FIWK the NFL: The Chargers no longer control their own destiny.

Going into last week, the Chargers controlled their own destiny. They were 6-5 with a 1-2 division record. The Chiefs were 7-4 with a 1-2 division record. After beating the no-longer-as-impressive-looking Colts, if the Chargers continued their winning streak and won out, defeating the Chiefs along the way, they would have finished 11-5 with a 4-2 division record and the Chiefs at best could have finished with at 11-5 with a 3-3 division record. With the Chiefs losing to the Raiders and the Broncos in weeks 9 and 10, the Chargers controlled their own destiny. Now, not so much. We need to beat the Chiefs, we need to win out, we need to not fumble the ball away on special teams or allow a special teams touchdown... and we need some help. If the Chargers win out, they finish 10-6 with a 3-3 division record. If the Chiefs lose to the Chargers, then defeat the Rams, Titans and Raiders, they finish 11-5 and win the AFC West. Now we need the Jets, Patriots, Ravens or Steelers to lose six games and have a worse conference record for the Chargers to have a shot at a wild card spot (best chance is for 8-4 Baltimore with their 6-3 conference record to lose to two out of Houston, Cleveland and Cincinnati so that the Chargers have a better conference record). OR we need the Chiefs to lose to the Raiders so that the Chargers finish with a better division record. As for what every other team needs to have happen to make the playoffs...

That's way too long to go into with four games I'll just make my picks against the spread for this week.

Indianapolis (-3) @ Tennessee: Peyton Manning hasn't looked like Peyton Manning recently, but that's ok, he's Peyton Manning and the Titans are on a nice five game losing streak. And their best QB is on the IR, which is the NFL's version of the DL. My slight concern is that teams that can run the ball well can take advantage of the Colts main weakness. But their main running back is performing well below expectations. I'm picking the Indianapolis Peyton Mannings to cover.
Not so bold prediction: Chris Johnson leads the game in rushing.
Bold prediction: Indy has three receivers with more yards than any Titan.

Cleveland @ Buffalo (-1): So after starting 1-5, Cleveland has gone 4-2 in their last six games to get to 5-7. After starting 0-6, Buffalo has gone 2-4 in their last six games and is currently in line for a top five pick. So logically, the 2-10 team is favored over the 5-7 team. Makes perfect sense. I'm taking Cleveland and the point.
Not so bold prediction: Peyton Hillis has a good day.
Bold prediction: There are two 100 yard rushers in this game.

Green Bay (-6.5) @ Detroit: There are five games this week with a spread of seven or more points. Well there were when I was analyzing, because the Packers-Lions opened at seven then moved to 6.5. Of those five games, two favorites were automatic for me, one was kind of automatic and the other two games took a lot of my time and mental energy. This was one that I spent too much time on. Off the top of my head, I couldn't remember being confident in the Packers giving up so many points. The Lions have shown some offense and an ability to score enough to keep the game within a touchdown. Then I remembered the Packers are 8-4, they have both a good offense and a good defense and they have beat bad teams by double digits recently. While the Lions are 2-10, they are on their third quarterback, they don't intercept the ball, and they have shown that they can be blown out by good teams. So even though I'm not super confident, I still think it is the smart play to trust Aaron Rodgers to blow out the Lions and to trust Drew Stanton (who?) to get blown out by the Packers. I'm taking the Packers to cover. And who knows, by the time I make my official picks, I may have become a little more confident in Rodgers and Stanton.
Not so bold prediction: Aaron Rodgers leads the game in fantasy points.
Bold prediction: Calvin Johnson and Greg Jennings combine for three touchdowns.

NY Giants (-2) @ Minnesota: So it's either Tavaris Jackson or Brett Favre against the second (behind San Diego) ranked pass defense? I'll give two points to take the 8-4 Giants over the 5-7 Vikings.
Not so bold prediction: Brett Favre throws an interception OR misses the first start in a billion years.
Bold prediction: Lord Voldemort starts, throws an interception, gets knocked out of the game, Tavaris Jackson comes in and throws an interception before the game is over.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-8.5): Pittsburgh is better than Cincinnati. Much better. Their defense is awesome. They are led by this guy. Well, the guy in the football jersey. Not the other guy who is probably a paid actor. Last week he did this. The Bengals are led by these guys. Which might be the best name for the worst show ever. The Bengals just don't want to run the ball with Cedric Benson, like they did last year when they won the division. They want to throw the ball with Palmer and T.Ocho and now they are 2-10. And to think they looked promising starting 2-1 before going on a nine (NINE!!! 9!!!!) game losing streak. I think they lose again. I'm picking the Steelers to cover.
Not so bold prediction: The Bengals turn the ball over at least once.
Bold prediction: Terrel Owens and Chad Ochocinco combine for more fantasy points than Mike Wallace and Hines Ward.

Tampa Bay (-2) @ Washington: 7-5 Tampa Bay looks a little worse than 7-3 Tampa Bay. But that's ok, because 5-7 Washington looks worse than 4-3 Washington. The Bucs are one game out of a wild card spot and I think they man up for this game. And there's no way in hell I would pick a team to win, but pick the underdog plus only two points. I say the Bucs win and I guess I'll give two points.
Not so bold prediction: Both starting quarterbacks have a rushing yard.
Bold prediction: The quarterbacks combine for 50 yards rushing.

Atlanta (-7) @ Carolina: You know why you always draft a defense and a kicker in the last round of a fantasy football draft? Because of teams like the Carolina Panthers. Not because their defense comes from out of the top five to become the highest scoring fantasy defense (that was the Green Bay Packers this year), but because there are offenses so bad you can just take their opponent every week. If you picked the defense of the Panthers opponent, you would have double digit points nine out of twelve weeks. 75% of the time. The best scoring defense (Green Bay Packers) has scored double digits six out of twelve weeks. The Carolina Panthers have allowed two 20 point games to opposing fantasy defenses, while the Packers have only scored one 20 point game. In fact, the top four fantasy defenses still only have two 20 point games. The Panthers opponent is the best fantasy defense. And now the Falcons defense is top five in the NFL in interceptions. I'll take the Falcons to cover.
Not so bold prediction: The Panthers turn the ball over at least once (bet you didn't see that one coming.)
Bold prediction: There is a defensive or special teams touchdown. (I haven't used this one in a while.)

It's getting later in the kept getting in the way...I'm gonna have to pick this up.

Oakland @ Jacksonville (-4): Remember everything I said about what the Chargers need to do to make the playoffs? Well it's pretty much exactly the same for the Raiders, except they have the advantage of the head to head tiebreaker over the Chargers. So why didn't I mention the Raiders when discussing the Chargers playoff hopes? Because they're the Raiders. And they have three teams left on their schedule that will need to beat the Raiders to make the playoffs. I don't think they hold them all off. In fact, I think the Raiders playoff hopes end this week with a loss to the Jaguars...but at four points? I feel like the Jaguars like to play close games, but apparently that's just their 7-5 record talking. They have only played one three point game and two four point games out of twelve. A three point victory over the Colts, a four point victory over the Browns and a four point loss to the Giants. The other nine games have been decided by at least seven points. But the Raiders feel pretty evenly matched with the Jags. So I guess I think the Jaguars win, but I'm taking the Raiders and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Someone has a 100 yard rushing game.
Bold prediction: This game is decided by exactly three points.

So much for picking this up...

St. Louis @ New Orleans (-9): This was my hardest game to pick. St. Louis is in first place. The Saints have won their last two games by three and four points against inferior opponents. But the Saints are 9-3 while the Rams are 6-6 and Football Outsiders (who I really do trust) says the Saints are a much better team. New Orleans is top ten while the Rams are bottom ten. So in my hardest decision of the week...hold on, let me check...I was going back and forth so much I forget who I finally decided on....I'm taking the Saints to cover.
Not so bold prediction: Drew Brees throws a touchdown.
Bold prediction: The Rams have more rushing yards than the Saints.

Seattle @ San Francisco (-4.5): Remember before the first game of the season when I said the winner of the Seahawks-49ers game would show they were the best in the division? Yeah, me neither. I'll take the Seahawks and the points...ok fine, as a favor to Scott and MP, I'll take a look a the 49ers playoff chances. If they can beat the three NFC West teams left on their schedule and lose to the Chargers, they will finish 7-9 with a 5-1 division record. So they would need the Rams to lose to the Saints and Chiefs and the Seahawks to lose to the Falcons and Bucs. So 49ers...can you step up and beat the other teams in your division and let the AFC West and the NFC South take care of business for you?
Not so bold prediction: There is a completed pass in this each team.
Bold prediction: Four running backs have at least 30 yards rushing.

New England (-3) @ Chicago: Tom Brady is good. He's better than Jay Cutler. I think the New England Belichik-n-Brady's beat the Da Bears and cover.
Not so bold prediction: Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass.
Bold prediction: The Patriots have more rushing yards than the Bears, but Matt Forte leads the game in rushing yards.

Miami @ NY Jets (-5.5): I find it really annoying that I am forced to type the team name of the Jets and the Giants, while I can use location for every other team. They haven't earned it. I guess that's why I really liked TMQ's use of Jersey/A and Jersey/B to denote the Giants and Jets respectively, since the Giants have been around longer and to recognize the fact that they don't play in the city or state of New York, but rather in New Jersey (I think in Jersey City, but I'm not going to take the time to look it up). Scott was right last week, the Jets aren't as good as we think. And the Dolphins are slightly better than everyone thinks. I'm taking the Dolphins, but only because I'm getting the points.
Not so bold prediction: Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combine for 10 rushes AND have the most annoying combination of names to spell among all running back tandems in the NFL (so there's two n's in Shonn, and the 'e' comes after his last or first name? Does LaDainian really have an 'ini' in it?)
Bold prediction: Both Greene and Tomlinson have more rushing yards than any Dolphin running back.

Denver (-5.5) @ Arizona: I took the Cardinals when the line was OFF(0) so you bet your ass I'm taking them plus 5.5 points. Am I cussing a little too much for this blog?
Not so bold prediction: Kyle Orton throws for more yards than Derek know why? Because John Skelton is starting...did I just take a QB starting his first NFL game? No wonder why the game went from OFF to 5.5 points. I'm changing my mind. I'm taking the interim head coach coaching his first NFL game over the rookie quarterback QBing his first NFL game. And the Broncos cover.
Not so bold prediction: Kyle Orton throws for more yards than whoever the hell is starting at QB for the Cardinals.
Bold prediction: John Skelton does not throw an interception.

Philadelphia (-3.5) @ Dallas: Under interim head coach Jason Garret, Dallas is 3-1 including victories over the Manning brothers and the only blemish coming from the 9-3 Saints. With Vick at quarterback the Eagles have scored a bajillion points and never lost. Wait? What? They haven't scored a bajillion? And they lost to the Bears? I could have sworn that ESPN yelled at me that Vick was the greatest quarterback ever. Last week I sat in a bar and explained why I (correctly) picked the Eagles -8.5. The Eagles offense is good. The Texans offense is good. The Eagles defense is good. The Texans defense is reallyreallyreallyreallyreally bad. If the Cowboys hadn't just beaten the Indianapolis Peyton Mannings last week, this spread would be bigger...except for the fact that the Cowboys are really popular so Vegas often takes a point or two away from them know they'll get action anyways. This line should be close to six, so I'll take the Eagles to cover 3.5
Not so bold prediction: Vick has more rushing yards than Kitna.
Bold prediction: Vick has more rushing yards than any Cowboy running back.

Baltimore (-3) @ Houston: How is this game only three points? Did Roger Goodell issue a memo that Baltimore can only play with 10 players? Does Houston get five downs? I'm not even going to try and figure it out. I'll take the 8-4 team giving three points over the 5-7 team.
Not so bold prediction: Ray Lewis tackles a guy then jumps around a lot.
Bold prediction: There are six guys with at least 10 fantasy points.


  1. This is becoming borderline "the weekly Chargers column" (which, by the way, I am okay with) more so than the weekly NFL column.

    This week I like:

    TB -2
    I agree that this line is dumb. Who the eff is picking Wash +2 unless they think they can win? You effectively have a -2 tax on TB for everyone who thinks they'll win, but if they can't beat Wash by 3 or more than they suddenly suck more than everyone thinks.

    NE -3
    I think the Pats will blow the doors off the Bears, who are overrated. Tom Brady looks insanely good right now.

    Baltimore -3
    I'm as incredulous as you about this line. Haha I love your ideas about why this line exists... Does Houston get 5 downs is my favorite. Even then... the line's too low. No idea what makes any gamblers think Houston could even come close to the Ravens... is this an overreaction to the Ravens losing to the Steelers last week?

  2. I'm taking:

    Steelers -8.5: Pittsburgh is good. Cincinnati is not. This line should be up around 13, but people see this is a trap game for the Steelers (big win last week in Baltimore; "big" game against the Jets next week) - I don't buy it.

    Jags -4: The one rule I almost always abide by: always pick against a non-dominant west coast team traveling east and playing the early game.

    Falcons -7: A new rule I'm beginning to like: always pick against the 2010 Panthers/Cardinals (I can't pick Denver cause of the coach deal...).

    Giants -2: For some reason, I still don't trust the Vikings, and I don't care if Baby Peyton sucks against the Vikings. I'm still taking the Giants.

  3. Quad post to answer your question: no, the Niners cannot take care of business on their end to even think of asking for that much help (nor should we feel comfortable in asking for help).


  4. My offcial picks are Indy -3, Cleveland +1, Green Bay -6.5, Tampa Bay -2, Atlanta -7, Philadelphia -3.5, Baltimore -3 and Seattle +4.5.

    I am avoiding the Pats-Bears game because of the 15 inches of snow and the 50 mph winds. Even though I'm still starting Tom Brady over Kyle Orton in my fantasy league. I'm avoiding the Giants-Vikings game because we have no idea when it will actually be played. They're considering moving it from Monday to Wednesday (already moved from Sunday to Monday because weather prevented the Giants from landing and they got stuck in Kansas) if the dome is in fact too collapsed? So are we going to have three MNF games next week?

  5. Stats I enjoy seeing: mark sanchez last six quarters 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions.

  6. Love the Sanchez stat.

    Also love that I had my "Why is TB only -2??" comment shoved in my face as they won by 1 pt... ugh. Damn you terrible Bucs.

  7. My favorite prediction was one I actually got wrong. Jon Kitna had more rushing yards than Michael Vick.

  8. I'm still waiting for a Bold Prediction: MP makes a pick before the season ends. But nobody wants to pull the trigger on that doozy, do they?

    To be honest, I still don't feel comfortable picking something where who wins isn't what's important. Or, at least isn't the only thing that's important. I want to be able to say "X will beat Y" and be right about it even if X only beats Y by 3 points instead of 3.5. And what the hell is up with half points when you can only score full points in football?

    Anyway, stepping down off my little soapbox...I'd like for the Niners to beat the Chargers this week, if only because it would re-ignite a Smith Versus Smith debate that I find terribly fascinating. Plus, bragging rights over half of FIWK. I'd also like for people to stop hyperventilating about Brett Fav-ruh not starting a game. By my count, Fav-ruh was only about 11% of the way to besting Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak, and about 174% of the way towards torpedoing Minny's season by foolishly deciding to come back for another year. The guy played a lot of games, but like everything in the latter stages of his career - HE LOVES THIS GAME SO MUCH - it has been completely blown out of proportion.

    I'm done now. Oh, and Jaaaash Freeman. Royce, Scott gave you approval by proxy, so I'd like for the Great Jaaaash Mystery to be unraveled. Pretty please.

  9. MP they are called bold predictions, not crazy talk. No one is predicting an MP pick, because they'll be thought a total fool.

    I will see if I can find a good link for Jaaaaaaaaash Freeman explanation.

  10. I think a link would further confuse him. I mean, seriously, you're going to look for a link of someone he's never heard of, doing an intentionally inaccurate impression of someone he has heard of.

    Well, I guess it's possible he's heard of him. He does have an autograph from the impressionee.

  11. Chargers -9 for tomorrow night's game: I think Smith throws 3 picks...and I'll take the better team on short rest.

  12. How dare you jump the gun on Aaron's NFL column which won't be up until Friday anyway! How dare you!

    I, like Aaron, always pick the Chargers. In this case I think that's well founded cause your QB situation is an atrocity.

  13. Precedent has been set to pick the Thursday game on the preceding week's NFL column.

  14. I'm taking the Chargers -9, in fact, I'll make it an official pick.