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Pudge’s Picks – Week 17

December 28th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez’s final game

As I predicted last week, I had a disappointing week. I finished 7-9 picking against the spread, indicating that I need to get to 10-6 this week if I want to end the year at .500. A tall proposition given that I haven’t hit that benchmark very often this year.

I was 8-8 picking games straight up, making my season total at 150-90.

This week, I noticed I’m predominantly picking the home teams to win straight up, with home teams projected to go 13-3. I hope I’m right.

Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-11)
Sunday, December 29 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Falcons (+7.5)

This will be a farewell game for Tony Gonzalez, and I have the feeling that the Falcons will be competitive. They were against the Panthers for the most part in their last matchup on the road, and they will benefit from not having a healthy Steve Smith to go against. So the real question is will this offensive line do as good a job as they did last time to hold off the Panthers front.

I like their chances to pull the upset, especially now that Roddy White is healthy and making impact players. Finally, the Falcons have the weapons to take advantage of the lone Panthers defensive weakness: their secondary. I’m going to go out on a limb and pick the Falcons to win.

Spread Pick: Falcons
Straight Pick: Falcons

Baltimore Ravens (8-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)
Sunday, December 29 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Bengals (-5.5)

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Takeaways from Week 16

December 23rd, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Does Atlanta have enough to slow down Colin Kaepernick?

We’ll get the chance to see the Atlanta Falcons tonight against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night football.

I don’t have particularly high hopes for the Falcons, although the last time I expected them to get blown out was in Week 12 against the New Orleans Saints. During that week, the Falcons had the factors of playing at home and against a familiar opponent in their favor. They will be in a hostile environment tonight against the San Francisco 49ers, particularly since it will be the final home game at Candlestick Park, assuming the 49ers and the other NFC wildcard team don’t make improbably deep playoff runs. And the familiarity of the 49ers just isn’t that strong. It was roughly 11 months ago that the two teams squared off in the NFC Championship game, so the Falcons won’t have to clean too much dust off their game plan to try and get an accurate read on the 49ers.

The 49ers since then haven’t changed that much. They are still an offense that is predicated on the run game and the vertical passing attack. But they aren’t as effective in either area this year as they were a year ago.

They were among the league’s best rushing team a year ago, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. They ran the ball on about 50.8 percent of their offensive plays in 2012. This year, their yards per carry has fallen to a much more mundane 4.2 yards per carry. They are running the ball more however, up to 53.3 percent.

That increase in runs is largely due to their inability to generate as many big plays in the passing game as they did a year ago. Colin Kaepernick led the league with a ridiculous 60.6 percent completion rate on passes of 20 or more yards (per Pro Football Focus). He’s still near the top of the league this year, but it’s down to a much more human 46 percent completion rate on those deep passes. Despite only starting roughly half the season, Kaepernick completed 19 of those 20-plus yard throws last year for a total of 595 yards. This year in nearly twice the playing time, he’s completed 19 for 632 yards. So in one sense, he’s been half as effective throwing deep.

Much of that centers on the lack of reliable weapons that Kaepernick has been asked to throw with Michael Crabtree being injured for most the year. In fact, no 49ers receiver besides Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, and Vance McDonald have caught deep passes from Kaepernick this year. Boldin is certainly not a deep threat by nature, and McDonald is not quite as adept as Delanie Walker was a year ago. Last year, players like Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, and Kyle Williams all contributed there as well as Crabtree.

But will any of this matter against the Falcons? Probably not. The Falcons run defense is among the weakest in the league, and the 49ers absolutely dominated the Falcons in the trenches in last year’s NFC title game. With the Falcons run defense giving up 100 or more yards in 11 straight games, it is doubtful that streak is snapped this week.

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Pudge’s Picks – Week 16

December 22nd, 2013 1 comment

Another good week to finish the season, where I went 10-6 against the spread last week. That brings my season total to 111-113, just two games below .500. Now of course what will happen is now that I’ve gotten so close, I’ll probably go 6-10 this week and kill any chance I have of reaching .500.

I also went 10-6 with my straight up picks, bringing my season total to 142-82.

Atlanta Falcons (4-10) at San Francisco 49ers (10-4)
Monday, December 23 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

Line: 49ers (-11.5)

I think the 49ers are going to dominate the Falcons in this game, although they may only manage to win by 10 points instead of the 12 necessary to cover. But I’m not picking the Falcons regardless. The 49ers rushing attack should just roll through the Falcons defense, as they did in the NFC Championship game. With no pass rush, Colin Kaepernick should have all day to pick apart the Falcons defense when they pass.

The 49ers defense will likely shut down a Falcons offense that has struggled to score points and move the ball against the Redskins terrible defense.

Spread Pick: 49ers
Straight Pick: 49ers

Miami Dolphins (8-6) at Buffalo Bills (5-9)
Sunday, December 22 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Bills (+2.5)

I’m not sure the loss of E.J. Manuel is going to be felt by the Bills offense with Thad Lewis getting the start. But the loss of Stevie Johnson will be felt.

Spread Pick: Dolphins
Straight Pick: Dolphins

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 52 “Post-Turner Stress Disorder”

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by Dave Choate of the Falcoholic to recap the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 15 win over the Washington Redskins as well as preview their primetime Week 16 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. We all agree that it was an ugly win for the Falcons and search for positives that can be taken away. We discuss Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for two, lineup changes to the offensive line, Steven Jackson trucking Josh Wilson, and which San Antonio Spur that Tony Gonzalez compares most to. A lot of this episode centers on the cornerback position with Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, and Asante Samuel occupying a large chunk of the discussion. I give my thoughts on the evolution of defense and what it could mean for the value of the cornerback position in the future. And of course Allen and I close with discussing the playoff races, the epic collapse of the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals becoming our new favorite team among other NFL topics in their ‘Around the League’ segment.

Episode 52: Post-Turner Stress Disorder [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Dave writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @TheFalcoholic.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Pudge’s Picks – Week 15

December 15th, 2013 Comments off

Thursday Night Football hasn’t been that kind to me over the past six weeks, where I’ve compiled a 1-5 record when picking against the spread. Here’s hoping that I pick Sunday’s slate of games as well as I did a week ago where I went 9-6 against the spread.

Washington Redskins (3-10) at Atlanta Falcons (3-10)
Sunday, December 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Falcons (-6.5)

Sure, the Redskins are in disarray, but this isn’t a good matchup for the Falcons. They don’t have a pass rush, so regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Redskins (it’ll be Kirk Cousins), he’ll have plenty of time to locate his receivers. And the strength of the Redskins offense still remains Alfred Morris, and the fact that the Falcons run defense has been porous throughout this season doesn’t bode well for them. It’s a boost for the Falcons that Redskins tight end Jordan Reed looks out for this game, otherwise he was likely to have a field day against Zeke Motta, who will draw his first start of the season.

The major positive for Atlanta is that Washington might have one of the few defenses that is worse than their own. And given the more comfortable confines of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons offense should look competent if not good this week.

Spread Pick: Redskins
Straight Pick: Falcons

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Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 15

December 12th, 2013 Comments off

Things are off to a good start as I indicated last week I’d need to pick at least 9 games correctly against the spread in the last four weeks to get my season record to .500.

Well I went 9-7 last week against the spread, bringing my season total to 101-107.

Straight up, my picks were 11-5 last week, bringing my season total to 132-76. There’s really no benchmark I’m trying to hit there at this point, although I’d like to hit double-digit wins every week for the remainder of the season.

San Diego Chargers (6-7) at Denver Broncos (11-2)
Thursday, December 12 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Broncos (-10.5)

The question really isn’t whether San Diego can beat Denver. Not unless something catastrophic happens, is that really fathomable. The real question is whether San Diego covers the spread.

They can but only if they can score in the red zone, something they struggled to do last time when they lost to the Broncos by 8 points at home. I suspect history will repeat itself and I expect this week’s Broncos team to score a lot more than 28 points. The main fear is the backdoor cover by the Chargers, which is always possible against a weak Broncos defense. Especially if Keenan Allen has a big night, which he did not have last time. I’d like San Diego’s chances better if they were at home.

Spread Pick: Broncos
Straight Pick: Broncos

Categories: Features Tags: ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 51 “A Weird, Bad Team”

December 11th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I discuss the Atlanta Falcons Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, as well as preview their Week 15 matchup against the Washington Redskins. Some of the topics hit this week include: my newfound hatred for Harry Douglas, Mike Smith’s fourth down decision making, Corey Peters’ sack dance, debut of Zeke Motta, Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon’s play at linebacker, Jonathan Massaquoi’s improvement, Steven Jackson’s expendability, and Dirk Koetter’s potential departure. As usual, we discuss the rest of the league as well, including the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury.

Episode 51: A Weird, Bad Team [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Pudge’s Picks – Week 14

December 7th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez should be a difference-maker vs. Packers

Hopefully, Sunday’s picks fare better than Thursday’s.

Atlanta Falcons (3-9) at Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Packers (-4.5)

The Falcons have the ability to beat a Matt Flynn-led Packers team. The problem for Atlanta is going to be pressure. Flynn is not a good quarterback in the face of pressure, but the Falcons have been able to provide next to no heat on opposing quarterbacks throughout the 2013 season. Thus, there is a reasonable expectation that with ample time in the pocket to find receivers like Jordy Nelson and James Jones, Flynn can be competent. But the key for the Falcons success will be stopping the running of Eddie Lacy. And while the Falcons had only a few lapses against the Bills last week in terms of their run defense, those sorts of lapses have been commonplace over the past two months. So if this game comes down to the Falcons needing to slow Lacy and pressure Flynn, to win, the Falcons defense is a bad bet.

On the opposite side of the ball, the key for Atlanta is getting a repeat performance from Roddy White and also getting an increased effort from Tony Gonzalez, who has been relatively quiet for the past month of the season due to the bracketed coverage and double teams he receives. The Packers secondary is suspect and has been gashed by tight ends throughout this season. This opens up the possibility for a balanced attack for the Falcons offense, and in the event of that happening, I’ll put more faith in Matt Ryan on the road than I would Matt Flynn at home.

Spread Pick: Falcons
Straight Pick: Falcons

Buffalo Bills (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Bucs (-2.5)

The Bills are coming off a tough loss to the Falcons, and going on the road against a resurging Bucs team is not a great recipe for success. The key in this game will be turnovers. Which rookie quarterback will do a better job protecting the football, thus allowing his running game to carry the day. If this week is anything like the past few weeks, the safer bet is Mike Glennon. But the degree of difficulty for Glennon should be much higher given that he’ll be facing a very formidable Bills pass rush.

Spread Pick: Bucs
Straight Pick: Bucs

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Bengals (-5.5)

This game will decide the front-runner for the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff race, with the Bengals holding the advantage. The Colts just haven’t looked very consistent without Reggie Wayne in the lineup, and while the Bengals took a huge hit with the injury to Geno Atkins, they still have a formidable defense that should be able to continue to keep the clamps on Andrew Luck.

Spread Pick: Bengals
Straight Pick: Bengals

Cleveland Browns (4-8) at New England Patriots (9-3)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Patriots (-12.5)

I don’t like big spreads like this, and the Browns have been a fairly resilient team this year. And they should get the boost from Brandon Weeden not being in the lineup. But Jason Campbell just hasn’t been a very good quarterback on the road against good teams throughout his career. While Josh Gordon might have another big game against Aqib Talib (who has been nursing an injury the past month), it probably won’t be enough.

Spread Pick: Patriots
Straight Pick: Patriots

Detroit Lions (7-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Eagles (-2.5)

Another game that could have serious playoff implications as both the Lions and Eagles are in battles for their respective division crowns and unlikely to win the wildcard at this point. It’s a fairly simple question for the Eagles, in do they have what it takes to slow down Megatron and Reggie Bush? But Detroit simply isn’t a very good road team, and Philly seems to have figured out how to win at home in recent weeks.

Spread Pick: Eagles
Straight Pick: Eagles

Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) at Washington Redskins (3-9)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Redskins (+3.5)

This is the game the Chiefs need to get some pep back in their step. But the Chiefs pass rush has fallen off. But against a Redskins defense that gives up yards like there’s no tomorrow, there’s no way this game shouldn’t be decided by a touchdown or more.

Spread Pick: Chiefs
Straight Pick: Chiefs

Oakland Raiders (4-8) at New York Jets (5-7)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Jets (-2.5)

Last week’s benching of Geno Smith certainly will have some impact on this week’s game. Either Smith will find a way to protect the football, and give a superior Jets team the victory at home, or his confidence will be shot and a middling Raiders team will find a way to win. But it’s hard to like the Raiders, who haven’t won a game in the Eastern time zone in almost exactly four years. I guess at some point that streak has to end. They’re not going to get a better opportunity than a struggling Jets team.

Spread Pick: Raiders
Straight Pick: Raiders

Miami Dolphins (6-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Steelers (-3.5)

Miami’s problems stem from their lack of firepower. And if the Steelers were a weaker defense and offense, I think they would have a better shot. This one should be a defensive struggle, but at least have Antonio Brown.

Spread Pick: Steelers
Straight Pick: Steelers

Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1) at Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
Sunday, December 8 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Ravens (-7.5)

The question is whether or not Adrian Peterson’s recent success (357 rushing yards the past two weeks) is due to him getting back to old form, or just playing two of the league’s weakest run defenses in Chicago and Green Bay. My guess is the former, and thus I’ll take the Ravens defense to slow him down and basically get another home win.

Spread Pick: Vikings
Straight Pick: Ravens

Tennessee Titans (5-7) at Denver Broncos (10-2)
Sunday, December 8 at 4:05 pm ET on CBS

Line: Broncos (-12.5)

The Broncos haven’t blown anybody out, meaning they haven’t won by more than two touchdowns since Week 8. And really, their last two blowouts (vs. Washington and Jacksonville) were competitive games up until the start of the second half. So really, we’re going back to Week 4 since the Broncos have laid the smackdown on anyone. The Titans defense is underrated, but I’m not sure they are good enough to keep this one from getting away from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Spread Pick: Broncos
Straight Pick: Broncos

St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Arizona Cardinals (7-5)
Sunday, December 8 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

Line: Cardinals (-6.5)

This should be a good defensive contest. The key for St. Louis is pressuring Carson Palmer, and forcing some turnovers. Because frankly, they can’t move the ball with Kellen Clemens at quarterback. They need to rely on their running game to stay in this game, which means not allowing Arizona to get out to an early lead. But if Robert Quinn can destroy Levi Brown for 3 sacks, what is he going to do against Bradley Sowell?

Spread Pick: Rams
Straight Pick: Cardinals

New York Giants (5-7) at San Diego Chargers (5-7)
Sunday, December 8 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

Line: Chargers (-3.5)

It seems like the Chargers have morphed into the Jets as a team that is good every other week. But if that’s the case, then this should be an “on” week for them against an overrated Giants team. With Jason Pierre-Paul injured, I just don’t see much to like about the Giants ability to stop Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense. The real question is going to be whether or not the Chargers secondary can contain the Giants receivers. This has the makings of a shootout, and I’ll take the home team.

Spread Pick: Chargers
Straight Pick: Chargers

Seattle Seahawks (11-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
Sunday, December 8 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

Line: 49ers (-2.5)

Fresh off their drubbing of the Saints, I think people are probably going to overrate the Seahawks a bit. Apparently Vegas isn’t, with the 49ers being favored. Throughout most of this year, the Seahawks just haven’t been a dominant road team. The 49ers haven’t been a great home team either, but I think Colin Kaepernick will pick up his first win against Seattle this week.

Spread Pick: 49ers
Straight Pick: 49ers

Carolina Panthers (9-3) at New Orleans Saints (9-3)
Sunday, December 8 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

Line: Saints (-3.5)

I don’t think having the short week against a tough Panthers defense will help the Saints offense much this week. But Carolina has yet to really slow down the Saints at all in the dome under Ron Rivera, and even with his rock-solid defense this year, I think that Saints offense will be too much as they have been for every opponent they’ve faced at home. I’m just betting on Sean Payton over Rivera.

Spread Pick: Saints
Straight Pick: Saints

Dallas Cowboys (7-5) at Chicago Bears (6-6)
Monday, December 9 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

Line: Bears (+1.5)

This game has the makings of another shootout. The Bears have hit the wall, as their defense has fallen off hard. But the Cowboys defense is terrible as well. And I think this game could see Josh McCown and Tony Romo each hitting 350 yards passing.  I’ll put more faith in DeMarco Murray and Sean Lee than the Bears right now.

Spread Pick: Cowboys
Straight Pick: Cowboys

Categories: News Tags: ,

Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 14

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

It wasn’t a good week for my picks, as I went 6-10 against the spread. After doing better in the month of November, I turned into Tony Romo the minute December was looming. I did better straight up, picking 10 games correctly last week.

But I’m desperately trying to get back to .500 against the spread by year’s end, and with a 92-100 year-to-date record against the spread, that means I’ll have to go at least 9-7 every week for the last month of the season.

I’m doing much better straight up, with a year-to-date record of 121-71. I’m disappointed with that record as well, since it means I’m averaging about 9.3 correct picks per week, and I think that number should be at least 10. But relative to my picks against the spread, I won’t complain too much.

Houston Texans (2-10) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Thursday, December 5 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Jaguars (+2.5)

When Jacksonville squared off with the Oakland Raiders in Week 2, I think most were expecting that to be this year’s version of the “Toilet Bowl” featuring the two worst teams in the NFL. Well, we were sorely mistaken.

This week’s matchup between the Jaguars and Texans will certainly earn that mantle.

The Jags have won three of their last four, including a win over the Texans in Week 12 in Houston. Now they will be returning home, where they have yet to win a game. The Texans have lost ten straight games and are reeling looking for a win. They did seemingly get a boost from Gary Kubiak’s return to the sideline on Sunday, losing a close one to the Patriots at home. If the Texans play like that again this week, they shouldn’t have too much trouble beating the Jaguars.

Spread Pick: Texans
Straight Pick: Texans

Categories: Features Tags: ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 50 “Dirk Koetter’s Middle Finger to the Podcast”

December 4th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back to discuss the Atlanta Falcons win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 13; discussing some of the positives/negatives we saw in the game, including: Antone Smith, deep passing, Roddy White, Osi Umenyiora and the pass rush, Paul Worrilow and the run defense, as well as the futures of Robert McClain, Thomas DeCoud, and Steven Jackson for the umpteenth time. We then kick over to previewing the Falcons upcoming matchup in Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers, with how each team matches up against one another. We close out with our usual “Around the League” segment discussing some of the more interesting games from Week 13 as well as some of the more promising games coming in Week 14. This episode does contain some minor NSFW language.

Episode 50: Dirk Koetter’s Middle Finger to the Podcast [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt