The NFL playoff scenarios are pretty awesome right now. You can have a little fun for yourself and go to the ESPN Playoff Machine. Just fill out the results you expect to happen and it’ll spit out which teams make the playoffs. There are going to be some good teams left home this year. Arizona has a chance to go from the No. 1seed in the NFC to out of the playoffs because their schedule is brutal and their quarterback play from Drew Stanton is even more brutal. The AFC North currently has four teams above .500, but there’s a good chance that three of them are going to get left home. There are a lot of important games over the season’s final four weeks and that’s pretty awesome.
Thursday Night Pick:
Dallas -3.5 over CHICAGO
The NFL finally did something right. The Thursday night game features two teams that played last Thursday night, so they’re playing on regular rest. Expect this game to seem much more like a real Sunday game than beaten down teams playing on shortened weeks. The weather is a little cold, but at least there won’t be any precipitation and there isn’t expected to be much wind.
Remember how bad Tony Romo looked last week? Well that’s because he’s had Wednesday practice off every week this season to rest his back and last week didn’t afford him that luxury. This week he’ll have had his necessary rest and won’t be throwing lame ducks anymore on those out routes. (I cringed every time I saw him falling away on his throws last week. The passes weren’t accurate and had no zip. His form was terrible.) Chicago’s pass rush ranks 21st in the league according to Football Outsiders, so Romo will see less pressure anyway than he did against Philadelphia’s sixth-ranked pass rush last week. Dallas’ running game should get back to form as their top ranked run-blocking offensive line takes on the 21st ranked run-stopping defensive line of Chicago.
On the other side of the ball, one really can’t understand why the Bears can’t score. Last week they completely abandoned the run against Detroit’s stout run defense to the extent that it was comical. You need to at least simulate the ambition to run the ball in order to fool defenses. The Bears have two good receivers, a good tight end, a great running back, and a talented quarterback. Their offensive line is above average in run blocking, which makes abandoning the last run last week even more surprising, and average pass protection. Marc Trestman is supposed to be an offensive genius, but something is wrong in Chicago right now. Chicago hasn’t surpassed 23 points since Week 6 and that’s unacceptable given their weapons.
I’ll throw a few more stats out there for you. Dallas is 4-1 against the spread (ATS) on the road this year. Chicago is 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games as a dog of 4 points or less and 5-13-2 in their last 20 at home. (You can go that far back because the team is basically the same, which is clearly part of the problem.)
Kyle’s pick: Dallas
Last Week: 7-9