My record this season is downright embarrassing. All I can do is HIGHLY advise you to bet the other way on all my picks. Like, I’m the Raiders of picking games. I need a MIRACLE to claw my way up to .500 on the season.
Last week: 4-12 (!!!!!!!!!)
This week (so far): 1-0
Last week: 8-8
This week (so far): 1-0
Baltimore @ Washington (-2.5)
Ryan: I’ve been overthinking games like this one all year. I’m done with that. I’m gonna start going with my gut instead of thinking that lines seem weird, assuming that Vegas “knows something,” and picking the other way. The Redskins are hot. They’ve won three games in a row, all against division rivals. They lead the league in rushing. RGIII is the only starting quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers who hasn’t thrown two interceptions in a game yet this season.
If you want to read a very insightful breakdown of the Redskins’ pistol offense, Bucky Brooks put one together for NFL.com.
The Ravens might be the worst 9-3 team I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure whether it’s age, injuries, or saving themselves for the playoffs – or some combination of those three – but they haven’t beaten a good team since Week 3 against the Patriots when the replacement refs swung the game. (Since then, the only teams they’ve beaten that would even come close to qualifying as “good” are the Cowboys and the Steelers with Charlie Batch.) Redskins cover.
Asif: Possible letdown game for the Redskins after an extremely lucky win over the Giants last week (RGIII fumble right into the waiting hands of Josh Morgan for a TD? Bad snap leading to Lawrence Tynes missing a field goal inside of 50 yards?). Ravens cover.
Kansas City @ Cleveland (-6.5)
Ryan: I had to eat Subway the other night. Ugh. They make the worst sandwiches money can buy. The meat and bread are never fresh and their toaster hastily nukes your sandwich with uneven distribution. Since it’s ubiquitous, I end up having to break my “Don’t ever eat there Ryan, you know it sucks” rule two or three times a year. When I found myself far from home and starving at 10:30 PM with nothing else around it open, I had to do it. I asked for “just a little” Southwest chipotle sauce and watched in HORROR as the lady emptied like half the bottle onto my sandwich, completely ruining the chances of tasting anything else in the sandwich. Never again. Until the next time.
I know Cleveland’s on a two-game winning streak – a novel concept for the franchise – but should they really be favored by this much over anyone? Chiefs cover.
Asif: Upset over the lack of football on Saturday? Despair not. You can get your dose of Saturday Sanctioned Violence by watching UFC on Fox. For those who’ve never really given much thought to MMA and are looking for something to hold them over until bowl season, this weekend’s card would be a nice introduction to the sport. Both the main and co-main events promise to be hard fought with the potential of turning into all out brawls. Seriously, this card is probably more compelling than any that the UFC has put on pay-per-view all year, with an evenly matched title fight (Henderson-Diaz), a possible title eliminator between a former champ and an up-and-comer (Rua-Gustafsson), a possible star-making moment or return to glory (Penn-Macdonald), and a sure-fire slugfest (Brown-Swick). The prelims on FX are stacked too. Very good stuff–definitely better than this game. Browns cover.
San Diego @ Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Ryan: Reading between the lines of coachspeak, it seems like Ben Roethlisberger is going to play this week. This sort of feels like a “wheels come off the wagon” game for the Chargers. They’ve lost four in a row and reports trickled out yesterday that Norv Turner and AJ Smith are getting fired at the end of the season. (Why now? Why not two years ago?) Steelers cover.
Asif: Phillip Rivers is deranged. That is all. Steelers cover.
Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-5.5)
Ryan: Did I miss a lot of coverage in my growing detachment from television, or did Andrew Luck’s miraculous comeback against the Lions last week not get that much attention this week? The Colts were down 12 with less than three minutes left to play and there was a point in which the Lions statistically had a 99% chance to win. There are certainly elements of Luck’s game that could be improved – he’s tied with Drew Brees with 16 interceptions, the most in the league – but he really does seem to ratchet up his play late in games when his team needs him most. SOMETIMES SPORTSWRITER CLICHES ARE VALID.
Spoiler alert: I’m not picking against ChuckLuckStrong the rest of the season. Colts cover.
Asif: How many MVPs does Andrew Luck win in his career? I say at least two. MARK IT. Colts cover.
NY Jets (-2.5) @ Jacksonville
Ryan: In Chicago, homeless men stand outside various Starbucks and Walgreens locations, selling a homeless newsletter named Streetwise for $2 an issue. My intrepid research – a self.post I read a few days ago on Reddit – informs me that they pay $.90 for each copy. While I’m certainly in favor of any program that enables the homeless to earn an income, this isn’t really any different from outright begging–they’re selling a publication that I’d never buy at a newsstand. Couldn’t there be a program where they sell something better? They should sell obscure-but-awesome candy bars like Oh Henry instead. Or gum. You can never have enough gum. Jets cover.
Asif: Chad Henne is the best quarterback on either of these teams. I never thought I would write that sentence. Jaguars cover.
Chicago (-3) @ Minnesota
Ryan: The Bears just beat the Vikings by 18 points two weeks ago. What’s really changed? Chicago struggled against an underrated Seahawks team last week but it’s not like Minnesota came out and lit the world on fire.
Brian Urlacher is out for the Bears, possibly for the rest of the regular season. I think this injury is similar to those of Charles Woodson and Ray Lewis. People haven’t fully realized the diminished skillset of this trio and may be overrating their intangible leadership qualities. Bears cover.
Asif: The Bears’ performance in overtime last week put me on an emotional roller coaster with respect to my fantasy team. I went from elated at a fumble recovery in the endzone to crestfallen about a game ending touchdown (a five-point swing). WHY COULDN’T YOU CLOWNS JUST LOSE IN REGULATION???? Vikings cover.
Atlanta (-3.5) @ Carolina
Ryan: When these teams played in Week 4, Carolina was up 28-27 and had the ball 4th-and-1 on Atlanta’s 45. Ron Rivera opted to punt, simultaneously satisfying NFL color commentators while virulently offending the stat geeks. Count me among the offended–I’m picking Atlanta out of spite. Falcons cover.
Asif: I bet Cam Newton has an RGIII dartboard in his house. Falcons cover.
Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay (-7.5)
Ryan: The Eagles are sooooooo bad. Buccaneers cover.
Asif: Do you think Andy Reid has already sent his resume to the Chargers and purchased a home in La Jolla? Bucs cover.
St. Louis @ Buffalo (-3)
Ryan: What Asif’s about to say. Rams cover.
Asif: I have no clue why Buffalo is favored here. Rams cover.
Dallas @ Cincinnati (-3)
Ryan: The Bengals defense has been exceptional the past four weeks in wins over the Giants, Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers. They’ve forced nine turnovers and have only given up one touchdown outside of garbage time.
At 6-6, the Cowboys are still in playoff contention, but barely. I think a loss this week effectively ends their season. Bengals cover.
Asif: DeMarco Murray’s return for the Cowboys is a big enough boost that they might be able to squeeze out a couple more wins and save Jason Garrett’s job. As a Giants fan I’m thrilled about that possibility. Bengals cover.
Miami @ San Francisco (-10)
Ryan: On Grantland today, Bill Barnwell writes that Jim Harbaugh is the NFL’s Most Valuable Person:
The 49ers signed Jim Harbaugh away from Stanford for a pittance. His buyout figure hasn’t been publicly reported, but if there was one, it likely wasn’t more than a couple million bucks. San Francisco gave Harbaugh a five-year, $25 million deal to replace Mike Singletary and take over a franchise that had gone 46-82 since Steve Mariucci left town. Since then, with virtually the same roster Harbaugh inherited, the 49ers have gone 21-6-1. and made it within a premature whistle of making the Super Bowl. It’s the best decision a franchise has made of their own volition (e.g., without having an obvious choice fall into their laps) in recent memory. By acquiring Harbaugh, the 49ers created value for themselves in a way that is virtually impossible to match. They might, in fact, have the single most valuable asset in all of football.
Let’s put that contract into perspective for a minute. Jim Harbaugh is making $5 million per season to be, arguably, the best person in the league at his exceedingly important position. You know Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson? Maybe the 10th-best 4-3 end in the league? He received $34 million in compensation in 2011 alone. That’s more than Harbaugh will receive over the life of his entire deal, with $9 million left over for Johnson to write thank-you notes to Marty Hurney. A top-five head coach is being paid what an average cornerback would make in a given year. Doesn’t that seem wrong?
Barnwell makes a compelling argument – coaches are vastly undervalued relative to most individual players – but I’d still rather build around Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and RG3 and would rather have Bill Belichick, Mike McCarthy, and Mike Tomlin coaching my team. 49ers cover.
Asif: The Dolphins look like scrappers against bad teams and like pushovers against good teams. Niners cover.
New Orleans @ NY Giants (-5)
Ryan: The Giants can’t possibly mess this one up, can they? It’d be really fun – for me; it’d be like a colonoscopy for Asif – if the Saints came in and beat the Giants in a game where a New York loss coupled with a Washington win gives the Redskins control of the NFC East via tiebreaker. As a Packers fan, I’d WAY rather face the Redskins than the Giants in a hypothetical playoff matchup. While I’d love for the Giants to blow this one, I don’t see it happening. New York covers.
Asif: Must-win for the Giants, whose hold on the division is pretty tenuous now. Luckily they should be able to pass the ball on the Saints and pressure Drew Brees into some mistakes. Giants cover.
Arizona @ Seattle (-10)
Ryan: Seattle is without cornerbacks Brandon Browner and maybe Richard Sherman this week. You need a full secondary to cover a 10-point spread when John Skelton comes to town. That’s only half a joke. Arizona covers.
Asif: I can’t wait for the inevitable Joe Flacco overpay by the Cardinals this offseason. Seattle covers.
Detroit @ Green Bay (-7)
Ryan: Clay Matthews didn’t practice this week. Charles Woodson practiced in full pads yesterday, but, according to Mike McCarthy, was “just getting back into it” and “very limited.” We don’t really know how long Jordy Nelson will be out for, but he’s probably not playing this week.
I don’t know what it says about me that I watch and read about the Packers with unhealthy obsession, but get them wrong almost every week. Therefore, I might as well keep picking against them. I think think Green Bay wins an ugly one, but Detroit covers.
Asif: The Lions are a mess. The Packers aren’t looking so hot either, but this is a good opportunity for them to pick up a real confidence boosting win. Green Bay covers.
Houston @ New England (-3.5)
Ryan: I cannot wait to watch this possible/probable AFC playoff preview on Monday night. The Patriots already have their division locked up, but need a win this week to keep pace with the 10-3 Broncos and 9-3 Ravens for a first round bye. This is especially necessary as New England has San Francisco looming next week on short rest. Patriots cover.
Asif: There’s real potential for the Pats to do what Green Bay did to the Texans. Tom Brady has quietly been making a very strong MVP case and it’s kinda weird how New England has been flying under the radar this season. That should change after Monday. Pats cover.