Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NFL Week 9 Picks: Up Down Up Down (left right left right a b a b start)

Litter With Tears
The roller coaster ride continues. The only really good takeaway from last week is that dog teams that are dogs (Carolina) will cover, while dog teams that have shown life (St. Louis) will not. Oh, and that betting against Andy Reid and Norv Turner should be required by law. But enough of my low-powered kvetching; on to the picks, before I run out of laptop battery and free WiFi. (Seriously, I'm Internet homeless here. Would it kill you to click on some ads before you go donate to people that actually need help?)

And just because I love you for doing both of those things, here. Have a cookie.

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KANSAS CITY at San Diego (-9)

Last week, when asked why his stud RB (Jamal Charles, in case Chiefs Fan needs reminding as to who that is) only got a handful of carries in a home game against the Raiders when his starting QB (Brady Quinn) was concussed and his back-up QB (Matt Cassel) remains a turnover machine, Head Coach Romeo Crennel said the following words of True Inspiration:

I Don't Know.

Now, does anyone know why Crennel is the coach? Show of hands, really.

So, why take these 1-7 dogs, who have not held a lead for a minute of regulation play this year, to cover the number?

Because Chargers QB Philip Rivers has turned it over nearly as much as Cassel. Because Charles is going to get the ball 25 times this week as Crennel predictably goes to the one thing his offense might be good at. Because Cassel actually is better than Quinn, in that the team moves the ball before turning it over, and because WR Dwayne Bowe is still capable of putting up numbers in one of these "nationally" televised games. Also, the San Diego home field advantage does not exist, and nine points is too many.

Chargers 31, Chiefs 24

DENVER at Cincinnati (+3.5)

I give, Peyton Manning, I give: you are fully back, your WRs are as good as advertised, and your defense isn't going to give up any more big early leads to teams that throw it all over the place. But can you do that on the road, against a team coming off a bye? Well, sure, because the Bengals are secretly terrible on defense and QB Andy Dalton has been making with the turnovers. This division is increasingly looking like Denver's for the asking, rather than the taking.

Broncos 27, Bengals 21

BALTIMORE at Cleveland (+3.5)

If these teams were both coming off a bye, I'd like the Browns chances for the upset; the defense has been good all year, and the offense will seem more than competent against the beat-up Carrion. But that's not the case here. Baltimore used its bye to get key personnel (Ngata, Suggs, Reed) healthy on defense, and I'm not quite buying the idea that Cleveland's all that great on defense. Besides, I'm just not buying the idea that this team was a borderline Super Bowl contender with an aging lightweight MLB, but dogmeat without him.

Ravens 27, Browns 19

Arizona at GREEN BAY (-11)

After the MNFail against the Niners in which they scored 3 points, ran for 9 yards and were picked apart by Alex Smith, the increasingly DOA Cardinals get to go cross-country to a Packers team that are a little teed off over getting outgained by the similarly challenged Jaguars in last week's win. So they get a short week, a wary opponent, and bring a one-dimensional passing offense with an erratic, turnover-prone QB to one of the louder and better home fields in the NFL. Arizona can get to the QB (especially against the Packers), but they won't do it for very long, because they are going to quit when it starts to go bad. Here's that big Packers blowout we missed last week.

Packers 38, Cardinals 17

CHICAGO at Tennessee (+3.5)

Are the Bears for real? This week should prove an interesting test, as they have to go to Nashville and fend off the under-the-radar Titans, who can approach competence when QB Matt Hasselbeck has time and RB Chris Johnson has space. Neither is terribly likely to happen with consistency against the Bears, but the game is at home and prime for letdown. I think the Bears will struggle, but make a play in special teams or get a turnover, and make a tight cover.

Bears 24, Titans 20

Miami at INDIANAPOLIS (+2.5)

A battle to see which not really good enough to contend team gets to tell that contending story longer. While the Dolphins have been more impressive and consistent in recent weeks, they still have to start a rookie QB in a loud dome, and face an Indy team that shows signs of developing a running game. Something of a low confidence pick here, but with a reasonable amount of feel.

Colts 23, Dolphins 20

Carolina at WASHINGTON (-3)

Finally, the Redskins get an opponent with worse across-the-board talent than they have. I think they'll break this thing wide open, with lots of fantasy goodness for Robert Griffin The Only Quarterback That Matters Enough To Get Extra Syllables Every Time He's Named. I'm not buying the idea that Carolina showed enough of a spark in last week's close but not quite loss to the Bears to qualify as a feisty dog here.

Redskins 34, Panthers 20

DETROIT at Jacksonville (+3.5)

Look for the Lions to get their running game going in this easy road game, where the Jaguars haven't had a solid home-field advantage since the Mark Brunnell years. Detroit hasn't really righted the ship so much as taken advantage of the schedule, but that doesn't change much this week. Oh, and special vengeance game for WR Mike Thomas, who takes over the Nate Burleson role after getting moved from Jacksonville this week. Nice timing, Lions.

Lions 31, Jaguars 17

Buffalo at HOUSTON (-10)

Let's see -- a team that's terrible against the run, on the road, against a team that's borderline fantastic at it. Buffalo rarely travels well in the best of times, and this Texans team is coming off a bye and ready to crush. High confidence survivor pick here, and equally high confidence on the cover; the late suckout with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is just as likely to turn into the fist pump TAInt for Texans' gamblers.

Texans 37, Bills 20

Tampa Bay at OAKLAND (NL)

Arr, it's a Pirate Battle! Arr! Count on lots of fan shots for people for whom Halloween never ends, and the Raider offense to enjoy another foray into the soft underbelly of the NFL. Tampa can score and move the ball, but they are error-prone, and this is a Raiders team that makes a lot fewer mistakes than they used to. (They are also, well, not as talented as they think they are. Sigh.) After back to back wins against Jacksonville and Kansas City, Oakland might petition to move to Division I-A.

Raiders 24, Bucs 20

Minnesota at SEATTLE (-5)

With a point line in the Vegas Doesn't Really Know Zone, this looks like a no confidence game... but I'm really not getting that feel at all. Seattle might have the best home-field edge in the NFL. Minnesota was last seen getting skunked at home by the Bucs, with RB Doug Martin having the game of his career to date. The road team comes in with a couple of extra days of rest and prep, but that hasn't been an overwhelming help to TNF teams in 2012 to date, especially the losers. Put that across the field from a tasty Seahawks defense at home and the slowly improving work of QB Russell Wilson, and this looks like easy money to me.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

PITTSBURGH at NY Giants (-3)

Time for that disturbing mid-season letdown for the Giants, who historically lose focus around this time in the calendar; had WR Dez Bryant had a finger's worth of more body control, the NFC East would still be up for grabs. Pittsburgh has been very good against the pass this year on defense, the offense is running the ball well with RB Jonathan Dwyer, and the short passing game is keeping QB Ben Roethlisberger as healthy as he's been, at this point in the calendar, in years. I'm still not sure they are a real contender in the AFC, but after this week, they'll be regarded as such.

Steelers 26, Giants 24

DALLAS at Atlanta (-4)

Time for a prime-time letdown for the still-undefeated Falcons,despite the home field. I'm looking for the Cowboys to break through with a ball containment passing game without the first half turnovers, and for Atlanta's deep passing game to not make the big plays to provide early separation. The Falcons are going to coast in to a top #2 seed in the NFC this year, mostly because the NFC South has become a cakewalk, but they aren't going undefeated. (And yes, I said all of this stuff last week, too.)

Cowboys 31, Falcons 30

Philadelphia at NEW ORLEANS (-3)

Finally, the word is starting to get out: the 2012 Eagles are a bunch of quitters. Why else would the line move 1.5 points from open, for a Saints team with a historically bad defense and an interim coach? The Superdome is a good home field for them, QB Mike Vick is in the no man's land of play safe and don't move the chains or play dangerous and turn it over, and the defense reacted to the departure of Juan Castillo like they were dipped in glue prior to kickoff. The Saints also need the win, have weapons out the wazoo, and can rush the passer a little, which is all that anyone needs to do against the Eagles, since running the football early in the game is for Neanderthals. (That win football games.)

Oh, and there's also this: Eagle Fan is now actively rooting for them to lose every game, under the utterly fruitless hope that 3-13 and 12 straight defeats might mean the end of the Coach For Life Reid Era, under the theory that maybe his body will explode from all of the depression binge eating. EAT, FAT MAN, EAT.

Saints 31, Eagles 20

Last week: 4-10

Year to date: 55-60-2

Career: 597-584-28

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