Week 3 NFL Picks: The Backup QB Takeover

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So it turns out week 2 of the NFL season was actually the first crazy week. You can tell just by looking at how many people are left in your Survivor/Eliminator Pool (more on that later). We’ve got a ton to cover in this column so let’s get right into things. And hey, if you can’t read this at work today, I’m guessing tonight’s game between the Giants and Redskins will be boring enough that you can read it then.

Some leftover thoughts from week 2:mcnabb

  • Do you remember Wilma McNabb? Donovan’s mother who dominated our lives in the early 2000s with those starring roles in Campbell’s Soup commercials? Bet you haven’t thought about her in a while. Anyway, she popped into my head last weekend so now we can all remember her together.
  • There were two teams who went on record in the offseason with what seemed like outlandish comments to me. They were the type of comments where you think, “Oh man, I hope they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are,” except it was the complete opposite. I always hoped these players would have to step in and try to back up their coaches’ words. First, we have Brandon Weeden. Dallas QB coach Wade Wilson said in June that Weeden is the team’s the most improved player, and then Jerry Jones doubled down on that this week by saying “you won’t find a more gifted passer” than the former 1st round pick. And over in Chicago, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said in June that Jimmy Clausen is a perfect fit for what they’re trying to do offensively.
  • Needless to say, I am very very excited about the Weeden and Clausen eras.
  • For the time being, it’s officially a two-man battle for the wide receiving entertainment title. Julio Jones vs Antonio Brown. I’m sure others will reappear to challenge them, but at the moment we have injuries to Dez Bryant & Jordy Nelson and guys like A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson and Odell Beckham just haven’t gone off for huge games yet.
  • The Josh McCown Helicopter Fail had been my favorite play so far this season until I saw this amazing vine the other day:
  • That’s my new favorite play because #40 for New Orleans made me think for the first time ever, “I would have been a better option on that play than an actual NFL player.”

So as everyone knows, baseball great Yogi Berra died on Tuesday. I’m one of those people who really didn’t know him for his accomplishments on the field because I’m not a Yankees fan and I wasn’t alive in the 1940s, 50s or 60s. In my mind Yogi has always been that fantastic quote machine who was probably pretty good at baseball. Reading over some of his best quotes the other day, I couldn’t help but laugh a lot (obviously) and think about some of the current NFL teams. So I decided to run through all nine football teams that are 2-0 as well as the nine that are 0-2, and assign a Yogi-ism to each. Sorry to the 1-1 teams, but you’re just too boring and middle-of-the-road to make the cut for now.

(All quotes came from this article in the Detroit Free Press.)

OK, Yogi, take it away:

“I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.”

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

Who else at this point of the NFL season can be paired up with such amazing math-fail quotes than the New York Giants (0-2)? They really did deserve special honors by getting two Yogi-isms. You just don’t see that level of clock and scoreboard mismanagement in the NFL these days, not even from the Mike Smiths and Andy Reids of the world. Besides, with Tom Coughlin being the oldest coach in the NFL, it’s more probable than not that he has to take a mid-afternoon nap just to survive the day.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

To the New Orleans Saints (0-2), who must have thought their future was bright just as recently as two years ago. After Roger Goodell created a fictitious reality where the Saints were involved in a bounty program, Sean Payton and others were forced to miss all or part of the 2012 season. Upon the program becoming whole again in 2013, Drew Brees and company promptly returned to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. With Rob “People Think I’m a Better Defensive Coach Than I Really Am” Ryan at the helm of the defense and Brees putting up 5,000 passing yards a year, the future should have been bright. Well, they went 7-9 in 2014 and now have a 3-7 record in their past 10 games. Drew Brees has become an unknown commodity at QB, and Sean Payton could find himself on the hot seat for the first time if things continue on this trend.

You know what? I’m also assigning this quote to the Dallas Cowboys (2-0). It’s pretty self-explanatory, right? The future looked very bright for Dallas so recently. A shitty division to compete with, a team coming off 12 wins and seemingly improved in every area except running back during the offseason, a franchise wide receiver newly signed to a long-term contract. It was all going to plan. And now the future is Brandon Weeden, the NFL’s most-gifted passer, for the next two months. (So long to my NFC Super Bowl pick.)

“We have deep depth.”

The scariest thing about the New England Patriots (2-0) isn’t that Tom Brady has started this season better than his record-breaking 2007 campaign or that Bill Belichick is as creative, prepared and diabolical as ever. It’s the depth the Patriots have all over their roster. New England has an offensive line that’s performed incredibly through two games even with three rookies getting regular playing time. Their reinforcements are due back soon. Their defensive line goes six or seven deep, meaning lots of rest and lots of matchup-specific playing time. Brandon LaFell hasn’t been able to get on the field yet? No problem, Aaron Dobson is finally contributing and Danny Amendola is even showing signs of life. And on and on it goes (linebacker depth, tight end depth, basically every position but defensive back is loaded). This team is prepared for almost any injury other than a significant one to Brady or Gronk.

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

Newsflash: Chip Kelly probably has no idea where he’s going at this point. Will Chip be running a different NFL team in 2016? Leading the University of Texas or some other “used to be prominent but fallen on hard times” college football program? An analyst on TV? The truth is, no one knows where Chip was going in the offseason with all his tinkering, and there’s been no further clarity through two weeks of the Philadelphia Eagles’ (0-2) season.

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

For Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts (0-2), it’s the heat and the humility. Imagine the humiliation that entire team will feel and the amount of heat from above torching Pagano if the Colts lose in Tennessee this weekend. It’s not out of the question that Indy goes into its big game against New England in week 6 with a 1-4 record. If the Patriots then drop 90 on them, Pagano’s gone the following morning, right?

“I never said most of the things I said.”

I bet Houston Texans (0-2) head coach Bill O’Brien wishes he never said the things he said on “Hard Knocks,” specifically when he chose the starting quarterback. He committed to Brian Hoyer for what seemed like at least a month or so before he’d pull the ripcord and swap in Ryan Mallett. That commitment lasted three quarters into the first game. With Mallett looking almost as bad as Hoyer in the team’s second game, what’s O’Brien to do now?

“So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.”

With this quote, Yogi is clearly trying to say, “So what if I’m ugly. Being good looking never helped anyone have success in baseball.” And that must be exactly how the Carolina Panthers (2-0) and New York Jets (2-0) are feeling right now. Both teams are undefeated. Both teams have won in pretty ugly ways so far. No one’s ever going to confuse the Panthers’ and Jets’ offenses with the Packers or Patriots. But who cares? If they play this well against all the bad and mediocre opponents on their schedule, they’ll find their way to 9 or 10 wins.

“It’s like deja vu all over again.”

In 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) started the season 3-0 and won those first few games by a combined 47 points. They were the toast of the AFC in September. Then they went 2-3-1 in their next six games and nobody took them seriously (rightfully so) the rest of the year.

In 2013, the Bengals were 6-2 at the halfway point, then went 3-3 in their next six games and nobody took them seriously (rightfully so) the rest of the year.

In 2012, the Bengals started out 3-1 before going on a four-game losing streak. You get the point…

This team begins every season looking like a serious Super Bowl contender. Do not be fooled. Cincinnati’s next five games are slotted for Sundays at 1pm Eastern. In the second half of the season, they have four Primetime games. That is when we’ll see the real Andy Dalton & Marvin Lewis. So let’s all calm down.

“It gets late early out here.”

This quote, or a variation of it, is often used to convey that a team really doesn’t have a lot of time to turn things around, even if it seems like the season is still young. And that’s exactly the case for both the Baltimore Ravens (0-2) and the Detroit Lions (0-2). For the Ravens, they play three of their next five games on the road, and the only “easy” game on the upcoming schedule is a home date with Cleveland. If they don’t fix things immediately, they could be staring at a 3-5 record when they hit their bye week.

The Lions face Denver in week 3, play at Seattle in week 4, and then have to deal with Arizona in week 5. I wouldn’t bet against an 0-5 start for them. Would you?

“You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.”

This is essentially the best the Chicago Bears (0-2) could do right now in terms of trash talking. They’ve lost 17 of their past 24 games dating back to November 2013. That’s bad. That’s Tennessee Titans / Tampa Bay Bucs level bad. It’s entirely conceivable that this team gets the #1 pick in the 2016 draft. Regardless of whether they do or don’t, it’s probably time to move on from Jay Cutler and start fresh.

“It ain’t over til it’s over.”

Who else could this be for except Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (2-0)? Manning had a handful of neck procedures prior to the 2012 season that left many thinking his career was over. Manning had a quad injury that made him look downright terrible at the end of last season that had many people thinking, once again, that his career was over. Manning continues to have no feeling in his fingers due to those neck surgeries. He looks old and creeky. We cringe anytime he takes a hit. And for as much as the Chiefs handed that game last Thursday to the Broncos, Manning still made some plays in the 2nd half when he needed to, and there was enough goodness out of him once he went exclusively to the shotgun that you can’t quite say it’s over for him just yet.

You know who Peyton reminds me of at this point? The 2004 version of Pedro Martinez. That guy routinely gave up a couple runs in the 1st or 2nd inning of his starts, but then would buckle down and all of the sudden he had thrown seven innings and walked away with a decent start. Pedro at that point was the #2 behind Curt Schilling. Maybe Manning just has to be the #2 to the Broncos defense. It’s uncomfortable for a Patriots fan to write a Peyton-Pedro comparison and hypothesize that the Broncos might be in great shape for the rest of the year. Let’s move on.

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

I have been making plans to attend the Arizona Cardinals’ (2-0) funeral for the past three years. They keep postponing it. I’m slowly coming around on the Palmer-led Cardinals because all they do is win. They’ve won exactly 75% of their games that Palmer has played in since the start of 2013 (18-6 over that time). And each of the last three years, I’ve buried them in the preseason, questioning if they’d even get to .500. Looking at their schedule, I won’t be surprised if they’re 7-1 entering their week 9 bye (and then the schedule gets interesting). This is all based around Carson Palmer, who is doing an extremely admirable job at impersonating Kurt Warner’s late career resurgence on the Cardinals. The former Bengal and Raider isn’t dead yet, it turns out.

“Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.”

Aaron Rodgers has some ridiculous streak going of not throwing an interception at home in several years. I have no idea if it’s an NFL record. I do know that no one will care much once he finally throws a pick at Lambeau. That’s one of those records (similar to Antonio Brown always having 5 catches and 50 yards in each game) that the media and broadcasters seem to shove down our throats whether we asked for it or not. The record I’m concerned most about for the Green Bay Packers (2-0) is “number of consecutive years being a Super Bowl contender without making it to the big game.” OK, it’s an unofficial record, but the Packers have now gone four straight years of having the most talented QB on the planet (not counting Brandon Weeden, of course) without playing in a Super Bowl. It’s great that they’ve started 2-0, but nothing matters for them until January. And that’s when Mike McCarthy will sabotage Rodgers and the rest of the team once again.

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

This quote gives off a very calm vibe. Basically, if you just sit there quietly and watch, you can learn a lot. And for whatever reason, it makes me think of the Atlanta Falcons (2-0). They are quietly turning back into a quality football team, and they’re positioning themselves very well in the NFC landscape. All the noise in that conference is being made by the chaotic NFC East, the stunning 0-2 Seahawks and everyone’s darlings, the Packers. But the Falcons are just quietly going about their business, unleashing the best wide receiver in football on teams every week, looking halfway decent on defense. There’s not a lot of media attention to give to them because nothing outrageous is happening. But if you just watch them a little bit, you’ll observe a team that just might contend for the #1 seed in the NFC.

“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”

This is for the team that still holds the title for talking way too much, the Seattle Seahawks (0-2). If it’s not Richard Sherman yapping about being the best cornerback, it’s Russell Wilson speaking directly to God and then speaking for him to all of us unworthy peasants. Or it’s Kam Chancellor ending his holdout this week by stating it’s time for him to help his teammates and if God forgives all, why can’t he? I just don’t understand that line from him. Who needed to be forgiven by His Holiness, Kam Chancellor? The team that wanted him to live up to his end of the bargain? His teammates who never once threw him under the bus even though he ditched them for no good reason? This team has gone from obnoxious trash talkers who back it up on the field to entitled Chosen Ones who may end up at 8-8 by the end of the year. The Seattle fans should really be praying to god for their team to shut up and just play football.

Oh, and here’s a bonus quote for the Cleveland Browns. Yes, they’re 1-1 and I’m supposed to ignore them, but c’mon, it’s the Browns.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Josh McCown vs Johnny Manziel. What the coaching staff wants vs what the fans want. No hope vs hope. Calm incompetence vs flashy incompetence.

Mike Pettine came to a fork in the road this week, and he definitely took it.

I have no idea what the right answer is for the Browns at quarterback because I think both options are terrible. I guess since there’s so much buzz (still!) about Manziel, I’d prefer they start him just because it’ll get so many more people riled up on a weekly basis. When I predicted before the season that Cleveland would finish 3-13, I had their next 10 games all as losses. Obviously if they get even halfway to that point, Manziel will be playing. So do not worry, Johnny Football fans. He will get another chance. Either by injury or by complete failure, McCown will hand over the reigns sometime soon.

And now, let’s very quickly go through the week 3 games.

Washington at NY Giants (-4)

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 28, NY Giants 23

After a one-year hiatus, we’re back to where we always seem to be with the NFC East: Four very flawed teams who won’t establish a pecking order until the last month of the season. There’s no point looking at the standings in this division until December 1st.

I lack certainty and conviction for both of these teams. All I can think is that Washington’s defense has the best chance of any personnel grouping to take this game over.

Besides, aren’t there certain teams who are more fun when they just can’t seem to win a game or do anything right? The Eagles are one of those teams. The Browns, of course, are too. And the Giants definitely are.

Atlanta (-2) at Dallas

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 34, Dallas 14

As you saw in the Yogi Berra part of this column, I’m pretty high on the Falcons. And while I know Jerry Jones is certain that Brandon Weeden is the world’s most gifted-passer, I’m just going out on a limb and saying he won’t be showing off those “gifts” very much in this game.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 27, Indianapolis 21

This was a last-minute switch for me. I had the Colts winning by 10 points or so, but then I thought about how decent the Titans have been in two road games to start the season. In their loss to Cleveland last week, Tennessee dominated in time of possession, total yards, and lots of other stats that typically correspond with winning the game. But they turned the ball over three times, the Browns recovered five of the six fumbles in the game (3 of Tennessee’s and 2 of their own), the Titans took seven sacks and they were penalized nine times. If they can clean up those self-inflicted wounds and the home crowd in Tennessee makes as much noise as they should for the first time in years, there’s plenty of reason to think this is a close game.

Oakland at Cleveland (-3.5)

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 18, Cleveland 6

Did you know the Raiders have won only two road games since the start of 2012? And even in all their road losses, I only saw one in the past three years where they lost by less than four points. So this doesn’t feel great, but…Can you imagine the fun we’ll all have if Josh McCown looks bad in a home loss to Oakland and then Mike Pettine has to answer questions for the next six days about why he keeps picking McCown over Johnny Manziel? The vitriol that’ll come from Northeast Ohio will be worth it, trust me. Go Raiders!

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-3)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 24, Baltimore 20

At this moment, the Bengals are better than the Ravens on both offense and defense. That may not be the case later in the season, but right now Baltimore lacks any real offensive threats and their defense just gave up 37 points to Oakland. And like I said above, we’re still very much in that zone where people think the Bengals might be the best team in the AFC.

Jacksonville at New England (-14)

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 40, Jacksonville 20

Here’s a first for the 2015 season: The Patriots’ upcoming opponent didn’t spend the week talking to the media about how much they hate New England, or how they finally figured out a way to cover Gronk, or how they feel like the Patriots cheated them out of playoff wins in the early part of the century. This is concerning because I almost feel like Tom Brady and the offense will take their foot off the pedal during the rare games when they don’t have an axe to grind.

Screw it. Let’s hope we’re hearing the first whisperings of “they’re running up the score, that’s poor sportsmanship” from the media on Monday morning.

New Orleans at Carolina (-3)

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 28, New Orleans 13

I’m done picking against the Panthers unless they’re facing a good team. For instance, later in the season, they play Seattle, Green Bay and Dallas (probably with a healthy Romo). I might go against them in some of those games. But at home against the Saints? A Saints team that’s pretending Drew Brees might play, but we all know they’re just trying to make Carolina prepare for multiple QBs? Please. Cam Newton could beat this team on his own…wait, what’s that? He has to beat every team on his own? OK, then. I’m even more confident. Cam Newton will beat the entire New Orleans team on Sunday.

Philadelphia at NY Jets (-2.5)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 23, Philadelphia 13

This line opened with the Eagles being 2.5 point favorites on Monday. Why the 5 point swing? I’m guessing a combination of the Jets’ impressive win over Indy on Monday night and the uncertainty of DeMarco Murray’s health.

I know it doesn’t always work like this, but I can’t expect this Eagles team to put up any points on the road against one of the best defenses in the league if they couldn’t put up more than 10 at home last week against a mediocre defense. And the Jets will probably want to keep the offense simple and throw the ball 30 times to whoever is being covered by Byron Maxwell. The overpaid cornerback appears to be the second coming of Nnamdi Asomugha for the Eagles.

Tampa Bay at Houston (-6.5)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Houston 10, Tampa Bay 7

Nope. Not happening. I am not laying nearly a touchdown to back the 0-2 Texans. They’ve shown nothing to make me think they’re capable of beating anyone by that much. For all we know, Bill O’Brien might wake up Sunday morning and decide Tom Savage needs to be starting at QB.

San Diego at Minnesota (-2.5)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 24, Minnesota 23

I bet the Vikings will be a super popular pick this week. I happen to see an extremely close game taking place. That’s all the analysis I can muster up for two teams that I don’t know very well just yet.

Pittsburgh (-2) at St. Louis

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 31, St. Louis 21

On the surface this doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting game, but it features the 2015 season debut of Le’Veon Bell and most likely the NFL debut of Rams running back Todd Gurley. I’m intrigued. I think the Steelers offense is going to be too much to handle, especially on the turf. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked a single time in last week’s win over the 49ers, so the offensive line for Pittsburgh must be doing something right. We’ll know for sure after this game.

San Francisco at Arizona (-6.5)

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 33, San Francisco 17

The worst thing you could have done is abandon all your preseason notions after week 1. If you did, you might have stupidly picked San Francisco to cover as six-point underdogs in Pittsburgh last week. But what you thought before the season started is still probably closer to the truth than what one week of football told you. And we all thought the 9ers would be terrible, right? And Carson Palmer hasn’t re-torn his ACL at practice this week, right? OK, then. We’re set here.

Buffalo at Miami (-3)

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 26, Buffalo 20

I could see a very close game here. Just like I thought before the season, I still see the three non-Patriot AFC East teams all being lumped into that 6-10 to 9-7 final record range. Buffalo hasn’t played on the road yet, and they may not be able to run it as effectively as they did the first two weeks against generous Indy and New England defenses. I like Miami in this, but I don’t love them.

Chicago at Seattle (-14.5)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Seattle 23, Chicago 17

I participate in a pretty small Survivor/Eliminator Pool. This year we have 18 entries. Last week, all 18 of us were knocked out, which of course means that all 18 of us are automatically back in! That’s great news. Many of you partake in much larger pools where a small percentage of people didn’t lose. And that sucks for you. I think the guy who runs the pool put it best when he said, “What are the odds that the same group of people goes 18-0 picking a winner in week 1 and then 0-18 picking a winner in week 2?” It’s seriously one of the most amazing sports betting outcomes I’ve ever been a part of.

And of course the Seahawks or Patriots will be the pick for an overwhelming majority still left in those pools. If history tells us anything, they’ll both probably win, but one of them will make you sweat it out until the very end.

My guess is that the 0-2 team with a bunch of offensive line problems is more likely to make this close than the 2-0 team that looks impossible to beat.

Denver (-3) at Detroit

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 20, Detroit 10

It’s dangerous to draw conclusions about a team like the Lions when they’ve started the season with two road games. Maybe they’ll look awesome in their first home game on Sunday night. But I don’t think they’re nearly as good as the two teams the Broncos have beaten already this year. Until Denver either loses some defensive guys to injury or a team shows us the blueprint for putting up a bunch of points on them, I’m going to assume that unit will wreak havoc in every game. Matthew Stafford is probably going to get beat up for the second straight week in this one.

Kansas City at Green Bay (-6.5)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Green Bay 29, Kansas City 24

This is very simple for me. I think the Chiefs are going to play in a TON of close games this year. They won’t win in Green Bay, but I don’t see them getting blown out anytime soon.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 8 Favorites, 8 Underdogs
  • 7 Road Dogs, 1 Home Dog
  • 6 Home Teams, 10 Road Teams

Enjoy week 3.

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Week 2 NFL Picks: Ready For Another “Crazy” Week?

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Was that a crazy first week of NFL games? Or is saying/writing/thinking that week 1 was crazy simply an involuntary reaction at this point? It really didn’t seem that crazy to me. When we’re using “crazy” in this context, we basically mean the results were wildly different than our expectations. My expectations led to me crushing my week 1 picks. I posted a 10-5-1 record against the spread, won the weekly 1st place prize in one of my Pick ‘Em leagues, went 4-for-5 on my confidence picks, and wisely used the Jets to advance in my Survivor Pool. Much like I’m hoping the Patriots will do, I’m in complete Eff You mode this season with my picks. The past two years have been unacceptable. Vegas has disrespected me and it’s time for me to take them for everything they’ve got. (It turns out “everything they’ve got” is somewhere in the range of $5 billion per year. So maybe I’ll just take them for “some of what they’ve got” instead.)

If you are one of the people who thought it was a crazy week, that probably means you were backing Seattle, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Minnesota. All four of those teams were favored on the road, and in the case of all but Seattle, these teams were overhyped by the media throughout the offseason. I’m not saying anyone needs to panic yet, but pumping the brakes at least on Philly and Minnesota might be a good idea. Actually, should we be skeptical of Seattle & Indy too? They certainly have the talent to be as good as last year, but it sounds like there might be some internal turmoil within both teams. Seattle’s got the ghost of Super Bowl 49 following them around in the form of Marshawn Lynch’s mom calling for the team’s offensive coordinator to be fired, and everyone knows that the entire team now hates Russell Wilson and his “miracle water.” Over in Indy, a new report pops up every day about Chuck Pagano’s job (in)security and how he doesn’t get along with Colts GM Ryan Grigson. These two teams are going to be interesting whether they’re winning or losing over the next 16 weeks.

Between my two Pick ‘Em Leagues (where we pick each game against the spread every week), I tallied up which incorrect picks were chosen the most among the participants in week 1. Here they are:

  • Indianapolis (-2.5): 25 of 34 people picked them (74%)
  • New England (-7.5): 24 of 34 (71%)
  • Tampa Bay (-3.5): 24 of 34 (71%)
  • Dallas (-5.5): 24 of 34 (71%)
  • Philadelphia (-2.5): 23 of 34 (68%)
  • Seattle (-4.5): 22 of 34 (65%)
  • Minnesota (-2.5) = 16 of 34 (47%)

All seven of these disappointments were favored, and five of them even lost their game outright. And if it wasn’t for this man…

eli-dope-nypcover

…the Cowboys would have been the sixth team on that list to lose outright.

What does this all mean? Nothing, really. Just that the NFL is set up for weekly “craziness”, which makes wild results not crazy at all. It’s actually completely normal.

Here are some other random nuggets before I dive into week 2:

  • By far my favorite play of the weekend was this:
  • Such a ballsy, unnecessary and unexpected play. In that moment, Josh McCown went from being my 30th favorite QB in the NFL to somewhere in my top 10. I hope he comes back soon and breaks out his “Black Hawk Down” routine on every drive.
  • Random question: When did they announce that Cris Collinsworth and Matthew McConaughey were actually the same person? Because I missed that announcment.

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  • Do you think maybe Microsoft is a major sponsor of NBC’s “Football Night In America” and they are pushing the Surface tablet hard? Jesus Christ, I couldn’t tell if Dan Patrick and the gang were on an NBC set or inside one of those Microsoft retail stores this past Sunday night.

microsoft-store16rb2

  • And why do their two “insiders” Peter King and Mike Florio have those Surface tablets stationed in front of them when they’re giving updates on NFL news? There’s no way they’re using those things to get stories or quotes (that would be what their phones are for). There’s no way they’re reading the script off of them (that’s what the teleprompter is for). Just a ridiculous amount of product placement that I know you’ll see now that I’ve pointed it out to you.
  • Take a look at these two quarterback stat lines from week 1:

bortles manning

  • The media can spend as much time as they want praising the Denver defense, but that doesn’t change the fact that the second stat line is Peyton Manning’s, and you’ll notice it’s just slightly better than the one above it, which belongs to Blake Bortles. How come everyone’s always telling us that a team needs a good QB to win in January, and yet now all of the sudden we’re hearing that the Broncos don’t need Manning to be good? He just needs to “manage the game” according to everything I’ve read. All I know is that Manning will be losing a divisional road game for the first time since he joined the Broncos on Thursday night. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Chiefs don’t win that one.
  • OK, so let me get this straight. The two Patriots employees who were supposedly the masterminds behind the ball deflation scheme are reinstated with the approval of the NFL? And the NFL is the organization that is so positive these people cheated that they are continuing the court battle to ensure someone gets punished for this super serious conduct detrimental to the league, right? But the league didn’t bat an eye at reinstating these confirmed (by the league’s standards) cheaters? I’m at a loss here. This makes no sense except for the fact that the Patriots never cheated, no one ever let even the tiniest amount of air out of a football, and the NFL is trying to quietly let things go back to normal. I’d be shocked if they don’t drop their appeal at some point and try to distract us from knowing they did that. At which time we should all wonder why we let the NFL take us for this lovely 7-month ride.
  • Does anyone know why we’re calling Tyrod Taylor “T-Mobile” and more importantly, does anyone know how to make it stop?
  • You know that preseason predictions blog that I did with guest blogger Neil where we select which people will win real and fake awards throughout the season? Yeah, that’s already going pretty poorly. Here are some early results:
    • Neil had Josh McCown as his first QB benched because of ineffectiveness and I had Kirk Cousins. This “award” went to Brian Hoyer.
    • Neil and I both had San Francisco as the last winless team, and lo & behold, they won their week 1 game! Whoops.
    • Neil also lost his pick on which team will be the last to lose a game as he selected the Colts.
    • Even though we won’t know who the Defensive Rookie of the Year is until the end of the season, Neil might be playing from behind with his pick of Jets defensive end Leonard Williams considering he’s still trying to get into game shape!

So now we’ve arrived at week 2. And you know what? I bet by the end of the weekend people will be claiming that week 2 was “crazy.” Maybe it’ll be more injuries. Maybe it’ll be a shocking number of upsets. Maybe an opposing team will say something nice about the Patriots. But something will happen to send us all on our way thinking it was an insane week of football.

You know what I think is crazy? The fact that you can go to my favorite gambling website Bovada right this second and get nearly 3/1 odds on Kansas City winning the AFC West (+275 to be exact…bet $10, profit $27.50). If the Chiefs beat the Broncos on Thursday, this offer won’t be around any longer so jump on it. Maybe the Chiefs only looked legit last week because Houston was such a mess. Maybe Peyton Manning found some high-quality P.E.D.’s in the last four days. But something tells me this Kansas City team is going to be leading that division most of the year. Don’t expect me to share my winnings with you. Go bet on it yourself. NOW! [Editor’s Note: I wrote the previous paragraph on Wednesday night. By Thursday at 10am Pacific Time, the line had changed. Kansas City is now only 2/1 to win the division. Hmm…..]

Time to dive into the week 2 picks.

Denver at Kansas City (-3)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 28, Denver 16

Listen, I’m fully prepared for the unpredictable NFL to give us a huge Broncos win by way of a throwback Peyton Manning performance. I’m not about to say the guy is completely done, and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t have at least a handful of Pro Bowl level games left in his arsenal this year. But it doesn’t seem like a road game on three days’ rest against a team that just slaughtered the Texans in Houston is the time to predict that. Whenever I try to envision a Denver win, all I can see is the nightmare performance by Tom Brady and the Patriots offense at Arrowhead Stadium in week 4 last year. Expect this to be a big test for the Kansas City offense regardless of Manning’s performance. Houston had J.J. Watt to cause problems for KC last week, but Denver’s defense is legit across the board. If the Chiefs put up 30, we should all be terrified that my random prediction for them to go to the Super Bowl just might look decent.

Houston at Carolina (-3)

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 17, Carolina 15

“You’ve gotta earn it every day…If things aren’t going very well…look, we’re not on a short leash here. But look, we’re not gonna sit there and let it go like eight games of not being very good.”

Those are Bill O’Brien’s words in THIS “Hard Knocks” clip from August. Even though he said Brian Hoyer has to earn the starting job every day, he also said the QB isn’t on a short leash. Anyone who watched that conversation had to be thinking Hoyer would get at least a handful of starts before O’Brien even considered making a change. And yet, here were are, week 2, and he’s swapping QBs.

It’s a little confusing that one bad half of football outweighed everything O’Brien apparently saw from Hoyer over the four months of offseason activities.

I have nothing to say about the Panthers because I saw exactly 0.0 seconds of their week 1 win over Jacksonville. I’m picking the Texans to cover because I’m pretty sure Carolina had trouble putting the Jaguars away, and there’s a chance the Jags will be the worst team in football. I have minimal confidence in this pick.

San Francisco at Pittsburgh (-6)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 30, San Francisco 20

I’d certainly prefer this line to come down just a little, but nevertheless I’m very confident in the Steelers. You may not realize it by the final score, but Pittsburgh moved the ball easily on the road in New England last Thursday, and they were a couple of mental miscues away from actually winning. And the last time I checked, the 49ers don’t have Gronk on their team. San Francisco looked just a tad too good in its Monday night home game against the woefully unprepared Vikings. It’s a big point spread for a team that’s 0-1 and is still missing several key pieces (Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, Maurkice Pouncey), but I like their chances at home.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-10)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 24

Seems like an obvious Survivor Pool pick, but how confident can you really be in this New Orleans team right now? Did you know that in 2014 a horrible Tampa Bay team took the Saints to overtime in New Orleans and then 5 weeks later those same Saints lost to the average 49ers in overtime, also at home? The Saints aren’t an automatic “unbeatable at home” team anymore.

No one in their right mind could pick the Saints to lose outright, but even if they lead by two touchdowns all day, couldn’t you see them giving up some points when the game’s already been decided? Both teams are horrible defensively. I tend not to bet on a team to hold onto a 10-point lead when their defense is absolute garbage.

Detroit at Minnesota (-3)

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 23, Minnesota 16

Here’s my problem with the Vikings: They had the 8th worst run defense in 2014 and just let the 49ers run for 230 yards at a rate of 6 yards per carry even though they knew full well that running was going to be San Francisco’s preferred method of moving the ball. How could you not want to pick the Lions knowing that’ll allow you to root for Ameer Abdullah, the man who immediately made all of our Rookie of the Year predictions look terrible last week?

Arizona (-2) at Chicago

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 21, Chicago 13

As much as I want to start predicting the Cardinals to lose, I’ve made myself wake up each morning, look in the mirror and repeat this sentence 10 times: “Just wait until Carson Palmer gets hurt.” Make no mistake about it, once Palmer does get injured and misses some games, I will bet against Arizona every step of the way. But until then, their offense is just too competent and blends well with their superb coaching and solid defense. I also distrust Jay Cutler more than I distrusted every Republican candidate on that CNN stage last night combined, and I think he’s going to have to win this game for Chicago. He won’t do it.

New England (-1.5) at Buffalo

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 24, New England 22

I know many of my readers have their Patriots “Eff You Mode” blinders on just like I do so let me simply present the facts:

  1. In week 1 the Bills demolished an Indy team that many “experts” are picking to hang an “AFC Finalist” banner once again next winter.
  2. The Bills did this with a classic Rex Ryan defense that has slowed the Patriots offense down plenty of times in the past.
  3. The Bills were playing without one of their best defensive linemen, Marcell Dareus, when that line caused Andrew Luck to look like a Josh McCown / Brandon Weeden hybrid.
  4. Dareus and Kyle Williams might be the Bills’ best defensive players. They happen to be the guys who play in the middle of the defensive line, where they’ll be facing up to three rookies on the interior of the Patriots’ offensive line for much of the game.
  5. The Buffalo crowd is going to be bonkers on Sunday. The new owners brought immediate goodwill to Buffalo last year. Then the team went out and put up a 9-7 record in 2014, their best season since 1999. And then Rex Ryan came to town with his arrogance. And then they began the season in amazing fashion at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Their crowd is going to be N-U-T-S on Sunday.
  6. The Patriots have lost a game against a seemingly “inferior” team in the first month of the season in five of the past six years. Four of those five losses were against a division opponent. More often than not, that loss is on the road.
  7. After this game, the Patriots face the Jaguars, Cowboys (without Dez Bryant) and Colts.
  8. This matchup on Sunday is clearly the early-season game that the Patriots will lose.

San Diego at Cincinnati (-3.5)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 33, San Diego 23

It’s tough to get a good read on the Bengals because they played the Raiders in week 1. Let me ask you a question though. Is this a nationally televised prime time game? No? OK then. Andy Dalton will be fine and the Bengals will cover.

Tennessee (-1) at Cleveland

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 18, Cleveland 9

This line started off on Monday with Cleveland being a 2-point favorite. I’m guessing the fact that Austin Davis, the Browns’ 3rd string QB, is taking some 1st team snaps this week because Johnny Manziel has a bum elbow is the reason for this drastic line move. That’s right, the 2015 Cleveland Browns might be featuring their 3rd best option at quarterback when they take the field for their home opener on Sunday. Get excited, Northeastern Ohio!

When I guessed every team’s win-loss record before the season began, I had this as a win for the Browns. But….since this is Cleveland we’re talking about, you know how this goes. The Browns fans are going to forever long for Marcus Mariota and die wondering why their team selected Johnny Manziel with such a high draft pick.

Atlanta at NY Giants (-2)

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 35, NY Giants 20

We knew what the Giants’ biggest issue was heading into the regular season: pass defense. They presumably had no pass rush and were employing one of the worst groups of cornerbacks and safeties in the league. Well, we were right. Tony Romo carved them up to the tune of an 80% completion rate and over 350 yards. I don’t think Giants fans are going to enjoy both Julio Jones and Roddy White going off for 150 receiving yards on Sunday. I really don’t see Eli getting a chance to wear the dunce cap this time around because it won’t be a close game.

St. Louis (-3.5) at Washington

The Pick: Washington

The Score: St. Louis 20, Washington 17

Wow, this is just a liiiiiittle too much respect for the Rams. Remember that they were at home last week and it’s not like their defense shut the Seahawks out completely. I actually love where this line landed. If it was St. Louis favored by 1 or 2, I’d really have to think about taking them. I’m pretty sure the Skins will be able to run the ball, and it’s more probable than not that they will keep Tavon Austin in check on special teams. Washington falls to 0-2 but maybe their fans can enjoy the moral victory of the team keeping it close against both Miami and St. Louis.

Miami (-6) at Jacksonville

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 26, Jacksonville 6

I think I had Jacksonville as the 4th or 5th worst team in the NFL this year. That might have been aggressively optimistic. While it’s a lot more trendy to pick teams like San Francisco and Chicago to be the worst teams in football in 2015, it may just be that Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Oakland still take the cake in the ineptness category.

Baltimore (-6) at Oakland

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 34, Oakland 17

Welcome to the safest Survivor Pool pick of the week. Sure, there’s a chance the Ravens struggle for the second consecutive road game against an AFC West team, especially with them losing Terrell Suggs, but this Raiders team already got blown out at home in week 1 and that was before they lost both starting safeties to injuries. Neither player (Charles Woodson and Nate Allen) is as important to Oakland as Suggs is to Baltimore, but Baltimore also has a lot deeper of a team to withstand an injury like that. I can’t imagine what Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and the rest of that offense is going to do to an already awful defense down a couple starters.

Dallas at Philadelphia (-5)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 26, Philadelphia 24

You want to see a fan base in full panic mode after only two weeks? Check out the Philly fans when they lose at home to a Dallas team that’s missing Dez Bryant. What’s a better way to describe the position Chip Kelly will be in after this game? “There’s blood in the water” or “The noose is tightening around him”?

Seattle at Green Bay (-3.5)

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 24, Green Bay 21

Week 1 went perfectly if you’re like me and knew all along you’d be picking the Seahawks here. The Packers looked fine against the Bears, and Seattle looked just OK while losing at St. Louis. Those results led to Green Bay giving more than a field goal against the defending NFC Champs, a team the Packers haven’t beaten in what seems like a decade!

But I don’t care that they are finally getting this matchup in Green Bay or that Seattle’s offensive line looked horrible last week. The Packers’ pass rush is nothing compared to the Rams’, and more importantly, the Bears ran for 189 yards (5.7 yards per carry) on Green Bay last week. I’m just not convinced the Packers have done anything to address what has been a below-average run defense for the past three years. I’m feeling a big day from Marshawn Lynch and the running version of Russell Wilson.

NY Jets at Indianapolis (-7)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 21, Indianapolis 14

Here’s my conservative prediction for the Colts this year: 0-16, Andrew Luck gets benched permanently in week 6 for Matt Hasselbeck, Pagano fired before Halloween, Jim Irsay forced to sell the team in December when recordings of him saying racist things about Roger Goodell surface, and the team hangs a “2015 AFC Final 16” banner.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 7 Favorites, 9 Underdogs
  • 7 Road Dogs, 2 Home Dogs
  • 5 Home Teams, 11 Road Teams

Enjoy week 2.

NFL Week 1 Picks: Home Underdogs For Everyone!

roger-goodell

Congratulations to everyone who loves football and actually made it through the “offseason” with your sanity. This was not an easy seven months to keep the faith. But you made it, and your reward is 21 weeks of football (followed immediately by Valentine’s Day so you have a built-in holiday to make up the next 21 weeks of neglect to your significant other).

As I’ve done the last three years, I’ll be giving you my picks from a gambling standpoint towards the end of every week. Take my advice or leave it (almost definitely leave it).

And hey, if you need to waste a whole lot of time today before the Patriots-Steelers game, feel free to read all of our preseason predictions and picks by going HERE.

Let’s dive into week 1:

Pittsburgh at New England (-7)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: New England 24, Pittsburgh 20

With Tom Brady under center, the Patriots are 7-1 against the Steelers since 2001. And in the Mike Tomlin era (2007-Present), Brady’s Patriots are 3-0 against Pittsburgh and have outscored them by 24, 13 and 21 points. This has not been a team that gives New England problems over the years. Interestingly enough, both teams are missing their starting running backs (Bell & Blount), starting centers (Pouncey & Stork) and one of their top receivers (Bryant & LaFell). I’m not expecting a very crisp offensive performance from either side. While the Steelers’ defense will almost definitely suck in 2015, the jury is very much out on the Patriots. Will their defense fall all the way back to the 2011/2012 days? I’d like to think the Pats will go “scorched earth” from the start, but I can’t help think this is going to be a sloppy, lower-scoring-than-you’d-expect type of game.

Miami (-4) at Washington

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 23, Washington 16

Hey, look! It’s a matchup of the two coaches I thought had the best chance to get fired during the season (as written in one of my NFL predictions blogs earlier this week: which you can read HERE). In reality I don’t think Joe Philbin will get fired in-season because the Dolphins’ schedule is just so damn easy to start the year. I certainly think Jay Gruden will get fired, or quit, or end up in jail when Dan Snyder’s body turns up in the Potomac. There’s disrespect, and then there’s being a 4-point underdog at home to the mediocre Dolphins. The Redskins are not going to get any benefit of the doubt this year. The trash is piled high in the dumpster; several bottles of lighter fluid have been poured onto that pile; we’re just waiting for that first spark to turn Washington into a full scale dumpster fire. Will it be a Jay Gruden press conference sound byte? Will it be a RG3 tweet? Will it be an embarrassing off-field scandal? Can’t wait to find out! All I know is Kirk Cousins probably isn’t ready for Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and the rest of the Miami pass rush.

Indianapolis (-2.5) at Buffalo

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 24, Indianapolis 20

My instinct is to jump on Indy because that’s a small amount of points for a presumed Super Bowl contender to be favored over a team that’ll probably be just OK, even though it’s a road game for the Colts. But I don’t know for sure whether the Colts practiced during training camp & preseason or if they simply met from 8am-5pm everyday to brainstorm new excuses & accusations for when the Patriots demolish them in five weeks. That’s a key piece of information I need before making this pick. I’m actually going to call this as a surprise upset in week 1. Rex Ryan held Andrew Luck to nine points three years ago in the only meeting between them so far (Rex was with the Jets). I could see his new defense doing something similar on Sunday.

Cleveland at NY Jets (-3)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 20, Cleveland 6

This one’s so easy. If Geno Smith was starting for the Jets, it wouldn’t be as easy of a decision. But Ryan Fitzpatrick is a known commodity. He will beat the very worst teams, and he almost always starts the season off by going 2-1 or 3-1 before the implosion begins. Keep in mind that since the Jets have a solid run defense, Josh McCown is going to have to make plays against Revis, Cromartie and the rest of that rebuilt secondary. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Johnny Manziel is in the game by the time the 2nd half starts.

Kansas City at Houston (-1)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 27, Houston 17

Andy Reid gets a lot of crap from the public because of his well-documented clock management problems and because the Eagles came up just short so many times during his run there. But he’s actually a pretty good coach (when the pressure’s not on). The offensive-minded Reid was in Philly for 14 years. His teams ranked in the top 10 in offensive DVOA (FootballOutsiders’ efficiency stat) seven times and they ranked 11th-15th in the league 4 times. When Reid took over in Kansas City, the team was coming off the 2012 season where they ranked 31st in offensive efficiency. In 2013, he brought them up to 15th in the league, and last year they ranked 12th. With an in-his-prime Jamaal Charles, newly acquired #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin and a guy who could turn out to be the next Gronk in Travis Kelce at tight end, Reid has the pieces to set up shop as a top 10 offense for the next few years. Now if that Alex Smith fella could just learn to throw the ball…

Carolina (-3) at Jacksonville

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 21, Carolina 17

I think Jacksonville shows signs of life this season. But even if you don’t think that, how can you be comfortable taking the Panthers as a road favorite in week 1? This team could be less talented than the Jaguars when it’s all said and done. It seems crazy to back a road favorite in the season’s opening week when we really know nothing about these teams, unless that road team is a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Seattle (-4) at St. Louis

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 19, Seattle 13

This might be a game to avoid the point spread and bet the Under on the point total of 41. The games between these two teams are always so ugly. The Seahawks have lost two of three in St. Louis in the Russell Wilson era. And they still might be scrambling a bit to replace Kam Chancellor. And it’s week 1 and we just don’t know what these teams will become. So again, it’s time to take the home underdog (turning out to be a theme this week).

Green Bay (-7) at Chicago

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Green Bay 28, Chicago 23

There are a couple teams I need to be careful with because I’ve been so down on them this summer that I’m probably overselling how terrible they’re going to be. Chicago is one of those teams (It’s possible that San Francisco and New Orleans are also in that category for me). We know what we’re getting with the Packers: 12-4 record, beating all the teams they should, Mike McCarthy subtly fucking major things up, and losing once again to Seattle. But the Bears are a mystery. It’s week 1, it’s a division game, it’s a new coach in Chicago. I like the Bears to keep it closer than you might think.

Detroit at San Diego (-3)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 27, Detroit 17

This is exactly what the line should be between two teams that are expected to compete for playoff spots. I just happen to think the Lions are going to suck and the Chargers will be one of the five or six best teams in the AFC. By the way, isn’t there a chance Chargers head coach Mike McCoy is sneaky on the hot seat? They’ve put up back-to-back 9-7 records in his two years in San Diego. What if they go 9-7 again, or 8-8, and miss the playoffs? Is 9-7 every season good enough considering Philip Rivers probably only has a handful of effective years left? Keep an eye on that one.

New Orleans at Arizona (-2.5)

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 33, New Orleans 20

The Cardinals are going to lose plenty of games this year, but I don’t think this is one of them. They’ll lose when the other team’s defense can shut them down and get pressure on Carson Palmer. The Saints don’t seem to be that kind of opponent. Speaking of Palmer, I’m still shocked at how healthy he looks. If he stays on the field for 16 games, he’s going to make a lot of pessimistic Arizona predictions look bad.

Also, I don’t necessarily expect New Orleans’ transition from pass-first offense to run-first offense to go smoothly right off the bat.

Baltimore at Denver (-5)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 28, Denver 25

Since I’m a Patriots fan who enjoys the feeling of self-inflicted pain, I happened to have the NFL Network on last night. On one of the few non-Patriots segments, an analyst was breaking down Peyton Manning and the difference between his arm strength when he was healthy last year and his arm strength now. The bottomline was: He has no arm strength right now. I couldn’t believe the throws Manning was missing in preseason. And I also couldn’t believe how this wasn’t more of a major story in August. Until further notice, I am not giving Manning the benefit of the doubt. He’s going to have to show me he’s still a good QB before I bet on him. And the Ravens seem like they’d be a particularly tough defense to face if you happen not to be able to throw the ball accurately more than five yards in the air.

Cincinnati (-3.5) at Oakland

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 31, Oakland 17

I went back & forth on this pick 100 times. That’s usually a good indication that I have zero confidence in it. On the one hand, the Bengals probably aren’t getting the point spread respect that a team of their caliber facing Oakland deserves because all we can think about is Andy Dalton’s suckiness. But there’s a lot more to them than that, otherwise they wouldn’t make the playoffs every year. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be so much more fun to root for Oakland? To see Amari Cooper lighting up the Bengals defense while Khalil Mack buys a mansion inside Dalton’s head? Instead I think Dalton will have a big day as the Raiders struggle to keep up.

Tennessee at Tampa Bay (-3)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 24, Tennessee 17

It’s amazing how much intrigue just two new players can add to a matchup. Jameis Winston for the Bucs. Marcus Mariota for the Titans. These teams were unwatchable last year (and most of the past decade actually), but they immediately take a huge jump in watchability because of the mystery and potential at quarterback. And that’s why the NFL’s system is so perfect, and it’s also why they own us. Last year’s two worst teams are suddenly must-see TV.

Even if it’s by the smallest amount, I think the Titans are worse than the Bucs. And it’s a home game for Tampa. Yeah, let’s just take the home team in this matchup until we really know a little bit about these QBs.

NY Giants at Dallas (-6)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 29, NY Giants 18

This is one of only 42 times the Cowboys are featured on national TV this year so make sure you don’t miss it!

I might be in the minority on this, but I think the Cowboys’ floor this year is the same as the Giants’ ceiling. And Dallas seems like a team that’s a lot more settled at the moment, meaning they don’t have a ton of roster question marks or guys they’re waiting for to come back. The Giants look like a team in disarray to start the season, with questions about Jason Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz, and most of the defensive backfield. For the time being, I think the Cowboys are a full touchdown better than the Giants.

Philadelphia (-3) at Atlanta

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 33, Philadelphia 27

This one feels backwards to me. The Falcons should be favored by three. I understand why they’re not: They were awful last year, they have an unknown new head coach, and the general public is all lathered up over the Eagles. If my preseason prediction of the Falcons being a playoff team and the Eagles missing the playoffs is going to be true, I guess Atlanta has to start by winning this game. Most importantly, Vegas has the point total for this game at 55, easily the highest of the week. If nothing more, this should be a fun matchup for us fans.

Minnesota (-3) at San Franisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: San Francisco 17, Minnesota 8

Not so fast, Minnesota. The 49ers might stink in 2015, but the Vikings went 2-6 on the road last year and one of those wins was an overtime squeaker against Tampa Bay. Maybe the Vikings will go 7-1 at home this year and do enough on the road to make the playoffs, but they are certainly not going to turn into road warriors over night. Congrats to San Francisco for getting what will be their only win in the first two months of the season.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 7 Favorites, 9 Underdogs
  • 6 Home Underdogs, 3 Road Underdogs
  • 11 Home Teams, 5 Road Teams

Enjoy week 1.

Football’s Almost Here So Let’s Jump Ahead To Super Bowl Predictions

super bowl

We’re down to the final 30 hours or so before football begins, but let’s fast forward and talk about how the season ends.

Guest blogger Neil and I have been pumping out predictions all week and the only thing left to do is identify the playoff teams and figure out the Super Bowl matchup.

For me, the starting point in this exercise is making sure four or five teams who did not make the playoffs last year are included in the postseason this year. It’s as certain as a 12-seed over a 5-seed in March. Let’s see if Neil followed that rule.

Neil’s Playoff Teams

NFC

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Green Bay
  3. Seattle
  4. Atlanta
  5. Dallas
  6. St. Louis

AFC

  1. Indianapolis
  2. New England
  3. Baltimore
  4. Kansas City
  5. Denver
  6. Miami

Neil’s Playoff Results

Wildcard Round

  • (3)Seattle over (6)St. Louis
  • (5)Dallas over (4)Atlanta
  • (3)Baltimore over (6)Miami*
  • (4)Kansas City over (5)Denver

Divisional Round

  • (3)Seattle over (2)Green Bay
  • (1)Philadelphia over (5)Dallas
  • (2)New England over (3)Baltimore
  • (4)Kansas City over (1)Indianapolis

Conference Championships

  • (3)Seattle over (1)Philadelphia
  • (2)New England over (4)Kansas City
Super Bowl Pick: Seattle 28, New England 24  
  • Last year’s game was close enough that I think this year’s goes the other way. Hopefully this is a reverse jinx though.
* = I could not for the life of me figure out who the 6th playoff team in the AFC is going to be. I was sick of trying to guess records and coming up with 9-7 or 8-8 for everyone. So I went with Miami because they seem to have the least issues out of anyone else I guess? Maybe? I almost wanted to just leave it empty and say “some team that will lose to Baltimore and is not as deserving as the 7th best NFC team.”

Ross’ Playoff Teams

NFC

  1. Dallas
  2. Green Bay
  3. Seattle
  4. Atlanta
  5. NY Giants
  6. St. Louis

AFC

  1. New England
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Kansas City
  4. Baltimore
  5. Denver
  6. San Diego

Ross’ Playoff Results

Wildcard Round

  • (3)Seattle over (6)St. Louis
  • (5)NY Giants over (4)Atlanta
  • (3)Kansas City over (6)San Diego
  • (4)Baltimore over (5)Denver

Divisional Round

  • (2)Green Bay over (3)Seattle
  • (1)Dallas over (5)NY Giants
  • (3)Kansas City over (2)Indianapolis
  • (1)New England over (4)Baltimore

Conference Championships

  • (1)Dallas over (2)Green Bay
  • (3)Kansas City over (1)New England

Super Bowl Pick: Kansas City 30, Dallas 20

What? You expected me to pick the Patriots? Since I pick them to win the Super Bowl every year in this blog, I figured I’d go a little outside the box this year and look forward to being wrong. I like the NFC setup where Green Bay will get its revenge on Seattle right before Dallas gets its revenge on Green Bay.

By accident or not, Neil & I both chose five teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year. For both of us, it was three in the NFC and two in the AFC. The thing that stood out to me most is that Neil’s #1 seed in the NFC, Philly, didn’t even make the playoffs in my alternate universe. That seems like the team we’re farthest apart on this year. But hey, if a Mark Sanchez-led team (you know Bradford’s not lasting a full season) claims the #1 seed in the NFC, I’ll gladly laugh at myself for being so stupid not picking them to make the playoffs. I’ll be the first in line to congratulate Neil.

But before that happens, we’ve got 17 weeks of football to watch! Let’s Do This! Let’s help Roger Goodell stay in power by setting records in 2015 for TV ratings, merchandise purchased and tweets about the season. Can’t wait.

NFL Predictions: Superlatives & Inferiorities

mvp

When doing in-depth predictions for each NFL team’s win-loss record just isn’t enough, there’s the tried & true “superlatives column.” It’s the typical article that guesses who will win all the important awards and accolades over the course of the NFL season. Guest blogger Neil & I like to take that concept to the next level with our “Superlatives & Inferiorities” guesses. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Who will lead the league in passing yards?
    • Neil: Andrew Luck (7/2 odds). Hard to imagine him not going over 5000 yards with their easy schedule and the number of receiving weapons. Also, their defense will be bad enough that the offense needs to score in the upper 20s/lower 30s most games.
    • Ross: Eli Manning (16/1 odds). I’m starting these picks off with a bit of a wildcard. But I’m imagining a world where the Giants are terrible defensively, causing them to constantly be throwing to keep up with their opponent; horrible running the football because honestly, what do we know about Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams being competent full-time NFL running backs; and they take advantage of a pretty easy schedule in terms of opponents’ pass defense. It’s not surprising that Eli’s total passing yards spiked in 2014 with it being his first year with Odell Beckham and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
  • Who will lead the league in rushing yards?
    • Neil: This is a tough one. I wanted to say definitely someone in the NFC North, either Lacy (Green Bay maybe runs a bit more without Jordy) or Peterson (comes back angry and with a vengeance), but I’m going to say Jeremy Hill (9/1 odds). They have a “run first” offensive coordinator, and they probably want to keep the ball out of Dalton’s hands as much as possible.
    • Ross: Jeremy Hill. My fantasy football co-owners can back up my claim that I’ve been rock hard over Jeremy Hill for months now. I was considering taking him with the #1 overall pick had I gotten it in any of my leagues. I’m just going out on a limb thinking the Cincy offense will closely resemble the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Great offensive line, receivers who have to be respected by the defense, lack of a threatening #2 running back eating into the carries. The huge difference is the Bengals are going to do everything in their power to hide Andy Dalton, which just adds to the idea of a run-heavy clock-controlled offense all year.
  • Who will lead the league in receiving yards?
    • Neil: Let’s go with Julio Jones (6/1) here. Fairly easy division, good QB, clearly the top receiving option, plays in a dome.
    • Ross: Julio Jones. This is the biggest crapshoot of these first 3 superlatives because there are so many deserving receivers, but I’ll take Jones to finally win this title. You could convince me Randall Cobb is the right choice very easily though.
  • Who will be named regular season MVP?
    • Neil: Barring an injury, this is going to Andrew Luck (3/1). I think the league is just dying to give this to him.
    • Ross: J.J. Watt (20/1). Even though I think the J.J. Watt ballwashing by the media has reached annoying levels, I could easily see him breaking the sacks record this year while being Houston’s leading scorer on offense. And even if his season is just “good” by his standards, he’ll probably win if no QB breaks away from the pack.
  • Who will be named Offensive Player of the Year?
    • Neil: Andrew Luck (9/2).
    • Ross: Eli Manning (50/1). This award definitely goes to a quarterback or running back (Jerry Rice is the only receiver to be named OPOY in the 43 years they’ve been handing this title out). I might as well double down on jinxing the 2015 Giants so they don’t follow in the footsteps of the ’07 and ’11 installments of the G-Men.
  • Who will be named Defensive Player of the Year?
    • Neil: Seems like barring injury this is going to go to J.J. Watt (3/2) the next two or three years.
    • Ross: J.J. Watt. And if anyone says differently, they are wrong.
  • Who will be named Offensive Rookie of the Year?
    • Neil: Historically this is very much a RB’s award. I’m not sure Todd Gurley plays enough to win it though, and I’m not sure how Melvin Gordon is going to be used in San Diego. It would be easy to pick one of the top two draft picks, but I’m going with a dark horse and picking a receiver, Nelson Agholor (14/1).
    • Ross: Melvin Gordon (6/1). I came close to picking Amari Cooper because I’m mesmerized by his talent, but I’m worried about the Oakland stink rubbing off on him immediately. And if Derek Carr is bad, that’s a fatal blow to Cooper’s chances of putting up big numbers. The Chargers have been patching together their running game ever since perennial playoff crybaby LaDainian Tomlinson left town. Gordon finally gives them a legitimate stud runner.
  • Who will be named Defensive Rookie of the Year?
    • Neil: I’m going to go with Leonard Williams (6/1). The Jets defense should be on the field most of the game which will give him plenty of opportunity, and there are enough other players on that line to focus on that it should allow Williams to have some easy matches the first half of the season.
    • Ross: Vic Beasley (9/1). He’s supposedly a stud pass rusher on a team that’s had an anemic pass rush for what seems like the past 10 years. Beasley will collect the majority of sacks for the Falcons this year.
  • Who will be named Comeback Player of the Year?
    • Neil: Sam Bradford (14/1) if he stays healthy. Even if Peterson has a slightly better season, I’d think the NFL would rather give this to Bradford.
    • Ross: Carson Palmer (14/1). Ten of the past 14 winners of this award have been quarterbacks so I only ever considered Palmer and Sam Bradford. The winner will be whoever stays healthy longer. It’s that simple. And it’s a complete coin flip. Bradford has the better offensive line to protect him and an offense that revolves around getting the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly, but Palmer has the track record of actually playing full seasons at least at some point in his career. Tough call. (Is Jason Pierre-Paul a dark horse candidate for this award? Do the voters go for self-inflicted offseason injuries?)
  • Who will be named Coach of the Year?
    • Neil: Chip Kelly, Philadelphia (10/1). If Bradford stays healthy and Philly wins 10-11 games, people are going to be saying his offseason moves were genius.
    • Ross: Dan Quinn, Atlanta (14/1). He might not even end up being very good. It’s just that the juxtaposition of Quinn and last year’s coaching “effort” by Mike Smith might trick voters’ eyes into thinking Quinn is a coaching god.

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  • Who will be the First Coach Fired?
    • Neil: This is a tough one this year. So many candidates. Here in the Bay Area, rumors that Jim Tomsula has already lost the Niners locker room are starting to circulate. I’m not sure San Francisco feels like they have to give him a full year. I could see Jeff Fisher being in trouble if St. Louis gets off to a slow start, but I think their defense will get them wins until their offense can become average. Jay Gruden probably gets a full year to see what he can do with Kirk Cousins; however, the entire Washington scene seems to be getting worse by the day. I think it ends up being Marvin Lewis or Mike Pettine. We know the Cleveland ownership does not like to let coaches do too much building and their QB situation is a mess so they should be fairly bad this season. If Cincinnati starts off bad, do they axe Lewis before the end of the year in an effort to sell A.J. Green on the idea of, “Hey look, we’re changing, you should stay here!”? Cincy’s schedule starts easy enough that I think Mike Pettine is the first gone (+275).
    • Ross: Jay Gruden (3/1). By my count there are 13 coaches who could find themselves on a very hot seat by season’s end, but there are only two options for in-season firing: Gruden and Joe Philbin. The only hesitation I have on Gruden is that he might quit in October and I’d lose this prediction on a technicality.
  • Who will be the First QB Benched Due to Ineffectiveness?
    • Neil: I think Pettine feels more pressure to be good this year than Rex Ryan does, so I think it’s Josh McCown first. How awesome would it be if the right answer turns out to be Peyton Manning?
    • Ross: Kirk Cousins. I would not put it past Jay Gruden to change QBs every week, rotate all three guys regularly, and do everything short of chug whiskey on the sidelines.
  • Will there be an off-the-field controversy at any time during the season that dominates the news? (Just Kidding. It’s the NFL! Of course there will be! The question is, what kind of controversy and how far along into the season?)
    • Neil: The controversy is going to be around moving teams to LA. Although I’d prefer something that results in Jim Irsay getting a lifetime ban.
    • Ross: I’m pretty sure it’ll be concussions and head injuries. The NFL has done a masterful job creating decoy news to distract from the ongoing head injury issues over the past few years (Deflategate, Bountygate, relocation rumors, feigned outrage over marijuana smokers). But unfortunately I think we’re overdue for some incident on or off the field to shove head trauma back into the limelight. Whatever it is, I’m sure Goodell will handle it with great aplomb.
  • Over or Under 7.5 head coaches who totally botch the math throughout the season when deciding whether to go for 1 point or 2 points after a touchdown?
    • Neil: Waaaaaaaay over. I’m already mad about it. It is going to be my pet peeve all season, and I am going to bring it up a lot so be prepared. Let me start here: Every time the first score of a game is a touchdown and the scoring team does not go for two, I’m going to be giving out exaggerated eye-rolls.
    • Ross: I’m taking the over because more than 10 coaches immediately came to mind when thinking about this answer. Half of those ten will screw up because they like to play way too conservatively. The other half will mess up out of sheer ineptitude and terrible decision making.
  • Who will be the last undefeated team?
    • Neil: Indianapolis is the last undefeated team. Their first loss is exactly on 18-October.
    • Ross: Miami. The Dolphins aren’t even a lock to make the playoffs, but their starting schedule makes it impossible not to pick them: @Washington, @Jacksonville, Buffalo, NY Jets, @Tennessee, Houston, @New England. That’s a pretty simple path to 6-0 before that game against the Patriots.
  • Who will be the last winless team?
    • Neil: I’m going to go with the 49ers. If they can’t beat Minnesota opening weekend, I have no idea when they get their first win.
    • Ross: San Francisco. In last week’s NFL column I said, “If ever there was going to be a surprise 0-16 team, [San Francisco] would be the one.” I still believe that. If they can’t handle Minnesota at home to open the season, we could be talking about an 0-8 49ers team heading into a home game against Atlanta in week 9.
  • Which team will have the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft?
    • Neil: Cleveland (9/1). It is hard for me to see the McCown/Manziel/Pettine situation ending in anything other than the first pick.
    • Ross: Tennessee (5/1). You’re in uncharted territory when teams like Jacksonville and Oakland are light years ahead of you in competitiveness. Good job, Titans.
  • If you knew in advance the Patriots weren’t going to win the Super Bowl this season (let’s say, for instance, the NFL had an axe to grind with them and the league made sure the referees created calls to “help” the Patriots lose), which team would you be rooting for?
    • Neil: St. Louis. Two reason: 1) I think their defense is going to be dominant this year…able to win games by themselves. I mean, Nick Fairley is coming off the bench. It is fun to root for teams like that, and 2) If St. Louis wins their second Super Bowl and the NFL tries to move them to LA, there is no way Goodell comes out of the situation as Commissioner.
    • Ross: This is easy. I want the outcome to be whatever would be most embarrassing for Roger Goodell and the NFL. This year it would be either the Saints winning after Goodell railroaded them with Bountygate, or it would be St. Louis winning while the league is stealing the team and moving it to LA. (Editor’s Note: On second thought, New Orleans seems to be one of the few teams that has yet to have a current or former player/coach/executive blame a loss to the Patriots over the last 15 years on some convenient excuse so I’m all-in on them.)

We’ll be back in the next 24 hours with our final predictions for the season: Playoff Teams & Super Bowl Matchup. We are now within 55 hours of actual, meaningful football. Get excited.

Are You Ready For Some (Probably Rigged) Football?

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Are you sitting in Labor Day traffic right now? Wait, you’re not even on the road yet? You’re stuck at your job, where you’re constantly refreshing google maps only to see that dark red get longer & longer on the main freeway out of town? Yikes. Do yourself a favor and make someone else drive while you sit in the passenger seat and soak up our predictions for every NFL team’s 2015 record.

Guest blogger Neil and I have been competing in the NFL’s version of “closest to the pin” for three years now, and he leads me 2-1 overall. The game is simple. We each guess the record of all 32 teams, and whoever is closer on more of those picks wins. The wager remains the same as the last two years: Whoever wins, gets to pick 8 alcoholic beverages for the loser to consume during a 12-hour period during our annual Vegas trip in March. Neil’s strategy when he won two years ago was to make me order the most colorful and flamboyant drinks possible. My strategy last year was to find the 8 beverages with the highest alcohol content and unleash them on Mr. Conservative. It may not be the highest of high stakes, but it’s a helluva good time concocting the drink list and watching the other person squirm before he sees his fate.

Let’s jump right in. We’re doing all 32 teams in the same blog because I know you have a long road ahead of you today and you do not want to listen to your significant other talk about which of your friends might get engaged next and which couples might be pregnant (do women like anything more than randomly speculating about this stuff?). We each made a prediction and a supporting comment.

Arizona Cardinals

2014 Record: 11-5

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • This team was not as good as their record last year, especially in the second half of the season. They also didn’t solve their “who plays QB when Carson Palmer gets hurt” problem.

Ross: 7-9

  • Plenty of people have fully bought into Bruce Arians being a miracle worker, but I’m still one year away. If he gets this very flawed team to 10 wins again, I’m done betting against the man who is singlehandedly keeping Kangol in business. If you’re taking the Cardinals to win a lot more than I am, remember that they’re banking on a very old quarterback coming off his 2nd career ACL tear to lead the way.

Atlanta Falcons

2014 Record: 6-10

2015 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

  • Someone has to be the best team in this crappy division, I guess let’s go with the best offense?

Ross: 10-6

  • Sometimes it’s as simple as fresh blood at head coach combined with the easiest (projected) schedule in the NFL. This is the NFC South, where 7 wins took the division last year and it probably won’t take much more than that in 2015. The Falcons won the offseason’s coaching sweepstakes by landing Dan Quinn, and you could make the case that they employ the two best players in the entire division (Julio Jones and Matt Ryan). They deserve to be the slight favorite that Vegas has made them to start the season.

Baltimore Ravens

2014 Record: 10-6

2015 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

  • Anytime Baltimore has an “off year” they bounce back with a division win, right? Plus John Harbaugh must be happy he gets the title of “biggest crybaby Harbaugh brother in the NFL” back.

Ross: 11-5

  • Ahh, the poor man’s New England Patriots. They’re so cute, barely sneaking into the playoffs every year and being a “tough out” for the eventual AFC champ. It’s nice to see John Harbaugh starting to show his true crybaby Harbaugh colors. Unfortunately the Ravens always reload and have a solid quarterback so something would have to go terribly wrong for them not to be in the mix for the AFC North title.

Buffalo Bills

2014 Record: 9-7

2015 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

  • The defense will win them 8 games; their QBs will lose them 8 games. Par for the course for Rex. (Editor’s Note: Not sure why he picked them to go 7-9 considering his 8-8 logic.)

Ross: 8-8

  • You gotta hand it to him. Rex Ryan certainly has a type. He shunned jobs in Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago that would have landed him quarterbacks who have played at Pro Bowl levels at some point in their careers. Instead he opted for the team that was voted “Most Likely to Mimic the 2009-2014 New York Jets”…right down to their shitty quarterback situation. The thing is, Ryan is a very good coach. I’m just glad he’s never had a full arsenal to work with.

Carolina Panthers

2014 Record: 7-8-1

2015 Prediction

Neil: 5-11

  • Defense is pretty good. Cam Newton has proven he can win games by himself. However at some point having no other offensive talent has to catch up with them.

Ross: 6-10

  • Cam Newton needed every bit of help he could get if the Panthers were going to be good this year. Losing Kelvin Benjamin is huge because Newton isn’t very good in the first place. He’s never finished in the top 10 in FootballOutsiders’ QB efficiency stats. And his numbers have gotten worse every season of his career. His running is the only thing that keeps him employed at this point.

Chicago Bears

2014 Record: 5-11

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • I have not heard anyone say anything positive about the Bears’ 2015 chances. That’s not a dig at this team. That is just a fact.

Ross: 5-11

  • Just a brutal schedule across the board for these guys. They face 4 of last year’s playoff teams in their first 6 games, and then face another gauntlet later in the year: @San Diego, @St. Louis, Denver, @Green Bay. Thinking we see Jay Cutler on the Jets in 2016, marking the 3rd time some team will have tried & failed to turn Cutler-to-Marshall into a winning combination.

Cincinnati Bengals

2014 Record: 10-5-1

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • Good news, Cincy fans: This is most likely the last year of the Marvin Lewis era. Bad news, Cincy fans: This may be the last year of the A.J. Green era.

Ross: 9-7

  • Is Andy Dalton better off if the Bengals go 7-9 and miss the playoffs rather than winning 10 or 11 games and making the playoffs? This has gotta be the only situation in the NFL where that’s a legitimate question. But if Dalton isn’t given the chance to be in the playoffs, then he can’t have another playoff meltdown. Another polarizing playoff start full of errors might get Dalton kicked out of town before Marvin Lewis.

Cleveland Browns

2014 Record: 7-9

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • This team is wasting some valuable years of a good defense and a good offensive line.

Ross: 3-13

  • With the 1st pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select…If they don’t end up with the 1st pick, they’ll have the 2nd pick. They’re that bad. The only intrigue to the Browns’ season revolves around their ability to out-crazy the Redskins and take back the title of “Most Dysfunctional Franchise.”

Dallas Cowboys

2014 Record: 12-4

2015 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

  • Even if their injury luck from last year regresses to the average they should still be deep enough on offense to make the playoffs.

Ross: 12-4

  • The high confidence is partly due to how good I think the Cowboys are and partly due to how bad I think their division will be. Trust me, I’d love to see Dallas fall right back to their rightful 8-8 record, but they really do have a TON of talent on both sides of the ball. The coaching staff better just hope they don’t have to back up their claims that Brandon Weeden is the team’s most improved player by actually playing him in meaningful situations.

Denver Broncos

2014 Record: 12-4

2015 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

  • It seems like everyone is about 75-80% sure Manning is still an NFL caliber QB. That 20% chance he is not is very intriguing.

Ross: 11-5

  • We haven’t been this uncertain about Peyton Manning since…2012. In his first season in Denver, coming off the neck surgeries, it took him a little while to look like the classic “best regular season QB in NFL history” Peyton, but he eventually got there. I think this year will probably be the same. And call me crazy, but I think Brock Osweiler would do just fine filling in if Manning gets hurt at any point.

Detroit Lions

2014 Record: 11-5

2015 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

  • No way their defense is as good as it was last year. And it’s against natural law for Detroit to make the playoffs two years in a row.

Ross: 8-8

  • Take last year’s playoff team, swap out the creampuff NFC South & AFC East teams on the schedule for the much tougher NFC West & AFC West teams, subtract your best defensive player, and continue to employ Jim Caldwell as your head coach. You get a .500 record. It feels like the Lions are going to be stuck winning between 7-9 games a year for as long as Matthew Stafford & Calvin Johnson are combining to take up nearly 30% of the Lions’ salary cap.

Green Bay Packers

2014 Record: 12-4

2015 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

  • I think Rodgers has reached the Tom Brady “I can get to double digit wins with Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney as my WRs” zone, but I’m not sure they can beat Seattle without Jordy.

Ross: 11-5

  • If we don’t lower expectations for Green Bay at least slightly after the Jordy Nelson injury, then we’re basically saying wide receivers have no value. They’re now just like running backs, totally replaceable and interchangeable. As long as you have the right QB, the rest doesn’t matter. Is that what we’re saying? Not me. I’m lowering the Packers’ win total by a couple because I think their offense will take the smallest step back. Also, as is required at the start of each NFL season, let me just say: FIRE MIKE MCCARTHY! HE’S THE WORST AND HE’S WASTING AARON RODGERS’ CAREER!

Houston Texans

2014 Record: 9-7

2015 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

  • J.J. Watt is the best QB on this team. If you don’t believe me, watch episode 3 of Hard Knocks from this season. Also, Vince Wilfork. Overalls.

Ross: 9-7

  • When I was in Vegas in March, I put a $30 bet on the Texans to win the 2016 Super Bowl at 30/1 odds. I was kind of hoping Bill O’Brien would pull off a trade for a relevant QB or trade up to draft one…because I certainly don’t think Brian/Ryan Hoyer/Mallett can lead this team very far. I was originally going to write that having a lottery ticket that allows you to root for J.J. Watt is a good thing, but it turns out that even I have an oversaturation point when it comes to Watt. Just too much of him on Hard Knocks and too much media shoving his greatness down my throat these days. It’s not as fun anymore.

Indianapolis Colts

2014 Record: 11-5

2015 Prediction

Neil: 12-4

  • Week 6. Hope you’re ready.

Ross: 13-3

  • Their schedule is SO EASY. They face only two teams that are locks to be contenders, Denver and New England. And both of those games are at home for Indy! Even if, like me, you’re dubious at the idea of old Frank Gore and old Andre Johnson helping this team, they don’t matter. Andrew Luck has already brought this team to the playoffs multiple times without a Pro Bowl running back. And they still have T.Y. Hilton & several up-and-coming receivers regardless of what Johnson contributes. The Colts have a great chance of hanging yet another AFC Finalist banner next Spring! We better be careful. They’re gonna start to dominate those “runner-up in the semifinals” awards.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2014 Record: 3-13

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • I have to say, a person whose football knowledge I really respect kept Blake Bortles in a fantasy football league. I just don’t get it.

Ross: 4-12

  • Last year they improved 8 spots in overall defensive efficiency (via FootballOutsiders.com) and 1 spot in offensive efficiency (from 32nd to 31st). I feel like they’re going to take similar steps this year, including the miniscule improvement in offense. Signing Julius Thomas was stupid to begin with, now he’s going to miss at least 4 games. The biggest concern is that two years from now they’re going to have a top 10 defensive unit just as they’re realizing Blake Bortles isn’t a franchise QB.

Kansas City Chiefs

2014 Record: 9-7

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • I believe Maclin is a huge upgrade over Bowe. I also believe Alex Smith is still just a game manager.

Ross: 11-5

  • They won 11 games in Andy Reid’s first year, then 9 games last year with some bad luck and a difficult schedule. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chiefs take the division over the Broncos, but I wouldn’t think of betting on it. I’m already looking forward to week 8, when the Red Zone Channel cuts into another game to telll us a Kansas City receiver finally caught a touchdown pass.

Miami Dolphins

2014 Record: 8-8

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • With all the offseason money spent, there is going to be a lot of pressure to make the playoffs. Not sure Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill are going to handle it well.

Ross: 9-7

  • Philbin is just boring & ineffective enough to keep the Dolphins on the slowest possible trajectory toward the playoffs. They won 7 games in his first year as head coach, 8 games in his second & third years, and now they’ll grind all the way to 9 wins! If they don’t make the playoffs but their offense continues taking steps forward, expect Philbin to be replaced with Bill Lazor in 2016. Lazor is the team’s offensive coordinator who coached under Chip Kelly in Philly. Making Ryan Tannehill a good QB + having Chip Kelly’s name on your resume = head coaching job in 2016.

Minnesota Vikings

2014 Record: 7-9

2015 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

  • Not a real contender yet with their defense, but the offense should be fun and keep them in games.

Ross: 6-10

  • I love when people are already talking about “next year’s sleeper team” before the current season even ends. That was what happened to Minnesota last year. There’s no bigger red flag for me than the overhyped, extremely trendy “sleeper pick.” There are question marks all over this team, including Teddy Bridgewater. I agree that he could be a good QB, but don’t get too hard over him just yet. He finished 27th in QB efficiency in 2014, behind Derek Carr, Shaun Hill, Colt McCoy and Geno Smith. Calm yourselves.

New England Patriots

2014 Record: 12-4

2015 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

  • October 18th.

Ross: 13-3

  • Is there part of me that wants to see Jimmy Garoppolo lead the Pats to a 4-0 record to start the season just so the other 31 fanbases can freak out? Yes, but a very teeny tiny part. There’s not much to talk about here. The Patriots will win either 11, 12 or 13 games. I’m backing a scorched-earth mentality from Tom Brady this year by picking the high end. (Editor’s Note: This comment was obviously written before Judge Berman vacated Brady’s suspension. And in hindsight, no part of me wants to see Garoppolo start a Patriots game until 2019.)

New Orleans Saints

2014 Record: 7-9

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • They do not seem to have the offensive weapons they’ve had in recent years, right?

Ross: 7-9

  • I was tempted to stick the Saints with just three or four wins and give them a top five pick in the 2016 draft, but they’re just competent enough to stay above the usual riff raff (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland, Tennessee, Washington). The Saints still have lots of cap problems, had an atrocious defense last year, traded away their best two receiving options in the offseason, and have an aging quarterback who has started to look a little too much like late career Brett Favre. I think they’re significantly behind Atlanta in terms of talent at this point.

New York Giants

2014 Record: 6-10

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • Sorry, not buying the “every 4 years” banter. Defense is probably going to be horrible and we have no idea if Victor Cruz will be the same.

Ross: 11-5

  • I’m as shocked as you are that my calculations spit out an 11-5 season for the Giants. Maybe I’m optimistic that Eli Manning can be good for the 2nd straight year. Maybe I love the combination of Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, even if Cruz doesn’t see the field until later in the season. Or maybe I’m just a Patriots fan who knows there’s a mini-trend out there that says every four years the Giants must make a surprise playoff appearance and then shock my team in the Super Bowl. I hate knowing how this season will play out before it even happens.

New York Jets

2014 Record: 4-12

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • See: Buffalo comments. Pretty much “samsies” here.

Ross: 7-9

  • Everything you need to know about the current state of the Jets (and really, it was a microcosm for most of the Jets’ entire history): When Geno Smith suffered a broken jaw from a teammate’s sucker punch in July, the collective reaction among football fans was, “Damn, now the Jets are gonna be semi-competent while Ryan Fitzpatrick fills in for Smith.” They have an easy schedule and a defense that should keep them in games against teams like Cleveland, Washington, Oakland, Buffalo (twice), Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee.

Oakland Raiders

2014 Record: 3-13

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • I guess this was the most stable and logical offseason the Raiders have had in a dozen years or so. So that’s something?

Ross: 5-11

  • If the Raiders can prove me right and climb all the way to 5-11, it’ll be their best record since 2011. For once, it doesn’t seem like being drafted a Raider is an automatic death knell for players. Derek Carr survived last year, and by all accounts, Amari Cooper is too good for the Raider stink to affect him. Finally, they have some building blocks. Too bad they play in the AFC West and have one of the hardest schedules in the league. We’ll check back in 3-4 years to see if they’re ready to be a contender.

Philadelphia Eagles

2014 Record: 10-6

2015 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

  • I’m probably assuming too much in terms of Sam Bradford’s health, but I actually think Chip Kelly has a plan here.

Ross: 7-9

  • It’s probably best to evaluate Philly as if it has a run-of-the-mill coach because if you buy into the mythology of Chip Kelly, you’re going to immediately give the Eagles bonus points they don’t necessarily deserve. You could back Kelly, still a somewhat unknown commodity as an NFL coach and a total unknown when it comes to being in charge of personnel, or you could realize that this team just jettisoned its best wide receiver, running back and offensive lineman while adding Sam Bradford in the offseason. If the mystique of Kelly wasn’t involved, would you even be considering this team for more than a handful of wins?

Pittsburgh Steelers

2014 Record: 11-5

2015 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

  • I’m worried the offense is not going to be quite as good as it was last year. I think they could use another receiving option. Even if everything breaks perfect I think it is an average defense.

Ross: 8-8

  • By some stroke of luck, the Steelers have faced a bottom-five strength of schedule for four straight years. This year they’re projected to have the 9th hardest. The offense should be fine, if not as out-of-this-world as last year’s unit. But the defense is still going to be horrific. I counted 9 games on their schedule where they face teams who might be very good offensively. I think they’re going to lose a lot of games this year when both teams score 28 or more.

San Diego Chargers

2014 Record: 9-7

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • I wish this team would have made a move and traded for Mariota. I just don’t think as constructed they are ever going to win more than one playoff game in a given year.

Ross: 9-7

  • Over the past five years, the Chargers have won 9 games, 8 games, 7 games, 9 games and 9 games. They did nothing to change their default mediocrity in the offseason. I guess if they didn’t lose roughly 11 centers to injury last year they might have done more. But I fully expect another 9 wins that’ll either be just not enough or just enough to sneak into the playoffs as a team not to be feared.

San Francisco 49ers

2014 Record: 8-8

2015 Prediction

Neil: 5-11

  • So, we probably don’t have to worry about anyone getting a home game for the Super Bowl this year.

Ross: 4-12

  • If ever there was going to be a surprise 0-16 team, this would be the one. They are dealing with more turnover on their roster (and coaching staff) than I’ve ever seen. They have a new head coach who had never even risen to the title of coordinator before getting this job. They’re dealing with a young quarterback who took MAJOR steps back last year. And they’re also dealing with the 2nd hardest projected schedule in the league. That schedule includes nine games against 2014 playoff teams. Other than games at Cleveland and Chicago, they don’t play a single pushover team. This is going to be a rough year for 49ers fans. At least we won’t have to hear any chatter about “Will the 49ers be the first team to play at home in a Super Bowl?”

Seattle Seahawks

2014 Record: 12-4

2015 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

  • I know there were a lot of changes on both lines, but they kept all the key pieces. Hard to imagine another NFC team overtaking them this year.

Ross: 13-3

  • Listen, the Seahawks have absolutely moved into that rare space that the Patriots have occupied mostly alone for the past 15 years. We can fuss about small things that might cause them to lose a game or two, but at the end of the day, they’re a lock to win their division, probably win about 12 games, and at worst be fighting for the #1 seed until the end of the year. Their offensive line is by far their weakest spot, but they just happen to have a QB who can run whenever his pocket breaks down. Let’s just all keep our fingers crossed that God wants to teach Russell Wilson more tough lessons about adversity.

St. Louis Rams

2014 Record: 6-10

2015 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

  • The defense is going to be incredible. Can the offense score enough points to make them a playoff contender?

Ross: 9-7

  • I believe all you Minnesota bandwagon jumpers are going to wish you got on the considerably more spacious St. Louis bandwagon once the dust settles on 2015. Jeff Fisher teaming up with Nick Foles is the opposite of exciting, but the defense might be amazing, and with the Cardinals and 49ers taking huge steps back, there will be some extra wins to be had in the NFC West this year. And why not put the Rams in the playoffs just to make things even more messy for a league that’s intent on moving them to LA as soon as possible? Sounds like your classic NFL clusterfuck.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2014 Record: 2-14

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • If Lovie Smith just is not a good defensive coach anymore, this could get ugly.

Ross: 4-12

  • Similar to Oakland, at least the Bucs now have an intriguing offensive connection between Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Let’s say Winston throws for over 3,500 yards and 22 touchdowns while Evans exceeds 1,000 receiving yards and scores 7 or 8 times, there will be a lot of people foaming at the mouth in Tampa in the summer of 2016. I’d rather be the Bucs right now than the Panthers or Saints.

Tennessee Titans

2014 Record: 2-14

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • At least this team will be intriguing for a few weeks until we realize they are not using Marriota in the right way.

Ross: 2-14

  • My actual prediction for the Titans is 0-16, but it doesn’t make sense to pick 0 wins when I know Neil is going to play things conservatively and give this team at least 4 wins. I might as well go with a 2-14 record, knowing I still win if they lose 16 straight. This team has no redeeming qualities except that their rookie quarterback is a complete unknown. Their two “easy games” are against Tampa Bay and Cleveland, but both of those are on the road. What bothers me most about Tennessee is that they’re just so damn boring. If you’re going to win less than 5 games a year, you need to have some psychotic elements going on, like Cleveland and Washington. You can’t be bad and boring. That’s just boring.

Washington Redskins

2014 Record: 4-12

2015 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

  • Thirty months ago every team would have wanted RG3 over Andrew Luck.

Ross: 3-13

  • Speaking of dysfunction, our final team is also our most pathetic team. Be careful when you’re making any bets on “which coach will be fired first during the season” if you’re thinking of picking Jay Gruden. He may very well quit before he can get fired, and I doubt the sportsbook will pay your bet if he didn’t technically get canned. If any owner needs to die to immediately improve the fortune of his team, it’s Dan Snyder. Congrats to the 2015 Washington Redskins for winning the 2015 Most Pathetic Team award before a single snap of the regular season is played.

With the regular season only six days away, we’ll be back next week with playoff predictions along with some superlatives for the season (a favorite of mine because we focus on actual superlatives like “most passing yards in the regular season” and the exact opposite of superlatives like “first coach to be fired” and “first QB benched due to looking too much like a Ryan Lindley/Brandon Weeden hybrid”).

Check back in next week and enjoy your final Sunday without football until Valentine’s Day!