Namaste, bitches. Going 12-4 last week has us at a .676 clip for the season, six wins better than the pros in Vegas. Normally, winning three out of four games in a given week is enough to win most office pools but judging by the sparse (read:zero) commissions I received this week, you all must have been betting against Rainman.
Anyhow, on to the picks:
The Saints have hit their stride over the last month and a half and have crawled within a game of a playoff spot. Forget about the team that went winless during the first month of the season, this squad has the firepower to down any ship, including the Falcons and their titanic 10-1 record. Here's why I believe they won't, though:
For all the momentum (which I think is more intangible fodder for former players to base analysis on than it is a quantifiable indicator of success) that the Saints have mustered since they're horrific start, they've still neglected to assemble a defense. For all the talk we've heard about the return of Joe Vitt and the improvement of the Saints D since, their Defensive DVOA has surged from worst in the NFL to tied with Oakland for second worst. When you're playing against Nick Foles and a balsa wood offensive line, your offense can carry a defense that bad. When you're visiting Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and the rest of the Falcons offense, it probably means you're out of luck.
THE PICK: FALCONS
At this point of the season, you're probably tired of hearing my say "Bad teams? Home team." and you probably think it's a cop out but then you probably look at the record, accept it, and move on. If you've got a compelling reason that the Jags will win in Buffalo, please leave it in the comments section.
THE PICK: BILLS
I'm picking the Seahawks to win on the road despite the fact that Chicago is two games better than them in the standings and is playing at home where they are 5-1 and the Seahawks are 1-5 on away from Seattle. I'm doing this not because I'm a 'Hawks homer but because despite the hullabaloo surrounding the assumed suspension of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, we're still talking about the hosts sending the league's 26th best offense out against Seattle's #4 ranked D. The appeal of Seattle's starting two cornerbacks should push back their punishment until after this game and, with their nearly unmatched ability (best against opposing #1 WRs, per Pro Football Focus) to take away an offense's primary option (Brandon Marshall, in this case), combined with the Bears missing two (but more like three) starting offensive linemen, combined with the dubious chance that Matt Forte will play at anything close to full strength means that the very real possibility exists that the 'Hawks defense puts up one of their best performances of the year.
The Bears' offensive woes (32nd in passing yards, 30th overall yards) have been masked by their defense' extraterrestrial ability to force turnovers and grant them excellent field position -- when they're not scoring. However, with lead ballhawk Charles Tillman likely to miss this one and Seattle's recent reduction in turnovers, I see no reason that the Seahawks' strengths will overpower the Bears' weaknesses to a degree necessary for victory.
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS
I'm about to sum up the difference between the AFC and the NFC in a short series of numbers. The Colts are 28th in DVOA (dead last in defense). The Lions are 11th in DVOA (4th in offense). The Colts are 7-4. The Lions are 4-7.
THE PICK: LIONS
Percy Harvin is the only person on the Vikings team that should even have you thinking about Minny's chances of winning this game in Green Bay, and it doesn't sound like he'll play.
THE PICK: PACKERS
Since before the season, I've touted the Texans as my Super Bowl favorites, and their league-best 10-1 record does nothing to bely that. That said, the arrow stuck in their heel is the wreckage that the Angel of Death has strewn amongst their linebacking core this season. Over the last two weeks, we've seen the Texans' D carved up by the Lions and the Jaguars(!), and with Jonathan Joseph ailing in their secondary, i wouldn't be surprised to see the Titans put up 24+ against them. That said, I'll be very surprised if the uber-efficient Texans' offense puts up less than 30 against Tennessee's 29th ranked defense. Andre Johnson has set an NFL record with the most receiving yards in back-to-back games (granted that both included OT) over the last two weeks. Don't be surprised if the streak extends to three against the home team's woeful secondary.
THE PICK: TEXANS
This is one of my rare exceptions to "Bad teams? Home team." and it has almost everything to do with how terrible the Chiefs are at football. Besides, Carolina proved last week that they can beat bad teams on the road and the Chiefs aren't as good as the Eagles. If Cam is half the Cam that Cam can be, the Panthers will leave KC with a cute two-game win streak.
THE PICK: PANTHERS
I know that the temptation is to look at how the Rams tied the Niners in San Francisco and deduce that granted home field advantage, the Rams can get over the top. Well, stop that foolishness. First of all, never doubt the ability of a great team's ability to make adjustments to a repeat opponent. Now consider that SF is the #1 team in the NFL by DVOA. The second best team, the Patriots, played to a virtual tie against the Jets in New England and then went to New York and summarily obliterated the Jets by 74 on Thanksgiving day.
A lot of people have fought me this year on my opinion that the 49ers are a clear step ahead of the Seahawks (the gap is closing, but it definitely exists). I know we all hate Harbaugh and the Niners, but the team that Seattle is looking up at in the division may very well be the best team on the planet.
Additional sobering thought: Seattle's record is closer to the Rams' than it is to the 49ers'.
THE PICK: 49ERS
THE PICK: PATRIOTS
In the battle for most fucked-up quarterback situation in the world I just don't care at all. Like, at all. Everything about this affair indicates that it will just be one giant casserole of silliness. I'll take the Jets to win (bad teams, home team) but the Cards to cover (+4.5).
THE PICK: JETS
The Bucs had a chance to move ahead of the Seahawks for the final NFC playoff spot last week, but came up one point short against the Falcons. The apparent ma
(s)tur (b)ation of Josh Freeman can more realistically be chalked up to having actual talent around him and the additions of Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson have turned Tampa Bay's squad into the tenth best offense in the NFL. Accompany that with the league's 15th best defense and you've got a team with a real reckonable shot at the post season.
Here's the trouble, though. They'll be playing the #3 offense and #5 defense. On the road. Tampa may cover the touchdown that LV is giving them, but they shouldn't beat a team as good as Denver in Denver. Not as long as they're employing 2012's (and history's) best quarterback.
THE PICK: BRONCOS
Bad teams? Home team.
THE PICK: RAIDERS
Norv Turner is still the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He's still the head coach of the San Diego Chargers because of his incredible aptitude for winning nigh-meaningless late-season games to string out his carcass of a career for another season; games like this one against off-day bipolar teams like the Bengals (three-game winning streak followed immediately by a four-game losing streak followed immediately by a three-game winning streak?).
I doubt Cincy's fortitude, honestly, and am banking on the Chargers taking advantage of the unmatched HFA that NFL teams enjoy.
THE PICK: CHARGERS
If I (correctly) picked the Steelers to lose on the road to a 2-8 Browns team because Charlie Batch is their starting QB, why would I pick them to win on the road against a 9-2 Ravens team?
THE PICK: RAVENS
Everything I've said about Charlie Batch applies to Nick Foles, for completely different reasons. The Eagles offense (ie: an offense with weeble-wobbles for an offensive line and sans DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy) isn't very well-suited for a mostly immobile rookie quarterback.
This is Vegas' biggest spread (-10) of the week and that's not a line I'm gonna mess with. For the first seven or so games of the season, I would've given the Eagles a real shot at winning this one, but with an honorable dead-man-walking at coach and all of the team's best players hurt, Philly is too overmatched to even win this game at home, let alone in Dallas.
THE PICK: COWBOYS
This one has more to do with the Giants than it does with the 'Skins. What I mean by that is, say what you want about Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, or anything else -- New York (7th in DVOA) is capable of playing the best football in the NFL. We saw that when they annihilated the 49ers in San Fran and we all watched them dismember the Packers last week. If that version of this team shows up, it's curtains for Washington.
If the team that lost to Dallas at home and was taken apart by the Bengals shows up, then the Redskins have shown they're capable of knocking off a team that's having an off day. With a mostly healthy offense for the first time in a month and a half and a defensive line that's downright terrorizing, the Giants are poised for their patented late-season gelling and may very well be one of the toughest outs in the postseason. I'm counting on the good version of that team showing up.
THE PICK: GIANTS
As usual, contact me via Twitter to find out where to send my 5% cut of your winnings.
Jacson's 2012 record: 119-56-1 (.676)
Vegas' 2012 record: 112-64-2