Week 11 NFL Picks: Why Every Matchup Sucks

titans jags

How’s everyone doing after week 10? Still hanging in there? Still alive? Alive but spent the past five days selling off most of your possessions to pay your gambling debts? If you took a bath on bets or picks last week, don’t be too hard on yourself. Here’s what happened in a nutshell:

RJ Bell tweet

That probably won’t be happening again so feel free to go back to your tried & true method of picking all the favorites.

One other tweet popped up on my feed earlier today that seems relevant to share with the world:

Schefter tweet

And when the Bills lose to New England on Monday night, it’ll be down to 10 teams with a winning record.

That stat is amazing and it tells you two important things about the season so far:

  1. We have been watching a lot of bad football games played between a lot of below average teams. We weren’t just imagining that.
  2. At this moment, 23 of 32 teams still believe they have a shot to make the playoffs. That means 72% of the league thinks they’ll be part of the 38% that plays meaningful January football. If you disagree with that number, just check out ESPN.com’s NFL standings page and try to tell me which teams don’t have a shot besides these ones: Cleveland, San Diego, Baltimore, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, Tampa Bay.

In theory this should make for exciting football over these final seven weeks of the regular season, but in reality, it means we have “playoff implication matchups” like tonight’s game featuring the Titans, who could be just one game out of 1st place at 3-7 if they win, and the Jaguars, who will probably be tied for 1st place if they win. So yeah, tonight’s “big game” represents the state of football in 2015 extremely well.

Ready for the week 11 picks? OK, fine, one more tweet from the last few days that excited me:

Siciliano tweet

And Andrew Siciliano is actually wrong by one because sometime after that tweet, Houston announced that T.J. Yates would be starting in place of the concussed Brian Hoyer. So we have 48 different starting QBs through 11 weeks of football! Another reason why there’s a historic clusterfuck in the standings.

Let’s make some picks.

Tennessee at Jacksonville (-3)

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 20, Jacksonville 9

The Jaguars haven’t won two games in a row during the Blake Bortles era (including preseason!). Are we to believe that the time is now for that miniscule accomplishment? Something makes me extremely nervous backing Jacksonville on short rest coming off such an emotional (discredited) win in Baltimore.

Even though the score doesn’t reflect it, the Titans actually hung with the Panthers for about 3 ½ quarters last week. Call me crazy, but I think the Titans end any talk about the Jaguars making the playoffs before it really even gets started.

Oakland (-1.5) at Detroit

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 27, Oakland 20

What normally happens with a team like the Raiders is this: Everyone sees a potential Wildcard team and starts to look at the rest of their schedule to see how they might get to 9 or 10 wins. You’ll see things written about how Oakland’s home game against Kansas City on December 6th followed by a road game at Denver on December 13th is the key two-game stretch that’ll make or break their season. But then they go out and lose back-to-back road games to the lowly Lions and Titans. It’s just the way it works.

Indianapolis at Atlanta (-6)

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Atlanta 26, Indianapolis 23

In case you’re wondering why I still mention my Survivor Pool pick every now and then, it’s because I am indeed still standing after 10 crazy weeks. There are four of us still playing.*

All week long I’ve been eyeing the Falcons because I’m down to very few attractive options. I even started polling some of the people whose opinion I’m most confident in when it comes to this stuff. I gave them three options: Atlanta, Kansas City or Denver. And all but one person said they’d go with Atlanta first, then Kansas City and then Denver. The person who disagreed with that line of thinking had the Chiefs first and then the Falcons.

But I just can’t do it. I’m not putting my fate in the very shaky hands of Dan Quinn and the Falcons. In a best case scenario, they’d make me sweat it out and possibly win by three. I don’t need that aggravation. You’ll see who I chose later on in this column.

*I feel like I need to tell you that all 18 entrants into my Survivor Pool picked incorrectly in week 2. That means we were all allowed to advance to week 3 since there was no winner. So even if I somehow win this pool, don’t ever let me brag too much about surviving for 11+ weeks. I didn’t actually get through it unscathed.

St. Louis at Baltimore (-3)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 24, St. Louis 14

You know what I discovered when I looked closely at the Rams? They’re a pretty mediocre team that is getting A TON of mileage and goodwill from their early season wins vs Seattle and Arizona. But since then, their only wins are home games against Cleveland and San Francisco, quite simply the two worst teams in football.

Regarding last week’s Ravens game:

  1. If this was any other team in the NFL (except for the Colts), I’d be feeling a little bit bad for Baltimore and its fans. Just when you think the late-game luck couldn’t get any worse, they lose yet another game at the last second to the lowly Jaguars, and this time it was a complete screwjob by the refs. The NFL confirmed what anyone who saw the second-to-last play of the game should have already known: Jacksonville never got set before snapping the ball with time running out. The Ravens actually won the game.
  2. But here’s the thing. Ravens fans probably didn’t want their team to win this game. At 2-7 Baltimore is tied with five other teams for the fewest wins in the league. Who would have thought Baltimore at Cleveland in two Mondays could be such a big game? It might end up deciding the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft!

I actually don’t think the Ravens will be involved in the top of the draft because they’ve really been unlucky all year and will probably win a couple games down the stretch. But I bet Baltimore fans are daydreaming about Ozzie Newsome flipping the 1st overall pick to a desperate team for a king’s ransom.

Oh, and Baltimore wins this game because they are a million times better than everyone thinks and the Rams are probably worse than most people think.

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia (-6)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Philadelphia 16, Tampa Bay 13

Damn, Vegas, make it easier on me why don’t you! What we’re going to see in this game, most likely, is a bit of a defensive battle. Traditionally, those don’t end up with one team winning by a touchdown or more.

At a quick glance, these two teams seem identical, right down to their matching 4-5 records. The Eagles definitely have a big edge on defense (I still can’t understand how they rate out at #2 in the league according to FootballOutsiders.com’s efficiency metrics), but the Bucs are starting to look like a decent 7-9 or 8-8 team.

Denver at Chicago (-1.5)

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 27, Chicago 17

So this line opened at Denver -3 and has swung all the way to the Bears being 1.5-point favorites. This must be because Brock Osweiler is starting in place of Peyton Manning. But I don’t get that at all. Why would a healthy Osweiler inspire less confidence than a rotting corpse version of the best regular season quarterback in NFL history? Maybe Osweiler isn’t a future Pro Bowler, but just the fact that teams have to assume he can throw the ball farther than 7 yards down field and faster than 20MPH makes the Broncos offense immediately more dangerous.

If you think about this matchup for a couple seconds—I mean really think about it—then there’s no other conclusion except that the Broncos win. They won seven in a row to start the year DESPITE PEYTON MANNING’S OFFENSE BEING THE STATISTICALLY WORST UNIT IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE! That defense hasn’t changed. The coaching hasn’t changed. The receivers are all the same. And the quarterback position HAS IMPROVED. C’mon. Give me something challenging for once.

And yes, I am riding with Denver as my Survivor Pool pick. I’m shunning the opportunity to take the 6-3 Falcons at home or the Chiefs going up against the 2-7 Chargers. I believe this Denver/Chicago line is one of the craziest, most nonsensical things I have ever seen in my gambling career.

NY Jets (-2.5) at Houston

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 20, Houston 3

This feels a little bit like a “get back on track” game for the Jets. They’ve lost three out of four, with their only win since October 18th coming at home by five points over Jacksonville. Ryan Fitzpatrick had that minor thumb surgery last week and should be good to go for this game. They’re still 5-4 and in position to make a Wildcard push. This is a very winnable game against a Houston team that surprised us all with a win in Monday night’s 10-6 “thriller” in Cincinnati. Even in their wins, the Texans look pretty bad. As long as Darrelle Revis can keep DeAndre Hopkins from having a huge day, the Jets should be good. I know Revis is no Malcolm Butler, but he should be able to get the job done.

Washington at Carolina (-7.5)

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Carolina 27, Washington 21

Whenever a division is in shambles and it looks like an 8-8 record might take the title, I always root for the most surprising team to win. For example, GO TITANS!

In the NFC East, that would be the Redskins. If Washington wins while the Giants are on their bye, both teams would be 5-5 going into their head-to-head matchup in D.C. in week 12 (Philly would also be 5-5 if they win this week).

But that’s probably not going to happen because the Panthers are undefeated, playing at home and are just about as good as we think they are. To me that means they will beat Washington, but not by more than a touchdown. I feel like I’m on repeat here regarding the Panthers, but they simply aren’t a team that blows out any decent competition.

Dallas (-1) at Miami

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 31, Dallas 23

If you’re looking for the Stayaway Game Of The Week, this is it. The Cowboys have been atrocious the entire season, but of course their most important player, Tony Romo, has been missing during their current seven game losing streak. The consensus is that Romo should be seen as even more of a valuable player than he has been in the past because look how bad the Cowboys do without him. But that’s just a weak excuse for a team that’s underperformed across the board. Plenty of teams have won plenty of games when their MVP-caliber QB has been hit with an injury. So I’ve come around from my earlier thoughts that Dallas is just unlucky and still very talented. I think they’re somehow still overrated at 2-7!

So give me the Dolphins with very, very little confidence.

Kansas City (-3) at San Diego

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: Kansas City 33, San Diego 31

This seems pretty simple. The Chargers are really awful, and most people agree they don’t even have a home field advantage. Meanwhile, the Chiefs look like they’re rounding into playoff form at the right time.

But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Regarding Kansas City’s “resurgence,” their current three game winning streak was: Home against the Landry Jones version of the Steelers, in London against the Lions and at Denver last week, when Peyton Manning’s corpse was finally benched. Not exactly a who’s who of opponents playing at a high caliber.

And on the San Diego side…look, if I’m going to state each and every week that the Ravens have been unlucky, I have to do the same with the Chargers. Six of their seven losses have been by eight points or less! They’re the West Coast Ravens. The way San Diego conducts business is they get into these crazy shootouts with the opponent and always come up just short. Let’s hope they have another one of those in them this week…a two-point loss seems appropriate.

Green Bay at Minnesota (PICK)

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Minnesota 21, Green Bay 20

I’m just going to leave this article about Adrian Peterson, which includes some info on how he has torn up the Packers in the past, right HERE.

And I’m also just going to leave this article about Aaron Rodgers hitting the injury report this week right HERE.

San Francisco at Seattle (-13)

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Seattle 12, San Francisco 0

No. Just…no, OK? Why would I even consider laying 13 points with the 4-5 Seahawks? Because Blaine Gabbert and the terrible 49ers are coming to town? Newsflash, the Seahawks are a mediocre team…at best! Sure, you can almost guarantee they’ll win this game, but by two touchdowns? Gross. No thanks. I’m not buying it.

Cincinnati at Arizona (-5)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 25, Arizona 23

Let’s look at where Footballoutsiders.com has these two teams ranked in a few categories:

  • Offensive Efficiency: Cincinnati 2nd, Arizona 3rd
  • Defensive Efficiency: Cincinnati 8th, Arizona 6th
  • Special Teams Efficiency: Cincinnati 10th, Arizona 14th
  • Overall Efficiency: Cincinnati 3rd, Arizona 2nd

Pretty similar, right?

How about the four common opponents that these two teams have faced so far in 2015:

  • Baltimore: Cincinnati won 28-24, Arizona won 26-18
  • Seattle: Cincinnati won 27-24 in OT, Arizona won 39-32
  • Pittsburgh: Cincinnati won 16-10, Arizona lost 25-13
  • Cleveland: Cincinnati won 31-10, Arizona won 34-20

Outside of that slip-up by the Cardinals in Pittsburgh, again, we’re talking about two very similar teams.

So why is it a five-point spread and not the standard three points when the matchup is so even like this? Because the Bengals are coming off a very attention-grabbing loss on Monday Night Football at home against the Texans. And because there are now a bunch of idiots out there who think this means Andy Dalton is back to not being able to win in Primetime. Vegas knows they can still get a ton of action on Arizona at the current spread because of that perception.

As a smart bettor, my only choice is to take the Bengals. It should be your only choice too. You’re getting two free points out of it. And all we can do from here is hope the Red Ryder BB Gun doesn’t shit himself in the desert on Sunday night.

Buffalo at New England (-7.5)

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 34, Buffalo 17

This line should be Patriots by 9.5 or 10 points. Yes, even with a lineup that’s missing Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman and possibly Jamie Collins. The Patriots should be favored by double digits.

In their week 2 matchup, Tom Brady threw for over 450 yards on Buffalo’s defense. The Patriots only rushed for 56 yards. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the New England offense flips that gameplan on its head. We’ll see over 200 rushing yards and a much more conservative passing attack. But even if this weakened offense can’t march down the field as surgically as before, the defense is playing at a high enough level to really slow the Bills down. Maybe my prediction for 34 points will be way too high, but winning by more than a touchdown still seems easy in this case.

Ummmmmm, remember when I said at the beginning of this article that underdogs covering at a historic rate probably isn’t happening again? I probably need to be really, REALLY wrong about that if I’m going to have any success in week 11. Check out the weekly tally:

  • 3 Favorites, 10 Underdogs, 1 PICK
  • 3 Home Dogs, 7 Road Dogs
  • 6 Home Teams, 8 Road Teams
  • Season Record: 74-66-6 (9-5 in week 10)

Enjoy week 11.

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NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: Part One

elite-qbs

(It turns out I had a lot to say about this weekend’s NFL Playoff games so I’m breaking my column into two parts. This is part one, which includes some general NFL headlines and aggressive breakdowns of my favorite prop bets this weekend. Check back in a couple hours for part two, where I’ll make my picks for each of the four games.)

It’s finally here. Round Two of the playoffs. The final eight teams still playing football, still thinking they’ll be the ones hoisting the Lombardi Trophy on February 1st.

Where do we even begin breaking down a weekend that has so much potential?

Let me just get this out of the way first: When I allude to a possibly great weekend of football and say there are amazing matchups across the board, I’m specifically talking about all the games except for Carolina at Seattle. No matter who tries to hype that game up, I just can’t see it. I think the Seahawks are going to slaughter the Panthers on Saturday night.

But these other three matchups? Wooooeeeee!

These are the NFL’s wet dream matchups. One of the best recent non-divisional rivalries with Baltimore going to New England. Two of the NFC’s marquee franchises with two of the best quarterbacks facing off when Dallas takes on Green Bay. And Peyton Manning hosting his Indianapolis successor, the new Peyton Manning if you will.

It’s so good you’d almost think the NFL had a hand in creating these exact matchups. Hmm…

(One million Detroit Lions fans just spat on their computer screens.)

Unless you’re a brand new reader that’s never seen any of my previous football columns, I’m not going to be able to convince you that my picks against the spread are anything close to a lock. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still monitor all of the gambling action and give you my best effort on the game lines and the prop bets.

Unlike the lead-up to Wildcard Weekend, the lines on this weekend’s games really haven’t moved since being posted on Sunday night. That tells you two things: 1) There haven’t been any major injuries or personnel news to affect the spread, and 2) No team out of the eight is getting a landslide of betting action on its side.

And it’s so interesting because we’re not talking about a small point spread for any of these games. New England and Denver are each favored by seven points over Baltimore and Indianapolis, respectively. The Seahawks are 11-point favorites over Carolina. And the smallest line is Green Bay giving six points to Dallas.

Normally you’d never feel comfortable backing so many favorites that are giving a touchdown or more in the playoffs, but then you realize these favorites are the four best teams in football, all of whom are operating on two weeks rest. And that’s before mentioning that each of those four teams have Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and other players with a ton of playoff experience.

So yeah, you’re tempted to ride the favorites. But, c’mon, you know there’s gotta be an upset or two.

This is exactly why most of my money this weekend will be going on my favorite prop bets. Before we get into the props and my picks for each game, let’s run through everything that caught my eye this week in the world of football:

  • Nice to hear that Ron Rivera’s neighbors were so good to him and his family as his house was on fire Monday morning. I gotta wonder if those Panthers fans would still have brought them breakfast and coffee if Carolina had lost at home to Ryan Lindley and the Cardinals. In fact, while I’d never wish for anyone’s home to burn down, I am curious to know how Jim Caldwell’s or Marvin Lewis’ neighbors would have reacted if this happened to one of them. Does anyone help in that situation? Or do angry fans find a way to ensure Lewis is trapped in the house while it burns? Like I said, just curious…
  • I’ll be the first to admit the AFC North fooled me this year. With three teams making the playoffs and even the Browns looking good for stretches, I expected a better performance in the playoffs. Cincy never showed up last week and the Steelers made Baltimore’s win way too easy. That division’s schedule this season included the NFC South and the AFC South, which is basically like handing six or seven wins to any halfway decent team. You know what happens next year? They face the NFC West (Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis) and AFC West (Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego). I wish I could place a bet right now on only a single AFC North team making the postseason next year.
  • If you didn’t see Matthew Stafford’s reaction to the picked up flag in the Detroit/Dallas game, you can find the short video embedded in this Deadspin Article (for whatever reason, the YouTube clip has been pulled down).
  • This demonstrates the only reason I was never a pro athlete. The composure he has, even while yelling at the referees, is amazing. I would have whipped my Johnson out and started pissing on the refs’ legs and probably the Cowboys’ logo.
  • Speaking of that flag/no-flag debacle in the last round, that’s exactly the type of thing I will be rooting for if my Patriots aren’t the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl. Bitterness triumphs over enjoying good football every time.
  • Rob Ryan returns to New Orleans as their defensive coordinator. And why not? He has quite the impressive resume. Here is where each of his defensive units have finished among the NFL’s 32 teams starting with the 2004 season:
    • Oakland (2004-08): 26th, 20th, 8th, 22nd, 19th
    • Cleveland (2009-10): 30th, 18th
    • Dallas (2011-12): 16th, 23rd
    • New Orleans (2013-14): 10th, 31st
  • That seems like a resume that’s deserving of more chances, right? Two acceptable years out of 11.
  • The tweet I saw this week that should definitely make you think twice about backing all four favorites was from ESPN’s Adam Schefter: “All 4 favorites haven’t covered in the Divisional Round since 1991.”
  • Twenty-two years since that’s happened, for the record.

The Prop Bets

I feel particularly good about three prop bets this week, but I’m going to make a fourth bet. That fourth one is probably a sucker’s bet, but I just can’t help myself. It’s a fun one. You’ll see:

Who will record the most passing yards in the Divisional Round?

If you’re willing to follow my lengthy logic here, we can use the process of elimination to narrow this one down. Or you can be a jerk and just skip to the bolded item at the bottom of this section for my pick (Bovada’s odds are in parentheses):

  • Cam Newton (25/1) just isn’t an option. He’s not doing it in Seattle. Sorry.
  • While we’re at it, I don’t see Russell Wilson (20/1) winning this bet either. Carolina’s defense ranks 9th against the pass and 22nd against the run. I think Wilson could have a ton of rushing yards in this game, but Seattle isn’t airing it out.
  • I’m eliminating Joe Flacco (9/1) and Tom Brady (5/1) from the discussion because people seem to think the weather (specifically the wind) could be an issue Saturday afternoon in Foxboro. Cold and snow don’t slow down passing offenses, but wind does.
  • I also don’t see Flacco going for 350+ yards against New England’s solid pass defense. Brady might not be a horrible play if the weather ends up cooperating, but as a Patriots fan, I can’t make that bet.
  • Tony Romo (7/1) has a couple things working against him: The Packers’ run defense is a lot worse than its pass defense, and Romo has only cracked 300 passing yards once in the 16 games he’s played this year. The only thing that makes him intriguing is the possibility of them going down by 10-14 points early and having to abandon their bread & butter (DeMarco Murray).
  • Peyton Manning (3/1) doesn’t give me much confidence because we have no idea what the hell is going on with his health and their focus on running lately. But maybe the bigger problem with him is this: Manning topped 300 passing yards seven times this year, and Denver’s record in those games was 3-4. Similarly, when Manning’s pass attempts in 2014 exceeded 40, the team was 2-4. For whatever reason, Manning throwing the ball often this year has not been a recipe for success. So unless you think the Colts are going into Denver and beating the Broncos, Manning’s a bad play.
  • That leaves us with Aaron Rodgers (3/1) and Andrew Luck (5/2).
  • The case for Rodgers: He’s going up against the 22nd ranked pass defense; he’s the quarterback on the league’s 2nd best passing offense; he had eight games in the regular season of 300+ passing yards, and unlike Manning, his team went 7-1 in those games; and I wouldn’t put it past any team this time of year to be exaggerating the extent of someone’s injury. So Thursday’s news on Rodgers’ lingering calf injury does not deter me at all.
  • The case for Luck: He led the league in passing yards this season; he had 11 games with more than 300 passing yards; his offense has no reliable running game; out of any of the contenders for this prop bet, his team is most likely to be losing big throughout the game.
  • I’m betting both Rodgers and Luck in a big way, knowing that as long as one of them wins it, I make a profit. (I’m fixing my mistake from last week when I bet Ben Roethlisberger but didn’t bet on Luck. I should have bet both.)
  • But if you’re feeling really lucky, go ahead and throw a sawbuck on Tom Brady.

Total Passing Yards – Andrew Luck – Over/Under 310.5

It should be obvious that I’m going with the over here (-115 odds). The Colts just can’t seem to be competitive without a lot of passing from Luck. And I feel somewhat protected if it’s a blowout in Denver’s favor because Luck will also be throwing a ton in that scenario.

Sure, we already have our bet on Luck to have the most passing yards this weekend, but I’d hate to miss out on a slice of the action if someone random happens to get hot and throw for 400 yards.

Total Rushing Yards – Justin Forsett – Over/Under 65.5

I’m also taking the over (-115) on this bet. It just seems likely that this will happen. Forsett beat this number nine times this year. The Ravens run for 126 yards per game while the Patriots give up 104 yards on average. I could end up being wrong on this, but I can’t imagine the Ravens’ gameplan is to have Flacco drop back 40 times and throw on this impressive New England secondary. In fact, I think the Patriots wouldn’t mind seeing Forsett go off for 175 yards if it means Flacco’s deep passes are held in check. (I have a weird feeling that this game will resemble that Denver/New England regular season game from 2013 where Knowshon Moreno ran for something like 680 yards but Manning couldn’t move the ball through the air.)

Will there be a game-winning field goal or touchdown as time expires in any game during the Divisional Round?

Here’s the fourth prop bet. The one that I can’t make a quantitative case for and is most likely a sucker’s bet. But I’m betting YES (4/1) on this. Last week was full of awful football so I’m praying we get some exciting games this week. It’s always good when you can make a bet that’s just naturally fun to root for, and who doesn’t want to see some games come down to the final play. (As opposed to whenever you bet the under on a point total in a game. Who wants to root for less scoring in any game?)

As a reminder, please check back on Friday afternoon for my picks against the spread. At this point it feels almost guaranteed that I’m going 0-4 again this weekend.

Week 3 Picks Against the Spread

cleveland browns suck

As if the fantasy football world wasn’t already chaotic enough this week with the fallout from the absurd number of week 2 injuries, the Cleveland Browns had to go and do weird shit, turning the waiver wire period into a roller coaster of panic and depression for plenty of fantasy owners. Trent Richardson’s value plummets this week (and then skyrockets starting next week), Ahmad Bradshaw’s value takes a permanent nosedive, the entire Cleveland receiving corps’ stock also takes a hit considering defenses no longer have to worry about a running threat or a semi-legitimate starting quarterback. It’s all so confusing.

Speaking of fantasy, it’s great to see Cleveland’s management treating the real NFL season as if it’s a fantasy keeper league where their team is 0-8 and they’re looking to stockpile valuable assets for next year.

By now you’ve seen the tweets from all the NFL reporters stating that only one other top 3 draft pick in the league’s history has ever been playing for his second team as early on in his career as Trent Richardson. So even though it falls short of the insanity that would ensue if someone like Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers was traded during the season, it’s a pretty big deal.

It created quite the stir in my world immediately after news broke. Here’s the timeline of my many reactions to this confusing transaction that went down on Wednesday afternoon:

  • 3:17pm PST: I look at my Twitter timeline for roughly the 356th time today and see Adam Schefter’s tweet stating that the Browns have traded Trent Richardson to the Colts.
  • 3:18-3:22pm: I stare blankly at the wall trying to process this information. My brain can’t comprehend such an unprecedented move.
  • 3:23pm: I go back to Twitter because it’s obviously a fake Adam Schefter account that tweeted the fake Richardson news, right?
  • 3:24pm: I start to see other reputable football reporters and websites re-tweet the original Schefter tweet. This is real.
  • 3:25-3:29pm: I stare at the wall again, befuddled because this really never happens in football, and it doesn’t even make sense if these things did happen in football (I could understand the Jaguars trading a guy like MoJo, that would make sense, but not this).
  • 3:30pm: I scream and repeatedly slam my computer on my desk because I just realized that with Steven Jackson and Ray Rice banged up, Ahmad Bradshaw was going to be a much needed starter for my fantasy team for the next couple weeks.
  • 3:32pm: I realize that the screw job the Browns just pulled trickles down to all of their offensive players because the combination of “RB TBD” and Brian Hoyer at QB means this team might get held to 50 total yards of offense every week for the rest of the year. Jordan Cameron was a guy I was very high on in the preseason so of course I drafted him in many fantasy leagues.
  • 3:34pm: On the bright side, I’m now considering being the only person in my Suicide Pool to not pick Seattle. If I pick Minnesota over Cleveland, and somehow Jacksonville pulls off the miracle in Seattle, I’ll win $500. OK, maybe I’m over-thinking things now.
  • 3:35pm: Calming down now and re-thinking my initial instinct of “Cleveland is the dumbest franchise in sports all over again.” After all, I just wrote a blog nine months ago about how insignificant highly-drafted running backs are in the grand scheme of a franchise winning the Super Bowl (Basically what I’m saying is that there’s no correlation between a team having a highly-drafted RB who performs like a stud and that team going to the playoffs. I went back and looked at the past five drafts. The data backs up my claim).
  • 3:37pm: I finally relax a little. And I’m thankful that three of my four fantasy leagues use daily waiver wires for pickups because I’ve been paralyzed for the past 15 minutes and couldn’t possibly have reacted quick enough to the news that Willis McGahee is now the chic RB pickup based on this crazy NFL trade.
  • 3:38pm: Oh, now I understand why the Browns are starting their 3rd string QB and not Jason Campbell. They’re trying to out-Jacksonville Jacksonville and ensure they get the top pick in next year’s draft. Well played, Mike Lombardi. Well played.
  • 3:40pm: I realize that this crazy trade combined with me writing a detailed timeline of my reaction will distract my readers quite nicely from my 9-21-2 season record against the spread. Thank you, Cleveland.

On top of all that batshit craziness coming out of Ohio, it is now Thursday morning and the site I use for point spreads still doesn’t have a line on four of the 16 games this weekend. That’s when you know it isn’t a normal week. My head is spinning.

Let’s just get to the week 3 picks:

Kansas City @ Philadelphia (-3.5)

Man, how do the Chiefs and Eagles top that beautiful Patriots-Jets game from last Thursday night? Oh, right, they just have to complete more than 27% of their pass attempts and put up three total touchdowns. Got it.

Regarding this line, I know exactly what you’re thinking…the Chiefs cover because it’s at least a half-point too high, it’s a Thursday night game where teams tend to play sloppy and close. I get it. But here’s the deal: Kansas City may be 2-0, but they haven’t proven anything yet. They beat up on Jacksonville in week 1, and then they took advantage of a Dallas team in week 2 that repeatedly sabotaged themselves. The Chiefs didn’t win that game so much as Dallas lost it. Penalties, weird coaching decisions, an untimely fumble…The Cowboys did it all. Philadelphia covers. I’ve never been more confident. Something like 27-17.

San Diego @ Tennessee (-3)

I have no read on these teams. Both have looked good for seven of eight quarters so far this year. And if each of them could have played a decent eighth quarter, they’d both be 2-0. You know, it would be such a Philip Rivers move to get the Chargers to 2-1 and have everyone talking about them being the surprise team in the AFC. For his entire career, Rivers has been doing the exact opposite of what we expected. We figured a young QB in the anti-spotlight of San Diego would coast under the radar, but Rivers came out guns blazing with his constant bitching at teammates, referees and opposing QBs. At one point we annointed him the next Super Bowl winning QB, but he decided an AFC Championship appearance was good enough. We thought he was soft, then found out he played in that ’08 conference title game with a torn ACL. Last year we still considered him one of the top 12 QBs and he bottomed out. This year we wrote him off, and…he just became the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy this past week. Since we still expect nothing out of this Chargers team, I think they go into Tennessee and win handily, 23-13.

Cleveland @ Minnesota (-6.5)

You don’t announce you’re tanking the season by starting your third-best quarterback only days after trading away your franchise running back and expect your players to show up motivated. How can a single Browns player feel like giving 100% effort this week? They just went from a frisky middle-of-the-road team to an organization who’s already waving the white flag. Or does it go the opposite way, and the players bond over the “those mother fuckers in the front office don’t think we’re part of the future, let’s show them what a big mistake they made” mantra? No, it doesn’t go that way. The Vikings win 24-6.

Tampa Bay @ New England (-7)

If the Bucs don’t have meltdowns at the end of each of their first two games, they’re 2-0 instead of 0-2. And the Patriots didn’t exactly confuse the two rookie QBs they’ve faced so far. In fact, you could say that the Bills and Jets gave away those games to New England. If the Patriots get one less break, they’re 1-1 instead of 2-0. If the undefeated Bucs are facing the 1-1 Patriots, this line is 4 instead of 7. And the Pats still have no Amendola and probably no Gronk. And I’m still nervous about the revelation I had last week that the Patriots typically lose an early-season game to an inferior team. What am I missing here? The Pats are going to win a lot of games by less than a touchdown until they’re full strength (if that ever happens). New England wins 26-24, meaning Tampa covers.

Houston (-2.5) @ Baltimore

Some teams have earned the benefit of the doubt at home no matter how sketchy they’ve looked in recent weeks. Sure, Houston could go into Baltimore and beat up on a beat-up team, but I don’t think they will. Baltimore’s defense will be the best that the Texans have seen so far. I still don’t trust Matt Schaub on the road. The Ravens have a significant coaching advantage if it’s close late in the game. My one concern is the Ed Reed factor. It would just be so perfect if he ices this game for Houston with a pick-six late in the 4th quarter against his old team. But I’m still taking Baltimore to cover and squeak out a one-point victory, 24-23.

St. Louis @ Dallas (-4)

If I could punt on one game each week, this would probably be it for week 3. I’m taking Dallas in this game probably for the same reason so many people take them to win the NFC East every year…because I feel like they’re better than they probably are. I also think St. Louis is one of those “count on them at home, don’t touch them on the road” teams. But four points is just enough for Jason Garrett to screw me over. The scenario I envision is this: late 4th quarter, Cowboys up four and driving. It’s 4th & 2 from the St. Louis 30 yard line. Garrett decides to kick a field goal to go up by 7. St Louis marches down the field and ties it up. The Cowboys win by thee in overtime. I hate this already, but I’ve got Dallas winning 31-26.

Arizona @ New Orleans (-7)

OK, New Orleans, I’m jumping on the bandwagon for one week. I’ll temporarily buy the bullshit you’re selling that Sean Payton’s return combined with Rob Ryan’s influence on the defense has turned this team into an NFC contender. Just know that I’m suspicious and I’ve taken a seat in the emergency exit row of this bandwagon. The Saints win a shootout, 35-27.

Detroit @ Washington (-2)

Call me crazy, but I love the Redskins in this game. Not that anyone wants to hear excuses, but the ‘Skins were dealt a pretty bad hand to start the season. Week 1 was RGIII’s timid return combined with their defense being the guinea pig for Chip Kelly’s offense. Week 2 had them on the road at Green Bay…no one, with possibly the exception of San Francisco, has had it harder to start the year. Detroit may end up being solid this year, but on the road against a team that can run and throw, I dunno. I like Washington to finally get on the board. Obviously if you think the Redskins win, you’re taking them to cover. I say Washington wins 30-27.

Green Bay (-3) at Cincinnati

I’m terrified of betting against Aaron Rodgers and his 127.2 passer rating, but I don’t trust Green Bay on the road. And let’s not forget that Colin Kaepernick and RGIII threw for a ton of yards on this Packers defense. That defense is not fixed from last year in my opinion. The Bengals suddenly have lots of offensive weapons and an aggressive defense. I’m taking Cincinnati to cover and win outright, 27-24.

NY Giants @ Carolina (Pick)

Guess what, Giants? You’re not roping me into this again. It was during week 3 last year when the Giants traveled to Carolina to play on short rest in the Thursday night game. EVERYONE thought the Panthers were a lock, mostly because the Giants had lost several key players to injury (Hakeem Nicks comes to mind) during an exhausting comeback win against Tampa the previous Sunday. This is still fresh in my mind. I’m going with a Breaking Bad quote here, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT.

“…he’s the devil…Whatever you think is supposed to happen, I’m telling you, the exact, reverse opposite of that is going to happen.” -Jesse Pinkman talking about Walter White

That’s my exact feeling on the Giants. They are the devil (or at the very least they have a deal with the devil), and the opposite of expectations will happen.

The Giants win going away, 37-23. And the Ron Rivera hot seat gets turned up to “scolding”.

Atlanta @ Miami (-3)

At the start of the season, nobody would have expected to see the Dolphins favored against a team like Atlanta. But Miami’s 2-0 start combined with key injuries for Atlanta on both sides of the ball means the Dolphins are actually favored against last year’s NFC runner-up. I’m on record as saying Ryan Tannehill is a bad QB, but the Falcons injuries…that’s the proverbial coin flip right there. Tannehill vs a banged up team…A banged up team vs Tannehill…Finkle and Einhorn…Einhorn and Finkle. Whoops, sorry about that. You know what? The Falcons aren’t going to be able to protect a lead late in games until Steven Jackson’s back. But in this game, I think they’re down by six with two minutes left and Matt Ryan drives them down the field for the game-winning touchdown. He’s a really good quarterback, by the way. Atlanta wins and covers, 24-23.

Indianapolis @ San Francisco (-10)

Let’s assume Trent Richardson isn’t going to have a huge impact on this game. I think that’s fair. You’d want to take the 49ers here for two reasons: 1). They’ve gotta be extremely pissed off after the egg they laid in Seattle, and 2). The Colts just lost at home to Miami. You could even add in a #3…the Colts barely survived a home game in week 1 against Oakland. This has all the makings of a blowout, except the 49ers are more injured than you might think and Andrew Luck in garbage time could easily orchestrate the backdoor cover. That’s what I’m banking on when I say 49ers win, 30-23.

Jacksonville @ Seattle (-19)

I haven’t stopped thinking about this line since I first saw it on Monday. It’s almost unheard of for two teams to be this far apart (at least in the modern NFL). And all week long the thought has been the same from anyone I talked to: “Yeah, Seattle’s gonna kill ‘em, but that line is just too high to bet on.”

I thought I agreed with that until this morning. You see, the only way you can back Jacksonville is if you think Seattle takes its foot off the pedal after they go up by 28 or so. Then the Jaguars get a couple garbage time scores, and boom, you’ve got yourself a Jacksonville cover.

But you only need to look back to last year to know the Seahawks won’t play it like that. In a week 14 home game against Arizona, the ‘Hawks were up 38-0 in the 3rd quarter and 51-0 late in the 4th quarter, and both times they still aggressively went for and converted touchdown drives. Their final touchdown in a 58-0 blowout came with 2:32 left in the game. So yeah, they have no problem running up the score. And does anyone reading this think the Jaguars are as good as last year’s Cardinals team?

During the 2012 season, Seattle also won games by 29, 33 and 21 points. Covering this 19 point spread would not be unprecedented for them. So for those reasons, I’ve gotta take Seattle to cover with a final score of 52-13.

I desperately wanted to get cute with my Suicide Pool pick this week, but after much thought, Seattle is clearly the pick.

Buffalo @ NY Jets (-3)

Hmm, two rookie QBs, two AFC East afterthoughts…two, ah fuck it. I’m taking the Bills, 20-14.

Chicago (-3) @ Pittsburgh

As a rule, I don’t have many gambling rules. But I’ve got one that applies to this game: “Beware of the undefeated team that’s playing a road game against a seemingly inferior team early in the season.”

Sure, the Bears don’t look dominant by the traditional definition, but they are 2-0 and they’re facing what could be a terrible Pittsburgh squad. No doubt you can find plenty of reasons to take Chicago here, but I’m going with Pittsburgh to win outright, 23-20. The Bears are 2-0, but both games have been at home and they haven’t looked spectacular in either. The Steelers are 0-2, but they showed some signs of life in week 2 and I think Roethlisberger knows he has to take over on offense. A primetime game at Heinz Field is still plenty motivating for the Steelers regardless of how the rest of the year works out. I may be backing an eventual 0-16 team here, but it just feels right.

Oakland @ Denver (-15.5)

This is the game that’s going to play out exactly how you all think the Seattle-Jacksonville game’s going to go. I know, it’s Peyton on national TV, in a division game, against a really bad team, blah blah blah.

I just can’t pick two teams to cover this large of a point spread in the same week. I’m going with Denver to win, 34-20.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 3 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 9 Underdogs (the Giants/Panthers doesn’t count as neither a favorite nor an underdog)
  • Of those 9 Underdogs, 3 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs

Season record: 9-21-2 (frowny face)

Enjoy week 3 (unless you’re a Browns or Jaguars fan).