For the Win - Week 14
Updated 12/9 by Jeff Pasquino, Exclusive for Footballguys.com
Breaking even isn't so great, unless you compare it to your best bets and see that you went 3-7. Yikes - thanks so much, Saints. Well, I guess I should have believed more in the Redskins..... no, I can't go that far. I'll just have to buckle down and try and figure out this crazy league. I'm still over 50% across the board, but another week like that could really hurt. I don't like too many games this week, but there are a few, so let's take a look at this week's slate of games:
Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.
PITTSBURGH (-10) at CLEVELAND (Thursday)
A divisional matchup. A short week. Four consecutive losses. No Hines Ward. Two new starters at cornerbacks. So why do I like Pittsburgh here? It is still Cleveland, and while the Browns managed to put up 23 points last week against the San Diego Chargers, I do not see Pittsburgh failing to put pressure on Brady Quinn and also dominating on offense. Ben Roethlisberger will find Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller and Mike Wallace and also use all three running backs to get plenty of points (even in snow - the only concern is wind). Cleveland may get some breaks and big pass plays, but I'll take the Steelers to get up for their must win game and win by two touchdowns in a much higher scoring game than most would think. Pittsburgh 31-14. Pick: Steelers.
INDIANAPOLIS (-7) vs. DENVER
I can see why some people might want to take Denver here. The Broncos pummeled Kansas City last week and the Colts have been playing tight games all year. Denver's defense is playing well and now the run game is getting in gear. Big performances on the ground of late gives the Broncos hope here as that is the way to attack the Colts, both from the perspective of moving the ball and also for keeping Peyton Manning off of the field. No matter though, as the Colts will stack the box and force Kyle Orton to beat them, which he won't. Manning and his many receivers will get 27 or more points and the Broncos will struggle to reach 20, so that has me leaning towards the home team. Pick: Colts.
MINNESOTA (-6.5) vs. CINCINNATI
It seems rare these days that when two teams with winning records face off, so this is a nice change of pace. No one is claiming that this is a possible Super Bowl preview, but it is not far from the realm of possibility. Both teams have very good defenses, but right now the Bengals are banged up on the defensive line and that's going to create some problems in keeping Adrian Peterson in check. Minnesota's passing game is also playing at a high level which will test a very good Bengal secondary. Cincinnati's passing game needs Chad Ochocinco to get open else Carson Palmer is just out of luck. Handing the ball off to Cedric Benson won't be enough, but it might just keep this one close - for a while. Eventually I see Minnesota's balance on offense wearing down the Bengals and making this a lopsided score in the fourth quarter. Pick: Vikings.
TAMPA BAY (+3.5) vs. NEW YORK JETS
Tampa Bay is very quietly playing some good football, but you would not know it based on last week's 16-6 loss to Carolina. If I had told you that one team would have thrown for five interceptions, I bet you'd have said the Panthers - but you would be wrong. Those five miscues cost the Bucs dearly as Josh Freeman literally threw away a 300+ yard passing game. I expect Freeman to bounce back well, as will his ground game support that racked up over 150 yards against Carolina. For the Jets, well - I think all you really need to know is this - Kellen Clemens is your starting quarterback this week. Unless Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene run 50 times for 200 yards or more, I do not see the Jets pulling this game out. I'll gladly take Tampa Bay to keep this one closer than many will expect in what should be a very ugly game to watch - something like 16-13. Pick: Bucs.
KANSAS CITY (+1) vs. BUFFALO
Do I really have to pick this game? Seriously, I have about as much interest in this contest as I do in watching an Oprah Winfrey lookalike contest. Wait, that's not fair - to Oprah. Yeesh - this game should have been exported to Canada too. Oh well, at least it won't be too distracting on the Red Zone Channel with all the high scoring in this one. Jamaal Charles vs. Fred Jackson - I'm betting against an NFL Replay date for this epic. Kansas City just because they're not Buffalo. Pick: Chiefs.
GREEN BAY (-3) at CHICAGO
The Packers are coming off of a short week but they don't have a big trek to go on the road when they head over to Chicago. Another divisional matchup here as two teams clearly heading in opposite directions get together. Aaron Rodgers is playing at a very high level and the Chicago secondary is not. Jay Cutler vs. Charles Woodson may get ugly - it is never a good thing when a cornerback is about as likely as one of your receivers to get three catches. Matt Forte will struggle like usual and Green Bay won't. Packers in a walkover. Pick: Packers.
NEW ORLEANS (-10) at ATLANTA
Divisions, divisions, divisions - another repeat matchup this week as the Falcons host the Saints. New Orleans topped the Falcons 35-27 back in October, but that game is a far cry from that first clash. Michael Turner and Matt Ryan are likely out as well as two offensive linemen. New Orleans? Well, they're now refocused after the scare in Washington and they are gearing up for a run at 16-0. Plus they are now back indoors, and Atlanta is not that bad of a road game for them. The Eagles just went in there and demolished the Falcons, and I expect similar results this week for New Orleans. Take the Saints here as less than a double-digit favorite for one of the last times this season. Pick: Saints.
DETROIT (+13.5) at BALTIMORE
Baltimore returns home after a tough trip up to Lambeau on Monday Night Football, and now they find themselves deep in the mix of clubs trying to keep their Wildcard hopes alive. Detroit comes to town and the Ravens are a heavy favorite, but Green Bay pointed out the holes in the Baltimore defense - they cannot stop a good deep passing attack. The Lions can strike well with either Matthew Stafford or Daunte Culpepper finding Calvin Johnson at least once down the field and Kevin Smith should be able to help Detroit get at least 13 points against the Ravens, a team that has not hit 27 points since Week 8. Pick: Lions.
MIAMI (+3) at JACKSONVILLE
A clash of Florida teams is on the docket here, and it is a shame that so few people can watch Jacksonville these days. David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker and Maurice Jones-Drew are a poor man's version of the triplets on offense - but that's not the issue. The problem is that there is no "D" in Jaguar or Jacksonville, and the Dolphins are ready to exploit their weaknesses in the secondary. QB Chad Henne threw for over 300 yards against New England last week and that's quite a big step up for a team that is used to running the Wildcat as practically a base offense. Miami will test a porous secondary and come out the winner. Pick: Dolphins.
NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) at CAROLINA
That 13-spot is a lot of points to be giving up to any NFL team, but right now Carolina has fewer weapons than the Peace Corps. Jake Delhomme has been benched in favor of Matt Moore, while DeAngelo Williams is very questionable to play once again this week. The Patriots are not effectively putting up big numbers on offense and it cost them dearly against Miami last week, so expect them to bounce back and post at least a 30 on the scoreboard in Week 14. Pick: Patriots.
SEATTLE (+6) at HOUSTON
Expect a good amount of passing in this one between two teams that are dancing with the injury report. The Texans have lost Steve Slaton for the year, while both quarterbacks are banged up after last week's contests. Neither side can run the ball effectively right now so I am going with the better pass defense and that's the Seahawks. Pick: Seattle.
TENNESSEE (-13) vs. ST. LOUIS
Do we really need to analyze this one? It is Steven Jackson versus the world, and the world usually wins. Jackson will get his 100 yards somehow, but Kyle Boller? Kyle flippin' Boller? Donnie Avery, I feel sorry for you - well, until I remember how much you get paid to run uncovered and have the ball thrown well over your head out of bounds. Vince Young and Chris Johnson dominate yet again. Pick: Titans
OAKLAND (+1) vs. WASHINGTON
As Philadelphia and Cincinnati both learned, Oakland is not an easy place to visit and come out a winner this season. Now the Redskins attempt to travel cross-country and pick up a victory out in the bay, and it will not be easy. The Redskins had practically everything go their way last week (except for a field goal attempt) and still managed to lose to New Orleans in overtime. Do you think that they can get up for this week very easily? Oakland goes home after upsetting the Steelers in Pittsburgh, so you know that they will be ready. Louis Murphy will beat some Washington corner deep for a home run ball from Bruce Gradkowski and that alone might be enough for Oakland to win. Take the home team in a game in which the film of this one might be best to be immediately filed in the Black Hole. Pick: Raiders.
SAN DIEGO (+3) at DALLAS
So what would happen when an unstoppable force meets an irresistible object? We're about to find out as soon as Jason Witten runs through San Diego's defense. The Chargers are the worst team in covering tight ends in the league and Witten just posted a career day last week against the Giants. Still, the Cowboys are about as up and down of a team as you might find, always seeming to play close to the level of their competition. Philip Rivers will look to match Tony Romo throw for throw in what should be a shoot-out, so I will take the points and the team that doesn't have a cloud over them in December. Pick: Chargers.
PHILADELPHIA (+1) at NEW YORK GIANTS
The New York Giants were as good as dead until the Cowboys found a way to wake them up last week. I am still wondering how Dallas had all those passing yards and seemed to have the game well in hand yet found a way to lose. The Giants aren't able to stop good running teams (see the Denver game) and now they can't stop the pass? This is a huge game for the Eagles yet again as they try and bide their time until Brian Westbrook returns. DeSean Jackson may be able to go and that would be a huge boost to a receiving corps that had to use Reggie Brown and Jason Avant last week - yet still dominated Atlanta. These games are always close, but I will take Philadelphia to win over the Giants in what has been a trend for the past several years as the Eagles seem to have New York's number. Pick: Eagles.
ARIZONA (-3.5) at SAN FRANCISCO
Monday Night Football has the NFC West this week on display, but Arizona should be able to continue their playoff push as they attempt to lock up another divisional crown. Arizona has Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, while San Francisco answers with Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Frank Gore is still the best running back in this game, but after seeing how Arizona shut down Adrian Peterson (and how few carries Gore gets these days) the pick here is Arizona.. Pick: Cardinals.
This section will be different this year, as I will give not only the "Best
Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the
more I like that side of the game.
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- Six Point Teaser: PITTSBURGH (-4) at CLEVELAND (OVER 26.5)
- Six Point Teaser: NEW ENGLAND (-7.5) at CAROLINA (UNDER 50)
- SAN DIEGO (+3) at DALLAS
- OAKLAND (+1) vs. WASHINGTON
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- GREEN BAY (-3) at CHICAGO
- MIAMI (+3) at JACKSONVILLE
- PHILADELPHIA (+7) at NEW YORK GIANTS (UNDER 51)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
PICK OF THE WEEK: Miami Dolphins
- OVERALL: 8-8 (50%)
- BEST BETS (STARS): 3-7 (30%)
- PICK OF WEEK: 0-1 (0%)
- OVERALL: 101-89-2 (53.1%)
- BEST BETS (STARS): 86-79-2 (52.1%)
- PICK OF WEEK: 7-6 (53.9%)