Culture of Hoops

Sonny’s NFL Picks: Week 6

Image courtesy of Matt McGee/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Matt McGee/Flickr.

Remember how last week I had a moment of clarity and told you guys that I just didn’t get this NFL season? Of course you don’t! I didn’t even remember what I wrote about last week until I went back and looked it up, so don’t lie to me or to yourself! Anyway, that statement remains true to a certain degree. In odd numbered weeks—Weeks One, Three, and Five—I’ve nailed my picks, going a combined 34-13. I haven’t been so good in the even numbered weeks, stumbling to a 15-14 record in the two thus far. Well, the last time I checked “six” was still an even number, so according to recent trends I’m in big trouble.

On the flip side, I went 12-3 on the Week 5 slate of games, which is my best week yet and I’m feeling hot! If I, for some odd reason, met Pitbull in the next few days he’d probably tell me that I’m a Fireball. Contrary to what I said last week, I actually feel like I’ve finally figured this season out, or at the very least, figured every team out.

So on that note, I’ve prepared some barely researched, possibly incorrect, and probably totally made up rules/strategies to apply to teams when picking NFL games. If they work, feel free to use this column as a guide for your picks going forward this season. If they don’t work, just forget about what I wrote this week, just like you most likely did last week.

Indianapolis Colts over HOUSTON TEXANS
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • The Manning/Grossman Incident: Be wary of picking a subpar quarterback (i.e. Ryan Fitzpatrick) against an obviously superior quarterback or team in a prime time game. Be especially cautious if that quarterback has a ridiculously large beard.
  • Don’t Overthink it When it Comes to Thursday Night Football: On a short week, go with the team that you think would win in a neutral field game, regardless of where the game is being played.
  • Pump The Brakes: Avoid getting too jazzed up about a surprise team until they beat a Playoff team. They might just be the Good Bad Team.

TENNESSEE TITANS over Jacksonville Jaguars
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • The Bounce Back: Expect a bounce back game from a home team that a lost a home game in devastating fashion the prior week. In Tennessee’s case, blowing a 28-3 lead to the Cleveland Browns—the largest comeback victory by a road team in league history—counts as a home loss in devastating fashion.
  • Maybe They Just Stink: Then again, maybe be cautious of trusting a team that is capable of blowing a 28-3 lead at home.
  • Don’t Trust Teams That Haven’t Won a Game: Once it gets to Week 6, pick against a winless team until they prove that they can win a game or until they play another winless team and you’re forced to pick one—it’s a shame Jacksonville and Oakland don’t play each other this year; I swear to God I would pick that game to end in a tie.
  • Don’t Believe In Rookie QB’s or Disco: It’s difficult to trust a first-year quarterback on the road (Blake Bortles) or a career back-up who looks like a young Barry Gibb (Charlie Whitehurst).

Baltimore Ravens over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • Manning’s > McCown’s: Consider that Tampa Bay might be halfway decent as long as a McCown brother isn’t taking snaps.
  • The Eff-You Game (Or Perceived Eff-You Game): Don’t pick against Steve Smith in any game where he may be playing with some kind of chip on his shoulder (Does playing against a former NFC South rival count as a chip? A chocolate chip perhaps?).
  • Coaching Matters: Expect well-coached teams with winning pedigrees to win games they are supposed to win, even on the road.

Denver Broncos over NEW YORK JETS
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • The Manning/Grossman Incident: Again, be wary of picking a subpar quarterback (i.e. Geno Smith) against an obviously superior quarterback or team. Be especially cautious if that quarterback was benched the week prior.
  • The Trap Game: Take note of a potential trap game—Denver has San Francisco, San Diego, and New England the next three weeks; why wouldn’t they look past New York at least a little bit?
  • Controversy Creates Losses: Don’t pick teams with a quarterback controversy, especially when neither quarterback is doing anything to separate themselves from the other.
  • You Can’t Win if You Can’t Score: Don’t pick a team whose wide receivers can’t get open, which might be why there is a quarterback controversy in the first place. The Jets biggest problem is with their playmakers, not their quarterback.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS over Detroit Lions
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • The Rule of Ten: Look for the teams that are coming into the week with ten days rest, as Minnesota is after playing last Thursday.
  • The Ponder Predicament: Consider the negative impact of a third string quarterback serving as the starter (Christian Ponder).
  • The Calvin Johnson Corollary: Don’t discount how impactful Calvin Johnson is.
  • Avoid The Hype Train: Don’t get sucked onto the Detroit hype train; just because they look good on paper, they might be fatally flawed. A great team wouldn’t have lost to Buffalo at home last week. A great team also never gives their former head coach, now a defensive coordinator, the chance to be carried off the field.

New England Patriots over BUFFALO BILLS
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • Play The Odds: New England is 58-14 against the current AFC East with Tom Brady under center. Buffalo isn’t decidedly better than New England, so just go where the odds tell you to go.
  • Weigh The Previous Victories: New England was battling “The Empire has fallen!” headlines until they beat the breaks off of Cincinnati on Sunday night. Buffalo ditched their young starting quarterback for Kyle freaking Orton mid-week, and then got a win on the road against the NFC North leading Detroit Lions. Which one seems more fluky?
  • The Manning/Grossman Incident: I hate to sound like a broken record, but this is a real thing. Can you honestly say you feel safe picking Kyle Orton over Tom Brady? Kyle Orton?

CINCINNATI BENGALS over Carolina Panthers
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • There’s No Place Like Home: When you think two teams might be even, don’t forget about home field advantage.
  • The Calvin Johnson Corollary: Gotta revisit this one. When your top playmaker is sidelined, unless you’re an offensive juggernaut, there is likely going to be a drop off offensively. As of this writing, I know that A.J. Green was carted off the field during Bengals practice on Wednesday.
  • Think Long Term: Long term, don’t forget which teams have “Regression-Team” potential. For example, Carolina plays at Cincinnati, at Green Bay, home against Seattle, home against New Orleans, and at Philadelphia coming up. Doesn’t it feel like they’re most likely sitting at 4-6 going into Week 11? Is Cincinnati the win you expect them to get?

CLEVELAND BROWNS over Pittsburgh Steelers
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • God Hates Cleveland: This one is well-documented.
  • God Might Love Cleveland: This one is definitely in play. LeBron James returned to Cleveland. Kevin Love was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Browns came back from a 28-3 deficit last week. Maybe the tide is turning for the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.
  • Hold Onto Grudges: Two weeks ago Pittsburgh lost a home game to Tampa Bay and it cost me my chances of winning an Eliminator Pool. I’m still bitter, and there is nothing wrong with picking against a team that scorn you in the past.

Green Bay Packers over MIAMI DOLPHINS
San Diego Chargers over OAKLAND RAIDERS
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • Taking Care of Business: Look for the teams who have won the games they were supposed to win. San Diego dropped a road game at Arizona Week 1 but has won four straight since, even one against the defending Super Bowl champs. The Packers on the other hand have lost two road games to current Playoff teams, and handled their business elsewhere. Even though the Bolts and Pack are on the road, but the Raiders and Dolphins are combatting Don’t Believe in Rookie QB’s or Disco, The Manning/Grossman Incident, Don’t Trust Teams That Haven’t Won a Game. Plus:
  • Coaching Matters, Especially When One Team Doesn’t Have a Head Coach: Some times this can actually have the opposite effect, but when it applies to a team that is as exceptionally crappy as Oakland is, it doesn’t work like that.
  • The Reverse Jinx: When in doubt, pick the team you want to lose. If they win, you won your pick. If they lose, at least you can be happy about that.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS over Dallas Cowboys
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • There’s No Place Like Century Link: This is all you need to know and just about all I’m basing this pick on. Seattle, like Atlanta and New Orleans, is just about automatic on their home field. I actually like the Cowboys and their new run-first identity, but things stall this week.

ARIZONA CARDINALS over Washington Redskins
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • Defense Wins Championships … And Games Against Backup QB’s: Drew Stanton is a back-up. Logan Thomas is too. Carson Palmer should be a back-up. Kirk Cousins is a back-up who spent some time masquerading as a back-up who should be a starter. So the bottom line is, two back-up quarterbacks will be playing in this game. From there, pay attention to which defense is more likely to cause the opposing quarterback a problem. Advantage: Arizona.
  • Avoid the Negative Overreaction: This is directed towards the Arizona Cardinals, who got lit up by the Denver Broncos last week. It’s understandable that anyone who was actually on the Arizona Cardinals bandwagon would hop off, but as my friend Lee Corso would say:

Oh crap, that’s not right!


That’s better! Not so fast my friend! Don’t abandon the Cardinals so fast. They have wins over the Chargers, Giants and 49ers, and hung around with the defending AFC Champions for three quarters. They’ll be fine, for now.

ATLANTA FALCONS over Chicago Bears
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • There’s No Place Like Dome: Slightly different than There’s No Place Like Home, only possibly more meaningful. If you’re going to pick home teams by default, feel comfortable knowing that Atlanta and New Orleans are going to get you the “W” more often than not.
  • Who’s Been Bitten: By the injury bug, that is. Chicago is all kinds of banged up, so much so that I actually flew to Chicago and participated in an open tryout for the team. O.K., that didn’t actually happen, but there aren’t too many teams that I could even make that joke for.
  • Hedge Your Bets: This is the first cousin of The Reverse Jinx. If I pick this game correctly I certainly won’t be happy, but it’s better than losing on the game AND the pick. Hedge your bets, folks! I encourage you to do so with your team too. Life will be easier.

Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • Fool’s Gold: This one is the distant second cousin to Pump The Breaks, only we know Philadelphia was a playoff team last year and they were expected to be one this year. The Eagles are 4-1, but their wins have hardly been convincing. It took back to back second half comebacks to get wins in Weeks 1 and 2, and their other two wins have been in close fashion, including a pseudo nail-biter last week against the Austin Davis-led St. Louis Rams. Philadelphia might be fool’s gold, and maybe when they blow a home game in prime time we’ll start to see it.
  • The Typical Giants Game: This can go one of two ways. The first version of The Typical Giants Game is when it’s a game that New York is widely expected to win. All of the money in Vegas is on them. Every NFL analyst is picking them to win. My Uncle Joe is all-in on them. And then they lose, and make it look like an art form.The other version of The Typical Giants Game is the one I’m expecting this Sunday night. All of the money in Vegas is on their opponent. Every NFL analyst is picking them to lose. My Uncle Joe is all-in against them. And then they win, and make it look like an art form. Philadelphia and Dallas are at the front of the NFC East right now, but come next week at this time, the New York Giants will be in that mix too.

ST. LOUIS RAMS over San Francisco 49ers
Possible Rules/Strategies to Consider:

  • Austin Davis might be Brett Favre: Stay with me here. Both Davis and Favre went to Southern Mississippi. Neither was heralded coming out of college. Both got thrust into starting jobs without much hype. Both are 6’2 and approximately 225 lbs. (Searching … Searching …) O.K. that’s all I have for now, but after Davis leads the Rams to a come from behind win on Monday night, you won’t be laughing.
  • The Anti-Heisenberg: Spot the teams that have chemistry problems and stay away from them. I just can’t see how this situation is resolved in a way that results in Harbaugh returning to San Francisco next season. Maybe when the Michigan job opens up—and it will open up—he’ll head to Ann Arbor. Or maybe, the 49ers will lose to Brett Favre Austin Davis and the St. Louis Rams on Monday and the season will spiral out of control to the point that at the end of the year. Jim Harbaugh will be, as Pitbull would say, Fireballed.

Last Week: 12-3
Overall: 49-27

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