November 17, 2011
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.
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.
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
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