NFL Pick ‘Em: Super Bowl LI

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It’s that time again. If you’re within the States, you probably already know this.

Seeing as my rampant, unquenchable thirst for all things football cannot be deterred by mere low-quality officiating or a distaste for those running the stage, I ended up closely following the season via statistics, but didn’t partake in watching many games. (I watched maybe five games during the entire Regular Season.) Even so, I watched every playoff game and am totally, 100% confident in my predictions as I’ve experienced about 15% of the entire season. That’ll make me credible.

That being said, the match-up is one I’m personally satisfied with. Many would disagree, as the New England Patriots are almost universally hated, but I’ve found myself a semi-fan of the team due to my contrarian nature. And they’re constantly a thorn in the side of the higher-ups of the NFL. That makes me giddy. On the other side, the team I personally want to win, are the Atlanta Falcons, making only their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Nothing against New England, but I want to see Atlanta win one.

Breaking down the benefits in each favor, both teams have a lot of firepower on both sides of the ball. The Falcons have a lot more inexperience, especially on defense with a number of rookies in starting roles, but they’ve consistently held off high-powered offenses, most recently of the once-red-hot Green Bay Packers. That goes a long way for creating a stream of confidence heading into a game against an offense that has consistently demolished every opponent throughout the season. Both teams are hot. Both teams are playing spectacularly. This one may very well come down to the wire.

I can’t really say who has the edge in any particular area, as both teams have a number of different methods of attack. Kyle Shanahan’s offensive gameplan reminds me some of Andy Reid’s, relying a lot on precision and deceit and paying attention to every aspect of the play. With the number of weapons at Matt Ryan’s disposal, it’ll prove to be a hefty task, especially when even if Julio Jones is double-teamed, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel are more than capable of picking up the slack. New England’s offense is a model of consistency. They, too, have a number of different weapons that feature different methods of attack. Yards after the catch is a focal point that tends to give opposing defenses fits. The key concern for Atlanta’s defense is to keep what they have in front of them and tackle, tackle, tackle. Rely on the front four to get pressure and throw Tom Brady off rhythm, as I’ve seen Buffalo do a great job of making Brady look ordinary doing just that.

In the end, the debate for me is modeled consistency versus up-and-coming stars. The Falcons have lost some rather easy games early on in the season, including games against the Eagles and Chargers, so the doubt begins to creep in when going up against a 14-2 team that only lost to a hardened veteran team in Seattle, and Buffalo without Brady as a starter. It’s really hard to bet against New England, seeing as their success has been ongoing since before my youngest brother was born. Still, the Falcons have a path carved before them to show that there’s a new dynasty in the NFL. They just need to prove it by dethroning the current diamond franchise.

By the way, I’m 1-5 in Super Bowl picks since 2011. Please feel free to bet against me.

Winner: New England

NFL Pick ‘Ems (Super Bowl 50)

DEN @ CAR (SB50)

I have a bit of a confession to make:

I was never really “done” with the NFL. I didn’t watch the games… but I still kept up with scores, stats, and noteworthy news and what-not. But I didn’t watch any games! That counts for something, r-right? Yeah. Totally.

I watched the AFC/NFC Championship Games.

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Well, what’s done is done. I will happily indulge in Super Bowl 50 with no regrets. Putting aside my Brett Favre-ish sense of guilt, let’s talk about the match-up.

The Denver Broncos are not the offensive juggernaut they were the last two years. They are now a team being carried almost completely by their defense. It is because of this defense that Denver gets so many chances on offense to score some points, which they took advantage of against New England two weeks ago. I was impressed with how Denver’s offense played during the first half of that game, but then they scored a measly three points after halftime. That is not something you want to do against the top scoring offense of the Carolina Panthers.

Speaking of the Panthers, they’ve looked completely dominant with their last two playoff games. Jumping ahead by, what, 24 points before Seattle scored anything? And then they completely obliterated Arizona in what may have been the most one-sided NFC Championship I’ve ever seen. I knew they looked good in the regular season with an easy schedule, but they just destroyed two back-to-back good (albeit inconsistent) teams with decent defenses. Denver’s #1 defense will be the ultimate test, however.

For me, this almost seems like the make-up for a repeat of Super Bowl XLVIII, only Denver doesn’t have the #1 scoring offense of all time and a better defense. While I don’t think the game will be a blowout, I think there could be a good chance that it might. Carolina has looked way too good all year and every time I feel they’ve met their match, they blow them out of the water. The only real weakness I see in Carolina is their secondary, which won’t be much of a problem because Peyton Manning has been putrid throwing the ball all year. Carolina is loaded on pretty much every other position. All they need to do is play a clean game and they’ve pretty much won it.

Who knows, though? I’ve said the same thing about Denver. I keep thinking they’ll lose against better teams and they keep on winning. I would’ve bet my house that New England would’ve destroyed them in the AFC Championship game, but they pulled out of that one despite a second-half nap by their offense. It’s an intriguing match-up of “Who’s defense is better?” I feel Denver’s defense is more preventive of points, but Carolina’s defense is all around stable.

I think the key factor in this game is Cam Newton. Will he be able to handle the pressure of Denver’s pass rush and their tight secondary? Will he take advantage of his legs and will Denver’s defense allow him to run ’em over? If he continuously turns the ball over, it’s Peyton’s game. Otherwise, I think Carolina has the better chance here.

Winner: Carolina

Quick Pick: Green Bay at Detroit (Week Thirteen; 2015)

GB @ DET

  • Favorite: Green Bay

This is a tricky pick. Green Bay’s been slumping as of late, but still tend to do well against division rivals on the road. I say “on the road” because Chicago beat them at Lambeau last week and they beat Minnesota on the road the week before that. Will it be the same with Detroit? Maybe.

I actually like Detroit in this game. They beat Green Bay at home last year. Why not this year? Well, the circumstances are obviously different, but they’re also primed for a juicy match-up between a struggling offense and a surging defense. I’m looking forward to this game a lot.

There’s not a lot to say here, just that I have more confidence in Detroit on their own turf to take down a struggling Green Bay team, much like I thought with Minnesota two weeks prior. See where that got me? Whatever! My gut’s tellin’ me to go with the roar in the dome tonight!

Winner: Detroit

Impressions from Week Twelve of the 2015 NFL Season

Yeah.

PHI @ DET

Philadelphia at Detroit

  • (Watched, correct)

Mark Sanchez is not a valuable quarterback to have in the NFL. I feel bad for anyone who thinks he’s even worth back-up status. Sure, his defense didn’t help his cause, but even with a good defense last year, he only went 4-4.

Detroit suddenly looks like a complete team again. All they had to do was fire almost everyone in the upper management. Calvin Johnson is also still elite.

CAR @ DAL

Carolina at Dallas

  • (Watched, incorrect)

I did not expect Tony Romo to play as poorly as he did. On the other hand, there wasn’t a lot open for him to play well with. Lots of replays showed every receiver not open… at all. Romo looked alone. And the running game wasn’t very effective either. Now, he’s out again, so Dallas will continue to lose every game until he returns.

At the beginning of this season, I said I didn’t think Cam Newton was a top 10 quarterback. By the halfway point, I still wasn’t ready to put him up there. Now, I’m willing to throw him a bone. I would probably put him on the same tier as Jay Cutler. And if that seems like an insult to you, you probably haven’t seen how well Jay Cutler has played this season. He just doesn’t have as complete a team as Newton does. Nevertheless, they’re now the only undefeated team in the league. If they can stay healthy, they’re favorites to play in the Super Bowl this year.

CHI @ GB

Chicago at Green Bay

  • (Watched most, incorrect)

I have a confession to make: despite the fact that I said I was “iffy” on this match-up, I was actually about 99% confident Green Bay would win this one. Turns out my almost fluke feeling turned out to be the right call.

Aaron Rodgers has 24 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. However, he only has a 60% completion rate and a 6.9 yard per attempt average. His numbers still look great, but he hasn’t been playing well as of late. Once his offense has to rely on the pass, the team just seems to falter. Whether this is because of bad play calling, a lack of wide receiver experience, or an inconsistent running game has yet to be established, but whatever it is, Green Bay no longer looks like a dangerous playoff threat.

And Chicago could actually vie for a playoff spot.

BUF @ KC

Buffalo at Kansas City

  • (Watched most of fourth quarter, correct)

Alex Smith might be the best game manager in the NFL. Hasn’t thrown an interception in nearly 300 pass attempts. With his defense playing very well, Kansas City has won 5 games in a row. I’m not entirely confident that he’s capable of leading a team over a defensive juggernaut, but nevertheless, Kansas City is making a push for the postseason.

I feel bad for Buffalo fans. They went 9-7 last year with Kyle Orton and E.J. Manuel starting. Their defense was fantastic. Now with Rex Ryan running the show, their defense has suddenly become inconsistent and flaccid, despite finding what looks to be a good starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. I don’t think they’re gonna go far this season.

STL @ CIN

St. Louis at Cincinnati

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Jeff Fisher should be fired. Probably the GM, too, for fucking up a golden opportunity of a lifetime with, like, six 1st round picks from the RG3 trade.

NO @ HOU

New Orleans at Houston

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Remember when Houston was at 2-5 and people were calling out Bill O’Brien as another failure in the “Belichick-coaching tree”? How does he look now after a 4 game winning streak and with a punishing defense?

Remember when New Orleans was 4-4 and on a 3 game winning streak and people were under the assumption that they were good? How do they look now after a 3 game losing streak and with a defense that lets everyone score 100 points on them a week?

I don’t think Sean Payton’s going to survive as head coach after this season.

TB @ IND

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis

  • (Did not watch, correct)

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SD @ JAX

San Diego at Jacksonville

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another edition of “Never trust the AFC South.” With the exclusion of the now surging Houston and Indianapolis teams, Jacksonville and Tennessee remain as two of the worst teams in the entirety of the NFL, despite what their records may say (though still not pretty). Last week, San Diego was on the road against a determined Jacksonville team determined to catch up to Houston and Indianapolis in the division. They took this determination and let San Diego walk all over them. San Diego hasn’t walked all over anyone this season.

Same ol’ Jacksonville. Gus Bradley should be fired.

MIA @ NYJ

Miami at New York

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

I sure do know how to pick an upset, huh?

I drastically underestimated FitzMagic and his sore, red thumb. I also drastically overestimated Miami’s… everything. I was under the impression that Miami would be able to take advantage of New York’s struggling defense. As it turns out, New York actually looked better without Revis. Who would’a thunk it?

Lesson learned: unless Miami’s up against the lowest of the lows, they aren’t doing anything.

MIN @ ATL

Minnesota at Atlanta

  • (Watched, correct)

Let me reiterate: I don’t understand why Atlanta got as many votes to win as it did before this game. Are people really still under the impression that Atlanta is good? Or were they worried about Minnesota’s embarrassing loss to Green Bay? I wasn’t worried about this game at all. I was [probably overly] confident in Minnesota winning this game easily.

Interestingly enough, people are starting to question whether Matt Ryan should remain the starter of Atlanta’s offense; to which I say, “Are you insane? Of course he should.” Matt Ryan isn’t a bad quarterback. Everyone has down years. Some people are pointing fingers at Kyle Shanhan, the offensive coordinator. Looking at his track record, there seems to be a correlation:

His offenses tend to start out well, then eventual befuddle down into the bottom 10 in the league. RG3 had a great rookie season. Then he followed it up with a 2013 campaign that was nothing less than complete shit (though that could also be blamed on rushing in too early from an ACL tear). In 2014, he coached a Brian Hoyer-led Cleveland team to a 7-4 record, then skidded into an offensive mess, lost the next 5 games, and Hoyer even lost his job to both Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw. Now, Hoyer’s enjoying a (now) successful season as Houston’s starting quarterback. Matt Ryan was a Pro Bowl quarterback last season and started 5-0 this year. Now he’d be lucky to even be ranked within the top 10 quarterbacks in the league after dropping 5 of his last 6. Frankly, Ryan’s been inconsistent all year. It’s truly a head-scratcher.

Whatever the case, hopefully for Atlanta they can work out their offensive struggles for next year. They certainly have a shit-ton of potential. Potential that Minnesota is already showing.

NYG @ WAS

New York at Washington

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

New York’s offense kinda sucks, especially their running game. BUT OMG DID YOU SEE ODELL BECKHAM’S AMAZING CATCH?!

Shut up.

It doesn’t matter if you have an amazing wide receiver if the other receivers are dropping balls into the hands of defenders. Or have no running game. Or have no offensive line. Or have no passing defense. New York is just… ugh. They’re almost St. Louis levels of inconsistency.

Kudos to Washington, though. Despite what everyone believed to be a disastrous season for them turned out to be pretty okay, for the time being. They’re first place in the division with a chance to further stomp Dallas into the ground next week. That should be a fun game.

OAK @ TEN

Oakland at Tennessee

  • (Did not watch, correct)

The second round of “Never trust the AFC South” went without a hitch. Oakland won and I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised as to how close it was, but nevertheless, Oakland is far superior to Tennessee.

ARI @ SF

Arizona at San Francisco

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Man, you just do not mess with San Francisco’s defense at home. It’s a rowdy group.

Unfortunately, this game was subject to poor officiating. It looked as though both teams were getting some bad blows, though the most controversial came from a roughing the passer call on Carson Palmer that… frankly wasn’t roughing the passer whatsoever, which ultimately let them continue their final touchdown drive. Ho-hum. The NFL needs to get its shit together. I feel bad for San Francisco. They could’ve actually upset an 8-2 team with you-know-who as a starting quarterback.

PIT @ SEA

Pittsburgh at Seattle

  • (Watched, incorrect)

There were a few questionable calls in this game, too, like Richard Sherman kinda pushing off to get his first interception of the season. Though, it wasn’t enough to give either team a legitimate chance, as Roethlisberger was massacring the Seattle secondary all game, and Pittsburgh’s secondary can’t cover/tackle for shit. An ugly defensive game by both sides.

Seattle’s offensive line is starting to get something going now. Russell Wilson has only been sacked 6 times in the last 3 games and their running game has ranged from okay to amazing with Thomas Rawls starting. They look like a good team again. That secondary is still a concern, though. Carson Palmer, Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, and even Nick fucking Foles have had good games against it.

Pittsburgh has the same problem, except worse. Fix the secondary. It looked like it did in Week One against New England. It was hard to watch.

NE @ DEN

New England at Denver

  • (Watched, incorrect)

I am 10-2 when picking Sunday Night games. Those 2 losses came when picking against Denver. Maybe I should stop picking against Denver on Sunday Nights.

I will be honest; the end result of this game made me furious.

O-ffic-i-a-ting. Call me a New England-apologist all you want, but I really felt like the refs had it in for New England in this game. Every chance of a “ticky-tack” call was made against New England, while nothing other than incredibly blatant fouls were called against Denver. There’s shit-tons of evidence of bad non-calls all over Twitter, too. And, of course, people were all too happy to see New England get their “comeuppance” for “cheating all of those years.” Those refs may have been those people.

Officiating aside, it was still a good game plan by Gary Kubiak; run the ball at a defense without Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. It worked. Brock Osweiler didn’t make all the throws, but he made the throws when he had to. His defense also helped greatly with providing him many chances to do so… and help from the officials.

Okay, okay. I’ll quit it with the officiating.

At the end of the day, one has to see it like this: New England was defeated under these conditions:

  • Without their two (Pro Bowl-quality) starting linebackers.
  • Without their two starting wide receivers.
  • Without a consistent offensive line.
  • Without their starting running back.
  • Without their starting tight end (fourth quarter onwards).
  • In Overtime.

Denver beating New England can be summed up like a mammoth defeating a tyrannosaurus with its legs chopped off. It’s a sweet victory, but you can’t help but feel like you took advantage of its injuries, so it doesn’t feel as sweet. Oh, and seven zebras ganged up on the tyrannosaurus and beat at its eyes until it was blind.

Okay, okay. I’ll seriously stop.

BAL @ CLE

Baltimore at Cleveland

  • (Watched, incorrect)

Cleveland:

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  • Week Twelve Pick ‘Em record: 8-8
  • Overall Pick ‘Em record: 103-73

Quick Picks: Thanksgiving Games (Week Twelve; 2015)

PHI @ DET

Philadelphia at Detroit

  • Favorite: Detroit (via NFLPickWatch.com)

Philadelphia has lost 2 in a row against teams that aren’t exactly heavyweights by league standards. Tampa Bay is improving, but Miami’s been poorly inconsistent. Last week’s brutal, one-sided loss to Tampa Bay caused a typhoon of turmoil for Philadelphia, causing a firestorm of reports and gossip about whether or not Chip Kelly and the Eagles were on each other’s last nerves. One thing’s for sure: if Philadelphia keeps losing, Kelly’s head coaching job likely won’t last past this season.

Detroit’s recent activity has been the opposite. After starting 0-5, they’ve won 3 of the last 5, with a 2 game winning streak against Green Bay and Oakland. They seem to be clicking more as a team, even if they aren’t exactly in playoff form. That might just be enough to keep them from dropping a game at home against a currently featherless Eagles team.

Both teams have a variety of problems, but with Mark Sanchez starting and Philadelphia’s defense fresh off a blowout performance, I think Detroit will make it close enough to win through in the end.

Winner: Detroit

CAR @ DAL

Carolina at Dallas

  • Favorite: Carolina

This might be the toughest pick I’ve had all season. Carolina has had a piss-easy schedule all season and Dallas is one of the more complete teams as long as Tony Romo is the starter. Wouldn’t you know, Tony Romo is starting. Decisions, decisions.

On one hand, Carolina has shown to perform well due to an ultra-balanced offensive attack of pass and run. That’s easy with Cam Newton as your quarterback, but nonetheless. The receivers aren’t great, but Greg Olsen is a reliable target and the offensive line is performing very well. Then you have the defense, which has consistently held teams to under 23 points, so offense isn’t entirely needed. They’re also pretty good with takeaways and sacks. They’re 10-0 for a reason.

On the other hand, Dallas is also a very good team. Their record is 3-7, but they’re 3-0 with Romo. Dez Bryant is healthy, Terrance Williams benefited from having Romo back, Jason Witten is still Jason Witten, and that Dallas offensive line. It’ll definitely be a fun game to watch, and their defense doesn’t slack, either. I only wonder how they’ll respond to Carolina’s ground game onslaught.

For the sake of taking chances, I thought long about every scenario possible. In conclusion, I feel more comfortable picking Dallas at home with a healthy Tony Romo than I am with Cam Newton and the Carolina defense. It’s a stretch, but I think it can happen.

Winner: Dallas

CHI @ GB

Chicago at Green Bay

  • Favorite: Green Bay

If this were 2014, or 2013, or 2012, or 2011, or whenever else, I’d pick Green Bay at home no question against Chicago. Now, I’m a little iffy. Chicago has shown that they aren’t exactly a team one can push around, even Green Bay. They’ve improved their play considerably since last season, especially defensively. I really like Chicago’s chances here, but ultimately, it’s still Green Bay’s division, and they showed that against Minnesota on their own turf last Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers’ offensive line has struggled since Denver clobbered them on Sunday Night Football. It was only until last week that the running game could get going, even if Rodgers still faced an enormous amount of pressure. His receivers are lacking, with James Jones and Randall Cobb the only real threats (and Cobb has been inconsistent) in the passing game. I feel this game will be a defensive one, with the turnover battle being a key factor. I expect a lot of sacks and a few interceptions from both sides.

One of the true “rivalry games” in the NFL, it should be a lot more competitive this game than it was in the last few years. I wholly look forward to it, and I’m confident in Green Bay to sweep Chicago in the division.

Winner: Green Bay

Impressions from Week Eleven of the 2015 NFL Season

Not to sound like I’m piling on here, but OH MY GOD WHAT A HORRIBLE WEEK OF OFFICIATING! Has it always been this bad? Is this what people have been seeing week after week? If that’s the case, I don’t know how people can continue to not think the game’s fixed. Goodness gracious.

But controversial subject matter aside, this week somewhat shifted the power in both conferences, as teams that were once the underfoot of the NFL are suddenly becoming the teams to beat, and vice versa. A number of teams are on long winning streaks and long losing streaks. The end of the regular season should be an interesting one.

TENN @ JAX

Tennessee at Jacksonville

  • (Watched, incorrect)

To put it frankly, Tennessee just played far too conservatively in the fourth quarter. They were only up a single possession and they decided to run, run, run, when their running game was ineffective the entire game. Phil Simms or Jim Nantz, I don’t recall who, said something about coach Mularkey’s philosophy of sticking to the run throughout the entire game. This is fine and dandy… if your running game actually did something and your offensive line wasn’t awful. It just doesn’t make sense to me to run the ball when you had much more success passing it. Run it to set up some play action or something. Why run it so predictably on first and second down drive after drive?

A lot of people think that Blake Bortles is something of a work in progress. A quarterback that’s continually on the rise as an NFL starter. I… don’t see it. Sure, he’s thrown a lot of touchdowns and for a lot of yards, but a lot of it was in garbage time against teams with huge leads. His completion percentage is also well below average despite having a decent amount of weapons to his credit. To be fair, his offensive line doesn’t seem to give him a lot of time to work with. Time will tell, but I don’t see it.

It’s so weird seeing Jacksonville being included “In The Hunt” for the playoffs. What a wondrous time to be alive.

STL @ BAL

St. Louis at Baltimore

  • (Watched final Baltimore “drive,” incorrect)

Joe Flacco’s ironman streak ends after about eight seasons after he tore his ACL and MCL in this game. It was a good run, but the elite have to fall sometime.

And the hot topic for this week is St. Louis (again)! Last week, one of their players gave Teddy Bridgewater a knockout blow to the cranium as he was sliding and everyone but Jeff Fisher called him out for it. This week, Case Keenum, the starting St. Louis quarterback (for this week), suffered a very obvious concussion, but was not called out for it by Jeff Fisher. It’s almost like Jeff Fisher and staff don’t care! But that’s enough controversy, let’s get to the game recap:

I heard it was ugly and unenjoyable to watch. Glad I missed it.

WAS @ CAR

Washington at Carolina

  • (Watched one Washington drive before Halftime, correct)

Not much to say here, only that whoever picked Washington to win this looks awfully silly. Carolina’s a complete team, if not for their lack of weapons on offense for the passing game. Washington just looks inconsistent.

DEN @ CHI

Denver at Chicago

  • (Watched, incorrect)

Chicago had every opportunity to win this game. They missed open receivers in the endzone and their defense made the Denver offense punt what seemed like seven times during the game. They gained a lot of yards on the Denver defense through the air. They came close to tying it, until a questionable play call on the two-point conversion lost them the game.

Brock Osweiler had a good game. Not a great one, but good enough to rely on his defense to get the job done. There were times when I thought he faltered under pressure too quickly and other times when he was a little inaccurate. He came up big in the red zone, though. All in all, better than Manning’s played since, well, debatably 2014.

Would Jay Cutler have scored any touchdowns had he any weapons to work with? Sure, he has his tight ends, but they can’t be open all the time. He had inconsistent wide receiving threats the entire game. I’m sure he would’ve loved him some Jeffery.

DAL @ MIA

Dallas at Miami

  • (Did not watch, correct)

What’s that? Tony Romo comes back and Dallas wins? You don’t say? It’s almost like Tony Romo’s good or something. Hardy curse. Pssh.

He certainly didn’t play well to begin the game, though. Completed just over 50% of his passes (to start out) with 2 interceptions in the game. He’s shaking off rust, alright. Their defense has really stepped up, though. I would’ve expected more points from Miami on their own turf. Then again, the weather was not in their favor, which may have attributed to the lackluster games by each starting quarterback.

Miami, like Washington, looks to be an inconsistent team. One week, they’re alright, the other, they may as well be hitting a wall. They can’t seem to get anything going on either side of the ball. It’s a tragic thing, really, that seems to happen to Miami year after year. Is it too late to give Shula his job back?

OAK @ DET

Oakland at Detroit

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

I, uh, I’m not really sure what to make of this match-up.

Oakland is 0-3 against NFC North teams. That’s kinda bizarre, isn’t it? And had Chicago won on Sunday, they’d be 4-0 against AFC West teams! That’s really odd. Regardless, Detroit held Green Bay (at Lambeau Field) and Oakland (at Ford Field) to under 20 points. So… are they good now? I honestly can’t tell. And quite a few people saw this coming, too.

What happened to Oakland’s fans? Where’s all that enthusiasm around this up and coming team? Now it’s “hehe same old RAIDERS LOL!!!” And fans say the media flip flops too often. Calm down, people.

I will say this, though. Calvin Johnson is being utilized more. The defense is playing better, despite two starting corners being injured. Matt Stafford isn’t playing lights out, but good enough to win. It looks like this Detroit team is finally putting two and two together. I still think Jim Caldwell should be fired, but he’s wrapping up a “good finish” resume.

And Oakland. Yeah. I’m not really sure what’s going on here. Bad defense, according to some football commentators. Let me look at the time of possession for this game… 23:54 to 36:06. Not horrible, but Oakland could’ve had the ball longer, definitely.

NYJ @ HOU

New York at Houston

  • (Watched final New York drive, incorrect)

FitzMagic is hurting. He hasn’t played well since he injured his thumb and it’s definitely showing. You know what else is showing? New York’s defense is starting to crumble. They’re giving up way too many big plays. The team’s not what it used to be.

I had a gut feeling that Houston would win here, despite T.J. Yates starting, but I didn’t pull the trigger. And wouldn’t you know? They won. Houston is starting to look pretty good defensively. It makes me nervous to pick against them. Then again, New York is struggling and Cincinnati was, well, you know. They’ve won three in a row. And people were calling for Bill O’Brien’s head, too. Some people can’t seem to wait to jump on the “Fire _______!” bandwagon.

IND @ ATL

Indianapolis at Atlanta

  • (Watched final Atlanta drive, incorrect)

I feel really good for Matt Hasselbeck. In what very well may be his final season, he’s leading a team to victory… kinda.

This game was won by the defense. Hasselbeck, in reality, played somewhat shitty. If it wasn’t for Matt Ryan’s continuing offensive funk, Atlanta could’ve put this away by two scores. D’Qwell Jackson’s pick-six helped tremendously.

There’s not much else to say about this game. Indianapolis, against all odds, is finding ways to win. Atlanta, despite a great starting quarterback and great #1 wide receiver threat, and a good tight end in Jacob Tamme, find ways to lose 4 of the last 5 games. The grass was definitely greener on the other side of the regular season for Atlanta. And by that I mean the first five weeks of the season.

TB @ PHI

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

My dilemma was not just pessimism, it seems. Tampa Bay throttled Philadelphia last Sunday, though according to those who watched the game, the Tampa Bay offense wasn’t as efficient as the stat sheet would suggest. Nevertheless, there’s one thing about the stat sheet that’s apparent: Mark Sanchez is clearly a back-up quarterback.

Props to Jameis Winston for a five touchdown performance. He’s proving himself to be a worthy #1 overall pick. And he’s just a rookie, too. It’s all uphill from here… unless he pulls an RG3. And how about Doug Martin? After a few forgettable years he’s starting to become the force he was in his rookie year. Things are finally coming together for Tampa Bay, it seems. Let’s just hope for them that Lovie Smith doesn’t fuck it up.

Speaking of fucking it up, Chip Kelly looks to have fucked up his team by trading away or releasing all of his talented players. I will say this though: ever since Jordan Hicks went down, this defense hasn’t really been the same. You could make the case that the offense’s ineptitude puts more pressure on them, and that looked to be the case against Miami last week. But 40+ points to Tampa Bay? That’s just pitiful. They need Bradford back quick if they want to close the bleeding wound. It doesn’t look good for Kelly’s job.

KC @ SD

Kansas City at San Diego

  • (Did not watch, correct)

I once made a joke that Kansas City was “the prettiest girl in the bar,” sneering at the fact that they won a game when I still wholly expected them to go 4-12 at best. Now, at 5-5, they might not be the prettiest girl at the bar, but they’ve got admirers. And a knock-out defense to boot.

Philip Rivers doesn’t have any pretty girls to pick up.

GB @ MIN

Green Bay at Minnesota

  • (Watched, incorrect)

I didn’t think it’d be a 30-13 blowout. I thought it would be much closer than that. This game was a lot like Week One when Minnesota faced San Francisco: Adrian Peterson couldn’t get going and the defense couldn’t stop the run. Teddy Bridgewater played better in this game than that game, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the awful offensive line struggles. Bridgewater was sacked more than my ex-wife (Haha, I’ve never been married).

Aaron Rodgers looked fine, if not for the pass rush and the constant drops by his receivers. Randall Cobb seems to be having a massive down year… as if the rest of the Green Bay offense. Despite this, thanks in part to Eddie Lacy’s big day, the offense roared to life against an elite Minnesota defense. At least, they were before they faced Green Bay.

SF @ SEA

San Francisco at Seattle

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Well, at least we know Blaine Gabbert is better than Jimmy Clausen. And Kaepernick. That must really sting.

In other news, I don’t think Lynch will be in Seattle after 2015. Not with how well Thomas Rawls has been playing.

CIN @ ARI

Cincinnati at Arizona

  • (Watched, correct)

HAHAHA CINCINNATI CAN’T WIN IN PRIMETIME HEORHORHORHOR!!!!!

No.

They played a hell of a lot better in this game than they did against Houston last week. They simply lost to a better team, as I’d hardly call Houston a better team than Cincinnati. Carsom Palmer, despite a shaky start, played his heart out and delivered knock-out throw after knock-out throw, as his running game was effectively disrupted.

Andy Dalton shook off his demons and played well, too. Giovani Bernard is such a useful tool, almost like Dion Lewis for New England before he was injured. As much as I feel A.J Green is overrated, he played a strong game, as well. Tyler Eifert is still a red zone threat. Overall, no problems with Cincinnati’s offense.

This was just a good game overall. If not for the officiating, I’d have no major complaints whatsoever. Two good teams duking it out with little to no major injuries.

BUF @ NE

Buffalo at New England

  • (Watched, correct)

Man, I was as frustrated watching this game as Brady was with his protection. Just blitz after blitz after blitz. Or fake blitzes. Rex Ryan had a lot of fun playing hide and seek with his rushers.

New England’s shuffling around offensive linemen like Tom Landry used to shuffle quarterbacks. It seems almost desperate. Goodness. If it wasn’t for New England’s strong secondary, this game may have tilted in Buffalo’s favor. It doesn’t help that Amendola got injured during the second half, either, leaving only Gronk as a reliable receiver, who was well covered the entire game. Buffalo seems to have the blueprint for knocking Brady off balance. An ugly offensive performance, on both sides. Strong defenses, though.

Then, we have the officiating. Oh, boy. The “inadvertent whistle.” The “Sammy Watkins giving himself up on the final play” play. The “The previous play is under review” call that came on determining whether or not a receiver in a two-minute drill made a first down or not with only a yard difference. Like it fucking matters! Everything involved with a catch. Pass interference. Holding. Anything subjective. Just… really, really bad. We need new refs.

An interesting week, a week full of “I should haves.” Teams regretting decisions and me regretting who I picked, especially during noon games. Nevertheless, it was fun and it paved the path to a more clear view of who the contenders and who the pretenders are. Next week, however, should be far more interesting.

  • Week Eleven Pick ‘Em record: 6-8
  • Overall Pick ‘Em record: 95-65

NFL Pick ‘Ems (Week Eleven; 2015)

STL @ BAL

St. Louis at Baltimore

  • Favorite: Baltimore (via NFLPickWatch.com)

Case Keenum is starting to shape up like Ryan Fitzpatrick: starting every season for a different team when they weren’t supposed to be. But with how ineffective Nick Foles has been (especially after seeing evidence of it last week), the change is definitely warranted. Case Keenum has won 100% of his starts as a quarterback since 2014. It was only two games, but c’mon! 100%!

Baltimore seems to be getting the short end of the stick lately. The officials inadvertently enabled Jacksonville to beat them on the final play of the game last week, which shouldn’t have even been run. To be fair, if they were the team they wish they were, they would’ve blown out Jacksonville at home. And for that, I think it’s hard to give Baltimore the edge here.

Case Keenum is a bit of a wild card here. I can’t really say if he’s an improvement over Nick Foles or not, and I can’t say that St. Louis would take care of business here if Nick Foles were starting. I think the defense (granted it plays okay) of St. Louis is the deciding factor here, along with the reason I think St. Louis will prevail.

Winner: St. Louis

WAS @ CARWashington at Carolina

  • Favorite: Carolina

Carolina is the favorite here, but a few are staking claim that Washington could upset them on the road this week. Carolina has to lose sometime, right? Peeking at the rest of their schedule, they have four divisional games in the last five weeks of the season, along with facing a Romo-led Dallas team on the road and New York (Giants). There are some teams in the mix that has a chance to upset them. Could Washington be the first?

After all, Washington just came off a 47-14 romping of New Orleans. Kirk Cousins has been playing better as the season goes on. Washington’s defense has been better than anticipated. They’re not a bad team by any means. But against a 9-0 team at home? I doubt it. But hey, I’ve been wrong before (many times).

I like the idea of an upset here, but I think Carolina will lose to a more complete team. There are still some question marks with this Washington offense, despite their last win against an atrocious defense. Carolina will take care of business.

Winner: Carolina

DEN @ CHI

Denver at Chicago

  • Favorite: Chicago

A match-up almost as intriguing as St. Louis at Baltimore. Peyton Manning has been ceremoniously benched in favor of longtime back-up Brock Osweiller, who will make his first career start versus Chicago on the road. Y’know, I remember the last time Chicago went up against a team that had a one point back-up starting in favor of an injured star. All the way back in 2012, when they got throttled by Colin Kaepernick in his breakout game for San Francisco. Will Osweiller do the same? The situations are certainly similar.

Though, one could make the argument that Lovie Smith was still the head coach at that point, and the defense was on the decline. Now, Chicago looks to be a revitalized team under John Fox and co. Oh, and John Fox also coached Denver between 2011-2014. He has a little motivation for this game.

I’ll pick this game the same way I picked the game between San Francisco and Chicago back in 2012: with Chicago winning. Again, I don’t know what to expect of Osweiller, as this is his first career start. All I know is that Chicago’s been playing well recently, and Denver’s defense is starting to crack a bit. No Alshon Jeffery, no Matt Forte, no problem. Chicago will find a way to win.

Winner: Chicago

DAL @ MIA

Dallas at Miami

  • Favorite: Dallas

Dallas fans, take in a collective breath. Tony Romo is back in the line-up.

This should be an interesting match-up. Tony Romo is back from breaking his collarbone in what seems to be the 700th injury of his career. Will he play well in his debut game? Or will the rust of sitting on the sidelines handicap him? All I know is that Dallas can’t afford to play catch up. It’d most likely be better to ease Romo into playing again with a balanced offensive attack of quick passes and bruising runs. Kinda like last year, but with Darren McFadden rather than DeMarco Murray.

Miami had a good win against a Philadelphia offense that couldn’t get anything going, especially once Bradford got hurt. Their defense played well and gave their offense about 20 tries to score points. I don’t know if that’s a compliment to their defense or an insult to Philadelphia’s offense. Nevertheless, Miami got the win, but it wasn’t all too convincing. Now they have to face off against an offense that isn’t as inconsistent, especially now with Romo in there.

Basically, I trust a Romo-led offense. I don’t trust Miami’s validity as a team. Maybe if they win here, it’ll turn the tides, but not a lot of people expect them to win. Except the people who believe in the “Hardy Curse.”

Winner: Dallas

OAK @ DET

Oakland at Detroit

  • Favorite: Oakland

Oakland’s the favorite here, but it’s a 71-29% divide, which puzzles me. Are people that confident in Detroit after taking down Green Bay on the road? I see it more as Green Bay being buried in issues as opposed to Detroit actually being a good team. After all, they didn’t perform well that game, either. It looked like two old injured dogs having one last scuffle before they kneel over and die.

Oakland came close to closing the gap against Minnesota last week, but two interceptions from Terence Newman ruined their plans. Minnesota’s defense is not to be trifled with. Detroit’s, on the other hand, will let you trifle, ruffle, and bombard them with touchdowns aplenty… assuming you aren’t a struggling Green Bay team.

For me, this game isn’t even close. Even if the game becomes close, I think Oakland will close the deal in the end. They’re a much better team.

Winner: Oakland

NYJ @ HOU

New York at Houston

  • Favorite: New York

Y’know, if you showed me this match-up two weeks ago, I would’ve picked New York in a heartbeat. With the way last week played out, however, I feel a little more hesitant. New York isn’t as stable as a team as I thought, and Houston seems to have some defensive talent. Then again, Houston’s defensive performance could’ve been attributed to Cincinnati’s awful offensive performance. Nevertheless, this is a tricky match-up reeking with upset, if you can consider Houston beating New York an upset.

FitzMagic just had surgery on his thumb a week ago, so that’s an interesting factor to consider. Houston is starting their back-up quarterback T.J. Yates, who has been there a total of less than a month (this year), which is another interesting factor. Brandon Marshall, as talented as he is, has dropped some easy passes this year (which led to an interception last week). DeAndre Hopkins seems to be the second-coming of Andre Johnson.

I think defense will be the deciding factor to this game: which defense will play harder? Cause more turnovers? I like New York’s chances more than Houston’s.

Winner: New York

IND @ ATL

Indianapolis at Atlanta

  • Favorite: Atlanta

Does everyone remember Atlanta losing to a Blaine Gabbert-led offense two weeks ago? Apparently not, because Atlanta’s an 87-13% favorite. Sure, Matt Hasselbeck is starting, but he played well against… Houston. Okay, I think I see the point.

Still, though, with as inconsistent as Atlanta’s offense is, despite having the league’s second-leading scrimmage yard holder on offense, it’s hard to imagine them blowing Indianapolis out. Their defense is solid, though, and should prove Hasselbeck’s first real test of the season. I don’t think Matt Ryan will struggle with Indianapolis’s defense, especially with Mike Adams out.

This game, along with New York at Houston, reeks of upset. Part of me wants to pick Indianapolis because I believe in Hasselbeck. But on the other hand, Atlanta looks like the better team on paper. If only they played like they’ve looked on paper. Don’t let us down again, Atlanta.

Winner: Atlanta

TB @ PHI

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia

  • Favorite: Philadelphia

Philadelphia is an 85-15% favorite here, but I could see this game going either way. Jameis Winston and co. have been playing good football in the past couple of weeks (excluding Mike Evans’ performance against New York) and the defense has been stout. It looked good against Dallas last week, but Dallas is Dallas. Anyone could hold them to 6 points… except Philadelphia.

This is my dilemma: I want to pick Philadelphia. I want to feel confident that Philadelphia will put this game away easily, but they’re starting Mark Sanchez against an offense that can score points when needed. Mark Sanchez starting is not a good sign. Philadelphia’s defense can only do so much. I would even argue that Tampa Bay’s offense is better than Miami’s. Their records may be the same, but in terms of Pick ‘Em percentage, this match-up not only reeks of upset, but screams it, too.

In the end, I still like Philadelphia to win, but only because I trust their defense more than Tampa Bay’s offense. Mark Sanchez may not move the ball much, but I don’t think he’ll make any major errors. Then again, Tampa Bay’s pretty good at forcing turnovers…. Mrmm.

Winner: Philadelphia

KC @ SD

Kansas City at San Diego

  • Favorite: Kansas City

After a five-game losing streak, Kansas City has won three in a row. Their defense is starting to become elite force and Charcandrick West is looking to be a fitting replacement for Jamaal Charles. Alex Smith just has to not play like Alex Smith and they’re golden.

I feel bad for San Diego. I really do. They may as well change their logo from a lightning bolt to the Red Cross, because they have so many substantial injuries it’s ridiculous. Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Johnnie Troutman, Chris Watt, Branden Oliver; all out indefinitely. At least they may be getting some starters in King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, and Manti Te’o back from injury this week. That should help this struggling offensive line to a degree.

I expect to see a lot of Antonio Gates and Danny Woodcock in this game. Philip Rivers simply doesn’t have many else to throw to. And with Kansas City’s rising defense, I don’t see a very offensive game from San Diego. San Diego’s defense could allow 20+ points from pretty much anyone.

Winner: Kansas City

GB @ MIN

Green Bay at Minnesota

  • Favorite: Minnesota

A 52-48% favorite, might I add. This game has experts very divided, much like Denver at Chicago does. For me, with as badly as Green Bay’s offense has been performing in the last three weeks, I’m both surprised and not by how close people are picking this game. I’m surprised because Minnesota is clearly the better team at this point. I’m not surprised because this game will inevitably be a close-knit game between fierce division rivals, with Minnesota running and Green Bay throwing. It’ll be a test for both defenses to show what they got. I’m really looking forward to it.

One has to think that Aaron Rodgers will turn it around, right? He’s better than what the last three weeks have seen out of him, so what’s the issue? Well, recent reports say he’s injured. Others say that his receivers simply aren’t getting separation. His offensive line hasn’t been all too good recently, which is also affecting Green Bay’s running game. So, essentially, he’s become a lesser Philip Rivers in a much colder environment; the product of injury and a bad offensive line.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has no issue with Teddy Bridgewater, as he’s typically not a flashy number guy by any stretch of the imagination. Their offensive line is “eh,” okay enough to let Adrian Peterson be the league’s leading rusher (that may say more about Adrian Peterson) and to protect Bridgewater when it counts. Still, though, with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, that’ll be put to the test quickly.

My favorite game this week. I’m picking the logical choice based on this year’s evidence for the outcome, which points to Minnesota. They’re at home, they have an elite defense, and they have Adrian Peterson. They look to take a two game lead in the division.

Winner: Minnesota

SF @ SEA

San Francisco at Seattle

  • Favorite: Seattle

Seattle is a 100% favorite. I would laugh really hard if San Francisco upset them, but I don’t expect that. Much like everyone else.

Seattle let the game get away from them last week against Arizona. Their defense can’t seem to handle offenses with high-powered passing games like they used to. Still pretty good against the run, though, which is basically 70% of San Francisco’s offense. The only thing is with San Francisco’s defense, which is okay normally, but teeters a tot on the road. Seattle’s offense can be okay, assuming they play a balanced game and let Russell Wilson attack the defense with both his arm and his legs. One can’t be very confident with their offense the way they’ve played throughout the season, though, even with Jimmy Graham.

In case you forgot, San Francisco is also starting this guy:

bwaine gabbert

  • 6-22 starting record
  • 25/26 TD/Int ratio
  • 53.4% career pass completion
  • 67.1 career quarterback rating

Winner: Seattle

CIN @ ARI

Cincinnati at Arizona

  • Favorite: Arizona

People don’t have a lot of confidence in Cincinnati after they lost horribly to Houston a week ago in PRIMETIMEI’m the same. Had Cincinnati taken care of business against Houston in convincing fashion last week, I probably would have picked them to beat Arizona this week. However, it would seem Cincinnati’s struggles at night continue to haunt them and are no longer favorites when it comes to big games like this. Oh well.

Arizona beat Seattle last week the way Cincinnati should’ve beaten Houston last week. There was always talk about Arizona only being good against teams with bad defenses, but they disproved that against Seattle on the road. Though, some are convinced that Seattle’s defense has softened considerably this season. Fact of the matter is Carson Palmer shredded the Legion of Boom for three touchdowns and 363 yards through the air. While I don’t expect the same type of game against Cincinnati, I expect him to perform well.

And that’s the only thing that’s preventing me from throwing all of my chips on the table in favor of Arizona: Cincinnati’s defense. They’ve played very well this season and can turn the tide. I don’t expect this game to be a blowout by any means, but unless Cincinnati’s offense plays the way it did last week, the combined score shouldn’t be much more than 40. A fascinating game, to say the least. This week’s slate of afternoon/evening games are all enticing (not counting Tennessee at Jacksonville).

Winner: Arizona

BUF @ NE

Buffalo at New England

  • Favorite: New England

New England is playing at home and they’re New England. Rex Ryan or no Rex Ryan. Julian Edelman or no Julian Edelman. Offensive line or no offensive line. New England doesn’t lose at home. I don’t expect them to this week. Or any week.

Winner: New England