Week 2 NFL Picks: Beware the Abundance of Heavy Favorites

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My intro to the Week 2 picks is purely self-promotion. Shameless, unadulterated self-promotion. I know you greatly enjoy reading my picks every week, but if that’s the only interaction you have with my incredible football insight, you’re missing out big time. You need to be listening to the Teasy Money weekly podcast where me & my cohosts go through all the upcoming games and identify our favorite bets. This is your behind-the-scenes look at how 2.5 gambling pros come to their rock solid conclusions every week before placing their winning bets.

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And yes, we made a solid profit in week 1. So saddle up and get ready for the awesome ride that awaits you as long as you’re willing to put 100% of your faith in us.

Here are the week 2 picks.

NY Jets (-1) at Buffalo | over/under 40.5

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 33, Buffalo 16

The Bets: NY Jets -1

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: SuperContest with Jets (-1)

I’m on the Jets in this one. Just think the Jets offense will easily move the ball on a defense as mediocre (at least with current players missing) as Buffalo. And Sammy Watkins is…what is he? On the verge of being IR’d, but now toughing it out on short rest? Not buying it. How is Buffalo going to score any points?

I’ve actually already placed a bet on this one.

San Francisco at Carolina (-14) | over/under 45.5

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 26, San Francisco 10

The Bets: Carolina (-4) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Carolina’s a Survivor Pool option

Obvious part of a 3-team teaser. I feel like Carolina revealed their true selves last Thursday in Denver. Their offense will have games of looking like one of the better units in the league against mediocre defenses, and their defense will only get exposed by teams that have multiple really good offensive weapons.

Do not be fooled by San Francisco’s Monday night game. And definitely don’t forget Carolina has extra rest with their game being on Thursday and the 49ers playing on Monday.

Dallas at Washington (-3) | over/under 45

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 26, Dallas 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Based on Washington’s preferred defensive philosophy that was on display this past Monday, they’re going to have their Pro Bowl cornerback make sure Dallas’ #2 wide receiver, Terrance Williams, doesn’t have a huge day–kind of fail at that too actually–and then let Dez Bryant go off for 130 yards and a couple touchdowns, all the while paying no attention to Ezekiel Elliott, who will be ripping off big gains every couple plays.

Throw in an embarrassing number of offensive penalties and a seemingly-impossible amount of bad luck with any kind of 50/50 bounce of the football, and you get that shitshow that the Skins “displayed” on Monday.

No, they’ll be better. Almost have to be. I’m sticking with my preseason feeling that Washington’s a 10-game winner and Dallas is crap.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-3) | over/under 48.5

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Pittsburgh 28, Cincinnati 27

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: SuperContest with Cincinnati (+3)

Wish I had a cool stat about these two division rivals having played five games in a row decided by a field goal or less, but apparently it’s not like that. In the last six games between the Steelers and Bengals, only one has been decided by four or less. But I’m picking Cincy still because this matchup should be even tighter than a 3-point win.

I like watching Pittsburgh’s offense operating, and it’s obviously fun watching perfect pass & catch between Roethlisberger & Brown, but I’m not buying the Steelers as the infallible team/offense that everyone came into the season expecting, and has only had their opinion reinforced after week 1.

New Orleans at NY Giants (-4.5) | over/under 53

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 28, NY Giants 26

The Bets: Over (43) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

As has been the case for a couple years running now, you already don’t wanna try to nail down either of these teams in terms of consistency and what level they’ll play at. So I’m leaving the spread alone. But doesn’t this feel like a shootout in the making? I’ll definitely be putting the over into a 3-way teaser.

Taking the Saints with the points because three seems like a more appropriate number for this game.

Miami at New England (-6.5) | over/under 42.5

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 30, Miami 10

The Bets: New England (-0.5) in a 2-way teaser / New England (+3.5) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: SuperContest with New Engand (-6.5), New England’s a Survivor Pool option

I know I’m setting myself up for a gigantic disappointment, but I have that feeling in my body this week. That sneaky over-excited feeling that precedes a game with all the makings of a blowout.

While both teams are traveling back to the East Coast after games out West, at least the Patriots got to go home and stay home. Miami had to jump right back on a plane a few days later. (I’m assuming they went back to Miami in between, but who knows?)

And yeah, I could see certain teams having a huge letdown if they were the Patriots coming off such a big win in week 1. But Bill Belichick doesn’t really allow letdowns to happen, and I’m sure plenty of people reminded Jimmy Garoppolo this week that it was only one game.

Kansas City at Houston (-2) | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 24, Kansas City 20

The Bets: Over (33.5) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Forget about which of these teams you like more over the course of the year. For this particular week, the Texans seem to be in much better shape than the Chiefs, and they’re at home. Kansas City won in ridiculous comeback fashion in week 1, 100% due to the fact that the Chargers’ best offensive player went from destroying the KC defense in the 1st half to out with a torn ACL in the 2nd half. I was nervous about a defense without Justin Houston and a slowly-coming-along Tamba Hali, and it seems like for at least a little while, good teams can put up points on the Chiefs.

The Texans looked pretty much how I expected in their first test, a home win against Chicago. I like Houston giving less than a field goal, and I really like the over.

Tennessee at Detroit (-6) | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 27, Tennessee 14

The Bets: Detroit (PICK) in a two-way teaser / Detroit (+4) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: SuperContest with Detroit (-6), Detroit’s a Survivor Pool option

I have absolutely no feel for the total in this one. You could see the Lions scoring almost 47 on their own, but you definitely cannot put any faith in the Titans to pitch in with very much.

I do like the Lions to win by a touchdown, and I think they’ll establish in this game that they can beat up pretty good on the weaker teams of the NFL, especially at home.

Baltimore (-7) at Cleveland | over/under 42.5

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Baltimore 21, Cleveland 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Every week there’s that early Sunday game that just doesn’t get shown on the Red Zone Channel. Buffalo at Baltimore was that game in week 1. So I have no idea what to make of the Ravens. But while I won’t touch this game from a betting standpoint, I can promise you I’m picking against the Ravens laying seven points on the road in a divisional game.

Seattle (-7) at Los Angeles | over/under 39

The Pick: Los Angeles

The Score: Los Angeles 19, Seattle 15

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Fuck this game. I’m a little bitter about my awful Seahawks bet last week combined with me paying a large sum of auction money to own Russell Wilson in fantasy. Not happy with the current state of Seattle.

This line is just absurd. Had Seattle won last week by 35, I wouldn’t have expected them to be a full touchdown favorite in this game just as long as LA played a reasonably decent game in week 1. Obviously, they didn’t. So the public will be lining up to bury the Rams in this one.

Complete stayaway for me, but LA gets the nod in my pick ‘em leagues.

Tampa Bay at Arizona (-7) | over/under 50

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Arizona 29, Tampa Bay 24

The Bets: Over (44) in a 2-way tease, Over (40) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Force me to make a pick, and I’m taking the Bucs. The offensive weapons they have should allow them to either keep it close throughout, or make a just-not-enough comeback in the 4th quarter if the Cardinals are playing a soft “keep everything in front of us” defense.

But it feels completely impossible to form a conclusion about Tampa Bay’s offense after they faced Atlanta’s mockery of a defense on Sunday.

Jacksonville at San Diego (-3) | over/under 47

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: San Diego 27, Jacksonville 24

The Bets: Over (37) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

The over in a 3-way teaser seems like a gimme. The Chargers being at home and facing an easier defense than they got in week 1 will compensate for the loss of Keenan Allen just fine. And the Jags are going to either put up points because they’re a good, competitive team, or because they’ll be down by 14+ points and will revert to last year’s garbage time champions.

As for the spread, I’ll take a push.

Atlanta at Oakland (-5) | over/under 50

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 28, Atlanta 14

The Bets: Under (60) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

I don’t think this is a slam dunk over. Atlanta put up 24 points (only two touchdowns) at home against a below average defense. Put them on the road against what should be at least an average defense, and there’s a real chance they don’t crack 17 points. So you have to rely on Oakland putting up 33+ in a game that could become uncompetitive.

Indianapolis at Denver (-6.5) | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Denver

The Score: 25, Indianapolis 16

The Bets: Denver (-0.5) in a 2-way teaser / Denver (+3.5) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: SuperContest with Denver (-6), Denver’s a Survivor Pool option

Listen, for the time being, Indy has a particularly generous defense and a one-dimensional offense. Denver, especially at home, should feast on those teams this year. Nothing the Colts can do should be able to confuse Trevor Siemian any more than Carolina was able to. And a team with three good cornerbacks and a great pass rush should create a long day for Andrew Luck.

In fact, the only thing the Colts do well on offense is throw deep. And what can you usually not do when you have an all-world pass rush coming at you snap after snap? Take the time to set up your deep routes and have the QB scan the field for the perfect matchup.

Also, Denver is on extra rest.

Green Bay (-3) at Minnesota | over/under 44

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Green Bay 23, Minnesota 20

The Bets: Under (54) in a 3-way teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

If you learn only one thing early on in this season, please let it be that the Vikings played in a lot of games that went under last year, and they’ll play in even more this year. That’s what you get when a team has a really good defense but an inept offense.

This is a game where I wait for the line to bump up to Minnesota +3.5, and I bet them. It feels like someone’s winning this game by three, and I’m positive that later in the week, the public will start sending money in on Green Bay. We will get this spread at Vikings +3.5.

Philadelphia at Chicago (-3) | over/under 43

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 28, Philadelphia 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

I’m reasonably confident that the Eagles will be as bad as I thought they’d be prior to week 1, but I’m not putting any weight behind this pick because I need to see Chicago do a little more before I put them in that “mediocre” category.

Those are your week 2 bets. Did I mention that you can check me out on Twitter (@TeasyMoneyNFL or @rossgariepy) later in the week for my finalized bets? And that there’s a podcast called Teasy Money that you can listen to?

Enjoy week 2.

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TV Preview: A First Date, A Great Fling and A Complicated Lover

(WARNING: There might be some spoilers for those who aren’t up to date on Game of Thrones.)

The end of football season in early February is so cruel.

A weekend during football season means 51 hours of enjoyment. It starts Friday at 5pm and goes right through Sunday Night Football. And those Sundays, oh boy, those Sundays…11 straight hours of football…11 straight hours of indoors, on the couch, getting your fat on.

A weekend during the other seven months of the year means a fun Friday and Saturday but a boring Sunday spent thinking about that dreadful Monday morning. Worst of all, you’re expected to go outdoors on these Sundays!

Unfortunately I don’t have a solution that will get you back in front of the TV for the entire day, but I can give you a few hours of awesomeness to look forward to starting this coming Sunday, April 6th.

Fine, I’m not giving this to you so much as HBO is giving this to you.

Starting Sunday we get a brand new and very promising comedy called Silicon Valley (the first date), the return of one of the best comedies you’re probably not watching, Veep (the great fling), and finally, as you may have heard, a little fantasy drama called Game of Thrones is premiering its fourth season (the complicated lover).

All on HBO. Consider me a subscriber for life at this point.

Let’s tackle these three shows in detail.

Silicon Valley – Series Premiere, Sunday at 10pm

I was in on this show the moment I heard the words “Mike Judge” and “Silicon Valley.” Mike Judge because he has an incredible track record (Office Space, Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill). Silicon Valley because I lived there for seven years and have always thought there was plenty ripe material for a TV show.

In fact, one of the first ideas I worked on when I moved to LA was a TV pilot about a group of young sales guys making way too much money in Silicon Valley.

Judge’s Silicon Valley has this as its premise: “Six programmers live together and try to make it big in Silicon Valley.”

He went with programmers; I went with sales guys. He actually wrote it and followed through with the idea; I wrote enough first drafts to fill a warehouse but never returned to it. The lesson? The line between success and wannabe in Hollywood is razor thin.

It seems to me a comedy about the fast-paced world of technology on a channel that allows for plenty of swearing, sexual content and whatever the hell else this show wants to do is easily worth tuning in to on Sunday night.

Fingers crossed that this is a good first date and not one of those encounters that ends with an awkward hug at the car while the girl waits for me to say I’d like to see her again.

Veep – Season Three Premiere – Sunday at 10:30pm

I wrote earlier that this is the best comedy you’re not watching. Maybe you are watching it, but I just haven’t heard enough people say that they are. Either way, you should be. This is Julia Louis-Dreyfus at her finest. This is political humor, satire and subtle comedy at its finest. This is intelligent humor at its finest. In fact, if you try watching Veep and “don’t get it,” well, I hear there’s a great lineup on CBS that’s probably more your speed.

And to pat myself on the back just a bit, I’m the king of finding niche comedies right before they blow up and go mainstream (see: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, August 2005).

I’m calling this show the great fling because it shows up once a year for a short time (10 episodes), we always have a good time with each other, and there’s never any drama or seriousness. No emotional baggage. I love it when it’s around, but don’t think about it too much when it’s gone.

Game of Thrones – Season Four Premiere – Sunday at 9pm

And then there’s the complicated lover who leaves me with plenty of emotional baggage at the end of each season. This isn’t a fun, easy-going fling. This is an intense relationship with weekly roller coaster rides that leave me feeling exhausted.

But I haven’t looked forward to a TV show this much since the early days of Lost.

In fact, my GoT withdrawals got so bad a couple weeks ago that I ordered all five of George R. R. Martin’s books during a random Amazon.com binge. I haven’t read a book in quite some time so trying to take down roughly 4,500 pages of a fantasy world is going to be quite the feat. But I simply needed my Khaleesi fix.

Game of Thrones is currently the crown jewel of television. I won’t accept a single argument against that statement.

And starting on Sunday maybe we’ll finally get to see the good guys of Westeros live long enough to take down the bad guys. But based on past performance, I won’t hold my breath for that.

Game of Thrones…she’s a complicated bitch, but she’s my complicated bitch.

And now I’ll leave you with six random thoughts about the best show on TV:

  1. The best part of GoT is that it could legitimately go on for 10, 15, 20 years. It’s self-perpetuating. Who wouldn’t want to see these story lines play out over decades? The amount of family backstabbing, the juggling of power and priorities, the 150 or so different people with claims to the Iron Throne. I see no end in sight.
  2. At this point if you’re not rooting solely for Arya and Khaleesi (really the only interesting “good” people left), what the hell are you doing with your life?
  3. And if it came down to choosing, I’m going Khaleesi over Arya 100 times out of 100. And yes, it’s a completely sexual thing.
  4. There’s a very decent Game of Thrones the Politics of Season 3 playing on HBO this week. Watch it.
  5. This really has nothing to do with GoT per se, but all this talk about strategy, intricacies and roller coaster rides got me thinking about Settlers of Catan. It’s simply the greatest board game ever invented. And I just felt like giving it a plug. Try not to be confused when you play it someday and it has nothing to do with Game of Thrones.
  6. Even with only three seasons in the books, Joffrey has already established himself as a lead candidate for the most evil villain in cinematic history. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, makes my girlfriend’s blood bubble like the site of Joffrey (even when she once saw a picture of the actor not in Joffrey character in Entertainment Weekly). One more indefensible murder by him and I might think about permanently removing my girlfriend from LA so we don’t accidentally bump into Jackie Gleeson (the guy who plays Joff) some day and then 10 months later I’m sitting in a courtroom at my girlfriend’s 1st degree murder trial.

Enjoy Sunday night all you HBO subscribers (and those of you “borrowing” your friend’s HBO GO login information).

Week 12 NFL Recap: I Promise It’s Not Exclusively About The Patriots

peyton manning1

Wow.

An unbiased blogger could write 5,000 words on that Sunday night game alone.

A hardcore Patriots ballwasher like myself could write 25,000 words. But I’ll try to limit it to a few hundred.

  • The Patriots have done fine over the past 12 years while only having a couple seasons where a single running back was really the featured, go-to back. This team doesn’t have to rely on Stevan Ridley so much that they should keep running him out there with his fumble issues. I agree with some people on Twitter who said it’s ineffective to punish Ridley by benching him for parts of the game after he fumbles. I say you stay away from him entirely unless the other guys—Vereen, Blount, Bolden—get hurt. If he hasn’t learned the proper way to hold ball at this point, it might never happen.
  • Any chance we can get a Patriots game in the near future that doesn’t cause our blood pressure to spike to dangerous levels at the end of the game?
  • Yes, I was one of the many people getting ready to crush the refs for the non-call on the obvious pass interference that should have been called in overtime against Quentin Jammer on that incompletion to Kenbrell Thompkins.
  • And I know it’s easy to pick on Brady for all the whining and tantrums he throws on the field, but at least the two times he’s done it the past two weeks it’s been completely justified.
  • If the Great Carolina Screwjob of 2013 didn’t happen, the Patriots would probably be controlling their own destiny for the #1 seed in the AFC.
  • Knowshon Moreno had 224 rushing yard. This helps prove my point that if the Patriots had to choose one dimension of their defense to be terrible and/or completely injured, it would be run D over pass D. The Patriots score enough points when fully healthy that teams aren’t going to beat them by running 40 times. That’s why Aqib Talib’s health continues to be the most important subplot to their Super Bowl hopes.
  • If you read my picks column last week, you know I was expecting my friend who passed away one year ago to pull an “Angels In The Outfield” and help the Patriots win. I was hoping for a Brady eight touchdown game so that it would be obvious higher powers were at work. Instead we get the most epic comeback in franchise history complete with wacky fumbles, mysterious clock malfunctioning issues and a ridiculously lucky bounce of the ball in overtime that won the game for New England. I’ll let you decide if the Patriots had some “help”.
  • And at the end of the game, Chris Collinsworth was calling it a miraculous win…just sayin’.

Whose Loss Was Worse? NFC North Version

I know technically Green Bay’s game ended in a tie, but let’s assume it was a loss because then I can write this section where I say all the NFC North contenders lost on Sunday and let’s figure out whose loss was the most pathetic.

  • The Packers played to a tie at home against the 2-8-1 Minnesota Vikings. But we know these four straight games without a win are almost entirely because Aaron Rodgers is out. If he comes back for Green Bay’s Thanksgiving game like people are speculating, they might still have a chance to make the playoffs. At 5-5-1, the Packers probably have to go 5-0 for a chance to get in. I don’t think that they’ll get it done.
  • The Bears lost by 21 at St. Louis, who came into the game with a 4-6 record. Three of Chicago’s final four games are on the road, where they’ve struggled this year. Nobody knows Jay Cutler’s status, and they might not be that much better with him healthy. That defense is bad, specifically the run defense that gave up 258 yards to the Rams on Sunday.
  • And then there’s Detroit, the team that seemingly looked like the cream of the crop in the North coming into week 12. They were the only team with a healthy #1 QB and they’ve beaten the Bears twice. But they lose at home to a two-win Tampa team? At 6-5, they’re going to have to win out to guarantee a division win. This loss was the worst of the three considering the health that Detroit has compared to its rivals.
  • The most obnoxious thing in all of sports is a tie in football. Now looking at standings, specifically Green Bay’s record compared to the other teams pushing for a wildcard spot, requires the tiniest amount of thought to compute where the Packers currently sit.

Let’s Talk Coaches, Shall We?

  • Is Greg Schiano playing himself out of the unemployment line? Five weeks ago did you think anything short of a miraculous Super Bowl run would save his job? Not saying he’ll definitely get another shot with this team, but he must be at least making the owner think twice about firing him.
  • Two teams who I think should fire their coaches in the offseason but most likely won’t are Dallas and Atlanta.
  • I’m not saying Dallas just because they almost blew a 15 point lead in New York yesterday. Their consistent 8-8ness and end of game meltdowns could be reason enough to get rid of Jason Garrett, but when you see two players fuck up something as fundamental as making sure to touch the opposing receiver at some point when he’s on the ground to end the play, it’s a solid proof point that the team isn’t being coached well enough (and it’s example #550 of them not being disciplined enough). It’s just time to make a change.
  • And here’s what I saw from Mike Smith on Thursday: With about three minutes left and the Falcons trailing by four, Smith decided to go for a 52 yard field goal from the New Orleans 35 yard line on 4th & 15. Regardless of the fact that the kicker missed it, you’re assuming you’ll get the ball back even though it’s Drew Brees playing quarterback for the other team…AND YOU’RE 2-8 SO WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE? It’s simply Mike Smith being conservative, play-it-safe Mike Smith, a philosophy that doesn’t seem to translate to Super Bowl success in these times. Look at how quickly things changed in Carolina when Ron Rivera grew a nutsack. When you have an offense designed for a high-scoring passing attack, you should have an aggressive mentality (regardless of that passing attack missing the indispensable Julio Jones right now). Time for Matt Ryan and company to try things out with a more aggressive coach.
  • As far as who will win Coach of the Year, here’s how I’m guessing it’s going to turn out (not necessarily how I’d vote): 1. Sean Payton, 2. Andy Reid, 3. Ron Rivera.

Keep The Current Playoff Format, Please

  • The NFL wants to add at least one more playoff team for each conference, and yet if the season ended today, the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Tennessee Titans would be in as the #6 seed. And they’d be taking on an Indianapolis team that’s been outscored by 57 points in their last six games. I think the playoffs have enough mediocre teams already (something Cincinnati seems to prove every year).

Let’s Empty Out The Notebook

  • By my count, only four of the 13 games that have been played so far this week have ended with one team winning by more than a touchdown. Nailbiters across the board in week 12, including two OT games and last-drive wins by San Diego, Dallas, Carolina and Tennessee. One of the best Sundays of football in a long time.
  • The NFL has officially been NBA’ified. Players and coaches yell for a flag after every play. Fans focus more on if a call or non-call was correct than on the actual game itself. Cam Newton was rewarded for flopping in a big way when he was lightly touched while running out of bounds with less than two minutes left in the 4th quarter. It seems like star treatment by the refs is a real thing after we watched Jason Campbell get hit similar (but worse) to how Drew Brees was hit by Ahmad Brooks in week 11 and no flag was thrown.
  • Kansas City finally joined the rest of the AFC contenders in suffering key injuries. They were easily the luckiest team from a health standpoint in the AFC to this point, but losing Tamba Hali and Justin Houston is huge. If those guys miss games, the Chiefs will be a weak wildcard team instead of a possible division winner.
  • I know Seattle’s happy with Russell Wilson, but part of me thinks their GM is already getting his sales pitch ready for Matt Flynn. I want to see Flynn signed to a three-year deal by Seattle in March, then see them trade him to Oakland in April of 2015, and then see him starting for Green Bay later that year. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
  • One of the announcers in the Jacksonville-Houston game said, “It becomes less of a big play than it already is.” I spent five minutes trying to figure out what that possibly means but my head started throbbing.
  • The “just use my instincts, no research” philosophy for making picks went OK this week. I’m 7-6 going into Monday’s game (only 3-2 in my confidence picks this week). It’s a good thing too because I was one more failed week away from going exclusively to either my girlfriend’s picks or a true coin flip for each game.
  • I believe underdogs were 10-3 against the spread this week. Incredible.

Due to Thanksgiving, the week 13 picks will probably come on Wednesday.

Week 8 NFL Recap: A Rush To Judgment Leads To Bruised Hands & Junk Food

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions

No matter how many times we have it drilled into us that in sports “it’s not over til it’s over,” we just can’t help rushing to judgment. Things can change so quickly, and we’ve all probably seen hundreds of examples of this across every sport.

But we just can’t help ourselves. Instead of patience, we feel the need to make a definitive statement about how things will end up, even when those things are still being played out right before our eyes.

I like to think of myself as a relatively even-keeled sports fan. But that doesn’t stop me from succumbing to the temptation to overreact. This past weekend was a perfect example.

After my Red Sox were on the losing end of that still-mind-boggling World Series game on Saturday night, I flipped out (kind of like Dez Bryant flipped out on Sunday). More depressing in my mind than the way that game ended was the fact that Boston was now down 2-1 in the series and a mysteriously-injured-or-fatgiued Clay Buchholz was the only thing standing in the way of the Cardinals getting a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. I reacted like any normal 30-year-old would: I crushed enough drinks at the bar to mostly wipe out my memory, and then I woke up Sunday morning with a confusing bruise on my left hand and a kitchen suddenly stocked with beef jerky, Goldfish, peanut M&M’s, a Heath Bar and Pringles. It seems like I had an anger-filled pity party for myself. I hope it was fun.

Fast forward to the first half of the Patriots-Dolphins game on Sunday and here are some of the notes I was taking for the recap blog:

  • “Marquice Cole might be the worst defender in the history of football…awful, awful coverage on the Dolphins’ first touchdown”
  • “It honestly looks like Gronk is the only eligible receiver on the field for the Patriots on every play. Why is Brady refusing to throw to Amendola, Edelman and Dobson???”
  • “Brady’s first completion comes with 1:35 left in the 1st quarter…terrible, terrible, terrible”
  • “The Pats’ best offensive weapon is a borderline pass interference call that went for 21 yards. Let’s do that 23 more times.”
  • “Patriots down 14-0. This might be over with the way Brady’s playing”
  • “From bad to embarrassing, the Pats get the ball to start the 2nd half and their three offensive plays are: Dobson drop on a perfect 10 yard throw, Brady trips on Ridley’s feet and gets hit while throwing a wobbler, Brady gets sacked…awful”
  • I don’t think I have the energy to deal with this Pats game and then another Red Sox loss later tonight..this is shaping up to be a terrible sports weekend for Boston fans”

Well…you don’t have to be a Boston fan to know that starting with the 2nd half of that Patriots game, this turned out to be a great sports weekend for New England. The Pats not only won, but they covered (important for jerks like me who always say they’re not going to bet on their own team but then do anyways). The Red Sox not only got a solid outing from Buchholz, but they won the game and knotted the series at 2-2.

Maybe the Patriots reacted to the Red Sox loss on Saturday night the same way I did and that’s why they were a bit lethargic to start the game on Sunday. The point is, no matter how much it kills us to demonstrate patience when things seem to be going bad, it’s necessary if you don’t want to have a meltdown every other day. I’ll try to remind myself of that if the Sox implode in game 5 on Monday night.

 

Let’s dig through the notebook and see what else went on this weekend outside of that Patriots game:

  • Calvin Johnson is good at football.
  • Dez Bryant is pretty good at football too, but he’s a fucking psycho. As Calvin continues to gravitate towards the Jerry Rice stratosphere, Dez continues to go down the Terrell Owens path. I hope the Dez-Dallas relationship ends as poorly as possible.
  • Speaking of Dallas and Detroit, I’m going out on a very small limb here and saying that was the best game of the year. Better than Peyton @ Indianapolis two weeks ago. Better than Patriots over the Saints in the final seconds. You couldn’t ask for more in this game. A 300-yard receiver, some circus catches from Owens Bryant, the Cowboys shooting themselves in the foot after leading by 10 with only six minutes left, and the perfect QB-WR combo to lead an unlikely comeback in the final minute. I even gained a new respect for Matt Stafford with that ballsy leap into the end zone on Detroit’s final score. If this had been the Thursday night game instead, it would have ended with Detroit winning 12-7.
  • I have a new favorite play of the year. Yes, better than all of those Brandon Weeden throws where he underhands it to a group of defenders. But this play also came from a Cleveland quarterback. With the Browns trailing by six and time about to run out, Jason Campbell ran to the line of scrimmage near midfield, got his team lined up, and then spiked the ball to “clock it” right as the game clock ticked to 0:00. I’m not sure, but I think a hail mary might have been the correct call.
  • It’s tough to get a feel for a lot of the games when you’re just watching the Red Zone Channel all day. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the Buffalo-New Orleans game was just play after play of the two QBs getting absolutely demolished every time they dropped back. Did anyone else watching the RZC notice that? Every highlight from that game was either Drew Brees or Thad Lewis getting drilled. I’m stunned neither of them got seriously hurt.
  • I told you before week 7 to start shorting the Chiefs because they were a soft undefeated team that is getting too much respect from Vegas. And guess what? They haven’t covered in their last two games, both of them at home against bad Houston and Cleveland teams. Yes, they still won both times and they’re now 8-0, but they won’t fool me. I will continue to bet against them, and I might even pick them to lose at Buffalo next week. If you look at their schedule, it’s conceivable that they’ll lose their next four or five games. I know, I know, blasphemy. Everyone’s so high on this defense and mistake-free offense, but they haven’t played anyone yet. The fall is coming. (end of Chiefs rant)
  • If you’ve been paying attention to my football columns, you know I’ve been wrong on my Redskins predictions every week. And this week I picked Denver to cover only so I’d be wrong again and my friends from Washington would end the silent treatment they’ve been giving me. So in one sense you probably think I broke my curse by picking correct in one of their games. And maybe I’m not a jinx anymore…but in another sense, I should probably tell you that when Washington took a 21-7 lead, I wrote in my notes, “This week’s ‘football makes no sense’ example: The Skins are going to beat Denver in Denver.” To my friends in D.C., I’m very sorry for this.
  • The real “football makes no sense” example from week 8 is this: The Raiders were the consensus to be the worst team in football this year. That was when we thought a potentially competent Matt Flynn would be their starting QB. Instead, supplemental draft pick Terrelle Pryor wins the starting job and suddenly they’re 3-4, have a legitimate shot to be 6-5 after week 12, and hearing Andrew Siciliano tease us that an update on the Raiders game is coming on the RZC makes us wonder what awesome thing Pryor did this time. It makes no sense that the Raiders are this fun.
  • My favorite Siciliano update on the Raiders game yesterday was not the Pryor 93-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, but rather when he told us that multiple Raiders players and coaches were flipping the refs off from the sideline after a bad penalty went against them. Once Tom Brady hits the IR with a broken throwing hand, I might adopt Oakland as my team for the rest of the year.
  • The Red Zone Channel could have renamed itself “Turnover Central” or “Interceptions Only Channel” for the four late games on Sunday. You think I’m exaggerating? With half a quarter left in each game, I jokingly guessed that I had seen about 14 turnovers between those four games. Turns out I was off by 8 turnovers…there were 22 turnovers in those games. 19 interceptions and 3 fumbles. That’s an average of 5.5 turnovers per game.
  • As a comparison, there were 19 total turnovers in the other 8 games that have been played so far in week 8.
  • Personally I found all the turnovers to be fantastic TV viewing.
  • Here’s some interesting trends from the 2013 New York Jets: They’re 4-4. They’ve neither won two games in a row nor lost two games in a row. In their 4 wins, they’ve outscored the opponent by an average of 3.25 points. In their 4 losses, they’ve been outscored by an average of 20.25 points (Even if you take out the 40-point loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, they’re still getting outscored by nearly 13 points in their other losses).
  • From a betting standpoint, it seems that you should first decide if the Jets can win outright or not. If not, then don’t get cute and expect them to cover as a 3-10 point underdog.
  • I got a comment last week from one of my faithful Pittsburgh readers. He was upset that I didn’t spend any time recapping the Steelers’ big win over the Ravens. Fine. Here you go, Pittsburgh reader: That win over Baltimore looked like it could be big, but now it’s completely meaningless. Beating Oakland to get to 3-4 would have made things interesting, but now the 2-5 Steelers are finished.
  • I’m officially adding Pittsburgh to my list of teams that have no shot at the playoffs. 8-8 is their best case scenario.
  • And if I could change that list from last week’s recap, I’d be taking the Giants off of it. Unbelievable as it may be, the Giants are only two games out of first place in that horrific NFC East. For now, they remain alive.
  • I held out as long as possible, but I just have to brag a little. It wasn’t only a good sports weekend for me because of my Boston teams. I absolutely crushed my picks in week 8. I’m 9-3 going into the Monday night game (where I have Seattle to cover). I won both of my Pick ‘Em leagues for the week. Got another win in the only fantasy league I care about at this point. Everything turned to gold. The depressing part is that it took until week 8 for me to finally not lose money on my picks.

 

By the way, did you realize the city of St. Louis could get a double dose of sports depression tonight? Kellen Clemens vs Seattle in football and Red Sox-Cardinals in game 5 of the World Series. Fingers crossed that St. Louisians are jumping off the arch en masse later tonight.

 

Week 9 picks coming on Thursday.

Week 1 Picks Against The Spread

Everyone, relax. That tingling feeling you’re experiencing throughout your entire body is perfectly normal. It just means that football is officially back and you’re a little overstimulated. Happens to me every year.

FOOTBALL IS BACK!

That feels good to write. Even better is the feeling of writing my weekly picks column again. Seven months is a long time to wait.

Before you decide to simply skim this article and not give it your full attention (Mike, I’m looking at you, serial skimmer), I’ll reiterate one final time that if you followed my lead last year, you became a very rich person by season’s end (you know, assuming you were throwing a cool $10K on each of my weekly picks).

If you’re new to this, here’s how it works: I’ll list each matchup including where the game’s being played and how many points the favorite is giving. Then I’ll write a blurb that may include objective statistical analysis, or it may include subjective emotional analysis. And then I’ll make my pick. This year I’m going with the gimmick of picking the exact score of the game, but the important part from a betting standpoint is just which team I’m picking to cover the spread.

If you’re confused by any of that, I’ll be happy to forward along my girlfriend’s blog, which details all the going-ons of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills/Orange County/Atlanta/New Jersey/Haiti. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her fantastic observations.

Some weeks I may not post the picks until Friday, but for week 1 I think we know everything we need to know, and nothing drastic’s going to change over the next 24 hours.

Enough with the foreplay. Let’s get to the main event (27 seconds of missionary position with lots of sweating, coughing and (sometimes) farting is usually the main event for me):

Baltimore @ Denver (-7.5)

We have the Super Bowl hangover vs the suddenly neutered Super Bowl favorites. If the Broncos were playing with Von Miller and Champ Bailey, this game’s not close. Baltimore can’t keep up with a fully functioning Denver team (not sure anyone in the AFC can), but they get some breaks with the aforementioned weakened defense. My biggest question for the Ravens this year is how are they going to sustain long drives. I know they’ll score on some long Torrey Smith touchdowns, but they don’t have an offense that can keep Peyton Manning off the field and methodically put up points. Denver’s still good enough to hold off the Ravens, but just barely. Something like 27-24 with the Ravens failing on a late game drive.

(Side Note: Guest blogger Neil pointed out to me the other day that “Super Bowl hangover” is usually a term reserved for the team that lost the Super Bowl. I disagree. I think the winning team has a hangover in the sense that they partied the entire month of February, got a late start on offseason work/scouting/planning, and they lost several key players to retirement or free agency. They walk into the season slightly groggy, crushing fistfuls of Advil and telling everyone to talk quieter and turn the lights down.)

New England (-10) @ Buffalo

The Patriots have won 10 straight season-opening games. They are 23-2 against Buffalo over the past 12 years. Tom Brady is healthy. His Buffalo counterpart is E.J. Manuel, a player with exactly 0 NFL starts. The Patriots are going to get their 35 points so the only question here is whether Buffalo gets 4 touchdowns or more. The Pats have a knack for letting up late garbage touchdowns when the game’s on ice, so that worries me a little, but…I think New England rolls 38-17.

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh (-7)

Overall Pittsburgh was a big disappointment in 2012, but make no mistake, their defense was still solid. Not great, but good enough. It was their offense that abandoned them last year. But did they address that over the past eight months? It feels like they’re just hoping a full Ben Roethlisberger season will solve all those problems. Unfortunately for them he won’t be healthy for 16 games. Fortunately for us he’s healthy for week 1. And no reason that Steelers D can’t marginalize Tennessee’s only offensive weapon, Chris Johnson. I’ll take Pittsburgh to cover with a 24-10 win.

Atlanta @ New Orleans (-3)

If you’re convinced Sean Payton’s presence alone turns the Saints back into a 12 or 13-win contender, I understand giving three here. I’m not one who buys into that theory so I’m obviously taking Atlanta with the three. I think there’s still a big enough talent gap between these division rivals that Atlanta wins outright, 28-24. You can make the argument that the Saints will be in F U mode, the crowd will be going crazy, all that jazz. But my counterargument is “Saints defense.” You can’t argue your way out of that defense being terrible again. Enjoy the nightmares of Julie Jones running wild untouched for multiple touchdowns if you’re betting on the Saints.

Tampa Bay (-3) @ NY Jets

This is a great example of not over-thinking things. We know the Jets are bad, but not horrible. They’ll be good enough defensively to slow down teams that lack multiple weapons. And maybe they’ll run the ball decently. But Tampa has multiple weapons on offense, a defense that was outstanding against the run last year, and their one major weakness—pass defense—is the one thing no one has to worry about when facing Mark San….Geno Smi…Brady Quinn? Tampa wins comfortably 23-9.

Kansas City (-4) @ Jacksonville

Everyone who argues for the Chiefs to automatically get better because Andy Reid is a major upgrade from Romeo Crennel, I get the sentiment. But here’s my counterpoint: Alex Smith and his 70% completion rate/104 passer rating goes from coaching genius Jim Harbaugh to Andy Reid, a guy who thought Kevin Kolb was the answer just three years ago. I think Kansas City is improved and beats teams like Jacksonville at home, but on the road I’m taking Jacksonville to win 24-23.

Cincinnati @ Chicago (-3)

I’m naming this the “Aaron Memorial Pick” in honor of my brother. When Aaron played in Pick ‘Em leagues with me over the years, he’d inevitably go through a rough stretch where almost every pick he made over a three-week period would be wrong. So in the 4th week, he’d pull a reversal and pick the opposite of what his instincts told him for every game. Sometimes it worked.

My instincts in this game tell me Chicago at home can handle Cincinnati. So I’m pulling the Aaron reversal and picking the Bengals to win outright 24-20. Chicago in September isn’t intimidating. The Bears defense won’t be as good as last year. Maybe Cincy’s defense is as good as people are saying. It’s not a slamdunk for Chicago, that’s for sure.

(Side note: A possibly pertinent piece of info for you: My brother Aaron is not dead.)

Miami @ Cleveland (-1)

Considering I guaranteed Cleveland would win their division in my preview column, this is pretty much a must-win for that to have any chance. The Browns have weapons, with Trent Richardson looming as a possible Doug Martin or Alfred Morris game-changer type. Ryan Tannehill needs to throw more than 12 touchdowns in a full football season before I buy into this team at all. Joe Haden can handle Mike Wallace, right? If so, what do the Dolphins have left in the offensive weapons department? Brian Hartline? Thought so. Cleveland 27-3.

Seattle (-3.5) @ Carolina

This line was 3 earlier in the week and I was excited to take Seattle and expect no worse than a push. This extra half point honestly scares me. Or it would have scared me last year, I should say. The Seahawks proved they can win on the road in 2012, while the Panthers were proving they really hate September football. I’m picturing a Cam Newton with no WRs open all day. Does the running attack get it done? Doubt it. Seahawks take it 27-19.

Minnesota @ Detroit (-5.5)

This line feels two points too high. My gut’s telling me Detroit isn’t as good as people are projecting and Minnesota’s not as bad as the consensus says. Detroit doesn’t seem like that team that’s going to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Part of me also thinks we might be underestimating how much Adrian Peterson can control a game if he’s as good as last year. I’m going with a Detroit win, 27-24, but a Minnesota cover.

Oakland @ Indianapolis (-10)

Toss aside your feelings on Indy for a second—you may think they’re due for a huge regression, or maybe you think they can sustain last year’s magic, it doesn’t matter—and think about the distinct possibility that Oakland loses the majority of their games this year by more than 10 points. You’re really going to project this game as one of the few where the Raiders keep it close? Indianapolis wins 31-7.

Bonus Note: This is my suicide pool pick for week 1. Assuming I stay alive in this pool for at least a handful of weeks, you’re going to see me picking the opponent of Oakland, Jacksonville and Arizona a lot.

Arizona @ St. Louis (-4.5)

I learned my lesson last year with this type of line. The oddsmakers clearly don’t have a clue how this one’s going to play out. And do you really feel confident claiming you know which team will have the better season? In such an unknown game where the two teams could sneaky be a more even matchup than the public thinks, always take the points. In this case I’m saying the Rams win, but not by enough, 17-13.

Green Bay @ San Francisco (-4.5)

How about that? Another game where Vegas doesn’t seem to know what to make of the matchup. Is San Francisco so good that they should be favored by a touchdown? Or is Green Bay closer to the 49ers’ level, and really the 9ers should be giving 3 points only because they’re at home? And since these two teams might belong in the same tier when ranking the best teams in the league, it’s safe to say taking the underdog with the points makes sense. If Colin Kaepernick has a huge day again, we should all be scared because no team has spent more time this offseason preparing for the 49ers’ offense. I’m saying the Packers upset the 49ers 30-28.

NY Giants @ Dallas (-3)

The Giants typically start fast most seasons because that’s when they’re healthiest. And somehow, like clockwork, the wheels tend to fall off after a 6-2 start. They’ve also beat the Cowboys in Dallas each of the past four years. A healthy Giants team is still better than Dallas. Giants pull off the road win 27-21.

Philadelphia @ Washington (-3.5)

Listen, if the Redskins were facing a big intimidating shutdown defense, I could see the argument about RGIII not being himself in week 1. But I don’t think the Eagles inspire that type of fear. I actually like the ‘Skins offensive weapons more than Philly’s, and their defenses are at least equal, if not slightly tilted towards Washington. The only hesitation to pick the Redskins is the complete unknown of Chip Kelly’s offense. Doesn’t matter. The RGIII return at home in the opening game of the year will push this team in a huge way at least for one week. The Redskins win 34-24.

Houston (-4) @ San Diego

Houston is very similar to the team they were last year. And when it comes to losing, they have a type. They’re going to lose games to teams with offensive firepower. The Texans aren’t built to win shootouts or play catch up if they fall behind by two scores. They’ll lose games to Seattle, San Francisco, New England and Denver this year. That’s a near certainty. San Diego has about 1/100th of the firepower that those other teams have. Houston covers with a 23-16 win.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 1 I’m taking:

  • 8 Favorites & 8 Underdogs
  • Of those 8 Underdogs, I’m taking 1 Home Dog and 7 Road Dogs

Shit, seven underdogs to cover on the road seems outrageous. I’m chalking it up to Vegas not having a clue during the first few weeks of the season.

And by the way, I’m being greedy in week 1. I don’t want to finish 9-7 against the spread. I want 13-3. That’s my goal for the week.

Enjoy week 1, everyone.

The Best NFL Predictions You’ll Ever Read, Part 1: NFC Team Records

For those of you who followed our football content last year, you remember that guest blogger Neil and I wagered on who could most accurately predict each NFL team’s record for the 2012 season. He beat me somewhat easily and I still haven’t settled up the bet yet, which was for me to do a full day of babysitting his son. If I can just keep pushing that payment off a little while longer, we’ll get to a point where it would be extremely awkward for Neil’s college-aged son to be babysat by his creepy Uncle.

We’re running back the same competition this year, only the wager has changed. The winner will be picking eight different alcoholic beverages for the loser to consume over a 12-hour period during our annual March Vegas Trip in 2014. It’s not that eight drinks over 12 hours is a lot (especially not in Vegas), it’s that we can punish each other with some really terrible concoctions. My biggest complaint about this bet is that I’ve always been very vocal about the types of alcohol that immediately make me puke or start dry heaving. I’m not as familiar with which liquids will do that to Neil. Oh well. Just puts more pressure on me to win.

Below you’re going to find Part 1 of this competition, where Neil and I predicted the record for each NFC team and included a comment we thought was relevant to the team or our prediction. We’ll be back with Part 2, the AFC predictions, later this week.

Away we go…

Arizona Cardinals

2012 Record: 5-11

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 125/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 5-11

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I don’t think Carson Palmer is a great QB, but he has to be better than Skelton, Kolb, Lindley, & Hoyer, all who started games for Arizona last year. I would be higher on them if they were in the AFC, but they are in one of the top two divisions in the NFL. Very good and very underrated pass defense.

Ross: Their schedule is pretty brutal, playing seven out of 16 games against 2012 playoff teams. If it wasn’t for their defense and some Patrick Peterson plays that’ll swing some games, they’d be a four-win team. That’s how much confidence I have in Carson Palmer.

 Atlanta Falcons

2012 Record: 13-3

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 10-6

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: This team was within one drive of going to the Super Bowl last season, why am I so down on them? They went 7-2 last season in games decided by a touchdown or less. And their division should be much tougher this year, probably one of the two toughest in the NFL.

Ross: I’m actually not worried about the potential offensive line problems. Their talent at the skill positions give me confidence they’ll figure it out. Departures on defense in a tough division where they face potent offenses in New Orleans and Tampa could be the problem. Regardless, I’m excited for their return to being a playoff team that makes absolutely no noise in January.

Carolina Panthers

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 66/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I would not be surprised if this turns out to be 9 or 10 wins. I really like how they finished the season last year. Plus I think Cam Newton had an entire offseason to dwell on the fact that people don’t lump him in with the “core 4” of great young QBs. My biggest concern is that Ron Rivera might be a terrible head coach. We should know the answer to that at the end of this season.

Ross: I’m worried the Panthers are doing to their fans what a golf course does to me whenever I play. I play like a lefty who should probably switch to righty for about 17 holes, but without fail I birdie the 18th, luring me into wanting to play again in the future. Carolina has started 2-8 in each of Cam Newton’s two years on the team before winning the majority of their final six games to instill unnecessary hope in their fan base.

Chicago Bears

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: The Bears offense should be great this year. Probably their best offense in the last 25 years. Unfortunately their defense is getting old and I don’t see it scoring eight TDs like last year.

Ross: Their schedule is tough not because they play many of the best teams but because they don’t get to play any of the expected worst teams. It’s 16 games of either good teams or frisky average teams, which puts a lot of pressure on the Bears to bring their best every game. They will for about half the schedule.

Dallas Cowboys

2012 Record: 8-8

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I cannot find a reason why this team will be any different than last year’s 8-8 team. I’m going one less win because in early December they realize that Jason Garrett is not the answer and they mail-in the rest of the season.

Ross: Dallas is one of the many NFC teams who can lay claim to theory that they’d be a playoff lock if they played in the AFC. Another year of the dreaded 8-8 will be their fourth straight non-playoff season, obviously enough to get Jason Garrett fired. But what will be fun to keep our eye on (or perhaps start a betting pool on) is what week during the regular season he gets the pink slip if they dip way below .500.

Detroit Lions

2012 Record: 4-12

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: A lot of people are expecting a nice bounce-back year from Detroit, and I agree with those people. Just don’t get too crazy with the win total. Remember that 8 wins will double their total from 2012.

Ross: I think this team is average enough to initially put them down for eight or nine wins. But after watching them in the preseason, I realize they’re still the same undisciplined cheapshot-loving team whose head coach is apparently letting the inmates run the asylum. They don’t make any real noise in this league until they replace Jim Schwartz. And unnecessary dickheadedness will cost them a couple should-be wins in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

2012 Record: 11-5

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They went 11-5 last year and were the most injured team in the league. Injuries have a way of evening out from year to year. If they’ve figured out that the read option is a thing, they might even go a win or two higher than this.

Ross: Opening the season against three consecutive 2012 playoff teams should tell us a lot about whether the Packers are back to their 2011 level when they rolled through the season and finished 15-1. This is a situation where I wish we could just fast forward to that day in January when Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers realizes he’s facing the 49ers in the upcoming playoff game and spontaneously pisses himself. With the way those two teams are going, that could become an annual tradition for the next five years!

Minnesota Vikings

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They went 5-1 last year in games decided by a TD or less. What Adrian Peterson did the last ten games of last season to carry this team into the playoffs was super human. Christian Ponder is still the QB. I think six wins is actually the ceiling for this team. Big crash back to earth.

Ross: Harder schedule than 2012 + No fucking way Peterson replicates 2012 + Trying to replace Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield with Greg Jennings and rookies + Ponder might get benched quicker than Mark  Sanchez…It all adds up to a 7-9 season. No logical Vikings fan should be expecting more.

New Orleans Saints

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 18/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I appreciate that they get the second best coach in the NFL back, but he is not an all-pro defensive end or defensive back, right?

Ross: Tough one to predict because of last year’s unique circumstances. In case you didn’t know, the Saints not only had to employ an interim Head Coach, but before that an interim interim Head Coach had to grab the reigns for the first six games. Not sure if the big drop from 13-3 in 2011 to 7-9 in 2012 was purely a product of the Bountygate fallout, or if it was an accurate depiction of who the Saints are now.

New York Giants

2012 Record: 9-7

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 22/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I still get angry (read: bitter) thinking about how mediocre this team becomes the two seasons after their last two Super Bowl wins.

Ross: I don’t have much on them. They feel like the NFC’s version of the San Diego Chargers. Not because they’ll be as bad as San Diego, but because they’re as forgettable as those Chargers. I’ve barely heard a thing about either team during the two months of preseason. I guess that’s not a bad thing when the alternative could be lots of negative attention (*cough cough* that other New York team *cough cough*). And of course plenty of attention will be paid to the Giants when David Wilson breaks out or Eli Manning admits he was cycling with A-Rod during the 2008 and 2012 playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles

2012 Record: 4-12

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I really wanted to go with seven wins here, but it may take the league a few weeks to figure out Chip Kelly’s offense, so that may be good for an extra win.

Ross: I actually think this Eagles team with a full season of Michael Vick could win nine games. But I was totally caught off guard when I learned that Vick has only made it through a full season twice in his NFL career. Even though he could buck the trend in any given year, it’s just not possible to confidently predict this team’s record without accounting for at least one or two subpar Nick Foles starts. That’s why I put them in for only seven wins.

St. Louis Rams

2012 Record: 7-8-1

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Seems like a team that is going to play everyone tough, but they have a difficult schedule and are probably a year away. Is it too early to pick them as my 2014 sleeper?

Ross: The Rams face either a 2012 playoff team or a team that’s expected to be much improved every other weekend this year. I could see them winning about half their games but never stringing together consecutive wins.

San Francisco 49ers

2012 Record: 11-4-1

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 6/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Solid defense, really solid offensive line. I think the Crabtree injury hurts them more than people realize, especially because the game plan should always be to make sure Kaepernick does not beat you with his legs. I’m very excited to find out if he’s an accurate passer or not.

Ross: After dealing with Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck to start the year, the 49ers get six straight games where they’ll be big favorites. There’s a reason they’re the odds-on favorite to win the NFC, and only a Colin Kaepernick injury or Jim Harbaugh getting assassinated by a referee (due to the constant tantrums he throws every time they make a call against his team) can derail them.

Seattle Seahawks

2012 Record: 11-5

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 17/2

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They may lose out on the division championship to San Francisco by a game or via a tiebreaker, but this team is in much better shape that the Niners for a Super Bowl run. They have a better passing game and can stop the pass better than the Niners can, and that will make a huge difference come playoff time.

Ross: Seattle feels like a replica of the 49ers right down to me thinking their absolute worst case is 11-5. It would be shocking if both teams didn’t make the playoffs, which means the difference between winning the division or getting stuck with a wildcard spot will come down to the two head-to-head matchups between them. I’ve got Seattle at 11-3 before factoring in those two huge division games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Nine wins might be a bit low for them, but they are in such a tough division that one or two bad breaks can be costly. Assuming they stay relatively healthy, their entire season rides on Josh Freeman. The defense appears to be somewhere between “very good” and “stacked.” Great offensive line. Great running back. Great receiving corps. So how far can Josh take this team? He’s also in a contract year. No pressure.

Ross: I keep saying “explosive offense” over and over in my head when I think about this team because I love the combination of Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But then I remember Josh Freeman. Is his ceiling essentially what we’ve seen from Andy Dalton the last couple years? That would give them a chance at the playoffs. But I worry his upside might be lower than that. And when I see that his combined stats from the Bucs’ three preseason games are 12-of-26 passing for 101 yards and nine sacks taken, I’m not apt to shake this bad feeling about him.

Washington Redskins

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 33/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

Ross: 11-5

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: If RGIII is healthy all year, the Redskins are going to be in very, very good shape. They might not be as good as Seattle, San Francisco, or Tampa, but they are in a much easier division than those three teams, which puts the #1 playoff seed in play, something that’s going to be very important in the NFC. A healthy RGIII in a home playoff game is the great equalizer.

Ross: I stand by my comments at the start of last year’s playoffs that the Redskins were good enough to get to the NFC Championship. If RGIII doesn’t get hurt in their first and only playoff game, I think they do it. And a healthy Griffin this year will give me the same confident prediction. The NFC East is going through a slight down period and the ‘Skins can take advantage. 11-5 seems totally reasonable if The Man plays 15 or 16 games. I’m thinking the 33/1 odds for Washington to win the Super Bowl might be the best longshot bet in all of football.

 

Not a ton of variation as we were more than one win apart in our predictions for only three of the 16 NFC teams. I think that actually says a lot about the NFC. It’s extremely competitive with a handful of upper-tier teams, a HUGE middle class and only a couple bottom feeders. I’m thinking we were both hesitant to predict too many extremes in a conference where the schedules are so tough that “average” might be a really good year for most.

We’ll be back with the AFC predictions later in the week.

Week 17 Picks: Giving You Vague Analysis of Every Game to Protect Myself from My Brothers

There are only two ways to explain the debacle I experienced in week 16:

  1. Because I was doing my research and making picks only 20 hours before an eight-day vacation, I was understandably distracted and rushed through the weekly NFL matchups.
  2. My unsustainable good luck from the first three quarters of the season has been slipping back to the average for weeks and it was only a matter of time before I had a sub-.500 week against the spread.

Obviously I’m going to convince myself it was #1. Not only did I go 7-8-1 against the spread, but I also lost my stranglehold on 1st place in both of my season-long pick ’em leagues, AND I might have done irreparable damage to my online gambling account. The problem is that week 17 has just as bad of circumstances for me making picks. I’m rushing to get this post out before I leave Fitchburg in one hour (side note: didn’t get this post out before leaving Fitchburg so I’m now at a friend’s house in Boston ignoring him and his wife so I can get through this). I never got to watch much of the week 16 games because I had to pretend to be social at a party my Dad had that featured roughly 760 of our closest family and friends. I have no feel for football right now, and of course in week 17 it’s impossible to predict which teams are trying to win, which teams are trying to rest and which teams are trying to win but are so bad they constantly look like they’re trying to rest. Just like most fantasy football leagues don’t play games during week 17, I think it’s totally unfair for pick ’em leagues to include week 17. For instance, it’s Friday afternoon and the website I use to see the spreads has only 8 of 16 games with an open line currently. So 48 hours before kickoff, Vegas is confused enough about half of the games that they won’t even publish a spread.

But despite all of that, I should feel an obligation to post my picks. However, here’s the reason why I won’t give a definitive answer in this column about who I’m picking in each of the week 17 games: the two other guys at the top of the standings with me in my big pick ’em league are my brothers. If I post my picks, they will devise a scheme where they team up and go against my picks just enough that one of them beats me out in this league. How do I know they’ll do that? Because they attempted it last week (and it kind of worked), and because that’s what asshole older brothers do. So I will feel extremely exposed if I give my picks. Therefore, welcome to my “week 17 vague thoughts” blog post. I’ll post the line that my pick ’em league is using for each game and then I’ll give a quick thought or two on the game (while leaving you frustrated when I inevitably make a case for both teams winning each matchup).

Chicago @ Detroit (+3.5): So the once mighty 7-1 Bears now need to win this game and hope Minnesota loses to Green Bay in order to get into the playoffs. Of course Detroit is playing for nothing and they’ve looked that way for about 10 weeks. You’d think this would be easy for Chicago. No matter how good Calvin Johnson is, as we saw last week even if he goes off for 300 yards, the rest of the Lions team can’t get out of its own way. I’m leaning towards the Bears but wouldn’t it be just like Detroit to be down 10 with 90 seconds to go and give us one final garbage time backdoor cover?

NY Jets @ Buffalo (-3.5): Remember five games ago when I speculated that Rex Ryan would use every existing combination of Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow/Greg McElroy as his starter and backup QB over these final weeks? Turns out the only reason I was wrong was because they refuse to acknowledge that Tim Tebow is an NFL quarterback. So at least the Jets finally caught up to the rest of the American public when they figured that out. I honestly don’t want to see a single live play or highlight from this game on Sunday (along with several other games), but if I had to pick, I’d probably take the Jets with the points because neither team deserves to win by more than three.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-7.5): I’m not sure I’d be taking Atlanta to cover 7.5 even if they had a real reason to play on Sunday. And despite what I read about the Falcons treating this like a midseason game and playing their starters the whole time, I don’t know how realistic that is. Isn’t it the Mike Smith M.O. to take his foot off the gas at the exact wrong time? If things start to go poorly for Atlanta in the first half, wouldn’t it make sense to pull starters and concede the game when it really does mean nothing? But shouldn’t I consider that the Falcons may still cover this spread with their backups since they’re playing a team that’s lost five-in-a-row including the last two by a combined 56 points?

Carolina @ New Orleans (-4.5): Another game that doesn’t need to be played on Sunday. Let’s not spend much time on this one. Carolina’s played well lately, but the Saints won their last home game 41-0. It seems like a lot of points to give if you’re backing New Orleans because these two teams might be pretty close from a talent standpoint. I’m starting to really enjoy writing these vague sentences and not having to choose a side yet.

Houston @ Indianapolis (+4.5): Finally a game that matters for both teams! Houston needs to win to ensure a bye…Indy needs to…wait Indy is locked into the #5 seed. But apparently Chuck Pagano will be coaching the Colts for the first time since September. And apparently everyone thinks his young team needs to give 100% even in a meaningless game because they could use the practice/experience. And apparently they want to beat their division rival who just handed them a loss a couple weeks ago. I do think both teams will go full throttle in this one. I’m weary on betting against a Pagano-inspired team at home against a division opponent. I think you can tell which way I’m leaning.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-4.5): And now for the other AFC South “battle.” Meaningless for everyone. Why are the Titans favored by this much? Why are the Titans favored at all? Is there any gambler in his right mind that would even put a dollar’s worth of confidence on either of these two teams?

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-6.5): I think DirecTV can create another channel for the final two weeks of the regular season where only meaningful games are shown. Call it the “Everyone Gives a Shit Red Zone Channel” (or something more clever). Because by my count this is now the fifth game out of the first seven that shouldn’t be shown on TV at all. Gotta feel bad for the Steelers at this point…seems like a year or two of rebuilding is on the horizon. You think I’m about to say that I’m predicting the Browns to win this game outright, right? I actually might convince myself that this veteran Steelers team gets motivated for one final divisional home game to end a shitty year.

Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-3.5): Does this game really matter? The Bengals are stuck in the #6 seed no matter what, and the Ravens can only be either the #3 or #4 seed. Since New England likely wins later in the day, the Ravens should prioritize health and trying out any possible quarterbacks of the future in this game over actually trying to win it. The big issue with this game is that these two teams could be playing each other again next week. I remember the Bengals resting everyone in week 17 a few years ago when they knew they’d be playing the Jets (that week’s opponent) in the first round. Then they got throttled in that opening round playoff game. I’m kinda liking Cincy to buck the trend and play a real game in this one.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-8.5): In case you haven’t heard, here’s where the Giants are at: they need a win and losses from Dallas, Chicago and Minnesota to sneak into the playoffs. Minnesota and Dallas play later in the day while Chicago plays early at the same time as the Giants. This all means the Giants will be trying to win, of course, but I’m skeptical at this point of their ability to beat anyone by so many points. This might be the hardest game to pick against the spread so far…

Arizona @ San Francisco (-15.5): Would you be surprised if I told you I actually found a 49ers fan who’s extremely unhappy that Colin Kaepernick is the starting quarterback? I assumed every 9ers fan was blindly following Jim Harbaugh and backing his decisions—much like Patriots fans do with Bill Belichick—but sure enough there’s at least one unhappy fan. I found him in New York. But he’s a generally unhappy person so I’m not sure if it’s an objective dislike of the benching Alex Smith move. This fan said San Francisco was a Super Bowl team with Smith at QB and that he’s perfectly capable of leading the 49ers to a comeback if they fall behind by two touchdowns (which is the biggest public criticism of Alex Smith the last two years). There’s no relevance to this story for the purposes of picking this game. I’m just trying to fill space while avoiding making the pick. This spread is extremely high, and future Pro Bowler Brian Hoyer is starting at QB for the Cardinals…Considering everyone in the Arizona organization is playing their last game ever for the team (except of course for Larry Fitzgerald who we should probably write a formal eulogy for right away) I might convince myself that they’ll put up a fight.

Kansas City @ Denver (-16.5): Wow, an even higher line than the Cardinals/49ers game! This is the AFC version of that game, almost exactly. Home team might be the best in the conference, playing for a potential bye. Road team is definitely the worst team in its conference with most players and coaches playing their final game in that specific uniform. What do you do with these two lines? Pick the underdog in both and hope to go 1-1?

Green Bay @ Minnesota (+3.5): Pretty simple scenarios for both teams. If Green Bay wins, they get the #2 seed in the NFC. If Minnesota wins, they get a wildcard spot (they could also get it if Dallas, the Giants and Chicago all lose, but that’s pretty improbable). This is a game that’s impossible picturing the Packers losing. But don’t forget that Adrian Peterson went off for 210 rushing yards in the week 13 game between these two teams.

Miami @ New England (-10.5): This is one of the impossible games to predict before Sunday because a lot of it depends on what Houston does in its early game. If Houston loses to Indy earlier in the day, the Pats go into this game knowing a win gets them a bye. If Houston wins, the Pats should feel pretty confident that they’re NOT getting a bye because there’s no way the Broncos are losing to Kansas City (the other scenario by which New England gets a bye). So why would I pick this game ahead of time when that Texans game makes all the difference in the world. This is a prime example of why pick ’em leagues should end after week 16.

Oakland @ San Diego (-7.5): Pass.

St. Louis @ Seattle (-10.5): Technically Seattle still has a chance to win the NFC West and get a bye, but realistically they should be focused on being healthy for their opening road game in the first round of the playoffs (they need the 49ers to lose to Arizona for the division, and that plus Green Bay losing to Minnesota for a bye). Feels like a game they really shouldn’t focus on running up the score, but we are talking about Pete Carroll, master of running up the score and not getting heat from the media about it.

Dallas @ Washington (-3.5): The Cowboys are 2-3 in prime-time games this year. I was hoping it was more like 1-4 so I could make the case that they’re a bad bet in prime-time. The bigger question is why are the Cowboys about to play in their sixth prime-time game of the year? Did we really need to see them on national TV this much? How can you pick against the Redskins at this point? They’ve done everything they’ve needed to do since their week 10 bye; they’ve done it when RGIII had to leave a game in the 4th quarter; they’ve done it when RGIII had to sit out an entire game. They might lose this game, but it would be weird if you picked against them at this point (Side note: If Chicago and Minnesota lose earlier in the day, the Redskins are automatically in the playoffs regardless of the outcome of this game…so, yeah…if you make a bet on this game before Sunday night, bet it small, I guess?).

Week 15 NFL Picks: Molly Picks the Biggest Game of Her Life, I Base Picks on the Transitive Property and Much More

What an easy week. I’m not talking about an easy week of making picks. I’m talking about an easy week to come up with an introduction. Week 15 pretty much writes its own introduction because there are so many important, compelling matchups. Out of the 16 games this weekend, there are only four with absolutely positively no intriguing playoff storylines (Jax/Mia, TB/New Orleans, Det/Az, KC/Oak). You can make the case that there are two others that essentially mean nothing (Car/SD, NYJ/Ten), but the Chargers and Jets are both holding onto very slim playoff chances. So that leaves 10 games.

Four of those 10 are important for only one of the teams involved (Cincinnati’s in a must-win at Philly, Washington’s in a must-win at Cleveland, Minnesota’s in a must-win at St. Louis, and Seattle wants to beat Buffalo to keep pace with the 49ers for a shot at the NFC West crown). Interesting how the four teams that still have something to play for in those games are all on the road.

This leaves us with six games where either both teams are going to the playoffs and are fighting for seeding, or one team is playoff bound and the other is still trying to earn its spot to play in January:

  • NY Giants @ Atlanta
  • Green Bay @ Chicago
  • Denver @ Baltimore
  • Indianapolis @ Houston
  • Pittsburgh @ Dallas
  • San Francisco @ New England

There’s not a bad game in that group. Good luck trying to keep up with six important games during the early part of Sunday.

Week 14 was very generous to me: With a 9-6-1 record against the spread, my season record improved to 118-84-6. Molly’s record is up to a mind-boggling 10-4 (which led to her getting a very important game to pick this week). I won both of my pick ’em leagues for the week, advanced to the semi-finals of my fantasy playoffs, and the Patriots put a stranglehold on the “best team in football” title. A very good week indeed.

Here’s what’s cooking in week 15 (home teams underlined):

Philadelphia (+5.5) over Cincinnati: It’s not that I think the Bengals are a bad team or anywhere nearly as inept as the Eagles have been all year. It’s just that when I look at who the Bengals have beaten this year, it’s not very impressive. During their three-game win streak in the early part of the season, they beat two rookies (guys who were making their 2nd and 3rd career NFL starts) and Jacksonville. Then in their more recent four-game win streak, they stunned the Giants (a great win, I’ll admit) before beating the three AFC West teams not named “Denver.” We’ve seen the short week turn these Thursday night games ugly for a lot of teams, and doesn’t it seem like young teams (especially young QBs) would suffer the most from a short week of practice (meaning even more ugliness in this game because it’s two young QBs)? (Fine, I forced myself to find arguments against Cincy because I have Bryce Brown going in my fantasy playoffs and don’t wanna have to root against him.)

Washington (+1) over Cleveland: Obviously the uncertainty around RGIII has made this line chaotic. The website I typically use still doesn’t have a line posted for this game. On other sites I saw the Browns favored by one earlier in the week. But let’s go with the most up-to-date line I could find, Washington (-1). The Browns are getting a lot of credit for turning their season around with five wins in their last eight games, and they deserve it. Suddenly you’re more likely to hear whispers about Pat Shurmur for Coach of the Year than about him being fired. But much like the Bengals, Cleveland has benefited from getting to play the non-competitive AFC West teams in three of those wins (and another one of their wins was against a Roethlisberger-less Steelers team). I just don’t think Washington’s a good matchup for them. The Redskins don’t defend the pass well, but the Browns don’t throw the ball that well. The Redskins have the best rushing offense in the league, and the Browns have a below average run defense. And Washington has just been on an absolute tear since their bye week…wins over three straight division opponents and then the Ravens. They deserve a ton of respect right now.

Houston (-9) over Indianapolis: Let’s break out the old transitive property from our fourth grade math days for this pick. If Tennessee and Indianapolis are evenly matched (as I said in last week’s blog and was totally backed up by the four-point game they played), and Houston has beaten Tennessee by 24 and 14 points this year, then Houston will beat Indianapolis by 14 points or more this week. I love simple math, and I love Houston in a bounceback game (In week 17, when Houston plays at Indy and Chuck Pagano is on the sidelines, I might think twice about such a large spread).

Jacksonville (+7) over Miami: More simplicity with this pick but no math involved. Miami shouldn’t be favored by a touchdown against anyone. The Jags are on the road, but not really. It’s not like they’re traveling outside their time zone or even their own state. Cecil Shorts is probably playing, and yes, he’s that important to Jacksonville.

Denver (-3) over Baltimore: I can’t find any reason to like the Ravens in this game. Peyton Manning carves up their defense, right? Am I missing something? The Broncos have already proven they can win on the road, and more importantly, on the East Coast when they handled Cincy and Carolina in back-to-back November games. For all the love that Baltimore and Joe Flacco gets for their home numbers, it’s actually not that impressive. Yeah, the Ravens have only lost one home game this year (to Charlie Batch!), but they also struggled at home against New England, Cleveland and Dallas. And Flacco’s numbers are better at home, but they’re still not very impressive (11 touchdowns in 6 games so far this year). I would have taken the Broncos even if they were giving six points.

St. Louis (-3) over Minnesota: I wanted to take Minnesota, write “At this point you just can’t bet against Adrian Peterson,” and move on. But I couldn’t. All the numbers favor St. Louis. It seems like there’s a reasonable chance the Rams could slow Peterson down, and then what do the Vikings do? Lean on their 32nd-ranked passing offense led by Christian “Can’t Crack 200 Yards” Ponder? (Seriously, he’s only exceeded 200 passing yards once in his last five games.) The Rams are balanced, the Rams are streaking and the Rams are actually really good at home.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) over New Orleans: There was a four-week run in November when the Bucs were averaging 35 points a game. In their current three-game losing streak, they haven’t been able to crack 23 points. What the hell happened? The two losses to Atlanta and Denver are explainable. They were finally facing playoff talent and two pretty good pass defenses. The loss to Philly last week? Inexplicable. Meanwhile the Saints have backslid after being 5-5 with their own three-game losing streak. In this game each quarterback can throw all over the defense, but only the Bucs will effectively run the ball. And suddenly, I have little faith in Drew Brees not turning the ball over. Give me Tampa in a close game.

NY Giants (+1) over Atlanta: Vegas is starting to correct the bloated Atlanta lines considering we all know they’re not as good as their record, but the Giants are simply the better team here. Of course I want the Giants to miss the playoffs, but I want them to do it in dramatic fashion—blowing a home game against the lowly Eagles in week 17 seems ideal. For now, they keep winning.

Green Bay (-3) over Chicago: I haven’t verified this, but I’m 99% sure that if the Packers win this game, they win the NFC North. Well, congrats to the 2012 NFC North Division Champion Green Bay Packers! I’ll lay the three points and feel good about a push being my worst case scenario. Meanwhile, did you know the Bears had a five-man kicking competition on Tuesday that resulted in Olindo Mare being named the new field goal kicker? Couldn’t someone have broadcasted that contest on TV or the web? I sat around all day on Tuesday bored out of my mind (I call those days “weekdays”) when I could have been watching kickers try to one up each other. I like to think it was a big game of HORSE, but I guess we’ll never know.

Detroit (-6.5) over Arizona: After last week’s oopsy in Seattle, I thought about how I would recap the game if I was an Arizona journalist trying to put the most positive possible spin on things. And here’s what I came up with:

“The Arizona quarterback tandem of John Skelton and Ryan Lindley were able to spread the wealth in Seattle as eight Cardinals players caught passes from the young gunslingers (including an incredible 1 catch, 2 yard contribution from Larry Fitzgerald). Lindley was particularly impressive in throwing no interceptions and completing nearly 50% of his passes. But in the end, even with the Cardinals limiting their turnovers to eight on the day, the Seahawks found a way to hold on and pick up a tough divisional win.”

Anyway, on principle alone, I cannot pick the Cardinals.

Seattle (-6) over Buffalo: Rumor has it that in 2016 the Bills and Seahawks are both moving north. The Bills to Toronto (where this game is being played) and the Seahawks to Vancouver. Good riddance. No, that’s not really a rumor except on my blog. I just have nothing to say about this game. Seattle is no longer playing like a team that can’t win on the road. And I have no faith in the Bills.

San Diego (-3) over Carolina: Remember a week ago when I made the argument that the AFC is just as good as the NFC this year? Well all someone had to do after the week 14 games was email me and say, “The Jets and the Chargers still have a semi-realistic shot to make the playoffs.” That’s enough to dispel every decent argument I made for the AFC being on equal ground. Amazing as it is, if the Chargers win out and the Steelers end up at 8-8 (while the Bengals lose their final three), I think San Diego would be in. That is some uncredible shit right there. Go Chargers!

Oakland (-3) over Kansas City: BIG game right here. Actually, it’s bigger than that. It’s a HUGE game. Both teams are on the cusp of getting the #1 pick in the 2013 draft. And both teams are just dying to take a not-nearly-sure-thing QB with that pick. If the Chiefs win, both teams would have three wins and all eyes would turn to the two-win Jaguars. But I don’t think the Chiefs are dumb enough to go out and win this game. Give me the Raiders and keep this game off the Red Zone Channel please.

Pittsburgh (-2) over Dallas: I don’t have a clue what happened to Pittsburgh last Sunday. That might be the most confusing outcome to any game so far this year. But Roethlisberger’s back and has now had two full weeks of practice. And honestly, just a week ago if you could have gotten Pitt at -2 for this game, you would have jumped all over it. And if you’re thinking of taking Dallas, answer this one question: How upset will you be with yourself if Dez Bryant’s hand forces him to leave the game in the 1st quarter? The Cowboys will be extremely short on weapons when that happens.

Molly Pick

I can’t be trusted to make a rational pick on San Francisco at New England. I should be picking the 49ers because to expect the Patriots to beat both the Texans and 9ers in the span of six days, each by more than a touchdown, is too much. But at the same time, the Patriots might just be impossible to keep up with right now. I’d be picking the Pats if it was up to me. But it’s not. I’m giving this game to Molly and her 10-4 season record:

Tennessee (-1.5) over NY Jets: Everyone’s marking this down as a W for the Jets just because it’s fun for people to think they can run the table and sneak into the playoffs. But they’ve barely beaten the Cardinals and the Jaguars in the past two weeks. Tennessee is bad, but I think this is the game where everyone snaps back to reality and remembers the Jets suck too. Plus they haven’t won three-in-a-row all year and I don’t think it starts now. Oh wait, I almost forgot to factor in the potential for Mark Sanchez to rise to the occasion under the Monday Night lights. Or will he shrink to the occasion? One way or another, this might be Sanchez’s last ever nationally-televised game as a starting QB.

Week 15 Stats:

-Home Teams: 6

-Road Teams: 10

-Favorites: 10

Underdogs: 6

-Home Underdogs: 1

-Road Underdogs: 5

-Road Favorites: 5

Week 14 NFL Picks: Debunking the NFC Over AFC Myth, No One Wants to Win the North, Carolina’s Revenge and More

As someone who loyally supports an AFC team, I’m starting to get a bit of an inferiority complex when I look over at the NFC. After all, the NFC has won four of the last five Super Bowls—with two of those wins coming over my Patriots—and five of the past nine Pro Bowls! OK, I’m joking about the Pro Bowl relevance. But it’s been pretty common this year to hear NFL analysts talk about the dominant NFC. And I heard a bunch of talk last year from my friends about how the Patriots only made it to the Super Bowl because they were in a very weak AFC. More recently when I was exchanging emails the other day with a group of college friends about all of our teams potentially making the playoffs, one asshole replied “…I think the bigger story here is that if the Pats were in the NFC, they would almost certainly have been eliminated from playoff contention by now.” Obviously he was exaggerating, but I’m getting pretty fed up with this perception that the AFC is the NFC’s little brother. Having lived for nearly 30 years as a little brother, I can attest to the frustration that must be boiling over in all of the AFC teams. One minute the big brothers are making fun of you and locking you out of the house as a prank, and the next minute you’re bursting through the door with two Super Soakers locked and loaded and start unleashing hell on them (only to realize a few minutes later that water can’t hurt anyone and Mom and Dad are gonna be PISSED when they see what you’ve done to the living room).

But is the talent gap between the two conferences a reality or just perception? Other than waiting for the Super Bowl and hoping it matches up the best team from each conference, there’s a pretty limited set of data that can help us answer this question. When looking at the conferences from top to bottom, I guess the overall record in interconference play is the best indicator. You might be surprised to learn that after 13 weeks, the NFC has a four-game lead on the AFC. It’s a 27-23 record in favor of  the big brother. While the NFC jumped out to a dominating record earlier in the year—I think they had a 23-13 record against the AFC at one point—we can all agree that the current record barely favors them. And while it’s fun to look at this from the entirety of the NFL, who really cares about the outcome of Arizona against the Jets (an atrocity to organized sports that was played last week), or Carolina vs Kansas City? I also think it’s irrelevant to look at the record of the best NFC teams vs the bad AFC teams and vice versa. Of course we expect the 49ers to beat up on the Bills. So what about looking at the top seven teams from each conference and how they’ve fared against each other? Seven is a bit of an arbitrary number, but it includes all the likely playoff teams plus an extra team that’s still in contention. I’m happy to report that in all the interconference games played this year between the top seven in the NFC and the top seven in the AFC, it’s the AFC holding a slight lead with a 6-4 record. So suck…on…that, NFC!

Even an expert like me was fooled a few weeks ago into thinking the NFC was significantly better. When I released my Power Rankings after week 9, I had Houston at the top followed by four NFC teams (Atlanta, Chicago, NY Giants, San Francisco). But how quickly things change. Everyone seems to agree that Atlanta isn’t nearly as good as its record. The Bears have lost three of four and are suddenly in danger of missing the playoffs. If the Giants don’t turn things around quickly, they may have a similar record to the Jets by the end of the season. And the 49ers have suffered a tie and a loss to the Rams while also inserting a second-year quarterback with no experience since I wrote those Power Rankings. Meanwhile in the AFC, the Texans continue to be the team to beat, but the Broncos and Patriots have closed the gap and answered a lot of questions. If I was updating my Power Rankings, they’d now look like this:

  1. Houston
  2. Denver
  3. New England
  4. Green Bay
  5. San Francisco

The one thing I’m wiling to admit is that the NFC seems to have a more competitive bottom tier. Their worst teams are better than the AFC’s worst teams. So you can argue that the disparity at the bottom makes for inflated records of the AFC’s best teams. But it doesn’t matter because we just proved that the AFC’s best has more than held their ground against the NFC’s best.

For the first time in my life, I’m starting to feel a rivalry with an entire conference, not just a team or two that I hate. Usually when the Patriots get eliminated in the playoffs, I turn my allegiance to whatever NFC team has the best shot at knocking off the AFC in the Super Bowl (after all, how could I ever root for Indy, Pittsburgh or Baltimore to win a championship), but this year I’m not so sure that’ll be the case.

Maybe I’ve done enough with this argument to spark some debate and get my first comment on the blog in about four months. Maybe I haven’t. Either way let’s move on to the week 14 picks (home team underlined):

Denver (-10.5) over Oakland: [Editor’s Note: This was written and posted on Twitter before Thursday night’s game.] For those of you who are suspicious about this line, I went ahead and looked into all the numbers and stats for you. There is absolutely no piece of data out there that can convince you to take Oakland. We’re talking about one of the top three teams in the NFL against the worst team in the NFL. And if that sounds all too familiar, it’s because in week 11, we all thought the same thing about Houston vs Jacksonville. That game went to overtime, and Houston was unable to cover the spread. Don’t think that’ll be the case with Denver on Thursday night. Why? I don’t know. I just know I refuse to pick Oakland again this year, especially against a team firing on all cylinders like the Broncos.

Pittsburgh (-7) over San Diego: This line is just annoyingly high enough to make me think about taking the Chargers. After all, we should expect the Steelers to bring Ben Roethlisberger back slowly, meaning they’ll try to run the ball as much as possible and focus more on keeping him healthy than on building a big lead. But the Chargers aren’t just bad at this point in the season; they’re decimated with injuries and bad. They’ve lost four straight road games, three of which came by seven or more points. I hate starting the week off by picking two big favorites. But these AFC West teams (not including Denver) are just so hard to pick. And it’s not like the Steelers need extra incentive right now. They’re fighting off the Bengals for a wildcard spot, and they still have a shot to overtake the Ravens in the North. Big time motivation to not fuck around with an inferior team like San Diego.

Tennessee (+6) over Indianapolis: Their records may be drastically different, but these two teams are a lot closer in terms of talent and stats than you may realize. The big difference that jumps out of course is at quarterback, where it seems the Colts have a huge advantage in Andrew Luck. But do they really? Over Luck’s past three games, he’s thrown seven interceptions and seven touchdowns. He hasn’t had a QB rating higher than 72 or a completion percentage higher than 54 in any of those three games either. It’s impossible to factor in how big of a boost Indy might get if Chuck Pagano shows up for the game (or makes a pre-game appearance in their locker room), but this Colts team is not as good as their record says, and eventually they’ll have to fall back to the below-average team they’re supposed to be. I’ll probably keep picking against them as long as they’re giving close to a touchdown, regardless of the opponent.

NY Jets (-3) over Jacksonville: Is it possible that the Jets, knowing their season is completely fucked, are just making moves based on what will generate the most buzz and attention toward themselves? If Rex Ryan had decided this week that Greg McElroy is his starting QB for the rest of the season and he had told the media that, the Jets would be boring over these final four games. If Rex had said weeks ago that Mark Sanchez is his starter the rest of the year, that would be boring too. So instead we get to all watch as the Jets play musical chairs with their three QBs. Would it surprise you at all if Sanchez gets pulled for Tim Tebow this week and then next Tuesday Rex names McElroy the week 15 starter while making Sanchez inactive, only to pull the old switcheroo in week 16 and make Tebow the starter with Sanchez the backup? Do you think Rex has banged out the complex math to know that he has exactly six starter-backup QB combinations? He’s right on pace…Sanchez-McElroy in week 13, Sanchez-Tebow this week, and then three more weeks to work with. Anyway…I’m picking the Jets because at least they do two things pretty well (running offense and passing defense) while the Jags do nothing well.

Minnesota (+3) over Chicago: Chicago’s really on the ropes right now…They’ve lost three out of four, their history-making defense has taken a big step back, star cornerback Tim Jennings is out at least one game and Brian Urlacher is out for the rest of the regular season. Of course I shouldn’t ignore that the one team they’ve beaten in the last four games is Minnesota. But the Vikings will have the best player on the field in Adrian Peterson on Sunday, and he did average six yards on 18 carries when these teams met two weeks ago. The problem was Minnesota fell behind 25-3 after the first half so Christian Ponder was forced to throw the ball 43 times. Speaking of Ponder, if he had managed to throw one less red zone interception against Green Bay last week, we’d probably be talking about how the Vikings are only one game back from the Bears for the NFC North lead. This would be such an easy Minnesota pick if the line was just a half-point higher (hopefully for you bettors out there it goes to 3.5 or 4 by game time). I’m taking them anyway and hoping the Bears continue their second annual second half slide.

Atlanta (-3.5) over Carolina: We all know the drill here. Atlanta’s a bad 11-1 team. They’ve been extremely lucky (7-1 record in games decided by one score). They don’t know how to put anyone away. Also, you might have seen that Carolina’s out for revenge (with Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy even wishing the dreaded stomach bug on the Falcons). But really, how much stock can you put into a 3-9 team trash-talking and making guarantees? I also think the pendulum has swung far enough in one direction for Atlanta—that they can’t blow anybody out, that they should really by something like 7-4, that you can count on a tight game no matter who they play—that it’s time it swung back the other way. If I’m a Falcons player, I’m saying “enough is enough” with the disrespect and I’m going into this game with the intention of burying the Panthers. This is probably the game that makes us all reconsider how easily we’re dismissing the Falcons as contenders (for the record, I still don’t like them against most of the other NFC playoff teams).

Molly Pick

In case you’re not watching the videos or keeping close tabs, I’ll let you know that Molly is tearing it up in her picks this year. She’s pretty much a lock at this point with a 9-4 season record. For this week, I couldn’t decide between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. Clearly Tampa should win, but they’re 7.5-point favorites. That might be high. So I took the guessing out of it by handing the pick over to Molly. I tried to make sure she knew that Tampa is one of the best against the spread this season (8-3-1) and Philly is one of the worst (3-9). Let’s see what she decided on:

St. Louis (+3) over Buffalo: These two teams seem pretty evenly matched, right? One’s a little better on offense (Buffalo), and one’s a little better on defense (St. Louis). No distinct advantage for either team at quarterback. The Bills are 5-7; the Rams are 5-6-1. St. Louis can’t really win on the road; Buffalo doesn’t really have much of a home field advantage. In a year where the underdog is 20 games over .500 through 13 weeks, take the points when all else fails.

Cincinnati (-3) over Dallas: Hard to believe both these teams were left for dead after week 9 losses dropped them both to 3-5. The thinking is always that a team can’t lose more than six games if they want a shot at the playoffs. So it wasn’t crazy to count the Cowboys and Bengals out at that point. Since then Cincinnati has won four straight, and Dallas has gone 3-1. If the Cowboys lose, they’re out. The Cowboys are out (Side Note: If this line was even a half-point higher, I’d be taking Dallas).

Washington (-3) over Baltimore: Washington’s another team that was counted out after week 9, and they were an even worse 3-6 at the time. Suddenly with the NFC East looking like an exact replica of the NFC West from years past, it’s a wide open division. Baltimore’s last three games have looked like this: three-point win over Byron Leftwich at Pittsburgh, overtime win at San Diego due to a combination of a miracle play and a checked-out opponent, loss at home to Charlie Batch and the Steelers. That’s a three-week run that even the Chiefs would be embarrassed by. I think the Ravens finally won’t play a game that’s decided by three points…I think they get blown the F out and suddenly we’ll have a very interesting finish in the AFC North.

Kansas City (+6.5) over Cleveland: Just a miserable game to pick. Cleveland’s obviously the better team, but…6.5 points? I dunno, is it logical to think that after the Chiefs played an inspired game in the wake of last Saturday’s tragedy they’ve now had to deal with a full week of distractions, stress and a bunch of other things that have hurt their ability to focus on football? It’s definitely possible, but I’m taking the points. That’s a HUGE spread for a team like the Browns.

San Francisco (-10) over Miami: This is one of two switcheroos I’m pulling with my picks this week (“switcheroo” being defined as “a pick I switch at the last minute, after having written a whole justification about taking one team, doing a 180 and deciding on the other team”). You know what the 49ers do once every three or four games? Blow a team out. This week might be their last chance to have one of those games before the season ends. And since I have nothing more to contribute to these two teams, I’d like to make sure everyone’s now seen Jim Harbaugh’s guest appearance in Saved By the Bell, The New Class from years ago.

New Orleans (+5) over NY Giants: This is the other switcheroo. I had started to write out a paragraph about how the Saints haven’t beaten anyone good this year, and how the Giants would bounce back from their loss in Washington on Monday. I still think the Giants win, but I think the Saints can give us a backdoor cover (after losing two games last week to the backdoor cover—New England and Dallas—I will be on the lookout for them for the rest of my life). It’s supposed to be ugly weather in New Jersey on Sunday, and I think this game will be appropriately ugly.

Seattle (-10) over Arizona: So Seattle lost one of their two Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks because Brandon Browner decided to drop his PED appeal and start serving his four-game suspension this week. Luckily against Arizona, you only need one good cornerback, and it looks like Aqib Talib-wannabe Richard Sherman will still be in there for the Seahawks. I have no idea how the Cardinals will score any points in this game. If the ‘Hawks can just claw their way to 14 points, they’ll cover the spread. Call it a hunch, but I think they get it done.

Green Bay (-7) over Detroit: I’m torn for a bunch of reasons on this game. Because it’s a Sunday night prime time game, I wanted to write that Aaron Rodgers on national TV is turning into what Peyton Manning has always been under the spotlight. After all, Rodgers easily beat the Bears in week 2 in the Thursday night game and then demolished the Texans in week 6 in the Sunday night game. But the Packers also got blown out by the Giants just two weeks ago in that same Sunday night slot (and let’s not forget about the Monday nighter at Seattle in week 3…regardless of the referee debacle, Green Bay wasn’t all that impressive in that game). So the “Rodgers on national TV” argument carries no weight. What about the fact that Detroit’s lost four in a row? Well in that stretch they’ve lost by two, three, four and 10 points. Not exactly getting embarrassed or anything. And you can’t really say Green Bay is rounding into playoff form or anything. In their last three games, they beat the Lions by four, then got laughed back to Wisconsin in their big game with the Giants, and then beat the Vikings by nine, but probably only because Christian Ponder is so very bad. I’m gonna hate myself for this, but I’m giving Green Bay one last chance to impress me. Sunday night, in Green Bay, needing to win to stay in front in the North and in the chase for the #2 seed in the NFC. I’m ready to be impressed but prepared to be disappointed.

Houston (+4) over New England: I refuse to spend a lot of time thinking about this game because I’ll inevitably convince myself to pick the Patriots. Houston is the best team in the NFL at this point in the season. There’s no reason they should be a four-point underdog. The correct line on this game is New England -2 or -2.5. I’d be stunned if this game isn’t decided by a field goal. For the most part this year, the Texans have beat the bad teams by a lot and the good teams by a little. You can’t ask for more than that. By my count both teams have played four games against teams that are likely going to the playoffs this year. Houston is 3-1 in those games; the Patriots are 2-2. Earlier this season I wrote that New England and Baltimore might be the two most evenly-matched teams in the NFL…or at least among all the playoff teams they were. But now I’m thinking the Patriots and Texans are the two that are so close together. Again, this all points to a close game, one that New England doesn’t win by more than a field goal.

Stats for Week 14:

-Favorites: 9

-Underdogs: 7

-Road Favorites: 3

-Road Underdogs: 6

-Home Underdogs: 1

Six Months of Molly (Finally Throwing a Bone to the Non-Football Readers)

[Editor’s Note: To my non-football fan readers, I realize there have been eight consecutive football-related blog posts over the past three weeks and not a single non-football post. I’m not going to say I’m sorry because I’m really not. I guess I’ll just say “I warned you.” Right now there are only four things I do with my life on a daily basis: watch/read about football, watch a ton of TV, do my school work and take care of my dog. I will probably never write about my school work because it’s just as boring as it sounds. That leaves three topics of expertise, and obviously one of them has been dominating the blog. But today for all the non-football fans out there, I’m giving you a dog post. And if you don’t like football or dogs, then you should probably never click on this blog again.]

So Molly probably turned six months old today! (probably because the insane woman we adopted her from probably pulled a birthdate out of her ass just because we were asking)

In dog years, that means Molly is about three-and-a-half years old. So if she was human, she’d be watching a lot of cartoons, starting to read Dr. Seuss books, probably playing with dolls (or more likely action figures of Boston athletes) and talking a lot (honestly, I have no idea what a three-year-old human does all day long…school? sleeping and eating just like an infant? no idea whatsoever). But she’s not a human. And no matter how many times I think it’s about to happen, she can’t talk to us. So we’re forced to guess what she actually likes and what she’s thinking at any given moment. Her daily routine goes something like this: wake up at 8AM, go out to the bathroom, mill around the apartment looking for a toy to play with for about 30 minutes, eat breakfast, sleep for at least two hours immediately after breakfast, go for a 30-minute walk, annoy me for two hours from about 12PM to 2PM, sleep in the crate because I want her out of my way, play time at the dog park from 3:30PM to 5PM, sleep from whenever we get home from the dog park until she hears us pouring her dinner into her bowl, outside again for the bathroom, 30 minute hyper mode where she almost runs through our sliding glass door, fall asleep by 10PM, sleep for 10 hours.

Sounds simple, easy and predictable right? But there’s so much more going on every day, so let’s take you through only the most interesting parts of Molly at the six month mark:

-Maybe the most interesting thing is her size. When I posted a status update on Molly after we had her for one month, she was 36lbs. That was just over two months ago. She now weighs an alarming 66lbs. At her current growth rate of 15lbs per month, she’ll be over 200lbs by next July. She’ll also be about seven feet tall.

-In the first blog post about us adopting Molly, I joked about the number of times we had wanted to take her to the vet for every little thing that seemed wrong (she didn’t eat all her food, her poop was weird, she looked at me funny). Except it really wasn’t a joke. Now the pendulum’s swung the other way, and it would probably take a bunch of things happening at once for us to be alarmed. She can throw up all she wants now, but I’m not springing into action unless she’s vomiting, breathing funny, walking with a significant limp and bleeding out of her eyes all at once.

-The thing I’m most confused about with Molly has to do with her ability to sleep through some noises but not others. For example, we took her camping for the first time last weekend, and we timed it just perfectly to have to sleep in a tent for two straight nights during torrential downpours. Now you’d think a puppy who’s never experienced camping, sleeping in a tent or even rain for that matter would probably wake up throughout the night and wonder what the hell was going on around her. There were moments when the wind was blowing so hard that our tent was actually starting to cave in on certain sides. And yet this puppy never once woke up during any of it. But then on the other side of the coin, let’s say she’s taking a nap on the couch, and I’m in the kitchen 30 feet away. If I so much as touch one of her bags of treats and it makes a crinkling sound, her head pops up, her ears get erect and she’s immediately locked in on my every movement. The ability to listen for something food-related while she sleeps is just remarkable to me.

-Like I said earlier, since she can’t communicate with words we can only guess her favorite and least favorite things in life. After this past weekend, I’m willing to bet her favorite discovery in life so far is mud:

-And though we don’t have a picture to show for it, I’m certain her least favorite thing in life is going outside to the bathroom at night after she’s already been asleep for a while. If she falls asleep at 9PM and we don’t go to bed until 11, we’ll take her out right before we go to bed. It’s not just that she’s reluctant to go downstairs at this time, it’s that she literally tries to hide in every “safe spot” of the apartment as soon as she sees one of us get the leash ready…behind the couch, on the couch, under the table, in our bedroom, on our bed and even in her crate. She will try out every one of those spots in rapid succession in the hopes that either we won’t find her or that we’ll understand just how badly she doesn’t wanna go anywhere at that particular moment.

-As an unemployed writer raising a dog, you can bet that I’ve been trying to think of different dog-related money-generating schemes since we got Molly. I briefly thought about turning her into a show dog or breeding her, but those options seemed like more work than I was willing to put in. With the amount of people, particularly women, who stop me on the streets to pet Molly and say how cute she is, I thought about starting a service where I rent Molly out by the hour to guys who wanted a conversation starter with random women. But I quickly realized I’d be single the moment Julie found out about it. But Julie’s actually the one who turned me on to my best money-generating idea yet: Black Market Poop Bags (or “BM Bags” for short). Our apartment complex provides free bags at all the exits for dog poop. Usually I grab about 15 at a time and stuff them into my pockets so we never run into a situation where we actually have to pay for these. The other day Julie called me out on being a Poop Bag Hoarder, and I couldn’t agree with her more. So why not capitalize on it? A quick google search shows me that a roll of 400 bags sells for about $40 (10 cents per bag). But I could come in and undercut even the best prices because the raw materials, labor and manufacturing cost me exactly $0.00. My only expenses would be the time it takes me to put all the bags into a larger packaging bag, the cost of the actual packaging bag (though I’m sure I could find a way to just steal a bunch of grocery bags or something), and shipping. What could possibly stop Ross’s BM Bags from being a hit? As far as the legality of it all, I dunno, but I’ll be spending time over Christmas with an accountant and a lawyer who know how to make these things work.

-On a serious note, you remember the “octagon” that we use when Molly’s really acting up? That playpen/gate device we put her in until she calms down? By some act of god, we don’t have to use it anymore. We haven’t used it in probably five or six weeks because suddenly Molly doesn’t go through those terrible behavior moments anymore. What’s our secret? We bring Molly to a dog park almost every day and let her get her ass kicked by a bunch of big, aggressive dogs. We realized if Molly spends one hour a day literally running and fighting for her life, she’s much more likely to chill out at home.

-And finally, I’d like to share something about parenting that I never understood until now: The second and third children always turn out better than the first because of the guinea pig factor. I know the next time we get a dog, whether it’s one year or 12 years from now, we will be better prepared to raise a dog and teach it right from wrong. This is not unlike parents raising a human child…that first kid is always the guinea pig, always the child that causes parents to say, “Well, we fucked that up, but now we know for the next kid how to do it.” The first kid is an experiment, and if he happens to grow up and doesn’t become a serial killer, that’s just a bonus. Kids two, three and beyond are where your perfect parenting techniques really shine.

On that note, I need to run…gotta get Molly back to the shelter so we can get going with dog number two.

Midseason NFL Power Rankings: Ignoring the Worst 15 Teams and Writing Too Much About the Best 17 Teams

In my week 9 NFL picks blog, I said we were looking at the most difficult week of the season in terms of picking against the spread. Sadly, my record for the week reflected that. I didn’t break the .500 mark for the first time this year. I finished 7-7 for the week, and the disturbing trend of picking the primetime games incorrectly continues as I went 0-3 in the Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games. My overall record on the season is still a solid 74-53-5, but I can’t stand for mediocrity. I noticed that four of my seven incorrect picks from week 9 were games that featured a team we should consider a “contender” versus a team we know for sure is not a “contender.” In those four games, the contender covered the spread, leaving me scratching my head and wondering why I didn’t see this coming. At the halfway point of the season, I should have expected the legit teams to be pulling away from the teams that are “already preparing for next year” (Mike Shanahan’s words, not mine).

Since it’s basically the midpoint of the season and I seem to be losing my way when it comes to filtering out the good teams from the riff raff, I wanted to take a stab at a Power Rankings post. But this particular post is going to ignore the 15 teams who are effectively eliminated from postseason contention. Basically, any team that has a negative point differential or has at least five losses is out. There are actually 16 teams with a positive point differential, and all of them have four losses or less. The one team who’s record is .500 or better but has a negative point differential will be included in the power rankings—that would be the Indianapolis Colts, who potentially have larger forces working in their favor. (Side note: In 2011, two teams finished the regular season with a negative point differential and made the playoffs: the Broncos had a -81 differential, but had God on their side, and the Giants had a -6 differential, but had Satan on their side. In 2010 the Seahawks finished with a -97 differential and made the playoffs, but they had the worst division in football history on their side. The point is the Colts could absolutely make the playoffs without having the stats to back it up.)

So we have 17 teams in contention. Of course a few of these teams will be dropping out of this category by season’s end since only 12 teams can make the playoffs. But for the rest of the season, when I’m considering my weekly picks, I’m going to remember that these 17 teams are worthy of playoff and possibly Super Bowl consideration. No longer will I stupidly pick Cincinnati to play a close game against Denver just because I’m not sure how well Denver plays on the road.

If you’re upset that I’m ignoring 15 teams entirely, there are plenty of websites you can visit that debate the merits of the Titans versus the Rams and which one should be 24th in the Power Rankings.

Let’s look at the (fill in catchy name here like “Slick 17” “Sexy 17” or something even more creative) from “most likely to follow the Arizona Cardinals’ path of crashing & burning” to “most likely to give Roger Goodell a ‘fuck you’ handshake on February 3rd.”

The format is pretty random, but I’ve included the following: the team’s actual record, the predictions that Nkilla and I made for their record before the season started, the team’s point differential (often a better indicator of how good a team is than their win-loss record), their record against the spread (because it always comes back to gambling), a season highlight and lowlight, and whether they’re on the rise (heading north) or fading (heading south).

This is part one of the power rankings. Part two will follow shortly. Enjoy.

17). Minnesota

Record: 5-4

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 7-9

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 6-10

Point Differential: +7

Record Against the Spread: 3-5-1

Season Highlight: Beating the 49ers by 11 during their 4-1 start

Season Lowlight: Any one of Christian Ponder’s last five games

Direction They’re Heading: Way South

As decent as the Vikings have looked through their first nine games, they really needed to put up a spotless record over that time to have a shot at the playoffs. That’s because their schedule gets brutal in the second half—two games against Green Bay, two against Chicago, one against Houston and only three of seven games at home. At 5-4, it’ll take a miracle for them to stay in contention. This team is a perfect example of how important a good quarterback really is in the NFL. They have arguably the best RB in football, the best all-purpose player in football (Percy Harvin), a top-10 passing defense and a middle-of-the-road running defense. What are they missing? A QB worthy of starting in pro football is the answer.

16). San Diego

Record: 4-4

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 8-8 (right on track)

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 6-10

Point Differential: +28

Record Against the Spread: 4-4

Season Highlight: Hearing the media constantly refer to them as “the Cowboys of the AFC.” Norv Turner is honored to be compared to America’s Team and aspires to be as competent as Jason Garrett someday.

Season Lowlight: Having to deal with two challengers for the title of “most self-destructive team” —the Cowboys and the Eagles. Or I guess scoring only six points in a 7-6 loss at Cleveland would qualify.

Direction They’re Heading: East because they have three more games on the east coast and because they’re likely going to stay the course with a .500 record.

A competent coach and quarterback tandem would be able to get this team to 9-7 based on the remaining schedule. But remember who we’re dealing with here. The Chargers will go 8-8. But when Norv Turner has to answer to his superiors in the offseason, he’ll likely point to a 4-2 divisional record as the way to judge the success of his season.

15). Tampa Bay

Record: 4-4

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 3-13 (oops…I thought they were playing in a “tough” NFC South)

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 7-9 (probably nailed it)

Point Differential: +41

Record Against the Spread: 5-2-1

Season Highlight: The honor of being the talk of the NFL after week 2, even if it was because of their overly aggressive handling of the Giants’ kneel downs at the end of their game.

Season Lowlight: Having the only black quarterback that the media doesn’t refer to as a “scrambling quarterback.” Josh Freeman is offended by that, apparently.

Direction They’re Heading: Slightly North, maybe Northwest?

The Bucs gotta feel good about 4-4 after starting the season 1-3. While it’s great that they have the best rushing defense in the NFL, the problem is their last-ranked pass defense and the fact that they still have to face Matt Ryan (twice), Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in the second half. The only way I see them sneaking into the playoffs is if they go into week 17 with a 9-6 record and are fortunate enough to be playing a Falcons team that already has the top spot in the NFC locked up. Then they could get that 10th win and possibly beat out a Seattle or Detroit for the final wildcard spot.

14). Miami

Record: 4-4

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 4-12 (crossing my fingers that they lose the rest of their gams)

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 5-11 (predicted Dolphins to get 1st pick in 2012 draft)

Point Differential: +21

Record Against the Spread: 4-3-1

Season Highlight: Being able to say “If we had just won our two overtime games, we’d be 6-2 right now.”

Season Lowlight: Losing all three of their games that were decided by three points—two of which were to the Jets and the Cardinals. How embarrassing!

Direction They’re Heading: Slightly south, maybe all the way to Cuba?

It’s a fun story: football team that everyone pegged to be at the bottom of their division and possibly the bottom of the entire league rides a rookie QB and a group of unheralded players to the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Dolphins we already have one of those stories (with an added dose of playing inspired football for a sick coach) later on in this post. The Dolphins are going to regret all three of their close losses from the first half, but none more so than last week’s loss at Indy, considering that’s one of the teams they’re competing against for a wildcard spot in the AFC. Just like the Bucs, the Dolphins have a great rush defense and a horrid pass defense. The reason they get the nod over the Bucs is because they don’t play nearly as many good passing teams the rest of the season as the Bucs do.

13). Detroit

Record: 4-4

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 9-7

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 8-8

Point Differential: +4

Record Against the Spread: 3-4-1

Season Highlight: Setting the unofficial record for playing in the most consecutive games determined by one score to start a season with seven (unofficial because I made it up).

Season Lowlight: Losing four of those seven one-score games.

Direction They’re Heading: South by Southwest?

Give Detroit some credit for hanging around. They’ve played five of their first eight games on the road, including at San Francisco and at Chicago. They were also the preseason popular pick to take the big slide from a 2011 playoff team to a 2012 also-ran (turns out the Saints would have been the right pick there). They’re still in the hunt even though they’ve had to give a significant amount of carries to a running back named Joique Bell. On the one hand, they do play five of their final eight games at home, but on the other hand, they still have to face Green Bay (twice), Chicago, Atlanta and Houston. The home games probably won’t offset the stiff competition, but if they can get to 9-7, at least they can feel good about putting up a winning record in the hardest division in football.

12). Indianapolis

Record: 5-3

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 4-12 (underestimated the Luck factor)

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 6-10 (probably underestimated the Luck factor)

Point Differential: -32

Record Against the Spread: 5-3

Season Highlight: Getting Andrew Luck, clearly a franchise QB, for only $6 in the auction draft…oops, I crossed over to my fantasy team for a second…But choosing Luck in the real NFL draft and already overachieving against projections that most people had for them this year has to be the highlights so far for the Colts.

Season Lowlight: If this was a normal year, it would clearly be allowing Mark Sanchez and the Jets to drop 35 points on them. But this isn’t a normal year for them. Obviously their coach getting diagnosed with leukemia is probably the right answer.

Direction They’re Heading: Slightly North?

I might have the Colts a little higher up on this list than people think they should be, but that’s for two reason: 1). Andrew Luck just might be even better than we thought, and we can’t rule out the possibility of Luck carrying the Colts singlehandedly to 10 wins, and 2). this Chuck Pagano thing is really giving them a boost. I’m not afraid to admit that if the Patriots were one of those 15 teams already out of playoff contention, I’d be 100% in on rooting for the Colts. For now, I’ll continue to hope for my dream scenario of the Colts getting the 6-seed in the AFC and playing in Denver against Peyton Manning in the wildcard round. The biggest thing working against the Colts’ playoff chances is the tough games remaining on their schedule: at New England, at Detroit and two against Houston. Even the boost they get from Pagano being at the games will be limited because they’ve only got three more home games. Doubtful that he’ll be traveling with this team anytime soon. But the sentimental part of me says they claw their way to 10 wins and get that final playoff spot. Go Colts! (except on November 18th when they play New England)

11). Seattle

Record: 5-4* (legitimately 4-5, but I guess legitimacy doesn’t matter in the NFL)

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 7-9

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 8-8 (predicted them to win the NFC West)

Point Differential: +16

Record Against the Spread: 6-3 (again, should be 5-4)

Season Highlight: They said it themselves: beating the Patriots was their Super Bowl. But I have a feeling if they sneak into the playoffs by one win, or by the conference record tiebreaker, they’ll be considering the replacement referees’ debacle of September 24th as their season highlight.

Season Lowlight: Every time Pete Carroll celebrates a marginally-important touchdown by acting like he just got elected Prom Queen.

Direction They’re Heading: Not sure, this directional gimmick seemed a lot better when I thought of it after my third joint last night.

Since we pretty much know there are five locks to make the NFC playoffs—Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, the Giants and Green Bay—that means one spot is up for grabs between Seattle, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Minnesota. Does nine wins get it? Or do you need 10? All I know is Seattle got a complimentary win from the NFL that those other three teams didn’t get. When the Seahawks only get to nine wins and fall just short, at least they’ll always have that Super Bowl win over New England from earlier this year.

10). Baltimore

Record: 6-2

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 9-7

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 10-6

Point Differential: +23

Record Against the Spread: 3-5

Season Highlight: I guess beating the Patriots in week 3? (interesting that multiple teams consider beating New England to be the greatest thing that could happen to them)

Season Lowlight: Dropping a cool nine points on the Chiefs’ vaunted 30th-ranked scoring defense.

Direction They’re Heading: Just as a Raven is known to do in the winter, they’re heading south quickly.

I haven’t given the Ravens much respect this year, and I still won’t even if their record says 6-2. Other than beating the Patriots, did you know the combined record of the other four teams they’ve beaten (they beat Cleveland twice) is 9-24? And everyone knows they’re going to be short on defense the rest of the season due to injuries. We also know Joe Flacco is the definition of “average,” and that the Ravens still have to play the Steeler twice. Yes, they’re almost a lock to make the playoffs because they just have to go 4-4 the rest of the way to get there. But they’re starting to look like the worst team of all the playoff locks.

9). Denver

Record: 5-3

Rmurdera’s preseason prediction: 10-6 (was completely sold on Manning’s health)

Nkilla’s preseason prediction: 8-8 (wasn’t sold on Manning’s health)

Point Differential: +60

Record Against the Spread: 5-3

Season Highlight: Getting to play in the AFC West.

Season Lowlight: When Peyton Manning kept being mistaken for Tim Tebow earlier in the season because of the similarity between their spirals.

Direction They’re Heading: North

Before the season began, I had the Broncos pegged for a playoff spot, but I certainly didn’t think they’d be in the discussion of who the top two seeds in the AFC are. But that’s where they find themselves now. And it’s not just because of the Peyton Manning renaissance. Their defense is playing at a higher level than 2011, and they also have a pretty soft schedule in the second half of the season. That schedule is the reason they can’t be higher than 9th right now. By the way, when I come out with my MVP rankings (tentatively scheduled for next week or the week after), where do you think Manning will rank? I’m not even sure, but considering the guy’s got the highest QB rating in the NFL, he’s gotta be in the top three, right?

Tune in to the blog sometime later today or tomorrow for part two, where we’ll count down from #8 to #1.

Week 9 NFL Picks: Guiding You Through the Most Difficult Picks in the History of the NFL (only slightly exaggerating)

This is the hardest week to pick against the spread so far in the 2012 season. Don’t feel bad if you’re struggling to make that phone call to your bookie. I am too. Why is it such a hard week? For a lot of reasons. Green Bay and Houston are both favored by more than 10 at home, and while they’re locks to win outright, is any team in this year’s NFL really good enough to have you feeling confident about laying 10+ points? Good teams like Chicago and Denver are both on the road, and both are favored by four. Is that too many points for a Denver team that hasn’t played well on the road yet, and a Chicago team that has to lose another game eventually? In the Thursday night game, we know the Chiefs are the worst team in football, but can you ever really have confidence in taking San Diego as an eight-point favorite? The Falcons are 7-0, but we know they have to lose eventually, and they’ve had some very close calls at home. Is this the week they finally lose? To Dallas of all teams??

So many questions…

Let’s get on to my best guesses to some very perplexing questions (home team underlined):

Kansas City (+8) over San Diego: I sound like a broken record at this point, but the underdog on the Thursday night game is nearly unbeatable…7-1 against the spread! And adding to the list of reasons for taking the underdog this week is that the Chargers are your favorite. Of course, a huge negative for buying into the underdog is that it’s the worst team in football, but still. Do you really trust the Chargers to win a game by nine or more? Here’s my crazy, bold prediction for the day: the Chiefs will have their first lead of the season in this game, probably like 3-0 in the 1st quarter until the Chargers score. Actually, screw it…the Chiefs are gonna get up for a divisional game, and Cassel will probably play better on the road since he won’t have to hear people screaming for him to get injured. I’m calling the upset. Kansas City gets their second win of the season, and all eyes turn to San Diego ownership to make the next move (hint: it should be to fire Norv Turner).

Green Bay (-11) over Arizona: For all of the offensive problems the Packers have right now–health, inconsistency, forced trickery when trickery isn’t needed–I’m still willing to take them as a huge favorite. And that’s because…say it with me now…the Cardinals can’t score! Yes, that’s right. In their last four games (all losses), the Cardinals have scored 36 total points, or to put it another way, if the Cardinals took their last four offensive outputs and went up against the Patriots offense from just the London game, the Cardinals would lose by nine.

Detroit (-4) over Jacksonville: Has there ever been a midweek trade where a team acquires a guy from their upcoming opponent that got less attention than Mike Thomas going from Jacksonville to Detroit this week? I guess that’s because it’s Mike Thomas? What do we make of this Jaguars team anyway? They’ve won one game, lost two overtime games, had a chance to beat the Packers in Green Bay last week, and have been blown out in three home games. Meanwhile, Detroit’s just humming along right around .500, still undecided whether they want to make a run at a wildcard spot this year. I’m going against my instincts here, but I like Detroit not to make a last-second comeback and instead cruise to a comfortable win.

Chicago (-4) over Tennessee: What does it say about the state of the NFL that Chicago, a team that most people would put in the top five of their power rankings, is only a four-point favorite over Tennessee, a team that’s currently ranked 27th in ESPN.com’s weekly power rankings? I guess it says that even the best teams are flawed? Or that road games are tough? Or that the combination of Chicago’s offensive line + Jay Cutler is so scary that people wouldn’t possibly put money on them if the line was higher than four? Either way, Tennessee scares no one when it comes to pressuring the quarterback–their 11 sacks on the season have them tied for 28th best in the NFL. Cutler should be plenty comfortable all game, which means the Titans don’t have a chance. This is also my suicide pick for the week (so very scared).

Cincinnati (+4) over Denver: I realize that after last week’s showing against New Orleans the NFL has decided to end the rest of the AFC’s season early and just award the Broncos a Super Bowl berth (along with already giving Peyton Manning the following awards: Comeback Player of the Year, the 2012 League MVP, and the 2011 League MVP), but I’m going with the Bengals for one reason: I’m not yet convinced that Denver is competent on the road. They lost by six at Atlanta (could have been a lot more if the Falcons knew how to finish off an opponent), they lost by 10 at New England (ditto), and they beat San Diego by one in the game that was officially the death of anyone ever mentioning Philip Rivers as a good quarterback again. I need to see them do it on the road some more before I’m convinced.

Washington (-3.5) over Carolina: After the Redskins’ epic fail last week at Pittsburgh, I’m shifting into “take Washington at home, stay away from Washington on the road” mode. Against the 1-6 Panthers, the Redskins have to win. And that extra half point isn’t sucking me into going with the underdog. If the Redskins have any hope of getting to 8-8 or better this year, they win this game by at least six points.

Cleveland (+4) over Baltimore: Did you know Baltimore is only 2-5 against the spread this year? The 5-2 Ravens feel like a sinking ship to me. They’ve been extremely unimpressive in most of their wins, and they got destroyed by Houston in their first game without the defensive guys they lost for the year. On the road, I don’t think they should be giving more than a couple points. Cleveland just might have enough in them to keep it close (and I’ll bet there are a lot of people out there picking this as their upset special of the week. Not me, but a lot of other people).

Indianapolis (+1) over Miami: This week’s winner of “the line Ross missed the biggest on when guessing the lines” award. I don’t understand how Indy isn’t favored. Both teams are 4-3; the Colts are at home; the Dolphins’ starting QB is banged up. What am I missing? Also, rumor has it that Chuck Pagano made an appearance at the Colts facility earlier this week. That probably gave his team a boost. I’m gladly taking Indy as a home underdog in this one.

Houston (-10.5) over Buffalo: Here’s a trend that probably a surprise to no one: When the Bills lose, they lose BIG (their week 7 loss vs Tennessee is the lone exception). And it’s not just in their three other losses in 2012. Last year, a lot of their losses were exactly the same. It just seems like when they smell a loss, they don’t even bother showing up. On the other side, it seems like Houston is suddenly flying under the radar because they had a bye last week and they got blown out by Green Bay three weeks ago. People seem to forget just how complete of a team they are. Can’t you totally picture a game update about halfway through the early games on Sunday where Andrew Siciliano says, “And the route is on in Houston as the Texans now lead the Bills 38 to 3…”?

Seattle (-4.5) over Minnesota: Yeah, I hate Seattle, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid when it comes to evaluating them each week. This one boils down to one simple question: How in the hell is Minnesota gonna score in this game? By running the ball? I doubt it. Seattle’s run D is sick. By throwing the ball? Ha, post-September Christian Ponder is their QB. Special teams? Without even looking, I have to assume Seattle’s special teams coverage is solid. My heart is rooting for the Vikings, but my head knows better. Seattle gets their fourth legitimate win of the season.

For Molly’s pick this week, the theme is “the epitome of laziness.” That’s because I was extremely lazy in getting her pick setup, and she was even lazier making the pick. She’s probably just sick and tired of having to choose a game involving the Raiders. I gave her Tampa Bay (+1) at Oakland. Let’s see which team she reluctantly decided on:

You heard the dog…Tampa (+1) is the pick.

NY Giants (-3.5) over Pittsburgh: After starting the season 5-0 when picking the Steelers game each week, I’ve picked against them the last two weeks and lost both times. Yeah, yeah, the Steelers fooled me. I was too confident that they were an old, injured and fading team. But most importantly, I forgot just how mediocre the NFL was. No fooling me this time though. Against one of the five best teams in football, on the road, with a ton of injuries still, the Steelers lose by at least a touchdown. I won’t shortchange them anymore when they’re playing the middle-to-lower tiers of the NFL, but against the elite, they don’t stand a chance.

Dallas (+4.5) over Atlanta: If you count the bye week as a “win” for Dallas (and really, you should, they need all the help they can get), did you know through eight weeks their record looks like this: win, loss, win, loss, win (bye), loss, win, loss. That’s the definition of consistently inconsistent. That means this week should be a win, right? Well they might not win, but I think they can cover. Atlanta’s actually played better on the road, and the Cowboys biggest strength (at least statistically speaking) is their pass defense. What if Dallas shuts down Matt Ryan and his receivers? Can the Falcons win with mostly a running attack? I’ve never had less confidence in one of my picks than I do with this game.

Philadelphia (+3.5) over New Orleans: The pick is Philly because the entire world is expecting them to self-destruct every week, and it’s just too obvious to assume they have no shot. Plus, the Saints shouldn’t really be giving more than a field goal against any decent team right now. New Orleans can’t stop anyone on defense, meaning they’ll have to be up 21 points in the 4th quarter for you to feel confident in them covering the three-and-a-half. I’d like to pick no one in this game, but then I wouldn’t be doing my job voluntary blogging that I treat like a job.

My Dog’s Nearly-Tragic Timing and the Rest of the NFL Week 1 in Review

All of us football players prepare the entire summer for opening weekend. We go through all the required training drills, study extra film and stay late to work on our weaknesses. The preseason’s a decent warmup for what’s to come, but you can never prepare for everything. We just have to hope that we’ve done all of our work and be as ready as we can. But then of course, one of those things you can’t prepare for happens. For some football players it’s a tweaked hamstring. For me, it was a potential emergency vet visit during the first set of games this past Sunday. We woke up at 4am Sunday to the sound of our puppy trying to gnaw the skin and fur off her own body. When I opened up her crate door—something she usually greets with the enthusiasm of a 16-year-old unexpectedly losing his virginity—she stayed in the crate, continuing to lick, bite and chew on areas of her body that most women only wished they could reach with their mouths. Something is seriously wrong when our dog volunteers to stay in her jail cell. When we took a closer look, it seemed like a new flea bite was breaking out on her undercarriage every second. My first thought? “Fucking hell, Julie is definitely gonna want to take Molly to the vet when they open today.” And then, “Wait a sec, is there any chance no vet’s office is open on Sundays so we’ll have to wait until Monday to take her?” I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t I just ignore the problem and make Julie take the dog by herself to the vet while I watched football like I planned, right? Oh, wait, you’re actually thinking I’m a terrible dog owner for my first thought not being “I need to make sure my puppy’s OK.” Well, to that I say…it’s football season. A lot of people are counting on me to ignore my responsibilities and deliver meaningless football content to the blog.

Luckily we didn’t have to take Molly to the vet. She calmed down, and the flea bites took a turn for the best. For those of you wondering how I’m gonna segue from this random story to week 1 of the NFL season, well, here goes nothing. When I was worrying that Molly would cause me to miss the first round of games of the first week (including the Patriots game), another thought crossed my mind: What Would Michael Vick Do? What would he do if a dog was being a total nuisance to him? What would he do if a dog was disrupting his perfect plans? Just joking PETA!

But I did actually think of Michael Vick, and I did think maybe my dog getting sick was an omen that the only man in the NFL who is so closely linked to dogs would have a bad day at the office. Did that stop me from making “Philly -10” my lock of the week? Of course not. Will I ever get sucked into Philly being a good team again? Of course I will.

So besides a very strange Molly-to-Michael Vick correlation, what else went on around the NFL in week 1? (This is the point where anyone who only tuned in for the promise of a dog story can feel free to tune out, though I can commit that the rest of this will continue to be entertaining)

-Maybe one of my readers can advise me on which pregame show to watch every Sunday morning. There’s no fewer than five of them, and I must have chosen the worst with the NFL Network because the first thing I saw on that channel was a 10-minute segment on Tim Tebow’s rise to fame, highlighted by interviews with Mary Lou Retton, Vanilla Ice, Sully Sullenberger and William Hung. There are more than 700 players who are considered starters in the NFL, either on offense or defense. And Tim Tebow isn’t one of them. But we’re running a lengthy special on his fame? Not even on his football talent? And why are we interviewing four D-list celebrities who have nothing to do with football? Because they can help us understand what it’s like to be famous while lacking any true reason to be that famous? I’m going back to my old routine of watching Patriots Championship DVDs during the hour leading up to Sunday’s first games.

-On Twitter Sunday morning, I wrote that Philly and Atlanta were my “big bets” for the week. What I should have wrote, unfortunately, was that Philly was my big bet and Atlanta was half the size of my big bet. I might be done betting on games that involve NFC East teams for the rest of my life.

-My eyes tell me that the Patriots are going to have a top-five run defense this season. Sadly the last time a good run defense was necessary for winning a Super Bowl was before my balls dropped. Don’t fool yourselves, Patriots fans. If they can’t consistently shut down an opponent’s passing game, they’ll be just as sketchy of a unit as last year’s team.

-Jeff Kent is on the new Survivor? I GUARANTEE he makes at least one blatantly racist comment as long as there’s a black person on the show. Who wants to take that bet against me?

-I counted at least four outrageous missed calls or wrong calls by the school teachers referees in the Titans/Patriots game. And I’m willing to admit two of them were of the noncall variety that should have been pass interferences on the Patriots in the end zone. More on the refs in a minute.

-Comedic timing is my favorite kind of timing, and  it was on full display in the 3rd quarter of the Dolpins/Texans game. A split second after the color commentator finished saying, “Only one of the three interceptions that Ryan Tannehill has thrown today was his fault so he’s gotta be feeling pretty good about himself,” three defensive linemen from Houston absolutely pancaked Tannehill for a five-yard sack. It was just a nice comedic moment.

-Speaking of comedic moments, Julie’s first (and best) comment of the day was, “Wow, this announcer’s all hard for Matt Hasselbeck, huh?” And she was right, Phil Simms was unnecessarily hard for him.

-We had only two mid-game QB changes this week. Sadly both were because of injuries—Hasselbeck replacing Jake Locker and Kevin Kolb for John Skelton. If you’re interested in making a bet on who will be the first QB replaced because of ineffectiveness, forget about it. Vegas pulled the lines down because Brandon Weeden and his 5.1 QB rating is the guarantee of the century. The guy just completed 12 of his 35 attempts in a home game, so if Browns coach Pat Shurmur doesn’t put him on a short leash, we should be suspicious of Shurmur possibly fixing games because of bets he made against his own team.

-Speaking of interceptions (we weren’t, but Weeden threw four of them on Sunday), there were 35 of them thrown in week 1 by NFL quarterbacks. Last year there were about 30 INTs per week so even though it seemed like there were a ridiculous amount of them yesterday, it was really just that atrocious Browns/Eagles game (8 interceptions combined) that skewed our perception. I promise there are still some decent QBs out there.

-Back to the refs. I didn’t see all of the Packers/9ers game, but based on the comments from the announcers and the body language of the two head coaches I saw every time the RedZone Channel checked in, I’d have to say it was the worst-officiated game of the weekend.

-Only minutes after making the above note about the refs, there was the whole “does Seattle have a timeout left or not” debacle in the Cardinals/Seahawks game with 30 seconds left. I feel confident that the real refs will be back by week three at the latest. This is a train wreck waiting to happen, or a train wreck already happening depending on your point of view.

-I know it’s too early to make judgments beyond week 1, but isn’t there a chance the Packers were that team in the offseason that thought to themselves, “Hey, we won 15 games last year, had one bad game in the playoffs, and everyone’s picking us to be the best team in the NFL again. We’re good here”? Or are the 49ers just that good?

-Detroit fans might be excited about their last-minute comeback against St. Louis—especially after their team had six second-half comebacks in 2011—but the truth is that you can’t be getting into comeback situations against the less-talented teams of the NFL and expect to contend for the Super Bowl.

-What are you laughing at, Eagles fans? As a football fan, if I had to choose whether my team does what Philly did in week 1—pull off a late comeback against a hopeless Browns team—or what Green Bay did in week 1—lose a relatively close game at home to a solid team—I’d choose the Packers’ result every time. It’s weird, but one team can look better in a loss than another looks in a win.

-Julie has always been a fine person to watch sports with. For the most part, she gets it. But I’m gonna have to train her that when the RedZone Channel goes to split screen late in the 4th quarter of a couple games, it’s the wrong time to ask my opinion about which color I think she should order for a new Papasan Chair.

-Admittedly I don’t watch a lot of pregame shows or the opening of a football broadcast. So I probably miss a lot of what announcers say. So I need to ask others to help me out with this question: Has John Gruden been calling Terrell Suggs “T-Sizzle” for a while? Or did this just start? I didn’t even realize that was one of Suggs’ nicknames.

-And before I could even make the above note in my diary, Gruden unleashed a “He’s the King of Sting” when talking about Ed Reed. Guy’s on a nickname roll on Monday Night Football.

-In the final Monday night game, Antonio Gates left the game with a rib injury early in the 3rd quarter. Believe it or not, Vegas had the over/under on Gates’ first injury at five minutes left in the 2nd quarter of his first game, so somehow the over wins this bet.

-I went 10-6 in my week 1 picks (see the post HERE). As a side note, I’m in two Pick ‘Em leagues where I went 11-5 in one of them and 12-4 in the other (I luckily changed the Jets/Bills pick in both leagues at the last minute). I won the week in both. And yet somehow, I lost a significant amount of money on my sketchy gambling website. It’s because I get sucked into ridiculous teasers and parlays. Next week I’m going to bet all 16 games individually and assume that I can win 11 or 12 of them. No more teasers or parlays for this guy.

-My dog is 1-0 in her picks for the season. How many games has your dog gotten right, huh?

In On Meaningless Preseason Football, Out on the Red Sox…Was I the Last One Still In On Them?

For you Red Sox fans out there, when was your “I’m out on this team” moment? Mine was this past Saturday. It was about two in the afternoon when I was casually flipping through channels and paused on their game against the Yankees. Julie saw the game on and asked why I hadn’t been watching it from the start. Uhh, isn’t it obvious, Julie? Because I’m busy watching a Jaguars vs Saints preseason football game, durr.

So on a day when the Sox were putting up a convincing win against the Yankees of all teams, I was not only choosing to watch a meaningless football game between two teams I don’t care about, but I was finally ready to proclaim the baseball season over. I have a feeling many of you were probably out on them long before I was. And if that’s true, good for you. If you were lucky enough to somehow ditch the Red Sox way back in April or May, congratulations, you wasted a lot less time this summer than I did.

Now before you all start screaming at me for being a fairweather fan, you should realize I’ve hung around for plenty of playoff-less Red Sox seasons. But isn’t it OK to give up early on a Red Sox team that is easily the least likable of my lifetime? I can deal with watching meaningless games in September, but I can’t deal with watching meaningless games in September while the actual baseball takes a backseat to ridiculous drama between the players, manager, ownership and local media. If I want a dose of daily drama, I’ll start DVR’ing Days of Our Lives again.

And for the few people reading this who are excited for that moment in six weeks when the Sox miraculously clinch a playoff spot just so you can rub it in my face, here’s a dose of reality:

The Sox would probably have to go 33-8 over their final 41 games (would get them to 92 wins) just to have a shot at a wild card spot. Does it seem like they have that type of run in them? What if I told you 29 of those 41 games are against playoff-caliber teams? Would that help you detach yourself from this team and move on with life?

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I have another dilemma. Just like I wrote about back on April 12th (“Should I Pay to See the Red Sox or Not?”), I now have the option to go see the Sox play in Anaheim in 10 days, but I’m on the fence. Do I go because it’s the Sox and it’s a stadium I’ve never been to? Or do I skip it because it means paying for a ticket, enduring 90 miles of driving (half of which would be during rush hour trying to leave LA), and trying to root for a team that doesn’t seem to give a shit about winning?

I think a quick look at the NFL preseason schedule just made my decision easy…the Patriots play the Giants on the same night as the Red Sox game. Yes, it’s a preseason game, and yes, the NFL Network is bound to show 355 replays of the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants from six months ago, but that still might be less painful than watching the most pathetic team in baseball.

Laying Out the Blog’s Grand Football Season Plans (And 10 Reasons the Patriots are Guaranteed a Spot in the Super Bowl)

Every August the same thing goes through my head as I get ready for the NFL season to begin: What else can I sign up for to further commit myself—financially and emotionally—to obsessing over football? It was only six or seven years ago that fantasy football was the only game/pool/gambling I was involved in when it came to following football. Then I added a “survivor” pool; then I did weekly picks against one person for $20 a week (somehow he won a car  off me in November 2005 just for winning a single week); then I joined a weekly pick ’em league with about 20 other guys; then I setup an account with an online gambling website to bet on individual games. And because that wasn’t enough, last year I tried to convince four other guys to buy into a $1,500 season-long pick ’em league through the Las Vegas Hilton with me (a pool that includes Las Vegas’s most notorious sports gambling professionals…a good idea for us to join obviously…fortunately my friends didn’t go for it). Two days ago I sent an email out to a couple friends asking if there were any pools or games they knew of that I could get in on.

What is it about football that gets me worked into such an irrational frenzy? I’m actually not going to bother trying to answer that question in this post. Is there even a simple answer as to why football is the greatest form of entertainment that exists in the world? We all have our reasons…and if you’re reading this, shaking your head and saying, “Football? The greatest? I don’t even understand the rules…why do they get four tries every time they get the ball?”…then there’s probably going to be a lot of blog posts over the next six months that just aren’t for you.

But for those of you who are as obsessed with the NFL as me, get ready for lots of WBFF football content over the coming months. Starting next week, I’ll be playing a game with everyone’s favorite guest blogger, Nkilla, where we argue about the total number of wins each NFL team is going to get this year. We’ll split it up into an NFC post and an AFC post, and then right before the regular season opener we’ll go through our projected playoff teams, Super Bowl winner and individual regular season awards winners.

You might wonder why the WBFF blog is trying to tackle (first football-related pun of the year!!) a topic that is exhaustively covered already by actual sports writers. That’s easy: because I’m funnier than them, I’m more knowledgeable about the NFL than them, and I’m more unemployed than them (meaning I’ll gladly waste an entire day scanning through the TV broadcasts of 16 different football games trying to count how many times all the commentators said the word “penetration” that particular week. Those are the type of stats you can expect from me that no one else will be discussing).

On a weekly basis during the NFL season, you can expect me to make predictions for each upcoming game, criticize any broadcaster, analyst or pre-game show host who dares make a mistake, give plenty of fantasy analysis (trying my hardest never to tell you stories about how badly my team got screwed since everyone hates other peoples’ fantasy football stories), and anything else that seems entertaining.

My calendar is clear for every game of the season (my calendar is actually clear from now to eternity as it turns out), and I’ve already bought my girlfriend a dog way sooner than she was expecting to get one so that she’ll have something to occupy her time for 12 hours each Sunday (and for three hours every Monday and Thursday).

In case you’re not convinced yet, just know that nobody on this planet is more committed than me to dissecting the 2012 NFL season.

Having said all that, let’s quickly get some thoughts on the Patriots out of the way now. I promise to give equal amounts of blog space to the other 31 teams over the course of the season (unless the Pats’ offense starts putting up record-breaking 2007-like numbers on offense, then I’m scrapping all other ideas to focus solely on how great they are).

I realize I’m not exactly going out on a limb saying that the Patriots are an absolute lock for getting to the Super Bowl. After all, they’re the odds-on favorite to win the AFC, and they’re tied with Green Bay as the favorite to win it all (according to Bovada’s sports betting website). But something funny happened in April that made me think sports fans outside of New England aren’t respecting this team as much as they should. Even though the Patriots had just come off consecutive years of winning 13 or more games in the regular season (and getting all the way to the Super Bowl in the most recent playoffs), a friend of mine from New York tried to discredit the entire 2011 Patriots season by simply saying, “they didn’t beat a team with a winning record until the AFC Championship Game.” I thought at first this was an isolated incident and chalked it up to jealousy…this guy is a fan of a San Francisco 49ers franchise that hadn’t been relevant in about 14 years prior to their overachieving 2011 season. But as that night wore on, more people started to agree with him that the Patriots weren’t very good in 2011; they were just lucky that they never had to play a decent team.

Whatever. Patriots fans have been dealing with jealous dumbass detractors for 11 years now. But in case you really believe the Patriots were overrated last year and won’t do shit this year, here are the top 10 reasons (out of something like 75 total reasons) the Patriots are a lock for a spot in Super Bowl XLVII:

10). Bill Belichick seems to finally have realized what we all realized three years ago: that Tom Brady isn’t gonna be around forever so stop constantly trading away draft picks for additional future draft picks and just load up on the immediate talent. Instead of trading first round picks for a boatload of future first, second and third round picks, Belichick actually traded up into a better first round position twice this year to get his guys: Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower (both play defense, where clearly the team needs the most help). He knows now is the time for another “three Super Bowls in four years” run.

9). We’ve never gotten to see Tom Brady play in a regular season immediately following a Super Bowl loss. How pissed off is he? How motivated is he? He’s now lost in the Super Bowl twice to Peyton’s dorky little brother. I can’t help but think he’s gonna be on a mission this year (I know, I know, when is he not on a mission?).

8). Another Brady motivator: He won his third Super Bowl in 2005, and only now does he finally have a couple guys nipping at his heels for most Championships among active Quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger). A fourth Super Bowl victory for Brady would pretty much assure that no current QB ever passes him (and would solidify his spot atop the all-time QB list).

7). As if the Patriots offense, which finished 2011 as the second-ranked passing offense and third-ranked overall offense in the league, needed any more help…they added a legit deep threat in Brandon Lloyd and get an even-more-experienced Tight End tandem that’s unmatched in football. Oh, and Wes Welker is playing for a contract (aka pissed off at the Patriots for not giving him a long term deal), which should mean about 150 catches over the course of 16 games. Is 40 points per game realistic for this team?

6). Have you seen the rest of the AFC this year? The weakest its been in a very long time. Outside of New England, the next best contenders are the Ravens, Texans, Broncos and Steelers, probably in that order. You could make the argument that the Ravens and Steelers are both due for a letdown because of their aging defenses and a brutal AFC North division where they’ll beat up on each other and have to deal with frisky Cincinnati and Cleveland teams. The Texans have Matt Schaub at QB, who’s never won anything significant, and their second-best offensive player, Andre Johnson, is one of the least durable Wide Receivers in the league. And finally, Denver has Peyton Manning, coming off three neck surgeries and no competitive football for about 20 months.

5). Because it’s been 15 months since a Boston team won a professional Championship…way too long in my opinion. And let’s go ahead and assume the Red Sox aren’t pulling off the most miraculous resurrection in sports history this year. We’re dying for that next title.

4). A young, healthy defense means the Patriots could be ranked in the top 10 defensively for the first time since 2008 (compared to 2011 where they were ranked 31st and 2010 where they came in at 25th). We all know about the rookies expected to make an immediate contribution, but the Patriots will also get a healthy Brandon Spikes, Ras I-Dowling, Jerod Mayo and Patrick Chung. Those four, all projected starters last year, missed a combined 32 games. If we never see Julian Edelman lining up on defense this year, it means the Patriots will definitely be a top 15 defense, if not a top 10.

3). Did I already mention the other top contenders in the AFC?

2). Their schedule. If people bitched about the Pats not beating any good teams last year, wait until they see the schedule for 2012. They have the easiest strength of schedule in the entire league, playing only four teams that had a winning record last season. They get six games against the AFC East: they won’t lose to a terrible Dolphins team, they’re gonna be pissed off that Buffalo beat them once last year so they’re not losing to the Bills, and the Jets are gonna be so busy dealing with the Sanchez/Tebow platooning at QB I doubt they even get to seven wins this year. The NFC division the Patriots get to play is the West…the 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams. The one “decent” team from that division, San Francisco, plays in Foxboro, where the Patriots don’t lose games.

1). Do you realize that the Belichick-era Patriots are two plays short of having a Quarterback with five Super Bowl wins and a head coach with 7 Super Bowl wins? I realize plenty of teams could say they were “one play away” from some significant achievement, but if the Patriots just make an average defensive play towards the end of each of their last two Championship appearances, there’s no argument that Belichick and Brady are the greatest ever at each of their positions. No other team in the NFL can compete with that resume.