Thursday, December 01, 2005

NFL Week 13 Picks: Division Battles and AFC Outlook

Week 13 has arrived, and I am back from a mini-vacation. My picks for the Thanksgiving Day classics were 1-1, and my idea that 1 home team always covers was smacked by neither team covering. I did not realize the horrible state of the Lions. Matt Millen has done a terrible job of scouting talent, selecting talent, and developing talent. When your team needs help on defense, you do not draft another WR. Dallas saw the kicking game let them down again. I was surprised by how effective their offense was at moving the ball, and how effective their defense was at stopping the run (besides one huge hole in overtime). That is behind us now, and I can devote full attention to a week's worth of games. As a note, I will be attending the Patriots/Jets game and will do some scouting at it.

Week 13 brings with it plenty of rivalry games, with some heavyweights going at it. Atlanta/Carolina - Dallas/NY Giants - Broncos/Chiefs highlight the big time match-ups. Despite the crazy season, some things still hold true like the record of home teams in straight up bets and the Houston Texans ability to lose. I am praying that the Saints trade up to take Leinart with the number 1 pick.

DOLPHINS (-5) over Bills
J.P. Losman on the road in Miami, no way. Miami is going to work their run game, which the Bills will not have much of a chance of stopping. I think that taking the under is a safe bet also because it will be an ugly game. The line on this game has moved 2 full points since opening, and I think that means that no one has a good feeling about the Bills this week. Losman doesn't inspire confidence, and with the Dolphins stuffing the line, it's going to force him to make quick decisions. He pulls the ball down quickly and runs.

Bengals (+3.5) over STEELERS
I think that this is the game where Carson Palmer takes a step up and pulls out the W versus a really good team. His only blemish statistically this year was the horrible game against the Steelers, but he's still missing that big W over a big team. I think Palmer watched the tape from the MNF game, and studied how the Colts took the Steelers apart. They need to run the ball to grind out the defense and open up the deep passing game. The great part about watching the Bengals is seeing them take those shots downfield. So few teams routinely take deep shots, so it is watching Palmer toss the ball 40 yards downfield once a quarter.

CAROLINA (-3) over Atlanta
I'm going witht he home team in this one because I think the NFC South shakeout will find Atlanta on the outside looking in. Carolina's offense has been a problem of late, but I feel that the Panthers will find a way to contain Michael Vick. It's going to come down to creating turnovers, and the Panthers will have watched the Tampa-Atlanta game tape so much the magnetic strip will wear out.

NEW YORK (-3) over Dallas
I hate going against my boys, but this has tight game written all over it. I trust in Eli Manning more than Drew Bledsoe in the 4th quarter. The difficulty the Cowboys have had recently is dealing with the loss of their top tackles. They are now playing rookies and back ups at the tackle spot, which limits the ability to go downfield and forces Parcells to use moving pocket & max protection schemes. Hopefully, this pick gets jinxed and the Boys pull off the road win and sit int he driver seat in the NFC east.

CHICAGO (-7) over Green Bay
A defense that creates turnovers and is one of the best of the decade is playing against a turnover prone QB. I will take Chicago, and predict that the Bears do crack 20 points because of "short fields" created by their defense. It has been 6 weeks since Brett Favre has not thrown a pick. It will be 7 come Monday.

BALTIMORE (-8) over Houston
Houston could not win versus a team at war with itself that was using an Ivy League QB with a double digit lead. My concern is with the Ravens scoring enough to cover. The Texans are bound to get some garbage time points, so they need to score over 10 to allow for the garbage time FG.

CLEVELAND (+3) over Jacksonville
I don't get the hype surrounding David Garrard. I think Len Pasquarelli has been tooting his horn for 2 years now, and it has corrupted everyone's mind. This will be the loss where the Chargers start to feel better about having to go 4-1 or 5-0 to make the playoffs. The Browns have been playing solid all year, and I don't think the Jags have the explosive ground game to wear the Browns down. It will be a tight game.

Minnesota (-2.5) over DETROIT
At the start of the season, Minnesota was my pick to win the NFC North. I can't believe that this could happen after the start they had. Detroit is a team in chaos, pointing fingers at each other. They just lost their coach, yet no one on the team thinks he deserved to be the one person fired. As much as everyone blames the brainless mannequin for the Lions offensive problems, they were driving on Thanksgiving day when two f-ups by skill players turned the ball over and stopped decent drives.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
I think New Orleans made an error last week (what's new) and won the game. They should have lost and put themselves one step closer to getting Matt Leinart. He'd be a great fit for the offensive weapons they have on that team. His decision making ability is a huge step up from Aaron Brooks. With the weapons they have, and the possibility of a new coach, they could finally fulfill their potential.

INDIANAPOLIS (-15) over Titans
I remember when this game would pit two powers, and it was a battle you would hope your local CBS would be getting instead of the lame regional match up. This is the part of the year where Peyton Manning cranks it up and puts the offense on cruise control.

SAN FRAN (+3) over Arizona
I would take the home team in this match up of crappy teams, especially when getting some points. If San Fran gets a top 2 pick, do they take Reggie Bush or trust in the RBs they have now (and signed to a big extension) and pick an offensive lineman? I'd go with Bush.

Washington (-3) over ST. LOUIS
An Ivy Leaguer can throw for 300 yards against the Texans, but not against the Redskins. The Rams have a terrible run defense, and Clinton Portis should have a big game. The Skins will get out to a lead, play sloppy & let the Rams get back into it, but Gibbs will wise up & run out the clock with Portis.

Denver (PK) over KC
One online gambling spot has this a pick 'em game, and I will gladly take the Broncos now that Tatum Bell is back in the lineup. I think last week showed that anyone can run with the Broncos, so a fast slasher should run for big yards. When Ron Dayne and his 50 lb ass can get 50 yard runs by running in a straight line, it's a sign that the system makes the backs.

NY Jets (+10.5) over NEW ENGLAND
The Jets will keep it close with the Pats because I am going to the game. You wonder why I believe that? Every Patriots game I have been to has gone to OT, except for a preseason game which ended in a tie because they don't play OT in preseason games (or at least not then). Seriously, the Pats have played close games all year. Combine that with this being a divisional rivalry, and I predict a game decided by the best kicker in football.

SAN DIEGO (-10) over Oakland
LaDainian Tomlinson will run for 150 yards and score 3 TDs. Marty hates the Raiders and he will punish them with his best weapon. San Diego can smell the playoffs now that the Steelers look vulnerable and the Jags don't have Leftwich for the rest of the regular season. They will get it done and put this W in the bank. Each game they can put away now, makes the Colts and Denver Match ups not look so terrible. They can possibly split those games and get into the playoffs.

Seattle (-3.5) over Philly
Philly plays the run well at home, but the Seahawks now have a game on everyone in the NFC if they win out and tons of tiebreakers (Ws against Dallas and NY). If they win this game and maybe run the table with 1 loss against the Colts, they would have 1 loss against NFC teams. That would give them the tiebreaker versus every NFC team. Hold on, the Bears only have 1 NFC loss. The tiebreaker rules would create a problem for the Bears because the Seahawks/Bears played so few common opponents and ti would revert to the strength of victory. The 'Hawks beating up on all the NFC West teams will come in handy then.

Besides cheering for my Cowboys to make the playoffs, I really hope the Chargers sneak into the AFC playoffs and Bears secure their division. I was dejected after the Cowboys loss (more kicking problems, that's 3 losses now because of missed FGs) not just because it would have put them at 8-3 but it would have put the Broncos at 8-3 and improved the Chargers chances. I think the Chargers have a chance at beating the Colts. I don't trust the Broncos because I don't think they can win a tight, playoff game without asking their QB to step it up. I can see the AFC shaking out as follows......

Colts and Broncos with byes, Cincy vs. Jacksonville & New England vs. San Diego. Can the Chargers win in NE in January with Marty coaching? Suuuuure (this will become firm as the Pats get more beaten down). Can Jacksonville win on the road with Leftwich coming off of an injury? Maaaaaaybe. Regardless, the match ups will be entertaining, and make ABC happy that they have a piece of wild card weekend.

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