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Degenerate Gambler Weekly: Week 11 NFL Picks Against the Spread

November 17, 2011

Rex Ryan

By Brian Spencer and Andrew Thell

How We Did Last Week

We pitched a 4-3 record for Week 10, striking out on our Panthers, Vikings, and Bills picks: all three were blown out. It happens. We move on, starting with the Thursday night tilt between the Jets and Broncos.

Best Bet

New York Jets (-4.5) at Denver Broncos: Kudos to Broncos head coach John Fox for adapting to the lack of NFL quarterbacking skills possessed by his starting quarterback, and to Tim Tebow for executing the plan. As you know by now, last week Denver ran the ball 55 times (55!) against the bumbling Kansas City Chiefs, while Tebow only attempted 8 passes (8!), completing 2 (2!). They won the game 17-10, and have now won 2 of Tebow’s 3 starts on the season. Well done, guys.

Excuse us if we’re not quite ready to jump on the Tebow Apologist bandwagon just yet, however. At some point some team is going to go back and watch the Lions/Broncos tape and figure out how to grind the Tebow-led Broncos offense to an ugly halt: stack the box and put your corners in press coverage. Dare them to drop back and throw. Absolutely commit to the run. It’s really not that complicated.

The Jets don’t strike us as a team that’s going to put up with the kind of shit Denver got away with against Kansas City, particularly coming off a humbling loss to the New England Patriots. We’ll be shocked–absolutely fucking shocked–if Denver has any sustained success moving the ball tonight. The only thing that will deep-six the Jets’ chances of covering are Sanchez turnovers and/or wildly ineffective play (a significant possibility), and/or special teams turnovers deep in their own territory.

Spreads for the pool at our local watering hole are released on Tuesdays; since then Vegas has moved it to 6. We’d take that too. PICK: Jets Cover

***Friday Morning Update*** Really, Jets? Yesterday I predicted that the only way the Jets don’t handily take care of business is if Sanchez turned the ball over and played poorly, and/or if the Jets’ traditionally rock-solid special teams underperformed. Well, let’s see here:

+ On special teams, kicker Nick Folk missed two field goals (though one was a 61-yarder), Joe McKnight lost a fumble on a kickoff return, and Broncos return man Cassius Vaughn (great name) returned a kickoff 67 yards and nearly took it to the house. Broncos punter Dustin Colquitt also pinned the Jets deep inside their territory on 3 of his 8 punts. Not a great day for Mike Westhoff’s special teams crew.

+ As for Mark Sanchez, he’s a bum. Later calling his effort “embarassing”, Sanchez finished 24-40 for 252 yards (6.3 YPA), took 3 sacks, and threw a game-turning pick six INT to Broncos CB Andre Goodman. The stats don’t tell the whole story though: “Sanchise” routinely missed open receivers, including TE Dustin Keller for a wide-open would-be touchdown, and rushed his throws when under any sort of pressure.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer again orchestrated an excruciatingly conservative, predictable game plan that helped set this team up for defeat and a poor showing on offense. Credit Champ Bailey for doing a great job of sticking with Santonio Holmes, but that kid is a playmaker when given the opportunity: I can’t recall any plays last night designed to get Holmes open in the middle of the field, in space, on a crossing pattern 15+ yards down the field. It’s a real wonder that Schottenheimer is still with this team–he’s shown nothing and has clearly been the weak link on the Jets coaching staff for years now.

Despite the special teams foibles, this game would have been 20-3 Jets with a capable quarterback and offensive coordinator running the show. Yuck.

Strong Bets

Dallas Cowboys (-7.5) at Washington Redskins: Good times in Washington, eh? A week after Mike Shenanigans deemed rookie RB Roy Helu “the guy”, Ryan Torain gets the starting nod and the bulk of the carries, totaling 20 yards on 10 attempts; Helu ran 6 times for 41 yards, but who’s counting. News also leaked late in the week that desposed starter Rex Grossman was splitting first-team reps at quarterback with incumbent starter John Beck. Sure enough, Sexy Rexy got the start, was sacked thrice, picked twice, posted a 58.7 QB Rating, and the Redskins put up 9 points in a 20-9 loss to the then 1-7 Miami Dolphins. Kicker Graham Gano also missed two field goals.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys seem to be catching fire at just the right time, winning 3 of their past 4 by an average of just under 25 points/per. Save for two huge games looming against the New York Giants, they’re entering the patsy portion of their schedule, starting with this visit to Washington. We’ve seen nothing from the ‘Skins to suggest they can keep this game close. PICK: Cowboys Cover

Aaron Rodgers

New York Giants (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles: You hate to take a big spread with the Giants because of their propensity to play down to their opponent, but 3.5 is too hard to pass up here. It looks extremely unlikely Michael Vick will suit up with the broken ribs this week, and even if he does he’s unlikely to be effective; the Iggles’ top WR, Jeremy Maclin, is also extremely iffy. That likely leaves Vince Young under center, a man who does not respond well to pressure–and the Giants can assuredly pressure the quarterback. On top of this, it’s a massive divisional game at home and Eli Manning is playing by far the best football of his career. PICK: Giants Cover

Just Trust Us

Green Bay Packers (-13.5) vs. Tampa Bay Bucs: On Monday we watched in agony as the Packers decimated the Vikings in every aspect of the game and easily put to bed our expectations that Minnesota would keep it close and cover the 13.5 spread. We wonder how much longer Green Bay can keep this up–and don’t forget that defense was struggling leading up to Monday night’s massacre–but this doesn’t feel like the week that the bubble bursts.

The Bucs are in shambles right now, and Lambeau Field isn’t exactly a friendly venue for struggling, warm-weather teams. After rooting for the Packers to slow things down against Minnesota, we’re looking forward to rooting for them to run it up instead.
PICK: Packers Cover

New England Patriots (-14.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The reasoning behind this can be summed up in two words: Tyler Palko.

No, this is actually a rich spread and we like to avoid favorites in these situations, but New England is excellent at home and Bill Belichick has never shied away from pouring it on. Brady finally snapped out of his funk in the second half against the Jets last week, and the Chiefs are absolutely reeling after back-to-back embarrassing losses in Arrowhead to the Dolphins and Broncos. You also have to wonder how many more devastating injuries this team can take before they fold up camp and call it a season. I think zero is the answer.
PICK: Patriots Cover

Carolina Panthers (+7.5) at Detroit Lions: We like the Lions a lot better as a team and we expect them to win this game, but they’re having issues of their own right now. Detroit can’t seem to establish a balanced attack on offense, and opponents are pinning their ears back and going after Matthew Stafford. He’s looked rattled as a result, posting QB Ratings in the 46-86 range with yards per attempt under 6 in four of the last six games.

And while the Detroit front is excellent at bringing pressure into the backfield, the Panthers are a team that can make a team pay for being over aggressive with the extremely mobile Cam Newton at quarterback and talented Jonathan Stewart catching screens. This smells more like a 4-7 point victory, not an 8+ win. PICK: Panthers Cover

Buffalo Bills (+2.5) at Miami Dolphins: Come on now, the Dolphins are favorites all of the sudden? Yeah, they’ve won two in a row (against the abysmal Chiefs and Redskins) and they tend to play better at home, but this is still one of the worst teams in football.

Don’t overreact to the Bills recent losses to the strong defenses of the Jets and Cowboys. Say what you will about Buffalo and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s recent struggles (I for one don’t think he’s a long-term solution at quarterback), but there’s a lot more talent on the Buffalo side of the ball and I’ll take Fitz, Fred Jackson, and Chan Gailey over Matt Moore, Reggie Bush, and Tony Sparano any day of the week. With Stevie Johnson looking more and more likely to play, expect the cunning Gailey to make the necessary adjustments to right this ship on offense and the Bills to win outright. PICK: Bills Cover

Rex Ryan and Aaron Rodgers Photo Credits: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 17, 2011 at 5:51pm in ETB Articles, NFL

Degenerate Gambler Weekly: Week 10 NFL Picks Against the Spread

November 11, 2011

Arian Foster

By Brian Spencer

How We Did Last Week

We felt particularly confident about last week’s picks, and turns out we were right: 5-2. It looked like 6-1 until the Ravens scored a last-gasp touchdown to ruin the Steelers -3.5 (they led 20-16 with 8 seconds left); the other miss was picking the favored Kansas City Chiefs to cover 5.5 vs. the then-winless Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs instead took the day off.

We’re running a bit behind schedule this week, so here’s the quick-and-dirty picks for Week 10. Some tough spreads this time around with so many clunkers on the schedule, but after discussions into the wee hours of Thursday morning we’ve emerged with seven picks we feel pretty good about.

Best Bet

Houston Texans (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Bucs: Arian Foster and Ben Tate are both currently on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards, and have played major roles in getting the Texans off to their best start in franchise history. That’s despite losing Mario Williams for the season and Andre Johnson for the past 5 weeks (this week makes it 6).

Having those horses in the backfield is obviously fueling the strong start, but that pass defense is quietly turning into one of the league’s best: the Texans are currently second overall in passing yards allowed/per (182.6) and are tied for fourth overall in team interceptions (11).

Those two recipes for success are not good for the up-and-down Bucs. With DT Gerald McCoy on the shelf now for the rest of the year, Albert Haynesworth was brought in to help shore up a rush defense that’s been gashed over 132.4 yards/per and allowed 8 rushing TDs; we don’t think he’ll make much difference. On the other side of the ball, third-year QB Josh Freeman, as well as his second-year WR Mike Williams, have regressed. PICK: Texans Cover

Strong Bets

New England Patriots (+1.5) at New York Jets: This one’s a toss-up. We know the Jets always play the Pats tough, and that the Ryan Bros. consistently devise defensive game plans that limit Tom Brady’s effectiveness. Speaking of defense, the Patriots are allowing more total yards per (416) than anybody in the league. It’s tough to sweep the Jets, but we just can’t see the Pats losing three in a row. They need this one. Pick: Patriots Cover

Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers (-3.5) vs. Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson finally showed signs of life out of the Titans backfield last week, rushing for 64 yards (4.6 YPC, his best game total so far) and tacking on 46 receiving yards. He’s still only scored 1 TD on the season, however, but this could be the week he breaks on through: the Panthers allow 133 rushing yards/per (28th overall) and have already yielded 11 rushing scores (tied for worst). We’ve said this a few times now with Johnson, but if he can’t do it this week, when will he?

Regardless, the Jekyll-and-Hyde Titans’ bigger problem is figuring out how to control Cam Newton, Steve Smith, and the Panthers’ (at times) dynamic offense. All in all we like the Panthers at home more than we do the Titans on the road. PICK: Panthers Cover

Just Trust Us

Minnesota Vikings (+13.5) at Green Bay Packers: It’s NFC North Rivalry Weekend with the 6-2 Bears and 5-3 Lions squaring off in Chicago, and the unbeaten Packers hosting the 2-6 Vikings, who are coming off a bye. Minnesota hung tough in Week 7, with rookie QB Christian Ponder at the helm of a 33-27 loss in his first NFL start. We think it’ll be a similarly competitive affair, with a steady pounding of AP helping the Vikings control the clock and keep that almost unstoppable Packers offense off the field as much as possible. Speaking of unstoppable, look for Jared Allen to add two more sacks to what’s looking like a record-setting 2011 resume. PICK: Vikings Cover

St. Louis Rams (+2.5) at Cleveland Browns: We’re not going to watch a single minute of this game and don’t recommend you do either, unless your only other option is Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Or Washington and Miami. Ugh. Steven Jackson is the difference here as the Rams pick up a rare win. PICK: Rams Cover

Buffalo Bills (+5.5) at Dallas Cowboys: Somehow forgot to post this pick on Friday when this was published. Right, so… Bills didn’t cover.PICK: Bills Cover

Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) at Indianapolis Colts: Like the Rams/Browns game, this game is for football masochists only. You have no reason to tune into this one unless you own Maurice Jones-Drew on your fantasy team. Don’t ask. Just bet. PICK: Jaguars Cover

Arian Foster & Cam Newton Photo Credits: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 11, 2011 at 4:34pm in ETB Articles, NFL

Degenerate Gambler Weekly: Week 9 NFL Picks Against the Spread

November 3, 2011

Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons

By Brian Spencer

How We Did Last Week

We went 4-3, and are still glaring in the direction of the Saints, last week’s Best Bet, for that shitshow in St. Louis. We also missed on the Browns, who got 9.5 points–they lost by 10–and the favored Chargers, who lost in overtime at Kansas City after Philip Rivers threw for 369 yards, but couldn’t find the endzone but threw 2 INTs, took 3 sacks, and lost a fumble.

Good times.

Having kicked this column off in Week 6, our record now stands at 11-10. Not so hot, but stick with us: we’ll help you earn back that dog food money yet.

Best Bet

Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) at Indianapolis Colts: Pass-rushing demons Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are the only factors that give us slight pause, particularly with Falcons’ starting LT Sam Baker out. What else do the Colts have going for them right now?

They’ve lost their last 3 games by an average of 27 points–okay, that includes that 55-point laugher against the Saints 2 weeks ago, but still–and they’re at or very close to the bottom of the league in most major offensive and defensive categories. Their coach is squarely on the hot seat. We’re not sure what kind of home-field advantage an 0-8 team has, either.

The Falcons have been underwhelming, and certainly not resembled the Super Bowl-contending team many predicted they would be, but they’re coming off two straight wins (and a bye, last week) and should have no trouble ramming Michael Turner down the Colts’ throats. We see no reason why the Falcons shouldn’t win this one by at least 10 points. PICK: Falcons Cover

Strong Bets

Green Bay Packers (-5.5) at San Diego Chargers: Following their frustrating performance and non-cover on Monday, I swore we wouldn’t pick the Chargers game this week, regardless of the spread. They’re too unpredictable, and already feel like that team that’s going to fuck you on a weekly basis, covering when you bet against them and not covering when you bet with them. There’s one wild card every year.

I’d be lying, then, if I said I was totally comfortable with this because I’m not. Yes, the Packers are clearly the NFL’s best team right now and just spent a week resting up on bye. They’re 4-0 on the road. On the other side, the Chargers have only had 5 days to focus on the Packers and are pretty banged up, particularly in the backfield with starter Ryan Matthews and third-stringer Curtis Brinkley both likely out. Mike Tolbert is expected to carry the load, but keep in mind he was out last week and isn’t 100% either.

They still have big-time playmakers, though, in WRs Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd and TE Antonio Gates. You have to think Rivers is going to have a breakout game at some point, but then again, maybe not. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Packers should cover this, and we think they will cover this, but wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t.
Pick: Packers Cover

San Francisco 49ers Defense

Tennessee Titans (-3.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Just as we were suspicious of the low 3.5 points the Steelers were only favored by a few weeks ago in Arizona (they won by 12), we’re similarly leery that Vegas knows something we don’t here.

It’s fair to say that the 5-2 Bengals have enjoyed a fairly easy schedule thus far, with their wins coming against teams with a combined record of 12-25; take the Bills out and it’s 7-23. As we discussed last week, however, that defense is legit, ranked 4th overall in both points allowed and yards allowed, 2nd in rushing yards allowed, and 9th in passing yards allowed.

Rookie QB Andy Dalton is clicking with fellow rookie A.J. Green (33 receptions, 516 yards, 5 TDs), and though he’s not the league’s most exciting starting RB, Cedric Benson is back from a one-game suspension and is still an upgrade on backup Bernard Scott.

In short, this is much more complete team than the one Tennessee is fielding, and with two tough games apiece looming against the Steelers and Ravens, the Bengals know they need to take care of business against middling teams like the Titans. If they lose, it’ll be by a slim margin. PICK: Bengals Cover

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Washington Redskins: Was anybody out there sad to see Mike Shanahan get shut out for the first time in his NFL head-coaching career last week? Didn’t think so. A week removed from an ugly 23-0 thrashing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills (9 sacks allowed, 2 turnovers, 178 total yards) and in the midst of a three-game slide, a visit by the brutally efficient 6-1 ‘Niners is, well, it’s not good.

The 49ers have rattled five consecutive wins, including three on the road against playoff-caliber teams (Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit). We’ll never be fans of QB Alex Smith, but will give him some credit: he’s playing within himself and the offense’s modest game plan and not doing anything to put his team in a bad position. He is, indeed, right now the league’s best Game Manager. I know how depressing that sounds.

More importantly, that defense is dominating. Check out these per-game allowances: 15.3 points (1st), 73.4 rushing yards (1st), 3.5 rushing yards/attempt (4th), passing yards/attempt (12th). Good luck, John Beck. PICK: 49ers Cover

Just Trust Us

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens trashed Pittsburgh in Week 1 to the tune of 35-7. Great win for them. A few fun facts though:

+ The Steelers turned the ball over seven times in that game. That won’t happen this time.
+ The Ravens were at home–this is a vastly different team on the road (See Week 7 at Jacksonville.)
+ The Steelers’ offensive line–really, their whole offense–was in shambles to start the season. It’s still not a dominant line, but the reintroduction of Max Starks at LT has worked wonders.
+ The Steelers are 6-1 since that opening day loss and are coming off an impressive 25-17 win over the New England Patriots.
+ Ravens QB Joe Flacco has a career 2-5 record against the Steelers; at PIT, his average QB Rating is 61.3.
Pick: Steelers Cover

Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) vs. Miami Dolphins: A few weeks ago I said that the KC Chiefs were terrible. Can I take it back? They’re not terrible. In fact, kudos to the Chiefs for bouncing back from a 0-3 start to win four in a row, including a huge (and improbable) overtime win Monday night over the San Diego Chargers. Considering all the injuries they’ve dealt with, and the fact that they’re still starting Matt Cassel at quarterback, being tied for first place in the up-for-grabs AFC West is impressive.

The Miami Dolphins, bless their little hearts, are still winless but have kept the final outcome close for two consecutive weeks, losing somewhat of a heartbreaker 20-17 on the road against the NY Giants last week, and feeling the wrath of Tebow’s God two weeks ago 18-15 against Denver. Couple that with a growing sense of desperation, and the 5.5 spread makes sense.

The Chiefs are playing with abundant confidence right now, though, and we all know that Arrowhead Stadium is up there with CenturyLink Field in Seattle and Ford Field in Detroit (this season, at least) as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. Rookie first-round WR Jonathan Baldwin finally broke out last week (5 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD): that’s a huge development for this offense if he can sustain relevance. PICK: Chiefs Cover

Dallas Cowboys (-12.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks: The Cowboys are clearly the better team here, but what have they done thus far in their 3-4 season to warrant a double-digit spread like this? Oh, they absolutely could blow out the Seahawks, who are 1-3 on the road and coming off a 22-point home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. They’re missing their top two corners, are near the bottom of the league in points per (15.6), and rank 31st overall in both team rushing yards/per (77.7) and total yards per (284).

There’s (a little) more to the story of the Seahawks’ thus-far forgettable season, though. Last week’s game against the Bengals was actually a close 5-point game with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter: late TDs from Brandon Tate (56-yard punt return TD) and Reggie Nelson (75-yard INT) blew things open. They also nearly upset the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, and stunned the New York Giants on the road 36-25 a week later. The offense may be terrible overall, but they’re certainly much better with Tarvaris Jackson behind center: he’s thrown for 300+ yards in 2 of his past 3 games.

The Cowboys have been tough against the run (4th overall), but their best linebacker, Sean Lee, is out, as is starting CB Mike Jenkins. We think the Seahawks’ somewhat underrated defense and middling offense will make enough plays–or maybe it’s that the Cowboys won’t make enough plays–to keep the final score within 10 points. PICK: Seahawks Cover

Michael Turner and San Francisco 49ers Defense Photo Credits: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 3, 2011 at 5:35pm in ETB Articles, NFL


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