Three straight weeks of picking games at over a 50% clip has narrowed the gap between me and my opponents, aka the bad guys, and earned me back some respectability. In fact, I’m only four games under .500 on the season, still a losing proposition but considering my questionable start, I have no room to complain.
With four weeks to play, plus the playoffs where things should get interesting, I’m only five games behind Mr. Paul, whereas a few weeks back his once insurmountable lead was well into double-digits.
I do believe it was LL Cool J who once rhymed “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.”
Our guest this week is not only an unabashed Auburn Tigers and Philadelphia Eagles fan but he’s pretty handy around a kitchen. He goes by the pseudonym Rising Storms because he’s wanted in three states just for having a bad attitude. He’s aware of the SportsChump’s current hot streak and is not in the least bit intimidated. We shall see.
So without further ado, here we head down the home stretch…
SPORTSCHUMP’S AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME KEEP HOPE ALIVE PICKS
DALLAS -3.5 at CHICAGO
What two things do Tony Romo and Jay Cutler have in common? Every football fan in American thinks they should be better than they are and they each only have one career playoff win. That’s a combined 263 career games with extremely limited success in the post-season. At their going rate, that pace should continue. The Bears have all but kissed this season goodbye. Meanwhile the Cowboys aren’t even in the top six teams in the NFC record-wise. Close but no cigar… yet. This is a must-win for them if they have any hopes of getting Mr. Romo his second playoff victory. Cutler and his Bears on the other hand will be playing the role of spoiler. This has to be one of the more disappointing Bears seasons in recent history and that’s saying something because they haven’t been good for a while. Their last playoff win came in 2010. This year they’re 5-7 and their record does not indicate how truly bad they are. Dallas should be far more inspired to win this game than Chicago will be to pee in Dallas’ Wheaties. It should be cold as heck on a December Chicago evening, making Romo’s back all the more stiff, which is all the more reason to just give the ball to DeMarco Murray and let him do what he does best, which is run over people. Besides that, the Cowboys will be looking to rebound from an embarrassing loss on Thanksgiving Day. Give me Dallas and lay the three-and-a-half.
BALTIMORE at MIAMI -3
Tough call here. I really like what Miami has done this season. I’ve been down on them the last couple of years. Who hasn’t? But this year, they’re legit. I just don’t know if they’re legit enough to beat a desperate Ravens team at home by three. They’re both 7-5 and they both need this game if they want in on the wild card chase. As much as I like what Miami’s done, I think Baltimore’s the better team. I’m taking Ravens and the points.
PITTSBURGH +3 at CINCINNATI
Cincinnati is coming off a game in which they did everything to lose yet still won. Pittsburgh is coming off another home loss to an NFC South team. If only the NFC South could play the Steelers all season long, the teams in that division might not be as shitty as they actually are. I thought this line would be steeper. Cincy’s the better team or at least the more consistent team so why are we assuming the Steelers are just as good. Just because they’re the Steelers? Nah, I’m not buying it. Cincinnati sits atop that division and it stays that way this weekend. Stick a fork in the Steelers. Take the Bengals and lay the field goal.
INDIANAPOLIS -3.5 at CLEVELAND
With so much drama in the CLE, it’s kind of hard being Johnny M-a-n-Z. Start Johnny. Don’t start Johnny. It’s why teams didn’t want to draft the kid in the first place, because the split-second the quarterback in front of him has a bad game, the media room will start with the “Who ya’ startin’ next week, coach?” barrage. It’s no wonder Mike Pettine doesn’t have any hair left. Never mind that Hoyer is the best quarterback the team has seen in years, and has the record to prove it, even he has to be getting tired of answering the same old questions. Here’s the deal, Cleveland fans. It doesn’t matter who you start this weekend. You’re going to lose to a much better Colts team. Lay the three-and-a-half.
HOUSTON -5 at JACKSONVILLE
I’d say this is the worst game of the weekend but you should see the one I’m about to discuss next. Jacksonville got their second win of the season last week against the Giants but they were down 21 points in that one before coming back. I’m pretty sure if Houston gets up by 21, they won’t be allowing Jacksonville back in the contest. When Jacksonville has had to play good teams this season, they’ve struggled. Make no mistake, I’m not calling Houston a good team but they should be good enough here to cover the five.
NY GIANTS -1 at TENNESSEE
The Giants are the worst team in football. I mean, how does one lose a 21-point lead on the road to a one-win team? Scratch that. The Jags now have two wins because the Giants can’t fight their way out of a paper bag. Speaking of paper bags, Giants fans haven’t worn grocery bags over their heads in a long time but trust me, there are a bunch of ‘em in line at the local Pathmark getting their crayons ready. This week they travel to the Titans who are nearly equally as bad. Why would anybody in their right mind watch this game? Ya’ know what? I can’t bring myself to say the Giants will actually win this game. I think they’ve given up. The Titans on the other hand should kick Big Blue while they’re down. Give me the Titans.
CAROLINA +10 at NEW ORLEANS
Did I just say the Giants were the worst team in football? I may need to retract that statement. This week, the Carolina Panthers are a double-digit underdog to a team that has an under .500 record! That may be the first time in the history of NFL gambling that that has ever happened. This is a divisional rivalry but I’m not so sure that matters. New Orleans needs to win to stay atop the raggedy NFC South. Carolina needs to the win to gain back any semblance of respectability. That doesn’t happen this week. Saints cover at home.
TAMPA BAY +10 at DETROIT
Speaking of bad, unfortunately I’ll be forced to watch another Buccaneers game this weekend. All season long, they have found an uncanny knack to lose games. They do that again this weekend. I’m not entirely sold on the Lions but they could officially stick a nail in another disappointing Buccaneers season by covering the ten. Give me Detroit.
ST. LOUIS -2.5 at (THAT TEAM FROM) WASHINGTON
This line makes no sense either. The Rams are actually pretty good. (That team from) Washington is not. Too bad Johnny Manziel doesn’t play in Washington. That would be the icing on the drama cake that is taking place in the nation’s capital. Jay Gruden has no control over this team and while Colt McCoy has turned some heads with his play this season (as has RGIII, just the other way), I think the Rams defense will be ready for whoever (that team from) Washington decides to throw at them. I’ll take the Rams to cover on the road.
NY JETS at MINNESOTA – 6
The Jets are coming off a short week and a disappointing loss to Miami but they still played well enough to win that game. I’m not sold on Minnesota. I was right about the Jets covering last week so I’m going to stick with that thesis again. I think Rex Ryan should game plan enough for Teddy Bridgewater that the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets keep this one within six points.
BUFFALO +10 at DENVER
I’m actually very interested in seeing what Buffalo can do here. This Buffalo Bills team might just be ready for prime time. Well, they’re going to get it this week as they travel to Denver to play the defending AFC Champions and favorites to return to the Super Bowl once again. Buffalo is one of the better defensive teams in the league against both the run and the pass. Sprinkle in the fact that Kyle Orton is going back to the town where he once played and we could have ourselves a surprisingly exciting contest here. I like Denver to win but ten points pays no respect to the season the Bills are having. I like them to keep this one close. I’m taking the points.
KANSAS CITY +1.5 at ARIZONA
Is it just me or does anyone else get these two teams confused? Their uniforms look the same. They both play in the west. And they’re both non-descript yet deceivingly good. The injuries are starting to add up for Arizona now having lost the honey badger to thumb surgery. This should be a great game assuming one can tell the two teams apart. Ya know what? I’m going to be bold here. I’m going with KC and the upset on the road.
SAN FRANCISCO -8 at OAKLAND
San Fran is laying eight points on the road. Imagine what this line would be if this game were being played in San Francisco. Wait, isn’t Oakland San Francisco? Where’s my map? Great, now I’m confused. Not about the game though. San Fran covers the number.
SEATTLE +1 at PHILADELPHIA
Seattle is yet involved in another fantastic contest this weekend. I’ve been underestimating Philly all season long. I don’t see why I should stop now. Chip Kelly’s offense against the Seattle Seahawks defense? Count me in. By the way, this over/under is 48.5. That seems high, doesn’t it? That leads me to believe Las Vegas thinks Philadelphia will be the one controlling this tempo. In what could be a Super Bowl preview, I’ll go ahead and take Philly at home. WAIT A SECOND! I just remembered Mark Sanchez is starting for Philadelphia. Richard Sherman’s eyes just lit up. Boom goes the dynamite! I’m changing my pick mid-paragraph and taking the ‘Hawks.
NEW ENGLAND -3 at SAN DIEGO
Tom Brady seemed a little perturbed last week, shouting “Fuck!” at the top of his lungs as his team lost to the Green Bay Packers. If he’s able to channel some of that anger and bring it cross country, the Chargers could be in trouble. So what do I see here? Do I see a Pats team losing two straight or do I see an inspired Chargers team that needs this win far more than the Pats do rising up to the occasion? What I do see is a tight ballgame. I also see an upset. Give me the Chargers and the points at home and let the cloud of Patriots post-season doubt creep in once again.
ATLANTA +12 at GREEN BAY
Wow, I know the Packers are hot right now but 12 points is a lot to lay. This is the biggest spread of the weekend and it just happens to be on Monday night. The Falcons can put up some points though, enough so that a back door cover is not out of the realm of possibility.
RISING STORMS’ JUST BECAUSE THANKSGIVING IS OVER DOESN’T MEAN I HAVE TO STOP STUFFING MY FACE PICKS
Is there any better time of the NFL season than right now? Thanksgiving just passed, Christmas (or Chanukah, for those of us in the tribe) is right around the corner, and it seems like the games just become even more fun to watch than they were just a few short months ago. But, all that aside, it all about business today, so here are my picks for this week:
Not-so-Big D (-3.5) at Da Bears
Despite my utter hatred of nearly all things Dallas-related, I’m looking for them to recover from the turkey-day pounding they suffered at the hands of the Sanchize-led Eagles. The Pokes run through Chi-town, and cover a measly 3.5
Steelers at Cincy (-3)
Pittsburgh, aside from acouple of miracle games from Big Ben, hasn’t really impressed me at all this year. I like the Bengals at home.
St.Louis at Washington (even)
Umm, the Rams should pretty easiliy handle the garbage fire that is the ‘Skins.
Carolina at the Saints (-10)
This might be the no brainer of the week. The Saints in a blowout. I’m just wondering if 10 points might be a little on the low side.
Jets at Vikes(-6)
Believe it or not, I’m thinking upset here. Neither team has anything more than pride to play for, and I’m feeling Rex gets his guys up for this one. Can’t believe I’m saying it publicly, but I’ll take the Jets.
Now, I can see by the position of the sun in the sky that time for work draws near,and I need to speed this along…
Ravens over the Phins (-2.5), Indy(-3.5) covers on the road in Cleveland, Tampa at Detroit(-10) I’m laying the points, I like Houston (-5) over the ‘Ville, The Broncos(-10) should walk as they host Buffalo, KC should be able to handle Arizona (even), I’m taking the points in Philly over Seattle (-1), San Fran (-8) over O-town, The Pats (-3.5) enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather with a win over the Chargers, and Green Bay(-13)wins, but doesn’t cover against the Falcons
KEVIN PAUL’S I’M STARTING TO GET NERVOUS THAT CHRIS KNOWS MORE ABOUT FOOTBALL THAN ME PICKS
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears (+3.5)
To make this pick, let’s look closer at Chicago’s struggling defense. Specifically, here’s how the Bears fared against some of the league’s best offenses: Packers (55 points and 38 points), Patriots (51 points) and the Lions, with Calvin Johnson (34 points on Thanksgiving). Dallas has a strong and balanced offense, which starts with DeMarco Murray. Chicago is 10th against the run, so there’s some hope there, but that could be squashed by the Bears’ passing defense, which is 30th in the NFL and has allowed 27 TD’s through the air. The Bears have the offensive weapons to make this a shootout, but I like Dallas to overpower Chicago’s struggling ‘D’. Cowboys cover on the road.
Against the Spread: Dallas Cowboys
Straight Up: Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants at Tennessee Titans (-0.5)
Last week seemed like a no-brainer when the Giants faced the Jags, with Rashad Jennings back and Odell Beckham Jr. on a tear. Now, the only clear thing might be that this is the dud of the week. Jennings may miss more time, which would leave Andre Williams with the majority of the carries, and he has been mostly ineffective. Both teams are similarly ranked in pass defense and each occupies the bottom two spots in run defense. Neither has an explosive running game, however, especially if Jennings does not play. With a tossup line, I will stick with the Giants, and not because I am a glutton for punishment, but because I believe in the talents of Odell Beckham. Giants win…barely.
Against the Spread: New York Giants
Straight Up: New York Giants
St. Louis Rams at Washington Redskins (+2.5)
The Redskins continue to be a mess, getting trounced by the Colts last week, and that’s even after Colt McCoy put up respectable numbers. The Rams destroyed the Raiders and continue to be an under the radar team. The Redskins have allowed 39 sacks on the year, the second most in the NFL, and could have trouble stopping an aggressive St. Louis pass rush. Take the Rams with confidence, especially when considering the current state of this Washington franchise.
Against the Spread: St. Louis Rams
Straight Up: St. Louis Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5)
It’s a big-time divisional rivalry, with two teams battling for the division, and possible playoff position. The Steelers are 18-9 against the spread in head-to-head match ups against the Bengals. Pittsburgh appears to struggle against the poor teams, but step up against playoff contenders. With the division still within reach and a passing offense that is ranked in the top five, I like the Steelers to keep this game close. A late Cincy field goal decides this one.
Against the Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers
Straight Up: Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns (+3.5)
Brian Hoyer gets another shot to start, but will have to stick with Andrew Luck and an Indianapolis Colts passing offense that is number one in the NFL (326.2 ypg). Cleveland’s pass defense is solid, with an NFL-high 17 interceptions and a shutdown corner in Joe Haden. But the Colts just have so many weapons on offense, it’s hard to see the Browns being able to keep up. Indy covers.
Against the Spread: Indianapolis Colts
Straight Up: Indianapolis Colts
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-9.5)
The Panthers have given up 30 or more points in each of its last five road games, and now travel to New Orleans to face Drew Brees, the Saints and the third-ranked passing offense in the NFL. Greg Olsen, one of Carolina’s key offensive weapons, is questionable with a knee injury. I like the Saints to take advantage of a struggling Carolina defense at home. New Orleans covers.
Against the Spread: New Orleans Saints
Straight Up: New Orleans Saints
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+4.5)
The Jaguars are 26th against the run, not only allowing 129.4 yards per game, but also an NFL-high 14 carries of 20 or more yards. That ugly stat takes us to the Texans, a team that averages 134.1 yards per game on the ground, which is 4th in the NFL. J.J. Watt and the Houston defense will likely also feast on a Jacksonville team that has allowed 50 sacks on the season. Texans cover easily.
Against the Spread: Houston Texans
Straight Up: Houston Texans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions (-9.5)
Reggie Bush is likely to return, which should add a boost to a Detroit offense that woke up versus Chicago on Thanksgiving. Calvin Johnson posted his biggest game of the season, and finally appears to be healthy. Tampa Bay’s defense is very beatable, much like the Bears – and when you add Bush in the mix, along with a few extra days rest, home field advantage and a healthy Calvin Johnson, I like Matthew Stafford and the Lions to feast the Bucs. Detroit covers.
Against the Spread: Detroit Lions
Straight Up: Detroit Lions
New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings (-5.5)
Jerick McKinnon has been placed on IR and is out for the season, leading to a lack of depth on offense for the Vikings. The Jets are third against the run and likely will hold Minnesota’s run game in check. But New York’s pass ‘D’ has just 4 INT’s on the year and has allowed opposing QB’s to post a 106.6 QB rating. Minnesota is fourth in sacks and should have some success in the trenches. All in all, I like the Vikes at home, but think Rex Ryan’s team could keep this one close. Take the Jets and the points.
Against the Spread: New York Jets
Straight Up: Minnesota Vikings
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (-3.5)
Haloti Ngata has been suspended for four games, therefore removing a Pro Bowl DT from Baltimore’s defense. Defensively, I like Miami’s second ranked pass defense, which allows just 198.2 yards per game through the air and is holding opposing QB’s to a 81.6 QB rating. Baltimore has the weapons on offense, but it could be a tough day for Joe Flacco. The Dolphins have played really well at home, and find a way to cover against a Ravens team fighting with them for a playoff spot.
Against the Spread: Miami Dolphins
Straight Up: Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos (-10.5)
The Broncos have Peyton Manning, home field advantage and a boatload of offensive weapons. But the Bills are a very solid team defensively, with the league’s most sacks (48) and a pass defense that is ranked fifth in yards, while managing more INT’s (15) than TD’s allowed (14). For these reasons, I like Buffalo’s defense to keep them in the game. The Bills can keep this one in single digits, but don’t have the horses offensively to upset Denver on the road. Take Buffalo and the points.
Against the Spread: Buffalo Bills
Straight Up: Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals (-1.5)
The Cardinals are fading and having trouble recovering from too many injuries. Drew Stanton has also struggled and Andre Ellington will miss the game due to a hip injury. Tyrann Mathieu is also out. Arizona will need a knockout performance from its sixth-ranked run defense, which will have its hands full with Jamaal Charles and a Kansas City run game that averages 129.1 yards per game and has 16 rushing touchdowns. I like a much healthier Chiefs team in this matchup.
Against the Spread: Kansas City Chiefs
Straight Up: Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5)
Both teams have had a few extra days to rest following big wins on Thanksgiving. The Seahawks have clamped down on teams defensively, allowing zero touchdowns over its last two games and just six points combined against the Cardinals and 49ers. It will be a challenge against Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense, and an Eagles team that is 6-0 at home on the season. But Seattle is third in the NFL against the pass, allowing just 15 TD’s in 12 games. In arguably the best game of the week, I’m leaning on Seattle’s defense, which is red hot. Seahawks find a way to win on the road.
Against the Spread: Seattle Seahawks
Straight Up: Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers at Oakland Raiders (+7.5)
The 49ers have had a few extra days to rest following a bad loss against Seattle on Thanksgiving. Rumors continue to swirl around Jim Harbaugh and whether he’ll coach the team next season. But the Raiders have cured a lot of ills this season, and I like the 49ers to bounce back in a big way.
Against the Spread: San Francisco 49ers
Straight Up: San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers (+3.5)
The Chargers have been very inconsistent offensively over the last month or so, and will need to be clicking on all cylinders when facing Tom Brady and the Patriots. But San Diego is 28th in rushing offense, managing just 87.3 yards per game and 5 TD’s on the ground. That likely leaves Philip Rivers and the passing game having to carry an offense, facing a New England defense that while ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed, has held opposing QB’s to a 84.6 QB rating. I like Brady to have a big day on the West Coast and the New England defense to follow suit. Pats cover on the road.
Against the Spread: New England Patriots
Straight Up: New England Patriots
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers (-11.5)
The Packers are 6-0 at home after coming off a huge victory against the Patriots last week. Aaron Rodgers should have another big day, facing an Atlanta pass defense that is last in the NFL, allowing 284.9 yards per game. The Falcons have allowed just 15 TD’s through the air, but the yards come in bunches, and Green Bay’s offense is one of the best in the league. Matt Ryan and the Falcons could turn this into a shootout, but with Rodgers and home field advantage, Green Bay should pull away in the second half, winning by at least two touchdowns. Packers cover at Lambeau.
Against the Spread: Green Bay Packers
Straight Up: Green Bay Packers