Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Week 16 NFL Picks

I hate losing and that makes this process of picking NFL games especially demoralizing because I have now lost 114 times in 15 weeks (it actually may be 115 times but somewhere along the way I screwed-up the mathematical mountain climb that is adding a pair of two digit numbers together and the result is that I missed a game in my total count. The sad part is that it happens every year). That means that, about eight times per week, I watch the scores roll-in and think, "I'm an idiot" which may or may not be true but I don't need it proven to me in the harsh fashion of a 30-0 Bengals win over a Browns team that looked like it was being quarterbacked by the kid from Lincoln High as soon as he realized that his body would be paying for the damage to Charles Jefferson's car.

Well, if we're going to go down in flames, might as well do it with our boots on and crank-out some good old fashioned FGR gibberish for each game. Besides, we only have two more full weeks to botch football picks before we turn our attention to botching golf picks.    

Jacksonville by 3 over Tennessee: The Pick - Jaguars

The Jags cheerleaders should get
a lot of airtime to distract us from
the travesty on the field.
There are three and only three reasons you should find yourself watching this game: (1) You have somehow painted yourself into the fantasy football corner of still playing for something while having to rely on the services of a 231 pound white running back; (2) You are in college playing-out the string of the fall semester and you need something on in the background as you get pre-drunk before leaving the house, dorm, etc.; or (3) You poor bastard . . . you are actually a Jags or Titans fan clinging to the hope that your team will do the right thing by laying down these last two weeks thereby landing the first or second overall pick in the draft. Then again, the carnage that is the recent history of first round picks* by these two teams is pretty frightening so be careful what you wish for.

San Francisco by 2.5 over San Diego: The Pick - Chargers

Twenty-three months ago, Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick were one play away from winning the Super Bowl. Now they appear to be one play away from jumping in a car and going on a multi-state killing spree like Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis. Meanwhile, if the Chargers lose this week, it will be there fourth streak of either winning or losing at least three times in row. Based on that I should probably go the other way but I firmly believe that Harbaugh is trying to stick it to owner Jed York knowing that he can dump the rest of the season and still have his pick among any of the four or five worst coaching jobs in football next year. You know it's bad when the rest of the competition for your services has to convince you why they're a better option than the Jets.    

Philadelphia by 9 at Washington: The Pick - Eagles

This game features two quarterbacks who are likely auditioning for starting jobs elsewhere next year. And by "elsewhere," I mean Canada.  

Miami by 6.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings

Since 2011, the Dolphins have gone 6-10, 7-9 and 8-8. With two more wins this year, they will finish 9-7, their four year climb to above averageness will be complete and Joe Philbin's work here will be done.

Green Bay by 10.5 at Tampa Bay: The Pick - Packers

In the most recent MMQB, Peter King pointed-out that this week Aaron Rodgers "goes to a place that has not been good to him. At all." I immediately pictured a strip club brawl but then King elaborated that "Rodgers has played there twice, in 2008 and 2009. Lost twice. Completed 50 percent of his throws in the two games with four touchdowns and six picks, and a 54.6 rating at the Pirate Ship." I guess he added the part about the pirate ship because Rodgers is afraid of pirates? What King fails to mention as part of his analysis is that (a) 2008 and 2009 were Rodgers' first two seasons as a starter and (b) those games were five and six years ago so the Bucs probably have like a whole bunch of different players on their team now. In a related story, I'm starting to worry about Peter King because reading the MMQB has become a lot like talking to my mother in-law about baseball. Disorienting.  

Detroit by 7 at Chicago: The Pick - Lions

It just never gets old.
(At least not for me).
Just after halftime of the Monday night game against the Saints, the camera settled on Jay Cutler who was sitting on the bench wearing a ski hat and a facial expression that fell somewhere between "I honestly don't give a shit about anything right now" and "I have a mild yet annoying itch near my butthole." The score at the time was 14-0 Saints and it would soon grow to be 24-0 before the Bears finally scored in the fourth quarter. When you factor in his 2014 contract that includes $54M guaranteed and cap hits of $16.5M in 2015 and $17M in 2016, isn't Cutler currently the worst quarterback in the league? (Put your hand down Colin Kaepernick, you still need another season's worth of non-quality starts to be eligible).

New Orleans by 6 over Atlanta: The Pick - Saints

The winner of this game will become the heavy favorite to take the division and earn the potential privilege of hosting Seattle as a two touchdown underdog in the first round of the playoffs. This just isn't Roger Goodell's year.

New England by 10 at N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Jets

We've got two more games left in the Rex Ryan era and I would not be at all surprised to see the Jets pull-off an upset over the Pats because the one thing that Rex never lost was the ability to motivate his players which is just further proof that he is the bizarro Marc Trestman.

Pittsburgh by 3 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs

The AFC North has spent most of the season pounding on the tomato cans from the AFC South and the NFC South and the result is three teams at the top with nine wins each. That changes this week as the Steelers host the Chiefs who need this game to stay in the playoff chase and the Bengals host the Broncos who still have a shot at the top seed but, more importantly, don't want to get caught by the Colts for the second seed. Considering the significance of this game and the coaches and quarterbacks on each side, I'm probably hoping against hope with this pick.

Carolina by 4 over Cleveland: The Pick - Panthers

If I were a Browns fan (and I thank my lucky stars that I am not), I would be especially troubled by Johnny Manziel's inauspicious debut as a starter for a couple of reasons: (1) He appears to have the arm strength of a high school quarterback which would explain why he fell to 22nd in the first round of the draft but (and read this part sarcastically) I'm sure the Browns' scouts thoroughly vetted that; and (2) the Browns history of drafting quarterbacks ain't the best in the business. Let's do a quick review:

1999: They draft Tim Couch first overall. It then takes five years to figure-out he sucks.

2004: Apparently still happy with their QB situation, the Browns pass on Ben Roethlisberger with the 6th overall pick and take Kellen Winslow, Jr. instead.

2005: They decide that quarterback is more of a luxury than a need so they pass on Aaron Rodgers in the first round and take Charlie Frye in the third.

2007: The Browns get the steal of the draft by catching Brady Quinn who fell to the 22nd pick in the first round. Clearly they knew something the rest of the league didn't. Then they learn that bad quarterbacks are bad no matter where you get them in the draft. (Hey, that's the same pick they used to get Manziel . . . shhhhhhhhh).

2008: Coming-off a 2007 season when they went 10-6 led most of the way by Derek Anderson, things were looking-up and, with so much depth at quarterback, there was no need to look at Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco in the first round.

"You mean I forgot to mention that I
turned 28 last month? Wow. Sorry."
2010: Patience pays-off again for the Browns who get another "steal" with Colt McCoy in the third round. McCoy is now a backup for the Redskins, his third team in five years.

2012: Back in the market, the Browns make a lowball offer to the Rams for the #2 pick which is rejected and for once their ineptitude pays-off as that pick turns into the train wreck that is RG, III. Unfortunately for the Browns, they dodged the falling safe by jumping in front of a bus in the form of Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick. Weeden is now a backup for the Cowboys which is clearly foreshadowing considering how much Jerry Jones wanted to draft Johnny Manziel in the first place.

Baltimore by 5.5 at Houston: The Pick - Ravens

The flip side of the Steelers and the Bengals having relatively tough match-ups this week is the Ravens going to Houston to face either Thad Lewis who was signed by the Texans off the street on November 24th or Case Keenum who was signed off the Rams' practice squad last week. (Note that being a quarterback on the Rams' practice squad is like being an alternate on the Bolivian luge team). Then again, Texans coach Bill O'Brien is refusing to name his starter until kick-off meaning that there is an outside shot it could end-up being J.J. Watt which, as a Ravens fan, I find terrifying.  

St. Louis by 5 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Rams

The Rams proved last week that beating two members of the Downtrodden Six (Jags, Jets, Raiders, Redskins, Titans and Bucs) by a combined score of 76-0 has no momentum value whatsoever when your next game is against one of the other twenty-two or so teams in the league who have a clue. Entering that game against Arizona, they probably figured they only needed 13 points to win and they came up with 6. This week they return to their gene pool against the Giants who are coincidentally coming-off their own three game stretch against the D-Six which included a home loss to the Jaguars. That puts the Giants in the NFL netherworld of teams that are right on the line between watchable and unwatchable along with the Bears, Browns and the entire NFC South. This feels like a game where Eli throws a lot of picks and makes a lot of faces.

Buffalo by 6 at Oakland: The Pick - Bills

The Bills' defense ended my fantasy football season by pulling an absolute stymie job on Aaron Rodgers last week. They are therefore dead to me and will garner no further commentary.

Dallas by 3 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Colts

I have been clinging to my core belief that a team coached by Jason Garrett and quarterbacked by Tony Romo will revert to its true mediocre self over the course of a sixteen game season. However, if they can beat a quality opponent like the Colts in a game with their division winning hopes on the line, that belief will begin to crack which could force me to rethink all kinds of things like whether an Andy Reid coached team could hold a fourth quarter lead in a big game or Matthew Stafford could beat a good team on the road.

Seattle by 8 at Arizona: The Pick - Seahawks

Bruce Arians: "For the love of
God someone tell him to wipe
that f---ing smile off his face!"
The Cardinals are 11-3 and an 8 point underdog at home. I'm pretty sure that's never happened before but then again, I'm also pretty sure that a quarterback with seven career interceptions and no career touchdown passes has ever started for an 11-3 team against the defending Super Bowl champion before. You have to figure that the final spread on this game is going to be the number of points the Seahawks can score minus three so I'm betting the Seahawks can score more than eleven.

Denver by 3.5 at Cincinnati: The Pick - Broncos

Andy Dalton on national television with his team's playoff hopes on the line? Come on.

Endnotes

* God love Gil Brandt because he will always be the Godfather of NFL scouting but the man is 81 years old and recently wrote of the Jags' needs in the upcoming draft, "they took care of quarterback . . . in the last draft." Apparently his definition of "took care of" is "continued to set the position back 20 years" because Blake Bortles is currently ranked 30th in QBR and, when he played in Baltimore last Sunday, he triggered a series of Kyle Boller flashbacks in Ravens fans that had us involuntarily screaming, "THE LINEBACKER IS NOT YOUR FRIEND . . . RUN THE OTHER WAY . . . RUN!!!"

Last Week's Record: 8-8 . . . Season Record: 107-114-2

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