Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Week 14 NFL Picks: The Wheel Of .500

I'm far from an expert in matters of spirituality, so give me a pass on this if it turns out to not be perfectly accurate. The Buddhists believe that each soul reincarnates at the end of its current life as higher and lower forms of existence, and if you live an enlightened life, you ascend. Live poorly, descend. And the key to the whole thing is to let go of your (selfish, fearful, petty) desires. Which brings me back to the Week 13 experience of watching games.

On the one hand, my Eagles won against a dangerous Texans team, and seem on their way to another playoff berth, with the inside track on the division title. On the other, my head to head league (finally) failed; I'd like to personally thank Ryan Grant for screwing me in two leagues with his injury in Week 1, and Matt Schaub for providing replacement level QB play in the third round.

On the one hand, my points league team did well, with a top three finish and a return to form for stashed WR pick Sidney Rice. On the other, the teams that I need to catch to make any real money pulled out big points late, with all of those shaky Patriot plays coming up huge against the previously fearsome Jets defense. (Oh, Rex. Are you just your father in big games?) There are four weeks left to go in the regular season, and I'm smelling another horrific bubble finish, just like baseball. GAHHHHH.

And then there are the picks. After two of the best weeks of my life, we went right back into the dumpster with a 6-10 week, dropping the lifetime record to the dead solid why bother with this experience that is .500. (And a sweet little vig loss, which is what the books dream of anyway.)

All of this is to say that... I'm due for another big week, right? Ride the wheel with me, kids; I'll take you on a goat ride to nowhere, but with words. And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

INDIANAPOLIS at Tennessee (+3)

Well, if any team is going to make RB Chris Johnson fantasy relevant again, it'll be the Colts... but it takes more than a RB to win a game, and as bad as the Colts have looked for the past couple of weeks, they are starting to get some players back from injury. There is also this: if QB Peyton Manning would just stop showing the world his TAInt, we'd notice that the defense is tolerable at keeping the opponent kicking field goals after they drive the length of the field on the ground. Against a Titans team that's infected with the Moss Virus, it will be enough. (And if WR Kenny Britt is back for this game, as is rumored, that actually doesn't help either... because it means the Titans will be more tempted to throw, and they win this game only if Johnson is huge. Besides, Moss is just that much of a cancer right now.)

And don't worry, NFL announcers: the fact that Peyton has thrown more picks in the last three games than really good QBs throw all year, and that he's cost his team wins because he's entering the 35 and Up Bloated Red Giant phase of his career before he lapses into a full Favrian Supernova of Suck, can all be safely ignored this week, because his team will win. I realize that fellating the loser puts you in an uncomfortable position from snarkers like me, so just take this week of slurpy goodness and hold on to it. Real tight. Your Peyton Binky isn't going anywhere.

Colts 27, Titans 19

CLEVELAND at Buffalo (-1.5)

I know that the Browns are starting QB Jake Delhomme, but these Bills aren't exactly world beaters, and RB Peyton Hillis is going to be the best back in fantasy if he keeps getting kitteny-soft matchups like this. It's also telling that the Browns' defense still cares enough to win a road game in Miami where Hillis was bottled up, and the Dolphins are a better team than the Bills. Put the over/under on Browns running yards at 200, and the brief free agent run to money of QB Ryan Fitzgerald back in the bargain bin. (For the record, I think he's Matt Cassel II, Electric Boogaloo. And yes, I know Cassel's had a hot year against a pancake schedule, and if you really want to defend either of these white boys with super scamper power, feel free. Just know that neither of them is ever winning a playoff game in his whole damned life.)

Browns 20, Bills 13

GREEN BAY at Detroit (+7)

As game as this year's Lions have been -- and give them credit, they've managed to move the ball and score points despite starting nearly a dozen different guys at the offensive skill positions -- I'm just not seeing the home team being able to avoid turnovers and a bit of a wilding in this one. Especially now that the Pack seems to have found a ground game with RB James Starks, and the calendar has turned to December. Also known as the month where teams that have something to play for try a lot harder than those that don't.

Packers 34, Lions 20

NEW YORK GIANTS at Minnesota (NL)

Are the Giants are the football equivalent of Gerry Cooney -- a wildly overrated team that can look dominant while crushing tomato cans -- or a back on track outfit that's going to be downright dangerous once they get healthy wideouts back? (I realize that I've just made the sub-30 readers of this page have to go look up who Cooney was. Know your history, you ignorant pups, and be glad that I'm not going Real Historical on you and comparing the G-Men to Mussolini's tanks against Ethiopian spears, which works better as an analogy anyway, given Tom Coughlin's eventual fate of hanging upside down in Times Square with Eli Manning beside him, as the angry New York crowds mock their corpses. You have to love the Italians for vengeance, you really do.)

Anyhoo... the G-Men are likely somewhere in between Can Crusher and Real Crusher, but one of their hallmarks under Coughlin has been solid road work. Along with December collapses. Which makes this one a real puzzler on the numbers. The Vikings could be a real test, especially if RB Adrian Peterson, WR Sidney Rice and QB Tarvaris Jackson (note, not He Who Must Not Be Ignored) can stay healthy and avoid turnovers. But their offensive line, aka the real reason that they stink this year, is a real problem against the G-Men... and when all else fails in December, take the team who needs the game over the team that's learned how to quit. But it will be tight.

Giants 24, Vikings 20

CINCINATTI at Pittsburgh (+9)

Despite that whole Quitting Speech above, I'm going with the road dog here. The Steelers are going to win the game and create turnovers, but the late cover has been QB Carson Palmer's raison d'etre this year, and the Bengals' defense is going to do some things against the fairly immobile Big Ben. Remember, also, that this same Steelers team was just a dropped pass away from losing on the road in Buffalo; the defense is still an inconsistent bunch due to age, injury, and fear of dropping game checks due to fines from a curiously biased NFL officiating staff. (Seriously, Ravens Fan can take his lifelong complaints about the zebras, many of them justified, and pound crab over the way that game was called. $55K in fines and no flags on either play is ridiculous.)

And speaking of such things, the probable loss of TE Heath Miller from an offensive line that had its trouble protecting a *mobile* QB is a fresh 6-pack of worry. Finally, since it's a divison game from teams that hate each other, the quit job that the Bengals will unleash later in the year won't happen here. The only way I'd like this game more is if the Steelers had played the MNF game, instead of SNF.

Steelers 23, Bengals 17

TAMPA at Washington (+2)

After last weeks' game in New York, I'm not sure I'd pick the Redskins at home against any team with a pulse, let alone one with playoff hopes and some size at RB. The Bucs will struggle -- young road teams always do, and they are knicked up in the secondary -- but when push comes to shove, I like QB Josh Freeman a lot more than I do QB Donovan McNabb these days. We're about three months and one year away from McNabb and Shanahan taking the Snyder Express out of town. The next and only stop on that train: the Legacy Dump. The motel there has bedbugs.

Bucs 24, Redskins 20

ATLANTA at Carolina (+7)

QB Matt Ryan is making some low-grade MVP noises with his frequent game-winning drives and status as the triggerman on the conference's #1 seed and presumptive Super Bowl loser. And while there's something to be said for a guy who makes plays like Ryan does while still making ball security a priority, it's not enough to warrant real MVP talk. Matty Ice has had a healthy club, a top-tier running game, the best WR in the game this year in Rowdy Roddy White, the still-productive Tony Gonzalez at TE in a year where every other pass-catcher at the position contracted dengue fever, and a defense that keeps him from having to win games all by himself. Ryan's going to the Pro Bowl, sure, but he's not even the best QB in his conference (that'd be Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay), let alone a real contender for the MVP. (And yes, Eagles Fan, I'm more than willing to put Michael Vick into the conversation if the Eagles finish strong.)

I suppose at this point I need to say something about Carolina. Driving through the state takes a surprisingly long time, and the BBQ is really good. (What, you were expecting something about the football team?)

Falcons 27, Panthers 13

Oakland at JACKSONVILLE (-5)

One, or even both, of these teams could end up hosting a playoff game, but not winning it. The Raiders come in as a remarkably inconsistent team that ruined Philip Rivers' perfect December record after a road-grading effort on the road. The Jags have been one of the more surprisingly positive clubs in the league, with RB Maurice Jones-Drew piling up yards and QB David Garrard doing his Good Game Manager thing. It helps that his TE, Marcedes Lewis, has emerged as a two-way force, but make no mistake about it: both of these teams are coached by men who would look a hell of a lot better at the college level, and both will end their years with ugly, exposing losses.

Count on a game with 200 yards in penalties, a handful of fistfights, and a surprising number of Road Raider Fans making trouble with the thousands of Jaguar Faithful that have carried the torch for this team since back when we employed people in this country. (I am old.) I like the Raiders to cover the number, and for neither team to handle prosperity very well.

Jaguars 24, Raiders 22

St. Louis at NEW ORLEANS (-9)

The Rams are a .500 team that people actually feel good about in the always comical NFC West, but they are still 2-3 years away from being a real contender. You know, the kind of team that can go into a hostile loud road dome in December, against a championship-level team that needs the win desperately to keep its playoff hopes alive, and led by a QB that's been to the top of the mountaintop. Look for the Rams to keep it close through about 2.5 quaters, and then to see the levies break. (What, Saints Fan, too soon?)

Saints 31, Rams 20

New England at CHICAGO (+3)

Oh, I've been here, Pats Fan... the swaggering offensive juggernaut coming to Chi-town fresh off a big win against a blowhard New York team? Feeling real good about the way your season is turning out? Talking yourself into big dreams, and convinced that you've got what it takes to avoid a letdown game against the sullen pouty loser that is Jay Cutler?

Well, that dog doesn't hunt in Chi-town, where the defense is top shelf, the special teams make plays, and the offensive coordinator has found religion in the form of actually (gasp!) running the football. I still don't like this Bears team when it has to go on the road against a good team, but at home with an extra day to prepare? I just saw this movie with my laundry, and that team has a QB that can avoid the blitz.

Bears 24, Patriots 20


Wow, what a turd the Jets laid on the country on MNF. With the six-touchdown loss to the presumably vulnerable Patriots bringing back memories of collapses of yesteryear, people are now starting to wonder what to make of this team, whose 1-3 record against teams with winning records might be all that you need to know about them. But on the other hand, this Dolphins team can't seem to get out of its own way at home, and QB Chad Henne just looks helpless right now. He might get back WR Brandon Marshall, but it won't be enough for a team that needs to run the ball to be effective, and I suspect the Jets will go back to their getting it done ways against a bad team. You know, like when we thought they were good.

Jets 23, Dolphins 13

DENVER at Arizona (NL)

The Broncos terminated the odious Josh McDaniels on Monday, keeping this game in the No Line realm, but sealing the deal for me to grab them while the getting is good. Look for their competent offensive skills position players to do everything they can to keep their jobs, and for the defense to show signs of life against the unrepentantly awful collection of human waste that the Cardinals employ in the Post Warner Apocalypse. How this club thought to defend their division championship without a single professional level QB is just beyond me, and seemingly, the Arizona management.

Broncos 31, Cardinals 16

KANSAS CITY at San Diego (+7)

Let's get this straight. The Chargers just got their heads handed to them at home by a team without a single quality WR, a wounded TE, and a running game that couldn't do a thing the week before. Now they get a club with one of the best WRs in the game in Dwayne Bowe, a healthy Tony Moeaki, and this year's Chris Johnson RB, who is going by the name of Jamal Charles. Oh, and the Chiefs might also have the best special teams in the conference, and the Chargers are downright brutal there.

The home team might have just spit the bit against the Raiders, and if they get a bounce-back game from QB Philip Rivers, they should win the game. But I could easily see them losing it, and I'm really not seeing them cover. The Norv Turner Era's got to end sometime, doesn't it?

Chargers 27, Chiefs 24

PHILADELPHIA at Dallas (+3)

Just our luck, as Eagles fans, to catch the Cowboys when they are playing their best ball of the year under interim coach Jason Garrett. But the club lost WR Dez Bryant in the Colts win, and the Eagles should be getting CB Asante Samuel back in time for this game. They also have two more days to prepare, and that's just a huge advantage at this time of the year, espeically with Andy Reid's track record after byes. Finally, there's this -- the Texans are basically a better version of the Cowboys, particularly with QB Tony Romo out. Having just beaten that team by ten points on the road, I like the Birds to win by six on the road. And you bet against QB Michael Vick under the lights at your peril.

Eagles 30, Cowboys 24

BALTIMORE at Houston (+3)

I'd like to go with the Texans here, I really would. They've got the weapons to do damage against a suspect Ravens secondary, particularly now that the club has had injury issues, and they have extra time and the home field advantage. But it's hard to see how the Ravens don't put up big numbers of their own on offense against the highly suspect Texans' secondary. Or how the Ravens don't win this game just because they've got something to play for and a decent coach, which are two things this Texans' team just doesn't have.

Ravens 31, Texans 20

Last week: 6-10

Year to date: 88-92-14

Lifetime: 369-369-24

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