|GET! OFF! ME!|
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