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Digging for Orange Gold -- Week 4 Picks and Thoughts

 

The NFL season is beginning to get earnestly underway, and now the fan has plenty of statistics to use when making picks. Unfortunately, no matter how predictive a statistic is, it cannot guarantee an outcome-at least not in NFL games. I proved this last week. Anyway, if you're new to this column, this is where I post my thoughts on the last week of football and detail my picks for this week's games. Please feel free to comment about anything you think I should include. More after the break.

 

This week, I will be including offensive and defensive rankings for each matchup, hopefully arranged to help see advantages and disadvantages. I will bold a statistical advantage if a difference in rankings is greater than 15. This in principle should point out where teams are on opposite sides of the bell curve from each other in a particular matchup. This way, you can skip my blather and use this column as a resource for your own picks if you so wish. Anyway, on to last week's results.

To break down the format, Pigskin Pickem fav's is the record you would have if you picked the favored team in ESPN's Pigskin Pickem. Busted Bandwagons are favored teams I picked to win that lost. Triumphant Underdogs are non-favored teams I picked to win that did win.

Week 3 results: 7-9

Pigskin Pickem fav's: 8-8

Busted Bandwagons: Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers (whew, out of breath)

Triumphant Underdogs: Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans,

(Note: My underdogs didn't fare so well this week. I picked 5 underdogs, compared to 3 the previous week, and 60% of my underdogs lost. 56% of my favorites lost. Pigs flew.)

And now, let us begin.

 

San Francisco 49ers

(0-3)

vs.

Atlanta Falcons

(2-1)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

San Francisco 49ers

(off.)

31

20

13

27

31

Atlanta Falcons

(def.)

6

21

22

12

5

San Francisco 49ers

(def.)

32

17

16

15

28

Atlanta Falcons

(off.)

6

6

16

2

3

Statistical Advantage: Atlanta Falcons (4-0)

Before last week, the 49ers looked like a team on the verge of getting it together and contending for the playoffs (admittedly, this was in large part because their division is perceived as weak and ripe for the taking by an average team). At the moment, the 49ers look like a team on the brink of falling into a Raider-esque black hole. It's hard to find a way to look at them where they don't look worse than the Rams, except maybe coach bad-assery. But then, I don't know that much about Spagnuolo. I can't really say much about the Falcons because they haven't been on a televised game in my area. Instead of the Falcons-Saints, I got a choice of Titans-Giants or Chiefs-49ers. The 49ers game was on Fox, which now induces mental bleeding on my analog TV due to their (constantly switching) letterbox faux-HD format. So I watched the Giants stink it up instead of watching a competitive game with the Falcons. Anyway, as I always say, any team can win (see Titans after week 6 last year). But there's no reason to pick the 49ers.

Pick: Atlanta Falcons

 

Speaking of the bell curve (yeah, I mentioned it earlier, if you skipped or forgot), I noticed someone today in a post talking about the top 5 and bottom 5 teams. If my edumacation does not deceive me, in a Bell Curve 66% of the crowd should be in the fat, mediocre part of the curve, while about 33% are outliers split into the exceptionally good and bad. This rounds out to about 5 teams being elite, and 5 being crap. What's left is essentially "okay." Like warm beer. So it seems that a top 5 and bottom 5 in rankings is not a bad idea, and the rest is agitation. On another note, 12 teams go to the playoffs each year, which means 7 mediocre teams each year have the opportunity to get lucky and knock an elite team out of contention. J - E - T - S, JETS, JETS, JETS!!!

 

New York Jets

(2-1)

vs.

Buffalo Bills

(0-3)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

New York Jets

(off.)

12

21

26

9

17

Buffalo Bills

(def.)

31

22

18

27

32

New York Jets

(def.)

8

20

27

4

31

Buffalo Bills

(off.)

26

32

31

17

23

 

Statistical Advantage: New York Jets (3-0)

This one might not be a shootout, but you can expect a lot of marching down the field in a game that pits the team ranked 32nd in 3rd down percentage defensively against the 31st ranked team. Only the Jets offense looks truly primed to take advantage of an opponent that shows 1st down marker incontinence, but if the Bills bring the game they showed last week then their ranking offensively on 3rd down could be better when we revisit this next week. Unless they have a bye. I don't know. I don't keep track of that much stuff. In other news, the Bills this week let go of the QB who looked like a construction worker, a seeming vote of confidence in the QB who looks like an annoying Philosophy major who you go to lengths to avoid engaging in conversation. Mark Sanchez had better hope the announcers don't point out his Hispanic heritage. Last week, the announcers profiled offensive guard Roberto Garza's heritage, and he was promptly called for holding. A new curse?

Pick: New York Jets

 

Cincinnati Bengals

(2-1)

vs.

Cleveland Browns

(0-3)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Cincinnati Bengals

(off.)

16

15

15

18

25

Cleveland Browns

(def.)

14

16

12

21

18

Cincinnati Bengals

(def.)

13

9

11

13

22

Cleveland Browns

(off.)

27

19

22

11

20

Statistical Advantage: Barf (0-0)

It appears the Bengals have been doing their best Browns impression-or have the Browns been doing their best Bengals impression? Oh, dude ... my head! I'm seeing brown bengals. (Otherwise known as ligers-yes, some very bored people get lions, tigers, and some brewskis together for a good time.) After two and a half games, Peyton Hillis has significantly more yards from scrimmage than Cedric Benson. Do you think Terrell Suggs will require further reminding as to Hillis' identity? I have to say, it is hard at this point to pick the Browns to win anything other than the 1st overall pick in next years' draft, but this is a close one and they are the home team. If the fans can cheer hard enough through the paper bags on their heads to distract the Bengals. Seriously, though, the stats prove that the Browns aren't bad. They're mediocre. Just like the Bengals.

Pick: Cleveland Browns

 

Detroit Lions

(0-3)

vs.

Green Bay Packers

(2-1)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Detroit Lions

(off.)

18

22

12

31

26

Green Bay Packers

(def.)

7

2

3

18

9

Detroit Lions

(def.)

26

30

26

32

18

Green Bay Packers

(off.)

4

12

11

22

5

Statistical Advantage: Green Bay Packers (4-0)

If the Packers can stay out of their own way, you would think that they ought to win this. Last week, I picked the Lions over the Vikings and got burned. I don't think the Packers are much better than the Vikings, and later in the season they might be worse, but looking at things I can't help but see a lopsided matchup. I wish the Lions would beat the Packers-the only thing I wish more is that the Cowboys and Packers would play, and the stadium would be sucked down into the underworld with both teams and their fans and owners. But the Lions rank number 1 in being cursed.

Pick: Green Bay Packers

 

Denver Broncos

(1-2)

vs.

Tennessee Titans

(2-1)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Denver Broncos

(off.)

15

2

1

30

4

Tennessee Titans

(def.)

5

7

5

17

4

Denver Broncos

(def.)

21

18

3

10

27

Tennessee Titans

(off.)

5

28

30

8

9

Statistical Advantage: Tennessee Titans (2-1)

This is the first game so far in this list that pits two teams who have significant advantages over each other-as opposed to two teams that are so mediocre that neither stands out. The Titans have a two-fold advantage, in that they have 2 favorable matchups to the Broncos 1, and points and 3rd down percentage arguably seem more important than passing yards. After losing to the team that looks to be the bottom feeder of the AFC South this year (they just claimed Trent Edwards to push David Garrard, for god sakes), the Broncos are in danger of having the table run on them by that division, which could hurt their playoff chances. So the obvious choice here is ... Mmm doughnuts.

Pick: Denver Broncos

 

Seattle Seahawks

(2-1)

vs.

St. Louis Rams

(1-2)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Seattle Seahawks

(off.)

9

29

21

24

2

St. Louis Rams

(def.)

9

25

24

25

8

Seattle Seahawks

(def.)

15

28

30

5

24

St. Louis Rams

(off.)

17

24

20

20

18

Statistical Advantage: Vomit (0-0)

More appropriate than the question of how to pick this game might be the question of how to tune this game out, along with all its "highlights." The teams are perhaps most evenly matched in terms of scoring offense/defense, so this will either be a back and forth barn burner or a near-scoreless snoozer. Or, it could be something completely different! That's the problem with categorical statements, isn't it? I think I would rather literally watch a seahawk fight a ram, if that can somehow be arranged, but... Oh no! The police are here to throw me in Michael Vick's old jail cell!

Pick: St. Louis Rams

 

Carolina Panthers

(0-3)

vs.

New Orleans Saints

(2-1)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Carolina Panthers

(off.)

32

31

28

19

11

New Orleans Saints

(def.)

16

23

15

30

29

Carolina Panthers

(def.)

23

14

13

14

20

New Orleans Saints

(off.)

14

14

6

32

29

Statistical Advantage: Carolina Panthers (2-1)

I admit, I find it surprising that the Carolina Panthers have the statistical advantage. In each advantage, the statistical victor reigns supreme with mediocrity over utter crappiness. It's hard to say which category should hold more weight, between scoring and 3rd down percent. If you predict the game based off this chart, the Panthers will run the ball up and down the field on the Saints, but won't score any points. Right now, if the Panthers had Jake Delhomme, he would probably give them their best chance to win. And that's with the injury, assuming that he quarterbacks while in a wheelchair or riding a Segway. As to the Saints, they haven't really proved themselves either way. If they weren't the "defending Superbowl champions," they would have to be dead in the middle of most power rankings judging by their performances. I'm going to defy the findings of my chart, which suggests it wouldn't be crazy to pick the Panthers. I'd pick them to win at home, but not on the road.

Pick: New Orleans Saints

 

Baltimore Ravens

(2-1)

vs.

Pittsburgh Steelers

(3-0)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Baltimore Ravens

(off.)

28

23

17

23

7

Pittsburgh Steelers

(def.)

1

6

17

3

15

Baltimore Ravens

(def.)

4

1

1

22

1

Pittsburgh Steelers

(off.)

8

26

32

3

30

Statistical Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

This game will probably be one of the more hyped games of the week, and looking at my chart it seems like it may actually merit some hype. Both teams are good in a lot of areas, but both teams have weaknesses that it looks like their opponent should be primed to exploit. Joe Flacco seems to occasionally flare up in an allergy to defense that causes him to morph into an interception machine. Meanwhile, the Steelers Charlie Batch. Because all former-Lions starting QBs are awesome, right?  Not that it matters as long as Troy Polamalu is in the defensive backfield. This one is tough to pick, for sure. Although there's no guarantee it will be predictive, I'll have to go with homefield advantage on this one (which honestly seems to be wherever the Steelers go-WTF get out of meh stands wit your damn pee towel).

Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Indianapolis Colts

(2-1)

vs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

(1-2)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Indianapolis Colts

(off.)

2

3

3

25

14

Jacksonville Jaguars

(def.)

29

29

29

16

20

Indianapolis Colts

(def.)

18

24

20

28

16

Jacksonville Jaguars

(off.)

30

30

27

15

19

Statistical Advantage: Indianapolis Colts (3-0)

Don't worry, Colts. The Jaguars have your back, dawg. They'll help you get to the playoffs. Hows about 2 free wins, dawg? That cool? Tight. Can Jack Del Rio be your ball boy next year? No? Oh, that's cool. Can we lick your cleats, though? Yeah? Nice.

Pick: Indianapolis Colts

 

Houston Texans

(2-1)

vs.

Oakland Raiders

(1-2)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Houston Texans

(off.)

7

4

8

5

6

Oakland Raiders

(def.)

24

3

2

24

21

Houston Texans

(def.)

27

31

32

2

5

Oakland Raiders

(off.)

22

10

19

4

27

Statistical Advantage: Houston Texans (3-1)

So it seems that the Raiders will move the ball on the Texans, unless they hit 3rd down, in which case they will punt. The Texans will then proceed to score. Tom Cable will go from utter optimism about his team's chances to punching Al Davis-loyalists in the locker room. I think I almost miss Jamarcus Russell. The Raiders were a little more entertaining with him. Except that he always beat the Broncos. Arg! Assuming the Texans have recovered from the shame of losing to the Cowboys at home, they should roll here. Unless they don't. Then don't say I didn't tell you so.

Pick: Houston Texans

 

Arizona Cardinals

(2-1)

vs.

San Diego Chargers

(1-2)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Arizona Cardinals

(off.)

25

25

25

12

28

San Diego Chargers

(def.)

19

4

6

9

12

Arizona Cardinals

(def.)

25

26

19

31

26

San Diego Chargers

(off.)

10

1

2

13

14

Statistical Advantage: (6-0)

Firstly, am I the only one laughing my ass off because the Cardinals are 2-1 while the Chargers are 1-2. I like the Chargers as much as NWC loves the police. That's all I'm saying. Now, this matchup provides an instructive example of the hilarious stupidity of general opinion. Only 88% of people on ESPN's pickem picked the Chargers to win their ass-kicking contest with the one-legged man, while almost 99% of people picked the Saints to win in a game where, to my analysis, their opponent has the statistical advantage. People are stupid. Except me. But don't get me wrong. I'm only picking the Chargers in hopes that it jinxes them or something.

Pick: Chargers

 

Washington Redskins

(1-2)

vs.

Philadelphia Eagles

(2-1)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Washington Redskins

(off.)

19

13

7

28

32

Philadelphia Eagles

(def.)

20

12

7

23

15

Washington Redskins

(def.)

22

32

31

11

23

Philadelphia Eagles

(off.)

3

9

14

7

13

Statistical Advantage: Philadelphia Eagles (4-1)

The media already announced at the end of last week's games that they were going to hype this game more than any other this week. They said it neutrally, as in, "this will be the most hyped game in the media," as if they forgot, oh gee, we're the media. If the game were literally just Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb trying to get the ball down the field past each other, it might actually be somewhat worth the hype. The only problem is that 65% of the personnel on the Redskins that aren't named McNabb pretty much suck. As my chart reveals, this is a one-sided matchup. It's even a home game for the Eagles. I'm not saying the Redskins can't win. But I don't expect they will.

Pick: Philadelphia Eagles

 

Chicago Bears

(3-0)

vs.

New York Giants

(1-2)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

Chicago Bears

(off.)

13

11

5

29

28

New York Giants

(def.)

30

10

4

26

25

Chicago Bears

(def.)

10

15

28

1

16

New York Giants

(off.)

20

8

9

14

14

Statistical Advantage: Tied (1-1)

Both teams have been overhyped at one time or another in recent times. Right now, they both look like teams that are doing a couple things right but have glaring weaknesses. So far, the Bears' schedule has not been one of their weaknesses. They're ready to embarrass themselves against a good team on the road. Note the operative word: "good." Will this be the week the Bears trip on their own feet? I don't see any reason to think so. The New Meadowlands Stadium doesn't look like that great of a homefield advantage. You just had to try to out Jerry Jerry, didn't you guys? Well, let me know how it works out for you.

Pick: Chicago Bears

 

New England Patriots

(2-1)

vs.

Miami Dolphins

(2-1)

Team (off./def.)

Pts.

Tot.

Pass

Rush

3rd %

New England Patriots

(off.)

1

7

10

10

1

Miami Dolphins

(def.)

11

11

9

19

11

New England Patriots

(def.)

28

27

25

20

30

Miami Dolphins

(off.)

23

18

18

16

8

Statistical Advantage: Miami Dolphins (1-0)

Oh, I see what's going on, here. Don't think I don't. Yeah, Dolphins, you were all lookin' cool last week, flexin' your flipper muscles and hopping through flaming hoops. No way the Jets beat you at home, I said. I mean, you see on the News what generally happens when a Jet goes into the ocean. Jet loses. Except you blew it, Miami. You cost me a pick and sent me under .500 on the week. And now you want to do it again, don't you? Why, you little...

Pick: Miami Dolphins

 

Well, that's it for this week. Let me know what you think of the new features. And tune in next week for more picks and thoughts. Not necessarily in that order.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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