Friday, November 11, 2016

NFL Week 10 Primer (With Picks): The Muddled Middle

New England will host Seattle in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX this Sunday. Don't worry Seahawks fans, I'm sure you'll only have to watch 22,000 replays of this play.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Week 9 marked the unofficial middle of the season, and now all 32 teams have played at least half of their schedule. And so far, we haven't really established much other than that the AFC East is once again Patriots vs. Also-Rans and there's a whole lot of riff-raff that follow the top teams in each conference.

Seriously - look at every division besides the AFC East (and maybe the NFC East). Would you bet your life on any team to win any of those divisions? The AFC North has three teams within a half-game of each other. The AFC South has three teams separated by a game and a half. The NFC North has three teams separated by a single game, and the NFC South has four teams within striking distance of first place. The AFC West has three teams within a game of each other, and all three could conceivably be the second-best team in the conference.

Even the NFC West becomes interesting when you consider Seattle (a) only has the sixth-best scoring margin in the conference and (b) has a second-half schedule that includes New England, Philadelphia, Carolina, Green Bay, Los Angeles (who they already lost to once) and Arizona (who they tied). That division could become very interesting very quickly.

The next few weeks will be interesting, as any team that can put separation between themselves and the rest of the division could be the difference between a first-round bye and a first-round road game as a Wild Card team.

Games of The Week

Kansas City at Carolina (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

The Chiefs have looked okay in previous weeks, even without Alex Smith, but Carolina might be surging, coming off two straight wins. Their early-season foibles might have been overstated - they lost three games by a field goal or less, the other two came at the hands of Minnesota and Atlanta (good teams by any account), and the last came with Derek Anderson at quarterback. There's a chance they're actually good and just a sleeping giant, right?

Atlanta at Philadelphia (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Two birds squaring off in a matchup of NFC teams that have pleasantly surprised and exceeded expectations (so far). It becomes slightly more interesting when you consider that Philadelphia is 3-0 at home (just 3-4 on the road), but Atlanta has been the NFC's best road team so far at 4-1.

Minnesota at Washington (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

A sneaky under-the-radar good game that could end up having some playoff tiebreaker implications come December. Washington's offense has been pretty good of late, while Minnesota has been stumbling.

Dallas at Pittsburgh (4:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Can Pittsburgh bounce back in Roethlisberger's second week back? The AFC North is suddenly wide-open, and the Steelers don't want to lose pace with Baltimore.

Seattle at New England (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

Any time the Sunday night game is a recent Super Bowl rematch, it qualifies as a Game of The Week. It's one of the few rules we have here.

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

Cleveland (+7.5) over BALTIMORE

JC: At some point, Cleveland is going to play a competitive game. In fact, they already have. When they aren't playing teams like Dallas and New England, they usually keep the game respectably close. They already played Baltimore close once this year, so I think anything more than a touchdown is a sliver too high.

JP: Hahahahahaha, this went well... The Browns, like the American electorate, never cease to disappoint me.

JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) over Houston

JC: I'm about done trying to make sense of the AFC South. I might as well flip a coin on all of these for the rest of the year. I continue to think that Houston sucks, so I'm not going to lay any points with them on the road (also considering they're 0-3 on the road and have looked abjectly terrible in all three games).

JP: The Texans are frauds so we should take the (small amount of) points... Right?

CAROLINA (-3) over Kansas City

JC: Sure, I'm buying into the Carolina Comeback. Alex Smith is expected to play but I think the Panthers might have some of their groove back. Let's roll the dice.

JP: They just might. I like Carolina's ceiling at home, though the Chiefs are the more consistent team.

NEW ORLEANS (-2.5) over Denver

JC: The Saints have been a little frisky lately, especially at home. With Denver having a banged-up defense and a sputtering offense, I'm willing to lay less than a field goal with a team that's won three of their last four, including a win over Seattle.

JP: Yeah, I was kind of hoping Denver would be favored in this one, but I guess Vegas is smarter than I am. Either way, I'll take the Saints, who are just playing better than Denver right now.

Atlanta (-1) over PHILADELPHIA

JC: I think the gravy train has run out for the Eagles. They were looking good for as long as Carson Wentz wasn't turning the ball over, but at this point he kind of just looks like a rookie quarterback that makes mistakes as often as you'd expect a rookie quarterback to. The Falcons have been lighting up the scoreboard, and while their defense hasn't been great, I don't think Philadelphia is going to be the team to expose them.

JP: I've been betting on the Eagles every week, and they keep disappointing me. Of course, that means this will be the week they put it all together again...

WASHINGTON (-3) over Minnesota

JC: I'll continue to fade Minnesota up until the point they show us they actually have an NFL-caliber offense. I haven't seen it all season, if we're being totally honest (there's a reason they're 32nd in total yards).

JP: Minnesota is another team I can't get a feel for. When they actually pick up a few first downs, they're a tough team, but man can they go cold. I guess I'll take Washington at home, because Kirk Cousins played way better at home last year, and I'm too lazy to look up if that's held true this year.

Green Bay (-2.5) over TENNESSEE

JC: The Titans still have a pretty bad secondary, and while Green Bay's passing offense has been unimpressive the last few weeks, I think they'll be able to get open against a pass defense that has played poorly against even Cleveland and Jacksonville over the last month.

JP: I was all ready to pick the Titans, and then Vegas had to make this line less than a field goal. Damn, those guys out there are good.

TAMPA BAY (+1.5) over Chicago

JC: With Jameis Winston's injury, it's tough to find an up-to-date line, but we'll go with this one for now. Winston is expected to play, so I'll take the Bucs getting points at home against Chicago.

JP: The Bears are not so good at the footballs, but they have burned me before...

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: NEW YORK JETS (-2) over Los Angeles


JP: Los Angeles (+2) over NEW YORK JETS


JC: SAN DIEGO (-4) over Miami

I'm riding the San Diego bandwagon. Miami seems vaguely on the right track, but all three wins were at home, and San Diego actually has a good run defense, so I'm not sure the Jay Ajayi engine can churn out another 200 yards. I keep saying this, but the Chargers might actually be good. They just might get shafted by a stacked AFC West.

JP: Miami (+4) over SAN DIEGO

Phins up!

JC: ARIZONA (-13.5) over San Francisco

This is the game that Arizona gets back on track and starts to unleash holy hell on the NFC. Fun Fact: Arizona has the league's No. 1 defense (yardage-wise), and San Francisco has recorded history's worst defense (anything-wise). The aftermath to this game will be what we thought the aftermath to the Jets game was going to be. Arizona is coming, and the NFC needs to watch out.

JP: San Francisco (+13.5) over ARIZONA

I mean, come on, San Fran isn't THAT BAD (Googles the 49ers). Oh geez. Well, at least they have the brilliant leader of a social movement on their team. I mean, he didn't even vote Tuesday. Boy, he sure showed us...

JC: PITTSBURGH (-2.5) over Dallas

Try to stick with me here - doesn't this feel like the game where Pittsburgh airs it out against Dallas' kinda-sorta-not-that-great-and-only-propped-up-by-the-run-game-so-they-stay-off-the-field defense, puts up a whole buttload of points early, and all of a sudden Dallas can't come back because their offense with Dak Prescott isn't designed to score quickly, and the Cowboys decide to turn the reigns back over to Tony Romo? Am I crazy, or does that make way too much sense to not happen?

JP: Dallas (+2.5) over PITTSBURGH

That seems like an awful lot of things that need to come together for a beaten up team with a beaten up quarterback playing against a team that is absolutely rolling. Oh, and you have to give points to take the Steelers? Yeah, I'm not overthinking this one.

JC: NEW ENGLAND (-7.5) over Seattle

 Seattle's offense just isn't that good. I don't know what else to tell you. They're 26th in total offense, 30th in rushing, and 29th in first downs. Even this past Monday, when they supposedly "broke out," they only managed 278 yards of offense. This feels like an efficient 27-17 win for the Patriots.

JP: Seattle (+7.5) over NEW ENGLAND


Plus, I just want this to be a good game.

JC: Cincinnati (+2.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS

The Bengals are coming off a bye, I guess?

JP: NEW YORK GIANTS (-2.5) over Cincinnati

Call me crazy, but I'm coming back around to my early season thought that the Giants might be pretty good. That, and I think the Bengals are borderline hot garbage.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 9-4
Season: 68-61-4
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-1  
Season's Disagreements: 19-20-1

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-6
Season: 69-60-4
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-3    
Season's Disagreements: 20-19-1

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