I get to be back in my comfort zone for this post, getting up on Sunday morning at home with my own internet and getting all the numbers when they’re fully posted instead of looking around on my phone or in a coffee shop while out of town on a Friday or Saturday when half the games are missing info because they don’t know who’s playing and who isn’t. It’s kind of a nice feeling. I can also speculate a bit more about some of the games, which I will as usual alongside the picks below.
Here are the over/under numbers, which you should ignore as usual. This week is a departure from last week in that many more games should be easy wins for one team. Last week only four of the sixteen games had spreads larger than four, and a ridiculous four games had a spread of one. This week, only four games have a spread less than four, and while we only have one double-digit favorite (Dallas over Philly), five games have a team predicted to win by exactly a touchdown. Hopefully that doesn’t stop us from having some entertaining games.
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Speaking of Dallas-Philly, the few articles I’ve read about picking games have been shocked that the Cowboys are favored by 10 against anyone. That’s maybe a little fair, although I could see that line if they were hosting Jacksonville or Kansas City for sure, but I do have the Cowboys as big favorites today. And since the model works on averages and doesn’t know that Vick, McCoy, and Jackson are all out, it seems plausible that you could add a couple points to Luigi’s 7.5 point Dallas victory. Of course, football is a fickle sport and it seems in recent years that the Cowboys are especially fickle. I go with what the model says even in odd circumstances like these, so I’ll recommend the Eagles to cover.
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A more personally relevant game for me is Detroit-Indy. The Lions are favored by a touchdown. I’m not sure why that is; maybe people see the Lions as a good team that happens to have underachieved a little and played a hard schedule while they see the Colts as a bad team that happens to have overachieved and played an easy schedule. And I could see that. But I think the Lions are really playing like a mediocre team this year instead of the good team they were last year, and the Colts are still ok if not as strong as their record says. I like (hope?) the Lions to win, but not by a touchdown. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it happens though.
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I had identified a few important games in terms of playoff seeding in my power ranking post earlier in the week. Seattle-Chicago is kind of a surprising one in that I don’t view the Seahawks as a legitimate playoff team but they still have a decent chance of getting a wild card spot. The models all say that Chicago wins but it’s only by a field goal; a Seattle upset could really help them out here. The Vikings are in something of a must-win since they have little chance of winning the division, so they need wins to stay in the wild card hunt. The Packers are favored by a touchdown, which I think is a little too high. The Vikings will want to win outright though since the playoffs aren’t based on covering the spread (although wouldn’t that be interesting?). Denver and Tampa Bay falls in the same boat in that Denver is predicted to win handily but Tampa really needs a win to stay in the chase. Baltimore-Pittsburgh is about who wins that division, but with Big Ben out I don’t see how the Steelers keep it close (I have Baltimore winning by a touchdown without knowing about the injury). Finally on Monday we’ll have the Giants and Redskins, which is important because I have it as a toss-up game. If the Redskins manage to win the East will become much more up for grabs, but if the Giants win I think they’ll have a pretty solid grasp of it.
Finally we have Bill Simmons’ picks. While being more or less pointless as a strategy (at least, I would guess), I do enjoy when Bill says he’ll make bets based on sports narrative. Take a look at the section for the Saints-Falcons game for an example. I guess we’ll see if Bill goes with the Saints to beat the Giants outright next week.
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