Today's piece is dedicated to Sean Taylor, my favorite player in NFL history, tragically taken away from us four years ago by an act of cowardly violence. RIP Sean Taylor.
Lines are taken from the ESPN Pig Skin Pick ‘Em Game and my picks are in BOLD.
Lines are taken from the ESPN Pig Skin Pick ‘Em Game and my picks are in BOLD.
Thanksgiving Day 2-1
Sunday 1 PM EST
Vikings @ Falcons -9.5
Hexagram 53: 漸 Development. The Falcons stand at 6-4 and have progressively gotten better throughout the season. The Vikings have lost 4 out of their last 5 and will be missing their work horse Adrian Peterson for at least this game. Both teams excel at stopping the run and struggle mightily against the pass, but the Falcons have the better quarterback by far to exploit their opponent’s weakness. One team is obviously getting better while the other is clearly getting worse.
Bills @ Jets -8.5
Hexagram 7: 師 The General. Since getting his lucrative new contract on Oct. 28th, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t done much to earn his new influx of cash. After starting out in terrific fashion in the shutout win over the Redskins in Toronto, the Bills and their Harvard grad field general have been embarrassed in three straight outings. They face a very similar team to them today; both are on losing streaks, in the same division, still holding onto playoff aspirations, but the Jets seem to have a superior team on paper. I think with Fred Jackson out of the year, the Bills will give Fitzpatrick a little more freedom to earn his pay check. The Jets’ defense is still stellar, but I think they struggle a little more in stopping speedier backs, so look for Jackson replacement C.J. Spiller to have a big day.
Browns @ Bengals -7.5
Hexagram 30: 師 Expanding Light. One way this hexagram can be interpreted is as a bird with strange plumage. That is the Red Rocket, Andy Dalton, in a nutshell. No one believed he could make the Bengals a winning team again. When they got off to a hot start, people called him a game manager and said the team largely relied on their stellar defense and running game. In his last three games though, Andy Dalton has showed me he’s going to be something special in the NFL. He threw three touchdowns in leading his team to victory over the Titans in Week 9. The next two games were seven point losses to the Steelers and Ravens. Although the Bengals lost these games, they showed that they can compete with the big dogs in their division and Dalton proved he can make big plays against great defenses to keep his team in the game. Although the Browns have the league’s number one pass defense, I think they will be completely outclassed by their in-state rival and their strange plumed rookie qb today.
Buccaneers @ Titans -3.5
Hexagram 27: 頤 Nourishment. It’s hard to not think about the Bucs’ newest defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in relation to this game. The former Titan left Tennessee for mega millions Dan Snyder dangled in front of his face. After a few very disgruntled years in DC, Fat Al left to rebuild his career in New England, but he was cut half way through the season. His bloated carcass eventually washed up in Tampa, who was desperate for him because of the injuries they have sustained at the position. The Bucs are coming off a brutal 6 game stretch in which they played the 49ers, Bears, Saints twice, Texans and Packers. They won only one of these games, but played a positive game last week against Green Bay that gives them something to build on. The Bucs probably won’t make the playoffs this year because of injuries and the tough schedule, so the rest of this year is trying to find out who has a place on next year’s team and who doesn’t. I think Haynesworth will be trying to prove he’s one of those guys, at least for this game returning to his old haunts. If he suddenly decides to care about football again, the Bucs could have gotten an impact defensive tackle for basically nothing.
Panthers @ Colts +3.5
Hexagram 32: 恆 Persevering. I think people underestimate how tough of a year it has been for Cam Newton. Sure, he’s won the crowd over and most think the future in Carolina is bright for him and the Panthers. Sure, he’s already created a personal library of highlight plays in his first two thirds of a season or so. And of course, he’s winning a lot of fantasy football teams for people who had enough foresight to take a chance on him (I own him in two leagues). But, what isn’t being talked is that the Panthers, for all Cam has done and for all the close games they have played, have still only won two games. I think it’s impressive that Cam continually brings the same effort every week despite the fact that he has done nothing but win on every other level before this year and has almost assuredly never endured a losing streak like this. I think he will continue to persevere and do everything he can to help his team win though this trying rookie season. In this game, against one of the few teams with less wins than them, he will show again just how special of a player he is.
Cardinals @ Rams -3.5
Hexagram 23: 剝 Splitting. I’m splitting from saying a whole lot about this NFC West matchup. The Cards won when these two teams played a week ago. That’s good enough for me.
Texans @ Jaguars +3.5
Hexagram 8: 比 Holding Together. The Texans have a lot going for them: the league’s number one defense, its second ranked running game, they are coming off a bye week on a four game winning streak. They also have one big problem: Matt Leinart is their starting quarterback for the rest of the year. I think this team around him is too good for Leinart to make too big of a difference. They will run the ball a lot. They will have him throw a lot of short passes to the backs and tight ends. When he does throw to the receivers, he’ll have Andre Johnson back in the lineup to target. I think the team groups around their new quarterback and the Texans’ excellent recent form will continue.
Sunday 4:05 PM EST
Bears @ Raiders -4.5
Hexagram 38: 睽 Polar Opposites. Here, one team’s quarterback situation is just starting to stabilize while the other’s is in chaos. The Raiders are coming off back to back wins on the road with new quarterback Carson Palmer playing really well and looking more comfortable in that offense by the week. The Bears were one of the NFL hottest teams last week, winner of their last five games, until news broke of quarterback Jay Cutler’s injury. Caleb Hanie will make his first NFL start in the Black Hole. The Bears have a forgiving schedule the rest of the way for the most part and may stabilize over time and still make the playoffs, but I think Carson Palmer’s good form combined with the Bears’ poor pass defense, and a quarterback making his first start in a hostile environment packed with a crowd pumped up to be leading their division, all points to another Raiders win.
Redskins @ Seahawks -4.5
Hexagram 42: 益 Increase. I like the Redskins’ chances today. Their offense has looked progressively better the last two weeks with Rex Grossman’s return to the starting lineup. Today, they get back receiver Santana Moss from injury. The Grossman to Moss connection was one of the factors behind Washington’s unlikely hot start. Seattle is always a tough place to play, but I think the Redskins will have the emotional advantage in this game as well. The significance of the 4th anniversary of Sean Taylor’s death is known to the team. After Sean’s passing, it was a loss in the playoffs to the Seahawks that finally put an end to the Redskins unlikely run into the post season. I think the Redskins will honor Sean by playing the way he did, bringing the utmost intensity and enthusiasm on every single play. Do it for 21 guys! Go Skins!
Sunday 4:15 PM EST
Broncos @ Chargers -6.5
Hexagram 49: Molting. John Fox may deserve Coach of the Year honors for the job he has done in his first year in Denver. After it became clear that Kyle Orton wasn’t working out and that he would at least have to give Tim Tebow a chance, he showed a willingness to adapt the offense to his new quarterback’s strengths. Doing this has given his team the best chance to win and Tebow’s best opportunity to thrive and prove he can be a competent, if unorthodox, starting qb. The results have been winning 4 out of their last 5 and being right in the thick of the AFC West race. The Chargers are going the other way, losing 5 straight since their 5 point win in Denver the last time these two teams met. The Broncos have improved on both sides of the ball since then while the Chargers have regressed.
Patriots @ Eagles +4.5
Hexagram 7: The General. The Eagles will be missing their general, Michael Vick, again this week and it’s a shame he won’t be able to go in this game. The Patriots are much better against the run than they are the pass on defense, in which they are ranked last in the league. The Vince Young led Eagles will be far less dynamic on offense and more likely to lean heavily on the running game and Lesean McCoy. The general of the Patriots is the perfect guy to attack this Eagles’ defense. If they Eagles use their stellar cornerbacks to cover the outside guys, Tom will be content to use his slot receivers, tight ends and backs to run the less than stellar Philadelphia linebackers ragged all over the middle of the field.
Sunday 8:20 PM EST
Steelers @ Chiefs +10.5
Hexagram 24: 復 Recovering. The Steelers come out of their bye week more rested, healthier and with a 7-3 record. Their offensive line and defense especially benefitted from the late week off in the season. They should be healthy, prepared and ready to show they belong to be counted among the NFL elite and they are playing against a Chiefs team that looked lost against New England last Monday night. All this points to a big night on national TV for the black and yellow.
Monday 8:30 PM EST
Giants @ Saints -6.5
Hexagram 4: 蒙 Enveloping. Enveloping portends concealment or a clouded, obscured outlook. In such an uncertain atmosphere, I will take the Saints at home. Their offense has not scored over 30 points a game by being direct and deliberate with their game plan. New additions Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham have the ability of receivers in the running game despite their positions, and have allowed Drew Brees to greater exploit mismatches these players create all over the field. The Giants are more direct and physically imposing in their brand of football, but if the game favors cunning over strength, then it favors the Saints.