Friday, September 30, 2011

NFL Pick Week Four: The Secretly Awful Last Week Before The Byes

It's a staple of every NFL picks column; the gashy complaint about how the bye week ruins your fantasy team / viewing pleasure / gambling problem. But here's the dirty little secret about Week 4, the last full week without byes for the next bit of forever; there are an astounding amount of dog games this week between teams that have absolutely no hope already, and the calendar has barely turned to October. But since we all love football -- really, too much -- we're just going to eat it all and not complain, because complaining is, well, gashy. So... on to the picks!

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CAROLINA at Chicago (-7)

Just too many points for a frisky Panther team that can move the ball and rush the QB, even though their secondary is pretty awful. Last week, the Bears ran the ball hardly at all in their loss to the Packers, and wasted the coolest special teams play ever on a phantom holding call. They'll win this game, but play at a slow enough pace to keep it close, and Cam Newton will continue to ring up nice hollow numbers.

Bears 24, Panthers 20

BUFFALO at Cincinnati (+3)

Everything screams letdown game here for the Bills, and the Bengals defense is a little better than advertised... but Cincy is also a terrible home team, with just 2 wins in their last 8 games, and the Buffalo offense is putting up too many points to lose the kind of game that the Bengals win. Cincy will run RB Cedric Benson for 3 yards and a cloud of suck some 25 times, but not 40. Those extra 15 carries go for 90 yards and break you, but getting to that point takes a lot.

Bills 24, Bengals 17

Tennessee at CLEVELAND (-1)

An improbable matchup of 2-1 teams. The Browns get back RB Peyton Hillis, have home field, and are just an absurd letdown to the Bengals in Week One from leading the division. The Titans are living on some late career mirage year from QB Matt Hasselbeck, but if that continues without WR Kenny Britt, I'll be amazed. True, teams are selling out to stop RB Chris Johnson, but he's looking past his sell-by date, and on the road against the surprisingly composed QB Colt McCoy, I don't like their chances.

Browns 23, Titans 16

DETROIT at Dallas (-1)

Let's see... Dallas barely survived a MNF game in which QB Tony Romo was given the greatest media mouthjob ever given to a man who couldn't score a touchdown in the red zone. Detroit comes in after a massive come from behind road win in Minnesota, a place they haven't won in forever. And sure, this is a letdown game for them in a tough place to play, and DeMarcus Ware could end all of the good times in one moment for fragile QB Matthew Stafford... but youth will be served, and the talent level on this Detroit team is striking. Besides, the Dallas OL is still a mess, and DT Ndamokung Suh is ready to do some damage.

Lions 30, Cowboys 20

MINNESOTA at Kansas City (+2)

The game that inspired the lede for this week has the woebegone visiting the woeberiffic. Give me the team with the surviving superstar RB, the QB that was once good, and has played half of their games -- well, the first half -- well. And if you watch the game without laundry affiliations or fantasy juice, you have a gambling problem. A big one.

Vikings 20, Chiefs 13

Washington at ST. LOUIS (Pick 'em)

Finally, a winnable game for the Rams, who have combined a nasty schedule with skill player injuries and poor luck to start the year winless, but not hopeless. The Skins come in to a loud dome with a short week, a defense that does better on grass than turf, and well and truly due for a Rex Grossman meltdown game. Besides, the Rams still have time to win the NFC West and all.

Rams 24, Redskins 17

San Francisco at PHILADELPHIA (Pick 'em)

Superstition aside, the Niners are a bad road team, a West Coast club playing a 1pm EST game on a Sunday, with a struggling running game. They come into the Linc to face an Eagles team that has won the majority of snaps in all three games, but keep giving up big plays on both sides of the ball to look worse than they are. QB Michael Vick should play; whether he plays well or not is another matter entirely. TE Vernon Davis could easily go for triple digits and two scores here, but it won't be enough. This is the week that Eagle Fan starts to hope again.

Eagles 31, Niners 17

NEW ORLEANS at Jacksonville (+7.5)

The stat heads say that the Jags' pass defense, so bad in 2010, is much better now... but we're talking about three games, one of which was played in a monsoon, and the others against a Jets team that was running out the clock and a Titans team that was in Week One mode. I'm not saying that they are not better, but I am saying that they are not good, and the Saints are welcoming back WR Marques Colston. Sure, the grass isn't a plus for them, but the Saints have too many weapons, especially at TE.

Saints 34, Jaguars 20

PITTSBURGH at Houston (-4)

Total feel pick here; I just don't think the Texans can handle so much prosperity and a 4-0 start. The Steelers have been a pretty easy team to predict so far this year: if they do not turn the ball over, they win, and if they do, they struggle mightily. This Texans defense doesn't do that nearly enough, and with RB Arian Foster coming back this week, there's going to be some disjointed flow in the offense. Something of an upset here.

Steelers 27, Texans 24

New York at ARIZONA (Pick 'em)

Heavy moving line here, with as much as a 4.5 point swing on some lines, on a classic trap game. New York has been very good on the road in the early part of the year under Eli Manning, but I still like the Cardinals here, just because Blue's secondary is still beat up, and Eli's due for a letdown game. Besides, the NFC East just, well, isn't very good.

Cardinals 31, Giants 27

Atlanta at SEATTLE (+5.5)

QB Matt Ryan is a pretty simple guy to figure out; aces at home, deuces on the road. This week he goes about as far as he can go to face a Seattle team that showed a spark in a win last week against Arizona. And sure, the Seahawks got a little lucky with some missed figgies, and they still start QB Tarvaris Jackson, who is well and truly awful. But now he's got an actual WR with some chemistry in Sidney Rice, and the line is just too big for Ryan's past track record on the road.

Falcons 24, Seahawks 20

Denver at GREEN BAY (-13)

The sneaky fantasy play this week is QB Kyle Orton, available in just about every possible league, against the Packers. But all of that presupposes that the Broncos are actually going to make a game of this, not fall behind by a ton, or that the Packers aren't just going to have a racehorse game or two here. Denver will score some garbage time points, but not enough to make the cover.

Packers 38, Broncos 24

NEW ENGLAND at Oakland (+4.5)

If you want a truly depressing stat, look at the Patriots record following a loss in the Belicheat Era; it's downright astounding. This Raiders team is physically dominating, enjoys a good home field advantage, and has the most talented RB in the conference in Darren McFadden, and the Patriots' defense is going to give up some points. But Oakland's not disciplined enough to handle prosperity, and NE is going to scheme them to death.

Patriots 26, Raiders 20

MIAMI at San Diego (-9)

I just can't give this many points to a Chargers team without TE Antonio Gates, where QB Philip Rivers might be hiding an injury, and the defense nearly gave up a lead to the freaking DOA Chiefs at home last week. Miami isn't good or anything, but they don't quit and lose late, which means a cover.

Chargers 24, Dolphins 17

NY JETS at Baltimore (-4)

Schizo Game! Give me the team that lost last week against the team that won, because neither of these teams are capable of consistency. QB Mark Sanchez is making The Leap right before our eyes, just in time to cover for RB Shonn Greene's descent into the mundane. For the Ravens, RB Ray Rice is the monster, but this offense doesn't score real points unless QB Joe Flacco is hitting the deep ball, and that just does not happen against the Jets.

Jets 27, Ravens 24

Indianapolis at TAMPA (-10)

Another fabulous streaming alert for fantasy players; grab the Bucs' defense at home against the Curtis Painter Colts, on the road, in a quasi short week after a deflating SNF game. Peyton Manning isn't coming back, the Bucs are going to pound the ball with RB LeGarrette Blount to prevent any kind of turnover problem that could cost them the game, and they will eventually turn the undersized Colts defensive line into pudding. When an undersized defense quits, it's 5+ yards a carry and ugly, ugly, ugly. Yet another in a long line of MNF games you can miss. Thank you, NFL schedule makers!

Bucs 27, Colts 10

Last week: 8-8

2011-12: 28-17-3

Career: 435-422-18

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