Sports Rapport

Super Bowl PickNFL Conference Championship PicksNFL Divisional Playoff Picks


January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Pick

Two Weeks Ago: 2-0
Playoffs: 6-2-2
Season total: 133-123-10

Two Weeks Ago: 0-2
Playoffs: 3-5-2
Season Total: 126-130-10

Denver (-2.5) vs. Seattle

Ryan: Some personal anecdotes that have been simmering inside my brain during the playoffs because there’s not a regular outlet for my hot life takes:

1) I feel irrationally proud of myself when I actually do my laundry. It’s like that old Chris Rock sketch when people brag about taking care of their kids or never having been to jail. I’m SUPPOSED to do my laundry, and the extent to which I let it linger is irresponsible considering I’m now 27 years old. Getting it done isn’t an accomplishment, and I need to stop treating it as such inside my head.

2) Last week, the Wi-Fi router in my apartment abruptly decided to not work, and I’m truly embarrassed about how much anxiety this gave me. I have no idea how people lived for thousands of years without internet when I can’t endure several minutes. After going through the unplug/reset cycle several times and getting nowhere, I had to trudge to Starbucks and that was terrible.

One of my first posts on this blog was about how it’s an OUTRAGE that Starbucks has such abominably slow internet. Who the hell do they think they are? Why even have it in the first place if stuff isn’t going to load? Did we lose a war? I get that people would sit there for an eternity if their free internet were worth a damn, so they should just charge for good access instead of trying to pass off their 1997 bullshit like it’s some sort of service.

3) I just noticed I also talked about this in the old Starbucks post but it’s amazing how much of a difference making or missing the bus in the morning can make in my day. Earlier this week, I missed saw the thing pull away while I was across the street and had to stand there in the cold for 15 minutes despising life. Today, I had to run to catch it, got in AT THE BUZZER and I’ve been euphoric ever since.

4) I don’t wanna be that guy but the winter in Chicago has been BRUTAL this year. It’s been far colder and snowier than the four past ones, and it’s been sucking the life out of me. There’s a very real danger that it’s going to stick around until late-May at this rate. It feels like we’re being punished for something.

5) Here’s the bacon cheeseburger basket at the Anchor Bar in Superior, WI. Inflation clearly hasn’t reached northern Wisconsin.

anchor bar superior wi

Anyways, if you couldn’t tell, I’ve been stalling because I have very little to say about the actual football in the Super Bowl. What really is there? These have been the two best teams all year, and I hope they give us a close game before the sport goes away forever until September. Seahawks cover, but I really have no idea.

Continue reading Super Bowl Pick

January 17, 2014

NFL Conference Championship Picks

Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers

This is the last real football Sunday forever until September, and that makes me profoundly sad. I need to come up with my post-NFL Sunday resolution pretty soon. Three years ago it was to study for the GMATs, and I actually kept to it. Two years ago, it was to play live sports and that faltered after a week or two. I don’t even remember what last year’s was so that must not’ve gone particularly well, either. Any suggestions are welcome.

On to the picks …

Last Week: 2-1-1
Playoffs (so far): 4-2-2
Total Season: 131-123-10

Last Week: 2-1-1
Playoffs (so far): 3-3-2
Total Season: 126-128-10

New England @ Denver (-5.5)

Ryan: When you really think about it, it’s pretty incredible that the four best football teams in the world are playing this Sunday but the social dialogue pertaining to the NFL is all focused on the bizarre arrests of Davone Bess and Kellen Winslow today. Like, we’re all pretty fatigued with the Brady-Manning narrative, but that’s never stopped us from running that stuff into the ground before. Roger Goodell must be INFURIATED that their parking lot masturbation and throwing-coffee-on-a-cop antics couldn’t wait until like two weeks from now.

At this point, it’s pretty hard for me to come up with anything especially original to say about any of the four teams left. I’ve either written it in the previous 19 weeks or, and this is far more likely, someone else has. Looking up and down the rosters, it would certainly appear as though the Broncos should win this game — even if you’re the sort of person who rightfully would take Brady over Manning.

Still, though, this line seems too high. That makes me think it’s a Vegas trap. Broncos cover.

Continue reading NFL Conference Championship Picks

January 10, 2014

NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

Regular Season: 127-121-8
Last Week: 2-1-1
Total: 129-122-9

Regular Season: 123-125-8
Last Week: 1-2-1
Total: 124-127-9

New Orleans @ Seattle (-8)

Ryan: Within the next couple years, the NFL is probably going to going to expand the playoffs two teams in each conference. There’ll be some squabbling, and then it will happen, and then we’ll watch the games anyways, and the NFL owners will pocket the money that is the lifeblood of their veins (and existence, really). 34 of the 35 highest rated fall telecasts were NFL games, so they and you and everyone else knows deep down that no amount of complaining will actually stop us from tuning in.

So if the future format had been the case this year, Pittsburgh and Baltimore would’ve gotten in in the AFC and Arizona and Chicago would’ve made it in the NFC. The Seahawks would have been hosting the Bears last weekend in a game that they would have, in all likelihood, won. Provided they didn’t sustain any crucial injuries — and that’s obviously a big if — the game probably would’ve been more helpful for their preparations against the Saints than a whole week off.

Occasionally, no. 8 seeds — who are decently likely to limp into the postseason at 7-9 — will knock off regular season conference champs and that will be pretty irksome, but there’s nothing that’s really too harmful about having your team’s meaningful seasons (i.e. when they aren’t completely eliminated from contention) extended, but the folks who rage on about the erosion of the regular season’s legitimacy will also have a strong point.

The Saints could win this game outright, or they could get completely blown out. PROFOUND. I’m taking the points. Saints cover.

Asif: You really think I’m going to take the Saints, in Seattle, on the three year anniversary of BEAST MODE? Yeah, no. Seattle covers.

Continue reading NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

January 3, 2014

NFL Wild Card Playoff Picks

Last Week: 8-8
Regular Season: 127-121-8

Last Week: 5-11
Regular Season: 123-125-8

San Francisco (-3) @ Green Bay

Ryan: The big story of the week, which entertained the idea that the Packers might not sell out a playoff game at Lambeau Field and might have the game blacked out on television, was so fucking stupid from so many different angles. First, the organization made season ticketholders prepay for all three rounds of playoff tickets about a month ago when the team had about a 5.5% chance of even making it in.

The Packers season ticket base is not a wealthy one, and even though they would ultimately get reimbursed WHEN the games (especially the next two rounds) didn’t happen at Lambeau, that’s their Christmas present money — two tickets alone is the better part of a grand in that transaction. And so the team — who for whatever reason couldn’t just charge credit cards in the event the games happen like the Eagles are doing – had to move 40,000 tickets this week as the fans got dragged through the mud for not wanting to sit in the cold. (And it’s gonna be so fucking cold, but I assure you we will be loud and proud on Sunday.)

There was never going to be any television blackout in these playoffs for any of these three games, and anybody who said there might’ve been was using scare tactics to sell tickets or pageviews.

I love this Packers team, they’re playing with house money, and I’m rolling with faith over reason. Green Bay covers.

Asif: I’m a little bit torn here. The 49ers were my preseason pick to win it all, and I like the way they’ve put things together over the past couple weeks. On the other hand, Green Bay is starting to have that team of destiny feeling, kind of like the 2007 Giants. Like those 2007 Giants they got a big assist from a collapsing division rival. That’s really my only true point of comparison between the teams, but I’m rolling with it. Packers cover.

Kansas City @ Indianapolis (-2)

Ryan: It’s really hard to come up with some sort of binding, cogent prognostication for this game because Indianapolis is so bi-polar. In the regular season, they beat San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Kansas City but lost to Miami and San Diego and badly to St. Louis, Arizona, and Cincinnati.

The Chiefs faltered down the stretch. After starting out 9-0, they finished 2-5 (though last week their back-ups took San Diego to overtime, so that one really shouldn’t count against them).

Again, this is a guess more than anything else because it’s impossible to project the Colts on a week-to-week basis, but this is essentially a rematch from two weeks ago when the Chiefs couldn’t throw the ball and turned it over three times in a 23-7 loss. Feels like they’re the team that peaked too soon this year. Colts cover.

Asif: The Chiefs probably did peak too early, but the Colts haven’t been the same since losing Reggie Wayne. I’ll go against recent history and pick the Chiefs to cover.

New Orleans @ Philadelphia (-2.5)

Ryan: It is alarming that the line is so low when so many aspects of this game appear to be so squarely in Philadelphia’s favor. They finished the year 7-1. Nick Foles led the league in passer rating. Every pundit in the universe has spent the past month gargling Chip Kelly’s balls. The Saints sucked away from the Superdome this season and the franchise has never won a road playoff game.

While the other three games are still struggling to attract fans, the Eagles sold out in three minutes. It’s Saturday night and the crowd is gonna be fucking wasted.

For all but the most elite gamblers, these spreads amount almost entirely to coin flips. Therefore, it’s not really more outrageous to play the VEGAS KNOWS SOMETHING card and say Saints cover than it would be to build a logical case for the Eagles and roll with it.

Asif: It snowed quite a bit in New York last night. I know this because they started clearing the sidewalk by my bedroom window with a snowblower around 7AM and continued to do so for another two hours. I’m way too lazy to look at how much it snowed in Philly, but I’m assuming it’s around the same amount.

The temperature in Philly isn’t supposed to rise above 18 degrees today and 31 degrees tomorrow. All of that means it will be miserable on the field on Saturday. If the snow had come a day later I would give the Saints zero chance in this game, but regardless I like the Eagles’ more run-heavy offense under the current conditions. Philly covers.

San Diego @ Cincinnati (-7)

Ryan: I don’t really know why I feel this way, but for whatever reason it seemed like the Bengals were shakier down the stretch than my research is now showing — their loss in Pittsburgh three weeks ago overly stuck in my mind. They actually finished the year 5-1, which included a 34-17 victory over a Ravens team that would’ve made the playoffs with a win, a 42-14 shellacking of a Vikings squad that had just badly beaten the Eagles the week before, a 42-28 besting of the Colts that was even less close than the score indicates, and a 7-point win over these Chargers.

The Chargers, meanwhile, only even made it into the playoffs because Miami and Baltimore lost last week and played against a Chiefs team that was playing backups at key positions, missed a game-winning 41-yard field goal in overtime, and probably should’ve had another (even closer) shot at it on an uncalled San Diego penalty. So.

Anyways, all of this is to say that I’m not even thinking about veering from my coin flip strategy. Heads is Chargers, tails is Bengals. San Diego covers.

Asif: I for one am thrilled to have Philip Rivers back in the playoffs if only because it lets me re-use my favorite sports .gif of 2013.

I could watch that for hours. Here’s another angle.

Rivers truly is a man of many faces, most of them awesome. Which one will we see on Sunday? I predict this one:

Bengals cover.


December 30, 2013

12 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the Packers Beating the Bears

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

Gonna keep this a bit more concise than the last time, but wanted to collect some thoughts about another gutty win by the Packers.

1. It’s so nice to have Aaron Rodgers back in my life. The separation anxiety was a bit much to handle. I know he was a little bit rusty in the first half, but 75% of him is still far greater than 100% Wallace/Tolzien/Flynn. Fitting the ball in amidst tight coverage, recognizing when the rush is coming (as opposed to learning about it only after getting trucked like Flynn would do), and simply having demonstrably assertive command of the offense were things that I missed terribly over the past couple months.

2. Randall Cobb’s nice to have back, too.

3. The most important play of the game was obviously Rodgers-to-Cobb, but the second most significant moment came when the Green Bay offense shooed the punting unit off the field and convinced Mike McCarthy to go for it on 4th-and-inches from their own 22. The Packers picked up three 4th downs on that drive. Rodgers had the exact right word for it: “character”.

4. The block that John Kuhn made on Julius Peppers saved the season (for now, at least). Kuuuuuuuhhhhhhnnnn got jussssssssst enough of him to allow Rodgers to slide to his left and hit Cobb for the 48-yard touchdown. It’s the little things.

5. Speaking of little things, it’s silly to gripe right now but I can’t remember the last time the Packers picked up a two-point conversion attempt. They should try running the ball on those — nothing else ever works.

6. James Starks has been an unsung hero this year. He may not have even made the team if DuJuan Harris hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury in training camp, but he’s been solid. Starks averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the season, and ran 11 times for 88 yards yesterday. It’s huge that his performance makes it easier on the coaching staff to give Eddie Lacy some rest.

7. Soldier Field was more benign than I thought it would be yesterday. My girlfriend had gotten us tickets for my birthday back in September, and I admittedly had an ominous feeling about the game for the past two months. The two other times I’d been there, I swore I’d never go back after too many fans were drunken neanderthals. There were a lot more Packers fans than I expected — and they were around our seats in every direction — so even a loss would not have been as horrific as I envisioned. (Don’t get me wrong — it still would’ve been fucking terrible. Just a bit less so.)

8. The last few weeks could be the beginnings of a storybook run, and they might not. But, by and large, they’ve been really fun. I can’t wait to jet up to Lambeau this weekend. I really hope our momentum continues into Sunday’s game against San Francisco. They’ve terrorized us for the past 18 months, and it’d be fantastic if this group can figure out some way to exorcise those demons.

9. Either way, though, the season’s a lot better than it looked a month ago and I feel affirmed that it’s all been worth it. Like, just imagine being a Browns fan.

10. Go!

11. PACK!!!!!

12. GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 27, 2013

Week 17 NFL Picks

Whew … I passed Asif last week, but we’re only separated by a game. BIG STAKES AHEAD.

Oh, and you can still send me money if you find yourself wanting to donate to the hopefully worthy Ryan-writes-jokes-about-football cause.

Last Week: 8-7-1
Season: 119-113-8

Last Week: 4-11-1
Season: 118-114-8

Carolina (-6.5) @ Atlanta

Ryan: I think this is going to be one of those blip-on-the-radar seasons for Atlanta, but it’s weird that more people haven’t used their slide to castigate Matt Ryan. Nothing is more obnoxious than the “IS THIS QB ELITE” (embraced) debate, but you don’t see teams led by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers ever go 4-12 as the Falcons are expected to do — injury plague or not.

Contingent on how this week plays out, the Panthers could finish ranked anywhere between no. 1 and no. 6 for the NFC playoffs, so they have a lot to play for. Carolina covers.

Asif: If Matt Ryan was, say, Cam Newton, a much larger swath of the mainstream media would be questioning his quarterbacking. Hell, Peter King even spent the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Panthers’ game casting aspersions on Newton’s ability. I don’t see this one being close. Panthers cover.

Continue reading Week 17 NFL Picks

December 20, 2013

Week 16 NFL Picks

I’m on vacation with my family in Cancun this week, so these picks are a little bit abridged this week. Please still free to enjoy them and/or send me money, though. I have a bit of ground to catch up on Asif, but it’s not insurmountable.

Last Week: 
Season: 111-106-7

Last Week: 6-10
Season: 114-103-7

Miami (-2.5) @ Buffalo

Ryan: I haven’t been especially caught up on the 24-second news cycle this week — can somebody clue me in as to whether there’s been a puff piece about Joe Philbin and the Dolphins overcoming the adversity that they created for themselves yet? Line seems way too low, as the continuation of that narrative feels inevitable. Dolphins cover.

Asif: I think the reason we haven’t seen a Joe Philbin puff piece is because Joe Philbin is the least interesting man in football. The Dolphins just keep hanging around though. Miami covers.

New Orleans @ Carolina (-3)

Ryan: This seemed unfathomable a few games ago, but the loser of this game is in pretty real danger of losing their playoff spot to the suddenly-hot 9-5 Cardinals. New Orleans whooped Carolina just two weeks ago, but the Saints are a completely different team away from the Superdome — they’re 7-0 at home and 3-4 on the road.

This might be the best matchup of the week, and it’s pretty disappointing that it’s buried in the middle of a nine-game early slate. Panthers cover.

Asif: The Panthers are starting to look like “that team,” you know, the one that doesn’t seem that great on paper, but finds a way to get things done. I think Cam Newton is going to have a big game. Panthers cover.

Continue reading Week 16 NFL Picks

December 15, 2013

19 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the Packers Beating the Cowboys

Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys

Gutty win. This is more of a personal therapy to collect my thoughts and feelings than anything else, but if you happen to enjoy it I suppose that’s wonderful too. A fair warning that I’m not even really going to proofread it, and there will be swearing. Let’s fucking go.

1. What a motherfucking win. The season is alive headed into Week 16 — you cannot say that Packers will not win the Super Bowl and definitely be correct. That is a privilege, not a right.

2. For the second straight week, the fact in no. 1 has appeared to definitely not be true heading into halftime. Last week the Falcons had a pick-six to go up 21-10, and Green Bay was coming off a Thanksgiving drubbing and it didn’t seem like there was any earthly possibility that they would figure out a way to score points and figure out a way to make Atlanta stop scoring them. Today, the Packers were down 26-3 and the only reason my friends didn’t leave Will’s (the wonderful Wisconsin bar) was that they give away (really outstanding, actually) free stuff at halftime, and then we scored really quickly.

3. That I was planning to sit there at a table by myself for the duration of a 51-3 outcome doesn’t make that the right decision for my personal wellbeing, but it is also the decision I made and make. Oh, and I won two bitching Packers coffee mugs in the aforementioned halftime raffle. I don’t want to take full credit for the ultimate outcome, but that was assuredly the turning point. I had no. 552, and the only reason I awakened from my compulsive Twitter refreshing to claim it was that no. 556 had been called two prizes prior. I had lamented that I was only four off (which was exacerbated by having the first two digits spot on), and my friend Matt recognized my mannerisms and poked me to tell me I had won.

4. I know that at that moment those coffee mugs, which I’m sure I could buy for like 10 bucks after seven seconds of Googling, could have gone on to be an insufficient consolation prize on a shitty afternoon but hindsight has rendered them special.

Continue reading 19 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the…

December 13, 2013

Week 15 NFL Picks

If you enjoy this and would like to pay for my dinner, I sure wouldn’t mind. PayPal @ email hidden; JavaScript is required or any other method of your choosing would be peachy.

Last Week: 8-7-1
This Week (so far): 1-0
Season: 103-99-7

Last Week: 10-5-1
This Week (so far): 0-1
Season: 108-94-7

Washington @ Atlanta (-7)

Ryan: I don’t think I can remember a team that was more amusing to observe from an impartial standpoint than this year’s Redskins. A hatable coach pretty openly campaigning to get fired by an odious owner — who is trying to figure out a way to fire Shanahan without paying him — is delightful, and I feel a little bit bad for RG3 as being collateral damage in the middle. (But obviously not bad enough to keep this whole situation from being hilarious.)

I have several favorite aspects of this story. The first is Mike Shanahan appearing genuinely humble and concerned with RG3′s well-being and need for a full offseason before snakily leaking this story the next day:

The next-best part was Brian Billick going on Mike and Mike  and saying that Shanahan is not a lame duck, but someone who is assured he will be back next season and acting in accordance with the franchise’s long-term best interest.

The reality is that benching RG3, who has played poorly all season and does really need to get himself healthy, is in the best interest of Washington. BUT, Daniel Snyder probably doesn’t see it that way, and Shanahan definitely would rather take his $7 million and go home rather than have to endure all of this crap for another calendar year.

After watching them blow an 11-point halftime lead against the Rodgers-less Packers, I’m really not sure Atlanta should be seven-point favorites over anybody. Washington covers. 

Asif: Here’s Jason Whitlock psychoanalyzing RGIII for ESPN. I don’t really have much to say about this other than I wonder where Shanahan keeps his incriminating photos of Jason. My favorite part about the whole Redskins – RG-III – Shanahan kerfuffle is it gives me a new, novel reason to call the Redskins and their fans racist. Kirk Cousins sucks and Atlanta covers.

San Francisco (-5.5) @ Tampa Bay

Ryan: Reason no. 98373978 why the Internet is the greatest place on Earth: here’s what Nick Saban and Mack Brown would look like if they flip-flopped hair (via Cork Gaines):

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 4.24.24 PM

I know Tampa’s been having a bit of a renaissance in recent weeks, but it seems like they should be bigger underdogs in this game. 49ers cover.

Asif: Smells like free money. Niners cover.

Arizona (-2.5) @ Tennessee

Ryan: It is very bizarre how I weigh my inconveniences. The air conditioning unit in my bedroom was in the wall in a manner that lets a ton of cold air in, and it’s been especially frigid this week so I’ve slept two nights on the couch and am petrified of even entering my room. The solution is as easy as texting the maintenance guy for my apartment, but I’ve been procrastinating because it seemed like a lot of effort to do that and to clean up my room a little bit, at least enough so he has a free path of getting there without stepping on my clothes. And yet.

Anyways, as Chicago reached single digits, I finally relented and have no earthy idea why I didn’t just do that sooner.

Cardinals cover.

Asif: Both of these teams are good enough to beat truly bad teams, but not good enough to beat good teams. So… Cardinals cover.

New Orleans (-5.5) @ St. Louis

Ryan: There are some of these games that are tempting to pick the underdog, until I envision what it would be like in my head if the Saints go up two scores quickly. I’d have to spend two hours trying to use my football karma to urge Kellen Clemens into a backdoor cover. No thanks. Saints cover.

Asif: Wait, what? Saints cover.

Seattle (-7) @ NY Giants

Ryan: I’m like a week or two late on this, but the coverage of JJ Watt and Russell Wilson’s off-field wonderfulness is reaching a level where it almost distracts us from how outstanding they are at football. SportsCenter devoted approximately 20 hours of my time the last few weeks saying how great a person Wilson is because he carries around some shitty duct-taped wallet a little girl made for him, as if he is doing that for any other reason than for lazy reporters to gush about it.

Yeah, yeah west coast team flying East for a 1pm start. But it seems like the Giants have quit, and I don’t want to go against the Seahawks coming off a loss. Seattle covers.

Asif: I don’t care that this game is in New York, there’s no way this line should be less than 10 points. Seahawks cover.

Chicago @ Cleveland (-1.5)

Ryan: I know that Marc Trestman is with his team on a daily basis and surely understands his quarterback situation better than a fledgling blogger, but it’s bizarre to me that he is going back to Jay Cutler in the middle of Josh McCown’s sorta hot streak. Yes, Cutler has greater upside and they need some final evaluation before deciding what to do with his future. However, it seems as though McCown gives the team a better chance to win right now.

I still don’t get why they aren’t favored this week, though. Bears cover.

Asif: Looks like Cutler is going to start this game, so… Browns cover.

Houston @ Indianapolis (-6)

Ryan: I already did an Extra Mustard post on this, but you should totally watch Andrew Luck give an impassioned pep talk to his fantasy football teammates:

Colts cover.

Asif: I’m convinced that the Colts aren’t any good, but the Texans actually suck. Colts cover.

Buffalo (-2) @ Jacksonville

Ryan: The Jaguars have won four out of five games, which is unfathomable considering they were headed down the path of historical putridity right before that. It’s been truly astonishing. Jacksonville covers.

Asif: Yucky. Buffalo covers.

New England (-2.5) @ Miami

Ryan: For the first time in awhile, I eschewed the Red Zone Channel last Sunday and went out to a bar with four screens. I had it perfect, getting there about 15 minutes before kickoff and monopolizing the screens with the best games. As I told my friend Matt, the worst case scenario in this equation is some Browns fan who comes in the middle of the second quarter — always alone — and asks for his game. And of course it fucking happened.

The guy then had the audacity to LEAVE when Cleveland was leading New England in the fourth quarter. Even if he rightfully sensed the Browns’ impending doom, arriving late and leaving early — and messing up my flow — was wholly unacceptable.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t happened, but I still haven’t seen anyone write anything really dumb about the Dolphins overcoming the adversity they caused for themselves. Let’s give it one more win. Miami covers.

Asif: It’s pretty amazing that the Pats are still in position to potentially grab a first round bye. When you consider that they’ve lost their two best defensive players for the season and only had their receiving corps together for a couple weeks, their record is a lot more impressive than it appears at first blush. New England covers.

Philadelphia (-4.5) @ Minnesota

Ryan: I had a five-day stretch this week where I ordered chicken shawarma three times. It’s been really cold outside. Anyways, there are few greater feelings in life than the moment where you remember that you have leftovers in the fridge. Since I work from home and have no respect for the traditional order of meals, this inevitably means I’m in for a phenomenal breakfast with minimal effort. It’s glorious.

The Eagles have won five in a row and they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Philly covers.

Asif: Nick Foles is the best quarterback in the NFL. Philly covers.

Ryan: Stop that, no he’s not. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers are still definitely better.

NY Jets @ Carolina (-11)

Ryan: Gwen Knapp did a great job over at Sports on Earth describing why Cam Newton’s supposed redemption is sorta a false narrative:

Any connection between Newton’s lack of sulking and the flipped record amounts to classic chicken-egg theory. There isn’t even compelling evidence that the visible attitude shift improved him as a quarterback. The separation between his immature and mature models represents a natural improvement for any player over three years more than it suggests a diva downgrade. In the realm of advanced stats, his Rate+ makes the case with almost comical precision. Rate+ measures each quarterback’s passing stats against the league average, and it shows that Newton went from 100 (or the league average) as a rookie to 101 as a second-year player and 102 now.

The widely held notion that he endured a sophomore slump last year is not borne out very heartily by the statistics. He had a better passer rating in 2012 than 2011 (86.2 vs. 84.5), averaged more yards per attempt in his second year (8.0 vs. 7.8) and threw five fewer interceptions (12 vs. 17). He fumbled more in 2012 (10 times vs. 5) and scored fewer rushing touchdowns (8, down from 14), but he ran for slightly more yardage as a slumper than as a rookie (741 vs. 706). In this, the year of ostensible redemption, he is on a pace to throw and run for fewer yards than he did in the two previous ones.

In reality, as I wrote a few weeks ago and Knapp expands upon, the biggest difference for the Panthers this season has been their stout defense. Carolina covers.

Asif: The Jets are the least fun team to watch in the NFL, unless you like horrible battles of attrition marred by terrible QB play. Carolina covers.

Kansas City (-4) @ Oakland

Ryan: Feels like stealing. Chiefs cover.

Asif: This makes no sense. KC covers.

Green Bay @ Dallas (-7)

Ryan: Rodgers is out, and I don’t really feel like talking about this game too much so I’m gonna discuss the idea of having a “strike zone” in football. When you see Randall Cobb and Rob Gronkowski go down after taking a helmet to the kneecap, it’s horrifying. But, that is really the only way to get Gronk down when he has momentum, so I’m not exactly sure what the defender is supposed to do, especially when he knows a five-figure fine is coming his way.

I think if there is some sort of torso strike zone in the NFL, it’d only be fair if defensive backs were allowed to bump receivers all the way down the field until the ball is in the air. (Whitlock talked about this idea more in-depth a few weeks ago.)

Cowboys cover.

Asif: Goddamn it, just play Rodgers so that I can avoid elimination in fantasy football. Dallas covers.

Cincinnati (-3) @ Pittsburgh

Ryan: What Asif’s about to say. Cincy covers.

Asif: One of these teams is good, the other is not. Bengals cover.

Baltimore @ Detroit (-6)

Ryan: I’m not exactly sure why the Lions are favored by this many points. The Ravens have won three in a row and, as a reader pointed out to me, would have a top-5 defense if not for their Week 1 debacle against the Broncos. But, I’m still not picking them — 1) I’ve had remarkable success in these picks going entirely against my instinct, and 2) I’m picking the Lions every week from here on out as an emotional hedge. Detroit covers.

Asif: Megatron gonna show them the old man strength. Detroit covers.

December 6, 2013

Week 14 NFL Picks

You can still send me money if you want — this column takes a lot of time and effort, and you are here! — but I’ll save you the long shpiel this week.


Last Week: 
This Week (so far): 1-0
Season: 95-92-6

Last Week: 8-8
This Week (so far): 1-0
Season: 99-88-6

Atlanta @ Green Bay (no line yet)

Ryan: There’s still no spread up for this game, so we’ll just count it as a tie. That’s fine by me, because thinking and writing about them has made me feel bad for the past month and you know what they say about when you don’t have anything nice to say …

Asif: Disclaimer for this whole post: I’m feeling a bit crotchety this morning. I should be winning one of my fantasy football leagues this season, but will instead be getting bounced from the playoffs in the first round, due almost entirely to Aaron Rodgers’ stupid injury. Despite handily dominating the competition for the vast majority of the season, my team was decimated when Arian Foster went down for the season and Rodgers broke his collarbone.

I had enough running back depth to make due without Foster, but Rodgers hurts twice as much because Jordy Nelson had been my second best receiver all season and the collection of slapdicks who’ve replaced Rodgers seem entirely incapable of getting the ball to Nelson. I would still be okay with all of this if Rodgers was definitively out for the season, but the will he, won’t he play nonsense has been driving me nuts as my league’s playoffs begin this week. Prediction: Rodgers is back in two weeks, right after I’ve been eliminated because life is unfair and everything sucks. Rant over.

Kansas City (-3.5) @ Washington

Ryan: This line seems a bit low, no? The wheels have fallen off the Redskins wagon. We’re at the point where Mike Florio is writing posts centered around the premise that Mike Shanahan probably wouldn’t mind getting fired at the end of this season and collecting his $7 million dollars next year while not having to deal with all this crap again.

Speaking of that, it makes zero sense that these coaches’ salaries are guaranteed while the players have to earn their money each season. There is nothing anybody could say to me to make me agree that that is reasonable. Chiefs cover.

Asif: It’s been a rough three weeks for the Chiefs, but Washington is atrocious. Chiefs cover.

Minnesota @ Baltimore (-7)

Ryan: If the playoffs began today, Baltimore would be in at 6-6. The thought of their limping into the 6th-seed in a top-heavy AFC and Joe Flacco illogically morphing into Joe Montana for a month again should strike fear in the hearts of Patriots and Broncos fans.

Matt Cassel is starting this week for the Vikings, and my highly untrained eye has told me that he’s been the best option this season. No, I’m not going to look up fancy book-learning stats to prove my point because I’m not really all that passionate about the subject. Ravens win, Vikings cover.

Asif: For the last few years, Larry Fitzgerald has been everyone’s favorite charity case as he toiled away without the benefit of an NFL caliber quarterback. That torch has definitely been passed to Adrian Peterson, who is in danger of seeing his prime wasted playing on some truly atrocious Vikings teams. Speaking of atrocious, this game is going to be unwatchable. Vikings cover.

Cleveland @ New England (-12)

Ryan: Bill Belichick made the point earlier this week that penalties should be subject to review, and I agree entirely. While some calls are of the “judgment” variety, there is a rulebook that clearly defines what is and isn’t allowed and the game gets called accordingly. Pass interference (or lack thereof), for example, can make a 50-yard difference at any given time and make a much bigger impact than lots of plays that currently get challenged. This is a no-brainer. Browns cover.

Asif: I can’t even pretend to care about this game. Pats cover.

Oakland @ NY Jets (-3)

Ryan: I’m not saying that he’s totally unsalvageable, but Geno Smith might be the worst NFL quarterback I’ve ever seen for the past month. How bad has Smith been?

Gonna do the George Costanza thing, though, and go against Matt-McGloin-Covers-Football-Games. Jets cover.

Asif: GUH. Let’s talk baseball instead of even thinking about this game. I’ll never understand the mentality that drives baseball GM’s employed by teams other than the Yankees (or Dodgers I guess) to say, “Fuck it, I’ve finally got some payroll flexibility, let’s give Robinson Cano all of it.” This is not smart, even if you’re trying to make a splash and save your job.

In all likelihood, if your team finished 20 games under .500 (yes, I am talking about you, Seattle), you have bigger problems than any one player can solve. This should be especially apparent after a season in which the Red Sox won a World Series essentially by dumping their biggest contracts, signing a bunch of mid-level free agents to deals three-years or shorter in duration, and leaning on homegrown talent.

Mega-deals rarely work out, and now Seattle is going to be paying a 40-year old Robby Cano something around $24 million. Does that sound like a winning proposition to anyone? Prediction: Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik will be out by this time next year, and Seattle will be desperate to offload Cano within the next 4 years. But hey, at least Cano can become an international superstar in Seattle. Oh, wait.

Raiders cover.

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati (-6)

Ryan: The Colts are a weird team, but for the most part they play to the level of their competition. They’ve beaten maybe the three best teams in football in the 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos. On the other hand, they’ve lost to the Dolphins, Rams, and Chargers — all of them are frisky some weeks, but none are .500. This seems like the type of game they’ll play well in. Indy covers.

Asif: I’m starting to wonder if the Colts are any good. Bengals cover.

Detroit @ Philadelphia (-3)

Ryan: Nick Foles doesn’t look or carry himself like a prototypical star quarterback, many of whom are strikingly handsome, or, at the very least supremely confident. If they weren’t leading football teams, they’d be taking advantage of their physical stature as politicians or rapidly ascending the corporate ladder. Foles, though, looks almost like an engineering student:

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles

That’s the man who leads the NFL in passer rating by a significant marginLions cover, purely as a slight emotional hedge.

Asif: This game has “Nick Foles gets decapitated” written all over it. Lions cover.

Miami @ Pittsburgh (-3)

Ryan: We’re about one more Dolphins win away from someone making a dumb comment about how well the team has responded to what it’s “been through” like what happened with Riley Cooper. This sentiment would be written or spoken under the presumption that the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito saga were something that was externally foisted upon them, like the abrupt death of a teammate, as opposed to being the result of a glaring lack of leadership.

The consistently excellent writer Sean Conboy brilliantly captured what everybody in the room I was watching with felt like when Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell took a gruesome (and legal) helmet-to-helmet hit at the goal-line during the Ravens game on Thanksgiving night:

It was impossible to watch Bell’s naked head bounce off the cold, hard ground and not think about certain horrors. To not imagine insidious spiderwebs of tau protein coursing through Bell’s brain upon impact. To not imagine him washed out of the NFL before his second contract. To not imagine the ledger of his life being changed forever by one play. And then, almost before the trainers could escort Bell’s wobbly body from the playing field, the officials delivered a bit of black humor so sinister that all you could do was laugh. After consulting with the replay cameras, which showed Bell’s head bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce off the turf infinitum, the zebras had concurred visa-vis the NFL’s Very Serious Player Safety Rules that because Bell’s helmet had Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Roboted off his cranium before the ball crossed the plane, the play was dead at the inch-line. At this point we became aware that Bell himself was in fact not dead, but merely swaying from side to side in an upright stupor as if trapped in the Mortal Kombat fatality screen.

A player is going to fucking die from one of these hits at some point, and that might be a real inflection point for the now-seemingly-unyielding popularity of football in America. No feel for this game. Steelers cover.

Asif: Ditto on having no feel for this game, so I’ll go the other way. Controversy! Dolphins cover.

Buffalo @ Tampa Bay (-2.5) Ryan: I thought this was an excellent suggestions for craptacular games like this one that we do actually yearn for seven months a year:

Bucs cover, but who really cares?

Asif: Football season is too long and there are too may teams in the NFL. This game is proof. Bucs cover.

Tennessee @ Denver (-12)

Ryan: The weather forecast for Sunday in Denver is currently a high of 23 and a low of -6. Titans cover. I think I’m being all smart and stuff by picking against Peyton Manning in the cold, when his struggles are so well-documented that you’d have to think Vegas builds them into the line. That being said, it’s not like any amount of real research is going to lead me towards an informed opinion about whether Denver is 10 or 14 points better than Tennessee either.

Asif: Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday shopping has gotten absurd. It’s not just the gigantic hordes of people having Vale Tudo matches in the middle of Wal-Marts. I’ve had at least two packages delivered to my apartment every day this week, all by UPS, and all at different times of the day. UPS can’t even get all of our deliveries together and that’s their job! From now on, I’m doing my holiday shopping on Columbus day. Broncos cover.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-6.5)

Ryan: I think I relayed this non sequitur last season, but the feeling still stands. The convenience store a few blocks from me cools candy bars in its fridge, which is a tremendous business decision on their part at least in the sense for having me as a loyal customer. Cold Twix Peanut Butter bars are pure bliss, and there are times when I put on pants and leave my house just to get them. Rams cover?

Asif: The best part about living in New York is easily the sandwiches. I’ve lived in Atlanta, Shanghai, and Boston and I can say from firsthand experience that being able to find a delicious, high quality sandwich within two blocks, even in my relatively lame neighborhood, is a total game-changer. Add in pizza and no last call and I don’t really understand why people live other places. Cardinals cover.

Ryan: My rent is under $700, I do not struggle to find good sandwiches, and I can’t remember the last time I wanted to stay out after a bar closed. Chicago is a better place to live than New York. I do wish I had access to better pizza, though.

NY Giants @ San Diego (-3)

Ryan: One of the smartest moves in the world is picking long songs on bar jukeboxes. My go-to’s are Tuesday’s Gone by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cowgirl in the Sand by Neil Young, Notorious Thugs by Notorious BIG, and Hurricane by Bob Dylan. Feels like stealing. Anybody else got any good suggestions? Heads is Chargers, Tails is Giants … Chargers cover.

Asif: Yeah, there’s no way that the Giants win this game. Chargers cover.

Seattle @ San Francisco (-3)

Ryan: The last 40 minutes of the early games where the Red Zone Channel is in its magical flurry of hot, sweaty action will be followed by this game and Panthers-Saints. That’s about as great as an NFL Sunday gets.

It just feels like we are on an inexorable march towards a Seahawks Super Bowl appearance at the very least. Every other NFC team has such greater flaws, and it’s difficult to see anybody else winning in Seattle right now. As we saw when Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone on a seemingly benign tackle, everything in the NFL can change just like that, but the Seahawks have been phenomenal. Seattle covers.

Asif: Oh look, an actual game worth watching! As badly as Seattle beat the Niners earlier this season, and as good as they looked last week, I can’t help but feel that these teams are are going in opposite directions. San Francisco is finally getting it’s receiving corps healthy, while Seattle’s cornerbacks are all apparently incapable of beating an NFL drug test (which is kind of sad). That plus the Seahawks being generally less impressive away from the dome makes me think Niners cover.

Carolina @ New Orleans (-3.5)

Ryan: With both of these teams entering the contest at 9-3, the outcome will go a long way in deciding which team gets a first round bye and a home game and which one has to play on the road the first weekend. For an Extra Mustard post earlier this week, I wrote about how Brett Favre gave Sean Payton the hook-up on some earbuds to help the Saints deal with the loud Seattle faithful last week. As I see it, there are only two possibilities here:

1. The earbuds don’t work at all. In the game Favre said they were totally awesome for, he threw an egregious season-ending interception and was never the same again. The Saints got throttled by the Seahawks.

2. Revenge. Favre was a Bountygate target of Payton’s Saints. What better way to get back at them than to publicly claim you don’t harbor a grudge, waiting for the right time to sell them on a bill of goods about some crackpot product? Probably lots, actually, and I guess that also folds into the theory that the earbuds are worthless, but it’s funny to imagine Favre silently brooding for three years waiting for just the right time to strike back.

Panthers cover, but only if they don’t use stupid earbuds to try to block out the Superdome noise.

Asif: Wait, two good games in one week?! This is unprecedented. Panthers cover.

Dallas @ Chicago (-1)

Ryan: The Bears have given up more than 500 rushing yards over the past two weeks. The all-time single game record for a running back is 296, and Chicago has come sorta close to giving that up in two straight games. Cowboys cover.

Asif:  Looks like we’re back to Monday games being worthless. Cowboys cover.

Twitter @sportsrapport

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