Last time I identified a number of important games for this week, so I’ll highlight them throughout the picks below. Denver already Tebow-ed the Jets on Thursday, giving me a leg up on Simmons heading into the rest of the weekend.
Over/under: Obviously no games are going to be won or lost depending on the total per se; also, Luigi isn’t so hot when it comes to the total. But I’ll note that there seems to be more votes for the over than usual, which might be a bad sign. On the other hand, while the general belief is that scoring becomes harder later in the season (weather gets worse so passing goes down, so scoring should drop), points scored actually stays pretty steady throughout the season. So maybe the over is a good choice.
Moneyline: This is, unfortunately, the second time that the Lions’ opponent has been picked as a good bet against the moneyline. On the other hand, the other time the opponent was Denver and the Lions crushed them. So hopefully the Panthers roll over as well. Other important games: the Bills need a win to keep pace in the AFC wild card but are only small favorites over Miami. The Raiders are even smaller favorites over the Vikings but need a win to keep up with Denver. Dallas looks like a bit of a better bet to stay alive in the NFC East, but I don’t have it as a freebie.
Spread: Moving to the spread for the remaining games – the Bengals should put up a better fight than expected against the Ravens, although they are missing A.J. Green. The Titans should keep it close against Atlanta, which they’ll need to do if they want to take advantage of Matt Schaub’s injury. I would stay away from Chicago in terms of the spread, but they look to be in a good position to solidify their wild card and help knock the Chargers out of the AFC West race. And finally the Eagles might be able to hang in with the Giants to stay alive, but Luigi doesn’t know that Vick is out. It could be an ugly day for Philly.
Simmons: Bill is apparently all aboard the Tebow train but still picked against him on Thursday. As a side note to his first point about the saber guys: there are two reasons to be ‘confused’ about Tebow. One would be to think that he’s terrible because you only look at his passing stats. That would be natural since he in fact hasn’t even thrown enough passes to qualify for ESPN’s leaderboard and even then only has a quarterback rating of 78, good for 34th (30th if you only count quarterbacks). The other would be to think that Tebow is good because Denver is winning since he took over, even though the numbers say Tebow is not good.
In the three games he won before Thursday, Tebow was only a tiny bit above average. And he won those games! Include his losses and Tebow is solidly in the negative for points but about average for win probability. Why? Because the rest of the team is keeping Denver in those games and he manages to do something at the end to win (see also: forced fumble against Miami, interception returned for touchdown against the Jets). Thus the other way Tebow is ‘confusing’ for the stat-inclined is that everyone considers him clutch or a winner even though he sucks for three quarters of the game (and sometimes more). Denver is 5-5 on the strength of its defense, not Tim Tebow.