Parity Sucks and the Division System Makes it Worse: NFL Week 10 Picks
Welcome to the land of parity, NFL fans. There’s never any sunshine here, it’s always gray, and if your team is up by a couple of games in their division, wait for the other shoe to drop before you start celebrating, you’re almost certain to be disappointed.
What am I talking about? Isn’t parity supposed to be awesome? Doesn’t it mean that every team has a shot to win it all? Actually it doesn’t. What parity means is a couple good teams, in the case of this season, one (the Packers), and a bunch of interchangeable shlock at the bottom. Here’s the list of NFL teams that are absolutely putrid and have no business being anywhere near a playoff spot: Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Buccaneers, Panthers, Vikings, the entire NFC West minus the 49ers, the entire AFC West, the Entire AFC South minus the Texans, the Browns and the Dolphins.
That’s a lot of teams and at least one of them (an AFC West team) is going to take a playoff spot away from a deserving team (likely one of the three teams atop the AFC East). We see some level of this farce play out almost every season. Last year, the 10-6 Giants were playing golf in January, while the 7-9 Seahawks got to play in the playoffs (and actually won a game, parity, it’s awesome!). In 2008, the 11-5 Patriots stayed home while the 8-8 Chargers made the playoffs. The 2010 Giants and 2008 Patroits did nothing wrong other than exist in a geographic location where there were other good teams.
That’s why I propose a not-so novel solution to the NFL’s playoff problem. Get rid of the division system and just take the six best teams from each conference. I know, I know, the divisions make traveling easier and they’re to preserve rivalries, but we all know that’s a load of BS. A good West Coast team has no problem traveling East. This year’s 49ers, for example, have won @ Cincy, @ Philly, and @ Detroit. Their only loss was at home to Dallas. Every other Western team sucks no matter where they’re playing.
As for the rivalries, they wouldn’t be that hard to preserve, after all there are only a few that really matter, do you really care about the epic Titans-Jaguars rivalry? Or the hard-fought Seahawks vs. Rams? Didn’t think so. Although the Eastern and Northern divisions have pretty entrenched rivalries, the Southern and Western rivalries are pretty lacking. And in any case, it’s easy to find new rivals. NFL fans are natural haters. You think people from Seattle wouldn’t easily be able to hate Dallas (okay bad example everyone hates Dallas) or folks in San Fransisco couldn’t find something to hate about Washington (our bums are crazier and more violent than yours!)? Just trust me on this, get rid of the divisions and we’ll all be happier.
Picks follow after the jump, as always you can find Ryan at his blog.
Week 9: 13-1
Week 10 (so far): 1-0
Week 9: 8-6
Week 10 (so far): 1-0
Pittsburgh (-3) @ Cincinnati
Ryan: I was all set to pick blindly against the Steelers on general principle in this game because I have a random, unsubstantiated theory that the Steelers and Ravens beat each other up so badly that they still feel the physical effects following week. In fact, I’m now going to look it up for the last five seasons (not counting playoffs) to see if it holds any truth. This is the scientific method at work. ****Spends a half hour trying to figure this out**** Welp, I checked from 2007 through after their second 2010 match-up and the Ravens and Steelers covered the next week seven times and didn’t eight times. Didn’t feel like checking the last four at that point after spending a half hour and seeing my amazing theory CRUSHED. Having your null hypothesis fail to reach its target confidence interval sucks.
Anyways, I think the Bengals have swung from a little bit underrated to a little bit overrated this week. They’ve won five in a row–none of which came against anyone as good as the Steelers–and are due for a letdown. Steelers cover.
Asif: If the season were to end before this week’s games, Cincinnati would be the top-seeded team in the AFC. Oh and the Bengals are in line to get some pretty nice draft choices the next two years when Oakland misses the playoffs (let this serve as your weekly reminder that the Raiders traded a first and a second round pick for Carson Palmer). All hail the genius of Mike Brown! And yes, I do recognize that they’ve played a very easy schedule.
As for the Steelers, they remain old and I don’t trust them to cover the Bengals criminally underrated receiving corps of AJ Green, Jordan Shipley, and Jermaine Gresham. Although the Steelers’ own receivers are excellent, Cincy boasts a couple quality corners in Leon Hall and a seemingly rejuvenated Nate Clements. Bengals cover.
Denver @ Kansas City (-3)
Ryan: If this game happened a week ago the Chiefs would have been something like 10-point favorites after they had just beaten the Chargers and the Broncos had just gotten beaten by the Lions by 35. THAT’S WHY THEY PLAY [LAST WEEK’S] GAMES. I’m not letting a one week aberration from both of these teams (Raiders in a good way, Chiefs in a bad way) cloud my perception of their overall worth. Chiefs cover.
Asif: Tim Tebow has a 46% completion rate, but whatever, accuracy is just a lie created by the left like global warming and evolution and Tebow is totally the future because Jesus. Argument over. Still, Kansas City just lost a game to a team quarterbacked by Matt Moore so I’m kinda torn here. I’ll hold my nose and take the Chiefs to cover.
Jacksonville (-3) @ Indianapolis
Ryan: Earlier this week, I took my clothes out of my coin-operated dryer and they weren’t dry yet. I was left with the option of dealing with damp clothes (some dryer than others) or spending another $1.50 to finish the job. This was much infuriating than it should have been if I had looked at it from the perspective of how it compared to, say, cancer or poverty. Would a court find me liable if I shorted my landlord $1.50 on my next rent check? I feel like I would be justified (don’t you dare suggest that my laundry load was too big…I already know that).
Oh yeah, football: the Colts have lost their last four games by an average of over 25 points. They should be getting a touchdown against every other team in the NFL with the possible exception of the Rams. Jaguars cover.
Asif: Help us Jaguars, you’re our only hope. Just lose this game, pretty please? The thought of the Colts getting Andrew Luck is almost too much to bear. Their fat hump fans are already crossing out Manning on their jerseys and writing in Luck. THESE PEOPLE DO NOT DESERVE THIS KIND OF HAPPINESS. Of course the Colts are so poorly built and incompetently coached that there’s absolutely no chance that they don’t end up with the first pick. Jaguars cover.
Buffalo @ Dallas (-5.5)
Ryan: Last week, the Jets took away the short pass and made Ryan Fitzpatrick beat them deep, his weakness. It worked and Fitzpatrick was exposed. The Cowboys, however, don’t have the personnel in the secondary to exploit that weakness. I see this as being a very close game and 5.5 points just seems about two points too high. Bills cover.
Asif: The Bills have predictably cooled off a bit, mostly because it’s really hard to come up with two interceptions in every game. Dallas is the definition of NFL mediocrity. Bills cover.
Houston (-3) @ Tampa Bay
Ryan: Houston, my pre-season sleeper pick, is 6-3 and better than a lot of people realize. The Texans are the only team in the NFL that Football Outsiders has ranked in the top-10 in offense, defense, and special teams DVOA. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has been struggling recently, losing three of their last four. These teams are headed in different directions this season. Texans cover.
Asif: I didn’t think that Tampa was any good before this week and now that they’ve gotten Fat Albert Haynesworth’s taint all over their roster you can bet that there’s no way that I’m picking them. Houston covers. Relevant question: has there ever been a bigger waste of money per pound than Haynesworth? I say no.
Ryan: Eddy Curry? Gilbert Arenas? Or do you mean in the NFL? If so, then I might be inclined to say Kevin Kolb has a shot at this. Haynesworth’s stock in this category falls because of his high weight.
Ryan: I loved reading Cam Newton’s quotes this week as he was analyzing his play much more critically than NFL pundits who have been very positive about his performance: “If anything, I feel like I’ve failed myself due to this game is about wins and losses,” Newton said. “And I’m not hanging my hat on no 2-6 season and we still have an opportunity to change that.” Although in English, the second part of the quote technically means that he is hanging his hat on 2-6, it is very clear that Newton takes losing extremely personally and wants to will himself to everything in his power to prevent it from happening.
This week, I think his powers are great enough. The Titans have lost three of four and the only win in that period was against the Colts which, so far, has happened for every team that plays the Colts this year. Panthers cover.
Asif: This line seems just right. As bright as the future looks in Carolina, can you imagine how much better things would look if the Panthers hadn’t given DeAngelo Williams five years and $21MM guaranteed? The Titans actually talked about signing Terrell Owens in what would be the most inexplicable roster move this season. Just take your mid-first round pick and be happy with it Tennessee. Panthers cover.
Washington @ Miami (-3.5)
Ryan: The John Beck bitter revenge game. He wants nothing more than to stick it to Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano and show them that he is still capable of competing at a high level (allusion to Favre/Thompson/McCarthy that is a lot more funny now than it was in 2008). In seven career starts, John Beck still doesn’t have a win. I think this is the week he gets it. Redskins cover.
Asif: This week’s Derp Bowl. I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but the 1-win Dolphins being favored by 3.5 points over the Redskins isn’t egregious in my mind. That’s how bad the ‘Skins are. Even though I despise their team and its racist moniker I do feel terribly for Washington fans. They always talk themselves into their team before the season only for the Redskins to plumb new depths. Just accept it, the ‘Skins aren’t going to accomplish anything as long as Dan Snyder owns the team, it doesn’t matter how many big name coaches he hires (so far he’s failed with Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan).
My sympathies go out to Dolphins fans who are now going to have to watch the Colts succeed Peyton Manning with Andrew Luck while Miami settles for Landry Jones. That sucks, dudes. Oh and Washington covers because I honestly want no part in trying to predict this suckfest. Might as well just take the points.
New Orleans @ Atlanta (PK)
Ryan: Like the NFC West when the 49ers aren’t involved, all NFC South match-ups dictate taking the home team. The Falcons have won three straight and seem to be hitting their stride. Falcons win.
Asif: Julio Jones last week: 3 rec. 131 yds 2 TDs. Roddy White: 4 rec. 76 yds. The Saints pass defense is suspect when healthy and it looks like they may be without Tracy Porter and possibly his backup Patrick Robinson. So yeah, I’m taking the Falcons.
Detroit @ Chicago (-2.5)
Ryan: As the Bears were finishing up their beatdown of the Eagles on Monday night, I took a pre-emptive strike against all the Bears love I knew I was about to see on Facebook, writing, “If only there was a way to filter out all the Bears statuses that are about to happen. Anyways, just a little reminder that the Packers are Super Bowl champs, beat the Bears twice to get there, and beat them in Chicago this year. Eight and zero.” An old cabinmate of mine, who is a Bears fan and a Michigan fan (what an odious combination), responded to it by posting a video of the Michigan State hail mary to beat Wisconsin. Because there was no relevant instance of one of his teams beating one of mine that would have caused actual pain (any Michigan clip is negated by beating them badly the last two times we’ve played and the Packers Super Bowl trumps all), he had to use one from one of Michigan’s biggest rivals. Check. I of course countered by posting the BJ Raji pick-six/boogie video immediately. Checkmate.
It feels like we are due for the type of game where the Bears win but had no business doing so. We haven’t really had any of those this year where they get a few obscenely lucky bounces and a Devin Hester return touchdown to pull out a game where they were doubled in yards and time of possession. Bears cover.
Asif: Whoa, whoa, whoa, overreact much to the Bears beating the under-.500 Eagles? Look, I know the Eagles have a ton of hype, Dream Team, blah, blah, blah, but at some point record has to count for something and we have to stop considering beating Philly to be a quality win. When he has time to set his feet and pass, Jay Cutler looks like Aaron Rodgers-lite. Unfortunately, I doubt he’s going to be able to do so against the relentless Lions pass-rush. Detroit covers.
St. Louis @ Cleveland (-2.5)
Ryan: I feel like Asif prematurely gave the derp bowl title to Redskins-Dolphins because he just naturally assumed that a game couldn’t possibly be any worse but also had not realized that this game was also on the slate. Anyone who bets real money on this game has issues. Browns cover.
Asif: My original Derp-Bowl pick stands. On my first run-through making these picks, I actually completely overlooked this game. I’m going to go ahead and assume that’s because my subconscious didn’t even want to contemplate it. Rams cover.
Arizona @ Philadelphia (-14)
Ryan: The Cardinals are giving up an average of 117.75 rush yards per game this season which doesn’t bode well for their facing LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick; the Eagles are averaging an obscene 172.25 rush yards per game.
I don’t know if I could look myself in the mirror if I took John Skelton on the road. Eagles cover.
Asif: See the Bears pick for my feelings about the Eagles. I know Arizona sucks, but the Eagles are 3-5 and their three wins are against Washington (by three points), Dallas, and St. Louis. Not exactly the most impressive trio of teams. Also, the Eagles may have the most impressive rushing offense in the league, but that’s exactly why Andy Reid will only call 10 rushes in this game. 14 points just seems like too big of a spread to me. Cardinals cover.
Baltimore (-6.5) @ Seattle
Ryan: Because I chickened out on testing my since-rejected hypothesis on the Steelers game, I’m going to try it here and blindly pick against the Ravens. To retroactively justify this pick, though, the Ravens have already shown themselves to be susceptible to the letdown game twice this year in inexplicable losses to the Titans and Jaguars. Seahawks cover but I will NOT be putting my money where my mouth is on this game.
Asif: Baltimore’s schitzoid act is really starting to wear on me. Every time I declare the Ravens a good team, Joe Flacco has a meltdown against a weak opponent. Then when I write them off, they beat someone good. Still, Seattle is really, really, really bad and Tarvaris Jackson has a pectoral injury. I can’t believe I’m considering Tarvaris Jackson being injured as a negative. Ravens cover.
NY Giants @ San Francisco (-3.5)
Ryan: I think people might be a little bit too high on the Giants right now. They’ve won three in a row (Bills, Dolphins, and @Patriots) but I’m still not fully bought into them. The 49ers, meanwhile, are finally getting some respect–I was expecting this line to be 1.5-2.5. People are finally starting to realize that they are legitimately good. The 49ers’ strength is their running game and the Giants have allowed over 100 yards on the ground in each of their last six games. 49ers cover.
Asif: Strangely enough, I trust the Giants more against quality opponents than weak ones. This team plays to the level of its competition without fail. Every Giants fan in the world (well, at least the two or three reading this) is nodding his/her head right now. A win here, coupled with a Dallas loss, puts NY in really great playoff position. I think the return of Hakeem Nicks makes the Giants a more explosive team than the 49ers. I have a feeling I might regret this, but I’ll go with NY to cover.
New England @ NY Jets (-1.5)
Ryan: The Patriots have lost two in a row and are reeling–their two major signings this past offseason–Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth–did not pan out at all (Haynesworth got cut this week and Boston Globe beat writer Greg A. Bedard made me laugh out loud several times–without trying to be funny–with his tweets about Haynesworth). I feel like the Jets find a way to take this one. Jets cover.
Asif: I’m really tempted to pick the Jets this week, but I keep watching that GIF of Mark Sanchez flinching. You can bet that every time Sanchez gets tackled from now until the end of the year, the defender on the play will make a derogatory joke based on that flinch. I just wish I had a mic to hear it.
The other thing keeping me from picking the Jets here is I just can’t see the Patriots losing three in a row especially now that they’ve removed the Haynesworth taint from their roster. With Brady playing a sub-par game the Pats almost beat a Giants team that is in my mind considerably better than the Jets. Pats cover.
Minnesota @ Green Bay (-13.5)
Ryan: It’s been a few weeks since the Packers had a game where they just utterly dominated. As I mentioned in the introduction, the 16-0 talk has already started to be whispered this week and it will obviously pick up momentum with each victory. It just sucks that the Packers aren’t on par with other historically dominant teams. Somehow, I’ll find a way to press on. Packers cover.
Asif: Guh. This line could not be high enough. Packers cover.