Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Week 17 NFL Picks

I am an entertainment snob and the age of podcasts, TiVo and On Demand have allowed me to take that snobbery to a whole new level. At this point, if you're coming at me through the television or the radio, you better be (a) smart and (b) funny (and being unintentionally funny like the Fox and Friends morning show doesn't count).* And no commercials. Especially not radio commercials which I have had an utter disdain for since my days of listening to Howard Stern and the Greaseman on DC101 and trying to comprehend what a "treatment center" was.** As a result of these basic yet strict criteria, you will rarely hear anything in my car other than commercial free podcasts of the Tony Kornheiser Show (with a little Scott Van Pelt and Colin Cowherd mixed in for variety) or Sirius' Lithium channel because, like many 40 something white guys, my musical taste stopped evolving in the early 90's with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"Well I can't go back to terrestrial
radio now! I can't! I won't!"
This preamble brings me to yesterday when I was tasked with taking the FGW's retro-mobile*** to get its emissions checked which has become one of those things that is simply not within her realm of accomplishable tasks (like taking the kids to the dentist would be for me . . . or buying more than five things at the grocery store . . . or wrapping Christmas presents . . . or . . . you get the picture). Here is what I learned from listening to about two hours of Baltimore midday sports talk radio:

(a) With a better offensive line, Joe Flacco would be a top five quarterback (I'm assuming the caller meant top five in the NFL but he didn't mention if Flacco would take the spot of Rodgers, Manning, Brady, Brees or Ryan so I'm not sure . . . for the record, he is currently 24th in ESPN's QBR between Jake Locker and Christian Ponder), (b) we would have more NBA fans in the area if Baltimore had an NBA team (I can't argue with that unless that NBA team was the Wizards) and (c) the Chicago Bulls just aren't the same team without the injured Derrick Rose. That last nugget deserves a little extra attention because it came from the host of the show who felt the need to tell his listeners that the Bulls would be better this year with their starting point guard who also happened to be the 2010-11 league MVP than without him. At that point I decided to drive in silence, just total fuckin' silence.

"Two can play at that
game smart guy."
Let's crank-out the last 16 games of the 256 freakin' game schedule (note to self: don't agree to pick every game next year). Last week's 8-8 record means I need to close with a 12-4 to hit .500 for the season. There are two motivating factors at work this week: (a) the playoffs and (b) the desire of a team to send its lame duck head coach off into the sunset with a win. We seem to have an unprecedented amount of the latter this season. Some of these games are going to get limited attention because frankly, that is all they deserve.

Buffalo by 3.5 over the N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Bills

The Bills made a commitment to defense in the off-season figuring that they were set with Ryan Fitzpatrick running the show on offense. (You never want to start with a faulty premise). The result was an offense that ranked 20th in scoring and a defense that ranked 31st to go along with a turnover differential of -14. And if you hold the Bills up to a mirror, you get the Jets who are ranked 30th in scoring on offense and 20th on defense with a turnover differential of -13. It's close but at this point I think I'd rather be a Bills fan because at least I'd know I'm rooting for a team led by Fitzpatrick next year so my disappointment floor is basically set whereas that floor for Jets fans is on a mine shaft elevator.

New England by 10 over Miami: The Pick - Patriots

The Patriots have a shot at the #1 or #2 seed depending on what the Texans and Broncos do on Sunday but of greater importance to them should be trying to work-off the late season stink after losing at home to the Niners and mailing-in last week's win at Jacksonville. But hey, Gronk is coming back and Tom Brady is soooooo good that their timing should get right back in sync. I mean he hasn't won four Super Bowls since 2003 for nothing (what? how many? zero? really? hmm).

Cincinnati by 2.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Bengals

The Ravens are talking a big game about going all out for the win but they're really banged-up and if John Harbaugh could pull a Gregg Popovich (NBA reference alert) and have the same eleven practice squad players go the whole sixty minutes, he'd do it (and I know that NFL teams don't have eleven practice squad players but work with me here). The Bengals are the young team that needs to convince themselves that they belong in the playoffs and they'd be doing the Ravens a favor if they took out the Patriots in the first round so don't be surprised if you see Ed Reed giving A.J. Green a few pointers on the way back to the huddle.

Houston by 6.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Texans

In case you're looking for the annual high seed headed for a premature playoff exit, check-out the Texans who have been outscored 160-150 over their past six games which have included the Jags, Titans and Lions. Due to the aforementioned seeding scenarios, however, the Texans need this game more than the Colts who are already locked into the #5 seed.

Tennessee by 4 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Titans

We're all a bit skeptical about a
future that involves Mike
Munchak and Jake Locker.
A battle between two teams paying for their decisions to reach for a quarterback in the 2011 draft. In hindsight, Jake Locker at no. 8 and Blaine Gabbert at no. 10 seem absurd and that's before you consider that 2012 defensive player of the year, J.J. Watt, went to the Texans at no. 11 (ouch) and then Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick went at nos. 35 and 36 (ouch, ouch . . . would you please stop doing that?!?!). Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any relief in sight because, despite their top ten positions in the 2013 draft, there are no quarterbacks rated that high. Then again, that didn't stop them before.

N.Y. Giants by 7.5 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Eagles

The Giants are the NFL's version of an overfed lion. Wake them up next year when they're hungry again. Projected 2013 landing spot for Michael Vick in order of likelihood: (1) Arizona, (2) Buffalo, (3) Jacksonville.

Washington by 3 over Dallas: The Pick - Cowboys

The only game of the weekend that could be truly do or die for both teams (the Redskins still have an outside chance to make the playoffs if they lose). There are so many factors going in the Redskin's favor that this just feels like a trap. For example, they've only turned the ball over five times during their six game winning streak despite the fact that their quarterback is a fumble waiting to happen. On the other side, you have the Cowboys who have played one of the toughest schedules in the league this year including five non-division road games against teams that will or probably will make the playoffs (Seattle, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta and Cincinnati). Maybe I've been watching too many kids movies over the holidays but I just get the feeling that Tony Romo (who has been playing out of his mind lately) finally comes up big when it counts and overcomes all of the other things the Cowboys tend to do to blow big games which will be a shame because it could cost us RG, III v. Russell Wilson in round 1 of the playoffs.

New Orleans by 5.5 over Carolina: The Pick - Panthers

I've been saying for a few weeks that Cam Newton is going to pose and preen his way to 6-10 for the second straight season and one more loss makes that happen. Nice touch bumping the ref last week. Didn't see that in any of his Play 60 commercials. Stay classy Auburn.

Pittsburgh by 3.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

This is one of two games that is currently off the board so I'm making-up my own line. I'd like to say I have mixed emotions about the Steelers not making the playoffs but there is nothing mixed about them. It just makes me happy. Not euphoric happy like making a hole in one but more like that feeling you get on the first day of vacation when you sit down at the airport bar after clearing security.

Chicago by 3 over Detroit: The Pick - Bears
"Don't sweat it kid. You'll get there."

It's the master of the art of back-foot passing your way to being a borderline playoff team against the protégé. Matthew Stafford made great strides this year but he's not quite there yet. Jay Cutler will show him how it's done this Sunday with a vintage two pick-two TD performance in an ugly 17-13 win.

Green Bay by 3 over Minnesota: The Pick - Packers

Just the fact that Adrian Peterson has almost single handedly carried the Vikings to within a win of making the playoffs should be enough to win him the MVP. Look at it this way. Christian Ponder has thrown the ball 455 times for 2,701 yards (5.94 yards per attempt) and Peterson has carried the ball 314 times for 1,898 yards (6.0 yards per attempt). I don't care whether they make the playoffs or not. If you take A.P. off that team, they might win two games.

Atlanta by 8.5 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Falcons

How do we not see it coming every time? Young team led by former drill sergeant college coach races out to a fast start and everyone talks about how all they needed was a little discipline. Then they lose a couple close games and we get the inevitable "can we send these coaches back to college?" quote from the locker room proving it's a fine line between Jimmy Johnson and Nick Saban.

Denver by 16 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs

Last week the Chiefs somehow managed to rush for 352 yards and only scored one touchdown. It seems almost mathematically impossible that you could cover three and a half football fields in sixty minutes and only run into the endzone once until you introduce the words "Brady Quinn" into the equation. Despite that, I actually like a Chiefs' cover here in honor of Romeo's departure.

San Diego by 8 over Oakland: The Pick - Chargers

"A 7-9 record for me? You
guys shouldn't have."
I'm sure the Chargers wanted a more fitting tribute to Norv Turner like blowing a home playoff game but it was not meant to be this year. They'll just have to settle for containing Sebastian Janikowski and sending Norv off in style to his new gig as offensive coordinator for the Jets.

San Francisco by 16.5 over Arizona: The Pick - 49ers

Let's put it this way. The Seahawks trashed Patrick Willis' car last week which means that the Cardinals and Brian Hoyer are in for this - Die Ridgemont.

Seattle by 10.5 over St. Louis: The Pick - Seahawks

I can't wait to see what kind of sneaky Doug Niedermeyer crap Pete Carroll pulls this week. Maybe a fake extra point when he's up by 24 in the fourth quarter. Hate him or dislike him, that guy is great for the league.

Last Week's Record: 8-8 . . . Season Record: 113-121-6

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Endnotes

* Please do not misconstrue this to be some kind of political statement as I am sure that all morning talk shows are equally as inane. Fox and Friends just happens to be the one that's on in the kitchen at my office in the morning. As it plays in the background, I often find myself staring at the coffee machine and wondering which is dripping-out faster, the coffee or my IQ.

"No seriously I'm lost . . .
where's the nav screen?"
** My favorite line was "I used to get high because the Orioles won . . . and then I'd get high because the Orioles lost." Even as a kid, I remember thinking that this guy's first step to recovery should be to stop rooting for a team with a 162 game season.

*** No satellite radio, no iPod jack and no SD card slot. I felt like I was driving a freakin' Studebaker.