Small digression, I did not know Al Davis would die and thus inspire a bunch of guys who probably barely knew him to steal a win, I hate the Steelers, the Broncos still covered the spread thanks to Timmy Tebow, and I think every person in America picked the Seahawks to lose. There you go, that should explain away all my bad calls. I will attempt to guess not only the winner this week, but will also pick against the spread, and offer an upset special. Do not use my advice to gamble unless you hate money. That being said:
St. Louis Rams +14.5 vs. Green Bay Packers
The worst team in the league travels to play the best team in the league. You do the math.
Green Bay 34, Rams 14
Carolina Panthers +4 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Now this is an intriguing matchup. I thought Atlanta would come out strong against Green Bay and give them all they could handle. The problem with Atlanta seems to be an inability to adapt. Their defense did what it was supposed to do against the Packers, getting to Aaron Rodgers early and often. The game plan on offense was working, too, with sustained drives ending in TDs. However, when the Packers made adjustments, the Falcons did not keep up. Carolina on the other hand can seemingly score on anyone and be scored on by anyone. I think the Falcons have a better defense than most of the teams they’ve faced, but they don’t have the kind of offense that the Panthers have had to match up with either. However, I like what Atlanta did against Green Bay, at least in theory. I think they can come back from this loss. They are mostly a mediocre team, but they are hard to beat at home and Carolina is still a bad-to-mediocre team that can’t stop other teams from scoring on them. If Atlanta can game plan for great early success like they did against the Packers, they should be able to keep the ball out of Cam Newton’s hands by running on a porous Panther’s defense. Advantage Atlanta. As far as picking against the spread? Carolina really hasn’t let us down yet (monsoon excluded).
Falcons 27, Panthers 24
Indianapolis Colts +7 vs Cincinnati Bengals
Most home teams this week are going to be the favorites, huh? What can I say? I am a fan of this Cincy team. The defense is playing great, A.J. Green is looking like a legit future #1 WR, and Andy Dalton is putting to rest any fears of Carson Palmer giving up on this franchise. Is a Cincy renaissance on the horizon? We will have to wait and see. On the other side of things, Curtis P. is playing well and Pierre Garcon is starting to heat up. I don’t blame them for not being able to hold a lead because, honestly, it’s not something they are used to doing. I’m thinking someone doesn’t completely blow their coverage against Pierre Garcon this week and the Colts aren’t close to winning this one. As far as the spread goes, I’d probably stay away from this one. Teams have shown that scoring on the Colts isn’t too hard, though I just don’t trust the Bengals to cover a seven point spread right now. I can see this being a push.
Bengals 24, Colts 17
Buffalo Bills +3.5 vs. New York Giants
Well, this is a game that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole w/r/t gambling. I can’t tell what is going on here. I took the Giants to be a pretty decent team, though their loss to the Seahawks, aside from ruining every survivor pool in America, reminded me of how badly they beat them last year, and how, at that point, a lot of people started picking them to be a favorite down the stretch. The problem was that they were beating the crap out of the worst teams in the league en route to an inflated sense of how good they really were. Right now, they are probably about the same mediocre team with more injuries. On the other hand, the Bills can obviously be scored against and needed some lucky bounces against an Eagles team that doesn’t even know how to tackle. Now, I think the Bills are a good team and have a shot, but will likely be done in later in the year when the schedule gets harder. At the same time, they are not an easy out by any means and can score in bunches. The line on this would have been good value for the Bills if the Giants had continued to be fake good, but right now it’s NYG -3.5 which, since being the home team is typically worth 3 points, is basically saying it’s a toss-up. I figure at least one away team has to win this week, but I don’t think it’s here. I’m thinking the Giants must be pissed about losing to the Seahawks and the Bills are probably due for a letdown, with teams getting better at taking away Fitzpatrick’s deep throws.
Giants 28, Bills 24
Jacksonville Jaguars +12 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This may be a good a time as any to tell you all straight up that I am a complete Baltimore homer who hates the Steelers. Now, I try to not to let this affect my analysis, but I can’t say that I won’t sometimes subconsciously let my biases into the mix. That being said, the Steelers should win this game by about 30 points. Gabbert isnt looking bad, especially considering his receivers, and MJD’s knee seems ok. Jacksonville’s front seven looks good, but the Steelers will have no problem throwing the ball all day if the ground game isn’t working. I figure at least one double digit underdog has to pull through, I just don’t quite trust the Jaguars here. But yeah, this is either a total gimmee or the game that really ruins every survivor pool in America.
Pittsburgh 27, Jacksonville 10
Philadelphia Eagles -1.5 vs. Washington Redskins
I’m tired of talking/hearing about the Eagles. I just can’t imagine that they will continue to be this bad. It’s almost like it’s on purpose. Why is it that any tackle I saw by an Eagles player on Sunday came after 3-4 other Eagles’ players had a shot at it first? These guys can’t even tackle. What the fuck? I really don’t know how to explain the Eagles awfulness, though I have several tenuous theories based on pure conjecture, and I have no idea when or if they will work through it. At the same time, I can’t foresee the Redskins keeping up at this pace. The defense looks good and the Shannahan RB carousel is working wonders. However, the Redskins have not impressed with any of their wins and I think Grossman still sucks. I don’t care that the Redskins are at home after a bye. I’m picking the Eagles solely because I’m tired of thinking about it anymore.
Eagles 21, Redskins 20
San Francisco 49ers +4 vs. Detroit Lions
Y’all know the story. Losing teams, now winning, etc. I don’t know how much of these teams success will sustain itself through the year, but I do know that I wasn’t all too shocked about the 49ers win last week and I think the public perception is riding too high for them at the moment. Saying the Lions are a four point favorite at home is kind of like saying they are a one point favorite on a neutral field, which I don’t agree with at all. San Francisco is a good team, don’t get me wrong, and they’ve shown an ability to hang with and beat good teams, not just cherry picking wins off of inferior competition. The 49ers do have a very efficient offense and a solid defense, though. On the other hand, their run defense is far superior and teams have been able to light them up through the air. Enter Megatron. At some point, teams are going to make an adjustment and force Johnson to have to play the middle of the field, but even then, do you really think you will stop him. The flip-side to that is that the 49ers run well and the Lions are having their issues with stopping the run. I have to say, that I think this Lions team has slowly built itself up from one of the worst teams in the league and is starting to hit their stride. Having the 49ers travel to the dome where the noise level will likely be out of control (see: Bears false starts) is a big plus for them. As a change of pace, I see the Lions going up early, forcing Alex Smith to beat them, and eventually holding on at home. I don’t see the short week affecting them too much. They are young and just amped for every game.
Lions 24, 49ers 17
Houston Texans +7.5 vs, Baltimore Ravens
The Texans beat the Raiders in every statistical category they could have last week except for turnovers and points. Not a solid strategy. I am still not sold on the Texans or their new defense under Wade Phillips. The normally porous Texans rush defense held up strong against Darren McFadden, but I do not believe they will have a repeat performance. These Texans almost beat Baltimore last year with a frenzied 2nd half comeback, but lost in overtime when now Redskin Josh Wilson returned a Schaub interception for a touchdown. Gone from last year’s game is Gregg Matteson’s tepid, prevent defense, replaced by the more aggressive schemes of Chuck Pagano, which has made the Ravens’ D look more like the feared unit of years past. Also gone is Andre Johnson, the main contributor to Houston’s amazing comeback, and the type of receiver that has driven the Ravens’ crazy lately (not to say he doesn’t drive other teams defenses crazy, but the Ravens have had real issues covering big, strong #1 WRs like Johnson). Finally, the Texans are going to be without their best defensive player, as well. Last week’s game was one that should have been won by Houston, but coming into Baltimore to play a very tough team that has had their bye week to get healthy and prepare for this match-up is not the kind of game they will win, on paper or otherwise. I feel like the bye week has pushed this spread up a little too far. This could be the kind of game where that extra half point really comes into play, though I think it will largely depend on how Houston responds to their loss at home and their loss of players. To be on the safe/reverse-jinx side, I will say the Texans keep it close.
Ravens 27, Texans 21
Cleveland Browns +6.5 vs.Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are a team that seems to be playing above their talent level this year, while the Browns are one of a few teams picked to progress and haven’t done much besides regress. They aren’t very good at all, actually. They’ve beaten the Colts and the Dolphins. Good work. Both teams are fairly average on defense, though the rub to Cleveland is that they’ve yet to matchup with an offense this good. It’s easier to travel West than East, but I don’t think it’s ever an easy trip, and bye weeks can’t make up for a lack of talent. Any team that has beaten Cleveland has done so handily, so I’m going Raiders plus the cover.
Raiders 28, Browns 20
Dallas Cowboys +7 vs. New England Patriots
Here we go. This looks to be the most interesting matchup this week, in my opinion. I, like many others, feel like Dallas has played below its talent level. Not that this isn’t also due to a staggering amount of injuries, but even so this team has found ways to lose games that they should have won. The Pats on the other hand have been and will continue to rely on superior coaching and quarterbacking. Now, this is where I think this game gets interesting. The Pats are obviously beatable. I do not follow the train of thought that since the Pats/Saints/Packers have superior passing offenses they have a clear advantage over the rest of the pass-happy NFL. The Patriots, for example, have shown that unless they can score on every possession their abhorrent pass defense will allow other teams to stay in the game. Here’s the thing, we all know the more pressure that a defense can put on Brady without having to blitz its backs, the better a defense will do at limiting his efficiency. I think that Dallas, led by the most talented sack specialist in the league DeMarcus Ware, will apply that kind of pressure in this game. The Pats have a “good” o-line, but they have not matched up against a d-line quite like the one Dallas will bring to this game. On the other side of things, I think the Cowboys will relish a match-up like the one they will get against the Pats pass D. Much like the Ravens, the Cowboys are coming off a bye week that has allowed a few players with nagging injuries to get some rest and the coaching staff with enough time to thoroughly prepare for this game. However, if Ryan gets too cutesy with his blitz packages Brady and Belichick will eat him alive. On the other hand, if the defense can apply serious pressure while blitzing no more than 4 or 5 players, I foresee a healthy Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten just feasting on
this horrid secondary/linebacking corp. I dunno. Call me crazy, but this is my upset pick of the week. Cowboys. Also, even if you’re not jiving with my analysis here, I think the over/under on this game is a sure bet to be over and I like the Cowboys getting a healthy amount of points (7 at the time of writing, surely to go up based on the action coming in for the Pats) even if they are on the road.
Cowboys 34, Pats 31
New Orleans Saints -4.5 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Holy crap the Bucs have to be licking their wounds right now. I know the Niners have a solid team, I know it’s hard to travel from coast to coast, especially coming off of Monday Night football, but that was a serious beatdown. Even as someone who picked the Niners in this game, I did not foresee such a blowout. I know it isn’t likely to happen twice in a row, but the thing is that this young Bucs team looks to be having trouble scoring. Sure they have played defenses as meh as the Saints, but they haven’t played an offense as dynamic as theirs. The Bucs also seem to have trouble beating any team that is above average, including the Saints who stomped them out at Raymond James Stadium 31-6 last year. Saints all the way in this one. I hate going against home underdogs, but fuck it.
Saints 27, Tampa 20
Minnesota Vikings +2.5 vs. Chicago Bears
This is another weird one for me. I am not really sure how to properly assess either of these teams. As far as strengths go, the Vikings have the best RB in the game and some great pieces on defense. The Bears are looking weak outside of Matt Forte and their linebacking corps, though in all fairness Jay Cutler also looks pretty darn good when he has some time in the pocket, and their defense has so far faced New Orleans, Green Bay, Detroit, and Carolina, so you can see why their early season defensive stats look a little shabby in comparison to the Vikings, who have matched up with powerhouse offenses such as the Bucs, Chiefs, and Cardinals. The Bears looked ready to give the Lions all they could handle using the formula I proposed last week, but alas their vulnerability to the big play did them in. The Vikings do not have a play maker like Calvin Johnson running routes, but they have Adrian Peterson, one of the biggest homerun hitters in the ground game. It will be interesting to see how Peterson’s carries go through the season because the Vikings can’t really risk overusing him even if he is there best option. I expect the Bears to ride the home crowd to mostly mistake free football (which is pretty loosely defined after that shit storm on Monday night), feed Forte, work the special teams, and take advantage of the fact that Donovan McNabb is Minnesota’s QB. I do think Peterson will have his moments, but this Bears defense is much more adept at stopping the run than the pass, which play into their favor in this matchup. I’m taking the Bears at home here.
Bears 17, Vikings 14
New York Jets -7 vs. Miami Dolphins
If there was ever a chance to get back on track, it’s against the Dolphins with Sage Rosenfels/Matt Moore/Whatever. The Jets are not a playoff team, but if the NFL had relegation Miami would be playing in the B League. The Jets have a solid pass defense, maybe they’ve been run on a lot lately, but all they need to do to fix that is go up quickly on the very bad Miami defense and force someone, anyone, to throw against them. The Jets are the kind of team who can beat on lowly opponents and look absolutely lost against good ones. I’m picking them to get out their aggression on the divisional punching bag of the moment. And now I will go against my instincts and make it 100% picks against home underdogs and double digit underdogs. Seriously, do not follow my advice.
Jets 24, Dolphins 13