The 2009 NFL Picks
Week eleven


This is going to be an insane week to make selections. Four games are toss-ups. Four of them. And as if that wasn’t enough… the favorites have been getting belted in recent weeks (they went 10-2-1 in week 7 and haven’t had a winning week since)… the large favorites are now barely covering on the year, even at home… and this week the schedule presents us not just with four toss-ups, but with eight games exceeding an 8-point spread. Yikes!

Dogs collapsed last week. And yet… they’re still within barking distance of the lead group.

A couple of things we need to keep rattling around in our heads as we get ready for the final seven weeks…

First, Indianapolis and New Orleans shouldn’t go undefeated. The Colts had a game gift-wrapped for them last week… and New England may be the toughest team they had left on the schedule. Still… neither club should go undefeated… both clubs have looked shaky in recent weeks… and upsets are looming at some point for both of them.

Second, every team has won at least one game. Remember a few weeks ago when it seemed like we could have a couple of 0-16 teams? Well… that’s out of the way. The bad teams can simply be bad from here on out. And I say all of that to point out that Cleveland and Oakland are averaging less than 10-points per game.

This week I’m going to approach things a bit differently. Here’s what I should do…

Any game with a spread under 8-points, I should pick the underdog.

Any game with a spread over 8-points, I should pick the favorite.

And finally, I should review the large favorites, find about 2 out of every 5 where I think the favorite could lose, and then flip that pick so I take no more than two-thirds of the large favorites.

The problem is… how can you be sure you picked the right large favorites when identifying who might be vulnerable? New England could destroy New York and still only win by 10.

And then… amazingly… 4 games effectively with no spreads at all. Pick the winner! Do you know who Indianapolis has left? At Baltimore this week... at Houston, Tennessee, Denver, at Jacksonville, New York (Jets), and finally at Buffalo. Awfully tempting to think that Baltimore is the toughest game they have left when you combine the opponent with the road game.

Anyway… I’m going to try and incorporate a sense of what I should do into my explanations this week, and then why I am or why I am not following that road.

Back to a full slate of games this week. Considering the strange number of teams getting the week off lately… and the NFL starting the NFL network game of the week (that you won’t see)… it’s nice to have everyone back.

It didn’t do much for me last week… but the promise of a theme is the promise of a theme. John Cusack again. (He actually had a great week last week. New movie did well.) We move on to the greatest film he’s made… The Sure Thing.

And… in honor of my brother-in-law… one of the best quotes from the movie will kick things off as a bonus…

“Elliot? You’re gonna name the kid Elliot? No, you can’t name the kid Elliot. Elliot is a fat kid with glasses who eats paste. You’re not gonna name the kid Elliot. You gotta give him a real name. Give him a name like Nick.”


“Yeah, Nick. Nick’s a real name. Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kind of guy you can trust. The kind of guy you can drink a beer with. The kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car. Nick!”

Miami at Carolina (3) “I had some more fried food for lunch. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have had it but I just couldn’t help myself. Do you think I lack self-discipline?” Even with some of the challenges involved, I still like Miami here. In what-I-should-do fashion, they are the underdog in a small-spread game. Simple answer though, when looking at a short week, always lean toward the better team. You can’t put in as much preparation… you can’t change things up as much… teams playing during a short week tend to do what they do best and simply approach it with a “this is what we do, try and stop us” mentality. Even without Ronnie Brown, I think Miami is the better team here. Ricky Williams is going to rush for 100+ (he won’t do it every week… but I think in this game he will). I’ve been impressed by Chad Henne so far… and the wildcat allowing him to go to the sideline for a play or two has to be a major benefit for his development since he can go and work with the coaches without calling a timeout. And Greg Camarillo has been nothing short exceptional when I’ve watched the Dolphins. So the loss of Brown hurts… but I still see them scoring over 20. Carolina is playing better lately. They’ve won two of the last 3, against decent teams, and even challenged New Orleans in the loss before collapsing. But this is a team that finishes with a string of New England (road), Minnesota, New York (Giants) (road) and New Orleans. I don’t see them making the playoffs. 8-8 and recovering from a poor start is their only real target. I’m not convinced that the short week will allow them to do anything exceptionally well that will challenge Miami.
Bob: Miami
Terry: Miami
Dad: Carolina
Mike: Carolina
Molly: Miami

Cleveland at Detroit (pick)“I was in Paris once with my wife... boy am I glad she’s dead.” (This is a game that will be so bad, it deserve a bonus quote.) “Sorry I’m late. There was this big problem. And I’m late because of it.” (What? You think this game is going to be that bad? You want another one for it? Ok… a bonus bonus quote… but this one is a great one. Too good for this game.) “Three thousand miles just to get laid. I really respect that.” I’ve seen it listed as something different in a few places… 2½ is the most common change, but I recall seeing someone claim it was 4 and that is just ridiculous… but the basic idea as we begin exploring this game is to understand that most point spreads begin by giving the home team a 3-point advantage. So, looking at Miami and Carolina one more time, the 3-point advantage for Carolina indicates that on a neutral field, that game should effectively be a toss-up. The problem of course is that we are talking about betting lines, where the goal is more accurately understood as an attempt to get people wagering on both sides and not an attempt to predict the outcome of the game. Still… take a look at this… Cleveland is visiting Detroit, and the spread has this game as even. Really? Cleveland wipes out the home field advantage? Wow… that’s pretty amazing. The Browns have scored a whopping 78 points this season. Yes, that’s the lowest in the NFL. Oakland has 88, St. Louis has 100, and no other club is below 140. That averages out to less than 9 points a game. In the past 3 weeks they’ve combined to total 9 points (3, 6 and 0). In 5 road games they’ve never cleared 14 points. (Heck… that includes their 6-3 road victory over Buffalo!) And Detroit, at home, is a toss-up? Ouch. That’s a bit of an insult.
Bob: Detroit
Terry: Cleveland
Dad: Detroit
Mike: Detroit
Gus: Cleveland

Buffalo at Jacksonville (8½)“You know, junk food doesn’t deserve the bad rap that it gets. Take these pork rinds for example. This particular brand contains two percent of the R.D.A. – that’s Recommended Daily Allowance – of riboflavin.” Ok… Jacksonville should win this game. There’s the basics. But it’s a large spread (8 or more). And I should be looking for some of these teams to lose. Hmm… let’s see. Buffalo is a disorganized mess that has failed to accomplish much in any of their games. Even in their victory against Carolina, the Panthers outperformed them in every way except the one that mattered… the scoreboard. Now Jacksonville has an interesting situation in front of them… they actually, by some miracle (or five), have a winning record. They are literally tied with Houston and Baltimore for the seventh best record in the AFC… just outside of the playoffs. I know… unreal. This should be an easy call. I mean… come on. Buffalo has been pasted the past couple of weeks against so-so teams (Houston and Tennessee). Jacksonville is a so-so team. Do the math. But I also have 8 games with huge spreads, and by my math for the season, 3 of those favorites aren’t going to cover, and chances are 2 of them will lose the game outright. So let’s check out Jacksonville here and see if they pass the big favorite, at home, don’t think just do test. At home this year the Jaguars have lost to the Cardinals, defeated the Titans, defeated the Rams (in overtime), and defeated the Chiefs. 3-1… not bad… they should win. But… -14, +20, +3, +3… they average a 4-point victory at home. I’m using this as one of those games I need to switch sides on.
Bob: Buffalo
Terry: Buffalo
Dad: Jacksonville
Mike: Jacksonville
Molly: Jacksonville

Pittsburgh (10) at Kansas City“I have a credit card!” “Credit cards work on a completely different kind of lock.” “No, you don’t seem to understand. I have a credit card!” “You have a credit card?” “I have a credit card!” “You have a credit card.” “Oh. My dad told me specifically I can only use it in case of an emergency.” “Well, maybe one will come up.” This kills me… on the road this year the Steelers are 2-2, with only the Broncos being a team they beat by more than 10 points. Think about that… they couldn’t beat Detroit by more than 10 on the road. But Denver? Division leader at the time and possible playoff team? Sure they do. Ok… ok… more to the point, the Steelers are 6-3, and 4 of those victories are by 10 or more points. Now… here’s the concept I’ll use in exploring this game. On October 18th the Chiefs won their first game… on the road, against the crappy Redskins, 14-6. The next week they came home and got killed by 30 points by the looking playoff bound Chargers. Last week, the Chiefs won, on the road, against the crappy Raiders, 16-10. This week, they’re at home, against the looking playoff bound Steelers. And I think the Steelers may approach this game feeling they are losing their safety net, since Cincinnati is now a game ahead in the division race, and the Bengals swept the season series to give them the tie-breaker. I’m expecting a no-nonsense approach to this one.
Bob: Pittsburgh
Terry: Kansas City
Dad: Pittsburgh
Mike: Pittsburgh
Gus: Pittsburgh

Indianapolis at Baltimore (pick)“Indecent exposure, driving as so to endanger…” “Driving with the load not properly tied down.” The more you look at this one, the more complex it gets. A quick glance at the schedule says that Baltimore is the only team standing in the way of Indy running the table. That happens to be a quick glance though, and not what we should pick the game by considering. The Ravens generally look good at home. But on the road, the Colts have basically buried everyone. (Except Miami, in that amazing ball-control game.) The Ravens (like the Steelers) can’t beat Cincinnati this year, but have turned in solid performances the past 2 weeks. And yet, one of those was against Cleveland, where they struggled for a half. Over the past 6 years, the Colts are 4-2 the week after they play New England. And, one of those losses was in 2007… an amazing year where virtually every team lost the week after they played the Patriots. For me… I don’t like the way Indy has looked in their last 3 games. And I think the Ravens are going to win here.
Bob: Baltimore
Terry: Indianapolis
Dad: Indianapolis
Mike: Indianapolis
Molly: Baltimore

Atlanta at New York (Giants) (pick)“What are you doing?” “I’m going to bed.” “Not with me you’re not.” “I’m not going to bed with you, I’m going to bed in a bed you happen to be in also.” Last year the Giants came out of the bye week and destroyed Seattle. In 2006 they came out of the bye week and crushed Washington. Tom Coughlin is 2-3 with the Giants after the bye week… looking either absolutely fabulous, or, to be honest, utterly helpless. Enter the Flacons. Losers of 3 of the last 4. And, just like the Giants, they possess a 5-4 record on the year that places them right in the pack with Green Bay and Philadelphia for the wild card slots. There isn’t an easy should-do answer here. Both clubs have been floundering… neither is an impressive favorite… the Giants needed a break and come into this off of a bye week that should have given them time to rest, regroup and prepare. I think we see Atlanta start to rebound next week though… with Tampa Bay arriving to face them. Two games left against the Bucs, plus one each against the Bills and Jets, leaves Atlanta still looking at a 9 win season, possibly the playoffs, and shouting distance of 10 victories. But two weeks ago I said the Giants needed a break… and they lost late against San Diego to head into that week off. I have no reason to think they won’t be looking at this as anything other than a very important game.
Bob: New York
Terry: New York
Dad: New York
Mike: New York
Gus: Atlanta

San Francisco at Green Bay (6½)“To arrive at this moment, he had traveled vast distances enduring many hardships. Abject poverty, starvation, show tunes, you name it. From across the room, he saw her. She was perfect. He knew almost nothing about her and she didn’t know much more about him. It was exactly how it was supposed to be.” Which Green Bay team do you expect to arrive for this game? The one that has looked shaky all year… or… the one that pulled Dallas apart last week? Funny thing is… the Packers have actually been fairly consistent. In 8 of their 9 games they’ve scored more than 23 points… and last week was a 17-point effort that defeated Dallas. At home they have lost twice… to division leaders Minnesota and Cincinnati. (So, no real shame there.) Every one of their victories has been by 6-points or more. So, on the surface, with this being a one-score spread, there is still reason to like the favorite. The 49ers come in here off of their first victory since October 4th. And they looked good against Indy in a loss. But man… they can’t score. Sure… 21 in a loss to Houston and 27 in a loss to Tennessee. Ready for this? 10 points while getting creamed by Atlanta… 14 against Indianapolis… and 10 in the victory over Chicago. How is this club averaging 20 a game? On the surface… check marks for Green Bay are adding up. Hold on though. 5 victories… and 3 were against St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland. So only against Dallas did they look good. I think there could be a real question about whether or not the Tampa game embarrassed them into playing better and focusing on the field, or whether the Dallas game was more of a reflection of the Cowboys coming back to the pack (no pun intended). I should go with the underdog… and I’m going to. I think the 49ers keep this close, and maybe even pull off a surprise victory.
Bob: San Francisco
Terry: San Francisco
Dad: San Francisco
Mike: San Francisco
Molly: Green Bay

Seattle at Minnesota (11)“Why aren’t we moving? Don’t you want to give me a ride?” And I should take the Vikings here. They torched Detroit last week, have looked very solid in their past two games, and even have that recent week off to still be a bit refreshed. So the question becomes… is there anything Seattle can do where we might think they could win this game, or, at least stay close. And in a word… nope. In the past three weeks they have played two road games… 21-point loss to Dallas and an 11-point loss to Arizona. They did beat Detroit… at home… for whatever that’s worth. In road games, the 11-point loss to Arizona is as close as they’ve been. (Both San Francisco and Indianapolis basically crushed them.) It’s hard to be excited about any of their victories.
Bob: Minnesota
Terry: Seattle
Dad: Minnesota
Mike: Minnesota
Gus: Seattle

Washington at Dallas (11)“What’s wrong with me? I’m a good-looking guy.” “You are. You are a good-looking guy. And I’m a good-looking guy.” “You are.” “I am.” “We’re all three good-looking guys.” “That’s right. We are. And it’s Christmas time, and I’m gonna buy you a drink.” “Something light…” “What, like a nice Chablis?” “No. Spritzer.” “Spritzer?” “Yeah.” “Barkeep! Get this man a trough of Spritzer. And you, Cowboy Guy, what do you wanna drink?” “I’ll have a beer.” “Get Cowboy Guy a beer.” This game is interesting because in recent weeks Washington has made it a habit of making good teams look bad. So when you toss in how bad Dallas looked against Green Bay last week, things get interesting. First off… large spread… should pick Dallas. Do we think Washington can win this game? No, we do not. Is there a reason to think it will be close? Honestly… I say no. Washington beat Denver, but if you saw the first quarter of that game, you would have expected Denver to win in a laugher. Lose your starting quarterback though, and things get strange. (Which is what Denver encountered.) Washington shouldn’t score more than 14-17 points in this contest… and they’ve lost every road game this year. But let’s hold on for one minute. Check out the other large favorites this week. Minnesota, New Orleans and New England are 3 of them. Anyone think Dallas is as good as any of those 3 teams? Neither do I. Cincy is playing Oakland… and they’re not favored by 11. Arizona is playing St. Louis… and they’re not favored by 11. Funny thought… we all know how bad the Redskins are… care to tell me how many of their losses are by more than 7-points? The answer is… 2. 2 of their 6 losses. They lost by 10 to Philly and 14 to Atlanta. In recent years when these teams meet… going back to 2004… Dallas has only won one game by more than 1 score, and they’ve struggled more often than not.
Bob: Washington
Terry: Washington
Dad: Dallas
Mike: Washington
Molly: Washington

New Orleans (11) at Tampa Bay“Loosen up, Alison. Have some fun! Yes, sleep when you feel like it, not when you think you should. Eat food that is bad for you – at least once in a while. Have conversations with people whose clothes are not color coordinated. Make love in a hammock! Life is the ultimate experience, and you have to live it to write about it.” “Yes, Alison?” “What did you say after ‘hammock?’” Wow… here’s a tough one. Because Tampa has been feisty lately, and New Orleans… well… New Orleans has taken care of business, but hasn’t been dominating. Last week, the Rams lost 28-23 against the Saints. So sure… New Orleans should be the pick. But with New England on the horizon (the game after this one), focus may be a concern. The reality though is this… the team most similar to the Saints that the Bucs have played is New England… and the Patriots leveled them. Look things over and you’ll see that the Bucs stay close to teams with strong running games (Miami, last week) or offensive line troubles (Green Bay, a team they beat). Can’t take the underdog here.
Bob: New Orleans
Terry: Tampa Bay
Dad: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Gus: New Orleans

Arizona (9) at St. Louis“Forget her, I hear she only likes intellectuals.” “So? I’m intellectual and stuff.” “You’re flunking English. That’s your mother tongue.” But I can take the underdog here. Let’s make this large-spread game number two that I should go for the favorite, but think could be an upset. The Rams seem to have picked things up a bit recently. Last week they stayed with the Saints for most of the game, ultimately losing by just 5. I don’t have much in the way of stats to give you. I just think this is going to be a game where St. Louis will be able to run the ball, keep the clock moving, and shorten the game.
Bob: St. Louis
Terry: St. Louis
Dad: Arizona
Mike: St. Louis
Molly: Arizona

New York (Jets) at New England (10½)“Spontaneity has its time and place.” (Ok… one more… bonus quote here.) “Let’s see, Friday. 5:30, dinner. 6:00, Calculus. 7:00, news. 7:30, shower. 7:45, phone call. Eight o’clock?” “Gee, I don’t know. That’s when I rearrange my sock drawer.” I already know how this game is going to play out. Early in the fourth quarter, New England will have possession of the ball with a 10-point lead. Let’s call it 24-14. They’ll drive the length of the field and get inside the 10-yard line. With roughly 6-minutes to play, the Patriots will be sitting around the 4-yard line with a decision to make on fourth down. Might be like fourth and 2 for a first down inside the 10-yard line… might be fourth and goal… but the idea is the same… go for it or field goal. And they’ll go for it. And they’ll fail. And regardless of what happens next, the Patriots will tick off people all over the world by not covering the spread by a stinking half-point. I should pick New England. I will pick New England. But damn that half-point.
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Dad: New England
Mike: New England
Gus: New England

Cincinnati (9½) at Oakland“I hope you appreciate the magnitude of your impending good fortune.” I should pick Cincinnati… and I am going to pick Cincinnati. Oakland has one of the worst teams in football and they can’t score. Simple enough there. The only thing that worries me is that Cincinnati isn’t a blistering offense. Forget the Chicago game and you’ll find they play fairly close contests alot of the time. Their 7 victories… by 7, 3, 3, 3, 35 (Chicago), 10, and 6. Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore are outscoring them for the year, and a team averaging 22 a game isn’t a lock to cover 9½. But… and this is a good but… other than Cleveland (and you know I hate looking for definitive ways to read a team from divisional games), every team they’ve played is at least average. There’s no Buffalo… Detroit… St. Louis… Washington… Tampa… and so on until this one. It’s been Denver, Green Bay, Houston and Chicago to go along with sweeps they delivered over Baltimore and Pittsburgh. I haven’t looked enough to see how their schedule matches up against other teams, but think about that. Other than Cleveland, every opponent has at least 4 wins. I can’t say that I’ve seen any other team play that kind of schedule. It’s not Indianapolis and New England week after week, but it is worth noting.
Bob: Cincinnati
Terry: Oakland
Dad: Cincinnati
Mike: Cincinnati
Molly: Cincinnati

San Diego at Denver (pick)“I flunk English, I’m outta here. Kiss college goodbye. I don’t know what I’ll do. Dad will be pissed off. Mom will be heartbroken. If I play my cards right, I get maybe a six-month grace period and then I gotta get a job, and you know what that means. That’s right, they start me at the drive-up window and I gradually work my way up from shakes to burgers, and then one day my lucky break comes – the French fry guy dies and they offer me the job! But the day I’m supposed to start, some men come by in a black Lincoln Continental and tell me I can make a quick 300 just for driving a van back from Mexico! When I get out of jail I’m 36-years old. Living in a flop house. No job. No home. No upward mobility. Very few teeth. And then one day they find me, face down, talking to the gutter, clutching a bottle of paint thinner. And why? Because you wouldn’t help me in English! No. You were too busy to help me! Too busy to help a drowning man!” These clubs generally don’t split their games. They did last season. Beyond that, one of them swept every year until you go back to 2004. And San Diego has 2 of the 3 sweeps in that time frame. So… Denver kind of has that going for them as we approach this game. Shoulda – coulda – woulda doesn’t apply, since we don’t really have a favorite. What we do have is a Denver teams that on October 18th beat San Diego to put the Chargers out of it, 3½ games (and a head-to-head loss) behind, only to find that lead gone heading in to this game. And even more troublesome than Kyle Orton and the health questions is the defense. A huge part of their success to start the year, the Broncos have seen teams score 30 (Baltimore), 28 (Pittsburgh), and 27 (Washington) in the past 3 games… all losses. It gets worse. The Chargers scored 23 against them when they met… meaning the four highest scores by opponents all come in the past four games. Heck, toss in New England’s 17 points… because in the first 4 games no one scored more than 10 against them. Since then, all 5 have at least 3 scores… and the tide is looking bad. So… health concerns on offense… and all sorts of questions on defense. Not a good mix. In the beginning you might question how San Diego rebounded from that loss to Denver. They beat Kansas City and Oakland. Which… you know… yawn. But then they scored a late victory on the road over the Giants and last week pushed aside the Eagles. On top of our problems with Denver, we can now add one team playing poorly and the other looking (and feeling) pretty good. I can’t think of a reason to take Denver here. Go with the hot hand… San Diego.
Bob: San Diego
Terry: Denver
Dad: San Diego
Mike: San Diego
Gus: San Diego

Philadelphia (3) at Chicago“And you should see the crap he eats! Cheese balls and beer for breakfast!” “How do you know what he eats for breakfast?” I should pick Chicago. Low-spread underdog. The question becomes… how different are they at home? Because on the road… yuck. Before we do that though… consider… Philly is 2-2 on the road. They beat Carolina and Washington, and lost to Oakland and San Diego. My point is… put the Eagles on the road, and anything can happen. Not that it does… but that Raiders contest provides at least a bit of concern. At home the Bears have defeated the Steelers, Lions and Browns. The Cardinals destroyed them. It’s very fair to say that at home or away, the Bears haven’t looked good since defeating the Steelers way back in September. (That was week two.) Seriously… check out their victories. Remember what I said about Cincy and their schedule? Chicago has defeated Detroit and Cleveland, along with Seattle and Pittsburgh. They’ve had trouble scoring, and they have had no problems turning the ball over (especially on the road). When Philly wins though… they win big… 10 or more in every victory. And as of right now, three of their losses come to division leaders… meaning just that one slip up against Oakland. I just can’t bet on Jay Cutler here.
Bob: Philadelphia
Terry: Chicago
Dad: Philadelphia
Mike: Philadelphia
Molly: Philadelphia

Tennessee at Houston (5)“What the hell’s wrong with being stupid once in awhile? Does everything you do always have to be sensible? Haven’t you ever thrown water balloons off a roof? When you were a little kid didn’t you ever sprinkle Ivory flakes on the living room floor ‘cause you wanted to make it snow in July? Didn’t you ever get really sh*tfaced and maybe make a complete fool of yourself and still have an excellent time?” Titans. I should take the Titans. I will take the Titans. Check this one out… since their bye week, Tennessee has scored 30, 34 and 41. Houston enters this contest following their week off, which follows a loss to Indy. They have a nice win over Cincinnati, but honestly haven’t run away from anyone except Buffalo and Oakland.
Bob: Tennessee
Terry: Tennessee
Dad: Houston
Mike: Tennessee
Gus: Houston

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dad – Last week 8-7, season 76-66-2
Mike – Last week 9-6, season 74-68-2
Bob – Last week 7-8, season 73-69-2
The Dogs – Last week 5-10, season 67-75-2
Terry – Last week 6-9, season 58-74-2

Molly: Last week 3-4, season 36-35-1
Gus: Last week 2-6, season 31-40-1

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at