Week 2 NFL Picks: Ready For Another “Crazy” Week?

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 3.49.00 PM

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…

eli-dope-nypcover

…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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.43.01 AM

  • 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.

microsoft-store16rb2

  • 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:

bortles manning

  • 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:

  1. In week 1 the Bills demolished an Indy team that many “experts” are picking to hang an “AFC Finalist” banner once again next winter.
  2. The Bills did this with a classic Rex Ryan defense that has slowed the Patriots offense down plenty of times in the past.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. After this game, the Patriots face the Jaguars, Cowboys (without Dez Bryant) and Colts.
  8. 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.

Advertisements

NFL Week 2 Picks: Maybe We Can Squeeze in a Game Between Controversies?

goodell

As far as last week goes, no need to get too down on myself. Sure, I posted a 6-10 record, but in five of those games that I lost, my pick was actually covering at halftime. So with a little better conditioning by the players, I could have gone 11-5. It’s always the players’ fault.

Speaking of 11-5, did you know that’s the record that Underdogs posted in week 1? Even more incredible is that nine of those Dogs were on the road. Home teams were only 6-10 against the spread. And a final number for you: Underdogs won seven games outright. Don’t ignore the moneyline bets early on in the season.

Interestingly enough, 11 is also the number of underdogs I’m picking to cover in week 2. Favorites covered at an incredible rate in 2013. It doesn’t feel like that’s going to be the same in 2014. Come join me on the Underdog Train.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 24

Ahh, the comedic timing of the football gods. The Ray Rice story goes from a barely lit match to a full-fledged forest fire on a short week where the Ravens are facing their biggest rival and trying to avoid an 0-2 start.

Is it truly bad luck that the video leaked this week, or was it the work of a man who will stop at nothing to get an edge in the AFC North?

Mike_Tomlin_Tripping_Jacoby_Jones_Ravens_Steelers

Every person—football fan or not—has the right to be pissed about the way the NFL handled this ongoing story, but Ravens players & fans should be particularly livid. Baltimore’s season could be over because of this. Maybe they’ll rally, maybe they won’t. But I’d be furious knowing an inept Commissioner and team owner caused this to go from a story that goes away in March, to a story that’s permeated the locker room for all of preseason and has now reached an “Aaron Hernandez is a serial killer? What?!?!” level distraction. Not fair to them.

**Final comment about the fallout from this video: There is a 0.00% chance Roger Goodell shows up to hand this year’s Super Bowl Winner the Lombardi Trophy in Arizona, right? So how can you continue to be the commissioner of a league when you know virtually all the players and all the fans despise you to the point that you’re scared to show your face at the greatest event of your sport’s season? I’m giving it 10 more days before someone important takes the fall (Goodell, the Ravens’s owner, someone).

By the way, I double dog dare any NFL team to play “Love In An Elevator” over their stadium’s audio system when the Ravens are visiting this year.

Miami (-1) @ Buffalo

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 29, Buffalo 23

Miami gets a couple points of respect for beating New England but not enough. This is one of those games where I can’t let week 1 sway me too much. Buffalo over Chicago was a big win, but I still think the Bills are that five-win team that I predicted a few weeks ago.

Jacksonville @ Washington (-6)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Washington 24, Jacksonville 20

Can the Redskins lose their second straight game to a team that didn’t crack the five-win mark last season? I see six more losses on Washington’s schedule so this would be the right time to lock down a home win against the Jaguars. By the way, on account of RGIII playing decent enough in week 1 and the insane amount of Ray Rice coverage, we heard nothing this week of Kirk Cousins replacing Griffin. If this team somehow loses to the Jaguars at home? Move over, Commissioner Cover-Up stories.

Dallas @ Tennessee (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Dallas
  • The Score: Dallas 30, Tennessee 27

No thanks. It feels like a Tennessee three-point spread that got pushed up by how publicly awful Dallas was once again to open the season.

Arizona (-3) @ NY Giants

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: Arizona 27, NY Giants 26

This year I’m trying not to ditch all my preseason projections just because the first games didn’t go how I expected. Before the season started, the Cardinals wouldn’t have been a three-point favorite. Just like Tennessee wouldn’t have been favored as much in the game above.

New England (-3) @ Minnesota

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 28, Minnesota 21

Continuing with that theme, if no games had been played yet, the Patriots would be six-point favorites. It’s absolutely terrifying to know New England is 2-6 in its last eight road games, but I’m buying into this team slowly improving as everyone works their way back from injuries.

New Orleans (-7) @ Cleveland

  • The Pick: Cleveland
  • The Score: New Orleans 27, Cleveland 24

This game quickly moved from six points to seven points. I don’t get it. Is everyone dropping a year’s salary on the Saints or something? Even though they’ve gone 1-6 in their past seven road games? Even with the Browns possibly being downright decent? Until they prove capable of winning a road game, I’m betting against New Orleans whenever they’re away from the Superdome.

Atlanta @ Cincinnati (-5)

  • The Pick: Atlanta
  • The Score: Atlanta 33, Cincinnati 24

Road dogs, Road dogs, Road dogs! Especially when it’s the newly-annointed best offense in the league playing the road dog role.

Detroit @ Carolina (-3)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 28, Carolina 20

Remind me how this outrage over domestic violence thing goes again. If Carolina covers, I can call Bovada and demand my money back because Greg Hardy shouldn’t be allowed to play, right?

St. Louis @ Tampa Bay (-6)

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score:Tampa Bay 19, St. Louis 15

Here’s your “I’m going to get a little crazy and back a team that looked like shit just because their opponent in week 2 looks like an even bigger piece of shit” suicide pool pick. But let’s not go overboard and expect a Bucs team that could be missing Doug Martin and Logan Mankins to beat anyone by a touchdown. Any time I plan to back the Bucs this year, I’m just going to re-watch this:

Seattle (-6) @ San Diego

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: Seattle 24, San Diego 23

This line is a couple points too high on account of the public thinking Seattle might be on its way to a 16-0 season. I’m going to follow the formula of expecting easy Seattle wins in their home games, and difficult wins or close losses in their road games.

Side note on 16-0: I made a small bet each on “Will any team go 16-0” and “Will any team go 0-16.” Both bets were 33/1 odds for “Yes”. That might be low odds for how difficult either of those two feats actually are, but you can’t argue with the amount of fun it’s going to be to root for terrible teams to stay winless.

Houston (-3) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: 30, Oakland 24

Houston’s convincing win against Washington last week did nothing to change my initial prediction, which was that they’re an eight or nine win team with an average quarterback. With a less-than-average QB like ole’ Fitzy, they don’t win more than six. I just happen to think this is one of their six wins.

NY Jets @ Green Bay (-8)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 36, NY Jets 24

It appears as though Eddie Lacy is important enough to merit Bovada not setting a line on this game until his status is confirmed. Either way, here’s your safest Suicide Pool pick of the week. Green Bay may play the role of bumbling wannabe contender well, but they’re not dropping one at home to the Jets. Remember that Aaron Rodgers is great against bad teams.

Kansas City @ Denver (-13)

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: Denver 31, Kansas City 24

If Chicago & New Orleans were the obvious “too many people are backing these teams, better go the other way” picks in week 1, the Broncos are that team in week 2. People were already sour on the Chiefs before they lost at home to Tennessee. They also lost two defensive linemen in that game. It would be so like the NFL for the Chiefs to somehow play this game close and only lose by seven (or even worse, the Chiefs win outright, crushing even more Suicide Pools than Chicago did last week). Maybe this will be the start of a mini-panic within the media because the Broncos are “only” beating teams by a touchdown.

Chicago @ San Francisco (-7)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: San Francisco 29, Chicago 24

Last week Chicago was terrible at home and San Francisco was great on the road. So what? These two teams are not a touchdown apart in any situation. I honestly have no idea who wins this game, but if you take the 49ers at -7, you’re clearly just picking based on a single week’s results. Good luck with that.

Philadelphia @ Indianapolis (-3)

  • The Pick: Indianapolis
  • The Score: Indianapolis 35, Philadelphia 27

Impossible to feel good about this no matter which side you pick. On one side I believe that Philly is one of the eight best NFC teams, and that makes them better than the AFC’s third or fourth best team. But on the other side, Andrew Luck just seems to have that magic where he gets it done nearly every time but you have no idea how. I’ll tell you this much…If Luck tries a QB sneak on the goal line again, I’m done with this team. You don’t think everyone’s expecting that after the number of times you pulled that move last year?

Outside of delivering a winning week to you with my picks, I have another commitment I’m willing to make: Even if ESPN, the NFL Network, Twitter, Facebook and your Uncle’s random blog all continue to talk about Rice, Goodell and all the other things that are wrong with football, you can count on me to deliver picks & recap columns going forward that focus primarily on the actual games. I’m over this drama and would like to get around to watching some good football this season.

Enjoy week 2.

Week 2 Picks Against the Spread

I am the blogging equivalent of Stevan Ridley, David Wilson and Alfred Morris. In 2012 I burst onto the scene as a legitimate weapon (in my case a football prognosticator), and my fans were incredibly high on me going into the 2013 season. Big things were coming. Perhaps picking games correctly in the 75% range.

But it was all lost so quickly. My lack of preparation during the week and inability to execute on game day resulted in my worst week of football picks ever. I ruined my reputation, lost the faith of my fans and crushed my own confidence in the process.

While I might have metaphorically fumbled away my career, those three running backs threatened to literally fumble away theirs.

I think what I’m feeling is empathy towards them. But just like those young men are probably chomping at the bit to have their number called so they can show the world they’re capable of holding onto the friggen football, I too am desperately seeking redemption. Unlike those players, however, I don’t have a Tom Coughlin or Bill Belichick in my life who can stick me in the doghouse. So who knows when we’ll see some of the fumbling trio again (or how much we’ll see them), but like it or not, you’re stuck with me for another 21 weeks.

All I can promise is maximum effort.

Actually I can promise one more thing: I’m not going to overreact to week 1. By all accounts, this was the worst weekend in gambling history for many bettors. The Vegas sports books probably made an entire NFL season worth of profit in one weekend. I refuse to believe I should scrap all my preseason projections just because the opening 16 games almost unanimously finished with the exact opposite result of what I was expecting.

But there are some lessons to be learned from week 1, such as:

  • Just because I think Brandon Weeden might be an average QB eventually doesn’t mean he’s currently an average QB.
  • Just because Ben Roethlisberger was healthy going into the season doesn’t mean I should ignore the quality (and age) of the 52 players around him.
  • If you’ve been worried about Josh Freeman from the start of preseason like I have, maybe give it a week or two before you buy into the Tampa hype and wager 60% of your net worth on them.

I’ve taken my deep breath, thought through where I went wrong last week, and I’m ready to take that handoff and break off an AP-like 78-yard run for my readers.

Here are the week 2 picks:

NY Jets @ New England (-13)

I know I’ll end up getting this wrong, but I’m taking the Jets to cover for so many reasons. The Patriots struggled mightily to put up points on the Bills (two touchdowns, three field goals), and that was with the luxury of getting huge contributions of Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola. They’re both out for this game, Gronk’s still out and Stevan Ridley is one fumble away from being available to the other 31 teams on waivers. And the Jets defense is probably better than the Bills.

Here’s another thing I discovered this week: The Patriots lose a game early in the season almost every year to a divisional opponent or a weak opponent in general. Here’s the list of those losses: Week 2 vs Arizona in ’12, Week 3 @ Buffalo in ’11, Week 2 @ the Jets in ’10, Week 2 @ the Jets in ’09, Week 3 vs Miami in ’08, Week 3 vs Denver in ’06, Week 2 @ Carolina in ’05.

So in seven of the past eight years they’ve lost at least once early, usually to an inferior team. Three of those seven times it’s been at home. I’m not saying the Jets are a lock, but with this recent history of the Pats stumbling early (usually while they’re still figuring things out and seeing what they have in some younger players), and the seemingly endless list of players who are hurt, I just can’t pick the Patriots to win by that much. If this game was in New Jersey, I’d be picking the Jets to win outright. Since it’s at Gillette, I’m taking New England to win 26-20.

San Diego @ Philadelphia (-7.5)

A team that was 4-12 last year is favored by more than a touchdown in week 2 against a team that finished last season at 7-9. That probably doesn’t happen too often, but people are HIGH on this Eagles team. How high? Think about smoking a blunt then immediately taking a gravity bong rip and washing it down with a pot brownie. That high.

My instinct is to say this line is ridiculous (it actually opened at Philly -9, even more ridiculous), but part of me could totally see the Eagles winning big. The teams that are going to slow down the Eagles are the ones who can sustain long offensive drives and give their defense plenty of time to recoup on the sidelines. I don’t see the Chargers being that team. Maybe Philip Rivers is done as an above average quarterback. All I know so far is that I’m unlikely to back the Chargers on the road at any point this season.

I don’t believe in the Eagles as a Super Bowl contender, but I believe that they can handle an inferior AFC team at home quite easily (at least over these final few games before Michael Vick gets injured). Philly wins 31-17.

Cleveland @ Baltimore (-7)

In week 1 the Browns were able to completely shut down the Dolphins’ running game (23 carries for 20 yards total) and WR1 Mike Wallace (who channeled his inner T.O. and managed to ruin a good team win with his selfish bitching afterward). But it was the combination of WR2 Brian Hartline coming up big and Brandon Weeden coming up really small that allowed the Dolphins to get the win. Let’s say the Browns run defense is solid and Ray Rice is a non-factor in this game. And we can definitely make the argument that the Ravens’ current WR2 (whichever unqualified player they decide to stick there) is worse than Hartline so the Browns have a chance to really shut down the Baltimore passing game too. So as usual the pick comes down to Weeden. Maybe if he can turn the ball over just once and the defense performs how I think it could, Cleveland can keep it close and maybe even steal a road win. Right?

Right. Well, sort of. They can keep it close, but they won’t win. The Browns cover but the Ravens win 17-13.

Fun Fact (stolen from ESPN.com’s Power Rankings article): Brandon Weeden was 11-of-28 with two interceptions on throws five yards or fewer downfield. Let that sink in for a minute.

Tennessee @ Houston (-10)

Sigh. Fourth game on the docket, fourth spread that’s large enough to make me feel uncomfortable. I guess what we’re trying to figure out here is how Tennessee stacks up against San Diego. Because if you think the Titans are equal to or better than the Chargers, they shouldn’t have a problem keeping it relatively close against a team that struggled against San Diego on Monday night.

But that’s the type of analysis you’d get from a jackass who only looks at the final score. When I looked further into that Monday night game, I found that Houston actually put up 449 total yards of offense. They held the Chargers to 263 yards. So why the come-from-behind three-point win? The Texans had a lot of drives in the first three quarters that ended weirdly. There was the interception on the first play from scrimmage, a failed 4th & 1 attempt when they could have kicked a field goal, a missed 51-yard field goal and a drive that ended because of halftime. All these things are their own fault, of course, but with a couple breaks they probably win that game by 7-10 points.

In my week 1 preview, I took Pittsburgh over Tennessee and said they’d easily put up points and shut down the one weapon on the Titans, Chris Johnson. I’d like permission to use that same rationale again because this time I really do think the Titans’ opponent has too many offensive weapons and a defense that can limit Johnson. I’m terrified of large spreads all of the sudden, but I do think Houston can win by 10. I’m taking Houston to win and cover, 28-17.

Miami @ Indianapolis (-3)

The scariest thing about that opening weekend Colts-Raiders game if you’re an Indy fan? The Raiders pretty much dominated. They had more 1st downs, more total yards, a significant time of possession advantage and they got to Andrew Luck more successfully than the Colts got to Terrelle Pryor. Why did Oakland lose? Two turnovers (to Indy’s zero) and eight penalties.

What I’m trying to say is the Colts didn’t exactly inspire confidence based on their week 1 play. But hey, the Dolphins weren’t looking like Super Bowl contenders in their win against the Browns either. They received the unexpected gift of Cleveland head-scratchingly letting Brandon Weeden throw the ball 53 times.

I’m taking the Dolphins to cover, but the Colts to pull out the win 24-23. I believe the Colts are good, but they’re not on the same page yet. It’s essentially Chuck Pagano’s first real season of being the head coach. Pep Hamilton is in his first season as offensive coordinator (I spent roughly 17 minutes on Google trying to find out what Pep is short for, because it’s obviously a nickname, right? Couldn’t find a damn thing disproving his legal name being Pep). I’m just not confident in Indy…yet.

Carolina (-3) @ Buffalo

It’s impossible to judge any team after one week, but that’s especially true for the Panthers, who may have been facing the best defense in football in Seattle. It looks like Buffalo will still be missing key defensive backs Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd. So the Panthers go from facing arguably the best defense in the NFL to matching up against a middle-of-the-road AFC defense that’s missing a couple key players. Hmm…is that enough to stop the analysis right here and pick Carolina? Yup, it is. Carolina wins 20-16.

Remember we’re not abandoning our preseason projections. A mediocre NFC team trumps a mediocre AFC team every time.

St. Louis @ Atlanta (-7)

I think Roddy White’s injury is detrimental enough to the Falcons’ chances that I went the extra mile and looked up the latest on him. What I found was unsettling…not about White, but more importantly the rest of his teammates. Just look at this injury report.

Holy crap. Key players on offense and defense banged up already. And obviously the name that jumps out is Julio Jones. Can you imagine this team trying to compete with a hampered White and Jones? Fuck no.

Of course, those guys will still play, even if they’re not 100%. And the Falcons still have an incredible home record in the Matt Ryan era. I won’t pick them to lose outright, but I will pick the Rams to cover. Atlanta sneaks by 27-25.

Fun fact: Wipe the notion of Atlanta dominating at home out of your head. They won seven games at home last year, but only two of those wins came by seven or more points. Not exactly killing it at home.

Washington @ Green Bay (-8)

Can we take the Redskins off the board in all pick ‘em leagues? It just doesn’t seem fair to be forced to make a decision on this team when nobody knows what RGIII will bring to the table. Was that 2nd half against Philly legit? Or was it simply the Eagles taking their foot off the gas after going up 33-7? I’m in the camp that thinks the 2nd half Redskins was closer to the real thing offensively.

Meanwhile, over in Green Bay the Packers are kinda sorta facing a must-win game. They travel to Cincinnati in week 3. What if the Packers are 0-3 after that game? And what if the Bears (hosting Minnesota in week 2, at Pittsburgh in week 3) are 3-0 at that point? Mass panic in Wisconsin, right?

I don’t think the Packers start 0-3. I don’t even think they start 0-2. I’ve got Green Bay winning this game but not covering, 30-25.

Dallas @ Kansas City (-3)

Wow. Week 2 and already we have a matchup that could be a Super Bowl preview.

Joking. Technically every NFC vs AFC game this time of year could be a Championship preview.

As happy as the fans for both of these teams must be after their week 1 performances, the objective analyst knows both wins were a bit of a mirage. The Chiefs were handed the gift of facing Jacksonville, specifically Blaine Gabbert and his 1.2 QBR (seriously, on a scale of 0-100, he put up a solid 1.2 in the quarterback rating department). And the Cowboys actually got six gifts from the Giants on Sunday night, three interceptions and three fumbles.

We also have what should be competing philosophies in this game: You’d expect the Chiefs to go with a ball control, run heavy offense, and the Cowboys should probably spread the field and throw, throw, throw.

I’m falling back on the old NFC trumps AFC when comparing two middle-tier teams. The Cowboys pull off the win, 23-17.

Minnesota @ Chicago (-6)

This Chicago team is probably better than last year’s team, right? Sure, their defense can’t possibly put up the same jaw-dropping turnover and touchdown numbers as the 2012 edition, but their offensive line is better, their coaching is presumably better and their running back is healthy. The Vikings are…worse than last year? The same as last year?

I’m unwilling to overthink this one. Detroit dominated the Vikings last week (even if the score doesn’t look that bad), and I just can’t trust Christian Ponder to even elevate his play to a Sanchezian level. The Bears win this one easily, 27-13.

Warning: Adrian Peterson had 308 total yards in two games against Chicago last year. There’s at least a 2% chance he takes this game over and carries his team to victory, yet again, in spite of Ponder.

Fun Fact: Against Detroit, Christian Ponder was 3-of-6 for 68 yards and two interceptions against at least eight men in the box. So good luck, AP, because eight in the box is your new normal.

New Orleans (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay

Prior to week 1 I had the NFC South beating the snot out of each other with the home team almost always coming out on top. For some reason I strayed from that when I picked the Saints to lose at home to Atlanta last Sunday. I’m skipping over all statistical analysis and reverting to preseason thoughts once again. The Bucs could win this. Just think, if that guy on Tampa (not important enough of a player for me to remember his name or look him up) hadn’t gotten called for questionable unnecessary roughness for his “late” hit on Geno Smith in the closing seconds of the Bucs-Jets game, we’d be talking about the gritty road win that Tampa got up in New Jersey. And the Bucs would probably be a one-point underdog at worst against the Saints.

I’m going with the Saints to win but not cover, 30-28.

Detroit (-2) @ Arizona

I wish I was a real football analyst. Or I wish I at least had access to one. I’d just like to know if Patrick Peterson is actually one of the best cornerbacks in the league. I feel like we’ve heard that he is, but no one ever talks about him anymore. I’d like someone to tell me if Peterson has a chance to minimize Calvin Johnson in this game. If so, I could see the Cardinals keeping it close.

Since I don’t have that info, I’m just going with what I saw last weekend and gut instinct. I saw the Lions absolutely pummel the Vikings. I swear Detroit put the ball in the end zone 12 times, even if they only got credit for four touchdowns (there was a Calvin Johnson catch that was called back, the defensive TD that was wiped away because of Ndamukong Suh, a dive over the pile by one of their RBs where the ball popped up about 30 feet into the air).

But you know what, I just selected this game to be my Aaron Memorial Pick of the week. As a refresher, this is the pick where I get to a logical conclusion of who should win and then make the exact opposite prediction at the last moment. I think Detroit could go into Arizona and do some damage, so I’m going with Arizona to win and cover, 26-24.

Jacksonville @ Oakland (-6)

Oakland should not be favored against anyone by six points.

Chad Henne, who is starting this week for the Jaguars, is better than Blaine Gabbert.

Maurice Jones-Drew is far better than the running backs on the Colts who just so happened to average about 5 yards per carry against Oakland last week.

There is now tape of Terrelle Pryor for coaches to study.

Jacksonville covers but loses the game. The Raiders take it 15-12, no touchdowns scored.

Denver (-4.5) @ NY Giants

This game would be a must-see if both teams just completely abandoned the running game in favor of each quarterback throwing the ball 60 times. But you know that jerk Tom Coughlin won’t do it. Even though his running backs did everything in their power to get running plays eliminated from the Giants’ playbook in week 1, Coughlin will try to do the strategic “run the ball to kill clock and keep Peyton off the field” move.

C’mon, Tom. Just let the “football on your phone” dorks throw the damn thing.

I’m picking the Giants to cover (though they’ll ultimately lose 34-30) with my only hope being a furious late-game rally that falls just short when they decide to finally utilize their three stud WRs, which is all we want out of them the rest of the year.

San Francisco @ Seattle (-3)

Part of me thinks the 49ers will go 16-0 this year. But see, that’s week 1 overreaction Ross writing that absurdity. After all, no team comprised of mere mortals could ever go 16-0.

Preseason I thought these two teams were mirror images of each other and the home team wold prevail in their two head-to-head matchups.

The thing that scares me about that is Colin Kaepernick. What if he is a huge step above Russell Wilson, RGIII and Andrew Luck? That’s a huge advantage if all other things are equal. But I’m giving the Seahawks a chance before I crown the 9ers in the NFC. Seattle wins and covers 27-23.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (-7)

By picking Cincinnati to cover, I’m not just reacting to week 1. I always thought the Bengals would win all of their home AFC North games, and a touchdown really isn’t that much to win by. But week 1 is certainly reinforcing my pick because how in the hell is the Steelers offensive line supposed to block one of the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL? And the dirty little secret with Pittsburgh is that they no longer have any Pro Bowl caliber players on offense. How do you stay competitive with a team like that?

I’m not ready to say Pittsburgh will be in the running for the #1 draft pick in 2014, but they might be closer to that level than a playoff level.

Wait, is it bad that I’m totally glossing over Andy Dalton? I still don’t think he’s that good, but with A.J. Green making plays and their defense potentially being one of the best in the league, does it matter?

I say no. Cincinnati handles this game easily 31-21.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 2 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 10 Underdogs
  • Of those 10 Underdogs, I’m taking 3 Home Dogs and 7 Road Dogs

Still feels like too many underdogs, especially the ones on the road. Oh well, things can’t get worse than last week, right?

Season record: 2-13-1

Enjoy week 2.