2016 NFL Picks: Week 10
Last Week: 2-2-1
- Kansas City Chiefs +3 at Carolina Panthers
- Green Bay Packers -3 at Tennessee Titans
- Atlanta Falcons -2 at Philadelphia Eagles
- Dallas Cowboys +2 at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Seattle Seahawks +7.5 at New England Patriots
I think it's fair to say this week has been long and taxing for almost everyone. Hopefully this weekend's NFL slate can provide a brief respite from contemplating the future, and help us abide by the 24-hour rule I mentioned earlier this week. I would say you should be pulling hard for me to sweep this week because everybody loves a winner, but that axiom feels inaccurate at the moment.
Of course, if you were worried a season of boring .500 weeks would dry up my well of excuses or that I'd actually follow the 24-hour rule when it came to my NFL picks, there's no need to fear! Last week it was the poor decision-making by Atlanta Falcons' head coach Dan Quinn; three weeks ago, it was...pretty much everyone; reflecting on Week 4, it was Carson Palmer. This week, I'm going to throw the spotlight on the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles some 100+ hours after their games ended.
I was sitting pretty after a big Falcons win on Thursday night and a comfortable cover from the Cowboys, and the Panthers seemed set to secure a second consecutive winning week for us. Needing a 3-point win to cover, the Panthers led by 7 or 10 points from the 3:49 mark of the first quarter until the 0:38 mark of the fourth quarter, when they allowed Case Keenum to throw a fourth-down touchdown pass, turning a win into a push and me into a sad panda.
The situation was exacerbated by the Eagles' inability to draw within three points against the New York Giants. A blocked field goal early in the game left Philadelphia down by 5 with four minutes left; with another three points they would have been covering regardless of the outcome of their final drive. Instead, they (correctly) attempted to score a game-winning touchdown and turned the ball over on downs. This was disappointing both because it's more fun to get angry about bad coaching decisions than to begrudgingly accept good ones and because it resulted in a 5-point loss. On a side note, I guess sometimes a great player can make a really dumb playbook go a long way.
Alright, whining complete. Let's get to the picks!
Kansas City Chiefs +3 at Carolina Panthers
Something in my mind wants to give the Panthers the benefit of the doubt in this game, but they've done almost nothing on the field this season to merit such confidence. They currently rank 23rd in total DVOA, while the Chiefs rank 11th. The biggest gap is in the most overlooked phase of the game: special teams. Former Bears Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub has the Chiefs ranked 5th in the NFL there while the Panthers sit in 28th place. I could lose this one if Captain Checkdown is pressured and fails to take advantage of the weak Carolina secondary, but with the other advantages the Chiefs have, I'll take the three points.
Green Bay Packers -3 at Tennessee Titans
Green Bay looked pretty bad last week in a loss to the Colts, who are currently tied with the Titans for second place in the hopeless AFC South. I think their loss was a bit fluky, however, and the Packers match up well with the Titans. Specifically, the Tennessee offense is built on running the ball (7th in rushing DVOA), but the Packers specialize in stopping the run (6th in defensive rushing DVOA). On the other side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers should feast on the Titans and their 27th-ranked pass defense. If the Packers get out to a lead and force the Titans to air it out, it could turn into a blowout quickly.
Atlanta Falcons -2 at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have been the bane of my picks this season. I picked against them in Weeks 2, 3, 7, and 8 when they were underdogs; they won three of those games outright. I picked them in Weeks 5, 6, and 9, and they failed to cover all three times. I'm now 1-6 picking Philadelphia games, and for some reason I'm picking them to lose at home this week. The Eagles are still 1st in total DVOA, led by a top-ranked defense and special teams, but in this weird season being #1 overall isn't as significant as it would usually be. They've slipped recently because the wheels have fallen off the Wentz Wagon, as they've failed to top 23 points since Week 3. The Falcons have scored more than 30 points in six of their nine games, falling short against the vaunted Seahawks, Broncos, and...Buccaneers? That last one still doesn't make any sense. Anyway, I think the Eagles' offense will continue to sputter, and the Falcons won't be as generous as the Vikings were in Philadelphia's most recent victory.
Dallas Cowboys +2 at Pittsburgh Steelers
This line suggests Ben Roethlisberger is fully recovered from his torn meniscus. His performance last week against Baltimore (23/45, 264, 1 TD/1 INT) suggests he wasn't five days ago. I don't think he'll be 100% this week, but even if he is, Dallas's dominant run game will be taking advantage of Pittsburgh's mediocre rush defense. It's not like the Steelers' pass defense is great, either, ranking 18th in DVOA. The Cowboys just don't have many serious weaknesses, and unless the Pittsburgh offense can regain the form they flashed in Week 4 against the Chiefs, they'll lose outright.
Seattle Seahawks +7.5 at New England Patriots
The last time the Seahawks lost a game by at least eight points was against the Packers in Week 2 of 2015. Before that? Week 2 of 2014 against the Chargers. It didn't happen once in 2013 or 2012. They've won 3 of their last 4 against the Patriots; you might remember the 4-point loss they suffered in the other game. So why is this line so high? The Seahawks have struggled this year, particularly along the offensive line. If you watched their 6-6 tie against the Cardinals (I did, for some reason), you saw this weakness fully exposed. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, their defense boasts the worst sack rate in the league, and struggles much more against the pass than the run. With Jimmy Graham breaking out last week, I don't think the Seahawks will be held below ten points. Meanwhile, the Seahawks defense hasn't changed; they're dominant against the run and the pass, and should have enough to slow down the Patriots machine this week. I don't know if they have what it takes to win in Foxboro, but they can definitely keep it close.
Enjoy your weekends, everyone, and we'll see you next week!