Sometimes you gotta be careful who you pick fights with. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, the quietest guy in the crowd might be some secret karate man ready to flatten you without hesitation.
Little did we know that Heavy D was that karate man. In twelve weeks of pickin’ chickens, D has tallied the best score, going 4-1 against the spread and earning $130 (out of a possible) fake cash dollar bills. Behind D, it’s DRealEmcee (Week Five: $110) in second place and Darrel Harden (Week Seven: $90) in third. You guys are definitely keeping Kevin and I honest. It was also the first week since Week Seven that all three of us turned in positive numbers.
This week, we invite Brother Bill into the mix. With championship week coming up, we’re running out of college games to pick which means down the stretch, we’re going to have to rely on NFL games only.
But before we put the cart in front of the horse…
Let me have $50 on Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams (-12 ½)
The Rams just went into Lambeau Field, a few thousand miles from their glitzy new stadium, and got beat by a quarterback with a man-bun and a gimpy toe. Los Angeles may have to travel back there in January so Green Bay wanted to assert its dominance. They did. This week, the Rams return home and it is the Jaguars’ turn to travel cross-country. And no, Jaguars fans, no need to worry. Urban Meyer will not be interviewing for the USC job while he’s out there, despite the fact that you might want him to. The feisty, although 2-9, Jaguars’ task is to take on the Rams who are coming off that loss and two more right before that one. Talk about a sacrificial lamb. If Matt Stafford plays in the fourth quarter of this game, I’ll be shocked. The Rams are only laying twelve-and-a-half so I’m running with it before the spread gets to two touchdowns, which in all actuality, it should. The Jags haven’t won on the road yet and just lost to the Falcons, one of the worst teams in the league. The Rams are a Super Bowl contender who are pissed they’re on a three-game skid. They’ll be picking a fight with the right guy and exposing of Jacksonville handily. Give me the Rams minus the twelve-and-a-half in a game that shouldn’t be very competitive.
I’ll take $40 on Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (+7 ½)
Remember that stat I brought up a couple of weeks ago about Minnesota? How, win or lose, they’re always involved in close games? The Vikings went seven straight weeks playing in games that were decided by seven points or less. Last week, they broke that streak. They lost to the 49ers… by 8. This week, they travel to Detroit who are covering machines. The Lions are 7-4 against the spread. That’s because Vegas thinks they’ll always lose, which they do, but not by as much as Vegas thinks. All signs point to a cover here. The Vikes, who aren’t that good and always play in close games, are laying seven and a hook against a divisional opponent who always covers and are still looking for their first elusive win. So why wouldn’t I take the points? I am. Detroit plus the seven-and-a-half please.
Lemme have $30 on Alabama Crimson Tide at Georgia Bulldogs (- 6 ½)
An SEC guy, I’ve thought long and hard about this one. Normally, I love betting underdogs. This week, Alabama is an underdog, breaking an incomprehensible streak of nine full seasons of games as a favorite. There’s a reason they’re an underdog this week. They’re playing almighty Georgia, with one final chance at the Final Four. Meanwhile, the Georgia Bulldogs are allowing a measly, count ‘em, 6.9 points per game! Clemson’s defense ranks second in all of college football and they’re allowing 15 points per game. That means Georgia is allowing nearly ten points less per game than any other school in the country! That’s asinine if not record-setting. This Georgia team is historically good yet we’re still not quite giving them enough credit for it. Again, normally I would take Alabama in this situation. Nick Saban? An underdog? I’d be foolish not to… yet I just can’t seem to do it. Georgia may exorcise all its demons in one fell swoop this Saturday and there’s nothing Nick Saban can do about it. I’m getting a team that is dismantling people with everything on the line and I’m laying less than a touchdown. I have to take Georgia and lay the six-and-a-half this weekend.
Also, $20 on Washington Football Team at Las Vegas Raiders (-1)
I guess I’m not understanding this line. The Raiders are home to the Washington Football Team and are only laying a point? I get that the WFT are right where they want to be. By winning out in their division, in which they play five of their next six games, they can assure themselves a post-season berth. They’ve won three straight games so they’re playing some pretty good football. The problem is, the rested Raiders are coming off a Thanksgiving win in Dallas and are riding pretty high themselves. I like what Taylor Heinicke is doing this season but he’s no Derek Carr. The Raiders have to make a post-season push here, tied at 6-5 in their division with the Chiefs and Broncos. Lose here and a post-season berth is unlikely. I’m laying a single point so I’m all over the Raiders. They should secretly be thanking Washington since it’s an investigation of that football team that got their old coach fired. They’ll thank them proper this week by covering the point in a win.
And finally, $10 on New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (- 2 ½)
Calling Bills Mafia. Come in Bills Mafia. You are now entertaining the hottest team in football. Not only have the Patriots won six straight games but they haven’t yet lost on the road this season. Pretty impressive for a team with a rookie quarterback. Meanwhile, the Bills are underachieving, which is odd to say about a team that’s 7-4. We only say that because we had high expectations for this team, all but ushering them into the Super Bowl. With all due respect to Mac Jones, this will be his first Monday night game and his first trip to Buffalo. I get that New England is playing nasty football but nobody expected them to be where they are right now, which is atop the AFC East. Buffalo, despite their iffy start, has every chance Monday night to flip the script and take charge of their division. They’ll do just that. A former Patriots quarterback once owned the Bills for two decades. Mac Jones is going to have to prove to me he can do that before I go betting on him to waltz into Buffalo and win his first start in prime time. I’ll confidently take Buffalo minus the two-and-a-half.
THE WIFE HATES SPORTS WEEK 13 PICKS
$50 NFL: Indianapolis Colts (-9.5) at Houston Texans
I tend to avoid making picks within this division. Still, here I am, and for a few key reasons. First, the rivalry itself, where the Colts have won 6 of 7 and 8 of 10. Sure, the Texans have kept their last two home games versus Indy close, but let’s not ignore the 31-3 pounding in favor of the Colts back in October. Second, Indianapolis is on a strong run of late, scoring 30 or more points in six of its last seven games. Third, and most importantly, Colts RB Jonathan Taylor is having an MVP-worthy season. He leads the NFL in rushing and it’s not even close. Taylor now faces a Houston defense that is ranked 31st against the run, allowing 135.6 ypg. It’s hard not to feel confident about this game. Colts cover.
$40 NFL: New York Giants at Miami Dolphins (-4.5)
If you told me I’d be picking the Dolphins a month ago, I would have laughed in your face. Now, the once floundering Fins have won four straight. There have been positive signs both offensively and defensively in Miami. Enter a home game against the Giants, a team under a new OC that will also be without QB Daniel Jones. WR’s Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard are also unlikely to play. Saquon Barkley should be leaned on, but faces a Miami defense ranked 10th against the run. Mike Glennon starts for the Giants. Glennon posted a 29.8 adjusted QBR in five starts last season (all losses). This year, Glennon tossed two INT’s in a 44-20 loss to Dallas back in October. That’s a lot of mediocrity and missing pieces. Add in a hot team on the opposite side and that’s why I’m confident the Dolphins cover at home.
$30 NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams (-12.5)
The Rams are in a tailspin, losing three straight. However, take a closer look at the opponents: Packers 49ers, and Titans – all playoff contenders. Sure, the Jags have surprisingly (and rather sporadically) hung with stronger opponents. You simply can’t ignore the talent gap on the field and a ferocious Rams defense that is sure to throw a lot of different looks at QB Trevor Lawrence. Shockingly, the Jags have allowed just 20 sacks this season (fifth fewest) – but have they consistently faced defenses like this? On the offensive side of the ball, Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford are likely to have big days. L.A.’s 4th ranked pass offense (288.9 ypg) should have plenty of success against the Jacksonville defense. The cross country trip and talent of the Rams will prove to be too much. Los Angeles covers at home.
$20 NFL: Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Chicago Bears
This game opened as my $50 game of the week. The question marks pushed me to shift it back. In particular, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are game-time decisions for Arizona. Although, some reports indicated that each would return to the field this weekend. For Chicago, Justin Fields and Cole Kmet are also banged up, but may both play. The Bears are also missing key members of its defensive line, which is likely to lead to a lack of a pass rush. With December upon us, the weather also needs to be considered. The forecast calls for cooler temperatures and some potential windy conditions. Overall, manageable. In addition, the Bears have allowed the most sacks in the NFL. If Murray and Hopkins are back, this is a mismatch. I’ll bet each plays and makes an impact. Give me the Cardinals to cover.
$10 College: Houston Cougars (+10.5) vs Cincinnati Bearcats Sooners
This is when we find out how Luke Fickell really is as a head coach. Cincinnati survived the season, remains undefeated, and posted big wins against Notre Dame along the way. This is it. Win this game and the playoff berth could be a reality. The opponent is the 16th ranked Houston Cougars, who have not lost a game since the opening week of the season. Entering the year, Houston returned 18 starters and was listed on Phil Steele’s most improved team list. Houston has scored 30 points or more in all but two of its games this season. While the schedule is weaker than most, the Cougars have the 23rd ranked pass offense. More impressive is Houston’s defense that is ranked 8th against the run and 16th against the pass (with as many INT’s as TD’s allowed – 14). All the pressure is on the Bearcats. Houston is no slouch and I think this will be a close game throughout. Give me the Cougars.
CELEBRITY GUEST PICKS: BROTHER BILL
Thanks for inviting me to do this. I had fun picking games and writing up the analysis. Even if I go 0-5, I’m honored to participate.
$50 – Cincinnati Bengals (-3) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The Bengals played a couple of lousy games going into their bye, but have played a couple of good ones since then. The Bengals defense has looked good recently. I live in Pittsburgh, and follow the Steelers. Two weeks ago the Chargers hosted the Steelers, blew a big lead, but then came back for the win. Last week the Bengals hosted the Steelers and smoked them. So give me the Bengals minus 3. I’m getting both association fallacy and recency bias out of the way with this pick.
$40 – Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (+3) vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers
This is the Sun Belt Championship. I don’t understand this point spread. On October 12th, ULL beat Appalachian State 41-13. This game in in Lafayette, and there isn’t anything significant on the injury report. So why is Appalachian State favored? I must be missing something. Still, give me the Ragin’ Cajuns and the points.
$30 – Pittsburgh Panthers (-3) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
This is the ACC Championship. Pitt is a better team on the road than at home. Their only two losses are at home, to Miami and (ugh) Western Michigan. Starting with the Army game on October 23rd, Wake Forest has given up 56, 7, 58, 42, 48, and 10 points in their last six games. I’m thinking (and hoping) that Kenny Pickett lights them up. Give me Pitt minus 3.
$20 – Kent State Golden Flashes (-3) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
This is the MAC Championship. As I write this, NIU QB Rocky Lombardi (a transfer from Michigan State) is listed as out for the game. He was out last week against Western Michigan, and the backup, Ethan Hampton was 4-10 for 23 yards passing. They did run for 268 yards, but lost 42-21. If Lombardi does play, this pick will likely backfire. Kent State can’t stop anyone, but they can score. I’ll take the Golden Flashes minus 3.
$10 – Houston Cougars (+10.5) at Cincinnati Bearcats
This is the AAC Championship, and the biggest game in Cincinnati Bearcats football history. As of now, they are in the playoffs. There may be some nerves involved, and it’s a big spread to cover. I’m guessing that Houston will keep it close. Give me the Cougars plus 10.5.