Week 13 I Ching NFL Picks
Lines are taken from the ESPN Pig Skin Pick ‘Em Game and my picks are in BOLD.
Last Week 12-4
This is week I will look at one matchup that I think will make the difference in each game.
Sunday 1:00 PM EST
Falcons @ Texans +2.5
Hexagram 遯 33: Retreat. Retreat tells us that the cycle of light is ending and darkness is starting to take over. Thus, the smartest course of action is to withdraw so as to not get caught in the darkness. Houston running backs Arian Foster have enjoyed quite a lot of daylight this year, but they will be seeing far less of it Sunday than they are accustomed to this year. The second ranked Falcons defense will focus on stopping these two, frequently loading the box, covering receivers one on one and daring rookie 5th round pick quarterback T.J Yates to beat them. Don’t count on that to happen.
Titans @ Bills -1.5
Hexagram 5: 需 Waiting. The Bills performed much better last week in their narrow loss to the Jets than they had in their previous three losses, but I don’t think this is the game they end their losing streak. They played great football in the beginning of the season and all their young talent is something to be excited about in Buffalo, but as the schedule got harder and injuries began to take their toll the reality of the situation is that they are unlikely to make their return to the playoffs this year.
The key matchup is the Bills run defense against Titans back Chris Johnson. The Titans have been playing a waiting game with Johnson all year as he has been disappointing since signing his big deal. His 190 yard effort last week, his second over a hundred in his last three games, showed that the old CJ2K might be emerging just in time for the Titans to make a playoff run. The Bills defense against the run is a microcosm of their team as a whole this season. They started off much better than anyone expected playing no small part in their fast start, but after injuries to key starters, have waned, as they have given up over hundred yards running in all of their four consecutive losses except against Miami where they gave up 95.
Chiefs @ Bears -7.5
Hexagram 3: 屯 Difficulty at the Beginning. Neither of the starting quarterbacks of this game figured to be starting for their teams this season. But due to injuries, Tyler Palko will square off against Caleb Hanie. The matchup to watch is the Bears’ offensive line against the pass rush of the Chiefs. The Bears have struggled protecting their passers, allowing the 11th most sacks in the league. The Chiefs have struggled to get pressure on opposing passers, ranking dead last in sacks, but Tamba Hali, who has 7 of his team’s 13 sacks, has been able to wreak havoc on his own all year and all those opportunities, hits, and pressures have finally been turning into sacks of late. The Bears will have to protect Hanie to put up the kind of points needed to cover this spread and I don’t think they will.
Bengals @ Steelers -7.5
Hexagram 59: 渙 Dispersion. I like the Steelers to win this game, but I don’t like giving over a touchdown to anyone in a tough divisional game. The Steelers haven’t won a game by more than 7 points since their 8 point win against the Cardinals in Week 7. Ben Roethlisberger will have to clear away and disperse the obstacles before him, but this will be no easy feat. The Bengals defense is top ten in average yards per pass allowed and have a fierce rotation of defensive lineman to rush Big Ben. I think Ben should do enough to get the win at home, but I foresee a close contest.
Broncos @ Vikings -1.5
Hexagram 64: 未 濟 Before Completion. Is it just me or has there be way more quarterback upheaval than usual this season? By my rough count, 14 NFL teams have started quarterbacks other than their opening day starter at least once this year. Both of these teams are in this number as rookie Christian Ponder faces off against the holy sophomore, Tim Tebow. My matchup to watch is Tebow against Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.
Whether he’s running the ball or pretending to be trying to pass before running the ball, Tim will have to deal with Jared Allen all day. I have enjoyed Tebow and the Broncos’ recent run as much as anyone, but the idea of Allen and crew ending it is much more entertaining. Jared Allen is mean, nasty, dirty, the man is borderline obscene on the football field. Locks flowing, hideous stash and all, he has been having maybe his best season this year already sacking the quarterback 13 and a half times. The ultimate Golden Boy Tim Tebow will confront the ugly reality that he still has a long way to go in his trip north Sunday.
Raiders @ Dolphins -2.5
Hexagram 50: 鼎 Caldron Boiling. This is about something that has been growing and fermenting reaching maturation. Carson Palmer has led the Raiders on a three game winning streak after taking some time to settle in. He has looked better in the offense every week despite missing Darren McFadden for this whole stretch and having his best receiving options in and out of the lineup with injuries. This week, he will have the Miami cornerbacks to deal with. After showing promise as young players, many hyped Vontae Davis and Sean Smith as one of the best corner tandems in the league coming into the season, but they have failed to live up to these high expectations. They’ve given up big plays at terrible times all year, and I expect the same to happen against Oakland and its resurgent offense this week.
Colts @ Patriots -20.5
Hexagram 24: 復 Returning. The only matchup that matters in this game is Bill Belichick vs. his own ego. In a home game, with the Pats on a three game winning streak, winning each by over 20, the only question is whether the offense keeps throwing the ball long enough to score enough points to cover the biggest spread I can ever remember seeing. Brady and the offense are returning to the kind of sublime form they are capable of, and revel in destroying bad teams. In these types of games, Belichick’s ego usually wins out, and against their arch rival Colts who are in the worst of conditions imaginable, I expect New England to light up the scoreboard.
Jets @ Redskins -3.5
Hexagram 60: Limitation. This situation is about knowing your limitations, accepting them, and working through them. The quarterback play has been disappointing for both teams. The Jets will only go as far as quarterback Mark Sanchez can lead them ,despite all the other talent they have, and the Redskins will never begin to approach real legitimacy until they figure out who their quarterback of the future is. This year has made it clear that neither Rex Grossman nor John Beck are long term solutions. I think the difference in this game that the Redskins realize Rex’s limitations and expect their defense to have to bail him out of a couple bad turnovers, while the Jets keep giving Mark Sanchez opportunities to rise up and be the hero, and he keeps failing. For the Jets to win, much less cover this spread, against this Redskins team that has played good football the past few weeks since the Beck experiment mercifully was put to an end, Sanchez will have to outplay Sexy Rexy, and I don’t see it happening.
Panthers @ Buccaneers -1.5
Hexagram 16: 豫 Enthusiasm. Even though Tampa has one more win than Carolina, it’s a safe bet that the fans of the Panthers are happier with the direction of their team than the Bucs’ fans are. There is definite enthusiasm over Cam Newton and the Panthers’ future prospects while the Buccaneers have taken a definite step back after winning 10 games a season ago. This game will come down to Cam Newton against the Buccaneers defense. Against a once promising unit that has suffered lots of key injuries, I think Cam will excel and put the pressure on the Tampa Bay to match points with them all game long. I say they come up a little short, and the enthusiasm behind the Panthers and their rookie quarterback will continue to grow.
Sunday 4:05 PM EST
Ravens @ Browns +6.5
Hexagram 32: Duration. This has all the makings of an ugly game between division rivals. The Ravens’ struggles against inferior competition this year have been well documented. 2 of their 3 losses have come against teams with a losing record and they have survived many close scares as well. The Browns have played tough, competitive football every game this year. Despite their poor record, people in Cleveland still remember the Ravens used to be the Browns before the new Browns came, and there is no more hated foe than the purple and black. The matchup to watch is Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco against the Browns secondary. The Browns are first in the league against the pass in total yards and average yards per attempt while Flacco has struggled to make the Ravens’ offense dynamic all year. He will have to put up points for the Ravens to cover this spread, so I like the Browns at home.
Sunday 4:15 PM EST
Cowboys @ Cardinals +6.5
Hexagram 41: Weakness. The Cardinals have been playing much better football the last few weeks, and you would think that there is potential here for an upset at home against their geographical rival. The truth is that some of the Cowboys’ biggest strengths matchup with some of the Cardinals biggest weaknesses. The biggest example of this is Demarcus Ware and Levi Brown. One of these men is the most dominant pass rusher in the NFL while the other is a huge bust and one of the worst starters at his position in the league. Kevin Kolb’s first game back from injury may be a short one.
Packers @ Giants +6.5
Hexagram 25: The Unexpected. I think the Giants have a lot going for them in this game. Eli Manning tends to have stinkers when favored by big points against bad teams, but he also tends to show up and prove everyone wrong when we say the Giants are done. He must have a serious inferiority complex from being Peyton’s little brother all his life. The matchup to watch is the Giants defensive line against the Packers offensive line. If the Packers can give Aaron Rodgers time to throw he will pick the Giants apart all day. However, they haven’t protected their quarterback too well thus far, and I think they are in for a long day in Jersey. The Giants, fighting for their playoff life, will end the Packers’ perfection, or come close.
Rams @ 49ers -13.5
Hexagram 30: The Fire. The 49ers have taken care of their little buddies in the NFC West with little problem so far this year. The matchup that matters will not be a pretty one; backup quarterback A.J. Feely making the start against the 49ers’ 7th ranked defense. I don’t see this going well for Feely or the Rams.
Sunday Night and Monday Night games will be posted later this afternoon.