Well, after a tough week, I at least came back and got over .500. I honestly think the key is to not over think things, go off of unfounded gut calls, and essentially flip a coin to determine the winner of any given game. Here’s an example: the spread did not matter at all last week. By that I mean that all favorites covered and any dogs that covered also won outright, meaning every game was a pick ‘em. If you picked the winner the spread didn’t matter. I think this week we will definitely see the spread matter a few times, so lets keep that in mind as we move onward and upward.
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Denver Broncos +5 vs. New York Jets
So, I’m patting myself on the back for going against the grain and saying the Pats were still the team to beat in the AFC East. If you have a lot of good receiving options, it’s impossible for Darelle Revis to cover all of them. On the other hand, what happens if a team runs the ball 50+ times like the Broncos did last week? I don’t know, but I fully expect to see more of it. 8 pass attempts for Tebow might be considered high after this game, as the NYJ’s run defense has been way less stout than their pass defense. The Jets invested a lot into last week’s game and got nothing but an embarrassing beat down at home for their troubles (side note: is it just me or does the new Meadowlands not seem to present a home-field advantage at all?). I could see them getting up for this game, but traveling cross-country on a short week to play in the thin air of Denver (Jets haven’t been a good away team this year) makes me think they will struggle. Rex has again proven that he’s not a good coach, electing to go with force of personality instead of X’s and O’s. The Pats game did not start as a blow-out, with Brady making a lot of bad throws. The Jets continued to refuse to spread out the worst secondary in football and made zero adjustments. I think the Jets can win this game, but if the initial game plan isn’t working the spread very well could come into play, with DEN having the potential to upset, in my opinion.
Green Bay Packers -13 vs. Tampa Bay Bucaneers
If you’ve previously taken umbrage to my weekly “Bux sux” attitude, you might want to skip this part. The Packers are clearly on a different level than this team (every team?). I don’t see Josh Freeman having 3 more interceptions; though at the same time there offense has been mediocre at best, with an opportunistic, bend-but-don’t break GB defense looking to be able to handle them just fine. Defensively TB are pretty bad, though the Pack don’t play strong against their weakness, which is the run. Unfortunately, they don’t do so well when teams spread them out either and have no real semblance of a pass rush. With a lot of turmoil, denial, and overall delusion in the clubhouse, a big beat down from the Packers and the Bucs could see their season slip away.
Detroit Lions -6.5 vs. Carolina Panthers
This is a must win for DET going into their Thanksgiving game against GB. Last week’s game showed us everything Lions’ fans feared about their team. Stafford could not have hit the broadside of the barn, with awful throws leading to Bears’ points. Even if you take away all the defense/special teams points (which are more outliers than norms) that Chicago scored, even if Detroit had way more yards playing from behind, the Lions still averaged 5.0 yards a pass, which is abysmal. If it’s not going deep/a jump ball to Calvin Johnson, their options are very limited, and Tillman was the first CB to really shut him down last week. Carolina’s defense never shows up, last week we got to see what it looks like when the offense doesn’t either. Detroit’s front line hasn’t been the greatest ever as someone predicted, but they play solid defense, especially against the pass. Also, watch Cam Newton as the season goes on. Often times, after the elation of early season success, rookie QBs who are not used to losing and not used to 16 game seasons start losing steam later on after the early hype dissipates. Carolina has not won an away game and I don’t foresee it happening in Detroit. Will it be enough to cover the spread? I think so.
Jacksonville Panthers vs. Cleveland Browns
These teams have had a hand in some ugly games this season, with this one not looking to be much different. The Browns offense really can’t score. No hyperbole. They have the least passing yards allowed per game…but the 3rd worst numbers in the same category against the rush. I have no doubt that Jacksonville will grind this team down with stout D and repeated handoffs.
Oakland Raiders +1.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings
I don’t know why, but this seems like an intriguing match-up to me. Is Oakland a bad good team? Is Minnesota a good bad team? Do they cancel each other out? We will see. I do think the sense of how good Oakland and Carson Palmer is may be inflated by a how badly they beat a mostly apathetic Chargers team. Oakland will have a long week coming off a Thursday game and Minnessota will have a short week coming off a Monday night game against a division rival in which they, as Smokey would say, got knocked the fuck out. Part of me just thinks they are a bad bad team with a couple of stars and a couple of solid role players. All rookie QBs might see a difference in how the game looks, with defenses slowly catching up and game film quickly accumulating. I totally thought, “the Packers won’t be caught off guard by Christian Ponder now that they have tape on him”, and then went and bet against the Pack anyway. He and some other rookie QBs could soon find out that the NFL isn’t as easy as it seems.
Buffalo Bills +2.5 vs. Miami Dolphins
Seems the Ryan bros have Buffalo figured out, I guess. I can only hope that public perception against the Bills is negative right now, driving up their betting value when coupled with Miami’s uncharacteristic two game win streak. Buffalo, again, does not play good defense, but they are much more capable than the two teams Miami has beaten. Miami is also 1-3 at home. Fred Jackson had 114 yards on a measly 13 carries, and he should be equally successful against Miami.
Cincinnati Bengals + 7 vs. Baltimore Ravens
Well, Baltimore continues playing poorly against bad teams. They mostly outplayed the Seahawks, with the three AWFUL turnovers really hurting them. In all honesty, and with much respect to the Ravens defense which faced A LOT of bad field position, it was more disconcerting to see the Ravens pull within 5 points with 5 minutes left and their defense not getting off the field than anything else. Cincy will likely run a 4-3 defense and similar run and play action based offense that has really been the Ravens downfall. Really, this will be the best 4-3 defense playing cover 2 that they’ve seen, with Jacksonville being very close. Honestly, I thought the offense played well against the Seahawks 4-3, putting up a ton of yardage even when special teams turnovers were disrupting their rhythm. How much can be contributed to coming off big wins or playing down to a team’s level cannot be measured, but we know that some of it is due to this, and really when a team seems unable to adapt to certain playing styles and come out really flat against “worse” teams it’s on the coaching. Last week was a BLATANT
situational trap for gambling purposes and I let my unbridled favoritism get me caught in it. The thing is, they get up after losses and they are tough at home. If Cincy would’ve won I’d be interested to see how it would effect the line. Still, the Bengals proved that they could at least hang with the Steelers, even if they couldn’t come through at the end. I think this will keep the line decent for Baltimore. Honestly, I’m not going all Ravens on you here. Pundits say they are inconsistent, which is patently false. They are actually quite consistent. They beat good teams at home and lose on the road to bad teams running 4-3 defenses after beating said good teams. I think that in the past they always beat bad teams without problem and always fell short against good teams. Now that they can beat good teams they are starting to take off games against bad teams…and losing. This is what I mean by over thinking things. The spread is high, but the Bengals have some key injuries here, and spreads are high for a reason. This is not a slam dunk either way, but if the Ravens get up for this game they are simply a better team playing at home against a team that basically just went all in and lost to a division rival at home. Then again, the Ravens typically have problems with the Bengals regardless of how bad they are. Again, I’m over thinking this. Divisional game, 7 points is too much (seriously I would’ve bit on 6.5), Ravens win and Bengals cover.
Washington Redskins +7.5 vs. Dallas Cowboys
This is an interesting one. With DeMarco Murray going gang busters, Romo looking like Norm Van Brocklin out there, and the Eagles quickly falling out of contention, “America’s Team” is again getting action like “America’s Team” deserves. Firstly, you have to assume the public is moving the line at least 1 point in Dallas’ favor. Then you have to look at the history of teams in the NFC East (where we saw the Eagles REALLY get up for Dallas), with this likely being the only game the Redskins can muster emotion for. Seriously, there are certain divisions where you just throw out the records and this is historically one of those games. At the same time, can emotion really propel a team with so little talent into playing close enough to cover? That’s the conundrum here. Typically, I’d love the Skins getting so many points at home with Dallas coming off two big wins and perhaps taking the inferior team lightly. Besides the whole talent thing, Dallas actually has playoff hopes, where the Redskins have none. This could mean one of two things, either the Skins don’t care at all, or this is the last game they have a reason to care about. We’ve seen it a million times with situational gambling, the most talented team DOES NOT always win/cover.
San Francisco 49ers -9.5 vs. Arizona Cardinals
Alright, ya’ll, I’m on the 49ers right now. It’s crazy how much a difference coaching makes. All those years when everyone was saying the 49ers had the talent to win the division, get to the playoffs, etc., they were right. They just needed Harbaugh, or at least someone like him, who knew how to play to his teams’ strength. It still kind of boggles my mind that Alex Smith is a good QB by all accounts right now. That’s the one thing I’m trying to get over, but I don’t think it can be denied any more. They’ve played the worthy competition; they’ve won on the east coast, etc. I don’t need to see them beat the Packers/Patriots/Steelers to know they play great defense, take care of the ball AND score on offense, and are extremely well coached overall. They have routinely beat bad teams by 10 points or more this year, to boot.
St. Louis Rams -2.5 vs. Seattle Seahawks
With Seattle coming off a big win against a playoff contender and St. Louis coming off an ugly win to a bad team, the natural reaction here is to go Seattle. I am kind of torn, with the spread being small enough to essentially make this a pick ‘em. I do like STL better at home, but Marshawn Lynch is running hard and Tavaris Jackson is playing well enough to win. On the other hand, did you know that 12 of Seattle’s points came off of 28 yards of offense? Much like their win against the Giants, the Seahawks needed several bad turnovers to get them the W. I am going to say this won’t happen two weeks in a row.
Atlanta Falcons -6.5 vs. Tennessee Titans
Tennessee keeps tripping me up, but really, it’s quite simple. They’ve beaten a lot of bad teams (and the Ravens) and lost to a lot of good teams. It’s pretty simple. They’ve been outscored by these good teams 103-41. Atlanta is not a Superbowl contender, but they are good, especially at home. I think a spread of less than one touchdown is good enough. Tennessee seems to surprise when not expected and has provided good value over the year, but I am not going to fight the numbers here.
Chicago Bears -4 vs. San Diego Chargers
I love this line. I don’t know why Chicago is not getting more love as the home team here. I think to some degree people are still imagining the Chargers as the high-flying ultra talented team that could blow out anyone on any given Sunday, not the chronically injured, under-achieving, poorly coached, and generally apathetic team they’ve become. The match up here is not good for San Diego. I think Chicago can win by more than 4 points easily.
New York Giants -3 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
I think this comes down to whether or not Philadelphia makes this the must-win game that it is. I hated myself for thinking that the Eagles would cover last week and the Packers wouldn’t, but I can’t be bitter about picking against the Eagles here. It’s just a mess. The Eagles have outplayed a lot of teams and lost, they’ve outplayed teams and BARELY won. I don’t know how much value I want to place in the first matchup between these two teams given that Mike Kafka finished the game, but what’s going on with Vicks’ ribs? The Eagles have not shown an ability to fix their biggest problems: tackling, coaching, turnovers, and the vertical passing game.
Kansas City Chiefs +14.5 vs. New England Patriots
How about Brady? Lookin’ like Magic running the fast break in that no-huddle offense ‘n shit. I’m patting myself on the back here for taking the Pats to bounce back last week, but lets not say (as some already are) that they have a clear path to the #1 seed in the AFC. This is still the worst secondary in football. Brady was highly impressive against the Jets great secondary, but it comes a lot from familiarity and Belichick knowing how to work the weak spots of that team. Do not expect 5 sacks a game. Now, this is not to say that the reeling Chiefs with Palko or whatever at QB are worrisome. However, I am going to take the Chiefs to cover and I will tell you why. (1) Typically at least one team that is a double digit favorite will not cover, (2) coming off a huge win against a division rival, I feel like the Pats will take their foot off the gas a little bit, (3) there is the whole Pioli/Cassell/Haley connection with the Pats that means they at least have a better idea of what they are doing, and (4) we’eve seen Belichick not mind running up scores, but we’ve also seen him avoid showing his hand/playbook when games seem in the bag. If the Pats start off slow with some stubborn play calling or a bit of Brady inaccuracy, they could just slog through this one and get the W, which I don’t doubt they will.