NFL Week 17 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

New York Jets (-2.5) vs. BUFFALO

Al Bello/Getty Images

Al Bello/Getty Images

At stake: The Jets clinch a Wild Card spot if they win.

Derek: Do the Jets want to make the playoffs more than Rex Ryan wants to keep them out of the playoffs? Tough to say. I’ll go with the Jets based on the assumption that none of them have checked out.

Will: Bills at home. A Rex Ryan driven by a vengeance stronger than anything but his preference for feet. A healthy-enough Tyrod Taylor. All of that gives me faith that Buffalo can pull off the upset.

New England (-10) vs. MIAMI

At stake: The Patriots clinch the AFC’s top seed if they win.

Derek: The Dolphins are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games, and haven’t covered since November 15. But the Patriots have been shredded by injuries, and as such I think this spread is too high. I say the Patriots win an ugly game in which the Dolphins cover.

Will: Shredded by injuries the Pats are, but they’ve still scored 26-plus in each of the past four weeks. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have put up more than 15 just once in that time. The Pats could decide to rest their main guys and try to limp semi-healthily into the playoffs. I’ll back New England regardless.

CINCINNATI (-9) vs. Baltimore

At stake: The Bengals will get the AFC’s second seed if they win and the Broncos lose.

Derek: The playoffs don’t start until next week, so the Bengals are still a safe bet. Let’s all root for Cincy so Ryan Mallett’s second consecutive win doesn’t cause a rip in space-time that consumes us all.

Will: Yep, I’m not letting the Ravens’ upset over the Steelers last week get my hopes up too high. The Bengals are 12-2-1 against the spread this year, while the Ravens are 4-9-2. Even with AJ McCarron at the helm, nine points feels low. Cincinnati takes it.

ATLANTA (-5.5) vs. New Orleans

At stake: Draft position.

Derek:

Saints?

Will: I second that video clip. I’ll take the Falcons.

HOUSTON (-6.5) vs. Jacksonville

At stake: Houston clinches the AFC South with a win. They probably still clinch if they lose. The Colts could technically still win the division, but it would take a miracle.

Derek: I guess the Texans still have to sort of try since they haven’t completely wrapped up the division. The Jags are playing for next year, so I’ll go Houston.

Will: Eh, no idea. I’ll take the points.

Pittsburgh (-10.5) vs. CLEVELAND

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

At stake: The Steelers clinch a Wild Card if they win and the Jets lose.

Derek: Pittsburgh murdered me in a fantasy league and made me look stupid in last week’s picks. I’m not backing them as double-digit favorites. Browns cover.

Will: I’ve seen this game enough to know not to doubt the Steelers. They are uniquely gifted when it comes to destroying the Browns, especially when things are at their dreariest. Lord knows how many guillotines are preparing to fall at Browns HQ, and a blowout at the hands of their oldest rival should do the job. Steelers take it handily.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6) vs. Tennessee

At stake: The Colts could win the AFC South with the help of a miracle. The Titans clinch the number one pick in the draft with a loss.

Derek: The Colts will be starting Josh Freeman or Ryan Lindley in this game, and they’re favored. What a world! I’ll take Tennessee.

Will: With a shot at the top pick, I expect the Titans to roll over something fierce. If they don’t, the Browns will be more than happy to take over. Colts.

DALLAS (-4) vs. Washington

At stake: Draft position for Dallas. The Redskins are locked into the fourth seed and await Seattle, Green Bay, or Minnesota.

Derek: I can’t imagine Washington gives any sort of effort with no chance of improving their playoff position. This will be a showcase of the reserves, leading to a Dallas cover.

Will: Washington has led a charmed life in the NFC East this year, while Dallas has been mired in Jerry Jones’ worst nightmare. I like those trends to continue. Washington covers.

CHICAGO (PK) vs. Detroit

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: A meaningless Week 17 game with no points to fall back on. That’s not very nice. Then I’ll take the home team!

Will: Both of these teams wound up being sneaky good. I got no idea. Since Calvin Johnson and Ameer Abdullah are both hobbled, I’ll roll with you on Chicago.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: Ooo look, points! I’ll take the points.

Will: The question here is how the Eagles will respond to Chip Kelly’s firing. I like them to play well in the name of good old-fashioned pettiness. Philly it is.

CAROLINA (-10.5) vs. Tampa Bay

At stake: The Panthers clinch the NFC’s top seed with a win or a Cardinals loss.

Derek: I’ll say the Panthers will be angry, especially since they need this game to retain home-field advantage. It’s a big spread, but the Panthers should be up to the task.

Will: Sure, that works for me. Carolina.

KANSAS CITY (-7) vs. Oakland

At stake: The Chiefs clinch the AFC West if they win and the Broncos lose.

Derek: The only spreads the Chiefs didn’t cover during their nine-game win streak were over 11 points. They’ve had no problem covering single-digit spreads, as they won all of those games by eight or more. I’ll stick with the Chiefs.

Will: The Chiefs should be righteously angry after squeaking by the Browns last week. That should have them riled up nice and good. Kansas City covers.

DENVER (-9) vs. San Diego

At stake: The Broncos will be the AFC’s top seed if they win and the Patriots lose. They clinch the second seed with a win, but could fall to the fifth seed if they lose and the Chiefs win.

Derek: This is one of the few scheduling loopholes the NFL missed. If the Patriots lose to the Dolphins in the early slate of games, the Broncos will know this one is for home-field advantage. And they’ve already got so much on the line with Chiefs breathing down their necks. I’ll say the Broncos rise to the occasion at home.

Will: The money line for a Denver win is -420. That’s a sign in Denver‘s favor as much as any.

St. Louis (-3) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: If you’ve been reading my picks at all, you know I like the Rams in a blowout.

Will: Add this one to the who the hell cares pile. I’ll take the Rams too.

ARIZONA (-6.5) vs. Seattle

At stake: The Cardinals would pick up the NFC’s top seed if they win and Carolina loses. Seattle is playing for the fifth or sixth seed, and it won’t be clear which one they’ll get until after the Green Bay-Minnesota game.

Derek: At last, the Seahawks return to the site of The Incident. My homerism aside, it’s exceedingly rare for the Seahawks to lose a game by more than a touchdown, so I’ll happily take them as underdogs. Or maybe I’ll be even more disgusted than I was last week. At least I know what game to fall asleep to this week.

Will: At risk of oversimplifying things, the Cardinals won by a touchdown when these teams met in Seattle. They haven’t missed a beat yet. Apologies, friend, but I’m taking Arizona.

GREEN BAY (-3) vs. Minnesota

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

At stake: The winner is NFC North Champion and the third seed in the NFC. If Green Bay loses, they will be the fifth seed. If Minnesota loses, they will be the fifth or sixth seed depending on whether Seattle wins.

Derek: I’m rooting for the Vikings, because if they win it guarantees the Seahawks won’t have to go to Lambeau in the first round. But my fear of the Packers at home in a winner-take-all game justifies my selection of them here.

Will: I’ve backed the Packers a couple times too many this year. My gut says to take them, but to hell with my gut. I’ll rue this when Adrian Peterson has 19 yards on 12 carries, but I like Minnesota.


Panthers lose, Seahawks lose, and JOHNNY RUNS: NFL Week 16 Recap

NFL Recap Header

wild and crazy Week 16 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks ending a streak, Johnny Manziel’s polarizing day, the Panthers finally losing, the Steelers getting upset, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


AP Photo/Ed Zurga

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

Will: You were eerily prescient with your Seahawks-Rams prediction, except it went worse for the ‘Hawks than you hoped. That said, your boys have a playoff spot locked up with a week to go. Does clinching a postseason berth take the sting out of losing to a division rival?

Derek: I guess it makes me feel a little better, since the Seahawks are still in a similar situation and now the Rams get a worse draft pick, but that was a terrible showing. I’ve been happy to not talk about Seattle’s offensive line for the last month or so, but they made sure to remind us they’re not very good in this one. Christine Michael was getting destroyed four yards in the backfield. Aaron Donald and William Hayes had our guards beat before Russell could even complete the exchange. I’ve seen pundits taking the loss as a sign that the Seahawks really need Marshawn back, but even he wouldn’t have had success the way the O-line was getting manhandled.

This is what the Rams do, though. I always joke that the Rams only look good at the end of the year because they want to con us into making them a popular sleeper pick like we do every year. They’ve now won three in a row, and you better believe they’re going to blow the 49ers out next week. I can already hear Skip Bayless picking them to win the NFC West in 2016 because they finished 2015 on a four-game win streak.

Tony Overman/The Olympian

Tony Overman/The Olympian

Just two final thoughts. First, I’d like to pour one out for an impressive streak that ended Sunday. The loss to the Rams was the first game of Russell Wilson’s career that the Seahawks did not hold a lead at any point in the game. I’m not sure if that’s an impressive streak compared to others because I haven’t seen anyone mention it, but I personally am pretty impressed by it. And I’m going to miss it.

Second, I’d like to add attention to Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who likes to hit people from behind and then crumple to the ground when those people look to retaliate later in the game.

Apparently he does this kind of stuff all the time. I’m not usually a fan of laying out punters, but Hekker is making me reconsider.

I watched the Browns game closely due to my Chiefs responsibilities, and I was pretty impressed that the Browns managed to cover. Not the highest praise, I know, but I thought they were going to get blown out. What was your reaction to the game? Were you happy to improve draft position, or did you want to the Browns to play spoiler? And is Tramon Williams always as bad as he has been the last two weeks?

Will: I didn’t watch most of this game as I was on the road, returning from some holiday travel. I was thus reliant on the radio voice of the Browns, Jim Donovan, to tell me how excited I should or shouldn’t get. And I’ll tell you what — I was pretty excited! Johnny Manziel only completed 13 of 32 passes, but he ran for 108 yards and didn’t get sacked once by a fearsome Chiefs defense. That comes with an asterisk since Justin Houston and Tamba Hali (14 sacks combined) missed the game due to injury, but still! I was also glad to see the Brownies play hard and not give up 30 points for the second time in nine weeks.

Re: draft position, I don’t think I want the Browns to have the No. 1 overall pick. Far as I can tell there isn’t any one player who is the clear-cut top guy, so why put that extra pressure on a consistently crap front office? No. 2 is very nearly No. 1, and they should — should! — be able to find a player at that spot.

Let’s move to relevant teams. The NFC playoff field (Panthers, Cardinals, Packers, Redskins, Vikings, Seahawks) looks way better than the AFC (Patriots, Bengals, Broncos, Texans, Chiefs, Jets), right? Let’s say for the sake of argument that the Panthers, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks have a real shot at winning the Super Bowl — due to either 2015 performance or previously-earned benefit of the doubt. Does any AFC team beyond the Pats feel like a genuine contender?

Derek: The Chiefs have shown us anything can happen, but I wouldn’t put any of those AFC teams on the same level as New England. I mean, look at those quarterbacks: AJ McCarron, Brock Osweiler, Brandon Weeden, Alex Smith, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Would you really trust any of them in a playoff game? It certainly looks like whoever comes out of the NFC will be a clear Super Bowl favorite unless they’re facing the Patriots, or said NFC team is too beat up from playing the other NFC teams.

Watching Johnny these past two weeks, it became clear that he’s not a great quarterback right now, but he’s exciting and way better than he was last year. Did watching him evade pressure time and again make up for the fact that he completed 13 passes on 32 attempts for 136 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception?

Will: This is backhanded praise to be sure, but this is the Johnny that I’ve been waiting for. Exciting, slippery, yet not completely competent. He had plenty of missed throws, but based on the comments I’ve seen many of them were due to shoddy fundamentals. I’m not sure whether to view this as a good or bad thing. Part of me thinks it’s correctable stuff he can iron out, while the other part is saying you idiot, what was he working on all last year?

I still have no idea if he can be a legit quarterback in the National Football League. What’s your gut feeling: Should the Browns give Johnny a shot next year or bring in QB TBD?

Derek: Can’t it be both? Johnny has shown promise, but he’s also shown that he may never learn. I’m fine with giving Johnny a shot as long as there’s some kind of backup plan. If the number two quarterback isn’t an established veteran or an early draft pick, that’s a problem. On a related note, I feel I should point out that as of this writing Jared Goff has over 400 yards and six touchdowns in his bowl game and it’s not even the fourth quarter yet. Either he or Paxton Lynch will be the first quarterback off the board in the draft, and the Browns will probably have a shot at both of them. I wouldn’t hold it against Cleveland if they picked one of those guys to be the Kirk Cousins to Johnny’s RGIII. If I were running the show, one of those two (or possibly Joey Bosa) would be a Brown next year.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

We both thought the Steelers would run circles around the Ravens, but they lost the game and possibly their playoff spot. How much did you enjoy seeing that? Was it the best part of Week 16?

Will: I also didn’t see this game, but I did listen to a good chunk of it on the radio; I was driving from my brother’s place in Pittsburgh back home to Cleveland, so it was a treat to hear the radio voices of the Steelers wonder what the heck was going on out there. But yeah, with the exception of Johnny running for 100 yards, Pittsburgh losing was definitely a high point.

That said, I’ve been a real grump this whole season. The Browns have sucked, and that’s dovetailed nicely with my waning enthusiasm for the NFL in general. That said, what storyline should I be interested as we enter the playoffs? TEACH ME TO FEEL AGAIN.

Derek: I sort of alluded to it earlier, but I think almost every NFC playoff game is going to be must-see TV. Maybe the Vikings and Redskins aren’t on the same level as the other four teams, but any combination of the Panthers, Cardinals, Packers, or Seahawks would be pretty compelling. You can also watch Brandon Weeden start a playoff game. That should be fun.

The Panthers have finally fallen! Are you happy, disappointed, or somewhere in-between?

Will: Somewhere in between. Even though I would have picked them to win out, I’m not shocked that they lost, even to the Falcons. It would have been fun to have an undefeated team in the postseason, though I don’t know if I could handle the associated TV talk about Cam Newton’s relative eliteness.

Say, you didn’t menace anyone with a bat this week, did you?

Derek: Maybe.

sting hogan

But that’s my business, and mine alone.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Julio Jones can do this:

julio catch

That looks difficult. I’m going to give it to him.

Will: LOOKIT JOHNNY SCRAMBLE I TELL YA THIS KID’S A BALLPLAYER

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’m returning this coveted award to the Steelers. They lost to Ryan Mallett(!) in a game they needed to make the playoffs. They only scored 17 points(!) against one of the worst defenses in the league. They might be the second best team in the AFC, but they’ll need help to back into the playoffs. And if your Browns upset them next week, expect to see the Steelers here again.

Will: Oh god that paragraph gave me a chub. Thank you. I look forward to next week’s game undoing that and Cleveland taking Pittsburgh’s place as Most Hungover.


Week 16 NFL Picks

NFL Picks We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

Carolina (-6.5) vs. ATLANTA

AP Photo/John Bazemore

AP Photo/John Bazemore

At stake: Carolina clinches home-field advantage with a win. The Falcons are eliminated. Even if they win out and the Vikings lose out, the Vikings win the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head win in Week 12.

Derek: It wasn’t too long ago that the Panthers whipped the Falcons 38-0. Not enough has changed in the last 14 days to make me think the Falcons have a shot. The Panthers pick up the NFC’s top seed.

Will: With all the holiday hubbub, I’m afraid I haven’t even peeked at this week’s schedule. My picks will thus be abbreviated, because football picks aren’t what’s really important this time of year. You know what is? God. Country. Family. The American Way. All of which points to a big Panthers win.

TAMPA BAY (-3.5) vs. Chicago

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: One thing I’ll enjoy about football season ending is not having to put thought into who’s going to win games between teams that are out of it, like this game and the following three. Well, unless you think the Jaguars really have a shot at winning the AFC South.

Oh yeah, Bucs-Bears. I guess I didn’t put much thought into it after all. I’ll just take the points.

Will: You took the words right out of my mouth. Points all day.

BUFFALO (-6.5) vs. Dallas

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: I’ve seen my fair share of Cowboy quarterbacks this year. I’ll take Buffalo.

Will: I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that the unusually warm weather will knock the Bills askew. Dallas prevails in the mildness.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) vs. Jacksonville

At stake: The Jaguars are mathematically still alive, but they’ll need to win out and get lots of help in the form of Colts/Texans losses and fortuitous tiebreakers. Football Outsiders puts the chances of this happening at 3.5%.

Derek: Drew Brees is playing with a painful injury, and the underdog Jags are clinging to their slight playoff hopes. I’ll take the Jags.

Will: The Saints’ performance this season has been every bit as drunk as New Orleans itself. While I respect that — a team should always reflect its city — I reckon they’ll be dealing with a nasty holiday hangover. Jags take it.

DETROIT (-10) vs. San Francisco

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: These two teams have been out of the playoffs for weeks, and I’m supposed to lay 10 points with one of them? I’ll feel so much dumber losing if I die on the “Detroit -10” hill. Niners it is.

Will: That has to be a misprint. San Francisco for sure.

KANSAS CITY (-11) vs. Cleveland

At stake: The Chiefs clinch a playoff spot with a win. They still have a shot at winning the AFC West, but would need help in the form of Denver losses.

Derek: Here’s a quote from Cleveland resident Will Gibson on the state of the Browns:

As far as tanking…I mean, they really don’t have to. If they give up 50 points total in their last two games, they will have allowed more points than the 1999 expansion team. It’s remarkable how bad they are. I also don’t really know who they could bench that would make a difference besides Joe Thomas. Maybe Gary Barnidge? They just suck.

I’ve been a fan of some bad Seahawks teams, but I can’t remember thinking “it’s impossible for us to tank because it wouldn’t really make a difference if we sat our best players.” So, uh, this is a long-winded way of saying I’m taking the Chiefs.

Will: I recuse myself from this selection because I can’t pick against the Browns.

MIAMI (-2.5) vs. Indianapolis

At stake: The Colts have an outside shot of winning the AFC South, but they’ll need to win this game and get some help.

Derek: Maybe if Matt Hasselbeck were making a spot start, I’d feel comfortable taking the Colts. But he’s way too beat up, and I don’t trust Charlie Whitehurst. The Dolphins finish this one with a win.

Will: No idea. I’ll take the points.

New England (-3) vs. NEW YORK JETS

Getty Images

Getty Images

At stake: The Patriots clinch home-field advantage with a win. The Jets will help their Wild Card chances with a win and would benefit from the Steelers and Chiefs losing.

Derek: I was tempted to take the Jets because of all of New England’s injuries, but three points isn’t enough to make me feel comfortable. The Patriots somehow win with a bunch of players no one has ever heard of.

Will: Yep, today’s the day that that James Davis guy (is that his name?) becomes a household name. Pats.

Houston (-3) vs. TENNESSEE

At stake: The Texans clinch the AFC South with a win and a Colts loss.

Derek: This seems like some kind of philosophical question. Do you side with the horrendous Titans at home, or a team led by Brandon Weeden? There isn’t supposed to be an answer, so I’m not picking one. I’ll say the Texans win by exactly three for the push.

Will: I so so so love that this game has playoff implications. What a dumb season. I’ll take the points.

Pittsburgh (-10) vs. BALTIMORE

At stake: The Steelers clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Jets loss. They still have a shot at winning the AFC North if they win out and the Bengals lose out.

Derek: I think this is going to be ugly. The Steelers want revenge for blowing their game against the Ravens on Thursday night in Week 4. Ryan Mallett(!) is starting for the Ravens. They’ve been blown out at home by the Seahawks and Chiefs the last two weeks. The Steelers need this game for playoff purposes. I wouldn’t take the Ravens unless I was getting more than 20. Needless to say, I like Pittsburgh.

Will: Agreed all around. The Ravens are nearly on the Browns level in terms of ineptitude, except they have more injuries to help explain themselves. Stillers.

ARIZONA (-4.5) vs. Green Bay

At stake: Arizona has clinched the NFC West. They clinch a first-round bye with a win. Football Outsiders gives them a 2.2% chance at the NFC’s top seed, but that would require winning out and the Panthers losing out. The Packers have clinched a playoff spot. They clinch the NFC North with a win and a Vikings loss.

Derek: The Cardinals are on a tear, and the Packers have looked just bad enough in the last month to make me not trust them outside of Lambeau, especially against a superior opponent. Honestly, I think the spread is a little low because the Packers are such a public team. Arizona clinches a bye.

Will: In my heart of hearts I think Arizona is absolutely good enough to win this thing by two touchdowns, but I’m backing the Packers based on Aaron Rodgers alone.

SEATTLE (-12) vs. St. Louis

Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Michael Thomas/Getty Images

At stake: Seattle has clinched a Wild Card spot and has no chance at the NFC West. They are playing to get either the fifth seed (a trip to Washington) or the sixth seed (a trip to Green Bay or Minnesota).

Derek: I like to fall asleep with the TV on. In the days leading up to Sunday, I like to put on an old football game between the Seahawks and whoever they’re playing that week–preferably a game the Seahawks won handily, because I’m insane. I’ve had some trouble this season since Seattle hasn’t had much recent luck against the AFC North and NFL Game Pass only goes back to 2009. I also had trouble this week. Most of Seattle’s games with the Rams in the last few years have been either losses or ugly wins. Not the sort of thing to help me rest easy.  And that’s why I say the Rams cover. I think the Seahawks will win, but not in a way that helps me sleep during either Rams week next season.

Will: You are insane. I say the Seahawks win comfortably.

MINNESOTA (-7) vs. New York Giants

At stake: If the Packers lose, this game is meaningless, as the Packers and Vikings play next week in what would essentially be the NFC North Championship game. If the Packers win, the Vikings need to win this game to keep their hopes of winning the NFC North alive, and next week would still be the NFC North Championship game. The Vikings are in the playoffs regardless. The Giants are eliminated since the Redskins won the NFC East on Saturday night.

Derek: It’s tough to pick this game since, as mentioned, there’s a chance this game won’t mean anything to the Vikings and they bench everyone. But there’s also a chance it’ll mean a lot to them. It won’t mean anything to the Giants either way, and they won’t have Odell Beckham. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Vikings cover.

Will: How about some good old fashioned Ewing Theory action? I’ll take the Giants.

DENVER (-3.5) vs. Cincinnati 

At stake: Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with a win. They clinch the AFC North with a win or a Steelers loss. Denver clinches the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss. They clinch a playoff spot with a win or a Jets/Steelers loss.

Derek: AJ McCarron was serviceable last week against the lowly 49ers. On the road at Denver is an entirely different story. Broncos win, and possibly win big.

Will: I like the way you think, friend. Broncos it is. Now let’s all go get holiday drunk.


Rams vs. Buccaneers: Week 15 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 15 Thursday night game. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday.

(Home team in caps. Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.)

ST. LOUIS (-2.5) vs. Tampa Bay

Jason Behnken / Tampa Tribune

Jason Behnken / Tampa Tribune

Derek: Unless they’re playing a vastly superior team, I’m always going to pick the Rams at the end of the year. The Rams are absolute pros at turning it on at the end of the season to make us all think they’ll be good next year. That didn’t work out against Arizona, but last week they ran all over a Lions team that was on a bit of a hot streak. I think they’ll fool us by looking impressive in this one as well.

Will: WHO IS WATCHING THESE FOOTBALL GAMES? On a good week the NFL’s expansion to a thrice-a-week schedule looks brilliant, but for the past few it’s been brutal. This matchup isn’t quite as bad as Browns-Ravens on Monday night, but the point stands. My grumpiness about this football season is not subsiding. I can’t wait for it to be over. I’ll take the points.


Feeling Lucky: NFL Week 13 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

Cincinnati (-9.5) vs. CLEVELAND

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I’d normally take a 9.5 point home underdog in a division game, but after what happened Monday night the Browns might be toxic. Austin Davis is in, it’s a short week, the team is shell shocked, and the crowd will probably be depressed and/or sarcastic. That’s assuming it doesn’t end up being a de facto home game for the Bengals. As you may have guessed, I’m going with Cincinnati.

Will: Might be toxic?? That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard about the Browns all week. The crowd at the Ravens game was already depressed and sarcastic, which actually made for a fun experience. It was more like an open mic night than a football game — and what a joke that closer was! Thank you, thank you. I’m going to be at this one too. Pray for me, and for this pick. Browns by three touchdowns.

CHICAGO (-7) vs. San Francisco

Derek: The 49ers defense has really, really sucked on the road. In Chicago’s last four games (at San Diego, at St. Louis, vs. Denver, at Green Bay) the Bears haven’t allowed more than 19 points. Considering the 49er D is a sieve on the road, and the fact that I don’t trust Blaine Gabbert on the road against a defense that’s playing well, I’ll take Chicago.

Will: You’ve sold me. Chicago’s 28th ranked run defense is a bit of a concern, but San Francisco’s rushing offense is ranked No. 20, so nevermind. The spread is a little higher than I’d like, but the Niners also have the lowest-scoring offense in football. I don’t know why I’m wasting words on this. Conciseness is a virtue. Bears.

TENNESSEE (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville

Derek: Ugh. These two are playing again? At least there aren’t playoff implications anymore. I’ll take the points.

Will: Same. Let’s move on.

BUFFALO (-3) vs. Houston

Derek: The Texans might be overachieving, but they’re red hot. I’ll ride their hot streak and underdog status and take the points.

Will: Also same.

MIAMI (-3.5) vs. Baltimore

Derek: The Dolphins just changed offensive coordinators and they’re playing a bad team! This is pretty much Miami’s wheel house. I’m all over the Dolphins here.

Will: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold the pho–no just kidding, the Ravens totally suck and I would take no pleasure in picking them, especially after last week. Dolphins.

Carolina (-7) vs. NEW ORLEANS

Derek: I’ll make this a narrative pick and say that this is the Saints’ Super Bowl and they’ll want to make up for not scoring a touchdown for the first time in the Payton/Brees era last week. I don’t have the guts to take Carolina straight-up, but I like the Saints to cover as home underdogs.

Will: I’ll make a different narrative pick and say that this is the week where the Panthers get their fourth straight blowout win and everyone really starts to talk about them as a Super Bowl favorite. They’ve gotten plenty of pub lately, what with Cam Newton on the Sports Illustrated cover and all, but I haven’t gotten the (totally arbitrary) sense that people would really favor them over the likes of the Cardinals and Patriots. Yes sir, I smell another Panthers beatdown. 

Seattle (-1) vs. MINNESOTA

Derek: The Seahawks have covered two weeks in a row! The offense is catching fire! Here we come, NFC! SEAHAWKS!

Or at least I hope so. The Vikings are the Seahawks’ secret rivals. They stole Steve Hutchinson from in that shady poison pill debacle. They conned us into taking Percy Harvin. They conned us into taking Darell Bevell. They might be sore about that time Shaun Alexander scored five touchdowns against them in the first half. Screw you, Vikings. I hope Thomas Rawls scores 10 touchdowns in the first quarter.

Will: I reckon this is the best game of the week, and I reckon it’ll come down to whether or not the Seahawks can slow down Adrian Peterson and force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them. They’ve allowed the fifth fewest rushing yards of any team in the league, so I like their chances. The Vikings have only scored eight touchdowns through the air this season; this could be a good week for the embattled Seattle secondary. Seahawks it is.

Arizona (-6) vs. ST. LOUIS

Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Derek: The Rams are 4-7, meaning they need to win four games to reach their 8-8 standard that makes them a popular sleeper pick next season. It’s like death and taxes. Rams.

Will: As much as I enjoy that logic, St. Louis has been hot garbage over the past month. They beat the Cardinals when they met in Week 4, and Arizona had some trouble with San Francisco last week, but I’m going to conveniently overlook that. Cardinals keep rolling.

TAMPA BAY (-1) vs. Atlanta

Derek: Remember when we were talking about the Falcons going undefeated because they had such an easy schedule? Well, they’ve kind of gotten destroyed in those easy games. I can no longer back them in good conscience. I’ll take Tampa.

Will: Uh, yeah. Considering that the Falcons lost to the Bucs at home a month ago, I see little reason to pick them this time around. Crab legs.

New York Jets (-2) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS

Derek: This is a “home” game for the Giants, but that’s more of a technicality. I’m sure the Jets are psyched about calling the coin toss in their own building. I bet they’re even more psyched about facing the Giants’ secondary. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have been matchup problems for many teams this year, and I think this will be one of them. Jets cover.

Will: I kind of like both of these teams, though both have struggled over the past couple weeks. The Jets haven’t held anyone under 20 points since the Dolphins in Week 5, but that may be misleading; they’re still a top-five defense by DVOA. The Giants, meanwhile, are below average by DVOA on both sides of the ball. I would stay away from this one if I could, but gentlemen like ourselves can’t stay away from the hard choices. I will also take the Jets.

Denver (-4) vs. SAN DIEGO

Derek: Here’s another game with a “home” team. I’m sure there will be 70% Broncos fans here. Mike McCoy might actually go to the wrong sideline. The Chargers haven’t covered at home since Week 1. I’ll take Denver.

Will: Poor San Diego. The only thing worse than the team is how few native San Diegans come out to support them. Brock’s streak continues

Kansas City (-3) vs. OAKLAND

Derek: This was the toughest game of the week for me to pick. As such, I’m going with the points.

Will: Both of these teams are top-10 in offensive DVOA. Kansas City’s defense has been back to its quarterback-marauding ways, which makes me concerned for the well-being of Derek Carr. I think this will be a good game, but I like the Chiefs.

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) vs. Philadelphia

Derek: I would not want to be an Eagles fan this week. Part of me thinks this is one of those stretches where the Patriots look bad before picking it up in the playoffs. The other part thinks the Patriots are going to angrily blow out the reeling Eagles. I’ll err on the side of the Patriots.

Will: Maybe this is the week to take Philly as a contrarian play?

Never mind. Pats.

PITTSBURGH (-7) vs. Indianapolis

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I feel pretty good about the Steelers here. Their offense has been otherworldly at home when Roethlisberger plays, and it appears he’s good to go. Last year, Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns against Indy. The Hasselbeck-led Colts have been a good story, but I don’t think they have the horses (heh) to keep up with Pittsburgh. The Steelers cover in a high-scoring affair.

Will: I expect quite a few points in this one. Roethlisberger could probably go for 250 and a couple scores from a wheelchair, and the Colts defense ain’t nothin’ special. Pittsburgh’s defense also ain’t nothin’ special, and I like Old Man Hasselbeck to throw for about (his age + 200) yards on them, perhaps including a touchdown for the backdoor cover. I’ll ride the Colts.

WASHINGTON (-4) vs. Dallas

Derek: I’m picking the Cowboys solely because I’m rooting for it to happen. Divisional disarray is fun when your team isn’t involved. It’s possible (perhaps likely) that every NFC East team will lose this week except for the winner of this game. If that happens, the Cowboys and Eagles will be 4-8 and one game behind the Redskins and Giants for first place. Related: Tony Romo isn’t on injured reserve yet. You know, just in case. Let’s all root for the 6-10 Cowboys hosting a playoff game and actually being taken seriously as a contender because Romo will be back.

Will: Good luck living up to last week’s Monday nighter, fellas! Yikes, what a game, and what a division. I have the same hopes as you. I wish all of these teams could go 4-12. I expect this game to be a closely contested rock fight, so I will also pick Dallas. It’s about time Greg Hardy caught a break, no?

Last week

Derek: 7-9

Will: 7-9

Overall

Derek: 75-94-7

Will: 78-91-7


NFL Week 12 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

HOUSTON (-3) vs. New Orleans

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Derek: Last week, the coin and I used some twisted logic to pick the Saints on the road, and they naturally got blown out. Now I’ll just turn to regular logic. The Texans defense has been much improved, while the Saints defense looks like it couldn’t stop a decent high school team. Can you imagine what’s going to happen if DeAndre Hopkins gets a few one-on-one matchups with Brandon Browner? It’ll be pass interference or a touchdown every play. The Texans march on.

Will: This week’s picks come courtesy of an ongoing Thanksgiving-derived coma that may never end. Thursday’s feast was merely prelude to the inhalation of leftovers that continued deep into Saturday night. My eyes have a thick sheen of gravy haze over them as I try to make sense of these matchups. It may not go well.

The poor Saints have looked like cold feces since they beat the Falcons, Saints, and Giants successively. They lost to the putrid Titans and were blown out by Washington. The Texans, meanwhile, have won three straight on the back of a rejuvenated defense and the singular brilliance of Hopkins. I’m slightly hesitant to pick Houston, but there ain’t no way I’d pick the Saints. Texans it is.

ATLANTA (-1) vs. Minnesota

Derek: I’m tired of giving the Falcons the benefit of the doubt. Every week I pick them to bounce back and every week they disappoint me. I’m sure the week I finally turn on them will be the week they actually do bounce back, but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night by not backing this horrible team yet again. Vikings cover.

Will: I do believe more than a few of us have been duped by the Falcons. Did you realize that they won a total of 10 games the past two seasons? I sure didn’t. I’ve been operating under the assumption that they’ve been decent for quite a while. Looking at their past two years makes me feel like their losing four of the past five is more rule than exception. The Vikings look darn solid, thus I choose them.

CINCINNATI (-8.5) vs. St. Louis

Derek: Poor Todd Gurley. He has no quarterback, no offensive line, and no receivers. He’s in one of the worst running back situations in the league, which makes it all the more incredible that he’s been somewhat effective.

If Robert Quinn is back and St. Louis’ defense is somewhat healthy, I could see them covering or winning an ugly 12-10 kind of game. But the Bengals should be able to score enough points to cover at home.

Will: There’s really no good to pick the Rams except for all those points and the ongoing belief that the Bengals are booty. That’s good enough for me. Please don’t remind me of this pick when it’s 20-3 at halftime. Rams!

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. Tampa Bay

Derek: I’ve got nothing here. I’m not saying a compelling case could be made for both teams, but certainly a lukewarm case. Matt Hasselbeck surely can’t keep this up forever, and the Buccaneer offense is creeping toward being underrated. On the other hand, the Colts are at home and are indeed undefeated in games Hasselbeck starts. Since I have no idea, it’ll be the points for me.

Will: You, sir, said it better than I ever could. Bleh. Go Bucs.

New York Giants (-3) vs. WASHINGTON

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Derek: The Giants are coming off a bye and are a much better team. I never totally trust the Giants in games they should win, but I will do so here. The spread is pretty low and the Redskins have a recent habit of losing by double digits. The Giants have covered four weeks in a row.

Will: I like the Giants quite a bit this year, but this game gives me pause. Something about NFC East matchups makes me think this thing is going to be a derp-off. I’ma take Washington.

Oakland (-1.5) vs. TENNESSEE

Derek: I was really looking forward to picking against the Raiders out of spite, but unfortunately they play the Titans. While I’d prefer to pick against both of these teams, I’ll reluctantly back Oakland.

Will: Does the NFL just suck this year? At risk of insulting this week’s cracker of a Monday night matchup, why would anyone want to watch this game? I think Oakland is the better team, but screw it, I’ll take the points.

KANSAS CITY (-6) vs. Buffalo

Derek: Last week, I thought the Chargers had a shot against Kansas City because the Chiefs have struggled against teams that can pass. Obviously, I was mistaken when I labeled the Chargers as one of those teams. The Bills, however, are in no danger of torching teams through the air. The Bills are a good running team, but I don’t think this is a good matchup for them. The spread gives me pause, but the Chiefs are on a roll and typically kick it up a notch at Arrowhead. I’ll take Kansas City.

Will: Break up the Chiefs! They’ve won four in a row, and the closest of those games was a 10-point victory over the Steelers. The Bills have been mildly frisky this year, but it’s tough to see them keeping this close. Chiefs it is.

NEW YORK JETS (-3.5) vs. Miami

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Derek: The Jets embarrassed the Dolphins in London earlier this year, leading to the dismissal of Joe Philbin and the arrival of Dan “Joe Philbin” Campbell. The Jets are one of the coldest teams in the league, but the Dolphins aren’t so great either. Their only somewhat decent performance in the last month came against the suddenly horrendous Eagles. I say the Jets get back on track.

Will: REVENGE GAME! Joe Philbin will not have died in vain. The Dolphins avenge their fallen coach (even though they all hated him).

JACKSONVILLE (-4) vs. San Diego

Derek: It’s entirely possible the Chargers are just going to pack it in for the rest of the year. They have too many injuries and zero support from their city. I feel sick to my stomach trusting Jacksonville as a favorite, but the Chargers are a legitimate contender for the number one pick. The Jags cover at home.

Will: What. A. Terrible. Game. I’m starting to think that I just don’t like football anymore. I’ll gladly watch a shitty NBA game like Lakers-Kings, but this doesn’t even threaten to hold my attention. San Diego has been awful, but I’m gonna take the points.

Arizona (-10) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

Derek: I’m tempted to take the Niners, since they play better defense at home. But the Seahawks managed to cover in Santa Clara, and Arizona’s offense is much better. I’ll reluctantly pick Arizona.

Will: The Niners have lost by an average of just over 11 points per game this season. The Cardinals are an above average team. Thus, I pick the Cardinals. This logic is flawless.

SEATTLE (-3.5) vs. Pittsburgh

Derek: Allow me to put my reverse jinx hat on.

The Seahawks shouldn’t be favored in this game. They’ve given me no reason to believe in the mystique of their defense and home field advantage. Richard Sherman should have a decent amount of success, but the thought of Cary Williams covering Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant gives me nightmares.

There are only three things that make me feel good as a Seahawks fan. First, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett should have some success against Pittsburgh’s offensive line. Second, Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t very good. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a shootout. Third, this is the first time the Steelers have played in Seattle since Super Bowl XL. A stadium full of bitter Seahawks fans could take it to another level.

I think the Steelers will cover. And if they win, I hope they do it without cheating.

Will: The Seahawks are a stinky 3-6-1 against the spread this year, which feels exactly right. They’ve won three of their last five, but two of those were against San Crapcisco (the other win was a 13-12 thriller over Dallas). The Legion of Boom’s glory days look to be deep in the rearview mirror. Even with the homefield advantage, I’m afraid I can’t take them. I pick the Steelers, and now I shall throw up a bunch of stuffing.

New England (-3) vs. DENVER

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Derek: Long ago, I picked Tyrod Taylor in his second career start against New England because I thought he could do just enough to win behind Buffalo’s defense and home field advantage. Now, we have Brock Osweiler making his second career start, at home, with an awesome defense. I’m not making that mistake again. Patriots cover.

Will: Um, yeah. Denver ain’t coming close to winning this game. Pats all day. 

CLEVELAND (-3) vs. Baltimore

Derek: Wooo boy. Clear your schedules for this one, folks! Josh McCown is back under center, which should be better for Cleveland in the short term. The Ravens have been torched through the air this season. And I’m not backing Matt Schaub on the road, especially when I’m only getting three points. The Browns take care of business.

Will: Here’s a fun stat: these two teams are a combined 3-14-3 against the spread this year! That’s even worse than their 5-15 straight up record. Enjoy this one, national television audience! I’m going to this game, more to wield the ticket stub as a badge of honor than out of actual enjoyment of football. But by golly, I’ve gotta pick the Browns. If anyone out there ends up watching this thing, I encourage you to find help. It’s not too late.

Last week

Derek: 6-7-1

Will: 6-7-1

Overall

Derek: 68-85-7

Will: 71-82-7


Coin Flippin: NFL Week 11 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus. Bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh]

CAROLINA (-7) vs. Washington

panthers.com

panthers.com

Derek: As I mentioned yesterday, my picks this week will be the result of a coin flip. We’re off to a great start, as the coin was wrong last night. We’ll get back to my terrible picks starting with the Thanksgiving games, but for now I want to see if an inanimate object can pick games better than I can. Heads I pick the home team, tails I pick the road team. Let’s do this.

The Redskins are on an absolute tear right now, relatively speaking. They came back against Tampa, almost put up a decent showing against New England, and throttled New Orleans. The Panthers have to slip up sometime, right? I’ll take Washington.

Will: Picking games is like playing fantasy football in that it makes me feel stupid because I’m bad at it. I hate picking games. I have no idea what’s going to happen in any of these goddamn things. I’m picking angry this week. Let’s see how it goes. 

I’ve been seeing some talk on Twitter about how mean and nasty the Panthers’ o-line is, which dovetails nicely with my strategy this week. Panthers stay unbeaten, cover at home.

DETROIT (PK) vs. Oakland

Derek: The Lions may have beaten Green Bay last week, but the coin and I will not submit to recency bias. The Raiders have been the better team this year, so I say they pull it off.

Will: …Yeah, I’m gonna put more stock in the seven losses that preceded that win. The Raiders have dropped two straight, but are they not a better team than Detroit? They can’t win this thing straight up? I say they can.

Dallas (-1) vs. MIAMI

Derek: Tony Romo is back! As we all know, the Cowboys are undefeated this year when Romo starts. Who cares about the small sample size? The Cowboys show new life and stay alive in the NFC East race.

Will: I like Tony Romo, and I really really hope he has a good game and everyone celebrates him because he seems nice. Cowboys. (So much for picking angry.)

ATLANTA (-5.5) vs. Indianapolis

Derek: It’s Indy’s first game since news broke of Andrew Luck’s lacerated spleen, meaning Old Man Hasselbeck, one of my personal favorites, will once again take over. Hasselbeck is 2-0 this season, and the Falcons have looked like hot garbage for a little over a month now. That said, this is the first of Hasselbeck’s starts in which the opposing team didn’t spend any time preparing for Luck. They’ve had two weeks to do so, and Julio Jones should be able to take down Indy’s 28th ranked pass defense. The Falcons get back on track.

Will: This one is tricky, because both of these teams are good but also sorta suck. It’s also tricky because Andrew Luck’s innards exploded. I sniff a hint of Ewing Theory here. Colts cover.

BALTIMORE (-2.5) vs. St. Louis

Derek: Case Keenum is starting for the Rams this week. Todd Gurley is incredible, but he can’t do it all by himself. Baltimore only gives up 3.8 yards per carry, which is tied for sixth best in the league. Call me crazy, but I don’t trust Keenum to make Baltimore regret stacking the box. I’ll take Baltimore.

Will: I will not call you crazy. I don’t trust Case Keenum to deliver a FedEx, let alone a football. Ravens.

New York Jets (-2.5) vs. HOUSTON

Derek: The Jets are only favored by 2.5? That’s a little fishy. Vegas is begging us all to take the Jets. The coin and I shan’t fall for their trickery. Normally, I’d point out that the Jets have had 10 days to prepare and the Texans are on a short week, but my picks suck so I’m glad the coin is pointing me the other way. The points it is!

Will: That’s super duper fishy. What the hell is this about? Houston’s at home, but they’re Houston. Did their Monday Night win swing things that much? Y’all ain’t fooling me. Jets.

MINNESOTA (-1) vs. Green Bay

Lukas Keapproth/Press Gazette Media

Lukas Keapproth/Press Gazette Media

Derek: Okay, this is the week the Vikings lose. I don’t understand how this is happening. The Vikings have covered in every game since Week 2. The Packers haven’t covered since Week 5. It can’t go on forever! I’ll take Green Bay.

Will: And this is the week the Packers get their shit together. It has to be. Right? I say yes.

PHILADELPHIA (-5.5) vs. Tampa Bay

Derek: Tough to pick this one, since I’m not sure how Mark Sanchez will perform in relief of Sam Bradford. Is he a step up? A step down? Who knows? I sure don’t. And as always, when you don’t know, take the points.

Will: No idea. Points.

Denver (-1) vs. CHICAGO

Derek: The Denver defense has feasted on turnovers at times, and now they get to face a turnover prone quarterback. John Fox and Jay Cutler have the revenge factor going for them, but Peyton Manning sitting out may actually be good for the Broncos. I say Denver wins.

Will: I know that don’t want to be the one who doubted Brock Osweiler. When every quarterback in the league is at least 6-foot-8, we’re gonna look back at Brock as the reason why. Broncos.

SEATTLE (-12.5) vs. San Francisco

Derek: Thank goodness. I didn’t want to back Blaine Gabbert in Seattle. I’ll miss watching Colin Kaepernick sail passes out of bounds, but Blaine Gabbert is a nice consolation. Or the 49ers will win and I’ll spend all of next week in a closet. I’ll choose to think positively and pick the Seahawks.

Will: The Seahawks won by 17 last time these teams met, and that was on the road. They oughta win by two touchdowns at home, easy. But nothing comes easy in the National Football League. God help me, I’m backing Blaine Gabbert in Seattle. This will end well.

Kansas City (-3) vs. SAN DIEGO

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Derek: The Chiefs have played two teams that were passing well (Green Bay in Week 3, Cincinnati in Week 4) and got blown out in both games. The Chargers are coming out of their bye and should be able to air it out. I’ll take the points.

Will: Seems like the Chiefs are decent, but I’m not sure they’re favored-by-three-on-the-road decent. Plus, if anyone is going to come up with a garbage time touchdown to cover the spread, it’s Phil Rivers. Points for me too, please.

ARIZONA (-5) vs. Cincinnati

Derek: It’s getting late in the season, and it’s a prime time game! In other words, it’s exactly the sort of game in which you bet against Andy Dalton. Arizona it is.

Will: Oooh! Good game here. I have a hunch that ol’ Andy has another well-viewed loss or two in the chamber. Cardinals.

NEW ENGLAND (-7) vs. Buffalo

Derek: The Bills have started talking smack, which I’d say is ill-advised. How many times have we seen somebody run their the mouths before playing the Patriots and get blown out? Enough for me to take the home team.

Will: …yeah, have fun with that, Buffalo. I recommend Tim Hortons’ Timbits as sorrow-drowning fare. Pats.

Last week

Derek: 2-12

Will: 6-8

Overall

Derek: 62-78-6

Will: 65-75-6