Friday Picks: Week 10 (2015-16)

They may be one of three undefeated teams, but it's been the Patriots' league so far this season. Can they shake off the history and top the Giants? Photo credit: ESPN.com

They may be one of three undefeated teams, but it’s been the Patriots’ league so far this season. Can they shake off the history and top the Giants? Photo credit: ESPN.com

We’re now 10 weeks in and somehow picking these games seems harder than it was in the first three weeks, when everything is turned upside-down. The AFC wildcard race is, like last week, absolutely absurd. What separates the fifth-seeded Bills and the dead last Browns? Three games. If we’re being realistic, not all of these teams have a real shot but enough of them do (e.g. Texans, Chiefs, Raiders, etc.) that it makes these midseason games pretty intriguing. Speaking of absurd, is it possible we’ll be watching a Panthers-Bengals Super Bowl in February? I sell these teams week after week, but they just keep winning! The words Andy Dalton and MVP in the same sentence just doesn’t sit right with me, but he’s in the conversation. Still, dominating both of those conversations is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. They’re the undisputed best team in the league and already generating new 16-0 talk. To get there, they’ll have to get through the only team they haven’t beaten since 2008: the New York Giants. I don’t care what the point spread is, this has to be my Game of the Week. My picks below (HOME team in CAPS):

Last week: 7-6       Overall: 83-49

Cold Hard Lock: 6-3       Upset pick: 4-5

Bills over JETS (TNF)

RAVENS over Jaguars

STEELERS over Browns

Panthers over TITANS

RAMS over Bears

Cowboys over BUCS

PACKERS over Lions

EAGLES over Dolphins

REDSKINS over Saints

Vikings over RAIDERS

BRONCOS over Chiefs

Patriots over GIANTS

Cardinals over SEAHAWKS (SNF)

BENGALS over Texans (MNF)

Cold Hard Lock: Cowboys over BUCS; Ok it’s about time the Cowboys win. I understand how valuable Romo is, but they have a good team around him and can’t lose seven in a row, can they? They’ve held a lead in each of their past three games, only to lose them by one score. They’ll get the job done against the Bucs, who were 0-8 at home last year and have started 1-3 this year.

Upset Pick: Cardinals over SEAHAWKS; I’m always selling the Cardinals and buying the Seahawks. This week, I’m flipping the script. Arizona has clearly been the better team and they’re a three-point underdog? That’s an awful lot of home love for a team that survived the Lions and lost to the Panthers in Seattle this year. My gut still says Seattle, but any time I can get a team as good as Arizona as an underdog, I have to take it. Cardinals get it done again in CenturyLink and beat the Seahawks 23-21.

This year's Giants team has a host of problems. But really, is that much different than any other year? Photo credit: ESPN.com

This year’s Giants team has a host of problems. But really, is that much different than any other year? Photo credit: ESPN.com

Game of the Week: New England Patriots at New York Giants; The last thing I want to do is overhype this game, but it’s probably the most anticipated game of 2015. Maybe the decade. The Patriots have dominated this league for years on end and finally turned that domination into another Super Bowl last year. That could have been their third in eight years if not for the New York Giants, the one team that has consistently given them trouble in that span. Their last four meetings have been decided by four points or less. However, throw that all aside and this is one lopsided matchup. New England has been rolling through opponents (+133 point differential), beating them in all sorts of ways. The Giants have been on a roller coaster ride, alternating wins and losses every week since Week 5. The key part of the Giants’ victories over the Pats, a strong pass rush, is virtually non-existent. In a vacuum, the Patriots are the better team in every phase of the game. But this is the NFL, where vacuums don’t exist and there’s dirt all over the floor! I don’t know what it is, but something about these two teams defies football logic every time they meet. I have no idea what kind of game it’ll be this time, but based on the intense history, this is the Game of the Week.

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Friday Picks: Week 9 (2015-16)

After eight weeks, Carolina owns the first seed in the NFC. In Week 9, they look to keep that spot out of the hands of Green Bay.

After eight weeks, Carolina owns the first seed in the NFC. In Week 9, they look to keep that spot out of the hands of Green Bay. Photo credit: ESPN.com

I’ll try to sum up the state of the AFC wildcard race with this: the New York Jets have the fourth-best record in the conference and the Chargers are just two games behind them…with the 14th best record. With the Pats, Broncos, and Bengals cruising, virtually every AFC team has a shot at the final three spots. And as the Chargers and Jets show you, the records are so concentrated that tiebreakers are bound to come into play. That’s why games like Dolphins-Bills and Jaguars-Jets are so important in every passing week. In the NFC, teams like the Saints, Eagles, and Bucs (yes, even them) are still afloat despite four early losses. This is what these November games are all about: win enough to put yourself in contention come late December. Here’s who I have picking up those key wins in Week 9 (HOME team in CAPS):

Last week: 9-5       Overall: 76-43

Cold Hard Lock: 6-2       Upset pick: 4-4

BENGALS over Browns (TNF)

BILLS over Dolphins

Packers over PANTHERS

JETS over Jaguars

Rams over VIKINGS

PATRIOTS over Redskins

SAINTS over Titans

STEELERS over Raiders

Giants over BUCS

Falcons over NINERS

Broncos over COLTS

Eagles over COWBOYS (SNF)

CHARGERS over Bears (MNF)

Cold Hard Lock: Chargers over Bears; San Diego just keeps losing close game after close game. Their last four games, all losses, have been decided by one score. I believe things will be different against Chicago on Monday night. The Chargers have one of the most prolific passing offenses in the league (lead NFL in passing yards), but their running game and defense holds them back. Luckily for San Diego, Chicago yields the 5th highest passer rating to opposing QBs while allowing the 4th most rushing yards per game. With offensive weapons Matt Forte and Eddie Royal out for the Bears, it’s looking like a great matchup for the Chargers. At home in primetime, San Diego will snap their four-game losing streak, and by more than one score.

Upset Pick: Rams over VIKINGS; These two teams have a lot in common. While both passing games leave a lot to be desired, they field solid defenses and own two of the best running backs in the NFL. Todd Gurley has been on an absolute tear, rushing for over 120 yards in four straight games. Minnesota’s weak spot on defense lies in their ability to stop the run (15th in opponent rush yards/game), so I don’t see Gurley slowing down. I have to give the slight edge to the Rams defense as well. They’ve looked fantastic lately, keeping opponents out of the endzone in nine straight quarters. One more thing these guys have in common: they are in the thick of the NFC wildcard race. In a game with some early playoff implications on the line, I’ll take St. Louis in the modest upset.

Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers at Carolina PanthersGreen Bay was featured in last week’s GOTW in their matchup against the Denver Broncos. Denver delivered a serious message to the rest of the league, holding the best QB in the league to just 77 yards. That QB (Aaron Rodgers, duh) and his team don’t get a break as they face yet another undefeated team and yet another top-5 defense. Oh, and it’s on the road again. Can Green Bay rebound? I get the sense that a lot of people think they can. We’re not used to them losing back-to-back games and many are still skeptical of Carolina. The Panthers are in an eerily similar situation as Denver just last week. If they win, they’ll get a lot more respect and cement themselves in the Super Bowl conversation. Green Bay looks to rebound while Carolina puts their undefeated record on the line in this battle of two fantastic teams. If you’re a fan of quality football, stop watching the NFC East and tune into this game,

Friday Picks: Week 8 (2015-16)

Peyton has relied on his defense to deliver the wins. With Aaron Rodgers in town, can the defense hold up for him? Photo credit: ESPN.com

Peyton has relied on his defense to deliver the wins. With Aaron Rodgers in town, will the defense still hold up? Photo credit: ESPN.com

We’ve seen seven weeks of football. How do we still not know if these teams are any good? Outside of the Patriots and Packers, I’m scared of picking any team. Even the Packers are on the road against an undefeated team. In fact, we have more undefeated teams (5) at this point in the season than ever before and yet somehow, I’m not confident in any of them. As far as actual NFL implications go, keep an eye on the Saints and Raiders, two teams we may have considered dead but are now starting to turn things around. I also like the underdog Colts, Chargers, and Lions to threaten an upset. With the Packers visiting the Broncos on Sunday night, we’ll finally see another undefeated team fall.

My picks are below (HOME team in CAPS):

Last week: 7-7       Overall: 67-38

Cold Hard Lock: 5-2       Upset pick: 4-3

PATRIOTS over Dolphins (TNF)

Lions over Chiefs (London)

RAVENS over Chargers

Cardinals over BROWNS

Vikings over BEARS

STEELERS over Bengals

TEXANS over Titans

SAINTS over Giants

RAMS over 49ers

FALCONS over Bucs

Jets over RAIDERS

Seahawks over COWBOYS

Packers over BRONCOS (SNF)

PANTHERS over Colts (MNF)

Cold Hard Lock: TEXANS over Titans; The way this season is going, I don’t feel comfortable choosing any of these games as my lock. I’m going to go with the Texans, a team I wouldn’t have been caught dead picking as my lock just a couple weeks ago. I don’t like this team at all. Their QB situation is a mess and the defense is severely underperforming. Their only two wins have come against the Bucs and Jaguars and they trailed 41-0 to Miami at the half last week. In a week where no pick is safe, I’m going with the team I can’t stand to watch. At home against a team without their starting QB, maybe they can pull out their third win. In fact, make it a lock.

Upset Pick: Lions over Chiefs; Speaking of teams I can’t stand, the Chiefs are without Jamaal Charles as well as their home fans as they travel to London to take on Detroit. Both of these teams are underperforming and pretty much out of playoff contention. However, I really love the Lions’ talent on offense and just can’t see them losing to the depleted Chiefs. Calvin Johnson has seemed to find a rhythm after struggling early, gaining more receiving yards and touchdowns in each of the past two games than in any one game this season. I think Johnson can continue the trend and help the Lions steal one from the Chiefs.

Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers at Denver BroncosThis game is not your typical battle between two undefeated teams. There’s a lot of people who think Denver is lucky to be 6-0 and they may have a point. They’ve played six opponents with a combined record of 13-27 and have won by more than one score in only one of those games. While there’s a general feeling that they haven’t played anybody, there’s no denying that their defense is outstanding. They’re lead the league in passing yards allowed, are second in takeaways, and second in points allowed. The one team that has allowed fewer? The Green Bay Packers. Even with Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning in the game, something tells me this will be a low scoring game. Low scoring games tend to benefit the underdog. If that defense is as good as it seems, Denver has a real shot of “upsetting” the Packers in this duel of unbeaten teams.

Friday Picks: Week 7 (2015-16)

We take a little break from watching the unbeatens as Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Denver (all 6-0) are on byes this week. Instead, I’ll be watching to see if any teams can make a real move in their division and conference this week. The Bills (3-3), Steelers (4-2), and Jets (4-1) are leading the AFC wildcard race, but are either without their starting QBs (Bills, Steelers) or face tough competition (Jets). The Browns, Raiders, Chargers, Texans, and Dolphins are all at two wins. Four of those teams play each other this week (Raiders@Chargers, Texans@Dolphins) and that means two teams will be put in a deep AFC wildcard hole. All the NFC East teams are in action and it seems like every week a different team looks poised to take the division. Does anyone even want this thing? In a division where the winner likely will only have 8-10 wins, every week is a chance to take a huge step and that makes the Dallas-New York matchup much more interesting. An abridged breakdown of my Lock, Upset Pick, and GOTW are below.

My picks are below (HOME team in CAPS):

Last week: 7-7       Overall: 60-31

Cold Hard Lock: 4-2       Upset pick: 4-2

Seahawks over NINERS (TNF)

Bills over JAGUARS

REDSKINS over Bucs

Falcons over TITANS

COLTS over Saints

LIONS over Vikings

Steelers over CHIEFS

RAMS over Browns

DOLPHINS over Texans

PATRIOTS over Jets

CHARGERS over Raiders

Cowboys over GIANTS

Eagles over PANTHERS (SNF)

CARDINALS over Ravens (MNF)

Cold Hard Lock: REDSKINS over Bucs; Redskins: much better than people think, barely lost to Falcons last week, and at home. Bucs: also better than people think, but with many problems. Redskins in the Lock.

Upset Pick: Eagles over PANTHERS; Eagles: slowly figuring stuff out with chance to make big move in division. Carolina: great team, coming off stunning/emotional win over Seahawks, could fall in a home letdown. Eagles with the upset.

Game of the Week: New York Jets at New England Patriots; Pats-Jets, a great rivalry. One team is great, the other is pretty good, but how good are they really? This is New York’s toughest test and their best chance to compete with New England for the division in a LONG time. Based on what we’ve seen, quality football should be seen here.

Friday Picks: Week 6 (2015-16)

Are the Seahawks in trouble? No. Photo credit: ESPN.com

Are the Seahawks in trouble? No.       Photo credit: ESPN.com

I hope you’ve recovered from an insane Week 5 because we are in for a fantastic slate of games in Week 6. Vegas has placed nine games with betting lines of four points or less. We’ve got undefeated teams on the road, new coaches looking for a good start, division rivalries being settled, and heavy underdogs just waiting to pull off a shocker. With Atlanta being the latest unbeaten to fall on Thursday night, will more follow? I deliver a 4-0 squad its first loss in my Cold Hard Lock and in my Upset Pick another unbeaten is stunned on the road.

My picks are below (HOME team in CAPS):

Last week: 10-4       Overall: 53-24

Cold Hard Lock: 4-1       Upset pick: 4-1

Falcons over SAINTS (TNF)

Bengals over BILLS

BROWNS over Broncos

LIONS over Bears

JAGUARS over Texans

VIKINGS over Chiefs

Dolphins over TITANS

Redskins over JETS

Cardinals over STEELERS

SEAHAWKS over Panthers

Ravens over NINERS

PACKERS over Chargers

Patriots over COLTS (SNF)

EAGLES over Giants (MNF)

Cold Hard Lock: SEAHAWKS over Panthers; An undefeated team as the loser in the lock? If you’re playing in Seattle, you better believe it. The Seahawks have won nine of their last 10 at home and if you’ve seen them play there, you know why. Russell Wilson is even more effective and the defense gets ultra physical in front of the home fans. They’re coming off a huge letdown in Cincinnati, they’re at home, and they’re playing a division rival who they’re used to beating up. Seattle has to get back on track over Carolina in CenturyLink.

Can Cleveland extend their win streak to two games? Photo credit: ESPN.com

Can Cleveland extend their win streak to two games? Photo credit: ESPN.com

Upset Pick: BROWNS over Broncos; I can’t lie, taking Cleveland in the upset doesn’t sit well in my stomach. Heck, taking Cleveland to win doesn’t sit right with me in general. But I keep watching Denver, week after week after week, barely survive on the back of their defense. They’ve escaped nearly every game over unimpressive opponents including the Ravens (1-4), Chiefs (1-4), and Raiders (2-3). I just have to believe that one of these teams will finally get it done. Now Cleveland doesn’t exactly blow those other teams out of the water, but I do think they are better than they get credit for. Josh McCown was a laughing stock in Week 1 after his helicopter fumble, but he’s been amazing these past two weeks (70% completion/ 4 TDS/ 1203 yards). As long as Cleveland’s defense can manage a struggling Peyton Manning, McCown shouldn’t need to generate a ton of points to win this one. The key for Cleveland’s offense is to avoid that huge mistake that Denver thrives on. Denver’s top-ranked defense leads the league in takeaways (14), so take that away from them (heh) and a win at home is a real possibility.

Game of the Week: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles; To round off a crazy week will be another chapter of the classic New York-Philly rivalry. Of all eight divisions, the NFC East is probably the one that is most up for grabs, making these divisional matchups that much more important. The Giants are on a three game winning streak after losing their first two. Sound familiar? That’s because the same thing happened last year as well as 2007. In both years, the Giants played their sixth game in primetime. Same story, different endings. Last year, the Giants lost to the Eagles on Sunday night and went on to drop their next six. In 2007, the Giants crushed the Falcons on Monday night and went on to stun the 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Which fate are we in for in 2015? Another six-game losing streak or winners of Super Bowl 50? Or maybe a completely different result altogether because this is a different year and a different team? Either way, we’ll get the start of our answer when they play the frustratingly inconsistent Eagles. Many have been ready to pull the plug on Chip Kelly’s wacky experiment but then he pulls out an impressive win right before they can. After looking pitiful on offense in their first two games, Philly has seemed to progress a little each week and exploded in a victory over the Saints last week, scoring 39 points on over 500 total yards. Have they found the recipe for rolling to an NFC East title? They’ll have to get through the 3-2 Giants first. It’s one of the best rivalries in football and it all unfolds this Monday night.

Friday Picks: Week 5 (2015-16)

Make no mistake, these Bengals are good. Just how good will be revealed in their matchup with the Seahawks. Photo credit: ESPN.com

Make no mistake, these Bengals are good. Just how good will be revealed in their matchup with the Seahawks. Photo credit: ESPN.com

Through four weeks, six teams remain unbeaten. Five of those teams are in action this week and those are the games I’ll be keeping an eye on. Both the Falcons and Packers are poised to continue their hot streaks at home against teams with 2+ losses. The Pats originally had what appeared to be a fantastic matchup in Dallas, but are now heavy favorites over the injury-riddled Cowboys. Denver faces division-rival Oakland, a team that is 2-2 but has looked much better than last year. Can Denver’s suffocating defense carry them to their fifth straight win? Finally, in my Game of the Week, the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals will host the Seattle Seahawks. More about that and the other games in the segments below. Can all of these teams remain perfect? In Week 5, I’ll be watching the unbeaten five.

My picks are below (HOME team in CAPS):

Last week: 11-4       Overall: 43-20

Cold Hard Lock: 3-1       Upset pick: 3-1

Colts over TEXANS (TNF)

CHIEFS over Bears

Seahawks over BENGALS

FALCONS over Redskins

Jaguars over BUCS

EAGLES over Saints

RAVENS over Browns

PACKERS over Browns

Bills over TITANS

Cardinals over LIONS

Patriots over COWBOYS

Broncos over RAIDERS

GIANTS over Niners (SNF)

Steelers over CHARGERS (MNF)

Cold Hard Lock: Cardinals over LIONS; It may seem obvious to lock the 0-4 Lions losing to an elite NFC team, but Arizona is only a 3-point favorite in this one. To me, this has the potential to be an ugly blowout. I could go on and on with stats showing how the Cardinals look better in every phase of the game, but just watching these two teams play has shown me enough to know that Arizona can handle this one. Other than the Rams last week, the Cards have been trouncing every opponent. I’m taking Arizona to blow that 3-point betting line out of the water and pick up their fourth win over the Lions.

With Big Ben out, the pressure now lies on Le'Veon Bell's legs to deliver wins. Photo credit: ESPN.com

With Big Ben out, the pressure now lies on Le’Veon Bell’s legs to deliver wins. Photo credit: ESPN.com

Upset Pick: STEELERS over Chargers; Everyone loved this Steelers team just a couple weeks ago. Now, after Big Ben gets taken out and they lose one close game with Vick, everyone is ready to bail? Pittsburgh still has solid players that can win. Since his return, Le’Veon Bell has rushed for nearly 200 yards. Guess who’s bad at stopping the run? I’ll spare you the time and tell you it’s the San Diego Chargers. They’ve allowed 100+ rushing yards in three straight games and you better believe Bell is poised for another huge night. With a fantastic running back and a QB that completed 73% of his passes in his 2015 debut, I’ll take Pittsburgh in the upset.

Game of the Week: Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals; Choosing this matchup as Game of the Week was a no-brainer. Cincinnati is 4-0 and everybody loves them. This is a team with no apparent weaknesses through four weeks. Andy Dalton, largely thought to be Cincy’s trouble spot, has been playing better than ever. His 123 passer rating is 2nd in the league behind Aaron Rodgers. They have two punishing running backs in Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill. And don’t forget about the defense that is allowing an average of under 20 points. This team appears to have it all. Now, they get their first real test as one of the best defenses in the NFL will be coming to town. Seattle hasn’t lived up to expectations, dropping their first two and barely surviving Detroit at home, but everyone knows just how good Seattle can be in a huge spot. Cincinnati has been picked on a lot for not showing up in big games (primetime, playoffs, etc.) and a matchup with the Super Bowl runner-ups has all the makings of a big one. Can Cincy handle the pressure? I can’t wait to see how they stack up against Seattle.

Friday Picks: Week 4 (2015-16)

The NFC East is there for the taking. Can Washington beat the Eagles to the punch? Photo credit: ESPN.com

The NFC East is there for the taking. Can Washington beat the Eagles to the punch? Photo credit: ESPN.com

There are some weeks where underdogs rule, like in Week 2 when the favorites went 7-9. Then there are others where logic reigns, like last week (favorites 12-4). On the surface, Week 4 looks a lot more oriented towards the latter type, though isn’t that what sets up a bunch of upsets? There’s quite a few lopsided lines this week, so I couldn’t pull the trigger on most of the upsets. Can the 1-2 Texans really upend the undefeated Falcons? Can the Niners stop Aaron Rodgers? Could Detroit shock the Hawks in Seattle? Something tells me favorites will rule again this week, but beware of the shocking upset that always seems to happen in October. Only one game features two teams with a winning record, so naturally that’s my Game of the Week.

My picks are below (HOME team in CAPS):

Last week: 13-3       Overall: 32-16

Cold Hard Lock: 3-0       Upset pick: 2-1

Ravens over STEELERS (TNF)

Jets over Dolphins (London)

BILLS over Giants

Panthers over BUCS

Raiders over BEARS

BENGALS over Chiefs

FALCONS over Texans

COLTS over Jaguars

REDSKINS over Eagles

CHARGERS over Browns

BRONCOS over Vikings

Packers over NINERS

CARDINALS over Rams

Cowboys over SAINTS (SNF)

SEAHAWKS over Lions (MNF)

Cold Hard Lock: Cowboys over SAINTS; Dallas is actually a three-point underdog in this one, so that should show you how confident I am that the Cowboys will take it. Even without Romo, Dez, and many others, Dallas is far and away the more complete team of these two. And even with Brees likely starting (as of this post), the Saints are plagued with issues and are just miserable at home recently, losing six straight in the Big Easy. Dallas was able to hang 28 in one half last week without Romo and I see them doing something similar this Sunday night. I’ll take the Cowboys as my lock in what should be an ugly game.

Upset Pick: REDSKINS over Eagles; In Week 2, Washington looked about as good as they have in years in their win over the Rams. Matt Jones and Alfred Morris combined for over 180 yards rushing, Kirk Cousins had just four incompletions, and the defense held St. Louis to 2 for 12 on third-down conversions. It was a complete and dominate win over a decent team. Now, here we are just two weeks later, and Washington is a home underdog to the Eagles? A team that looked so good a couple weeks ago should be able to handle a 1-2 team that they play twice a year. I’ll take Washington to “upset” Philly in a game that should probably have an even line.

It's clear Peyton doesn't look the same, but Denver is still winning. So does it matter? Photo credit: ESPN.com

It’s clear Peyton doesn’t look the same, but Denver is still winning. So does it matter? Photo credit: ESPN.com

Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos; In a slate with more than a few lopsided games, this game is a diamond in the rough. At first glance, this may not seem like a super intriguing game but I’m really interested in these two confusing teams. Minnesota was, and still is, a team many expected to take a leap this year. Teddy Bridgewater showed promise in his rookie season and the return of Adrian Peterson was expected to help his progress along this season. A loss to the Niners in their opener sent the Vikes back to reality, but they’ve quietly bounced back to 2-1. Bridgewater, however, is showing some early struggles. His best game was in Week 2 when he only had 153 yards and a touchdown. It’s been really hard to tell how good this team actually is with Bridgewater struggling but Minnesota winning. In a similar situation is the Denver Broncos, who have a rapidly aging Peyton Manning. Manning, like Bridgewater, hasn’t looked spectacular but Denver is 3-0 behind some fantastic defensive performances. These are two teams I just need more games to figure out and they play each other in Week 4, so don’t miss what could be a competitive game.