This year, I've slipped. While my straight-up picks are still solid, with a .605 win percentage, I've fallen close to Dave Littlefield levels against the spread, with a very mediocre .457 percentage. This leads me to humbly realize picking NFL games is a hard thing to do really well on a consistent basis.
Still, seemingly nothing I've tried this year has gone right, which is frustrating because the HW pool only takes ATS performance into consideration. I either pick the underdogs to beat the spread, and get screwed, or pick the favorites to cover, and get screwed. It hasn't helped that there have been several outrageous spreads this season. For example, I think Indy had a -19.5 line at some point this season, probably against Houston or something. You know the Colts are easily capable of doing that, but it's still the NFL.
This week, I've decided to make my picks purely based on my personal preference of the matchups. I won't completely disregard the actual talent of the teams involved, but these picks will be mostly coming directly from the heart.
Note: I'll just state my ATS pick since that's all that matters for my pool.
Atlanta Falcons @ Baltimore Ravens (-4.5), 1 p.m.
This is rough because I really don't like having to actively root for Michael Vick to do well. But it's the Ravens, so there's really no question where to go with this one. Atlanta.
Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans (-1.5), 1 p.m.
I really don't have anything invested in either of these teams, but I'll go with the Texans, so they can make Chris/Josh happy. Plus Andre Johnson is really really good. Houston.
Chicago Bears @ N.Y. Jets (+6.5), 1 p.m.
Curtis Martin has passed the Jets running back torch to another Pittsburgh Public Schools product in Kevan Barlow. Barlow played his highschool ball at Peabody High School, proud owner of the lowest graduation rate in the city (52%). Fun fact: that number is still higher than the overall graduation rates of the city schools in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York City, and Detroit.
But yeah, football. PPS representing, plus it's fun to pick the home underdog, especially when they're coming off an inspired performance against the Patriots and their momentum has to be at a season high. New York.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New Orleans Saints (-3.5), 1 p.m.
Another game featuring a division rival that the Steelers need to have lose. Not the toughest decision of the week. New Orleans.
Minnesota Vikings @ Miami Dolphins (-3.5), 1 p.m.
The real Minnesota Vikings need to make themselves known at some point this season, but I still think they're good enough to beat the Dolphins, which, despite what Peter King thinks, are still not that good. And, a Vikings win would make my cousins in St. Paul happy. Minnesota.
New England Patriots @ Green Bay Packers (+5.5), 1 p.m.
Okay, I just have to go with common sense here more than anything, even more than a nagging dislike of the Patriots. New England.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5), 1 p.m.
I was actually tempted to pick the Raiders to beat the spread, if only because Trent Green could be rusty coming off his injury. But it's still the Raiders, and I've already picked enough underdogs this week. Kansas City.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns (+3.5), 1 p.m.
St. Louis Rams @ Carolina Panthers (-6.5), 1 p.m.
Marc Bulger. Not even my recently-sparked hatred of all things Mountaineers can halt the flow of Crusader pride within my blood. The Bulgers are the one family that has gone through West Virginia University with their souls intact and uncorrupted, and I bet it has a lot to do with their SHES upbringing.
Also, the psychological reason I want the Panthers to lose is that the game in Charlotte is the one game on the Steelers remaining schedule that really scares me. A loss today, combined with their lackluster showing on Monday, would make me feel much more confident. St. Louis.
Tennessee Titans @ Philadelphia Eagles (-13.5), 1 p.m.
Whee, one of those ridiculous spreads again. But you know what, screw it. I'll still never be able to forgive the Titans for Joe Nedney, and they didn't exactly ingraciate themselves to me by failing to hold onto a huge lead against the shitbirds last weekend. Philadelphia.
Washington Redskins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5), 1 p.m.
The answer to the trivia question, "who is the only quarterback I have seen defeat the Pitt Panthers in person" is Bruce Gradkowski. For that, I have immense respect for Bruce Gradkowski. Oh, and he's a Pittsburgh kid, too. Tampa Bay.
Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals (-2.5), 4 p.m.
The Larry Fitzgerald factor obviously comes into play here. Also, Bob Prince's law of hidden vigorish. Arizona.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers (+2.5), 4 p.m.
Mike Holmgren is being bizarrely closed-mouthed about the status of Matt Hasselback and Shaun Alexander, but it really shouldn't matter. The Seahawks have been beating much better teams without those two. Seattle.
Indianapolis Colts @ Dallas Cowboys (-1.5), 4:15 p.m.
I'm a fan of the whole flexible scheduling deal. Pigskin apparently isn't, because they still have the picks listed under their original starting times. According to them, there is no Sunday night game. Flexible scheduling allows the Steelers to continue paving the way for the NFL's quest of world domination:
"Fox's decision to move the starting time of the Steelers-Saints game to 4:15 p.m. proved to be beneficial: The game had more viewers than the marquee matchup Sunday night between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears on NBC and ranked as the third most-watched program for the week.
The Steelers' game, which was switched because of the NFL's new "flex scheduling" with the networks, had 21.8 million viewers. The only programs with more viewers last week were ABC's "Desperate Housewives" (22.3 million) and "Dancing With The Stars" (22 million)."
Anyone who still doesn't think the Steelers have the best fanbase in the NFL should take note.
Anyway, I like the Colts. I'll say right here that if the Steelers aren't going to pull off the miracle to end all miracles, I'd be perfectly happy seeing the Colts finally win one. There are many far less deserving teams (like 30 of them), and there's really nothing abrasive or unlikable about the Colts. Well, besides Lil' Ronnie. But he's not Peyton's fault. Indianapolis.
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos (-2.5), 8:15 p.m.
The Chargers are really good, and no one really likes Jake Plummer. San Diego.
New York Giants @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5), 8:30 p.m., Monday
I really don't know why the Jaguars are favored. New York.
Take these to the bank.