Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Upon Further Review: Saints 27, Bills 7

The Saints covered the spread by 14 points, moving Bad NFL to 2-0 on the young season. Let's see why, upon further review, they ended up doing so.

1. The Saints ran the ball extremely well, particularly in the second half. Their 3 RBs combined for 214 yards on 32 carries, for a robust 6.69 YPC. While Hamilton and Bush were decently effective in the first half, the game really turned once Pierre Thomas, making his season debut at halftime, stormed onto the field for an absurd 126 yards and 2 TDs in the second half alone. The running game allowed the Saints to generate a 7 minute edge in time of possession and a huge advantage in total yardage, placing the Saints in a tactically favorable position for most of the game. The work of the running game, particularly in the 4th quarter, demoralized the Bills and enabled the Saints to stretch the close game into a comfortable victory.

To be fair, while the Saints were running the ball well, Brees was not, in actuality, "shredding" the Bills like Bad NFL predicted. In fact, his completion percentage, QB rating, and total yardage were all a far cry away from the dominating pace he had set the first two games. So to the extent that I predicted that Brees's insane dominating level of play would continue against the Bills, I was wrong. Why did this happen, and what does it reflect about the pregame prediction?

It seemed there were roughly 3 reasons that Brees played a game that was quite pedestrian from a statistical standpoint. First, Brees--and the Saints passing game generally--was at times mediocre. After a great first drive in which Brees completed 4/5 passes and marched the Saints right down the field for a TD, the Saints offense looked out of sync. On a crucial 4th and 2 play on the second drive in which the Saints went for it in Bills territory, Brees slipped and nearly fell, untouched, on a designed rollout, throwing the timing of the play off and leading to a turnover on downs. After that, he looked somewhat out of sorts for the rest of the game, as he was under relatively constant durress, threw several passes that were batted down at the line of scrimmage, and overthrew several open receivers on deep outs.

But Brees's erratic (for him) play did not occur in a vacuum; it was quite clear that the Bills had schemed to take the Saints passing game away. They came out in their nickel defense, playing in a 3-deep coverage with 5 DBs for much of the game. They ran very few run blitzes and didn't even shift back into their base cover-2 that much, as they seemed to be daring the Saints running game to beat them. Moreover, as Mike Mayock pointed out on NFL Network's indispensible Playbook, the Bills DEs, who are both talented but undersized pass rushers, were in passrushing mode the whole game, routinely tearing up the field on quick speed rushes or inside rips, losing containment and leaving gaping holes for counter rushes. In other words, the Bills defensive coordinator was determined to take away Brees and the Saints vertical passing game, but in the process opened the door for the Saints dominating performance on the ground.

Finally, the weather may have contributed to Brees' unwillingness to go deep; it was a blustery day, with neither QB showing much penchant to throw accurately for distance. The effect of adverse weather on the Saints' passing offense will be a trend to keep track of as the season progresses.

But all in all, Brees played an effective, if not dominant game. He patiently worked underneath zones, set up the Saints running game, and he didn't make any costly mistakes. As such, the Saints were able to put up a very respectable 27 points on a day in which their marquee player undeniably did not play his best.

2. The Bills offensive line is not good.

This was one aspect of the game that I was right about: the Bills offensive line was no match for the revitalized Gregg Williams-led Saints defense. The youth and inexperience of that line was on display Sunday, as several backbreaking penalties and miscues led to an abysmal 14% 3rd down conversion rate. Consequently, the Bills, even when they would string a few plays together, failed to sustain drives. The O-Line stats are not pretty: 8 tackles for losses allowed, 4 sacks, 14 QB hits. Because of this constant pressure placed on Trent Edwards and co., the Bills were never able to acquire any sort of offensive rhythm. To the astute observer, the failures of the Bills offensive line should not be surprising; as I pointed out before the game, it is historically inexperienced, lacks pedigree, and the Bills have grossly underinvested in acquiring talent or depth.

The flaws in the protection were particularly apparent late in the game; once the Saints finally increased their lead beyond 3--the Saints, after all, only led 10-7 for a good portion of the game--they felt sufficiently confident to unleash their most aggressive defensive packages, which in turn sparked a series of sacks and negative plays for the Bills. In fact, the 4th quarter did confirm one of my feelings about the Saints: that once they get decent-sized leads, they rapidly stretch them out. Thus, although the game was within a FG for several quarters, the Saints remained a good bet to cover. Were it not for two somewhat fluky plays--the aformentioned Brees slip on 4th and 2 and the Bills successful fake FG for a TD--the Saints likely would have generated a two possession lead early in the game. And I think once they got that 2 possession lead, they were going to run away with it. That this didn't happen until late in the game doesn't disprove the premise of the bet.


1. Be careful about simply betting on the hot quarterback. Brees is a very good QB, and played out-of-this-world well the first two games of the season. But specific QB performance seemingly fluctuates week-to-week, depending on opposing scheme, weather, personnel matchups, injuries (Lance Moore missed week 3) etc. Before betting on the hot QB, make sure that the team has the capability to adapt should the opponent overcompensate to take the vertical passing game away. On the other hand, Brees, although individually less than stellar, managed the game well and avoided mistakes; he played the type of game against deep shell coverage that Cowboys fans sorely wish Romo would have played against the Giants week 2. But the Saints running game picked up the slack, and they are starting to demonstrate that they are a multidimensional team, unlike in years past.

2. The Saints look like a decent bet to cover the spread when favored this season. As I said, the makeup of their team looks like a poor man's version of the 1998 Vikings, with a similar penchant for large margins of victory. Their gameplans tend to generate early leads--look at how the Bills came out in a 3-deep zone but still got shredded by Brees on the first possession--and once they gain a lead, they look to expand it, not merely protect it. Their demonstrated ability to run the ball can only help in this endeavor. And at the end of the day, on a day where Brees was not his best, they still won on the road by 20 points! As members of the national media are increasingly realizing, this is the sign of a legitimate contender. While obviously future bets should be matchup dependent, I am thinking that betting on the Saints covering as the favorite against mediocre-to-bad teams (particularly those overrated coming into this week like the Bills) will be a very solid strategy this season.

Stay tuned this Friday for my week 4 pick!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Week 3 Pick: Saints -6 @ Bills

Taking a road favorite, especially one favored by more than a FG, is generally a dicey proposition. But the way Drew Brees is playing right now, I think this is the best line on the board. Thus, week 3 I'm taking the Saints at -6. Onto my arguments:

1. Brees will absolutely shred the Buffalo Bills.

First of all, Brees is playing simply out of this world right now. You know the numbers: 9 TDs through 2 games, a passer rating over 118 in both games, and only 2 interceptions and 2 sacks allowed this season. Sure, one game was against the dreadful Lions, as Brees totally throttled them with the outcome never in doubt. But game 2 was against the Eagles, who possess a highly-touted defense that was coming off a total dismantling of the Carolina Panthers, against whom they not only forced a ridiculous seven turnovers but rendered the Panthers' formidable rushing game non-existent. Those same Eagles then played against Drew Brees, at home, and were overwhelmed, leading analyst Bucky Brooks to call the Saints offense "not just explosive but unstoppable." What jumps out about that game is not just that the Saints were moving the ball, but that their scoring had an inevitable aura to it, with Eagles defenders singing Brees's praises afterwards and scouts noting that the Eagles looked like they were playing with only 10 defenders.

Of course some might say the Eagles were banged up, playing the young Kevin Kolb and suffering through other various injuries. Not so fast; Kolb was probably the highlight of the game for the Eagles, obscured by the way their defense was totally shredded. And remember, the Eagles under Andy Reid have dealt well with McNabb injuries before, ala Jeff Garcia replacing a similarly injured McNabb and leading the Eagles to a 5-1 record down the stretch in 2007, or A.J. Feeley's famous 4-1 record filling in for McNabb in 2002. So I think the Saints evisceration of a good Eagles defense demonstrates that New Orleans is developing a killer instinct against good teams.

The Bills are just prime for the picking. They did have what most people think was a good showing against the Pats in week 1, and in week 2 they beat a terrible , discombobulated Tampa Bay team. But one cardinal rule of gambling at this point in the NFL season: don't bet on record or on public perception. According to Chad Millman's indispensable ESPN gambling blog, the smartest Vegas insiders use total yardage as a sign of how good offenses and defenses are at this point in the season, because through 2 games, the sample size is just too small to safely rely on points allowed or record. The Bills are are 31st in the league in passing yards allowed. They played one overrated team and one terrible one. And now the Saints juggernaut rolls into town.

Moreover, the Bills cover-2 is vulnerable down the deep seams, as demonstrated by Tom Brady and Ben Watson shredding it twice on the same play late in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately for the Bills, as pointed out by the crew on my favorite show, NFL Network's Playbook, Brees and his favorite receiver Marques Colston are particularly effective at working the deep seams. Add in the fact that the Saints offense is buzzing with confidence and is balanced by a solid running game, and I expect the Saints to put up a ton of points.

2. The matchup lends itself to a big point differential.

First of all, don't be fooled by the Bills' 33 points last week against the Bucs; the Bucs are miserable, having already given the Cowboys offense a cakewalk in week 1, while losing one of their (only) good defensive players to a broken hand during the Bills game. Breaking down the tape from game 2, Brian Baldinger on Playbook noted that the Bills were lucky on several plays, as their protection was breaking down and the Bucs just couldn't quite capitalize on opportunities to get to Edwards. This shouldn't surprise anyone, given the inexperienced and talent deprived Bills offensive line. Said line is also about to get worse, as their best remaining offensive lineman, RT Brad Butler, is now out for the season, and the Bills are also down to their third-string TE for blocking purposes. This is also not the Saints defense with which we have become accustomed, as Gregg Williams has installed an aggressive philosophy that has the Saints playing very sound defense, using a combination of solid playcalling and a revamped defensive roster to generate takeaways, and lots of them. Scouts Inc. sees Gregg Williams exploiting the Bills protection gaps with overload blitzes, enough to generate a 10-point Saints win. I agree, although I think the margin of victory could be even higher.

There is another reason that I think this game is a candidate to generate a high point differential. The Saints have the mentality right now of piling up the points, which means two things: explosive, go-for-the-jugular offense and gambling, aggressive, turnover-generating defense. The combination of these two things is a recipe not for close wins but for huge wins, because the offense never lets up, and the defense gambles for opportunities to generate even more points, knowing that if they give up the big play it just means that Brees and co. just get back on the field. This is an abrupt change from the Saints' previous "bend but don't break" philosophy that was inconsistent and led generally to closer wins. Instead, the combination of brutal aerial attack and gambling defense reminds me of the 1998 Minnesota Vikings; while I'm not saying the Saints will go 15-1, I do think their style of game lends itself to similar point spreads, where of that 1998 Vikings team's 15 victories, only one was by fewer than 7 points. The Saints might lose some games, but when they win, it will be big. This tendency is exacerbated by the Bills' no huddle offense, which generates more total possessions per game, more overall points scored, and thus a greater statistical chance of a higher ultimate point differential.

Finally, this Saints offense is reminding me of one other offense: the 2007 New England Patriots. This shouldn't be surprising, as the Brees-2007 Brady comparisons have become frequent of late. Even the Bills' defensive coordinator sees the similarities. The Saints have won their first two games this year by a combined spread of 44 points. The last team to open the year with a similarly enormous (48 points) combined spread the first two weeks was the 2007 Pats. What did they do week 3? They beat the Buffalo Bills by 31 points. Here, all the Saints have to do is win by one touchdown to cover this spread. I think at only -6, this line provides great value. I'm frankly pretty surprised it hasn't moved to -7.5.


There is something vaguely unsettling about this game, primarily that I keep hearing this is such an "obvious" pick. It's easy to become enamored of Brees's quick start, and some gambling wise guys think the public will overbet on the Saints. Bill Simmons and his buddy Cousin Sal on their weekly podcast call this game a potential sucker bet. I thought about it, and I disagree.

For one, this line opened at -4.5 and jumped straight to -6. This suggests that a ton of smart money came in early in the week on the Saints, which in turn confirms to me that Saints at -4.5 was a pretty smart play. Why would things be that different at -6? 5 and 5.5 are two fairly non-essential numbers for football spread purposes, and a team that covers 4.5 is more likely than not going to get to 6. But more importantly, New Orleans, as explained above, seems like the type of team that will generate big margins of victories.

Finally, the psychology of the public seems to support, not undermine, the above advice. I think the Patriots are seriously overrated at this particular moment , and thus so are the Bills, since everyone saw that Monday Night game and came away thinking the Bills played them well. The Bills' biggest weakness, the offensive line, is also one that is opaque to the public. Ultimately, I think the smart money was on the Saints at -4.5 when this line opened, and it stays there now at -6. At the end of the day, you don't bet against Drew Brees right now.

We will see.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Upon Further Review: Jets Cover

Well it certainly was a strong debut for BNP's weekly predictions, as the Jets not only covered the 3.5 points, but won the game 16-9. In this first installment of "Upon Further Review," a weekly feature in which I evaluate my previous prediction with the benefit of hindsight, I take a look inside the game and attempt to pinpoint exactly why the Jets were able to cover.

1. Tom Brady was not comfortable in the pocket. Rex Ryan's combination of blitz packages subjected him to constant duress, hurrying him 15 times and hitting him 7 more. It's true that they failed to generate a sack, but Brady was entirely out of sync. In fact, the constant pressure caused Brady to all but abandon his deep routes, looking immediately--too early--for his underneath and outlet passes. As a result, he only threw for 4.5 yards/attempt.

There were 4 factors contributing to Brady's inability to beat the Jets blitz packages, 3 of which I accurately predicted, and one that was unexpected. First, the offensive line is a mess right now, with a lack of lateral quickness and coordination that defensive coordinators are more frequently exposing, ever since the Giants provided the blueprint 2 years ago in the Super Bowl. They were not able to adjust to the constantly morphing blitzes, which included several zero-coverage looks and overloaded weak side blitzes; Brady looked so uncharacteristically rattled that at one point Mark Sanchez actually felt sorry for him. Second, the Pats have no running game, netting only 83 yards on the ground. The lack of a credible running game allowed Ryan to dial up blitzes with impunity, as defenders pinned their ears back and raced for the backfield with little worry about getting gashed on the ground. Third, Brady's knee is undoubtedly contributing to his hesitancy to stare down the blitz. Although this is impossible to quantify, the similarities to post-surgery Carson Palmer are striking. It took Palmer over a year to regain his form and look fully comfortable striding into his throws. For right now, when there is pressure up the middle, Brady is hesitant and does not throw the ball with authority. Lastly (and unexpectedly), Wes Welker missed the game. Without a doubt Welker's absence deprived Brady of his favorite hot read. Even though Julian Edelman, dubbed "Wes Welker Jr." by Peter King, played moderately well, Welker's absence certainly affected the outcome.

2. The Pats defense is just not the same. It's true that the Jets offense did not put up a ton of points, in part due to a surprisingly mediocre rushing attack (117 yards). But the Jets played mostly conservatively on the offensive side of the ball, relying on several max-protect looks designed to shield their rookie QB from mistakes. But Sanchez really began to move the ball in the second half, and he looked rather unfazed by Bill Belichick's defensive schemes. Has Belichick lost his touch? I didn't think so before the game and still don't; however, he just does not have a high talent defense right now, as most of the players that defined the Pats dynasty have moved on. While the defense played decently in terms of point prevention, they only generated 2 sacks and one turnover. That was not nearly enough to make up for their offensive impotency.


I think the value provided in this line of +3.5 was due to two primary factors: rose colored glasses used to evaluate the Pats somewhat lucky win over a mediocre-to-bad Bills team at home in week 1, and a failure to understand the importance of Jerod Mayo to the defense. As I pointed out in my original prediction, some prognosticators heralded the week 1 win as a sign of the Pats' continuing greatness. It was not. It was a fluky win over a team they should have dominated. The betting lesson here is to watch for teams--particularly teams with high expectations like the Pats--that receive too favorable a line stemming from a week 1 win that is either lucky or against a low quality team.

Second, the loss of Jerod Mayo not only loses the Pats their most talented young defender, but it takes away their on-field defensive coordinator. Several commentators have called this the defensive equivalent of Brady's injury in 2008. I think the Pats now have a bottom-tier defense. A team with a bottom-tier defense and a tentative QB working off rust is simply not deserving of a -3.5 line on the road against an talented well-coached team like the Jets. As the result showed, this was a great value bet in week 2.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Breaking: Welker Out

Well things just got a lot better for the Jets, as Wes Welker will miss the game today. This is a huge break for the Jets, because while Revis has had success shutting down Moss last year, Welker gashed the Jets for 180 yards on 14 catches in their 2 games last year. With Welker no longer punishing the Jets for taking away Moss, and more importantly no longer providing Brady the quick outlet underneath to exploit the gaps left by Ryan's blitzes, the Pats prospects on offense just got a little dimmer. I wouldn't be surprised if money flows in before gametime to the Jets, and the line ends up at +3 or maybe even lower. The Friday pick of Jets at +3.5 is looking even better now, and if they don't cover, it will be a real surprise. We will see....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Further Support for the Jets

Len Pasquarelli notes the recent trend towards rookie QBs actually being effective in big games. The most intriguing point he made is that Rex Ryan is intimately familiar with the way the Ravens managed Flacco next year, and he thus expects the Jets' coaching staff to draw on many of the same techniques employed by the Ravens in managing their young QB. Obviously, Flacco kept those Ravens in games last year, and he didn't have as many weapons around him as Sanchez has. That's another reason to have confidence that the Jets can, despite their rookie QB, hang in there against the Pats.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Week 2: Jets +3.5 vs. Pats

For my first pick of this blog, week 2 of the 2009 season, I'm going with the JETS at home, getting 3.5 points versus the Pats.

Here are my arguments:

1. The Pats defense was exposed against the Bills in week 1.

I expected coming into that game for the Pats to completely dominate. As Football Outsiders pointed out, the Bills started that game with the most inexperienced offensive line in over a decade. And it's not as though they made up for their inexperience with an overwhelming amount of raw talent or superior college pedigrees; only one player is a first-round pick, Eric Wood, who the Bills have converted from guard to center. In other words, this offensive line should have been completely overmatched. And this collection of unknown inexperienced lineman didn't even have an entire camp to gel as a unit, as they released their starting left tackle six days before game 1! And of course, they also released their offensive coordinator just before the season started.

Add it all up, and combine it with the fact that the Pats have totally dominated the Bills--winning 11 in a row dating back to the infamous Lawyer Malloy Game, including the 2007 Brady-led Patriots totally asswhooping the hapless Bills to the tune of 38-7 and 56-10--and you should have had a recipe for a total Patriots domination. But of course it was anything but, and the Pats barely scratched out a win. Had it not been for Leodis McKelvin's boneheaded return, the Pats probably would have lost to Trent Edwards, protected by the most inexperienced offensive line the NFL has seen in a decade, bereft of the protection of his starting running back. Think about that. The Pats barely beat Trent Freaking Edwards.

The reason that this should worry bettors: the Pats D was pretty atrocious. Trent Edwards hit 60% of his passes, had a respectable 8.48 yards/attempt, and had a TD/INT ratio of 2/0. How was he able to do this? The Pats hardly put any pressure on him! This was mindblowing, given that the Bills hardly had a running game (Fred Jackson, a mediocre second stringer, getting 15 carries does not a "running game" constitute) and, as I've said before, was protected by a suspect offensive line. But the Pats only generated 4 sacks, 2 of which came towards the very end of the game, and more tellingly, were not hurrying Edwards for much of the night. That's how Edwards was able to put up those numbers.

One would think that, since Belichick had a whole offseason to scheme for the Bills, he would have devised a defense that would have pressured Edwards and forced turnovers. However, other than McKelvin's screwup, they did no such thing. Instead, by all accounts, the Bills' inexperienced, only-installed-in-the-job-for-6-days offensive coordinator had the Pats on their heels the whole game. I don't think that it was evidence of Belichick losing his touch, as I continue to firmly believe he is the best coach in the NFL. But he has less to work with on defense now than at any point during his Pats tenure.

As everyone knows, he lost Jerod Mayo, perhaps the most important member of the defense. Richard Seymour is pouting in Oakland. The LBers that epitomized the Pats veteran Super Bowl savvy, Vrabel and Bruschi, are elsewhere. When you now scan the Pats defense, who scares you? Ty Warren and Vince Vilfork are very good players, to be sure, but the rest of the defense sure seems questionable. And they showed it on Monday night, in a game that they should have dominated.

I think this carries over for the rest of the season. The Pats defense, despite holding the Bills to a quasi-respectable 24 points, did not look good. They also have yet to face a good running game, which the Jets undeniably have. The Pats gave up 4.7 yards per carry in the opener, and face a Jets running attack that put up 190 yards in week 1. They also showed a dramatic tendency to play better against shotgun QBs last year, as they were one of the 5 worst teams in football against QBs that lined up under center. In other words, watch out.

2. The Jets are underrated this year, and they match up well against the Pats.

First of all, they destroyed what I think is a pretty good Texans team in week 1. Sanchez held up rather well against a solid front 7 featuring Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye, and Demeco Ryans. Sanchez played a solid game, and although he did display excessive exuberance after one TD pass, he had reason to be proud of his performance. And the Thomas Jones/Leon Washington rushing tandem was fantastic, totaling 167 yards on 35 carries (4.71 ypc). The Pats were only a mediocre run defense last year, and losing both Mayo and Seymour--the latter of whom was replaced by Jarvis Green, a decent pass rusher, but at 285 pounds an undersized DE in the 3-4 defense who lacks Seymour's ability to anchor against the run--will likely make it worse. They are facing a Jets team who has two good backs, a good offensive line replete with high draft picks and Pro Bowlers, and a dedication to running the ball. Sorry Pats fans, but your ability to "hold" Fred Jackson, a mediocre backup that Scouts Inc has rated as barely adequate, to 57 yards is not promising.

But more importantly, I didn't love what I saw from Brady last week. As the MNF crew demonstrated throughout the game, Brady looked tentative striding forward into his passes. One can hardly blame him for that, given the horrific nature of the knee injury that he suffered. But it clearly affected him early in the game. The obvious counter is that Brady really put it together in his final two drives, looking like a good QB, leading some pundits to proclaim that Brady is just the same as he ever was.

But not so fast. Brady looked very tentative early in the game, and that hesitancy only wore off as the Bills lack of a pass rush became more evident. And their inability to generate pressure from their front 4 did not cause the Bills coaching staff to unleash any pressure packages, as the Bills only blitzed 15 times. But as anyone who has watched the Bengals over the past few years can tell you, that tentativeness (evidenced in Carson Palmer's play for a long stretch after he recovered from a very similar knee injury to Brady's) mainly rears its head when there is pressure up the middle. The Bills hardly generated any such pressure. The few times there were bodies lying around Brady's feet, when there were defensive players in his face, he did not look like the Brady of old. But here's the thing: the Jets are uniquely situated, both personnel-wise and scheme-wise, to generate that type of pressure. Of course much has been made about Rex Ryan's "exotic blitz packages," perhaps too much. But his Ravens defenses always gave Brady fits, and the Jets have a good chance to wreak havoc in the New England backfield.

Finally, I think the Jets have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Jets CB Darrelle Revis is one of the true shutdown corners in the NFL, and he demonstrated as much in week 1 as he totally stymied the Texans' sublime WR Andre Johnson. Kerry Rhodes is also a fine coverage safety. The Jets pass rush, and their good coverage packages, will allow them to defense New England's passing game, particularly with a Brady knee that has yet to be truly tested. And New England has not shown the ability to run the ball effectively in several years, which should allow Rex Ryan to unleash all the creativity he can muster.

3. The psychology of the game.

This game obviously means a ton to the Jets. Rex Ryan has been all over the news pumping his team up and talking about how they aren't going to concede to the mighty Pats. While it's true that this might serve to motivate the Pats, I think there's no question that the Jets will be amped up to play at home. The Pats were lucky to escape last week with a win, in Foxboro, against a bad team that is mired in a years-long pathology of losing. The Jets are young, they're exciting, they're playing for an energetic, fresh, and brilliant (read: the opposite of Dick Jauron) coach, and they hate the Patriots. The Pats, on the other hand, seem tired, old, and won a game they shouldn't have last week. The last time a team beat the Bills on Monday Night on a last second miracle by the score of 25-24? The Cowboys in 2007 (seriously: the same score, and similar special teams blunders). What did the Cowboys do the next week? They lost at home by 3 touchdowns. In other words, this has all the makings of an upset.

THE COUNTERARGUMENT: A rookie QB against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? Are you kidding me?

'Tis true that Mark "Franchez" is likely to scare many gamblers off this game. But I don't think that ends up being decisive. I expect the Jets to have a game plan very similar to the Steelers in 2004 when Big Ben was a rookie; a solid 2-pronged running game, a safe and democratically distributed offensive passing attack, and an aggressive and daring defense. The result of that game? Pats lost handily, 20-34. And that was with Seymour, McGinest, Bruschi et. al. in their primes. This defense is not nearly as good, and is missing arguably its most important player. So put away the tired refrain that Belichick automatically dominates rookie QBs. It's true that Sanchez is likely to make a couple mistakes, but playing at home, with a good running game, against a suspect Pats defense....I think he'll be fine.

And even if the Pats pull out another last-second victory, which is possible, it's likely to be a close game either way. And the line for this game has shifted dramatically over the week, from Jets +6.5 to now +3.5, which is a sign that a lot of the smart money in Vegas is on the Jets to cover. And since the Jets can still lose by a FG and cover the spread, I just have one thing to say: J-E-T-S JETS!

Check back early in the week for my breakdown of this game, including an analysis of why the above prediction was either right or wrong! Until then, have a great weekend of NFL action, and good luck at the books (should you choose to engage in that sort of behavior).

Hello and Introduction

This post kicks off what I hope will be an entertaining and rewarding year of picking one NFL game every week against the spread. The plan is to post every Friday, using the line as of that morning as it appears on I also plan to post, early in the week, an analysis of why my prediction that week either did or did not pan out, including extensive breakdown of the film from the game and a comprehensive survey of opinions about the game from the news media and blogosphere.

I have no expectation that this blog will ever be read by more than 3 or 4 people, which will probably include only my dad and a couple of good buddies, if that. That is probably a good thing, since I have no real qualifications to be picking games; I am not a statistician, an ex-jock, nor someone that analyzes sports for a living. I am also a law student, and as such I don't have excess free time with which to put all of these games under a microscope. That being said, I have some interesting ideas about how to analyze football lines, I live and breathe all things NFL in the free time I do have, and I am hoping this blog will serve as a platform for me (and maybe some occasional guest posts from my similarly unqualified friends) to hone our techniques and fine-tune our football analysis skills. And of course it should be a lot of fun to document my picks throughout the season. And if by some miracle people do start reading this blog, I would invite you to agree or disagree with my picks, supporting your opinions with as much evidence as possible, in the comments.

I am also a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. I'm not sure if that means I will pick games involving the 'Boys more or less than I otherwise would; on the one hand, I know more about them than any other NFL team, but on the other, I may both be biased and risking bad karma by focusing on their point spreads. Time will tell.