Friday, November 10, 2017

NFL Week 10 Primer (With Picks): Who Do You Trust?

We've been comfortable betting against the Niners this year, but what will we do this week with them battling another dumpster fire in the New York Giants? Oh, and San Fran has a handsome new QB as well... Though he probably won't play.   Photo by our buddy David Lombardi.
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

At some point over the weekend (I'm not sure anyone can pinpoint precisely when, and, if they can, I kind of feel sorry for them, but that's not the point right now), we reached the exact halfway point of the NFL season. By the end of Monday night, we were decidedly into the second half of the season, with Green Bay and Detroit each getting their 8th game of the year under their belt.

As such, it's perhaps fitting that we feel like there are 17 teams, barely more than half the league, that we feel like we can trust (whether it's trusting a good team to be good, or trusting a bad team to be bad).

We trust Philadelphia, New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, New Orleans, Jacksonville and the Rams to be some degree of "good," and we're usually willing to lay points with them (within reason, obviously). We trust San Francisco, the Giants, and Cleveland to be bad, and we're not betting on them unless we really, really like the price. We trust the Jets, Bears, and Colts to be bad teams that aren't quite as bad as everyone seems to think, and willing to trust them as underdogs, and we trust the Bills, Raiders, Seahawks, and Cowboys to be good teams that aren't quite as good as people seem to think, and are very happy to buy underdogs with inflated lines.

The other 15 teams in the league (Miami, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Houston, the Chargers, Denver, Washington, Minnesota, Green Bay, Detroit, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Arizona) we're still trying to figure out, and our opinion seems to change from week to week. Our biggest challenge in the coming weeks is trying to handicap games when two of these teams play each other. And if the teams we think we trust start to falter, well, then, we're screwed.

It seems to be going well so far, though. Joe is currently 9 games above .500 for the season, and while Jeremy is hovering just below average, he went 9-3-1 last week, so maybe his season is turning around. 

Here are the Week 10 picks.

Both Joe and Jeremy refuse to believe in any potential of the Cardinals, and hopped all over a Seattle team in need of a win giving less than a touchdown against Drew Stanton. It went well in the first half, but then Jeremy went to bed and Joe never re-wrote this paragraph, so we really don't know whether we won or lost. (Update: Seattle won by six, so we ate the push)

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

Green Bay (+5.5) over CHICAGO

JC: Neither one of these teams is good, and nobody knows what to do with them (hence a 5.5-point line). My feeling is that Green Bay is going to find some kind of offensive momentum sooner rather than later (they're just too talented at running back and receiver to be this bad for much longer), whereas I have no such confidence with Chicago's offense.

JP: Yeah, gimme those points.

JACKSONVILLE (-3.5) over Los Angeles Chargers

JC: Against the Giants, Raiders, and Broncos, Los Angeles forced seven turnovers and won all three games. Against the Patriots, they forced zero and lost. The Jaguars have done well not only to take care of the ball (8th-fewest turnovers in the league), but also force turnovers on defense (2nd-most in the league). If this game is going to be decided on turnovers, I like Jacksonville to win that battle more than the Chargers.

JP: If you haven't watched the Jags yet this season, do yourself a favor and check them out, because the Jacksonville offense is actually really fun. They've got weapons all over the field, and Blake Bortles is either scrambling to complete a deep ball, or making a total fool of himself. Either way, it's entertaining.

TENNESSEE (-4.5) over Cincinnati

JC: I want to believe in the Titans. I really, really do. I like Marcus Mariota, and I like their overall vibe and style. But they've been more flash than substance this year, and they just haven't been able to put away teams that they should be able to. So this might be their last chance.

JP: Cincinnati es no bueno.

New Orleans (-3) over BUFFALO

JC: It's always a risk taking New Orleans on the road, and Buffalo still has the league's best turnover margin, even after going -3 last Thursday against the Jets. But most of Buffalo's success has come with regards to those turnovers. They have the 5th-best scoring defense, but they're just 22nd in yards allowed. If they can't force turnovers, I'm not sure what they do all that well. Historically, those defenses can't sustain success over the long term, so I'm willing to sell high on Buffalo's defense.

JP: I'll be damned if I'm not starting to buy into this New Orleans team. No, they don't have the weapons on the outside that we've grown accustomed to in the Big Easy, but they can really run the ball, and this defense keeps finding a way. If any Saints team has been built to win in Buffalo recently, this is it.

Cleveland (+11) over DETROIT

JC: I just can't bring myself to lay double-digit points with a team that can't salt away games in the 4th quarter with a running game. Even at home, against the worst team in the league. Detroit just isn't the team that I want to lay 11 points with. When the Lions win 24-3, I'll probably feel stupid, but I just can't pull the trigger.

JP: We got no guts.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-12) over Houston

JC: This is the team that I'm willing to lay a big spread with. They blow out bad teams. They put up a buttload of points. They run up the score in the 4th quarter. Pretty much every game they've played this year has been a shootout, and I'm not putting money on Tom Savage being able to keep up with the league's top scoring offense.

JP: Houston is gonna be scary good if it ever gets J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson healthy at the same time, but that obviously ain't happenin' this week.

New England (-7.5) over DENVER

JC: It seems like the Patriots are finally rolling, and their defense has looked more respectable in recent weeks. Denver's offense has been terrible in recent weeks, and that's when everyone has been healthy, which they certainly aren't now. This New England offense might be flying under the radar as well - they haven't really blown the doors off of anyone, but they lead the league in yards, as well as plays per drive and yards per drive. They aren't putting up huge point totals, but they're grinding out drives as well as they always have. It's tough to grind out drives against the Broncos, but I just don't think Denver will be able to score enough to keep this game that close.

JP: How did Denver get this bad?

CAROLINA (-9) over Miami

JC: Hear me out - Carolina might have the most underrated defense in the league this year. They've been shutting people down. They've held three different teams to just a single field goal, they're number one in the league in yards allowed, and they're doing all of this despite (a) not being able to force turnovers on defense, and (b) committing their own fair share of turnovers on offense. This defense is legit. And they're going up against a Miami offense that can't get out of their own way. They're dead last in scoring, 31st in yards, and they traded their only reliable running back. I'm not sure Miami could cover this spread if we counted their first downs, let alone their points.

JP: Carolina is slowly winning me over, and Miami is total butt. 

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

JC: Pittsburgh (-10) over INDIANAPOLIS

Don't be fooled by stats like "Indianapolis has a winning record against the spread." The Colts average scoring margin against Arizona, Cleveland, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and the Tom Savage Texans is in the black (barely - it's +1.4). Their average scoring margin against all other teams (the Rams, Seahawks, Titans, and Jaguars) is -26.5. They keep games close against the dregs of the league, but when they play against anyone remotely good, they get blown the [expletive deleted] out.

JP: INDIANAPOLIS (+10) over Pittsburgh

As a Steelers fan who doesn't want to jinx it, I gotta take the Colts.

JC: TAMPA BAY (+2.5) over New York Jets

Like, I get that Jameis Winston and Mike Evans are both out. But it's the Jets. On the road. Giving points. I know that we wrote up there that we trust the Jets to be not as bad as people think they are, but I think this is going too far.

JP: New York Jets (-2.5) over TAMPA BAY

I think at this point we've learned that the Jets are somehow not THAT bad, while Tampa Bay is not to be trusted. Add in those injuries you mentioned, and I'll change up my normal pattern and pick the Jets, while abandoning the Bucs.

JC: ATLANTA (-3) over Dallas

It seems like we might FINALLY have some closure to the Ezekiel Elliot saga. As of this writing, he will be suspended for at least the next four games. Dallas is also banged up at wide receiver and on the offensive line, and they're on the road against an Atlanta team that desperately needs a win to keep pace in a suddenly cluttered NFC South. The line would suggest that Atlanta and Dallas are even on a neutral field. I might have bought that when Elliot was still in the lineup, but with him out, the scales tilt firmly in Atlanta's favor.

JP: Dallas (+3) over ATLANTA

Nope, I'm now firmly in the "Atlanta is hot garbage" camp, and I also think Dallas is hitting its stride. They may have to do it with both Zeke and Dez, but I still think the Cowboys get it done against the Falcons, who really should never be allowed to win again after blowing that Super Bowl. Yeah, I'm still bitter.

JC: WASHINGTON (+1.5) over Minnesota

Teddy Bridgewater is back! Well, he'll dress, at least. Case Keenum is still Minnesota's starting quarterback. Here's my theory about Minnesota - sure, they've won four in a row with great defense, but those games have been against Chicago, a mostly Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team, then Baltimore and Cleveland. Nary a good offense among those teams. And Minnesota's offense has been mostly, well, bad. Washington is pretty banged up, but that didn't stop them from winning in Seattle last week. I'm cool with them as a home dog.

JP: Minnesota (-1.5) over WASHINGTON

Listen, home dog, Washington is still in the "I can't trust at all" category for me, and really has been since the turn of the millennium. I'll take the team that can defend and run the ball, and the one that isn't being held hostage by Kirk Cousins. 

JC: New York Giants (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Oh, Jimmy isn't playing? Nevermind, I'm not watching.

JP: SAN FRANCISCO (+2.5) over New York Giants

How could you not want to watch this barn-burner?! The first pick in the draft could be on the line, and we're gonna get so many shots of Jimmy on the sidelines! Also, gimme the points.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 9-3-1
Season: 62-65-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-2
Season's Disagreements: 16-21

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 8-4-1
Season: 68-59-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-3
Season's Disagreements: 21-16

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