Last weekend felt a little like that god-awful childhood game, eyes closed neck deep in water, groping about aimlessly, silently praying that someone, anyone, would move predictably or just hold still, play some defense, stop a garbage time punt return for crying out loud, or at the very least crumble beneath the emotional weight of a devastating tragedy. Fish out of the water? Nope, even the water-dwelling Dolphins managed to avoid getting beached by the heavily favored Patriots. Honestly, who kicks the field goal first? Regis Philbin's brother, that's who. Here's where we stand after the ill-fated, unlucky Week 13.
LAST WEEK: 5-11 ATS
SEASON TO DATE: 103-90 ATS
THURSDAY THREE FAN PICKS: 1-2 ATS / 5-4 ATS on the season
FRIDAY FIVE CONFIDENCE PICKS:2-3 ATS last week, but still 23-12 ATS on the season.
Our Friday Five is now available, just read the link below and send us an e-mail:
As almost every GM, coach, athlete, or person diagnosed with a degenerative autoimmune disease likes to say, "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse." Marco and I have always embraced this philosophy, which is why - win or lose - we keep seeking out new strategies, new resources, new trends, and ultimately new beginnings. This hybrid of adventurous spirit and fierce determination was born out of necessity, nurtured by adversity, and now feels like a cozy, warm, 1980's, reversible, flannel/suede blazer.
Years ago, when Marco graduated from high school, unlike most of our clueless peers, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He planned to travel the world - Norway, Finland, Russia, or anywhere else that had disproportionately long winters. He packed up his clothes, CostCo Top Ramen, and 32 oz. bottle of hair gel (pre 9/11, pre-baldness, post 90210) and headed northeast. Similar to his fatigued, malnourished, immigrant ancestors who planned to settle westward but never made it out of Massachusetts, Marco dreamed of Scandanavia but woke up in Saskatchewan...Canada. Moose Jaw to be exact.
With approximately 30,000 Moose Javians, a fancy casino, a geothermal spa, and a large statue of Mac the Moose - it felt like home. It was there, while exploring Al Capone's underground hideout and hub for bootlegging, that Marco discovered many of the principles directly implemented in his extensive formula for successful sports gambling. Or should we say Sports Action, Oddset, Pro-Line, or my own personal favorite Pari Sportif.
Poorly disguised shout-out to our Canadian followers aside, this story exemplifies the differences between Marco and me, because while he was learning about Prohibition and Probability, I was learning the often less appreciated skills of writing and mathematics. When Marco eventually returned from Canada - five days later - the alchemy of the skills we had acquired during our time apart became an undeniable force.
Recently reflecting on the years gone by, I suddenly realized the error of our ways. Marco and I had forgotten our roots, our strengths, our wonder twin powers. When I think about it, with the exception of Nintendo 64 World Cup Soccer, Marco has always outdone me when it comes to the world of sports. From Wiffle Ball to Nerf Basketball, fantasy to reality, if Marco's asthmatic and underdeveloped premie lungs don't have him doubled over in pain, then he completely dominates me. When I made the mistake of beating him at tennis once, he promptly took lessons and earned himself a job coaching varsity at the local high school.
Fortunately for him, the job did not require writing or math. In fact, a solid lack of math knowledge makes it much easier to understand tennis. Long story still pretty long, Marco and I are disregarding the old Spread Zone adage that "Friends don't let friends gamble alone," and are seeking to right the ship by finding solace in our strengths. Therefore, it is with great pleasure and without hesitation (on my part), that we present to you our very first Marco Solo: Week 14 Picks Against the Spread. If you're nervous that uncovering our weaker link might bring an untimely end to TSZ as we know it, then you haven't seen Marco's spelling. If you had you'd understand why he invented Twitter.
Marco Solo: NFL Week 14 Picks ATS
OAKLAND RAIDERS (+10.5) over Denver Broncos: Uh oh. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I forgot about Marco's love of sea roving marauders. A closer look, however, reveals an eye-popping statistic that Denver is now a big 0-11 ATS in their last 11 when favored by 8+ points. We knew this two weeks ago when we took the Broncos in Kansas City anyway and paid the fiddler. Fool me once, shame on you, Broncos. On the flip side, the Raiders are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 as a dog of 8+. Apparently, those are the only games they ever get up for. Advantage: Sorry-assed Picaroons with a late, spread-covering safety.
Dallas Cowboys (+2.5) over CINCINNATI BENGALS: Sorry Bengals, the Week of the Cat is over, so you and all the other felines can suck it. Besides, your take down of the Chargers last week cost us a shot at the Canadian Football lottery. You will never be forgiven. Sure you look like a solid bet having covered your last four games while the Dallas Cowboys continue to flop around in relative ATS obscurity having only covered 6 games in their last 20, but a closer look at your pussy cat schedule reveals that the teams you have beaten have a combined record of 28-56. Besides, now that they're back in contention for the NFC East, do you really think the Dallas Cowboys are going to let down the largest fan base in the NFL? Don't answer that.
BUFFALO BILLS (-3.5) over Saint Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher's mustache is always worth a field goal, especially when they're being kicked by Legatron, but Marco feels as though this game is begging us to take the over-valued Rams who who are reaping the ATS rewards of a late turnover at home last week against the Forty Niners. I should have double-checked with my mother-in-law, but come on - a ram against a buffalo? Or are the Bills the guys who ride them? Either way, the Bills should manage to win by a touchdown at home.
Kansas City Chiefs (+5.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS: A good friend once told me, if you're worried about a joke being too harsh - test it out on Cleveland. That being said, is it too soon to call this The Suicide Bowl? Concussed football players I get, but grounds crew members? Well, it's definitely not too soon to call it the Thank God For Gambling Bowl. Neither the Browns nor the Chiefs have any business being favored by more than a field goal. Cleveland struggles to put up points, scoring less than three touchdowns in seven of their twelve games this year - and three of those were wins. The Browns are 5-1-1 ATS recently against AFC West teams, but I'm betting those were all in the role of the dog. Take the points.
Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: You know this pick is money, because Marco is going against both a privateer and his former number one blind spot. Are the Bucs undervalued after last week's blow out to the Denver Broncos? Maybe, but probably just valued because they are also a team that has struggled in December going 1-8 ATS over the past two years. The Eagles, on the other hand, although it hasn't happened often of late, play the 8+ point underdog well, going 10-2 ATS during Andy Reid's tenure. Nick Foles is getting better, and the Tampa Buccaneer's secondary is not. In a classic, Floridian shootout, we like the bird dogs.
Tennessee Titans (+5.5) over INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Five of Indy's eight wins have been by a field goal or less, one was an OT touchdown, and another was a seven point victory against the Buffalo Bills. AL1 has been both lucky and good this year, so we don't see the Colts losing this game, but we do see them driving down the field late for a game-winning field goal or a go-ahead touchdown. If you want stats to support this pick, I'm sorry but we're fresh out. The Colts are actually 7-1 SU and ATS in their last 8 at home but again - I think they've usually been the ones getting the points the last two seasons. Playing a Colts defense a week after the Texans will feel like walking on the moon to Jake Locker, Kendall Wright and Co. One small step for the Titans, one giant leap towards the playoffs for the Colts as they pull out another fourth quarter comeback but fail to cover.
New York Jets (-2.5) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: The Jets suck. The Jags suck. The Jets suck even worse against the Jags (1-6 ATS in their last 7), and the Jags suck more at home than anywhere else. I think I need a Venn Diagram. If Tebow were auditioning for a job in Jacksonville, we might take the Jags, but whether it's McElroy or Sanchez both of the Jets QBs were better than Henne in college, which is where all three of them should have stayed. This game will come down to a Jets secondary which still ranks fourth in the big boy's league known as the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) over CAROLINA PANTHERS: Do we really need to explain this pick? Carolina plays the underdog like the Dallas Cowboys play the favorite. They are 3-17 ATS in their last 20 as a dog, while the Falcons have owned them with an 8-2 ATS record in their last 10 meetings. Also, Carolina hasn't won a single game at home since beating the Saints in week 2.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (-2.5) over Baltimore Ravens: Pick of the week! Double down, borrow money from friends, call your parents, sell some shit on Craigslist, and put it all on the Skins. RG3 is so freakin' amazing he is converting fans of every other team in the NFC East because they know it's better to join him than to face the upcoming decade of resentment that will splash off the wake of his absolute dominance in that division. Sure the Ravens have owned the NFC East of late, racking up a 9-2 ATS record since 2004 while Washington is 1-9 SU against the AFC North in that span, but can you say Rex Grossman, Jason Campbell, and Mark Brunell? We can. None of them had cool initials with numbers. Or talent.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-0.5) over San Diego Chargers: We would take Pittsburgh even if a 60 year old Terry Bradshaw were the QB. Plus, we will never pick San Diego to do anything but stay mediocre. They should replace the lightning bolt on their helmets and with a picture of an outlet getting plugged by whoever they play that week. They've only won once in Pittsburgh - EVER - and are 2-7 ATS since 1982. No way, no chance. Whether its Big Ben, Little Richard, Charlie Batch, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Chargers lose.
Chicago Bears (-3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Brian Urlacher is reportedly out for the rest of the regular season and the Bears have struggled the past two seasons in December losing five straight and covering only once. That being said, however, with the exception of Adrian Peterson, nobody on the Vikings has played very well during any month of any recent year. Minnesota has only won 2 division games over the past three seasons, and although they were probably at home, we see Cutler staying out of the way as the Bears defense does just enough to earn them the 4-0 victory.
Miami Dolphins (+10.5) over SAN FRANCISCO FORTY NINERS: The Dolphins are the Fisher Kings of the Underdogs, going 13-4 ATS in their last 17 in that role. The Forty Niners players are probably even more divided between their quarterback camps after the delicious Kaepernickel Turnover Colin baked up for the St. Louis late in the loss to the Rams last week. The Niners still haven't demonstrated a consistent identity - certainly not enough to give up double digit points against a Philbin coached team. He'll go for two before the touchdown if he has to.
New Orleans Saints (+6.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS: Watch out NFC playoff contenders, Coughlin just pushed the “can't lose for the rest of the season” button. Unfortunately, he did not push it hard enough to cover the spread this Sunday against an embarrassed Drew Brees and a desperate New Orleans team. Sure Eli's fatigued arm will be plenty to score big against a still suspect Saints defense, but Brees will also be reliving his cheese days in Switzerland as he finds the holes in the Giants secondary. There's very little head-to-head info out there, but the Saints have won and covered five consecutive December games. This is just too many points.
Arizona Cardinals (+10.5) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: In division games with lines of 10+ points, the favorite has gone 2-23 ATS over the last 25. No matter where teams are in the standings, they get up for games like this - especially when they're not expected to. The Cards are terrible on the road (3-17 SU in 20) and Seattle has been pretty good at covering lines of 8+ (7-1-1 in their last 9). Arizona's pass defense is stellar but their run defense not so much. So will the Seahawks keep it on the ground and win? Absolutely. Just not by eleven points. Keep in mind they've only scored 30 once all year. They're offensively challenged, too.
Detroit Lions (+7.5) over GREEN BAY PACKERS: The Detroit Lions have lost 21 straight at Lambeau Field, are 1-13 SU and 3-11 ATS in their last 14 against the Packers, and are 1-8 SU and 0-8-1 ATS in their division. The Packers, meanwhile, are 10-0 SU and 9-1 ATS within their division. So why are we taking the Lions? I don't know, dude. Ask Marco. "Garbage time, back door cover," he says.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-4.5) over Houston Texans: Houston, we have a problem. And his name is Bill Billichick. No matter how many weapons you take away from him - Gronk down, Edelman out - he just says, "Next man up," or signs a free agent who happens to be waiting around the Pats practice field, hoping for an injury. We're pretty sure Drew Bledsoe has been living in a tent outside Foxborough for 13 years now. New England is an astonishing 19-1 in their last 20 December games. I think that's about as close to a lock as you get. Texans - you're lucky you have that two game lead for home field advantage, because you're about to use up one of them.
So there you have it TSZ readers. Can't wait to hear who your locks of the week are. If you need the outline to participate in our Thursday Three, please click on the link below. Please get those picks in by tonight.
Fill up the comments section with your thoughts on our picks or your own. We love hearing from you and I'm sure the rest of our readers need all the crazy-making info they can get as we ascend towards the insanity that is Sacred Sunday.
In the aftermath of our worst week of the season, we were amazed and appreciative of the supportive and encouraging e-mails we received from TSZ's community. Thank you all and good luck this week.
Vinny and Marco
#1. Coffee Donations: If you appreciate what we're doing here, feel free to buy us a cup of coffee anytime - top right of the page. It takes a lot of caffeine to keep this thing going. Many thanks to those who have donated. It has felt like a warm, delicious compliment every time. Please send us a note, too, so we can make sure to thank you in the next post.
#2. Follow us on Twitter @vinnyandmarco. Spend weekends with Marco in the Twittersphere or feel free to just e-mail us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#3. Now that we have the support and appreciation of fellow handicappers, we feel like The Spread Zone has as much potential as any free gambling website out there. We always appreciate feedback and suggestions. Like my favorite baseball team likes to say, "Together We're Giant." Look what it did for them.