NFL Picks: Week 12 (updated x2)

UPDATE:  Both Gamblor and I are off to a good start this week, as my own picks are 2-1 and Gamblor hit the bigger of its two bets (on Denver).  I was way off on my prediction for the line of the Tennessee game (I had it at +1.5, when it’s actually -3), so Gamblor now has a hefty bet of $32 on the Cardinals.  The Patriots line also moved quite a bit, from +1.5 to +3, so Gamblor has essentially doubled down with a bet of $32.  Very minor line movement elsewhere.  And finally, my book still hasn’t posted a line in the Pittsburgh game and there are conflicting reports as to whether Roethlisberger will play, but I’m expecting the line to be a bit bigger than the +3 I had forecast so it’s likely that Gamblor won’t be quite so gung-ho about betting on the Steelers once a line finally does get posted.  Oh, and I did end up seeing The Blind Side this week and it was everything I expected it to be.

UPDATE 2: The line in the Pittsburgh game was finally posted, and moved like crazy even as I was trying to put my bet in.  It went from +9 to +7.5 and finally finished (from my perspective) at +8.  Getting that many points with Pittsburgh’s defense is pretty sweet, but it’s only a small bet of $8.32.

Gamblor suffered through another mildly disappointing week, dropping $29 on a weighted win percentage of 46.2%. For the second week in a row, the hedge bets served their purpose admirably, helping to mitigate the occasional havoc caused by wayward flip bets, but the computer’s big bet on a favorite went sour and dragged everything else down. The computer was 8-8 for the week, and my own picks were the same, but we were actually both extremely lucky, as Atlanta, San Francisco, and St. Louis all managed to put together late drives to cover their respective spreads by very tight margins. And since they didn’t post a spread in the Denver game until early Sunday morning, I wasn’t able to run a simulation so I didn’t get a bet in and saved myself $13. I’m still counting the loss towards Gamblor’s season total, but it’s nice not to have lost the actual money. I also took a shot on a middle by betting on the Houston Texans when the spread moved down to 3.5 (hoping for a Houston victory of exactly 4 points, which I almost got), and even though it didn’t pan out, the whole ordeal ultimately cost me only twenty-five cents to try.

The Michael Oher biopic The Blind Side came out this past weekend, and it performed spectacularly at the box office. It came in second to the absurdly successful (and critically savaged) second installation in the Twilight saga, New Moon, but managed to set a record for the “highest grossing sports drama opening” in history by earning $34.5 million in its first three days. And with the Thanksgiving weekend still looming, it’s fair to expect that the film will earn a good deal more. I haven’t seen it or read the book it’s based on (The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis), but it’s easy to anticipate that like most sports movies, it will engage it a fair share of emotional manipulation and dramatic enhancement of real events to successfully deliver a feel-good product. So far Oher has lived up to his draft potential for the Ravens, and it is a heartwarming story as long as you don’t look too deep, so I’m happy to see the film succeed.

(To watch this video, right-click and hit play)

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Over the course of their careers, most NFL Players are learn to be very comfortable in front of the camera. Some of them, like Peyton Manning and Chad Ochocinco, seek it out so relentlessly that it seems like they wouldn’t be able to survive without the attention. It’s a lot of fun for football players to take some time off from the high-impact world of the gridiron warrior for long enough to appear on television in cameos or as hosts for Saturday Night Life (which has included such NFL notables as Joe Montana, Frank Tarkenton, and Walter Payton). Many retired players return to work for the networks as analysts after their playing days are over. And it’s not uncommon for them to turn up as themselves in films, like Brett Favre did in There’s Something About Mary and Lawrence Taylor did in The Waterboy. But a number of players have discovered that the lure of Hollywood is too hard to resist, that the pampered lifestyle of a silver screen celebrity satisfies their need for attention without demanding the same physical sacrifice as the NFL calls for. And some actually have a genuine talent for acting – sometimes even greater than their talent for football. Which brings me to my feature for the week:

The Top 5 Most Memorable Acting Performances by NFL Players

hightower5. Bubba Smith as Moses Hightower in Police Academy (1984): In his short-lived career in the NFL, the massive Bubba Smith was an incredibly dominant player. After a distinguished college career at Michigan State University where he helped the Spartans win a pair of co-national championships and recorded a pair of sacks in what is referred to in the Big 10 annals as the “game of the century” against Notre Dame, “Kill Bubba Kill” was the number one overall pick in the 1967 NFL draft for the Baltimore Colts. He won a ring with them in their sloppy victory over the Cowboys in Superbowl V, but his NFL career was cut short after he injured his knee tripping over a fourth-down chain in 1972. After he spent the disappointing twilight of his football career in Oakland and Houston, Bubba ventured into acting, appearing in small roles in television during the late seventies. His most memorable performance, though, was as (first Cadet, then Officer, then Sergeant, and eventually Lieutenant) Moses Hightower in the Police Academy series. As Hightower, Bubba Smith was soft-spoken and was mainly cast to take advantage of his huge size, but was a hugely popular character that returned for the every one of the movie’s sequels except the last. Bubba’s most memorable moment came during the first movie, when he flipped over a police car with his bare hands after a fellow cadet tossed off a racial slur at Hightower’s fellow black cadet at the Academy.

jefferson4. Jim Brown as Robert T Jefferson in The Dirty Dozen (1967): Jim Brown is considered by many to have been the finest football player in the history of the NFL. He played exclusively for the Cleveland Browns, and averaged 5.2 yards per carry and over 100 yards per game, amassing 12,312 yards in just nine seasons of play, during which he never missed a single game. In 1966 he was cast to play Robert T Jefferson, a militant black soldier who had been imprisoned for killing a white soldier in self-defense. Jefferson was inducted into “The Dirty Dozen,” a crew of convicted soldiers who were trained and sent on a suicidal mission into Nazi-occupied France. The film featured an all-star cast, including Lee Marvin, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, and even Donald Sutherland. And Jim Brown was perfectly adequate in his role, but it was the film’s effect on his career that made his performance so memorable. Production during the summer of 1966 ran behind schedule, and Browns owner Art Modell insisted that Brown report to training camp or risk suspension. Jim Brown responded to the ultimatum by announcing his retirement from professional football. The fiercely violent film was released in 1967 and enjoyed massive success at the box office, earning a net profit of $18 million (the year’s highest take) and establishing Brown’s place in movie history.

mongo3. Alex Karras as Mongo in Blazing Saddles (1974): Alex Karras might have eventually destroyed all of his credibility as a tough guy by playing a sitcom dad for years in TV’s Webster, but in his youth he was a phenomenal athlete, playing on both sides of the ball at the University of Iowa and finishing second in the balloting for the 1957 Heisman trophy – as a defensive lineman!  He played for 12 seasons for the Detroit Lions, and was named to the pro bowl four times before retiring in 1971 and devoting his full energy to acting.  In 1974 he was cast in the classic western comedy “Blazing Saddles” as the dimwitted henchman Mongo.  Mongo was initially in service of the film’s antagonists, having been sent to harrass the town’s newly appointed black sherriff, but ultimately befriends the man (Cleavon Little) after he is bested by the clever sheriff.  Karras had few words to speak as Mongo (example: “Mongo like candy…”) but made the most of his physical attributes, staging several entertaining fight scenes and in one of the most famous sequences of the film punching out a horse.

sloth2. John Matuszak as Sloth in Goonies (1985): Like Bubba Smith, John Matuszak was also a #1 pick in the NFL draft. “The Tooz” spent much of his football career as the most notoriously degenerate member of the the most notoriously degenerate team in football, the Oakland Raiders. Although he appeared on the silver screen a few times (in North Dallas Forty and Caveman) before his retirement from football after winning his second Superbowl ring in 1981, Matuszak was best remembered for his portayal of the grotesquely deformed Sloth in Goonies (1985). Although the extensive makeup and prosthetics (which took five hours to apply) rendered Matuszak unrecognizable, his massive physique, his booming voice, and the simplicity of his character’s motivations charmed viewers of the adventure movie. Sloth used his massive strength to pull chains out of walls, singlehandedly conquered a pirate ship, and supported a boulder over an escape passage long enough for the gang to escape. A victim of his own excesses, Matuszak died of drug-induced heart failure in 1989 at the young age of 38, but Sloth’s catchphrase of “Baby…Ruth?” will live on in movie memory forever.

Sloth – “Baby Ruth”

apollo1. Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed in Rocky (1976): Carl Weathers had a short career in the NFL – he played under coach John Madden for the Oakland Raiders in seven games in 1970 and just one in 1971. But his career as an actor has been much more successful, as he’s played major (and hugely popular) roles in Predator and Happy Gilmore, and portrayed a hilarious version of himself on TV’s Arrested Development. But by far his most memorable role was also one of his first, as Apollo Creed in the 1976 film Rocky.  Weathers played the brash and cocky nemesis to Sylvester Stallone’s Italian Stallion, bringing an incredible amount of charisma to the character.  As the current heavyweight boxing champion whose legitimate opponent had been sidelined due to injury, Apollo Creed selected the amateur Rocky to take his place in what he considered to be little more than an exhibition match.  The story, of course, was a prototype for true underdog stories as Rocky rose above himself and proved that he was capable of competing at the same level as the champion.  Apollo Creed fought Rocky again in the second movie, returned in the third as Rocky’s trainer, and was finally killed in the ring by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

It’s another week of hot, hot, hot underdog action for Gamblor.  I’m experimenting with the model to add the distance traveled and a penalty for time zone changes, and it’s actually looking really good.  Assuming the spread in the Pittsburgh game opens up at +3, the computer will be putting down its second-largest bet of the season on the Steelers.  Here’s a summary sheet of the picks, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

GREEN BAY PACKERS
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DETROIT LIONS
Gamblor’s Pick: Detroit (+10.5)
Bet Amount: None (Flip)
WHY I AGREE: Gamblor thinks this line looks like a trap, and I do too.  After all, Detroit’s defense just gave up 37 points to an offense that had previously scored only four (FOUR!) offensive touchdowns this whole season.  How on earth are they going to contain Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay?  I know that Green Bay is still suffering from offensive line problems, but they’ve adjusted well in their last two games and it’s hard to see how they’ll fail to put up huge numbers against a Detroit team that hasn’t won a Thanksgiving day game since 2003 and has been beaten by scores of 41-9, 27-7, 27-10, 37-26, and 47-10 since then.  So how on earth can I explain how Detroit will cover this spread?  First off, they’re a much, much better team than they were last year.  They know the entire country will be watching them play, and they’ll be out to prove that they’re not going to be the laughingstock of the league anymore (having gloriously passed that mantle on to Cleveland).  Second, with a 26-0 victory over the Lions already in their pocket, Green Bay isn’t going to take them seriously at all.  With a tough contest against the Ravens on the horizon, the Packers will sleepwalk through this game in anticipation of stuffing their faces with their families afterwards.  I’m REALLY glad that Gamblor doesn’t want to risk any money here, but I feel strangely confident that Detroit is going to shock the world on Thursday and only lose by a field goal or so.
OAKLAND RAIDERS
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DALLAS COWBOYS
Gamblor’s Pick: Oakland (+13.5)
Bet Amount: $17.80 (Hedge)
WHY IT’S WRONG: You’d think that most teams, when faced with a gutsy performance by the backup quarterback, who replaced a perfectly healthy but underperforming starter and led his team to victory in the final minute, would reward the backup by letting him start the following game.  Will the Raiders?  God only knows.  Al Davis will probably decide that Jamarcus has learned his lesson and hand him the ball again, only to watch him misunderstand the meaning of Thanksgiving and repeatedly serve up heaping platters of turnovers to the Dallas defense.  This is a tough game to begin with for the Raiders, traveling to Dallas on just three days rest.  Dallas has been looking pretty lousy lately, but it’s safe to assume they’ll get things together before playing in front of their largest television audience of the year.  I think the Raiders will be taking over Detroit’s normal Thanksgiving Day blowout duties this year, and Dallas should enjoy an easy victory much like the Giants did when they faced Oakland back in Week 5.
NEW YORK GIANTS
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DENVER BRONCOS
Gamblor’s Pick: Denver (+7)
Bet Amount: $21.87 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: People are once again high on the Giants, and Denver appears to be crashing without even enough fuel left to burn.  But the Broncos’ defeat to San Diego came courtesy of two costly fumbles, and without either one it would have been a very different football game.  For Denver to be 6.5 point underdogs at home seems completely crazy to me, but according to Gamblor this spread is more or less right about where it belongs.  I just can’t bring myself to agree with that.  The Giants have to travel more than halfway across the country on a short week, and despite their reputation of being tough on the road, they haven’t been all that great this year.  They’ve lost their last two road games pretty badly, and while I don’t think they’ll lose to the Broncos, I do expect a reasonably close game.  I do worry that McDaniels made a mistake in failing to sit Kyle Orton when it looked like the game was out of hand, but I’m satisfied that this one should be tight enough for Denver to cover the spread.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
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ATLANTA FALCONS
Gamblor’s Pick: Tampa Bay (+12)
Bet Amount: $24.00 (Hedge)
WHY IT’S WRONG: It’s not uncommon for a rookie quarterback to have a strong performance in his first game.  It’s possible to study film from their college careers, but it’s very hard for defensive coordinators to predict how the quarterback will behave and what tendencies they’ll exhibit until they’ve had a chance to see them play in the NFL.  Remember Todd Marinovich and Ryan Leaf?  Once rookie quarterbacks have had a chance to play a little bit, smart coaches and smart defenders can watch their past games and learn a great deal about how to shut them down.  It’s exactly what has happened to Mark Sanchez this year – evidenced by his declining performance in his last three games.  And it’s in the process of happening to poor Josh Freeman.  Sadly for Freeman, he doesn’t have much of a team surrounding him to help disguise his weaknesses and fix his mistakes, so he’s going to be in lots of trouble against Atlanta.  Atlanta is going to be desperate for a win, and they’re not going to let up on the Buccaneers in this one.  I’m expecting a total blowout here.
MIAMI DOLPHINS
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BUFFALO BILLS
Gamblor’s Pick: Buffalo (+3)
Bet Amount: $6.39 (Hedge)
WHY IT’S WRONG: This will be the overdue Buffalo meltdown that everyone (including me, and especially Gamblor) anticipated last week.  You need a good defensive scheme to stop the hurricane of chaos that is Miami’s offense, and with just over a week at the helm, Bills interim coach Perry Fewell won’t have one.
CLEVELAND BROWNS
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CINCINNATI BENGALS
Gamblor’s Pick: Cleveland (+14)
Bet Amount: $13.16 (Hedge)
WHY IT’S WRONG: Cleveland scored 37 points against the Lions and gave up 38.  Can anyone tell me what the difference is between the Lions and the Bengals?  Hint: it has something to do with defense.  Frankly, I’d like the Browns’ chances against a team of actual bengals a lot better.  The players aren’t going to be putting forth a single ounce of effort for Mangini anymore, and Cincinnati should be able to blow them out completely.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
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HOUSTON TEXANS
Gamblor’s Pick: Houston (+3.5)
Bet Amount: $3.48 (Flip)
WHY IT’S WRONG: I’m rounding this one down.  Houston put way too much into their loss to Tennessee to be able to hang with the Colts, who are overdue for a big victory.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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SAINT LOUIS RAMS
Gamblor’s Pick: St. Louis (+3)
Bet Amount: $22.64 (Hedge)
WHY I HATE SEATTLE SO MUCH: They keep costing me money.  They can be held responsible for ALL of my total losses this season.  If it weren’t for the Seahawks consistently covering spreads against weaker teams and getting blown out against better ones, Gamblor would be breaking even for the season.  Although the Rams played great against New Orleans and pulled off a magnificent backdoor cover against Arizona last week, I don’t trust them to cover the spread three weeks in a row.  Plus, the Seahawks just LOVE screwing over the computer, and I don’t see any reason why they’ll break stride here.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS
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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Gamblor’s Pick: Washington (+9)
Bet Amount: $21.68 (Hedge and Flip)
WHY I AGREE: Sure, the Eagles are surging again, but they’re terrible as large favorites, and the Redskins will actually be happy to get away from their own depressing stadium for a game.  Andy Reid will stay in character, making idiotic decision after idiotic decision until the Eagles are lucky to come out of this one with a win.
CAROLINA PANTHERS
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NEW YORK JETS
Gamblor’s Pick: Carolina (+3)
Bet Amount: $15.87 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: The Jets are collapsing.  The Panthers aren’t anything special, but the Jets have fallen into despair and will have given up on their season by now, while Carolina will still be playing for pride.
CHICAGO BEARS
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MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Gamblor’s Pick: Chicago (+11)
Bet Amount: $40.25 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: This is the computer’s largest hedge bet of the season so far, which means that in Gamblor’s eyes, the spread couldn’t be any more perfect.  Four of Chicago’s next six games are within the division, so this will be a chance for the Bears to prove they can compete with the other teams in the NFC North.  I (stupidly) keep thinking that Cutler will be able to turn things around, but maybe now that the Bears are effectively out of the playoffs and the pressure is off, he’ll actually come through.  I have a funny feeling that the half point is going to come into play in this one.
ARIZONA CARDINALS
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TENNESSEE TITANS
Gamblor’s Pick: Arizona (+3)
Bet Amount: $31.55 (Hedge)
WHY IT’S WRONG: Vince Young has done an admirable job of rescuing the Titans’ season, but this winning streak can’t last forever.  Arizona has been quietly locking up the NFC West and probably doesn’t have much to play for here, which could lead them to show up flat and phone this one in, but they’ve just been too good lately to expect them to give a game like this away.  I’ll be rounding this one down happily, since I don’t feel like I have a very good read on what’s going to happen.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Kansas City (+13.5)
Bet Amount: $8.90 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: I’m with Gamblor on this one.  San Diego has been incredibly hot lately, but after a run of three emotional victories (over the Giants, Eagles, and Denver) they’ll be looking to relax a little bit.  I doubt they’ll score more points than they absolutely need to, and Kansas City will be feeling emboldened by their recent victory over the Superbowl champions.  I don’t expect this one to be particularly close, but 13.5 points is too many for a fat and happy Chargers squad to cover two days after their Thanksgiving meal.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Jacksonville (+3)
Bet Amount: None (Flip)
WHY IT’S WRONG: San Francisco will finally find their footing at home.  Jacksonville doesn’t have any offense to speak of, and this game will probably be reasonably tight, but San Francisco should eventually dominate courtesy of the fact that they’re defending their home territory.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS
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BALTIMORE RAVENS
Gamblor’s Pick: Pittsburgh (+3)
Bet Amount: $103.73 (Flip)
WHY I AGREE: Pittburgh has delivered two lackluster losses in a row, and they’re only 3-7 against the spread so far this year.  Most bettors won’t have any confidence in them and will blithely lay the points with Baltimore.  But Pittsburgh is still good – and I have the feeling this will be the game where they really kick their season into gear in preparation for the playoffs.  I’m not going to waste as much breath as I did on the Dallas game when Gamblor had so much money on the line; I’m just happy it’s with a team I believe can deliver a solid win on the road when they’re called upon to do so.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Gamblor’s Pick: New England (+3)
Bet Amount: $32.32 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: It’s always nice to get points with the Patriots.  Belichick will be going absolutely crazy in his efforts to stop anyone else from having a perfect season, and New Orleans doesn’t have the defense to contend with New England’s talent on offense.  It’s funny to say that an undefeated team is going to get beat easily, but the Saints have been leaking oil for a while now and it’s just a matter of time before they get beat.
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Week

Zack

Gamblor

Weighted Wins

Weighted Picks

Weighted Win %

Profit

Win

Lose

Push

Win

Lose

Push

1

7

9

-

9

7

-

1339

1727

77.5%

$155.71

2

9

7

-

11

5

-

970

1292

75.1%

$98.97

3

9

7

-

6

10

-

607

1552

39.1%

-$61.75

4

8

6

-

5

9

-

288

963

29.9%

-$70.33

5

6

8

-

6

8

-

655

1217

53.8%

$15.46

6

7

7

-

8

6

-

625

1231

50.8%

-$10.53

7

8

4

1

3

9

1

246

1161

21.2%

-$127.43

8

3

10

-

9

7

-

709

1548

45.8%

-$34.43

9

7

6

-

10

3

-

1152

1609

71.6%

$119.67

10

7

8

-

8

7

-

660

2110

31.3%

-$159.21

11

8

8

-

8

8

-

745

1614

46.2%

-$29.81

Total

79

80

1

80

79

1

7996

16024

49.9%

-$103.68

For legality purposes, this website does not promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.




  • http://www.lionsdenu.com/category/sports/nfl-guide-2009-2010/ lduthecoach

    Zack, the write up you do prior to your predictions is PRICELESS!! you have me busting a gut every week bro! keep up the great work

    And as far as the predictions go, same thing.. keep it coming.. I enjoy the insight you provide..

    Take a peak at my picks if you feel the need; you can never have enough info for football.

    http://www.lionsdenu.com/category/sports/nfl-gu

  • http://www.lionsdenu.com/category/sports/nfl-guide-2009-2010/ lduthecoach

    Zack, the write up you do prior to your predictions is PRICELESS!! you have me busting a gut every week bro! keep up the great work

    And as far as the predictions go, same thing.. keep it coming.. I enjoy the insight you provide..

    Take a peak at my picks if you feel the need; you can never have enough info for football.

    http://www.lionsdenu.com/category/sports/nfl-gu