With 12 weeks in the books, it is becoming exponentially more difficult to find games that I like each week, especially because this year a lot of teams have played Jekyll and Hyde with us (looking dominant one week—and losing to Oakland or Kansas City the next). Parity is obviously important to the NFL, but this season has made sports betting feel like Russian roulette, thanks in large part to the inconsistency of teams such as the Steelers, Packers, Eagles, Bengals, Cardinals, Ravens, Broncos, Texans, and the New York Giants. Wildly erratic play makes this part of the season very difficult. Good luck to you; I know I’ll need it!
The games are listed in order from 1 to 3. 1 is my most confident pick.
(bet? beware): Tennessee over Indianapolis
I liked Houston as a trap game pick last week, but ultimately thought that Indianapolis was too good to lose to them. Most people suspected that Peyton Manning would find a way to score a bunch of points at will in the second half and win the game. Well, that’s more or less what happened, with one small difference: Peyton didn’t beat Houston; Houston beat Houston with terrible defense, bad penalties, and offensive ineptitude in the second half.
This week, things will be different. The Titans are as hot as ever, as I mentioned when I picked them two weeks ago to beat Houston, and they are really playing some inspired ball behind Vince Young. I never thought he would be a great NFL quarterback, but he sure is running that team well recently. It helps to have an unstoppable running back like Chris Johnson. He is part of the reason why my fantasy team is in first place…not like anyone cares about that, though.
The other thing going for Tennessee this week is that the Colts have been struggling, despite their spotless record. Peyton has faltered of late, matching his career high for consecutive games with 2 interceptions. The last time that happened was 2001. He sometimes looks uncomfortable in the pocket and is doing things that are generally beneath his caliber of play. For example, against Houston for most of the game he had tunnel vision for Pierre Garcon, at one point throwing 5 or 6 consecutive passes to him, multiple times into double coverage. At his best, Peyton never does that; he usually spreads the ball around.
If the Colts don’t clean up their act, they very well could see their first loss of the season on Sunday.
3. Chicago over Saint Louis
I have more confidence in this game than its #3 spot suggests. I am convinced that it would just be too much for Saint Louis to head into Chicago and win a game. Jay Cutler is an interception machine, but the Rams don’t have a good secondary. I expect Cutler to have a decent game.
As usual, Chicago can only hope to contain Steven Jackson. Luckily for the Bears, however, the Rams don’t have a single offensive weapon other than Jackson; don’t give me Donny Avery. Even though the Chicago defense is uncharacteristically weak this season, and the offense is inconsistent, the Bears should be able to move the ball at will against the Rams. This pick isn’t as safe as it normally would be, but there’s just no way that the Rams keep up with Cutler & company in a scoring race, and no way Chicago fans could stomach losing at home to a St. Louis team that obviously needs to be rebuilt.
2. San Diego over Cleveland
I have less confidence in this selection than its #2 designation might suggest. San Diego is traveling into Cleveland, and away games always seem to give the Chargers trouble. Perhaps they have grown accustomed to the beautiful weather out in SoCal, but whatever the reason for their missteps, I try not to pick them for away games, but the Browns make it very tempting.
That said, the Browns are playing such consistently terrible football recently that even if their opponent is no better than mediocre, one cannot afford not to select the team playing against them. They have no offense, a defense riddled with injuries, and very little hope of winning this game. I don’t wholly trust the Chargers, but I trust they can stomp on one of the worst teams in the NFL.
1. Cincinnati over Detroit
I was on the Detroit bandwagon for a while this season, but the injuries to Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson have proven too costly for the Detroit offense to overcome. When you can assume your defense will allow 28+ points per game and your two most talented offensive players are injured, it’s pretty difficult to win games.
Cincinnati, though sometimes Jekyll (sweeping Pittsburgh) and sometimes Hyde (losing to Oakland), should manage to win this one handily. Their defense has drastically improved over the last couple of years, with a young, talented secondary allowing the front seven to get very aggressive and go after opposing quarterbacks. Cedrick Benson has resurrected his career and is leading a reinvigorated Bengals offense; even if he doesn’t play, Bernard Scott should have no trouble topping the century mark against the Lions. Pick the Bengals this week with confidence. This game is my lock of the week.
Before anyone calls me a “homer,” the Eagles should put up a double digit win over the Falcons. With Matt Ryan out, and Michael Turner and Roddy White fighting injuries, the Eagles should rout the Falcons. I would expect to see Michael Vick taking some snaps in the 4<sup>th</sup> quarter, after the game is in the bag. This game isn’t my lock of the week, but I’ll list this one as 1.A. I plan to take all 4 games in a nice little parlay: Bears, Chargers, Bengals, and Eagles.
Just remember, in betting you will win some and lose some. I’m hoping that these bets don’t lose money for me, because my fiancé is expecting xmas gifts…