Week 13 NFL Picks: Dream Playoff Scenarios

 

eagles

The NFL may never achieve parity in the true sense of the word because a couple teams will always find a way to lap the field and get to 12 or 13 wins in a season. Just like there will probably always be a couple teams that can’t muster up enough competence to win more than three games across a 16-game schedule. But 2015 looks to be a showcase of the closest possible thing to the entire league scratching and clawing just to reach that key nine or 10 win benchmark.

As it stands right now, only four teams fall into the “no chance in hell” category for reaching the postseason That means 88% of the NFL still thinks it has a chance. (I actually think there are five teams with no shot because I’m including the Cowboys, who aren’t mathematically eliminated yet but have to rely on Matt Cassel guiding them to a 5-0 record in December.)

This could play out one of two ways. Either it stays extremely bunched up among a dozen or so teams through week 17, or a couple teams rattle off some wins over the next 21 days that make the final two weeks anticlimactic. With the way things have gone so far and the apparent lack of talent across the league, I’m guessing things stay really tight in this final month.

What’s nice is that we can all daydream about the perfect combination of 12 teams in the playoffs. And we have 28 options to choose from!

For my money, I like a nice balance in the postseason. I need a handful of solid teams with great offenses and good coaching, and I need teams with awful coaching and/or laughable QB situations. I don’t want all 12 teams to have a ton of flaws because then the playoffs would become an unwatchable circus act. I always want a chance that two well-coached teams with actual talent matchup and we get a “game for the ages.” But of course I still require plenty of unintentional comedy.

I’m beyond happy to report that it looks like we’re heading for an amazing playoff bracket if we’re basing things on my criteria.

Consider the following:

  • New England (#1 in the AFC) and Arizona (#2 in the NFC) are both heading for 1st round byes. Both teams have great head coaches and top-of-the-league offenses led by Pro Bowl quarterbacks. That right there makes a solid dent in our “competent and exciting teams” quota. There’s not a more exciting possible Super Bowl matchup out there (assuming Gronk, Edelman, etc return for the Patriots’ offense in time).
  • The AFC is looking to spoil us this year because we could get these teams in the playoffs: Cincinnati (awesome offense, but a terrible head coach and meltdown machine QB), Kansas City (good offense, but a clock management disaster at head coach), Houston (some J.J. Watt excitement but more importantly Brian Hoyer at QB!), Pittsburgh (tantalizing offense, but a sneaky awful head coach).
  • Was that not enough for you? Well, we’re probably getting the Broncos in January, and that’s going to feature either Brock Osweiler making his first career playoff start or the corpse of Peyton Manning breaking Twitter for the second straight year.
  • And we have a very low chance of seeing teams like the Jets (Ryan Fitzpatrick in the playoffs!), Jacksonville (Blake Bortles!) and Baltimore (Matt effing Schaub!!) in the postseason.
  • The NFC just can’t match up with the AFC in terms of comedy, but there are some decent options. While Carolina and Seattle are both probably too competent to do anything but provide us with solid football, Green Bay fills the role of potentially good offense and definitely pathetic coaching.
  • Whatever dumpster fire comes out of the NFC East is almost guaranteed to feature the bad coaching & bad QB combo platter. Imagine Sam Bradford & Chip Kelly in the playoffs? Please let this happen!
  • And if we dig deep in the NFC, there’s still a chance that the Rams (bad QB/coach combo), the Bears (Jay Cutler!) and the Lions (Jim Caldwell’s wax figure on the sidelines!) break into the playoffs.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself since a lot of these teams will almost certainly drop some games in the coming weeks and see themselves out of the playoff picture. But this clusterfuck of mediocrity is really making my imagination run wild.

Let’s dive into week 13 and see if anyone can start to create some separation.

Green Bay (-3) at Detroit

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 20, Green Bay 13

As if the Thursday night games aren’t enigmatic enough to begin with, the NFL gives us two teams this week that we simply have no clue about anymore. Consider this: The Packers won their first five games of the season and have gone 2-4 since. The Lions lost their first five games of the season and have gone 4-2 since. Sure, the Packers still have the contender pedigree mostly due to Aaron Rodgers, but Detroit beat this team in Green Bay just three weeks ago. What the hell are we supposed to do here?

I see a scenario where the Packers win by three, but I see a more realistic scenario where they lose, and we all feel dumb for not realizing that Vegas inflated this line in favor of Green Bay because the public’s hard-on for them is reaching “consult your doctor” levels of dangerous.

By the way, if Green Bay loses this, they may need to win three of their final four games just to sneak into a Wildcard spot. They finish with: Dallas, at Oakland, at Arizona, Minnesota.

NY Jets (-2) at NY Giants

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 30, NY Giants 25

Ahh, New Jersey’s finest, doing battle with each other in the stadium they share. How exciting. Neither team has really been any fun to watch this year, but this game is actually important for both the AFC & NFC playoff pictures. In this new, unimproved, crappy NFL, the Jets & Giants represent top 7 teams in their respective conferences. So we’re forced to put this in the “good games” category for week 13.

This is my StayAway Game of the Week because the Jets are starting to look like a shell of their former selves on defense (Darrelle Revis will miss this game), and the Giants are the most impossible team to predict. That might have something to do with their quarterback being the most unpredictable of anyone at his position in the entire league. As soon as you think you’ve got Eli Manning figured out, he throws a handful of awful interceptions against Washington’s 24th-ranked defense. I’m reluctantly taking the Jets because they have faced better competition throughout the year, and assuming they still have a good pass rush, that might give the Giants’ beat up offensive line some problems.

Arizona (-6) at St. Louis

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 33, St. Louis 13

Listen, Bruce Arians can take my advice or leave it. I guess you can argue he’s gotten pretty far in life without listening to geniuses like me, but this time he might want to take me seriously. The Edward Jones Dome has already claimed victims in Josh McCown and Reggie Bush this year, and the Rams have repeatedly gotten accused of being a dirty team (every year it seems like they have that title). Why not sit Carson Palmer for this game? The Cardinals aren’t catching the Panthers for the #1 seed, and they get to host Minnesota in week 14. The Vikings are the only team threatening them for the #2 seed. Just forfeit this game, keep your awesome offense healthy, and lock up the 1st round bye next week.

OK so assuming Arians ignores me, what’s going to happen in this game? Initially I wanted to stay far away from the Cardinals because the Rams, for as awful as they’ve been this year, are 3-0 against division opponents. That includes a win in Arizona in week 4. So there’s something to be said about this team playing very tough within the division and then being horrible against the rest of the league. But I’m not biting on that. I trust Arians a million times more than Jeff Fisher, and I think the Cardinals will adjust from that loss back in October. Six points on the road is still a lot for Arizona, but I think the Rams are done and they know it.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-1.5)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 17

Ummmmm…this line could have been Tampa Bay -6.5 and I probably would have picked them.

Interesting side note: This is already the third rematch in my picks from a game played earlier this year, and in all of them the home team this week won on the road. It’s not a meaningful stat, just an interesting fact.

Seattle at Minnesota (PICK)

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Minnesota 21, Seattle 18

The advanced stats (the efficiency rankings on FootballOutsiders.com, for example) say Minnesota is worse than their 8-3 record while Seattle is better than its 6-5 record. But every year it feels like there’s one team that keeps defying the advanced stats, and I always lose money by repeatedly betting against that team, waiting for it to regress. Minnesota is that team in 2015.

The Seahawks have been garbage on the road this year, and don’t forget they lost Jimmy Graham last week. I’m a little nervous that Minnesota’s 23rd-ranked run defense is going to screw this pick up, but the Vikings should be favored by 3 and they’re not. That’s enough for me.

San Francisco at Chicago (-7.5)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 54, San Francisco 10

The 49ers are 0-5 on the road and have been outscored by an average of 21 points in those games.

What? You’re still waiting for more info before running to your local bookie? Idiot. Go! Run! Before he changes his mind and makes this 7.5 or 8 points in favor of the Bears. (Damnit! Between Wednesday night when I originally wrote this paragraph and Thursday afternoon when I posted this column, my bookie did indeed bump this line up to 7.5. That makes it a tiny bit less attractive now.)

Yes, it’s true that Chicago’s only 1-4 at home, but those games were against: Green Bay, Arizona, Oakland, Minnesota and Denver. The only thing San Francisco has in common with those teams is that they play in the National Football League. No one will fault you for dumping your life savings on the Bears.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-2.5)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 22, Tennessee 16

The Titans are 2-18 in their last 20 home games. I can’t believe that’s a real thing. It’s not like they’ve had to face a rotation of the Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Packers at home over the last three years. They regularly get to face shitty teams like Jacksonville, Houston and Indy. Even Browns fans can feel sorry for Titans fans.

Normally I’d be concerned that the Jaguars coaching staff is going to allow Blake Bortles to throw the ball too much, which usually leads to a loss, but the 2nd-year QB’s antics last week when he twice threw a pass after crossing the line of scrimmage probably helped convince Gus Bradley and company to take the ball out of his hands when possible. This is a game where T.J. Yeldon should get 30 carries. I hope the Jags agree with me.

Houston at Buffalo (-3)

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 20, Houston 14

Flip a coin, I guess? As good as the Texans have been playing, the Bills are lightyears ahead of them on offense and special teams. We all talk about Jeff Fisher being the master of the .500 season, but if that’s true, I think Rex Ryan is the apprentice who’s ready to take over for the aging master. Rex will get his team to seven, eight or nine wins, almost every time. This win will get him back on track.

Baltimore at Miami (-4)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 22, Miami 20

Ravens fans were dreaming of the #1 pick in the 2016 Draft as recently as two weeks ago. After Matt Schaub leads them to their 3rd straight win, this time against the useless Dolphins, those same fans will have to at least half-assedly root for an improbable playoff berth. My brain just melted a little from typing the words “Matt Schaub” and “playoff berth” in the same sentence.

Cincinnati (-9.5) at Cleveland

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 19

The Bengals haven’t looked quite as dominant on the road this year, and this line is ripe for a backdoor cover from the Browns. And there are three more factors at play here that have me picking the Browns to win outright.

  1. The line moved from 7.5 to 9.5 when it was announced Austin Davis would be Cleveland’s starting QB. Naturally the public is going to be even more against Cleveland when it’s Davis starting and not McCown or Johnny Manziel. But the public is dumb, and Davis could be this team’s best QB. I like the free points.
  2. The Bengals and Marvin Lewis are your classic “looking ahead to next week” team. Next week features an important showdown with the Steelers. This week screams TRAP GAME to me.
  3. And this is the most important factor of all. The Browns are closing in on either the 1st or 2nd overall pick in next year’s draft. Wouldn’t it be so Cleveland of them to win some improbable games late in the season to tumble in the draft pick order? Yes, it would.

Kansas City (-3) at Oakland

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 37, Oakland 27

Of all the preseason predictions I made on this site, the one that’s been haunting me the most is my Super Bowl prediction: Kansas City 30, Dallas 20. Ouch. That has looked bad pretty much from the start. But now the Chiefs are at least semi-vindicating me. I’m not saying they’re even a lock for the playoffs, but they’re on a roll, and even the stat nerds think they’re one of the best teams in the league.

I still think they’ll falter if they make it to the postseason, either because Andy Reid will get easily confused, or because some opponent will build a 17-0 lead on them and Alex Smith will struggle to guide that offense to a big comeback. But for the time being, it’s impossible to pick against them

Denver (-4.5) at San Diego

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 28, Denver 0

Fuck Denver. The sooner they lose a winnable game (and they will), the sooner the Patriots can lock up the #1 seed in the AFC, ensuring New England gets to host the Broncos in January. We’ll see who’s soft when Brock Osweiler goes to Foxboro for the first time. Did I mention Fuck Denver yet?

Philadelphia at New England (-9.5)

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 31, Philadelphia 16

With offensive weapons dropping like flies for the Patriots, I was a little gun shy at first to take them as such a large favorite. But what it really comes down to for me is the return of at least one of New England’s star linebackers. With both Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower practicing this week, I think we’re going to be OK there. That means no effective run game from Philly. While I think the Patriots offense gets back on track a little bit (home game + Danny Amendola’s return + Philly’s recent woes against bad offenses), the defense can easily carry this one and ensure we don’t see the dreaded backdoor cover.

Carolina (-7) at New Orleans

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 40, New Orleans 16

Eight of Carolina’s 11 wins have come by seven points or more. It doesn’t matter if they’re at home or on the road, facing a good team or a bad team…it’s been blowout after blowout. And we’re talking about the Saints, a team ahead of only San Francisco and Cleveland in terms of overall efficiency. I think seven is also a good number to set the over/under at for how many interceptions Drew Brees will throw in this game. I can’t imagine a situation where this goes well for New Orleans.

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh (-7)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 39, Indianapolis 24

Remember when Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns at home against the Colts in week 8 last year? That probably won’t happen again, if only because Roethlisberger has gone down with a new injury almost every week this season. You figure if the Steelers build a lead, they probably don’t want him dropping back unnecessarily. But it’s easy to picture them building that big lead and then attacking Indy’s one-dimensional offense. Make no mistake about it, the Colts cannot run the ball. Matt Hasselbeck throwing is their only option. Even though the Steelers are suspect against the deep passes, I can’t see this strategy surprising them. They give up some points, but they score an awful lot more.

Dallas at Washington (-4.5)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 15, Washington 11

I was desperately trying to find a reason to take Dallas in this game. I built a decent argument around the fact that they only lost to Tampa Bay by four points in a game Matt Cassel started, and they also lost to Seattle by just one point in another Cassel start. Both of those offenses are better than Washington’s. But this argument just didn’t feel strong enough.

Then one of my friends who’s a Washington fan mentioned the referees’ repeated incompetence on Monday Night Football this year. There it is! If the NFL is WWE-ing up this league like we think they are, wouldn’t they desperately want the Cowboys to remain in the playoff conversation? Dallas is one of their most marketable and polarizing teams. This makes perfect sense in the Goodell Era. Lock it up. Dallas pulls off the upset with some obvious assistance from the refs. Damn, it feels good to be able to see into the future.

One word of caution to everyone out there: There are a lot of “good teams” favored by six points or more in matchups against “bad teams” this week. There’s no way all of them are going to cover. Between Cincinnati, Carolina, Arizona, New England and Pittsburgh, at least one (probably two) aren’t covering. But it’s impossible to feel great about any of the underdogs in those games. I suggest staying away from almost everything this week in terms of straight bets, parlays and teasers.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 9 Favorites, 6 Underdogs, 1 PICK
  • 3 Home Dogs, 3 Road Dogs
  • 9 Home Teams, 7 Road Teams
  • Season Record: 85-84-1 (6-10 in week 12)

Enjoy week 13.

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NFL Week 10 Picks & Football’s Looming Disaster

luck

The NFL may be facing a significant problem within a few years. No, it has nothing to do with player safety and concussions. And it doesn’t involve the moral dilemma of its fans supporting a league that tries to brush its employees’ crimes under the rug.

Remember that the NFL is now a passing league, an offensive league, and most importantly, a quarterbacks league.

Here are the top 15 Quarterbacks in the NFL right now as ranked by FootballOutsiders.com. And next to each player’s name is his age:

  1. Peyton Manning (38)
  2. Andrew Luck (25)
  3. Ben Roethlisberger (32)
  4. Tom Brady (37)
  5. Philip Rivers (33 at the beginning of December)
  6. Aaron Rodgers (31 at the beginning of December)
  7. Drew Brees (35)
  8. Joe Flacco (29)
  9. Tony Romo (34)
  10. Matt Ryan (29)
  11. Alex Smith (30)
  12. Jay Cutler (31)
  13. Carson Palmer (34)
  14. Brian Hoyer (29)
  15. Eli Manning (33)

Here’s the major dilemma: Who the hell is going to be around in five years and still at the peak of his powers to battle Andrew Luck?

The other under-30’s on that list?

Brian Hoyer may not be a starter as soon as December of this year. Matt Ryan is an above average quarterback for sure, but with a multi-year track record of not being able to carry a team that has plenty of toys for him (Julio Jones, Roddy White), I don’t think he’s the next great QB. Joe Flacco? He’s a worse version of Matt Ryan on a better team.

Some of the guys on that list just barely on the wrong side of 30 don’t give you much hope either. Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer. No thanks.

You could make an argument for Philip Rivers, but you can’t truly feel confident in him playing at a high level for the next seven years, can you?

And while Roethlisberger is currently torching the entire league, let’s remember that he’s 32 but has the wear & tear of a 47-year-old.

So we’re left with one man. Mr. R-E-L-A-X himself. Aaron Rodgers. He’s only 31. He has less mileage on him than a lot of other 31-year-olds because he sat on the bench for the first three years he was in the league. And he’s already one of the best at his position.

There are only three potential problems I see with predicting a long Rodgers vs Luck rivalry:

  1. Potential for injury. We’ve already seen Rodgers miss significant time last year. He’s gotten nicked up this year (but hasn’t missed a game yet). And he seems to take plenty of hits because he scrambles a lot and has never had a great offensive line to protect him.
  2. Potential for head coach sabotage. This news about Mike McCarthy earlier this week may have been the worst thing to happen to Rodgers. It feels like I find an excuse to rip McCarthy every single week, and I’ll keep doing it. He’s horrible. There’s no good reason Aaron Rodgers has only made two NFC Championship game appearances in the seven years he’s been a starter.
  3. Finally, and this is the most important one, Rodgers and Luck don’t play in the same conference. If neither guy changes teams in the next 10 years (and it’s highly unlikely either will), the only shot we have at a genuine rivalry is if both of their teams are constantly making the Super Bowl. And we all know how hard it is to make the Super Bowl even once, let alone multiple appearances.

The most depressing part about the state of NFL quarterbacks is just two years ago we thought we had a QB boon on our hands! Remember the 2012 season? There were the three rookies taking the league by storm: Luck, RG3 and Russell Wilson. And then there was Colin Kaepernick, not a rookie technically, but it was his first season as a starter. All four of those guys made the playoffs that year and we were ecstatic about the future of quarterbacking in the NFL.

Currently RG3 is working his way back from another injury and seems like a lock for a short career as a starter. Kaepernick has gone from being “potentially the best quarterback in NFL history” to “the uneven QB who has thrown for more than 250 yards in exactly six of the last 24 games he’s played.” He ranks 20th on the FootballOutsiders.com QB list, by the way.

And then there’s Wilson, the best hope we have for a great young QB outside of Luck. He just won a Super Bowl, but we know the team surrounding him last year was historically amazing. He’s actually only had one more 250+ yard passing game in the last season-and-a-half than Kaepernick. I think it’s fair to say the jury’s still out on him.

A much shorter way to get my point across would be to write the following: If Andrew Luck stays healthy and the Colts do just an average job of getting talent around him, he will absolutely own the AFC until he gets tired of owning the AFC. And he might even own the entire NFL. If a handful of competent quarterbacks don’t emerge soon, maybe Luck rattles off seven, eight, nine AFC Championships in a row.

If there was a line in Vegas right now where I could wager on Luck making at least five Super Bowl appearances between 2018-2024, I would absolutely put some money on it.

Indianapolis fans, you should be pretty psyched for the next 10 years. Fans of the other 31 teams, we might be in crisis mode soon.

Now that I’ve voiced my paranoia to the masses, let’s dive into week 10.

First, our weekly check-in on the bye teams:

  • New England: Did you know the 2003 Patriots started the year 2-2, played the Broncos in week 9 and had their bye in week 10? Those are all things this year’s Patriots share with that year’s team. And after that 2-2 start, the Patriots rattled off 12 in a row to close the year at 14-2. They’d go on to win the Super Bowl. We could be seeing something similar developing here. Would anyone bet against New England cruising through the rest of their season and being the favorites to win the Super Bowl? Of course not, but the schedule gauntlet is right in front of them. Coming off the bye they go: @Indianapolis, vs Detroit, @Green Bay, @San Diego, vs Miami. Not an easy game in the group.
  • San Diego: Yikes. Just three weeks ago I was feeling like a genius for picking them to win the AFC West. I thought their two games against the Broncos would be extremely important. But now on a three-game losing streak, the Chargers have to focus on a wildcard spot and forget about the division. They still face Baltimore, New England, Denver, San Francisco and Kansas City. Particularly critical are those games against the Ravens and the Chiefs since those two teams are right in that wildcard mix.
  • Houston: No team’s season is going exactly how I expected more so than the Texans. Of course they were going to improve on their 2-14 disaster from 2013. But by committing to Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least the start of the year, they were limiting themselves. Luckily they’ve had one of the easiest schedules in the league, which was a major help in getting them to 4-5 at this point. Now they turn to Ryan Mallett to see if they’ll be dipping into the rookie QB pot in next year’s draft or not. They still have an easy schedule the rest of the way, but 8-8 is their absolute ceiling.
  • Indianapolis: In the words of Billy Madison, “Why don’t you just give them the damn trophy?” The Colts’ final seven games look like this: vs New England, vs Jacksonville, vs Washington, @Cleveland, vs Houston, @Dallas, @Tennessee. We’re talking about five more wins minimum. They’ll have a shot against New England since it’s a home game, and I don’t expect the Cowboys to be playing quite as well come week 16. A 13-3 record is totally in play for Indianapolis and future five-time AFC Champion Andrew Luck.
  • Washington: Did the PotatoSkins miss out on a huge opportunity last week or what? The top two teams in the NFC East lose their quarterbacks, the Cowboys and Giants both lose, and a win over Minnesota would have put Washington right in the mix (they would have been 2.5 games behind the Eagles). But they blew three different leads against the Vikings and now they’re definitely done. It’s time for them to see just what they have in Robert Griffin over the remainder of the year. Their schedule includes tough games like road trips to San Francisco and Indianapolis. They also play each member of their division one more time. They should use those games as measuring sticks to see just how far behind they are going into 2015.
  • Minnesota: Now about those Vikings…At 4-5, they’re technically still in playoff contention. But it doesn’t look as promising when you realize their four wins have come against St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Washington. Even if they were to win their final four home games, they’d likely need at least one road win to have a shot at the NFC North title or a wildcard berth. Their road games are against Chicago, Detroit and Miami. So in all likelihood, their week 11 game in the Windy City is the make or break for them.

Next, the obligatory “games we can appreciate this weekend just for the sake of actual competition & football ramifications and not for our bets and picks”:

  • Cleveland @ Cincinnati: Pretty simple stuff. Whoever wins this game has temporary control over the AFC North.
  • Kansas City @ Buffalo: Two surprise 5-3 teams that want to prove they belong. The Chiefs are much healthier; the Bills are at home. This could be a great game.
  • Miami @ Detroit: The Lions need to win games like these to stay ahead of the Packers. The Dolphins need to win games like these to stay in the thick of the ultra competitive AFC wildcard race. This feels like the game with the biggest playoff implications in week 10.
  • San Francisco @ New Orleans: There’s much more pressure on the 49ers than the Saints right now. San Francisco still has two games against the Seahawks and matchups with Arizona and San Diego. A loss this weekend makes things very difficult for the 9ers to send Jim Harbaugh off with one final playoff appearance.

And finally, let’s jump into the picks.

Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-7)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 10

Of course I want to see a Browns win in this game. The AFC is so ridiculously boring at the top of every other division. Let’s keep rooting for the AFC North to repeatedly shuffle the deck so we might have a little intrigue in the conference through the end of the season.

But it’s not happening. I’m sorry to say that at 5-3, Cleveland just isn’t very good. Their schedule through nine weeks included Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay.

I was talking to one of my degenerate gambling buddies before week 9 and he thought I was crazy to pick Cincinnati favored by 11 against Jacksonville, citing the Bengals’ injuries as the reason. OK, fine, they only won by 10 points. Another unlucky pick by me that absolutely could have swung the other way.

I’m undeterred. Against inferior opponents in Cincinnati, the Bengals still roll. Sorry, but once again we’re getting a Thursday night game that’s really not worth watching.

Kansas City (-2) @ Buffalo

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: Kansas City 27, Buffalo 17

Three different times this year I’ve assumed the Chiefs had no chance to make the playoffs. First, during the preseason I bought into what all the experts were saying and what I saw with my own eyes: The Chiefs were due for a major drop-off after last year’s incredible bounce back. Second, after they were handed a 26-10 loss AT HOME by the Titans in week 1. That one I don’t feel so bad about. If you lose at home to Tennessee, I say the NFL should bar you from the playoffs. And finally, when the Chiefs lost at San Francisco in week 5 to drop to 2-3 on the season. “Ahh, here it is,” I thought, “They got to 2-2 but now the nosedive is here.”

Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong.

It’s not just that the Chiefs are 5-3 and are riding a three-game win streak. It’s also about whom they’ve played and how they’ve played them. They demolished two other highly regarded AFC teams in back-to-back weeks. First it was a 34-15 win at Miami in week 3. They followed that with the famous 41-14 trouncing of the Patriots. That’s a 75-29 point differential against teams who are now a combined 12-5.

And one week before those games, the Chiefs played Denver extremely close on the road, losing by only a touchdown.

I thought all along it would be the Chargers challenging the Broncos for AFC West supremacy, but there’s a good chance the Chiefs/Broncos game in week 13 will determine the division. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

With the Chiefs playing this well and seemingly not bothered by going on the road, I had to pick them in this game. Sorry, Buffalo, you’re just not trustworthy enough and you might be facing the proverbial buzz saw this weekend.

(I wrote all of that on Tuesday night before Sammy Watkins got hurt during Wednesday’s practice. If his injury comes into play, then I love this pick even more.)

Miami @ Detroit (-3)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 20, Miami 15

The two best defensive teams in football! How about that! I’m torn on this one. If it comes down to which offense clicks better in such tough conditions, I’m going with the Dolphins. I just trust their creativity more, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I trust Ryan Tannehill more than Matthew Stafford.

But Detroit’s pass rush at home with a LOUD stadium behind them could totally disrupt Miami. Superb pass rushing teams are the only teams the Dolphins have struggled against this year. And their road wins came at Oakland, Chicago and Jacksonville. Not really any opponents in that group that compare to Detroit.

I’m going with Detroit, but I’ll probably flip back & forth on it 10 times between now and Sunday.

And if you remember my analysis on the teams I’m struggling to pick correctly this year, Miami & Detroit were at the very top of that list. If I could put negative confidence points on this pick, I would.

Dallas (-6.5) @ Jacksonville (In London)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Jacksonville 24, Dallas 17

As of Thursday morning it sounds like Tony Romo’s playing in this game. Fine. But that doesn’t ensure us that Romo finishes the game, or even plays a full half. What if he gets hit?

I gotta pick Jacksonville here because of the comical Brandon Weeden coming off the bench potential, and because the Jags may be able to run the ball on Dallas, keep DeMarco Murray off the field and take advantage of the fact that weird shit can happen when two teams fly to London to play football. I’m also picking the Jags to win outright because 8-8 is still alive for the Cowboys! We can do this!

San Francisco @ New Orleans (-5.5)

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 34, San Francisco 24

I tried so hard to find a reason to take the 49ers. I really did. But there just isn’t any. Unless you want to base your pick on the old adage that “desperate times call for desperate measures,” you’ve gotta go with the Saints. They’re starting to play really well, regardless of whether they play at home or on the road. And upon closer review of the 49ers’ games so far this year, there’s really no reason to have any faith in them.

If San Francisco drops out of playoff contention, you gotta wonder just how far they might drop. They know their coach is likely gone next year. How hard will they be playing if they’re 5-7 and facing Seattle (twice), San Diego and Arizona to finish the year? We might see the bottom drop out on this team.

Tennessee @ Baltimore (-10)

  • The Pick: Tennessee
  • The Score: Baltimore 33, Tennessee 27

I flipped this pick only a minute before posting this column. The Ravens have destroyed some awful teams at home this year so you’d think it should happen again with them facing the Titans. But that Ravens secondary is beat up right now. A full strength Baltimore team would be hard to pick against here, but I think they’ll be treading water until Jimmy Smith gets back at the very least.

I’m thinking with a bye week to take more first team reps, Zach Mettenberger should be a bit better than his debut two weeks ago.

Pittsburgh (-6) @ NY Jets

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

This is probably a game where most people betting or picking see that the Steelers are favored by less than a touchdown and automatically choose them to cover. That’s the main reason I’m picking the Jets. I could see 95% of all action going on Pittsburgh.

The Steelers just came off a nice 3-0 homestand where they looked unbeatable. They’ve been quite different on the road this year (2-2 record, even struggled to put away Jacksonville in one of those wins).

With Michael Vick and Percy Harvin, one thing the Jets have on their side is speed. The Steelers were already old & slow enough on defense before they suffered some significant losses last week.

I’m going out on a limb, but I think the Jets pull off a crazy upset.

Atlanta (-3) @ Tampa Bay

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Tampa Bay 17, Atlanta 7

Bill Simmons stole something I wanted to write when he said it first on his podcast earlier in the week. To paraphrase: “This is a rematch from a week 3 game where one team beat the other by 42 points. The team that lost is 1-7 this year. And somehow the team that won that first matchup is only giving 1.5 points?!?!”

(The line was still 1.5 until Thursday morning. Obviously it’s moved since then.)

And one thing Simmons didn’t know at the time of those comments was that Tampa would go back to Josh McCown for this upcoming game. McCown was the starter in that first matchup, and he went 5-for-12 for 58 yards before leaving with an injury.

Counterpoint to all that: Atlanta has lost every road game they’ve played this year by at least 10 points.

The Falcons should have fired Mike Smith during their bye week. They’ll regret that decision soon, maybe as soon as they lose to the 1-7 Bucs this weekend.

Denver (-11.5) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Denver 31, Oakland 23

Yeah, yeah, the Broncos are pissed off after getting owned by the Patriots last week, and the poor Raiders are going to be the ones they take it out on. I’ve heard that all week. But guess what? The Raiders continue to be frisky against good teams ever since they fired…uh…Allen…uh…whoever the hell was their coach to start the year.

And I haven’t yet picked enough underdogs this week. OK, I’ll admit it, that’s the sole reason for picking Oakland in this case.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-7)

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: Arizona 24, St. Louis 20

And so we begin shorting the Cardinals for the rest of the year. In no way am I trying to discredit what Arizona’s done so far or say they’ve just been lucky, but if you dissect their seven wins, you’ll find THEY’VE BEEN REALLY LUCKY!

  • Week 9: Beat Dallas by 11 in a game where Brandon effing Weeden was the Cowboys’ starting QB.
  • Week 8: Beat Philly by four on a semi-miraculous deep pass to John Brown in the waning minutes of the 4th
  • Week 7: Beat Oakland by 11, but the Raiders shut down Arizona’s offense for much of that game.
  • Week 6: Beat Washington by 10, but Kirk Cousins had the ball and a chance to win with 29 seconds left before he threw a pick-six that gave the Cardinals a double-digit win.
  • Week 2: Beat the Giants by 11, but were losing in the 4th quarter until Ted Ginn Jr. returned a punt for a touchdown.
  • Week 1: Beat the Chargers by one, but were losing by 11 with 12 minutes left in the game.

Again, give them credit for winning those games (and making some monstrous 4th quarter comebacks). But it hasn’t been as easy as it’s sometimes looked.

Fingers crossed that two cross-country flights in two weeks doesn’t slow the Rams down.

NY Giants @ Seattle (-9)

  • The Pick: Seattle
  • The Score: Seattle 38, NY Giants 13

On Tuesday morning, I debated which version of my week 9 recap blog to run. The one I ran was a tirade about the lack of competitive football last weekend. The one I almost ran was a loooong rant about how pathetic the New York Giants are. Seriously, I was going to write at least 500 words on the pathetic display Eli & the boys gave us on Monday night.

Think about it: The Giants were coming off a bye week. Their opponent, Indianapolis, was coming off a game in which the Steelers abused them for 51 points. The Giants were hosting the Colts. And the Giants came out and put up 10 points during the competitive portion of the game. Pittsburgh put up six touchdowns on the Colts in 60 minutes. The Giants put up ONE touchdown in the first 46 minutes of their game. How bad can a team be?

Well, we know they’re bad enough to lose by double digits to the Seahawks in Seattle. It doesn’t matter that Seattle’s been struggling and hasn’t convincingly beat anyone in more than a month. This is easily my favorite pick of the week.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-7.5)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 34, Chicago 23

There’s just no way to look at what these two teams have done so far this year and not come to the conclusion that it’s far more likely Green Bay will win by at least eight than Chicago will lose by seven or less.

And that, my friends, is called in-depth analysis. Next.

Carolina @ Philadelphia (-6)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 26, Carolina 17

In the matter of Philly vs Carolina this weekend, I’m not at all concerned about the Eagles’ chances to win convincingly. After all, Carolina really does stink. With their 29th ranked run defense, Chip Kelly could throw me in at quarterback and I’m pretty sure we’d still win by a touchdown.

But more important for Philly is the final seven weeks of the season, likely to be played without Nick Foles. It’s been a strange week where people don’t seem to be panicking about Philly’s chances now that Mark Sanchez will be playing the role of season closer at QB. We really think Kelly is that much of a genius that Sanchez’s many deficiencies can be completely hidden? I’m not so confident in that. And trust me, the Vegas betting slip in my wallet from March that says the Eagles will win the Super Bowl is absolutely making me root for the Eagles to somehow thrive with their new offensive leader.

The biggest problem is that the Eagles have only one easy win the rest of the year, week 12 at home against Tennessee. They still play Dallas twice, host Seattle, have road games at Green Bay, Washington and Dallas. Good luck with that schedule, Mark Sanchez.

I realize I haven’t delivered on my promises of a big week recently, but we hit a major milestone last week…I actually finished above .500 with a 7-6 against the spread record. My season record now stands at 62-70-2. With eight weeks remaining I need to be at least two games over .500 each week to not feel like I simply wasted a bunch of internet space with these picks over the entire season.

Enjoy week 10.

NFL Week 1 Recap: Firing On No Cylinders

kaepernick 1

So how did week 1 feel, everyone? You think maybe the NFL will at least give us lube next week before they do unbloggable things to our bottoms?

At the completion of Sunday’s games, exactly two NFL players had rushed for more than 100 yards. One of them was the last quarterback to be named his team’s starter during the offseason (Terrelle Pryor) and the other promptly found out he had a broken wrist and would probably be missing a month of football after surgery (Shane Vereen).

Meanwhile, three quarterbacks were throwing three interceptions a piece while a handful of running backs decided getting into their coaches’ doghouses at the earliest possible moment of the season was a fantastic idea.

Consensus picks against the spread like Tampa Bay -3, Indianapolis -10 and Green Bay +4.5 gave us varying degrees of disappointment, the bottom line being gigantic gambling losses.

Way to come out guns blazing, everyone. I definitely understand why so many starters rest up during the preseason games. You’d hate to waste this “firing on all cylinders” start on meaningless exhibition games (I’m looking at you, Mr. Griffin the Third).

But while it wasn’t all bad for some of the real football teams and the fantasy ones, it was just about the worst week of my football-watching life (not including any of the numerous depressing Patriots losses in recent history). Yes, the Pats got the W, and I (barely) survived week 1 of the suicide pool (Indy) while also winning two of my fantasy matchups. But 100% of my pride and reputation comes from my psychic level ability to predict nearly every game correct against the spread each week. Last year I felt like I owed my readers an apology any time I put up a 7-7 week.

I just went 2-13-1 in week 1. TWO-THIRTEEN-ONE! I’m not even sure giving you one of my world famous blowjobs will properly make amends for leading you to the slaughter in such a dramatic way.

The recurring word used by my fellow football obsessors as I checked in with them on Sunday and Monday was BLOODBATH. It sounds like everyone had a rough day.

The word bloodbath as it’s known today apparently came about because some 16th century Hungarian Countess used to bathe in her murder victims’ blood. And she was a ruthless killer who abducted people (lots of children) for no good reason.

I know I tend to exaggerate more than the average person, but I’d say calling this first week of football a bloodbath is in no way hyperbole. Maybe technically you’d have to replace “16th century Countess” with “people who run the Bovada website”, and “bathe in the blood of murder victims” with “bathe in the money Ross lost on his football bets.” To think someone’s money bath is extra full right now because of my historic miss. Gross.

I just don’t get it. In theory picking against the spread should be like flipping a coin. If you take the money factor out, it’s basically a 50/50 proposition. I’d expect my Mom—who still can’t grasp why the offense gets their “tries renewed” if they “gain 10 feet” during the first four “tries”—to get nearly 50% of her picks right if I forced her to make them every week. And yet, here I am, the proud owner of a 2-13-1 record after week 1.

But hey, this is the NFL. There will be plenty of other weekends later this year to cry as I break out my credit card for yet another reupping of money in my sports book account. Let’s talk about what went down over the weekend, by which of course I mean the five-day period comprising Thursday through Monday:

If I ask you which teams had the worst week, you might be inclined to say Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, maybe Baltimore. But I humbly present Green Bay and Washington for the sneaky “who had the worst opening week” award.

Green Bay spent the entire offseason studying the read option, and then they spent some time during the week leading up to their game against San Francisco promising to hit the quarterback on every play regardless of who had the ball. And then their defensive leader looked real foolish taking a cheapshot at Colin Kaepernick and nearly getting ejected for throwing punches (or was it open-palmed chick slaps?), and the Packers get burned by Kaepernick the 400 yard passer, not the read option wizard they prepared for. And now the Packers have lost three straight to the 49ers over the past 12 months, and Kaepernick is firmly inside their heads.

Meanwhile for Washington it wasn’t bad enough to lose the week 1 home game against a division rival while their franchise quarterback looked extremely rusty from the lack of a prseason, but they were unlucky enough to be the punching bag of Chip Kelly’s coming out party. It’s only one loss, but that had to be a brutal one.

And in the uber competitive NFC, even the best teams can’t afford to lose winnable games. There’s not nearly as much room for error (read: beefing up your record against the terrible teams) as there is in the AFC.

The Packers can be excused for now because San Francisco is a Super Bowl contender. But while the Eagles may be improved, they’re certainly not of that same caliber. Two theories came to mind as I watched the Redskins play the worst 1st half of football I’ve ever seen: 1). Every player on the ‘Skins just happened to play the worst game of their careers on the same day, or 2). The Washington players took the fans and media seriously when we started calling RGIII “Jesus” or “Black Jesus.” Maybe we should have clarified that he can’t, in fact, perform miracles. Effort would have been much appreciated.

Here’s the play-by-play of Washington’s first three drives of the game:

Drive #1:

  • Alfred Morris FUMBLE, recovered by Philadelphia

Drive #2:

  • Alfred Morris runs for -3 yards
  • PENALTY – Illegal Shift on offense, 5 yard penalty
  • Griffin completed pass to Alfred Morris for 9 yards
  • Griffin deep pass intended for Santana Moss INTERCEPTED

Drive #3:

  • Griffin incomplete short pass
  • Griffin FUMBLES, recovered by Alfred Morris, Morris tackled in End Zone, SAFETY

A friend who’s a big Redskins fan told me before the game that he read a stat saying no QB has ever started a week 1 game without throwing at least one pass in the preseason. RGIII was apparently the first to do this. And yet I willingly bet on the Redskins to win by more than four points. That doesn’t seem logical at all.

And in the other Monday Night game, well, Philip Rivers threw four touchdown passes in the season opener of a year where he’s probably unowned in the majority of fantasy leagues. And after the Chargers raced out to a 28-7 lead, the Texans erased it over the final 25 minutes and then hit a game-winning field goal. So basically an exact replica of the 2012 Chargers blueprint. Good stuff.

How about I hand out three random awards based on what I saw this weekend? Cool?

The “Vitriol of the Week” Award sponsored by Gamblers Against High Blood Pressure (GAHBP)

The Patriots

This award goes to the team each week that ends up enduring the most cruel and bitter of my many criticisms. Which team am I screaming at the most, basically. And the Patriots win this not because I’m an unrealistic fan that expects a 14-point blowout every game, but because so many players played so horribly.

Here are some preseason Patriots projections accompanied by their post-week 1 realities:

  • Preseason: “The running game could be fantastic, a two-headed monster!”
  • Postgame: “Our most reliable running back is a 275lb castoff who is also our best kick return man. He runs a slower 40 than Vince Wilfork.”
  • Preseason: “Amendola is great, the rookie receivers look incredible, and Gronk might even be ready for week 1.”
  • Postgame: “Amendola missed time with a groin injury, Thompkins and Sudfeld may never get a ball thrown to them again, and Gronk isn’t ready yet.”
  • Preseason: “But this could be one of their best defenses in a while! Talib for a full year should make the pass D so much better.”
  • Postgame: “Welp, the D blows again. Can’t cover anyone.”

Needless to say, the Patriots might be in “hold on for dear life” mode until Gronk and Vereen come back.

Runner-Up: The Steelers

I don’t emotionally root for them like I do the Patriots, but I had an aggressive percentage of my net worth on Pittsburgh covering against Tennessee. Maurkice Pouncey’s injury might be season-ending for the entire team. No running game, thin at receiver, flawed offensive line once again, and I’m wondering if it’s a possibility that Roethlisberger’s skills severely declined over the past two years, only we were so caught up in his various injuries being the reason for his struggles that we couldn’t possibly see that he’s suddenly playing like a 42-year-old quarterback. I’m not saying it’s true, but if it is, they’re obviously majorly fucked.

*One more note about the Patriots that only Patriots fans will care about: I kept reminding myself throughout the offseason that I’m not going to get caught up in the “style points” of the Patriots games anymore. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Patriots started demolishing the weaker opponents consistently, and yet, they haven’t won shit since that time. In the 2001-05 Championship Years, they weren’t winning games 59-0 or 45-7, scores that we’ve seen recently. They were eeking out wins against the Bills of the world, and we didn’t care how they did it. Sunday’s game-winning drive by Brady brought me back to those Super Bowl days, when it was never pretty but always effective. I’m officially back on board with the philosophy that a win is a win.

The “Self-Inflicted Safety” Award

I thought this award was permanently retired in 2008 when former Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky took a snap from his five yard line, rolled out of the pocket, continued to roll right and drop back….directly out of the back of the end zone. No pressure whatsoever on the guy.

But at least Orlovsky could claim he was in the heat of the moment after taking a snap backed up near his own end zone. Darius Reynaud of Tennessee has no legitimate excuse as to why he’s the new owner of the self-inflicted safety award. If you didn’t see it, I suggest watching the clip HERE.

But maybe more importantly this guy seems to do a great job describing exactly what went on during that play. Who needs to see an actual highlight when you’ve got this dude breaking it down in 50 seconds:

The “Sentence I Wish You Would Have Said Next” Award

To Greg Gumbel, who was talking about Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel during the Patriots-Bills game when he said, “I was a little surprise when Manuel said he didn’t want to run, didn’t like to run.”

For a minute I honestly thought he was going to continue, “Because he’s black. That’s why I was surprised. I just assumed he’d run.”

Hey, here’s a situation that I’m sure most football fans have had to deal with before. Help me out because I’m not sure if I handled this correctly. I was at home watching the Patriots on the big TV and the Red Zone Channel on the small TV, beer in hand, as relaxed as it gets. I hear some commotion in the kitchen, look over to see carrot chunks shooting out of my garbage disposal like it’s part of a fireworks show, and then I see my girlfriend furiously plunging away at the kitchen sink drain.

I looked over, waited until she made eye contact and said, “Yeesh. Good luck with that.”

I did enough considering the circumstances, right?

Hey, I was dealing with a pretty full plate myself. At 12:09pm Pacific Time, I said to the girlfriend, “I just want this day to be over.” We were barely into the 3rd quarter of the early games at that point. All hope was already lost.

Anyone want to overreact to some of the top fantasy RBs with me? OK here we go:

  • After his 78 yard run in the 1st quarter, Adrian Peterson only had 15 more yards on 17 additional attempts for a 0.882 yards per carry average. Trade that loser while he still has some value.
  • Speaking of trading away your fantasy garbage, Doug Martin averaged only 2.7 yards per carry against the Jets, and even worse, he averaged -0.5 yards per reception on two catches. Negative yards! How can you own a guy who constantly puts up negative yards like that??
  • C.J. Spiller, the man recently annointed to pull off the next 2,000 yard rushing season, had 26 less rushing yards (and 53 yards less total yards) than his backup, Fred Jackson. It’s a time share. SELL! SELL! SELL!
  • Alfred Morris’ fumble issues combined with Roy Helu’s excellent pass blocking skills makes the RB situation in Washington suddenly murky. And that’s before we remember that Mike Shanahan loves short-circuiting a good fantasy running back season. Feel free to drop Morris if you need the roster spot.
  • Stevan Ridley just can’t hold onto the ball and Bill Belichick will never trust him. Trade him if you can, but more importantly find a way to get new feature back Shane Vereen on your rost….oh, shit. Scratch that, LeGarrette Blount is in line for a huge fantasy breakout on Thursday against the Jets.
  • David Wilson’s season is over. If you’re not in a keeper league, consider dropping him (This actually isn’t an overreaction. I’m not just scared for Wilson’s playing career. I’m scared for his life. The Giants might have to sign and start Willis McGahee because Wilson can’t follow the most basic instruction that his position demands, hold onto the fucking ball! Tom Coughlin may have him murdered this week.)
  • Besides Chris Johnson only running for 70 yards on 25 carries, he also didn’t have a single run longer than 11 yards. His game-changing long runs are a thing of the past. If the guy who owns Blount in your fantasy league is willing to trade him for Johnson, go ahead and accept. You won’t be sorry.
  • Another member of the “can’t crack 2.5 yards per carry” club, Marshawn Lynch, is clearly over the hill and will probably be replaced by Christine Michael/Robert Turbin by week 5. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

That was fun, yeah?

You know what wouldn’t have been fun? Getting bounced from my Suicide Pool in week 1. At one point during the early Sunday games, the Patriots, Steelers, Colts and Bucs were all losing, meaning the one person in my pool who picked Denver was in line to win the season-long contest in week 1. I wonder if that would have been the first time in the history of Suicide Pools…

I don’t remember which announcers were doing the Indianapolis-Oakland game, but when Andrew Luck scored to put the Colts up by three with 18 minutes left in the game, one of the guys said, “If you had the Colts in your knock out pool, you can breathe a sign of relief.” Really? I’m going to relax because a team that was supposed to win by two touchdowns is up by three with 30% of the game left? Why would that be the time to breathe a sigh of relief?

Here’s why this week 1 Jets win was my favorite Jets win of all time: It knocked several people out of the Suicide Pool I’m in. And one of those people was mocking me via text message about my Colts pick when they were losing to Oakland. People were overly high on Tampa Bay to begin with. They needed their expectations adjusted. But most importantly, I loved this Jets win because it was completely illegitimate. They surprised us by winning, but the win itself did nothing to change our perception of them being a terrible team. They needed the benefit of a questionable penalty with only a few seconds left to escape with the win. It was perfect.

But there was a downside to the way the Jets played…we may never get to see one last Mark Sanchez performance in New York. We need that send off. Something that reads like this the next morning in the game story: “When Mark Sanchez was thrust into emergency duty against Atlanta last night and immediately led the Jets to a go-ahead touchdown, it seemed like he had a chance to author a perfect send off. It couldn’t have been better scripted as Sanchez had a shot at lifting his team’s record to 3-2 in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately it all unraveled so quickly on Sanchez (I’m talking about in this game, though the quick unraveling could also be describing his overall career too), as he threw interceptions on his next three pass attempts. And that, of course, was truly the perfect ending to his career as a starter.”

Some quick takes on everything else I saw during week 1:

  • I’m willing to believe that Chip Kelly’s offense could be a competitive advantage for a while until other teams catch up or figure it out. I’m not willing to believe that Michael Vick is the long term answer at QB for that type of offense. When the Eagles moved the ball downfield at will during their first two drives on Monday and only walked away with a combined three points, I was ready to bury Vick. The first drive ended on his lateral pass to LeSeasn McCoy that got returned for a defensive touchdown, and the second drive ended when he threw three straight incompletions, at least two of which were awful misses on Vick’s part. I still think that’s the real Michael Vick. Loads of athleticism but hardly any football sense. This won’t end well for the Eagles.
  • My preseason prediction of Josh Freeman being the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness is alive and well. He completed less than 50% of his passes on Sunday, gaining only 210 yards on 31 attempts. I maintain that Tampa Bay and Cincinnati are the same team, only the Bengals get the benefit of playing in a terrible AFC, allowing them to get to 9-7 and a playoff berth every year. Very excited for the Mike Glennon era in Tampa though.
  • Checking in on the powers of the NFC: I worry for Green Bay that they’re turning into the team who expected to be the class of the NFC over the coming decade, except they didn’t go out and do anything about it (probably because they figured having Aaron Rodgers was enough). Meanwhile the 49ers have been proactively making moves to ensure their spot at the top of the conference. Seattle is just flying under the radar now. Let the 9ers and Packers steal the spotlight with their week 1 matchup (not to mention their high school level name-calling after the game), the ‘Hawks will just bide their time with an unassuming win in Carolina. Because of what Kaepernick showed us on Sunday, I think the 49ers are firmly entrenched as the team to beat in the NFC.
  • I’m confused by Mike Wallace. Isn’t the time to bitch about your lack of receptions before you sign a lucrative new contract? And you’re really upset about what went down in your Miami debut even though your old team was getting embarrassed in Pittsburgh? Can’t possibly see the bright side of things with the team getting that first W?
  • Maybe I’m late to the party on this one, but I think the debate over which wide receiver is better, Julio Jones or A.J. Green, is finished. Green is far superior, and I’m not knocking Jones by saying that. I think Green might be the best WR in the game and it wouldn’t shock me at all if the numbers bear that out this year.
  • And just like Peterson dragged that Minnesota team to the playoffs last year, I could see the Bengals continuing to make the postseason solely because of A.J. Green. I’m open to the idea that Green is the most important player in football.
  • When Eli Manning finished his comeback effort on Sunday night by stealing a page out of Tony Romo’s playbook (pick the most dramatic way to fail at the most dramatic point in the game), we didn’t just see the Manning Face. We got to see the Manning Full Body Reaction. He had the face going, the shoulders slumping, the right fist punching at the air, head shaking. It all happened like one fluid motion he’s been practicing for a while. It’s no longer just about the face. It’s the whole package.
  • I know not all my readers pay attention to advanced stats, but there is one metric that tells you everything you need to know about Jacksonville’s opening game: When the number of stitches the quarterback needs on his throwing hand after the game is just about equal to the number of passes he completed in the game, your team will almost never win that game or the next game. Blaine Gabbert completed 16 passes, and then he needed 15 stitches.
  • Can someone explain to me in a non-blowout situation why Brandon Weeden had 53 passing attempts while Trent Richardson had only 13 rushing attempts?
  • Not only did the AFC North go 0-4 this weekend, but the four starting QBs combined for 8 interceptions. I hope 7-9 takes this division because then my Cleveland to win the North prediction is still in play.

Well that’s everything that stood out to me in week 1. If I didn’t talk about your team over the course of these 3,700 words, it’s because they were boring and not worth my time. See that they do better next week, ok?

Week 2 picks against the spread coming up on Thursday. I can almost guarantee that I’ll do better than week 1.