NFL Week 3 picks

Who would have thought Week 3’s only matchup of 2-0 teams would be New England versus Buffalo? The News gave the Bills eight and a half points, but even with Buffalo’s great play this season, I like the Patriots by double digits.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has performed admirably this season, but the Patriots defense will come at him like nothing he has seen so far.

New England (-8.5) over BUFFALO

San Francisco (+2.5) over CINCINNATI

NEW ORLEANS (-4) over Houston

Giants (+7) over PHILADELPHIA

CLEVELAND (-2.5) over MIAMI*

TENNESSEE (-7) over Denver

Detroit (-3.5) over MINNESOTA

CAROLINA (-3.5) over Jacksonville

SAN DIEGO (-14.5) over Kansas City

Jets (-3.5) over OAKLAND

Baltimore (-4) over ST. LOUIS*

Atlanta (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY

Arizona (-3) over SEATTLE

CHICAGO (+3.5) over Green Bay

Pittsburgh (-10.5) over INDIANAPOLIS

Washington (+6) over DALLAS

Last week:
BUFFALO (-3) over Oakland
Bills 38-35. Win
NEW ORLEANS (-6.5) over Chicago
Saints 30-13. Win
DETROIT (-8) over Kansas City
Lions 48-3. Win
JETS (-9.5) over Jacksonville
Jets 32-3. Win
Arizona (+3.5) over WASHINGTON
Redskins 22-21. Win
Baltimore (-6) over TENNESSEE
Titans 26-13. Loss
Seattle (+14) over PITTSBURGH
Steelers 24-0. Loss
CAROLINA (+10) over Green Bay
Packers 30-23. Win
Tampa Bay (+3) over MINNESOTA
Bucs 24-20. Win
INDIANAPOLIS (+2) over Cleveland
Browns 27-19. Loss
Dallas (-3) over SAN FRANCISCO
Cowboys 27-24. Push
Houston (-3) over MIAMI
Texans 23-13. Win
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over San Diego
Pats 35-21. Win
Cincinnati (+3.5) over DENVER
Broncos 24-22. Win
Philadelphia (-2.5) over ATLANTA*
Falcons 35-31. Loss
GIANTS (-6) over ST. LOUIS
NYG 28-16. Win
11-4-1, 0-1

Overall (best bets):
Always Game Seven 16-12-3 (0-1-1)
Skurski 15-13-3 (0-2)
Northrop 14-14-3 (1-0-1)
Sullivan 14-14-3 (0-1-1)
DiCesare 13-15-3 (0-0-1)
McKissic 11-17-3 (1-1)
Gaughan 11-17-3 (0-1-1)

NFL Week 1 picks

Jamaal Charles averaged 6.4 yards per carry last season.

It’s Always Game Seven is back for another season of NFL picks, using the same lines that appear in the Buffalo News every Friday during the NFL season.

Last year was the first time I ever picked games against the spread, and hopefully I start off better this season than I did last year.

The Bills are plus-6 at Kansas City. Let’s not forget the Chiefs were a playoff team last year and the Bills are notoriously slow starters. Jamaal Charles will be a good litmus test for the Bills run defense. I’m taking Kansas City.

Pittsburgh (+2 1/2) over BALTIMORE

TAMPA BAY (-2) over Detroit

CHICAGO (+3) over Atlanta

Indianapolis (+8 1/2) over HOUSTON

Philadelphia (-5) over ST. LOUIS

Cincinnati (+6 1/2) over CLEVELAND

Tennessee (+2) over JACKSONVILLE*

Giants (-3) over WASHINGTON

Carolina (+7) over ARIZONA

Seattle (+5) over SAN FARNCISCO

Minnesota (+8 1/2) over SAN DIEGO

JETS (-4 1/2) over Dallas

New England (-7) over MIAMI

DENVER (-3) over Oakland.

There’s my picks. I also picked playoff teams and postseason awards. It’s important to note that after making your picks, you feel like you made every correct pick without a doubt. After the games, you can’t believe you ever thought your team would have beaten the other. Such is life.

I didn’t have a clear-cut best bet this week, but I figured I’d go with Tennessee. Not sold on Matt Hassleback or Chris Johnson’s recovery, but I don’t have any faith in a team that just released its starting quarterback a week before the season. 

Week 17 NFL picks: Devil’s advocate

Here we are, Week 17. After everything we’ve been through this season I can honestly say I’m a little sad it’s coming to an end. I’ll have more of an assessment of the year after the Bills close out the schedule this weekend, but all things considered, it wasn’t that bad of a year.

Shawne Merriman signed a two-year deal with the Bills on New Year's Day.

Before we get to picks, here’s a look at the season standings with the Buffalo News guys. After a terrible start on my first season picking games against the spread, I’m back in contention with the guys who pick every year. It took me six or seven weeks to really get the hang of things, but I’ve done fairly well since then.

Season Standings (best bets)
Northrop 124-101-5 (11-5)
Sullivan 122-103-5 (11-5)
DiCesare 119-106-5 (9-7)
Wilson 110-115-5 (12-4)
McKissic 108-117-5 (8-8)
Gaughan 107-118-5 (8-8)
Game Seven 100-124-5 (11-4-1)

I’m pretty good at my best bets, and if you’re wondering why I have one less game, it’s because I didn’t pick last week’s Saturday game. You don’t have to tell me that my record isn’t very good. I’m aware. But I hate losing. This week is my best shot to gain ground, and I’m considering taking drastic measures (picks continue in the playoffs, but there are far fewer games).

Gaughan, McKissic and Wilson are the three I’m closest to catching, and really the only three I have any possible shot of catching. So with my picks this week, I’m going to include their picks as well. I may have to pick some teams simply to play devil’s advocate, opening up a chance to gain ground.

That’s not cheating, that’s pulling the goalie.

Bills (+1) @ Jets–Jets
Guaghan- Bills
McKissic- Jets*
Wilson- Bills

Oakland (+3 1/2) @ Kansas City–Oakland
G-KC
M-KC
W-KC

Miami (+4) @ New England–Miami
G-NE
M-NE
W-NE

Tennessee (+10) @ IndianapolisTitans
G-Indi
M-Indi
W-Indi

Jacksonville @ Houston (+3)–Jacksonville
G-Houston
M-Houston
W-Houston

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (+5 1/2)–Cleveland
All- Pittsburgh

Cincinnati (+9 1/2) @Baltimore–Cinci
All- Baltimore

Minnesota (+3 1/2) @ Detroit–Joe Webb
G- Detroit*
M- Detroit
W-Minnesota

Giants @ Washington (+4)–Washington
All-NYG (W*)

Chicago (+10) @ Green Bay–Bears
G- GB
M- Chicago
W- GB

Dallas (+5) @ Philadelphia–Eagles*
G-Eagles
M-Eagles
W-Dallas

Carolina (+14 1/2) @ Atlanta–Carolina. I hope Jimmy Clausen throws for 800 yards.
All- Atlanta

Tampa Bay (+7 1/2) @ New Orleans–Tampa
G- TB
M-N.O.
W-TB

St. Louis @ Seattle (+3)–Rams (sorry #7and9divisionchamp)
G-STL
M-Seattle
W-STL

Arizona (+6) @ San Fransisco–49ers
G-Arizona
M-SF
W-Arizona

San Diego @ Denver (+3 1/2)–Tebow
G- Denver
M-SD
W- SD

Last week:

New England at Bills (+8)–Pats.
New England 34-3. Win
Dallas at Arizona (+6 1/2)
Detroit (+3 1/2) at Miami–Lions
Lions 34-27. Win
Minnesota (+14 1/2) at Philadelphia–Vikings.
Vikings 24-14. Win
Washington (+7) at Jacksonville–‘Skins. Sloppy one.
Washington 20-17 (OT). Win
San Francisco (+2 1/2) at St. Louis–49ers.
Rams 25-17. Loss
Seattle (+6 1/2) at Tampa Bay–Tampa
Bucs 38-15. Win
Jets (+1) at Chicago–Bears
Bears 38-34. Win
Baltimore at Cleveland (+3 1/2)–Remember last week when I asked if a line was serious and I lost? Maybe I learned something. Browns.
Guess not. Ravens 20-10. Loss
Indianapolis at Oakland (+3)–Colts
Indi 31-26. Win
Tennessee (+5) at Kansas City–This is where I usually lose on KC and other people make money on the Titans. Titans.
Yea well people are stupid. KC 34-14. Loss
Houston at Denver (+3)–Like Tebow and Lloyd, dislike everyone else. Texans.
Denver 24-23. Houston is a joke. Loss
Giants (+3) at Green Bay–GB
Pack 45-17. Win
San Diego at Cincinnati (+7 1/2)–SD
Bengals 34-20?? Trying to help the Bills draft selection I guess. Loss
New Orleans (+2 1/2) at Atlanta–Saints
Saints 17-14. Win
Needed a good week and went 9-5.

Week 9 NFL picks

Shawne Merriman at a press conference in Buffalo.

 

Picks:

Chicago at Bills (+3)–Bears. Tampa 2 > Ryan Fitzpatrick

San Diego at Houston (+2 1/2)–Texans

New Orleans at Carolina (+6 1/2)–Saints

Arizona (+9) at Minnesota–Cards

Tampa Bay (+8 1/2) at Atlanta–Tampa*

Jets at Detroit (+4)–Detroit

Miami (+5 1/2) at Baltimore–Miami

New England at Cleveland (+4 1/2)–Pats

Giants at Seattle (+6 1/2)–NYG

Kansas City (+2 1/2) at Oaklandehhh Raiders. Hot hand.

Indianapolis (+3) at Philadelphia–Indi

Dallas (+8) at Green Bay–Packers

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (+4 1/2)–Bengals

Standings (best bets)
Sullivan: 62-50-4 (4-4)
Northrop: 60-52-4 (5-3)
McKissic: 55-57-4 (3-5)
DiCesare: 54-58-4 (4-4)
Gaughan: 51-61-4 (6-2)
Wilson: 51-61-4 (5-3)
Game Seven 41-71-4 (5-2-1)

It’s going to be a dramatic comeback.

Review of last week’s picks:
Bills (+7 1/2) at Kansas City–Heck, give me the Bills.
(Sob) KC 13-10. Win
Denver (+1) vs. San Francisco–49ers.
SF 24-16. Win
Jacksonville (+6 1/2) at Dallas–Jacksonville
JAC 35-17. Win
Washington (+2 1/2) at Detroit–Washington
DET 37-25. Loss
Green Bay (+6) at Jets–Jets
GB 9-0. Loss
Carolina (+3) at St. Louis–Panthers
Rams 20-10. Loss
Miami (+2) at Cincinnati–Miami
MIA 22-14. Win
Tennessee (+3 1/2) at San Diego–Titans
SD 33-25. Loss
Tampa Bay (+3) at Arizona–Bucs
TB 38-35. Win
Seattle (+2 1/2) at Oakland–Raiders.
OAK 33-3. Win
Minnesota (+5) at New England–Pats
NE 28-18. Win
Pittsburgh (+1) at New Orleans–Pittsburgh
NO 20-10. Loss
Houston (+5 1/2) at Indianapolis–Houston.
Colts 30-17. Loss
7-6. Winning record!

Dissecting the spread: A study to find who wins NFL football games

Every Friday during the NFL season, the Buffalo News runs staff picks for the football games that weekend. This season, I’ve been picking the winners as well.

Or something like that. Lately, my picks have been the losers, not the winners. To make a long story short, that is completely unacceptable. I won’t stand for losing.

My picks are under review

I need to turn things around with these picks. I’m  a numbers guy, so a retrospective study seemed in order. I looked at every game this season to see which categories of teams (home, road, favorites, underdogs) are winning games against the spread and which are losing them.

I also looked at combinations of the two: Home favorites, home underdogs, road favorites and road underdogs. Lastly, there is a chart of every NFL team’s record this year against the spread (all spreads are in accordance with Buffalo News picks).

Here’s what I found–the records for every game this season*.

*Buffalo News didn’t pick the opening game of the year, Vikings @ Saints, so I didn’t either. You may also find some weeks have more games than others–this is due to bye weeks, games that resulted in a push, or games that had no line (PK; only one this year was Jacksonville @ Buffalo).
 
  Home team Road team Underdogs (+) Favorites (-)
Wk 1 9-4 4-9 7-6 6-7
Wk 2 9-6 6-9 10-5 5-10
Wk 3 5-11 11-5 11-5 5-11
Wk 4 5-9 9-5 9-5 5-9
Wk 5 7-6 6-7 8-5 5-8
   
Total 35-36 36-35 45-26 26-45
Pct.  .493 .507 .634 .366

As you can see, the underdogs–teams who get points added to their score–are by far the most successful group so far this season. Home teams did very well Weeks 1 and 2, but really curved off since; and now have a losing record on the year against the spread.

  Home + Home – Road + Road –
Wk 1 5-2 4-2 2-4 2-5
Wk 2 4-0 5-6 6-5 0-4
Wk 3 5-5 0-6 6-0 5-5
Wk 4 3-3 2-6 6-2 3-3
Wk 5 3-1 4-5 5-4 1-3
Total 20-11 15-25 25-15 11-20
Pct.  .645 .375 .625 .355

When I looked closer, I found even stronger numbers saying the teams getting points are the ones that win games. What this means is either that the teams we perceive as “very good” really aren’t that strong, or teams we expect to get pummeled end up playing a good game.

I think a lot of my problems picking games with lines comes from growing up being a Bills fan. Close games aren’t exactly something I’m used to seeing. We’re usually getting blown out. I noticed that my picks against the spread are largely the same teams I would pick as outright winners. Since the Bills were always getting crushed, I subconsciously expect every bad team to get wrecked, and conversely, every good team to win big.

In reality, most football games are a lot closer than I expect. I remember looking at the game lines in the paper a few years ago and thinking “that’s it?” Turns out five or six is a significant difference in a football game.

Finally, here are the numbers for every NFL team this season against the spread. You’ll be surprised with some teams. Teams are ordered by their standings according to actual win-loss record.

I expected Kansas City to have a good record, but not Detroit or St. Louis or Washington. I also expected Buffalo and Dallas to be near the bottom, but not New Orleans.

Arizona, who (somehow) sits atop the NFC West, is last in the division in record against the spread.

The Lions, who won their first game of the year last week, have lost only once with the spread.

I’ll also mention the lowly Bills. Their only win so far was at New England, where they were expected to lose by nearly two touchdowns. Fitzpatick kept the game competitive in his first start this year.

So, to answer the big question, how do you pick a winner? It’s still a very inexact science. A lot of it is like picking games in the NCAA tournament: It’s going to come down to one play or one call, and that is going to make all the difference in the outcome. Brett Favre’s pick-6 in the last minutes against the Jets gave New York enough points to cover the spread. You can’t predict that stuff (okay, maybe you could have called a Favre INT, but you know what I mean).

There’s always more research that can be done, but that may not be practical given your time constraints. In the end, all you have is your gut feeling. Every week so far, the underdogs have had a winning record. When in doubt, don’t put your money on the team getting points taken off the scoreboard.

—-

Week 5 results
Jacksonville @ Bills (PK; no line, just pick the winner)– Jacksonville
Jags 36-26. Win
Denver (+7) @ Baltimore– Denver
Baltimore 31-17. Loss
Kansas City (+7 1/2) @ Indianapolis– Kansas City
Colts 19-9. Loss
St. Louis (+3) @ Detroit–Detroit
Lions 44-6. Win
Atlanta @ Cleveland (+3)–Cleveland
Atlanta 20-10. Loss
Tampa Bay (+6 1/2) @ Cincinnati–Bengals
Tampa 24-21. Loss
Chicago (+1) @ Carolina–Bears
Bears 23-6. Win
Green Bay @ Washington (+2 1/2)–Packers
Washington 16-13 (OT). Loss
NYG (+3) @ Houston–Texans
Giants 34-10. Loss
New Orleans @ Arizona (+7)–Saints
Cards 30-20. Loss
San Diego @ Oakland (+6)–Chargers
Oakland 35-27. Loss
Tennessee (+7) @ Dallas–Titans
Titans 34-27. Win
Philadelphia (+3) @ San Francisco–49ers Best bet
Eagles 27-24. Loss
Minnesota (+4) @ Jets–Vikings
Jets 29-20. Loss

4-10. Hopefully this study will turn things around for me.