Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NFL Week 15 Picks: That'll Teach Me To Sneer At .500

Yeesh, was that a frustrating week. A handful of games develop highly relevant factors (Matt Cassel's appendectomy, the Jets spending their week burying footballs instead of, well, looking like a pro team), and I'm locked into the badness. Then the games begin, and the 'Skins fail point afters (rather than losing by the covering overtime figgie, as was their destiny), the Packers lose the NFC's MVP, the Raiders blow a double-digit lead and cover, and so on, and so on. (Oh, and nice effort, Bears.) Only the backdoor TAInty Ravens' cover on MNF prevented serious ugliness, and even that game cheesed me off, seeing how the wildly frustrating Anquan Boldin went back into Sleep Mode, rather than giving me the juicy goodness that the rest of the league enjoys when they play the Texans. I'm running out of time to make the money to put out a first class Superbowl Spread.

But Hope Is Eternal, if only because we're getting very close to the Xmas Season, and if I've learned anything from the hundreds of treacly holiday specials that I stared at as a slack-jawed youth, it's that whenever things look their worst, some animal with a radioactive beak will save the day. Or some wildly petulant puppet dictator of elves will finally get out of bed and work, or that his wife will manage without his patronizing self. Or that a mouse will learn the error of his ways and assume the position, a grifting magician will be outwitted by children that he'd normally gut like a trout, or an old prick will give away his money like a lunatic after some upsetting dreams, scarcely realizing that he's going to die of old age in 12 to 18 months anyway. You learn things in this country, you really do.

And with that... on to the picks!

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San Francisco at SAN DIEGO (-9)

Two teams that should be on auto-pilot for the playoffs in a game that's got desperation written all over it, though their competition is bad enough that even though it's Week 15, they might still be alive with a loss. It's the West; losing a game a week could make you gain ground.

As for this game, I like the Chargers to do damage through the air, the Niners to not quite overcome the loss of Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree to continue his run towards becoming Brandon Lloyd II, First Round Heartbreak Boogaloo, and for the home crowd to matter against any Smith the Niners want to run out there at QB. How soon is unemployment, Mike Singletary?

Chargers 31, Niners 17

CLEVELAND at Cincinnati (-1)

How many more games in a row do the Bengals have to lose before people get the clue that they are irredeemable losers? Or that when Terrible Owens is on your roster, no matter how his numbers look or what he says to the press, that it's all about him some him, and that this way lies double-digit loss seasons? This week, the feel-less-bad Browns come to town, with Cleveland Fan telling himself that if only Colt McCoy hadn't gotten hurt, this would have all been so very different. Like, .500 different, with more of those Patriots-style beatdowns. He might even be right on that, but it won't matter this week, where RB Peyton Hillis continues to make guys who whiffed on him in the fantasy draft and waiver wire stampede sorry. (I'm very, very sorry that I only got you in one league, Peyton. Now, can you please just take December off and rest up for 2011?)

Browns 20, Bengals 17

Washington at DALLAS (-6)

You have to wonder, on some level, just why the Redskins are so very, very horrible at place kicking. Shaun Suisham, who couldn't hold the job here a year ago after a clutch miss, is 9 for 9 since taking over for Jeff Reed in Pittsburgh (and 6 for 6 from past 40), despite playing at what might be the worst wind situation in the league. They've had 16 kickers in the last 15 years, none of whom have held the gig for more than three years in total, with some years (2000 being the big one) where it's just been an absolute carousel. And the most fun member of that entire list is that David Akers was there in 1998, going 0 for 2 (both attempts outside of 50 yards at the Kingdome in Seattle -- way to give the kid a shot, you morons) before getting run out of town, and becoming the 16th most accurate kicker in NFL history, and the clear best to ever play the position for Philadelphia. I can't love this era of Redskins Football enough.

So there, in a nutshell, is the overall extreme loser nature of owner Daniel Snyder, who could wilt a flower with his gaze from ten paces, and makes previously intelligent coaches contemplate giving the ball to Rex Grossman. Which means that I'm more comfortable -- much more, actually -- laying the points on the home favorite. Because despite the fact that every game these rivals play is tight... well, that's what we said about Redskins-Giants. And that wasn't. This one won't be, either.

Cowboys 27, Redkins 14

HOUSTON at Tennessee (NL)

Oh, Houston. What a fun half hour you gave your fans this week, with your instant flush MNF TAInty loss to the Ravens, followed up with the departure of Cliff Lee. The Texans are now 5-8, just like the Titans, which means that this is one of the very few games in the league this week that has no real playoff implications. (Your list of teams that are currently eliminated: Bills, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Skins, Cowboys, Lions, Vikings, Panthers. And yes, putting the Cowboys on that list is just a happy, happy day.)

So why take the road team? Because the Titans are just doing everything they can do to get Jeff Fisher out of town, and their offense makes grown men weep. The Texans will sleep for two quarters, like they always do, then come back and finally close the deal for once. Not that it will save coach Gary Kubiak's job, but the Texans are awfully good at hovering around .500.

Texans 31, Titans 16

JACKSONVILLE at Indianapolis (-5)

The Jags come to town with an identity of Maurice Jones-Drew left, right and center, with some of the better play of QB David Garrard's recent career. They get a Colts team on long rest, at home, with a mandate to do what they always do, which is win their division and Establish Order. The five point spread is about two points bigger than you'd expect, given the Colts' extreme problems in stopping the running game, but the Jags were gashed themselves by the Raiders, of all teams. I like the Colts to win, but the Jags to cover, and for the vast majority of people who care about Jags Football -- MJD's fantasy owners -- to go home much happier than actual Jags Fans. (They have some now, right?)

Colts 27, Jags 24

Kansas City at ST. LOUIS (NL)

Oh, Brodie Croyle. Not since Chris Weinke has there been such an auto-win factor under center in the NFL; this guy just makes you wonder how bad of a person JP Losman, Jeff George, Jeff Garcia and any number of Detmers or McNowns have to be, since the Chiefs are still running this slop out there. This week, he or even deeper scrub Tyler Palko gets to deal with a road dome, the actual quality QB play of rookie Sam Bradford, and a Rams team that really should win the West, just to give us a sense that something worthwhile happened out here after all. Against a Chiefs team that can't get back Cassel fast enough, as Dwayne Bowe and Jamal Charles' fantasy owners assume the fetal position, it will be enough.

Rams 16, Chiefs 9

BUFFALO at Miami (-6)

The Dolphins' offense did everything possible to give away last week's game against the Jets, but the defense this team takes on the road is substantial, and the Jets are just in that much of a world of hurt right now. Against a Bills team that hasn't quit despite all reasons to the contrary, they will continue to struggle, despite the Bills' defense being the football equivalent of the Make A Wish foundation. I'm looking for the backdoor cover, and more boos for regressing QB Chad Henne.

Dolphins 20, Bills 17

DETROIT at Tampa Bay (-5)

The dream ends this week for the Bucs, who needed one of the bigger gifts in NFL history to win last week in Washington. With defensive starters dropping like flies and the immortal Ryan Torain going for huge chunks of yards, the Bucs appear to be out of bodies and gas as the season flips to December. It's been a great season for them, and I really do like their chances to get to double-digit wins in 2011 in the suddenly relentless NFC South... but the Lions can run it with Maurice Morris, they've got a defensive line that's becoming one of the league's best, and the Bucs are just too battered to cover the number. It wouldn't surprise me if they out and out lose, really.

Lions 20, Bucs 16

Arizona at CAROLINA (-2)

This game should count as time served, or maybe the short form answer to the question of whether you have too much free time or a gambling problem. No one should watch, and very few people will. Perhaps Steve Smith and Larry Fitzgerald will share tips on how to just take the ball from center and salvage some of their fantasy value.

As for the pick, give me the terrible team that isn't traveling, won't be on morning time with their body clocks, and... that's about all I've got. The team that punts more wins.

Panthers 17, Cardinals 13

NEW ORLEANS at Baltimore (NL)

Could the Ravens have done any more to give away that MNF game? They blow a 15-point lead in the fourth, don't use their timeouts to try to win the game on the last possession in regulation, don't take care of business after winning the toss to start overtime... and then get bailed out on a terrible TAInt ball to close things out. Lucky, lucky, lucky. This week they should have the edge against a dome team in the cold, and the Saints aren't exactly built to match up well with the Raven power game, but neither are their shaky corners against the Saints' flying circus. I'm running away from my AFC Super Bowl pick here, and it won't be the last time I do that this year.

Saints 31, Ravens 24


The winner of this game will certainly feel that this game could predict your NFC representative in the Super Bowl. But that's just not the case. Neither of these clubs is going to have home field for the championship game, absent of a highly unlikely upset. Neither team has the kind of weakness (red zone defense for the Eagles, ball security for the Giants) that can be overcome in a tough road playoff game. And neither team's strength (explosive offense for the Eagles, pass rush for the Giants) will show up every week, and lo, they need it to.

But that's not to say the game won't be marvelously entertaining, or unimportant. These teams know each other too well, play each other too tight, and care a little too much for the outcome to be ordinary. Indeed, that's part of the trouble with the matchup; both teams will more or less spoil the other for the rest of their games. Especially for my laundry, which lost two defensive starters from a unit that wasn't that good to begin with last week in Dallas. This week, with Eli Manning leaking oil badly as is his want in December, I think they win on smoke, fumes and mirrors, as part of an overall stretch run that we will remember fondly. But without a parade. (Besides, the defense is better off against the run these days anyway, and they've been good at catching picks this year. Against Eli, that's critical.)

Eagles 27, Giants 24

ATLANTA at Seattle (+6.5)

Every week, this Falcons team looks more and more like the #1 seed, if only because they keep playing tomato cans. This week they go about as far as an NFL team can go to match up with the woebegone and yet still division-leading Seahawks. Historically, they can show up in a big way at home, especially against a dome traveling team... but the Bags have a disquieting tendency to get their heads beaten in by any team with a physical presence. Look for RB Michael Turner to do damage, and QB Matt Ryan will go for his usual 225 yards and 2 TDs. This Falcons team doesn't scare anyone, but they don't beat themselves, and they'll be home and rested for the playoffs.

Falcons 31, Seahawks 16

NY Jets at PITTSBURGH (-6)

A big line for a team that can't seem to score an offensive touchdown, but maybe they won't have to against the spiraling Jets, who have dropped two very ugly games in a row against the Patriots and Dolphins. Now they have to go on the road to Pittsburgh, in yet another cold wind tunnel game against a defense that can take away the crutch running game and put all of the pressure on shaky QB Mark Sanchez. There's a reason why Pittsburgh is ranked as the best fantasy defense on the board this week, and why Jets Fan is starting to compare this year to past collapses. And maybe, just maybe, you shouldn't pin Super Bowl hopes on a hothouse flower QB from a warm-weather school when your team plays its games outside, in the northern cold.

Steelers 20, Jets 3

Denver at OAKLAND (-6)

Well, so much for the idea that an interim coach will spark a team towards caring. The Broncos are one of the worst teams in the league right now, with QB Kyle Orton reverting back to his early Bears level of production, and no one else on the team stepping up as the spiral deepens. They've had success running the Raiders into the ground in Oakland, and that could easily continue this week, given how badly they've been gashed by runs this year... but I think they lose patience and ball security, and the Raiders put up one of those 200+ yard rushing games that makes people think they are better than they are. The Broncos have a knack for that now.

Raiders 24, Broncos 17

Green Bay at NEW ENGLAND (NL)

I'm really hoping that the last two games are just some kind of fluke, but there's really no way around it; the Patriots are just the best team in the NFL right now by a huge margin, and now they get a night game against a team that might be without its MVP QB. In the past ten quarters, the Patriots have just been their runaway selves, and it's hard to see how the Packers put the genie back into the bottle. Green Bay could have won a shootout, but even when they had Aaron Rodgers, they weren't quite right against the Lions... and the Patriots will score more in a quarter than the Lions did all game. This one's going to get ugly.

Patriots 41, Packers 17

CHICAGO at Minnesota (NL)

The MNF game will see the Bears defense take out all of their frustrations from last week's de-pantsing against the Pats. They'll even get their weather, as the game will be outside due to the Metrodome problems, and might avoid both QB Tavaris Jackson and what's his Favre. From watching the Vikings play the Giants last week, it's hard to see how they haven't quit, and even when they were getting crushed by the Pats, the Bears didn't. That's all that really matters in this one.

Bears 20, Vikings 10

Last week: 5-10-1

Year to date: 93-102-15

Lifetime: 374-379-25


snd_dsgnr said...

I realize that they're a good team at home, but I don't think that the Falcons are so good that we should write off the winner of Giants-Eagles as possible NFC champ just yet. Of course if, as you suggest, some injuries pile up as a result of the game then that would make a difference.

At least in that case though, a player would be hurt in a game against a hated rival playing with the NFC East division crown on the line. Give me that over losing your best slot receiver for the season in a 21-3 blowout of a losing team any day.

It probably won't matter much in the end in any case, since it seems more and more likely that the NFC participant will just be the sacrificial lamb for whoever comes out of the AFC.

DMtShooter said...

Matt Ryan is what, 19-1 as a starter in the Georgia Dome? Not sure how much more you want than that. Betting home dome teams in the NFC playoffs seems to work out just fine (the Brees Saints, the Warner Rams), so long as you can stay away from Tavaris Jackson...

snd_dsgnr said...

The Falcons would have to be the favorites, but it is still a team with just a 3rd year QB that only has one playoff game under his belt.

If I had to put money on it I'd bet the Falcons, but I would be far from comfortable doing it.

Dave Shimp said...

MARK Sanchez

DMtShooter said...

Thank you; fixed.

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