Week 15: Going back to the original unit

“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.  Know when to walk away, know when to run.”

-Kenny Rogers

“Because I’m free.  Free fallin’”

-Tom Petty


I grew up in a card-playing household.  I’d play rummy for hours on end with my Grandma Ana and Uncle Kenny.  It wasn’t long after learning how to play rummy that my dad taught me how to play 21.

He and I would spend countless hours honing our craft, knowing when to hit, when to split, when to double down and as the other Kenny taught us, when to walk away.

Blackjack rules are pretty simple.  Do this when the dealer shows that but my father’s cardinal rule when playing blackjack was always about going back to the original unit.  He would preach that endlessly.  In fact, he still does.  We even discussed it over lunch the other day.  Ride your hot streaks and maximize your profits but when things go cold, go back down to your original bet.

I’m not exactly sure if this is a proven method for success but it’s how we’ve always played the game.

When it comes to picking football games these days, I desperately need to go back to the original unit.  I’ve dropped what was once a substantial lead in this contest, I’ve fallen even farther out of contention in other pick ‘em leagues and I’ve been eliminated from both of my fantasy football playoffs.  At least I still have my health… cough.

As we’ve seen, consistently picking NFL winners against the spread all season long is no easy task.  Since I need to turn things around, my approach this week is to look at the teams that have been playing the best football and ride their streaks just like I would on the black jack table.  And then close my eyes and hope for the best.

We have three weeks left to make a move, everyone.  $100 awaits the winner.  Remember, there is one Thursday and two Saturday games this week.  Here are your current standings.

Captain White Belt: 24

Dr. Laura: 23

Nathan: 17

KP: 16

Kid Sheraton: 9

SportsChump: 7

D$: 6

BNRmoose: -1

Hank: -3

J-Dub: -5

Sauze Bauze: -8

BCole: -15

Fibbs: -23

Deacon Blues: -25

And now for this week’s lines:

Chargers at Chiefs (Chiefs -3.5)

Texans at Jets (Texans -6)

Browns at Broncos (Broncos -3)

Dolphins at Vikings (Vikings -7)

Raiders at Bengals (Bengals -3)

Bucs at Ravens (Ravens -7.5)

Cowboys at Colts (Colts -3)

Lions at Bills (Bills -2.5)

Packers at Bears (Bears -5.5)

Titans at Giants (Giants -2.5)

Redskins at Jaguars (Jags -7)

Cardinals at Falcons (Falcons -8.5)

Seahawks at 49ers (Seahawks -5)

Patriots at Steelers (Patriots -1)

Eagles at Rams (Rams -9.5)

Saints at Panthers (Saints -6)

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) for FIVE CONFIDENCE POINTS

The Steelers need to stop fucking around.  I know they’ve had their fair share of running back issues this season (Bell hold out, Conner injury) but in 2018 they’ve proven to be abnormally Pittsburgh.  Despite all their dysfunction, they somehow still lead the AFC North but the Ravens and yes, even the Browns are breathing down their necks.  Perhaps I’m out of touch but I still see the Steelers as a playoff team.  They’re just making their fan base panic a little.  Okay, more than a little.  I’m getting them at home against a banged-up Patriots team and I’m getting a point.  Backs against the wall, this is a game the Steelers must win.  They will.

Seattle Seahawks (-5) at San Francisco 49ers for FOUR CONFIDENCE POINTS

The Seahawks are scorching.  They’re coming off a short week where they embarrassed the Vikings on Monday Night Football.  One less day of practice shouldn’t matter much to a team that is clicking on all cylinders.  ESPN recently gave them a 99% chance of making the playoffs and they’re not even leading their own division.  The Niners, on the other hand, are playing for draft position.  They’re 3-10.  They’re not horrible defensively.  They just can’t move the ball consistently which is something Seattle loves in an opponent.  Seattle should, according to ESPN, waltz right into the playoffs and with only three weeks left, the ‘Hawks are a team no one will want to play.  They’ll need to win in San Fran before they get their sights set on the post-season, however.  They will this Sunday… and they’ll cover.

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) for THREE CONFIDENCE POINTS

The Chiefs were the hottest team in the league for quite a while.  Then they proved beatable when they traveled to both New England and the Rams… but it took both of those teams’ best efforts and they still just barely lost.  Even the Ravens gave them a tough time in Arrowhead last week, bringing them to overtime.  Meanwhile, the Chargers are nipping at their heels only one game back.  So, which of these two is the hotter team?  Well, the Chiefs have won six out of their last seven but the Chargers have won nine of their last ten.  The Chargers shocked the world a few weeks back by going into Pittsburgh and winning.  It turns out that victory wasn’t as impressive as we thought because the Steelers just aren’t that good.  The Chiefs are considerably better.  Even without Kareem Hunt, they still might be the best team in the league.  They’ll prove that Thursday night by covering the three-and-a-half against their division rival.

Arizona Cardinals (+8.5) at Atlanta Falcons for TWO CONFIDENCE POINTS

Do you ever see a line that makes no sense at all?  I found one this week.  The Atlanta Falcons are laying 8.5 points against the Arizona Cardinals.  The Falcons, who have lost five straight games, albeit against difficult opponents, shouldn’t be laying 8.5 points against anybody.  The Falcons have to be considered one of the league’s biggest disappointments this year.  A team that is usually known for its offense can’t score.  They’ve scored 20, 16, 17 19 and 16 in their last five games.  So, what would lead me to believe that they can cover eight-and-a-half?  Nothing, that’s what.  I’ll take the Cardinals and the points.

Tennessee Titans at New York Giants (-2.5) for ONE CONFIDENCE POINT

There hasn’t been a team much hotter than the New York Giants.  That’s right, I said it.  A team that lost seven of its first eight games has now won four of its last five, including one against the Chicago Bears.  Gone is the talk of Eli’s retirement and Odell’s shadowboxing of sideline equipment that dominated our vernacular in September and October.  It’s funny how winning cures all ills.  Believe it or not, the Giants still even have the slimmest of playoff hopes alive.  “Playoffs?” he says in his best Jim Mora voice.  That being said, I doubt anyone in that Giants locker room, or outside of it for that matter, thinks they will make the post-season but that fact that it’s even conceivable after the way they started this season is astounding.  This week, they host the Tennessee Titans who also have playoff aspirations but are awful on the road.  They’re a middle of the pack defensive team against the rush.  Meanwhile the guy they’re trying to stop, Saquon Barkley, has his eyes on a rushing title.  He’s currently third in the league, 138 yards behind Ezekiel Elliott.  The Giants don’t have to go out of their game plan to get Barkley the ball.  He’ll just do what he does which will allow Eli to do what he does.  The Giants continue their hot streak and cover the two-and-a-half at home.


J-Dub’s Poetically Prophetic Picks


Redskins at Jaguars (-7)

Two teams playing out

The string, one will lose with a

third string quarterback


Buccaneers at Ravens (-7.5)

Flacco’s back in town

They won’t get off Jackson’s knob

Won’t matter, Bucs suck


Chargers at Chiefs (-3.5)

I can’t be alone

Waiting for Andy Reid to

Implode killing Chiefs


Eagles at Rams (-10.5)


Now has freedom from winning

They won’t win again


Raiders at Bengals (-2.5)

NFL train wrecks

Head-on, single-track wipe-out

Oak crawls from wreckage


KP’s NFL Week 15 Picks (From a Galaxy Not So Far Away)

FIVE Houston Texans at New York Jets (+6)

The pressure of a nine-game win streak is over for Houston.  Now, the focus can be on playoff positioning and a division title.  The best way to get to Houston is with pressure, as the Texans have allowed 46 sacks.  Shutting down DeAndre Hopkins helps, too – albeit nearly impossible.  

The Jets are 25th in sacks, so getting pressure might be tough, despite Houston’s struggles there.  New York is down running back depth (Isaiah Crowell is on IR).  J.J. Watt and the Houston defense is sure to wreak havoc in the trenches.

Luke Skywalker: Come on. Why don’t you take a look around? You know what’s about to happen, what they’re up against. They could use a good pilot like you. You’re turning your back on them

Give me the Texans to cover big on the road.

FOUR Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (+5)

The Seahawks are really picking up steam in the playoff race.  Remember last year when we said Seattle had no offensive line and couldn’t run the ball?  Well, the combination of Russell Wilson and its pack of backs are making noise this year.  Seattle has the number one rushing offense in the NFL (153.8 ypg), 16+ yards per game more than any other team.

Han Solo: Well, you can forget your troubles with those Imperial slugs. I told you I’d outrun ’em.

[nobody is listening]

Han Solo: Don’t everyone thank me at once.

Last week, the Niners played well against a depleted Denver offense, but this is a different story.  Outrun them, Seattle will (said in Yoda voice).  Seahawks cover on the road.

THREE Tennessee Titans at New York Giants (-2.5)

The Titans defense has just seven INT’s, yet sit sixth in yards allowed through the air (219.2 ypg).  That could be a challenge for Eli and a pass game that will again be without Odell Beckham.  Expect New York to rely on Saquon Barkley and the ground game.

Yes, the Giants are playing better, but let’s not get too excited.  Last week’s blowout win over the Redskins was just that – against the Redskins, a team short on depth and heavy on drama.  This is a Tennessee team that has seen renewed life from Derrick Henry and the ground game.  It’s a Titans team that is trying to stay in the division race and sneak into the playoffs.  

Commander #1: We’ve analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?

Governor Tarkin: Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.

Attack analyzed – give me the Titans on the road.

TWO New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (+1)

This is always a fun rivalry and this particular game is all about leadership availability.  

Han Solo: Come on you want me to stay because of the way you feel about me.

Princess Leia: Yes, you’re great help to us you’re a natural leader.

Han Solo: No! That’s not it. Come on.

James Conner is still very much up in the air and his absence would hurt Pittsburgh’s balance.  Ben Roethlisberger is likely playing, but he was banged up and missed time in a loss to the Raiders last week.  Meanwhile, New England’s injury report is minimal, which is rare.  Typically, Belichick teams list a ton of guys that eventually play.  Then, there’s Tom Brady, who is healthy and lives for games like this.  New England doesn’t typically lose back-to-back games, especially following a performance like the “Miami Miracle” last week.  Plain and simple, I expect the Pats to be ready (and angry).

Give me the Patriots on the road against a banged up Steelers team.

ONE New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (+6)

Why pick this game?  Seriously, why?  I’ve asked myself this a hundred times or more.

Luke Skywalker: I have a very bad feeling about this.

The Panthers are a mess, losers of five straight.  Yet, Carolina is still in the playoff chase and this game is a must have.  The Saints, however, aren’t exactly clicking on all cylinders, either.  The Dallas game was a mess and Tampa Bay had New Orleans on the ropes for a while, too.  

Cam Newton has been very open about the “disrespectful” gift (a broom and wine via Cameron Jordan) from the Saints following a three-game sweep last season.    Carolina is 5-1 at home and motivated.  Five of the last seven match ups in this rivalry have been by a touchdown or less.  If a questionable Cam plays and plays well, my gut says the Panthers keep this one close.

Give me the Panthers and the points at home on Monday night.

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