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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satan’s Deal with the Mannings, Fun Times with Referees And the Rest of the NFL’s Week 2 in Review

Here’s how we’re gonna play this: I have some thoughts on the NFL officiating, but because every person reading this post has probably had their fill of bad refereeing talk already, I’m going to save it for the end. That way you’ll know it’s the last section and can skip it if you’re sick of hearing about the situation.

In week 2, there were no crazy signs or bad omens before kickoff that had me thinking a disastrous week was looming. But that’s exactly what I got (and I’m sure the same goes for many other degenerate gamblers). I only went 7-7-2 in my picks against the spread, I got slaughtered in both fantasy leagues (with the bonus kick-in-the-sack being possibly losing Matt Forte and Aaron Hernandez for multiple weeks), my dog got her pick wrong, and of course my Patriots were on the wrong side of the biggest upset this week. Dumb luck kept me from choosing New England as my suicide pool pick, but that’s a small consolation.

But enough about me. What non-refereeing-involved news went on around the league in week 2?

-Let me be the first to wonder if Green Bay’s offense is in a little bit of trouble through 1/8th of the regular season. They’re averaging 22.5 points so far, and I know it’s a tiny sample size, but we’re talking about a team in 2011 that went 15-1 while averaging 35 points per game. You can argue that facing the 49ers and Bears in the first two weeks put them up against two of the better defenses in the league. But don’t forget they were at home in both games. And in 2011, they averaged 31 points in their two games against the Bears. Just something to keep an eye on because if that offense takes a step back, their defense will have to play as good as it did against Chicago almost every week.

-I made a note at halftime of the first games on Sunday that Eli Manning had already thrown three interceptions, including one of the worst throws I’ve ever seen when he tossed it directly to a Tampa defender standing nine feet in front of him, but somehow this is the same guy that makes multiple impossible throws at the exact right time in the two biggest games of his life. As you know, Eli went on to lead the Giants to a great comeback over the Bucs, and then I made the following note: Isn’t it interesting that around the exact same time that Peyton’s deal with the devil ran out—2007 after he finally won a Super Bowl—Eli’s even more ridiculous deal with the devil seemingly kicked in? If nothing more, I guess we should all be thankful that Satan is only willing to help out one Manning at a time.

-It feels like we’re heading towards a weekly installment of “things Julie shouldn’t bother me with during the Patriots game.” This week was her attempt at showing me ridiculous Halloween costumes on Amazon that we could buy for our dog. There’s probably only two dog-related comments that could get me to remove my eyes from the TV during a Pats game: 1). “Our dog is gushing blood out of her [fill in any orifice ],” and 2). “Our dog is going into labor.”

-I won’t bother to do the research, but I wonder if any player has ever won both the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award and the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the same season. I’m holding out hope that Chandler Jones could be the first.

-In the same week that the media will finally stop jamming the Harbaugh vs Schwartz “handshake and pursue” replay down our throats, fucking Tom Coughlin and Greg Schiano have to go and create a whole new postgame incident clip to get overplayed for the next year. Perfect timing, fellas. God forbid ESPN and the NFL Network has to waste its precious airtime showing clips of actual football being played.

-As bad of a week as it was for my gambling habits, I’m happy to say my first season-long bet paid off. The bet was “which rookie QB starter will be the last to win a game.” I obviously chose Brandon Weeden, so I’m a winner. But the odds were -22,000 on him, so I won something like 1/550th of a penny. But the real good news is that my gambling website is letting me roll this bet over into next year. I got odds on all of next year’s rookie QBs getting their first win before Weeden does. I feel great about this bet.

-I found a funny yet miserable way of figuring out the status of my fantasy teams on Sunday afternoon without having to look at the scores on my computer or phone. Just look at the rolling fantasy leaders that every network shows on the bottom of the TV screen during games. Usually they go through the top 10 at each key posistion…QB, WR, RB, TE. If you don’t have a single player in any of those top 10’s, there’s a 100% chance you’re screwed. It’s science.

-OK, I can’t resist. One refereeing comment before the end. When the real refs do eventually come back, I’m most looking forward to each of their first explanations over the stadium PA systems. I feel like they will get the loudest ovations from the crowd that any officials in any sport have ever gotten. Right?

-The thing I’m being most vigilant about this season is the “QB replaced due to ineffectiveness” winner. Nkilla and I both predicted John Skelton from Arizona would be the first, but an injury ruined our chances of getting that right. I think the new frontrunner has to be Blaine Gabbert of Jacksonville fame. He actually left this past week’s blowout loss because of an injury, but the Jags offense overall put up a lofty 52 total passing yards. There’s a legit chance they start the season 0-8 now with only this coming week at Indy as their one shot to not be 0-and-half-the-season. When they do drop to 0-and-whatever, they’ll have to make a change to Chad Henne (Jesus, just realizing this is the franchise most likely to relocate to LA if we’re ever gonna get a team around here. Do we really want this specific team?).

-I want everyone to know that Peyton Manning is the best n0-huddle quarterback the NFL has ever seen. Analysts have been saying that for years. But I also heard this year that Joe Flacco is the most unstoppable QB when running the no-huddle…And isn’t it true that analysts are always saying Tom Brady is the scariest QB when he’s running that hurry-up and not allowing a tired defense to make changes? But Eli’s pretty awesome at the no-huddle too, right? That’s what he uses to complete so many of his amazing 4th quarter comebacks? But I swear I just heard Jon Gruden say that Matt Ryan is the master of the no-huddle offense. I rewound my DVR just to double check. Am I supposed to believe that the NFL is comprised of about 12 QBs who are no-huddle experts and 20 QBs who can’t possibly be trusted to run a hurry-up offense? Or is it more likely that every analyst is just full of exaggeration and bullshit every time they get the chance to speak?

-Now on to this delicate officiating situation. I’m not going to rehash every little controversy that’s come up because you’re all capable of reading quotes from the players and tweets from some of the most-respected football journalists—all of whom are saying this situation has got to end now. People are questioning the legitimacy of the league at this point. On Sunday afternoon I got a text that said, “you need to watch only the STL/WAS game and write an entire blog about the officiating debacle going on there…in fact, you should pump out 5 blogs this week on these debacles in general.”

And that was before Monday night’s disaster (where the first quarter lasted for two-and-a-half hours because of the refs). It doesn’t help when ESPN announcer Mike Tirico refers to them as the current refs (huge stress on the word “current”) every time they’re making a call.

I have no idea what the real refs are asking for in their negotiations because I like watching football, not reading about avoidable drama, but they should feel confident as of Tuesday morning to ask the NFL to quadruple their initial demands. Because if these real refs don’t return soon, we just might see the first on-field murder in NFL history. I’m 95% sure that John Fox was close to snapping the neck of the replacement referee in Monday’s game vs the Falcons.

Final thought: Would you all agree that officiating in the NBA is pretty horrible? You would, and you’d agree without having any real stats to back up just how bad it is. But that’s life in the NBA—it’s a league that’s sometimes more known for horrible refereeing than for the actual basketball. It’s a stink that follows them around, which means everyone (fans, media, players and coaches) is constantly overanalyzing every call or non-call looking for reasons to scream about the officials. I guarantee at this point it’s more perception than reality, but it’s still what everyone believes. The NFL is running the risk of this big time. I know I’m already going into my Sunday viewing looking for mistakes the replacement refs are making. Does the league really want a situation where the public essentially puts an asterisk next to the entire 2012 season? I doubt it, but I’m also the guy who guaranteed the real refs would return by week 3, and that seems like an impossibility now. Let’s just hope these current refs continue to get booed off the field every week. That’s all we can ask for now.