Oakland Raiders +7 vs. San Diego Chargers
Jesus. I mean, just… I don’t know. I think we can finally stop talking about the potential of SD and get to reality, which is they rank right up there with the Cowboys as the most talented team most likely to shoot themselves in the foot. Oakland sucks. Hue Jackson sucks. Carson Palmer sucks. Their run defense sucks. At the same time, I can’t really fault them for not being prepared for Denver's read-option. I can’t pick Oakland to beat a better team on the road, even if said team is very good at sucking as well. The AFC West is a mess. I’m pretty sure I’m picking the Chargers, but not sure about the spread. I feel like with the over-inflated sense of how good the Chargers’ are plus their awesomely weird level of ineptitude in close games they can’t possibly be good against the spread. As much as it scares the crap out of me to pick the Chargers to beat anyone by more than 7 points, I can only assume the Raiders are freefalling from their early season highs. I would take the Chargers in a pick ‘em, but no way I’m putting money on them. Raiders to cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars -3 vs. Indianapolis Colts
One thing we learned last week is to always bet against the Colts in 2011, unless they are playing the Steelers, apparently, which I think is the only game they’ve covered in. Seriously, not many teams could let a simple slant pass go for an 80 yard TD while playing conservative Cover 2 defense, but that’s precisely what the Colts did with Julio Jones. The Colts are so bad it’s starting to reek of not trying. So what happens when an unimpressive force meets an impotent object? This game should give us the answer. The Jaguars clearly have the better defense, but seem to be content with limiting all offensive plays to 10 yards or less. The Jaguars can play D, but can’t really score. The Colts can’t do anything. I will go with the team that at least does one thing well. MJD is good, too. I forgot about that. I’d love to pick this game as a 0 point tie. The Colts are 3 point dawgs at home against the Jaguars, which is pretty absurd, but totally right. I’m pretty torn between the Colts going 0-16 and the Jaguars being able to cover a spread where they are the favorite.
Pittsburgh Steelers -3 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
AFC NORTH, SON. Match-up after scintillating match-up. I really can’t get enough. I’ve seen a lot of talk that this line should be closer to a pick ‘em, I’ve even seen “experts” picking the Bengals to win this game by as much as 10 points. WHAAAA? I am into the Bengals, believe me, I’ve been giving them more credit than most through the first half of the year. I’m absolutely terrified of being a fan of a team in the same conference with them when they have such good young players and totally fleeced the Raiders out of a bunch of draft picks for malcontent QB Carson Palmer. On the other hand, this team is young, inexperienced, and has not played a team, or in a game, like this yet. The Steelers are a very good team, they are a team with absolutely no issue going into Cinncinnati and handing out a beat down, and hot damn, did you see the way James Harrison was playing on Sunday night? Also, doesn’t it seem like Marvin Lewis always pulls these over achieving seasons out of his butt just when you think he’s finally going to get the boot? Remember two (I think) years ago when they won the AFC North and then unceremoniously got bounced from the first round? The Bengals are good, they have a good formula for winning with the pieces they have, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see three teams from this division make the playoffs. However, I just have to give it to Pittsburgh on this one, even if it will be in Cincy and fans may actually be excited. Pittsburgh is just a better and more complete team than anyone they’ve beaten or even faced for that matter. The Bengals are tough against the run, but their inability to get to the QB is going to allow the Steelers plenty of time to throw the ball 50 times or so in this game, a trend that doesn’t seem to be on the decline. I know the offense has played against a top 5 defense in SF, but the 49ers, while awesome, run a very conventional defense (who they lost to, ohbytheway). The stuff Dick LeBeau is going to run is going to be anything but conventional. However, should Cincy win, they are definitely going to get the legit stamp of approval. I know they will be hungry to prove this and the Steelers are coming off two games against good teams, but I still have to go Steelers here. Also of note, Cincy’s defense has been impressive, good in fantasy points, etc., but the Bengals have given up over 20 points in every game except one.
New England Patriots +1.5 vs. New York Jets
Well, I am going to stick with my ongoing train of thought, so if the Jets want to prove me wrong again, then so be it. Much like the Ravens vs. Steelers game of last week, people will make a lot out of the last three match-ups either of these teams had. Again, I think that’s a bad logical starting point for analysis. Just like Vegas proudly displaying the results of the last 20 rolls of its roulette tables, what happened in the past does not effect the odds of it happening again in the future. We all know that the Pats really can’t play D, and it’s becoming obvious that a lack of any big play talent on the offense is helping teams reign them in. Uncharacteristically, Brady was missing throws and Belichick was being stubbornly one-dismensional with his play calls. I think the Jets have played a couple of good matchups for them leading to an overinflated sense of how much “momentum” they really have, and the Pats have had the opposite. That’s really it. The Patriots aren’t done all of a sudden, the Jets aren’t penciled in for the AFC Championship again. And again, going back to the divisional match-up angle, teams that know each other play each other tight. The Pats seem to be a favorable match up for the Jets, but they typically know exactly how to play them best. You can’t discount the earlier game in this series, in which the Pats far outplayed the Jets and the eventual score. I still don’t see how the Jets stop all the stuff coming up the middle, Welker, Hernandez, Gronkowski, etc. that they have been weak against. On the other hand, the Jets should be able to eat up short underneath routes and the Pats haven’t been able to go over the top to anyone but Welker. The Jets have the best secondary in the league, but the Pats still have Belichick and Brady. Hall of Famers don’t just stop being good because they lost a few tough games. Maybe the Jets do match-up well and I’m being too hard on them, and they probably are slightly better than I’m giving them credit for with defense alone, but I’d like to see them win this one first before jumping into anything.
New York Giants +3.5 vs San Francisco 49ers
The Giants are in firm control of the NFC East coming off a big win in Foxboro. This is par for the course for the Giants, what still has to be determined is if we will again get to witness the perennial second-half collapse they are so known for. One would say that the Giants record is at least somewhat over-inflated with the tough half of their schedule on the horizon. Others would point out that they just beat the Pats. Opponents of this view will also note that the Giants lost to the Redskins and Seahawks, barely escaping defeat at the hand of the Dolphins. We could go back and forth all day here. I’m not sold on the Giants, basically. I don’t really know much about the 49ers. I haven’t really watched one of their games. I suppose they shut down the run, run well themselves, and play as conservative as possible to avoid turnovers. The Giants are probably the most complete team they’ve played yet. I don’t have much else to offer, to be honest. I think Alex Smith gets forced into having to make plays and that it doesn’t work out. SF is overrated. Frank Gore has a high ankle sprain. What else? The Giants are overrated. Eli seems to follow up games like this (i.e. where we wonder why we ever questioned how ELITE he is) by coming out and playing completely opposite of his previous week’s performance (i.e. the part where we go, “ohhh…yeah…that’s why…”). The Giants will probably keep up the smoke and mirrors, losing some games it should win but then being the only team that beats the Packers, leaving us all confused as they stumble out of the playoffs with a winning record. As far as this game goes? If you think 49ers fever is off the charts then just wait to see what it will be like if they beat the now ELITE Giants. Actually, what am I saying? No matter who wins this game is going to get penciled in for the NFC Championship.
Philadelphia Eagles -13.5 vs. Arizona Cardinals
So it seems that the Eagles still can’t tackle. I know that Chicago is a bad matchup for them, but scoring a solid amount on a good defense and then letting their offense come back to beat you is very disconcerting. I was actually scared about giving the Bears 8 points, but it was too obvious from the start that it was the right move. Philly is going to lose to teams that are physical, play good contain defense, and can run. Not to mention Andy Reid. The Bears and Eagles stats are almost identical in this game, all the way down to starting field position which was slightly more in the Bears favor, actually. Anyway, the only difference is play calling. The Eagles called passes at a 2:1 clip, with a lot of their rushing yards coming off unplanned Michael Vick runs. I mean, I think we are going to see this with teams like San Diego, Philly, etc. that fantasy football is not real football. The Eagles will probably jump out and beat some good teams by a very convincing margin, but will lose to average or even bad teams that cause matchup problems for them. They aren’t good at tackling and the coaching staff is truly struggling, which is a bad sign because it limits their own strengths while allowing teams to look better offensively than they are in the process. If only Andy Reid got to play coming off a bye week every week. Anyway, Arizona does not provide such a problem. They are bad in almost all facets of the game, especially defense. I see the Eagles winning and covering. I hate going against double digit underdogs, as I know one will cover this week (probably). I think Minnesota has a much better chance than Arizona.
Carolina Panthers -3 vs. Tennessee Titans
I hate Tennessee, or, I should say, I hate myself. I was so convinced they were the team that beat the Ravens, (or possibly my mind was trying to compensate for that loss) even without Kenny Britt, that I kept liking them as underdogs. No more. You can’t lose like that at home, just coming out completely flat in all areas of the game. Chris Johnson is going to be ruined for this season. I don’t think he’s just done, he’s too young and his body’s not beat-up enough, yet. We’ve seen guys come from extended holdouts and never get in shape for the season or just never make it click. I think they are at the point where they might be realizing they aren’t really going to compete in the division, they aren’t going to suck enough to get a top 5 draft pick, and the general ennui that comes from having to get hit really hard for eight more games that don’t really mean much. I have no reason to bet against Cam Newton continuing to be awesome against a lackluster defense playing under it’s talent level. The defense of the Panthers may not be great, but I think they can slow down the anemic (most overused word in football analysis?) Titans offense enough to allow their own offense to do its thing.
Houston Texans -3 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I don’t think you really need to worry about this one. The Texans offensive line/running game looks amazing and the Bucs rush defense getting slightly better later is going to be completely derailed by Gerald McCoy. If the Saints can rack up tons of yards on this team then the Texans most certainly can do the same. Big gains on the ground are the best way to knock a half-interested fan base out of the equation. I’m not going to try to overthink this one, though I am leery of Josh Freeman coming back to cover the spread. I know I said the same thing about Colt McCoy last week, but Freeman is actually capable. Some people say Houston is overrated, I say they are legit good. Only giving up three points? LOCK IT IN.
Miami Dolphins -3.5 vs. Washington Redskins
Fuck this game.
Kansas City Chiefs -3 vs. Denver Broncos
Fuck this game, too. No, I guess I can say more. So Arrowhead doesn’t automatically win games, I guess? The Broncos were running the fucking option. Yeah, the AFC West is a shit show. I’m not going to try. Again. All I will say is that KC’s loss to Miami was not as bad on paper as it was in reality and KC will have time to prepare for the option, so I’m picking them. Well, them…and arrowhead.
Buffalo Bills +5 vs. Dallas Cowboys
I don’t trust Dallas at all. I know they can score and the Bills are apt to let people score on them, I just don’t trust them at all. While I’ve been saying that the Bills won’t likely be in the playoff hunt at the end of the year, I do still think they are a good team and I’m not going to completely bail on them. Here’s the thing, while the Jets showed the “blueprint” for beating the Bills, you still have to have the personnel to do so. Not many teams have the same level of players on defense as the Jets. The Cowboys may, however, be able to control the line the way the Jets did because they do have bigger, more physical athletes on their team. Now, from the Bills perspective, the Cowboys rush defense has been inconsistent and Jackson creates the same kind of matchup problems that they faced against McCoy. Really, at this point I’m just wondering if I am picking the Bills to cover, but I feel like I have to at least go with Dallas straight up here. Dallas doesn’t cover at home.
Cleveland Browns -2.5 v. St. Louis Rams
Hey, not every game can be an interesting match-up.
New Orleans even vs. Atlanta Falcons
Can’t believe this one is a pick ‘em. Now, I hate to be one of those people trying to bring up a bunch of past stats that have nothing to do with this game, but Atlanta is traditionally the little brother in this relationship. Also, why are they all of a sudden back to being playoff contenders after beating down Indy? I guess they beat Detroit, too. Whatever. I honestly think the only thing that can keep NO from winning is the kind of self-destructive multi-turnover game they’ve had against teams like TB. ATL’s secondary is kind of weak, especially when a team has multiple receiver sets that limit their best CB’s (Dunta Robinson) effectiveness. Defensively, the Saints are coming off a great performance and the Falcons are streaky on the other side.
Baltimore Ravens +6.5 vs. Seattle Seahwaks
First off, this spread is ridiculously and awesomely low. Really, I don’t care how many bad teams the Ravens have lost to. This is less than a touchdown. The Seahawks are awful. Is this because Qwest stadium is supposedly really loud? I think some analysts have said that home field advantage does not usually equate to any kind of quantifiable advantage. Or maybe I made that up. Either way, I think the jury is still out re: the Ravens’ consistency issues and Seattle’s supposed epic home stadium advantage. Here’s the one constant in the Ravens’ two losses, going up against good defenses. The other thing, the press man coverage they were struggling with has finally been adjusted for by the offensive coaching. As far as Flacco goes, who knows? I think at least some of his consistency issues is that before this year Boldin was still not his go to guy and aside from the tight ends everyone else he is throwing to is completely new to him. I think the lack of time together has led to this. The Packers, Patriots, Colts, etc. don’t get that efficient at throwing the ball without a lot of time together to get it down. So I can totally see growing pains showing up and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had an awful game again. Since the second half of the Cardinals game the offense has looked awesome and the play calling has improved greatly. I think Ben Grubbs back at guard improves this offense greatly. The defense is still the best in the business and Seattle’s offense is mostly hopeless, even with Robert Gallery back. I suppose the Seahawks have stopped the run in many of their games, but their defense and especially their pass defense is mostly mediocre. I am going off the belief that the Ravens have worked out whatever problems that had with losing to lesser teams. That and now that everyone thinks the Ravens are going to let bad teams hang around I will go against prevailing wisdom, which is always wrong…and dumb.
Chicago Bears -2.5 vs. Detroit Lions
Sorry that my analysis is about to fall off a cliff (because I do love the NFC NORTH), but free time aint what it used to be. I mostly think that Chicago is still average, but I feel the same way about Detroit. Chicago is playing at home and Vegas doesn’t seem as in on DET as the public does, so I’m going Chicago.
Minnesota Vikings +13.5 vs. Green Bay Packers
I just think this line is too high. I’d pick the Packers, but sometimes their high powered offense and great public reception get their lines too high and any kind of disconnect offensively or even just allowing teams to score in garbage time scares me, even if they have been good at covering spreads. I just think Minnesota is a good bad team that matches up well and two touchdowns is just too much. Happy footballing!