Thursday, October 30, 2014

NFL Week 9 Primer (With Picks): The More Things Change…

This was the least-flattering picture we could find of Tom Brady. Damn you beautiful man!
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We all know the NFL is a league of parity, where a team can rise from the bottom to the middle, from the middle to the top and, occasionally, from the bottom to the top in the span of a single season.

Just look at this week's Cowboys-Cardinals game in Dallas. Even after the 'Boys fell to Washington on Monday Night, this is the unquestioned game of the week, as the No. 1 spot in the NFC will be up for grabs. Who saw that coming?

But, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This week will also bring another installment in the historic Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning rivalry, with the winner putting his team in the driver's seat for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. We'll also get a prime time game in Pittsburgh featuring the Steelers and Ravens duking it out for AFC North dominance.

Let's take a look at those games, plus our underdog update and weekly picks, below.


Underdog Update:
Last Week: 7-7 (GB at NO was a PK)
Season: 59-59-2
Home Dogs, Last Week: 3-3
Home Dogs, Season: 15-19-1

Game(s) of the Week

Arizona at Dallas (1 pm Sunday, FOX)

The Cardinals and Cowboys are the two surprises of the NFC, and this game will have plenty of intrigue thanks to the questionable status of star Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.

If he can't go, we'll get to see just how good and endured DeMarco Murray is. The sensational running back has carried a massive workload for the 'Boys this year, and delivered at every turn, but will he be able to continue yet facing loaded boxes because Brandon Weeden is starting at quarterback? Dallas fans probably don't want to know the answer.

Denver at New England (4:25 pm Sunday, CBS)

Ah yes, Manning-Brady, or is it Brady-Manning? Whatever your alliance, this is, in my humble opinion, the greatest quarterback rivalry of all time, and this year's chapter looks to be another good one. The Broncos come in with the look of a juggernaut, but more than a few fantastic Manning teams have failed to Brady and coach Bill Belichick in the past.

San Diego at Miami (1 pm Sunday, CBS)

Then, how about them Dolphins? The improved play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a little buzz going in South Florida, and the Miami defense (ranked No. 3 in the league against the pass) is salty enough to give Phillip Rivers problems.

The winner of this one will be in great shape for a Wild Card berth, something I never would have believed before the season started.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (8:30 pm Sunday, NBC)

Finally, we have this surprisingly relevant battle in the AFC North. After Ben Roethlisberger pressed pause and set the Colts defense to "rookie mode" last week, and the Ravens lost a tight one in Cincy, these two meet in a prime time game at Heinz Field for the potential top spot in the division.

Just when you think the league is changing, we get another Brady-Manning and Steelers-Ravens kind of weekend. What is this, 2008?

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

New Orleans (-3) over CAROLINA

Wow did the Saints look good last week. They're away from home and playing on Thursday Night, but if New Orleans is about to make a playoff push, they'll move up and down the field against a vulnerable Carolina defense.

JC: Did New Orleans finally wake up? I say yes. 

CLEVELAND (-7) over Tampa Bay

The Browns came through with a convincing win over a bad team (OAK) last week, so I'll keep riding them until their next inevitable implosion.

JC: I think it might be time to start taking Cleveland seriously. That being said, now that I say it, they'll probably lose by 10. 

Arizona (+3) over DALLAS

No idea what Dallas will look like, so I'll take the points and the surprisingly reliable Cardinals.

JC: Both teams have been great, but both teams probably aren't as good as their records would indicate. I'll take the points. 

San Diego (+1) over MIAMI

I'm not really sure which of these teams is for real. The Chargers have lost two in a row, and before that beat up on the Jets, Jags and Bills. To be fair, they also beat Seattle in that stretch, but the recent downturn of the Seahawks has taken a little luster off that win.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins also have a signature win, week one over New England, but their other wins come over the imploding Bears, the Jags and the Raiders. Since I think these teams are pretty equal, I don't believe Miami's home field counts for much and I believe the Chargers need this game, I'll take the San Diego and the point.

JC: It's one of those west coast teams going East, which always seems to lead to funky results, but after dropping the ball two weeks in a row, San Diego will come out firing. They'll also be helped by playing on Thursday last week, giving them an extra three days of preparation. 

Washington (PK) over MINNESOTA

Washington is coming off a win on MNF over Dallas, while Minnesota is coming off a flukey win over Tampa Bay that may or may not have actually happened. Seriously, do you know of anyone that actually watched that game as it was happening? Since the Vikings' win may have occurred in The Matrix, I'll go with Washington.


PITTSBURGH (PK) over Baltimore

It should tell you something that Pittsburgh isn't favored at home in this one, but it's also telling that the Ravens aren't favored after a 20-point whooping of the Steelers earlier this year. Both of these teams are meeting at average after the Ravens started at great and regressed and the Steelers started at awful and improved.

With Pittsburgh's offense trending up and its defense getting healthy, I'll go with the Steelers to split the season series with the Ravens.

JC: In a pick'em, I'll just take the home team that's picked up two impressive wins in their last two home games. 

Indianapolis (-3.5) over NY GIANTS

Indy's defense looked impenetrable against Cincinnati and like Swiss Cheese against Pittsburgh. I think the Colts will be somewhere in between this week, but against a turnover prone Eli Manning, that should be good enough.

JC: Until the Giants show me they can actually be consistent, I can't take them against good teams. 

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

JP: Philadelphia (-2.5) over HOUSTON

Philly is above .500, and that doesn't bode well for Houston. The Texans are 3-1 against teams with losing records (Wins vs WAS, OAK & TEN, loss to NYG), but 1-3 vs teams with winning records (Win vs BUF, losses to DAL, IND, & PIT).

Since that win over Buffalo came when E.J. Manuel was still starting for the Bills, I'm inclined to forget about it as well and just say Houston can't beat average to above-average teams. Philly is a good team.

JC: HOUSTON (+2.5) over Philadelphia

Philly's running game couldn't hold up against Arizona's front seven, and the Eagle's offensive line hasn't exactly put the league on alert. I think Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and a healthy Jadeveon Clowney should be able to disrupt Philly's timing just enough to keep to close.

JP: KANSAS CITY (-10) over New York Jets

The Jets turned to Michael Vick last week, and he wasn't much better than Geno Smith. At this point, it looks like Vick just doesn't even care, he's just collecting checks, so I'll call for another blowout loss.

JC: New York Jets (+10) over KANSAS CITY

The Chiefs keep winning against the spread, the Jets keep losing, and their respective spreads keep getting bigger and bigger. Eventually they're going to get too outrageous, and the Chiefs giving 10 points against a team that has played competitively with Green Bay, Denver, and New England is too much.

JP: Jacksonville (+11.5) over CINCINNATI

The Jags can be a bit feistier than they showed last week, and Cincy is due for a bit of a hangover after beating the Ravens. They'll still win, but Jacksonville keeps it within 10.

JC: CINCINNATI (-11.5) over Jacksonville

If A.J. Green is back, then Cincinnati should receive Dominant Status. There's a reason they opened the season as the league's best team.  

JP: St. Louis (+10) over SAN FRANCISCO

So, the Rams scrap out a win against Seattle, then jump out to a 7-0 lead after one quarter against KC, then everything falls apart. In Austin Davis I trust, though, and I think the Rams can keep this thing within a score. Maybe…

JC: SAN FRANCISCO (-10) over St. Louis

I like St. Louis at home. I do not like them on the road. I do not like them, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham.  

JP: Denver (-3.5) over NEW ENGLAND

Nobody has stayed within two touchdowns of the Broncos during their four-game winning streak. I know it's Brady-Manning and the game is being played in Foxboro, but Denver's just better right now. Still, Manning going against Brady and Belichick always makes me nervous…

JC: NEW ENGLAND (+3.5) over Denver

If you're giving me that half-point with the Patriots at home, I'm gonna take it.  

JP:SEATTLE (-15) over OaklandThis line is crazy, but the Seahawks need to cover it to keep their season afloat. I may go down with the ship saying this, but Seattle absolutely HAS to cover this week.

JC: Oakland (+15) over SEATTLE

Seattle hasn't won a game by 15 points since Week 1, and they clearly haven't been the same team since. This is too high.  

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 8-7
Season: 60-59-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2
Season's Disagreements: 16-18

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 8-7
Season: 62-57-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2
Season's Disagreements: 18-16

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