Here are my NFL Week 10 Picks
(9-4 last week, 86-46 for the season)
Bye teams: Falcons, Colts, Chargers, 49ers
Buf @ NYJ – I can’t stand Rex Ryan. The attitude, the foot fetish, the Bills truck, and now the Clemson helmet; it’s all a giant spectacle, and I can’t respect a coach who asks for that much attention. Make your team great, prove your worth, stop being simply a name that people recognize instead of a high-quality coach. The guy was kicked out of New York for a reason, and it isn’t all the fault of bad drafts & questionable GM decisions. You want respect? Win games. Period. Now, Buffalo hasn’t done too terribly this year, they’re 4-4, have played surprisingly well offensively, but aren’t holding anyone on defense and are a long shot to make the playoffs. The Jets meanwhile, Rex’s old team, are slightly better, have a better defense, and can steer themselves towards a Wild Card spot with a big win here. Fitzpatrick, Ivory, Marshall, Decker; the Jets can score points, and with a defense to compliment the offense, this team can say that they’re completely legitimate. I know there’s the hype surrounding the Return of Rex, but I have to pick the better team here, especially playing at home.
Jax @ Bal – The Jaguars are 0-4 on the road so far this season. There are three other teams in the league that are winless away from home, and they all have a lot in common, that sort of inability stemming from similar problems. Defense is one of them, as Jacksonville allows 30 points per game, while not scoring enough to be a team that can win a barnburner. Blake Bortles has actually done fairly well this year, with 17 TDs and 10 INTs, but the running game hasn’t complimented him, and the defense never allows him to do anything but put the team on his back & try to sling his way to a win. The Ravens aren’t much better, same record anyway, although statistically Baltimore is a little better in multiple categories. The Ravens have had a historically awful year, and now with Steve Smith on IR they don’t have much of a shot at the playoffs. Some would say they have no shot whatsoever, but they’re only 2 & 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for a Wild Card spot, and could shake things up were they to string together a bunch of wins. One last week, one here perhaps, at home vs the Rams next week; stranger things have happened.
Det @ GB – Detroit has a net point total of -96, which means they’ve score 96 less points than they have allowed on the season. That’s the worst in the league except for San Francisco at -97, and shows just how bad a team can be on both sides of the ball. Detroit is also in sole possession of the league’s worst record at 1-7, losing 3 out of 4 at home and going winless on the road. Bad in every category and firing executives like it’s a hostile takeover, the Lions should start planning for next year, and that plan should include replacing every player & coach currently on the team. The Packers could score 80 points this Sunday, and I say that for a variety of reasons. Yes Detroit is that bad, but Green Bay is also that mad, losing their last two in extremely tough road games vs the best defense in the league. They showed that they still know how to score, and I feel like Rodgers might be playing for something a little extra in this matchup, as his pride might have taken a bit of a hit over the last few games. Look for the Pack to dominate in every area from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.
Mia @ Phi – For the briefest of moments, it looked like the Dolphins might have figured something out. Coming into the season, there were some really high hopes surrounding this team, with what could become an incredible offense and a solid defense to match. Well, none of that was realized. The team stumbled out of the gate, eventually their head coach was fired, and it looked like all was lost. But then they played with renewed vigor and it seemed like a change in leadership might have been exactly what they needed. But THEN they lost two games in a row and everything hopeful faded away. So Miami has returned to being a disappointing team and will try it all again next year. The Eagles seemed to be heading in the same direction, falling far short of expectations, threatening everyone’s jobs. But a bye week and a big win coming off of it have jumpstarted this team, or at least appears to have. Will they go the same way as the Dolphins, perk up a bit just to fail again? This matchup will go a long way to deciding that, and I’m going with Philly, at home, riding the momentum, and picking up a win.
Cle @ Pit – It says something about the Browns that I would choose them to lose this game whether McCown or Manziel starts, while I would choose the Steelers to win whether any three of the QBs on their roster starts. Basically any of the three options for Pittsburgh are better options that Cleveland’s two, and the Steelers are the better team by such a margin that not even losing their #1 guy and benching their #2 guy is enough to make them underdogs in this matchup. It helps that they’re playing at home, but I might still pick them were they playing in the land of the Cleves. The poor Browns can’t do anything right, while the Steelers lose two of their best offensive players (Big Ben & Le’Veon Bell) and keep right on rolling. That’s about culture, and I can’t point to exactly what Pittsburgh has done right, but it’s obviously something, as their whole mentality screams win, while the mentality in Cleveland has been lose for a long, long time. I don’t mean to belittle the Browns, I think the AFC North would be so more fun were they a competitive team. But they aren’t, sadly, and they shouldn’t win this game.
Chi @ STL – As bad as the Chargers are, I was shocked that the Bears were able to go into San Diego and come out with a win. Cutler is Cutler after all, and doesn’t inspire much confidence. And Matt Forte didn’t play, adding to the assumption that Chicago was most likely going to be completely inept in every phase. But Langford stepped up, played well, Cutler didn’t implode, and the defense did just enough to win a tough road game. The Bears are actually undefeated vs the AFC, which is weird, especially when you consider that they’re winless vs the NFC, which feels much more right. That’s good news for the Rams, an NFC opponent, and one who needs to get back on a win streak. St. Louis is only two games out of first place in their division, but have Seattle breathing down their necks, and can’t afford to miss a nice, easy, home win when it’s dropped into their laps. Thankfully, Gurley has put this team on his back, and the defense has stepped up to allow only 18 points per game. Heck, even Nick Foles should be able to find some passing windows against this bad Bears team.
Dal @ TB – I assume every football fan has completely lost any hope that the Cowboys could still salvage this season. If they were going to, with all their injuries, they needed to break this 6-game skid and show opponents that they can’t just be pushed around. Well, Brandon Weeden & Matt Cassell sure failed to do that, and can’t be trusted to do anything good in almost any situation. Dez is back, DMC is running well, but it’s not enough, and the ‘Boys keep losing. Romo comes back soon, but it’ll take him some time to knock the rust off, and by then the season might be over for all intents & purposes. Big D is done, they just haven’t stopped kicking quite yet. The Bucs are done too, but at least every game can be seen as another chance to improve & prepare for next year. These young guys need reps, and perhaps Jameis will show some improvement as the year winds to a close and can take that knowledge into 2016. For now, Tampa has a slight advantage, with this being a home game and with having a slightly better offense. Neither team deserves a strong bet, but the edge goes to the Bucs.
Car @ Ten – Man do the Panthers like to let games get closer than they ought to be. Shoulda creamed Indy; let them take the game into overtime. Were killing the Pack; let Rodgers go berserk and almost let it all slip away. This Carolina team is legit, but they need to learn a lesson from the Patriots; don’t take your foot off the pedal. You let up and you let your opponent stay in the game. This is the NFL, even bad teams can be good, don’t let them hang around when you’ve dominated for 50 minutes. So hopefully they’ll learn that lesson, and this week might be the time to put it to the test. The Panthers get to travel to the Titans, a team that can’t score to save their lives, putting up the least points in the AFC. So there won’t be any barrages of last-minute touchdowns here, though Tennessee does have a fine defense that can keep games closer than they ought to be. Mariota is improving but needs time, and even a home game shouldn’t be enough to keep the mighty Panthers at bay, not with the way Cam is winning right now. He’s running like a madman, and the Titans aren’t good enough to stop him.
NO @ Was – This is a simple matter of home/away splits. New Orleans has been solid at home this season, at least until last week, when 3-1 became 3-2 and they lost a little of that sparkle they had been working on since starting the season off so terribly. But on the road is even worse. The Saints are 1-3 away from home, as their defense lets anyone score at any time and their offense doesn’t exactly translate. To be a playoff team, you need to win some tough road games, and this New Orleans team just doesn’t fit the bill. On the flip side, the Redskins are 3-1 at home, which accounts for all their wins on the season. Ouch, I know, but that doesn’t mean this game can’t go their way, and in fact I think it will. Kirk Cousins asked us if we liked that, promptly laid an egg in New England, and could be playing with a bit more of a level head this week. Add in a defense that isn’t awful and you’ve got a real chance to beat a Saints team that hates to be away from the Big Easy. Oh, and New Orleans allows 30 points per game, which is just unacceptable. Washington with the win.
Min @ Oak – The Broncos have allowed the least total points this year at only 139. Second place goes to the Seahawks & the Vikings at 140. Everyone knows how well the Denver D has been this season, the Legion of Boom is relatively famous, but Minnesota’s stellar defensive unit has gone mostly under the radar. It has kept a young and fluid team relevant in the NFC, despite an offense that struggles to put up points, and has actually helped the Vikings share the lead in the NFC North. Playoffs here we come. But a mediocre road record could keep this team from doing much damage in January, and the Raiders might take advantage of that right here. Oakland scores points in bunches, something Minnesota can’t do, and Derek Carr has the ability to win games when they become close, thanks to two receivers having great years, Cooper & Crabtree. With such a good defense, the Vikings should be better away from home, but they can’t seem to score enough to keep up in tight games, something that the Raiders have proven they can do and frequently use to their advantage.
KC @ Den – After two straight wins and a bye week, the Chiefs will look to knock off the Broncos and sneak upwards in the AFC West. Andy Reid has been historically excellent coaching his team coming off a bye week, but that trend has taken a bit of a dip lately, included a big loss to the Broncos when the Chiefs were undefeated. And this might not exactly be the year to get that streak back on track. KC lost Jamaal Charles, they’re only 1-3 on the road for the season, and the Broncos are coming off a loss that they’ll look to rebound from. After looking like they finally figured it all out with a big win vs Green Bay, Denver laid an egg in Indy. Peyton looked sloppy, Luck played like a man who didn’t seem to care if someone lacerated his spleen, and Talib’s bonehead play at the end of the game ruined any chance at a miracle comeback. The Broncos will be playing with extra fire this week vs a division opponent, will look to get Vernon Davis even more involved, and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Peyton has his first zero-interception game of the season.
NE @ NYG – There’s no picking against the Patriots until they show any weakness, something that hasn’t happened yet this year. They did lose their scat back for the season, but should be able to replace him easily; when was the last time you saw the Pats miss a beat because of an injury? Even when Tom Brady went down in 2008 the horrendous Matt Cassell looked good. Part magic, part genius, and part cheating, New England is the constant team to beat, and I’m sure every other club in the league can’t wait for the day that Brady & Belichick both retire. But, if one team knows how to beat the Patriots, it’s the Giants. Those Super Bowls were epic, with the G-Men defying all the odds, beating the best team in football despite being totally overmatched. How do they do it? A combination of team momentum and QB pressure I suppose, something that I’m sure they wish they could achieve earlier in the year. But that’s just it, New York plays better in the postseason than in the regular season, and I’m not going to be the guy that picks against the Patriots when they look as unbeatable as they do now.
Ari @ Sea – People can point to the Bengals & the Panthers, and they deserve all the recognition that they get. But other than the Patriots, the Cardinals are the best team in football. I know they have two losses, and they aren’t perfect by any means. But they have the enviable combination of abilities to score at will and slam the door in your face on defense. Palmer is playing well, the D is lights out, they’re good both at home & on the road, they’re winning the NFC West, and this Arizona team could do well this January. Now, the Seahawks might have something to say about that, and they could speak up this week. Seattle is currently two games out of first place, and would love to take a step up the ladder. Following two big wins & a bye week, Seattle is healthy, rested, riding momentum, and not looking back. Actually, the Cardinals have won the last two and had a bye week as well, but the big difference here is home field advantage. The Seahawks dominate at home, have for years, and know how important this game is. Pete Carroll is a great coach and will have made key adjustments to win this game.
Hou @ Cin – It seems silly, but at 3-5 the Texans are only a half game out of first place in the AFC South. And with Andrew Luck out the next 6 weeks, the division is theirs for the taking. Neither the Jags nor the Titans are going to put up much of a fight for it, so it’s up to Houston to grab the reins and hold on. They can do it, they aren’t a completely terrible team, and they seem to have found their QB in Brian Hoyer. Not that he’s amazing, but he doesn’t have to be, not with a defense that hasn’t played their best football yet and could turn it on at any moment. This week would be a good time for that, because Houston is probably about to lose. The Bengals are the second best team in the AFC and Andy Dalton refuses to stop being good. Usually we see a collapse from Dalton, a week where the Bengals become the Bungles, when the train jumps the track. But it hasn’t happened yet this year, and even if Cinci loses a game or two down the stretch, it might not be of the disastrous type we’ve become accustomed to seeing. I’m picking Cincinnati until they show me why I shouldn’t.