2015 Week 13 NFL ATS Picks
Week 12 Review (Week 2-3, Season 30-29-1, All Time 176-154-3)
Week 12 was an exciting and frustrating reminder of how variable NFL games can be. The Steelers missed two easy tackles that would have sealed a 2 point loss and a 3.5 point cover. Though Pittsburgh outplayed Seattle as an underdog--as predicted here--they were unquestionably hurt by lopsided officiated. This tweet summed it up nicely:
But poor officiating cuts both ways, as the Broncos, who I picked at +3, needed several homefield calls to comeback from a 21-7 deficit. As much as I think the randomness of officiating gave me a loss with the Steelers, it also gave me a win with the Broncos.
The strangest game of the week was, well, very strange. After losing their starting QB to injury, the Browns put the game in the hands of Austin Davis, a third stringer who couldn't make the Rams' roster despite their profound need for QBs. Davis played incredibly well and the Browns found themselves in a tie game with the ball in Baltimore territory. However, even with two timeouts and 50 seconds to work with, the Browns were only able to run three plays before attempting a 51 yard field goal for the win. For many, the field goal was inconsequential as the game's line had gapped out to Browns -6, but jumping on this pick early in the week gave me a line of -2.5. Of course, Baltimore managed to block the kick and return it for a game winning touchdown as time expired.
Even with all of the unpredictability of the NFL, I firmly believe that over the long-run, good picking yields above zero returns. Though my picks are above .500, their return is negative. The goal for the remainder of this season is to bring that return back above zero, which starts with Week 13.
Week 13 picks
Arizona -5.5 @ St. Louis
2015 has been a disappointing season for the Rams. Before Week 1, it looked like the Rams' great front seven would finally be paired with an experienced secondary and a competent offense. Instead, the Rams have put forward a passing attack that would be below average even by 20th century standards, and the defense has failed to live up to the hype. To offset bad offense and an underperforming defense, the Rams have dialed up the aggressiveness over the second half of the season. While the Rams have made more impact plays, this style has led to a significant number of blown coverages and missed assignments. If ever there was a team that could take advantage of blown coverages, it's the 2015 Arizona Cardinals. With a veteran QB, dynamic skill position players, and a risk taking Head Coach, the Cardinals have gouged even the league's best defenses on their smallest mistakes. I think the Cardinals will gain yardage in bulk and blow out the Rams.
Seattle -1 @ Minnesota
I have liked Minnesota this year, picking them three times over their ten games. In that time, I have watched a fair amount of Teddy Bridgewater and I am confident in saying that he lacks the tools to be a standout NFL QB. He knows his offense and has shown incredible toughness, but he lacks both vision and arm strength. While good QBs have shredded the Seattle secondary this year, average ones have struggled. Unless the Vikings can run effectively on every down (a long shot against this defense), I don't think they stand a chance against the Seahawks.
Denver -4 @ San Diego
Under Manning, the Broncos struggled to run the ball. Manning was too slow to run Kubiak's stretches, and defenses didn't respect Manning's arm enough to give him easy run looks. Since Manning's injury, the Bronco's run game has come alive. Meanwhile, San Diego's defense has continued to struggle against the run, allowing over 120 yards per game. While it is difficult to take Denver with this much public support, the matchup is too good to pass up. I think the Broncos will run at will against the Chargers, and I expect the Denver defense to continue its rock solid play.
Dallas +4 @ Washington
For the second time this season, the Dallas Cowboys will be without Tony Romo for a prolonged period of time. With out their franchise QB, the Cowboys are 0-7 straight up and 1-6 against the spread. Many have also speculated that the Cowboys will tank the rest of their season after Romo's injury all but shut them out of the playoffs. It might make long-term sense for a team to tank one year to gain a better draft pick for the future, but try selling a team of professional athletes on that idea. I highly doubt that the Cowboys believe their season is done, and I am deeply confident they will play all out in a Monday night divisional rivalry game. Even without Romo, I still like Dallas' defense and offensive line. It might not be the prettiest game, but I think Dallas has a real shot to win on Monday night.