After eight weeks, we’ve reached the point in the year where everyone pretends to know everything about every team in the NFL. Here’s my serious / not-so-serious attempt at NFL-game-picking glory.
(*Home teams in CAPS. All lines per Sportsbook.com as of Saturday evening)
Denver (-4) over CINCINNATI
Check out this comparison of two NFL QBs through seven games:
Player A – 2,113 yards, 17 TD, 4 INT, 109.00 QB rating, 68.5% completions
Player B – 1,965 yards, 15 TD, 2 INT, 107.95 QB rating, 66.5% completions
Player A is easy. It’s 2012 Peyton Manning. But Player B? Well, it’s 2006 In-His-Prime Peyton Manning, the year the Colts won the Super Bowl! Forget the noodle arm. Forget the 300 (I know, not the real number) neck surgeries. Peyton Manning is back! He’s making new commercials, buying 21 Papa John’s franchises, and he’s winning NFL football games. In a weak AFC, he’s slowly steering the Broncos towards the top!
GREEN BAY (-10) over Arizona
In 2010, the year the Packers won the Super Bowl, they started the season 3-3, with questionable losses to a couple non-playoff teams. Then they won a couple close games to push to 5-3. Then they crushed the Cowboys by 38 and the rest is history.
This year, the Packers have lost to inferior teams, suffered from some poor officiating, and started out 3-3. They’ve since won two close-ish games and are now 5-3. Aaron Rodgers has quietly had one of the best (if not the best) QB season in the NFL through the first half of the year. Meanwhile, since starting 4-0, the Cardinals have regressed to where we expected them to be and now sit at 4-4, having not scored more than 16 points in any game during their four-game losing streak.
This just feels like a typical Aaron Rodgers ‘eff you’ game where he throws for 300 yards and 3 TDs, the Packers roll the Cards, and he reminds the rest of the league that he’s still here and is still the man.
Miami (-2) over INDIANAPOLIS
The winner of this game will likely be an AFC playoff team. I think at this point Miami is slightly better than the Colts. I wouldn’t be surprised if both of these teams end up playing into January.
CLEVELAND (+4) over Baltimore
The first meeting came down to the final possession, with Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden failing to play the role of hero on a rainy night in Baltimore. The Ravens also scored just 9 points on three field goals earlier this year in a road win against the Chiefs, who may be the worst team in the NFL. So what does this mean? The Ravens defense has looked porous since Ed Reed and Ray Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Also, Joe Flacco is not elite, no matter what he thinks / says. I think Weeden gets another opportunity to play the hero, and no matter the outcome, it’ll be close.
HOUSTON (-10.5) over Buffalo
Buffalo is ranked 27th in total defense. They are dead last in the NFL against the run. Meanwhile, Houston’s rushing offense is ranked 8th, and aside from a Week 6 beating from Green Bay, has looked like the best team in the AFC. I expect Arian Foster to have a big day and for the Texans to roll by multiple scores.
WASHINGTON (-3) over Carolina
RGIII vs. Cam Newton. If this 2012 football season has taught us anything, it’s that RGIII will lead a late-4th-quarter touchdown drive and the Panthers will find a way to lose the game. I like the Redskins in what should (hopefully) be an incredibly exciting game.
JACKSONVILLE (+5.5) over Detroit
The Lions have trouble scoring, and the Jags are without their best player and have Blaine Gabbert as their QB. Jacksonville has hung around until late in games against Minnesota, Oakland, and Green Bay, while Detroit has struggled to put games away, relying on late-game heroics in their three wins. The Lions win, but the Jags score a garbage TD late to cover.
Chicago (-3.5) over TENNESSEE
I’ll admit that I have absolutely no idea how good Chicago is. On one hand, their defense has been insane, outscoring other teams’ offenses in some of its games, while barely allowing teams to breathe. On the other hand, they’ve played exactly two games against teams with a winning record. The first, against the Colts, was at home against Andrew Luck in his NFL debut. No surprisingly, the won handily. The other such game came in Week 2 against the Packers in a game that frankly wasn’t very close (the Packers were up 23-3 and driving before a miscommunication between Aaron Rodgers and James Jones resulted in an interception, a short field, and a garbage time touchdown for the Bears.
In their other five games (all wins), they’ve looked great at times (i.e. forcing 5 INTs against Tony Romo, annihilating the Jaguars, etc.) and incredibly mediocre at others (i.e. eeking out a 6-point win vs. a Lions team that did everything in its power to not score in the red zone, a last second field goal to beat Carolina by one in Week 8, etc.).
Still, you have to give them credit. They’ve found ways to win close games, while (for the most part) not giving any games away. They are better than Tennessee, and I expect them to find a way to win again, which would put them at 7-1 and set up a primetime showdown next week against Houston.
SEATTLE (-4) over Minnesota
Two solid defenses. Two young QBs. I’ll give the edge to the Seahawks and the 12th man. Russell Wilson manages the game and the Seattle D stops Christina Ponder in the final minutes to move both teams to 5-4.
OAKLAND (-2) over Tampa Bay
Before the season started – based on advice from a Bill Simmons podcast – I placed a $10 bet on the Buccaneers to win their division for a chance at a $150 payoff. If there is any chance for that bet to come through, any at all, Tampa Bay needs to win this game. Therefore, there’s no way they win.
When Oakland covers, I hope they do it with a 70-yard, alcohol-induced, Sebastian Janikowski field goal at the horn. If this happens, we’ll be discussing vodka as a possible performance-enhancing drug by next week. And I can’t wait!
NY GIANTS (-3) over Pittsburgh
I’m fully prepared for Big Ben to orchestrate a (would-be) game-winning drive to put the Steelers up 3 with under minute left, only for Eli Manning to launch a Michael-Jordan-in-his-prime-style fade away prayer off his back foot to Victor Cruz to ACTUALLY win the game. Let the ‘Eli for MVP’ chants begin.
Dallas (+3.5) over ATLANTA
Call it a feeling, or a hunch. I know Atlanta is 7-0. I know the Cowboys have looked lost for most of this year. Is it really possible for Atlanta to find a way to pull EVERY game out, and for Dallas to shoot itself in the foot EVERY game? Maybe. Probably. Ugh, I don’t know. I just have a feeling the Falcons win this game by three or less and we continue to question Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jerry Jones, and the entire Dallas franchise, while wondering how the Falcons continue to remain undefeated.
NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Philadelphia
Drew Brees vs. a struggling Michael Vick. At home. In primetime. Who dat?