Week 15 Picks

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May 122012
 

Last week overall: 12-4

Last week ATS: 7-8-1 (-950/-21%)

Overall picks: 138-79 (.659)

ATS Picks: 108-93-7 (+$1920)

Lock picks: 10-4

Upset picks: 25-26 (+1249)

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Week 14 recap: Last week was my worst week since week 6 and my second straight losing week. Since being up $3200 two weeks ago, I have dropped to $1920. However, this week was especially frustrating, more frustrating than when I lost a 5 unit by .5 points week 6.

Indianapolis/Tennessee: Indianapolis is favored by 3 and jumps out to an early 21-0 lead. The Titans comeback, down 30-21 driving with about a minute left in the game in field goal range. Every man and their dog knows what the Titans should do. Kick the field goal and then go for the on sides kick and the Hail Mary, rather than use all your time going for the touchdown. It’s football 101. However, Fisher decided to go for the touchdown instead and Kerry Collins drove all the way down for the score, to make it 30-28 as time expired for the backdoor cover.

Kicking the field goal earlier was their only chance to win the game, but Fisher seemed more determined to cover the spread. He wanted the 50% chance of covering and the 0% chance of winning rather than the 10% chance of winning and covering (all numbers approximate and made up). I wasn’t the only one pissed about this. 85% of the money was on the Colts this week. Either Fisher bet on the Titans or Fisher helped Vegas fix this game. I can’t think of any other explanations. Oh, and to make matters worse, none of this would have happened if Blair White hadn’t decided to play defense on his own guy and knock the ball out of Reggie Wayne’s hands in the end zone earlier in the game. Wayne catches that ball, Colts had 7 instead of 3 and win/cover 34-28. Maybe White was in on the fix too.

Philadelphia/Dallas: Not quite as bad. At least no football 101 rules were broken. Philly was favored by 3.5 here and Dallas, down by 10, drove for the backdoor cover winning touchdown. Philly got the ball back and drove it into field goal range for an easy field goal, but instead just ran the clock out. I know going for the field goal rather than taking the win is a stupid football move, but come on. Jeff Fisher would have done it. You know, if he had bet on his own team.

Houston/Baltimore: Baltimore is favored by 3 and jumps out to a 28-7 lead early in the 3rd. Houston then mounts a furious comeback to get it to 28-26, after a 99 yard drive and a 95 yard drive, and has a chance to tie it with a 2 point conversion. I had been rooting for the Texans to make a huge comeback this entire time as I picked them +3, and initially wanted them to convert the two so I could potentially get a shot as a win (I picked the Texans straight up as underdogs as well).

However, I decided it would be better if the Texans failed on the two. The 3 unit cover would be intact and that’s more important that the Texans winning. I actually imagined this game going to overtime and the Ravens getting first possession and then driving all the way down on Houston’s terrible defense for the push clinching field goal or the spread winning touchdown.

The Texans did convert the two and sure enough Baltimore got first possession to start overtime. However, the Ravens were forced to punt. Maybe my luck was turning around. Nope. Matt Schaub, after leading that amazing comeback, threw a cover losing pick six. Honestly, don’t feel so bad for me as you feel for the Texans. That was the 4th time this year they’ve mounted a 14+ point comeback and lost anyway. They’ve only played 13 games.

Those 3 games were a combined 8 units, meaning a $1680 swing. I guess that’s why they say Vegas always wins. Hopefully my luck turns around this week. I’ve made a respectable amount this year, but of course I’d like more.

San Diego Chargers 35 San Francisco 49ers 17 Lock Pick

Spread: -9.5 San Diego

Pick against spread: San Diego 3 units (+300)

The Chargers are back to their old December ways. Following an embarrassing 15 point home loss to the Raiders week 13, the Chargers buckled down and won a must win home game over the Chiefs 31-0. A lot of people will try to blame that loss on the fact that Matt Cassel didn’t play. I don’t think the result would have been much different if he did. Cassel has been good this year because he’s had a good running game and played an easy schedule. The Chargers took away the Chiefs ground game and were a much tougher opponent than most of the Chiefs’ prior opponents. This Chargers team is for real after that win.

I normally don’t like betting heavily on a team favored by more than a touchdown, but I’m putting 3 on the Chargers at -9. I’m convinced this team can blow out any bad team in the league in December. In another must win game, they will bring their A game. These games are must win from here on out, which is good because their schedule is terrible.

The 49ers looked better last week, but that was against Seattle. San Diego is a different monster. If the Chargers had beaten the Raiders, I would have pounded Chargers -9 against the Chiefs last week. Now that it appears that loss is a thing of the past, I’ll pound the Chargers -9 against the still lowly 49ers. Oh, and just to add to that, the Chargers are a +.500 home team on Thursday Night Football.

Cleveland Browns 23 Cincinnati Bengals 7 Upset Pick (+108)

Spread: Cincinnati -1

Pick against spread: Cleveland 4 units (-440)

Colt McCoy is expected to be back for this game. However, this line doesn’t reflect that. If Jake Delhomme were starting for the Browns, I could see this being an even spread. Carson Palmer and Jake Delhomme would have an epic pick six battle for the ages and the winner would probably be whoever didn’t throw the most touchdowns to the other team.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you see it), we won’t get to see that. McCoy is a significant better quarterback than either Palmer or Delhomme. McCoy has beaten the Saints and the Patriots this season. Granted, those Patriots weren’t quite the same Patriots that are on an unstoppable roll right now, but that’s still a very impressive feat for a rookie quarterback.

McCoy is 2-3 as a starter this year, with 2 of those 3 losses coming in close games to the Jaguars and Jets (both playoff contenders), and the other one coming against the Steelers, a very tough NFL debut. Simply put, McCoy’s first 5 starts in the NFL were about as hard as they could be and McCoy responded extremely well.

Now he comes back and gets the 2-11 Bengals, who just lost what was essentially their Super Bowl, Steelers in Pittsburgh. In fact, if Ben Roethlisberger kneeled down all game, they would have lost to the Steelers. The Steelers won 23-7 on the strength of 3 Palmer picks, 2 returned for touchdowns. The Bengals will get a bit of any easier test this week in Cleveland, but not a whole lot easier. Remember, the Bengals lost to Seneca Wallace and the Browns week 4. McCoy is better than Wallace and the Bengals are in worse shape now than they were week 4 thanks to injuries and complacency as result of being a low character team with a terrible record.

Not only does McCoy get his easiest test of the year, his support cast might actually be better now that it was before he got hurt. Their defense has really stepped it up big times in recent weeks, especially against the pass, thanks to the breakout of rookie corner Joe Haden. This defense was good enough to get Delhomme two wins, over the Panthers and the Dolphins, and almost a third, against the Bills. And then of course you can’t forget about Peyton Hillis going against the Bengals 26th ranked run defense.

With McCoy starting the Browns are easily the better team in this matchup, yet the line doesn’t reflect that. I’m taking the Browns for 4 and thought about 5, but there’s about a 10-15% chance that Delhomme starts. If Jake Delhomme has to start this week (which is looking very unlikely), this would be Cleveland, only for 1, so my pick wouldn’t change. Because of that, I’m confident in Cleveland +1 for 4. If you’re making bets, make it now. Don’t wait for injury news as this line could shift.

Dallas Cowboys 34 Washington Redskins 23

Spread: Dallas -6.5

Pick against spread: Dallas 2 units (-220)

Washington’s offense finally showed some life last week. Granted, it was against an already bad Tampa Bay defense, missing its top corner, and they only scored 16 points because of stupid mistakes in the red zone and the entire special teams unit getting drunk before the game. Special teams and mistakes haven’t been their problem this season so I expect that to get corrected this week against the Cowboys. The Cowboys defense isn’t much better than the Buccaneers, in fact, if you can believe it, they’ve been one of the league’s worst defenses in terms of yards and points, since Jason Garrett took over. Garrett’s mastery with the offense has masked that.

This should be a high scoring game, but I like the Redskins chances to cover a 6 point spread considering how they played last week. It’s also worth noting that 6 of the last 8 Cowboys/Redskins games have been decided by 6 or less. NFC East divisional games are normally close. Also, the road team has covered in 5 of the last 6. The only time the road team didn’t cover was earlier this year, when these Cowboys failed to cover in Washington.

Update: Rex Grossman to start for the Redskins. Line moved to 6.5 and I wouldn’t be surprised if it went higher. Yes, this is still a tough divisional matchup with a big line, but you can’t bet on GROSSman. I have no idea why Shanahan benched McNabb for him. 

There is no way this line should be under a touchdown right now. The Cowboys are playing like a good team of late and I can’t see anyway that Rex Grossman and the Redskins score much in this game, especially since McNabb’s supporting cast is furious at Shanahan for benching him. Out of the playoff race, I see no reason why they give any effort for Shanny, just like the Titans are giving no effort for Jeff Fisher. 

Houston Texans 26 Tennessee Titans 16 Upset Pick (+109)

Spread: Tennessee -1

Pick against spread: Houston 2 units (-220)

Whatever Gary Kubiak says to his team the halftime, he probably should say before the game. This team has the most points per game in the second half since the Greatest Show on Turf. Hell, their 2nd half output is more than close to half of the league scores all game. The issues are that they are slow starters and that their defense is atrocious.

The Texans won this game 20-0 last time these two met, just 3 weeks ago. However, that Titans plain didn’t show up in that game. Quarterback Rusty Smith had a terrible game and couldn’t put any points on the board. Kerry Collins is now starting for the Titans so they’re at least a little bit better offensively. Collins struggled against Jacksonville, which is just as bad as struggling against the Texans, but had a decent game against the Colts, though most of that was in garbage time.

I like the Texans here for a few reasons. This is normally a good team in the 4th quarter of the season. In their last 13 games week 14 or later, they are 10-3, including that loss against Baltimore. They also do better when they’re all but out of it, which they are now. Most teams do terrible after tough losses that essentially end their season. This team does better after them.

The Texans offense is also clearly superior to the Titans. The Titans have the better defense, but this offense is pretty inept. In their last 3 weeks, since losing Vince Young, they’ve lost 20-0, 17-6, and trailed 21-0 before the Colts let them back in it. The Jaguars and Texans allowed a combined 6 points to this team and neither of those defenses are any good. They are really struggling offensively and I don’t think another game with the Texans is going to remedy that. Given the Titans’ inability to score, Schaub can start slow and not have to mount a furious comeback to win.

I also see the Titans as another team that’s quit on their coach. This locker room was clearly Pro-Vince Young and didn’t like how Fisher handled the situation. They’ve put up no effort on either side of the ball, not even on defense where they were once amazing, since Young was benched and placed on IR. Out of the playoff race, they have no need to try. Finally, they’re on a 6 game losing streak right now and this line doesn’t seem to take that into account much. These two teams aren’t evenly matched. This would be a 3+ unit pick if I trusted the Texans’ ability to win. They seem to invent ways to lose.

Indianapolis Colts 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 27

Spread: Indianapolis -4.5

Pick against spread: Indianapolis 1 unit (+100)

Out of the last 17 times these two teams have met, 15 of them were decided by 8 points or less. That doesn’t do us a ton of good with a 5 point line, but it’s something to keep in mind. This game will be close. I think the Colts are clearly the superior team here. They only lost in Jacksonville earlier this year because of a 59 yard field goal by the Jaguars. That’s what we call luck.

Peyton Manning carved up this secondary last time these two met, which isn’t a surprise because everyone carves up this secondary. Jason Campbell looked like a Pro Bowler last week. In a must win game (for the division), I expect the Colts to play their A game to match the Jaguars A game (which they always play against the Colts) and that the Colts’ A game will win out.

For the record, the Colts have won 12-5 of their last 17 against the Jaguars. However, given my 2-11 record betting on Jaguars games, I’m not putting any more than a unit on their games. I wave the white flag. I have no idea how to pick their games.

 

St. Louis Rams 26 Kansas City Chiefs 19

Spread: -3 St. Louis

Pick against spread: St. Louis 2 units (-220)

Cassel is expected to start in this one, but I still like the Rams to win. I think the Chiefs are being overvalued right now, as road favorites against a good young home team. They looked awful last week, but that’s not Brodie Croyle’s fault, entirely. I still think they would have been killed even with Cassel. Now, with Cassel coming back, the public is regarding him as the messiah, the answer to all the Chiefs problems, and disregarding the fact that they haven’t beaten anyone of note.

The Chiefs most impressive win was a 7 point victory over the early season form Chargers, which is nothing like beating them late in the season. Their most impressive road victory, where they are a mere 1-5, as at Cleveland and Jake Delhomme week 2 by 2. That’s their only road victory. Does that sound like a team that should be favorites on the road?

The Rams, meanwhile, are undervalued. They have been all year, posting a 9-4 record against the spread. However, their loss in New Orleans last week looked worse than it was. That was simply a case of a rookie quarterback in Sam Bradford not understanding Gregg Williams’ complex scheme or being able to handle the noise in the Superdome.

In addition, there’s the motivation factor for Kansas City. They’re coming off a bad loss, a heartbreaking beat down, essentially their Super Bowl, their chance to prove everyone that they were the best in the division and that their week 1 victory over the Chargers was a fluke. They might not be focused for a 6-7 team coming off a bad looking loss to the Saints. The Chiefs supporting cast might also not try at 100% with Cassel coming back, regarding Cassel as the messiah and the answer to all of their problems. This is especially bad because Cassel is only as good as his supporting cast. That’s the type of quarterback he is.

Update: This line has moved to -3 St. Louis because Matt Cassel has been moved to a game time decision. I still like St. Louis for 2, especially if Brodie Croyle does start for the Chiefs. 

Buffalo Bills 16 Miami Dolphins 10 Upset Pick (+193)

Spread: -5.5 Miami

Pick against spread: Buffalo 5 units (+500)

Miami won last week over the once mighty Jets. However, in 6 chances in the Tony Sparano era, the Dolphins haven’t once covered as a favorite after winning straight up as an underdog. In 7 chances in the Tony Sparano era, the Dolphins haven’t once won as favorites of 3.5 or more.

In a situation much like this one (at home, 5.5 point favorites, coming off a SU win as an underdog) they fell flat on their faces against the Browns and lost by 3. The Bills just beat the Browns, in case you were wondering. The Dolphins are 1-5 this year after a win and are 1-5 at home.

Plus, I’m not convinced that the Bills aren’t the better team and can‘t win straight up. In the Dolphins win over the Jets last week, Chad Henne completed 5 (count ‘em 5) passes. This is one week after having thrown 3 picks. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who I’m not a fan of, is probably the better quarterback right now.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Detroit Lions 14

Spread: -6 Tampa Bay

Pick against spread: Detroit 3 units (+300)

Thanks to maybe some luck, the Buccaneers remained undefeated against teams with losing records last week. The Buccaneers have kind of been the team that does exactly what they’re supposed to. They’ve beaten all of the teams with losing records and lost to all of the teams with winning records.

The Lions are a bad team. With Drew Stanton at quarterback, there’s no denying that. However, the Buccaneers have already played close games with Cincinnati (24-21), Cleveland (17-14), and Arizona (38-35), in addition to close games against slightly better teams (Washington 17-16) and (St. Louis 18-17).

They’ve only won 3 games by more than a field goal (Carolina twice and San Francisco). I think given that they’ve struggled to beat bad teams by more than a field goal, they could have trouble covering this 6 point spread. Also, the Lions are great at back door covers. They lose a lot of close games, 6 of their 10 losses by less than 6. They also have the league’s best record against the spread at 9-4. Another interesting trend, the Buccaneers are 2-11 at home ATS in the Raheem Morris era. That’s weird, but it can’t be ignored.

Arizona Cardinals 23 Carolina Panthers 17 Upset Pick (+130)

Spread: -2.5 Carolina

Pick against spread: Arizona 3 units (-330)

Another toilet bowl game. I originally just wanted to take the home team, as the Cardinals are a west coast team traveling three time zones for a 1 PM game. However, I’m not betting the Panthers as favorites. Teams that win 2 or fewer games in a season are 1-10 as favorites since 2002. I know 2.5 points isn’t a lot, but for a 2 or fewer win team, it is a lot. I’m willing to bet, in those other 11 games in which terrible teams were favored, that they weren’t favored by much more than 2.5.

Also, the Cardinals did look decent last week against the Broncos, as they were “missing” Derek Anderson due to injury. The Broncos threw 3 picks in that game. The Broncos may be terrible, but at the same time, so are the Panthers. Jimmy Clausen could easily throw a few picks in this one and Arizona’s defense, if there’s one thing they do well, it’s score defensive touchdowns.

The Cardinals have scored 7 this year, most in the league by far. It’s not even close. Next closest are a few teams with 4. The Cardinals also rank 3rd in the league in interception return yards (bet you never would have guessed that). Not surprisingly, the Panthers are 2nd in the league to Cincinnati in most defensive touchdowns allowed. They rank 6th in the league in most yards allowed off of interception returns. I love this matchup.

Finally, I think the Panthers have given up. They’re not showing any effort. They’ve quit on their coach who quit on them week 1, after he didn’t receive a contract extension. They really seem to be aiming for the #1 pick rather than winning any games right now. Even quarterback Jimmy Clausen seems to want this team to get the #1 pick. If they draft Andrew Luck, Clausen gets traded to a different team and gets a much better supporting cast.

New Orleans Saints 27 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick (+105)

Spread: Baltimore -1

Pick against spread: New Orleans 3 units (-330)

I haven’t liked the Ravens since week 1 of this season and that Monday Night near loss showed why. I’m not a fan of their game plans. Ray Rice is one of the best running backs and the league and Willis McGahee is one of the best backups. This should be a running team. I know they’re trying to get Flacco involved more, but it seems like they’re trying too hard. Even though they led big for most of the game, they kept going to the air, throwing 33 times to 24 runs.

They’ve passed 433 times to 383 runs this year and often pass with big leads. It’s part of the reason why they can’t hold onto leads. Why in the world would they pass on 3rd and 2 with an 8 point lead and 2:42 left with the opponent having no timeouts? That touchdown to tie it doesn’t happen if they run there and take 35-40 seconds more off the clock and if they convert on that short running play, forget about it. Game over.

Also, why don’t they ever block the safety blitz. Pittsburgh and Houston ran it several times in those two games and each them they ran it, something bad happened for the Ravens. It was like they couldn’t figure it out. They just stood there confused like why is that safety blitzing? Joe Flacco is one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the NFL so that’s a bad combination. If they can’t manage a simple safety blitz, how do they expect to block Gregg Williams’ exotic blitzes, especially with a shortened week (after MNF).

This team hasn’t been able to close out teams all year, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New England, Atlanta, Houston, they’ve blown leads in all of those. It’s not terrible when it’s against a bad team like Houston or Buffalo, if they can still win, but Pittsburgh, New England, and Atlanta have all beaten them in comeback fashion late. In fact, which of their wins has been the most impressive? Charlie Batch and the Steelers by 3? The Jets who had more penalties than yards in the first half week 1 and still only lost by 1? Tampa Bay? Miami? Those are the only 4 winning teams they’ve beaten. I don’t give them much of a shot against New Orleans, provided New Orleans shows up.

New Orleans is always at their best against good teams. They haven’t had a particularly tough schedule this year, but they show up for big games. Beating Pittsburgh week 8 was a perfect example of that and this team hasn’t looked back since. I expect them to give their A game here and beat the Ravens, whether convincingly or in a late comeback.

Philadelphia Eagles 28 New York Giants 20 Upset Pick (+136)

Spread: -2.5 NY Giants

Pick against spread: Philadelphia 2 units (+200)

Like the Patriots’ offense, the only thing that can stop the Eagles’ offense is themselves. Unlike the Patriots offense, the Eagles do frequently stop themselves. Whether it be turnovers, poor game management, penalties, sacks, this team shoots itself in the foot offensively far too much. In 6 games since Vick returned from injury, this team has scored 202 points. Even if you count their 59 point outburst against the Redskins as an outlier, that’s still 143 points in 5 games.

The Giants allowed 27 to the Eagles the last time these two met, so, relatively, they did a good job. However, they still lost by 10. They could have won, but they turned the ball over 5 times. That’s been the story of the season for the Giants. Believe it or not, the Giants, despite being 9-4, lead the league with 33 turnovers. The Eagles are tied for 2nd with Pittsburgh in most turnovers forced, 2nd to, not surprisingly, the Giants.

In Eli Manning’s last 3 games against the Eagles, he’s turned the balls over 8 times. The Eagles are going to get Asante Samuel back, their leader in interceptions. Samuel leads the league with 7 picks despite missing 4 games this year, including the last 3. He had 3 takeaways the last time these two met, including two picks of Manning. Samuel will also help in coverage, something this team has lacked since he went down.

Samuel’s return will be key as the Giants got both Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith back last week against the Vikings. However, that didn’t help Eli much. Eli threw 2 picks to one touchdown and might not have won if it weren’t for a few big plays by his running backs and Tarvaris Jackson’s ineptness. Ahmad Bradshaw hurt his wrist last week, but is expected to play in this one, forming a two headed monster with Brandon Jacobs that will be tough to stop.

The Giants haven’t been terribly impressive recently. Last week was hardly the first of their rough 2nd half games. They started the 2nd half with sloppy losses against Dallas and Philadelphia, before getting dominated for 2 and a half quarters by the Jaguars, in a game they would eventually win. They then beat the non-existent Redskins by a ton and last week’s win against Minnesota. The schedule says that their 3-2 in their last 5 and 9-4 on the season, outscoring their opponents 70-13 in their last 10 quarters. However, I don’t think this team is as good as that sounds and as good as this line indicates.

I don’t think there’s any way the Giants should be 2.5 point favorites here, even at home, after they lost to the Eagles by 10 in sloppy fashion. You could say the Giants won’t be sloppy this week, but remember the Eagles were sloppy against the Giants as well, and I’d rather take my chances with the Eagles not being sloppy then the team that leads the league in turnovers, the New York Giants. Also, you saw that stat, Eli has 8 picks in his last 3 against the Eagles. That will almost certainly continue this week with Asante Samuel returning. That’s the last thing the Giants defense wants, the ball in the Eagles offense’s hands more that it needs to be. The only reason this is only a two unit is because I could see this being a sloppy game all around with tons of big plays, turnovers, missed tackles, blown coverages, and those games could go either way.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Seattle Seahawks 16

Spread: -6 Atlanta

Pick against spread: Atlanta 3 units (+300)

The Falcons aren’t the same team on the road as they are at home and the Seahawks are much better at home than they are on the road and Atlanta to Seattle is one of the longest trips in football (Miami to Seattle, Jacksonville to Seattle, Tampa Bay to Seattle, New England to San Diego). However, the Seahawks are really showing themselves to be a bad team these last few weeks so I don’t have any problems taking the Falcons -6 here on the road.

Falcons didn’t look too bad on the road against a bad team last week. The Seahawks have lost all 7 of their games by 10 points or more. They’ve won 4 of their 6 games by double digits as well, but when they lose, they lose big. And I expect them to lose so I have to think they won’t cover this 6 point spread.

Pittsburgh Steelers 16 New York Jets 13

Spread: -6 Pittsburgh

Pick against spread: NY Jets 2 units (+200)

The Jets offense is sputtering right now, big time. I guess this is what they get for sleepwalking through a cakewalk part of their schedule and then expecting to be able to turn it on when it matters. They haven’t beaten a winning team since week 3 and the only two winning teams they’ve beaten, they lost to in revenge games (Patriots, Dolphins). I don’t expect them to be able to beat the Steelers, who always come focused for big opponents.

However, I’m not just picking a winner here. I’m picking against the spread. The Steelers offense isn’t doing so hot right now. They only scored 19 against the Bills, 13 against the Ravens, and scored 23 last week against the Bengals, but 14 of those came off pick sixes. Carson Palmer threw more touchdowns than Ben Roethlisberger (3-0), but Palmer threw 2 of his to the other team. This spread doesn’t indicate that the Steelers offense is struggling. Against a Jets defense that is still playing like one of the best in the league (except for that Pats game), that’s not a good sign.

Now, the offensive problems in Pittsburgh aren’t Big Ben’s fault, necessarily. His line isn’t giving him any time. Even the Bengals were able to put up a consistent pass rush against him last week. He’s playing with a broken foot and broken nose. This is a bad matchup for the Steelers against a Jets defense that can take away the Steelers running game, force Big Ben into 3rd and longs and then blitz him and get to him a few times.

I expect this to be a hard fought defensive game and not one that’s going to be decided by more than 6 either way. I like the Steelers to win, but not cover. The Steelers have impressive wins against the Falcons and the Ravens this year, both coming by 6 or less and the Falcons game, which was decided by 6, went into overtime. In fact, 5 of their 9 wins have come by 6 or less and against worse teams than the Jets. Teams like Cincinnati, Miami, and Buffalo have all kept it within 6 and Cincinnati could have done it again last week if it weren’t for the two pick sixes.

Oakland Raiders 21 Denver Broncos 13

Spread: -9 Oakland

Pick against spread: Denver 1 unit (-110)

Call me crazy, but I think the Broncos were actually better off with Josh McDaniels, at least for the rest of the season. No offense to Eric Studesville, but Studesville is a running backs coach, not a head coach. McDaniels was their offensive coordinator too, so the Broncos playbook probably isn’t very complex right now and their gameplan really must be lacking. Simply put, this team doesn’t have the leadership to win games right now.

Kyle Orton, naturally, looked lost against the Cardinals last week, going 19 for 41 for 166 yards and 3 picks. This was one week after he went 9 for 28 and 117 yards against the Chiefs. The passing offense is their only strength. Without it, I see no way they can win this game and having to face the Raiders strong pass rush and Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t going to help him turn it around. Orton is terrible against strong pass rushes and Asomugha should shut down Brandon Lloyd again. Lloyd caught 1 ball for 46 yards against the Raiders week 7. There’s a reason Orton was 12 for 29 for 198 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a pick in that game.

I never like taking the Raiders as big favorites. They’re 2-10 as favorites since 2006. However, I’m doing it here. The Broncos are that bad and the Raiders are playing better this year than any year since 2003. However, it’s only a two unit.

Update: Line taken down because Kyle Orton might miss this game and be replaced with Tim Tebow. If the line changes or if Tebow starts, I’ll make a new pick. 

Update: The line has been re-posted unchanged. Studesville is going to try to go with an injured Kyle Orton over Tim Tebow. An injured Orton is all the more reason why the Broncos won’t cover here. Orton is set for another terrible game. Raiders for 3 it is. 

Update: Tebow is expected to start for the Broncos and the line has been pushed to 7.5. This becomes a 1 unit pick for the Raiders because of how bad the Raiders are at covering large spreads and because I don’t know exactly how good (or bad) Tebow will fare in this one, whereas I was pretty sure Orton would struggle. 

Update: This line has know shifted to -9. I like Denver now, but only slightly more than Oakland. I was having a lot of trouble with this won. I can’t pick the Raiders here because of how bad they’ve been as a favorite in recent years. I think Tebow can do a decent job and keep this within 9. 

New England Patriots 31 Green Bay Packers 21

Spread: New England -14

Pick against spread: Green Bay 1 unit (+100)

Matt Flynn will start in this one for the Packers with Aaron Rodgers out with a concussion. This line, consequently, is at -14. I almost never bet on 2 touchdown favorites, but I almost did in this situation because of how dominant the Patriots have been in recent weeks. 

However, Matt Flynn isn’t terrible and the Packers will be playing at 110% to compensate for Rodgers’ absence and the Pats might overlook Flynn and this very talented Packers team. Flynn was 15 for 26 for 177 yards last week, but will be better with a week of practice with the first team this week. I’m going Green Bay for 1. 

Minnesota Vikings 19 Chicago Bears 17 Upset Pick (+305)

Spread: -9 Chicago

Pick against spread: Minnesota 4 units

Joe Webb is expected to start this one for Minnesota. Brett Favre could still possibly start if he makes major improvements in the next two days, but that’s not likely. Tarvaris Jackson, meanwhile, has been placed on IR breaking his 1 consecutive starts streak. 

This line is very large. The Bears have only won 3 of their 9 games by 9 or more. Also, I think they are a “when it rains it pours” type team. They started the season 3-0 before a humiliating loss to the Giants. They then followed that up by a win over the pathetic Panthers, in which they didn’t look great, before looking terrible in losses to Chicago and Washington.

They followed that up with 5 straight wins before a humiliating 36-7 loss to the Patriots at home. Now, I expect that they could continue to struggle after their loss. Also, remember that I have not been impressed with this team all season. Their most impressive win was over the Eagles, who could have easily won if Andy Reid could manage a clock and if Asante Samuel had played. Other than that, their only other 2 wins over .500 teams were against Tyler Thigpen and the Dolphins and the Packers who killed themselves with penalties.

The Vikings, meanwhile, have been playing better of late. They didn’t look good last week, but they were probably distracted with all of the Favre drama and the Metrodome drama. I expect them to bounce back this week back at home in Minnesota (in an outdoor game). Also, remember in a snow type game, I think the Vikings have the advantage. They run the ball better and Jay Cutler has historically struggled in the snow.

The home team has won this matchup 14 of the last 16 times, another good sign for the Vikings. The Bears typically struggle on the road in December. They are 8-27 ATS in their last 35 December road games. This is also a Monday Night home game for the Vikings which means they will be playing with more effort, even though they aren’t technically in their home stadium. They also will be playing with more effort than the last time they lost by 14 to the Bears in Chicago, when they were coached by Brad Childress.

Finally, this could be a trap game for the Bears. The Vikings are playing with more energy for new coach Leslie Frazier, but are going to be without their top 2 quarterbacks and coming off a bad looking loss, so they could be overlooked by the Bears, especially since the Bears beat the Vikings and Brad Childress (who they quit on) by 14 the next time these two met in Chicago. The Bears have the Jets and Packers in their next two weeks so those are the games they will be looking forward to. Plus, there’s a tiny chance Favre could play in which case we would be getting a ton of line value. I like the Vikings to win and love them to cover. Only reason this is a 4 unit and not a 5 is because I don’t trust Webb that much. 

 

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