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 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


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

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NFL Week 11 Picks

So I followed up my great week 9 with a clunker in week 10. I went from 10-3 against the spread to 4-9-1 in a matter of a week. But that shouldn’t be any surprise — the NFL prides itself on parity and that carries over in Vegas.

And as the season goes on, expect the playing field to level out more and more (and that’s not a shot at Mexico City). The Action Network put out a really well done article and I won’t try to re-hash it, but basically teams all  meet in the middle for the most part. The teams doing well ATS regress to the median and, conversely, those struggling end up finding their way closer to .500. One example would be the Cardinals against the Raiders this weekend — who would have thought we’d be talking about this match-up. Arizona is 5-3-1 ATS while Gruden’s bunch is 2-7 — neither team is very good so I wouldn’t expect the Cardinals to keep up that pace. I feel sick even thinking about taking the Raiders this weekend, but the trends are trends for a reason.

That said, I wouldn’t expect the dominant teams to completely fall off a cliff — like  the Chiefs, for example. They’re a league-best 8-1 against the spread. Don’t look for them to go 0-7 the rest of the way so they wind up 8-8 for the year. That’s extreme. But don’t be shocked if the Chiefs were to go 4-3 over their final 7 games — according to The Action Network, teams that win 6 or more games in the first half of the year win only at a  50.7% clip in the second half.

Let’s get to this week’s picks. My struggles last week brought my overall ATS record to 64-62-6. Picking games straight up, I’m at 91-40.

Can’t Miss

Kansas City at Rams (-3.5)

Call me crazy, but I’m not completely in love with the Rams. Listen, I think the world of Sean McVay. But defensively, this team has issues in the secondary and in run defense. Will these deficiencies stop them from winning the division? No. What about he NFC and the Super Bowl? Depends on the opponents. In most games, the Rams can get away with having sub-par defensive performances — I’ve said it all year: defenses simply need to make the right play at the right time. Defenses do not have to take over games like the Ravens in the 2000s or the ’85 Bears. This particular match-up against the Chiefs will require something out of Wade Phillips’s crew. Pat Mahomes will likely collect yards and touchdowns — and the Rams can live with that. But they must be able to stop Kareem Hunt. After allowing 273 yards of rushing against the Seahawks last week, I have my doubts. Chiefs, 38-35

Philadelphia (+9) at New Orleans

Maybe I’m wrong on this one, but it’s still the defending champs against the team who most looks the part this season. The Eagles offensive line has been inconsistent and their secondary has been terrible, thanks to multiple injuries. The Saints have the defensive front to get after Carson Wentz and Drew Brees knows how to attack secondaries. This is exactly the worst match-up for Philly — but nine is still a lot of points. Saints, 31-24

Very Worth Match-ups

Minnesota (+3) at Chicago

So Mitchell Trubisky has had a few games where he’s gone off this year, but if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find that most of these games come when the team gets off to a great start — see the Tampa Bay and Detroit games. The question is can he do it against the Vikings defense? Which leads to the bigger question, is this Vikings defense as good as we all seem to think? The Bears offense is 12th in explosive passing plays (again, which tends to happen when the team gets up by multiple scores) and they’ll be facing a Minnesota defense that ranks 28th in that category — the linebackers have struggled immensely overall, Xavier Rhodes has been hurt, and Trae Waynes is giving up 9 yards per catch. Still, are the Bears able to take advantage? Minnesota makes up for the defensive woes by generating an effective pass rush — they lead the NFL in sacks. And if they can make Trubisky uncomfortable and mess with his timing, we won’t see many explosive plays. Vikings, 24-17

Dallas at Atlanta (-3)

This is an underrated game. Dallas isn’t super fun to watch, but the offense will have chances against the Falcons defense. This is simple, though: can Dallas win two straight on the road in tough environments? A little home cookin’ for the Falcons won’t hurt here. Falcons, 24-20

Green Bay (+3) at Seattle

Another Thursday night affair that isn’t awful. Green Bay’s newfound running attack with rookie Aaron Jones has the potential of changing the Packers season. Can they be successful though in Seattle? And can the Packers defense stop the the ground game that the Seahawks have been so good at this season? Is a match-up between Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson really going to be decided by Aaron Jones and Rashad Penny? Seahawks, 23-21

Pittsburgh at Jacksonville (+6)

The Steelers are rolling and the Jags are a mess. But this game has a lot of exciting elements to it. Can Pittsburgh re-pay Jacksonville for last January’s divisional round game? Will Jacksonville play inspired because of the opponent? One thing about the Jaguars is that they often play to the level of the team they’re playing against. I’m not taking them to win, but it’ll be a good game. Steelers, 34-30

Tennessee at Indianapolis (-1.5)

Both these teams are, amazingly, in the hunt for the sixth seed in the AFC. The winner here will have a leg up and a realistic shot at snagging that final playoff spot. Is this the dreaded “let-down” game for Tennessee after they smacked the Patriots a week ago? Colts, 24-20

Don’t Be Fooled

Houston (-3) at Washington

The craziest stat through ten weeks of football might be that the Redskins have not been involved in any sort of lead change in any game. They get the lead and keep it or fall behind and never climb back — that’s their M.O. So, let’s ask one question: who scores first? It might take a minute for us to find out — both these defenses can get after it and it’s not like either offense it lighting the world on fire. I see a low scoring game, but the injuries on the Washington offensive line could be critical against a Texans front seven that’s athletic and fast. Texans, 20-16

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Baltimore

Not sure what’s going on at QB for Baltimore right now. Once it becomes clear who’s starting, I’ll make the pick. What I can say is that Cincy’s defense is about as bad as it gets — three straight games giving up 500 yards. Might be the perfect game to get Lamar Jackson’s feet wet at quarterback. Definitely leaning Ravens. Probably taking them no matter what the spread is. UPDATE: The line is Cincy getting 3.5 points. Not loving that. Neither team is far and away better than the other. Ravens, 24-21

Carolina (-4) at Detroit

Carolina’s offense will give Detroit’s defense all it can handle. The Lions let the Bears throw all over them a week ago — and the Panthers have more playmakers. Lions are a different team at home, but they will need their ‘A’ game to pull this one out. Panthers, 30-17

Denver (+7) at Chargers

The Chargers weren’t great in their week 10 over Oakland. In this one, they likely won’t need to be perfect either. Will the Broncos play inspired after their bye? Or will Vance Joseph’s seat grow hotter? Chargers, 27-21

Toilet Bowl Games

Tampa Bay at Giants (-2)

Good Fitzpatrick is due, right? Plus the Giants aren’t the type of team that strings together back-to-back wins. Bucs, 24-20

Oakland (+5.5) at Arizona

I like Josh Rosen better than any of the other rookie signal callers. I also like Arizona’s defensive pass rush against a Raider O-line that has been severely underperforming. My head says this one’s close. My gut says don’t pick the Raiders. Cardinals, 26-23


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 Ep. 99, right here:

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Week 8 NFL Picks

This is the time in the NFL season where you really start to have a good feel for who teams actually are. Perhaps, teams haven’t reached their potential per se, but we can see what they want to be and what they are trying be. This is also the time of the season when we tend to forget about a team or two, who’s under the radar, not really grabbing anyone’s attention; but the potential is there for them to all of a sudden be right in the mix in a few weeks. Maybe it’s the Chargers or Titans or Packers or Bengals or Ravens. I’m not sure, but you know that there will be a couple “surprise” teams that come Thanksgiving are just sitting in the middle of the playoff race and we can’t remember how they got there. Week 8 has some games that could impact the teams that might be in that boat.

Last week, your boy won you some money!! Against the spread, I was 8-5-1 (44-42-5 for the year) and straight up I was 11-3 (60-30 for the year). You’re welcome. Let’s see what we got this week:

Big Time Games

New Orleans (+1) at Minnesota

If this is a shootout — and nothing tells me it won’t be, give me the Saints. I trust Drew Brees in a game like this over Kirk Cousins. Saints, 30-27

Green Bay (+9) at Rams

The Rams will get anything they want against this Packers defense. But don’t dismiss Aaron Rodges against the Rams D. That secondary isn’t completely healthy and hasn’t been uber impressive this year. Brace for a shootout and take the over. Rams, 41-34

Philadelphia (-3.5) v. Jacksonville

Philly was a measly fourth quarter away from beating the Panthers and being 4-3. As it is, though, they blew the lead and can’t shake this stigma of not being able to put together a complete game on a consistent basis this year. But the Jags are in some turmoil and could be on the brink of something worse. Eagles, 24-20

Baltimore (-2.5) at Carolina

Put me on the side of thinking neither of these two teams is a very good. Yes, the Ravens hung with the Saints, and Panthers are 4-2 and just had an epic fourth quarter comeback in Philadelphia. I’m just not a believer in either one. This should be a low scoring game with a premium placed on running the ball, controlling the clock, and not turning the ball over. Baltimore has athletes to contain Cam, and they’re 5th in the NFL in time of possession. Ravens, 24-21

There’s a Reason to Tune In

Jets (+7) at Chicago

The Jets have a good defense that can give problems to Mitchell Trubisky. There’s a lot of potential for this one to be very tight. I expect a defensive struggle — something we don’t see much of anymore. Bears, 20-17

Denver at Kansas City (-10)

Let me get this straight: the Broncos get ramrodded by the Rams and Jets running games for two straight weeks, but then get right and beat the God-awful Cardinals so they feel good and decide to throw some big “cocaine-filled” party? Oh, also they seem to be wiling to trade team captain Demaryius Thomas. That’s great. Forget that you still have no quarterback or head coach. This thing in Denver is on the verge of complete collapse. Chiefs, 42-13

Cleveland (+8) at Pittsburgh

Cleveland is in every game. They might not be be all that good, but no one blows them out — they could realistically have four ties on the year!! I don’t think either team is good enough to back an 8-point spread. Steelers, 30-27

Seattle at Detroit (-3)

The Lions seem to have found their running back, finally, in Kerryon Johnson. I don’t have a lot of faith in Seattle going on the road. Detroit has more weapons and I don’t see the Seahawks keeping up. Lions, 27-20

Tampa Bay at Cincinnati (-4.5)

Expect a bounce-back for the Bengals, coming off back-to-back losses. Tampa’s defense struggles and going on the road won’t help matters. Bengals, 30-21

Washington (-1) at Giants

Usually these divisional games are tight and nasty and you just hope to come away with the win no matter how you get it. But the Giants are atrocious, and if Washington wants to be the class of the NFC East, they win this game and make a statement. The Redskins defense should be able to get after Eli. Redskins, 24-17

There’s No Reason to Tune In

San Francisco at Arizona (-1)

I can’t believe I have to pick this game. I’ll keep it brief. The Cards might be the absolute worst team in the league. It’s hard to find something they do well. At least the Niners can run the ball, and against the Arizona defense, they should be able to move up and down the field and control the clock. Plus, I give Kyle Shanahan the advantage over Steve Wilks. 49ers, 23-20

Miami (+7.5) at Houston

I don’t know what it is, but Vegas loves Houston. For the second straight week, the Texans are giving an inordinate amount of points. DeShaun Watson’s lung is busted and the o-line stinks. Too many issues for me to take Houston to cover. Texans, 23-17

Indianapolis (-3) at Oakland

I’m convinced Jon Gruden does not want to win this year. He denies it and that’s fine. But this team is more interested in getting the top pick in the draft. Gruden’s already on to 2019. Colts, 34-24

New England (-13.5) at Buffalo

Whoever plays QB for the Bills is going to have a tall order because Bill Belichick isn’t going to make life easy for them. On the offensive side for the Patriots, Tom Brady should be able to get anything he wants at any time in this one. Patriots, 31-13


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 Ep. 90, “Week 8 Preview” right here:

Listen to Episode 89, “The Amari Cooper Trade & My CFB Rankings” right here:

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Week 7 NFL Picks

Usually, I try to avoid making sweeping generalizations or issuing hot takes that only serve to stir the pot of people’s emotions. I think it’s silly — and I know the hot take artists out there get all traction on social media because of what they say. In short, I don’t care. I’d rather be known as a rational thinker who errs on the side of waiting and seeing than jumping to conclusions. In 2018, no one has the patience to wait. So, I guess, place me in the minority. So be it.

All that said, here’s something I’ve gathered six weeks into this NFL season. Defense doesn’t win championships. Rather, defense only has to do “just enough.” Make a big third down stop in the fourth quarter or get a sack that forces a fumble when the opposing team is driving in waning minutes of the game or create an interception on a potential game-winning drive. Just make the play when you need it, in crunch time. That’s what defense has come to be in the NFL today. Offenses are the engines that run this machine. The Chiefs, Patriots, Rams, Saints have played very questionable defense this season (to be kind) — and yet no one thinks that will be the downfall of any of them when it comes to winning a championship. And the reason is simple: those offenses can get points whenever they need to.

Alright, let’s pick some games. Last week, I went 10-5 straight up (49-27 for the year) and 9-5-1 against the spread (36-37-4). Here’s to keeping the mojo in my favor!

Games of the Week

New England (-2.5) at Chicago

I’d imagine Bill Belichick will scheme up something on defense to mess with Mitchell Trubisky. On offense, is it dumb that I trust Tom Brady and company to handle this vaunted Beards D? The fact I’m not worried worries me. Patriots, 27-20

New Orleans (+2.5) at Baltimore

This is what happens after bye weeks — we forget how good a team is and we think the team we most recently saw is better than they really are. The Ravens defense might be good, but their offense isn’t and I’m not convinced the D is good enough to make up the offense’s shortcomings. You need offense against the Saints. Saints, 24-20

Cincinnati (+6) at Kansas City

Pat Mahomes in primetime, again. Get used to that. I think Cincy can score, but they can’t score like the Chiefs can. If we’re going to bed Sunday night having the Bengals dropped their last two to the Steelers and then on the big SNF stage, we’re going to be saying, “Same old Bengals.” Chiefs, 34-30

Watchable

Cleveland (+3) at Tampa Bay

Baker Mayfield gets to have a little fun against a defense that’s, well, been suspect this year. Actually, let’s not mince words: they can’t stop a nosebleed and this Sunday won’t be any different, I don’t care who’s out there calling the plays. Baker shines. Fantasy Advice: Pick up Baker. Browns, 40-35

Minnesota (-3) at Jets

The Vikings offense is on fire. Adam Thielen is the first WR in NFL history to open the year with 6 straight 100 yard games. He’s on a tear, and the Jets defense will have their hands full. That said, the Minnesota defense hasn’t really impressed so far this season. I’m doubtful either defense can stop the opposing offense. Vikings, 31-27

Carolina (+4.5) at Philadelphia

This has the feel (on paper at least) of a playoff game. But on the field so far, Carolina is up and down and Philly hasn’t hit their stride. But I don’t think Carolina has enough weapons to beat the Eagles. Plain and simple. Eagles, 23-20

Giants at Atlanta (-6)

Let’s make this quick and simple: Atlanta’s defense can’t stop anyone and the Giants won’t stop the Falcons offense. I don’t anticipate much defense in this game. Falcons, 38-30

Barely Watchable

Tennessee (+6.5) at Chargers

Another London game. Just when you think the Chargers are dealing and the Titans are reeling (you like that?), we are reminded how the NFL works from week to week. This is one of those games that keeps me away. Titans, 24-21

Dallas at Washington (-1.5)

If Dallas parlays last week’s win with a win on the road in the division, I might have to consider taking all those mean things I’ve said about them back. Redskins, 24-20

Rams at San Francisco (+10)

It’s at the point in the season where these big spreads give me major pause. San Fran is not tanking — yet. And the Rams realize they don’t need to score 40 every week just for giggles. A win is a win. Rams, 31-23

Is Anyone Watching?

Houston (+5) at Jacksonville

This is just the game that tells us nothing about either of these two teams. We won’t learn anything new no matter how it goes. Both will play hard and the commentators will say it’s a scrappy game. And close. Texans, 23-17

Buffalo (+6.5) at Indianapolis

Indy is so banged up that they really can’t afford to give anyone any points — but we are talking about the Derek Anderson-led Bills here. The Colts are, dare I say, feisty. But it concerns me that with all the weapons Houston had last week, they managed to squeak out the win thanks only to their defense against the Bills. Buffalo plays hard and the Colts don’t play defense. Colts, 26-23

Detroit at Miami (+3)

This game was off the board for a while with all the uncertainty surrounding Miami’s QB situation. The last time an NFC North team came into Miami off a win and bye week, they lost. If the NFL has taught me anything, it’s that don’t draw too many conclusions from week to week. Plus, common sense tells me the Fins can’t possibly be 5-2 and the BrockStar won’t win two straight. Lions, 27-26

Denver at Arizona (+2.5)

Denver can’t stop the run and Arizona doesn’t run! Case Keenum should be the better QB in this one, but he might not be. Von Miller should be able to be Vonn Miller against this Cardinals o-line. The problem is both these teams are pretty bad — so who knows what will end up happening on the short week. Gimme the home dog to cover! Broncos, 19-17


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 87 right here:

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Week 5 NFL Picks

Admittedly, I was struggling to pick games through the first three weeks of the season. But then week 4 happened. It was like a flash down from the heavens. It was a tidal wave of joy and excitement. It was, yours truly, absolutely making it look easy!!!! How does a perfect 15-0 sound? To quote my boy, Kirk Cousins, “You like that?!”

I spot on nailed the Chiefs-Broncos score, 27-23, and called Dallas by 2 and Tennessee by a field goal. Against the spread, I wasn’t too shabby either, if you don’t mind me saying, going 11-3-1.

Some weeks you got it — and in week 4, I HAD it!!! Through the opening four weeks, I’m 23-22-2 ATS and 31-15 straight up. Let’s hope we can replicate last week’s performance in week 5.

Get to a TV Now

Jacksonville (+3.5) at Kansas City

What a classic matchup of a sensational offense against a fast, physical defense. So many questions arise when digging deeply into this game. Can the KC receivers get separation? Will Blake Bortles be allowed to throw the ball on first down? Will Pat Mahomes make his first big NFL mistake? This matchup has it all. This Jags defense will be unlike anything Mahomes and the Chiefs offense have faced this season. How will they adjust if the throws aren’t there? I expect Jacksonville OC Nathaniel Hackett to open the playbook for Bortles, like he did in week 2 against the Patriots. One or two turnovers by Mahomes in his own territory might be enough to give the Jaguars the edge. Jaguars, 27-20

Atlanta (+3) at Pittsburgh

Neither team plays defense and both offenses have the firepower to break the scoreboard. Whoever wins will need every ounce of explosiveness in order to outscore the other. Both teams desperately need this one. I typically avoid Matt Ryan on the road and outdoors. But I’m certain he can torch this Steelers D. Falcons, 38-34

Minnesota at Philadelphia (-3)

I’d say this is a bigger game for Minnesota — in particular their defense. But the Eagles haven’t exactly been very impressive on either side of the ball, themselves. Last year, the offense was a league-best 33% at converting 3rd down and 8 or more yards. Through 4 games in 2018, the Eagles are at 15%. That’s a major drop off and helps explain why that offense doesn’t look as efficient as it did a year ago. On defense, the Philly secondary is weakened without safety Rodney McLeod, and relying on rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox has not yielded great results. The Vikings come to the Linc with stud wideouts, who are coming off a spectacular offensive showing in week 4 against the Rams. If the Eagles are going to slow Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, it will start with them putting pressure on the QB. It’s also worth noting how different this Eagles team is at home than on the road. Eagles, 31-24

I’ll Watch

Indianapolis at New England (-10)

The TNF game should be unwatchable, and, as a Pats fan, I’m hoping it is. Julian Edelman’s return should have positive effects on all aspects of the offense. Patriots, 31-13

Denver (+2) at Jets

This game feels like a “WWE Loser Goes Home” Match. The winner can right the ship for a week or so, but the loser will have finally met their fate after having intermittent moments of hope in the first 4 weeks of the season. Broncos, 23-17

Baltimore at Cleveland (+3)

In a road loss at Oakland in his first career start, Baker Mayfield still put up the numbers and, more importantly, still gave Cleveland the energy they needed to nearly pull off the victory in overtime. This Baltimore defense is a different animal, yes. But Baker may just have enough creativity to give the defense fits. Browns, 24-20

Washington (+6.5) at New Orleans

Washington is sneaky, frisky, under-the radar, kinda/sorta decently good-ish. Their defense is game and Alex Smith limits his mistakes. They just seem like the type of team that won’t ever get blown out, and at the same time can embarrass an opponent if they don’t take the Redskins seriously. Also, Washington has had 2-plus weeks to prep for this game. Redskins, 31-27

Thank you, But I’ll Pass

Miami at Cincinnati (-6)

I think Miami showed their true colors in week 4 against New England. Their 3-0 start was perfect example of a team that didn’t lose those games, but really didn’t win them either. Bengals, 27-17

Giants at Carolina (-7)

Bad offensive lines don’t travel well in the NFL. And, boy oh boy do the Giants have a bad line. Carolina’s defense should be up to the task of limiting the Giants running game and OBJ. Panthers, 24-13

Rams (-7) at Seattle

Put me down as someone who is utterly confused by this line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go to double digits by the time Sunday rolls around. Rams are cruising on the offensive side of the ball while the Seahawks struggle to put points on the board. No way Seattle can keep pace. Rams, 38-17

Green Bay (-1.5) at Detroit

Has a team ever had such an unimpressive 3 touchdown, shutout win than what the Packers had last weekend over Buffalo? And I’m not talking about our interpretations of the game — I’m talking about how the QB felt afterwards. Aaron Rodgers is masterful at manipulating and poking at his teammates (and coaches) in a way that leads to production and improvement. I’d expect a version of the Green Bay offense this weekend in Detroit that A-Rod is quite pleased with. Packers, 24-20

Cancel My NFL Ticket Package Please

Tennessee at Buffalo (+3.5)

I hate this game. After wins over the Jags and Eagles in back to back weeks, it would be reasonable to think this could be a major “let-down” game for the Titans. It all adds up — the Bills can play defense, they’re at home, and Marcus Mariota can’t possible play as well as he played against Philly. Tennessee wins ugly and I don’t imagine they’ll beat any opponent by more than 10 points all year. Geez, did I say I hate this game? Titans, 23-20

Arizona at San Francisco (-4.5)

Josh Rosen has gotten his feet wet the last couple weeks against the Bears and the Chargers. This 49ers defense should feel more like a JV high school team after having faced those two defenses. The Niners were game last weekend, but that’s typical after switching QBs. I would expect quite a fall off from here on out this season for Kyle Shanahan’s bunch. Cardinals, 20-17

Oakland (+5.5) at Chargers

Oakland has been in every game except the opener against the Rams. Derek Carr and the offense might have found something last week — it’s called getting Amari Cooper the ball. Crazy, I know. The Chargers love to shoot themselves in the foot so this one could be closer than it should be. Chargers, 30-27

Dallas at Houston (-3.5)

The Cowboys are probably good enough to beat bad teams this season. Houston’s 1-3 record might make them appear to be a candidate for a Cowboys’ win, but think again. Deshaun Watson is starting to move around with more confidence on that knee and the defense can get after the quarterback. Dak will be running for his life. Texans, 24-17


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.

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NFL Predictions for 2018

NFC North

GB            11-5

MIN        10-6

CHI          7-9

DET          7-9

NOTES: Green Bay has it’s guy back and that’s the difference in the division. Davonte Adams will be fantasy’s top WR. The run game is a question mark but it will sort itself out – Rodgers makes everyone
better. The defense will be good with Mike Petine as DC. Can the young CBs make an impact in rookie year? That would put them over the top. PREDICTION: Rodgers  looks as good as we’ve come to expect him to every year, but the defense finishes in the top 10 — and that’s the difference. Mike Petine is a head coaching candidate next offseason.

Minnesota has a lot of pressure. They have a potentially great running game, the WRs are excellent, and the defense is stout. But the new QB has to be the savior and take them to the Super Bowl. PREDICTION: Expectations are too much, coupled with Aaron Rodgers’s return in GB. 

Chicago has all the right pieces around their young QB, including an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy. The Bears have time to get better – it won’t all happen in one year. Next year could be a big season for Chicago. PREDICTION: Mitchel Trubisky makes the leap forward (not quite like Carson Wentz) with one of Wentz’s former weapons, Trey Burton.

If all goes perfectly, the Lions still may only win 9 games. New HC Matt Patricia needs time to build the culture he wants. The defense is still questionable at best and if they cannot be better against the run, there will be lots of player turnover going into 2019. The offense should be fun to watch. PREDICTION: The run game will finally break out with rookie Kerryon Johnson topping the 100-yard mark half a dozen times. 

NFC South

N.O.        12-4

ATL          10-6

CAR         8-8

TB             2-14

NOTES: New Orleans has all the talent and has pushed all their chips into a 2 to 3 year window, centered around Drew Brees’s 2-year contract and the 3 years Sean Payton has left. They were a fluke play away from a trip to Philly for the NFC title game last year. PREDICTION: Alvin Kamara goes for 2,000 yards from scrimmage and is recognized as a stud RB after this season – in real football and in fantasy.

I have a lot of questions about the Falcons coaching staff and the playcalling on the offensive side of the ball. But Matt Ryan should be better in ’18 than he was in ’17, but not as good as he was in ’16. The defense is still fast and athletic. And Julio should be happy. Plus, Atlanta can still run the ball with anyone in the league. PREDICTION: Julio Jones scores 10 touchdowns.

Of the three south teams that made the playoffs last year, the Panthers are the one who won’t in ’18. It should be interesting to see how OC Norv Turner gels with Cam Newton throughout the season. Cam has weapons, but they’re young and unproven. Christian McCaffrey is the wildcard for me. If he’s great, then Carolina could win 10 games. If he’s mediocre, then the team will follow suite. PREDICTION: Cam and Norv have a blow up on the sideline by week 5, and rumors surface the Turner is contemplating retirement before Turkey Day.

Here we go. I can’t find a single nice thing to say about the Bucs so I won’t say anything at all. PREDICTION: They’ll be picking number 1 in next Spring’s NFL Draft and Dirk Koetter will be unemployed before the first snowfall in the Midwest.

NFC East

PHI          9-7

NYG         8-8

WAS        6-10

DAL         5-11

NOTES: Philadelphia won’t sneak up on anyone this year. The roster is deep, again, and they bring back a healthy and potential MVP candidate in Carson Wentz. But playing with a target on your back is a lot different then chasing one. PREDICTION: It will be a dogfight to win the division, and Carson Wentz won’t be in the MVP conversation at any point during the year.

If the Giants don’t turn things around, people will question their passing of a QB at two overall in last year’s draft. I expect the offense to be really good. However, the defense is where this team will earn it’s stripes. Landon Collins shows signs of being the leader of the unit, but they’ll need a consistent pass rush to show up every week. PREDICTION: Saquon Barkley wins Rookie of the Year, the Giants’ offense is explosive, but Eli Manning ‘s play will make fans long for his replacement.

Alex Smith won’t hurt the Redskins at all. The running game lost a big piece when rookie Derrius Guice went down, but if the offensive line can stay healthy, that will make a big difference in 2018. The defense needs to be faster and play more lively than it did last year. PREDICTION: Alex Smith outperforms Kirk Cousins.

Dallas seems fine with having lost Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I’m not arguing they needed to keep them, but no WRs stand out to me that will get Dak Prescott back to the way his played in his rookie season in 2016. Ezekiel Elliott is an animal, but he can’t do it alone. I think Dallas is trending down. PREDICTION: Jason Garrett is fired, and Dak Prescott gets benched down the stretch.

NFC West

LAR          10-6

SF             8-8

SEA          5-11

ARI           3-13

NOTES: Let’s get the obvious out of the way out West – the Rams made all the offseason moves like a serious contender would. Now all that’s left is to actually go and perform on the field. As I’ve said on podcasts, multiple times, the Rams are in fine shape with all these shorter term contracts even if 2018 isn’t their year. However, let’s not mince words – they’re in it to win it. The biggest question is how this locker room responds to the bumps in the road that it will face. PREDICTION: Jared Goff isn’t as good as his 2017 season showed. His mistakes will be the difference between the Rams being the one seed and them having to play in the Wild Card round.

If the 49ers had given Jimmy G. a few more weapons on offense, I’d be okay with touting the Niners as a playoff team. Instead, they are lacking in too many spots. But Kyle Shanahan knows what he wants and is building this roster his way. Defensively, they have the pieces, but now is the time for high draft picks like DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas to come into their own. They’re a year away. One year. Then watch out. PREDICTION: I love the value of Jerick McKinnon in fantasy, but on the field, Alfred Morris will prove to be the most productive and important offensive piece for SF.

The re-build is on – whether folks in Seattle want to admit it or not. And now their top draft pick is banged up. Before that this offensive line is not good, they lost Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin is dealing with an injury, and the Earl Thomas drama is hanging over the team. PREDICTION: Russell Wilson will have to be a one-man wrecking crew if this team is going to be anywhere near 8 wins. Also, Chris Carson is not the answer at running back.

Age and injuries will derail Cardinal fans of a successful season. The good news is Josh Rosen will probably play a lot. PREDICTION: Sam Bradford starts less than 4 games – have you SEEN this o-line??? And DJ falls at least 500 yards shy of his 2,000 yards from scrimmage goal.

AFC North

BAL          9-7

PIT           8-8

CIN          7-9

CLE          4-12

NOTES: The Ravens won 9 games last year and were a week 17 Andy Dalton 48-yard TD pass away from being back in the postseason. The wide receiving weapons aren’t deadly, but Michael Crabtree may be looking to prove he’s got something left and John Brown showed flashes of excellence in his years with Arizona. Willie Snead will also be a nice deep threat for Joe Flacco, who loves to throw the deep ball. Alex Collins at running back is also a solid piece. The question is if Flacco and the offense stalls, will Lamar Jackson get his shot? PREDICTION: Lamar starts more games than Flacco.

When it’s over for Big Ben, it’s going to end quickly. All the off-the-field drama (Le’Veon Bell’s contract issue and his past tweets) plus the things we’ve seen happen on the field and in the locker room (blowout playoff loss at home to the Jaguars, Mike Tomlin’s comments) could be too much. Listen, talent-wise on offense, the Steelers are outstanding – 2-time Super Bowl winning QB and the NFL’s best RB and best WR. But the team has no defense, Tomlin doesn’t have control, and these personalities are starting to fray at the franchise’s culture. PREDICTION: Roethlisberger gets benched, Bell gets run into the ground, and AB misses at least 4 games due to injury.

Cincinnati should be better in ’18 than they were in ’17 – the offensive line is better and Joe Mixon showed he can be a bell cow running back – and this year he’ll get carries right off the bat. It’s hard to get behind Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton, but they’ve proven they are more than capable of winning 7 games in a season. PREDICTION: AJ Green is great but no other WR gets more than 60 catches and 700 yards.

When Cleveland fires Hue Jackson, we can seriously talk about the Browns making a turnaround. The talent seems to be there in spots, as does depth in spots, as well. But Hue will wreck any chance this team has of winning 6 or 7 games. PREDICTION: John Dorsey fires Jackson before Christmas and Todd Haley takes over.

AFC South

TEN          13-3

HOU        10-6

JAC           7-9

IND          6-10

NOTES: Mike Vrabel will make an immediate impact in Tennessee.
This team will play tougher. Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry will be a
fantastic 1-2 punch. This offensive line is outstanding. PREDICTION: Marcus Mariota will have an MVP season and Corey Davis will break out.

The weapons on offense will make Houston one of the most explosive and fun to watch in the league. There are questions defensively – mostly injury-related. Oh, and the offensive line is one of the the worst in the NFL. That said, the differences in Houston and Tennessee should make for an interesting race for the divisional crown. PREDICTION: Jadeveon Clowney, JJ Watt, and Whitney Mercilus will all finish in the top 8 for Defensive Player of the Year – with Clowney winning the award.

Expect a few setbacks for the Jags, who were very fortunate in 2017. Blake Bortles will make some mistakes and the ground game won’t be able to carry the load week in and week out. And the defense will get tested. Jalen Ramsey ran his mouth in the GQ article – those things have a way of coming back to haunt you. The talent is there, but the maturity is not. PREDICTION: No WR reaches 800 yards receiving and the defense finishes out of the top 10.

Andrew Luck’s health is the elephant in the room. But even if he’s healthy, how good can this team be? PREDICTION: Newly acquired Ryan Grant will put up the best numbers of any offensive player on the Colts roster.

AFC East

NE            12-4

NYJ           9-7

BUF         4-12

MIA         4-12

NOTES: The Patriots faced an offseason filled will questions and anxiety. On the field, they will face some issues – the WR battle needs to work itself out, the offensive line is beginning to lack depth, the linebackers still aren’t fast, and they have a 41-year old quarterback. I know, much of that will end up being just fine and wrapping up the division by early December wouldn’t be a surprise at all. But will any of these items hurt them come January? PREDICTION: Chris Hogan will have over 1200 yards receiving and Jeremy Hill will be the Pats best running back.

The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets have their quarterback!!! But no offensive line will affect Sam Darnold. In the end, his talent will shine through and he’ll do more with less than anyone else in the league. PREDICTION: Darnold throws for 25 touchdowns and 3800 yards.

Buffalo was bad before AJ McCarron broke his collarbone. Pencil in Josh Allen at QB. He’s talented but not ready – especially with no offensive line and unproven wideouts. PREDICTIONS: LeSean McCoy takes a huge step backwards and the Bills end up starting 3 different QBs over the course of the year.

How can a team be worse than Buffalo this year, you ask? Enter the Dolphins. Limited weapons across the board at practically every playmaking position will make it hard for Miami to score points. PREDICTION: Miami scores the fewest points in the conference.

AFC West

LAC          10-6

KC            8-8

OAK        6-10 (9-7 before the Mack trade)

DEN         6-10

NOTES: The Chargers are so snake-bitten. Injuries kill this team year after year. But this defense has the playmakers to keep them in every game and can even win a few alone. PREDICTION: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will be top 5 Defensive MVP candidates.

The biggest concern was how Khalil Mack’s contract situation would impact the locker room. Now, since the trade, we are starting to see how current Raiders feel about the move — and it’s not positive. I thought John Gruden would be able to get more out of Derek Carr than any other coach has to this point in his young career. And perhaps the offense will still be good, but the defense is atrocious. The thing here is that good teams don’t trade away guys like Khalil Mack. Gruden clearly doesn’t like this roster and is churning it and twisting it to get draft capital so he can build his team how he wants. Might work later, might not. But it definitely won’t pay dividends this year. PREDICTION: Amari Cooper will catch 90 balls for 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns, and the defense will give up 30 points on a routine basis.

Everything in me says Andy Reid’s history of producing very productive QBs will make the Chiefs good in 2018. And maybe Pat Mahomes will indeed put up very good numbers. But they may not lead to wins. More importantly, the defense must be better than it was a year ago – especially the linebackers and the pass rush. PREDICTION: Sammy Watkins will again disappoint.

Denver’s choice of Case Keenum this offseason was not a bad decision. But the offense is getting older, the running game has been questionable at best for years, and now the defense will feel the need to once again carry the team. PREDICTION: Bradley Chubb will be great, but the defense will struggle to dominate as the offense won’t be able to stay on the field.

PLAYOFFS

NFC

  1. New Orleans
  2. Green Bay
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Atlanta
  6. Minnesota

NFC Championship

New Orleans over Green Bay

AFC

  1. Tennessee
  2. New England
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Baltimore
  5. Houston
  6. Jets

AFC Championship

New England over Tennessee

Super Bowl

New England over New Orleans: Pats won’t lose two SBs in a row. This sends the organization into post-Brady era quickly, as the QB retires.


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