Saturday, December 31, 2011

Conlin's Week 17 NFL Picks

Well, it's that time of year again. The time that we reflect on the past year and make a bunch of lame resolutions to become a better person and turn over a new leaf. I don't particularly want to become a better person, because that would most likely involve me having to give up gambling, and that's a situation that I will never accept.

This year continued my trend of the last few years, where I started off the season exceptionally strong (through 5 weeks I was 42-33-2) before completely falling apart (Weeks 6-16 I went 68-89-8). In order to finish .500 or better this season, I need to go 14-2 this week. Can I do it? Of course not. But here are my Week 17 picks anyway, home teams in CAPS, as always.

Washington (+8) over PHILADELPHIA

We have an 8-point spread with nothing at stake. Either Dallas or New York will end up with 9 wins, so the Eagles are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Washington, on the other hand, hasn't had anything to play for in a month. If we're removing any incentive for either of these teams to care, why should I believe that the Eagles will cover an 8-point spread? I'll take the points.

San Francisco (-10.5) over ST. LOUIS

This is a no-brainer. If San Francisco wins, they lock up the #2 seed. If St. Louis loses, they have an outside shot at the #1 pick (should Indianapolis beat Jacksonville). We have one team with a clear incentive to win, and the other with a clear incentive to lose. This is the kind of game that I'm willing to lay double-digits on in Week 17.

MINNESOTA (-1.5) over Chicago

What happens when a stoppable force (Chicago's passing game with Caleb Hanie and/or Josh McCown) meets a breakable object (Minnesota's secondary)? We're going to find out in this game. I'm going with Minnesota here because I have a minimal amount of faith in Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, and Percy Harvin's collective ability to score points against a decent defense, while I have no faith in Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Marion Barber, and Roy Williams' collective ability to score points against any defense.

GREEN BAY (+4) over Detroit

Wouldn't Detroit failing to beat Green Bay's second string be the ultimate Detroit Lions act of the season? When you really look at it, Detroit's only impressive wins this season were home against Chicago and on the road in Dallas, and they only won that game because they had two pick-sixes where the return man broke at least three tackles on his way to the end zone. Their other wins: Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota, Denver, Carolina, Minnesota, Oakland, and San Diego. Are any of those wins really jumping off the page for anyone? Because they aren't for me. They've been a completely schizophrenic team all season, and the only logical conclusion to their season would be losing to Green Bay's backups.

NEW ORLEANS (-8) over Carolina

It's gotten to the point where I'm just going to take New Orleans at home regardless of who they're playing or the spread. Their last three home games, they've won by 25 over the Giants, 14 over the Lions, and 29 over Atlanta. Oh, by the way, at least two (and possibly all three) of those teams will be in the playoffs next week. Cam Newton has been spectacular, but Carolina won't be able to get enough stops to keep the game close.

Tennessee (-2) over HOUSTON

Tennessee has to win to get into the playoffs (although they'll need New York and Cincinnati to lose, also). Houston is locked into the #3 seed regardless of what happens with any other game. So we have one team with everything to play for and one team with nothing to play for. Easy decision.

Indianapolis (+3.5) over JACKSONVILLE

My New Year's resolution is to punch anyone in the face if they ask someone to put this game on one of the TVs at the bar that I will be at. For the purposes of national morale, this game should be blacked out in every market. 

MIAMI (-3) over New York Jets

Miami is 8-1 against the spread in their last 9 games. The Jets are 2-5 against the spread in their last 7 games. The Jets have something to play for (a potential playoff birth), but the fact that Miami is actually just plain better than the Jets, both against the spread and statistically, is swinging my decision for me.

NEW ENGLAND (-10) over Buffalo

The Patriots still need a win to lock up the #1 seed, so Brady will suit up for sure. However, I worry that Bellichick will take the same approach that he did against the Colts and Redskins, where he knew the game was likely in the bag just because of the fact that they showed up, so he went mostly vanilla in the second half, not wanting to dip into his bag of tricks unless he needed to (four complete thoughts in one sentence - get some). I like this Buffalo team, and it does feel bad that they had such a promising start to the season before falling apart, but I think they're too banged up to keep up with the Pats.

ATLANTA (-10.5) over Tampa Bay

I've said multiple times that I would keep picking against Tampa Bay until they gave me a reason not to. In the last 9 weeks, I haven't seen one.

CINCINNATI (+2) over Baltimore

So far on the road this season, Baltimore has lost to Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle, and San Diego, while beating St. Louis, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. If we ignore the Pittsburgh game (because it seems that Baltimore spent their offseason worrying about matching up with Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh alone), Baltimore has been a pretty embarrassing road team.

Both teams have something to play for, with Cincinnati needing a win to make the playoffs, and Baltimore needing a win to lock up the AFC North and a #2 seed. However, Baltimore sucks on the road. So there.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) over CLEVELAND

They managed to beat St. Louis by 27 starting Charlie Batch at quarterback. I think they can beat Cleveland by a touchdown, especially given that they can still grab the #2 seed with a win and a Baltimore loss.

San Diego (+3) over OAKLAND

Somehow, Denver holds a tiebreak over San Diego that would cause Denver to win the division if all three teams finish 8-8. So this means San Diego has nothing to play for. However, Norv Turner is probably too stupid to have realized this yet, so expect San Diego to come out swinging. 

DENVER (-3) over Kansas City


Seattle (+3) over ARIZONA

Neither team has anything to play for. I'll take the points.

Dallas (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS

I've thought all season that Dallas was better, and hopefully they'll prove me right for once. They're 4-5 in games decided by less than a touchdown, New York is 5-1. Statistically speaking, this means that New York has been luckier than Dallas, and New York's record in close games will likely regress towards the mean. Dallas is also just 5-9-1 against the spread this season, which should also regress (or, in this case, progress) towards the mean. The two teams are just about dead even in total DVOA (+6.4% for New York, +6.2% for Dallas), but Dallas is better in weighted DVOA (+5.8% to +2.7%), and Dallas has a better SRS (2.3 for Dallas, 0.9 for New York). Add all of that up and I'm taking Dallas.

Three Team Tease of The Week:

New England (to PK), San Francisco (to -0.5),  Pittsburgh (to +3.5)

Last Week: 5-10-1
Season: 110-122-10
Teases: 10-6

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