Friday, January 15, 2010

9 comments Upset Specials

Ah, I love the smell of...what's that...upsets in the morning?


Line: New Orleans -7.0

Pick: Arizona 38-31

1) That finish. New Orleans defense (more on this later) has been OK, it's the offense that has blown up for the Saints. And if they ain't scoring, they ain't winning. They are not the same team since the New England game, especially on the ground. They averaged 90ypg in their last five games. Down from 150.5 in their first eleven contests - more than sixty yards. They averaged 20.6ppg, down from 37.0. In fact it's fallen every game for the last five - 33, 26, 17, 17, 10. These are massive, massive falls from grace we are talking about here over a significant chunk of the season - they played only one playoff team in this run. Their final three games, they conceded 7 turnovers and had a give/take of -5. In the remaining 13 games - just 21 turnovers and +19. I'm not giving them as much credit as a typical #1 seed. Tampa Bay for God's sake!

2) New Orleans defense is worse. It is. Jabari Greer is really good, I'll give you that and it will make a difference in this game. But. They don't have enough defensive backs. The wideout on wideout matchup is a huge plus for the Cards. It's this simple for New Orleans, and this is true of most pseudo-gimmicky, sudden turn around defenses - they need turnovers to be successful. If they aren't getting them they aren't effective. This isn't necessarily a recent thing, it's just how they play. And that's always going to make it very difficult to be consistant.

Zona, on the other hand (despite giving up 45 points), have a number of proven defensive playmakers in the playoffs. Dansby, Dockett, Wilson, Rogers-Cromartie. If this contest is going to have a lot of points (it will) then it's likely to be defensive playmaking that will count. I think Arizona has a lot more ability to make a gamebreaking play.

3) Boldin is back. Warner is at his best. They have better receivers, better secondary, better front seven. I mean what are we going with New Orleans on? Homefield? They've lost their last two games here. Their offense was in free fall which doesn't inspire confidence and they are just meeting an unstoppable oppenent in the Fitz/Boldin tandem in particular. If you're going to stop the Cardinals this year, I think you're going to have to have an excellent answer to this passing game. New Orleans clearly fails this test. These are two teams going in very different directions - don't be on the wrong side of history.


Line: Indianapolis -6.5

Pick: Indianapolis 30-14

1) Manning.

2) About this Ray Rice thing. And that's basically all Baltimore have shown you all year, they are regressing in the passing game. So let's look at particulary from the now popular perspective - Indy are too small to handle a very strong (and Baltimore's is that) rushing attack.

Firstly, they do play 4-3 and that alone should help a little as opposed to New England. But looking at Indy's record this year. They allowed less than 100 on 3.2ypc against the Ravens earlier this year, and I don't believe the Ravens are a better team since then. Flacco's last three passing games are 166, 102 and last week an awful 34 yards (4-10). How can you possibly be buying this offense, Rice or no. It's too many eggs in one basket, and I don't really believe Baltimore's defense can remotely control Manning, so points will need to be scored.

Rice is a really good player, he really is, but it's not going to be enough.

3) The same old factors, but all towards Indy. They are better in close games. They have beaten Baltimore seven straight times. They have not lost when they have played their best players. Everyone is fully fit and rested a week (yes I am aware of their record after a break but there's such a wealth of experience here you have to expect they will handle the occasion better). I don't really believe Baltimore is even convinced they are an exceptional team. This is a bit like Cincy last week - you never quite bought into them ever this season and you know in your heart, they don't belong here. And in Indianapolis? Not gonna happen, Indy in a laugher. I will say, however, if they do win, they have to be considered a serious giant killer.


Line: San Diego -7.0

Pick: San Diego 20-19

1) Holy shit do you realise just how good these Jets are at playing D? I sort of vaguely alluded to it in picking them after last week but sort of left it at "oh, first in D and rushing, that's interesting". This week I'm looking into it and dudes and dudettes, it is seriously impressive stuff. Do you know how much better they were than anyone else? Dial up a "way" on the meter.

They conceded 252.3 yards per game this year - 32 yards better than Green Bay and nearly 50 yards a game better than third place Baltimore! And they are tailor made for the Chargers new pass heavy offense - 1st with 153.7 yards per game. They are first in scoring defense with 14.8, a number they held Cincy to last week. They conceded over 2 less first downs than any other team in football. They led in 3rd% against. QB's threw for 51.7%, next closest was 54.4%. New York has not given up more than 15 points in a game since Nov 22. They are seriously, seriously good.

I know what you're thinking; who was this against? Here are teams on their schedule and their ranking in offense this year - 4th Houston, 3rd New England (2), 1st New Orleans, 16th Atlanta, Indianapolis 9th. They gave up a combined 96 points against these teams. Less than 16 points a game. They played the 1st, 3rd and 4th offenses in the game in 25% of their games and came out 500 yards better than everyone else. These guys are real good, and no reason they couldn't show off against San Diego.

2) But what about on offense? Well San Diego are on their fourth nose tackle I think, and their results against the run have demonstrated what a big deal that is. San Diego finished an OK 20th against the run, but in reality look a lot worse than that. As well as the massive (literally) loss of Williams, Merriman has proven to me repeatedly that he's pretty much useless at anything except rushing the passer basically. He's just not a very intelligent football player, he can't read the offense at all, doesn't cover laterally, useless in coverage, questionable tackler. He can't even rush the passer anymore, he had just 4.0 sacks.

San Diego are no prize pig defensively, mediocre on almost every level. Mid pack in INT, 1st downs against, sacks, slightly above average in YPA against, well below in 3rd% against. Oh, and again that rushing number. If New York keep their nose clean here, with that defense, there's enough offense to win this game.

3) But...I can't pick them. Look it's too big a call. It's a huge road trip, San Diego are rested. Sanchez isn't even a normal rookie QB. He's a below average rookie QB. They've won eleven straight. I can't quite go there. Even though I have always questioned how talented San Diego are relative to their hype, (especially in the secondary) I have to admit, Rivers is pretty good. He should be able to pull it out for them. I do not put out the possibility of a Jets win here, I think it's close and the great thing about the spread is I can pick them to cover - relatively easily too.


Line: Minnesota -2.5

Pick: Dallas 24-20

1)Dallas are the best team in the NFC right now. They have the hottest quarterback (Warner possible exception), the best tight end, a solid set of receivers (I believe in Roy Williams) and an exceptional rushing game. A rushing game that is certainly the most talented, if not most proficient remaining in the playoffs. Their offensive line has been consistantly excellent for years.

Defensively, they may have the best pass rush of the remaining teams (arguable with Minny). It's a defense has allowed just 21 points in it's last three games. And to finish all that they were fourth in rush defense.

2) Conversely, Minnesota is a team in an identity crisis and full of holes. Their secondary is a sham, they are hurting in the linebacker corps. They do not know if they are a pass or rush first team. Peterson has been oddly dissapointing. They were -2 in give/take in their last five games and like Minnesota, there was not a lot of stiff competition they were up against. These were their last seven games - DET, SEA, CHC, @ARI, CIN, @CAR, @CHC, NYG. Pretty soft schedule. Minny went just 5-3 against that bunch. This team played Detroit twice, Cleveland, St.Louis, Seattle (in Minny) and a Giants team that was begging for the knife in week 17. Pardon me if I don't find them particulary compelling.

Plus, look - if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I'm calling it a duck. And right now, this sure as hell looks as though Farve is done and Peterson...doesn't seem like his year. They aren't ready for a team as good as Dallas, even at home.

3) The pass rush. As I confessed last week, I am a bit of a Dallas guy, and particulary a Romo guy. He's playing extremely well and for a long time he has been the best QB in the league at avoiding otherwise certain sacks (save maybe Big Ben). I cannot believe Favre can possibly compete in this arena against Ratliff, Ware and Spencer, it's too much pressure. He's 40 years old. Bryant McKinnie is like 6"8 and 380 pounds or something. Ware will make him look like Wil E. Cayote against him. Both pass rushes are of the highest quality but Dallas has the more mobile QB, better offensive line (at tackle at least) and also, perhaps tellingly, tight end. This area of the game will be key and I like Dallas.


KBilly said...

My picks for this weekend are up:

Bengoodfella said...

Ok, my picks are done but will go up early tomorrow. I think J.S. and I are still using Bill Simmons line for the game. Correct me if I am wrong J.S.

KBilly, so you have Cardinals, Ravens, Cowboys, Chargers? What was the spread you used for the games?

KBilly said...

These are the spreads I use

J.S. said...

Yeah, let's use Bill's as we can't exactly make him use Pinnacle's. The spread should be very close if not exactly what I've posted here. When Bill's go up (he does them so late!) then we can use that - everyone just post their score.

Jeremy Conlin said...

I like the Ravens (inexplicably, I can't explain it), Saints, Cowboys, and Chargers

If we're doing spreads, the only change I'd make is that I like the Jets to at least cover their spread, and they could possibly win that game outright. Don't rule that out.

Bengoodfella said...

Bill's spreads and picks are:

Saints +7
Colts +6
Cowboys -2.5
Jets -7

I can see the Ravens winning the Colts game and I can see the Jets winning as well. I was very torn this week.

KBilly said...

Bengoodfella...I think you have your pluses and minuses mixed up...

Colts and Saints are giving...Jets and BrokebackMountain Boys are getting.

KBilly said...

If that's how you read point spreads...You want to be my bookie???

Bengoodfella said...

Whoops I wrote that quickly before I went to go eat. I did it too quickly.


Saints -7
Colts -6
Cowboys +2.5
Jets +7

I should either (a) not type so quickly or (b) stick to just picking games and let someone else accurately type spreads.