Sunday, December 11, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 14 picks


I'm still not over that Thursday game. What an incredible performance by Big Ben. Of course, of course, the game shouldn't have been that close, but, well, I'll take the win. (Whether Roethlisberger will be well enough to play next Monday in San Francisco is another matter, and there are also injury worries with Pouncey and Woodley, but I'm trying to enjoy my Sunday without worrying about my beloved Steelers.)

Anyway, after struggling mid-season, I've bounced back with 13-3 and 12-4 records the past two weeks. I'm especially happy about how last week went. In our picks/preview post last Sunday, I wrote that I could see -- excluding the Thursday game, Philadelphia at Seattle, which I had seen as a toss-up) -- three locks (New England, San Francisco, and Baltimore), all of whom won, and 12 possible upsets. It's not that I picked 12 upsets, just that I thought it was unpredictable week and that the key was to pick the right upsets. And so I thought I did well to end up 12-4. And I would have gone 13-3 if Dallas (or, more specifically, idiot coach Jason Garrett) hadn't decided to ice its own kicker, leading to an OT win for Arizona.

Okay, enough patting myself on the back. Let's get to the picks...

As you may know, my associate editor Richard, a friend of ours nicknamed Comfortable Kid, and I are tracking our picks this year, with posts going up each Sunday at 11 am. We get one point for each correct pick, along with two bonus points if we get our Upset of the Week right. If we get our Lock of the Week wrong, we lose two points as a penalty. 

I'm a couple of weeks behind in tracking the picks, but I'm pretty sure Richard is still ahead by a fairly big margin. I'll do an update later today.

**********

Okay, it's Saturday, December 24, Week 16. I'm finally getting around to updating the standings, going week by week. Here's how things stood after Week 13:

Last week

RKB: 13-3 (plus upset) = 15 points
MJWS: 12-4 (plus upset) = 14 points
The Kid: 11-5 (plus upset) = 13 points

Season to date

RKB: 132-60 (8 upsets right, 2 locks wrong) = 144 points
MJWS: 130-62 (5 upsets right, 3 locks wrong) = 134 points
The Kid: 119-73 (6 upsets right, 4 locks wrong) = 123 points

**********

Anyway, here are this weeks games (not including Cleveland at Pittsburgh on Thursday -- we all took the Steelers, by the way):

Houston at Cincinnati
Minnesota at Detroit
New Orleans at Tennessee
Philadelphia at Miami
Kansas City at N.Y. Jets
New England at Washington
Atlanta at Carolina
Tampa Bay at Jacksonville
Indianapolis at Baltimore
Chicago at Denver
San Francisco at Arizona
Oakland at Green Bay
Buffalo at San Diego
N.Y. Giants at Dallas
St. Louis at Seattle

Stickings' Pickings

Picks: Houston, Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, N.Y. Jets, New England, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco, Green Bay, San Diego, N.Y. Giants, Seattle.

So real surprises here. It's nothing like last week.

The two games I'm not at all sure of are Texans-Bengals and Giants-Cowboys. I'm taking the road teams:

-- Houston still has Foster and Tate to make up for T.J. Yates and what is now a questionable passing game, as well as an excellent D. I expect Dalton to struggle.

-- Both the Giants and Cowboys have been wildly inconsistent this year, but the Giants are returning to health with Bradshaw back, providing some necessary balance on offence, while the Cowboys are light at WR with ongoing injury concerns and may have Ware out on D. You never really know how Eli and Romo will do, but I just think the Giants are the slightly better team right now.

Lock of the Week: Baltimore.

The Ravens have lost to a couple of bad teams this year (Jags, 'Hawks), but they won't lose this one, not with the Steelers putting the pressure on with their win on Thursday. A win would allow the Ravens to keep pace, but with the tiebreaker they'll be in first. Oh, and the Colts are terrible.

The 49ers should beat the Cards handily, but I prefer not to take road locks and, well, so you really trust the Niners even now?

The Pats should crush the 'Skins, but, again, they're on the road.

Who am I forgetting? Oh, right, the Pack. In case you haven't noticed, they're good. And, of course, they'll clobber the Raiders. But I'll still take the Ravens here.

Upset of the Week: Philadelphia.

I have little doubt that the Panthers can beat the Falcons at home, and that's my other big upset this week, but I just think the Eagles will finally put it together with Vick back behind center. And the Fins aren't as good as they've looked the past few weeks. I feel like an idiot taking Philly after how they looked last week in Seattle, losing 31-14, and they're on the road again today, but, look, I'm still buying their talent.

Another possibility: Jags. Gabbert has been mostly awful this year, but their D has been decent and MJD is still an elite RB. And the Bucs aren't good. (I know, that's not exactly the most nuanced analysis you'll ever read, but sometimes it's just that simple.)

Yet another possibility: Bears. Actually, this could go the other way. With Cutler and Forte out for Chicago, the Tebowners may well be a lock this week. But... no. The Bears still have a good D and it's not like the Broncos can put up huge numbers with Tebow running the offence. (They scored 35 last week, you scream with enraged Tebownian righteousness? Sorry, but the Vikes don't count. They're awful.) I'm going with the Tebowners largely because of their resurgent D, but this could be close enough to give the Bears a chance.

Barry's Tea Leaves

Picks: Houston, Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, N.Y. Jets, New England, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco, Green Bay, San Diego, N.Y. Giants, Seattle. 

Lock of the Week: New England.

Upset of the Week: Philadelphia.

Houston over Cincy: Great stat on this one is that the Bengals haven't beaten anybody that still has a winning record. Houston can run the ball and they can play D, with or without a QB problem. Texans.

Detroit over Minnesota: No mystery here... Detroit.

New Orleans over Tennessee: This could be close. The Saints have had problems on the road, but they have put up some points, and the last time I looked, Hasselbeck was still playing QB for the Titans. New Orleans.

Philadelphia over Miami: I'm picking this as my upset this week. I've done very well riding the Dolphins as my upset team on a few different occasions. I watched them play the Giants tight earlier in the year, as a winless team, and knew they were about to turn things around. Still, I think the Eagles are going to have a good game here based simply on a need to repair their shredded pride. No Dream Team, not much of a team at all, but individual talent that will pull this one out.
Jets over K.C.: Oh, man, the Jets. Ryan and Sanchez. I hate picking them, but K.C. doesn't beat many winning teams, and when they do they're in distress like Oakland for Palmer's first game and Chicago without Cutler and Forte. Yeah, the Jets will win.

New England over Washington: There was a time you'd laugh this off, but this ain't your father's Pats, not when the Colts could make it close. Then again, Grossman at QB won't help Washington, so New England.

Falcons over Carolina: Yeah, the Falcons should win, but Cam Newton is giving everyone heartburn. Okay, Falcons win, but I won't be surprised if it goes the other way.

Tampa over Jax: Freeman over Gabbert. My big prediction is that Tebow plays in Jacksonville next year. It sure as hell wont be Blaine Gabbert, whoever it is.

Baltimore over Indy: 'Nuff said.

Denver over Chicago: My colleague, The Kid, has been touting Tebow all year, so he's getting a late-season laugh, though it won't be the last laugh. The Kid also doesn't think the rest of us have the right to pick him to lead the Broncs to victory because we had previously been so unkind. Hey, I never said Tebow had no talent, only that he was not a year-after-year QB option in the NFL. He'll win some games, including this one against Chicago.

San Francisco over Arizona: I hate to pick against Arizona. What a strange franchise. They can score some points. Can't pick against the 'Niners, though.

Green Bay over Oakland: Yes.

San Diego over Buffalo: Two 5-7 teams, potentially heading in totally different directions. I feel for the Bills. Hopes were so high in Buffalo. The Bills haven't won in a month and won't beat Norv and team.

Seattle over St. Louis. Both teams have had their moments this year. The 'Hawks have had more of them.

New York Giants over Dallas: I can't believe what a different team the Giants are with Bradshaw in the lineup. Even if he only runs for 50 yards, the secondary has to think about coming up and Eli can do some work. My beloved Giants have killed me this year, but they're still in the hunt. They came so close to knocking off the Pack and the Cowboys lose an embarrassing game. I like the Giants for this one and it's not just because I like the Giants.

Comfortable Kid

Picks: Houston, Detroit, New Orleans, Miami, N.Y. Jets, New England, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco, Green Bay, San Diego, Dallas, Seattle.

Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

I'm sorry if this is getting old, but I need to take the Packers here -- probably by a lot.

Upset of the Week: Jacksonville.

This is indeed an upset based on the format we've been following. The Jaguars seem to show up intermittently and have beaten some tough opponents this year (e.g., Baltimore). I think they'll be able to beat a misguided and very underwhelming Bucs team. The Jags defence is better than you think and I anticipate they'll key in on LaGarrette Blount to win this game.

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