Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NFL picks week 4

14-game weeks start. Week three was a wash for me. Did well against the spread, did terrible in straight-up picking. I have fallen from second in the office pool to sixth. So, once again, don't follow my advice.

Detroit at Chicago (10.5): Chicago seems to be OK without Brian Urlacher in there on defense. I'm actually surprised, I thought they would fall off considerably without him. And don't read too much into the Lions win last week. The Redskins are genuinely awful, and deserved to lose that game. Chicago, on the other hand, is a very good team and Jay Cutler has found something of a rhythm. He'll work it out here against what remains a very weak team. Bears, 23-10. Verdict (Chicago 48-24): And work it out he did. Chicago IS a very good team - a lot better than people seem to be thinking. They have a good chance to win this division. The Lions are better than they were last year - they kept this game really close until the second half. But they will not win this division.

Cincinatti (5.5) at Cleveland: Who would have thought the Bengals would be 2-1 right now? Two wins over quality teams, and one last-gasp fluke loss to another surprising squad in Denver. Now, the Bengals face their worst opponent of the season. The Browns look downright horrible. And while I won't call a blowout in a divisional matchup, because who knows what could happen, I just don't think Cleveland can compete with a team that's even halfway competent. Cincinatti has proved that they are. Halfway competent. Bengals, 26-20. Verdict (Bengals, 23-20): Well, almost. I would never have thought the Browns would force overtime, much less take it down to the final buzzer IN OT. If only the Bengals had scored a TD instead of a field goal, I would have been exactly right...Bengals are 3-1, but still not a top-notch team. They are, however, halfway competent. Which is a big improvement over last season.

Oakland at Houston (9): The Raiders are getting worse and worse, every single week. They looked simply dreadful last week in getting pounded by a squad that really isn't that much better than they are. And Houston always rebounds well after a loss. Especially a lousy loss to a lousy team. Texans, 27-13. Verdict (Texans, 29-6): The Raiders could well be the worst team in football, still getting worse every week. Isn't it about time to think about ending the JaMarcus Russell experiment? I just don't see him becoming a star ever...do the Raiders?

Seattle at Indianapolis (no line): Seattle looked OK, at many moments, against the Bears. But the Colts are better than the Bears, and Freeney is playing out of his mind. Peyton Manning should decimate this secondary, and the Colts have a pretty good running game right now. Colts, 27-20. Verdict (Colts, 34-17): Peyton Manning DID decimate this secondary. And the running game looks good. And the Colts look good. Manning has thrown for more than 300 yards against every team so far this season.

Tennessee (3) at Jacksonville: A no-win team is favoured on the road against a team coming off a big victory? Well, it's still early in the season...Tennessee seems to have had trouble recovering from that big OT loss to the Steelers in game one. And they ran into a couple of surprisingly good teams so far this season. They will not underestimate the Jaguars. And they will not go to 0-4. Titans, 18-14. Verdict (Jaguars, 37-17): I think the Titans might be a bad team. Against Jacksonville, they looked like a very bad team. I certainly don't think the Jaguars are this good. But there are some serious problems in Tennessee. They can't really miss their defensive co-ordinator this much, can they?

New York Giants (9) at Kansas City: I'm not sure any spread is big enough for this game. Last week, the Giants turned in the most dominating performance of the season as they shut out the anemic Bucs. And KC isn't much better. Too bad I already took the Giants in my suicide pool last week. Giants, 28-7. Verdict (Giants 27-16): KC IS better than Tampa, but not by much. That Giants defense is unreal, and I am frankly surprised that Kansas City was able to move the ball at all in that second half.

Baltimore at New England (2): This is the game to watch this week. Baltimore looks like they may be the best team in football, while New England is in need of another victory to prove they belong in the top rung of teams in the AFC, let alone all of football. I think Baltimore has made a persuasive case for being the best of the best, and they will look at this one as their statement game early in the season. It will be tight at Foxboro, but the Ravens will prevail. Ravens, 23-21. Verdict (Patriots, 27-21): I hate to put a whole game on the shoulders of one guy...but until Clayton dropped that fourth-down pass, I was absolutely convinced that the Ravens were about to move down the field to score the winning TD. The Pats defense looks better than it did earlier in the year, but not close to the dominant D that won all those Super Bowls. And Flacco proved to me that he can do it against good teams.

Tampa Bay at Washington (7): This is the game not to watch. The Redskins have had a really easy schedule to start the season, and have still lost two of three. Their only win was a two-point squeaker against a dreadful opponent. But Tampa may be the worst team they've faced yet. It all comes down to who wants redemption from last week's embarassment most. I am guessing (and it's just a guess) that it's Washington. Redskins, 10-7. Verdict (Redskins, 16-13): Well, pretty much bang on. Tampa is likely the worst team in football. (Maybe the Rams). And the Skins are the most underachieving team in football. Yes, they are 2-2. But they beat the Rams and the Bucs by a combined 5 points for those two victories. It's downhill from here.

Buffalo (2.5) at Miami: The Bills have won once this season. The Dolphins have yet to win. Both teams are struggling, and struggling mightily. While the Bills defense looks OK, their offense is awful and Terrell Owens is ready to blow. When he gets ready to blow, he doesn't respond with productive games. And while Miami can't figure out for the life of them how to get the ball into the end zone, they will get close enough to win this one at home. Dolphins, 20-17. Verdict (Dolphins, 38-10): Owens was more productive than I thought he would be. But not productive enough. And who would have thought the Fish could put up 38, still running that wildcat, without Pennington? Henne barely had to show up, as Miami ran for 250 yards. When you have a QB making his first NFL start, ever, how do you NOT stack up to stop the run? Well, maybe you're the Buffalo Bills.

New York Jets at New Orleans (6.5): Which is the safest bet? The crazy offense or the surprising defense? In this case, I'd say they're about even. The difference here is AFC and NFC. And I still believe a top-tier surprise team in the NFC is better than a top-tier surprise team in the AFC. Saints, 33-23. Verdict (Saints, 24-10): Well, just as I suspected, that mean, tough Saints defense would ground the high-flying Jets offense...or not. Although I am not surprised by the final score, I would say this is the most surprising game of the week. Drew Brees couldn't get much going, the Jets did a terrific job against the powerful offense...and the Saints defense just kept scoring and turning the ball over. If they can keep that up the rest of the season, I would not be surprised to see them in the Super Bowl.

Dallas at Denver (no line): I am still not sold, at all, on either of these teams. But then, I thought Denver would go 2-14. And I thought Dallas would go about 8-8. I still think Dallas will go about 8-8. But I now think Denver will go 3-13. Cowboys, 24-20. Verdict (Broncos, 17-10): I am still NO believer in either one of these teams. Denver is the worst 4-0 team in years. If such a thing can even exist. But the Cowboys have no guts and no fight. I am predicting, right now, that in five weeks the Broncos will be 4-4. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Dallas finish at 7-9.

St. Louis at San Francisco (10): One of the week's biggest spreads. And again, I am loathe to predict a blowout in a divisional game. But the Niners have a lot of pride this season, and they have to be stinging after that Vikings loss. Look for them to take it out on the hapless Rams. Niners, 30-13. Verdict (Niners, 35-0): It appears as though the Niners took out their frustration on the hapless Rams. What a beatdown! And it looked so sloppy, close and awful for so long! Only the Rams can give up touchdowns in this manner while not scoring any points at all. I hate taking divisional games in my eliminator pool, but I felt this one was a pretty safe bet.

San Diego at Pittsburgh (6.5): Until the Steelers get over the loss of Polamalu on defense and find their running game again, I can't justify a spread of 6.5. I think they will be fine at home, and I think they still have just enough to take this one, but it will be a very slim margin if they do. Steelers, 21-20. Verdict (Steelers, 38-28): I wonder if the Chargers remember the game starts at the beginning of the first quarter and not midway through the third? I thought this would be a tough, gritty game where Pittsburgh had to grind out a win in the closing moments. Instead, the Chargers barely showed up. Don't read too much into that Pittsburgh running game. It isn't back yet. That was just bad defense by San Diego.

Green Bay at Minnesota (3.5): OK, this is the game to watch this weekend. On Monday night, Brett Favre gets the game he's been waiting for. And so do the Packers. First place in the division up for grabs, all kinds of drama, and so forth. I am betting that Favre isn't nearly as much of a factor as we all hope he will be, but that Adrian Peterson runs wild and Aaron Rodgers keeps it very very close. It could go either way, but it's in Minnesota and I'll take the Vikings. By 2. Vikings, 27-25. Verdict (Vikings 30-23): It looked like a blowout for a while, but the Packers and Aaron Rodgers have guts. If only they had an offensive line. They will have to face Jared Allen again, and they'd better figure out how to slow him down.

So far this week, I am 11-3 straight up, 8-6 against the spread. Leaving me at 44-18 straight up, and 37-25 ATS so far this season.

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