What can I say? Weird stuff happens on Thursday Nights, right? It’s a short week, it’s late in the season, defenses usually have a hand up on the offenses… Unless you’re playing Peyton Manning, I guess. And unless you’re Oakland… So, sure, this is a 10 point spread, but can we really find any reason to go against the Broncos whilst in Oakland?
Some will say that Oakland has won ATS 4 of the last 6 against the Broncos, but can a team led by Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton be compared to one led by the holiest of Peyton’s?? Did you know that, at home, Oakland has one single win against the spread in the last 10 games? One. Did you know that they’ve lost 5 straight? You’re probably saying, “Yes, I did know that, but I thought it was more than just 5.” – Me too. Did you know that Oakland is playing like their coach is getting fired after the season? Well, he probably is, so what do you expect?
McFadden is back, sure, but he couldn’t rush for over 3 yards a carry when he was healthy. The Broncos have lost their last three games against the spread, despite winning by 7, 8, and 8… Their opponents haven’t been good, and maybe there’s something to my claim that Peyton doesn’t take as many chances against lesser opponents, making the games somewhat closer.
All that being said, Denver is riding an awfully hot streak right now, and they are doing damage on the road this season, winning 4 away from the high altitude and covering in three of those contests. I’ll be on Peyton, take the Broncos giving 10.
Sure, it’s fair to say that the Seattle Seahawks are just a much better team at home than they are on the road, as they’ve struggled away from Century Link Field but that doesn’t mean their defense is any less impressive. This is a group that is very hard to score on, as Mr. Brady and the Patriots found out in the second half last week. The 49ers don’t really have a dynamic offense, so it’s not like they’re coming in looking to fire the ball down the field on the Hawks. Bottom line: it’s going to be a low scoring football game between two very good defenses going up against two very mediocre offenses. Rankings or statistics be damned, these are probably the two best defenses in football. So what’s it going to come down to?
It probably comes down to who can run the football and which team finds a little bit of lightening in a football. Either team could win this game, and the advantage has to go to the San Francisco 49ers, 4-2 this season (just like the Hawks), NFC Championship runner-up a season ago, playing at home, needing a win after a very poor performance last week against the Giants: but giving the Hawks 7 points is a delicious recipe for covering a spread, so I just can’t find it in me to take the home team 49ers.
Russell Wilson might be a rookie, and he might have low numbers, but there’s a little bit of magic in his game, and he certain won’t back down from a defense that will be set to stuff the run against the Hawks. That means a couple big chances from Wilson, and probably a couple big plays from a pretty underrated receiving corps. The Hawks won’t let the 49ers run game get going, and we saw last week that if the 49ers aren’t running, their passing show isn’t running on all cylinders either.
You all know my code: you never give a good team 7 points. The Hawks might be what some fools will call “overachievers” but anybody who knows this team knows that they’ve been improving at a very high rate. This is a good Seattle football team and nobody deserves 7 points against them, especially on Thursday Night where defenses usually dominate the show.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Buffalo Bills Free Pick & Preview: The Buffalo Bills have been one of the best stories in football. They started off the season 3-0, and with a big win over the New England Patriots to boot. They’ve run the ball well behind Fred Jackson and an improved offensive line. They’ve thrown the ball with great efficiency, taking advantage of Stevie Johnson and a bunch of receivers nobody knows about. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been awesome all year – they’re a great surprise, and it looks like they’re going to stay around in the playoff picture all year long.
The Philadelphia Eagles, the free agency dream team led by Michael Vick, the explosive receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, not to mention one of the best young runner/receivers in football, LeSean McCoy: have been one of the most disappointing teams in football thus far. At 1-3 through 4 weeks, the Eagles are looking up at every other team in the NFC East, and with at trip to Buffalo this week, 1-4 isn’t out of the question.
But they have to get it together, right? Right? LeSean McCoy should find plenty of room to run in Buffalo, and Michael Vick shouldn’t have to deal with as tough a pass rush as he’s seen most of the time over the first 4 weeks. He should have a huge game and the Eagles should find a way to win. There’s something to be said for needing to win, and as bad as anyone in the NFL, they have to be feeling that heading into Week 5.
Chan Gailey is one hell of a coach, and it’s tough to go against him as a 3 point dog at home – but the Eagles are better than they’ve played, and if nothing else, sports have a way of evening out as time goes by.
This is one of my tougher decisions this week – mainly because there really is limited value on either side. On one hand you have the Indianapolis Colts minus one Peyton Manning. In other words, yuck. After watching the Colts play, I’m pretty sure I’m voting on Peyton Manning as the MVP for this season. If there’s every been an example of how much a guy means to his team, it’s this instance right here. Sure, he hasn’t been very good this season, his numbers are the lowest ever, shoot, he’s not even going to suit up (likely) – but this guy is the MVP, hands down! Maybe Curtis Painter will unleash his inner Drew Brees, but right now that’s tough to expect.
Then you have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that hasn’t met the high expectations they received coming into the year, mainly because of the tricks they pulled last season to win 10 games in the first place. But wait, they’re up to those tricks again, I mean – they are 2-1 heading into Monday Night. They do hold a 0 point differential, so they’re close to the +23 pace they accomplished last year in winning 4 more than they lost. They just don’t ever go out and pummel teams – and that, I guess, is what makes them scary. A team that plays tight games seemingly every single week is tough to bet on with 10 points being given away.
Two poisons, I pick Tampa. At least I can justify them holding Curtis Painter and company to 10 points or so, and scoring three touchdowns against the Colts isn’t too crazy to project. If Blount gets the ball early and often for the Buccos, they could dominate this game from start to finish.
San Francisco 49ers VS Philadelphia Eagles Free Pick & Preview: You can call it crazy, you can call it brilliant, you can call it anything you want, but I’m going to call it a hunch. Listen, I know the Eagles shouldn’t be favored by dang-near double digits against Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers, but they are. And I know the value bet is on the 49ers, but I’m not doing it. There’s value and then there’s hunches, and I’m playing on the side of hunches in this one.
My hunch tells me that the Eagles team is super talented, they put lots of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and they have defensive backs that can straight lock you down and take an interception right to the house. But what my hunch is really telling me is that they haven’t played one great game yet this year. You know what that means? They’re due.
So why not against a San Francisco 49ers team that hasn’t found their identity offensively yet? Why not a team that hasn’t gotten a good rush going, doesn’t have healthy receivers, and doesn’t really have a guy that can threaten the Eagles in the passing game outside of one tight end?
This is the game, I’m telling you – the Eagles are going to put it altogether and Michael Vick is going to start from kick-off to finish – where both of his receivers are going to play and be big time threats (here’s to you Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson) – where the Eagles are going to win 34-13.
I think the Seminoles are a pretty good football team and I think the Sooners are great. I think that’s good enough, but there’s a little more. Oklahoma throws the ball better, has more power up front, and should control the line of scrimmage. Florida State is fast, sure, but so are the Sooners – fast, real big, and they’ll prove it on the road against an ACC opponent.
Oklahoma Sooners (-3) @ Florida State Seminoles
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings Free Pick: Neither the Vikings nor the Bucs plan on starting the season 0-2, but one of them will surely end week 2 without a win. I think these teams are fairly even, the Bucs a little younger and more athletic, the Vikings a little older and savvier. Both teams have a punishing back and want to run it. The Bucs, they’re not afraid to take chances. From what I’ve seen from Minnesota, I’m not sure they’re ready to go out and take football games. They want to lull their opponent into a loss. I think Tampa Bay’s good enough to go out and take a game that Minnesota is trying not to lose.
The Vikings certainly have the make-up to throw the ball around and use that playaction pass more frequently. But their 3rd down draws from last week, and the receivers dropping the ball a little bit, that just doesn’t excite me.
Minnesota will try and try to run the ball, and Tampa will be ready for that – will they shut down AP? Probably not, but I think they do enough to get a win in a close contest. In a close contest, I’ll take Josh Freeman – he looks good when it matters most.
Utah Utes @ Boise State Broncos MAACO BOWL Las Vegas Free Pick: I think the Utah Utes are a pretty dang good football team. They lost to Notre Dame late in the year, and while that can always make me think twice about a team, I’m just writing that off as a bad outing for the 19th ranked team in the country. Utah came back and beat a very tough San Diego State team the next week and finished off the season with a 1-point win over an improved BYU team. They don’t have the best passing or running game in the Nation, but the Utes can do both with efficiency and success – and that’s a big part of what makes them tough to beat. Oh, and they have a defense that absolutely shuts down the run – they’re a Top 10 team against the run. But, they happen to be playing Boise.
I think the Broncos have a special team. Nobody will ever know or get to see that because they happened to lose a heart breaker to Nevada when they missed a couple easy opportunities to win the game or keep themselves in it. That’s over with, though, and now they have to beat Utah. The thing about Boise is they’ve handled just about every opponent they’ve played, and nobody is better at preparing their team for a bowl than Boise’s head coach, Chris Peterson.
Coach Peterson is a mastermind, and the more he gets to prepare for a team the bigger his advantage gets. Utah has had trouble with explosive teams, and outside of the National Championship Finalists, I don’t think there’s a more explosive team in college football than Peterson’s Broncos.
I understand that 16.5 is a big number between two double-digit win teams, and that the value probably isn’t at it’s highest with Boise – but they can really put a game out of reach in a hurry – and I imagine that happens here.
#19 Utah Utes @ #10 Boise State Broncos (-16.5)
NFL Week 13 St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals Free Pick: Anything can happen in the NFL, that’s evident by the upsets that go down, the winning streaks that plough on, and the baffling outcomes that take place. If the Cardinals beat the Rams in Arizona, not many people would be stunned. They would see it as a small upset, but not David vs. Goliath type stuff – not at all. But even then, the Rams with a rookie quarterback going on the road, fighting for a playoff spot in early December, all that pressure – it’s hard to find a reason why Arizona should win this game.
The Cardinals have been as bad as anyone in the league, if not the worst in the last three games. They’ve lost 6 straight, but tight losses to Tampa bay and Minnesota a few weeks ago kept some hope shining when looking at Arizona – but now, after 18-36 loss at home to Seattle, and a 13-31 loss in Kansas City, then one more embarrassing loss at home to San Francisco in a game that was hard to watch, upside and even moral victories seem out of sight, out of possibility.
The Cardinals have been out-rushed in every single game they’ve played over the last 10 weeks. I don’t feel like looking into the week before that, because it doesn’t matter, they bottom line is they are bad at running and they don’t stop the run well, and that’s what those 10 games in a row show. For a team that can’t run the ball, can’t stop opposing offenses, makes a ton of mistakes in the passing game and has a quarterbacking duo of Derek Anderson and rookie Max Hall, you can see why 3-8 seems downright amazing. 3 wins, with that description – amazing. But in the same token, you can see why garnering another win over the last 5 games seems very unlikely.
With Sam Bradford and the improving Rams coming to town, I’d be asking for a lot more points if I were to bet the Cardinals – like 10. Maybe I’d risk $5 if they were getting 10. Maybe not…
Northern Illinois Huskies @ Miami-Ohio Redhawks Free Pick: Point differential is something I take a peak at usually when I’m thinking about which side to go with. I basically have a look at that, then have a look at any huge blowouts that may have effected that, to even see if a cover is possible. The Redhawks are good at home, but they are a -3.5 point differential on the season despite being 8-4. They had 4 pretty big blowouts that significantly hurt their overall stats in that category, but only one of them, Missouri, is a team I would consider to be very good. Cincinnati beat them 45-3: Ohio beat them 34-13: Missouri beat them 51-13: and Florida won 34-12. All but one of those were road games (Ohio was at home) and Miami-Ohio is a much better home team. This is a home game.
But they’ve played lots of tight games against mediocre foes, slipping by Akron, beating Bowling Green by a field goal, having trouble with Buffalo, stinging Kent State by a whole 6 points, and even beating down Eastern Michigan by an entire touchdown.
NIU is good. They have really fought through all the perceptions of their program and busted into the Top 25. They’ve won 9 straight games (lost to Illinois by just 6 back in September) and have done so by killing everybody with their run game. They’ve out-rushed every single one of their last 9 opponents, they’ve out-gained their last 8 (total yardage) and they’ve slammed their last two opponents on the road, beating Ball State 59-21 and trouncing Eastern Michigan 71-3. They’re feeling it. And I’m feeling them in this one.
#25 Northern Illinois Huskies (-17.5) @ Miami-Ohio Redhawks (Fri)