Saturday, October 5, 2013

I Ching Pro Football Picks 2013- Week 5

For a primer on the I Ching, how it works and I how I use it to pick games, click here 

My pick in bold. Lines taken from ESPN Pigskin Pick’em Game- finished 2012 in top 3% of entrants
(follow my entry here )

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

1:00 PM EST

Patriots @ Bengals -1.5
Hexagram 45: Massing Up
After a disappointing 2-2 start to a season that began with such high hopes and the undefeated Patriots at their door step, there is a lot of “What’s wrong with the Bengals?” chatter entering this game. I don’t think anything is wrong with them. I think they emerged from a rough first quarter of the season in pretty good position to win a totally up for grabs AFC North. Through their first four games, they have a close road loss in Chicago, a split against two divisional rivals and a dramatic come from behind home win over the Packers. That’s a much tougher schedule than apparent at first glance. Things are starting to turn for them though. Their secondary is getting healthier at the perfect time with the probable return of safety Reggie Nelson. They've had their most impressive performances to date at home and will play many of their key games down the stretch in Cincinnati. New England has relied on their defense to get to 4-0, but lost their most important player on that side of the ball for the season when Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles’ last week. Those first three wins came against two rookie quarterbacks and a currently unemployed one, and they struggled to protect a lead last time out against Atlanta, so this game might be a bit of a reality check for the Pats’ D. If the Bengals can win this one, it could set off quite a run as they play just three playoff teams from last year, the Ravens twice, the Colts and Vikings, over their last eleven games and have three of those at home.

Chiefs -2.5 @ Titans
Hexagram 6: Divergence
This was supposed to be a matchup of the AFC’s two up and coming teams. After both finished 2012 with losing records, they come into this game with a combined 2013 record of 7-1. Considering the Chiefs’ four straight wins have come at the expense of the Jaguars and three quarters of the dismal NFC East, this looks like their biggest test to date. However, the Titans’ promising start has a dark shadow hovering over it in the form of Jake Locker’s bad hip. I expect Kansas City’s defense to eat replacement Ryan Fitzpatrick alive. The good vibes keep flowing for the Chiefs, while this game ushers in a rough patch for Tennessee, as Fitzpatrick will be the presumptive starter the next two weeks against Seattle and San Francisco before they get their bye week, and (hopefully) their quarterback back.

Saints +0.5 @ Bears
Hexagram 34: Great Strength
Chicago is known for having a tough defense that gets after the passer and comes up with big plays in the secondary to affect games. The turnovers have been there the Bears have forced a league high 14 takeaways, but the normally stout front and pass rush have not. Ranked 21st in total defense is an unfamiliar position for this squad and they also have sacked opposing passers just six times. Meanwhile, the Saints defense has exceeded all expectations. They are a top ten defense in yards and have 12 sacks plus seven interceptions through four games. That sounds a lot more like a Bears kinda defense. If the New Orleans maintains this improvement on their less heralded side of the ball, they will have turned their typically greatest weakness into a strength.

Lions @ Packers -6.5
Hexagram 33: Retreat
The second game between these two teams may very well decide who will be the champion of the NFC North, but I think the Packers have the Lions outgunned here. Detroit will likely be missing two crucial pieces of its secondary with corner Chris Houston and safety Louis Delmas questionable to play. Green Bay is coming off their bye, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare and rest their banged up contributors like Clay Matthews and their tandem of rookie running backs. Safety Morgan Burnett will make his season debut, although slot cover extraordinaire Casey Heyward is still at least a week away. The Lions have been a great first half team, often rushing out to big leads, shown by their +33 point differential over the first two quarters of play. However, their -2 2nd half differential tells they have struggled to put games away when out front. With the Packers wanting to make a statement after a 1-2 start, their general owning of the Lions at Lambeau and all the other things going in their favor I cited, I see the Pack getting on track in a big way.

Seahawks @ Colts +2.5
Hexagram 29: The Abyss
Seattle has survived two scares on the road so far this season. Their record is still without a blemish, but that’s largely thanks to their defense and some clutch plays in the final minutes from Russell Wilson. Their offensive performance away from the Pacific Northwest has been comparatively abysmal, scoring just 35 points on the road compared with 74 at the CLink both over a two game sample. I like the home team here because I think the Colts are better than the ‘Hawks first two hosts (Texans and Panthers) and they have a quarterback in Andrew Luck to match Wilson’s late game heroics. I think this will be another close road game for Seattle and I like Indy and Luck in that situation, especially getting the points at home.

Jaguars +11.5 @ Rams
Hexagram 28: Passing By
I don’t mind spotting a lot of points if I think one team is clearly better than the other, but as bad as Jacksonville has been, I’ve seen nothing from St. Louis recently that suggests they’re clearly better than anyone. The Jaguars have lost their last two games by a combined 62 points while the Rams have dropped their last two by 48. The strengths and weaknesses of the Rams don’t match up well against their opponents' either. Jax is dead last in defending the run, but St. Louis is dead last in running the ball and has zero rushing touchdowns through four games. Sam Bradford has been relatively better than that, leading a 12th ranked passing offense and accounting for seven touchdowns, but if the Jags have a strength, it may be in the secondary where Seahawk castoff corner Will Blackmon leads a pass defense ranked 11th in the league. I don’t think the Jaguars are the better team clearly either, but I don’t see a 10+ point difference between these team in either case.

Ravens @ Dolphins -2.5
Hexagram 50: The Cauldron
The Baltimore Ravens have yet to put forth a really good performance on offense to this point. Since their three touchdown/ 27 point effort in the opening blowout loss to the Broncos, Baltimore has scored just five touchdowns on offense and failed to produce over 20 points in all three subsequent games (The 30-9 win over Houston was aided by a defensive and return touchdown). The lack of balance on the offensive side of the ball is concerning, as the normally strong run game is in the bottom five of the league. If Joe Flacco was playing like he did last postseason, a pass heavy attack would be a great idea, but those days seem far way after last week’s five interception outing against a Bills defense that Brandon Weeden just fared pretty well against. Things won’t get any easier against a Dolphins defense that excels at shutting down the run and rushing the passer. Flacco and crew will eventually figure it out and probably go on a run at some point, but I think they will be contained for now in Miami.

Eagles @ Giants -2.5
Hexagram 54: The Maiden
Trying to predict this game is like trying to read a woman’s mind. You can’t say anything for sure, because either way you choose there is very little evidence to back up your argument. There are no certain conclusions, just vague feelings about which of these two teams is better than the other. That said, I think the Giants played more competitively with the Broncos than the Eagles, although the G-Men had the benefit of playing at home. I think the Giants can run on the Eagles shaky defense and control the ball, but trusting Tom Coughlin to stick with David Wilson and the running game is always a risky proposition. I think the New York defense is a little better, but they haven't played well to this point and Philadelphia showed how quickly they can exploit a weak defense Week 1 against the Redskins. I think Eli Manning is the more likely quarterback to take the team on his back and get a win when they need it most, but he hasn't done anything in 2013 to back that up yet.

4:05 PM EST

Panthers @ Cardinals +2.5
Hexagram 57: The Wind
The Arizona defense has been decent so far this season, ranking 14th in both yards and points per game allowed. The D has played well enough to keep them in every game excepting their demolition at the hands of the Saints in New Orleans. However, they are lacking in game turning plays to really help out the offense. Their pass rush in particular has struggled as they have registered just seven sacks through the first quarter of the season. They will be getting a major boost in this department Sunday with the return of recently unsuspended linebacker Daryl Washington. Washington represents an upgrade at linebacker no matter where he lines up, but he is particularly effective rushing the quarterback through the inside gaps in obvious passing situations. Last season, he posted nine sacks, a ridiculous tally for a 3-4 inside linebacker, largely via these “A Gap” bumrushes. The Panthers guards have plenty on their plate already with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett (questionable) potentially lining up across from them, so I expect Washington to make a big impact blowing through the interior line and into the Carolina backfield over and over again.

Broncos -7.5 @ Cowboys
Hexagram 41: The Valley
Dallas appears to have sunk to its lowest point so far this season after blowing a double digit lead to the Chargers in their last outing, but with the Peyton and the Broncos coming to town I think they can go lower still. Denver now has a +88 point differential during their 4-0 run to begin the season. I have twice (stupidly) picked against them against NFC East opponents thinking that those teams had the offenses to keep the game close-ish and cover the big point spreads. The Giants and Eagles both failed spectacularly in fulfilling these predictions and I don’t think the Cowboys will be able to keep it within hollering distance either. After getting dissected by Phillip Rivers last game, that Dallas secondary must have Peyton Manning salivating like it's a big ‘ole 11 piece Papa Johns pizza.  

8:30 PM EST

Texans +6.5 @ 49ers
Hexagram 6: Conflict
I am curious as to what 49ers offense we see in this game. They came out the first three games being much more reliant on the pass and putting the game largely in the hands of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. This attack looked great Week 1 against Green Bay, but after two consecutive losses, people started to ask what happened to the running game. Last week, they resorted to their more conventional ground and pound strategy rushing for 219 yards in a dominant win over the Rams. Houston hasn't been great against the run, but JJ Watt has been as much of a disruptive force as he was last year, and they will also benefit from getting Brian Cushing back from injury.  It would seem wise for Harbaugh to stick with last week’s strategy, but the this opponent should provide more resistance than St. Louis did. Should the 49ers get down early, it will be interesting to see if they can come back against the top ranked Texans pass defense.

11:35 PM EST

Chargers -4.5 @ Raiders
Hexagram 22: Grace
With their nationally televised Monday night game two weeks ago and playing against my Redskins last week, I have consumed more of the Raiders recently than is recommended for a healthy mental diet. One thing I have not seen from them in this time is grace. Against Washington, they jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter only to not make another meaningful play on offense or defense the rest of the game while the ‘Skins scored 24 unanswered. They were unable to get stops when they needed them and put up just seven offensive points facing a defense that had been historically putrid to that point. The Monday night loss to Denver, in which they gave up 374 yards and three touchdowns to Peyton Manning, wasn’t any prettier. Oakland’s offense should be better with Terrelle Pryor returning to the lineup, but, considering the last two weeks, it’s hard to imagine their defense slowing down Phillip Rivers’s rejuvenated form of play.

Monday, October 7th, 2013

8:30 PM EST

Jets @ Falcons -9.5
Hexagram 60: Limitation
With all the negativity and pessimism in the media surrounding this team coming into the season, the Jets have to be happy with both their 2-2 record and the play of their 2nd round rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Smith has exceeded expectations to this point, particularly in their two home wins in which he has thrown for nearly 600 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions. As you would expect though, the rookie has struggled away from home, throwing five picks and just one touchdown in their two defeats. Especially telling was his meltdown in New England in his first primetime game. In that one, he threw all three of his interceptions in the 4th quarter, all while his team was down just three points. With the Falcons coming off two straight losses and desperate to bounce back at home, I don’t anticipate Geno’s 2nd primetime game to go any better.  

Thursday Night: 1-0
Last Week: 8-7

Season: 29-35 

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