For both Dan and I last week was a good one for picks and a bad one for how our teams actually played. As frustrated as Dan was by the close loss to the Lions, I think I win the crappiest team performance of the week after the debacle of the Bengals loss, and a historically bad performance by Andy Dalton. I’m not sure writing a picks column is the best way to cleanse that loss from my system, but I’ll give it a try and hope that I can keep the pressure on Dan by continuing to cut into his lead.
Gee: Week 10 9-4 Overall 75-72
Dan: Week 10 8-5 Overall 77-70
Bills @ Dolphins (-5.5)
This is a matchup of two very similar teams, both of which have really good defences, questions on offence, a 5-4 record, and both lost by four points on Sunday to quality teams.
The Bills issues on offence are at quarterback, and whilst that has stabilised somewhat since Kyle Orton became the starter, he is an average quarterback that is not going to win you games on his own. The Dolphins have also had questions at quarterback, but in recent weeks Ryan Tannehill has looked to have made progress and was going against the top ranked defence in the league last week.
The problem is that the Dolphins lost their left tackle Branden Albert for the year with ACL & MCL tears, I can speak from recent experience about what problems that can cause you, and that’s before we consider the defence that’s coming to town. I think this will be a close game, and whilst I don’t feel great sticking my neck out against what I assume will be a pick of Dolphins by Dan, I’m backing the Bills to stay within five in this game.
Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins
Falcons @ Panthers (-1.5)
This game feels like a total crap shoot to me. The Falcons picked up their third win of the season against a horrible Buccaneers team whilst the Panthers slid to a 3-6-1 record with a big loss to the Eagles on Monday night. Thanks to the putrid nature of the NFC South this year, three wins still has you in the race for the division title, but I can’t see either of these teams as they are currently performing making a serious challenge. I am not sure how to judge the rankings at Football Outsiders as I can’t quantify how the huge win the Falcons had over the Buccaneers earlier in the year affects their respective standing, but the Falcons have more weapons and a better quarterback as they are currently playing, and with the Panthers defence struggling I’m reluctantly backing a second road underdog. This can’t end well.
Gee’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Pick: Panthers
Vikings @ Bears (-3.5)
Quietly the Vikings have got themselves four wins whilst the Bears have been falling apart over the last few weeks.
The Bears have given up over fifty points in their last two games and their only win against a team with a winning record is their week 2 game against the 49ers. We knew the defence was not going to be great, but it has been horrendous and it is one thing to get beat on talent, but when Jordy Nelson is dancing uncovered behind your safeties, you have real issues of coaching and scheme. What make this even worse is that the offence, which has talent enough at the skill position to match up with anybody, is also underperforming.
The Vikings have their issues, but Teddy Bridgewater managed not to turn the ball over against Washington, whilst throwing for 268 yards and a touchdown, and their defence is quietly ranked tenth in the league by DVOA. I’m worried that the Bears home losing streak has to end at some point, but I don’t see why they are getting the benefit of the doubt in points this week, I’ve seen nothing that makes me thing they’ve earned it this season.
Gee’s Pick: Vikings
Dan’s Pick: Bears
Bengals @ Saints (-6.5)
This line is perfectly placed to make me waver, although I’m not sure how much of that is due to my current relationship with the Bengals.
The Saints stand atop the wretched NFC South division with their 4-5 record, and are coming off a narrow overtime loss to the 49ers. They have been playing well below the standards many expected, with the defence taking a step back from last year’s improved performance and perhaps more surprisingly, the offence also does not look quite right. In the 49ers game Drew Brees threw another strange interception as well as giving up a strip sack at the end of the game so the 49ers could kick the winning field goal. In fairness, on another day they could have won the game at the end of the fourth quarter as you rarely see a flag for a push off on the last play Hail Mary, but despite what Jimmy Graham claimed, the call was correct according to the rules.
On the other side of this game, I’m worried. The Bengals defence is having problems with the front seven, particularly in the run game, and the least said about Andy Dalton’s historically bad game the better. I’m hoping they will bounce back with some fire against the Saints, but New Orleans is not an easy place to play. I think the Saints will win, but I’m not ready to say the Bengals are going to get blown out again. This could be a pick based completely on hope, but I’m going with the Bengals to at least keep this game competitive.
Gee’s Pick: Bengals
Dan’s Pick: Saints
Texans @ Browns (-3.5)
The Texans are coming off a bye and are starting Ryan Mallet in this game. The problem with this team has been the offence and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been holding them back, but I’m not sure that Mallet is nailed on to be the solution, particularly given the Arian Foster is currently listed as questionable with a groin injury. The Browns defence has not been playing as well as I expected of them, but despite the extra week to prepare, I’m not sure how successful you are going to be starting an inexperienced career backup in an away game. I think the Cleveland fans are going to be loud as they enjoy being in first place in the AFC North!
If this game was taking place before the Alex Mack injury, I would have no doubt in picking the Browns, but I suspect the line would be different. Since he has gone down, the Browns’ offence has not looked the same with the running game struggling, and the strong showing in last week’s game is somewhat undermined by the Bengals being dead last in rush defence by DVOA. I could regret this as I never like to pick against JJ Watt, but I’ll back the Browns in this one.
Gee’s Pick: Browns
Dan’s Pick: Browns
Broncos @ Rams (+9.5)
The Rams did better in their loss last week against the Cardinals than the 14-31 score line might make you think. The talented defensive front seems to be finding its feet over the last couple of weeks and followed up their eight sack showing against the 49ers with another three sacks against the Cardinals. In fact it was only a couple of defensive touchdowns for the Cardinals late in the fourth quarter that finally finished off the Rams. The problem is that they just don’t have enough on offence to win and it’s taken special teams heroics or horrible opposition play for them to win.
This is not a week that they are going to get enough of those things to win. Despite their two losses, the Broncos remain the class team of the NFL and although they struggled at first against the Raiders, they soon managed to reassert their dominance to gain a big victory. If you get a chance, take a look at Brock Osweiler’s reaction to Peyton Manning going back in when he through he was. Otherwise, this should be another win for the Broncos and I expect them to cover the spread as well.
Gee’s Pick: Broncos
Dan’s Pick: Broncos
Seahawks @ Chiefs (-0.5)
The Chiefs did it again last week, finding ways to manufacture points against a Bills defence that is currently ranked fourth in defence by DVOA. They ran the ball well enough with Jamaal Charles demonstrating why he went early in so many fantasy drafts, and even Alex Smith got in on the act with a rushing touchdown to go with his 177 yards and no interceptions. They are also solid on defence, but the rush defence ranking of twenty-first by DOVA does worry me in this game.
The Seahawks have managed to get back on track with three straight wins, but they have come against the Panthers, Raiders, and Giants, so it might not be time to get too excited yet. They managed an incredible 350 yards of rushing against the Giants, but they don’t have a lot of options in the passing game and Russell Wilson threw two interceptions to go with him hundred yards rushing and touchdown. The defence are just not what they were last year, which is probably not surprising given their outstanding level of play last season, but it was still surprising to see a rookie receiver get behind Richard Sherman.
I think this should be a good game, but I think the Chiefs solid brand of football will win out in a noisy Arrowhead Stadium.
Gee’s Pick: Chiefs
Dan’s Pick: Chiefs
49ers @ Giants (+4.5)
The Giants are in trouble, and when defensive players are plain avoiding even trying to make a tackle then you know it is bad. They are not exactly terrible, but are ranked either eighteenth or twentieth by DVOA in all three phases of the game, and such mediocrity is not turning into wins. The one real bright spot is rookie receiver Odell Beckham who has shown real potential, as show when he got behind Richard Sherman with a lovely move last week.
The 49ers managed to get the win last week, reverting back to type in offence by focussing on the run. Between the difficulties they’ve had moving the ball on offence, and the injuries on defence, it has been a tough season for the 49ers but they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot and I think that they will help that quest despite the long trip across the country this week.
Gee’s Pick: 49ers
Dan’s Pick: 49ers
Buccaneers @ Washington (-6.5)
This is not a good game. The Buccaneers have been every bit as woeful as their 1-8 record would suggest, whilst Washington have not exactly inspired many people either. I was surprised that RG3 started in their week 9 loss against the Vikings given they had a bye the following, but he should be healthier now and whilst I’m not convinced by the, I think they will win this game. The points do make pause, but I’m not backing the Buccaneers to do much of anything right now.
Gee’s Pick: Washington
Dan’s Pick: Washington
Raiders @ Chargers (-10.5)
After a strong start that included conversations about Phillip Rivers being in contention for MVP, the Chargers have fallen off in recent weeks as injuring started to catch up with them. They have been on a bye, but there are only so many centres you can lose before it affects your offence and their rush offence is currently ranked twenty-eight in the league by DVOA. I expect them to bounce back with a win this week, but I don’t see them at this point putting up a huge win over the Raiders.
There are only so many things that you can write about a team that has lost nine games straight this season. There are a few promising young players, but the offseason signing of veterans to put this team over the top has clearly not worked, and they would have been better off to follow the Jaguars’ lead in building through youth as at least you have hope for the future. They haven’t put themselves in cap purgatory with these signings, but it is going to be a long time before the Raiders get back to consistent winning and there are too many players getting game time now that won’t be able to help them when they do start winning.. That said, I think they will keep it close enough to cover in this one.
Gee’s Pick: Raiders
Dan’s Pick: Chargers
Lions @ Cardinals (-1.5)
I feel so sorry for Carson Palmer, this is best team he’s played on since the last time he injured his ACL with the Bengals. They continue to play excellent defence and are doing well enough to win on offence with rookie receiver John Brown seeming to make a highlight play catch late in the game each week. Speaking of highlights, we know Patrick Peterson is good, but his tipped interception that he returned for a touchdown was a spectacular play that helped put the game away for the Cardinals and I struggle to believe that was the first interception he’s returned for a touchdown.
The Lions have continued their turnaround under Jim Caldwell, they still lead the league by defensive DVOA and now have Calvin Johnson back from injury. There are still questions about Matthew Stafford’s play, but the side arm throw he used to deliver the game winning touchdown pass to Theo Riddick was the only way that he could get the ball there.
I think the Cardinals have been brilliantly coached this season, and I think they will continue to be good, but this is a big test for Drew Stanton and I think I’d rather be on the side of Mattew Stafford and Calvin Johnsons in this game given how good both defences are, although I’m not happy about going against the Cardinals.
Gee’s Pick: Lions
Dan’s Pick: Lions
Eagles @ Packers (-5.5)
The Packers battered the Bears at Lambeau Field last week, seemingly scoring at will whilst Clay Matthews played very well spending time at middle linebacker in early downs before reverting back to his more familiar pass rusher role on third down. Time will tell if this is an adjustment that can help solidify the defence enough to help them get back to the Super Bowl, but it looked like a fair start.
The Eagles also are coming off a good win, having easily taken care of the Panthers on Monday night football. They are still having problems with their running game, but the pass game continued to work with Mark Sanchez throwing for a very respectable three hundred yards and two touchdowns in his first start as an Eagle. Add to that a defence that is ranked sixth in the league by DVOA and special teams that leads the league, and you can see why the Eagles are winning games.
I think this is going to be one of the games of the week and I’m surprised that the packers are giving so many points. I think either side can win, but I don’t think that Eagles are going to lose by this much.
Gee’s Pick: Eagles
Dan’s Pick: Packers
Patriots @ Colts (-2.5)
This should be another really good game, with both teams having a strong season.
The Colts season has been driven but Andrew Luck’s excellent play and a defence that has done enough for them to win games. They are still struggling with their running game but when you have a quarterback of Luck’s ability, you can make up for that.
The Patriots has a wobble at the start of the season, which suckered a lot of people into thinking the Brady-Belichick era was over. We are still closer to that being the case than not, but they again look like the team that will win at least ten games and their division.
This should be a close game, but I have more faith in Belichick’s ability to game plan a defence for the Colts than that they can stop Gronkowski, which may seem counterintuitive given that the Colts actually rank higher by defensive DVOA than the Patriots, but I think the Patriots stats are suffering from their early blowout loss to the Chiefs and frankly I’m fed up of being beaten by them.
Gee’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Pick: Colts
Steelers @ Titans (+5.5)
Is there any team that has been more up and down the Steelers this season? They followed up strong wins against the Colts and Ravens by giving the perennially rebuilding Jets a second win for the season, and previously gave the woeful Buccaneers their only win of the year. However, the Titans are awful and Dick LeBeau has an amazing record against rookie quarterbacks, which does no bode well for the Titans’ sixth round pick Zack Mettenberger. I’m a little worried by the points just because of the erratic nature of the Steelers’ performance, but I’d need to be getting a lot more before I picked the Titans.
Gee’s Pick: Steelers
Dan’s Pick: Steelers