NFL Week 6 Picks: How Many Road Favorites is Too Many?

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Five weeks is a pretty small sample size if you’re trying to figure out which NFL teams are good & bad and who will make the playoffs. Some teams have only played four games. Some teams haven’t been healthy. Some teams have been extremely lucky. And of course some have been very unlucky.

Consider the following from the 2013 season:

  • Philadelphia and Carolina each started the year 1-3. People were convinced Chip Kelly’s system wouldn’t work in the NFL, and that Ron Rivera & Cam Newton would never win together in Carolina. The Eagles finished the year 9-3 and won their division while the Panthers ripped off an 11-1 finish to win their division and secure the #2 seed in the NFC.
  • New Orleans began the season 5-0, and Kansas City started out 9-0! The Saints closed their schedule with a 6-5 stretch and missed out on a chance to win the NFC South. The Chiefs, meanwhile, went 2-5 after their ridiculous start and also had to settle for a wildcard spot.
  • The Giants got off to an 0-6 start, and the Steelers began 1-4. New York went 7-3 from that point on, and the Steelers went 7-4. Neither team made the playoffs, but both came damn close to recovering from a disastrous beginning.

At the moment, 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams have two or more wins. With no undefeated teams after five weeks and many of the perennial playoff teams already having one or two losses, it feels like we’ve hit the closest thing to parity that we’re ever going to see.

Do any of the one-win or no-win teams have a chance to do what the Panthers and Eagles did last year? Of course. The season is young. I wouldn’t expect Jacksonville or Oakland to suddenly become teams of intrigue, but if I had to place my money on one of the other struggling teams (Tennessee, the Jets, Washington, Tampa Bay and St. Louis), I’d go with the Bucs.

Here’s the deal with Tampa right now. They’re 1-4 but have lost three games by less than a touchdown. Their start seems worse because of that 56-14 blowout at Atlanta on national TV. They still have six home games, they have some winnable road games against Cleveland and Washington, and Mike Glennon may actually be average enough to help this team.

The NFC South may also be the second worst division in football. On Bovada right now, the Bucs are 25/1 to win their division. Am I the only one that thinks it’s worth a couple dollars just in case?

I’m guessing if I could hear my readers’ reactions as they read this, I’d hear a very loud “YES” to that question.

While the sample size of five weeks is too small to predict the NFL playoffs, the sample size of 76 games is plenty big to get a sense of how I’m doing against the spread so far this year.

Well, I’m 36-38-2 after last week’s 8-7 record. Even though my march to get above .500 is going at a snail’s pace, I’m still encouraged. I haven’t had a week where I’ve bottomed out (but I haven’t had a week where I’ve crushed it either), and I seem to have a pretty good read on a lot of teams (just not enough of the teams, apparently).

But here’s why the first month of the season has been profitable for me: I’m 17-8 against the spread in my confidence picks. I define confidence picks through my Pick ‘Em leagues where you have to assign more weight to your five most confident picks each week. And I am absolutely crushing that so far.

So while I’m not good enough to turn you a profit if you bet on all my picks each week, I’m certainly good enough to get you to the top of your own Pick ‘Em league standings. And if you’re smart enough, you follow just the picks that I feel great about. I think it’s pretty obvious in my picks column when I’m extra excited about a pick or extra pessimistic about one. Try to keep up.

Before we dive into the week 6 picks, let’s check in with the two teams on a bye this week:

  • Kansas City: At 2-3, it seems like the Chiefs can only beat AFC East teams. That’s a bummer because they only get two more of those matchups. They actually might trick some people because after they lose to San Diego in week 7, they have games against St. Louis, the Jets and Buffalo. I could see them being 5-4 and then losing five of their final seven games. The ceiling for this team remains 8-8.
  • New Orleans: The optimist would say the Saints are going to be fine because two of their three losses came by a field goal or less, and they still have six home games. The pessimist would point out that these first five games were supposed to be the easy portion of their schedule, and they’re only 2-3. Unless Drew Brees and the offense starts playing exactly how we expected, this team’s in trouble. We know they suck on the road, but they also have to host Green Bay, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore. An 8-0 home record is definitely not a given. I think they scrape their way to 9-7, but I’m not sure that’s good enough for the playoffs.

And now for the picks.

Indianapolis (-3.5) @ Houston

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Indianapolis 30, Houston 27

This feels like the rest of the AFC South’s best chance to give the Colts one division loss. With so much noise made, especially in the past week, about the constant Thursday night blowouts, this seems like as good a time as any to expect a close game to shut everyone up. Arian Foster looked very healthy last Sunday and the Colts have one of the worst run defenses. I can’t pick the Texans to win outright, but I certainly expect them to make it a game.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (-2)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 33, Cleveland 24

I’m way into this Browns team. I’m tempted to predict a blowout in favor of the Browns. The Steelers might be walking into the proverbial buzz saw as this Cleveland team seems to be riding higher than they have in the past 12 years. Until Brian Hoyer proves otherwise, this is a team to be feared.

Upon further research, however, I learned that Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 against the Browns over his career, and there’s a chance Joe Haden, Cleveland’s best defensive back, is either out or limited in this game. I’m frightened of what this Steeler offense might do if the Browns are truly banged up (remember that Tennessee dropped 28 on them in the 1st half last week).

New England (-3) @ Buffalo

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 24, Buffalo 16

It seems as though we have two “stay away” teams from a betting standpoint in the NFL this year. And wouldn’t you know it, both teams reside in the AFC East. I already tagged the Dolphins as a schizophrenic team, but now I’m adding the Patriots. I just have no feel for them. So what I’ll be doing going forward is pick against my instincts.

My instincts told me to pick Buffalo so I’m going with New England.

Carolina @ Cincinnati (-7)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 33, Carolina 23

I’m very reluctantly taking the Bengals. I’m expecting a push, but I’m leaving the possibility open that A) Cincinnati is a juggernaut at home, and B) Carolina’s running game is so banged up that they won’t be able to take advantage of Cincy’s one weakness.

I’m aware that A.J. Green is hurt and got carted off the practice field on Wednesday. But I’m not sure it matters when the Bengals are playing a below-average team at home.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-6)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Jacksonville 29, Tennessee 21

First of all, I don’t think any of the teams that play exclusively in the loser’s circuit should be favored by more than a field goal over any of its fellow losers (Jacksonville, Oakland, Tennessee and the Jets all fall into the AFC’s loser’s circuit).

The reason I’m picking the Jaguars to win outright is because I see two teams of equal talent who are at very different points of stability. The Jaguars know that Blake Bortles will be leading them for the foreseeable future and the goal is simply to make incremental improvements over the rest of the season. The Titans don’t know what the fuck is going on with their QB situation, and they also have the stench of that choke job suffered at the hands of the Browns on them still. If any team is going into Week 6 totally unprepared, it’s the Titans.

Green Bay (-3.5) @ Miami

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 24, Green Bay 20

The teams are irrelevant in this situation. I have to go with the 2-2 team coming off a bye playing at home, especially when they’re underdogs of more than a field goal. That extra half point feels big.

Don’t mistake Green Bay’s two weeks of competence for eliteness. (Is that a word?)

Detroit @ Minnesota (PICK)

  • The Pick: Minnesota
  • The Score: Minnesota 20, Detroit 16

Picking these games on Thursday is only a problem once in a while, and this week might be one of those times. I’m banking on Calvin Johnson not playing, but it hasn’t been officially decided. The Lions offense doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself when Megatron’s out. If he ends up playing, I don’t know if I’d still be confident in the Vikings.

But hey, the Vikings are at home, Teddy Bridgewater is 100% healthy and I love me some home underdogs. (I wrote all of this on Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning the Lions were no longer favored by 1.5. I still like the Vikings.)

Denver (-10) @ NY Jets

  • The Pick: NY Jets
  • The Score: Denver 30, NY Jets 23

This is what I wrote on Monday night when the line was Denver -8: “I don’t see how you could ever back the Jets in this situation. They’re as big of a mess right now as they’ve ever been during the Rex Ryan era. The secondary is the biggest problem not including the quarterback situation. A sketchy defensive situation against the quarterback with history’s longest-running deal with the devil. Hmmmmmmm.”

But, wow, this line has moved. Do the extra two points scare me? A little bit, yeah.

And don’t we know exactly how this is going to play out with Rex Ryan and the Jets? I feel like I’ve seen this movie 100 times. Rex says if they don’t improve, he should be fired. The Jets don’t immediately turn it around and start winning games, but he’s able to hang his hat on “we just played the Broncos and the Patriots extremely close. Would I like to have won those games? Yeah, of course. But we’re improving and we just went toe-to-toe with two of the best teams in our conference.”

After they drop to 1-6, the Jets proceed to win six of their final nine games, ending the season with a respectable 7-9 record, and Rex gets one more year to make the leap to the playoffs.

Bonus note: Remember that the most obvious pick of the week often doesn’t work out. Everyone’s ready to bury the Jets, but they always seem to hang around.

Baltimore (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Tampa Bay 24, Baltimore 20

See the intro to this column for why I’m taking the Bucs.

Also, similar to the Packers/Dolphins pick, the extra half point and the lure of a home underdog is too much to pass up.

San Diego (-7) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: San Diego 34, Oakland 14

Absolutely it’s dangerous to back a road favorite in a divisional matchup who’s giving a touchdown or more. But the talent gap between these two teams is just absurd. We’re closing in on game-of-the-year candidate San Diego at Denver two Thursdays from now. That’s where the Chargers will get a stranglehold on the AFC West. No need to slip up now.

Chicago @ Atlanta (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Atlanta 27, Chicago 24

Did I just write three days ago that I’m quitting the Bears cold turkey? I guess I’m just a goddamn liar. This feels like another game decided by a field goal. And the extra half point on this line feels like an overreaction to the Bears’ suckiness last week.

Dallas @ Seattle (-8)

  • The Pick: Seattle
  • The Score: Seattle 38, Dallas 24

I thought Seattle would be favored by 14. Only the very best teams deserve the respect of being less than double-digit underdogs in Seattle. And Dallas is not one of the very best teams. With limited attractive options this week, I’m probably going with the Seahawks in my Suicide Pool. No getting cute this week. Just survive and advance and let the other people in the pool screw things up.

Washington @ Arizona (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Washington
  • The Score: Washington 26, Arizona 20

I made a note to check on Arizona’s quarterback situation before making any prediction this week. So of course in the first article I click on, the first sentence says, “It’s anyone’s guess who starts under center for the Cardinals this Sunday…”

Perfect.

This is an extremely tough game to put any confidence behind right now. My gut tells me that Logan Thomas starts, which is why I’m choosing the Redskins. Also, the Cardinals keep losing key players. Calais Campbell is the most recent major injury.

If Carson Palmer was healthy and playing, this line would probably be closer to a touchdown, and I would be telling you the Cardinals are a sneaky good Suicide Pool pick. But with all this doubt and murkiness, I’m just going to say stay away.

NY Giants @ Philadelphia (-3)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 29, NY Giants 24

Wow, a spread of exactly 3 points instead of 3.5. That seems rare for this week. I don’t have much confidence in either of these teams so that’s why I’m taking the home team. But I could totally see a situation where the Eagles lose, the Cowboys lose (that’s a definite) and the Redskins win, and suddenly the good ole’ NFC East is one big clusterfuck gathered around the .500 mark.

San Francisco (-3.5) @ St. Louis

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: San Francisco 35, St. Louis 10

The 49ers are the seventh and final road favorite of the week. That’s an aggressive number of teams going on the road and still being favored. But St. Louis is one of the few home underdogs that I have no faith in. Their defense has one sack on the season and is terrible against the run. Their offense is nearly as bad. I just pray for the sake of my bet that the 49ers aren’t looking ahead to a big game against Denver in week 7.

It’s looking like a pretty balanced set of picks this week for me: Eight underdogs/six favorites, eight home teams/seven road teams.

Enjoy week 6!

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Week 2 NFL Picks: My Dog Tries To Go 2-0 & I Tell You Which Coach Might Get His Prostate Milked This Week

In my Week 1 recap post, I mistakenly said I went 10-6 in my picks last week. I actually went 9-7. I’m not too upset about that because after I published those picks, I got smart and changed a couple in my Pick ‘Em leagues (most importantly realizing the Jets were going to surprise everyone and handle the Bills). Not a total failure, but I’d like to make my picks and stick with them. None of this back and forth bullshit. So this week I’m being consistent across all my different pick platforms.

Here we go with week 2 picks (home team underlined):

Green Bay (-5) over Chicago: Classic matchup, and I’m not talking about how these two teams have played each other more than any other teams in NFL history. I’m talking about how the Bears are coming off a dominant win over Indy, and the Packers are coming off an ugly home loss to the 49ers. Many will be tempted to pick the Bears to not only cover the five points, but to win the game outright. Before you do that, remember three things: 1). Before week 1, you would have picked the Packers to win by at least a touchdown in a home game against Chicago, 2). the Bears played possibly the worst team in the NFL in week 1, 3). the Packers played possibly one of the best teams in the NFL in week 1. I actually do think this will be a close game, but I’m going to say the same thing I said about the Baltimore/Cincinnati matchup from last week: Can’t it be a close game and the Packers still win by a touchdown? Yes, it can, and that’s what I’m predicting in the Thursday night game.

Tampa Bay (+7) over NY Giants: I liked this line a lot better on Tuesday when the Bucs were getting nine points. Apparently so did every gambler because it’s now down to a touchdown. I’m still taking the points. The Bucs might have a better running game than the Giants, and they might be able to throw a lot on the Giants’ suspect secondary. If Tampa’s defense can just play average against Eli and the Giants’ passing game, they could pull off the upset.

New England (-14) over Arizona: This line seems high, but high is what I’d have to be to go against the Patriots…at home…playing an NFC West team that’s starting its backup QB…a QB who was supposed to be a franchise player when Arizona traded for him last year, but who couldn’t even beat out a guy named Skelton for the job. It seems like this game will be similar to when the Chiefs visited Foxboro last November and had to start Tyler Palko because Matt Cassel was hurt. The Patriots won 34-3, and I think they’ll win by a similar margin on Sunday.

Minnesota (-1.5) over Indianapolis: I picked Minnesota last week with this justification: “I believe the Vikings are a ‘moderately bad team’ while the Jaguars are a ‘pathetically bad team.’” I got that pick wrong because the Vikings only won by three on a four-point spread, but I’m running back the same theory on the Vikings this week. Indy is a pathetically bad team and the Vikings will win by at least a field goal. Could the Packers be two games behind the Vikings in the NFC North after this week? I can’t believe that’s even a possibility, but it is.

My dog Molly got her pick correct last week. She went with Arizona as a three-point underdog at home against Seattle. She just barely got it right as the Seahawks’ last-gasp effort fell short (even with help from the refs in the form of a mysterious fourth timeout). Can Molly move to 2-0? If you remember last week, I said I’m gonna let her pick the game that’s the most confusing to me. I never thought the game I had no answer for would be the Saints vs the Panthers, but that’s what it is this week. Take it away Molly:

You heard the puppy: New Orleans (-3) over Carolina.

Kansas City (+3) over Buffalo: A matchup of two teams who lost by a combined 36 points and gave the ball away a combined seven times in week 1. How exciting. Here’s what I think’s going on with Buffalo…they went from being a sleeper playoff team to a team too many people expected would make the leap and be in the playoffs this year. There were two candidates for that honor, the Bears being the other. Even if the Bears get crushed on Thursday night by Green Bay, I’m staying on that bandwagon. But the Buffalo bandwagon? It’s about to get a whole lot emptier when they lose at home to the Chiefs. When I picked the Bills to make the playoffs, I ignored three glaring questions that needed to be answered before we could really know what kind of team they are: Is Ryan Fitzpatrick even an average QB? Can the Bills offense—and specifically their running game—continue to produce if Fred Jackson isn’t healthy? And is Mario Williams really a difference-maker on defense? I’m already thinking the answer to all three might be NO. Not good for Buffalo, not good at all.

Baltimore (+3) over Philadelphia: Part of my ongoing expert-in-training routine for football is to try to guess the line for each game every week before looking. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as far off on any line as I was with this one. I guessed “Baltimore -6.5,” and as you can see, I was off by 9.5 points. How in fuck’s name is Philly favored in this game? The Ravens absolutely dismantled a decent Bengals team in week 1. About 30 hours before that game, the Eagles were busy getting outplayed by a quarterback who ended the game with a 5.1 QB Rating. They narrowly escaped Cleveland with a one-point win. A win that ugly shouldn’t even be categorized as a win. So tell me why the Ravens are the underdog in this one? It’s weird going from Philly as my lock last week (as a 10-point favorite) to the team playing Philly as my lock this week, but that’s what I’m doing. Bet the farm on this game.

Oakland (-3) over Miami: Oakland might be a six-win team this year, but it feels like they’re immensely more talented than Miami. Even though Oakland lost its opener to San Diego by eight, they sneaky played a decent game…they held the Chargers to just one TD, gained more yards than them, held the ball for basically as long, but they lost a fumble and they apparently decided to put a random fan into the game as their backup long snapper, resulting in three botched punts. I think Oakland’s bad, but had they cleaned up a few self-inflicted wounds, they could have easily beat the Chargers. Miami doesn’t have a chance to beat anyone anytime soon.

Cincinnati(-7) over Cleveland: Is Brandon Weeden still the starting QB for Cleveland? He is, right? Then this pick is a no-brainer. If you were putting together a list of minimum qualifications that a quarterback in the NFL must have in order to be in the league, wouldn’t “hitting a wide open receiver with a pass” be at the very top of that list? Well it’s more than a little alarming how openly Weeden and his coach talk about Weeden repeatedly missing wide open guys in this article. For the time being, Cleveland could be playing against my college flag football team (a team who’s best offensive strategy was “give the ball to the biggest guy and have him repeatedly spin in circles all the way down the field so people can’t grab the flags cleanly”), and I’d bet on the college team even if they were giving seven points.

Houston (-7.5) over Jacksonville: I thought this line would be closer to 14 because Jacksonville is bad and Houston might be one of the top two teams in the AFC. Jacksonville looked decent last week, but without the minor miracle Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts 39-yard TD with 20 seconds left in that game, they would have been just another AFC basement team that wouldn’t get a second thought from football fans. I still think they fit that mold. Houston should roll even on the road.

Dallas (-3) at Seattle: Seattle lost to the combination of John Sketlon and Kevin Kolb last week, right? OK, good. Then this is easy. Dallas is 20 times more talented than Arizona. Road game or not, I can pick Dallas and feel good that a push is my worst case scenario.

St. Louis (+3) over Washington: You can’t fool me, Vegas. This line is based purely on Vegas trying to capitalize on the RGIII euphoria. I’m not dismissing what the ‘Skins did in a tough road game against New Orleans, but I think they caught a team in disarray by surprise. The Rams actually played a solid game in Detroit last week and were only a ridiculous clock error away from winning their own tough road game. I might have been too down on Washington when I predicted them to go 4-11-1 in 2012, but I doubt they’ll get past the six-win mark still.

Pittsburgh(-6) over NY Jets: When the Jets play Indy in four weeks, you could probably make Indy a 17-point favorite and I’d find a way to talk myself into them covering. That’s how badly I want the Jets to fail. So obviously I’m taking Pittsburgh with the points. The Jets probably played their best game of the year against a possibly-shitty Bills team. And with the Steelers, it sort of felt like they were still in preseason mode. Still figuring out which combination of running backs work best. Still working Mike Wallace back into the mix after his lengthy holdout. And don’t discount the absence of Ryan Clark to the importance of that defense (all you had to do was watch the Sunday Night Football broadcast for 30 seconds and you were bound to hear them discussing how big of a key Clark is in allowing Troy Polamalu to do his thing). The Steelers will figure things out pretty quickly and win this one by a touchdown.

Tennessee (+6) over San Diego: The last time the Chargers started a season 2-0 was in 2006. You know they need to lose a should-win game early so that the “fire Norv” chatter can become a weekly topic. A loss to the Titans could set them up for a 2-4 record after the first six weeks. That should be just enough to make every Norv press conference chock full of awkward job security questions. I’m calling the Titans in an upset here (or at least for them to lose by less than six).

San Francisco (-7) over Detroit: Let’s just get this out of the way right now: There’s a better chance of Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz french-kissing in the middle of the field after this game than there is of them getting into another old men’s fake fight. I’ll take it one step further…there’s a better chance of Schwartz sticking a finger up Harbaugh’s ass and milking his prostate (it’s a thing, google it), than there is of any dust-up between these coaches. But every pregame show and the NBC broadcast will try to hype up the pending post-game handshake/finger-blasting as if it’s a big deal. What is a big deal is if the 9ers easily handle another NFC North team, we’re gonna have to take a legitimate look at the rest of their schedule and try to figure out when they’re possibly gonna lose a game this year…could they go 15-1 with their only loss coming at New England? I’ll certainly be glad I fled the Bay Area four months ago if that happens.

Atlanta (-3) over Denver: Clear your head for one second of all the Peyton Manning-related garbage that’s in there (he’s back to his old form! he plays great in domes! he always plays well in nationally-televised games!). I know it’s difficult considering anyone in the national media who picked Manning to win the MVP is already patting themselves on the back as if it’s a done deal. But focus on this question and answer sequence instead: Which of these teams is more talented? Atlanta. And are they significantly more talented than Denver or only marginally more talented? Significantly. Can Matt Ryan throw the ball as well as Manning? Yes. Can the Falcons run the ball as well as Denver? Yes, or at least probably. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Falcons don’t win by at least a field goal.

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.