Friday, November 1, 2013

NFL Week 9 Primer - Another Poor Slate

The Packers and Bears square off in the "best" game this week. But how good is it, really?
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

There's something about this season that is leading to a jarring lack of marquee matchups. The best game last week featured 4-3 Detroit and 4-3 Dallas. The only other matchup between two winning teams last week was a 40-point Cincinnati blowout over the Jets. Week 7 saw a miserable slate outside of the Sunday Night game between Indianapolis and Denver.

This is purely by chance. The NFL schedule is 100% pre-set, effectively years in advance. Each division plays within their division twice and against a rotation of one division from each conference (for example, the NFC North plays the AFC North and NFC East this year). These rotations are established years in advance - plus two additional games against the teams from their conference that finished in the same standing in their respective division (for example, last year's NFC North runner-up, Minnesota, in addition to playing the entire NFC East, plays Carolina, 2nd in the NFC South last year, and Seattle, 2nd in the NFC West).

In other words, it's not like the poor schedule is set up by the league trying to create interesting matchups. The rotation is established and known years in advance - we already know that in 2019, the AFC East will play the NFC East and AFC South. So it's purely bad luck that we've had a number of weeks in a row with a disappointing slate.

The reason for this is pretty straight forward - the league has fewer elite teams this year. 10 of the 16 teams in the AFC enter Week 9 with a losing record, and two of the teams with winning records (New England and San Diego) have SRS scores under 2.0.

Compounding the problem is that so many of last year's division champions are having disappointing seasons. Washington, Atlanta, Houston, and Baltimore have each taken significant steps back this season. That leads to matchups that would normally be highly anticipated that instead feature teams with losing records.

All in all, we end up with a slate of games that feature none that deserve the "Game of The Week" recognition we normally hand out like candy. There is only one game this week that features two teams win winning records - Monday Night's Chicago-Green Bay game - but because of Chicago's injuries, it's the 2nd-highest line of the week.

So no Game(s) of The Week this week. Just the picks. 

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams in CAPS)

Cincinnati (-3) over MIAMI


CAROLINA (-8) over Atlanta

JC: We mentioned this earlier in the week, but Carolina has the 4th-best average scoring margin in the league. A lot of their blowout wins have come against crappy teams, but Atlanta is pretty crappy - their only wins this season are home over the Rams and Bucs, and both were one-possession games. Carolina should win easily.

JP: I must remind everyone that I had the Falcons winning the f*****g Super Bowl, and now I'm picking against them when they're GETTING a touchdown against Carolina. Ugh.

DALLAS (-10.5) over Minnesota

JC: Joe's been going with Romo recently, and it's been working. I'll jump on board.


Tennessee (-3) over ST. LOUIS

JC: Barf.

JP: Yeah...

Kansas City (-3.5) over BUFFALO

JC: The Thaddeus Lewis gravy train seems to be coming to an end. Buffalo has been held under 300 yards of total offense in each of their last two games, and neither of them were against the league's best defense. It seems like the Chiefs only need to score twice to cover this spread.

JP: There was a Thaddeus Lewis gravy train?

WASHINGTON (+1.5) over San Diego

JC: Obligatory NFC East coinflip. There's no use trying to rationally predict these games. Just flip a coin.

JP: Well, Washington's at home and getting points, so that's my rationale.

Philadelphia (+3) over OAKLAND

JC: Ditto. With Nick Foles, Mega Ditto

JP: Oakland is playing better lately, but I'm still not willing to bet on them and give points.

Indianapolis (-3) over HOUSTON

JC: Even I can't buy the "sucker bet" angle like I did for the Monday Night game against San Diego. The Texans are hellaciously bad.

JP: But hey, Case Keenum has been an upgrade at QB...

GREEN BAY (-11) over Chicago

JC: The Cutler injury is the one getting publicity, but it's the Lance Briggs/Peanut Tillman injuries that are the real killers. The Bears' defense is thin already, and they'll be even worse without two of their three best starters. If James Jones is back for the Packers, it may be even more of a blowout.

JP: And they already lost Melton down on the D-Line. The Bears defense started the season well, but it looks like injuries are going to sink that promising unit, and they don't have the firepower to keep up with good offenses without Cutler in the lineup.

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams Still in CAPS)

JC: NEW YORK JETS (+6.5) over New Orleans

The every-other-week seems to really be a thing with the Jets. So if they lose by 40 last week, close game this week?

JP: New Orleans (-6.5) over NEW YORK JETS

The Jets are one of many teams I don't know what to make of, but I do believe the Saints are pretty good. So, I'll go with the (supposedly) known commodity of the two.

JC: Pittsburgh (+7) over NEW ENGLAND

I hate this Patriots team. They have no business being 6-2. And I kinda like this Pittsburgh team. Their defense has looked good the last three weeks (a 93-yard rush notwithstanding).

JP: NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Pittsbrugh

I love the fan goggles we're each viewing this game through. I hate this Steelers team. They can't protect Roethlisberger, and they're down to practice squad guys and hastily signed free agent on the O-Line, plus the defense is good, not great. New England, meanwhile, is fighting through some injuries on defense and finding ways to win games. With Gronk getting healthy and the game in New England, it'll be tough for Pittsburgh to stay within 10 by the end of it.

JC: CLEVELAND (+3) over Baltimore

This Baltimore offense is giving points on the road against this Cleveland defense? I don't think so.

JP: Baltimore (-3) over CLEVELAND

Come on, this is still Baltimore vs. Cleveland.

JC: SEATTLE (-16) over Tampa Bay

The Bucs are 1-6 against the spread and are still only getting two touchdowns on the road against the best defense in the league. Vegas being afraid to throw out crazy spreads after Denver failed to cover three straight weeks (Dallas, Jacksonville, Indianapolis) will bite them in the ass here. This line should be at least three points higher.

JP: Tampa Bay (+16) over SEATTLE

Wait, am I really taking Tampa Bay for the first time this year, and doing it in a week they're playing AT Seattle? Yep. Did you see the Seahawks against the Kellen Clemons-led Rams? They were terrible. I think they'll win here, but I'm not willing to bet they'll do it by more than two touchdowns.

Jeremy's Three Team Tease of The Week:

Green Bay (to -1), New Orleans (to +3.5), Carolina (to +2)

Jeremy's Record:
This Week: 0-1
Last Week: 5-8
Season: 53-63-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-3
Season's Disagreements: 18-16-1
Teases: 5-3

Joe's Record:
This Week: 0-1
Last Week: 6-7
Season: 51-65-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-2
Season's Disagreements: 16-18-1

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