Week 2 NFL Picks

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Confidence Picks in week 2 are:

Tennessee (-3)

Carolina (-7)

Oakland (-14)

LA Chargers (-3.5)

NY Giants (-3)

Houston @ Cincinnati (-6.5) | Over/Under 38

The Pick: Cincinnati (-6.5) – WHOOPS, 0-2 on Thursday Night games already this year

There’s a reason the total is only 38 points. Both offenses looked horrific in week 1. Tease the under to 48 and call it a day. Can’t imagine putting money on either team at this moment.

New England (-7) @ New Orleans | Over/Under 56.5

The Pick: New Orleans (+7)

The Saints have been held to fewer than 23 points just once in their past 16 home games. Even if the Patriots defense looks average this week (bit of a long shot), you could pencil in a minimum of 3 touchdowns for New Orleans. The only scenario where this game doesn’t hit the teased over of 45 is if Belichick is so scared of his defense that he forces the offense to put together a handful of 8-minute drives to keep Brees off the field…but I’m not too concerned about that specific scenario.

Cleveland @ Baltimore (-9) | Over/Under 38.5

The Pick: Cleveland (+9)

I’ll continue to back the Browns and expect that they’ll cover the spread. No take on the over/under as I don’t know what to make of the Browns on the road and how real Baltimore’s performance was last week.

Buffalo @ Carolina (-7) | Over/Under 43

The Pick: Carolina (-7)

Carolina teased feels pretty safe because either their offense is going to work through their issues and start to look decent, or their defense will carry them to some wins against the lesser talent in the NFL.

Arizona (-7.5) @ Indianapolis | Over/Under 44

The Pick: Indianapolis (+7.5)

Stay the FUCK away from this on all accounts. Do not be tempted. Do not let your gambling partner talk you into anything on this game. You will feel dumb no matter what you decide to do here.

Tennessee (-3) @ Jacksonville | Over/Under 42

The Pick: Tennessee (-3)

A compelling case could be put together to back the Titans in this game. After all, they did play an even game with the Raiders (all the game stats were almost identical even if they ultimately lost by 10) and they absolutely cannot afford to start 0-2 after all the buzz about them making the leap to the playoffs. Also, this team proved last year it can win on the road. They went 4-4 away from Nashville including 3 wins over 2016 playoff teams. Also, the Jags benefited from Houston’s horrible combination of offensive line and quarterback play. Included in their 29 points was a defensive touchdown, a field goal after getting the ball on Houston’s 28 yard line and a touchdown on a drive that began at their 47 yard line. Pretty easy situations for 16 of their 29 points. Go with the Titans.

Philadelphia @ Kansas City (-6) | Over/Under 47.5

The Pick: Philadelphia (+6)

Tease the under to 57.5. What’s more likely…that the Chiefs really have morphed into a new offense that’s super aggressive & vertical? Or that the Patriots’ lack of pass rush combined with KC knowing they had to take some low percentage shots to hang with the SB champs on the road was really the reason they looked like a different team than we’ve ever seen under Andy Reid? I’ll go with the second option and assume a competent Eagles D (4 sacks on Washington last week) keeps the Chiefs in check. And I can’t imagine an explosive game for Philly’s offense in the unfriendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium.

**Update: Realizing that Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby and Chiefs safety Eric Berry are both out for this game is making me re-think all of the above. Proceed with caution.**

Minnesota at Pittsburgh (-6) | Over/Under 45.5

The Pick: Minnesota (+6)

Stay away from any gambling on this and try to enjoy a good football game between two could-be Super Bowl contenders. We don’t know if the Steelers offense will excel at home against a top 5 defense. And we can’t think Sam Bradford will look anything like his week 1 self when facing an actual NFL caliber defense.

Chicago @ Tampa Bay (-7) | Over/Under 43

The Pick: Chicago (+7)

I think we could comfortably tease the Bucs and not give this game a second thought. The Bears are frisky, will give some teams some problems, but probably at home more than on the road.

Miami @ LA Chargers (-3.5) | Over/Under 45.5

The Pick: Chargers (-3.5)

First of all, the Chargers are simply the best. They are easily my favorite team to watch because while the result is almost always the same (devastating, incomprehensible loss), the way they get there always has a new wrinkle to it. The confidence I had when they were down by 17 in Denver on Monday night that they’d come all the way back, almost, and find a way to blow it, was through the roof. So because of their predictability, I’d only bet this game if I teased the Chargers to a +6.5, knowing a 3-point loss is their worst case scenario.

NY Jets @ Oakland (-14) | Over/Under 43.5

The Pick: Oakland (-14)

Don’t overthink this one. Tease the Raiders to a +4 and count your chickens before they hatch. The Bills absolutely dominated the Jets in all statistical categories last Sunday. A competent team would have won that same game by 19 instead of 9. I won’t really touch the total because who knows if it’ll be a 35-0 win for Oakland or more like 43-10.

Dallas (-3) @ Denver | Over/Under 42

The Pick: Dallas (-3)

So the Cowboys gave up 3 points to last year’s 22nd ranked offense that just so happened to be missing its one-and-only playmaker. And we’re all saying the Dallas defense is definitely good? OK. I’ll sit this one out from a betting standpoint. Still picking the Cowboys because I think the Broncos offense is just that bad.

Washington @ LA Rams (-3) | Over/Under 46

The Pick: Rams (-3)

I’m probably going to bet the Rams straight up, but I don’t see a great angle for any teasers in this game.

San Francisco @ Seattle (-14) | Over/Under 42

The Pick: San Francisco (+14)

It’s likely Seattle just happened to be facing one of the best teams in the NFC when looking so bad in Green Bay last week. And if that’s the case, they should be the team we’ve come to expect and absolutely steamroll the bad teams of the league when playing at home. I’ll stay away from betting it this week, but if they look fine, just know that they still get to host Indy, Houston, Washington and Arizona…all potentially bad teams. I’ll make my money on the Seahawks during those games.

Green Bay @ Atlanta (-3) | Over/Under 54.5

The Pick: Atlanta (-3)

Dammit, why didn’t I bet this game when it was Atlanta -2.5 earlier in the week?

Detroit @ NY Giants (-3) | Over/Under 43.5

The Pick: Giants (-3)

Under teased! Because even with OBJ last year, the Giants couldn’t crack 20 points most of the time. And Detroit on the road against a top 5 defense feels like a disaster. Sure, the Lions could do their thing and win a wild 4th quarter comeback, but that probably means they’re trailing 13-0 with 4 minutes left and win 14-13. This is a bad Monday Night Football game.

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NFL Divisional Round Picks

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It was an ugly 1-3 start for me in the playoffs. That happens to me almost every year for Wildcard Weekend. I always come back with a vengeance. Jump on these Divisional Round picks.

Seattle at Atlanta (-5) | over/under 51.5

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Atlanta 29, Seattle 26

The Bets: Atlanta (+5) in a 3-way tease / Over (51.5) / Over (41.5) in a 3-way tease

This Atlanta offense put up 48 & 33 points on the 10th best defense in the league (Carolina), 30 points on the 8th best defense (San Diego) and 38 points on the 3rd best defense (Arizona).

They also put up 23 & 24 points on the road against Denver (#1 defense) and Seattle (#5), respectively. And one could argue they would have ended up with at least 27 in Seattle had it not been for a horrible non-call on an obvious pass interference.

They’ve faced plenty of tough defenses all year and almost always put up 30 or more points.

Even though I expect Seattle to be a particularly tough out, I don’t think their offense can hang with Atlanta for 60 minutes. Seattle would need to force some turnovers, but the Falcons tied the Patriots for fewest turnovers in the league this year. And the Seahawks ranked a meh 22nd in takeaways in 2016.

Seattle’s putrid run game (23rd in the league) won’t be able to fully exploit Atlanta’s horrible run defense (29th). And on the flip side the Seahawks’ pass defense slipped to 13th in the league, which is bad news going against the #1 passing offense in football.

The recipe just isn’t there for a Seattle upset. But a decent team with deep playoff experience should keep it pretty close.

Houston at New England (-16) | over/under 44.5

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 31, Houston 13

The Bets: New England (-6) in a 3-way tease

How did the Patriots defense hold up against the very worst offenses in football this year?

  • Cleveland (29th in offense) – 13 points allowed
  • Jets (31st) – 17 points allowed on the road / 3 points allowed at home
  • Los Angeles (32nd) – 10 points allowed
  • Denver (28th) – 3 points allowed
  • Houston (30th) – 0 points allowed

Let’s just table the argument on if the Patriots defense is legitimately good and would hold up against even a decent offense. We can save that for next week. We know they can 100% shut down awful offenses, especially at home.

Similar to last week when I guessed the Lions would put up 14 in Seattle, I think I’m being generous projecting the Texans for 13.

And since the Patriots always score 30+ against teams like this, I have to reluctantly lay the points and grab New England.

If you’re not into 3-way teasers where you can adjust each line by 10 points, then this isn’t that great of a game from a betting standpoint. The Patriots are too big of a favorite for a regular tease or to bet straight up. And you can’t really have confidence in the game total (Do the Patriots win 40-10 or 30-0? Huge difference for the over/under.)

If you’re trying to make the case for a Houston upset, or even just for them to keep it close, you can’t use this argument: “The 2009 Ravens and the 2010 Jets stunned the Patriots in Foxboro so anything could happen.”

The ‘09 Ravens were actually the best team in the NFL despite their 9-7 record, according to FootballOutsiders.com. And the 2010 Jets, not too shabby themselves. They were 6th in overall DVOA (team efficiency).

Your 2016 Houston Texans….29th in DVOA! In other words, they were the 4th worst team in football. The gap between this year’s Patriots and Wilfork’s Texans is possibly the biggest in playoff history.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-1) | over/under 44

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 23, Kansas City 20 (in Overtime)

The Bets: Pittsburgh (+11) in a 3-way tease / Over (34) in a 3-way tease

During Kansas City’s 10-2 finish to the season, they only put up 21 or more points in two of six home games.

The Steelers’ last three road opponents of the season happen to be the three teams right above the Chiefs in offensive DVOA rankings (KC ranks 13th). And here’s how those teams performed against Pittsburgh’s D:

  • Colts (12th) – Steelers gave up 7 points
  • Bengals (11th) – Steelers gave up 20 points
  • Bills (10th) – Steelers gave up 20 points

Let’s say things stay consistent in terms of the Chiefs’ offensive production. What you gotta figure out is whether or not the Steelers can put up 24 or so points. That’s the only way they win this.

I think we’re looking at an overtime game, or at least a last-second win for one of these teams. I liked the Chiefs immediately after seeing last week’s games play out, but the numbers don’t lie. The combination of the way Pittsburgh’s been able to play defense lately and the incredible potency of a healthy Steelers offense makes it impossible for me to go with the Chiefs.

Green Bay at Dallas (-4) | over/under 52

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 28, Green Bay 23

The Bets: Dallas (-4) / Dallas (+6) in a 3-way tease / Over (42) in a 3-way tease

Starting in 2011, which is when Jordy Nelson started putting up 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the Packers have been a top four offense each of the four seasons that Nelson and Aaron Rodgers have been healthy together. In the two seasons where they weren’t, the Packers fell to 9th (2013) and 11th (2015) in offensive DVOA.

Not a catastrophic drop-off, but a noticeable one that will be in effect for this divisional round game.

After all my cutting edge research, I had the Packers coming up just short, maybe losing by 2 points. But I’m deducting an additional 3 points from their total due to the Jordy loss.

Remember that the Giants offense is most similar in production to the offenses of the Ravens, 49ers, Cardinals and Eagles. It makes perfect sense that Green Bay would demolish the Giants if Aaron Rodgers had a big game. But now the Packers face one of the best offenses in the league. Even if Rodgers steals the show again, they should have an answer.

My read on the spread and game total is that Vegas never adjusted either one when it became apparent that Nelson might not play. I think the game would be impossible to predict if he was healthy, but since he’s not, I’ll be betting as if they forgot to ding the Packers even slightly.

Prop Bets

Who will record the most Passing Yards?

  • Matt Ryan (+350) – Because he had 335 passing yards in Seattle while facing a healthy Early Thomas earlier this season. Because at home in 2016, his lowest yardage output was 269. His worst case is even better than that because of the injured Seahawks defense.
  • Tom Brady (+350) – In the past 5 years, Brady has played in 12 playoff games. He’s cracked 300 yards passing 7 times, 4 of which came in this divisional round. I think he’s good for 290+, which could win the week.
  • Dak Prescott (+1000) – You’re giving me 10/1 odds on a Pro Bowl QB who’s rested, at home and facing a pretty bad pass defense? Sign me up.

Who will record the most Receiving Yards?

  • Dez Bryant (+850) – Call it a hunch. The Packers have a crappy pass defense as it is, and they’ll put extra focus on stopping Dallas’ 2nd ranked run game. I think Dak will find Dez early and often.

Enjoy the Divisional Round!

NFL Week 1 Recap: Yes, Football Was Played Before the Ray Rice ShitStorm Ensued

antonio brown

Let’s begin with two words about my bets & picks this week:

THEY SUCKED.

In week 1, you shouldn’t be too upset if you misfire on the majority of games. You should only feel upset if you put waaaaaaaaay too much money on the “feeling it out” week of the season, like me. I overextended myself as if the NFL season is only one week long, and all the money in my gambling account would vanish by Monday if I didn’t use every last cent. Whoops.

Two comments I actually made leading up to Sunday that would have changed my week 1 record from 6-10 to 9-7 if I had listened to my gut instincts

  • “When I play a little game each year called ‘How can I justify predicting a 16-0 New England record,’ this game gave me immediate pause for the 2014 Patriots. They typically lose a bad game early in the season these days. Miami might be solid. They also seem to have the Patriots’ number more than most teams. I’ve also convinced myself the offensive line might need a few weeks to really gel after the Logan Mankins trade (don’t forget they have a new O-line coach for the first time in 150 years).” I wrote that in my picks blog but couldn’t bring myself to go with Miami.
  • “The aggressive amount of $ that has come in on the Saints and Bears makes me want to go against both.” That was a text I wrote to someone exactly 30 minutes before the morning kickoffs on Sunday, but of course, I didn’t change my picks or bets and still backed those two losing favorites.

The 6-10 or 7-9 weeks on picks aren’t crippling unless you don’t get your confidence picks right. That’s what kills your Pick ‘Em leagues and obviously gets you in the most trouble with your bets. This week I had New Orleans, New England, Jacksonville, Houston and San Diego as my confidence picks. Two of five just won’t do. I’m especially hating the fact that all five teams were covering at halftime. That’s what made week 1 particularly crushing.

In the silver lining department

  • At least we got that week where 90% of my bets are winning for three quarters only the 4th quarter is disastrous and I lose everything out of the way early this year.

Early nomination for the team that’s most likely not to have any of its players starting in a single fantasy league on a week-to-week basis

  • The Oakland Raiders. At the Jets or not, 158 total yards including only 25 rushing yards…six of 11 drives that end in three and outs…the patheticism goes on and on.

Non-football note of the night

  • I spent way too much time on Monday night trying to finally figure out what a supermoon is. I had never heard that word until a few months ago so I figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But I feel like I might have missed something. Are we just calling all full moons super moons now? If I missed that, I’m sorry.

In-game Observations

  • [from Thursday] Umm…my friends & I once went to a park and practiced fair catching and downing punts. I believe that makes us more qualified to return punts at the NFL level than Earl Thomas. Listen, Seattle, you’re awesome, you’re clearly the Super Bowl favorite, you can probably go ultra conservative with every decision this year and still lock up the NFC’s #1 seed. I don’t think the potentially small advantage of Thomas over someone else returning punts is worth it. Smart people are so fucking stupid sometimes.
  • If you look back at the Packers’ last 33 games, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here: They almost never beat good football teams. Go look. It seems like they can always win those 10 or so games against the inferior opponents, but the other elite teams in the league always handle them. I don’t see that changing this year.
  • Possibly the most foreboding loss of Sunday? Not Chicago, New Orleans or New England. Tampa Bay. A Carolina team that may still turn out to be pretty bad with Derek Anderson visiting the Bucs and you still lose convincingly? That seems almost impossible to do.
  • Here’s another thing about Tampa that we can’t overlook even if it’s just one play in one game: Josh McCown pulled off a play so sloppy and reckless that even Brandon Weeden would be proud. It happened with 58 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, and it’s just something you really gotta see:  
  • We’ll get to the person-on-person assault story that’s dominating our lives in one second, but first, I trust everyone saw this piece of assault in the Cleveland/Pittsburgh game that will go down as the coolest penalty in NFL history:
  • Which has led to semi-decent parodies that are really just an excuse to watch clips of Karate Kid: 
  •  I love that Ryan Fitzpatrick did a perfectly fine job for Houston on Sunday. Efficient, didn’t turn the ball over, only took one sack. This is perfect because a terrible game that reminds everyone that the Texans can’t escape the season with a winning record as long as Fitzy is their QB is on the horizon. I’m calling week 3 at the Giants as that game.
  • Eli Manning is the only quarterback in the league who throws a 1lb football like it’s a 50lb medicine ball. Why is this? And am I the only one who notices that?
  • The only comment I’ll make about fantasy football this week: I learned the lesson that I should never think “I probably have this week locked up” when I’m up by 24 points and my opponent still has Calvin Johnson playing later on in the weekend.

Bitter Patriots comment overheard during their game

  • “Oh, hey, look at that. Amendola is still on the team. He was the first one to reach Gronk to celebrate his touchdown. Huh.”

Preseason Player Prediction Update

  • I never thought a preseason prediction would be lost by halftime of week 1, but for a minute there it seemed like Shaun Hill was the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness. A badge of honor I predicted EJ Manuel would wear this season. But then it turns out it was a leg injury that caused Hill to be pulled. But then there’s this story about the media grilling Jeff Fisher on whether or not the injury was an excuse to pull him. Hmm…

Cliché Police: On Monday night Jon Gruden said, “You can’t let a quarterback like Eli Manning hang around.” On that note, let’s make a list of quarterbacks you can let hang around

  • Alex Smith
  • Josh McCown
  • Austin Davis
  • EJ Manuel
  • Derek Carr
  • Tony Romo (in fact, you’d prefer to let him hang around)

Thoughts on Ray

  • After this blog, If I make no more comments on it and don’t express my complete disgust, know that I’m not condoning hitting people, I’m just taking the calming approach of avoiding all media outlets for the next couple months.
  • But if Roger Goodell somehow gets ousted, I’ll probably have some comments on that. It would be historic.
  • Listen, I’m the commissioner of a long-running fantasy football league, and when I so much as change the draft day and time, most of the owners call for my impeachment. I don’t think it’s right if no punishment comes to Goodell considering this cover-up is a little worse than my impeachable offenses.
  • The strangest part of Monday for me was seeing the clip of the elevator video repeatedly on ESPN. When a basketball players gets a compound fracture on the court, ESPN (and other media outlets) say things like, “We’re only going to show this clip once because it’s very gruesome.” But while I worked from home yesterday, I saw the Rice video roughly 17 times..
  • And finally, here are three jokes I didn’t have the balls to make on twitter yesterday:
    1. I didn’t know Ray Rice was left-handed.
    2. Why isn’t anyone talking about the racist old lady who goes to get in the elevator and then decides on another route when she sees who’s in there?
    3. So how many criminals played in that Ravens/49ers Super Bowl after all? And is it clearly the record for most criminals playing in one Super Bowl?

As the weeks go on, these recap articles will include more legitimate football analysis, but it’s pretty lame to go too in-depth when only one week is in the books. And besides, this week SUCKED.

Back on Thursday with the week 2 picks.

A New Vegas Dilemma: Could a Person Survive 11 Straight Days in Sin City?

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At the supple age of 23 I started making an annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas every March with a group of close friends. When we planned that first trip, we were just kind of taking a shot in the dark.

“The first weekend of March Madness seems to have the most—and usually the craziest—games, let’s try that.”

And for the next seven years, we assumed we had nailed it from the very beginning. Who wouldn’t want to be in Vegas—in a sportsbook full of giant TVs, free drinks and other degenerate gamblers diehard sports fans—while the most mind-blowing playoffs in all of sports was going on.

Forty-eight do-or-die games in four days. Simultaneously bouncing back and forth between your bets and your bracket. Waking up at 8:30am (games start at 9:15am on Vegas Standard Time) even though you didn’t go to sleep until 5am. It was the perfect weekend.

And then, because of a wedding that several of us in the group had to attend last year on that very weekend (a wedding that damn well better last a lifetime), we changed the tradition and visited the Mecca of bad decisions on Conference Championship Weekend instead.

And…it…was………AWESOME.

Do you know how many games there are over the four-day period on Championship Weekend?

167.

That’s not a typo.

Do you know how many fewer people descend on Vegas for Championship Weekend compared to that first weekend of March Madness?

67% fewer. (rough estimate)

From a crowd standpoint, you’re pretty much never waiting for anything during Championship Weekend, but during March Madness, your waits look like this:

  • At least 20 minutes for the cab line when you first arrive at the airport
  • Another 20 minutes to check into your hotel room. Nothing is more frustrating than standing in that concierge line while getting a constant whiff of that sweet gambling smell from across the hall
  • Showing up at the sports book at the ungodly hour of 7am just to secure seats for the 9am tip-offs
  • Up to a 30-minute line every time you want to place a new bet or cash in a winning ticket
  • Getting laughed at by the host when you show up at a restaurant with 10 guys and without a reservation at 9pm on a weekend night
  • And yes, another 20 minutes or so for the cab line to finally escape your hotel on that Sunday morning

When you consider the amount of games and the emptiness of the city, Championship Weekend becomes a no-brainer, right?

We all agreed. So we returned this year for that same weekend. And though most of us walked away losers from a betting standpoint, we were basically stroking each other’s hard-ons the entire time over how smart we were to have finally figured out the right weekend.

This group has progressed in nine years from “the single, immature college guys who party way too hard all weekend” to “the slightly more mature (and less single) guys who party way too hard but are also dangerously addicted to sports gambling” to “the old married men who look strikingly like those people addicted to horse race betting.”

Part of me wonders if it’s just that progression into grumpy old man status that’s got us wanting the less crazy weekend.

Fast forward to this past Thursday and instantly my smugness over choosing the right weekend disappeared quicker than you can say “buzzer beater.” I was one of the many chumps stuck at his desk while the first set of Tourney games was under way. Sure, thanks to the beauty of technology I could watch all the games on my computer, but it just wasn’t the same.

First Dayton and Harvard pulled off incredible upsets, then Uconn, St. Louis and North Dakota State all won crazy overtime games in the span of forty minutes, and finally Texas escaped Arizona State’s upset bid with a ludicrous buzzer-beating layup.

Yep, there aren’t nearly as many games over the whole day as Championship Weekend, but these games mean more. There’s no question of whether or not the teams that are NCAA Tournament locks are taking it easy and resting guys. Every close game is ratcheted up 10 notches in intensity because someone’s season (and possibly many players’ careers) will come to an abrupt end.

When last night ended with the ultimate tease in Manhattan’s near upset of Louisville followed by New Mexico State’s jaw-dropped heroics to take San Diego State to overtime, I started chain smoking cigars, googling “underground blackjack tables Los Angeles” and walking around in public double-fisting 24oz light beers. It just felt right.

Several of my Vegas cohorts wouldn’t dare go back to the original March Madness weekend for our trip, and that’s fine. I love everything about basketball in Vegas so much that I’m perfectly OK with going back for Conference Championship Weekend ever year. The only decision left for me? Do I move the planned date of asking my girlfriend to marry me from “as soon as a 16 seed beats a one seed” to “immediately” so I can use the bachelor party next year as an excuse to be in Vegas for the 11 days spanning both these incredible basketball weekends?

I doubt there’s enough medicine in the world to get me back to normal after a trip like that.

The nostalgia will be even sadder on Friday, as I root for Duke to lose from my office…a group of 300 strangers cheering like crazy for whichever underdog is facing Duke was always my favorite part of March Madness weekend.

That settles it. Next year, I rent out a place in Vegas for the entire month of March.

NFC Predictions Expanded

I wrote an expanded version of my NFC win/loss predictions blog on the website I Hate JJ Redick (a Baltimore-based sports blog that I’m writing for).

If you want to read more than the quick blurb I included with each prediction last week, and you want to read some funny recaps to each team’s 2012 season in 140 characters or less, go to: http://ihatejjr.com/content/nfl-predictions-part-1-nfc-winloss-records

I’ll be doing the same thing with AFC predictions on Tuesday.

The Best NFL Predictions You’ll Ever Read, Part 1: NFC Team Records

For those of you who followed our football content last year, you remember that guest blogger Neil and I wagered on who could most accurately predict each NFL team’s record for the 2012 season. He beat me somewhat easily and I still haven’t settled up the bet yet, which was for me to do a full day of babysitting his son. If I can just keep pushing that payment off a little while longer, we’ll get to a point where it would be extremely awkward for Neil’s college-aged son to be babysat by his creepy Uncle.

We’re running back the same competition this year, only the wager has changed. The winner will be picking eight different alcoholic beverages for the loser to consume over a 12-hour period during our annual March Vegas Trip in 2014. It’s not that eight drinks over 12 hours is a lot (especially not in Vegas), it’s that we can punish each other with some really terrible concoctions. My biggest complaint about this bet is that I’ve always been very vocal about the types of alcohol that immediately make me puke or start dry heaving. I’m not as familiar with which liquids will do that to Neil. Oh well. Just puts more pressure on me to win.

Below you’re going to find Part 1 of this competition, where Neil and I predicted the record for each NFC team and included a comment we thought was relevant to the team or our prediction. We’ll be back with Part 2, the AFC predictions, later this week.

Away we go…

Arizona Cardinals

2012 Record: 5-11

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 125/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 5-11

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I don’t think Carson Palmer is a great QB, but he has to be better than Skelton, Kolb, Lindley, & Hoyer, all who started games for Arizona last year. I would be higher on them if they were in the AFC, but they are in one of the top two divisions in the NFL. Very good and very underrated pass defense.

Ross: Their schedule is pretty brutal, playing seven out of 16 games against 2012 playoff teams. If it wasn’t for their defense and some Patrick Peterson plays that’ll swing some games, they’d be a four-win team. That’s how much confidence I have in Carson Palmer.

 Atlanta Falcons

2012 Record: 13-3

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 10-6

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: This team was within one drive of going to the Super Bowl last season, why am I so down on them? They went 7-2 last season in games decided by a touchdown or less. And their division should be much tougher this year, probably one of the two toughest in the NFL.

Ross: I’m actually not worried about the potential offensive line problems. Their talent at the skill positions give me confidence they’ll figure it out. Departures on defense in a tough division where they face potent offenses in New Orleans and Tampa could be the problem. Regardless, I’m excited for their return to being a playoff team that makes absolutely no noise in January.

Carolina Panthers

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 66/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I would not be surprised if this turns out to be 9 or 10 wins. I really like how they finished the season last year. Plus I think Cam Newton had an entire offseason to dwell on the fact that people don’t lump him in with the “core 4” of great young QBs. My biggest concern is that Ron Rivera might be a terrible head coach. We should know the answer to that at the end of this season.

Ross: I’m worried the Panthers are doing to their fans what a golf course does to me whenever I play. I play like a lefty who should probably switch to righty for about 17 holes, but without fail I birdie the 18th, luring me into wanting to play again in the future. Carolina has started 2-8 in each of Cam Newton’s two years on the team before winning the majority of their final six games to instill unnecessary hope in their fan base.

Chicago Bears

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: The Bears offense should be great this year. Probably their best offense in the last 25 years. Unfortunately their defense is getting old and I don’t see it scoring eight TDs like last year.

Ross: Their schedule is tough not because they play many of the best teams but because they don’t get to play any of the expected worst teams. It’s 16 games of either good teams or frisky average teams, which puts a lot of pressure on the Bears to bring their best every game. They will for about half the schedule.

Dallas Cowboys

2012 Record: 8-8

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I cannot find a reason why this team will be any different than last year’s 8-8 team. I’m going one less win because in early December they realize that Jason Garrett is not the answer and they mail-in the rest of the season.

Ross: Dallas is one of the many NFC teams who can lay claim to theory that they’d be a playoff lock if they played in the AFC. Another year of the dreaded 8-8 will be their fourth straight non-playoff season, obviously enough to get Jason Garrett fired. But what will be fun to keep our eye on (or perhaps start a betting pool on) is what week during the regular season he gets the pink slip if they dip way below .500.

Detroit Lions

2012 Record: 4-12

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: A lot of people are expecting a nice bounce-back year from Detroit, and I agree with those people. Just don’t get too crazy with the win total. Remember that 8 wins will double their total from 2012.

Ross: I think this team is average enough to initially put them down for eight or nine wins. But after watching them in the preseason, I realize they’re still the same undisciplined cheapshot-loving team whose head coach is apparently letting the inmates run the asylum. They don’t make any real noise in this league until they replace Jim Schwartz. And unnecessary dickheadedness will cost them a couple should-be wins in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

2012 Record: 11-5

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They went 11-5 last year and were the most injured team in the league. Injuries have a way of evening out from year to year. If they’ve figured out that the read option is a thing, they might even go a win or two higher than this.

Ross: Opening the season against three consecutive 2012 playoff teams should tell us a lot about whether the Packers are back to their 2011 level when they rolled through the season and finished 15-1. This is a situation where I wish we could just fast forward to that day in January when Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers realizes he’s facing the 49ers in the upcoming playoff game and spontaneously pisses himself. With the way those two teams are going, that could become an annual tradition for the next five years!

Minnesota Vikings

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They went 5-1 last year in games decided by a TD or less. What Adrian Peterson did the last ten games of last season to carry this team into the playoffs was super human. Christian Ponder is still the QB. I think six wins is actually the ceiling for this team. Big crash back to earth.

Ross: Harder schedule than 2012 + No fucking way Peterson replicates 2012 + Trying to replace Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield with Greg Jennings and rookies + Ponder might get benched quicker than Mark  Sanchez…It all adds up to a 7-9 season. No logical Vikings fan should be expecting more.

New Orleans Saints

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 18/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I appreciate that they get the second best coach in the NFL back, but he is not an all-pro defensive end or defensive back, right?

Ross: Tough one to predict because of last year’s unique circumstances. In case you didn’t know, the Saints not only had to employ an interim Head Coach, but before that an interim interim Head Coach had to grab the reigns for the first six games. Not sure if the big drop from 13-3 in 2011 to 7-9 in 2012 was purely a product of the Bountygate fallout, or if it was an accurate depiction of who the Saints are now.

New York Giants

2012 Record: 9-7

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 22/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I still get angry (read: bitter) thinking about how mediocre this team becomes the two seasons after their last two Super Bowl wins.

Ross: I don’t have much on them. They feel like the NFC’s version of the San Diego Chargers. Not because they’ll be as bad as San Diego, but because they’re as forgettable as those Chargers. I’ve barely heard a thing about either team during the two months of preseason. I guess that’s not a bad thing when the alternative could be lots of negative attention (*cough cough* that other New York team *cough cough*). And of course plenty of attention will be paid to the Giants when David Wilson breaks out or Eli Manning admits he was cycling with A-Rod during the 2008 and 2012 playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles

2012 Record: 4-12

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I really wanted to go with seven wins here, but it may take the league a few weeks to figure out Chip Kelly’s offense, so that may be good for an extra win.

Ross: I actually think this Eagles team with a full season of Michael Vick could win nine games. But I was totally caught off guard when I learned that Vick has only made it through a full season twice in his NFL career. Even though he could buck the trend in any given year, it’s just not possible to confidently predict this team’s record without accounting for at least one or two subpar Nick Foles starts. That’s why I put them in for only seven wins.

St. Louis Rams

2012 Record: 7-8-1

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Seems like a team that is going to play everyone tough, but they have a difficult schedule and are probably a year away. Is it too early to pick them as my 2014 sleeper?

Ross: The Rams face either a 2012 playoff team or a team that’s expected to be much improved every other weekend this year. I could see them winning about half their games but never stringing together consecutive wins.

San Francisco 49ers

2012 Record: 11-4-1

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 6/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Solid defense, really solid offensive line. I think the Crabtree injury hurts them more than people realize, especially because the game plan should always be to make sure Kaepernick does not beat you with his legs. I’m very excited to find out if he’s an accurate passer or not.

Ross: After dealing with Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck to start the year, the 49ers get six straight games where they’ll be big favorites. There’s a reason they’re the odds-on favorite to win the NFC, and only a Colin Kaepernick injury or Jim Harbaugh getting assassinated by a referee (due to the constant tantrums he throws every time they make a call against his team) can derail them.

Seattle Seahawks

2012 Record: 11-5

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 17/2

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They may lose out on the division championship to San Francisco by a game or via a tiebreaker, but this team is in much better shape that the Niners for a Super Bowl run. They have a better passing game and can stop the pass better than the Niners can, and that will make a huge difference come playoff time.

Ross: Seattle feels like a replica of the 49ers right down to me thinking their absolute worst case is 11-5. It would be shocking if both teams didn’t make the playoffs, which means the difference between winning the division or getting stuck with a wildcard spot will come down to the two head-to-head matchups between them. I’ve got Seattle at 11-3 before factoring in those two huge division games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Nine wins might be a bit low for them, but they are in such a tough division that one or two bad breaks can be costly. Assuming they stay relatively healthy, their entire season rides on Josh Freeman. The defense appears to be somewhere between “very good” and “stacked.” Great offensive line. Great running back. Great receiving corps. So how far can Josh take this team? He’s also in a contract year. No pressure.

Ross: I keep saying “explosive offense” over and over in my head when I think about this team because I love the combination of Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But then I remember Josh Freeman. Is his ceiling essentially what we’ve seen from Andy Dalton the last couple years? That would give them a chance at the playoffs. But I worry his upside might be lower than that. And when I see that his combined stats from the Bucs’ three preseason games are 12-of-26 passing for 101 yards and nine sacks taken, I’m not apt to shake this bad feeling about him.

Washington Redskins

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 33/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

Ross: 11-5

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: If RGIII is healthy all year, the Redskins are going to be in very, very good shape. They might not be as good as Seattle, San Francisco, or Tampa, but they are in a much easier division than those three teams, which puts the #1 playoff seed in play, something that’s going to be very important in the NFC. A healthy RGIII in a home playoff game is the great equalizer.

Ross: I stand by my comments at the start of last year’s playoffs that the Redskins were good enough to get to the NFC Championship. If RGIII doesn’t get hurt in their first and only playoff game, I think they do it. And a healthy Griffin this year will give me the same confident prediction. The NFC East is going through a slight down period and the ‘Skins can take advantage. 11-5 seems totally reasonable if The Man plays 15 or 16 games. I’m thinking the 33/1 odds for Washington to win the Super Bowl might be the best longshot bet in all of football.

 

Not a ton of variation as we were more than one win apart in our predictions for only three of the 16 NFC teams. I think that actually says a lot about the NFC. It’s extremely competitive with a handful of upper-tier teams, a HUGE middle class and only a couple bottom feeders. I’m thinking we were both hesitant to predict too many extremes in a conference where the schedules are so tough that “average” might be a really good year for most.

We’ll be back with the AFC predictions later in the week.

Poll Question of the Century: NFL Sunday or Opening Day March Madness

After moving my annual Vegas trip from the opening weekend of March Madness to the weekend before—Conference Tournament weekend—I promised myself I wouldn’t care about the big tournament as much as I usually do. The ability to order a bucket of beers at 9AM while making the twenty-foot walk from your cushy leather sports book seat to the betting window to put money down on each game will make you care, regardless of who’s playing. So I figured for the first time in eight years, this opening weekend would be a little underwhelming.

As I write this, we’re only five hours into the Thursday games, and I’m ready to admit I couldn’t have been more wrong. After trying to half pay attention during the first couple games and busy myself with other tasks, I slowly but surely turned my living room into a sports book as best as I possibly could: watching two games at once, betting website up on my computer, brackets everywhere and a fridge full of beers. The only thing missing is access to a blackjack table (though if I really get the itch, my betting website will take blackjack action).

I’m all in on this tournament, which brings me to perhaps my most interesting poll question of all time: Which is the more exhilarating full day of sports: the first Thursday/Friday of March Madness or a late-season NFL Sunday?

Here are some considerations before we get to the vote:

  • Yes, March Madness is the playoffs so you could call this an easy vote. But that’s why I’m saying a late regular season slate of NFL games. Think late December with a bunch of division games (Minnesota vs Green Bay this past year, for instance)
  • The NFL is the greatest sport on earth (also the greatest form of entertainment)
  • But March Madness produces so much insanity every year
  • 16 games per day during these first days of March Madness. Never more than four going at the same time. The day begins at 9AM and ends around 9PM (12 hours of entertainment)
  • 14 games per NFL Sunday during non-bye weeks. Usually about eight morning games, five afternoon games and one night game. The day begins at 10AM and ends around 8PM (1o hours of entertainment)
  • With the Red Zone Channel you really can see everything important in football and not move from your couch the entire day
  • With CBS and its affiliates (TNT, TBS, TRU), you can pick any of the basketball games you want
  • With both sports, you can add a “second TV” to your viewing experience by watching games on your computer
  • For some people it probably boils down to “Sunday versus a week day.” Shame on you for not using one of my many excuses to leave work for these next two days

I’ve made my case. If I had to choose, I’d go with NFL Sunday only because football is such a superior sport. Your turn to vote.

This Weekend’s Can’t-Miss NFL Prop Bets (A Short Friday Read)

Yesterday I posted my Divisional Round picks, which you can review HERE. That blog post was just a tad longer than I expected so I needed to give you my favorite prop bets of the weekend in a separate post.

Just as a general warning, I should tell you it’s always best to bet small amounts on these prop bets because they’re mostly a crapshoot. The best thing to do is find some unlikely prop bet outcomes that have a lot of value based on the odds. An example of a prop bet that doesn’t offer value on either side is this:

How many total passing yards will Peyton Manning have this week?

  • Over 290.5 (-115)
  • Under 290.5 (-115)

Sure, with enough research and a little bit of luck, you can probably land on the right side of Manning’s passing yards against Baltimore. But there’s no value on either side. Vegas isn’t giving you good odds for all that hard work you have to do. And as you probably realize, it’s basically a coin flip. A coin flip that you have to pay an extra 15% for. Not good.

The type of prop bet you’re looking for is one with multiple answers where you can get big odds on an outcome that Vegas doesn’t think is very likely (but an outcome you’re smart enough to realize actually has a good shot). I’m not saying all of the following bets I’m making this weekend are like that, but the first couple are.

Here’s what I’m looking at for Round 2 of the playoffs:

Who will record the most Passing Yards this weekend?

  • Russell Wilson (15/1): Obviously I’m not making this bet thinking that Wilson’s typically more likely to have more passing yards than a Manning, Rodgers or Brady, but he’s got much more enticing odds than the usual suspects. My thinking is that Atlanta’s got the 23rd ranked pass defense, the game’s in a dome, and I could definitely see a high-scoring game on both sides (By the way, Andrew Luck had the most pass yards in the wildcard round with 288. In the playoffs when the weather’s colder and the defenses are better, it’s not like you have to find a 350-yard passer to win this prop).

Who will record the most Rushing Yards this weekend?

  • Knowshon Moreno (6/1): The rushing category doesn’t have nearly as much to offer in the way of longshots. The reason I like Moreno is because Baltimore’s run defense is pretty bad—they gave up 152 rushing yards at a 5.1 yards per attempt clip to Indy last week, even with the Ravens leading the entire game. It’s worth noting that Moreno ran for 115 yards (5.5 yards per attempt) against the Ravens in the week 15 matchup in Baltimore. I also think Denver might be nursing a 10-to-14-point lead late in the game, and you know the plan will be to feed Moreno the ball as much as possible at that point.

Will there be a missed Field Goal in the San Francisco-Green Bay game?

  • No (+110): Those cheeky bastards that run my gambling website…No other game this weekend has a missed FG prop bet. But no other game features the two worst field goal-kicking teams in the NFL either. That’s the draw of “yes” on this bet (at -150). Mason Crosby missed 12 of 33 field goal attempts for Green Bay this year (63.6% success rate), and David Akers missed 13 of 42 attempts for the 49ers (69%). San Francisco went so far as to sign Billy Cundiff on January 1st—although Jim Harbaugh just announced on Thursday that they’re sticking with Akers for this game. Anyway, I’m going with “no” on this bet because I’m hoping both coaches are smart enough not to give their kickers a chance to miss mid-to-long range field goals. Hopefully they’re only trotting these scrubs out for extra-point-lengthed field goal attempts. It also looks like the weather in San Francisco is going to be fine on Saturday. Call me an optimist, but I think the kickers actually do their jobs competently in this game!

Total TD Passes – Matt Ryan

  • Under 1.5 (+120): Two statistical reasons to make this bet: 1). Matt Ryan threw for either 0 or 1 touchdown passes in five of his eight home games this year. Astonishing, I agree. 2). Seattle has only allowed 15 total passing touchdowns this season, one of the best marks in football. If Seattle’s as good as advertised and beats the Falcons on Sunday, couldn’t you see Ryan being held to some pretty awful stats?

And finally, here are two prop bets that have nothing to do with the playoffs, but seemed interesting enough to bet:

Will RGIII start Week 1 of the 2013 Regular Season?

  • Yes (+150): Seems like a 50/50 proposition right now so if Vegas wants to pay me an extra 50% to be an optimist, I’ll take it. Everything coming out of the Redskins organization says that Griffin will be ready by September. Again, this isn’t the type of bet you put your life savings on, but it’s worth a little wager.

Will Bruce Arians be a Head Coach of the NFL for the 2013 Season?

  • Yes (+110): No, jackass, you don’t make this bet thinking that Chuck Pagano’s gonna have a relapse that forces Arians to take over the Colts again. You bet this because there’s a minimum of four teams interested in Arians right now. His stock will never be higher after stepping in and leading the Colts to one of the most improbable regular seasons in NFL history. He’s gotta strike while the iron’s hot, right? And the Colts VP of Player Personnel just took the job as GM in San Diego, and rumor has it Arians would love to work under him. You should bet this before they pull it off the board. Hurry. Free money.

That’s it. Enjoy this weekend’s games. And look for me involved in a one-man riot on the LA local news if the Patriots somehow lose on Sunday night.