Friday, October 26, 2012

I Ching NFL Picks: Week 8

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:
My picks in bold. Lines taken from ESPN Pigskin Pick’em Game

This Week: 1-0 Last Week: 5-8
Season: 52-53
Sunday October 28, 2012
1:00 PM EST
Panthers @ Bears -7.5
Hexagram 40: Taking Apart  
Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback, but he is going to go through some rough patches in his career. His current run of poor form is not likely to end in Chicago. The Bears have been methodical in shutting down opposing quarterbacks at home. They have forced eleven turnovers in these three games, while also allowing just a shade over eleven points per contest. I’m not sure what is causing Cam’s struggles, whether it’s poor self-discipline or poor coaching or bad offensive line play, bad conditioning or bad diet, but he had several chances to overcome them last week. At home, following their bye, the Panthers had several chances to seize control of that game, but Cam and Carolina stumbled each time, let Dallas hang around, and ultimately blew the game. The conditions for this game will be far less favorable for Newton and Carolina and I don’t expect the result to be any better.
Chargers @ Browns +2.5
Hexagram 53: Gradual Progress
I think these two teams are much more even than this line or their records thus far indicate. The Chargers have seemed to regress after a hot start to the season, while the Browns are the team that I think is among the most improved since the beginning of the season. Since cornerback Joe Haden returned from suspension two games ago, their pass defense has played very well against two good passing teams in the Bengals and Colts. The developing relationship between rookies quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Josh Gordon is another reason for optimism, as they have combined for four touchdowns the past three games, although Gordon dropped a sure touchdown that would have given the Browns a late lead against the Colts. Despite some inevitable learning curves for the youngsters, they seem to be going in the right direction, and are at home and getting the points in this one.
Seahawks @ Lions -2.5
Hexagram 61: Center Holding 中孚
I’m still a believer in the Lions talent. I think their offense wakes up at home in a game they need to win to get back on track. Russell Wilson has struggled on the road, throwing two touchdowns versus seven interceptions away from the C-Link, and will be in another hostile environment with Lions DT Ndamukong Suh chasing him around. I like the Lions score enough points to put the pressure on Wilson to lead another come back, and the Lions ultimately triumph at home.
Jaguars @ Packers -13.5
Hexagram 47: Oppression
It’s always scary giving this many points, but by any metric, this game is a total mismatch. The most basic stats tell the tale of what has been a miserable season for Jacksonville so far. If you add up their league ranks in total offense, total defense, rushing yards, passing yards, rushing yards and passing yards allowed, Jacksonville’s number is a league high 170. A score of 192 would represent a team ranking 32nd in every category.  Oh, and they lost their best player to injury last week. The home Packers are rolling and have a good history in beating up bad teams when playing at Lambeau.  
Colts @ Titans -3.5
Hexagram 28: Great Passing 大过
In a matchup featuring two generous defenses, I like the team with Andrew Luck. Matt Hasselbeck has led the Titans to back to back wins, but Jake Locker will be the starter again as soon as he has recovered from his shoulder injury. That could happen as soon as this game. No matter who is the quarterback for Tennessee, Luck has played superior to both players this season. Those who are betting on the Titans based on another good matchup on the ground for Chris Johnson are too quickly forgetting about his struggles with consistency. I think he turns in another blasé performance, and the team that makes the most big plays through the air will be the victor. I think that team will be Indianapolis.
Patriots vs. Rams +6.5 (In London)
Hexagram 12: Stagnation
I will be very interested to see what kind of game plan Bill Belichick crafts for this contest across the pond. The Patriots’ attack has varied widely from game to game according to matchups; they have at times even gone with a very uncharacteristic run heavy offense. They may want to adopt a more ground based plan for St. Louis, who has the ferocious pass rushers and talented corners to frustrate Tom Brady. In a game where both teams will be somewhat out of sorts due the extra travel and jet lag, I think the Rams have the defense to keep the score low, and for both offenses to opt for conservative play calling.
Dolphins @ Jets -2.5
Hexagram 16: Provisioning
I see the Dolphins as the better prepared team heading into this divisional matchup. The Jets’ bye is still a week away, and they head into this game pretty banged up. They will likely be missing linebacker Bart Scott and both of their backup running backs. If they are missing backs Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, it will be up to Shonn Greene alone to get the run game going against Miami’s 3rd ranked run defense. If the ground of game of New York is not effective, Mark Sanchez will have to make some plays in the passing game in order for the Jets to move the ball. Miami has an underrated defense and are coming off their own bye week. I think they will be well provisioned to meet the Jets in this game.
Falcons @ Eagles -2.5
Hexagram 29: The Threshold
I had to click back and forth about three or four times to make sure I had this line right. What you see is correct; the 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles are favored at home against the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons. Yes, the Falcons have scraped out three close wins against less than impressive teams recently, and yes, Andy Reid has a perfect track record coming out of the bye week, but this spread suggests that these two teams are seen as relatively even by the gambling community, with the home field advantage giving Philly the slight edge in the spread.  I think the Falcons, the league’s last undefeated team, are still the side in much better shape, especially given the chaotic current state of their opponents. Recently deposed Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo may not have been qualified for his job, but I don’t see how replacing him mid-season makes them any better. Their defense has not been the source of their primary concerns, and firing Castillo may in fact hurt their most consistent unit with the unnecessary turmoil caused.
Redskins @ Steelers -5.5
Hexagram 30: Radiance
This pick really comes down to how I feel about Mr. Robert Griffin III. He has personally made it fun again to be a fan of the Washington Redskins. The love, warmth and hope he has inspired in the nation’s capital already exceeds what any President has brought to town in a long time. Kennedy was probably the last time this town was so pumped, right? RGIII has, at times single handedly, kept the Redskins in every game and given them a chance to win every time out thus far. They are 3-1 against the spread in games in which they were the underdogs and two seven point losses are their largest margins of defeat. I fully expect him to go into the phone booth, emerge caped and all, and go on to eclipse all our expectations of him once more.   
4:05 PM EST
Raiders @ Chiefs -1.5
Hexagram 42: Advancing
The Chiefs have decided to go with Brady Quinn at quarterback for the foreseeable future, likely putting an end to the Matt Cassel era in Kansas City. I’m far from convinced that Quinn represents any kind of upgrade at the position, but it would be difficult for him to be as bad as the incumbent starter has been in 2012. The passing game will no doubt continue to struggle, but I don’t think it will matter much in this game. Carson Palmer has been better than his counterparts, but I think this game will ultimately be decided on the ground. The running game is the one facet of this game where I see one team being decidedly better than the other. Both Oakland and KC have supremely talented and fast running backs in Darren McFadden and Jamaal Charles, but the Raiders rank second to last in terms of rushing yards while the Chiefs are 3rd. The differences have been much better run blocking by the Kansas City offensive line and much more direct, instinctive running of Charles as opposed to the often tentative McFadden. These differences will be on full display at Arrowhead Sunday afternoon.
4:25 PM EST
Giants @ Cowboys +1.5
Hexagram 43: Resoluteness
I have an admitted inherent bias against the Cowboys, but I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that they deal poorly with adversity. We all know about the Tony Romo led meltdowns over his career as the Dallas quarterback, but losing their most important player on the other side of the ball is the latest catastrophe. In losing middle linebacker Sean Lee for the season, the Cowboys lose not only a leader, but also one of their best run defenders. His teammates won’t have much time to compensate for his loss, as the Giants will no doubt want to test the Lee-less run defense early and often. They have shown a renewed enthusiasm for running the ball of late, averaging 30 rush attempts per game over the last three games, after rushing just 19 times in their first game against Dallas in the opener. I don’t think the Dallas defense will respond well to this challenge, and I expect New York to control this game from the outset.
8:20 PM EST
Saints @ Broncos -7.5
Hexagram 5: Requirement
The two feature players in this game, future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, both faced unfamiliar questions about their ability and team expectations coming into this season. Through the first month their relative concerns still went largely unanswered, but both teams have started to turn it around on the back of great play by their quarterbacks. Denver seems to me to be the team much more likely to continue their success. Peyton Manning has yet to look 100% of his old self, and the Broncos’ passing game is less prolific than the Saints’, but they also have the much better running game and defense. While the Saints are first in passing yards, they rank 30th or worse in all the other major categories. Only the Jaguars have three of their four ranks in the 30s. You need a much more rounded team to go into the mile high Denver atmosphere and beat Peyton Manning at home. Brees will fight back as he always does, but I think he and New Orleans will fall short in this one.
Monday October 29, 2012
49ers @ Cardinals +6.5
Hexagram 10: Treading the Road
Trusting the 49ers offense to win by a touchdown is a risky affair, but it’s the mismatches on the other side of the field that make me more feel more comfortable trusting them. The most glaring of these matchups is San Francisco pass rush against Arizona tackles Bobbie Massie and D’Anthony Batiste. Massie and Batiste have been among the NFL’s worst at protecting their quarterback, which has compounded the troubles of an already shaky quarterback situation.  The Cardinals have a pretty talented roster at most other positions, but if you can’t protect your quarterback, and you don’t have a pretty special guy taking the snaps, then your team has a limited ceiling. The two young Arizona tackles will certainly have their hands full with guys like Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald coming at them. If the 49ers dominate the line of scrimmage and rattle young quarterback John Skelton, it will give them a good start to a big time win on Monday Night Football.

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