Sunday, November 13, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 10 picks

So what the hell happened on Thursday? We all got that badly wrong, but, then, so did many. (Come on, the Raiders? Really? With Carson Palmer? And without Darren McFadden? Well, who knew Michael Bush was such a stud?) I suppose it's our fault for thinking that maybe, just maybe, Norv Turner's Chargers were a legitimately good team. And for thinking that Philip Rivers was an elite QB. Maybe he is, but he sure hasn't played like one this year. Can the Raiders or Chiefs really win the AFC West? I still think it'll be San Diego, but what an awful division.

Anyway, let's move on...

Before the season started, I had an e-mail exchange with Richard, a life-long Giants fan, in which I argued that, no, Eli Manning is not one of the ten best QBs in the league. I put him behind Rodgers, Brady, Brees, the other Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Vick, Romo, Ryan, Schaub, Stafford, and Freeman. Basically, I considered him a somewhat-above-middle-of-the-packer with the likes of Bradford and Cutler. I didn't want him anywhere near my fantasy team, and, while he has proven to be a winner in the NFL, I wouldn't want him leading my real team either. Now, Peyton hasn't played this year, of course, but his spot above Eli has been taken by Newton. So, okay, he's a top-15 QB. Not too shabby, but certainly not elite -- not even close.

Well, maybe I was wrong. (Yes, Richard, wrong. Maybe.) Eli got off to a bad start to the year, going 18 for 32 with a pick in a 28-14 Week 1 loss to the Redskins. (Remember when they were... good?) Since then, he hasn't really had a bad game. Sure, there was that embarrassing home loss to the Seahawks in Week 5, when he threw three INTs, but he still had 3 TD passes and threw for a season-high 420 yards.

Other than Week 1, his lowest QB rating (a flawed metric, to be sure) came last week: 77.9. He went just 20 for 39 for 250 years (his second-lowest total of the season so far) against a terrible Patriots defence (no pass rush, bad secondary), but, lest we forget, the Giants beat New England at Foxboro and Eli engineered a stunning game-winning drive, tossing the winning TD pass to Jake Ballard with just 15 second left. And then there was that fantastic Week 3 performance in a 29-16 win at Philly -- just 254 yards passing but four TDs and no INTs. His rating for that game? 145.7. Any way you look at it, any way you measure it, that was outstanding.

So what are we to make of this? It's not like the Giants are all about Eli the way, say, the Colts are (were) all about Peyton, but how does he beat the Eagles and Patriots on the road and lose to the Seahawks at home? Well, if there's one word for Eli, it's this: inconsistent. Sometimes he rises to the occasion, as he did last week on that final drive, and sometimes he just sucks. Sometimes he looks like he belong up with (or at least near) Rodgers, Brady, and the rest of the elite, sometimes he looks clueless out there, not to mention utterly hopeless.

But maybe that's just Eli. Maybe that's just what you get from him, as frustrating as it is for Giants fans (and, I assume, for the team). The one thing he can't do is run (23 carries for -4 yards so far this year). Otherwise, he would seem to have it all, the physical skills and the intelligence to run the offence, not to mention the ability to come through at the most challenging moments. Need I remind Patriots fans of Super Bowl XLII? Sure, he's always had good receivers, and on that famous helmet catch play he benefitting from tons of holding to keep the play alive, but we shouldn't be so quick to credit others for his success. He's a really good QB. You just have to put up with some awfulness every once in a while.

Now, is he among the league's ten best QB? Maybe, but only by default. Go back to my list. Take Peyton off it. Add Newton. Here's my ranking:

1) Rodgers
2) Brady
3) Brees
4) Roethlisberger
5) Rivers
6) Vick
7) Newton

And then? Well, take your pick: Ryan, Stafford, Romo, Schaub, and, yes, Eli. That's my 8-12 in some order, with Cutler probably 13th right now. Freeman and Bradford have fallen back this year. Of those five, you can make a case that Eli has had the most success and should be 8th. I'm not going to make that case, but he's certainly top-10 material. Like I said, I was wrong.

(Bill Simmons did his ranking a couple of weeks ago, before Eli beat his beloved Pats. He had Eli 8th.)

Alright, enough. Did I really just spend that much time on Eli Manning? Priorities, man, priorities! Let's get to the picks:

As you may know, my associate editor Richard, a friend of ours nicknamed Comfortable Kid, and I are tracking our picks this year, with posts going up each Sunday at 11 am. We get one point for each correct pick, along with two bonus points if we get our Upset of the Week right. If we get our Lock of the Week wrong, we lose two points as a penalty. Below you'll find our picks, plus comments. First, though, here's how we're doing so far (not counting this week's Thursday game):

Last week

MJWS: 10-4 (plus upset) = 12 points
RKB: 8-6 (plus upset) = 10 points
The Kid: 7-7 = 7 points

Season to date

MJWS: 90-40 (4 upsets right, 2 locks wrong) = 94 points
RKB: 88-42 (5 upsets right, 2 locks wrong) = 94 points
The Kid: 77-53 (2 upsets right, 4 locks wrong) = 73 points

Here are this week's games:

New Orleans at Atlanta
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
St. Louis at Cleveland
Buffalo at Dallas
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Denver at Kansas City
Washington at Miami
Arizona at Philadelphia
Houston at Tampa Bay
Tennessee at Carolina
Baltimore at Seattle
Detroit at Chicago
N.Y. Giants at San Francisco
New England at N.Y. Jets
Minnesota at Green Bay

Stickings' Pickings

Picks: New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, Houston, Carolina, Baltimore, Chicago, N.Y. Giants, N.Y. Jets, Green Bay.

I don't want to talk about the Steelers' devastating loss to the Ravens last week. I really don't. And so I won't. (The Bengals are for real, though. I'm worried. Very, very worried. That winning Flacco-to-Smith TD pass could prove to be a turning point for the Steelers this year. A bad one.)

Once again, I'm picking the two NYC/NJ teams in big-time upsets. I don't feel good about either pick. (What was that I was saying about Eli? And, really, Sanchez over Brady?)

I'm not at all sure about Saints-Falcons, Texans-Bucs, and Lions-Bears. I could go either way on all of them, but, honestly, I'm past the point of trying to figure out the NFL. It's been a crazy year. These are mostly gut calls: Brees can put up more points than Ryan, Houston has a fantastic running game, and Da Bears have enough talent on D to slow down Megatron.

This is far less analysis than I usually offer. It's just that kind of week. Enjoy!

(But allow me to agree with Simmons and Cousin Sal from their podcast this past week. Ten 1 pm games? Why? That's crazy? I'll be watching the Steelers (assuming they don't fall way behind and I slip into a total funk), but how are we to keep track of so many games at once? There are only three 4 pm games. Couldn't a couple of the 1 pm games have been moved back? Seriously, in this age of the NFL package (where you can watch every single NFL game via cable/satellite) and fantasy, this is too much! Show some respect for the fans and our needs, NFL! Seriously.)

Lock of the Week: Philadelphia.

The predictable pick is Green Bay, but you know what? I can see the Vikings playing the Packers tough this week -- MNF at Lambeau. There's no way I'd pick against Rodgers & Co., but the Iggles are my pick. The Bears trampled them last week, but Arizona's in town today and Vick & Co. will rebound with a solid win to get back in the NFC East picture, not least with Nnamdi shutting down Fitzgerald and Trent Cole & Co. making life miserable for John Skelton, who will likely be QBing in place of Kolb.

Upset of the Week: N.Y. Jets.

I like the reason Richard and The Kid both give for picking Denver this week: Why not?

Two words: Tim Tebow.
Yes, sure, the Chiefs have been wildly inconsistent lately, beating the Chargers (for what that's worth) and then getting blown out by the Dolphins, but they're at home and have enough talent to win this one easily.

I think the Bills will beat the Cowboys, but that wouldn't qualify as an upset under our rules (we base it on pick distribution in Yahoo pick'em). Same with the Giants over the 49ers.

Maybe Washington over Miami? I can see the 'Skins winning this one, but I just can't pick 'em. (The Fins are actually much better than their 1-7 record.)

So... Jets. (Ugh.) Even if it's hard to see Brady and Belichick losing three in a row.

Barry's Tea Leaves

Picks: New Orleans, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Dallas, Jacksonville, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Houston, Carolina, Baltimore, Detroit, N.Y. Giants, New England, Green Bay.

After last week's debacle, I'm not even going to pretend I know what will happen this week.

Good thing I don't get paid to do this, even better I'm not stupid enough to put money down.

Other than expecting Green Bay and Baltimore to win and Indy to lose, anything else is just guessing. Okay, it's all just guessing.

On the Giants, just because, after last week, I have to say something, I'm not picking against Eli and company even if everyone else will. Gotta love it. Man, I came so close to not seeing the Giants win that game because I get discourged so easily and turn the damn television off when the darkness comes to my football soul. But I'm happy to say that I hung in there bacause Eli is a very solid come-from-behind QB. Maybe not in a league with Brady, Montana, and Elway, but, still, very good. I like the kid. He makes me crazy. But I like him.

Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

Upset of the Week: Denver.

Are ya listening, Joe? Team Tebow is my upset. Why not?

Comfortable Kid

Picks: Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Dallas, Indianapolis, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Houston, Carolina, Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco, N.Y. Jets, Green Bay.

Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

Monday Night Football. Best QB in the league. Lambeau Field. C'mon. 

Upset of the Week: Denver.

Why not? It seems as though the Broncos have started to adjust their offence to maximize my boy Tim Tebow.  Although the game will include plenty of ugly-looking tosses and a few sack lunches, I wouldn't be surprised if Denver takes this one. 


(Photos: You want a CB to shut down the opposing team's top receiver? The Eagles' Nnamdi Asomugha and the Jets' Darrelle Revis are two of the very best.)

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  • DeSean Jackson is inactive for the Iggles this week. Apparently he missed a team meeting. Well, we all knew about his generally bad attitude (to put it nicely).

    Will this hurt Philly? Do I regret taking them as my lock? Not at all. In fact, I think they're better (and better off) without him. Sure, he's always a threat to run a punt back, but otherwise, as a receiver, he just runs down the field looking for bombs. Maclin is a much better WR, and Vick has a bunch of weapons in the passing game: Avant, McCoy, Celek. And he won't have to look down the field for Jackson, nor will the team have to deal with Jackson's sulking if/when he doesn't get the ball.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:03 PM  

  • The Giants lost, but Eli was, well, Eli. Some great play, some not-so-great play. Yes, he's still in that 8-12 range.

    Romo moves up, but, then, it's easy to put up big numbers against the Bills.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:12 AM  

  • Well, I was really badly wrong about Philly. A home loss to the Cards? Really? I realize they didn't have Maclin for some of the game, but still. What an embarrassment.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:13 AM  

  • And, yes, I was wrong about the Jets. The Pats dismantled them tonight.

    I had the Pats all week and switched yesterday mainly because I needed an upset. Yes, that's my excuse. But it's an honest one.

    I have no excuse for a generally horrible week, though.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:15 AM  

  • Did I really write that the Vikes would keep it close against the Pack?

    I'm going to blame that on the cold medication.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:30 PM  

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