Week 14 NFL Picks: A HUGE Week of Football

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Ladies & Gentlemen, a round of applause for the week 14 NFL schedule. It’s the least you can do.

Every single timeslot throughout the “weekend” has at least one incredibly important game.

  • Thursday Night: Oakland (10-2) at Kansas City (9-3)
  • Sunday 1pm ET: Pittsburgh (7-5) at Buffalo (6-6) / Denver (8-4) at Tennessee (6-6) / Houston (6-6) at Indianapolis (6-6)
  • Sunday 4pm ET: Seattle (8-3-1) at Green Bay (6-6)
  • Sunday Night: Dallas (11-1) at Giants (8-4)
  • Monday Night: Baltimore (7-5) at New England 10-2

Seriously. That’s a pretty jam-packed day of quality football.

Let’s dive into the week 14 picks.

Oakland at Kansas City (-3) | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 26, Oakland 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

When is a Thursday Night Game not an ugly, hard-to-watch spectacle? When it’s 10-2 vs 9-3 with a division title and (probably) a playoff bye on the line. I’m captivated by the possibilities in this game. Does Oakland keep rolling along with their 7th straight win and 27+ point output? Or will the KC defense with Justin Houston as a reinforcement and the secondary playing out of its mind beat the Raiders for the 2nd time this year?

This is where we find out if Oakland’s defense can assist the offense at all going into the playoffs. It feels like a raucous home crowd will tilt an even game slightly towards the Chiefs. It’s honestly too close to call and seems silly to make any kind of bet on it.

(Note: I wrote all of that on Wednesday night and still talked myself into making a bet. Luckily I bet on the Chiefs. Pretty alarming for the Raiders that they lost by 8 with Andy Reid making plenty of head scratching decisions and Alex Smith uncharacteristically turning the ball over.)

Pittsburgh (-3) at Buffalo | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 27, Pittsburgh 23

The Bets: Buffalo (+13) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Buffalo (+3)

I don’t really believe in the Steelers in general. I DEFINITELY don’t believe in them on the road.

My hesitation about betting the Bills straight up is based on the weak resume they have in their wins this year. They beat: Arizona, New England (injured Jacoby Brissett at QB), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincy and Jacksonville. But I like the Bills a lot at home as 13-point underdogs when thrown into a 3-way tease.

Denver (-1) at Tennessee | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 24, Denver 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

My final score prediction is based on the guess that Trevor Siemian starts at QB for the Broncos. I don’t think the Broncos will be competitive in this game if Lynch starts.

Washington (-2) at Philadelphia | over/under 47

The Pick: Philadelphia

The Score: Philadelphia 22, Washington 20

The Bets: Under (57) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Jordan Reed’s status is crucial to making any kind of decision on this game. And it sounds like we may not have a definitive answer until Sunday morning.

I’m teasing the up the under, but not until I get confirmation that Reed is out. If he plays, I’ll probably stay away from this game entirely.

Did you know only 3 of Philly’s 12 opponents this year currently have a record below .500? Starting in week 3, they faced 9 straight teams that currently have a record of .500 or better.

Arizona (-2) at Miami | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 26, Arizona 20

The Bets: Miami (+12) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Miami (+2)

In what world should the Cardinals be favored on the road against anyone? They’re 1-4 on the road with their 1 win coming in San Francisco.

I have no additional thoughts about this game. I’m slightly nervous to bet the Dolphins even though I think they’ll win because we could be seeing the start of a classic Miami nosedive to end the season.

Minnesota (-3.5) at Jacksonville | over/under 39

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Minnesota 13, Jacksonville 10

The Bets: Under (39) / Under (49) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Holy shit is this gonna be a bad game or what??

No exaggeration, I think a 13-10 win for one of these teams is being optimistic about the scoring. Hence, the under & teased under are my favorite bets in week 14.

Houston at Indianapolis (-6.5) | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Indianapolis 29, Houston 21

The Bets: Indianapolis (+3.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Indy needs this slightly more than Houston. They already lost to the Texans, and they also have a much harder final three games than the Texans (Colts are at Minnesota & Oakland before finishing at home against the Jaguars, while Houston plays Jacksonville & Cincy at home before a road finish in Tennessee).

This is probably a discussion for another day, but does Bill O’Brien deserve to be fired regardless of this final month of 2016? He personally picked Brock Osweiler and added Lamar Miller at running back, both to complement their star receiver in DeAndre Hopkins. And yet there they sit, 28th overall in points per game and 31st in FootballOutsiders’ offensive efficiency ranks.

With Jonathan Joseph out for the Texans, it gets even more unlikely that they hold Indy’s offense in check.

San Diego at Carolina (-1.5) | over/under 49

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 24, Carolina 19

The Bets: San Diego (+1.5) / San Diego (+11.5) in a 3-way tease / Under (59) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with San Diego (+1.5)

Even taking into account San Diego flying across the country and playing in relatively cool weather…even including the (unlikely) chance that Luke Kuechly suits up for this game…I just don’t see a path to the Panthers winning this game. Carolina is really, really bad. Simple as that.

And with the Chargers having a sneaky solid defense, and their offense playing lower-scoring football on the road, the under feels like a great pick here.

Cincinnati (-5.5) at Cleveland | over/under 42.5

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cleveland 23, Cincinnati 20 (in OT)

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I’m tempted to do zero research on this game and pick the Browns to win outright because:

  1. When A.J. Green went down for the year and the already-struggling Bengals lost their best player, this became the game that the Browns would most likely win.
  2. If Robert Griffin is the starting QB, the universe will make sure that he captures the city of Cleveland’s heart with a stunning upset against their in-state rival, which will cause the Browns to try to make him their starter again next year and pass up on the best QB in the draft.
  3. Hue Jackson is facing his former team and it would just make sense for Marvin Lewis to lose to an 0-12 team with his former offensive coordinator as the opposing head coach.
  4. By no statistical measure should the Browns win this game, and it feels like we’re due for this upset.

So let’s go with that. The Browns finally get a win (and of course put the #1 draft pick in jeopardy).

Chicago at Detroit (-8) | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Detroit 23, Chicago 17

The Bets: Detroit (+2) in a 3-way tease / Under (53.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The Bears are 0-6 on the road and the only time they exceeded 17 points was at Indy in week 5. Detroit is a much lower scoring team than you think, even at home. The right play is the under.

The Lions had 11 straight games before last week that were decided by 1 score or less. Though I’m confident they’ll win, I think we’ll be back to a close game for them.

NY Jets at San Francisco (-3) | over/under 44

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 27, San Francisco 17

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

If we assume neither team can effectively throw the ball (a completely fair assumption), then the difference-maker in this game should be the Jets’ #2 ranked defense. Both teams have solid run games, but the 49ers have the worst run defense in the league. That’s a glaring difference between two crappy teams.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay (-3) | over/under 51.5

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 27, New Orleans 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

This is what we’ve been waiting for. Earlier in the year, most games involving NFC South teams were obvious over bets. Especially so when two of them were playing each other…Except that the Saints have trouble scoring on the road and the Bucs have played very solid defense lately.

Assuming the Bucs don’t have a defensive meltdown like earlier in the season when they gave up 37 to the Rams and 27 to the Broncos (both at home), they should at least win.

Atlanta (-6.5) at Los Angeles | over/under 45.5

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 28, Los Angeles 18

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with Atlanta (-6)

This is a matchup between the best offense in the league and the worst offense in the league.

Even though the Rams have a decent defense, the Falcons have played fine on offense in road games against better defenses like the Broncos (23 points), Seahawks (24 points) and Bucs (43 points).

Since I feel like I’m getting burned by good teams on the road laying about a touchdown, I’m not putting actual money on the Falcons.

Seattle (-3) at Green Bay | over/under 46

The Pick: Green Bay

The Score: Green Bay 20, Seattle 19

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

This marquee NFC matchup is really slanted in the Packers’ favor considering they’re at home in freezing weather and Seattle has to play its first full game without Earl Thomas.

The Seahawks’ offense has been nonexistent on the road with the exception of 2 games, and the cold weather isn’t going to help. Somehow I think Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson will have good enough performances to barely win this.

Dallas (-4) at NY Giants | over/under 47.5

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: Dallas 27, NY Giants 26

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Nice game featuring the Cowboys and the only team they’ve lost to this year. I’m rooting hard for the Giants just because I want to hear an announcer during the playoffs provide us with the screwed up logic that Dallas will beat the Giants because it’s “really hard to beat the same team three times in a season.”

I think this game will play out similar to last week’s Cowboys/Vikings game with the Giants covering but barely coming up short for the win.

This time I won’t be dumb enough to take the underdog moneyline like I did last week.

Baltimore at New England (-7) | over/under 45

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 26, Baltimore 17

The Bets: Under (55) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with New England (-7)

Fuck the fucking Ravens.

Also, I’m pretty sure this game goes under.

Here are the season-long stats that I’m tracking:

  • Favorites are 84-99-9 against the spread through 13 weeks (including 11-4 in week 13)
  • The Point Total has landed on Over 97 times, Under 92 times, ad Pushed 3 times
  • I’m 101-85-6 against the spread

Enjoy week 14.

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Week 4 NFL Picks & My Gambling Rock Bottom

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Over the course of an entire NFL season, even us professional bettors are due for a horrible week. There’s just no getting around the fact that in a 21 week sample size where just 267 games are played, there are bound to be some random, unexpected results.

But just like a 1-loss college football team can be either helped or hurt by when that loss takes place, so too does the timing of the rock bottom week for the professional gambler have a major effect on the overall success of the season.

Last year my gambling partner & I didn’t have our “week from hell” until late December. That meant not only did we have a bankroll to bounce back from such a shitty week, but we already had a successful formula in place for knowing which teams and matchups would likely produce the most profit for us. It was extremely easy to put that awful week behind us and continue on.

Unfortunately we just endured our 2016 rock bottom last weekend. At least I hope it was our rock bottom. I can’t imagine continuing to live if we have an even worse week on the horizon.

Since this huge letdown happened in week 3–while we were still figuring out how good & bad the various NFL teams are this year, along with their styles of play–it’s a little bit of a problem knowing if our preseason thoughts are still valid, how much stock we should put into these first few weeks, and if we were just plain lucky in 2015.

Thanks to the Steelers & Cardinals, the Teasy Money crew has been shaken to its core.

But then I take a step back and notice I’m still in first place in one of my Pick ‘Em leagues. And my against the spread record for the year is a decent 26-22. And even the bet recommendations I’ve given you in this space for the past three weeks have had more hits than misses. So it’s not all gloom & doom. I don’t think we just got lucky last year. I think week 3 will go down as one of the toughest weeks for gamblers in 2016 and we just gotta roll with the punch.

So as I keep saying in writing and on our Teasy Money podcast, I remain undeterred. Trust the process and the rest will work out.

It’s onto the week 4 picks.

Miami at Cincinnati -8 | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Cincinnati 23, Miami 18

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I highly recommend you stay away from this game. First of all, it’s a Thursday night game. Usually that’s a good enough reason to hang onto your money until Sunday.

But it’s also very tough to get a read on either of these teams. While both could easily be 0-3 (Cincy’s one win was by 1 point against the Jets in week 1. Miami’s win was in overtime against Cleveland last weekend), they’ve each had to face a brutal opening schedule. The Bengals were at the Jets and at Pittsburgh before the week 3 home game against Denver. Miami started the year at Seattle and at New England.

Until Tyler Eifert returns and we see what this fully healthy Bengals offense looks like, I won’t be picking them to cover a full touchdown or more, regardless of who they’re playing. And be careful betting against Miami this year. They seem like the team that loses 11 games but never by more than a touchdown.

Indianapolis (-3) vs Jacksonville | over/under 49 (IN LONDON)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 29, Indianapolis 23

The Bets: Over (43) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Jacksonville (+3)

If only the Colts had managed to lose in week 3 against San Diego, we’d be able to call this the “loser leaves its newly-fired coach in London” game. Initially I wanted to predict that the Colts would extinguish what little hope Jacksonville has left for the season, and Gus Bradley would indeed get fired during the team’s bye week. But the numbers just aren’t there to back up such a claim. Indy’s defense is so bad that I feel like this is the game that gets the Jags back on track, offensively speaking.

Buffalo at New England (-6) | No current over/under

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 33, Buffalo 17

The Bets: New England (PICK) in a 2-way tease

Supercontest: No

There really is a first time for everything, huh? Never in my five years of doing this have I been unable to find a game total this late into the week. But it’s also understandable because there’s a gigantic gap between what we should expect out of New England’s offense if Jimmy Garoppolo starts at QB compared to another start by Jacoby Brissett.

What I love about the Patriots here is that they don’t play into any of the ways Buffalo has had success this season. All three of Buffalo’s offensive touchdowns last week against Arizona came on drives where they got to start around midfield. The Patriots almost never give a team the ball in such good position. Two weeks ago against the Jets, two of Buffalo’s three offensive touchdowns came on ridiculous 70+ yard touchdown passes. The Patriots almost never get burned by the long plays. And in those two games, the Bills’ defense scored a couple times on fumble recoveries or interceptions. Guess what? The Patriots don’t turn the ball over.

So good luck to sophomoric prankster Rex Ryan and his crew of shitty football players in trying to keep up with the Patriots on Sunday. My score prediction is based on Garoppolo playing. If Brissett plays instead, maybe the Patriots score three less points.

Tennessee at Houston (-5.5) | over/under 41

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 23, Tennessee 14

The Bets: Houston (-5.5) straight up, Houston (+0.5) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Houston (-5.5)

The Titans are averaging 14 points per game. Though they faced the Vikings in week 1 (one of the best defenses in football), their other two games were against Detroit (currently 31st in FootballOutsiders’ defensive DVOA rankings) and Oakland (29th in defensive DVOA).

They’re going into Houston and playing the 8th best defense this weekend. I feel like we’ll see an almost identical game as when Chicago traveled to Houston in week 1 so that’s why I’m predicting that exact same score.

And don’t worry about J.J. Watt being out. He was essentially invisible these first three weeks so if anything, the Texans might get a boost by having a healthy body take over his spot.

Oh, and the Texans are on extra rest. Bet this game confidently.

Cleveland at Washington (-8) | over/under 46

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Washington 31, Cleveland 26

The Bets: Over (46), Over (40) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: No

I suspect lots of money has come in on the Browns earlier this week because this line opened at Washington -10. I would have LOVED to get Cleveland with that spread. I still think the line is too high. I guessed it would be Washington -6. I think I’ll stay away from the spread, but where I’m loving a bet here is on the over!

Certainly the Browns have been nothing to write home about offensively this year (averaging 15.7 points per game on offense), but all three of the Redskins’ games have gone over the point total. And their defense is bad enough to make me think Cleveland won’t pull a “Texans at Patriots” in this one. Washington’s defense has given up 11 touchdowns in three games, and only one of them was of the cheap variety (a short field that the Giants scored on to open the game last week).

Seattle (-2.5) at NY Jets | over/under 40.5

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 23, Seattle 17

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Even though the Jets’ schedule is famously impossible this year, I think they actually get a little bit of a break by playing Seattle early in the season. If this was the Seahawks of weeks 10-17 from last year, I’d confidently be betting on them here. But this current installment is a lot more like their team from weeks 1-8 last year, where they either lost on the road (at St. Louis, at Green Bay, at Cincinnati) or won in unimpressive fashion (at Dallas).

So yeah, I feel like I have no choice but to pick the Jets at home, but I’m not confident enough to put money on it.

Carolina (-3) at Atlanta | over/under 50

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 27, Atlanta 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

On this week’s Teasy Money Podcast, I talked about my high level of interest in teasing the over in this game. But I’m backing away from that a little bit. Carolina’s still got a legit defense, even if it’s not as good as last year’s version, and it looks like the Atlanta receivers are pretty banged up. What I thought would be a track meet with lots of passing now looks like it could turn into two teams focused on running as much as possible.

And for as good as the Atlanta offense has been so far, they’ve gotten the luxury of facing the 21st (Tampa Bay), 29th (Oakland) and 30th (New Orleans) ranked defenses. Playing the Panthers will be a different story. No confidence on the pick or the score in this one, but I’m leaning towards Carolina.

Oakland at Baltimore (-3.5) | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Baltimore 23, Oakland 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Go ahead and try to make sense out of this game because I can’t. Baltimore has the 5th ranked defense but the 26th ranked offense. Oakland comes into week 4 with the #1 offense in the entire league but the 29th ranked defense.

No real idea how this plays out so I’m staying away from all bets. Since the Ravens are winning ugly these days, I’m thinking they’ll win by a field goal.

Detroit (-3) at Chicago | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 24, Detroit 19

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with Chicago (+3)

Detroit feels like such an obvious pick here. So obvious, in fact, that something doesn’t smell right. The Bears haven’t put up more than 17 points in a game this year, and they happen to have a pretty bad defense. Meanwhile Detroit checks in with the 3rd best offense in the league (according to FootballOutsiders). And the Bears are missing Jay Cutler and plenty of other important players. So why is this line so low? Not sure, but not betting it.

Bonus stayaway reason: EVERYONE IN YOUR PICK ‘EM LEAGUE WILL BE BACKING DETROIT. That’s normally a recipe for disaster…you know what, as I type this and realize I’m low on the five SuperContest picks I need to make, fuck it, I’ll take Chicago.

Denver (-3.5) at Tampa Bay | over/under 43

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 26, Denver 23

The Bets: Over (33) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The way I see it, the Bucs defense probably won’t play Denver much worse than Cincy did last week. And the Tampa Bay offense is dangerous enough to put up some points, especially with the Broncos on the back end of a two-game road trip. Tampa keeps this close-ish and either wins outright or covers when they’re down by 10 late and drives for a semi-meaningless touchdown.

But instead of betting on such uncertainty, I’d much rather roll with a teased over on this game. Two solid offenses, one bad defense, and one tired, road-weary defense. Get this over down to 33 and you won’t be sorry.

Los Angeles at Arizona (-8) | over/under 43

The Pick: Los Angeles

The Score: Arizona 24, Los Angeles 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Despite the pressure I’m definitely going to get from my gambling & podcast partner to tease the Cardinals down to -2, I’m not willing to do it. The Rams get up for their division games like no other team, and Arizona is legitimately sketchy right now. I can’t imagine putting my hard-earned money on the Cardinals and having to live through three hours of their Jekyll & Hyde play. And after watching the Bills rush for 208 yards (6.5 yards per carry) on this “vaunted” Arizona defense last week, I just can’t pull the trigger on anything in this game.

I’ll gladly wait until the Cardinals get right and string together multiple games of looking good.

New Orleans at San Diego (-4) | over/under 53.5

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 28, New Orleans 18

The Bets: Under (53.5), Under (59.5) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: San Diego (-4)

The pick for San Diego and the under is simple if you know how the Saints perform on the road. It’s basically the exact opposite of how they play at home. Over their past nine road games, the Saints have averaged 18 points per game. If you take out road games within their division (where they generally play teams with terrible defenses), that number drops to 16 points per game. This is a large enough sample size for me. Betting the under straight up and in a teaser are must-do’s this week. And I don’t hate a bet on the Chargers at -4 (or teased to +6) either.

Dallas (-3) at San Francisco | over/under 45.5

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: San Francisco 21, Dallas 15

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with San Francisco (+3)

Similar to the Jaguars, Jets, Bears & Bucs this week, I’m taking the home underdog. Maybe I’m a sucker for thinking all five of these teams will keep it close or even win outright. In the case of the 49ers, we can’t be too down on them just yet. They dominated the Rams at home in week 1, then hit the road for impossible games at Carolina and Seattle. And they really haven’t looked as horrible as I expected.

Throw in the fact that Dez Bryant’s status is completely unknown, and that it wouldn’t be crazy for the Cowboys to overlook the 49ers as games against Cincinnati & Green Bay loom in weeks 5 & 6, and it just feels like we’re heading for an upset.

Kansas City at Pittsburgh (-5.5) | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Pittsburgh 17, Kansas City 13

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

So I ran through this stat on this week’s podcast: Since Kansas City’s 1st half no-show against the Chargers in week 1, their defense has allowed only one touchdown in five halves of football…and that touchdown was in Houston on a 1-play, 27-yard pass by the Texans after Alex Smith fumbled and gave them the ball basically in the red zone.

That’s great for the Chiefs defense, but on the flip side, their offense has only scored one touchdown in the past two games. So what do we make of this game? Are we looking at a ridiculous defensive game where Pittsburgh wins 10-7? Actually yeah, I do expect a low scoring game with a ton of punting, running (Le’Veon Bell returns!) and sloppy play. While throwing the Steelers into a 2-way teaser looks appealing, I’m too nervous that these teams are in the same tier of the NFL contenders and either one could win.

NY Giants at Minnesota (-5.5) | over/under 43

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: Minnesota 19, NY Giants 16

The Bets: Under (43), Under (49) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: No

The decent defense in this game (Giants) gets to face the decent offense, and the juggernaut defense (Vikings) gets to face the solid offense. I really can’t imagine a lot of scoring unless Eli Manning tries to one-up Ryan Fitzpatrick’s awesome interception count from week 3.

And in a game featuring two anemic offenses, it’s wise to pick the team getting a handful of points. This would be a minor shock of an upset if the Giants pull off the win, but they should be able to keep it relatively close. And if you’re seriously considering backing the Giants, I’d wait as long as possible to make the bet. It looks like the public money is already all over the Vikings, and when people are chasing their losses from Sunday, they’ll look to Minnesota to help them recoup some of it. My guess is this line goes to Minnesota -6 or 6.5 by Monday afternoon.

The under bet is one of my favorites of the week.

Here are the season-long stats I’ve been tracking:

  • Favorites are 18-29-1 against the spread (including an incredible 5-11 last week!)
  • The point total has landed on Over 25 times, Under 21 times and Pushed 2 times
  • I’m 26-22 against the spread

Enjoy week 4.

Week 1 NFL Picks: It’s Finally Here!!

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I know you all have gotten really used to my weekly NFL picks column over the last few years, but I’m trying something slightly different in 2016. Of course I’m still going to make my best prediction on the point spread for every game. Don’t worry about that going away. But while I was racking up an incredible profit from football gambling last year, I realized my loyal readers were missing out on plenty of great advice. I wasn’t giving you my favorite teaser bets of the week. I wasn’t consistently telling you which point spread picks ranked higher for me than others each week. So that’s the change you’ll see this year.

On top of the normal picks and the ridiculously witty comments for each game, I’m also delivering my favorite bets (if any) and whether I’d consider a certain team for my Survivor Pool pick or my SuperContest picks (the SuperContest involves picking just five games against the spread each week).

As you can probably guess after seeing six articles posted by me in the last three days, I’m over-the-top excited for the start of football season.

Let’s kick things off with the week 1 picks:

Carolina (-3) at Denver | over/under 40.5

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 24, Denver 17

The Bets: Carolina -3

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with Carolina (-3)

I don’t see this going very well for Denver. At least in the beginning of the season, their offense should struggle to crack 20 points a game. Carolina scored less than 20 points on the road just once in 2015 (it happened to be their one loss, week 16 in Atlanta). And there was a road game in Seattle where the Panthers offense methodically marched down the field on three of their four scoring drives and patiently dismantled the Seahawk defense. So they can do it to an awesome defense.

I know we all want money down on the very first game, but for me this is either a stayaway, or 1 unit on the Panthers by 3.

Green Bay (-6) @ Jacksonville | over/under 48

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Green Bay 24, Jacksonville 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Can’t Jacksonville at least keep this to a 3-point loss at home? They should be better all around, Green Bay may need to work off a little rust, and I’m reluctant to pick against a decent home team before we have any facts about this season.

But there’s really nothing you could do to get me to actually bet this game. Such a wildcard.

San Diego at Kansas City (-7) | over/under 44.5

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: Kansas City 23, San Diego 17

The Bets: Kansas City (-1) in a 2-team teaser / Kansas City (+3) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Kansas City #2 Survivor Pool Pick

I don’t love a divisional matchup in week 1 with a team favored by a touchdown, even if it is this particular matchup of a real contender against a (best case scenario) mediocre team. Did you know that the Chiefs’ defense has ranked in the top 5 in total sacks in each of Andy Reid’s three seasons as head coach? And the year before, when they went 4-12, they were dead last in sacks? I bring this up because Justin Houston is definitely not healthy, and Tamba Hali might not be healthy. I want to see what this defense looks like with a much weaker pass rush.

While the under feels like an OK play here, I’m only comfortable using KC in a teaser to get them to a -1 or better.

Oakland at New Orleans (-1) | over/under 51

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 31, Oakland 26

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

This game was always a stayaway in terms of the point spread, but I was ready to throw the over in a 3-team teaser. I’ve soured on that in the last two days. I have enough good options to avoid feeling terrible the moment I place a certain bet.

Cincinnati (-3) at NY Jets | over/under 41.5

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 24, Cincinnati 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

You can think the Jets are going to struggle to get to eight wins this year and still pick them to win this game. Those two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. Yes, the Jets’ ridiculous schedule will take its toll and there’s just no way Ryan Fitzpatrick is allowed to make the playoffs, apparently, but they will have some good games with an offense featuring Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Matt Forte. They also had a top 5 defense last year.

And I’m on record as being concerned about the Bengals missing Mohamed Sanu & Marvin Jones (on new teams), Tyler Eifert (injured) and Hue Jackson (coaching the Browns)…all of whom were significant contributors to Cincy’s offense the past couple years.

Minor concern that we walk away from this game staring at an A.J. Green stat line of 9 catches, 165 yards, 2 touchdowns…and realizing Darrelle Revis is getting a little old.

Cleveland at Philadelphia (-4) | over/under 41

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cleveland 17, Philadelphia 16

The Bets: Under (51) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Hell No

For those keeping score at home, it looks like Vegas is saying the public thinks Sam Bradford was only worth two more points than Carson Wentz.

I really liked Cleveland when it was Philly -6, but I could easily see one of those thrilling 9-6 wins for either team so I’ll stick with the Browns. It feels like futile work to really sit and think about how this game will play out. While both defenses are shitty enough to let up a lot of points, neither offense can come close to taking advantage. That’s why I’m throwing the point total into a teaser that gets the under to 51.

Minnesota (-2) at Tennessee | over/under 41

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 19, Minnesota 17

The Bets: Under (41) or even better, Under (51) as part of a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Does it feel like the Titans are constantly screwing up your Survivor Pool on the first week of the season? That’s because in 2013 they upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh and then in 2014 went into Kansas City and routed the Chiefs. Add in last year’s big win for Marcus Mariota facing off against Jameis Winston in week 1, and the Titans are very randomly 3-0 in their last three week 1 games. Do yourself a favor and leave Minnesota out of any straight up picks this weekend.

Jump in on this under because I promise you we aren’t going to be using the word “explosive” to describe either team’s offense any time soon.

Chicago at Houston (-6) | over/under 44

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Houston 23, Chicago 20

The Bets: Houston (PICK) in a 2-team teaser with KC

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Houston #3 Survivor Pool Pick

I don’t doubt that Houston wins this game, so go ahead and use them in your Survivor Pool if you are trying to overthink things just a tiny bit. With the line increasing 2 points last week, probably because it’s being said that J.J. Watt will play, I’m grabbing the Bears. My assumption is that Watt won’t be nearly 100%, but Vegas knew it could count on an influx of Houston bets once that news broke regardless of the line.

There’s something especially difficult to figuring out the flow of this game. I initially liked the over after hearing how banged up Chicago’s defense is, but something feels off. Staying away on the point total.

Buffalo at Baltimore (-3) | over/under 44.5

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 24, Buffalo 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

I feel like Baltimore will win by either 3 or 4 and the total amount of points will be 44-46. So clearly I can’t touch this game.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-3) | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 21, Atlanta 20

The Bets: Tampa Bay +3, Under (48)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with Tampa +3

I like this game a lot. First of all, I think Tampa Bay is simply a better team and they can win outright.

Second, I think Vegas knows the public still considers Atlanta to be a “high-scoring offense,” and the offensive pieces for the Bucs are probably making people think they’ll play in a lot of shootouts. The truth is, neither team is very explosive on offense. I love the under, and I’m happy to slot Tampa +3 into one of my favorite 5 picks this week.

Miami at Seattle (-10.5) | over/under 44

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 28, Miami 16

The Bets: Seattle (-10.5), Seattle (-0.5) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Seattle #1 Survivor Pool Pick & Yes to SuperContest with Seattle (-10.5)

This is the most obvious component of a 3-team teaser ever. Seattle just has to win for that to work out so go ahead and count it. I know every year there’s one major shock on opening weekend that fucks up everyone’s Survivor pick, Pick’Em leagues and teasers, but this isn’t it.

The total of 44 points seems right, so I wouldn’t mess around with that. But there’s no way Maimi, one of the five worst teams in football, comes in and seriously competes.

NY Giants (-1) at Dallas | over/under 46

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 24, Dallas 20

The Bets: NY Giants (-1)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with NY Giants (-1)

The Giants win comfortably by 4 or 6 points. If you want to get the Giants in a 3-team tease that takes them to +9, I’m OK with that because there’s no way they don’t at least keep this a one-score game. And honestly, they should win.

Detroit at Indianapolis (-3.5) | over/under 51

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 30, Indianapolis 27 (OT)

The Bets: Detroit (+3.5), Over (41) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with Detroit +3.5

I’m still convinced that Indy is well below average, and they aren’t going to fare so well against real NFL teams. I also hear their defense is decimated from injuries this week. I always liked Detroit getting more than a field goal when looking at this game over the summer.

My bold prediction is that this game goes to overtime either at 24/24 or 27/27.

I don’t love the regular over, but I do like the teased over. And my podcast co-host and gambling partner is so in love with the over in this game that I basically don’t have a choice. I’ll be betting it in a teaser at least.

New England at Arizona (-6) | over/under 47

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 28, New England 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

If I wasn’t a Patriots fan, this game would be a complete stayaway. No idea about Garoppolo, no idea if the Pats defense is going to be the top 5 unit they looked like in August.

Being a fan makes it even more of a stayaway for me.

The reason I’m picking the Cardinals when forced to pick is because I can easily envision a scenario where New England’s down 7 or 8 with two minutes left in the 4th, and Garoppolo stumbles through an attempt to lead a patented Tom Brady comeback against a blitzing-on-every-down defense. And he gives the game away with an interception or fumble. No crazy expectations should be coming out of the Boston media or fanbase this week.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Washington | over/under 50

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 26, Pittsburgh 24

The Bets: Washington (+3)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Listen, I’m particularly high on the Redskins this year. It feels like no one else sees this as an 11-win team like I do. So obviously I like them at home getting three points against a Steelers team starting the season short two huge offensive pieces from last year (Bryant & Bell).

Los Angeles (-3) at San Francisco | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Los Angeles

The Score: Los Angeles 17, San Francisco 14

The Bets: Under (43.5)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Ummm….43.5 for the over/under? I think this game barely cracks 30, and I might be assuming too generous of an offensive output from both teams. I think I have to call the under my favorite bet of the entire week.

If all you East Coasters wake up on Tuesday morning, look at your phones and scream, “Dammit! I can’t believe I went to sleep before the end of that epic game!” then I’ve gotten something horribly wrong about these teams and I’ll retire from all things football.

 
Those are the 16 games. Check out the twitter handle @TeasyMoneyNFL for my finalized bets over the weekend. Enjoy week 1.

Week 8 NFL Picks: History Will Not Look Kindly Upon the AFC South

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The intro to my weekly picks column usually leans towards talking about either quarterbacks or head coaches. I guess that means I’m just like everyone else in loving the soap opera-y / professional wrestling storylines of the NFL’s two most high-profile positions. So here’s the latest.

There’s as high as a 25% chance that all four coaches from the AFC South will be fired by the end of the year. That might not seem like a high probability, but based on any info I have in my head or could find online, this has never happened. You gotta figure Chuck Pagano is a no-brainer in Indy and Bill O’Brien is as good as gone in Houston. That leaves Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee and Gus Bradley in Jacksonville. In this case the odds that both are fired is 1-in-4. Both coaches are in year three at the helm of his respective team and progress doesn’t seem to be happening quick enough. And while Bradley is a first-time head coach, Whisenhunt has an 8-year head coaching sample size to tell us he’s terrible. The guy’s 48-70 as a head coach! He hasn’t coached a winning team since 2009! So I think there’s a definite three gone, but probably all four teams will clean house with its coaching staff.

The rest of the league is 15-4 already against the AFC South in 2015. It’s only going to get worse. And if you look at the quarterbacks in that league—Luck in Indy, Mariota in Tennessee, Bortles in Jacksonville—only in Houston can the head coach point to the QB position as the main excuse for why things are so bad.

There are upwards of five other coaches across the league who are also on some spectrum of the hot seat, but our focus for the rest of 2015 will be squarely on the hopelessness that litters the AFC South’s coaching positions. Together we can make history.

Here are the week 8 picks.

Miami at New England (-9)

The Pick: Miami

The Score: New England 31, Miami 27

Since this is the Thursday night game, it’s probably getting talked about a little more than if it was slotted for Sunday at 10am. So you probably know the dilemma with making a pick: On the one hand, the Dolphins’ “resurgence” has come at the hands of the Titans and Texans, and my intro already made it crystal clear how those two teams are doing this season. On the other hand, the Patriots’ had a moderate struggle against the Jets last week, and we know New England’s offensive line is still beat up while the Suh/Wake combo in Miami has recently come to life.

By the way, I don’t know that we should be waiting on a huge scoring outburst from New England that ends in them destroying four or five teams in a row and looking like the ‘07 team. I decided if 2007 was the perfection of Tom Brady, his physical abilities and the Randy Moss hyper-charged offense, then 2015 is the perfection of Bill Belichick, his intelligence, the crazy player depth and the “whatever it takes” mentality. It might not be pretty, but they’re going to get the job done nine times out of 10.

And thus the reason for my pick.

Detroit vs Kansas City (-5) (Game in London)

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 11, Kansas City 2

Are the Kansas City fans still going to travel well this week considering: 1) The game’s all the way in London, 2) Their team is 2-5 and without its best player for the rest of the year, and 3) Their city’s baseball team, the Royals, will be playing in the World Series over the weekend, concluding with game 5 on Sunday? I doubt it. And, hey, after Detroit played such a thrilling game in London last year against the Falcons, maybe they have a growing, raucous fan base across the pond. So because I care so very little about these two pathetic teams, I’m taking the Lions on the off chance they have some fans at the game.

(This is where I need to urge you, once again, to read Grantland’s Bill Barnwell on the new low the NFL reached in terms of coaching competency during that Falcons/Lions game in 2014.)

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-7.5)

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 30, Tampa Bay 17

The Falcons have exclusively beaten NFC East teams (four) and AFC South teams (two) so far this year. It’s not their fault that all but one of these early games ended up being against the two worst divisions in football. But because of that, it’s very hard to be impressed with any of those wins.

I’d really, REALLY love to see this line go to -7 before I bet it, but I’m banking on Jameis Winston’s wild inconsistency to give Tampa the nudge back that they need after almost winning two in a row.

Arizona (-4.5) at Cleveland

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Arizona 24, Cleveland 21

Are there still people out there dumb enough to want Johnny Manziel starting over Josh McCown? Why? For the excitement? Newsflash: He wouldn’t be replacing Alex Smith, who was voted for the 11th straight year “Quarterback Most Likely to Induce Sleep Across America.”

McCown has been legitimately exciting with some great plays to Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin throughout the season. His Browns also played in three straight games decided by three points earlier this month. And the bonus McCown gives you is epically clumsy plays like these:

I stand with McCown.

Anyway, I’m ready to start fading the Cardinals. I don’t know that they’ll lose to Cleveland, but a 3-point win seems about right. The Cardinals were at home on Monday night, coming off a loss and needing a win badly to stay ahead of Seattle, and they were facing 1-6 Baltimore (a team that’s not as bad as their record, but still pretty bad this year). And this team’s supposed to have all these offensive weapons, an intimidating defense and a genius head coach. And I saw none of that on a consistent basis throughout their narrow win. Then you look at the schedule that got them off to this 5-2 start and you really start to wonder. So yeah, I think this line is 1.5 points too high.

San Francisco at St. Louis (-9)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 20, San Francisco 0

First of all, the over/under (aka game total) for this matchup is 39.5, by far the lowest in week 8. And it should be. Don’t go thinking you’ll make an easy couple of bucks by betting the over. Both teams should struggle to crack 20 points. That’s where the big hesitation is for me in picking St. Louis. Their offense is pretty atrocious, even after accounting for Todd Gurley immediately being the best running back in football. That, and the unrelenting desire of Jeff Fisher to always be at a .500 record throughout each season (or as close as humanly possible).

I’m still picking them because the 49ers are right around rock bottom and we need to take advantage. They won’t always be this low, but for now, the Rams should do very bad things to them. I don’t think I’ve ever predicted a team to score 0 points in this column before. The real question is whether or not the Niners will ever enter St. Louis territory.

NY Giants at New Orleans (-3)

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 31, New Orleans 31

More picks column history is made: I predict a tie! The Saints and Giants deserve to tie because they are the same enigmatic, roller coaster ride, never ever ever ever trust us, team. There’s nothing to be too impressed about with either team, nothing to be too depressed about with them either. Either QB is capable of a five interception game or a three touchdown, 400 passing yards, 75% completion game.

If you want to argue for the Saints because they need it more, I’ll give you that. The Giants are still in the thick of the NFC East “race” with a loss, whereas the Saints are already in trouble in the division and are more likely chasing teams like the 4-2 Vikings and 3-3 Rams for a wildcard spot.

Minnesota at Chicago (PICK)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 23, Minnesota 16

You know, I thought the Vikings should be favored by a field goal, but now I’m coming around on the Bears. They almost won three in a row before last week’s bye, losing the third game at Detroit in overtime. Four weeks ago they got Jay Cutler back, last week they got Alshon Jeffrey. It’s not surprising that they’re at least competitive when the majority of their starters are playing.

I also can’t wrap my head around the Vikings being 5-2. It doesn’t seem like they should be that good. So I’m going to hold them back a little while longer. I’m sure this is probably idiotic.

San Diego at Baltimore (-3)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 54, San Diego 49

Gross. This is the most unappetizing game I’ve seen in a long time. Our best hope is that Rivers and Flacco agree ahead of time to exclusively throw bombs to their receivers all day. Then we can have some fun with this game. No running or short passes, get rid of the kickers too.

But if they play with normal rules, I’m taking the Ravens to soundly beat the Chargers. Don’t ask why because I don’t know. I flip a coin to determine over half my picks in any given week.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-1)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 30, Pittsburgh 24

Um, yes, I will take the undefeated team, the one who is GETTING a point against a 4-3 team that hasn’t even played a single game at full strength this season. If you’re just dying to pick against the Bengals, and especially if you still think Andy Dalton’s a fraud, just wait until week 9. That is the first of their back-to-back Primetime games. Wouldn’t back-to-back losses to Cleveland and Houston be just what the doctor ordered for anyone dying for some Cincy meltdown?

Tennessee at Houston (-4)

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 20, Houston 9

It’s amazing that Tennessee is 3-19 since the start of the 2014 season and that franchise has more hope right now than the Texans, who went 9-7 last year and have generally been competitive over the past five seasons. That’s what the mystery of Marcus Mariota does for an organization. Until he plays enough for us to decide whether he’s worthy or not, there’s always the hope that he is.

It’s also amazing that any team in the AFC South is favored by more than a field goal against another AFC South team. It shouldn’t be like that. Home team gets the 3-point respect and that’s it. Doesn’t matter who’s starting at QB for the other team. It certainly doesn’t matter who’s coaching. I won’t waste another word on this division.

NY Jets (-3) at Oakland

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: NY Oakland 23, NY Jets 20

I knew the Raiders were doing well and that Derek Carr was playing decent, but I didn’t know just how decent…

  • Carr is 6th in the league in passer rating, 9th in touchdown passes, 10th in completion percentage
  • Carr also does well in the advanced metrics on footballoutsiders.com, ranking 5th and 6th in their two main QB stats

We’ve left that world where we could just assume a loss out of Oakland 90% of the time.

My biggest concern with the Jets is that we haven’t seen a “Fitzy Three-Picks” performance out of Ryan Fitzpatrick yet, and there has to be one coming soon. Maybe Charles Woodson could be the catalyst for that type of game?

A win would give Oakland at least a temporary lead in the AFC Wildcard race. When’s the last time that was the case through eight weeks?

Seattle (-6) at Dallas

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 30, Dallas 10

You could construct a nice little story around picking the Cowboys. Even though they’re 0-4 without Tony Romo, three of the four games (all except the one against New England) have been very close until the end. You could even say Dallas blew a couple of those games. And it’s not like Seattle has been a great team this year. Their offensive line, especially, could get worked by Greg Hardy and company on Sunday. See? It wasn’t that hard to make you think about grabbing the six points.

But for me it comes down to the fact that at some point in this game, Matt Cassel will have to make several plays. Dallas won’t be able to run all over Seattle so what will they do if the Seahawks take a 10-0 lead? Cassel throwing into Seattle’s D excites me as a gambler.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Denver

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 20, Green Bay 12

How many times in six games this year would you guess Aaron Rodgers has gone over 250 passing yards? If you said anything other than “twice,” you’re wrong. While the Packers are undefeated and have won every game by at least a touchdown, it still doesn’t feel like they’re cruising on offense. Now they get to play a defense unlike anything they’ve seen this year. The Broncos have a secondary on par with the Seahawks and a pass rush that rivals the Rams’. (It sounds like DeMarcus Ware has a good chance to play, which helps Denver big time.)

I really do expect the Packers to struggle again on offense, so betting the Broncos comes down to whether or not you can stomach the idea that your money is tied to Peyton Manning leading his team to a decent offensive day. I can (barely) stomach that.

Indianapolis at Carolina (-7)

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Carolina 26, Indianapolis 23

Bonus prediction: Chuck Pagano will cry, tell his team the scoreboard doesn’t matter, and then talk to the media about how the 26 points they gave up is unacceptable but he’s damn proud of the 23 points they scored. And all will be well in his tiny little brain.

I think Carolina is going to run the ball down Indy’s throat all night and ultimately win, but that type of gameplan doesn’t usually lend itself to blowing the opponent out. Even if Andrew Luck marches the Colts down the field a couple times in the final minutes when the game’s already decided, I think this one will look close.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 4 Favorites, 9 Underdogs, 1 Pick
  • 5 Road Dogs, 3 Home Dogs, 1 Neutral Dog
  • 7 Home Teams, 6 Road Teams, 1 Neutral Team
  • Season Record: 53-48-4 (6-8 in Week 7)

Week 5 NFL Picks: Can Vegas Slow Down the Juggernauts?

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The Year of the Injury.

The Year of Bad Coaching.

The Year of Terrible Kicking.

The Year of Too Many Penalties.

The Year Draftkings Almost Ruined Football.

The Year of the Backup Quarterback.

We’re only a month into the regular season and I’ve already heard so many variations of “This is The Year of [fill in the blank with something negative].”

You can all waste your time obsessing over those problems if you want. I’d rather focus on my favorite version of “The Year of BLANK”: The Year of Dominant Teams.

Using the past five years as my guide, it looks like on average there are two teams that are still undefeated after five weeks. Well, this year we have six teams yet to lose a game as we head into week 5…and all five that are playing this weekend (Carolina at 4-0 is on a bye) are favored to win yet again.

Last week we had seven undefeated teams and six of them were playing (New England was on their bye). One team lost outright (Arizona), one team won but didn’t cover (Denver) and the other four easily covered as favorites.

It would be a gigantic understatement to say you’d be doing quite well if you’d been betting these undefeated teams with their point spreads all along. Check out these numbers:

  • Cincinnati, Atlanta and Green Bay are each 4-0 against the spread this year.
  • Add in the other three undefeated teams’ numbers, and you get a combined 20-2-1 against the spread record from Cincy, Atlanta, Green Bay, New England, Carolina and Denver.
  • And you could make the case that Arizona and the Jets belong in this conversation. Both teams have 3-1 win-loss records, and they also both have 3-1 against the spread records.
  • If you want to consider these teams as the eight best in the NFL, their combined gambling record is 26-4-1 through four weeks.

WOW.

Is it guaranteed that these teams will keep winning? Of course not. Is it a sure thing that they’ll keep covering the spread at this rate? Nope. In fact, Vegas will be doing everything in its power to make sure these teams regress back to an average rate of covering. But that might take some time. So my suggestion is to keep hammering these teams in your bets, your pick ‘em leagues and even your survivor pool until further notice. With so many bad head coach and quarterback situations in the NFL this year, maybe we’re looking at a season with a huge gap between the good teams and everyone else. We may be in a rare situation where parlaying and/or teasing all these excellent teams actually makes sense. Usually those kind of bets are for suckers. (Talk to your local degenerate for explanations on parlaying and teasing.)

Here’s the part where I admit that my week 4 results weren’t fantastic, and if yours weren’t either, I’m warning you not to get too down on yourself. Last week was an extremely difficult set of games. I went 7-7-1 against the spread, dropping my record for the season to 34-27-2. But I anticipated the struggle, limiting my bets and lowering my expectations. In my Survivor Pool, 10 different teams were selected out of 18 participants. No consensus on who would roll to an easy win whatsoever. These weeks happen. Don’t let it shake your confidence. Remember, you spent way too much time in July and August studying every written word about football. You DVR’d all the preseason games for every team and ignored your family to watch football on a Tuesday night in mid-August. You know this. Now go do it. (That was a pep talk for myself more so than for my readers.)

Here are the week 5 lines.

Indianapolis @ Houston (-4.5)

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 20, Indianapolis 9

I bet Andre Johnson was looking forward to playing in Houston and showing his old team just how good he can still be when he has a good starting QB and the right team behind him. Maybe next year, Andre. First of all, Andrew Luck is out again for this game. Second, Johnson has all of seven catches for 51 yards this year. And third, his current team is almost as big of an embarrassment as his former team. So much for the revenge game.

The obvious choice here is to take Houston, but let’s not pretend anyone’s actually confident in them. Why would it be unfathomable for Matt Hasselbeck to have an OK game against the Texans? Because Houston’s defense has been good this year? Hardly. According to footballoutsiders.com, Houston ranks 26th in the league in defensive efficiency (22nd against the rush, 23rd against the pass). But combine Hasselbeck spending time in the hospital earlier this week with the chance that the Texans finally get their running game going, and I feel slightly better leaning towards Houston than Indy.

OK, I’m ready to call it a loss on yet another preseason prediction of mine: J.J. Watt for MVP. I feel like for the rest of eternity, whenever someone tries to suggest a defensive player for league MVP, we’re going to point to how awful the 2015 Texans have been. The guy playing at a higher level than any other player in history at his position can’t even make his team average, slightly competitive, better than dog poo. Houston is atrocious and there’s nothing Watt can do about it. He can’t be that cure-all that even a decent quarterback can be. So let’s all agree the MVP is for a quarterback or record-setting offensive player.

Chicago at Kansas City (-9)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Kansas City 30, Chicago 23

The Chiefs lost by 15 points last week to a team they expected to be very competitive with (Cincy). The week before, they lost by 10 to the Packers, in a game where the Packers were leading by as much as 24 in the 4th quarter. The week before that is when they blew a home game to the Broncos in epic fashion. They’re 1-3 and only a win over the harmless Texans kept the first month from being an unmitigated disaster for Kansas City.

And yet, you can’t really blame Chiefs fans for holding out some hope. After that week 1 win, they faced three straight opponents who are pretty much all locks for the playoffs. If you believe ESPN.com’s Power Rankings, the Chiefs just faced the 2nd, 3rd and 5th best teams in succession. And two of those were road games.

Their next four games look a lot better: Chicago, at Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Detroit. That’s three home games and four potential wins. There are no more excuses for the Chiefs. If they can’t win with an especially dominant display of offense at home against the Bears, then even Kansas City fans should ditch this team until 2016.

Full disclosure: I was initially picking the Chiefs to cover, but when I got to the end of my picks and realized I had chosen only five underdogs, I forced myself to find one game to swap. This feels like a decent game to choose because the Chiefs could still fall into that mediocre range, and the Bears probably aren’t as terrible as their first three games of the year.

Seattle at Cincinnati (-3)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 27, Seattle 23

I feel like my hands are tied with this game. Anything over three and I could have talked myself into Seattle making it a close game. Anything less than three and I would have gone big on Cincy because I’m just so damn sure they’re going to win by exactly three. Since I can’t predict a push, I’ll go with the Bengals because once again this game is not on Primetime TV, meaning Andy Dalton should be just fine.

By the way, how about me “crushing” my picks in the Survivor Pool so far this year. After an easy week win 1 where I took the Jets over the Browns, I went with the Ravens in week 2 (LOSS, but the other 17 people in my pool also lost so I stayed alive), the Panthers in week 3 (a win over New Orleans only when Josh Norman made a semi-miraculous interception in the end zone when the Saints were driving for the winning touchdown), and the Seahawks in week 4 (a win only because the refs totally bungled the Calvin Johnson goal line fumble).

So yeah, I’m not so sure I “know how to pick ‘em.”

Washington at Atlanta (-7.5)

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 41, Washington 24

We just saw what a firing-on-all-cylinders Falcons team can do, especially at home against a weak opponent. That seems to be exactly what we’ve got in this game. Washington enjoyed three of its first four games at home, and playing well against Miami and Philadelphia doesn’t seem like as big of an accomplishment as it once did.

Plan accordingly for an Atlanta playoff berth. It’s happening. On top of being 4-0, Footballoutsiders.com has the Falcons’ schedule as the easiest in the league the rest of the way. After playing Washington it goes like this: at New Orleans, at Tennessee, vs Tampa Bay, at San Francisco, vs Indianapolis, vs Minnesota, at Tampa Bay. That feels like 9-3 at worst going into the final month where they face Carolina twice. With reasonable health, the Falcons are a 12-4 team. Dan Quinn, congrats on your Coach of the Year win.

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay (-3)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 20, Tampa 16

Something tells me this isn’t going to play out like much of a home game for the Bucs. They’ve lost 11 straight at home (dating back to December 2013). And already this season their play seems to be trending in the wrong direction. Not sure the fans are coming out full force for this in-state rivalry. And of course it’s not much of a road trip for the Jaguars. I think this plays like a neutral field game, and in that case, the Jaguars are the better team. I’ll take the three points gladly.

New Orleans at Philadelphia (-4.5)

The Pick: Philadelphia

The Score: Philadelphia 28, New Orleans 20

While these two 1-3 teams might look similar on the surface, the Eagles are much better according to most relevant stats. They’ve had a little bad luck, but at least their defense has played OK and they actually have the healthier quarterback situation. In fact, New Orleans’ defense is probably just what the doctor ordered for Sam Bradford.

That reminds me, we are now in something like year 8 of “Rob Ryan fails miserably at building a good defense.” It’s one of the surest things in all of sports.

Cleveland at Baltimore (-7)

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cleveland 31, Baltimore 10

This one is easy for me. Under no circumstances would I pick the Ravens to beat any team by more than a touchdown right now. I know it’s not unthinkable, and I might be walking into a classic Cleveland Browns trap where they play like a halfway decent team just before having a no-show in a huge divisional game. But from a pure talent standpoint, along with execution through the first month of the year, the Browns should keep this close.

St. Louis at Green Bay (-9)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: Green Bay 24, St. Louis 22

If everything breaks perfectly for the Rams, I think they just might be able to keep this within a touchdown. But I need their defensive line to play so well that they’re getting to Aaron Rodgers all day without having to send extra blitzers. I need Todd Gurley to be the focal point of an offense that slowly marches down the field and keeps Rodgers on the sideline. I need Jeff Fisher to pull out one, maybe two, trick plays that he’s always good for in a game like this.

If all of that happens to absolute perfection, I think St. Louis can proudly lose a close game to a nearly untouchable team.

Buffalo (-3) at Tennessee

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 23, Buffalo 14

There’s a chance I’m misreading this and the Bills are just going to come out and crush Tennessee. But to me, the combination of the Titans’ two weeks of rest and Buffalo spending the early part of this week trying to figure out how not to get penalized 150 times per game should be a huge advantage for the Titans. I feel like Tennessee should have a major preparedness edge in this matchup.

And it’s still very unclear what exactly Buffalo is this year. We gave them the benefit of the doubt in a home loss to the Patriots, but they just suffered a worse loss at home to the Giants. Did Rex’s cockiness combined with one good game in the opener against Indy really trick us into thinking this team was competent? The answer is starting to look like a resounding “yes.”

Arizona (-2.5) at Detroit

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 34, Detroit 14

Yeah, I’m not letting myself overthink this one. Arizona isn’t one of those teams that automatically looks a lot worse on the road. In fact, they’ve won the majority of their road games in Carson Palmer’s starts over the past few years. I’m not worried about the road or anything else going against the Cardinals this weekend. They should roll. And Detroit should only have to wait one more week for their first win. They’ll host Chicago in week 6.

New England (-10) at Dallas

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 54, Dallas 27

Hey, Roger Goodell, don’t think I don’t see exactly what you’re doing in this game. Deploying Clete Blakeman to Dallas as the head referee for this game. The same guy who royally screwed the Patriots during the 2013 season. The same guy who was one of the referees “measuring” the air pressure of the balls at halftime of last year’s AFC Championship Game. And the league’s biggest nemesis, the Patriots, are rolling into Texas with an undefeated record. Meanwhile Jerry Jones, one of your most obnoxious and influential owners, cried all Summer about how Brady should be suspended for four games. I wonder if the Pats are going to get a fair shot in this game. Hmm…

Meanwhile, I’m undeterred. I’m not remotely scared of Greg Hardy and Rolondo McLain playing for the first time on the Dallas defense and being fresh because all 53 players on the Patriots will be rested. And they actually got an injured starter on the offensive line back this week. So even more depth for the deepest team in the league. Oh, and apparently at least one Cowboys player gave Tom Brady some bulletin board material this week. It’s all there, folks. The makings of an absolute blowout. Don’t get left behind.

Denver (-5) at Oakland

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 20, Oakland 10

When will the Broncos finally lose a game? As soon as their defense plays only OK for once, that’s when. The moment another team’s able to put up four touchdowns on Denver, it’s over. Their offense is one of the worst in football and Peyton Manning is rating out as one of the worst quarterbacks. There’s no secret here. But will the Raiders be able to hang that first L on Denver? In a word, no. Maybe when the Browns host the Broncos next week? Maybe. But we’re here to talk about this week. And this week I think Denver shuts down Amari Cooper (easily) and wins yet another low-scoring game.

San Francisco at NY Giants (-7)

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 29, San Francisco 11

If I hadn’t abandoned my preseason thoughts so quickly, I would have seen that Giants win in Buffalo happening last week. At the very least I should have known the Bills were giving way too many points to a Giants team that could have easily been 3-0 if they had caught a few breaks. I had New York going to the playoffs, and it still looks reasonably promising. They’re 2-2 and after this game against the 49ers, they play at Philly, then host Dallas (no Romo), then back-to-back road games in New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Even if they go 3-2 in these next five games, they’ll be in great shape in the NFC East.

As for the 49ers, I wish I could find a website that would let me bet how many more starts Colin Kaepernick gets before they pull him for Blaine Gabbert or Terrelle Pryor. I would choose “two” as my answer. He starts this week, and then he starts against 1-4 Baltimore at home. When those games both go horrifically, he gets pulled. If you’ve watched any extended San Francisco action this year, you know Kaepernick is playing historically bad. He actually looks like someone who has never taken a snap in the NFL, which is weird considering he was a play away from winning a Super Bowl a few years ago.

Anyway, thanks for yet another appointment-TV kind of game on Sunday night, NBC!

Pittsburgh at San Diego (-3)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 26, San Diego 21

The Steelers will be coming off 11 days of rest, nearly a full bye week’s worth of time off. As for the state of the Chargers, I’m pretty unimpressed with their two home wins–by five over Detroit and three over Cleveland. I’m beyond nervous to back Michael Vick ON THE ROAD, but I could see this being remembered as “the Le’Veon Bell Game.” With the way the Chargers are giving up rushing yards, if Bell doesn’t touch the ball at least 25 times in this game, the Rooney’s should “Philbin” Mike Tomlin before the team plane lands in Pittsburgh Tuesday morning.

Here’s the weekly tally:

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

Enjoy week 5!

NFL Week 8 Picks: The Vultures Are Circling Over Many Teams

foles

Last Sunday’s football watching was downright stress-free for me. As I mentioned in my week 7 picks column, my mind had been buried much too deep in picks against the spread, bets, fantasy football and random Pick ‘Em Leagues & Suicide Pools. Last week I went with the strategy of scaling back my bets, expecting to do poorly in my picks and not even bothering to make a Suicide pick (my hand was forced on that one since I lost in week 6).

Basically, I expected to lose. It turns out this mindset is no different than how I approach every trip to a casino these days. I put a certain amount of money in my pocket and fully expect to lose it all by the time I’m done my gambling session. That makes it fun and relieves any pressure from the situation.

The college version of me would stress about having to win money or at least walk away with a certain percentage of the money I came with when I’d go to Foxwoods as a 21 and 22-year-old. Part of that was because I was in college and every penny counted. And part of it was because I didn’t yet understand that the casino’s rigged for you to lose.

Well in football terms, I’ve already paid my money to play fantasy football and make picks in my Pick ‘Em leagues. I’ve also got a small fortune deposited in my semi-legal online gambling account. What’s done is done and if any money comes back to me at the end of the season, that’s a bonus.

With that healthy mentality in mind, let’s talk about what I’m looking forward to this weekend from a pure football standpoint:

  • Three NFC games with huge implications: Seattle at Carolina, Green Bay at New Orleans, Philadelphia at Arizona. Two of those teams—Seattle and New Orleans—may not recover from a loss this week. Out West, the Eagles and Cardinals are trying to see where they stack up among the one-loss teams. And can Green Bay keep things rolling in their first real test in several weeks?
  • In the AFC, here are the big games: San Diego at Denver, Baltimore at Cincinnati, Indianapolis at Pittsburgh. I’m obligated to put Thursday’s AFC West matchup in here even though I’m concerned the Broncos are going to win by 35 (more on that in a minute). Three teams from the AFC North are involved in these marquee games, and that makes sense because it might be the only division where there could still be some shuffling at the top of the standings. Like Green Bay, can the Colts keep rolling in a tough road game?
  • I’m also looking forward to some insane results this weekend. You’ll see throughout my picks that there are several games where the vultures are circling, just waiting for an underperforming team to lose once more, and yet, I think we’re all going to be surprised at how well those teams fend off playoff elimination for one more week (the NFC South dominates these kind of matchups this week). Just remember it wouldn’t be the NFL if chaos didn’t rule the day.

Let’s do the obligatory check-in with the two teams on a bye this week:

  • NY Giants: It’s been a pretty straightforward season so far for the 3-4 Giants. The teams they’ve beaten have a combined record of 7-14, and the teams they’ve lost to are 21-5. If that blueprint holds, they’re likely to go 4-5 the rest of the way and finish at 7-9. That seems about right (though the Victor Cruz injury could cost them one extra game along the way). They were never going to be great this year, and when your schedule consists of two games against the Cowboys, two games against the Eagles and having to face the entire NFC West, you’re pretty much screwed regardless of your talent.
  • San Francisco: Give the 4-3 49ers some credit. They’ve played reasonably well for a team that’s been missing key defensive players all year and reportedly have a disjointed relationship between the coach, players and front office. Unlike the Giants, they’ve actually won against some good teams so a playoff run isn’t out of the question. Ending the season with four out of five games facing Seattle (twice), San Diego and Arizona sounds about as fun as ebola, but they might just be good enough to win some of those.

And now, to the picks, where I’ll try to improve upon my 49-55-2 season record against the spread.

San Diego @ Denver (-9)

  • The Pick: Denver
  • The Score: Denver 34, San Diego 20

Ugh. As someone who wants the Broncos to lose for a number of reasons—I’m a Patriots fan who still has delusions about the #1 seed, I predicted the Chargers to win the AFC West before the season, I don’t like Peyton Manning, I definitely want the mini-trend of competitive Thursday night games to continue—it’s killing me to not only pick Denver to win, but to cover. But how can you not go in that direction when you factor in the combination of short rest for the Chargers + this article on San Diego’s health.

If you’re a Chargers fan, don’t get too down if this is a blowout loss. Most of your team’s injuries sound minor enough that you can still recover in time to make the playoffs and possibly surprise Denver in January. It’s just bad timing in so many ways for San Diego.

Detroit (-3.5) @ Atlanta (in London)

  • The Pick: Atlanta
  • The Score: Atlanta 23, Detroit 16

If you’re picking the Falcons in this game, what the hell are you even grabbing onto for justification? For a minute I thought Wembley Stadium was a dome, but it turns out it has a retractable roof that does NOT completely close. So you can’t even go with the “Matt Ryan and this Atlanta offense plays well indoors” theory.

After losing badly to the Ravens last week, you might want to make the case that Atlanta’s faced tougher-than-expected competition, right? Well, the combined record of the five teams that have beaten them this year (not counting those teams’ games against the Falcons) is 11-17-1. So, nope, that’s not a silver lining either.

You know what my reasoning is for taking them? The NFL is fucking nuts. The Lions needed a miraculous comeback at home against one of Atlanta’s pathetic NFC South compadres, the Saints, and now they have to fly all the way to London and play a game that starts at 9:30am according to their bodies’ natural clocks. Crazy shit happens in the NFL all the time. Why can’t the Falcons win a game in which neither team is firing on all cylinders? It’s a total wildcard prediction so please keep your expectations low.

Side Note: One of the most fun aspects of the weekly football blogs is trying to find pictures on google images to go along with each blog. I always find such random stuff when I google things like “Andrew Luck vs the Steelers.” This week I was hoping to go with a “Lions vs Falcons” theme and looked for a picture of those two animals fighting or something. I didn’t find any of that, but I did find this lovely image that perfectly captures what I was looking for:

lion falcon

And here’s the synopsis of that award-winning (I’m guessing) book: “Given the choice between dealing with a psycho killer, a meddling mother and an all too sexy falcon, this poor doctor does what any sane lion would do—he takes a nice, long nap.”

Minnesota @ Tampa Bay (-3)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Tampa Bay 28, Minnesota 10

You gotta love a 1-5 team giving three points. Your initial thought is probably that the Bucs are horrible and the Vikings did almost pull out the W in Buffalo last week. You’re also probably drawn to Minnesota because you want to root for Teddy Bridgewater.

But I’m going the other way on this one. Tampa Bay is coming off a bye. They also have significantly more talent on both sides of the ball, even if they’ve played like they’ve played like they want their coach fired (again). While the out-of-nowhere Vincent Jackson trade rumors could be viewed as a distraction, there doesn’t seem to be any truth that the Bucs are actually shopping him.

If this line moves to 3.5, I’ll have to think twice, but for now, I’m going with Tampa.

By the way, I read this article about Vincent Jackson throwing a baby shower for 40 expecting mothers over the bye weekend and immediately felt bad for him. Classy move, but no man wants to go to a baby shower when it’s just one expecting mother and her friends, let alone 40 of these baby-crazy ladies. He deserves a big day and a win.

Buffalo @ NY Jets (-3)

  • The Pick: NY Jets
  • The Score: NY Jets 30, Buffalo 7

Wow. Another one-win team giving three points. This time it’s the 1-6 Jets actually favored over the 4-3 Bills. Seems wrong, doesn’t it?

Here’s why the Jets are definitely going to cover: They have a better coach. They have a better running attack (now that the Bills are down to their third & fourth RBs). Their quarterback situation isn’t really worse than the Bills’. They’re at home. And that 1-6 record is deceiving. Rex Ryan isn’t talking crazy when he says they’ve been snakebitten this year. Five of their six losses have been competitive to the very end, with four of those games being decided by a touchdown or less. The combined record of those six teams that have beaten them (again, not including those teams’ games against New York): 22-13.

Chicago @ New England (-7)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: New England 37, Chicago 35

No, no, no! This is not happening again! First it was Jerod Mayo, now it’s Chandler Jones. He’s expected to miss a month with a hip injury? Come the fuck on. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s been the Patriots’ most important player this year. Yes, more important than Tom Brady. I tweeted weeks ago that Jones should have no shame in finishing as the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year (J.J. Watt, of course, will be the winner), and that comment was only slightly tongue-in-cheek.

This week’s game kicks off New England’s stretch of facing Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Detroit, Green Bay and San Diego all in a row. You think having the team’s best defender is crucial for that stretch? Me too.

Anyway, I can’t pick the Patriots to cover. And hey, the Bears are 3-1 on the road. Another reason to worry.

Seattle (-6) @ Carolina

  • The Pick: Carolina
  • The Score: Seattle 26, Carolina 23

It’s easy to fixate on the Panthers’ no-shows against Green Bay in week 7 and Baltimore in week 4. Those were pathetic efforts. But they were road games. The Panthers beat the Lions and Bears earlier this year, and they also played the Bengals to a tie. They should absolutely be underdogs to the Seahawks, but it’s not like Carolina’s on the same level as the Raiders or Titans.

I love getting this many points with a 3-3-1 team that’s playing at home. I still think Seattle works out its issues, but it might take some time.

Miami (-6) @ Jacksonville

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 24, Jacksonville 10

I like Miami a lot in this game. This isn’t really much of a road game for them, and besides, they might be one of those teams that inexplicably plays better on the road than at home. The Jaguars are bad, they lost a couple key players in last week’s win against Cleveland, and they’re facing the 3rd best defense in football. I can’t picture a lot of points for the Jags in this one.

Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-1)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 21

Continuing with the theme of Vegas daring us to pick teams that have looked terrible, I’m jumping on the Bengals giving less than three points at home. Imagine before the season started if you could have grabbed Cincy in any game this year where they’re at home, giving less than a field goal and not playing Denver or Seattle. You would have done backflips while placing a huge bet on them. I don’t think the Ravens are complete frauds, but their last three wins have come against the NFC South.

Baltimore’s good, probably a playoff team, but this is another one of those games where everyone wants to bury the home team (kind of like the games featuring Carolina and Tampa this week) a bit too soon.

Houston (-2) @ Tennessee

  • The Pick: Tennessee
  • The Score: Tennessee 24, Houston 20

OK, I’ll take the bait with the Titans here. Home underdog in a division game against an opponent that might be a lot worse than their record shows? I’m in.

Besides, this was easy. I swore off the Texans for all gambling purposes after they scammed their owner out of hundreds of thousands of dollars when they didn’t bother showing up to play football in Pittsburgh on Monday night but still collected their paychecks.

I realize Zach Mettenberger is making his NFL debut at quarterback for Tennessee, but that won’t deter me. The Texans remain dead to me.

St. Louis @ Kansas City (-7)

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: Kansas City 28, St. Louis 24

I’m picking the Rams distinctly for the backdoor cover. I think the Chiefs are a much better team, and the only game they haven’t come close to winning this year was their opener against Tennessee (and that one’s really inexplicable). On top of their three wins—at Miami, vs New England, at San Diego—they’ve almost knocked off the Broncos in Denver and the 49ers in San Francisco.

But they’re not an offensive juggernaut so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rams are able to stay close-ish and only lose by four or six.

Philadelphia @ Arizona (-3)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia   
  • The Score: Philadelphia 31, Arizona 27

One of these teams is going to be 6-1 after this game! No one could have seen that coming.

Maybe I’m a sucker for taking the Eagles in this game, but I feel like their hot start is realer than the Cardinals’ hot start. Arizona’s only had to deal with two offenses this season that have been competent. One was Denver, who they gave up 41 points to. The other was San Diego. They beat the Chargers but it was a one-point game in Arizona.

I like the Eagles because they’re coming off a bye week, and more importantly, they might be as healthy as they’ve been all season.

Indianapolis (-3) @ Pittsburgh

  • The Pick: Indianapolis
  • The Score: Indianapolis 38, Pittsburgh 24

This line has slowly gone up all week. No one is taking the Steelers seriously, nor should they be. If you didn’t watch the Steelers play the Texans on Monday night, I can tell you that Houston would have won by at least a touchdown had they just held onto the ball. Pittsburgh’s other wins have been at Jacksonville (a game in which they struggled to put away the Jaguars), at Carolina (looking less impressive by the week) and home against Cleveland (ditto).

But here’s the intriguing thing: The Steelers only do one thing well: Run the ball. The Colts only struggle in one area: Run defense. On the flip side, the Steelers’ main issues are around pass defense. As you might guess, the Colts have one of the best passing offenses in the league.

The Colts offense has reached that “Manning & Brady in their prime” state: Even if the Colts’ run defense is horrible, it doesn’t really matter because their opponent is going to feel pressured into matching Andrew Luck point for point so they abandon the run early and everything falls apart from there.

Bonus bet: Pick the over in this game. It’s currently 49 points. The Colts’ offense is awesome, and the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell. That’s enough talent to put up points if needed.

Oakland @ Cleveland (-7)

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Cleveland 26, Oakland 20

I’m not in the business of backing mediocre teams that are giving a touchdown. For what it’s worth, the Raiders have made two trips to the East Coast this year. They lost one of those games by five points and the other by seven. And they’ve been downright competitive against some of the better teams in the league since they swapped out coaches and came back from London. So there ya go. Two reasons to pick the Raiders.

Green Bay @ New Orleans (-1)

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 30, Green Bay 24

The Saints have done nothing to change my mind that they’ll probably go 8-0 at home. If they are going to lose in Louisiana this year, this would be the game, facing an on-fire Packers team. So do yourself a favor and make this a low confidence pick.

Green Bay still doesn’t seem like a fantastic road team. They won via sorcery at Miami a couple weeks ago, and their two losses on the year have been away from Lambeau.

New Orleans will still bring a pumped up crowd because by the time this game kicks off, the Saints might only be a half game out of first place in the NFC South.

Washington @ Dallas (-9.5)

  • The Pick: Dallas
  • The Score: Dallas 42, Washington 6

That line is simply not high enough for me. Look what the Cowboys have done to teams that are significantly better than Washington: 10-point win over the Giants, 7-point win at Seattle, 21 points over the Saints.

And Colt McCoy is starting for the PotatoSkins for Chrissakes!

Just like the rest of you, I want to predict the Cowboys’ demise to begin on national TV against the least talented of their division rivals. But it’s just foolish. DeMarco Murray is a beast. Yes, the ‘Skins’ run defense has been solid this year, but that was before they lost Brian Orakpo for the season. And with the Saints/Packers game likely to be close, we need this to be a blowout to fulfill the NFL’s mandated quota of at least two nationally-televised games per week being unwatchable.

I don’t say this often, but I’m pretty sure I nailed my picks this week. I’m thinking 11-4. For those of you who are invited to my wedding next summer, I’m giving you permission to bet that $500 you would have given me for a wedding gift on this weekend’s games. If you don’t make a profit, you don’t owe me a gift.

Enjoy week 8!

NFL Week 6 Picks: How Many Road Favorites is Too Many?

tampa

Five weeks is a pretty small sample size if you’re trying to figure out which NFL teams are good & bad and who will make the playoffs. Some teams have only played four games. Some teams haven’t been healthy. Some teams have been extremely lucky. And of course some have been very unlucky.

Consider the following from the 2013 season:

  • Philadelphia and Carolina each started the year 1-3. People were convinced Chip Kelly’s system wouldn’t work in the NFL, and that Ron Rivera & Cam Newton would never win together in Carolina. The Eagles finished the year 9-3 and won their division while the Panthers ripped off an 11-1 finish to win their division and secure the #2 seed in the NFC.
  • New Orleans began the season 5-0, and Kansas City started out 9-0! The Saints closed their schedule with a 6-5 stretch and missed out on a chance to win the NFC South. The Chiefs, meanwhile, went 2-5 after their ridiculous start and also had to settle for a wildcard spot.
  • The Giants got off to an 0-6 start, and the Steelers began 1-4. New York went 7-3 from that point on, and the Steelers went 7-4. Neither team made the playoffs, but both came damn close to recovering from a disastrous beginning.

At the moment, 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams have two or more wins. With no undefeated teams after five weeks and many of the perennial playoff teams already having one or two losses, it feels like we’ve hit the closest thing to parity that we’re ever going to see.

Do any of the one-win or no-win teams have a chance to do what the Panthers and Eagles did last year? Of course. The season is young. I wouldn’t expect Jacksonville or Oakland to suddenly become teams of intrigue, but if I had to place my money on one of the other struggling teams (Tennessee, the Jets, Washington, Tampa Bay and St. Louis), I’d go with the Bucs.

Here’s the deal with Tampa right now. They’re 1-4 but have lost three games by less than a touchdown. Their start seems worse because of that 56-14 blowout at Atlanta on national TV. They still have six home games, they have some winnable road games against Cleveland and Washington, and Mike Glennon may actually be average enough to help this team.

The NFC South may also be the second worst division in football. On Bovada right now, the Bucs are 25/1 to win their division. Am I the only one that thinks it’s worth a couple dollars just in case?

I’m guessing if I could hear my readers’ reactions as they read this, I’d hear a very loud “YES” to that question.

While the sample size of five weeks is too small to predict the NFL playoffs, the sample size of 76 games is plenty big to get a sense of how I’m doing against the spread so far this year.

Well, I’m 36-38-2 after last week’s 8-7 record. Even though my march to get above .500 is going at a snail’s pace, I’m still encouraged. I haven’t had a week where I’ve bottomed out (but I haven’t had a week where I’ve crushed it either), and I seem to have a pretty good read on a lot of teams (just not enough of the teams, apparently).

But here’s why the first month of the season has been profitable for me: I’m 17-8 against the spread in my confidence picks. I define confidence picks through my Pick ‘Em leagues where you have to assign more weight to your five most confident picks each week. And I am absolutely crushing that so far.

So while I’m not good enough to turn you a profit if you bet on all my picks each week, I’m certainly good enough to get you to the top of your own Pick ‘Em league standings. And if you’re smart enough, you follow just the picks that I feel great about. I think it’s pretty obvious in my picks column when I’m extra excited about a pick or extra pessimistic about one. Try to keep up.

Before we dive into the week 6 picks, let’s check in with the two teams on a bye this week:

  • Kansas City: At 2-3, it seems like the Chiefs can only beat AFC East teams. That’s a bummer because they only get two more of those matchups. They actually might trick some people because after they lose to San Diego in week 7, they have games against St. Louis, the Jets and Buffalo. I could see them being 5-4 and then losing five of their final seven games. The ceiling for this team remains 8-8.
  • New Orleans: The optimist would say the Saints are going to be fine because two of their three losses came by a field goal or less, and they still have six home games. The pessimist would point out that these first five games were supposed to be the easy portion of their schedule, and they’re only 2-3. Unless Drew Brees and the offense starts playing exactly how we expected, this team’s in trouble. We know they suck on the road, but they also have to host Green Bay, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore. An 8-0 home record is definitely not a given. I think they scrape their way to 9-7, but I’m not sure that’s good enough for the playoffs.

And now for the picks.

Indianapolis (-3.5) @ Houston

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Indianapolis 30, Houston 27

This feels like the rest of the AFC South’s best chance to give the Colts one division loss. With so much noise made, especially in the past week, about the constant Thursday night blowouts, this seems like as good a time as any to expect a close game to shut everyone up. Arian Foster looked very healthy last Sunday and the Colts have one of the worst run defenses. I can’t pick the Texans to win outright, but I certainly expect them to make it a game.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (-2)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 33, Cleveland 24

I’m way into this Browns team. I’m tempted to predict a blowout in favor of the Browns. The Steelers might be walking into the proverbial buzz saw as this Cleveland team seems to be riding higher than they have in the past 12 years. Until Brian Hoyer proves otherwise, this is a team to be feared.

Upon further research, however, I learned that Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 against the Browns over his career, and there’s a chance Joe Haden, Cleveland’s best defensive back, is either out or limited in this game. I’m frightened of what this Steeler offense might do if the Browns are truly banged up (remember that Tennessee dropped 28 on them in the 1st half last week).

New England (-3) @ Buffalo

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 24, Buffalo 16

It seems as though we have two “stay away” teams from a betting standpoint in the NFL this year. And wouldn’t you know it, both teams reside in the AFC East. I already tagged the Dolphins as a schizophrenic team, but now I’m adding the Patriots. I just have no feel for them. So what I’ll be doing going forward is pick against my instincts.

My instincts told me to pick Buffalo so I’m going with New England.

Carolina @ Cincinnati (-7)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 33, Carolina 23

I’m very reluctantly taking the Bengals. I’m expecting a push, but I’m leaving the possibility open that A) Cincinnati is a juggernaut at home, and B) Carolina’s running game is so banged up that they won’t be able to take advantage of Cincy’s one weakness.

I’m aware that A.J. Green is hurt and got carted off the practice field on Wednesday. But I’m not sure it matters when the Bengals are playing a below-average team at home.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-6)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Jacksonville 29, Tennessee 21

First of all, I don’t think any of the teams that play exclusively in the loser’s circuit should be favored by more than a field goal over any of its fellow losers (Jacksonville, Oakland, Tennessee and the Jets all fall into the AFC’s loser’s circuit).

The reason I’m picking the Jaguars to win outright is because I see two teams of equal talent who are at very different points of stability. The Jaguars know that Blake Bortles will be leading them for the foreseeable future and the goal is simply to make incremental improvements over the rest of the season. The Titans don’t know what the fuck is going on with their QB situation, and they also have the stench of that choke job suffered at the hands of the Browns on them still. If any team is going into Week 6 totally unprepared, it’s the Titans.

Green Bay (-3.5) @ Miami

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 24, Green Bay 20

The teams are irrelevant in this situation. I have to go with the 2-2 team coming off a bye playing at home, especially when they’re underdogs of more than a field goal. That extra half point feels big.

Don’t mistake Green Bay’s two weeks of competence for eliteness. (Is that a word?)

Detroit @ Minnesota (PICK)

  • The Pick: Minnesota
  • The Score: Minnesota 20, Detroit 16

Picking these games on Thursday is only a problem once in a while, and this week might be one of those times. I’m banking on Calvin Johnson not playing, but it hasn’t been officially decided. The Lions offense doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself when Megatron’s out. If he ends up playing, I don’t know if I’d still be confident in the Vikings.

But hey, the Vikings are at home, Teddy Bridgewater is 100% healthy and I love me some home underdogs. (I wrote all of this on Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning the Lions were no longer favored by 1.5. I still like the Vikings.)

Denver (-10) @ NY Jets

  • The Pick: NY Jets
  • The Score: Denver 30, NY Jets 23

This is what I wrote on Monday night when the line was Denver -8: “I don’t see how you could ever back the Jets in this situation. They’re as big of a mess right now as they’ve ever been during the Rex Ryan era. The secondary is the biggest problem not including the quarterback situation. A sketchy defensive situation against the quarterback with history’s longest-running deal with the devil. Hmmmmmmm.”

But, wow, this line has moved. Do the extra two points scare me? A little bit, yeah.

And don’t we know exactly how this is going to play out with Rex Ryan and the Jets? I feel like I’ve seen this movie 100 times. Rex says if they don’t improve, he should be fired. The Jets don’t immediately turn it around and start winning games, but he’s able to hang his hat on “we just played the Broncos and the Patriots extremely close. Would I like to have won those games? Yeah, of course. But we’re improving and we just went toe-to-toe with two of the best teams in our conference.”

After they drop to 1-6, the Jets proceed to win six of their final nine games, ending the season with a respectable 7-9 record, and Rex gets one more year to make the leap to the playoffs.

Bonus note: Remember that the most obvious pick of the week often doesn’t work out. Everyone’s ready to bury the Jets, but they always seem to hang around.

Baltimore (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Tampa Bay 24, Baltimore 20

See the intro to this column for why I’m taking the Bucs.

Also, similar to the Packers/Dolphins pick, the extra half point and the lure of a home underdog is too much to pass up.

San Diego (-7) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: San Diego
  • The Score: San Diego 34, Oakland 14

Absolutely it’s dangerous to back a road favorite in a divisional matchup who’s giving a touchdown or more. But the talent gap between these two teams is just absurd. We’re closing in on game-of-the-year candidate San Diego at Denver two Thursdays from now. That’s where the Chargers will get a stranglehold on the AFC West. No need to slip up now.

Chicago @ Atlanta (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Atlanta 27, Chicago 24

Did I just write three days ago that I’m quitting the Bears cold turkey? I guess I’m just a goddamn liar. This feels like another game decided by a field goal. And the extra half point on this line feels like an overreaction to the Bears’ suckiness last week.

Dallas @ Seattle (-8)

  • The Pick: Seattle
  • The Score: Seattle 38, Dallas 24

I thought Seattle would be favored by 14. Only the very best teams deserve the respect of being less than double-digit underdogs in Seattle. And Dallas is not one of the very best teams. With limited attractive options this week, I’m probably going with the Seahawks in my Suicide Pool. No getting cute this week. Just survive and advance and let the other people in the pool screw things up.

Washington @ Arizona (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Washington
  • The Score: Washington 26, Arizona 20

I made a note to check on Arizona’s quarterback situation before making any prediction this week. So of course in the first article I click on, the first sentence says, “It’s anyone’s guess who starts under center for the Cardinals this Sunday…”

Perfect.

This is an extremely tough game to put any confidence behind right now. My gut tells me that Logan Thomas starts, which is why I’m choosing the Redskins. Also, the Cardinals keep losing key players. Calais Campbell is the most recent major injury.

If Carson Palmer was healthy and playing, this line would probably be closer to a touchdown, and I would be telling you the Cardinals are a sneaky good Suicide Pool pick. But with all this doubt and murkiness, I’m just going to say stay away.

NY Giants @ Philadelphia (-3)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 29, NY Giants 24

Wow, a spread of exactly 3 points instead of 3.5. That seems rare for this week. I don’t have much confidence in either of these teams so that’s why I’m taking the home team. But I could totally see a situation where the Eagles lose, the Cowboys lose (that’s a definite) and the Redskins win, and suddenly the good ole’ NFC East is one big clusterfuck gathered around the .500 mark.

San Francisco (-3.5) @ St. Louis

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: San Francisco 35, St. Louis 10

The 49ers are the seventh and final road favorite of the week. That’s an aggressive number of teams going on the road and still being favored. But St. Louis is one of the few home underdogs that I have no faith in. Their defense has one sack on the season and is terrible against the run. Their offense is nearly as bad. I just pray for the sake of my bet that the 49ers aren’t looking ahead to a big game against Denver in week 7.

It’s looking like a pretty balanced set of picks this week for me: Eight underdogs/six favorites, eight home teams/seven road teams.

Enjoy week 6!