WEEK 12 REPORT:
WINNERS: 12-4 (.750); SEASON: 115-61 (.653)
ATS: 12-4 (.750); SEASON: 98-78 (.557)
ATS BEST BETS: 3-0; SEASON: 20-16 (.555)
Week 12 turned out pretty well around here, but that's because favorites went 12-4 this week (I missed on three of the four upset games). Still and all, successful favorites don't help against the spread, and 12-4 in that category made me very happy indeed.
Of course, history reminds me that what goes up naturally comes down, and I'm due a flop week at any time now. But the good news is I'm finally above the .650 mark -- my season goal for straight-up winners -- and my ATS percentage is about seven games above the 52 percent profitability mark. Not stellar numbers. But OK. Even my Best Bets are finally nearing respectability.
Maybe I should quit while I'm ahead. I probably would if I was actually betting on this stuff. The odds are I won't get much better than this.
There's one early game this week, so I'm going to predict that one now and do the rest of the week's games later.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Yep. If last week's 6-0 record in Confident games tells you anything, it's this: I actually felt confident about six games. This week, not so much -- there's only one game I feel confident about, and yes, it's the Patriots.
This is one of wildest-looking weeks of the season so far, and I'll be happy to break even. BTW, it turns out that I picked five upsets this week, and a couple of picks that I thought would be upsets have proven to be slight favorites. Shows what I know.
My biggest point-spread reach of the week? Giving 20 points to the Ravens and still taking the Patriots.
Not Betting the Farm (Thursday night)
Green Bay at (-7) Dallas: This one is getting attention for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which being it's one of the year's greatest matchups, and 40 percent of Americans won't be able to watch it at home. But forget all that. Both these teams are hot right now, with good defenses and great quarterbacks. Ultimately, though, I'm expecting this one to hinge on the matchup between the Cowboys wide receivers and Green Bay's corners. If Harris and Woodson win those individual battles you might see some cracks in Tony Romo's game. Absent that, however, I think Dallas is too good at home and will eventually force the younger Packers into mistakes. Cowboys win a memorable one. ATS: A touchdown is a lot in this one. Packers. OUTCOME: Right on winner, wrong on spread. Hey, Favre got injured. What can I say?
The Rest of the Week
Confident (Week 12: 6-0 winners, 1.000; 6-0 ATS, 1.000. Season: 46-13 winners, .780; 34-25 ATS, .576)
New England at (+20) Baltimore (MNF): Baltimore does one thing well. They stop the run. The Patriots only run when they get bored of passing. Thing is, this week they might decide to run the ball just to prove that they can do anything they want. ATS: I don't think the Ravens are strong enough to stand up to the Patriots attack for four quarters. This is a stretch, and it might come down to a late collapse, but I'm actually going to give the 20 points and count on the Patriots to win by three touchdowns. OUTCOME: Right on winner (barely!), wrong on spread.
Not Betting the Farm (Week 12: 2-2 winners, .500; 2-2 ATS,.500. Season: 26-16 winners, .619; 23-19 ATS, .547)
N.Y. Jets at (-1.5) Miami (early): The Dolphins haven't won. The Jets might not win again. These two team have been banging on each other for years, and if the Dolphins get emotional they could play the Jets tough. I don't think that's going to happen, so I'm picking the Jets, but it wouldn't shock me. It's almost as hard to go without a win as it is to go without a loss. ATS: Imagine that. The Dolphins as a favorite? Not here. Jets. OUTCOME: Right on both.
San Diego at (+4) Kansas City (early): Here's the tricky part -- Damon Huard is back at QB, and he's generally a better option than Croyle was. But San Diego is playing better -- except when they suddenly turn up a stinker. I'm taking the Chargers here because they really should win based on the talent differential, but again, the Chargers don't do much to inspire confidence. ATS: Chargers, hesitantly. OUTCOME: Right on both.
Denver at (+3.5) Oakland (late): I'd be happier about this pick if it weren't a Black Hole game and if Denver were just a little stronger against the run, but the Broncos are going to get after Daunte Culpepper and attack the Raiders with Travis Henry. I think they'll win, but the history of this series makes it a little dicey. ATS: Broncos. OUTCOME: Wrong on both.
Just Guessing (Week 12:4-2 winners, .667; 4-2 ATS, .667. Season: 43-33 winners, .566; 39-37 ATS, .513)
Atlanta at (-3) St. Louis: Given the problems the Rams have had with their O-line, it's dfficult for me to predict them with any confidence whatsoever. But the Falcons really just aren't much of a threat, and they're certainly not a team I want to take on the road. Gus Ferrotte is in at QB for the Rams, and he can be adequate for quarters at a time. ATS: Rams. Right on both.
Buffalo at (-6) Washington (early): How can anyone predict the Redskins this week? They should win, based solely on matchups and home field, but the death of Sean Taylor means that their performance could swing either way. I suspect they'll come out emotional and geeked, but if the Redskins' focus was poor during practice and they make a few mistakes early, this game could swing Buffalo's way. It''s really a coin toss. ATS: Six is more than I want to give, but Redskins anyway. OUTCOME: Wrong on both.
Detroit at (-4) Minnesota (early): I've been bedeviled by the Lions all season, and they're very hard to project this week as well. Apparently you can throw against the Vikings so long as your name isn't Eli, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Lions did a good job against young QB Tarvaris Jackson. But I'm picking the Vikings to win behind solid defense and a strong rushing attack. ATS: Lions. I'm actually surprised to see the Vikings as the favorite here. OUTCOME: Right on winner, wrong on spread.
Houston at (-3.5) Tennessee (early): After weeks of taking the Titans and losing I finally abandoned them last week and reaped the benefits. But this week I'm torn. They're at home, and most importantly, they're getting Albert Haynesworth back. The Texans came back to Earth last week, which surprised me (I had them as an upset pick). I'm taking the Titans to win a close one. ATS: Close enough that I'll take the Texans. OUTCOME: Right on winner, wrong on spread.
Jacksonville at (-7.5) Indianapolis (early): I've been back and forth on this one, but I'm settling on the Colts to win. No, they're not playing particularly well, and yes, the Jags will come into this game stoked to the max to tighten up the AFC South, but this is also one of those situations where I expect to see Manning pull out a close one. I'm actually expecting the Colts running game to be the deciding factor, since the Jags are going without Stroud and Peterson on defense. But if David Garrard plays like he's been doing since he returned from injury suffered in the previous Jags-Colts game, look out. Should be a great game. ATS: Jaguars. OUTCOME: Right on both.
Seattle at (-3.5) Philadelphia (early): A.J. Feeley and the Eagles played their best game of the season before falling to the Patriots and it's easy to imagine that they'll carry that over to a homefield win over the Seahawks. I think it's more likely that they'll have a let-down and the Seahawks will continue their second-half-of-the-season roll. But you never know. I kept expecting Garcia to fold up last year, and it didn't happen. ATS: Seahawks are the upset pick? OK. OUTCOME: Right on both.
San Francisco at (-3) Carolina (early): Two teams from opposite coasts collide on a field where the home team can't win, and they can't field a legitimate NFL quarterback between the two of them. So let's be kind and say this should be a defensive struggle. At least the 49ers' ancient QB is healthier than the Panthers' ancient QB, and I'm feeling Frank Gore and Vernon Davis more than Steve Smith. ATS: Looks like I picked another upset. 49ers. OUTCOME: Wrong on both.
Cleveland at (-1) Arizona (late): Cleveland can't stop anybody, but whatever defensive edge the Cardinals might have had disappeared last week when they lost stellar safety Adrian Wilson. I'm expecting points here, and it could come down to which team has the ball last. My guess? Browns. ATS: Another upset pick, apparently. Browns. OUTCOME: Wrong on both.
N.Y. Giants at (+1.5) Chicago (late): As everybody keeps pointing out, Rex Grossman is an accident waiting to happen, and he did turn the ball over three times against the Broncos. But compare that to Eli Manning last week, and you get my point: Nobody in this game inspires any confidence. I'm taking the Bears at home on a hunch, but it might be a bit more than that. If you watched the Bears' OT win against the Broncos last week, you saw something happen in the 4th quarter: Chicago's receivers stopped dropping passes. Simple as that. Remember that game-tying, incredibly acrobatic Bernard Berrian 4th-down TD catch against perfect Champ Bailey coverage on a brilliant Grossman pass? Well, earlier in the game, Berrian was doinking gimme throws from Rex like it was no big deal. The countervailing idea is that the Giants will pressure Rex and fold him up like a lawn chair, but I have a feeling that the Bears are about to get hot. ATS: Wow. Yet another upset pick. Bears. OUTCOME: Wrong on both.
Tampa Bay at (-3) New Orleans (late): I've been on the Bucs bandwagon since September, but I'm getting off this week. I don't see the Saints as a big favorite with Reggie Bush in the state he is, but Garcia is showing his age and with the season winding on it wouldn't surprise me if the Bucs as a team started following suit. The Saints should have enough firepower to win this one, and it even looked like the defense was starting to play better in November. ATS: Saints. OUTCOME: Wrong on both.
Cincinnati at (-8) Pittsburgh (SNF): I'm still generally high on Pittsburgh, and it would be a mistake to draw too many lessons from last week's mess in the mud, but this is one that the Bengals could steal. The Steelers aren't rolling at the moment, and losing Santonio Holmes to a bad hammy is really making their offense predictable. Then again, the Bengals play defense some weeks like it's an afterthought. Gimme the Steelers at home, and cross your fingers. ATS: Bengals keep it closer. OUTCOME: Right on winner, wrong on spread.
BEST BETS: Broncos, Saints, Bengals. OUTCOME: Wrong on all three.