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.

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.

Conference Championship Quick Picks (2013-2014)

new-england-patriots-logoDenver-Broncos-Logo

AFC Championship: New England Patriots (12-4) at Denver Broncos (13-3)

January 19, 2013 CBS 3:00pm

Pick: Broncos

In the first game of day, we’ll be treated to yet another matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Enjoy this one because we don’t know how many more times we’ll see the two best QBs of our generation on the same field in the playoffs. Their regular season meeting was an absolute classic, with Brady erasing a 24-0 deficit en route to a 34-31 comeback win in OT. Despite jumping out to that early lead, Manning had his worst game of the regular season against these Patriots. It was only the second time all season Peyton was held to under 60% (52.8) completion and the only time he was held to under 200 yards (150). New England made it readily clear that they know how to stop Manning and if they can keep him at bay on Saturday, they will walk away winners once more. However, a couple things are different this time around that may tip the scales in Denver’s favor. Perhaps the biggest difference is the fact that they don’t have to play in Foxborough this time around–where New England is 8-0–and instead play in front of their home fans where they’ve only lost once. In as tightly contested a game as this, you better believe home-field advantage will be a factor. Another big change is going to be the absence of Rob Gronkowski, who shredded Denver for 90 yards on seven receptions and a TD. That’s one big guy Denver doesn’t have to account for anymore. I can find multiple reasons why both teams can win, but Denver will have the slight edge and will capitalize.

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NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

January 19, 2013 FOX 6:30pm

Pick: Seahawks

On the other side of the league, we’ll have the two young guns Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick face off. Two veterans in one game, two up-and-comers in another. You really can’t make this stuff up. Could we ask for anything better? Anyways, for as much attention as these two QBs will get, this game will come down to defense. These bitter rivals boast two of the best defenses in the NFL and will swarm to the ball every chance they get. San Francisco is red-hot right now. Winners of eight straight, the Niners held Aaron Rodgers’ offense to 20 points and Cam Newton’s to 10. However, in both games the SF defense allowed 90+ rushing yards, an aspect of the game that Seattle thrives on. The Seahawks torched New Orleans on the ground for 174 yards and if San Fran allows anywhere close to that number, they are in for a long day. Don’t take it from me, just take a look at the numbers: in Seattle’s 29-3 win in Week 2 over SF, Seattle rushed for 172 yards. In the Week 14 rematch, Seattle only rushed for 86 and lost. It’s pretty simple for San Francisco: stop the run. With the crowd at record volume at CenturyLink Field, Seattle should be able to move the ball just enough to squeak out a close defensive win.

Sunday Divisional Playoff Quick Picks (2013-2014)

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NFC Divisional: San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Carolina Panthers (12-4)

January 12, 2013 FOX 1:05pm

Pick: 49ers

You won’t have to wait long on Sunday to see the best matchup of the weekend. At home, with the 2-seed, and a victory over San Francisco already under their belt, Carolina is the underdog by 1 point. Two of the best defenses in football are putting the over/under at 41.5, the lowest of the four divisional games. As the home dog, you better believe Carolina will play with a chip on their shoulder. They boast quality wins over New Orleans, San Francisco, and New England, not to mention the countless other teams they have crushed. So why do I like the Niners? Jim Harbaugh has his troops locked in. The defense has only allowed an average of 16.2 points a game in their past seven games (all wins) and Colin Kaepernick has only thrown two picks (one of them against Seattle’s defense). In Kap’s first nine games this season, he had four 0 passing TD games. He’s thrown a TD pass, and often more than one, in every game since. In five of the seven games he finished with a passer rating over 100. Get the picture? Kaepernick is on a roll and even when he doesn’t have a great game, like last week at Green Bay, the Niners can win. It’ll be a battle for the ages, but watch Kaepernick have a solid game against a defense that harassed him earlier in the season.

chargers logoDenver-Broncos-Logo

AFC Divisional: San Diego Chargers (9-7) at Denver Broncos (13-3)

January 12, 2013 CBS 4:40pm

Pick: Broncos

San Diego is the biggest underdog of all four games this weekend, but don’t count them out. They’ve already proved they can handle the Broncos at home after a 27-20 victory in Week 15. Just five weeks before, however, Denver topped San Diego on the road 28-20. In both games, San Diego held the ball for over 38 minutes, forced one turnover, and passed for under 200 yards. So what gave San Diego the edge in Week 15? It may have had something to do with the Chargers’ success in the running game on both sides of the ball. In their victory, San Diego held Denver to just 18 rushing yards the entire game, compared to 84 in their defeat. Likewise, San Diego torched Denver on the ground for 177 yards in Week 15 and 131 in Week 10. While Peyton Manning will grab the headlines before and after the game, it will likely be the success of these two ground attacks that determines our winner. As you can see, Denver doesn’t have to out-run San Diego to win, but they do have to put the ball on the ground enough to take some of the pressure off Manning. If San Diego can keep Denver’s running backs at bay while applying pressure to Manning, they can pull off a shocker. I still have to go with the Broncos. Denver has so many offensive weapons that it will be too hard for San Diego to keep up. In one game Eric Decker caught four TD passes, in another Demaryius Thomas caught three, and both Wes Welker and Julius Thomas have had multiple 1+ TD games. Beating Denver once is something, but beating them twice in a row is something else entirely. Peyton Manning won’t let it happen.

Saturday Divisional Playoff Quick Picks (2013-2014)

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NFC Divisional: New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

January 11, 2013 FOX 4:35pm

Pick: Seahawks

It’s tough not to think back to Week 13 when Seattle rolled New Orleans 34-7. Seattle looked like the much better team then and they are still the better team now. If the Saints want to advance, it will have to come from the arm of Drew Brees (as always). Brees was held to a season-low 147 yards in that Week 13 matchup, though he managed to avoid throwing any picks. Even if Brees plays a great game, he’ll need an average run defense to contain the best running game in the NFL (allowed 127 rushing yards against Seattle). Even then, they still need to contain the mobile QB Russell Wilson, who threw for 310 yards against the Saints. Can the Saints win? Of course they can, Seattle is vulnerable like everybody else. Having said that, I have to go with the team that owns the best defense (leads NFL in takeaways), the best running game, and the best home field advantage in the league. It may not be the blowout we saw in Week 13, but Seattle has more than enough talent to advance to the NFC Championship.

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AFC Divisional: Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at New England Patriots (12-4)

January 11, 2013 CBS 8:15pm

Pick: Patriots

Picking against the Colts makes me feel uneasy, especially after watching them storm back against KC. Indianapolis is on a mission. Luckily for New England, they own the best coach in the NFL, Bill Belichick, and one of the best QBs, Tom Brady. These two guys are the main reason why I’m picking New England. They’ve been here before and they know how to handle the big time. Crippled by injuries from the very start, namely the WR corp, New England still found a way to win 12 games and only needs one more to advance to the conference championship. Even when New England lost, it was only by an average of 4.5 points. The bottomline is that New England is really tough to beat. Even without Gronk, Brady will do what he does best to win, spreading the ball around to keep the defense on their toes. I’m taking New England in a late 4th-quarter victory.