It’s Week 13 and after 12 weeks of learning about each of the league’s 32 teams, you start to feel confident, well somewhat confident, when making picks. After going 34-54-4 through the first six weeks of the season, I went 36-31-3 over the next five weeks, only to lay an A.J. Burnett-like egg in Week 12 with a 4-10-0 week. But with five weeks left before the playoff picks start, .500 seems like a pipe dream at this point.
It’s a pipe dream because we’re now at the point in the season where more teams are eliminated from contention and on the brink of mathematical elimination and the motivation of the postseason and the Super Bowl is no longer possible. Instead coaching staffs, some who are coaching for their livelihoods, are forced to manufacture artificial motivation, which is hard to do in a sport where you’re asking players to sacrifice their own livelihoods on every play in a lost season. And that’s why after inching so close back toward the .500 mark, it’s going to be hard and likely impossible to get there when you don’t know what to expect from teams you thought you have figured out over the first 12 weeks of the season.
Week 13! Let’s go!
(Home teams in caps)
DETROIT -6.5 over Green Bay
Thursday is when I feel the best with my picks. With an 8-3 record on Thursday Night football this season, I get three games to try to once again turn my season around.
The Lions have lost 15 of their last 16 games against the Packers, which doesn’t bode well for picking a team to not only win but cover 6.5. But none of those games came across a recycled Matt Flynn, who couldn’t start in Oakland or Buffalo and needed Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace to both get hurt for another chance in Green Bay.
DALLAS -9.5 over Oakland
It pains me that the NFC East will be represented by either Dallas or Philadelphia either and it pains me even more that on Thanksgiving Day I will have to watch the Cowboys improve to 7-5 while everyone gets ready to write the “woe is Tony Romo’s career” stories. The only good thing is that I will get the “Tony Romo will never win” stories in a little over a month.
Pittsburgh +3 over BALTIMORE
When these two teams met in Week 7 I said:
Let’s go back to when Joe Flacco became the starting quarterback of the Ravens in 2008 and see how these two-game season series have gone.
In 2012, the Ravens won 13-10 and the Steelers won 23-20. In 2011, the Ravens won 35-7 and 23-20. In 2010, the Ravens won 17-14 and the Steelers won 13-10. In 2009, the Ravens won 20-17 in overtime and the Steelers won 23-20. In 2008, the Steelers won 23-20 in overtime and 13-9.
That’s 10 games with eight of them being decided by three points, one being decided by four points and one being decided by 28 (the Steelers had seven turnovers, yes seven turnovers, in that loss). Forget picking the Ravens to cover, is there a prop bet that this game will be won by exactly three points?
The Steelers won that Week 7 game 19-16. That means nine of the 11 games have been decided by three points.
This game will be decided by three points. And when you know that, how can you not take the points?
INDIANAPOLIS -4.5 over Tennessee
I will never figure out the 2013 Indianapolis Colts. Their wins have been against Oakland, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Seattle, Denver, Houston and Tennessee. There losses have been against Miami, San Diego, St. Louis and Arizona. They have wins against arguably the best three teams in the NFL and losses to three teams with losing records. In November, they went 2-2, beating the Texans and Titans both by three points and losing to the Rams by 30 and the Cardinals by 29. I don’t believe in the Colts, but I believe in Andrew Luck more than Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Jacksonville +7 over CLEVELAND
There it is! It’s that Game of the Week …
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Jaguars fan or a Browns fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
Also, Brandon Weeden is starting.
CAROLINA -7 over Tampa Bay
Everyone is riding high on the Buccaneers right now and how Greg Schiano turned the team around and is punching his ticket to another season and another chance in Tampa Bay despite everything that went wrong (and everything went wrong) in the first two months of the season. If the Panthers win this week and the Saints lose in Seattle (and the Saint are going to lose in Seattle) then the two teams will be tied at 9-3 atop the NFC South. That means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ image reconstruction will be stopped in Carolina.
MINNESOTA 0 over Chicago
In Chicago, with Jay Cutler, the Bears needed a last-minute touchdown to beat the Vikings 31-30 in Week 2. Give me the Vikings.
Arizona +3 over PHILADELPHIA
If the Giants season is over then I don’t want the road to the division title to be easy for either the Eagles or the Cowboys. The Eagles still have the Arizona (7-4), Detroit (7-5), Chicago with Cutler (6-5) and Dallas (7-5) remaining on their schedule. Their only easy opponent is Minneosta in Week 15, but that game is at Minnesota. Maybe the Giants can get back into it? What? I’m just kidding.
Miami +2 over NEW YORK JETS
The 5-6 gongshow that has been built in the AFC is an absolute joke, but because every mediocre team has a chance to make the playoffs as the 6-seed in the AFC, the Jets and Dolphins are still in it. Normally I would take the home team in a divisional matchup giving less than three points, but with Mark Sanchez saying he will be a Jet next year and back and better than ever, who isn’t pulling for a Jets collapse followed by yet another Jets quarterback debacle next season?
New England -9 over HOUSTON
The Texans are a disaster. They were 2-0 after their Week 2 win over the Titans on Sept. 15, but since then they are have lost nine straight games and six of the nine games have been decided by less than a touchdown. I thought that after Case Keenum took over as the starting quarterback and the Texans blew that big lead on Sunday Night Football in Week 9 that they could turn their season around or at least finishing strong. But since then they have lost three more games. Their season is long gone.
BUFFALO -3.5 over Atlanta
Yes, I’m still picking against the Falcons for costing me the 10-to-1 Championship Weekend parlay last season. And I plan on picking against them for that for a long time.
St. Louis +9 over SAN FRANCISCO
After Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards in the 49ers’ Week 1 win over Green Bay, I thought we were looking at the beginning of the next dynasty with the 49ers’ progression after their 2011 NFC Championship Game loss then their 2012 Super Bowl loss. But since then Kaepernick has only passed for 200-plus yards in two of the other 10 games and the 49ers at 7-4 are certainly one of the top tier teams in the league, but not what I expected them to be. I thought they easily be the best team in the NFC, but they aren’t. The best team in the NFC beat the 49ers by 26 points. If anything, the 49ers are the Colts of the NFC.
KANSAS CITY +5.5 over Denver
The knock on the Chiefs prior to the last Chiefs-Broncos meeting two weeks ago was that they could play great defense, but Alex Smith couldn’t take over a game when needed (like he he hasn’t been able to do in his entire career) and the only way for the Chiefs to win would be through their defense. The defense held Denver to 27 points on the road, but Smith wasn’t able to carry the team like everyone predicted. That loss must have rattled the Chiefs since the following week they scored a season-high 38 points against the Chargers, but allowed a season-high 41, against which was 14 more than they had previously allowed all season. The Broncos proved in Foxboro and also in Indianapolis that they are a different team on the road when the opponent is good and even with the Chiefs’ noticeable flaws, the Broncos as 5.5-point favorites is too much.
SAN DIEGO -1 over Cincinnati
Who’s that still alive in the playoff hunt at 5-6? Why its another AFC team! Yes, the Chargers, who started the year 2-3 and then endured a three-game losing streak in November, are still in the playoff picture. And the good news for the Chargers is that four of their five remaining games are at home where they have beaten the Cowboys and Colts and suffered an eight-point loss the Broncos, which is almost a victory. Meanwhile, the Bengals can’t be trusted to put away the AFC North and the Bengals certainly can’t be trusted on the road.
WASHINGTON +2 over New York Giants
This is actually one of those …
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Giants fan or a Redskins fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
Yes, this is one of rhose games, but because it’s Sunday Night Football and everyone’s last chance of the day to wager on a game, a lot of non-Giants and non-Redskins fans will be betting on it.
It’s never easy picking against your own team especially when playing against a division rival who’s 3-8. But the Giants are 4-7 and virtually the same team as the Redskins. Neither team has anything to play for that point. The Giants aren’t making the playoffs. The team isn’t even talking about the possibility of making the playoffs. So what is the Giants’ motivation at this point? A winning season? Respectability? This team has suffered several second-half collapses during the Tom Coughlin era with their motivation being the playoffs. So now you’re asking me to believe that they are going to start winning games with the motivation being something other than playing for a championship? No thanks.
SEATTLE -5.5 over New Orleans
It’s the battle for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs with the current 1-seed playing the current 2-seed. If this game were in the Superdome, there’s no doubt the Saints would win. It’s actually a guarantee they would win. But like always, when you take the Saints out of the Superdome they aren’t the Saints. And that goes for normal road stadiums. But CenturyLink Field isn’t your normal road stadium and the worst possible place the Saints could play their most important game of the season (see: Seahawks-Saints 2010 playoff game).
Last week: 4-10-0