Was that a crazy first week of NFL games? Or is saying/writing/thinking that week 1 was crazy simply an involuntary reaction at this point? It really didn’t seem that crazy to me. When we’re using “crazy” in this context, we basically mean the results were wildly different than our expectations. My expectations led to me crushing my week 1 picks. I posted a 10-5-1 record against the spread, won the weekly 1st place prize in one of my Pick ‘Em leagues, went 4-for-5 on my confidence picks, and wisely used the Jets to advance in my Survivor Pool. Much like I’m hoping the Patriots will do, I’m in complete Eff You mode this season with my picks. The past two years have been unacceptable. Vegas has disrespected me and it’s time for me to take them for everything they’ve got. (It turns out “everything they’ve got” is somewhere in the range of $5 billion per year. So maybe I’ll just take them for “some of what they’ve got” instead.)
If you are one of the people who thought it was a crazy week, that probably means you were backing Seattle, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Minnesota. All four of those teams were favored on the road, and in the case of all but Seattle, these teams were overhyped by the media throughout the offseason. I’m not saying anyone needs to panic yet, but pumping the brakes at least on Philly and Minnesota might be a good idea. Actually, should we be skeptical of Seattle & Indy too? They certainly have the talent to be as good as last year, but it sounds like there might be some internal turmoil within both teams. Seattle’s got the ghost of Super Bowl 49 following them around in the form of Marshawn Lynch’s mom calling for the team’s offensive coordinator to be fired, and everyone knows that the entire team now hates Russell Wilson and his “miracle water.” Over in Indy, a new report pops up every day about Chuck Pagano’s job (in)security and how he doesn’t get along with Colts GM Ryan Grigson. These two teams are going to be interesting whether they’re winning or losing over the next 16 weeks.
Between my two Pick ‘Em Leagues (where we pick each game against the spread every week), I tallied up which incorrect picks were chosen the most among the participants in week 1. Here they are:
- Indianapolis (-2.5): 25 of 34 people picked them (74%)
- New England (-7.5): 24 of 34 (71%)
- Tampa Bay (-3.5): 24 of 34 (71%)
- Dallas (-5.5): 24 of 34 (71%)
- Philadelphia (-2.5): 23 of 34 (68%)
- Seattle (-4.5): 22 of 34 (65%)
- Minnesota (-2.5) = 16 of 34 (47%)
All seven of these disappointments were favored, and five of them even lost their game outright. And if it wasn’t for this man…
…the Cowboys would have been the sixth team on that list to lose outright.
What does this all mean? Nothing, really. Just that the NFL is set up for weekly “craziness”, which makes wild results not crazy at all. It’s actually completely normal.
Here are some other random nuggets before I dive into week 2:
- By far my favorite play of the weekend was this:
- Such a ballsy, unnecessary and unexpected play. In that moment, Josh McCown went from being my 30th favorite QB in the NFL to somewhere in my top 10. I hope he comes back soon and breaks out his “Black Hawk Down” routine on every drive.
- Random question: When did they announce that Cris Collinsworth and Matthew McConaughey were actually the same person? Because I missed that announcment.
- Do you think maybe Microsoft is a major sponsor of NBC’s “Football Night In America” and they are pushing the Surface tablet hard? Jesus Christ, I couldn’t tell if Dan Patrick and the gang were on an NBC set or inside one of those Microsoft retail stores this past Sunday night.
- And why do their two “insiders” Peter King and Mike Florio have those Surface tablets stationed in front of them when they’re giving updates on NFL news? There’s no way they’re using those things to get stories or quotes (that would be what their phones are for). There’s no way they’re reading the script off of them (that’s what the teleprompter is for). Just a ridiculous amount of product placement that I know you’ll see now that I’ve pointed it out to you.
- Take a look at these two quarterback stat lines from week 1:
- The media can spend as much time as they want praising the Denver defense, but that doesn’t change the fact that the second stat line is Peyton Manning’s, and you’ll notice it’s just slightly better than the one above it, which belongs to Blake Bortles. How come everyone’s always telling us that a team needs a good QB to win in January, and yet now all of the sudden we’re hearing that the Broncos don’t need Manning to be good? He just needs to “manage the game” according to everything I’ve read. All I know is that Manning will be losing a divisional road game for the first time since he joined the Broncos on Thursday night. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Chiefs don’t win that one.
- OK, so let me get this straight. The two Patriots employees who were supposedly the masterminds behind the ball deflation scheme are reinstated with the approval of the NFL? And the NFL is the organization that is so positive these people cheated that they are continuing the court battle to ensure someone gets punished for this super serious conduct detrimental to the league, right? But the league didn’t bat an eye at reinstating these confirmed (by the league’s standards) cheaters? I’m at a loss here. This makes no sense except for the fact that the Patriots never cheated, no one ever let even the tiniest amount of air out of a football, and the NFL is trying to quietly let things go back to normal. I’d be shocked if they don’t drop their appeal at some point and try to distract us from knowing they did that. At which time we should all wonder why we let the NFL take us for this lovely 7-month ride.
- Does anyone know why we’re calling Tyrod Taylor “T-Mobile” and more importantly, does anyone know how to make it stop?
- You know that preseason predictions blog that I did with guest blogger Neil where we select which people will win real and fake awards throughout the season? Yeah, that’s already going pretty poorly. Here are some early results:
- Neil had Josh McCown as his first QB benched because of ineffectiveness and I had Kirk Cousins. This “award” went to Brian Hoyer.
- Neil and I both had San Francisco as the last winless team, and lo & behold, they won their week 1 game! Whoops.
- Neil also lost his pick on which team will be the last to lose a game as he selected the Colts.
- Even though we won’t know who the Defensive Rookie of the Year is until the end of the season, Neil might be playing from behind with his pick of Jets defensive end Leonard Williams considering he’s still trying to get into game shape!
So now we’ve arrived at week 2. And you know what? I bet by the end of the weekend people will be claiming that week 2 was “crazy.” Maybe it’ll be more injuries. Maybe it’ll be a shocking number of upsets. Maybe an opposing team will say something nice about the Patriots. But something will happen to send us all on our way thinking it was an insane week of football.
You know what I think is crazy? The fact that you can go to my favorite gambling website Bovada right this second and get nearly 3/1 odds on Kansas City winning the AFC West (+275 to be exact…bet $10, profit $27.50). If the Chiefs beat the Broncos on Thursday, this offer won’t be around any longer so jump on it. Maybe the Chiefs only looked legit last week because Houston was such a mess. Maybe Peyton Manning found some high-quality P.E.D.’s in the last four days. But something tells me this Kansas City team is going to be leading that division most of the year. Don’t expect me to share my winnings with you. Go bet on it yourself. NOW! [Editor’s Note: I wrote the previous paragraph on Wednesday night. By Thursday at 10am Pacific Time, the line had changed. Kansas City is now only 2/1 to win the division. Hmm…..]
Time to dive into the week 2 picks.
Denver at Kansas City (-3)
The Pick: Kansas City
The Score: Kansas City 28, Denver 16
Listen, I’m fully prepared for the unpredictable NFL to give us a huge Broncos win by way of a throwback Peyton Manning performance. I’m not about to say the guy is completely done, and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t have at least a handful of Pro Bowl level games left in his arsenal this year. But it doesn’t seem like a road game on three days’ rest against a team that just slaughtered the Texans in Houston is the time to predict that. Whenever I try to envision a Denver win, all I can see is the nightmare performance by Tom Brady and the Patriots offense at Arrowhead Stadium in week 4 last year. Expect this to be a big test for the Kansas City offense regardless of Manning’s performance. Houston had J.J. Watt to cause problems for KC last week, but Denver’s defense is legit across the board. If the Chiefs put up 30, we should all be terrified that my random prediction for them to go to the Super Bowl just might look decent.
Houston at Carolina (-3)
The Pick: Houston
The Score: Houston 17, Carolina 15
“You’ve gotta earn it every day…If things aren’t going very well…look, we’re not on a short leash here. But look, we’re not gonna sit there and let it go like eight games of not being very good.”
Those are Bill O’Brien’s words in THIS “Hard Knocks” clip from August. Even though he said Brian Hoyer has to earn the starting job every day, he also said the QB isn’t on a short leash. Anyone who watched that conversation had to be thinking Hoyer would get at least a handful of starts before O’Brien even considered making a change. And yet, here were are, week 2, and he’s swapping QBs.
It’s a little confusing that one bad half of football outweighed everything O’Brien apparently saw from Hoyer over the four months of offseason activities.
I have nothing to say about the Panthers because I saw exactly 0.0 seconds of their week 1 win over Jacksonville. I’m picking the Texans to cover because I’m pretty sure Carolina had trouble putting the Jaguars away, and there’s a chance the Jags will be the worst team in football. I have minimal confidence in this pick.
San Francisco at Pittsburgh (-6)
The Pick: Pittsburgh
The Score: Pittsburgh 30, San Francisco 20
I’d certainly prefer this line to come down just a little, but nevertheless I’m very confident in the Steelers. You may not realize it by the final score, but Pittsburgh moved the ball easily on the road in New England last Thursday, and they were a couple of mental miscues away from actually winning. And the last time I checked, the 49ers don’t have Gronk on their team. San Francisco looked just a tad too good in its Monday night home game against the woefully unprepared Vikings. It’s a big point spread for a team that’s 0-1 and is still missing several key pieces (Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, Maurkice Pouncey), but I like their chances at home.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-10)
The Pick: Tampa Bay
The Score: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 24
Seems like an obvious Survivor Pool pick, but how confident can you really be in this New Orleans team right now? Did you know that in 2014 a horrible Tampa Bay team took the Saints to overtime in New Orleans and then 5 weeks later those same Saints lost to the average 49ers in overtime, also at home? The Saints aren’t an automatic “unbeatable at home” team anymore.
No one in their right mind could pick the Saints to lose outright, but even if they lead by two touchdowns all day, couldn’t you see them giving up some points when the game’s already been decided? Both teams are horrible defensively. I tend not to bet on a team to hold onto a 10-point lead when their defense is absolute garbage.
Detroit at Minnesota (-3)
The Pick: Detroit
The Score: Detroit 23, Minnesota 16
Here’s my problem with the Vikings: They had the 8th worst run defense in 2014 and just let the 49ers run for 230 yards at a rate of 6 yards per carry even though they knew full well that running was going to be San Francisco’s preferred method of moving the ball. How could you not want to pick the Lions knowing that’ll allow you to root for Ameer Abdullah, the man who immediately made all of our Rookie of the Year predictions look terrible last week?
Arizona (-2) at Chicago
The Pick: Arizona
The Score: Arizona 21, Chicago 13
As much as I want to start predicting the Cardinals to lose, I’ve made myself wake up each morning, look in the mirror and repeat this sentence 10 times: “Just wait until Carson Palmer gets hurt.” Make no mistake about it, once Palmer does get injured and misses some games, I will bet against Arizona every step of the way. But until then, their offense is just too competent and blends well with their superb coaching and solid defense. I also distrust Jay Cutler more than I distrusted every Republican candidate on that CNN stage last night combined, and I think he’s going to have to win this game for Chicago. He won’t do it.
New England (-1.5) at Buffalo
The Pick: Buffalo
The Score: Buffalo 24, New England 22
I know many of my readers have their Patriots “Eff You Mode” blinders on just like I do so let me simply present the facts:
- In week 1 the Bills demolished an Indy team that many “experts” are picking to hang an “AFC Finalist” banner once again next winter.
- The Bills did this with a classic Rex Ryan defense that has slowed the Patriots offense down plenty of times in the past.
- The Bills were playing without one of their best defensive linemen, Marcell Dareus, when that line caused Andrew Luck to look like a Josh McCown / Brandon Weeden hybrid.
- Dareus and Kyle Williams might be the Bills’ best defensive players. They happen to be the guys who play in the middle of the defensive line, where they’ll be facing up to three rookies on the interior of the Patriots’ offensive line for much of the game.
- The Buffalo crowd is going to be bonkers on Sunday. The new owners brought immediate goodwill to Buffalo last year. Then the team went out and put up a 9-7 record in 2014, their best season since 1999. And then Rex Ryan came to town with his arrogance. And then they began the season in amazing fashion at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Their crowd is going to be N-U-T-S on Sunday.
- The Patriots have lost a game against a seemingly “inferior” team in the first month of the season in five of the past six years. Four of those five losses were against a division opponent. More often than not, that loss is on the road.
- After this game, the Patriots face the Jaguars, Cowboys (without Dez Bryant) and Colts.
- This matchup on Sunday is clearly the early-season game that the Patriots will lose.
San Diego at Cincinnati (-3.5)
The Pick: Cincinnati
The Score: Cincinnati 33, San Diego 23
It’s tough to get a good read on the Bengals because they played the Raiders in week 1. Let me ask you a question though. Is this a nationally televised prime time game? No? OK then. Andy Dalton will be fine and the Bengals will cover.
Tennessee (-1) at Cleveland
The Pick: Tennessee
The Score: Tennessee 18, Cleveland 9
This line started off on Monday with Cleveland being a 2-point favorite. I’m guessing the fact that Austin Davis, the Browns’ 3rd string QB, is taking some 1st team snaps this week because Johnny Manziel has a bum elbow is the reason for this drastic line move. That’s right, the 2015 Cleveland Browns might be featuring their 3rd best option at quarterback when they take the field for their home opener on Sunday. Get excited, Northeastern Ohio!
When I guessed every team’s win-loss record before the season began, I had this as a win for the Browns. But….since this is Cleveland we’re talking about, you know how this goes. The Browns fans are going to forever long for Marcus Mariota and die wondering why their team selected Johnny Manziel with such a high draft pick.
Atlanta at NY Giants (-2)
The Pick: Atlanta
The Score: Atlanta 35, NY Giants 20
We knew what the Giants’ biggest issue was heading into the regular season: pass defense. They presumably had no pass rush and were employing one of the worst groups of cornerbacks and safeties in the league. Well, we were right. Tony Romo carved them up to the tune of an 80% completion rate and over 350 yards. I don’t think Giants fans are going to enjoy both Julio Jones and Roddy White going off for 150 receiving yards on Sunday. I really don’t see Eli getting a chance to wear the dunce cap this time around because it won’t be a close game.
St. Louis (-3.5) at Washington
The Pick: Washington
The Score: St. Louis 20, Washington 17
Wow, this is just a liiiiiittle too much respect for the Rams. Remember that they were at home last week and it’s not like their defense shut the Seahawks out completely. I actually love where this line landed. If it was St. Louis favored by 1 or 2, I’d really have to think about taking them. I’m pretty sure the Skins will be able to run the ball, and it’s more probable than not that they will keep Tavon Austin in check on special teams. Washington falls to 0-2 but maybe their fans can enjoy the moral victory of the team keeping it close against both Miami and St. Louis.
Miami (-6) at Jacksonville
The Pick: Miami
The Score: Miami 26, Jacksonville 6
I think I had Jacksonville as the 4th or 5th worst team in the NFL this year. That might have been aggressively optimistic. While it’s a lot more trendy to pick teams like San Francisco and Chicago to be the worst teams in football in 2015, it may just be that Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Oakland still take the cake in the ineptness category.
Baltimore (-6) at Oakland
The Pick: Baltimore
The Score: Baltimore 34, Oakland 17
Welcome to the safest Survivor Pool pick of the week. Sure, there’s a chance the Ravens struggle for the second consecutive road game against an AFC West team, especially with them losing Terrell Suggs, but this Raiders team already got blown out at home in week 1 and that was before they lost both starting safeties to injuries. Neither player (Charles Woodson and Nate Allen) is as important to Oakland as Suggs is to Baltimore, but Baltimore also has a lot deeper of a team to withstand an injury like that. I can’t imagine what Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and the rest of that offense is going to do to an already awful defense down a couple starters.
Dallas at Philadelphia (-5)
The Pick: Dallas
The Score: Dallas 26, Philadelphia 24
You want to see a fan base in full panic mode after only two weeks? Check out the Philly fans when they lose at home to a Dallas team that’s missing Dez Bryant. What’s a better way to describe the position Chip Kelly will be in after this game? “There’s blood in the water” or “The noose is tightening around him”?
Seattle at Green Bay (-3.5)
The Pick: Seattle
The Score: Seattle 24, Green Bay 21
Week 1 went perfectly if you’re like me and knew all along you’d be picking the Seahawks here. The Packers looked fine against the Bears, and Seattle looked just OK while losing at St. Louis. Those results led to Green Bay giving more than a field goal against the defending NFC Champs, a team the Packers haven’t beaten in what seems like a decade!
But I don’t care that they are finally getting this matchup in Green Bay or that Seattle’s offensive line looked horrible last week. The Packers’ pass rush is nothing compared to the Rams’, and more importantly, the Bears ran for 189 yards (5.7 yards per carry) on Green Bay last week. I’m just not convinced the Packers have done anything to address what has been a below-average run defense for the past three years. I’m feeling a big day from Marshawn Lynch and the running version of Russell Wilson.
NY Jets at Indianapolis (-7)
The Pick: NY Jets
The Score: NY Jets 21, Indianapolis 14
Here’s my conservative prediction for the Colts this year: 0-16, Andrew Luck gets benched permanently in week 6 for Matt Hasselbeck, Pagano fired before Halloween, Jim Irsay forced to sell the team in December when recordings of him saying racist things about Roger Goodell surface, and the team hangs a “2015 AFC Final 16” banner.
The weekly tally looks like this:
- 7 Favorites, 9 Underdogs
- 7 Road Dogs, 2 Home Dogs
- 5 Home Teams, 11 Road Teams
Enjoy week 2.