Best bets time and after going 5-1 last week, just in time for the holidays I might add, we are all even now heading into 2013! 50-50-2!
People who are into hobbies like to talk about conducting those activities under optimal conditions. Skiers enjoy skiing with four feet of powder on a sunny day. Fishermen like to fish at like four in the morning for a reason (I guess). Golfers like the fairways to play long and the greens to be nice and soft.
Well, handicappers will tell you that these next couple weekends are the "optimal conditions" under which to bet NFL football -- an entire regular season to assess and no more ebb and flow of "sandwich games" and "letdown situations." The motivation of both sides is clear and analogous: If they lose, they go home.
With that in mind, let's get to the games, starting with a couple bonus bowl picks this weekend:
COTTON BOWL Texas A&M/Oklahoma OVER 73 Normally, I'd say that a storied program, a proud program, like Oklahoma, whose only two losses this season are to the top ranked team in the country and the team that won their conference, would be sitting back stewing over all of the coverage and attention that Texas A&M and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel have been getting. I'd say that Oklahoma probably has a chip on their shoulder and that their experience in games like this will come in awfully handy. I'd say that they want to protect the pride of the Big 12 conference against the school that defected from the conference about a year ago. I'd say all those things -- and then I'd realize that Landry Jones is involved in this game. And that it's a big game. And Landry Jones routinely wets the bed in big games. So instead I'll just take the over.
COMPASS BOWL Ole Miss -3 1/2 over Pitt I'm making this pick for two reasons:
1. I need a sixth game to pick because six games has been the format of my Best Bets posts all year long.
2. I want to see SEC football fans claim Ole Miss (the longtime punching bag of the conference, if there's a Corleone brother lower than Fredo, that's Ole Miss) as one of their own when they get a win during bowl season.
SEC! SEC! SEC!
And now onto the playoffs....
PACKERS -7 1/2 over Vikings It's not hard to find film on these two teams since they did just play each other last week. Adrian Peterson ran for almost 200 yards and the Vikings came away with a three point win on a last second field goal. Different deal this week -- second year quarterback in his first playoff game in Lambeau Field. I don't think Adrian Peterson playing special teams could even save the Vikings this week.
RAVENS -6 1/2 over Colts As a media member, maybe I'm saying this because we have an owner here in Houston who is as buttoned as it gets or maybe I'm just generally immature (probably the latter), but Colts owner Jim Irsay seems like he'd be a lot of fun to cover. He tweets, he shows emotion, and apparently according to this picture from KissingSuzyKolber.com, he likes to dress up like a tight shirt, skinny jeans wearing douche chach!
Honestly, I look at that picture and I can't decide whether to bet a kidney on the Ravens or take the Colts on the moneyline. So awesome, and yet so disturbing. I mean...THAT guy owns an NFL team!
(Full disclosure: The rational part of me will win out on this one, and realize that the Colts played one of the easiest schedules in the league this year, have a yards per play differential that is 30th in the league, and are probably a year away from winning a road playoff game. Also, Ray Lewis announced his retirement this week, and I just don't see his career ending on a home loss to a rookie quarterback. No way.)
REDSKINS +3 over Seahawks Robert Griffin III versus Russell Wilson in the Rookie Bowl! Wilson's Seahawks have been the NFL's best team over the last month of the season, and Griffin would probably be a top five pick for league MVP if the voting were done differently. (NOTE: MVP voting is done by 50 media members choosing one candidate and ONLY one candidate. Therefore, if anybody is picking someone other than Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning, then he or she is just trying to be different.) By the way, if Rob Parker thinks that Robert Griffin III is a "cornball brother," I'm pretty sure Russell Wilson would blow his mind.
Bengals +5 over TEXANS Let's list all of the things the Texans have going against them from a momentum standpoint over the last four weeks of the season:
- They have been unable to run the ball with any level of consistency. Even in the two Colts games where statistically they ran the ball all right, their performance half to half was completely uneven.
- Matt Schaub has a passer rating of under 72.0 in three of his last four games (two games in the 60s!), and he's been sacked 12 times.
- Andre Johnson is the only offensive player playing with any level of consistency, which might explain why Matt Schaub has been force feeding him the ball (50 of the Texans 137 targets have been to Johnson over the last four games, a whopping 36.5 percent.)
- Injuries continue to pile up, with Darryl Sharpton (who has officially replaced Xavier Adibi as the "Texans linebacker who is hurt ALL THE TIME") going on injured reserve, Tim Dobbins remaining banged up, and Brooks Reed still trying to recover from the groin injury. Not good.
- Oh by the way, the Bengals have won 7 out of 8. They're among the hottest teams in the league.
I'm trying to find a reason to pick the Texans. Ummmm....home field? Yes, home field. That's it! HOME FIELD! That's worth three points according to Vegas. So we will take the Texans to win but not cover, Shayne Graham knuckleball kick from 39 yards to win, 20-17.
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Last week: 5-1 Season record: 50-50-2
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.