Thursday, December 1, 2011

Week 13 NFL Picks: At Some Point, The Weather Has To Turn Cold And Defense Has To Matter

Or, well, not. Especially when the weather is still in the 50s and above in even the colder parts of the country, the games are frequently inside anyway, and even if it does get cold, we've got tech for that.

You see, something has happened to the game that we all care a little too much about; it's pinball everywhere. Yards mean next to nothing, and I'm not just saying that because I'm an Eagles fan. Green Bay, New Orleans, New Engand and maybe even Detroit and Buffalo, depending on the week, venue and health, appear more or less unstoppable. It's gotten to the point now that if you can just run the ball on offense, and are willing to do so consistently (see Oakland, Denver and Houston), you win just by being freakishly difficult to game plan for, and give the wizards too much time on the bench to just run the defense into the ground.

Why? Well, in a game where hitting the quarterback after he throws the ball, or separating a WR from it, can make you donate your game check to Roger Goodell's favorite charity (for the record, it's NAMBLA), you'll forgive your average four years and done career defensive nickel back or blitzing linebacker for pulling up a little early. And since every jump ball on defense is subject to the WR pulling out his All Star card and getting the bailout PI call, even when there's no contact, you are hosed. Combine all of that with the best speed and conditioning drills ever (seriously, old-time slow hitting safetys, like the kind that I grew up with and still love, have about as much place in the game as fullbacks who can't do blitz pick up) on the part of the offensive skill players, and nearly every surface in the league in pristine racetrack condition, and you get what you've got here.

Arena Ball, minus the nets. Canadian ball, on a shorter field. Boom times if you like yardage; bust times if you like, well, football.

This has not, of course, hurt the game's ratings at all, and if my team were simply better at it, I wouldn't be complaining all that much. But it does make things a wee bit harder to predict, and a whole lot harder to get upset about. Winning games seems more like a card trick than being "better", and home fields don't matter when the tickets cost so much that only the 1% go. (Seriously, real Eagle Fans chant for more than half a minute at Coach For Life Reid. And it's a lot less printable. I'm amazed the swells at the Linc cared enough to chant in the first place.)

Which is my dodge for last week's 6-10 misery, redeemed only by the bitter taste of winning against my laundry in a game that made me long for basketball. Thank heaven the NBA lockout is over; at least now I can pretend to have hope for one of my teams. OK, well, maybe not. Such a fun year, this.

And with that... on to the picks!

Philadelphia at SEATTLE (+3)

What do the Eagles have to do to be a road underdog? Maybe quit like dogs in the last game with any hope of meaning. Maybe start a backup QB whose best moments come in garbage time. Maybe go 1-2 against the supposedly bad NFC West already, with the only win coming against St. Louis in Week One. Maybe avoid the best offensive weapon on the team in the red zone. Maybe play CBs who are at half speed, or back ups, or linebackers that miss many more tackles than they make, or... I have no words.

Suffice it to say that Tarvaris Jackson will be the best QB in this game, and he's hurt. And that the Eagles mindset is *still* that they are a good team, despite being 4-7 and the most Snyderian outfit to ever exist outside of DC. But don't worry, Coach For Life Andy will have more time to tweet (I'm sure!), and maybe get his hearing checked. Seahawk Fan, please chant for his firing for us, will you? The dear boy's a bit deef, is all. And retarded. And not nearly morbidly obese enough.

Seahawks 24, Eagles 17

Tennessee at BUFFALO (+3)

If not for WR Steve Johnson angering the Karma Gods and America's Scold Bob Costas last week, the Bills would have ended the Jets on the road, with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick authoring one of the bettter wins in the recent history of the franchise. Instead, they lost whatever remaining hope they had for winter ball, but I don't see them just rolling over and dying. The team's too young, too peppy, and too good at home to not put a beating on this flawed Titans team, which is using a late-season run to relevance by RB Chris Johnson to mask the fact that their defense really isn't up to snuff. Here comes that RB CJ Spiller breakout that everyone's been waiting for since, well, he got drafted. And more likely, the Johnson Redemption, complete with Old White Man Approved Subdued Touchdown Celebrations. If only every player did that, I'm sure we'd cure all of society's ills.

Bills 31, Titans 20

Kansas City at CHICAGO (+7)

If QB Kyle Orton isn't playing by the second quarter, something has gone improbably right for Kansas City, who has shown the world just why coaches who think their systems can get points out of any QB are hubristic assclowns who will be shown the door by history and any competent defense. And while Orton can do some damage with KC's WRs (really, they've got a poor man's Chargers thing going on here once Jonathan Baldwin gets up to speed, and they get back TE Tony Moeaki), he won't get a chance to do it until his team is down by 10 points or more... and he's still likely to throw a pick or two in the comeback attempt. Add it all up and it spells a cover, even if the Bears' offense isn't going to put up a ton of points themselves.

Bears 23, Chiefs 13

OAKLAND at Miami (-3)

There's a lot to like with this Dolphin team. They are at home, with extra rest, having nearly given America the great and glorious gift that is a crippling Cowboys loss during their annual homecoming gaame gift from the league. (Seriously, the NFL just hands the Cowboys an unfair advantage every year. It's ridiculous. At least Detroit has the grace to spit the bit and lose these games every year.) They can also run the ball, which is the way to give Oakland fits. But I can't shake the feeling that QB Carson Palmer is going to win this game for the Silver and Black, as his WRs can punish this team, and he's looked downright frisky at times in his return. I hate this pick because Oakland is just so quirky, turnover and penalty prone, but on the talent, they are a lot more than three points better than the Fish. And talent wins more often than not.

Raiders 23, Dolphins 17

DENVER at Minnesota (-1)

You've never heard a QB's won-loss record quoted more than Tim Tebow's, which is only one of the top ten irritating things about him... but it's no coincidence, really. Don't turn it over, don't take sacks, keep calling running plays and you will win the game late, simply because no team in the NFL is prepared from a conditioning standpoint to withstand that. One fine day, Denver will meet a team that can scheme for this, or take an early lead and make them look bad, the way that Detroit did in Tebow's only loss. But that team is not a battered Vikings outfit with their own sputtering QB. I can't wait to bet against this man in the playoffs, and five years from now, he's going to be looking if he knows his name, given the number of hits he takes a week. But for now, The Legend Continues.

Broncos 20, Vikings 17

INDIANAPOLIS at New England (-21)

When you pick an underdog to cover a spread like this one, you are basically banking on the boredom of the favorite, the lassitude of the home fans, and something -- anything -- to hang your hat on for the underdog. Well, I've got all of that here. Indy has changed to QB Dan Orlovsky; he's not good, but he's not the embarrassment that QB Curtis Painter is, either. They have been running it a little better recently. The Patriots have spent the last couple of weeks crushing the paper tiger Jets and Eagles; they are ripe for a nap. Indy has absolutely no juice for Pats Fan with Peyton Manning on the sidelines. The game isn't under the lights, and probably won't even be on national television. And Dreamboat Brady has been turnover prone this year, against a Colts DL that can still rush the QB a little. By no means will the Colts win, but they should cover. Back door is still a door, folks.

Patriots 34, Colts 17

CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh (-7)

Pittsburgh is one of those public NFL franchises where you just wind up paying a premium for picking them, and in this spot against Cincy, I think the line is about 3 points too high. S Troy Polamalu might not be at full strength, the offense struggled with a Chiefs team that isn't exactly crackerjack, and QB Andy Dalton and his skill team were in the game for a long time in Baltimore. The home team wins, but without the salt it away running game of days of yore, so they don't cover.

Steelers 24, Bengals 20

Carolina at TAMPA BAY (-3)

If I weren't watching the most disappointing team in my franchise's history, I'd feel bad for Bucs Fan. The defense doesn't tackle, the offense somehow gets away from RB LeGarrete Blount every week despite his obvious and ridiculous physical skills, and you play in a division where the Saints and Falcons aren't exactly making things easy for power teams, especially in road games on speed felt turf. This week, they'll see what might have been against the turnover prone Panthers, who also can't stop the run. Good game for fantasy players, bad game in reality. You know, like most of the league this year.

Bucs 28, Panthers 20

NY JETS at Washington (+3)

Are you ready to put Rex Grossman on back to back competent games? How about Mike Shanahan and his sudden honest this time I means it embrace of RB Roy Helu as his one and only featured back? I'm not buying either of these things happening, and not just because the Skins have played Lucy with the football with their fans for 15 years now. The Jets are starting to look like they've got a run in them, and while it's probably too late, it will be enough to cover this number.

Jets 26, Redskins 20

ATLANTA at Houston (+3)

At some point, you actually have to have a QB. Houston is currently on rookie Tyler Yates, who stuck around for four years in North Carolina to amass numbers throwing to quality pros while impressing no scouts with his arm. Against Atlanta, who have been competent against the run and have weapons in the passing game, I'm not seeing a happy ending for Yates. Look for it to be lower than expected, and very physical, too.

Falcons 17, Texans 13

BALTIMORE at Cleveland (+7)

Here's another franchise that I'd feel pity for if I were a better person. Cleveland Fan longs for nothing more in this world than to put a hurt on his ex-franchise, but every year it does not happen, mostly because the Ravens always get up for this game, which isn't something you can say about the rest of their existence. The Browns just don't have the weapons to match up here, and while CB Joe Haden is a shutdown corner, the real problem for stopping the Ravenes comes with RB Ray Rice, not WR Anquan Boldin.

Ravens 23, Browns 14

GREEN BAY at NY Giants (+7.5)

I don't think that the Giants have quit, but I also don't think it matters. The Packers aren't a team that's too used to going to the playoffs every year; they care about going 16-0 and being special, and while the defense isn't good, they generally come up with the handful of plays per game that sways the possession count over to Rodgers and company. From there, it's just murderous math to the close, and one more week closer to Tom Coughlin getting shown the door. Much turnover in next year's NFC East coaching ranks, folks.

Packers 34. Giants 24

Dallas at ARIZONA (+4.5)

Here comes the first game this year where Cardinal Fan actually thinks this Kevin Kolb signing might work out. Dallas has been escaping bad teams for weeks now, and on the road in Arizona against a team that's showing strides on defense and special teams while getting QB1 back, it will all add up to a nice little win for a team that's going to contend for the NFC West title. Next year. Besides, it's not as if the Cowboys are in any great hurry to win their division, seeing how it's (shhh!) the worst in the NFL.

Cardinals 30, Cowboys 20

St. Louis at SAN FRANCISCO (-14)

Man, do I hate laying two touchdowns with this Niners team, who barely look like they can score two touchdowns on offense most weeks. But the Rams are terrible on run defense, bad on the road, with problems against special teams and playing for absolutely nothing, while the Niners are doing everything they can to get the #2 seed so they can lose later in the playoffs, rather than earlier. And it's not as if their defense can't score, either.

Niners 27, Rams 10

Detroit at NEW ORLEANS (-9)

When the Saints are clicking, it really is Packers-esque... and at home, against a team that will be without mental case DT Ndamukong Suh and recycled RB Kevin Smith, it's hard to see how they keep up. So sad, Lions Fan: this is just looking like a tease year, rather than a real breakthrough.

Saints 38, Lions 27

SAN DIEGO at Jacksonville (+3)

All decent people hate this Chargers team, but it's not as if they are playing a dynamo here. The Jaguars only win when their defense prevents even a touchdown from coming across, and under the lights on MNF and without their head coach, that's not going to happen. It also helps that the Chargers get back WR Malcolm Floyd, who helps QB Philip Rivers look a lot less ill and infirm behind that patchwork quilt line of his.

Chargers 17, Jaguars 9

Last week: 6-10

Year to date: 87-82-5

Career: 492-487-5

1 comment:

snd_dsgnr said...

If the Giants actually stay within 10 points of the Packers I'm calling that a win.

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