Friday, December 28, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 17 Picks

I'm doing this in order of game importance, starting with the games that mean nothing. If I was betting real money, or even now that I am betting fake money, I wouldn't ever bet on a game where teams could rest.

The Potential Rest Games

Baltimore Ravens (10-5)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)  (CIN -3) 

Almost every team says they won't rest heading into the game, so I don't make much out of Andy Dalton saying anything about the fact. I have no idea which team rests. If I was Baltimore, I would rest. I think they do, and the Bengals get the win.

Ravens 17  Bengals 23  (CIN -3) (NOT BETTING)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9)  @  Atlanta Falcons (13-2)  (ATL -5)

The game was taken off the board, I'm assuming because of the Falcons ability to rest. I think they do sit starters, but the Buccaneers are playing really, really badly right now. I'll keep checking to see if a line is posted later, but for now, I'll take the Bucs.

Buccaneers 23  Falcons 20  (TB +5)  (NOT BETTING)

The Games that Mean Nothing

New York Jets (6-9)  @  Buffalo Bills (5-10)  (BUF -3.5)

The game means nothing, I don't care one bit about this game. The Jets QB situation is just a disaster, and my pick is purely off the fact that I can't see returning to Mark Sanchez going well at all.

Jets 16  Bills 23  (BUF -3.5)

Cleveland Browns (5-10)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)  (OFF)

The game is off the board because the Browns have no idea who is starting. This probably gets posted when an official announcement is made. If the answer is Thad Lewis, then I'm taking the Steelers for everything I own.

Browns 9  Steelers 27  (OFF)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13)  @  Tennessee Titans (5-10)  (TEN -3.5)

Despite the Jaguars being three games worse, I think they are playing better football right now. Their defense has played better the last few weeks and the Titans have played even worse the last few weeks. The Jaguars have basically no shot to win a #1 pick outside of a Chiefs loss, so they have nothing to lose by winning this game, and I think they take it.

Jaguars 20  Titans 17  (JAX +3.5)

Carolina Panthers (6-9)  @  New Orleans Saints (7-8)  (NO -5.5)

No idea what to expect here. The Saints finally have some good wins, but the Panthers beat them fairly easily the first time around. The game is in New Orleans, which makes me love the Saints in this one. The line even has decent value as well. I think the Saints get back to .500, but that doesn't make me like the Panthers any less heading into 2013.

Panthers 27  Saints 34  (NO -5.5)

Oakland Raiders (4-11)  @  San Diego Chargers (6-9)  (SD -10)

This game is off the board because of the uncertainty of the Raiders QB situation. The one thing we know is Carson Palmer won't be playing, and the Chargers should beat Matt Leinart, Terrelle Pryor or any combination of those two.

Raiders 13  Chargers 27  (SD -10)

The Games that Mean Something for One Team
Chicago Bears (9-6)  @  Detroit Lions (4-11)  (CHI -3)

The Bears have only lost to plus-.500 teams (GB twice, SF, HOU, SEA, MIN) and the Lions have basically given up on the season at this point. The Bears defense dominated the Lions last time around, and while the Lions might have some more success at home, I doubt the Bears score just 13 point either. The value here is quite good too, given that only the Bears care about this game. I'll take the Bears.

Bears 23  Lions 14  (CHI -3)

Philadelphia Eagles (4-11)  @  New York Giants (8-7)  (NYG -7)

With Michael Vick back, the Eagles could be a live dog, and if this game was in Philly, I would probably lead to the Eagles covering, but this is in New York. I can't see the Giants losing here, but covering makes the choice a little harder to make. The Eagles are playing hard but they don't have the talent at O-Line to protect Vick here. The Giants are also far more desperate, and I think they take it.

Eagles 20  Giants 31  (NYG -7)

Miami Dolphins (7-8)  @  New England Patriots (11-4)  (NE -10)

This is a really tough game to pick. If the Texans win and Baltimore loses, the Patriots have nothing really to play for because unless the Chiefs pull the shocker of all shockers, the Patriots will be the #3 seed. If the Texans lose, the Patriots will obviously go all out to get the #2 seed. If the Ravens win and the Texans win, the Patriots might throw the #3 seed for the more advantageous #4 seed just like they did in 2005. Personally, I picked the Texans and Bengals to win, giving the Patriots great opportunity to rest, and I'll go with that mentality in picking the Dolphins to cover, but still lose.

Dolphins 20  Patriots 27  (MIA +10)

St. Louis Rams (7-7-1)  @  Seattle Seahawks (10-5)  (SEA -10.5)

The Rams have been great in the division. How great? They haven't lost to an NFC West team, going 4-0-1. They swept the Cardinals, and came within one Greg Zuerlein field goal of sweeping the 49ers. They've already beaten the Seahawks. Unless the Cardinals beat the 49ers, the Seahawks are pretty locked into their spot. I don't think the Rams can win the game, but this line is high, even for a team that is on a run of all runs the last three weeks.

Rams 13  Seahawks 20  (STL +10.5)

Arizona Cardinals (5-10)  @  San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1)  (SF -16.5)

These lines are just way too high. The Cardinals defense is very good still. Though they haven't faced Kaepernick (the last time they played, Smith went 18-19, and of course got benched), I don't think they will have too much trouble. I just don't see how the Cardinals score enough to come close to winning. The 49ers covering is a different story though.

Cardinals 9  49ers 24  (ARZ +16.5)

Kansas City Chiefs (2-13)  @  Denver Broncos (12-3)  (DEN -16)

This line is also high, and I'll quickly say that as a biased Manning fan, I don't care. The Broncos have covered (or came withing a Matt Prater missed field goal) all their double digit lines, and I guess they could scoreboard watch with New England, or go up big and sit Manning late and allow a late score, but I'll keep my faith. Broncos win big.

Chiefs 10  Broncos 31  (DEN -16)

The Game I can't Figure Out

Houston Texans (12-3)  @  Indianapolis Colts (10-5)  (HOU -7)

The Colts have nothing to gain by playing this game. I don't believe in that resting hurts your chances if your team is playing in the Wild Card round. Andrew Luck has thrown it way too many times and needs a break, plus JJ Watt could conceivably kill him. Yet, because Chuck Pagano is returning, the Colts probably won't rest their guys (another reason is the events of Week 16 2009 still haunt Jim Irsay). The Texans are good enough anyway to win the game, but I really hope the Colts think long term and sit their guys and not risk injury.

Texans 27  Colts 16  (HOU -7)

The Games that Mean Everything

Green Bay Packers (11-4)  @  Minnesota Vikings (9-6)  (GB -3)

This is probably the most interesting game of the weekend. Yes, it isn't for the division, but it is a great test of competing motivations. The Packers need this game to get the #2 seed, which is huge for a team with a lot of people injured or coming off injury. The Vikings need this game to get the #6 seed, and if they lose they are out of the playoffs. The best part of this intrigue (other than the Bears having to root for the Packers) is that if the Vikings do win, it almost guarantees a Vikings @ Packers game next week. In the end, the Packers are just a better team. It is admirable what the Vikings have done. After their 5-2 start, many pointed to their tough schedule and thought they would have faded away far before now, but I think it ends Week 17.

Packers 27  Vikings 20  (GB -3)

Dallas Cowboys (8-7)  @  Washington Redskins (9-6)  (WAS -3)

Apparently, since picking the Redskins to win on Thanksgiving at Dallas, I have picked the Redskins to lose each week, and they have promptly won each week. So, let it continue. I think this Dallas team is just ready to take this step. They have the talent, they have the ability, the Redskins have an average at best home-field advantage. Although it would be high comedy to see the Cowboys lose a play-in game to each NFC East opponent over the past five years, I don't see it happening this time. Plus, I want a "Romo Bobbled Hold" rematch game next week.

Cowboys 27  Redskins 23  (DAL +3)

Enjoy the Games!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 17 Power Rankings and the Rest

Can't believe the regular season is about upon us. That said, I am really excited for the postseason. Lot's of great stories out in the NFC, and three very good to great teams in the AFC, and a potential Brady-Manning playoff game. Now that I have more free time than ever in January, expect a lot during the playoffs. Obviously, I'll do picks and weekly reviews, but also try to write something extra each week (something I did in the 2009 postseason, which I was a little too invested in), and maybe even some other stuff. I'll be doing AFC/NFC Playoff Primers next week after the season ends. Anyway, let's get on with this show.

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

Lions (+3.5)  over  Falcons  (WRONG  =  0-1  =  -1000)
Titans (+12.5)  over  Packers  (WRONG  =  0-2  =  -1000)
Panthers (-8.5)  over  Raiders  (CORRECT  =  1-2  =  +1000)
Dolphins (-4.5)  over  Bills  (CORRECT  =  2-2  =  +1000)
Steelers (-4)  over  Bengals  (WRONG  =  2-3  =  -1000)
Patriots (-14.5)  over  Jaguars  (WRONG  =  2-4  =  -1000)
Colts (-6.5)  over  Chiefs  (CORRECT  =  3-4  =  +1000)
Saints (+3.5*)  over  Cowboys  (CORRECT  =  4-4  =  +1000)
Eagles (+5.5)  over  Redskins  (WRONG  =  4-5  =  -1000) (UPSET)
Rams (+3)  over  Buccaneers  (CORRECT  =  5-5  =  +1000)
Texans (-7)  over  Vikings  (WRONG  =  5-6  =  -1000)
Chargers (+2.5)  over  Jets  (CORRECT  =  6-6  =  +1000)
Broncos (-13)  over  Browns  (CORRECT  =  7-6  =  +1000)
Bears (-5.5)  over  Cardinals  (CORRECT  =  8-6  =  +1000)

Giants (-2.5)  over  Ravens  (WRONG  =  8-7  =  -1000)  (LOCK)
49ers (-1)  over  Seahawks  (WRONG  =  8-8  =  -1000)

Week 16: 8-8  (LOCK: 0-1;  UPSET: 0-1)  (+0)

Year-to-Date: 133-100-7  (LOCK: 12-4;  UPSET: 9-7)  (+32,600)

Best Pick: I guess the game I didn't care about, picking teh Chargers to beat the Jets 24-20 (they won 27-17), or the Broncos over the Browns 27-10 (they won 34-12).

Power Rankings


2013 Isn't Too Far Away

16.) Kansas City Chiefs  (2-13  =  208-387)

How do you have a player run for 200 yards, another run for 100 yards, and manage to score just 13 points. The Chiefs are just so sad right now, that even when they do what they do well, they can't win. I hope for Romeo's sake no one hires him as a head coach anymore.

15.) Tennessee Titans  (5-10  =  292-451)

Another embarrassing loss for the Titans, a team that has had their fair share of them (but also some strange, big wins, like the 37-3 win in Miami). Jake Locker was just awful yesterday, and as Mike Munchak goes out, it is interesting to see if Jake Locker follows him.

14.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (2-13  =  235-406)

They played hard, but the biggest play of the game was a mistake that only teams like the Jaguars make, when they had a false start on 3rd and Goal from the 1 down 23-16. Credit them for playing great on defense, but they still have a long way to go.

13.) Oakland Raiders  (4-11  =  269-419)

Their defense showed up for the 2nd straight week and showed again what they could have been. Almost as inflaming, Matt Leinart showed why Carson Palmer is still by far the best option the Raiders had at QB this season.

12.) New York Jets  (6-9  =  272-347)

I guess Mark Sanchez wasn't the biggest problem. I have no idea how an o-line with Nick Mangold could allow 7 sacks. I could go watch the sacks on Game Rewind, but that means me watching that dreadful game, which I just can't do.

11.) Buffalo Bills  (5-10  =  316-426)

Another bad loss for the Bills, who had a most Bills like season. They show some flash, some Gailey-esque creativity on offense, but are nowhere near as talented or deep to make a run. 

10.) Cleveland Browns  (5-10  =  292-344)

That was a "Your Playing With the Big Boys Now" game for the Browns, who looked competitive for about one drive. The Broncos just do everything better than the Browns, but Cleveland isn't that far off.

9.) San Diego Chargers  (6-9  =  326-329)

How amazing is it that Philip Rivers went 11-22 for 165 yards and that was one of his better games of the year. The Chargers defense was incredible, but playing great defense against Greg McElroy when no one is watching is kind of like a tree falling in the woods.

8.) Miami Dolphins  (7-8  =  288-289)

Another nice performance by the Dolphins, a team that has been able to win a lot of low-scoring games as Tannehill went through troubles. They have a shot to make it back to .500, but even without a win in Week 17, they had a nice season.

7.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (7-8  =  312-304)

It is still hard to believe that Pittsburgh might go under .500. They do miss the playoffs every third year (2006, 2009 and now 2012), but unlike the first two times when they were coming off of Super Bowl wins, this time they were coming of losing a playoff game to Tim Tebow.

Hey, One of You Two Will be Playing on Divisional Sunday

6.) Indianapolis Colts  (10-5  =  329-371)

Another win against a bad team, and another bad defensive performance despite giving up less than 20 points. The Colts defense might be the best performing horrible defense in NFL history. Andrew Luck had another game with under 50% completion, but I still think he's the best long-term QB in the 2012 Rookie Class.

5.) Baltimore Ravens  (10-5  =  381-321)

The Ravens finally played with some passion and precision. Honestly, I think it is the black uniforms. The Ravens are always great in the all-blacks, like in their near upset of the Patriots in 2007. Those black uniforms are great, and if I were the Ravens I would switch to them full-time.

The Spoiler

4.) Cincinnati Bengals  (9-6  =  368-303)

The Bengals have the pieces to be a great team, and considering how most of their top players are rather young, they could be come 2014. Dalton and Green are 2nd year players. Geno Atkins is a 3rd year player. Andre Smith is a 5th year player. Their defense is young and great at generating pressure. For all their faults the Bengals scouting and personnel department has done a great job the last few years. Quietly, they've made the playoffs three times in four years. Now it is just about winning a playoff game.

One of These Three Will be Playing February 5th

3.) Houston Texans  (12-3  =  400-303)

They are in this group for two reasons: 1 - I was too lazy to make another tier and 2 - they still have a peak ability good enough to get there and they will still most likely be playing the playoffs at home. That said, that was a weird loss to Minnesota, where their offense just looked awful. They aren't dead, but they are the worst #1 seed in the AFC since maybe the 1997 Chiefs.

2.) New England Patriots  (11-4  =  529-331)

A slow performance can be forgiven because every team goes through it. That said, I think it is, again, time to retire the "The Patriots will be so angry they'll score 40". The Patriots aren't some special entity that is above having lazy performances. They don't always respond with a vengeance after a loss. They are a normal team, and that was a normal performance for a team probably overlooking their opponent and flat after losing their #2 seed.

1.) Denver Broncos  (12-3  =  443-286)

Ten straight wins. All by at least a TD. Only one other team has done that, and that was the 2005 Colts, who started 13-0, winning all by at least seven points. The Broncos have a top-5 offense and defense, and better than average special teams. They are set perfectly to win a title this year. The only question is can they beat a one-sided team whose one good side is incredible (New England).


2013 Isn't So Far Away

16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (6-9  =  367-377)

In 2009, I decried the McDaniels' era in Denver, and then the Broncos started 6-0, making me recant. Of course, the Broncos finished 2-8, and he was fired a year later. The Bucs started 6-4, I recanted my skepticism of Greg Schiano. Since, they've gone 0-5, losing three at home. The Buccaneers team just doesn't have enough talent, but now they aren't even trying.

15.) Detroit Lions  (4-11  =  348-411)

The Lions started 5-0 last year. Since, they are 9-18, including an 0-7 run. That is pathetic. Jim Schwartz will probably keep his job, but it probably is playoffs or fired next season, and deservedly so. Congrats to Calvin, though,

14.) Arizona Cardinals  (5-10  =  327-330)

Their defense is really, really good. Guess what teams allows the best Defensive Passer Rating? The Cardinals, at 68.5. That's better than the Bears, Seahawks, Texans, or anyone. Of course, their QBs not named Kevin Kolb have 2 TDs and 21 INTs this season, which is even more surprisingly shitty.

13.) Philadelphia Eagles  (4-11  =  273-402)

Another decent effort by the Eagles, but that was a total rookie mistake by Foles at the end. No way you can keep hold of the ball that long. Even if the Int. Grounding wasn't called, there was 1 second left, so Foles almost let time run out. Live for another play, Nick.

12.) Carolina Panthers  (6-9  =  313-325)

Another nice win and another good effort by a defense that has gotten dramatically better since last year. I really hope Ron Rivera keeps his job. This team isn't that far away at all. If they turn some of their close losses to close wins, they are a playoff team.

11.) St. Louis Rams  (7-7-1  =  286-328)

Another good effort for the Rams. I think they are still a bit away from being able to beat good teams, but they can beat any bad team, they can restrict any mediocre to worse offense. The worst part is suddenly that is a really competitive division.

10.) New Orleans Saints  (7-8  =  423-410)

The Saints still are able to look really good, and Drew Brees is 240 yards and 1 TD away from another 5,000 yard 40 TD season, but I don't think the future is that bright with the team. The defense is still mostly atrocious and that division is getting harder. Great job playing spoiler, though.

The Team that can be the "Token Sitting Duck" team of 2013.

9.) Minnesota Vikings  (9-6  =  342-314)

That was one of the most surprising wins for any team this season. The Vikings really dominated that game, even without Peterson having a great game. In fact, that was the 2nd time they've beaten a playoff team fairly easily without Peterson having a great game, as they beat the 49ers 24-13 back in Week 3. Win and they're in, which is just amazing, really.

The Muddled Mess

8.) New York Giants  (8-7  =  387-337)

If they do sneak in, I'm sure many will say how dangerous they are, but they just aren't that dangerous. Hakeem Nicks isn't healthy, and Eli Manning is having an average season. The real drop, though, is that pass rush which is just completely flaccid right now. Sure, the talent is still there, but if they could really 'flip a switch' then wouldn't it have been more beneficial to flip it two weeks ago.

7.) Dallas Cowboys  (8-7  =  358-372)

Tough loss, but if not for some late heroics, it could have been just a bad loss. Tony Romo is now the complete opposite of what he used to be, as he is money late in games and just average in the first three quarters. That defense continues to be an overrated disappointment.

6.) Chicago Bears  (9-6  =  349-253)

Most of the Bears losses look a little better in retrospect outside of them being at home. Their recent 1-5 stretch featured losses to the Texans, 49ers, Seahawks, Vikings and Packers. Four of those teams will be playing in the playoffs, and the other has a good shot. They can still slip in, but even if they don't I'll remember one of the more exciting defenses that I have seen.

5.) Washington Redskins  (9-6  =  408-370)

I can't believe they are about to go on a 7-game win streak and potentially host a playoff game. The fact that their defense has been acceptable since losing Orakpo and Carriker is a testament to Jim Haslett (lest that statement ever be said again). Just a great job all around.

One of These Four Will Most Likely be Playing Come February 5th

4.) San Francisco 49ers  (10-4-1  =  370-260)

Bad loss, but those were really tough conditions. 2nd straight road primetime game against a divisional rival in the driving rain in Seattle. Hard for anyone to win that game. That said, their performance was embarrassing on defense, allowing that offense to do whatever they wanted. The 49ers seemed completely unprepared.

3.) Seattle Seahawks  (10-5  =  392-232)

Great win and tough conditions. I find it ridiculous for a team to outscore their opponents by 40 points per game the last three games. Their OT win over the Bears can be looked back to as a turning point for the Seahawks. That defense is something special, but so is the offense, with three receivers all playing well right now.

2.) Green Bay Packers  (11-4  =  399-299)

I'm not sure how good they are, but somehow they've managed to swipe up a bye again. They've gone through injuries, and slow play, but they are a scary, scary team in January the way Rodgers is playing right now.

1.) Atlanta Falcons  (13-2  =  402-277)

It is easy to doubt them, to hate on them, to say they haven't done anything yet, but outside of the NFC South, they haven't lost a game. In their biggest games at home of the year (vs DEN, NO, NYG), their defense has played great. They have a shot at 14 wins. It is unfair to keep doubting a team that has done nothing but win in a tightly packed conference.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games*

* - Bringing it back because I had no real reason to remove it last week aside from abject laziness.

16.) New York Jets (6-9)  @  Buffalo Bills (5-10)  (1:00 - CBS)
15.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13)  @  Tennessee Titans (5-10)  (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Oakland Raiders (4-11)  @  San Diego Chargers (6-9)  (4:25 - CBS)

These are the games that mean nothing involving teams that are scary to watch. All three will probably be boring games that will have no national attention, nor should they.

13.) Cleveland Browns (5-10)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)  (1:00 - CBS)
12.) Carolina Panthers (6-9)  @  New Orleans Saints (7-8)  (1:00 - FOX)

These two games are also meaningless in terms of the playoffs as all four teams have been eliminated. There are some interesting aspects to them, though. First, the Browns can look to sweep the Steelers for the first time since being born-again in 1999, and give the Steelers their first sub-.500 season in the Big Ben era. Then, the Panthers and Saints look to see who will end the season hotter, as both could be trendy sleeper picks (or in the Saints' case, a rebound pick) for 2013.

11.) Baltimore Ravens (10-5)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
10.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9)  @  Atlanta Falcons (13-2)  (1:00 - FOX) 

These are the only two games involving playoff teams that mean nothing. Technically, the Ravens could be the #3 seed, but if that means another rematch with the Bengals, and a trip to Denver instead of Houston, I wouldn't want it. The Bengals are locked into the #6 seed. Neither team really has anything to play for, and we could get the dreaded double rest-a-thon. The Falcons are locked into the #1 seed, and while I'm sure they would love to give the Bucs another harrowing loss to end the season, my guess is they rest it up as well.

9.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-13)  @  Denver Broncos (12-3)  (4:25 - CBS)
8.) Arizona Cardinals (5-10)  @  San Francisco 49ers  (10-4-1)  (4:25 - FOX)
7.) St. Louis Rams (7-7-1)  @  Seattle Seahawks (10-5)  (4:25 - FOX)
6.) Miami Dolphins (7-8)  @  New England Patriots (11-4)  (4:25 - CBS)

These are the games where one team is in the playoffs, but is playing for seeding. Ironically, the home team is the team fighting for seeding in each case. They are ranked in perceived order of competitiveness. The Broncos win and they are guaranteed the #2 seed. The 49ers need to win to hold of the Seahawks in the NFC West. The Seahawks are in the playoffs, but a win and a Cards loss gives them the NFC West, so they might do some scoreboard watching and pull guys if the 49ers game gets out of hand. The Pats are interesting. In a perfect world, they probably would be better off with the #4 seed (vs. IND, @ HOU) than #3 (vs.CIN, @DEN), but they still can have the #2 seed, They'll probably scoreboard watch as well with Denver.

5.) Chicago Bears (9-6)  @  Detroit Lions (4-11)  (1:00 - FOX)
4.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-11)  @  New York Giants (8-7)  (1:00 - FOX)

These two feature two of the NFC Wild-Card hopefuls against 4-11 opponents. Both the Lions and Eagles have a chance of playing close and maybe pulling out the upset, but I wouldn't count on either. The Bears actually have a pretty clear path. If they win and the Packers beat the Vikings, the Bears are in the playoffs (and get another shot at San Francisco, this time with Cutler and not Jason Campbell). The Giants need more help (Redskins win, Packers win, Lions win). There is a good chance the Giants join the 2002 Bucs as the only NFC Super Bowl winner to not make the playoffs in a 16-game season.


3.) Houston Texans (12-3)  @  Indianapolis Colts (10-5)  (1:00 - CBS)

This is the game that could have the most potential complications. The Colts actually have nothing to play for. They are locked into the #5 seed, and although they would love to beat Houston and end their run at Home-Field Advantage, and get another big win at home, they are hurting and it might be nice to give Andrew Luck a week off after he threw more than any rookie before. The Texans have to win to get the #1 seed, so they even have something to play for. What screws it all up is that it is almost assuredly going to be Chuck Pagano's return to the sidelines. It is hard to see the Colts resting their guys in Pagano's last home game for 2012, but it probably would be better if they did.

2.) Green Bay Packers (11-4)  @  Minnesota Vikings (9-6)  (4:25 - FOX)

This is the only game I can see where both teams have something to play for. The Packers need to win to get, somewhat improbably given their start, their injuries and their inconsistent play, the #2 seed. On the other side, if the Vikings win they are the #6 seed. Two more wrinkles into this interesting game. First, is Adrian Peterson's chase of 2,000 yards and potentially Erick Dickerson's record (though he needs about 200 to get that). The second is that if the Vikings win and get that #6 seed, and if the 49ers beat Arizona (quite likely), the Vikings will play the Packers next week in Lambeau.

1.) Dallas Cowboys (8-7)  @  Washington Redskins (9-6)  (SNF - NBC)

Finally, the only true play-in game of the week. The Giants loss to Baltimore cost us another in Cincinnati and Baltimore. This one is fun because most likely the loser is out. The Cowboys are obviously out with a loss, while the Redskins need a Lions win over the Bears and a Packers win over the Vikings to make it if they lose. Assuming all that away, this is the third time in five years the Cowboys have been involved in such a game in Week 17. In 2008, the played the Eagles for the #6 seed and quite memorably lost 44-6. Last year, they played in New York for the NFC East title (loser wouldn't make the playoffs) and lost less memorably 31-14. Here, the Redskins can complete the trifecta of NFC East teams beating the Cowboys for playoff spots in Week 17, or the Cowboys can make one of the least likely and most memorable trips to the playoffs.

Award Watch

Coach of the Year

3.) Mike Shanahan (WAS)
2.) Bruce Arians (IND)
1.) Pete Carroll (SEA)

Def. Rookie of the Year

3.) Casey Heyward (GB)
2.) Lavonte David (TB)
1.) Janoris Jenkins (STL)

Off. Rookie of the Year

3.) Robert Griffin III (WAS)
2.) Russell Wilson (SEA)
1.) Andrew Luck (IND)

Def. Player of the Year

3.) Aldon Smith (SF)
2.) Von Miller (DEN)
1.) JJ Watt (HOU)

Off. Player of the Year

3.) Aaron Rodgers (GB)
2.) Calvin Johnson (DET)
1.) Adrian Peterson (MIN)


5.) JJ Watt (HOU)
4.) Tom Brady (NE)
3.) Adrian Peterson (MIN)
2.) Aaron Rodgers (GB)
1.) Peyton Manning (DEN)

Friday, December 21, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 16 Picks

Year-to-Date: 125-92-7  (57.4%)

Atlanta Falcons (12-2)  @  Detroit Lions (4-10)  (ATL -3.5)

The Falcons still have to play for the #1 seed, but assuming they hold serve against a dead Bucs team next week, they can drop this game. The Lions are better than their record, but that was a performance of a team that gave up last week against Arizona. The line is giving good value, but I have a feeling they might be a little flat after that big win, and the Lions will surely play better than they did last week. The Lions have been mostly competitive this year, and I have a feeling Calvin might want to break that record with a dominant performance on primetime.

Falcons 23  Lions 27  (DET +3.5)

Tennessee Titans (5-9)  @  Green Bay Packers (10-4)  (GB -12.5)

The Packers haven't done well covering high lines this year. The best example was them beating the Jaguars 21-15 after being 14 point favorites. The Titans defense has come on lately, especially their defensive line, which is a good thing against the most sack-prone QB in the NFL. I can see a slow performance by the Packers here as they clinched the division last week. They still have a shot at the #2 seed, but there still could be an emotional let down here for a team that has often played slightly down to the level of their competition.

Titans 17  Packers 26  (TEN +12.5)

Oakland Raiders (4-10)  @  Carolina Panthers (5-9)  (CAR -8.5)

The Raiders got their token 4th win, and I don't think they have a chance in this game. The Panthers are better than their 5-9 record, and this game could be another step in the right direction looking forward to 2013. The Panthers offense should have no problem against the Raiders defense, and the Panthers defense themselves have the talent to limit the Raiders attack. If you make the Raiders pass offense go down the field in small chunks, they are eminently beatable, and the Raiders are here.

Raiders 16  Panthers 27  (CAR -8.5)

Buffalo Bills (5-9)  @  Miami Dolphins (6-8)  (MIA -4.5)

I have no clue about this game, and I don't really care too much either way. The Dolphins are better and at home, but they are incredibly schizophrenic at home. The Bills are really banged up, as Donald Jones is now out as well. I can see them hanging with the Dolphins, but in the end, the Dolphins are better and clearly haven't quit on 2012.

Bills 17  Dolphins 31  (MIA -4.5)

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)  (PIT -4)

Big game here. The winner all but clinches a playoff spot (the Bengals win gives them a spot, and a Steelers gives them a 'win-and-you-are-in' game against the Browns next weekend. I think Cincinnati is better, but this is in Pittsburgh. It may be blind trust that the Steelers don't deserve, but I think they come to play in a game where they can essentially make the playoffs at home. The Steelers dominated the first meeting in Cleveland (even though the score was 24-17), and while the game might be closer, the score should stay somewhat the same.

Bengals 17  Steelers 23  (PIT -4)

New England Patriots (10-4)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)  (NE -14.5)

This is a great experiment of the legitimacy of betting trends. The Jaguars have been double-digit underdogs twice this year (@GB, @HOU), and covered both times (nearly beat Houston). The Patriots have been notoriously bad at covering double-digit lines since midway through 2007, when they became the public team to beat all public teams. If I was putting real money on these games, I probably wouldn't bet this, though, because how can I go against a Patriots team coming off of an embarrassing and heartbreaking loss (the worst kind). The Patriots will play angry. I guess they still have the #2 seed to play for, but motivation won't be there in any extrinsic sense, but intrinsically, this game means a lot for them.

Patriots 38  Jaguars 17  (NE -14.5)

Indianapolis Colts (9-5)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (2-12)  (IND -6.5)

Here is another game where I feel the line is too high, but the Chiefs are just so bad right now. The Colts could be burned by Jamaal Charles, but I think the Chiefs have pretty much quit on the season. That was not just a loss at Oakland, but the first step in the exorcism of Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli (but, by all means other NFL teams, keep hiring people from New England). The Colts are basically in now, but a win gives them the #4 seed and lets them avoid the Patriots, and I think that is motivation enough.

Colts 30  Chiefs 20  (IND -6.5)

New Orleans Saints (6-8)  @  Dallas Cowboys (8-6)  (DAL -3)

Can you say TRAP GAME!!!! The Cowboys have to be looking ahead a little bit to their showdown with the Redskins in Week 17. The Saints are a team that has the ability to play much better than their record (admittedly, they can also play far worse), and the Cowboys defense doesn't have the same effectiveness up front that once shocked the 13-0 Saints back in 2009. The Cowboys have been getting by in close games, and this line is sreaming to take the Cowboys giving only three. I am not so sure, as I can see Brees shredding that defense. To be safe, I'll buy half a point though, just to avoid a field goal screwing it up.

Saints 31  Cowboys 27  (NO bought to +3.5)

Washington Redskins (8-6)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (4-10)  (WAS -5.5)

I have similar thoughts here. RGIII is expected back, but I don't know how close to 100% he will be, as the Redskins have been very Belichickian in dealing with this injury. The Redskins are better, but the Eagles are playing far better now than they were in the first meeting. This will also most certainly be Andy Reid's final home game as Eagles head coach, and I could see the team trying to send him off right. The Eagles defense has put together two straight good games, and I could see a third happening here.

Redskins 23  Eagles 27  (PHI +5.5)  (UPSET OF THE WEEK)

St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)  (TB -3)

Two teams that had a shot but let a playoff run slip away. I am surprised the line is this low, but I guess Vegas has jumped off the Buccaneers, and for good reason. The Rams were awful last week against the run, so Doug Martin could have a good game. Conversely, Josh Freeman might play horribly against a good Rams pass defense. The Buccaneers never have any real home-field advantage, and the Rams haven't traveled well. Basically, what I am trying to say is that I have no clue what is going to happen here.

Rams 20  Buccaneers 17  (STL +3)

Minnesota Vikings (8-6)  @  Houston Texans (12-2)  (HOU -7.5)

The only way the Vikings stay in this game is if Adrian Peterson has a monster game. The Texans can lock everything up in their final home game if they beat the Vikings, and have the knowledge that all of their future games that mean something will happen in Reliant. The Vikings have a lot to play for as well, but their passing game is woefully unprepared for the Texans defense. The line is high, but not too high for a team that has been mostly dominant at home, and I see that continuing.

Vikings 17  Texans 34  (HOU -7.5)

San Diego Chargers (5-9)  @  New York Jets (6-8)  (NYJ -2.5)

Who Cares? I definitely don't.

Chargers 24  Jets 20  (SD +2.5)

Cleveland Browns (5-9)  @  Denver Broncos (11-3)  (DEN -13)

This is a high, high line. The Broncos were favored twice by double digits this year (@KC, @OAK), and covered one. Those were both -10. The Browns have rarely lost by more than 10 this year, and despite the Broncos winning each of their last nine games by at least seven points, many of them have featured the Broncos giving up late scores to make them seem a little closer. The Browns though are just a great matchup for Denver. The Browns offense's only real strength is their run game, which the Broncos are great against. The Broncos should be able to move the ball effectively, because they have against everyone in Denver. I hate to lay this many points, especially twice in one week, but hopefully at least one of the two are right.

Browns 10  Broncos 27  (DEN -13)

Chicago Bears (8-6)  @  Arizona Cardinals (5-9)  (CHI -5.5)

This will be low scoring, I am sure of that much. The Cardinals and Bears are two of the best four or five defenses in the NFL, and the Cards defense usually plays better at home. Both QBs playing are known to make mistakes. What separates this game for me, though, is knowing that Jay Cutler will probably make a couple good plays, while I can't see the CardinalI just ts QBs doing anything of note against the Bears defense. The Bears defense has fallen off of their historically good pace, but they are still great, and this is a perfect spot for them to get back on track.

Bears 20  Cardinals 10  (CHI -5.5)

New York Giants (8-6)  @  Baltimore Ravens (9-5)  (NYG -2.5)

This is a tough game, but made a little bit easier with the Ravens having clinched a playoff spot last week. The Giants need to win both of their remaining games to have any good shot at the playoffs (of course, if they win both, they have a guaranteed spot in the playoffs). I can't see the Giants losing, but I also have a hard time seeing the Ravens lose four in a row, including three straight at home. That said, at the end of the day, the Ravens just aren't that good right now, and made worse with Torrey Smith's status unclear. The Giants are still a good team that will definitely play better than last week. The line is pretty good value, and I just think the proud team that always performs when its back is against the wall will once again.

Giants 27  Ravens 20  (NYG -2.5)  (LOCK OF THE WEEK)

San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1)  @  Seattle Seahawks (9-5)  (SF -1)

If the Patriots beat the 49ers, this would have been an awesome game. In retrospect, Bengals @ Steelers is more meaningful now and probably would have been a better SNF game (although NBC already had the 1st leg). Speaking of 1st legs, the 1st leg of this matchup was an entertaining 13-6 win for the 49ers. How much has changed since then. The Seahawks have taken off and are now among the best teams in the NFL, while the 49ers have changed QBs and continued to be great when playing anyone other than St. Louis. The Seahawks haven't lost a home game yet, which makes this even harder to pick. When I first saw this, I was leaning towards the 49ers, who do have more to play for. Technically, the Seahawks aren't in the playoffs yet, but a win next week and they are in no matter what. The Seahawks also have little shot at the division. On the other side, the 49ers do have to still play for a 1st round bye. A loss here allows the Packers to steal it. That is more motivation, and the 49ers just do everything the Seahawks do a little bit better. I see them getting their 2nd straight statement road win in the Kaepernick era.

49ers 20  Seahawks 17  (SF -1)

Enjoy the Games!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Season of My Life

Maybe it was a product of just having more free time, or maybe a product of discovering Football Outsiders and (my two All-Time Go-To football sites), or maybe it was not having Tom Brady around, but the 2008 NFL Season was my favorite individual regular season in my time watching football, and I could make the argument that it was one of the most exciting, enticing and interesting seasons of my lifetime. It was a great year with a brilliant mix of great offense, great run games, great defenses and great stories. It was a year that changed football, a year with no great team after a season defined by great ones ('07 Patriots, Cowboys, Colts). It was a year that had the most uninteresting chase for perfection in the '08 Titans after the ultimate one. It was a year with ultimately a bad postseason (redeemed by a Great Super Bowl), but a great regular season.

The season would be invariable changed by what happened that July and then an event that took place at 1:20 PM the first Sunday of the season. The second event was Tom Brady tearing his ACL, ending the Patriots season. The Patriots themselves rebounded well under Matt Cassel and finished 11-5, but didn't make the playoffs (we will get to the team that did in a while). Many people complained when an 11-5 team was left out, but it was the Patriots fault for losing each game they played against AFC Playoff Competitors. The other event was the first true Brett Favre saga. Favre retired in a tearful, beautiful press conference in March, saying that he basically was burnt out. The rumblings then started in June, rumblings that Favre wanted back in. Then became the 2nd biggest QB decision of the past 10 years (the bigger one is the one Jim Irsay made last March), and Ted Thompson picked to keep Aaron Rogers, and let Favre go, with the one condition that he couldn't go to Minnesota. Favre eventually picked the New York Jets, setting in place the first major change for the 2008 season.

The 2008 season started in earnest in Week 3 & 4, with two games that would define the season. The first was in Foxboro, as the 2-0 Patriots took on the 0-2 Miami Dolphins. The Patriots, winners of 21 straight regular season games, took on the Dolphins fresh off a 1-15 season. The Dolphins, with nothing to lose, decided to open up their playbook, and release the 'WildCat' to the world. With this direct-snap offense, the Dolphins changed the fortunes of their team, but also started the Greatest one-season football trend that I have ever seen. In that game, the Dolphins scored four TDs of WildCat plays in a 38-13 beatdown of New England. By the time the season was done, the WildCat would help spur the Dolphins to an 11-5 season, and permeate its way all across the league. Almost every team without a true star QB had some variation of the package (my favorite was a WildCat pitch to Troy Smith, the backup QB for the Ravens, where he thew a deep bomb to Joe Flacco). No one ran it like the Dolphins though. No one practiced it as much, had as many variations, used it so much and so effectively. The Wildcat was the Dolphins. It made Ronnie Brown less of a bust, it made Chad Pennington into a star QB for a season, and it made the Dolphins make the playoffs a year after going 1-15.

One week and seven hours later, the 2-0 Ravens took on the 2-1 Steelers in Heinz Field. The Ravens were two games into the Flacco-Harbaugh era, and were a surprise 2-0 after firing Brian Billick in the offseason. The Steelers were among the best teams in the league, one of the teams that took the place of the Patriots when Brady went down. They played a close, tight game that night. The Ravens jumped out to a 13-3 lead. The Steelers answered withT two quick TDs to go up 17-13. The Ravens tied it at 20 late, and the Steelers finished the game winning with an OT Field Goal. In the game, Joe Flacco threw for 191 yards. Roethlisberger threw for 192. Neither team gained 250 yards on offense. With Brady out, the Patriots-Colts rivalry stopped for a year, and little did we know that a stronger, more bloody and hate-filled rivalry would take its place that night. The Steelers-Ravens rivalry started in earnest that night, and it hasn't stopped since.

The 2008 Season was also defined by the differences between all the top teams. 2007 was defined by pass-first teams dominating. All the teams that went 13-3 or better (Pats, Colts, Cowboys, Packers), had crazy efficient passing games. In 2008, teams were defined by so many different strengths. The only team to go better than 12-4 was the Tennessee Titans, who were built off a great run game (LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson), and a stout defense. The other bye teams (Giants, Panthers, Steelers) were all built off running the ball or defense. The Giants ran the ball so well with their Earth, Wind and Fire attack (Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw), and it was keyed by their dominant o-line. The Panthers ran it even better, as DeAngelo Williams finished the season with a dominant run. The Steelers had the best defense in the NFL in any measureable way. They had the league's best pass defense, 2nd best rush defense, best defense in yards allowed and best defense in points allowed. They had players playing great at every level, and full health for that season. They were absolutely dominant, not allowing a single 300 yard passer or 100 yard rusher the entire season. Only one team even gained 300 yards on them, and that was the 13-3 Titans, and they only got 322. Remember, in this same season the first assault at Marino's record was made as Drew Brees ended up 36 yards short. This wasn't some bygone era of running and defense. The Steelers dominated essentially the same NFL that exists now. And it was beautiful.

The '08 Season was, as many seasons are, partly defined by the events of the NFC East. Every year people expound about it being the best division, the toughest division. That probably wasn't true in 2008, but it definitely was the most dramatic, arcane and interesting. It was a 17-week jaunt that included a surprising start by Washinton, an epic collapse by the Cowboys, a dramatic comeback by the Eagles, and a dominant Giants team. The Giants were not very interesting for much of the season, because their dominance that followed their win in Super Bowl XLII was just that. The Giants started the season 11-1 off of an o-line playing about as well as any o-line ever. Eli Manning was careful, limiting his interceptions better than ever before. The Giants were a machine, retroactively making the events in Glendale seem less and less like a fluke. And then, on November 28th, Plaxico Burress decided to bring a handgun with him to a nightclub and shot himself.

It ended Burress' Giants career, but also sidetracked the NFL's best team in 2008 to that point in the season. The Giants were 10-1, and would win their next game, but they then dropped two games straight, scoring just 14 points in both, to the Eagles and Cowboys. They did man up and win a 'winner-takes-#1-Seed" game against the Panthers in Week 16, a dramatic 31-28 win in OT, and one of the best games of the year, and then nearly beat the playoff-bound Vikings with their 'B-Team' in Week 17, but the Giants were nowhere near as complete without Burress. In the end, the lost to another NFC East team, one that had it a little more interesting.

The Eagles and Cowboys traded blows all season long. It started in Week 2, when the Cowboys beat the Eagles 41-37 in a wild game, most remembered for DeSean Jackson dropping the ball early before crossing the goal-line. The Cowboys got off to a fast start, until Tony Romo got injured and missed three games, where the Cowboys went 1-2. He came back and the Cowboys continued their good play, and moved to 8-4 following their Thanksgiving win over the Seahawks. The Eagles won on Thanksgiving as well, blasting the eventual NFC Champion Cardinals 48-21 in the night game. It was a marked win because it was the game that followed one of the lowest moments in the Andy Reid era (until this year, that is), when Donovan McNabb was benched in an awful 36-7 loss to the Ravens. That loss to Baltimore followed a 13-13 tie with the Bengals, where McNabb admitted not knowing that NFL games could end in a tie. It was that type of year for the Eagles, but after all that they weren't that far away.

The Cowboys, after being 8-4, started an epic tailspin. First up, they blew a 13-3 lead in the 4th Quarter to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It was a memorable game for me. I can almost remember everything about it, like Troy Polamalu's interception on the very first drive, both QBs being pounded all day long by good defenses, and that comeback by Pittsburgh. They scored a TD to tie it, then DeShea Townsend picked off Romo to end it. The Cowboys rebounded with a win over the Giants the next week to stay ahead of Philly. Then came a crazy last two weeks. First, on Saturday Night, the Cowboys hosted the Ravens in the final game ever at Texas Stadium. NFL Network pulled out all the stops, giving the audience the mash crew of Bob Papa, Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk. The game was kind of close, but the Ravens just made every big play. First, Ed Reed picked off two ducks by Romo. Then, after the Cowboys closed it to 19-17 with over 4 minutes to go, Willis McGahee had a 77 yard TD run. The Cowboys answered with another TD, and then on the first play of the last drive, LeRon McClain had an 82 yard TD run. I can still remember Deion Sanders "You've Got To Be KIDDING ME!!!" call when McClain burst free. The Cowboys closed out Texas Stadium with an awful 33-24 loss. The Cowboys were still in the driver's seat, though, after the Eagles lost 10-3 to Washington, making the Week 17 game against Philly almost meaningless for Philly. But, the Texans upset the 9-6 Bears, and the Raiders upset the 9-6 Buccaneers, making the 9-6 Cowboys @ the 8-6-1 Eagles a de-facto playoff game. The winner won the #6 seed (and the right to play Tarvaris Jackson).

It was one of two 'win-and-you're-in' Week 17 games, as the Sunday Night game was the 8-7 Broncos hosting the 7-8 Chargers (who were 4-8 at one point, while the Broncos were7-4), and neither was close. The Chargers smashed the Broncos 52-25. The Eagles win was a little more interesting. I was sitting in a hotel room in Orlando while my family was out shopping, and with the fireworks from that game, it may well have been in Disneyworld. The Eagles won 44-6. That is no misprint. 44-6. They were only up 17-3, when Tony Romo threw an interception that the Eagles converted into a TD. Then, on the kickoff, up 24-3 right before half, PacMan Jones fumbled, and the Eagles added a 50-yard Field Goal. Then came the real haymaker, as the Eagles returned back-to-back Romo sack-fumbles for TDs of 73 and 96 yards to make it 41-3 and essentially end the game. It was probably the most schaudenfreudianly great game in Cowboys history, and the most satisfying regular season game of Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb's life. It was a great, crazy way to end what was a crazy year in the NFC East.

The '08 Season was also marked by some great, incredible meaningful but not always statistically brilliant, QB play. It was a weird season where the best QBs statistically (Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner) played for teams that went 8-8, 8-8 and 9-7. No, the 2008 season's QBs that got the most attention weren't the best statistically, but they were just the most interesting. 2008 started the trend of starting rookie QBs immediately. Until 2008, it still was normal for rookies to sit on the bench the first year. Even the high-water mark for rookie QBs, Ben Roethlisberger, sat on the bench until Tommy Maddox got hurt. In 2008, the Atlanta Falcons, fresh off the end of the Michael Vick era, selected Matt Ryan with the 3rd pick in the draft and started him from Day 1. The Baltimore Ravens selected Joe Flacco later in the 1st round, and started him from Day 1. Both went 11-5. Both have been consistently good in their careers, but they were special as rookies.

Joe Flacco had less to do, as he had the help of a special defense. The Ravens were pretty much 2nd in all the stats on defense the Steelers were 1st in. They had their own once-in-a-generation player playing at his best, as Ed Reed had maybe his best season. It started slow, but Reed was dominant over the 2nd half of the season. Over the last 8 games, Reed had 8 interceptions, returning one for a record 109 yard TD against the Eagles. He also forced and recovered a fumble for a TD. In my mind, Ed Reed, and that Ravens team, as well as the Steelers and Titans, in the 2008 season made me love defense and what it was capable of doing. Seeing the 2008 Ravens defense play with that unending swagger, seeing the likes of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott, Haloti Ngata, and the Boss himself Ed Reed play at their best. That's why I love defense. The Ravens were back, and it had little to do with Joe Flacco that year.

Matt Ryan was different. He inherited a 4-12 team that lost its QB one year, and lost its coach, Bobby Petrino, the next. The notoriously flaky Atlanta fans were pretty much out on the team coming into the 2008 season, and even with a couple of shrewd moves like hiring Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith, bringing in Michael Turner, no one expected anything from the Falcons. Then, Matt Ryan, the #3 pick of the draft, threw a TD on his first professional pass, and it was off. The Falcons were never dominant, but with a smart, safe QB and a bruising runner (372 carries for Michael Turner), the Falcons went 11-5 and made it back to the playoffs. It was a brilliant resurrection of a franchise that was 20 months from having their QB put in jail for dog-fighting, and then 10 months from having their head coach snake out in the night to Arkansas. Matt Ryan and Mike Smith resurrected that franchise, and it hasn't stopped since.

The final QB of 2008 was Peyton Manning, is it always will and should be. Peyton Manning entered the season with an inflamed bursa sac that required immediate, emergency surgery in early August. It was the first time Peyton Manning had any sort of medical concern (which is ironic, given the events of three years later), and he missed the entirety of the preseason. Peyton returned for the opener, which coupled as the opening of Lucas Oil Stadium, and looked exceedingly rusty in a sullen 29-13 loss to the Bears. He followed that up with an incredible comeback win in Minnesota, bringing the Colts back from 15-0 down in the 3rd to win 18-15, despite getting no protection or running game. That was just a brief respite from a stumbling half-season of football, as the Colts began the season 3-4, with back-to-back road losses to Green Bay and Tennessee to end the streak. They sat out of the playoff picture, two games behind New England, who was their next opponent, despite New England not having Tom Brady.

Then came one of the more important Colts-Patriots games in their run, as the Colts barely beat a Brady-less Pats team, winning 18-15. That was the first act in an incredible 2nd half performance for Manning, and one of the great rides I've ever been on as a sports fan. Putting aside Manning's shaky start, that was not a great Colts team. Like every other Colts team since the beginning of time, the Colts were injured. The played games without either starting corner and Bob Sanders. They had Dallas Clark go out for some time, and Joseph Addai get hurt. They had Marvin Harrison playing as a shell of himself. They had nothing but Manning, and a crafty pass defense that allowed just 6 TDs all year long (which is kind of absurd). And that Patriots win was the catalyst to the most memorable Colts regular season run of my life.

A little backstory was that I made a bet with my friend Albert when the Colts were 3-4 that they would go at least 11-5. I had one game to play with. The Colts made that uneccessary, going from 3-4 to 12-4, winning nine straight and other than a couple easy breathers (35-3 over Cincinnati, 23-0 over the Titans in a double-rest game), they were all close. Right after New England was a trip to play the Steelers in Heinz Field. It may be my favorite non-Patriots related Colts regular season win I have seen, as a Colts team without their starting corners or Bob Sanders or Dallas Clark went into Pittsburgh and beat the eventual Champs, coming back from 17-7 down in the process. Manning barely completed half his passes, but threw for 3 TDs and no picks, including a game-winning 17-yard swing pass right over Troy Polamalu's head into Dominic Rhodes' lap. It was beautiful, as was Eric Foster's goal-line stop on 4th down when the Colts were tied at 17. It was win #2. That was followed two weeks later by a 23-20 win in San Diego (yeah, the Colts could beat the Chargers once), with Vinatieri nailing a 50-yarder to do it. Then came Manning's MVP clincher, with a flawless performance to beat the Jaguars to nail down a playoff spot. It wasn't Manning's best football, but it was close. In those last 9 games, Manning went 209/290 (72.1%), for 2,248 yards (7.8 y/a), with 17 TDs and 3 INTs, for a 109.7 passer rating. The Colts went 9-0 in those games. Manning deservedly won his 3rd MVP in a season where he defined what valuable meant. His play made that Colts team go from 3-4 to 12-4.

It might be that Manning factor that made me love 2008 that much, but I think it was more about the fact that the 2008 season was a season without the bullshit that football talk is built off of now. In 2008, the top QBs didn't have great win-loss seasons, so we weren't barraged by the 'QB X is the greatest' stuff we routinely get now. Back then, there were great running games, great defenses. In the regular season, there were many ways to win. There was new blood, in Atlanta, and Baltimore, and Arizona of all places. 2007 was defined by the best blue blood teams playing extremely well for the whole season, with New England going 16-0, and Indianapolis, Dallas and Green Bay not far behind. 2007 was built for the millionaires, while 2008 was for the everyman. It was a season where Jake Delhomme could QB a 12-4 team, where Chad Pennington was the runner-up for MVP, where Kerry Collins QBed the only team that won more than 12 games.

In Week 15, the Steelers and Ravens met in M&T Bank Stadium. The Steelers were 10-3, the Ravens were 9-4. The winner would take over control of the AFC North. The news that the Titans lost to make them 12-2 right before the game started was huge, as the Steelers knew if they beat Baltimore, they could then beat the Titans to steal the #1 seed. Everything was on the line for the NFL's best rivalry, and the game was brilliant. Neither offense did anything. Both defenses dominated. Flacco was picked off twice. Roethlisberger was sacked twice, once by Ray Lewis and once by Ed Reed. It was a field-goal filled game, and late in the 4th quarter, the Baltimore fans were going insane as the Ravens had a 9-6 lead with the Steelers backed up on their own 8 yard line with 3:26 to go. Then, in 12 plays, Roethlisberger led the Steelers into the end zone, going ahead 13-9, breaking the hearts of everyone in a raucous M&T Bank, and wrapping up the AFC North. It was one of the best games of the season, a true epic. And it was a game that ended 13-9, with just 513 yards of offense and one TD combined. And it was one of the best games of year. 2008 was that type of season, and that is why I loved it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 16 Power Rankings & the Rest

Interesting week. So, I was able to successfully avoid finding out what went on until after my finals ended, and now that I'm all caught up (post-multiple heart attacks near the end of that crazy 49ers-Patriots game), I'm getting this thing done.

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

Bengals (-4.5)  over  Eagles  (CORRECT  =  1-0  =  +1000)
Saints (-3.5)  over  Buccaneers  (CORRECT  =  2-0  =  +1000)
Rams (-3)  over  Vikings  (WRONG  =  2-1  =  -1000)
Jaguars (+7)  over  Dolphins  (WRONG  =  2-2  =  -1000)
Browns (+3)  over  Redskins  (WRONG  =  2-3  =  -1000)
Texans (-8.5)  over  Colts  (CORRECT  =  3-3  =  +1000)
Broncos (-2.5)  over  Ravens  (CORRECT  =  4-3  =  +1000)  (LOCK)
Giants (+1.5)  over  Falcons  (WRONG  =  4-4  =  -1000)
Bears (+3)  over  Packers  (WRONG  =  4-5  =  -1000)  (UPSET)
Panthers (+3)  over  Chargers  (CORRECT  =  5-5  =  +1000)
Raiders (-3.5*)  over  Chiefs  (CORRECT  =  6-5  =  +1000)
Cardinals (+6)  over  Lions  (CORRECT  =  7-5  =  +1000)
Seahawks (-5.5)  over  Bills  (CORRECT  =  8-5  =  +1000)
Steelers (-1.5)  over  Cowboys  (WRONG  =  8-6  =  -1000)
49ers (+5.5)  over  Patriots  (CORRECT  =  9-6  =  +1000)
Jets (+1.5)  over  Titans  (WRONG  =   9-7  =  -1000)

Week 16: 9-7; +2000  (UPSET: 0-1;  LOCK: 1-0)

Year-to-Date: 125-92-7  (+32,600)  (UPSET: 9-6;  LOCK: 12-3)

Best Picks: The only thing remotely close was my pick of the Texans over the Colts 31-17, and they won 29-17.

Power Rankings


2013 Isn't too Far Away

16.) Kansas City Chiefs  (2-12  =  195-367)

That was just depressing, and the Romeo Crennel era is going to have a slow, down-trodden, end.

15.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (2-12  =  219-838)

That was just depressing, and the Mike Mularkey era is starting with a slow, down-trodden year.

14.) Oakland Raiders  (4-10  =  263-402)

Has there ever been a more surprising shutout ever? The Raiders had given up 31 points per game coming into that game, and just dominated the Chiefs.

13.) Buffalo Bills  (5-9  =  306-402)

Another horrible performance in Toronto. The only good to come out of that is Toronto will want this team less and less.

12.) New York Jets  (6-8  =  255-320)

That ended the least-inspiring playoff chase ever, and thankfully that might end the Mark Sanchez era. Right now, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are all just fuming that they once lost playoff games to teams QBed by Mark Sanchez.

11.) Tennessee Titans  (5-9  =  285-396)

A decent win for a team that is probably close to maxing out its wins for the year. The Titans have become the new old Jaguars, where I am totally confused how they ended up with 5 wins.

10.) San Diego Chargers  (5-9  =  299-312)

They still have barely been outscored for the year, but that was just a terrible performance at home, and probably the lowering of the coffin of Norv Turner's career.

9.) Cleveland Browns  (5-9  =  280-310)

Tough loss, but losing to Kirk Cousins' led Redskins team is a little surprising for a team that had been competitive in every game so far. Very surprising to see them fall so flat.

8.) Miami Dolphins  (6-8  =  264-279)

Another Jekyll-and-Hyde performance by the Dolphins, who just dominated the Jaguars like a mediocre team should. The next step is what they do next year.

They'll Be There, but They'll be Frauds.

7.) Baltimore Ravens  (9-5  =  348-307)

The amazing thing is if the Colts and Ravens win just one game each, they'll face each other, meaning that either the Ravens or the Colts will be in the Divisional Round (which should make folks in Houston very, very happy). The Ravens are just so flaccid offensively, but there probably will be some time needed for Jim Caldwell's offense to take effect.

6.) Indianapolis Colts  (9-5  =  309-358)

Hey, a decent loss. The Colts losses so far have either been embarrassing (35-9 to the Jets, 59-24 to the Pats) or heartbreaking (80-yard TD by Cecil Shorts), until now. That was just an old-fashioned, normal loss where the Colts just weren't as good as the Texans. That said, if they go to Baltimore, they could easily win.

Two Teams Enter, One Team Leaves

5.) Cincinnati Bengals  (8-6  =  355-293)

That was a really deceiving win, as Andy Dalton and the passing offense was just awful. They still have some incredible young pieces, and could be a dominant team in two or three years, but I don't think they are quite good enough in 2012. Kudos to them, though, to not falling back after that 9-7 surprise last year and making a playoff push.

4.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (7-7  =  302-291)

That was a tough loss, but they didn't play nearly well enough. They get their chance to make that all disappear, though, if they can hold serve at Heinz and beat the Bengals and end things. The Steelers offense finally looked like it was clicking again, but the defense has become something of an issue. Their pass rush just isn't there this year, and they'll need it to come quickly down the stretch.

One of these Three Will Make It or Your Money Back

3.) Houston Texans  (12-2  =  394-280)

How good is JJ Watt? I have never seen a defensive player play this damn well in my life. I guess in the past Reggie White or LT may have had years like this, but I have never seen a defensive-lineman be that good all the time. His penetration is just amazing on nearly every play. Anyway, outside of that and another great Andre game, nothing much to see here.

2.) New England Patriots  (10-4  =  506-315)

Tough loss. The first 35 minutes was about the worst I have seen the Patriots play since that memorable (for me, at least) 2009 Wild Card disaster against Baltimore. They woke up in style, but in the end, their defense failed, their offense failed (two failed drives down 7 late), and they lost their inside-track at the bye. Tough loss for a team that was looking so good coming into the week.

1.) Denver Broncos  (11-3  =  409-274)

They got their bye back, and they got their first true big win against a good team. Lost in the Broncos 8 game win streak (now nine) was them not beating one team currently over .500 other than the Bengals, but they went into Baltimore and destroyed the Ravens in a game that wasn't even as close as the 34-17 score. Just a dominant performance, especially by the run game.


2013 Isn't too Far Away

16.) Detroit Lions  (4-10  =  330-380)

What the Hell was that? I still think this team will be better next year, but that was just embarrassing.

15.) Arizona Cardinals  (5-9  =  224-302)

Glad for them that they aren't going to end the season losing 12 straight. The Cardinals finally looked like a decent team, but their defense continues to be far better than that.

14.) Philadelphia Eagles  (4-10  =  253-375)

They played hard, but that Jets-like sequence of turnovers ended any chance they had. Nice for the D-Line to show up for the first time in months after the season is pretty much over.

13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (6-8  =  354-349)

Three straight losses for the once-hot-thing, but that was the worst of them. They came so close to beating the Saints in Tampa, and then they go into New Orleans and just Shit the Bed in every way. That was the Tampa I expected from Week 1.

12.) St. Louis Rams  (6-7-1  =  258-315)

That was their first truly awful performance at home (discounting their "home" loss to New England in London), but it came at the worst time. They would still be very much alive had they been able to stop Adrian Peterson.

11.) Carolina Panthers  (5-9  =  296-319)

Another top performance for a team that is quickly becoming a sleeper pick for 2013. I'm going on record now, assuming no catastrophic injuries in the next two weeks that will impact 2013, I'm picking the Panthers to make the playoffs next year.

10.) New Orleans Saints  (6-8  =  389-379)

Considering the offense of Tampa through 14 weeks, that might actually have been the most surprising shutout ever, and they made a ton of plays to make it so.

They Have a Shot, but Probably Not

9.) Minnesota Vikings  (8-6  =  319-308)

Adrian Peterson is a God among men right now. He still would have to have a spectacular finish to break Dickerson's yardage record, but 2,000 yards is close to assured by now. The Vikings are still alive, but they would hold tiebreakers over no one if teams win out. The Vikings have something to build on, but they need to fix that QB.

8.) Chicago Bears  (8-6  =  321-240)

This team was once 7-1, hosting the similarly 7-1 Texans. Since, they are 1-5, and now need some things to happen to make the playoffs. If the do miss the playoffs, I can easily see Lovie Smith losing his job, which would be a shame as his defense has been mostly brilliant all year. Also, can they teach Alshon Jeffery to not push off?

The Great Race of 2012

7.) Dallas Cowboys  (8-6  =  327-338)

The Cowboys won another comeback game, but with two tough games ahead (hosting the Saints, going to Washington) coming up, I can see the season ending a little sadly in Dallas for another season. Tony Romo has been excellent this year since his 5-pick disaster against Chicago, but if he can't lead this team to the playoffs, it may not matter.

6.) Washington Redskins  (8-6  =  381-350)

Great win in Cleveland without RGIII, and I know the fallacy of taking one game samples, but I think it is clear that the revival in Washington has a lot to do with things outside of RGIII. The run game continues to be good, and the defense has been quite good after losing two of their best players weeks and weeks ago.

5.) New York Giants  (8-6  =  373-304)

I have no idea what goes on in New York each week. The Packers are 8-1 in their last nine games, and that one loss was that 38-10 blasting by the Giants. That same Giants team lost to Washington and then laid a pathetic egg in Atlanta. Still, if they do get in, they are as dangerous as ever. Win out and they'll get at least a Wild Card.

It Just Has to Happen This Way, Right?

4.) Seattle Seahawks  (9-5  =  350-219)

Back-to-Back 50 point games? Not even the Patriots can claim that. The Seahawks offense is at such a roll right now with all of their parts. Sidney Rice has quietly had a really effective season, and Russell Wilson continues to have great games. The 49ers win makes this Sunday's game a little less meaningful, but that crowd at night should still be a good time.

3.) Green Bay Packers  (10-4  =  344-292)

Despite not winning many blowouts, and winning a bunch of close games, and struggling to score 24 some nights, the Packers have a decent shot at the #2 seed and have clinched the NFC North again. The Packers team will take solace that they still aren't fully healthy, and there is room to improve, but I feel a team that doesn't put teams away will get burnt sooner or later.

Being Home Helps

2.) Atlanta Falcons  (12-2  =  371-259)

They are so different at home against good teams. They've played Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Eli Manning, and given up 21, 13 and 0 points, picking those guys off 10 times while allowing just 1 TD. They struggle with lesser teams, but they've shown up to play big games at home this year, and that is still a scary thought given that they are a good bet for Home-Field-Advantage.

1.) San Francisco 49ers  (10-3-1  =  357-218)

I was wrong. Kaepernick is a good enough passer to make this all work. Their run game is still solid. Hopefully Justin Smith isn't hurt long-term because that defense just wasn't the same without Smith in there. Their defense fell apart in those TD drives, but when they needed to make stops after re-taking the lead, they turned the Pats over on downs twice.

Postseason Projections (adding all alive teams)


1.) Houston Texans (13-3; vs.MIN (W), @IND (L))
2.) Denver Broncos (13-3; vs.CLE (W), vs.KC (W))
3.) New England Patriots (12-4; @JAX (W), vs.MIA (W))
4.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6; vs.NYG (L), @CIN (W))
5.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5; @KC (W), vs.HOU (W))
6.) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7; vs.CIN (W), vs.CLE (W))
7.) Cincinnati Bengals (9-7; @PIT (L), vs.BAL (L))


1.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3; @DET (L), vs.TB (W))
2.) San Francisco 49ers (12-3-1; @SEA (W), vs.ARZ (W))
3.) Green Bay Packers (12-4; vs.TEN (W), @MIN (W))
4.) New York Giants (10-6; @BAL (W), vs.PHI (W))
5.) Seattle Seahawks (10-6; vs.SF (L), vs.STL (W))
6.) Chicago Bears (10-6; @ARZ (W), @DET (W))
7.) Washington Redskins (9-7; @PHI (L), vs.DAL (W))
8.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8; vs.NO (L), @WAS (L))
9.) Minnesota Vikings (8-8; @HOU (L), vs.GB (L))

With the season almost over, I am retiring the 'Looking Forward to Next Week's Games' part.

Award Watch

Coach of the Year

3.) John Fox (DEN)
2.) Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano (IND)
1.) Pete Carroll (SEA)


3.) Levonte David (TB)
2.) Chandler Jones (NE)
1.) Janoris Jenkins (STL)


3.) Russell Wilson (SEA)
2.) Robert Griffin III (WAS)
1.) Andrew Luck (IND)


3.) Aldon Smith (SF)
2.) Von Miller (DEN)
1.) JJ Watt (HOU)


3.) Aaron Rodgers (GB)
2.) Calvin Johnson (DET)
1.) Adrian Peterson (MIN)


5.) JJ Watt (HOU)
4.) Tom Brady (NE)
3.) Adrian Peterson (MIN)
2.) Aaron Rodgers (GB)
1.) Peyton Manning (DEN)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 15 Picks

With finals upon me, I still haven't figured out my viewing schedule for this weekend. Of course, this has to be the best week, on paper, of the season, with a bunch of really good games. Because of this fact, I am leaning more and more heavily to living in isolation until Tuesday afternoon and watching everything then. Anyway, short picks this week. Hopefully that doesn't screw up what's been a pretty good season picking games.

Year-to-Date: 116-85-7 (57.5%)

Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (4-9)  (CIN -4.5)

Well, we come to the end of the Thursday Night Football schedule of the year. I have no idea why there isn't TNF football in Week 16 (especially since there is no Monday Night game, but a Saturday Night game on ESPN instead), but I'm glad I'll have Cee-Lo's stupid song out of my life. Anyway, it is fitting that in a year of prime-time blowouts and boring games (quick: name three good primetime games this year), we get the disappointing Eagles hosting a game. I would be more inclined to take the Eagles' side here if they didn't pull out that Tampa game. This will probably be a lot down for a team that is just happy to have ended an 8-game losing streak. The Bengals need the game badly, and I think they get it against what is still a porous pass defense.

Bengals 30  Eagles 20  (CIN -4.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)  @  New Orleans Saints (5-8)  (NO -3.5)

OK, now I'm going to get to the quick picks. The Buccaneers might have a let down after that awful loss to the Eagles last weekend, and the Saints generally play well at home. The Saints are getting good value here, as they have been able to destroy bad defenses all year long (they just have trouble with any team that is any good on that side of the ball). The Buccaneers have a terrible pass rush to go along as well.

Buccaneers 23  Saints 34  (NO -3.5)

Minnesota Vikings (7-6)  @  St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)  (STL -3)

Why do I like so many favorites this week? That never goes well. Anyway, I like the Rams here as well. The Rams have played well at home this year apart from losing to the Aaron Rodgers show earlier in the season. The Vikings haven't traveled well all year. By DVOA, the Rams are 8th best against the run, which helps against an offense that is mainly just Peterson runs. I like the Rams, who are getting good value, to continue their improbable and most likely irrelevant, playoff push. To be safe, I'll buy half a point here.

Vikings 13  Rams 20  (STL -3)

Washington Redskins (7-6)  @  Cleveland Browns (5-8)  (WAS -1)

I still don't know who is playing, but it is looking more likely to be RGIII. Either way, that scares me since RGIII with a knee injury can't be 100%, and his movement might be effected. Overall, I just can't believe the Redskins could end the year with 7 straight wins. The Browns have been decent all year long and winners of their last three. They have a defense that can contain RGIII, and an offense good enough to get by as well. With the value they are getting, they are an easy choice.

Redskins 20  Browns 23  (CLE +1)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)  @  Miami Dolphins (5-8)  (MIA -7)

This line is too high. I'm pretty sure the last time the Dolphins got this much love from Vegas was before their bizarre 37-3 home loss to the Titans. The Jaguars have been better in recent weeks, and I would think Chad Henne would want to stick it to the Dolphins. Either way, with a line this high I feel quite confident in the Dolphins inability to win a game by this amount.

Jaguars 23  Dolphins 20  (JAX +7)

Indianapolis Colts (9-4)  @  Houston Texans (11-2)  (HOU -8.5)

While this line is really high, I can't argue. The Texans are an awful matchup for the Colts. The Texans strength on defense is their interior line in JJ Watt and Antonio Smith, and they both have extremely favorable matchups against whoever the Colts have playing guard and center. The Colts have no one to take away Andre Johnson. The Colts haven't traveled well as it is, and the Texans are angry. The high line makes me think twice, but I would probably go with Houston for anything less than '-10'.

Colts 17  Texans 31  (HOU -8.5)

Denver Broncos (10-3)  @  Baltimore Ravens (9-4)  (DEN -2.5)

Now we get to the fun games. Manning has owned the Ravens in his career. He lost the first two meetings in 1998 and 2001, but the Colts beat the Ravens in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 with Manning, and again in the playoffs in 2006 and 2009. Peyton has a lifetime 95 rating against the Ravens, and all those Ravens teams had better defenses than this one. The Ravens offense generally plays better at home, but I don't think it would be enough to make up for the fact that the Broncos are just better anyway.

Broncos 27  Ravens 20  (DEN -2.5)  (LOCK OF THE WEEK)

New York Giants (8-5)  @  Atlanta Falcons (11-2)  (ATL -1.5)

People love the Giants in this game. The Giants get up for these types of games. They've already gone out and smacked the 49ers and Packers in their meetings. The Giants aren't really a bad matchup for Atlanta, because their corners aren't great, but the matchup on the other side is just as bad. With injuries in the secondary, the Falcons pass defense isn't as good as it was earlier in the year, and Eli Manning could have a great game. The only thing that makes me want to pick Atlanta is the fact that they play well at home for the most part, but I'll go with my gut and the rest of the public and take the Giants.

Giants 27  Falcons 23  (NYG +1.5)

Green Bay Packers (9-4)  @  Chicago Bears (8-5)  (GB -3)

The most meaningful 1PM game in a way, the Bears have a chance to at least make the division interesting the last few weeks (the Packers would still be #1). The Packers have a chance to put the Bears misery even further, and stake their claim as an improbable #2 seed. The Bears have always played the Rodgers offense well, and especially at home in Chicago, and this version of the Packers offense is the worst in the Rodgers era (other than his first year). I can easily see the Bears defense, which hasn't slipped as much as people think, playing the Packers well. The other side is the key. Can Jay Cutler, for once, not throw picks against the Packers. I say he does with Woodson and Matthews likely out, and the Bears get the win, which at least makes a postseason appearance much more likely.

Packers 17  Bears 20  (CHI +3)  (UPSET OF THE WEEK)

Carolina Panthers (4-9)  @  San Diego Chargers (5-8)  (SD -3)

These next few games are so impeachably bad that I really don't care to think too much about them. The Panthers are the league's best 4-9 team in my eyes, and the Chargers are, pythagorically, the league's best 5-8 team. I think the league's best 4-9 team wins it, roping more people into the Panthers Playoffs in 2013 campaign that I am already close to signing up for.

Panthers 30  Chargers 24  (CAR +3)

Kansas City Chiefs (2-11)  @  Oakland Raiders (3-10)  (OAK -3)

Both these teams are awful, but the Raiders more often resemble an actual team. They have extra days to prepare, and other than the far-from-zero possibility of Jamaal Charles breaking the single-game rushing record, the Raiders should win. I'll buy a half to be safe.

Chiefs 17  Raiders 24  (OAK bought to -3.5)

Detroit Lions (4-9)  @  Arizona Cardinals (4-9)  (DET -6)

The Cardinals still usually play well at home and their defense is still good. There is a nice trend where teams that lose by a ton generally cover the next week as they get overly punished for that one awful performance. That 58-0 loss is hiding the fact that the Cardinals have usually been competitive in their games, and I think they'll be competitive, but lose, in this one.

Lions 24  Cardinals 20  (ARZ +6)

Seattle Seahawks (8-5)  @  Buffalo Bills (5-8)  (SEA -5.5)

This game is in Toronto, which makes me like the Seahawks a lot more. I think that line is a little high, as I don't trust the Seahawks yet to go on the road and take care of business by that much, but the Seahawks defense is on a roll right now. The Bills so far have never played well in their Toronto games, and the Seahawks need a win here to make that massive game next week against San Francisco meaningful, and I think they get it.

Seahawks 27  Bills 17  (SEA -5.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6)  @  Dallas Cowboys (7-6)  (PIT -1.5)

Love this game. Would love it more if it was being played in the outdoor gem that is Heinz Field, as it was in 2008 when they played a fantastic low-scoring game, but I'll take the first meeting between these two Titans of the sport in Cowboys Stadium. Both teams really need this game, but the Cowboys would technically be a little more desperate (if the Steelers lose this but win next week in Cincinnati, they would still be in the driver's seat for a Wild Card spot). There is a chance the Steelers are looking ahead, but I don't think they will after that disaster last week. They match up well with the Cowboys in my mind.

Steelers 23  Cowboys 20  (PIT -1.5)

San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)  @  New England Patriots (10-3)  (NE -5.5)

I feel this line is too high, but I fear a situation where I take the 49ers and the Patriots do to them what they just did to the Texans. I don't think the Patriots can sustain that level on a short week against the most physical team in the NFL. I definitely think the 49ers defense will have more success containing the Patriots offense as the 49ers defense has the guys in the secondary to slow down the Patriots receivers. The other side of the ball is the real matchup. Belichick will probably have something for Kaepernick, but the 49ers' offense is just schemed so well. I'll go with New England because they are on a hot streak to win, but I'll take the 49ers to make it a little close.

49ers 23  Patriots 27  (SF +5.5)

New York Jets (6-7)  @  Tennessee Titans (4-9)  (TEN -1.5)

Amazingly enough, the Jets scenario to make the playoffs isn't even that extreme. Not that many things have to happen outside of the Jets winning out. The Steelers have to lose twice (@DAL, vs.CIN, vs.CLE) and the Bengals once (@PHI, @PIT, vs.BAL). I still don't think it happens, but it could. The Jets have dominated mediocre and worse offenses this year, and the Titans are definitely that. I can see the Titans playing a good game on Monday Night, but I like where this Jets team is right now. I have an awful sickness with the Jets, always thinking they'll do better than they will. Maybe it is just a symptom of having too many friends that are Jets fans. Anyway, there is value for the Jets here, and I'll take it.

Jets 20  Titans 13  (NYJ +1.5)

Bonus: So, what were the good prime-time games this year?

Let's break it down.

Thursday Night Football: The best games were the 49ers 13-6 win over Seattle, which was a great low-scoring game, and a 26-23 OT win by the Titans over the Steelers. They had a couple good games on paper that ended up awful, like the Falcons sloppy 23-13 win over New Orleans, and the Packers equally sloppy 23-10 win over the Bears back in Week 2.

Monday Night Football: The best game was probably two weeks ago, with the Redskins beating the Giants 17-16, or you can go back to a couple of Broncos comebacks, with their 35-24 win over San Diego or their 27-21 near comeback loss to Atlanta. But the winner here was probably the most infamous game of the year, the Seahawks 14-12 win over the Packers in Week 3.

Sunday Night Football: This is the real sad one. Sunday Night Football is usually a great matchup going into the week. It always has the chance of being a special game, but this year has been mostly awful on Sunday Night, a string of boring blowouts and quarters filled with Al and Cris trying desperately to fill time. Here's a quick rundown.

Week 1: Cowboys over Giants 24-17: Decent, if unmemorable game.
Week 1: Broncos over Steelers 31-19: Good game, closer than the score indicates

Week 2: 49ers over Lions 27-19: Average game, not as close as the score
Week 3: Ravens over Patriots: 31-30: By far best prime-time game of the year.
Week 4: Eagles over Giants 19-17: Another good game - the year started well.
Week 5: Saints over Chargers 31-24: Only memorable for Brees braking Unitas' record.
Week 6: Packers over Texans 42-24: Great game on paper falls way short in blowout.
Week 7: Steelers over Bengals 24-17: Game nowhere near as fun as score.
Week 8: Broncos over Saints 34-14: Manning vs. Brees rematch is complete blowout
Week 9: Falcons over Cowboys 19-13: Admittedly good game between two good teams.
Week 10: Texans over Bears 13-6: Great matchup ruined by Cutler injury
Week 11: Ravens over Steelers 13-10: Great matchup ruined by presence of Leftwich.
Week 12: Patriots over Jets 49-19: Butt-Fumbling end to Thanksgiving
Week 12: Giants over Packers 38-10: The season's nadir with an unexpected blowout.
Week 13: Cowboys over Eagles 38-33: The fact it wasn't un-flexed ruined a decent game.
Week 14: Packers over Lions: 27-20: Started well but fizzled out the second the snow stopped.

We have three games left, with the 49ers traveling to New England and then Seattle the next week. Assuming a 49ers loss and Seahawks win this week, that game is essentially for the division. We'll find out the Week 17 game later, but a good one could be Cowboys @ Redskins.

Anyway, after that long, most likely unnecessary tangent, enjoy the games!!!

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.