On to the picks …
Last Week: 8-5-1
Last Week: 6-7-1
Green Bay @ Detroit (-6)
Ryan: Since the Packers won the Super Bowl in early 2011, there was the sense that the team was constantly waiting for Aaron Rodgers to bail them out with big plays — and he’d do it more often than not. In Rodgers’ absence, only Eddie Lacy has really stepped up to fill any of that void.
And that’s been depressing. Each of these past four games without Rodgers has been theoretically winnable in the second half. Against the Bears and the Eagles, the defense couldn’t get a stop when they needed it. The Giants pulled away late, while the Vikings were able to stave off — barely — a late resurgence last week where a Packers win seemed inevitable. But they couldn’t close the deal.
The only reason Green Bay still has a season to speak of is because the Lions and Bears have lost games that you’d think they should win, and it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even look forward to watching the Packers play. Lions cover, if only as an emotional hedge.
Asif: This game really hinges on whether Aaron Rodgers plays or not. The Lions haven’t looked great of late, but the Packers offense looks terrible without Rodgers. Since it looks like he won’t be playing, Lions cover.
Oakland @ Dallas (-9.5)
Ryan: I really wanted the Matt McGloin Wins Football Games narrative to continue last week, but the ginger was let down by his defense on the Titans’ final drive. I’m hoping that was just a blip in the radar of what will become a long stretch of dominance. Raiders cover.
And I’m gonna drop in another one of those Photoshops anyways, just because they’re fun:
Asif: As much as it pains me to write this, Dallas covers.
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3)
Ryan: The Steelers have been a bit curiously under the radar. They’ve won three in a row, and five out of seven. Of everybody in the steaming pile of feces in contention for the final AFC playoff spot — Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, San Diego, New York (Jets), Miami are all tied at 5-6 and Oakland, Cleveland, and Buffalo are just a game back — they’d be the ones I bet on to make it in.
Random aside: Ray Rice looks like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, et al when the Monstars took their talent away in Space Jam. Steelers cover.
Asif: I’m writing this from a greyhound bus stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge, praying that the wifi doesn’t drop out and destroy the formatting on this post. I’m only telling you this because that would be more exciting than anything that happens in this game. Baltimore covers.
Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-4.5)
Ryan: I seem to have good luck when I pick the diametric opposite of what my instinct is, so let’s go ahead and say that the Titans cover.
Asif: What the crap happened to the Colts last week? The Cardinals might be better than people think, but there’s no excuse for a “contender” losing a game in that fashion. It may be time to pump the brakes a little on the Indy bandwagon, but I think they should have enough to handle Tennessee. Colts cover.
Denver (-4) @ Kansas City
Ryan: *Looks up KC weather. 45 degrees. If it were colder, I’d go with Kansas City, but this is warm enough that Peyton Manning, who is 10-12 in games when it’s under 40 degrees, shouldn’t struggle.
Furthermore, Justin Houston is probably out this week and so might be Tamba Hali — the two have combined for 20 sacks, and Kansas City’s defense statistically plays far worse without Houston. Broncos cover.
Asif: The Broncos did handle the Chiefs two weeks ago, but I’m willing to bet that the second game goes differently based on absolutely nothing except gut feeling. Chiefs cover.
Jacksonville @ Cleveland (-7)
Ryan: The Browns shouldn’t be favored by a touchdown over anybody, and the Jaguars haven’t been nearly as terrible the past few weeks. Jacksonville covers.
Asif: Is there any reason that we need to have this game? Can we just flip a coin and decide the outcome that way? Browns cover, I guess?
Tampa Bay @ Carolina (-8.5)
Ryan: I like this Panthers team, and they’ve been playing really well. Cam Newton has gotten a lot of credit — I guess there is something to be said about his body language being better and whatever clutchiness* one may discern, but his stats aren’t SO much greater than they were last season.
The Panthers’ defense, though, is wonderful. They rank third in both total yardage and DVOA, and second in takeaways. That unit is a much bigger reason for the difference in team success than Newton, who has recently found himself on that media-driven “is he elite?” carousel.
Still, this line seems a little too high. Even though they’ve now won three in a row, the Bucs are still a little undervalued. Tampa covers.
*Real made-up word
Asif: The Bucs were never quite as bad as their record suggested, but let’s all pray that this winning streak doesn’t save Greg Schiano’s job. The world needs less petty, meathead tyrants. Carolina covers.
Chicago @ Minnesota (-1)
Ryan: I thought this was really funny on Sunday:
@sportsrapport I’ve been saying for years that AP was a ‘system’ running back.
— Colin Ross (@therealcwross) November 24, 2013
Peterson, and I guess Gerhart, really should be able to gash this atrocious Bears D that gave up 258 yards on the ground to the Rams last week. Vikings cover.
Asif: Bears fans are going to look back on this season and see a lot of wasted opportunity. With all that’s transpired with the Packers this season and the uninspiring play of the Lions, most people would have assumed that the Bears should be in control of the division. Unfortunately, the Bears suck. Vikings cover.
Arizona @ Philadelphia (-3.5)
Ryan: The Cardinals aren’t gonna be as happy as I am when they miss the playoffs at 10-6 and the Packers make it in at 9-6-1. Eagles cover.
Asif: I’m not prepared to live in a world where Nick Foles is a top 10 QB. Although I will give a big, “Na na na na na na I told you so” about Chip Kelly’s offense. Eagles cover.
Miami @ NY Jets (-1.5)
Ryan: Literally could not care less. Dolphins cover.
Asif: I watched the Jets and Ravens last week and the game was so boring I wanted to claw my eyes out. I don’t expect that this matchup will be any different. Miami covers.
Atlanta @ Buffalo (-3.5)
Ryan: There was a mom-and-pop deli/coffee shop less than a block away from me called Nohea Cafe that moved out to a different location a little over a year ago. They had good sandwiches and, more importantly, fast Wi-Fi. It was a great place for me to go and get work done when I needed to shake things up.
My impression from various sighs and facial expressions from the staff when they were moving was that the landlord had jacked up the rent on them. That nobody has moved in since only confirms this suspicion, and it’s such a waste of a space that used to substantially enrich my life. I get legitimately upset every time I see the empty storefront, and the only consolation is that the property owner has lost God-only-knows-how-much money because of his greedy tactics.
Buffalo covers because why not.
Asif: Atlanta is straight up terrible. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to trade a gajillion draft picks for a guy who was known as injury prone in college, no matter how good he was? Bills cover.
St. Louis @ San Francisco (-9.5)
Ryan: The Rams are frisky, and they’ve destroyed the Bears and Colts in their last two games. It’s weird. Like Asif, I also think the 49ers are a really good team, but I think that this line is just a little bit too high. Rams cover.
Asif: Let me clarify for all the people who keep claiming that they don’t know what to make of San Francisco. They’re good. Period. If the 49ers played in the NFC East, no one would even question how good they are because they’d be busy stomping the life out of every team in that hopeless division. Speaking of which, 49ers cover.
New England (-7.5) @ Houston
Ryan: I had this post drafted for my normal job, but it didn’t end up getting posted (which happens occasionally), so I’ll just run it here:
Let’s go back to September 15, the halcyon days in Houston. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and football was in the air. Vanilla Ice had just performed at halftime of the Titans-Texans game at Reliant Stadium, and Houston executed a come-from-behind victory to find themselves at 2-0. All was right in the world.
But Houston has lost nine in a row since then – a parlay bet against the Texans each week starting at $100 would now be worth over $200k – and that’s left some Texans “locker room sources” to wonder if Vanilla Ice might’ve jinxed them. (Or, at least for TMZ to make that theory up and ask the “Ice Ice Baby” muse about it.)
“If we could go sing for a team — and ‘ice’ them to have bad luck when I’m not there — I’d be making millions,” the one hit wonder noted, dispelling the notion with phenomenally impeccable logic.
Asif: In fighting this is what’s referred to as a squash match, or crushing a can. The Texans probably couldn’t beat Ohio State right now. Pats cover.
Cincinnati @ San Diego (-1.5)
Ryan: Since there’s no rhyme or reason to how the Chargers perform on any given week, I’m going to flip a coin right now. Heads is Cincy, Tails is San Diego. Coin landed heads, so Bengals cover.
Asif: It’s a pretty big indictment of the AFC North when the Bengals are head and shoulders the best team in the division and they have losses to the Bears, Browns, Dolphins, and Ravens. Good teams, those are not. San Diego is feisty, but on paper Cincy should be the better team here and I can only assume the line is this narrow because of the Bengals’ inconsistent play. Bengals cover.
NY Giants (-1) @ Washington
Ryan: Two of my new colleagues at The Big Lead composed an excellent post yesterday in which they used video evidence to show that RG3′s teammates have stopped helping up after sacks. It was really interesting, and I recommend you go take a gander at it. This season cannot end fast enough for the Racial Slurs. Giants cover.
Asif: This game has no business in prime time. The Giants are probably the better team here, but it’s hard to pick them when they lose games like last week, where the difference was Victor Cruz fumbling while getting gang tackled while trying to get out of bounds when the play could have easily been blown dead for lack of forward progress. *Deep Breath* I HAVE NO SYMPATHY FOR WASHINGTON FANS! *One more deep breath* Fuck it, Washington covers.
New Orleans @ Seattle (-6)
Ryan: Saints cover, just on the basis of Seattle being without cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond.
Asif: Someone explain to me why this isn’t the Sunday game? Anyone?! The Seahawks are invincible at home, so Seattle covers.