Week 11 real and spectacular picks
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 17, 2010
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The Cold, Hard Football Facts victory machine is hitting full stride with an impressive 11-3 effort against the spread for our Week 10 real and spectacular picks.
Stuff your face between those heaving, milky picks and motorboat 'em, our fine-feathered friends.
Oddly, though, we went just 6-8 straight up last week. So it was a weird inside-out week.
Regardless, you can't deny that we're on fire right now, folks, an awesome 35-19 mark ATS over the last four weeks. That's a .648 batting average over an entire quarter of the season, for those of you keeping score at home.
And remember, there have been 27 weeks of NFL football since the start of the 2009 season. We've suffered just seven losing weeks in those 27 opportunities. That's big-time stuff, folks.
Here's our week by week performance this year.
Week 1: 8-7 straight; 7-6 ATS
Week 10: 6-8 straight; 11-3 ATS
Remember, we posted an impressive 144-111 (.565) mark ATS over the course of the entire 2009 season. And we don't pick and choose our spots, otherwise it'd be scary. It's every game, every week. That's 221-174 (.559) over a full season and a half. And that's pretty darn tasty.
On to the Week 11 real and spectacular picks!
Chicago at Miami (-1.5)
The mighty Bears head to Miami for this primetime showdown unbeaten at 12-0 and with the most feared defense in the land after outscoring the Falcons and Cowboys 80-0 in their last two games. But the Dolphins counter with record-setting third-year phenom Dan Marino, who's already thrown 19 TDs this year and an incredible 87 in his first 39 NFL games.
We expect fireworks, folks!
Oh, wait ... sorry. Had a flashback to 1985 there for a second.
Fast forward to 2010. Chicago once again holds all the advantages on defense: their No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating (66.7), No. 2 in Bendability (18.6 YPPA), No. 3 against the run (3.48 YPA) and No. 8 on the Defensive Hog Index.
Miami this time, though, doesn't have a legendary arm on which to rest. The Dolphins are likely down to their third-string quarterback, Tyler Thigpen, he of the career 6.3 average per attempt and 73.6 passer rating Thigpens. It's a bad match up against one of the league's No. 2 defense (16.2 PPG).
The Dolphins have some advantages: their No. 9 Defensive Hogs should win the battle against one of the league's worst offensive lines (31st on our OHI). And Miami is far more battle-tested with six games (2-4 record) against Quality Opponents. The Bears have faced just three Quality Opponents, tied for the fewest in the league. So they've feasted on bad competition.
Instinct tells us that the 5-4 Dolphins are probably better than the 6-3 Bears. But an unproven quarterback against a fairly stiff defense should spell a frustrating night for Miami in a low-scoring affair.
Chicago 19, Miami 17
Baltimore (-10.5) at Carolina
You know Baltimore's defense is not what it used to be. But you might be blown away by this statistical shocker: the 1-8 Panthers actually field better Defensive Hogs (No. 15 vs. No. 18) and boast a better Defensive Passer Rating (79.4 vs. 81.5) than the Super Bowl-contender Ravens.
The problem with Carolina is that they're truly offensive offensively: No. 32 in scoring (11.6 PPG), No. 32 in Scoreability, No. 32 in Passing YPA and No. 31 in Passer Rating Differential.
Seven of their eight losses have come by double digits. And it's hard to see them mounting much of an offensive threat this week.
Baltimore 20, Carolina 7
Houston at N.Y. Jets (-7.5)
This is an intriguing matchup pitting Houston's very good passing attack (No. 6 in Passing YPA) against a New York pass defense that has been good (No. 3 in scoring; No. 10 in DPR), but has failed to meet lofty pre-season expectations after a dominating 2009 season.
It's also an intriguing game because our incredible streak of nailing every Houston game this year is on the line: we're 9-0 identifying the winner in every Texans game and 7-1 against the spread.
The big difference in this contest is in the trenches when the J-Men have the ball. New York boasts the league's No. 2 Offensive Hogs and a very effective ground game (4.57 YPA, sixth). That's a big advantage of the wildly under-achieving Defensive Hogs of Houston: they're a meager No. 26 on our DHI and mediocre against the run (4.08 YPA).
More importantly Mark Sanchez should have plenty of time to pass against a very inviting secondary. Houston is 31st at forcing Negative Pass Plays at 5.46 percent (only Buffalo is worse) and No. 32 in Defensive Passer Rating (110.2).
If the Texans keep up this rate, they'll go down as the second worst pass defense in the history of football. Only the 0-16 Lions of 2008 were worse (110.8). And that's not the kind of company you want to keep.
Jets QB Mark Sanchez has rebounded well from a disastrous outing against Green Bay in Week 8 and has raised his season passer rating back above the NFL's Mendoza Line (80.5) with some clutch play in his last two games.
Look for him to pad his stats this week.
N.Y. Jets 28, Houston 23
Arizona at Kansas City (-7.5)
The Cardinals are one of the great statistical mysteries the 2010 season: They have one of the worst offensive lines in football (No. 29 on the OHI) and one of the worst aerial attacks in football (No. 31 in Passing YPA).
Yet they're No. 3 in our Scoreability Index and, at 3-6, still a playoff contender in the dreadful NFC Worst. Bottom line: the Cardinals don't get many opportunities to score (19.4 PPG), but they generally take advantage of the opportunities presented them. The eight non-offensive touchdowns are a huge boost, too. Arizona has scored only 13 TDs on offense. So a high percentage of its points come from non-offensive means.
Kansas City's once-vaunted defense, meanwhile, has tumbled into mediocrity after two straight division losses on the road, including a huge beatdown last week at Denver. After a 3-0 start, Kansas City is just 2-4 in its last six, with one of those two victories a 13-10 overtime victory against the 1-8 Bills.
The Chiefs have huge advantages here, though: they're still No. 9 in Passer Rating Differential (+10.28) while the Cardinals are dead last (-27.07). That's a huge difference in a game in which victory on the scoreboard is typically decided by victory in the passing game.
Kansas City has a huge advantage when they run the ball: the Chiefs are No. 4 on the ground with an average of 4.77 YPA, while Arizona is 21st when it comes time to stop the run (4.27 YPA). Look for Kansas City to control the tempo for most of the day.
Kansas City 26, Arizona 21
Washington at Tennessee (-7.5)
Did anyone get the license plate number of the truck that ran over the Redskins last week? Oh, that's right, it was No. 7. Pennsylvania registration.
But Tennessee's got its own problems, too, all of sudden. Its shiny new hood ornament, Randy Moss, didn't help much in a loss against Miami last week (1 catch for 26 yards), and Tennessee shuffled both Kerry Collins and Vince Young in and out of the game repeatedly, which is usually a recipe for a bad day. The Titans were handled fairly easily at Miami, 29-17, a week after losing 33-25 at San Diego.
But Washington's pathetic defense, which is coming off a Monday Night debacle of epic proportions (59 points allowed), should provide a remedy for whatever was ailing Tennessee's offense last week.
The Titans win the Quality Stats battle pretty much across the board in this one, including an offense that ranks No. 1 in The Daisy Dukes Index – otherwise known as Scoreability. That's a big advantage against a Redskins team that's dead last, with a bullet, in total offense (415.3 YPG).
Keep in mind, too, that Tennessee is already 3-0 against the Glamour Division, dominating the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles by an average of 16.0 PPG. Washington is 0-2 against the AFC South (with both those games in D.C.).
Tennessee 30, Washington 20
Buffalo at Cincinnati (-5.5)
Ahh, late November in the NFL, a time when star-studded high-profile heavyweights like the Colts and Patriots battle it out for late-season supremacy and homefield advantage in the playoffs as football fans from coast to coast are gripped by the drama.
Of course, it's also a time when two teams going nowhere are forced upon us while even their most loyal fans wear bags over their heads and pray for a loss that will bring them one step closer to the top pick in the next draft.
To that end, we offer you Bills-Bengals in Week 11 of the 2010 season.
They're a combined 3-15 this year and both Buffalo and Cincinnati rank 22nd or worse in five of our seven flagship Quality Stats, which gives an indication of just how bad they have been this year. The Bengals are at home, however, and have a hefty advantage in the Passer Rating Differential category (No. 13 vs. No. 30), normally the most important single indicator of the relative merits of both teams.
The Bills got their first win last week, so the pressure to avoid 0-16 has been lifted. But it also means the Bengals now own the longest losing streak in football, a stretch of six games without a win dating back to September 26 when they topped the 1-8 Panthers. The Bills should become victim No. 2. But remember, they haven't suffered a loss of more than three points since Oct. 10.
Cincinnati 20, Buffalo 17
Oakland at Pittsburgh (-7.5)
Back in August, no one in their right mind would have predicted that this Week 11 matchup in Pittsburgh would turn into a potentially important battle in the AFC playoff race.
But somehow, with three straight wins, including two big blowouts, the Raiders have become a contender. In fact, if they win this game, they'll have a leg up on Pittsburgh – we can't believe we're saying this – in the race for homefield advantage in the playoffs.
The AFC West-leading Raiders (5-4) rank No. 7 in scoring offense (26.1 PPG), No. 3 rushing the ball (4.86 YPA) and they're getting decent play from quarterback Jason Campbell (81.3 passer rating), though they still rank poorly in Passing YPA (25th at 5.95 YPA).
The Steelers are still licking their wounds after being shredded by Tom Brady and the Patriots Sunday night.
But Pittsburgh still fields our No. 3-ranked Defensive Hogs. The Raiders, meanwhile, despite their outstanding ground attack, have just the 24th-ranked Offensive Hogs because they suffer a Negative Pass Play on well more than 11 percent of their pass attempts.
That's not a good match-up against Pittsburgh's pressure-oriented front seven. They failed to get after Brady last week – but a lot of teams fail in that effort. Oakland simply does not have the same studs to protect their quarterback. More importantly, Pittsburgh still has the league's best run defense (2.84 YPA) to counteract the Raiders' aforementioned third-ranked rushing offense (4.86 PA).
That match-up in the trenches could spell trouble for the Raiders on the road, where they are just 1-3 this season, including losses to the Cardinals and 49ers.
Pittsburgh 26, Oakland 23
Cleveland at Jacksonville (-1.5)
This is an interesting battle between two resurgent teams.
The Browns are one overtime fumble against the Jets away from having three straight wins over Quality Opponents. The Jaguars just hung 66 points on the Cowboys and Texans in their last two games to get themselves back into the playoff race.
Jacksonville's weak Defensive Hogs (No. 28) should struggle against the Cleveland ground game: Peyton Hillis averages 4.8 YPA, while the Browns average 4.15 YPA as a team (15th).
But the biggest statistical advantage comes when the Jaguars have the ball. Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard has been awesome in his last two games (155.1 passer rating) and his currently second in the NFL with a 104.9 rating – ahead of Brady, Manning, Breews and all the other generally accepted Best Quarterbacks in the game. He should be licking his chops at the prospect of facing Cleveland's below-average pass defense (No. 22 in Defensive Passer Rating at 88.7). But remember, Cleveland's defense is much tougher overall (No. 10 in scoring) than the last two units Garrard tore apart.
Meanwhile, Cleveland rookie QB Colt McCoy has impressed in his four NFL starts (85.2 rating) and hasn't thrown a single pick since his debut against the Steelers more than a month ago.
Now, in his fifth start, he gets to face a truly terrible pass defense: the Jaguars are 31st with a Defensive Passer Rating of 105.7. He was extremely efficient New England's struggling pass defense a couple weeks ago (101.6 rating) and should put up strong numbers this week in a battle of two of the surprise quarterbacks of 2010.
Cleveland 26, Jacksonville 24
Detroit at Dallas (-6.5)
How bad were the Cowboys under Wade Phillips?
Despite racking up 33 points and upsetting the Giants in Jason Garrett's coaching debut last Sunday, Dallas still ranks 24th or worse in six of our seven flagship Quality Stats categories. The only bright spot? Dallas still passes the ball effectively: 4th in Passing Yards Per Attempt).
Even Tony Romo replacement Jon Kitna has passed extraordinarily effectively, with a personal average of 8.0 YPA. That's some good hooch, folks. Anything above 7.0 or above is solid.
The Lions are coming off another ball-breaking close loss last week (at previously winless Buffalo), but they actually dominate Dallas in our Quality Stats, leading handily in every indicator except Passing YPA, where the Lions are fairly bad: 5.66 PYPA (27th).
Put most simply, in a battle of back-up QBs (Kitna vs. Shaun Hill) we like the rejuvenated Cowboys to score more points than a team that couldn't even beat the Bills last week.
Pathetic Detroit Factoid of the Week: with two more losses, the Lions will join the Buccaneers as the only franchises in football that have suffered 100 more losses than victories (currently 492-590-32 all time; Bucs are 214-326-1).
Dallas 28, Detroit 24
Green Bay (-3.5) at Minnesota
BrettFavre goes against his old team for perhaps the final time ever ... we can only hope.
It's a nice storyline. But the bottom line is that the Vikings are just not a very good team this season, and BrettFavre (72.2 rating) is playing like the 41-year old broken down gunslinger that he is.
The Packers, on the other hand, are coming off a bye, and are shaping us a statistical juggernaut, much like they did last year.
Green Bay leads the NFL in scoring defense (15.9 PPG) and ranks in the top 10 in five of our seven flagship Quality Stats, including a No. 1 ranking in Bendability. That's a very big advantage over Minnesota. As we noted this week in our Daisy Dukes/Scoreability Index, the Vikings offer one of the least efficient offenses in football.
Expect a lot of wasted opportunity and frustration by the Vikings.
In addition, Green Bay enjoys a massive advantage in Passer Rating Differential (No. 3 vs. 25). That's a gaping chasm in a Quality Stat that, if you had to pick one, provides the starkest contrasts between opponents from game to game.
Green Bay 28, Minnesota 20
Seattle at New Orleans (-11.5)
Seahawks-Saints is a potentially good matchup in the trenches, with Seattle's No. 5 Defensive Hogs slopping around against New Orleans' No. 6 Offensive Hogs.
The Saints pretty much own the other Quality Stats comparisons for this game, however, and will look dominant in the trenches when the Seahawks have the ball.
Seattle's offensive line is bad (No. 30 in our OHI) while New Orleans' D-Hogs are pretty good (No. 11 on the DHI).
More importantly, the Saints have a huge advantage on both sides of the ball in the passing game: No. 4 in Passer Rating Differential vs. No. 21 for Seattle.
On top of those indicators, we don't really trust the inconsistent – even volatile – Seahawks away from home against a rested New Orleans team that appears to be getting its act together. The Saints outscored its last two opponents before the bye (Pittsburgh, Carolina) by a combined score of 54-13
New Orleans 30, Seattle 14
Atlanta (-3.5) at St. Louis
Falcons-Rams might not sound like much at first. But it actually looks like a pretty great statistical clash of two potential division winners in the NFC. It's a battle highlighted by one of the league's best offenses squaring off against a surprisingly good defense in the midst of a dramatic one-year turnaround.
The Falcons are tied for the league's best record and are coming off an emotional win over Baltimore last week.
Atlanta does it mainly with offense – 24.7 PPG (8th) backboned by the NFL's No. 1-ranked Offensive Hogs. They rarely suffer Negative Pass Plays (third at 5.67%) and are best in the NFL on third down (converting 48.2% of attempts).
But the improved Rams (4-5, just one game out in the NFC Worst) are no slouch, on defense (No. 6 at 18.2 PPG) or at home, where they're 4-1. Their defensive front is no pushover against the league's best offensive line, either: No. 7 on the Defensive Hog Index, and third in the NFL on third down (opponents convert just 32.5% of attempts).
Rams rookie Sam Bradford (78.2 rating, 12 TD, 8 INT) has played better than a rookie most weeks, and Atlanta's below-average pass defense (24th in Defensive Passer Rating) makes an inviting target. This matchup is closer than it appears on paper.
Atlanta 24, St. Louis 23
Tampa Bay at San Francisco (-3.5)
The 49ers have won two in a row behind former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith (116.6 rating in two starts). But Tampa Bay's presents a formidable statistical challenge: No. 6 in Defensive Passer Rating and a truly surprising No. 5 in Passer Rating Differential.
If you're wondering how the Bucs have managed to squeeze out a 6-3 record and are still a threat to make the playoffs – hell, they're still a threat to get the NFC's No. 1 seed – then our famous Passer Rating Differential number tells you why.
Of course, we wouldn't bet the house on Tampa's playoff promise: they're 0-3 against Quality Teams and have been outscored badly in those three games (13.3 to 32.0).
Fortunately for the Bucs, the 49ers are not a Quality Team (3-6) and Tampa has feasted on second-rate clubs all year (6-0).
Young Bucs QB Josh Freeman (90.1 rating) seems to get better every week and he should enjoy his afternoon against San Francisco's porous pass defense (25th in Defensive Passer Rating).
Tampa Bay 26, San Francisco 24
Indianapolis at New England (-3.5)
The Colts and Patriots square off for the eighth year in a row – easily longest streak of non-divisional competition in the NFL. (Before 2002, they faced each other twice each year as divisional foes).
As usual, this annual matchup of AFC heavyweights has big post-season implications. Remember, the winner of the season series has gained homefield advantage over the other in each of the past nine seasons that both have made the playoffs. The winner of the regular-season series has also gone on to win the AFC title six times in nine years.
Those are some heavy-duty implications.
The main difference between the teams right now is Indy's ability to play halfway decent pass defense (15th in Defensive Passer Rating; 8th in Passer Rating Differential).
The Patriots continue to slog along near the bottom of the Defensive Passer Rating table (27th) and they're merely mediocre (16th) in Passer Rating Differential (+2.35) despite the fact that Tom Brady's have another excellent, highly efficient season (17 TD, 4 INT and fourth in the NFL with a 98.8 passer rating).
New England's pass defense is a huge liability in this game. The only hope? Peyton Manning is in the midst of a rare streak of mediocrity: a dismal 5.6 average per attempt and 75.5 passer rating over the past three weeks.
New England's No. 3-ranked Offensive Hogs versus Indy's No. 22-ranked Defensive Hogs should be a concern for Colts fans. Indy is dead last in run defensive, allowing opposing runners an average of 5.0 YPA.
But elsewhere this game pretty even. Brady has not lost a regular season game at Gillette Stadium since 2006 and is one win away from tying BrettFavre's NFL record for consecutive home (regular season) wins.
We've been fairly dead on predicting Indy's consistent string of wins over the Patriots in recent years. And a snap back to form by Manning could quickly make this game a runaway in favor of the Colts.
But Manning's recent struggles, New England's ability to control the tempo on Sunday, and the long string of home success by the Patriots leads us to believe that they'll eke out a win against a team whose only road wins have come against the struggling Broncos and Redskins.
New England 27, Indianapolis 26
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (-3.5)
It's hard to find two more evenly matched teams than the two we have here in this battle for the NFC East lead.
The Giants, despite a horrid effort against Dallas last week, still top our Defensive Hog Index and rank in the top 10 in four of our six other flagship Quality Stats.
The Eagles, fresh off their Monday night humiliation of the Redskins in Washington, rank in the top 10 in six of seven Quality Stats, including a No. 2 spot in Passer Rating Differential. It's a position sparked by Michael Vick, the top-rated passer in the game and a true phenom right now who appears virtually unstoppable.
The difference in this game is that Philadelphia is more efficient on both sides of the ball: No. 5 in Scoreability and No. 23 in Bendability.
The Giants gain more than 400 yards per game on offense, but are No. 16 in Scoreability and an awful No. 31 in Bendability – an odd ranking considering their mighty D-Hogs.
Put most simply, the Eagles are a smarter and better coached team. And the Giants make too many mistakes and simply surrender points far too easily. It's a problem that's separating a talented team from turning into an elite team.
It's another opportunity to turn big plays into big points for Vick and the Eagles offense.
Philadelphia 28, N.Y. Giants 24
Denver at San Diego (-10.5)
Footballs will be fly efficiently all around Qualcomm Stadium in this one: San Diego's Philip Rivers leads an offense that's No. 1 in Passing Yards Per Attempt (7.99); Denver's Kyle Orton leads an offense that's No. 2 in Passing Yards Per Attempt (7.17).
Perhaps more impressively to those fans impressed by meaningless volume imaginary fake football stats, both QBs are on a pace to throw for better than 5,000 yards this season.
The difference Monday night is that Rivers will find a much more welcoming defense: Denver is ranked 28th in Defensive Passer Rating, while San Diego ranks 5th.
The Chargers also top Passer Rating Differential and will challenge Orton with the NFL's No. 2-ranked Defensive Hogs. The Broncos bring some of the league's worst Defensive Hogs into the contest (30th).
Denver has won just once on the road this season and lug a lousy defense into San Diego. The resurgent Chargers could make it ugly against a team that ranks No. 29 in scoring D (28.0 PPG).
San Diego 31, Denver 17
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