I’ve been taking yoga classes lately. I’ve found them good for my back. Since I’m not the most flexible man ever to grace the Planet Earth, and I work on my feet, yoga is a great way for me to stay relatively pain-free.
That’s not to say I enjoy every minute of class.
While helplessly stuck in some random, contorting yoga pose, I’ll catch myself glancing at the clock and counting down the minutes until the professor sets us free from limberdom… or lack thereof.
That’s exactly what picking every NFL game against the spread has been like this season: stuck in a compromising position waiting for the pain to subside. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the season to end. I just don’t know how much longer I can pick games with such gross inefficiency.
So far on the season, I am 54-60-5 against the spread. My only consolation is that both KP (58-61) and our celebrity guests (57-60-2) are also picking games with blind-like accuracy. Perhaps next year I’ll stick to yoga.
This week, our guest picker attempts to shed some light on how to properly pick football games. You know him as Ronbets and he knows more about gambling than you, me and Kevin put together, which isn’t really saying all that much.
Here’s hoping he can bring a little sports book love into this nonsense and unpredictability we’re calling the 2015 NFL season.
SPORTSCHUMP’S PAINFULLY INFLEXIBLE PICKS
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-11.5)
I had some cyber-dwelling friends hit me up on Twitter the other day, asking me what I thought of the double-digit line the Red Dawn was surrendering to Cleveland. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at all. Why would I be? The undefeated Bengals are rolling through the league. Now, one can make the argument that they haven’t played a team over .500, which they haven’t. Actually, I take that back. The Raiders are 4-3 and the Bengals waxed ‘em. So why should I be surprised that a team that is known for its great regular seasons is so heavily favored over another team that’s known for its shitty ones? Throw that in with the slight yet ever-so-possible likelihood that Johnny Manziel is pulled over for DUI on his way to the stadium and there’s no reason not to lay the two touchdowns, which is what I’m doing.
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4)
The Raiders have themselves a nice little team… finally. Derek Carr is starting to come into his own, as are Latavius Murray and Amari Cooper. But the Pittsburgh Steelers are starting to stare some must wins squarely in the face if they have any intentions of making the post-season. Losing Le’Veon Bell will leave a mark but from what I saw from DeAngelo Williams early on, he’s aptly suited to fill Bell’s shoes. The Steelers can ill afford to drop to 4-5 if they want to make the playoffs, which is why they’ll cover here in a hard-fought battle at home.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (-7)
The Jets aren’t as good as everybody thinks they are. The Jags aren’t as bad as everybody thinks they are. There, now that that analysis has gotten us absolutely nowhere, on to the game at hand. Wait, I take that back. That’s all the analysis I need. I’m taking the Jags and the points.
St. Louis Rams at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5)
Something about this line scares me. Minnesota is 5-2 and has beaten some pretty good teams. At 4-4, the Rams are all over the map. For example, they’ve beaten the Cardinals but lost to the Redskins. Just another predictable year in the NFL, huh? Either way, I expected this line to be bigger than two-and-a-half which tells me Vegas doesn’t really like the Vikes. That’s okay. I do. Vikes cover.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-3)
Dan Campbell went from being the NFL’s next big thing to having to coach against Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan in back-to-back weeks. Welcome to the AFC East, coach. Of course, Campbell is down-grading this week by playing against Ryan but the big guy will definitely have some surprises in store for the rookie. Is this the week the banged-up Bills finally put things together? I’m guessing yes.
Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints (-7)
The Titan(ic)s are feet away from that iceberg and their opponent this week couldn’t be happier about facing them in their time of despair. Tennessee just fired its head coach and is headed to play against a team whose quarterback who just threw seven touchdowns. That doesn’t bode well for a team that can’t score and is pretty average defensively. I know New Orleans is not that good but considering the turmoil in Tennessee, I would have set this line higher, particularly after Drew Bree-sus just went all Tecmo Bowl on the Giants secondary. Vegas may regret setting this line at only seven. I can’t imagine that much smart money taking the points. That’s why I’m taking NOLA to kick a team while it’s down.
Washington Redskins at New England Patriots (-14)
If you really want to get offended by a line, here’s a two touchdown spread for ya’. What the average gambler fails to understand is when you get hot, steam-rolling teams like New England and Cincinnati, Las Vegas is going to make you pay to win on them. It’s all about public perception. That’s why, in two games, you’re collectively laying more than most teams score in a single game. Hey, Las Vegas isn’t just going to give you their money. They’re going to make you earn it. Two touchdowns is a lot and the ‘Skins aren’t all that awful. At least, I don’t think so. I can’t see them just rolling over for the Pats. I’ll take the two touchdowns and a security blanket.
Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers (+2.5)
Carolina went into Lambeau last season and got waxed by three touchdowns. Carolina’s defense made Aaron Rodgers look like Aaron Rodgers. Don’t think they don’t have revenge on their mind. Since Green Bay is generally considered the measuring stick for success in the NFC these days, Carolina wants to be on the high end of that stick. And despite being undefeated, they’re still getting no respect. I know a loss here will make two straight for Green Bay, prompting all the pundits to ask what the hell is wrong with the Green Bay Packers but the undefeated Panthers have no business being home dogs. Panthers win outright. Cue the pundits.
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (+7)
If you know a Niners fan, give him a hug. Try to cheer him up by telling him things could be worse. After all, he could be a Titans fan. Eh, I’m not sure that’s any sort of consolation. The Niners have benched Colin Kaepernick this week and opted to start Blaine Gabbert. In two years, Colin Kaepernick has gone from playing in a Super Bowl and being on virtually every magazine cover imaginable to not being able to get a reservation at San Francisco Denny’s. Guess what, Niners fans. Your problems reside not just with your quarterback. Actually, I take that back. With Blaine Gabbert starting, your problems do reside with your quarterback. Even the Jaguars think you’re reaching. Kapernick can’t get out of Northern California quickly enough. The kid desperately needs a new start. That doesn’t change the fact that they have to face the Falcons’ high-flying offense this Sunday. The Niners are going to run the ball a lot but if Atlanta can key on that, that should give their offense plenty of opportunities to cover the touchdown. Heck, Julio Jones might cover that seven on his own.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5)
I really don’t have a feeling for this game. The Buccaneers are starting to play better but I don’t think they’re at the Giants level quite yet. Give it a few more years and maybe but not this go-round. This will be the second of four matchups the Bucs will play against NFC East teams. The Cowboys and Eagles are to follow and we all remember how they lost that one to the Redskins. This will be a hard-fought game which is why I’m almost inclined to take the field goal here but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Somehow someway, the Giants will find a way to win and cover.
Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (+5)
I know the Colts are struggling right now. I know they just fired half their coaching staff. I get that Andrew Luck leads the league in turnovers but he cannot, I repeat can NOT, let Peyton Manning, the quarterback the Colts gave up to draft him, waltz into his own building and beat him. That simply cannot happen. And it won’t. I’m taking the Colts here in a win that turns their season around.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (+2.5)
At the beginning of the season, we all pointed to this game and figured it would be one that would give the winner a leg up in the NFC East, perhaps even making them a Super Bowl contender. Right now, that thought is laughable. Both these teams are under. 500. The good news is that one of them will get a win this Sunday but that still won’t be enough. I heard one network joke that Tony Romo is the league’s real MVP since Dallas Cowboys can’t seem to win a game without him. It’s amazing how bad this team is in his absence. So much for a back-up plan. Expect more of the same this week against the Eages. If and when the Cowboys lose this game at home, and the crowd goes silent or perhaps you even ear some boos, don’t be surprised to see Dez Bryant and Greg Hardy go at it once again? Here’s hoping they don’t go all Artest on us.
Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers (-4)
With Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers lining up behind center, this has all the makings of an inept shootout between two gunslingers in a dusty Western town with both of them firing shots and neither of them hitting a thing. The Chargers just lost Keenan Allen for the year. He was Rivers’ favorite target. The Bears have lost Matt Forte which is okay because they really weren’t getting him the ball anyway. I’ll take the Chargers because both of these teams are bad… but the Bears are worse.
RONBETS’ LEAVE PICKING GAMES TO THE PROFESSIONALS PICKS
Cle Cleveland still regarded as the “Mistake by the Lake”. The redhead covers versus Johnny Foots.
Cinn Play: Cinn -10.5
Oak Big Ben not close to 100%. Upstart Raidas cover in tight one
Pitt Play: Oak +4.5
Jax Both Jet QBs hurtin. Fitz only chance for NYJ to cover. Geno belongs in Arena/CFL.
Jets Play: Jax +7
StL Tuff game but I favor Bridgewater here.
Minn Play: Minn -2.5
Mia Dolphins are an enigma. Tannehill might not be the answer short or longterm
Buf Play: Buf -3
Tenn Don’t wanna buck Brees versus a Whiz-less Titans.
Norl Play: Norl -9.5
Was Don’t be fooled by the ease of Pat’s thrashing of Mia. This is the NFL and 14pts leaves your Cousins some backdoor room.
Pats: Play: Wash +14
GBay Throw out the last disaster in mile high.I want the Double Check Man vs a beatup Cam/Car(Mon)
Car Play: GBay -2.5
Atl Imagine playing for a plumber(Tomsula) Gabbert Qbing to stop the flood. Shakeup might wakeup vs slumping Matty Ice.
Sfo Play: Sfo +7
NyG I like Jameis over Manning Jr. Bucs ride OT surprise vs lame duck Coughlin
Tam Play: Tam +3
Den Good spot for Luck to justify management choice.
Ind Play: Ind +5
Phl Bradford prolonged his career by being injured 2yrs. Unable to show his deficiencies.Dallas not as bad as W/L record.
Dal Play: Dal +3
Chi Rivers can match throws with anyone. So can Cutler if you count picks.
Sdg Play: SD-4
KP’S ONE ARE BETTER THAN ONE PICKS
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-10.5)
The storyline of this game is one player and one player alone: Johnny Manziel. When drafted, I am on the record of stating that Manziel’s flashy antics and family-driven arrogance would not translate to the NFL’s most notable position. To this point, that much is true and in 2015, Manziel was kind enough to pepper in additional negative headlines like alcohol rehab and public spats with his girlfriend. But wait, there’s more! “Johnny-Bleepin’-Football” gets to make media noise on national TV, via Thursday Night Football, by: 1) Starting in place of the injured Josh McCown, 2) playing the undefeated Bengals and 3) facing a divisional rival during a short week with minimal preparation. Yeah, where do you think this pick is headed? If you voted in favor of the Bengals, then you are correct and have earned yourself a cookie, or more aptly a hot bowl of Cincinnati chili coupled with a blowout victory.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints (-8.5)
Drew Brees threw for seven – count ‘em, SEVEN – touchdowns last week and now faces a stumbling Titans team that, following Ken Whisenhunt’s dismissal, will be adjusting to a new head man. Will the Titans see a spark like the Dolphins saw when Dan Campbell took over? Perhaps, but one thing’s for certain, Tennessee will need a big-time performance from its 3rd-ranked pass defense (197.9 ypg). Still, with Marcus Mariota banged up and Tennessee in flux as a team, it’s hard to see the Titans being able to stick with the red-hot Saints and Drew Brees, especially on the road. Give me New Orleans by double-digits.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans Saints
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-3.5)
Both of these AFC East rivals received extra rest and prep time, as the Bills are coming off a bye, while the Dolphins played New England last Thursday night. In previous weeks, I spoke of Rex Ryan and how he appears to be losing the locker room in his first season, but some additional rest and healthier players (e.g. Tyrod Taylor, Karlos Williams and Sammy Watkins) can go a long way. In recent years, this rivalry has swayed heavily in favor of the home team and for that reason – coupled with the return of Tyrod Taylor – I’ll take the Bills.
KP’s Pick: Buffalo Bills
Washington Redskins at New England Patriots (-13.5)
While the Redskins have numerous defensive playmakers, it’s important to note that Washington’s pass defense has just 3 INT’s on the season (tied for the fewest in the NFL). If you feature a defense that’s unable to come up with key (and frequent) takeaways, that doesn’t bode well when facing Tom Brady (20 TD, 1 INT in 2015) on the road. Toss in Washington’s fading run game and inconsistent offense and this game reeks of a blowout. “YOU LIKE THAT”, Kirk Cousins? Didn’t think so. Brady and the Pats will, however.
KP’s Pick: New England Patriots
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (-2.5)
Ryan Fitzpatrick will reportedly start, despite having torn ligaments in his thumb. Whether that will affect his throws is yet to be seen. Jacksonville, meanwhile, is coming off a bye and has had plenty of rest and time to prepare for the injury-riddled Jets. The game line more than likely opened at 2 1/2 because of the QB uncertainty, because otherwise, New York has been elite defensively, ranking 8th against the pass and 1st against the run. Heading into the week, I was all about taking the rested Jags, but with Fitzpatrick giving it a-go, the Jets should force multiple Blake Bortles turnovers, while adding enough offense to cover at home.
KP’s Pick: New York Jets
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)
Le’Veon Bell is out for the year, but will be replaced by DeAngelo Williams, who was strong during the first two weeks of the season. Oakland continues to surprise with an efficient Derek Carr and statement win over the Jets last week. New York did lose Ryan Fitzpatrick in that game and the Steelers will have an even healthier Ben Roethlisberger at home. The Raiders are a much improved team but its 31st-ranked pass defense could have trouble against Pittsburgh’s potent offense. Give me the Steelers at home.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
St. Louis Rams at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5)
Todd Gurley brings his red-hot 100-yard performance streak into Minnesota, taking on a Vikings defense that is ranked 15th against the run. Minnesota has allowed one carry of 20-yards or more (an impressive stat and an NFL-low this year). The “Gurley vs. AP” headline is an enticing one, but the stats stack a bit against Gurley, despite his talents. If the Vikes can hold Gurley in check, that leaves the trenches, where the Minnesota has allowed 20 sacks (9th most) and the Rams have the second most (26). If Teddy Bridgewater is smart in the pocket and the Vikes can manage to limit Gurley, I’ll take Minnesota at home.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers (+2.5)
After falling for the first time in Denver, the Packers travel to Carolina to take on the undefeated Panthers. Cam Newton is a mobile maestro that is having a great season, but these Panthers have not faced a team with the pass-rushing attack that Green Bay possesses. The Packers are 4th in the NFL in sacks (23) and could force some bad throws from Cam. If you watched Aaron Rodgers on the sideline last week, you would’ve seen a very agitated and frustrated QB – and one that likely won’t let his offense struggle like that again. Not in the next game, at least. Give me Rodgers and the Packers on the road.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay Packers
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5)
The Giants allowed 7 touchdowns to Drew Brees last week, therefore wasting Eli Manning’s six-TD performance. While New York sorts out its struggling defense, the Bucs have steadily improved, scoring 114 points over its last four games. But the Tampa Bay pass defense has allowed 17 passing TD’s, with just 4 INT, so it’s safe to bet that Eli Manning should have another solid game. Jameis Winston, meanwhile, is still learning and will have his up-and-down moments. Plain and simple, I like New York’s talent and expect big things from both Eli and Odell Beckham, Jr. Giants cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (+4.5)
What’s the cure for an Atlanta Falcons team that has struggled in recent weeks? For starters, it’s facing the hapless Niners and Blaine Gabbert as a starting quarterback. Gabbert’s career numbers aren’t pretty: 66.8 QB rating with 23 TD and 24 INT. On top of that, establishing the run (to aid Gabbert) will be tough against Atlanta’s third-ranked run defense. On the other side, Devonta Freeman and the Atlanta running game should have plenty of success against a Niners run defense that is ranked 23rd in the NFL. Sure, the Falcons have struggled in recent weeks, but you’d have to be taking crazy pills to pick Atlanta in this one.
KP’s Pick: Atlanta Falcons
Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (+3.5)
Andrew Luck says he’s healthy and that may be so, but his game sure isn’t. Luck (71.6 QB rating, 13 TD, 12 INT) has struggled this season and as a result, the Colts have made a change, removing Pep Hamilton from the offensive coordinator position. While Indy made a nice comeback (that came up just short) versus the Panthers last Monday night, this game is against the Broncos and its top-ranked pass defense. Peyton Manning has been flawed at times, but Denver as a team is just too strong for an Indianapolis team that is struggling to find its identity. Broncos cover… remain undefeated.
KP’s Pick: Denver Broncos
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (+2.5)
You get one player to feature on a poster outlining the hot mess in Dallas: 1) Greg Hardy (clipboards and violence), Tony Romo (baking ‘crownies’ ‘til late November), Dez Bryant (blowing up after a two-catch performance) or Joseph Randle (from top of the depth chart to being released) – who ya got? What’s that, you prefer Jerry Jones, who defends this Texas-sized disaster? Stats, shmats… until Romo is back, the Cowboys will be an empty check box on my pick ‘em page. Fresh off a bye, the Eagles cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: Philadelphia Eagles
Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers (-3.5)
It’s not the sexiest Monday night matchup of the season, but it very well could be an entertaining football game to watch. San Diego lost its top receiver in Keenan Allen, while the Bears are likely to be without Matt Forte, its top running back. That leaves Antonio Gates and Stevie Johnson (among others) to step it up for San Diego and Jeremy Langford to anchor Chicago’s rushing offense. Defensively, the Chargers are 27th against the run, while the Bears are 4th against the pass. Despite the stingy yards allowed figure, Chicago has given up 16 TD’s through the air, with just 4 INT’s. That leaves Philip Rivers and San Diego’s #1-ranked passing offense in good shape. The Chargers have also given up 14 TD’s through the air with just 4 INT’s, another clear sign that it has been a defensive struggle. My gut says Jay Cutler will have success with Alshon Jeffery and others in the passing game, leading to a tight fourth quarter, perhaps decided by a late FG. Therefore, give me Chicago and the points.
KP’s Pick: Chicago Bears
Bye Week: Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans