There, that felt better. After all, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
One indication that we’re headed to hell in a hypocritical handbasket is two guys who think they know everything about football challenging readers to a season-long NFL pick ‘em contest… and losing. It’s like listening to the blowhards on ESPN without all the bells and whistles.
Clearly Kevin and I know not of which we speak. Taking NFL advice from us is like taking sex advice from Tim Tebow. I should remind you this whole pick ‘em thing was Kevin’s idea anyway. Now that the inmates are running the asylum, someone should really surrender our websites to the proper authorities.
According to my account which differs significantly from Kevin Paul’s, who tracks his win-loss record with the efficiency with which he picks football games, our celebrity pickers have taken the lead on the season.
No wonder traffic is down.
The guests have picked 85 games correctly. I have picked 84 and Kevin is not far behind with 81. It’s a good thing he and I have convinced ourselves this is just a phase.
As far as the games that matter, this weekend should separate the men from the boys, so wager appropriately. There are plenty of teams still mathematically in contention. However, they are vying for only twelve playoff spots. We know the Panthers, Bengals, Patriots and Cardinals are all but locks but there are a slew of bubble teams that can either solidify their post-season chances with a win or kiss their season good-bye with a loss.
So which teams will advance? What the hell are you asking us for? I just told you we don’t know a damn thing about football.
Our celebrity prognosticator this week is Mr. Lancaster who went 4-12 in Week 13 last year. For our sakes, let’s hope he keeps that up.
To Week 13 we go!
SPORTSCHUMP’S DUH, I PICK FOOTBALL GAMES GOOD PICKS
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (+3)
One month ago, a one-win Detroit Lions team went into Lambeau Field where they hadn’t won in over twenty years and reminded us that the Packers just aren’t that good. Don’t think the Packers won’t be looking to exact some revenge for that loss. No longer in first place and desperately clinging to a wild card spot, the Packers can ill afford to drop this game. The smart play is to go with the better team… which is still the Packers. They win on the road and cover the field goal against a hot yet horribly inconsistent Lions team.
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (-7)
Allow me to be the first to congratulate the San Francisco 49ers for breaking their streak of being double-digit underdogs. It only took a game against the Bears to make that happen. Speaking of hearty point spreads, the last time the Bears were favored by a touchdown, Mike Ditka was their coach and Mike Singletary had his googly eyes wandering around salivating over who he was going to tackle next. Neither of these teams is any good although at first glance, it appears the Bears are visibly better. The only problem is they can’t win at home, where they’re 1-4. I’m going to take the seven here considering the Bears don’t have much to play for while the Niners are trying to salvage whatever pride they have left out of an absolutely miserable and forgettable season.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (+9.5)
As a general rule, you guys know I like to take the home team and the points in divisional rivalries but too many things here point to a Bengals cover. The Browns are coming off a short week where they lost a heartbreaker at home on Monday night. Johnny Manziel is still a huge distraction. The Browns’ starting quarterback du jour is out again. And with the Patriots banged up, the Bengals might be looking at this game as a chance to sneak into locking up home field advantage in the AFC. They’ll be taking this game seriously. As for Johnny Football, he’s still being punished. Remember that scene in Hoosiers where Gene Hackman pulls a kid out of the game for not following his instructions? Another player fouls out and the kid tries to re-enter. Hackman tells the kid to sit down and then tells the ref he’s playing the rest of the game with four players. Pettine is so pissed off at John John right now that he might start this game without a quarterback. Heck, it’s not like they had one anyway. Bengals cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)
Having to pick a winner in this game makes me wish I was as concussed as the rest of the league. That way I could at least pretend this game wasn’t happening. The Jags and Titans have combined for six measly wins and one of those came because they had to play each other earlier in the season. The Titans have yet to win a home game. Who do they think they are? The Bucs? That streak can’t possibly continue. I mean, it can but it won’t. The Jags had whatever measly playoff hopes they had squashed last week when the two-win Chargers came into town and beat ‘em. They won’t recover. The Titans get their first home win of the season by covering the field goal.
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills (-3)
I’ll be honest. I thought this spread should have been much larger. Houston’s hot and the Bills are coming off consecutive losses but they are clearly the better team in this matchup. I have no problem laying the three and betting heavily on it. The Bills are simply too talented to be this mediocre. While Houston still has playoff hopes, the Bills will look to dash them in a game they should most definitely win.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (-4)
The Dolphins are reeling, as are the Ravens who are a shell of their former selves. They’re so banged up, they need their own Baltimore hospital wing. The others are already full from all the bruised egos their fans have suffered this season. This is yet another unwatchable game, especially for the fans of these two teams who have given up on the season. I know the Ravens are basically unrecognizable at this point but they may have turned a corner with that emotional victory on Monday night. Now they know to just get the ball to Will Hill. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are still searching for any sort of identity. Little do they know they already have one, that of a losing team. I’m taking the Ravens and the points.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (+7)
This has all the makings of a trap game. The lone undefeated team in the NFL travels to division rival New Orleans who is one of the worst teams in the league with nothing to play for but a paycheck. They feature one the league’s most prolific passers yet still can’t put the ball in the end zone. The gambler in me wants to take New Orleans money line but the shrewd thinker recognizes just how bad the Saints are. I have to take Carolina and lay.
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings (pick)
This game smacks of disrespect. The Vikings are the best team in the NFC North. The Seahawks are struggling to make the playoffs. Yet for all intents and purposes, the Seahawks are favored. Not only that but they lost Jimmy Graham for the season. We’ve been waiting all season long for the Seahawks to get their shit together. Meanwhile the Vikes have had theirs together all along. If they want to maintain their narrow lead in the NFC North, they’ll need to prove to themselves they can win this game. Look for a bruiser of a matchup between the league’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, and what used to be the league’s best defense. Teddy Bridgewater will have to come up big. I’m just not so sure he’s got it in him. I’m taking Seattle here as they make one final push for the post-season.
Arizona Cardinals at St Louis Rams (+5.5)
The Cards are banged up in the backfield and the Rams know it. The Cards are also a playoff team while the Rams aren’t. They know that too. I keep thinking the Rams are going to snap out of this, that they’re not quite as bad as they appear to be. Well, if it looks like a Ram, walks like a Ram and smells like a Ram, it’s probably a Ram. I’ll take the Cards to cover as they march on.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5)
Who would have ever thought the Buccaneers would be favored in this game? In Week Eight, the Bucs were huge dogs to a then hot Atlanta team. They went into the Georgia Dome and waxed ‘em, winning a game nobody thought they could. We’ve already seen a bunch of revenge games on this weekend’s slate. This is another. Here’s the thing though. As much as I’d love to take the Bucs at home, at the beginning of the season, the Falcons looked like the clear cut playoff team while the Bucs did not. Even though these teams are only one game apart in the standings, which team do you think is more likely to make the playoffs? You said the Falcons, didn’t you? I’m inclined to agree. I’ll take the Falcons in what will lead to another depressing Sunday in the bay.
New York Jets at New York Giants (+2.5)
In what universe are the New York Giants home dogs to the Jets? That makes no sense. The Giants, while struggling, are fighting for their playoff lives. I still feel they end up winning their division. And even though the Jets are in the midst of things in the AFC playoff hunt, I find it hard to believe they’re legit. I love the Giants here. LOVE ‘em.
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (+4)
What do Brock Osweiler and Luke Walton have in common? They’re both undefeated. That won’t last, at least not for Brock. I’m going with the upset here and taking the Chargers to bring the Broncos back to reality.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (+3)
The loser of this game is almost officially out of the playoffs. And while I don’t think the Chiefs make the playoffs, I don’t think they’re entirely done making a run at it. They’ve quietly won five straight. On the other hand, the Raiders very quietly have had another Raider-like season. They’ve lost three of their last four. I’d love to take the home dog here but I just don’t see anything out of Oakland that convinces me they have the desire, or the talent, to win this football game.
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (-10)
The Pats are so banged up that they might just be starting Tom Brady. Of course Brady by himself is still probably good enough to beat the Eagles… but not by ten points. As bad as they are, the Eagles are playing for pride here. The Pats can’t run the ball and have no Gronk. This could be the one shining moment in a season full of Eagle poop. I’ll take the ten because the Pats weren’t covering spreads when they were healthy so they’re certainly not going to when they’re not.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (PICK)
Finally Las Vegas is on to Matt Hasselbeck. The veteran was machine-like in the second half of last week’s victory against the Bucs. Any time a forty-year old guy who hasn’t thrown a football in years can raise the words “quarterback controversy” and “Andrew Luck” in the same sentence, you know he’s playing well. On the other side of the football, the Steelers are getting their injured starting quarterback back. That should mean the Colts’ luck, no pun intended, is about to run out. I’m taking the Steelers here. Colts need this one but since the Texans are losing too, we’re putting the already cold AFC South on ice for yet another week.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-4.5)
Who’s scheduling these Monday night games? The NFL Committee of Boredom? Don’t they want viewers? Last week we got Ravens-Browns and this week we get Cowboys-Redskins? You can’t tell me the league thought the Browns and Redskins would be any good at this point of the season. Even though they’re currently leading their division, I’m still not sold on the ‘Skins. I’m pretty sure nobody in America really is. That’s indicated by this line. The Cowboys just lost their starting quarterback for the second time this season and the division leader they are playing against is laying under a touchdown. Jerry Jones may have faith in the healthy return of Tony Romo but at this point, I would have to think everyone else on the Cowboys is playing for their jobs. Henceforth, they cover.
KEVIN PAUL’S I FORGOT ABOUT MR. LANCASTER PICKS
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (+3.5)
Don’t look now, but after a thrashing of the Eagles on Thanksgiving, the Lions have won three straight. Meanwhile, the Packers (having lost four of five) continue to struggle and could have trouble in the trenches, due to numerous injuries to its offensive line, most notably Bryan Bulaga who will not play due to an ankle injury. Detroit is 5th in the league with 30 sacks, leaving this game to come down to Aaron Rodgers and his pocket awareness/elusiveness. The same goes for the RB duo of Lacy-Starks and if this patchwork O-line can open up any holes. Green Bay’s ‘D’ (11 INT’s with 14 TD’s allowed) will need to make big plays against the pass. This should be an interesting one, but as I’ve said in recent weeks (and been wrong), these are the moments that Aaron Rodgers finds a way. The Packers need this game to hang with the Vikings and for that reason… Green Bay covers.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay Packers
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (+7.5)
Austin Davis will start for the Browns while Johnny Manziel continues to sit in the dog (dawg?) house – no pun intended. Davis had a few moments on Monday where he showed he was capable, but that was against a Ravens defense that is ranked 24th against the pass with just 4 INT’s on the season. The Bengals have 14 INT’s and almost as many picks as TD’s allowed (15). Cincinnati has also held opposing signal callers to a 81.9 QB rating (Baltimore: 98.3). Andy Dalton should also have time to throw, considering the Cleveland defense is 29th in sacks with just 16 through 11 games. Bengals cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (-5.5)
The Ravens were finally on the happy side of a wild finish, but this remains a depleted team that will be relying on Matt Schaub, Buck Allen and Kamar Aiken. All are capable, although Schaub had a number of poor throws and will be playing on a short week. The Dolphins are beatable defensively, especially against the run (dead last in NFL, allowing 138.5 ypg). Baltimore has also set an NFL record by having every result (through 11 games) finish at an 8-point difference or less. But statistically, the Dolphins and Browns are similar against the pass and Schaub struggled against Cleveland. The same should happen in Miami. Give me the Dolphins at home by a touchdown, leaving that crazy record intact.
KP’s Pick: Miami Dolphins
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)
Someone may want to place the Falcons offense on a milk carton. Devonta Freeman (concussion) is set to return this weekend, which should give the team a boost. Freeman will face a Tampa Bay defense that is ranked 12th against the run. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s 3rd-ranked rushing offense – led by Doug Martin and Jameis Winston – will be facing an Atlanta run ‘D’ that is 10th against the run while giving up 13 TD’s on the ground (2nd most in the NFL). The Bucs are hot, but the Falcons are due. Call this a gut pick. Falcons win on the road.
KP’s Pick: Atlanta Falcons
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings (+0.5)
The Seahawks notched a key win over the Steelers last week, placing Pete Carroll’s group in the thick of the playoff chase while the Vikings are looking to hold onto the NFC North division lead. With every Seattle game comes the pass protection discussion and a line that has allowed the 2nd most sacks in the league (37). Minnesota, however, has allowed the 7th most (31) and neither team cracks the top ten in sacks. It will be interesting to see how Russell Wilson handles a Minnesota pass ‘D’ that is 4th in the NFL (223.5 ypg) and has home field. But Seattle also features a top ten pass defense. This game is fairly evenly matched and it likely comes down to how Adrian Peterson handles a Seahawks defense that is 5th against the run. Give me the Seahawks to shut down Minnesota’s biggest weapon.
KP’s Pick: Seattle Seahawks
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (+5.5)
The Cardinals never seem to blow out the struggling teams (see Cards-Niners in Week 12). These Rams are a run first team that leans heavily on Todd Gurley and that will be a tall order considering Arizona’s fourth-ranked run defense (91.1 ypg). Nick Foles will get the start for St. Louis and he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 8. That alone is enough for me to lean on an Arizona offense that features Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and David Johnson. Cardinals cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (-7.5)
The Bears have had a few extra days rest and are coming off a huge Turkey Day win over the rival Packers. San Francisco gave the Cardinals fits but fell to 3-8 on the season. The Niners are 0-5 on the road with four of the five losses being by 16 points or more. Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush are both out for the year leaving the Niners with no run game. With all these thoughts in mind, it could be a long day for San Fran. and a big day for Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte. Give me the Bears to cover at home.
KP’s Pick: Chicago Bears
New York Jets at New York Giants (+2.5)
The Giants will serve as the “home team” in this NY/NY clash, but the real headline is surrounding Darrelle Revis, who is doubtful due to a concussion suffered in Week 11. With Marcus Williams also a question mark, it could leave Antonio Cromartie to cover Odell Beckham Jr. That leaves the world to wonder if Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Co. have the horsepower to stick with Eli, OBJ and the Giants’ offense. It is possible considering the Giants are dead last in pass defense (309.2 ypg). That and the Jets survived without Revis in Week 12, beating the Dolphins rather handily (although Jarvis Landry had 165 yards receiving). No Revis? Give me Eli in a must-win for the Giants.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)
These two teams played each other just a few short weeks ago, a game that the Titans had in hand, only to falter in the final minutes. This time, Tennessee gets the home field advantage, but what kind of advantage is it considering the Titans are 0-6 in front of its home fans? Tennessee is 6th in pass defense (224.1 ypg), although the stat is a tad deceiving considering the 20 TD’s allowed and 97.3 QB rating notched by opponents. Jacksonville is two games behind the Colts and Texans with five games to play, so this is a must win. The addition of Julius Thomas to the offense has helped and it should give the Jags enough to sweep the season series with Tennessee. Jacksonville wins on the road.
KP’s Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills (-3.5)
Rex Ryan is typically known for his defense, but in this game, it’s Houston that has been dominating opponents over the last month. The Texans have come alive and are tied with the Colts for the division lead at 6-5. Houston’s 3rd-ranked pass defense (219.6 ypg) will push to make Buffalo one-dimensional on offense. The Bills tend to focus on the run game first and will also try to neutralize J.J. Watt in the trenches. Overall, with the line at 3 1/2 points, it’s difficult to pick against the Texans, considering its recent defensive surge. Take Houston and the points, looking toward a fourth-quarter FG as a game-winner.
KP’s Pick: Houston Texans
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (+4.5)
Brock Osweiler has been strong in his two starts and had an integral part of knocking off the undefeated Patriots last week. C.J. Anderson enjoyed a resurgence of his own, rushing for 113 yards and two TD’s, including the game winning score in OT. The Chargers are strong offensively, featuring the NFL’s second-ranked passing offense (308.7 ypg). But San Diego will be facing Denver’s suffocating defense which is 1st against the pass. The Bolts are also brutal defensively (22nd vs. pass, 26th vs. run). Give me Brock and the Broncos on the road.
KP’s Pick: Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (+3.5)
In a pivotal AFC West battle, the Raiders have the home field while the Chiefs have the hot hand. Kansas City has dealt with a number of injuries throughout the season, but has found a way to build momentum and improve. Oakland’s 14 sacks allowed are tied for the fewest in the league and that will make for an interesting matchup against Kansas City’s D-line which is 5th in sacks (30). No other stats jump to the forefront, which leaves me to ride the hot hand. The Chiefs win for the sixth straight time.
KP’s Pick: Kansas City Chiefs
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (+7.5)
Drew Brees typically plays really well at home, but will be facing a Carolina defense that is 2nd against the run (88.7 ypg) and 5th against the pass (223.8 ypg), with 18 INT’s on the season. Everyone knows the ineptness of the New Orleans defense, ranking 31st against the run and 30th against the pass. Like shootin’ fish in a barrel, right Cam? Give me the Panthers to keep on rolling, win by double digits.
KP’s Pick: Carolina Panthers
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (-9.5)
Each game features another key injury for the Patriots, with Rob Gronkowski being the latest Patriot to be on the mend. Only Tom Brady would be a bigger loss. Still, the Eagles are a mess and at this point, flooded with turmoil and a borderline bye week for a team as talented as the Patriots. Tom Brady should have no problem carving up a Philadelphia defense that has given up 25 passing touchdowns in 11 games. Playing at home, the Gronk-less Pats still have what it takes to win this game by ten. New England covers.
KP’s Pick: New England Patriots
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
Matt Hasselbeck: I’m a believer. The veteran Colts QB has been strong replacing Andrew Luck, throwing 7 TD and 2 INT in four games played. Indy has its share of injuries and Vontae Davis could be the biggest loss if he misses Sunday due to a hamstring injury. That opens the door for Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh pass game. Though, Martavis Bryant could miss the game for Pittsburgh, taking away a key offensive weapon. The Steelers still have plenty of targets for Big Ben, but as previously mentioned, I’m a Hasselbeck believer. The veteran will keep the Colts in this game. Take Indy and the points.
KP’s Pick: Indianapolis Colts
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-4.5)
The Redskins currently have the edge in NFC East – one of the more surprising stories of the season. Washington – like many teams this year – has its fair share of faults, but playing at home is not one of them. Kirk Cousins is dynamite at home and so are the ‘Skins, posting a 5-1 record in front of its home crowd. Toss in another Tony Romo clavicle injury and it’s surprisingly easy to take Washington on Monday night.
KP’s Pick: Washington Redskins