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

cassel

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.

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