Last week helped clear a lot of things up in the NFL. As I unfortunately foresaw a few weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers will not make the playoffs. It was clear that Pittsburgh and Jacksonville had the easiest paths to the playoffs. The Chiefs and the Chargers are still mathematically alive but they are essentially done. There are two underlying issues for the last three weeks of the season. The first issue is whether or not the Colts will go undefeated. The second issue is the muddled NFC playoff picture. It is likely that neither issue will be worked out until the last week of the season. This week’s spreads are not gambler-friendly by any means. There are six road teams favored. There are nine games with spreads of -4 or less. Hopefully, I can live to fight another week. I’m 95-90-7 on the season but it only takes one bad week to be on the wrong side of .500.
NE -4.5 tb
I think the New England Patriots have the Colts right where they want them. Nobody is talking about the Pats. They’ve been banged up all year. The running game was virtually non-existent throughout the first half of the season which made the Patriots look worse than they really were. Injuries to Daniel Graham, Corey Dillon, Teddy Bruschi, and Richard Seymour have kept the Pats from playing at full strength. The Patriots were dominating in their last two games. They are slowly getting everyone back and will be an extremely tough out in the playoffs. The Pats will still have an uphill battle since they would have to play at Indy but the Patriots will be much better in January than they were in October. They might not have played like it throughout the season but come the playoffs, the Pats will likely be the second best team in the NFL behind the Colts. The four point line in this game is driving me mad. New England often plays in close games and Tampa Bay has the defense to keep things close. That combination leads me to believe that this game will likely be close in the end. If that’s the case, Tampa Bay should cover. On a side note, the Patriots have had seven different players lead the team in receiving yards this year. That pretty much means that any offensive skill player that has suited up for New England has led the team in yards in at least one game. That sort of patchwork will likely not be necessary once this team is healthy in the playoffs.
NYG -2.5 kc
I like the Chiefs. They are one of my favorite teams. I think the main reason why I like the Chiefs so much is that I had Priest Holmes three years in a row on my fantasy football team. Although I am appreciative of Priest’s fantasy contributions, I think the real spark for my affinity for the Chiefs was when Joe Montana became their quarterback. Montana was not what he once was. He was older and his skills were diminishing. He didn’t have the most talented roster to work with either. For the first time, Joe Montana was an underdog. I loved rooting for the Chiefs even though they never accomplished anything with Montana. It wasn’t always that way though. I remember hating the Chiefs when they had the Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye and Barry Word. Okoye was challenging Barry Sanders for the rushing title and I hated him for that. Anyhow, part of that was a bit of a personal reveal and the other part was to explain why the Chiefs are so frustrating for me to watch. I don’t care if most NFL teams lay an egg but when Kansas City stinks it up (as they do quite often), it’s frustrating. They have a mammoth offensive line with one of the best running backs in the league. They have great special teams and an average defense. It seems like they’re always playing from behind. Kansas City games are notoriously hard to pick against the spread. I never know which team is going to show up. The Chiefs haven’t beaten a good team on the road this year. On top of that, they haven’t even come close to beating a good team on the road. The Giants are good so I’ll go with them. If the Chiefs erupt for 40 points this week, I might start hating them again.
den -9.5 BUF
I know Buffalo is bad but +9.5 at home? That’s an awfully big spread. Denver just barely squeaked by an awful Baltimore team in Denver. The Broncos have been a huge surprise this season. There might have been three or four people in the world that thought bringing the entire Browns 2005 defensive line to Denver was a good thing. It makes me wonder what Romeo Crenell would’ve been able to do with those players. Crenell is a great defensive coach and may have been able to turn the Browns into a dominating defensive team with those players. Buffalo is bad. They have no chance of winning this game. However, they are 4-3 at home and have only lost by more than eight points at home once this season. Denver doesn’t have the offense to go on the road and blow out Buffalo. If they do, then I’m going to get this game wrong. I’ll take Buffalo to stick around for a while.
pit -3 MIN
The Vikings have had a remarkable turnaround but, for the purposes of this game, it’s important to look at who the Vikings have beaten since during their unbeaten streak. Since week seven, Minnesota has beaten Detroit (2), Green Bay (2), Cleveland, and St. Louis. They did manage to beat the Giants without scoring an offensive touchdown which speaks more to how bad the Giants played rather than how good Minnesota played. Pittsburgh will likely be the best team the Vikings have played all season. Big Ben got into a bit of a rhythm last week as the Steelers re-emphasized the running game. Brad Johnson has done a marvelous job of bring stability to the Vikings but I think Pittsburgh will come to Minnesota with urgency and play physical football. Pittsburgh should be good enough to win by more than three.
IND -7.5 sd
I picked Indianapolis last week to beat Jacksonville by more than eight points. Midway through the fourth quarter with the Colts up 26-3, I broke out the champagne. Five minutes later, the Jags had scored two touchdowns with two two-point conversions to come within eight points. I had to shove the cork back into the champagne bottle. Believe me; you don’t want to have to do that. Anyhow, the Chargers are a better team than the Jags despite their records. San Diego has an offense that can match the Colts. The Chargers don’t have the defense to stop Manning and Co. but they should be able to keep this game close. The Chargers do have a shot at the playoffs so they will come out motivated. If the Chargers are 8 point dogs to the Colts, then there isn’t a team in the NFL that would be any closer than +7 against Indy. I’ll take a big risk and take the Chargers to cover.
JAX -16.5 sf
Out of Jacksonville’s nine victories this season, only two have been by more than seven points. That includes games against Cleveland, Arizona, Tennessee, Houston and the Jets. If the Jags can’t beat any of those teams by more than seven points, then how are they supposed to beat the 49ers by more than 16? I know San Francisco is bad. They’ve been blasted by 38 points or more three times this year. However, Jacksonville has only scored more than 26 points in a game twice this year. San Francisco should be good enough to keep this game within 16 points. Losing by 16 to Jacksonville is like losing by 40 to anyone else. I’ll take San Francisco to cover which is clear proof that I’m crazy. On a different note, the Jaguars are the benefactors of what could possibly be the easiest schedule in NFL history. If you go simply by opponent winning percentage, the Jags actually have the sixth most difficult schedule in the league. But, that includes the two games against the Colts which adds a 26-0 record to the equation. If the two games against the Colts are taken away, the Jags are actually the ninth worst team in the NFL and that doesn’t include the last three games against San Francisco, Houston, and Tennessee. The Jags were virtually handed a playoff spot when these schedules came out. Here is a list of the absurdity that is the Jags schedule; NY Jets, St. Louis, Houston (2), Tennessee (2), Arizona, Cleveland, and San Francisco. If Kansas City or San Diego had that schedule, they would’ve easily made the playoffs.
sea -7 TEN
The Seahawks still have something to play for despite being 11-2. Because of that, I think they’ll come to Tennessee and play hard. Shaun Alexander should be too much for Tennessee to handle. The Titans are just a bad team. They have very few good players. I feel for Jeff Fisher and Steve McNair because Tennessee used to be the place to be in the NFL. The Titans have fallen a long way in just a few years. After their meeting in the Super Bowl, it looked like the Titans and Rams would be the premier teams in the league for the next decade. Now, these teams are fighting it out for a good draft pick. Steve McNair might have something left in the tank for this game but I’m not betting on it. I’ll take Seattle to cover.
ari -1 HOU
I like picking games that involve Arizona against bad teams. For some reason, the odds makers don’t understand that Arizona is just bad enough to lose to every good team but they are just good enough to beat all the bad teams. The Cardinals have beaten San Francisco (2), Tennessee, and St. Louis. In their nine losses, the Cardinals have only lost to two bad teams; St. Louis and Detroit. An Arizona victory in this game is, by no means, a guarantee. The Cardinals aren’t a good team. Kurt Warner still makes gamblers shake in their boots when he’s on the road. Houston has exactly been playing badly either. The Texans have lost their last three games in which one went to overtime, another was a three point defeat and the last was a one point defeat. All three of those games were against garbage teams so Houston can compete against bad teams. However, I expect the Cardinals to win this game. Since the spread is only -1, I’ll go with Arizona.
MIA -8 nyj
I know the Jets are bad but is this line a typo? Miami by nine? Miami could definitely blow out the Jets but a spread this high is surprising. Most people have probably forgotten this but Miami beat Denver 34-10 in week one. That just goes to show that the first week of the season means nothing. Here are some other week one scores that may have given the wrong impression to NFL fans; New Orleans 23 Carolina 20, Jacksonville 26 Seattle 14, and Washington 9 Chicago 7. I remember watching the ‘Skins/Bears game and thinking they were easily two of the worst teams in the league. I guess the moral of the story is that week 1 means about as much as the pre-season. OK, back to the game. As a mentioned, this line seems a little high. However, I just looked at how the Jets have performed in road games this year and they’ve lost every game by at least ten points. As a result, I’m going to take an extreme leap of faith and go with Miami to win by ten.
car -9.5 NO
This line is going to give me nightmares on Saturday night. The Saints are terrible. They have no business staying within ten points of Carolina especially with Todd Bouman at quarterback. However, Carolina only has one road victory of more than four points on the season. That includes games against sub-par teams like Miami, Detroit, Arizona and Buffalo. My guess is that the Saints will throw from the first snap until the last snap. It’s tough to be a passing team by nine because they usually score meaningless touchdowns when they’re getting blown out. That leads me to believe that the Saints can stay within nine points. I’ll take the Saints to cover.
WAS -3 dal
Washington is just a solid football team. They’ve only lost one game all year by more than seven points. They’ve managed a 7-6 record against the fifth most difficult schedule in the NFL. I have to admit that they’ve surpassed any expectations that I had of them before the season. They won’t be making the playoffs but they are better than at least two of the teams that will make the playoffs out of the NFC. The Cowboys might not be better than the ‘Skins but they were blessed with a much easier schedule. If they can beat Washington this week, the Cowboys would likely finish 10-6 at the worst. That should be good enough to win the Wild Card. My guess is that Dallas keeps this game close and pulls out a close victory. That means Dallas covers the spread.
cin -7.5 DET
On paper, this game is a home game for Detroit. In reality, this game is a home game for Cincinnati. Lions fans are planning an “orange-out” in protest of the franchise’s consistent incompetence. I was actually comforted by the site of fans with brown paper bags on their heads. That makes me a little nostalgic. When I first started following the Lions (two years before Barry’s arrival), brown paper bags were staples at the Silverdome. The Bengals had an off week last week which does not bode well for the Lions. Also, the fact that the Lions are terrible does not bode well for them either. The Bengals should score 40 points against a weak Lions team. As a Lions fan, I definitely think I hate them. Cincy should win big and cover.
OAK -3 cle
This game could go either way but this is the kind of spread that a knowledgeable NFL fan can get an upper hand on. The Raiders and Browns are both bad teams but each team is going in a different direction. The Browns almost beat the Bengals on the road last week. They have at least some excitement on offense with the emergence of Charlie Frye. The Browns are a solid defensive team and generally play well against bad teams. The Raiders, on the other hand, are struggling mightily in all phases of the game. Marques Tuiasosopo looked terrible last week against a bad Jets team. The Browns are better than the Jets. It would be a bit of an upset, in my mind, if the Raiders beat Cleveland. So, I’ll take the Browns to cover.
STL -3.5 phi
I am 1-5 in the last six St. Louis games. As I normally do when I have such a bad streak for one team, I’m going to look for a trend. The Rams have lost four of their last five games by at least ten points. The only game they won in that span was an overtime victory over the worst team in the league (Texans) in which they were down by 21 points at one point. One of the losses was by ten points at home to Arizona. The trend that I’ve found is that the Rams are terrible no matter where they play and who they play against. That leads me to believe that the Eagles can keep this game close. Despite Philly’s slide, they’ve managed to stay competitive in most games. The Eagles should cover. I know I’m going to get this game wrong. I hate the Rams.
CHI -3.5 atl
The Bears are a lot like the Jags (and Vikings for that matter). They’ve managed to essentially clinch a playoff bid against a laughable schedule. There are only two teams in the league that have a worse strength of schedule than Chicago. Amazingly, those two teams are the Colts and Seahawks. They have a combined record of 24-2. Anyhow, the Bears are 2-3 against “good” teams. Michael Vick will not be at 100% but who is at this point in the season? The Bears have proven that they can stay in games against good teams but I would be surprised if they blew out the Falcons. Atlanta has one of the league’s best running games and a pretty good defense. Atlanta should cover.
BAL -3.5 gb
Neither of these teams have any reason to win this game. If Green Bay wins this game, they will be in the midst of an unproductive winning streak. I know NFL teams can’t tank the season because it isn’t in the best interest of the NFL. That would damage the integrity of the game and football would probably be taken as seriously as the WWE. However, coaches should do whatever they can to “help” the team attain the highest draft pick possible. By “help” I mean giving rookies a chance to show what they can do. Coaches would really be “hitting two birds with one stone”. But, I don’t think anyone ever really cares about the draft pick during the season. So, we’re left with two teams fighting hard for nothing. I feel bad for Brett Favre. It’s obvious that he has a lot left in the tank. His refusal to play for another team will end up making his exit from the NFL an uneventful one. If Baltimore loses this game, they will be right in the middle of the Vince Young-arms race. If Green Bay loses this game, they will be in the middle of the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. Either way, the team that loses this game will likely have a brighter future than the team that wins. There are two or three franchise-changing players in this draft. One of these teams might be lucky enough to get one. I’ll go with my tried and true pick of going with Brett Favre to at least keep the game close. Green Bay should cover over an offensively challenged Baltimore team.
Coin Flip’s picks