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Weighing the evidence

October 13, 2011
The Mining Journal

Watching the tailend of some games a couple weeks ago made me realize what predicting winners compares to: the late-game decision by coaches about whether to go for a two-point conversion or just kick the extra point after a touchdown.

There's advantages and disadvantages either way in many situations; then after it's all over you want to say the ol' "I could've had a V-8" while hitting your palm on your forehead.

As far as two-pointers go, I was watching two games that had identical scenarios in the fourth quarter - a team scored a touchdown that put it ahead by four points. Both times the coach went for two points.

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I'm saying to myself, "Whaddya thinking? So what if you go up by six? It isn't going to matter, since extra-point kicks are made about 99 percent of the time."

As the games played out, I came up with about three good reasons to go for two and three more that said just take the sure point.

Now what does this have to do with predicting winners? Every week there's games where the more I look at various facts about the teams and try to pick them apart, the more I confuse myself.

For instance, with every reason I came up with to pick Tampa Bay over San Francisco last week, I found another fact that supported taking the 49ers. As I found three more reasons to take the Buccaneers, three more popped up to take San Fran.

And I've got 12 more games to pick!

Apparently, though, I didn't weigh the arguments very well, since I went with the team that lost by 45 points.

Oops, what was I thinking?

I'll try to do better this week:

Sunday, 1 p.m.

San Francisco at Detroit - Speaking of the 49ers, this game could be a classic.

Have the Lions hit the end of the line in their undefeated season? Or will the comeback kids take it to San Fran quarterback Alex Smith in the second half to move to 6-0? I don't see the win streak ending at home. Lions, 34-28.

St. Louis at Green Bay - For every reason to pick the Rams, there must be 100 to pick Green Bay. Packers, 41-17.

Carolina at Atlanta - Panthers' defense can't keep up with Matt Ryan when he's at home in his dome. Falcons, 37-23.

Indianapolis at Cincinnati - The Bengals defense will stifle whatever QB the Colts trot out. Bengals, 17-9.

Buffalo at N.Y. Giants - I heard a great analysis of the Bills this week: Buffalo makes opposing offenses uncomfortable while playing a steady, reliable offense themselves. The Giants don't need help being inconsistent. Bills, 27-17.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh - My "anti-momentum" philosophy dictates a Jags pick: teams play better because they're hungrier after a loss. But I can't bring myself to do that here. Steelers, 24-14.

Philadelphia at Washington - In the upside-down NFC East, pick the team that looked worse last year. Redskins, 30-20.

Sunday, 4 p.m.

Houston at Baltimore - The immovable object (Ravens' defense) vs. the irresistible force (Houston's offense). At best a standoff for the beaten-up Texans. So I turn to Baltimore's offense, and when QB Joe Flacco doesn't face a Grade A defense, he shines. Ravens, 26-16.

Cleveland at Oakland - The passing of Al Davis may have inspired Oakland last week, and should again in the team's first home game since its leader died. Raiders, 44-22.

Dallas at New England - Like the Giants, the Cowboys have a wobbly offense that doesn't need Bill Belichick throwing a monkey wrench into the works. But he will. Patriots, 33-24.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay - The anti-momentum factor could pop up again. But I'm not letting it, considering how the Lions scored a lot on the Bucs in Week 1, and the Saints are even more potent. Saints, 33-27.

Sunday, 8 p.m.

Minnesota at Chicago - Since Chicago QB Jay Cutler was able to wriggle free from Detroit's heavy rush, he should be able to find his receivers in this game. Bears, 23-17.

Monday night

Miami at N.Y. Jets - Unlike New York, the Dolphins have no dissension - the entire team knows they're bad. Jets, 20-7.

Record last week: 8-5 (62 percent); Record this season: 54-23 (70 percent).

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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