Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 Week 9 NFL Predictions

I have a few early week 9 picks up and a handful of teasers as well.  There are so many good teaser candidates you can pretty much mix and match them any way you want.  I'll have full write-ups for the picks and add a few more pending line movement/injury news.







Week 9 Predictions
Week 9 Predictions: Monday Night Football 
Week 9 Predictions: Teasers

2011 Week 8 Market Watch

(UPDATE Monday PM): I've seen a lot of bad beats in my time, but that KC/SD game ranks right up there. Once again SD struggled with the red zone, penalties, and turnovers against an inferior team.  In that sense the SD pick deserved to lose.  That performance is also going to make the line in the GB/SD game tilted too far in GB's favor which is a shame because I was looking forward to taking GB in that spot.  We'll see how things shake out when the line gets put up tomorrow.

Week 8 is almost in the books and I finished off the day with a nice 4-2 record.  I didn't like the way the day started when CAR missed a 31 yard field goal to tie the game, but these things even out in the end.  The public and pros are headed for a losing week regardless of the MNF outcome.  DET was the big play of the weekend and I'm still surprised at that line.

We are almost at the midway point and based on how things have been around the league I'm happy to be sitting at 55% against the spread for the regular season and 60% including preseason.  There have been some really crazy outcomes this year and this week was no exception (hello STL/NO!).  I might have a play for tomorrow night, but I won't decide until tomorrow afternoon.  Week 9 plays will be up in the next day or two depending on line movement/injuries.

Market Watch

Public Consensus Top 5 Picks

NO -13.5
NYG -10
BAL -12
DET -3
SF -9

Record to date: 18-21-1

Hilton Contest Consensus Top 5 Picks

DET -1.5
DAL +3.5
NE -3
KC +3.5
SEA +2.5

Record to date: 20-17-3

Week 8 NFL Predictions: Monday Night Football Edition

San Diego Chargers vs Kansas City Chiefs: SD -3
KC remains one of the top picks in the Hilton Contest this week, but I can't buy it.  Sometimes sharps like to out-think themselves and twist a variety of factors into a plausible argument for the underdog.   I don't see this game playing out that way at all.

To start with let's look back at the last couple times these teams played.  Many are pointing to their week 3 matchup that began their resurgent turn-around.  I watched that game and from what I saw SD completely dominated an inferior KC team and played passive ball in the 2nd half.  Give credit to KC for not packing it in and making a game of it late, but when all the chips are in the middle SD easily handled things.  The other game people are pointing to is the MNF game from last season.  Once again SD dominated that game between the numbers, but gave up two big special teams TDs in the process.

You simply can't hide the fact that you are without guys like Charles, Moeaki, and Berry.  This isn't the GB Packers we're talking about here.  In the last 3 weeks KC beat MIN at home, IND on the road, and an OAK team that lost McFadden and started Boller/Palmer.   I have no illusions about this KC team.

Will they be amped up to make a splash in their division under the lights in prime-time?  Without a doubt--no question.  But at some point reality will set in and KC will realize that they are badly outmatched in the air on both sides of the ball.  Granted, Rivers hasn't looked like his typical self this year, but he's still Philip Rivers and he still has guys like Gates and Jackson to throw to. 

The benefit that SD have in this game is that KC isn't a squad that can exploit their weaknesses.  Largely thanks to turnovers and penalties, SD have been one of the worst teams in red zone offense and defense this year, but sooner or later those kind of factors regress to the mean.  The only way SD lose this game is if they defeat themselves.  Some people will argue that those kind of variance categories are part of the very fabric of this team, but I'm not convinced of that.  At some point the bad bounces are going to begin evening out--and it could start tonight.

There is simply too much value in the line to pass up in this game.  The whirlwind of factors leaning people on KC is largely fraudulent and transparent.  Prediction: Bank SD -3.

Bonus Player Props
Mathews -15.5 rushing/receiving yards vs Battle
Mathews O35.5 receiving yards

McCluster O15.5 receiving yards



Friday, October 28, 2011

Week 8 NFL Predictions: October 30, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Minnesota Vikings vs Carolina Panthers: CAR -3
It's amazing to think that the Carolina Panthers are 3 point favorites to any team, but that's exactly what we have as we inch towards the halfway point of the NFL season.  Many people are excited about the Christian Ponder situation for MIN, but let's keep his week 7 performance in perspective.  Did he have some nice throws?  Yes.  Did he bring excitement to a basement bottom team?  Yes.  Is he about to turn MIN's season around?  No.  His completion percentage was horrible and he made some glaring rookie mistakes. This is to be expected from a 1st year QB, but I think those growing pains are going to continue in full when they travel down south to CAR.

CAR is a different team at home.  After suffering through some of the worst QB play we've seen in some time, the fan base finally has something to be legitimately excited about.  Christian Ponder has his work cut out for him when he goes up against a pretty solid pass defense.  The main weakness in CAR's defense is stopping the run.  They will stack the box with 8 or 9 defenders to try and slow down Peterson. I think he'll still have a nice game and probably put up over 100 yards and a score or two, but at some point Ponder is going to have to drive the team down the field and put up some points of his own.  This isn't something MIN have been able to do well this year.  As bad as Mcnabb has been I don't consider Ponder a huge upgrade at this point in time.  Making matters worse, Peterson and Harvin are nursing injuries this week.  If Harvin can't go Ponder's day could get ugly.

On the flip side we have one of the most impressive QB's to take the field in some time.  The highlight packages look good, but if you watch an entire CAR game you'll be even more impressed with the play of Cam Newton.  MIN is one of the worst teams against the pass this year and now they get news that CB Chris Cook is out with assault charges.  Winfield is still trying to get back from injury.  Huge advantage Panthers.  The only team with more points from long drives this year are the NE Patriots.  The only thing holding CAR back from a much better record is self-defeating mistakes.  Whether it is penalties or turnovers, CAR continue to shoot themselves in the foot.  Last week they finally avoided those blunders and put away WSH for their 2nd home win of the season. 

This week CAR should continue their strong play at home and pull out the win.  The line should be more than 3 and at some books you're seeing -3.5.  Shop around to avoid the hook and ride the Panthers with confidence.  Prediction: Bank CAR -3.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Seattle Seahawks: CIN -2.5
People are always a bit hesitant when they take a road team playing in Seattle. The numbers support that thanks in large part to SEA's "12th man".  At the same time, this isn't about to stop me from taking the better team.  The 12th man can't come down on the field and rush the ball or make a catch. This is something the SEA offense is going to have to generate on their own.

CIN haven't had the toughest schedule in the world, but we can only judge them against the competition they've had.  And so far their defense is swarming around the ball and making plays week in and week out.  Now they have the luxury to go up against not just a bad SEA offense, but a banged up SEA offense.  Lynch, Miller, and Jackson are all nursing injuries and the status of all three remain up in the air.  Even if they all go I wouldn't give them much more of a chance in this matchup.  I've always advocated for Whitehurst over Jackson, but last week he looked like a high school QB trying to make plays out there.  In most weekly matchups, teams usually have a fighting chance at putting something together in the run or the pass, but CIN have dominating stats going up against both options this week.  I have no idea how SEA is going to put points on the board so they will need to heavily rely on variance.

The matchup isn't great for CIN's offense either, but SEA don't hold much of an edge vs the run or the pass. Things should be pretty even on this side of things which means Dalton will have chances to make some plays.  He's developing a nice rapport with AJ Green and if it wasn't for Dalton's play this year the rookie wide receiver would be getting a lot more national attention.  The biggest challenge CIN will have is getting the lead.  If things don't go well early the SEA crowd is going to make the rest of the day a monumental challenge.  That said, I see this CIN offense putting some points on the board in the 1st half while they let their defense and running game shut things down in the 2nd half.  The main mismatch that solidifies my thinking is the play on both the offensive and defensive lines.  CIN have the edge on both sides and the margin isn't that close.  When a game comes down to the trenches, this is the key area to look at and the primary reason why CIN have almost 50 more completed offensive plays despite playing the same number of games.

CIN already have two wins against mid-bubble teams this year so I fully expect them to put away an inferior SEA team--even if it is on the road.  You may need to shop around to find -2.5, but if you can't -3 is fine too. Prediction: Bank CIN -2.5.

Detroit Lions vs Denver Broncos: DET -2.5
I could make this analysis very short by simply asking you to review the tape of Tim Tebow last weekend.  It was a crap-fest of quarterback play and the final five minutes does nothing to change my mind about his prospects as an NFL QB this year.  

Yet, the biggest news in this matchup isn't the play of Tim Tebow, but the health status of Mathew Stafford.  On Thursday he took more reps with the 1st team and looked much more comfortable than he did on Wednesday.  All the scans came back negative so I'm not really worried about Stafford's ability to play on Sunday.  Even if DET had to put in a backup I would likely take them in this matchup.

The news isn't all good for DET though.  It looks like Fairley will be out this week and Best isn't about to come back from his concussion either.  We all saw what DET's offense looked like without Best and they'll need to get some production out of Morris for a 2nd straight week.  Without a doubt this offense is much less dynamic without Best, but this wasn't a balanced team to begin with.  In fact DET is 30th in the NFL in rush play percentage.  The primary mode of attack is through the air and this is where I expect all the damage to be done.  DEN still don't have the personnel to matchup with these guys and if they fall behind who is going to lead them back?  Tebow?  Don't bank on a miracle happening two weeks in a row.  Stafford's O-line matchups up pretty well against DEN's D-line and without consistent pressure up front DEN's defense is in for a challenging day.  Explain to me how this is possible now that Dumervil is banged up with a bum ankle?  Bailey is a good cornerback, but he's not what he used to be.  Megatron will have his opportunities--especially without quality safety play over the top.  They haven't been able to stop many people in the red zone, get off the field on 3rd down, or win any turnover battles.

On the other side it gets even worse.  With McGahee out DEN now need to go back to Moreno.  Don't ask DEN fans how they feel about this. They've been waiting since draft day for this kid to breakout and it just hasn't happened.  DEN's offense doesn't have horrible stats, but most of them came under the leadership of Orton.  Now that Tebow is at the helm it's back to square one for this offensive scheme. The playbook has been scaled back a lot and they are just hoping he can connect on the simple stuff, let alone the down the field patterns.  Adding insult to injury is the loss of Lloyd at WR.  Why they would trade their best receiving option is beyond me, but this organization is a mess right now. Sure the home fans will be amped up to cheer on their choir boy, but that isn't going to make him deliver the ball any more accurately.  The fans also can't come down on the field and block for him either.  Tebow goes up against one of the better and more aggressive D-lines in the league this week and they just don't have the running game to exploit the wide 9 technique.

Look for DET to get back on track with a convincing win this Sunday.  Once again you'll need to shop around to find -2.5, but -3 is a good bet as well.  Prediction: Bank DET -2.5.


New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers: NE -2.5
This game is being sold as the best matchup of the weekend.  In any other year I would agree with them, but these are not your same Patriots and Steelers of old.  NE have one of the worst defenses in the NFL this season and PIT are not the same formidable force that we've grown accustomed to.  That said both remain contenders by default so let's break down why NE is going to win and cover.

To begin with, PIT have not done well against top teams this season.  They got owned by BAL and shut down by HOU.  4 out of their 5 wins have come against easy teams.  They beat an overrated-at-the-time TEN two weeks ago and a celler-dweller ARI team last week.  All of a sudden PIT are getting respect in the line against what is arguably the 2nd best team in the NFL.  I'm not buying it.

Yes NE's defense rank near the bottom in many key categories--yards given up, defensive line, and points from long drives.  They are in the bottom half in red zone defense and 3rd down efficiency.  But the mark of a good team is making plays when you have to.  This is what the NE defense has done.  Albeit not at a top 10 level, but they give up far less points than their yardage would suggest.  They are finding a way to get a turnover or force a field goal more times than not.  The only glaring advantage PIT have will be in the passing game.  Big Ben will have opportunities to make some plays through the air.  Granted this is a passing league and that edge counts for a lot, but is it enough to win the game?

Normally PIT's defense walks into every game with a big advantage in at least two or three areas.  In this game?  Zero.  NE's offense matches up well with PIT's defense across the entire board.  NE have had a tougher schedule and have come away with wins against good teams.  Say what you want about their defense, Brady and Belichick find ways to win tough games.  Brady is 4-1 in his last 5 against PIT and 2-1 at Heinz Field.  An old and slow zone defense just doesn't work against Brady.  Last year he picked PIT apart with ease in prime-time and that was when PIT's defense was healthy.  This time around PIT's defense is banged up and missing key players.  They aren't getting turnovers, pressuring the QB, getting off the field on 3rd down, or keeping people out of the end zone like they usually do.  They rank in the bottom half in many of those categories. 

The simple fact is NE doesn't lose many games in the regular season and I don't think Big Ben is about to out-duel Brady to compensate for a weaker defense.  If you missed out on -2.5, grab the -3 with confidence.  Prediction: Bank NE -2.5.


Washington Redskins vs Buffalo Bills: BUF -6
This is one of the few games where I missed out on the opening line value.  BUF opened at -4 but it was quickly bought up to -6.  Without knowing the status of some key injuries I got caught waiting.  One of the key players I was looking at was London Fletcher.  He is the undisputed leader and heartbeat of the WSH defense. Word is out today that is he probable to play, but it's never good to be coming back from a hamstring injury this quickly.  I don't expect him to be his same dominating self that he has been all year.

Therefore I feel confident laying the points and riding the favorite.  I know this game is in Toronto and not Buffalo, but BUF will still have a nice contingent of home fans on their side. On paper WSH should matchup better with BUF, but in reality we have two teams going in very different directions.  WSH already had a shaky offensive line coming into this season and now they've lost a couple key members from that unit. Even worse they've lost Hightower and Moss for extended periods of time.  What does Shanahan think is the answer?  Let's bring in John Beck.  I'm sorry but this is the course of direction this franchise is taking I'm going to fade them every week.  It's not like Grossman was a pro-bowler, but creating a QB controversy when your team has a winning record and a strong defense is the wrong way to go.

BUF's defense is sub-par, but they do make plays and fight hard.  Now they get to come off a bye against a much weaker WSH offense.  What was originally an advantage for WSH has now become a wash.  Not many offenses are humming along at the same pace as BUF's.  Jackson is having a pro-bowl year as the undisputed starter and Fitzpatrick is proving all his naysayers wrong (including myself).  Stevie Johnson has put his name on the map as a legitimate number one receiver and the O-line is playing lights out in the pass protection department.  The team ranks near the top in penalties, turnovers, red zone offense, 3rd down efficiency, points from long drives, and points-to-yards ratio.

I think BUF win by at least a TD, if not double-digits. There is some small line movement in favor of WSH today so keep an eye on that before you pull the trigger. Prediction: Bank BUF -6.

Dallas Cowboys vs Philadelphia Eagles: PHI -3
For me, this is the marquee matchup of the weekend.  A lot hangs in the balance for both teams and the loser is going to have an uphill battle to win the division.  Thus far there hasn't been much comparison between the teams. DAL has looked great outside of Romo's self-destructive blunders and PHI has been a nightmare.  If you like this trend to continue then go ahead and grab the hook and take DAL +3.5 now.  However, if you have your doubts then you'll either want to take a pass or ride the home favorite.

To start, Andy Reid has been the best coach in the NFL over the last decade coming off a bye.  In fact he is a perfect 12-0 straight up and 9-3 ATS the spread after a bye.  As you know I'm not high on trends, but there's no disputing a record like that.  Reid knows how to right a ship and up his game when it matters most.  A slow start is nothing new around Philadelphia.  This is an organization that usually shines down the stretch when wins are needed most.

The two big "X-factors" in this game are Tony Romo and Juan Castillo.  It seems like either could make or break a game all by themselves this year.  I have trouble defending Romo because he's screwed up in the clutch consistently throughout his career.  Now he is facing another prime-time game under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football and right away that scares me away.  As for Juan, the jury is still out.  In his defense, he made some significant changes over the last few weeks and scaled back the playbook.  By keeping things simple this defense has been able to get back to fundamental football and shut down opponents.  Over the last 6 quarters this PHI defense has been nothing short of dominant.  Now they welcome back one of their best defensive players in Trent Cole.  Samuel might be poppin' his mouth off in the media, but this guy knows how to separate distractions come game time.  The secondary matches up extremely well against DAL's big-name receivers--especially after Juan changed his approach with Asomugha.

DAL will attack this defense up the middle with runs and passes to Witten. The only problem for DAL is they don't have the production necessary to exploit PHI's weaknesses. They rank low in red zone and 3rd down efficiency and Romo has killed their points-to-yardage ratio.  In the other matchup, we have Vick and his band of "fantasy players" against Rob Ryan's revamped defense.  Things are pretty even on this side of the ball too. PHI's passing game has a slight advantage through the air, but for the most part everything else is a wash. PHI's O-line gets their best player back as Peters is on track to return.  Don't underestimate how important that addition is going to be.

Having said all that, the current line is not the usual inflated number that we've seen with PHI all year long.  Instead, DAL is getting a lot of respect from the books with home field advantage accounting for much of the difference.  I'm a believer in Andy Reid's record after a bye and I think PHI is going to turn the corner down the stretch.  Therefore, I'm going to fade Romo in prime-time in this spot 9 times out of 10.  You can find -3 with a bit extra juice if you shop around, but I'm not going to recommend laying -3.5.  Being on the wrong side of the hook is never a place you want to be in when it's a divisional rivalry.  Prediction: Bank PHI -3.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Week 8 NFL Predictions

UPDATE (Friday): This could be the week of the "square" because I see value in at least a half dozen favorites this week.  Analysis is up and I should have week 8 market watch up early Saturday afternoon.  I've decided to hold off on the power rankings this week because not a lot changed. Next week will be the halfway mark of the NFL season so I'll have a much more detailed breakdown of how the season has gone at that point.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Week 7 Market Watch

UPDATE (Sunday): Big choke job by SD in the 2nd half today.  Give NY credit for making the plays when they had to, but it's not often Rivers plays that bad in a half.  HOU took care of business rather easily for a 1-1 week on sides.  Looking over most of the scores in the early games, I feel pretty good about taking a pass on most of them. There was a lot of ugly matchups and awful football going on today.

Each week I'll keep an eye on how the public and the pros are doing with their top picks and review what went wrong and what went right as the season unfolds.  The picks below are in order from the most selected to least selected among the top 5.

Market Watch

Public Consensus Top 5 Picks

GB -9
PIT -4
BAL -7.5
DEN +1.5
DAL -13

Record to date: 16-17-1

Hilton Contest Consensus Top 5 Picks

GB -9
DEN +1.5
BAL -7.5
NYJ +2
KC +4

Record to date: 18-14-3

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week 7 NFL Predictions 2011: Teaser of the Week

As a rule of thumb it's best to only include teams in teasers that cross the critical numbers and limit them to 2 teams per.  There are always exceptions to the norm, but this method provides the most value. 

Check out the Sportsbook Review Football Teaser Odds Chart to find out what book will offer you the best value.

Green Bay Packers -1.5 & Baltimore Ravens -1.5
For whatever reason both of these games remain within the teaser window.  A lot of books have put them at -9 or above to avoid the teaser action, but they can still be found if you shop around.  How either of these teams are allowed to be dropped below a field goal is beyond me, but this could be the teaser of the year if you can get it.

The Packers have become the New England Patriots of the NFC.  If you want to lay the points and take them straight I wouldn't blame you.  The books continue to inflate their lines and they continue to cover the number.  I have them favored by a full touchdown even after accounting for home field advantage.  MIN have been hit or miss with their competitiveness this season, but when you are taking a timeout after the two-minute warning you know this team is headed in the wrong direction.  This week the Ponder era begins and his reward is the defending Super Bowl champions.

The bad news for Ponder is he begins his NFL career behind a very shoddy O-line and an offense that hasn't been able to do anything consistently this year.  Look for GB's defense to mix things up and confuse the kid enough times to limit the big plays and cause a turnover or two.  GB might even stack 9 in the box and dare Ponder to beat them. Mcnabb was bad, but expecting a big increase in production is hopeful at best.  MIN is bound to get down a score or two at some point and that's when things could get ugly.  Look for MIN to stick to the running game and the underneath routes to move the sticks and pray that their defense comes up with the best effort of the season to keep it close.

All I can say to that plan is good luck!  Rodgers is going to have a huge advantage in the air on Sunday and it's truly a matter of pick your poison.  Last week he got Driver back into the mix for a touchdown proving that Rodgers can slice and dice you any which way he wants.  Finley, Nelson, Jennings, Jones, and Cobb are a formidable group of weapons and MIN's secondary has been brutal without Winfield in the lineup.  GB is going to eat up the clock with long sustained drives and I doubt they'll be stopped once they get to the red zone.  GB are only 2nd to NE in points from long drives with 138!

The other matchup is a bit more interesting, but JAX still play the role of heavy underdog.  Before the season started I like what I saw from JAX.  Despite their record they have improved some areas of their defense even if it isn't represented that way in the rankings.  Keep in mind JAX's offense puts tremendous pressure on this defense due to their inability to sustain drives or take care of the ball.  Time after time this group of defenders gets put in a bad spot just trying to limit the damage.  Without any hope for a successful season, that is bound to wear on guys as the year plays out. 

BAL holds nice advantages on both sides of the ball.  Flacco is unlikely to see as much pressure as he had last week which bodes well for those of us who don't believe in him.  What I do believe in is their running game where Rice gets to run behind the best fullback in all of football.  Rice is also the best safety valve on check-downs in the NFL--and we all know Flacco needs that.  Having said that, this won't be a cake-walk matchup for BAL on offense.  Look for JAX to play with pride on the big stage under the prime time lights and make BAL earn their points. 

The real mismatches take place when JAX's offense takes the field.  Gabbert did show some signs of life last week, but most of that came against a relaxed PIT's defense without the services of guys like Hampton, Harrison, and Polamalu.  They won't have that luxury this week against a healthier and better Ravens defense.  The only hope JAX have is if MJD has the game of his life and carries the offense all the way to the end zone.  With a measily 48 points from long drives this year, that is very unlikely to happen.  Instead, this could turn into a turnover fiesta.  JAX's O-line has not been up to snuff this year and that's not good when you have a green QB at the helm. 

I love this teaser in a big, big way and I full expect this category to get back on track with a convincing week 7 cover.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Week 7 NFL Predictions: October 23, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

I apologize for the late write-ups, but things have been more hectic than usual this week.

Houston Texans vs Tennessee Titans: HOU +3.5
This matchup is one of the only games that jumped off the board at me when the opening lines were posted on Sunday.  It has all the makings of a knock-down-drag-out game, but without Andre Johnson it's unlikely we'll see the same fireworks that we saw last year.  At the same time the division is suddenly up for grabs as HOU has lost the last couple of weeks.

Many people are going to shy away from this matchup after they look at the historical trends.  Chris Johnson has been very productive after a bye and TEN have a good record against HOU at home. Mario Williams and the aforementioned Andre Johnson are out leaving HOU with more of a "us-against-the-world" attitude.  Instead of the "AFC darlings" to start the year, most pundits are now writing them off as the same old Texans.

I see this game a different way.  First of all I was never high on TEN to begin with.  I expected them to be a bubble team and after five games that's exactly where their power rating shakes out.  HOU on the other hand remains among the contenders even if they are hanging on for dear life.  Losses vs OAK and BAL were disappointing, but they didn't play horribly in either case.  Without their two best players, the "team" has played within the system and done alright. 

In this particular matchup, I expect HOU's defense to limit CJ's big-game potential.  The secondary is still very good and most of the pressure will fall at the feet of Matt Hasselbeck.  Without Britt, opposing defenses have been taking Washington out of the game and forcing Hasselbeck to find other options.  Without the big play, this isn't an offense that has produced very good results this year.  The O-line is doing a good job protecting Hasselbeck, but they've been horrible with their run blocking schemes.  How much will that improve coming out of a bye?  We'll see, but temper your expectations.

On the flip side, this HOU offense minus Johnson still put up really solid numbers against a good BAL defense on the road last week.  Look for Foster to be much better and Schuab will have opportunities to spread the ball around.  His receivers need to step up, but with so much attention going to the running game, the chances will be there.  TEN's defense hasn't been good in many key areas this year.  Their D-line isn't getting to the QB, they aren't very stout on 3rd down, and haven't stopped many people in the red zone.  They also rank in the bottom half in penalties per game.  There are simply too many potential problems up and down the roster to hope for a consistent 60 minute game.

The 3.5 hook is still available at some books if you shop around, but if you are stuck with +3 you should have the option to buy the half point since most lines are sitting at EVEN odds.  If not, +3 is still a solid option.  HOU should play well enough to pull out the straight up win and remain atop the division.  Prediction: Bank HOU +3.5.

San Diego Chargers vs New York Jets: SD -2
The opening line in this game was a curious one.  We all know the long-standing trend of West coast teams traveling East for an early game, but there is no way SD should be an underdog against a very inconsistent NYJ team.  The smart money came pouring in on the dog and SD now sit as the slight favorite.  I feel good about taking them at anything less than a field goal.

SD might not be getting as much respect as they usually get due to their play within the intangible categories.  Both their O-line and D-lines, special teams, and red zone play have either been average or below in 2011.  Yet when it comes to lining up between the 20s not many teams have been competitive with SD.  This offense continues to go up and down the field regardless of who's banged up or who the opponent is. When you have a guy like Mark Sanchez on the other side, that's bad news if you're a NY fan.

Normally this NYJ team has been known for their ability to shut down the run and limit the big play in the air.  Not this year.  Teams have gashed this defense on the ground all year long and now they go up against an emerging star in Ryan Mathews.  Tolbert is also probable to play after dealing with a concussion.  If this SD run game continues to produce as it has earlier in the year, the play-action pass is going to be an effective weapon for Philip Rivers.  Vincent Jackson is probable to play, but even if he gets shut down by Revis, Rivers is adept at finding the open man regardless of the name on the back of the jersey.  Heck, even Gates has an outside shot to play in this one. This is the time of year when SD usually get their mojo going and coming off a bye is the perfect spot for them to be in.  They avoided the early season hole they usually put themselves in and I expect them to inch closer to the championship form I envisioned to start the year.

On the other side of the ball the matchups look even better for SD.  NY have been abysmal in the run and the pass this year.  Normally they can count on the run game to keep things competitive, but Greene and Tomlinson haven't had the same kind of running lanes they are used to.  SD's defense hold an even bigger edge in the air.  Sanchez still hasn't been given the full playbook to use and you have to wonder if the coaches will ever trust him to take over a game like others from his draft era.  NY have played one more game than SD but have 25 less points from long drives this year.  That is a telling stat.  They have also had less completed offensive plays. 

NY's win-loss record is a bit deceiving as they aren't as good as many people think.  The only significant category that they hold an edge in is special teams.  I don't think that will be enough to overcome a contender like SD.  NY is filled with too many divas that haven't been able to backup all their Super Bowl talk and I won't be surprised if they miss the playoffs altogether this year.  Roll with the road team and fade the hype.  Prediction: Bank SD -2.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 Week 7 NFL Predictions

UPDATE (Friday): This has been an unusual week picking games.  Four new QB's enter the fold and most games are coin flip matchups.  The books haven't put out many favorable odds to take advantage of and the rest are inflated lines for contending teams.  I might add one or two plays if I see some line movement on Saturday, but that's unlikely to happen at this point.

2011 NFL Power Rankings Week 7

I use a set of 17 weighted statistics--some of them traditional and some of them custom--as the core basis of my ratings, but I adjust the rankings slightly based on various qualitative factors (coaching, injuries, opinion, strength of schedule, etc).

Power rankings are good to have, but they only tell you where teams sit in relation to one another in the overall scheme of things. A team lower in rank could easily defeat a team above it if they matchup well with them--something to keep in mind when evaluating weekend games.

Rank Contenders
Early talk of an undefeated season is a little silly, but they are improving in their weak areas.
Just when it looked like DAL would pull off the upset, Tom Brady became Tom Brady.
Another quality win under their belts. Still problems with red zone offense.
Horrible play on 3rd down cost them a win. Losing Jahvid Best could become a problem.
Sean Payton goes down with an injury, and so does the team. Defense is becoming an issue.
Took care of business in week 6, but questions about their O-line and defense linger.
Need to improve the intangibles to remain among the top group.
Good road effort in BAL until the 4th quarter. Is it time to ask the tough question about Schaub?

Rank (LW) Pretenders
DAL gave us a taste of what they are capable of with a healthy lineup. Defense giving Romo a chance for redemption.
SF is perhaps the most perplexing team in the NFL. Rank high in 6 key categories and near the bottom in 5 others.
Solid bounce back win against BUF to keep them atop the division.
Lost a coin flip game vs NY, but can they overcome a shaky defense and inconsistency from Fitzpatrick?
Shutting down WSH's running game was a surprise to all and avoided a 1-5 catastrophic start.
Continue to win in spite of Sanchez. How far can they carry him?

Carson Palmer gives them a chance, but he could also be a total disaster.
Went back to basics against CAR, but position here is tentative.


Rank (LW) On the Bubble
Big letdown vs PHI. QB controversy has put this team back 2 steps.
Both losses have come against weak teams. Still need a legitimate win over a good team.
Finally covered a game at home. Consistentcy will be a season-long process.
Three wins against bad teams and three losses against good teams.
Defense showed signs of falling back to earth before the bye.
A true example of a bubble team. Most people waiting for the other shoe to drop. Defense is average without Haden and now Hillis pulls a hammy.
Rank (LW) "Suck for Luck" Sweepstakes
Mistakes finally catch up to this young team. A lot of promise, but still a long ways to go.
Falling down in the end zone isn't going to keep the rookie on the bench. The Ponder era has started.
Good luck Tim Tebow. All I will say to DEN fans is be careful what you wish for.
This could actually be a bubble team if they had a good starting QB. Defense is pretty decent.
Still dusting themselves off after getting embarassed in MIN.
A closer look reveals a win over NY wasn't worth the jump I gave them. Maybe Whitehurst can keep them competitive.
Matt Moore reminded us why CAR was so bad last year. No team needs Andrew Luck more than MIA.
How much is a win over IND really worth? Team hasn't quit yet which is an encouraging sign for Haley's job security.
Team is still playing hard to get their first win, but can't get out of their own way.
Reached rock bottom with 3 pathetic points after a bye. Lloyd aquisition was a smart move.