Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Week 7 Picks

Week six recap:
10-5 straight up
6-8-1 against the spread

63-29 straight up (68.4%)
47-40-5 against the spread (54.0%)

Seahawks (5-1) @ Cardinals (3-3)
Predicted Line:  SEA by 5
Actual Line:  SEA by 7 

Considering how good Arizona's defense has been playing, this spread is way too high and represents major value.  People love betting on Seattle (89% of Vegas this week), which pushes their lines higher and higher. When they're on the road, they're generally overvalued.  I recognize how good they are, but I also recognize certain holes on the team, such as inexperience at QB or lack of talent at WR.  I'll be taking the Cardinals +7, though I expect Seattle to pull off the win.  

Arizona's specialty is stuffing the run, and given Seattle's lack of weapons in the passing game, it's tough to see Seattle racking up many points, unless Marshawn Lynch has a completely freakish game, which is possible. Throw in the Patrick Peterson factor and this probably is a lousy game for Russell Wilson.  

On the other side of the ball you have a marquee matchup with Fitzgerald and Richard Sherman.  Sherman should own that matchup.   The Cardinals struggle to run the ball and to protect the passer, so I doubt they'll score a whole lot of points either.   Thursday games tend to favor the defenses anyway.  Let's say Seahawks 20-17.  

Patriots (5-1) @ Jets (3-3)
Predicted Line:  NE by 7

Actual Line:  NE by 3.5

Even though the Pats ended up winning by 3 last week - the exact number they were favored by - I still think I made the right call by picking the Saints straight up.  New England just doesn't look right and their 5-1 record is not a true indicator of how good they actually are.  If they were playing anyone but the Jets, I would pick against them.  However, I would just feel stupid picking Geno Smith over Tom Brady in any situation.  Plus, there's a small chance that Gronk finally returns this week.  Pats 27-23. 

Chargers (3-3) @ Jags (0-6)
Predicted Line:  SD by 11

Actual Line:  SD by 9 

The death march to 0-16 continues.  Meanwhile, Keenan Allen is suddenly Phillip Rivers' favorite target, and has emerged as a legit top 15 fantasy receiver, maybe top 5 next year.  If you haven't watched highlights of him yet, you're missing out.   But Jacksonville can cover this spread via the backdoor.  Justin Blackmon looks fantastic. I'll say Bolts 30-23. And if I'm right, congrats to the Jags on their first single-digit loss.  

Bengals (4-2) @ Lions (4-2)
Predicted Line:  DET by 3

Actual Line:  DET by 3 

These two teams are extremely similar.  They can both beat anybody, they can both lose to anybody.  (Well, excluding Denver and Jacksonville).  They both have productive but non-elite QBs, they have the two best WRs in the league (though Calvin is not himself right now), they both struggle in the secondary, and they both have unblockable monsters on the D-line, Suh for the Lions and Geno Atkins for Cincy.   Even Gio Bernard seems like a young version of Reggie Bush.  

And the eeriest similarity of all is the tight ends.   Jermaine Gersham - 6'5", 260, the 21st pick in 2010, slow as hell, struggle with drops, played at Oklahoma, drafted about 4 rounds too high, taken ahead of about 25 studs, including fellow TEs Gronk, Graham, Hernandez, and Pitta ... and his perfect doppelganger, our own wretched Brandon Pettigrew - 6'5", 265, 20th pick in 2009, slow as hell, struggles with drops and fumbles, played at Oklahoma State, drafted about 5 rounds too high, taken ahead of about 20 studs, including Percy Harvin, Clay Matthews, Vontae Davis, and many others.

And their career numbers are almost identical.  Pettigrew averages 52 catches for 519 yards and 2.8 TDs over his career, while Gresham averages 49 for 503 and 3.7.  Both guys are miserable failures considering where they were drafted, but have retained their jobs due to size and blocking ability.  And both are slowing being replaced by rookies (Joe Fauria and Tyler Eifert).  Anyway, enough about that ... 

The worry I have in this game is Calvin's health.  We saw last week that he was basically a possession receiver in a huge body.  He didn't have much burst, and he uncharacteristically dropped two easy balls, one of which was a TD.  Granted he was going against Joe Haden, but he still didn't look right.  

Cincy still has to worry about him, but not to the extent that teams normally do.  And that means more guys to focus on Reggie Bush, which is bad for Detroit.  We've seen that Durham and Broyles are not capable of doing crap.  Stafford and Durham might be best bros off the field, but the guy isn't going to win games for us against real teams.  Durham is Mike Furrey at best.  If we don't start investing some serious attention into Ryan Broyles, that's going to be yet another worthless 2nd round pick on Mayhew's watch.  

On the other side of the ball, A.J. Green will kill us, but I think we can slow down the rest of the offense.  Andy Dalton doesn't scare me.  He's a good game manager but not a cold-blooded killer.  Gio Bernard has speed and will probably break a big play or two, but B.J.G.E. isn't going to do anything.  Our defense is better than I originally thought.  Ansah, Quin, and even Delmas have played better than I expected.  

I see this as a back-and-forth battle, with the Lions winning 24-23 on a last second field goal. 

Bills (2-4) @ Dolphins (3-2)
Predicted Line:  MIA by 4.5
Actual Line:  MIA by 9 

The Bills were 9-point underdogs last week and nearly won, losing by 3 in OT.  This week is different because they're on the road, but again, 9 points seems to high.  What has Ryan Tannehill done to deserve being a 9-point favorite?   People are still hyping Miami because of the 3-0 start, but what about losing 2 in a row and having perhaps the most anemic running attach in the NFL?   Mike Wallace has been just okay, the other receivers are nothing special, and the secondary is ranked in the bottom half of the league in every category.  

I'm not saying Miami sucks, nor am I saying I want to pick an injured Thad Lewis on the road (or a healthy Jeff Tuel for that matter), I'm just saying, average QBs like Ryan Tannehill shouldn't be favored by this many points unless they have a great RB who can control the clock.  Miami doesn't.  Buffalo keeps it close enough to cover. 20-13 Fins.  

Bears (4-2) @ Redskins (1-4)
Predicted Line:  CHI by 1.5

Actual Line:  Pick Em 

It's tough to imagine the Redskins falling to 1-5, but it's also tough to see their crappy defense stopping the Bears.  Bears 30-24.  

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

It's possible that this line is inflated by the injury to DeMarcus Ware (doubtful to play), but I still don't think Philly should be considered an equal to Dallas.  Given the Foles/Vick variable, the godawful secondary, and the inconsistency of the Chip Kelly experiment, I'm inclined to take the steadier Cowboys.  Big game for the backup running back, Joseph Randle, who I unsuccessfully tried to pick up in all my fantasy leagues.  Dallas 31-27. 

Rams (3-3) @ Panthers (2-3)
Predicted Line:  CAR by 6

Actual Line:  CAR by 6

Weird stat of the day:  both of these teams are coming off 25 point wins.  Weirder still, both were underdogs in those games.  

Sam Bradford (#1 pick in 2010) and Cam Newton (#1 pick in 2011) are two of the most dissected quarterbacks in the NFL, both ranging from franchise savior to franchise scapegoat on a weekly basis.  If we look at the bottom line, both are just slightly below average.  

Statistically, they're close, but Newton is better.  Bradford has a 79 career QB rating, Cam has an 86.  Bradford has a 58:37 TD to INT ratio; Cam's is 49:34.  Cam has the slight edge in YPA and completion percentage, and of course there's the difference in rushing:  one guys has 246 rushing yards and 2 TDs, the other has 1600 rushing yards and 24 scores.  Bet you can't guess which guy is which. 

The most important number, though, is winning percentage.  Bradford wins 38% of his starts.  Cam wins 41% of his starts.  Neither is a good enough number to keep the QB job long-term.  

Of course, there are the myriad of excuses.  Injuries (Bradford).  Crappy teammates (both).  Defensive-minded head coach (both).  Crappy head coach (Cam).   Bad offensive lines (both).  Tough divisions (both).   

Perhaps not all these excuses are legit - if they were truly QBs worthy of the #1 pick they would overcome the excuses - but the excuses are still out there, justifying the mammoth contracts ($50 million guaranteed for Sam, $22 million guaranteed for Cam.)   And there's the biggest difference between these two guys.  $28 million, thanks to the timing of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.    

So, I'm not sure who will win the game, but I am sure that this is the only game in NFL history that features two quarterbacks who were taken #1 overall in consecutive years and have rhyming first names and won Rookie of the Year but followed that up with a sophomore slump, and are currently coming off 25-point victories as underdogs. 

Guess I'll take the points.  Panthers 17-14.  

Bucs (0-5) @ Falcons (1-4)
Predicted Line:  ATL by 4
Actual Line:  ATL by 9 

This is the worst I've ever done at picking lines ....  did Vegas not hear about the Julio Jones injury? 

Everybody knows about the Jaguars and Giants, but the Bucs, who just made Nick Foles look unstoppable, are also winless and in contention for Teddy Bridgewater.  

They haven't lost in pathetic fashion like the Jags (average loss 21 points) or Giants (average loss 17 points); instead, they've lost all 5 games by a combined 37 points, and three of those by three points or less.  In fact, a diehard Bucs fan will tell you that they could easily be 3-2 and in contention for a wildcard.  Instead, they're looking at 2014 knowing they'll have a new coach, new QB, and maybe even a new GM.  

The Teddy Bridgewater draft is super intriguing --- where will Clowney go? does Mariota or Manziel go in the top 10? what about Tajh Boyd or Brett Hundley?  could there be 5 franchise quarterbacks in this draft AND the best DE since Reggie White?  ---  but it's too early in the season to think about it.  Everything changes in November anyway.  

So let's talk about Mike Glennon, the 3rd round rookie from NC State.  He's 23 years old, but if you look at a picture of him, he looks like a tall 12 year old. He wasn't bad against the Eagles (well, maybe on this play), but he sure didn't look like the future of a franchise.  And with Greg Schiano's job hanging by a thread, what's to stop the Bucs from quitting and mailing in the rest of the season?  

But then there's Atlanta, who lost their best defensive player for the year, then their best offensive player for the year the following week.  This after losing a handful of studs in the offseason.  They look destined for 4-12.  How the heck are they 9 point favorites?  

I'm going to take a crazy flier here and say Mike Glennon gets his first win, and officially dumps Atlanta's season into the sewer.  Bucs 23-20.  

49ers (4-2) @ Titans (3-3)
Predicted Line:  SF by 6

Actual Line: SF by 4.5 

San Fran's defense hasn't been quite as dominant this year as we expected.  They're uncharacteristically giving up a lot of yards on the ground.  And on top of that, Colin Kaepernick hasn't lived up to his lofty expectations at all, with a paltry 84 QB rating and only 28 rushing yards per game.  So, you might think I'm leaning toward the homedog and saying San Fran wins by 3 or 4.  That would be logical.  But that would involve taking the side of Ryan Fitzpatrick.  The Harvard grad has looked awful this year; granted, he's played two of the league's best defenses in Seattle and KC.  But San Fran is no picnic.  He should struggle again, and Chris "Shell of his Former Self" Johnson will not be able to help him out.  I like the Niners 27-20.  

Texans (2-4) @ Chiefs (6-0)
Predicted Line:  KC by 9.5

Actual Line:  KC by 7

Matt Schaub is questionable with an injured leg (AKA ego), which means T.J. Yates probably gets the start against the league's #1 ranked defense.  Sounds like a sure recipe for a blowout, right? 

I'm not so sure.  KC isn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard, and Houston has a solid defense (if they decide to put some effort into this game, that is).  I'll say Chiefs win 23-17.  

Browns (3-3) @ Packers (3-2)
Predicted Line:  GB by 8.5
Actual Line:  GB by 10 

Cobb is out, Rodgers isn't playing all that well, and Cleveland's defense is solid. 

On the flip side ... Brandon Weeden.

I'll take the Pack, 27-16. 

Ravens (3-3) @ Steelers (1-4)
Predicted Line:  BAL by 2.5
Actual Line:  PIT by 1 

I honestly think Pittsburgh is a bottom-five team in the league, and Baltimore is a top-ten team.  So this spread is stupid.  That's all I got.  Ravens 23-17.  

Broncos (6-0) @ Colts (4-2)
Predicted Line:  DEN by 6

Actual Line:  DEN by 7

Gee, I wonder if Peyton Manning will be even more of a psycho-killer-robot against his former team and the owner who is stupidly pissing him off on Twitter?  As much as I love Andrew Luck, I've gotta say Broncos ... 42-27.   Six TDs for Manning.   

By the way, this is Von Miller's first game of the season.  6-0 without your best defensive player is a pretty impressive start.  

Vikings (1-4) @ Giants (0-6)
Predicted Line:  MIN by 1

Actual Line:  NYG by 3.5

I changed my Vikings-Panthers pick at the last moment because I thought AP would be extra motivated and run amuck and win the game single-handedly.  Dang, I was way wrong.  I think my ATS record in last-minute-switches is something like 0-50 over the last few years so I'll stop doing that. 

This game commences the Josh Freeman Era in Minnesota, which is likely to last less than one season.  If Minnesota loses enough games they'll likely find a new QB in the 2014 draft.  

I don't know ... the Giants have been garbage, but I actually like them to win big.  Minnesota's secondary can't stop anybody.  Let's go with New York, 31-16.

Go Lions.   

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