Poor Prognostication: Running out of ways to say I’m bad at this
Woof. That’s about as good as I can describe how my picks have been going the last few weeks. Another tough stretch last week, going 3-6 on the week bringing the overall record for the season to 32-30-1, so still above .500, and at this point, I’ll take any small victory I can get. This week, I’m hoping I can turn around this bad streak I’ve been on but I apologize in advance to the teams and fans of the teams that I pick for putting that bad mojo on you. Expect to see me this weekend like Tom Brady, eyes closed thinking of a better place, and a better time to try and escape another poor week of picks. As always, picks are in bold.
Nebraska (-3) @ Penn State
Could there be anything further from the consciousness of the Penn State football program than football at this point? The Nittany Lions are caught in the middle of one of the worst scandals in the history of sports, losing their legendary head coach Wednesday, and getting asked nothing but questions of the Sandusky alleged abuse. Both teams are coming in contending for a Big Ten title, but the Cornhuskers are playing this one with a lot less baggage. Nebraska wins by 10.
Oregon (+3.5) @ Stanford
As far as I’m concerned, every other Pac-12 game this season is meaningless compared to the Ducks-Cardinal showdown this weekend. These top-ten teams have been dominant in conference play and this game will likely determine who wins the Pac-12 Championship and gets the automatic bid to the Rose Bowl. Stanford’s schedule has not been rigorous by any stretch of the imagination, only playing two teams in the top 25 when they played (#25 UW 65-21 win and #20 USC 56-48 3OT win), and none of Stanford’s games have been against opponents with the speed of Oregon. This game will be an epic match up of Stanford’s power against Oregon’s speed, and everyone knows “speed kills.” I expect a close game, and one that definitely has more scoring than last week’s “Game of the Century” between LSU and Alabama. Oregon wins by 6.
Auburn (+12) @ Georgia
This is way too many points to be giving to the defending National Champions who are a top-25 team again this year. Georgia has been a hot team, winning seven straight games after opening the season 0-2, and a win this weekend will secure them the SEC East and a spot in the SEC title game. Auburn has lost three of its last four and is struggling to score points, but I see Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers making a game of this one. Georgia wins by 9 and secures their chance to face off with LSU for the SEC championship.
TCU @ Boise State (-15.5)
Poor Boise State. Perennially one of the most successful programs in college football, they are victims of a poor conference and are consistently kept out of National Championship consideration for a weak strength of schedule. They were supposed to fix that problem moving to the Mountain West and joining other BCS busters Utah, BYU and TCU, but Utah and BYU left the conference before the Broncos could join and TCU will be out next year for the Big 12 and the only BCS consideration Boise State can get is from a sinking Big East to prop up the conference BCS standing. TCU is not the same team they were last year when they won the Rose Bowl, losing quarterback Andy Dalton to the NFL, and Boise State just watched a team ahead of them in the polls lose and then fall to just in front of the Broncos. Look for Boise State to pour it on the Horned Frogs, as the Broncos haven’t lost a conference game at home in years, and the team needs “style points” to gain favor with voters. Boise State big at home, winning by 24.
New Orleans @ Atlanta (+1)
The Saints have been a frustrating roller coaster of inconsistency this season. They rally to beat Carolina on the road one week, then travel to Tampa Bay and Drew Brees throws three interceptions in a loss. They return home and dismantle the Colts 62-7, but then go on the road and lost to St. Louis when Brees throws another handful of interceptions. Last week, they won an impressive game against Tampa Bay, so this week I see them struggling on the road against Atlanta. The Falcons are getting healthy and finding the explosiveness of their offense and will come in confident after last week’s showing. Yes, it was against the Colts, but confidence is confidence. Atlanta pulls it out late, wins by 3.
Detroit (+3) @ Chicago
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has come out this week saying he doesn’t believe the Lions can win outdoors in poor conditions, such as the cold and the wind of Soldier Field in Chicago. The Lions didn’t really do a great job defending themselves, coach Jim Schwartz saying Tampa Bay and Denver were both outdoor games (not really the same though) and quarterback Matt Stafford talked about playing in some pretty cold games in high school and college…when it got down into the 50s. Despite the Lions lack of debate skills, I don’t think they’ll be slowed down too much by the conditions in Chicago. Coming off the bye, the defense looks to be refocused on stopping the run and Matt Forte in general and the offense will look to maintain a more consistent rhythm even without running back Jahvid Best who is still recovering from a concussion. Look for the Lions to break a few big plays like they did last time these two teams met and win a close one. Detroit by 4.
New York Giants @ San Francisco (-3.5)
It’s hard to travel west as an east coast team (just ask Tampa Bay how their trip to San Francisco went). The Giants have been playing a little loose, making comebacks against the Dolphins and Patriots the last few weeks, both teams possessing less than stellar defenses. The 49ers are a shocking 7-1 this season and are now playing for a first round bye in the playoffs rather than just trying to win their division (Mission Accomplished on that front). San Francisco has been solid every week, playing consistently, getting good production out of their running game and Frank Gore and putting embattled quarterback Alex Smith in a position to be successful. 49ers hold serve at home, win by 10.
New England @ New York Jets (-1.5)
The Jets seem to have found their recipe for success with strong defensive play and using the running to establish play action passes. The Patriots, on the other hand, seem to be at a loss. At the beginning of the year, the strategy seemed to be “outscore other people so that nobody talks about how bad our defense is,” but teams are starting to figure out the Pats offensive attack. After opening the season with five straight games of scoring at least 30 points, New England has failed to score more than 20 in its last three games. On top of that, the defense is ranked last in passing yards allowed, which has led to the Patriots current struggles, in which they’ve lost back to back games. Look for the Jets to continue their winning formula, scoring just enough and keeping the Patriots offense frustrated, winning at home and getting the split on the season series. Jets by 4.
Minnesota (+13) @ Green Bay
Christian Ponder has injected some much needed life into the Vikings offense since taking over for Donovan McNabb four weeks ago. His first game as a starter came against these same Green Bay Packers, and only lost by six points. Ponder has shown an ability to keep the team on the field, converting more first downs in his first two starts than the offense had under Donovan McNabb in six games. Aaron Rodgers will be dynamic and the Packers will score a ton of points on offense, but things have been a little loose on the defensive side of the ball for the defending Super Bowl Champions. Before the bye, they allowed the Vikings to hang around them and keep it close largely on the arm of Christian Ponder. Last week, the defense allowed a late rally by the San Diego Chargers through the air, and if not for three Philip Rivers interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns, the Packers probably would not be answering questions about a perfect season. I think the Packers continue their winning ways, but Ponder and the Vikings keep this rivalry game close. Packers by 10.