Thursday, December 23, 2010

Week 16 NFL Picks: That's It, We're Cancelling Christmas

As a parent, you make idle threats. It's just what you do, really; if you were to follow through on every pronouncement, you'd either be the most uptight prick on the planet, or speak to them less than five minutes a day. And for the week to two weeks before Santa Jebus Brings The Loot, your kids will become, fairly often and fairly routinely, horrible with the pressure of it all.

Either you've got the young'uns who snap from the surveillance of The Elf Who Knows Too Much, or the overcompensation efforts of the older kids who are trying to make everything Just So... Maddening. And you wind up saying, or at the very least thinking with all of your heart, that it's all so not worth it. Especially if, um, your gambling efforts haven't gone all that well, and your seasonal shopping desire isn't everything you'd hope it would be.

I'm reasonably certain that, absent a major economic crisis or borderline personality disorder, no one ever *really* cancels the gifting, no matter how beastly your kids have been. The stakes are just too high, since this kind of thing is just going to give the kids way too much ammo for later in their contest to pin all of their problems on you. So it's a bluff you can't make, or if you do, one that you will regret. Just like many of this year's picks!

Last week, we went .500 on the button... so as far as my kids know, the holiday is toast, short of some kind of miracle. (Shh, don't tell them that all is fine. I enjoy their overly-good behavior.) But now that we've got the desperate prayers of small children riding on the line, that's got to change my luck. And give me the cash I need to secure my World's Greatest Dad mug.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Carolina at PITTSBURGH (-13)

Oh, Troy Polamalu, why have thou forsaken me? Just when it seemed like my overplay for the Pittsburgh defense was going to take me to fantasy cashout, the defensive MVP had to go down with an injury, and the historic Achilles' heel of the Pittsburgh D/ST -- kickoff coverage -- had to rear its ugly head. The result was the first-ever loss to the Jets in Pennsylvania, an open door to the previously DOA Ravens to take down the division, and a back-door playoff clinch where losing now might mean winning later, since the first wild-card team will get a road favorite shot against the AFC West team, while the #3 division winner will get the same Jets team that just won.

But on the other hand... Carolina is truly, truly terrible, and you have to think this Steelers team is going to take out some frustration in the routinely dog-tastic TNF game. The only thing the Panthers can do is run the ball, and that's something the Steelers stop, even without the Polamonster. It's also (long past) time for the Steeler offense to look competent, or the Heinz Field crowd to crack QB Jimmy Claussen like a walnut.

Steelers 27, Panthers 10

Dallas at ARIZONA (+6.5)

Is the Dallas defense so bad that they can keep even the Cardinals in the game? After watching them give up the second most QB fantasy points in Week 15 to Rex Grossman -- Rex Grossman! -- and the middling Skins skill players, I'm thinking yes. Besides, it's a road game, and the Cowboys are way too interested in pounding the rock these days to make a big cover comfy. I'm looking for the back door here.

Cowboys 24, Cardinals 20

NEW ENGLAND (-8) at Buffalo

Buffalo has to be looking at that SNF blueprint from the Packers game and thinking that they can avoid clowntime... but two straight sleeping jobs from the Evil Empire rarely if ever happens. Besides, the Bills are turnover-prone, feeling too good about themselves after last week's figgie-miss gift win against Miami, and facing a Patriots team that still needs the game to clinch the division and the #1 seed. This one won't have much drama, unless you count QB Tom Brady's attempt to stat his way into the MVP race as drama.

Patriots 34, Bills 14

NY JETS at Chicago (-2)

Two teams that routinely cost me money, neither of which should be alive for long in the playoffs, with gaudy won-loss records based around the mastery of poor teams. I like the Jets here because I think the Bears are the bigger paper tiger, and because Rex "Foot Fetish" Ryan is a stone cold genius at creating spectacular distractions that cause his teams to rally up. Besides, I'm dreaming of an Eagles bye for Christmas, and this is how it would happen.

Jets 20, Bears 17

BALTIMORE (+3) at Cleveland

Let's take a small moment here to discuss my growing and immense hatred for WR Anquan Boldin, who went from borderline #1 WR and the free agent grab of the off-season to... well, an unplayable sack of crap that has murdered my fantasy team while still making WR Derrick Mason -- aka the oldest wideout ever, and a constant source of cheap numbers for the team that's ahead of me -- fantasy relevant. Boldin has become the player that I hate more than anyone else in the league. And now that he's on my bench, count on him to go for 100 yards and 2 TDs this week.

Back to the actual game... RB Peyton Hillis has slowed down noticeably in the last few weeks, which might be just something that has to happen when you run the way he does, or when you are the only consistent weapon on the team. I still think the guy is a long-term asset, but maybe the Browns should sit him down for the next couple of games, especially since he's had fumbling issues. (And this has nothing to do with the fact that the guy who owns Mason also owns Hillis. No, none at all.)

The Ravens need the game and appear to be rounding into shape. The Browns, not so much. Moving on.

Ravens 24, Browns 13

Tennessee at KANSAS CITY (-4.5)

Hell if I can figure out this Titans team. After two months of quitting, they take the Texans down by two touchdowns, with ancient QB Kerry Collins getting RB Chris Johnson enough room to move for the first time in forever. This week should be harder, as the Chiefs are still in the driver's seat in the grading on a curve AFC West, and home field is real in Arrowhead again. I'm seeing a back to sleep moment for Jeff Fisher's charges, and at some point, someone in the media might notice that Fish might not be that great. (Oh, and everyone who employs Randy Moss this year regrets it, and I'm still trying to figure out why the Titans pulled that trigger.)

Chiefs 20, Titans 13

San Francisco at ST. LOUIS (-2)

It's the easiest blog fill in the business this year: pule about how bad the NFC West is. But that doesn't mean it's inaccurate. It's one thing if there are four bad teams; that happens. It's quite another when there are four bad teams that aren't fun to watch. The Niners play musical bad QB, the Seabags can't travel, the Cardinals waste Larry Fitzgerald, and the Rams? They have no WRs that would play on special teams for a good club, yet alone to catch passes. With the Niners going back to Troy Smith, and the Rams having the home-field advantage, I'm hoping that the least loathsome option finally puts Mike Singletary out of our misery. To think that a team with this much talent on the lines is going to lose this division is just ridiculous.

Rams 24, Niners 20

Detroit at MIAMI (-4)

Can the Dolphins ever win a game at home? They should taken care of business last week, but trouble in the red zone and faulty kicking betrayed them. Meanwhile, the Lions were winning their first road game in late-season in, well, forever, as they took advantage of a decimated Bucs team. This week, I'm looking for the Fish to finally put it together and win going away, just to torture their fans with What Might Have Been. Besides, the Lions aren't ready for back to back road wins yet.

Dolphins 31, Lions 17

WASHINGTON (+6.5) at Jacksonville

Rex Grossman on the road, and I'm going with him? Yeah, I'm not right in the head, but neither are the Jags, who blew their chance to end the Manning Menace last week with a meh running effort on the road in Indy. Now they need to win out and hope for help, and when Jack del Rio's team has that much on the line, they tend to come up small. I think they win, but only because Rexy blows it... but that they will also spend 55+ minutes making their theoretical fans sweat over it. Besides, they couldn't keep Donald Brown from running all over them, so what happens when Ryan Torain gets the rock?

Jaguars 24, Redskins 21

San Diego at CINCINNATI (+7)

Speaking of teams that can't handle success, here come the Chargers, with two straight blowout wins and the presumed division for the taking -- and yes, if you think you've already seen this movie before in the South with the Colts, well, you have. So why do I like the DOA Bengals to cover the number? Because when the team lost WR Terrell Owens last week, they returned to 2009's form as a run-first power club, with RBs Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott combining for nearly 200 yards on the ground, and keeping QB Carson Palmer from showing the world his TAInt. That won't go as well against a Chargers team that can stop the run, but it will help the home team keep things close enough to cover.

Chargers 28, Bengals 24

HOUSTON (+3) at Denver

Tim Tebow's debut last week in Oakland wasn't obviously awful, so the temptation is to give in and predict big numbers for him this week at home against the super-soft Texans secondary. But when you dig deeper into the numbers, you see that Tebow did his damage early, and that his touchdown pass to WR Brandon Lloyd was much more on the wideout than the throw. This week against the Texans, his numbers will be better, but not nearly enough to overcome the Gary Kubiak Vengeance Tour, as the Texans' head coach auditions for a gig that he'll need in another week or so. There's just no reason why a team with the talent that the Texans have can't ever get better than .500.

Texans 30, Broncos 17

INDIANAPOLIS (+2.5) at Oakland

Oakland's got a puncher's chance in this game, but only if they can run the ball for over 200 yards, avoid turnovers, and collect a pick or two from QB Peyton Manning... but it's just hard to see how the Raiders can put together a game plan in a must-win December game against the sure Hall of Famer, even with meagre weapons. When push comes to shove, the Raiders will need QB Jason Campbell to make plays, and his whole history shows that just doesn't happen.

Colts 24, Raiders 21

New York at GREEN BAY (NL)

Probably the best game of the day, and the one that should be flexed into the night game, except for the fact that America demands to see the real MVP. I digress. Both clubs are coming off losses, but that's where the similarities end. New York blew a three-touchdown lead halfway through the fourth quarter at home to throw away any real chance to win the division -- yeah, I know, I'm still amazed by that as well. The Pack lost with honor in New England with backup QB Matt Flynn showing Detmer levels of gumption, and sadly, a similar amount of competence in the two-minute drill. They also ran the ball with something approaching competence, which was really the most surprising thing about the game.

Historically, the Giants are a dangerous road team... but Eli Manning is also a mediocre and INT-prone December QB, and I'm counting on the Pack running game to be just good enough to keep the pass rush from teeing off all game. There's also just the worry that when you suffer a loss like what happened to the Giants last week, it just doesn't shake off. Especially in December.

Packers 30, Giants 20

Seattle at TAMPA BAY (-6)

The original notes on this pick had me giving it to the Seabags, as I thought the game was in Seattle. But now that a commenter has pointed out my mistake, I'll go with the home favorite and terrible road dog. Look for RB Legette Blount to put up numbers, and QB Josh Freeman to put up numbers. Besides, QB Matt Hasselbeck has reached the stage of his career where picks are to be expected.

Bucs 24, Seahawks 17

Minnesota at PHILADELPHIA (NL)

Let's just face facts; the world wants to see this Eagles team, and can't get enough of QB Michael Vick's brand of football. The ratings for the games have just been off the charts, and last week's Houdini act against the Giants just adds to the mystique. The flex move to the night game is a big win for a club that might have otherwise slept through a game against a beaten-down opponent with major issues at QB, OL and defensive secondary. But under the lights, with another chance to make that next contract stratospheric? Not exactly a likely snoozy time moment for either Vick or WR DeSean Jackson. And against an offense that might be starting a rookie wideout in Joe Webb, it's not as if Vick and Co. aren't going to have a lot of chances to make this into a pinball game. The only thing that's going to keep this from being an embarrassment is that Eagles coach Andy Reid is going to call the dogs off in the second half to try to limit exposure to injury.

Eagles 41, Vikings 17

New Orleans at ATLANTA (-

The best game of the week is the final MNF game of the year -- and how will you live without this announcing crew for nine months? I can feel my seasonal depression rising already -- will see the Falcons lock down the #1 seed in the NFC against a Saints team that blew their chance for drama by spitting the bit last week in Baltimore. While the NFL punditry has been quick to honor the game manger plus skills of Falcons QB Matt Ryan, the real credit belongs to the line and defensive play, which has been a credit to the team's drafting acumen.

As for the Saints, they might not even really want to win this game, since the greatest reward for any playoff team this year is the #5 seed, which gets to be a clear touchdown favorite on the road against the NFC West. That #6 seed against the Bears or Eagles, in the cold? Not so much.

Finally, this game... it's not encouraging, for the Saints chances, that their field goal kicking remains troublesome. Or that Ryan's got that end-of-game thing down.

Falcons 27, Saints 24

Last week: 8-8

Year to date: 101-110-15

Career: 382-387-25


Anonymous said...

Your notes on the Bucs game sound like they're traveling to Seattle - when it's Seattle traveling to TB.
Dunno if that would change picking them to cover since 6 seems high anyway.

DMtShooter said...

You're absolutely right, and I whiffed. Changing game notes now.

snd_dsgnr said...

Actually if the Saints manage to beat the Falcons then they more or less guarantee themselves the 5 seed. They could lose at home to Tampa the next week and still win the 5 seed. Hell if they win against Tampa they could theoretically win the overall #1 if Atlanta somehow managed to lose to Carolina.

If they lose to Atlanta then the Tampa game becomes pretty much a must-win game for them. Tampa in New Orleans is a very winnable game and all, but still.

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