Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Week FIVE Picks and Predicts

It was a wonderful week four - I went 11-3 against the spread and am now sitting comfortably at 36-26 on the year. But it just took one quick glance at the week 5 schedule to realize that I'm about to be knocked off my perch. Almost every single game is going to be a tough call. I'm going to have to put some biases aside and make some really tough calls ... Let's start with the Lions game.

Rams @ Lions
Predicted Line: Lions by 2
Actual Line: Lions by 3

Truthfully, this might be the hardest game to call.

As I predicted earlier this week, Matthew Stafford will sit this game out, so it'll be up to Shaun Hill to lead the Lions to their first victory, against the team who only won one game last season. That game, coincidentally, was against Detroit.

In a lot of ways, these teams are mirror images of each other.

-Bad secondaries
-Bad offensive lines
-Good running backs
-Pretty good passing games
-Coaches who everyone thinks highly of, even though their head coaching records are 2-18 (Schwartz) and 3-17 (Spagnuolo).

St. Louis has a big advantage with Steven Jackson. He's the best player in this game, one of the best running backs in the league, and he routinely torments the Lions. But, the Lions haven't had a defensive lineman as good as Ndamukong Suh in ... well ...probably ever. .

Let's not overlook Jahvid Best; he might be in store for a huge, huge game. The Rams have not been able to stop the run all decade and they haven't made any major improvements. They have a pretty solid middle linebacker in James Laurinaitis, but not much else to brag about on defense.

Shaun Hill should be able to pick apart the secondary and linebackers with short passes and dumpoffs, just like he did last week. He should have lots of time to throw, which might mean a deep ball or two. Overall, there's no reason to think the Lions offense won't score at least 24 points, unless we beat ourselves with stupid turnovers and penalties, which is a definite possibility.

When the Rams have the ball, Detroit has to focus on Jackson and force Bradford to beat them. They've got to keep a safety (probably Delmas) near the line of scrimmage and leave just 3 men in coverage. That makes me nervous, not because Bradford is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback (yet), but because just about ANY quarterback can beat the Lions cornerbacks on deep routes.

We'll undoubtedly create some pressure and some havoc in the backfield; Gunther Cunningham loves to blitz against young and inexperienced quarterbacks. I've picked up the Lions defense in 7 of my 12 fantasy leagues, mostly because I own the Steelers defense in almost every league and they're on a bye.

But at the same time, while Detroit should rack up 4-5 sacks and 2-3 turnovers in this game, we'll probably give up at least 150 total yards to Jackson and allow at least 20 points.

This game could truly be a blowout in either direction; it could also be a shootout with both teams well into the 30s; and it could also be a snooze fest filled with punts. I really have no idea. These teams are so similar and both so void of talent, that I'm tempted to pick St. Louis simply because of an immense coaching advantage and because they've got confidence after 2 straight wins.

But then I think ... can the Rams really win 3 games in a row? Is that seriously possible?

And can the Lions really lose to the Rams 2 years in a row, and start out 0-5? If we lose this game, we won't get our first victory until week 10. I can't bear to imagine that happening.

I'm gonna go Lions by 3. Or hopefully more.

Jaguars (2-2) @ Bills (0-4)
Predicted Line: Jags by 2
Actual Life: Jags by 1

Okay, let's just get all the crap games out of the way first. I know Jacksonville is coming off a thrilling win over the Colts, but let's not overreact. They're abysmal on the road (5-14 over their last 19 games). They've been playing terribly all season. David Garrard has not looked good. And they put their heart and soul into that Colts game, and since 2002 they are 1-7 ATS as favorites following Colts games. Basically what that means is, after they play the Colts, they suck.

But speaking of suck ... I predicted Buffalo would go 0-16, and I really want to be consistent with that pick. I can't pick Buffalo to cover the spread since it's just 1 point; they have to win straight up.

My head tells me to definitely pick Jacksonville; but for some reason I just can't trust Jack Del Rio or David Garrard on the road. And really, what are the chances of Buffalo actually going 0-16? It's only happened once, ever. If they're going to get a win this season, this is their best chance. I'm gonna take Buffalo. And I hope to never say those words again.

Tampa Bay (2-1) @ Cincinnati (2-2)
Predicted Line: Bengals by 5.5
Actual Line: Bengals by 6.5

The line is a few points higher than I'd like it to be, but I'm still taking Cincinnati. There's just too much of a imbalance in talent.

Carson Palmer, or as I call him, the Secretly Terrible Carson Palmer (STCP), has shown this year that he can beat up on bad secondaries. He doesn't have the arm strength or the accuracy he had in 2005, but against Tampa's very bad defense he won't really need it. Not to mention that Bucs can't stop the run, and Cedric Benson, while overrated and also secretly terrible, is able to tout the ball 25 times without slowing down. Cincy will hang 28 points on Tampa easily.

It's going to be hard for Tampa to keep pace. The Bengals two best defenders are shutdown corners (Hall and Joseph) and that's why they are a top 10 defense against the pass. Tampa simply can't run the ball. So I think Josh Freeman will be stuck in a lot of 3rd and longs and that should lead to several turnovers and probably a pick-six.

I like the Bengals to win 34-17.

Falcons (3-1) @ Browns (1-3)
Predicted Line: Atlanta by 4
Actual Line: Atlanta by 3

So far I've picked all the lines within 1 point. That's pretty impressive. Let's see if I can keep that up.

This game is just atrociously difficult to pick. All common sense says "Pick the Falcons! All they have to do is win by 3!"

But Matt Ryan is a completely different quarterback outdoors. He's just not good on the road. And with Cleveland coming off a win and running the ball incredibly well, I have a hard time picking Atlanta, who would be 1-3 if:

- Garrett Hartley could make a 29 yard field goal;
- and Nate Clements just took a knee instead of galloping around like an idiot.

Two weeks in a row Atlanta has won solely thanks to the Goat of the Week. Now, it's entirely possible that Jake Delhomme could be this week's Goat. But I think it's more likely that Peyton Hillis continues to rumble and the Browns shock Atlanta, 20-13. But I'm not quite confident enough to make it the Upset of the Week.

Chiefs (3-0) @ Colts (2-2)
Predicted Line: Indy by 5.5
Actual Line: Indy by 8

Shoot, I was really hoping the Chiefs astonishing 3-0 start would skew this line down to 5 or less so I could take the Colts and make it a Lock. But eight points is a little steep. Especially given Indy's inability to stop the run, and Kansas City's two-headed running attack.

Don't misunderstand, I'm 100% sure Indy will win this game. Peyton Manning doesn't lose at home, he doesn't lose two in a row, and he doesn't lose to crappy teams. But I think KC can probably keep it within 8 points.... well, okay maybe not. If Indy jumps out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, which they probably will, then KC's going to have to abandon the run and let Matt Cassel throw ... which means, yeah, I'll take Indy +8. But I'm not excited about it.

Packers (3-1) @ Redskins (2-2)
Predicted Line: Green Bay by 3.5
Actual Line: Green Bay by 2.5

It seems that Vegas took note of the Packers' inability to run the ball, and gave them less than a field goal against Washington. But that doesn't make this an easy bet, because Washington is at home and coming off an emotional win at Philly.

Here's a bizarre stat for you, courtesy of

Since 1980, home dogs are 114-71 ATS when coming off a straight-up road win vs. a team coming off a home win.

So... Washington, being a home dog, has the odds in their favor to cover this spread. But I think that stat might be misleading in this case, because the spread isn't much of a factor at just 2.5 points. How many games are really decided by 3 or less? Maybe 20% at most?

I think Rodgers can pass on the Redskins secondary, and I don't think the running game will matter. I also think that one of Washington's biggest weaknesses is pass protection, and Clay Matthews will put pressure on McNabb all game long. I like the Packers, but again, I can't make it the Lock of the Week because of the whole 'home dog' thing.

Bears (3-1) @ Panthers (0-4)
Predicted Line: Bears by 3
Actual Line: Bears by 2.5

What the line should be: Panthers by 1.5.

Chicago is not a good team; they are not well-coached and they have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Jay Cutler is a below-average quarterback. And Chicago's defense, while bolstered by the addition of Julius Peppers, is average at best.

I will pick Carolina because I don't think they can start the season 0-5, and I don't think they'll lose 3 straight home games. Big game coming for both Panthers running backs, and Jimmy Claussen will get his first NFL win despite only throwing for 120 yards.

Bonus question - how many sacks does Peppers get in his Carolina homecoming? I'll put the over/under at 1.5 and guess the under.

Broncos (2-2) @ Ravens (3-1)
Predicted Line: Baltimore by 7
Actual Line: Baltimore by 7

I love when I guess the line exactly.

This is another tough call because lately Kyle Orton looks like the second coming of John Elway, and he's beaten the spread now 3 weeks in a row. You'd think no team would be getting more than 7 points against the suddenly lethal Broncos offense. But alas, betters are still giving no love to Denver, and neither is Vegas. More than 70% of the action for this game is for Baltimore.

Right now, Kyle Orton is on pace to throw for 5,676 yards, which would shatter the NFL record. Obviously that's not going to happen. But it's weird to think about. Baltimore is nearly impossible to run against, but that should worry pass-happy Denver. Ed Reed is still out (he should be back in 2-3 weeks) so expect Orton to have another field day of 300+ yards. And the Ravens offense hasn't piled points up on anyone except Cleveland, and Denver's defense is probably better than Cleveland's. I think the Ravens probably get the win, but 7 points is too high. I'll go with Denver to cover.

Giants (2-2) @ Texans (3-1)
Predicted Line: Houston by 5
Actual Line: Houston by 3

This is the weirdest line of the week; Houston giving 3 points means Vegas sees these teams as equal. (Home-field advantage equates to a 3 point swing). I know the Giants are coming off a monstrous win, but are they really considered equals with Houston, who started the season by beating the Colts pretty handedly? My only rationale is this line reflects the chance that Andre Johnson does not play. But he is listed as questionable, not doubtful.

That said, this isn't an easy pick. New York is hot and Houston has the league's worst secondary, at least statistically speaking. Eli Manning should have a big day and the Giants offense should be able to pass and run at will. This game is going to be high-scoring just like most Houston games.

Assuming Andre doesn't play, I think New York has slightly more firepower and actually wins this game outright. If it turns out Andre does play, I'll probably be wrong. But I think he won't play. 'Gametime decision' is secret coach code for 'F.U. fantasy players.'

Saints (3-1) @ Cardinals (2-2)
Predicted Line: Saints by 6
Actual Line: Saints by 7

OK, a couple quick things right off the bat:

1) New Orelans would be 4-0 if their kicker could make an extra point;
2) Arizona is probably the worst 2-2 team in NFL history;
3) Undrafted rookie Max Hall from BYU gets the start at quarterback this week for Arizona;
4) Drew Brees is a top 5 overall player in the NFL;

I am a little tenative to pick the Saints to cover a 7 point spread on the road. As I mentioned last week, Sean Peyton doesn't like to run up the score and usually fails to cover touchdown-or-more spreads. But in this case, I don't think the Saints can help but score 40 points. Arizona's defense is just inept; they gave up a near perfect game to Phillip Rivers last week (QB rating was like 148) and Brees is just a notch better than Rivers. I don't think Brees can help but compile a game like: 26-34, 325 yards, 4 TDs. I wish the best for Max Hall, but this game, his first career start, is not going to be enjoyable.

Saints +7. Make it the Lock of the Week.

Chargers (2-2) @ Raiders (1-3)
Predicted Line: SD by 6
Actual Line: SD by 6.5

Almost a mirror image of the previous pick - road team favored by a touchdown. In this case, I expect the opposite result.

Oakland is a better team than Arizona, and San Diego is worse than New Orleans. These lines being nearly identical doesn't make sense.

Nnamdia Asomugha will do his cover corner thing and take Malcolm Floyd out of the game plan, which means another big game for Rivers-to-Gates. Ryan Matthews is finally healthy and will get his shot at 20+ carries against a crappy run defense. For those of you who drafted Matthews in the second round of fantasy leagues, two comments:

1) I told you not to, and you should have listened;
2) This is the week he redeems himself a little.

I think San Diego wins outright, but I don't feel good about this line. I'll take Oakland -6.5.

Titans (2-2) @ Cowboys (1-2)
Predicted Line: Dallas by 3
Actual Line: Dallas by ... 7?

Wow. How does a one-win team get favored by a touchdown? I guess Vegas is still enamored with the Cowboys. Can't blame them - their roster is stacked with talent. But so far this season, all we've seen is dysfunction. They can't run the ball, they can't protect Romo, and they make too many stupid mistakes. Are we to believe they corrected all of those things during the bye week, despite having one of the stupidest coaches in the NFL?

I just don't know. Am I missing something? I thought the general assumption was that the Titans are really good. Maybe losing to Denver last week made people think less of them. I still am not crazy about Vince Young, but against a 7 point spread I'll go with the Titans.

Eagles (2-2) @ 49ers (0-4)
Predicted Line: Philly by 2
Actual Line: 49ers by 3.5

WHAT? San Francisco is favored? Even though they are 0-4? Do people really hate Kevin Kolb that much!?!

I can't believe this. I was all set to pick the Niners with the Upset of the Week. I thought Philly would be favored by at least a field goal. I can't believe the 49ers are favored. Dang. This puts a corkscrew in all my plans.

But I'm still taking San Fran. I think this game will actually be uncompetitive. The Eagles can't stop the run; Frank Gore will be a monster. Kevin Kolb is rattled and his teammates don't trust him; on top of that, the Eagles offensive line has two problems:

1) They're not very good. They gave up like 6 sacks to the Lions.
2) They're used to blocking for Vick, and now they have stand-still Kolb.

I'm shocked by this line, but only shocked because of how smart a line it is. I figured I had Vegas totally outsmarted. I guess not. Either way, I'm taking San Francisco. I think they'll still win the NFC West.

Vikings (1-2) @ Jets (3-1)
Predicted Line: Jets by 3.5
Actual Line: Jets by 4

Pick your storyline: Favre against his old team, or Moss against Revis Take II.

Or is this the battle of a 40 year old quarterback on the decline against a 24 year old kid on the rise?

Or, a battle of the greatest running back of the last 10 years versus the greatest running back of right now?

Add it all up and you have one heck of a Monday nighter.

Quick thoughts on the Moss trade from someone who drafted Moss with the 14th overall pick:

-Love the fact that Moss is now the only player in the NFL who doesn't have a bye. He'll play a 17 game season. Too bad he went without a catch last week, otherwise that could mean something.
-Think the Patriots will be just fine. Maybe even better. And I think they'll develop Brandon Tate into a must-start fantasy player.
-Pretty excited to have picked up Tate in 7 of my 12 leagues.
-Not too worried about Moss's value. I think he loses a few touchdowns but probably gets the same yardage.
-Really glad that I don't own Harvin or Shiancoe in any significant leagues.

All that said, I hate the fact that Moss is matched up with Revis for the second time in four weeks. But I can't bench him. Especially with Revis somewhat hurt.

Can't wait to watch this game. And since I can't pick the strangely favored 49ers as my Upset pick, I'm going to have to take Minnesota to win outright as the Upset of the Week.

The Jets are going to miss Kris Jenkins in this game. Big game for AP.

Don't have time to make any fantasy picks or predictions because honestly it's Friday and Jack has an ear infection. Lots going on. But I will give a few bonus college picks:

Michigan OVER MSU
Alabama OVER S.Car by at least three touchdowns
#12 LSU OVER #14 Florida
Upset Special : USC OVER #16 Stanford


  1. we apparently should both avoid college footbal...

  2. brutal week in the nfl too
    5-8 so far with a monday nighter to go