Friday, November 30, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 13 Picks

After next week, each team will have played 12 games, officially meaning that the NFL has entered the home-stretch. With that comes a real look at the MVP, and playoff seeding. What I'm really saying is that there will be changes to the format of the Power Rankings column. But that is for another time. Let's get to Week 13 picks.

Actually, before we do that, let's stop and first let me explain that after losing a couple of these picks because I didn't buy a half point or point, I'm going to start pretending to bet fake money. To make it easy, I'm placing 1,000 fake dollars on each game. I'm also pretending I have done that on every game so far, and I am using a fake system where I am laying an additional 20% to buy half a point, and an additional 30% to buy a full point. I am assuming no vig (hooray!!). So, this season, I have gone 98-75-3 so far through 11 weeks, and assuming no vig and 1,000 per bet, I am up a tidy $23,000 (BOOM!!). Starting this week, I'm going to keep track, and indicate if I am actually buying a half point or full point (which I would rarely do).

OK, now let's get to those picks.

New Orleans Saints (5-6)  @  Atlanta Falcons (10-1)  (ATL -3)

If the Saints were a little better, this might have been the best TNF game of the year. Instead, the Saints come in after a harrowing loss, while the Falcons are coming in slightly banged up, with Asante Samuel in doubt. Anyway, the game is probably more meaningful for the Saints who have some sliver of a Wild Card hope at this point, but the Falcons would love to finally get a win in this rivalry again. To me, this line is really low. The Falcons are definitely not as good as their record, but the Saints aren't exactly better than a .500 type team. Other than their close win against the Falcons, they've beaten zero good teams this season, and the last two times they played a good team, they lost by double digits (@DEN, vs. SF). This line essentially means that Vegas sees the teams as equals (three point bump for the home Falcons), and I completely disagree.

Saints 24  Falcons 31  (ATL -3)

Seattle Seahawks (6-5)  @  Chicago Bears (8-3)  (CHI -3.5)

Another line that seems staggeringly low. The Bears, in which Jay Cutler played the whole game, are 8-1, and have given up 20 or more points just twice (and both needed D/ST TDs to get there). The Seahawks don't travel particularly well to places not named Carolina (losses in all their other road games). Russell Wilson has never faced a defense like this outside of San Francisco, where he played badly. Jay Cutler also hasn't fared well against great defenses, but he doesn't have to do much in this one.

Seahawks 13  Bears 23  (CHI -3.5)

Minnesota Vikings (6-5)  @  Green Bay Packers (7-4)  (GB -9)

This is a high line for a team that, outside of their shock blowout win over Houston, hasn't looked too convincing in winning any of their games. They are still listing a bunch of people as questionable for the game. It is hard to project who plays or not, but I actually don't think against a team like Minnesota it matters too much. The Packers are definitely a better team, but the Vikings have two things that can help them keep this one close. They have a great running game and ball control pass offense that can hold the ball (what they did last year in the home game against Green Bay), and they have a rejuvenated pass rush that can get to Rodgers. Will they be able to do both? I'm not sure. There are quite a few high lines, and a couple that I like less than this one, so I'll say the Packers don't cover.

Vikings 23  Packers 31  (MIN +9)

San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1)  @  St. Louis Rams (4-6-1)  (SF -7)

The Rams still haven't lost a divisional game, going 3-0-1 against their divisional opponents. They've won both their other two home divisional games. That all said, I like the 49ers here to win, but that number is what I'm worried about. The Rams have a defense that could give Kaepernick problems. I don't think Colin is the athlete (in terms of sack escapability) that Roethlisberger, Newton or even Vick in his day were, and the Rams could get to him. On the other side, the 49ers defense is on a roll right now, and I don't think Bradford will have anything close to a good game. Anyway, back to the number. The 7 scares me, so I will use, for the first time, my new fake power of buying half a point, and making the line San Francisco -7.5, and then taking the Rams.

Rams 20  49ers 27  (STL bought to +7.5)

Arizona Cardinals (4-7)  @  New York Jets (4-7)  (NYJ -4.5)

Are the Cardinals still starting Ryan Lindley? Yes, they are. Are the Jets still starting Tim Tebow? Yes, they are. This might be the worst combined QB game of the year. I can't imagine the Jets playing any worse than they did on Thanksgiving, and they get extra rest against a Mountain Time team coming East to play an early game. Combining that with them starting Ryan Lindley, and I think the Jets give the Cardinals, amazingly, their eighth straight loss.

Cardinals 17  Jets 24  (NYJ -4.5)

Carolina Panthers (3-8)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-10)  (CAR -3)

The Chiefs have to win another game sooner or later, right? This can't just keep happening forever, them barely crossing 10 points at home game after game. Either way, I love the Panthers in this game. The Panthers, I'll say right now, are one of my picks to surprise and make the playoffs next year. Their string of losing close games is unsustainable, much like it was for the Texans from 2008-2010. That finally corrected itself, and this will too. Brian Burke's Advanced NFL Stats has them ranked #3 in the NFL by his metrics. Their defense is playing well now, and their offense is still good. They are better than the Chiefs, and this is a low number. That said, I will by half a point here, just to save myself from a field-goal push.

Panthers 31  Chiefs 17  (CAR bought to -2.5)

Indianapolis Colts (7-4)  @  Detroit Lions (4-7)  (DET -5)

I like way too many underdogs this week. I feel about the Lions much of the same way as I feel about the Panthers, in that they'll bounce back in 2013, as they are quite a bit better than their 4-7 record. Conversely, the Colts are worse than their 7-4 record. The Colts don't really need this game. If the take care of business home to Tennessee next week and at KC two weeks after that, they'll make the playoffs. The Colts don't match up well with the Lions, as they have no one to stop Calvin Johnson, and their interior line could be absolutely dominated by the Lions D-Line. The line is rather high, so I'll take the Colts to at least get to the number, but I doubt they win.

Colts 23  Lions 27  (IND +5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)  @  Buffalo Bills (4-7)  (BUF -5.5)

I don't want to dwell on this too much, but I like the Jaguars, yes, the Jaguars, to be competitive and cover a line on the road. The Jaguars are a different team with Chad Henne leading them. I'll have to say that the problem with Justin Blackmon was more about Gabbert than himself. The Jaguars have a decent team, especially in Mo-Jo Drew comes back to life, and the Bills, to me, aren't good enough to lay this many point. The Bills are technically still alive, so they have much more to play for, so I think they win, but for a rejuvenated Jaguars team, that number is too high.

Jaguars 17  Bills 20  (JAX +5.5)

New England Patriots (8-3)  @  Miami Dolphins (5-6)  (NE -7)

The Patriots won't score 50. That is all I know. The only reason why I am not too concerned about this spate of Patriots scoring is again, it has happened against the Rams, Bills, Colts and Jets. They have real defenses coming up. The Pats can clinch here, and I would think they would be motivated to end the AFC East race heading into their two game gauntlet of Houston and San Francisco back-to-back. One quirky streak, the last three times the Pats and Dolphins played in Miami in December, the Dolphins won each time (2004, 2006, 2009). I don't think that streak reaches four, though.

Patriots 34  Dolphins 23  (NE -7)

Houston Texans (10-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (4-7)  (HOU -6)

This line seems a little easy. The Titans were essentially eliminated after losing to the Jaguars last week, and now face the best team in the NFL coming off of 10 days rest. The Texans have won all but one of their games by at least 6 (the only exception was last week in Detroit). They'll win the game, especially with a massive game coming up, and I think they will cover. The Texans rush defense has been great the past two weeks, and I think they will be able to shut down Chris Johnson. Jake Locker hasn't looked the same since he has returned from his injury. The Texans also have an offense that is really starting to click right now, and I think it continues.

Texans 31  Titans 16  (HOU -6)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5)  @  Denver Broncos (8-3)  (DEN -7)

I'm surprised the line is this high, as the Buccaneers are everyone's favorite team right now, but it is high for a reason. The Broncos are a better team than the Buccaneers. Their biggest strength is their passing game, while the Buccaneers are historically bad at pass defense in terms of yards given up. The Buccaneers depend on their offense to keep them in games, and the Broncos defense is quietly a really good defense in 2012. I can't see the Buccaneers really giving the Broncos too much trouble in Denver, especially since they would love to show up and dominate after a slow game last week in Kansas City.

Buccaneers 17  Broncos 34  (DEN -7)

Cleveland Browns (3-8)  @  Oakland Raiders (3-8)  (CLE -1.5)

Now that Weeden is set to play, the Browns are the favorite. I don't disagree, because the Browns have played competitive in basically all of their games, while the Raiders have regressed to their 2003-2007 type performance. It is just sad thinking about this game. I would love picking the Raiders here, and there is a chance they show up, but the Browns defense is good enough to hold them down. McFadden might be back, but it probably won't matter.

Browns 23  Raiders 20  (CLE -1.5)

Cincinnati Bengals (6-5)  @  San Diego Chargers (4-7)  (CIN -1.5)

This seems like a low line, but I guess there isn't a lot of confidence in the Bengals traveling yet, while the Chargers are getting some credit for their close loss to the Ravens. The Chargers struggle to contain good receivers, and the Bengals have one of those, in AJ Green. The Bengals need this game way more than the Chargers, and they would love to take another step ahead of the Steelers before their game in three weeks. The line is low enough to make it close to a pick here.

Bengals 27  Chargers 24  (CIN -1.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)  @  Baltimore Ravens (9-2)  (BAL -8.5)

Roethlisberger has been officially been ruled out, which makes this line really high and more interesting. Unpredictably, the Ravens beat a Leftwich-led Steelers team by three in Heinz Field two games ago. The Steelers really just can't compete with the Ravens without Ben, especially in M&T Bank Stadium. The last time the Steelers visited the place was Week 1 in 2011, and lost 35-7. The Ravens can essentially end the division right now, and make the Steelers path to the playoffs far more precarious, and I think they do. This is a great chance for the Ravens to just blowout an opponent for once, go to 10-2 and still defy all the people that say they aren't any good.

Steelers 10  Ravens 24  (BAL -8.5)

Philadelphia Eagles (3-8)  @  Dallas Cowboys (5-6)  (DAL -10)

I am still mad at NBC for sticking with this game. What complete garbage. I hope no one watches. I hope it is a complete blowout. That said, the Eagles offense at least looked competent against Carolina, who's defense really isn't any worse than the Cowboys. This line is really high for the Cowboys. I don't really trust the Cowboys with a line this high, but I find it hard to really depend on the Eagles. That said, big national game, I feel like the Eagles show up a little bit.

Eagles 24  Cowboys 30  (PHI +10)

New York Giants (7-4)  @  Washington Redskins (5-6)  (NYG -2.5)

I wish they could switch this game and the other primetime NFC East game. The Giants @ Redskins is a lot better matchup, and the return leg of a very good 1st Leg in MetLife a month ago. The Giants do need this game because their schedule going forward is tougher than Washington's. The Giants offense is clicking again, and seeing how they played against the Packers, their defense should show up as well. I like the Giants in this game, because these primetime games are the ones that they really show up for, especially on the raod.

Giants 27  Redskins 21  (NYG -2.5)

Enjoy the Games!!

Stern and Jim Harbaugh See Stars

This is a two-part post, one each about two of the major issues going on right now in the two sports that are currently in-season (so... not about David Wright and BJ Upton signing large contracts).

.) David Stern vs. Gregg Poppovich

I rarely write about the NBA midseason. I generally find the first three months of the NBA season as a lazy, slow drive on inner roads on the way to the highway that is the post-All Star Break of the NBA season, but what the Spurs did yesterday, and the reaction by David Stern forced me to. Here is a commissioner I have never really liked, a man who has overlooked the NBA becoming a star-drive and star-coddling league, a league dominated by the tenet of having one great player, with teamwork shunned for great individual talents, something I fear the NFL is becoming with team's reliance on QBs. David Stern is hailed as a genius of a commissioner, but I've never seen it, and his decision to basically announce he will punish the Spurs for resting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (and Danny Green, but nowhere cares about that) is simply the latest misstep by Stern.

I have many problems with Stern's statement, but first is it is entirely phony. He claims that this is about the fans, but directly it is about TNT and the National TV Deals. TNT pays a ton of money to broadcast NBA games once (and sometimes twice) a week. This was a marquee game anyway, but it was on a Thursday on TNT, when no other game was on. It was a matchup of the two teams that have dominated their conferences the last two seasons (the Spurs only in the regular season). Poppovich ruined the face of that specter by sending his top guys home (I'll leave out for now that the Spurs 'B' team played really well and it was a very good game). Stern didn't like it, but there is only one explanaion: because TNT didn't like it.

Gregg Poppovich has done this before. Three times last season he sat his Big Three, including once in Portland and once in Utah, both games that ended 11-game win streaks. Poppovich was faced with the second day of a back-to-back, and the last day of four games in five days, and the last game of a six-game road trip, and a showdown with 11-2 Memphis coming on Saturday, and made the decision to rest his guys in a game that easily could have been a loss anyway. Stern only cares about any of this because he did it for a National Game.

There is some legitimacy to that. It is the TNT & ESPN/ABC deals that really makes a sport like the NBA profitable, but then again, this is one game. I seriously doubt the ratings dropped that much, as this is still football season. I don't think many casual fans watch NBA during these months (especially head-to-head against a particularly enticing NFL game), and my guess is many fans may have started watching just to see Patty Mills, Nando De Colo (who looks the exact opposite of what his name makes you think he looks) and Corey Joseph, play with the Heat for 46 minutes. But Stern didn't come out and say that it was about TNT, but said it was about the fans, and that is just wrong.

If the Spurs did this the night before in Orlando, would it have been about the fans then? No, just like it wasn't about the fans when Poppovich did it in Portland and Utah last year. Just like it wasn't about the fans when other teams did it. By claiming it is about the fans, Stern is essentially saying that the Miami fans are more important to please than the Magic/Blazers/Jazz fans. However, the bigger issue is, what Poppovich did is smart, it works, and it isn't anything that Stern actually has the power to do anything about.

David Stern may hate it, but what Poppovich did was smart, it works, and even if it doesn't, there is no way the commissioner should have power to tell a team what to do about their players in terms of game management. Roger Goodell faced this issue in 2009, when a ton of teams rested starters in Week 17. He brought up a potential idea to reward the teams that wouldn't rest their players, but he quickly took it away. He was smart, Stern's actions were not.

Instead of focusing on the Spurs giving away a November game, maybe he should look at himself and his league. He is overseeing a league that is quickly becoming highly polarized between large, rich areas that are attempting to assemble Super-teams, like Miami and Los Angeles. So many people complain that the NBA is dominated by these big-market teams, that smaller areas, and boring areas that can't attract premium free agent talent, and the Spurs are the one exception.

 Instead of praising a team for its brilliant year-to-year management, for extending their period of dominance well longer than anyone could have imagined, for having the smarts to manage and older core and keep them healthy for the playoffs, Stern decides to villainize them. David Stern should use the Spurs as the one shining gem of his system, as evidence that there is hope for the Milwaukee's and Utah's, but instead he chooses to do what he always does, only care about the marketibility of the big teams that dominate his league way too much.

2.) Kaepernick vs. Smith

Now we get to the other big debate of the last two weeks, which, despite Harbaugh's strange comments that both his QB are starting Quarterbacks, has essentially ended with Jim Harbaugh picking Colin Kaepernick. While I didn't like the decision last week and that ended well, I still don't like the decision, and there are quite a few reasons.

A.) There is no evidence that Colin Kaepdernick is playing any better than what Smith was doing.

Jim Harbaugh claimed after the Bears game that he would "go with the guy with the hot hand," and then repeated that same phrase when ultimately choosing Kaepernick this week because "he has a hot hand." Well, the last time we saw Alex Smith in a full game, he went 18-19 for 232 yards and 3 TDs with no picks against the Arizona Cardinals in Arizona. QBs have averaged a 74.3 passer rating against the Cardinals, and it would be lower if you take out Smith's game, and Alex Smith was great. Smith also has mobility, which I feel like many forget when talking about Kaepernick. Smith has been incredibly accurate all season, and accuracy at this point is not Kaepernick's strength. There just is no evidence that Kaepernick, right now, is any better. Sure, Kaepernick might have more potential (let's remember that there is a reason that Alex Smith was the #1 overall pick, while Kaepernick was a 2nd rounder), but who is the better QB right now? Alex Smith was just as good, and the last time we saw him, he was better than Kaepernick. Alex Smith can run that offense. Another claim people mention about Kaepernick is that the 49ers need him if they want to beat the Packers/Giants and the other Big Boys of the NFC. Of course, this forgets the fact that a Smith-led offense dominated Green Bay in Week 1. Also, I have serious doubts that Kaepernick would have made the 49ers any better in their loss to the Giants this year.

B.) The Negative Concussion Externality

Let's be clear, if Alex Smith doesn't suffer a concussion against the Rams, Colin Kaepernick is still the starting QB. Everyone agrees on this. Of course, you could have said the same thing about Drew Bledsoe, who lost his job because of injury to Brady, and then got healthy by mid-year. The one difference there is in his previous 1+ year, Bledsoe was 5-13 as a starter. Alex Smith was 19-5. Alex Smith has essentially been benched because he got a concussion. The NFL has a serious concussion fight on its hand, and one of the biggest steps is admitted and fixing the problem in diagnoses, in making it harder for players to lie about not having a concussion, to hiding their symptoms, and this is a huge blow to that. Other players that aren't the most secure in their positions have seen a precedent, have seen a player been benched long term because he got concussed. If they feel that their coach could follow that precedent, it sets up incredible incentives to hide symptoms, to play through a concussion. I have heard this angle mentioned a couple times, but it should be repeated. While the NFL faces their largest medical issue since the days players routinely died, a head coach of an NFL team just undermined that effort by benching a player because he had the gall to get a concussion.

C.) Harbaugh is Messing With Camelot

The 49ers were once deemed as Camelot in the DeBartolo/Walsh/Montana/Rice days, and there is truth that this current ressurection of the 49ers is just as fun. They have a dominant defense with a slew of great players playing really well. They have a multi-faceted offense that uses every ounce of talent from their varied weapons, including making guys like Kendall Hunter, Delanie Walker and Michael Crabtree into matchup nightmares. And it was all centered around their gem of a coach, but now the coach is really messing with the chemistry. It could work great. Keapernick could be better than Smith ever would have been. But this team isn't building for 2015. They are built for right now. They have the 2nd best record over the past 1.7 seasons (21-5-1, a half game behind the 22-5 Packers). Their defense has a lot of youth (Aldon Smith, Bowman, Brooks) but also some age (Justin Smith, Whitner, Rogers). They are perfectly situated to win right now, and does Kaepernick make their chances of winning right now higher than Smith? Maybe he does, but this is a huge risk, and here, the conventional, risk averse approach (going with Smith) was absolutely defensible, and a proven approach. It is obvious that Harbaugh was never really tied to Alex Smith. He openly (although later tried to hide) went after Peyton in the offseason, but settled back for Smith. Well, Smith responded playing great football, save for one bad performance against the Giants. But Harbaugh got his out, he got his chance to go with the guy he drafted, and so far it has worked. I just worry that it won't work in January, and then he might have to face some scrutiny for the first time in his tenure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 13 Power Rankings & The Rest

Finally a good week. If only I actually did "buy a half point", I could have avoided two pushes, but without actually putting (fake) money, "buying a point" makes no sense in this situation. Anyway, a good week nonetheless.

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

Texans (-3)  over  Lions  (PUSH  =  0-0-1)
Redskins (+3)  over  Cowboys  (CORRECT  =  1-0-1)  (UPSET OF THE WEEK)
Patriots (-7)  over  Jets  (CORRECT  =  2-0-1)
Bengals (-8)  over  Raiders  (CORRECT  =  3-0-1)
Colts (-2)  over  Bills  (CORRECT  =  4-0-1)
Steelers (pick)  over  Browns  (WRONG  =  4-1-1)
Broncos (-10)  over  Chiefs  (WRONG  =  4-2-1)
Jaguars (+3)  over  Titans  (CORRECT  =  5-2-1)
Bears (-6.5)  over  Vikings  (CORRECT  =  6-2-1)  (LOCK OF THE WEEK)
Falcons (-1)  over  Buccaneers  (PUSH  =  6-2-2)
Dolphins (+3)  over  Seahawks  (CORRECT  =  7-2-2)
Chargers (+1)  over  Ravens  (WRONG  =  7-3-2)
Rams (+2.5)  over  Cardinals  (CORRECT  =  8-3-2)
49ers (-1)  over  Saints  (CORRECT  =  9-3-2)
Giants (-3)  over  Packers  (CORRECT  =  10-3-2)
Panthers (-2)  over Eagles  (CORRECT  =  11-3-2)

Week 12: 11-3-2  (LOCK: 1-0;  UPSET: 1-0)

Year-to-Date: 98-73-5  (LOCK: 10-2;  UPSET: 9-3)

Best Picks: Nothing exact. Closest was picking the Jaguars to beat the Titans 24-20 (they won 24-19). Other close ones were picking the Colts to win 23-17 (they won 20-13), picking the Falcons to win 30-23 (they won 24-23) or picking the 49ers to beat the Saints 27-20 (they won 31-21).

Power Rankings

Their Team MVP: The College Scouting Director Planning the 2013 Draft

32.) Kansas City Chiefs  (1-10  =  161-301)

I still love how bad the Chiefs offense is, and it isn't even Matt Cassel's fault anymore. Whatever happened to breakout candidate Jonathan Baldwin? Do people realize that the Chiefs QBs have thrown 6 TDs and 16 INTs this season? Do people remember just how many people picked the Chiefs to win the AFC West this year? 4 out of ESPN's 16 experts picked them, which is four too many.

31.) Philadelphia Eagles  (3-8  =  184-282)

They have a realistic chance of finishing the season 3-13, with road games still against Dallas, Tampa and the Giants sandwhiching home games against wild-card hopefuls Cincinnati and Washington. Other than the Giants potentially resting in Week 17, all of those teams are both better than the Eagles and have something to play for. All in all, this could be a sad end to the Andy Reid era.

30.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (2-9  =  188-308)

It is amazing how competent the Jaguars are when Blaine Gabbert is not playing. Chad Henne continues to be a respectable NFL QB, a guy who is still better than Mark Sanchez (something I claimed back in mid-2009). The Jaguars defense finally showed up as well. Word is Maurice Jones-Drew might finally be resurrected this week, which is nice to know.

29.) Oakland Raiders  (3-8  =  218-356)

That defense continues to be just atrocious, and the lack of running options is finally catching up to that offense. Darren McFadden might be back next week, but it won't matter much. Totally random thought, but how does Marcel Reese continue to get open all the time as a passing threat? Barely anyone on that Raiders team can do anything, yet he somehow finds a way to contribute each week.

28.) Tennessee Titans  (4-7  =  238-335)

The Titans had a slim chance at the playoffs, but that door slammed shut. They probably aren't the worst four win team by as great a margin, but they still have two more wins than they should have. They can still play spoiler though, with games against Houston and Indianapolis left. I'll curse them if they derail Indy's shot at the playoffs with a garbage win in two weeks.

27.) New York Jets  (4-7  =  221-290)

Three TDs allowed in 52 seconds?? There are no words....

26.) Buffalo Bills  (4-7  =  243-319)

That was a decent performance in Indy, but like so many of the Colts opponents this year, they couldn't finish drives. I have no idea how a team could get over 6 yards per play and get decent field position, yet score just 13 points. Good to see that Mario Williams isn't going to totally check out after getting that contract, as he was a terror for the first time in a while.

25.) Carolina Panthers  (3-8  =  214-265)

The Panthers have a chance to pick up some wins, and save Ron Rivera's job in the process. Their toughest game left is a home date against the Falcons, while they have trips to KC, San Diego and New Orleans, and another home game against the Raiders. 6-10 is not out of the question, which would probably leave the Panthers pretty happy, considering how disastrous much of this season has been.

24.) Arizona Cardinals  (4-7  =  180-227)

Seven straight losses, a third straight QB. I still believe Ken Whisenhunt is a good coach, and if a team has a QB, he would be a great hire (hello, San Diego??), but here's just a list of the people that have attempted to take hold of the QB job since Kurt Warner left: Kevin Kob, John Skelton, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Ryan Lindley.

23.) Miami Dolphins  (5-6  =  211-226)

They won the game and kept their playoff hopes alive, but can we talk about that whole sprinkler incident. The Dolphins definitely played better after it. Are we sure that wasn't planned? Why so quick to assume it was a mistake by the groundscrew?

22.) Cleveland Browns  (3-8  =  209-248)

I would love to see some work done on how the team that underperforms their pythagoreon projected win total and how they do the next year. I feel like I have seen such and usually that team improves. Case in point was the 2008 Wildcat Dolphins, who were much better than the 1-15 they were in 2007. Anyway, the Browns are a fully decent team. Too bad they are going in a new direction in terms of the GM, and almost inevitably, the coach.

21.) Dallas Cowboys  (5-6  =  242-262)

I've never seen a team that I'm more confident will make a game out of a 20-point deficit, but also equally confident in their ability to still lose that game. That was so expected. Romo piles up big numbers after playing like garbage, but they still lose anyway. It was just extra special that once again it happened at home, and once again in primetime.

20.) San Diego Chargers  (4-7  =  245-237)

Despite my thinking that Ray Rice was down before the first-down line, they don't even deserve the real call in that case. How they continue to search, and find, new ways to lose games is mesmerizing. The Chargers should have won that game, and the Broncos and Patriots fans are cursing them for not finishing the damn job.

19.) Detroit Lions  (4-7  =  267-280)

Despite their record, I feel like they can still beat any team at any time. Calvin Johnson is still unstoppable (outside of the red zone), and that defense can dominate any game, but they just aren't able to close it out. The Lions are better than their record, and they are still young at most positions. I hope there is no reactionary changes this offseason in Detroit. 

18.) St. Louis Rams  (4-6-1  =  205-254)

Sam Bradford continues to have the most impressive under-50% completion percentage games I have ever seen (vs and @ ARZ). Janoris Jenkins had another good game, and the Rams continue to be undefeated in that division (3-0-1). The Rams are still young, and Fisher has a plan, but I don't know if Bradford can ever get good enough to make this a Super Bowl caliber team.

The Bad Good Team

17.) Indianapolis Colts  (7-4  =  230-273)

I'm done putting them up high in the rankings purely because of their record. In the end, they still have a team that is good enough to beat any bad team in the NFL. They also have no way of beating good teams other than a mysterious, karmically affected game against Green Bay. Do you know what that reminds me of: the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals, a rookie-QB-led team that were 9-0 against non-playoff teams and 0-7 against playoff teams.

The Great NFC Wild Card Mess of 2012

16.) New Orleans Saints  (5-6  =  308-304)

The Saints finally showed their true selves. They still have beaten one good team all year, which was a close win against Atlanta at home. In their last two big games outside of that, they were smacked around by Denver and San Francisco. The Saints have suffered so much on their o-line since last season and it showed yesterday.

15.) Washington Redskins  (5-6  =  295-285)

RGIII alternates from great games to bad games way more than Luck (who is consistently decent all the time), and last week was one of his great games. They have a huge game upcoming, where if they win they could have a shot at the NFC East, but it would be nice to see RGIII have a good game against a good defense and good pass rush.

14.) Minnesota Vikings (6-5  =  248-249)

That was Week 1 of a six-game jaunt through Hell for the Vikings, as they still have another game against the Bears, and two against Green Bay, and a trip to Houston included as well. The Vikings were competent in that game, but turnovers screwed them. The Bears did expose again how limited Christian Ponder is, a fact that may be exposed quite a few more times.

13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (6-5  =  310-254)

Tough loss there, and they have a huge trip to Denver coming up, a team they don't really match up with all. The Buccaneers are still in the thick of the hunt, especially if they can beat the Saints in their remaining game, but the Buccaneers need to play better defensively. Teams just pass over them at will, and they will go nowhere long term until they fix it.

12.) Seattle Seahawks  (6-5  =  219-185)

They will rue that loss, as well as the loss earlier to Detroit, and it could easily keep them out of the playoffs. They still have the h2h win over the Packers, and that was a non-conference loss, but the Seahawks are now on the tightrope, especially if they lose Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner for four games. Russell Wilson, and the rest of that defense, is still playing well enough to nab that last spot, though.

2 Teams, 1 Spot: A Rivalry Renewed

11.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (6-5  =  231-210)

Before the Ravens Rebirth under Harbaugh/Flacco, the Steelers and Bengals were a nasty rivalry. The intensity isn't there, but the Steelers and Bengals are rivals for that last playoff spot. The Steelers probably won't win even if Ben is playing, but if Roethlisberger is there for the last four games, I like their chances to get that final spot, and be a potentially dangerous team in Wild Card Weekend.

10.) Cincinnati Bengals  (6-5  =  282-247)

Has there been a more Jekyll and Hyde than the Bengals this year? They had a three game losing streak to Miami, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but then dominated the Giants, Chiefs and Raiders the last two weeks. The Bengals have the talent, and the opening. It really all comes down to that Week 16 game in Cincinnati, but they have a shot to take care of business these next three weeks to make that game a lot more comfortable.

The Super Bowl Players

9.) Green Bay Packers  (7-4  =  273-245)

That was the worst game in the Aaron Rodgers era. The only thing that comes close is a 29-51 loss to New Orleans in 2008 in the Superdome. It was clear they couldn't block, but even when teh Giants rushed three, Rodgers had nothing downfield. The injuries might be catching up on the offense. They should start to get guys back, and they could do what they did in 2010, but that offense just isn't the same.

8.) Baltimore Ravens  (9-2  =  283-219)

How are they 10-2? You know what they remind me of? A slightly more offense heavy and slightly less defense heavy version of the 2003 Patriots, who started 2-2 and then rolled off 12 straight wins despite rarely looking that dominant. The Ravens still don't have a fully healthy Suggs or Ngata, yet they continue to play good enough defense. Also, converting a 4th and 29 is the type of bullshit the 2001-2004 Patriots used to pull all the time.

7.) New York Giants  (7-4  =  305-226)

Is there any team that can get up for games like the Giants? I can't think of any good comparison in any other sport, really, for a team that is never that great in the regular season, but just dominant in these types of games. That said, the Packers were the perfect matchup, a team missing o-lineman, with no running game, and little in the secondary. That was the recipe for a blowout, yet it was still impressive.

6.) Atlanta Falcons  (10-1  =  294-216)

Just remember, if Matt Bryant hits his two field goals, they win a little more comfortably. They definitely looked like the better team on Sunday, and that was a big game, going to a good divisional rival and beating them. The Falcons still have the inside track at the #1 seed, but they have another chance to quiet some more doubters two weeks from now against the Giants.

5.) Denver Broncos  (8-3  =  318-221)

I'm dropping them a bit after a slow performance against Kansas City, but if Matt Prater hits two makeable field goals, it is 23-9, which is a little better (plus, a cover). The Broncos were able to win a game on the road with their 'C' game, which is not a bad thing, but that game better get better against better competition, which they'll face in the playoffs.

4.) New England Patriots  (8-3  =  407-244)

I'm moving them up after two straight blowouts, but they aren't as good as the team they looked like the past two wees, just like they weren't as bad as the team that nearly lost to the Bills the week before that. Tom Brady is in another interception-free streak, like 2010, which hopefully will end in a shriek-inducing pick on a screen-pass, much like 2010.

3.) Chicago Bears  (8-3  =  277-175)

It is astounding what a different Jay Cutler makes to that team. He isn't a great QB, but if anyone, and I mean you Jason Whitlock, tries to assert that Cutler isn't tough, they should lose their job. The guy is behind a pathetic o-line, and makes the Bears offense competent. Good to see that defense back to their turnover-creating ways. Cutler's injury lost their chance at a bye, but they still have their division lead back. They need to hold onto that thing.

2.) San Francisco 49ers  (8-2-1  =  276-155)

I don't know if I'm totally wrong about the Kaepernick move yet, but the 49ers aren't any worse with him. My concern is he has a bad game in the playoffs, but Alex Smith could also have a bad game in the playoffs. What is good is that pass rush has heated up the last few weeks, outside of Aldon Smith, who has been great all year long. That is great for a team that is still in an offense-heavy conference.

1.) Houston Texans  (10-1  =  327-211)

They played nearly 10 quarters of football in five days, and went 2-0. They have some of the best wins this year (beating Denver in Denver, killing Baltimore), and have had just one bad game. Andre Johnson is clearly healthy and dominant once again, and that offense just seems different now. They still have some challenges left, including what could be a huge game in New England in two weeks, but they are still in good position to win the #1 seed in the AFC.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

16.) Carolina Panthers (3-8)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-10)  (1:00 - FOX)
15.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)  @  Buffalo Bills (4-7)  (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Arizona Cardinals (4-7)  @  New York Jets (4-7)  (1:00 - FOX)
13.) Cleveland Browns (3-8)  @  Oakland Raiders (3-8)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "Who Gives a Shit" Sunday. These are the only three games with absolutely no playoff implications (one coming up has minimal). None of these teams are going anywhere. It is good, actually, in a way that they have to play each other, instead of ruining other games.

12.) Houston Texans (10-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (4-7)  (1:00 - CBS)
11.) San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1)  @  St. Louis Rams (4-6-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
10.) New England Patriots (8-3)  @  Miami Dolphins (5-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
I call it "Don't Look Past It Sunday", with three divisional games where the road team has a 1st-Round Bye (or in Houston's case, the #1 seed) on their mind, but absolutely cannot drop this game. Divisional games some times are tough. The Texans have usually done well in Tennessee, but the Rams have been fiesty at home against their divisional opponents, and the Patriots have alternated horrific (2004, 2006, 2009) and huge (2007, 2010, 2011) games in Miami. My guess is one of these games is much closer than the line.

9.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-8)  @  Dallas Cowboys (5-6)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "I guess NBC ONLY cares about money", as they have failed to use thier flex right's to switch out a game between two sub-.500 teams. They've done this before, keeping a game with the Eagles and Cowboys late in 2010 in this spot. At least that time the Eagles were fresh with Vick and an eventual division winner, but the Cowboys were missing Romo. There are definitely better options, including some that I am sure CBS or FOX did not block, like Tampa @ Denver. That said, all the seemingly good primetime games this season have been duds, so maybe this is an unexpected classic.

8.) Cincinnati Bengals (6-5)  @  San Diego Chargers (4-7)  (4:25 - CBS)
7.) Indianapolis Colts (7-4)  @  Detroit Lions (4-7)  (1:00 - CBS)
6.) Minnesota Vikings (6-5)  @  Green Bay Packers (7-4)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Clear it or Fog it Up Sunday" as the Bengals, Colts and Packers have a chance to pull away in their Wild Card races. The Bengals best get a nice lead before a trip to Heinz Field in a few weeks. The Colts have to play the Texans twice, and I think way too many Colts fans are banking on the Texans having nothing to play for in Week 17. A Colts win in Detroit close to guarantees them a Wild Card spot. As for the final game, the Vikings continue their trek into real football, as they get the Packers for the first time. The Packers are vulnerable to good pass rushes, but the Vikings aren't really a team that can take advantage of the Packers defensive weaknesses.

5.) New Orleans Saints (5-6)  @  Atlanta Falcons (10-1)  (TNF - NFLN)
4.) New York Giants (7-4)  @  Washington Redskins (5-6)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "It Sure Looked a lot Better Last Week" Sunday. Had the Saints won, or Giants lost (or Falcons lost), yesterday, these would be two massive games. The Saints would have a shot to continue their unlikely jaunt back to the playoffs against a Falcons team still looking to beat their big brother again after four straight losses. The Giants, had they lost, would have just a one game lead over the Redskins and Cowboys, making their trip to Washington that much bigger. Instead, we only get slightly less entertaining storylines for the two good primetime games this week.

3.) Seattle Seahawks (6-5)  @  Chicago Bears (8-3)  (1:00 - FOX)
2.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5)  @  Denver Broncos (8-3)  (4:05 - FOX)

I call it "What is the Bigger Motivating Factor" Sunday, as the Seahawks and Buccaneers are playing for their lives in teh Wild Card race, while the Broncos and Bears are playing for byes (or I guess in Chicago's case for the division, but it is unlikely they fall out of the playoffs altogether), The Bears and Broncos are better teams, and the Seahawks haven't traveled well, while the Buccaneers haven't really beaten a good team on the road yet, but these are games that both can drop. I doubt either do, but in a slow week all around, they still provide an intriguing matchup.

1.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)  @  Baltimore Ravens (9-2)  (4:25 - CBS)*

The asterisk is just to point out that if Roethlisberger is out, place this way back, because then the Steelers are entering the Gladiators Den on crutches. Anyway, for now I'll assume Ben Roethlisberger plays, which makes this game that much more fun. Much like the two above, this pits a team playing in the Wild Card hunt against a team looking for a bye. The Ravens can come really close to wrapping up the AFC North with a win here, and might even push the Steelers out of the playoffs.\

Projected Playoff Seedings


1.) Houston Texans (14-2)
2.) Denver Broncos (13-3)
3.) Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
4.) New England Patriots (12-4)
5.) Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
6.) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)

The Texans are still in the driver's seat, and if they take care of business, even a loss in New England wouldn't derail them (though it could derail the Colts, as then most likely Week 17 will be meaningful). I still think the Broncos run the table. At that point, they could do no worse than the #3 seed (with a h2h win over the at-best Ravens). I think the Pats drop one of their two games in six days stretch against the Texans and 49ers, but they could easily prove me wrong. The Ravens, amazingly, are 9-2 and are still in good position for the #2 seed, and their h2h win keeps them ahead of New England in any tiebreaker. The Colts are pretty solidly in, and with just two AFC losses so far, they are in good position to get tiebreakers, which I think they'll get in this case against Pittsburgh, who I feel wins their "win and in" game in Week 16 against Cincinnati.


1.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
2.) San Francisco 49ers  (12-3-1)
3.) Chicago Bears (12-4)
4.) New York Giants (11-5)
5.) Green Bay Packers (10-6)
6.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)

The Falcons are in the drivers seat, and it is hard to see them falling too far. The 49ers still have just two losses, and I could see them stealing that #1 seed, but I think Keapernick will have a game where he plays bad enough to lose the game. The Bears are a really good team as long as Cutler is healthy, and the Giants are back. As for the Wild Cards, I think the Packers lose their game in Chicago, which ends their shot at the division. That probably leaves a meaningless (for them) Week 17 game in Minnesota. My guess is given the pounding Aaron Rodgers has taken, Mike McCarthy sits him if he can. The only change here is the Buccaneers going above the Seahawks. Some of this has to do with the Seahawks possibly losing Sherman and Browner for four games, and I think the Vikings, with their tough schedule coming up, falling off. I could see a team climbing back in it, but the Cowboys and Redskins I don't trust, and the Saints have a really tough schedule.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 12 Picks

Is it really Week 12 already? The NFL season just goes by too quickly.

Houston Texans (9-1)  @  Detroit Lions (4-6)  (HOU -3)

This is a really tough spot for Houston. They are staring down back-to-back road games coming up (including the all important trip to New England at the end of the streak), and they just played a long OT game the last week. Road teams usually don't do well on Thursday, but that goes for the night games. Even then, the one exception is the road team will do fine if they are just appreciably better, and the Texans are. That was a fluke game. No way they don't tackle that well again, and they should get the same pressure on Stafford that the Packers did. I don't see the Lions getting to Schaub the way they got to Rodgers because of the Texans superior pass-blocking line. Plus, that OT scare has kind of devalued the Texans here. They are FIVE games better than the Lions, and the Lions haven't exactly been playing too well recently. This line should be higher, and that makes this pick easy.

Texans 27  Lions 17  (HOU -3)

Washington Redskins (4-6)  @  Dallas Cowboys (5-5)  (DAL -3)

The Cowboys have actually covered all but one game on Thanksgiving since Romo was the starter, and that was last year's close 20-19 win over Miami. They usually get scrub teams (the '06 Bucs, '07 Jets, '08 Seahawks and '09 Raiders) which makes their task easier, but the Redskins are far from a scrub team. They've really become better in coverage after their pass rush was washed away with injuries to Orakpo and Carriker. This will also be the Cowboys first look at RGIII. That is probably the key matchup, and I actually like how the Cowboys match up with RGIII. They have the speed on the edges in Ware to contain him. That said, looking forward at these picks, I am barely picking a handful of underdogs to even cover, so I'll go with underdogs where I can make an argument, and this is one.

Redskins 27  Cowboys 24  (WAS +3)

New England Patriots (7-3)  @  New York Jets (4-6)  (NE -7)

If the Jets have any pride in their team, if they have any belief in their chances in 2012, if they have any shot at the playoffs, they win this game. It is perfectly set up for them. They are at home on a short week. Their opponent is missing three key players. Gronkowski is the biggest, but rookie stud Chandler Jones and Logan Mankins are both out as well. They usually play the Patriots well (though never in the 2nd matchup each year under Rex, which have ended 31-14, 45-3 and 37-16). That is just overwhelming me right now, especially since this is the worst of any of those Jets teams.

Patriots 34  Jets 23  (NE -7)

Oakland Raiders (3-7)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)  (CIN -8)

The return of Carson Palmer has the Bengals better off anyway, but not that much better. It may easy to take the Bengals here, as they've been quality each of the past two weeks, and are now fully in the Wild Card race, but let's remember these same Bengals dropped four straight games at one point, including losses to Miami and Cleveland. Anyway, I can't see the Raiders winning, but can they keep this close? I'm conflicted because I've backed the Raiders to cover recently and been burned, but I don't want to jump off of them the one week they do cover. That said, the Bengals, quietly, have a really good pass rush, and defense overall. I definitely can see them slowing down the Raiders enough. I'll go with the head.

Raiders 17  Bengals 30  (CIN -8) 

Buffalo Bills (4-6)  @  Indianapolis Colts (6-4)  (IND -2)

The Colts have been really good at home all year, and they have admirably taken care of business in all but one of their games that they should win (save for one fluke 80-yard TD to Cecil Shorts). The Bills are in better form right now, coming off of a much needed win and extra-rest, while the Colts enter off of a disastrous loss in New England, but I like the Colts here. Not much to say about this game. The Colts, despite their ills, are still the better team, and should win.

Bills 17  Colts 23  (IND -2)

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)  @  Cleveland Browns (2-8)  (PICK)

I'm assuming Charlie Batch is starting. The last time we saw Charlie in real action was when he came in during Ben's suspension in 2010, where he was competent in wins over Tennessee and Tampa Bay, and a loss to Baltimore. The Browns have been better recently, but I can see them not getting up for the Steelers in the same way without Ben, and I can see the Steelers getting up for this game even more without Ben. Being a pick, I love the position here. I can't see the Steelers losing another game heading into the battle next weekend at M&T.

Steelers 17  Browns 13  (PIT - PICK)

Denver Broncos (7-3)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-9)  (DEN -10)

This is a high line. There are various reasons why I would pick against the Broncos covering. First, this is a road division game at 1PM, and more interestingly, Romeo Crennel defenses have always done well against Peyton (remember, the second Romeo left New England, Peyton has been great against the Pats). That said, all the Broncos need to do, realistically, is break 20 here to have a great shot at covering. The Chiefs offense is awful, whether it is Brady Quinn or Matt Cassel, and the Broncos defense, and I'm serious, is a Top-5 defense in the NFL right now. The Chiefs haven't shown any fight at home against lesser teams, and I can't see them really doing it here either.

Broncos 27  Chiefs 10  (DEN -10)

Tennessee Titans (4-6)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)  (TEN -3)

The Jaguars have been atrocious at home, but this is a different story, as Chad Henne is now the official starter with Blaine Gabbert on IR (and his overall career in critical condition). Henne looked good last week, and I have to think the Jaguars bother showing up for at least one home game. This is a big game for the Titans, as a loss all but eliminates them from any playoff picture. The last time we saw the Titans, they were busy intercepting and dominating Miami in arguably the biggest shock scoreline (Titans 37; Dolphins 3) of the season. The bye might have cooled them off. I'll be honest, I'm really trying to talk myself into an underdog here. I want to think the Jaguars have some pride, and they looked good last weekend. They have to win another game some time, right??

Titans 20  Jaguars 24  (JAX +3)

Minnesota Vikings (6-4)  @  Chicago Bears (7-3)  (CHI -6.5)

So, it looks like the Bears will return to being a real NFL team now that Cutler is back. Jay Cutler is far, far from a great QB, but he really can make that Bears offense look decent, compared to the utter filth that we saw the last 1.5 games. Anyway, now that Cutler is back, the Bears should win this game. The Vikings are without Harvin, and I guess I can see Adrian Peterson potentially go off, but I can't see that doing enough.

Vikings 13  Bears 24  (CHI -6.5)

Atlanta Falcons (9-1)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4)  (ATL -1)

Yes, the Falcons are not as good as a 9-1 team. But they aren't exactly a bad team that some are making them out to be. It is like so many people are so mad that they keep winning games (and that they've been one-and-done in their recent playoff trips) they are envisioning a far worse team then the Falcons really are. As for the Buccaneers, they have been a good team, but in their biggest game (vs NO), the lost, and they nearly blew a huge lead in Oakland two weeks ago. There is a lot of judgements propping up the Bucs and batting down the Falcons, and I just don't like it.

Falcons 30  Buccaneers 23  (ATL -1)

Seattle Seahawks (6-4)  @  Miami Dolphins (4-6)  (SEA -3)

Interesting game. The Seahawks have shown a slight ability to travel this year, but they still haven't played really well away from Qwest, including a close comeback win in Carolina. The Dolphins have been awful the last couple weeks, but losses by the Colts and Steelers have at least made them relevant one more week. They need this game, and I haven't picked any underdogs really so far, which annoys me, especially since underdogs have been doing so good recently.

Seahawks 17  Dolphins 20  (MIA +3)

Baltimore Ravens (8-2)  @  San Diego Chargers (4-6)  (BAL -1)

The Chargers are basically playing for Norv Turner's job here, and possibly even Philip Rivers as well. The Ravens are hurting all over, and have a much bigger game coming up next week against the Steelers, a game in which they can essentially ice the division. They can almost literally do it with two wins in the next two games, but that's for another day. The Ravens haven't traveled well either, and could be susceptible to the Chargers passing game. Last time they played was a late season game last year where the Chargers blew the doors off of the Ravens, costing the Ravens the #1 seed in the AFC. I see the winner repeating, if not as one-sided.

Ravens 20  Chargers 27  (SD +1)

St. Louis Rams (3-6-1)  @  Arizona Cardinals (4-6)  (ARZ -2.5)

These two played what was thought to be a surprisingly meaningful game back in Week 5, with the 4-0 Cardinals visiting the 2-2 Rams on a Thursday Night. The teams are a combined 1-10-1 since, with the only win coming against, obviously, the other. The Cardinals still have a pretty good performance record at home. The Rams have the pass rush to absolutely kill the Cardinals, while the Cardinals are still starting sir Ryan Lindley. It seems way too obvious to pick the easy underdog, but sometimes ease makes sense.

Rams 20  Cardinals 16  (STL +1)

San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1)  @  New Orleans Saints (5-5)  (SF -1)

All signs point to Colin Kaepernick starting, which personally, I think is a mistake on multiple levels. First, he's trusting a green player with a Super Bowl caliber team. This isn't the 1980's, where a Jim Hostettler could take over late in the year for Phil Simms to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl. I mean, Tom Brady got 14 starts. Also, this starts a bad precedent for QBs (or any players) losing their jobs because they were unfortunate enough to get concussed. Anyway, as for this game, after all I just said, I like the 49ers. The Saints still have beaten just one good team, and that was a team that would let them play their wide-open passing game. The last time the Saints played a good defense, Brees barely completed half of his passes, the Saints had one of their worst offensive games in the Brees era, and they lost 34-14, with a garbage-time TD included there. It won't be as one sided, because the Saints are at home, and they aren't facing Peyton Manning, but I still think they'll lose.

49ers 27  Saints 20  (SF -1)

Green Bay Packers (7-3)  @  New York Giants (6-4)  (NYG -3)

Big game. Fun game. Most of the prime-time games have been duds, even the ones that seem great going in, and this one seems great. They played a great game last year in the regular season, with the 11-0 Packers beating the 6-5 (losers of three straight) Giants 38-35, and then of course the Giants returned the favor with a 37-20 beatdown in Lambeau in the playoffs. The Packers will again be missing a cadre of players, which despite a win, definitely seemed to hurt them against the Lions. The worst development was bad protection for Rodgers, again, which might even be worse against the Giants. The Giants need this game (though not as much, given the Cowboys loss earlier in the week), and I think they'll get it. I would buy half the point here to make in 2.5, but either way, I think they will cover.

Packers 24  Giants 31  (NYG -3)

Carolina Panthers (2-8)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (3-7)  (CAR -2)

Who Gives A Shit.....

Panthers 27  Eagles 16  (CAR -2)

Enjoy the Games!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 12 Power Rankings & The Rest

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

Bills (-2.5)  over  Dolphins  (CORRECT  =  1-0)  (LOCK OF THE WEEK)
Redskins (-3.5)  over  Eagles  (CORRECT  =  2-0)

Lions (+3)  over  Packers  (WRONG  =  2-1)
Cardinals (+9.5)  over  Falcons  (CORRECT  =  3-1)
Panthers (+1)  over  Buccaneers  (WRONG  =  3-2)  (UPSET OF THE WEEK)
Browns (+8)  over  Cowboys  (CORRECT  =  4-2)
Jets (+3)  over  Rams  (CORRECT  =  5-2)
Jaguars (+15)  over  Texans  (CORRECT  =  6-2)
Bengals (-3)  over  Chiefs  (CORRECT  =  7-2)
Raiders (+4.5)  over  Saints  (WRONG  =  7-3)
Broncos (-7.5)  over  Chargers  (WRONG  =  7-4)
Patriots (-9.5)  over  Colts  (CORRECT  =  8-4)
Ravens (-3.5)  over  Steelers  (WRONG  =  8-5)
Bears (+7)  over  49ers  (WRONG  =  8-6)

Week 11: 8-6  (LOCK: 1-0;  UPSET: 0-1)

Year-to-Date: 87-70-3  (LOCK: 9-2;  UPSET: 8-3)

Best Picks:

Power Rankings

32.) Kansas City Chiefs  (1-9  =  152-284)

Twenty-Point loss at home to the Bengals might be the new low-point for the Chiefs, who are having an epic collapse. Now is where I will mention that the Chiefs were a really trendy preseason pick in the AFC West, despite still employing Romeo Crennel and Matt Cassel.

31.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-9  =  164-289)

I move them up after a nice performance, and a breakout game for Justin Blackmon. Chad Henne once again showed just how epically awful Blaine Gabbert is, even if Henne's big game was a little flukey. The continued abhorrent play of that defense is just amazing, though.

30.) Philadelphia Eagles  (3-7  =  162-252)

So, I guess Michael Vick should get some credit, because at least he wasn't THAT bad. The defense is just atrocious, furthering the idea that firing Juan Castillo was a ridiculous short-sighted move. The Andy Reid era is over, but that isn't going to be a magical panacea for all of the Eagles problems.

29.) Carolina Panthers  (2-8  =  184-243)

How exactly did they blow that game? The Panthers were one out of four painful wrong picks (along with San Diego's backdoor cover, the Ravens winning by 3 as 3.5 favorites, and the Packers getting that garbage Field Goal to cover), and the one where I have no idea how it happened as I was watching RedZone which didn't really show much of that game. Anyway, another failed close game for the Panthers.

28.) Cleveland Browns  (2-8  =  189-234)

Tough loss made possible by some shady penalties for the Cowboys, but the Browns defense was, for the most part, fantastic, covering up for not having Joe Haden (who was really missed) with insane pressure on Romo. The Browns were even decent on offense. I still feel like this ownership change (and GM change) is coming at a bad time, as the corp of the Browns isn't all that bad.

27.) St. Louis Rams  (3-6-1  =  174-237)

Remember when they were 3-2? Well, three disastrous home losses and a tie later, we have the Rams exactly where they were so many times since the GSOT era ended: in last place in the AFC West. 

26.) Miami Dolphins  (4-6  =  187-205)

Remember when they were 4-3 heading into a game with the Colts for the right to get a leg up in the race for 5/6th in the AFC? Well, that loss seems to have absolutely crushed the Dolphins in every way, as they've lost two more after that, including a sullen loss in Buffalo.

25.) Oakland Raiders  (3-7  =  208-322)

So many turnovers are ruining so many decent offensive performances. This season might even be more aggravating as a Raiders backer than either 2010 or 2011, where some close losses cost the Raiders a chance at the playoffs.

24.) Tennessee Titans  (4-6  =  219-311)

I'm still stunned they are 4-6, and they have a good chance to get to 5-6 heading into their game against Houston. The Titans aren't dead yet, but they really should be, and if they do finagle their way into a Wild Card spot, we could be in for an epic beatdown in January.

23.) Buffalo Bills  (4-6  =  230-299)

If Fitzpatrick just made a better throw at the end of the Pats game, the Bills would be 5-5 right now and purely in the mix. It would also make their game against Indy this week all the more interesting. Anyway, it still is interesting, but this is their season this week. 

22.) Arizona Cardinals  (4-6  =  163-196)

That offense is so bad, while that defense is so good. The Cardinals definitely need to fix the o-line, but they really, really, really need to get a QB, and soon if Ken Whisenhunt wants to be coaching in 2014. The Cardinals pass defense is still really, really good.

21.) Washington Redskins  (4-6  =  257-254)

Nice game for RGIII. Actually, great game for RGIII, but the Eagles defense left guys way, way, way too open yesterday. What was more impressive was their defense really played well against the Eagles, limiting the receivers and playing very good coverage. Their defense has been really surprising after Orakpo and Kerrigan went out.

20.) San Diego Chargers  (4-6  =  232-221)

Another bad game, cosmetically made better by a late TD to cover. Anyway, that offense is just staggering in its inability to replace their o-lineman for yore. It is now obvious that Norv is going to be gone, but AJ Smith better be gone as well.

19.) New York Jets  (4-6  =  202-241)

With that win, they've made the Thanksgiving game a little more interesting (the Pats losing Gronk helps in that capacity as well). It is amazing how good the Jets defense can look against mediocre offenses, but looks lost against good ones. The Jets usually play New England well, but in the Rex Ryan era, the 2nd of the two meetings has been a Pats blowout each time (other than the 3rd meeting in 2010... what a GLORIOUS day).

18.) Dallas Cowboys  (5-5  =  221-224)

I haven't seen protection that bad since the Eagles on MNF against New Orleans. The Cowboys showed some gumption coming back in the game, but they should absolutely not be in that situation against a team like Cleveland. They have a chance in this division, but they need to stomp these bad teams.

17.) Detroit Lions  (4-6  =  236-246)

Tough, tough loss, but that is all on their offense. The Lions turned the ball over way too much. For the 2nd straight year, the Lions defense held the Packers offense at bay in Detroit, but their offense wasn't able to score enough against a bad Packers defense. Had they just gotten three more yards on their drive that ended to make it 20-14, they would have most likely won. 

16.) Indianapolis Colts  (6-4  =  210-260)

That was a "welcome to the NFL" moment for the Colts, and for Andrew Luck, who looked a little overwhelmed trying to keep up with the Patriots machine. The Colts still have a one game lead on the conference (and the Bengals have five conference losses, to the Colts three), but they aren't in the clear yet. They have to get past that performance and they have a chance, with a seemingly easy game at home against Buffalo coming up.

15.) New Orleans Saints  (5-5  =  287-273)

The Saints, again, did this almost exactly in 2007, starting 0-4 and then climbing back. I have a feeling that this year won't end up like that year (7-9), but I still don't think they'll be able to climb back into the playoffs. What helps them is just three conference losses, but their schedule coming up gets a lot harder than most of the teams they just beat (SD, PHI, OAK).

14.) Cincinnati Bengals  (5-5  =  248-237)

I still can't believe that if not for a still unexplainable four-game losing streak, there would be a good chance that the AFC returns ALL SIX playoff teams. It could still happen. They impressed me by really taking care of business in KC. The Chiefs were coming off of a mini-bye, and the Bengals had already dropped similar games (Cleveland), but they manned up and just pounded KC.

13.) Minnesota Vikings  (6-4  =  238-221)

Just when you think they are dead, they rise back. The Vikings are still in good position for the #6 seed (as of now, behind SEA due to a h2h loss), but their schedule becomes real now. They still have two games with Chicago and two with Green Bay to come. If they can scramble up two wins out of those two games, they have a shot. Still a year to build off of, though.

12.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (6-4  =  287-230)

I continue to be wrong about the Buccaneers (picked Carolina), but they definitely did not deserve that game. Josh Freeman fell back to earth, but he showed some of the late-game resiliency that made the 2010 Bucs the most unimpressive 10-6 team ever. They still have a good chance for the #6 seed, and unbelievably, if they beat the Falcons, maybe even the division (but let's not get greedy).

11.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (6-4  =  217-190)

The Steelers, for really the third time in the modern Steelers-Ravens rivalry (born in 2008 - another reason to love that season), lost by three points to Baltimore without Big Ben. In each game, you left thinking the Steelers were better (one of them was an OT loss with Dennis Dixon as the QB), but all that matters is they still lost. They definitely played competently, though, and other than the return leg in Baltimore, they should be able to tread water till Ben gets back.

10.) Seattle Seahawks  (6-4  =  198-161)

They return to action this week having seen their Wild Card lead disappear, but the great news for them is that the Lions (who beat them) lost. The division is probably out of reach by now with the 49ers win, but the Seahawks still have a ton to play for. What they really need is to get Marshawn Lynch going again after a couple of so-so games.

9.) New York Giants  (6-4  =  267-216)

I'll stick with them here for now, but the Giants need to show up. Their schedule is still really tough (GB, @WAS, vs NO, @ATL, @BAL all still left), but they have to talent to manage it. They might rue their loss to Philly, which for now gives the Cowboys a tiebreaker on Division Record, but if they just do what they are capable of, it won't matter much. Eli Manning's arm better have as much 'pop' as he says it does because he'll need to outgun three good offenses in the next three weeks.

8.) Baltimore Ravens  (8-2  = 267-206)

They have a chance to be one of the most uninspiring, underwhelming 12-4 teams of all time. Their schedule is pretty easy, especially with the Ben injury (only two tough games are DEN and NYG back-to-back, but both are at home), but they don't really inspire any confidence at all against good defenses. If the Ravens are lucky, they get the Colts in Round 1, can have their fun, and then meet their eventual demise in Denver, New England or Houston. You know, like what they did in 2009 and 2010.

7.) New England Patriots  (7-3  = 358-223)

I have no issue with Belichick continuing to throw. Whatever. If he wants to risk injury, so be it. The argument about Gronk is that should he be playing Special Teams anyway? That is the real argument, and many teams do have their star players on ST duty. I wouldn't if I were a head coach, but whatever. It is unfortunate. That said, I doubt any team is crying for the Patriots bad luck. Namely, the Jets.

6.) Green Bay Packers  (7-3  =  263-207)

Five straight wins have made their slow, plodding 2-3 start a distant memory. Of course, they still haven't come close to the offensive efficiency of 2011 (which was nearly impossible anyway). The Packers continue to have to throw short way too much with Jennings out and Nelson hobbling. The amazing thing, though, is their defense, despite losing Woodson and Clay Matthews, is continuing to play quite well. This is a slightly more offense-heavy version of the 2010 Packers, and that formula worked for them.

5.) Chicago Bears  (7-3  =  249-165)

I thought about dropping them further, but since I believe Jay Cutler will be back next week (of course, I am basing this off of nothing other than the fact that most QBs don't miss more than one game for a concussion), I think they still have a strong chance to win the division. That Week 16 game at home against Green Bay will be gigantic, though. Week 16. Soldier Field. Cold. Packers and Bears? Sign me up right now.

4.) Denver Broncos  (7-3  = 301-212)

You know a team is good when they beat their divisional rival who is playing for their life by 7, with a late TD in garbage time making it closer than that (and another TD coming off of a fluke pick-6) and that is considered a listless performance. You know your QB is good when he can go 25/42 for 270 yards and 3 TDs with 1 pick and that is his second WORST game of the season. The Broncos are one of the three most complete teams in the NFL (the other two rank #1 and #2), and they are still getting better.

3.) Atlanta Falcons  (9-1  = 270-193)

I have no words. They are becoming exactly what the public thinks of them at this point. They continue to win regular season games with absolutely no force. They continue to, strangely, win games at home without playing well. Matt Ryan just threw five picks. Who knows, right now. As bad of an 8-2 as the Ravens are, the Falcons might be a worse 9-1.

2.) San Francisco 49ers  (7-2-1  =  245-134)

Personally, I think they should go back to Alex Smith. It's not like Smith was playing badly before he got concussed. Conversely, in his last full game, Smith went 18-19 for 237 yards and 3 TDs in Arizona (not exactly a bad defense). Kaepernick was bad, but the Bears were playing a defense that reminded me a lot of the defense Pittsburgh played against Denver in the WC game last year. That said, I have never seen a more varied, inventive offense. Just imagine what San Francisco would be right now if they wooed Manning a little bit harder.

1.) Houston Texans  (9-1  =  293-180)

Look, no team wins all of their 'wins' comfortably. I have heard about a dozen times in the past two days that there is no dominant team in the NFL this year. In a way, there isn't because there is no historically good team (like the '04 Pats, '05 Colts, '06 Chargers, '07 Pats, '11 Packers), but there are great teams, and Houston is one of them. They played bad in their loss, but outside of the '07 Pats, every team has lost, and played bad in it. They were taken to the wire by the Jaguars. The 2007 Pats were taken to the wire by AJ Feeley's Eagles and Kyle Boller's Ravens. It happens. No team can be firing on all cylinders every week. Hell, the Pats barely escaped Buffalo a week ago. The Texans are still really good, and best yet, Andre Johnson finally looks healthy.

Previewing This Week's Games

16.) Tennessee Titans (4-6)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)  (1:00 - CBS)
15.) St. Louis Rams (3-6-1)  @  Arizona Cardinals (4-6)  (4:25 - FOX)
14.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)  @  Cleveland Browns (2-8)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it Division Games Shouldn't Be This Bad Sunday, with three division games that really have nothing going for them, other than seeing if the Steelers, on their 3rd string QB, can beat the Browns anyway.

13.) Seattle Seahawks (6-4)  @  Miami Dolphins (4-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
12.) Carolina Panthers (2-8)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (3-7)  (MNF - ESPN)
11.) Oakland Raiders (3-7)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)  (1:00 - CBS)
10.) Denver Broncos (7-3)  @  Kansas City Chiefs  (1-9)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it Lazy Sunday. Four games, none with any real story other than the dual collapses of Carolina and Philadelphia. The Seahawks have a chance to show they aren't frauds on the road on the East Coast. Carson Palmer does return to Cincinnati, but since the Bengals have adequately replaced him, I don't think there is much hostility there. The Broncos also finally get their first shot at KC, in what could be another embarrassing Sunday in Arrowhead.

9.) Buffalo Bills (4-6)  @  Indianapolis Colts (6-4)  (1:00 - CBS)
8.) Minnesota Vikings (6-4)  @  Chicago Bears (7-3)  (1:00 - FOX)
7.) Baltimore Ravens (8-2)  @  San Diego Chargers (4-6)  (4:05 - CBS)

I call it Prove Yourself Sunday, with every game featuring things for each team to prove. The Bills want to prove that they are for real in their Wild Card push, and the Colts need to prove that what we saw in Gillette wasn't totally the real Colts. The Bears, hopefully with Cutler back, look to prove that they aren't going to collapse again, while the Vikings look to prove that they are back in the playoff race as they enter a BRUTAL stretch. The Ravens look to prove they can beat a legitimate QB on the road, while Philip Rivers looks to prove that he is still a legitimate QB.

6.) Houston Texans (9-1)  @  Detroit Lions (4-6)  (Thank. - CBS)
5.) Washington Redskins (4-6)  @  Dallas Cowboys (5-5)  (Thanks. - FOX)
4.) New York Jets (4-6)  @  New England Patriots (7-3)  (Thanks. - NBC)

I don't think there has been a better slate of Thanksgiving games in a while. Kudos to Scott Kacsmar for pointing this out, but this is the 4th time in 5 years the Lions are hosting a team with the NFL's best record (10-0 Titans in '08, 8-2 Patriots in '10, and 10-0 Packers in '11). The Redskins and Cowboys sets up for a really entertaining game with RGIII's first game in Dallas, and the nightcap means something after the Jets win in St. Louis, and has a chance of being competitive, with Gronkowski out (the one guy the Jets have never been able to cover) and it being a short week in MetLife.

3.) Atlanta Falcons (9-1)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4)  (1:00 - FOX)

I'm stunned this is a big game, and although the division is still probably Atlanta's even with a loss (especially with a return leg still to play in Atlanta), but the Buccaneers are in a good position as far as the Wild Card is concerned, but with a trip to Denver looming, they need this game badly. The Falcons can make a statement by beating a media-darling team like the Bucs.

2.) Green Bay Packers (7-3)  @  New York Giants (6-4)  (SNF - NBC)

Last year, just one week later, the Giants (losers of three straight) barely lost to the Packers (10-0 at the time) 38-35 in MetLife. Well, here we go again. The Giants need this game, especially if Dallas beats the Redskins on Thanksgiving. The Packers also escaped against Detroit, and this is another tough test, one of the last few before a Week 16 showdown in Chicago. The Giants better show up after losing two straight before their bye. They have a while to prepare, to hear people throw dirt on them, and when that happens, they usually show up.

1.) San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1)  @  New Orleans Saints (5-5)  (4:25 - FOX)

The Saints are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winners of three straight, but the 49ers are just as hot. Since losing badly to the Giants, they have won three of four (tying the other game). My gut tells me Harbaugh goes back to Alex Smith (remember, in his last full game, he went 18-29 against the Cardinals. This is also a rematch of last year's playoff classic, but the location (and all the advantages that gave the 49ers last January) changes. Will the result too?

Postseason Projections


1.) Houston Texans  (13-3)
2.) Denver Broncos  (13-3)
3.) Baltimore Ravens  (12-4)
4.) New England Patriots  (12-4)
5.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (10-6)
6.) Indianapolis Colts  (9-7)


1.) Atlanta Falcons  (13-3)
2.) San Francisco 49ers  (12-3-1)
3.) Chicago Bears  (12-4)*
4.) New York Giants  (10-6)
5.) Green Bay Packers  (11-5)
6.) Seattle Seahawks  (10-6)

* - Cutler comes back Sunday

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 11 Picks

Miami Dolphins (3-6)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-6)  (BUF -2.5)

The Dolphins are desolate. They are bad, and after losing that crucial game to Indianapolis, are only getting worse, and bad teams don't win on the road on Thursday Night. Let's not think too much about this.

Dolphins 17  Bills 23  (BUF -2.5)  (LOCK OF THE WEEK)

Philadelphia Eagles (3-6)  @  Washington Redskins (3-6)  (WAS -3.5)

Would the line have been any different if Michael Vick was the starter? I say, probably not, but I would have had a lot more confidence in backing the Eagles. I didn't like what I saw from Nick Foles last week. He's a rookie. He'll get better, but this is a tough position for him, to come into a team in freefall and get them back on the right track. The Redskins have lost three in a row so they aren't in a great position as well. I feel like the Redskins will come to play after their bye against an Eagles team that essentially lost its season last week.

Eagles 17  Redskins 21  (WAS -3.5)

Green Bay Packers (6-3)  @  Detroit Lions (4-5)  (GB -3)

Cards on the table, I am picking a TON of underdogs this week to cover or win, and it starts here. The Lions built themselves to beat the Aaron Rodgers Packers, and while it didn't work last year, it did in the larger sense. The Packers held Rodgers to 9/17 in the 1st Half last year (he did go 13/16 in the 2nd) and trailed just 7-0, before a spate of turnovers, and Ndamukong Suh's ejection, ended the game. The year before, Rodgers left the game with a concussion, but he was doing little before then, going 7/11 for 46 yards with a pick. Despite gaudy numbers, the Packers offense has been nothing like it was last year, and I can see the Lions coming out to play here in a huge game for them. There is a lot much more to win for the Lions here, and I think they pull it off.

Packers 24  Lions 27  (DET +3)

Arizona Cardinals (4-5)  @  Atlanta Falcons (8-1)  (ATL -9.5)

I have no idea why I keep picking the Cardinals to cover. I have an illness. Is there a support group for this? Anyway, looking farther than this game, I think the Falcons are now somehow underrated. They aren't 8-1 good, but they are 6-3 or 7-2 good, but people just assume this team is about average. They aren't. That said, they aren't good at rushing the passer, and if the Cardinals can keep their QB upright, they can stay in the game.

Cardinals 20  Falcons 26  (ARZ +9.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4)  @  Carolina Panthers (2-7)  (TB -1)

A symptom of the Cardinals sickness is also liking the Panthers week after week. The Buccaneers do not have a good defense at all, and the Panthers should be able to move the ball well. The Panthers defense, on the other hand, has been playing better. Even against Denver, their defense hung tough. Cam Newton should have time to find guys open deep, which is what they've been doing recently. This, a lazy 1 PM game the week before a massive game in Tampa against the Falcons, is the type of game the Bucs are ripe to drop.

Buccaneers 24  Panthers 27  (CAR +1)  (UPSET OF THE WEEK)

Cleveland Browns (2-7)  @  Dallas Cowboys (4-5)  (DAL -8)

This line just seems high. Let's remember before a fluky spate of return TDs (Punt Return, INT Return, Fumble Recovery) the Cowboys were tied with the Eagles 17-17. The Browns have rarely been blown out in any game. They've lost three games by this number, two by 10 (Bills, Ravens) and by 14 to the Giants. They have played better of late, and their offense should be able to do something against that Dallas defense. Rob Ryan would love to stick it to the Browns, but I don't trust those types of motivations altering games. The Cowboys are not a good home team, and I can see them having a lazy performance, overlooking this game for their upcoming Thanksgiving tilt against the Redskins (btw, three good Thanksgiving games this year, a rarity).

Browns 24  Cowboys 27  (CLE +8)

New York Jets (3-6)  @  St. Louis Rams (3-5-1)  (STL -3)

The Jets are a bad team, but they way they have been portrayed is that they are the worst thing to ever be put on a football field. The Rams are a mediocre team that just took the 49ers to OT. I can see an emotional drop from the Rams here, with two Divisional Games upcoming. This is a game where the Jets can do well. They can handle mediocre offenses with their offense, and they should give Sam Bradford troubles. I can see the Jets, after being pounded over the last week, coming out and having a good game, stealing one, even.

Jets 23  Rams 20  (NYJ +3)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)  @  Houston Texans (8-1)  (HOU -15)

There's no point in analyzing these two teams. The Texans are the best team in the NFL. The Jaguars are the worst, or at best the 2nd worst. The issue is can the Texans cover a 15 point spread. The Jaguars have actually been better on the road, but the Texans have been better at home. I can also see the Texans wanting to put up a big number on offense after that slow performance in Chicago last week.In the end, though, this line seems too high. The Texans aren't teh 2007 Patriots.

Jaguars 17  Texans 31  (JAX +15)

Cincinnati Bengals (4-5)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-8)  (CIN -3)

The Chiefs might be emotionally spent after losing that game to Pittsburgh, while the Bengals, facing a relatively easy schedule are now back in play. If the Bengals have any hope of making it back to the playoffs, they have to win this game. The Chiefs defense has been average against #1 receivers, so I can see AJ Green having another nice game. The Bengals have actually traveled decently this year, and this is the easiest road game that they will have. Add in the low line (would probably buy half-a-point, though), and it makes to a seemingly easy pick.

Bengals 27  Chiefs 20  (CIN -3)

Oakland Raiders (3-6)  @  New Orleans Saints (4-5)  (NO -4.5)

The Raiders are undervalued having been just blowed out in Baltimore (not exactly an easy place to play), and are now up against a Saints team that has a historically bad defense overall (giving up an astounding 469.3 yards per game), and is awful against #1 receivers and RBs, and the Raiders throw to their RBs, especially Fullback Marcel Reese, all the time. I like this matchup for Oakland. I'm not sure how they play defense, but every year, once or twice, the Raiders defense will show up and win a game they really shouldn't, and that high line makes me think that this is the week.

Raiders 31  Saints 27  (OAK +4.5)

San Diego Chargers (4-5)  @  Denver Broncos  (6-3)  (DEN -7.5)

The Chargers aren't out of the playoff race, but the 2012 Season could end up being defined by the Chargers blowing a 24-0 halftime lead in Week 6 to the Broncos. The Broncos haven't lost (and barely trailed) since. The Chargers are 1-2 since, with losses in Cleveland and Tampa Bay. The Chargers haven't traveled well all season, and Denver is playing really well right now. I can see them wanting to put a lock in this division right now, end any chance of the AFC West being up for grabs in December, and just putting the nail in the Chargers coffin, something that Peyton, given his history against the Chargers, would really want to do.

Chargers 17  Broncos 31  (DEN -7.5)

Indianapolis Colts (6-3)  @  New England Patriots (6-3)  (NE -9.5)

I really hope this isn't a playoff preview. I don't want to see the Colts play either New England or Denver in the playoffs, as I would hate competing emotions. Anyway, as for this game, this is a 'barometer game' for the Colts. If they stay competitive, that says a lot about this team, least of all that if they make the playoffs (which is a good chance, right now), they won't have a haunting performance on January 5th or 6th. Andrew Luck and the Colts offense should be able to move the ball on New England against that awful defense, but New England will still move it more. The Colts do a good job of limiting posessions, so while I doubt they will really stop the Patriots, but I think they can keep it relatively low scoring. This is a high line but I can see them keeping up well enough. I wish the line was back above 10, because the Pats are notoriously bad at covering double digit lines, but alas, Vegas is torturing me.

Colts 24  Patriots 35  (NE -9.5)

Baltimore Ravens (7-2)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)  (BAL -3.5)

There are precedents for Armageddons without Roethlisberger, as the Ravens beat the Steelers by 3 in 2009 and 2010 without Ben Roethlisberger. The 2010 win was in Pittsburgh as well. The Ravens have a great chance to put some distance between themselves and the Steelers here. The one difference between the Steelers without Ben now and then is their defense isn't as good as they were in 2009 and 2010 to hold the Ravens down, and Leftwich isn't as good right now as either Dennis Dixon (2009) or Charlie Batch (2010). The Steelers looked lost without Ben last week. I think the Ravens, having being criticized for Weeks, come out strong and put some distance between themselves and the Steelers before their return leg in two weeks at M&T. 

Ravens 23  Steelers 16  (BAL -3.5)

Chicago Bears (7-2)  @  San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1)  (SF -6)

This is the line with Alex Smith playing and Jason Campbell coming in place of Cutler. This is a big loss for the Bears, but they are the one team who I think can be very competitive without Cutler because of how well that defense is playing. The 49ers should be able to pull this out, but even without Cutler, that line seems high. This is a big game for the Bears though, because if the Packers do beat the Lions, the Bears are in risk of falling into 2nd place with a loss here after being 7-1 two weeks ago. Either way, I see the 49ers winning a close game, but the Bears covering a high 6-point spread.

Bears 17  49ers 20  (CHI +6)

Enjoy the Games!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Camelot Refound?

The Peyton Manning era Colts were one of the most consistent, dominant forces the league has ever seen for an extended period of time. Sure, they lost some flukey playoff games, and disappointed by only winning one Super Bowl and reaching 'just' two. That said, when your team wins 10, 12, 12, 14, 12, 13, 12, 14, 10 games in nine straight seasons, then you earn the respect you have. Peyton Manning was the head, but it was really about a perfect mix in Indianapolis, built in the vision created by Bill Polian (find a QB, get players around the QB, get guys to get to the other team's QB) and executed by Tony Dungy. Jim Irsay was the King, the man that foot the bill, but it was the Princes in Polian, Manning and Dungy that made it all work. It was Camelot, playing out in that loud dome (and then slightly less loud dome) for a decade, and it was beautiful. In revolutionized the way football was played, making the no-huddle less of a gimmick and more of a standard, making wide-open passing games geared to make 4,000 yard seasons ordinary, the norm.

The Colts entered into Camelot in 2002 after spending four years building it (The Manning-Mora era), and were there for nine years. Then it all went to hell. Polian's magic lessened in the draft, and Manning's body betrayed him. Dungy had left, replaced by a figurehead leader who had little ability as a coach outside of getting his players to like him. It was staggering how quickly it all fell apart. 14-2 one year, and then 2-14 two years later. Sure, Manning, who has basically proven through that decline just how staggeringly invaluable he was, was gone, but so were other guys like Marvin, Edge, Sanders, Brackett, Clark and others that left after last year's housecleaning. The Colts were back to what they were before the Manning era, which meant they were back to irrelevance. After years of getting the maximum amount of prime-time games, the Colts got 15 one PM games this season. Enter Prince Andrew.

Andrew Luck was lucky in a way that he didn't replace Peyton Manning directly, but replaced what could only be described as the worst QB to ever play for the Colts (Curtis Painter) and the guy who is infamous for running out of the back of the end zone (Dan Orlovsky). Andrew Luck, though, was the guy who was picked to carry that torch, to be the Young to Peyton's Montana, the Rodgers to Peyton's Favre. Andrew Luck has been about as good as advertised. His overall numbers in standard ways of measurement seem ordinary, but when you take into account the context (his brilliance on 3rd Downs, his volume of deep throws, his lack of a good run-game or o-line) he's so much more than that. He was absolutely brilliant against Miami, four weeks after outplaying Aaron Rodgers. But the Colts return to prominence has so many more layers than just Andrew Luck. It actually starts with one man, the main man, Jim Irsay.

Jim Irsay had one of the hardest decisions in NFL History last March. Irsay and the people around him were sure Andrew Luck would be great. He had a lot more long-term value than Peyton Manning had. He would be there for 15 years, while Peyton, if he even played, for only five. But that "if he even played part" was the real killer. Peyton Manning was one of the ultimate 'Deal or No Deal' gambles. Take the risk and resign him, he could have very well never recovered and been a money pit that Irsay would be paying into for years. Of course, the other side of the risk is that Peyton Manning could have turned into what he has turned into (the best QB in the NFL in 2012) just as easily. Irsay even had questions outside of the QB.

For years, Bill Polian ran the Colts. He was the true Boss. No one gave Irsay credit outside of his ability to stay away from the football stuff. It worked brilliantly for a long time, but it all turned in Week 16 of 2009, when Polian made the decision to forego 16-0 to rest. It worked (the Colts did reach the Super Bowl), but Polian made a mess of the PR side of the decision, and became more clammed and dictatorial in the months and years following. That all was fine when the team was a 12+ win a year team, but when they fell apart after the Brain left (Manning) Polian was exposed, in a way. That team was built for Peyton Manning, and Manning was gone, and then the team wasn't built for anything. Irsay had his chance to take the team back, to became a vocal owner again, to stop sitting in the darkness and ceding control to Polian, and he took it. He made the decision, and really, after firing Polian, the Manning decision was pretty much set.

Irsay wanted to start a "New Era", and he did it in full. He cut Manning, but then more quietly cut Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark and Gary Brackett on the same day a couple weeks later. In a span of a fwe weeks, Four of the most important players of the 2006-2010 Colts were gone. This really was a New Era, and Irsay was in more control. He brought in his guy in Ryan Grigson, a rising scouting star in Philadelphia, and they brought in their coach (Chuck Pagano) a football lifer who was beloved by the Baltimore defense. Together, they drafted Andrew Luck, and the 'New Era' was set into place.

In April, the first steps were taken, as in the span of three days, the Colts, in Ryan Grigson's first draft, the Colts landed Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton and Vick Ballard. Five Offensive Players in one draft. So far, only one has been a disappointment (Fleener), while Luck has been Luck, Dwayne Allen is on a pace to have more catches or yards than Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez in their rookie season, T.Y. Hilton is showing flashes of brilliance, and Vick Ballard has been a surprisingly good runner. Ryan Grigson hit a home run in his first draft. Next Up is the defense, but this offense is set. It was all working well, until late September, when the coach got his news.

Chuck Pagano's cancer has somehow inspired this team more than I could have imagined. The Colts were obviously fueled by the love of their coach in their dramatic 30-27 win over the Packers, but that emotion seemed to tire them in a soulless 35-9 loss the next week to the Jets, but since it has been four straight wins. Bruce Arians took over the reigns, but Chuck's message still is heard strong in that locker room. His presence is still felt. He'll be there a long time, coaching a great QB and getting new players each year by a GM who aced his first test. The Colts have truly built their "new era" and done it more quickly than anyone could have imagined.


Of course, here is where I will pause to remember what could have been. There will still be one "What-If?" hanging over the 2012 season, and that is "What-If the Colts kept Peyton Manning?"

There are two scenarios here, one a lot better than the other. The Colts could have either kept Manning and still drafted Luck (the worst-case scenario) or they could have kept Manning and traded the pick for a package that would have garnered a little more than what the Rams got for RGIII (three 1st round picks).

Keep Manning and Pick Luck.) The team is probably better than what they are now, because as good as Luck has been, Peyton has been appreciably better. Peyton Manning looks healthy enough to play at least four years more (unless the nerve issue comes up again, which it shouldn't), which would last through Andrew Luck's rookie deal. The Colts would have had to make a decision to sign Luck long-term without him starting any important games. The Colts are good in the immediate, but probably not as good as what Denver will be this year. Anyway, I don't think this scenario would have ever happened. Let's get to the more interesting one.

Keep Manning, trade the pick.) Peyton Manning stars on this team that could have afforded to resign Clark or others. Even if they don't, they still pick a TE (let's say Allen), and a receiver to pair with Wayne and Avery. To make matters easy, say they get the same package the Redskins gave up, which was future 1st Round Picks and the #6 & 39 picks this year. The #6 pick is probably used to a get a good defensive player, like Dontari Poe or Fletcher Cox to help that D-Line that is an issue in the transition to the 3-4. The #39 was used for Janoris Jenkins, but guys like Cordy Glenn (who's played well) or Alsho Jeffery (can you imagine) were available. Say they pick Jefferey. They leave the draft with some D-Lineman, Alshon Jeffery, Dwayne Allen, Vick Ballard and others. Peyton Manning might not have Luck's mobility, but he has much better pocket presence and this Colts O-Line is better than the Colts o-lines from 2009-2010 anyway. That team is definitely better than this Colts team, and they are probably around 8-1 right now. They probably still lose to Chicago (a loss which is more understandable each week), but Luck is the reason they lost to the Jets in his one truly bad, bad game, and they don't drop the game to Jacksonville. More importantly, the Colts are more of a real contender in a weak AFC. Then, going further, they have extra 1st round picks each of the next two years. Personally, I would have picked this option.

Many people use the justification that Luck is a pick for 15 years, while Manning is for 4-5, but that isn't the only things to consider. It isn't really Luck for 15 vs. Manning for 5, but Luck for 15 vs. Manning for 5 and whoever is next for 10. So, does Manning produce enough value over the next 5 years to make up for the difference? Considering Luck for 15 is impossible to quantify (who knows if Luck is healthy 10 years from now), so there is definitely a chance that Manning could have. Anyway, we will never know, but before many people claim Irsay made the right choice, let's remember just how good Manning has been in 2012 and what could have been in 2012 for the Colts.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.