Sunday, October 30, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 8 picks

This week features yet another addition of the Bills in Toronto series. I'm not a Bills fan, but I do live in the Toronto area. And I can't even begin to tell you how much this series, how much the Bills playing in Toronto, pisses me off. Okay, I can... let me begin:

I don't necessarily object to Toronto having an NFL team (though I would of course remain a Steelers fan). But there is the CFL to think about, a league with a lot of history in this country (the Grey Cup is much, much older than the Super Bowl), and I just don't think enough concern is being given to the future of that league. It is far more popular out west, as well as in Quebec, but it's hard to imagine a CFL without a Toronto franchise. Would an NFL team mean the end of the CFL in Toronto? Not necessarily, but a) I don't think the NFL needs to expand (and certainly not overseas to Europe), b) I don't think any NFL team should move (except perhaps Jacksonville, which never should have gotten a team in the first place), and c), if an NFL team does move, I'm not sure Toronto is the right destination. We're a big enough city, one of the largest in North America, and we'd likely be able to support a team, but there just isn't the passion here that is found in most NFL cities, including in Buffalo, where the fan base is loyal and intense. Down there, the Bills mean everything. Up here, they're a sideshow. It would be such a shame if we were to get the Bills, a black mark on the league.

Look, I'm not putting down Toronto. This is a great city -- dynamic, cosmopolitan, multicultural. But we don't need the NFL. And we certainly don't need the Bills. I get that the Bills need money and that playing in Toronto, even just one game a year, helps. But they need to be at Ralph Wilson Stadium, not at Rogers Centre (formerly known as SkyDome). Particularly this year, when they're actually a good team and in the playoff hunt. The energy at the Ralph is incredible. It'll be "home" game for them against the 'Skins today, but it won't feel like it. That makes Toronto look bad and isn't at all good for the Bills, not to mention for the people of Buffalo who live and die with every play.

Otherwise, who saw that Jacksonville win over the Ravens coming? Honestly, that first half was possibly the worst half of NFL football I've ever seen. It was simply atrocious. I suppose a lot of credit is due the Jags' D, but Baltimore is simply inept on offence. How exactly did they thrash the Steelers so handily in Week 1? Well, by getting up for the game, as they always do against their chief rival (and a team that has beaten them repeatedly in recent years, enjoying a great deal of success, 2-1 in three Super Bowls, while the Ravens have flamed out again and again). And by benefitting from an embarrassing performance from the Black 'n' Gold. The Ravens should get back on track this week against a reeling Cardinals' team that is going absolutely nowhere even in the worst division in the league.

Three other thoughts about last week:

1) I wrote last Sunday that while I watch at least some of every game each week I was probably going to make an exception for Seahawks-Browns. I flipped by it, just to see how my Browns pick was doing, but that 6-3 masterpiece of terribleness proved my point. It was enough to turn you off football, temporarily.

2) The Saints. Wow. Then again... the Colts. Wow, in a bad way. What else is there to say? Grantland's Bill Barnwell: "For all intents and purposes, this might actually be the most impressive pure offensive performance in NFL history."

3) Tim Tebow sucked last week. Let me repeat that: Tim Tebow sucked last week. Yes, yes, he engineered that comeback win, but he did so against an appallingly bad team in the Dolphins. They should be ashamed of themselves for such a pitiful performance on that last drive, allowing Tebow, who could barely throw straight, to look competent. And then not having a LB on him on the 2-point conversion? Seriously. How is that possible? The entire Miami coaching staff should have been fired. It's not that Tebow had God (his "God") behind him, it's that he had the Dolphins in front of him. 

Okay, a fourth:

4) I'm sick of all things Tim Tebow. And, basically, sick of Tim Tebow himself. Enough already. Let him prove himself. Let him prove he doesn't suck. And stop, for fuck's sake... stop talking about him as if he's the football incarnation of the divine. He isn't. He sucks.

And a fifth:

5) Tim Tebow is the walrus. Coo-coo-ca-choo. (That's my Tebowism for the day.)

And with that, on 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

MJWS: 8-5 = 8 points
RKB: 7-6 = 7 points
The Kid: 7-6 = 7 points

Not a great week for us.

Season to date

RKB: 71-32 (3 upsets right, 1 locks wrong) = 75 points
MJWS: 71-32 (2 upsets right, 1 locks wrong) = 73 points
The Kid: 63-40 (2 upsets right, 3 locks wrong) = 61 points

Here are this week's games:

Indianapolis at Tennessee
New Orleans at St. Louis
Miami at N.Y. Giants
Minnesota at Carolina
Arizona at Baltimore
Jacksonville at Houston
Washington at Buffalo (in Toronto)
Detroit at Denver
New England at Pittsburgh
Cleveland at San Francisco
Cincinnati at Seattle
Dallas at Philadelphia
San Diego at Kansas City

Stickings' Pickings

Picks: Tennessee, New Orleans, N.Y. Giants, Carolina, Baltimore, Houston, Buffalo, Detroit, New England, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Kansas City.

A lot of favourites this week, but, really, who wants to pick against the Titans, Saints, Giants, Ravens, Texans, Bills, and Lions?

Maybe I'm playing it too safe. After all, Miami could pull off the upset at the Meadowlands. Maybe that atrocious performance against Tebow & Co. is enough to get them going -- maybe they're professional enough, and have enough pride in themselves, to put up a fight.

And, you know, I'm not sold on the Vikings as a terrible team. Ponder isn't bad and they have a decent D. I don't expect them to stop Cam Newton and Steve Smith on the road, but to me they're a team that can pull off an upset every now and then, particularly when Peterson is on a roll (which he often is) and when that pass rush gets going.

And Houston? I just don't know. They handled the Steelers a few weeks ago, and on paper they're a much better team than the Jags, but the Jags have some spunk, don't they? Yeah, okay, fine, Houston clobbered Tennessee 41-7 last week. Forget it.

And Buffalo in Toronto? They should beat Washington, right? I mean, look at the Redskins' offence right now: John Beck at QB, Ryan Torain and Roy Helu at RB, no Santana Moss at WR. Fred Davis isn't bad at TE, but there's just no way they keep up with the high-flyin' Bills, right? Unless the terrible atmosphere at Rogers Centre sucks the life out of Buffalo.

And here's hoping Detroit's much-ballyhooed D-line crushes Tebowmania.

Lock of the Week: New Orleans. If the over/under for the Saints is 62, the number they put up last week, I'll take the under, but they should still be able to score at will against a horrendous Rams team that some morons picked to win the NFC West. (Yes, I was one of those morons.)

My #2 would be Baltimore. Ray Lewis will blare "In the Air Tonight" even louder than usual and kick the shit (figuratively, we hope) out of Joe Flacco if the offence does what it did last Monday in Jacksonville.

Upset of the Week: Hmmm.

Okay, time to talk about the Steelers, my beloved Steelers. Can they beat the Patriots? Sure. New England doesn't have much of a pass rush, which means Big Ben should have time to make things happen -- and he's having a fantastic season so far, minus that Week 1 Ravens disaster. And one of these days, I hope, I really, really hope, the Steelers' D is going to take over a game and prove it hasn't lost much from years past. But this week? Without James Harrison and with youngsters starting on the D-line? Probably not. A shootout is possible, and I'd take Brady in a shootout. The Steelers just haven't put together a full game this year -- other than the win over an overrated Titans team a couple of weeks ago. And Belichick and the Pats know how to beat the Steelers, even in Pittsburgh. I see the same thing happening this week that happened last year. The Patriots move the ball extremely well, jump out to a big lead, and put up a lot of points. I sit on my couch wallowing in misery. The Steelers get it going a bit late and put up some garbage-time points, and the final score makes them look better than they were, but it's a bitter loss and not a good way to head into a rematch with the Ravens next week.

So no upset for the Steelers.

Who else? I'd say Dallas, but I'm going with Philadelphia at home and, besides, our upsets are meant to be real upsets. Dallas over Philly wouldn't qualify.

So basically it's either Seattle at home (a tough place to play, particularly for a not-very-good team with a rookie QB like the Bengals) or Kansas at home on MNF against a typically disappointing Chargers team (disappointing to Chargers fans, that is, as many of the rest of us love watching them come up short). I'll go with:

Kansas City.

Seattle just can't score, as we saw last week, and while I'm picking the Seahawks I'm not terribly confident they can pull this one off. (And Andy Dalton and the Bengals are actually a decent team.) Meanwhile, the Chiefs have rebounded from an awful start to the season, awful in part because of injuries to core players like Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki. Cassel wasn't good last week in their 28-0 drubbing of the Raiders (a drubbing aided by six Oakland interceptions), but there's still some talent on offence and, at home, a tough place for visiting teams to play, they may be able to keep up with a Chargers team that hasn't exactly been on fire this year. 

Barry's Tea Leaves

Picks: Tennessee, New Orleans, N.Y. Giants, Carolina, Baltimore, Houston, Buffalo, Detroit, New England, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Dallas, Kansas City.

Lock of the Week: New Orleans.

Upset of the Week: Kansas City.

Last week was a disaster for picking games for probably almost everyone. How many people really saw Atlanta over Detroit or K.C. blowing out Oakland, let alone that ridiculous Ravens-Jaguars game? Crazy week. I guess that's why they play the game. I just made that up. Do you like it? Feel free to use it anytime.

Anyway, on to Week 8:

Titans vs. Colts: Man, what can anyone say about the Colts? That the Colts probably couldn't play any worse than they did against New Orleans last week is hardly an endorsement. Having said that, the Titans looked like crap against Houston, too, so they are perfectly capable of losing this game. I had to play Hasselbeck because Eli was on a bye last Sunday and I was not thrilled with the outcome. Something like six fantasy points. Still, the Colts are so bad, it's got to be the Titans.

Saints vs. Rams: Not that the Rams were going to win this one anyway, but without Sam Bradford this could get silly. The only interesting question might be whether New Orleans can top 100 points over two weeks. Wonder how often that's happened.

New York Giants vs. Dolphins: Again, no one will picking Miami for this one, but having watched the Giants blow a game to the pathetic Seahawks, I'll be nervous. You do not want to be the first win for a winless team. Really, with the Giants going into the really hard part of their schedule, blowing out Miami might give us a sense they are up for the challenge.

Panthers vs. Vikings: Wow, this one could go either way. Ponder has been okay. AP could really break out against this Panthers defense. And Cam Newton and Steve Smith have been making things happen, and Minnesota has a lousy pass defence. I'm going to say Carolina in a relatively high-scoring affair, with no degree of confidence in my pick.

Ravens vs. Cardinals: Baltimore just has to come back this week. That Jags game was sad. But the Ravens will rebound. My guess is that they knock Kolb down a lot in part because Beanie Wells is out and the Ravens D should be able to tee off. Mostly, the Cards aren't that good and the Ravens are going to be loaded for bear.

Jaguars vs. Texans: Houston should win with a lot of their success based on pressuring Gabbert.

Bills vs. Redskins: This game will be taking place in my hometown of Toronto -- not that I'll be going. It will be an interesting game between two teams that were beating expectations early in the season maybe coming back down to earth a bit. Tim Hightower and Santana Moss are both out for the 'Skins. I'm not sold on Beck, but he's their guy. When you live in Toronto, Buffalo is kind of your NFL home team, so you can watch all their games. Believe me, I really want them to do well, but don't expect much more than a 9-7 final record. If Fred Jackson steps up, that could matter. So, what do I think here? I think Buffalo without too much difficulty.

Lions vs. Broncos: I'm actually starting to worry about the Lions. So much hype, such limited experience coping with national media attention. And then there's Tebow. Terrible for 57 minutes. Okay for three minutes against an awful team. The Tebow era indeed. The Lions will win this. With Tebow taking off in the open field, look for Detroit to have him on a stretcher before the end of the first half.

New England vs. Pittsburgh: I'm picking New England because I don't like to bet against Brady. Still, this is not the Patriots of old, and the Steelers are starting to get back on track. Wouldn't blame anyone for picking Pittsburgh. I'm going with New England.

San Francisco vs. Cleveland: Wow, what to make of the 49ers? They are going to make short work of Cleveland. Great to see a franchise like San Francisco break out.

Cincinnati vs. Seattle: Cincy is just quietly winning games. And Seattle is just pretty bad. No mystery here.

Dallas vs. Philadelphia: I'm picking Dallas, but it should be a great game. It'll be interesting to see if DeMarco Murray can do it again. If he can, and the Cowboys don't have to rely on an erratic Romo, that could be the key. And then there is Vick, who makes every game unpredictable. Could go any which way, but, like I said, Dallas is starting to play well, and the Eagles are streaky.

Kanses City vs. San Diego: I'm picking K.C. as my upset. San Diego just laid down against the Jets and the Chiefs have turned things around nicely and, my guess is, will go the extra mile for a win here.

Comfortable Kid

Picks: Tennessee, New Orleans, N.Y. Giants, Carolina, Baltimore, Houston, Buffalo, Denver, New England, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, San Diego.

Lock of the Week: New Orleans. So far this season, the Saints are averaging 34.1 points per game, while the Rams are managing a league-worst 9.3 (yikes!) points per game. The Rams also have the second-worst defense in the league. This should be a blowout.

Upset of the Week: I'll take Seattle to beat Cincinnati. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is playing on the road in a tough stadium. It's sad to say that I'm hoping Tarvaris Jackson makes the start for the Seahawks, who may give them the best chance to win. Let's see how she goes...

(Photos: A few pics from last Monday's awesome Saints performance, from the Saints page at Yahoo! Sports -- QB Drew Brees and RB Darren Sproles -- and, in a pretty awesome shot, backup LB Jonathan Casillas celebrating a sack. If you're a Saint, or a Saints fan, there was a lot to celebrate.) 

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