By Brian Spencer
How We Did Last Week
We stuffed ourselves silly on Thanksgiving and couldn’t recover in time to get last week’s picks up, but of course still turned them into the weekly pool. A strong 5-2 week looked like a surefire 6-1 week, but then the Steelers offense happened on MNF and they failed to cover 9.5 at the Chiefs, despite an anemic showing from Tyler Palko & Co. As for Week 11, it was our worst showing of the season by far: 1-6. Oops.
Dallas Cowboys (-4.5) at Arizona Cardinals: We usually feel really good about at least one game every week, if not two or three, but nothing really jumped out at us as a lock. This is the closest thing to it, with a streaking Cowboys team heading to the desert to take on a Cardinals team that’s represented themselves well enough as of late, but one we still have very little confidence in against a team that’s clicking like Dallas is.
Look for Laurent Robinson to extend his incredible touchdown streak to six games in a row, and for studly rookie RB DeMarco Murray to help salt away a double-digit win in the fourth quarter. PICK: Cowboys Cover
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) at New York Giants: At first glance this feels like somewhat of a trap game and spread, but can’t overlook just how dismal the Giants have looked since their 24-20 upset of the New England Patriots a month ago. The loss to the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago was embarassing, but the blowout loss to the Saints was somehow even worse: the Giants defense basically packed it in midway through the third quarter. I’m also sore about that garbage touchdown they gifted to Mark Ingram, which handed Mr. Thell an inexplicable two-point win over me in fantasy football.
The Packers can’t keep this up forever (right?), but injuries are really taking a toll on the Giants right now, as is the losing and dimming playoff hopes. We can see this being close, but also see the Pack winning by at least a touchdown. PICK: Packers Cover
Cincinnati Bengals (+7.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers: The season-ending (career-threatening?) injury to top CB Leon Hall is such a shame: this Bengals team has proven they’re legitimate playoff contenders, but the loss of Hall obviously hurts.
How about that A.J. Green? Head coach Marvin Lewis recently called him “the most impressive first-round pick he’s ever been around”, and it seems he leaps his way to big, acrobatic plays every week; if the guy had any basketball goals, I’m sure some NBA team would invite him to camp. He leads the team in receptions (44), receiving yards (745), and TDs (6), and pairs nicely with his rookie classmate QB Andy Dalton. This offense is going to give teams fits for years, especially once they find a young stud running back.
Anyway, with Troy Polamalu looking questionable (concussion symptoms), we’ll take the points in a key divisional matchup that could come down to the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh won the previous matchup by 7 points; we woudn’t be shocked if that margin of victory is reversed in Cincy’s favor. PICK: Bengals Cover
Just Trust Us
St. Louis Rams (+13.5) at San Francisco 49ers: The Rams are terrible and the 49ers are cruising on their backs of their imposing defense and serviceable offense. Still, 13.5 points seems rich for a 49ers offense near the bottom of the league in total yards per with 308. This is basically Colts/Pats Jr. (see below): it’s tough covering spreads like this. PICK: Rams Cover
San Diego Chargers (-2.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars: I know–we just refuse to learn our lesson with the Chargers. Classic Norvball on display in that last week’s overtime loss to the Broncos, wherein the Chargers, as usual, played not to lose, not to win. Nothing new on that front. It’s a small wonder that Norv wasn’t fired on Monday morning, especially since that loss, their sixth in a row, basically killed the season. I guess it’s just business as usual in San Diego.
The Jaguars, on the other hand, endured the exact opposite this week after their 20-13 loss to the Texans pushed their record to 3-8. Head coach Jack Del Rio was canned, a number of players were benched or cut (including WR Jason Hill), and their owner cut bait on this lifeless franchise and sold the team. Sadly, we’re still not sure which team is in more disarray, but like the Chargers to cover because… well… honestly, I have no fucking clue why we think they’ll cover. We just do. PICK: Chargers Cover
Indianapolis Colts (+21.5) at New England Patriots: We’ve only seen a small handful of 20+ point spreads in the last 11 years, so we had to get this one on here one way or the other just for fun. Look, the Pats should cover this, easily… but the margin of error on spreads like this is thin. An ill-timed, wacky turnover here, a fumble there, a dropped touchdown pass–it won’t take much.
Plus, as woeful as the Colts are in nearly every aspect of the game on both sides of the ball, let’s not forget the Pats defense has issues too. We expect a ball-control plan of attack by Indy to try, probably fruitlessly, to keep Brady & Co. off the field, so you never know. Oh, fuck, it’s probably a Pats blowout, but can’t resist what might be our only opportunity to root for the Colts all year. You just know this game (with the spread considered) will come down to one play with under 2 minutes to go. PICK: Colts Cover
New Orleans Saints (-7.5) vs. Detroit Lions: I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, but our weekly picks are the result of intense discussions of all the games on the docket between me, my ETB colleague Andrew Thell, and our friend Chris. What’s my point? I’m the only reason the Saints are this low on the list: Andrew and Chris liked this game a lot more than I did, mostly because they aren’t hopeless lifelong Lions fans who can’t bear to bet against his team to lose in such a big game.
I actually like the Lions’ chances in this one, not only to cover but also to win. They could just as easily get blown out, which would make sense if you compare the Saints’ Week 12 demolition of the New York Giants with the Lions’ whimper of an effort against the Packers on Thanksgiving. Remember, however, that the NFL is wildly inconsistent from week to week, and if you’re betting with spreads I know you remember the Saints laying their fair share of puzzling clunkers (the Week 8 loss to the Rams stands out).
Still, the Saints are rolling and the Lions are reeling. The Saints are our pick, but go Lions! PICK: Saints Cover
Laurent Robinson & Norv Turner Photo Credits: Icon SMI