Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Week 6 NFL Picks: Trying To Find The Happy

The Great and True Louis C.K.
Thanks to my burgeoning poker problem and the seeming softness of Delaware's tables, I keep making these NFL parley bets. And they keep missing by hair's breadths and inexplicable decisions, just like the fantasy team (4 out of 5 weeks with a first quarter injury to a critical skill position player), and finally, last week, like the actual rooting interest laundry. (Those would be my Eagles.)

Now, in poker, this would be a fairly simple bad beat story, and you'd take ownership of the situation by trying to learn from the hands, and not to go on tilt. But in picks, other than doubling down and reading more, there's really no "learning"; if you feel like you had the right call on the game (say, Houston to cover the Jets, or the Packers to not blow a huge lead against a wildly emotional Colts team), you can't learn, because you'd be learning that you should treat some rare bad luck moments as likely repeatable outcomes.

So... I'm going to try to be thankful for small things. My Eagles are above .500, and more or less have the record that I thought they'd have at the start of the year. (Somehow.) I'm up $85 on the parley bets, which is to say, I can miss everything for two weeks at my usual nit betting rate, and still have spent no money -- and that's after two bad beats that would have pushed things to $225. The fantasy team is still, somehow, in contention, and could catch fire. The first five weeks of frustration are not an inevitable prediction of the next 12 weeks. The A's are still alive when I'm writing this. And this week's picks are gold, gold, I tells ya. Especially the ones marked low confidence.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

PITTSBURGH at Tennessee (+5.5)

Right off the bat... this is a low confidence pick. The Steelers got banged up in their nailbiter win against the Eagles, and looked all kinds of sloppy with defensive penalties and misfires in the passing game. But the offensive line looked better, RB Rashard Mendenhall gives them a semblance of a running game, and there's really not much at all to recommend the Titans right now. Which leaves me just hating the line so, so much, but not enough to pick the Titans for the inevitable back-door suck-out four point cover. Stay away from this one, folks: I'm 1-4 on Thursday night as is.

Steelers 24, Titans 17

OAKLAND at Atlanta (-9)

Too big of a number for a home team that's playing a club that's coming off the bye. Besides, these aren't your usual Raiders, who give you 100 yards in penalties and have no weapons outside of RB Darren McFadden, and QB Carson Palmer has garbage time scores to returning WR Darrius Heyward-Bey written all over him on this one, and the Falcons aren't going unbeaten this year. Oakland has mild upset potential, and a very real chance of being competitive all day long.

Falcons 31, Raiders 27

CINCINNATI at Cleveland (+1)

Touts will tell you that the underdog wins this matchup a lot, and simple logic points out that in this kind of turf / division war, it doesn't always matter which team has the better talent, or even the home field. Cleveland has also been enjoying the gradual blossoming of RB Trent Richardson, and QB Brandon Weeden is showing signs of competence. He also put up some numbers against this Bengals team earlier in the season. So with all of that going for Cleveland, and the Bengals blowing a game last week against Miami that they really could have had... I'm still going with the better talent. Besides, betting on Cleveland Misery is usually on the side of the angels.

Bengals 23, Browns 16

St. Louis at MIAMI (-3.5)

I give up, Dolphins: you are a good team that's secretly terrible, probably the second-place who cares team in the AFC East, and the bane of two different parley bets in three weeks. Oh, and your punking of the Raiders earlier cost me a huge sum of longshot money.

So here's your reward -- me picking you to cover a number against a traveling Rams team that has a good defense, but challenged offense. Especially with meal ticket WR Danny Amendola on the shelf. Anyway, enjoy my new-found respect, and choke on your inevitable 20-point beatdown.

Dolphins 23, Rams 16


Speaking of a bad team with a worse cover, here are the Sideshow Jets, who played their best possible game on MNF against the Texans and still got handled. The Colts are sneaky-good, especially against a suddenly pliable Jets' run defense, and Team Green can't sustain drives with inaccurate QBs, bad skill position players and a deteriorating line.

Oh, and DE Dwight Freeney is back, and he's going to have a big game again this week. Finally, QB Andrew Luck has The Look, and while WR Reggie Wayne might struggle with CB Antonio Cromartie, the Colts' secondary weapons will not. Take this one with high confidence.

Colts 31, Jets 17

DETROIT at Philadelphia (-4.5)

Even if you did like the Eagles to win this game -- and with the second-worst scoring offense in the NFL and a scrambling QB who is now fumbling without contact, against a wildly explosive offense and the best WR in the game in Calvin Johnson, I have no idea why you would... well, why would they win by more than a point or two? This is a terrible home favorite that has had ludicrous turnover issues in 4 out of 5 games, who do not have the discipline to lean on their best-in-class RB until the fourth quarter. Oh, and they might be the most frustrating team in NFL history to watch and root for.

(Deep breath...)

Anyway... the Lions are coming off a bye. They are historically horrible on the road and in Philly, but this is a different era. They have a semblance of a running game now with RB Mikel LeShoure. They are bad on special teams, but so are the Eagles, so that should be a wash. They play chippy, but so does the home team. So they've got all kinds of chances to win upright, and really should cover. And if they win, I promise you I won't be surprised...

Eagles 24, Lions 23

Kansas City at TAMPA BAY (-3)

The Bucs probably should not be favored at home against any NFL team, but the Chiefs barely qualify right now, since QB Brady Quinn is probably going to get the start in favor of concussed QB Matt Cassel. How bad is Quinn? He's never threatened the job of Matt Cassel. Not really much more to see here.

The Bucs have issues of their own, of course, in that they have a secondary that can make any NFL team look dangerous. So they'll give up points, and yards, but at some point, Quinn's lack of talent will shine through, especially if the Bucs do the smart thing and make anyone but RB Jamal Charles beat them. Both of these teams will be in the top 10 in the draft next year... and maybe even top 5.

Bucs 27, Chiefs 20

Dallas at BALTIMORE (-3.5)

I really want to take the Cowboys here. They are coming off the bye, the Ravens looked terrible in surviving the Chiefs last week, and Dallas needs the game a lot more than the Ravens do. But I just can't do it, because the Cowboys are the exactly wrong team to try to come to Baltimore and get a win... in that they have a national presence, and fan base, that will prevent the Ravens from doing their usual two-quarter snoozefest against an outclassed opponent. And Dallas is plainly terrible on the lines, which is really not the place to be bad against the Ravens.

Ravens 24, Cowboys 19

Buffalo at ARIZONA (-4.5)

Will there be a game this year where the Cardinals are able to run the ball and keep QB Kevin Kolb clean? This might be the week, in that the Bills are continuing an NFC West road trip that they were clearly not prepared for. Arizona isn't in the same class as the Niners, but the Cards come into this with extra rest, and the Niners were, um, 42 points better than the Bills last week. Being 10 points better than them this week doesn't seem so hard.

Cardinals 27, Bills 17

New England at SEATTLE (+3.5)

The classic trap game for the Pats, who go into one of the toughest home fields in the league to face one of the best defenses around. Seattle's power running game and conservative passing game could take the air out of the football, and their big secondary and hot pass rush gives them a real chance to stymie the Patriot machine, especially with the big TEs struggling with injury.

In the final analysis, I think the Pats win, because QB Tom Brady is just too precise, and New England has no ego when it comes to beating you; they will make it ugly if necessary with the running game, and while I haven't given up the ghost of QB Russell Wilson being a long-term asset, he's probably not up to this task at this time. But it's close enough to make the number.

Patriots 27, Seahawks 24

New York at SAN FRANCISCO (-4.5)

Similar to the Patriots going to Seattle, it's Validation Day for the NFC West against the established powers. San Francisco has vengeance on its side from the NFC Championship Game, the more impressive wins and record, and what appears to be a dramatically better defense. If the Giants' running game that showed up in the Browns is for real, the ceiling for this team just got a lot higher; if the Niners' offense has another gear due to Wildcat option QB Colin Kaepernick giving them juice, the same holds. In other words, we might be looking at a rematch for the NFC title. (I will now commence to drink.)

So, in what seems to be a pretty big coin flip, why lay the 4.5 points against the defending champions? Because TE Vernon Davis remains a matchup nightmare, the home field matters, and the Niners aren't going to give up multiple turnovers in the kicking game again. But if you are ranking these games by confidence, this is bottom third at best.

Niners 27, Giants 21

MINNESOTA at Washington (-1.5)

Surprisingly high confidence game for a dome team on the road, especially if Redskins QB Robert Griffin The Concussed comes back to play in this one with his brains more or less OK. But even if The Legacy (seriously, NFL announcers, for the love of God, stop pretending this guy doesn't have faults) brings the "A" game, he doesn't play defense and hasn't cloned himself into a true #1 WR or RB. Look for RB Adrian Peterson to be a top 5 producer in fantasy this week, WR Percy Harvin to continue his dark horse non-QB MVP candidacy, and for Redskin Fan and their Media Geishas to continue to not understand that football is played with 11 players at a time, rather than one.

Oh, and if Griff isn't a go, the Vikings win by double digits... and if you are counting at home, this is the 15th straight year where Washington has issues at place kicker. It's not indicative of a broken organization at all!

Vikings 24, Redskins 21

GREEN BAY at Houston (-3.5)

At some point, the Packers are going to do the following on offense. Come out with five WRs and throw the ball 10 to 15 times, with no turnovers and few incompletions. They'll get production out of their big TEs, get RB/KR/WR/Mismatch Randall Cobb in space, and watch QB Aaron Rodgers go into dissection mode. The defense will come up with a turnover or two, perhaps from pressure on the quarterback. They'll go into the half with a big lead. And what has passed for football from 2011's 15-1 team will melt away in a massive correction.

Oh, wait, you tell me that's what happened last week, when they ran up a 21-3 lead in Indy, only to belch it all up in their second of three devastating losses in three weeks?

This week, under the lights in Houston, they desperately need a win against the unbeaten Texans, and there's really no reason to think they are going to get it. Houston's rushing attack could control this one from start to finish, QB Matt Schaub has a scary-great won-loss record for the past couple of years, and the Houston defense could be playing crack-the-whip with Rodgers all night.

Which means that... the Packers are actually going to bring their A game for once, and we're going to see Texans HC Gary Kubiak spit the bit in the way that we all know he can. (And tried, like mad, to do on Monday night in New York. Which is another sneaky reason to like the Pack here.)

Look for Rodgers to remind everyone that he's great this week, and for the Pack to run the ball better, now that cancerous plowhorse RB Cedric Benson is no more. It's time for Green Bay to bring back the explosion.

Packers 38, Texans 27

Denver at SAN DIEGO (-1)

More or less a pick'em game for the top of the AFC West, where both teams took losses in tough environments. I like the Chargers here, because it's time for RB Ryan Mathews to do something useful (yes, I know, this isn't a broken record), the Broncos can't seem to get off to a fast start, and in a toss'up game like this, I like the home field. Even though the Chargers don't have that much of an advantage, and TE Antonio Gates looks Fred Sanford-esque. Wait, why am I taking the Chargers again? Yeah, this one's not exactly high confidence.

Chargers 26, Broncos 24

Last week: 7-7

Year to date: 38-38-1

Career: 580-562-27

1 comment:

snd_dsgnr said...

Frankly I think 27-21 is being a little generous to the Giants. I'll be surprised if they lose by less than 10 and outright shocked if they win.

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