Thursday, December 18, 2008

Week 16 NFL Picks: Robots, Robots, Robots

Did you know that we are already in the Age of the Robot? And tellingly, it's not cool sexy pleasure bots like Seven of Nine or even wise-cracking human-haters like Bender Rodriguez; instead, it's sickening little pukes like the Roomba vacuum cleaner and assembly-line retards that do nothing but cause good men to lose their jobs. As with many things that The Future was supposed to provide us -- hello? where is my damn flying car already? -- I'm feeling powerfully ripped off. (But not by the great forgotten band "Rise Robots Rise", who, by some miracle, actually have a video on You Tube. Get down with your bad robot self. Plus, there's some legitimately nice poon.)

Where, for instance, is the cybernetic man-machine that can finally rid the world of quarterback meatbags like what's afflicting the entire state of O High O? Tell me, Bengal or Brown Fan, once you've gotten your head out of the oven that you can no longer afford to heat, what you'd rather see at this point: Ken Dorsey, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jordan Palmer, Joshua Cribbs or Evil Otto from "Berzerk." None of them seem to have any kind of arm to throw the ball, but at least Otto has a chance at making a blitzing cornerback sorry.

(You can, if you must, play the game here. No download needed, since the memory required to run this thing now fits in an earbud. An old earbud.)

(As a final aside before we reel this thing back in... have you ever met anyone who didn't think the Fox Robot was, at best, worthless? Wanking in public while your paid mouth jobber chats up the clever people who designed the wanking is, well, wanking. It's time for New Austerity, people. Scrap that thing, unless it's taking time away from Tony Siragusa. Hell, given both of those options, show me another ad instead. I hear that Toyota needs to publicize its financing offers.)

It's also not helping matters that Vegas has (a) come to grips with the fact that home field advantage is no longer a league-wide phenomenon, since Rich and Worthless People go to the games and don't take their man-servants to cheer for them anymore, and (b) many of the teams in the league are trying to get their coaches replaced with every level of quit that they've got in them. Once again, I'd like a stern robotic overlord to get the next chance at motivating the troops. A fiery toaster or hard-assed answering machine with something to prove just might be just the change of pace that their players need after the horror of Crennel/Lewis. They couldn't really do any worse.

So after a tie-fest and the continuing horror that is the Carolina Panthers, we lost a little ground last week, but remain solidly above .500 for the year, and will make some sportsbook pay dearly for trifling with the likes of us. But soon, we'll be making all of our picks with the massive and frightening GAMBLOR3000 Betting Robot, who cries surprisingly lifelike tears when suck-out covers happen in garbage time. If only I could have it play for me at the poker tables in Atlantic City, and have some WRITERBOT3000 write this here blog, then I'd have time for the finer things in life. Like, oh, gambling and writing.

And with that... on to the FREE NFL Picks! (Lines provided by

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INDIANAPOLIS (-6.5) at Jacksonville

The Colts own one of the least impressive seven-game winning streaks in NFL history. Seriously, if you throw out the Houdini Act that they pulled on the Steelers in Pittsburgh, it's a run that would leave them lower in the BCS standings then when they started. The final two weeks at least brings us back to something approaching NFL football, as the Jaguars usually give them a fight and the Titans might still be in Caring Mode for Week 17, especially after Tom Coughlin showed the world that trying in Week 17 isn't a bad idea last year. (I can not tell you how much it hurts me to have something to thank Tom Coughlin for.)

The Jags come off a surprising win against the best awful team in NFL history, the Green Bay Packers, in which Maurice Jones-Drew finally cast aside his Fred Taylor shackles and made all of his fantasy owners realize what they've been missing all these years; namely, five to ten more touches a game that will eventually result in an increased injury rate and lower productivity. Take it from a guy who was very excited to get Marion Barber in two of three leagues, and not so excited to have him in the fantasy playoffs last week. Woof.

Anyway, back to this game... Peyton Manning has gone to Throw It To Everyone Mode, which makes the Colts harder to defend since they actually have all the same level of receiver now that Reggie Wayne has become fairly ordinary. Last week, he zeroed in on Dallas Clark; this week, it will be some guy you've never heard of, just to make you hate yourself for drafting Wayne, Harrison or (I'm still very, very angry) Anthony Gonzalez. For the Jags, expect a spirited first half as David Garrard targets Dennis Northcutt on the theory that he (a) knows what he's doing, and (b) actually gives a damn, unlike the other Jaguar receiving slugs. Someone will eventually get something out of Mercedes Lewis, but it won't be Jack del Rio. The Colts should win big, since they have something to play for and the Jags are kind of awful, but they won't, because they are the Colts. If I could bet on a spread of my blood pressure rising, I'd take the over here.

Colts 27, Jaguars 20

RAVENS (+4.5) at Dallas

Will the Ravens come into this game with useful anger over blowing the home game they had to have against the Steelers, or useless anger that they direct at themselves and the referees? It's Trial Time for rookie coach John Harbaugh, who has to be better than predecessor Brian Billick with much of the same talent that went down the Anger Hole last year after the Patriot Screwjob.

Helping matters is the fact that he's (finally) just doing the useful thing and giving the ball to LaRon McClain, who will have one of the more satisfying five-year careers in recent NFL history. If you liked Christian Okoye -- and who didn't, really? -- you're going to love McClain, especially while they still have Lorenzo Neal to block for him. It's just shy of 600 pounds of runaway hate, the way that God intended football to be, and guaranteed to be four of the more satisfying yards you'll ever see, especially if you like to see pretty-boy corners hurt in run support. But the visitors are really going to need a useful road game with minimal mistakes from rookie QB Joe Flacco, who has to avoid sacks, turnovers, and red zone field goal attempts if the visitors are going to pull off the upset. I think they'll get there, but it won't be easy.

For the Cowboys, they're doing it with mirrors now, as the five to ten plays a game that Tony Romo improvs into something very useful have become the sum and substance of the offense. Gone are the 10 and 15 play drives where the Cowboys move the ball from Owens to Witten to Barber to Misc. Wideout, with nary a third down, dropped pass or look of bewilderment from an increasingly overmatched offensive line.

In other words, it's December. And the Ravens need this game as much as the Cowboys, which makes it a de facto playoff match up... and we all know that Mssr. Romo doesn't really excel in those, does he?

The Cowboy defense has been playing better, but after 25 carries from McClain, they won't be. Flacco will look just fine when he play-action passes against a 10-man run blitz.

Ravens 20, Cowboys 18

PITTSBURGH (-2.5) at Tennessee

The Steelers finally catch a break in scheduling, at least relatively so, by catching the Titans when they are down. Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vander Bosch will both miss this game for the Titans, which means a world of difference to Somewhat Quick Willie Parker and his overachieving backup, Mewelde Moore. It will also mean that Big Ben will be upright and looking for his full complement of receivers (read: Heath Miller gets to play in this game), rather than just Holmes and Ward in double coverage.

Look for the Steelers to hold the ball for up to 35 minutes, keeping their defense fresh and snarly for the Titans' suddenly meager attack. Unless Chris Johnson has a 20 carries for 150 yards kind of day in him, I can't see the home team winning this game... and frankly, I'm surprised the number is this low. Yes, the Steelers have been lucky in pulling off the last few weeks of wins, but they are also good, and the Titans are a touchdown or more worse without two of their three best defensive players on the sidelines.

Steelers 27, Titans 13

MIAMI (-4.5) at Kansas City

A scant five years after his sell-by date, the Chiefs have left longtime GM Carl Peterson go, meaning that we only have two more games of Herman Edwards Playing To Win The Game left to savor. One hopes that Chiefs Fan, assuming that he's still able to walk upright after last week's last-minute reaming from the Chargers, will note the passage of time. Had Peterson's Chiefs managed to break through and win a Super Bowl in their years of high competence, many tragic NFL lives would have been changed. Marty Schottenheimer wouldn't be a punchline, Priest Holmes would have been recognized as the truly great back of his age, and Niner Fan would have been much more bitter about the end of the Montana Era. But, alas, all that Peterson will have to console himself with will be his USFL Championships, when he even made Jim Mora a winner. Yes, Virginia, there was a league where Jim Mora and Carl Peterson were big winners.

For the Dolphins, this falls into the classification of another road game against a turd team where they will make it look hard, because when you start Chad Pennington at quarterback, life is just hard. They'll squeak out a cover here, because Lo, The Chiefs Have No Defense, but it won't be by much.

Dolphins 27, Chiefs 21

Arizona at NEW ENGLAND (-7.5)

If this keeps up, the Cardinals could be the first touchdown-plus home underdog in playoff history. Seriously, let's imagine the line where the Cardinals lose out and have to face a winning-out Eagles, Cowboys or Falcons team. Now, add in the inevitable heartbreaking injury to Kurt Warner. It could easily be a double-digit line. Hope you enjoyed the wait for your first home playoff game in forever, Phoenicians! It's what you get for naming your stadium after just anyone with money.

(And hey, speaking of such things... does anyone else remember when Amway was a cult, and not a proud NFL sponsor? I'm officially creeped out by that. What's next, taking the Mormom Moolah to tell me how many NFL players really hate the idea of gay marriage? Maybe some Indian casino can buy stadium naming rights, now that all of the banks have gone kerflooey. Chico's Bail Bonds can definitely get some branding presence on the laundry. And you thought that sports in a recession wouldn't be fun?)

Back to the game... Matt Cassel racks up a billion fantasy points, you lose unless you own him and fellow waiver wire bait Pierre Thomas, Warner's touchdowns are vultured by random running backs and there's absolutely no bitterness from his fantasy owners. None. AT. ALL.

Patriots 34, Cardinals 24

San Francisco at ST. LOUIS (+5.5)

A classic NFC West matchup is... not something that's going to happen in this decade. So make do with this instant test of whether you have a serious gambling problem. Since I clearly do, I'm going with the team with the coach that will have a job next year -- that'd be Mike Singletary's Niners, who've been downright frisky for weeks now -- instead of the home team, who can't protect Marc Bulger, and probably shouldn't. (Though if Stephen Jackson actually runs with passion, I'll probably regret this.)

Niners 24, Rams 17

CINCINATI (+3.5) at Cleveland

Part Two of the You Have A Gambling Problem test is this classic turd battle of the AFC North, where Ohio's shame will be broadcast to all. There's no coach, quarterback or running back that should be employed, and the best wideouts are also hopelessly overrated. Picking a winner is strictly for dart board enthusiasts and Cedric Benson fans, which is to say, two groups of people who don't exist. I'll go with the road team, mostly for the idea that when your teams are this bad, count on the home fans going home unhappy. Again.

Bengals 24, Browns 20

SAN DIEGO (+3.5) at Tampa Bay

Do you go with the underachieving team with no running game, or the overachieving team with no running game? The Chargers come in after an escape act in Kansas City that was nearly short-circuited by the breathtaking stupidity of QB Philip Rivers, who didn't know to go for two after going up late, and contributed to a near breathtaking collapse that was only missed by a 50-yard field goal miss. Had the Chiefs converted that, the Chargers would be over and their fans would be relieved, but the torture is going to continue for one more week, because the Bucs just can't score right now, or tackle. They're also likely to start Brian Griese, which is like Rivers in ten years, after all the hope is gone.

Chargers 20, Bucs 16

NEW ORLEANS (-7.5) at Detroit

Just one more week, Detroit, and it will all be over, except for the decades of stock footage that you'll come to loathe. What will be the defining moment? I'm thinking it will be when Dan Orlovsky ran out of the end zone for the worst safety in NFL history, followed up by the winning field goal in the Minnesota game, then a reaction shot from Matt Millen, and finally a slow pan of misery from costumed Lions fans, perhaps at the Thanksgiving game. And if you think it hasn't already been made, you're fooling yourselves.

In this game, Drew Brees could throw a mess of picks while Orlovsky, Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson have career games. But what will really happen is that Pierre Thomas will continue to punish the living and the dead, and Brees will shamelessly pump up his yardage numbers in an attempt to make Dan Marino even more bitter about life. Not possible, really.

Saints 34, Lions 20

NY JETS (-5.5) at Seattle

Oh, once again with the Jets going west to play a team they should throttle, but probably won't. They received an early Christmas gift from the breathtakingly awful J.P. Losman last week, which allowed them to win while failing to tackle Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson worth a damn. Brett Favre continued to provoke buyer's remorse while actually getting the ball to his wideouts, and the team continued to not run the ball enough. You have to admire coach Eric Mangini's commitment to not giving the ball to Leon Washington, no matter how good the results. Washington just made the Pro Bowl despite touching the ball only 104 times in 14 games. No, seriously. He's averaging 6 yards a carry and 24 yards a catch, and the Jets can only get him the ball 8 times a game. Words fail.

For the Seahawks, Seneca Wallace and Deion Branch have provided some late season goodness for fantasy owners, which has helped to distract Mike Holmgren from the fact that they've been slowly decreasing the salmon ration. Soon, they will all shun him, and he will sadly shuffle off to the coast to swim away. Do not look him in the eye.

Jets 27, Seattle 20

Houston (-7.5) at OAKLAND

The Texans continue their late-season run towards being overrated in 2009 by having their second straight impressive win, this one a single point victory over the Titans. Credit goes to the suddenly stout defense and the continuing excellence of Steve Slaton, who now ranks seventh in rushing for the whole danged NFL. The fact that he's gone for 200 yards against the Titans, and didn't have anything much going on in the first month... well, my man crush is just getting embarrassing, so I'll stop.

The Texans are a big favorite here and a true darling of the late-season big money suicide pool bet, since you don't have to worry about burning them out before a playoff. Against the Raiders, they may provide for some uncertain moments, since Nnemdi Assomugha can make Andre Johnson disappear, Darren McFadden has given them a little juice lately, and JaMarcus Russell has actually gotten tight end Zach Miller to the point of ownabaility... but when you've been as bad as the Raiders have for as long as the Raiders have, the home field doesn't help. At all.

Texans 24, Raiders 16

BUFFALO (+7.5) at Denver

This is a horrible prop bet. Basically, it means that you're taking the Chargers to win in Tampa (yikes), so that the Broncos actually care enough to play this game... and then still lose.

Why I'm going for the upset is as follows.

1) The Bills should get back Trent Edwards, and will be able to move the ball on the ground against the Broncos.

2) Their special teams are very good, and could take advantage here.

3) The Broncos are capable of losing to any team at any time, and are down to their 8th or 9th choice at running back. At some point, that's got to matter.

4) Dick Jauron is, in all likelihood, nearly on his last game, and while he probably doesn't deserve to keep the gig, they do play hard for him. I think they'll try.

5) The Broncos are doomed to make the Week 17 game against the Chargers meaningful, and a shocking home defeat will complete the journey to two 8-7 teams fighting for a four seed. On the plus side, it will lay the seeds for the two division league that will eventually save us from this nonsense.

Bills 24, Broncos 21

PHILADELPHIA (-5.5) at Washington

So, is this Eagles team actually for real? There are reasons to be skeptical. Every team of any quality -- which is to say, any team that isn't in the NFC West -- is crushing the Cardinals. Once Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs went down, and Antonio Pierce became ineffective, the Giants became pedestrian on offense and exploitable on defense, particularly for Brian Westbrook (and last week, Tashard Choice).

But the more realistic notion is that in the NFL, peaking in December is a very good thing, and that's just what this team has done. They are getting more out of the running game. Donovan McNabb might have been his most accurate last week against Cleveland. The defense has been very effective against the run, and ever since they de-emphasized Lito Sheppard, the pass defense has also been much better. Hell, even LJ Smith and Nick Cole have been effective, which also wasn't on the program. Now, if they could only get over that Disastrous Last Play of the First Half problem, it's all gravy.

For the Redskins, they are a five-car pileup of misery right now, with head coach Jim Zorn doing everything he can to mock those mid-season Coach of the Year ideas. The feud with Clinton Portis led last week to not giving him the ball on the goal line, and the juice has run out on the wideouts. Protection problems from the inevitable Chris Samuels injury has also made Chris Cooley stay in, making them even more punchless. They'll still get up for the hated Birds, but they don't have the talent to stay... and the Eagles know how bad Andy Reid is in close games, so they'll do what they can to make sure he doesn't get the chance to blow out. It's one more reason why he needs to resign.

Eagles 27, Redskins 16

Atlanta at MINNESOTA (-3.5)

A de facto win and you're in game for both teams, and probably the most entertaining game on the docket. Expect lots of flashback moments to that Gary Anderson Disaster NFC Championship, otherwise known as the game that kept Randall Cunningham out of the Hall of Fame. That won't matter at all to this game, though it won't keep Viking Fan from feeling miserable throughout the entire ordeal.

The Falcons come in after a huge overtime win against the Buccaneers, which would have been more impressive if the Bucs weren't starting Brian Griese and reeling hard from the Panthers loss a week before. The Vikings come in after their feel-good win of the year, where they took the Cardinals apart at the seams in the desert. They even feel good about Tavaris Jackson, which seems almost impossible, but the Cardinals are powerful things.

The Falcons also catch a break with Pat Williams being on the shelf, which makes the Michael Turner / Jerious Norwood duo much happier. But I've got the feeling that the Vikings are playing too well in their pass defense -- honestly, they beat the stuffing out of the Cardinals line, and kept Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston well under wraps -- to make either aspect of the Falcons offense play well enough to win this game. Suddenly, the Vikings are looking like a much more formidable #3 seed, and if the Giants continue to stumble, might even get a bye. I think they've got too much to play for to blow this game, and the Falcons just aren't ready to make the final step.

Vikings 21, Falcons 17

Carolina at NEW YORK GIANTS (-3.5)

A suddenly compelling game, if not a real artistic triumph. The Panthers come in with the hottest running game in the NFL, Steve Smith on fire, and a defense that's doing more than enough to win. The Giants come in with one offensive touchdown in their last 8 quarters, and that was in garbage time against the Eagles. It's hard to see, on some level, how the home team wins this game.

Except... that the Giants are better than this, especially against the run. They can take away Smith; they haven't been, for the most part, victimized for big passing games from star wideouts. When you put a strong pass rush on Jake Delhomme, very bad things happen. Derrick Ward is due for a better game than he's had recently. And the Giants are too well-coached to just fall apart like this, even if they aren't particularly convinced that they need the #1 seed to make it back to the Super Bowl.

Giants 24, Panthers 20

Green Bay at CHICAGO (-4.5)

The last game of the week is one of those Grudge Matches were the records of the team's aren't supposed to matter, and that's good, because if the Vikings win on Sunday (and they will, of course, since I've picked them), this game won't mean a thing to anyone. Give me the home town Bears to continue the Packers' season of misery, since Ryan Grant won't run like he did against them in Green Bay, and the Packers' secondary has been giving away yards like government cheese. Well-aged, stinky, government cheese...

Bears 31, Packers 24

Last Week: 5-8-3

Year to date: 113-100-7

1 comment: said...

You. You did it to me again. Now you must be punished. Oh, yeah, right, you're an Eagles fan. That is punishment enough.

Please, pick against the Steelers the rest of the way.

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