I Ching Week 11 NFL Picks
Lines are taken from the ESPN Pig Skin Pick ‘Em Game and my picks are in BOLD.
Last Week 9-7
Thursday 8:20 PM EST
Jets @ Broncos +4.5
Hexagram 47: 困Difficulty: Maybe there is one God that has inspired all the different world religions, because the I Ching seems to love Tim Tebow too. This hexagram is about accepting your difficulties and confinements and turning inward to find your true self. This is what Denver coach John Fox has been forced to do since turning his polarizing young quarterback this season. He has progressively changed the offense over the last month to play to Tebow’s strengths.
This change was shown in its complete conversion last week. In the first half, Tim Tebow was 0-2 passing, but the Broncos led the game on the back of his rushing touchdown. His final line was 2-8 passing for 69 (69! And no, he wouldn’t appreciate that pun) yards and a TD plus 43 yards and another score rushing and a win from the Broncos, their 3rd in the 4 games since Tim took over.
The Jets’ problems stem from not realizing their own limitations. Last week against the Patriots, the Jets called over 40 passing plays for Mark Sanchez while giving only 20 total carries to their running backs. And it wasn’t because they were getting blown out; the Patriots were only up by one score the whole game until a touchdown at the end of the 3rd quarter.
I think that Denver’s new attack is designed for Tebow to run defenses to exhaustion at home in the low oxygen, Mile High atmosphere. I think the Jets will continue to give Mark Sanchez chances to prove he can be a great quarterback, even if he hurts their overall fortunes in winning. And I think the Broncos defense is better than people think, and that rookie linebacker Von Miller has made the biggest impact, yes, even bigger than Tebow, in changing the fortunes of this team. With the Broncos at home and getting points, the Jets traveling cross country for a Thursday game after a draining Sunday night loss to a rival, and the fact that no one has been able to shut down Denver’s new option, running attack so far, I’ll take the Broncos and Tebow again to upset.
Update: Broncos win 17-13
Sunday 1:00 PM EST
Bills @ Dolphins -2.5
Hexagram 49: 革Revolution. Revolution indicates radical change at hand. One of the factors involved is a renewed way things present themselves. The Fins (or is it ‘phins? Both make sense. Why has no one ever addressed this?) started the season in such dramatically terrible fashion that it took everyone a while to notice they were actually playing better. Starting with their 20-17 loss to the Giants, the Dolphins' defense and running game started to come to life. Running back Reggie Bush is emblematic of the change in the way his team is being perceived. Bush has been regarded as a bust, unworthy of the second overall pick he was drafted with. People unanimously decided he could never be an every down back that carries the load for his team, although the Saints never put him in that position during his time there. Through the first six games, this view seemed to be accurate, but in the last three weeks, Reggie has turned in maybe the best three game span of his career, doubling his season rushing total in half as many games and scoring three touchdowns when he had zero going into this stretch. The Bills are coming off two straight losses in which they were run all over on. Giving up over 120 yards rushing to the Jets and over 160 yards last week to the Cowboys killed their chances to win those games. If they cannot stop the run and get their defense off the field Sunday in Miami, they will lose this one too, and their once bright playoff dreams will be all but dead by the time the frigid Buffalo December is here. As the Stark family words go, “Winter is coming.”
Bengals @ Ravens -7.5
Hexagram 11: 泰Pervading. With pervading, the I Ching says, comes "the small going, the great coming, significance growing." This surely will make the Ravens happy. The Ravens have showed up in tremendous fashion against other contenders, but have been woefully underwhelming in playing teams they should easily beat. In five games against teams with a winning record, the Ravens are 4-1 with a point differential of +43. In four games against teams with a losing record, they are 2-2 with a point differential of +23. If we remove the Week 3 30 point win over the Rams, Baltimore is 1-2 with a point differential of -7 against Arizona, Seattle and Jacksonville, with all of those games taking place in the last month. I expect the Ravens to beat their division rival soundly to continue this trend, setting up another stiff test next Thursday against the 49ers. However, maybe B-more fans should be worried about the next two games more, against the Browns and Colts.
Jaguars @ Browns +0.5
Hexagram 53: 漸 Gradual Progress. One of these teams has been making gradual progress to playing better football, while the other has sunken to the depths after a promising start. The Jaguars sabotaged the opening part of their schedule after releasing starting quarterback David Gerrard on the eve of the season, but have managed to fight back to respectability. Over their last four games, they are 2-2 with wins over Baltimore's present and past team, a 17-13 loss to the Steelers and a 24-14 loss to the Texans. A ten point loss to Houston may not sound overly impressive, but if you consider that in the Texans' 4 game winning streak going into this week's bye, including the Jacksonville game, they won each game by an average of 22.5 points, so the Jaguars were able to stay closer than anyone else and that was playing on the road in Houston. Meanwhile, the Browns only win since September was a 6-3 thriller against the Seahawks. God must hate Cleveland as much as he loves Tim Tebow.
Cowboys @ Redskins +7.5
Hexagram 46: 升Ascension. The NFC East is a weird division. The Cowboys have been a pretty consistent team, with the only exceptions being their two point win over the Redskins and their blow-out loss to the Eagles. Both games now look inexplicable to the outside observer. In all their other games, they have won the games they were supposed to handily and competed until the final whistle with some of the NFL's best. Their only other three losses are to the Jets, Lions and Patriots and all those games were decided by 4 points or less. They also have the overtime win at San Francisco and last week's destruction of the Bills as feathers in their cap. Crazy things do happen in this rivalry, but with the way rookie running back Demarco Murray has been running, and how brutal the Redskins have been at stopping the run the last month or so, I can't see any other outcome than a sad, sad day at FedEx Field. I don’t even have the tears for this game. I’ve never been more apathetic during Dallas Week.
Panthers @ Lions -6.5
Hexagram 31: 咸 Stimulation. Both of these teams are going through rough patches and are in need of some stimulating to get them back on track. This hexagram portends unifying and conjoining various parts into a more effective whole. Unfortunately for Lions fans, I don't think this will be the week Detroit puts the pieces back together. The Lions have lost 3 of 4 after starting the season 5-0. They lost any semblance of a running game when Jahvid Best was concussed in the first of those losses vs. the 49ers, and Matt Stafford has been erratic throwing the ball lately, although he says playing with his fractured finger isn't hampering him. I think this game will come down to who can run the ball more effectively, and that edge has to go to Carolina. Both teams are horrifying at stopping the run, ranked 27th and 28th respectably in that category, but the Panther's will have Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams carrying the ball while Stafford will be handing off with a broken finger to Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams. Advantage: Carolina.
Buccaneers @ Packers -14.5
Hexagram 55: 豐Abounding Fortune. The I Ching isn't stupid enough to bet against Aaron Rodgers, not this week anyway. Abounding signifies increasing to fullness and profusion, like the passing yards and touchdowns Favre's successor has racked up with such ease this year. Tampa has been a very up and down team, but with injuries on their defense and the troubling inconsistency of Josh Freeman, I see this as another down game. There is a note of caution here as this hexagram also tells us that this abundance is nearing its completion, so the Packers' days of being undefeated may be numbered. Next Thursday, they play the Lions in the first meaningful Thanksgiving Day game played in Detroit in at least 20 years or so. That might be the day the Packers finally fall. Sunday will not be.
Raiders @ Vikings -1.5
Hexagram 56: 旅 The Wanderer. The wanderer always shows up when strange things are happening. The oddest part about this game to me is that the 2-7 Vikings are favored at home over the 5-4 AFC West leading Oakland Raiders. The silver and black have been terrible against the run this year, so I guess the logic at work is that Adrian Peterson will run wild and deliver his team a win against a Raiders team that some think is a tad overrated. But as bad as Oakland's run defense is, Minnesota's pass defense is even worse. They're coming off a short week after giving up 45 points to the Packers Monday Night and will be without their top corner Antoine Winfield the rest of the year. The Raiders have been off resting and planning for this game since last Thursday night. We have the first example I can remember of a game between a team on a short week and a team on an extra long week. If Carson Palmer throws the ball half as well as he did last week against the Chargers, I expect the Raiders to win easily. If Carson can keep it up, the Raiders offense will be truly scary once Darren McFadden is healthy again.
*note: Call it coincidence, but every time this hexagram has popped up for me this season, the road has covered (all underdogs) and won every game straight up excepting the Ravens’ (-12.5) 30-27 win over the Cardinals in Week 8. Just saying.
Sunday 4:05 PM EST
Seahawks @ Rams -2.5
Hexagram 6: 訟 Conflict. Conflict implies strength meeting strength and cunning meeting cunning. It also tells us that argument, demands of justice or making claims play a part as well. This reminds me of all the talk of how the Rams were going to win the NFC West in the preseason. Let's put aside the fact that the 49ers are running away with the division and consider how this must have made the Seahawks feel. They have owned that division for the better part of the last decade and as summer began turning to fall, the experts were giving it away to a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003. I don’t know a lot about this great divisional rivalry, but I imagine there is some bad blood between these two teams. Both have showed signs of life recently, but I'll give the edge to Seattle because of the marked improvement in their offensive line play and running game in recent weeks against the Rams’ porous defense.
Cardinals @ 49ers -9.5
Hexagram 23: 剝Splitting Apart. The Cardinals are another team that stank like a rotting corpse through the first half of the season only to return Lazarus style to relevance. The last three weeks they blew a big lead to lose by 3 in Baltimore and beat the Rams and Eagles. The 49ers have shown no sign of letting up, and most people have them penciled in for 13 or so wins already, but I don't quite buy it. Hexagram 23 points to an old cycle ending and a new one beginning, or as it says, "No matter how strong something is originally built, it will disintegrate with time." With a big game Thanksgiving night coming next, I can see the ‘Niners overlooking their suddenly feisty division rival. I think the Cardinals get the upset or the 49ers escape with a win in a tight contest.
Sunday 4:15 PM EST
Titans @ Falcons -6.5
Hexagram 9: 小 畜Small Accumulating. With three straight wins going into last week, the Falcons seemed to be on the verge of catching fire. I would say their own coach had more to do with cooling them off than New Orleans did. Atlanta went for it on 4th and short deep in their own territory, and in failing to convert, virtually handed the game to the Saints. The Titans seem to be on the upswing as well with their domination last week of Carolina and the first signs of life out the running back formerly known as CJ2K. Both teams will want to run the ball against the other and this is where the Falcons have the biggest edge. The dirty birds are 4th best in the league against the run while the former Oilers rank 22nd in the same category.
Chargers @ Bears -3.5
Hexagram 61: 中 孚Centering. Here the position in the center allows us to observe the inner and outer changes taking place. The change for the Chargers is a surprising one. After years of being considered a super talented team poised on taking the next step and making it to a Super Bowl, this team doesn’t seem the same as the recent past edition of the Bolts. Their explosive offense has been nowhere near as explosive without Darren Sproles, and Phillip Rivers has been playing very pedestrian at quarterback this season. I don't think their defense does any one thing particularly well and they lack the guys who make big plays on both sides of the ball after having been seemingly stacked with them in the recent past. Meanwhile, as I called the Bears lucky last year at the beginning of the season and unlikely to repeat that performance this year, they have continued to get timely big plays, win close games, and avoid the injury bug, just as they did a year ago. They are sitting pretty comfortably in the NFC at 6-3. They have weaknesses but guys like Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers, and Brian Urlacher all have impacted games with huge individual efforts when the team needed it most.
Sunday 8:20 PM EST
Eagles @ Giants -3.5
Hexagram 58: 兌 Open. If the Eagles have been consistent in one thing this year, it has been in surprising everyone. When they were preseason and early season Super Bowl favorites, they got off to their notorious slow start, although all their losses were in close games to good teams; Giants, 49ers, Falcons and Bills at Buffalo. When everyone thought they were finished, they reeled off two straight big division wins to put themselves back in the conversation. When everyone thought they were starting to put it all back together, they lost two straight to put themselves virtually out of the playoff picture. Now that everyone is singing their dirge again, I expect Vick to play and put up a signature Vick primetime performance. Hexagram 58 predicts an open field with exchange and interaction encouraged. If this is the case, it will favor Vick and the Eagles.
Monday 8:30 PM EST
Chiefs @ Patriots -14.5
Hexagram 64: 未 濟 Completion Unfinished. This is too many points for New England to give for me. The Patriots have beaten a team more than 15 points only once this year and that was last week against the Jets. They have also won two games by 14 points, but that was in Weeks 1 and 2 against the Dolphins and Chargers. This spread is so high because Matt Cassell is out for the season and Tyler Palko will make his first start. I don’t think this will make that big of a difference. The Pats will have to score a lot of points through the air to cover this spread, and the Chiefs still have a pretty good pass defense and a great Brady rusher in Tamba Hali. Furthermore, Kansas City’s offense is based on running the ball a lot and working the short passing game, so I don’t think the Cassel to Palko downgrade will make that big of a difference in the game.