Real and spectacular Week 11 picks
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 19, 2009
The Cold, Hard Football Facts continue to beat the spread as if it were Tom Cable's ex-wife. We went 9-6 straight up last week and 10-5 against the spread, giving us eight winning weeks in 10 opportunities this year. So stuff that between Teri Hatcher's ample bosom and motorboat it.
However, Week 11 got off to a bad start. We expected the Ronnie Brown-less Dolphins to fall on the road at Carolina. We should have adhered to our old motto: "Jake Delhomme, you suck!"
The Panthers quarterback failed to complete even half his passes (19 of 42) and we went down with his leaky ship.
The Miami Thursday night victory gives us a 97-48 (.669) mark straight up this year and an 81-64 (.559) record ATS.
On to Week 11 and another success for the 1928 NFL champion CHFF Steam Roller.
Indianapolis at Baltimore (pick)
If the Colts are to lose this year, which history tells us is likely, this is a good choice: a road game against a team fighting for a playoff spot just a week after Indy's emotional, hard-fought victory over its arch-rival.
But we don't play the emotion game. We look at the data. And the data tell us that the Ravens don't have the horses in the passing game to gallop past the Colts (No. 4 in Defensive Passer Rating), no matter the condition of their secondary.
Indianapolis 24, Baltimore 20
Washington at Dallas (-10.5)
How is it that a team that lost to the 5-4 Packers by double digits last week is suddenly a double-digit favorite seven days later?
Oh, that's right, Dallas is hosting the Redskins and their dead-man-walking head coach, Jim Zorn.
The Redskins suck, but the statistical facts are shocking: the Redskins, with their pathetic passing game, actually have a better Passer Rating Differential than the Cowboys. In fact, Golden Boy Tony Romo's individual passer rating (93.5) is not a whole hell of a lot better than that of widely criticized Washington QB Jason Campbell (87.9).
The Redskins signal-caller actually has a much better completion percentage (66.1 to 60.4) for what that's worth.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, are vulnerable on pass defense (just six picks all year), which is why the Redskins will keep it closer than the experts think.
Dallas 26, Washington 23
Cleveland at Detroit (-3.5)
A rare clash of the resistible force vs. the moveable object, foretold of in ancient myth and song. Which one will out-pathetic the other?
Who cares? Actually, we do. Because, despite the fact that this game will sicken humanity as if it were Cuyahoga River drinking water, it's actually a clash of futility of historic proportions.
In fact, this game has sent an electric jolt of titillation through our statistical sex organs (all Trolls have them).
The Browns have one of the worst passing attacks in modern history, averaging 3.64 Passing Yards Per Attempt, easily the worst in the league and a mark so low that even we'd be ashamed to have it on our pigskin report card. And we couldn't even pass study hall in high school.
In one of the most remarkable streaks of futility in the entire length and breadth of NFL history, the Browns and their Last American Virgin offense have not produced a touchdown from a wide receiver in more than a year – since ex-Clevelander Braylon Edwards hauled in a 28-yarder from Derek Anderson in a 37-27 loss to Baltimore back on November 2, 2008.
The Lions, meanwhile, have one of the worst pass defenses in history, with a Defensive Passer Rating of 107.8. In the entire history of the NFL, only one team was worse: the 2008 Lions (110.8 Defensive Passer Rating). The 2009 Lions are also on pace to become just the second team in history to allow opposing teams to complete more than 70 percent of their passes in a season. The only other? The 2007 Lions.
The two teams are also neck and neck for last place in the critical Passer Rating Differential category (Cleveland, -49.4; Detroit, -50.4)
The only slight advantage by either team is when the Lions run the ball, as you'll see by studying our Offensive and Defensive Hog Indexes. But the advantages are slight. Plus, the Lions lost at home to the 1-8 Rams. So how much trust can you put in them?
Detroit 2, Cleveland 0
We interrupt these picks for a 1980s flashback
Speaking of titillation and 1980s teen flicks, here's a classic hit from The Last American Virgin soundtrack.
"I know what boys like. I know what's on their minds."
Apparently, it's a song about Buffalo wings.
show video here
If we had actually got laid, the 1980s would have been awesome! We might have had a shot with the bass player there.
San Francisco at Green Bay (-6.5)
As we noted earlier this week, the Packers are officially the NFL's most frustrating team to follow. They're No. 1 in the Defensive Hog Index, No. 3 in Passer Rating Differential and No. 4 in Offensive Passer Rating.
Those numbers should equal 7-2 or 8-1. Instead, they equal 5-4 and a fight for their playoff lives.
When you see a conflict between statistical performance and victories, you'll usually find the answers in our efficiency indicators. Green Bay, for example, ranks No. 24 in Bendability and No. 10 in Scoreability.
The 49ers, meanwhile, simply don't stack up statistically against Green Bay. But they're only one game behind in the standings (4-5) and play much more sound, efficient football (No. 9 in Bendability and No. 6 in Scoreability). They can jump into the playoff chase with a win at Lambeau. We don't expect it to happen, but we do envision a tight battle.
Green Bay 23, San Francisco 20
Buffalo at Jacksonville (-8.5)
The Bills are in chaos, in the wake of the mid-season firing this week of head coach Dick Jauron. Then there was the incident at the end of last week's 41-17 loss to the Titans.
Tennessee owner Bud Adams, as you know, flipped off the organization owned by Ralph Wilson, a guy he's been in business with for 50 years. So at least Buffalo has some respect from its colleagues.
The Jaguars are feeling pretty good, meanwhile, and at 5-4 are fighting for a wildcard spot. But we're not impressed.
The Bills certainly suck, but the Jags over the past five week were humiliated by Seattle (41-0), pasted by Tennessee (30-13) and have squeaked out wins over also-rans St. Louis, Kansas City and Miami.
We like the Jags to win. But 8.5 points is a little too expensive for the real estate that they inhabit.
Jacksonville 23, Buffalo 17
Pittsburgh (-9.5) at Kansas City
Pittsburgh's still the defending champs and still a Super Bowl contender. The Chiefs still embarrass half of Missouri and a good chunk of Kansas. How's that for a statistical breakdown?
In case you need something, the Chiefs are 0-6 this year vs. Quality Teams and the last one that walked into Arrowhead, San Diego, walked out with a 37-7 victory.
Pittsburgh 27, Kansas City 10
Pittsburgh 27, Kansas City 10
Seattle at Minnesota (-10.5)
Brett Favre and the Favrkings, not Drew Brees and the Saints or Peyton Manning and the Colts, boast the league's No. 1 passing attack, with a 106.8 passer rating.
The Seahawks are vulnerable to Minnesota's aerial assault, with a 90.0 Defensive Passer Rating, and don't have the firepower on offense to exploit the equally ineffective Favrkings pass defense (90.4 DPR).
Seattle is also winless on the road this year, losing by an average of 15.5 PPG, mostly against teams not as good as the Favrkings.
Minnesota 31, Seattle 16
Atlanta at N.Y. Giants (-6.5)
There are four teams at 5-4 right now tussling over the pair of NFC wildcard sports, and the Falcons and Giants are two of them. They're equals in many ways.
Both teams struggle against Quality Opponents, a combined 1-7 against teams with winning records, while being outscored by double digits in those games. New York is 0-4 in its last four overall. Atlanta is 1-3 in its last four overall.
Both teams run the ball well, while both teams struggle to stop the run. So both offenses should be able to keep defenses off balance and open up the passing attacks for Eli Manning and Matt Ryan.
We expect the Giants to edge out the Falcons at home in a high-scoring affair and keep alive their hopes for the postseason, while all but ending Atlanta's.
N.Y. Giants 31, Atlanta 30
New Orleans (-10.5) at Tampa Bay
Josh Freeman has injected some much-needed and long-missing life into the Tampa passing attack, with four touchdowns and respectable passer rating near 80 in his first two NFL starts.
The Saints have suffered some defensive injuries of late, and the 9-0 juggernaut seems like it's slowed down in recent weeks, with wins of 8, 10 and 5 over Atlanta, Carolina and St. Louis, respectively.
But the Saints still boast the best pass defense in the NFL, as they have all season (tops with 60.2 DPR and 17 picks).
Darren Sharper & Co. will make life difficult for the rookie Freeman, forcing him into two or three picks, while Drew Brees will shred Tampa's porous pass defense in an easy New Orleans victory.
New Orleans 37, Tampa 20Old Man Kurt Warner has been on fire in recent weeks, completing 51 of 70 (72.9%) for 601 yards, 8.6 YPA, 7 TD, 0 INT and a 131.9 passer rating in his last two outings.The Rams have been on fire, too. They nearly beat the Saints last week and have now won three of their past 29 games. So things are looking up in St. Louis.A red-hot Warner will shred the Rams secondary, while the Arizona ground game, among the best the franchise has produced in years, will tune up the St. Louis's 32nd-ranked Defensive Hogs like a baby grand.Arizona 28, St. Louis 14San Diego (-2.5) at DenverDenver won the first meeting between these two AFC West rivals back in Week 6, 34-23.But these clubs have gone in completely different directions since.The Broncos have not won a game since that day. The Chargers have not lost a game since that day.Denver has suffered three straight defeats, including last week's embarrassing loss to Washington, as its seemingly insurmountable defense has collapsed before our very eyes, much like what happened to the 2006 Broncos.San Diego has enjoyed four straight victories, including back-to-back Quality Wins over the Giants and Eagles.We look for the trend to continue here in Week 11, as the Chargers gain control of the AFC West for the first time this season.San Diego 23, Denver 17Cincinnati (-9.5) at OaklandThe Bengals field one of the best defenses in franchise history (16.3 PPG, tops for Cincy in the Live Ball Era). The Raiders field the most inept offense in franchise history (9.8 PPG).Cincy won't light it up on offense (Oakland is actually competent on defense). But newly named Raiders starter Bruce Gradkowski (12 career starts, 58.7 career passer rating), he of the immortal Toledo Gradkowskis, will find it virtually impossible to move the ball and the Bengals will cruise to an easy win.Cincinnati 20, Oakland 3Philadelphia (-2.5) at ChicagoThe Eagles do not inspire confidence in us or their fans. But the Bears are so vulnerable that they should be first in line for the H1N1 virus.Donovan McNabb will easily win the passing battle against Jay Cutler (league-leading 17 INTs), while the Bears will be forced into a one-dimensional offense that increases the likelihood of additional Cutler mistakes.The Bears rank just 24th in our Offensive Hog Index and 28th running the ball (3.79 YPA). They're up against the league's No. 1 Defensive Hogs and a team that's No. 5 against the run (3.71 YPA).Philadelphia 24, Chicago 17
Arizona (-8.5) at St. Louis
Then the race is all but over: San Diego has never lost a game in December under Norv Turner (9-0).
N.Y. Jets at New England (-10.5)
The Patriots have not lost consecutive games in more than three years – since falling, coincidentally, to the Colts and Jets back in November 2006. The Patriots lost to the Colts last week. They face the Jets this week.
Typically, though, the Patriots rebound with ferocity in the wake of their rare losses. Following the eight defeats they've suffered since November 2006, the Patriots have won the next week by an average of 24.4 PPG, rolling their opponents with a vengeance. Only two of these rebound games were decided by fewer than 16 points, and both were cross-country jaunts to San Francisco (a 30-21 win) and Seattle (a 24-21 win) with Matt Cassel at quarterback in 2008.
The Jets, meanwhile, have bested only then-winless Tennessee and the awful Raiders since stifling the Patriots, 16-9, back in Week 2.
The Jets play very, very good pass defense, No. 3 in the NFL with a 68.7 Defensive Passer Rating. So Rex Ryan's wrecking crew poses a formidable challenge for Tom Brady & Co.
But the Patriots torched one of the league's best pass defenses last week in Indy, while New York quarterback Mark Sanchez has underwhelmed this year, giving New England's wounded pass defense a chance to heal itself after the second-half shellacking it suffered Sunday at the hands of Peyton Manning.
New England 27, N.Y. Jets 14
Tennessee at Houston (-4.5)
These two teams engaged in one of the season's great shootouts back in Week 2. All the stars sparkled that day: Houston's Matt Schaub (357 passing yards) and Andre Johnson (197 receiving yards) and Tennessee's Chris Johnson (197 rushing yards).
But Kerry Collins fumbled away a potential victory in the game's final moments and the Texans held on for the 34-31 win.
The Titans were in the midst of a six-game losing streak back then and have improved quite well since, winning their last three games behind the explosive running of CJ and the steady, mistake-free play of Vince Young (one pick in three starts).
Houston, meanwhile, has struggled for respect since that day and finds itself locked in bloody trench warfare in its fight for the first playoff appearance in team history: they whipped the 7-2 Bengals on the road and they nearly pulled out a win against the Mighty Mighty Colts two weeks ago (losing 20-17), just before their bye. But they've been inconsistent.
The game represents a bad match for each defense: the Titans still have one of the league's worst pass defenses (99.5 Defensive Passer Rating, 31st) and their three straight wins have come against bad passing teams; while the Texans boast one of the most prolific passing attacks in the game (7.46 Passing YPA, 3rd).
The Texans, meanwhile, still have one of the worst defensive fronts in football, 26th in our Defensive Hog Index and 27th against the run (4.63 YPA); while the Titans boast the league's best Offensive Hogs and best ground game (5.29 YPA).
You know our story: passing well is always more important than running well. We see a very similar game to their last meeting: the Texans capture their second shootout victory of the year over Tennessee, this time at home, and stay alive in the playoff race.
Houston 35, Tennessee 33
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