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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3)

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

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

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

Mike_Tomlin_Tripping_Jacoby_Jones_Ravens_Steelers

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

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

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

Miami (-1) @ Buffalo

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

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

Jacksonville @ Washington (-6)

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

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

Dallas @ Tennessee (-3.5)

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

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

Arizona (-3) @ NY Giants

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

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

New England (-3) @ Minnesota

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

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

New Orleans (-7) @ Cleveland

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

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

Atlanta @ Cincinnati (-5)

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

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

Detroit @ Carolina (-3)

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

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

St. Louis @ Tampa Bay (-6)

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

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

Seattle (-6) @ San Diego

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

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

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

Houston (-3) @ Oakland

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

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

NY Jets @ Green Bay (-8)

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

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

Kansas City @ Denver (-13)

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

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

Chicago @ San Francisco (-7)

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

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

Philadelphia @ Indianapolis (-3)

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

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

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

Enjoy week 2.

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Grantland’s Search for The Next Great Fantasy Football Writer: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

[Editor’s Note: I decided to enter a sports writing contest for the first time in my life this week. Grantland.com is running a contest to find their next fantasy football writer. Here are the details: Fantasy Island. The contest called for an original article, no more than 750 words, giving your top 5 overall fantasy football picks for 2012, and also one sleeper pick. The toughest part of this was limiting things to 750 words. You’d never know it from my WBFF blog posts, but I tend to be a bit long-winded. Anyway, here is my submission to the contest. Feedback is welcome, but it won’t change anything since I already submitted my entry. Enjoy.]

So the top five fantasy scorers in 2011 were all quarterbacks, and you want me to go QB-heavy with my top five overall picks this year? I’ve heard a crazy rumor: the NFL is now a passing league! But I’m not taking the bait, at least not entirely.

Since you’re twisting my arm on QBs, I’ll take two at the very top of my rankings, Tom Brady (#1) and Aaron Rodgers (#2).

Why Brady over Rodgers? Well if these guys are both such safe picks, which they are, why not go for the guy with more upside? Rodgers’ offense averaged 35 points per game last year, the first time in his career that his team exceeded the 30 points per game mark. In three of Brady’s last four healthy seasons, his offense has averaged over 30 points. And while the Packers’ 2012 offense is basically unchanged from 2011, the Patriots added Brandon Lloyd, who many are predicting could do what Randy Moss did for the Pats’ offense in 2007. You can’t go wrong with either QB, but I’m taking the one who has a better chance of throwing to a record-setting offense in 2012.

You wanted me to consider Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford for the top five in 2012? Here’s what I’m considering: We’ve always heard the Saints’ offense works so well because Brees and Sean Payton basically share a brain when it comes to running it. So what should we expect when half of that brain is banned from the team this year? Not worth the risk…Pass. As for Stafford, come talk to me when he has consecutive seasons of good health and elite numbers. Pass again.

Though it’s tempting to put Calvin Johnson in my picks, I’m going with three running backs to round out my top five. Welcome to the party, LeSean McCoy (#3), Ray Rice (#4) and Jamaal Charles (#5).

McCoy barely beats out Rice, my tiebreaker being “overall team offensive competence.” Since 2009, McCoy’s first season in the NFL, the Philadelphia offense has been significantly better than the Baltimore offense. I will always trust an offense that runs through Michael Vick to generate more scoring opportunities and longer drives than an offense that runs through Joe Flacco. I’d actually trust an offense that runs through me over a Flacco-led unit. And if you think McCoy can’t sustain his 20 touchdown total from 2011, think again and realize how badly the Eagles DON’T want Vick trying to run for TDs on the goal line.

And why Charles, coming off a lost season from an ACL tear in 2011, as my fifth-ranked fantasy player? Because most importantly, he looks like the Charles of old. Watching his preseason work so far, there’s no hint of any lingering issues from the knee injury. He’s had almost a full year to recover, and remember that before the injury Charles was the next big thing, the guy most likely to have a “Chris Johnson in 2009”-like season. True, it seems like he’ll never get more than 250-275 touches in Kansas City, but he didn’t need any more than that to produce over 1,900 total yards in 2010. The bonus is that the Chiefs play 10 games this year against teams that ranked in the bottom 12 in run defense in 2011. I like Charles’ odds to have some monster games against such soft defenses. You go ahead and enjoy a safer pick like Arian Foster. I’ll go for the home run. Oh, and Matt Cassel is the Chiefs’ quarterback. Romeo Crennel knows that. I think they’ll run the ball plenty.

Give us a sleeper, too, you say? A genius pick that no one else would have the balls to put out there? Look no further than Minnesota Vikings savior Christian Ponder. I’ll wait for the laughing to stop.

As a rookie in 2011, he played in nine full games, putting up double-digit fantasy points in six of those. In 2012 he has a (hopefully) healthy Percy Harvin and a shiny new toy in Jerome Simpson. Tell me you’d rather have a Sanchez, Cassel, Palmer or Locker, but then go look at Ponder’s preseason stats as well as the defenses he faces in weeks 7-14 this year (four consecutive game against teams ranked 22nd or worse in pass defense last year). Now tell me again with a straight face that you’d rather have those guys over Ponder. Can’t do it, can you?