Friday, September 23, 2011

Week Three NFL Picks: A Little Help from the I Ching

One thing I have learned from doing this is that picking NFL games is hard. After two weeks my record stands two and a half games under the .500 mark. I have been remarkably right about some games and teams and equally wrong about just as many. The problem with trying to predict what happens in the NFL is so difficult because everything is always changing. Players have really good days or really bad days sometimes, players get hurt, and with 22 players always on the field, players no one ever expected to make a difference will burst onto the scene suddenly due to a combination of matchup and opportunity.
While watching game film and reading everything online I can find are great ways to learn a lot about the teams, a tool for understanding change itself is useful for making sense out of all this raw data. And so, this week I have enlisted the Book of Changes, the I Ching (Yi Jing 易经) to help me make my NFL picks. The I Ching is at least over 2000 years old and perhaps much older than that. It is the oldest of the Taoist classics and has been used by the Chinese and by celebrities to forecast future conditions for centuries.
When you ask the I Ching a question, you do not get a yes/ no answer back. Taoism holds that the only constant thing in nature in change and a man’s success depends on how ably he can adapt to this change. The ancient Chinese sages were obsessed with change and studied all the ways it commonly comes about. An I Ching reading is a hexagram made up of two of the eight trigrams which represent the basic elements; wind, water, mountain, fire, earth, swamp, thunder, sky. The combination of two trigrams, two elements interacting with each other, describes the nature of how this change will happen, and each of the 64 possible permutations has separate meanings and interpretations.
The way it works is this: I throw three coins six times. Each round of three gives me one line in the hexagram. A tails counts for a Yin, while heads is a Yang. The first three lines and the last three lines correspond to a different trigram based on the combination and two trigrams come together to make the hexagram. All change in the I Ching comes from the interplay of the two cosmic forces of Yin and Yang, so the manner and frequency of the two describes which way the forces are leaning, thus, we can forecast the change. Alright, let’s go to the lines!
LAST WEEK 7-8-1 SEASON 14-17-1 
Lines taken from ESPN Pig Skin Pick-Em Game
I Ching readings taken from http://www.ichingonline.net/index.php
My pick in bold.
Sunday 1 PM EST
49ers @ Bengals -2.5
Will the Bengals beat the 49ers by 3 or more points at home Sunday?
46. Sheng / Ascendency:
Beneath the soil, the seedling pushes upward toward the light;
To preserve his intergrity, The Superior Man contents himself with small gains that eventually lead to great accomplishment.
I think here the I Ching is talking about Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals. They beat the Browns at home and their rookie signal caller almost led them back to a victory in Denver which is a very hard place to play on the road. They are the team who has shown the marks of improvement this year, while the 49ers have a new coach, but seem be the same old disappointing team that will let down a bunch of people that predicted once again that they would win their weak division. They needed two return touchdowns to beat the terrible Seahawks in Week 1 and blew a late lead last week against the Cowboys in a game that could have been a huge statement for them. Dalton might not wow you in the box score, but is showing progress every week and is starting to prove he may be a serviceable quarterback even as a rookie. 
Patriots @ Bills (+8.5)
Will the Bills win or lose by less than 9 points against the Patriots Sunday in Buffalo? 
 11. Tai / Peace:
Heaven and Earth embrace, giving birth to peace.
The small depart, the great approach.
Success.
Good Fortune.
The two trigrams of heaven and earth meet producing the peace hexagram. Peace is not usually a word that we associate with a game like football, but I find this very fitting to this game. Neither defense has been very impressive so far. While Tom Brady is on pace to shatter every individual season passing record, the defense has already given up 45 points in two games. Meanwhile, the Bills defense gave up 35 points last week to a Jason Campbell quarterbacked offense! Peace means nothing drastically different from what we expect will happen. I think both defenses will struggle to stop the other team’s offense and another shootout seems likely. The Patriots have won 15 straight over the Bills and while I don’t see that trend changing either, nine points is too much to give an explosive Bills offense at home. One fantasy note: with Aaron Hernandez out, expect Chad Ochocinco to replace him as the deep threat in the offense and have his first big game as a Pat.
Dolphins @ Browns -2.5
Will the Dolphins beat the Browns in Cleveland or lose by less than 3 points?
45. Cui / Gathering
The Lake rises by welcoming and receiving Earth’s waters,
Success follows this course.
Making an offering will seal your good fortune.
A goal will be realized now.
 I’ve picked the Dolphins the last two weeks and got burned by them both times. However, they were in both games against two good opponents, the Patriots and Texans, but giving up big plays at the crucial moments cost them the games along with any chances to win me a bet. There is the talent there to be a great defense with Sean Smith and Vontae Davis at the corners, Big Paulie Soliai in the middle and Cameron Wake supplying the pass rush. The I Ching is telling me that this is the week they put it all together and have a dominant defensive outing against a Browns offense that lacks playmakers. Plus, if you look at their home and road records over the past two years, the Dolphins have a much better record away from Miami.
Broncos @ Titans -6.5
Will the Titans beat the Broncos by 7 or more points at home on Sunday?
2. Kun/ Receptivity: If you persist in futile efforts to be the shaper rather than the shaped, you will completely miss this unique opportunity.
The Titans know who they are as a team, even if it hasn’t wholly been shown yet. They want to run the ball, control the clock, and let their defense and Chris Johnson win the game for them. A funny thing has happened these last two weeks though. Teams have been focusing on stopping Chris Johnson first and foremost, and last week this opened things up for Matt Hasselbeck and Kenny Britt to spark a huge upset over the Ravens. The Titans aren’t fighting or forcing anything. They did a great job last week of taking what the Ravens defense gave to them. This will continue against the Broncos at home where Chris Johnson will make Denver pay if they instead decide to try to stop the Titans’ unexpected newfound passing game.
Lions @ Vikings +3.5
Will the Lions win at the Vikings by 4 or more points?
8. Bi / Holding Together
Good fortune is possible.
Cast the coins again to discover if you the qualities needed to lead such a group.
Then there will be no error.
Those uncertain will gradually join.
Those who join too late will meet with misfortune.
This is the final call for boarding on the Lions bandwagon. Remember how Matt Stafford was always getting hit and thus, hurt, in his first few seasons. This year, the Lions are the only team to have not yet given up a sack. This team is gelling together and believe that they’re already a good team. For a young team oozing with talent, that’s a dangerous mind set. No need to cast the coins again, Stafford has what it takes to lead this team.
Texans @ Saints -3.5
Will the Saints at home beat the Texans by 4 or more points?
35. Wu Wang 无妄/ The Unexpected
 Thunder rolls beneath Heaven, as is its nature and place.
Exceptional Progress if you are mindful to keep out of the way of the natural flow.
It would be a fatal error to try to alter its course.
Drew Brees is playing like a force of nature. The Saints’ offense is an efficient, well-oiled machine and the Texans are next. The Texans made improving the defense a priority in the off-season and they have been much better against their opponents thus far. The only problem is that said opponents were the Manningless Colts and the Dolphins. The Texans should try to run the ball, control the time of possession and stop the run on the other side of the ball as well. They’re not going to stop Brees and the passing game and if they try to get in the way of his flow, they will be annihilated.
Giants @ Eagles -7.5
Will the Eagles beat the Giants in Philly by 8 or more points?
17. Sui / Following
Thunder beneath the Lake’s surface.
The Superior Person allows himself plenty of sheltered rest and recuperation while awaiting a clear sign to follow.
Supreme success.
No mistakes if you keep to your course.
The Eagles gave away a game they should have won last Sunday night. Michael Vick was diagnosed with a concussion and a lacerated tongue after bumping into one of his own offensive lineman. Vick wanted to go back in the game, but he was held out. The suddenly Kafka-esque offense could not quite keep up with the Falcons. I think the Eagles understood that it was just one game and held to their plan of being cautious with Vick. Although there are some conflicting reports, some have said that Vick appeared fine after the game and no doubt the Eagles could have played down the concussion and let Vick reenter the game to get revenge against his former employers. But no, he was held off the field so that he could play next Sunday in a divisional matchup and in the Sundays to come. Half the Giants team now could use plenty of rest and recuperation, but they won’t get it as their second and third stringers will be futilely chasing Vick around all day.
Jaguars @ Panthers -3.5
Will the Panthers beat the Jaguars by 4 or more in Carolina Sunday?
64. Wei Ji 未济/ End In Sight
Fire ascends above the Water:
The Superior Man examines the nature of things and keeps each in its place.
Too anxious the young fox gets his tail wet, just as he completes his crossing.
To attain success, be like the man and not like the fox.
Two young foxes, I mean rookie quarterbacks, square off in Charlotte. While Cam Newton has thrown for over 400 yards in each of his first two games, the Panthers are still 0-2. They did give the Super Bowl champs all they could handle last Sunday, though, and they seem like a much better team than the Jaguars. Rookie Blaine Gabbert makes his first career starts after seeing some relief duty in the blowout loss to the Jets last week. Both defenses are underrated and will make life difficult for the opposing quarterbacks, but Gabbert is most likely to make the big mistakes and get his tail wet, while Cam will check down to the running backs (Jonathan “The Daily Show” Steward was targeted 8 times for 8 catches and 100 yards last week) or tuck the ball and take off himself, playing to what the Jaguars defense will give him.
Sunday 4:05 PM EST
Chiefs @ Chargers -14.5
Will the Chiefs win at San Diego or lose by less than 15 points?
49. Ge / Revolution
Fire ignites within the Lake, defying conditions that would deny it birth or survival.
Renewed forces, however, will provide fresh energy for exceptional progress.
Persevere.
All differences vanish.
The third game for the Chiefs cannot possibly be as bad as the first two. The first game they got blown out by the Bills and lost their best defensive player, Eric Berry, to a serious knee injury. In Week 2, they got blown out by the Lions and lost their best offensive player, Jamaal Charles, to a serious knee injury. It’s always darkest before dawn, Chiefs fans. There are still players and coaches on this team who don’t think their season is over yet. Dexter McCluster is a big play guy that can do a lot of the same things Charles did for that offense. Maybe he has a breakout game here and takes the Chargers by surprise. They may not win, but expect to see some balancing off of how bad the Chiefs have been the first two weeks. They did beat out the Chargers for the AFC West title last year.
Jets @ Raiders +3.5
Will the Raiders win at home against the Jets or lose by 3 or less points?
62. Zhong Fu  中浮/ Center Returning
The gentle wind ripples the lake’s surface:
The Superior Man finds the common ground between points of contention; wearing away rigid perspectives that would lead to fatal error.
Come here, let me tell you a secret: The Raiders don’t stink anymore. In the parity mad world of the NFL, if a team stinks for long enough and gets enough good draft picks, even if they blow a few, or even several like the Raiders, eventually the trend will reverse itself. Just look at the Lions. The Raiders’ talent that they have been collecting over the past decade of dismal seasons is finally starting to turn into some competitive football and yes, wins even. The Jets will come into the first Black Hole’s first sell-out in almost two years and try to play a physical brand of football. The Raiders won’t be pushed around though, as both defenses will try to impose their physical will on their opponent. I like the Raiders because they’re at home and are much better than the Jets at running the ball right now. The extremes and outliers must eventually return to balance.
Ravens @ Rams +3.5
Will the Ravens beat the Rams by 4 or more points in St. Louis Sunday?
7. Shi/ Leading
You must gain support from others.
Find a way to make other want to see you objectives met as badly as you want it.
No doubt thrilled with their Week 1 home dominance over their arch-rival Steelers, The Ravens came out and laid an egg in Nashville last Sunday. They couldn’t match the intensity of the home Titans and Joe Flacco had one of his worst days as a professional quarterback. The leaders for the Ravens need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. One game could be the difference between a playoff berth and a bye week or a playoff berth and an early vacation. Ray Lewis needs to set the example and get his team pumped up, while Joe Flacco needs to learn to step up his game when his team is struggling. If the leaders in the Ravens locker room don’t make their presence felt on their teammates, this team could be heading for another disappointing week on the road, but given how pissed RayRay probably was after the Titans game, I wouldn’t bet against the Ravens not bouncing back.
Sunday 4:15 PM EST
Falcons @ Buccaneers -1.5
Will the Falcons win or lose by one point against the Buccaneers in Tampa?
1. Qian/ Creative Force
Heaven above and Heaven below:
Heaven in constant motion.
With the strength of the dragon, the Superior man steels himself for constant activity.
The Buccaneers changed very little about their team from last year. The team did surprise everyone by winning ten games, and the Bucs made it a priority to resign the free agents on their offensive line, which they successfully did. Yet, I don’t think this season is going to be as kind to the Bucs. They will be facing a tougher schedule and their division games are no picnic either. The Falcons won 13 games last year, including both over Tampa Bay, but still weren’t satisfied with their roster. They signed a borderline elite pass rusher in Ray Edwards and traded up in the draft to grab receiver Julio Jones. They knew that to compete in their division they needed more weapons to take the pressure off Michael Turner and Roddy White, and a pass rusher to put opposite of John Abraham. They continue to change and evolve, never being satisfied or complacent, but always adapting their team to the trends in the NFL. Atlanta will be in the conversation for Super Bowl favorites all year.
Packers @ Bears +3.5
Will the Packers beat the Bears in Chicago by 4 or more points?
18. Gu/ Correcting
You are blessed with an opportunity to resuscitate that which others have abandoned as beyond repair.
The ruin wasn’t caused by evil intention, but by indifference to decay.
This is a time of recovery, renewal, regeneration.
This game is all about correction in the NFC North. Don’t buy that the Bears are a different team at home or that they give Aaron Rodgers problems, the Green Bay quarterback is 5-2 career as a starter versus the Bears. The Bears rode a historically lucky season, winning a high percentage of their close games and recovering an unusually high percent of balls fumbled, to win the division last year as the Pack had to settle for a Wild Card and a Lombardi Trophy. The Bears are the 3rd best team in this division this year and struggled to contain Drew Brees and the Saints’ explosive offense this week. After letting the Panthers get an early lead on them last week, the Packers will come out flying against their division rival Sunday.
Cardinals @ Seahawks
Will the Seahawks win or lose by 3 points or less Sunday at home against the Cardinals?
57. Xun  / Gentle, Penetrating Wind
Small, persistent, focused effort brings success.
Gentle persuasion is the key in this instance.
All persuasion should be almost unfelt, yet consistent and persistent.
In a game between two bad NFC West teams, the subtlest advantage can make all the difference. After the Seahawks opened the season with losses in San Francisco and in Pittsburgh, they mercifully get to host their home opener. Qwest Field is one of the loudest stadiums in football and one of the only ones that give their team a significant home advantage. The constant, persistent influence of the crowd will wear down the Cardinals and force them into mistakes, giving the Seahawks a chance to get Pete Carroll his first win of the year.
Sunday 8:20 PM EST
Steelers @ Colts +10.5
 Will the Steelers beat the Colts by 11 points or more in Indy Sunday night?
41. Sun / Diminishing
The stoic mountain drains its excess waters to the lake below:
The Superior Man curbs his anger and sheds his desires.
After years of maintained dominance, or at least, relevance, the Colts have come crashing back to Earth. After so long on top, the fall from grace was inevitable, but no one knew when exactly it would happen. With Peyton on the shelf for the foreseeable future, the Colts have months of meager success ahead. The Steelers have their weaknesses too, but they have enough to crush a totally lost Colts team. The Steelers may be on the decline as well, and their own position in the NFL elite may be precariously balanced, but they are light years ahead of their opponents at this point in the season.
Redskins @ Cowboys -6.5
Will my Redskins beat the Cowboys in Dallas Monday night?
33. Dun / Retreating
It is not a surrender, but a regrouping.
Retreat from this conflict is actually an advance toward your own center.
You move toward balance, and thus a much stronger position.
I like the Redskins so much in this game that I don’t even want the candy. The Cowboys would do well to heed these words of wisdom. They are coming into a big game, Monday night in Jerry Land against the first place (yeah, that’s right) Redskins. The problem for the Cowboys is that Tony Romo has a punctured lung, Felix Jones a separated shoulder, Dez Bryant missed last week with a quad injury and Miles Austin is out for at least a few games. Rather than make these players play and risk further injury against a nasty Redskins defense, I think they should rest their playmakers and take their lumps like men. Even though we saw the bad Rex Grossman return last week, giving away points against the Cardinals by turning the ball over, that ultimately lost me the cover, they still won and Rex can have another big day against a banged up and struggling Dallas secondary.

Sacred Dao, Mother Nature guide me……..

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