Friday, December 20, 2013

NFL Week 16 Primer - .500 In Striking Range

Much like T-Sizzle and the Ravens, we've been on fire lately, and have a chance to finish the year strong.
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Somehow, inexplicably, we enter Week 16 with a legitimate chance to finish the year at .500 (or better!). There are 32 games left to be played, and I currently sit 11 games under .500, Joe just three (!!!). So if Joe goes 18-14 or better (very possible), he'll get into the black. I need to go 22-10 over the next two weeks (snowball's chance in hell).

Just as surprising has been Joe's roaring comeback to take the lead in our head-to-head standings. Following Week 5, I held a two-game lead in our disagreements and held that lead for nearly two months before Joe started cleaning up - a 3-0 record in Week 12, followed by a 3-1-1 showing in Week 13 and a 2-0 sweep in Week 14. Now Joe has the upper hand and a four-game lead in disagreements (and thus, overall records).

Joe could play coy and just agree with all of my picks (as I always submit my picks first) to ensure that he wins the competition between us. But I know that his competitive nature and his deep-seeded desire to break .500 for the season will keep him honest (note: I'm writing this paragraph before I know what Joe's picks are - if he double-crosses me and agrees with everything I'm going to fire him).

So Joe is chasing .500; I'm chasing the head-to-head crown. Two men enter. One man leaves [with his dignity].

Game(s) of The Week:

New Orleans @ Carolina (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

This game is effectively (but not quite) the NFC South Championship Game. Technically speaking, the loser of this game can still win the division if the winner loses in Week 17 (and the loser wins in Week 17), but considering Carolina plays Atlanta and New Orleans plays Tampa Bay, I don't think either scenario is likely. The winner here gets a huge leg up for the No. 2 seed. 

Indianapolis @ Kansas City (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

Well, Kansas City has certainly bounced back from their three straight losses - they've won their last two games by a combined sixty points. Indianapolis, meanwhile, has alternated wins and losses like they're the Jets for the last seven weeks. We'll have more on this later. A sudden burst of playoff implications is afoot, however - if Indianapolis wins out, New England drops a game (on the road against Baltimore?), and Cincinnati drops a game (home against Baltimore Week 17?), the Colts suddenly vault into the No. 2 seed. AND (hold onto your hats) - if both Denver and Kansas City lose out on top of that, the Colts would have the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. But don't hold your breath on that.

New England @ Baltimore (4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

New England needs a win to keep their hopes for a first-round bye alive. They lose tiebreakers to both Indianapolis (conference record) and Cincinnati (head-to-head) should they all finish 11-5. Meanwhile, Baltimore probably needs to win out to make the playoffs, as Miami is likely to finish 10-6 with games against Buffalo and New York to end the season. In fact, Baltimore winning out would give them the AFC North title and the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Pittsburgh @ Green Bay (4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

Pittsburgh's playoff hopes were dashed last week when Miami beat New England and got to eight wins. An 8-8 Miami beats an 8-8 Pittsburgh (thanks to a head-to-head win), so Pittsburgh is out. But Green Bay is still alive. The Packers winning out means an NFC North title.

Chicago @ Philadelphia (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

This seems like a much more interesting game until you realize it doesn't totally matter for either team. Even if Philadelphia loses, they can still win the NFC East title by beating Dallas in Week 17. And a Chicago loss still leaves the door open for an NFC North title, so long as they beat Green Bay in Week 17 and Detroit stumbles against either the Giants or Minnesota. In all likelihood, both of these teams will face do-or-die games for their division titles next week, regardless of the outcome of this game.

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

GREEN BAY (+/- ?) vs. Pittsburgh

Might as well start here: At the time of this writing (Thursday night/Friday morning), it's near-impossible to find a posted spread for this game (and actually impossible to find one from any reputable source or sportsbook) due to uncertainty with Aaron Rodgers (what else is new?). All we know is that Rodgers has not been cleared, BUT Rodgers apparently knows whether or not he'll play Sunday, but isn't sharing (at least until Friday afternoon). So once the line is released, Joe and/or I will share our picks via Twitter and drop them in afterwards.

Miami (-3) over BUFFALO

JC: After beating New England, Miami can smell the playoffs (and a division title is still in play if New England somehow loses out). Meanwhile, the only time the Bills have looked like a professional football team over the last two months is when they were playing the Jets or Jaguars. Not a strong showing.

JP: Also, you can lose the whole "but Miami can't play in the cold" thing, because the Dolphins beat a desperate Steelers team in a Pittsburgh blizzard a couple weeks ago. Further more, they did it because of Ryan Tannehill, who is quietly putting together a really nice sophomore campaign.

CAROLINA (-3.5) over New Orleans

JC: That half-point is scaring the everliving [expletive deleted] out of me. But the Saints on the road have been so bad that I can talk myself into this.

JP: You had me at "Saints on the road." It really is incredible how much worse they are away from home, and Carolina desperately wants to seize the opportunity New Orleans' loss last week has afforded them.

Dallas (-3) over WASHINGTON 

JC: Vegas realizes that Washington has lost six straight games and benched their starting quarterback, right? Besides, we're destined to have the Cowboys play for a division crown three years in a row against three different opponents. It's going to happen. You can't stop this train now.

JP: Oh no!! My two mantras of "bet against the Redskins every week" and "bet against Romo in December" have just met in an intersection of total suckitude. Ok, I'll go with the team fighting for its playoff life and, for the (probably) last time this year, ROMO!!!

Cleveland (+2) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: If I watch a single down of this game it will be too many.

JP: Cleveland has Josh Gordon and a pretty good defense. The Jets have... Arguably the best professional quarterback in New York?

KANSAS CITY (-7) over Indianapolis

JC: As mentioned above, Indianapolis is one of the least consistent teams in football. They started 5-2 with three of the most impressive wins all season (at San Francisco, vs. Seattle, vs. Denver), but have gone 4-3 since with all three losses being blowouts and the wins coming against Houston (twice) and Tennessee (twice). Not exactly confidence-inspiring. After watching Kansas City lay the smackdown over the last two weeks (101 points in two games!!), I'll roll with the Chiefs.

JP: This is maybe the first line all year where I've felt the Chiefs were properly valued. They're one of the five best teams in the league, and it's time to start treating them like it. Indianapolis, meanwhile, has played like a Top-5 team at times, but like a Bottom-10 team at others. Which Colts team will show up? Beats me, but I have a pretty good feeling about which Chiefs team will.

Minnesota (+8) over CINCINNATI

JC: We already have a pretty good hunch that Philly-Dallas and Chicago-Green Bay will decide their division titles next week. Let's add to that. If Cincinnati loses here (remember, Minnesota has beaten Philly and Chicago in the last three weeks and came as close to winning without actually winning against Baltimore), Cincinnati-Baltimore becomes the de-facto AFC North Championship Game. Make it happen, Vikings.

JP: I do think the Bengals will pull this game out and avoid that scenario, but my God did they look awful in Pittsburgh Sunday night, and against a team with virtually nothing to play for. Their defense has lost seemingly all its bite, and they've gotten away from getting the ball in dynamic rookie running back Giovani Bernard's hands. The Vikings, even if Adrian Peterson doesn't go, are still good enough to keep it close, and I'm not willing to put eight points worth of my faith in Andy Dalton's hands right now.

Denver (-10.5) over HOUSTON

JC: Peyton is Peyton. Houston loses 13 in a row.

JP: Could they close the year on a 14-game losing streak? Given the fact that they were considered a potential Super Bowl contender coming into the year, would that make them the most disappointing team in NFL history? 

JACKSONVILLE (+4.5) over Tennessee

JC: Spoiler alert - Tennessee isn't good. They started 3-1 and they're 2-8 since. Meanwhile, Jacksonville started 0-8 and they're 4-2 since. I don't quite get why the Jags are getting more than a field goal, especially at home.

JP: And they're at home. Jags are surprisingly hot, and injuries started mounting for Tennessee almost two months ago. They haven't been the same team since.

New York Giants (+9) over DETROIT

JC: Of course the Lions are going to blow the division title. What else is supposed to happen?

JP: Another one of those games where I trust a crumbling, feline-named team to win, but not to cover a large spread.

Oakland (+10) over SAN DIEGO

JC: Okay, let's pump the breaks on the Chargers. Yes, they have wins over Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Denver. They also have losses to Houston, Tennessee, these Oakland Raiders, and Washington. They shouldn't be double-digit favorites here.

JP: I would add that if Miami or Baltimore wins earlier in the day, this game becomes meaningless for the Chargers. Tough to lay 10 points when the team you're betting on may not even care.

New England (+2) over BALTIMORE

JC: Nope. Not talking about this.

JP: I have no idea in this one. Both teams need a win, and both always seem to pull things out when they need a win the most. I'll take the points, because I have a sneaking suspicion the Ravens will win every game from here on out by one.

PHILADELPHIA (-3) over Chicago

JC: Chicago's run defense is impossibly bad. They've already allowed 2134 yards rushing on 5.2 yards per attempt (both worst in the league, by far). Meanwhile, the Eagles have gained 2140 yards on the ground on 5.0 yards per carry (both best in the league). If the shoe fits...

JP: This one has shootout written all over it. As you mentioned, Chicago has the worst run defense in the league, opening things up for Philly's potent ground game. But, on the other side, the Eagles are 31st in the league in pass defense and need to contend with Chicago's Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. In the shootout, I'll take the team that can run the ball better, is playing at home and has, surprisingly, been far more efficient at the quarterback position. FOLES!!!

SAN FRANCISCO (-13) over Atlanta

JC: The only thing I'm looking forward to in this game is Jon Gruden. Nothing else.

JP: He will point out that San Francisco has a lot of football players, which they do.

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

JC: Tampa Bay (+4.5) over ST. LOUIS

The battle of the semi-friskys! The Bucs are 4-2 in the last six weeks and their only losses were to Carolina and San Francisco (very respectable). Going back another week they played Seattle very tough (forced overtime) IN Seattle. Meanwhile, in the last five weeks, St. Louis has three blowout wins over good teams (Indianapolis, Chicago, and New Orleans), and have only lost at San Francisco and at Arizona (also very respectable). This seems like it should be a simple "Rams -3" so I'll take the extra point and a half.

JP: ST. LOUIS (-4.5) over Tampa Bay

You said it right, both of these teams have been surprisingly good the last month plus, and each has a formidable defensive front that can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Given that fact, the way that St. Louis has been running the ball and Tampa Bay's road struggles (Yeah, they played Seattle tough, but they're still 1-5 away), I'll lay the 4.5 and take the Rams.

JC: SEATTLE (-10.5) over Arizona

It says a lot about a team when they're double-digit favorites over a team that's 9-5 and have won six of their last seven. But Carson Palmer is prominently involved against Seattle's defense. I just wouldn't respect myself.

JP: Arizona (+10.5) over SEATTLE

I've been the king of the backdoor cover lately (Purdue +21 over Indiana Thanksgiving weekend, Seattle +2.5 over San Fran two weeks back and the Jets +11.5 over Carolina last week), so I'm gonna keep riding that train.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 7-8-1
Season: 102-113-11
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2-1
Season's Disagreements: 27-31-4

Bonus Picks: 6-5

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-8-1
Season: 106-109-11

Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2-1
Season's Disagreements: 31-27-4

Bonus Picks: 7-4

1 comment :

keven john said...

As the NFL season charged into Week 16, teams across the league were jockeying for playoff position, with the coveted .500 mark within striking range for several. The air was thick with anticipation, and fans eagerly awaited the gridiron battles that would unfold over the weekend.If any are interested to buy Essay Writing Service In Uk at cheap rate,feel free to contact with our team.