DAN K: 2-0-1
DAN K: 9-9-1
MIAMI DOLPHINS +3 AT CHICAGO BEARS
I feel like I’ve been writing about the Dolphins a little too much for my taste this year, but something about them keeps bringing me back to the well. The accursed lack of a half-point hook last week ruined my EXPERTLY-analyzed Fins over Packers bet last week, as well as Joe Philbin blowing a game which they totally should have won on the field.
Before the season, Joe Philbin had about 7:1 odds to be the first coach fired. I thought it was a really interesting value (Jason Garrett and Dennis Allen were the favorites), and almost pulled the trigger on it. Thankfully I did not, as the Raiders again came through with their 20th coaching change in the last 5 years. But I feel pretty confident in saying that Philbin will almost certainly be the second coach fired, assuming that Tampa decides to keep Greg Schi- I mean, Lovie Smith around all year just for the hell of it. Oh wait, there’s still Rex Ryan. Whatever! The dude is horrible, and clearly getting fired at some point. From acting like a Bible study supervisor during camp, to mystifyingly backing his starting quarterback in private but not public, to his asinine coaching performance last week – the guy simply sucks. Did you see him completely bungle the end of the game against Green Bay?! Allow me to regale you with a quote.
“After playing to win by throwing the ball on second down with 3:05 to play, Philbin lost his nerve. He admitted Monday that he got ‘antsy’ and told offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to run the ball on third down because he got ‘queasy.’
THE COACH OF A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM GOT QUEASY AND ANTSY BY RUNNING PLAYS DESIGNED TO WIN A FOOTBALL GAME
i can’t even
what the FUCK
Ooh, and then he called timeout with Green Bay on a 4th and 10 with just over a minute remaining, after 3 straight strong defensive plays. Why? WHY? Your defense is rolling. The offense is reeling. An anonymous Dolphins source: “That decision is beyond comprehension. You could see the relief on Rodgers’ face when he saw the time out.” And then they saw him smirk as he hit Jordy Nelson for an 18 yard gain. Brilliance.
AMAZINGLY, THERE – IS – MORE. Behold:
“We kind of call that ‘Kodaking,” Philbin said. “What we do is we let the offense line up in a specific formation and then we want to call time-out. One time we called it on fourth down where, again, that was something we talked about. We’ve used it before in the past and I’m most concerned that our team knows what they’re going to do and how we’re going to execute the call.”
Kodaking!!!!!!!!!! You can’t even make this shit up! This guy is just. So. LAME. Lame doesn’t even begin to cover it. He is like the Ned Flanders of the NFL. We kinda call that Kodaking, heedley deedley! It’s kind of a thing where we call time out to allow the offense to get a breather and collect themselves for a really big play! Like, wow.
On to this actual game – there are some intriguing matchups here. The Bears shook off some of their inconsistencies by handling the Falcons nicely on the road. Aiding the Bears in this quest was the Falcons completely anemic pass rush. That won’t be the case this week, as Cameron Wake continues to rush the passer like a fucking animal game after game. How much better is Cam Wake than Robert Quinn at this point? 10 times better? So, the ability to protect Cutler is matchup #1 – probably advantage Fish. The second matchup is the Bears gargantuan receivers over the Dolphins small cornerbacks. Brent Grimes is great, but giving up a lot of catches this year and gives up a significant amount of size to all these guys. Cortland Finnegan is short, ugly, and terrible. Advantage Bears there. Also Matt Forte is a game changer, the checkdown to end all checkdowns, he both leads the LEAGUE in receptions (376 yards on receptions), AND is still 8th in rushing yards with 399. The other matchup is the Bears complete lack of starters in the linebacker position, and an undersized safety in Chris Conte against the Miami run game, which has been strong thus far. Moreno came back last week only to immediately be lost for the season, but lucky for Miami, Lamar Miller has finally been living up to his billing as a number one running back. He’s shredding teams weekly, and should find plenty of room to run here. Advantage Fish again.
I’m … feeling a little weird here, because I came into this pick ready to take Chicago but now I can’t shake this feeling that Miami bounces back and just plays a solid football game. I’m just not super sold on Chicago, despite looking good in Atlanta, I think Atlanta is just not good either. I think Miami has a very good team, but it’s hard to quantify just how Philbin’s shitty coaching affects them on a week-to-week basis. I’m going to tentatively go Miami here, and I reserve the right to edit this article and take Chicago later!
THE PICK: DOLPHINS +3
ATLANTA FALCONS +7 AT BALTIMORE RAVENS
Last time I backed Baltimore, getting 3 points on the road in Indy, I basically staked my claim on them because I thought they were a Good At Football team, and should be able to hang around with Indy. The offense sputtered and they did not, in fact, hang around, which gave me pause. But then last week they blew the fucking doors off Tampa on the road. Which isn’t that hard really, teams have been doing it for the better portion of the year. But it simply solidified my belief that Baltimore is, in fact, simply a team who is Good At Football. Beating the stuffing out of bad teams is what good teams do, especially on the road. And they will beat the Falcons soundly, because they are better at most elements of football which affect the outcome of comes.
Here comes a really unsexy list of things.
– The Falcons are usually good at home (hence why I took them last week), yet laid an egg against a very middle-of-the-road Bears team.
– A couple weeks after being forced to put their TE as a Right Tackle due to injuries, the Falcons still cannot protect Matt Ryan. The Bears not-very-intimidating pass rush sacked Ryan 4 times, so what the hell are Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Haloti Ngata going to do to him?
– At home, the Falcons scored 13 points. Hey, you’re thinking, that’s bad, but not the worst thing ever, right? Well, what the scoreboard doesn’t show was that aside from the one touchdown, the Falcons banged down field goals of 52 and 54 yards. It’s not like they had a bunch of drives that stalled on the 5 where they were forced to kick a field goal. They were held to very long attempts, much easier to make in a dome than outside in Baltimore. Not good.
– The Falcons are not running the ball well whatsoever. Against a Bears team starting an entire linebacker corps of backups, ATL ran 13 times for 42 yards. Steven Jackson is slow as molasses, Jacquizz is J.A.G. (just a guy), and Mike Smith still refuses to feed Antone Smith, even after breaking off ANOTHER big play touchdown. Again, if the Bears patchwork D could stuff these guys, what the fuck are they going to go against Baltimore?
– Conversely, the Ravens ARE running the ball well. Their three-headed backfield is clicking, keeping guys fresh and riding the hot hand, which has been Justin Forsett most recently.
– The Falcons cannot rush the passer. Behind a very suspect offensive line, Cutler was dropped twice for six yards by this unit. Flacco’s been playing with a clean pocket most of the year and that will likely continue this week.
– This is a game featuring Home Joe Flacco and Road Matthew Thomas Ryan. Hello.
I mean, aside from a big play, backdoor cover to Julio Jones, I don’t see how the Falcons cover this spread. They can’t run, which means Ryan is going to have to dropback a LOT, which means he is going to be pressured a LOT. It doesn’t matter how good Julio is if Ryan is being chased around 2 seconds after the snap. Aside from Antone Smith, they don’t have a playmaking checkdown or really anything to help keep pressure off. Rat Birds blow out the Dirty Birds.
THE PICK: RAVENS -7
CINCINNATI BENGALS +3 AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Fucking ties. So un-American. We are the home of the free, the land of the brave, and we want WINNERS and LOSERS. The winners are raised to the heavens, showered with flower petals and lauded as conquering heroes. The losers kicked, stomped, covered with mud – the shifty, unwashed masses screaming, wild-eyed, saliva spraying in the wind with each scathing invective. The grand sum of their dead-end, soul-sucking, job, their nagging, average-looking wife, their suffocating mortgage payment and annoying kid, laser-focused on the death of that fucking LOSER!! Ties… so empty. So unsatisfying. How are we supposed to know who is BETTER? Oh yeah, it doesn’t help that one of my two survivor entries was dashed upon the jagged rocks below with this cunting TIE. Wait… TIE… FIGHTER? The symbol of the Empire’s suffocating, subjugating iron grip on the galaxy? How appropriate.
Since we all know there must be a LOSER, I am going to designate the Cincinnati Bengals. They, by all rights, should have won this game. Do you think, like, when you see Cam running zone-read after zone-read and simply keeping it and running you would probably start shadowing him with somebody? Are you really afraid of the starting Panther running backs, Darrin Reaves and an animal cracker that looks like Ricky Williams? Also, let’s not forget the NUMBER ONE LOSER, Mike FUCKING Nugent. Cut this bum already! I can’t even remember the last time I was so incensed at a kicker. I was literally propped up on the rungs of my stool at the bar I was watching at, screaming, YOU FUCKED ME MIKE NUGENT, I TOLD YOU NOT TO FUCK ME AND YOU DID, NO MEANS NO MIKE YOU GOD DAMN ASSHOLE!! Oh man, oh man. But really, the Bengals should have won this shit, missed field goal or not. They were moving the ball at will, even sans AJ… the Panther defense is NOT good. Ugh. Alright, I’m done. We don’t know much about the Bengals right now, I guess, they looked like the best all-around time going into their week 4 bye, they got buzzsawed by the Pats who were super-hungry for a bounce back game, which is understandable, but this game… I can’t get behind this game. No. Now they have to go into Indy and play the Colts?
Andrew Luck is so fucking good at football, it’s not even fair. And he’s such a god damn goof, it is hilarious. He is literally impossible to hate. I feel like the Colts are going to perennially whip on the Patriots in the playoffs as they start declining in the next several years, and even then I won’t be able to hate him. There is literally nothing he does poorly. He has a big, accurate arm, he can read a defense, he is huge and hard to tackle, has great pocket presence, and great scrambling ability. It’s not fair!! And the Colts are finally getting his supporting cast in order here… he’s got a serious downfield weapon in TY, Reggie Wayne is being his reliable self, Ahmad Bradshaw continues to turn back the clock, Trent Richardson… yeah, uh, Dwayne Allen is healthy and awesome, the defense is performing admirably – I mean, they’re middle of the pack but playing above average pass defense, they’re just a team that can win Any Given Sunday™. And that’s about all I got here. The Bengals will probably be able to run and score on Indy, as they still have a balanced running attack and Gio Bernard is god damn awesome, but without AJ, they are down to basically just Sanu who will probably be shadowed by Vontae Davis… I just don’t see Luck losing at home to these guys, and if you’re going that far, I’m not going to nitpick the straight 3 point spread. Colts win.
THE PICK: COLTS -3
[Ed note: Re last week’s Washington pick,Dick wanted me to mention that he took Arizona with a money bet after Palmer was named the starter]
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers +6.5 AT DENVER BRONCOS
Let’s put something in perspective here: The Niners beat the holy hell out of the Rams because the defense is an absolute mess. ESPO and I were discussing it last week and he brought up about a dozen different defensive stats and metrics that prove the Rams have the weirdest defensive game in the NFL. It boils down to Gregg Williams blitzing on just about every other down with an ineffective secondary. Two of the Niners TD’s were classic Kaepernick: An 80-yard bomb down the sideline to Brandon Lloyd outrunning single coverage and a 32-yard on-the-run pass to Michael Crabtree in the back of the end zone between two hapless defensive backs. Color me unimpressed. Now ask yourself if Denver is going to relentlessly blitz or if they will sit back in coverage and wait for Kaepernick to throw into double coverage trying to make something happen or take off running when his first read isn’t open? Since Harbaugh is loath to just let Gore carry the offense, eat the clock, wear down defenses, then let Kaepernick loose I can’t see the Niners going the distance using a high-risk attack.
Peyton is gunning for Favre’s career TD record and after 58 minutes of being stymied almost single-handedly beat The Legion of Boom before losing in overtime in Seattle. So what if Montee Ball is out? The Niners are still without NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis hurt his toe. Sure, the Niners are giving up 5.9 yards per pass, but I doubt Peyton scares. What’s more, there’s about zero chance the Broncos look past this game to San Diego when basically every game is playoff game since they are in a Super Bowl or bust mode.
One angle I like is an anecdote that was reported by ESPN in a profile on Harbaugh a couple weeks back. When Manning visited the Niners during his who wants the best quarterback in the NFL tour two years ago Harbaugh played catch with him and joked that his throws were stronger and harder than Manning’s. Peyton’s too classy to say in public that that pissed him off, but considering how competitive the guy is I am pretty sure he hasn’t forgotten that one. I’m taking Denver.
THE PICK: DENVER -6.5
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS +2 AT DETROIT LIONS
We keep waiting for the Saints to show up and they keep disappointing us. They’re too good to miss the playoffs, right? They play in a pretty mediocre division stocked with the Panthers, Bucs and Falcons, but the Saints already blew a big lead to Atlanta in week one and got pushed to the limit by Tampa. Well, since the defense has taken several steps back it’s up to Brees to put the team on his back and if he’s missing Jimmy Graham things get even more difficult. Detroit is trending in the opposite direction. Their defense looks like it has finally gotten itself under control and is leading the league against the pass and is second against the run. They’re also holding the opposition to 31-percent on third down conversions tying them for fourth in the league. I was listening to an ESPN podcast the other day and one of their guys was talking about how Jim Caldwell has finally convinced the defense that they will play his way or not play at all. That might explain the drop in penalties and the very public situation regarding Donkey Kong Suh’s contract situation: They are threatening to let him leave as a free agent.
If you had asked me before the season I would have been all over New Orleans coming into this game, but with reality settling in and Detroit maybe getting Reggie Bush back and Caldwell being coy about Megatron’s availability, I’m all over Detroit’s defense carrying the day again. Sure, they may not be as dominant as they were against Minnesota and Brees is going to get Mark Ingram back (in a limited role), but Detroit is going to take this one and depress the living shit out of Ron Mexico.
THE PICK: LIONS -2
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS +4 AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
I witnessed the Chargers dismantling of the Jorts a couple of weeks ago and a few things stood out. Rivers is not just playing at an All Pro level, he’s playing well enough to be in the conversation with Brees, Rodgers, and Peyton Manning. Their defense is no joke. The numbers say they are fourth against the pass and ninth against the run, but their speed and size is pretty incredible and seeing the way that their defensive backs are able to blanket receivers is insane. They just swarm to the ball. Sure, Oakland covered last week and this is another divisional game, but we’re talking about less than a touchdown at home against the Chiefs who have to rely on their running game to get things going. I like Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles, but you have to have more than two decent running backs and Alex Smith managing the game to beat a team that is looking to prove they belong in the Super Bowl. If the Chiefs fall behind they don’t really have the weapons to come back. Sure, they got some rest with the bye week, but they have lost their last two games after the bye week under Andy Reid.
I guess one thing that gives me pause is that the Chargers are on a five-game winning streak and they have a slew of injuries to deal with. Manti “I swear I have a girlfriend” Teo is out, Jeremiah Attaochu is doubtful, and Dwight Freeney is questionable along with Brandon Flowers who is nursing a groin injury. I’m kind of figuring Flowers will take league-approved pain killers to get on the field and get a pick just to spite Reid for releasing him after a Pro Bowl season. Anyways, the Chiefs are going to be game and might keep this one close for three quarters, but Rivers is going to recite scripture in the huddle, convince Antonio Gates that he is Methuselah, and pull away on his own and win by 10 before going home to father his 15th child. Fuck, I took all favorites again. God damn it.
THE PICK: CHARGERS -4
CLEVELAND BROWNS -5.5 AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Let me preface this by saying that I attended my first NFL game over the weekend (Broncos at Jets). The main thing I noticed, aside from an abundance of hilarious NY/NJ stereotypes (is there more of an asshole-looking person than a Jersey cop?) was how much smaller the field looks in real life than on TV. You can still tell Peyton Manning has a big forehead though. Other highlights were seeing a Chargers fan and a Bronco fan get removed for fighting each other (Credit to Chargers bro, the guy wasn’t expecting you to come at him at a completely different game) and winning my Broncos -9 bet on a last minute pick six. All in all, a good time. Anyway, on to the game at hand.
So I was pretty bummed about the Steelers getting shit on by the Browns last weekend but I kind of saw this coming. We knew going into the season that the Browns defense is good, but oddly enough, that side of the ball has been much worse than expected and put the team in several holes this year – it’s been their offense that has bailed them out every time. Oft-injured veteran Ben Tate and rookies Terrance West and the absolutely sick Isaiah Crowell have been an excellent trifecta at running back, but it’s Brian Hoyer that has been tearing shit up. Dude is just a smooth operator. Cool, calm, collected, doesn’t turn the ball over, leader, local Clevelander…basically everything you’d want in a QB, especially if you’re a fan of the Browns. Rumor has it he won’t sign a long term deal while Johnny Football is there and I don’t blame him. Cleveland should deal him to the Cowboys or something, because it looks like they already have a franchise QB.
Meanwhile, the Jagwires suck balls, just like they have every year since David Garrard left. Blake Bortles has looked decent at times after taking over for Henne but their defense is awful and more importantly, they can’t cover a spread, as my comrade Espo learned until finally getting a Jags cover last week. This is a tough one. Taking a big road favorite is usually a bad move – we’re basically being told that Cleveland is 8.5 points better than Jacksonville on a neutral field. Does Cleveland have any business being favored by that much? Not to mention, 80% of public money is on the Browns, which is another red flag. That said, I’m going to go against the stats and take Cleveland. I just think Hoyer and their running game will be too much for a young Jags team. Cleveland in a rout.
ATLANTA FALCONS +6.5 AT BALTIMORE RAVENS
It’s pretty clear that the Ravens are the better team. Are they almost a TD better? I actually like Atlanta in this one. Their backs are against the wall, and even though they’re awful on the road, I think they’ll be able to keep things semi-close (even though they’ll probably lose). The line has moved from 7 to 6.5, which is a good sign. I think Falcons cover.
THE PICK: FALCONS +6.5
HOUSTON TEXANS +3 AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS
THE PICK: STEELERS -3