Week 4 NFL Picks: Even More Backup Quarterbacks!

Oct 13, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) looks on from the bench as he wears pink in honor of breast cancer awareness during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to week 4! This weekend we get the return of two annual NFL traditions:

  1. Pink gear will be on many athletes and coaches throughout the league for the entirety of October. The pink is for Breast Cancer Awareness, and as the NFL has proven time and again, they really care about women.
  2. A short cameo for Michael Vick as a starting QB. In 2011 Vick started 13 games. In 2012 he started 10 games. In 2013 it dropped to six starts, and last year it was a mere three. If you set the over/under for Vick starts in 2015 at 2.5, I’m definitely taking the under. Fun times for the state of quarterbacking!

I’m glad I started pretty hot out of the gate this season because I’m currently out of town for a friend’s wedding and all my usual routines are completely thrown off. The routines I’m talking about basically revolve around consuming as much football content over the course of the week as possible.

So as I write this late at night on Wednesday, I’ve kind of heard that Andrew Luck is day-to-day with a shoulder injury; someone mentioned something about the Washington-Philadelphia game being in jeopardy because of a hurricane; I think New Orleans is still pretending that Drew Brees might start even though we all know that’s 100% not happening; and Colin Kaepernick just threw another interception.

I’m out of my element this week and I can’t promise the quality of the week 4 picks. But I’m 27-20-1 against the spread to this point, so one down week won’t kill me. Don’t get me wrong. I still have faith in myself. I always do. It’s just a notch below my normal level of (over)confidence.

Let’s dive right in.

Baltimore (-3) at Pittsburgh

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 6, Baltimore 3

Even with the obvious downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger to Vick, I’m surprised Baltimore’s giving a full field goal on the road, as an 0-3 team. In fact, I thought there was a chance the Steelers would still be favored in this game because, again, the Ravens have looked like dogshit through three weeks. But I’m sure this Thursday nighter will be a spectacular display of why the Bengals have already locked up the division.

Side Note: Why is everyone wasting their time trying to figure out if Vick can be serviceable for the next four to six weeks? The real question is: Should the Steelers feel comfortable with Landry Jones starting a few games? Or should they be looking into a free agent / backup who can be had for cheap? Because anyone with half a brain knows Vick won’t last past one or two starts. Charlie Batch is a free agent, just saying.

NY Jets (-2) against Miami (In London)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 18, Miami 5

Two thumbs up for the 6:30am Pacific Time game back in our lives (the first of three London-based games this year that’ll kick off early in the morning). Seventy-five thumbs down for London once again getting a shitty-looking game featuring a team that may have already quit on its coach.

Look what the stress of playing for a hopeless team with a shitty head coach has done to Ndamukong Suh: 

warren-buffett-dolphins-jersey

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-9)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Indianapolis 33, Jacksonville 27

Now Andrew Luck is dealing with an injury? The plot thickens…

If the Colts had a halfway decent defense, you could count on them starting to blow out teams like the Jaguars as the Indy offense finds its footing. But this defense is crap, and it just gave up 74 plays and 433 yards of offense to the Titans. I’m pretty confident the Colts aren’t going to be great at putting teams away even if they start winning against the lesser competition.

Question for future former head coach Chuck Pagano: If you win this weekend in dramatic fashion, at home with Luck ailing, how will you possibly top that totally appropriate reaction to last week’s win?

NY Giants at Buffalo (-5.5)

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 27, NY Giants 17

The injuries are starting to pile up for Buffalo (including LeSean McCoy “unlikely” to play). The Giants are on 10 days rest, have held leads in the fourth quarter of each of their games, and Victor Cruz is returning to reinforce the receiving corps. (Whoops. Wrote that last part earlier this week and it turns out Cruz already hurt himself again and won’t be playing this weekend. Fun times for the Giants.)

Counterpoints: The Bills just throttled a team on the road. They’ve demolished two teams in three weeks. The only other game they played was against a team that obviously cheated to beat Rex Ryan’s squad. So the Bills are still undefeated in the eyes of Mark Brunell, Marshall Faulk, Bill Polian, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Carolina Panthers, the entire Colts organization and many more.

It’s not just the Giants’ offense contending with the Buffalo defense. New York’s defense also has to show up because Tyrod Taylor has the 8th best QBR of all quarterbacks.

Carolina (-3) at Tampa Bay

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 10

Here’s where I went wrong in picking the Bucs to cover +6.5 in Houston last week: I didn’t realize the Saints might be the worst team in the league, meaning the Bucs could potentially be the second worst team and still would have beaten New Orleans in week 2. Carolina being undefeated isn’t a total fluke. It’s just an ugly type of winning that leaves very little room for error. And I’m not even slightly worried about a letdown game because the Panthers are getting a bye in week 5. Looming after the bye is a game in Seattle, but Carolina isn’t thinking about a game that’s 14 days away.

This might be my favorite pick of the week.

Philadelphia (-3) at Washington

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 24, Philadelphia 22

The jury’s still out on Washington. No, one of the jury’s choices is not “they’re a playoff contender.” But are they a frisky team at home because they hung with the Dolphins and easily handled the Rams? Or are they a terrible team because we expected it before the season began and maybe the Dolphins are horrible and that wasn’t a difficult opponent to hang with?

For now I’m going to lean towards the Skins being a frisky team at home.

On the other side, we know Sam Bradford’s garbage.

Oakland (-3) at Chicago

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 23, Oakland 16

Sure, I’d love to see the Bears to go 0-16 this year. After all, I placed a bet in August on at least one team going winless all season. And they seem like the most likely candidate right now. But it’s so difficult to lose every game in the NFL. This might be their only chance for a win until they host Washington in week 14.

Here’s a huge red flag for this game: According to my Pick ‘Em league on CBSsports.com, 75% of all people on their site are picking the Raiders to cover this spread. The Raiders. On the road. Back-to-back road wins? There’s no way this game’s turning out the way it should.

Houston at Atlanta (-6.5)

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 26, Atlanta 23

Welp, I spent about 15 times longer thinking through this pick than any other pick this week. But at the same time, I’m toying with the idea of using Atlanta for my Survivor/Eliminator pick. I’m having this love affair with the Falcons where I’m all in on the relationship but I have zero confidence in the Falcons’ feelings towards me, and I’m always looking over my shoulder expecting them to be cheating on me.

The Falcons are the polar opposite of the Giants.Whereas the Giants have held leads in the 4th quarter of every game (and blown two of those games), Atlanta has been trailing in the 4th quarter of their three games, only to come back and win all of them. The reason I’m taking Houston is because the Falcons have to be due for a letdown. They just have to. And if not now, when?

Look at the very comfortable road immediately in front of Atlanta after this game: vs Washington, @New Orleans, @Tennessee, vs Tampa, @San Francisco, bye.

Kansas City at Cincinnati (-4)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 31, Kansas City 21

Is it Andy Dalton in a Primetime game? No?

Is it one of the three or four best teams in the league heading into Cincy? No?

Got it. Bengals win. The media’s “Circle Jerk sponsored by Andy Dalton” keeps going for another week.

Cleveland at San Diego (-7.5)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 28, Cleveland 20

The worst case scenario if I pick the Chargers is they’re only winning by three late in the game and they just can’t seem to get that final touchdown to cover the spread. But I know it’ll be in play until the end.

The worst case if I pick the Browns is they’re losing by 27 after one quarter and both of their quarterbacks have thrown multiple pick sixes.

Josh McCown got dinged up again last week. There’s a decent chance Johnny Manziel plays parts of many games in 2015. I don’t know if this is a good thing or bad thing for the Browns. It’s just a typical Cleveland thing.

(By the way, how little confidence must I have in San Diego if I can’t even consider them for my Survivor/Eliminator pick this week?)

Green Bay (-9) at San Francisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Green Bay 28, San Francisco 24

Oh good. If I turn on the NFL Network or ESPN at all this week, I’m likely to see an old video of Aaron Rodgers saying on Draft Day 2005 that the 49ers are going to regret not drafting him. But I hope I’m wrong, because we’ve been down this road before. That video was all the rage in January 2013 when the Packers were preparing for a postseason game at San Francisco. They promptly got killed in that game and we should have buried the “Aaron Rodgers has an extra edge against San Francisco” narrative.

Regarding this game, I’m sure 95% of the public will be backing the Packers. But they’re definitely more beatable on the road. Last year they went 4-4 on the road, and they won two of those games by only three points. So they’re less juggernaut-y away from Lambeau. That fact combined with the overwhelming amount of money that’ll come in on Green Bay has me leaning towards the 49ers in this one. Plus, doesn’t Colin Kaepernick own the Packers?

St. Louis at Arizona (-7)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: Arizona 24, St. Louis 21

That Arizona-San Francisco game last week was unwatchable to many people, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Just an absolute undressing of the 49ers in every conceivable way. But if I can put my game film analyst hat on for just a sec…I’d tell you that it feels like Carson Palmer holds on to the ball for a looooooooooooong time more often than not. And the Arizona offense seems designed to have success only when he gets all that time. I have a feeling that the league’s handful of awesome pass rushing teams are the ones that will have success against the Cardinals.

St. Louis is in that handful. Can’t wait to see just how wrong I am about this.

Minnesota at Denver (-7)

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 33, Minnesota 10

I’m not at all nervous that my preseason proclamation that the Vikings aren’t getting to eight wins is going to look bad by the end of the year. The Broncos are going to completely shut down this offense (an offense that is a lot worse than you think it is, by the way).

The Denver run defense has played two great games and one terrible game. That terrible one came in Kansas City to Jamaal Charles. I’m guessing Adrian Peterson, good as he is, won’t go crazy in Denver.

Dallas at New Orleans (-4)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 30, New Orleans 20

Just a brilliant matchup for the NBC Primetime spotlight, isn’t it? Brandon Weeden goes to winless New Orleans to take on Luke McCown. And remember that Thursday’s nationally televised game features an 0-3 Ravens team missing Terrell Suggs traveling to the Steelers, newly led by Michael Vick. The NFL’s injury problem is ruining these big games. I wish I could say Monday Night Football this week is going to be more competitive, but…

Detroit at Seattle (-10)

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 28, Detroit 16

Yup, it’s likely another game that’ll be over by halftime. I don’t think the Lions punt 11 billion times like the Bears did in week 3, but it probably won’t be pretty for a Detroit team that couldn’t even put up two touchdowns at home in a must-win situation last Monday.

Here’s the weekly tally:

  • 7 Favorites, 8 Underdogs
  • 4 Road Dogs, 4 Home Dogs
  • 9 Home Teams, 5 Road Teams (Neutral-site game in London not counted)

Enjoy week 4!

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NFL Week 1 Picks: Home Underdogs For Everyone!

roger-goodell

Congratulations to everyone who loves football and actually made it through the “offseason” with your sanity. This was not an easy seven months to keep the faith. But you made it, and your reward is 21 weeks of football (followed immediately by Valentine’s Day so you have a built-in holiday to make up the next 21 weeks of neglect to your significant other).

As I’ve done the last three years, I’ll be giving you my picks from a gambling standpoint towards the end of every week. Take my advice or leave it (almost definitely leave it).

And hey, if you need to waste a whole lot of time today before the Patriots-Steelers game, feel free to read all of our preseason predictions and picks by going HERE.

Let’s dive into week 1:

Pittsburgh at New England (-7)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: New England 24, Pittsburgh 20

With Tom Brady under center, the Patriots are 7-1 against the Steelers since 2001. And in the Mike Tomlin era (2007-Present), Brady’s Patriots are 3-0 against Pittsburgh and have outscored them by 24, 13 and 21 points. This has not been a team that gives New England problems over the years. Interestingly enough, both teams are missing their starting running backs (Bell & Blount), starting centers (Pouncey & Stork) and one of their top receivers (Bryant & LaFell). I’m not expecting a very crisp offensive performance from either side. While the Steelers’ defense will almost definitely suck in 2015, the jury is very much out on the Patriots. Will their defense fall all the way back to the 2011/2012 days? I’d like to think the Pats will go “scorched earth” from the start, but I can’t help think this is going to be a sloppy, lower-scoring-than-you’d-expect type of game.

Miami (-4) at Washington

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 23, Washington 16

Hey, look! It’s a matchup of the two coaches I thought had the best chance to get fired during the season (as written in one of my NFL predictions blogs earlier this week: which you can read HERE). In reality I don’t think Joe Philbin will get fired in-season because the Dolphins’ schedule is just so damn easy to start the year. I certainly think Jay Gruden will get fired, or quit, or end up in jail when Dan Snyder’s body turns up in the Potomac. There’s disrespect, and then there’s being a 4-point underdog at home to the mediocre Dolphins. The Redskins are not going to get any benefit of the doubt this year. The trash is piled high in the dumpster; several bottles of lighter fluid have been poured onto that pile; we’re just waiting for that first spark to turn Washington into a full scale dumpster fire. Will it be a Jay Gruden press conference sound byte? Will it be a RG3 tweet? Will it be an embarrassing off-field scandal? Can’t wait to find out! All I know is Kirk Cousins probably isn’t ready for Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and the rest of the Miami pass rush.

Indianapolis (-2.5) at Buffalo

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 24, Indianapolis 20

My instinct is to jump on Indy because that’s a small amount of points for a presumed Super Bowl contender to be favored over a team that’ll probably be just OK, even though it’s a road game for the Colts. But I don’t know for sure whether the Colts practiced during training camp & preseason or if they simply met from 8am-5pm everyday to brainstorm new excuses & accusations for when the Patriots demolish them in five weeks. That’s a key piece of information I need before making this pick. I’m actually going to call this as a surprise upset in week 1. Rex Ryan held Andrew Luck to nine points three years ago in the only meeting between them so far (Rex was with the Jets). I could see his new defense doing something similar on Sunday.

Cleveland at NY Jets (-3)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 20, Cleveland 6

This one’s so easy. If Geno Smith was starting for the Jets, it wouldn’t be as easy of a decision. But Ryan Fitzpatrick is a known commodity. He will beat the very worst teams, and he almost always starts the season off by going 2-1 or 3-1 before the implosion begins. Keep in mind that since the Jets have a solid run defense, Josh McCown is going to have to make plays against Revis, Cromartie and the rest of that rebuilt secondary. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Johnny Manziel is in the game by the time the 2nd half starts.

Kansas City at Houston (-1)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 27, Houston 17

Andy Reid gets a lot of crap from the public because of his well-documented clock management problems and because the Eagles came up just short so many times during his run there. But he’s actually a pretty good coach (when the pressure’s not on). The offensive-minded Reid was in Philly for 14 years. His teams ranked in the top 10 in offensive DVOA (FootballOutsiders’ efficiency stat) seven times and they ranked 11th-15th in the league 4 times. When Reid took over in Kansas City, the team was coming off the 2012 season where they ranked 31st in offensive efficiency. In 2013, he brought them up to 15th in the league, and last year they ranked 12th. With an in-his-prime Jamaal Charles, newly acquired #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin and a guy who could turn out to be the next Gronk in Travis Kelce at tight end, Reid has the pieces to set up shop as a top 10 offense for the next few years. Now if that Alex Smith fella could just learn to throw the ball…

Carolina (-3) at Jacksonville

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 21, Carolina 17

I think Jacksonville shows signs of life this season. But even if you don’t think that, how can you be comfortable taking the Panthers as a road favorite in week 1? This team could be less talented than the Jaguars when it’s all said and done. It seems crazy to back a road favorite in the season’s opening week when we really know nothing about these teams, unless that road team is a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Seattle (-4) at St. Louis

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 19, Seattle 13

This might be a game to avoid the point spread and bet the Under on the point total of 41. The games between these two teams are always so ugly. The Seahawks have lost two of three in St. Louis in the Russell Wilson era. And they still might be scrambling a bit to replace Kam Chancellor. And it’s week 1 and we just don’t know what these teams will become. So again, it’s time to take the home underdog (turning out to be a theme this week).

Green Bay (-7) at Chicago

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Green Bay 28, Chicago 23

There are a couple teams I need to be careful with because I’ve been so down on them this summer that I’m probably overselling how terrible they’re going to be. Chicago is one of those teams (It’s possible that San Francisco and New Orleans are also in that category for me). We know what we’re getting with the Packers: 12-4 record, beating all the teams they should, Mike McCarthy subtly fucking major things up, and losing once again to Seattle. But the Bears are a mystery. It’s week 1, it’s a division game, it’s a new coach in Chicago. I like the Bears to keep it closer than you might think.

Detroit at San Diego (-3)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 27, Detroit 17

This is exactly what the line should be between two teams that are expected to compete for playoff spots. I just happen to think the Lions are going to suck and the Chargers will be one of the five or six best teams in the AFC. By the way, isn’t there a chance Chargers head coach Mike McCoy is sneaky on the hot seat? They’ve put up back-to-back 9-7 records in his two years in San Diego. What if they go 9-7 again, or 8-8, and miss the playoffs? Is 9-7 every season good enough considering Philip Rivers probably only has a handful of effective years left? Keep an eye on that one.

New Orleans at Arizona (-2.5)

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 33, New Orleans 20

The Cardinals are going to lose plenty of games this year, but I don’t think this is one of them. They’ll lose when the other team’s defense can shut them down and get pressure on Carson Palmer. The Saints don’t seem to be that kind of opponent. Speaking of Palmer, I’m still shocked at how healthy he looks. If he stays on the field for 16 games, he’s going to make a lot of pessimistic Arizona predictions look bad.

Also, I don’t necessarily expect New Orleans’ transition from pass-first offense to run-first offense to go smoothly right off the bat.

Baltimore at Denver (-5)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 28, Denver 25

Since I’m a Patriots fan who enjoys the feeling of self-inflicted pain, I happened to have the NFL Network on last night. On one of the few non-Patriots segments, an analyst was breaking down Peyton Manning and the difference between his arm strength when he was healthy last year and his arm strength now. The bottomline was: He has no arm strength right now. I couldn’t believe the throws Manning was missing in preseason. And I also couldn’t believe how this wasn’t more of a major story in August. Until further notice, I am not giving Manning the benefit of the doubt. He’s going to have to show me he’s still a good QB before I bet on him. And the Ravens seem like they’d be a particularly tough defense to face if you happen not to be able to throw the ball accurately more than five yards in the air.

Cincinnati (-3.5) at Oakland

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 31, Oakland 17

I went back & forth on this pick 100 times. That’s usually a good indication that I have zero confidence in it. On the one hand, the Bengals probably aren’t getting the point spread respect that a team of their caliber facing Oakland deserves because all we can think about is Andy Dalton’s suckiness. But there’s a lot more to them than that, otherwise they wouldn’t make the playoffs every year. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be so much more fun to root for Oakland? To see Amari Cooper lighting up the Bengals defense while Khalil Mack buys a mansion inside Dalton’s head? Instead I think Dalton will have a big day as the Raiders struggle to keep up.

Tennessee at Tampa Bay (-3)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 24, Tennessee 17

It’s amazing how much intrigue just two new players can add to a matchup. Jameis Winston for the Bucs. Marcus Mariota for the Titans. These teams were unwatchable last year (and most of the past decade actually), but they immediately take a huge jump in watchability because of the mystery and potential at quarterback. And that’s why the NFL’s system is so perfect, and it’s also why they own us. Last year’s two worst teams are suddenly must-see TV.

Even if it’s by the smallest amount, I think the Titans are worse than the Bucs. And it’s a home game for Tampa. Yeah, let’s just take the home team in this matchup until we really know a little bit about these QBs.

NY Giants at Dallas (-6)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 29, NY Giants 18

This is one of only 42 times the Cowboys are featured on national TV this year so make sure you don’t miss it!

I might be in the minority on this, but I think the Cowboys’ floor this year is the same as the Giants’ ceiling. And Dallas seems like a team that’s a lot more settled at the moment, meaning they don’t have a ton of roster question marks or guys they’re waiting for to come back. The Giants look like a team in disarray to start the season, with questions about Jason Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz, and most of the defensive backfield. For the time being, I think the Cowboys are a full touchdown better than the Giants.

Philadelphia (-3) at Atlanta

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 33, Philadelphia 27

This one feels backwards to me. The Falcons should be favored by three. I understand why they’re not: They were awful last year, they have an unknown new head coach, and the general public is all lathered up over the Eagles. If my preseason prediction of the Falcons being a playoff team and the Eagles missing the playoffs is going to be true, I guess Atlanta has to start by winning this game. Most importantly, Vegas has the point total for this game at 55, easily the highest of the week. If nothing more, this should be a fun matchup for us fans.

Minnesota (-3) at San Franisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: San Francisco 17, Minnesota 8

Not so fast, Minnesota. The 49ers might stink in 2015, but the Vikings went 2-6 on the road last year and one of those wins was an overtime squeaker against Tampa Bay. Maybe the Vikings will go 7-1 at home this year and do enough on the road to make the playoffs, but they are certainly not going to turn into road warriors over night. Congrats to San Francisco for getting what will be their only win in the first two months of the season.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 7 Favorites, 9 Underdogs
  • 6 Home Underdogs, 3 Road Underdogs
  • 11 Home Teams, 5 Road Teams

Enjoy week 1.

NFL Week 5 Picks: Too Many Large Point Spreads

antonio brown

After an opening few weeks that saw underdogs covering the majority of games, we had a bit of a course correction last week as favorites went 8-5 against the spread. This week is a bit of a mind fuck as 10 of 15 games have spreads greater than six points. My instincts kept telling me to pick a lot of those favorites, but there’s no way things are that simple.

If you’re in a Suicide Pool, this gets even more stressful because now you have 10 teams that seem to be good picks, but you know a few of them are losing outright. Good luck with that.

An early theme for my blogs this season has been my obsession over wide receivers and the many incredible things that they do (seriously, Antonio Brown excites me in a way that I haven’t experienced since the height of Kelly Kapowski’s powers).

But I gotta be fair and point out when a non-receiver causes me to have those same adolescent feelings. In week 4, Aaron Rodgers made what I think was the best throw I’ve ever seen in my 20+ years of watching football. Sure, it was called back due to holding and it wasn’t even a tight spiral, but under the circumstances it was simply the best. In case you somehow missed it, here it is:

Only two teams on byes this week so let’s breeze through their status updates:

  • Miami: They’re already locked in as this year’s “stay away team” from a gambling perspective. Sure, every NFL team could win or lose to any opponent on any given day, but these guys really embody that sentiment. Do not ever think you have this team figured out (bonus stay away because their coach seems to be a loose cannon).
  • Oakland: Starting the season 0-4 looks even worse when you realize they play eight of their final 12 games against last year’s playoff teams. My “will any team go 0-16” bet is looking great at the moment.

And with that, let’s get right into it. Here are the picks for week 5.

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-9)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 36, Minnesota 20

Let’s see: So far this year the winning team of the Thursday night game has beaten its opponent by 20, 20, 42 and 31 points. The Packers have played only one home game so far, and it was that comeback win over the Jets that might not have been a win if Geno Smith’s perfect touchdown pass at the end of the game had counted. Something tells me the Packers want a statement win at home still. Also, Teddy Bridgewater is a rookie, playing a full game on the road for the first time in his career, and has a bum ankle that’s caused him to miss two days of practice this week.

And if Christian Ponder starting becomes a reality by Thursday afternoon, look out. This might be the biggest Thursday night blowout yet.

Chicago @ Carolina (-3)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Chicago 30, Carolina 23

Oh man, the Panthers are in trouble. I mentioned it last week, but it’s worth reiterating…their schedule is BRUTAL for the next six weeks. Hosting the Bears seems to be the easiest one on the slate. But here’s the problem: Chicago might be the anti-Saints, meaning they’ll go winless at home but undefeated on the road. So far the Bears are a +8.5 in point differential on the road, but -12 at home. And Matt Forte against that shitty Panthers run defense should be fun to watch.

Side Note: What a weird first four games from Brandon Marshall. He has 16 receptions (47th among receivers) for 144 yards (77th) and five touchdowns (1st). He’s on pace for 20 touchdowns on only 64 receptions. That would likely go down as the strangest season for a receiver in NFL history.

Cleveland @ Tennessee (-1.5)

  • The Pick: Cleveland
  • The Score: Cleveland 24, Tennessee 17

Wow, I love this game for Cleveland. Remember that this Browns team is two plays away from being 3-0 AND they’re coming off a bye week. The Titans, meanwhile, are trying to pick up the pieces from three straight losses where their “best” game was a 16-point loss to the Cowboys. Keep in mind the Browns are now 4-2 in the six starts Brian Hoyer’s made dating back to last year, and again, it could just as well be 6-0. I might be loving this Cleveland team a little too much this week.

St. Louis @ Philadelphia (-7.5)

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: Philadelphia 27, St. Louis 24

Could picking this game really be as simple as “The Eagles’ offensive line is in tatters and the Rams boast one of the best pass-rushing units in the league”?

When we’re talking about a point spread that’s greater than a touchdown, yes, it is that simple for me (add in the fact that St. Louis was resting last week while Philly was playing yet another physical game with an already-injured team). I think the Eagles are just treading water until their week 7 bye at this point.

Atlanta @ NY Giants (-4)

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: NY Giants 33, Atlanta 27

Ahh, the out of division game sandwiched between important division matchups for the Giants. After a big win at Washington last week, the Giants have road games against Philly and Dallas following this game. Do they look past the Falcons because of that? Let’s hope not because if they don’t, this is an easy pick. Atlanta has lost each of its road games by at least 13 points so far, and the Giants actually have a top five pass defense as of now. The stats all say mismatch so that’s the way I’m leaning.

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-11)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 25

Blind pick based on too large of a spread (though New Orleans is still a good Suicide Pool option).

This is as good of a time as any to make a case for the Bucs not being completely out of the playoff picture just yet. What if, as I’ve been joking recently, the Falcons and Saints simply can’t win on the road? That caps their ceiling at eight or nine wins. And we already know Carolina is on their way to regression, AND they’ve got that awful schedule. With the Bucs facing Baltimore, Minnesota, Cleveland and Atlanta (at home) after their week 5 game, there’s a realistic scenario where they’re 5-4 or 4-5 after nine games.

Yes, I picked them to make the playoffs and really don’t want that dream to be dead already.

Houston @ Dallas (-6)

  • The Pick: Dallas
  • The Score: Dallas 27, Houston 14

Here’s the problem with picking Houston: Their three wins look like this: At home against a terrible quarterback (Robert Griffin), on the road against the worst team in the league (Oakland), and at home against another terrible quarterback who would be benched the next day (EJ Manuel of the Bills). And even in that game it took a J.J. Watt pick-six to put the Texans comfortably in the lead.

Ryan Fitzpatrick on the road will never lead me to say, “Yeah, let’s take the points.” And if Dallas is suddenly smart (it’s too early to tell), they’re going to pound the ball all day against Houston’s 29th-ranked rush defense.

I already hate myself for saying this, but I think Dallas is a sneaky Suicide Pool pick this week.

Buffalo @ Detroit (-7.5)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 29, Buffalo 15

What would you have me do? Pick a quarterback who lost his starting job to both Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow at different points of his career and who has thrown just 61 passes in the past three years? On the road against the NFL’s 2nd-ranked defense?

No, I don’t think I can back Kyle Orton, regardless of the large spread here. Fuck, why are so many favorites so enticing this week? And for the third and final time, I will say this is a good Suicide Pool option for week 5.

Baltimore @ Indianapolis (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Baltimore
  • The Score: Indianapolis 24, Baltimore 21

We’ve already seen what the Colts can do when they’re not feasting on the putrid AFC South. They lost close games to Denver and Philadelphia in the first two weeks. I’m banking on that trend continuing. Not that they’ll lose, but that these games are going to be close. This seems like an extremely tight matchup so there’s no way I was going to take the Colts as more than a three-point favorite.

Pittsburgh (-7) @ Jacksonville

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 28, Jacksonville 22

How can I possibly write, “This line is too high” when the Jaguars have been outscored by an average of 23.5 points per game through the first quarter of the season? Because it’s my blog and I can write whatever I damn well please. That’s why.

If Blake Bortles’ first career home start doesn’t end with him throwing a game-ending interception with the Jaguars down by only six late in the 4th quarter, then I know nothing about football.

Arizona @ Denver (-7.5)

  • The Pick: Denver
  • The Score: Denver 34, Arizona 17

I think I may have just found my most confident pick of the week. This line should be at least two points higher, but people will look at that 3-0 record for the Cardinals and blindly pick them.

Fools.

Arizona’s wins haven’t been nearly as convincing as they might seem, and after reviewing Drew Stanton’s numbers, I’m doubling down on him not being a good football player. Oh, Carson Palmer might start you say? Yeah, seems like we should put a lot of confidence on Palmer and his shoulder right now.

With the Broncos getting a week off to retool some things and reincorporate Wes Welker more fully into the game plan, I see a big win for them.

Kansas City @ San Francisco (-6.5)

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: San Francisco 24, Kansas City 23

This pick was simple. When it’s impossible to trust either team, you obviously take the points when the spread is this large. My pick isn’t based on the Chiefs’ handling of New England on Monday, but rather it’s an indictment against the 49ers. In their two wins, one was handed to them by an awful Tony Romo performance, and the other was a game at home in which they struggled to beat an Eagles team whose offense never entered San Francisco territory until there were four minutes left in the game. Not exactly the type of performances that inspire confidence. An upset win by Kansas City would not surprise me here.

NY Jets @ San Diego (-7)

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: San Diego 31, NY Jets 12

Every Monday morning I guess the lines for the following week’s games. As a result of being a football genius, I’m typically within one point of the actual spread on all of them. But there’s always one or two that throw me for a loop. This was one of those games. I had San Diego -10.5. I can’t envision a scenario where the Jets make this a game.

By the way, why is everyone so excited about Michael Vick? His stats are average at best and his teams are 6-11 in his last 17 starts. The Jets are 1-3 and there’s a legitimate chance they’ll be 1-6 after week 7. It probably makes sense to keep Geno in there to see what you’ve got.

Cincinnati (-2) @ New England

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 26, New England 20

Of course I hope to be terribly wrong about this game, but I refuse to be that idiot that blindly chooses his favorite team when all the evidence points in the other direction. Yes, it would be just like the unpredictable NFL for the Patriots to steamroll the Bengals, but call this an emotional hedge if you will.

For you Patriots fans out there, even when they lose this game and fall to 2-3, don’t worry. Keep in mind they’re still in a division where the other three teams have each thought about benching their quarterback in the last two weeks, and each of those teams could also be looking for a new coach by the end of 2014. A 10-6 record and an unexpected march to the Super Bowl is exactly the way things get done these days anyway. Remember, they’ve won several Championships riding the “No one believes in us” mantra.

Seattle (-7.5) @ Washington

  • The Pick: Washington
  • The Score: Seattle 28, Washington 23

Listen, I don’t know if this news about the FCC potentially banning the name “Redskins” from public airwaves affects a blogger like me or not, but as many of you probably saw from my tweet on Tuesday, I finally made money as a professional writer. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a government fine take away my hard earned money. From now on in this blog, they will be known as the Washington PotatoSkins. I think it’s a cooler mascot anyway.

I don’t know what to make of this PotatoSkins team just yet, but I do know that it’s crazy to pick against even a below-average team that’s at home and getting more than a touchdown. Sure, they’re facing the best team in football, and that team happens to be coming off a bye, but I just can’t do it. I may be feeling like an idiot as I watch Seattle burn the PotatoSkins on Monday night (see what I did there?), but that’s what happens when you blindly follow certain gambling edicts.

After four weeks I’m sporting a 28-31-2 record against the spread. Nothing to write home about, but not even close to disastrous. We’re still learning a lot about these teams. Stick with me and I’ll make you some money starting real soon (or at the very least get you to the top of your Pick’ Em league standings).

Enjoy Breast Cancer Awareness week #1…THE NFL TOTALLY CARES ABOUT WOMEN!!

NFL Week 2 Recap: Overreaction vs Proper Reaction

When is it OK to start reacting to the results we’re seeing on the field? Because it seems like every tweet, every website column and every idiotic blog post keep telling us that reacting at all to these first couple weeks is overreacting. So when is it no longer overreacting and instead properly reacting? After week 3? After week 10? Am I going to write after week 14 that “the Browns have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs” only to have someone fire back at me that I’m overreacting to a small sample size?

There’s a delicate balance of using the information we’ve gotten from two weeks of the 2013 season to properly react while keeping things in perspective (is team X healthy? have they faced playoff-caliber teams in both games? was there one or two lucky or unlucky breaks that swung a game?). You get it.

One preseason truth that seems close to being debunked (but we need more time to truly find out) is that the NFC is significantly better than the AFC. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the top tier of the NFC (Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay) has more teams than its AFC counterpart (Denver), but that middle tier of average-to-above-average teams might be closer than we think. The way I see it with the AFC, we could be talking about 14 of the 16 teams falling into that area. Denver is elite, Jacksonville is an 0-16 candidate and everyone else is somewhere in between. Teams that we thought wouldn’t have a pulse all year (Oakland, Tennessee, San Diego, NY Jets, Buffalo) are showing signs of life.

This isn’t all subjective analysis by me. The AFC is actually 5-1 against the NFC so far this year. But again, we’re not yet ready to claim the two conferences are evenly matched.

For those of you wondering if I’m going to avoid talking about another losing week with my picks against the spread, the answer is no. I’m actually ecstatic to be 6-8-1 (with the Monday night game pending). These first two weeks have been insanely unpredictable and I was able to improve from the two-win disaster last week to possibly seven wins this week. And I’ve looked around at some Pick ‘Em leagues and other experts’ columns from last Friday…no one is knocking it out of the park with the picks right now. The bottom line is I’m encouraged. Cannot wait for week 3.

But first let’s get through the rest of the week 2 recap.

(Side Note: The plan is to post the weekly recap on Mondays because that’s when people still give a crap about the weekend results. I suppose if crazy shit happens on Monday Night Football, I’ll add to the recap or do a shorter separate one on Tuesday. Otherwise I’ll be ignoring the Monday night game for the most part. This recap is coming to you late on Monday because I flew back from San Francisco this morning after a long weekend of putting harmful substances into my body. Hopefully you’ll be getting these by noon on Monday going forward.)

  1. I spent the weekend up in San Francisco mostly hanging out with my core group of football-watching, fellow degenerate friends. On Saturday afternoon one of the friends told us he had a dream the previous night that he shit his pants and got it all over him. He went into enough detail to tell us that in the dream he tried to use a towel to clean himself, but the towel was already a shit-stained brown. A totally random, disgusting story of course, but one of the other group members took this to mean he should bet BIG on the Cleveland Browns to cover against Baltimore on Sunday. It probably goes without saying (even if Cleveland had been able to pull off the road cover) that basing your sports bets on someone’s dream, especially when you’re making those kinds of interpretive leaps, is not the best way to win money.
  2. This same pants-shitting dreamer also told us while we were in Vegas one time that he had a dream he was playing roulette and the outcome of three consecutive rolls was Red Red Even. You can probably guess that a group of us immediately ran over to a roulette table and threw an insane amount of money on that combination. It did not work. You know what? I’m starting to think this guy is just fucking with us because he knows degenerate, superstitious gamblers will look for any sign to place a bet.
  3. As someone who predicted in August that Josh Freeman would be the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, I loved seeing a story on cbssports.com on Sunday morning that Freeman might seek a trade because of the growing rift between him and head coach Greg Schiano.
  4. And that was before the Bucs choked away another game they had in the bag to fall to 0-2. Freeman, by the way, completed less than 50% of his passes for only 125 yards with two turnovers on Sunday.
  5. The real question now is who goes first Freeman or Schiano? Could both of their careers in Tampa be over before they emerge from their week 5 bye? Remember that Schiano pissed a lot of people off with his over aggressive playcalling when the Giants were in the victory formation last year. Now he’s alienated his starting QB repeatedly, and the team in general continues to be undisciplined and all too willing to make mental mistakes. I can’t remember seeing a coach recover from this. Can you?
  6. Of all the different picks in my Suicide Pool this week, the only person who didn’t have to sweat it out was the guy who took Oakland. How is that possible? The other picks (New England, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Baltimore) either snuck by in a one-score game or lost outright. I had Chicago.
  7. If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of unintentional comedic timing. So my football-watching group got a good laugh on Sunday when I proudly proclaimed, “My Chicago bet is my biggest one of the day because I just can’t envision a scenario where the Vikings keep it close”….exactly 11 seconds before Minnesota returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
  8. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words so I’ll spare you from my list of “top 60 reasons I might never go to a live football game again” and just show you how I watched Sunday’s games instead: IMG_3261
  9. I was listening to a podcast this weekend where the hosts were recapping the Patriots-Jets game, and they were criticizing the New England fans for booing a Jets player who was injured in the 4th quarter. But here’s the new reality: Since faking an injury to slow down an offense has become the most overly talked about topic, we’re now at a point where every injury on the visiting team that is not the result of a vicious hit is going to get booed, loudly. It’s just the reality of the situation. No need for any fan base to get called out over the others. It’s going to happen in every stadium. It’s football’s version of baseball fans assuming every player is on PEDs. Oh, you got hurt while our offense was marching down the field? You’re a pathetic faker. Get your pansy ass up.
  10. When Eddie Lacy got drilled by Brandon Meriweather on Sunday morning, I was feeling real bad for myself because Lacy was one of my fantasy starters this week. Then Steven Jackson went down. Then Ray Rice went down. I have all three of those guys between a couple different fantasy teams. But it’s hard to have too much self pity when it seems like this happened to everyone. Look at this list of players that left their games due to injury on Sunday, definitely swinging real football matchups along with fantasy matchups: Rice, S Jax, Lacy, Reggie Bush, Larry Fitzgerald, Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson, Vernon Davis, Malcom Floyd, Brandon Weeden.
  11. So the Redskins are 0-2, meaning they only have to go 11-3 the rest of the way for my preseason prediction to be right. Here’s where I think I went wrong with my super optimism for them. The doctors cleared RGIII’s knee, the team said he was good to go and I kept thinking about Adrian Peterson’s brilliant return from knee surgery. What I never thought about was the knee injury that haunted my entire 2008 football-watching season: Tom Brady’s. After suffering torn knee ligaments in week 1 of 2008, Brady came back and led the 2009 Patriots to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. But anyone who watched the team closely knew Brady wasn’t 100% for most of that year. There was rust and probably a little bit of fear. Carson Palmer’s another guy who never seemed quite the same after his major knee injury in 2006. It makes perfect sense that RGIII is going to have trouble replicating the way he played in 2012. Maybe not all season, but at least for a while. I wish I hadn’t been so blind to this.
  12. In the “told ya so” department, I’d like to point out that I knew Baltimore would struggle offensively this year, especially after losing Jacoby Jones for a few weeks. They scored exactly 0 points in the 1st half of a home game against the Browns on Sunday.
  13. In the “I’m now terrified” department, as soon as I wrote that note about the Ravens’ offense, I realized the Patriots might be exactly the same at least for the next handful of games. Are the Pats and Ravens basically in the same situation? Closer to average than elite but a soft schedule tricks us into giving them a chance for now? Gross.
  14. Last week my wide receiver erection was all over A.J. Green’s constantly amazing play. This week it’s pointing in the direction of Dez Bryant. He didn’t have the best day out of all WRs, but I think he might be the most uncoverable receiver in the NFL. It just seems like a mismatch every play, no matter who’s covering him. At least five times on Sunday it looked like Tony Romo decided before the play that he was throwing to Bryant no matter what the defense showed. And this is where I’d like to thank my former college roommate for trading Bryant to me in our fantasy league after week 1 of the 2012 season for Pierre Garcon (this guy being a huge Redskins homer probably had something to do with it). That trade allowed me to win the league in 2012 and I was able to keep Bryant on my roster for this year.
  15. This description on espn.com of Philadelphia’s final play in their 33-30 loss to San Diego caught my eye: (Shotgun) M.Vick pass short right to J.Avant to PHI 37 for 8 yards. Lateral to R.Cooper to PHI 35 for -2 yards. Lateral to M.Vick to PHI 35 for no gain. M.Vick pass to J.Peters to PHI 35 for no gain. Lateral to J.Avant to PHI 35 for no gain. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by SD-J.Addae at PHI 40. J.Addae to PHI 40 for no gain (B.Celek). PENALTY on PHI-M.Vick, Illegal Forward Pass, 5 yards, enforced at PHI 39.
  16. What a sequence that was. There was one other amazing sequence that I saw with my own eyes on Sunday. It was at the end of regulation in the Titans-Texans game. This tweet from Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell summed it up best: “Munchak burns clock, ices a made kick, offsides on a blocked kick, ices a missed kick, kick off the goalpost.”
  17. Even though having an infant present during a long day of football watching means he’s going to learn some new words that Mom & Dad probably didn’t want him learning for another 15 years, I say it’s a good idea to get one if you can. When the dust settles on a 2-6-1 record for your morning picks, the only thing that can possibly cheer you up is a baby doing ridiculous shit…falling off furniture, getting more food on his face than in his mouth, visibly squeezing out a dump while he sits directly beside you. I recommend you find a baby to join your group each Sunday. Thanks to my 14-month-old nephew for making me temporarily forget about my Chicago-Philadelphia parlay.
  18. I’ll admit last year my hatred for Richard Sherman might have stemmed from the Seahawks’ win over the Patriots and his postgame trash-talking of Tom Brady. But he sent me into another rage last night and it had nothing to do with my hometown team. After Seattle’s 29-3 win over San Francisco on Sunday night, NBC reporter Michele Tafoya interviewed Sherman on the field. She asked him how he was able to hold Anquan Boldin to just one catch after he had 13 the previous week. Rather than answer the question that she was obviously trying to get him to answer (“how did you do such a good job”), he corrected her by saying, “that one catch wasn’t even on me.” What. A. Prick. Couldn’t possibly let the TV audience think he let up one catch to the guy. God forbid. Great team player, right?
  19. For the record, I’d rather see the Jets win three consecutive Super Bowls than have to live through the Seahawks winning one.
  20. With the end of Breaking Bad running at the same time as Sunday Night Football, I think for the next two Sunday nights we should get used to this: Screen shot 2013-09-15 at 9.25.00 PM
  21. Are you pissed off at your underachieving team so far in this young NFL season? Cheer up, buddy. It could be worse. You could be a fan of the Jaguars, whose first touchdown of the season came after 117 minutes of game time. Oh, and here’s what their fans were getting up to on Monday:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9680957/fans-urge-jacksonville-jaguars-sign-tebow-rally

Let’s run through the weekly awards real quick:

The “Vitriol of the Week” Award presented by Gamblers Against High Blood Pressure (GAHBP)

Chicago Bears

Christian Ponder might be the worst quarterback in the NFL. You have one challenge on defense: shutdown Adrian Peterson. You have an explosive offense. You should have won this game by 20. You won on a semi-miraculous last minute drive, but of course you didn’t cover the spread, losing me plenty of money and valuable Pick ‘Em league points. You’re the worst.

The “Most Likely To Be Added To Fantasy Rosters Even Though He’ll Never Match This Week’s Performance Ever Again” Award

A tie between Eddie Royal and James Starks

If you’re in an auction league like I am, you’re going to have to pay out the ass for these guys even though they probably won’t equal this week’s output over their next five games combined. Good luck with that.

And finally, if you don’t feel like reading my plea to New England fans to relax, go ahead and close this page now.

Patriots fans, relax. Your team is 2-0 while playing both games without its best receiver (Gronk) and one of the games without its second best receiver (Amendola) and its most likely candidate to take over the 2012 production from Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez (Vereen). All three of them will be back when the important games start.

Let’s just put the NFL season into context right now: The 2012 Baltimore Ravens lost in week 2 to Philadelphia (who finished the season 4-12). They struggled to put away the Browns in week 4, they beat the Chiefs (2-14 record) 9-6 in week 5, and beat San Diego (another pathetic team in 2012) in overtime in week 12, only after the miracle of a 4th & 29 conversion. And during those games, they had almost all of their offensive weapons intact. No one gave them a chance as they limped into the playoffs as the #4 seed in the AFC. They got hot, got a little lucky and won the Super Bowl.

Panicking, complaining, attempting suicide…none of those things make sense yet because ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THIS STRANGE SPORT.

Oh, and your baseball team is putting up one of the most unexpected and memorable regular seasons in the history of the sport. And your hockey team is one of the Stanley Cup favorites as the season gets going in a few weeks.

Relax.

And that’s it from me. Week 3 picks coming on Thursday.