Week 12 NFL Picks

Obviously, three of this week’s games are already in the books. I hope I won’t need expert persuasion skills to convince you that my Thanksgiving picks were 1-1-1 against the spread. Houston -3 was a push, Washington +3.5 was a win, and New York Jets +6.5 was an embarrassment.

Fortunately, there are still 13 more games to play this week, and that means it’s time to make some picks.

CINCINNATI (-8.5) vs. Oakland

Last week, I picked the Raiders to cover at home against the Saints, thinking the Raiders could score enough points on a weak Saints defense to keep the game close. Instead, the Raiders got annihilated. This week, the Raiders play a somewhat similar opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a shaky defense like the Saints, but also have some offensive firepower in the form of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. And with the Bengals at home this time, I have to think the Raiders are in for a long day again.

CLEVELAND (+1.5) vs. Pittsburgh

It’s very difficult to know just how good Charlie Batch is in relation to Byron Leftwich at this point. Both quarterbacks are a blast from the past. But if the Steelers’ offensive performance last week against Baltimore is any indication, this one could be upset city. The Browns do play decent defense, and if they can hold Pittsburgh to something in the neighborhood of 13 points, I think even Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland offense can muster enough points to win the game.

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. Buffalo

After I picked the Colts to cover the spread against the Patriots last week, I had a feeling I’d made the wrong pick. After all, the Colts were on a winning streak, so their stock was up, and they were in New England, a place where teams lose by improbable margins sometimes. Fast forward to this week, and the Colts are just a 3 point favorite at home against Buffalo. As much as I can see the Bills running up the score on the awful Colts defense, I can see Andrew Luck doing the same thing to the Bills defense.

DENVER (-10) at Kansas City

I have an aversion to picking teams that are favorites on the road, especially if the team is favored by double digits. But I just can’t bring myself to take the Chiefs here. On one side, we have Peyton Manning and a blossoming defense in Denver. On the other side, we have a team that can’t decide whether it should play Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn every week, and a team that just lost to the Bengals 28-6. I have to take the Broncos here.

JACKSONVILLE (+3) vs. Tennessee

I get the thinking behind the Jaguars being the underdog here. They have the worst offense in the NFL, and now are forced to turn to their backup quarterback. But that backup quarterback, Chad Henne, is better than Blaine Gabbert in my opinion. And I don’t think the Titans should be a road favorite against anybody.

CHICAGO (OFF) vs. Minnesota

It’s Saturday, and this game is still off, but I’m willing to take the Bears regardless. That’s because, as a Vikings fan, I know better than anybody that bad things happen in Chicago. Since the Bears are likely to be undervalued after their stinker of a performance in San Francisco, that makes this pick even more of a no-brainer for me. And the idea of Christian Ponder taking on Chicago’s defense makes me nervous.

TAMPA BAY (+1) vs. Atlanta

What does it say about the Falcons that they’re only a 1 point favorite on the road despite being 9-1? This is a team that has skated by in a lot of its games, and now they’ll be taking on a quality Buccaneers team. I think Atlanta could be in for a rude awakening in the second half of the season as their record regresses to reflect a team that is good, not great.

SEATTLE (-3) at Miami

Again, I’m sticking my neck out by taking the road favorite, but my logic here is simple. Ryan Tannehill is a rookie who has had a mostly rough season as Miami’s starter so far. In this game, he’ll have to take on one of the tougher defenses in the league in Seattle. And after the Dolphins scored a combined 17 points against the Titans and Bills, both of whom play awful defense, I’m going to need a lot more than 3 points to side with them here.

SAN DIEGO (+1) vs. Baltimore

I can see a lot of people putting money down on the Ravens as only a 1 point favorite in San Diego. But when I think of a flawed east coast team like Baltimore going all the way to San Diego, where the Chargers have a decent defense and some offensive firepower, I see it ending poorly for them. This is a classic “trap” game.

NEW ORLEANS (+1) vs. San Francisco

Finally, I’m picking the Saints to cover the spread! I’m anticipating that Colin Kaepernick will be San Francisco’s quarterback, and my opinion on Kaepernick will be that he’s overrated until proven otherwise. I see the 49ers struggling to keep up with the high-octane Saints offense in this one, and that’s a recipe for a young quarterback like Kaepernick to throw multiple interceptions. So I like the Saints to score the upset here.

ST. LOUIS (+1.5) at Arizona

While I’ve been waiting for the Chiefs to give Ricky Stanzi a shot at quarterback, the Cardinals have decided to give a shot to their third-string QB, Ryan Lindley. Unlike Stanzi, however, I have yet to see a shred of statistical evidence suggesting Lindley has a decent chance to be a good QB in the NFL. Last week’s 64 yards on 20 pass attempts was not inspiring. And the Rams play decent defense. This could easily be a 13-3 type of win for the Rams, but I definitely like them to win, and I’m getting points? Sign me up.

GREEN BAY (+3) at New York Giants

I keep waiting for the Giants’ stock to fall enough for them to be a good value. Surprisingly, it hasn’t happened yet. The 3 point spread is indicative of a public opinion that these two teams are roughly equal in team strength, and I just don’t see it. The Packers have turned their season around after a shaky start, and Aaron Rodgers is still one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Green Bay has to be considered one of the leading contenders to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Giants are an above-average but sub-elite team, although they seem to have a knack for winning in the playoffs. But this isn’t the playoffs.

PHILADELPHIA (+3) vs. Carolina

I talk about NFL teams like stocks a lot of the time, because I think it’s telling in terms of deciding which teams to pick. As a 3 point underdog at home to the Panthers, the Eagles stock has hit rock bottom. The team is on a long losing streak, and Nick Foles has been, to put it gently, disappointing so far. But just as I’m not going to let Colin Kaepernick’s monday night performance get me too excited about his future, I’m not going to let Nick Foles’s stinker in Washington make me give up on him. I say Foles turns it around this week, and the Eagles beat the Carolina Panthers.

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Week 11 NFL Picks

Amazingly, my picks against the spread last week didn’t end in disaster after I put them on the internet. 8-6? I’ll take it. Here are my picks for week 11:

MIAMI (+1) at Buffalo

To make this pick, I first looked at the weather forecast for tonight in Buffalo. It’s going to be about 38 degrees, which is cold, but not so cold that it motivates me to change my initial pick of Miami. Many are likely squeamish to pick the Dolphins after they got creamed by Tennessee (of all teams) last week, but I see it as a good “buy low” moment. And the Buffalo defense has a way of making teams look better.

PHILADELPHIA (+3.5) at Washington

Last week, I mentioned that there were three quarterback changes I wanted to see. Nick Foles starting instead of Michael Vick was one of them, although I would have preferred for the Eagles to have simply promoted Foles instead of Vick being concussed. But I think Foles will make the Eagles a better team despite being a rookie. It helps that the Washington defense gives up huge passing games almost every week. I like the Eagles to cover in this one.

DETROIT (+3.5) vs. Green Bay

Home underdog special! The vast majority are likely to see the Packers as only a 3.5 point favorite and jump all over it. I understand the sentiment, but Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson are both performing at a high level, and the Packers defense is only OK. I can totally see the Lions giving the Packers a very tough game in Detroit.

ARIZONA (+10) at Atlanta

The Falcons may have been undefeated as of last week, but I think their loss to the Saints illustrates that they’re merely a good team, not a great one. They’ve had to skate by in a number of games this year, including a very narrow win against the Raiders. Put simply, I’m not sure the Falcons should be a 10-point favorite against anybody. I don’t like Arizona to win this game, but I do like Arizona to cover.

CAROLINA (+1.5) vs. Tampa Bay

Home underdog special #2! Picking the Panthers didn’t work too well for me last week, as they got embarrassed by the Denver Broncos. This week, they’re the underdog again, but by only 1.5 points against a quality Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. But it’s hard for me to get over Tampa Bay giving up the most passing yards per game in the NFL this season. I say Cam Newton bounces back in this one and the Panthers win outright.

CLEVELAND (+7.5) at Dallas

It’s not that I think the Browns have a great chance of winning this game. It’s that the Browns pass defense is actually pretty good, and the Cowboys have had real difficulty scoring a lot of points this season. Say the Cowboys end up winning 16-10… you can see that happening, right? Well, if that’s the final score, then the Browns cover. I just don’t like the idea of taking Dallas to win by more than a touchdown.

ST. LOUIS (-3) vs. New York Jets

It seems clear that the Jets aren’t going to Mr. Tebow anytime soon. That means I have to take the Rams in this one. St. Louis has a much improved pass defense this season, which means we’re likely to see Mark Sanchez struggle to move the ball once again. Meanwhile, the Jets defense has gone from very good to fairly average without Darrelle Revis. I think the Rams win this game and put a lot of people in the Jets organization on some very hot seats.

INDIANAPOLIS (+9.5) at New England

Last week, the Patriots were the favorite by 11 against a team with offensive firepower in the Buffalo Bills. New England won by six. This week, the Patriots are the favorite by 9.5 against a team with offensive firepower in the Indianapolis Colts. I just can’t take the Patriots to cover that kind of point spread as long as they have such a porous defense.

JACKSONVILLE (+16) at Houston

That’s a lot of points! It’s totally warranted, as the Texans are the most complete team in the NFL. Great defense, good offense. But that’s a lot of points! Let’s say the Texans win 24-10. If that’s the case, the Jaguars cover. And I get that this is Blaine Gabbert against a ferocious defense in Houston. Houston absolutely should win this… but I’m just not comfortable with that kind of point spread.

KANSAS CITY (+3.5) vs. Cincinnati

Home underdog special #3! With game results like the Bengals’ destruction of the Giants last week, it’s easy to think they should smash Kansas City this week. It’s also easy to forget that the Bengals defense is not good. I say Matt Cassel looks better than usual (which is to say, not horrible), the Chiefs lose 20-17, and there continues to be much gnashing of teeth in Kansas City.

OAKLAND (+4.5) vs. New Orleans

Home underdog special #4! It seems like I pick against the Saints every week. But don’t forget just how bad the Saints defense is. They’re… really bad. And this is a dome team going outdoors against a Raiders team that, for all its flaws, can put some points on the board. I like Oakland’s chances in this one.

SAN DIEGO (+7.5) at Denver

I’m torn about this one. On one hand, I do think the Broncos are a much better team than the Chargers, on both sides of the ball. On the other hand, they’re favored by more than a touchdown, and that makes me nervous. I’m taking the Chargers to cover the spread here, but I don’t like it.

PITTSBURGH (+3.5) vs. Baltimore

Home underdog special #5! Yes, Byron Leftwich is a huge downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger. But what would the point spread be if Roethlisberger was healthy and playing? Pittsburgh by 3.5? Is the drop from Roethlisberger to Leftwich really seven points? It very well might be, but I’m going to lean towards “no” at this point. The Ravens might be coming off their annihilation of the Raiders, but their defense has been quite mediocre without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb, so I think the Steelers can win this one outright.

SAN FRANCISCO (whatever the line is) vs. Chicago

This game has no line posted yet, but I have a feeling the 49ers will be underrated after playing the Rams to a tie. The Bears have a phenomenal defense, but the 49ers defense is still very good, and Chicago is a team much more prone to turning the ball over than San Francisco is. With the 49ers playing at home, I think the stage is set for a nice bounce back performance.

Week 10 NFL Picks

For the rest of the NFL season, I’m going to list my picks against the spread. Why? As I’m probably obligated to say, FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

With that out of the way, let’s get to them:

JACKSONVILLE (+3) vs. Indianapolis

I think the Colts may be a tad overrated due to a 5-3 record and last week’s huge passing total from rookie QB Andrew Luck. But their point differential is -32, and the defense is very weak. The Colts are also a dome team going outdoors, which usually means bad things.

BUFFALO (+11) at New England

For sure, I think the Patriots are a much better team than the Bills. But the Patriots’ shaky defense and the Bills’ tendency to occasionally explode offensively makes me want to take the 11 points.

CINCINNATI (+4) vs. NY Giants

It looks to me like the Giants are settling in as a good but not great team. Are the Bengals bad enough that a merely good team should be favored by more than a field goal on the road against them? I don’t think so.

TAMPA BAY (-3) vs. San Diego

I have no confidence in this pick at all; I think the point spread is spot on. The Buccaneers and Chargers are both mediocre. I’m taking Tampa Bay, just because they’re at home.

CAROLINA (+4) vs. Denver

The Broncos are a legitimately good team, but I don’t know if the Panthers are legitimately bad. If DVOA is to be believed, the Panthers are closer to average than bad. The rule of thumb is to pick the home underdog, and I think Carolina has upset potential here.

MIAMI (+6) vs. Tennessee

I haven’t been picking Miami much this year, but I am this week. The Dolphins have turned out to be a much better team than I thought, and the Titans are horrible. Miami should be able to win by at least a touchdown at home against this sieve of a defense.

BALTIMORE (-7.5) vs. Oakland

It’s true that the Ravens are a worse team for losing Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. But their offense still has a lot of talent, and that should be more than enough to punish the Raiders and their awful defense.

ATLANTA (-2) at New Orleans

The Saints are a team people like to support because they score a lot of points and are usually fun to watch. I also think they’re getting a boost from beating the Eagles in prime time on Monday. But their defense still sucks, and the Falcons are still a much better team.

MINNESOTA (+2) vs. Detroit

Full disclosure: I’m a Vikings fan. But I think this is a great “buy low” moment. A few weeks ago, the Vikings would have been favored at home against the Lions, and possibly by more than a field goal. Now, they’re the underdog at home. This looks like good value to me.

NY JETS (+6.5) at Seattle

I picked the Jets, but I don’t like it. The idea of Mark Sanchez playing a very tough defense in Seattle scares me. But the Seahawks are a generally low-scoring team, so I can see the Jets keeping it close. And there’s always the outside chance that we see Tebow time, in which case I would love the Jets pick.

DALLAS (PK) at Philadelphia

The Eagles are just so hard to trust right now. I picked them last week against the Saints, and watched as Michael Vick threw yet another pick-six from near the goal line. I have to take Dallas in a straight pick as long as Vick is the starting quarterback in Philadelphia.

ST. LOUIS (+11.5) at San Francisco

By no means do I think the Rams will win this game, but that’s a lot of points. The 49ers seem to do one of two things in games like this. Either they completely embarrass the other team and win by a score of something like 34-3, or it’s a field goal battle and they win 19-13. The Rams have a good enough defense that I think they can make it a field goal battle.

HOUSTON (+1) at Chicago

I love this pick. The Bears have been beating up on inferior teams for a while now (or skating by them, like they did against Carolina). Jay Cutler against the Texans defense has a high chance of not ending well.

PITTSBURGH (-12.5) vs. Kansas City

The Chiefs need to get 20 points for me to pick them against almost anybody. What a mess. Even with Matt Cassel starting instead of Brady Quinn (and Cassel is MUCH better), Kansas City will have serious trouble scoring points in Pittsburgh. Free Ricky Stanzi!