A Gentleman’s Guide to Super Bowl 50

Welcome to Sports Monocle’s second annual Gentleman’s Guide to the Super Bowl. We’ll combine some of our Monocling tropes from our Recap and Picks columns, as well as place some fake wagers on our favorite Super Bowl prop bets. Enjoy!


Derek: How much Super Bowl preview talk have you descended into? Did you have a favorite/least favorite storyline?

Will: Virtually none. I’ve stayed away. I saw a reporter ask Cam Newton something about socks and sandals, and that was my signal to bury my head in the sand as deep as possible. The week before the Super Bowl is the worst.

Derek: On a scale of bitter Seahawks fan to Jim Nantz, how excited are you to watch this game?

Will: So Jim Nantz is the excited one here? Whatever the scale, I’d put myself at a hungover Troy Aikman level of excitement. My time would probably be better spent resting and making sure I get enough liquids, but hell, if the game’s on, I’m gonna watch.

Derek: How are you hoping this plays out? Are you rooting for either team? Do you just want to see a good game? Would you prefer a defensive slugfest? A shootout? What’s the ideal game script?

Will: Just want something fun to watch. I don’t care who wins, nor do I care how they win. I’d be happy to see either Peyton Manning or Cam Newton win. As long as it’s reasonable close I’ll be fine with it. I’m just here for the lolz.

Derek: Who will cause more eye-rolls worldwide: Phil Simms or Mike Carey?

Will: Based on sheer volume, Simms in a runaway.

Prop Bets

[Odds per sportsbook.ag]

Lady Gaga’s rendition of the National Anthem (From when the first note starts until she completes saying “brave”) will be over or under 136.5 seconds?

Derek: If I’m betting on something so arbitrary and fixable, I’m betting on the outcome that’s more fun to root for. So the question becomes “would I rather watch Lady Gaga sing an efficient national anthem or take part in a bunch of excessive nonsense that ends with her singing ‘brave’ for 30 seconds?” It’s no contest–over for me.

Will: The average duration of the last 10 Super Bowl national anthems is reportedly 1:57 — 117 seconds. This line being almost 20 seconds higher suggests that some Gaga antics have been planned. As much as I would love to wager on a big Apollo Creed-style thing happening, I’ll still take the under. The song ain’t that long. (All bets are off if there’s a fiery equipment malfunction.)

Will either team score in the first five minutes of the game? Yes (+145) or no (-175)?

Derek: I’ll say no. I don’t trust the Bronco offense to do much scoring, and Cam is probably going to be so amped up he’ll need some halftime bear sedatives before settling into a groove.

Will: I’ve come around on the idea that this could be something of a defensive struggle, so I shall take no here. The average NFL drive this year lasted 2:40, and these are two of the best defenses in the game. I look forward to Ted Ginn taking the opening kick to the house.

Semi-related: College Ted Ginn was one of the most fun players I’ve ever watched. Seeing him turn the corner and go into Olympic sprinter mode was the most exciting thing. People talk about players running like gazelles, but he really did. His movement wasn’t jagged; he ran in big beautiful brushstrokes.

You know what, I’m switching to yes. Teddy’s taking it to the house the first chance he gets.

Will there be a missed extra point? Yes (+325) or no (-450)?

Derek: We’ve been building to this all year, right? Blair Walsh missed a game-winner a few weeks ago, Stephen Gostkowski missed a big one last week, and now it’s someone else’s turn. Throw in the dangers of smug in the air and there’s going to be a sad picture of a kicker on the front of newspapers Monday morning.

Will: Are you kidding? It’s the Super Bowl. Of course there will be a missed extra point. You think Brandon McManus and Graham Gano have the stones to live up to that pressure? No way. We’re bound to see at least one miss.

If Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown, his first celebration will be: open shirt Superman motion (+120), dances solo (+180), goes to crowd and gives ball away (+225), dances with teammates (+1000), spikes ball (+2000), hands ball to official (+4000), or dunks on goal post (+5000)?

Derek: Every spoiled front-running child in America has convinced his/her rich parent to buy them a ticket on either end zone. With all those winking CEOs and tiny outstretched arms, I’ll say the ball goes in the stands first.

Will: This is the first one where I’m not sure if it’s a real prop or not. I think it is, and I think hands ball to official is the play here. There’s gotta be like a 1% chance that he makes a big show of giving the ball to the ref with a giant grin on his face. Then on the next one he gives the ball away. Something like that.

Which number will be higher: the number of points LeBron James scores vs the Pelicans (+1.5) or the distance of the game’s shortest made field goal (-1.5)?

Derek: I’ll say LeBron. The Broncos have a great defense and a poor offense, so I could see a gimme field goal no matter who has the ball. Unless of course Riverboat Ron doesn’t plan on kicking at any point.

Will: I bet there will be one super short field goal — like 25 yards at the most. Kevin Love is out for the Cavs, and they’ve kinda been playing like crap lately, so I think it’s LeBron in a runaway — especially when he’s getting a point and a half to boot.

Derek: Heh. Boot. That’s another word for kick.

The Pick

[Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Carolina (-5.5) vs. Denver

Derek: I count myself among the many who thought the winner of the NFC Championship would win the Super Bowl. I haven’t changed my opinion there, but I will grab the points in this situation. While all the attention has gone on Cam and Peyton, I think the man who decides this game is Wade Phillips. The Panthers are the more balanced team, but Denver’s defense is the best unit in the game. He found a way to hit Brady (Brady never gets hit) in the AFC Championship, so I’m sure he’s cooked up something special for Cam in the past two weeks. Maybe not enough to overcome Denver’s deficiencies on offense, but enough to keep it within six points.

Will: I think Carolina kills ’em. I mean, I also think it could be a close game — it’s the Super Bowl; of course it could be a close game — but I think Carolina runs all over them. I think they put Peyton Manning on his ass. I think the secondary keeps Demaryius Thomas under wraps. I think Carolina’s offensive line is a bunch of mean SOBs, and I think they run at Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware a lot to tire them out. I think the Panthers win big. I think Cam’s gonna dab on ’em and the whole deal.

On the Road Again: Wild Card Weekend Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

Kansas City (-3) vs. HOUSTON

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Derek: Picking this game wasn’t fun. I don’t want to back the Chiefs because of Andy Reid, and I don’t want to back the Texans because they aren’t very good. I’ve come to the conclusion that “isn’t very good” should matter more in my packs than “coach has a bad history covering in big games.” As such, I’ll just reluctantly take Kansas City.

Will: First, this game has been advertised on national television as kicking off at 4:20 Eastern time, which is perhaps my favorite thing the NFL has done all season. In lieu of addressing the fact that the league is only slightly more likable than Vladimir Putin, they’ve decided to lean on stoner word of mouth to boost TV ratings. I love it. With a 4:20 kick, the Chiefs are the only choice.

Pittsburgh (-3) vs. CINCINNATI

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Derek: I’ll like whoever wins this game going forward, but alas, one of them has to go down Saturday night. The tiebreaker for this one is simple: Ben Roethlisberger vs. AJ McCarron. Oftentimes, when I’m making a sports decision such as picking a game or start/sit in fantasy, I think to myself “which one is going to make me feel stupider if I get it wrong?” If I pick the Bengals and the Steelers win, I’m going to feel like a jackass for talking myself into McCarron over Roethlisberger. If I pick the Steelers and McCarron makes me pay, I can live with that. I’ll go Pittsburgh.

Will: We know that Pittsburgh’s offense is flame emojis. We also know that they’re down to their third-string running back, an apparently Irish-Creole fellow named Fitzgerald Toussaint. We know that Cincinnati hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a game since Andy Dalton went down. We also know that Pittsburgh won this same matchup, in Cincinnati and all, a month ago.

Lump me in with everyone and their degenerate gambling mother in backing the Steelers.

Seattle (-5) vs. MINNESOTA

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

Derek: Marshawn, noooooo! I was really looking forward to seeing him again. But the team has thrived without him, so hopefully reigning Gentleman of the Week Christine Michael will seize his big opportunity.

The Vikings are a good matchup for the Seahawks, as they showed in Week 13. They should be able to key on Adrian Peterson and force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them. Then again, I thought something similar in Week 16 and the Seahawks lost at home to the Rams. Plus the cold can’t be a good thing for Seattle. There certainly are a few reasons to believe the Vikings will put on a better performance, but I don’t think it will be enough to stop a Seattle cover.

Will: So the high temperature in Minneapolis on Sunday is forecast to be 4 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill could knock it down another 10 or 15 degrees, easy. One might assume that that will make the running game a bigger deal, which could help the Vikings keep it close, at least close enough to cover at home. But much like Steelers-Bengals, we saw this same matchup about a month ago. The Seahawks won by 31 points and held Minnesota to 31 rushing yards. The weather will throw some kind of kink in things, but 26 points’ worth? Nah. Seahawks.

WASHINGTON (-1) vs. Green Bay

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Derek: I’m applying the same logic to this game that I applied to my Steelers pick. I’m going to feel really, really dumb if I pick Kirk Cousins over Aaron Rodgers and lose. And while at this point I think it’s pretty clear that the Packers aren’t particularly good, I think Rodgers can have success against Washington’s secondary. I also think a lot of people are underestimating the value of playoff experience. The Packers are loaded with guys who have played in big playoff games. We haven’t seen them miss the playoffs since 2008. Not too many current Redskins played a big role in Washington’s last playoff game.

Furthermore, the Redskins have only played two games against playoff teams this season–at New England and at Carolina–and got trounced in both of them. I could see them getting nervous and making mistakes early like they did in New England. Meanwhile, the Packers played seven games against playoff teams. Despite that (and being in a tougher division) they still won more games than the Redskins. I say the Packers put an end to Washington’s win streak.

Will: I’ve reflexively backed the Packers about a hundred times this season because Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s offense has been like the tumbling skyline at the end of Fight Club, leaving him to conjure points out of rubble. The Packers have had some offensive stinkers this year, and they finished 15th in points scored this year. If Washington had a more fearsome pass rush, I think I’d actually pick ’em. Alas, they get to the quarterback at just an average rate. Let’s back the Pack for the 101st time.

Feeling Lucky: NFL Week 13 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

Cincinnati (-9.5) vs. CLEVELAND

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I’d normally take a 9.5 point home underdog in a division game, but after what happened Monday night the Browns might be toxic. Austin Davis is in, it’s a short week, the team is shell shocked, and the crowd will probably be depressed and/or sarcastic. That’s assuming it doesn’t end up being a de facto home game for the Bengals. As you may have guessed, I’m going with Cincinnati.

Will: Might be toxic?? That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard about the Browns all week. The crowd at the Ravens game was already depressed and sarcastic, which actually made for a fun experience. It was more like an open mic night than a football game — and what a joke that closer was! Thank you, thank you. I’m going to be at this one too. Pray for me, and for this pick. Browns by three touchdowns.

CHICAGO (-7) vs. San Francisco

Derek: The 49ers defense has really, really sucked on the road. In Chicago’s last four games (at San Diego, at St. Louis, vs. Denver, at Green Bay) the Bears haven’t allowed more than 19 points. Considering the 49er D is a sieve on the road, and the fact that I don’t trust Blaine Gabbert on the road against a defense that’s playing well, I’ll take Chicago.

Will: You’ve sold me. Chicago’s 28th ranked run defense is a bit of a concern, but San Francisco’s rushing offense is ranked No. 20, so nevermind. The spread is a little higher than I’d like, but the Niners also have the lowest-scoring offense in football. I don’t know why I’m wasting words on this. Conciseness is a virtue. Bears.

TENNESSEE (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville

Derek: Ugh. These two are playing again? At least there aren’t playoff implications anymore. I’ll take the points.

Will: Same. Let’s move on.

BUFFALO (-3) vs. Houston

Derek: The Texans might be overachieving, but they’re red hot. I’ll ride their hot streak and underdog status and take the points.

Will: Also same.

MIAMI (-3.5) vs. Baltimore

Derek: The Dolphins just changed offensive coordinators and they’re playing a bad team! This is pretty much Miami’s wheel house. I’m all over the Dolphins here.

Will: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold the pho–no just kidding, the Ravens totally suck and I would take no pleasure in picking them, especially after last week. Dolphins.

Carolina (-7) vs. NEW ORLEANS

Derek: I’ll make this a narrative pick and say that this is the Saints’ Super Bowl and they’ll want to make up for not scoring a touchdown for the first time in the Payton/Brees era last week. I don’t have the guts to take Carolina straight-up, but I like the Saints to cover as home underdogs.

Will: I’ll make a different narrative pick and say that this is the week where the Panthers get their fourth straight blowout win and everyone really starts to talk about them as a Super Bowl favorite. They’ve gotten plenty of pub lately, what with Cam Newton on the Sports Illustrated cover and all, but I haven’t gotten the (totally arbitrary) sense that people would really favor them over the likes of the Cardinals and Patriots. Yes sir, I smell another Panthers beatdown. 

Seattle (-1) vs. MINNESOTA

Derek: The Seahawks have covered two weeks in a row! The offense is catching fire! Here we come, NFC! SEAHAWKS!

Or at least I hope so. The Vikings are the Seahawks’ secret rivals. They stole Steve Hutchinson from in that shady poison pill debacle. They conned us into taking Percy Harvin. They conned us into taking Darell Bevell. They might be sore about that time Shaun Alexander scored five touchdowns against them in the first half. Screw you, Vikings. I hope Thomas Rawls scores 10 touchdowns in the first quarter.

Will: I reckon this is the best game of the week, and I reckon it’ll come down to whether or not the Seahawks can slow down Adrian Peterson and force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them. They’ve allowed the fifth fewest rushing yards of any team in the league, so I like their chances. The Vikings have only scored eight touchdowns through the air this season; this could be a good week for the embattled Seattle secondary. Seahawks it is.

Arizona (-6) vs. ST. LOUIS

Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Derek: The Rams are 4-7, meaning they need to win four games to reach their 8-8 standard that makes them a popular sleeper pick next season. It’s like death and taxes. Rams.

Will: As much as I enjoy that logic, St. Louis has been hot garbage over the past month. They beat the Cardinals when they met in Week 4, and Arizona had some trouble with San Francisco last week, but I’m going to conveniently overlook that. Cardinals keep rolling.

TAMPA BAY (-1) vs. Atlanta

Derek: Remember when we were talking about the Falcons going undefeated because they had such an easy schedule? Well, they’ve kind of gotten destroyed in those easy games. I can no longer back them in good conscience. I’ll take Tampa.

Will: Uh, yeah. Considering that the Falcons lost to the Bucs at home a month ago, I see little reason to pick them this time around. Crab legs.

New York Jets (-2) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS

Derek: This is a “home” game for the Giants, but that’s more of a technicality. I’m sure the Jets are psyched about calling the coin toss in their own building. I bet they’re even more psyched about facing the Giants’ secondary. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have been matchup problems for many teams this year, and I think this will be one of them. Jets cover.

Will: I kind of like both of these teams, though both have struggled over the past couple weeks. The Jets haven’t held anyone under 20 points since the Dolphins in Week 5, but that may be misleading; they’re still a top-five defense by DVOA. The Giants, meanwhile, are below average by DVOA on both sides of the ball. I would stay away from this one if I could, but gentlemen like ourselves can’t stay away from the hard choices. I will also take the Jets.

Denver (-4) vs. SAN DIEGO

Derek: Here’s another game with a “home” team. I’m sure there will be 70% Broncos fans here. Mike McCoy might actually go to the wrong sideline. The Chargers haven’t covered at home since Week 1. I’ll take Denver.

Will: Poor San Diego. The only thing worse than the team is how few native San Diegans come out to support them. Brock’s streak continues

Kansas City (-3) vs. OAKLAND

Derek: This was the toughest game of the week for me to pick. As such, I’m going with the points.

Will: Both of these teams are top-10 in offensive DVOA. Kansas City’s defense has been back to its quarterback-marauding ways, which makes me concerned for the well-being of Derek Carr. I think this will be a good game, but I like the Chiefs.

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) vs. Philadelphia

Derek: I would not want to be an Eagles fan this week. Part of me thinks this is one of those stretches where the Patriots look bad before picking it up in the playoffs. The other part thinks the Patriots are going to angrily blow out the reeling Eagles. I’ll err on the side of the Patriots.

Will: Maybe this is the week to take Philly as a contrarian play?

Never mind. Pats.

PITTSBURGH (-7) vs. Indianapolis

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I feel pretty good about the Steelers here. Their offense has been otherworldly at home when Roethlisberger plays, and it appears he’s good to go. Last year, Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns against Indy. The Hasselbeck-led Colts have been a good story, but I don’t think they have the horses (heh) to keep up with Pittsburgh. The Steelers cover in a high-scoring affair.

Will: I expect quite a few points in this one. Roethlisberger could probably go for 250 and a couple scores from a wheelchair, and the Colts defense ain’t nothin’ special. Pittsburgh’s defense also ain’t nothin’ special, and I like Old Man Hasselbeck to throw for about (his age + 200) yards on them, perhaps including a touchdown for the backdoor cover. I’ll ride the Colts.

WASHINGTON (-4) vs. Dallas

Derek: I’m picking the Cowboys solely because I’m rooting for it to happen. Divisional disarray is fun when your team isn’t involved. It’s possible (perhaps likely) that every NFC East team will lose this week except for the winner of this game. If that happens, the Cowboys and Eagles will be 4-8 and one game behind the Redskins and Giants for first place. Related: Tony Romo isn’t on injured reserve yet. You know, just in case. Let’s all root for the 6-10 Cowboys hosting a playoff game and actually being taken seriously as a contender because Romo will be back.

Will: Good luck living up to last week’s Monday nighter, fellas! Yikes, what a game, and what a division. I have the same hopes as you. I wish all of these teams could go 4-12. I expect this game to be a closely contested rock fight, so I will also pick Dallas. It’s about time Greg Hardy caught a break, no?

Last week

Derek: 7-9

Will: 7-9


Derek: 75-94-7

Will: 78-91-7

Packers vs. Lions: Week 13 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 13 Thursday night game. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday. Note: Sorry we didn’t get this up before the game took place. It was all because of [insert least favorite race/religion/nationality/gender/political party]. They should go back where they came from!

(Home team in caps. Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.)

Green Bay (-2.5) vs. DETROIT

Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: Okay, everyone. The joke’s over. You almost made us think the Lions are good and the Packers are bad. You had me going for a minute there. But now, this foolishness simply has to come to an end. That’s my hard-hitting analysis. Things have been weird and they will now stop being weird. This is why I make the big bucks. The Packers bring order to the universe.

Will: N/A

NFL Week 12 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

HOUSTON (-3) vs. New Orleans

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Derek: Last week, the coin and I used some twisted logic to pick the Saints on the road, and they naturally got blown out. Now I’ll just turn to regular logic. The Texans defense has been much improved, while the Saints defense looks like it couldn’t stop a decent high school team. Can you imagine what’s going to happen if DeAndre Hopkins gets a few one-on-one matchups with Brandon Browner? It’ll be pass interference or a touchdown every play. The Texans march on.

Will: This week’s picks come courtesy of an ongoing Thanksgiving-derived coma that may never end. Thursday’s feast was merely prelude to the inhalation of leftovers that continued deep into Saturday night. My eyes have a thick sheen of gravy haze over them as I try to make sense of these matchups. It may not go well.

The poor Saints have looked like cold feces since they beat the Falcons, Saints, and Giants successively. They lost to the putrid Titans and were blown out by Washington. The Texans, meanwhile, have won three straight on the back of a rejuvenated defense and the singular brilliance of Hopkins. I’m slightly hesitant to pick Houston, but there ain’t no way I’d pick the Saints. Texans it is.

ATLANTA (-1) vs. Minnesota

Derek: I’m tired of giving the Falcons the benefit of the doubt. Every week I pick them to bounce back and every week they disappoint me. I’m sure the week I finally turn on them will be the week they actually do bounce back, but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night by not backing this horrible team yet again. Vikings cover.

Will: I do believe more than a few of us have been duped by the Falcons. Did you realize that they won a total of 10 games the past two seasons? I sure didn’t. I’ve been operating under the assumption that they’ve been decent for quite a while. Looking at their past two years makes me feel like their losing four of the past five is more rule than exception. The Vikings look darn solid, thus I choose them.

CINCINNATI (-8.5) vs. St. Louis

Derek: Poor Todd Gurley. He has no quarterback, no offensive line, and no receivers. He’s in one of the worst running back situations in the league, which makes it all the more incredible that he’s been somewhat effective.

If Robert Quinn is back and St. Louis’ defense is somewhat healthy, I could see them covering or winning an ugly 12-10 kind of game. But the Bengals should be able to score enough points to cover at home.

Will: There’s really no good to pick the Rams except for all those points and the ongoing belief that the Bengals are booty. That’s good enough for me. Please don’t remind me of this pick when it’s 20-3 at halftime. Rams!

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. Tampa Bay

Derek: I’ve got nothing here. I’m not saying a compelling case could be made for both teams, but certainly a lukewarm case. Matt Hasselbeck surely can’t keep this up forever, and the Buccaneer offense is creeping toward being underrated. On the other hand, the Colts are at home and are indeed undefeated in games Hasselbeck starts. Since I have no idea, it’ll be the points for me.

Will: You, sir, said it better than I ever could. Bleh. Go Bucs.

New York Giants (-3) vs. WASHINGTON

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Derek: The Giants are coming off a bye and are a much better team. I never totally trust the Giants in games they should win, but I will do so here. The spread is pretty low and the Redskins have a recent habit of losing by double digits. The Giants have covered four weeks in a row.

Will: I like the Giants quite a bit this year, but this game gives me pause. Something about NFC East matchups makes me think this thing is going to be a derp-off. I’ma take Washington.

Oakland (-1.5) vs. TENNESSEE

Derek: I was really looking forward to picking against the Raiders out of spite, but unfortunately they play the Titans. While I’d prefer to pick against both of these teams, I’ll reluctantly back Oakland.

Will: Does the NFL just suck this year? At risk of insulting this week’s cracker of a Monday night matchup, why would anyone want to watch this game? I think Oakland is the better team, but screw it, I’ll take the points.

KANSAS CITY (-6) vs. Buffalo

Derek: Last week, I thought the Chargers had a shot against Kansas City because the Chiefs have struggled against teams that can pass. Obviously, I was mistaken when I labeled the Chargers as one of those teams. The Bills, however, are in no danger of torching teams through the air. The Bills are a good running team, but I don’t think this is a good matchup for them. The spread gives me pause, but the Chiefs are on a roll and typically kick it up a notch at Arrowhead. I’ll take Kansas City.

Will: Break up the Chiefs! They’ve won four in a row, and the closest of those games was a 10-point victory over the Steelers. The Bills have been mildly frisky this year, but it’s tough to see them keeping this close. Chiefs it is.

NEW YORK JETS (-3.5) vs. Miami

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Derek: The Jets embarrassed the Dolphins in London earlier this year, leading to the dismissal of Joe Philbin and the arrival of Dan “Joe Philbin” Campbell. The Jets are one of the coldest teams in the league, but the Dolphins aren’t so great either. Their only somewhat decent performance in the last month came against the suddenly horrendous Eagles. I say the Jets get back on track.

Will: REVENGE GAME! Joe Philbin will not have died in vain. The Dolphins avenge their fallen coach (even though they all hated him).

JACKSONVILLE (-4) vs. San Diego

Derek: It’s entirely possible the Chargers are just going to pack it in for the rest of the year. They have too many injuries and zero support from their city. I feel sick to my stomach trusting Jacksonville as a favorite, but the Chargers are a legitimate contender for the number one pick. The Jags cover at home.

Will: What. A. Terrible. Game. I’m starting to think that I just don’t like football anymore. I’ll gladly watch a shitty NBA game like Lakers-Kings, but this doesn’t even threaten to hold my attention. San Diego has been awful, but I’m gonna take the points.

Arizona (-10) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

Derek: I’m tempted to take the Niners, since they play better defense at home. But the Seahawks managed to cover in Santa Clara, and Arizona’s offense is much better. I’ll reluctantly pick Arizona.

Will: The Niners have lost by an average of just over 11 points per game this season. The Cardinals are an above average team. Thus, I pick the Cardinals. This logic is flawless.

SEATTLE (-3.5) vs. Pittsburgh

Derek: Allow me to put my reverse jinx hat on.

The Seahawks shouldn’t be favored in this game. They’ve given me no reason to believe in the mystique of their defense and home field advantage. Richard Sherman should have a decent amount of success, but the thought of Cary Williams covering Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant gives me nightmares.

There are only three things that make me feel good as a Seahawks fan. First, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett should have some success against Pittsburgh’s offensive line. Second, Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t very good. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a shootout. Third, this is the first time the Steelers have played in Seattle since Super Bowl XL. A stadium full of bitter Seahawks fans could take it to another level.

I think the Steelers will cover. And if they win, I hope they do it without cheating.

Will: The Seahawks are a stinky 3-6-1 against the spread this year, which feels exactly right. They’ve won three of their last five, but two of those were against San Crapcisco (the other win was a 13-12 thriller over Dallas). The Legion of Boom’s glory days look to be deep in the rearview mirror. Even with the homefield advantage, I’m afraid I can’t take them. I pick the Steelers, and now I shall throw up a bunch of stuffing.

New England (-3) vs. DENVER

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Derek: Long ago, I picked Tyrod Taylor in his second career start against New England because I thought he could do just enough to win behind Buffalo’s defense and home field advantage. Now, we have Brock Osweiler making his second career start, at home, with an awesome defense. I’m not making that mistake again. Patriots cover.

Will: Um, yeah. Denver ain’t coming close to winning this game. Pats all day. 

CLEVELAND (-3) vs. Baltimore

Derek: Wooo boy. Clear your schedules for this one, folks! Josh McCown is back under center, which should be better for Cleveland in the short term. The Ravens have been torched through the air this season. And I’m not backing Matt Schaub on the road, especially when I’m only getting three points. The Browns take care of business.

Will: Here’s a fun stat: these two teams are a combined 3-14-3 against the spread this year! That’s even worse than their 5-15 straight up record. Enjoy this one, national television audience! I’m going to this game, more to wield the ticket stub as a badge of honor than out of actual enjoyment of football. But by golly, I’ve gotta pick the Browns. If anyone out there ends up watching this thing, I encourage you to find help. It’s not too late.

Last week

Derek: 6-7-1

Will: 6-7-1


Derek: 68-85-7

Will: 71-82-7

Giving Thanks for Football: Week 12 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 12 Thursday games. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday.

(Home team in caps. Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.)

DETROIT (-2.5) vs. Philadelphia

USA Today

USA Today

Derek: As unfathomable as it seems, the Eagles have only won one more game than the Lions. The Lions have also looked surprisingly competent for two weeks while the Eagles have looked lost for quite some time now. I’m not completely on board with the resurgent Lions, so I’ll take the points.

Will: That seems unfathomable indeed. Basically what this pick comes down to in my eyes is which narrative is stronger: Chip Kelly is still a genius, or Chip Kelly is kind of an idiot. The Lions seem like the sort of team that turns an opposing fool into a genius, but they’ve also won their last two Thanksgiving Day games and lost the one prior in overtime. In the name of Tim “the Toolman” Taylor, I’m picking the Lions.

DALLAS (-1) vs. Carolina

Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America

Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America

Derek: Yes, the undefeated Panthers are underdogs against the 3-7 Cowboys. I would have been all over Dallas if I was getting four points or more, but this is just silly. I cannot in good conscience pick the Cowboys under these circumstances. I’ll take the Panthers.

Will: It seems silly that the Cowboys are favored. I feel even sillier wanting to pick them. Behold the power of Romo! Cowboys it is.

GREEN BAY (-8.5) vs. Chicago

Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Derek: Maybe the Packers are finally back. Or maybe not! No one knows. Matt Forte should be back for the Bears, but Alshon Jeffery may not play and Martellus Bennett is already ruled out. Jay Cutler and his supporting cast could have trouble keeping up if Green Bay’s offense is clicking again. I say the Packers take care of business at home.

Will: The Bears, not unlike the Lions, have been quietly semi-competent lately. They’ve won two of their last three games and have been within a field goal in each of their last three losses. I’ll take the points.

I encourage everyone to back the opposite of my choices. Let it be my Thanksgiving gift to you.

Let’s Just Flip a Coin: NFL Week 9 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus. Bye: Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Seattle]

PITTSBURGH (-4.5) vs. Oakland

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Derek: Man, we suck at picking games. Next time I should wait until after I finish my picks for this week to count up how I did last week. My confidence is lower than Blaine Gabbert’s QB rating. Everything is upside down. I can’t even joke about the 49ers in the correct section.

Something something west coast team in a 10 a.m. PT game something something Raiders second worst pass defense in the league something something Steelers cover.

Will: I’m on the road this week. As I write I’m en route to Columbus, Ohio to see the Buckeyes battle the Golden Gophers. That means I’m making these picks without any sort of research, which may not make a damn bit of difference. With that in mind, I’ll take the Raiders in Derek Carr’s official coronation game.

NEW YORK JETS (-7) vs. Jacksonville

Derek: The Jets have lost two in a row. Luckily, they’ll be getting the cure for what ails them: a visit from the Jaguars. Mercifully, it looks like Geno Smith will not be involved. Jets get back on track.

Will: This spread would have to be at least three points higher for me to consider the Jags. Jets all day.

MINNESOTA (-2) vs. St. Louis

Derek: God help me, I’m starting to wonder if the Rams might actually be good. They’re (mostly) winning games they should win and hanging with good teams. It’s an odd look for a team that used to only show up against good teams on its road to 8-8. Now they get the team I pegged for regression earlier this week. Rams win.

Will: I do believe the Rams are at least semi for real. Their defense oughta be stout enough to hold Adrian Peterson in check, and I have less than full confidence in Teddy Bridgewater to make up the difference. St. Louis takes it on the road.

BUFFALO (-3) vs. Miami

Charles Trainor Jr/Miami Herald

Charles Trainor Jr/Miami Herald

Derek: Perhaps we overrated Dan “Vince Lombardi Tom Landry Bill Walsh” Campbell after the Dolphins beat two of the worst teams in the league. Pending the outcome of Sunday’s game, I’m demoting him to Dan “Marv Levy Marty Schottenheimer Bud Grant” Campbell. I say he leads the Fins to victory. The Bills have been favored three times this year (twice at home) and in those games they either got smacked around or lost to the Jaguars. Unable to relish the underdog role, the Bills fall again.

Will: I BELIEVE IN DAN CAMPBELL. Dolphins cover in Buffalo.

NEW ORLEANS (-8) vs. Tennessee

Derek: The Titans aren’t good, but they’re now subject to the interim coach boost. The problem is they don’t have the benefit of a bye week and now they have to travel to New Orleans, where the Saints are suddenly good at home again. In my time on this site, I’ve come to find that the Saints like to wait until you think you have them figured out and then pull the rug out from under you. This has the signs of a Saints blowout, so I will stupidly pick the Saints to cover. Now to sit back and watch them play as badly as they did against Tampa in Week 2.

Will: I like the Saints. I like New Orleans. I’m glad they’ve gotten it together. I don’t trust em with an eight-point spread. I’ll stupidly take the Titans.

NEW ENGLAND (-14) vs. Washington

Derek: DeSean Jackson should be back for Washington. That’s nice. He’s probably the kind of player you want on your team if you want to beat New England. Other than that, I don’t see where the Redskins have an advantage. Admittedly, I am scared of a Kirk Cousins explosion in garbage time like the one Tyrod Taylor had against New England in Week 2. That’s obviously the sort of nonsense that could lead to a backdoor cover. But the Patriots had extra time to prepare, so they’ll probably score 80 in the first half. I’ll take New England.

Will: I’ve been rolling with the Pats all year. My picks have sucked lately, so I’ll change it up. Go Washington!

Green Bay (-2.5) vs. CAROLINA

Derek: Andrew Luck did everything he could to give Carolina the game on Monday night, but the Panthers needed overtime to put down the imploding Colts. Aaron Rodgers didn’t exactly inspire confidence against Denver, but I’m going to call that a fluke. Do you think we’ll ever see Rodgers finish a game with 50 net yards again? I sure don’t. And I think Rodgers will take out his frustration on the Panthers, who are playing on a short week. Rodgers is 18-5 against the spread after a loss. Packers cover.

Will: Such disrespect for the Panthers! I think it’s justified. The Pack gets back on track.

Atlanta (-7) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America

Derek: I’m trying not to overthink this one. The 49ers defense is decent at home and the Falcons haven’t looked good in a long time. But do they really need to against Blaine Gabbert? The Falcons haven’t covered since October 4, but the 49ers only score 13.6 points per game. That’s the worst in the league by far, as the next worst team (Tennessee) scores 17.9 points per game. I’ll say the Falcons hold The Mighty Gabbert in check and get enough out of Julio and Devonta Freeman to cover on the road.

Will: I want so badly to pick against Atlanta, but I want more strongly to not pick Blaine Gabbert. If the Falcons don’t cover this, they are bullshit. I’ll pick them to be not bullshit.

New York Giants (-2.5) VS. TAMPA BAY

Derek: First of all, I just want to say that if you place a wager on this game, you may have a problem. Many people need to hit rock bottom before they seek help, and betting on this game just might be the sign you need. These teams are schizophrenic, and the only reason I’m picking it is because I have to. Is this the Tampa team that gets blown out at home by the Titans, loses to the Texans and blows huge leads against the Redskins? Or the one that can beat the Saints and Falcons on the road? Will we see the Giants offense that scores 49 in New Orleans or the one that scores 7 in Philadelphia? Will we see the Giants defense that shut Dallas down or the one that made Colin Kaepernick look good? My favorite matchup is Eli and Beckham vs. the Tampa secondary, so I’ll take the Giants. I don’t feel good about it.

Will: I like knowing — or at least imagining — that there are people out there who got super psyched when they saw this line. The world needs degenerates. But yeah, I got nothing here. I generally kinda like the Giants, but I also like crab legs. I’m taking the Bucs!

Denver (-5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS

Derek: I’ve seen no evidence that the Colts will be able to move the ball against Denver. Plus, they decided to switch offensive coordinators even though it wasn’t a bye week. It worked out so well for Jim Bob Cooter and the Lions, didn’t it? Sure, the Colts could win, but they’ve shown me absolutely nothing to make me believe that they will. Denver remains unbeaten.

Will: Word is that Andrew Luck isn’t healthy, which bodes less than well for his matchup with the league’s best defense. I’m tempted to pick the Colts to cover, but I can’t pull that trigger. Peyton’s new team beats his old one.

Philadelphia (-2.5) vs. DALLAS

Derek: I can’t explain it other than a gut feeling, but I like Dallas here. They badly need this game to still be in the NFC East hunt when Tony Romo returns in two weeks. Remember how pitiful the Eagles looked trying to score the first time they played Dallas? That was before noted scumbag Greg Hardy joined the defense. I think the Cowboys will find a way to pull it out.

Will: No idea. I’ll take the points.

SAN DIEGO (-4) vs. Chicago

Derek: A tough game to pick, since most of what I’ve seen from these two teams has been unimpressive. Each will be without a star player, as Matt Forte isn’t expected to play and Keenan Allen is out for the year. I really don’t like either side, so I’m taking the points.

Will: I’m wary of agreeing with you too much — for the readers’ sake, but I will also take the points.

Last week

Derek: 4-8-2

Will: 3-9-2


Derek: 57-56-6

Will: 56-57-6

Bengals vs. Browns: Week 9 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 9 Thursday night game. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday.

(Home team in caps. Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.)

CINCINNATI (-11.5) vs. Cleveland

Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I spent the day knowing I was going to pick the Bengals. Then I saw the spread. Man alive, that’s a lot of points. The Browns have lost three in a row and JFF isn’t a great answer in the short term, but Cleveland has been competitive in most of their games this year. Only the Jets and Rams smacked them around. They were competitive or victorious in their other six games.

I got cute and picked the Dolphins to cover last week, and I have learned nothing. I’m picking Cleveland. The Bengals are undefeated against the spread this year, but they haven’t been favored by more than 3.5. Are they going to be able to handle a double-digit spread against a divisional rival? Will they take Cleveland lightly after a big win in Pittsburgh? There are too many red flags for me to lay that many points. I say the Bengals win by 10.

Will: I, on the other hand, spent all day knowing I was going to pick the Browns. Oh man, I feel so bad for Cincinnati. Those Bengals don’t know what’s coming. There’s nothing more dangerous than a man with his back against the wall. At this point, I think the Browns are actually inside the wall, which makes them all the more dangerous. They’re going to burst out that sumbitch like the Kool-Aid Man and give Andy Dalton’s boys a smackdown they’ll never forget. I’m just glad this is going to be nationally televised so everyone will get to see it. Browns by 35.

Week 8 HOT NFL PICKS (we tryna get on First Take)

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus. Bye: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Washington]

Kansas City (-4) vs. Detroit (in London)

Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

Derek: Another prime London matchup! I think it’s a little weird that the Lions hired a new offensive coordinator during a regular week, especially with their bye coming up after this game. Seems like it would hurt more than it would help, but I’m not going to question promoting a guy named Jim Bob Cooter. I’m just going to pick the Chiefs since they don’t seem quite as dysfunctional.

[Note: I had already finished my picks when I learned that ESPN is shutting Grantland down. First Take still lives. In light of this, Hot Take Derek will be making picks this week as well.]

Will: So the Lions are 1-6, and they’re also 1-6 against the spread, and they’ve given up at least 24 points in all but one game. The Chiefs are 2-5 straight up and against the spread. I see the London fans supporting lions more than native Americans, and I think that pseudo-homefield advantage will be the difference. Lions cover.

Hot Take Derek: I don’t know why we should allow the greatest sport in the world to be played in a country that we had to bail out of two world wars. Nazis win.

CHICAGO (-1) vs. Minnesota

Derek: The Bears have a few things going for them, such as a seven game home win streak against the Vikings. But the Vikings are the better team, so I’ll take them.

Will: So there was a little issue with Chicago defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff recently. Here’s a taste from the Chicago Tribune:

A redacted version of the police report indicated that during a prolonged argument with team officials, Ratliff indicated “he felt like killing everyone in the building.” At one point, he also reportedly said “I am the devil” while indicating he “wished staff members’ children would die.”

That’s the sort of thing your team can rally around. Bears at home.

Hot Take Derek: You’re all so quick to forgive. Adrian Peterson should be in the electric chair, and he’s only marginally better than Trent Richardson. And maybe you were content to cover your eyes and ears and block out Charles Comiskey’s actions during the 1919 World Series like a good little monkey, but I remember it clear as day. Boycott this game.

ATLANTA (-7) vs. Tampa Bay

Derek: It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Falcons play well. The Bucs have to be pretty demoralized after the way they lost last week, though. I like Atlanta.

Will: So the Bucs suck, and they are tied for 31st in points allowed per game. Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are healthy. Still, the Falcons have not impressed against Washington, New Orleans, and Tennessee the past three weeks, and Tampa has scored a respectable 23.3 points per game, 12th in the league. I’m tempted to take the underdog, but I can’t shake the feeling that I would feel very stupid when Jameis’ second pick is being taken to the house. Falcons at home.

Hot Take Derek: Everybody lay off Jameis Winston. What, you never made a mistake? Bucs prevail, along with justice.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) vs. New York Giants

Derek: The Saints have covered in their last two home games, but both of those were in primetime. One never knows what we’ll get with either of these teams, as they both have some big wins and some hideous losses. I’m just going to take the points.

Will: Yeah, I’d stay away from this one. I like the Giants this year, but I don’t particularly trust them. They’re like all of our aspiring presidential candidates in that way, except for the like part. I’ll join you in taking the points.

Hot Take Derek: Is Eli Manning secretly two chimpanzees in a trench coat? #wakeup #giants

ST. LOUIS (-8) vs. San Francisco

Derek: The 49ers only chance is if the Rams do that thing where they inexplicably lose to an inferior team for no reason. It’s not out of the question. But Kaepernick should struggle mightily against this defense, and Todd Gurley is good to the point of being unfair. Everything points to the Rams winning big.

Will: It’s hardly an original thought at this point, but I’m all the way in on this whole season being about Todd Gurley destroying the whole goddamn league. The line has moved to 9.5 in some places. Good enough for me. Rams ram it down their throats.

Hot Take Derek: Jim Tomsula and Vince Lombardi are both Italian. #justsaying #49ers

Arizona (-6) vs. CLEVELAND

Derek: As I’ve continuously mentioned, the Cardinals have only looked good against the NFL’s bottom-dwellers. Cleveland is an interesting case, because they’re right on the line between decent and bad. They sure looked awful last week, but they covered three straight before that. The Cardinals are also playing on a short week, and the “west coast team playing at 10 a.m. PT” thing is even worse this week due to Daylight Saving Time. I like the Browns to cover at home.

Will: Oh hell, you know I’m picking the Browns. I have no idea how they can keep it close, but I’ll naively believe yet again.

Hot Take Derek: I’m tired of hearing about Johnny Goofball. What’s Eric Crouch doing? He’s more proven than that habitual crystal meth user from College Station. Browns sign Crouch and take the league by storm.

PITTSBURGH (-1.5) vs. Cincinnati

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Derek: Ben Roethlisberger is coming back this week, meaning we may finally get to watch the best offense in football. Not once have Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Martavis Bryant been on the field at the same time this year. Roethlisberger’s injury is worrisome, but the Steelers are usually much better at home and they’ll want to make a statement against the undefeated Bengals. Steelers cover.

Will: Okay, THIS is the week where the Bengals finally shit the bed. Steelers.

Hot Take Derek: Are we sure the Steelers are better off with Big Ben? The Steelers won two games without him. Pittsburgh doesn’t need a convicted rapist. They need a true leader, like Mike Vick. Steelers cover, assuming Vick starts.

BALTIMORE (-3) vs. San Diego

Derek: I’m torn on this one. The Ravens are on a short week, but the Chargers have to deal with the same Daylight Saving Time problem as the Cardinals. I’m taking the points, since the Chargers can at least throw the ball well if they need to. I’m not sure the Ravens can do anything well outside of special teams.

Will: This is a sneaky-terrible game that could also be sneaky-exciting. These teams both suck and give up near 28 points a game and have professional quarterbacks. We could have a bottom dweller barnburner on our hands, folks. I’ll take the Chargers because Philip Rivers oughta be able to rack up the yardage with his 75 pass attempts.

Hot Take Derek: Johnny Unitas could still play today. You heard it here first. Chargers.

HOUSTON (-3.5) vs. Tennessee

Derek: The spread for this game is unclear at the moment since we’re not sure if Marcus Mariota is going to play. I’m tired and I have a headache, and I really don’t think researching this putrid game is going to make either of those things better. I’ll take the home team and hope I don’t accidentally end up watching any of this game.

Will: Oo this is a really bad game. I will not watch a moment of it. I’ll take the points

Hot Take Derek: The Titans and Texans have won a combined ZERO Super Bowls since Steve McNair’s death. Not a coincidence. Rams barely hold on.

New York Jets (-3) vs. OAKLAND

Derek: Tough call. The Jets are the better team, but who knows how they’ll respond to coming oh-so-close to beating the Patriots last week. Oakland smashed the Chargers coming out of their bye, but they’ve been very inconsistent this year. The Jets are 5-1 against the spread, so I feel better backing New York’s green team.

Will: This game looks miles better now than I would have guessed a couple months ago. The Jets are banged up while the Raiders are completely healthy. Amari Cooper looks to be the real deal and Derek Carr might be too. But we’ve seen Oakland struggle against the few competent defense its played against (13 points against Cincinnati, 10 against the Broncos). I expect that to continue. Jets take it on the road.

Hot Take Derek: Quite frankly, I can’t believe the constant harassment Mark Davis receives for his haircut. It’s despicable. You do you, Mark. Let the neckbeards in their mother’s basements say whatever they want. #lovemyhaters #raiders

Seattle (-6) vs. DALLAS

Derek: This game may not be played, as Adam Schefter is reporting Greg Hardy and Joseph Randle have obtained a nuclear weapon. Though if it is, I like this spot for Seattle. Matt Cassel looks to be getting worse every year. He has faced Seattle three times for three different teams. He played well in the first two and not so well in the third. He’s also been one of the worst starting quarterbacks of the last few seasons. I’m scared of Dez Bryant’s return and I’m scared that Greg Hardy could occupy the entire Seahawks offensive line by himself, but I’m counting on Marshawn Lynch against a poor run defense and Cassel making one or two crippling errors.

Will: Except for the part where they haven’t won in a month, I think the Cowboys are doing pretty well without Tony Romo. They’ve 1-5 against the spread on the season, and have yet to cover at home. I see no reason to support them. Seahawks win at JerryWorld.

Hot Take Derek: You may not WANT to hear this but you NEED to hear it: Marshawn Lynch’s refusal to talk to the media is unconstitutional. He’s a borderline Redcoat. Cheer for that if you want, but I’m on America’s side.

Green Bay (-2.5) vs. DENVER

Joe Amon/The Denver Post

Joe Amon/The Denver Post

Derek: This is the game of the week, and I’m leaning toward Green Bay. The Bronco defense has been great, but against some poor quarterbacks. While the Packer offense has looked a little off recently, Green Bay is a more balanced team overall. The offense is good enough to punish the Broncos for their turnovers. Unless Peyton Manning drastically picks up his game, this could be the beginning of a tough road for Denver.

Will: Fun game, and it’d be more fun if Peyton Manning were still alive. I agree with your reasoning; Denver’s defense is good, but I expect Rodgers to be better. I like the Pack to keep rolling and improve to 6-1 against the spread this year.

Hot Take Derek: Manning will be airing it out ALL DAY. Best in the biz, folks. Running away with the MVP. Only Tebow better. Broncos win big.

CAROLINA (-7) vs. Indianapolis

Derek: This is one of the toughest picks of the week for me. Like Denver, the Carolina defense hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row of quarterbacks. Russell Wilson is the best of the bunch, and he really hasn’t played well this year. Luck should be a class above the Luke McCowns of the world. I say “should” because Luck has uncharacteristically looked horrible this year. I keep expecting him to turn it around and he keeps looking like a below average quarterback. I feel like he’s either going to eviscerate the Panthers with a Kirk Cousins “YOU LIKE THAT?” or he’s going to play terribly until the game is out of hand in the fourth quarter and he throws for 200 meaningless yards and two meaningless touchdowns. I’ll reluctantly pick Carolina because they’re at home and they’ve only failed to cover once this year.

Will: This one is tricky. It comes to whether or not I believe 1) the Panthers are for real and/or 2) the Colts are for real shitty. I lean more toward No. 2, but it isn’t seven points’ worth of leaning. I’ll take the Colts. I’m excited for them to go 7-9, win the AFC South, and get destroyed by the Pats in the first round.

Hot Take Derek: North AND South Carolina were part of the Confederacy. Colts.

Last week

Derek: 8-6

Will: 5-9


Derek: 53-48-4

Will: 53-48-4

Patriots vs. Dolphins: Week 8 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 8 Thursday night game. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday.

(Home team in caps. Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.)

NEW ENGLAND (-8) vs. Miami

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Derek: Miami has gone from laughable to frightening in just two short weeks. Dan “Vince Lombardi Tom Landry Bill Walsh” Campbell has them back to running the ball and his players don’t seem to hate him.

The Dolphins do have a tremendous advantage, and that is their defensive line against the terribly banged up Patriots offensive line. These things always somehow matter less against Bill Belichick, but it’s tough to ignore Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake versus a bunch of backups. Constant pressure is the only way to stop Brady, and the Dolphins may succeed in that area. I wouldn’t pick them to win, but I like Miami to cover.

Will: If the Dolphins win this one, I’m giving Dan Campbell my MVP vote. I completely (and arbitrarily) wrote the Dolphins off after their crap-filled loss to the Jets in London, but here they are at 3-3, threatening to climb into the playoff picture. They’ve put up 82 points in their last two games (over the Texans and Titans, but still), and the Ryan Tannehill/Lamar Miller/Rishard Matthews trio is becoming dangerously competent.

Even with Miami’s pass rush working against a patchwork Pats line, I like the Pats. They’ve only failed to cover once (although there have been two pushes, so I suppose you could also say they’re 3-3), and that one “loss” only came because of a meaningless last-minute field goal by the Jets. Miami might put a scare into ’em, but not enough of one for me to pick them.