to win games. The Colts? They played dreadfully last week against a decent at best Titans team. They're well on their way to one or two wins, and in a dogfight for the first overall pick with the Dolphins (and if they get the 1st pick, the Colts have the luxury of either using it on Andrew Luck, and dumping an iffy Peyton Manning OR trading the pick for a boon of draft picks to rebuild themselves into a contender). Losing this game should be business as usual for the Colts.
Pick: Falcons win, cover

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-8)

Wait, what? An 8 point spread for a New Orleans team that a) just lost to the Rams in an embarrassingly bad performance and b) lost to Buccaneers earlier this year? The Buccaneers are a weird, inconsistent team, but they're better than the spread gives them credit for. Their defense was good enough to keep Drew Brees in check last time these two played, and if the offense was more consistent, the Buccaneers would have a better record. Still, I think New Orleans is going to come out angry after last week's awful performance and will be able to put enough points on the board to win, but the Buccaneers will hang around, as they've done in every game this season.
Pick: Saints win, Buccaneers cover

Cleveland at Houston (-10.5)

I don't think there's a more boring team than the Cleveland Browns. They have a pretty good defense (and it's not even an exciting defense, like, say, the Ravens or Steelers elite units) mixed with an awful, awful offense predicated on running the football down the middle with their big, bruising (read:boring) backs. They don't trust their presumed QB of the future enough to open up their game plan, and even if they did, they don't have any receivers who would crack the top two of most NFL teams (except the starved Jaguars, who just picked up Browns cast off Brian Robiskie. Pity those Jaguars.) Houston's got consistency issues, but even without the return of Andre Johnson, their offense should still be able to run the ball effectively and their improved defense should be more than enough to shut down the anemic Browns.
Pick: Texans win, cover

NY Jets at Buffalo (-2)

This game is huge for the Jets, who have won two straight to get back to 4-3 and in the thick of the playoff race. It's also huge for Buffalo, as they need the win to get the respect they crave and also solidify their place in the playoff race this season. A loss would be crippling for the Jets, and they know it, and so do the Bills. It's a huge divisional game. And I have no clear idea of how it's going to shake out. The Jets defense is not quite as good as it used to be, especially against the run, which means the Bills should be able to get a strong game out of Fred Jackson (who should be getting more MVP love, but the media is obsessed with quarterbacks). Alternatively, the Jets still have one of the best secondaries in the league, and have enough depth to effectively cover the Bills 4 and 5 receiver sets, which the Bills often use to set up the run. On the other side of the ball, the Bills defense showed improvement last week, but now face a better team. The Jets will be committed to running the ball on the Bills, clinging to the "ground and pound" strategy. The Bills haven't been as bad against the run this year as in years past, so it will be interesting to see if they can stop what has been an inconsistent (but potentially dangerous) Jets running attack. The Jets passing game has recently picked up, but Mark Sanchez is still prone to mistakes, which could benefit the Bills interception-hungry defense. There are favorable match ups for both teams that almost cancel eachother out; I have a hard time choosing. Screw it, I'm going with my heart: the Bills will be able to run the ball on this defense and put up points, and on defense force Mark Sanchez into some mistakes. For this season's sake, I hope so. Letting the Jets back into the division race is a scary prospect. Also, I hate the Jets and this win would make me giddy. So much hope here.
Pick: Bills win, cover

Miami at Kansas City (-4)

The Chiefs are the zombies of this NFL season, somehow dragging themselves from the dead back into the AFC West division race; no, it hasn't been pretty, but they've been brutally effective. On the flip side, the Dolphins are just dead. They don't even have zombie life. When they play well (like last week), they'll find a way to lose. No franchise could use Andrew Luck more than the Dolphins; and they certainly play like that.
Pick: Chiefs win, cover

San Francisco (-3.5) at Washington

Is Vegas fearful of this being a 'trap game' for the Niners? I watched the Redskins last week; their offensive  line was one of the worst I've ever seen. They Bills had 10 sacks against them, which was 2.5 times more than they had ALL SEASON. The offense has no weapons without Tim Hightower and Santana Moss, and the defense is eminently beatable by the air or the ground. The Niners may be flying across the country, but they're a team that grinds out wins without mistakes. The Redskins should provide plenty of those in this game, and the Niners will improbably move to 7-1.
Pick: 49ers win, cover

Seattle at Dallas (-11.5)

Forget last week's embarrassing 34-7 loss for the Cowboys; its the Seahawks, who have no running game, a terrible QB, and nothing special on defense. Oh yeah, they're not even at home, which is their only advantage. Dallas, barring an implosion, should be able to take care of business. Against the Seahawks, you don't need much more than talent, and the Cowboys have plenty of it (just no consistency and a tendency to blow games they seem poised to win).
Pick: Cowboys win, cover

Denver at Oakland (-7)

Nope, not even Tim Tebow being an awful quarterback will get him out of the news cycle. It's now become a conversation on Tebow's potential for the future and whether we can criticize Tim Tebow at all (because he's so openly Christian, does criticizing him constitute religious criticism?). Tim Tebow is now a worse version of Brett Favre. At least Favre was good at one point; Tebow is all story, no production. The last time the Raiders played, they were brutally shut out by the Chiefs and their quarterbacks put on a clinic about how to be atrocious, and they probably won't have Darren McFadden, their best weapon, for this game. No matter; Tebow is bad enough (but I'm ok with Christianity, just saying) that Oaklands big defensive front should be able to contain him, force some mistakes, and the offense, behind a less-rusty Carson Palmer, should be able to get the job done against a porous Denver defense.
Pick: Raiders win, cover

Cincinnati at Tennessee (-3)

I wasn't impressed at all with the Titans win last week; against the Colts, they won by two touchdowns, and one of their scores came from a blocked punt. Take that lucky score away and it's a one score game, against an awful Colts team. They don't have much on offense ever since they lost Kenny Britt and the defense is pretty good but far from dominant. The Bengals have a stingy defense and the offense manages to get just enough every week to get by; Andy Dalton is morphing into a pretty good quarterback and AJ Green is everything he was hyped up to be as a receiver. I don't think the Bengals are as good as their record indicates, but their slide won't happen until they start playing the Steelers and Ravens. They should be good enough to take this game against a scrappy but ultimately decent Titans team.
Pick: Bengals win, cover

St. Louis at Arizona (-2.5)

I wouldn't touch this game with a 1,000 foot pole as a viewer of good football games OR a gambler. How do you pick between two crappy teams? Which pile of NFC West manure is better? The Rams are still without Sam Bradford, but they managed to improbably beat up the Saints last week. The Cardinals built up a 21-3 lead over the Ravens last week behind some lucky plays and watched as it predictably vanished. I guess I'll take the team that played better last week. Also, John Skelton (yes, THE John Skelton, Fordham alum and terrible QB) might be starting for the Cardinals. Yikes.
Pick: Rams win, cover

NY Giants at New England (-9)

The Patriots defense is still awful. They have no cornerbacks of note; somehow the Patriots decided that cutting all the talent from that position would be a very "Patriots" move (they're always a step ahead of the game!) and they would end up looking like geniuses, but, no, they just have an awful secondary. Their offense is still good, but also limited by their lack of running game or deep passing threat. Despite all this, the Giants are on the road, don't have Ahmad Bradshaw (or they have Ahmad Bradshaw playing with a fractured foot), and while their defense has a good pass rush, their defense as a whole is just decent. The Giants will certainly be able to keep it close against the Patriots, but won't be good enough to pull out a win. The Patriots, after a loss last week, will return to business as usual. (Although I certainly hope the Giants win for the Bills sake, but that's hope and not intelligent picking. Shucks.)
Pick: Patriots win, Giants cover

Green Bay (-5.5) at San Diego

The Chargers cruised through the first quarter of the season to a 4-1 record, seemingly bypassing their usual early season woes. But no! They've just showed up later, as the Chargers have dropped to 4-3 behind some ugly performances in games they should've won. They have the talent to right the ship; but even if they do in this game, Green Bay is rested coming off a bye and have played a team in Madden's franchise mode- ridiculously good offense (that passes more than runs and spreads the ball all around) and a opportunistic defense that is sometimes burned. Simply put, they're on another level, and the Chargers have yet to find their optimal gear.
Pick: Packers win, cover

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-3)

After an embarrassing Week 1 loss to Baltimore and a slow start to the season, the Steelers have reverted back to the form that brought them to the Super Bowl last season. The defense still has elite potential, even if they don't play that way consistently, and the offense is now a pass happy machine that moves the ball according to what the defense gives them- a lot of deep balls, but they showed last week they can dink and dunk towards victory. The Ravens have played two bad games in a row, even if they managed to pull out a 27-24 win last week against the lowly Cardinals. The defense has been great; but the offense is faltering behind Joe Flacco's misfires. The Steelers defense is leagues better than the Cardinals, and the Ravens haven't shown an ability to get it done against good defenses lately. I think the Steelers will shut down the Ravens on defense and move the ball effectively against the Ravens tough defense. It'll be close, but I like the Steelers to get revenge.
Pick: Steelers win, Ravens cover

Chicago at Philadelphia (-7.5)

This by all accounts looks like an awful match up for the Eagles; they can't stop the run, and the Bears seemingly run every play through Matt Forte, even when they pass. (Forte says they're grinding him to a pulp and not giving him the money he deserves. Well, Chris Johnson pretty much lost all of Forte's leverage once he got his big new contract and has crapped the bed. Why give a contract extension to such a volatile position? *Fred Jackson winces.*) Anyway, despite this, the Eagles seem like they're starting to finally roll, utilizing the talent they have, especially LeSean McCoy. Even if their defense gets gouged by Forte, I still see their offense being enough to win this game. Chicago's defense is no longer elite and their offense is very one dimensional. Still, Forte can keep them in this one, with or without his new paycheck.
Pick: Eagles win, Bears cover

Season: 77-39 overall, 58-56-2 ATS