Thursday, November 29, 2012

Week 13 Picks

Last week:
8-7-1 ATS
11-5 straight up

89-84-6 ATS (51.4%)
108-67 straight up (61.7%)

Another week, another crushing Lions' loss.

Bill Barnwell wrote a terrific piece about the Lions' current financial troubles, and how the massive rookie deals of Calvin, Stafford and Suh are the reason why Detroit hasn't been able to build a quality roster.  That's certainly a great point, and something I hadn't thought much about.  Detroit had basically no choice but to give Calvin a monster extension last summer to keep him, and by doing so they were able to retain Tulloch and Avril for another year... but while it appeared great last year, very soon the crap is going to hit the fan.

They'll have to extend Stafford's deal soon, which will leave them with almost no financial flexibility. As a result. they may end up sacrificing Suh for Stafford.  That seems like an tolerable proposition right now, given Suh's crotch-kicking antics and general despicableness.  But he was a #2 overall pick just a few seasons ago; it would be a shame to only get a few years out of him.  One thing's for sure - if the Lions could go back in time, they'd take Joe Haden with that pick, not Suh.

Despite the good points made by Barnwell about the Lions' unfortunate timing in regard to stupid rookie contracts, I still think with good coaching and a good gameplan, the Lions' secondary and O-line (their biggest weaknesses) could be much better.  You don't have to get expensive players to get good players.  Especially at those positions, where teamwork and cohesiveness are more important than raw skill.

Jim Schwartz's impulsive, angry, defiant decision to throw his red flag on a touchdown play was the perfect microcosm of this season.  He let emotions get the best of him, he made a stupid choice that severely hurt the team, and it was completely avoidable.  Heck, right after the play, when I saw his red flag on the turf, my first thought was "It's automatically reviewed, Schwartz. Calm down."   Little did I realize that it was against the rules to challenge a scoring play, but now that I think about it, that rule actually makes sense.  If the play is going to be reviewed anyway, why waste the refs' time explaining to the coach that it's going to be reviewed anyway?  The entire goal of instant replay is to make it as instant as possible.   That said, it's the refs fault for getting the call wrong in the first place, and the league should be able to make a rule-overriding exception to the no-challenge rule in cases where the ruling on the field was clearly wrong.  Anytime the letter of the law trumps the spirit of the law, there is a problem.   However, Schwartz of all people should have known the law, so it's his fault more than the refs.  Both are idiots.

As we look ahead to the offseason and the imminent financial restrictions, it's very safe to assume that most of the unrestricted free agents will not be retained. At least not the ones that can find a better deal.  These include almost the entire defense:  Justin Durant, Cliff Avril, Chris Houston, Lawrence Jackson, DeAndre Levy, Jacob Lacey, Ashlee Palmer, Corey Williams, Willie Young, Erik Coleman, Drayton Florence, and a few other less vital players.   The players who will command the most money will be Avril, Houston, Levy and Durant, and my guess is Detroit will only be able to keep one of them, or at most two.  This could be very bad news.

I've been looking ahead to the 2013 Draft quite a bit lately, now that the Lions stand a decent chance at picking in the top 6 or 7.  There's only one cornerback who is considered a top 20 prospect, and that's Alabama's Dee Miliner, a player with Revis-like skills. He's the guy I would love Detroit to grab, but they're going to have to lose 4 of their next 5 games to be in good position to take him. He's likely a top 6 pick.

If they don't address the secondary, I guess I'd like to see them add a pass rusher.  VandenBosch stinks, Suh is unstable, and Avril will probably play elsewhere in 2013.  There are plenty of elite DEs and OLBs, highlighted by Georgia's Jarvis Jones (possibly the #1 overall prospect), Damontre Moore from A&M, Barkevious Mingo from LSU (weirdest name ever), Dion Jordan from Oregon, and a few others.  With Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young also free agents, this becomes a position of dire need.

If not a CB or DE, I guess I'd like to see the Lions take another offensive tackle.  Gosder is due to be a free agent and almost certainly won't be retained, so Reiff won't be enough to rebuild the O-line.  There are several early 1st round offensive tackle prospects. The best is Luke Joeckel, probably a top 5 pick, and another option is Michigan's Taylor Lewan.  There's also a guard from Alabama named Chance Warmack who is considered a top 5 prospect; he might be the first guard taken in the top 15 since 1997, when Chris Naeole went 10th,  just a few spots ahead of Tony Gonzalez.

If not DE, CB or OT, I guess the Lions could take a linebacker.  Heisman hopefully Manti Te'o might fall to them, if the need for linebackers isn't great at the beginning of the draft.  Te'o is already being called the future Patrick Willis, so if Detroit can't retain Durant and Levy, Te'o would make a super replacement.   Another great linebacker would be Alec Ogeltree, who on Youtube looks more impressive to me than his more-hyped Georgia teammate Jarvis Jones.

The reality is, Detroit needs to be focusing on these positions, and only these positions.  Any picks spent on receivers, running backs, tight ends, backup quarterbacks, or defensive tackles will be completely vile.  Just because the Best and Titus picks turned out to be awful, don't try to rectify them at the expense of building your team.  We've neglected certain positions for far too long, and can't afford to do it anymore.  Plus, it's way easier to find free agent receivers and running backs than corners or offensive tackles.

If the Lions take yet another receiver because Titus hasn't worked out, it will be straight-up Millenesque.

I'm already getting frustrated in anticipation of what terrible pick they're going to make.  Let's get to the stinking week 13 picks:

Saints (5-6) @ Falcons (10-1)
Predicted Line: ATL by 4

Actual Line: ATL by 3

Coming off a loss, Drew Brees tends to dominate.  But that doesn't necessarily mean I'm taking the Saints.

Atlanta has the better defense, the better receivers by far, and the homefield advantage on a Thursday game. Plus they have a revenge factor after losing 2 weeks ago in New Orleans.  I know this is a "must-win" game for the Saints (just like the last 7 have been), but just because a team needs to win doesn't mean they will win.  Atlanta is just better.  And who is going to cover Julio Jones?  I'll take the Falcons 34-24.  

Jaguars (2-9) @ Bills (4-7)
Predicted Line: BUF by 4

Actual Line: BUF by 6

On the road, the Jags are 1-4 this year, but they've covered the spread in all five games.  They forced OT in 3 of those road games, all losses. And that was with the inferior Blaine Gabbert.  Chad Henne -- who in fairness has been overhyped during the past two weeks -- represents a marked improvement over Gabbert in every way. Now, even with no running game, the Jags are actually moving the ball.   Buffalo, meanwhile, kind of stinks at home, and they can't seem to score any points lately, plus they don't have anything to play for anymore.  I think this becomes a battle of field goals, and stays low scoring.  Bills 17-16.

Seahawks (6-5) @ Bears (8-3)
Predicted Line: CHI by 3.5
Actual Line: CHI by 4

The line is set at 4 on some sites, but other sites haven't posted a line until we know if Forte is going to play.  With the playoffs approaching and Chicago sitting pretty at 8-3,  my guess is Chicago rests Forte to make sure it doesn't get worse.  Michael Bush can do a decent job in his stead.

These are two teams I really hate and pick against most of the time, so I don't know.  Guess I'll take the Bears.  Seattle stinks on the road.  Chicago 20-13.

Colts (7-4) @ Lions (4-7)
Predicted Line: DET by 3

Actual Line: DET by 4.5

Well, now that the season is officially, officially over, it's a whole new dynamic.  Lions' players are no longer playing for the playoffs; they're playing for themselves.  In most cases, they're playing for their next contract.  
What difference does that make on the field? More selfish play?  More mental mistakes?  It can't be a good thing, right?

Indy is steadily rolling along, winning 5 of their last 6 despite scoring only about 21 points per game.  That's amazing considering Detroit usually scores 21 in the 4th quarter.

I expect Andrew Luck to have his first 3-TD game against Detroit and probably throw for about 350 yards as he continues to duel with RG3 for the most contested ROY I can ever remember.  Chris Houston isn't quite good enough to hang with Reggie Wayne, and we have nobody to cover Luck's various other weapons.  Despite the enormous talent disparity between these two teams (Detroit has a much better roster), I think Indy dictates the game offensively.  They are better coached (then again, who isn't?) and better led by a better quarterback.  Should be a couple of huge games for both Calvin and Wayne, but I think Indy comes out on top in another last-second heart-breaker.  Colts 36-30.  

Vikings (6-5) @ Packers (7-4)
Predicted Line: GB by 9.5

Actual Line: GB by 9 

I love the Packers this week.  Something about a must-win game in Lambeau to bury a division foe. Plus, Greg Jennings is back.  He took a lot of time off to make all those Old Spice commercials, but he's finally back and Rodgers will put him to use immediately.  Green Bay 38-13.

Texans (10-1) @ Titans (4-7)
Predicted Line: HOU by 6.5

Actual Line: HOU by 6 

I actually kind of like the Titans as home underdogs.  Not to win, but perhaps to cover.  Houston didn't thoroughly impress me last week.  They just took advantage of a myriad of mistakes.   I'll probably regret it as Matt Schaub throws for 490 yards, but what the heck, Houston 27-24.

Panthers (3-8) @ Chiefs (1-10)
Predicted Line: CAR by 3

Actual Line: CAR by 3

Huge game in terms of the Draft.  Carolina really wants to keep winning, because a 6-10 season would save them a lot of embarrassment and might save the coach's job. KC wants to lose because they can't endure another season of Cassel/Quinn.  After this loss they can start printing Geno Smith jerseys.  Panthers 23-9.

49ers (8-2) @ Rams (4-6-1)
Predicted Line: SF by 4.5

Actual Line: SF by 7.5

I mean, these teams tied 24-24 a few weeks ago in San Fran, so why should the Niners be favored by a touchdown on the road?  Plus, this Smith/Kaepernick thing has got to be a distraction.  The Rams are 7-3 ATS as underdogs this year.  I like those odds, especially at home.  Niners 24-20.

Patriots (8-3) @ Dolphins (5-6)
Predicted Line: NE by 10

Actual Line: NE by 9

I'm just saying, the Pats have scored 49, 59, 37, and 45 in their last four games ... while Miami has scored 24, 14, 3 and 20.    I'm not going to overthink it.  New England 41-24.

Cardinals (4-7) @ Jets (4-7)
Predicted Line: NYJ by 5.5
Actual Line: NYJ by 4.5

Weirdly, the Jets are my favorite pick this week.  Ryan Lindley (5 turnovers, 0 touchdowns) is starting his first road game.  And the Jets had 3 extra days to prepare for him.  I know he defeated Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, but I still just don't trust him.   Jets 20-3.

Bucs (6-5) @ Broncos (8-3)
Predicted Line: DEN by 6.5
Actual Line: DEN by 7

Both teams are on fire since starting out 1-2.  Denver is especially hot, winning 6 straight and none of them have been particularly close.  But I'll take the points, just in case.  Broncos 31-27.

Browns (3-8) @ Raiders (3-8)
Predicted Line:  OAK by 3

Actual Line: OAK by 2

Who cares. Raiders by 3.

Bengals (6-5) @ Chargers (4-7)
Predicted Line: CIN by 1

Actual Line: CIN by 2

Even if the Chargers weren't imploding during the final days of the Norv Turner Era ... and even if their record was reversed and they were 7-4 and potentially playoff-bound ... I still would lean towards Cincinnati.  They've played some really solid defense lately, AJ Green looks unstoppable, and BenJarvus is coming off the best game of his career.  After a four-game losing streak, they're now on the heels of a four-game winning streak.

San Diego, on the other hand, is dealing with four injuries on defense, three in the secondary, and some on the offensive line.  Not to mention, their team is a mess, and they know the coach is walking dead.  I like Cincy by a wide margin.  Bengals 27-13.

Steelers (6-5) @ Ravens (9-2)
Predicted Line: BAL by 7

Actual Line: BAL by 6

Sounds like Ben is out again, and things couldn't have gone much worse for Charlie Batch last week (eight turnovers).  But I still like getting points in this rivalry.  Ravens 24-20.

Eagles (3-8) @ Cowboys (5-6)
Predicted Line: DAL by 6.5

Actual Line: DAL by 10

So, the question is obviously whether or not the Eagles have quit on Andy Reid, and whether they'll even try to stay competitive over these next five games.  With the sudden release of Jason Babin (who had 18 sacks last season), they've obviously decided to make some major changes.  Pretty soon Michael Vick will be put on IR, along with Desean Jackson, and maybe LeSean McCoy.  They are clearly packing it in and giving Nick Foles an audition for 2013.

But, with all the animosity in the NFC East, shouldn't Philly at least be able to put forth some effort against a hated rival? Knocking Dallas out of the playoff picture would at least give Philly fans some satisfaction.

After a long, long, long, long, looooooong foot injury kept him out of the last 40 games and totally destroyed my hopes in fantasy football, DeMarco Murray should finally be back on the field for 3 plays until he gets hurt again. His presence might give Dallas a boost.  Maybe not a huge boost, but something.  He's a great player if he's healthy.

This seems like an awful lot of points to be giving in a division game. Dallas has only won 1 game by 10 or more this season.  But, that game was against ... the Eagles.  Hmm.  Probably won't happen twice. Let's say Cowboys 29-23.

Giants (7-4) @ Redskins (5-6)
Predicted Line: NYG by 3

Actual Line: NYG by 3 

I like the Redskins by 3. I'm falling head over heels for RG3.

Go Lions ....

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