Week 9 NFL Picks: The Stress of Surviving 8 Weeks

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Another week, another round of shakeups on the quarterback and coaching fronts. For those keeping score at home, here were the major moves:

  • San Francisco: Colin Kaepernick, undoubtedly the worst starting QB in the NFL through eight weeks, was benched for Blaine Gabbert, undoubtedly the worst starting QB in the NFL through the last five years.
  • Cleveland: Josh McCown is out with a concussion and Johnny Manziel will get his 2nd start of the season tonight against the undefeated Bengals in Cincinnati.
  • Tennessee: Ken Whisenhunt, who probably has the worst win-loss record of any head coach in history with at least 100 games at the helm, was fired. Mike Mularkey, career head coaching record of 16-32, was named interim head coach for the Titans.
  • Indianapolis: Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was relieved of his duties after the Colts lost their 3rd straight game and fell to 3-5 on the season. He was replaced by Rob Chudzinski.

At least these terrible teams (collective record among the four of them: 8-23) went ahead with some major changes. The problem is they probably replaced those underperforming players/coaches with guys who are equally bad or worse. You can imagine that a few of these teams will be in the mix for the first overall pick in the 2016 Draft.

In looking at the current NFL standings, you can make the case that the AFC is going to be a bit boring for the remainder of the year. Three of the four division titles are locked up while the one that is still being contested is too much of a travesty to want to pay attention to.

Over in the NFC, I think the two most important teams this week are Atlanta and Minnesota. They are in second place in their respective divisions, and losses by each of them while the 1st place team wins, would pretty much lock up two more divisions (Carolina over Atlanta in the South, Green Bay over Minnesota in the North). So if you want as many divisions as possible to come down to the wire, you’re definitely rooting for the Falcons and Vikings in week 9.

Let’s get into the picks.

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-11.5)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 33, Cleveland 14

For people who think the Bengals win or lose purely on the arm of Andy Dalton, we’ve reached that critical point in the team’s 2015 schedule. Five of Cincinnati’s next eight games are in Primetime. The Bengals are 7-0, have won nine or more games in each of Dalton’s four seasons as the starting quarterback, and have gone to the playoffs in every year of his career. But it’s the 3-7 Primetime record and four straight one-and-dones in the playoffs that everyone uses as proof that he’s no good.

So here you go, Andy. This week starts three games in a row under the bright lights. At least the Bengals get to ease into this portion of the schedule with home games against the Browns and Texans before heading to Arizona in week 11 for Sunday Night Football.

Going into week 9, I’m one of eight people remaining in my Survivor Pool. My only decent choices this week are: Cincinnati, New Orleans, Denver and Atlanta. I probably haven’t stressed about anything this much in 10 years. Seriously. After careful examination of all factors, I have to go with the Bengals. But there’s a lot of hesitation in this choice because of the following: Dalton’s history in Primetime + Thursday night game weirdness + Johnny Manziel x-factor + my ridiculous inability to pick the Thursday games this year (0-7-1 against the spread on the season).

Just win, Cincy. Even by one point. Just win.

Green Bay (-3) at Carolina

The Pick: Green Bay

The Score: Green Bay 23, Carolina 20

The Packers just lost on the road to an undefeated team with an awesome defense in a game where Aaron Rodgers threw for 77 yards. They are once again on the road against an undefeated team with a great defense. It says a lot about us public bettors that Vegas has Green Bay as a three-point favorite. What might it say exactly? That we’re suckers, I guess.

If Cincinnati had gone to Denver last week and come away with a similar result, there’s not a chance in hell they’d be favored at Carolina a week later. But our love of the Packers and Rodgers knows no bounds, apparently.

I fully expect a push in this game, but I’ll lean towards the Packers because 1) Denver seems like a more legit 7-0 team than Carolina does, 2) It’s tough to picture Rodgers and company losing two in a row, and 3) We really need to keep whittling down the undefeated teams because this is absurd to still have four of them at this point in the season.

These reasons suck, but you tell me how to figure this game out, OK?

Washington at New England (-14)

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 40, Washington 20

Washington’s not winning this game. They’re 0-3 on the road and playing a team that is about 500 times more talented. So how much will they lose by? Exactly 20 points.

Tennessee at New Orleans (-8)

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 37, Tennessee 13

Talk about nailing the intro to last week’s picks column! I predicted all four AFC South head coaches will be fired by season’s end, and we’re already 1/4th of the way there! I mentioned that Whisenhunt was relieved of his duties after probably solidifying his status as the worst coach of the last 20 years. Chuck Pagano is only still alive because he killed Pep Hamilton (figuratively speaking). It seems like the AFC South teams’ owners are finally coming around on what we’ve all known for a while: THEY ALL STINK.

And no team stinks more than the Titans. It doesn’t matter if Marcus Mariota or Zach Mettenberger is the starter. Tennessee has put up 36 points since September 27th, total. The Saints’ week 8 performance would have beaten the last four weeks of Titans output by 16 points!

Miami at Buffalo (-3)

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 16, Miami 12

Here’s a fun way to determine which of these teams is better: Pretend their wins against the putrid AFC South don’t count, and then see what their overall records are. So for Miami, they’d be 1-4 (taking out two wins: at Tennessee and home for Houston). Buffalo…would also be 1-4 (taking out a home win against Indy and a road win at Tennessee). DAMNIT! That did nothing.

But Buffalo already won in Miami earlier this year. Now they’re in upstate New York and it’s the time of year where the weather is getting bad. Oh, also, the Bills just had a bye and got Tyrod Taylor and other contributors back to full health. Sure, fine, there’s some reasons to pick the Bills.

St. Louis at Minnesota (-2)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 24, Minnesota 20

Hey, look, it’s everyone’s preseason darlings! Yes, both of these teams were being targeted as “2015 playoff sleepers” as early as last December, and to this point, neither team has disappointed. The Vikings are 5-2 and the Rams are 4-3. But not all wins and losses are created equally. The Vikings have faced one team with a winning record, the Broncos, and lost that game. Their other opponents: San Francisco, Detroit, San Diego, Kansas City, Detroit again and Chicago. Not exactly a murderers’ row.

At least the Rams have had to face multiple contenders through the first two months (they beat Seattle and Arizona and lost to Pittsburgh and Green Bay). I think the Rams do a couple things really great, specifically rush the passer and run the ball. I don’t think the Vikings do anything as good as the Rams do those two things. Give me St. Louis as Todd Gurley comes even closer to locking up Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Jacksonville at NY Jets (-7.5)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: NY Jets 18, Jacksonville 15

Is this line Jets -7.5 or Jets -2.5? I honestly can’t figure it out. After the Jets announced on Wednesday that Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the starter on Sunday, one sportsbook moved the Jets to -7 and a couple others kept them at -2.5. So I’m using the one that benefits me the most.

The Jets might not be as decent as we first thought, and therefore I don’t like them against anyone at the going point spread.

Oakland at Pittsburgh (-4.5)

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 31, Pittsburgh 17

You know what’s pretty awesome through eight weeks? Two of the three teams that are rumored to be moving to LA in the offseason are 4-3 and contending for a playoff spot (St. Louis and Oakland). I’m in favor of anything that might even slightly embarrass the NFL so I’d love to see the Raiders and Rams play January football.

Of the Raiders’ three losses, one was by two points at Chicago and the other was by six against Denver. Imagine if they had won either of those, or both of them!! This team is fun, semi-legit, and will definitely be America’s favorite underdog if they can continue to hover around .500.

NY Giants (-3) at Tampa Bay

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 27, NY Giants 26

Giants on the road? No thank you.

Besides, they have to look kind of bad in this game so we can all bet huge on the Patriots in New York next week only to have the Giants play inspired, maybe even amazing, football. We will all lose money if we bet the Patriots in week 10. Mark my words.

Atlanta (-7) at San Francisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Atlanta 23, San Francisco 20

Atlanta by a touchdown on the road? No fuckinggggggggggggggg way.

Denver (-5) at Indianapolis

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 28, Indianapolis 20

You know what Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have that the Colts lack?

Intelligence.

I don’t care if Manning is back to worst-quarterback-in-the-league status on Sunday. Their defense and their ability to outsmart an idiot organization like Indy will get them a win by a touchdown or more. Easy decision.

Philadelphia (-3) at Dallas

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 20

This was one of my toughest decisions of the week, and I’m probably going to regret siding with Matt Cassel, but I think Dallas has enough talent at the non-QB positions to keep up with the Eagles. I know collectively we all love to watch the Cowboys struggle, and them falling to 0-6 without Tony Romo would certainly be fun to see, but I gotta think they win one at some point. I wasn’t sold on Philly from the beginning of the preseason and nothing they’ve done through eight weeks has changed my mind. Is Sam Bradford even better than Cassel? Is Philly’s defense really as good as it’s currently ranked? I think the answer is no to both questions. Go Cowboys.

Chicago at San Diego (-4)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: San Diego 33, Chicago 30

This is so easy for me because I promised myself several weeks ago I will never pick the Chargers if they are favored by more than three, regardless of where they’re playing and who they’re facing. Done and done.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 6 Favorites, 7 Underdogs
  • 3 Home Dogs, 4 Road Dogs
  • 7 Home Teams, 6 Away Teams
  • Season Record: 58-55-6 (5-7-2 in week 8)

Enjoy week 9.

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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 3 Recap: Entering A Golden Age of Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emptying Out the Notebook

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

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

Five quick thoughts on New England

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