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!
collapsed last week. And yet… they’re still within barking distance
of the lead group.
couple of things we need to keep rattling around in our heads
as we get ready for the final seven weeks…
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.
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.
week I’m going to approach things a bit differently. Here’s what
I should do…
game with a spread under 8-points, I should pick the
game with a spread over 8-points, I should pick the
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
in honor of my brother-in-law… one of the best quotes from the
movie will kick things off as a bonus…
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.”
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!”
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.
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.
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.
(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.
Terry: Kansas City
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.
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
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
Bob: San Francisco
Terry: San Francisco
Dad: San Francisco
Mike: San Francisco
Molly: Green Bay
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.
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.
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
(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
Bob: St. Louis
Terry: St. Louis
Mike: St. Louis
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
(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.
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
Dad: San Diego
Mike: San Diego
Gus: San Diego
(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.
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.
~ ~ ~
– 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
Last week 3-4, season 36-35-1
Gus: Last week 2-6, season 31-40-1