Friday, November 1, 2013

NFL Picks, Week 9

Wow. I'm not sure what to be more amazed by: just how fast the Andy Dalton train went off the rails, or the fact that an NFL game ended on a safety in overtime. Three quick thoughts below:

1) No, that's not the first time an NFL game has ended on a safety. It's the third time that's happened. However, it IS the first time an NFL game has ended on a quarterback sack in the end zone. The previous two instances featured a holding penalty in the end zone and a punt blocked out of the end zone.

2) So much for the "Andy Dalton is taking the next step" storyline. After a 5-touchdown performance against the Jets, he throws 3 interceptions (including a pick-6), and allows himself to be sacked in the end zone to lose the game. The worst part about his pick-6? It was a conflagration of bad arm strength (long a knock on Dalton) and poor accuracy (how you expect a weak-armed QB to compensate.

3) The loss of the game is bad for Cincinnati, but that's not the bad news from last night's game. No, the bad news is the Bengals have lost their star defensive tackle, Geno Atkins, for the season with an ACL injury. Losing Atkins leaves a giant hole in the middle of the Cincinnati defense, and combined with the giant question mark at quarterback, puts a pretty solid cap on any playoff expectations.

Home team in CAPS

byes: Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, Arizona, San Francisco, Jacksonville

Kansas City (-3) over BUFFALO
I was very tempted to pick Buffalo in this one. The Bills have the kind of defense that could give Alex Smith some trouble. Then I saw the injury report, listing current Bills starting quarterback Thad Lewis as doubtful for the Kansas City game. That leaves them a choice between Jeff Tuel and Matt Flynn, yeesh.

San Diego (-1) over WASHINGTON
Washington's defense just won't get any stops in this game. I'm not sure San Diego will get enough pressure on RG3 to throw him off his rhythm, but I trust that defense enough to make a couple of plays.

CAROLINA (-7.5) over Atlanta 
I expect the Arizona game will offer a pretty good template for how this game will go. Carolina's defense will take away the rushing game, leaving Matt Ryan no choice but to throw the ball all over the field. Without his trusty weapons (Roddy White is making noises like he will play, but he won't be effective), that will lead to plenty of punts and turnovers. Carolina's offense, by merely not turning the ball over, will roll up some points, and the game won't be in doubt after halftime (though Ryan may put up some garbage-time stats).

Minnesota (+10.5) over DALLAS 
Dallas went into last week's game knowing that Calvin Johnson was the biggest threat on Detroit's offense. With that knowledge, they held Johnson to 329 yards receiving, just seven yards short of the single-game record. Dallas enters the Minnesota game knowing that Adrian Peterson is both the biggest and the only offensive threat on the Vikings' offense. So is 400 yards rushing in play? Dallas will win, but they'll let Minnesota hang around much longer then they have any right to.

Tennessee (-3) over ST. LOUIS
The Rams get up to play against the teams in their division. If they could do that against the other 10 teams on their schedule, a) they would have been above .500 last year and b) they wouldn't be such a massive disappointment so far this year. With the Titans residing in the AFC South (and possessing an offensive line made up of more than table scraps), St. Louis will not be able to repeat Monday night's showing. That will force Kellen Clemens to throw the ball, and that (just like it did on Monday) will end badly.

Bye (-7.5) over JACKSONVILLE
Sorry, I had to.

New Orleans (-6) over NEW YORK JETS
Geno Smith against a defense that feats off of pressure and turnovers, and Drew Brees against a Jets defense that just gave up 49 points to Andy Dalton. Yes, this Andy Dalton.

Here's what a walk-off safety looks like. (NFL Network)

SEATTLE (-16) over Tampa Bay 
Yes, the Monday Night game scar(r)ed me. How could it not? The thing is, St. Louis has always been a serious problem for the Seahawks ever since Jeff Fisher took over. On the one hand, it's concerning because we're three games into this Carroll-Fisher rivalry and Seattle doesn't seem to have made any adjustments.On the other hand, no other team has seemed to be able to copy the Rams' formula.

Anyway, my general rule is, "Seattle covers at home". Thanks to the Tennesee Titans game, I had to amend my rule. It now reads, " Seattle covers at home unless their kicker gets knocked out of the game, forcing them to use their backup safety as the holder, and then instead of going for a touchdown at the end of the half they try a short field goal without drilling into said backup safety's head that the emergency plan for a bad snap does not involve picking the ball up and running with it to try and 'make a play' lest he fumble the football and watch the opposing team run it back for a touchdown as the half expires".

OAKLAND (-2.5) over Philadelphia
I trust Oakland's defense to put up some resistance against Philadelphia's offense even if Nick Foles does play. If Barkley plays, you could multiply this line by 10 and I'd still take Oakland.

NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) over Pittsburgh
Everyone can run on the Patriots now, they're down their 2 top DTs and their best linebacker. But the Steelers offensive line is so bad that they'll be the exception to that rule. With the Steelers forced to be one-dimensional, it won't be a fun trip to Foxborough.

Baltimore (-2.5) over CLEVELAND
I'm giving Baltimore the benefit of the doubt here that a) the defense can stop career journeyman Jason Campbell, and b) that the bye gave them time to figure out how to get the running game going, even against a tough defense like the Browns. This game will be ugly, but Baltimore will eke out a win.

Indianapolis (-2.5) over HOUSTON
This is Houston's Super Bowl. They're coming off of the bye, they're playing their division leader at home, and if they're going to make a move towards playoff contention, it has to start now. Add in Case Keenum's better than expected debut against the Chiefs, and you could talk me into the upset here. Well, until I saw the injury report. Arian Foster is a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury, and Ben Tate will play...but with 4 broken ribs.

GREEN BAY (-10.5) over Chicago
Green Bay's defense may not be good, but they're good enough to cover against a Josh McCown-led offense.

This week: 0-1 (d'oh!)
Last week: 9-4 (.692)
2013 season: 50-67-3 (.429)

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