Friday, October 2, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 4

HOUSTON over Oakland (9.5)

Steve: Oakland (+9.5)

Okay, so I think Oakland sucks. Everyone thinks they suck. As someone else noted, just by moving to Oakland, Richard Seymour has apparently become a foul-mouthed trash talker, and once Randy Moss got away from there, he has radically changed his act. It's like the Black Hole of suck there.

… But still. Oakland isn't THIS bad. They aren't so bad that Houston should be essentially favored by double digits. I mean, we are talking about the same Houston team, right? If we were talking about that sweet Warren Moon-led team, then I would be excited.

Bob: Houston (-9.5)

Boy, I mean, Oakland is bad. Like the acting on the CW is bad. Like Jason Varitek throwing out base runners bad. Like Star Trek V bad. In summary, Oakland is bad. Still, a nearly double digit line is tough to take under any circumstances, especially when the opponent is fairly mediocre themselves.

The Texans offense has been fairly good in the air, but limited by the fact that Steve Slaton has looked awful to start off the season. Fortunately for them, the Raiders offense has been mediocre against the pass and downright terrible against the run. In contrast, Oakland has been anemic on offense, but the Texans have been worse on defense. Since Oakland's passing game has been so anemic, I think they have no chance to win this game if they fall behind—which they likely will, since Houston is at home and is decent offensively. This game should come down to Steve Slaton—Oakland is giving up 155 yards on the ground, good for fifth from the bottom of the league. Houston's (comparatively) dominant offense combined with Oakland's anemic passing game should combine for Houston's first cover of the season.

Tennessee over JACKSONVILLE (3)

Bob: Tennessee (-3)

I believed in Tennessee. As in three weeks of picking them against superior opponents. How have they rewarded me? An 0-3 record and consistent underperforming. Lendale White is still getting touches, and Kerry Collins is passing the ball way too much. Why???

But I'm left with a dilemma. Jacksonville has been nearly as bad as the Titans, and the stats show the Titans to be roughly three points better. Combined with the fact that Jacksonville probably doesn't have much of a home field advantage, I am forced to take the Titans for one more week. DO NOT LET ME DOWN.

Steve: Jacksonville (+3)

This game is like the match-up betweens the mehs and the ughs, and you can pick which side is which. Both teams have been colossal disappointments, and I don't think either team can turn it around and qualify for the playoffs. That being said, this seems like an elimination game to me, even though we're only in Week Four. Whatever team loses, I think their season (and coached) gets turned on pretty quickly. People love Fisher in Tennessee, but he still hasn't won a Super Bowl for whatever reason. In that way, he's like Cowher, who took forever to win one. (By the way, I always thought Cowher was overrated, and I think the quick success of Mike Tomlin shows that.)

I'm going with Jacksonville simply because they are at home, and although they're as bad as the Titans, they're somehow three-point dogs at home. I think Gerrard is slightly better than Collins at this point, and Maurice Jones-Drew is a better running back than the combination of Chris Johnson and (agreeing with you) the vodka-less Lendale White.

NEW ENGLAND over Baltimore (2)

Steve: Baltimore (+2)

Ugh, of course I get to write about this one first. I totally think that New England actually being favored is a gift. Baltimore has looked pretty god damned unstoppable so far this year, and since Tom Brady is still struggling to get into a consistent rhythm, I don't like his chances of finally establishing himself against the Ravens.

Bob: New England (-2)

Keys to looking unstoppable: Play two of your first three games against arguably two of the five worst teams in the league. Check. Second, play your third game against a team that has managed to consistently underperform and nearly lost to the Raiders the previous week. Check. So I am somewhat more skeptical regarding Baltimore's start this season.

Still, there is no denying they've looked like the better team, particularly since New England managed to win without ever looking great last week. The Pats have managed to be ever so slightly better on defense, while Baltimore has been moderately better on offense. So, comparisons. Baltimore has played teams that are giving up a total of 1,100 yards per game. New England's opponents have given up a total 1,027 yards per game on defense. In comparison, Baltimore's opponents have gained an combined average of of 869 yards per game on offense while New England's have gained a combined 937 yards per game on offense. The moral of the story is that New England has played better defenses, perhaps explaining their poorer offensive showings, while managing to play slightly better on defense against better offenses. Also, you can always use stats to show what you want to be true.

Cincinnati over CLEVELAND (5.5)

Bob: Cincinnati (-5.5)

Cleveland has lost by an average of 22 points this season. Cincinnati has been comparable to previous Browns opponent Minnesota on offense, who won by 14 in Cleveland. 'Nuff said.

Steve: Cincy (-5.5)

In Bengals we trust, woohoo! Seriously, I'm still riding high from their last-second win at Pittsburgh last week. It was simply improbable to me, and I'm still not sure if it even happened. It is one of those inexplicable results that you see every couple of years, like when the Dolphins took the Patriots out behind the woodshed for a whipping in one of their Super Bowl years. It is the far less meaningful, regular season version of the Red Sox coming back to beat the Yankees in the ALCS.

NY Giants over KANSAS CITY (8.5)

Steve: Giants (-8.5)

Me and the Chiefs are in a fight. I think they're better than this, so I'm challenging them with this pick. I'm a man, I'm 25, I can take it. The Giants looked impressive last week beating up on a horrible Tampa Bay team, so I'm bullish that they can make it two weeks in a row. Even if they no longer have David “Helmet Catch” Tyree, and even if my fantasy WR Domenic Hixon is now so stuck on the bench that I will be cutting him pronto.

Bob: Giants (-8.5)

The Giants have been getting it done against bad teams. Not to mention the Giants are top 10 in both offense and defense while the Chiefs have been No. 30 on offense and No. 20 on defense. KC is bad. Can Kansas City manage to cover at home? Perhaps. But I wouldn't bet money on it.

CHICAGO over Detroit (10)

Bob: Chicago (-10)

I really have no feelings on this game. Neither team is very sexy. I guess it's exciting that the Lions managed to win their first game in nearly two years, but it unfortunately came at the expense of my (new) hometown Redskins. So I'll take Chicago since I really have no idea.

Let me take this opportunity to complain about some obnoxious Giants fans who were at the bar where I watched the games last week. There are several levels of obnoxiousness in terms of football fans. The first level of obnoxiousness is loudly and aggressively rooting for your team in a bar that isn't your teams bar. Check. Secondly, it's obnoxious to root for your team when they are a division rival of the home town team (Redskins). Check. Thirdly, it is obnoxious to sing songs and chants about your team in a bar that is in the town of your division rival. Finally, it is obnoxious to root openly and gleefully against the hometown team as they lose to a team that has been historically bad. As a matter of fact, it seems like something about this bar brings out the worst in people—I got to see Steelers fans dance last year as they watched replays of Tom Brady's knee being blown out by Bernard Pollard. Awesome bar otherwise, though.

Steve: Detroit (+10)

Yeah, except for that bar sounding roughly like the Mos Eisley cantina, it sounds awesome. (I hope you got that Star Wars reference, by the way, you Star Trek loving mofo.) I suppose it could be worse – They could have done the lights-on, lights-off Merriman dance after Brady got hurt, just like Merriman did after he beat the crap out of Tila “E.T.” Tequilla.

Anyway, I suppose I should focus on the game. I'm going against the grain again with the Lions and picking them because 10 points seems like an awful big spread for the Bears. I mean, I'm talking about a “Courtney Love on drugs” kind of spread, the type of spread that is done for any sort of second-rate guitar player who can squeeze her hand and pretend to be sorry about Kurt Cobain for 10 minutes. (By the way, I have no idea if Courtney Love is a slut or not now, but I imagine she has to be, right?) The Bears' offense hasn't impressed me much at all this year, and whatever promise Cutler showed in Denver seems to have dissipated once he arrived in Chicago.

WASHINGTON over Tampa Bay (7)

Steve: Washington (-7)

This line seems a bit too high, but since the Johnson era is beginning this week for Tampa Bay, the sky is the limit as far as the line goes. Washington has a base level of competence – Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis, some of the guys on defense – that Tampa Bay would kill for at this point. I'm not even sure if Tampa's coach makes it through the season at this point.

Bob: Washington (-7)

Ugh. You are absolutely right that Tampa has been very meh. But it kills me as someone who has watched the Redskins to put any hope in the Redskins this season. Is Jason Campbell better than Josh Johnson? Yes. But I don't know that I could name four other starting quarterbacks who he is better than right now.

Ultimately, this team is playing for their coach's job right now, and by all accounts the players seem to like him. So I think they can beat up on a terrible Tampa team that just put in their rookie quarterback. But Zorn has been so awful that I wouldn't be surprised if they lose, and benching Byron Leftwich is always a good decision.

INDY over Seattle (9)

Bob: Peyton Manning (-9)

At this point, it's just him. I mean, it helps having Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and a competent defense. But take away Peyton Manning and this team isn't last year's Brady-less Patriots. It's more like this year's Titans—talented but unable to get things done. If the 9ers can beat Seattle by 13, Peyton Manning can do better.

Steve: Jim Sorgi (-9)

I think even Jim Sorgi could manage to beat Seattle at this point. While I stand by my contention that Seneca Wallace could eventually be a decent QB in this league, I think it'll take a couple of games to do so, similarly to how Matt Stafford finally looked kinda comfortable this past week. I realize Wallace has more game experience than Stafford, but he hasn't ever really been The Guy because the return of Hasselbeck has always been looming. Hey Seahawks, just turn the offense over to him already, so that Matt will have some brain cells left to play for when he wants to help his kids with homework.

I've complained in other comments that the lines are too big for various games, but this one seems about right. Even if Manning and Jim Sorgi get hurt, their rookie running back, that Brown kid from Connecticut, sure looks like he can take over as the “system RB with inflated numbers” role that was formerly held by Edge James and the perpetually-hurt Joseph Addai.

NEW ORLEANS over Jets (7)

Steve: New Orleans (-7)

I imagine this line is so high, despite the unblemished records for both, because of New Orleans' explosive offense. It wouldn't surprise me to see Brees do what Brady was supposed to do in Week 2: Pick apart the Jets' over-aggressive blitzing defense with precision passing. I'm thinking that the Jets will fall back down to Earth a bit with a shellacking at the hands of the Saints.

Bob: New Orleans (-7)

This will be the week we find out if Sanchez is the real deal or just a QB being pulled over the finish line by an offense that is playing well and a great defense. Actually, the way New Orleans has been playing, the verdict on Sanchez may not be so decisive. But I'm not getting off the Saints train until somebody pulls them back to Earth.

Buffalo over MIAMI (2)

Bob: Miami (+2)

Miami has been much better on defense while it's effectively a draw on offense. So why is Buffalo favored by two points? Because Chad Pennington got hurt. Well I've got a newsflash for everybody: Chad Pennington is not good. Miami is already the No. 29 team in terms of passing yards per game on offense. I'm not saying Chad Henne is the Brady to Pennington's Bledsoe, but this is a blessing in disguise for a Dolphins team that was already in a bad place. Chad Henne managed to throw for 92 yards in less than two quarters of work last week, which is two-thirds as much as Pennington was averaging a game. I think Miami should be an interesting matchup for the rest of the season.

Steve: Buffalo (-2)

I think this line is more of a reflection of how decent Buffalo has looked this year, and how bad Miami's defense has been. While I agree with you that Henne (or Thigpen) for Pennington is more of a wash than people think, hasn't anybody else noticed how shoddy Miami's defense has been? They let the Chargers with Tomlinson run all over them for four quarters.

Meanwhile, I don't think Buffalo's opening week showing against the Patriots was a fluke. As odd as it sounds, I like the dimension TO adds to their offense. Not because I think he's a marquee receiver anymore, but because he just adds some swagger and attitude and meanness to a team that has been nondescript for years. While I wouldn't ever call him a leader, TO provides them with a personality that the rest of the team can adopt.

That being said, I hope this game is a shootout and that Ronnie Brown runs for 400 yards and eight touchdowns, because he is my only dependable fantasy running back at this point. Stupid Felix Jones and his injuries.

SAN FRAN over St. Louis (9.5)

Steve: St. Louis (+9.5)

It's not that I think the Rams have a serious chance of winning this game, it's just that I don't think San Fran will win by 10 points. It seems kind of high to me for some reason. The Rams suck, but not THAT badly against San Fran.

Bob: San Francisco (-9.5)

One thing is certain: at the end of this week, one of us will likely be significantly ahead in the overall standards (although Kristin may still be winning). We have disagreed a lot. I think San Francisco may have looked better than they actually are, but I also think St. Louis is that bad. St. Louis will be far and away the worst defense San Fran has faced, so I believe in their ability to blow out the Rams this week.

Dallas over DENVER (3)

Bob: Denver (+3)

Denver has silently been the best defense in the league—by far, while Dallas has been nearly the worst. Combine that with the Mile High effect and the fact that Denver matches up well against Dallas, and I think this is an outright, significant win for the Broncos.

Steve: Denver (+3)

I have no idea what to make of this match-up or this line. It seems pretty silly to me that Denver, which is traditionally a strong home team, and which has a 3-0 record, is the underdog against a 2-1 Dallas team that hasn't been able to stop other teams. The Giants ran roughshod over the Cowboys, and that game was at home. I think Knowshon Moreno, my silly-named fantasy running back, is going to have a fun time this weekend. I'm hopeful that he finally plays well enough to cause the cessation of career backup Buckhalter's playing time.

PITTSBURGH over San Diego (6.5)

Steve: Pittsburgh (-6.5)

I'm still keeping with my theory that San Diego has quit on Norv Turner, even though they managed to cruise past the Dolphins. If they have any chance of staying in games, then their defense has to play big week after week. While that works against the kinda-finesse offense run by Miami, I think the Steelers are just going to try to stream roll over the Chargers with multiple dosages of Fast Willie Parker and Rashard “why did I pick you in fantasy again this year?” Mendenhall.

Bob: San Diego (+6.5)

Pittsburgh badly needs this win, but these two teams are pretty evenly matched. Combined with the fact that I think San Diego will pass all over the Steelers defense, I'll take the points.

MINNESOTA over Green Bay (3.5)

Bob: Minnesota (-3.5)

I have never liked Fav-re, and I hope we get to see him collapse later in the season. But for now, Minnesota has clearly looked like the better team. So I don't think there's any question that the Vikings win this week. Considering Green Bay hasn't been particularly stout against the run, I think Adrian Peterson makes this game not even close.

But let's drill down into this sure to be highly rated grudge match between Favre and his former team. At what level is this backstabbing by Favre. What comes to mind is a Red Sox legend going to the Yankees, a la Wade Boggs. But honestly, that doesn't even begin to describe the backstabbing Favre committed on Green Bay and, particularly, the team's fans. This is like divorcing your wife, rebounding with one of her friends, but then marrying her sister. And acting like it wasn't even something that was weird or awful to do.

Ugh, how did I get drawn into giving my two cents about Favre? It's like a disease. And be sure to tune into Sportsnation next week, as they try to break the record for most mentions of Brett Favre in a telecast.

Steve: Green Bay (+3.5)

I don't care what the line is. I simply refuse to side with Brett Favre in this game, even if it is played in Minnesota and not Green Bay. If you pick Minnesota, then you're letting the football terrorists at ESPN (Chris Berman, I'm looking in your direction) slobber all over Favre's jock for another week.

And hey, remember how Favre was addicted to painkillers for a long time, but nobody cares anymore because he's white? I'm not sure if any other non-field action has ever been so completely swept under the rug as much. I would saw Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley's gambling addictions, but Barkley almost got arrested for not paying back his bill at a casino, and Bill Simmons points out his conspiracy theory about Jordan playing baseball to avoid gambling debts every other week. The only other comparison I can think of is Brady fathering that baby with his crazy (but I still content better looking) ex-girlfriend, but a kid out of wedlock is no big deal for the NFL and professional athletes in general.

Thanks to this site for the image of Jay Sherman at the top. Although it really has nothing to do with the rest of this post, that blog does have some pretty funny items on the Mets, if you're into that sort of thing.

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