Evaluating the Winners and Losers at the NBA Trade Deadline

Although nothing happened on the Anthony Davis-to-L.A. front, the NBA trade deadline last week was still exciting right up until the end. Which team made the most impactful move? Who’s the player who is capable of pushing a contender over the top? Who got better? Who got worse? What team is set up for the brightest future? And, of course, where do we go now with the Lakers, LeBron, and AD?

Best Long-Term Vision

Clippers. Everyone wants to talk about the Lakers being the ultimate free agent destination this summer — New York and Brooklyn even get mentions. But maybe the “other” L.A. team is where we ought to turn our attention. Do you realize what the Clippers did at the deadline? Jerry West and Larry Frank shipped out contracts to clear space; added multiple draft picks giving them two first rounders in 2020 and ’21 and two seconds in ’21 and ’23; plus by trading away Tobias Harris — who they weren’t keeping this summer anyway — they should bottom out nicely, allowing them to keep their first round pick this year (had it fallen in the lottery, it would have gone to Boston). Make the playoffs this year and get run in the first round? The Clips boldly said, “No thank you.” Now, you ready for this? Sit down. The Clippers have $59 million in space to sign TWO max free agents this summer. (You know Kawhi Leonard bought a house an hour out of L.A., right?) That’s not all. With the draft capital, Steve Balmer could package together a nice deal for another star player in a trade. Ummmm, hello Anthony Davis.

Best “Win Now” Mentality

Bucks. This is easy. While most are touting the Sixers and the big move Elton Brand made in bringing in Tobias Harris (as a rental mind you) and jettisoning former number-1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, I remind you that the Bucks are a top-2 team in the East and just added a 6-10 stretch forward who has playoff experience and can shoot the three (37%). The addition of Nikola Mirotic gives Milwaukee a third forward who is comfortable shooting behind the arc — he joins Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, who each shoot at a 38% clip from three. Mirotic was a also a key cog in the Pelicans rotation last year that got them into the second of the playoffs, despite losing DeMarcus Cousins. This move should really help spread the floor and open up even more lanes for Giannis to get to the bucket. Love this move. If I said the Bucks were the favorites in the East, I dare you to challenge me.

Worst “Win Now” Mentality

76ers. So I give Elton Brand credit for going for it. The problem is that Philly still isn’t any better than the other three teams in the East that they’re competing with for the top 4 spots. Plus, they still don’t play defense — who’s going to guard Kemba or Kyle Lowry or Eric Bledsoe or Kyrie in the playoffs? Oh, and we’re just supposed to assume Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are going to re-sign? I’m not sold at all that even one will be back in 2019. Then what? The best outcome is that the Sixers get to the Finals and that’s enough to convince one of them to return and then they sign another free agent. But, shhhhhh — Jimmy isn’t re-signing in Philly.

Brightest Future

Mavericks. After last season, what if I said that by February the Mavs would get the best player in the 2018 draft and then fall into Kristaps Porzingis on his rookie deal? Seems nuts, but Dallas is in prime position to be fun and very competitive for at least the next few years — and much longer if you believe in Luka Doncic (and you should). Luka plus KP plus another star? Wow. Sign me up.

“Good for Them” Award

Kings. The Harrison Barnes deal gives this young group some veteran presence. And with the Clippers throwing the towel in this year and the Lakers flailing around in confusion, the Kings have an excellent shot at the playoffs. They have no reason to tank or try and get a better draft pick — they don’t own their’s this year. So win, Kings, win!! Go for it!

Potentially Bleakest Future

Raptors. Give Toronto credit. They have played the role of LeBron’s punching bag for years; they’ve been saddled with the “they’re soft” tag; and they’re sick of it. SO they’re doing something about it. Be aggressive and get Kawhi. Loved that move for the statement it made, and with him playing at an MVP-level, it’s great for the Raptors. The questions remains, however: will he stay beyond this year? I think we all kinda know the answer. So now we ask, what would MAKE him stay? Adding Marc Gasol — does that do it? I have my doubts. If it doesn’t keep Kawhi from bolting for, say, the West Coast, then I ask this: where are the Raptors in 2019?

The “We-Won’t-Be-Bullied” Award

Pelicans. Sometimes being a little aloof is a positive. Reports were that Tom Benson’s widow, who is the owner, couldn’t get past trading their star player a year and a half before his contract was up. Sometimes just taking a step back can give you perspective. The Pelicans hold the cards and will get a great deal this summer.

Team Killer

LeBron, Klutch Sports, Rich Paul. Enough said.

Newest Villian

Anthony Davis. Now, New Orleans hates their greatest player of all-time. His teammates can’t be thrilled with him. The league as a whole (other than the Lakers) was rooting hard for him to not get what he wanted. Who’s on AD’s side at the moment?

The “What-Are-We-Doing?” Award

Lakers and Magic Johnson. Swing and miss and look utterly foolish at the deadline. From all reports, the Pelicans were totally messing with Magic and Co. But, ok, so you got done over by the Pels. Fine. You need to have a plan B, right? Nikola Vucevic would have been nice for Lonzo Ball and a couple picks, huh? No? Nothing? Well, that’s not true. They pulled Reggie Bullock.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 139 (“Evaluating the NBA Trade Deadline Moves”) right here:

 

 

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NBA All-Stars: Who’s Joining the Starters?

The NBA All-Star starters were announced last week, and, for me, there weren’t any real surprises. Would I have included LeBron James over big men like Anthony Davis or Nikola Jokic? No, but it’s LeBron so who’s losing their minds over that. Plus, now Davis is a little dinged up and I don’t blame anyone for preferring James over Jokic in an exhibition game for the fans. I was pleasantly surprised Kemba Walker is representing the East at the second guard spot alongside Kyrie Irving. I had Walker penciled in — and if you listened to my podcast from Friday last week (“NBA All-Stars & MVP Power Rankings”-Ep. 132) — then you know I was practically talking myself into Bradley Beal over Walker with Ben Simmons a very close third. But I stuck with Walker, and I’m glad the voters did, too.

Now, on to the tough part. Fourteen reserve spots remain that the NBA will announce January 31. Be reminded these 14 spots are divided up between the two conferences — seven for the East, seven for the West. Yet, the new “Captains Draft” format isn’t based on conferences so we won’t see an East v. West game like in years past. So why we’re still selecting viable all-stars based a parameter like “which conference you play in” seems laughable. Think about it. Multiple players out West will get left off the roster simply because they play in the West. Conversely, a few lucky souls in the East will be all-stars and can include that on their career resumes all because they play on an Eastern Conference team. The NBA is usually as progressive and ahead of the curve as any professional sports league we have in this country. C’mon Adam Silver, let’s fix this.

Anyway, here’s my reserve selections for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game:

WEST

I had Anthony Davis starting in my top 5. Listen, he’s an MVP candidate and it doesn’t matter that his team isn’t that good. AD is doing things we’ve never seen another player do — ever. His 29/13 stat line is impressive on its own, but then go ahead and add in that he also goes for 4 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal per game. That overall line has never been done in NBA history. Speaking of things that have never been done, Nikola Jokic is changing what we think a big man can do with his court vision. His 19/10/7 doesn’t totally jump off the page — although it should because the last center to do that was Wilt Chamberlain. But I urge you to pay more attention to those 7 assists and the fact that the Nuggets’ big man leads the NBA in passes per game. That’s crazy. You could argue no player impacts his team more than the Joker.

Let’s stick with the bigs and talk about the anchor of the league’s 4th best defense. Utah’s Rudy Gobert is the NBA’s best rim protector, but his impact on the Jazz offense cannot be discounted. Gobert leads the league in screen assists, leading to a league-best 14.1 points per game. (Full discloure, if you listened to my podcast on my all-star picks, I left Gobert out. That was dumb.)

If it’s guard play you like, then you’re in for a treat because the West has a bunch. Damian Lillard might be the most underrated and under appreciated player in the NBA. Playing way up in Portland doesn’t help his marketability, but Dame is nearly on Steph Curry’s level when it comes to range. Plus, he’s averaging 1.1 points per possession off the pick and roll. The team that swept the Blazers in last year’s playoffs has two players making it for me. Jrue Holliday has put up some really nice numbers in New Orleans — 21 points per game and 8 assists. What’s more impressive is that when he and Davis are both on the floor, the Pelicans have an efficiency rating equal to that of a 60-win team. On the other hand, when one leaves the court, the rating plummets to that of a sub-30 win team. Yikes.

The Sacramento Kings got off the that fast start, and while they’ve slowed down, De’Aaron Fox has not. Along with Buddy Hield, the two comprise one of the youngest and fastest backcourts in the league. Fox should be an All-Star. And if we’re talking about youth, let’s not forget about the shot of adrenaline that Luka Doncic has injected into the Mavericks team. Luka’s the leader of that team already — he’s only 19. His numbers bear out all-star consideration — 20/6/5. Only eight rookies have gone for 19/6/4 and all eight were on the team.

EAST

The case could easily have been made for either Ben Simmons or Bradley Beal to get the starting nod over Kemba Walker. I love Walker and he’s single-handedly responsible for keeping the Hornets in the playoff picture. But Simmons’s court vision is beyond reproach and he’s got the numbers to back it up — 17/9.5/8. If he could only shoot. Then there’s Beal who has completely taken over in D.C. — 31.1 points and 7 assists per game — after John Wall went out with injury.

As for a couple more guards, JJ Redick is putting up some really special numbers, considering he’s the fourth option in Philly. He’s attempting a career high in 3s per game and his 18.5 points per game is the most of his career. And if someone said the Nets would be pushing for the 5th seed in the East before the season started, I would have called for them to be institutionalized. Instead, here we are and De’Angelo Russell has been really good — 19.2 points and 6 assists per game. In January alone, Russell is averaging 23.1 points and his shooting percentages are up across the board from the field (+6%), from 3 (4%), and from the line (8%).

The three remaining spots go to Nikola VucevicBlake Griffin, and Pascal Siakam. No one has been more surprising this year than the Orlando big man. Vuc’s 20 and 12 have kept the Magic in the mix — although they seem to be fluttering now. “Point Blake” is being used in a way that completely maximizes what Griffin does best now at this stage of his career. His 26/5/5 might be the quietest 26/5/5 I’ve ever seen. And Toronto has such a strong bench and one of the most soundly put together teams in the NBA, you’ve got to look at rewarding somebody besides just Kawhi Leonard. Enter Siakam’s 15 points and 7 rebounds per game along with his 57% shooting from the field. He’s consistent and he’s reliable — and he’s their second most important player. Crazy? Maybe.

Honorable Mentions

There were a number of deserving players left out — as there always is. And if you play in the West, you really feel left out because the players grabbing the last few spots in the East are not as worthy as the first few guys in the West that have to stay home, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl Towns, Danilo Gallinari. If not Gallinari, Tobias Harris and his 21 points a game could easily be making the trip to Charlotte as the Clippers representative. Also, it seems weird to leave a player from the Spurs out, especially after they’ve overachieved when everyone declared them dead and the dynasty done. Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan could certainly be All-Stars this year.

A name you want me to mention is one that I have little problem keeping off the All-Star roster. Well, there might be two — one is Jimmy Butler and I’m not making any apologies for this. You forfeit All-Star recognition when you publicly act like he’s acted and attempt to ruin one franchise and now seem to be working on another (not to mention your past history in Chicago). The other is Russell Westbrook. I love Russ and watching him the All-Star Game is fun — truth be told, I’d have little issue if he ended up on the roster. His true shooting percentage is so awful that it makes you question if he’s the most important player on that Thunder team. I know he’s practically averaging a triple-double, but how meaningful is that when of 291 players who’ve attempted 20 shots a game, Russ’s field goal percentage ranks him 273? He’s more entertaining, but Mike Conley might be more worthy of an All-Star selection this season.

There aren’t a lot of snubs in the more watered down East in my opinion, but Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton could make a case. The Bucks are a top-2 team in the conference and, usually, teams that good get multiple selections to the game. Their numbers balance out quite evenly, but Bledsoe’s defense might give him a slight edge over his teammate.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 132 (“NBA All-Stars & MVP Power Rankings”) right here:

Listen to EPISODE 134 (“What’s Next for AD and Potential Suitors? And SB53 Storylines “) right here:

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7 Burning Questions Heading into the Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs

  1. Can Dallas do enough, offensively, to keep up with the Rams? This isn’t a trick question. But they might not need to. Yes, the Rams are flashy and fun and when they get rolling, it’s a fast-paced brand of offense that few teams in the NFL can keep up with. But there’s always an antidote for everything. The Cowboys have it — they can run the ball, eat clock, keep Sean McVay’s offense standing on the sideline, and force the Rams into playing frantically with limited possessions. It’s not a matter of Dallas keeping up offensively — rather, it’s whether or not Dallas can impose their own offensive style of play onto this Rams team.
  2. What did the Rams learn from losing to Chicago and from watching the game film of the Dallas win over New Orleans earlier in the season? This is mostly rhetorical because I don’t really have an answer. The Bears and Cowboys play differently on defense, but the overall gameplan is the same — slow the game down, don’t let Todd Gurley run, force Jared Goff into being uncomfortable and rushed, and control the pace of the game. The Rams will need to get on the scoreboard early and turn the tables on Dallas — force the Cowboys into feeling like they need to press and throw the ball more than running it with Ezekiel Elliott. This game is a battle of who can establish their preferred style of play first.
  3. Is Cooper Kupp’s injury going to derail the Rams versus the Cowboys? Since Kupp went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Rams offense has not been the same. More specifically, Jared Goff has not been the same. Through 10 weeks with Kupp in the slot, Goff completed 70% of his passes for 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. After Kupp went down, Goff’s numbers slipped — 59% completion rate with 16 TDs and 8 INTs (those were worse until he threw 5 TDs and 0 INTs in the season’s final two games against the Cardinals and 49ers). In addition, Kupp’s replacement has not nearly been as reliable. When targeting Josh Reynolds, Goff is on target 52% of the time with 3 TDs and 4 INTs. Kupp is a big piece to this offense and serves as very reliable safety valve for Goff. If he’s pressured, it’s worth watching how Goff answers and where he tries to go with the ball.
  4. Would anyone be stunned if three road teams won again this weekend? The argument could be made in the AFC that the two best teams remaining in the playoffs are the 5th and 6th seeds. The Chargers are a 12-win team with a top 4 MVP candidate, who just got unlucky that they played in the same division as Kansas City. The Chargers spent the better part of the season in most experts’ top-5 power rankings. And the Colts have won 10 of their last 11 and look as complete a team that’s left standing. Those two teams, without question, could come away with road wins this weekend. In the NFC, the Cowboys are practically playing a home game in L.A. against the Rams. That’s three. The Eagles winning in New Orleans is a much tougher sell.
  5. What looks will the Chargers defense throw at Tom Brady? The Cover-3 scheme has not been a defense that has stymied Tom Brady very much in past years. Against the Cover-3, Brady ate up the Seahawks and Falcons in the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl victories and did the sam in last year’s AFC title game against the Jaguars. Gus Bradley will try and be creative — you’d think rushing four (led by Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram) and dropping seven into coverage would be the plan of attack. The key will be if those pass rushers can throw Brady off his timing. If not, he’ll probably pick apart the defense.
  6. Are we all guilty of completely overreacting to the Colts? The Colts are 10-1 in their last 11 games, including in that time two wins over the Texans and a shut out win over the Cowboys. After their 1-5 start, Indianapolis has more than figured things out. Since mid-October, the Colts are better than the Chiefs. And the Colts don’t have that one glaring weakness, opposed to the Chiefs and their abhorrent defense. No disrespect to the Chiefs because that offense is beyond explosive and their speed might eventually extend plays too long for the Colts defenders to stop them. These are two good teams. The Colts are better, though.
  7. What is stopping the Saints from totally and unequivocally bum-rushing the Eagles like they did when they met earlier this season? Nothing. That’s the answer. The Eagles have improved in the last month — more consistent play out of the QB position and the defense has been much better. But the Saints have few holes and the Eagles are not equipped to exploit them. This might not be very close.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 127 (“Previewing the Divisional Round  of the NFL Playoffs”) right here:

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10 Biggest Questions Surrounding Wildcard Weekend in the NFL

  1. Can the Chargers fix the problems their defense encountered against the Ravens rushing attack when the two played three weeks ago? The stars are there in L.A. That’s not the question. Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Derwin James (and that secondary) are designed to disrupt the quarterback and make plays on the ball — they are not built to clog lanes and stop the run. Even if the Chargers know what they need to do to stop Lamar and the run game, the question becomes “do they have the personnel to actually do it?”.
  2. Is Phillip Rivers going to look more like the MVP candidate we all talked about for the first 15 weeks of the season or the guy we saw against the Ravens and Broncos the last two weeks? Melvin Gordon’s return should be helpful, and Rivers has played enough football over the course of his career to be able to make adjustments to a defense he saw just three weeks ago. But Baltimore’s defensive front embarrassed those pass blockers in Week 16.
  3. Who out-“ballsys” the other, Matt Nagy or Doug Pederson? Of course, we all watched in awe as Pederson went against the traditional grain in last year’s Super Bowl against the Patriots with his playcalling. Matt Nagy comes from the same Andy Reid tree and understands the importance of making bold decisions in this era of football. In a close game, I’d expect one (or maybe more one) decision to swing the outcome.
  4. Will Mitchell Trubisky be given the time he needs to pick apart the Eagles’ secondary? Philadelphia’s defense is predicated on its pass rush — and it has to be because that secondary has been through the ringer this season. Fletcher Cox, Tim Jurnigan, Derek Bennett, and Michael Bennett will have to make Mitchell Trubisky feel pressured and rushed. The Bears coaching staff has to understand if Trubisky isn’t given enough time to get the ball out, he can easily be forced into some big mistakes. However, if given time, the second-year QB should be able to move the ball down field.
  5. How big of an impact will Khalil Mack have going up against Lane Johnson and/Jason Peters? The versatile edge rusher is better than either of Philly’s two tackles, but Johnson and Peters only need to combine to outplay Mack on Sunday night. Bears’ DC Vic Fangio has moved Mack to the right, to the left, dropped him into coverage, and pretty much played him all over the field, and this has freed up other Bears’ defenders to make plays all year long. Mack doesn’t need a handful of sacks to have a meaningful impact on this game.
  6. Who do you trust more: Jason Garrett and Dad Prescott or Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson? Silly question, I know, but I had to ask it. This game might just be that simple.
  7. Can Seattle’s defense get off the field and limit Dallas’ T.O.P.? Seattle has a top-5 defense on stopping third-down conversions while the Dallas offense converted in those situations at over a 45% rate — top 10 in the NFL. Strength on strength. If Jason Garrett could have it his way, Dallas would grind this win out on the back of Ezekiel Elliott — and that’d be the smart way to go. But Seattle’s defense, you better believe, is going to ask Dak Prescott to make some big plays in the passing game or with his legs. Third down success rate will be a telling stat in the game.
  8. Is the Dallas defense good enough to stop the explosive plays from the Seahawks passing game? We talk about how the Seahawks have transformed their offense into a ground-and-pound attack on the ground, but yards on the ground do not necessarily translate into wins — red zone efficiency and chunks plays are two more predictive indicators of wins and losses. And it just so happens the Seahawks have a Super Bowl-winning QB, who can throw a magnificent deep ball, and has two exceptional weapons on the outside who can get open deep down the field.
  9. If not DeAndre Hopkins, then who? Ummm. I wish I had an answer here, but Houston doesn’t have much in the way of offensive weapons. You’d have to imagine Houston would like to establish the run game with Lamar Miller.
  10. Can the Texans generate an effective pass rush with just JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney? Disrupting Andrew Luck will be a key to Houston’s gameplan. And the Texans have the pass rushers, however of their 43 sacks only 18 have come from players not named Watt or Clowney. That’s about a sack a game. If Indy’s very much improved offensive line can limit Watt and Clowney, Houston might have a tough time getting to the QB.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 123 (“The Keys to the Wild Card Games “) right here:

Listen to EPISODE 124 (“Ranking the NFL Playoff Teams, Picking Wild Card Weekend Winners, and Predicting the Eight Head Coaches to Get Hired”) right here:

 

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NFL Playoff Predictions

In the spirit of the holidays, I want to open up by saying thank you to everyone who’s been keeping up and reading with these weekly picks — you’ve been witness to three of the finest weeks I’ve ever had in picking games over the last 12 years. Twice I went undefeated and last week I was 14-2 straight up. For the season, I went 148-75 straight up picking winners and losers; and against the spread, I won us money — 110-104-10.

Why am I talking in the past tense, like it’s all over? Well, let’s face it, it is. Unless you’re a complete degenerate, you’re not risky your well-earned money on Week 17 games that will likely feature myriad back-ups and coaches changing their gameplans on the fly as other scores and results become clearer. For instance, the Bears will likely bench players mid-game and turn their focus to keeping guys healthy for Wildcard Weekend, if they look up at the scoreboard and see that the Rams are burying the 49ers. Same with the Chargers, if the Chiefs appear to have wrapped up their game against the Raiders.

So why would I try and pick these games? It’s plenty hard enough when normal factors are at play, let alone all these wild implications from games that are happening in real time and at the same time. What I’d rather spend a few minutes doing would be predicting who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs in each conference.

AFC

  1. Kansas City (12-4) — A win at home over the Raiders is all that stands in between Chiefs and home filed throughout the playoffs. Not leaving Arrowhead gives the Chiefs as good a shot at making to the Super Bowl with Andy Reid as they’ll ever have. This one’s easy.
  2. New England (11-5) — A win at Foxboro over the Jets would clinch a much needed bye for the Pats, who’ve looked older and more “un-Patriot” like than in over a decade. The players know how important that bye is.
  3. Houston (11-5) — Yes, the Texans have definitely come back down to earth after reeling off 9 straight wins after an 0-3 start. But a loss in Week 17 to the Jaguars means Houston will wind up the 6th seed and having to go on the road in order to reach the Super Bowl. Talk about limping into the postseason.
  4. Pittsburgh (9-6-1) — If you listen to my podcast, you know how much this kills me. But listen, this is typical 2018 Steelers: inconsistent, unpredictable, and in the end, still pretty good. Honestly, this has more to do with the Ravens and their Week 17 opponent — the Steelers just happen to be the beneficiaries, assuming they roll the Bengals like they should.
  5. Los Angeles (11-5) — The Chargers have nothing to play for as long as the Chiefs beat the Raiders. I imagine head coach Anthony Lynn has a quick hook for his starters once he’s told the score at Arrowhead.
  6. Indianapolis (10-6) — This is the underrated story of the year. Andrew Luck has returned to the form we grew accustomed to seeing when he was healthy, and the Colts have a really good offensive line and defense to match. They’ll dispatch Blaine Gabbert (or Marcus Mariota) to get in. And once they’re in, they’re dangerous.
  7. Baltimore (9-7) — Last year’s Week 17 ending was a nightmare for John Harbaugh’s team, as they gave up a final minute touchdown bomb from Andy Dalton, as the Bengals — with nothing to play for themselves — enabled the Buffalo Bills to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. The scenario this year is quite similar: a “win-and-you’re-in” game against the Browns, who’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. Each year a team in a situation like this inexplicably lays an egg. You can be sure Baker Mayfield will not be giving this game up easily — the Browns have a chance to finish with a winning record a year after going 0-16. Don’t tell this team this game is meaningless for them.

NFC

  1. New Orleans (14-2) — The road the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Superdome. That’s already been determined.
  2. Los Angeles (12-4) — The 2-seed is their’s with a win over the 49ers. Sean McVay has a bit of a history of preferring to rest his players than play for playoff positioning — he rested Todd Gurley last week and rested everyone in Week 17 last season, which led to the Rams getting the 4-seed and not the 3. I think he knows the importance of earning the bye, though.
  3. Chicago (11-5) — Once the Rams have demonstrated that they want the 2-seed, it’d be logical to see Matt Nagy sit some starters, which would in turn give the Vikings the advantage and a great shot at securing the 6th seed — and a return trip to Soldier Field next weekend.
  4. Dallas (9-7) — The division has been locked up and Dallas is firmly entrenched in that 4-seed, no matter the result against the Giants.
  5. Seattle (10-6) — A loss could theoretically push Seattle down to the 6th seed. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they play the Cardinals, who you’d have to figure are in a rush for this season to come to an end.
  6. Minnesota (9-6-1) — I’m not picking Kirk Cousins to win a must-win game against the Bears. But considering the circumstances and what I mentioned above with the Rams, the bears probably let Cousins off the hook. If he can’t win then, we’ve got some major problems brewing in Minnesota.
  7. Philadelphia (9-7) — All the defending champs can do at this point is go out and try to win a game against the Redskins. Take care of their business and let the chips fall where they may. If the Bears decide they want to play all-out for a full 60 minutes, the Eagles will get in.

Thanks again to everyone for sticking around this year and humoring me by reading all my picks and predictions. It’s fun and I hope you found some levity in reading it. We’ll be back next week with predictions for Wildcard Weekend.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 119 (“The Running Back Question, Wild Playoff Scenarios, and Top MVP Candidates “) right here:

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NFL Week 16 Picks

I’m going to keep my little intro brief this week. I have some advice here in Week 16. NFL games are hard enough to handicap in the middle of the season when you think you understand what every team is and all their strengths and weaknesses. Betting the last couple weeks, though — it’s almost impossible. There are a number of games this week where it comes down to which team is going to play hard — and that’s an extremely difficult thing to try and predict. For instance, Denver-Oakland will not be the matchup that we may have thought it would be if we looked ahead a few weeks ago. The Raiders have a roster full of veterans, who may not want to get hurt or have packed it in for the year, yet they have won two straight and will be home on Christmas Eve while the Broncos have just been eliminated from the playoff race, have to travel on the holiday, but are playing a bunch of young guys who may have something to prove to their coaches heading into the offseason. So who the heck do you pick??!!

Try and stay away from games like that — and there’s a bunch this week.

Last week, I went 9-7 straight up and 7-8-1 against the spread (ATS). For season, we’re looking at 134-73 straight up and 102-97-9 ATS. Let’s see what happens this week. Merry Christmas!

Santa Came!

Baltimore at Chargers (-4.5)

Baltimore runs the balls at 43. yards per attempt — and they run it more than any other team in the NFL. Conversely, the Chargers give up 4.3 yards per attempts to opponents on the ground. The Ravens will want to run all day long. The problem might be that the Chargers will play that “bend but don’t break” defense and give up yards to Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson; but at some point, they’re going to make Lamar throw it. And when he does, Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram and Derwin James will be coming for him. That too is too good to be beaten by this rookie, who hasn’t shown any remarkable ability to throw the ball. Chargers, 27-20

Kansas City at Seattle (+2.5)

Seattle’s going to run the ball and KC is going to get gashed. It’s almost best for Kansas City to just concede all those rushing yards and tighten up in the red zone and against any passing attack Russell Wilson comes at them with. Chunk plays will be the key in this one. The Chiefs and Pat Mahomes have mastered those, but don’t sleep on Seattle’s ability to make big plays happen out of the passing game. Seattle, 26-24

Cool Gifts. Thanks.

Houston at Philadelphia (-1)

Let me ask you something: Are you willing to bet against Nick Foles in a “do or die” December game in Doug Pederson’s offense? Philly’s pass rush will give Houston’s offensive line fits. Eagles, 24-20

Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6)

So the Saints offense hasn’t looked right in a few weeks. If Drew Brees & Co. struggle against Pittsburgh’s defense, then maybe I’ll start to wonder if things are okay in the bayou. I don’t expect the Steelers to keep this close. And the Saints — at home — will not shoot themselves in the foot like New England did the previous week against Pittsburgh. Saints, 34-24

Socks and Underwear

Washington at Tennessee (-10)

It’s fitting this game is being played at 4:30 on Saturday — if either team makes the playoffs that early Saturday time slot is the perfect home for them on Wildcard Weekend. The Titans defense should get after Josh Johnson and it won’t likely take much more than 17 points to win this game. Titans, 24-10

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7)

Dallas’s offense should get back to moving the ball effectively after a disastrous game in Indy a week ago. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense can certainly be explosive but you worry about the turnovers. Jameis Winston has appeared to have fixed that problem — throwing only 3 interceptions in the last 5 games after tossing 10 in the 4 games prior. The Cowboys defense might goad him into reverting back to bad, reckless Jameis. Cowboys, 27-16

Minnesota at Detroit (+5.5)

This is a tough game to handicap because we still are trying to decipher if what we saw last week from the Vikings offense is going to be trend moving forward or if it was simply a one game blip due to the change at OC. The Lions run defense has been greatly improved since the addition of Snacks Harrison; and this is a in-division road game, where the Vikings don’t always dominate. Vikings, 24-20

Giants (+9.5) at Indianapolis

I get it — Indy is playing well on all sides of the ball. Andrew is a borderline MVP candidate, Marlon Mack has shown promising flashes as a runner, Eric Ebron is a Pro Bowler, the offensive line looks completely fixed, and the defense is coming a shutout of Dallas. But the Giants can score and in the dome, I think Eli and Saquon will be able to generate some points to keep it a game. Colts, 31-24

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-7)

Baker v. Hue, Part Two!! Cincy’s defense is not good and the young Browns know that all they can do is keep winning if they want to have any shot at the postseason. Browns, 27-17

Buffalo (+13.5) at New England

Without Josh Gordon, one wonders how this Patriots offense will look. More 2-back sets; more Chris Hogan-Philip Dorsett-Cordarrelle Patterson; more 2-TE sets? Hey, Tom Brady’s still there and he has weapons. Also, should be fun to see the very mobile Josh Allen in his debut at Foxboro against a suspect Pats’ rush defense. Patriots, 30-20

Chicago at San Francisco (+4)

Yes, on paper the Bears are much better than the 49ers. But three things make me nervous: (1) Bears just won the division by beating longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers (and they celebrated like they won the Super Bowl); (2) long travel week with a road game on the West Coast; and (3) under Kyle Shanahan, the Niners are 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread in December games. Oh, and the Bears haven’t been all that impressive in road games this year — lost in Miami, blew one week 1 in Green Bay, lost at the Giants, and escaped Arizona and Detroit by the skin of their teeth. Bears, 23-20

Rams (-14) at Arizona

Yep, tell me all about the Rams’ struggles on offense and defense lately. Tell me Jared Goff is the second-to-last QB in efficiency rating over the last 3 weeks. Yes, Todd Gurley may not be right. I understand that Cooper Kupp is, has been, and will be out. Yep, yes, I know. I also know that the Cardinals have an abysmal offense and Josh Rosen lives to throw pick-6s. This is the ultimate “get right” game for the Rams on both sides of the ball. Rams, 31-10

Coal in the Stocking

Denver at Oakland (+2.5)

The Raiders’, presumably, final game in Oakland and it could be interesting — not the game so much, but rather the Raider fans in the Black Hole. Neither team wants to play this game on Christmas Eve so give me the team that doesn’t have to travel. Raiders, 23-20

Green Bay at Jets (+3)

Sounds like Aaron Rodgers will play and that pretty much all I need to hear. The Jets are feisty, but in a game with nothing riding on it, give me the better quarterback with the better weapons. Packers, 24-23

Jacksonville at Miami (-4.5)

You can’t convince me that the Jaguars are interested in playing hard in weeks 16 and 17. On the other hand, Miami is not mathematically out of the playoffs yet, plus they are a different team when playing at home. Dolphins, 24-13

Atlanta (-3.5) at Carolina

No Cam Newton. No real motivation for the Panthers to be competitive. Falcons, 24-12


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 116 (“Week 16 Preview & QBs as Christmas Movies”) right here:

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NFL Week 15 Picks

We should know who every team is at this point in the NFL season. However, the NFL is the NFL for a reason. It keeps us guessing from week to week, and anyone who runs the ol’ “Strength of Schedule Predictor Machine” is bound to look foolish because in the NFL it’s “any given Sunday” or “that’s why they play the games”. Pick whichever cliche you want.

Last week was a perfect example. The Steelers in the middle of the playoff race with everything to play for head to Oakland and look clumsy in game that their opponent didn’t even really want to win. The Broncos, hearing everyone prognosticate that they could run the table and end the year 10-6 and grab the 6th seed in the AFC, get beaten by the 49ers, who’d much prefer to improve on their draft slot than win a meaningless game against Denver. Then there’s the Saints, who only defeated the Bucs after they came out of their first half coma at halftime; the Rams couldn’t muster more than 6 points against the Bears; and the Cowboys outplay and out-gain the Eagles in regulation, yet it takes OT for Dallas to get the 6 point win.

If you think you know anything about the NFL, that’s fine — you probably do. But just because you know things, doesn’t mean you can tell me who’s going to win every Sunday.

After a couple of weeks middling at or below .500, I found my groove last week — 11-5 against the spread (ATS) and 10-6 straight up. For the season (minus week 1), I’m winning money: 95-89-8 ATS and 125-66 just picking winners. Here we come week 15.

Don’t Miss

Chargers (+3.5) at Kansas City

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Chargers need Melvin Gordon to win this game. The Chiefs have an abhorrent run defense to the point where if I padded up, I could gash them for 80 yards. The Ravens had them dead to rights last week — and if Lamar Jackson was a little more experienced and a better thrower of the football, that game might not have been all that close in the end. Phillip Rivers is more than capable of winning a football game like this — especially when his run game should be fine and his defense can be disruptive to Pat Mahomes. Chargers, 34-24

Dallas (+3) at Indianapolis

Can Indy’s defense hold Dallas to field goals? The Cowboys offense should be able to move the ball and Zeke Elliott should get his fair share of touches — but if the Colts can force Dallas into settling for 3s instead of 6s, Andrew Luck should be able to generate enough of his own offense with Eric Ebron to outscore the ‘Boys. Colts, 24-23

New England (-1.5) at Pittsburgh 

The Patriots have too many weapons on offense. Which Steeler defender takes James White when he and Gronk are lined up on the same side? Who can handle Julian Edelman in the slot? And then there’s issue of Sony Michel coming out of the backfield. On the other side of the ball, I think Bill Belichick and Brian Flores scheme a way to limit Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster with some combination of Stephon Gilmore, the McCourty twins, and undrafted rookie JC Jackson. Patriots, 34-27

No Harm in Watching

Miami at Minnesota (-7)

With all the ups and downs in Minnesota, no team is wackier than Miami as far as how they look at home as opposed to on the road. The Fins are 6-1 in South Beach, yet when they travel, they’re 1-5, scoring only 17 points a game, and surrendering 29.5 to opponents. I like the Vikings to play with some excitement on offense with new OC Kevin Stefanski calling plays now. If the Vikings hit their stride here, there’s a chance this could be the moment we look back on in January and say, “Minnesota saved their season with that move”. Vikings, 27-17

Cleveland (+3) at Denver

Denver’s secondary is beat up and their offense is completely dependent on rookies Phillip Lindsey and Courtland Sutton. Baker Mayfield should be able to push the ball downfield on this Denver defense. Browns, 27-20

Tampa Bay (+8) at Baltimore

After the emotional loss at Arrowhead a week ago, the Ravens might need a couple quarters to get going. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bucs get out fast to a lead. Let the Ravens settle in, and that defense should be able to force Jameis Winston into a few of his patented turnovers, and the ravens offense really shouldn’t be met with much resistance by the Tampa Bay defense. Ravens, 20-17

Green Bay (+5.5) at Chicago

Bears fans are so scared of this game. Can they step on Aaron Rodgers’s throat and end the Packers season? Maybe this is a new Bears team and they’ll answer the call. But I need to see it first. Packers, 27-24

Philadelphia at Rams (-9)

It doesn’t seem like Carson Wentz will play Sunday — and nor should he with a broken back and Philly’s season all but done. The Rams need a “get right” game after not looking like themselves for the past couple weeks. Rams, 38-17

New Orleans (-6.5) at Carolina

I don’t care why the Panthers  all of a sudden stink. Is Cam hurt? Don’t care. Does the defense stink? Yes. Bottom line — you went from 6-2 and being a fringe-Super Bowl contender to a team that won’t be in the playoffs, might get your coach fired, and will certainly waster Christian McCaffrey’s outstanding offensive season. Save the excuses, Carolina. I don’t care. Saints, 41-24

Tennessee (+2.5) at Giants

Giants hung 40 on the Redskins last Sunday. Let me remind you that was a Washington team decimated by injuries and who was playing Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson at quarterback. Tennessee might not be great, but they’ve got to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Mike Vrabel’s defense won’t let the Giants offense run hog wild. Titans, 23-20

What’s This on For?

Houston (-6) at Jets

Houston has given up the second most sacks in the league, and if the Jets were serious about playing, I’d use that as evidence to support a Houston loss here. Can’t do it, though. A little fantasy advice: play Houston’s defense. Texans, 26-13

Seattle (-5) at San Francisco

Short week might be cause for concern for Pete Carroll’s team, but the Niners aren’t equipped to stop what Seattle’s offense wants to do: run the ball. Seattle doesn’t need a perfect performance to win in San Fran. Seahawks, 24-10

“Bleep” Show Games of the Week

Detroit (+2.5) at Buffalo

Buffalo’s offense is predicated on Josh Allen’s ability to move the ball down field — mostly with his legs. But guess what? The Lions are the best team in the NFL against rushing QBs — giving up an average of 4.0 yards per game. Since acquiring Snacks Harrison seven weeks ago, Detroit’s overall rush defense has improved to 18th from 30th. Truth be told, I hate the Lions on the road, especially coming off a dominating performance a week ago in Arizona. And I hate their offense. But it’s not like Buffalo is scoring 30 a game. Defense, defense, defense in this one. Lions, 20-17

Arizona at Atlanta (-8.5)

“The Battle of Two Teams Who Just Don’t Give a Damn”. I guess Atlanta wins — they have the talent and Arizona can’t do anything offensively. It’s just a matter of the final score. Falcons, 27-17

Oakland (+3) at Cincinnati

Oakland was “gamey” last weekend. But how can you get excited to travel across the country to play in Cincinnati in December? I’ll tell you — you know Hue Jackson is waiting on the opposing sideline. No chance I pick Hue. Seriously though, Derek Carr’s been playing much better and Doug Martin — yes, that Doug Martin) can gobble up yards on this Bengals shoddy defense. Raiders, 24-20

Washington at Jacksonville (-7)

Who’s tuning in for this game? You really need to re-evaluate your decisions in life, if you willing choose to spend 3 hours in front of a TV with this game on. Jaguars, 15-5


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 111 (“The Mess in Minnesota”) right here:

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NFL Week 14 Picks

As soon as the cold weather rolls in, it’s like clockwork — games become so much more meaningful. And wins are more difficult to come by, as we witnessed last weekend. This is a tricky time of of the season because we’ve grown into our opinions about teams and we believe certain things because we’ve watched, well, a lot of football. But if you’ve really watched a lot of football, you’ll know that now is when we learn the most about teams. For example, we want to trust the Bears because they were 8-3 going into Met Life Stadium last weekend. But a back-up QB, a feisty opponent, and few untimely mistakes are a recipe for disaster. You could same similar things about the Colts who got shut down and shutout by Jacksonville, the Panthers who lost in Tampa Bay, and the Browns who probably missed out on any slim hopes of making the playoffs by losing to Houston.

My point is many teams we are tricked into believing in during the early months of the season, turn out to deceive us in December. Teams have to learn how to win, they need to endure a full season before they’re ready to really take the next steps. Yes, the Bears are not bad — heck. they’ll probably with the division and be a 3 seed. But don’t be surprised if they encounter bumps along the way. Look at the Rams from last year. They dominated until December, slowed down a bit, dropped a couple games, and then exited the playoffs at home to underachieving Falcons team. There’s a process to getting good — and some of these teams are in the middle of experiencing it.

All that to say — IT’S HARD TO PICK GAMES IN THE NFL!!! But let’s give it another shot after a so-so Week 13. I was 9-7 both straight up and against the spread. For the year, I’m 84-84-8 ATS and 115-60 straight up. Let’s get to Week 14.

Plop Down and Get Comfy

Baltimore (+7) at Kansas City

The Ravens are rolling with Lamar Jackson. In his three starts, Baltimore is 3-0, has rushed for over 700 yards, and controlled the clock in dominating fashion — holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes last Sunday in Atlanta. That stat is interesting because the Chiefs don’t typically care if they have long, drawn out possessions — they’re very happy with quick-hit strikes, chunk plays, and efficient scoring drives. The Ravens might be successful in doing what they want offensively against the Chiefs, but it might not matter if the defense gives up points. Kansas City has faced the second-fewest third downs this year. Baltimore’s defense must force Pat Mahomes into as many third downs as possible, limit his yardage on first and second downs, and make him turn the ball over. If that happens, the Ravens should be able to gobble up yards on a weak KC defense. Ravens, 24-20

Philadelphia at Dallas (-4)

The Philadelphia offense should have trouble moving the ball against a stout Cowboys defense. Look for Amari Cooper and Cole Beasely to exploit the depleted Eagles secondary — and then use Zeke to pound through the holes that will create. I can see the Eagles throwing the whole playbook at Dallas, as they try and make one last push for the division. But it’s going to be tough, and I’m sick of waiting for the Eagles of last year to emerge. Cowboys, 24-17

Rams (-3) at Chicago

The Rams have shown that they can get “gotten” on the road — and yes, I know they’ve only lost one game all season, but they were slow to get up on the Lions last weekend, the Seahawks have battled them to within one score in both games, and they beat the Broncos in Denver by a field goal. The Bears defense will try their best to disrupt Sean McVay’s offensive plans — and they probably will find some level of success in doing so. But can Chicago’s offense hang around long enough? Something tells me Mitchell Trubisky is going to get to know Aaron Donald real well Sunday night. Rams, 24-17

Minnesota at Seattle (-3.5)

One of these teams has heart. The other does not. It’s that simple. Seahawks, 24-20

Keep the TV On

Indianapolis (+5) at Houston

This 9-game winning streak the Texans have been on all started in Indy when Frank Reich opted to go for it on fourth down from near midfield in overtime. Now, the Colts come in wishing that had ended in a tie, as they now face what amounts to a must-win game in Houston, against a team with a hot QB and a running game that has been on-point. That said, the Colts are second in the league converting third downs (48.2%) while the Texans are 15th at less than 40%. That’s a stat that could factor in to what should be a close division grinder. Colts, 31-24

New Orleans (-8) at Tampa Bay

The Saints finally defeated a divisional opponent by double digits when they got all over the Falcons on Thanksgiving night. The Bucs can score and Jameis Winston has been more careful not turning the ball over the past couple weeks. Will that trend continue in a shootout when his team gets behind? Hmmm. Saints, 38-27

Atlanta (+6) at Green Bay

The Packers and Aaron Rodgers are going to play their best game of the year. After the game, reporters will ask if it had anything to do with Mike McCarthy not being there, and of course, they’ll say it didn’t. Liars. Packers, 31-27

Flip Around

Carolina at Cleveland (+1.5)

This season got sideways in a hurry for Ron Rivera and the Panthers. It’s never a good omen when the HC has to fire a bunch of assistants mid-season and take over playcalling. Who would have thought 6 weeks ago that it’d be the Browns that look like the less dysfunctional team of the two? Browns, 29-24

New England (-7.5) at Miami

Miami is not good, and the Patriots’ run game should make hay. Also, the Patriots are looking to avenge last season’s MNF loss in South Beach, and the defense looks like it is rounding into typical December form. Patriots, 27-17

Occasionally Check the Game

Pittsburgh at Oakland (+11)

The Steelers have not traveled well over the past few years — and by that I mean that the offense has a propensity for sputtering and Big Ben turns the ball over. Also, James Connor is out with an ankle sprain so that’ll be worth monitoring over the final month of the regular season. Pittsburgh can’t afford any slip-ups — Lamar and the Ravens are closing in. Steelers, 31-24

Giants at Washington (+3.5)

The Giants are playing themselves right out of a top 5 pick with all this winning they’ve been doing lately. And this weekend presents a juicy matchup for Eli and the boys as they head into a game against a beat up Redskins team, who is watching the playoffs slip from their hands. Giants, 23-20

Turn the Channel and Don’t Bother

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-4)

No way the Jags show up in back-to-back weeks, right? And let’s be honest, it’s not like their offense did a single thing last Sunday against the Colts. The Titans are fighting for their playoff lives — they can’t slip here. Titans, 20-10

Jets at Buffalo (-3.5)

Josh Allen is garnering more love in the media thanks to his legs more than his arm. Expect more of the same this week with a Jets team that can start looking to 2019. Say what you will, Buffalo plays hard every week and shows signs of life with their rookie QB. Bills, 20-12

Cincinnati (+14) at Chargers 

This has all the makings of a trap game — Chargers riding high after a huge win in Pittsburgh on national television, taking on a no-name quarterback who’s missing his number one wideout. I’d take the Bengals, confidently, to cover except for one thing: The Curse of Hue. But all the ingredients are there!!! I’m probably going to regret this one. Chargers, 27-16

Denver at San Francisco (+5.5)

Don’t put me in the “I-believe-in-Denver” boat. Denver’s defense has been fine but not great, and their offense hinges upon an undrafted rookie running back. The 49ers might not be the team to get them, but someone will. People are acting like the Broncos are the favorites to make the playoffs in the AFC. Broncos, 23-20

Detroit (-2.5) at Arizona

We’ve been treated to some awful games over the last few weeks —
Giants-Niners, Niners-Bucs, Cards-Niners. But this one might be the worst of the bunch. Both defenses are capable of playing a decent enough game — the Cardinals just held the Packers to 17 points in Lambeau and the Rams were stuck in the teens for most of the game last Sunday at Detroit. Arizona ranks dead last in yards per play at 4.4 and in passing yards. With David Johnson in their backfield, they’re 31st in rushing yards. The Lions aren’t a ton better — 24th and 25th, respectively, in yards per play and rushing yards. First downs should be at a premium. Lions, 19-16


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 108 (“Dead or Alive: NFL Playoff Contenders”) right here:

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NFL Week 13 Picks

Let’s not waste any time looking backwards on last week (or the last few weeks for that matter). We’ve got a whole host of interesting lines this week. Four games currently on the slate feature a double-digit favorite — one of them being the Rams who are on the road in Detroit. A fifth game is at more than a touchdown — the Saints giving the Cowboys 7.5 in Dallas. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a mere one game where the teams separated in Vegas by less than a field goal — Baltimore giving 1.5 to the home team, Atlanta.

From the look of things, it doesn’t appear to be some greatly competitive week as far as the match-ups go. So maybe I’ll have an easier time picking games this week after the mess I made all over myself a week ago: 9-6 straight up and 5-10 against the spread. For the year, we’re a healthy 106-53 straight up, but have now fallen into the red with a nasty record of 75-77-8 ATS. Let’s see if we can get some much needed help this week.

Super Watchable

Minnesota (+6) at New England

The Vikings have all the pieces in place to beat the Pats — speed on offense and a defense that can get to the passer. But don’t forget who their quarterback is. Also, the Patriots are 29-3 at home in their last 32 December games. Plus, they will have Gronk, Sony Michel, and Julian Edelman out there. This isn’t a “let-down” game for New England. They’ll be fired up. Patriots, 27-24

Chargers (+3.5) at Pittsburgh

I think I’d be all-in on the Chargers if Melvin Gordon was playing. I read this week that the Steelers haven’t lost consecutive games since 2016 — but I just don’t think they’re as good as L.A. But geez, it scares me when Anthony Lynn is roaming the sidelines. Speaking of the HC, what in the world was Melvin Gordon doing playing against the Cardinals, up 28-10 in the 3rd quarter? Screw it, the Chargers defense and pass rush is plenty reason alone to take them here — despite Lynn. Chargers, 31-27

New Orleans at Dallas (+7.5)

It’s impossible to not love the Saints and their offense. They’ve got one of the most accurate passers of all time, a dynamic running back duo that also may be the greatest ever, and a WR in Michael Thomas, who’s quickly becoming top 5 at his position. Hard to imagine any defense slowing this machine up. Enter the Cowboys. They play the perfect style to combat the New Orleans offensive attack: run the ball, limit the Saints time of possession, and rush the passer. They’re capable of all three of those things. The question is can they execute. Saints, 27-20

Cleveland (+5.5) at Houston

Who would have guessed this would be a headline match-up? But the Browns are exciting and have playmakers on both sides of the ball; while the Texans have only gone ahead and won 8 straight after an 0-3 start. Can the Browns win another road game? My gut says no, but this seems like a nice spot for them to steal one against the Texans, who got off to a shaky start on Monday night against the Titans. Browns, 34-31

Throw on the Game

Baltimore (+1.5) at Atlanta

The Falcons defense has been a stepping stone for offensives all season. Lamar Jackson comes in with a chance to put up some nice numbers against a pass defense that is ranked in the bottom quarter in the league. In addition, the Ravens have run the ball for over 250 yards in Jackson’s two starts — not a good sign for Atlanta, as their run D is tied for 3rd worst in yards per rush. Ravens, 23-20

Carolina (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Carolina needs to fix their pass defense. They’ve been getting torched and the Bucs are more than capable of moving the ball through the air. If Carolina is going to make a push for the postseason, they’ve got to turn things around now. Panthers, 31-27

What Else is On?

Chicago (-4) at Giants

The Giants offensive line is, well, offensive (that’s too easy). And the Bears have a guy named Khalil Mack. He should feast on Sunday. Bears, 24-16

Denver at Cincinnati (+5)

Two words: Jeff. Driskell. Road games are tough and Denver enters this one with some expectations for the first time all season. If they want to be a playoff team, they show it in here. Broncos, 24-20

Washington at Philadelphia (-6)

Philly’s pass rush should get after Colt McCoy with the dinged up offensive line he has in front of him. Eagles, 23-16

Rams (-10) at Detroit

Two simple questions: how do the Lions score and how do the Lions stop the Rams from scoring? The Rams can score at will and that won’t change at Ford Field. Rams, 38-13

Kansas City at Oakland (+15)

Will the Raiders be able to keep it “close-ish”? I’m probably going to feel like an idiot when the Chiefs are up 35-10 halfway through the 3rd quarter. Chiefs, 31-17

Throw the TV Out the Window

Arizona (+14) at Green Bay

The Packers aren’t ever completely dead as long as Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback. By no means are they in the driver’s seat, but if they can win out (and the schedule isn’t difficult), they’ll at least give themselves a shot at the playoffs. Are they motivated to put a whoopin’ on the Cardinals? Packers 34-19

Indianapolis (-4) at Jacksonville

My one worry is how the Colts play in a game on the road that they should dominate. It’s clear as day that the Jags are done this season, and I don’t expect the players to show any ounce of fight over the final 5 weeks, except for Cody Kessler and whoever else ends up playing QB for them. But that’s why this is tricky — the Colts are not an established team yet and I’m not sure they are ready to cut a team’s throat. Colts, 24-17

Buffalo (+5) at Miami

Do I seriously need to break this game down? Buffalo always plays tough. I don’t know if the Dolphins care or not. Bills, 20-12

San Francisco at Seattle (-10)

These NFC West divisional games always seem to be closer than they should be. That being said, I don’t think the 49ers have the personnel up front to stop what Seattle wants to do and what they do best, which is run, run, run. And then, oh yeah, there’s Russell Wilson who should be able to take advantage of the Niners pass defense. Seahawks, 27-10

Jets (+10.5) at Tennessee

Geez, Vegas hates the Jets. How can the Titans give anyone 10.5 points? I don’t know who’s showing up for Tennessee. As for the Jets, I don’t hate them — they’re not great, but they don’t embarrass themselves usually. Titans, 24-20


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to Episode 105 (“NFL MVP Outsiders”) right here:

Listen to Episode 106 (“Statement Weekend in the NFL & College Football Championship Saturday”) right here:

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NFL Week 12 Picks

It’s Thanksgiving week and I dare you to tell me a more fun week of regular season football. The whole week is fun — work isn’t really work on a three-day week, you’ve got the biggest drinking night of the year on Wednesday, we get to gorge ourselves on food all day on Thursday, and we get football from noon until bedtime. How can you beat that? (That’s not even taking into account Saturday’s big rivalry games in the college ranks or the full slate of Sunday NFL games that we still get.)

Unfortunately, it’s not all pretty, though. I was unable to shake my bad streak in week 11, going 6-5-2 against the spread and only managing 6-7 straight up. For the season, I’m 70-67-8 ATS and 97-47 straight up. Let’s do week 12. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Day Slate

Chicago at Detroit (+4)

Expect wackiness in this rivalry game. It’s early on a Thursday, it’s a holiday, the two just met 11 days ago — it’s got all the makings of a weird one. On paper, though, Chicago has all the advantages plus the Lions look to be without Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones. Bears, 22-20

Washington (+7.5) at Dallas

Neither of these teams blow anyone out so 7.5 points either way is a ton of points. I might be in the minority, but I’m not ruling out the Redskins to win this division despite the gruesome injury to Alex Smith. In fact, I think this might be a perfect spot for whoever Jay Gruden puts under center — short week, simplified gameplan, take few risks, run the ball, play defense against a Dallas offense that isn’t very dynamic. Plus it’s Thanksgiving — anything can happen. Redskins, 20-17

Atlanta (+13) at New Orleans

The Saints look primed for a Super Bowl run and the Falcons look dead. However, the Saints have failed to beat a divisional opponent by more than 10 points in their last 14 meetings. I’m assuming the Falcons offense scores some points and keeps it within 2 touchdowns. My expectations are not very high for the dirty birds. Saints, 34-24

Should Watch

Seattle at Carolina (-3.5)

This is a battle between two potential playoff teams. And it should be strength against strength — Seattle’s number rushing attack versus Carolina’s 9th ranked rush defense. Seattle is plenty to good enough to hold their own in this one, but Carolina is a different team at home — 5-0. In fact, the Panthers haven’t scored fewer than 31 points in any home game since their opening against Dallas. Panthers, 23-20

Cleveland (+3) at Cincinnati

Hue’s Revenge Game Part 1. Or is it the Browns Revenge Game? Cincinnati’s defense is playing so badly; they finally allowed fewer than 500 yards last weekend for the first time in a month. Baltimore collected 250 yards rushing against the Bengals in week 11 and Cleveland has shown a propensity for running the ball. Nick Chubb could be in store for a productive afternoon. Browns, 28-24

Pittsburgh (-3) at Denver

Could the Steelers slip up here? It feels like that kind of a game — in Mile High, coming off an ugly win against the lowly Jags, and Denver comes in off a win over the Chargers. The problems twofold: (1) the Steelers have a really good offensive line to combat Vonn Miller and the Denver pass rush and (2) Pittsburgh’s playmakers on offense will make life difficult for the Denver secondary. Steelers, 31-24

Green Bay (+3.5) at Minnesota

If ever Green Bay was going to put up a fight, it’s now. Both teams are in a kinda-sorta “must win” position coming off a couple tough road losses. A loss here doesn’t end either teams’ season, but it sure won’t help as both push for the playoffs. If the Aarons (Rodgers and Jones) have big games, the onus will be on Kirk Cousins to answer. Honestly, I’m not sure he can. Packers, 24-23

Corner TV at the Bar Status

Oakland (+11) at Baltimore

I don’t know if this is unprecedented or not — but I’m going to say it is — a rookie QB giving 11 points in his second career start after a game in which he threw for 150 yards and zero touchdowns and one interception is unprecedented. It will be interesting to see if Baltimore adjusts their offensive plan, knowing that Lamar Jackson rushing 27 times is not sustainable nor is it beneficial for his well-being. Gus Edwards ran for 115 yards last week so maybe that will give Marty Morningweg confidence to let Jackson use more of his arm and less of his legs. Ravens, 24-20

New England at Jets (+9.5)

History would have us assume that the Patriots don’t lose after a bye week and cover the spread. But look more closely and you’ll find that Bill Belichick and crew are only 3-5-1 since 2009 coming off the bye against the spread. Plus, the Jets always play hard at home against New England. Patriots, 27-19

Miami at Indianapolis (-9.5)

The Dolphins are a train-wreck — and yet they’re 5-5 and right in the thick of the wildcard race in the AFC. But the Colts are rolling on offense and defensively they should handle whatever kind of offense Miami throws out there. Colts, 31-17

Giants (+6) at Philadelphia

The Giants have won two straight, but their opponents were the 49ers and the Bucs. Conversely, the Eagles have lost back-to-back games to the Cowboys and the Saints. All this adds up to a game that I won’t watch and can’t see more than a few points separating them. In the end, the Eagles still have a pass rush and can make Eli uncomfortable with his flimsy offensive line. Eagles, 24-20

Tennessee (+6) at Houston

The Texans were lucky to escape D.C. with the win last Sunday. These two teams matchup nicely — good defenses, not consistent enough on offense. Divisional games in the AFC South usually end up being pretty tightly contested. Titans, 23-17

Can’t Do It

San Francisco at Tampa Bay (-3.5)

We talk about how good certain teams are coming off the bye week. The Niners are not one of them. San Fran is winless since 2012 off a bye and also has failed to cover the spread in each of those games. Even more telling, they’ve lost by double digits in each of those weeks going back 2014. Moreover, the 49ers don’t have a pass rush and their secondary shouldn’t give the Tampa Bay’s air attack any problems. Bucs, 30-24

Arizona (+12) at Chargers 

A little of the shine has come off of the Chargers after a couple of disappointing weeks. Yes, they beat the Raiders two weeks ago but it wasn’t dominant; and then last week, we were treated to an “Anthony Lynn-Phillip Rivers Special” when they blew the 4th quarter lead in Denver. This weekend is in Los Angeles, where the Chargers don’t really enjoy much of a home field advantage — 3-1 with a margin of victory of only +9.  Chargers, 27-19

Jacksonville at Buffalo (+3)

Remember when these two played in the playoffs last year? (You didn’t dream it — it really happened.) I could see a weird 15-9 final score with defensive touchdowns and field goals. This is the way the football gods keep things balanced after we watched the Rams and Chiefs put up 105 last Monday night. Jaguars, 17-16


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Listen to Ep. 102 (“Thanksgiving Edition Plus Don’t Count the Redskins Out Just Yet”) right here:

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