Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NFL Week 11 Picks: The Innovative Brilliance Of Ugly

This week, Jets CB Darrelle Revis talked openly about the danger of becoming bored in facing the Broncos, because all they do is run the ball. It's an interesting complaint, given that the Jets' best chance seems to come against teams that try to throw against him, and underscored the utter insanity of Andy Reid's play-calling in last week's Waterloo loss to the Cardinals. With starting QB Michael Vick possibly suffering broken ribs on the second play from scrimmage, in a game they led most of the way, in a year when they have only won when they ran for big yards, when they have the best running back in the league in Shady McCoy... they still went pass happy. With neither starting wideout, against a team that you were having success against on the ground. It's pathological, and not all that uncommon.

It's not that NFL coaches are stubborn; of course they are. You don't get very far in this world without a heaping helping of that. It's more that there are folks out there, Reid most prominent among them, that would rather lose looking innovative than win in retrograde.

Well, that's not John Fox. The Broncos are happy to run it 50 times a game and kick your teeth in with an offense that only looks good when viewed in black and white. And in this era of light in the loafer defensive ends, zone blitzes and wide whatevers, it works. It works because of simple physics, and the fact that no one else does this. It doesn't work enough to make you a champion, but it works better than being just yet another chuck and duck schmuck. It works because your defense is sitting on the sidelines, chuckling and taking deep breaths of air and defending long fields. It works because winning this way amuses everyone but the wideouts, and Denver shipped all of those guys out anyway. And it works because John Fox does not care about looking good.

Neither, of course, does this column.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

NY Jets at DENVER (+7)

I am, of course, overreacting to last week's games, in which the glory of the One True Tebow completed two passes and won going away against the Chiefs, while the Jets were spitting the bit to the point of making their fans pantomime suicide. And I get that the Jets are much more talented, and that Rex Ryan can devise a game plan to make one-dimensional offenses look sad. But I'm having a hard time seeing how New York sustains so many drives as to make the back door cover impossible, or how the road team with a short week should be getting this line when it isn't, you know, all that great. Denver could even pull the upset, but I really like their chance at the cover.

Jets 16, Broncos 13

Jacksonville at CLEVELAND (+1)

Does anyone really want to see this game? No, I didn't think so. There isn't a single player in this game, on either side of the ball, that should sell a ticket, and both of these fan bases are too depressed to do much more than look for hopeful signs, like it's a preseason game. So. WR Greg Little is still healthy, and RB Chris Ogbonnya didn't look horrible last week against the Rams. Jacksonville might have a defense. Someone might watch. But it won't be anyone you know. So... go, home team cover? Woo.

Browns 20, Jaguars 17

Carolina at DETROIT (-7)

Boy, this game would have been a lot more fun to talk about a month ago, wouldn't it? Instead, the Panthers run defense has turned wretched, Detroit went back to historic form in Chicago, and now it's looking like the game we expected at the start of the year. I'll take the Lions, mostly because I don't think their home crowd is ready to let them roll over and die, and the Panthers aren't good enough on defense to make the Lions one-dimensional. Everyone else is, sadly.

Lions 31, Panthers 20

Tampa Bay at GREEN BAY (-14)

Well, I've learned my lesson; no line is too high for the Pack. And especially not the Bucs, who have become the softest team south of Philadelphia this year, with a defense that looks like they are all very aware of the costs involved in hitting people. As for the Packers, the only way they are not winning the Super Bowl is bad luck, injuries, and a referee conspiracy. Yes, all three. And I'm kind of rooting for them to run the gauntlet, just so we can all stop hearing about the '73 Dolphins. (If that isn't a jinx, I have no idea what is.)

Packers 34, Bucs 17

Buffalo at MIAMI (Pick 'em)

Oh, Bills Fan -- there's no year crueler than the False Hope Year. And that's what you were sold, what with that turnover win against the paper Eagles and that turnover win against the erratic Patriots. But your defense can't stop anyone without turnovers, and your offense isn't quite talented enough to win shootouts. This week, against a Dolphins team that's clearly missing the memo to roll over and die already, it ends in heat and humidity and punishment. Sad.

Dolphins 27, Bills 20

OAKLAND at Minnesota (+1)

The Raiders come in on a high note with extra rest, and lots of it -- four whole days, since they played Thursday Night while the Vikes played on Monday. This is the kind of game the Cowboys always enjoy from their unfair annual Thanksgiving fight from the league. With QB Carson Palmer actually showing some zip on the ball to combine with a good running game, it's enough to overcome even the Raiders' historic tendency to lose winnable road games through penalty and miscue. There's also this: it's just about time for RB Adrian Peterson's annual fade job, so even the Tebowized Raider defense will contain him. Somewhat.

Raiders 23, Vikings 16

DALLAS at Washington (+8)

Are you ready for the anointing of the Cowboys as Serious Contender yet? It's coming, just like every year; a rally around the T-Day gift, then the collapse late when teams realize that Dallas is, as always, a lot of pretty skill players without lines. (Yes, Eagle Fan, there's a reason you really, really hate your team this year: they are the Cowboys in disguise. GAHHH.) But against the DOA Redskins, who are wll on their way to disgracing yet another big coaching name, DeMarco Murray will continue to run wild, and everything will seem fine, fine, fine. This team has more important games to lose than this one.

Cowboys 27, Redskins 16

Cincinnati at BALTIMORE (-7)

Pity the poor Bengals. They stayed in it until the end with the Steelers, and should have one of those under the radar games with the schizo Ravens, where Fat Ced Benson does improbably well and the home team pules at the refs for 3+ quarters before getting into panic mode late. But instead, Baltimore spent all of its Snooze in Seattle, getting curb stomped by the improbable Marshawn Lynch and Tarvaris Jackson, and will come into this one good and angry and good. Such is the state of the AFC that its best team might be a club that can't put good games back to back, but this will be one of those Baltimore Rising days.

Ravens 31, Bengals 20

SEATTLE at St. Louis (-1)

Don't look now, but the NFC West isn't horrible anymore. Seattle's got a decent run defense and a better offense than anyone could hope for. St. Louis has gelled a bit in the last few weeks, especially now that they actually have something that resembles a WR1 in Brandon Lloyd, which means that RB Stephen Jackson isn't looking up at 11 in the box anymore. On talent, I prefer the road team, who is usually awful on the road... but they've been better this year, and in a close game, look for the Rams special teams to falter.

Seahawks 23, Rams 20

Arizona at SAN FRANCISCO (-10)

A big number to put on a team with a game management offense, especially when the opponent has WR Larry Fitzgerald... but these Niners just keep looking more and more legit to me. Especially now that secret albatross RB Frank Gore is down; Kendrick Hunter has a burst, and gives them more juice to the play-action pass that's making QB Alex Smith seem competent. Besides, the Niners always get up for this game, even when their team is terrible. They can smell that #2 seed, and a December that will be spent doing very little football-related activity, at least for the starters.

Niners 24, Cardinals 13

TENNESSEE at Atlanta (-7)

I just don't see a team bouncing back from their coach pulling a 4th and Belichick brain fart, the way that Dumb Bird Mike Smith did last week to cost his team in overtime against the Saints. The Titans have gotten a pulse from RB Chris Johnson in the past few weeks, and the offense has been useful. As for the home team, they are good when RB Michael Turner and WR Julio Jones are making plays... but the former is getting on in years and carries, and the latter can't stay healthy. When he's not right, the down year from WR Roddy White gets even more noticeable. Don't be surprised if the road team wins this game; that's been happening a lot this year, even from big spreads like this one.

Falcons 24, Titans 20

San Diego at CHICAGO (-4)

I get it; the Chargers have extra days here, and we all know that the Bears are due for a turd or two. But I'd take Chicago at 2X the spread happily. The Chargers are turning the ball over at historic rates, have poor special teams, haven't been a good road team, or a good cold-weather team in forever, and might be ready to just up and quit on Norv Turner, who has to have some powerful photographs in his collection to justify still drawing a paycheck. Basically, this is a weaker version of the team that the Bears just clowned, so why should this game be close?

Bears 30, Chargers 20

Philadelphia at NY GIANTS (-5)

I'd take the Giants at -20, honestly, and that's without even getting in to the mess that is QB Michael Vick's health. The Giants controlled this team on the road earlier in the year; why should a game in Jersey be different? How on earth are the Eagles supposed to rally around a coach that deactivated their WR2 not for a series or a quarter, but for the entire must-win game? Why should the Giants defense have any issues in controlling an offense that refuses to ride a stud RB? How does the Eagles defense suddenly contain the RBs and TEs that have been its undoing for game after game? And how does Philly win any kind of close game, given that they've blown fourth quarter leads in five -- FIVE! -- game this year? And why would anyone think that Nnamdi Asomugha, even if he has a good game, will be on the Giants' best WR in the clutch? After all, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo certainly gave everyone a chance to keep up with Larry Fitzgerald in the end game last week, despite the fact that Asomugha was the only guy doing anything with him...

The answer, of course, is that the Giants will win, and win handily Coach For Life Reid may be the Rasputin of NFL head men, but take heart, Eagle Fan: Rasputin was killed, after many attempts, by multiple gunshots. Consider this game the one to the forehead. Now, don't you feel better? I know I do...

Giant 34, Eagles 13

Kansas City at NEW ENGLAND (-14.5)

A few weeks ago, I would have thought that the Chiefs might give the Pats a game here. It does have Trap written all over it, and KC was looking spry. But then they got the Bronco Two Step all over them, lost their starting QB, and saw the Pats right the ship with a definitive beatdown of the Jets. There's still plenty of things wrong with this Patriot team, and they aren't going nearly as far as their fans' think. But this won't be the week to cure them of any delusions.

Patriots 31, Chiefs 10

Last week: 7-9

Year to date: 71-69-4

Career: 476-474-21


snd_dsgnr said...

I think the Giants will end up winning, but there's no way it will be by 3 touchdowns. They haven't won a game by more than 13 all year.

If the Giants take a 2 score lead Gilbride will get ultra-conservative and try to run the clock out. Actually their offense generally just never really seems to have much of a sense of urgency unless they're trying to overcome a 4th quarter deficit.

DMtShooter said...

Getting conservative and running the clock out is how you score, over and over again, against this defense. Besides, my team's good at giving up short fields and more. Enjoy your rout, and beat the Cowboys.

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