Friday, September 25, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 3

NY JETS over Tennessee (2.5)

Bob: Tennessee (+2.5)

J-E-T-S, sob sob sob. That game was a killer last week. Honestly, though, if I were the Jets I'm not sure I would be riding so confident right now. Their defense has managed to shut down a frustratingly inconsistent Texans team and a disoriented Patriots team. Their next two opponents—the explosive Titans running game and the 2007 Patriots-esque New Orleans air attack—should be harder to shut down on offense. Their offense has not been spectacular, and was not able to do much even against the Jerrod Mayo-less Patriots defense with the exception of three explosive drives to start the second half.

It makes me nervous to go with the Titans considering they weren't able to contain the Texans—the Texans!--last week, but I think the Jets will have a harder time containing Chris Johnson and Lendale Tequila than they did shutting down a fumbly Steve Slaton and the Patriots Whitman's Sampler running back crew.

Steve: Jets (-2.5)

Honestly, though, if I were the Jets I'm sure I would be riding so confident right now. What else do you need from them, Bob??? I realize that the Texas and Patriots have been inconsistent so far this year, but good teams normally fatten up their record by beating the inconsistent and downright bad ones. That's why I always think it's a bad herring when NFL analysts bring up a team's record vs. .500 and better teams. There are so few NFL games in a season that it's almost never a valid statistic, and if baseball and basketball are indicators, good teams are good because they beat the snot out of bad teams, not because they have any intrinsic ability to magically pull it out against other good teams.

That being said, I don't think the Titans have looked like a good team this year; I think the loss of Haynesworth hasn't been good for them so far. While he hasn't lit the world on fire in Washington, I think he was the perfect fit for what the Titans ran, and as Sade would say, they miss him like a desert miss the rain.

HOUSTON over Jacksonville (4)

Steve: Jacksonville (+4)

Okay, this is the last time I'm picking the Jags, unless they somehow manage to play the Lions at some point. (Note: I refuse to look at the future schedule and find out if they do.) However, I refuse to believe that a team with David Gerrard and Maurice Jones-Drew goes 0-3 to start the year. If they do, then this reminds me of the year that the Colts flamed out and finished shitty, despite having Edge James and Peyton Manning; I think that was the last Jim Mora year. “PLAYOFFS??? I just hope we win another game!”

Bob: Jacksonville (+4)

Fun fact: Houston has given up 215 yards per game on the ground, which would be by far the worst in the NFL if it weren’t for the fact that the Browns exist. In fact, the existence of the Browns only means that Houston only leads the league in yards given up on the ground by 10 yards per game instead of 40. Maurice Jones-Drew should tear this defense apart, giving Jacksonville their first win.

That being said, what level of embarrassing was Jacksonville’s home loss to Arizona last week? Getting walked in on by your girlfriend’s parents embarrassing? Or challenging a three year old to a race and losing embarrassing? That isn’t to pass any judgment on the relative quality of Arizona, but instead the fact that Arizona made a several thousand mile trip, played a football game at what biologically feels like before noon to them, and still embarrassed them. Even if Jacksonville manages to pull off this win, there is not much this team should be feeling good about right now.

PHILADELPHIA over Kansas City (-9.5)

Bob: Philadelphia (-9.5)

I was trying to figure out what ethnicity a person needs to be to have the last name Kolb. But then I found something far more horrifying. First, the alliterative Kevin Kolb named his daughter “Kamryn.” I wonder if her middle name is Kathryn? I don't understand why you would choose to give your kid a kitschy name like this. Do you want her to be a porn star/stripper when she grows up? You might as well have named her Starlight or something.

But wait, that's not the worst of it. According to his Wikipedia page, “he hunts wild hogs with a couple of dogs and a 12-inch bowie knife.” He hunts things with just a knife??? There is no way I'm betting against him, even though this line is high for a Donovan McNabb-less Eagles team. Considering how ineffective KC's defense has been, there's a good chance they will go down like a hog in suburban Philadelphia.

Steve: Kansas City (+9.5)

Okay, I admit that your new information about Kevin Kolb has left me conflicted. I do have to respect the Bowie knife and wild hog comments, but really, the last thing the world needs is more strippers. I think we should start imposing penalties for that sort of parenting – If your daughter becomes a stripper, it means you aren't allowed to have sex again until she gets off the pole. We could give it a clever slogan, like, “No using your pole unless you keep your daughter off the pole!” … Okay, that's a little bumpy, but I did only put about 30 seconds of thought into it.

… Also, “Rape Me” by Nirvana is playing as I type this, which is kind of freaky.

Anyway, I'm going with the Chiefs because the line seems awfully big, considering that 1) Philly just got blown out, even if it was by the Saints and 2) they are using their backup quarterback, who has spent the off-season seeing the Eagles sign his eventual replacement, and then on top of that, they also signed a veteran guy who had great past success with the team to play third string. I think Kolb is going to have a miserable game.

BALTIMORE over Cleveland (13.5)

Steve: Baltimore (-13.5)

The line seems impossibly high on this one, but I'm not sure what Cleveland could do to lower it. They have just seemed all sorts of miserable this year. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens are doing their best impression of the 2007 Patriots right now. Just beating the shit out of teams and totally demoralizing them, at least, they were last week. As much as Rex Ryan going to the Jets has seemed to help them, the Ravens haven't missed a beat as a team. Same thing when Savage left to run the Browns; strong, underrated organization.

Bob: Cleveland (+13.5)

Last week I asked if Mangini was a Man-genius or Man-gina. I think we got our answer with the stinker his team laid down at Denver. Cleveland doesn’t strike me as 2008 Detroit Lions bad, but they are pretty bad. It doesn’t help that Brady Quinn is playing like poo. So if I were going to pick this game straight, I would have no reservations picking the Ravens.

But a 13.5 point spread is extremely wide. And looking at the stats (which admittedly have a small sample size), the Ravens are far and away the worst pass defense Brady Quinn will have faced this year. The Ravens have given up 100 yards per game more in the air than Denver or Minnesota. So I think Cleveland will put up some points. Alternately, Baltimore’s offensive strength has been their running game, and Cleveland (as was previously noted) has a pretty bad run defense. So Baltimore’s game plan could rely pretty heavily on the run, which will mean slower, longer drives than if Flacco was going to throw all over the place. This will mean Baltimore should score less. That being said, if Cleveland doesn’t manage to cover this week, I’m never picking them again. Mangina has burned me too many times.

NY Giants over TAMPA BAY (6.5)

Bob: NY Giants (-6.5)

I don't think the Giants are as good as they have looked these first two games, but I do believe Tampa Bay is pretty bad. Even though the Giants will be without one of their top defensive linemen, Tampa has shown an inability to get into the end zone despite gaining a bunch of yards. Ultimately, though, it looks like it will be Tampa's terrible defense that will betray them. Actually, the more I look at Tampa, the less I like.

Ugh. But still. Stupid helmet catch.

Steve: Giants (-6.5)

I would like Tampa Bay a lot more if they didn't play in Florida. Well, and if any of their players were talented this year. At the start of the season, I was a bit bullish on Tampa being a surprise team. True, their QB situation is pretty bad, but I thought their defense would be solid enough to pull out some wins. However, I can't see them playing well enough to give the Giants trouble, especially since the Giants haven't had much trouble putting points on the board.

Washington over DETROIT (6.5)

Steve: Detroit (+6.5)

My head says Redskins, but my heart is going with the Lions. For some reason, I like it when rookie quarterbacks succeed, so I'm praying for the best for Matthew Stafford... Well, okay, I'm not actually praying for him. And in fact, he probably has some super hot girlfriend to console him if he loses, so I don't actually even feel sorry for him. Yeah, but still. I'm going with the Lions here because I don't trust the Redskins to have any sort of consistent offense this year.

Bob: Detroit (+6.5)

Detroit is slightly better statistically than the Redskins. Detroit has played Drew Brees and Brett Favre. The Redskins have played Eli Manning and Marc Bulger. The Redskins barely beat St. Louis, a team that is dreadful. Ipso facto, you should not bet on the Redskins, ever, until they fire Zorn and replace Campbell.

Green Bay over ST. LOUIS (6.5)

Bob: Green Bay (-6.5)

If it were possible to choose none of the above, I might go with it. St. Louis has managed to only put seven points up in the first two week, and is in the bottom four in both offensive and defensive yardage. Despite the fact that they drew the extremely mediocre Redskins last week, they gave up 242 yards to Jason Campbell last week and over 100 more yards on the ground. If it weren't for the fact that Campbell and Zorn were so collectively awful, St. Louis would have lost by a lot more last week.

But Green Bay hasn't been setting the world on fire. They are quietly sitting at No. 28 in offensive yardage and No. 19 in defensive yardage. I don't think that loss to the Bengals was a fluke. This team has the capability to turn it around, but I think the story of the middle third of the season might be how the NFC North went from looking stacked to inept.

Steve: Green Bay (-6.5)

While I continue to support the Jags, or at least support them for one more game, I can't continue to support the Rams. They are just miserable. I'm dubious on the Packers too, since any team that manages to lose to my Bengals warrants suspicion, but when bad teams face off I generally evaluate their QBs against one another. At this point, I trust Aaron R. more than Marc B.

MINNESOTA over San Francisco (7)

Steve: Minnesota (-7)

The Adrian Peterson express rolls over another victim this week. The number makes me a bit nervous, since it would be easy for them to end up in a draw.

Bob: San Francisco (+7)

You’re foolish if you bet against Adrian Peterson. Which makes me foolish. Let me lay out my logic, at least. Minnesota is surprisingly bad, which was expressed by the fact that they were being beaten by the Lions (THE LIONS!!!) at halftime last week. Let me throw some more stats at you: In terms of offensive yardage, Minnesota ranks sixth from the bottom of the NFL. They are averaging significantly more yardage per game on the ground than in the air (120 versus 170), a gap which no other team in the NFL is close to replicating (Miami has slightly more rushing yards than passing yards). One could chalk this up to Adrian Peterson being so good (they are No. 2 in the league in rushing yardage), but six other teams are within 20 yards per game of their average rushing yardage while still averaging at least 40 yards per game more in the air (most average significantly more than that).

But what really sealed the deal for me is this: San Francisco has been stifling the run. They rank ahead of only Baltimore and Tennessee in terms of fewest rushing yards allowed. Seattle had raked up 167 yards against St. Louis the week before, but managed only 66 against San Fran. Arizona managed to rush even more ineffectively against the 49ers. I would feel more confident if the two teams I just managed were stronger running teams, but I think this game will at least be closer than a touchdown.

NEW ENGLAND over Atlanta (4)

Bob: Pats (-4)

If the Patriots can't win this game, they are going to have a hard time winning any games against quality opponents this year. Although Atlanta is 2-0, their offensive and defensive statistics for the first few weeks are middling. They have managed to score quite a few points, but this is likely explained by their +4 turnover ratio. Also, Matt Ryan should be the kind of quarterback Bill Belichick eats for breakfast—relatively inexperienced, fairly reliant on a few weapons, and with a defense that does not do a whole lot to help him.

As stupid as it is to say a game is “must win” in Week 3, I do get the feeling that this game is a “must win” for the Patriots. The Patriots spend the next three weeks playing Baltimore, at Denver, and Tennessee. If the Patriots can't win against the Falcons, they likely cannot beat the Ravens or Titans either, and Denver always plays them hard at home. The Patriots could realistically be at the bottom of the AFC East if they can't get business done against the Falcons.

Steve: Pats (-4)

I still believe in the Pats. I think the Jets were psyched up to play them, whereas Atlanta doesn't hold any particular animosity against them. I'm also wary of Matt Ryan's ability to move the ball against a Bill Belichick defense. And also, I still believe that Michael Turner will collapse at some point.

Chicago over SEATTLE (2.5)

Steve: Bears (-2.5)

We originally made a typo, and had Seattle as “SETTLE,” which kind of seems more appropriate. Hasselbeck looks completely done at this point, as he can't manage to stay in the lineup the entire season. He needs to retire before he suffers some permanent damage. Oddly enough, I think if the Seahawks just commit to Seneca Wallace at their QB for the rest of the year, they'll finish with a better record. It's like when the Patriots decided to just move on from the injury-prone Drew Bledsoe.

While I don't think the Bears are any great shakes with Jake Cutler at the helm, they're still better than a field goal against the Seahawks.

Bob: Da Bears (-2.5)

I’m starting to think there is something in Seattle’s drinking water that is decalcifying their players’ bones. It is almost inexplicable how the injury bug has affected this team in the last two years. I’m a strong believer in luck (for example, I eat the same things at the same place during every Pats game, for all the good it has done me lately), and whatever Seahawks fans are doing isn’t working. This team is cursed, for lack of a better explanation. Even T.J. Houshasfl;sadjfs;dlkfj hasn’t been able to help them.

This game may not say a lot about either of these two teams, but it will tell us whether Matt Forte is the real deal or not. He has been invisible for the first two games of the season, but he played Pittsburgh’s stifling run defense and Minnesota is pretty average. Seattle has given up 166 yards per game on the ground against the 49ers and St. Louis. If Forte can’t replicate Gore’s and Jackson’s rejuvenation, it’s possible that last year was just a flash in the pan.

My gut says Seattle might be able to manage an upset here, but I’m never going with the possibility of Seneca Wallace beating somebody. Settle indeed.

New Orleans over BUFFALO (6)

Bob: New Orleans (-6)

I don't understand this line. New Orleans has, for all intents and purposes, looked as good—if not better—offensively than the 2007 Patriots. I would have a hard time saying that their defense has looked much worse. Additionally, how good does your defense need to be if your offense is putting up more than 45 points per game? Yet New Orleans is only favored by six against Buffalo. For this week in 2007, the Patriots were favored by 16.5 at home against Buffalo. New Orleans can't even get the respect of being favored by a touchdown. Until Drew Brees stops scoring, pencil me in for the Saints every week.

Steve: New Orleans (-6)

Wow, as Jim Rome would say, rack 'em! You've qualified for the Burnfest, or whatever he calls it, Bob Hanson. Nice research. You essentially took all the reasons I had for favoring New Orleans.

SAN DIEGO over Miami (6)

Steve: Miami (+6)

I think this line is a little bit too high. Miami looked really good against the Colts on Monday night, and I would be scared S-less of their running attack at this point. Ronnie Brown and the wildcat are so effective that it allows Chad Pennington to settle into being a low-mistake, league average quarterback.

Meanwhile, what the heck has San Diego even done this year? Barely squeak by a poor Raiders team and lose their other game? I totally think the team has completely quit on Norv Turner. Smith has built a really good team out in San Diego, but he hasn't had the greatest luck with hiring coaches who can win in the playoffs, as he managed to downgrade from Marty to Norv.

Bob: Miami (+6)

I thought you were a little premature in calling the Chargers quitting on Norv Turner, but I’m starting to come around to your view. There defense has been mediocre-to-bad and they can’t run. This team has a bunch of talent but just isn’t performing. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are quietly good and gave the Colts a run for their money last week. Miami has the short week so may have a rough time of it, but I think this game ends up real close, with the last team to get possession being the winner.

Pittsburgh over CINCINNATI (4)

Bob: Pittsburgh (-4)

Newsflash to NFL teams out there—the Steelers can't run. Sign me up for playing RB for them next week, because their ground game ain't getting it done. But here's an interesting stat from road favorites are 7-2 this season. So I'll take the Steelers for now, since Cincinnati doesn't exactly excite me. Good call last week, though, on the Bengals. I guess your Bengals-tinted glasses served you well.

Steve: Cincy (+4)

Hey, you know what? I'm putting on my Bengals-tinted glasses for this game too. I'm hoping – praying – that Marvin Lewis has noticed the Steelers' struggle with running the ball this year, and will game plan accordingly. Failing that, Carson Palmer is awesome.

Denver over OAKLAND (1.5)

Steve: Oakland (+1.5)

I think these two teams are about equal, so I'm going with the home team. JeMarcus Russell sucks, but so does Kyle Orton, and this game has the potential to become a black hole of suck. However, I am hopeful that Knowshon Moreno will securely takeover the #1 running back spot. It seemed like he was on his way with a 70ish yard performance on Sunday, but I'd feel more confident that he would justify my third-round fantasy football pick if he was the starter.

Bob: Denver (-1.5)


Denver: 375 yards/game (245 pass, 130 ground), 19.5 points/game, 41 percent third down conversion rate, 29:38 time of possession.
Oakland: 266 yards/game (158 pass, 107 ground), 16.5 points/game, 37 percent third down conversion rate, 26:29 time of possession.


Denver: 253 yards/game (70 ground, 183 pass), 6.5 points/game, 4 turnovers.
Oakland: 363 yards/game (125 ground, 238 pass), 17 points/game, 1 turnover.


Denver: Cincinnati (No. 21 offense by yardage, No. 11 defense by yardage), Cleveland (No. 32 offense by yardage, No. 25 defense by yardage).
Oakland: San Diego (No. 5 offense by yardage, No. 20 defense by yardage), Kansas City (No. 25 offense by yardage, No. 18 defense by yardage).

Denver has been categorically better against slightly worse teams. “About equal?” Not even close.

ARIZONA over Indianapolis (2.5)

Bob: Arizona (-2.5)

I never thought I'd see the day. The Arizona Cardinals are favored to beat the Colts. I'm honestly stunned by this line, but the numbers back it up. Despite the fact that I have been making fun of the Cards for the last two weeks, they are sixth in terms of yardage on defense and 15th on offense. They haven't put up a ton of points, but they haven't been underperforming either. On the other hand, Indy is 13th in defensive yardage allowed and 12th in offensive yardage gained. On paper, this seems to narrowly favor the Cardinals.

So I'm going to go with the Cardinals here, even though in my gut I get the feeling that Peyton and the Mannings may not be done for yet. If the Cards end up losing this game, I wouldn't begrudge Ken Whisenhunt if he started yelling “they are who we thought they were!”

Steve: Indianapolis (+2.5)

I think you've lost your god damn mind, Bob Hanson! I have no idea why the Colts are underdogs for this game, but I'm not going to question a gift from the gambling gods, even if we aren't gambling. While I concur that the stats are somewhat equal right now, I think the past history of the teams has to play into account here. The Cardinals made a flukey run to the Super Bowl last year, whereas the Colts are normally the class of the regular season. I'm going Manning, unless he manages to lose an arm.

DALLAS over Carolina (8.5)

Steve: Dallas (-8.5)

This line seems high, but I have no confidence in Jake Delhomme. Ever since Jake Plummer originally came up, it seems like guys named Jake invariably get the nickname The Snake. The original wrestler is addicted to heroin, Plummer got replaced by Cutler and sulked and retired, and Delhomme now sucks. Maybe we should just retire the snake nickname for the rest of eternity.

Bob: Dallas (-8.5)

As much as it’s easy to point at Tony Romo as the reason the Cowboys are having problems, that’s not looking at the entire picture. In terms of yardage, Dallas has the No. 2 offense in the NFL in part because of an amazing running game. Their defense, however, is 30th overall in terms of yardage, and hasn’t made even one turnover this season. Tony Romo needs to stop throwing picks in big situations, but there would be less big situations for Tony Romo to get the yips in if the defense were getting its job done.

This is a tough one to call. Dallas’ offense is good while Carolina’s defense is right in the middle of the pack, while the Panthers’ offense is mediocre-to-bad while Dallas’ defense is, as I just said, plain bad. I would guess that the Dallas defense may make Jake Delhomme look very good, but it pains me to take him on the road. I think this spread is high, but Carolina’s bad run defense is the difference, because it doesn’t match up well to Dallas’ awesome running game. But I’m by no means confident in this pick.

Thanks to this site for the Jesus picture.

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