Week 10 NFL Picks: It’s Raining Chaos & Underdogs

old-man-crystal-ball

Looking at the betting lines on a Wednesday for the upcoming week’s NFL games is always a great litmus test for how chaotic things currently are throughout the league. Sometimes you get one or two games that still don’t have a line set as of Wednesday, and that’s pretty normal. Every once in a while you get the surprise three or four games without a line at the midweek point. That’s a little crazy. So what word should we use to describe this week? As of 2pm PST on Wednesday, seven of 14 games were without a line. SEVEN! Insanity, wildness, out-of-control, anarchy, epidemic, flabbergasting, jaw-dropping, irresponsible, perplexing…not sure any of those words do it justice.

And of course, injuries are usually the big reason for these line-holds. Although sometimes it’s a bullying controversy that not even the team involved can seem to make sense of. Needless to say, if Vegas can’t figure out how the week 10 games are going to turn out, how are we commoners supposed to do it? For the record, I was extremely tempted to flip a coin to determine each game this week. But the narcissistic side of me that thinks I can outsmart the rest of the world wouldn’t let that happen.

Random side note: If you’re in a Pick ‘Em league and it’s anything like the ones I do through CBSsports.com, then the lines for that league get set early in the week…like Tuesday morning. And they don’t move them no matter what. Once they’re set, they’re locked in. That often leads to some ridiculous-looking lines once we learn about injuries on Tuesday and Wednesday. For instance, in this week’s picks on CBSsports.com, the Packers are 9-point favorites over the Eagles, a line that was clearly set before the linemakers new about the Aaron Rodgers injury. In theory, this results in a free pick because who in their right mind will take Green Bay to win by 10 without Rodgers (maybe me? You’ll have to read on to find out). Always comical when this happens.

Let’s jump into the week 10 picks:

Washington (-3) @ Minnesota

This is the start of three nationally-televised primetime games for Washington over the next four weeks. Either the networks broadcasting these games are going to get a resurgent RGIII leading his team back into the playoff mix over the next month, or a still-not-100% RGIII leading his team to an underwhelming 1-3 record over that time. No doubt about it, the weight of this team is squarely on his shoulders. Remember that his 2012 rookie peers (Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson) are all locks to make the playoffs. I know Griffin’s the only one who suffered a major knee injury in the past 10 months, but that doesn’t change expectations.

As far as this game goes, I don’t know. Flip that coin. One warning I’ll give you is that the Redskins have the worst special teams in the NFL while the Vikings have one of the best. I’m taking the points. Minnesota wins 24-23.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-12)

Don’t think too hard about this one. Tennessee is good, but they aren’t “drop 45 points on the worst team in the NFL” good. The Titans probably run a ton in this game, try to make it go by as quickly as possible while avoiding injuries, and not worry about the score as long as they win. To me this has backdoor cover for Jacksonville written all over it. I’m grabbing the points but saying Tennessee wins 26-17.

Philadelphia @ Green Bay (-1)

Aaron Rodgers’ injury moved this line 8 points. I already told you it was initially a 9-point spread. And these Eagles just happen to have the NFL’s most recent 7-touchdown passer at quarterback. They’ve also won three in a row and four-of-five overall on the road in 2013. While Rodgers is certainly the story in Wisconsin, don’t sleep on Clay Matthews potentially returning for this game. The Packers will struggle against some mediocre teams without #12 under center, but this line came down too much. Green Bay at home should still be giving a field goal against almost every team with or without Rodgers. I say the Packers cover and win, 27-21.

Buffalo @ Pittsburgh (-3.5)

I bet there’s some stat floating around there that states: “Mike Tomlin-coached teams are 6-0 against the spread in games following a 20+ point loss.” I’m always seeing ridiculous stats like that. Like every time Bill Belichick or John Harbaugh are playing their first game after the bye and the broadcast talks about how they never lose those games. I understand you have to make the Steelers a favorite at home against a middling team like Buffalo no matter how awful they looked last week. But I’m not buying it. If this Bills team had been even remotely healthy in the first half of the season, I feel like they’d be the surprise 5-4 AFC East team, not the Jets. But EJ Manuel should be back, C.J. Spiller looks healthy and the defense is legitimately….decent. If Buffalo follows New England’s blueprint from last week—run the ball early and often—they should win this game. I’m saying they get it done, beating the Steelers 23-17.

Oakland @ NY Giants (-7)

Was allowing 49 points to a Philly team that couldn’t score an offensive touchdown the previous two weeks an aberration or the Raiders finally showing their true colors? Is it nosedive city from here or will they respond and go back to being that frisky team I loved through the first eight weeks of the season? I don’t know. But I do know I can’t in good faith pick the Giants to beat any team by more than a touchdown right now. This line feels like an overreaction to the Raiders’ no-show last week combined with the Giants being on extra rest after the bye week. I can’t pick Oakland to win, but I can pick them to cover. Giants win 27-23.

St. Louis @ Indianapolis (-10)

In a slightly bizarre twist, the Colts haven’t beaten anyone at home this year by more than six points. Their two blowout wins have both come on the road. But let’s assume that’s somewhat random and ignore it. The one area the Rams seem to be good at right now is their pass rush. But based on what I’ve seen from the Colts lately, protecting Andrew Luck isn’t the reason they struggle. It’s dropped passes. Dropped passes directly led to their week 6 loss in San Diego, and it was almost their downfall last week in Houston. I think Luck put his worst half of the season behind him at the start of the 3rd quarter last Sunday night. And I think the Colts roll to a cover and win, 34-17.

Seattle (-6) @ Atlanta

I need Seattle to lose one road game other than when they face the 49ers in week 14 or else my power rankings from Wednesday might look bad. Not saying this is the game they lose, but you can bet your ass that I’m going to bet against the Seahawks in this game and when they play at the Giants in December. Actually, I am saying this is the game they lose. Atlanta wins outright, 21-15.

Cincinnati (-1) @ Baltimore

The AFC North was one of those divisions that before the season you could have penciled in each team going 3-3 in divisional games, losing all their road games and winning all their home games. And you know what? That’s exactly what has happened so far. No road team has won against a division rival so far. Sometimes the simplest logic presents itself and a lazy slacker like me jumps all over it, regardless of the infinite additional factors that should be considered. Baltimore wins 33-27.

Detroit @ Chicago (PICK)

Oh, hey there, other division that we could also pencil in all the home teams to win their intra-division games. If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get hurt in that Monday game, the home teams in these divisional matchups, not including Minnesota, would also have held serve through the first nine weeks of the season. And since I just ranked the Bears one spot ahead of the Lions in my power rankings, I should choose them to win at home. With or without Jay Cutler, I think Chicago gets it done with a 31-30 win. Yes, that would put the Lions on the losing end of the exact same outcome of their game against Dallas a couple weeks ago.

Carolina @ San Francisco (-6)

Carolina’s current four game win streak comes against opponents with a combined record of 6-27. San Francisco’s five game win streak comes against opponents who are 13-28. It would have been nice to learn something about either of these teams over the past month, but it’s basically been preseason games and scrimmages from a competitive standpoint. I think this line’s just a little low. No one knows how great Carolina has been more than me. I have a borderline obsession with them. But the 49ers are at home, getting healthy and feels like one of those teams that plays its best football in November and December. I think it can be a close game with San Francisco still covering. I say they do by a score of 33-25.

Houston @ Arizona (-3)

Hmm…I’m thinking about making this my most confident pick of the week. Did you know that the Cardinals have the best defense in all of football according to Football Outsiders? Did you know that three of Arizona’s four losses this year were @New Orleans, @San Francisco and home Seattle? This team beats the bad teams and can even beat some decent ones (they’ve got wins over Detroit and Carolina). I think Case Keenum has his toughest day as an NFL quarterback so far. The Cardinals cover and roll to a 27-13 victory.

Denver (-7) @ San Diego

Tough week for the Chargers. They lose an overtime game on the other side of the country that they probably should have won in regulation, have to fly all the way home and then start preparing for a Broncos team coming off their bye. Every time I want to simply pick against San Diego due to their lack of mental toughness, I have to remind myself that Norv Turner isn’t coaching this team anymore. I think the perfect medicine to help the Chargers get over that loss in Washington is having to focus on the toughest team they’ll face this season. I see San Diego getting up for this game in a big way. Call me crazy, but I like Philip Rivers and company to get an enormous win…let’s call it an overtime victory with San Diego winning 38-35.

Dallas @ New Orleans (-7)

It’s not a matter of who wins this game, but rather how badly do the Cowboys lose? Do they keep it relatively close? Or are they simply the best of the bad NFC teams and we’ll get to see the Saints embarrass them? New Orleans has won all their home games by an average of a lot this year. Their one previous primetime matchup in 2013 against a decent team ended up in a 21-point demolition of the Dolphins in week 4. Maybe it’s a little bit closer in this game, but not much. The Saints cover and win, 34-23.

Miami (-3) @ Tampa Bay

Talk about a stay-away game. If this had been a normal week, I’d love the Dolphins to ride that momentum from their Halloween night overtime win against Cincinnati and paste the Bucs. But this was not a normal week, as you may have heard. What will losing a second starter in two weeks from the offensive line do to this team? Maybe more importantly, what the hell were the Bucs doing up in Seattle last Sunday? Was that a sign of things to come, or was that simply a team throwing everything in their playbook at an unsuspecting opponent? I can’t figure this game out so I’m taking Tampa Bay with the points. The Bucs get their first win of the season by a score of 16-13. Just an incredible Monday Night Football matchup.

If you’re keeping score at home, in week 10 I’m picking:

  • 5 Favorites & 8 Underdogs (the Detroit-Chicago game is a PICK)
  • Of those 8 Dogs, 5 are Home Dogs & 3 are Road Dogs

Enjoy week 10 while I go slap your real mother across the face [laughter].

Advertisements

Gambling Dilemmas, the Real New Al Davis, Norv’s Bet And the Rest of the NFL’s Week 6 in Review

Question for the gamblers: If you’re watching football with a buddy and it turns out he has a bet worth $1,100 that’s in direct competition with a $5 bet you made, do you mentally part with your minuscule wager and start rooting for him? Do you say you’re rooting for him and secretly hope that your side of the bet still comes through? I had this dilemma for the first time ever on Sunday, and I’d say it’s one of the few times I’ve ever started rooting against my own bet. Seeing someone who normally wagers in the $10-$20 range sweat out a game that would pay him over a grand was more than worth it. Besides, I win more than enough bets anyway. It’s nice to see someone else win for once.

And with that, let’s quickly review the rest of the shenanigans that went on in football on the weekend I made my grand return to Nkilla’s man cave in San Francisco:

-Do we think before the start of the season Norv Turner said to his wife/friend/confidant, “I bet you $1,000 I can lose back-to-back games in which we hold a 10-point third-quarter lead and still not get fired?” And when that person obviously balked at the bet because they knew Norv would probably do that whether he was trying or not, Norv promised to up the stakes by blowing a 24-point halftime lead at home? Because that’s what just happened to the 2012 San Diego Chargers. I’m holding out hope that the Chargers and Patriots face each other in the playoffs so we can finally name a winner for the “Which Team is the Worst Closing Team in NFL History” award.

-Going way back to last Thursday for a minute, I want to address the now-popular joke that Jerry Jones is the “new Al Davis.” The joke is that Jones is starting to look as old and decrepit as Davis did in his final years. Ummm, has anyone seen Bud Adams, 89-year-old owner of the Titans? I have to think he’s outraged about this oversight. Clearly he is the closest thing to dead as we’ve got in the NFL ownership ranks:

-Speaking of that Titans vs Steelers game, it was probably fun for Baltimore fans to watch almost every Steelers player walk off the field and go directly to the hospital on Thursday—giving Baltimore literally no competition in the AFC North—until those same fans heard the fallout from the Ravens/Cowboys game on Sunday. LaDarius Webb, torn ACL. Ray Lewis, thrown in jail for murder torn triceps. Haloti Ngata, possible MCL tear. If you can find a gambling website where the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t the favorite to win the AFC North at this point, bet it big.

-Part of me wants to predict that the Cleveland Browns will make an improbable playoff run because their division is suddenly a lot weaker with all the injuries. I’m not ready to go there with a 1-5 team who might fire its head coach just because a new owner took over on Tuesday. But, hey, congrats to rookie QB Brandon Weeden for getting his first career NFL win on his 42nd birthday Sunday. He’s got a long, brilliant career doing color commentary for college football ahead of him.

-Last week I discussed a never-seen-before play where the Browns’ Brandon Weeden tried to throw two forward passes on the same play. In this week’s installment of “I can’t believe they thought that play wouldn’t be an absolute disaster,” we have Tampa Bay punter Michael Koenen trying to save a blocked punt by throwing an illegal forward pass right into a defender’s arms, who promptly runs it in for a touchdown. Apparently it was ruled a fumble instead of a forward pass so the play stood (though clearly it was a forward pass). You can re-watch that head-scratching play HERE. It’s the type of play that should be accompanied by circus music when they show highlights.

-So Brady Quinn gets his first chance to play quarterback in almost three years. He’s replacing a guy in Matt Cassel who the Kansas City fans literally want to have a public hanging for, mostly because he had turned the ball over 13 times in five games this year. If you’re Quinn and you want a chance to keep the starting job, don’t you make sure that whatever else happens you just don’t turn the ball over in this first game? If it’s me, I’m saying even if I don’t complete a single pass, the fans will appreciate that I didn’t throw an interception. But no, Quinn had to keep the Chiefs on pace to throw over 30 INTs this year with his two-pick effort. This team is nearly a lock for the 1st overall pick in the 2013 draft.

-Speaking of turnovers, two more for Michael Vick on Sunday. He’s now turned the ball over more frequently than 20 teams have this year. But yeah, go ahead and fire the defensive coordinator, Andy Reid, that’ll fix everything.

-How are we supposed to rate the Atlanta Falcons through six weeks? Are they the last undefeated team that the whole league should be scared of? Or are they the team that needed last-second heroics in two home games against Carolina and Oakland just to pull out what should have been easy wins? Even their one blowout road win at San Diego doesn’t look as impressive now. If I was doing NFC power rankings today, I’d probably put the Falcons at #3, behind the 49ers and Giants.

-Best idea I came up with during 11 hours of football watching on Sunday: When the refs are announcing a penalty, instead of the hand signals they currently use to demonstrate the type of penalty, they should have to demonstrate the penalty on the player who committed the penalty. For instance, when calling a “leading with the helmet” penalty, the ref should throw his head into the chest of the offender while making the call. This could be fun for all kinds of contact penalties (pass interference, horse collar, holding), but it would be really strange for things like offsides and false starts. Let me keep refining this idea actually.

-If the 49ers aren’t careful, they’re gonna start to be just as owned by the New York Giants as the Patriots have been over the past five years. Is there a team San Francisco would want to see less in the playoffs than the G-men? All we can do, 9ers fans, is pray for another team in the NFC East to step up and keep the Giants out of the playoffs. But it won’t be Philly or Dallas. So I guess…help us, Washington Redskins, you’re our only hope??

-You remember that 4-0 cinderella Arizona Cardinals team? Is there any doubt in your mind that they’re now in the middle of a six-game losing streak? Coming off these past two losses, they now face Minnesota (road), San Francisco (home), Green Bay (road) and Atlanta (road). They’ll be 4-6 before Thanksgiving, and we’ll forget the 4-0 start ever happened…except for Patriots fans.

-I need to discuss one more dilemma, and it revolves around the Seattle Seahawks. Now, you all probably know the ‘Hawks beat my Patriots on Sunday in exhilarating, last-minute comeback fashion. But some of you might not know that Seattle cornerback/douche of the week Richard Sherman said ALL OF THIS about Tom Brady and the Patriots after the game. So the question is, do I root for the Seahawks to make an improbable Super Bowl run just so Brady can throw five touchdowns to the guy Sherman’s covering in that game? Or do I root for Seattle to revert back to the 6-10 team I know they are so that Sherman’s trash-talking fades into obscurity? Tough call, but I do love the idea of New England putting up 63 on Seattle in the Super Bowl. Go Seahawks!

-If you need to be convinced I’m not just the average football fan who knows nothing about these teams, go back and re-read what I wrote last week about these games: Pittsburgh/Tennessee, Cincinnati/Cleveland, Indy/NY Jets, Detroit/Philly, Tampa Bay/Kansas City, and Minnesota/Washington. Whatever you do, though, ignore what I wrote about New England/Seattle, Oakland/Atlanta and Green Bay/Houston.

-My record against the spread:

Last Week: 9-5

Season: 51-37-3

Week 5 NFL Picks: The Most Outrageous Spread Ever, Wishing the Worst on the Jets and Molly Eats a Poisonous Bone

Here’s my fancy introduction for the week 5 picks:

In 2011, you could pretty much guess which teams made the playoffs by looking at who had the highest-scoring offenses. In the year of the 5,000-yard QBs, offense ruled as evidenced by nine of the 12 playoff teams ranking in the top 12 in points per game. In that same year, only five of those 12 teams ranked in the top 12 in points allowed per game.

Through four weeks of 2012, we’re seeing the exact opposite be true…here are the top 12 ranked defenses based on points allowed: Houston, Seattle, Arizona, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, Minnesota, Atlanta, Green Bay, Denver, Philadelphia and Baltimore. In that group, there are seven of the eight division leaders plus San Francisco (3-1), Green Bay (should be 3-1), Chicago (3-1), Denver (2-2) and Seattle (2-2 but should be 1-3).

Is this a four-game anomaly or a trend that’s gonna last all year? Is defense important once again? While you consider that mind-blowing reversal, chew on these picks for week 5 (home team underlined):

St. Louis(+2) over Arizona: Considering I predicted the Cardinals to win exactly two games this year, I certainly never expected them to be favored on the road against anyone. Obviously my prediction is going to look horrible by the end of the season, but I’m sticking to my guns that Arizona is NOT A GOOD FOOTBALL TEAM. In three of the Cardinals’ four wins, their opponent had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win. They’re the luckiest team I’ve seen since the Rex Grossman-led 2006 Chicago Bears…who went all the way to the Super Bowl. Crap. Still, St. Louis at home is the superior team. Bet accordingly.

Philadelphia (+3.5) over Pittsburgh: Wait, isn’t Philadelphia the luckiest team we’ve seen in years? Am I starting to confuse luck with talent? Are my preseason projections for Arizona to be horrible and Philly to be only decent blinding me to what’s really going on? Well, I certainly think the Eagles are the more legit of the “lucky” teams. When it comes to Pittsburgh, I worry that they’re just starting their regular season now while everyone else has gotten four games under their belts and are rounding into midseason form. The Steelers had to play their first three games without several key contributors—Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall—and then they had a bye last week. While those three guys are now healthy and ready to go, I’m concerned that it’s going to take some time before this team resembles the Steelers of the past 10 years. If Pitt wins, it’ll be by three or less. I’m taking the Philly with the points.

Green Bay (-7) over Indianapolis: Can you imagine if these two teams had played each other last year? Green Bay was on its way to a 15-1 record while putting up 35 points per game. Indy was on its way to a 2-14 season, the number one pick in the draft, and averaged just over 15 points per game. What would the spread have been on the 2011 version of this game? 17? 21? The Colts aren’t that bad this year, and the Packers aren’t that good. But this is still a mismatch that’ll create an easy win for Green Bay. I’ll repeat what I said last week about the Packers: if they can’t win this game by double digits, it’s time to lower your expectations for the 2012 Green Bay Packers.

NY Giants (-9) over Cleveland: As far as suicide pools go, it’s certainly tempting to pick the 2-2 Giants at home against the 0-4 Browns. But I was able to scare myself out of doing that by simply remembering recent history. In week 5 last year, a bad Seattle team was on the road against the Giants. Out of 19 people in the suicide pool, 12 of us pick New York, and of course Seattle pulls out a 36-25 win. It was the same week of the season and a similar “easy home game” for the Giants. And add to that how schizophrenic the Giants are and you can see how easy it was for me not to pick them in suicide. However, I’m picking the Giants to cover nine points…the public thinks the Giants look sketchy and the Browns look competitive. Too many people are gonna go against New York here. Not me. When you inevitably take the Browns with the points, shoot me an email to let me know during which quarter of the game you remembered the QB matchup was Eli Manning vs Brandon Weeden.

Atlanta (-3) over Washington: Last week I gave a pep talk to 49ers fans who were down on their team after an unexpected loss in week 3 to Minnesota. Atlanta should have had an unexpected loss at home in week 4 to Carolina (saved by the unclutchness/questionable decision-making of Cam Newton and Ron Rivera). So as long as the Falcons treat that game as if it was an unforgivable loss, they should be super-motivated for their matchup with RGIII. And when I asked one of my two friends who loves the Redskins about his confidence level this week, he basically said, “I expect the Falcons to pass all over us all day long. Roddy White and Julio Jones will probably have career days.” Fair enough…three points seems too low for an elite team against such a bad defense, even on the road.

Cincinnati(-4) over Miami: Doesn’t it seem like the Dolphins’ M.O. this year is exactly what the New York Jets have been claiming to be for the past four years? Rely on the running game to carry the offense and keep the ball away from the other team, and have an impossible-to-run-against defense. They even have a QB who’s as effective as (or more than) the Jets’ franchise QB. Can the Dolphins ride this formula to back-to-back AFC Championship games like the Jets did? Sadly, they cannot. Mostly because they’re downright terrible against the pass. I’m tempted to say that the Dolphins will keep it close and probably lose by just a field goal, but I think Cincy at home will pass all over Miami and can hopefully win by a touchdown. (Warning: This game has Ryan Tannehill garbage time TD pass for the backdoor Dolphins cover written all over it.)

Baltimore (-6) over Kansas City: This game was my weekly big miss when I guessed all the lines on Tuesday. I had Baltimore -12.5. Honestly this line couldn’t be high enough to get me to bet on the Chiefs. The only argument someone could make against picking the Ravens is that they seem to have one legitimate dud every year against a shitty team. Last year they lost 12-7 at Jacksonville in week 7. Could the dud come against a 1-3 team like KC this year? Of course it could, but it would be unwise to bet on it. I think Baltimore covers so easily that I also picked them in my suicide pool this week.

Carolina(-3) over Seattle: If you take away the Seahawks’ 27-7 win over Dallas in week 2, which seems to be the outlier, their other offensive outputs for the season are 16 points, 7 points and 13 points (I took the liberty of not including the fake TD they got in the Packers’ debacle). They’ve got three offensive touchdowns in those three games. Even if you include the Dallas game, they have five total offensive touchdowns on the season. In a road game this week, their defense won’t have the luxury of their 12th man/home crowd. As long as Carolina can put up 21 points, they’ll cover the spread. This is an easy pick against Seattle. And who knows? Maybe after they lose at Carolina people will stop considering them to be one of the decent NFC teams.

For Molly’s week 5 pick, I gave her the Chicago at Jacksonville game. Should I be worried about having predicted the Bears as a Super Bowl team if I’m repeatedly letting my dog pick whichever game involves them each week? Yes, I probably should. I just don’t know what to make of a Bears team favored by nearly a touchdown on the road when we have the distinct possibility of seeing Jay Cutler get sacked 14 times. Let’s check in with Molly for the pick:

You heard the dog: Jacksonville +6 is the pick.

New England(-7) over Denver: If you’re a Patriots fan, you just knew Aaron Hernandez was returning to the field much sooner than the original estimates suggested after he hurt his ankle in week 2. He just seems like a tough dude, and he’s definitely the type of guy who can’t handle sitting on the sidelines. This is great news for a Patriots’ offense that just dropped 52 on Buffalo. Whether Hernandez plays this week or not, it’s starting to feel like New England is ready to go on one of their patented eight-game winning streaks. If you agree with me, then you have to think the Patriots can cover seven points at home against a mediocre Broncos team. It might be high scoring like most of the media are predicting, but it feels like 41-27 is about right.

San Francisco(-10) over Buffalo: The 49ers beat the Jets 34-0 last week. And the Jets beat the Bills 48-28 in week 1. So a 50-point win by the 9ers against Buffalo seems about right. Right? No, but I do think San Francisco is looking forward to playing in front of their home crowd for the first time in three weeks. They’ll make life a living hell for Ryan “4 touchdowns but also 4 interceptions” Fitzpatrick. And it’s not like Alex Smith should have trouble moving the ball against the Bills’ defense. What am I missing here? I’m not scared of the 10 points because this seems like a big time mismatch.

Minnesota(-6) over Tennessee: Does the “Ross was absolutely right about Christian Ponder” train keep on chugging down the tracks this week? Or does a Tennessee team that seems to be in shambles surprise everyone and make this a close game? Well the Titans aren’t gonna be able to run on Minnesota so let’s put it this way: the only chance Tennessee has to pull off the upset is if Matt Hasselbeck pulls some crazy sorcery out of his ass. I’m talking multiple 65-yard touchdown passes to Jared Cook, or a ridiculous flee-flicker that actually fools the Vikings’ defense. If I’m Mike Munchak, I’m trying fake punts, fake field goals and surprise onsides kicks all day long because my team is just bad enough to play the “we have nothing to lose” card. But since none of that is likely to work, I’ll take the Vikings.

San Diego (+4) over New Orleans: Has anyone ever wasted a gift-wrapped career opportunity quite like Saints interim interim head coach Aaron Kromer? This guy is supposed to be the offensive line coach, and he literally has no other relevant credentials in professional football. So if he had been able to squeeze even two wins out of this miserable team over his six weeks of fake head coaching, he’d have a great case to make for becoming an offensive coordinator and eventually a head coach in the near future. But instead his team has gone 0-4 against opponents who are a combined 2-10 outside of their wins vs New Orleans. Unfortunately for Mr. Kromer the beat goes on this week as San Diego drops 35 on them. At least the Saints have that Drew Brees record-breaking TD ceremony to fall back on.

Wait one other thing: HOW THE FUCK IS THIS 0-4 SAINTS TEAM FAVORED AGAINST A 3-1 TEAM? AND HOW ARE THEY FAVORED BY 4 POINTS??? Hopefully the caps expressed my disgust with this line properly.

Houston (-9) over NY Jets: For my analysis on this game, I really just wanted to tape myself laughing the evilest of laughs. A Mr. Burns sadistic type laugh if you will. Because no one gets quite the hard-on that I get from watching the Jets be the laughing stock of the NFL. But what I actually want to do is revisit that play from last week where Santonio Holmes got hurt…because seriously, how are more people not talking about what a selfish play that was? If that same situation happened to a player on most of the other 31 teams, that guy would be cut immediately…because there’s no way he didn’t flip the ball to the defender on purpose. Like I said last week, it’s just a nice representation of what the New York Jets now stand for—selfish, incompetent and downright awful football. The Texans better not go easy on the Jets…I wanna see 80-yard bombs to Andre Johnson even after the Texans go up 31-3. I wanna see Mark Sanchez booed off the field. Then I wanna see Tim Tebow booed off the field (and would love it more than anything if he flipped off the crowd). I want Rex Ryan fired by week 8. I want it all for this Jets team…everything they deserve and more.

Week 3 NFL Picks: The Road to 0-3 Goes Thru New Orleans! (And Molly’s Pick is Nearly Controversial!)

Through two weeks, I’m 16-14-2 against the spread. Just enough above average to be winning you a small amount of money if you’ve been smart enough to go with all of my picks. If you were betting $100 on each of my picks, you’d have a $60 profit so far. If I keep up this pace over the course of the 17-week season, you’d profit $510. Not too shabby. But of course you’re not betting $100 on each of my picks because for some reason you still don’t trust me. I get it. It’s gonna take a 13-3 week or better for you to finally give in and follow my advice in each game. I’m not sure it’ll be this week because the schedule’s pretty unforgiving from a betting standpoint (by the way, good luck feeling super comfortable with your suicide pick this week if you happen to be part of the 3% that avoided New England last week).

Let’s get on with it and see if I can finally convince you to follow my lead (home team underlined):

Carolina(-3) over NY Giants: I’m fully prepared for the Giants to fuck me over here, but I gotta take Carolina for a couple reasons. First, how many injuries can the Giants sustain on offense and still put up points? No Hakeem Nicks, Domenik Hixon, Ahmad Bradshaw or David Diehl. Second, the emotional toll last week’s comeback win over Tampa must have had on the Giants isn’t something to ignore. Coming off a game like that, the loss of several key players and a short week…I also think Carolina, which only won three home games last year, turns into one of those teams that’s very difficult to beat at home this season.

Dallas(-8) over Tampa Bay: Is the real Tampa Bay the team that only allowed 10 points to Carolina in week 1 or the team that allowed 41 points (and more than 500 passing yards!) to the Giants in week 2? That’s the key to whether Dallas can cover this spread. I’m saying they’re closer to what we saw in week 2. I also don’t believe Tampa can play catch-up very well if it falls behind by 14 or 17 points, which I see happening. Dallas starts out fast in this one and covers the 8 points.

Jacksonville (+3) over Indianapolis: If the NFL combined the best players from these teams into one team, would it even be competitive? You’d have Luck at QB, MoJo at RB, Reggie Wayne and Laurent Robinson at WR…ugh. If the RedZone Channel gave you the ability to choose certain games for them to never check in on, wouldn’t this be at the top of your list for week 3? Anyway, I think MoJo continues to round into form and runs all over Indy so I’m going with the Jags…it’s literally their only chance to avoid an 0-8 start.

Buffalo (-3) over Cleveland: One of two things is happening in this game: A barn-burner with the Bills getting to 40 points first and holding on for a win, or this pathetic Cleveland team is gonna finally make the Buffalo defense look legit, and the Bills win 34-10. Either way we inch closer to my prediction coming true on the first coach fired this season as Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur is officially placed on the hot seat.

Miami(+3) over NY Jets: Miami’s run defense is legit. So the only chance the Jets have of cracking that elusive 10-point ceiling on offense is if Mark Sanchez puts on a show. Do you really think we’re gonna have many weeks this year where “Mark Sanchez” and “puts on a passing clinic” are used in the same sentence? Me neither. I know the Dolphins are still planning on being a bad team, and they have a rookie QB and all, but I think they can take a very conservative approach offensively and see if their defense can win the game for them. Looking forward to hearing the “Tebow should start” chatter go from a whisper to a dull roar after this one.

New Orleans(-9) over Kansas City: “The road to 0-3 goes through New Orleans” is what I picture someone like Greg Gumbel saying during CBS’s pregame show Sunday morning. New Orleans has plenty of built-in excuses to be this bad, and it’s not like their interim interim coach has to be worried about being fired. But it’s much more of a must-win game for KC because they have no excuses…they have their real coach (who did have the interim tag last year, but not the little-used interim interim), and they have their health for the most part. This game pits the two teams tied for last in the NFL in points allowed (37.5). The big difference is on offense, where the Saints are 6th in scoring (29.5 points per game) while the Chiefs are 26th (20.5ppg). Is the pick really as simple as which offense is better? Yes, yes it is. Saints get their first win AND cover the big nine points.

Cincinnati (+3) over Washington: On Tuesday this line was -4 for the Redskins and I meant to bet big on Cincy with the points. Because if the Redskins are gonna be winning anymore games this year, it’ll be by a field goal or less. Obviously I forgot to bet it because I got distracted trying to find out how much I could sell all my DVDs for on zumu.co.   Washington’s already-terrible defense just got worse with the loss of a couple key guys, and we need to remember that their QB is a rookie. The Bengals feel like a very balanced team. Without looking at stats, I’d guess they are above average in all phases of the game. Both these teams will play a lot of close games, so I gotta take Cincinnati with the points, but I’d feel a lot better if it was still -4.

Molly is now 1-1 in her picks for the year. Of course I’m disappointed as I expect perfection from my offspring. This will be her last football pick as an unspayed dog. Next week’s video may feature her with one of those funny cone necklaces on. I’m giving Molly the St. Louis at Chicago (-7.5) pick this week, and as you’ll see, my girlfriend actually had to help me decipher who Molly was choosing because it was such a close call:

San Francisco (-7.5) over Minnesota: Easy logic for picking the 49ers. Minnesota barely beat Jacksonville (a horrible team) at home in week 1, and they lost to Indianapolis (a very bad team) on the road in week 2. San Francisco easily handled Green Bay (a very good team) on the road in week 1, and they beat Detroit (an above average team) at home in week 2. This logic was so easy and convincing that I picked the 9ers in my suicide pool this week.

Detroit (-4) over Tennessee: The Titans have been a model of mediocrity for so long that I think we all just pencil them in for 8-8 every year without even really evaluating them. It’s like how for the last five years we could safely assume that the NFC West would be the worst division in football and we’d be right. But then all of the sudden, the NFC West creeps up on you and becomes a sneaky decent division. Well the same goes for the Titans but reversed. They’ve sneaky become an awful team, averaging 11.5 points per game so far and putting up a solid 2.2 yards per rushing attempt. The Lions may take a step back from last year, but they’re still more than capable of beating this Titans team by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+3) over San Diego: If you want to discount what the Falcons have done so far by saying they faced one putrid AFC West team (the Chiefs in week 1) and one mediocre AFC West team (the Broncos in week 2), that’s fine. But what caliber of AFC West team are they facing in week 3 at San Diego? The Chargers look fine so far, but let’s get serious and realize the best of the NFC is much better than the best of the AFC. Even if the Chargers end up with a 12-win season, they’re not in the same class as where I think the Falcons will end up. It feels wrong to be getting Atlanta as an underdog at this point. Enjoy it.

Philadelphia (-3.5) over Arizona: You know how every couple years there’s that one team that keeps winning early in the season, and you and your buddies keep laughing at that team because you know they’re not really good? Think about the 49ers last season or the Vikings in 2009 when they had Brett Favre. We kept betting against them every week because their luck had to run out at some point, didn’t it? Except that for both those teams, their “luck” took them all the way to the NFC Championship game (and if memory serves, both teams were one play away from going to the Super Bowl). Is it possible the Eagles are this year’s version of that team? Could they cover the spread in Arizona this weekend on some combination of Kevin Kolb’s poorly-timed turnovers and a fluky special teams bounce? Of course they could, and then we’d still be laughing at them because they’ll be 3-0, but an ugly 3-0. And then suddenly it’s 12 weeks later and this team is 12-3 somehow. Gross. I’m going with the Eagles to finally get their first non-one-point win of the year.

Oakland(+4.5) over Pittsburgh: Hmm…Pitt just dismantled a Jets team that looked unstoppable in week1 while Oakland got shellacked by what everyone considers to be a pretty terrible Dolphins team. The Raiders haven’t scored more than 14 points in a game yet this season. But no, I’m not biting on this line for Pittsburgh. The Steelers still have a ton of injuries to key guys (James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Rashard Mendenhall), and it feels like they’re in the mode of “let’s just hold this thing together and remain competitive however we can right now. Once we get all of our reinforcements back from injury we’ll be a team no one wants to face.” This game feels like one of those ugly matchups traditionally saved for “St. Louis at Cleveland” where there may not be a single offensive touchdown and the final score is something like 15-12. I’m taking the home team and the points.

Houston (-3) over Denver: This line is a slap in the face to Houston. They have the top-ranked defense in the NFL, and they have a top-10 offense. They’re facing a Denver team whose only win was against a still-in-preseason-mode Pittsburgh squad in week 1. When I guessed the line for this game on Tuesday, I had Houston -8. Needless to say this is my lock of the week. Why isn’t my lock of the week also my suicide pick? Because a very small part of me fears that Peyton Manning, in his first non-nationally-televised game of the season, will quietly stun us this weekend. Can’t you picture yourself watching the RedZone Channel, enjoying the back-and-forth action in Arizona, when all of the sudden Andrew Siciliano appears on your TV and says, “While you were watching Michael Vick’s seventh turnover of the Eagles/Cardinals game, Peyton Manning just led the Broncos on three unanswered scoring drives against Houston to put his team up by 10 in the 4th quarter”? OK, it’s unlikely. But I’m giving Manning a couple more weeks before I write his football eulogy.

New England (+3) over Baltimore: These two teams have been engaging in quite the role reversal shenanigans so far this season, haven’t they? Over the past five years, we’d expect the Patriots to be the offensive juggernaut with the sketchy defense and the Ravens to be the defensive stalwart whose offensive continually let them down. It’s only two games into 2012, but we’re seeing a Patriots defense that ranks in the top 10 in all major defensive categories, and a Ravens offense that ranks 2nd in scoring.  These may be the two most-evenly matched teams in the NFL, but I’m putting my faith in the Patriots quickly remembering that Wes Welker is a 120-reception wide receiver, and starting to use him accordingly.

Green Bay (-3.5) over Seattle: Sure, this game has all the makings of a close one. A Green Bay offense that hasn’t fully hit its stride (don’t forget I was the first one to point out that their offense seemed off through two weeks) against a very good Seattle defense…in Seattle, where the ‘Hawks are coming off a huge win over Dallas. But I think in week 3 we see things go back to a more “normal” world in football. The Packers should win this one by at least a touchdown as we all remember the Packers are the Packers and the Seahawks are still the Seahawks.