Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NFL Week 14 Picks: Light It Up

Not Really Carbon Neutral
It's that time of the year where the houses in my neigh- borhood start sprouting festive Christmas decorations like it were some kind of rash. Normally, I appreciate these on an aesthetic level, but when your kids are old enough to nag, but not old enough to just do things on their own, all this means is that you now have an extra irritation to your drive time. As the little free-loading back-seat gymnasts and students and un-paying passengers ooh and aah at the various electric bill draining eyesores, the questions start. Can we get a light up reindeer? How about an inflatable polar bear or penguin? Maybe they could all be drinking soda! Or dying of diabetes! I like those kind of lights more than those kind of lights. How do they get them to stay on the chimney? When are we going to put up our decorations, Daddy? Why is your jaw making that noise?

So... um, maybe this weekend. After I hit a bunch of picks, buy a bunch of crap, and hire someone to put it all up. Hell, if I hit 'em all, I'm decorating for Martin Luther King Day after Christmas -- just giant MLK heads on the roof blasting out the Dream speech through some loudspeakers. Then, President's Day, with a massive re-purposed field of zombies as various 17th and 18th century d-bags stare down each other. Why let Christmas have all the fun? Maybe I can even start making other people have to decorate their damn houses to shut their kids up. Or, well, not.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Denver at OAKLAND (+10.5)

I give up om Thursday night games. They've just been impossibly sluggish and sloppy for the most part, with wild fluctuations... so with the lowest possible confidence in what might be the worst team in the NFL right now, give me the Raiders to pull off the back-door cover. Maybe RB Darren McFadden gives them a lift, and maybe QB Carson Palmer continues his Garbage Time All Star performance that will make fantasy honks think that he's actually going to be in the league in 2 years. Wow, Oakland is a tire fire. Oh, and maybe Denver will just be too bored, or conserving players on a short week, or enamored with low ceiling RB Knowshon Moreno, to really put up the points they should.

Broncos 27, Raiders 20

St. Louis at BUFFALO (-3)

Going just for the home and non-dome feel of this one, along with the fact that the Rams have been wildly erratic -- how a team can beat the Niners 1.5 times, then fall apart against the Jets, I'll never know. Buffalo has just enough of a homeless man's Patriots feel to them that maybe they'll put up a big number, or have their underrated special teams and secondary take one back. It's the time of year when Buffalo fan gets way too happy over wins that do nothing but ruin their draft position for the next year... but, well, don't run from your identity.  

Bills 31, Rams 17

Dallas at CINCINNATI (-3)

I can't bet this game fast enough. Beyond the obvious coaching issues (seriously, Jason Garrett nearly lost a game to the bloated corpse of Andy Reid on Sunday night), Dallas is beat up on defense and has serious problems on the offensive line. They also don't travel well, give up big plays on special teams, and are pretty much a tomato can for a physical team... all of which describes the Bengals really well right now. Records be damned; this is the best talent in the AFC North (especially if the Steelers keep having injury issues), and they are going to spank the Cowboys handily.

Bengals 34, Cowboys 24

Kansas City at CLEVELAND (-6.5)

Love the Browns here, even more than last week, when they won in Oakland. Kansas City won't be able to sustain the emotion that got them through the win against Carolina last week, and against a surging Browns' defense, they really aren't going to be able do much. Look for WR Josh Gordon to be a difference maker as well in a game that won't hurt the eyes as much as you might imagine.

Browns 23, Chiefs 13

Tennessee at INDIANAPOLIS (-5.5)

How statistics lie: you see more and more stuff about how Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin are just as good, if not better, than Andrew Luck. I get how contrarianism gets clicks and rooting for the top pick isn't exactly thrilling, but the Colts are one season removed from being a laughingstock, while the Seahawks have an exceptional defense and running game, and the Redskins have the advantage of a DOA division. Luck, as he showed in last week's absurd comeback in Detroit, is just fine, and able to beat a team even when he's not at his best. Against the Titans, at home, he's going to be a lot better than that, and the Titans aren't going to be able to keep up.

Colts 34, Titans 20

CHICAGO at Minnesota (+3)

A lot of red flags for the Bears here. MLB Brian Urlacher is going to miss the game. The OL is still trouble. The Vikings are going to get better QB play than they did last week, because it would be borderline impossible to get worse. RB Adrian Peterson is running like a man possessed. Loud road domes are tough, and this Bears team just doesn't seem deep or young enough to finish a year strong.

But they do have QB Jay Cutler, who makes their offense mediocre, rather than awful. The Vikings have Christian Ponder, who will be very lucky to keep the job for the rest of the year. And if the Vikings really wanted to win this game, they'd start Joe Webb instead, since the Bears have been punked in two of the last three games by mobile QBs...

Bears 24, Vikings 16

San Diego at PITTSBURGH (-7)

This is going to get bitchy comments from the Yinzer chicken bone shakers in my midst, but it's a high, high, high confidence pick for the hometown team. The Steelers will get QB Ben Roethlisberger back, have a team that's still playing for something, and enjoy a real home-field advantage against a team that will be playing at 10am on their body clocks. QB Philip Rivers is a turnover machine, RB Ryan Mathews is found on as many losing fantasy teams as any player in the league, the WRs scare no one and TE Antonio Gates is a shell of himself; there's not much here that should put fear in the hearts of the locals. And that's the strength of the team, in that the defense has even fewer playmakers. Oh, and Pittsburgh isn't going to sleep on the game, seeing how tight they are to the division lead. This should be easy.

Steelers 31, Chargers 17

Philadelphia at TAMPA BAY (-9)

Has there been a bigger suckout cover than last week's Eagles effort in Dallas? Down by over the spread with a minute left, the Eagles got their first return touchdown of the year (it wasn't out of bounds, why?) against the too stupid for words Cowboys for a twist of fate for the ages. Prior to that, the road team had actually played well, at least on offense, but any sense of progress is being decimated by the worst defense in club history. This week, they'll find tougher sledding for the rushing game against a Buccaneer team that should put the brakes on rookie RB Bryce "Big Numbers And A Crushing Fumble In A Losing Effort" Brown, who fantasy honks are hot and bothered by since the OL has come back to ordinary during his time in the lineup. That will lead to more INT-ready throws from rookie QB Nick Foles, like this defense needs a long field to give up touchdowns. But look on the bright side -- three more weeks like this one, and we could be looking at the top pick!

Buccaneers 31, Eagles 20

BALTIMORE at Washington (-3)

A lot of love for the rampaging Skins, who are in the thick of the NFC East race, with a winnable game at hand and the Giants facing the Saints later in the day... but I'm still not buying that this team is deep or experienced enough to finish the job, especially against a Ravens team that's smarting from a bad loss against the Charlie Batch kids last week at home. At least DC has something of a home field advantage now; too bad the defense isn't as far along. Finally, there's this: Ray Rice has been held down a lot recently, and when that sort of thing breaks, it breaks hard.

Ravens 24, Redskins 20

ATLANTA at Carolina (+3.5)

You'd think that this could be a trap game, what with the Falcons already having the division clinched, but then Carolina had to go mouthing off over how they have the better team despite the 3-8 record... and even if they hadn't, I don't really believe in trap games, anyway. Especially not for a team like Atlanta, who need home field in the playoffs very badly and haven't been blowing anyone out anyway. Panthers QB Cam Newton looks due for a clunker to me, and the Falcons offense also seems ready to take advantage of some short fields. I'm not really a believer in the Carolina defense, despite some recent solid efforts. So long as the weather holds, this could get away from the home team.

Falcons 27, Panthers 13

NY JETS at Jacksonville (+2.5)

Last Sunday's "win" over the Cardinals might have been the worst first half of football in the history of the modern game, considering that it was played in good conditions and featured more cover your eyes moments than a Roseanne bikini catwalk. The second half wasn't much better for Gang Green, but relief actually came when a kind of resembles QB (Greg McElroy) came on. The Cardinals adjusted the defense enough to open up the Jet running game, allowing one measly touchdown drive, aided by penalties, to occur. The comedy stylings of QB Ryan Lindley made that hold up, and the Jets had a 7-6 win and a QB controversy... that they've "answered" by going back to starter Mark Sanchez. Expect him to be all the way up to mediocre in this one, play for the whole 60 minutes, and for the Jag offense to sag as WR Cecil Shorts disappears against the coverage of Antonio Cromartie.

Oh, and whatever you do, don't watch this game. People will talk.

Jets 16, Jags 13

MIAMI at San Francisco (-10)

I get that the world thinks that Niners QB Colin Kaepernick is basically the new Steve Young (only bigger and stronger and right handed), but this number's too big against a reasonable Dolphins team, and they also haven't been as good at home, or on defense, as last year's team. Big favorites against the spread have been a festival of pain this year, and I'm thinking this will be more of the same. Finally, there's the fact that the Niners play at a fairly deliberate pace, and settle for field goals way too often, and don't make them often enough. B ack door suckout covers against prevent defenses are all the rage now, and I think the Dolphins are going to be able to move the sticks.

Niners 27, Dolphins 20

New Orleans at NY GIANTS (-4.5)

Two teams that I can not figure out for the life of me, in a game of serious importance. After two months of fighting to get back to playoff relevance, the Saints have fallen off again, while the Giants have allowed the dregs of the NFL's weakest division more than a little bit of hope. I think the Giants get it done here, and whoever wins is going to be all kinds of dangerous in a playoff game... but it's not exactly a major confidence pick. The deciding factor here is going to be turnovers, and despite Eli Manning's career record of weakness at home games in December, Drew Brees outside is worse. (And so is the Saints defense.)

Giants 31, Saints 24

Arizona at SEATTLE (-10)

The Cards have a tiny amount of hope in this game with the return of QB John Skelton, who might be the worst starter in the NFL... but is still better than Ryan Lindley, who pretty much single-handedly won last week's game for the Jets. It's not just the QB here, but also the offensive line and the running game... and Arizona's been in free fall for a long time. Even with the Hawks having issues due to Adderall suspensions in the secondary, I think the home team covers the number here. But it's going to be close.

Seahawks 20, Cardinals 9

Detroit at GREEN BAY (-7)

I'd sleep a lot better at 6.5 on this one, but the Lions are just facing a lot of troubles here. Dome team on a cold night road game. National television audience, which is usually when the Lions and Ndamakung Suh breaks out the Big Stupid moments. A Green Bay team that's going to try to atone for the stinkburger they laid on SNF in New York two weeks ago, and a defense that might be getting back some playmakers just when they need them most. Look for QB Aaron Rodgers to finally have that big game we've been waiting for, and for the Packers to look a lot better than they actually are.

Packers 37, Lions 24

HOUSTON at New England (-3.5)

Perhaps the best game of the week, and a nice test for both teams. Houston has a gaudy record, all kinds of positive feelings about the year, and the kind of tools that have been present when New England has met their end in recent years. But they've also struggled in the running game (RB Arian Foster has taken too many touches and has slowed down significantly), the defense has been gashed and battered in recent weeks, and the head coach has always looked like the kind of guy that will blow it for you in the clutch. I have the feeling that this will be one of those games where Patriots coach Bill Belichick won't play every trick for fear of putting himself at risk for a future matchup, and the Texans will make it their Super Bowl. Patriot Fan will pule over how his team needs this one for a first round bye, but they don't -- and will leave some clubs in the bag that, if nothing else, will keep them short of a cover.

Texans 31, Patriots 30

Last week: 6-10

Season: 94-92-3

Career: 637-621-29

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