All-Purpose Playbook: Week 9 NFL underdog picks, fantasy football and more

J.J. Watt (right) and Jadaveon Clowney (left) may give Eagles QB Nick Foles some trouble getting to sleep Saturday night.

Kevin Jairaj/Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the All-Purpose Playbook, a Buzzer column that is (1) either a guide to many things NFL and wagering, such as survivor pools and teasers and fantasy football or (2) a road map to hell. Check back here on Thursdays for more football picks, a smattering of GIFs and occasional nonsense.

Follow me @brettsmiley on Twitter, and you can e-mail me with any questions or comments at basmiley [at] gmail [dot] com.


First, the good: Last week the Panthers covered the 5-point spread in a 13-9 late game home loss to the Seahawks. I think we read this game correctly. (Can I call us "we"? The Royal "we"?)

Second, the cataclysmic: Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Chicago Bears! As 6.5-point dogs at New England this past Sunday, this happened:

the soccer team that refunded its fans for pooping the bed? Yeah, do that, Chicago. Every team drops an egg here and there but last week the Bears did this:

Overall, we had a 1-1 week on the ‘dogs, bringing the season mark to 7-6. Let’s get back at it.

Houston Texans +2.5 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Look at the Texans’ (4-4) past four games (1-3 in that span): last week’s 30-16 win over Tennessee; the 30-23 Monday Night Football loss at the Steelers, a game they gift-wrapped for the gold and back with a short-lived meltdown; a narrow 33-28 home loss to the Colts (5-3) after falling behind 24-0 in an abysmal first quarter; and an overtime loss at Dallas (6-2).

If any of those three losses go the other way, this line is probably closer to a pick’em, right? I don’t like to back teams that can’t get out of their own way (the Texans), but the public is still enamored with Chip Kelly’s frenetic offense, as 73% of tickets are in favor of the visiting Eagles right now as 2.5-point favorites.

The Eagles’ offensive line can’t catch a break, as guard Todd Herremans may be down for some time after tearing a biceps muscle against the Cardinals last week. On the others side of the ball, the Eagles’ secondary got their pants pulled down twice at Arizona, allowing long touchdowns of 80 and 75 yards to wideouts Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. Point is — that secondary is a liability.

How did we get this far without mentioning J.J. Watt? Even my wife, who loves J.J. Watt (she’s blushing right now), is tired of hearing about him during broadcasts. But he’s so damn good — the Watt-fest is not even contrived! Offenses need to account for Dr. Disruption on every play. (Note: All women love J.J. Watt. Fact. I believe it has something do with his humble demeanor, and pheromones.)

slammed Titans rookie QB Zach Mettenberger for taking a pregame selfie, has become the Work Ethic and Office Attitude Policeman? That should be his Halloween costume, although Watt concededly doesn’t socialize, so it’s fair to assume he’s not celebrating Halloween.

Anyhow, did you watch the Eagles-Cardinals game last week? Think back: How many passes did Nick Foles attempt?

ProFootballFocus), though he’s not been very accurate under pressure, completing only 50.7 percent of such passes.

Remember when Nick Foles was allergic to interceptions last year? Yeah, those days are over. He’s got 9 this year against 12 touchdown passes.

(Seriously, are we still talking about this game?)

Anyhow, the Texans have Jadeveon Clowney back, and though he’s a bit sore, he’ll play, and the combination of him and Watt ought to be good for three blocked passes, a couple sacks and a strip-sack fumble, and some uncontrollable giddy laughter from Texans fans as they into the bye week.

P.S. Yes, I know Ryan Fitzpatrick is not very good, but Arian Foster will keep the offense moving.

New York Giants +3.5 vs. Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football)

Rule No. 1 of the Tom Coughlin-era Giants: Big Blue plays well when they’re down (or the public is down on them), and they let down when they’re supposed to play well.

This principle is best exemplified by their two epic Super Bowl runs as underdogs. They tend to defy expectations.

Last we saw the Giants, they got rolled by the Cowboys 31-21 in Dallas in Week 7. These Giants have issues at the linebacker position, running back (Rashad Jennings is not yet ready to return), and the offensive line — which remains an enigma. But the Colts, they have issues too — namely, the fact that they just allowed 7,312,921 passing yards to the Steelers . . . who added insult to grave injury because they were wearing those horrid bumblebee outfits.

Caesar’s Hilton and Stations have the Giant as 3.5-point dogs.


Baltimore Ravens -1 over Pittsburgh Steelers

As of Thursday afternoon, this game is either a pick ’em or the Ravens are a slight favorite, your mileage may vary.

The Ravens have been the better, more consistent team this year. They’re second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, with the 7th-ranked offense, 5th–ranked defense, and 6th-ranked special teams.

And while the Steelers lit up the Colts secondary like Rafi playing paintball, the Steelers defense got scorched, too, for 400 passing yards.

last week as I recommended starting Darren McFadden (59 yards rushing, 4 catches for 26 yards, fumble), Justin Hunter (4 catches for 31 yards and a touchdown), Charles Clay (ONE catch, ONE yard), and sitting Matt Ryan (228 yards, two TDs, interception) and Anthony Dixon (44 yards rushing on 22 carries). I’ll give myself a B- for that effort.

Six teams on bye this week so you may need to plug and play a bit.

Start: Jeremy Hill (RB, Bengals) — Teammate Gio Bernard is battlng a hip injury and may miss the game entirely. The Bengals are going to pound the ball against the Jaguars on Sunday, and Hill will be the man. GIDDY UP.

Follow me @brettsmiley on Twitter, and you can e-mail me with any questions or comments at basmiley [at] gmail [dot] com.