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Week 8 NFL Picks: RG3 Poised For Upset Over Peyton Manning, While Giants Can Make It Two Straight

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Robert Griffin III (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Robert Griffin III (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – By now, I probably should have experienced something in my life more embarrassing than my record in making NFL picks in 2013. Yet, here we are.

It has been a humiliating journey this year, the apparent culmination of a decline that’s been steady for the past four years. But I never thought it would get this bad. I always thought one great week would turn it all around.

Alas, I went 5-9-1 last week, dropping my record to 40-62-5, good for a wonderful 37.4 percent success rate. I even dragged my wife down with me last week, as she went 6-8-1 in her first losing week of the year. That’s what happens when you try to help me out – the stench of this picks column will grab you as soon as you submit your name to print.

Nevertheless, I’ve found another volunteer willing to lend a hand. This week, it’s Chris, who was the sports editor of the college paper when I was but a lowly loser sophomore, and who is a former ESPN writer and copyeditor, a big step down from the days he spent reading the brilliance I penned as a 19-year-old.

This week, sight unseen, Chris is going to see my picks and then explain carefully why I’m wrong. He has given himself the leeway to agree with me just once.

I figure at this point, I’ve lost credibility, and you’d like to hear from someone who actually might be right. I’ve warned him that by entering this mess, he’ll be terrible forever, but he accepts the risk. So here we go.

(Home team in caps; Wednesday’s lines)

Carolina (-6) over TAMPA BAY
This is a cruel joke by the NFL. It knows it already has me on the ropes with my confidence, so it starts the week with a Thursday night game (always terrible) featuring an NFC South matchup that includes perhaps the worst team going right now.

If you want the Panthers, you have to trust that they’ll be able to pull off a stretch of three straight wins in which they’ve won by an average of at least 15 points, a suggestion that might have earned you a slap in the neck four weeks ago. But things continue to trend downward for the Bucs, who sent men in hazmat suits to clean up their locker room and at this point have to be wondering what in the world it will take to get Greg Schiano fired.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
It figures that you’d pick against the Bucs just as QB Mike Glennon (pride of NC State!) is getting into a rhythm. For all of Tampa’s problems this year — and they’ve had plenty — the Bucs aren’t as bad as their record suggests. They lost by one to a Jets team we now know is at least serviceable, and they lost by two to a very good Saints team. I like their chances to get a win.

DETROIT (-3) over Dallas
The Cowboys are not going to win two road games in consecutive weeks. They pulled off the road win last week but that could hardly be considered an NFL football game that took place in Philadelphia. The Cowboys played lousy in Kansas City, even worse in San Diego and possibly just as bad in Philly last week. They also have one of the worst pass defenses in the league, which is a problem when you have to deal with this man:

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
Both of these teams give up an astounding number of passing yards per game, so count this as a shootout. The Cowboys have experience in shootouts, going toe-to-toe with the Broncos earlier this season before finally falling short. The Lions are also one of the worst teams in the league in getting QB pressure (27th in sacks), and the only thing that makes Romo a capable QB is time to throw.

Cleveland (+8) over KANSAS CITY
My distrust for the Kansas City Chiefs as holders of the best record in the sport continues. A 7-0 record is wonderful, that’s nice and everything, but it’s been “earned” against seven teams that are a combined 15-33. The 4-3 Cowboys are the only team with a winning record which the Chiefs have beaten.

Cleveland has been so-so against the spread this year (3-4), and the Chiefs and their 19th-ranked offense are going to have some trouble moving the ball against the Browns’ seventh-ranked defense.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
The Browns were a great story … right up until Brandon Weeden took over again. Cleveland has a below-average passing attack, and that’s with numbers skewed by Brian Hoyer’s good games earlier this year. Combine that with KC’s third-best passing defense, and it’s going to be a long day for the Browns in perhaps the second-toughest venue in the NFL after Seattle.

NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Miami
Remember when the Dolphins were the feel-good story of the year, and dopes like me were saying they were a real threat in the AFC East? Those were good times.

A trip to New England isn’t normally the best remedy for a three-game losing streak, no matter how un-Patriot-like the Patriots looked last week.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
I’m hesitant to back the Dolphins after their lackluster performance last week. But I can’t in good faith back a Patriots team that is a few late plays from being 2-5 (close and late wins against Buffalo, the Jets and the Saints). Tom Brady has thrown for an average of 244 yards a game … numbers skewed by a great passing day in Atlanta. Give me the points.

NEW ORLEANS (-12) over Buffalo
You don’t want to face the Saints when they’re at home and coming off a bye. You especially don’t want to do that when you’re the Buffalo Bills and your quarterback is named Thad.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
Did you know the Bills lead the NFL in interceptions with 12? Combine that with a QB who is a modern day Brett Favre — Brees has no trouble firing at will, and his 170 career interceptions are a good match for Buffalo. The Bills won’t win, but they’ll at least cover the spread against a team that plays down to their opposition.

New York Giants (+6) over PHILADELPHIA
The Philadelphia Eagles, in their current form, as a 6-point favorite, is not a world in which I prefer to live.

Yeah, the Eagles beat the Giants by 15 points earlier this month, but the Giants said they legitimately did zero preparation for Nick Foles, who ended up playing for half the game. I know that the Giants weren’t exactly dominating when Michael Vick was in the game, but here’s hoping they have a better night when the quarterback who plays is actually the one for which they’re prepared.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
New York got its first win of the season Monday night, and Eli Manning and Co. still managed to look inept and overmatched. I’m an Eagles fan, and I’m first to tell you they have some real question marks. But I have little faith in the Giants to mount any sort of offensive attack. With Vick reportedly back, and with the Giants a woeful 3-9 since 2008 (including the playoffs) against Philly, I’m riding with my team.

Jacksonville (+17) over San Francisco (London)
Dear England,

Football is typically better than the garbage we send you. We swear.

Love, America

(As far as the pick, I have 51 percent confidence that the Jaguars can keep it within 17 points. But like I’ve said before, great helmets! I’m sure that makes up for having the sorriest team in the league.)

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
The Jaguars are the league’s worst offense, at 10.9 points per game. I firmly expect Jacksonville to score zero points in this game. Unfortunately, the Jags are also the league’s worst defense, allowing 31.9 points per game. Playing out the averages alone, every league-average team should get a 21-point spread against the Jaguars. San Fran’s better than league average. Even in a sloppy London game, the 49ers cover.

New York Jets (+7) over CINCINNATI
Bengals. Average.

Jets. Average.

The Jets have a better defense, and they average just two fewer points per game than the Bengals. Seven points, yes please.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
Last week was the Jets’ Super Bowl. The emotional letdown paired with the disappointment of having to travel to Cincinnati gives the Bengals an edge. The Bengals are also stingy against the run, giving up just 97.9 yards per game. That was a big problem for the Patriots last week, and the Jets took advantage. Cincy won’t be as easily worn down.

Pittsburgh (-2) over OAKLAND
The Steelers are by no means the Steelers of old, but they’re improving enough out of their bye week to convince me they can go to Oakland and beat the Raiders, who are definitely the Raiders of old, present and future.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
I’d give you the whole explanation of circadian body sleep rhythms, but your readers don’t care. The point is this — while East Coast teams are typically better at traveling west than West Coast teams are at venturing east, those teams generally haven’t just played a very physical divisional game against their bitter rivals. I’m expecting the Raiders to win a close one.

Washington (+13.5) over DENVER
RG3 is back! Peyton Manning’s got an ankle problem! The Broncos are vulnerable! The champ is cut! He’s leaking!

More seriously, the Broncos’ defense is very bad – bad enough to give me pause on these big spreads from here on out.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
Now that it seems like RG III has found his rhythm, and the Broncos do give up the most passing yards in the NFL, I’d say this is probably a good bet. But Peyton Manning will be extra-motivated after losing to his former team, and a young running QB like Griffin isn’t going to like his first trip to the oxygen-deprived Mile High City.

Atlanta (+2) over ARIZONA
I always like the Falcons when they’re getting points. It burned me a couple of times earlier this season, but as big as the loss of Julio Jones is, I don’t think the Falcons are going to lie down and die this season.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
This is the very definition of a trap game. Arizona is terrible. Just awful. Atlanta has had a litany of injuries, but even a hobbled Falcons team should have no problem walloping the Cardinals. This means that Vegas knows something we do not. When you see lines that don’t make sense, always take the other side. No wonder you’re so terrible at these picks every week.

Green Bay (-10.5) over MINNESOTA
Before I check out the spreads, I write down what I expect it to be and how far I’d be willing to go for the team that I pick. This week when I wrote this one down, I wrote “Green Bay -3000.” And that was conservative – I’d have thought about going -3010.

I mean. Did you watch the Vikings last week? The Monday Night Football crew was trying to tell me that Josh Freeman was missing wide open receivers by 15 yards because he didn’t know the playbook. Pretty sure it had more to do with his lack of knowledge of how to be a quarterback than it did of any lack of playbook knowledge.

And while I’ve been willing to take Minnesota this year due to Adrian Peterson, after last week I’m no longer convinced that Leslie Frazier is even aware that his team employs the best running back in the sport. That was pretty evident on a third-and-3, when Peterson was sent to the sideline and Freeman ran backward 14 yards for a sack to take them out of field goal range. Call me crazy, but I’d have handed that one to Mr. Peterson.

And now Chris … agrees with me:
This is the pick I’ll agree with you on. I tend to think the Packers could cover a 14-point spread in this game. Minnesota’s only strength – its rushing offense – is mitigated this season as the Packers have the third-best rush defense in the NFL. That’s partly because the Packers build big leads and teams have to throw to catch up. But if that’s the case on Sunday (and I expect it will be) I don’t trust any of the Vikings’ signal-callers.

Seattle (-11) over ST. LOUIS
I’m writing this picks column from right field at Fenway Park as I get ready for Game 1 of the World Series to begin. This Monday Night Football game here is going to be in St. Louis at the same time as Game 5 of the World Series. Who in heaven’s name is going to attend this football game? Hopefully it’s the same number of people who scroll down to see my season record.

Also, Kellen Clemens is apparently still in the league and he will throw probably 14 interceptions. Worst game ever.

And now Chris explains why I’m wrong:
It took me a while to justify picking the Rams in this one, especially after Sam Bradford went down with an injury and a lackluster fan base will be more interested in the World Series than its second-string-quarterbacked football team. But Seattle, for all its talents, has been decidedly average this season. Russell Wilson leads the 25th-ranked passing defense in the NFL, and half of Seattle’s wins have been by seven points or fewer. Give me the points.

Last week: 5-9-1
Season: 40-62-5
Opposite of my picks this season: 62-40-5 (Hey, that’s pretty good!)

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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