Pigskin Pick’em: The future becomes clearer

  • By Nolan Rose
  • Wednesday, November 5, 2014 7:57pm
  • Sports

November is my favorite time of year because I’ll be able to stuff my stomach with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, biscuits, pumpkin pie, funky cranberry stuff, and all the other delightful things I associate with the month. November is also the time of year when NFL contenders separate themselves from NFL pretenders. There are three definite contenders in the AFC. The Denver Broncos are still the favorite to visit Glendale, Arizona in early February, but the New England Patriots are certainly vying for the crown. The AFC’s representative may well come down to which team emerges with home field advantage. Peyton Manning has a lengthy track record of playoff failures in outdoor cold weather cities. Manning’s mark in New England over the years speaks for itself, but don’t forget last year’s Super Bowl was in frigid New York. There’s evidence that suggests the temperature has been Manning’s greatest opponent during his historic career.

Joining the AFC fray is Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Luck, predicted by many to be the next great QB when he left Stanford three years ago has lived up to the billing. At some point legendary passers like Manning and Tom Brady will pass the torch to Luck. Does that happen this season? What’s going on in the AFC
North? The Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens are all over .500. Each team has had moments of brilliance, but each has also looked thoroughly incompetent at one point or another.

The NFC is more muddled. The Arizona Cardinals have the best record. A reasonable person could make the argument that the Desert Bats are the best team in the conference. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers are somewhere in the mix. I have no idea who will emerge from the NFC. Of the already mentioned group only the Detroit Lions would surprise me and that’s only because they’re still the Detroit Lions.

My record against the spread isn’t nearly as confusing. After a solid 8-5 performance in week nine the column’s season total improved to 74-59-1. For the math majors out there that’s a 56% clip, solid if not spectacular.

Cleveland Browns @ CINCINNATI BENGALS -6.5

The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals kick off the tenth week of the NFL season Thursday night. Neither team is terrible which marks the first time since the mid-80’s that both NFL teams from Ohio entered a contest competently. I’m not ready to buy stock in Cleveland however, despite a respectable 5-3 record. The Browns victories have largely come at the expense of NFL afterthoughts. Cincinnati is at home, star receiver A.J. Green is healthy, and the Bengals must win to keep pace with a surging Pittsburgh Steelers team in the AFC North. Bengals win 30-17

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ Buffalo Bills +2.5

The fast charging Kansas City Chiefs have won five of six contests since opening the year with consecutive defeats. Will the Chiefs war party continue in frigid Buffalo? The Bills are a surprising 5-3 led by a strong defense and an offense which hasn’t played its traditional brand of awful football. I have more faith in Chiefs QB Alex Smith than I do Buffalo’s Kyle Orton. Kansas City’s defense leads the AFC in points allowed. Historically, Native Americans eat buffalo; the mascot edge goes to KC. Chiefs win 24-17

MIAMI DOLPHINS @ Detroit Lions -6

Lions are ferocious killers but they don’t swim well. Dolphins are at home in the water and they can be sneaky mean, but land turns them into canned tuna. With no definitive mascot edge we’ll have to use more elaborate measures to determine the victor. Detroit leads the entire NFL in points allowed, a startling statistic considering the team’s rich tradition of letting the other team score. Oddly, it’s Detroit’s offense that has struggled this season despite obvious talent at QB and the skill positions. Miami is coming off a 37-0 shellacking of the San Diego Chargers. The Dolphins are third in the NFL in points allowed. Six points is too many in what should be a low scoring affair. Lions win 20-17

DALLAS COWBOYS vs. Jacksonville Jaguars +7

The Cowboys reward for travelling to London? A “road” game against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Venturing across the pond is undoubtedly a burden for an NFL team, but getting the Jungle Kittens on a neutral field in place of a real road game is a gift from the footballs gods. If Tony Romo is reasonably healthy and capable of playing I fully expect the Cowboys to emerge with an easy victory. If Brandon Weeden is under center all bets are off, literally. These are the games you hate to pick so early in the week. Cowboys win 30-13

San Francisco 49ers @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS -5

Something is amiss with this 49ers club. Has the team finally tuned out clinically insane head coach Jim Harbaugh after suffering through years of his belligerent antics? Have injuries, suspensions, and age finally caught up to a declining defense? Is Colin Kaepernick a loser? Some or all of the above may be true. New Orleans seems to have righted the ship after a rocky start. Considering the 49ers offensive struggles it’s hard to imagine the boys from the bay keeping pace in the Bayou. Saints win 31-21

Tennessee Titans @ BALTIMORE RAVENS -10

There’s never really a good time for the Tennessee Titans to participate in a professional football contest, but this certainly qualifies as a bad timing indeed. A pissed off Baltimore Ravens team, losers of two straight including a record breaking defeat to their rival Pittsburgh Steelers, will play host to the Titans this Sunday. Baltimore has to win to stay in the hotly contested AFC North division race. With everything to play for, and facing a team whose QB is too busy taking selfies to complete a pass, Baltimore is a safe side. Ravens win 27-10

PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ New York Jets +6.5

I said it last week and I’ll say it again. I will never back a Rex Ryan coached Jets team again. Steelers win 38-14

Atlanta Falcons @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS +1.5

How far has Atlanta fallen? Just two years ago the Falcons were a score away from reaching the Super Bowl. Now the team sits at 2-6 and is only asked to lay 1.5 points to one of if not the worst team in football, an embarrassing reality. Tampa Bay, to their credit, has marvelously equaled Atlanta’s ineptitude. Siding with the Bucs appears to be a quick way to spend money, but right now Atlanta feels like a team that will find a way to lose. Bucs win 21-20

DENVER BRONCOS @ Oakland Raiders +12.5

Denver set the stage beautifully for a return trip to Foxboro in January when the Broncos spent some time in Tom Brady’s woodshed a week ago. The 43-21 drubbing must have been particularly painful for Lord Manning having come at the hands of his greatest adversary. Of course, the hapless Oakland Raiders are on the schedule this week providing an excellent opportunity for Denver to gain a positive result. Like any team, home field advantage is vital to Denver’s postseason prospects. Expect the Broncos to get back on track facing the only winless team remaining in football. Broncos win 35-13

ST. LOUIS RAMS @ Arizona Cardinals -7.5

The Goats face the Desert Bats in an unanticipated matchup of NFC West rivals. Unbelievably, Arizona has the best record in football after nine weeks of play. Nobody predicted that in the pre-season. With a pair of home games in front of them there’s every reason to suspect the team will reach 9-1 after ten contests. The thought of Arizona being 9-1 makes a man wonder which universe he’s currently in! It appears obvious that my take on the team is wrong, but I still don’t believe the Cardinals are a true contender. The Rams pass rush is has made an impression on opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks. The 49ers Colin Kaepernick was sacked eight times by St. Louis defenders this past Sunday. A mix of pressure and the Cardinals inevitable return to Earth will make for a tight contest. Cardinals win 23-17

New York Giants @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -9.5

It’s hard to spot a Seattle Seahawks opponent 9.5 points with the shaky form the team has displayed, but it’s hard not to when the lifeless New York Giants are that opponent. Injuries have ravaged both teams (Seattle was without eight starters a week ago!) but a number of quality performers are set to return to the field this week for the Seahawks. Behind a bolstered lineup and a raucous home crowd Seattle will fly away with the victory. Seahawks win 30-16

Chicago Bears @ GREEN BAY PACKERS -7.5

The Berenstain Bears were more ferocious than the collection of missed tackles currently assembled in Chicago. If things weren’t bad enough for the Minnows of the Midway this weekend’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers, have had an extra week to prepare for the matchup. Not that Aaron Rodgers needs additional time to decipher the Bears rudimentary defense. The only suspense remaining is if Bears fans will consider a three touchdown defeat a moral victory? Packers win 41-20

CAROLINA PANTHERS @ Philadelphia Eagles -6

What happened to Superman? Cam Newton has failed to rescue his team from a dearth of talent for three consecutive weeks. Carolina isn’t good at football, that’s been established, but are you ready to lay a six points with Mark Sanchez as your quarterback. The Sanchize, a football comedian unlike any other in recent memory, is starting again after Nick Foles injured his shoulder last Sunday. Nobody made terrible football more entertaining than Sanchez did in New York for four seasons. Sanchez has a lot more talent around him in Philadelphia, and comparing current coach Chip Kelly to ex-coach Rex Ryan is like pitting Garry Kasparov against a baboon in a game of chess. Still, I need to see four quarters of solid play from Sanchez before siding with the Eagles becomes an option again. Eagles win 23-20

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