The 2009 NFL Picks
Week eight


Gus is the man. Undefeated… 6-0… spanked us all last week. He was sick the past few days, but he’s recovered and turned in the extra pick for the dogs this week.

Mike turned in a great complete slate… hitting 9-3-1 for the week. That gets him back over even on the year and right into a crowd at the top.

Things are tightening up, and just one or two good weeks from Molly and Gus could make this an amazingly crazy race to the finish. Terry is having some tough times, but could still make a run based on her highly technical selection process.

This week we find one… just one… road team favored. That’s Houston over Buffalo. And for reference purposes, thanks to the designation of New England as a road team last week (sure they were), both large favorites won on the road last week… meaning teams favored by 8 or more are covering about two-thirds of the time regardless of where the game is played.

Now… this week’s film. I probably never would have though to go to this film, but it got mentioned the other day for some reason, and I figured it was a good one to look at. Airplane.

Denver at Baltimore (3½)“I won’t deceive you, Mr. Striker. We’re running out of time.” “Surely there must be something you can do.” “I’m doing everything I can. And stop calling me Shirley.” The trick of this game is supplied by the urge to believe Denver can’t go undefeated… which is just a stupid way to view it. The reality is that the first view of a game must be to focus on it as a single game… free from the influences of what happened before or might happen after. Teams do run off 8… 9… 10 wins in a row without a defeat. And you just can’t get caught up in the “time’s running out, so this week they’ll lose” philosophy. That’s the same mentality that tells you to play roulette, bet black, and double-up every time you lose because it can’t possibly land on red 5 times in a row and break you. Will Denver go 16-0? Doubtful. But why can’t it be Pittsburgh next week… or the second contest with San Diego… or the New York Giants? Those three contests are at home though… so maybe you prefer a road game… such as Indianapolis or Philadelphia. In other words, there are plenty of places for the Broncos to lose a game or two (or five). It doesn’t have to happen here. Both teams are coming off of bye weeks, and honestly, that’s about the only similarity. While Denver has been shutting people up by knocking off opponent after opponent, allowing only San Diego to score more than 17 points (and that was on the road)… Baltimore has now lost 3 straight. So how does Baltimore get favored here? Well… first off, they are offering up a powerful running game. Sure… Cincy had Cedric Benson… I don’t care, this is the best running team Denver will have faced to date. Also, the Ravens turned in a great effort, on the road, that fell just short against Minnesota. So… put a team everyone feels is at least slightly above average, at home, with two weeks to prepare… you’re starting to get the picture. I mean seriously… believe it or not, this is true… Baltimore has not only scored more points than any of the AFC North teams, they’ve done it with their results in 6 games where the other three teams have played 7. Long story a bit shorter, Baltimore does have some impressive stuff working in their favor. The trouble is… well… troubles are… (1) Denver is winning by a combination of strong defense and methodical, mistake free offense. Those elements have a tendency to play repeatedly well over a season once shown that it is more than a one or two game thing. So, I think we can expect that the Ravens are not going to crack 30 points here, and that the Broncos will not turn the ball over much. (2) I’ll say it… the Ravens are not the defensive force they once were. Sure, the stat about scoring points is a bit blurry since I’m just telling you how many points a team has scored and not giving you how they scored them. Lots of field goals? Defensive or special teams scores? You don’t know right away. All I said was based on 6 games where the Ravens have scored 169 points, while in 7 games the Steelers have 167 and the Bengals have 163. Seems impressive… and sure, it is. But there’s a flip side to that. While they’ve scored more points in fewer games, they’ve also given up more points than Pittsburgh or Cincy in fewer games. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?) The Ravens have given up 130 in 6 games (about 22 per games), while in 7 games the Steelers have given up 129 (18 per game) and the Bengals have given up 128 (roughly the same 18 per). (3) That home field thing? Yeah… umm… the Ravens are 2-1 at home. They beat Kansas City and Cleveland. Lost to Cincinnati. I’ll ride the consistency for at least one more week.
Bob: Denver
Terry: Denver
Dad: Denver
Mike: Baltimore
Gus: Denver

Cleveland at Chicago (13½)“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.” Ok… first things first… last week I picked the Bears over Cincinnati while saying: “I’m going to take Chicago… but I guarantee you… if I’m wrong you can look at Forte to be rushing for less than 60-yards and Cutler to have the most turnovers of any player on the field.” Let’s forget what Benson did to them and focus on my quote. Do you know how Forte did? 6 carries for 24 yards. Want to know about Cutler? Do you want to know about the Cutler I told you was a bad match for this club and hadn’t proven anything? Yeah… Cutler fumbled 2 snaps (lost 1) and threw 3 interceptions. So I just want you to know… I’m not exactly thrilled with the Bears. Enter the Browns… barely averaging over 10 a game, giving up about 25 a game, and, honestly, haven’t turned in a respectable performance this year. (Fine… the game against the Bengals… kept it close against what we now have to consider a decent team… but does that really count? Aren’t they allowed one close game at home?) I just see this as a perfect opponent at a perfect time for the Bears. They’ve only played twice at home heading in to this game (where they blew out Detroit and defeated Pittsburgh). I may not trust Cutler… but in this game I don’t like Cleveland.
Bob: Chicago
Terry: Cleveland
Dad: Chicago
Mike: Chicago
Molly: Cleveland

Houston (3½) at Buffalo“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.” This is the kind of game that screws me up when it comes to the Texans. But the reality is simple… Buffalo has won 2 in a row and you can’t trust the results from either one. Against the Jets, the Bills picked off 5 passes, and still had to hold their breath. Against Carolina… well… they managed a 20-7 victory, on the road, while racking up 167-yards of offense to Carolina’s 425. Some things defy explanation… shake your head… move on. The Texans head north for this contest having won 2 straight impressive games… over Cincy on the road and San Francisco at home. They have put at least 24-points every week other than their opening loss against the Jets, and the Bills aren’t exactly a team you would expect to stop them.
Bob: Houston
Terry: Buffalo
Dad: Houston
Mike: Houston
Gus: Buffalo

Minnesota at Green Bay (3)“Nervous?” “Yes.” “First time?” “No, I've been nervous lots of times.” There are actually quite a few solid games on this week’s schedule. I happen to like the Dolphins against the Jets as one… the 49ers need some help to stop the ship from sinking as they face Indy… and while we mentioned Denver against Baltimore, I haven’t even touched Atlanta at New Orleans or New York at Philadelphia. Point being… despite the hype, this may not be the game of the week. Don’t let that fool you though… because for Green Bay… this is the game of the year. They enter a game behind the Vikings… which just so happens to be a loss represented by the head-to-head defeat a few weeks ago. So a victory here not only brings them to the top of the division (separated by that pesky bye-week half-game), it also ties up the season series so the Vikings don’t get that bonus. A loss for the Packers and suddenly they wind up swept in the season series and facing 3-losses-to-date hell. Not only would they be those 2-losses behind the Vikings for the division (and closing in on being an NFC North also-ran), but the Bears have 3-losses and Cleveland this week… the Eagles, Cowboys and Falcons all have 2-losses on the year… and the 3-loss hell I mentioned is currently inhabited by the 49ers in addition to the Bears. We’re mid-season now. And good teams are starting to get separation while working on seeding possibilities. Lose this game, and the Packers may find themselves staring at a Falcons team that has Carolina and Tampa in their division, and a Cowboys team that still has Washington on their schedule twice. See where, even with games to be played and positioning just hinted at, this starts looking like hell? Guess what Green Bay? Welcome to hell. Pittsburgh had their offense shut down by the Vikings last week. 2 key turnovers for scores won the game for the Steelers. And the Packers are not as good as the Steelers.
Bob: Minnesota
Terry: Green Bay
Dad: Minnesota
Mike: Green Bay
Molly: Green Bay

San Francisco at Indianapolis (12)“The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in the red zone.” “The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in the red zone.” “The red zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in the white zone.” “No, the white zone is for loading of passengers and there is no stopping in a red zone.” “The red zone has always been for loading and unloading of passengers. There’s never stopping in a white zone.” “Don’t you tell me which zone is for loading, and which zone is for stopping!” I’m going to take the Colts here… and only because of the basic math I’ve been tracking… large spreads + playing at home = victory that covers the spread. But I think there are some very interesting reasons to watch the 49ers here. Frank Gore got hurt in week 3… against Minnesota… and the club not only lost that game, but the 2 games that followed it. (Granted… they actually played 3 games after that one in Minnesota, but the game I wasn’t including... was against St. Louis, was a victory, and I don’t know that we can really count that other than officially placing it in the standings. Ok... fine. They are 1-3 including the game he was injured (note… they lost that one late if you recall) and those that have followed. Does that sound impressive when you know where the victory was? Is that fair enough? Good.) The poor team results following his injury are hardly coincidence. Now Gore did play against Houston, but delivered only 32-yards on 13 carries. Is he still dealing with the injury? How limited will he be this week? And the next news also involves a player getting involved in the San Francisco offense. After making his first appearance last week, this game may be the one where fantasy owners start really focusing on Michael Crabtree. Is he going to contribute? Is he a good option for a late season pick-up? You won’t often hear me talking fantasy football concepts when evaluating games… but with Gore coming back from an injury and facing questions, and Alex Smith back on the field, I do think the San Francisco offense will be providing several of the interesting reasons to watch the team this week. Another reason is the playoffs (and that subject actually creates two more reasons). Sure… Arizona is playing better. But they are only up by 1 game in the standings, and the 49ers won the first game these teams played. When your final 10 games feature Tennessee, Detroit and St. Louis, there are some wins to be found. Add in Jacksonville and Seattle and suddenly the 49ers are sitting around 8 or 9 wins just by taking care of business. Can we make it to 10 wins? Well… beyond those five, where I think they could win four... Chicago, at Green Bay, Arizona, at Philadelphia round out the schedule after facing Indianapolis here. Those games are NFC matches against teams hoping for a shot at the playoffs… meaning tie-breaker implications in addition to the simple in-or-out from the overall record. I said the playoffs made for two reasons, so let’s take what I just covered and show why: (1) After floundering around the past few weeks, it isn’t strange to wonder if the 49ers have lost focus. Heck… Smith is the starter again! That wasn’t even a consideration after four weeks where a last second loss had them at 3-1. Six quarters of football later… poof… to the bench Shaun Hill and get in there Alex Smith. Probably the right move, but here’s the first test of it. (2) In a completely different direction, this is the last game that means nothing to them… and it’s on the road. Losing to Indy means something between diddly and squat. Look at the games I noted again. Those five games that need to give them four or five wins didn’t involve this one. And the other four are all NFC matches. This is an out of conference game… a bonus if you will. There is no desperation here. Anyway… I think you could look at this as an interesting game for San Francisco. Still… they should get pounded.
Bob: Indianapolis
Terry: San Francisco
Dad: San Francisco
Mike: Indianapolis
Gus: San Francisco

Miami at New York (Jets) (3½)“Johnny, what can you make out of this?” “This? Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl…” I like Miami in this game so much it’s scary. And that’s all I have to say about that, because I don’t think I can express it rationally.
Bob: Miami
Terry: New York
Dad: Miami
Mike: Miami
Molly: New York

St. Louis at Detroit (3)“Elaine, you’re a member of this crew. Can you face some unpleasant facts?” “No.” I’d feel better about picking Detroit if I knew more about Matt Stafford’s knee injury and whether or not he returns. My guess is actually that he won’t… and frankly, that shouldn’t matter in my decision making. Daunte Culpepper may not be amazing… but we’re still discussing a game pitting him or a rookie returning from injury against the St. Louis Rams high school marching band. The Rams are averaging under 9-points a game while giving up 30. Hold on though… because Lions aren’t fielding a team of high quality and great expectations. Sure Detroit enters this game as the home team, and after that in their favor… they’re scoring 17 a game while giving up 32, and… you may have heard… they got absolutely pasted by Green Bay two weeks ago. Normally in this kind of situation, my advice would be to just take the best player on the field. But have we heard from Steven Jackson in 2009? Not if you’re looking for touchdowns… because he hasn’t scored yet. Still… check out the Jacksonville game. See, Jackson is rushing for 4.4-yards per carry behind, from the little I’ve seen, a dreadful offensive line. He looked incredible rushing against Indianapolis. And against Jacksonville they tried to incorporate him more in the passing game, and he responded with 6 receptions for 78-yards. Heck, he’s averaging 8-yards a reception on the year. The reason I look at that game is that I believe the Rams will get Jackson the ball about 30 times… 22-25 on the ground, and 5-8 in the air. I’m guessing he’s the difference in this contest.
Bob: St. Louis
Terry: St. Louis
Dad: Detroit
Mike: Detroit
Gus: Detroit

Seattle at Dallas (9½)“I need the best man on this. Someone who knows that plane inside and out and won’t crack under pressure.” “How about Mister Rogers?” I don’t trust the Dallas Cowboys. I’m not alone there. 4 victories is nice… earning 3 of them with wins over Tampa, Carolina and Kansas City isn’t a badge of honor though. Start considering the realities of their season… overtime against Kansas City… Marion Barber not looking anything like Marion Barber (I don’t care what you tell me about his injury being fine… he hasn’t been even close to a significant part of the offense in a month)… and you hit a point where it’s more about the opponent than it is them. They’re just mediocre… accept it and move on. Unfortunately, that means considering Seattle to determine what to do with a pick… and good luck with that one. In back-to-back home games they looked dynamic against Jacksonville and inept against Arizona. The Seahawks are actually 2-4 on the year while outscoring their opponents by about 10-points overall. And to do that, they’ve played in some amazingly lop-sided games. Both wins were shut-outs, and the closest they’ve been in a loss is 6-points. I think in the end… you take Dallas. Because Seattle just doesn’t play close games, and this doesn’t look like a win.
Bob: Dallas
Terry: Dallas
Dad: Dallas
Mike: Dallas
Molly: Dallas

Oakland at San Diego (17)“There’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?” If Oakland hadn’t scared San Diego earlier this season, I’d probably pause before picking the Chargers here. But that scare works in San Diego’s favor (I think). Just as Kansas City last week was essentially a must-win, this game is as well. They trail Denver by too many games to lose the ones that are as automatic as they get. Plus, in the AFC there are already too many teams with better records to think they are a given for a wild card slot in the playoffs. The Raiders haven’t scored more than 13-points since that opening week game… and I don’t think they’ll break that string here.
Bob: San Diego
Terry: Oakland
Dad: Oakland
Mike: Oakland
Gus: San Diego

Jacksonville at Tennessee (3)“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?” A few weeks ago, I made a joke involving gladiators and employment status. And at the center of that joke was the Tennessee Titans. A stunning 3-9 combined on the year… the reality is both of these teams are tough to watch. Ahh… but the Jaguars are 3-point underdogs… and that does raise questions. How? Why? They defeated Houston on the road, so it can’t completely be that. And they spanked Tennessee by 20-points when they played a month ago, so it shouldn’t be that. Heck… the Titans are being outscored better than 2-to-1 on the year. I don’t even care if you want to throw the return of Vince Young into the equation. This makes no sense. Give me the underdog.
Bob: Jacksonville
Terry: Tennessee
Dad: Jacksonville
Mike: Jacksonville
Molly: Tennessee

Carolina at Arizona (9)“…my name is Roger Murdock. I’m an airline pilot.” “I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense. And he says that lots of times, you don’t even run down court. And that you don’t really try, except during the playoffs.” “The hell I don’t. Listen kid, I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.” Earlier in this article, I told you that the Panthers had more than double the offensive production of the Bills last week. They just never scored. Now that’s a problem… and it’s worth noting… but it also makes the 9-point difference set for this game tough to consider. The Cardinals are 4-2 on the year, but barely scoring over 20 a game while giving up just under 20. (Ok… it’s actually 22+ scored to 18+ against if you want the true math.) Every win though has been by at least 7. Now… Carolina has 2 victories so far… against the junior varsity squads from Tampa and Washington. In the other 4 games, all losses, they scored 20 against Atlanta and then 10 or less in the other three. The numbers should push me toward Arizona. But here’s the funny thing I’m going to toss in… at home this year the Cardinals… the 4-2 Cardinals… are 1-2. The win was a 28-21 victory over Houston. Funny… but Arizona’s best efforts seem to come when they aren’t expected and while they’re on the road. That doesn’t sound good for a large favorite to me.
Bob: Carolina
Terry: Arizona
Dad: Arizona
Mike: Arizona
Gus: Carolina

New York (Giants) at Philadelphia (1)“It’s a damn good thing he doesn’t know how much I hate his guts.” “It’s a damn good thing you don’t know how much he hates your guts.” The Giants haven’t looked right in three weeks. New Orleans demolished them, knocking them from the unbeatens… and then Arizona came into the Meadowlands and gave them a second loss. And with those two results, suddenly the team that was on cruise control finds itself sort of sharing the division lead with two other teams that have 2 losses… Philly and Dallas. In defeating Washington 27-17, I can’t tell you Philly looked impressive. What I can tell you is that outside of that game they’ve either looked really good in victory or amazingly bad in defeat. I could go back and forth looking at information for this game, but it won’t help. A 1-point spread and these 2 teams hate each other. There is only one thing to look at… one name… Brian Westbrook. After suffering a concussion last week, he’s being listed as a game-time decision. Doctors are telling him to sit out at least one game. If he doesn’t play… New York rolls. If he does… New York wins close.
Bob: New York
Terry: New York
Dad: New York
Mike: New York
Molly: New York

Atlanta at New Orleans (10)“I just want to tell you both good luck. We’re all counting on you.” After what I saw parts of last week… I won’t pick against New Orleans until they lose. They’ve won every week… and covered every week. And with that in their favor coming in to this contest… against a staggering Atlanta team that could easily be 0-2 from their past two efforts instead of 1-1… it doesn’t take long to make the choice even if I wanted to think it over.
Bob: New Orleans
Terry: Atlanta
Dad: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Gus: Atlanta

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dad – Last week 7-5-1, season 55-46-2
Bob – Last week 7-5-1, season 54-47-2
Mike – Last week 9-3-1, season 53-48-2
The Dogs – Last week 8-4-1, season 48-53-2
Terry – Last week 4-8-1, season 41-60-2


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