Thursday, October 31, 2013

NFL Week 9 Picks: Blind Pig Chowdown

Well, OK, it's a little funny.
Hey, the blind pig stumbled upon some acorns last week! It was exciting and everything, since I ran a perfect slate from 4pm EST to the MNF game, and even felt smart for non-chalk stuff like Oakland over Pittsburgh and the Bengals crushing the Jets. It was like I knew something about the NFL! And if I just do it for two or three more weeks, this year won't be such a complete embarrassment. Unlike, say, being an Eagles fan. But that's why we pick the games; to give us something else to care about when the home and fantasy laundry have become utterly and completely depressing. Wee!

And with that... on to the picks!

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CINCINNATI (-2.5) at Miami

Curiously low line here. I get that everyone thinks the Bengals will come back to earth after their 40-point runaway from the Jets, and that the Dolphins got completely screwed by the refs in that Patriots' game. Also, that the Dolphin defense has been exceptional against the pass this year, and that Miami is a different team at home. But they are still terrible at protecting the QB, and the Bengals are scary good at getting to them... and even good secondaries crack against a white-hot QB who suddenly has two great red zone targets in Marvin Jones and A.J. Green. Suddenly, my Bengals in the Super Bowl pick doesn't seem so crazy, does it?

Bengals 27, Dolphins 16

Kansas City at BUFFALO (+3)

Depressingly low line for the home 'dog against the NFL's last unbeaten team, but I'm still going with them. The Chiefs have been winning with smoke and mirrors for a couple of weeks now, and the Orchard Park crowd is one of the best in the NFL for generating lots and lots of noise. The more amazing thing is that Buffalo might be the Chiefs' biggest test yet, in Week Nine. May we all find opportunities in life to be so abundant. If you are looking for more football-ish reasons... well, if Jason Campbell can move the ball against this defense in Arrowhead, why can't Thad Lewis in Buffalo? And how weak does the KC Offense get if RB Jamaal Charles can't go 60 minutes again, like last week?

Bills 26, Chiefs 24

Minnesota at DALLAS (-10)

Squash time for Big Media's Favorite Pretender. Dallas will enjoy nationwide coverage for this laugher against a Vikings team that doesn't seem to understand that Florida has a hammerlock on tanking this year. Other than some kind of secret injury to RB Adrian Peterson, I just don't get what HC Leslie Frazier is doing this year, assuming it's not just prankery. Count on plenty of deep jump balls for WR Dez Bryant to win, some week-after crowing that Bryant was right about everything in last week's sideline tantrum in Detroit, and the future seeds for Terrell Owens 2, Electric Boogaloo. Jerry Jones is the best thing that ever happened to this franchise. Note: I hate this franchise.

Cowboys 34, Vikings 20

Tennessee at ST. LOUIS (+3)

It's Jeff Fisher's Vengeance Game, and if that doesn't excite you, you are a sane human being with the proper state of gravity for a game between two meh-ish teams that seem to have ignored the last 30 years of NFL development. Of the six respective units in this game, the only one that I'm kind of impressed by is the St. Louis defense, who can get after a passer and don't over-pursue to uselessness in the running game. Rams QB Kellen Clemens is a sad specimen, but Titans QB Jake Locker is just a younger, more mobile and less accurate Clemens. While he can have good games from time to time and fool people into thinking that development is happening, that won't be the case in a road dome game for St. Louis fans who will be hoping to let out some baseball frustrations. Also, RB Zac Stacy is the real deal, and will keep Clemens from having to do too much.

Rams 24, Titans 17

NEW ORLEANS (-6) at NY Jets

I hate this line, but I can't shake the idea that in the Battle of Ryans, it's better to take the one that doesn't have the turnover machine at QB, home field and bounce-back theory be damned. Look for New Orleans to run it more than expected, and to conserve TE Jimmy Graham's looks for the red zone, where he continues to be profoundly unfair, despite hideous injuries. But if the weather's bad, I'm going to regret this pick. Hell, who am I kidding, I already regret this pick.

Saints 27, Jets 20

SAN DIEGO (-1) at Washington

The Chargers are coming off the bye, have seen their running game turn around, have developed a solid WR in Keenan Allen and aren't terrible on defense. They face a DC team with QB Bob Griffin looking battered and bad again after a fast-fading effort in Denver, and the secondary is taking on the mantle of historically bad now. DC has also been strangely reluctant to rely on RB Alfred Morris -- HC Mike Shanahan just can't resist boning fantasy honks, it's his one true talent -- and still has a terrible group of targets. When you still give snaps to WR Santana Moss, only five years since he stopped having a pulse, that's not a good sign for your talent evaluation. Also, with no real playoff chance, count on FedEx Field to be its usual graveyard for home crowd enthusiasm. Daniel Snyder is the best thing that ever happened to this franchise. Note: I hate this franchise.

Chargers 31, DC 23

ATLANTA (+7.5) at Carolina

Just a feel pick here, as I'm not ready to give Panthers HC Ron Rivera the faith required to say that he can come off the bye-ish Terrible Night Football time advantage, and put a reeling road Falcons team out of its misery. They should, of course; they have home field, a dominant defense, and the Falcons are crippled at the skill positions. But this is where the Panthers' unfamiliarity with being over .500 and in actual wild-card contention bites them, and Falcons QB Matt Ryan is dangerous in late and close situations. I'm even thinking they pull off the upset, let alone the cover.

Falcons 26, Panthers 24

PHILADELPHIA (+2.5) at Oakland

A regression to the mean pick. Philadelphia will get back QB Nick Foles, who should be healthy enough to plant and be accurate again. This will open up holes for the running and tempo game, so the offense will stop looking like the worst unit in football. On defense, the Eagles have been good against the run all year, and actually pursue mobile QBs relatively well. I also expect QB Terrell Pryor to spend much of his day trying to get WR Denarius Moore the ball, and while that seems like a good idea, it's not as if that tandem is going to single-handedly win a game. I'm seeing a lot of Silver figgies; Oakland seems like a tough place to play, but they get pretty negative pretty quickly if you get an early lead, and I'm counting on HC Chip Kelly to roll out some innovations that take advantage of an overly young and eager Raider defense that will see this game as more opportunity than danger. Finally, this: Kelly is 3-1 on the road this year, with the only loss coming at Denver. He's just better there. Besides, this may be the last chance for a win for a really long time, considering the next few weeks are at Green Bay, then three home games and a bye. Man, that Green Bay game is going to be Denver ugly.

Eagles 24, Raiders 23

Tampa at SEATTLE (-18)

Ride the big number for the best home team in the NFL against the open mutiny Bucs, who really should have tossed aside HC Greg Schiano during the bye week. On the road in Seattle, without RB Doug Martin (and no, back up Mike James is not that great), against the best secondary in the NFL and what might also be the best pass rush, with the Seattle offense smarting from that sad winning effort in St. Louis on MNF... well, I think we have a better chance of seeing extensive Tavaris Jackson time in this one than a Buc win, or even cover. I'm kind of amazed that CB Darrelle Revis hasn't invented himself an injury yet, or just told the press that he's not going to take orders to play zone anymore. Then again, Florida is where guys from New York go to when they want to retire, right?

Seahawks 41, Bucs 13

BALTIMORE (-2.5) at Cleveland

My favorite heel squash tradition in the NFL is where the evil ex-Browns come back to Cleveland, endure about 30 minutes of rage and taunts from the Dawg Pound faithful, then set to dismantling whatever weak sauce the home team is playing at QB that day. This week, they'll get to mash Jason Campbell and a motley collection of RBs, and so long as they cover WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron, I like their chances at keeping this score slow and low. On offense, Baltimore will take advantage of the weak secondary DBs to get ahead early, then work on their sputtering running game late. It'll be a lot of grinding figgie drives, and a pretty easy cover. That 3-1 start was a long time ago, Browns Fans...

Ravens 26, Browns 13

PITTSBURGH (+7.5) at New England

Pride and desperation time for the Steelers, who face the weakest 6-2 Patriot team ever. But this is a surprisingly good match up for them, since QB Tom Brady is struggling mightily, and will not hurt anyone with his legs, the way that Terrell Pryor did them last week in Oakland. In one of those games that feels like it's important just because we're familiar with the stars, I like the Pittsburgh defense to continue Brady's nightmare year... and while New England might be able to ugly out a win with their running game, they aren't going to be able to run out and hide and cover a big number. And hey, it's not as if Pittsburgh hasn't come up with a win or two over the years in this series.

Patriots 24, Steelers 20

INDIANAPOLIS (-2.5) at Houston

Not sure why this line is the way it is. Houston's been a wreck for most of the year, doesn't have a particularly good home field advantage ever since they declared blood sport on QB Matt Schaub, and run into a Colts team that keeps shoving regression analysis in our face with quality wins over solid opponents. Maybe they aren't that solid of a road team yet, and maybe the loss of WR Reggie Wayne is going to cause a cascade failure among their target tree... but honestly, they don't have to be that good of a road team to beat the Texans this year. Look for QB Andrew Luck to do them with his legs as well as his arm.

Colts 31, Texans 17

Chicago at GREEN BAY (-11)

Oh, Chicago -- the team that never was due to injury. With an aging but smart defense and QB Jay Cutler in a contract year with a coach that's perfect for him, I really thought they were going to run this division, then get worked in the playoffs by an NFC West team. And they did, until everyone hit the trainer's table. It's hard even to call it bad luck, because this is more or less what happened last year, and what happens when your skill guys take too much punishment, and your o-line just doesn't improve enough from year to year. But that's enough about them.

With a battered defense, this is setting up as one of those games where QB Aaron Rodgers can take his deep shots on second and short, and not have to pull off plays against pressure just to move the sticks. He'll lean on RB Eddie Lacy and James Starks, use any open WR, and eventually take advantage of a short field or two to make this number. And just that quickly, we'll have another weak tea MNF game to turn off early. Won't that be fun?

Packers 34, Bears 20

Last week: 9-4

Year to date: 53-63-4

Career to date: 423-425-4

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