Our real and spectacular Week 10 picks
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 12, 2009
The competitive, big-game NFL we all know and love returns this week after more than a month of mongrels on the schedule.
Patriots-Colts highlight the slate, of course, as it seems to do every year. But we also have a compelling battle in the NFC (Dallas-Green Bay), a showdown in the AFC North (Cincinnati-Pittsburgh) and a cross-country inter-conference contest with playoff implications (Philadelphia-San Diego).
Oh, sure, some folks will be subjected to Kansas City-Oakland and others will witness the Saints waterboard the Rams. But otherwise, not a bad week ... finally.
For our part, we recovered last week, barely, from our Week 8 disaster. We went 8-5 straight up in Week 9 and 7-6 against the spread. We did accurately predict the outcome of Thursday night's Bears-49ers game, predicting a four-point win for San Francisco (24-20). They won 10-6. In fact, our analysis of that game was pretty much dead on, though the offenses were worse than even we anticipated.
That gives us an 89-41 (.685) mark straight up this year and a 72-58 (.554) record ATS. We're not killing it this year, but we have posted a winning mark ATS in seven of nine weeks this season. That's pretty good, if we do say so ourselves.
Atlanta (-1.5) at Carolina
A couple weeks ago, this looked a gimme in favor of the Falcons. This week? Not so much.
The Panthers are 3-2 since starting 0-3, but they haven't exactly impressed people with a 3-point win over Washington, a 7-point win over Tampa, and a loss at home to Buffalo (20-9). Carolina earned its signature victory this year with a 34-21 win two weeks ago at Arizona, though it took Kurt Warner's five-pick meltdown to make it happen.
Carolina does have a key match-up in its favor this week: the Panthers are one of the best teams in the NFL running the ball (4.73 YPA, 6th); the Falcons are one of the worst teams in the league stopping the run (4.47 YPA, 24th). Plus, the soft Atlanta pass defense will make life tolerable for the inconsistent Jake Delhomme, leading to a high-scoring affair.
But the Falcons have more weapons on both sides of the ball and a more trustworthy player behind center.
Atlanta 30, Carolina 27
Tampa Bay at Miami (-9.5)
The Josh Freeman Era in Tampa is off to a rousing start, in the wake of the team's first victory since the U.S. unemployment rate was just 7 percent.
It won't last. The Bucs are one of the worst teams in the league stopping the run – 23rd in our Defensive Hog Index and 30th against the run (4.81 YPA). The Dolphins are at their best when they can count on the ground game and Miami's wildcat will run wild in this intra-state, inter-conference showdown.
Miami 30, Tampa 21
Detroit at Minnesota (-16.5)
The Lions are 0-4 on the road this year, losing by an average of 20 points per game. It's really sad when you consider that the only Quality Team they've faced on the road was the Saints back in Week 1.
BrettFavre, meanwhile, found the soft underbelly of the pathetic Detroit pass defense much to his liking in their first encounter. He completed 23 of 27 passes back in a 27-13 Week 2 victory. It was the most accurate day (85.2%) in his interminable 47-year career.
The Favrkings will easily pick apart the paupers of the pigskin jungle at home.
Minnesota 38, Detroit 17
Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets (-6.5)
It's been a rough stretch for the Jaguars – they were smoked 41-0 by the Seahawks, barely edged out the Rams at home (23-20), handed the Titans their first win of the season and then slipped past another bottom feeder, Kansas City, at home (24-21). Those games won't inspire much confidence.
With all that said, the Jets are hardly a team you can count on to win by a touchdown. The team's season has meandered like the Passaic River since reaching its high-water mark with a 16-9 win over the Patriots back in Week 2.
Both teams are undermanned at the only position that matters, quarterback. But the Jaguars possess one of the best ground games in football (5.17 YPA, 2nd) and will be able to forge a tight battle in the Meadowlands.
N.Y. Jets 21, Jacksonville 20
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-6.5)
If not for the New England-Indy epic, this AFC North showdown would be the game of the week.
The Bengals have captured just one division title since 1990 (2005), while the Steelers spit out playoff appearances like teeth after a bench-clearing hockey brawl. So the 6-2 Bengals want to prove they belong on top and prove that their 23-20 Week 3 win over Pittsburgh was no fluke. The 6-2 Steelers want to maintain the natural order of the universe.
The biggest battle in any game goes in Pittsburgh's favor in this one: Big Ben is in the midst of what could go down as the best season of his Hall of Fame career. He averages 8.76 YPA this year, second only to Drew Brees (8.82 YPA); his 104.1 passer rating is fourth in the NFL; and his 70.61 completion percentage is tops in the league. In fact, he's on pace to set the single-season completion record held by – yup – former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson (70.55 in 1982).
Big Ben still suffers more than his share of mistakes – the Steelers are 21st in Negative Pass Plays (10.2% of dropbacks end in a sack or INT). But the Bengals don't have enough defensive horses to exploit this weakness, while the Steelers – 3-1 vs. Quality Teams – have enough juice to wake Cincy up from its dreamy reverie of competence.
Pittsburgh 23, Cincinnati 20
New Orleans (-13.5) at St. Louis
Do we really need to analyze this game?
The Saints have one of the best passing attacks in football and field what has easily been the best pass defense in football all year (55.8 Defensive Passer Rating and league-leading 16 picks).
Marc Bulger will complete fewer than half his passes with three picks as the Saints torture the Rams in thier own personal gridiron Gitmo.
New Orleans 40, St. Louis 3
Buffalo at Tennessee (-6.5)
Colonel Comey put it best in our Week 10 Power Rankings: "The Michael Vick-to-Buffalo talk served as a reminder that the Bills are still actually an active member of the NFL."
Yes, Buffalo gets no national love or attention, and they deserve every bit of it that they don't get. More sadly, this is a bad, bad match-up for the Bills: they're dead last against the run, surrendering 5.14 YPA on the ground. And here comes the NFL's best ball carrier and the league's top-rated rushing attack (5.37 YPA).
Our take? Chris Johnson treats the Bills defense the same way Tom Cable treats ex-wives and assistant coaches, smacking them around for 200 yards on the ground and three TDs, as the Titans win their third straight.
Tennessee 28, Buffalo 16
Denver (-3.5) at Washington
If you're looking for a cheap trip to Washington, the Denver bandwagon is offering two-for-one specials in the wake of consecutive losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The Redskins, however, are the worst 2-6 team in NFL history (sure, we just pulled that statement out of our ass) and pose little threat, even against the reeling Broncos.
You'll be able to hear the Denver sousaphone section quietly warming up after an easy victory.
Denver 26, Washington 17
Kansas City at Oakland (-1.5)
Remember when Chiefs-Raiders was a highly anticipated AFL/AFC West showdown? No? Neither do we. But the history books tell us it was once a big game.
These two teams are bad almost everywhere, but no unit is as bad as Oakland's Stone Age-style passing game (league-low 50.8 offensive passer rating). This game will make Thursday night's awful Chicago-San Francisco "game" look like an offensive clinic.
The Chiefs will eke out a win by the bay, avenging their home loss to the Raiders earlier this year, as Matt Cassel is sacked for a safety one fewer times than JaMarcus Russell.
Kansas City 4, Oakland 2
Seattle at Arizona (-8.5)
These teams are statistical equals in many of our Quality Stats. But they're certainly not equals on the field. Arizona is 5-3 overall and 2-1 against Quality Opponents. Seattle is 3-5 overall and 0-3 against Quality Opponents, getting smoked in those three games by an average of 21 points.
The Cardinals romped, 27-3, last month in Seattle, controlling the clock for nearly 43 minutes. They won't repeat that performance this week, but they will emerge in firm control of the NFC West.
Arizona 28, Seattle 17
Dallas (-2.5) at Green Bay
We love our Quality Stats, coddling them like a swaddle-wrapped baby child or a bottle of Jim Beam. But at the end of the day the only stats that matter are found each week on the scoreboard. And it's in this area that the Packers, dominant in so many statistical areas, fail miserably.
Green Bay is No. 2 in our Defensive Hog Index (Dallas is No. 11); Green Bay is No. 7 in Defensive Passer Rating (Dallas is No. 22); Green Bay is No. 4 in Passer Rating Differential (Dallas is No. 12); Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, boasts a 103.3 passer rating, fifth in the NFL (Tony Romo is No. 8, 95.8).
But none of it's translated on the field, where the Packers have padded the stats against lousy teams and then buckled at the knees like a stroke victim against Quality Opponents. Green Bay's victories have come against Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland – a veritable who's who of pro football losers. But the Packers 0-3 against Quality Teams.
Dallas has its own fair share of issues, especially on defense (22nd in Defensive Passer Rating). So Aaron Rodgers will chew up plenty of yards through the air, but it won't translate to victory ... again.
Dallas 27, Green Bay 26
Philadelphia at San Diego (-2.5)
This might be the most interesting inter-conference game of the year: two teams that harbor hopes of greatness, but that so far have underwhelmed with 5-3 records and second-place positions in their respective divisions. Both teams are also extremely unpredictable.
It's tough for teams to win on those cross-country trips, as the Eagles proved a month ago when they lost at Oakland, the most embarrassing defeat in the NFL this year this side of 59-0.
However, statistically speaking, the match-ups favor the Eagles. They have the best Defensive Hogs in the business, while the Chargers field the worst rushing attack in the NFL (3.06 YPA). Yes, it's safe to say that LT is on the back nine.
Philly will make San Diego one-dimensional and eke out a road win.
Philadelphia 24, San Diego 23
New England at Indianapolis (-2.5)
Our instinct tell us that the old-school Patriots, once the best big-game team in pro football history, are slowly regaining their mojo and that the one-dimensional offense of the Colts is vulnerable.
But the Cold, Hard Football Facts say otherwise:
The Colts possess one of the best pass defenses in football – fourth in Defensive Passer Rating while surrendering a league-low 4 TD passes and just 5.79 YPA (second). However, six of their eight games have come against low-quality quarterbacks.
So it sets up the biggest statistical battle of Sunday night: the great Tom Brady vs. the great but wounded Indy pass defense.
The New England pass defense, meanwhile, has improved dramatically in recent weeks, but presents less of an obstacle for Peyton Manning than the Indy pass defense does for Brady.
At the end of the day, the Colts crank out victories much the way the Treasury cranks out worthless dollar bills, and they keep the party going Sunday night ... only to set up another meeting in Indy in January.
Indianapolis 28, New England 24
Baltimore (-10.5) at Cleveland
It's really hard to comprehend just how bad the Cleveland offense has been. They're 1-13 over their past 14 games, dating back a full calendar year to a Nov. 17, 2008 win over Buffalo. (It's a sad commentary on the state of the Bills that the Browns, 0-15 against the rest of the league since last November, are 2-0 against Buffalo ... but that's a story for another day.)
We looked back at Cleveland's scoring over the past 14 games, and this is what we've found:
5 offensive touchdowns
1 defensive touchdown
2 special teams touchdowns
18 field goals
You don't need Uncle CHFF to tell you that these numbers are very, very bad. Let's put it this way: Tom Brady accounted for as many touchdowns in a single quarter against the Titans this year (five) as the Browns have scored in a full calendar year.
Baltimore, meanwhile, has yet to find solid footing this year, as evidenced by its disappointing 4-4 record. But the Ravens rolled the Browns like a Bourbon Street drunkard in their first meeting of the year (34-3) and there's little reason to believe that this Monday night mongrel will be any different. In fact, if we could throw money on it, we'd bet that the Monday might broadcast crew makes more unneccesary references to BrettFavre than the Browns score points.
Baltimore 31, Cleveland 6
Forearm Shiver: the CHFF Blog
- Hockey Announcer Gone Wild: You Want To Party (Maybe) With This Guy
- Best Pass Defense Ever: Ronde Barber And The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Reese Witherspoon Arrest Video: Hot, Bothered And Handcuffed
- Sam Adams In A Can, Just In Time For Summer Drinking Season
- Live From Radio City: Reporter Punks NFL Draft Fans
- The 5.0 Club: Best Rushing Teams in NFL History
- Sieves: The Worst Run Defenses In NFL History
- Monsters of the Midway: We Need The Chicago Bears More Than Ever
- Boston, Sports, Patriotism And Terror
- The 100 Stingiest Defenses In Football History
- NFL Crown Rule: Will It Dethrone Rushing King Adrian Peterson?
- Year Of The Offensive Tackle: Not Always The 'Safe' Draft Bet
- Draft Habits: NFL Teams Covet LBs, Duped By False Temptress WRs
- Big Tease: 2012 New England Patriots And NFL's History Of Offensive Failures
- Epic Fail: The Wide Receiver Draft Class Of 2012
Must See Videos