Real and spectacular Week 8 picks
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 29, 2009
The Cold, Hard Football Facts weekly victory machine continues to chug along like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel (a book we hope to someday complete), while our path to the pigskin promised land is illuminated only by the very real and spectacular headlights of one Ms. Teri Hatcher.
We went 10-3 straight up with our Week 7 picks, and 8-5 against the spread. It was our sixth winning week in seven tries this year. The season-long scorecard shows our real and spectacular picks are living up to our own hype: 73-30 (.709) straight up and 61-42 (.592) ATS.
Even our former foils must admit defeat. Our newest pal Pete Prisco of CBS Sports wrote this week to wave the white flag:
"Having a better year than me picking games," he wrote. In other news, the sun rose in the East today.
He added: "Must be chalk pickers." But not sure if he's talking about us or himself. Arcane horse-racing references confuse us ... kind of like all the big words in Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.
As always, the lines we use come from Prisco's page at CBS Sports.com. On to the picks, including some very helpful advice from your friendly Uncle CHFF.
Denver at Baltimore (-3.5)
Yeah, we did a double-take when we read this one, too. But, for some reason, the Ravens are favored. Apparently, the pigskin public is confusing Denver-Baltimore here in 2009 with a fantastical Denver-Baltimore battle of 2008 – when the Ravens were stronger in all of our defensive Quality Stats.
But this is easily the biggest no-brainer of the week, a game that has us salivating like we standing over a double-order of extra spicy wings at Wendell's.
In fact, the Broncos have powered our gravy train all season. They're 6-0 this year – and have been underdogs five times in those six games. They were dogs at San Diego. They were dogs at home vs. New England. They were dogs at home vs. Dallas. They were dogs in Week 1 at Cincinnati. Hell, the ultimate insult, they were dogs at Oakland this year.
Denver was favored just once this year, in Week 2 vs. Cleveland.
In other words, the pigskin public and "pundits" are really missing the boat on the Broncos. But we are not.
We've ridden this pony all year – picking them to win every single game, and to win and cover against the Browns which, of course, they did. So we're 6-0 in other words, rolling the dice with the Horseshoe and the rest of the Broncos this year.
So, who are you going to listen to? Your buddy at the office who has a "hunch" this week? Or Uncle CHFF?
Besides the trend this year, the Broncos hold all the advantages on the field – including the No. 1 Defensive Hogs in the NFL. The most damning evidence? The Broncos are tied with the Saints with a league-leading 3-0 record vs. Quality Teams. The Ravens are 0-3 vs. Quality Teams – and about to become 0-4.
Need just one more reason to ride the Broncos? Here you go: Prisco is picking Baltimore.
The Broncos win in yet another outright victory by a road dog for the mighty, mighty Cold, Hard Football Facts.
Denver 28, Baltimore 24
Houston (-3.5) at Buffalo
Believe it or not, this game represents a bad match-up for the Texans. They do only one thing well, pass the football behind the incredibly but quietly productive Matt Schaub.
The Bills, meanwhile, stand at an awesome No. 2 in Defensive Passer Rating, behind only the unbeaten Saints. Additionally, the Bills want to run the ball, and the Texans can't stop the run (No. 29 in Defensive Hog Index, No. 29 against the run, allowing 4.7 YPA on the ground).
We're not ready to predict a win by the Bills. But we are ready to predict a dogfight that will surprise the "pundits."
Houston 26, Buffalo 24
Cleveland at Chicago (-13.5)
You know the Browns suck in pretty much every phase of the game.
But the dirty little secret about the Bears this year is that they're defense sucks pretty badly, too. Monsters of the Midway only in spirit. Chicago ranks 23rd in Defensive Passer Rating, 25th in Bendability, 24th in our Defensive Hog Index, 22nd in forcing negative pass plays and 28th on third downs.
Coupled with the fact that the Curse of Sid Luckman continues to render Chicago's latest signal caller a watered-down version of a regular NFL quarterback, and the Bears are in trouble.
The Browns aren't good enough to win. But, for once, they're good enough to put up a fight against an opponent with problems on both sides of the ball.
Chicago 24, Cleveland 20
Seattle at Dallas (-9.5)
The Seahawks are like bad vanilla ice cream stuffed inside a cardboard-box cone ... non-descript. It's hard to find them anywhere near the top of any of our Quality Stats. But they're not so bad that they're mired at the bottom like the Lions and Rams of the world.
However, it'd be nice if the Seahawks possessed the sleep-inducing regularity of a pendulum of mediocrity. But they don't.
What they show instead are wild swings in performance week to week, like a manic-depressive of a football team: win by 28, lose by 12, lose by 6, lose by 17, win by 41, lose by 24. We could pull a muscle in our neck trying to follow those scores back and forth. Hell, we've pulled muscles in our neck trying to shove too many Fat Cat XXX Buffalo wings down our throat
The Cowboys are hardly a model of consistency themselves. In fact, they remind us of one of those guys who quits college and joins a traveling folk band because he's "just trying to find himself." And you know how we feel about filthy hippies who sing folk music while trying to find themselves. They deserve beatings.
However, in this case, the team still searching for an identity – are they a contender or aren't they? – will find the soft Seattle pass defense easy pickings and pound out their second big win at home.
Dallas 31, Seattle 21
St. Louis at Detroit (-3.5)
We've been not anticipating this Halloween weekend nightmare for a month now, desperately hoping this week would not come with the same emotional intensity that a child anticipates Christmas.
Both teams are physical, spiritual and emotional oil tanker spills – symbolic of the lack of "parity" that defines the uncompetitive NFL these days. Detroit, for its part, could be reasonably counted on to suck for four decades now. For St. Louis, sucking this bad is fairly new, but they've proven extremely adept at it.
As noted earlier this week, the Rams are on pace to become the worst scoring offense of the Live Ball Era (8.6 PPG). But let's not hastily dismiss the futility of their defense, either.
In fact, the Rams have been outscored by better than 3 to 1 this year (211 to 60; projected to 482-137 for the year), while the Lions have shown faint signs of life, including a "victory" over the Redskins. However, it's our contention that wins against the Redskins should be stripped from the record books this year. It just feels right.
The Lions, at the end of the day, are actually less inept than somebody for once. They win again this week and the Rams barrel head-long toward 0-16. But it's closer than the experts think.
The ultimate indignity for Rams fans? They're the only ones who will see this "game." Lions fans are staying away in droves and, natch, the "contest" is blacked out in Detroit ... which is good, because the city will probably be reduced to burning embers by Sunday morning anyway.
Detroit 2, St. Louis 0
Minnesota at Green Bay (-2.5)
The memory of Minnesota's 30-23 win over Green Bay in Week 4 is still fresh in the minds of the pigskin public. In fact, ESPN has not stopped reporting on that game since late August and only recently moved its entire operation from Minneapolis to Green Bay to continue to provide follow up coverage as well as three weeks of pre-game coverage for BrettFavre's Return to Lambeau!
We stopped watching when Chris Berman took the job as butler at BrettFavre's house.
But we will watch the game. Besides the circus show, it's a pretty good contest in a fight for supremacy in the NFC North.
Both teams, of course, pass the ball extremely well: the Packers are No. 2 in the NFL (behind only Indy) with a 110.4 passer rating – yup, that's right, they pass the ball even more effectively than the Saints (107.0); the Favrkings, meanwhile, are No. 4 in passer rating (102.5).
At the end of the day, the Vikings need to put extreme pressure on Aaron Rodgers, the league's most sacked quarterback, to win the game. This is exactly what they did in the first meeting, led by Jared Allen's 4.5 sacks. They needed every single ounce of pressure they got that night. But we believe the Packers will have found a way to counter that pass rush on the green, green bay grass of home and will have enough offensive firepower to win the game and fight their way back into the NFC North race.
Green Bay 26, Minnesota 21
San Francisco at Indianapolis (-11.5)
The Colts are the surest bet in football this side of Denver. In fact, they're so good they've become a virtual national non-story. "Colts win big. Yawn."
But they remain an offensive juggernaut of rare spiritual greatness that moves us to song every time we see them: "When you the Southerner pass for the first time ..."
show video here
It adds up to easy pickin's here in Week 8: Alex Smith vs. Peyton Manning? C'mon, what do you think? Plus, the Colts are not only better passing the ball, they're better stopping the pass. The Colts rank No. 2, behind only the Saints, in Passer Rating Differential. The 49ers rank No. 18. More importantly, as noted earlier this week, the Colts are No. 5 in Defensive Passer Rating and lead the league in several different key pass-defense categories.
The Indy offense will sail a reach before a following sea to the end zone ... many times, in fact. The defense, meanwhile, will make life very, very difficult for Alex Smith. When the 49ers see the southerner pass for the first time, they'll wonder why they came this way.
Indianapolis 33, San Francisco 20
Miami at N.Y. Jets (-3.5)
This match-up just seems to set up nicely for the Dolphins this year, as we noted when these AFC East rivals met just three weeks ago in Miami.
The Jets this year really do only one thing well: stop the pass (No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating). Elsewhere, they have more holes in them than Albert Hall at the end of Sgt. Pepper's.
Miami, meanwhile, relies almost exclusively on running the football and passing the ball out of running formations, largely (though not completely) negating New York's advantage on pass defense.
The Jets also are having great difficulty passing the ball, as evidenced by Coney Island hot-dog eating champion Mark Sanchez's 61.5 passer rating this year. And the Jets won't chew up the Dolphins on the ground the way they did the Raiders last week. In fact, Miami's Defensive Hogs are among the best in football (No. 5) and will force Sanchez into one or two critical mistakes when he does pass (Miami's fourth at forcing Negative Pass Plays).
Like we said, this match-up just seems to favor the 'Fins.
Miami 24, N.Y. Jets 21
Oakland at San Diego (-16.5)
You know what Oakland's problem is? They got no heart. (Or no hahhhtt as we say up here in Boston.)
In four of their last five games, they capitulated like the Spanish government after the Madrid train bombing.
In blowout losses this year to the Broncos, Texans, Giants and Jets, the Raiders scored a grand total of zero (that'd be 0) second-half points, even though opponents were so disinterested in the outcomes by then that they were ordering room service on the sidelines.
On the other hand, we trust the Chargers about as far as we can throw Marcus McNeill. They're not a team we'd count on for anything. But in this battle, we know we can count on the Raiders to capitulate at the first sign of trouble.
San Diego 27, Oakland 10
Jacksonville at Tennessee (-2.5)
How bad is Tennessee's defense? So bad that Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard, whose thrown just five TD passes all year, threw three of them against the Titans in their first meeting this year, a 37-17 Jaguars victory in north Florida.
The Titans, of course, are on pace to surrender a record 51 touchdown passes (a league-high 19 through six games).
We want to say that this is the game where the Titans get off the loser's streak and in the win column. We want to say that Vince Young has a triumphant return back under center. But, statistically speaking, there's just no reason to expect that to happen – at least until some sign of life says otherwise.
Right now, there are no signs of life: since losing by 20 to the Jags back on October 4, the Titans have been outscored 90-9, while suffering the worst beating (59-0) the NFL had seen in 33 years the last time it stepped on the field.
That doesn't sound like a team you want to roll with this week.
Jacksonville 26, Tennessee 20
Carolina at Arizona (-8.5)
No doubt that the Cardinals got their groove back – three straight wins since being crushed under the weight of the Indy victory machine back in September, including a Quality Win last week on the road against the Giants.
Impressively, two of those wins came against very good passing teams (Texans, Giants), representing a great sign of hope for Arizona during a year in which Kurt Warner has yet to really fire on all cylinders (89.1 passer rating in 2009).
Expect that trend to change sharply here in Week 8. The Panthers rank No. 24 in Defensive Passer Rating, giving Warner and the gang plenty of opportunity to tear it up on the Arizona carpet. More importantly, Carolina simply can not pass the ball, as evidenced by Jake Delhomme's JaMarcus-esque 56.5 passer rating and league-high 13 picks.
An Arizona defense that's starting to feel pretty good about itself will feast like a CHFF Troll during all-you-can-eat wing night at Cronin's Publick House.
Arizona 31, Carolina 10
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (-2.5)
The Eagles lost a TON of credibility around the country when they caved to the Raiders two weeks ago. Philly's 13-9 loss in Oakland remains the greatest statistical mystery of the 2009 season.
Otherwise, the Eagles have benefitted from one of the easiest schedules in football, with wins over Carolina, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Washington. They've faced just one Quality Opponent all year and got beat like a "pundit" in our gridiron gulag: a 48-22 loss at home to the Saints.
The Giants, for their part, have at least faced some stiffer competition. They have a 1-2 record against Quality Opponents, beating the Cowboys in Dallas earlier this year, before their consecutive losses against the Saints and Cardinals.
The Eagles look better than the Giants in many of our Quality Stats, including Passer Rating Differential, Defensive Passer Rating and Defensive Hog Index. But that's all really just a rickety statistical tinderbox built upon the foundation of a very soft schedule.
N.Y. Giants 24, Philadelphia 20
Atlanta at New Orleans (-9.5)
We'll put this very simply: after what we've seen out of the Saints in recent weeks, we're probably rolling the dice with them as double-digit victors in every game the rest of the year but the Patriots (Nov. 30) and their NFC South rematch in Atlanta (Dec. 13).
Hell, they've already won every game this year by double digits, and they've done it against a very tough schedule, as evidenced by their league-best 3-0 mark against Quality Teams. New Orleans has one of the best passing offenses in football and, without doubt, the best pass defense in football. It's a deadly combination.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has shown flashes of greatness, but only flashes. They've yet to show the kind of cojones it takes to go toe-to-toe with the league's elite, as evidnced by a pair of 16-point losses to the Patriots and Cowboys, the only two Quality Teams the Falcons have faced all year.
New Orleans 34, Atlanta 21
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