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Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 4

September 26th, 2013 Comments off

What a disappointing bunch of picks from last week. I went 6-10 against the spread and 8-8 in straight picks last week. What can I say besides the obvious? This has not been my year so far. Despite a solid opening week, I have just missed the mark in each of the past two weeks. Last week’s results bring my season totals to 24-24 against the spread and 33-15 straight up.

I’m blaming several upsets for my poor picking last week with surprise wins from teams like the Colts, Browns, and Panthers over the 49ers, Vikings, and Giants, respectively. And it’s going to definitely affect how I pick the rest of the Week 4 games on Saturday. Several of those winners I might have underestimated, but more so I believe I overestimated some of those losers. One of those losing teams will be playing tonight.

San Francisco 49ers (1-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-2)
Thursday, September 26 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Rams (+3.5)

The 49ers offense has struggled in the past two weeks, scoring a combined 10 points after reeling off 34 in the opening week against the Green Bay Packers. Colin Kaepernick has not looked good the past two weeks and his lack of weapons is starting to show. Aldon Smith is going to miss this week’s game (and likely several more) as he ventures into rehab.

The positive for the 49ers is that the Rams defense hasn’t played up to their expected standard in the first three weeks, giving up 31 points in the past two games against Atlanta and Dallas. They gave up 24 to the Falcons in the first half, and 17 to Dallas in the first half. Their offense has been stagnant to start games, as they have yet to score a point in the first quarter this season.

As I said a week ago, the conventional wisdom has always been to take the home team on the short week. That proved to be true in Week 1, where the Broncos easily covered their 8.5-point home spread. But the road team has prevailed in each of the past two weeks. And with 49ers having their backs to the wall this week, it seems like that trend will continue for a third consecutive week. They cannot afford to lose this game and go down 0-2 in the division.

But the Rams did play the 49ers very well a year ago. Mainly because they could get pressure with four on Kaepernick with Robert Quinn and Chris Long playing well. Both are off to good starts this year, but I don’t like the Rams’ secondary which I think may struggle against the ever-aging Anquan Boldin. If Sam Bradford and the Rams can’t start strong this week, then I don’t see how they can pull out the win. And in all three Thursday night games, the home team has started slow offensively.

There are some notable injuries in this one as well. Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis are both questionable, with signs suggesting only the latter is expected to play. And with Smith out, those are arguably their three best players. But the good thing for the 49ers is that they have Ahmad Brooks and Navorro Bowman to still rely on. Brooks will be facing a backup right tackle in Joe Barksdale since Rodger Saffold is again out this week, which could negatively impact things for Bradford.

Greg Zuerlein’s leg has played a key part in both of last year’s contests. Thus, this feels like it’s going to be a three-point game, which of course favors the Rams. But in the end, I’m going to have to go with the 49ers based largely off all the things I mentioned above and the fact that it is 2013, not 2012.

Spread Pick: 49ers
Straight Pick: 49ers

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Pudge’s Picks – Week 3

September 21st, 2013 Comments off

As I mentioned on Thursday, I am not coming off a strong week as I went 7-9 last week. Things didn’t fare well on Thursday, after another disappointing showing from the Eagles against the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. Sloppy games for both teams, but the Eagles were even sloppier with too many turnovers. They looked like the Eagles’ team of last season with their penchant for gift-wrapping points for the opposing team with their turnovers.

Hopefully this Sunday I fare a little better with my picks. A few big lines this week in some of the later games on Sunday and on Monday night. And I probably will regret picking the the favorites in those games because of the size of the lines, but those just appear to be favorable matchups for all three teams and thus I like their chances.

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (2-0)
Sunday, September 22 at 4:05 pm ET on FOX

Line: Dolphins (-1.5)

The Falcons head into this game really beat up. No Steven Jackson, Sam Baker, Kroy Biermann, or Sean Weatherspoon. And probably a very limited Roddy White and Asante Samuel, enough so that you probably can’t expect much contribution from either. Unlike the Rams, the Dolphins at home should be a team that has the potential to really take advantage of the matchups these injuries present. The key difference being that the Dolphins’ defense is pretty good and much more aggressive than the Rams’ defense. That will be pivotal as the Falcons’ offense looks to be very one-dimensional this week. Can the Falcons’ line hold up long enough for Matt Ryan to find playmakers like Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez? And can the Falcons’ running game show up enough to make them not so one-dimensional? I think the answer is yes, although this is the type of game where Cameron Wake potentially has three or four sacks and really harasses Ryan. But I have enough confidence in the Falcons’ coaching staff that they will find some way to compensate. I’m somewhat expecting another game-winning drive by Ryan late to pull out the victory.

Spread Pick: Falcons
Straight Pick: Falcons

Green Bay Packers (1-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Sunday, September 22 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Bengals (+2.5)

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Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 3

September 19th, 2013 Comments off

Not a very good week for me in Week 2. I went 7-9 against the spread, but 11-5 on my straight picks. That brings my season record to 18-14 against the spread, and 25-7 straight up. I will have to try and bounce back with a stronger week this wee

So I need to come through tonight. Although in Week 1, I missed on the Thursday Night game and killed it on Sunday. And last week, I hit on Thursday night, but got killed on Sunday. We’ll see how this week plays out and whether any trend continues/develops.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Thursday, September 19 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

The general rule of thumb is to take the home team on the short week. And I don’t see much to really go against conventional wisdom.

Brandon Flowers is questionable with a knee injury after a very tough week against Dez Bryant. And I think DeSean Jackson should be able to take advantage of that. Although he has to fear somewhat because Dunta Robinson may be patrolling the Chiefs’ secondary.

The Chiefs will likely try to mix in a heavy dose of running the ball with Jamaal Charles to try and tire out that Eagles defense. The Chargers really took advantage of the time of possession last week and were able to tire out and score against that Eagles defense. If Charles can get going, it should be a recipe for success. But if/when a gameplan favors running the football, that’s a cue to never bet on an Andy Reid-coached team. The good thing for Reid and the Chiefs is that Alex Smith has played mistake-free these first two weeks, and if he can do so tonight, it will limit the chances that explosive Eagles offense has to take advantage.

The potential of Charles to gash that weak Eagles’ run defense gives some pause about picking the Eagles tonight. But I expect Chip Kelly’s offense to get back on track, and if they can get an early lead that will take Charles and ostensibly Alex Smith out of the game. Smith has yet to prove himself capable of being able to win consistently when forced to throw a lot.

Spread Pick: Eagles
Straight Pick: Eagles

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Pudge’s Picks – Week 2

September 14th, 2013 Comments off

Last week, I went 11-5 on my picks against the spread. I’m off to a good start with the New York Jets managing to cover the huge 12.5-point spread (per ESPN) from Thursday night’s game against the New England Patriots.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford

I figure the key this week will be trying not to overreact to the Week 1 performances. Obviously, one has to make some adjustments, but I shouldn’t be making wild swings of opinions based off one game.

All lines are from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em contest.

St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-2)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Falcons (-7.5)

Earlier this week, I felt pretty good about the Falcons covering this one. I just had a feeling that Sam Bradford would come into the Georgia Dome and struggle, and Mike Nolan’s defense could force multiple interceptions to allow the Falcons to win by 10 or more. But given how beat up the Falcons are going into Sunday, with what I would deem five of the 10 best players on the roster listed as questionable, I highly doubt the Falcons will roll over the Rams.

I think in the end, the Falcons manage to prevail, potentially on another last-minute drive by Matt Ryan to set up a Matt Bryant field goal. But either way, it’s likely to be a one-score game, thus there’s no reason to pick the Falcons to cover. The only real debate here is whether or not the injuries are enough for you to think the Rams could come into the Georgia Dome and win. It’s certainly possible, but at this point I put my trust in Mike Nolan and Matt Ryan a little more than I do Sam Bradford and Tim Walton.

Spread Pick: Rams
Straight Pick: Falcons

Carolina Panthers (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Bills (+2.5)

Now, this is the type of game which would lend itself to a Week 1 overreaction. The Bills played the Patriots tough at home last week, while the Panthers lost (or rather choked) at home against the Seahawks. With the Bills again at home, this should probably mean that I should pick them. But I’m going with the Panthers for the following reasons:

  1. The Bills’ offense is built on their rushing attack, and I think that Panthers front seven is going to shut that down.
  2. Stevie Johnson could be dangerous against a weak Panthers secondary, but I don’t think E.J. Manuel is quite at the point where he’ll be able to take full advantage of that weakness.
  3. Stephon Gilmore is still out which means Justin Rogers will likely draw the assignment of Steve Smith.
  4. The Bills also allowed 158 rushing yards to the Patriots last week, with a Panther offense that is predicated on the run.
  5. The Bills also got gashed by mobile QBs last year, so unless defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has made significant improvements there, the matchup against Cam Newton doesn’t bode well.

Spread Pick: Panthers
Straight Pick: Panthers

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Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 2

September 12th, 2013 Comments off

I’m off to a good start this season with my picks. Thanks to cleaning up on Monday Night, I finished 11-5 last week against the spread in my picks, and 14-2 picking games straight up.

I’ll be picking tonight’s Jets-Patriots contest, and will post the rest of my picks on Saturday. Once again, I’ll be using the lines from ESPN. This will also be your final opportunity to get in the FalcFans ESPN Pigskin Pick’em group before it is locked for the season.

New York Jets (1-0) at New England Patriots (1-0)
Thursday, September 12 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Patriots (-12.5)

I won’t lie, the Jets unexpected win last week gives me a bit of pause. That win over the Bucs, and the Pats’ last-minute win over the Bills were two of the games I missed last week. So it makes me a bit wary that I haven’t assessed either team as well as I had thought.

The line is really big for what I think should be a closer contest. Traditionally the Jets get blown out when they travel to Foxborough. Since Rex Ryan took over the gig in 2009, the Jets are 0-4 on the road against the Patriots in the regular season. They have lost by an average margin of nearly 18 points, although that latter stat is inflated by the 45-3 smackdown the Pats put on the Jets back in 2010. So it’s really more like a 10-point margin of victory in most of these contests.

There is bad blood between these two teams/organizations and there is nothing short of the Hand of God that will stop Belichick from running up the score on the Jets if he can. But I don’t see that happening. Danny Amendola was the Pats’ best receiver last week vs. the Bills and the offense did little with him out of the lineup in the second and third quarters. He isn’t expected to play tonight, which will mean Julian Edelman will have to fill in. Unless Stevan Ridley can bounce back (he got yanked after coughing up the ball in the second quarter) and have a really strong performance, now that Shane Vereen is shelved for awhile, I’m not sure the Patriots offense is going to be able to put up the sort of point totals we’ve become accustomed to seeing in this rivalry game.

The Jets did do a pretty good job containing Doug Martin last week. I think Ridley will respond with a solid game tonight, but I’m not sure he’s going to run wild to the degree that he needs to for the Patriots to put up a bunch of points. So this seems like another potential low-scoring affair for the Pats offense.

So if the Pats are to cover, the big question is about the Jets offense. E.J. Manuel had a solid game against New England last week for a rookie. Geno Smith had an even better debut with the Jets against a good Bucs defense. But will a two-headed backfield consisting of Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory, and a passing attack spearheaded by Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Kerley really give the Pats problems? Young quarterbacks typically struggle on the road, and I don’t suspect Geno is going to be any different tonight.

Spread Pick: Jets
Straight Pick: Patriots

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Pudge’s Picks – Week 1

September 7th, 2013 Comments off

Here are my picks for every game this weekend. In case you missed it, I picked the Thursday Night kickoff game and was wrong. The Broncos did win, but the Ravens did not come close to covering 8.5 points the Broncos were favored by. Things looked good for me at halftime, but then the Ravens hit a disastrous patch of quicksand at the outset of the third quarter and the Broncos’ offense blew the doors off them.

FalcFans.com has it’s own ESPN Pigskin Pick’em group, where we’ll be picking against the spread. If you haven’t joined already, you can still get in before Sunday. Don’t worry that you already missed the Thursday game. We drop your lowest-scoring week, so even if you don’t get your picks in until Week 2, it won’t necessarily count against you. So be sure to join up if you want to flex your muscles and show your picking skills.

Piggy-backing off that, I’ll be using the same lines from ESPN to pick these games.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Payton

Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-0)
Sunday, September 8 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Saints (-2.5)

History is on the Saints’ side. Sean Payton is 6-2 against Mike Smith, including 3-1 at home. Their only loss coming thanks to a flukey Garrett Hartley missed field goal. Please don’t hate me Falcon fans, but the Falcons are 3-2 in their openers under Mike Smith. Two of those wins came against teams that combined for 2 wins in those respective seasons, the other coming against a 7-9 Dolphins team. They lost to the Steelers and Bears on the road, both of whom wound having winning seasons. This isn’t indicative of the way I think the rest of the Falcons season will go, but I don’t expect the Falcons to win on Sunday on the road against the Saints.

Spread Pick: Saints
Straight Pick: Saints

Minnesota Vikings (0-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0)
Sunday, September 8 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Lions (-3.5)

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Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Kickoff

September 5th, 2013 Comments off

As I indicated eight months ago, I’m going to pick games this year fresh off a very strong 2012 of picking games against the spread on ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em. Just for the sake of those interested, FalcFans will have its own group this year. Don’t worry if you don’t get your group in before tonight, as we drop your worst week. And if you join by next Thursday, you shouldn’t be too affected by missing the first week. So by all means, join up and test your knowledge. For now, the prize to the winner is just bragging rights. But it’s certainly possible that by year’s end, I might be able to dish out a better prize. I just don’t want to make any promises now and not be able to deliver come January.

Since it’s the first week of the season, I need a bit more time to pick this weekend’s games. Perhaps in future weeks I might pick all of the weekend’s games on Thursday, but that probably won’t be the case because I’ll want to see some of the final injury reports before going out on the limb that is picking games. I’ll be using the lines on ESPN for the predictions in case you were wondering.

Tonight’s season-opening contest features the Denver Broncos hosting the Baltimore Ravens. If you didn’t listen to this week’s latest podcast episode, then you probably aren’t aware of my vitriol about this matchup. But more on that later…

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Caldwell’s play-calling could be difference in this matchup

Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0)
Thursday, September 5 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

Line: Broncos -8.5

That’s a fairly big line if you ask me for the defending Super Bowl champs on the road. Oh, that’s why I was ticked off about this game. In the NFL’s infinite wisdom, the Baltimore Ravens won’t be able to raise their banner until Week 2 rather than Week 1. Yes, I know the league has made it a tradition for the defending Super Bowl champs to open the season on their Thursday night kickoff game. But this year, the Ravens couldn’t play at home because the Orioles have a home game tonight and Roger Goodell didn’t want to make Baltimoreans choose between the two. Because everybody knows that they would have definitely chosen the Ravens. So as a courtesy not to bitch slap Major League Baseball, they made it so the Ravens open up on the road. They should have just made the Ravens open up at home on Sunday Night. Yes, I realize that most years this Thursday night game is the Sunday Night game. But guess what? This year, there is a Sunday Night game, and it features Dallas Cowboys hosting the New York Giants. Why couldn’t the Ravens be slotted in that game at home against the Steelers, Texans, Packers, or Patriots?

Okay, before I burst a blood vessel about the idiocy of NFL scheduling, let’s actually discuss tonight’s game.

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Pudge’s Picks – Super Bowl

February 1st, 2013 Comments off

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

That sound you’re hearing is my eyes rolling over all the Kaepernick hype that is to come.

To be honest, I have not paid that much attention to any of the hype of the past two weeks. Mainly because it hurt my soul to not see the Falcons playing in this game, and to watch any of ESPN or NFL Network over the past two weeks just felt like picking at a scab.

It basically is two fairly evenly matched teams facing off. I’m not sure why the spread is 4, it really should be like 2.

Baltimore Ravens (13-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1)
Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm ET on CBS

*Line: 49ers (-4)

The Falcons showed two weeks ago that the 49ers can be thrown on. Their secondary is their Achilles heel as they could not handle the likes of Julio Jones. Torrey Smith is probably not even a notch below Julio in terms of his ability to make plays downfield and Flacco is among the best vertical passers in the game. So one would think that they are ripe to be picked apart again. But I think the difference is that Baltimroe doesn’t have a Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez to also draw the 49ers attention. Well I guess Anquan Boldin is basically like Gonzo, as at this point in his career he really is just a tight end. But the combo of Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss is a far cry from Roddy White. So I don’t see the Ravens having quite the success of the Falcons against the 49er secondary. Not unless tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson really step up. Wait, let me rephrase that, not unless Pitta steps up. since Dickson is never really a factor. So I don’t see Flacco just chucking the ball downfield as he’s done throughout the playoffs with the same degree of success. There will be opportunities, but I don’t expect to see him throwing for nearly 400 yards as Ryan did in the NFC Championship Game.

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Pudge’s Picks – Championship Weekend

January 18th, 2013 Comments off

This is the weekend where legends are formed. Every paper and sports blog in America, and many across the globe will run stories about lesser-known players like Stephen Nicholas, Robert McClain, Rob Ninkovich, Bernard Pierce, or Alex Boone over the next two weeks should their teams win on Sunday. When your team is in the Super Bowl, suddenly every aspect of your team becomes interesting. When your team is not, no one cares. Regardless of how much success you’ve had this season up to this point, if you lose this weekend, the storyline becomes about why you weren’t good enough as opposed to being pretty darn good to make it this far in the first place. People tend to become only focused on all the things that are missing for you to taste and experience that glorification that comes from two weeks of Super Bowl coverage.

The beauty of this year’s conference championship matchups, is that you’re going to get a fairly compelling Super Bowl matchup no matter what. If it’s Patriots-49ers, then you get that Belichick vs. Harbaugh hype. You also get the connection between Kaepernick and Brady, where Kaepernick’s usurption of an injured Alex Smith’s job in his second season and coming from virtually out of nowhere is so similar to Brady’s beginning back in 2001 with Drew Bledsoe.

If it’s Patriots-Falcons, you can get the Master vs. the Student hype with Belichick and Dimitroff. You also solidify those comparisons that people like myself have made with Matt Ryan and Tom Brady.

If it’s Ravens-49ers, you obviously get the Harbaugh Bros. storyline. You get the Flacco-Kaepernick storyline that centers around the fact that 2 months ago no one would have believed they’d be squaring off in New Orleans.

If it’s Ravens-Falcons, then you get the Flacco vs. Ryan storyline that has been brewing since both emerged as dynamite rookies in 2008, and kicking off this mini-run of successful rookie quarterbacks (and yes, I’m purposefully forgetting Roethlisberger).

I picked the Broncos over the Ravens straight up last week, and should’ve gone with my heart and taken the Ravens. I have an aunt that lives in Baltimore that is a die-hard Ravens fan, so if my picks are right this week, it should make the next two weeks very interesting.

Last week, I went 3-1 both against the spread and straight picks, bringin my playoff record to 6-2 against the spread and 5-3 straight up. I picked the Ravens to go to the Super Bowl in my preseason predictions, and if they do, that will mark two years in a row where I have successfully picked the AFC representative. A trifle, but it makes me feel at least semi-competent in terms of my prognostication skills. But here are my picks:

Ravens over Patriots
Falcons over 49ers

For more detailed analysis of why I picked the teams I did, keep on reading after the jump.

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Pudge’s Picks – Divisional Playoffs

January 11th, 2013 Comments off

Last week I went 3-1 with my straight picks, and split against the spread. I hope to do better this week. Here are my straight picks this week:

Denver over Baltimore
San Francisco over Green Bay
Atlanta over Seattle
New England over Houston

Yep, no real surprises, taking all of the favorites. The odds are against me that all the favorites and home teams will win. But I feel like 2012 will be an aberration from previous years where home teams/favorite generally split in the wildcard and divisional rounds. Click on after the jump to read the more detailed breakdowns of my picks.

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