Only two weeks to go in the NFL season!
Let’s make them count. Here’s a look at this week’s games and my picks.
Before we get to the picks, let me be clear about one thing for anyone that’s new here, or coming via Google.
First, welcome! I’m truly thrilled you’re here. I hope you enjoy this. If you do, tell your friends about it.
Second, I’m a deputy editor who oversees our technology coverage. I just happen to really like sports. I don’t have enough time in my life to really study every game, but I listen to lots of podcasts on football, and read quite a bit about it. So, I have opinions. And that’s what you get here.
Last week, I was 5-7-2, making my record 48-54-3 for the year.
Last year, my father thought I was going to get fired from the company because I didn’t have a winning record. I wasn’t fired last year. Maybe it happens this year. Or …maybe I get all this week’s games right, and I get a raise? Let’s find out!
Also, don’t forget, the Eagles-Washington team, and 49ers-Chargers games are on Saturday.
As always, the lines come from Vegas Insider.
The San Francisco 49ers are 1-point favourites at home against the San Diego Chargers
What the heck happened to the 49ers? The easy answer is that Jim Harbaugh’s tension with management caused the season to go down the drain.
But does that make any sense? Does tension with management really cause a coach to lose his ability to coach?
I don’t know what it’s like to be a football coach, but I can’t imagine that it’s like most jobs where you have direct, daily interactions with your boss. If you hate your boss in your real job, I could see your performance being affected.
But hating your boss as a coach?
Does it make you watch less film? Does it make you less inclined to coach your players? Does it make it so your quarterback is worse?
The weird thing is that the 49ers were terrible before Harbaugh got there. Then, he got there and suddenly it looked like the team was loaded with talent. Life without Harbaugh is unlikely to be kind to the 49ers.
All that said… the coach is done. The season is done. What, exactly, are the players playing for?
The pick: Chargers +1
The Philadelphia Eagles are 8.5-point favourites on the road against the Washington Football team
Man. The Eagles.
The Eagles could have been an elite team. Instead, they’re a good team. They win against bad teams, but against good teams they come up short. They have two quality wins against the Cowboys and the Colts. But, the Cowboys victory means nothing since the Cowboys pummelled them last Sunday. The Eagles have lost to the Cardinals (barely), the 49ers (barely), and the Seahawks (convincingly).
Naturally, people in Philadelphia are already talking about what it would take to get Marcus Mariota, who is likely to go number one. This is silly because it’s not worth mortgaging the future of the franchise for one guy. Sal Pal says it would take three number one picks. Also, the quarterback isn’t the problem! Sanchez and Foles both look shaky, but the Eagles still post enough points to win.
The real problem is the defence. There are a few ways to fix it. First, the Eagles should draft a top cornerback, not quarterback. Second, maybe the Eagles should throw insane money at Rex Ryan to make him the defensive coordinator. Then, they would have the smartest offensive mind, and the smartest defensive mind in football on the same team.
As for Washington… woof. What a mess. But, the last time they played the Eagles Kirk Cousins looked like the next Drew Brees. Surely, RGIII can put enough points on the board against a crappy secondary to keep it close, right?
The pick: Washington +8.5
The Miami Dolphins are 6.5-point favourites at home against the Minnesota Vikings
The Dolphins are the worst. They appear to have talent. They appear to be ready to take the next step. And then, poof, they just return to who they are, an 8-8 team that can’t get a great draft pick.
Harbaugh should coach this team. They have a decent QB, and a pretty good defence. I bet he’d be able to unleash them.
The Vikings, meanwhile, are showing signs of progress. I don’t get to watch their games, but from what I hear, Teddy Bridgewater is getting better. And the defence isn’t all that bad.
So… who to pick here? I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other, so I will take the points. I figure Miami is probably bailing on its coach, who is likely to be fired.
The pick: Vikings +6.5
The Green Bay Packers are 11.5-point favourites on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs stink. The Packers are great. 11.5 points is a lot of points, though. But, I figure the Packers are going to want to run up the score after losing last week, so I’ll lay all those points.
The pick: Packers -11.5
The Detroit Lions are 8.5-point favourites on the road against the Chicago Bears
The Bears are the worst. They have quit on the coach, and Jimmy Clausen is starting. Maybe Clausen injects some life into things, but I doubt it. The Lions can get a bye in the playoffs if they win out. They’re not going to snooze in this game.
As for Cutler… he should hope he gets traded. The Bears are in rebuilding mode and he’s going to waste his career there. He’s maybe good enough that if he got on the right team — Cardinals? Texans? — he could make a positive difference.
The pick: Lions -8.5
The New Orleans Saints are 6-point favourites at home against the Atlanta Falcons
Ugh. Not a fan of either of these teams. It’s pretty amazing that their season started with the Falcons winning in a thrilling upset. I expect the Saints will win this game. The Falcons are soft. But, in a divisional game that is basically a playoff game, I’m expecting it to be close. So, I will take the points. The real question mark is Julio Jones. If he’s out again, the Saints are probably the smart bet. But, if he’s in, the Falcons can beat with the number.
The pick: Falcons +6
The New England Patriots are 10.5-point favourites on the road against the New York Jets
Did you read the Sports Illustrated profile of Tom Brady? It’s great. We learn fun things like:
- Brady wakes up really early.
- He thinks he can play until he’s ~50.
- He’s doing brain drills so he can sleep better.
But, here’s my question: Why are we learning these things? Why is Brady suddenly opening up to Sports Illustrated?
My speculation: He has an investment in a fitness business from his trainer, and this is a product launch story. Note that he says, “God, what if LeBron James trained how I trained? He really could play forever.” That’s practically begging for James to become a client.
If not that, then maybe he’s just sick of seeing stories about how great Peyton Manning is. Everyone obsesses over Manning’s work ethic. Brady’s competitive. He has an ego. Maybe he wanted to say, “Yeah, BFD. I work harder.”
The Patriots win this game. And, as one last parting gift to Rex Ryan, I expect them to humiliate the Jets.
The pick: Patriots -10.5
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-point favourites at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.
I can’t figure out the Steelers, but Ron Jaworski said on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show that the Steelers win this game and cover the spread, so I am going with them.
The pick: Steelers -3
The Carolina Panthers are 3.5-point favourites at home against the Cleveland Browns
Boy do former NFL players hate Johnny Manziel. It only makes me want to root for him so he can stick it those people. Alas, it doesn’t look like he’s any good.
The pick: Panthers -3.5
The Baltimore Ravens are 5-point favourites on the road against the Houston Texans
The Texans don’t have a QB. Will they go after RGIII or Jay Cutler in the offseason? I think RGII since he’s from Texas.
The pick: Ravens -5
The St. Louis Rams are 6.5-point favourites at home against the New York Giants
The Giants have reason for hope, despite a dismal season:
- Odell Beckham Jr. is great. If Victor Cruz can get healthy, they’re going to be a killer duo.
- They might get a new head coach.
- They still have a solid quarterback.
- They’re going to get a high draft pick, which will help improve the defence.
The Rams, meanwhile, are the best of the bad teams. They have a strong defence. They need a QB, but for whatever reason, they seem unwilling to get one.
The pick: Rams -6.5
The Buffalo Bills are 6.5-point favourites on the road against the Oakland Raiders
The Bills defence is really good. And the offence is okayish. The Raiders are not good.
The pick: Bills -6.5
The Dallas Cowboys are 3-point favourites at home against the Indianapolis Colts
It would be the most Dallas Cowboys thing in the world to lose this game. But, I don’t see it happening. I think this is a different Dallas team. Tony Romo is playing smart. And the game plan of grinding it out with the run game is brilliant. It will keep Andrew Luck off the field, allowing Dallas to win.
If I’m being honest, I’m picking the Cowboys as a jinx. Since I get so many games wrong, I’m hoping that by picking the Cowboys, I will cause them to lose. (I’m an Eagles fan.) But, because I am trying to jinx them, this will blow up in my face. The Cowboys will win by 2 points, and I will be a double loser. That’s just how the world works. Jinxes and Karma are 100% real things.
The pick: Cowboys -3
The Seattle Seahawks are 8-point favourites on the road against the Arizona Cardinals
What the Cardinals have done this year has been extraordinary. But all things must pass. Starting a third string QB against the eventual Super Bowl champion is not going to work. I expect a demolition.
The pick: Seahawks -8
The Denver Broncos are 3-point favourites on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals
Peyton Manning in prime time versus Andy Dalton in prime time. Tough call.
The pick: Broncos -3
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