Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Week 7 NFL Picks

After going a respectable 4-3 on the 1:00 p.m. games (including absolutely nailing the fact that the Raiders were going to drag the Falcons into a monkey cage fight complete with flying feces), the rest of Sunday turned into a 1-4 bloodbath. It actually started earlier than that as the Ravens gave away a sure cover by allowing Tony Romo to turn a 3rd and 27 into a 4th and 10 and then into a first down on the final drive as their secondary introduced a new tackling method called "Breaking Down Your Girlfriend's Door with Your Shoulder" (unfortunately this method doesn't include actually wrapping your arms around anything other than the recently departed ankle of the ball carrier).

But I digress. Back to the bloodbath. As you may have noticed, in an attempt to distract readers from my horrible picks, I've added some Power Rankings in the right-hand column. The hope was that you'd see that I at least knew enough about football to recognize that teams like the Texans, 49ers and Patriots are among the best in the game. (How's that workin' out for you?) Here is how my top ten fared last weekend:

"You know what dad, I think
your plays are dumb."
1. Falcons: Needed a late FG to beat the lowly Raiders.
2. Texans: Blown out at home.
3. Ravens: Tried to give it away but got lucky.
4. 49ers: Humiliated at home.
5. Patriots: Blew a 13 point 4th quarter lead.
6. Bears: Bye week.* 
7. Vikings: I know RG, III is a freak but 38 points?
8. Chargers: Six turnovers by Phillip Rivers.
9. Giants: Showed-up for work early this year.
10. Broncos: Who freakin' knows?

I'm serious. Who freakin' knows? If the Raiders (arguably the worst team in the league) can go into Atlanta (arguably the best team in the league) and take them down to the wire, then what's next, Ben Affleck becoming the greatest director of this generation?

It's time to change things up and see if we can get some momentum going in the right direction so we're going to get all of the picks in early this week.** I'm also taking a flamethrower to the existing Power Rankings and re-ordering them based on how I think the season is going to end starting with the Super Bowl champ and working my way back through the playoffs. At this point I have the Redskins and the Steelers as the last teams out in each conference. More on that and the rest of the rankings as we work our way through the picks.

San Francisco by 7 over Seattle: The Pick - 49ers

Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers basically spent nine months pointing to last Sunday and saying, "that's when we're going to decide who the best is." Then they got trucked. At this point, I see them taking the No. 2 seed in the NFC and then going out in the second round to either the Packers or the Giants who have the kind of defenses that somehow undo the voodoo that Harbaugh has put on Alex Smith. As for this game, the Seahawks formula looks fairly simple. Bet with them at home and against them on the road until proven otherwise.

Buffalo by 3.5 over Tennessee: The Pick - Bills

After their overtime win against the Cardinals, Bills safety Jarius Byrd said that head coach Chan Gailey inspired the team by telling them, "you've got to get your respect back." Now I'm not sure that playing Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals is technically a "get your respect back" opportunity but then again, we are talking about the Bills so its all relative.

I just want to thank Bud
Adams for moving his
team to SEC country.
Minnesota by 6 over Arizona: The Pick - Vikings

Every year we have a team come off a horrendous season and race out to a strong start based on a combination of a soft opening schedule and taking a few teams by surprise before they inevitably revert back to the mean. The Vikings are 4-2 and will probably be 6-2 after a win at home against the Cardinals followed by another one against Tampa Bay. Then the clouds start rolling in with three of the next four games being at Seattle, Chicago and Green Bay. With the Vikings' luck, that will likely coincide with Percy Harvin's migraines kicking-in and Adrian Peterson's leg falling off so savor the next two weeks and your 6-2 start Viking fans. Hopefully by then the NHL lockout will be settled.***

Indianapolis by 3 over Cleveland: The Pick - Colts

In the last three weeks, the Browns have played the Ravens tough on the road, jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the Giants, beat the Bengals and then fired Mike Holmgren. Is it possible that after 13 years of being back in the league, they're finally starting to figure it out? Naaahhhh.

Houston by 6 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

Let's shoot in Baltimore. They've
got a new stadium and plenty of
strippers to play the cheerleaders.  
I can tell you who isn't phased by the injuries to Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb and Haloti Ngata . . . Ravens fans. This is the team that went to the AFC Championship Game in Joe Flacco's rookie year with a secondary made-up of extras from The Replacements. I know this may border on blasphemy, but losing Ray Lewis may actually help the run defense (jumping out of the way of a lightning bolt).

Green Bay by 5.5 over St. Louis: The Pick - Packers

If the Packers don't get rooked on Monday night and then lose the "Chuckstrong Game," they would've been on a four game winning streak going into Houston and we wouldn't be asking ourselves, "where did that come from?" If we've learned nothing else over the years, it's that quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees eventually rediscover the magic and then look out. So . . . um . . . LOOK OUT!

Dallas by 2.5 over Carolina: The Pick - Cowboys

After their impressive opening win against the Giants, I wrote "I'm a buyer on the Cowboys until they inevitably prove me wrong." I'm willing to forgive them for losses at Baltimore and Seattle and I'll even give them a pass on the Bears' game but if they don't win this one in convincing fashion, I'm out (and so are they for that matter because that would drop them to 2-4 heading into a schedule of Giants, at Atlanta and at Philadelphia). Oh wait, I almost forgot to thank Jason Garrett for not taking the Ravens' head coaching job. As my friend Tommy "The Exclamation Point" would say, "Thanks Jason!!!!"

N.Y. Giants by 6.5 over Washington: The Pick - Redskins

From a gambling standpoint, I'm all-in on RG, III because even on days when the rest of his team lets him down, he's going to be the king of the backdoor cover by continuing to furiously run the two minute drill even though he's down by 13 with 11 seconds on the clock. Combine that with the inevitable letdown game for the Giants plus RG, III's New York debut and this could be a monster win for the Skins followed by another week of Jeff Fisher watching Sam Bradford game tape while softly muttering expletives.

Chiefs - Bye Week
Not a good sign when NFL Films
plans to call your 2012 highlight
package "High School Musical 5."

How does the following exchange not occur in the office of the team president at some point during the preseason?:

Owner: "Guys, its been a tough few years. So what's our plan for getting this franchise competitive again?"

Head Coach: "Well we've got Matty Cassel coming back and we really think this is the year he puts it all together and reminds us why we gave him a $62M contract after one good season with the Patriots."

Owner: "OK fine but if Matt doesn't turn the corner, what's the back-up plan?"

General Manager: "We signed Brady Quinn in March and we're confident that our coaching staff can help him achieve a level of success that he failed to reach in Cleveland and Denver."

Owner: "You're all fired. Get out."

New Orleans by 3 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Saints

The Bucs allowed Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and RG, III to throw for an average of 355 yards (and then Brady Quinn threw for 180 against them which might actually be the most damning stat of all). They've mitigated that by only allowing four touchdown passes. Two problems: (1) their best cornerback was just suspended, and (2) Drew Brees is coming to town. On the other side, you have the sieve that is the Saints defense and that might be an insult to sieves because at least actual sieves are designed to stop large objects from coming through. The Saints defense might better be described as a sewer pipe. Forget the 3 points on this one and take the over on 49.5. This could be the NFL's answer to Baylor v. West Virginia (70-63).

Oakland by 4 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Raiders

In ESPN's defense, it's not like
the guy jumped from the sun.
These two teams are probably going to combine for about three more wins this year so this has huge 2013 draft order implications (not really something you want said about your team in week 7). Having already spent more time analyzing this game than it deserves, I want to take issue with ESPN's top ten plays from last week. At No. 5, they had Felix Baumgartner's 24 mile free fall from the stratosphere. To put that in perspective, at No. 6 they had a great one-handed catch, at No. 5 they had a man break the sound barrier while skydiving and at No. 4 they had an even better one-handed catch. Maybe if Felix had made a one-handed catch before he landed, he could have been as high as No. 3.

New England by 10.5 over the N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Patriots

When I reworked the Power Rankings, one thing became very clear. From top to bottom, the AFC stinks. Who's the best team? The Texans with wins over the Jags, Titans and Dolphins? The Ravens and their defense that couldn't close-out wins before they lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb? The decaying Steelers? Any team from the West? (The implication is that the answer to all of those questions is "no"). What that leaves (and it pains me to say it) is the freakin' Patriots. Sure they're off to a rough start but the only tough games left on their schedule are at home against the Texans and the 49ers while the Ravens still have to go to Houston, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Washington with home games against the Giants, Broncos and Steelers.**** (I need a drink).

Pittsburgh by 2.5 over Cincinnati: The Pick - Steelers

I'm going to try to ignore the fact that the Steelers have already lost to the Titans and the Raiders but it's not going to be easy because every time I think of it I start smiling like one of those people who always look like they're smiling even when they're sad. Speaking of sad people, is anyone else concerned that the election is going to be decided by Bengals and Browns fans?****

Chicago by 5.5 over Detroit: The Pick - Bears

"I hear you need some help
cracking the Cover 2."
Like many of the league's more successful teams, the Lions have gone all-in on a pass heavy offense. Two problems with that this week: (1) the Bears defense has allowed just 5 touchdown passes while leading the league with 13 interceptions, and (2) the answer to the question, "how many touchdown passes has Matthew Stafford thrown this year?" is the same as the answer to "Roman Numeral 5, Section 3, Part Two of Subset D" . . . Four???. Might be time to bring in Kurt Vonnegut.

Last Week: 6-9 . . . Season: 40-50-2.

Endnotes

* Jay Cutler reportedly spent the bye week being generally annoyed by everyone and everything and was overheard on multiple occasions saying, "I'm so bored. There's nothing to do. This sucks."

** This really has less to do with changing the momentum and more to do with the fact that I'm playing golf at a very fancy place on Thursday and Friday and I don't want to be wondering whether Christian Ponder can cover a six point spread while my caddie and I are reading putts. (Question for the caddies out there - is there an appropriate tip increase per beer that I stash in my bag at the start of each 9 . . . kind of a sherpa fee?).

*** The NHL had cancelled 22 games through Sunday in case you were wondering what happened to Barry Melrose.

**** Regardless of how it turns out, Ravens fans are going to be catatonic by Christmas morning after a six week stretch of games that includes two against the Steelers, both Manning brothers and the Redskins whose fans we've been telling to go get their shine box for the last four years . . . only now they're back and RG, III is strumming the opening chords to Donovan's Atlantis on his guitar (geez, is there anything that guy can't do and, on a related note, was Matin Scorsese sitting around listening to some mellow Donovan one day and thought "hey, that would be a great song to play over a guy getting pistol-whipped"? I mean how do you get from here - Atlantis . . . to here - Bill Batts?).