WEEK 14 RECORD
DAN K: 1-1-1
DAN K: 14-21-2
MIAMI DOLPHINS +7.5 AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
On September 7th, I invited my Dolphins fan buddy over for our first matchup in the first week of the brand new NFL season. Fresh, and full of possibilities. Anticipating a Patriot beatdown, I instead found myself with my foot in my mouth, absorbing gleeful taunting. Brady was under pressure all game, with his Logan Mankins-less offensive line unable to hold up to a Dolphin pass rush that consistently sent only 4 guys. Vince Wilfork, in his first game back after Achilles surgery, didn’t resemble his regular self, and the Patriots could not stop the Miami running game, with Knowshon Moreno (oh my god, I almost forgot he was even on the Dolphins) tagging them for 134 yards and a TD.
I feared the worst. Next week brought an easy blowout of the Vikings, a reaaallllly difficult win against Oakland, and finally, a merciless blowout in Arrowhead. AVAST! How the tables have turned. The Patriots are again a machine. Despite a tough loss at Lambeau, I’d have a hard time picking anyone to win straight up against this team. The offensive line has found cohesion. Brady is on point. Revis is sticking to guys like glue. Browner is off suspension to give them more options in the secondary. And most importantly, the GRONK is healthy, kittens and all.
The Dolphins, on the other hand… after a long stretch of quality performances, they are starting to sputter. Their stout defense is springing leaks, especially in the run game. Cam Wake is a total stud, but he can’t play every position. They have big question marks at linebacker, and teams have been exploiting them. Ryan Tannehill scrambles well and has good pocket presence, but simply lacks accuracy on his deep balls. Tellingly, Mike Wallace has only eclipsed 70 yards twice, in weeks 1 and 2. The loss of left tackle Branden Albert has been huge, affecting both their ability to protect Tannehill and open up run lanes.
The Dolphins aren’t a bad team, but I just can’t see them being able to keep up in this game. Mike Wallace has a date with Revis Island, in a cell right next to Keenan Allen’s. They will be limited to mostly underneath routes, running, and screens. The Patriots can attack the Fins in a variety of ways… they’ll run on them, they’ll deploy Gronk all over the formation… they’ll find ways to get down the field. I’m picturing a competitive game which the Patriots break open in the 2nd half, much like their date last week at San Diego. Pats by 10.
THE PICK: PATRIOTS -7.5
DENVER BRONCOS -4.5 AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
I’m running out of time so this is gonna be a short one. This is a pretty trendy upset pick this week, but I’m not sure I see it. Yes, the Broncos haven’t looked like the world beaters they were earlier in the year, or last year, but this is still a very good, very balanced team. Julius and Demariyus Thomas will be good to go. Ryan Mathews is out, leaving Donald Brown and Branden Oliver to carry the mail. Not the best. Without the ability to run the ball consistently, the Chargers will have a hard time accomplishing the key of beating Denver – sustaining drives and keeping Peyton off the field. Meanwhile, while the Chargers defense held up pretty admirably against the Patriots last week, especially in the third quarter, they still didn’t have quite enough in the tank. The Broncos are just as dynamic as the Pats, if not more (the Pats still don’t have a WR like Demariyus Thomas, nor Sanders really for that matter).
Long story short. Denver is going to score. Probably 27 at least, but probably more like 35. Can the Chargers keep up with them? Possible, but I’d lean towards no. The spread is a bit fidgety – but I think Denver should be able to take it by a TD.
THE PICK: BRONCOS -4.5
CINCINNATI BENGALS +1.5 AT CLEVELAND BROWNS
A little over a month ago against these same Cleveland Browns, noted ginger (and quarterback) Andrew Dalton had one of his worst games as a pro. And that’s saying something. 10 for 33 for 86 yards. 2.6 yards per completion. 3 picks. Sacked twice. A quarterback rating of 4.3!!! Woof. They lost the game 24-3. For two teams that have been extremely statistically similar this year, it was a pretty shocking beatdown. Part of it has to be the Thursdayishness of it. Does the league actually give a shit that this little extra money grab produces horrible games and is patently dangerous to its players? Haha, wait, what am I saying?
Anyway, the question is, are these performances repeatable from either team? The Bengals are pretty much the same as they were 6 weeks ago, ripping off a few quality wins after looking so miserable against the Browns. The Browns are mostly the same too, except for one little… thing… what was it again? OH YEAH!!!!! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERE’S JOHNNY!
That’s right, folks. Jonathan M. Football, Esq. will be taking the field for the first time as a starter in what will surely be a long and successful NFL career, because there is no God and the world is ever more depressing by the day. After a few weeks of terrible, terrible quarterback play, Brian Hoyer has finally been relegated to the bench for that YOUNG SPARKPLUG Johnny Football, who when coming in relief for Hoyer in the Bills game, engineered a touchdown drive and of course felt compelled to do his little money sign bullshit. Because of course you would, as a quarterback who’s played about 15 snaps in the NFL and has been riding pine all year. Yes, please, taunt the defensive players on the opposing team! They have short memories and will probably never remember that you did that. God, I would love nothing more than to see Geno Atkins break through the offensive line and physically tear Manziel in half.
Like I said earlier, these two teams are basically even. Similar stats across the board, but the biggest leak sprung has been Cincy’s run defense, which has just plummeted to realllly terrible levels. The loss of Vontaze Burfict was huge for them – a lost year overall for that guy. Sucks. Cleveland ditched Ben Tate, and have been content to run with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, with good results. They’ll carry the mail a lot on Sunday. But on paper, it’s basically a coin flip. Yeah, Cincy wants “revenge.” Yeah, the Browns are trying to squeak into the playoffs. Yeah, the defenses of both have been suspect. Yeah, Manziel is an unknown and Dalton is prone to mind-numbing games. But we know two things in this world. If there is a God, he hates all of us, but ESPECIALLY Cleveland. Now, normally that would just mean losing a game. But they already lost that game last week, a one point loss against Indy that they DEFINITELY should have won. So no. For Cleveland’s torment to continue, they will win this game. They might even win another game! But they won’t make the playoffs, and Johnny Football’s tenure will be a three-ring circus the Jets could never even dream of. Cleveland by a field goal.
THE PICK: BROWNS -1.5
DALLAS COWBOYS +3 AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Aside from Ravens-Steelers, Philly-Dallas is probably the most entertaining rivalry in the NFL, so it’s especially cool we get one late in the season with playoff implications. Mark Sanchez has looked good at times for the Eagles, but he (and the entire team) were shut down last week against the Ravens. Of course, the Eagles beat Dallas handily on Thanksgiving, but that means nothing in the rematch. Philly couldn’t stop Marshawn Lynch or any of the Seattle receivers last week, so I’m skeptical they’ll be able to keep Dez Bryant and Demarco Murray in check at all. Dallas did beat a bad Chicago team last week, but they have defensive problems of their own as Chicago was beginning to mount a comeback and would have put it within a score with a couple minutes left to go if Jay Cutler hadn’t been picked in the endzone. LeSean McCoy has had a disappointing year but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to run at will against Dallas, which would open things up for the Sanchez-Maclin connection. Honestly I don’t know what to think about him. By and large he’s played well since coming off of the bench but Seattle completely stymied him (though they have stymied the best in the game). I guess we’ll find out in a crucial game where he will more than likely need to make some plays in the passing game to win.
Divisional matches are always tough. In this rivalry, the road team has won in 7 out of 9 games. The Cowboys are a bit more talented than the Eagles though, and with that in mind I’m going to take the points. Dallas covers and likely wins to even the season series.
THE PICK: COWBOYS +3
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 10.5 AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
What a tire fire. I don’t have anything against the Niners particularly as a team, but I have a white-hot hatred for the Harbaugh brothers. It looks like the Niners have just given up, probably because Jim Harbaugh’s routine has worn thin. Nobody cares, he’s gonna be coaching Oakland or Michigan next year so why risk an injury in a meaningless game? It’s like the last week of school your senior year. Kaepernick has completely checked out and he would have seemed more interested if he would have just kept his headphones on blaring E-40 during the postgame last week. Speaking of Kaepernick, it appears that he’s hit a wall. He set the league on fire, then teams figured him out and he was never able to improve the passing game to compensate. Meanwhile, Seattle is Seattle. Marshawn Lynch is continually one of the most brutal, punishing rushers in the league, Russell Wilson runs around and makes plays, the defense is stifling, you name it. The Niners have a mountain to climb here.
This line is the highest the Niners have faced as an underdog during the Harbaugh era. It opened at 6.5 and obviously the big money came pouring in on Seattle because it moved four points. I’m kind of hesitant taking a big favorite in a divisional game but this is the time of the year when you see two things: teams who are probably/certainly out of the playoffs but like playing the spoiler (Rams, Raiders) and teams who have checked out completely. The Niners appear to be the latter. Add in the Seahawks playing at home factor, and I gotta go with the favorite. Hawks.
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS +10.5
HOUSTON TEXANS +7.5 AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
We get another good matchup with playoff implications this week as two quarterbacks with gnarly beards face off in what should be an interesting divisional matchup. Houston is coming off of a three game winning streak and Indy off of a comeback win at the Browns. The concerning thing here for Indy is turnovers. They have 10 in the last three games and Houston has JJ Watt coming off the edge. Luck will be able to sling it to TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief (Reggie Wayne is done) but if Watt or Houston’s other pass rushers can get to him he is prone to fumble. On the other side, Indy’s defense is fairly porous and Arian Foster should be able to establish the run easily.
I wouldn’t bet against Andrew Luck to lose any game, but the turnovers are a concern to me – they have a way of catching up to you. This is a must-win game for Houston, who still has a chance to win the division. I think Indy will win, but I still like Houston to keep it within a TD.
THE PICK: TEXANS +7.5
OAKLAND RAIDERS +11.5 AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
This is the dreaded week 15. Last year I took the Eagles on the road at Minnesota and got hosed along with four other people when they got beat down. This year I eyeballed this game as far back as week nine as the one to get me through to week 16 by virtue of KC being so much better at home and Oakland being oh so shitty. The Raiders have won two of three – both at home – and have to face the Chiefs who will bent on making up for that shit show they put on in the mud in Oakland three weeks ago. Oakland has nothing to lose, Kansas City needs this one to keep them in the playoff hunt, and Arrowhead is the loudest arena in football, but it’s a rivalry game and Oakland has been playing fairly well if you throw out the shellacking they got from the Rams. For survivor I’m leaning KC, but 10 points is a lot to give up in a division game. If I take KC in survivor I might have to put up a big hedge bet, but that would be the only reason I would play this game. The public is probably going to be 9-1 on the Chiefs, but those are just people who are waking up drunk thinking this is an easy play. Avoid unless you are addicted to gambling.
THE PICK: Chiefs for Survivor and Raiders if you dare bet
PITTSBURGH STEELERS -2 AT ATLANTA FALCONS
The Falcons will be a division winner with a losing record and the Steelers are fighting for their lives in the AFC North. Breaking this one down seems like clapping with one hand, so I’ll follow the advice of my Secret Santa and just get to the point: Take the Steelers, but don’t bet your rent.
THE PICK: STEELERS -2
MIAMI DOLPHINS +7 AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
I am the only person alive in survivor who has the Pats available. They are peaking, motivated, and have the best QB and coach combo in football and that loss in Miami was in week one in crazy heat and humidity. Everyone also forgets that the Pats had a 10 point lead before what I think was the heat catching up with them. This is a late season home game for Brady who is money in these situations. It’s pretty simple. I might just go Pats and hope that the Raiders pull off one more massive upset. Do I dare? Ask me when I wake up hungover/drunk on Sunday morning.
THE PICK: Pats in survivor and covering the spread