|Cash Me Out, Big Man|
But in the interim, there's money to be made, parleys to be bet, and an ever-increasing amount of misery to take delight in. You see, as an Eagles Fan, my season has been over for weeks... which means I've already turned the page on this year. Many of you still have hope, hope that will be extinguished with utter and severe cruelty as we barrel right down into the inevitable... Patriots-Giants Super Bowl. And a national media that celebrates this as if it were the bestus thing ever.
Have I mentioned that I'm really looking forward to this year being over?
And with that... on to the picks!
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NEW ORLEANS at Atlanta (-3.5)
Might we actually, finally, have a Thursday night game that isn't a squash or slop? It certainly seems that way, with the improving but desperate Saints trying to prevent the Falcons from clinching the division before December. Everybody knows that the Falcons aren't as good as their record, but they also know that they are tough at home, and the Saints defense has only recently started to resemble football as we know it. This week, I think that the Saint rushing game keeps the chains moving and keeps the Falcons from doing what you have to do to beat Drew Brees -- put him on the ground a lot. And even if the Saints don't win the game, that 3.5 point spread makes me think they will cover.
Saints 31, Falcons 30
JACKSONVILLE at Buffalo (-6)
Can the Jags, and more specifically their passing offense, travel and do things on the road in Buffalo in December? I have faith in the Bills' lack of defense, and the number is too big anyway. Oh, and here's a wonderful Nelson Muntz Ha Ha moment to the Jags' new pass rusher, DE Jason Babin, who actually went down in the draft order after getting released by the Eagles. Enjoy your even farther away from the playoffs existence, you painted mook.
Jaguars 27, Bills 24
Seattle at CHICAGO (-4)
What a bad week for the Seahawks. They lose a winnable road game in Miami, then have their biggest defensive asset, their big and physical secondary, test positive for Adderal. Oof. This week, they go to Chicago, also known as the graveyard of young quarterbacks, for the biggest test of QB Russell Wilson's life. I don't think he's going to fail utterly -- the Niners' Colin Kaepernick film will be something that gives him a number of good ideas -- but the Bears are going to do more on offense, too, especially once the game gets late. The dirty little secret of the Seahawk defense is that they fade late, and will do so again this week. One of these teams is going to the playoffs, and it won't be the loser.
Bears 26, Seahawks 20
Indianapolis at DETROIT (-4.5)
I'd love to pull the trigger for the Colts here, but they haven't traveled well, and the extra days of rest for the Lions matter a lot at this point in the season. Detroit's finally found a quality WR2 in rookie Ryan Broyles , and while their running game isn't as solid as it might be with a fully healthy Mikel LeShoure, it will still be able to do a lot against a Colts team that's never been very good at stopping that. Too much for QB Andrew Luck to overcome.
Lions 31, Colts 24
Minnesota at GREEN BAY (-9.5)
Well, so much for the Packers' 5-game winning streak. They stunk on ice against the (sigh) freshly ascendant Gallant Giants on SNF, to the point where head coach Mike McCarthy threw in the towel and pulled QB Aaron Rodgers rather than let him get beat down late. This week, the Packer defense snarls a bit in a bounce-back game, the offense gets WR Greg Jennings to add balance to both sides of the field, which might even open some lanes for the running game. Add it all up, with the home field advantage, and I think this one gets out of hand. Fast.
Packers 38, Vikings 17
HOUSTON at Tennessee (+5.5)
Extra days, extra days, extra days. The Texans desperately needed them after two overtime games in five days, and the really impressive thing about that stretch was how the defense stood up late. Maybe this is just a side effect of watching the gutless Eagles for the past few years, but when a team misses a long figgie (partly as a result of their head coach, the ticking time bomb that is Gary Kubiak, managing the game as if long figgies never fail), they don't turn around and stone the opposition that's moved the ball all day. Serious props for that, really. As for this game, the Titans are horrible and the Texans want the bye, so I'm really happy to get this number and extra days of prep.
Texans 30, Titans 20
Carolina at KANSAS CITY (+2.5)
I've watched way too much Chief Football the past few weeks, and I have to say... this isn't *really* a 1-10 team. On defense, they try; on offense, they move the ball, can run it, have some pieces. Now, their coaching is a tire fire, and their QBs aren't even CFL-caliber, but they still should have a win or two more than this , and while Kansas City Fan is disgruntled to the point of scary... at least they still come to games and care. So, um, *both* of these teams are better than the Eagles. Seriously.
Anyway, this week the Panther defense fails to catch the handful of INTs that they always fail to catch, and the Chiefs keep QB Cam Newton down. And if you watch this game, you have issues. Even if you are a fan of either team. But you knew that already, right?
Chiefs 17, Panthers 13
SAN FRANCISCO at St. Louis (+7)
If you want the real reason why QB Colin Kaepernick has the gig despite the overwhelming won-loss record of former starter Alex Smith, just think about the last time the Niners did not win a game... the home effort against the Rams that ended in a tie. Jeff Fisher did everything possible in that game, but his kicker let him down (same as David Akers did to the Niners, of course), and since then, his offense has just gone backwards. Meanwhile, the Niners look like the world's last best chance to stop Giants - Patriots 3, mostly because Kaepernick gives the offense more dynamism and the defense more life... all while keeping the defense off the field. There's a lot to like here, and the tie a couple weeks ago makes the possibility of a letdown game remote at best.
Niners 27, Rams 17
New England at MIAMI (+9)
Historically, the Patriots have trouble in this game, and the Dolphins always get up for it... and I like the Dolphins running game to keep things grounded for a little while... and the Dolphin passing game has been good enough to make the back door cover a possibility... but heavens, the Patriots are terrifying right now. All while making sure that TE Aaron Hernandez, the guy that I targeted in my fantasy league, spends the season injured and/or under-utilized. Have I mentioned how much I'm looking forward to this season being over?
Patriots 31, Dolphins 24
Arizona at NY JETS (-4.5)
Bounce back game for the Jets against a team that actually has a worse quarterback situation then they do, and the Cardinals rarely travel well for a 10am PST game. The over for this game should be around 20, I think, but QB Mark Sanchez has made what passes for a career by having efficient games when the expectations are minimal. The biggest danger for the Jets might be the Cardinal special teams... or, of course, their own fans. (NSF Humanity...)
Does it say something that I long for a team with fans that care enough to rain down profanity on their team? Yes. Yes, I think it does.
Jets 24, Cardinals 13
Tampa Bay at DENVER (-7)
Crusher of a loss for the Bucs last week at home to the Falcons, and now they get to go cross-country and face a stacked Bronco team that won't even have the letdown excuse, seeing how long they had to sweat to get past the Chiefs last week in KC. HC John Fox dusted off RB Knowshon Moreno to Cedric Benson-esque effect last week, just to murder millions honks who went for promising rookie RB Ronnie Hillman; more importantly, he prevented the team from having any kind of development, this year, from a guy with a dramatically higher ceiling. Well, that's what Fox does, and since he's living in fear of a Peyton Manning injury, I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised that he went for the D+ pass protector over the D-. (And yes, I had Hillman. GAHHHH.)
Back to actual relevance to the pick... the Bucs don't defend the pass, don't travel very well, and just had their hearts ripped out. Denver wants a bye; after this game, they will be one week closer to it.
Broncos 31, Bucs 20
CLEVELAND at Oakland (-1.5)
Not getting this line, folks. Oakland has been terrible for a while now, with an Eagles-esque pass defense and an offense that doesn't do much until they are several touchdowns down. Cleveland has been close in a lot of games, hit the Steelers into submission in a fairly impressive win last week, and actually have a defense that gets to the quarterback without it being classified as a happy accident. Plus, Oakland gets back RB Darren McFadden this week, which means they'll probably force feed a guy who hasn't done anything this yer twenty unproductive carries. I'm as confident as I can be in taking a 2-win team on the road here.
Browns 24, Raiders 20
CINCINNATI at San Diego (+1)
Another high confidence pick. How the Chargers even come to work after giving up that ridiculous fourth and forever play to Ray Rice to lose to the Ravens at home in overtime last week, I don't know... and the Bengals aren't even all that bad. They might even find themselves in a playoff game, a place that the Chargers aren't getting within sniffing distance of this year. Plus, there's also the fact that QB Philip Rivers seems to be doing everything in his power to get HC Norv Turner fired, mostly by committing ever more egregious turnovers.
Bengals 31, Chargers 24
Pittsburgh at BALTIMORE (NL)
There's no line in this game because we don't know whether or not the Steelers will have QB Ben Roethlisberger, but even if he were in the lineup, I'd be looking to the Ravens to lock down the division this week. Baltimore isn't really the club they've been historically, with real troubles running the ball and the usual inconsistencies from QB Joe Flacco... but home field matters in this matchup, their defense is starting to come together, and the Steelers just aren't young or healthy enough to pull this one off. It's also more than a little telling that their skill players keep turning the ball over when you hit them hard; that sort of things starts to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Especially in the red zone, where the Raven defense still look like their old selves.
Ravens 24, Steelers 16
Philadelphia at DALLAS (-10)
This is going to be a rare moment of porn for Cowboy Fan under Jerry Jones, in that the Eagles are going to be down by double figures in the first quarter and never threaten. Don't expect a repeat of last week's reasonable running game; Dallas has seen those gimmicky direct snap runs and RB Bryce Brown isn't going to come as any kind of a surprise to them. QB Nick Foles should have been picked three times in last week's game, and might be the worst QB I've ever seen at the NFL level for telegraphing throws. The fact that NBC didn't flex this game out of prime time is, frankly, an insult to America; we'd have been so much better off with Steelers-Ravens, Colts-Lions or Seahawks-Bears. I'm really hoping they get the blowout ratings turdburger they deserve. (Also, the Eagle defense is DOA, and fantasy gold for opposing QBs.)
Cowboys 38, Eagles 17
NEW YORK at Washington (+2.5)
Not getting this line, either. A win on Thanksgiving in Dallas seems to be getting everyone back on board the RG3 Train, but what the Giants did to the Packers on SNF was better, and against an opponent that's probably a wild-card or better team. (Also, Dallas has no home field advantage, so the road part of that win isn't that big of a deal.) Look for the Giants to throw effectively, their DL to eventually control the game, and Redskin Fan to wonder if their franchise will ever be able to get enough good teammates around their QB to make him anything more than a fantasy asset. (Short answer: no.)
Giants 31, Redskins 23
Last week: 8-7-1