Saturday, December 20, 2014

NFL Picks, Week 16

We're getting down to the end of the season, just 31 games left to pick. Unlike the last two seasons I have a realistic shot to keep my head (slightly) above water (.500) for the entire season.
In order to stay above .500 I need to pick 12/31 games correctly over the next two weeks.
In order to get above .550 I need to pick 25/31 games correctly over the next two weeks.

So let's get to it. Home team in CAPS.

Saturday Games:
Philadelphia (-8) over WASHINGTON
I know the Eagles haven't looked great over the last two weeks, but I've seen the Seahawks and Cowboys play this season, and Washington, you're no Seahawks or Cowboys. Seattle and Dallas were able to get pressure on Mark Sanchez, cover the short passes well to get Sanchez outside of his comfort zone, and score early to punish the Eagles for early three-and-outs. I have no faith that Washington can do any of those things.

San Diego (+1) over SAN FRANCISCO 
Of Seattle's last nine opponents, eight have lost their next game.
Game vs Seattle
Next Game
St. Louis (1-4)
W, 28-26
Kansas City (3-3)
L, 34-7
Carolina (3-3-1)
L, 13-9
New Orleans (3-4)
L, 28-10
Oakland (0-7)
L, 30-24
Denver (6-2)
L, 41-17
New York Giants (3-5)
L, 38-17
San Francisco (5-4)
L, 16-10
Kansas City (6-3)
W, 24-20
Oakland (0-10)
L, 24-20
Arizona (9-1)
L, 19-3
Atlanta (4-7)
L, 29-18
San Francisco (7-4)
L, 19-3
Oakland (1-11)
L, 24-13
Philadelphia (9-3)
L, 24-14
Dallas (9-4)
L, 38-27
San Francisco (7-6)
L, 17-7
San Diego (8-6)

Add in the fact that the 49ers are incredibly beat up, and their general offensive malaise, and I think San Diego overcomes the Harbaughs, even with a gimpy Philip Rivers, no Ryan Mathews, and no Keenan Allen.

This also seems like the space to congratulate the 49ers for taking a stand with now-former defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who made the mistake of getting involved in an incident (he's a suspect in an alleged rape investigation) after his team had been eliminated from playoff contention.

Sunday Games: 
Minnesota (+6.5) over MIAMI 
Since Miami's season peaked (in their narrow loss at Denver in week 12), here are their opponents' rushing statistics:
Week 13 (New York Jets): 49 rushes for 277 yards
Week 14 (Baltimore): 31 rushes, 183 yards
Week 15 (New England): 29 rushes, 108 yards

I think it's safe to say that you can run on the Dolphins defense. And if you can run on them, it hampers the top strength of their defense: the pass rush. Add in an almost-Chiefs like inability to make plays downfield, and Miami is simply flat-lining at the worst possible time.

Green Bay (-11.5) over TAMPA BAY
Angry Aaron Rodgers going up against a toothless Tampa Bay defense? Why yes I'll have seconds...and even thirds!

Detroit (-8.5) over CHICAGO
This seems like a good time to remind everyone that Bears coach Marc Trestman benched Jay Cutler this week. That's right, 14 games into a 7-year, $126 Million deal, Cutler was benched. That's not fair, you say? NFL contracts are inflated with funny money, you say? You're right, but Cutler's deal guaranteed his salaries for the first 3 years of his deal, salaries that total $49 Million.

That's not reason enough to pick Detroit? Okay, it's true that Cutler was leading the league in turnovers this season, so maybe the backup could improve the play at the Bears' QB position. Except the backup is Jimmy Clausen. So that's not going to happen.

Atlanta (+6) over NEW ORLEANS
This line confuses me. I believe the Saints are a more talented team than the Falcons. I believe the Saints should win this game. But I don't understand how a Saints team that has been as up-and-down as this one has (including a current home losing streak of 4) is a 6 point favorite in this game.

Now, if you tell me that Julio Jones can't go, it's more understandable. But he has to play, this is essentially a playoff game for the Falcons.

New England (-10.5) over NEW YORK JETS
This is the sixth (and probably last) season the Patriots will play Rex Ryan's Jets. In the previous 5 seasons, a pattern has emerged:

First Matchup
Second Matchup
Week 2: Jets 16, Pats 9
Week 11: Pats 31, Jets 14
Week 2: Jets 28, Pats 14
Week 13: Pats 45, Jets 3
Week 5: Pats 30, Jets 21
Week 10: Pats 37, Jets 16
Week 7: Pats 29, Jets 26 (OT)
Week 12: Pats 49, Jets 19
Week 2: Pats 13, Jets 10
Week 7: Jets 30, Pats 27 (OT)
Week 7: Pats 27, Jets 25
Week 16: ???

Games played in the first half of the season, average points scored: Jets 22.3, Pats 21.3
Games played in the second half of the season, average points scored: Pats 40.5, Jets 13.0

The first matchup of the season is usually close, but the Patriots tend to run away with the second matchup. The only year this wasn't true? 2013, when the second matchup came in week 7.

PITTSBURGH (-3) over Kansas City
Great offense and no defense against good defense and bad offense. In a situation like this I'll use the quarterbacks as a tiebreaker, and I'll go with the guy who has successfully thrown a touchdown pass to any receiver on his roster (hint: that disqualifies Alex Smith).

CAROLINA (-3.5) over Cleveland
Good news, Cleveland fans: I believe Johnny Manziel will lead your team to at least one score this week. In fact, I believe he'll lead your team to multiple scores. What's the bad news (how did you know there was bad news)? Carolina's three-headed (four, if you count Cam) backfield will run all over your defense, meaning those scores won't be enough.

Baltimore (-5) over HOUSTON
Baltimore has no secondary at this point. Injuries and poor play have really de-fanged that back four. Luckily, they're playing a team that just signed Case Keenum off the scrap heap, because their top 3 choices at the quarterback position are all injured. Can JJ Watt throw and catch the touchdown passes? Have they tried Watt at quarterback? Doesn't that seem like a better plan?

ST. LOUIS (-5.5) over New York Giants
Eli Manning against that pass rush? No thank you.

Buffalo (-6) over OAKLAND
I'm picking the Bills while acknowledging the fact that shutting down Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in back-to-back weeks only to lose the following week to Derek Carr, thus eliminating themselves from playoff contention would be about the most Buffalo ending to a season since Scott Norwood.

Indianapolis (+3) over DALLAS
I think this will be a shootout, and Dallas' offensive line and workhorse back (DeMarco Murray) are pretty nicked up, so I trust Andrew Luck to make a couple more plays than Tony Romo. Presumably the Colts will put up something approaching resistance to the Romo-Dez Bryant connection.

Seattle (-8) over ARIZONA
On the one hand, the Cardinals defense is much better than Vegas is giving them credit for. This could very well be a 10-6 or even 12-9 game. On the other hand, the Cardinals are starting Ryan Lindley at quarterback. The last time Lindley played in a game against Seattle...this happened. I'm going to continue to roll with the Seattle defense against a quarterback who should not be starting an important game.

Monday Game:
Denver (-3) over CINCINNATI
Andy Dalton in prime time against Peyton Manning in the regular season.

This Week: 1-0 (Whoo-hoo!)
Last Week: 8-7-1 (.531)
2014 Season: 114-106-3 (.518)

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