Well, that’s what happens when you don’t follow your own rules. Remember last week when I told you to avoid NFL landmines, and then later picked a game involving two of them with profuse justification? Didn’t turn out so well. IDIOT!
I speak, of course, about Baltimore’s epic fail in losing to Jacksonville. Poetic justice for me, because the NFL came out this week and said the Ravens shouldn’t have lost (I’m glad: don’t cover the spread and your dead to me)–there should have been a 10 second runoff on a penalty that wasn’t called. Which I don’t understand–I mean I do, I just don’t understand what good it does; it’s like going to your 10 year high school reunion, married, only to have the super hot chick you were friends with tell you she wished she’d lost her virginity to you and not Randy Rider (not a porn star by the way–although based on the tales he might as well have been–fucking jerk). Lotta good it does me now!
The NFL’s blue-balled teams like that twice this year, btw. Lions at Seattle anyone?
Anyway, it was a .500 week again. Lost with the Ravens and Green Bay (still don’t know how they lost that game–it was historic), but came through with Pittsburgh and Arizona. All I’ll say about the Green Bay game was that this has been a really weird year so far, but word on the street is that teams have figured out how to scheme against their offense (press coverage on wide receivers, stack the box, blitz linebackers), and the defense is a shadow of its former self. Plus, I know they’ve gone to Starks at running back, but they miss Lacy’s ability to pound the rock. No one respects Green Bay’s running game anymore, and when you become one dimensional in the NFL, it’s bad news.
Overall, the NFL is a fucking mess. The only real standouts are the Patriots, Panthers, Cardinals, and Bengals–and Cincinnati just lost to a Texans team captained by none other than TJ Yates. Sure, Minnesota’s 7-2 as well, but does anyone really think they can win in the playoffs with Bridgewater as inexperienced as he is? Look, he might end up being a fine NFL QB eventually, but as of now he’s mediocre. At best. Seven touchdowns, six interceptions, and 1800 passing yards to this point is pretty damned thin (26th in yards, and only Peyton Manning, Kaepernick, and Nick Foles–the latter two who’ve was benched–have thrown for fewer TDs), and in a quarterback driven league, I don’t see how the Vikings continue their success through the rest of the season–let alone in the playoffs–with that kind of production.
Anyway, other than those four, the NFL’s a dogfight among beagles. Maybe Green Bay makes a fifth decent team, but if they can’t beat Minnesota and go on to a fourth straight loss–which is a distinct possibility–there’s no way they can be taken seriously.
Needless to say, the picks have been tough this year. I know, I know, I’m making excuses, but hey, I’m above .500 (18 for 34), and that’s a hell of a lot better than many of the experts–SO BACK OFF!
To the picks!
Lock of the Week
Oakland (-1.5) at Detroit
Detroit should suck… and my guess is, they probably do in actuality. Their offensive line is absolutely dreadful; any smart defensive coordinator should count on his front four or five to stop the run/get pressure on the QB and drop a bunch of dudes back to wait for the inevitable picks Stafford’s bound to throw.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders should have no problem moving the ball against the Lions defense, unless they are who they were last week against Green Bay, because other than that game, they’ve been awful–especially against the pass.
Again, my guess is, they aren’t going to be able to put together that kind of performance week in and week out. Detroit was coming off a bye, an embarrassing loss, and a recent change at offensive coordinator. Those kinds of things can bolster a bad team; remember, football is still, at it’s core, an emotional game–a game based on effort and belief. The Lions had every reason to be up for the game against Green Bay last week, but at some point reality has to set in: they aren’t making the playoffs, their head coach is probably going to get fired at the end of the year, and in the short term, there are more questions than answers on how they move forward.
Plus it’s what the numbers say, so that’s what I’m going with.
Raiders win, 31 to 27.
Washington at Carolina (-7.5)
Btw, have I mentioned that? These picks are based on a mathematical system I’ve created (no, I’m not going to share it, although I readily admit it’s been less successful this year than last–but then, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s been a weird fucking year). So although sometimes I look at the pick and say “wtf!” I still go with it–which I mention now to say, this isn’t gospel–if you think I’m fucking crazy I probably am. I also happened to win a lot of money last year betting football using this system, and I haven’t lost any so far this year either–for what it’s worth.
Anyhow, Carolina’s a much better team than Washington. Yes, the Deadskins scored a bunch on the Saints, but who doesn’t? A: only the Cowboys and their impotent coach. I don’t take a lot of stock in an offense who finally got a bad defensive coordinator fired, and neither should you.
Anyway, the Panthers aren’t going to go undefeated, but do we really think it’s going to end at home against Washington? No.
Panthers win and cover easily.
Indianapolis at Atlanta (6.5)
Matt Hasselbeck is the starting quarterback this week—and for the foreseeable future—in Indy. That’s not the reason I’m picking against Indianapolis. Hasselbeck isn’t going to set the world on fire, but as a game managing quarterback, he’s proficient enough to get the job done.
Unfortunately, while there are a lot of things Matt Hasselbeck can do well at the quarterback position, running for his life isn’t one of them. Which is why losing Luck is such a big blow—his mobility and arm strength covered up the Colts’ most glaring weakness: offensive line.
Now it’s true that Atlanta doesn’t do a particularly great job of getting after the quarterback (10 sacks so far), but off a bye, with two weeks to plan for Hasselbeck, you have to think they’re going to damn well try.
And honestly, they don’t have to be spectacularly successful. Indy’s defense isn’t good, and with all their playmakers healthy, Atlanta’s going to score some points—my guess is somewhere in the 30’s. Frankly, as bad as their line is, I don’t think Indy can score more than about 24, which means Atlanta wins and covers.
Falcons 31, Indy 23.
Tampa at Philadelphia (-7.5)
Get ready for Mark Sanchez time in Philly.
When I ran the numbers I was like, really–the Eagles–after they blew it last week against Miami? Indeed, this is the play—and yes, I factored in the Sanchise.
But you know, when you think about it, maybe this makes sense. The Eagles are the most underrated defense in the league and when you look at the numbers, Tampa is bad. They’re 23rd in scoring offense and 26th on defense. The Eagles are 14th and 9th respectively. Plus, this week again, they’re at home.
But here’s the real kicker: I think Philly might actually be better with Sanchez than they were with Bradford. Sure, you can knock Dirty Sanchez for throwing a pick late in the game last Sunday, but it’s not as if Bradford has been so responsible with the football: to this point, he’s thrown 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a middling 2,300 yards. Sanchez put up marginally better numbers in a similar time frame last year; plus, he’s arguably more familiar with the offense than Bradford, having been there two years.
But at the end of the day, the best reason to pick Philly to win this one is that they have to—choking against the Dolphins last week was a major setback in terms of their playoff hopes, because they still have New England and Arizona on the schedule, which puts them, minus a miracle, at 7 losses. The NFC East is so bad that 9-7 probably wins the division–New York’s schedule down the stretch is tough as well (they’re currently 5-5)–but 8-8 is dicey. I mean hell, who knows, maybe Dallas makes a comeback with Romo on the mend, and though I counted them out pretty early, the Deadskins are sitting there at 4-5 with every reason to believe they can contend (although I still don’t–they’ll be 4-6 at the end of this week).
Anyway, make no mistake: Philly has to win Sunday, or their season is all but hypothetically over. It’s like what I said about Baltimore last week: if you can’t beat the Jaguars soundly at home after a bye week, you’ve had a no-good, awful, non-playoff year. And last week, Baltimore proved that was just the case for their season.
The Eagles are in a similar spot this week. If they can’t beat Tampa at home, they probably don’t deserve to go to the playoffs, and in any case, they won’t.
Eagles win, 28-17.
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