Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Week 16 Picks

this week:
9-6-1 against the spread
9-7 straight up

125-106-9 ATS (54.1%)
160-80 SU (66.6%)

Lions clinched the freaking playoffs!

Texans (10-4) @ Colts (1-13) - Thursday
Predicted Line: HOU by 6.5
Actual Line: HOU by 5.5

This line is a solid 4 points lower than where it should be, thanks to the Colts unexpected win last week against Tennessee. Now it's all the rage to talk about the Colts possibly losing the #1 pick to St. Louis. It sounds cool, but if you do the number-crunching it's actually pretty much impossible. In order for that to happen, the Colts would have to win not only this game, but the next game as well. That would be an 0-13 team winning 3 straight with Dan Orlovsky. Really??

What the guys at ESPN don't want to mention is that in the event of a three-way tie at 2-14, Indy would hold the tie-breaker over St. Louis and Minnesota (strength of schedule), and would get the #1 pick regardless. So unless Indy actually somehow wins this game, let's put off the talk about the Rams deciding whether to draft Luck.

Despite the trend of home teams dominating on Thursdays, I think Houston is going to bounce back with a vengeance. Their defense is way better than people realize. And Indy isn't going to get another fluky 80 yard run from Donald Brown. I'll take the Texans by 14.

Lions (9-5) @ Chargers (7-7) - 4:15pm
Predicted Line: DET by 2.5
Actual Line: DET by 2.5

Let's just jump right into it. I have absolutely no confidence in this game, having watched Phillip Rivers destroy the Ravens D last week. He's playing incredibly right now, with a QB rating of 132 over the last 3 weeks. That's 7 TDs, 0 picks, a 75% completion percentage, and one of those games was against the league's best defense. With the way Detroit's defense looked last week, overpursuing and missing tackles and giving up big plays to chumps like Marcel Reese and Darius Heyward-Bey, I don't have any idea how we'll stop Rivers and Vincent Jackson and Gates and Floyd. On top of that, Gunther Cunningham's decision to employ the increasingly popular but never effective 'wide nine' is completely insane, because our pass rush hasn't actually improved, but now teams are running the ball all over us with ease.

Hopefully Stafford and Calvin can pull off another miracle comeback, but I don't have good feelings about this one. San Diego is probably the one team I least want to play against this week. I'm going to have to say Bolts win 33-26.

So with that, let's look at the Lions' playoff chances. First off, I'm going to assume we lose week 17 in Lambeau, just to make this simpler.

-Atlanta could also lose 2 straight and be 9-7, but they beat us head-to-head, so they own that tiebreaker.

-Chicago could win two straight and also be 9-7; the head-to-head is a tie, but then Chicago wins the divisional record tiebreaker.

-In the NFC East, a 9-7 split between Dallas and the Giants is possible, in which case New York has the tiebreaker over Dallas and forces Dallas to be the Wildcard option, and we beat Dallas head-to-head so we own that tiebreaker.

-In the NFC West, Arizona or Seattle could finish 9-7, but not both because they play each other week 17. If Arizona did, we'd own the tiebreaker for record against common opponents; if Seattle did, they'd beat us for strength of victory tiebreaker.

So, even if the Lions lose 2 straight, the only way we could NOT make the playoffs would be if either Chicago or Seattle won their last two games. At least I'm pretty sure that's how it works.

But THEN ... there are some three-team tiebreakers in case Detroit is tied with two teams at 9-7, and in those scenarios, we lose to Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and Seattle, but beat Arizona. So, we could potentially be screwed if that happens.

So we need Chicago, Seattle, Arizona, Dallas and the Giants to all lose, just to be safe.

Giants (7-7) @ Jets (8-6)
Predicted Line: NYJ by 3
Actual Line: NYJ by 3

Two bumbling, perennially-disappointing franchises with mistake-prone QBs and surprisingly leaky defenses. Both have their share of elite players on both sides of the ball, but both make too many mistakes and play too inconsistently to be anything other than first-round fodder. This game is huge for both teams, and really for the entire league. Despite Rex Ryan's trash talk tirade, I see the Giants as the better team, with the better coach and the significantly better quarterback. Sure, Revis will shut down Nicks and the Giants are really struggling to stop the run ... but I just don't feel good about Mark Sanchez giving 3 points on a neutral-field to a good team. I'll take Giants by 3.

Vikings (2-12) @ Redskins (5-9)
Predicted Line: WAS by 3
Actual Line: WAS by 6.5

With Peterson finally healthy, the Vikings are poised to win this game big. Washington's only perceivable strength is the pass rush, and a great pass rush is neutralized by a great running back. Ponder has been struggling lately, but this is his game to get back on track against 8-in-the-box. Rex Grossman should be able to score some points on the awful Vikings back seven, but I expect the Vikings to grind it out, dominate time of possession, and win easily, 26-16.

Bucs (4-10) @ Panthers (5-9)
Predicted Line: CAR by 5
Actual Line: CAR by 7.5

Remember when the Bucs upset the Saints to move into a tie atop the division at 4-2? Yikes. They have since managed to lose 8 straight games, none of which has been closer than 6 points. Other than Gerald McCoy, the Bucs haven't really lost any key players to injuries, so it's safe to say they really are as bad as their record indicates. Raheem Morris went from a rising star to a guy who could be coordinating in the NCAA soon.

The Panthers are headed in the other direction. This is a lot of points, but I just don't see Tampa putting forth much effort this late in the season. I'll say Panthers by at least 14.

Rams (2-12) @ Steelers (10-4)
Predicted Line: PIT by 13.5 (Roethlisberger might not play)
Actual Line: None

The line was set at 16.5 for a couple days, but then removed. I'm going to use that line, because my hunch is that Ben will play, not because the Steelers need him to beat the Rams, but because they want to enter the playoffs playing their best, not limping. With Kellen Clemens starting for the Rams, it sure makes sense to take the favorites and the large spread. But the Steelers are 0-4 trying to cover huge spreads this year; the reality is, they just don't have a killer offense and the defense is a slower, older version of its prior self, and with more holes. Plus, their best O-lineman is out. So I'll take the points. Why not. Pittsburgh 27-13.

Raiders (7-7) @ Chiefs (6-8)
Predicted Line: KC by 2.5
Actual Line: KC by 2.5

Oakland should be demoralized after that home loss to Detroit, while KC is coming off a thrilling win against the 13-0 Packers. The Chiefs love playing for Romeo Crennel (or are they just happy that they don't have to play for Todd Haley anymore?), and Kyle Orton executed a wonderful "Eff you" to the entire league last week. It should continue. Chiefs 23-20. KC still alive for the division if Denver loses ...

Broncos (8-6) @ Bills (5-9)
Predicted Line: DEN by 3.5
Actual Line: DEN by 3

I actually want to bet on a push, because the chances of Denver winning by 3 are more likely than any other result. But I guess I'll take the points and say Tebow wins by 2.

Jags (4-10) @ Titans (7-7)
Predicted Line: TEN by 6.5
Actual Line: TEN by 7

Gonna take the points and say Titans by 3.

Cardinals (7-7) @ Bengals (8-6)
Predicted Line: CIN by 3
Actual Line: CIN by 4

This should be another good game and I'll take the points. In fact, I'm gonna take the Cards straight up. Cincy hasn't beat a decent team in like 6 weeks, and the best team they've beat this year was probably Tennessee. The Cardinals have beat San Fran, Dallas, Philly, Carolina .... So I'll take Arizona by 3.

Wait, John Skelton on the road? ... Bah, never mind, I'll go Bengals by 3.

Dolphins (5-9) @ Pats (11-3)
Predicted Line: NE by 10.5
Actual Line: NE by 9.5

With the Pats' terrible defense and the inspired play of Matt Moore, I'll take the points and say New England by just 7.

Browns (4-10) @ Ravens (10-4)
Predicted Line: BAL by 12.5
Actual Line: BAL by 12.5

So far I've taken 8 underdogs and only 3 favorites; I actually have 5 underdogs winning straight up. I'm hesitatant to take the points again, but I always like fiesty, scrambly back-up QBs to cover big spreads. Seneca Wallace is a fiend. Ravens by 6.

49ers (11-3) @ Seahawks (7-7)
Predicted Line: SF by 2.5
Actual Line: SF by 2

It would be great for Detroit if the Niners win and terminate Seattle's playoff chances. However if the Lions are going to win one of their next two games and clinch a playoff spot, I'd rather see the Niners lose, because the thought of playing Drew Brees in the first round of the playoffs makes me want to eat tin foil.

Regardless of what I want to happen, San Fran's great front 7 is going up against one of the hottest running backs in Marshawn Lynch, and playing in always-crazy Seattle (formerly Qwest Field, now called CenturyOne or something). And don't look now, but Tarvaris Jackson has put together 3 straight solid games, winning by scores of 31-14, 30-13, and 38-14.

I'm not suggesting the Niners will overlook the Seahawks the way they overlooked the Cardinals two weeks ago and lost. I simply think Seattle can beat anybody at home, so I'll take the underdog yet again, 23-20.

Eagles (6-8) @ Cowboys (8-6)
Predicted Line: DAL by 3
Actual Line: DAL by 1.5

Lots of entangling playoff situations ... but the simple version is: Philly needs to win to stay alive, whereas Dallas needs to win next week to have a chance, and this game is pretty much meaningless for them.

The Giants play the early game, and if they win, the Eagles are out, but if they lose, the Cowboys need to win this game to lock up the playoffs, otherwise next week's NYG-DAL game would determine the division winner, unless Philly wins next week against the Jets, in which case Philly wins the division. So in other words, both teams need to win this game, but both teams will be eagerly watching the Giants game too.

I'm not a big fan of Vick this year, especially on the road, so I'll take the home team who is strangely favored by only 1.5. How about Cowboys 33-30.

Bears (7-7) @ Packers (13-1)
Predicted Line: GB by 9.5
Actual Line: GB by 13

Josh McCown will reportedly start for Chicago instead of Caleb Hanie. It's tempting to think Green Bay will be in trouble after the "blueprint to beat Rodgers" was discovered, plus the injuries to Jennings, Nick Collins, and two offensive lineman ... but come on, Josh McCown against Aaron Rodgers, in Lambeau? Pack by 10.

Falcons (9-5) @ Saints (11-3)
Predicted Line: NO by 7
Actual Line: NO by 6.5

The Saints are way too hot for me to pick against them right now. Brees needs 306 yards to break the single-season yardage record, and he'll do that in this game. New Orleans 34-24.

Go Lions!

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