week strange things happen… and yet when you look at the standings,
it seems like some order is being established.
works for both the NFL, and for us.
in our game, Gus is moving like crazy. While his 9-6-1 mark wasn’t
the best of the week (it was actually tied with Mike Jr. for third
best behind Mike and I), it was enough to shake off some of the
pack in the middle and tie him with Molly in third place for the
year. 9 games out of first… 7 games out of second… there is still
time for them to make a run.
yet, for all the insanity Gus is causing, the standings overall
are fairly solid right now. Mike and I are leading the way. I
don’t believe any cushion is safe, but there is a separation between
us and the middle with Molly, Gus and Terry. Then, in the background,
Mike Jr. is mounting a furious charge on an impressive accomplishment.
You might remember that he missed a week of picks. Well, he can
see those middle slots just in the distance. A couple of good
weeks could get him there.
then Sam. Well… let’s just say that Sam made a trip to the vet
early this season, and his picks have definitely been off.
yeah… the NFL. Well…
tell me. If I said back in August that the Jets, Patriots, Steelers,
Ravens and Colts would be part of the leaders in the AFC… would
that have surprised you? What if I said San Diego was starting
to kick a late season run into gear?
so that makes sense.
I think we’d all say that the story lines in the NFC are definitely
surprising. But hold on.
Giants and Eagles in the East? Playoff appearances, coaching staff
histories, and everything else should make that a reasonable result
here in late November.
champion New Orleans in the playoff picture? Again, even trailing
an Atlanta club that has seemed right on the cusp of moving from
average to playoffs is reasonable.
sure, I’m leaving out some of the funny points. The Bears actually
being ahead of the Packers… the Vikings being a mess… the events
taking place in Tennessee… Jacksonville winning despite getting
routinely outscored… the standings and results in both West divisions
(AFC and NFC). Overall though, it’s a tale of insanity and sensibility.
For every crazy story that steals the media and the headlines,
a quick look at the standings and if-it-ended-today playoff teams
shows that the reality isn’t too far off expectations.
know the rules… never mess with a streak. This week, we move along
with the series and go to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
we get to the games though… a very quick word about Thanksgiving
games. (Or… more specifically… short weeks that involve playing
on Sunday and then Thursday.)
you look at these games, it’s usually best to get as far away
from your normal thoughts as possible. The easiest reason for
why is that they are preparing for a game over a time that is
half of their normal schedule. What had been Monday through Saturday
for studying, practicing, traveling and anything else is now Monday
means crazy things can happen. But for the most part… judge a
team by what it does best and then let it go.
it comes to Thanksgiving Day games… there are also funny emotions
involved. Ok, sure, it’s not always true that Detroit wins or
even puts up a valiant fight… but it does seem like it’s true,
doesn’t it? (More on this idea in a second.)
simple point is, if you’re going to give praise and bonus points
to teams and coaching staffs that do better with opening week
games, bye weeks, and extra time… and it makes sense to do that
when patterns of success or failure emerge… then it sure seems
logical to understand that with less time some teams are going
to react better than others as well.
we may see some new plays or wrinkles that haven’t been there
before. But by and large teams that are fluid and efficient are
simply going to stick with doing what they do best. New England
and New Orleans are going to hit the road, put their offenses
on the field, and force Detroit and Dallas to try and stop them.
No tremendous curveballs. Few formations that haven’t been run
that usually means you shouldn’t get too fancy and elaborate in
England (7) at Detroit – “Try
not. Do or do not. There is no try.” This is actually
significantly tougher than it looks. At home the Lions have played
four games, going 2-2. (They defeated the Rams and Redskins, and
lost to the Eagles and Jets. The New York game went to overtime.)
In those four games they scored 32, 44, 25 and 20. So… they are
significantly better at home, have a couple of decent wins, a
couple of losses that aren’t embarrassing, and they don’t appear
to be scared of anyone. And… oh yeah… both of the losses were
by 3-points. Score one for Detroit. Last year on Thanksgiving,
Green Bay won by 22. In 2008, Tennessee beat them by 37. In 2007,
Green Bay was there again, with the Packers taking the contest
by 11. In 2006, Miami won by 17. (Holy crap… how far back does
this go?) In 2005 Atlanta beat them by 20. Five straight Thanksgiving
losses, with nothing even remotely close. Want to go back even
more? In 2004 the Colts slammed them by 32, with a 41-9 final
score, and I’ve had enough of this now. Score one for New England.
Here’s the thing… I see New England controlling the first half
of this game. I see New England winning this game. The only question
for me is… do they win it comfortably, or do they take their foot
off the gas and finish with a score closer than the game ever
was? (By the way… last win by Detroit on Thanksgiving? 2003, over
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Mike: New England
Mike Jr: New England
Molly: New England
Sam: New England
Orleans (3) at Dallas
– “If you only knew the power of
the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.”
“He told me enough! He told me you killed him!” “No. I am your
father.” I absolutely understand the idea of taking
Dallas here. Two big wins in a row… new atmosphere in town… got
it. These weren’t wins either… they were convincing wins, with
33 or more scored, 20 or less given up. But New Orleans doesn’t
come into this game playing poorly. They are starting to play
very well, and remember quite clearly from 2009 what a late season
game against Dallas means. There is business to be settled.
Bob: New Orleans
Terry: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Mike Jr: New Orleans
Molly: New Orleans
Sam: New Orleans
at New York (Jets) (9)
– “Afraid I was gonna leave without
giving you a goodbye kiss?” “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.”
“I can arrange that.” No. I’m not comfortable
picking the upset here. I should be more willing to accept that
New York has Cincinnati’s number right now when you consider the
results of last season. And… let me say this… the last two passes
thrown by Sanchez against Houston were two of the most beautiful,
on the mark passes you will ever see. Hang them on the wall… works
of art. Perfection. But there was no reason… none… grab their
shirts and drag them to the ground if you have to… for those two
receivers to even be in position to make those catches. Seriously.
Houston played that last drive as poorly as can be played. Non-existent
defense. The Jets had no timeouts and they gave them the sidelines.
And… the receivers were quite honestly wide open. In short… nice
win… great execution… but the Texans stink on ice. And after controlling
that game the way they did, there was zero reason for the Jets
to even have to need a late score. And that’s the story with the
Jets lately… some bad play… so last second miracles needed. While
I understand that it can be a bonus heading in to later games
with the feeling you’re never out of it, the reality is that when
you play with fire, you will eventually get burned. And this week…
short preparation… huge spread… talented, unpredictable, playing
poorly overall opponent… I see a really crazy fire as a possibility.
Terry: New York
Mike: New York
Mike Jr: Cincinnati
Gus: New York
Sam: New York
at Washington (1½)
– “You have your moments. Not many
of them, but you do have them.” The tempting thing
to do would involve pointing at Dallas, say something that sounded
insightful about a coaching change, and pick Minnesota. Instead,
I’m going to pick the Vikings because I simply don’t see how Washington
wins this game. Don’t believe me? Ok… check out the season. Washington
is 5-5. Guess how many times they have both won a game and scored
more than 20 points. (Don’t look it up. The answer is zero. Every
game they have won has involved scoring 19 or less.)
Mike Jr: Minnesota
(6) at Buffalo
– “I don’t… I don’t believe it.”
“That is why you fail.” I’d like to make the case
for Buffalo. Steve Johnson is playing well, and Ryan Fitzpatrick
could be considered a pleasant surprise… I suppose. Add in that
they seldom seem to get destroyed in games… at 2-8, you would
expect it to happen… and you have a reason for liking them. The
problem is… the Steelers only road loss this year was against
New Orleans. Other losses for the year were to Baltimore and New
England. So, evidenced by losses only to playoff teams, they handle
the games you would expect them to win. Only in the losses and
the game against Miami did they fail to outscore the opponents
by 6 or more. I expect a business-like, solid win.
Mike Jr: Buffalo
at Houston (6½) – “They
told me they fixed it! I trusted them to fix
it! It’s not my fault!” Last weekend the Houston
Texans played the worst two plays of football I have seen in a
long, long time. They gave the Jets the sidelines, when New York
had to have a touchdown to win, needed to drive the field, and
had no timeouts. Sure… beautiful passes… but there was zero defense
being played. It was sad. Very sad. And then the touchdown pass.
Geez… everyone knew the ball was going to be thrown. And we get
to watch an untouched receiver make a routine catch while waltzing
half-speed into the end zone. Absolutely no intensity at all being
shown by Houston. None. No sense of urgency. Just horrible, undisciplined
play. And here we go… hosting Tennessee… the team without a quarterback.
Wonderful. That means we have to really examine what we think
will happen. Or do we? Because guess what? The thing I’m most
comfortable predicting is 35 handoffs and a dominant running game
from the Titans. After that… the way things have gone this year…
Mike Jr: Tennessee
at New York (Giants) (7½)
– “Would it help if I got out and
pushed?” “It might!” Somehow, the Jaguars keep
winning. They’ve been outscored by 50 for the year, but they are
currently leading their division. And now we have the Giants heading
into this contest with most of their wide receivers hurt. I’m
tempted to take the Giants despite that… but I like the running
game the Jaguars feature, and think this game will be close. And
if it’s close… Jacksonville can steal it.
Mike Jr: Jacksonville
Sam: New York
at Cleveland (10)
– “You’re not actually going in
to an asteroid field?” “They’d be crazy to follow us… wouldn’t
they?” I suppose the question is how much you
trust the Browns here. The Panthers actually have been scoring
a bit on the road… putting up impressive totals of 10 and 16 in
the last two road contests. (I know… yes, I know. But when your
last two home contests are 3 and 13 points respectively, 10 and
16 does count as scoring on the road. Plus… it just goes to show
exactly what I mean about trusting the Browns.) I like the way
Cleveland has played recently. I’m going to take them here, even
though I think a 20-13 game is a real possibility.
Mike Jr: Cleveland
Bay at Baltimore (7½)
– “Sir, the possibility of successfully
navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.” “Never
tell me the odds.” Tampa Bay lost a close game
against Atlanta (by 6), but got crushed in their other losses.
And that’s something to keep in mind here… because they put up
38 against Arizona, 31 against Carolina, and 24 against Cincinnati.
Out of 10 games, they are in respectable place in the middle of
the league for points scored. But when they play quality opponents…
yeah… you’re usually looking at 18 to 21 scored at the most and
working hard on defense. Baltimore is capable of scoring 27 to
31 against anyone. I could go up and down the statistics, but
there is one good thing that I think puts a decision in front
of me. Baltimore is 4-0 at home, with the wins by 7, 14, 3, and
Mike: Tampa Bay
Mike Jr: Tampa Bay
Gus: Tampa Bay
(3½) at Chicago
– “I won’t fail you. I’m not afraid.”
“You will be.” Tough game to call. Philly has
played great on the road (4-1 overall), and very well of late.
I’d love to make a case that Chicago had extra time to prepare…
but I don’t like their coaching staff that much, and they barely
beat Buffalo coming off the bye week and Detroit to open the year.
This is not a club that thrives thanks to preparation.
Mike Jr: Chicago
Bay at Atlanta (2)
– “All too easy.”
The media loves Matt and the Falcons. At home, I like Matt and
the Falcons. But against a Green Bay team that is playing well…
I think the media might be stretching exactly how awesome Atlanta
is just a bit.
Bob: Green Bay
Terry: Green Bay
Mike: Green Bay
Mike Jr: Atlanta
Molly: Green Bay
Sam: Green Bay
at Oakland (Pick)
– “Lord Vader, what about Leia and
the Wookiee?” “They must never again leave this city.” “That was
never a condition of our agreement, nor was giving Han to this
bounty hunter!” “Perhaps you think you’re being treated unfairly?”
Same deal as last game… the Dolphins are too injured to compete
Mike Jr: Oakland
City (1) at Seattle
– “Our ships have sighted the Millennium
Falcon, Lord. But it has entered an asteroid field and we can
not risk...” “Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral. I want that
ship, not excuses.” This is one of the most interesting
games on the schedule for this week… partly because there are
several really good games that will easily overshadow it. But
consider… the Chiefs are 6-4 and on top of a division in transition.
(Everyone seems to think it is just a matter of time before San
Diego tracks them down and possibly ends their playoff dreams.
Everyone could be right.) Seattle is 5-5 and winning a very weak
division. If Kansas City was at home, I’d take them without a
second thought. While not great at home this season, Seattle has
been scoring more points there. And when facing a team that hasn’t
played well on the road, yeah, I think that matters.
Mike: Kansas City
Mike Jr: Kansas City
Molly: Kansas City
Louis at Denver (4)
– “Why, you stuck up, half-witted,
scruffy-looking nerf herder.” “Who’s scruffy-looking?”
The Rams have not won on the road… but, the Rams have been close
on the road. 3 of their road losses are by 3 or less. The problem
though is that Denver hasn’t looked good much at all this season.
Bob: St. Louis
Mike Jr: Denver
Molly: St. Louis
Gus: St. Louis
Diego at Indianapolis (3)
– “This may smell bad, kid, but
it’ll keep you warm until I get the shelter up. Ugh. And I thought
they smelled bad on the outside.” I’m
stumped here. Two things jump out: First, San Diego plays well
against Indianapolis in recent years. Second, Indy has a history
of losing back-to-back games. Granted, they don’t lose often…
but if you go over their history, including 2007 when it was New
England and San Diego, they lose two in a row. The problem is,
circumstances vary wildly. This year Indy is 6-4 heading in to
this game… and a loss puts them in a world of hurt for a playoff
spot. That’s far from last year’s back-to-back, when the top seed
was secured and they weren’t playing that hard to finish the season.
I’m taking the Colts because… well… I don’t know why.
Mike: San Diego
Mike Jr: San Diego
Molly: San Diego
Francisco (1) at Arizona
– “Size matters not. Look at me.
Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.
For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”
The 49ers still have playoff dreams.
Bob: San Francisco
Terry: San Francisco
Mike: San Francisco
Mike Jr: Arizona
Molly: San Francisco
Gus: San Francisco
Sam: San Francisco
~ ~ ~
Last week 11-4-1, currently 82-70-8
Mike: Last week 10-5-1, currently 80-72-8
Molly: Last week 5-10-1, currently 73-79-8
Gus: Last week 9-6-1, currently 73-79-8
Terry: Last week 5-10-1, currently 70-82-8
Mike Jr: Last week 9-6-1, currently 63-75-8
Sam: Last week 4-11-1, currently 57-95-8