Week 9 NFL Picks

All lines courtesy of bodog.eu as of 1 November, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. PST.

Okay, so last week with my picks I kinda sorta wet the bed. This week, if I do the same I might have to enter early retirement, at least as far as making picks on NFL action is concerned.

With that noted, let us begin….

FALCONS (+7.5) over Panthers

You know who’s had the easiest strength of schedule in the NFC in 2013? The Panthers, at a svelte .370. The only two clubs that have played a softer schedule in the entire NFL are the Chiefs (.328) and Broncos (.368), who have combined to go 15-1. The Panthers, meanwhile, are 4-3 — nothing to sneeze at, of course — but something tells me if you’ve already began drinking the Cam Newton Kool-Aid, you might be mistaken with your beverage of choice. As far as the Falcons are concerned, even in spite of injuries to their two biggest boundary weapons — Julio Jones and Roddy White — and the fact that this is a road game for them, they might be the best of all the NFL’s trash this year. Especially on offense (5th in efficiency). Since it’s a division game, expect the scoring to be low, which should favor the touchdown-plus road underdog.

Cowboys (-10) over VIKINGS

Tony Romo is a beast playing in Dallas. The Vikings, regardless of venue, are terrible, particularly in the two most important departments on the field: quarterback and defense. With Christian Ponder apparently making his second consecutive start, that doesn’t bode well, even if I was able to muster the fortitude to name anyone on their offense outside of Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph. (Is Greg Jennings still alive?) Conflate that with all of last week’s supposed Dez Bryant sideline drama against the Lions, and all of his sanctimonious detractors, and you might be looking at a super blowout in favor of the team that isn’t Minnesota.

SAINTS (-6) over Jets

Rex Ryan has a penchant for getting his teams ready to play up to the level of stiff competition. This year alone they’ve narrowly lost to the Patriots (Week 2), defeated the Patriots in overtime (Week 7), and beat the Falcons in Atlanta (Week 5) before anyone truly knew how shitty the Falcons were. Though, with that said, 6 points just isn’t enough for me to get tempted in picking the Jets over the Saints. Drew Brees and his core of receivers are just too good, and the Geno Smith-led Jets won’t be able to keep up, or at least they shouldn’t on paper. After this matchup with New Orleans, New York faces Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami (twice), Oakland, Carolina and Cleveland, so there should be plenty of wins for them between now and the end of the regular season, and I’m a firm believer in teams playing their best when they are most desperate. Since that isn’t the case, the Saints shouldn’t have many problems in this one.

Rams (+3) over TITANS

The Seahawks barely escaped St. Louis with a win last Monday night, a shock to almost everyone who is both (a) a football fan and (b) breathing. There isn’t any one thing I love about the Rams (other than, maybe, their defensive line), so it’s really saying something about the Titans that I’m not picking them to win in Jake Locker’s return to action. I’m thinking it will be an ugly, barely watchable game — which is why I’m not going to watch it — with the winner being the first team to 17 points.

CHIEFS (-3) over Bills

Per Advanced NFL Stats’ defensive efficiency ratings, the Chiefs have the best defense in the NFL. So that’s good. Per offensive efficiency, the Chiefs are slightly below average, hanging out with teams like New England and Miami just to the left of the median line. I’m not a fan of this matchup, but I do think Kansas City “finds a way to win,” or whatever, even though Buffalo has two things going for itself: They are at home, and they have some quarterback starting that no one has ever heard of; I’d mention his name if I could remember what the hell it is. This will either spell disaster for the Bills or some magical upset no one saw coming, except me, of course. My heart leans towards the latter — even being a KC fan — but my rational mind still tells me the Chiefs win this game something like 24-7, so I’m rolling with that.

Redskins (+1) over CHARGERS

When Phillip Rivers played at North Carolina State, I could never decide if it was he making them better than they really were, or if the team around him was so good that he won football games simply by being a part of it. At various stretches during his NFL career, I’ve felt the same way. He has played for some excellent Chargers’ teams during his 9- or 10-year professional campaign, and at times he’s also looked like a deer in the headlights. After last season — where it appeared Rivers was done for — he has proven that maybe he isn’t complete dog shit, possibly leading San Diego to a #6 seed in the playoffs in 2013. Will he? We’ll see. With two mediocre, at best, defenses, this matchup has all the makings of a game being played in the upper-30’s, and Robert Griffin III and Washington are just too desperate for a win.

EAGLES (+3) over Raiders

When you see the spread is only a field goal, common sense dictates the game is more or less a tossup as far as Las Vegas in concerned. If this game was being played in Philly, you’d probably see the Raiders getting the points, and you’d probably also see me picking the Raiders. As it stands, however, the Eagles are said road team, the Raiders are said home team, and I can’t bring myself with confidence to pick Terrell Pryor to cover the spread.

Seahawks (-17) over BUCS

Typically with such a large spread, I’m leery in taking the favorite. Factor in that Seattle doesn’t have a very good offense to begin with, and they might not even score 17 points in the entire game, let alone winning by as many (or in this case, more). Still, Tampa Bay is in disarray, actively doing whatever the hell they can to make sure their coach gets… well… canned. I’m hesitant with this pick, but the alternative would be to assume Mike Glennon actually scores some points in the harshest environment in professional sports. And that, comrades, I cannot do.

RAVENS (-3) over Browns

Who would’ve thought Jason Campbell would have led the Browns not only to cover the spread in Kansas City last week, but bring them within one possession of pulling off such a miraculous upset? Not me. Definitely not me. This week Cleveland is at home, playing a lesser opponent, and still I’m like, “No, it couldn’t possibly. Can it?” I won’t be shocked to see the Browns pull one out of their asses against the defending Super Bowl champs, but the Ravens have underachieved all season long, and it’s about time they start playing like they want that whole postseason thing to happen again.

Patriots (-7) over STEELERS

Once upon a time I drafted Tom Brady in the 3rd round of my fantasy football draft. He then went on to throw 9 TDs next to 6 INTs in the first 8 weeks of the football season, averaging 16.1 points per game, good for 20th among qualifying quarterbacks. Wait, what? That was this year. YOU LET ME THE FUCK DOWN TOM BRADY AND NOW I’M STARTING TONY ROMO AHEAD OF YOUR BITCH ASS FUCK YOU. Okay, calming. Calming down right now. Yeah, that’s what I’m doing. What? I’m calm. I swear.

Say what you will, but this is the either the most underrated Patriots team I’ve ever seen, or maybe just the first time they could even possibly be considered “underrated” during the Tom Brady era. The offense isn’t that good — not yet, at least — but the defense is actually quite stout. Teams have had a hard time scoring on them, as they are 2nd in the AFC (behind Kansas City, naturally) allowing just 18.0 points per contest. The Steelers, on the other hand, have averaged only 17.9 points per, one of the lowest figures in the AFC. All signs point to a slugfest, but don’t be surprised when Tom Brady suddenly throws a 40 spot on some defense.

COLTS (-2) over TEXANS

Is Arian Foster healthy? Can the Texans defense stop anybody? And why the hell is Case Keenum starting over Matt Schaub? Oh, it’s the pick 6 thing? Or is it the stupid “He’s lost his confidence” narrative? I don’t know. All I know is the Colts are a better football team, with a better defense and a better quarterback, and Houston is on the precipice of a heavy organizational turnover. Not sure what all that means on Sunday night, but the smart money is on Andrew Luck to be better than Case Keenum.

Packers (-11) over BEARS

This game is predicated on Jay Cutler being inactive. If Cutler was starting, the line would only be about half what it is now, and the Bears would actually have a puncher’s chance of winning in Green Bay. I’m much more in love with Chicago when Jay is healthy than I am with the Packers with their current roster intact (which is a slight overstatement, given injuries to James Jones and Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley and oh hell whoever else is injured over there). Still, Green Bay is pretty good, and the Bears aren’t… not with one of the McCown boys under center.

Last week: 5-7

Overall: 5-7

Tabula Rasa

I’ve succumbed to the same phenomena that’s been realized in every other blog I’ve ever partaken in: I’m addicted to writing on it. (Which is kinda the point of a blog, I guess.) I imagine many of you have experienced the same sensation before. At 18, and 19 and 20, I had a little Xanga blog that started as a small hobby to pass the time, and turned into something that consumed me. It consumed me so much that the process of writing transformed from a catharsis — romanticizing mundane aspects of everyday life — to an addiction I was dependent on. If I didn’t write, it felt like there was a gaping void in my day.

The worst part was nearly everything I wrote I inevitably hated upon rereading it, though that’s really to say I have the capacity to disdain just about everything I do if it becomes consistent.

Familiarity breeds contempt; that sort of thing.

When writing about sports, it offered a reprieve from the constant, unchanging cycle of most things I write, because the context was always different. The context forced the articles to change. I mean, sure, my style was more gonzo-type journalism — that’s what differentiated me from most other baseball bloggers — but I never did it just for the effect; it’s what came naturally. I also find it easier to relate to. What can I say? I apparently have a hard time posting shit unless I have creative license to use the word “I” as much as humanly fucking possible.

As far as writing being an addiction is concerned, it’ll fade. Right now it’s still fresh; the withdrawal stage hasn’t yet begun, because I haven’t let it. Slowly these posts will slip from every day to every other day, to maybe once or twice a week, until the day where I look back at this blog and hate everything I’ve written on it, begrudge the fact that I actually wasted my time writing shit that means absolutely nothing, bemoan my word choices and style, et. all. Then I’ll probably delete it so it will seem like it never existed in the first place, and in no time it’ll evaporate from my memory.

Then in a couple years I’ll wish I hadn’t deleted it, start a new blog, and repeat the process all over again. It’s happened several times before, and if I know anything for a fact, it’s that I will never change. I’m not sure if that’s a sad or beautiful thing, or both, or neither, but I know it’s true. And if I’m writing to myself, I have no reason to lie.

For the time being, writing is still fun. I still enjoy the process of spewing thoughts onto an otherwise blank slate. It’s my creation, and eventually it will make me sick. But I’ll come back. I always come back.

Week 8 analysis, and World Series stuff

Jaguars (+16) over 49ERS

COWBOYS (+3) over Lions 

GIANTS (+5.5) over Eagles

Chiefs (-9) over BROWNS

Saints (-11) over BILLS

Patriots (-7) over DOLPHINS

JETS (+6) over Bengals

STEELERS (-3) over Raiders

Broncos (-12) over REDSKINS

FALCONS (+3) over Cardinals

PACKERS (-9) over Vikings

SEAHAWKS (-12.5) over Rams

– Of the 12 games I picked, only 5 selections were correct. That’s pretty pathetic.

– To my defense, though, I had no idea Jason Campbell still had something left in the tank; I had no idea the Seahawks were going to piss all over themselves (in victory) on Monday night, and holy shit was that awesome seeing Matthew Stafford lead the Lions 80 yards in the game’s final 56 seconds to give Detroit a win over the Cowboys. Anyway.

– The Giants are showing signs — particularly on defense — that they could make a serious run at the postseason, even in spite of their 0-6 start. After their Bye next week, they will face Oakland, Green Bay, Dallas, and Washington, so if they can somehow manage 3 victories, they’ll be a factor heading into the final 4 games of the season. It might only take 8 wins to take the NFC East.

– My favorite team, the Chiefs, have completed the first half of their schedule with a perfect 8-0 record, but if their week 8 matchup with the Browns proved anything, it’s that they are a very beatable team. The last two weeks they’ve allowed 16 and 17 points, respectively, and they’ve won both by a combined touchdown (with an extra point). Against two 3rd-string quarterbacks. If for some reason their thus far immaculate defense lays a real egg — let’s say by surrendering 25+ points in a contest — then Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles and their compendium of wide receivers you’ve never heard of are going to have a fuck of a time outscoring the opposition.

– Through 8 weeks, I’m sort of flummoxed that there isn’t one great team out there. Sure, there are teams like Kansas City and Seattle with truly great defenses, but they lack on the offensive end. The Broncos, the proverbial Super Bowl front runner, have the game’s best offense by a mile, but we all know what happens to great passing teams once the weather starts cooling off. It’s analogous to a great offense in baseball who lights up the scoreboard during the summer, but by the time the postseason begins the weather cools down and success is mostly generated by superior pitching.

– Speaking of baseball, the Red Sox currently own a 3-2 advantage in the World Series over the Cardinals. If you remember — which you wouldn’t, because you don’t follow me on Twitter — I picked the Red Sox to win in 6, so, for posterity, and my ego, I hope they finish the job in Game 6.

(Proof.)

Week 8 NFL Picks

All game lines courtesy of bodog.eu as of 7:30 a.m. PST.

Jaguars (+16) over 49ERS

To say this is a terrible matchup for Jacksonville is really saying every game is a terrible matchup for the Jags. I will probably regret not starting Justin Blackman on my fantasy team, because Jacksonville will likely be passing a helluva lot once the 49ers put them in an early hole, but I’m betting San Fran goes into run-heavy mode by the middle of the 3rd quarter, allowing the Jaguars a chance to keep themselves within two touchdowns.

COWBOYS (+3) over Lions

This game has shootout written all over it, and although I tend to favor the home team in matchups of the sort, I like Tony Romo’s chances against an average Detroit secondary more than Matthew Stafford.

GIANTS (+5.5) over Eagles

I’m getting a banged up Michael Vick, a Philly defense that can’t stop anybody, and 5.5 points? I’m taking it and running away with an easy one here.

Chiefs (-9) over BROWNS

Jason Campbell? For real, Jason Campbell? Playing at home should be enough for the Chiefs, but when you factor in a weak 3rd string quarterback who couldn’t even hold a job down with the Raiders, I would have made the same pick with a far larger spread.

Saints (-11) over BILLS

God loves Thad Lewis because he went to Duke and yesterday Duke beat Virginia Tech, but the Saints are not the Dolphins. The Saints are arguably the 3rd-best team in the superior NFC, and at home they are damn near impossible to beat. I like Drew Brees to throw 3 or 4 touchdowns, and for this one to be a relative blowout relatively quickly. Still love you though, Thad.

Patriots (-7) over DOLPHINS

Tom Brady and the Patriot offense has been fucking up this year. The addition of Rob Gronkowski helps, marginally at worst, but this team is really looking for an outside WR weapon to step up. Not sure if this week suddenly changes anything, but I’m banking on a porous Miami defense to help relieve New England from their season-long slumber offensively.

JETS (+6) over Bengals

Remember above when I wrote about the Cowboys and Lions looking like a shootout? Yeah, this matchup is the antithesis of that. The first team to 16 points wins, and in spite of the overrated Geno Smith I like the Jets defense to put a number on Andy Dalton. A 9-6 score seems appropriate.

STEELERS (-3) over Raiders

This one is interesting, but also confusing to pick. I like neither team, but I don’t dislike them, either. Which makes it hard to pick. Per Advanced NFL Stats, both the Raiders and Steelers are hovering dangerously close to the median line as far as having an average defense is concerned — so that’s good — and they are each in that awkward range of having a below average, but not terrible, offense. In other words, it has the potential of being three hours worth of a slop-fest, which probably means it will wind up being a mild blowout in one direction or the other. To that end, I like Pittsburgh’s chances more than Oakland’s, but, really, I have no fucking idea.

Broncos (-12) over REDSKINS

Okay, I’m not a believer in Denver’s defense. But when you have Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demayrious Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, who gives a shit about defense? The Redskins have one of the NFL’s worst defenses in their own right, and Robert Griffin III is quickly, to me, turning into one of those guys who seems like a budding superstar on the surface, but in all actuality could just be an overrated dude who leads a pretty bad team. We’ll see, I guess. Especially since they’re coming off a loss, Denver should win this game by at least 3 touchdowns.

FALCONS (+3) over Cardinals

How in the world is Vegas giving Matt Ryan three points against Carson Palmer? It’s just. There’s no way. They shouldn’t have. No Roddy White, no Julio Jones, and Steven Jackson is playing for the first time since week 2. But I don’t really care; I just can’t in my right mind come around to believing in this Cardinals team. Not even when they’re at home.

PACKERS (-9) over Vikings

Cristian Ponder. That’s all I got.

SEAHAWKS (-12.5) over Rams

It sucks, because if Sam Bradford hadn’t gone down last week with a season-ending injury, I would have loved taking St. Louis in an upset special. Seattle has a great defense — 2nd in the NFL only to Kansas City — however, like the Chiefs, I’m still not a firm believer in their offensive attack. Against a Rams team featuring Kellen Clemens at QB, there’s a good chance nothing will matter in this one. Once Russell Wilson gets his team on the board the first time, it’ll be over.

I’ll keep a running count from this day forward to show how I did. Until then, fuck it, it’s Sunday. I love Sunday.

Virginia Tech, Duke, and one of the worst losses in recent memory

This afternoon, Duke — one of college football’s biggest punchlines over the last decade — defeated my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies, 13-10, dropping Tech’s record to 6-2 (3-1 in the ACC), and elevating Duke’s to 6-2 (2-2 in the ACC).

In my youth, this would be an opportune occasion to throw shit all over my house and scream and curse that Virginia Tech has somehow wronged me, personally, and that I could never possibly be interested in watching another fucking college football game again in my life.

But then, the following week, I’d be back at it, in the same spot, watching my team and rooting for them to win just as hard.

Logically speaking, if I’ve learned anything in the last 15 years or so watching my favorite sports teams, it’s that, in spite of my tantrums and irrational emotions, I’m going to like them just as much regardless of the result. A couple years ago Virginia Tech opened the season with a lopsided loss to Alabama — who eventually won the national championship — and again the next week to James Madison University, a Division 1-AA football school. That was the worst loss I can remember since I started cheering for Virginia Tech back in 1999, when Michael Vick was their quarterback. And Virginia Tech won the ACC that season, so that loss to JMU means very little in retrospect.

Today, whether it was Duke or some football juggernaut like Alabama, I don’t feel much of anything. But maybe that’s just the scotch running through me. Objectively, I realize Virginia Tech just isn’t all that great of a football team; they’re built on an exceptional defense, but the offense sucks dick. I imagine I would feel differently if I truly felt they were a National Championship contender, but this is college football and parity is the name of the game. Even Duke can win, and a 6-2 Duke team is nothing to sneeze at.

It’s also the reason I’m not going to be particularly surprised when my favorite NFL team — the Chiefs — loses their first game. They are essentially built on the same foundation as Virginia Tech: They have two highly above-average cornerbacks, which allows the front seven to be as aggressive as they want to be, a solid pass rush, a stout defensive tackle… and virtually no offense to speak of. In football, the old cliché is that “offense wins games, defense wins championships,” but when there is no offense, when the quarterback can’t move the chains on 3rd down, then it’s basically “defense wins games, defense takes the offense as far as the offense can manage.”

If that’s a championship, great. But I’m certainly not betting on it, even if Kansas City has pretty favorable 12-to-1 odds at the moment of winning the Super Bowl.

In my head right now, I still can’t get over the fact that it had to be Duke to beat us. What the fuck. I’m trying to convince myself it’s only one game, and all that jazz, but shit. Really? Duke?

When I was a little boy, Duke was my First. My first favorite sports team. I was, like, 5 years old. But it wasn’t their football team I fell in love with, it was basketball. I remember when I went to school at Virginia Tech, I was home in Southern California on my Thanksgiving break — which is when Duke played VT in Blacksburg — so I missed the game.

But when basketball season was going on, Duke came to Virginia Tech at the end of February (or beginning of March; I can’t remember), and I remember being a nuisance to all my friends to try and get my hands on those tickets. Since it was the biggest game of the year for VT basketball, I had a helluva time, especially since scalpers wanted like $150 for one ticket, and I didn’t have that sort of capital to shed back then.

I recall my great plan was to feign being a Virginia Tech student — which I was — all decked out in orange and maroon, but to secretly root for Duke the whole time I was at the game. No one would have actually noticed I was a Duke fan, so it would have been solid deception on my part.

But it never happened, because I didn’t receive a ticket during the lottery selection process for students, and I couldn’t get my friends to give up the tickets they had. I ended up watching the game in my dorm room all by myself, and Duke won, so I didn’t have any real complaints. It was just the fact that I had never had the chance to see Duke play on the west coast, and that all my friends were assholes for not letting me fulfill one of my childhood dreams. Oh well; another time.

In a longwinded sort of way, I’m not mad Virginia Tech lost. I just don’t know why it had to be Duke.

Universe, man.

ER

But you don’t know what now to do

Have you ever watched a video of some British dude — or British lady — and think to yourself, Man, I wished I spoke like that? It’s not just the dialect to their words, but an entirely elevated language. Even if people with English accents say the most common, perfunctory things, somehow they sound remarkably more intelligent than people with an American accent. But maybe that’s saying I don’t think highly of Americans; not sure.

Lately I’ve been on a YouTube binge watching old lectures and debates from Christopher Hitchens, the now deceased Vanity Fair writer, so it’s basically been British British Bristish all the time. Since I haven’t read any novels for quite awhile, it no doubt affected my writing style, because I realized everything I was writing had a different tone to it, a slower roll, and it felt — at least in retrospect — like I was carrying out an argument the entire time. Whether that was a debate between myself and the audience, or myself and I, I don’t know, and I don’t particularly think it matters.

Basically, I don’t necessarily agree with all things Hitchens says — he dabbled mainly in politics and religion — but I’m pretty addicted to his persona; it appeals to my sensibilities. Most notably, he challenges people. He doesn’t say anything unless he firmly believes it, and he sticks to it. I believe, in my own reality at least, it’s those people who I’m most attracted to. And I think it’s those same people who are attracted back to me.

Of course I’m speaking more generally and not so much in a romantic sense, but you get the idea. I think I enjoy the nature of a challenge more than most people do, which could just be one gigantic excuse for reflecting the challenge back to most people. It’s probably the reason my best friend and I get along so well… because we’re honest. We challenge each other. Most meaningful friendships or relationships are built on that foundation, as cliché as that sounds, but, again. Honest. I could easily envision a scenario where I’m not married by the time I’m 35, or something, because I’m specific in what I want and I know for what I want it would have to take someone just as specific (or out of their mind) to be into someone like me.

Anyway, challenges. British people. They’re a good thing. Maybe the best of things.

‘Cause the chase is all you know, and she stopped running months ago.

During the 2013 baseball season, when I was editor for a Rangers blogging website, I was asked to write 30 articles a month. One a day. If I realized anything during the process, it’s probably just that it would be pretty fucking horrible to have to do that for a living. I mean, it was originally what I wanted to do with my life — sports journalism — and in a few years I’ll finally complete my writing degree (somehow), so it’s not like I’d be totally opposed to my dream job if I someday get there, but holy shit. Come on.

It gets annoying. Writing about something you love — in this case we’re talking about a stupid baseball team I love — can be special. You get to exercise your juices, tap into part of yourself that’s reserved. But what happens when you’re forced into that feeling? Where it’s not on your time anymore. Then it starts sucking, and quickly. Even watching the Rangers didn’t feel the same anymore. Each time I saw them on TV, or, as I gravitated to, listening to them on the radio — it was almost like the only reason I was participating in the experience was to look for writing material. I knew if nothing interesting was happening, I’d have to pull an article out of my ass, which is the complete opposite of why I generally get so much pleasure out of watching baseball over any other sport: Because I don’t anticipate anything noteworthy to happen; it just happens.

When writing about baseball became something I was expected to cover, where things needed to happen for me to portray something interesting going on, that’s when baseball got un-fun. Hopefully next season when I can write about them when I feel like it, I’ll enjoy it again. As for now, my team was eliminated a few weeks ago, so I don’t have to worry about baseball for another 6 months.

Blah, blah, blah. It’s the weekend.

ER