2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 13

Apologies to everyone involved for throwing these picks up late – traveling 370 miles to visit family on Thanksgiving Day doesn’t leave much time for writing NFL synopses, but better late than never! At least that’s what I’m hoping. In the interest of full disclosure, here’s how Lucas and I picked yesterday’s games:

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-5.5)

Lucas: Packers. I know, Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing, and this isn’t 2011, but remember the last time Matt Flynn played Detroit? Also, it’s Thanksgiving, so Ndamukong Suh is due to do something that reminds us all that he’s a dirty player. If you don’t believe me, Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm and Matt Schaub’s balls would like a word with you.

Nathaniel: Lions. I predict the Lions will rack up over 500 yards of offense and the Packers won’t crack 100 until James Jones catches a long pass on their last possession of the game. I also predict Aaron Rodgers’ mustache will look awesome on the sideline.

Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (-9.5)

Lucas: Raiders. This is less about Matt McGloin starting and more about I don’t trust the Cowboys to win by double digits. I think they win; it is November, after all, but I like the points here.

Nathaniel: Raiders. I predict that the Cowboys will find a way to give up a touchdown on their opening kickoff return of the game, but still win anyway. I also predict Sebastian Janikowski will lead an inspiring last second backdoor cover for the Raiders.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5)

Lucas: Ravens. General rule of thumb: take the Ravens at home. Pitt will make this a game, but the Ravens are a better team at home than they are on the road.

Nathaniel: Ravens. I predict the Steelers will score three touchdowns on their final possession but only one of them will stand. I also predict that Emmanuel Sanders will suck at catching passes like he always does.

Okay, fine, I wrote my synopses retroactively – all the picks are accurate, however. Lucas went 1-2 yesterday and I went 2-1. Lucas still leads overall this year by five games. Here’s how we’re picking the rest of Week 13’s games:

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-0.5)

Lucas: Vikings. Be prepared to hear a lot of this on Sunday, Bears fans.

Nathaniel: Bears. You don’t have to remind me how bad the Bears defense has been this year, but how exactly does a matchup with 2-8-1 team vs. a 6-5 team get called a virtual pick’em? There’s a reason the 2-8-1 team’s only won two games all year.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns (-7.5)

Lucas: Jaguars. Why am I on a Jaguars kick lately? This was a team that just a month ago was being hyped up as maybe the worst team ever! Hey, morons, still think the best college teams can beat Jacksonville? Also, Brandon Weeden.

Nathaniel: Jaguars. In five short weeks, Browns fans will (Lord-willing) never be subjected to Brandon Weeden’s sadistic forms of torture ever again. For the love of God, please find something else to do at 1 o’clock on Sundays in December, Browns fans.

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-4.5)

Lucas: Colts. Indy has been kind of awful lately, but coming home to face a mediocre Titans team might be just what the doctor ordered.

Nathaniel: Titans. I don’t like having to put my faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I really don’t think the Colts are a good team right now and Reggie Wayne isn’t walking through that door any time soon.

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-1.5)

Lucas: Jets. Maybe Nathaniel is right and the Jets can only win in odd numbered weeks.

Nathaniel: Dolphins. Sure hope I’m wrong this week, though!

New England Patriots at Houston Texans (+8.5)

Lucas: Patriots. I’d make a “Bill Belichick takes the wind” joke here, but it wouldn’t fit indoors. What also won’t fit indoors will be the sound of the boos coming from the Texans fans after another clunker.

Nathaniel: Patriots. Who thought in August that the Texans would be the favorite to secure the #1 pick in the 2014 draft going into December? This after starting 2-0, too! What a bizarre tailspin this team’s been in.

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)

Lucas: Cardinals. I know the Eagles offense has been pretty good, but why is there no real fear in Vegas of the Arizona defense? I feel like they can contain Nick Foles and company.

Nathaniel: Cardinals. The NFC representative in this year’s Super Bowl seems likely to be either Seattle or New Orleans, but Arizona would be a pretty intriguing dark horse if they could sneak in as a wild-card. They’re secretly one of the ten best teams in the league and nobody would want to see that defense in January. This is definitely the best of the early games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-8.5)

Lucas: Panthers. This is a pretty big spread considering Tampa has won three in a row. Carolina has had a resurgence though, and I’m not sure they can contain Cam Newton and company.

Nathaniel: Buccaneers. Is Greg Schiano actually saving his job now? Cue to all seven Buccaneers fans screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”

Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (-3.5)

Lucas: Falcons. As bad as the Falcons are, I don’t think they’re 2-9 bad. Give them one.

Nathaniel: Falcons. Only because the Bills’ excellent home-field advantage goes out the window when they play in Toronto.

St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers (-9.5)

Lucas: Rams. To my chagrin, I picked the Rams last time, but I’m sticking to my guns. Mainly because I think Tavon Austin is still running.

Nathaniel: Rams. The Rams are back to being the team Jeff Fisher always hopes his teams will be at the end of the year – .500 and not having any chance at the playoffs, but a real pain in the tucus to play. Doesn’t seem likely that the 49ers will have enough offensive firepower to make this line stand up.

Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers (-1.5)

Lucas: Bengals. I’m already supporting one ginger quarterback. Why not another?

Nathaniel: Chargers. If anyone of those AFC wild-card hopefuls in that 5-6 quagmire has a real shot of reaching 9-7, it’s probably the Chargers. They’ve got four home games left and they may very well have the best offense in the league. They also may very well have the worst defense, but let’s forget about that for now.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (+4.5)

Lucas: Broncos. Andy Reid was going to take the wind, but he was too busy wolfing down his 34th barbecued turkey.

Nathaniel: Broncos. Just can’t envision the Chiefs scoring enough to win this game.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+1.5)

Lucas: Giants. I just don’t trust the Skins this year. I feel like there’s too much dysfunction in that locker room and RGIII isn’t the same and their defense sucks… there’s probably more, but I think that suffices.

Nathaniel: Giants. Looks like NBC forgot they can flex games out of Sunday Night Football late in the year. Blech.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)

Lucas: Seahawks. Originally, I was going to pick the Saints. I feel like they’re one of only a handful of teams that can take the Seahawks in Seattle. Then I saw the weather forecast for Monday and remembered that Drew Brees sucks in the cold. Also, the last time the Saints were in town, Marshawn Lynch caused an earthquake.

Nathaniel: Saints. Nothing much on the line here, just home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Let’s enjoy this one, folks!

2013 records:

Lucas: 92-88 (7-7 last week, 1-2 so far this week)

Nathaniel: 87-93 (7-7 last week, 2-1 so far this week)

Also, here’s this week’s Predictive Yards per Play rankings (not including Thanksgiving’s games):

Offensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 12:

Rank Team Yards Plays Passing TDs INTs Rushing TDs Fumbles SOS Predictive Yards per Play
1 San Diego Chargers 4485 722 22 8 6 8 -0.22 6.91
2 New Orleans Saints 4565 739 28 8 7 9 -0.06 6.67
3 Green Bay Packers 4668 746 17 10 11 13 -0.02 6.42
4 Atlanta Falcons 3830 682 18 12 5 12 0.42 5.93
5 Denver Broncos 4967 803 36 7 14 26 -0.32 5.62
6 Indianapolis Colts 3738 692 15 8 11 6 0.22 5.59
7 Philadelphia Eagles 4536 719 21 7 10 14 -0.25 5.58
8 Chicago Bears 4097 703 20 9 9 13 -0.04 5.56
9 Detroit Lions 4533 762 24 12 9 17 -0.19 5.51
10 Carolina Panthers 3507 711 17 9 11 10 0.27 5.46
11 Seattle Seahawks 3943 673 20 6 11 20 0.02 5.44
12 New England Patriots 4080 784 17 7 12 19 0.15 5.04
13 Houston Texans 3998 764 16 13 2 14 0.19 5.03
14 Tennessee Titans 3672 696 15 8 10 20 0.08 4.89
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 3734 716 19 10 4 12 0.13 4.87
16 Dallas Cowboys 3605 653 23 7 6 12 -0.17 4.82
17 Cincinnati Bengals 4010 756 21 15 7 15 0.12 4.80
18 St. Louis Rams 3571 687 18 6 6 15 0.02 4.77
19 Washington Redskins 4311 768 14 13 12 18 -0.54 4.76
20 San Francisco 49ers 3394 651 14 7 15 16 0.10 4.50
21 Arizona Cardinals 3674 694 16 15 8 17 0.09 4.44
22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3337 705 16 7 4 13 -0.02 4.41
23 Kansas City Chiefs 3595 728 14 5 9 12 -0.15 4.38
24 Minnesota Vikings 3624 687 11 13 15 17 -0.15 4.35
25 Buffalo Bills 3642 774 12 9 9 20 0.35 4.34
26 Cleveland Browns 3548 751 18 13 1 13 0.13 4.33
27 Miami Dolphins 3410 683 15 12 7 10 -0.08 4.25
28 Baltimore Ravens 3397 749 14 14 6 11 0.17 4.14
29 Oakland Raiders 3671 692 11 12 10 17 -0.22 4.11
30 New York Jets 3468 702 9 18 6 13 0.12 3.92
31 Jacksonville Jaguars 3113 692 5 16 7 13 0.20 3.68
32 New York Giants 3563 694 14 18 7 16 -0.53 3.50

Defensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 12:

Rank Team Yards Plays Passing TDs INTs Rushing TDs Fumbles SOS Predictive Yards per Play
1 San Francisco 49ers 3428 712 11 12 9 17 0.28 3.77
2 Arizona Cardinals 3488 729 19 15 4 12 0.27 3.84
3 Seattle Seahawks 3226 697 12 16 4 23 -0.07 3.90
4 Baltimore Ravens 3619 716 17 9 1 17 -0.15 4.26
5 New York Jets 3552 715 20 6 6 15 0.05 4.30
6 Cincinnati Bengals 3444 745 14 12 4 12 -0.19 4.34
7 New York Giants 3688 729 16 12 7 16 0.16 4.36
8 Houston Texans 3194 644 18 4 8 11 -0.06 4.38
9 Cleveland Browns 3367 757 18 8 9 9 -0.19 4.40
10 Carolina Panthers 3272 658 9 15 3 14 -0.26 4.47
11 Kansas City Chiefs 3860 718 13 12 6 17 -0.13 4.50
12 Tennessee Titans 3655 692 8 9 15 17 -0.08 4.64
13 New Orleans Saints 3409 652 11 10 9 13 -0.13 4.68
14 Buffalo Bills 3826 752 22 16 4 10 -0.22 4.70
15 Miami Dolphins 3944 764 12 14 11 9 0.32 4.74
16 Oakland Raiders 3929 716 21 7 7 22 0.05 4.76
17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3807 702 22 15 5 12 0.34 4.76
18 Denver Broncos 4158 767 21 13 10 18 -0.09 4.76
19 New England Patriots 3961 783 18 13 5 17 -0.04 4.77
20 St. Louis Rams 3942 688 17 12 12 20 0.11 4.83
21 Pittsburgh Steelers 3775 711 13 7 13 14 -0.27 5.12
22 Detroit Lions 4013 691 21 11 5 11 -0.07 5.12
23 Jacksonville Jaguars 4134 721 20 5 15 19 0.14 5.14
24 Washington Redskins 4203 696 22 10 15 10 0.34 5.36
25 Chicago Bears 4136 685 16 14 14 19 0.10 5.43
26 Philadelphia Eagles 4597 824 17 13 7 15 -0.08 5.69
27 Indianapolis Colts 4060 696 16 8 9 14 -0.03 5.71
28 Minnesota Vikings 4411 786 24 8 13 12 0.21 5.83
29 Green Bay Packers 3956 700 19 4 9 11 -0.24 5.96
30 Dallas Cowboys 4754 772 22 12 11 14 0.10 6.10
31 Atlanta Falcons 4193 692 23 6 8 7 0.08 6.43
32 San Diego Chargers 4285 668 18 6 9 10 -0.11 6.69

Predictive Yards per Play Differential, through Week 12:

Rank Team PY/P Diff. Remaining SOS Projected Wins
1 New Orleans Saints 1.99 12.33 12.40
2 Seattle Seahawks 1.54 6.52 13.46
3 Carolina Panthers 0.99 7.96 10.75
4 Denver Broncos 0.85 1.16 12.09
5 San Francisco 49ers 0.73 -0.85 9.96
6 Houston Texans 0.64 -1.72 4.65
7 Arizona Cardinals 0.60 10.14 9.67
8 Cincinnati Bengals 0.47 -12.80 10.16
9 Green Bay Packers 0.45 -6.68 8.14
10 Detroit Lions 0.38 -16.46 9.04
11 New England Patriots 0.27 -3.74 10.82
12 Tennessee Titans 0.25 0.00 7.62
13 San Diego Chargers 0.23 -9.55 7.88
14 Chicago Bears 0.13 -13.44 8.81
15 St. Louis Rams -0.06 22.79 6.55
16 Cleveland Browns -0.07 -6.90 6.44
17 Philadelphia Eagles -0.11 -11.80 8.65
18 Indianapolis Colts -0.12 -6.65 9.16
19 Kansas City Chiefs -0.12 -2.57 11.51
20 Baltimore Ravens -0.12 -5.79 7.57
21 Pittsburgh Steelers -0.25 -4.73 7.61
22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0.34 14.33 4.65
23 Buffalo Bills -0.37 -12.65 6.52
24 New York Jets -0.38 -8.94 7.26
25 Miami Dolphins -0.49 -4.94 7.31
26 Atlanta Falcons -0.50 2.09 4.00
27 Washington Redskins -0.60 -22.26 5.57
28 Oakland Raiders -0.65 0.08 5.91
29 New York Giants -0.86 4.65 5.62
30 Dallas Cowboys -1.29 -11.67 8.11
31 Jacksonville Jaguars -1.46 -8.96 3.60
32 Minnesota Vikings -1.48 -4.63 4.15

Projected AFC Playoff Picture, through Week 12:

RDS PER PLAY RANKINGS

Busy week offline for me, so this will mostly just be a data dump. One important thing to note: Denver’s win over Kansas City Sunday Night reinstalled the Broncos as slight favorites to win the AFC West and, by extension, home field advantage throughout the playoffs in Predictive Yards per Play’s eyes. Of course, the rematch at Arrowhead Stadium on Thanksgiving Weekend will ultimately be the deciding factor.

Offensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 11:

Rank Team Yards Plays Passing TDs INTs Rushing TDs Fumbles SOS Predictive Yards per Play
1 San Diego Chargers 3994 655 19 8 4 7 -0.26 6.78
2 New Orleans Saints 4191 680 26 8 7 9 0.05 6.61
3 Green Bay Packers 4174 657 16 10 9 13 0.10 6.54
4 Denver Broncos 4555 717 34 6 13 21 -0.30 5.79
5 Atlanta Falcons 3475 616 18 12 4 11 0.38 5.79
6 Detroit Lions 4143 690 21 8 9 14 -0.16 5.72
7 Indianapolis Colts 3499 637 14 7 11 6 0.09 5.66
8 Philadelphia Eagles 4536 719 21 7 10 14 -0.18 5.63
9 Carolina Panthers 3212 642 16 8 10 10 0.23 5.55
10 Chicago Bears 3673 629 18 8 8 10 -0.06 5.50
11 Seattle Seahawks 3943 673 20 6 11 20 -0.02 5.39
12 New England Patriots 3640 700 14 7 11 13 0.15 5.20
13 Houston Texans 3780 707 16 12 2 14 0.27 5.20
14 Washington Redskins 4121 710 14 12 12 17 -0.67 4.94
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 3432 648 17 10 4 12 0.13 4.88
16 Cincinnati Bengals 4010 756 21 15 7 15 0.12 4.79
17 Dallas Cowboys 3278 591 21 6 6 11 -0.26 4.67
18 Tennessee Titans 3246 623 13 8 10 17 0.08 4.65
19 San Francisco 49ers 3090 592 11 7 15 13 0.18 4.60
20 St. Louis Rams 3165 634 17 6 3 15 0.05 4.51
21 Kansas City Chiefs 3200 669 11 4 7 11 0.03 4.47
22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3108 656 14 7 4 12 -0.04 4.46
23 Minnesota Vikings 3177 608 10 13 14 15 -0.03 4.38
24 Cleveland Browns 3181 678 17 12 1 10 0.15 4.36
25 Buffalo Bills 3642 774 12 9 9 20 0.35 4.33
26 Arizona Cardinals 3264 623 14 15 7 16 0.11 4.16
27 Miami Dolphins 3078 621 14 11 7 10 -0.11 4.16
28 Baltimore Ravens 3085 687 13 13 6 11 0.15 4.04
29 New York Jets 3248 647 9 16 6 12 0.02 4.00
30 Oakland Raiders 3318 637 10 11 10 15 -0.26 3.92
31 Jacksonville Jaguars 2780 627 5 16 6 12 0.19 3.55
32 New York Giants 3207 632 12 18 7 15 -0.40 3.51

Defensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 11:

Rank Team Yards Plays Passing TDs INTs Rushing TDs Fumbles SOS Predictive Yards per Play
1 Arizona Cardinals 3249 674 18 14 4 12 0.23 3.88
2 San Francisco 49ers 3238 654 11 11 9 16 0.26 3.92
3 Seattle Seahawks 3226 697 12 16 4 23 -0.11 3.93
4 New York Jets 3240 653 19 5 6 15 0.11 4.21
5 New York Giants 3361 667 14 11 7 15 0.24 4.24
6 Cincinnati Bengals 3444 745 14 12 4 12 -0.15 4.29
7 Baltimore Ravens 3399 661 17 7 1 16 -0.01 4.30
8 Cleveland Browns 3065 689 16 8 9 9 -0.17 4.33
9 Houston Texans 2861 579 18 4 7 10 -0.05 4.38
10 Kansas City Chiefs 3369 651 10 12 4 16 -0.30 4.39
11 Carolina Panthers 2940 596 8 14 3 14 -0.25 4.43
12 Tennessee Titans 3302 637 7 8 15 15 -0.03 4.53
13 Oakland Raiders 3503 643 19 7 7 19 0.09 4.61
14 New Orleans Saints 3054 586 11 10 8 12 -0.27 4.63
15 Buffalo Bills 3826 752 22 16 4 10 -0.19 4.66
16 St. Louis Rams 3518 614 15 11 11 17 0.05 4.81
17 Miami Dolphins 3649 695 11 13 10 9 0.28 4.82
18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3417 630 19 11 5 9 0.29 4.90
19 Denver Broncos 3718 683 18 13 9 12 -0.15 4.93
20 New England Patriots 3549 697 16 12 4 12 -0.10 4.95
21 Pittsburgh Steelers 3408 638 12 6 13 11 -0.25 5.21
22 Chicago Bears 3730 632 15 14 11 19 0.15 5.22
23 Detroit Lions 3784 642 19 11 5 10 -0.04 5.25
24 Jacksonville Jaguars 3916 664 20 4 15 19 0.10 5.33
25 Washington Redskins 3899 637 19 10 15 7 0.44 5.38
26 Indianapolis Colts 3650 625 14 8 8 13 -0.02 5.56
27 Philadelphia Eagles 4597 824 17 13 7 15 -0.06 5.65
28 Minnesota Vikings 3917 697 23 8 11 12 0.14 5.86
29 Green Bay Packers 3509 621 18 4 8 9 -0.18 5.94
30 Dallas Cowboys 4398 710 20 12 11 13 0.26 5.96
31 Atlanta Falcons 3819 633 21 6 8 7 -0.08 6.53
32 San Diego Chargers 3890 609 15 5 7 9 -0.07 6.77

Predictive Yards per Play Differential, through Week 12:

Rank Team PY/P Diff. Remaining SOS Projected Wins
1 New Orleans Saints 1.99 12.33 12.40
2 Seattle Seahawks 1.54 6.52 13.46
3 Carolina Panthers 0.99 7.96 10.75
4 Denver Broncos 0.85 1.16 12.09
5 San Francisco 49ers 0.73 -0.85 9.96
6 Houston Texans 0.64 -1.72 4.65
7 Arizona Cardinals 0.60 10.14 9.67
8 Cincinnati Bengals 0.47 -12.80 10.16
9 Green Bay Packers 0.45 -6.68 8.14
10 Detroit Lions 0.38 -16.46 9.04
11 New England Patriots 0.27 -3.74 10.82
12 Tennessee Titans 0.25 0.00 7.62
13 San Diego Chargers 0.23 -9.55 7.88
14 Chicago Bears 0.13 -13.44 8.81
15 St. Louis Rams -0.06 22.79 6.55
16 Cleveland Browns -0.07 -6.90 6.44
17 Philadelphia Eagles -0.11 -11.80 8.65
18 Indianapolis Colts -0.12 -6.65 9.16
19 Kansas City Chiefs -0.12 -2.57 11.51
20 Baltimore Ravens -0.12 -5.79 7.57
21 Pittsburgh Steelers -0.25 -4.73 7.61
22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0.34 14.33 4.65
23 Buffalo Bills -0.37 -12.65 6.52
24 New York Jets -0.38 -8.94 7.26
25 Miami Dolphins -0.49 -4.94 7.31
26 Atlanta Falcons -0.50 2.09 4.00
27 Washington Redskins -0.60 -22.26 5.57
28 Oakland Raiders -0.65 0.08 5.91
29 New York Giants -0.86 4.65 5.62
30 Dallas Cowboys -1.29 -11.67 8.11
31 Jacksonville Jaguars -1.46 -8.96 3.60
32 Minnesota Vikings -1.48 -4.63 4.15

Projected AFC Playoff Picture, through Week 12:

  1. Denver (12.1 wins)
  2. New England (10.8 wins)
  3. Cincinnati (10.2 wins)
  4. Indianapolis (9.2 wins)
  5. Kansas City (11.5 wins)
  6. San Diego (7.9 wins)

In the hunt: Tennessee (7.6 wins), Pittsburgh (7.6 wins), Baltimore (7.6 wins), Miami (7.3 wins), NY Jets (7.3 wins), Buffalo (6.5 wins), Cleveland (6.4 wins)

Mediocre: Oakland (5.9 wins)

Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: Houston (4.7 wins), Jacksonville (3.6 wins)

Projected NFC Playoff Picture, through Week 12:

  1. Seattle (13.5 wins)
  2. New Orleans (12.4 wins)
  3. Detroit (9.0 wins)
  4. Philadelphia (8.7 wins)
  5. Carolina (10.8 wins)
  6. San Francisco (10.0 wins)

In the hunt: Arizona (9.7 wins), Chicago (8.8 wins), Green Bay (8.1 wins), Dallas (8.1 wins)

Mediocre: St. Louis (6.6 wins), NY Giants (5.6 wins), Washington (5.6 wins)

Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: Tampa Bay (4.7 wins), Atlanta (4.0 wins), Minnesota (4.2 wins)

2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 11

Here are this week’s picks against the spread courtesy of Confessions of a Sportscaster and yours truly, followed by Week 10’s Predictive Yards per Play Rankings at the very end if you’re interested. Last week, I went 10-4 and Lucas went 5-9, so Lucas’s lead got a little less lopsided. He still leads by four games overall with seven weeks left. This week, we only disagree on three games, which are…detailed below for your enjoyment, along with the eleven games we agreed upon.

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (+3.5)

Lucas: Colts. Look, I have no idea what happened to Indy on Sunday either (my supervisor from Indy blames himself for not being able to watch much of it until the very end), but if Tennessee can’t beat freaking Jacksonville, unless the spread is really huge, why should I pick the Titans?

Nathaniel: Titans. The Colts have had one of the highest variance defenses in the league this season – they’ve alternated between looking dominant (at San Francisco and home against Denver) and looking awful (the opener against Oakland and last week’s blowout loss to the Rams). Ryan Fitzpatrick will give them plenty of chances to look good tonight, but he’s also capable of putting up big numbers if their level of play is like last week’s.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1.5)

Lucas: Buccaneers. It’s amazing that, at least for a week, this was the “stable” football team compared to its opponent. Don’t know that we can say that here, but I figure Revis Island becomes a bit of a hotspot again.

Nathaniel: Buccaneers. The wheels have completely fallen off in Atlanta, which is probably a better harbinger for their chances next season than if they had gamely held down the fort after Julio Jones’ injury and wound up in the neighborhood of 7-9. The way things are going now, it certainly looks like a top-five draft pick and an opportunity to properly revamp a truly awful defense is in play for the Falcons. This is really a game where it would be in both teams’ better interests to lose.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (+1.5)

Lucas: Jets. Based on the last two weeks, I can’t take the Bills seriously. Then again, when could any of us take the Bills seriously?

Nathaniel: Jets. After each of their nearest foes for the last wild-card slot in the AFC lost last week, the Jets somehow, someway have become a favorite to make the playoffs. That they’ve been able to do this with yet another shaky quarterback and lack of talent at the skill positions speaks to how good a coach Rex Ryan really is. Playing at Buffalo’s been tricky for everyone this season, but EJ Manuel’s scattershot accuracy doesn’t inspire much confidence right now.

Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears (-2.5)

Lucas: Bears. Josh McCown has looked pretty good when pressed into service. Were this game in Baltimore I’d think twice, but the Ravens aren’t the same team away from M&T.

Nathaniel: Bears. The one-two punch of Charles Tillman’s torn triceps and being swept by the Lions probably leaves too steep a climb for the Bears to make their way back into the playoffs this year. The Ravens hardly seem like the type of team who can exploit the Bears’ rash of injuries of defense, however, so that truth may not yet be apparent on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5)

Lucas: Browns. Maybe I’m putting too much faith in a not-that-great Cleveland team. Maybe it’s more so “Cincy has found ways to lose two games they could (and maybe even should) have won.”

Nathaniel: Browns. It’s probably a bit much to think the Browns will actually win outright in Cincinnati (though I am leaning towards them being able to cover), but if they could accomplish that, they would accomplish a season sweep of the Bengals and their next two games are home dates against the Steelers and Jaguars. If the Bengals aren’t careful Sunday, the AFC North could actually turn into a real race again.

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5)

Lucas: Lions. Did I Google “Pittsburgh Steelers Bee Uniforms” before the season, find this news article about how they’re wearing them this week, then set a reminder on my phone to make sure I didn’t pick Pittsburgh out of sheer spite against those hideous things? Of course not; that would be silly. I remembered that they were wearing them this week without needing the reminder on my phone to go off, then still picked against Pittsburgh out of sheer spite against those hideous things.

Nathaniel: Lions. There’s no team in the league that hopes Aaron Rodgers’ recovery from his fractured collarbone continues to drag longer and longer than the Lions – each passing week that Scott Tolzien starts makes the first Lions’ division title in 20 years look all the more likely.

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans (-6.5)

Lucas: Raiders. I’m sorry, but why is Houston favored by this much, exactly? Not that I trust the Raiders either after they choked away the Giants game, but I’m taking the points.

Nathaniel: Texans. Terrelle Pryor’s been electric as a runner this year, but only Brandon Weeden and Josh Freeman have lower Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt figures as passers this season. If he is truly going to be the Raiders quarterback of the future, he has to start doing more through the air or I’d have to believe Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie would take a long look at this year’s deep quarterback class in the draft.

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)

Lucas: Redskins. Don’t get me wrong, Nick Foles has looked good. But this has the makings of a shootout much like we had in Week 1, only this time I think RG3 has the firepower from the get-go to keep up.

Nathaniel: Redskins. In a vacuum, the fact that the Eagles have four home games remaining out of their final six games overall would make them the NFC East favorite over the Cowboys. Well, that and the fact they’re a considerably better team than the Cowboys. But so far this year, the Eagles are 0-4 at home and their tendency has been to start wobbling as soon as the public starts to believe in them again. If the Redskins lose this game, they’re done: they’d be 2.5 games behind the Eagles and would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. So for this week, erring on the side of desperation doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5)

Lucas: Cardinals. 

Nathaniel: Cardinals. Arizona is suddenly 5-4, owners of possibly the best defense in the league and just a game back in the wild-card chase. It seems next-to-impossible that they could really catch Carolina or San Francisco by year’s end, but their schedule isn’t too taxing the rest of the way. They get to face Indianapolis and San Francisco at home and the Eagles in Philadelphia, which is where you apparently want to play the Eagles this year. I can’t imagine them beating the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 16 unless the Seahawks have home-field advantage all wrapped up by then, but every other game remaining on Arizona’s schedule is winnable the rest of the way. Don’t sleep on them.

San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins (+1.5)

Lucas: Chargers. I like what Phillip Rivers has done this year. That, and until Miami gets its collective crap together, I’m not sure I can trust them.

Nathaniel: Chargers. Possibly an AFC Wild-Card elimination game for the loser, although the Jets aren’t likely to run away from anyone in December. The Chargers don’t have near enough a pass rush to take advantage of the Dolphins’ terrible offensive line – but then again, the Dolphins probably don’t have near enough offensive firepower to take advantage of the Chargers’ horrible defense.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (-6.5)

Lucas: Giants. Look, I love how well the Immortal Scott Tolzien did filling in for Seneca Wallace, given the circumstances (you know, other than that one pick). And I know Eli is prone to throwing picks, but Green Bay’s defense is awful, and Scott Tolzien isn’t Aaron Rodgers. Thus:

Nathaniel: Packers. Scott Tolzien’s arm strength (or lack thereof) last Sunday made Jeff Tuel look like Jeff George, but the Giants’ offense simply can’t be trusted to cover even a medium-sized line like this right now. The NFL’s decision to flex this from Sunday Night Football a few weeks ago looks more prescient by the second.

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-13.5)

Lucas: Seahawks. Christian Ponder is not going into CenturyLink and winning a football game there. Heck, I don’t think this is much of a game.

Nathaniel: Seahawks. A contrarian might point to Seattle’s last two home victories (decided by a total of ten points) and decide to take a calculated risk on the Seahawks sleepwalking through another first half at home and allowing the Vikings to cover. I am not that contrarian.

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)

Lucas: Saints. After a year off, we’re back to the “These guys scare me” Saints instead of the “Our assistant head coach moonlights as a janitor on Tuesdays” Saints. The Superdome is this year’s Georgia Dome, and San Francisco doesn’t seem as good this year.

Nathaniel: Saints. The Saints remain the #1 team in this week’s Predictive Yards per Play rankings after having just about as dominant a performance from the line of scrimmage as you can possibly have against the Cowboys. The 49ers should be able to take advantage of the Saints’ one weakness – run defense – but it’s another question entirely as to whether Colin Kaepernick can match Drew Brees throw for throw.

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-8.5)

Lucas: Chiefs. I don’t think Kansas City wins in Denver, but I do think with as shaky as Denver’s defense is, combined with KC’s defense being pretty good.

Nathaniel: Chiefs. Given Denver’s offensive performance in their last four games, this will likely be a low-scoring game, which would obviously favor Kansas City. Since they put up 51 points on the Cowboys in Week 5, the Broncos have had below-average Predictive Yards per Play averages in each of their last four games. It didn’t matter as much because they were playing bad defenses, but performing at that same level Sunday night against the Chiefs would make the dropoff look much more glaring. So while it’s still tough for me to imagine Kansas City strolling into Denver and coming away with a victory, this line looks eminently coverable.

New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers (-2.5)

Lucas: Panthers. “Do not believe in you, Riverboat Ron! Believe in the me that believes in you! Your going-for-it-on-4th-and-short is the going-for-it-on-4th-and-short that will pierce the plane of the end zone! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK I AM?!”

Nathaniel: Panthers. Carolina’s win at San Francisco was a loss for the rest of the NFC because there may not be a more balanced team in the whole conference. Now after beating the 49ers, a playoff berth of some type seems likely and a dark horse Super Bowl contender appears to have been born.

2013 Records:

Lucas: 77-71 (5-9 last week)

Nathaniel: 73-75 (10-4 last week)

**************************************************************************

Offensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 10:

Rank Team Yards Plays Passing TDs INTs Rushing TDs Fumbles SOS Predictive Yards per Play
1 New Orleans Saints 3804 613 25 7 6 6 -0.01 6.69
2 San Diego Chargers 3559 592 18 7 4 7 -0.29 6.65
3 Green Bay Packers 3780 603 16 7 8 13 -0.08 6.53
4 Atlanta Falcons 3055 550 16 10 3 10 0.50 5.82
5 Denver Broncos 4128 641 33 6 11 20 -0.40 5.74
6 Detroit Lions 3692 617 19 7 8 12 -0.20 5.68
7 Seattle Seahawks 3620 623 18 6 9 19 0.19 5.59
8 Philadelphia Eagles 4134 657 21 7 7 14 -0.21 5.52
9 Houston Texans 3386 635 15 11 2 11 0.35 5.49
10 Indianapolis Colts 3133 568 14 7 8 6 0.03 5.45
11 Chicago Bears 3354 570 17 8 8 8 -0.20 5.44
12 Carolina Panthers 2912 588 13 8 10 10 0.21 5.32
13 Cincinnati Bengals 3786 697 18 13 7 15 0.10 5.14
14 Washington Redskins 3694 633 12 11 12 14 -0.71 4.96
15 San Francisco 49ers 2894 536 9 6 15 12 0.33 4.92
16 New England Patriots 3250 633 13 6 10 12 0.08 4.90
17 Pittsburgh Steelers 3034 575 13 10 4 12 0.15 4.76
18 St. Louis Rams 3165 634 17 6 3 15 0.16 4.62
19 Dallas Cowboys 3278 591 21 6 6 11 -0.33 4.59
20 Cleveland Browns 2851 599 16 9 1 8 0.09 4.55
21 Tennessee Titans 2906 569 12 8 8 16 0.13 4.47
22 Kansas City Chiefs 2856 596 9 4 7 9 -0.03 4.42
23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2698 591 12 7 2 12 0.20 4.41
24 Minnesota Vikings 2841 538 8 10 14 13 -0.13 4.40
25 Buffalo Bills 3329 707 10 9 8 19 0.35 4.34
26 Miami Dolphins 2735 563 13 10 6 10 0.06 4.20
27 New York Jets 2981 591 8 13 5 10 0.01 4.16
28 Arizona Cardinals 2848 554 12 15 6 15 0.22 4.09
29 Baltimore Ravens 2768 612 12 11 5 9 0.10 4.00
30 Oakland Raiders 2977 572 7 11 9 14 -0.36 3.97
31 Jacksonville Jaguars 2506 567 4 14 5 12 0.09 3.47
32 New York Giants 2873 569 11 17 6 15 -0.39 3.26

Defensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 10:

Rank Team Yards Plays Passing TDs INTs Rushing TDs Fumbles SOS Predictive Yards per Play
1 Arizona Cardinals 2975 614 17 12 3 12 0.48 3.78
2 Seattle Seahawks 2890 627 10 13 4 21 -0.06 3.92
3 San Francisco 49ers 2851 587 10 10 8 13 0.11 3.95
4 Carolina Panthers 2550 529 7 13 2 13 -0.24 4.05
5 Baltimore Ravens 3080 602 16 7 1 14 0.05 4.16
6 New York Jets 2927 586 17 5 5 14 0.10 4.30
7 Tennessee Titans 2936 568 7 8 12 15 0.00 4.32
8 New York Giants 2967 613 14 8 6 15 0.05 4.32
9 Kansas City Chiefs 2942 575 9 12 2 15 -0.46 4.34
10 Houston Texans 2520 514 15 4 6 9 0.04 4.37
11 Cincinnati Bengals 3114 666 13 9 4 10 -0.15 4.48
12 Cleveland Browns 2841 630 13 6 9 9 -0.17 4.59
13 New England Patriots 3249 643 13 12 4 12 -0.11 4.67
14 Miami Dolphins 3214 632 10 12 10 9 0.14 4.71
15 Buffalo Bills 3559 696 21 13 3 8 -0.13 4.77
16 St. Louis Rams 3518 614 15 11 11 17 0.06 4.80
17 New Orleans Saints 2858 530 9 9 8 11 -0.31 4.81
18 Oakland Raiders 3109 571 18 6 7 16 0.01 4.85
19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2997 564 17 9 4 8 0.19 4.90
20 Denver Broncos 3374 610 16 13 9 10 -0.18 5.06
21 Detroit Lions 3386 569 15 11 5 10 0.00 5.16
22 Chicago Bears 3413 557 14 12 10 17 0.26 5.16
23 Jacksonville Jaguars 3500 595 18 4 14 18 0.22 5.26
24 Indianapolis Colts 3310 571 13 8 6 12 0.09 5.27
25 Pittsburgh Steelers 2957 565 10 5 12 9 -0.39 5.28
26 Washington Redskins 3497 575 19 10 12 7 0.39 5.36
27 Green Bay Packers 3175 558 17 3 7 9 0.02 5.66
28 Philadelphia Eagles 4170 747 15 12 7 12 -0.13 5.77
29 Dallas Cowboys 4398 710 20 12 11 13 0.25 5.97
30 Minnesota Vikings 3594 647 21 8 9 11 0.03 6.05
31 Atlanta Falcons 3409 568 19 6 6 7 -0.05 6.49
32 San Diego Chargers 3547 551 14 4 6 9 -0.03 6.75

Predictive Yards per Play Differential, through Week 10:

Rank Team PY/P Diff. Remaining SOS Projected Wins
1 New Orleans Saints 1.88 11.75 11.98
2 Seattle Seahawks 1.67 28.93 13.40
3 Carolina Panthers 1.27 6.83 10.27
4 Houston Texans 1.12 -24.11 6.86
5 San Francisco 49ers 0.97 7.27 10.08
6 Green Bay Packers 0.87 -21.30 9.03
7 Denver Broncos 0.68 3.86 12.34
8 Cincinnati Bengals 0.66 -21.03 9.62
9 Detroit Lions 0.52 -26.03 10.57
10 Arizona Cardinals 0.30 -3.10 9.05
11 Chicago Bears 0.28 -17.35 8.90
12 New England Patriots 0.23 9.02 10.33
13 Indianapolis Colts 0.18 -0.80 9.07
14 Tennessee Titans 0.15 -6.50 7.61
15 Kansas City Chiefs 0.08 4.45 12.60
16 Cleveland Browns -0.04 -10.42 7.49
17 San Diego Chargers -0.10 -7.84 7.81
18 New York Jets -0.14 -8.28 8.44
19 Baltimore Ravens -0.16 -10.56 7.63
20 St. Louis Rams -0.18 20.54 6.12
21 Philadelphia Eagles -0.25 -20.88 8.18
22 Washington Redskins -0.40 -21.22 6.46
23 Buffalo Bills -0.42 14.01 6.20
24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0.48 14.91 3.09
25 Miami Dolphins -0.51 -3.05 7.07
26 Pittsburgh Steelers -0.52 -5.52 6.35
27 Atlanta Falcons -0.67 11.22 4.60
28 Oakland Raiders -0.88 6.85 5.13
29 New York Giants -1.06 -3.86 5.21
30 Dallas Cowboys -1.38 -19.72 7.64
31 Minnesota Vikings -1.64 9.00 3.80
32 Jacksonville Jaguars -1.80 -0.59 2.38

Projected AFC Playoff Picture, through Week 10:

  1. Kansas City (12.6 wins)
  2. New England (10.3 wins)
  3. Cincinnati (9.6 wins)
  4. Indianapolis (9.1 wins)
  5. Denver (12.3 wins)
  6. NY Jets (8.4 wins)

In the hunt: San Diego (7.8 wins), Baltimore (7.6 wins), Tennessee (7.6 wins), Cleveland (7.5 wins), Miami (7.1 wins), Houston (6.9 wins)

Mediocre: Pittsburgh (6.3 wins), Buffalo (6.2 wins), Oakland (5.1 wins)

Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: Jacksonville (2.4 wins)

Projected NFC Playoff Picture, through Week 10:

  1. Seattle (13.4 wins)
  2. New Orleans (12.0 wins)
  3. Detroit (10.6 wins)
  4. Philadelphia (8.2 wins)
  5. Carolina (10.3 wins)
  6. San Francisco (10.1 wins)

In the hunt: Arizona (9.1 wins), Green Bay (9.0 wins), Chicago (8.9 wins), Dallas (7.6 wins), Washington (6.5 wins)

Mediocre: St. Louis (6.1 wins), NY Giants (5.2 wins)

Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: Atlanta (4.6 wins), Minnesota (3.8 wins), Tampa Bay (3.1 wins)

2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 9

This week’s fail-safe, sure-fire picks against the spread from Confessions of a Sportscaster and yours truly are shown below. If I keep picking up a game a week on Lucas like I did last week, I’ll wind up winning by two games! Marathon, not a sprint! That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway. Also, groupthink is apparently back, as we only disagree on two games this week. Subjectively, my hunch is that means we’ll both wind up 5-8 this week, but maybe I’m wrong! Please read our picks below.

Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins (+2.5)

Lucas: Bengals. I feel like Cincy might be rounding into form at this point. Also I don’t really trust the Dolphins.

Nathaniel: Bengals. Ryan Tannehill’s on pace to get sacked 73 times this season. 73! If he and the Dolphins offensive line keep this pace up, he’ll be the second-most sacked quarterback in a single season ever. Why not just embrace the whole thing and gun for David Carr’s record, guys? It’d do David a world of good to know someone out there may have POSSIBLY had it worse than him.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-7.5)

Lucas: Panthers. I’m behind you, Riverboat Ron! Don’t fail me now!

Nathaniel: Falcons. Was Matt Ryan’s four interception game last week a fluke, a sign that the wheels are starting to fall off the Falcons offense without Julio and Roddy White, or a reminder that the Cardinals defense is really good? The answer, of course, could very well be “All three,” but I prefer to live in a world where the truth isn’t multi-faceted and difficult to understand sometimes.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills (+3.5)

Lucas: Chiefs. KC reloaded big time in the offseason, which is a big reason why they’ve already notched 6 more wins than they had all last year. Adding Andy Reid also helped. Though personally, I’m a bigger fan of Baby Andy Reid. Happy Halloween!

Nathaniel: Chiefs. Usually the longer a backup quarterback has to stay in, the more cracks and flaws in his game appear. Particularly when you have to go up against the best defense in the AFC. I’m rooting for you, Thad Lewis, but I don’t got a good feeling about this!

Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys (-10.5)

Lucas: Vikings. Look, I know the Vikings aren’t great. I watched most of the second half of Aaron Rodgers taking his time dissecting their defense. And yes, I realize it’s November and this is when Tony Romo and company take off. But I’m not sold on a double-digit spread at this stage.

Nathaniel: Vikings. If I knew for certain that Josh Freeman would be starting Sunday, then I would take Dallas with no hesitation. Unfortunately, Christian Ponder shows enough flashes of competence to make me a think a backdoor cover would be eminently within reach for Minnesota.  Of course, what would make this easier is if Leslie Frazier decided to pick his starting quarterback more than three hours before kickoff. I do realize that’s an unreasonable demand, though.

Tennessee Titans at St. Louis Rams (+2.5)

Lucas: Titans. St. Louis blew an easily winnable game against the Seahawks by sucking on offense. Why should I trust them here?

Nathaniel: Titans. The less said about this game, the better.

New Orleans Saints at New York Jets (+5.5)

Lucas: Saints. This is partially a gut reaction to the Jets getting annihilated by the Bengals last week. This is also a gut reaction to “Hey, the Saints are really, really good.”

Nathaniel: Saints. The Jets’ tendency this season has been to win a close game and then lose their next matchup, usually by a big margin. So, using that logic, the Jets should win a close game this week. Of course, that logic doesn’t know that the Saints are coming into town.

San Diego Chargers at Washington Redskins (-0.5)

Lucas: Redskins. I’ll give the thug Brandon Meriweather a week grace period before he either takes out a guy’s knee or goes back to his headhunting and gets suspended for the rest of the season like he deserves. (In his defense though: he does have a point about defenders being forced to go low.)

Nathaniel: Chargers. Philip Rivers is quietly having a season that’s nearly as good as Peyton Manning’s has been. It’s good that he has, because the Chargers defense has been horrible all year. Another 45-41 game may very well be in the cards at FedEx Field.

Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders (-2.5)

Lucas: Eagles. ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook (TMQ) thinks Philly opponents are actually the Borg. These defenses are adapting to the high speed offense Chip Kelly brought over. But unless Terrelle Pryor breaks a 90 yard run again, I think the only Borg in sight might be in the Black Hole.

Nathaniel: Eagles. Chip Kelly’s figuring out it’s tougher to move the ball at warp speed when you don’t have a semblance of a quarterback behind center. That I’m still taking the Eagles anyway either says something about my stupidity or Oakland’s inability to move the ball through the air. Or both!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks (-16.5)

Lucas: Seahawks. Normally I’d be leery here. But I feel like if the Tampa players really want Greg Schiano gone… isn’t this the perfect game to do it? Get the crap kicked out of you, force ownership’s hand… maybe not likely, but there’s no way Tampa is going to keep up with the Seahawks in Seattle.

Nathaniel: Seahawks. Here’s assuming Seattle’s offensive line actually remembers how to block again after briefly forgetting last Monday Night.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns (+2.5)

Lucas: Browns. Is it me, or did Cleveland look serviceable last week? Against KC, no less! Pit them at home against a not-that-great Baltimore team… I could go for that. You know, as long as Brandon Weeden doesn’t play.

Nathaniel: Browns. Once the Browns actually find a quarterback in next year’s draft, they could turn into a legitimately good team. For now, having Jason Campbell as their quarterback makes them competent. Progress over Brandon Weeden!

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots (-7.5)

Lucas: Steelers. Look, I know this game is in Foxboro. Part of me just isn’t sold on the spread. Of course, now Tom Brady will torch the Steelers and beat them by 30 points.

Nathaniel: Steelers. I think it’s safe to say 2007-12 Tom Brady isn’t walking through that door at this point. The Patriots actually have a better record at the season’s midpoint than they have the past two years, but they feel 10,000 times less dangerous.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (+2.5)

Lucas: Colts. Houston is clearly not the team they’ve been the last couple years. I was talking to my supervisor from Indy the other day, and we marveled at the fact that it’s not inconceivable for the Colts to run the table the rest of the day. I don’t think it’ll happen, but it’s a scary thought.

Nathaniel: Colts. My hunch is Reggie Wayne’s torn ACL is going to wind up being an insurmountable obstacle to the Colts’s Super Bowl hopes this year, but the Texans have reached the point where every home game is toxic. The fans seem ready to turn on this team from the first mistake they make – and it seems likely that Case Keenum will make a bunch of them Sunday Night.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-11.5)

Lucas: Packers. Bad news for Bears fans: Jay Cutler is out. Bad news for Packers fans: Jay Cutler is out. Seriously, you have no idea how sad I am that he won’t be available to get sacked half a dozen times and throw three picks. Instead, I’ll have to settle for Green Bay rattling Josh McCown while Aaron Rodgers cremates a banged up and past-its-prime Bears defense.

Nathaniel: Packers. This is not going to be fun.

2013 Records:

Lucas: 64-57 (6-7 last week)

Nathaniel: 57-64 (7-6 last week)

 

COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 7

Busy week offline this time, so an abbreviated and tardy Confessions of a Sportscaster/Someone Still Loves You Alberto Riveron Week 7 picks against the spread column appears below. Hope you guys enjoy it!

 

Thursday Night: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (+6.5)

Both Lucas and Nathaniel: Cardinals. We’re off to a great start!

Sunday, Early Afternoon: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-7.5)

Lucas: Buccaneers. I know this game is in Atlanta, but what have they shown this year that should make them this big a favorite against anyone? Yeah, Tampa is bad too, but I’m taking the points.

Nathaniel: Buccaneers. I’m gonna miss the crap out of Julio Jones for the rest of the season – that guy was probably the most fun receiver to watch over the first month of 2013.

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (-8.5)

Lucas: Dolphins. Still not quite sure what to make of Miami, but without Manuel I don’t know that the Bills can pull it off.

Nathaniel: Bills. My new strategy this week is to generally pick the teams that are getting points, unless I don’t see any possible way they can cover. Ryan Tannehill will probably let himself get sacked enough for the Bills to get the cover this week.

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins (-1.5)

Lucas: Redskins. Anyone else think Deangelo Hall has had this game circled on his calendar?

Nathaniel: Bears. Thanks for the reminder of one of the most painful Bears losses of the past five years, Lucas!

Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions (-2.5)

Lucas: Lions. I think Ndamukong Suh is as big a scumbag as anyone, but I’m not so sure the hit on Brandon Weeden he had this past week is deserving of a fine for once. Give him and the Lions the benefit this time.

Nathaniel: Bengals. My faith in the Bengals flip-flops tremendously every week. Right now, I think they’re the odds-on favorites to win the NFC North. Tune in next week when I pronounce them chokers and the heirs to an eventual 7-9 record!

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)

Lucas: Cowboys. Dallas already showed they can get into a shootout with elite offenses. Even on the road I think they can pull this one off.

Nathaniel: Eagles. I’ve always been a big Nick Foles supporter, ever since he started playing well last week.

St. Louis Rams at Carolina Panthers (-6.5)

Lucas: Rams. Taking the points despite feelings of “Holy crap! Ron Rivera is reading Bill Barnwell!”

Nathaniel: Rams. Can’t take the Panthers in good conscience unless I feel confident their game is going to be decided by 25 points or more.

New England Patriots at New York Jets (+4.5)

Lucas: Patriots. At this point I feel like Nathaniel and I could be Tom Brady’s wide receivers and the Pats could still be 5-1. I’m just waiting to see what happens when Gronk comes back.

Nathaniel: Jets. No, I haven’t heard that Gronk is coming back this week, why do you ask?

San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (+7.5)

Lucas: Chargers. I’m much more comfortable picking a 7.5 point spread than the one 20 points bigger. And Phil Rivers has been better this year. I’ll pounce on this one.

Nathaniel: Jaguars. No, I haven’t heard that the Jaguars haven’t lost a game by fewer than 10 points this season, why do you ask?

San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans (+4.5)

Lucas: 49ers. People have been kind of quiet about the Niners for much of the season. I think this might be a statement game.

Nathaniel: 49ers. That poor schmuck Ryan Fitzpatrick gets another chance at starting and the first three defenses he has to face are the Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers? NOT COOL.

Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers (-10.5)

Lucas: Packers. I was going to take Cleveland at first based on the size of this spread, plus Jarret Boykin potentially being Green Bay’s #2 wide receiver. Then I remembered Brandon Weeden is Cleveland’s quarterback.

Nathaniel: Browns. Equally as ugly as the above Weeden-ception was virtually any attempt Jarret Boykin made at catching a pass last week – and he might be Rodgers’ #2 receiver.

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)

Lucas: Chiefs. Brandon Flowers pick six? Anyone?

Nathaniel: Chiefs. Feeling roughly a zillion times more confident about this one after Gary Kubiak pushed the panic button and decided to start CASE KEENUM at quarterback this week. In case there was any doubt that the Texans are headed for a raging tire fire of a 2013 season, that move erased any of those lingering feelings.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5)

Lucas: Ravens. Yeah, Baltimore is a shell of itself, but so is Pittsburgh. I feel the only thing the Steelers could do would be to have Bane blow up Heinz Field when the Ravens step out.

Nathaniel: Steelers. Coin flip said, “Take Pittsburgh.” So I am!

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5)

Lucas: Colts. This is going to be a cool game. As much as I’m sure Manning will be energized by going back to his old stomping grounds, Indy seems to have some magic at home. I’ll take the points, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Indy can pull this one off.

Nathaniel: Broncos. Time to amend the “Never bet against Peyton Manning at night” rule to include the following provision: “Never, ever, ever under any circumstances bet against Peyton Manning at night when he’s playing his first game back at Indianapolis.”

Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants (-3.5)

Lucas: Vikings. Lol Eli Manning. …please don’t hurt me.

Nathaniel: Vikings. HOW ARE THE GIANTS FAVORED OVER ANYONE OTHER THAN JACKSONVILLE? Sorry, that deserved all CAPS.

2013 Records:

Lucas: 52-41 (6-9 last week, 0-1 so far this week)

Nathaniel: 45-48 (6-9 last week, 0-1 so far this week)

2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 5

Here’s the Week 5 picks against the spread from Confessions of a Sportscaster and Someone Still Loves You Alberto Riveron. Richard Sherman’s pick-six against Matt Schaub last week sent Lucas to a winning 8-7 record and yours truly to a losing 7-8 record – for the season, we’re still both above .500. This week, we’re only disagreeing on two games, which has to be the fewest games in a week we’ve ever disagreed over – feel free to scroll through the COAS/SSLYAR category to see if my preliminary hunch is wrong. At any rate, check out our apparently groupthink-filled picks below.

Thursday Night: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns (-4.5)

Lucas: Browns. Brian Hoyer as the new Eff You Quarterback? Brian Hoyer as the new Eff You Quarterback.

Nathaniel: Browns. Funny how fast the Browns went from completely hopeless to having as good a chance as anyone to win the AFC North.

Sunday, Early Afternoon: New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears (-0.5)

Lucas: Saints. This past Sunday was an enjoyable experience for me as I got to relive my days in 2009 as an intern for ESPN Chicago where I was in for every Bears game and took great joy in every Cutler interception. The Onion article on him published on Monday was the proverbial cherry.

Nathaniel: Saints. I’m relatively flabbergasted how this is a virtual pick’em. I’m rooting for the Bears as much as any Chicagoan (not named Lucas Mitzel, anyway), but I don’t think anybody debates that the Saints are a considerably better team.

New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5)

Lucas: Patriots. Yeah, I know Vince Wilfork is probably done for the year, but I feel like the Pats offense can put up enough points to not worry about it this week.

Nathaniel: Patriots. Getting tired of doubting Belichick and expecting the Bengals to actually play as well as their talent level suggests they should play.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-6.5)

Lucas: Packers. Detroit still hasn’t won in Green Bay since I was like 2 and didn’t know anything about the NFL. Detroit’s defense took advantage of turnovers that Aaron Rodgers is probably 89% less likely than Jay Cutler to commit, yet they still gave up 32 points to the Bears. Ah, the joys of having the best quarterback in the league…

Nathaniel: Packers. Rule of thumb: no matter how good a team has looked in the first four weeks of the season, always pick against them if they’re facing an opponent in a stadium they haven’t won at in 22 years.

Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans (+2.5)

Lucas: Chiefs. I was originally thinking the Titans based on home field and some regression to the mean, but with Jake Locker hurt after looking really good for a while this past week… I just can’t take them.

Nathaniel: Titans. On the one hand, Ryan Fitzpatrick tends to throw as many passes to the other team as he does his own. On the other, Kansas City hasn’t really played anybody yet and there’s still a good chunk of me that questions how good they actually are.

Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts (+2.5)

Lucas: Colts. Maybe this is one of the supervisors at work (who’s from Indy and is a Colts fan) rubbing off on me. But Seattle hasn’t played quite as well away from the Link and would likely be 3-1 if Matt Schaub would quit throwing pick-6’s. Maybe I’m wrong, but Indy is starting to round back into decent form.

Nathaniel: Colts. Indianapolis has played really well the past two weeks and Seattle doesn’t look anywhere near as terrifying on the road as when they’re back home in CenturyLink Field.

Jacksonville Jaguars at St. Louis Rams (-11.5)

Lucas: Rams. If for no other reason than I felt like an idiot for taking the points with Jacksonville last week. I’m just really looking forward to the 27.5 point spread next week…

Nathaniel: Rams. It ought to say something that the Rams have lost their last two games by 24 points each and are still 11.5 point favorites against the Jaguars. At this point, I’d have to say Florida International should be giving 3.5 points to the Jags.

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (-2.5)

Lucas: Dolphins. Riding the “Miami is pretty good” and “Baltimore sucks on the road” bandwagons this week. Seems safe with this spread.

Nathaniel: Dolphins. Things are usually pretty simple with the Ravens: pick them at home and pick against them on the road. Don’t you dare muck up my complicated formula this week, Joe Flacco!

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-2.5)

Lucas: Eagles. Through four weeks, I’m not really impressed with Chip Kelly at the NFL level so far. Fortunately for him, the reeling Giants were just what he needed.

Nathaniel: Eagles. I honestly don’t understand how the Giants could be favored over anybody right now – other than Jacksonville, of course.

Sunday, Late Afternoon: Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (+2.5)

Lucas: Cardinals. I don’t know if it’s home field, Arizona’s decent defense, Ron Rivera, or what it is… but it’s sure smarter than Scott Burnside taking hallucinogens before picking the Phoenix Coyotes to win the Stanley Cup.

Nathaniel: Panthers. I can’t underestimate the misgivings I have with this pick, though – they’ve only played three games so far, but the Panthers already look like this year’s team that no one can figure out. Well, I take that back – we know that if they play a close game, they’ll undoubtedly lose. Other than that, we know nothing.

Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys (+7.5)

Lucas: Broncos. I have yet to meet the man who can stop this Denver offense. I don’t think Jerry Jones is that man, unless DeMarcus Ware injures Peyton in taking advantage of Ryan Clady being gone.

Nathaniel: Broncos. I feel a certain sense of loyalty to Peyton and will continue to pick the Broncos until he throws an interception. After that, though? Never again. A SACRED BOND HAS BEEN DESTROYED.

Sunday Night: Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5)

Lucas: Texans. San Fran beat the Rams pretty convincingly last week, but I’m still not sure how I feel about them after 4 weeks. This isn’t an advocation of Houston by any means, I just think the points are safer.

Nathaniel: Texans. I feel like 6.5 points gives Matt Schaub leeway to play really well for most of the game and ensure the cover while ultimately throwing the game-killing pick-six that sends Houston to 2-3.

Sunday, Late Night: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (+4.5)

Lucas: Chargers. If you were going to reschedule a Raiders game to accommodate the MLB, at least it involved another West Coast team so biorhythms don’t get all wacked out. Though Phillip Rivers’ biorhythm being out of wack wouldn’t be the most surprising thing to find out.

Nathaniel: Chargers. By far the coolest thing about this game is that it’ll get started a few minutes before midnight on the East Coast. Thank you, Oakland, for reminding us how weird scheduling can be when you have a playoff baseball team and a football team sharing the same stadium!

Monday Night: New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons (-9.5)

Lucas: Jets. It’s an odd numbered year, so the Falcons are holding tradition by being down this season. I know, the Jets are the Jets, but 9 ½ is still a lot to be giving.

Nathaniel: Jets. That’s a mighty big line for a 1-3 team with little to no defense to be covering!

2013 Records:

Lucas: 37-26 (8-7 last week)

Nathaniel: 32-31 (7-8 last week)

2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 4

Like the third day of the NCAA Tournament, Week 3 of the NFL season is usually where my picks start to go haywire and I become 11% more insane with each passing day trying to figure out why Colin Kaepernick could only put up seven points on the Colts defense. NFL teams are so easy to figure out!

Lucas had another strong week, going 10-6; I, on the other hand, had my first off week of the season, going 6-10. Week 4’s picks are up over at Confessions of a Sportscaster. If nothing else, I suggest you head over there just to hear Demaryius Thomas’s Nelson Muntz impersonation from Monday Night.

2013 Records:

Lucas: 29-19 (10-6 last week)

Nathaniel: 25-23 (6-10 last week)

2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 3

Here’s Week 3’s joint Confessions of a Sportscaster/Someone Still Loves You Alberto Riveron picks against the spread. Both of us had above .500 records for the second week in a row in Week 2 – this time, Lucas went 10-6 and I went 9-7, so we’re back at a deadlock heading into tonight’s Chiefs-Eagles game. The surprising leader of our ESPN Pigskin Pick’Em group, however? Mark Murphy! I only say “surprising” because Mark didn’t register a pick in either of the Thursday night games that have been played so far but has picked 20 of the other 30 games correctly so far. We should all probably be paying more attention to what he has to say, in all honesty. For the time being, here are Lucas and my rationales for our Week 3 picks.

Thursday Night: Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)

Lucas: Chiefs. Chip Kelly’s offense puts up a crapton of points… but they give up a crapton of points too. KC probably has enough offense to keep up or at least keep it close while Andy Reid eats a literal and figurative throwback cheesesteak in his return while the Philly crowd gives him a 70-30 boo-to-cheer ratio.

Nathaniel: Eagles. The Chiefs’ best attribute in their 2-0 start has been their ability to let the Jaguars and Cowboys beat themselves. Alex Smith is in danger of inheriting the dubious Captain Checkdown title and will have to take more chances tonight if the Chiefs are going to score enough points to keep up with the Eagles on a short week.

Sunday, Early Afternoon: Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals (+2.5)

Lucas: Packers. I pulled up the Bengals radio feed on my phone Monday night when I was driving home and heard a really weird commercial for either a convenience store or a liquor store, starring a weirdly voiced announcer and a guy who started each of his lines with “Hi, I’m Steve.” It also included the announcer mentioning libations and Steve followed with, “Hi, I’m Steve. What are libations?” I don’t know, dude, maybe something YOU IDIOTS ARE DRINKING WHILE RECORDING THIS SPOT?! This is like the Eagleman of radio commercials and might be worse than Cincy’s defense repelling Aaron Rodgers.

Nathaniel: Packers. Cincinnati has the better team but a much worse quarterback. Always side with the team with the quarterback. Eagleman says so.

Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings (-5.5)

Lucas: Vikings. Originally I was going to pick Cleveland. Then they announced Brian Hoyer is starting. I mean, yeah, I make fun of Brandon Weeden, and sure he’s hurt, but… Brian Hoyer?

Nathaniel: Vikings. All those years of Mike Lombardi going on Bill Simmons’ podcast and claiming that Brian Hoyer would be the one quarterback he would seek out to build a team around will finally culminate in a beautiful, glorious spectacle at the Metrodome Sunday. The saddest part of the Browns tanking so early in the season? They may not even know they’re tanking right now.

St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)

Lucas: Rams. Dallas won the turnover battle convincingly in Week 1 and only won by 5. They lost it and the game last week. I think Sam Bradford has a good game in him this week.

Nathaniel: Rams. I don’t trust either team a single iota and am simply taking the points. This is the rationale by which approximately 80% of my bad picks happen.

Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins (-1.5)

Lucas: Lions. I’ve written on COAS before that people shouldn’t wish death (or really, even injuries) on professional athletes. That being said… watching Brandon Meriweather get wasted by James Starks  and suffer a concussion felt like sweet, sweet justice for leading with his helmet on Eddie Lacy. Maybe that will serve as official notice to the ‘Skins that hey… maybe you guys should learn how to play defense.

Nathaniel: Lions. Two more teams I have zero trust in. The Lions at least have occasionally played defense this season, though.

San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)

Lucas: Chargers. When he’s not throwing crippling interceptions, Phillip Rivers hasn’t been terrible. Tennessee has a good defense, but the Bolts have been able to score points. This will be closer than people think.

Nathaniel: Chargers. Mystifying line to me. Rivers looks like the 2008-10 Marmalard again (this is totally a good thing, I swear) and the Titans needed three missed field goals and a pick-six just to lose to Houston in overtime. I wouldn’t trust Jake Locker to throw me a roll of socks from five feet away right now.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots (-7.5)

Lucas: Patriots. Hold on, I’m not done with Meriweather. How does he get off with just a fine when Goldson originally got suspended for his hit, even if it was overturned? Greg Schiano will have his full defense here, but if it sounds like he’s not utilizing Darrelle Revis in his wheelhouse, why should I believe in this defense?

Nathaniel: Buccaneers. This’ll likely come back to bite me in the keester if Gronk ends up playing. But as of right now (i.e. mid-Thursday morning), he’s looking like a no-go. Which likely means another close, low-scoring, nearly unwatchable game involving Tom Brady and five receivers he met 15 minutes before the game.

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints (-7.5)

Lucas: Cardinals. Arizona has given up chunks of yards through the air, and this is a resurgent Saints team we’re talking about here. But part of me just thinks 7.5 points is too much.

Nathaniel: Saints. I have the same worries about the spread that Lucas does but am assuming the early afternoon start throws the Cardinals’ body clocks off enough to make this a rout.

New York Giants at Carolina Panthers (-1.5)

Lucas: Giants. Maybe I’m reading too much Bill Barnwell. But with this close a line and given Carolina’s history… why should I be picking a Ron Rivera coached team against an opponent of reasonably close strength, again?

Nathaniel: Giants. There’s at least hope for the Giants: they’ve been moving the ball well, they just need to stop shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers. There’s no point, on the other hand, of keeping up the charade that Carolina’s a good team that’s just had bad luck in close games. They’re just a bad team. Period.

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (+2.5)

Lucas: Ravens. I think Houston is objectively the better team here, but John Harbaugh has a funky disparity in his home record and road record. Ray Rice or no, give me the home team.

Nathaniel: Texans. If Ray Rice was 100% healthy, I’d give the benefit of the doubt to Baltimore’s outstanding, best-in-the-league-outside-of-Seattle homefield advantage. However, it looks like he either won’t play or won’t be completely healthy, which is a big deal considering he’s only their best receiver in addition to being their best runner.

Sunday, Late Afternoon: Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins (-1.5)

Lucas: Falcons. Basically for no other reason than “Don’t cross William Moore.”

Nathaniel: Falcons. Miami’s 2-0 road start may have had something to do with the fact that they were the only team from 2003 to 2012 to have a better point differential on the road than they did at home. For whatever reason, you’d almost think the Dolphins would rather be facing Ryan, Julio and the gang at the Georgia Dome than at Sun Life Stadium.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-2.5)

Lucas: Jets. The dominant talk at work Wednesday morning when I got in was about Jim Schwartz defending his team of idiots and then we started talking about current Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg back when he coached the Lions and how apparently he still defends taking the wind in overtime against the Bears back in 2002. Suddenly the fact that he’s on the Jets make a lot more sense. And I’m still taking them!

Nathaniel: Bills. In a battle of two rookie quarterbacks, I trust E.J. Manuel – or, rather, Doug Marrone’s streamlined offense that produces a lot of easy throws for Manuel – more than I trust Geno Smith.

Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers (-10.5)

Lucas: Colts. I think everyone knew the Colts were going to regress some while still being a solid team. I also think everyone knows the Niners aren’t going to play as poorly as they did in Seattle Sunday night. But who in their right mind thought 10.5 points was a great line? I think Kap does a lot of damage to make up for last week while Luck sneaks in a backdoor cover because he does stuff like that.

Nathaniel: 49ers. Kaepernick goes from facing an absolute juggernaut of a defense to possibly the worst in the league. On the bright side, at least Trent Richardson can average three and a half yards per carry in a new uniform now!

Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks (-19.5)

Lucas: Seahawks. I was looking forward to seeing this line, just to see how high it would go (honestly, this was about where I expected it). The real question: how high would this line have to be before people seriously consider picking the Jags? While we’re at it, what would the line be if you pit this Jaguar team against Alabama? I’d probably still take the Jags there, but I’d have to think about it.

Nathaniel: Seahawks. I know history says there’s a 92% chance the Jaguars cover a line this high. I also know that I’d feel 10,000 times dumber if I picked the Jags and Seattle ended up winning 56-3 like I’m expecting than if I picked Seattle and the Jags somehow ended up covering. How on God’s green Earth they’re ever going to do that, I’m not sure.

Sunday Night: Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5)

Lucas: Bears. So did the definition of “Pure Jay” change this offseason? He’s made a couple bad decisions, but he’s led the team on game-winning, come-from-behind drives late in each of the first two weeks. I get the feeling he may not need to this week.

Nathaniel: Bears. It feels so weird yet undeniably wonderful to say the following two words: Pittsburgh sucks. I’m not at all sold on the Bears as a true contender yet but the Steelers have had so many problems in the first two games that they’re making Jay Cutler seem like the safe pick. Who saw that coming two weeks ago?

Monday Night: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-14.5)

Lucas: Broncos. This one took a little more thought than the other double digit lines. On the one hand, Terrelle Pryor hasn’t been too bad, Denver has given up points, and Ryan Clady is out for the year. On the other hand, it’s the Raiders and Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. …why was I thinking long and hard about this game again?

Nathaniel: Broncos. You can’t make this line high enough.

2013 Records:

Lucas: 19-13 (10-6 last week)

Nathaniel: 19-13 (9-7 last week)

2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 2

Week 2’s picks are up over at Confessions of a Sportscaster. Both of us got off to good starts last week – I went 10-6, Lucas went 9-7. I didn’t do my homework well enough ahead of time this week, as I made my Jags/Raiders pick assuming that the hunk of flesh that got ripped off Blaine Gabbert’s hand wasn’t going to keep him from playing Sunday. Then again, if I’m going to start stressing out about picks based on whether Blaine Gabbert is playing or not in Week 2, I’m probably going to have a massive coronary bypass by Halloween.

2013 Records So Far:

Lucas: 9-7

Nathaniel: 10-6

2013 COAS/SSLYAR Pigskin Pick ‘Em: Week 1

 

For the second year in a row, Lucas Mitzel of Confessions of a Sportscaster and I will be picking games against the spread on ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’Em site, with the winner at the end of the season securing bragging rights and the right to post whatever he wants on the loser’s blog (expect something vehemently anti-Packers from me if I should somehow win, like “I hear Aaron Rodgers kills kittens” or something). Last year, Lucas had a big lead for most of the season and it ultimately held up at the end, although I made it close to enough to make the whole thing ride on the Week 17 Cowboys-Redskins game. Unfortunately, I picked the Cowboys. WHO KNEW TONY ROMO WOULD FAIL IN THE CLUTCH?

This year, Week 1 is full of a bevy of interesting games. Ravens-Broncos is probably the best possible way to start things – other than the fact that the game should be played in Baltimore (nice going, White Sox-Orioles!) – but here’s a list of all the good/interesting early afternoon games this week: Falcons-Saints, Seahawks-Panthers, Bengals-Bears, Bucs-Jets and even Vikings-Lions. And that’s before we get to the Packers-49ers death match extraordinaire in the late afternoon slot or Giants-Cowboys Sunday night or the return of RGIII coupled with Chip Kelly’s debut on Monday night. This week is freaking LOADED. Lucas and I disagree on the results of nine games from this loaded week. Hear our rationales below:

Thursday Night: Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-8.5)

Lucas: Ravens. Sure, it may not be fair to be breaking a tradition that just started a few years back forcing the Ravens to open on the road, and sure, they lost some of the key pieces of their defense from last year’s Super Bowl run… but this is a huge line for a game like this. I’m taking the points.

Nathaniel: Broncos. When you’re trying to replace roughly half your team from the year before as the Ravens are doing, you figure it’ll take a while for the new pieces to gel, especially defensively. I may be wrong, but I don’t know if I’d really want to face Peyton Manning in the first game of the season if I was going through some defensive upheaval. In true Peyton fashion, the Broncos get revenge for a playoff loss…the following regular season.

Sunday, Early Afternoon: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-2.5)

Lucas: Saints. Give New Orleans a home game and their head coach back against their archrival? I’m in.

Nathaniel: Falcons. Maybe the most important of all the Week 1 games and a good bet to be the most entertaining. These teams are too close to do anything other than take the points.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (+6.5)

Lucas: Patriots. Well, having EJ Manuel back certainly helps, and I’m sure Spiller will do some damage, but do you really want to get into a shootout with Darth Hoodie?

Nathaniel: Bills. Two pieces of wonderful news for the Bills: they don’t have to start Jeff Tuel and Gronk probably won’t be able to play. And I don’t know if you remember this or not, but Gronk’s pretty good.

Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears (-3.5)

Lucas: Bengals. My dad and brother got to visit Bengals camp a month ago. Maybe my dad went as a spy with information on the Bears since we live here and he’s a Vikings fan and it’ll be enough for the Bengals to at least keep it close. Side bet: Over/under on my first tweet of “Lol Bears offense” this year is the 3rd quarter of this game. I’m taking the under.

Nathaniel: Bengals. A defense with a killer pass rush is not exactly what you want to face when you’re breaking FOUR NEW STARTERS on the offensive line. Keep that flask of maple syrup handy, Marc. You’re gonna need it.

Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns (+0.5)

Lucas: Dolphins. I know it’s his second year, but I have a feeling Nathaniel and I might be making fun of Brandon Weeden in some capacity this coming week.

Nathaniel: Dolphins. Keep in mind, the above GIF was the best play Brandon Weeden made all day in last year’s season opener…

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-3.5)

Lucas: Vikings. Call it a hunch. I don’t trust Detroit’s secondary even if we’re talking about Christian Ponder. He probably does juuuuussst enough to force them to think pass, then that Peterson guy breaks off a couple big runs.

Nathaniel: Lions. With the corpse of Greg Jennings now taking the place of Percy Harvin, now would be as good a time as ever for the Vikings to start running the single wing offense with AP every play. At least Ponder wouldn’t have to throw, right?

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5)

Lucas: Steelers. Big Ben is healthy to start the year and Tennessee’s defense is pretty bad. Unless Chris Johnson goes off, Pitt is good to go to start the year.

Nathaniel: Steelers. Here’s your yearly reminder that Bud Adams is still alive and still REALLY crazy!

 

Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts (-6.5)

Lucas: Colts. Give the Colts the benefit of one game with leftover effects of #Chuckstrong. I guess the fact that they’re playing the Raiders doesn’t hurt either.

Nathaniel: Colts. If their performance in the preseason is any indication, the Raiders should probably be getting double-digit points on the road against every team not named Jacksonville. Regression towards the mean starts a week late for the Colts.

Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5)

Lucas: Chiefs. Kansas City was probably better than their 2-14 mark last year and facing Blaine Gabbert in Week 1 is probably a good way to Alex Smith to recement himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

Nathaniel: Chiefs. Gonna take more than 2.5 points for me to want to take the Jags, ESPN! Try again next week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets (+1.5)

Lucas: Buccaneers. Darrelle Revis gets to visit his old stomping grounds, and hopefully the return to his old island home goes better than Jack Sparrow’s did.

Nathaniel: Jets. Welcome to Week 1’s most hilarious crapshow! You already know about Geno Smith and the reasons he’s going to suck, but how do you think Josh Freeman and his 55% completion percentage are going to do against a defense that typically holds the average passer to a 55% completion percentage? There might be more interceptions than completed forward passes at the Meadowlands on Sunday. Which is good, because every week needs its appointed court jester game.

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (+2.5)

Lucas: Seahawks. In a battle between great young quarterbacks, give me the guy with the better supporting cast.

Nathaniel: Seahawks. My hunch is we’ll look back on this as a battle of two eventual playoff teams when the season winds to a close. Seattle’s definitively better, though, and the early start for them is balanced out by the fact that Carolina possibly defends their home turf worse than any other team in the league.

Sunday, Late Afternoon: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-4.5)

Lucas: 49ers. I REALLY want to pick the Packers here… but I’m nervous about if the defense can contain Kaepernick this time. For much of the playoff game last year Rodgers did some damage, but with the other factor being San Fran’s defense at full strength and Rodgers’ line being banged up… I just don’t know that I can. I hate this early stretch of the year.

Nathaniel: Packers. Can I just whine one more time about this game being put at the beginning of the schedule again? If there’s two NFC teams that are dead-bang cinches to be good again this year, it’s these two and this game should be played in November or December when a playoff spot or first-round bye is more clearly on the line. THAT’S RIGHT, I CAN WHINE ABOUT FOOTBALL BEING BACK. At any rate, I’m taking the points.

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (-5.5)

Lucas: Cardinals. I think Sam Bradford starts slow without Danny Amendola this year and Carson Palmer can do enough against this Rams D that he can keep it close.

Nathaniel: Rams. Jonathan Cooper, the first-round pick who was supposed to save the Cardinals offensive line (or, at least, keep it from being the raging tire fire it was last year), already broke his leg in the preseason and the Rams had the best sack rate of any defense in football last year. WELP.

Sunday Night: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-2.5)

Lucas: Cowboys. I hate this game. I hate this pick. The Giants never do what I pick them to do and the Cowboys are the Cowboys. The Giants have never lost at Jerry World, and I figure that has to end at some point, right? I look forward to your 21 point beatdown of the Cowboys while Jerry Jones scratches his crotch, Tom and Eli.

Nathaniel: Giants. The Giants pretty reliably eke out close victories 75% of the time at Cowboys Stadium (I’m sorry, Jerry, AT&T Stadium now); the other 25% of the time, they break Tony Romo’s collarbone. So either way, history is not on the Cowboys’ side here.

Monday Night: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins (-4.5)

Lucas: Redskins. RGIII is back. I’m not sure what to expect from the Philly defense. The underrated thing I totally forgot in the preview too was the fact that Brian Orakpo is back for Washington’s defense. Chip Kelly gets a not-so-warm welcome to the NFL.

Nathaniel: Eagles. RGIII is back. The question is how much rust will he have to shake off? More than anything, though, this pick assumes Chip Kelly’s got some crazy wrinkles up his sleeve in his NFL debut. Great Monday Night opener.

 

Houston Texans at San Diego Chargers (+2.5)

Lucas: Texans. JJ Watt tries to turn into the Incredible Hulk. He doesn’t fully transform, but I’m pretty sure his eyes turn green. Somewhere in there is a monster. Phillip Rivers… you should hide now.

Nathaniel: Texans. I’ll just note that Philip Rivers got sacked 49 times last year and let the above photo do the talking.

2012 Records:

Lucas: 135-121

Nathaniel: 132-124

COAS Takes Over SSLYAR: Lucas’s Alternate History of the NFL (presented to you by Madden)

COAStakesoverSSLYARThe final week of the Confessions of a Sportscaster/Someone Still Loves You Alberto Riveron Pigskin Pick ‘Em challenge was as exciting as they come, with the outcome of the entire group hinging on the Sunday night Cowboys-Redskins game. Unfortunately, I took the Cowboys. Thus, as per our gentleman’s agreement at the beginning of the season, Lucas enjoys the spoils of sweet, sweet victory and gets to take over SSLYAR for a day. Surprisingly, his post doesn’t contain any violently anti-Bears propaganda – you’re a better man than I, my friend! Instead, let Lucas be your guide on a magical journey through an alternative NFL universe – a universe where Vince Young throws for 8,000 yards and the Bears turn into the Mexico City Rhinos. Take it away, Lucas!

***************************************************************************

Summer 2010. New York City.

The NFL has just agreed to a drastic change for its upcoming season. Instead of giving teams their current rosters, they decide to take a groundbreaking new approach: refreshing every team’s roster. It’s a similar story to what happened in Nathaniel’s story where Robert Griffin III is tearing up the league as even rookies get reassigned based on where teams draft. Our story focuses on two legendary NFL franchises in the NFC North: The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

In a random draw for order of a snake-style draft, the Bears got to pick 5th overall and the Packers 8th. It forces some long waits between odd and even-numbered rounds of the 49 round draft, but the closeness on the other side makes it worthwhile.

In no small surprise, quarterbacks and running backs dominate the early picks. That’s when the Bears commit an unforgivable sin: they take Aaron Rodgers, formerly of the Packers, whom Green Bay was looking to get back. Not liking the monetary prospects of the next few quarterbacks, Green Bay instead decides to shore up their running game by taking DeAngelo Williams as their first pick.

The Bears are able to surround Rodgers with some decent talent in Roddy White at wide receiver and Antonio Gates at tight end, along with Rashard Mendenhall to head the rushing attack. Green Bay felt it got lucky. Vince Young came to lend his services at quarterback, with a couple good veteran targets like Vernon Davis and TJ Houshmanzadeh gave Young people to throw to. The interesting pick was a young wideout named Lucas Mitzel who went to school at NIU. He was raw but seemed to have promise. Defensively, the Bears weren’t as strong as they were before while the Packers were able to get talent all over. Nnamdi Asomugha came to lock down the secondary while Patrick Willis solidified the middle of a 4-3 defense despite the remaining presence of Dom Capers.

In the end the two teams went in completely opposite directions. The Bears fell into mediocrity with a poor offensive line and no major playmakers on defense, while the Packers soared. They recorded only the second 16-0 season in NFL history despite losing Vince Young in the 2nd half of the season due to a shoulder injury. Rookie Tim Tebow led Green Bay into the playoffs and helped them get through the NFC, including a big win over the Arizona Cardinals, who would bud into the Packers’ biggest rivals for the top spot in the NFC. Charles Grant also had a resurgent year, breaking an NFL record with 45 sacks. Green Bay ended up in Dallas and won Super Bowl XLV.

The 2011 draft yielded good fruit for both the Bears and Packers, however. The Bears picked 4th in that draft, and got a stud outside linebacker named Chris Donaldson. Green Bay deferred its picks into the later rounds, where they would pick up major defensive players for the future like linebacker Andre Riddle, safety Wayne Addis, and defensive end Reuben Goosen. But the big prize for the Packers was wide receiver Gerard Byham, who the Packers immediately worked into a slot role.

The 2011 season was much better for both teams. The Bears finished with a much better record but were just shy of making the playoffs. Donaldson would have a rookie year for the ages, with 10 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries and a pick.

Green Bay, meanwhile, got a full season from Vince Young, who was part of a record setting offense. Young threw for over 6,000 yards for the first time and had plenty of help as DeAngelo Williams became the first 3,000 yard rusher in NFL history while Lucas Mitzel became what Devin Hester never could, returning 11 kickoffs for touchdowns and breaking the NFL receiving record with 3,008 yards as the Packers went into Indianapolis against the Colts, who became the first team to ever play the Super Bowl at home. Green Bay was able to defend their title and bring the Lombardi Trophy back home.

2012’s draft was another excellent one for both teams. The Packers were able to pick up some more talent for their defense in cornerback Lance James and picked up a couple receivers to help out Lucas Mitzel and Gerard Byham, who became the new starter with TJ Houshmanzadeh’s signing with the Bears. The bigger additions for Chicago, however, came through the draft. Andrew Wrobel was taken 5th overall to help in the run game, while the defense was strengthened with the drafting of middle linebacker Paul Kline.

Wrobel didn’t see much action his first year, while Kline had a solid year patrolling the middle. Meanwhile the Packers went back to business as usual, even overtaking a rising rival in Arizona for the NFC title and winning yet another Super Bowl.

At this point the Bears and Packers diverged from their path together greatly. An ownership change the offseason before had been making plans and shocked the NFL world when in 2013 they officially announced they were relocating to Mexico City to become the Rhinos. The new management also decided it would be ideal to change the logo to that of a scorpion and the colors to a scheme similar to Oakland’s. It was devastating to Chicago, but also to Green Bay. Wideout Lucas Mitzel mourned the loss of the team he grew up closest to; even though he was never a fan of theirs, he was saddened by the death of the greatest rivalry the NFL had ever known. He immediately began lobbying to get NFL football back into Chicago and possibly away from Mexico City.

During the next few years, the Rhinos were never a threat, and Green Bay faced challengers new and old. Baltimore had risen the ranks with a young quarterback named Benjamin Harris, who led them to a Super Bowl. Miami drafted a young stud named Brenden Vincent and he turned the Dolphins into an elite team. Pittsburgh had one great regular season before an early playoff exit. Most notably though, it was former Green Bay backups who turned tides for a couple other strong teams. Tim Tebow left after his rookie contract and ended up in Denver in 2015, where he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. 3rd stringer Josh Johnson matured under Vince Young and eventually went to Carolina, where their offense couldn’t pass at all, but they trailed only Green Bay in rushing yards between Johnson and Donald Brown. Through it all Arizona remained a threat to Green Bay with Carson Palmer and Chris Johnson, though Palmer would retire after the 2015 season and that same spring Chris Johnson left for Carolina.

Green Bay faced all those challengers, and never lost. There were plenty of shutout victories and staggering point totals, including games over 150 points. Some of the major players have come and gone, but a large core of that initial group is still there, developing together, playing together, and winning together.

It is now 2016 and the regular season winds down. Mexico City is guaranteed no worse than a .500 finish, but is likely to watch the playoffs from home with one final Green Bay matchup coming. Rumors of movement back to Chicago are constantly stirring, and Chicagoans are hopeful what happened to the Chicago Cardinals doesn’t permanently happen to the Bears.

Green Bay on the other hand is one game away from its 7th straight unbeaten season. Vince Young has already broken the single season passing yard record and is just a couple hundred yards away from becoming the first 8000 yard passer while also running for almost 800 yards at 33 years old in an illustrious career with over 800 touchdowns and 62 interceptions. DeAngelo Williams has lost a step at age 33, but is still over 2000 yards for the 7th straight year, but needs about 200 to surpass 2500 for the 7th straight season. Lucas Mitzel, meanwhile, needs a mere 122 yards to break his old receiving yard record, and in just shy of 7 seasons has racked up almost 20000 yards and 350 touchdowns. Lance James needs 3 interceptions to tie Nnamdi Asomugha’s single season record of 20 picks in a season. All around, it’s a phenomenal year in Wisconsin.

Fortunately here, in this timeline, there was no bounty scandal, no lockout, no replacement ref fiasco, no major black eyes to disgrace the shield. Only football.