There's been a lack of writing on this site, aside from Travis' soccer posts this week. The reason for this is that my apartment was flooded because of Hurricane Sandy and I've had to focus on fixing things here. It cost me writing a Thursday Night pick, but I'd rather not talk about my picking the Chiefs to cover.
Anyway, we've reached Week 9 in the NFL season, the true midpoint as we begin to start the stretch run for the playoffs. Here are some facts about this season before I begin to make my picks for the week:
1. NFC is start markedly better than the AFC. Right now, the AFC has Houston, New England, Denver and a whole lot of nothing. Baltimore's too hurt to be a real threat, Pittsburgh's only just getting out of being hurt (the AFC's lone sleeper I'd say) and then you have a bunch of mediocre teams as best punctuated by the Miami-Indianapolis game being a playoff battle.
2. If a defensive player is ever going to win MVP, this is the best chance. I'm referring to J.J. Watt, the best player on the Texans, who will likely end up with the best record in the AFC. Watt leads the league in sacks thus far with 9.5 and Houston has the second best defense in the league. Also, no QB is really grabbing the award unless the Falcons remain unbeaten (meaning Matt Ryan would win by default) or the Redskins make the playoffs (ROTY and MVP for RGIII!).
3. Fortunately, the decision by the replacement refs in the Seattle-Green Bay game won't end up costing the Packers the playoffs. It might be a question of seeding for Green Bay, but just remember, they won the Super Bowl as a sixth seed in 2010, then lost in the first round as a 1. I, for one, am glad the Packers turned their year around to avoid the replacement refs making an impact against a team. Now, the Seahawks might still make the playoffs, but I'm not quite sure that'll be because of the replacements. Only time will tell.
Without further adieu, here are the picks.
Denver (-3.5) over CINCINNATI
Everything is breaking right for the Broncos, being blessed by the schedule gods. The first blessing is a trip to Cincinnati, where the Bengals are falling apart. I know the AFC is weak, but if the Bengals have any chance to make the playoffs, these two home games against the Mannings will need at least a split.
Baltimore (-3.5) over CLEVELAND
This will be the game that determined how much the injuries the Ravens have dealt with will impact their season. It's one thing to lose to the Texans a week after losing Ray Lewis and LaDarius Webb; it's another to lose to the Browns coming off a bye and more time to adjust. Let's not act like the Browns played well last week, the Ravens better come to play.
GREEN BAY (-10) over Arizona
They can't make this line high enough. The Cardinals are in free fall, looked awful against Alex Smith and the Niners at home on Monday night, and now have to go to Green Bay on a short week and have Aaron Rodgers pick them apart. Who knew that Kevin Kolb was that important to this team.
HOUSTON (-10) over Buffalo
I'm a little more worried about a late cover by the Bills, since they aren't completely inept offensively. Yet, the Texans home wins were by 20, 24 and 30 points. Two of those win are against possible playoff teams (Miami and Baltimore). Yes, the Packers beat them at home, but the Bills aren't the Packers and Ryan Fitzpatrick is no Aaron Rodgers.
INDIANAPOLIS (+2) over Miami
This is truly a pick'em. I love how Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have had all the attention, yet the third rookie QB in the top 10 Ryan Tannehill might go the furthest this year. Even a better chance of that happening if the Dolphins win. Unfortunately, the Colts are better at home and while I know the Dolphins will run well today, they don't score enough and I'd rather not play close games with the Colts.
JACKSONVILLE (+5.5) over Detroit
Calvin Johnson is hurt, and might only play on third downs today. I know that the Lions are in a must-win mode, but I'm not confident they can do so. Meanwhile, the Jags have been spirited in the last couple weeks on the road, losing in OT to the Raiders and even having the Packers worry for a second. I think they surprise today.
TENNESSEE (+3.5) over Chicago
Even since Matt Hasselbeck became the starter again for the Titans, they are finally a functioning football team. Chris Johnson has also began to run better. Yes, the Bears defense will give them trouble, but the Bears offense is struggling right now and I figure they loss they avoided last week only delayed the inevitable. Better for a bad loss to come here against an AFC team.
WASHINGTON (-3) over Carolina
Yes, RGIII over Cam. More importantly a Redskins win makes for very good news for President Obama. If you don't know why, read this story. This is among my favorite random stats in all of sports (side note: any politics talk on the comments will be deleted; oh wait, I forgot, no one comments on my blog).
OAKLAND (-1.5) over Tampa Bay
I don't think the Bucs win over the Vikings made them a good team. Meanwhile, the Raiders lately have been a good football team. It doesn't hurt that this is the best Carson Palmer has looked in about six years.
SEATTLE (-4) over Minnesota
Reality can be brutal, especially if you're a Vikings fan. After the great start, a terrible home loss to the Bucs now has the team staring at a difficult second half schedule, starting today in Seattle, where the Seahawks never lose. Seahawks don't really have wiggle room from their road games, so they must win out at home to make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh (+3) over GIANTS
If this game was in Pittsburgh, I'd take the Giants. While the Giants were able to build a nice NFC East lead, the Steelers have been battling all year to get to 4-3. November isn't the kindest of months for the Giants, and I think Big Ben gets revenge on Eli from 2008.
Dallas (+3.5) over ATLANTA
I'd like to think that last week's loss to the Giants was the last we'll hear from Dallas this year, but I think there's too much talent on both sides of the ball for this to be true. Also, the Falcons are going to drop a game; they aren't this good to be able to stay unbeaten.
NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Philadelphia
Unlike Dallas, Philly seems like they are playing out the string and ready for a new era. This might be a shootout, but in New Orleans on primetime, I'll always take Drew Brees over anyone.
Last week: 7-7
This week: 0-1