Last week was pretty easy, unless you had the Bengals (who I actually liked as my No. 4 pick), but otherwise no major favorite lost. (Well, maybe the Titans who were borderline). Let's look at the numbers this week:
|Team ||Opponent ||% Picked ||Vegas ML* ||Vegas Odds
|Browns ||Panthers ||49.8% ||450 ||81.8%
|Jets ||Bengals ||27.6% ||380 ||79.2%
|Patriots ||Lions ||7.2% ||265 ||72.6%
|Steelers ||Bills ||4.6% ||250 ||71.4%
|Giants ||Jaguars ||3.3% ||290 ||74.4%
|Texans ||Titans ||2.1% ||275 ||73.3%
|Broncos ||Rams ||1.2% ||190 ||65.5%
|Ravens ||Buccaneers ||1.0% ||310 ||75.6%
|Other ||N/A ||3.2%||N/A||N/A
*average of the two money lines
A couple things to keep in mind: (1) This late in the season the percentage of people taking a team is going to be highly dependent upon what teams people have used up in your pools. The above numbers account for that generally, but your pool might differ, and could differ greatly if you're down to the last few people (with a smaller sample, there's more variance). So you'll definitely want to look at your opponents' pick history to better estimate how many people are on each team; and (2) I'm ranking the Browns low assuming half your pool is on them. If you're a "win this week, and don't worry about the payout" player, then I'd rank them a lot higher - see their win percentage below.
1. New York Jets
With the Bengals' defense collapsing at home against Buffalo last week, it's hard not to see the Jets putting up a lot of points, and even harder to see Cincy keeping up. Twenty-eight percent of pools are on the Jets, but that's not a huge number, and they're the safest play on the board. I give the Jets an 82-percent chance to win this game.
2. Baltimore Ravens
The Bucs were doing it with smoke and mirrors early, but now they're growing into their 7-3 record with a 21-0 beatdown of the Niners in San Francisco. Still, they haven't fared well against good teams, and going into Baltimore is a tall order. I give the Ravens a 76 percent chance to win this game.
3. New York Giants
The Giants are depleted at the receiver position, but Jacksonville's secondary has been poor, and Eli Manning
should be able to move the ball against them regardless. The Giants defense played very well in the second half in Philly last week and is largely still healthy. I give the Giants a 76 percent chance to win this game.
4. New England Patriots
The Lions are 2-8, but they don't resemble the Detroit teams from years past. They can move the ball through the air, and their pass defense (7.3 YPA) isn't nearly the disaster it was last year. In fact, it's roughly the same as New England's (7.6). The Pats seem to be peaking right now, having adjusted to the post-Moss era by spreading the ball around unpredictably and playing a little better defensively. I give the Pats a 74 percent chance to win this game.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers regained their swagger against Oakland last week, but Buffalo's a dangerous team now, having blown out the Bengals in the second half and taken the Ravens and Chiefs to overtime on the road. I give the Steelers a 70 percent chance to win this game.
I give the Browns a 79 percent chance to win this game, but without Colt McCoy
, and given that half the pool is on them, I'm staying away. (Note, their percentage places them second behind the Jets in a one-week pool).
I don't care if Rusty Staub is playing QB for the Titans, I don't trust that pass defense.
The Broncos are not a very good team, and though they're better at home, I think they'd be dogs on a neutral field. Too risky.