Saturday, November 17, 2012

I Ching NFL Picks: Week 11

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
Sunday, November 18, 2012
1:00 PM EST
Cardinals @ Falcons -9.5
Hexagram 7: The Leader
Whenever you’re looking forward to Kevin Kolb coming back from injury, you know you’re quarterback situation is rough. As it is, John Skelton will again get the start, he of the two touchdown passes and five interceptions on the year, on the road, against a team coming off its first loss of the season. While the Atlanta defense doesn’t look very impressive statistically, they have made up for it with the big plays. This is shown in part by their 11 interceptions, good for fourth in the league. The Cardinals have been the league’s worst team at protecting their quarterback, no matter who it is, and I think Skelton is likely to give the Falcons defense some opportunities to make big plays. Matt Ryan is the real difference in this game. He will also be facing a defense very good at thwarting the aerial assault, but he still gives his team such an obvious advantage over their visitors from the desert, and with his wealth of weapons to throw to, I think he does enough to prove the Dirty Birds the superior fowl in this contest.
Browns @ Cowboys -7.5
Hexagram 43: Breakthrough
 The Browns seemed to have their breakthrough moment their last time out, only to have it snatched away. At home, against the hated Ravens, Josh Gordon caught the apparent go ahead touchdown and sent Cleveland into a tizzy. Alas, somebody covered up the tight end and an illegal formation penalty brought it back. The Browns settled for a field goal and the Ravens subsequently won the game. I like this young Browns team, and I think they have gotten much better over the course of the season, but I think they will experience more growing pains in Dallas. Star cornerback Joe Haden is very questionable after suffering an oblique injury during practice and his absence would be a big problem for Cleveland. Consider that in the four games he was suspended the Browns had a total point differential of -38. Over the five games they have had him in the lineup that number is -3. If Joe sits, I expect Tony Romo to have a breakthrough game of his own and for the Cowboys to continue to start building a little momentum down the stretch, until they inevitably blow it, of course.
Packers @ Lions +3.5
Hexagram 36: Concealed Brightness 明夷
I like the chances of the underdog Lions this week. They are one of the few teams in the league that have the kind of offense that, when at its best, can keep up with the Packers on the scoreboard. With the Lions passing game slowly rounding into form, I don’t think either defense will be able to prevent a shootout in the dome.  Green Bay has struggled already this year against teams that have potent passing attacks, as well as obvious other weaknesses, like in their 28-27 win over the Saints, and 30-27 loss to the Colts. I think a similar type of game is likely here.
Bengals @ Chiefs +3.5
Hexagram 47: Exhaustion
The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs are the red helmeted step-children of the NFL. KC has played competitive football against some of the NFL’s best teams, but turnovers have sabotaged their chances to win every single game save one. I think when they’re on their game and limiting the self-inflicted mistakes they can play with anyone, which is why I liked them so much getting two touchdowns in Pittsburgh last Monday night, but even when they are playing their best football, as was the case in that game, they always find a way to ultimately give the game away when it matters most.
Jets @ Rams -3.5
Hexagram 50: Transformation
I think something has to give eventually for the Jets. His coaches and teammates can support him in the media all they want, but the truth is no one could be happy with the performance of Mark Sanchez this season. The pressure seems to have built to crescendo this week, so I think this is the game where there is a change one way or the other. Maybe this is the week everything comes together for the USC product, or maybe Sanchez gets off to another lousy start and Tim Tebow gives his team a life off the bench. Both scenarios seem equally implausible, but Rex Ryan can’t continue to stake his job on his starting quarterback if said quarterback keeps up his consistently poor level of play.  I feel like the Rams are in line for a letdown performance after pulling out all the stops last week against the 49ers, and still coming up short of the win. If they come out flat at home, that could open the door for the improbable to take place.
Buccaneers @ Panthers +1.5
Hexagram 57: The Ground
In games that promise to be hard fought, divisional contests, I love teams that can run the ball and stop their opponents from running the ball. Tampa Bay has the number one rush defense in the league and elusive rookie back Doug Martin, already one of the league’s best runners in his first year. On defense, they will trust their front seven to stop the run as they have all year, allowing their safeties to play back and limit what Cam Newton can do in the play action game. On offense, Martin is a guy that a defense has to respect and be aware of, which should give more space for the white hot Tampa passing game to exploit. The Buccaneers’ clear advantages on the ground will give them a great chance to stretch their winning streak to four.
Eagles @ Redskins -3.5
Hexagram 51: Storm Breaking
After a frustrating past few games, I think the Redskins offense is due for a big game. They have had the week off to rest, heal up and game plan for this game. The Eagles defense has given up an average of just over 30 points over their last four games, all losses, and are giving rookie quarterback Nick Foles his first career start on the road behind a once again reshuffled offensive line. I think this is about the best case scenario for Robert Griffin III’s first meeting with Philadelphia. I say he and the offense break out of their recent semi-funk and get the Burgundy and Gold a divisional win at home coming out of the bye.
Jaguars @ Texans -15.5
Hexagram 13: Colleagues 同人
In a game that appears so lopsided at first glance, it’s important to remember that both of these teams are in the National Football League. That much is obvious, but it’s important to remember the old any given Sunday mantra. Last week, all three teams favored by over ten points failed to cover. The Texans did win the first matchup between these teams by 20 back in Week 2, but I don’t like their chances to repeat the blowout. On a short week, following a big win on the road Monday night, I think it will be hard for them bring their usual intensity to this game. I still think Houston will win, but I see a closer, more physical style of game. If the Texans decide to lean heavily on their running game and keep the play calling conservative, it will be difficult for them to generate enough points to cover this spread.
4:05 PM EST
Saints @ Raiders +4.5
Hexagram 62: Exceeding Limitations 小过
The Raiders have given up a staggering 97 points in their last two games. The New Orleans offense has been on fire, whether throwing or running the ball, as their coach for the next interim Joe Vitt has brought a much needed balance back to their attack. Drew Brees will likely have his full complement of weapons back in the lineup for this game and guys like Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham will be used all over the field to create mismatches against the overmatched Oakland linebackers and safeties. The Raiders offense looks ok when you look at the raw numbers of points and yards, but a lot of this damage has been done with them chasing games from behind. Carson Palmer might have another decent fantasy game, but I think it will come from the Raiders again playing catch up with the explosive Saints.
4:25 PM EST
Chargers @ Broncos -7.5
Hexagram 58: Open Exchange
The Broncos are going to score points. 30 points seem like a given considering how well Peyton Manning and the Denver offense is playing. They have exceeded this scoring baseline in each of their four straight wins. The offense of the San Diego Chargers has been trending in the opposite direction for some time now. If we ignore the two wins over the Chiefs, two games they won convincingly but also benefitted from three defensive touchdowns, then they have lost the other five straight and scored just over sixteen points a game during this stretch. Manning at home will again get his team to over thirty points, while the Chargers will struggle to get half that.
 Colts @ Patriots -9.5
Hexagram 8: Grouping
New England’s 3-1 record at home looks pretty good, but probing just a little further it is obvious that they have been less than dominant at Gillette. They have covered the spread in just one of these games, a ten point win over Denver, but are still looking for their first real beat down of a visiting team. They have been cumulatively favored by 42 points in their four home games, but have a total differential over these games of just +17; meaning, on average they’ve been favored by more than ten points to their visiting opponents and winning a typical home game by a little over four points. Both teams have potent aerial offenses, defenses that can be scored against and hopes that a talented corner exiled from Florida can improve their deficiencies against the pass.  The Pats may again sneak a win, but in a game featuring teams with identical records that have strengths and weakness that mirror each other’s, and given New England’s relative struggles at home this year, I think this spread is too much and like the Colts’ chances to extend their winning streak to five games.
8:20 PM EST
Ravens @ Steelers -3.5
Hexagram 52: Confining
While the Steelers will be more limited as to what they can do on offense with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sidelined, but the Pittsburgh defense has been quite good themselves recently at restricting opposing offenses. Over their current four game win streak, they have allowed an average of just 15.5 points to their opponents. Even lacking Big Ben, I think this will be the spirited, highly competitive game between rivals it always is. In this type of game, the team with the better defense should be in a good position to win. With the Steelers in their normal place in the top five of total D and the Ravens ‘ uncharacteristic below average performance on defense so far, I like the black and yellow to even up the AFC North race in this one.  
Monday, November 19, 2012
8:30 PM EST
Bears @ 49ers -4.5
Hexagram 41: Diminishment
For as frustrating as Jay Cutler can be when he is playing poorly, Chicago is not the same team without him. With Cutler last year, the Bears were 7-3, averaged nearly 30 points a game and looked like Super Bowl contenders for much of the year. Without him, they lost five of their last six, saw their scoring fall to just over 14 points a game down the stretch and missed the playoffs. The team around him this year does seem even better, and their defense and running game might be enough to still beat most teams, but the San Francisco 49ers are not most teams. If backup Jason Campbell is unable to generate anything downfield in the passing game, the Niners will key in on stopping the Bears on the ground. The San Francisco offense isn’t exactly explosive itself, but I think it will be able to score more points than a stagnant Chicago attack.

This Week: 1-0 Last Week: 7-7
Season: 73-74

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