Arses Five Favorites: Week 17 NFL Predictions

Well, I got back on the winning track in Week 16, and while it wasn’t a fantastic four win week like I’m always hoping for, 3-2 brings me to 17-13 during my six week run of free picks. The Falcons, Packers, and Patriots won and covered easily while the Dolphins just failed outright and the Eagles needed a late field goal to win by three. This week seems pretty easy to me. But I’m staying away from those meaningless games that some other people think are gimmies – listen, I know you play hard when you have everything to lose and if the Saints sit all their starters, it should be an easier game for Carolina – but it doesn’t always work out like that, and I’ll pick some games where I’m not relying on a good team to play back-ups. Final regular season week, and here we go, go, go…

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Chicago (-3) @ Detroit: The Bears are an easy pick, so easy that it makes my stomach lurch a little bit – but hey, Vegas can’t be right all the time, right? Right. The Bears need this game, really. They are the only crappy team in the NFL that actually needs wins. Their 1st round pick isn’t theirs, see, they need this one.

The 49ers (-7) @ St. Louis: The Rams are beat up bad, and they aren’t good when healthy. I doubt Steven Jackson gets thrown out there against Patrick Willis and that Niner run D, and without him the Rams are hornless.

Pittsburgh (-3) @ Miami: The Steelers are the better team, and they don’t need magic and religion to get into the playoffs – they need help, don’t get me wrong, but unlike Miami, they don’t need every single team in the NFL to lose on the same day. I see the Steelers, definitely a team that rides ups and downs, flying to their third straight win – but missing the playoffs anyway.

Ravens (-11) @ Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are brutal, and even the Ravens aging secondary should take advantage of that turnover prone passing attack. All the Raiders can do is run, and they can’t stop the run – that’s a bad combo when Baltimore walks into town.

Titans (-5) @ Seattle Seahawks: I can’t wait to see Chris Johnson out-gain the Seahawks on Sunday. The kid is going to go for 400 yards. There will be 12-15 Seahawks playing defense at one time, and he’ll still get his. The Titans should win easily, and Jim Mora should resign due to coaching how to quit.

Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers Free Football Picks

I had the Steelers to win last week, and while they definitely played better football, and pulled out a win like magicians pull rabbits, they hardly deserved to walk away with victory after giving up 36 points to the Packers. But they did, they got me a win, got themselves a win for the first time in 6 weeks, and set themselves up for another loss to the Ravens.

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You don’t follow? That’s fair, and maybe my reasoning is crazy, but it is what it is and since this is my site, I will happily share my crazy, “this is why the Steelers will lose to Baltimore despite playing at home after winning an emotional game last week” theory. Whew, I need to think of a better name for that theory. Too long.

The Steelers lost 5 games in a row, eliminating themselves from playoff contention, finding blame for each other along the way, going through some tough stuff as a team, and losing a little bit of that Steeler flash and aggressiveness that had become second nature to their team. And while they seemingly had nothing to play for last week, losing 5 straight games played enough of a role to keep them motivated. But since winning last week, and getting that win less in a row monkey off their back, plus barely eeking that game out, and now playing against a Baltimore team that smells the playoffs, I don’t see that same motivation sticking around.

There it is, I hope it makes enough sense to follow.

Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Betting Picks

Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Betting Picks: The Green Bay Packers are probably the better team, but just barely, and not by nearly as much as everyone would like you to think. The Steelers, even in their saddened state, are still a great even bet at home – it’s not like they have injuries up the kazoo, they still have plenty of studs and Super Bowl champs, and it’s not like Green Bay is above a loss to a struggling team. Remember, if it weren’t for the Packers, the Bucs might still be battling winless infamy. But Green Bay has played well, and Pittsburgh has dumped in their girdles, but isn’t that bound to turn around soon?

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I know Pittsburgh is out of it, but this is still a team with a lot of pride, you can’t say anything else about a winning organization like this. Green Bay struggled against Chicago last week, and the Bears aren’t much. The Steelers are also very good at home, beating Minnesota, San Diego, and Tennessee there already.

The Packers are good, and there winning streak has been impressive, but I’m still not sold on their ability to pull away from a good team. And the Steelers can play this game. They can also win a close one late, and that might be what the deal ends up being here. I like Mike Tomlin and trust his ability to win a big game before the season is over – playing spoiler is something the Steel-show can do very well.

Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers (pk)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns Free Football Picks

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns Free Football Picks: This Thursday Night game sure doesn’t have much intrigue. Like I said earlier this year, the NFL doesn’t do a very good job of setting up excitement for their Thursday games. Pittsburgh is the defending Champ, but they sure have played like the Cleveland Browns lately. You’d think they’d be looking pretty after starting off hot and playing the Chiefs and Raiders in a three week period, but no, the Steelers have lost four straight, including losses to those two AFC West powerhouses. The Browns, well, they’ve collected losses really well thus far.

Cleveland is 11-1 on the season, I take that back, sorry, they are 1-11 thus far, tied for the worst record in the league, and the only hope they have is that Pittsburgh is trying for the hideous trifecta. I’m pretty sure the NFL stops when the Steelers lose to the Raiders, Chiefs, and Browns in a single year. You can bet I’ll be rooting for such an even to take place, just the sheer amazement I would have on my face might be worth it.

But I’m taking Pittsburgh, because I don’t think the Steelers can piss another game away. I don’t think they have a bad enough team to lose 5 straight games, even if injuries are making life tough on them. The Browns aren’t a good football team, they have a brand new coach that has a good chance of being somewhere else next year. They have a young quarterback that has been playing pretty well, but I only think that ends up working against them. Defensively they will have trouble with Big Ben and company. Ben put up 400+ against them last time out. I think a rare Pittsburgh double digit win is in the cards.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) @ Cleveland Browns

Oakland Raiders vs Pittsburgh Steelers Free Football Pick

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Oakland Raiders vs Pittsburgh Steelers Free Football Pick: I think the Raiders have a pretty good defense, better than the statistics tell us. I think the Steelers aren’t quite as good as people think, they’re closer to the 6-5 team than the defending Super Bowl Champion that people are still giving them credit for. The Steelers are good, no doubt, and they should take this game easily, especially after tumbling to the Chiefs two weeks ago, and losing a tough game to Baltimore on Monday Night last week. But they don’t kill opponents, and as crazy as it seems to be taking Oakland at +11.5, I’m going to do it. Right now you can get the Raiders as 2 touchdown dogs almost anywhere, and 14.5 dogs at most places. That’s obviously a better bet, but that’s what I get for putting out a newsletter early in the week. I knew this line was going up to my advantage, but I got the best number I could on Monday Night…

Why do I like the Raiders? Well, with Bruce Gradkowski they have an accurate passer, and I’ve always liked their talented receiving options. They’ll need to take some chances against a Steelers secondary that will be going all in on the short passes, but I think Bruce can hang in there and complete some deep throws against the pass rush – and that could be enough for a cover.

The Steelers are playing on a short week’s rest, and they aren’t always smart about committing to the run. I’ll take the points – you should too!

Oakland Raiders (+11.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens Pick & Preview

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Pittsburgh Steelers (pk) @ Baltimore Ravens Pick & Preview: I wouldn’t bet this game. There it is, my advice to you. If Big Ben is healthy enough to play, and he makes it through even most of this game, I think the Steelers pull it out – but an early week injury update of “probable” has moved to “questionable” and the Ravens really bring the heat and hit harder than any defense in the NFL. I am still sticking with the Steelers, as bruised and battered as they are, but I’m going to have to wear this one on the chin like an Iron Mike uppercut if Dennis Dixon takes all the snaps for Pittsburgh this week. You never know, but if Big Ben sits, I like my pick-em Steelers pick a lot less. But I would still be excited to see what one of the better running college quarterbacks I ever watched could do on an NFL stage.

This game is off the books in all but 3 sportsbooks that I pay attention to, and for the same reasons I warn you to stay off this game. But Pittsburgh has beaten the Ravens in 4 of the last 5 meetings, and 3 in a row including a play-off game last season. Pittsburgh has lost 2 straight, and three straight just seems unlikely. The Ravens have lost three straight, and haven’t looked very good offensively since their 30-7 win over Denver 4 weeks ago.

So far, the Ravens have only beaten the mediocre to low-level NFL teams (aside from the Broncos). They have wins over Cleveland (twice), Kansas City, and San Diego (back earlier in the year when SD was struggling). They’ve lost to Cincinnati (twice), Indianapolis, Minnesota, and New England. They’ve played tough in all those games, and special teams has hurt them. But there’s a chance special teams hurts them again, especially against a stout defense that doesn’t allow many touchdowns. I’ll take the Steel city, but I’m worried if Ben doesn’t get the start. Intrigued, but worried.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs Week 11 Pick

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Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) @ Kansas City Chiefs Week 11 Pick: Dwayne Bowe’s 4 game suspension for drug use does not help the Chiefs chances of covering against the defending Super Bowl Champs. But that news became public after I made my Steelers pick, and the loss of a wide receiver would rarely send me one way or the other (unless that guy was Randy Moss or Andre Johnson, in other words an enormous portion of an offense’s threat – Bowe hasn’t been that this season).

First of all, this was a very tough one for me to decide. I know Kansas City has played well against tough run-defenses so far this year, starting off the season in a close game against the Ravens (eventually losing 38-24, but it was much closer than the score insists), losing by 11 to the New York Giants, and going to overtime before losing to the Cowboys. Todd Haley’s attack has been decent enough to stay close in most games. They’ve covered 4 of their last 5 games, beating the Redskins and Raiders.

And it’s not like Pittsburgh has come out and slaughtered lesser opponents. They only beat Cleveland by 13 points, Detroit by 8, Tennessee by 3, and they went and lost to the freaking Bears of all teams. THe only time they’ve blown somebody out was when they handled Denver two weeks ago on Monday Night Football, and even that game was 14-10 headed into the 4th quarter.

But Pittsburgh has it in them. They should be able to do anything they want offensively against the Chiefs, and I have a feeling Matt Cassel will be rushed into more than a couple bad throws this Sunday. Advantage Steelers, but just barely. Don’t risk it all on the Champs!

Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers Free NFL Pick

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Cincinnati Bengals (+7) @ Pittsburgh Steelers Free NFL Pick: The Bengals beat the Steelers last time around, it took a touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell from Carson Palmer with about 20 seconds left in the game, but they did win. They were 3.5 point underdogs in their own stadium, so the 7 point spread here means the perception of these two teams hasn’t changed. Vegas still thinks the Steelers are 3-4 points better than the Bengals, you add the 3 points for playing at home – and there you have it, 7 points.

This is an interesting one because while the Steelers are 4-0 while playing in Pittsburgh, the Bengals are 3-0 while playing on the road. Neither team played really well offensively last time out. It was a game dominated by defenses, and Carson Palmer didn’t have very impressive numbers while throwing the ball 37 times, Cedric Benson only ran the ball 16 times, and yet the Bengals won.

Now this is a huge rivalry. Huge. These two teams really hate each other, I’m sure the Bengals have voodoo dolls that resemble Hines Ward’s chubby face with thousands of barbed needles implanted as angrily as possible. There’s no love here. In divisional rivalries, pitting two good teams against each other, I usually expect a split in the season series. And it usually works out that way. That very same thing may happen this time around, but I still think 7 points is too many.

The Road team is 11-4-1 ATS in the last 16 games in this series. The road team has won straight up in 7 of the last 10 contests. Prior to their game earlier this season, the Steelers had won 5 straight against Cincinnati. Pittsburgh plays a lot of close games – I expect nothing less here.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos Football Pick

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Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos (+3): Monday Night football must have known something that most of us did not. After all the off-season turmoil in Denver, to think that a Steelers/Broncos game would be a good match-up in Week 9 of the NFL season seemed crazy when the MNF schedule came out. Yet here we are, and Pittsburgh isn’t the team with the best record – that belongs to 6-1 Denver. Not only has Denver done well straight up, but they’re 6-1 ATS this season as well. And being an underdog isn’t a new thing for the Broncos, so far this season they’ve been favored just twice, against Cleveland and Oakland.

Denver is coming off a tough loss to the Ravens last week, getting pretty much blown out in the second half after going into halftime down 6-0. The Steelers are coming off a bye week right after a 4 game winning streak, including a 10 point win over Minnesota in Pittsburgh. After going 1-2 to start the season, and looking very mediocre in the process, Pittsburgh has picked it up of late, making big plays on defense and continuing to throw the ball early and often.

Denver has beaten Pittsburgh 3 of the last 4 times these two have met. But that doesn’t mean much normally, and now that these two teams have relatively young coaches with different systems and players, that history means even less. Maybe last season’s 33-10 win over New England is a better judge of past accomplishments. It was Josh McDaniels’ offense that couldn’t do much against Pittsburgh’s defense.

But lets talk about this season. The Steelers are 2-5 ATS and have not been able to put the nail in the coffin despite being up early in most games. They have struggled to close, and thus haven’t really met expectations in the margin of victory. Denver has played tough against everyone, their secondary is very good, and they bring lots of pressure to opposing passers. The Steelers might find it tough to block the Broncos pass rush, and since Big Ben holds the ball a little longer than most, that could make for some big plays for the Broncos defense. Denver shuts down opposing rushing attacks, so the weight of the world will go on Ben’s passing skills. That’s a recipe for failing to cover. So I’ll take the Broncos.

Minnesota Vikings vs Pittsburgh Steelers Free Week 7 Pick

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Minnesota Vikings (+4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers: This pick seems eerily easy. The Steelers have played too close with just about every team they’ve played, going so far as to lose some big games late because they couldn’t close out their opponents. Brett Favre has been dynamite, never more-so than late in games where he’s brought his team back from defeat, delivering in the clutch, Brett-Favre-Style if you will. But the Steelers are good, and they’ll be out to show Minnesota a thing or two about the kind of teams they’re going to have to beat to dethrone the Champs. The Vikings are 4-2 ATS this season while Pittsburgh has just one win against the spread in six chances. The Steelers are 7-2 ATS in their last 7 games against an opponent with a winning record, but in 6 games this year, they’ve played 0 teams that came in with a winning record, the Vikings will be the first. Pittsburgh won’t win any early-season strength of schedule competitions, as their four wins come against the likes of Tennessee, San Diego, Detroit, and Cleveland. Yikes. Their two losses? Chicago and Cincinnati. Hmm… The Vikings have faced a few good teams, including a last minute win against Baltimore last week. Minnesota is 3-0 ATS on the road this season. I love that I still get a win if the Packers lose by a field goal, and I’ll get a push if the Steelers win by 4 (also a common outcome). The value is good, two good teams, I’ll take the undefeated road dogs here.