Thursday, December 13, 2012

NFL Week 15 Picks: Time For Spite

Ah, Yes, Yes, YES
So all year, I've been struggling with my level of NFL fandom and time commit- ment. I still pretty much watch all of the available games, manage my fantasy football team as if there were a chance for anything but further humiliation, read all of the chosen newsletters and tout columnists and bet the games the same way that I have all year. And while I'm doing that, part of me is hearing the comedian Lewis Black in his routines on "Anticipation", when he talks about how gamblers are complete idiots. (And yes, there is a whole 'nother post brewing in the back of my mind about this, but let's stay on the point now.)

Well, um, yes. Particularly after last week's wipeout, where the fantasy team stunk, the real team started yet another late-season rush towards ruining their draft position, and the sole winning parley got destroyed by a give-up garbage time figgie. Which put us under the median line for the first time in months, imperils the all-time gain, and just adds even more the most miserable year watching football since, well, 2011.

So this week's picks are made with spite and disgust, and without regard for what should happen based on the quality of the team's talent. Instead, I'm going to channel the outcomes that will cause me the most pain and suffering.

I can't lose! Or, well, win. Definitely not the latter.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Cincinnati at PHILADELPHIA (+4)

What the hell, Cincy? You have a home game in a week where your AFC North rivals are blowing eminently winnable games, and instead of closing the deal at home against the frauds from Dallas, you let them off the book with, of all things, a Cowboy comeback in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Eagles were impersonating the kind of tolerable to watch young up and comers that thy might become in a year or two, with QB Nick Foles taking advantage of the always humorous Bucs secondary to pull off a legitimately fun to watch last-second road win. This week, the Bengals come to town for one of those unwatchable slop fests that are the single biggest reason why the NFLN is still very, very optional. I like the Bengals to win -- there's no way that WR AJ Green doesn't put up 150 yards on these corners -- but not cover.

Bengals 31, Eagles 30

NEW YORK at Atlanta (-1)

What to make of either of these teams? The Falcons got steamrolled by the home Panthers even after the underdogs talked trash, looked entirely one-dimensional on offense, and seem to be performing their usual trick of bottoming out just in time for the playoffs. New York seems to alternate good games with bad ones at random now, and last week's blowout was highly supplemented by some of the worst return coverage you've ever seen. This week, I like the Giants to fall behind early but come back late, and deepen the conviction that Atlanta Fan has that their team will never get over the hump. Mostly because their defense is just too short of starch, and their running game ran out of gas two years ago.

Giants 31, Falcons 24

GREEN BAY at Chicago (+3)

The Packers are starting to round into shape -- well, as much shape as they can be with weak running backs and a defense that's too weak to contend -- while the Bears are falling apart due to age and injury. This is never an easy game for the Pack, but the Bears really don't look right now, and Green Bay is running the ball well enough to keep this game away from becoming a game-changing turnover.

Packers 24, Bears 16

WASHINGTON at Cleveland (+1)

The Browns really have been coming on recently against terrible teams, and while Washington has many elements of a terrible team -- the secondary is especially forgiving, and the WRs are sub-par when Pierre Garcon isn't healthy -- they aren't, mostly because QB Robert Griffin The About To Be Hurt has leadership skills that are almost the equal of his physical skills. This game isn't going to be easy, and WR Josh Gordon is going to be a mule, but eventually the road team is going to get it done.

Redskins 27, Browns 24

Minnesota at ST. LOUIS (-1.5)

I've been wrong on the Rams all year, but what seems to be happening here is that this is a the oddest of young .500 teams -- the one that does not really get benefit out of playing at home. That's because the best thing the Rams do is defense, and at home, the offense takes the positive vibe out of the air pretty quickly, mostly because the WRs aren't up to code, even when the Welkerish Danny Amendola is healthy, which he hasn't been for much of 2012. Despite that, I think the Rams get it done, simply because the Vikings QB issues are too dramatic, and there's only so many points that a RB-dominant team can put up.

Rams 24, Vikings 20

JACKSONVILLE at Miami (-7)

Too many points for the ordinary Fish in a game where neither team is going to care very much. The Dolphins have been turning the ball over enough to blow any game, and have also been having issues on defense. The Jaguars under QB Chad Henne have been moving the sticks, and should cover this number. Hell, they might even win. That's how little this one matters to anyone now.

Dolphins 19, Jaguars 14

Tampa at NEW ORLEANS (-3.5)

Two teams that really screwed the pooch last week, in a Loser Has Already Lost Everything Game. Tampa's got the wrong weakness -- pass defense -- for a road game in a speed dome, and while Saints QB Drew Brees has been throwing to the wrong jerseys for weeks now, it won't continue against these slugs, mostly because they don't stay close enough to the wideouts to make those plays. On defense, the Saints have gotten all the way back to poor over the past few months, and I also like their energy in the week following the Goodell Repudiation. It might even get easy.

Saints 27, Bucs 17

DENVER at Baltimore (+2.5)

Test time for the Broncos, who have their work cut out for them in this road test. The Ravens on defense are going to make some plays, and QB Peyton Manning is going to be goaded into making some throws that he shouldn't. The home team is also going to get a boost from canning scapegoat OC Cam Cameron, and the Denver defense can get worn down, especially if the Ravens ave success running the ball. But when push comes to shove, even at home, I just can't see Baltimore QB Joe Flacco making the plays to get them all the way in the barn in this one.

Broncos 27, Ravens 24

INDIANAPOLIS at Houston (-9.5)

Not getting the big number here. Houston is going to have a bounce-back game after the MNF showdown that wasn't against the Patriots, and home field means a lot here... but the Texans defense hasn't been up to snuff for about a month now, and this game has back door cover written all over it. I'd take a 60 point over here, in case you bet such things; it's currently at 48. Besides, I don't quite see Houston having such a home field advantage as to definitely cover double digits here.

Texans 34, Colts 30

Seattle at BUFFALO (+5.5)

A tough line, in that Seattle has been surging and the Bills are erratic at best, but the number is a little too large for a Seattle team that has been having issues on defense in road games, and Buffalo in December is far from an easy place to play. Look for QB Russell Wilson to make plays early, and for RB Marshawn Lynch to put it away late... but this is a 4 point game, not 7, and not outside of the realm of an upset. The Seahawks are a little young to not struggle in what should be a put away game.

Seahawks 24, Bills 20

DETROIT at Arizona (+6)

How hard will the Cardinals try in this one, a week after getting crushed in one of the worst defeats in modern NFL history? Hard to say, really, especially with the team still having next to nothing at QB, RB and OL. They might still stay in this one, simply because no team is as bad as they looked last week in Seattle, but man alive, they are bad right now, so bad that it can snowball. Look for Detroit to force feed Calvin Johnson for fun.

Lions 27, Cardinals 13

CAROLINA at San Diego (-3)

Two teams that should be making golf plans, but both broke through last week with surprising wins last week. Carolina's might have been more impressive, in that they led from start to finish against Atlanta, while the Chargers took advantage of some sloppy Steelers play in Pittsburgh. QB Cam Newton has been a wrecking ball to opponents for the better part of a month, and I think it continues in this one.

Panthers 26, Chargers 20

Pittsburgh at DALLAS (+1)

What is, essentially a pick-em game between two teams that aren't going to get past wild card weekend swings for me on the health of WR Dez Bryant, who seems like he's going to play in this one. That will have a bit of a cascade effect on the Steelers defense, and open up the running game for Dallas, which is the real key to beating the Steelers. It's not so much that you have to pound the rock 30+ times, but you have to make them respect it enough to not roll up coverages, especially against TE Jason Witten. As for Pittsburgh, OL Willie Colon is out, the WRs haven't been nearly as special as expected, and the RBs are fumble-prone. Other than that, the offense is totally gelling.

Cowboys 24, Steelers 20

Kansas City at OAKLAND (-3)

Man alive, do I hate picking the Raiders; they are plainly terrible. But Kansas City will not have WR1 Dwayne Bowe, RB Jamal Charles might not finish, QB Brady Quinn is still QB Brady Quinn, and it is, well, a road game. I think the Raider defense gets a mild little bump from the release of MLB Rolando McClain, and the continued cheap yardage heroics of QB Carson Palmer. But if you are betting this one hard, it's pretty much proof of a gambling problem.

Raiders 30, Chiefs 20

San Francisco at NEW ENGLAND (-5)

I give up, NFL. The Patriots are the bestus team ever, they blow everyone out, and even the defense is OK now that they have CB Aquib Talib from Tampa. But the real key of this team is that after driving the length of the field, they score touchdowns, mostly because they don't rely on low percentage passing plays or easily diagnosed runs. On a neutral or hostile field, New England won't be able to operate with such impunity, but against a Niners run defense that isn't what they were a year ago either, they'll still put up serious numbers. As for the San Francisco offense, well, um, not so much. This isn't just the best team in the NFL, it's the best team that's been ending the #2s for weeks now.

Patrtios 38, Niners 24

NY JETS at Tennessee (-1)

Good grief, this is a Monday night game? The Jets could be eliminated by the time this game starts, but I'm not sure it's going to matter that much, since this will still be a night game on the road, and the Titans have been DOA for a while now. With CB Antonio Cromartie taking away WR Kenny Britt, and the Jet defense holding down weak running games, they won't need many points to win. Eventually, the running game of Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell will get them there. But man alive, you really don't need to watch it.

Jets 17, Titans 13

Last week: 4-11-1

Season: 96-103-4

Career: 641-632-30

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