Thursday, December 18, 2014

NFL Week 16 Picks: Ready For Over

Clowntime Is Over
So as I was thinking about the column this week, I started to realize... I'm tired of this NFL season.

And it's not just the fact that my laundry has gone from 9-3 with a shot at a home bye to 9-5 and needing help to even get in. Or that my fantasy league team, a shocking Week One juggernaut, has whittled away, through injury and regression, to the middle of the pack. Or that the picks have bounded back and forth to stay away from a strong win.

Rather, it's this. I've just watched too much of this.

Think about it. Without even needing to go for the added expense of NFL Sunday Ticket, you can pretty much lock yourself into five games a week -- the Thursday, Sunday and Monday messes, and the Sunday afternoon 1pm and 4pm slots. Then there's the added games on Thanksgiving, the opening weekend problem, next week's Saturday games, the pre-season, and the upcoming 11 playoff tilts...

And, well, the nature of the NFL is that there is no such thing, in the overwhelming majority, as a meaningless game. There are just single elimination playoff games, and games that are a slightly less known amount of elimination. I haven't missed an Eagles game in this or any other year, since the mid 1970s. And unlike past years, there's been about 5-6X more games, than just my laundry, on my screen and yours.

So, um, no. The end of the season hasn't snuck up on anyone. It's not even unwelcome. Fatigue and overexposure and saturation has set it, at least for me.

Probably not for you, though.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Tennessee at JACKSONVILLE (-3.5)

The Titans are on QB # Who Cares, while the Jags are likely to still have QB Blake Bortles under center. Jacksonville can get to the QB on defense, move it a little with tempo, and care a little for no very good reason. Oh, and this gets shown to a national audience, on a stand alone night, just as a test to see how low of a rating an NFL game can get. Look for RB Toby Gerhart to break though for a huge game, just to make his incredibly bitter ex-fantasy owners break a television.

Jaguars 24, Titans 17

PHILADELPHIA (-7.5) at Washington

After the last two weeks, I'm not certain the Eagles can beat anyone, because, well, the offense is going to turn the ball over, the defense can't cover any WR worth his salt, and it doesn't seem as if the coaching staff can make adjustments any more. But, well, Washington at home is a team with a negative home field advantage, and at some point, this team has to remember that it's good at beating bad teams. Right?

Eagles 34, Slurs 20

SAN DIEGO (+1) at San Francisco

Dead Coach Walking! The Niners are eliminated from playoff contention, and host the surprising Chargers and dark horse MVP QB Philip Rivers. San Diego has been hot and cold all year, and really aren't more than a one-and-done wild-card team, but that's enough to beat a dysfunctional offense and a non-existent home field advantage. Hope it was worth the money to move a ridiculously long way away from your city, Niners.

Chargers 23, Niners 17

MINNESOTA (+6.5) at Miami

Just a feel pick here. The Vikes have been working teams close to the vest, with some encouraging work on offense, while the Fish haven't been able to get any kind of downfield passing game working, which is slowly poisoning the running game. They might win this game, but covering seems a bit much.

Dolphins 24, Vikings 20

BALTIMORE (-5.5) at Houston

Oh, you poor Texans. Reduced to QB Who Cares due to injury, they get a Ravens team that has a horrible secondary, but won't be able to take advantage. Look for the road team to spend the entire game making sure the DL MVP candidate JJ Watt can't add to his highlight reel, which is just about the only way the Texans win this game.

Ravens 20, Texans 13

DETROIT (-7) at Chicago

Has there been a more disappointing team than the Bears? Seemingly on the rise in the pre-season with an improved defense to go with a playmaker-heavy offense, they've slid so far that they are now turning to QB2, the previously disgraced Jimmy Clausen, to try to stop the bleeding. Not exactly the best team to try that on, given the Lions' propensity for making bad QBs look worse.

Lions 26, Bears 17

Cleveland at CAROLINA (pick 'em)

Is it heresy to note that the Panthers have looked a lot better with QB Derek Anderson under center than QB Cam Newton? Well, um, it's true... and while it's unlikely to be a long-standing trend, the fact that the Panthers are still in an improbable playoff race does make you go Hmm. As for the Browns, look for QB Johnny Manziel to bounce back all the way to ordinary bad, rather than historically atrocious.

Panthers 23, Browns 13

ATLANTA (+6) at New Orleans

Two bad teams fighting for one playoff chance. The spread's too high for comfort, especially with the damage that Falcons QB Matt Ryan did last time these teams met, in Week One in Atlanta. It seems more likely than not that the final is close, and with the Saints' desperate need to upgrade their defensive talent and get their coaching staff in sync, an upset isn't out of the question.

Falcons 27, Saints 26

GREEN BAY (-10.5) at Tampa

For the second straight week, the Packers visit a venue where they've had serious and improbable trouble over the years. Unlike last week in Buffalo, they won't encounter a defensive team that's gelling, a fan base that's rabid, or a team with any idea of playoff hopes. Look for the Pack to open up a big lead early, and run up the score by more than a little.

Packers 44, Bucs 16

Kansas City at PITTSBURGH (-3)

I apologize in advance, Steeler Fan, for taking your team at home against a club that they should beat. That's been the kiss of death against the Bucs and Saints, and might be again with a Chiefs team that certainly has playmakers... but the way that the Steelers have lost games this year has been against big and physical WRs. The Chiefs, you may have heard, have not thrown a touchdown to a WR in 2014. And 2014 is nearly over.

Steelers 27, Chiefs 20

NEW ENGLAND (-10) at NY Jets

Over the years, this series has been the strongest point to the Rex Ryan Era of Gang Green. They've managed to bedevil the Patriots, and occasionally even beat them, because the Jets are basically engineered to beat teams like the Patriots... by playing ugly ball and punching them in the mouth a lot. But all of that fails when (a) the Patriots have a good enough defense to stop the run, (b) the Jets can't help but turn the ball over and create runway moments, and (c) Green has a secondary. I think I'd take the Pats at 2X the points listed.

Patriots 38, Jets 16

NY GIANTS (+5) at St. Louis

Time to see if Blue's resurgence is just a case of kicking tomato cans, or if they can step up against a dominant defensive team at home. What's going to help them is that the Rams offense is the weakest unit on the field, that QB Eli Manning has been finding his legs again with WR Odell Beckham Jr. and TE Larry Donnell proving multiple targets, and that their defense can create turnovers with the pass rush. Oh, and that Blue's going to win out the last month of their season and save their coach, while ruining the Eagles' season. Have I mentioned that I'm ready for this season to be over?

Giants 23, Rams 20

Buffalo at OAKLAND (+6)

In last week's game in Kansas City, the Raiders ran for 78 yards on 17 carries, for 4.6 yards per pop. They threw it for 202, on 56 attempts, for 3.4 yards per pop. In a road game, which was 10-6 Chiefs with 22 minutes left in the game. Oh, and rookie RB Latavius Murray, who had torched the Chiefs in their last game, an upset Raiders win at home less than a month ago, was doing just fine, and didn't have a concussion. If you can make sense of this play calling mix... well, you can't.

This week in Oakland, I think that the Raiders will be less dense, especially since the Bills are a lot better wt rushing the passer than they are at stopping the run. I expect Buffalo to have a letdown after that fairly fluky Packers win, what will all of the travel. I expect the Raiders to have a loud crowd, seeing how they've won two in a row at home. And I also expect them to lose. But cover.

Bills 24, Raiders 20

INDIANAPOLIS (+3) at Dallas

Betting with my heart here? Well, sure. The Cowboys need to lose for my laundry to have any realistic chance at the playoffs, and this home game against the explosive Colts is a lot more likely than a road game against the lifeless Slurs. Indy also needs the game to have a shot at home field and a bye, so there's incentive for them as well.

As for the matchup itself, Dallas has real worries with RB DeMarco Murray having surgery on his left hand. He's practiced with it, but has also had ball security issues in the past, and might as well paint a bullseye on his gloves with the condition being made public. Indy has had issues stopping the running game in the past, and can be turnover prone... but QB Andrew Luck can extend plays and utterly dismantle this secondary, and Dallas has been surprisingly vulnerable at home. It's a bad matchup for them, and at a bad time.

Colts 37, Cowboys 31

SEATTLE (-7.5) at Arizona

Wow, what a time to try to nurse a win with QB3 and 4... and against the best defense in football. Seattle isn't going to score a lot of points in this one without the benefit of short fields, and Arizona is going to pound away with a patient and mildly imaginative running game -- think a lot of end arounds, misdirection and traps -- but you can't win games in the NFL that way. And eventually, when they turn the ball over, you can't cover the spread, either.

Seahawks 20, Cardinals 10

DENVER (-3) at Cincinnati

Time for the Bengals to turtle up in bright light against a Broncos team that's battle-tested for games like this, with HC Marvin Lewis and QB Andy Dalton making their local fans despair... but it really does go deeper than that. Denver's got the defense to take away WR AJ Green, and are stout enough to make just pounding the rock with RB Jeremy Hill not a potent enough second option. But the far bigger issue is that Denver's running the ball well now, and the Bengal defense will spend an unsatisfying evening toggling between formations that won't get it done.

Broncos 24, Bengals 20

Last week: 8-7-1

Season: 107-111-4

Career: 595-611-43

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