Welcome to the Addison Recorder‘s football Pick ‘Em column. Each week Alex and a guest writer will predict the outcome of the most intriguing games on the slate. He will try to be as expert as possible, but we make no guarantees for his guests.
This week we are joined by Kevin Triskett, a new contributor to the Recorder whose passion is NCAA basketball. We’re running him through this ringer before he can go further, though.
#15 Arizona at #17 Utah
Bean: Apparently I am really into the race for the Pac-12 South this week. So we start in Salt Lake City! The Wildcats have been the more consistent team this year, but they’re also pretty lucky to be 8-2. Winning via hail marys and last-second field goals will do that. On the other side the Utes have played close games against every conference opponent except Oregon, who waxed them. So this one will be close. My goodwill towards RichRod makes me give the nod to Zona. Wildcats by 1.
Kevin: The Pac-12 South caught my eye this week as well. Aside from the two games with top-25 teams, Oregon needs a strong Championship Game opponent for any hopes of entering the playoffs as the #1 seed. Arizona, to me, has been more lucky than good this season. After watching them struggle past a not-very-good Washington Huskies team last week, I can’t trust the Wildcats on the road against the Utes. Arizona ranks 119th nationally in passing yards allowed per game, and junior quarterback Travis Wilson is good enough to exploit that. (Ed. Note – A RichRod team ranking 119th in a defensive category? I remember that. – Bean) Utes by 7
#19 USC at #9 UCLA
Bean: Why isn’t this game on the last weekend of the season? I call shenanigans. Regardless, this is the other game that holds the key to the Pac-12 South. I have little idea what to make of these teams. Both are talented and well-coached, but with glaring flaws that have landed them outside the playoff picture. UCLA got the most impressive win when they dismantled Arizona State a month back. I have a hard time seeing USC doing something like that until next year, so the bragging rights stay in Westwood. Bruins by 8
Kevin: Shenanigans, indeed! Cross-town and heated rivals should always play the final week of the season. This week, USC reinstated senior cornerback Josh Shaw, easily the goofiest character of the college football season, and he could help fortify the Trojans defense against UCLA’s prolific passing game. While the Bruins’ QB Brett Hundley draws more attention nationally, USC’s Cody Kessler outranks him in ESPN’s Total QBR metric. The Trojans are stronger across the board, and I expect them to more or less control this primetime showdown. Trojans by 14
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Bean: Are the Seahawks’ chances of defending their Super Bowl title hanging on this game? Seems like it. A win should all but lock up the NFC West for Arizona, and the Wild Card slots will be a crapshoot at best. So the Fightin’ Carrolls better bring their A-game. I think they will. The Seattle defense will be looking to prove they are still fully fearsome at home, which is bad news for the team starting a backup QB. Seahawks by 5.
Kevin: Boy, am I glad we didn’t just shut down the season and award the Seahawks the Lombardi Trophy after their season-opening shellacking of the Packers. This team has as many problems off the field as they do on the field. They looked eminently beatable against Kansas City last weekend. Despite our expectation bias, the Cardinals show week after week that they really are a good football team. I expect a low scoring game here, and I expect the Cardinals to eek out a win. Cardinals by 2
Detroit Lions at New England Patriots
Bean: The NFL has played 3 months’ worth of games and the Lions have the best defense in the league and they lead their division. That is so unfathomable that I keep assigning Lions games to this column. The Patriots have run off weeks and weeks of wins in clobbering fashion behind Tom Brady, Gronk, and their usual array of productive anonymous dudes. So do we see a win from the hot new team or the one that does this every year? Gut says former, but I don’t trust it. Patriots by 9.
Kevin: Detroit, to me, is the NFL’s biggest enigma this season. I wouldn’t expect a team with losses to Carolina and Buffalo, along with one-point wins over NFC South stinkers Atlanta and New Orleans, to lead their division. The Lions D-Line is legit, but I don’t see anything slowing down this Patriots attack. This is an easy one for me. Patriots by 17.
Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos
Bean: Here’s another game with surprising playoff implications. The Broncos will get into the playoffs, no doubt, but they look more mortal than last year’s team did until it got run over in the Super Bowl. The Dolphins, on the other hand, looked ready to careen into their annual tailspin after a rocky September, but did just the opposite. Since the start of October they have gone 4-2 behind a solid defense. Since a solid defense is what just ripped the Broncos to pieces on Sunday, I am tempted to say it will happen again. But probably not. Broncos by 3.
Kevin: Ryan Tannehill responded better to his coach’s vote of no confidence than just about any athlete I can recall. He has 11 touchdowns to 4 interceptions over the streak Bean mentioned above. The Broncos laid an egg against the Rams last week, but they’ve been lights out at home this year. Payton has plenty of weapons notwithstanding Emmanuel Sanders’ concussion, and Denver should roll. Broncos by 7