I'm skipping the week 15 wrap up, because it's already Thursday. Let me just quickly say that:
the Eagles comeback was insane, the Pats look unbeatable, so do the Falcons, the Steelers better get Polamalu back for the playoffs or they're toast, the 6-10 Rams might host the 12-4 Saints in the Wildcard round, if you honestly believe Brett Favre's career is over then you are a moron, and the Lions have won 2 straight. For the week I went 7-9, so I'm 119-101-4, and 9-6 on the Lions.
Ok, here's the week 16 picks:
Panthers @ Steelers - Thursday night
Predicted Line: PIT by 14
Actual Line: PIT by 14
With Carolina on a magnificent one-game winning streak and Troy Polamalu resting his injured ankle, you might think I'm tempted to take the Panthers. But I'm not.
This is still a lousy rookie QB, on the road, against a defense with 6 Pro Bowlers. Pittsburgh is vulnerable to great offenses when Troy is out, but fortunately for them, Carolina is not a great offense. In fact, they might be one of the worst offenses of all time. And since Jonathan Stewart is a through-the-tackles back with no pass-catching ability, I expect him to rumble about 16 times for about 40 yards, while Jimmy Claussen goes 7-19 for 85 yards and 2 INTs. In short, Pittsburgh will only need 6 points to win this game. And I think they'll score in the 30s. They don't want to risk playing a first round playoff game for many reasons, not the least of which is Troy's ankle.
"Hoz come dem Stellers uronny up by turteen?"
"Cuz is'a firs quarter ... come ooof it."
"Oh my gaaawd, nuh-uh."
I'll take Pittsburgh 31- 3.
Cowboys (5-9) @ Cardinals (4-10)
Predicted Line: DAL by 7
Actual Line: DAL by 7
A pretty high spread for a road favorite, but Dallas is not a 5-9 team - they are more like a 10-4 team who didn't try for the first eight weeks. And Arizona is a 4-10 team which is actually more like a 1-13 team. Despite being just one game apart in the standings, these teams couldn't be more different from a talent perspective. 90% of the betting action is on Dallas. I'll take them too.
Patriots (12-2) @ Bills (4-10)
Predicted Line: NE by 8.5
Actual Line: NE by 9
Another heavy road favorite, and this one is more tricky. Buffalo tends to cover large spreads at home, and New England might not be fully focused as they prepare for the postseason. They need to secure homefield, so they won't rest any starters, but they know it only takes a 70% effort to beat the Bills.
The key to covering a 9 point spread is controlling the clock. Buffalo needs to run on New England and move the chains to keep it close. They just might be able to do that. Patriots rank 15th against the run. Their defense style is bend-but-don't-break. Ryan Fitzpatrick is sort of a covering fiend. I'll take the Bills ATS, but the Pats will win 31-24.
Jets (10-4) @ Bears (10-4)
Predicted Line: CHI by 1.5
Actual Line: CHI by 1
Two 10-4 teams which aren't nearly as good as their records indicate. Sadly, one of these jokes is going to be 11-4, and I guess I hope it's the Bears, though I can't say I've ever routed for Jay Cutler before. But Rex Ryan and his wall-forming, feet-loving, trash-talking egomaniacal bullcrap is probably my least favorite thing about the NFL right now. He's like the Sarah Palin of football. I just don't want to hear about him. Please make him go away.
It's going to be a snowy, low-scoring game between two mistake-prone quarterbacks and shaky running games. Both defenses are solid. Revis will shut down Knox; Peppers will pressure Sanchez. Predictably, both teams will kind of suck. Chicago probably eeks out a close game, 14-17.
Ravens (10-4) @ Browns (5-9)
Predicted Line: BAL by 5
Actual Line: BAL by 3.5
A win would clinch the playoffs for Baltimore and keep them in contention for a first round bye. Cleveland has nothing to play for after losing to the Bengals last week. Ravens have won the last 5 meetings, and I think it'll easily become 6.
I'm tempted to pick Cleveland to cover and hope Baltimore wins by a field goal, but I'll play it safe and take the favorite. Ravens 24-20.
Titans (6-8) @ Chiefs (9-5)
Predicted Line: KC by 7
Actual Line: KC by 5
My initial reaction: Why is this line so low?
But then I realized ... these teams are nearly identical. That they have such different records is just a reflection of the divisions they are in. Examine the similarities:
-Bad quarterbacks who are weirdly overrated
-Elite running backs with amazing speed
-Inconsistent receivers who sometimes have 3 TDs and sometimes have zero catches
-Average offensive lines with 1 or 2 studs
-Underrated stud DEs (Jason Babin on TEN, Tamba Hali on KC)
-Pretty good linebackers
-Lousy secondaries but one solid corner
Having already taken the favorite in the first five contests, I want to give Tennessee the benefit of the doubt. I think they'll keep this game close and possibly win outright. Jeff Fisher seems to have them refocused and they would love to ruin KC's season. I'll take the Titans.
49ers (5-9) @ Rams (6-10)
Predicted Line: STL by 3
Actual Line: STL by 2.5
Ah yes, the classic week 16 matchup between division rivals who are fighting for a playoff birth with combined records of 11-19. How riveting.
All season, St. Louis has been completely disrespected by Vegas, while San Fran has been completely overrated. This game is the culmination. How are they suggesting that the 49ers (without Frank Gore!) are the better team?? How egregiously irresponsible!
Without overthinking it, I'm going to take the Rams, 17-20. The line being 2.5 instead of 3 makes me feel even better about this pick.
If the Rams do win, it means 3 things:
1) Sam Bradford led his team to the playoffs as a rookie and secured the ROY which he probably already secured 3 weeks ago
2) Mike Singletary will be a defensive coordinator next year
3) San Fran will be taking a QB in April's draft. Probably either Mallet or Newton.
Lions (4-10) @ Dolphins (7-7)
Predicted Line: MIA by 4.5
Actual Line: MIA by 3.5
Aha! For the first time all year, Detroit gets respect from the oddsmakers!
And let's be honest, they deserve it. Two weeks in a row they've defeated potential playoff teams, and both wins were pretty legit. The defense is playing extremely well (11 sacks in the last 3 games) and the offense is finally using its greatest weapon (Megatron had 10 catches for 152 yards last week, one of his best career games) now that Drew Stanton is under center. Now, Shaun Hill should be back in the lineup, and that'll only make the offense better. No offense to Stanton - he did a nice job of competing - but Hill clearly has a better arm and a better understanding of the playbook.
Miami is sort of in a funk right now. They just got eliminated from the playoffs with a crushing home loss to Buffalo, and have to be contemplating their future with Chad Henne. He's suddenly looking very much like the inaccurate stiff he was at U of M. They've struggled to run the ball lately, largely due to the ineffectiveness of Brandon Marshall.
Defensively they rank 6th against the pass, 6th against the run, and 4th overall, while OLB Cameron Wake now leads the NFL in sacks with 14. You would think I'd be terrified of facing them, but for some reason I'm not. I certainly don't like Jeff Backus's chances of containing Wake around the corner, but I think Mo Morris is a solid blocker in the backfield and he'll get plenty of snaps. I should also be worried about corner Vontae Davis taking on Calvin (he's emerged as a legitimate lockdown CB), but I just don't believe anyone can guard Calvin outside of Revis and Asomugha. It's going to require double coverage, and I like the way Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew are playing lately. Call me crazy, call me a total kool-aid-drinking overreactor, but I think the Lions will win this game straight up.
And that's all I have to say about that.
Redskins (5-9) @ Jaguars (8-6)
Predicted Line: JAC by 6
Actual Line: JAC by 7
As a semi-closet-Colts fan, this game angers me. Jacksonville does not belong in the playoffs. And yet Mike Shanahan refuses to play his best quarterback and is essentially forfeiting this game. Rex Grossman is an idiot. I don't care how many TDs he threw in a loss. It was a loss. He's not a winner, and he's not going to win this game either. Ugh. I don't know if you've seen any interviews of Shanny explaining his decision to bench McNabb (here's one), but his mannerisms are eerily reminiscent of President GW Bush. The squint, the ramlbing, the condescending smile. It's incredible that this guy won 2 Super Bowls. This whole thing just doubles my respect for John Elway; how did he win multiple championships with that jackass calling the shots?
Anyhow, I'm not fooled by Grossman's solid statistical game last week. Stats mean nothing if your team never has a chance to win. Carson Palmer has put up solid stats all year. Grossman is not a winner, and to start him over McNabb is just plain vindictive and assinine. The funny thing is - I don't even like McNabb, and he's been terrible this year! If anything, start John Beck!
All that being ranted, I still don't like taking the Jags to cover by 7. They aren't a high-powered offense, and their secondary stinks. On top of that, they are 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games following a loss to the Colts. They tend to play the Colts like it's their Super Bowl, and then follow it up with a letdown. Not saying they'll lose to Grossman, but I think it'll be closer than 7. I'll take the Jags by 3, 23-20.
Colts (8-6) @ Raiders (7-7)
Predicted Line: IND by 3
Actual Line: IND by 3
Strange as it sounds, these teams are actually pretty evenly matched, except of course at the quarterback position. With Austin Collie going onto IR (joining Dallas Clark), Manning be once again be without a possession receiver. His running game has been horrendous all year (all decade?), and his top receiver will be erased by Nnamdi Asomugha. So basically ... either Pierre Garcon has a monster game, or Oakland hangs around and makes this a close game.
My bet is on the latter. Darren McFadden should be able to shred the league's 28th ranked rush defense, which will make live a lot easier for Jason Campbell, who doesn't usually fare too well against great pass rushers. The Colts of course have Freeney and Mathis, but don't get to unleash them too often because of the awful run defense. Maybe they oughta trade their 1st round pick for a 400 pound DT and fix their defense? Just a thought.
Of course, 87% of the betting action is on Indy. Because who honestly thinks the Raiders can beat Peyton Manning and the Colts? Logic says take the Raiders and the points, but experience says don't pick against Manning when it matters. I'll go with Indy.
Chargers (8-6) @ Bengals (3-11)
Predicted Line: SD by 8
Actual Line: SD by 7.5
I've heard a lot of ESPN Radio folks say over the past week "Kansas City has two home games, while San Diego has to win twice on the road..." as an argument for why the Chiefs will win the AFC West. But most of those folks have failed to mention that San Diego plays against Cincinnati and Denver, who are a combined 6-22, while the Chiefs play the Titans (6-8) and Raiders (7-7). Who really has the easier schedule to end the season? It's gotta be the Chargers.
This game promises to be disgusting. Ochocinco and TO are both sitting out with "injuries" and Carson Palmer will be throwing pick-sixes all over the place. Phillip Rivers probably only needs to throw 10 passes in this blowout. Chargers win 42-7.
Texans (5-9) @ Broncos (3-11)
Predicted Line: HOU by 3
Actual Line: HOU by 3
That's four exact lines., and six have been guessed within a point. Not bad at all.
It's painful to even think about this game. The only question keeping me from taking the Texans is: did they quit on Gary Kubiak last week? I honestly don't know. I'm leaning towards yes. Last week, two of their players fought each other during the loss to Tennessee. But still, can I raelly pick Denver, who might be without their entire offense (AKA Knowshon Moreno)? The bottom line is: can I really place my trust in Tim Tebow?!?
To cover a 3 point spread as a home dog against a team which might have quit ... Yes. I absolutely can. Broncos win 27-20.
Seahawks (6-8) @ Bucs (8-6)
Predicted Line: TB by 7
Actual Line: TB by 6
Once again, Josh Freeman shouldn't be favored by a touchdown. He's a comeback kid. And the Tampa defense is completely shredded. This line would be too high against any team other than Seattle.
However, the Seahawks are completely worthless when they have to travel to the East Coast. They're 1-8 in their last 9 East Coast games, and 13-28 overall on the road since 2006. If this line were a few points higher I'd take Seattle, but I like my chances with Tampa by 6.
Giants (9-5) @ Packers (8-6)
Predicted Line: GB by 1
Actual Line: GB by 3
I guessed the line assuming Rodgers will play (which it sounds like is a safe assumption), but still missed 2 points too low. Can't believe the public overreaction following the Giants collapse. They're still a great football team, and they won't have the "emotional letdown" everyone thinks they'll have. Green Bay has too many injuries, even if Rodgers plays, and is completely one-dimensional on offense. That dimension is passing. This game should be in the snow. The Giants can run the ball extremely well. Can you see where I'm going with this? The Giants should win. I'm taking them with relative confidence.
Vikings (5-9) @ Eagles (10-4)
Predicted Line: PHI by 13
Actual Line: PHI by 14
Oh man. I intentionally overguessed by 5 points (my first reaction was Eagles by 8), and I still shot too low. Guess the oddsmakers aren't big believers in Joe Webb, huh? Amazingly, 78% of the action is going on the Eagles to cover by two touchdowns.
I don't feel great about adding to that percentage. Adrian Peterson should be back in action, and Philly stinks against the run. This game should at least be somewhat close. Ish. Maybe Eagles by 10 or 13. But not 14. Heck, let's not forget that Leslie Frazier is a pretty stinking good coach, and the Vikings still have Jared Allen and Kevin Williams - two of the best defensive linemen in the NFC. This won't be the Michael Vick Cakewalk that you expect. I'll take Vikings and the points.
Saints (10-4) @ Falcons (12-2)
Predicted Line: ATL by 3.5
Actual Line: ATL by 2.5
Ouch. Major disrespect. Saints are the better team despite the Falcons' 12-2 record and 8 game winning streak?
It's still mathematically possible that Atlanta doesn't win the NFC South, but only if the Saints win this game and their next game, AND Atlanta would have to lose at home to Carolina. That's simply not going to happen. But it won't stop the Saints from trying.
This game has a pseudo-revenge factor after Atlanta beat the Saints in the Superdome thanks to a missed 19 yard field goal in OT. But remember, Matt Ryan is 99-2 at home or something like that, and Michael Turner is on a rampage. It's very hard not to pick Atlata. Especially with the line being less than 3. I'll take the Falcons, 30-27, in a preview of the NFC Championship game.
That's all I got. Go Lions.
And please cheer for my 5 fantasy teams which are playing in the Finals.
My QBs are Rodgers (x2), Vick (x2) and Josh Freeman.
My RBs include Jamaal Charles (x2), McFadden (x2), Blount (x2), and several others.
My WRs - A myriad of guys, but I've got Garcon and Andre Johnson thrice each.
My TEs - Celek, Boss, Moeaki, Cooley, and Tamme.
My DSTs - Miami (x2), Chargers, Steelers, and Bucs.
In 2 of the ESPN leagues, the championship is a two-week affair where they combine the scores from weeks 16 and 17. Weird, but kind of cool I guess.
Go Lions and Merry Christmas.