Super Bowl Pick

I used to do all my picks on the blog but this fall was just too busy. However, for this one last pick of the season, I decided to do it here.

So, the big game. The spread is the Patriots by 2.5. While I will be rooting for the Pats, frankly, looking at how the two teams match up, I cannot figure out how the Pats are supposed to win. Nearly every matchup in the game favors the Giants, and they also come in as the “hot” team, which has been a reasonable predictor of Super Bowl champions in recent years. New England has an edge at quarterback, sure, but Eli has been very solid this season and is 7-3 in the playoffs, so I don’t think it’s all that much of an edge. The Pats also have an edge at tight end, even with Gronk not at 100%, but the Giants have a huge edge at wide receiver, which I think more than compensates. Neither team has a particularly impressive running game; I’d give a slight edge to the G-men there. On the defensive side, the Giants have a better line, by quite a bit. New England’s secondary has improved a fair amount over the season, but since they started out as “blindingly awful” they’re only up to “average;” no edge there. I don’t really see anywhere on the field where the Patriots are dramatically better than the Giants and several places where they are markedly worse.

That usually means it’s a straightforward pick. The problem here is the spread. If the Giants are better all over the place, why is New England favored? The Giants are nearly a consensus pick among NFL analysts, pundits, and former players, and yet somehow they’re giving points? So, what does Vegas know that everybody else doesn’t? I have to say, when in doubt, I trust Vegas over pretty much every ESPN talking head. The handicappers in the desert are a lot more accountable for their decisions than the TV pontificators. I always find it disturbing when the spread goes against what everyone else is saying.

Of course, the point of the spread isn’t really to pick the winner, it’s to equalize the betting on both sides. Are there really that many more people willing to bet on the Pats in the face of fairly compelling evidence to the contrary? It’s not like the Cowboys are involved, which always messes up the spread (apparently, being rational and being a Cowboys fan are inconsistent positions). The whole situation smacks of something fishy going on, and with Belichick involved, that can’t be good.

So, the question is, does the fishiness outweigh essentially all of the football evidence? The Giants are better and they should win. Not only that, but if you pick the clearly better team, you get points. I’d pick the Patriots just on the whole oddity of it but for those points. It’s really hard to give points to the team I think is actually better. But then, it’s just a pick, after all, I’m not actually putting down a large sum of money on it. If I had to put down real money I’d take the points an the Giants. But since I’m rooting for the Patriots, I might as well pick them, too. It’s irrational and I know it’s irrational but I’m going that way anyway.

I hope New England wins on a last-second field goal to cover by a half a point. That’d be awesome.

Go Pats!

NFL Conference Championships

I’ll come right out and say it: I have absolutely no idea, in either game. I have no trouble seeing these going either way. Well, OK, I have trouble seeing the Bears blowing out the Packers, but I can see the Bears winning. And I have less than no clue on the Steelers and the Jets. So, given that, here we go…

Packers @ Chicago(+3.5)
So, right now the Packers have all the hype. More quietly, the Bears have actually been pretty good in the second half of the season, and they certainly played the Packers to a near standstill in week 17. However, if Aaron Rodgers has another week like last week (though that seems unlikely), it won’t matter what the Bears do. That was a performance for the ages.; the Falcons are good and really didn’t play that badly in that game, Rodgers was just that amazing. But that was in a dome and not on the Soldier Field slop. Oh, screw it, this game isn’t really about that. It’s about the side of the ball nobody is talking about: the Packers’ defense vs. the Bears offense. I don’t trust Cutler at all. The only reason he didn’t get picked twice last week is that the Seabags DBs can’t catch. If the Bears get behind and have to throw, there will be picks. Cutler has been too quiet on that front lately but I see him reverting to form when it really matters, and then getting all pouty about it. I’m taking the Packers to cover just because of Cutler.

Jets @ Pittsburgh(-4)
So here’s the thing. I’ve been a little sour off and on with the Steelers because their offense seems shaky to me at times. That seems like a Very Bad Thing™ when facing a Jets team that has just schemed out Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. On the other hand, Big Ben seems like he’s harder to beat via scheme, since what he does is salvage broken plays. On the other hand, the Steelers O-line is subpar and hurt, and I don’t think Polamalu is really fully healthy. Of course, then there’s the other factor, which is when the Jets have the ball. I don’t see them being able to just run over the Steelers the way they ran over the Pats last week. <sigh> Remember that I said I have no clue? Yeah, that. OK, here’s the pick: I think this will be a defensive struggle, it will probably be decided by a turnover or a freak kick return (cf. Jets vs. Colts two weeks ago), and I think whoever wins, wins by a field goal. Therefore, because the spread is more than a field goal, I am taking the Jets. I expect ugly football, in a good way, and a very tight game.

NFL Divisional Round

Ravens @ Pittsburgh(-3)
Yes, Baltimore blew out the Chefs. However, that was as much about KC playing like ass as it was the Ravens playing well. The Chefs looked like they panicked in the second half for no apparent reason, since they were only down by seven. Both defenses very tough, both teams set up to stop the run. I think the difference in this game is the quarterbacks, and while Flacco looked OK last week, when the game is on the line, I trust Big Ben more than Flacco. I’d really rather have to give two because I’m worried about a 9-7 kind of thing happening. However, I’ll still take the Stillers.

Packers @ Atlanta(-1.5)
I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. I love the way the Green Bay defense is playing, but the Falcons have been fantastic at home over the last couple years. The last meeting was close, and I see no reason to think that it’ll be anything other than that this time around. I will guess that Al will go with his local team, the Falcons, so I’ll take the Packers to riverside.

Seahawks @ Chicago(-10)
The Seahawks have played inspired football the last couple of weeks. I think the Bears are the better team (unless Cutler flakes out), especially on defense, but I just don’t see the Bears turning it into a blowout. I’ll take the points.

Jets @ New England(-9)
It’s a shame they can’t delay this game for a few days, because the war or words leading into it has been so good that I’ll be sad to see it go. The Welker thing the other day was fan-freaking-tastic; how he kept such a perfectly straight face I’ll never know. Just the best stuff ever. I thought the Jets really played well last week in Indy. Again, I think the Pas are the better team, but I’m guessing that the Jets can hang with them, no matter what happened last time.’’

Good luck!

NFL Wild Card Weekend

Saints @ Seattle(+10)
So, I actually watched the Seahawks-Rams game last weekend, and I was pretty impressed with the Seahawks; they certainly looked much better than any team with a losing record had any right to look. I also watched a lot of the Saints-Bucs game, and wasn’t particularly impressed with the Saints. Now, both of these impressions probably also had a lot to do with the competition, but at the same time, the Saints don’t really have it completely together and the Seahawks are much better at home than on the road. I think New Orleans is the better team and will win this game, but that’s rather more points than I’m willing to give, so I will actually take the Seahawks. Yikes, that feels weird to type.

Jets @ Indianapolis(-2)
I’m really on the fence with this game. I love picking against Manning in the first round of the playoffs, because while everybody drools over his regular season numbers, he’s gone one-and-done six times in his career. On the other hand, someone really needs to smack Rex Ryan and tell him to shut his pie hole. And in the middle of this season, I most certainly would have taken the Jets. However, I like the Colts here because, of all the things you wouldn’t expect, the Colts have been playing the run tough and have been committed to running the ball themselves lately. Good coaching, really, in that they were struggling earlier and they really did change their approach. The other side here is that the Jets have not looked all that great of late, in particular when running the ball. If they have trouble running, which I think they will, I don’t trust Sanchez to go out and win it. Plus, Manning has kind of owned the Ryan defenses of late. I am really glad it’s only two points, though, as I don’t see the Colts blowing the doors off. I kind of feel like the Colts win by a FG, so two is just perfect. As much as it pains me to do it, I’m taking Indy.

Ravens @ Kansas City(+3)
Baltimore has really struggled late in the season with putting teams away, and Flacco just doesn’t seem to be getting it done of late. However, how crappy have the Chefs looked? That loss to Oakland was a thing of great ugliness. I just don’t see KC pulling this one out, and think it’s kind of remarkable the spread is only three. Ravens.

Packers @ Philadelphia(-2.5)
I’m going to take Green Bay in this game because Vick is banged up, which is really bad for them, and because the Packers’ defense has been playing lights out lately. I like them to really keep Vick bottled up and frustrate him into some bad throws, which he’s been doing more lately. While Rodgers isn’t having the season he had last year, he’s solid. I expect another low-scoring game here, and again, I’m happy that it’s less than a field goal because I could easily see the Packers winning this game 10-7 or some such. Actually I’m slightly worried that it’ll be 9-7 and I’ll lose by half a point, but I’m going to hope that the Iggles blitz just a little too often and Rodgers finds someone open deep for a cheap TD so that Green Bay covers.

NFL Week 17

Yikes, just got up…

Sunday 1:00
Buccaneers @ New Orleans(-7.5)

Bungles @ Baltimore(-9.5)

Panthers @ Atlanta(-14.5)
Falcons win, but is that too many points? Nah, the Panthers are awful…

Steelers @ Cleveland(+6)
Not even a full TD? OK, Stillers.

Vikings @ Detroit(-3.5)
Wow, Lions actually favored. However, they have no Calvin Johnson, and AP is supposed to be able to go. I’ll take the points.

Raiders @ Kansas City(-4)
The Chefs have nothing to play for and will rest guys. Take the points.

Bills @ New Jersey Jets(-1.5)
Bills rock against the spread, and Panthers have the #1 pick locked up, so they’ll cover.

Dolphins @ New England(-6)
Pats don’t care, and Miami is great on the road. Take the points.

Sunday 4:00ish
Giants @ Washington(+4)
The boys in blue need a win to have even a shot at the playoffs. They’ll cover.

Cowboys @ Philly(-3)
Why would the Eagles risk Vick or Jackson or really, anybody, in this meaningless game? Cowboys.

Titans @ Indy(-9.5)
The Colts are better, but that seems like too many points. I’ll take a chance and take them.

Bears @ Green Bay(-10.5)
Chicago has nothing to play for, the Packers do. Good enough for me to give the points.

Jaguars @ Houston(-3.5)
Jacksonville has an outside shot at a playoff spot, and the Texans are done. Plus, Andre Johnson is out. Horrific. Take the points.

Chargers @ Denver(+3.5)
Game means nothing to either team, but Denver has been playing like they care, and the Chargers haven’t.

Cardinals @ San Francisco(-6)
Oh! New coach in San Fran! So far this season that’s meant that the team wins. Plus, Arizona is stone-cold awful on the road. I will give the points.

Rams @ Seattle(+3)
Woo hoo! Opening for the worst playoff team—possibly ever—up for grabs. Gotta like the Rams here going against most likely a backup QB.

Bowls, Part III

Happy New Year!

And New Year’s means bowls, and lots of ‘em.

1/1, TicketCity: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech(-7.5)
The Red Raiders are better, but that seems like too many points, so I’ll take them.

1/1, Hall of Fam… err, Outback: Florida vs. Penn State(+6.5)
The Gators are better, and this time I think they’re enough better that I’ll give the points.

1/1, Citru…err, Capitol One: Michigan State vs. Alabama(-8.5)
Depends on which Crimson Tide team shows up… the one that played way over Auburn in the first half of that game, or the one that looked like total ass in the second half. On the off chance we get the latter, I will take the points.

1/1, Gator: Michigan vs. Mississippi State(-3.5)
I don’t quite know how to say this, but… the Wolverines really suck. I mean, seriously, historically bad on defense. Their secondary makes the Texans look like they’ve got Ronnie Lott and Deion Sanders. Yes, Denard Robinson is amazing to watch and all that, but they have so little defense it’s a joke. Give the points.

1/1, Rose: TCU vs. Wisconsin(+3)
Those points, however, I will take. The Horned Frogs defense is fast, but the Wisconsin O-line is enormous. The Badgers are huge, and will simply run it down their throats, control the ball and the clock, and make this a real game. Badgers, baby…

1/1, Fiesta: UConn vs. Oklahoma(-15)
This is a freaking joke. The Big East is a joke. No team that lost to Michigan should be in a BCS game, period. I’d say “Sooners by at least three touchdowns,” but this is OU in the Fiesta bowl here, which is not a building they seem to play well in. (Boise State, anyone?) However, the Huskies are so bad it won’t matter.

1/1, Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Stanford(-3.5)
Yeah, not going with the ACC. Go Cardinal!

1/1, Sugar: Arkansas vs. Ohio State(-3.5)
This one is interesting. How will the Buckeyes be affected by all the off-field stuff? Also, and people might not remember this, but the Razorbacks QB used to play for… Michigan. The Buckeyes might be out for blood in this game. I think I’ll give the points.

1/6, Middle Tennessee vs. Miami, pick
Err, I pick not to watch? I hate these post-New Year’s crappy bowls. I know exactly nothing about Middle Tennessee, so I pick the Redhawks.

1/7, Cotton: Texas A&M vs. LSU(-1)
Interesting that the Cotton Bowl has moved into this time slot. This is actually a game that might be worth watching. The Aggies are better than most people realize, but Vegas knows what’s up. I also hate to bet on the Tiger offense, which has had some pretty awful showings. I think the extra time off favors LSU, though, so I’ll give the point.

1/8, CompASS: Kentucky vs. Pitt(-3.5)
OK, my blinding dislike for the Big East has maybe cost me a couple picks, and Kentucky is in a bowl? Really? OK, this time I’ll give the points.

1/9, Fight Hunger: BC vs. Nevada(-7.5)
WTF? The “Kraft Fight Hunger” bowl? Seriously? Was “BP Clean Water” taken? Who comes up with this stuff? Err, anyway, the game. I have to admit, I had no idea BC had qualified for a bowl game. And in case anyone missed it, Nevada is 12-1 and beat Boise State. Yeah, I’ll give these points.

1/10, BCS “National Championship” Game: Oregon vs. Auburn(-3)
Auburn is good, no question. However, they’ve not played an offense like Oregon’s; nobody in the SEC is even vaguely in their league, not Arkansas, not Alabama, not South Carolina. The Ducks can move the rock like nobody’s business, and against real opposition, as the Pac 10 was legit this year. On the other hand, the Ducks’ defense does not leave me with great confidence, and I expect Auburn to be able to move the ball at will. The over/under on this game is an astounding 74. Yikes! I think this will come down to whoever has the ball last, to use a very tired but possibly accurate football cliche. Given that it could go either way, I think I’m going to take the points.

Bowls, Part II

12/29 Military: East Carolina vs. Maryland(-8)
Maryland to win, but Pirates to cover.

12/29, Texas: Illinois vs. Baylor(+1)
I’ll be at this game. Taking the Bears because of the essentially home crowd they’ll have.

12/29, Alamo: Oklahoma St. vs Arizona(+4)
I think the Pac 10 was pretty good this year, but I have to like the Cowboys’ offense, so I’ll give the points.

12/30, Armed Forces: Army vs. SMU(-7)
Pretty much a home game for the Mustangs, so I’ll give the points.

12/30, Pinstripe: Kansas State vs. Syracuse(-1)
Universally picking against the Big East, so go Wildcats.

12/30, Music City: UNC vs. Tennessee(+1)
Bleah, don’t like either of these teams. I guess it’s in Tennessee and they travel pretty well, so I’ll go with the Vols, but I won’t like it.

12/30, Holiday: Washington vs. Nebraska(-14)
Wow, that’s a big spread. Gotta give the points, though, no matter what I think of the Huskers.

12/31, Car Care: South Florida vs. Clemson(-5.5)
Taking the Tigers, picking against the Big Least.

12/31, Sun: Notre Dame vs. Miami(-3)
Notre Dame always gets a better bowl than they should. I’m going to violate my Big East rule just to pick against the stupid Domers.

12/31, Liberty: Central Florida vs. Georgia(-6.5)
As much as it pains me to to this, I have to go with the Dawgs.

12/31, Chick-fil-A: Florida State vs. South Carolina(-3)
The Gamecocks seem awfully puffed up for a team that lost 4 games. Of course, they lost 4 games in the SEC, which is better than losing 4 games in the ACC. Give the points.

New Year’s Day bowls in part 3!

NFL Week 15

OK, so we suck, we both forgot the Thursday game. I would have taken the Chargers, probably up to like +10. Oh well.

Sunday 1:00
Buffalo @ Miami(-5)
For some odd reason, the Dolphins haven’t been as good at home. Letdown game after beating their division rival last week, too. Takin’ the Bills again.

Browns @ Cincinnati(-1)
The battle for Ohio, though I’m not sure the people in Ohio even care. I don’t like the Bungles to be favored against anyone. Cleveland.

Lions @ Tampa Bay(-4.5)
Detroit on the road? No way.

Jaguars @ Indianapolis(-4.5)
Wow, how about that, the Jags getting more than a field goal. I don’t see the Colts stopping the run, so I think the Jags can keep it close. This game is huge for the playoffs, so I like it to be close anyway.

Cardinals @ Carolina(-2.5)
This is the kind of game they show people in Hell to make sure they know they’re being eternally tortured. Panthers, I guess, since Arizona seems to be in a tailspin.

Saints @ Baltimore(-1)
Wild. I have to tell you, I was not impressed with the Ravens defense late against the Texans. If they have to go to OT to hold off Houston, I’ll happily take that point. The Baltimore D was looking downright old, even if they did get a pick to win it, they looked gassed giving up two 95+ yard drives in a row in the 4th. The Saints should be able to take advantage of that.

Eagles @ New Jersey Giants(-3)
Hunh? Someone in Vegas clearly knows something I don’t, because the wrong team is favored here. I mean, yes, if the Giants can hold on to the ball and get the run going, they can be competitive here, but that seems iffy. I hate this pick, because when the spread is the wrong way, that usually means something is up. Grr. No, I’m sticking with Philly here.

Chiefs @ St. Louis(-1.5)
Matt Cassel for MVP, right? I mean, how lost did their offense look last week without him? Cassel is still listed as “questionable” and frankly, I can’t imagine playing football that soon after losing an appendix. Without him, they have no shot. Rams.

Redskins @ Dallas(-7)
Sexy Rexy at QB! Woo hoo! Give the points. Give ten, easy.

Texans @ Tennessee(-1)
Super Mario is done for the season, so the Texans normally tepid pass rush will be even worse. We know they absolutely cannot cover anybody at all anyway, and with unlimited time to throw? This is going to be ugly. In fact, with Aaron Rodgers out, I just picked up Collins for my fantasy team, as he’s likely to have a huge day. Titans.

Sunday ~4:10
Falcons @ Seattle(+6)
Atlanta isn’t flashy, but they are incredibly solid. In some sense you’d say they don’t need this game, but they’re incredible at home and so they really want home field for the playoffs—they’ll be up for this game and win by at least at TD.

Jest @ Pittsburgh(-4.5)
So, Gang Green has sucked against good teams, and their offense has looked horrible lately, and… oh, great, a road game against the Steelers. Yeah, that should go well. Give the points, of course. Strangely, Rex Ryan seems to have cut down on all the yapping. Funny, that. Keep your mouth shut, Rex, and take your beating.

Broncos @ Oakland(-7.5)
Ahh, Tim Tebow gets the start for a team on a death march. Awful, awful. And it’s not like the Raiders won’t be up for the hated Broncos. This could get ugly. Raiders all the way.

Packers @ New England(-14)
Another team that would like home field would be the Pats. If the Steeler win, which they should, the Pats will know they need this game to keep ahead for home field. Without Rodgers, the Packers have no chance at all. Give the huge number.

Bears @ Vikings(+7.5)
I so love the idea of outdoor football in December in my hometown, just the the old Met when I was a kid. Unfortunately, it’s supposed to warm up there and might even be in the 20s, but they say 50% chance of snow. Tarvaris Jackson in the snow… the possibilities for turnovers are mind-boggling. Plus, the Bears actually play in the cold, and the Vikings don’t. Give the points, no problem.

Bowls, Part I

I think there are 35 bowls this year, so if I go in three stages, thats 11 or 12 each time. I’ll ease into it with the first 11 bowls.

12/18, New Mexico, BYU vs. UTEP(+11.5)
The Cougars have at least played some decent teams, like, ever, which the Miners have not. Give the points.

12/18, Humanitarian: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State(+1.5)
The Huskies seem to always be able to run the ball, so I’ll take NIU.

12/18, New Orleans: Ohio vs. Troy(-2)
The Bobcats have never won a bowl game, whereas Troy has won a couple in recent memory. Give the points.

12/21, St. Petersburg: Southern Miss vs. Louisville(-3)
Totally underwhelmed by the entire Big East this year. I think I’ll pick against all of them. Go Golden Eagles!

12/22, Las Vegas: Utah vs. Boise State(-17)
Wow, that’s a lot of points! I know the Broncos will be ticked off that they’re in this bowl. Will it be a letdown, or will they run it up to show that they’re actually still good? And will anybody see this game? I say that’s too many points and will take the Utes.

12/23, Poinsettia: Navy vs. San Diego State(-4.5)
Sure, it’s a home game for the Aztecs, but they’ve not been to a bowl in forever. Take the Midshipmen and the points.

12/24, Hawaii: Hawaii vs. Tulsa(+10)
I don’t see this as a blowout. I like the Warriors to win, but that’s too many points. Take the over, too.

12/26, Little Caesars: Florida International vs. Toledo(-1.5)
The Rockets were actually decent this year, so I’m going to give the points.

12/27, Independence: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech(+3)
Oh, look, another ACC team I can pick against. Look, I’ll be rooting for the Jackets, but I don’t think they win this one. There might even be like five or six passes thrown in the entire game!

12/28: Champs Sports: West Virginia vs. NC State(+3)
I wasn’t particularly impressed by the ACC this year, to be honest, but they’re still better than the Big East. I will take the points.

12/28: Insight: Missouri vs. Iowa(+1)
Now this is a bowl game! Really not sure who to go with here, but in my defense, Vegas doesn’t appear to know, either. Mizzou finished the season really well, and Iowa fell off the map. However, the Hawkeyes will have time to heal and they are well-coached, which matters with all this time to prepare. Still, the Tigers are probably the better team overall. I want to pick Iowa here but I just can’t do it, I have to take Missouri.

NFL Week 14

Been sick so I have to make this quick…

Sunday, 1:00
Falcons @ Carolina(+7.5)
Atlanta has it rolling right now, and the Panthers just don’t. Give the points

Bungles @ Pittsburgh(-8.5)
Cinci stinks, but the Steelers have not been blowing people out. But Cinci is awful enough to get killed here, so I’ll take the home team.

Packers @ Detroit(+7)
I certainly like the way Green Bay has been playing lately, and the Lions, while valiant, just aren’t that good. Packers.

Raiders @ Jacksonville(-3.5)
I like the Jags at home. I dislike that half point, though, wish it was just -3, but I’ll stick with the Jaguars.

Buccaneers @ Washington(+1)
Tampa is just way better, give that point.

Browns @ Buffalo, even
Wow… the Bills have been great against the spread, but there are no points for them this time! I like them to finally take one home, since I believe Delhomme is again starting… fools.

Sunday, ~4:10
Rams @ New Orleans(-9)
Too many points. I expect the Saints to win, but I like St. Louis to keep it closer than that.

Seahawks @ San Francisco(-5)
What? That seems weird. I’ll take the points.

Patriots @ Chicago(+3)
Uhh, did you see that game on Monday? I don’t think the Pats are to be denied, though of course this is a road game. But if anyone can fool Cutler into returning to the old Cutler, it’s the Pats.

Dolphins @ New Jersey Jets(-5)
Give the points. I don’t see the Jets dropping two in a row, and they need a home game.

Broncos @ Arizona(+4)
OK, so far this season firing the head coach has actually worked, so I’m taking Denver.

Chiefs @ San Diego(-9.5)
I think the Chargers manage to pull this out at home, but that’s too many points.

Eagles @ Dallas(+4)
Sure, give the points. I know the Cowboys have been rejuvenated, but gotta like Vick here.

Giants @ Minnesota(+3)
The Vikings have been on a tear lately, but I think the Giants are up to it.

Ravens @ Houston(+3)
The Texans need more than a field goal here. Ed Reed should be good for at least one pick six.