Week 3 NFL Picks: The Backup QB Takeover

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So it turns out week 2 of the NFL season was actually the first crazy week. You can tell just by looking at how many people are left in your Survivor/Eliminator Pool (more on that later). We’ve got a ton to cover in this column so let’s get right into things. And hey, if you can’t read this at work today, I’m guessing tonight’s game between the Giants and Redskins will be boring enough that you can read it then.

Some leftover thoughts from week 2:mcnabb

  • Do you remember Wilma McNabb? Donovan’s mother who dominated our lives in the early 2000s with those starring roles in Campbell’s Soup commercials? Bet you haven’t thought about her in a while. Anyway, she popped into my head last weekend so now we can all remember her together.
  • There were two teams who went on record in the offseason with what seemed like outlandish comments to me. They were the type of comments where you think, “Oh man, I hope they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are,” except it was the complete opposite. I always hoped these players would have to step in and try to back up their coaches’ words. First, we have Brandon Weeden. Dallas QB coach Wade Wilson said in June that Weeden is the team’s the most improved player, and then Jerry Jones doubled down on that this week by saying “you won’t find a more gifted passer” than the former 1st round pick. And over in Chicago, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said in June that Jimmy Clausen is a perfect fit for what they’re trying to do offensively.
  • Needless to say, I am very very excited about the Weeden and Clausen eras.
  • For the time being, it’s officially a two-man battle for the wide receiving entertainment title. Julio Jones vs Antonio Brown. I’m sure others will reappear to challenge them, but at the moment we have injuries to Dez Bryant & Jordy Nelson and guys like A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson and Odell Beckham just haven’t gone off for huge games yet.
  • The Josh McCown Helicopter Fail had been my favorite play so far this season until I saw this amazing vine the other day:
  • That’s my new favorite play because #40 for New Orleans made me think for the first time ever, “I would have been a better option on that play than an actual NFL player.”

So as everyone knows, baseball great Yogi Berra died on Tuesday. I’m one of those people who really didn’t know him for his accomplishments on the field because I’m not a Yankees fan and I wasn’t alive in the 1940s, 50s or 60s. In my mind Yogi has always been that fantastic quote machine who was probably pretty good at baseball. Reading over some of his best quotes the other day, I couldn’t help but laugh a lot (obviously) and think about some of the current NFL teams. So I decided to run through all nine football teams that are 2-0 as well as the nine that are 0-2, and assign a Yogi-ism to each. Sorry to the 1-1 teams, but you’re just too boring and middle-of-the-road to make the cut for now.

(All quotes came from this article in the Detroit Free Press.)

OK, Yogi, take it away:

“I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.”

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

Who else at this point of the NFL season can be paired up with such amazing math-fail quotes than the New York Giants (0-2)? They really did deserve special honors by getting two Yogi-isms. You just don’t see that level of clock and scoreboard mismanagement in the NFL these days, not even from the Mike Smiths and Andy Reids of the world. Besides, with Tom Coughlin being the oldest coach in the NFL, it’s more probable than not that he has to take a mid-afternoon nap just to survive the day.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

To the New Orleans Saints (0-2), who must have thought their future was bright just as recently as two years ago. After Roger Goodell created a fictitious reality where the Saints were involved in a bounty program, Sean Payton and others were forced to miss all or part of the 2012 season. Upon the program becoming whole again in 2013, Drew Brees and company promptly returned to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. With Rob “People Think I’m a Better Defensive Coach Than I Really Am” Ryan at the helm of the defense and Brees putting up 5,000 passing yards a year, the future should have been bright. Well, they went 7-9 in 2014 and now have a 3-7 record in their past 10 games. Drew Brees has become an unknown commodity at QB, and Sean Payton could find himself on the hot seat for the first time if things continue on this trend.

You know what? I’m also assigning this quote to the Dallas Cowboys (2-0). It’s pretty self-explanatory, right? The future looked very bright for Dallas so recently. A shitty division to compete with, a team coming off 12 wins and seemingly improved in every area except running back during the offseason, a franchise wide receiver newly signed to a long-term contract. It was all going to plan. And now the future is Brandon Weeden, the NFL’s most-gifted passer, for the next two months. (So long to my NFC Super Bowl pick.)

“We have deep depth.”

The scariest thing about the New England Patriots (2-0) isn’t that Tom Brady has started this season better than his record-breaking 2007 campaign or that Bill Belichick is as creative, prepared and diabolical as ever. It’s the depth the Patriots have all over their roster. New England has an offensive line that’s performed incredibly through two games even with three rookies getting regular playing time. Their reinforcements are due back soon. Their defensive line goes six or seven deep, meaning lots of rest and lots of matchup-specific playing time. Brandon LaFell hasn’t been able to get on the field yet? No problem, Aaron Dobson is finally contributing and Danny Amendola is even showing signs of life. And on and on it goes (linebacker depth, tight end depth, basically every position but defensive back is loaded). This team is prepared for almost any injury other than a significant one to Brady or Gronk.

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

Newsflash: Chip Kelly probably has no idea where he’s going at this point. Will Chip be running a different NFL team in 2016? Leading the University of Texas or some other “used to be prominent but fallen on hard times” college football program? An analyst on TV? The truth is, no one knows where Chip was going in the offseason with all his tinkering, and there’s been no further clarity through two weeks of the Philadelphia Eagles’ (0-2) season.

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

For Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts (0-2), it’s the heat and the humility. Imagine the humiliation that entire team will feel and the amount of heat from above torching Pagano if the Colts lose in Tennessee this weekend. It’s not out of the question that Indy goes into its big game against New England in week 6 with a 1-4 record. If the Patriots then drop 90 on them, Pagano’s gone the following morning, right?

“I never said most of the things I said.”

I bet Houston Texans (0-2) head coach Bill O’Brien wishes he never said the things he said on “Hard Knocks,” specifically when he chose the starting quarterback. He committed to Brian Hoyer for what seemed like at least a month or so before he’d pull the ripcord and swap in Ryan Mallett. That commitment lasted three quarters into the first game. With Mallett looking almost as bad as Hoyer in the team’s second game, what’s O’Brien to do now?

“So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.”

With this quote, Yogi is clearly trying to say, “So what if I’m ugly. Being good looking never helped anyone have success in baseball.” And that must be exactly how the Carolina Panthers (2-0) and New York Jets (2-0) are feeling right now. Both teams are undefeated. Both teams have won in pretty ugly ways so far. No one’s ever going to confuse the Panthers’ and Jets’ offenses with the Packers or Patriots. But who cares? If they play this well against all the bad and mediocre opponents on their schedule, they’ll find their way to 9 or 10 wins.

“It’s like deja vu all over again.”

In 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) started the season 3-0 and won those first few games by a combined 47 points. They were the toast of the AFC in September. Then they went 2-3-1 in their next six games and nobody took them seriously (rightfully so) the rest of the year.

In 2013, the Bengals were 6-2 at the halfway point, then went 3-3 in their next six games and nobody took them seriously (rightfully so) the rest of the year.

In 2012, the Bengals started out 3-1 before going on a four-game losing streak. You get the point…

This team begins every season looking like a serious Super Bowl contender. Do not be fooled. Cincinnati’s next five games are slotted for Sundays at 1pm Eastern. In the second half of the season, they have four Primetime games. That is when we’ll see the real Andy Dalton & Marvin Lewis. So let’s all calm down.

“It gets late early out here.”

This quote, or a variation of it, is often used to convey that a team really doesn’t have a lot of time to turn things around, even if it seems like the season is still young. And that’s exactly the case for both the Baltimore Ravens (0-2) and the Detroit Lions (0-2). For the Ravens, they play three of their next five games on the road, and the only “easy” game on the upcoming schedule is a home date with Cleveland. If they don’t fix things immediately, they could be staring at a 3-5 record when they hit their bye week.

The Lions face Denver in week 3, play at Seattle in week 4, and then have to deal with Arizona in week 5. I wouldn’t bet against an 0-5 start for them. Would you?

“You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.”

This is essentially the best the Chicago Bears (0-2) could do right now in terms of trash talking. They’ve lost 17 of their past 24 games dating back to November 2013. That’s bad. That’s Tennessee Titans / Tampa Bay Bucs level bad. It’s entirely conceivable that this team gets the #1 pick in the 2016 draft. Regardless of whether they do or don’t, it’s probably time to move on from Jay Cutler and start fresh.

“It ain’t over til it’s over.”

Who else could this be for except Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (2-0)? Manning had a handful of neck procedures prior to the 2012 season that left many thinking his career was over. Manning had a quad injury that made him look downright terrible at the end of last season that had many people thinking, once again, that his career was over. Manning continues to have no feeling in his fingers due to those neck surgeries. He looks old and creeky. We cringe anytime he takes a hit. And for as much as the Chiefs handed that game last Thursday to the Broncos, Manning still made some plays in the 2nd half when he needed to, and there was enough goodness out of him once he went exclusively to the shotgun that you can’t quite say it’s over for him just yet.

You know who Peyton reminds me of at this point? The 2004 version of Pedro Martinez. That guy routinely gave up a couple runs in the 1st or 2nd inning of his starts, but then would buckle down and all of the sudden he had thrown seven innings and walked away with a decent start. Pedro at that point was the #2 behind Curt Schilling. Maybe Manning just has to be the #2 to the Broncos defense. It’s uncomfortable for a Patriots fan to write a Peyton-Pedro comparison and hypothesize that the Broncos might be in great shape for the rest of the year. Let’s move on.

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

I have been making plans to attend the Arizona Cardinals’ (2-0) funeral for the past three years. They keep postponing it. I’m slowly coming around on the Palmer-led Cardinals because all they do is win. They’ve won exactly 75% of their games that Palmer has played in since the start of 2013 (18-6 over that time). And each of the last three years, I’ve buried them in the preseason, questioning if they’d even get to .500. Looking at their schedule, I won’t be surprised if they’re 7-1 entering their week 9 bye (and then the schedule gets interesting). This is all based around Carson Palmer, who is doing an extremely admirable job at impersonating Kurt Warner’s late career resurgence on the Cardinals. The former Bengal and Raider isn’t dead yet, it turns out.

“Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.”

Aaron Rodgers has some ridiculous streak going of not throwing an interception at home in several years. I have no idea if it’s an NFL record. I do know that no one will care much once he finally throws a pick at Lambeau. That’s one of those records (similar to Antonio Brown always having 5 catches and 50 yards in each game) that the media and broadcasters seem to shove down our throats whether we asked for it or not. The record I’m concerned most about for the Green Bay Packers (2-0) is “number of consecutive years being a Super Bowl contender without making it to the big game.” OK, it’s an unofficial record, but the Packers have now gone four straight years of having the most talented QB on the planet (not counting Brandon Weeden, of course) without playing in a Super Bowl. It’s great that they’ve started 2-0, but nothing matters for them until January. And that’s when Mike McCarthy will sabotage Rodgers and the rest of the team once again.

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

This quote gives off a very calm vibe. Basically, if you just sit there quietly and watch, you can learn a lot. And for whatever reason, it makes me think of the Atlanta Falcons (2-0). They are quietly turning back into a quality football team, and they’re positioning themselves very well in the NFC landscape. All the noise in that conference is being made by the chaotic NFC East, the stunning 0-2 Seahawks and everyone’s darlings, the Packers. But the Falcons are just quietly going about their business, unleashing the best wide receiver in football on teams every week, looking halfway decent on defense. There’s not a lot of media attention to give to them because nothing outrageous is happening. But if you just watch them a little bit, you’ll observe a team that just might contend for the #1 seed in the NFC.

“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”

This is for the team that still holds the title for talking way too much, the Seattle Seahawks (0-2). If it’s not Richard Sherman yapping about being the best cornerback, it’s Russell Wilson speaking directly to God and then speaking for him to all of us unworthy peasants. Or it’s Kam Chancellor ending his holdout this week by stating it’s time for him to help his teammates and if God forgives all, why can’t he? I just don’t understand that line from him. Who needed to be forgiven by His Holiness, Kam Chancellor? The team that wanted him to live up to his end of the bargain? His teammates who never once threw him under the bus even though he ditched them for no good reason? This team has gone from obnoxious trash talkers who back it up on the field to entitled Chosen Ones who may end up at 8-8 by the end of the year. The Seattle fans should really be praying to god for their team to shut up and just play football.

Oh, and here’s a bonus quote for the Cleveland Browns. Yes, they’re 1-1 and I’m supposed to ignore them, but c’mon, it’s the Browns.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Josh McCown vs Johnny Manziel. What the coaching staff wants vs what the fans want. No hope vs hope. Calm incompetence vs flashy incompetence.

Mike Pettine came to a fork in the road this week, and he definitely took it.

I have no idea what the right answer is for the Browns at quarterback because I think both options are terrible. I guess since there’s so much buzz (still!) about Manziel, I’d prefer they start him just because it’ll get so many more people riled up on a weekly basis. When I predicted before the season that Cleveland would finish 3-13, I had their next 10 games all as losses. Obviously if they get even halfway to that point, Manziel will be playing. So do not worry, Johnny Football fans. He will get another chance. Either by injury or by complete failure, McCown will hand over the reigns sometime soon.

And now, let’s very quickly go through the week 3 games.

Washington at NY Giants (-4)

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 28, NY Giants 23

After a one-year hiatus, we’re back to where we always seem to be with the NFC East: Four very flawed teams who won’t establish a pecking order until the last month of the season. There’s no point looking at the standings in this division until December 1st.

I lack certainty and conviction for both of these teams. All I can think is that Washington’s defense has the best chance of any personnel grouping to take this game over.

Besides, aren’t there certain teams who are more fun when they just can’t seem to win a game or do anything right? The Eagles are one of those teams. The Browns, of course, are too. And the Giants definitely are.

Atlanta (-2) at Dallas

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 34, Dallas 14

As you saw in the Yogi Berra part of this column, I’m pretty high on the Falcons. And while I know Jerry Jones is certain that Brandon Weeden is the world’s most gifted-passer, I’m just going out on a limb and saying he won’t be showing off those “gifts” very much in this game.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 27, Indianapolis 21

This was a last-minute switch for me. I had the Colts winning by 10 points or so, but then I thought about how decent the Titans have been in two road games to start the season. In their loss to Cleveland last week, Tennessee dominated in time of possession, total yards, and lots of other stats that typically correspond with winning the game. But they turned the ball over three times, the Browns recovered five of the six fumbles in the game (3 of Tennessee’s and 2 of their own), the Titans took seven sacks and they were penalized nine times. If they can clean up those self-inflicted wounds and the home crowd in Tennessee makes as much noise as they should for the first time in years, there’s plenty of reason to think this is a close game.

Oakland at Cleveland (-3.5)

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 18, Cleveland 6

Did you know the Raiders have won only two road games since the start of 2012? And even in all their road losses, I only saw one in the past three years where they lost by less than four points. So this doesn’t feel great, but…Can you imagine the fun we’ll all have if Josh McCown looks bad in a home loss to Oakland and then Mike Pettine has to answer questions for the next six days about why he keeps picking McCown over Johnny Manziel? The vitriol that’ll come from Northeast Ohio will be worth it, trust me. Go Raiders!

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-3)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 24, Baltimore 20

At this moment, the Bengals are better than the Ravens on both offense and defense. That may not be the case later in the season, but right now Baltimore lacks any real offensive threats and their defense just gave up 37 points to Oakland. And like I said above, we’re still very much in that zone where people think the Bengals might be the best team in the AFC.

Jacksonville at New England (-14)

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 40, Jacksonville 20

Here’s a first for the 2015 season: The Patriots’ upcoming opponent didn’t spend the week talking to the media about how much they hate New England, or how they finally figured out a way to cover Gronk, or how they feel like the Patriots cheated them out of playoff wins in the early part of the century. This is concerning because I almost feel like Tom Brady and the offense will take their foot off the pedal during the rare games when they don’t have an axe to grind.

Screw it. Let’s hope we’re hearing the first whisperings of “they’re running up the score, that’s poor sportsmanship” from the media on Monday morning.

New Orleans at Carolina (-3)

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 28, New Orleans 13

I’m done picking against the Panthers unless they’re facing a good team. For instance, later in the season, they play Seattle, Green Bay and Dallas (probably with a healthy Romo). I might go against them in some of those games. But at home against the Saints? A Saints team that’s pretending Drew Brees might play, but we all know they’re just trying to make Carolina prepare for multiple QBs? Please. Cam Newton could beat this team on his own…wait, what’s that? He has to beat every team on his own? OK, then. I’m even more confident. Cam Newton will beat the entire New Orleans team on Sunday.

Philadelphia at NY Jets (-2.5)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 23, Philadelphia 13

This line opened with the Eagles being 2.5 point favorites on Monday. Why the 5 point swing? I’m guessing a combination of the Jets’ impressive win over Indy on Monday night and the uncertainty of DeMarco Murray’s health.

I know it doesn’t always work like this, but I can’t expect this Eagles team to put up any points on the road against one of the best defenses in the league if they couldn’t put up more than 10 at home last week against a mediocre defense. And the Jets will probably want to keep the offense simple and throw the ball 30 times to whoever is being covered by Byron Maxwell. The overpaid cornerback appears to be the second coming of Nnamdi Asomugha for the Eagles.

Tampa Bay at Houston (-6.5)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Houston 10, Tampa Bay 7

Nope. Not happening. I am not laying nearly a touchdown to back the 0-2 Texans. They’ve shown nothing to make me think they’re capable of beating anyone by that much. For all we know, Bill O’Brien might wake up Sunday morning and decide Tom Savage needs to be starting at QB.

San Diego at Minnesota (-2.5)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 24, Minnesota 23

I bet the Vikings will be a super popular pick this week. I happen to see an extremely close game taking place. That’s all the analysis I can muster up for two teams that I don’t know very well just yet.

Pittsburgh (-2) at St. Louis

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 31, St. Louis 21

On the surface this doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting game, but it features the 2015 season debut of Le’Veon Bell and most likely the NFL debut of Rams running back Todd Gurley. I’m intrigued. I think the Steelers offense is going to be too much to handle, especially on the turf. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked a single time in last week’s win over the 49ers, so the offensive line for Pittsburgh must be doing something right. We’ll know for sure after this game.

San Francisco at Arizona (-6.5)

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 33, San Francisco 17

The worst thing you could have done is abandon all your preseason notions after week 1. If you did, you might have stupidly picked San Francisco to cover as six-point underdogs in Pittsburgh last week. But what you thought before the season started is still probably closer to the truth than what one week of football told you. And we all thought the 9ers would be terrible, right? And Carson Palmer hasn’t re-torn his ACL at practice this week, right? OK, then. We’re set here.

Buffalo at Miami (-3)

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 26, Buffalo 20

I could see a very close game here. Just like I thought before the season, I still see the three non-Patriot AFC East teams all being lumped into that 6-10 to 9-7 final record range. Buffalo hasn’t played on the road yet, and they may not be able to run it as effectively as they did the first two weeks against generous Indy and New England defenses. I like Miami in this, but I don’t love them.

Chicago at Seattle (-14.5)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Seattle 23, Chicago 17

I participate in a pretty small Survivor/Eliminator Pool. This year we have 18 entries. Last week, all 18 of us were knocked out, which of course means that all 18 of us are automatically back in! That’s great news. Many of you partake in much larger pools where a small percentage of people didn’t lose. And that sucks for you. I think the guy who runs the pool put it best when he said, “What are the odds that the same group of people goes 18-0 picking a winner in week 1 and then 0-18 picking a winner in week 2?” It’s seriously one of the most amazing sports betting outcomes I’ve ever been a part of.

And of course the Seahawks or Patriots will be the pick for an overwhelming majority still left in those pools. If history tells us anything, they’ll both probably win, but one of them will make you sweat it out until the very end.

My guess is that the 0-2 team with a bunch of offensive line problems is more likely to make this close than the 2-0 team that looks impossible to beat.

Denver (-3) at Detroit

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 20, Detroit 10

It’s dangerous to draw conclusions about a team like the Lions when they’ve started the season with two road games. Maybe they’ll look awesome in their first home game on Sunday night. But I don’t think they’re nearly as good as the two teams the Broncos have beaten already this year. Until Denver either loses some defensive guys to injury or a team shows us the blueprint for putting up a bunch of points on them, I’m going to assume that unit will wreak havoc in every game. Matthew Stafford is probably going to get beat up for the second straight week in this one.

Kansas City at Green Bay (-6.5)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Green Bay 29, Kansas City 24

This is very simple for me. I think the Chiefs are going to play in a TON of close games this year. They won’t win in Green Bay, but I don’t see them getting blown out anytime soon.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 8 Favorites, 8 Underdogs
  • 7 Road Dogs, 1 Home Dog
  • 6 Home Teams, 10 Road Teams

Enjoy week 3.

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NFL Week 3 Recap: Entering A Golden Age of Wide Receivers

ATPOPIX Texans Giants Football

This question is exaggeration free: Are we currently experiencing the Golden Age of Wide Receivers?

Try to organize this list of pass catchers into rankings: Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin. Not only would the rankings change each week, but I’m guessing there are a couple guys I left out who could make the case for being included in the top 10.

Running backs and (to a lesser extent) quarterbacks have gotten a little boring for me. The runners are becoming extinct, and the passers are becoming a dime a dozen because of the rules favoring passing. It’s just not that fun anymore to argue Manning vs Brees vs Rodgers vs Wison vs Luck.

Not a week goes by where we don’t have at least a handful of jaw-dropping catches.

Until something changes, the guys catching the ball are the main attraction for me.

For the second straight week, let’s roll out a “Things I Loved” segment to make sure we’re reminding ourselves of the on-the-field reasons we love football:

  • The blatant disregard by certain teams for their quarterbacks’ health. Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel all went out wide and caught a pass, with varying degrees of success. For teams who are good via traditional means of playing football like Cincinnati and Seattle, they’re taking quite the unnecessary risk putting their QBs in those vulnerable positions. Exciting stuff for the rest of us though. Keep it going.
  • Nick Foles showing some gigantic balls by playing hurt after taking some awful hits from Washington.
  • The legitimate hatred between Washington and Philly and the closest thing we’ve had to a brawl in a long time after a Redskins defender hit Foles with a cheapshot. They’ll meet again on December 20th.
  • The official launch of Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles’ careers. Even if both are in hopeless situations for the time being, it makes for much more interesting football than guys like Chad Henne and Mass Cassel at the helm.
  • We were blessed with several worthy-of-our-attention undercards on Sunday: Dallas over St. Louis, Baltimore over Cleveland, Philadelphia over Washington.
  • And the main event lived up to even the loftiest expectations. Even if you usually hate Seattle or Denver or you had fantasy/gambling implications on a certain outcome, you had to enjoy that game between the two Super Bowl favorites from a pure football perspective.
  • Finding myself in 10th place out of 250 entries in a FanDuel league, guaranteeing myself no less of a profit than six times my buy-in (I was about ready to give up on FanDuel because it seemed to be a waste, but now I might be one of those people you hear on a commercial saying, “I won $500 in one day thanks to FanDuel. It’s the only way to play fantasy sports.”)
  • And for that matter, I loved how the games I felt great about went in my favor, and the games I was unsure of were the ones I lost. Even with a 6-8-1 record against the spread this week, it’s going to be a profitable week as my bets were on Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Diego and the Giants.
  • Another batch of incredible catches from guys like Demaryius Thomas (that HUGE two-point conversion at the end of regulation), Antonio Brown’s touchdown catch in the 3rd quarter of the night game, the DeAndre Hopkins catch that wasn’t actually a catch, and many more.

Emptying Out the Notebook

  • Here’s a sick thought I had on Thursday night: If you’re an NFL player’s wife and you’re scared shitless of concussions and your husband’s long term well-being, do you stage a domestic violence incident so that he’s suspended/kicked off his team?
  • Watching TV on Sunday morning, I saw a commercial for Xeljanz and thought “oh, cool, finally a cure for arthritis.” But then I heard the warnings: “Xeljanz can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. Serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers have happened in patients taking Xeljanz. Don’t start taking Xeljanz if you have any infections because it could cause tears in the stomach or intestines, low blood cells counts and higher risk of liver disease. Tell your doctor if you’ve been to a region where fungal infections are common, and if you’ve had TB, hepatitis B or C or are prone to infection.”
  • Oh.
  • Why did I so easily back a seemingly pathetic Giants team yesterday against Houston? Because I know Ryan Fitzpatrick. I know in 2011 his Bills started out 3-0, but went on to finish with a 6-10 record. I know that in 2012 the Bills started 2-1 on their way to another 6-10 season. “Fitzy Three Picks” is good for a couple two-game winning streaks during a season. But do not make the mistake of thinking he can make it to the playoffs. It will never happen.
  • Speaking of Fitzy, are Bills fans worried that EJ Manuel is Fitzy 2.0? They must be thinking that a little bit because Manuel is atrocious.
  • Is Seattle’s trip to the Super Bowl even more secure than we thought? Green Bay can’t score more than seven on the road against a questionable defense like the Lions. The Saints aren’t really firing on many cylinders considering they barely beat Minnesota in their own dome. And San Francisco has too many problems to list.
  • If I’m making NFC power rankings after week 3, here’s my list: 1. Seattle, [BIG GAP] 2. Atlanta 3. Philadelphia 4. Carolina 5. Detroit.
  • A 6-8-1 record certainly blows, but three of my non-wins were these: St. Louis not covering after being up 21-0 on Dallas, Cleveland losing by two on a last second Baltimore field goal for the push, and Denver making a furious comeback, sending their game to overtime only to still lose by more than five. Once again, with a little bit better execution by those teams, I’m 9-6 this week.
  • The over/under on which week Aaron Rodgers engineers Mike McCarthy’s firing is set at week 9. That happens to be their bye week, at which time the Packers will either be 3-5 or 4-4.
  • At the time it happened on the Red Zone Channel, my brother texted me joking “Did a Detroit defensive player just tear his ACL celebrating a sack?” Here’s the play: 
  • Turns out, yes, he did hurt his ACL and is out for the season.
  • With two blowouts in the Prime Time games so far this week, my fingers are crossed that tonight’s Chicago @ Jets game produces something that’s even semi-exciting.

Read on if you want my five quick hits on the Patriots. Stop reading if you don’t. Week 4 picks coming up on Thursday.

Five quick thoughts on New England

  1. It’s one thing for Patriots fans to talk themselves into a worse offense in exchange for winning games the Super Bowl way…defense and special teams. But it’s quite another thing when that offense takes 23 minutes of game time to enter their opponent’s territory for the first time.
  2. It’s early, but this could be the year where Tom Brady isn’t the most indispensable player on this team. Chandler Jones is this team’s MVP through three weeks by a long shot. He’s had more to do with their wins than Brady or anyone else.
  3. Brandon LaFell’s targets need to drop from eight to somewhere around negative three. Can we make that happen?
  4. Extremely nervous about a week 4 road game against a seemingly inferior opponent (Kansas City) when the best team in the conference looms in week 5 (Cincinnati). This may be a big time letdown/looking ahead game.
  5. Random stat: The Patriots haven’t lost at home to an AFC team in 31 games, which means 2008 was the last time it happened.

NFL Week 3 Picks: Does September Football Always Come with a Side of Insanity?

cassel

Here’s what’s going on as we enter week 3 of the 2014 season:

  • Obviously the league and its players have come under fire like we’ve never seen before due to what can most broadly be described as “criminal behavior and a lack of action in trying to clean it up.”
  • The following backup/washed up quarterbacks are a combined 4-0 as starters: Derek Anderson, Drew Stanton, Austin Davis and Kirk Cousins (Fine, Cousins didn’t start his week 2 game, but close enough).
  • As of Thursday morning, there are six of 16 games that still don’t have an available betting line on Bovada. The lack of a line in the Minnesota at New Orleans game is clearly due to the criminal activities mentioned above, but the others are all on account of significant injuries: DeSean Jackson in Washington, A.J. Green in Cincinnati, Carson Palmer in Arizona, Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffrey in Chicago, and Tony Romo in Dallas. (And, really, this is just scratching the surface on injuries that are already crushing teams.)

Craziness on top of craziness, right?

As I started thinking back to other NFL seasons, I thought I might be able to build a narrative around how lately there’s been early-season craziness every year. Remember that in 2012 we had the replacement referee debacle dominating the headlines, culminating in the infamous Green Bay Screw Job.

In 2011, we had the labor dispute over the summer that carried into training camps, causing many to believe teams were unprepared when the season finally began (this was the year that a handful of QBs cracked 5,000 yards and the tilt towards passing became almost too much even for fans).

Sadly, I couldn’t find anything last year that fits this tidy little narrative. (Unless we’re allowed to count the weekly dilemma last September where we had to choose which to watch live, Sunday Night Football or the final few episodes of Breaking Bad. We can’t count that as football craziness? You sure? Fine.)

But hey, three out of four years ain’t bad.

I guess my point is while it’s easy to blame bad bets and lost fantasy matchups on unprecedented unpredictability, it’s really not that unprecedented. It’s life as a football fan. My record against the spread so far is 15-16-1, but I’m not using everything that’s gone on as a crutch.

Actually, that record is an improvement over my 9-21-2 mark that I was sporting after week 2 of the 2013 season. I’ll take it.

But I can do better. Let’s do better starting now.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-7)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Atlanta 23, Tampa Bay 19

The only way you can pick the Bucs to cover is if you’re a crazy person like me and put more stock into abstract theories than the results we’ve seen over the past two weeks. I believe in things like “Only the best teams should be favored by as much as a touchdown,” and “If it seems like waaaaaay too obvious of a pick, it probably is.” The 2014 Falcons might mirror the Saints teams of recent years. Awesome at home, mediocre on the road, puts up a ton of points but has a shitty defense. We just watched Atlanta struggle on the road against arguably one of the best teams in the NFL while Tampa Bay struggled at HOME against arguably one of the WORST teams in football. They’ve now lost two home games to two backup QBs. Ouch. That’s why backing Atlanta is the obvious pick. Add the fact that plenty of people are going to be choosing the Falcons as their Suicide Pool pick for week 3. Oh and degenerates like me are definitely putting Atlanta in a two-team teaser. Red flags everywhere. In case you need more convincing to go with Tampa, remember how the quality of these Thursday night games has been atrocious the last few years? Why should we expect Matt Ryan and that offense to fire on all cylinders? I’m expecting a closer game than most of you are probably expecting.

San Diego @ Buffalo (-1)

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: San Diego 24, Buffalo 20

I would love for this line to be Buffalo -3 because then I’d know the worst case for picking San Diego would be a push. I’m not positive the Chargers are going to win, but I feel pretty decent about it. And if they win this game, they’re on their way to a 6-1 record to start the year because beginning next week they have Jacksonville, the Jets, at Oakland and Kansas City. I’m already stoked for the 6-1 Chargers at the 5-1 Broncos in week 8…Oh crap, it’s a Thursday night game. Well, maybe it’ll be the best ugly game we see all year.

Dallas (-1) @ St. Louis

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: St. Louis 21, Dallas 16

Originally I was going to pick Dallas with the following logic: The Cowboys won in week 2 by running the ball nonstop. Bobby Rainey just torched this St. Louis team on the ground. DeMarco Murray has had a couple career games against St. Louis, including 253 rushing yards against them in 2011 and 175 yards in a 2013 game. Jason Garrett will definitely get fired if he doesn’t give Murray the ball 45 times in this game.

But then I realized, wait, this is Jason Fucking Garrett we’re talking about. Tony Romo will absolutely be asked to drop back 40 times in this game against that awesome Rams pass rush, they will lose, and Garrett will somehow keep his job. It’s the Cowboys for Christsakes!

Washington @ Philadelphia (-6.5)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 34, Washington 20

This game is kind of impossible to read on account of the Redskins being a total wildcard. They lost a low-scoring game in Houston and then followed that with a thumping of the Jaguars at home last week. Cousins gets his first start of the year. DeSean Jackson probably isn’t healthy but is going to play anyway. I’ll explain why I’m picking the Eagles after these two emails I got earlier this week from friends of mine who are huge Washington fans.

Email #1

I still think about the moment RG3’s career ended. In a playoff game two years ago at home against the Seahawks, RG3 rolled right and threw a strike into the endzone to make it 14-0. But Robert didn’t get up right. Something seemed off from that point on. It was only fitting that later in the game, untouched, his knee would buckle and every ligament exploded into a million pieces. That was it. There were fleeting moments last year upon his miraculous return, but he wasn’t the same. He seemed unsure in the pocket and never comfortable. That straight-ahead speed was still there, but any elusiveness was gone. The injury this season was just the next injury every Skins fan was waiting for on every snap. The way he plays is not sustainable. You can’t try and take every hit when you are a slightly built 6’2 210 lb. quarterback. He doesn’t seem to have the 6th sense Russell Wilson does to duck and avoid contact. It was fun while it lasted, and I’ll never forget that magical run in 2012, when an electric RG3 gave Skins fans a brief, fleeting feeling that there might be light at the end of tunnel. Farewell, RG3.

Email #2

In hindsight, RG3’s incredible rookie year may not have been a good thing.  Expectations got crazy even though he clearly had flaws in his game, including his penchant for trying to run guys over who are literally twice his size in meaningless situations/circumstances.  As a Skins fan I love the guy and still think he can be great, but, man, those first round picks would have been nice, and not having to cringe every time he takes off running will add years to my life.  Secretly, a lot of us Skins fans are not too upset about giving Cousins a real shot even if it means a QB controversy and/or a real chance RG3 is never the full time starter again.  Hey maybe we end up with a Rivers/Brees situation!  More likely it will end along the lines of this, this, or this. Ugh.

I’m picking the Eagles to cover a large spread against what could be a tough divisional opponent because I’ve gotten a first hand view into the luck of Washington fans over the past 14 years. They have some hope that Cousins will be good, perhaps a better fit for this offense than RG3? That hope will likely be ripped from them by the end of this game.

Houston (-2) @ NY Giants

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: NY Giants 27, Houston 21

I’m all over this one. Of course everyone expects the Texans to win and continue on the path to an incredible bounce back season. Of course everyone thinks the Giants are garbage. People are definitely getting ready to run those annual “Tom Coughlin on the hot seat” articles. Houston is ABSOLUTELY losing this game. Sorry, it’s just the way of the NFL.

Minnesota @ New Orleans (-10.5)

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 41, Minnesota 20

On Monday I wasn’t really considering this game for my Suicide pick, nor was I thinking of laying the points because I was scared shitless that we were heading for the “Adrian Peterson still doesn’t think he did anything wrong and now he’s pissed that his reputation is ruined and he’s just gonna go off for 375 rushing yards against a pretty bad defense” game.

But since that possibility’s been eliminated…Yup, I’m loving the big win potential here. The only question for me is whether or not this is Matt Cassel’s last start of the season.

Tennessee @ Cincinnati (-7)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 35, Tennessee 17

Relevant fact: #1 The Bengals have outscored their last six opponents at home by an average of 22 points per game.

Relevant fact #2: The Titans just lost a home game to Dallas—a consensus terrible team—by 16 points.

A.J. Green or no A.J. Green, this has all the makings of a blowout. And this also happens to be the safest Suicide pick of the week.

Baltimore (-2) @ Cleveland

  • The Pick: Cleveland
  • The Score: Cleveland 20, Baltimore 17

This pick is brought to you by “when in doubt, pick the home dog.” I think Cleveland turns into a frisky team at home. They have an above average defense. They have a competent quarterback (don’t forget that Brian Hoyer was starting to look real good last year before the ACL injury). And just maybe they’re feeling a bit better about their chances this year with the news that Josh Gordon can return in week 11.

Green Bay @ Detroit (-1)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 26, Detroit 21

Tough pick because the Lions’ one home game was against the Giants, who may be terrible, and the Packers’ one road game was at Seattle, which we know is an impossible place to play. We have no idea if the Lions are one of those awesome at home/terrible on the road teams, and the same goes for Green Bay. Flip a coin on this one.

Indianapolis (-7) @ Jacksonville

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

There’s a chance I overestimated the Colts going into the season while simultaneously underestimating Andrew Luck. Their roster just isn’t good. In one sense it’s great for Indy fans that Luck is so awesome because they might win 10 or 11 games a year regardless of their roster. In another sense this is a terrible blueprint because Colts management isn’t getting that kick in the ass to improve the roster since they’re repeatedly getting into the playoffs. Maybe an 8-8 season would give them the proper motivation. We may find out sooner than expected.

Oakland @ New England (-14.5)

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: New England 30, Oakland 20

How often does the game with the largest point spread of the week actually work out to where the favorite covers? I don’t have a number for you, but I’m guessing it’s not often. I said it last week and I’ll say it again. It’s hard to lay money on a team to win by three scores unless we’re talking about Seattle hosting Oakland, Jacksonville or Matt Cassel.

San Francisco (-3) @ Arizona

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: San Francisco 27, Arizona 23

After Sunday night’s meltdown at the hands of the Bears, I’m sure people are down on the 49ers a bit. Their defense got exposed in the second half, and Colin Kaepernick was downright terrible. Meanwhile, a lot of people probably don’t realize there was a fair amount of luck involved in Arizona’s win over the Giants that same day. I’m taking San Francisco mostly because I think it’s the opposite of what people are expecting in this game.

Denver @ Seattle (-5)

  • The Pick: Denver
  • The Score: Seattle 33, Denver 30

How dare the oddsmakers disrespect Denver with this line when there’s absolutely no track record of them struggling against this Seattle te-

Oh, wait, nevermind. Sure, sure, the Seahawks beat this same Broncos team by like 75 last February on neutral turf so they should be able to handle them at home. And they will, just not by more than a field goal. The king of hand motions and audibles should be able to avoid the usual plethora of false start & delay of game penalties that come with playing in Seattle. We will definitely be seeing the Manning Face and the violent chin strap tug at the end of this one as Denver’s offense comes up just short on a late drive.

By the way, one thing that hasn’t disappointed so far during this NFL season is the marquee matchups. In week 1 we had:

  • Atlanta 37, New Orleans 34 (OT)
  • Denver 31, Indianapolis 24

In week 2 we had:

  • San Diego 30, Seattle 21
  • Denver 24, Kansas City 17
  • Chicago 28, San Francisco 20
  • Philadelphia 30, Indianapolis 27

No reason to think this game won’t deliver as well.

Kansas City @ Miami (-4)

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 28, Kansas City 17

No Jamaal Charles + the Dolphins still might be good, just as long as they’re playing at home. This falls under that “if you’ve got gigantic balls and want to make a risky Suicide pick” category.

Pittsburgh @ Carolina (-3)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 24, Carolina 20

Football gamblers everywhere are zigging while I’m zagging. Translation: I still lik the Steelers this year even if I’m the only one. A great Pittsburgh run game might neutralize Carolina, and what better cure for a struggling defense like the Steelers than facing a weaponless offense.

Chicago @ NY Jets (-2.5)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Chicago 31, NY Jets 24

Do you want to bet against Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in a night game after what happened last weekend? I didn’t think so. I think the Jets will keep it just close enough so they can proudly say after the game, “We were one score away from beating both the Packers and the Bears.”

Once again I’m riding 11 underdogs this week. I see no reason we can’t knock out a 12-4 record against the spread this week. Football owes it to us after all the insanity we’ve endured over the first 14 days of the season.

Week 3 Picks Against the Spread

cleveland browns suck

As if the fantasy football world wasn’t already chaotic enough this week with the fallout from the absurd number of week 2 injuries, the Cleveland Browns had to go and do weird shit, turning the waiver wire period into a roller coaster of panic and depression for plenty of fantasy owners. Trent Richardson’s value plummets this week (and then skyrockets starting next week), Ahmad Bradshaw’s value takes a permanent nosedive, the entire Cleveland receiving corps’ stock also takes a hit considering defenses no longer have to worry about a running threat or a semi-legitimate starting quarterback. It’s all so confusing.

Speaking of fantasy, it’s great to see Cleveland’s management treating the real NFL season as if it’s a fantasy keeper league where their team is 0-8 and they’re looking to stockpile valuable assets for next year.

By now you’ve seen the tweets from all the NFL reporters stating that only one other top 3 draft pick in the league’s history has ever been playing for his second team as early on in his career as Trent Richardson. So even though it falls short of the insanity that would ensue if someone like Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers was traded during the season, it’s a pretty big deal.

It created quite the stir in my world immediately after news broke. Here’s the timeline of my many reactions to this confusing transaction that went down on Wednesday afternoon:

  • 3:17pm PST: I look at my Twitter timeline for roughly the 356th time today and see Adam Schefter’s tweet stating that the Browns have traded Trent Richardson to the Colts.
  • 3:18-3:22pm: I stare blankly at the wall trying to process this information. My brain can’t comprehend such an unprecedented move.
  • 3:23pm: I go back to Twitter because it’s obviously a fake Adam Schefter account that tweeted the fake Richardson news, right?
  • 3:24pm: I start to see other reputable football reporters and websites re-tweet the original Schefter tweet. This is real.
  • 3:25-3:29pm: I stare at the wall again, befuddled because this really never happens in football, and it doesn’t even make sense if these things did happen in football (I could understand the Jaguars trading a guy like MoJo, that would make sense, but not this).
  • 3:30pm: I scream and repeatedly slam my computer on my desk because I just realized that with Steven Jackson and Ray Rice banged up, Ahmad Bradshaw was going to be a much needed starter for my fantasy team for the next couple weeks.
  • 3:32pm: I realize that the screw job the Browns just pulled trickles down to all of their offensive players because the combination of “RB TBD” and Brian Hoyer at QB means this team might get held to 50 total yards of offense every week for the rest of the year. Jordan Cameron was a guy I was very high on in the preseason so of course I drafted him in many fantasy leagues.
  • 3:34pm: On the bright side, I’m now considering being the only person in my Suicide Pool to not pick Seattle. If I pick Minnesota over Cleveland, and somehow Jacksonville pulls off the miracle in Seattle, I’ll win $500. OK, maybe I’m over-thinking things now.
  • 3:35pm: Calming down now and re-thinking my initial instinct of “Cleveland is the dumbest franchise in sports all over again.” After all, I just wrote a blog nine months ago about how insignificant highly-drafted running backs are in the grand scheme of a franchise winning the Super Bowl (Basically what I’m saying is that there’s no correlation between a team having a highly-drafted RB who performs like a stud and that team going to the playoffs. I went back and looked at the past five drafts. The data backs up my claim).
  • 3:37pm: I finally relax a little. And I’m thankful that three of my four fantasy leagues use daily waiver wires for pickups because I’ve been paralyzed for the past 15 minutes and couldn’t possibly have reacted quick enough to the news that Willis McGahee is now the chic RB pickup based on this crazy NFL trade.
  • 3:38pm: Oh, now I understand why the Browns are starting their 3rd string QB and not Jason Campbell. They’re trying to out-Jacksonville Jacksonville and ensure they get the top pick in next year’s draft. Well played, Mike Lombardi. Well played.
  • 3:40pm: I realize that this crazy trade combined with me writing a detailed timeline of my reaction will distract my readers quite nicely from my 9-21-2 season record against the spread. Thank you, Cleveland.

On top of all that batshit craziness coming out of Ohio, it is now Thursday morning and the site I use for point spreads still doesn’t have a line on four of the 16 games this weekend. That’s when you know it isn’t a normal week. My head is spinning.

Let’s just get to the week 3 picks:

Kansas City @ Philadelphia (-3.5)

Man, how do the Chiefs and Eagles top that beautiful Patriots-Jets game from last Thursday night? Oh, right, they just have to complete more than 27% of their pass attempts and put up three total touchdowns. Got it.

Regarding this line, I know exactly what you’re thinking…the Chiefs cover because it’s at least a half-point too high, it’s a Thursday night game where teams tend to play sloppy and close. I get it. But here’s the deal: Kansas City may be 2-0, but they haven’t proven anything yet. They beat up on Jacksonville in week 1, and then they took advantage of a Dallas team in week 2 that repeatedly sabotaged themselves. The Chiefs didn’t win that game so much as Dallas lost it. Penalties, weird coaching decisions, an untimely fumble…The Cowboys did it all. Philadelphia covers. I’ve never been more confident. Something like 27-17.

San Diego @ Tennessee (-3)

I have no read on these teams. Both have looked good for seven of eight quarters so far this year. And if each of them could have played a decent eighth quarter, they’d both be 2-0. You know, it would be such a Philip Rivers move to get the Chargers to 2-1 and have everyone talking about them being the surprise team in the AFC. For his entire career, Rivers has been doing the exact opposite of what we expected. We figured a young QB in the anti-spotlight of San Diego would coast under the radar, but Rivers came out guns blazing with his constant bitching at teammates, referees and opposing QBs. At one point we annointed him the next Super Bowl winning QB, but he decided an AFC Championship appearance was good enough. We thought he was soft, then found out he played in that ’08 conference title game with a torn ACL. Last year we still considered him one of the top 12 QBs and he bottomed out. This year we wrote him off, and…he just became the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy this past week. Since we still expect nothing out of this Chargers team, I think they go into Tennessee and win handily, 23-13.

Cleveland @ Minnesota (-6.5)

You don’t announce you’re tanking the season by starting your third-best quarterback only days after trading away your franchise running back and expect your players to show up motivated. How can a single Browns player feel like giving 100% effort this week? They just went from a frisky middle-of-the-road team to an organization who’s already waving the white flag. Or does it go the opposite way, and the players bond over the “those mother fuckers in the front office don’t think we’re part of the future, let’s show them what a big mistake they made” mantra? No, it doesn’t go that way. The Vikings win 24-6.

Tampa Bay @ New England (-7)

If the Bucs don’t have meltdowns at the end of each of their first two games, they’re 2-0 instead of 0-2. And the Patriots didn’t exactly confuse the two rookie QBs they’ve faced so far. In fact, you could say that the Bills and Jets gave away those games to New England. If the Patriots get one less break, they’re 1-1 instead of 2-0. If the undefeated Bucs are facing the 1-1 Patriots, this line is 4 instead of 7. And the Pats still have no Amendola and probably no Gronk. And I’m still nervous about the revelation I had last week that the Patriots typically lose an early-season game to an inferior team. What am I missing here? The Pats are going to win a lot of games by less than a touchdown until they’re full strength (if that ever happens). New England wins 26-24, meaning Tampa covers.

Houston (-2.5) @ Baltimore

Some teams have earned the benefit of the doubt at home no matter how sketchy they’ve looked in recent weeks. Sure, Houston could go into Baltimore and beat up on a beat-up team, but I don’t think they will. Baltimore’s defense will be the best that the Texans have seen so far. I still don’t trust Matt Schaub on the road. The Ravens have a significant coaching advantage if it’s close late in the game. My one concern is the Ed Reed factor. It would just be so perfect if he ices this game for Houston with a pick-six late in the 4th quarter against his old team. But I’m still taking Baltimore to cover and squeak out a one-point victory, 24-23.

St. Louis @ Dallas (-4)

If I could punt on one game each week, this would probably be it for week 3. I’m taking Dallas in this game probably for the same reason so many people take them to win the NFC East every year…because I feel like they’re better than they probably are. I also think St. Louis is one of those “count on them at home, don’t touch them on the road” teams. But four points is just enough for Jason Garrett to screw me over. The scenario I envision is this: late 4th quarter, Cowboys up four and driving. It’s 4th & 2 from the St. Louis 30 yard line. Garrett decides to kick a field goal to go up by 7. St Louis marches down the field and ties it up. The Cowboys win by thee in overtime. I hate this already, but I’ve got Dallas winning 31-26.

Arizona @ New Orleans (-7)

OK, New Orleans, I’m jumping on the bandwagon for one week. I’ll temporarily buy the bullshit you’re selling that Sean Payton’s return combined with Rob Ryan’s influence on the defense has turned this team into an NFC contender. Just know that I’m suspicious and I’ve taken a seat in the emergency exit row of this bandwagon. The Saints win a shootout, 35-27.

Detroit @ Washington (-2)

Call me crazy, but I love the Redskins in this game. Not that anyone wants to hear excuses, but the ‘Skins were dealt a pretty bad hand to start the season. Week 1 was RGIII’s timid return combined with their defense being the guinea pig for Chip Kelly’s offense. Week 2 had them on the road at Green Bay…no one, with possibly the exception of San Francisco, has had it harder to start the year. Detroit may end up being solid this year, but on the road against a team that can run and throw, I dunno. I like Washington to finally get on the board. Obviously if you think the Redskins win, you’re taking them to cover. I say Washington wins 30-27.

Green Bay (-3) at Cincinnati

I’m terrified of betting against Aaron Rodgers and his 127.2 passer rating, but I don’t trust Green Bay on the road. And let’s not forget that Colin Kaepernick and RGIII threw for a ton of yards on this Packers defense. That defense is not fixed from last year in my opinion. The Bengals suddenly have lots of offensive weapons and an aggressive defense. I’m taking Cincinnati to cover and win outright, 27-24.

NY Giants @ Carolina (Pick)

Guess what, Giants? You’re not roping me into this again. It was during week 3 last year when the Giants traveled to Carolina to play on short rest in the Thursday night game. EVERYONE thought the Panthers were a lock, mostly because the Giants had lost several key players to injury (Hakeem Nicks comes to mind) during an exhausting comeback win against Tampa the previous Sunday. This is still fresh in my mind. I’m going with a Breaking Bad quote here, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT.

“…he’s the devil…Whatever you think is supposed to happen, I’m telling you, the exact, reverse opposite of that is going to happen.” -Jesse Pinkman talking about Walter White

That’s my exact feeling on the Giants. They are the devil (or at the very least they have a deal with the devil), and the opposite of expectations will happen.

The Giants win going away, 37-23. And the Ron Rivera hot seat gets turned up to “scolding”.

Atlanta @ Miami (-3)

At the start of the season, nobody would have expected to see the Dolphins favored against a team like Atlanta. But Miami’s 2-0 start combined with key injuries for Atlanta on both sides of the ball means the Dolphins are actually favored against last year’s NFC runner-up. I’m on record as saying Ryan Tannehill is a bad QB, but the Falcons injuries…that’s the proverbial coin flip right there. Tannehill vs a banged up team…A banged up team vs Tannehill…Finkle and Einhorn…Einhorn and Finkle. Whoops, sorry about that. You know what? The Falcons aren’t going to be able to protect a lead late in games until Steven Jackson’s back. But in this game, I think they’re down by six with two minutes left and Matt Ryan drives them down the field for the game-winning touchdown. He’s a really good quarterback, by the way. Atlanta wins and covers, 24-23.

Indianapolis @ San Francisco (-10)

Let’s assume Trent Richardson isn’t going to have a huge impact on this game. I think that’s fair. You’d want to take the 49ers here for two reasons: 1). They’ve gotta be extremely pissed off after the egg they laid in Seattle, and 2). The Colts just lost at home to Miami. You could even add in a #3…the Colts barely survived a home game in week 1 against Oakland. This has all the makings of a blowout, except the 49ers are more injured than you might think and Andrew Luck in garbage time could easily orchestrate the backdoor cover. That’s what I’m banking on when I say 49ers win, 30-23.

Jacksonville @ Seattle (-19)

I haven’t stopped thinking about this line since I first saw it on Monday. It’s almost unheard of for two teams to be this far apart (at least in the modern NFL). And all week long the thought has been the same from anyone I talked to: “Yeah, Seattle’s gonna kill ‘em, but that line is just too high to bet on.”

I thought I agreed with that until this morning. You see, the only way you can back Jacksonville is if you think Seattle takes its foot off the pedal after they go up by 28 or so. Then the Jaguars get a couple garbage time scores, and boom, you’ve got yourself a Jacksonville cover.

But you only need to look back to last year to know the Seahawks won’t play it like that. In a week 14 home game against Arizona, the ‘Hawks were up 38-0 in the 3rd quarter and 51-0 late in the 4th quarter, and both times they still aggressively went for and converted touchdown drives. Their final touchdown in a 58-0 blowout came with 2:32 left in the game. So yeah, they have no problem running up the score. And does anyone reading this think the Jaguars are as good as last year’s Cardinals team?

During the 2012 season, Seattle also won games by 29, 33 and 21 points. Covering this 19 point spread would not be unprecedented for them. So for those reasons, I’ve gotta take Seattle to cover with a final score of 52-13.

I desperately wanted to get cute with my Suicide Pool pick this week, but after much thought, Seattle is clearly the pick.

Buffalo @ NY Jets (-3)

Hmm, two rookie QBs, two AFC East afterthoughts…two, ah fuck it. I’m taking the Bills, 20-14.

Chicago (-3) @ Pittsburgh

As a rule, I don’t have many gambling rules. But I’ve got one that applies to this game: “Beware of the undefeated team that’s playing a road game against a seemingly inferior team early in the season.”

Sure, the Bears don’t look dominant by the traditional definition, but they are 2-0 and they’re facing what could be a terrible Pittsburgh squad. No doubt you can find plenty of reasons to take Chicago here, but I’m going with Pittsburgh to win outright, 23-20. The Bears are 2-0, but both games have been at home and they haven’t looked spectacular in either. The Steelers are 0-2, but they showed some signs of life in week 2 and I think Roethlisberger knows he has to take over on offense. A primetime game at Heinz Field is still plenty motivating for the Steelers regardless of how the rest of the year works out. I may be backing an eventual 0-16 team here, but it just feels right.

Oakland @ Denver (-15.5)

This is the game that’s going to play out exactly how you all think the Seattle-Jacksonville game’s going to go. I know, it’s Peyton on national TV, in a division game, against a really bad team, blah blah blah.

I just can’t pick two teams to cover this large of a point spread in the same week. I’m going with Denver to win, 34-20.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 3 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 9 Underdogs (the Giants/Panthers doesn’t count as neither a favorite nor an underdog)
  • Of those 9 Underdogs, 3 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs

Season record: 9-21-2 (frowny face)

Enjoy week 3 (unless you’re a Browns or Jaguars fan).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Week’s Record: 9-6-1

Season Record: 25-20-3

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the rest of InterceptCatchGate.