Sunday, October 16, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 6 picks

I'm writing this Friday night, as I'm off to Pittsburgh this weekend for the Steelers-Jaguars game. It's an annual thing, going to see my beloved Steelers live, as well as to spend some time in a city I've come to love as well, a beautiful city with wonderful people (and a fantastic restaurant, Isabela on Grandview, where I'll be dining Saturday night) -- and, on a home-game weekend, there's such energy, such buzz. It's awesome. Truly.

Now, last week, a win over Tennessee, would have been a great time to be there. Superb weather, concerns about Big Ben's health, various other injuries, 2-2 after a tough loss to Houston, anxiety, anticipation for a close game against a solid opponent. And then the Steelers went out and clobbered the Titans, Ben throwing for five TDs, two of them to Ward, an all-around excellent performance, the team seemingly back on track.

But this week? Dicier weather, according to the forecast, and a bad opponent. Sure, there's MJD, but who else? If the Steelers do what they should do and run away with it, it could turn out to be a boring game, if exciting at least to the fans in the stadium. But if it's close, if it looks like the Jags could win, or, worse, if the Jags are up and actually do win it, how horrible would that be? To be there, watching my team lose to a supposedly terrible team? Ugh.

Well, we'll see. I'm just excited to be heading down there. We've got our Terrible Towels ready, and we'll be decked out in black 'n' gold with the rest of Steeler Nation.

I'll forgo a lengthy intro this week and get straight 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:

Last week

RKB: 8-5 = 8 points 
The Kid: 8-5 (plus upset, minus lock) = 8 points
MJWS: 7-6 (minus lock) = 5 points

Season to date

MJWS: 54-23 (2 upsets right, 1 locks wrong) = 56 points
RKB: 53-24 (2 upsets right, 1 locks wrong) = 55 points
The Kid: 47-30 (2 upsets right, 3 locks wrong) = 45 points

Here are this week's games:
Carolina at Atlanta
Indianapolis at Cincinnati
San Francisco at Detroit
St. Louis at Green Bay
Buffalo at N.Y. Giants
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh
Philadelphia at Washington
Cleveland at Oakland
Houston at Baltimore
Dallas at New England
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Minnesota at Chicago
Miami at N.Y. Jets

Stickings' Pickings

Picks: Carolina, Cincinnati, Detroit, Green Bay, N.Y. Giants, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Oakland, Baltimore, New England, New Orleans, Minnesota, N.Y. Jets.
Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

Upset of the Week: Minnesota.

At first glance, this looked like an easy pick'em week, a week for the favourites. And there are indeed some fairly easy choices, powerhouses playing much, much weaker opponents: Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New England, New Orleans, the Jets. A loss by any of these teams would be a huge setback. But the more I looked at the list of games, the more I doubted my initial judgements. Consider:

-- Carolina at Atlanta: Matt Ryan and the supposedly high-flying Falcons at home? Check. A pre-season playoff pick (to many) up against a crappy team led by a rookie QB? Check. Thing is, the Falcons aren't exactly the greatest show on turf, their star rookie WR Julio Jones is out, RB Michael Turner isn't great, and the Panthers aren't crappy, not with that rookie QB, Cam Newton, lighting it up week after week and surprising the hell out of me and pretty much everyone who pays attention to the NFL. No way he was supposed to be this good. But he is. And WR Steve Smith is back to elite form. Now, the Panthers don't have much of a pass rush, and that could free Ryan up to pick them apart with the weapons at his disposal, specifically WR Roddy White and TE (and future hall-of-famer) Tony Gonzalez. I've been going back and forth on this one, but I'll take a chance and go with Newton's boys.

-- Indianapolis at Cincinnati: Yuck. Painter-to-Garcon has been potent lately and I'm still impressed with the Colts' D after its solid performance against the Steelers a few weeks ago. But Cincy has a good D of its own and is at home. I can see Indy pulling off the upset, but it's too early to trust Painter.

-- Detroit at San Francisco: Should be Detroit, right? Right. And, at home, I'm taking the Lions. But they have to lose sometime, right? Right. And San Francisco isn't bad -- actually, they may actually be pretty good. We tend to overlook this now that the ship has been righted, but the move from Mike Singletary, a truly terrible coach (a hybrid of preacher, motivational speaker, drill sergeant, and abusive father -- Richard likened him to The Great Santini today), to Jim Harbaugh was huge. It's like they're a real, professional team again. And, with a real, professional system in place, QB Alex Smith, long regarded a #1-overall-pick disappointment, is showing he's actually pretty good. And he's got some high-end weapons in RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis, and maybe even WR Michael Crabtree. Oh, and their D is really good, led by one of the best players in the whole league, LB Patrick Willis. No, no, they won't prevail this week... but I'm not sure.

-- Cleveland at Oakland: Another yuck. Oakland should emerge victorious from what promises to be an unwatchable cesspool of mediocrity and worse, but second-year Browns' QB Colt McCoy sure can whip the ball around the field. You never know.

-- Minnesota at Chicago: Actually, I didn't initially go with the favourite here. Chicago's o-line can't protect QB Jay Cutler and the Vikes' should be able to put a ton of pressure on him all day long (and he and RB Matt Forte can't do it alone). And while I have zero confidence in Vikes' QB Donovan McNabb, they still have all-day AP (RB Adrian Peterson) and might win a fairly low-scoring affair. Maybe I don't give the Bears enough credit, but do they really deserve it?

What to do about Eagles-Redskins? Philly has to put it together one of these weeks, right? Well, maybe. I'll take the stud QB, the Eagles' Michael Vick, over the not-stud QB, the Skins' Rex Grossman. And Vick just has so many more weapons.

What to do about Bills-Giants? It's basically a pure pick'em game, with the home Giants giving three points to the Bills. (I'm not a gambler, but I know that the home team generally gives three points in an otherwise even game.) In Yahoo! Pick'em, though, the pick distribution overwhelmingly favours Buffalo, 66-34. Well, sure. The Giants are coming off an embarrassing home loss to the lowly Seahawks, while the Bills rebounded after a Week 4 loss to Cincy to beat Philly last week. The Bills are a lovable team, and a sexy team for pick'em and likely also gambling purposes, while the Giants are anything but. This is another one I'm going back and forth on, but I think I've landed on the Giants. They have enough of a pass rush, led by Pro-Bowler Osi Umenyiora at one end of the d-line and second-year sensation Jason Pierre-Paul at the other, to break through Buffalo's overachieving but still fairly weak o-line. Yes, the Bills have weapons on offence, notably RB Fred Jackson and WR Stevie Johnson (not to mention Harvard-educated QB Ryan Fitzpatrick), but so do the Giants, and I just think the G-men will pull off a close win in a high-scoring affair.

I'm tempted to take Pittsburgh as my lock, but Green Bay is the awesomest team going right now, even with its problems on defence.

Upset? Carolina... Minnesota... Carolina... Minnesota... okay... er... uh... ah... Minnesota. McNabb rises to the occasion in prime time (Sunday night), AP wears down the Bears' D, and Cutler scrambles for his life. It'll be ugly, but the Vikes come out on top. Barely.

Now... on to Pittsburgh!

Barry's Tea Leaves

Picks: Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Green Bay, N.Y. Giants, Pittsburgh, Washington, Oakland, Baltimore, New England, New Orleans, Chicago, N.Y. Jets.

Lock of the Week: Green Bay

Upset of the Week: San Francisco.

My upset of the week is San Francisco over the Lions. I really like what Harbaugh is doing with the Niners and the Lions have to lose sometime. I know, really scientific of me. Ravens over Texans. The Texans are a good team, but they are new at being a quality team and seem to trip up when things get serious. I really want the Browns to do well, but the Giants are the only team I get stupid about in terms of sentimentality. The Raiders will beat Cleveland. I said last week that the Eagles were in free fall and I was right. They are losing to any team with any degree of talent, and the Redskins win here based on a bad Philly D, if nothing else. Patriots vs. Cowboys. Patriots may lose when they turn the ball over a bunch of times, but they won't do that again and Dallas won't win this one.

Again, the Falcons are disappointing, Ryan has been disappointing, but they'll still beat the Panthers. Oh, the poor Colts. Best football joke of the week: "Colts QB Curtis Painter looks like a young Gregg Allman and throws like a current Dickey Betts" (Mike Tanier, N.Y. Times). Bengals beat the Colts. Rams vs. Packers? Ummmm. Packers. Steelers vs. Jags? Steelers. Saints vs. Bucs? Saints. Vikings vs. Bears. Much harder to call. Cutler was the Bears last week, but he can't do that every week. And the Vikes may have had a good game, but they are not a good team. Taking out the coin, I say Bears. As for the Dolphins and the Jets, the Dolphins are without a real starting QB and that should be enough for the Jets to dominate.

And then there are my Giants. Man, I cannot believe they lost to Seattle, but they did. You don't turn the ball over that much and beat anybody. And Jacobs and Tuck are out. Still, the G-men win. And why is that you say? Eli will have a good rebound game, as will Bradshaw.

Comfortable Kid:

Picks: Carolina, Cincinnati, Detroit, Green Bay, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Oakland, Baltimore, New England, New Orleans, Chicago, N.Y. Jets.

Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

Should I even bother? I've managed to pick the majority of my "locks" incorrectly thus far this season. It truly saddens me that this is the case, but I'm told that I must press on, push through, and wear a smile as my credibility violently evaporates.
To this end, this week's pick will be Green Bay at home against the Rams. I feel like my taking this seemingly obvious pick somehow promotes the chances of the underdog winning, but it's St. Louis at Lambeau. C'mon, now, Green Bay!

Upset of the Week: Carolina.

I'll take Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to surprise the Falcons at home. Carolina has put up impressive offensive numbers this season (428 yards per game, 5th in the NFL), but their record is 1-4. Alongside many others much smarter than myself, I remain skeptical of Atlanta's alleged prominence. I think they choke here and Cam Newton earns his second win as an NFL starter. 
(Photos: Three guys who could help lead their teams to upsets this week -- Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, Alex Smith of the 49ers, and Steve Smith of the Panthers.)

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  • How could you say my G Men aren't 'lovable'! They showed plenty on love to the Seahawks last week ... thank you Eli.

    I like the Bills ... but have to believe the Giants will right the ship against the team with a Harvard-educated 'liberal elite' at QB!

    Good luck, men!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:52 AM  

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