Sunday, November 20, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 11 picks

Oh, what's the point. After doing well at this pick'em all year, I was brought back to the reality of this year's frustratingly unpredictable NFL last week with a 7-9 stinker. I have little to no confidence that I have a clue going forward, and that includes this week. So much for my earlier success (e.g., 13-3 in Week 3, 12-4 in Week 4).

But that's just the NFL, right? Consider, as we take a quick look back over the season thus far:

-- Titans over Ravens (Week 2);
-- Bills over Patriots (Week 3);
-- Seahawks over Giants (Week 5);
-- Raiders over Texans (Week 5);
-- Bucs over Saints (Week 6);
-- Jaguars over Ravens (Week 7);
-- Rams over Saints (Week 8);
-- Cardinals over Eagles (Week 10); and
-- Seahawks over Ravens (Week 10).

Every NFL season has its upsets. And there are many more I could have included here. But these were truly stunning results. You could take the first two off the list, perhaps: The Titans have proven to be a surprisingly good team and the Ravens were coming off the high of beating the Steelers in Week 1, and the Bills were a surprisingly good team early in the year and capitalized on four Brady interceptions, as well as a lot of luck. But the rest of those games -- particularly the losses by the Ravens to the Jags and 'Hawks, along with the Saints' loss to the Rams and the Giants' loss (at home) to the 'Hawks? Crazy.

Richard and I were discussing this recently and neither one of us could remember a season with so many losses by supposedly elite teams to some of the supposedly worst teams in the league. I'm sure we're just making too much of the here and now, but this season does seem different, more unpredictable, with even the elite teams vulnerable, all perhaps except the Packers, who are in a super-elite tier of their own.

Don't even get me started on the AFC West, an awful and completely unpredictable division from week to week.

Does this explain my bad Week 10? No, not entirely. Most people got Ravens-Seahawks and Cardinals-Eagles wrong. And it was silly of me to pick the Jets as my upset of the week. Brady and Belichick don't lose three in a row. They just don't. Ever. (And the Jets suck, as we learned in their awful Thursday loss in Denver.) And, yes, I got the two AFC West games wrong, thinking that the Chargers would surely beat the Raiders and that the Chiefs (at home) couldn't possibly lose to Tebow. Whatever.

But it did seem to be an especially crazy week in an especially crazy season.

I would just add this...

Earlier in the season I sweated through a couple of narrow Steelers wins over bad teams, 23-20 over Indy in Week 3 and 17-13 over Jax in Week 6 (with me in attendance at Heinz Field). How could my beloved team be so embarrassingly bad? Well, I don't feel so bad now, not after the Ravens' losses to two terrible teams and the various struggles of the other supposedly elite teams -- again, excepting the Packers, and I suppose also the 49ers and possibly the Texans. Indeed, I take some comfort in the fact that the Steelers haven't lost to a bad team (two losses to the Ravens, one to the Texans)... yet. Now watch them come off the bye next week and lose to the Chiefs (and/or struggle in later weeks against the Browns and Rams). I don't want to think about it.

Why am I making myself sick even during a Steelers bye week? Let's move 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 (not counting this week's Thursday game):

Last week

RKB: 9-7 (plus upset) = 11 points
The Kid: 9-7 (plus upset) = 11 points
MJWS: 7-9 (minus lock) = 5 points

Damn Iggles! I loathe them, but when I need them to win, they lose.

And... Tebow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Dammit.)

Season to date

RKB: 97-49 (6 upsets right, 2 locks wrong) = 105 points
MJWS: 97-49 (4 upsets right, 3 locks wrong) = 99 points
The Kid: 86-60 (3 upsets right, 4 locks wrong) = 84 points

Here are this week's games (along with Thursday's N.Y. Jets at Denver):

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

Stickings' Pickings

Picks: Jacksonville, Detroit, Green Bay, Buffalo, Minnesota, Dallas, Baltimore, St. Louis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, N.Y. Giants, New England.

What can I say that I haven't said already? I could go 10-3 or I could go 3-10 (and I got the Thursday game wrong).

At least the Steelers aren't playing. I'm trying to take the week off from anxiety.

Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

What's the point messing around? It's got to be Green Bay, right? Right. Surely they won't lose this week at home to the floundering Bucs. I can see them losing at Detroit or at the Giants the next two weeks, but unless they're completely off their game today, perhaps looking ahead to the tougher schedule to come, Rodgers & Co. should win this one in a rout.

I'm tempted to take the 49ers, who should be beat the Cards easily, but they just don't scare me. Their D has been excellent (replacing the Steelers as the starting D on my fantasy team), but that offence doesn't put up enough points consistently to make them legitimately an elite team (that 48-3 crushing of the Bucs in Week 5 notwithstanding). I can't see the Cards putting up all that many points with Skelton QBing (even if he had a fine game last week against the apparently hapless Eagles) and an injured Wells carrying the ball against a stout run defence, but you never know.

Upset of the Week: Minnesota.

Miami? Maybe. They're not as bad as their 2-7 record (Matt Moore is proving to be an adequate QB while Reggie Bush is (shockingly) proving to be a decent RB, and their D is pretty solid) and the Bills are on the decline from early-season highs (with back-to-back bad losses to the Jets and Cowboys), but I just think Buffalo has more talent and can get back on track (even if the playoffs are now a longshot for them). And, lest we forget, the Bills did shut out the Redskins a few week ago, beating a much worse team but playing extremely well on both sides of the ball (the Fins beat the 'Skins 20-9 last week), while Miami's wins over a couple of weaker teams recently (Chiefs, Redskins) tend to mask some truly horrible play before that, notably in a Week 7 stinker against Denver (when they basically collapsed in the fourth quarter and OT to let Tebow beat them). 

I think Philly, even with Vince Young at QB, could beat the Giants, but I'm off the Eagles for good after last week. San Diego over Chicago? Maybe, if Rivers ever gets it going. Washington over Dallas? Hard to see, given the 'Skins' woes on offence, but the Cowboys aren't as good as they looked last week against the Bills and at some point the 'Skins are going to get it going on offence, even with Rex Grossman behind center... right? Well, okay, maybe not. Look for DeMarco Murry to rush for 423 yards and Grossman to get sacked nine times (six by DeMarcus Ware). I'm only slightly exaggerating.

No, I'll go with the Vikes at home against the Raiders. Christian Ponder isn't going to put up huge points in the passing game, of course, but AP could dominate the game (and in so doing would help my fantasy team immensely in a must-win week), and Minnesota (usually) has a really good pass rush, certainly enough of one to fluster Carson Palmer and force him into bad mistakes. The wild card is Michael Bush, starting for Oakland again in place of injured Darren McFadden. Like AP, he could be huge -- just like last week, when he ran for 157 and a TD and caught 3 for 85.

Barry's Tea Leaves:

Picks: Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Miami, Oakland, Dallas, Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, N.Y. Giants, New England.

Lock of the Week: Detroit.

Upset of the Week: Miami.

I really wanted to pick Denver over the Jets for last Thursday's game. I dislike the Jets so much and am intrigued by Tebow's success, much as I think it will be short-lived. Couldn't pull the trigger. Couldn't pick Denver. I guess I have to go with my gut more. A little less reason, a little more heart.

I'm picking Cleveland on the basis of pure sentimentality, and, against the Jags, they could win. This one is for my friend Donny who lives outside Binghamton, New York and has season tickets for the Browns. He invited me to a game a few years ago, and it was a great experience. Cleveland: nice city, wonderful people, lousy football team.

The Lions have to beat a team like Carolina, or what's the sense of predicting anything? Then again, Seattle beat Baltimore this year. C'mon, Lions.

Who's going to beat Green Bay? Not Tampa Bay.

I am picking Miami over the Bills. I think Miami is starting to do some things right. Their near-win against the Giants was no fluke. And the Bills are finally coming back to earth. I said earlier in the year, when Buffalo was flying high, that they would be lucky to go 8 and 8. I still think so.

Oakland over Minnesota. Palmer to Moore all day long.

Dallas is coming up. The Redskins are going the other way. I still can't believe the Giants lost to these guys in Week 1. But Rexy had a good day, and these things can happen.

Cincy has had their moments, And the Ravens have had some lapses. Nothing would surprise me in this one. Going Ravens.

Seattle is a much better team that St. Louis. I had such high hopes for Bradford this year. Maybe next year.

San Francisco will beat the Cards. What a funny team, Arizona. The Philly game was wild. Skelton has done well replacing Kolb. I wonder if Kolb will get his job back? It's a cold game. On the Niners, they looked good last week. Giants looked okay too, which means the one, two, three in the NFC is GB, SF, and NY. That's right. You heard me.

Falcons should take care of the Titans. Two 5-4 teams? Yeah, well. I expected more of Atlanta, but they should still win here.

The Bears: We thought they were done. They weren't. The Chargers: we thought they were for real. They're not. Da Bears!

And the Pats will make short work of the Chiefs.

Giants and Eagles. Wow, these guys have some history. I say Giants win. I guess if Vick can't play, that'll be a lot easier. Even if he did play, still the Giants.

Comfortable Kid

Picks: Jacksonville, Detroit, Green Bay, Miami, Oakland, Dallas, Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, N.Y. Giants, New England.

Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

Won't waste your time anymore.

Upset of the Week: Miami.

Buffalo is looking a little soft and apparently Miami isn't terrible. Get at 'em, Dolphins. 

(Photos: DeMarco Murray proving he's much better than Felix Jones; Reggie Bush proving he's much more talented than Kim Kardashian; and Michael Bush proving he's a more-than-adequate replacement for Darren McFadden.)

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  • Ugh. Minnesota could have won that game had AP not gone down early -- bad for my Upset of the Week pick, bad for my fantasy team.

    But Buffalo? Really? They're that bad? I guess so.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 5:53 PM  

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