Early picks for week 17. More will be added during the week.
Oakland Raiders vs Kansas City Chiefs: OAK +4
If this was any other week I would be taking KC without giving it a second thought. At full strength, KC would control this game on the ground and do enough on defense to keep OAK at bay. Arrowhead is not an easy place to play when their team is competitive. However, with KC clinching the division in week 16, all they have to play for is the 3rd seed. There are many analysts out there saying that KC need to win this game because they don't want to travel to NE if they happen to advance to the divisional round. Also, Todd Haley came out today and said that he will be playing his starters with the intention on winning. This all sounds good in theory, but I'm not buying it and I'm willing to wager on OAK to back it up.
I've heard this song and dance before from teams heading into week 17, but soon after the game all of them admit that resting some players and going into the playoffs healthy was more important. I don't think KC care if they travel to NE or not because they are going to have the 'just happy to be there' syndrome. The season is already a monumental success and if they win in wild card weekend the organization will be over the moon with delight. Does that mean the starters won't play? I think they will, but for how long? A quarter? Two? I can't see them risking the health of the likes of Bowe, Charles, and Cassel in a game for the 3rd seed.
Meanwhile, OAK will come into this game dejected from missing the playoffs, but they have a chance to finish the season 8-8 which would be a great improvement for this organization too. Yes McFadden and Seymour are banged up, but that won't stop them from doing what they've done well all season - run the ball and play good against the pass. I expect both of these trends to continue on Sunday. I also don't think the KC running game will have as much of an advantage due to the circumstances. This isn't a game that KC will play all out even if they do leave their starters in longer than I expect. If things go how I anticipate, four points is a late X-mas present. Prediction: Bank OAK +4.
New York Giants vs Washington Redskins: NY -3.5
The line in this game has since moved to -4, but I have no problem taking them at this number either. I really don't like what is going on in Washington, despite their performances over the last couple of weeks. At the end of the day NY is the better football team and they have no choice but to play to win this game. Their chances of making the playoffs are bleak and out of their control, but they need to give themselves that chance. Yes they got spanked pretty mightily last week in GB, but Rex Grossman is not Aaron Rodgers. Look for NY to do to him what they've done to most QB's this season - bang him around and cause havoc. I know there are many of you that are saavy enough to know that NY appears to be doing their perennial nose dive to end the season, but they have too many mismatches in this game that I can't ignore. They should be able to have their way on the ground and as long as Eli doesn't throw another four interceptions they will be alright in this one.
It's not like things are peachy creamy in the nation's capital either. WSH continue to be as dysfunctional today as they were when Dan Snyder took over the team all those years ago. The primary advantage they will hold in this game is on special teams. Home field advantage will help, but it won't be the factor that it would be if they were in the playoff hunt. Therefore they lose that extra point that other teams going to the big dance get for home field at this time of the year. NY handled them pretty convincingly the last time they met, and I see little reason to think it won't happen again. Prediction: Bank NYG-3.5.
Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers: GB -10
If the Philadelphia Eagles didn't lose to the Vikings on Tuesday night, this game would be an intense affair. Yet, even if the Bears did have something to play for I would still be siding with the Packers. When these teams first met on Monday Night Football earlier in the season, Green Bay committed 19 penalties. Even with these monumental mistakes, they still had the ball and were driving down the field for the game winning field goal before a fumble that turned the tide. Not many people in the nation are giving CHI the respect they want, but I'm not about to do that either. Yes they have a very good cover 2 zone defense and the Cutler and Forte can make plays, but at the end of the day I find them far too inconsistent on offense to be a serious threat in the playoffs. They have been average in red zone offense/defense all year and horrible on third down offense. CHI also rank very low in completed plays per game.
So when you consider that this game only means something to one side, it's not hard to figure out why I like GB -10. They need to win this game to secure a playoff spot and they are at home. CHI won't be able to put up much of a fight for four quarters with backups at the critical positions. Look for GB to cause havoc in the CHI backfield for much of the game and once CHI fall behind they won't be able to generate many points in the air. Rodgers will be able to pick this zone defense apart and he himself could be resting in the 4th quarter if the game gets too out of hand. Would CHI love to win this game and eliminate their division rivals? Absolutely. Will they do it at the expense of injury risk? I highly doubt Lovie Smith is that stupid. GB have five players going to the Pro Bowl and another four listed as alternates. All of them will be in the lineup on Sunday in what should be a double-digit win. Prediction: Bank GB -10.
St Louis Rams vs Seattle Seahawks: STL -1
This is another line that has moved since it opened at -1. It currently sits at -3 which is not where I would like to take it. I thought there was a lot of value with anything under 3, but I would still go with it at the end of the day. At worst I see a push because I think this Rams team is headed for the playoffs for the first time in a long time. After a rough couple of weeks, Sam Bradford really stepped it up last week completing 72% of his passes. Yes it was the lowly 49ers, but it is still an impressive performance from a rookie QB in a must-win situation. At the same time, I think it will be STL's defense that will step up to the plate in this one. I don't see how SEA will be able to run the ball with much success and I really don't like what's going on in the passing game. Matt Hasselbeck is more dangerous to himself than any defender has been this season. The coaches decided to go with him after a four interception game which tells you everything you need to know about what they think of Charlie Whitehurst at this time. Look for coach Spags to scheme up some nice pressure packages on Sunday night and it should be good for a couple of turnovers.
On the other side I expect some ups and downs because this will be a new test for Bradford. It will be a prime-time game with their season on the line in a very hostile environment. Thankfully for him he has pro-bowler Steven Jackson behind him. They should be balanced enough on offense to win the time of possession and keep the defense honest. In fact, they hold the edge in all three critical categories that I look at on the field. Even Mike Williams stated this week that it will be asking a lot of them to just turn it on after their recent play. That's not exactly the most ringing endorsement of confidence that I have heard. I never thought I would be looking forward to a game in the NFC West this season, but it is a testament to the new NFL that this game provides intrigue. I'll be tuning in to see this "big" game with the full expectation of a Rams win. Prediction: Bank STL -1.
UPDATE#3: With the last teaser cashing, it brings the final week 16 tally to 3-1 ATS and 1-3 on teasers for a 4-4 week.
UPDATE#2: I've added a teaser for week 16 combining the Monday and Tuesday night games. Many games for week 17 remain off the board so I will have some picks up as the week develops.
UPDATE#1: What looked to be a great day in week 16 turned sour after SD choked against a lowly CIN team with their season on the line. The final tally for the day was 3-1 against the spread, but 0-3 on teasers thanks to the not-so-super Chargers.
The public had their best day of the year and the sharps had yet another average day with their consensus picks. I'll have a full review of the week that was after the MIN/PHI game because I plan to use NO in another teaser before the week is over. I will post that up later tonight or early tomorrow.
I'll also have early week 17 picks up Monday afternoon.
Early picks for week 16. Buy the half point on SD if you need to. Check here for the latest odds. I'll have the other write-ups posted a little later on today.
San Francisco 49ers vs St Louis Rams: STL -2.5
If you have been following this blog this season you'll know that I am usually on the right side of the line when the early numbers come out, but I was surprised to see this game go the other way this week. Right now STL can be had for -2. It's possible that the sharps are taking the points with SF because Bradford and company have had a bad couple of weeks. Having said that, these games are all about matchups and I see no reason to ride the 49ers in this one.
You can look through every meaningful category and be hard-pressed to find an area that SF have the advantage in. Their red zone defense has been a bit better than average so 49er fans can take solace that they won't get blown out, but is that reason enough to go with them? They've also had a few extra days to prepare, but when Mike Singletary is your coach I don't think anyone in STL is shaking in their boots. STL have the better coach and I fully expect them to get back on track in what should be a big divisional game. Ok, it might be laughable to say that given the fact that no one in the division even has a .500 record, but you can be sure that STL will have a healthy home field advantage given what's at stake here.
The bottom line is that while STL might not be a "good" team yet, they still do many things better than SF at this point. Their defense know how to get off the field on third down, they are much more disciplined in the penalty department, and they have consistently ran more completed plays per game than SF. I like Bradford and Jackson over whoever is at QB and Westbrook, and Willis and Spikes have broken hands and continue to wear black jerseys in practice this week. This isn't good news when you have to worry about wrapping up on S-Jax all day. STL is 9-5 versus the spread this year and they should reach double digits after Sunday. Prediction: Bank STL -2.5.
Tennessee Titans vs Kansas City Chiefs: KC -5
When a game opens at +/-5 sharps usually lay off and wait to see what the public do before acting. That may be a fine strategy for them, but I see value in this number and I wanted to take it before the possibility of it going towards 7. I realize TEN showed a pulse last week and smacked around HOU, but they will be a long way from home when they travel to a very raucous Arrowhead stadium on Sunday.
On the field I do not like how TEN matchup whatsoever. With Matt Cassel back, the running lanes that weren't there two weeks ago are now back and open for business. Jamaal Charles continues to be one of the most underrated running backs in the league but that could change as KC march towards their first division title in a while. I expect KC to dominate the clock on the ground because that is what they have done for most of the year. They have also done a great job in the turnover differential department this season. When you control the clock and don't give your opponent extra offensive possessions you usually win the game.
On the other side of the ball I think it will be hard for TEN to sustain drives throughout the game. Chris Johnson is great. This isn't a newsflash, but his production has gone way down without Vince Young in the lineup. Defenses scheme differently with Collins under center and the crowd will give this unit a lot of problems on Sunday. It's been some time since people have feared going to KC, but those days could be returning with their team in the playoff hunt. The home team might not do anything spectacular defensively, but they are collectively solid in most areas - including their kickoff and punt coverage. TEN will need to earn most of their points, but at the end of the day it won't be enough. Prediction: Bank KC -5.
Indianapolis Colts vs Oakland Raiders: IND -3
This is perhaps the most intriguing matchup on the card this week. Some people have wondered why IND -3 is showing up as EV odds, but keep in mind the overnight line was below -3 and OAK matchup much better than one would think.
A closer look reveals that OAK have a real shot at winning this game. It's no secret that they can dominate games on the ground this year and that IND have had problems in this area for what seems like a decade. You can be sure that they will use the 'keep Peyton off the field' approach on Sunday and try to limit his ability to do damage in the air. The only problem? OAK have been wildly inconsistent this year. At times they look like they can smoke any team on the field and other weeks we are left wondering if they could even compete for the college National Championship. They might have the edge in the run game and should win the field position battle this week, but if they want a realistic shot at winning they will need plays from the QB position. Unfortunately for OAK they do not matchup well in pass protection. They also better hope that IND doesn't jump out to an early lead because the IND pass rush will be in the backfield a number of times. OAK continue to struggle with red zone/third down offense, take far too many penalties, and don't get enough points from sustained drives. These are not areas you want to be deficient in when you take on a team like IND.
Peyton won't have as much success without Austin Collie, but he will still have enough time to find the open guy this week. He has averaged 347 yards on the road this year. Even in their losses this offense has driven down the field and put up points with ease. They still rank near the top in points from sustained drives and red zone/third down offense. Getting Dominic Rhodes back in the run game is a nice compliment to Donald Brown and should give Peyton more options at the line. This is a well-coached team that doesn't hurt themselves a lot with stupid penalties either.
Usually when a team gives IND a run for their money it is because they earn it each and every quarter. I don't see enough mismatches for OAK to do that and they will need to keep it close so their crowd stays involved. It's also a really bad time to lose two impact players. Both Seymour and Lechler are questionable with hamstring injuries. I'll happily lay the points and ride the road team. Prediction: Bank IND -3.
San Diego Chargers vs Cincinnati Bengals: SD -7
Since I have taken KC to win this week it means that I'm not sure if SD can catch them for the division crown. We'll see how it all shakes out, but I don't see how CIN can win this week in a matchup that gives them very few advantages. In fact, the only advantage they seem to have will be returning kickoffs and punts. That means they qualify as my special teams wonders of the week and when that's all a team has going for them I will go the other way if the line is reasonable. Seven points is a lot to give up on the road, but SD should dominate this game on both sides of the ball and on the ground and in the air. I give CIN credit for returning to what they do best last week against CLE because when they commit to the run, limit the responsibility on Palmer, and play gap control defense they are a tough out. However, SD is not CLE and many CIN players might already have their bags packed for the offseason given the recent slew of injuries. T.O. has been shut down for the season and Ocho is banged up and crying on Twitter. Scott is also banged up which eliminates another potential big play guy.
To make matters worse CIN is going to get man-handled on the line of scrimmage. Palmer would be wise to not take too many 5 and 7 step drops because the pass protection won't be there this week. At the same time, Rivers should continue his monster season with more than enough time to survey the field and find his receivers. CIN have been horrible in most important categories this year and sit at 5-9 against the spread. SD score twice as many points from sustained drives per game and it could get ugly by the fourth quarter. I might have picked CIN to win the division, but I recognized early in the season that they were not going to repeat their performance of last year despite having a better roster on paper. I love SD as a standard play and as my main team in all my teasers. Prediction: Bank SD -7.
UPDATE #3: With ATL and OAK taking care of business I finish the day with another winning week. I ended the week 2-3 on sides, 0-1 on totals, and 4-0 on teasers. As I mentioned in my writeups, the lines are very sharp at this time of year which is why teasers are a great way to get an edge.
The public had another losing week - what's new. The sharps didn't do much better with their consensus picks going 1-3 with one more pick remaining.
I'll have a full review of the weekend along with early week 16 picks up tomorrow afternoon.
UPDATE #2:It was not a good day in the early afternoon games. NO came up short in a hard fought battle in BAL, CAR was a little bit less pathetic than ARZ, and DAL made Rex Grossman look like Tom Brady. The ATL and OAK games are in progress and if both of them can win it will salvage the weekend into a small profit. One teaser cashed and the other 3 are still open.
The game props were posted very late this week so I did not have enough time to go through all the games, but I will have some for the night games if I see something I like.
UPDATE #1: SF was no match for SD and they got dusted off with ease. The standard play, half of two teasers, and all three game props cashed as week 15 kicked off to a great start.
I am watching the line movement so I can add a couple more plays for Sunday. I will have those up as soon as I can get a favorable number.
I would not wager more than a half unit on any of these because at the end of the day they are just game props. They are more intended for some extra fun for those that like a little bit extra on the games. With that said, let's take a look at the game props I like for week 15. They can all be found at Bodog.com. The rest will be posted Saturday afternoon.
Rivers 270.5 Passing Yards: OVER Smith 215.5 Passing Yards: UNDER Kaeding vs Reed: Kaeding -1.5
If it wasn't for the Rodgers injury, I would have gone 4-1 on them again last week as they continue to be a great compliment to the standard plays. I will be adding one more to the list before Sunday, and maybe two depending on the remaining lines. It is probably too late to get the Chargers at -2.5, but I've had the picks up since early Monday so there was more than enough time to get that at that number. However, there are a lot of good teaser candidates this week so feel free to combine them as you see fit.
Chargers -2.5 & Falcons PK
Check the standard plays for write-ups on these games.
Chargers -2.5 & Eagles +9
I came pretty close to taking PHI as a standard play this week, but there wasn't enough of an advantage to go with them. However, I do like them to win this game straight up in what should be another great NFC East showdown. They match up pretty good on both sides of the ball, but Andy Reid coached teams play their best in November and December while NY tend to come up short. Yet, even if PHI are the better team in this one, NY will be able to get to Vick a few times. He still refuses to slide and NY showed that they have a decent game plan for him. On offense, NY might not be able to move the ball up and down the field all day, but when they do get in the 20 they will be facing one of the worst red zone defenses in recent history. Unfortunately for NY, Eli Manning is not playing very well this season. He leads the league in interceptions and the moving parts on offense are significantly banged up. PHI also some some key parts in their week 14 game. They went out and signed ex-Eagle Derrick Burgess to play 15-20 snaps in place of injured rookie Brandon Graham. Meanwhile, Jamar Chaney will replace injured middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. On the bright side, it looks like they will finally get all-pro Asante Samuel back barring any setbacks. I'm sure Eli just sent him an early Christmas card after he heard that news. The bottom line is both teams are battling injuries in this one just like most other teams in the league right now. I would be very shocked if NY won this one by double digits and I feel very confident in taking PHI and the extra points.
Saints +8.5 & Falcons PK
I was hoping that there was an outside chance that the Saints line would go to +3 after opening up at +2.5. I knew right away that this was a favorable line, but it was quickly moved to +1. First because I believe that NO should be favored in this one despite being on the road. Secondly, they likely moved it to get out of the teaser window. However, as I'm writing this they can still be found at +1.5 which would still make it a great choice for a teaser as you want anything over +7.
BAL have a couple things going for them in this game other than home field advantage. They should be able to dominate special teams on both sides of the ball and NO will have a tough time establishing a consistent running game. Bush returned a few weeks ago, but he hasn't been able to find his old form yet. However, Pierre Thomas also returned to the lineup last week as NO are one of the few teams getting healthier at this time of the season. Many people also believe that BAL have the physical edge in this one because NO have the perception of a finesse team. Brees stated that he's not concerned about outside perceptions and I couldn't agree with him more. They are the defending champs at the end of the day and I'm not worried about a difficult road game whatsoever. I still don't trust Joe Flacco in big games because I think he is nothing more than a glorified backup. This might be part of the reason why BAL use play-action so extensively this season, but NO have done a good job defending these plays too. Normally I would say that BAL need to rely more on Ray Rice in a game like this, but he has not produced anywhere close to where he was expected to. It's unknown how much of this has to do with him, a lingering injury, his line play, or opposing schemes, but if he doesn't play at a pro bowl level on Sunday I don't see how BAL will generate enough offense to overtake NO. BAL is coming off a short week and Brees should have enough time to pick the open receiver. Due to this I like NO to win the game straight up, but it could be close so I'd rather have them in a teaser.
Raiders -.5 & Cowboys PK
This teaser features two teams that have really favorable matchups on Sunday. I'm not a huge fan of either program, but when the system says they look good I do not argue. OAK have been a tricky team to figure out this year because they have either been really good or really bad. Yet, it's hard to imagine that they have a down performance this week given the opponent. A wounded animal is coming to town and OAK will be more than happy to put it out of it's misery. They own a monumental advantage on the ground as McFadden is starting to run like he did earlier in the season. He could put up some gaudy numbers on Sunday. On the other side of the ball Orton is going to have another long day because their style of play does not match up very well against a team that is strong on the defensive line and against the pass. The schedule hasn't helped DEN either as they are on the road once again in what should be a hostile environment. I'm not sure they will even cover the standard line, but I see very little chance in them winning this game straight up. The coaching change did nothing to resurrect this roster last week so I am not concerned about that. The Tim Tebow watch has officially started and injuries to Orton, Lloyd, and Prater are not going to help keep him on the bench.
In the other matchup, DAL get the luxury of playing a terrible NFC East rival on Sunday. There really isn't a lot to like about WSH and this is one of the easier write-ups I've done all season. They have a horrible offense and major problems with their kickers. On paper, McNabb should have a nice day, but they haven't been able to establish a running game all year, provide half-decent pass protection, or drive the field with any consistency. I'm not sure if they get blown out in this game or not, but if they were playing the Wade Phillips coached Cowboys I'd give them a chance to win this one. Too bad for them that isn't the case as they are well on their way to another typical failed season. Regardless of what you think of Jon Kitna, he should have a nice day this weekend. WSH have no pass rush whatsoever and now they have lost Landry to injured reserve. He was one of the few bright spots on their defense this season. Much like OAK, this is another game that I came close to making a standard play on, but I feel much better about teasing down DAL to a pick em. I was a little surprised that they didn't open up as touchdown favorites because I have them favored by slightly more than that. Including them in a teaser almost seems unfair, but I'll take it.
The biggest reason that I was reluctant to pick this game is because now I will be forced to watch some of it. Otherwise I wouldn't even be interested in the highlights of this battle of the cellar-dwellers. However, when I see a clear edge in the betting odds I am not about to pass it up. Frankly, I was a little surprised that CAR was favored in this game. I'm still trying to figure out why this is the case. Matchup-wise, ARI have the edge in most of the important categories and CAR is 3-10 against the spread this year.
Perhaps it is because they are playing at home? Home field advantage is usually worth extra during the final month of the season, but if you saw any of the ATL/CAR game last week you'll know that no one is really interested in watching this team play anymore. I think MIN might have had a more supportive crowd last Monday night and they were playing on a neutral field. Perhaps it is because ARI is starting their third string quarterback? I'm not sure this is a valid argument either because most fans off the street could be as effective as Derek Anderson or Max Hall. At least John Skelton might have some upside and he didn't embarrass himself during spot duty last week.
My system has this game as a pick em and this is including some points for home field advantage. Needless to say I like ARI here with whatever points Vegas wants to give me. They may not be very good either, but their running game should have a little success against a porous CAR run defense and ARI have done a very underrated job keeping people out of their end zone this year. That isn't good news for CAR because they are only averaging two field goals per game from sustained drives in 2010. Although that stat shouldn't surprise anyone when you consider that Clausen hasn't thrown a TD pass since week 4. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Jay Feely scored more points last week than CAR has in any game this season. I'm rolling with the road team in what could be the most boring game of the season. Prediction: Bank ARI +3.
Atlanta Falcons vs Seattle Seahawks: ATL -6
If you have followed this blog for more than a couple weeks you will notice that ATL is routinely on my card. I am not an ATL fan nor am I declaring blind faith in them this year. This week they are included again because Vegas continue to undervalue this team. I'm still a little confused why they aren't getting the respect they deserve with these odds, but it could have something to do with public perception. ATL isn't a team that blows people out and they don't have a lot of flashy headline players. I got into a debate of sorts with someone who has routinely picked against them over the last month and their reasoning was that ATL was due for a letdown or a reality check. If this was a fair point I would agree, but the stats don't back this up. They have been the most consistent overall team in the entire NFL this year and when you do that week in and week out the chances of negative variance go down.
Last season ATL was just as good, but they had trouble executing when the game was on the line and they were not as healthy. They should be able to demonstrate this once again in week 15 as they take on SEA. Look for more of Turner and White on the scoresheet and I don't expect Ryan's jersey to get that dirty either. ATL have been dominating teams with long drives all year and this is how this game will be decided. I expect them to own the clock and wear down an uninspired SEA defense. In fact, there are only two advantages that SEA will have in this one. Home field and special teams. I'm not that concerned about the crowd because ATL should have the lead by halftime. As for the special teams advantage, if this is a team's only favorable matchup in a game I will be fade them 9 times out of 10. Last week ATL gave up a ton of yards on the ground, but John Abraham has already admitted that the team got a little complacent after dominating CAR in the first two quarters. If they are looking to play like they can for an entire 60 minutes that is not good for SEA. They have 7 losses on the season and every one of them have been by 15 or more points. Prediction: Bank ATL -6.
New Orleans Saints vs Baltimore Ravens: NO +1.5
I waited to get a better idea of what the weather would be like in this game, and from all reports it seems like it's going to be a clear, crisp day for football. I think this drastically favors Brees and the passing game so I have added them to the card. I already had them in a teaser so check that post for the rest of the write-up.
Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys: DAL -7
I already gave my thoughts on this game in the teaser write-up, but I am adding it as a standard play with the news that Rex Grossman will be starting at QB instead of Donovan Mcnabb. The line has only moved 1 point with this announcement so I see a lot of value with -7. I already had DAL favored by more than a TD myself, so this news clinches it for me. Mcnabb might have been having a down year, but he was still a popular locker room guy and can't be worse than Grossman....can he? I'm sorry but I've seen a lot of both guys over the years and I'm not rolling with Rex Grossman behind a shoddy offensive line and suspect wide receivers under any circumstances. Prediction: Bank DAL -7.
Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Giants: UNDER 46
Full disclosure. If you are new to this blog proceed with caution. Totals have been the one area that I have struggled in this year. However, despite the unprecedented number of overs this year, I am rolling with an under this week. I don't expect this game to be a shootout at all. There is too much on the line to play care-free football and I fully expect a knock-down-drag-em-out game. The NFC East crown is at stake and when this has been the case in the recent past a defensive battle ensued. Both teams matchup very well against each other so I don't think there will be any glaring mismatch on either side of the ball. Weather is also likely to be a factor. Take early forecasts with a grain of salt, but as of now they are calling for snow and gusty winds. Anything that limits the ability to air it out or kick a field goal is good for an under. Prediction: Bank UNDER 46.
Early picks for week 15. Check here for the latest odds.
San Fransisco 49ers vs San Diego Chargers: SD -8.5
When the 49ers travel across town to SD this week they will be meeting a team that has them completely overmatched. It isnt' very often that I lay more than a touchdown on a favorite, but this is one of those exceptions to the rule. Even with the high number, I think SD is an undervalued favorite this week and that is a rarity at this time of the year. Most of the lines we see at this time are very sharp so it becomes harder and harder to find that edge. However, this game has all the makings of a double digit win for the home team.
To begin with, there are clearcut problems for SF in the air this week. Smith and company will be going against one of the top passing defenses in the league and they will have a lot of trouble keeping up with Rivers. I don't really care how this offense looked last week against SEA, this is a whole different animal that they will be facing now. Usually a great way to counteract this mismatch is to rely on a solid running game and establish good pass protection. The only problem? SD have a big advantage in both of those categories too. I love Brian Westbrook for what he has done in this league, but at the moment he is not Frank Gore. The route running, vision, and catching ability are there, but he no longer has that breakaway speed or ability to accelerate around defenders playing on a shredded knee. What he can help with thought is blitz pickup. SF will need all of his experience because they have not done a good job protecting their QB's this season. SD will continue to be disruptive in the backfield making it a long day for this offense. SF continue to be one of the worst offensive teams in the other important categories as well. Red zone and third down offense are embarrassingly bad and they rank near the bottom in points from long drives and completed offensive plays per game.
If that wasn't enough to convince you to ride SD this week, let's take a look on the other side. Is anyone in the league playing better at QB this season than Philip Rivers? Ok the Tom Brady debate aside, Rivers has continued to put up gaudy numbers this year even with a receiving core put together with duct tape. Even with Gates hobbled, McMichael has stepped in and picked up the slack. Now he has Mathews and Jackson back in the mix so things might only get better down the stretch. Ignoring the OAK game (please), this offense has been virtually unstoppable. Rivers is poised for another big game against a defense that has continued to under-perform. The 11 guys on SF's defense have been together for 4 years straight, but they don't resemble that on the field. They continue to take too many penalties and remain average on third down and red zone defense. Meanwhile, their reward is to play against a team that averages a league-leading 20 points per game from long drives. Look for them to wear down as the game goes on because their offense isn't going to be giving them many breathers.
This doesn't mean that I think SF is going to roll over and die, but their will be supremely tested and by the fourth quarter it could be broken. I also don't like Singletary in a prime time spotlight. The bright lights often bring out the best and worst in coaches and he has already had some questionable moments in these spots this season. He knows he's under the gun and a loss here could be the end of his head coaching career. Don't be surprised if he makes some impulsive changes on the fly as he desperately tries to save his job. Too bad for him it won't make a world of difference.Prediction: Bank SD -8.5.
Market Watch Season overall records to date:
Public Consensus Picks: 88-107-10 (45.1%)
Hilton Contest Consensus Picks: 34-35-2 (49.3%)
Week 14 is winding down and it was an up and down week.
I was 2-2-1 on sides and 2-3 on teasers. Not horrible given all that has transpired. I had to buy back on KC after the midweek injury news about Cassel and the Rodgers injury cost me 2 teasers. If you include the back door cover from TEN on Thursday night it was an unfortunate week with a lot of negative variance. However, the rest of my picks came through so it wasn't that bad.
The public consensus picks ended up going 8-7-1. That is a marked improvement considering how their year has gone. Hilton consensus picks went 3-2 for another average week.
I have a few early week 15 picks up already and I'll have a few more, including some teasers, up tomorrow. Most of the lines are very sharp this week, but this is expected as the year unfolds. Due to this, teasers are a great way to level the playing field. Writeups will also be posted up tomorrow and Wednesday.
I have added NY back to the board and bought the hook to get back down to -3. MIN has now lost their home field advantage so I would still take them even if you have to take them at -4.
New York Giants vs Minnesota Vikings: NYG -3
I believe this is a great matchup for NY. First of all, we have the QB and coaching situation for the Vikings. Frankly, I'm not really concerned if MIN are playing inspired football or not. If I was a MIN fan, I'd be more concerned about how to they are going to sustain drives and put up points. NY match up pretty well against the run so I'm not expecting Peterson to have a lights out day. What I'll be looking for on Sunday is how badly NY beat up on whoever starts under center. It's not going to matter much who is at QB for MIN because their offensive line isn't doing a good enough job in protection and NY have a significant advantage defending the pass. Favre is going to get beat up and battered if he decides to keep his streak alive and Jackson could become a turnover machine if he gets the start. Fans might be excited about his performance against BUF, but let's get real. Jackson is not the QB of the future in this city. The coaching change has resulted in less penalties in the last couple weeks, but this isn't a ship that is going to get completely turned around in the middle of the season. They are still too inconsistent as a team to pull out a win this Sunday. NY are much better in the key categories of points from long drives and completed plays per game. They do a great job protecting Eli and rank in the upper half of the league in turnover differential. In fact, there isn't really any one area that NY is deficient in. I'm going with the road team in this one. Prediction: Bank NYG -3.
If you are getting tired of seeing PHI in prime time you might have to just suck it up and deal with it. PHI has been slotted for prime time games in what seems like every week because of the resurgence of Michael Vick. NBC had the chance to flex this game, but they didn't because they know what kind of ratings this MVP candidate gets. It's hard to argue with this because their offensive attack is unlike any other in the NFL. Only NE score more points per game and I have no reason to believe the scoring will stop now. A lot of people think the sky is falling in IND, but like I said in their write-up this week it isn't because DAL controlled the game. The Cowgirlz got dominated in many key areas in week 13 and they should be sending thank you cards to Peyton this week for handing them the win on a silver platter. Having said that, I'm not about to completely dismiss DAL. I give them credit for playing hard despite their situation and I thought they would have more of a let down after their Thanksgiving Super Bowl.
Yet, a closer look at this matchup reveals that DAL is in for another long day on defense. Unlike Peyton, Vick isn't throwing many interceptions this year. He is completely infatuated with this offense and it's not hard to understand why. With weapons like D-Jax, Maclin, Avant, Celek, and "Shady" McCoy at his disposal, Vick only needs to buy an extra second of time to find someone completely wide open. DAL haven't done a good job defending the pass before or after their coaching change. Adding insult to injury is the fact that they haven't pressured the QB as effectively in years past. They will have trouble all night long because PHI makes defenses defend every square inch of the field. PHI score about 18 points per game from long drives and consistently win the turnover battle. A short field from one of these turnovers is like icing on the cake for this offense. They are a collection of speedsters and their game is tailored for the fast surface at New Cowgirlz Stadium.
DAL only have two clear-cut advantages in this game and neither of them will translate into a win. Both of them are also things that PHI do bad rather than anything DAL does good. PHI continue to suck bad in their red zone defense and rank near the bottom in penalties per game. These two flaws make their games much more interesting than they need to be and it shows you how good they actually are if they can consistently overcome them. DAL should have also had a significant edge in the return game, but that is gone now that Dez Bryant is done for the year. I was a little surprised that PHI was only favored by 3 in this game which tells me what the books think of this resurgent DAL team playing at home under the lights. Feel free to jump on the Jon Kitna bandwagon, but I'll be taking a pass. PHI hasn't forgotten what happened last year when these two teams met and they are eagerly waiting to return the favor this time around. Prediction: Bank PHI-3.
Market Watch Season overall records to date:
Public Consensus Picks: 80-100-9 (44.4%)
Hilton Contest Consensus Picks: 31-33-2 (48.4)
Here we are at the three quarter mark with the final 4 weeks to go. Just like every season it goes by at warp speed and it's over before we know it. I might be one of those people who will be looking forward to an 18 game schedule because when you hit at 74% over the last two months it's difficult to see it coming to an end.
Given the success of my system over the last 8-9 weeks, not much will change in the final 4 weeks. Home field advantage will be worth a little bit more from here on out though because of magnitude of some of the games. Weather has also become a significant factor as sharps have jumped back into the over/under game. Last week they went with unders early in the week in weather-affected games and they have done the same this week.
In the marketplace, you can see that the public picks continue to struggle against the spread this year and it's unlikely that they reach the magic break even number of 52.4% this season. Hilton consensus picks have done slightly better, but still well below the expected average. Most good handicappers will finish between 55-60% in a minimum of 100 plays. Any number of plays below that should be taken with a grain of salt due to the high variance within small sample sizes.
So let's take a closer look at how I've been doing in all the prediction categories with a month to go...
The last 5 weeks have shown that my hot streak leading up to the mid-season point wasn't a fluke as I hit 19-9-3. Sides and teasers are the primary areas of my focus so it's good to know that my system of predictions has continued to be successful after 5 years of use. There might even be some signs that it has improved as I continue to tweak it each year. In fact, next season I might consider cutting down on my picks in the first 4 weeks and wait until there has been enough data to put my system into full effect. A similar pattern happened last year as I had 3 bad weeks during the season, with only 1 of them coming after week 4. This year, I haven't had a losing week with sides since week 4 so I'm looking to keep this going into the playoffs.
Much like the sharps, this is an area that I've stayed away from for the most part since the midway point of the season. I only made 4 picks over the last 5 weeks going 2-2. It has continued to be an unprecedented year for overs which has made traditional total strategies useless. However, with bad weather coming back into the picture some of those approaches should become applicable once again, so I will try a few more before the season winds down. It's doubtful that I will make it back to the break even point in this category though. The hole dug early in the season was enough evidence for me to stay away and is a good example of why it's important to focus on current trends instead of blindly following old ones.
There is a lot of debate among people about the value of teasers. Some think they are a useless bet and it's more profitable to just take the teams in consideration in regular picks rather than combining them in a teaser. I strongly disagree and most sharps will tell you there is significant value in this category if you know how to play them. I continued to prove this as I went 14-2 over the last 5 weeks. As long as you cross critical numbers like 3, 7, 10, etc, they are a great way to pad the pocket book. As the lines become sharper during the season, teasers become even more important to include on the weekly card.
This is a category I include every week, but like I have been saying they are more intended for fun. There is far too much variance with player production from week to week to reliably put our regular units into. As you can see I am still hovering around .500 for the year. I play a lot of fantasy football with great success, so after evaluating all the matchups and reviewing the fantasy news each week, I put out what should be the best favorable plays. Never bet more than a half a unit on these and depending on your bankroll - maybe even less than that. However, I will continue to include them because I know that some people love the extra "action".
In the AFC, my division winners are in serious question at the moment. The Bengals have been out of the winning for a long time now as they crashed and burned in what could be one of the bigger surprises of the season. It also looks like the Jets won't be taking over the East this year like I predicted they would before the season started. Given what was going on with the Patriots defense, along with all the off-season additions in NY, I really thought this would be the year. However, Brady and Belichick showed us last Monday that they haven't been winning Super Bowls and division crowns by accident over the last decade. The Colts still have a great shot to win the South and I'd be shocked if they faltered down the stretch. The last division in doubt is the West. I've been high on KC this year, but I still believed SD would eventually overtake them. This one will come down to the wire if the Chargers can close the game this week.
In the NFC, things look a little bit more promising. PHI currently have the lead, but still have a game remaining with NY. I feel pretty good about this one considering the whole planet had already penciled in the Cowboys before the season. NY have played better than expected, but I still think they will come up short when all is said and done. The Saints and Packers both sit one game back of ATL and CHI, but there is a strong chance that both could wind up on top after week 17. It will be a great race to the finish, but I expect to win at least one of them. The final team in this conference is SF. Much like CIN, they crashed and burned in a big way this season. They are an even bigger surprise because there is so much talent on the roster. I think Singletary has worn out his welcome in the Bay and he should take his rant and rave approach to college because it clearly doesn't work with millionaires.
Season Win Totals
We are finally at the point in the season where these predictions come into clearer view. Season win totals are always a fun prediction because it tells me how my picks differed from Vegas over the course of the year. These numbers should be used as preliminary power rankings rather than the garbage lists you'll find on sites like ESPN. If you can consistently beat these numbers then you know you are doing something right in your evaluations.
In the AFC, I have already missed on IND, SD, JAX, PIT, and CIN. All of these teams either underachieved or overperformed based on early projections. On the winning side I have DEN, MIA, NYJ, TEN, and BUF. The swing team that could determine things in this conference is BAL. Right now they sit at 8-4 so they would need to go 3-1 in the final four weeks for me to lose this one.
In the NFC, things look good with PHI, ARI, ATL, CAR, and GB. Barring a late season slump or streak, these teams should cover. I missed on SF and NY. SF has been a universal surprise this year, but I knew NY would be close. I give them credit for overcoming a difficult schedule to be where they are. The main team in doubt is NO, but if they can go 2-2 and that will cover too.
Overall it looks like I will turn a nice profit in this category and there isn't a lot I would change if I had to do it over again. In hindsight, I would have liked to add DAL and MIN to the card because I had serious doubts about Favre this year and I expected DAL to struggle with their schedule. Having said that I feel good about most of the teams I skipped this year.
All in all the season is going as planned. My hot streak over the last two months has overcome my slow start to leave me with a nice average for the season. The only area that has hurt me this year is totals, but I pulled the plug before it did too much damage to my profit margin. I'm looking forward to the final month of the season and playoffs. I've enjoyed sharing my picks this season and I have recently joined www.sbrforum.com. I publish some of my weekly free picks there and I recommend you check out the rest of the site. There are some great people there and some useful tools to help you find an edge. Thanks for all the emails and I think I've been able to answer every one of them up to this point. Best of luck to all the rest of the way!
UPDATE: With Matt Cassel 50/50 to play this week the KC/SD game has been taken off the board. While Croyle isn't a massive downgrade at QB, it does add a different flavor to this game. I already thought that KC was undervalued at +7 so we'll see what happens to the line when more is known on Friday.
Early picks for week 14. Check here for the latest odds.
Atlanta Falcons vs Carolina Panthers: ATL -7
Last week ATL almost hit the skids when they were trailing their division rivals late in the 4th quarter. However, Matt Ryan has been Tom Brady-esque this season if he gets the ball with over 2 minutes remaining on the clock. I hear a lot of people debate who the best team in the NFC is right now, but it's hard to argue with ATL especially if they win home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The mark of a great team is consistently and there are a lot of things this team does well week in and week out.
ATL rank near the top in so many important statistical categories it isn't even funny. Points from long drives, third down/red zone offense, average completed plays per game, running the ball, sacks given up, and penalties taken are among them. When you do these things every game there is no mystery to their success. It has also translated into an 8-4 record against the spread this year.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball we have one of the worst teams in professional football. This is why ATL is favored by a full touchdown on the road against a division rival. Usually this formula would be enough to take CAR, but it doesn't seem to matter what the spread is or who their opponent is, CAR have not been covering in 2010. They are a league worst 3-9 against the spread and it's not hard to figure out the reasons. They have the least amount of points from sustained drives, a dazed and confused rookie QB, bad turnover differential, and horrific red zone/third down offense production. Even a 14 point lead in Seattle wasn't enough for them to cover in week 13. Either this team has quit or they are really this bad. I happen to think it's the latter. Their play has improved a bit over recent weeks, but it hasn't been enough to make a difference on the scoreboard. I will continue to fade CAR and ride ATL until I have reason to do otherwise. Prediction:Bank ATL -7.
New York Giants vs Minnesota Vikings: NYG -2.5
When a game gets put on the board at -2.5 and it doesn't move to -3 within the first few hours it usually tells you what the sharps think of it. Having said that, I'm never worried what they do when I'm making my picks. I'm jumping on this line as I believe this is a great matchup for NY. Let's break it down and take a closer look.
First of all, we have the QB and coaching situation for the Vikings. Frankly, I'm not really concerned if MIN are playing inspired football or not. If I was a MIN fan, I'd be more concerned about how to they are going to sustain drives and put up points. NY match up pretty well against the run so I'm not expecting Peterson to have a lights out day. What I'll be looking for on Sunday is how badly NY beat up on whoever starts under center. It's not going to matter much who is at QB for MIN because their offensive line isn't doing a good enough job in protection and NY have a significant advantage defending the pass. Favre is going to get beat up and battered if he decides to keep his streak alive and Jackson could become a turnover machine if he gets the start. Fans might be excited about his performance against BUF, but let's get real. Jackson is not the QB of the future in this city. The coaching change has resulted in less penalties in the last couple weeks, but this isn't a ship that is going to get completely turned around in the middle of the season. They are still too inconsistent as a team to pull out a win this Sunday. NY are much better in the key categories of points from long drives and completed plays per game. They do a great job protecting Eli and rank in the upper half of the league in turnover differential. In fact, there isn't really any one area that NY is deficient in. I'm going with the road team in this one. Prediction: Bank NYG -2.5.
Kansas City Chiefs vs San Diego Chargers: KC +7
This is perhaps one of the most interesting matchups of the week. I have been a big believer in SD all year despite their early problems on special teams, but that came to a crashing halt last week against OAK. I still can't explain why they got completely dominated because they owned so many advantages across the board. The only logical explanation was that they were feeling a little too good about themselves after dismantling IND in prime time. Yet, this doesn't excuse a flat performance when the division title is still up for grabs. This week motivation should not be a problem for SD as this will be their last chance to stay in the hunt as the division leaders come to town. They should be able to drive down the field with the passing game and put up points in this one and they are at home.
So why would do I like KC to cover? The easy answer is that KC's record this year is not a mirage. I began to ride them early in the year and it's paid off in a big way. They have a winning record against the spread and they have covered a countless number of teasers for me this season. They are the league's leading rushing team and do a great job once they get inside the end zone (last week notwithstanding). KC usually dominate time of possession as a result and don't make too many mistakes. They have been winning the turnover the battle in most games and have a good overall coaching staff. I say overall because sometimes they make maddening decisions at key points in the game, but they play well enough to overcome this most of the time. Home field advantage is usually worth more in December, but I don't expect KC to be phased by that because they are a division foe. Don't expect Dwayne Bowe to be shutout again this week and the return of Dexter McCluster is an underrated boost to this team. KC lead the AFC West because they deserve to and I wouldn't be surprised if they win this one outright. However, I'm happy to take the points in what should be a hard-fought battle. Prediction: Bank KC +7.
I would not wager more than a half unit on any of these because at the end of the day they are just game props. They are more intended for some extra fun for those that like a little bit extra on the games. With that said, let's take a look at the game props I like for week 14. They can all be found at Bodog.com.
Hill 95.5 Rushing Yards: OVER Mendenhall 90.5 Rushing Yards: OVER
Rodgers 285.5 Passing Yards: OVER
Rodgers 2TD Passes: OVER
Blount 75.5 Rushing Yards: OVER
Turner 90.5 Rushing Yards: OVER
Stewart 75.5 Rushing Yards: UNDER Jones-Drew 99.5 Rushing Yards: OVER
Brown 64.5 Rushing Yards: UNDER Orton 275.5 Passing Yards: OVER Rivers 280.5 Passing Yards: OVER McCoy 57.5 Rushing Yards: OVER
McCoy 35.5 Receiving Yards: OVER
Jackson 70.5 Recieving Yards: OVER
Akers -1.5 points (field goals/extra points) vs Buehler: Akers
With PIT dropping to -8.5 at most places I have gone ahead and added them in a teaser. I have also added a late teaser with SD and ATL to buy back on the standard KC play.
6 Point Teasers
Chargers -3 & Falcons -1
Steelers -2.5 & Packers -1
Falcons -1 & Packers -1
Check my weekly picks for the analysis for the ATL/CAR matchup.
The GB/DET game is an interesting one. DET has been incredible against the spread this season. Most people fade them because of their record, but they always seem to forget they are playing the line, not straight up. This is part of the reason why I teased GB down instead of taking them on the regular line. This doesn't mean I don't think GB can cover, because I like their chances to, but DET is a team that knows how to pick up garbage points. If you've read any of my previous write-ups you'll know that they are young, talented, and want to improve on offense. These are great ingredients to drive down the field and put up points. Therefore, GB could easily be leading this game by double digits with the game in hand, but DET will go down and put up a touchdown against a defense playing soft coverage.
In this game GB is going to have a significant advantage passing the ball. Most of the time it is DET who have that advantage, but GB match up pretty good against them in that area this week. GB also do a great job protecting Rodgers. Another advantage that DET usually have, but not in this one. I don't expect DET to get dominated on offense, but they simply won't be able to slow down GB long enough to come out with a win. Even though it is a divisional game at home, DET will come up short. If you need more evidence, GB rank near the top in points from long drives, turnover differential, and red zone/third down offense. Feel free to tease them down with confidence.
Falcons -1 & Browns +7.5
Another good option to include with ATL is CLE. Right now I am seeing CLE +1 across the board, so I would hold off on them unless it moves back up to +1.5 though. It seems most books know this and have moved them out of the teaser window (another great reason to get the early lines). In their matchup with BUF, look for Peyton Hillis to have a monster game. This might not be breaking news because we all know how bad BUF is against the run, but it is the main mismatch of the game. CLE will also have a nice edge in the red zone and on third down. BUF have had problems stopping people from driving the field all year, and once opponents get inside the 20 they usually score. CLE rank better in turnover differential and completed plays per game, too. In all other important categories they are pretty even. I can understand why the line is only +1, especially since BUF is at home. However, they have enough advantages to include them in a teaser and not lose any sleep over it.
Chiefs +13 & Rams +15.5
Two underdogs that look great for a teaser are KC and STL. I've given my thoughts on the KC game, so let's take a loser look at STL vs NO. Frankly I was a little surprised at the opening line. When I evaluated the game I thought NO should be favored by a touchdown. Instead Vegas have them at almost 10 point underdogs! If the line moves to +10 I might be including them as a regular pick, but for now I'll be more than happy to tease them. STL has been playing pretty solid ball of late as Bradford continues to develop. Having Jackson in the backfield definitely helps, and their defense is coming along like I expected it to under coach Spags. NO will have the edge passing the ball though. This is one of the biggest reasons they are favored by so much. They also need this game to keep pace with ATL so the motivation will be there to put this game out of reach. It won't be easy for STL to go into that dome and come away with a win straight up. However, I do like them to keep it within two touchdowns. I don't see them getting blown out in this one, and even if they are down late they have the ability to pick up points in garbage time. This is an offense that can move the ball. NO rank pretty high on red zone/third down offense, but STL have done an equally good job defensively in those categories. NO also average a touchdown more per game from long drives, but I expect STL to make them earn most of their points. I don't think it will be a cake walk kind of game. Much like KC, I really like what I'm seeing from STL. They are a team definitely going in the right direction.
UPDATE:The line has moved to -3, but it would still be a posted play at this number too.
Indianapolis Colts vs Tennessee Titans: IND -2.5
In this week's Thursday Night game IND must travel on a short week to take on their division foes. This is probably the last thing Peyton wanted after another interception-laden game. Everyone knows how much time he puts into preparation so it could be a little concerning for those looking to back this week. At the same time, one could say that a short week might be good for him because he the sooner he gets back out there the better.
This game wasn't difficult to figure out because despite the struggles IND have had recently, they match up pretty good against a TEN team that looks to have mailed it in. However, even if TEN get motivated for a division game in prime time, it should not make a whole lot of difference in the final score. TEN have a lot of trouble defending the pass which is very bad news if IND is up next. I expect Peyton to continue airing it out and doing what he does on Thursday. TEN don't have the kind of defensive pass rush needed to disrupt Peyton's rhythm. One of the biggest oversights of the IND/DAL game was how many long drives Peyton orchestrated. They had four touchdown drives over over 60 yards. Is there any reason to believe he won't do that again against a susceptible TEN defense?
Usually TEN lean heavily on Chris Johnson in these games to eat up the clock and dominate their own long drives. Unfortunately for TEN fans, not to mention fantasy football owners, CJ hasn't been running the same of late and part of that is due to the QB situation. Those huge running lanes created by Young's mobility aren't there anymore and nobody is fearing the passing game. TEN are in the bottom half of the league in red zone/third down offense and can't sustain long drives consistently. They also rank near the bottom in completed plays. This stat is the combination of running plays and completed passes. TEN average 40 per game which is 10 below the number most good teams have. To make matters worse, TEN take more penalties per game than 90% of the league. None of these things translates well in the win/loss department. Now offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is undergoing chemotherapy and his availability for Thursday's game is unknown. TEN have lost 5 in a row and look for them to reach number 6 in week 14. IND might have lost to DAL last week, but it had more to do with their own mistakes than anything DAL did. Prediction: Bank IND -2.5.
UPDATE #5: Despite having a number of mismatches on the field and the division crown on the line, NE came out and gave NY a lesson about how to play in prime-time. It was one of the bigger smack downs I've seen in a long time. There is no way that NY is that bad, but NE showed no mercy as they pounded them on both sides of the ball. Earlier in the season I took NE because I thought Sanchez wasn't quite ready to win big games yet, and now I took NY with the belief that they were set to make that leap. It's back to square one for coach Ryan and company.
Meanwhile, what started off as a great week became mediocre after the night game losses. Teasers helped turn a small profit to keep the winning streak alive. I'll have write-ups for week 14 up tomorrow along with my three-quarter way review.
UPDATE #4: Early week 14 picks and teasers are up. I'll be watching the line movement and injury news to see if there's anything else I like.
UPDATE #3: After controlling the entire game, BAL couldn't close it out. Give credit to PIT for making the big plays when the game was on the line, but this is what BAL did last season as they lost most of their close games in 2009. With the loss, sides finished at 3-2 for the day and teasers 3-1.
Peyton decided to wear a Cowgirlz jersey underneath his own and played for both teams today with another 4 picks. The bigger shock of the day was OAK laying the smack down on SD. I'm surprised SD came out so flat in a divisional revenge game. Also, after scoring nearly 80 points in the first meeting, DEN and KC had a defensive battle.
The public rebounded a bit with a slightly profitable week, but there are still a couple games to go. Hilton consensus picks had another average week as well. I'll have a full review of how things shook out in my three-quarter way review.
I have NYJ +3.5 tomorrow, but Bodog has them at +4. It might be that way across the board as everyone is putting their faith in NE. I'll have early week 14 picks up when the lines open tomorrow and my three-quarter way review as well.
After suffering through a pitiful MNF game in week 12, things get a whole lot brighter as NY and NE face off to fight for the division title. There will be a lot of people who will be reluctant to go with NY in this game because Brady's record at home is no joke. He loves the spotlight and is Joe Montana-esque in the clutch. However, before the season I predicted that this would be the year that they fall from their perch and that NY would take the division from them. Nothing I've seen during the season has changed my mind as Sanchez has spent more time improving his game than eating hot dogs on the sidelines. Most of their off-season additions have enhanced the depth on this team and Revis will be healthy this time around. However, instead of worrying about Moss, NY will need to contend with a short passing, ball control offense. The days of bombing the ball down the field are gone as Brady bleeds defenses to death by sustaining drives. They average over two TD's a game from long drives and this is reflected in their high red zone/third down offensive stats. NE is also a team leading the league in turnover differential. Given all this you might be wondering why I would dare to take NY in this game. They are in fact 2-6 in their last 8 trips to Gillette Stadium after all.
First off, unlike many other handicappers, I don't put too much weight in trends that go back many years. There is too much roster and coaching turnover to make any relevant links to these trends and the game itself goes through significant changes too. I'm more concerned about the current season trends and how specific matchups look. When you take a closer look at this game NY should have a lot of their own success sustaining drives and getting points from them too. They also average 2 TD's per game from 60+ yard drives this year and will have a nice advantage on the ground on both sides of the ball. L.T. doesn't look as fresh as he did earlier in the year which is one of the main reasons why Greene's touches have increased over the past month, but together they form a nice one-two punch. They get to run behind a stout offensive line and this continues to open up the passing game for Sanchez to find open receivers down the field. NE's defense continues to struggle mightily on third down and in the red zone. NY continue to take too many penalties, but they play well enough to overcome this aggressive approach. This is the style that Rex Ryan accepts and that won't change in their biggest game of the season. This will be a knock-out, drag em out fight and I'll be enjoying it as a fan. The line has moved to -3 at many places so if you can still find the hook grab it. It could prove the difference in a game that could go down to the wire. Prediction: Bank NYJ +3.5.
Greene 55.5 Rushing Yards: OVER Green-Ellis 58.5 Rushing Yards: UNDER
This is a game that I've been keeping an eye on all week. I wanted to see how Ben did in practice and if his limp is any indication, he's not doing as well as PIT would like. This game was also briefly taken off the board yesterday as rumors surfaced that his foot might in fact be broken. Well that rumor turned out to be true and false. Apparently he already broke his foot years ago and he merely reaggravated the injury. Either way he'll be in the lineup on Sunday night, but he might not be as elusive as he normally is.
This could be a big problem because BAL have a nice advantage rushing against that offensive line. I can't count how many times a designed PIT play breaks down only to see Ben make something out of nothing. If Ben isn't able to have that same escapability then PIT is going to be in a world of hurt. Wallace will need to use every ounce of his 4.2 speed to make sure he's open. Mendenhall has been good this year, but BAL should matchup equally on the ground. PIT do have an edge in a few categories however. They are among the top in red zone defense, turnover differential, and stopping the run. These alone will make this a knock-out drag em out game.
Unfortunately for PIT this is their second road game in a row and must contend with a BAL team that is going to make it very difficult to come away with a win. BAL have the edge in the passing game, special teams, and rushing the passer. This means PIT will need to sustain long drives and come away with touchdowns to win. Not great news when they are below average in this category and Billy Cundiff leads the league in touchbacks with 31. PIT also rank in the middle of the pack in time of possession which is surprising given how good they are at stopping the run. Even with Ben's return there hasn't been a huge spike in the offensive categories. I don't think it all adds up to a huge advantage for BAL in this game, but it's enough for me to roll with them. Prediction: Bank BAL -3.
UPDATE: With the news that QB Shaun Hill is probably out this week (and maybe the entire season), I have taken DET off the card and bought back on CHI. It's better to eat the juice instead of taking DET with Drew Stanton at QB. Sometimes these things happen when you jump on the opening lines, but the long-term advantages far outweigh these occasional situations.
The NFC East battles continue on Sunday when the Skins take on the G-Men in week 13 action. I had NY in a couple teasers last week and they made a late comeback to get the cover, but they will need to play much better ball if they hope to contend for the division crown. Losing two of the better receivers didn't help, but their struggles against JAX extended beyond the passing game as they had trouble getting it going on both sides of the ball. Despite this lull, I still love them to win by at least a TD this week because they have a number of significant mismatches against a porous WSH team.
Two categories that should allow them to dominate the game is on the ground and on the line of scrimmage. NY backs might have problems securing the ball, but they should be able to have their way on Sunday. This will alleviate the pressure off the passing game and allow Eli to pick his spots down the field. In fact, Eli could have a big game because WSH have been giving up big chunks of yards all season. WSH can't generate enough pressure on the QB and when you can't stop the run or the pass you usually lose the time of possession battle too. This is reflected in the stats as WSH only average about 42 completed offensive plays per game. This ranks near the bottom of the league and puts far too much pressure on the defense.
The story doesn't get any better for the WSH offense. They only average about 10 points per game from long drives and this is largely due to their league-worst third down percentage. They simply can't sustain drives on a consistent basis. I wouldn't be shocked if the NY defensive line win this game all by themselves and McNabb will need to find the fountain of youth quickly if he hopes to stay alive much longer. The only bright spot for this team will be their return game. WSH should get some favorable field position throughout the game, but how much will it matter? When a team can't drive down the field and score points then I'm also less concerned about a late cover with garbage points. This is a team going nowhere and now they have another handful of injuries to contend with on both sides of the ball. Prediction: Bank NYG -7.
Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: ATL -2.5
I managed to get ATL at -2.5, but I would still take them at -3 without giving it a second thought. I am a little surprised that ATL is not favored by more, but I'm guessing that it is only 3 because TB played ATL tough the first time around, it's a divisional game, and TB is at home. These are all good reasons to like TB, but are they really on the same level as ATL? Josh Freeman will get some time to make some plays in this game because ATL's pass rush isn't anything to get scared about, but TB do not hold many other advantages in this one. Their record is a mirage because they haven't beat anyone of note yet. All their losses have come against good teams and after Sunday you can chalk up another one to the list.
I might sound like a broken record when I describe how ATL will cover, but there are always new people reading this for the first time. In this game ATL will once again dominate the game on the ground and Ryan will have a lot of time to scan the field to make plays. They are very good in red zone offense and defense and lead the league in many critical categories. Third down offense, points from long drives, and completed offensive plays per game. They also rank near the top in turnover differential and least amount of penalties per game. I'm not sure about you, but when you can do these things on a consistent basis you are going to win most of your games. Last season ATL lost most of their tough games, but this year they are winning them. This is a clear sign of a team that has taken that next step. Even if this game is close, ATL have a QB and a kicker who get it done in the clutch. Jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride. Prediction: Bank ATL -2.5.
Dallas Cowboys vs Indianapolis Colts: IND -5
At first this was a tricky game to get a good feel for when I did my evaluations. DAL was terrible in most statistical categories up until a few weeks ago, but they have played hard since Garret was promoted to interim head coach. After looking at things a little closer I still like how IND match up against them. Much like Brees on Thanksgiving, I expect Peyton to bounce back in a big way and torch this porous DAL secondary. A lot of people might be hesitant to do that after he threw 7 INT's in the last 2 games, but we are still talking about the greatest QB to ever put on a uniform in the NFL. He still has Wayne and Garcon to throw to and Tamme has proven that he's reliable in the passing game. The blowout to SD was shocking to some, but it's no secret that IND don't match up good against them and there were a number of uncharacteristic dropped passes in that game. To make matters worse for DAL, they won't be able to generate enough pressure on Peyton to disrupt his rhythm. With more time in the pocket, Peyton will get things rolling once again.
It is also no secret that Jon Kitna isn't Tom Brady or Philip Rivers and the IND defense will be able to do enough to limit the DAL passing attack. The main advantage they will have will be in the return game. However, as we have seen over the last couple of months, when your only mismatch on the field is on special teams, your chances of winning are dismal at best. DAL still turn the ball over too much and can't get enough points from long drives. This is a very bad formula if you are facing the Colts. If they fall behind like I expect them too, they won't have the home crowd to rally them this time and Kitna could morph into a turnover machine. DAL can't run the ball either so controlling the clock and limiting Peyton's opportunities isn't much of an option. The motivation meter in DAL is dropping as that initial surge of change has passed. Fade the Cowgirls this week with confidence. Prediction: Bank -IND 5.
St Louis Rams vs Arizona Cardinals: STL -3
This game just opened on the books a few hours ago and much like the ATL game I was surprised at the line. It doesn't take a professional handicapper to know that ARI is a horrible team and that was on full display in the MNF game. I won't be shocked if the line moves at some point during the week because I don't know anyone in their right mind who would back ARI +3. STL simply have too many advantages on both sides of the ball and in all areas of the game. Bradford and Jackson should be able to lead a balanced attack down the field a number of times against a disinterested ARI team. STL is still fighting for the division crown so they have more than enough motivation in this one.
The ARI offense and defense might need to be separated in the locker room and the sidelines because Anderson is doing no favors for his team right now. Coach Spags will bring the pain on Sunday and force whoever is at QB into some ill-advised passes down the field. STL should also have little trouble limiting a running game that hasn't had any consistency all year. The only thing ARI have going for them is the return game and I've already stated what I think about a team in that situation. I could go into more detail on this one, but I think it would be unnecessary to list all the reasons I like STL to win this game. STL is 8-3 ATS and ARI is 3-8. Need I say more? Prediction: Bank STL -3.
Denver Broncos vs Kansas City Chiefs: OVER 48
Since this game is a total I'm not going to give a full game analysis for it. With so many games going over the total this year I am limiting my total picks to one or two a week that I think will continue the trend. 48 is a large number and in years past I would normally stay away from picks like this, but this is a new NFL that does everything it can to generate offense. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this game generated over 60 points. DEN have proved all year that they can put up points in the air. I'm not sure what supplements Kyle Orton is taking, but whatever it is it's working. Whether it is early in the game or late, this team puts up points. On the other side of the ball, Matt Cassel has caught fire over recent weeks and has found a nice chemistry with Dwayne Bowe. This is likely due to the massive success of the running game and I see the same story playing out on Sunday. I was high on Jamaal Charles coming into the season and I think he continues to fly under the radar this year. He should be getting a lot more national attention because he is an electrifying back who can kill you rushing or receiving. Neither of these defenses is about to pitch a shutout anytime soon and neither defensive line has enough push to stifle the passing attack. Look for a lot of big plays and back and forth scores in this one. Prediction: Bank O48.