Thursday, October 27, 2011

NFL Week 8 Picks: Favorite, Schmavorite

Last week, there were three clear big favorites on the board: the Packers on the road against the Vikings and rookie QB Christian Ponder making his first start, the Saints at home against the Colts, and the Ravens on the road against the moribound Jaguars. And when the week was over, those teams were 1-2 ATS, and just 2-1 on the actual scoreboard.

This week, the point spreads are crazy high -- a half dozen games are over 9 points on the spread -- and there's no chance, really, of all six of these games getting a cover. So going chalk isn't an option, and neither is not having the courage to look like a chump when your dog cover goes belly up. It's gambling: if you are afraid to look stupid, you shouldn't be doing this.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Indianapolis at TENNESSEE (-9)

It's never pretty when a team quits, and you can't put too fine a point on this: the Colts flat out quit on national television against the Saints last week. The fact that they still ran a hurry-up offense during it says something else; that the coaches really didn't care either, and were completely OK with the score getting run up as high as the Saints wanted to go. When it was all over, it was something historic, and the small positive steps made in the last month had been obliterated.

It's hard to see how they turn it around on the road a week later, against an angry Titans team that got curb-stomped on their own last week against the Texans. This will be the week that Chris Johnson's fantasy team owners, assuming they are still paying attention, start to feel better.

Titans 24, Colts 13

SAINTS (-13) at Rams

Any questions about the Saints' offense now? No, of course not, and this week they get a Rams' team that just gave up the Dallas' rushing record to a guy (DeMarco Murray) who had less yards in his career than he got in several runs against their defense. With QB Sam Bradford still gimpy and the team looking as if it's ready to fold the tents, a pinball machine is the last thing they need. Count on the crowd to be mostly traveling Saints Fans, and the cover to come in the first half.

Saints 38, Rams 13

Miami at NY GIANTS (-10)

I hate laying the big point wood on so many teams... but the Giants are coming off a bye, getting healthy on defense, capable of doing damage on the ground and in the air, and playing a team that just sold out the players to fill the building with Tim Tebow fans. Miami's capable of a cover here, especially if QB Eli Manning turns the ball over, but you can't count on that happening. It'll be close, but Blue will cover.

Giants 27, Dolphiins 16

Minnesota at CAROLINA (-3.5)

The Vikings displayed some spark beyond QB Christian Ponder last week at home against the Packers, but the Panthers on the road against the force of nature that is Cam Newton is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Teams are starting to sell out to stop the rook, which is making the Panther running game come back into relevance... and just what this defense needed. RB Adrian Peterson is going to be an all-day problem for them, but I think Ponder makes some mistakes this week.

Panthers 24, Vikings 20

ARIZONA at Baltimore (-13)

And that... is why the gambling public hates the Ravens, and why they've spent so many years knocking on the door of the AFC North but not getting through. When the Ravens lose, it's got a flavor to it, from sudden air turbulence offensive problems to dubious penalty calls that just cause everyone on the sideline to unravel. They should blow the one-win Cardinals out this week; this team was not a good road crew even when they were good, and the last time Kevin Kolb was here, he gave Donovan McNabb the last year and a half of his tenure in Philadelphia back to him. But the number is too big, and the Ravens are too erratic, for me to go that way. (Oh, and Kolb to WR Larry Fitzgerald in garbage time can be useful.)

Ravens 24, Cardinals 20

JACKSONVILLE at Houston (-10)

Another monster number for a home team that tends to spit the bit. The Jaguars are coming off a ferocious defensive effort on MNF against the Ravens, and would have won the game handily if RB Maurice Jones-Drew hadn't spent much of the game putting the ball on the ground. The offense is limited and can't win a shootout, but I think this defense can keep RB Arian Foster contained, and keep the number covered.

Texans 24, Jaguars 17

WASHINGTON at Buffalo (-6)

This line has moved two points to the home team since the start of the week, and I get it: the Redskins keep losing players (Tim Hightower, Santana Moss), and they are facing a Bills' team that's one of the best stories in the NFL. But they haven't been in the position of being a big home favorite before, and the 'Skins replacements for those injured players (Jabar Gaffney, Ryan Torain) are actually better than the guys they replace. QB John Beck is a tolerable game manager, and if you don't throw picks against this secondary, you can move the ball on them. A lot. So... it's a cover, and maybe even an upset, for the road dogs.

Bills 20, Redskins 17

DETROIT at Denver (NL)

This one is all over the lost, starting at Denver being a 3-point favorite, and now gooing back to a 2.5 point dog. That's all the doing of QB Matthew Stafford, who looks more likely to pay than not at this point. Denver, of course, is basking in the glow of the Tebow Resurrection in Miami (perhaps you saw the highlights?), but the Lions actually need this game, and while they are one-dimensional with RB Jahvid Best out with long-term concussion issues, that one dimension works against the Broncos. Tebow will play better this week and put up some numbers, but this Broncos team has bigger problems than the QB.

Lions 31, Broncos 20

NEW ENGLAND at Pittsburgh (+3)

A possible playoff preview, which you can more or less say every year about these teams, and another opportunity for the Steelers to show that their battered and ancient defense is still up to the task of being an elite unit. They haven't been taking the ball away, which is just about the only way under the current rules to stop this Patriots team, who beat you with RBs and TEs now, rather than the WRs. On offense, the offensive line is a constant problem, and contributing to a weak year for RB Rashard Mendenhall.

This week, they'll give a good fight; this is a better team that the one that the Ravens blew out in Week One. But the margin for error is just about gone, and unless QB Ben Roethlisberger has a monster game, it's not going to happen. He just might, but it's not how you bet.

Patriots 28, Steelers 24

CLEVELAND (+9.5) at San Francisco

Are you ready to lay just under double digits on an Alex Smith led team, with offensive weapons that you can safely ignore in just about any fantasy league, in a home game a week after a bye? I get that the Browns' offense was horrific last week against Seattle, but I'm not sure that the Niners are putting more than 17 points on the board, either. Which means that we're just a Smith mistake or two, and a long Browns figgie, from a cover. And once again, maybe even something more, since this Niners team really isn't used to being expected to win by a lot.

Niners 17, Browns 13

Cincinnati at SEATTLE (+3)

Here's a sentence that you just aren't expecting to hear, ever: the Seahawks' passing offense really missed QB Tarvaris Jackson. (And yes, Charlie Whitehurst really is that awful.) At home against a Bengals team that isn't going to be able to run the ball, I'm looking for a 200-yard 2-TD kind of day from His Tarvness, which should add up with some rushing yards for more than enough to get this one down. Besides, there's a reason why this is one of the best home field advantages in the league. (And yes, this pick goes straight into the crapper if Jackson can't go. Sigh.)

Seahawks 24, Bengals 13

DALLAS at Philadelphia (-3.5)

With a win, the Eagles would go to 3-4, in a division with the reeling Redskins and the suspect late season Giants. They'll welcome back Jason Peters and Trent Cole, aka their two best line players, and as you've been hearing all week locally, Andy Reid is just deadly with more prep time after a bye. Against a Cowboys team that has a collection of fourth-quarter flameouts, this looks like the time to snap back into the Reid Era's trademark mid to late season surge before the playoff flameout.

But you know what? Patterns have to end at some point.

Dallas has the two things that crush this Eagles' defense, both historically and in the current time: a running game and a star TE. On defense, they can rush the passer without a blitz, and this Eagles' team never gets through a game with QB Michael Vick staying clean. Eagle Fan, who is never a bastion of confidence even in the good times, isn't exactly a great home field right now either.

There will be points; WR DeSean Jackson owns the Cowboys, and RB LeSean McCoy might be the best player at his position in the league. But the Cowboys have weapons as well, with Murray giving them a better threat than Felix Jones, and the WR duo of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant giving Tony Romo targets. (Hint: go after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who might be the most disappointing acquisition in recent team history.)

So the pattern breaks here, this year, to this Cowboys' team, in front of the nation. Should be just a world of fun, really.

Cowboys 34, Eagles 31

SAN DIEGO at Kansas City (+3.5)

There's something rotten in ChargerLand, where QB Philip Rivers is looking like he's ready to take his exit by any means necessary, and the team looking lost in the two minute drill. But they haven't fallen so far as to lose to a Chiefs' team that started the year with repeat cart visits to important pieces, and without any explosive offensive plays outside of WR Dwayne Bowe. And the Chargers are still good enough to take away that. Besides, there's no way that Rivers fails to make the nationally enduring audience of ESPN hostages miss out on three hours of knob slobbing from the QB lovers in the World Wide Lemur booth. (Feel free to not watch this network, really.)

Last week: 4-8-1

Year to date: 53-45-4

Career: 460-450-20


snd_dsgnr said...

I'm nervous about this weekend. The Giants should beat Miami, but then they should have beaten Seattle too. This is a must win game IMO, because they'd be lucky to scratch out 4-5 wins in the last 9 games of their schedule.

Also, good luck for your Iggles against the Cowboys. That fanbase is perpetually in need of being taken down a peg.

DMtShooter said...

As amazing as this sounds... Tarv Jackson is better than Matt Moore, and Marshawn Lynch is better than Reggie Bush. If the G-Men take a first half lead, they'll win; the Fish might be the lead team in the Suck For Luck campaign.

As for Philly, it's the special doom of the End Days of the Reid Empire that no matter what happens in this game, we're probably going to be depressed. Either we'll end Sunday watching NBC fellate Romo and Jerruh, or we'll know that we've got the Fat Man for another 18 months.

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