Friday, December 5, 2014

NFL Picks, Week 14

Okay, I'm done with these quick hitting little posts where I make my picks. We're gearing up for some well(?)-reasoned analysis backing the picks to turn around the poor performance of the past couple of weeks.

MIAMI (-3) over Baltimore
I was sure that Baltimore was going to handle San Diego last week. Sure their defense has been atrophying before our eyes as the season has gone on, but I was sure that San Diego was in the process of fading out of the playoff picture. Instead, it looks like the Ravens are the team fading out of the playoff picture. The defense simply cannot stop competent (read: Not NFC South) offenses.

Now, a good retort here would be to throw last Monday's game in my face. You know, the one where the Jets ran for 200+ yards in the first half and Miami looked anything but competent on offense all game. Now add in that the Ravens only allow 3.6 ypc, and I could start to get behind the Ravens in this one.

Until this happened:

The Ravens defense really could not afford to lose another key piece.

CINCINNATI (-3) over Pittsburgh
The Steelers don't have many good wins (Indy, Baltimore?), and they have quite a few bad losses (Tampa Bay, the Jets, the Saints in Pittsburgh). I just don't trust the Steelers against a good team. Yes Andy Dalton can be terrible. Really, really terrible. But you have to pressure him to make Bad Andy come out. Pittsburgh can't defend the run or the pass very well, and they struggle to generate consistent pressure. Either Ben throws for 6 touchdowns or the defense eventually collapses.

Indianapolis (-3.5) over CLEVELAND
I was hoping this spread would be higher. I think Cleveland will be competitive in this one. The Colts' top cornerback (Vontae Davis) is hurt and will miss the game. The last time he missed a game, this happened. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 6 touchdowns for the first time and Andrew Luck tripped himself into a safety.

But then I take another look at the quarterbacks, and its Andrew Luck against Brian Hoyer. Not "He led the Browns to 7-5! The Browns!" Brian Hoyer. But "50% completion rate, 7ypa, 1TD/6INT in his last three games" Brian Hoyer. And I can't take Hoyer, not with the line at just over a field goal. Sorry, Cleveland.

Houston (-6) over JACKSONVILLE
Okay, instead of analysis, watch this video of JJ Watt miked up against the Texans. Go ahead, I'll wait. Now make a case on why I should bet against JJ Watt when he's playing the Jaguars.

New York Giants (PK) over TENNESSEE
The Giants have no pride left, their coach is almost certainly a dead man walking, but the Titans have no healthy wide receivers. Believe me, after blowing a 21-3 lead against Jacksonville last week, I'm very much looking for reasons not to back the Giants. I just can't do it with this Titans team. Just know I'm making the Eli face as I turn in this pick.

NEW ORLEANS (-10) over Carolina
The Saints already clobbered the Panthers 28-10 this season. And this week is their home matchup with Carolina! No one in the NFC South is good, but the Saints are the least terrible team of the lot. And it's not really close.

DETROIT (-10) over Tampa Bay
Josh McCown on the road against a good defense? Pass.

WASHINGTON (+3) over St. Louis 
With Colt McCoy under center, the Redskins offense has a chance to be competent. I'm definitely worried about how the offensive line will handle the pressure from the Rams front seven (mainly front four), but I'm also concerned with how the Rams offense will fare when a) they don't get to play the Raiders and b) they have to be one dimensional (the Redskins, while very bad at pass defense, actually play the run pretty well).

MINNESOTA (-6) over New York Jets
The Jets won't get to run for 270+ yards again. I honestly don't know how they did it against Miami, but it won't happen again. Without that, they won't score enough to keep up.

DENVER (-9.5) over Buffalo
I want to pick Buffalo to cover, and if the game were in New York I would. Buffalo's defense should be able to slow down the CJ Anderson show against the Broncos and they defend the pass well too. But their offense isn't going to put any pressure on Manning to keep pace. Even if it takes a quarter or so, Manning will find a way to get his points.

Kansas City (PK) over ARIZONA
This is less about Arizona looking bad terrible the last two weeks offensively and more about the Chiefs being a bad matchup for the Drew Stanton-led Cardinals. Arizona plays great defense, but can't run the ball, and needs to hit on a few big pass plays per game to generate points. Kansas City has a much stronger pass defense than rush defense, doesn't turn the ball over much, and loves grinding out drives with runs and short passes.

San Francicso (-8) over OAKLAND
The 49ers offense is indisputably a mess. They can't run over teams anymore (and the wheels might finally be falling off the Frank Gore express), and their passing offense isn't good enough to pick up the slack. But they can run over the Raiders defense. And the 49ers defense will make life miserable for Derek Carr and the Raiders offense.

I mean, the Raiders just lost to St. Louis 52-0. I don't like to overreact to recent events, but 52-0!

Seattle (+1) over PHILADELPHIA
I am fascinated by this matchup. Going into the playoffs last season, there were only 2 teams I believed could go into Seattle and earn a victory in the postseason. The first was San Francisco, they were the second-best team in the NFL last season and had the talent to matchup with the Seahawks. The second team? The Eagles. I simply didn't know how the Seahawks' defense would matchup with the tempo and talent of the Eagles' offense. Thanks to the Saints, I didn't have to find out.

But this Philly team doesn't scare me as much. First off, their quarterback is Mark Sanchez instead of Notmark Sanchez. Second, their offense looks better on paper thanks to 6 non-offensive touchdowns, most in the league. Third, while they generate plenty of turnovers themselves, they have the most giveaways in the league. That makes Seattle a really bad matchup, because the Seahawks feast on turnovers and don't give the ball away themselves (second-fewest in the league).

Basically, unless Philly wins the turnover battle (meaning Mark Sanchez doesn't turn the ball over and Seattle does), I think Seattle handles the Eagles' attack.

New England (-3.5) over SAN DIEGO
I picked the Patriots over the Packers last week because while Green Bay is a legitimately great team, they have a clear weakness: their rush defense. And normally, teams with glaring weaknesses see that weakness exploited over and over again when they play a Belichick team. I ended up being wrong (the Pats didn't run the ball nearly as much as I expected and the Packers both won and covered).

The Chargers aren't a great team with a glaring weakness. They are a mediocre team being propped up by Philip Rivers. The Chargers will put up some points, as New England is struggling to generate a consistent pass rush, but San Diego will not keep pace with the Patriots offense.

GREEN BAY (-12.5) over Atlanta
Have you seen Aaron Rodgers play at Lambeau this year? 20 TDs/0 INT. Have you seen the Atanta Falcons pass rush this season (trick question, it doesn't exist). Double-digit spreads are evil, and I absolutely get caught up backing the favorite way to often, but the Falcons will end up another carcass in a Lambeau game that's over by halftime...if not sooner.

This Week: 1-0 (Whoo-hoo!)
Last Week: 5-10 (.333)
2014 Season: 100-90-1 (.526)

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