Football! This Weekend's Best Bets
Thanksgiving weekend is a time for many things.
First and foremost, it is a time to show gratitude for all of the blessings in our lives, or if you are bereft of any significant blessings, it is the time where you look at those less fortunate and say "Hey, at least I'm not THAT dude, who is much less fortunate than me."
Second, the entire weekend is a time to be a completely gluttonous slob, throw down calories by the thousands, and act like somehow our metabolism is the only thing that actually works harder during the weekend and that the biological rules of digestion take a vacation from Thursday through Sunday.
Third, and for purposes of this post, most importantly, it is the de facto point on the football calendar where we can really start to whittle down the list of teams that still have a reason to live. In college, the list is fairly short, and in the NFL, it's much longer.
So here goes:
Teams still alive in the BCS national title race (and their odds to win the BCS title in parentheses):
CONTROL THEIR OWN DESTINY
1. NOTRE DAME (+160): One more regular season game against USC in Los Angeles this weekend. Win that, and they're in. USC is playing with its backup quarterback, their coach is a maniac who might get fired and they're 60 minutes away from playing a bowl game before Christmas.
2. ALABAMA (-180): The Iron Bowl this weekend against Auburn (Crimson Tide is a 31 point favorite.) and then, presumably, the SEC Title game against Georgia. In essence, the only person the A&M win really mattered for was Johnny Manziel, who has become the prohibitive Heisman favorite based in large part on his performance in Tuscaloosa.
3. GEORGIA (+400): Tricky one with Georgia Tech this weekend, and then the SEC Title game with Alabama. Win both of those, and the Bulldogs will play in the title game.
NEED HELP...AND SMOKE...AND MIRRORS
4. FLORIDA (+2000): Florida sits at number four right now. If Georgia loses to Georgia Tech (unlikely) or Alabama loses to Auburn (hell freezing over) or both, and we come out of this SEC Title game with two 2-loss teams, would a one loss Florida with a win over Florida State under its belt get in despite not being a conference champ? And if Notre Dame loses to USC, do the Gators even need to worry about who wins the SEC Title game? If there's one conference where a team probably doesn't have to even win its division but can still play in the title game, it's the SEC. Florida is sitting much prettier than they're being given credit for.
5. OREGON (+900): Despite having just one loss, Oregon is sitting on the outside looking in right now in the Pac-12 North, tied with Stanford and losing the head-to-head tiebreaker. Despite possibly not winning the Pac-12, Oregon could still sneak in if two of these three things happen: Notre Dame loses, Florida loses, and/or the SEC Title game spits out a two 2-loss team shmozz. I still think Oregon could use the style points of a Pac-12 title and emphatic win over UCLA in the title game. It would help in a beauty contest with Florida.
6. KANSAS STATE (+1500): Needs to beat Texas and then hope for a lot of the same things as Oregon, although I think the level to which they lost to Baylor (a 28 point thumping) is going to resonate very negatively with voters, as it should. And the fact that they will have won their conference is muted by the fact that they don't have to go through the rigor of playing a conference title game.
10. FLORIDA STATE (+3000): Let's pretend that Florida State thumps Florida and then trounces whoever they play in the ACC title game. And then all hell breaks loose in front of them -- Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, Clemson beats South Carolina, USC beats Notre Dame, Oregon and Stanford get waylaid by Oregon State and UCLA, the SEC teams all wind up with two losses. Could the voters vault them up high enough to make up for their shitty computer rating? Long shot, and if it's on the board, it's barely on the board.
11. CLEMSON (+9000): The Tigers are hoping for all the same things as Florida State, except they need Georgia Tech to beat Florida State in the ACC title game. Total Hail Mary mode.
Now, the NFL teams in the mix, in much shorter form:
AFC BATTLING FOR FIRST ROUND BYES Houston Texans (9-1), Baltimore Ravens (8-2), New England Patriots (7-3), Denver Broncos (7-3) NOTES: Texans have the tiebreaker over Baltimore and Denver with a game remaining against the Patriots. Baltimore has a win over the Pats, and a game remaining with Denver. New England has a win over Denver. Basically, Denver is sucking hind teat with an 0-2 record and a trip to Baltimore still to go.
PLAYOFF DRIVER'S SEAT Indianapolis Colts (6-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) NOTES: The Steelers are 6-4 right now, but they are down to their third quarterback and the Bengals still have a head-to-head game with the Steelers and a handful of games against .500 or below teams. I was real close to putting the Bengals in the driver's seat based solely on their schedule and the health of the Steelers. But the Steelers schedule the rest of the way has two Cleveland games, a home game with the Chargers and a game in Dallas (worst home field in the league). So it's still the Steelers...but barely.
POISED TO STRIKE Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
TEETERING ON THE BRINK New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers (all 4-6)
SCOUTING FOR THE 2013 DRAFT Oakland Raiders (3-7), Cleveland Browns (2-8), Kansas City Chiefs (1-9), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
NFC BATTLING FOR FIRST ROUND BYES Atlanta Falcons (9-1), San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1), Green Bay Packers (7-3) Green Bay seems to have their groove back, having won five in a row. Right now, they have the tiebreaker over Chicago (They still have one game left against each other.)
PLAYOFF DRIVER'S SEAT New York Giants (6-4), Chicago Bears (7-3), Seattle Seahawks (6-4) The Giants and the Bears are easy. Why the Seahawks over the other 6-4 and 5-5 teams? Games with Miami, Buffalo, Arizona, and St. Louis. Basically, they have the surest 9-7 floor of any of the other teams in the mix.
POISED TO STRIKE New Orleans Saints (5-5) Don't look now...
HANGING AROUND Minnesota Vikings (6-4), Dallas Cowboys (5-5), Tampa Bay Bucs (6-4) Minnesota has two games with the Bears, two with the Packers, and road games at Houston and St. Louis. Yikes!
TEETERING ON THE BRINK Washington Redskins (4-6), Detroit Lions (4-6) Whatever...
SCOUTING FOR THE 2013 DRAFT Arizona Cardinals (4-6), St. Louis Rams (3-6-1), Philadelphia Eagles (3-7), Carolina Panthers (2-8)
So with all of that in mind, here are my six bets that I will monitor with a drumstick in one hand and my other hand tucked in my waistband on my recliner:
Texas Tech +3 over BAYLOR Having gone into that Kansas State game at 4-5, I can't imagine that this Baylor team has any idea how to handle the emotional ebb and flow coming off of a 28 point win over the number one team in the country. Over 78 might not be a bad play here either.
USC +5 over Notre Dame Until Notre Dame is hoisting the BCS title trophy, I'm just going with the George Costanza assumption that God will never let me be happy. The Sports Illustrated cover for the Irish this week isn't helping either.
Oregon -9 1/2 over OREGON STATE The Ducks have one hiccup game every year. That was last week. I'm guessing they come out primed to stay in the title hunt, both BCS and Pac-12. I like that the Stanford-UCLA game (which Oregon needs UCLA desperately to win) takes place after this game.
Redskins +3 1/2 over COWBOYS These little factoids from RJ Bell of Pregame.com:
1. Cowboys have covered only 2 of last 13 home games 2. Tony Romo at home - 3 TDs and 10 INTs this season 3. Last 3 seasons, the underdog has covered 71% of Dallas games (30-12 ATS)
Well, I'm sold!
Patriots -7 1/2 over JETS The Patriots three losses have been by a combined total of four points all season. The Patriots seven victories have been by a combined total of 137 points this season. In other words, when the Patriots lose, it's by very little, and when they win it's by a lot. They will win tonight.
Packers +2 1/2 over GIANTS Wait, the Packers are catching points against the Giants??? Um, yes please.
Last week: 1-5 Season record: 32-33-1
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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