Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 NFL Week 16 Picks

Oak -5.5 vs SD
Was +3 @ Phi
TB -3 vs Chi
Atl +7 vs Car
Buf -6 vs Dal
Jac +3.5 @ NO
SF +9.5 @ Det
KC -12.5 vs Cle
Ind +2.5 @ Mia
NE -3 @ NYJ
Hou +4.5 @ Ten
GB +4.5 @ Ari
Sea -13.5 vs StL
Pit -10 @ Bal
Min -5.5 vs NYG
Den -3.5 vs Cin

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015 NFL Week 15 Picks

Buccaneers +2.5 at Rams

Jets -3 at Cowboys

Vikings -5.5 versus Bears

Jaguars -3 versus Falcons

Colts -2 versus Texans

Chiefs -7.5 at Ravens

Bills -1 at Redskins

Patriots -14 versus Titans

Giants +5.5 versus Panthers

Seahawks -14.5 versus Browns

Packers -3 at Raiders

Dolphins +2 at Chargers

Broncos +6.5 at Steelers

Bengals -4.5 at 49ers

Cardinals -3.5 at Eagles

Lions +3 at Saints

Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 NFL Week 14 Picks

Cardinals -10 versus Vikings

I should've taken Minnesota once the line got this high, and they covered the original line, anyway. Their banged up defense held up better than I expected, particularly in the red zone to keep them in it.

Steelers +2.5 at Bengals

Although I kind of like the home to win it, I can't lay points against Big Ben in his native Ohio, where he is 18-4 in his career, including the playoffs.
Cameron Heyward and this defensive line will have to make plays to cover up for their secondary.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2015 NFL Week 13 Picks

Packers -3 at Lions

Never in doubt! Yeah right. I probably should have taken the home 'dogs considering they did pull off the upset in Lambeau last month, but that could also be viewed as extra motivation for a team in the playoff race. Regardless, that was some kind of throw by Aaron Rodgers to win it.

Bears -6.5 versus 49ers

I've gone back and forth on whether to just take the points or not, but the Niners defense just isn't the same on the road. Of course, their former defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, now holds that role in Chicago and should have been retained, either as the head coach or as the DC for Adam Gase, who ended up as offensive coordinator for the Bears.

Bengals -7.5 at Browns

With Johnny Manziel continued immaturity, it's the Austin Davis show in Cleveland, which shouldn't challenge Cincinnati. The way he mismanaged that 2 minute drill on Monday night was incredible, and their defense still has no chance of stopping the Bengals.
Andy Dalton shredded this defense in their previous matchup and shouldn't face much resistance again.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

2015 NFL Week 12 Picks

Eagles +2 at Lions
Cowboys PK versus Panthers
Packers -8 versus Bears

Have I mentioned that I hate Thursday games? I should have known better than to think Philadelphia would make a last push for the playoffs in their poor division since they apparently quit on Chip Kelly; shouldn't have gotten too cute thinking this was the week Carolina finally stumbles just because of the schedule; and should have went with my first instinct of taking the points with Chicago, with a healthy skill position group, given Green Bay's inconsistency this year. That will put a dent in my season total listed below.

Texans -3 versus Saints

Every fantasy football player in the world knows Brian Hoyer and all Houston players are strong plays this week against the league's worst defense, even if Rob Ryan was replaced with Dennis Allen. New Orleans coming off a bye is a little bit of a concern, but rookie Kevin Johnson and this Texans defenders are hitting their stride.

Vikings +2 at Falcons

I can see why Atlanta is favored considering that they're at home and have Julio Jones going against an up and down secondary, but Minnesota is just the better team. Although I like Tevin Coleman's chances as the starter again with Devonta Freeman out with a concussion, Mike Zimmer's defense and Adrian Peterson should pull out the win.
Yo, Adrian! (You'll be hearing that a lot this weekend with Creed out and what should be a big game)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 NFL Week 11 Picks

Jaguars -3 versus Titans

Aside from the first play after Rashad Greene's big punt return when Derrick Morgan was inexplicably on Julius Thomas, Jacksonville's red zone play-calling almost negated their strength, but their defense came through in the end just like in this game last year.

Redskins +7.5 at Panthers

Carolina's defense is a whole other animal than the pathetic New Orleans unit they faced last week, but I still like Washington to cover this line that's too high. Although the Panthers should win at home, I still don't trust their weapons to pull away from a decent team.

Raiders -1.5 at Lions

Detroit won in Green Bay for the first time since 1991 and is at home against an Oakland team coming off back to back losses, but their secondary has suffered a ton of injuries. This one could be a shootout, but the Raiders' healthier defense should end their losing streak.
With Darius Slay likely shadowing Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree should stay hot against Detroit's backup corners.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 NFL Week 10 Picks

Jets -2.5 versus Bills

I wasn't too far off about Buffalo having struggles moving the ball but didn't account for New York constantly shooting themselves in the foot.

Packers -10.5 versus Lions

After facing back to back great defenses on the road, I like Green Bay's chances of putting up points in Lambo. In particular, I like Randall Cobb going against Josh Wilson in the slot.

Cowboys -1 at Buccaneers

Matt Cassel's had his ups and downs, but this is a good opportunity to finally lead Dallas to a win against a bad secondary. It's pretty amazing that Tampa is now 1-11 at home under Lovie Smith.
At least Cassel knows to just give Dez Bryant a chance to make a play.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

2015 NFL Week 9 Picks

Bengals -11.5 versus Browns

Hey I finally got a Thursday pick right! Think I covered everything here, but I'll add that watching Tyler Eifert just tower over everyone in the end zone is just as fun in the pros as when he was at Notre Dame.

Raiders +4.5 at Steelers

This should be a fun shootout between two old rivals with exploitable secondaries. The early game on the East coast is a concern, but Oakland has been playing well enough to stay competitive.
 With a weapon like Amari Cooper, I'm glad Derek Carr is slinging it downfield more in his second year.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

2015 NFL Week 8 Picks

Dolphins +8 at Patriots

I thought the rejuvenated 'Phins under Dan Campbell could put up a fight against the defending champs, but New England is in a completely different stratosphere than their previous opponents.

Lions +3.5 versus Chiefs (in London)

Kansas City's offense line is coming together and playing much better than their Detroit counterpart, but I'm counting on the Lions coaching shakeup kick starting the offense and taking the points with the team who got a win in London last year.

Vikings PK at Bears

Minnesota continues to be underrated despite their defense's high level of play. Chicago's defense has been trending upward, as well, but I think the Vikings can put up points in this one.
All Day always kills the Bears, averaging 116.3 rushing yards in 12 career games against them.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

2015 NFL Week 7 Picks

49ers +6.5 versus Seahawks

I should have known better than to stick with the home team getting points on a short week. Seattle always poses a bad matchup for them with their pass rush and specifically Cliff Avril on the right side.

Jaguars +4 versus Bills (in London)

It's tempting to go with the better team on the neutral field, but Buffalo just has too many injuries to deal with. Seeing studly wide receiver Allen Robinson do battle with impressive corners Ronald Darby and Stephon Gillmore should be fun to watch.

Rams -6.5 versus Browns

Todd Gurley against Cleveland's run defense just isn't fair. The line is a bit high, but I'll lay the points against Josh McCown on the road.
Gurley often looks like a man among boys out there.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 NFL Week 6 Picks

Falcons -3 at Saints

The Saints defense didn't exactly stop the Falcons so much that they stopped themselves. Atlanta's inability to adjust to the ageless Ben Watson continuously killing them was astounding, but I should have known better than to expect them to remain undefeated with the short week on the road.

Broncos -3.5 at Browns

It's officially time to worry about Peyton Manning after his struggles continued against Oakland's underwhelming secondary, but Cleveland's missing top corner Joe Haden for this game. I'm counting on Josh McCown coming back down to earth against the best defense in the league.

Bengals -3 at Bills

Coming off Cincinnati's dramatic comeback, this line almost feels like a trap against a backup quarterback that doesn't have a ton of game film to study, but Buffalo's offense is so banged up right now. I'll take my chances with the better team against E.J. Manuel.

Vikings -3.5 versus Chiefs

Kansas City was looking good last week until the horrible Jamaal Charles injury, and now they're on the road against a talented team coming off a bye week. Minnesota's strong secondary will make it tough for Alex Smith to try and carry the offense.
Charcandrick West might be a poor man's Charles, but they'll need more than that.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

2015 NFL Week 5 Picks

Texans -5 versus Colts

Maybe I overreacted to Indy's injuries, but I thought Houston would take care of business at home. Nuk Hopkins continues to be a monster, but I was impressed by the Colts' ability to keep pressure away from Matt Hasselbeck.

Jaguars +3 at Buccaneers

I continue to be a believer in Jacksonville, especially against a defense that offers little resistance and can't seem to win at home. Coming off his first 100 yard game, this is a good spot for workhorse T.J. Yeldon to get his first score after having one called back in Week 2.

Bills -1 at Titans

I'm somewhat concerned about Buffalo's ability to consistently move the ball with their injuries, and Vegas agrees, with the line dropping from -3. However, I'm not sold on Ken Whisenhunt having his troops ready off the bye and feel better about Rex Ryan bouncing back from a disappointing loss.
It's close, but I"m betting on Marcell Dareus and the strength of this defense.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 NFL Week 4 Picks

Ravens -3 at Steelers

Hopefully you got Baltimore when they were still -2.5 since this ended up as a push.

Dolphins +1.5 versus Jets (in London)

Miami's offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, came from the Eagles, and they got their offense going a bit despite a tough matchup on paper against these Jets last week. The Dolphins' defense has to live up to their potential eventually, don't they?

Jaguars +9 at Colts

Can't feel comfortable laying this many points with Andrew Luck's status up in the air, despite Jacksonville getting shellacked on the road last week.
Feed T.J. Yeldon; stay in the game.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

2015 NFL Week 3 Picks

Giants -3.5 versus Redskins

Week 2 was a wacky one, but at least this weekend is already off to a better start. Although this was a weird one itself from what I saw after, it at least went as it should with New York continuing taking advantage of Washington's secondary to get on the board at home. I missed this Thursday Night Football matchup last year due to a dinner engagement and then had a rare Thursday class for this one, so maybe third time will be the charm next year.

Falcons -1 at Cowboys

Am I missing something there? Atlanta has pulled out back to back wins against NFC East opponents to start the season thanks to a surprisingly stingy defense under Dan Quinn and now gets a Dallas team missing both Dez Bryant and Tony Romo. Yes, the Cowboys' defense has looked better than expected thanks to a healthy Sean Lee, but they're short on pass-rushers while no one can cover Julio Jones. The Falcons might not move the ball consistently with stud rookie RB Tevin Coleman's rib injury, but they should still make enough plays to outscore Brandon Weeden and the 'Boys' RBBC.
Despite still getting used to LB/DEs  in the 40's, I'm counting on Vic Beasley making life tough for Weeden.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2015 NFL Week 2 Picks

Broncos +3 at Chiefs

I swear I had this tweet in my drafts at lunch time before getting stuck in traffic later and sending it after the game started. Here's ESPN's Pigskin Pick'em to prove it, although I couldn't have imagined it being that wild:

Texans +3 at Panthers

I don't feel great about this game with both teams having playoff level talent in some respects but glaring weaknesses, as well. Carolina has home field on their side, hence the 3 point edge, but I'm going with the more dominant defensive front against a still shaky offensive attack.
When in doubt, take the best player on the field involved.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015 NFL Week 1 Picks

Football is back, and I'm excited for all aspects. My first pick of the season ended up as a push after the Steelers nabbed a ridiculous backdoor cover with an impressive garbage time touchdown from Antonio Brown with 2 seconds left, but this should be a fun opening week with a lot of interesting lines.

Packers -7 at Bears

The shootout potential of this one has diminished with the tragic non-contact ACL tear of Jordy Nelson and all three of the Bears' wide receivers nursing injuries, so I don't think this game approaches the over/under that was already lowered to 49. This pick isn't too difficult for me since Green Bay has one of the highest Vegas win totals at 11, and I think they are right up there with the defending champs as the best team in the league. Chicago's new coaching staff is good, but I think it'll take a year for the pieces to come together, especially in the transition to a 3-4 defense, making the under on their 6.5 win total a safe pick.
With the reigning MVP, a Super Bowl is still in sight.

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 NBA Draft Week Recap

Now that the NBA draft is complete with details of moves more available, it seems like the right time to recap what happened. I shared my views on some of the players and team fits in my mock draft, and here's how my predictions played out, with the right picks highlighted:

1. Towns
1. Towns
2. Okafor
2. Russell
3. Russell
3. Okafor
4. Porzingis
4. Porzingis
5. Winslow
5. Hezonja
6. Hezonja
6. Cauley-Stein
7. Mudiay
7. Mudiay
8. Johnson
8. Johnson
9. Kaminsky
9. Kaminsky
10. Booker
10. Winslow
11. Cauley-Stein
11. Turner
12. Lyles
12. Lyles
13. Turner
13. Booker
14. Oubre
14. Payne
15. N/A 
15. Oubre

In a lottery that surprisingly lacked trades, I finished with only 6 players at the right pick, but 4 others were within one spot of where they ended up going. The other surprises, at least in my opinion, were the notable undrafted players such as Florida guard Michael Frazier or big men like UNLV's Christian Wood, UCSB's Alan Williams, Kansas' Cliff Alexander, Washington's Robert Upshaw, and Texas' Jonathan Holmes. I think that each of them, in that order, could eventually become contributors to teams, and a lot of people will be watching them during summer league.

In any case, there's plenty to talk about with all 30 teams, so I'll go through each of them in order of when they're spot was up. As always,,,, and were invaluable resources for information.
Towns was the guy all along.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 NBA Lottery Mock Draft

Can you believe it's already draft time? We're just coming off an excellent Finals that saw the Warriors claim their 4th NBA title, and the energy here in the Bay Area has been so great that I'm not even bummed that I ended up being one game off in my series prediction. Now, the draft can take so many twists and turns after a surprise move or a trade or two, so it's nearly impossible to predict.

Thus, I'm only going to attempt a projection of the lottery selections, and this is an expectation of what will happen as opposed to what the picks should be, in my opinion. I touched a bit on how certain players might fit each team during my post trade deadline power rankings, and I'm going to continue to look at the big picture for each team.

1. Minnesota: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky PF/C

The decision at the top reminds me of the situation last year, with a player who has played internationally possessing more two-way potential competing with a similarly positioned Duke player who is more offensively polished. And like Andrew Wiggins last year, I've been a fan of Towns since the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit when he only went by "Karl," and I view him as a bigger version of his teammate on the Dominican national team: Al Horford. He's the rare total package as a good athlete who can defend, score in the post, shoot, and pass, and he's a good fit on a young, talented Timberwolves roster, either as a 4 next to Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng or as a 5 next to Kevin Garnett and the Euro-stashed Nemanja Bjelica. Either way, Wiggins and Towns can be a dynamic pairing that have been on track to star together.
These two might mess around and save a franchise.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Roster Analysis: How the Cavs Went From Max Cap Space to a Tax Paying Finals Team

Seeing LeBron James about to enter his astonishing 5th straight NBA Finals with the aid of both young players still trying to earn their second contract like Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova and veterans who were brought in to fill specific roles like Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith, I realized something: this roster has come a long way from having the #1 pick and a bunch of cap space just last summer.

It was just over a year ago when the randomness of chance gave the 9th slotted Cavaliers the #1 pick in the lottery for the third time out of four years, and at that time, there were hardly any indications that Ohio's prodigal son that was in yet another deep playoff run in Miami was about to come home. Head coach David Blatt was brought in after his illustrious overseas career to bring together a young team on the rise, yet here he is now, watching the best player in the world dribble the air out of the ball instead of running his Princeton-style, movement offense. How did they get here?

Let's take a look at the Cavs' roster and assets going into last June's draft compared to where it stands now in the playoffs and examine how GM David Griffin shot right past the the salary cap of just over $67 million and settled past the luxury tax line of a little under $77 million.

(Note: When making these spreadsheets, I used estimates of $67.1M/$81.6M for the 2016-2017 season salary cap/luxury tax and $89M/$108M for 2017-2018. Qualifying Offers are not included since it cannot be guaranteed that they will be extended and cap holds will be addressed when applicable with discussing actual cap space. As always,,,,, and were invaluable resources for the various data used.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Game 82 Implications

The Clippers and Suns wrapped up their last game of the regular season last night, with LA giving themselves a chance at the #2 seed and guaranteeing at least #3, but the other 28 teams finish tonight. There are subplots aplenty with almost all of the games affecting either playoff seeding or the lottery order, so I decided to run through them, game by game. The good folks at have some great information to confirm what I thought about the lottery odds, and the playoff tiebreakers are courtesy of All times are Pacific.

4:00 PM: Hornets (33-48) at Raptors (48-33): Charlotte has been ravaged by injuries to close the year, having lost 5 straight and is locked in at the 9th worst record, giving them a 6.1% chance of jumping into the top 3 and a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery. Toronto, meanwhile, suffered a heartbreaking loss last night, so they need to win AND hope for Chicago to lose in order to claim the #3 seed in the East and face Milwaukee. Otherwise, they'll open against Washington in the 4-5 series.

5:00 PM Hawks (60-21) at Bulls (49-32): Atlanta has long since wrapped up the top Eastern seed, so this only matters to them if they want to affect their side of the playoff bracket since they might view Chicago as a bigger or lesser threat in a potential second round matchup. If Chicago wins, they secure the #3 seed.

5:00 PM Spurs (55-26) at Pelicans (44-37): Arguably the most important game of the night, San Antonio can secure the #2 seed with a win by virtue of being division winners, and they could potentially drop to #6 with a loss. Memphis is the only team they lose the tiebreaker to. New Orleans would still have a chance if they lost, but if they win, they're in and don't have to worry about the OKC-'Sota result. They lose their first round pick to Houston whether it is the 14th or 18th pick.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 NBA Post Trade Deadline Power Rankings

So much for a quiet Trade Deadline. Despite so many early season trades, this year's chaos trumped anything from the past few years, so I had to share some thoughts on each team after not writing anything NBA related for a while due to work and grad school. Below is my ranking of where each franchise stands with an eye towards the future along with their current record, and the offense and defensive ranks are based on Points Per Possession (per as of today) since that is the truest efficiency rating. Pure points per game or shooting percentages don't encompass everything since they can be affected by the pace of the game, turnovers, fouls, and the type of shot taken. Lastly, if there was a deadline deal, I included a summary, along with the players' salary information from, and the draft pick details from

30. New York Knicks: 10-44. Offense: 98.7 (28th). Defense: 107.6 (28th)

Traded: Pablo Prigioni ($1,662,961 this season, $290,000 of $1,734,572 guaranteed next season)

Received: Alexey Shved ($3,282,057 this season, RFA this summer) and the Rockets' 2017 and 2019 2nd round picks

I'm surprised that New York actually added salary after Phil Jackson nearly got them under the Luxury Tax, but this is good trade for the Knickerbockers. They add some much needed draft picks (even if they are so far into the future), shed the modest amount due to Prigioni this summer, and get a look at the much younger Shved, who actually fits Phil's preference in the triangle offense for a big PG with some shooting ability. It is ridiculous that Carmelo Anthony played in the All-Star game before shutting it down for the season -- if  his knee was in enough pain to require surgery, why play in an exhibition? -- but they've secured cap space and are on the right track to secure the best lottery odds for the post player they desperately need in this system, Jahlil Okafor...even if those odds are still just a 25% chance at the #1 pick.

29. Los Angeles Lakers: 13-41. Offense: 101.3 (23rd). Defense: 108.6 (29th)

With the fourth worst record in the league right now, L.A. has an 82.8% chance at keeping their top-5 protected pick, but whenever that pick ends up being conveyed to complete the Steve Nash deal, they'll still owe another first round pick to Orlando two years later thanks to the Dwight Howard trade. While they were wise to pick up Houston's first round pick by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands, second round pick Jordan Clarkson has some nice potential, and Ed Davis was an incredible steal at the minimum for this season, this roster is still barren of talent overall, with no foundation player at any position. Seventh overall pick Julius Randle breaking his leg in the first game was one of the biggest tragedies of the year, and Kobe Bryant ending up injured for the third straight year makes his ridiculous contract extension look even worse. It will be interesting to see how they navigate their cap space in free agency this summer with the last year of Kobe's contract coming off the books in the summer of 2016 when the massive TV contract will jump up the salary cap.
Andrew Wiggins has soared above his peers.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves: 12-42. Offense: 99.5 (T-25th). Defense: 109.2 (30th)

Traded: Thaddeus Young ($9,660,869 this season, $10,221,739 early termination option this summer)

Received: Kevin Garnett ($12,000,000 this season)

The Big Ticket returning to where it all started 20 years ago is a great story, but trading 26 year old Thad Young wasn't the best use of assets considering that he cost them Miami's first round pick from Cleveland in the Kevin Love trade. Maybe there weren't any future values better than KG's influence if Young indicated that he was going to opt for free agency this summer, but the mere fact that this was a possibility made the choice to trade for him instead of simply keeping top 10-protected pick a questionable one. President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has had an uneven performance so far (which is still better than what Head Coach Flip Saunders has done), with this trade capping off a trade season that included dumping Corey Brewer for Troy Daniels and two second round picks, including a valuable one from Sacramento this year; flipping Daniels and cheap free agent signing Mo Williams for Gary Neal's expiring contract and a possibly valuable 2019 Miami second round pick via Charlotte; and trading a heavily protected 2017 first round pick for Adreian Payne, who was the 15th pick in last year's draft but hasn't been overly impressive in the D-League.

Of course, the most important move of all was trading for Andrew Wiggins, the #1 prospect of his class and next great NBA star, last summer as the key piece of the Love trade. He's had some ups and downs as you'd expect from a 19 year old, but things appeared to have clicked since the end of December. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what caused this change (it occurred not long after Shabazz Muhammad joined the starting lineup, allowing Wiggins to have the ball in his hands more and have a size advantage against opposing shooting guards, but it has continued with Muhammad injured and Kevin Martin back healthy), but since December 23rd, when he went off against the Cavaliers team that traded him, he has averaged 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists with 47.1% shooting overall in 14.7 attempts, 34.9% from three in 2.3 attempts, and 76.9% from the line in 4.8 attempts in 28 games, all the while defending the opponents' top perimeter threats. This kind of two way versatility provides a foundation piece for a franchise that has Ricky Rubio locked up along with Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett (the other piece of the Love trade), Zach LaVine, and now Payne all on their rookie scale contracts. They could all become solid rotation players down the line to go with Wiggins, Rubio, and their high lottery pick this summer-- I hope they end up with Karl Towns as their elite big to be mentored by Garnett compared to the others they already have.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

New England +1 versus Seattle: There are so many story lines that have been talked about already that I'm going to just focus on the matchups with the following exception: the line shift is fascinating. After opening with the Seahawks favored by 1, the public overreacted to the Conference Championship Games so much that the line moved about 4 points in the Patriots' favor in the ensuing week, but there must have been heavy money over the last few days to shift it all the way back to Seattle -1. Going against the Wise Guys' big money is cause for concern, but I still feel that New England has the best team.
Beast Mode will be New England's focus since as he goes, so does Seattle.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Championship Sunday 2015

Green Bay +8 at Seattle: I understand that the Packers have had their struggles in Seattle recently and that Aaron Rodgers is essentially playing on one leg, but this is still too many points to be laying against the likely MVP. His lack of current mobility and the crowd noise will make like difficult for him against the Seahawks pass rushers, but if they can establish the running game early with Eddie Lacy, they are so good at heavy play action. None of that might matter if they can't tackle Marshawn Lynch, so it is imperative that they play with a lead early and establish a ball-control type offense to limit his rushing attempts. Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and Casey Heyward are good enough in man coverage that they can play with a safety in the box to stop the run, especially with Seattle's best deep threat, the raw yet speedy second rounder Paul Richardson, suffering a torn ACL last week.

Indianapolis +7 at New England: I'm sticking to my guns and not opposing Andrew Luck with this high of a spread, but I do expect the Patriots to win. There's no one that can cover Rob Gronkowski, and New England has dominated Indy with a power run game in the past. Maybe Jonas Gray will see the light of day after landing in Bill Belichick's doghouse for sleeping through his alarm after his 200 yard primetime performance against these Colts, or maybe LeGarratte Blount will tie the franchise playoff record of 166 yards like these teams' playoff meeting last year. Either way, the Colts' biggest strength on defense is their corners' man coverage, and Tom Brady doesn't need to consistently use his outside receivers to be effective. Besides catching a dime of a TD from Brady, Brandon LaFell's biggest impact was blocking for Amendola's first score, and Julian Edelman's big play was the double pass we've all been waiting for since he came into the league as a college QB. Especially with Indy's offensive line's surprising performance last week, I wouldn't put anything past Luck's heroics and T.Y. Hilton's speed, but this secondary is a tough matchup for them.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NFL Divisional Round

Baltimore +7 at New England: The main question for me in this game is whether or not the Patriots' perimeter threats can take advantage of the Ravens' corners. Rob Gronkowski is the best weapon in football, but he is likely to draw safety Will Hill, arguably the best member of Baltimore's secondary. New England's running game can keep defenses honest, and their secondary should be able to contain  Joe Flacco, despite his annual playoff transformation. Whoever is healthier between defensive end Chandler Jones and left tackle Eugene Monroe will of course impact Flacco, as well. Justin Forsett's consistent movement in the running game should help keep this game close, though, so I have to take the points in this mini-rivalry despite feeling the Pats will pull it out.

Carolina +12.5 at Seattle: Carolina's chances of winning in Seattle are slim, but they've played the defending champs tough of late. If they can get Jonathan Stewart consistently involved early, they'll have a chance since the running game is the best say to attack the Seahawks defense. The rejuvenation of the Panthers defense thanks to previously unknowns like Bene Benwikere should keep Russell Wilson's squad from running away with it.
Carolina needs to run well to protect Cam from rushers like Cliff Avril in obvious passing downs.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

NFL Wild Card Weekend 2014

Carolina -5.5 versus Arizona: If the line was any higher, it would have have been tempting to take the points based purely on the Cardinals defense keeping the game close. As it stands, you have to go against Ryan Lindley on the road, especially since the red hot Panthers have had a stable offense since Jonathan Stewart got healthy to become the featured back.
Without a running game, Suggs should tee off.

Baltimore +3 at Pittsburgh: The Ravens haven't had any playoff success in their rival's backyard, but now will be their best opportunity with All-Pro runningback Le'Veon Bell injured. Of course, Big Ben threw for six touchdowns against this undermanned Baltimore the last time these teams met (although, the last one was a meaningless 4th down call that exemplified why Todd Haley is such a divisive coordinator). That and the fact that the Ravens' offense hasn't been consistent down the stretch make it a tough call to go with the underdog, but I can't help but think that a one-sided offense can't have continued success against a stout defensive front getting Haloti Ngata aack.

Indianapolis -3.5 versus Cincinnati: So much has changed for both teams since the Colts dominated 27-0 at home in Week 7 that it's almost not worth mentioning. With Ahmad Bradshaw on IR for Indy and Jeremy Hill now the feature back for Cincy, these teams are pretty even, and whenever Andrew Luck isn't facing a clearly superior team, I don't bet against him putting his team in a position to win, especially at home. The fact that the Bengals can now rely on Hill's power running game with Gio Bernard playing a complimentary role, they can control game flow and minimize the chances of Andy Dalton falling apart in prime time again. However, not having their best player, A.J. Green, is likely to prove too crippling a blow. Look for Luck to use his tight ends in the short passing game to mitigate the Bengals pass rush, and T.Y. Hilton's playmaking ability tends to shine in the bright lights.
You've got to go with the far superior quarterback at home.

Detroit +6.5 at Dallas: I'm tempted to pick the Lions to pull the outright upset since the teams have comparable talent, and the Cowboys have been better on the road than at home this year. However, Detroit is 0-17 on the road against winning teams with Matthew Stafford as the starting quarterback, including a crucial loss last week in Green Bay caused them to drop from the #2 seed and a first round bye to their current #6 seed and having to go to Dallas and potentially to Seattle next week. I think the Lions' stout defensive line can slow down the All-Pro rushing attack of DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys' offensive line enough to keep the game close, but Tony Romo is playing better than his embattled #9 counterpart. Detroit does have a better shot of containing Dez Bryant than Dallas does of Calvin Johnson due to their superior defense overall, so if they do stop Murray to prevent the Cowboys from controlling time of possession, they could expose Rob Marinelli's overachieving unit.Thus, I'm taking the points.