NFL Week 4 Recap: You Can Thank the Patriots for This One

New England Patriots v Kanas City Chiefs

So much to talk about after week 4. There was something like nine teams who inserted backup quarterbacks at one point or another on Sunday. There were more amazing catches by wide receivers. I was ready to unleash rankings that would identify the most entertaining QB-to-WR combo right now (spoiler: It’s Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown). I had a “State of the Division” ready to go for each division after one quarter of the season. I was even going to brag a bit about how I’m crushing my confidence picks so far to start the season. Typically I can write a good 1,500 words on just the gambling aspect when I’m making money.

But here’s the dangerous thing about waiting to write a blog until after your team plays its Monday Night game. When that team gets flat-out demolished and embarrassed by an opponent that likely won’t win more than seven games, you lose the will to write about football.

So here’s what you all get for your week 4 recap:

Week 5 picks coming up on Thursday.

NFL Week 4 Picks: Factoring in Four New Starting Quarterbacks


And so begins the bye weeks.

Welcome to nine weeks of less than 16 games and harder-to-calculate records & standings.

Would you believe that the NFL seems to have no rhyme or reason for the number of teams that get a bye during week 4 of a given season? There have been years of two, four, six and even zero teams with a bye in week 4. OH MY GOD, THEY CAN’T GET ANY THING RIGHT. FIRE GOODELL!!!

This week we have six teams on byes.

We’ll catch up with each of them in a few minutes, but first let’s get through some housekeeping:

  • The Ryan Tannehill thing was pretty strange, right? The Dolphins don’t have a young franchise QB to insert. Tannehill showed pretty significant improvement between years one and two. New system and offensive coordinator (I predicted in August that Andy Dalton would take time to adjust to his new coordinator, but it looks like I misfired). Only three games into the season. Who in their right mind would ride out his last season as coach with Matt Moore at the helm? Joe Philbin, apparently, is the answer. Is there something more going on here?
  • Speaking of underwhelming quarterback play, it appears as though Chad Henne is officially our first QB benched for ineffectiveness. I’m not positive, but I think he might be the first three-time winner of this award! In our preseason picks, I went with EJ Manuel and guest blogger Neil went with Alex Smith. No points awarded.
  • And with that, we have four quarterbacks making their 2014 debuts as starters this week. Two of them—Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater—are rookies who have the hopes of some pretty downtrodden fan bases on their shoulders. The other two are also playing for franchises who fall into that depressing category, but these two men offer no hope. Mike Glennon hasn’t been around long enough to officially call him a dud, but he wasn’t able to stave off Josh McCown for a starting job this year. Charlie Whitehurst has been around long enough and we know he’s terrible. And yes, that’s who’s featured in the photo on this blog. Clipboard Jesus gets to throw some passes for the first time since 2011 (And the Colts’ incredible luck just keeps chugging right along as Whitehurst leads the Titans into Indianapolis this weekend).
  • Somebody talked me into signing up for FanDuel before the season started. I was extremely underwhelmed by it until I won $50 on a $5 buy-in this past week. So here’s my pitch. FanDuel is single-week fantasy football where you pick a team while making sure to stay under the salary cap (players are assigned dollar values on the site). You’re playing against possibly hundreds of others (all entrants can choose whatever players they want, meaning two people could be starting Aaron Rodgers) and you’re just trying to place “in the money.” Think of it like an online Poker layout, where you can buy into different leagues, each of which have different prize pools, buy-ins, etc. Anyway, I’m a fan now. If it turns out I didn’t just have beginner’s luck, I’ll start posting my roster before each week.

And now a word about the six bye teams:

  • Cincinnati: Dominant. On top of being the best-looking team in the AFC, the Bengals really only have four difficult games the rest of the year: @New England, @Indianapolis, @New Orleans, home vs Denver (I’m willing to include @Pittsburgh in week 17 as a tough game, but there’s a chance the Bengals are resting starters by then).
  • Cleveland: Two last-play field goals by their week 1 and week 3 opponents are the difference between 3-0 and 1-2. And the Browns could realistically win its next five games: @Tennessee, vs Pitt, @Jacksonville, vs Oakland, vs Tampa Bay.
  • Denver: They’re right on track with preseason expectations. They’ll want to win their next two (vs Arizona, @Jets) because then they play San Francisco, San Diego and New England (that Patriots game starts a six out of eight on the road stretch).
  • St. Louis: These guys are fucked. Week 5 starts eight in a row against 10-win teams from last year. They are FUCKED.
  • Arizona: This isn’t the same as the 2012 Cardinals that started 4-0 but anyone with half a brain knew they were total frauds. These guys aren’t going to suddenly lose nine in a row. But they probably still lose at least seven games.
  • Seattle: Ship shape so far. That was a very difficult opening trio of games. After the bye they’ll get to work on some of the NFC’s lesser teams before the late season sequence of @San Francisco, @Philadelphia, vs San Francisco, @Arizona.

I enter week 4 sporting a 22-24-2 record against the spread. I’m encouraged because I seem to be nailing my confidence picks and losing those 50/50 games. Those should even out. Let’s hope this is the week that the luck changes.

NY Giants @ Washington (-4)

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: Washington 30, NY Giants 27

Regardless of who’s playing quarterback for Washington, I feel like these teams are pretty closely matched. I don’t have enough faith in the Redskins to take them by more than a field goal. Interestingly enough in all three Thursday games so far this season, the home favorite has throttled the road underdog. So I guess if you’re into that sort of thing, the Redskins might be the way to go. Another item to make me nervous about my pick: What if Kirk Cousins is the type of guy who’s going to thrive in a big way now that he knows he’s the man in Washington for as long as he wants? What if he just plays out of his mind in his first home start where there’s finally no RG3/QB controversy stuff to talk about?

Green Bay (-1.5) @ Chicago

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 26, Chicago 20

OK, Aaron Rodgers, I’m willing to R-E-L-A-X for a little while longer, but what if you L-O-S-E at Chicago this week? And what if you beat Minnesota in two weeks but still can’t crack 17 points on offense? Then can we P-A-N-I-C?

An important part of football gambling is being able to pivot on your preseason picks as circumstances change. Two teams that I predicted for the playoffs currently sit at 2-1. They both host teams with losing records in week 4. But due to a demolition of their respective defenses from injury, it might be time to turn on them. Those teams are Chicago and Pittsburgh. Neither team is particularly deep nor have they looked great when at full strength, and now they’re severely short-handed. Keep this in mind as you pick them in the coming weeks.

Buffalo @ Houston (-3)

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Houston31, Buffalo 20

Wow. I want to say we could see a record number of interceptions in this game, but that’s giving the two quarterbacks a little too much credit. Instead my prediction is that this game sets the record for most passes called uncatchable in a single NFL game.

I don’t see this ending well for the Bills. It might be time to get those Kyle Orton whispers started again.

Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-7.5)

  • The Pick: Indianapolis
  • The Score: Indianapolis 34, Tennessee 21

Listen, this could easily be one of those picks I turn on as soon as I find out that 99% of the population is backing the Colts. But the Titans did just get throttled in Cincinnati and now they’re likely starting Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. If I was picking teams in a pickup football game and the player pool consisted of a bunch of my friends and Charlie Whitehurst, I almost definitely would not pick Whitehurst with one of my first three picks.

Carolina @ Baltimore (-3)

  • The Pick: Carolina
  • The Score: Carolina 23, Baltimore 15

If you’re picking the Ravens simply because Carolina’s supposed to regress, don’t do that. Even if they win this week, there’s a very good chance the Panthers are losing their next seven. It’s a gruesome schedule that includes five straight games against 2013 playoff teams.

Meanwhile, I wish there odds on the Ravens losing this game because of a Steve Smith Sr. unnecessary roughness/unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the 4th quarter. Because if anyone is going to sacrifice a win to show his former team that he’s still a badass, it’s Smith Sr.

Detroit (-2) @ NY Jets

  • The Pick: NY Jets
  • The Score: NY Jets 29, Detroit 23

This is purely a home underdog pick for me. I don’t feel strongly enough to do anything other than grab the points and assume the underdogs are going to continue covering at a good rate. Besides, the NFC North might be that division that sends a 9-7 team to the playoffs (which unbelievably would be a ½ game better than last year’s division winner).

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh (-9)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 24, Tampa Bay 17

The number of injuries that the Steelers are dealing with makes me think they’ll win, but not by enough. Either their starters won’t play well so Tampa keeps it close the whole game, or they’ll take starters out as soon as they can to preserve what little health they have left and the backups will give up some garbage time points. Either way this line is too high for an untrustworthy Pittsburgh team.

Miami (-4) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Miami 17, Oakland 15

If this game was in Oakland, I’d be jumping all over the Raiders moneyline. Enjoy that NFL game, London!

Miami might be bad. Oakland might put up a garbage touchdown to get the backdoor cover. Both things might be true. I don’t like Miami as a four-point favorite in just about any scenario.

Jacksonville @ San Diego (-14)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: San Diego 33, Jacksonville 20

The Chargers are legitimately the only team I feel safe backing this week in my Suicide Pool. The Colts would be next, but they’re still not completely reliable. I have trouble thinking about any scenario where all Suicide Pick entrants aren’t taking the Chargers for their team this week.

However, I’m not ready to start backing teams that are two-touchdown favorites. Blake Bortles might just make this Jaguars team good enough to only lose by 10-13 points each week. Progress!

Philadelphia @ San Francisco (-4.5)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 31, San Francisco 23

I was a little surprised by this line. I figured with the 49ers looking bad in Arizona last week and the Eagles now sporting a 3-0 record, people would be dying to jump on Philly. What am I missing about this game that it should be more than a field goal in favor of San Francisco? Oh, the Eagles might be playing with five backups on their offensive line? Does that trump the ugliness with which San Francisco is currently playing football? I don’t know. But I’m in on the Eagles.

Atlanta (-3) @ Minnesota

  • The Pick: Minnesota
  • The Score: Minnesota 33, Atlanta 30

I’m not convinced of two things regarding this Falcons team: 1) That they’re good on the road, and 2) That they’re good.

And it’s not stressful to pick a rookie quarterback in Bridgewater to do well in his first start because guys like Derek Anderson and Austin Davis are winning games with regularity these days.

New Orleans (-3) @ Dallas

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 34, Dallas 27

I had Dallas winning right up until I remembered this is the Sunday Night game that will be on national TV. Isn’t this where Tony Romo does his finest work? (Where finest means most disastrous of course.)

New England (-3.5) @ Kansas City

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 37, Kansas City 23

Bill Belichick kind of owns Andy Reid. This Patriots team definitely gets to start playing the disrespect card as it seems anyone with a microphone is willing to talk about how bad they’ve been. It seems like a nationally televised game is a good opportunity to unleash Gronk, intercept Alex Smith a few times and walk off with people taking them seriously once again.

Regardless of how my picks do this week, I’m just really happy that I was able to work Charlie Whitehurst so prominently into this blog. Enjoy week 4!

NFL Week 3 Recap: Entering A Golden Age of Wide Receivers

ATPOPIX Texans Giants Football

This question is exaggeration free: Are we currently experiencing the Golden Age of Wide Receivers?

Try to organize this list of pass catchers into rankings: Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin. Not only would the rankings change each week, but I’m guessing there are a couple guys I left out who could make the case for being included in the top 10.

Running backs and (to a lesser extent) quarterbacks have gotten a little boring for me. The runners are becoming extinct, and the passers are becoming a dime a dozen because of the rules favoring passing. It’s just not that fun anymore to argue Manning vs Brees vs Rodgers vs Wison vs Luck.

Not a week goes by where we don’t have at least a handful of jaw-dropping catches.

Until something changes, the guys catching the ball are the main attraction for me.

For the second straight week, let’s roll out a “Things I Loved” segment to make sure we’re reminding ourselves of the on-the-field reasons we love football:

  • The blatant disregard by certain teams for their quarterbacks’ health. Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel all went out wide and caught a pass, with varying degrees of success. For teams who are good via traditional means of playing football like Cincinnati and Seattle, they’re taking quite the unnecessary risk putting their QBs in those vulnerable positions. Exciting stuff for the rest of us though. Keep it going.
  • Nick Foles showing some gigantic balls by playing hurt after taking some awful hits from Washington.
  • The legitimate hatred between Washington and Philly and the closest thing we’ve had to a brawl in a long time after a Redskins defender hit Foles with a cheapshot. They’ll meet again on December 20th.
  • The official launch of Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles’ careers. Even if both are in hopeless situations for the time being, it makes for much more interesting football than guys like Chad Henne and Mass Cassel at the helm.
  • We were blessed with several worthy-of-our-attention undercards on Sunday: Dallas over St. Louis, Baltimore over Cleveland, Philadelphia over Washington.
  • And the main event lived up to even the loftiest expectations. Even if you usually hate Seattle or Denver or you had fantasy/gambling implications on a certain outcome, you had to enjoy that game between the two Super Bowl favorites from a pure football perspective.
  • Finding myself in 10th place out of 250 entries in a FanDuel league, guaranteeing myself no less of a profit than six times my buy-in (I was about ready to give up on FanDuel because it seemed to be a waste, but now I might be one of those people you hear on a commercial saying, “I won $500 in one day thanks to FanDuel. It’s the only way to play fantasy sports.”)
  • And for that matter, I loved how the games I felt great about went in my favor, and the games I was unsure of were the ones I lost. Even with a 6-8-1 record against the spread this week, it’s going to be a profitable week as my bets were on Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Diego and the Giants.
  • Another batch of incredible catches from guys like Demaryius Thomas (that HUGE two-point conversion at the end of regulation), Antonio Brown’s touchdown catch in the 3rd quarter of the night game, the DeAndre Hopkins catch that wasn’t actually a catch, and many more.

Emptying Out the Notebook

  • Here’s a sick thought I had on Thursday night: If you’re an NFL player’s wife and you’re scared shitless of concussions and your husband’s long term well-being, do you stage a domestic violence incident so that he’s suspended/kicked off his team?
  • Watching TV on Sunday morning, I saw a commercial for Xeljanz and thought “oh, cool, finally a cure for arthritis.” But then I heard the warnings: “Xeljanz can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. Serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers have happened in patients taking Xeljanz. Don’t start taking Xeljanz if you have any infections because it could cause tears in the stomach or intestines, low blood cells counts and higher risk of liver disease. Tell your doctor if you’ve been to a region where fungal infections are common, and if you’ve had TB, hepatitis B or C or are prone to infection.”
  • Oh.
  • Why did I so easily back a seemingly pathetic Giants team yesterday against Houston? Because I know Ryan Fitzpatrick. I know in 2011 his Bills started out 3-0, but went on to finish with a 6-10 record. I know that in 2012 the Bills started 2-1 on their way to another 6-10 season. “Fitzy Three Picks” is good for a couple two-game winning streaks during a season. But do not make the mistake of thinking he can make it to the playoffs. It will never happen.
  • Speaking of Fitzy, are Bills fans worried that EJ Manuel is Fitzy 2.0? They must be thinking that a little bit because Manuel is atrocious.
  • Is Seattle’s trip to the Super Bowl even more secure than we thought? Green Bay can’t score more than seven on the road against a questionable defense like the Lions. The Saints aren’t really firing on many cylinders considering they barely beat Minnesota in their own dome. And San Francisco has too many problems to list.
  • If I’m making NFC power rankings after week 3, here’s my list: 1. Seattle, [BIG GAP] 2. Atlanta 3. Philadelphia 4. Carolina 5. Detroit.
  • A 6-8-1 record certainly blows, but three of my non-wins were these: St. Louis not covering after being up 21-0 on Dallas, Cleveland losing by two on a last second Baltimore field goal for the push, and Denver making a furious comeback, sending their game to overtime only to still lose by more than five. Once again, with a little bit better execution by those teams, I’m 9-6 this week.
  • The over/under on which week Aaron Rodgers engineers Mike McCarthy’s firing is set at week 9. That happens to be their bye week, at which time the Packers will either be 3-5 or 4-4.
  • At the time it happened on the Red Zone Channel, my brother texted me joking “Did a Detroit defensive player just tear his ACL celebrating a sack?” Here’s the play: 
  • Turns out, yes, he did hurt his ACL and is out for the season.
  • With two blowouts in the Prime Time games so far this week, my fingers are crossed that tonight’s Chicago @ Jets game produces something that’s even semi-exciting.

Read on if you want my five quick hits on the Patriots. Stop reading if you don’t. Week 4 picks coming up on Thursday.

Five quick thoughts on New England

  1. It’s one thing for Patriots fans to talk themselves into a worse offense in exchange for winning games the Super Bowl way…defense and special teams. But it’s quite another thing when that offense takes 23 minutes of game time to enter their opponent’s territory for the first time.
  2. It’s early, but this could be the year where Tom Brady isn’t the most indispensable player on this team. Chandler Jones is this team’s MVP through three weeks by a long shot. He’s had more to do with their wins than Brady or anyone else.
  3. Brandon LaFell’s targets need to drop from eight to somewhere around negative three. Can we make that happen?
  4. Extremely nervous about a week 4 road game against a seemingly inferior opponent (Kansas City) when the best team in the conference looms in week 5 (Cincinnati). This may be a big time letdown/looking ahead game.
  5. Random stat: The Patriots haven’t lost at home to an AFC team in 31 games, which means 2008 was the last time it happened.

NFL Week 3 Picks: Does September Football Always Come with a Side of Insanity?


Here’s what’s going on as we enter week 3 of the 2014 season:

  • Obviously the league and its players have come under fire like we’ve never seen before due to what can most broadly be described as “criminal behavior and a lack of action in trying to clean it up.”
  • The following backup/washed up quarterbacks are a combined 4-0 as starters: Derek Anderson, Drew Stanton, Austin Davis and Kirk Cousins (Fine, Cousins didn’t start his week 2 game, but close enough).
  • As of Thursday morning, there are six of 16 games that still don’t have an available betting line on Bovada. The lack of a line in the Minnesota at New Orleans game is clearly due to the criminal activities mentioned above, but the others are all on account of significant injuries: DeSean Jackson in Washington, A.J. Green in Cincinnati, Carson Palmer in Arizona, Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffrey in Chicago, and Tony Romo in Dallas. (And, really, this is just scratching the surface on injuries that are already crushing teams.)

Craziness on top of craziness, right?

As I started thinking back to other NFL seasons, I thought I might be able to build a narrative around how lately there’s been early-season craziness every year. Remember that in 2012 we had the replacement referee debacle dominating the headlines, culminating in the infamous Green Bay Screw Job.

In 2011, we had the labor dispute over the summer that carried into training camps, causing many to believe teams were unprepared when the season finally began (this was the year that a handful of QBs cracked 5,000 yards and the tilt towards passing became almost too much even for fans).

Sadly, I couldn’t find anything last year that fits this tidy little narrative. (Unless we’re allowed to count the weekly dilemma last September where we had to choose which to watch live, Sunday Night Football or the final few episodes of Breaking Bad. We can’t count that as football craziness? You sure? Fine.)

But hey, three out of four years ain’t bad.

I guess my point is while it’s easy to blame bad bets and lost fantasy matchups on unprecedented unpredictability, it’s really not that unprecedented. It’s life as a football fan. My record against the spread so far is 15-16-1, but I’m not using everything that’s gone on as a crutch.

Actually, that record is an improvement over my 9-21-2 mark that I was sporting after week 2 of the 2013 season. I’ll take it.

But I can do better. Let’s do better starting now.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-7)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Atlanta 23, Tampa Bay 19

The only way you can pick the Bucs to cover is if you’re a crazy person like me and put more stock into abstract theories than the results we’ve seen over the past two weeks. I believe in things like “Only the best teams should be favored by as much as a touchdown,” and “If it seems like waaaaaay too obvious of a pick, it probably is.” The 2014 Falcons might mirror the Saints teams of recent years. Awesome at home, mediocre on the road, puts up a ton of points but has a shitty defense. We just watched Atlanta struggle on the road against arguably one of the best teams in the NFL while Tampa Bay struggled at HOME against arguably one of the WORST teams in football. They’ve now lost two home games to two backup QBs. Ouch. That’s why backing Atlanta is the obvious pick. Add the fact that plenty of people are going to be choosing the Falcons as their Suicide Pool pick for week 3. Oh and degenerates like me are definitely putting Atlanta in a two-team teaser. Red flags everywhere. In case you need more convincing to go with Tampa, remember how the quality of these Thursday night games has been atrocious the last few years? Why should we expect Matt Ryan and that offense to fire on all cylinders? I’m expecting a closer game than most of you are probably expecting.

San Diego @ Buffalo (-1)

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: San Diego 24, Buffalo 20

I would love for this line to be Buffalo -3 because then I’d know the worst case for picking San Diego would be a push. I’m not positive the Chargers are going to win, but I feel pretty decent about it. And if they win this game, they’re on their way to a 6-1 record to start the year because beginning next week they have Jacksonville, the Jets, at Oakland and Kansas City. I’m already stoked for the 6-1 Chargers at the 5-1 Broncos in week 8…Oh crap, it’s a Thursday night game. Well, maybe it’ll be the best ugly game we see all year.

Dallas (-1) @ St. Louis

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: St. Louis 21, Dallas 16

Originally I was going to pick Dallas with the following logic: The Cowboys won in week 2 by running the ball nonstop. Bobby Rainey just torched this St. Louis team on the ground. DeMarco Murray has had a couple career games against St. Louis, including 253 rushing yards against them in 2011 and 175 yards in a 2013 game. Jason Garrett will definitely get fired if he doesn’t give Murray the ball 45 times in this game.

But then I realized, wait, this is Jason Fucking Garrett we’re talking about. Tony Romo will absolutely be asked to drop back 40 times in this game against that awesome Rams pass rush, they will lose, and Garrett will somehow keep his job. It’s the Cowboys for Christsakes!

Washington @ Philadelphia (-6.5)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 34, Washington 20

This game is kind of impossible to read on account of the Redskins being a total wildcard. They lost a low-scoring game in Houston and then followed that with a thumping of the Jaguars at home last week. Cousins gets his first start of the year. DeSean Jackson probably isn’t healthy but is going to play anyway. I’ll explain why I’m picking the Eagles after these two emails I got earlier this week from friends of mine who are huge Washington fans.

Email #1

I still think about the moment RG3’s career ended. In a playoff game two years ago at home against the Seahawks, RG3 rolled right and threw a strike into the endzone to make it 14-0. But Robert didn’t get up right. Something seemed off from that point on. It was only fitting that later in the game, untouched, his knee would buckle and every ligament exploded into a million pieces. That was it. There were fleeting moments last year upon his miraculous return, but he wasn’t the same. He seemed unsure in the pocket and never comfortable. That straight-ahead speed was still there, but any elusiveness was gone. The injury this season was just the next injury every Skins fan was waiting for on every snap. The way he plays is not sustainable. You can’t try and take every hit when you are a slightly built 6’2 210 lb. quarterback. He doesn’t seem to have the 6th sense Russell Wilson does to duck and avoid contact. It was fun while it lasted, and I’ll never forget that magical run in 2012, when an electric RG3 gave Skins fans a brief, fleeting feeling that there might be light at the end of tunnel. Farewell, RG3.

Email #2

In hindsight, RG3’s incredible rookie year may not have been a good thing.  Expectations got crazy even though he clearly had flaws in his game, including his penchant for trying to run guys over who are literally twice his size in meaningless situations/circumstances.  As a Skins fan I love the guy and still think he can be great, but, man, those first round picks would have been nice, and not having to cringe every time he takes off running will add years to my life.  Secretly, a lot of us Skins fans are not too upset about giving Cousins a real shot even if it means a QB controversy and/or a real chance RG3 is never the full time starter again.  Hey maybe we end up with a Rivers/Brees situation!  More likely it will end along the lines of this, this, or this. Ugh.

I’m picking the Eagles to cover a large spread against what could be a tough divisional opponent because I’ve gotten a first hand view into the luck of Washington fans over the past 14 years. They have some hope that Cousins will be good, perhaps a better fit for this offense than RG3? That hope will likely be ripped from them by the end of this game.

Houston (-2) @ NY Giants

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: NY Giants 27, Houston 21

I’m all over this one. Of course everyone expects the Texans to win and continue on the path to an incredible bounce back season. Of course everyone thinks the Giants are garbage. People are definitely getting ready to run those annual “Tom Coughlin on the hot seat” articles. Houston is ABSOLUTELY losing this game. Sorry, it’s just the way of the NFL.

Minnesota @ New Orleans (-10.5)

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 41, Minnesota 20

On Monday I wasn’t really considering this game for my Suicide pick, nor was I thinking of laying the points because I was scared shitless that we were heading for the “Adrian Peterson still doesn’t think he did anything wrong and now he’s pissed that his reputation is ruined and he’s just gonna go off for 375 rushing yards against a pretty bad defense” game.

But since that possibility’s been eliminated…Yup, I’m loving the big win potential here. The only question for me is whether or not this is Matt Cassel’s last start of the season.

Tennessee @ Cincinnati (-7)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 35, Tennessee 17

Relevant fact: #1 The Bengals have outscored their last six opponents at home by an average of 22 points per game.

Relevant fact #2: The Titans just lost a home game to Dallas—a consensus terrible team—by 16 points.

A.J. Green or no A.J. Green, this has all the makings of a blowout. And this also happens to be the safest Suicide pick of the week.

Baltimore (-2) @ Cleveland

  • The Pick: Cleveland
  • The Score: Cleveland 20, Baltimore 17

This pick is brought to you by “when in doubt, pick the home dog.” I think Cleveland turns into a frisky team at home. They have an above average defense. They have a competent quarterback (don’t forget that Brian Hoyer was starting to look real good last year before the ACL injury). And just maybe they’re feeling a bit better about their chances this year with the news that Josh Gordon can return in week 11.

Green Bay @ Detroit (-1)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 26, Detroit 21

Tough pick because the Lions’ one home game was against the Giants, who may be terrible, and the Packers’ one road game was at Seattle, which we know is an impossible place to play. We have no idea if the Lions are one of those awesome at home/terrible on the road teams, and the same goes for Green Bay. Flip a coin on this one.

Indianapolis (-7) @ Jacksonville

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Indianapolis 24, Jacksonville 20

There’s a chance I overestimated the Colts going into the season while simultaneously underestimating Andrew Luck. Their roster just isn’t good. In one sense it’s great for Indy fans that Luck is so awesome because they might win 10 or 11 games a year regardless of their roster. In another sense this is a terrible blueprint because Colts management isn’t getting that kick in the ass to improve the roster since they’re repeatedly getting into the playoffs. Maybe an 8-8 season would give them the proper motivation. We may find out sooner than expected.

Oakland @ New England (-14.5)

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: New England 30, Oakland 20

How often does the game with the largest point spread of the week actually work out to where the favorite covers? I don’t have a number for you, but I’m guessing it’s not often. I said it last week and I’ll say it again. It’s hard to lay money on a team to win by three scores unless we’re talking about Seattle hosting Oakland, Jacksonville or Matt Cassel.

San Francisco (-3) @ Arizona

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: San Francisco 27, Arizona 23

After Sunday night’s meltdown at the hands of the Bears, I’m sure people are down on the 49ers a bit. Their defense got exposed in the second half, and Colin Kaepernick was downright terrible. Meanwhile, a lot of people probably don’t realize there was a fair amount of luck involved in Arizona’s win over the Giants that same day. I’m taking San Francisco mostly because I think it’s the opposite of what people are expecting in this game.

Denver @ Seattle (-5)

  • The Pick: Denver
  • The Score: Seattle 33, Denver 30

How dare the oddsmakers disrespect Denver with this line when there’s absolutely no track record of them struggling against this Seattle te-

Oh, wait, nevermind. Sure, sure, the Seahawks beat this same Broncos team by like 75 last February on neutral turf so they should be able to handle them at home. And they will, just not by more than a field goal. The king of hand motions and audibles should be able to avoid the usual plethora of false start & delay of game penalties that come with playing in Seattle. We will definitely be seeing the Manning Face and the violent chin strap tug at the end of this one as Denver’s offense comes up just short on a late drive.

By the way, one thing that hasn’t disappointed so far during this NFL season is the marquee matchups. In week 1 we had:

  • Atlanta 37, New Orleans 34 (OT)
  • Denver 31, Indianapolis 24

In week 2 we had:

  • San Diego 30, Seattle 21
  • Denver 24, Kansas City 17
  • Chicago 28, San Francisco 20
  • Philadelphia 30, Indianapolis 27

No reason to think this game won’t deliver as well.

Kansas City @ Miami (-4)

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 28, Kansas City 17

No Jamaal Charles + the Dolphins still might be good, just as long as they’re playing at home. This falls under that “if you’ve got gigantic balls and want to make a risky Suicide pick” category.

Pittsburgh @ Carolina (-3)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 24, Carolina 20

Football gamblers everywhere are zigging while I’m zagging. Translation: I still lik the Steelers this year even if I’m the only one. A great Pittsburgh run game might neutralize Carolina, and what better cure for a struggling defense like the Steelers than facing a weaponless offense.

Chicago @ NY Jets (-2.5)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Chicago 31, NY Jets 24

Do you want to bet against Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in a night game after what happened last weekend? I didn’t think so. I think the Jets will keep it just close enough so they can proudly say after the game, “We were one score away from beating both the Packers and the Bears.”

Once again I’m riding 11 underdogs this week. I see no reason we can’t knock out a 12-4 record against the spread this week. Football owes it to us after all the insanity we’ve endured over the first 14 days of the season.

NFL Week 2 Recap: To Watch, or Not To Watch, Is That Even a Question?


Here’s my ideal Sunday setup during football season: On my couch, by myself, at least two TVs going (one with the Red Zone Channel, the other with whatever game seems most interesting), my fiancee cooking me nonstop snacks, getting up only to use the bathroom, most importantly, no distractions. Complete, laser focus on football.

Sadly life doesn’t always hand me a wide open Sunday at my apartment. Sometimes I’m forced to be in San Diego for a friend’s birthday celebration, on the beach, drinking beer, setting the boogie boarding world on fire with some pretty sick moves. Of course that was also my exact schedule on Friday and Saturday, so I was pretty positive my Sunday would be devoted to finding a bar, setting up shop for seven hours and emerging around 5:00pm looking like Han Solo after he’s unfrozen from the carbonite in Return of the Jedi (trust me it’s a perfect description if only a decent video clip of it existed to prove it to you).

And then two things happened.

  1. The NFL morphed into one of the least appealing forms of entertainment faster than you can say “due process.”
  2. A buddy I was with made a very compelling case for skipping the first set of games: “We’re in San Diego. We should be on the beach, drinking beers and setting the boogie boarding world on fire.” He had a great point.

The only reason I even considered it is because for the first time in my life I thought maybe the NFL didn’t deserve my loyalty. Maybe a few million people like me all around the country would have the same thought and quietly, subtly boycott football even if just for a few hours.

Before I go feeling all honorable and shit, I should remind myself that had the choice been between watching football or going apple picking with my fiancee, I would never have considered missing the games. But a perfect beach day in San Diego?

After a while I started thinking about a book I haven’t yet written but I’ve been noodling on for years. It’s centered around doling out advice for my future kids, and one chapter was going to cover sports…Specifically my recommendations on rooting for sports in a world where every athlete’s dirty laundry is aired constantly. This thought started when all the steroid bullshit in baseball dominated the news. And my thoughts always came back to telling my kids that they should root with intense passion for whichever teams they choose to love (and it better be the Boston teams if they don’t want a good whupping…what? too soon?)…but not to get too attached to any individual players from a role model / good guy standpoint. Maybe always keep them a notch below true heroes in their minds. Root for the name on the front of the jersey (very cliche but it’s never been truer). Root for the competition, the beauty of the games, the privilege we have to watch the best athletes in the world compete at a level we can’t even comprehend.

(Side Note: It may seem weird that I’m collecting ideas for a future book, but that’s the writer’s mentality. We spend lots of time thinking of things like “advice for my yet-to-be-conceived son” and writing it down. It also means if you think I consider you a good friend, it’s very likely that I’ve already written a eulogy for you. You never can be too prepared.)

At 9:40 on Sunday morning, there I was in a bar on Mission Beach in San Diego, a tallboy in one hand and an iPad in the other (I always go full nerd during football).

I chose to keep loving the NFL for the reasons I’ve always loved the NFL. The game itself, the way it brings people together, the way it sparks endless debates among those same people, the beer and fried food.

And my decision paid off just like I expected. During those few hours of watching football and ignoring the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald noise, I met a fellow Patriots fan who commiserated with me over our fantasy teams (and our shared real team). I met a Bengals fan and we drooled together over the crazy talent of A.J. Green (though it wasn’t on display this past Sunday, sadly). I met a Dallas fan and the Patriots fan & Bengals fan joined me in laughing at him when the Titans started making a mini-comeback against his Cowboys in the 3rd quarter. I got to watch some of the Packers game with a friend who’s a huge Green Bay fan and he couldn’t have been more upset with the fact that the ultimate jinx (me) picked his team for the Suicide Pool and the single largest bet of the day (of course they missed covering by a single point). I got to laugh with some people over the upcoming quarterback controversy in Washington (though we didn’t realize it then that there might not be a controversy at all if RGIII really is done for multiple months). And I got to see some awesome outcomes in all these games. The Browns over the Saints. The perfect Geno Smith pass that was called back because the Jets’ offensive coordinator called a timeout, which he’s not allowed to do, and the ref granted it to him, which he shouldn’t have done.

There was A LOT to love about week 2 of the NFL. There’s always a lot to love about the NFL. And I’m not saying we should completely turn a blind eye towards the crimes that many of its players commit. I just happen to want football to be what it’s supposed to be…an amazing form of entertainment that helps me escape from reality, gives me a fun outlet for obsessing, and makes me feel sometimes brilliant and sometimes idiotic for how much or how little I know about the outcomes on any given Sunday.

That’s why I watch, and that’s why I’ll continue to watch.

Here’s a list in no particular order of the other things I loved about the actual football games this weekend:

  • One more time, let’s hear it for the sheer volume of exciting finishes in week 2 (Note: Exciting doesn’t necessarily mean “well-played” or that your team won). Chicago’s 17-point comeback on Sunday night. Then Philly’s 14-point comeback on Monday night! Sunday’s nail-biting wins by Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Green Bay and Denver.
  • Tuesday’s water cooler talk about how the refs handed the game to the Eagles on Monday (while conveniently forgetting to mention the ridiculous Darren Sproles performance or the awful Colts play calling).
  • San Diego, yesteryear’s “overly cocky team that’s never won anything,” taking Seattle, the current “overly cocky team that’s never won anything,” down a peg or two. (I’m joking, I’m joking. Seattle’s won something. They still talk too much.)
  • My Super Bowl pick from March, the Eagles, starting off 2-0 in a division that looks even worse than our lowest expectations from the preseason.
  • My Super Bowl pick from August, the Patriots, getting an absolutely necessary win in the same fashion as those early 2000s Super Bowl winning teams (great defense, big special teams plays, average offense that does just enough).
  • A ballsy Chicago performance spoiling the 49ers’ stadium opener.
  • A jaw-dropping Browns home win (their first win in a home opener in 10+ years) to put a Super Bowl favorite, New Orleans, in an 0-2 hole.
  • The Giants once again trying to fool us into pulling the plug on their playoff chances, only we’re smart enough to know they’ll only be two games back with three weeks to go later this year and come ever so close to sneaking into the postseason.
  • Amazing individual plays like C.J. Spiller’s 102-yard kickoff return, Ted Ginn Jr’s 71-yard punt return, one-handed circus catches from Brandon Marshall, Kelvin Benjamin and Rueben Randle…and many more awesome efforts from guys who don’t currently have pending criminal charges.

  • I eked out an 8-7-1 record against the spread.
  • I went 1-2 in my fantasy leagues.
  • Exactly two of my playoff picks have gotten off to a 2-0 start.
  • Injuries all over the place affected real teams and fantasy teams…Jamaal Charles, A.J. Green, Robert Griffin, DeSean Jackson, Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram and Carson Palmer.

OK, fine. Those last four bullet points sucked. But I only want football to suck because of something that happened on the field or because of some awful decision I made with my gambling.

There’s plenty of craziness to “ruin” a week of football in the funny, harmless way. We don’t need our favorite sport ruined by criminal acts, the people in charge who cover up those criminal acts, and those people who cover the sport who feel the need to exploit those criminal acts for ratings and clicks.

For those of us who can truly ignore all the negatives, we’ll be treated to another incredible set of games in week 3. I’m counting a minimum of seven intriguing games with Denver at Seattle being the main event by a long shot.

Week 3 picks coming on Thursday.

NFL Week 2 Picks: Maybe We Can Squeeze in a Game Between Controversies?


As far as last week goes, no need to get too down on myself. Sure, I posted a 6-10 record, but in five of those games that I lost, my pick was actually covering at halftime. So with a little better conditioning by the players, I could have gone 11-5. It’s always the players’ fault.

Speaking of 11-5, did you know that’s the record that Underdogs posted in week 1? Even more incredible is that nine of those Dogs were on the road. Home teams were only 6-10 against the spread. And a final number for you: Underdogs won seven games outright. Don’t ignore the moneyline bets early on in the season.

Interestingly enough, 11 is also the number of underdogs I’m picking to cover in week 2. Favorites covered at an incredible rate in 2013. It doesn’t feel like that’s going to be the same in 2014. Come join me on the Underdog Train.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 24

Ahh, the comedic timing of the football gods. The Ray Rice story goes from a barely lit match to a full-fledged forest fire on a short week where the Ravens are facing their biggest rival and trying to avoid an 0-2 start.

Is it truly bad luck that the video leaked this week, or was it the work of a man who will stop at nothing to get an edge in the AFC North?


Every person—football fan or not—has the right to be pissed about the way the NFL handled this ongoing story, but Ravens players & fans should be particularly livid. Baltimore’s season could be over because of this. Maybe they’ll rally, maybe they won’t. But I’d be furious knowing an inept Commissioner and team owner caused this to go from a story that goes away in March, to a story that’s permeated the locker room for all of preseason and has now reached an “Aaron Hernandez is a serial killer? What?!?!” level distraction. Not fair to them.

**Final comment about the fallout from this video: There is a 0.00% chance Roger Goodell shows up to hand this year’s Super Bowl Winner the Lombardi Trophy in Arizona, right? So how can you continue to be the commissioner of a league when you know virtually all the players and all the fans despise you to the point that you’re scared to show your face at the greatest event of your sport’s season? I’m giving it 10 more days before someone important takes the fall (Goodell, the Ravens’s owner, someone).

By the way, I double dog dare any NFL team to play “Love In An Elevator” over their stadium’s audio system when the Ravens are visiting this year.

Miami (-1) @ Buffalo

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 29, Buffalo 23

Miami gets a couple points of respect for beating New England but not enough. This is one of those games where I can’t let week 1 sway me too much. Buffalo over Chicago was a big win, but I still think the Bills are that five-win team that I predicted a few weeks ago.

Jacksonville @ Washington (-6)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Washington 24, Jacksonville 20

Can the Redskins lose their second straight game to a team that didn’t crack the five-win mark last season? I see six more losses on Washington’s schedule so this would be the right time to lock down a home win against the Jaguars. By the way, on account of RGIII playing decent enough in week 1 and the insane amount of Ray Rice coverage, we heard nothing this week of Kirk Cousins replacing Griffin. If this team somehow loses to the Jaguars at home? Move over, Commissioner Cover-Up stories.

Dallas @ Tennessee (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Dallas
  • The Score: Dallas 30, Tennessee 27

No thanks. It feels like a Tennessee three-point spread that got pushed up by how publicly awful Dallas was once again to open the season.

Arizona (-3) @ NY Giants

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: Arizona 27, NY Giants 26

This year I’m trying not to ditch all my preseason projections just because the first games didn’t go how I expected. Before the season started, the Cardinals wouldn’t have been a three-point favorite. Just like Tennessee wouldn’t have been favored as much in the game above.

New England (-3) @ Minnesota

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 28, Minnesota 21

Continuing with that theme, if no games had been played yet, the Patriots would be six-point favorites. It’s absolutely terrifying to know New England is 2-6 in its last eight road games, but I’m buying into this team slowly improving as everyone works their way back from injuries.

New Orleans (-7) @ Cleveland

  • The Pick: Cleveland
  • The Score: New Orleans 27, Cleveland 24

This game quickly moved from six points to seven points. I don’t get it. Is everyone dropping a year’s salary on the Saints or something? Even though they’ve gone 1-6 in their past seven road games? Even with the Browns possibly being downright decent? Until they prove capable of winning a road game, I’m betting against New Orleans whenever they’re away from the Superdome.

Atlanta @ Cincinnati (-5)

  • The Pick: Atlanta
  • The Score: Atlanta 33, Cincinnati 24

Road dogs, Road dogs, Road dogs! Especially when it’s the newly-annointed best offense in the league playing the road dog role.

Detroit @ Carolina (-3)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 28, Carolina 20

Remind me how this outrage over domestic violence thing goes again. If Carolina covers, I can call Bovada and demand my money back because Greg Hardy shouldn’t be allowed to play, right?

St. Louis @ Tampa Bay (-6)

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score:Tampa Bay 19, St. Louis 15

Here’s your “I’m going to get a little crazy and back a team that looked like shit just because their opponent in week 2 looks like an even bigger piece of shit” suicide pool pick. But let’s not go overboard and expect a Bucs team that could be missing Doug Martin and Logan Mankins to beat anyone by a touchdown. Any time I plan to back the Bucs this year, I’m just going to re-watch this:

Seattle (-6) @ San Diego

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: Seattle 24, San Diego 23

This line is a couple points too high on account of the public thinking Seattle might be on its way to a 16-0 season. I’m going to follow the formula of expecting easy Seattle wins in their home games, and difficult wins or close losses in their road games.

Side note on 16-0: I made a small bet each on “Will any team go 16-0” and “Will any team go 0-16.” Both bets were 33/1 odds for “Yes”. That might be low odds for how difficult either of those two feats actually are, but you can’t argue with the amount of fun it’s going to be to root for terrible teams to stay winless.

Houston (-3) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: 30, Oakland 24

Houston’s convincing win against Washington last week did nothing to change my initial prediction, which was that they’re an eight or nine win team with an average quarterback. With a less-than-average QB like ole’ Fitzy, they don’t win more than six. I just happen to think this is one of their six wins.

NY Jets @ Green Bay (-8)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 36, NY Jets 24

It appears as though Eddie Lacy is important enough to merit Bovada not setting a line on this game until his status is confirmed. Either way, here’s your safest Suicide Pool pick of the week. Green Bay may play the role of bumbling wannabe contender well, but they’re not dropping one at home to the Jets. Remember that Aaron Rodgers is great against bad teams.

Kansas City @ Denver (-13)

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: Denver 31, Kansas City 24

If Chicago & New Orleans were the obvious “too many people are backing these teams, better go the other way” picks in week 1, the Broncos are that team in week 2. People were already sour on the Chiefs before they lost at home to Tennessee. They also lost two defensive linemen in that game. It would be so like the NFL for the Chiefs to somehow play this game close and only lose by seven (or even worse, the Chiefs win outright, crushing even more Suicide Pools than Chicago did last week). Maybe this will be the start of a mini-panic within the media because the Broncos are “only” beating teams by a touchdown.

Chicago @ San Francisco (-7)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: San Francisco 29, Chicago 24

Last week Chicago was terrible at home and San Francisco was great on the road. So what? These two teams are not a touchdown apart in any situation. I honestly have no idea who wins this game, but if you take the 49ers at -7, you’re clearly just picking based on a single week’s results. Good luck with that.

Philadelphia @ Indianapolis (-3)

  • The Pick: Indianapolis
  • The Score: Indianapolis 35, Philadelphia 27

Impossible to feel good about this no matter which side you pick. On one side I believe that Philly is one of the eight best NFC teams, and that makes them better than the AFC’s third or fourth best team. But on the other side, Andrew Luck just seems to have that magic where he gets it done nearly every time but you have no idea how. I’ll tell you this much…If Luck tries a QB sneak on the goal line again, I’m done with this team. You don’t think everyone’s expecting that after the number of times you pulled that move last year?

Outside of delivering a winning week to you with my picks, I have another commitment I’m willing to make: Even if ESPN, the NFL Network, Twitter, Facebook and your Uncle’s random blog all continue to talk about Rice, Goodell and all the other things that are wrong with football, you can count on me to deliver picks & recap columns going forward that focus primarily on the actual games. I’m over this drama and would like to get around to watching some good football this season.

Enjoy week 2.

NFL Week 1 Recap: Yes, Football Was Played Before the Ray Rice ShitStorm Ensued

antonio brown

Let’s begin with two words about my bets & picks this week:


In week 1, you shouldn’t be too upset if you misfire on the majority of games. You should only feel upset if you put waaaaaaaaay too much money on the “feeling it out” week of the season, like me. I overextended myself as if the NFL season is only one week long, and all the money in my gambling account would vanish by Monday if I didn’t use every last cent. Whoops.

Two comments I actually made leading up to Sunday that would have changed my week 1 record from 6-10 to 9-7 if I had listened to my gut instincts

  • “When I play a little game each year called ‘How can I justify predicting a 16-0 New England record,’ this game gave me immediate pause for the 2014 Patriots. They typically lose a bad game early in the season these days. Miami might be solid. They also seem to have the Patriots’ number more than most teams. I’ve also convinced myself the offensive line might need a few weeks to really gel after the Logan Mankins trade (don’t forget they have a new O-line coach for the first time in 150 years).” I wrote that in my picks blog but couldn’t bring myself to go with Miami.
  • “The aggressive amount of $ that has come in on the Saints and Bears makes me want to go against both.” That was a text I wrote to someone exactly 30 minutes before the morning kickoffs on Sunday, but of course, I didn’t change my picks or bets and still backed those two losing favorites.

The 6-10 or 7-9 weeks on picks aren’t crippling unless you don’t get your confidence picks right. That’s what kills your Pick ‘Em leagues and obviously gets you in the most trouble with your bets. This week I had New Orleans, New England, Jacksonville, Houston and San Diego as my confidence picks. Two of five just won’t do. I’m especially hating the fact that all five teams were covering at halftime. That’s what made week 1 particularly crushing.

In the silver lining department

  • At least we got that week where 90% of my bets are winning for three quarters only the 4th quarter is disastrous and I lose everything out of the way early this year.

Early nomination for the team that’s most likely not to have any of its players starting in a single fantasy league on a week-to-week basis

  • The Oakland Raiders. At the Jets or not, 158 total yards including only 25 rushing yards…six of 11 drives that end in three and outs…the patheticism goes on and on.

Non-football note of the night

  • I spent way too much time on Monday night trying to finally figure out what a supermoon is. I had never heard that word until a few months ago so I figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But I feel like I might have missed something. Are we just calling all full moons super moons now? If I missed that, I’m sorry.

In-game Observations

  • [from Thursday] Umm…my friends & I once went to a park and practiced fair catching and downing punts. I believe that makes us more qualified to return punts at the NFL level than Earl Thomas. Listen, Seattle, you’re awesome, you’re clearly the Super Bowl favorite, you can probably go ultra conservative with every decision this year and still lock up the NFC’s #1 seed. I don’t think the potentially small advantage of Thomas over someone else returning punts is worth it. Smart people are so fucking stupid sometimes.
  • If you look back at the Packers’ last 33 games, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here: They almost never beat good football teams. Go look. It seems like they can always win those 10 or so games against the inferior opponents, but the other elite teams in the league always handle them. I don’t see that changing this year.
  • Possibly the most foreboding loss of Sunday? Not Chicago, New Orleans or New England. Tampa Bay. A Carolina team that may still turn out to be pretty bad with Derek Anderson visiting the Bucs and you still lose convincingly? That seems almost impossible to do.
  • Here’s another thing about Tampa that we can’t overlook even if it’s just one play in one game: Josh McCown pulled off a play so sloppy and reckless that even Brandon Weeden would be proud. It happened with 58 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, and it’s just something you really gotta see:  
  • We’ll get to the person-on-person assault story that’s dominating our lives in one second, but first, I trust everyone saw this piece of assault in the Cleveland/Pittsburgh game that will go down as the coolest penalty in NFL history:
  • Which has led to semi-decent parodies that are really just an excuse to watch clips of Karate Kid: 
  •  I love that Ryan Fitzpatrick did a perfectly fine job for Houston on Sunday. Efficient, didn’t turn the ball over, only took one sack. This is perfect because a terrible game that reminds everyone that the Texans can’t escape the season with a winning record as long as Fitzy is their QB is on the horizon. I’m calling week 3 at the Giants as that game.
  • Eli Manning is the only quarterback in the league who throws a 1lb football like it’s a 50lb medicine ball. Why is this? And am I the only one who notices that?
  • The only comment I’ll make about fantasy football this week: I learned the lesson that I should never think “I probably have this week locked up” when I’m up by 24 points and my opponent still has Calvin Johnson playing later on in the weekend.

Bitter Patriots comment overheard during their game

  • “Oh, hey, look at that. Amendola is still on the team. He was the first one to reach Gronk to celebrate his touchdown. Huh.”

Preseason Player Prediction Update

  • I never thought a preseason prediction would be lost by halftime of week 1, but for a minute there it seemed like Shaun Hill was the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness. A badge of honor I predicted EJ Manuel would wear this season. But then it turns out it was a leg injury that caused Hill to be pulled. But then there’s this story about the media grilling Jeff Fisher on whether or not the injury was an excuse to pull him. Hmm…

Cliché Police: On Monday night Jon Gruden said, “You can’t let a quarterback like Eli Manning hang around.” On that note, let’s make a list of quarterbacks you can let hang around

  • Alex Smith
  • Josh McCown
  • Austin Davis
  • EJ Manuel
  • Derek Carr
  • Tony Romo (in fact, you’d prefer to let him hang around)

Thoughts on Ray

  • After this blog, If I make no more comments on it and don’t express my complete disgust, know that I’m not condoning hitting people, I’m just taking the calming approach of avoiding all media outlets for the next couple months.
  • But if Roger Goodell somehow gets ousted, I’ll probably have some comments on that. It would be historic.
  • Listen, I’m the commissioner of a long-running fantasy football league, and when I so much as change the draft day and time, most of the owners call for my impeachment. I don’t think it’s right if no punishment comes to Goodell considering this cover-up is a little worse than my impeachable offenses.
  • The strangest part of Monday for me was seeing the clip of the elevator video repeatedly on ESPN. When a basketball players gets a compound fracture on the court, ESPN (and other media outlets) say things like, “We’re only going to show this clip once because it’s very gruesome.” But while I worked from home yesterday, I saw the Rice video roughly 17 times..
  • And finally, here are three jokes I didn’t have the balls to make on twitter yesterday:
    1. I didn’t know Ray Rice was left-handed.
    2. Why isn’t anyone talking about the racist old lady who goes to get in the elevator and then decides on another route when she sees who’s in there?
    3. So how many criminals played in that Ravens/49ers Super Bowl after all? And is it clearly the record for most criminals playing in one Super Bowl?

As the weeks go on, these recap articles will include more legitimate football analysis, but it’s pretty lame to go too in-depth when only one week is in the books. And besides, this week SUCKED.

Back on Thursday with the week 2 picks.

NFL Week 1 Picks: It’s Go Time

nfl picks

Serious question: If the NFL opened the season by playing all 16 games one-at-a-time and one right after another, would you watch 48 straight hours of football?

This was the only thought I had as Seattle put its finishing touches on last night’s game: “I want to watch more football right this minute. And I don’t care if it causes me to be divorced before I’m even married.”

If FOX had been showing Saints at Falcons immediately following the conclusion of Packers-Seahawks, you would have flipped over to that station, refilled your drink, emptied your bladder and saddled up for the next three hours.

And with last night’s Seattle cover, I’m already half way to my week 1 win from last year. No way I’m ever repeating that 2-13-1 record from the 2013 opening weekend.

Since you and I have absolutely nothing to do for the next 48 hours, let’s spend some time together making money. Here are my picks against the spread for the other 15 NFL games.

New Orleans (-3) @ Atlanta

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 34, Atlanta 24

Let the Mike Smith send-off open in style, with an embarrassing loss at home to their most hated rival. We get to find out early if the Saints are in the mix for a top playoff seed as four of their first six games are on the road. They struggled last year away from New Orleans, going 3-5 in those games.

Minnesota @ St. Louis (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Minnesota
  • The Score: Minnesota 24, St. Louis 21

Two deadly gambling forces facing each other in week 1: Don’t bet on Matt Cassel in a road game, and don’t ever back St. Louis as a significant favorite, not even at home. I guess this game could go either way, but Minnesota might be legitimately frisky this year, which is a lot better than how I think the Rams are going to do.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-7)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 16

This is a game Josh Gordon could have easily swung for Cleveland. The Steelers’ secondary is pretty old and hasn’t been good for a few years. But it just doesn’t seem like the Browns have any real threats on offense. I’m liking Pittsburgh to bounce back this year. They’ve gotta handle this division home game if they want to be taken seriously. I’m also not as ready as other people to bless this Cleveland defense as a real asset for the team. Their numbers were pretty atrocious last year.

Jacksonville @ Philadelphia (-10.5)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Philadelphia 30, Jacksonville 23

It’s just too soon to be backing a blowout win for any matchup that isn’t Seattle at home against Oakland. This should, however, definitely be a top selection for your Suicide Pool in week 1.

Oakland @ NY Jets (-5.5)

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: NY Jets, 26, Oakland 23

The legend of Derek Carr continues to grow for one more week? Kinda. They make it close but can’t get the W, much like they performed at Indy to open last season.

Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-1)

  • The Pick: Baltimore
  • The Score: Baltimore 23, Cincinnati 20

I was shocked to see how bad the Bengals were on the road last year. On top of losing five games, two of their three road wins came by three points or less (over Buffalo and Detroit, not exactly juggernauts). I don’t trust them at all, and I fully expect the Ravens to continue being a solid home team no matter the state of their roster. This line has come down a point or so, which probably means a lot of people are betting Cincy. Big mistake. This game will be a perfect example of the wretched state of the AFC North. The Ravens aren’t good, but the division’s “best team” can’t win a road game.

Buffalo @ Chicago (-7)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Chicago 33, Buffalo 16

There’s a case to be made for Buffalo to cover. Basically, if the Bears’ run defense is as bad as it was last year, the Bills—the most run-heavy team in the NFL—could make all you Suicide Pool pickers sweat this out. But as long as EJ Manuel’s in charge of the offense I’m picking against them on the road against a (possible) playoff team like the Bears.

Washington @ Houston (-3)

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: 24-18

I need to see something out of Robert Griffin and the passing offense before I back them on the road. Houston’s solid rush defense plus their elite pass rushers could make it a miserable time in Texas for the Redskins. Counterpoint: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Counter to the counterpoint: RGIII might not be much better than Ole’ Fitzy at this point. (Side Note: I’m ready to change my entire outlook on the Texans’ season if Clowney & Watt combine for 15-20 sacks in this game.)

Tennessee @ Kansas City (-3)

  • The Pick: Tennessee
  • The Score:Kansas City, 23, Tennessee 21

The question isn’t “Does Kansas City regress this year” but rather “Does the Kansas City regression start in a home game against Tennessee”. A two point margin of victory for the Chiefs will rightfully make their fans nervous.

New England (-5) @ Miami

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 34, Miami 23

When I play a little game each year called “How can I justify predicting a 16-0 New England record,” this game gave me immediate pause for the 2014 Patriots. They typically lose a bad game early in the season these days. Miami might be solid. They also seem to have the Patriots’ number more than most teams. I’ve also convinced myself the offensive line might need a few weeks to really gel after the Logan Mankins trade (don’t forget they have a new O-line coach for the first time in 150 years). But this Pats team could be scary good if the defense lives up to the hype. And keep in mind that for these first two or three games, they also have a healthy Gronk. Here’s the very specific prediction: The Patriots are up 11 with time winding down, the exact scenario where the old Patriots would have let up the backdoor cover and only won by three. But this new defense doesn’t allow for that. This new defense isn’t letting any unwanted guests through the back door.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay (-2)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Tampa Bay 26, Carolina 20

I guess if I’m predicting you to make the playoffs, I should probably pick you to beat the worst team in your division at home. With the size of Tampa Bay’s defensive linemen, I think Cam Newton’s ribs will probably refuse to play in week 2.

San Francisco (-4.5) @ Dallas

  • The Pick: Dallas
  • The Score: San Francisco 33, Dallas 30

This is an easy pick if you believe exactly what the media’s telling you: Both teams will struggle mightily on defense due to injuries, suspensions and free agency losses, but each can put up points offensively. I’m blindly following the media on this one.

Indianapolis @ Denver (-8)

  • The Pick: Denver
  • The Score: Denver 37, Indianapolis 23

For some reason in my head there’s this narrative of Andrew Luck always keeping his team in games even when they ultimately lose. They usually have a chance at the end. But it turns out that’s not true. In eight of the Colts’ 10 losses since Luck debuted as a rookie, they lost by at least 10 points (including five by 20 points or more). When they lose, they really lose. And the Broncos owe them one for week 7 last year.

NY Giants @ Detroit (-6)

  • The Pick: Giants
  • The Score: Detroit 28, Giants 24

Far too big of a line for such a wildcard team like the Lions. And I don’t mean wildcard in the traditional playoff qualifier sense, but rather in the “friend who places bets on football while sleepwalking on Ambien” sense. Just a complete unknown and one of the few teams that might actually make Eli & company look good this year.

San Diego @ Arizona (-3)

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: San Diego 31, Arizona 24

Ok, Ok, Vegas. Funny “start of football season” joke, but I’m ready to see the real line on this game. What? The Chargers are really getting points? OK then, I’ll tell the fiancee to upgrade our wedding package from well liquor to second-from-the-bottom-shelf liquor because this game’s paying for the entire wedding!

There you have it. A guaranteed improvement on my week 1 picks from last year. Three wins or your money back!

Final NFL Predictions: Playoff Teams & the Super Bowl Champ (Plus my Thursday Night Pick)


Welcome to Christmas Day, NFL style!

In just about nine hours, our annual summer nightmare of no football ends as the Seahawks and Packers face off in the always-interesting Thursday Night NFL Opener.

Only the most negative person would have a complaint about the start of the NFL season, and here it is: We have to wait a little more than 60 hours for more football after tonight’s game ends.

That blows, but I’m not going to let it get me down. Soon enough our senses will be overloaded with nonstop Sunday football.

We’ve been pumping out article after article of NFL previewy goodness over the past couple weeks, and now it’s time for our final preseason post.

Neil and I have staked our claims to each team’s win-loss record (with a ridiculous bet to back it up) and we’ve gone through all the individual accolades. We’re moving on to the only thing that truly matters, which 12 teams make the playoffs and who’s left standing in Arizona on February 1st, 2015, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Neil will take you through his seedings and rationalizations first, and then I’ll finish her off.

Neil’s Playoff Seedings

  • AFC
    1.  New England
    2. Denver
    3. Houston
    4. Pittsburgh
    5. San Diego
    6. Cincinnati
  • NFC
    1. New Orleans
    2. Seattle
    3. Green Bay
    4. NY Giants
    5. Chicago
    6. Philadelphia

Neil’s Playoff Results and Explanations

  • Wildcard Round:
    • (5) San Diego over (4) Pittsburgh – San Diego is probably the 3rd best team in the AFC this year.
    • (3) Houston over (6) Cincinnati – We’ve certainly been here before.
    • (5) Chicago over (4) NY Giants – Part 1 of the “NFC North is way better than the NFC East” invitational.
    • (3) Green Bay over (6) Philadelphia – Part 2.
  • Divisional Round:
    • (1) New England over (5) San Diego – The Chargers are not going to New England in the middle of winter and beating Belichick and Brady.
    • (2) Denver over (3) Houston – Not even Houston’s defense can overcome Fitzy in a road playoff game in Denver.
    • (1) New Orleans over (5) Chicago – I do not think the Chicago defense is going to be good enough to go into New Orleans and win a playoff game.
    • (3) Green Bay over (2) Seattle – The Seahawks finally get too cocky, and Green Bay gets some revenge for the replacement ref debacle.
  • Conference Championships:
    • (2) Denver over (1) New England – REVERSE JINX ALERT! REVERSE JINX ALERT!
    • (1) New Orleans over (3) Green Bay – I think these teams are actually fairly equal, but New Orleans has a huge home field advantage.
  • Super Bowl Pick:
    • New Orleans 43, Denver 8 – Payton > Peyton

Ross’s Playoff Seedings

  • AFC
    1.  New England
    2. San Diego
    3. Pittsburgh
    4. Indianapolis
    5. Denver
    6. Miami
  • NFC
    1. New Orleans
    2. Seattle
    3. Philadelphia
    4. Chicago
    5. Green Bay
    6. Tampa Bay

Ross’s Playoff Results and Explanations

  • Wildcard Round:
    • (4) Indianapolis over (5) Denver – DREAM MATCHUP! CAN MANNING WIN AS THE VISITOR IN INDY? Remember that last year was the exception in Peyton Manning’s career. Time to get back to the rule: Manning puts up great numbers in the regular season, but the Broncos bow out early. After all, the guy’s only made it to four Conference Championships in 15 years of playing.
    • (3) Pittsburgh over (6) Miami – This game will get hyped as the “Mike Wallace Revenge Game” by absolutely no one. The Steelers have 100% of the playoff experience between these two teams. They win, and the Pouncey twins wear t-shirts showing their support of ISIS.
    • (5) Green Bay over (4) Chicago – I guess I’m forced to nominate the Packers as “the wildcard team that limps into the playoffs, gets hot and rolls to the Super Bowl.”
    • (3) Philadelphia over (6) Tampa Bay – This could actually be a bad matchup for the Eagles if these two teams turn out how I think they will. But I’d never bet on Josh McCown or Mike Glennon in a road playoff game.
  • Divisional Round:
    • (1) New England over (4) Indianapolis – I was listening to Grantland’s football podcast featuring Bill Barnwell & Robert Mays yesterday, and one of them mentioned that the Patriots aren’t that dominant at home anymore. For anyone who reads this that also heard that comment, I’d hate for you to think it’s true. The Patriots are 41-6 at home over the past five seasons (including playoffs). That’s a long-winded way of saying the Colts don’t have a prayer.
    • (3) Pittsburgh over (2) San Diego – Mini-upset. People like me hope for the Brady-Manning throwback game, but instead we’re getting the Brady-Roethlisberger semi-throwback game in the next round.
    • (1) New Orleans over (5) Green Bay – If these teams are evenly matched otherwise, the home field advantage and the GIGANTIC mismatch at Head Coach swings this game New Orleans’ way.
    • (3) Philadelphia over (2) Seattle – Chip Kelly returns to the Pacific Northwest with a futuristic offense, the only kind that can beat the Seahawks at home.
  • Conference Championships:
    • (1) New England over (3) Pittsburgh – The Pats have beaten Pittsburgh in two of these games on their way to Super Bowl wins in the past. I’m ready to live 2004 over again.
    • (3) Philadelphia over (1) New Orleans – I don’t have a good reason for this pick other than the bet I made in Vegas six months ago on Philly to win it all.
  • Super Bowl Pick:
    • New England 34, Philadelphia 31 – A perfect hedge. New England wins and it’s the greatest moment in Boston sports since the 2004 Championship Red Sox. The Eagles win and I get a nice payday while also looking extremely smart for picking the Super Bowl winner 11 months in advance. All along I was thinking Brady vs Brees, one of the few marquee quarterback matchups that we’ve never seen in the playoffs. But #1 vs #1 is so last year.


Normally my picks against the spread for all games will come on Thursday, but since I’ve been working on preview articles all week, I need a little more time on the other 15 games. But here’s my pick for tonight’s game:

Green Bay @ Seattle (-6)

  • The Pick: Seattle
  • The Score: Seattle 27, Green Bay 20

Over Labor Day weekend I went on a 25-mile backpacking trip on the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California. So you can understand that I’ve never thought about a single point spread in my entire life as much as I thought about this opening game (lots of thinking time while setting the world record in the quickest blisters to ever form category). I came to one conclusion: If Seattle’s favored by more than six, I’m taking Green Bay. If Seattle’s favored by less than six, I’m taking them to cover. The line lands exactly on six, perfect. I think it’s far more likely that the Seahawks are still a significant level above a team like the Packers than it is that Green Bay’s closed the gap enough to cover less than a touchdown on the road in the Super Bowl Champ’s opening game.

I’ll be back on Friday with the rest of the week 1 picks. Enjoy the Richard Sherman over saturation tonight!

NFL Predictions Continued: Superlatives & Unperlatives


So far we’ve focused on team results in our NFL Preview Series, including last week’s articles on the AFC win-loss predictions and the NFC win-loss predictions.

Today we turn our attention to individual accolades. In a way, the following categories should be easier to nail than team predictions because individual performance is pretty predictable from year to year. But as soon as I think that way, I remember that both of the coaches that Neil and I selected last year to win “Coach of the Year” were fired by season’s end. So there you go. Either football is unpredictable or we’re idiots or both things are true.

Let’s dive in.

League Leader – Passing Yards

  • Ross: If you think hard enough about this, you can talk yourself into 10 or more quarterbacks. But I’m only considering two: Drew Brees (11/4 odds), who finished 2nd in passing last year, and Andrew Luck (18/1), who’d have to throw for about 1,000 more yards than he did in 2013 to have a chance. Brees plays 11 dome games, Luck plays 10 dome games. The Colts are more likely to have NO running game whatsoever. But Brees has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in four of the past six years. Tough call, but I’m going with the longer shot. Andrew Luck wins the passing title.
  • Neil: Brees and Peyton Manning are the co-favorites according to Vegas (+275). I think I go Brees here. Easier schedule, plays inside a dome. If you want a longer shot pick, I like Matt Ryan at (16/1) or Jay Cutler at (20/1).
League Leader – Rushing Yards
  • Ross: Only ignorance can lead you to any conclusion other than LeSean McCoy (4/1) for this award. Skill + offensive system/head coach + age + sheer volume of plays + defenses respecting a legitimate passing threat from his QB = McCoy for his 2nd straight rushing title.
  • Neil: Alfred “Old Fred” Morris. Word on the street is that RGIII is not doing great in the new offense. I can see the new coaching staff wanting to run the ball. Morris was only 300 yards off the pace last year in a bad situation. Seems like a super deal at (16/1).
League Leader – Receiving Yards
  • Ross: Initially I was leaning towards Dez Bryant (15/2) but I quickly remembered that Brandon Weeden could play a prominent role in the 2014 Dallas Cowboys season. So I’m going with a guy who’s never won it, never even come close, but certainly has the talent to do it. He also happens to play in a dome and his team could have the worst rushing attack in the NFL. My pick is Julio Jones (10/1).
  • Neil: Dez Bryant (15/2). Dallas’ defense is going to be horrible. They are going to have to throw a lot on offense. I also think Detroit throws a bit less this year. If you want a real long shot here, Cordarrelle Patterson at (50/1) is a nice option, but I’d feel better about that if Cassel was benched after week 1.

Regular Season MVP

  • Ross: The usual suspects have to be considered: Manning, Rodgers, Peterson, etc. But what if there really is a budding dynasty in the Pacific Northwest? What if, with a harder schedule and the potential of a Super Bowl hangover looming, the Seahawks still roll through the league? What if they bust out a 15-1 season? Even if the defense is great again, Marshawn Lynch carries a big load on offense, and they get contributions up and down the roster, Russell Wilson would easily be an MVP front-runner. Considering the odds for him to win it is 16/1 (a better payoff than the guys I mentioned above plus Brees, Brady and Luck), I’m going with Wilson as the 2014 MVP.
  • Neil: Tom Brady at (9/1) is very enticing here. Increased familiarity with the receiving group and a much better defense are going to make the Patriots seem better, which is going to make people think Brady is having a much better year than last year, which actually was not bad at all. Colin Kaepernick at (25/1) is an intriguing long shot, mainly because the Niners defense is going to be fairly bad so if they do well it will almost all be because of Kaepernick. Plus it seems like the media has always been all over his nuts ever since he became the starter even though he can’t throw a simple 10 yard out.
Offensive Player of the Year
  • Ross: This is one of the least fun awards to predict because it’s essentially picking the MVP runner-up. We like to pick winners, not spend our time on giving out the “hey, but good job by you too, [fill in the blank].” Maybe this is the year that the young quarterbacks firmly grab onto that torch that Manning & Brady have been refusing to pass for the last few years. I’m going with Andrew Luck for Offensive Player of the Year.
  • Neil: Drew Brees. Easy-ish schedule, tons of weapons, plays indoors, etc…
Defensive Player of the Year
  • Ross: I was surprised to learn that in 10 of the past 12 years the winner of this award was on a playoff team. That rules out guys like Robert Quinn, Luke Kuechly and J.J. Watt. Last time I picked the guy I’m about to pick, he tore his ACL in week 3. But I think if you’re singlehandedly responsible for the Patriots’ passing defense ranking above 14th in the league for the first time in eight years, you might just walk away with this award. I’m going with Darrelle Revis (20/1) for this crapshoot of an award.
  • Neil: I wanted to go with either Watt or Jadeveon Clowney here, but I can’t decide which one gets the triple teams allowing the other to have 48 sacks. So let’s just go with Robert Quinn (15/1).
Comeback Player of the Year
  • Ross: I gotta double down on Julio Jones (8/1) here. It would be strange if Jones leads the league in receiving (as I predicted above) but doesn’t get this award. I guess Gronk (7/1) could haul in 34 touchdowns and then they’d probably have to give it to him, but otherwise I’m all in on the fantastic Julio Jones season.
  • Neil: From wikipedia: “The National Football League Comeback Player of the Year Award refers to a number of awards that are given to an NFL player who has shown perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance.” So, Ray Rice? Too soon? OK, my real answer is Doug Martin (25/1).
Coach of the Year
  • Ross: This is a tough one to predict. It seems like some years the coach of a powerhouse team wins it, and other years the coach of just an above average team that bounced back from an awful season wins it. I flirted with Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay) and Bill O’Brien (Houston) for this pick before ultimately settling on Marc Trestman. Maybe Jay Cutler finally stays healthy, the offense fulfills its potential and the defense does enough to help them earn the #2 seed in the NFC.
  • Neil: I really want to go with Lovie Smith here. Maybe his teams are never great, but they are always solid. He is going to be a huge upgrade from Greg Schiano, who I believe I picked for this category last year. I’m a little worried that the Tampa Bay QB situation makes the team look worse than they really are, so my head says to go with Sean Peyton. You know what, screw it, let’s pick the Bucs here again this year, lightning can’t possible strike twice. Lovie Smith gets it.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
  • Ross: I’ve repeatedly suggested that watching NFL preseason games is a good idea. With so much football and such little time, I often formulate opinions based on very small samples (sometimes they work out for me…Jordan Cameron. Other times they don’t…Christian Ponder, Zach Sudfeld.) This is one of those cases. I love what I saw out of Mike Evans in Tampa Bay’s preseason games this summer. I’m not going with one of the rookie quarterbacks, nor am I intrigued by overhyped guys like Sammy Watkins. I’m going with Evans (12/1) for the best offensive rookie.
  • Neil: Brandin Cooks (11/2) is my pick; however, if Teddy Bridgewater (12/1) starts 12 games, I think he wins it.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
  • Ross: I cheated and peeked at Neil’s pick before making my own, and sure enough, he sums this category up as succinctly as possible. As intrigued as I was to pick Ha Ha Clinton Dix (25/1) just for the name, there’s no category more locked up right now than this one. Jadeveon Clowney (9/4) wins this easily.
  • Neil: This entire 3:40 clip is entertaining, but you get the idea after the first 10 seconds:
 First Coach Fired
  • Ross: If I was picking the Steelers to have yet another mediocre season, I’d be fully on board with the long shot of Mike Tomlin getting fired first (33/1). But I think they’re going to have a good season, and I’m also not sure the Pittsburgh organization would ever fire someone midseason. So instead I’ve set my sights on The Dirty South. Over the past three years of football blogging, the only thing I’ve written more frequently than “New England will win the Super Bowl this year” is “Mike Smith blows.” I legitimately think his team quits on him this year and he gets fired after their 1-5 start (or maybe they wait until their week 9 bye to send him on his way). Mike Smith at 12/1 odds is my pick.
  • Neil: I’m going with Jason Garrett (3/1), but if you’ve watched “Hard Knocks” at all this year, you can easily see a situation where Atlanta starts 1-4 and gets rid of Mike Smith.
First QB Benched (due to ineffectiveness)
  • Ross: Now we’ve gotten to the categories with no legitimate Vegas odds. That doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun still. I guess we could have just handed this award to Matt Schaub and called it a day, but let’s predict from this point forward. Last year there were two rookie quarterbacks in the AFC East, and both of them were pretty terrible. One of them was head and shoulders better than the other. The worse one is getting benched by week 7. That man is EJ Manuel.
  • Neil: It has to be Matt Schaub, right? However if the Raiders decide Carr is actually the opening day starter then I go with Alex Smith.
First Devastating Injury (from a fantasy standpoint)
  • Ross: Eddie Lacy because Green Bay seems to have pissed off the football gods three years ago and has caught bad break after bad break.
  • Neil: Calvin Johnson. He was banged up last year, getting a little bit older, has the defenders around him at all times, Stafford throws the ball side arm…

Next Team Owner To Die

  • Ross: Morbid as it may be, they’re dropping like flies these days (Al Davis, Bud Adams, Ralph Wilson). Virginia Halas McCaskey (91) became the oldest owner when Wilson died…you know what? I got half way through researching the ages and looking for any possible known sicknesses/diseases for each owner and it got really creepy and depressing. Just know I’m picking San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos for this category.
  • Neil: Do I have to pick this? This is a bit morbid for such a happy time of the year. I hate to win this one on a technicality, but I’m going to go with one of the 364,122 Packers stockholders. Seems like a mathematically sound pick.
Last Winless Team
  • Ross: Two obvious candidates who are both terrible and have tough starting schedules: Buffalo and St. Louis. Between the two of them, I’d select Buffalo to go the longest without winning (finally getting their first W in week 7). But there’s a long shot here too: Kansas City. If they lose at home to Tennessee in week 1, it could realistically be week 8 when they host St. Louis before it happens. Keep an eye on that.
  • Neil: I’m going with Jacksonville.  They have a tough opening stretch so the Raiders may get a win before them.
Last Undefeated Team
  • Ross: This one was a lot harder than the winless category for some reason. Seems like so many teams could stay undefeated if things break right. Seattle has Green Bay, San Diego and Denver before six pretty easy games. But those first three are tough. If you think Indy wins at Denver, then you might take them because they could get to week 10 undefeated after that. But I’m going with another unexpected pick: The Pittsburgh Steelers. As long as they take care of Baltimore in week 2, it could easily be week 8 before they’re challenged again.
  • Neil: New England. This is actually not a homer pick. They have a very manageable early season schedule.

As I’m posting this, we’re roughly 34 hours away from the regular season kickoff. As a buddy said to me this morning in an email, Wednesday night is like Christmas Eve. There’s no chance I’m getting good sleep. In fact, I’d like to think the NFL Network is showing some awesome games from years past for crazy people like me who might consider staying up late tonight consuming even more football.

We’ll be back with our playoff and Super Bowl picks before Thursday’s kickoff.