Why? Because I can't even enjoy the NFL. I'm watching the Lions kick a field goal in overtime to win a game they desperately needed to win, and I can barely celebrate because within the last 30 seconds both Welker and Spiller scored TDs and I just went from trailing by 10 to trailing by 30. Why should I care if CJ Spiller scores? Why should that ruin my day? I just want to quit the whole stupid thing.
Anyway .. the week 7 picks:
Seahawks (4-2) @ 49ers (4-2)
Predicted Line: SF by 6.5
Actual Line: SF by 7
Seattle is the best team in the NFC West at home, and the worst team in the NFC West on the road. After all that dumb trash-talk against Tom Brady, they are due for a crash. Seriously, why is Richard Sherman talking trash to Tom Brady? Sherman has played 20 games in his career ... Brady has played 22 PLAYOFF games and won multiple Super Bowls and is married to a supermodel and is basically the king of America. It's like a mailman talking trash to Obama because they are both government employees and the mailman had a good day. Ridiculous.
On the flip side, I am engrossed by watching the Pats lose. I really like the Patriots, they're my second favorite team after Detroit, but when Tom Brady is 3-3 and fighting for a playoff spot, it's riveting entertainment. In fact, the entire AFC East is 3-3. Yes, Miami and New England have the same record. It's like the season hasn't even started yet.
Furthermore, only two teams in the AFC have winning records right now, compared to 7 teams in the NFC. And when the two conferences play head-to-head, the NFC has won 19 of 28 games. So it's safe to say the NFC kicks the AFC's butt.
For this game, I like the Niners but I'll take the points. San Fran 17-12. The Thursday games have been extremely low-scoring; only one team out of 12 has scored more than 24 points, and the average combined score is 37 points, while the average combined score for Sunday games is 52.
*Last note: do you realize that one division currently has 4 of the 5 best defenses in the NFL? And that division is ... the NFC Freaking West. No joke. In terms of points allowed, those teams rank 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th. I can't figure out what to do with that information.
Titans (2-4) @ Bills (3-3)
Predicted Line: BUF by 3.5
Actual Line: BUF by 3
Speaking of defenses giving up points ... these teams rank 31st and 32th, both allowing upwards of 30 points per game. The Titans have been more consistently bad, giving up 34, 38, 41, 38, 30, and 23 ... while the Bills have allowed a few massive outbursts (52, 48 and 45), but also played three great defensive games (17, 14 and 16) against three bad teams. So the question: does Tennessee qualify as a bad team? My gut says yes. I don't trust Chris Johnson one bit anymore. And I sure don't think the Titans can keep the Bills' fully healthy offense from scoring at least 3 touchdowns. So I'll say Bills 30-23.
Browns (1-5) @ Colts (2-3)
Predicted Line: IND by 6.5
Actual Line: IND by 3
Huh? The Colts and Browns are considered equal? Andrew Luck is equal to Brandon Weeden? Then why is it that VP Candidate Paul Ryan couldn't tell the difference between Weeden and Colt McCoy?
Speaking of Paul Ryan, I really want to like the guy, but he's making it awfully tough. First, his marathon lie, which really upset me as a runner. (How do you claim to have run it in 6:52 pace when you actually ran it in 9:21 pace. Pretty big difference.) Then, his fake soup kitchen visit, which really upset me as somebody who cares about homeless people. I know all politicians do that kind of stuff, but don't make it so obvious and don't pretend to wash a perfectly clean pot. That was just embarrassing I feel like next he's going to say that he skydived 24 miles, and then when he's caught in that lie, he'll say "Oh, oops, I was thinking of the Demon Drop at Cedar Point....Pretty much the same thing."
Logic tells me to take the Browns, because they have some ideal matchups that will neutralize a few of Indy's best players (Joe Haden covering Reggie Wayne, Joe Thomas on Dwight Freeney). Also Cleveland can run the ball better, and has better linebackers. But at home, with a QB that I'm convinced is less than a year from being elite, Indy should be able to move the ball using Fleener, Avery, Hilton, and maybe a few big running plays for Luck. Plus, I'm still convinced that Brandon Weeden is awful. Colts 27-22.
Packers (3-3) @ Rams (3-3)
Predicted Line: GB by 10.5
Actual Line: GB by 6
If there's any sense left in the world, the Packers will win big. I'm not even going to consider that anything else could happen. Packers 38-17.
Cardinals (4-2) @ Vikings (4-2)
Predicted Line: MIN by 3.5
Actual Line: MIN by 6
Remember when Arizona was 4-0 and everybody (including me) said "Watch out for Arizona!" I pointed out that their schedule was about to get easy and they could win 3 straight. Or..... they could lose to St. Louis and Buffalo, scoring 19 points combined in those games. No running game, worst offensive line in the league, Kevin Kolb .... why are we surprised? Minnesota, on the other hand, is the team that nobody really wants to see right now. Harvin is playing his best football ever, Christian Ponder looks almost Manning-esque (I said almost) with his intelligence and ability to out-think the defense, and AP looks like AP. They are by no means a juggernaut, and I'm still not sure they should be favored by 6, but looking at their schedule, they are probably going to be 7-3 before their brutal stretch of games comes. I don't like giving 6 points with the Vikings, but I don't know that Arizona's offense can score at all. Vikes 23-6.
*Sidenote: Back in May I ranked the 32 best QBs in the league. Those rankings look idiotic now (you can take RG3 at 25 and Stafford at 5 and flip them, and you can move Matt Ryan up from 12 to 3, for starters), but using that list for lack of a better list, the Vikings have only played against 1 quarterback who is a top 15 guy (Stafford, who totally sucks this year) and they won't see another top 15 guy until they've played 5 more games, and they'll only see 2 top 10 QBs all year. So in other words, they don't have to play Brady, Brees, Manning, Manning, Ryan, Cam, Rivers, Ben, Romo or Flacco this season. Talk about a lucky schedule. The only elite QBs they'll face will be Rodgers and
Redskins (3-3) @ Giants (4-2)
Predicted Line: NYG by 4.5
Actual Line: NYG by 6
Among the many reasons why this is the weirdest NFL season ever, there's this: Alfred Morris and Steven Ridley are both top five in carries. Those are, of course, Mike Shanahan and Bill Belichick's running backs. Last few years, Shanahan didn't even keep a RB on his roster longer than a month. In 2011, it was Hightower, then Torain, then Helu, then Royster. In 2010, it was Portis, then Torain, then Keiland Williams, then some guy named James Davis. In 2009, it was Portis, Betts, Cartwright, and the mysterious Quinton Ganther. That was 11 different starting running backs in 3 years. Now, all of a sudden, 6th round pick Alfred Morris has more carries than McCoy or Rice or pretty much anybody, and no one else on Washington is relevant. What happened to Shanahan's long-lasting "I hate fantasy football" approach?!?!?!
And don't even get me started on New England. Ridley is running the ball an average of 19.6 times this year, more than even Alfred Morris. Last year, when they had a solid RB in Green-Ellis, he got only 11 carries per game, because Belichick had to throw in Ridley/Woodhead/Faulk/Vereen randomly, just to infuriate fantasy owners. In the years before that, Fred Taylor, Sammie Morris, Lawrence Maroney, and 45 other guys shared the backfield, and just when you thought your guy might get a TD, he would put in Richard Seymour or Steven Gostkowski to run the TD.
Now, Morris and RG3 are two of the most effective runners in the league, and the worst coach in the NFL is suddenly a genius again. I've gotta take the points in this game, because the Giants sleepwalk at home and destroy people on the road. Plus, did you see RG3's 76 yard run last week? How can you pick against that guy for at least a backdoor cover? G-men 34-31.
Saints (1-4) @ Bucs (2-3)
Predicted Line: NO by 3
Actual Line: NO by 3
Are the Saints going to rebound from 0-4 and make the playoffs? After this, they should be 2-4, and I actually don't hate their chances. They would have to beat some tough teams and win some tough road games, but Drew Brees can outscore anybody and he plays well on the road. I'm a little excited to see if they can reel off 6 or 7 wins in a row. They'll win this one easily. Tampa is great against the run, and awful against the pass. That makes for a big game for Brees, and despite the Saints' defense, New Orleans just outscores them, 41-27.
Cowboys (2-3) @ Panthers (1-4)
Predicted Line: DAL by 1
Actual Line: DAL by 2
Each team's strength against the other's weakness. Carolina will run all over Dallas and avoid obvious passing downs, because a well-kept secret is that Dallas has the #1 ranked pass defense. Meanwhile, with DeMarco injured Dallas will keep the ball in the air and pick apart Carolina's sad secondary. At least that's what they should do. But there's a pretty good chance that Jason Garrett wants to "establish the run" with Felix Jones, which didn't work in 2009, 2010, or 2011, so naturally it will work fabulously in 2012. My gut is telling me that Dallas is too dumb to win this game on the road. Carolina 26-23 in OT.
Ravens (5-1) @ Texans (5-1)
Predicted Line: HOU by 3
Actual Line: HOU by 7
Ray Lewis - out for the year. Lardarius Webb - out for the year. Terrell Suggs - supposed to be out for the year, but supposedly returning this week. But there's no way Suggs will be 100% healthy. And without Webb, the Ravens secondary becomes much, much worse. If Andre Johnson were still alive, I'd say Houston would pass all over them.
Houston, meanwhile, also lost their stud middle linebacker (Cushing) for the year, but they've still got defensive-MVP-in-the-making J.J. Watt anchoring a very dominant defense.
As I said earlier, there are only two teams in the AFC with winning records. How fitting that they play each other. I like Houston, but I can't figure out how they're 7 point favorites over a team as good as Baltimore. I'll take the points and say Texans 24-20.
Jaguars (1-4) @ Raiders (1-4)
Predicted Line: OAK by 3
Actual Line: OAK by 4
This could be a big game in deciding the eventual #1 overall pick. The Browns will be in contention too, and maybe the Chiefs. The two worst records in the NFC are currently the Saints and Panthers, and I expect both teams to rebound and get a pick outside of the top 5. I don't know who will plummet from the NFC and end up picking in the top 5 (maybe Detroit, I hate to say it), but it's also possible that the top 5 picks will all be AFC teams. Of those, most will have QBs that are either expensive or very young (Palmer, Weeden, Gabbert) but that won't stop them from picking a new franchise QB. In fact, Cleveland just released GM Mike Holmgren (who, let's be honest, did a horrendous job with the Browns), and that probably signifies the end of the Weeden Era already. New GMs like new QBs.
The 2013 NFL draft has seen an interesting shakeup, as Geno Smith has replaced Matt Barkley as the likely #1 pick and the Heisman favorite. Barkley will likely go #2, and then there should be a few QBs in the mid-to-late 1st round (Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray, maybe Landry Jones). Geno has basically followed in the footsteps of Cam Newton and RG3 and come out of nowhere, and he appears to be the real deal, just as they were. He's super fast, he can throw a deep ball with accuracy, and he's humble and smart. I watched enough Youtube videos of him to hope Matt Stafford suffers a career ending injury and the Lions somehow get Geno.
Speaking of Stafford, how many weeks until I can legitimately start saying I would rather see Shaun Hill play? Does Stafford realize that the first 3 quarters count towards the final score? Have you ever seen a quarterback play with less urgency on 3rd downs? Yes, only once. His name was Joseph Harrington.
I like Jacksonville to pull the upset and Oakland to inch closer to Geno Smith.
Jets (3-3) @ Patriots (3-3)
Predicted Line: NE by 8.5
Actual Line: NE by 11
These teams having the same record makes me irate. If the Revis-less Jets win, I will never speak a word about football for the rest of my life. And yet, I'm reminded of my 53/47 discovery from last week, and I'm scared to base my pick on what I used to think was true. Might as well just take the 11 points, because the Jets have a 47% chance of winning straight up. What a dumb year. Pats 28-27.
Steelers (2-3) @ Bengals (3-3)
Predicted Line: PIT by 2.5
Actual Line: PIT by 1.5
Another instance where the better team does not have the better record. How annoying. Speaking of annoying, here are a couple of QB related stats that summarize how dumb this season is:
-Aaron Rodgers has the best QB rating in the NFL. Yet, the Pack are 3-3 and considered super disappointing.
-Andy Dalton has more TD passes than Tom Brady.
-RG3 and Stafford COMBINED have thrown for 9 TDs, fewer than 10 other QBs.
This year is dumb. The Steelers are a much better team, but I don't trust them at all. But the spread is so low, so I'm taking the bait. PIT by 3.
Lions (2-3) @ Bears (4-1)
Predicted Line: CHI by 6.5
Actual Line: CHI by 6
This will literally make or break Detroit's season. Our next three games after this are super winnable, so a win here could help us get up to 5-4 before we meet the Packers and Texans in consecutive weeks.
But a loss here puts us at 2-4 and completely deflates us, and means best case scenario is 4-5 (but probably 3-6 because most of the team will quit because the team has no leadership) as we head into the brutal part of the schedule. If we lose this game, we'll very likely be 3-8 on Black Friday. By that point, Calvin will be hurt, and we'll finish 4-12.
But if we win, not only do we make up some hugely important ground in the division and steal a road game from a good team, but we basically reconcile the inexcusable losses to Tennessee and Minnesota, and we get some momentum.
From Chicago's standpoint, this is basically a chance to eliminate a division foe from the playoffs, not to mention it keeps them 2 games ahead of Green Bay for a potential bye in the playoffs. They won't take us lightly. They, unlike Detroit, have good team leadership.
So, both teams should be pretty ready to play on Monday night. Here's a little bit of analysis for the game ...
Peppers is a matchup nightmare for Backus, as we've seen before, and Chicago is absolutely dominant against the run, despite getting basically nothing from Urlacher, who is playing hurt. If Linehan insists on "establishing the run" once again, might as well turn off the TV early. We need to come out throwing, we need to use the damn double-teams that Calvin demands, rather than putting ourselves in 3rd and 9 situations, so Stafford can check down or throw the ball out of bounds, which he thoroughly enjoys doing. We can't run the ball against bad defenses, so we surely can't run it against good defenses. Let's not waste the first 3 quarters this week.
Detroit's biggest problem offensively has been 3rd downs, especially once we move into scoring position. In each of our last four games, we kicked two successful field goals before getting a TD. Going up 6-0 is pretty freaking worthless, as we saw in the Tennessee game. It's not that we're facing great defenses... we're just playing lazy and stupid on 3rd downs. Stafford is treating 3rd and 5 from the 25 yard line with the urgency of a preseason game. He gives up on the play before the pass rush even gets close to him. He still hasn't stepped up in the pocket once this season, and I haven't seen him even attempt to look off a safety and help a receiver get open. Instead he just wants it to be everybody else's fault for not getting open, and he wants to throw the ball away so the announcers will say "That was actually pretty smart." No, it's not smart to give up on a 3rd down. Don't turn the ball over, but don't give up on the play either. Try to buy some time. To be a great quarterback, you actually have to make great plays. Damn it Stafford, I hate you.
As far as our defense is concerned, Forte will be able to run right past the undisciplined, overpursuing D-line, while Fairley tries to keep up his pace of 1 offsides penalty per quarter. Our secondary is awful against everybody, but if Chris Houston and a safety can keep Marshall covered up, we might be in decent shape. The rest of the Bears receivers are not great. That said, I fully expect Ashlon Jeffrey to catch a 60-yard TD, or two. But maybe, just maybe, we can prevent that from happening. Maybe, for the first time this season, our defense can avoid giving up the big, crushing play. That will literally be the only way we win. (My guess is that the "big play" will be a 75 yard screen pass to Forte.)
I like the prospect of taking Detroit because of the 6 points and the Lions' ability to make games close at the end. But unfortunately, I'm going the other way this week. I just think the Bears have us outmatched almost everywhere. Our 2nd and 3rd best players (Suh and Stafford) are playing like absolute crap, and we're only utilizing our best player in the 4th quarter. I think Chicago can get TDs and run the ball down our throat, and I think we keep Jason Hanson busy once again. I think Detroit is down 27-6 at halftime, and the deficit is too big to catch up in our panicked 4th quarter. Bears win 44-27. Ugh, I hope I'm wrong.