NFL Week 11 Predictions: What The Hell Happened?

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If you were watching the National Football League last weekend, you had to feel like you were in the Twilight Zone. Just about the time that you thought that you had the inner workings of the season down, it became Bizarro World (also known as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ daily existence). Just take a look at some of the finishes from last week and you’ll see what I mean.

The Detroit Lions beating the Green Bay Packers IN LAMBEAU FIELD? The Washington Redskins crushing the New Orleans Saints? The lowly Kansas City Chiefs knocking off the (then) undefeated Denver Broncos ON THE ROAD? I could go on, but you’re getting the gist. It was an ugly weekend last week to try to pick games.

You will see these types of weekends once or twice during an NFL season. The unfortunate thing is it completely screws up any logic you have on your wagering (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing). Still, we have to soldier on and hope that the craziness of Week 10 doesn’t rear its ugly head again this week.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Indianapolis Colts vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (-3); OVER 47.5

The Falcons are vying for one of the two Wild Card positions in the NFC and, as such, they cannot overlook a Colts team whose only hope of making the playoffs rests in their winning the division (the Colts are leading the AFC South despite their 4-5 record). Unfortunately for the Colts, they are coming into the Georgia Dome to face a team that is coming off a bye week. It isn’t going to be a pretty sight.

Falcon RB Devonta Freeman looked to be hitting the wall in his last game (this is his first year as a starter), so the week off had to give him a much needed recharging. With QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones also needing a bit of refreshment, the bye week came at a perfect time for them to make a charge towards the playoffs. The Falcons defense should have a pre-Thanksgiving feast with QB Andrew Luck on the bench due to injury and a geriatric Matt Hasselbeck lining up under center for the Colts.

They may not catch the Carolina Panthers for the NFC South divisional crown, but they are in great position to capture a Wild Card. They need this win against the Colts to keep that drive going.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-4); OVER 48

If this game had been played a week ago, I would have been on the Bengals. The powerhouse offense of QB Andy Dalton, WRs A. J. Green and Marvin Jones and RB Giovanni Bernard looked to be unstoppable…that is, until they ran into the Houston Texans and sputtered in a Monday night game 10-6. Now, I’ve got to go with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have been thoroughly challenged over the course of the season, winning a shootout with the Seattle Seahawks last week (39-32) with a defense that is currently holding teams to 20 points a game. Only once has someone come into University of Phoenix Stadium this season and beaten the Cards (that was the St. Louis Rams) and the Cards offense has scored less than 20 points exactly once this season. Put those facts together and I see the Cardinals winning a shootout in the desert by a touchdown.

Buffalo Bills vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-7); OVER 47.5

The Patriots are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL (the other is the Carolina Panthers) and there is nothing to make anyone think that they won’t be undefeated after this game. QB Tom Brady is still on his “Fuck You” Tour 2015 (remember, they had one of these back in 2007 after the “Spygate” situation) and the rest of the team seems to be following their leader. Add in the fact that one of the arch-enemies of the Patriots – Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan – is standing on the other sideline and this one is going to be a bloodbath quickly.

With the vitriol that the Pats already have for Ryan and the Bills, you can add in one more. At this time, the Bills are in the playoffs as the second Wild Card team (behind the Pittsburgh Steelers) and it would potentially make Head Coach Bill Belichick crack a smile to whip the Bills and put a dent in those playoff aspirations. There is pretty much nothing that is going to put a loss on the Patriots’ schedule in this game.

Last Week:  3-3
Overall:  31-20-2

For the fourth consecutive week, we haven’t been able to break the .500 mark. After a week like last weekend, however, I’ll take that. There was so much chaos that sometimes you’ll take a .500 week amid the carnage and walk away alive. Looking to make some ground this week because the playoffs are approaching. Once teams start locking up playoff slots, then the betting options start to dry up.

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NFL Week 4 Picks: Advent of Bye Weeks Effect Betting Lines

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After a tumultuous first three weeks to the National Football League season, one of the things that continually makes wagering on the games (you know, if you live in an area where you can legally do that) a more difficult endeavor is the “bye week.” The “bye week,” which came about in 1999 because of the odd number of teams in the NFL and stuck around to give teams a week off after the league went to 32 teams in 2002, is something that has an affect on every NFL team, depending when it falls in the season. If that “bye” falls in the early part of the season, you might lose out on a key late season break; if it falls too late, you may no longer be in the running and the “bye” is simply a waste of time instead of a welcome respite. Add in the fact for the game following the bye week and smart bettors know to look for some strange happenings.

With Week 4, two teams – the New England Patriots, who have roared out to a 3-0 start, and the Tennessee Titans – will take a seat. While these two teams will be ones to watch next week (and we’ll talk more about it then), the remainder of the NFL will have to wait patiently for their “bye week” – and the well-deserved rest – and hit the field this weekend. In some of these games, the East Coast weather conditions are also going to have a significant impact on the outcomes.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold.)

New York Giants (+5.5) vs. BUFFALO BILLS; UNDER 44

What should be a huge rivalry game, the Giants/Bills never has seemed to be able to capture the attention of New Yorkers (hell, the Giants/Jets and the Jets/Bills aren’t even strong rivalries, to be honest). Perhaps it is because the teams aren’t at their bests at the same time (the Giants are good when the Bills suck and vice versa), but the rivalry never seems to have been born. This week’s game between the two will continue that streak of a “yawn” instead of a rivalry.

The Giants got off the schneid after defeating the Washington Indigenous Persons at home last week and are attempting to get back into the race in the NFC East. Only a game behind the Dallas Cowboys (who the Giants have already lost to), a win for the Giants would keep them in the hunt. Another loss, putting them two games back of the ‘Boys, would pretty much doom the season.

The Bills have been one of the perplexing teams in the NFL this season. Under the guidance of head coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Bills are 2-1 and coming off a crushing win over the Miami Dolphins. In that game, however, the Bills lost one of their big playmakers in RB LeSean McCoy, who has already been ruled out for Sunday’s tilt.

Adding in the weather conditions that could affect the game on Sunday, this is going to be a much closer affair than many people are expecting. I’m grabbing the Giants and the points this week as the weather makes sure that the two teams don’t go over 44 total points for the game.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS (-3.5)

In looking at the statistics of this game, you have to wonder why the Bengals aren’t a bigger favorite. The Bengals are ranked second overall in total offense and are going against the 24th ranked Chiefs defense. The flip side is true in examining the other matchup, with the 22nd ranked Chiefs offense going up against a sneaky strong 12th ranked defense for the Bengals. As home teams are normally given -3 points to begin with, you’re going to tell me that the 3-0 Bengals are only .5 points better than the 1-2 Chiefs? I don’t think so, especially after watching QB Andy Dalton and WR A. J. Green rip apart the Baltimore Ravens secondary last weekend. If there’s a lock on this week’s schedule, this would be the one.

St. Louis Rams vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-7); OVER 44

As to the O/U, two of the last three games – both at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona – have come close to the 44 combined points (45 in the 2014 contest, 40 in 2013). With this track record, the fifth ranked offense of the Cardinals at home that is averaging 42.0 points per game and the fact that the Rams scored all of six points at home in a loss last weekend to the Pittsburgh Steelers (don’t expect that to happen again), to take anything other than OVER on the points would be a little silly.

The Cardinals are clicking along early this season and, with the difficulties of the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, are looking to keep the boot firmly on the neck of the division. To do that, you have to win the divisional games such as this one against the Rams. The Cardinals also remember last year when QB Carson Palmer built a nice lead up for the team before getting hurt and watching as the Seahawks passed them by.

Palmer has been stellar so far this season, throwing for nine TDs to this point in the year with only two picks, but the true story on the Cardinals is the rebirth of RB Chris Johnson. After disappearing during his 2014 season with the New York Jets, Johnson has rushed for 219 yards so far this season and is an integral part of the Cardinals offense. With the 1-2 punch of Johnson and Palmer, the Cardinals could well be on their way to dethroning the Seahawks in the NFC West (should they stay healthy, that is).

Last Week:  2-4 Overall:  10-7-1

A completely disgusting Week 3 result. Despite correctly picking Atlanta over Dallas, the shootout completely destroyed our O/U pick. From there, it only got worse…the Seahawks covering the two-touchdown spread against the Chicago Bears was the only other pick we got right for the entire weekend. Time to turn that around!

Fantasy Sports…It’s Skill! It’s All Skill!

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The upcoming National Football League season is nearly upon us and we all know what that means. No, it doesn’t mean 16 (or more, counting the playoffs) weekends of watching grown men pound each other into a stupor over an inflated pig’s external organ, trying to push through the armada defending a goal to score the ultimate victory. It means that we get to choose up players and try to prove to our friends and loved ones that we know more than even the best NFL general manager through the machination known as Fantasy Football.

Sure, there are other sports that have their fantasy seasons. The origination of “fantasy” sports can be traced back to the end of World War II, but many believe the true version of fantasy sports began with what was called Rotisserie baseball in the mid-1970s. Owners, playing through the entire season, would choose a roster of players from the actual Major League Baseball teams. The owners would then earn points on how their players performed and, at the end of the year, the champion would be crowned through who earned the most points. The idea of fantasy baseball took off in the early 1980s with players starting to pick up on the intricacies of the game and media outlets offering in-depth box scores on the games that were played (can you even imagine sitting down with a prehistoric computer – or, worse yet, a pen and paper – to compute the fantasy scoring for a league?).

If there was a major professional sport that thrived under the advent of Fantasy, however, it was professional football. With teams playing once per week, Fantasy players could choose up teams and compete against each other on a weekly basis rather than just the season as a whole. Although baseball might have borne the fantasy game, it was football that truly lit the spark.

In 2014, Vox.com estimates that the yearly revenues generated from fantasy sports was $1.4 billion in the United States and that is probably on the conservative end. Pro football heavily dominated the breakdown, generating over 36% of the action, while baseball took up the second place slot with almost 19% (surprisingly, auto racing was the third-most “fantasized” sport, according to Vox). The companies that were benefitting the most from the activity were such industry powerhouses as Yahoo!, ESPN and CBS, who operated their own fantasy leagues for both fun (re:  no cost) and for profit (entry fees paid back to players), not to mention the individual professional sports leagues operating their own Fantasy games.

2014 was also about the time that the phenomenon known as Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) came about full bore. With DFS, baseball now had its little niche in the fantasy world that had pretty much been taken over by professional football and other sports could pick up on some of the glory that the NFL got from its one game a week schedule. While DFS has been an activity that many have gotten into as an extension of yearly fantasy sports, it has also drawn the attention from law enforcement and the politicos.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 was written to shut down the financing of online gambling transactions (think of online casinos, bingo and online poker), but there were several segments of the gaming industry that were excluded from the law. Horse racing (as a carrot to the horse racing industry in the United States), lotteries and fantasy gaming, then in its infancy online. With that carve out from the UIGEA, the DFS sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings are quite pleased to let everyone know that it is “legal” to play. Lawmakers will be rethinking this strategy but, with so many of the professional sports leagues and mainstream media involved in the game, it is highly likely they won’t touch it.

The reasons for fantasy sports – and horse racing along with it – receiving the legislative exemption is because many consider both activities to have a “skill” element that raises it above the bar of luck-based gambling (such as casino games that include poker). This skill element allows for a player, through knowledgeable study and examination of the variables of the game, to pick a better team (or a better horse) than someone who simply walks in off the street and tries to play the game. Which makes the results from my Fantasy Football draft on Sunday a good testing ground.

In previous years (and we’re talking for about a decade here), I pored over Fantasy Football magazines, ESPN.com, NFL.com and several other outlets looking for that edge in the fantasy game that would drive me to a championship. Alas, over the years I have only captured one championship, which pushes me to compete even harder and drink even harder when I’m sweating Marshawn Lynch having to make up a 25 point deficit on Monday Night Football. Those years I didn’t win, I would think that I had the “greatest team ever assembled” until they came crashing down in a heap at the bottom of the standings.

This year, I’d gone through the preparations but I’ve gotten a bit wiser about the proceedings. While I can research the players and teams from here until the Super Bowl, I am not Peyton Manning; I cannot have an effect on the outcome of the games because I am not out on the field performing the activity. Nowadays, I head into my fantasy draft looking to have fun and, if possible, win some extra cash, but not to put myself through Hell in doing so. Then the following happened, which is where the experiment will begin.

On Sunday, I was settling in to get ready for my Fantasy draft when my lovely wife said she needed to get some more clothes for her position as a professor at a major university. The best mall is a 45-mile drive from our home, hence we and our son hopped in the car and headed over to let her shop. After three-plus hours of shopping (and our son’s multiple rides on a carousel in the mall and ice cream bribery) and a dented credit card, we returned home with several outfits for her and me wondering how my Fantasy draft had gone.

With the fifth pick in the first round, I was able to pick up Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles through the auto-draft procedures (when someone isn’t physically able to make the picks, sites will pick the best available player for the absent owner) and it only got better from there. In Round 2, it was Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A. J. Green; Round 3 was a little weak in Chicago Bears wide out Alshon Jeffrey, but the next two rounds were golden.

Round 4 was nice in that it gave me a versatile but injury-prone running back in Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers, but it was Round 5 where I made my biggest steal. With a four-game suspension hanging over his head, everyone in our league had passed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and my computerized picker was able to snap him up without hesitation. Even if Brady is out for those first four games (and after getting a solid backup in the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler), he’s worth having for that “Fuck You” mentality he’s going to have for the remainder of the season (and whenever he starts playing, he’ll have that “Fuck You” mentality after all he has been through).

Overall, the automated draft picked out a team (my team isn’t creatively named, the “Southern WarLordz” but it’s a visual image that is threatening) that looks to be pretty solid and, with Brady, potentially one with a sneaky chance of winning the title. If it is the case that I should win this year’s championship, then the bullshit of fantasy sports being a “skill” activity would be shot down as anyone who lets the auto-drafter pick for them isn’t using any skill at all in their attempt at winning. I guess we will see how it plays out over the season…in the fantasy world, at least.