Friday, October 1, 2010

NFL 2010: Week 4 Picks

Monday Night Disaster

The Packers - Bears Monday nighter lived up to it's hype only in terms of how close the game was. It was a horrible display of professional football; more so by the Packers than the Bears. The Packers committed a franchise record 18 penalties, apart from other missed chances, special teams blunders and coaching gaffes.

Mike McCarthy has taken a lot of heat for some of those mistakes, and to be honest, deservedly so. First off, five years at the helm, and he still does not have a serviceable special teams unit? He is too red-flag friendly, to the team's detriment, especially in close games like on Monday. Although he is an offense guy, being the head coach, he has to take some blame for the Packers ineptitude on defense.

Monday Night also brought to light an interesting coaches situational dilemma. With 1:44 minutes left on the clock and the Bears having first-and-goal inside the Packers five yard line, should he have let the Bears score? Football purists are generally opposed to that strategy. Their reasoning being, by intentionally letting your opponent score, you are eliminating the possibilities of forcing a turnover and/or forcing a FG mis-hap (blocked FG or missed FG).

On the contrary, the odds of those happening within the 5 yard line would be like wishing for a fluky stroke of luck. With the new age, saber-metric guys around, statistical data has more validity than ever before to drive coaches decisions, or at least back them up. Statistically (based on reported simulations), the odds of Packers getting the ball back and taking the game to OT by not letting the opponent score was estimated at about 3%. Letting the Bears score a TD to save time for another game tying drive, increased those odds to only about 10%. Still, as a coach, isn't it a no-brainer to give your team the best chance to win? But, of course, it would have woken ghosts of Mike Holmgren's decision to let the Broncos score at the end of the Super Bowl XXXIII, which the Packers went on to lose.

But after giving it a few days to marinate in my head, I have come to the conclusion that the biggest reason for such a poor showing by the Packers was the Defense and Special Teams units. A good number of those 18 penalties was by the defense. And we all know how big of a game-changer are those pass interference penalties. Not to mention those dropped INTs and inability to create turnovers even though opportunities popped up right in front of them time after time. The Bears on the other hand, were killing the Packers on special teams, including a punt return TD by Hester. That was the biggest offensive threat posed by the Bears all night long. Yeah, we could blame the incidents of the last two plus minutes of the game.But, in my opinion, the Packers squandered chances to put away the game the previous 58 minutes. The defense and special teams units should take a big chink of the blame for this.

One thing to take away from this game is that the Packers Defense should be considered mediocre at best. They seem to be one of those units (like the Saints and Colts) that play very well when playing with a lead. But sputter when expected to stop opponents with an above average QB. This makes it imperative that for the success of the team, the offense will have to score first and stay ahead, to give the team the best chance to win. Don't get me wrong, this defense when playing with a lead, will post up dominating stats and create turnovers as if they are an elite group. Let us not get fooled. The positive, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, who is more than capable of giving that lead for the Defense to stay in its comfort zone.

The Picks

San Francisco 49ers (+6.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Things only seem to get harder for the 49ers; Arrowhead Stadium to the Georgia Dome. I expect to see improved execution on offense with new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson. But, Atlanta should take care of business at home. There is still the chance of a let down for the Falcons after beating the Super Bowl Champs last week.
Outright Win: Falcons 
v/s the Spread: Falcons (-6.5)

New York Jets (-5.5) at Buffalo Bills
The Jets, after wins the last two weeks, have shown that they do have a legit offense. But their defense last week, without Revis, was carved up by Chad Henne. No Revis again this year. Add the fact that the Bills scored at will against the Patriots under a journeyman Harvard QB, Fitzpatrick. Classic trap game.
Outright Win: Jets
v/s the Spread: Bills (+5.5)

Denver Broncos (+6.5) at Tennessee Titans
The Broncos will try to win the game by throwing the ball at the the Titans secondary a lot. That's the only shot they've got...and yes, try stopping that guy called Chris Johnson.
Outright Win: Titans
v/s the Spread: Titans (-6.5)

Seattle Seahawks (-0.5) at St. Louis Rams
The Seahawks this season, have the makings of one of those teams that is formidable at home. Not so much on the road. The Rams can surprise them this week, just that the element of surprise will not be as much as last week vs the Redskins.
Outright Win: Rams
v/s the Spread: Rams (+0.5)

Carolina Panthers (+13.5) at New Orleans Saints
The Panthers are clearly one of the bottom feeder teams this year. Even with an ailing knee, Brees should breeze through to a win this week.
Outright Win: Saints
v/s the Spread: Saints (-13.5)

Baltimore Ravens (+1.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens anemic offense is going to have a harder time than usual against this stout Steeler defense. But can Charlie Batch play mistake-free two games in a row?
Outright Win: Steelers
v/s the Spread: Steelers (-1.5)

Indianapolis Colts (-8.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Colts in the past had problems against the Jaguars. But not this year. Hard to believe, but Manning has quietly had his best ever statistical start to a season. David Gerrard's days as a Jaguar are numbered.
Outright Win: Colts
v/s the Spread: Colts (-8.5)

Houston Texans (-3.5) at Oakland Raiders
The Texans looked formidable first two weeks. But then, they could not keep it up against a desperate 0-2 Cowboys team last week. They should be back on track this week against the Raiders. It is not going to be easy if their defense gives up as many yards as it has been though.
Outright Win: Texans
v/s the Spread: Raiders (+3.5)

Arizona Cardinals (+8.5) at San Diego Chargers
The Cardinals' two wins have been against the Rams week 1 (when Bradford made his NFL debut) and the against the Raiders due to that missed last second FG by Janikowski. I don't think their lucky streak carries on. On the other hand, the Chargers will come out with a sense of urgency after an embarrassing loss to the Seahawks.
Outright Win: Chargers
v/s the Spread: Chargers (-8.5)

Washington Redskins (+6.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
McNaab is coming back to Philly. To me, whether he gets booed or not is a non-story. Vick has had a good couple games. But that was against the Lions and Jaguars defense. The Redskins defense will give Vick his stiffest challenge yet. But the outcome of the game is more important for each of these teams to justify their sides of the McNaab trade.
Outright Win: Eagles
v/s the Spread: Redskins (+6.5)

Chicago Bears (+3.5) at New York Giants
The Bears are coming of an emotional win against the Packers. The mental drain after such a sapping win combined with the short turnaround after a Monday Night game is the perfect recipe for a let down game. As bad as the Giants seem to be, they might just pull this off at home.
Outright Win: Giants
v/s the Spread: Giants (-3.5)

New England Patriots (-0.5) at Miami Dolphins
The Patriots have always had a tough time down at Miami. This time their weak secondary goes against the Miami offense that went ballistic against the Jets defense.
Outright Win: Dolphins
v/s the Spread: Dolphins (+0.5)

Upset Special of the Week

Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) at Cleveland Browns
Carson Palmer does not seem to have it anymore. Or, he is nursing some unreported injury. Or, he just has bad timing with his receivers. The Browns played hard against the Ravens. No matter who plays QB for the Browns, they are gonna try run the ball all game long.
Outright Win: Browns
v/s the Spread: Browns (+3.5)

Homer Pick of the Week

Detroit Lions (+14.5) at Green Bay Packers
The Packers will have to bounce back after the gut-wrenching loss to the Bears. the Lions are the perfect opponents for that, especially with no Matt Stafford.
Outright Win: Packers
v/s the Spread: Packers (-14.5)

Last Week:
Outright Win Record: 8-8
v/s the Spread Record: 7-9

Year to Date:
Outright Win Record: 29-19
v/s the Spread Record: 22-23-3

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