Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NFL Week 9 Picks: Gridlock

So in lieu of a theme this week, we'll go with the small observation that for a political movement that desperately wanted to avoid Politics As Usual... oh, man alive, are they going to get it. Enjoy watching your new heroes turned into old clowns; the process happens at light speed these days. And that's all that I've got to say about that.

And with that... on to the picks!

Tampa at ATLANTA (-8)

At this point, we pretty much know what Tampa is: a fun young team with an emerging QB that's building to something, but turnover-prone and therefore capable of turning in real stink jobs. But we don't really know what Atlanta is. At the start of the year, they seemed like the best team in the league. Then they went on the road and barely escaped New Orleans despite dominating the line. Next they went to Philly and got absolutely mauled. Throw in a Jekyll and Hyde survival act against the Bengals, and your guess is as good as mine.

However, the one thing they have done, historically and this year, is win at home with QB Matt Ryan. He's 18-1 in the Georgia Dome, which is kind of astonishing, really. I'm also not ready to anoint RB Legette Blount, the Oregon Duck who shook off a bad fumble to have the hurdling highlight of Week 8, as all there yet. It's a tough league; this week's emerging RB is next week's scrap.

So if we know, or think we know, that the Falcons are going to win, then it just comes down to whether the spread is too high. The way I see it, it's a 70-30 play, with the home dome crowd making it a reasonable bet. Just not one that you'll go nuts on.

Falcons 27, Bucs 17

Chicago at BUFFALO (+1)

Is this the week for the Bills to end all drama? There are few better chances than the reeling Bears, who have to be awfully happy for the train wrecks in Dallas, Minnesota and Washington for keeping the media spotlight off their recent crapulence. Buffalo has been frisky and not willing to roll over and die on the road recently, and has to think they can get to QB Jay Cutler and the rest of the finesse Bears. They've also got a reasonable secondary, at least when it comes to getting a pick or two. It's just too bad that it will be played in the neutral limbo that is Toronto, where Traveling Bear Fan will be more than heard.

I have my doubts that the Bills will keep the ball secure and score enough points... but the simple fact is that it's hard to go winless in this league. And if I could pick this game to push, I would.

Bills 24, Bears 21

New England at CLEVELAND (+5.5)

Just what the world needed: a fresh reason for Patriot Fan to be insufferable. The Vikings' release of WR/Asshat Randy Moss ensures that your local Masshole will be crowing for six months or more about the third round pick that will become yet another meh cornerback, and how Coach Rumsfield Belicheat is a Sooper Genius for having extracted such a booty for a useless malcontent.

But before they all dislocate their arms from the back patting on this one... y'all do realize that you took Brad Childress and Zygi Wilf for a ride, right? That's the football equivalent of befuddling the demented, or taking candy from a guy that gives out candy. It's an organization that fellates washed up 40+-year-olds in public, thinks that the ideal backup for RB Adrian Peterson is a chunky white guy from Stanford, and has spent all of 2010 convinced that they are the team that was just a play away from going to the Super Bowl. It's not like they did something hard here.

This week, does God love us enough for an Eric Mangenius Vengeance Game with the bye week rested Browns? There are signs, actually. Power back Peyton Hillis is a fine choice to put a hurt on the substandard Pats defense, and rookie QB Colt McCoy has been nicely competent. The offensive line is actually one of the better ones in the league. The home field is meaningful here, and it's not as if the Pats are going to be able to run the Browns off the field, the way they did to the Vikings last week. I like the home team to cover, and maybe give us a great and glorious gift.

Patriots 24, Browns 20

NY JETS at Detroit (+4)

What's with this line? Just because the Jets were mistake-prone at home last week against a suddenly stout Packer defense, I'm supposed to go with second-year and injury-prone QB Matthew Stafford at home with the 2-win Lions? Nope, sorry, not going to happen. Look for the Jets to get back on track with a vintage Confuse A QB effort on the road, and a ground game that eventually works out over 200 soul-crushing yards. There's a reason why the Jets looked like the best team in the AFC East up until a week ago, and that division is a heck of a lot better than the NFC North. (Also, the Jets have the corners to keep Megatron Johnson from doing damage.)

Jets 26, Lions 17

Arizona at MINNESOTA (-8)

Is it time for the Vikings to finally have a good game? I think it's possible, actually. While they will miss WR Randy Moss in the long run, especially if WR Sidney Rice isn't ready to go this week (and he won't be), it's not as if the Cardinals are good enough to take advantage. I also really don't like anything the Cardinals play at QB in any stadium, let alone at road, let alone in a dome. Look for RB Adrian Peterson to run wild, QB Brett Favre to have game manager numbers, and the Vikings defense to remind people why they used to be feared.

Vikings 31, Cardinals 13

NEW ORLEANS at Carolina (+6.5)

Are the Saints finally back on track? A huge, season-saving win at home on SNF against Pittsburgh would make you think so, but that game was asking to be lost until TE Heath Miller made the game-changing mistake. Saints S Darren Sharper has made a very comfortable living at coming up with the ball in moments just like that one, but it's hard to see that New Orleans is all better just yet, particularly with game-changing rookie RB Chris Ivory banged up. They also don't do well on grass, or on the road.

Having said all of that... the Saints showed enough to me, and the Panthers just don't have enough. At some point, the Super Bowl champions have to show their mettle, and this is the week.

Saints 30, Panthers 20

MIAMI at Baltimore (-6)

What do the Dolphins have to do to get some road dog love? They are unbeaten on the road this year, with strong defensive efforts in every outing, and a possession passing attack that's lead to nicely controlled efforts. I get that the Ravens are highly regarded and coming off a bye, but NFL teams are just .500 this year off the rest, and that's just too many points to lay. Besides, while everyone thinks the Ravens are a great defensive club... well, not so much. At least, not yet. But they'll do enough to win.

Ravens 24, Dolphins 20

San Diego at HOUSTON (+1.5)

Man alive, am I ready to throw QB Matt Schaub into a wood chipper. In the MNF game, I needed this overrated sack of spit to provide some numbers to stay alive in my head to head league... and with the division on the line, facing a Colts team with reserves all over the field, he was scared of the pass rush and inaccurate all over. It led to the worst first half of his career, and the stage setting for the last-minute garbage time fumble that more or less ended my year. I suppose I should thank him for the free time, but yeesh. Show just anything, will you?

But then there's the Chargers, one of the worst road teams in Christendom this year. Sure, the Texans look very susceptible to the pass, and QB Phillip Rivers is putting up monster numbers... but with the Charger wideouts hurt (especially, sigh, Malcolm Floyd) and Vincent Jackson still not eligible, that's got to slow down a little. Besides, Texans RB Arian Foster will gash this defense, and the Charger special teams are always good for a disaster or six.

Texans 31, Chargers 24

New York Giants at SEATTLE (+6.5)

How can you take the Seahawks after a 30-point drubbing in Oakland, against a Giants' club that looks like the NFC's best, and is coming off a bye? Well, there's that .500 record of teams after a bye, the Seahawks' unbeaten record at home, the usual trouble for East Coast teams making that monstrous long ride to the Pacific Northwest, and the usual weather miseries that limit the value of talent... well, I'm just smelling a cover here. And the usual rough day for QB Eli Manning in bad weather, because (shh!) he really doesn't have a strong enough arm to be a star. That's, well, why he isn't one.

Giants 24, Seahawks 23

Kansas City at OAKLAND (-3)

A meaningful game in Oakland in November? Inconceivable! But that's just what you get when you pound consecutive teams into the turf, with RB Darren McFadden suddenly looking like his draft position, and QB Jason Campbell suddenly becoming that competent game manager we were all dreaming of when we imagined a .500 Raider year. This week, they host the similarly equipped Chiefs come to town, and if you miss 1970s football with 300+ yards of combined rushing, this is the game for you.

I like the home team to get it done for a third straight week, just because Chiefs QB Matt Cassel is as bad as you imagined. The only thing that's keeping him from truly regrettable numbers is that his schedule has been downright I-AA, and he catches a big break if CB Nmandi Asomugha is out for this one, as previously reported. But the Raider DL has been getting to the QB enough to make the game a lot more fun, and they'll do that enough in this game, too.

Raiders 24, Chiefs 13

INDIANAPOLIS at Philadelphia (-2.5)

Well, if there ever is a time and a place to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts, this is it. The Eagles are 11-0 coming off a bye in the Andy Reid Era (sadly, the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, which was also off a bye, doesn't count in that equation). The Colts are deeply banged up, with no front-line RBs. TE Dallas Clark is done for the year, which takes the usual Eagle-killing position off the board. The game is in Philly. The Colts just took down a must-win MNF game against a division rival, so this falls into the realm of Trap Game. The Eagles get back QB Michael Vick, which helps them in the red zone. The Colts aren't particularly good at special teams, and their WRs are banged up, too. It's about as good of a situation as you could hope for, really.

And having said all of that... man alive, I'm still not liking the matchup. The Eagles have a massive problem in the secondary now that CB Ellis Hobbs has been exposed, and are starting veteran special teamer Dmitri Patterson in his stead. You desperately don't want to have secondary issues in a game against Peyton Manning, and you also really don't want WRs like Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon coming to town. I don't like the matchup. And the thing about streaks like Reid's are... they end.

Colts 31, Eagles 30

Dallas at GREEN BAY (-9.5)

Is Dallas now the worst team in the league? They certainly are giving teams the easiest path to a win, with a turnover-prone offense, a moribund running game, predictable play-calling and a defense that's just prone to secondary breakdowns. Sure, there's talent there, but you can say that about every team in the league, and talent without motivation isn't worth much.

This week in Green Bay, look for the Packers' Aaron Rodgers to put up big numbers, RB Brandon Jackson to make for a sneaky-great fantasy play, and the Cowboys to be playing third-stringers like QB Stephen McGee and RB Tashard Choice. The funny thing is, they are better than starters Jon Kitna and Marion Barber.

Packers 41, Cowboys 10

PITTSBURGH at Cincinnati (+3.5)

Closing time for the Bengals, who have been simply exposed this year as losing the defensive magic that led to last year's division title. While QB Carson Palmer has been bearing the brunt of the blame -- and dear God yes, he is horrible -- the bigger story is how an opportunistic and physical defense turned cotteny-soft. This week, even at home, they go to seed against a defense that will create multiple turnovers, and an offense that will control the ball, the clock, and any sense of drama. But at least Palmer will get some more garbage time numbers.

Steelers 27, Bengals 20

Last week: 6-6-1

Year to date: 49-58-11

Lifetime: 329-335-22

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