Greenberg’s Sports Book: NFL Pick ‘Em, Week 9
8 weeks through the season, and our in-house gambler Greg Kaplan is slowly starting to creep up the standings in his massive NFL Pick ‘Em pool challenge. Another week in which he didn’t lose ground, Kaplan is starting to get a hang of this whole putting-money-on-football thing. How will he do this week? Only one way to find out…
Last Week: 7-7
This Season: 54-64
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers (-7.5)
Is there any way at we can just skip past this game and know the outcome without actually having to sit around and watch it in real time on television? Isn’t this the prime candidate game in Madden that, even if you are playing with the Chiefs or the Chargers in a dynasty mode, you’re just simulating because you don’t want to have to invest any time whatsoever in the process?
Both of these teams are putrid, at best. Both teams could very well have new head coaches by the end of this season. Both quarterbacks on the Chiefs roster are the two worst quarterbacks in the league (not including Blaine Gabbert, who I just hate). Neither of these teams are going anywhere this season. The odds of this game being enjoyable are about the same as people becoming overwhelming fans of the 7th installment of Star Wars. You’d rather they just leave it alone and not play this game, that’s the analogy people. We don’t need a 7th Star Wars. We don’t. End of story.
Oh, yeah, I guess I’m taking the Chargers. The Chiefs still haven’t held a lead in regulation at any point this season. Remarkable.
The Pick: Chargers (unfortunately)
Denver Broncos (-2.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals
While nobody should be stunned at all about the points Peyton Manning and company put up against the Saints defense, everyone needs to recognize the defensive effort that suffocated Drew Brees and the high-flying Saints offense. Yes, the Saints as a team are 2-6 this year, but those six losses fall almost unilaterally on the shoulders of their defense. Their offense has been more than fine and have kept the team in games they otherwise shouldn’t be in.
Enter the Broncos defense, that probably played their best game to date and are easily the class of the AFC West right now. The Bengals offense is decent, but their defense has not nearly played as well as fans would’ve hoped so far this season. They’re getting a red-hot Denver team, and even with an extra week of preparation, I don’t see a scenario where Cincinnati will come out on top in this one.
The Pick: Broncos
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) @ Cleveland Browns
Yes, the Browns picked up the win last week in “The Game Nobody Realized Was Played” against the Chargers, but the Ravens are a much different beast. Are the Ravens as unbeatable as they appeared to be earlier in the season? No. Is their defense still reeling from the Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb injuries? Absolutely. Still, even undermanned and with Joe Flacco struggling in the way that he is, the Ravens have more than enough pieces to win this now-critical AFC North division match-up, thanks largely to the Steelers charging up from behind.
The Pick: Ravens
Arizona Cardinals @ Green Bay Packers (-11.5)
Vinny and I talked about this on Picked Off this week, but the Arizona Cardinals could be one of the worst 4-4 teams the NFL has ever seen. After starting the season 4-0 and pulling off upsets against the Patriots and the Eagles, this is a completely different ballclub. Their offensive line can’t stop anyone, their running game is nonexistent and their quarterback play is terrible (though still not on Kansas City’s level).
On the other hand, we have the Packers, who are getting hot at the right time. A healthy Jordy Nelson should give their team a boost, who will be playing a second-consecutive week with a 10+ point spread. Last week, the spread against the Jags was largely due to the notion that Chad Henne may be that team’s starting quarterback. Turns out, Gabbert (douche) was healthy enough to play, and the Packers came out flat and looked uninspired at times. Even with that said, they held off Jacksonville by a comfortable 9 points. I don’t see a scenario this week where the Cardinals score more than 10 points, which means if the Packers score 22 points or more, they should cover the spread.
The Pick: Packers
Chicago Bears (-3.5) @ Tennessee Titans
I’m chalking last week’s struggle with the Carolina Panthers to one of the four “Jay Cutler is going to try and lose this game” games that seemingly happen every year. For those at home counting, this now makes two such instances where Cutler has crapped the bed, the other being against the Packers earlier in the season. The Titans have gotten inspired play out of Matt Hasselback the last couple of weeks, but they haven’t played a team defense on the level of the Bears all season long. They struggled against the Colts last week, eventually losing in overtime 19-13. The Bears defense should give them even more problems, and I think Chicago is going to coast to the victory.
The Pick: Bears
Miami Dolphins (-2.5) @ Indianapolis Colts
Speaking of the Colts, they have themselves a winning record after eight weeks, and to everybody’s surprise, this Week 9 match-up has become a mid-season test of two playoffs contenders. That’s right. The Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts are fighting for playoff positioning after taking quarterbacks in the Top 10 of last year’s draft. Nobody saw this coming, and if you claim that you did, you’re a lying sonofa.
As for this particular match-up, all indicators seem to favor the Dolphins. I said on the podcast that I would be more likely to pick the ‘Fins if I knew Matt Moore was going to get the start in this game. But, thinking about it more, Miami is just the all-around better team. Their defense is miles ahead of the Colts at this point, and their running game seems to be more stable with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas than what the Colts have going on. It’s hard to believe that one of these teams will be 5-3 at the end of this week, but both are fighting for playoff spots and this should be one of the better games on the menu Sunday.
The Pick: Dolphins
Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins (-4.5)
This is an interesting match-up because I believe the popular opinion heading into this game is that the Redskins looked relatively awful against the Steelers a week ago, while the Panthers pushed another very good NFC team to the verge of an upset. I feel that this is the trap game this week where people will want to take the points and the underdog Panthers thinking that the team is playing a little better than the ‘Skins right about now.
I’m not falling for the trap this time. The Redskins are, to my eyes, clearly the better team. Really, if you watched the Redskins/Steelers game at all like I did, you would’ve seen at least two easy touchdowns dropped by Washington receivers that cost the team points. How much of that was the early onset of Sandy and how much of that was the Washington receivers being subpar, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is the Redskins didn’t actually play as poorly as a unit last week as the final score lets on, while the Panthers were outperforming what their team is capable of. I like Washington in this match-up, and there’s very little anyone can tell me that will change my mind.
The Pick: Redskins
Detroit Lions (-3.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Have I mentioned how much I irrationally hate Blaine Gabbert? I’m not in the mood to go on another rant about this guy right now. Just know that he looks, acts and sends off a general vibe that he is an unquestioned douche. And he’s single-handedly ruining my gambling season.
Now, as for this game itself, its time to find out if Matt Stafford merely had a great week against the Seahawks or is ready to turn the corner on his otherwise difficult 2012 campaign. Calvin Johnson seems to be playing on a hurt wheel, but Titus Young re-established himself as the clear-cut #2 option in the Lions passing game that also includes promising rookie Ryan Broyles and newly acquired Mike Thomas from, you guessed it, Jacksonville. Their lack of a running game still worries me in terms of how far this team could go at the end of the season, but their plenty good enough to beat a wounded Jaguars bunch.
If Blaine Gabbert screws this up for me, so help me…
The Pick: Lions
Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans (-10.5)
Both teams are coming off byes. The Texans recently lit up the scoreboard against a Baltimore Ravens defense that is lightyears ahead of the unit the Bills put out on the field each week. This is the same defense that has given up 35+ points to the Patriots, 49ers and…Titans. The Texans high-powered, well-oiled machine they call an offense shouldn’t have any problems cutting through the swiss cheese that is the Buffalo defense, all while J.J. Swatt and company should hunker down against the Ryan Fitzpatrick Band.
The Pick: Texans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Oakland Raiders (-1.5)
Don’t look now, but few quarterbacks in the NFL are as hot as Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman. The Bucs absolutely throttled the Vikings on the road last Thursday night, which actually gives them extra time to prepare for the Raiders heading into Sunday’s showdown in Oakland. The Raiders are probably riding the least impressive-looking two-game win streak a team could ever be on, having barely beaten Chad Henne’s Jaguars and doing what any team should do against the Chiefs, which is just win.
The Bucs can run the ball (though it’s unclear just how much of an effect the loss of All-Pro guard Carl Nicks will mean for the team), Freeman has found himself a pair of targets in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, and their defense has the ability to shut down the run at will. Doesn’t hurt that Darren McFadden isn’t running the ball well at all right now, anyway. Everything about this match-up seems to play right into Tampa Bay’s hands. This is maybe my most confident selection of the week, which is strange considering I had a phobia of picking Bucs games before this season started..
The Pick: Bucs
Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
I’ve gone back and forth on this selection throughout the week, but I’ve decided to just stick with my gut feeling and not overthink this one too much. The Seahawks are one of the few teams in the NFL with a true home field advantage, and their record is a little lopsided considering they’ve already played five games away from home this season. The Vikings clearly don’t look as strong now as they did earlier in the season, suffering a tremendous loss at the hands of Tampa Bay, but didn’t look impressive at all against Arizona the week before, either. The Seahawks defense is still above-average, though Matt Stafford had no problem with them a week ago. Then again, Christian Ponder is no Matt Stafford..
The Pick: Seahawks
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants (-3.5)
There’s something a little strange about this match-up. I would feel 20 times more comfortable taking the Giants in this game if the game was played in Pittsburgh. That’s what kind of team the Giants have been on the road. They’re coming off a draining victory against the Cowboys which was much closer than it had to be. They didn’t do anything truly great against the Cowboys. They capitalized on early Tony Romo mistakes, but weren’t able to get in the endzone as often as you would think. In the second half, Dallas had a pretty easy time of it moving the ball against the Giants D even without a competent running back helping them.
As I mentioned earlier, the Steelers seem to be getting hot at the right time. After looking like a fringe playoff team early this year, they seemed to have turned the corner and become a true threat in the weak AFC. Big Ben is having his way with opposing defenses, seemingly doing a Houdini act every team he drops back. Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller have been very productive in the passing game, even when Wallace has gone through his drop spurts. Even their running game, which has been a revolving door thanks to injuries for the majority of the season, has been more reliable as of late with the performance of Jonathan Dwyer the last two weeks. All things considered, given the injuries Pittsburgh has had, they’re playing a better brand of football than most teams this year. Is it enough to beat the Giants in New York? Not necessarily. Is it enough to keep it within a field goal? Absolutely.
The Pick: Steelers
Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)
Vinny mentioned this week on the podcast that the Falcons are primed for a loss sooner or later. While I agreed with him, this isn’t the match-up Atlanta is going to drop this year. They aren’t going to lose at home, in prime time, against a struggling Dallas squad. Their offense, even when Michael Turner isn’t giving a classic Turner effort, has too many options for a defense without the likes of Sean Lee to stop. Not to mention, the Atlanta defense has been playing better than many expected. Maybe they aren’t a top 10 defense per say, but their more than good enough to limit the opposition enough for the Falcons offense to get the job done. Expect Hot-lanta to move to 8-0 this year after Week 9.
The Pick: Falcons
Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Ugh. On one hand, we have the Andy Reid who seems to be the captain of a sinking ship that is a week away from dumping Michael Vick as their starting quarterback. On the other hand, we have Drew Brees who is literally being swallowed alive by the lack of a defense the Saints trot out every night. Seriously, I have never in my life seen a defense play as poorly as the Saints this season. It’s impossible to fathom. When watching the Broncos/Saints game last week, it wasn’t if the Broncos were going to pick up a first down every play. It was how are the Broncos going to get 15+ yards this time? A McGahee run? A dump-off to a tight end? Demaryius Thomas? It was incredible to watch a unit be so hapless and be paid to play their sport.
Even with all that said, nobody is now expecting the Saints to turn it around. They have excuse after excuse for why this season is a failure thanks to the cloud that is the Bounty-gate scandal. As for the Eagles, they’re out of excuses. Andy Reid is coaching his team not to lose instead of to win (my favorite cliche of all-time). Vick seems to be a lost cause, and yet he presents the team’s only chance of making the playoffs. It’s a catch-22. The Eagles can’t win when Vick is under center, but they won’t win immediately if Nick Foles takes over and has to change the entire offense. This train wreck is too entertaining for me to turn away. I’m going to be picking the Saints in this game not because I think they have the better team, but because my fantasy team is led by Drew Brees, and I’d rather root for the Saints.
The Pick: Saints