Jason’s record on his final weekly NFL picks for the complete 2012 regular season:
51-38-3 ATS (–1.96 units vig)
10-6 ML (+5.82 units)
18-17-1 Totals (–1.71 units vig)
Profit: 16.15 units
For a team that’s been to the Super Bowl twice, the Cincinnati Bengals (10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) sure don’t get a lot of respect. Yes, they’ve only been to the playoffs four times since 1990. And owner/president Mike Brown has been rated one of the worst owners in pro sports. And there’s the never-ending string of incarcerations. I could go on and on.
Meet the Bungles
This franchise has given me many a good laugh over the past 20 years. But what have you done for me lately, Bungles? Three playoff seasons in four years? A competent and developing young quarterback in Andy Dalton (87.4 passer rating)? A fearsome defensive line (51 sacks, one short of the league lead)? It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Texans (12-4 SU, 9-7 ATS) were in the doghouse themselves. Those first five years with David Carr at QB were nightmarish, but the arrival of Matt Schaub (90.7 passer rating) in 2007 got the offense turned around. Then the defense made a quantum leap in 2011 with the arrival of DE J.J. Watt and a monster season from LB Brian Cushing, the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year. There’s a franchise you can take home to meet your parents.
Torn on the Schaub
But what have you done for me lately, Texans? Cushing went on injured reserve in Week 5 after tearing his ACL against the New York Jets; Houston was 4-0 SU and ATS before the injury, 8-4 SU and 5-7 ATS after. Watt (20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended) has done some amazing things this year, and the Texans defense is still ranked No. 3 in overall efficiency, but once you get to the other side of their Rio Grande defensive line, you’re in the land of the free.
As for Schaub, you hardly hear about him these days – his numbers are down a bit from last year, but not enough to cause major concern. Passer rating isn’t the greatest stat in the world, anyway; casual bettors will be contented that Schaub passed for 4,008 yards and only threw 12 picks with his 22 TD passes. Sharper bettors will look at more reliable efficiency numbers, maybe even to ESPN’s occasionally maligned Total QBR, where Schaub has fallen from sixth overall last year (67.4 QBR) to No. 14 this year (62.6 QBR).
Foster the People?
Have they already been consigned to the dustbin of musical history? Anyway, casual bettors are also likely to focus on Houston RB Arian Foster’s 1,424 total yards rushing in 2012, up 200 yards from last year. And in doing so, they’ll miss the fact that Foster carried the ball a career-high 351 times this season for a career-low 4.1 yards per carry, down from 4.9 yards in his breakthrough 2009 campaign.
So what you’ve got left for Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC) are two teams with roughly equal performance numbers on the season: Houston finished the year No. 11 overall in efficiency, while Cincinnati was No. 12. But the Bengals are hotter, healthier, and undervalued on the NFL odds boards as 4.5-point road dogs. This is the only Wild Card game out of the four where one team really stands out as a value pick, and it’s the Bungles. Excuse me, the Bengals.
NFL Picks: Bengals +4.5 (–104) at Pinnacle