Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens Point Spread Free Picks: This game is always close, and I don’t see why, with everything for the Ravens to gain (possibly a 1st round Bye if things go right) and nothing for the Bengals to lose (they’re playing better of late, but have had a terrible year) that this game won’t be tight from start to finish.
Carson Palmer looked like the old (or young, I guess) Carson before the knee injury that set him back the last few years. He looked to many different targets and relied on the run game more- it worked as the Bengals ousted the Chargers and kept San Diego out of the playoffs for the first time in a while. They can’t keep the Ravens out, but a talented secondary and a solid offense could keep the Ravens from getting a free pass to Round 2, and I think the Bengals have that kind of game in them.
The Bengals have won 3 straight games in this division rivalry. They beat the Ravens 15-10 for one of their 4 wins this season. It was a defensive game, and while that might be to the advantage of the Ravens, it’s not to the advantage of covering a double digit spread.
In fact, the Bengals have only lost by double digits 4 times this season. They’ve won two straight games, and they’re playing solid on both sides of the ball. Yes, I’m willing to say they have a chance, and I’m taking them on the road getting 10 and change.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots NFL Week 17 Free Picks: You never know what the Patriots are going to do, especially after watching Wes Welker go down to a season ending knee surgery late last year in a meaningful game before the playoffs. But Bill Belichick isn’t the type of guy to second guess himself, even when a tough injury got to his squad in a similar situation, so I think he plays his guys, at least most of them, for the better part of this game. If we’ve learned anything from the coaching of the master, it’s that his young defense needed seasoning to become a solid unit – and I don’t see why they wouldn’t come out playing tough against the Dolphins this Sunday morning.
I would think that Tom might get a half game off or so, but the Patriots do a lot of things right, and they will be well coached. With Miami’s head coach in danger of being ousted – and their quarterback questions looming, the pending free agency of both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, it’s hard to expect much out of those Dolphins.
Despite being favored in all but 1 of their last 10 games, the Patriots are 7-3 ATS with wins of 29+ points against two of the best defenses in football, the Jets and Bears.
I know Brady has a ton to do with his teams’ success, and nobody knows if he’ll play or not – but either way the best team will be at home on Sunday, and giving just 3 points makes them a solid enough bet for me.
Washington Huskies @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl Pick: Let me tell you a little story… Once Upon A Time, earlier this season, the Cornhuskers went on the road (or through the air) to visit Seattle to battle the Washington Huskies. The Huskies were supposed to be a tougher out this season, so Nebraska came in with a battle on their minds. It didn’t start well for the Dawgs as freshman quarterback sensation, Taylor Martinez, threw a 24 yard touchdown pass and ran a short TD in to make it a 14-0 game early in the 1st quarter. But Washington got back in it, and with 5 minutes left in the 2nd, the game was 21-14, everything the fans had hoped for!
But while the Huskies were just about done, the Cornhuskers had just started. They ran down the field for one more touchdown before half, and walked into the locker room doubling up the Huskies.
It was all Nebraska in the 2nd half as the Huskies sieved-like defense couldn’t do anything to slow the Huskers elite rushing attack. IN fact, three Huskers broke the 100+ yard barrier. As a team they rushed for 385 yards and 6 touchdowns and the Huskies just couldn’t keep up.
The game was a laugher, in the end, as Nebraska won 56-21, scoring 21 unanswered points to end the game.
I know the Huskies won 3 straight games to get into a Bowl, and all three were Pac-10 wins, which are always tough – but they really stand no chance against Nebraska, and I expect this to be a lot like the first fairy tale.
Washington Huskies @ #18 Nebraska Cornhuskers (-14)
North Carolina Tar Heels @ Tennessee Volunteers Music City Bowl Pick: I’m not sold on Tennessee – their last 4 games have shown me that they can win, and win when it matters, but only against teams like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Memphis – hardly big wins to hang your hat on. Winning is big, for confidence and just learning how to do it, but because you won doesn’t mean you’ll win. So, when I finally decided to pick the Vols, I didn’t do so because of those 4 wins to end the season, the 4 straight wins they needed to become bowl eligible. I picked them because this is a home game for the Vols, and they’ve been better at home than on the road. Defensively, they are figuring it out. Since allowing 41, 41, and 38 in three straight games (against Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina) they haven’t allowed more than 14 points. That’s a nice turnaround.
I love the semi-success Carolina had this season despite losing most of their defense to eligibility issues, and some key offensive players as well. The Tar Heels battled their way to 7-5 despite being forced to play without Robert Quinn, Greg Little, Charles Brown, and Bruce Carter for much of the season. Quinn is one of the best players in college football, and all in all this team lost 7 defensive players to eligibility. Yet they still played tough against tough teams, and got to this point.
But the past is there, and this season is already a success for the Heels. In a home game I like Tennessee to find a way to win in a close one.
North Carolina Tar Heels @ Tennessee Volunteers (+2)
Kansas State Wildcats @ Syracuse Orange New Era Pinstripe Bowl Pick: I can’t believe I’m taking the Syracuse Orange in this one, I mean, I looked at this spread on the surface and I was definitely excited about getting the Wildcats in a basic “pick’em” game against the weak Syracuse team. But the more I looked, the more I dug in, the more I liked what the Orange have been doing- they way they’re turning into a real football program. They way they are coached, I fully expect them to be all-in for this experience. This is a team that doesn’t see a lot of football success, and with a great turnaround and a 7-5 season, it’s hard for me to see them losing.
As good as Kansas State’s own run game is (that’s Daniel Thomas, by the way, his 1495 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns easily make him the go-to-guy on this club) their run defense almost always makes the opposition look just as good. Only 4 times in the last 10 games have the Wildcats won the rushing-yard comparison. 3 of those games were against the likes of North Texas, Kansas, and Iowa State. The other was against Texas, and the Longhorns have shown an inability to stop the run against mediocre teams this year (like UCLA) and have no run-game themselves. Kansas State has been crushed on the ground at times this season, and I think Syracuse will find some success running the ball. That should open up a lot in their passing game, which has been pretty efficient this year.
The Orange don’t score much, and they went 1-3 down the stretch – but K-State is just very unimpressive. As far as I can see, they have one solid win, Central Florida, and two if you count beating Texas as impressive. With Daniel Thomas being the big-name skill guy here, I still wouldn’t be surprised if Delone Carter (Syracuse’s leading rusher) ends up having the bigger game.
Kansas State Wildcats @ Syracuse Orange (-1)
Army Black Knights @ Southern Methodist Mustangs Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Pick: When it comes down to reasons why I’d take the Black Knights and 7-points over the favored SMU Mustangs, it comes down to three things. First, the teams Army struggle withy most usually run the ball with a lot of success (Air Force, Notre Dame, Temple) and the Mustangs almost always lose the rushing battle. Second, they Black Knights are getting a full touchdown when both teams average about the same points per game – scored and allowed. In fact, Army scores 27.5 on average compared to 26.6 from SMU, and they give up 25.2 compared to 26.4 – so a little bit of a numbers advantage there. Third, I just don’t buy the Mustangs as a touchdown favorite against a running team. Rushing attacks are more consistent than air assaults, and that consistency makes it easier to cover games.
The Mustangs can’t stop the run and the Black Knights can run it, that has the makings of a handful of long scoring drives for the underdog, and that kind of play eats up clock and options for SMU to cover. Army’s been getting better and better, and now they could end with a bowl win.
I don’t have a lot of people with me on this one. Of 14 “expert” picks on Covers, 13 of them went with SMU to cover the touchdown they’re giving up. 65%-84% (depending on where you look) of the public likes SMU as well. I’m looking to be “the one” that’s happy about this one, I guess.
Army Black Knights (+7) @ Southern Methodist Mustangs