Week 4 NFL Picks: Even More Backup Quarterbacks!

Oct 13, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) looks on from the bench as he wears pink in honor of breast cancer awareness during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to week 4! This weekend we get the return of two annual NFL traditions:

  1. Pink gear will be on many athletes and coaches throughout the league for the entirety of October. The pink is for Breast Cancer Awareness, and as the NFL has proven time and again, they really care about women.
  2. A short cameo for Michael Vick as a starting QB. In 2011 Vick started 13 games. In 2012 he started 10 games. In 2013 it dropped to six starts, and last year it was a mere three. If you set the over/under for Vick starts in 2015 at 2.5, I’m definitely taking the under. Fun times for the state of quarterbacking!

I’m glad I started pretty hot out of the gate this season because I’m currently out of town for a friend’s wedding and all my usual routines are completely thrown off. The routines I’m talking about basically revolve around consuming as much football content over the course of the week as possible.

So as I write this late at night on Wednesday, I’ve kind of heard that Andrew Luck is day-to-day with a shoulder injury; someone mentioned something about the Washington-Philadelphia game being in jeopardy because of a hurricane; I think New Orleans is still pretending that Drew Brees might start even though we all know that’s 100% not happening; and Colin Kaepernick just threw another interception.

I’m out of my element this week and I can’t promise the quality of the week 4 picks. But I’m 27-20-1 against the spread to this point, so one down week won’t kill me. Don’t get me wrong. I still have faith in myself. I always do. It’s just a notch below my normal level of (over)confidence.

Let’s dive right in.

Baltimore (-3) at Pittsburgh

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 6, Baltimore 3

Even with the obvious downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger to Vick, I’m surprised Baltimore’s giving a full field goal on the road, as an 0-3 team. In fact, I thought there was a chance the Steelers would still be favored in this game because, again, the Ravens have looked like dogshit through three weeks. But I’m sure this Thursday nighter will be a spectacular display of why the Bengals have already locked up the division.

Side Note: Why is everyone wasting their time trying to figure out if Vick can be serviceable for the next four to six weeks? The real question is: Should the Steelers feel comfortable with Landry Jones starting a few games? Or should they be looking into a free agent / backup who can be had for cheap? Because anyone with half a brain knows Vick won’t last past one or two starts. Charlie Batch is a free agent, just saying.

NY Jets (-2) against Miami (In London)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 18, Miami 5

Two thumbs up for the 6:30am Pacific Time game back in our lives (the first of three London-based games this year that’ll kick off early in the morning). Seventy-five thumbs down for London once again getting a shitty-looking game featuring a team that may have already quit on its coach.

Look what the stress of playing for a hopeless team with a shitty head coach has done to Ndamukong Suh: 

warren-buffett-dolphins-jersey

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-9)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Indianapolis 33, Jacksonville 27

Now Andrew Luck is dealing with an injury? The plot thickens…

If the Colts had a halfway decent defense, you could count on them starting to blow out teams like the Jaguars as the Indy offense finds its footing. But this defense is crap, and it just gave up 74 plays and 433 yards of offense to the Titans. I’m pretty confident the Colts aren’t going to be great at putting teams away even if they start winning against the lesser competition.

Question for future former head coach Chuck Pagano: If you win this weekend in dramatic fashion, at home with Luck ailing, how will you possibly top that totally appropriate reaction to last week’s win?

NY Giants at Buffalo (-5.5)

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 27, NY Giants 17

The injuries are starting to pile up for Buffalo (including LeSean McCoy “unlikely” to play). The Giants are on 10 days rest, have held leads in the fourth quarter of each of their games, and Victor Cruz is returning to reinforce the receiving corps. (Whoops. Wrote that last part earlier this week and it turns out Cruz already hurt himself again and won’t be playing this weekend. Fun times for the Giants.)

Counterpoints: The Bills just throttled a team on the road. They’ve demolished two teams in three weeks. The only other game they played was against a team that obviously cheated to beat Rex Ryan’s squad. So the Bills are still undefeated in the eyes of Mark Brunell, Marshall Faulk, Bill Polian, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Carolina Panthers, the entire Colts organization and many more.

It’s not just the Giants’ offense contending with the Buffalo defense. New York’s defense also has to show up because Tyrod Taylor has the 8th best QBR of all quarterbacks.

Carolina (-3) at Tampa Bay

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 10

Here’s where I went wrong in picking the Bucs to cover +6.5 in Houston last week: I didn’t realize the Saints might be the worst team in the league, meaning the Bucs could potentially be the second worst team and still would have beaten New Orleans in week 2. Carolina being undefeated isn’t a total fluke. It’s just an ugly type of winning that leaves very little room for error. And I’m not even slightly worried about a letdown game because the Panthers are getting a bye in week 5. Looming after the bye is a game in Seattle, but Carolina isn’t thinking about a game that’s 14 days away.

This might be my favorite pick of the week.

Philadelphia (-3) at Washington

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 24, Philadelphia 22

The jury’s still out on Washington. No, one of the jury’s choices is not “they’re a playoff contender.” But are they a frisky team at home because they hung with the Dolphins and easily handled the Rams? Or are they a terrible team because we expected it before the season began and maybe the Dolphins are horrible and that wasn’t a difficult opponent to hang with?

For now I’m going to lean towards the Skins being a frisky team at home.

On the other side, we know Sam Bradford’s garbage.

Oakland (-3) at Chicago

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 23, Oakland 16

Sure, I’d love to see the Bears to go 0-16 this year. After all, I placed a bet in August on at least one team going winless all season. And they seem like the most likely candidate right now. But it’s so difficult to lose every game in the NFL. This might be their only chance for a win until they host Washington in week 14.

Here’s a huge red flag for this game: According to my Pick ‘Em league on CBSsports.com, 75% of all people on their site are picking the Raiders to cover this spread. The Raiders. On the road. Back-to-back road wins? There’s no way this game’s turning out the way it should.

Houston at Atlanta (-6.5)

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 26, Atlanta 23

Welp, I spent about 15 times longer thinking through this pick than any other pick this week. But at the same time, I’m toying with the idea of using Atlanta for my Survivor/Eliminator pick. I’m having this love affair with the Falcons where I’m all in on the relationship but I have zero confidence in the Falcons’ feelings towards me, and I’m always looking over my shoulder expecting them to be cheating on me.

The Falcons are the polar opposite of the Giants.Whereas the Giants have held leads in the 4th quarter of every game (and blown two of those games), Atlanta has been trailing in the 4th quarter of their three games, only to come back and win all of them. The reason I’m taking Houston is because the Falcons have to be due for a letdown. They just have to. And if not now, when?

Look at the very comfortable road immediately in front of Atlanta after this game: vs Washington, @New Orleans, @Tennessee, vs Tampa, @San Francisco, bye.

Kansas City at Cincinnati (-4)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 31, Kansas City 21

Is it Andy Dalton in a Primetime game? No?

Is it one of the three or four best teams in the league heading into Cincy? No?

Got it. Bengals win. The media’s “Circle Jerk sponsored by Andy Dalton” keeps going for another week.

Cleveland at San Diego (-7.5)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 28, Cleveland 20

The worst case scenario if I pick the Chargers is they’re only winning by three late in the game and they just can’t seem to get that final touchdown to cover the spread. But I know it’ll be in play until the end.

The worst case if I pick the Browns is they’re losing by 27 after one quarter and both of their quarterbacks have thrown multiple pick sixes.

Josh McCown got dinged up again last week. There’s a decent chance Johnny Manziel plays parts of many games in 2015. I don’t know if this is a good thing or bad thing for the Browns. It’s just a typical Cleveland thing.

(By the way, how little confidence must I have in San Diego if I can’t even consider them for my Survivor/Eliminator pick this week?)

Green Bay (-9) at San Francisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Green Bay 28, San Francisco 24

Oh good. If I turn on the NFL Network or ESPN at all this week, I’m likely to see an old video of Aaron Rodgers saying on Draft Day 2005 that the 49ers are going to regret not drafting him. But I hope I’m wrong, because we’ve been down this road before. That video was all the rage in January 2013 when the Packers were preparing for a postseason game at San Francisco. They promptly got killed in that game and we should have buried the “Aaron Rodgers has an extra edge against San Francisco” narrative.

Regarding this game, I’m sure 95% of the public will be backing the Packers. But they’re definitely more beatable on the road. Last year they went 4-4 on the road, and they won two of those games by only three points. So they’re less juggernaut-y away from Lambeau. That fact combined with the overwhelming amount of money that’ll come in on Green Bay has me leaning towards the 49ers in this one. Plus, doesn’t Colin Kaepernick own the Packers?

St. Louis at Arizona (-7)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: Arizona 24, St. Louis 21

That Arizona-San Francisco game last week was unwatchable to many people, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Just an absolute undressing of the 49ers in every conceivable way. But if I can put my game film analyst hat on for just a sec…I’d tell you that it feels like Carson Palmer holds on to the ball for a looooooooooooong time more often than not. And the Arizona offense seems designed to have success only when he gets all that time. I have a feeling that the league’s handful of awesome pass rushing teams are the ones that will have success against the Cardinals.

St. Louis is in that handful. Can’t wait to see just how wrong I am about this.

Minnesota at Denver (-7)

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 33, Minnesota 10

I’m not at all nervous that my preseason proclamation that the Vikings aren’t getting to eight wins is going to look bad by the end of the year. The Broncos are going to completely shut down this offense (an offense that is a lot worse than you think it is, by the way).

The Denver run defense has played two great games and one terrible game. That terrible one came in Kansas City to Jamaal Charles. I’m guessing Adrian Peterson, good as he is, won’t go crazy in Denver.

Dallas at New Orleans (-4)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 30, New Orleans 20

Just a brilliant matchup for the NBC Primetime spotlight, isn’t it? Brandon Weeden goes to winless New Orleans to take on Luke McCown. And remember that Thursday’s nationally televised game features an 0-3 Ravens team missing Terrell Suggs traveling to the Steelers, newly led by Michael Vick. The NFL’s injury problem is ruining these big games. I wish I could say Monday Night Football this week is going to be more competitive, but…

Detroit at Seattle (-10)

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 28, Detroit 16

Yup, it’s likely another game that’ll be over by halftime. I don’t think the Lions punt 11 billion times like the Bears did in week 3, but it probably won’t be pretty for a Detroit team that couldn’t even put up two touchdowns at home in a must-win situation last Monday.

Here’s the weekly tally:

  • 7 Favorites, 8 Underdogs
  • 4 Road Dogs, 4 Home Dogs
  • 9 Home Teams, 5 Road Teams (Neutral-site game in London not counted)

Enjoy week 4!

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NFL Week 1 Recap: Firing On No Cylinders

kaepernick 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drive #1:

  • Alfred Morris FUMBLE, recovered by Philadelphia

Drive #2:

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

Drive #3:

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

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

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

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

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

The Patriots

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

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

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

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

Runner-Up: The Steelers

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

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

The “Self-Inflicted Safety” Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did enough considering the circumstances, right?

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

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

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

That was fun, yeah?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold: Auction Fantasy Leagues Are Far Superior To Those Sleep-Inducing Traditional Leagues

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With only seven weeks remaining until the 2013 NFL Season kicks off, you’ve probably noticed that your fantasy football commissioners have begun reactivating the leagues, sending out emails about rule changes, and trying to find a good time on the calendar for all the team owners to do the draft.

(It never quite works out perfectly though, right? Some idiot claims he can’t even find two hours over the entire month of August where he can sit down and draft. Or one of your friends who smoked too much pot in college forgets about the draft entirely even though you texted him seven times on the days leading up to the draft.)

Before you automatically accept all the invitations back to your leagues, do yourself one huge favor: Strongly urge your commissioner to turn his league into an auction format.

If you truly love fantasy football and want to have the best experience possible, you will do what it takes to graduate from the standard snake draft format to the addicting auction format. Blackmail the commissioner, organize a boycott of his league, hold him at gunpoint until he makes the change…WHATEVER IT TAKES.

You won’t be sorry.

[Side Note: Debating between a standard draft league and an auction league is like picking sides in a bacon versus pork belly argument. They’re both delicious and everyone’s a winner. It’s just a matter of personal preference.]

I broke free from the grip of the snake draft only two years ago, but already I could never imagine a time when I wasn’t all-in on the auction. The more I talk to people about fantasy football, the more I realize that auction drafting hasn’t caught on with the masses.

I look forward to this opportunity to try to sway some of you auction league holdouts because I know you’ll enjoy fantasy season that much more.

But first, it feels necessary to quickly set the stage for my arguments by giving some details on the rules.

[Side Note #2: While I’ll touch on some of the rules and strategies of an auction league in this post, I won’t cover everything. You can find a lot more details on the logistics of it HERE.]

In an auction draft, each team is operating with a set budget (call it $200 per team). This money can only be used during the draft period to bid on the players you want on your team. As you’d expect, you’ll be bidding in a live auction against other owners who may want that same player (the entire thing is automated via ESPN’s draft application). An owner will nominate an available player by bidding at least $1 on him, and then the rest of the owners can jump in and bid increasingly higher amounts on that player. If the cost of a player exceeds the amount you’re willing to pay for him, you simply stop clicking the “bid” button. A player is awarded to the owner with the highest bid once no other owner is willing to go at least $1 higher than that bid.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

This process goes on until all teams have filled all required roster spots. It doesn’t matter if you have extra money leftover. Once your roster is filled, you’re done with the draft. And whatever website you use for the draft will automatically make sure each team has enough money at all times to fill up their roster spots with at least $1 players. So a team can’t spend all $200 on five players and then have 11 empty roster spots that they get to fill via free agency.

Those are the only parameters enforced on you during an auction draft. The rest is your choice. Want to spend 95% of your budget on four studs and then fill in the bulk of your roster with $1 scraps? Go for it. Want to create a communist team where all 16 players cost you $12? You’re free to do as you please.

This leads to my first point…

1). A sense of control – In a traditional snake draft, you really have little control over what your team ultimately looks like. Yes, you can abandon the ESPN draft rankings and reach for a player you like who isn’t rated as highly as you think he should be, but for the most part it’s luck of the draw in terms of which “best players” are available once it’s your turn. On the contrary, you can walk into an auction draft saying “I’m getting these four players no matter what” (assuming you’re being reasonable and not targeting the four best running backs or something equally ridiculous). Nothing can stop you from getting your favorite players.

Now let me be clear: fantasy football is still a crapshoot regardless of your drafting format. But an auction draft gives you more control over that crapshoot. For instance, last year I spent $103—51.5% of my total budget—to acquire LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte. They combined for 304 fantasy points, or just four more points than Adrian Peterson had on his own (and Peterson only cost his owner $29). In that same draft, one of the owners grabbed Alfred “Who the fuck is Alfred Morris” Morris for $1 towards the end of the auction. While my $103 worth of “studs” was busy getting injured or being inept, this guy’s $1 no-name ended up as the fourth-ranked fantasy running back in 2012.

So yes, it’ll always be a crapshoot for the most part, but don’t you want to feel more responsible for your gems and busts?

2). Strategy, strategy and more strategy – Let’s face it, a standard draft has almost no strategy to it. You might want to pay attention if there’s suddenly a run on a specific position, but that’s pretty much where outsmarting your fellow owners begins and ends.

In an auction, when it’s your turn to nominate a player for the bidding, you may choose to select a guy who you do not want on your team under any circumstances. For instance let’s say you’re a Patriots fan and there’s a certain quarterback who’s burned your team in two recent Super Bowls. You may be thinking, “I’d rather have Aaron Hernandez pick me up in a rental car at 3 a.m. than end up with Eli Manning on my fantasy team.” In a snake draft, you stay far away from him. But in an auction draft, you nominate him right away for $1. Eventually the bidding ends and another owner shells out $12 for Manning. You just helped yourself out because that owner now has $12 less to bid on the guy you actually want, and he has one less roster spot available.

When you start researching auction strategies, you’ll see everyone recommending that you never spend more than $1 on a defense, a kicker or an individual defensive player. This is going to seem counterintuitive, but it’s not the worst idea to nominate the defense or kicker you actually want at the first chance you get. Why? Because either you get exactly who you wanted for the minimum bid, or someone goes over the top and bids $2 on that player. At which point you can laugh as your rival owner wins that player. I looked at one of my auction leagues from the 2012 season, and I found one owner who paid a combined $9 for his defense, kicker and three individual defensive players. He should have paid exactly $5 for those five positions. And trust me when I tell you that he could have used those wasted $4 towards the end of the draft when decent running backs and wide receivers were going off the board for only a couple bucks.

Bad strategy in an auction draft will come back to bite you in the ass, hard.

3). No reward for the guy who doesn’t check his roster – Seriously, how come the guy who doesn’t even check his team after the draft always gets the best player year after year? Oh, because he’s consistently the worst team. Right, got it. Why should that loser get first dibs on Adrian Peterson this year? With the auction he can still have him if he wants him, but now he’ll have to fend off nine other owners and be willing to pay a ransom.

Everyone should get a chance at every player. Outbidding your buddies with fake money to put together the best fake football team is your god-given right. Instead of treating the fantasy draft like an actual sports draft, we’re treating it like what would happen if tomorrow the NFL said, “You know what, this is boring. Every player in our league is now a free agent. Have at it, owners.” And that’s a lot more fun than just picking the player with the best value when it comes to your turn. BOOOOOORING.

4). No more waiting – Speaking of boring, how much does it suck when you have either the first pick or the last pick in your snake draft? You pick a player, and then you wait upwards of 30 minutes before it’s your turn again. I’ve actually fallen asleep during this downtime in the past (with the help of a sleep-deprived night before a morning draft).

With an auction, you can be in on every player. No more impromptu naps. And if you’re an adult with real world responsibilities who can’t justify sitting online for three hours drafting a fake football team, you’re free to spend all your money within the first 30 minutes and then leave the draft. It’s probably not a wise way to build a winning team, but you’re welcome to do it.

5). Auction chaos is the best kind of chaos – Have you ever been to a live auction in your life? It’s pure insanity. People start bidding absurd amounts just because someone else is doing the same thing. People go way over their preset budget for an item because they fall in love with the idea of having it. And people try to drive up the price for other bidders and end up stuck with something they never wanted in the first place.

This all happens in a fantasy football auction too. When people have money to spend and the pressure’s on, they just can’t help themselves. There’s absolutely no downside to this…unless you’re the guy who ends up with Drew Brees for $73.

That actually happened in my league last year. Someone bought Brees for more than 35% of his $200 budget. As a comparison, Tom Brady went for $53 and Aaron Rodgers for $61. So what happened with Brees? This owner apparently decided he was the last elite quarterback and he was getting him, balanced roster be damned.

6). Unintentional comedy is unmatched – By now you should be getting the sense that an auction draft is frantic. During a snake draft you have all that waiting time to plan your next move and some contingencies, but during the auction, things move at a ridiculous pace. Your best laid plans go out the window in a flash, and suddenly you’re sitting there with no backup plan. This is when hilarity ensues.

In my 2012 draft, Michael Vick got nominated and his price was hovering in the mid-teens with only a couple people in on the bidding. Keep in mind that most of the top QBs were still available. All of the sudden an owner jumps the highest bid by nearly $40 and “wins” Vick with a $55 price tag. Why did this owner go from $17 to $55? I have no idea, but it was the second funniest moment of the draft.

The funniest moment also comes with a word of caution to all owners because this will happen in every auction draft. You will be minding your own business, planning your next move, and then you’ll see that Adrian Peterson has just been thrown into the ring. You will say, “Obviously AP is gonna go for a lot, I’m gonna open the bidding in the thirties.” So you’ll up the current bid on Peterson to $35. And then you’ll get briefly confused when no other owner bids on him. And then the anger will set in. Because, buddy, you just paid $35 for the OTHER ADRIAN PETERSON…the free agent Adrian Peterson. Yes, that owner is a complete asshole, but you’re the one who just blew his load on a player who isn’t even signed to an NFL team.

This is a dangerous game we play. It’s fast-paced and unforgiving. Take a deep breath and make sure you’re looking at all the information. Otherwise you could end up with Michael Vick and the wrong Adrian Peterson for $90.

But I promise if you can avoid being that guy who accidentally spends all his money on two players who won’t combine to outscore Mark Sanchez in fantasy, then you’ll have the most enjoyable fantasy draft (and season) of your life.

Here are three more considerations to maximize the fun potential of your fantasy football season:

1). Bring on a co-owner – I’m not kidding. The league I’m in where I share a team with my brother is the one that’s most fun year after year. Why wouldn’t you want a partner to celebrate the victories with, lament the losses with, strategize about waiver wire moves and trades with. You know how everyone hates your fantasy football stories? If you didn’t know that, I hate to break it to you…nobody likes listening to other people’s fantasy stories, even if that other person is an owner in your league. But if you have a co-owner, you’ll actually be able to have lively conversations about your team and all the other teams. And of course, if you play fantasy football for money, it isn’t the worst thing to have somebody splitting all the costs with you.

2). Increase the winner’s pot with waiver wire money – In an auction league, the waiver wire process works differently than you’re used to. If you want to pick up a player, you’ll be submitting a blind bid in hopes that your bid is the highest. If you aren’t playing for real money, you’ll have a limited waiver wire budget so that each team has to be somewhat disciplined (i.e. so someone doesn’t bid $150 on Kirk Cousins after RGIII goes down in week 2). But if you’re playing in a money league, why not make the pot even that much sweeter by turning the waiver process into a real money situation. Sure, you can bid $25 to pick up Matt Barkley after Vick and Nick Foles get injured in the same game, but you’ll be putting $25 of your real money into a pool for the league’s eventual champion. Not only is this a decent way to police the waiver wire from ridiculous bids, but it also gets more money into the league. More money is almost always a good thing.

3). Make it a keeper league – There are a million different versions of keeper leagues out there. But here’s one way to do it in the auction format: Allow teams to keep up to three players from their previous year’s roster, but for each keeper they must pay the price they got that guy for the previous year plus 10 additional dollars. (Example: I drafted Andre Johnson for $32 in 2012. I’d say he was worth that money since he was the eighth best fantasy wide receiver. But if I want to keep him on my team for the 2013 season, I’ll have to pay $42 out of my $200 budget. Is he really worth more than 20% of the salary cap?)

Doing keepers this way means every couple years even the best players will be thrown back into the draft pool. No one’s going to keep Aaron Rodgers on their roster if it costs them $85.

I’m not saying this is the only way or the best way to do keepers in an auction league. I’m just saying it’s the way we do it, and it works.

Ultimately you may choose to ignore this article and stick with your old standby bacon, but I think you’ll regret not sampling the pork belly.

Week 11 NFL Picks: Should the NFL Step in and Force Tebow to Start, Jim Harbaugh’s Deadly Irregular Heartbeat and Much More

This intro is for all the fantasy football aficionados out there…

So I play in an auction keeper league where the dollars you spend on waiver wire pickups are real dollars. If you bid $6 to pick up Rashad Jennings and you get him, then you owe six real dollars into the prize pool for the end of season awards. At this point in the season, some teams are just out of the playoff picture. But in my league, a guy who has a 2-8 record just spent $14 combined to pick up Colin Kaepernick and Jason Campbell. Why would you spend a single dollar at this point of the season if you know you’re out of the playoffs? So now Kaepernick and Campbell are added to this manager’s murderers row of QBs on his roster, which includes Ryan Tannehill, Michael Vick and Matt Hasselbeck. That’s the fab five of fantasy QBs if you ask me. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since this is the same guy who regularly carries at least one backup Linebacker (we play with individual defensive players) and one backup Team Defense.

Oh, and my team lost to this guy’s team last week.

So the moral of the story is…I’m much better at analyzing and predicting what goes on in real football than I am in fantasy football.

But after back-to-back 7-7 weeks picking against the spread, I understand your hesitation if you don’t go “all in” on my picks this week. Give me some time and I know I can earn your trust back. Let’s proceed with the week 11 picks (home team underlined):

Buffalo(-3) over Miami: Well we’re back to that old familiar spot with the AFC East. It’s week 11 and we already know the Patriots are the only team in the division heading to the playoffs. Buffalo was a pre-season media darling, and Miami gave us a bit of a scare when they were 4-3 a couple weeks ago. But now we’re back in our AFC East comfort zone. This is one of those games where you pick the home team and don’t waste any more of your time thinking about it.

Green Bay (-3.5) over Detroit: ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! How is this line not at least three points higher? I don’t care that Clay Matthews is out for the Packers. The Lions basically got eliminated from the playoffs last week so I’m fully expecting a mail-it-in type of game from one of the least disciplined teams in the NFL. Plus, the Packers are coming off a bye, they’ve been hitting their stride lately and it’s a divisional opponent. I could see a situation where this game is actually close, but the safe play is taking Green Bay.

Atlanta(-10) over Arizona: It was a perfect storm loss for Atlanta last week. They were on the road in a loud dome (New Orleans) playing against a division rival who was pissed off for a number of reasons (the Saints’ soiled reputation for the bounty gate stuff, playing the “nobody believes in us card” as they teeter on the edge of being officially eliminated from playoff contention, wanting to hand their “little brother” Falcons their first loss of the season). And the Falcons made the deadly mistake of starting to talk out loud about the possibility of going undefeated. They were also facing a team in the Saints that actually has the firepower to keep up with the Falcon offense. But this Arizona team brings none of those things to the table. Atlanta rolls easily.

Carolina(+2) over Tampa Bay: I’ve gone the wrong way on almost every Carolina game this year (seriously, I’m 2-7 in picking games involving the Panthers), so that makes me wanna go against my instinct of taking the Bucs. Another reason to pick against Tampa: Doesn’t it make total sense that the four-loss NFC teams would lose so that we have to listen to “New Orleans and Dallas are alive in the playoff hunt” talk for the next couple weeks? Since Seattle and Minnesota (the other four-loss NFC teams who aren’t currently leading their division) are on byes this week, the responsibility falls on Tampa to get their fifth loss. I think they can do it.

Dallas(-8) over Cleveland: Did you know Dallas has already played six road games? Maybe this team will make a playoff run…Five more home games, only one game left against a team with a winning record (home vs Pittsburgh). They just need Tampa/Minnesota/Seattle to stumble a little bit. I’ll take the Cowboys to trick everyone into thinking they’re about to go on this run—starting with a big win over Cleveland.

Washington(-4) over Philadelphia: The Eagles just might be the worst team in football when all is said and done. They’re certainly the worst team against the spread so far this season (2-7 record). Washington’s coming off their bye week and RGIII says he feels refreshed. Who am I to doubt Black Jesus’s impact after a refreshing two-week break? Also, keep in mind that Nick Foles is starting for the Eagles—the same Nick Foles who apparently couldn’t even do enough in practice to convince Andy Reid to insert him over Michael Vick, a quarterback who would probably be voted Least Valuable Player if that award was real.

St. Louis (-3.5) over NY Jets: I can see the temptation to take the Jets. They’re terrible, but they’ll probably win another game at some point this season. Do yourself a favor and wait until they’re at home before trying to get cute by predicting a Jets win. The Rams are 3-1 at home this year with their only loss being a spirited attempt against Green Bay. I know the Rams aren’t as good as Seattle, but just like last week, I can’t see the Jets putting up many points in this one. By the way, how far below rock bottom does New York have to fall before Tebow gets to start? Seriously, this is getting annoying. What do the Jets have to lose at this point? And why doesn’t the NFL step in? Aren’t Jets games immediately 10 times more watchable not only for Jets fans but the entire country if Tebow gets the starting job? Sure his teammates are openly talking about how badly Tebow struggles with throwing mechanics in practice, but you gotta give the public what it wants!

Molly Pick:

I’m so glad there’s at least one game per week that I don’t give a shit about. It makes it so easy for me to turn the reigns over to Molly for one pick. For this week, I really couldn’t get a read on a mediocre Cincinnati team being favored by more than a field goal on the road against a historically bad Kansas City team. And I certainly didn’t wanna spend the brain power researching this game. In steps Molly and her 6-4 season record. Let’s see what she decided:

Jacksonville (+16) over Houston: Depending on who’s power rankings you’re looking at, this is a matchup of the best team in the NFL against the worst team in the NFL. So this line isn’t actually that crazy. After all, Jacksonville has lost games this year by 20, 17, 38, 9, 17 and 17 points (as well as by three twice in overtime games). But if you’re looking for something to justify your Jacksonville pick, which I was, then you should feel good knowing that they’ve “only” been outscored by 10 total points in their four road games. Compare that to the 109 points they’ve been outscored by in their five home games. So, yeah, watch out for a dangerous Jags team on the road!

Oakland(+6) over New Orleans: I’m 100% prepared for New Orleans to prove me wrong, but I just can’t back a 4-5 team that’s giving almost a touchdown on the road. To me it seems like this line was set in response to all the love the Saints are getting from the public and the media right now. Everyone wants them to make an improbable playoff run. Vegas is going to get a ton of New Orleans backers in a game like this, regardless of the spread. So why not jack it up a couple more points than what it realistically should be?

Denver(-8) over San Diego: If the Broncos can win road games at Cincinnati (by eight) and Carolina (by 22), then they can obviously win a home game against the Chargers by more than eight, right? No team is on a better roll than Denver right now (though the Colts may argue otherwise), and the Chargers’ season is pretty much over. Even if the Broncos are only a touchdown better than this Chargers team, don’t forget about the special teams mistake the Chargers are due to make. Just like I can see the Lions quitting the season because they’re eliminated from playoff contention, I can see the Chargers doing the same thing.

Indianapolis (+9) over New England: Go ahead and pick the Patriots if you want. Lord knows I’ll be rooting for you to be right. I’m just done getting burned by them. I have no faith that they’ll hold onto a double-digit lead against any team, especially not a team like the Colts who have a top-10 QB and a formidable passing game. I would love nothing more than to be wrong. As far as the status of Aaron Hernandez, I would play it ultra-conservative if I was the Patriots. Against a mediocre defense like the Colts, New England shouldn’t have trouble putting up their usual 28-35 points. Re-introduce Hernandez to the NFL on national TV against the Jets on Thanksgiving. That’s my take.

Pittsburgh(+3.5) over Baltimore: If you look at the line movement on this game HERE, you’ll notice it opened last Sunday with Pittsburgh being a four-point favorite. Now the Ravens are favored by more than a field goal. So Vegas is putting a seven-and-a-half point value on Ben Roethlisberger’s health. Just in case you were curious. But let’s not forget that the Ravens have their own list of health issues. And whatever you do, definitely don’t forget how bad Joe Flacco is on the road. I won’t go into all the nerdy stat splits between his home games and his road games, but you can look at them HERE if you want. I’m taking the Steelers for that reason. Baltimore isn’t good enough on the road even if they’re going up against Byron “I can’t believe my parents didn’t force me to be left-handed” Leftwich.

San Francisco(-5) over Chicago: It doesn’t seem fair for me to have to predict this game when we have no clue who the starting quarterbacks will be come Monday night. But I don’t pay myself the big bucks to cop out like that. I’m picking the 49ers mostly because I think Alex Smith will start and Jay Cutler will sit. But I’m also picking them because the Bears have struggled, and lost, against the only two good teams they’ve faced this year. The Chicago offense is already sketchy enough with a healthy Jay Cutler. Just like last week when I didn’t expect Houston to turn the ball over against the opportunistic Bears D, I don’t expect the 9ers to do that either. Feels like the Bears will struggle mightily in this one. But if Kaepernick starts and Jim Harbaugh’s irregular heartbeat turns into him dying over the weekend, I want my pick back.

Here are the stats for this week’s picks:

-Home Teams: 10

-Road Teams: 4

-Favorites: 9

-Underdogs: 5

-Home Underdogs: 3

-Road Underdogs: 2

-Road Favorites: 2

David Garrard’s Re-Birth, Campbell vs Kaepernick in Prime-Time, the Worst Pass in NFL History And the Rest of Week 10 in Review

[Editor’s Note: While my brother is off on a spiritual sojourn (that’s a synonym for visit) to Nepal, I decided my weekly NFL recap is the only legitimate way he can get caught up on everything football-related that he’ll miss. Realistically nothing is changing with the recaps except they will be in the format of me writing a letter to my brother. Enjoy.]

Dear Pueto,

While you’re away on your soul-searching, purpose-in-life-finding sabbatical in Nepal, I realize you’ll be missing out on two-and-a-half weeks of football. Wow. You must really have some finding-yourself to do.

And sure, when you get back, you could skim through all the game stories online to catch up on what you missed, but we both know you won’t do that. What if I told you that the Will-Blog-For-Food blog is your one-stop shop for catching up on the 31 games you’re missing? Pretty sweet, right?

Well let’s get started with the week 10 review:

-The most important thing you need to know, Pueto, about week 10 is that David Garrard’s agent put out a statement on Tuesday, November 13th, letting teams know Garrard has been cleared for football activities…and more than a couple teams probably made the phone call. That’s because in week 10 at least five starting quarterbacks left their games with injuries: Michael Vick (concussion that Andy Reid is calling “significant”), Alex Smith (concussion), Jay Cutler (concussion) Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) and Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder).

-Let’s not forget that Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are practically platooning for the Jets at this point so we’re talking about six teams out of the 28 that were playing in week 10 that had to shuffle through multiple QBs during their games.

-On a related note, ESPN executives are huddling up to figure out how to promote week 11’s Monday Night game without having to mention the likely-not-marketable QB matchup of Jason Campbell vs Colin Kaepernick. When you add in the likelihood that Byron Leftwich will be starting for the Steelers in the Sunday night prime-time game against Baltimore next week, you start to understand and appreciate the ridiculous rules that are in place to protect quarterbacks.

-Let’s move on from quarterbacking to coaching because I know you’re excited to see which head coach is the first fired this season, Pueto. Say what you want about all the mistakes and boneheaded decisions that Andy Reid, Norv Turner, Jason Garrett and countless others have made over the years, but at least none of them have ever purposely screwed their team just because they didn’t agree with a bad call. That’s what Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey did on Thursday night when he threw a legit tantrum (I’m talking throwing his clipboard and headset onto the field, chasing the refs and taking a giant dump on the 50-yard line) after a controversial touchdown call for Andrew Luck was upheld. Mularkey got called for an unsportsmanlike penalty. At least all those other coaches screw their teams inadvertently. If I was the Jaguars owner, I would immediately  fire someone who purposely screwed my team just because he decided to throw a hissy fit, especially when that person is supposed to be teaching the players how to play fundamental, mistake-free football.

-Sadly, Pueto, even after dysfunctional teams like Philadelphia and San Diego lost this week, we still haven’t seen the first coach of the year fired. My fear is that no owner will pull the trigger until the season ends.

-Speaking of San Diego, you’re going to want to check out what was possibly the worst pass attempt in NFL history. You can see it HERE. It was a bad pass because of the situation (the Chargers only needed a field goal to tie the game and it was the 4th quarter), and because it was the type of pass not even Brett Favre at his worst would have tried to complete. Congrats to Philip Rivers for causing me to write “a pass not even Brett Favre at his worst would have tried to complete.”

-You should probably know that in the Baltimore-Oakland game, the Ravens decided to run up the score on the Raiders for no apparent reason. You could tell they were purposely trying to embarrass Oakland when they decided to run a fake field goal on 4th & goal while already up 24 points. They scored on that play, and then got one more touchdown to win the game 55-20. Except it was strange, Pueto, because after the game John Harbaugh said that when he ran the fake field goal, there were still 20 minutes left and he wanted to make sure the Raiders wouldn’t have a chance to come back…and everyone pretty much accepted that explanation. No talk of running up the score or poor sportsmanship from all the analysts in the days following the game. So if you’re keeping score at home, it’s now been five years since the Patriots unfairly ran the score up on team after team, and apparently no other team has done it since.

-Now that we’re talking Patriots, Pueto, let’s get this bit of unpleasantness out of the way. Remember last week when I said I wasn’t panicking about them and would force myself to be happy as long as they make it to the playoffs? Well after another near-meltdown in the 4th quarter against Buffalo, I have to be realistic enough to admit that this team is the definition of sketchy. Until they go on a streak of super impressive performances (specifically the defense), it’s tough to have faith in them as a Super Bowl frontrunner. If I could amend my power rankings from last week, I’d certainly drop the Patriots below the Broncos and possibly below the Ravens and Steelers too.

-Ahh, Denver. I think I’ll stop picking against the Broncos on the road against clearly inferior teams. At this point I think they’ve answered my question as to whether or not they can play well on the road consistently.

-But enough about the Patriots and Broncos. We know they’re both going to the playoffs, and there are a lot of games to be played before we determine the seedings of those top AFC teams. But, Pueto, you’re probably curious about which teams in week 10 officially bowed out of playoff contention, and which teams strengthened their cases to be included in the playoffs.

-Miami, Detroit and San Diego all decided the playoffs are overrated so they dropped out. In fact, all three teams are so anti-playoffs that each lost its game by at least 10 points (or in the Dolphins’ case, at least 34 points).

-With both the Colts and Steelers winning in week 10, they now have a two-game lead on the next closest challengers for the two wildcard spots. So assuming both teams can just play .500 football the rest of the way, there will be no mystery or surprise when it comes to the six AFC playoff teams.

-Over in the NFC, none of the bubble teams other than Detroit decided they were ready to give up on the season just yet as Minnesota, Seattle and Tampa Bay all won their home games to keep pace with each other for the last wildcard spot. The real intrigue in the NFC is whether the Saints or Cowboys (both 4-5) can rise from the dead and become part of the playoff discussion. My guess is no.

-And finally, Pueto, I hope that you will continue to pray along with me and millions of other football fans for teams like Green Bay, Atlanta and New England to make deep playoff runs…because if we’re forced to watch a rematch of week 10’s Chicago vs Houston game on Super Bowl Sunday (or for that matter, any Super Bowl featuring the 49ers or Steelers), it might do irreparable damage to our love of the game.

-Oh, and since I know you look to me as a football gambling guru, Pueto, I thought I’d save the worst news for last: week 10 was another 7-7 record against the spread for me. That’s two weeks of averageness in a row to bring my season record to 81-60-5. Hopefully by the time you get back from your spiritual enlightenment, I’ll have this shit figured out. If not, I’m gonna need to borrow some money for Christmas presents.

-Shit, I almost forgot: Adrian Peterson asked me to send along the message to you and all football fans that Peyton Manning for Comeback Player of the Year is no longer a lock. As a matter of fact, this could be the first time in NFL history that the Comeback Award is a tougher choice to make than the MVP (though both Peterson and Manning may also be front and center for that award too).

Good luck with the rest of your trek, brother (assuming that you haven’t already been mauled to death by a pack of angry jaguars, of course).

Sincerely,

The Guy Who Will Probably Run Our Shared Fantasy Team into The Ground While You’re Gone

Week 6 NFL Picks: Michael Vick’s Final Game of 2012, the Kyle Williams Suicide Watch and Much More

Last week I made the same mistake that I’ve made so many times in my years of football gambling. I took 10 favorites out of 14 games. Even worse, seven of those 10 favorites were “big favorites,” which to me means six points or greater. How could a football guru like myself fall into that trap? Really? All seven overwhelming favorites are gonna do exactly what the majority of people thinks they’re gonna do? Not possible. It wouldn’t be an NFL Sunday if some wacky shit didn’t go down in multiple games. But with seven games in question, how the hell was I supposed to know which ones wouldn’t follow the plan? Green Bay being up 21-3 at halftime in Indianapolis and somehow blowing it? Baltimore, averaging 30 points per game prior to last Sunday, going to Kansas City and facing a Chiefs team that was allowing 34 points per game, and somehow the Ravens only squeeze out nine points? Ridiculous.

Lucky for you, I’ve re-calibrated. Unlike in past seasons, I’m not gonna let last week send me into a tailspin of bad picking. And compared to last week, this week’s lines are much closer—only three “big favorites” and six games that have a 3.5 point or smaller spread. Does that mean I’m automatically gonna make better picks? Well, you be the judge (home teams underlined):

Tennessee (+6.5) over Pittsburgh: Here are some stats for you regarding the Thursday night (and one Wednesday night) games through five weeks: My picks are 2-3 against the spread; Road teams are 3-2; Underdogs are 4-1. So does that mean we should blindly select the underdog for these Thursday games? Maybe. Maybe the short week is a bit of an equalizer where the favorites have less time to prepare as well as they usually do. I don’t know. I’m grasping at straws here. As painful as it is to pick what is likely a bottom-five team, I just don’t know about this Steelers team still. Troy Polamalu is out again. Larmarr Woodley’s the newest “Steeler who’s too injured to play.” A team that’s just barely starting to get healthy has to go on the road with a three-day turnaround? I don’t like it. My final hope is that maybe Tennessee plays some inspired football because they’re on national TV and this is their Super Bowl?

Tampa Bay (-4) over Kansas City: I just love spending 20 minutes of my day trying to decide on a game between two teams whose combined record is 2-7. Obviously this line reflects the fact that Brady Quinn is now starting for KC instead of Matt Cassel. It also reflects the fact that no one thinks much of Cassel since this line would have been the same with him starting. Hmm, Brady Quinn on the road. A couple of things about Quinn you may not have known: 1). His first name is Brayden. Why does he go by Brady and not Brayd? 2). This is his 6th season in the NFL and he’s played in exactly 13 football games. 3). The last time he played in a regular season game was December 20, 2009 (that’s nearly three years for you math-challenged people). 4). Over these six years in the NFL, he’s lost QB competitions to the likes of Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. A murderer’s row of future hall-of-famers clearly. Do you even need to know anything about the Tampa Bay Bucs to bet against the Chiefs this weekend? Fine. They have a run defense that could neutralize Jamaal Charles. Boom, done, take Tampa.

NY Jets (-3) over Indianapolis: It’s too convenient and predictable to expect the Jets to free fall from here. Sure, we’d all love to see them finish the season 2-14, and they certainly seem like they’re heading in that direction. But what’s more likely is that they’ll hover around .500, but never come close to looking like even an average team. They’ll win some games with defense and fluky plays, and that’ll keep them from getting a top five draft pick. Home against Indy (still a weak team no matter how badly you wanna believe in them after that inspired comeback last week), they can handle. Painful but the pick is New York.

Cleveland (+3) over Cincinnati: Ehh, whatever. I don’t have much of an opinion on this one so I’m taking Cleveland with the points. My hope is that Joe Haden’s return to the Cleveland secondary (primarily covering A.J. Green), and the Bengals’ loss of Bernard Scott gives the Browns the edge in this divisional “showdown.” Cincy’s unreliable at best. I wish this was a four-point spread, but I’ll still take the Cleve.

Detroit (+4) over Philadelphia: Welcome to Michael Vick’s final game of the 2012 season! No, not because he’s going to turn the ball over six times and get benched…although that’s a possibility. But because this is a matchup between the QB who gets hit most often without getting the benefit of the referees’ yellow flags and the biggest collection of dirty players on any defense. I’m predicting a season-ending injury to Vick administered by Ndamukong Suh or one of his fellow thug teammates, and, no, the refs won’t throw a flag on the play. But if the injury comes after Vick fumbles two more times, will anyone in Philly mind? Doubt it. Anyway, I’m picking Detroit for two reasons: Philly doesn’t play in games decided by more than two points, and Detroit’s had two weeks to prepare for this game.

Atlanta (-9) over Oakland: When the Falcons beat the Raiders on Sunday, they’ll head into their bye week with a spotless 6-0 record. They’ll feel awesome about that, as they should. You figure if they just go 6-4 the rest of the way, they’d still have a good shot at the #1 seed in the NFC. So you really gotta be a chronic rain-on-others’-parader to say negative things about this team right now. Turns out raining on parades is one of my favorite things…right up there with eating raw cookie dough and picking my nose. How easily could this Falcons team be 3-2 right now? Well, they narrowly escaped a loss at home to Carolina in week 4, and then they held off a RGIII-less Redskins team in the second half of week 5 to win by a touchdown. If Cam Newton doesn’t fumble in week 4 and RGIII doesn’t try to stay inbounds in week 5, I think we’re discussing all the problems that have come up for Atlanta during their two-game losing streak. Just saying. But Oakland’s terrible. Their biggest weakness is their pass defense, which plays right into Atlanta’s offensive strength. I don’t think this one is close, and I’m picking the Falcons in my suicide pool. But for future reference against good teams, it would be wise to consider Atlanta more of a one-loss or two-loss team than an undefeated team.

Even though Molly is totally fucking me with her weekly picks, I decided to give her another shot. I can’t continue to accept a below-average output from my dog picking NFL games. Sure, this is the first NFL season she’s been alive for, and I doubt she can even make sense of the images on a TV screen, but I expect her to be at least a couple games above .500 by the end of the season. But she’s gotta show me something this week. I gave her St. Louis (+3.5) at Miami for her pick. Let’s see what she came up with:

You heard the overeating puppy: St. Louis (+3.5) is the pick.

Baltimore (-4) over Dallas: You’re probably reading a lot about how this Dallas defense could potentially shut down the Ravens’ offense, especially with that poor excuse of an offense we saw out of Baltimore in Kansas City last weekend. Don’t buy it. Baltimore at home seems about as safe of a bet as we can have this year. Four points is nothing, especially when you consider how epically Tony Romo usually fails at the end of games. Can’t you see a three-point Baltimore lead turning into a 10-point win when Romo gets strip-sacked in the final minute and a Ravens player returns it for a touchdown? Or even if it’s a tie game at the end, Romo will be driving the Cowboys down field and DEFINITELY throw a Pick-6. Easy money.

Arizona (-5) over Buffalo: My disdain towards the people who overrated the Cardinals has been well-documnted on this blog, and perhaps no one was happier when they finally lost at St. Louis last Thursday than me. Now they’ve had 10 days to prepare for Buffalo. Everyone puts up points on Buffalo so there’s no reason to expect the Arizona offense to play like the Arizona offense in this one. The Cardinals can cover five at home easily, especially when you factor in the 4-7 Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions.

New England (-4) over Seattle: The Patriots aren’t winning a tight game in Seattle. You know why? Because the Patriots aren’t good at winning those close games anymore. If they don’t have at least a nine-point lead in the final five minutes, I think they lose. So don’t pick Seattle thinking they’re gonna lose a close one. They either win this outright or get smoked. My biggest concern for the Patriots? Their new super-fast hurry-up offense that operates with just a couple words barked out by Brady might not work so well in what’s usually considered the loudest outdoor stadium in football. If the Pats have to use a lot more huddling on offense, can they still produce the high scores we’re used to? We’ll see. Oh, and yeah I’m taking the Pats. Don’t think I’ve picked against them yet this year.

NY Giants (+6.5) over San Francisco: There’s only one set of data I need to look at for my research on this game: Is Kyle Williams still returning punts and kickoffs for the 49ers? Because if he is, there’s no way he doesn’t botch a huge special teams play to swing the game. And, yes, he is retuning kickoffs regularly…punts, not so much. Let’s just hope for the Williams family’s sake that “Kyle Williams Suicide Watch” isn’t trending on Twitter on Sunday night. In reality I’ve gotta pick the Giants just because a touchdown seems like a lot of points to be giving to one of the other good teams in the NFC. I’m starting to think the Falcons, 49ers and Giants are all pretty equal. Even if the Giants are a little worse than the other two, they’re not a touchdown worse. And even if New York’s down 10-14 points in the 4th quarter, you know Eli has some satanic magic in his back pocket. I hate picking the Giants, but it’s the right move. (Picking both New York teams might be the lowlight of the 2012 NFL season for me.)

Washington (-1.5) over Minnesota: The second-year phenom vs the rookie phenom. Wholesome midwest vs dirty east coast. Purple people eaters vs the Hogettes. 4-1 upstart vs 2-3 upstart. Chrispon vs RGIII. Where am I going with this? I have no idea. But I do know I’m taking the Redskins. The Vikings are a great surprise and all, but they gotta lose a winnable game sooner or later. What better timing than on the road against a frisky Washington team? I just wish I had assurances from the Washington fans that if the Nationals make the NLCS, which starts on Sunday, they’ll still show up to FedEx Field for this game.

Houston (-4) over Green Bay: Even when the Packers lose to Houston this week—falling to 2-4—they still have a great shot at getting to 10 wins. The only truly difficult games after Houston are at the Giants and at Chicago. They could win the other eight games. I love the idea of Green Bay falling right into that 9 or 10 win range because that’s borderline playoffs, meaning the replacement ref debacle will be unleashed on us again. Can’t wait. But back to this game…seems like Houston would be smart to just play a ball control game where they run it upwards of 45 times to keep the Packer offense off the field. I just can’t see how the Packers could slow down the Houston offense enough to pull off the mini upset.

Denver (+1.5) over San Diego: One of those games where I wish I would have bet on it earlier in the week, when Denver was getting three points. I like Denver in this one still as I see it being a one-point game regardless of who wins. I still think the AFC West is a crapshoot with Denver and San Diego pretty evenly matched, so it wouldn’t make sense for the Chargers to win on Monday and take a two-game lead in the division. It feels right that both teams are 3-3 coming out of this one. Go Peyton!

(That’s the first and last time you’ll see me write “Go Peyton” in a blog.)

Quarterbacks Behaving Badly, a Commercial Promoting Crack And the Rest of the NFL’s Week 5 in Review

“We’ll ground these guys up and turn ’em into itty bitty little eagle meatballs.” 

-A Pittsburgh Steelers positional coach, apparently using the same motivational speech with NFL players as he does with the pop warner team that he coaches (as heard on “Sunday Sountracks”)

-Remember when Michael Vick fumbled on the 1-yard line in the first quarter on Sunday and the Steelers recovered the ball in the end zone? You remember. Well I started to write a note about how badly Vick’s sabotaging a pretty good Eagles team. The next time I went back to that game, there was Vick fumbling the ball back to Pittsburgh once again. This Philly team is top 10 statistically in every major defensive category as well as rushing offense. But they’re 31st in points per game. If you’re the rest of this Eagles team, don’t you mutiny if Andy Reid continues to march Vick out there with the starters? He’s single-handedly keeping this team at a mediocre level. Don’t you try a guy who might hold onto the ball better than Vick and just hope that your defense and running can get the job done? It’s a schizophrenic NFC East this year where it doesn’t seem like any team is gonna be rattling off a bunch of consecutive wins. Any team can take the division, but you might not wanna continue with the guy who’s turned the ball over nine times in five games.

-Speaking of QBs in the NFC East, it was fun to visualize every Redskins fan’s reaction to seeing Kirk Cousins warming up on the sidelines after RGIII made one of the dumber plays of 2012. It was even more fun to visualize their emotional roller coaster after Cousins came in, connected on a super-long touchdown pass, then proceeded to throw two interceptions to ruin the game. Even if Andrew Luck and RGIII are equally talented, we just saw why Luck was the consensus #1 pick…he’s almost guaranteed to be healthier than Griffin over these next 10-15 years if Griffin continues plays the way most black running QBs do.

-And for fans watching the Red Zone Channel like myself, we got to see simultaneous shots of Cousins warming up for Washington and Brady Quinn warming up for Kansas City. It was edge-of-your-seat TV viewing to see which backup would ruin their team’s chances first. It was pretty much a tie.

-More QB stuff: During the 2008 season, my brothers and I nicknamed then-Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky “Self Safety.” This is because on multiple occasions the guy would drop back to pass in his own end zone, and then when trying to escape from pressure, he would accidentally run out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Self Safety’s team went 0-16 that year. I think it’s time we come up with a nickname for the QB of the 2012 team most likely to go 0-16, the Cleveland Browns (they’re the most likely because they’re the only winless team left). And I think we should base the nickname on an incredible play Brandon Weeden made in the fourth quarter against the Giants on Sunday. Did you see this one? If not, you gotta check out his new patented “double forward pass” move. (do yourself the favor and sit through the 15-second ad before the video plays)

I just don’t know what that nickname should be so feel free to come up with one and leave it in the comments section.

-As Andrew Siciliano was bringing me in and out of football highlights on the Red Zone Channel Sunday morning, I had a very random thought….how cool is Andrew Siciliano? And how great of a spot in football-watching history does he have? He’s the guy we associate with the “new” way of watching football…the Red Zone Channel, multiple games at once, only watching the most exciting parts of each game, never seeing a commercial or a punt. The guy’s a pioneer in how I’ll view football for the rest of my life. I have lots of thoughts about Andrew Siciliano. This was just one of them.

Anyway…

-The happiest guy in the football world on Monday morning must have been Romeo Crennel. Rather than have to answer questions about his team’s ineptness in every facet of the game, all the media wants to know is what Romeo thinks of Eric Winston’s verbal attack on the Kansas City fans. If it wasn’t for Winston, Crennel might actually have to answer questions like this: “Romeo, when the Chiefs fire you in early November, which side of the family are you going to spend Thanksgiving with?” Four more turnovers for the Chiefs’ offense, out possessing the Ravens by almost 10 minutes and doing nothing with that time, and having the best running back in football—who ran for 125 yards in the first half—only get a few carries for 15 yards in the second half…I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised about the six total points. But Crennel is probably smiling and whistling his way through the Arrowhead Stadium hallways right now. Maybe he’s even taking Winston out for a nice steak dinner to thank him for deflecting the spotlight.

-Speaking of coaches who should have a lot to answer for right now, I thought about going through all the one-win and no-win teams and giving each head coach a ranking on how hot their hot seat is after five weeks. That could be fun. Pat Shurmur from Cleveland would be on a seat that’s about 85 degrees, and Aaron Kromer from New Orleans would be on an ice-cold seat considering he’s the interim interim coach and is only around for another week anyway. Maybe I’ll save this game for another week. But I never would have thought of putting any two-win teams on my hot seat temperature scale. But according to THIS ARTICLE from a local Buffalo newspaper, not only should head coach Chan Gailey be fired, but the whole coaching staff should be publicly executed.

Well, Buffalo, that was a fun playoff run. You really had all the fans and us media types going for a minute. I guess it’s back to 3rd or 4th place in the AFC East for you, huh?

-Watching Monday Night Football, I initially got a little agitated at how fired up the entire Jets team got after scoring a touchdown. It felt like I was watching the Patriots clinch a Super Bowl berth or something. Then I remembered that a Jets offensive touchdown happens about as often as the Pats make it to the Super Bowl. Then I wasn’t mad anymore.

-Despite Jon Gruden repeatedly saying on the MNF broadcast how impressed he was with the Jets, they did only score one offensive touchdown. Mark Sanchez also threw two more interceptions (and almost fumbled the ball away twice), and the offense didn’t even crack 280 total yards. So, uhh, did the Jets trade a 4th and 6th-round pick to Denver for Tebow just to have him watch Sanchez lead the Jets to the bottom of every major offensive statistic?

-As a Patriots fan, I’m hoping that when the Jets lose at home to Indy next week, falling to 2-4, Rex Ryan will finally pull the trigger and make Tebow his starting QB. That will be perfectly timed with their visit to New England the following week.

-Has anyone seen the Pistachios commercial featuring a Village People-like group singing and dancing to Y-M-C-A, only those letters are replaced with CR-A-C-K? You haven’t? Check it out:

I couldn’t decide whether to make a joke about crack in reference to a butt crack and how the Village People liked men and they’re telling you to open up a crack, or if a reference to crack in the drug sense would have been better. You decide. Either way the commercial caught me off guard.

-My first non-winning week of the season picking against the spread. Thanks to the teams who I gave way too much credit to for not covering…Green Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Houston. And Molly is now 2-3 in her five picks. She may be cut off from this game real soon if she doesn’t get her shit figured out.

This week: 7-7

Season: 42-32-3

The NFL’s Dirtiest Team, I Think Some Bad Officiating Took Place…And the Rest of the NFL’s Week 3 in Review

Golly, that was an absurd weekend of football. Isn’t this why the NFL is the greatest sport on earth? Because on a weekend where you probably looked at the schedule, especially the early Sunday slate, and shrugged at the lack of exciting matchups, we got mayhem. Up until the games actually started, this looked like a good weekend to spend the morning away from the TV, if, god forbid, something more important was happening. But just when you think you’ve got football figured out, it delivers perhaps the greatest single day in its glorious history. Three overtime games, four other games that came down to a team’s last possession. Just amazing.

And unfotunately the replacement referree debacle made me wish none of that goodness happened. I don’t think the people running the NFL deserve to have football fans talking about how awesome the games are, distracting us from the real story, the awful officiating.

[Fact: I wrote the above two paragraphs before Monday night’s atrocity—aka the game that might have changed the way we view the the NFL forever. Wow. Now it’ll be easy not to think of the amazing early Sunday games when thinking of Week 3 2012.]

Actually, all my readers can thank the Green Bay/Seattle game for saving them from reading about 1,200 words on the officiating that screwed the Patriots over on Sunday night. Because while the eventual loser of the Pats/Ravens was going to have a case against the officials, that minor screw job pales in comparison to the Royal Screw J that happened in Seattle Monday night.

So that fake TD for Seattle allowed the Seahawks to cover the 3.5-point spread, meaning people like me who bet on Green Bay literally got money ripped out of their hands by incompetent referees. That seems fair. For the Packers, Seahawks and the rest of the NFC, this type of mistake affects the entire season and certainly the playoffs. Big deal. For me it affects my bets and my pick ’em leagues. Imagine if someone had picked the Packers in his suicide pool this week? Brutal.

Speaking of suicide pools, I know it’s lame to tell people how crazy your particular experience was with a pick you made and the result, but this one takes the cake: In my pool six people were left entering this week. Four different teams were picked among the six of us. One guy and I had San Francisco. That game ended first and we had lost, suicide over for us. Except then Tennessee led Detroit by 14 (the Lions were one of the other teams picked). And then even crazier was Kansas City making an epic comeback against New Orleans (the Saints were the third team picked), and we all know how those turned out in OT. But then the other five of us in the pool would have to withstand the final guy’s afternoon pick. He had Pittsburgh. And you may know that they lost too. Six players left and not one of us could pick a winner. Craziness any week, but especially week 3.

Let’s talk about the non-screw job topics from week 3:

-Did you notice Titus Young’s jersey says “Young Sr.” on the back. Does he have a son that plays in the NFL or something? Well, he’s 23 years old, so that would be strange. No, apparently it’s just Young doing typical “diva receiver” things according to this article.

-Spotted a female official in the Jacksonville/Indianapolis game. Couldn’t help but wonder if it would be comical or tragic if she had gotten assigned to one of the controversial games this week and had actually been the ref to make a bad call, or even worse, if she had to break up one of the many fights that seemed to happen in every game…What if she had been the ref that Belichick grabbed for an explanation on Sunday night? Would he have been arrested for assault? Maybe they should give her some vacation time until this whole situation calms down. Doesn’t seem safe out there.

-I’m enjoying the Tim Tebow era in New York because there’s only one thing better than watching a Jets QB fail…watching two Jets QBs fail. Fun little sequence watching Tebow take an unforgivable sack in the red zone followed by Sanchez missing his receiver in the end zone by 36 feet. Just a beautiful platoon situation going on in New York.

-After only three weeks and seeing only parts of their games, I’m ready to proclaim the St. Louis Rams as 2012’s dirtiest football team. I’m wondering if the Cortland Finnegan addition alone made them this dirty or if they were already on their way there. The media loves to praise Jeff Fisher as such a great coach whose team plays the game right, but I see dirty play after dirty play from them. I’m not complaining about it, just pointing it out.

-Tennessee’s allowed to be happy about its first win, but they’re also just one play away from being 0-3 including what would have been a loss at home when they were up by 14 to a team with Shaun Hill playing QB and their placekicker acting as their punter. They still might be the worst team in the league.

-I keep mentioning names like Gabbert and Sanchez when wondering who will be the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, but I might have to start including names like Michael Vick and Peyton Manning on that list. Vick might be the leading candidate at this point. In the Eagles’ next two games—home against the Giants and at Pittsburgh—if Vick turns the ball over 14 more times, will that be enough to bench him? Can’t wait to find out.

-Jim Nantz had the line of the day if you’re the type of person who roots for Houston to fail: “And TJ Yates is warming up on the sidelines.” A Matt Schaub injury seems to be the only thing that could derail Houston’s bid to grab a top-two seed in the AFC playoffs this year.

-Weird week…we didn’t have a “ridiculous thing Julie tries to discuss with me while the Patriots game is happening” this week. Instead we had a “Julie surprises me midway through the afternoon games with a snack called Pig’s Candy, which is fried bacon covered in brown sugar and cayenne pepper” situation. I wonder if she read my blog last week complaining about her constant distractions during the Pats?

-Did anyone else see John Madden at the Raiders game? Is it me or does he look like he’s the same size as Jabba the Hut at this point? Same shape and everything it seemed. Just saying he looked big, that’s all.

-Cute ref miscue on Sunday: they admittedly gave Jim Harbaugh two extra challenges (essentially giving him two extra timeouts) in the 2nd half of the 49ers/Vikings game. Outrageous for sure, but here’s what I don’t understand: If you’re the coach of the Vikings, you’d have to be a complete moron not to realize your counterpart is getting extra challenges, right? And if you did realize it during the game, wouldn’t you literally sit down on the 50-yard line in the center of the field in protest until the refs fixed their mistake? Apparently this whole series of miscues went off without a hitch.

-Two head coaching decisions that should literally cost two men their jobs: first Jim Schwartz has Detroit go for it on 4th-&-inches instead of kicking a chipshot field goal that would have extended their overtime game against Tennessee. They predictably didn’t convert and the game was over. Then in a tie game with three minutes left in the 4th quarter, on his own 28-yard line, Mike Tomlin has the Pittsburgh offense go for it on 4th-&-1. They actually got the conversion, but isn’t that an indefensible call if you don’t get it? I’m always confused when coaches don’t abide by standard logic.

-Green Bay set the new mark for worst pass defense in NFL history last season by allowing 299.8 passing yards per game. Through three weeks, four teams—Miami, Tennessee, Washington and Tampa Bay—are on pace to shatter that record. When making tough fantasy roster decisions, just look for matchups against these teams and enjoy the results.

-As you all know, there’s nothing I love more than calling out announcers and analysts who say ridiculously vague things about a player or team. It usually happens when an announcer’s trying to give a big compliment. Last night Jon Gruden on the ESPN broadcast said this about Aaron Rodgers: “Oh, he’s just a combination of greatness.” period, end of sentence, onto the next thought. And in case you didn’t watch the whole game, I did, and he never came back to tell us what Rodgers’ greatness is combined with. (Seemed like a funny joke at the time, but now nothing about the Packers/Seahawks game seems funny. Actually, nothing seems funny in general anymore. Last night ruined the fun of incompetent refereeing.)

-I realize my gambling website is not going to refund my money from the Monday night game, even though in real life I rightfully won that bet. But that won’t stop me from counting this game as a win in my picks against the spread. You can’t really argue against me on this one because 100% of the world knows who actually won that game.

Last Week’s Record: 9-6-1

Season Record: 25-20-3

-And finally, here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the weekend:

When your hand is marking the ball short by more than a yard, you’ve gotta wonder if that chain measurement was really necessary or not.

3rd & 37 seemed pretty comical during Monday night’s game. That’s a lot of yards to lose over the first two downs. But then I remembered I took this picture on Sunday…

3rd & 45! That’s like having a 3rd & goal from the 45-yard line. Just an astounding sequence of events has to take place during 1st and 2nd downs to make this magic happen.

Enjoy the rest of InterceptCatchGate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Week 1 NFL Picks: Can My Dog’s Nose Outpick My Brain?

Three weeks ago I promised lots of football content on this website over the next five months. Understandably some people aren’t psyched about that…but I promise those people I’ll continue to post blogs about my dog’s ridiculous antics as well as my girlfriend’s even more ridiculous antics. But for those of you who actually tune in for the football material, expect to see my weekly picks against the spread every Thursday or Friday. Yes, you’re allowed to call your bookie and read off my picks to him verbatim. Yes, the format will be very similar to Bill Simmons’ weekly picks column, whom I’m sure you all know and read often. Then why would you read this blog over his picks? Well who do you trust more to know what’s going on in football? The guy with a wife, two kids and a dog who also happens to run a huge website where he has to manage upwards of 50 writers? Or the unemployed guy whose only reason for living at this point is to study and write about football? That’s what I thought.

Here we go with Week 1 (home team underlined…how’s that for not copying Simmons!):

NY Giants (-4) over Dallas: OK, I already lost this one. I should have realized that the Giants are obligated to start the season poorly so the NY media can make a legitimate case for Tom Coughlin to get fired. Instead, I wrote on Twitter Thursday, “My Pick for NFL opener: NYG (-4) over Dallas. Cowboys have lost 6 of last 8 to NYG. Dont think enough has changed for them to get over hump.” Whatever. I already know I’m gonna hate picking the NFC East games all year.

Chicago (-10) over Indianapolis: So Chicago’s pass defense was pretty abysmal last year, and they may not have done much in the offseason to address it. But every other phase of their game—run defense, passing and running offense, special teams—is solid. Compare that to the Colts, whose entire team was pretty abysmal last year. I can’t see the rebuilding Colts going into Chicago and losing by less than two TDs.

Philadelphia (-9) over Cleveland: Another big point spread that should scare me, especially because the favorite is on the road this time. But like Indy, Cleveland’s also starting a rookie QB. The Browns happen to be starting a rookie RB, and by all accounts their best defender is suspended for the first quarter of the season. Philadelphia’s D will confuse the shit out of a rookie QB. Michael Vick will stay healthy for at least one game. Philly wins big (also my suicide pick for the week, in case you were wondering).

Buffalo (+3) over NY Jets: I’m predicting the Jets’ meltdown to happen early and often this year. Buffalo has a legit defense, but should they rest most of their starters against a Jets offense that couldn’t even score against preseason backups? Steve Johnson won’t catch a thing with Revis covering him, but the rest of the Buffalo offense should roll easily considering all the short fields their D is gonna hand them.

New Orleans (-7.5) over Washington:  Only our fifth game and we’re already onto rookie QB #3. Robert Griffin III, come on down, you’re the next contestant on “good luck facing a blitz-happy pass rush in your NFL debut!” RGIII gets the added bonus of going up against a pissed off Saints team playing with the emotion of an entire state suffering through another hurricane and flooding disaster.

New England (-6) over Tennessee: The last time these two teams played the Patriots won 59-0. Anyone using that game as a reason to choose the Pats on Sunday is a fool. The Titans have changed their entire coaching staff and much of their key roster spots since then. The real reason the Patriots will cover the six points is because the Titans’ starting QB is Jake Locker, not Tom Brady.

Minnesota (-4) over Jacksonville: I believe in Christian Ponder! More importantly, I believe that the Vikings are a ” moderately bad team” while the Jaguars are a “pathetically bad team.” A pathetically bad team never covers four points on the road against a moderately bad team.

Miami (+12) over Houston: It’s just too high of a line when we haven’t seen a single regular season game yet. Sure, I can picture multiple 80-yard touchdown connections from Schaub to Johnson, and I can see the RB combo of Foster and Tate ripping through gaping holes in the Dolphins’ defense, but that line is crazy.

St. Louis (+7.5) over Detroit: In the NFC North, I’m thinking Green Bay is just as good as last year while Chicago and Minnesota both take steps forward. That means someone has to regress. That team is Detroit. I think St. Louis gets back on track with Sam Bradford after a lost 2011, and they’ll play Detroit tough inside the dome.

Atlanta (-3) over Kansas City: I’m all in on the Atlanta offense, and I’m all out on Kansas City in general. I probably would have taken the Falcons even with a 10-point spread.

Green Bay (-5) over San Francisco: I’ve mentioned that the 9ers are going to struggle against the four or five elite offenses they face this year. No defense can shutdown offenses run by guys like Aaron Rodgers, and I don’t think the 49er offense does enough on the road to keep it close. Packers by 10 seems right.

Tampa Bay (+3) over Carolina: A four-win team from 2011 hosts a six-win team from 2011. Tampa (the four wins) seems to have done a good job trying to improve in the offseason. I haven’t heard a damn thing about the Panthers during the summer. I’ll take the points in the game I might care about the least this week.

Here’s a potentially funny (or devastatingly unfunny) gimmick I’m planning on sticking with all season: I’m going to decide which matchup is the most impossible for me to choose each week and let my dog make the choice. There’s always at least one game each week that I just can’t get a read on…sometimes it’s two evenly-matched playoff-caliber teams, a lot of the time it’s two putrid teams that don’t deserve my attention. This week I’ve chosen the Seattle at Arizona game. I’ll just warn you that I consider this first video of Molly choosing the winner to be exceptionally unfunny. It’s a work in progress, folks. Take it away, Molly:

You’ve seen the expert’s pick: Arizona (+3) over Seattle.

Denver (-2) over Pittsburgh: I believe Peyton Manning’s healthy. I believe if I did the proper research I could prove that Manning has a crazy-good record in nationally televised games. This guy’s been waiting 20 months to play football again, and I think he’ll rise to the occasion. I also think Pittsburgh isn’t fully healthy, especially when you consider their starting safety, Ryan Clark, is not allowed to play in Denver due to a sickness that could be compromised by high altitude. Denver wins the rematch of the Tim Tebow Memorial Game.

Baltimore (-6) over Cincinnati: Maybe I should have let Molly choose this one too because I’ve been agonizing over it all week. I expect these AFC North games to be close, but can’t it be a really close game and the Ravens still win by a touchdown? Of course it can. I can totally see a game that’s reeking of overtime ending up as a last-minute Joe Flacco-to-Torrey Smith touchdown. Remember that Baltimore is still having nightmares of a shanked kick in last year’s AFC Championship game that would have sent it to overtime. Expect them to be aggressive in any close game this year.

San Diego (+1) over Oakland: This should be an easy pick for Oakland…extremely banged-up Chargers team on the road with a waiting-to-be-fired coach and a possibly-washed-up quarterback. But I just have so much conviction that Carson Palmer is a bottom-five QB in the NFL that I’m taking the San Diego mini-upset.

Grantland’s Search for The Next Great Fantasy Football Writer: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

[Editor’s Note: I decided to enter a sports writing contest for the first time in my life this week. Grantland.com is running a contest to find their next fantasy football writer. Here are the details: Fantasy Island. The contest called for an original article, no more than 750 words, giving your top 5 overall fantasy football picks for 2012, and also one sleeper pick. The toughest part of this was limiting things to 750 words. You’d never know it from my WBFF blog posts, but I tend to be a bit long-winded. Anyway, here is my submission to the contest. Feedback is welcome, but it won’t change anything since I already submitted my entry. Enjoy.]

So the top five fantasy scorers in 2011 were all quarterbacks, and you want me to go QB-heavy with my top five overall picks this year? I’ve heard a crazy rumor: the NFL is now a passing league! But I’m not taking the bait, at least not entirely.

Since you’re twisting my arm on QBs, I’ll take two at the very top of my rankings, Tom Brady (#1) and Aaron Rodgers (#2).

Why Brady over Rodgers? Well if these guys are both such safe picks, which they are, why not go for the guy with more upside? Rodgers’ offense averaged 35 points per game last year, the first time in his career that his team exceeded the 30 points per game mark. In three of Brady’s last four healthy seasons, his offense has averaged over 30 points. And while the Packers’ 2012 offense is basically unchanged from 2011, the Patriots added Brandon Lloyd, who many are predicting could do what Randy Moss did for the Pats’ offense in 2007. You can’t go wrong with either QB, but I’m taking the one who has a better chance of throwing to a record-setting offense in 2012.

You wanted me to consider Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford for the top five in 2012? Here’s what I’m considering: We’ve always heard the Saints’ offense works so well because Brees and Sean Payton basically share a brain when it comes to running it. So what should we expect when half of that brain is banned from the team this year? Not worth the risk…Pass. As for Stafford, come talk to me when he has consecutive seasons of good health and elite numbers. Pass again.

Though it’s tempting to put Calvin Johnson in my picks, I’m going with three running backs to round out my top five. Welcome to the party, LeSean McCoy (#3), Ray Rice (#4) and Jamaal Charles (#5).

McCoy barely beats out Rice, my tiebreaker being “overall team offensive competence.” Since 2009, McCoy’s first season in the NFL, the Philadelphia offense has been significantly better than the Baltimore offense. I will always trust an offense that runs through Michael Vick to generate more scoring opportunities and longer drives than an offense that runs through Joe Flacco. I’d actually trust an offense that runs through me over a Flacco-led unit. And if you think McCoy can’t sustain his 20 touchdown total from 2011, think again and realize how badly the Eagles DON’T want Vick trying to run for TDs on the goal line.

And why Charles, coming off a lost season from an ACL tear in 2011, as my fifth-ranked fantasy player? Because most importantly, he looks like the Charles of old. Watching his preseason work so far, there’s no hint of any lingering issues from the knee injury. He’s had almost a full year to recover, and remember that before the injury Charles was the next big thing, the guy most likely to have a “Chris Johnson in 2009”-like season. True, it seems like he’ll never get more than 250-275 touches in Kansas City, but he didn’t need any more than that to produce over 1,900 total yards in 2010. The bonus is that the Chiefs play 10 games this year against teams that ranked in the bottom 12 in run defense in 2011. I like Charles’ odds to have some monster games against such soft defenses. You go ahead and enjoy a safer pick like Arian Foster. I’ll go for the home run. Oh, and Matt Cassel is the Chiefs’ quarterback. Romeo Crennel knows that. I think they’ll run the ball plenty.

Give us a sleeper, too, you say? A genius pick that no one else would have the balls to put out there? Look no further than Minnesota Vikings savior Christian Ponder. I’ll wait for the laughing to stop.

As a rookie in 2011, he played in nine full games, putting up double-digit fantasy points in six of those. In 2012 he has a (hopefully) healthy Percy Harvin and a shiny new toy in Jerome Simpson. Tell me you’d rather have a Sanchez, Cassel, Palmer or Locker, but then go look at Ponder’s preseason stats as well as the defenses he faces in weeks 7-14 this year (four consecutive game against teams ranked 22nd or worse in pass defense last year). Now tell me again with a straight face that you’d rather have those guys over Ponder. Can’t do it, can you?

How to Get Your Girlfriend to Hate the Football Teams You Hate: Prey on Her Irrational Emotions

There’s a high probability that I’m going to spend most of this NFL season watching games with only one person, my girlfriend. It’s really not an issue because I watch football the same way no matter who is in the room with me…I pretend like they don’t exist. But one thing I want to put an end to before it even happens is the tragedy that occurred with my oldest brother and his wife. You see, he never properly conditioned her to hate every non-Boston team, so one day years ago she decided Peyton Manning was her favorite quarterback. And even though at first it seemed like she was joking just to fuck with us, she followed through and constantly cheered for Manning, even when the Colts were playing the Patriots and she was surrounded by New England fans.

I can’t live in a world where the only person watching football with me is potentially finding random reasons to like Patriots’ opponents. But the women I know aren’t going to be swayed with actual football stats, like me saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t root for the Jets because in 2011 they had the 21st-ranked passing offense and the 22nd-ranked rushing offense. They’re actually a terrible team.”

Instead I’ve decided to create reasons Julie should hate certain teams by playing to her irrational emotions. Sometimes the story I tell her is mostly true, and sometimes it’s completely fictitious.

For example, when the Patriots played the Eagles on Monday night, it gave me the perfect opportunity to make sure she’d never accidentally root for Philly (even though the Patriots don’t play them in the regular season, you never know who they’re going to see in the Super Bowl). This time I was able to use two truths to get her to hate them:

1). “Did you know this Eagles wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, admitted earlier Monday that he didn’t give 100% effort at times last season because he cared more about getting a new contract (and staying healthy) than doing what it took to help the team.”

2). “Oh, and just in case you forgot, Julie, Michael Vick was a dog killer.”

Her response: “Oh, fuck them then.”

Before I run down my list of other teams I “shared” stories about to Julie, I should tell you that I began this experiment with one team last year, and it is working perfectly. When I was watching the Steelers/Colts game earlier Monday morning, Julie saw a picture of Ben Roethlisberger and immediately asked, “Isn’t that the rapist?”

Yes, yes it is. At some point last year, I fed her the story of Roethlisberger’s “run-in with the law” when he tried to assault a college student in Georgia. Safe to say Julie won’t be rooting for either of the Pennsylvania-based football teams this year.

Let’s quickly run through some of the other stories I’m working on for Patriots’ opponents/rivals:

The Jets? “Did you know they traded for Tim Tebow, but the head coach and starting quarterback won’t let him play because they’re anti-God and anti-virgin?”

The Broncos? “Well first of all, they traded away Tim Tebow after he led them to their best season in six years. I think it was because he’s too much of an inspiration. And did you know that Peyton Manning was actually the one who orchestrated the firing of the Colts’ head coach and general manager after last season? Yeah, seems like he was trying to save himself by throwing them under the bus. Weird.”

The Ravens? “Do you know that they lose to the Patriots every other year, and after every loss the entire team complains that either the Patriots cheated or that the refs caused them to lose? And there are also a couple guys on that team who have publicly stated they want to hurt Tom Brady.”

The Bengals? “You know they used to have Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens as their wide receivers, right?” (In this case I’ll probably have to explain more about Owens’ history as the biggest douche bag in football, but Julie decided just a couple weeks ago she hated Johnson after seeing him act like an asshole on HBO’s Hard Knocks and then hearing the news about him getting arrested for hitting his wife.)

The Texans? I don’t know what to do with this team. There are really no true stories I can exaggerate to make them sound like a bad team. I might just go with: “Did you know they’re thinking of picking up Chad Johnson?”

The Giants? “It turns out the reason Peyton and Eli’s brother, Cooper, never played football is because when they were growing up, Eli was jealous of Cooper and decided to put a Tonya Harding-like hit on Cooper’s knee.”

Actually, why do I even have to create a lie for this one? I’m just gonna go with: “Do you know the only reason Eli is on the Giants is because when he was rewarded with being the 1st overall pick in the 2004 draft, he threw a hissy fit about having to play for a bad team in San Diego and got his Daddy (a pedophile by the way) to help orchestrate his immediate trade to the Giants?”

 

Yes, that should do for now. I’d be open to hearing suggestions on better lies or stories for teams I didn’t spend time on in this post.