Friday, November 2, 2012

Week 9 NFL Picks: A Belated Return

"Hold on a second. Are you presuming I actually know what I'm doing?"

Did anyone notice my absence last week? (Mom raises her hand). Ok, good. Midterms + the overwhelming feeling of ease that a Bills bye-week provided prevented me from writing last week's picks. I did, however, make some for my confidence league, so you'll have to take my word on how I picked last week. Using my magical powers of hindsight, I went 8-6 both overall and ATS. Meh. The week before, however, I went a stellar 12-1 overall and 8-5 ATS. Nice! That brings the two week total to 20-7 overall, 16-11 ATS.

I tweeted out my Thursday Pick again- Chiefs +7.5, Chargers to win. Chargers won, but by a much larger margin. And so it goes. 1-0 Overall, 0-1 ATS to start off. There's just one takeaway from that game: the Chiefs are really, really, really bad. Like, get blown out by the Bills bad. Onto the picks!

Denver (-4) at Cincinnati

After a slow start to the season, the Broncos have fought their way to 4-3 and into control of the (admittedly, very horrible) AFC West. Peyton Manning appears to have his mojo back, if not his arm strength, and the defense has started playing up to the potential they displayed last year. As for the Bengals, they're floundering through their season after last year's playoff run, which was mostly a combination of solid defense and an easy schedule. Things haven't been as easy this year, and Andy Dalton seems to have taken a step back, as well as a less effective defense. It won't get any easier against the newly cerebral Peyton Manning and a resurgent Broncos team.

Pick: Broncos win, cover

Arizona at Green Bay (-10)

People are calling the Cardinals this year's version of the 2011 Bills- a strong start based mostly on luck in close games that comes crashing down midway through the season, partly due to injuries. While I'd argue this year's Vikings are more reminiscent of last year's Bills, the Cardinals aren't getting any better this season. The Packers, on the other hand, continue to get better and better, despite their complete lack of a running game. While that might hinder them in games against great pass defenses, the Cardinals won't put up much of a fight against the Packers passing game, and the Cardinals offense, that struggled against the Bills more-holes-than-(pick your hole-y thing- old socks, swiss cheese, the room of holes in The Yellow Submarine) defense, won't do much against an aggressive Packers defense.

Pick: Packers win, cover

Miami (-2.5) at Indianapolis 

In a battle of two teams no one expected to be this good, or even halfway decent, I'm going with the Fins. Miami's got a better defense, and although Andrew Luck is miles ahead of Ryan Tannehill, defense will decide this game. Last year, as the Bills fell into their second half slide, me and my Dad started half-ironically rooting for the Dolphins. Time to jump back on that bandwagon!

Pick: Dolphins win, cover

Baltimore (-3.5) at Cleveland

I'm tempted to take the Browns here (much better than their record), but Baltimore can't possibly be as bad as their last game, and they know they need to win this one to keep up with the Steelers, who are quickly rounding back into form. The AFC North is always interesting, and this year, we'll see whether a severely banged up Ravens team can hold off the Steelers.

Pick: Ravens win, cover

Buffalo at Houston (-10)

I would take the Texans to cover a 17 point spread here, at least. The defense is so shoddy that it let the desiccated corpse of Chris Johnson run for about 150 yards, and gave the decrepit Matt Hasselback one final clip for his career highlight reel. But, of course, the Bills won't fire defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, because, apparently, accountability means nothing in Buffalo. Everything about this defense just, for lack of a better word, sucks. The Texans have more than offensive weapons to put up 40-50 points on this defense. It's too bad that an above average Bills offense is wasted by this horrible defense as well as Chan Gailey's horrible play calling. No matter how good CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are doing, Gailey loves to put the ball in Ryan Fitzpatrick's erratic hands. At least Buddy Nix said the Bills were looking for a new QB; now, if he would only bring some accountability to the coaching staff, the Bills might actually improve. Till then, the playoffs remain a distant dream.

Pick: Texans win, cover

Carolina at Washington (-3)

Hey! Are you a sportswriter who needs to write a column, but without much effort? Why not compare Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton, two quarter backs who are very different from one another, except their skin color? So goes the national media. I'll try and simplify the narrative: the Panthers have a bad defense, and Cam Newton has been struggling since the end of last season; Robert Griffin has yet to hit any rookie wall, and the Redskins play an exciting brand of football, one that unfortunately doesn't always produce wins. Against this Panthers team, though, their offensive firepower ought to be enough.

Pick: Redskins win, cover

Detroit (-4.5) at Jacksonville

Detroit's started to improve after a slow start, but I can't trust them to blow out the Jaguars, who have a good enough defense to limit most teams. They did it to the Packers last week, and they'll do it to the Lions - especially since Calvin Johnson is ailing - but their offense, once again, will not be enough.

Pick: Lions win, Jaguars cover

Chicago (-3.5) at Tennessee

Chicago plays ugly, brutally effective football. They rely on an above average defense and special teams to offset Jay Cutler's inconsistency, and simply find ways to win. In the end, wins are wins, no matter how unimpressive they look. The Titans are just good enough to barely beat the Bills, which means Chicago should take this one easily- well, as easy as they want to make it.

Pick: Bears win, cover

Minnesota at Seattle (-4.5)

Minnesota's strong run defense and Christian Ponder's effective play have vanished as the season has progressed; they now look nothing like the team that smashed the 49ers in the mouth and beat them at their own game. Seattle, meanwhile, has steadily improved each week, even if the results don't always follow (see: last week against the Lions). The Seahawks defense will be able to shut down the suddenly one dimensional Vikings offense, and Marshawn Lynch should run all over the Vikings. As I said before, the Vikings are following the Bills path from last year. Don't worry Vikings fans, it just gets worse from here!

Pick: Seahawks win, cover

Tampa Bay at Oakland (-1.5)

Pirate battle! Tampa Bay has had some bad luck this season, but they've committed to the run and Josh Freeman has found some success in the passing game. The Raiders, on the other hand, are thoroughly mediocre, or worse. The less I know about them, the better, I think. Knowing about Carson Palmer and the Raider pushes out more important information from the brain, like lines from Victorian Poetry ("...where ignorant armies clash by night", Arnold) and who the Bills slot corners are (I won't list the names- they're all awful, though).

Pick: Tampa Bay wins, covers

Pittsburgh at NY Giants (-3)

Looks like the best game of the weekend, especially now that the Steelers have rounded back into contender form. It's tough to predict how the Giants players will play after going through Hurricane Sandy (many had to leave their homes), but at their best, I think the Giants are the best team in the league. The Steelers will keep it close, but I like the Giants to come out on top. Their defense is still more trustworthy than the Steelers, and Eli Manning has assumed the crown from his older brother as "quarterback you'd most want down seven with a minute left in the 4th."

Pick: Giants win, Steelers cover

Dallas at Atlanta (-4)

Close behind the Giants in the "best team in the league" competition are the Falcons, the NFL's lone undefeated team; they have a multifaceted offense, and Matt Ryan has entered the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Most importantly, though, has been the huge improvement defensively. While I think the Cowboys are better than their record indicates, they won't be able to beat the Falcons. They should, however, keep it close.

Pick: Falcons win, Cowboys cover

Philadelphia at New Orleans (-3)

What Saints games are the oddsmakers watching? They're the only team that can even compete with the Bills in the "horrible defenses of 2012" competition. While the Eagles have been an unmitigated mess this season, teams have a funny way of looking especially good against the Saints. Even the Chiefs beat the Saints. The Chiefs! If the Eagles can't figure this out, well, Andy Reid should finally be fired. But I see a big performance from Mike Vick, and the Eagles win in a shootout.

Pick: Eagles win, cover

Last Week (ATS): 8-6 (8-6)
This Week (ATS): 1-0 (0-1)
Overall: 72-48
Season ATS: 58-61-1