Read the introduction to my Week One Picks for more information on what the I Ching is, how it works and how I use it: http://daodesam.blogspot.com/2012/09/nfl-season-2012-week-one-i-ching-picks.html
My picks in bold. Lines taken from ESPN Pigskin Pick’em Game
(follow my entry here: http://games.espn.go.com/nfl-pigskin-pickem/en/entry?entryID=181280 )
Thursday October 4, 2012 8:20 PM EST
Cardinals @ Rams +1.5
Hexagram 43: Breakthrough 夬
With both teams faring much better so far than they were expected to, one will show it deserves to be counted as a contender, while the other begins its regression back to oblivion. Excepting the opening game of the 2012 schedule, where the Cowboys beat the Giants at home, the Thursday night affair has not produced any upsets. The last three weeks, the better team has generally taken care of business, although last week’s Ravens/ Browns matchup got a little hairy at the end. I think this trend shows that on a short week with less time for practice, game planning and preparation, the team with the superior talent and execution has a big advantage.
The biggest problem for the Rams will be stopping the run. Arizona has not been overly good in the ground game yet, but I expect 2nd year running back Ryan Williams to have a big game tonight.
Despite being 2-1 in their last three games, St. Louis has given up over 150 yards rushing on average over this span. They have a much better pass defense, so I think the Cardinals will have to try to establish the run game, thus neutralizing the Rams’ best players; defensive end Chris Long and cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Arizona’s defense has frustrated high flying units like the Patriots and Eagles en route to their 4-0 start, and I expect quarterback Sam Bradford and crew to struggle against this formidable unit.
Sunday October 7th, 2012 1:00 PM EST
Dolphins @ Bengals -4.5
Hexagram 44: Concealed Brightness
Amid a bleak start, there are signs that the Sun is beginning to shine through for the Dolphins. This is more of a gut call than anything else. The Bengals have had an explosive offense and the Miami pass defense has been one of the worst in the league through the first quarter season. However, Miami has been very competitive in their last three games, beating down the Raiders and losing two straight games in overtime. On paper, this looks like a very tasty matchup for Andy Dalton and crew, but I think they will struggle to score points Sunday. If any cornerback in the NFL matches up favorably with wideout A.J. Green, it’s Sean Smith. Smith has the size to cover Green at 6’3, and has been one of the most effective corners this year despite being targeted by opposing quarterbacks as much as any corner in the league. Dalton is not exactly known for his ability to stretch the field with a big arm. If Smith can limit his counterpart’s production, the Dolphins athletic linebackers should be able to stifle the run and the other Cincinnati receivers underneath. The Bengals defense has been much more generous, giving up 28 points a game despite playing against pretty average offenses, and rookie Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill seems to be improving on weekly basis.
Packers @ Colts +7.5
Hexagram 62: The Small Exceeding 小过
The Packers have shown glimpses of their usual explosive selves, but have yet to put a full, convincing game together. The Colts have had a week to prepare for this game, are getting more than a touchdown and are at home. Coming off a close win against the Saints, and perhaps looking forward to their matchup with the undefeated Texans next week, I can see the Packers overlooking this game a bit. With all these small factors taken together, I don’t like the chances of Green Bay winning by more than a touchdown.
Ravens @ Chiefs +4.5
Hexagram 47: Exhaustion 困
I think the Chiefs are a better team than they have thus far shown, but at this point, I’m about ready to reconsider. Last week, they pissed away any chance of winning by turning the ball over and over again while getting in a big hole early against the Chargers. Doing that again this week will probably send quarterback Matt Cassell to the bench and send the Chiefs into full fledged rebuilding mode. However, the Ravens did not particularly impress me on either side of the ball against the Browns last Thursday. With Jamaal Charles running like a man possessed (did you know he tore his ACL last year? I had completely forgotten), the Chiefs at Arrowhead where they generally play much better, getting the points and Baltimore’s defense looking like a shell of their usual selves, I’m sticking with Kansas City for at least one more week. But, if I end up having to watch another game like last week’s though, then fuck it, I’m done.
Browns @ Giants -9.5
Hexagram 19: Approaching 临
The Eli Manning led Giants have a disturbing trend of not taking care of inferior teams at home. Usually it is games like this that leave them needing to go on a ridiculous late season tear in order to make the playoffs. Last year, there were four such games where they were favored considerably at home, but failed to cover the spread, losing two outright. They lost to the Redskins and Seahawks as big favorites and beat the Dolphins and Bills by just three in similar situations. The Browns have yet to win a game yet, but they gotten pretty darn close. Their four losses have come by an average of just over six points a game despite playing against pretty good competition. The Browns will most likely fall short again of their first win this week, but I would guess they don’t miss it by that much.
Eagles @ Steelers -3.5
Hexagram 28: Great Return 大过
Something once dominant reminds the world just who the fuck they are. This has been a different Steelers defense than we are accustomed to seeing so far this year. They have allowed 25 points a game and forced just three turnovers through three games; not typical numbers for the Pittsburgh D. This week though, things seem to be breaking right for the Steelers defense to look more like their usual selves. They have had a week to prepare for this battle with state bragging rights on the line, they are at home, they get noted shampoo and ball hawking safety Troy Polamalu and pass rusher/concussioner extraordinaire James Harrison back from injury and welcome Mike Vick to town, he of the six interceptions and three fumbles on the season. I see a big rebound for the Steel Curtain at home Sunday.
Falcons @ Redskins +3.5
Hexagram 55: Abundance 丰
Here we have a matchup between the top two fantasy football players in Robert Griffin III and Matt Ryan leading the fourth and third ranked teams in terms of total offense facing off. Points should be plentiful, and despite the Redskins’ defensive struggles, RGIII has, through sheer will power at times, kept the Skins in every game down to the wire. I like Washington in a close game to cover, if not get a huge upset at home, and for the game to go way over the projected total of 50 points.
Sunday October 7th, 2012 4:05 PM EST
Seahawks @ Panthers -3.5
Hexagram 50: The Crucible 鼎
If this is a news flash you may have not been paying much attention to the NFL for the past ten years or so, but the Seahawks are a much different team away from home than when they are playing in Seattle. This year, they have two wins playing at CenturyLink Field and two losses playing on the road. Rookie Russell Wilson again enters a hostile environment after throwing three interceptions as the visiting quarterback last week. The Carolina defense is nothing special, but I don’t think the Seahawks can make enough plays on offense to keep up with last year’s rookie phenom Cam Newton. Cam and the Panthers’ rushing attack finally showed their 2011 form last week against a solid so far Atlanta defense, rushing for 199 yards. I think they will be able to at least partially repeat this perfromance against a very good, but perhaps a little homesick Seattle defense.
Bears @ Jaguars +5.5
Hexagram 57: Ground 巽
Don’t over think this one. Looking at their apparent strengths and weaknesses, and the winner is apparent. The Jaguars have been one of the most schizophrenic teams so far this NFL season. They have looked good in two games; a win over the Colts and a close loss to the Vikings, and really bad in the other two; one sided losses to the Texans and Bengals. In the first two games, running back Maurice Jones-Drew has looked great, and they as a team went over 100 yards rushing. In their two losses, they fell well short of this total. The Bears bring the 3rd ranked run defense into Jacksonville, and are coming off a big Monday night win in Dallas. I don’t think the Jaguars will be able to establish Mojo and the running game, and so, I think they will lose big at home for the second consecutive week.
Sunday October 7th, 2012 4:25 PM EST
Titans @ Vikings -5.5
Hexagram 44: Coupling 姤
I still don’t trust the Vikings spotting this many points at home. Yes, they beat the Lions by seven on the road last week, but needed two return touchdowns to do it. Couple that with the fact that their quarterback Christian Ponder averaged just 3.8 yards per completion last week. The Titans will be missing their own young quarterback, as starter Jake Locker will miss the game due to a shoulder injury, but this might actually be a good thing for Tennessee’s immediate prospects.
Matt Hasselbeck, last year’s starter, will be the guy in Locker’s place, and he will likely benefit from having receiver Kenny Britt back in the lineup. Hasselbeck and Britt only played two full games together before Britt shredded his knee in Week 3, but opposing defenses were what was being shredded by them prior to the injury. Their connection yielded 271 yards and three touchdowns in these games, played against the Jaguars and Ravens. Britt has yet to show he has regained his pre-injury form and Hasselbeck has yet to show anything this season, but I think they will resume their big play hookup, and leave Titans fans wondering why Hasselbeck started the season on the bench.
Broncos @ Patriots -6.5
Hexagram 9: Mastering the Small 小畜
After his one year hiatus, Peyton Manning is back to resume his rivalry against Tom Brady and the Patriots, albeit wearing new colors this time. He has played more games against New England than any other team exempting his former AFC South division rivals. He hold a career record of seven wins versus ten losses against the Pats, the single team responsible for the more of his defeats than any other, although Manning has gotten the best of them in some of the more important games. While most of the focus will be paid to the two signal callers, the more insignificant seeming things will make up the difference in this game.
The first issue to consider is the respective offensive identity of each team. After losing tight end Aaron Hernandez to injury, Tom Brady and crew struggled to find their usual groove. In Buffalo last week, this transition in their game plan reched its full culmination as they actually ran the ball more than they passed it, 40 rushes to 36 passes. Because of the Bills’ determination to stay in a three cornerback nickel defense to combat the normally pass happy attack, they had great success, to the tune of 247 yards gained on the ground. This will not be as effective against the Broncos though, as John Fox is a great defensive mind and, as shown by the Tebow fueled playoff run of 2011, also a master of adapting on the fly. Denver has been pretty stout against the run, ranked 9th in the league against the run, and has in last year’s defensive rookie of the year Von Miller a linebacker who can defend the run and pressure Brady with equal tenacity.
The Broncos and Manning on the other hand seemed to be settling into their own identity last week in their destruction of the Oakland Raiders. They employed a lethal short passing attack, balanced with a solid running game that allowed Peyton to utilize his reading of the defense at the line of scrimmage and peerless intangibles, while not exposing his apparent diminished arm strength. I like the Broncos to pull the upset in Gillette Stadium, not so much just because of their new quarterback, but because they are the more balanced team, with the better defense and the more focused game plan.
Bills @ 49ers -9.5
Hexagram 1: Force 乾
The real story of the 49ers success isn’t Frank Gore, or Alex Smith, or Vernon Davis and certainly not Randy Moss. Their real strengths are in the way they dominate the lines of scrimmage. Lesser known names like guard Mike Iupati, tackles Anthony Davis and Joe Staley, and defensive linemen Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are the real reasons this team has won 16 of their last 20 regular season games. The Bills have also been much improved this season on both sides of the trenches, but they still can’t match the size, talent, athleticism or execution of their San Francisco counterparts. If the 49ers are able to control the line of scrimmage on defense as I expect they will, the Bills talented but banged up running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will not be able to key the offense to its full potential. Lacking that, the Niners’ pass rushers will be able to pin their ears back and come after Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, which will make for a long day for the Harvard grad. He may leave the Bay Area wondering if it’s too late to go to law school after all.
Sunday October 7th, 2012 8:20 PM EST
Chargers @ Saints -3.5
Hexagram 7: Leading 师
As Drew Brees attempts to set the record for most consecutive games with a passing touchdown, it is fitting that he will try to do so against the team that he started his career with. After Brees suffered a torn labrum to end the 2005 season, the Chargers let him walk not wanting to commit major money to a rehabbing quarterback with first rounder Phillip Rivers already being groomed to take his job. Of course, Brees went on to bring a Super Bowl to New Orleans while the Chargers have been stymied in their efforts to rise to the true elite of the NFL. This is a game I fully expect Drew Brees to rally his troops, organize his team out of the chaos that has engulfed it over their first quarter of the season and get a win while setting the record against his old team. It won’t hurt that their other leader, suspended head coach Sean Payton, will be in attendance either. Do you think security will check him for a Bluetooth on his way into the game?
Monday October 8th, 2012 8:30 PM EST
Texans @ Jets +7.5
Hexagram 51: Earthquake 震
An earthquake is about what it would take for the Jets to avoid taking a loss to the Texans this week, right? I say this is the game where Tim Tebow plays a significant role. The Jets are 2-2, not at all out of contention, but coming off a complete molly whopping at the hands of the 49ers. Enter the undefeated Texans: seemingly invincible and a picture of consistency next to the chaotic Jets. If this was a sports movie, this would be the time for Mark Sanchez to get hurt or benched, preferably when New York is already down ten or so, at home in primetime, in front of the nation, then Timmy comes off the bench and leads an improbable, inspired comeback victory. Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction.
Last Week: 5-10
Season Record: 30-33