I must say, getting 9 in week 9 makes me happy, and anywhere after Week 8, that same kind of deal would be well worth my time – 7 in 7, 6 wins in 6, etc, those aren’t too exciting and would probably have you guys going against me in no time. But this week is Week 10, and how better to follow up my Week 9 mirror than to bust out double digits in Week 10, the last bye riddled week of the season… I’ll take more than 10, certainly, but with 10-4 as my aim, we’ll see if I can’t manage another good week going forward.
Denver Broncos @ Cleveland Browns (-3): The Browns got all antsy thinking they were going to win last week, got scared like a deer in headlights, and all of a sudden their girdles were soiled and the team manager had a big laundry mess to clean up. But that’s okay, because they played tough football for much of the game, kind of like they’ve done for much of the year. I know wins and losses are a pretty big deal in sports, but they really shouldn’t be for a gambler. Not a sports gambler anyway – because here, you don’t need your team to win to actually win, and if your team wins, you might still lose. Like Gloria from “White Men Can’t Jump” once said, “Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes you don’t win or lose but you tie” or something like that. Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that Cleveland is 3-5 but they are 5-3 ATS, and why is that? Because they play hard. And against Denver, playing hard translates into covering spreads, well pretty much anything against Denver translates into covering spreads. If you’re worried about the quarterbacking change, I wouldn’t be – Derek Anderson’s completion deficiencies won’t be there with Quinn, and thus the tempo of the game should move much nicer for Cleveland. Better comp percentages get receivers more involved and it gives running backs more carries, and everything is happier. I think Quinn gives this Browns team a boost, or at least enough zip to take advantage of one of the league’s worst defenses. Denver has yet to win on the road (outside of Week 1 in Oakland, and lets be honest, any team run by Al Davis doesn’t count towards anything worthy of acknowledgement).
Jacksonville Jaguars (-5.5) @ Detroit Lions: I’m taking the Jaguars as a touchdown favorite (or a touchdown gets me the win) because Detroit has played better than they are over the last few weeks, and the Jaguars have played like garbage during that time. Detroit has been bad at home, and why not? everyone watching their home games thinks they are going to lose before the opening kickoff, that’s not a home field advantage, that’s a kick in the goat. Jacksonville has been impossible to figure out, but you have to think that they get it together one of these weeks, I’m thinking one of these weeks is this week. Some other things I like on Jacksonville’s side – they seem to play well against teams with less than solid rushing attacks, and despite Kevin Smith’s solid yards per carry and decent play of late, you can definitely lump the Lions in with the “bad running game” crowd. Indy, Denver, and Houston – all can pass pretty well, and all use the run to set up the pass, but they are definitely pass reliant teams – the Jags got wins in against all three. The one thing I like about the Lions, the thing keeping me from betting some big bucks on this game; Detroit has yet to win one. Every week it gets harder to beat a team that hasn’t won a game. Nobody wants to lose them all, nobody wants to be that team – that can play a roll for sure. Still, my numbers favor the Jags in Detroit – so I’ll make them my pick here.
Tennessee Titans (-3) @ Chicago Bears: Tennessee on the road against a tough Chicago team, sure, looks like it could be their first loss. And then you see that Orton is out for a month and Sexy Rexy is the guy going up against one of the toughest defenses in football. Oh, and the Titans can run on the Bears because the Bears defense isn’t quite as gnarly as you think they are – aside from the Colts Week 1 shut down, and the first meeting with the Lions, the Bears have given up at least 20 points every other game of the season. I see this one as a sure thing Titans win as the Bears won’t score 20 against Tennessee.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots (-3.5): I know this isn’t Tom Brady’s Patriots, and these aren’t J.P. Losman’s Bills, but New England hasn’t lost to Buffalo since 2003 – What was going on in 2003 last time Buffalo got a W against New England? Well, Tara Reid might have been considered good looking, Matt Ryan was playing high school football somewhere, and this great country was just about to give President George W. Bush one more run and complete destruction… That’s a while ago. If you do the math, carry the three, that’s 9 straight wins for the Pats. But Buffalo is better this year, no doubt bout that, so I’ll look for some more conclusive evidence one way or another. The Pats have one loss at home this year, to Miami in the day Ronnie Brown ruled the earth, but I’m not ever sold based solely on homefield business. I need some more. I pointed out last week that New England plays pretty well against teams that do one thing well (either pass or run), but the Bills seem to do both things with some success, so I have no push there. The Patriots should have won last week against the Colts, but a couple dropped passes (Gaffney’s for sure) and that ultimate dump penalty late (thank you Dave Thomas, now get back to pimping Wendy) gave the game to the Colts. I still think Matt Cassel is playing good enough football, and the Bills are coming back to reality a bit. Buffalo’s only “good” win came against a 3-5 San Diego team. That’s right, 5 wins, one of them at home against San Diego – the other four against St. Louis, Seattle, Oakland, and Jacksonville. You sold on the Bills on the road against a Patriots team that just lost a game they should have won? Me neither. I’ll take the Pats.
Baltimore Ravens (+1.5) @ Houston Texans: This is a game I don’t like. Don’t bet your savings on this, please. But if you are looking for a lean, I’m taking the Ravens because they have yet to lose to anybody bad, or mediocre (which is what I think the Texans are). I do think the Ravens have a little trouble with a good passing attack. Their five wins all come against teams that don’t throw the ball real well, Cleveland (twice) and the second time it took some 4th quarter heroics, Oakland (come on, right?), Miami (solid but not a great passing team by any means), and Cincinnati – yes, the Bungles. Indy, Pittsburgh, and a tough loss to Tennessee by three points. The thing is, they haven’t really beaten anybody good, but they haven’t lost to anybody that isn’t “good”. They are 5-3 and basically beat the teams they are equal to or better than, and lose to teams they aren’t (Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Indy). This one just gets really close to me. I like to think the Ravens will have some trouble with Sage Rosenfels. The guy is legit, the best back-up in the league, and if the Texans lose anything with Schaub out, it’s very little. I think Sage gives the Texans a little boost – but I don’t know if it makes them good enough to take down Baltimore. This game is a toss up to me, one of the few 50-50’s I see. So I’m taking the point and the better defense – that’s the best I can do.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons (+1): Atlanta played great football last week and absolutely controlled the clock in Oakland. This week they go back home where they have yet to lose a football game all year long. On the other hand, Drew Brees and company should be as healthy as they’ve been since the season started, and they are coming off a bye (giving the most accurate passer in the league two weeks to prepare for a pretty mediocre secondary) – but that only makes this game high scoring, it doesn’t give the Saints the upper hand. The Falcons still aren’t getting enough credit, and let me tell you, that’s only going to help Mike Smith get his team ready for this week’s game. I like the Falcons to continue to surprise, beating the all powerful New Orleans Saints. I said before that Atlanta is undefeated at home, well the Saints are completely defeated on the road. I can’t imagine that holds up all year, in both cases, but it’s something to look at. The Falcons have had a consistent pass attack this season, a rushing attack that exploits the bottom half of NFL defenses, and more physicality on both lines. They should be favored at home and I’m betting that way. New Orleans is solid, but they don’t scare me much. I don’t want to hear that New Orleans has won each of the last 4 meetings, or anything about the past between these teams – this is not Bobby Patrino’s Falcons team, and Mike Vick isn’t lacing them up on Sunday either. Atlanta has only lost games to good run defenses, and only on the road. Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Philadelphia – that’s it, and the Saints don’t have a defense like those guys. New Orleans also has a little trouble with solid rushing attacks – though they’ve been better against the run this year, the Panthers dominated them via the run and so did Washington back in Week 2. The Chargers lost, but LT went crazy in England against the Saints as well. Those are the odds I’m stacking up – don’t sell the Falcons short, pick them in this one.
St. Louis Rams @ New York Jets (-8): This is a tough one, because the Jets rarely seem to play well – ha. Brett and the Jets aren’t playing well lately, I don’t care if they’ve won two straight, offensively they aren’t getting it done. Thomas Jones just needs to get the ball more, that seems to be obvious. Lesses chances taken by Brett means less turnovers and more ball control by the Jets. You’d think they could take full advantage of that this week as they go up against a Rams defense that allows 156 rushing yards per game, but they haven’t done that against bad rushing defenses this year. Over the last three weeks prior to their win over Buffalo, the Jets snuck by the Bengals, lost to Oakland, and needed a last minute drive to take out the Chiefs in New York. In all three of those games, Thomas Jones didn’t get the ball enough, and Brett’s mistakes killed them. That being said, you’d have to think the Jets are realizing this, and St. Louis is really bad against the run. Thomas Jones needs to get 20 carries in this game. If he does that, they win for sure. I also have to see this from the Rams side, and they have been TERRIBLE against good run defenses. They got destroyed by Arizona last week, and the same goes for earlier games against Buffalo, the Giants, and the Eagles – all of which shut down the run really well. Steven Jackson is hurting, and while he did play last week, he just didn’t look right. The Jets are very good against the run. Lets put it this way, Steven Jackson goes into a hole, Kris Jenkins is there waiting – I have my money on Big Kris.
Seattle Seahawks @ Miami Dolphins (-9): Boy, the Hawks are bad, but are they 9 point dogs in Miami bad? That’s the big question I have to answer here – so here goes the discovering. I know Seattle got tormented by Donovan and the Eagles last week, but I’m not so sure Chad and the Dolphins have the offensive prowess that the Eagles bring to the table week in and week out. The Dolphins don’t have many consistencies in wins and losses, not that I can see anyway. They seem to struggle against strong run defenses, the Jets in Week 1, the Cardinals in Week 2, and the Ravens in Week 7 – but they took down Buffalo two weeks ago, so it’s not an always thing. The Hawks aren’t a good run defense, but they aren’t bad either. Despite losing the time of possession battle in almost every single game they’ve played so far this year (winning that only once, against the Rams in Week 3 and being destroyed almost every other week) the Hawks don’t give up a great YPC average on the ground. They held Brian Westbrook to just 60 yards on 20 carries, and held the Eagles to 72 rushing yards on 28 totes. Then again, I doubt if the Hawks will be able to run against Miami, as the Dolphins allow less than 90 yards on the ground per game. The Hawks don’t have a potent pass rush without Kerney rushing the quarterback, and it’s a big question if he’ll play. Lofa didn’t play last week, and is still hurting (obviously). This list of injuries is endless for the Hawks, and they are all important guys. Linemen, starting quarterback, defensive MVP from a year ago, big play receivers – I just don’t think the Hawks can win against a physical team. Miami can do everything pretty well. Seneca Wallace is okay, but he hasn’t been able to test defenses. Take away his 90 yarder to Koren Robinson on a broken play to start the game, he only has 70 yards passing on Sunday against Philly. Two short throws to his FB against the 49ers last week go for 100+ yards, without those he has just 120 yards passing with no touchdowns. I like the kid, but with this injury riddled offense, he’s a sitting duck out there, and Miami’s toughness up front will take advantage. The Hawks also fly across the country to play at 10 am their time. I have to take the Dolphins here.
Green Bay Packers (+2.5) @ Minnesota Vikings: I just think Green Bay is much better than Minnesota – but is it that simple? Good question. Probably not, so here’s some stuff to back up my pick. In their last meeting (earlier this year), the Vikings needed thirteen 4th quarter points to make this game respectable. I know that in Green Bay’s 4 losses, 3 come against pretty solid run defenses (Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Tennessee last week) – but Green Bay has been running better and better of late, and I think they can do some work against the Vikings run defense. Green Bay has played solid football all year, really. They are 4-4, but they’ve played good football. You’d think Aaron Rodgers would absolutely pick apart the Vikings secondary. They may have played better last week, the Vikings, but they still gave up 350+ yards of passing offense to the Texans. The Packers are definitely still hurting (actually hurting, injuries and such), but they are getting healthier. Ryan Grant is looking more and more like the guy that crushed defenses late last season, and some defensive backs that have been playing through injuries are getting healthier. The Vikings will still be able to run at home against Green Bay, but I don’t think it will be enough to take out the Packers. The Vikings have a lot of trouble against teams that can throw – the Packers can definitely wing it. Another thing, don’t be fooled by the Vikings 3-1 home record – Detroit and Houston aren’t great wins, and the Vikings are a perfect defensive match-up to stop the Panthers. Those are their 3 home wins. Green Bay is almost made to beat the Vikes.
Carolina Panthers (-9) @ Oakland Raiders: I know 9 is a lot to give, especially on the road, but you’ve heard me say it before, and I firmly believe that if the Panthers can run the ball (meaning if they are playing against a mediocre to poor run defense) they are one of the best teams in football. They can run with ease against Oakland. It may be nine, and the Raiders are coming off one of the worst football performances since last week’s WSU Cougar game, but I like the Panthers a lot here. I like them before the Raiders were held to basically nothing against a porous Atlanta defense, and I still like the Panthers, even at this spread that’s slightly inflated.
Indianapolis Colts @ Pittsburgh Steelers: This game is still off everywhere, and I don’t know which way I’d go because the spread is pretty important. I’ve seen things like -3 and -7 both for Pittsburgh. Honestly, I see the Steelers winning, running the ball about 60% of the time, maybe more, and just pounding the Colts. Plus, there is no statistical defense better than Pittsburgh right now, and it’s not all stats either. If you’ve watched these guys, you see a defense that just doesn’t give up anything. Less than 3 yards per carry, 9 passing and rushing touchdowns combined, more sacks than anyone in the league. For a Colts team that has struggled to keep Manning as clean as usual, you’d think the Steelers are poised to take this one. At -3 I’d take the Steelers – at -7 I’m not so sure. I’m not counting this game this week, still no odds and it’s Friday – but I just wanted to let you guys know what I was thinking in case you needed some input. Good luck.
Kansas City Chiefs (+15) @ San Diego Chargers: Tyler Thigpen? I have to take the Chiefs getting more than two touchdowns against a Charger team that has one win by more than 14 all season long. The Chiefs are bad, but they aren’t Oakland bad… Regardless of talent, these teams always play each other tough, it’s just the way it is. In fact, not one game in the last 10 meetings has the winner won by more than two touchdowns. Not once. The Chiefs have played better football at home this season (which is the norm for them over the years) while getting blown out in two of their three road games, but this game is always close. And the Chiefs have a little bit of a youth movement that is looking good over the last couple weeks. I see a little confidence from them at least – there’s no doubt about that. San Diego hasn’t done much for me, and defensively they just aren’t strong. They have a new defensive coordinator, and he’s solid, but it will be interesting to see if he can get it done right off the bat. They play well at times, and go 3-5 at others – the Chargers are tough to read. I know they need this win, and they should be playing this game like their season depends on it, because it means a lot, but I think Thigpen and the Chiefs offense does enough to stay within two scores. So I’ll be going with the Chiefs this week.
New York Giants (+3) @ Philadelphia Eagles: A big Sunday Nighter… Both teams are coming off three straight wins, and even I’m starting to become a believe in the New York Football Giants. (I just threw up a little bit just thinking about that). Both teams have a couple of easy wins sandwiched around a tough game they pulled out. Both teams have beaten Pittsburgh this year, and while the Eagles have three losses (Washington, Chicago, Dallas) – the Giants have just one (Cleveland). The Eagles three losses all come by less than a touchdown. The Browns killed the Giants on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago. I’m hoping with all my might that the Eagles come out victorious in this one, but there’s one big thing moving me toward the Giants, and it’s not defensive pressure. It’s that run game in New York. The Giants have run on everyone – let me clear that up a bit, everyone except Pittsburgh. Even in their big loss to Cleveland, the Giants rushed for 181 yards. In the Eagles three losses, two of them came to teams that ran the ball well against their aggressive defense. Washington gave the ball to Clinton Portis and watched him torch the Eagles, and it was Marion Barber (though he only rushed for 61 yards) that gave the Cowboys enough of a threat to sneak out a win over Philly. The Eagles are very good, no doubt about that, but if the Giants can run the ball, the Eagles blitzing schemes get neutralized a bit – that should give New York the edge. And there’s always Plaxico Burress. Plax has torched the Eagles many a time, and he’s gotten the better of Asante Samuel as well – the Eagles will have their eye on the big wideout, but that might not matter.
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals (-9): Arizona hasn’t lost to a bad team this year, and they’ve beaten some pretty solid teams. They shut the run down well. San Francisco is coming off a bye, and there is a good chance that they come out very motivated after an interesting couple weeks since the beginning of Mike Singletary (my hero). I also think Shaun Hill gives the Niners a better chance to win. He’s more accurate and he’s not as risky, something San Francisco really needs. Still, the Cardinals are one of the best teams in the NFC. They have a more potent rushing attack with Tim Hightower’s youthful exuberance toting the rock, and they have a passing attack that can put points up on anyone. The more they run against the Niners, the better. I hate to roll with the public here, but I can’t be on San Francisco with so many questions in the air. I’m making my wager small enough to be tricked and not lose sleep, but I also don’t want to trick myself into a silly wager. Take the good team against the bad team – Arizona has four double digit wins so far this season – San Francisco has 5 double digit losses. Take that for what it’s worth, but the Cardinals by 10 looks good enough to me.