Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Week 4 Picks

Week 1 is all about excitement. Tom Brady, Cam Newton, the Colts suck!! Yay football!!

Week 2 is lots of confusion. Are the Chiefs and Colts really that bad?? Is Baltimore secretly terrible, or is Tennessee actually good ... Wait, Cam Newton threw for how many yards?

But Week 3 is the worst. It can be summed up in one word: overreaction.

Now our confusion has turned into crystal-clear perception. In fact, yes the Chiefs and Colts will both go 0-16 and their owners will arm wrestle for Andrew Luck. No, the Ravens aren't bad, they just had an off-week. Actually it's the Rams that suck. They'll go 0-16 too! And Mike Vick will never play another game because of his bruised non-throwing hand, and Tony Romo will spend his weekdays fighting terrorists in Syria, punctured lung and all. Oh, and Tom Brady sucks! Can you believe he threw 4 picks!

Some of this perception is accurate. But most of it is lunacy. We don't know anything after 3 weeks. 81% of the season is yet to be played. A lot of key players are hurt, some teams haven't played anybody yet, and others, like Atlanta and Minnesota, haven't had an easy game yet.

Yesterday, I heard an ESPN radio host say that the Bills and Lions are top 5 teams, and the Raiders are top 10. Really? Come on ... seriously??

In fairness, the Lions look great. Focused, balanced, ferocious. They still lack mental discipline and have holes in the secondary that are yet to be exposed, but they do look like a legit playoff team. But top 5? Better than Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New Orleans? Not even close. Remember, we were losing 20-0 at halftime last week to Donovan McNabb.

Buffalo, in my opinion, still isn't a top 15 team. They'll use this 3-0 start to propel them to a nice 8-8 or 9-7 season. Fitzpatrick will earn the starting gig for at least one more year. They've got a hard-working, unsexy team and some nice players on D. But the secondary, O-line, and frankly the QB/RB/WR/TE positions are all mediocre at best. Anyone who calls Buffalo a playoff team right now is a victim to week 3 hyperbole.

As for Oakland ... they are still a bottomfeeder. McFadden looks great, but they haven't faced a real defense yet. They would be 1-2 if Nick Mangold had played on Sunday. Maybe they'll ride the easy schedule to 7 or 8 wins, but they aren't a real contender.

On the topic of idiotic radio statements, I heard someone (Chris Carter I think) say that the Rams have no chance at making the playoffs. None. They are 0-3, and their season is over. Really? Have you looked at their schedule? They could win 7 in a row from week 9 to 15. And have you looked at their division? It might only take 5 wins to capture the NFC West this year.

But then again, Chris Carter doesn't think Calvin Johnson is a top 5 receiver, because he "doesn't command double-teams." You would think a Hall of Fame receiver like C.C. would be able to recognize what a double-team looks like. In four years, I don't think I've ever not seen Calvin draw two guys.

As a segueway into the Lions-Cowboys pick, let's conclude this overreaction conversation by talking about the most over-talked-about player of the first three weeks. Tony Romo.

After week one, he was discussed for hundreds of thousands of hours for his two fatal turnovers in the fourth quarter. He was a choke artist, he was LeBron, he was the only QB in NFL history to make mistakes and lose a game.

Week two, he played through an injury and beat a really bad team in overtime. Then he beat another really bad team, this time with 6 field goals and no TDs. Now, he's turning down offers left and right to join Obama's Cabinet or lead the Military Intelligence Committee. In his spare time, Romo rescues kittens from trees in the middle of forest fires.

If you're counting at home, Romo is 0-1 against good teams and 2-0 against bad teams. He is a fringe top 10 QB in the league, and probably the fifth best player on his own team. Good player, nice guy, but through three weeks, Romo has been talked about nationally more than the 31 other quarterbacks in the NFL combined, and I'm about to rip the radio out of my car with my teeth.

This week, the phrase is "coach on the field." He overcame the absence of Miles Austin to lead the brainless Cowboys to a much-needed win over the mighty undefeated Redskins. Uh ... well, he did have Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones ... three pretty good players on his offense. And the MVP for Dallas in that MNF game was DeMarcus Ware by a mile. He won the game for them, almost single-handedly. This sounds harsher than I mean it, but Dallas won in spite of Romo.

The thing is, if you get within the 25 yard line on 6 occasions and don't score a single TD, the fault resides with the QB. I don't care how bad the blocking was or how much the backup receivers didn't know the playbook. That's 6 chances to throw a TD to Witten or Bryant against a vastly inferior defense. Not getting it done is unacceptable.

The bad news for Detroit is that Dallas won't have that same kind of bad luck again. If they move the ball effectively again, we can't count on them stalling in the red zone 6 times. Fortunately, Detroit's defense is about 65 times better than Washington's.

Let's look at the line real quick and then jump into the rest of the picks.

Lions (3-0) @ Cowboys (2-1)
Predicted Line: DAL by 1.5
Actual Line: DAL by 2

It's the super-hyped team against the super-hyped quarterback in a very losable matchup for both teams. As a Lions fan, I'm terrified of DeMarcus Ware and Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I'm actually scared of Romo too. Dallas could very possibly kick the crap out of us in their home stadium.

But if I were a Cowboys fan ... how would I feel about the 3-0 Lions coming in to town with the league's best point differential and megatons of confidence? How would I feel knowing that they overcame a 20 point deficit on the road and held Adrian Peterson to under 80 yards? How the heck would I feel about seeing Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, knowing we had no chance to contain either guy?

Both teams have a lot to fear.

For me, the biggest cause for concern is Ware. He makes the Best DE Alive Debate extremely hard. He might be playing at a higher level than Peppers right now, and the fact that Jeff Backus had one of the worst games of his career last week sure doesn't ease my anxiety. Ware isn't blockable, he isn't even containable. He'll move from left end to right end, like he did against Washington, and he'll beat you with speed or power. He isn't the run-stuffer that Peppers is, but he's a scarier pass-rusher in my opinion. And without a pass-blocking running back, I have no idea how we can give Backus any help. We could put Pettigrew on the left end, but that removes our short-yardage passing game, plus Pettigrew isn't the supreme blocker we all expected when he was drafted in the first round.

As I run through the possible options in my head, there's only two solutions for countering against a player like Ware:
1) Run the ball effectively.
2) Make quick passes.

Running the ball has been a disaster so far this season, so that leaves us with option 2. Stafford's job will be to make 1-second decisions and get rid of the ball before Ware kills him. . Sacks and turnovers are bad enough, but we could be looking at long-term injury again. If Jeff Backus got beat like a drum by Jared Allen, how is he going to compete against a guy who is bigger and faster? I expect to see tons of screens and quick slants, and consequently I wouldn't expect more than 5 or 6 catches from Megatron.

It's a shame, because Calvin has an awesome mismatch against Mike Jenkins, one of the league's worst starting #1 corners. Detroit probably won't have time for the deep pass, but maybe they'll figure out some creative ways to get Calvin the ball. Possibly on 2nd and short or 3rd and short, trying to catch Dallas in a run-stopping defense. The Cowboys have a crap secondary and crap linebackers, so if Stafford can get protection (HUGE if) it will be another great game for him and for Calvin.

I'm expecting an erratic performance, his worst so far of the season, but nothing detrimental. Something like 27-43 for 270 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. I'm not expecting anything on the ground, though they'll give Best plenty of carries in order to relieve Backus. Jahvid will have something like 17 carries for 65 yards.

On the other side of the ball, we're catching a huge break by not seeing Miles Austin this week. He's faster and stronger than people realize, and one of the best route-runners. He's a nightmarish matchup for our corners. Dez Bryant is too, but at least we can double-team him on passing downs. *EDIT* Dez might not play with the lingering hamstring injury.

The guy who we have no answer for is Jason Witten, because no defense really has an answer for him. He's like a faster Pettigrew with better hands. Dallas's other receivers are unproven and have sucked so far, but our secondary is due for an ugly game, so don't be shocked if Kevin Ogeltree has a 50 yard TD.

It looks like Felix Jones might be out with the shoulder thing, which would be nice. But his replacements aren't a huge downgrade. Our front 7 is doing a great job against the run. I absolutely love Stephen Tulloch. I'm not scared of Dallas beating us on the ground.

And then there's the most glaring mismatch in this game: our front 4 against their O-line. It's a mismatch at each position, and there's a good chance we'll finally have Nick Fairley in the lineup. Suh will get his usual double-teams, but I still think he'll have his best game of 2011. I think we'll rack up 4 or 5 sacks, force a couple turnovers, and hopefully keep Romo from settling into any kind of rhythm. As big of a mismatch as Dallas has with Ware, we have just as big of one with Suh. The Cowboys offensive line is really, really bad.

What scares me most about this game is that it's a second straight road game, and that Detroit is playing with the bullseye of a 3-0 team. They used up every ounce of guts they had last week in the comeback, and will have a really hard time if they fall behind. They've got to score early and keep this close; I don't foresee any dramatic comeback this week.

But Dallas is coming off a short week, they have more injury issues than we do, and they've struggled to beat crappy teams in consecutive weeks. Bottom line: Detroit has more talent, but I don't know how much more talent.

I'm completely torn on the outcome. I think Dallas probably pulls away in the second or third quarter and our comeback falls short. Final score, Cowboys 20-16.

*If Dez is confirmed out, I'll probably change this pick on Sunday.

Saints (2-1) @ Jaguars (1-2)
Predicted Line: NO by 8.5
Actual Line: NO by 7

It's always risky to bet on big road favorites. I'm especially worried because the Saints rarely win by big margins. But then again ... Blaine Gabbert? I'll take the Saints 30-20.

49ers (2-1) @ Eagles (1-2)
Predicted Line: PHI by 11 if Vick plays, 7 if not
Actual Line: PHI by 9

I spent about an hour writing up some pretty great picks, and then this stupid website said "Oops, something went wrong,' when I posted it. And, I lost all my work. Great job You suck.

Now I am way too mad to write all that awesome stuff again ... So here are the shortened-version picks.

I like the Eagles here, because although Vick may not be 100%, Alex Smith is barely 30% even when healthy. The 49ers offensive line can't stop anybody, and the Eagles have 3 Pro Bowlers on the D-line, plus 3 Pro Bowl corners. They don't need any offense to cover. Eagles 23-10.

Redskins (2-1) @ Rams (0-3)
Predicted Line: Pick Em
Actual Line: WAS by 2

This is probably the only time all season that the home team is an underdog despite being considerably better than the road favorite. Don't overthink it, just accept the gift. Rams 27-13. Upset of the week. If the Rams let me down again, I'm done with them.

Titans (2-1) @ Browns (2-1)
Predicted Line: Pick Em
Actual Line: Pick Em

These are two of the most perplexing teams in the NFL right now. I'm thinking this game ought to swing in Cleveland's favor because of the Kenny Britt injury. I'll take Cleveland 20-18.

Bills (3-0) @ Bengals (1-2)
Predicted Line: BUF by 3.5
Actual Line: BUF by 3

Lots of road favorites this week. I think 7 in all. I can't take all the homedogs, but I like this one. Buffalo tricked a lot of people last week and consequently this line is a few points too high. Cincy is probably the best defense they've seen so far, which doesn't say much for Fitzpatrick and Co. I like Buffalo to win and stay undefeated, but I'm taking the points. Bills 18-16.

Vikings (0-3) @ Chiefs (0-3)
Predicted Line MIN by 3
Actual Line: MIN by 2.5

Both teams have 0-3 records, but the Vikings are playing like a 7-9 team while KC looks like 1-15. Minnesota has blown double-digit leads to 3 good teams; KC isn't trying anymore since losing their two best players in weeks 1 and 2. AP puts this game on his back and doesn't let the Vikings fall to 0-4. Minnesota 23-20.

Panthers (1-2) @ Bears (1-2)
Predicted Line: CHI by 5.5
Actual Line: CHI by 6.5

Well somebody has to win this game I guess. It's gonna be ugly. Chicago can't block anybody, but Carolina can't rush the passer. Cutler should have decent numbers, while Cam Newton struggles against Julius Peppers and the better-than-advertised Bears secondary. I'm thinking Bears pull ahead in the 2nd or 3rd quarter and win by a touchdown, 27-20.

Steelers (2-1) @ Texans (2-1)
Predicted Line: HOU by 2.5
Actual Line: HOU by 4

Two really good teams, neither of which deserves to fall to 2-2. Houston has a couple of major mismatches in this game (Mario Williams against LT Jonathan Scott, Andre Johnson against CB Ike Taylor) but Pittsburgh has more talent overall. IfI had to pick the game straight-up, I'd probably take Pittsburgh by a hair. So with the 4 points, it's an easy call. Steelers 28-27.

Falcons (2-1) @ Seahawks (1-2)
Predicted Line: ATL by 5.5
Actual Line: ATL by 4

It makes sense why this line is lower than you might expect. Matt Ryan can't win on the road, Seattle is only competitive when at home. But I'm going against common logic and thinking the disparity in team talent outweighs the location of the game. This game should be the catalyst to Tavaris Jackson's benching, and will help dispel Ryan's 'Can't Win on the Road' reputation. Falcons go crazy, 42-6.

Giants (2-1) @ Cardinals (1-2)
Predicted Line: NYG by 3
Actual Line: NYG by 1

Here's my possibly idiotic pick of the week. I'm taking the Cardinals to win outright. Here are the reasons why this is idiotic:
1) You should never take the NFC West against anyone.
2) Arizona just lost to Seattle.
3) Beanie Wells is hurt, Mario Manningham is healthy.

But here's why I like the Cards. First, I think the Giants are a lot worse than people realize, on both sides of the ball. Second, I think Kolb is better than people give him credit for and can take advantage of the Giants depleted defense. Third, it looks like the Giants two pass-rushing studs (Osi and Tuck) will be out, or at least playing hurt. And fourthly, this just looks like the token "Fitzgerald Goes Crazy" game where he single-handedly delivers a win with 12 catches for 180 and 3 scores. If the Giants can't get pressure on Kolb, they can't defend Fitzgerald. If Tuck and Osi both play, I'll change the pick. But for now, I like Arizona as my Stupid Pick of the week. 23-20.

Dolphins (0-3) @ Chargers (2-1)
Predicted Line: SD by 8.5
Actual Line: SD by 7

Miami looks like they have the makings of a 0-16 team, but they have enough talent to keep games close. San Diego, on the other hand, can annually win the division with 9 wins, and they know this. Consequently, they play half-assed every September, and this year has been no exception. Beating KC at home by 3 points is sort of pathetic. If Rivers wants to climb into the MVP conversation, he needs to shred the Fins defense, which is not a hard task. I actually wouldn't be shocked if Miami pulled the stunner, but I'll take San Diego to win outright, but not by 7. They don't have that killer instinct. Bolts 24-20.

Broncos (1-2) @ Packers (3-0)
Predicted Line: Not high enough
Actual Line: GB by 12

Yup, as I predicted. Green Bay is by far the best team in football right now and isn't getting the respect they deserve. Denver, meanwhile, is missing their two best defenders (Bailey and Dumervil) and their starting RB. This line should probably be above 20. I'll take Rodgers and the Pack in a beatdown, 45-10. Five passing TDs before halftime.

Oh, and this is the obvious Survivor pick, as well as the Lock of the week.

Patriots (2-1) @ Raiders (2-1)
Predicted Line: NE by 4
Actual Line: NE by 4

Tom Brady is 22-11 against the spread following a loss. What that tells me is:
A) Brady has only lost 33 times in his 10+ year career. Holy crap.
B) After a loss, he not only wins, but he kills teams.

Oakland is getting too much credit right now for beating the Jets. Without Nick Mangold, that Jets offense didn't have a prayer. I don't think there's much of a chance of Oakland keeping this one close. When the Pats go up early, Jason Campbell is going to have to keep pace. I don't see that happening. Pats 37-17.

Jets (2-1) @ Ravens (2-1)
Predicted Line: BAL by 3
Actual Line: BAL by 3

Mangold should be out again, meaning the Jets won't be able to run the ball. Plus teams can't run on Baltimore anway. I'd bet on Shonn Greene having less than 30 rushing yards. Antonio Cromartie is likely out too, meaning Flacco will have one side of the field to favor. But he doesn't really need to pass; the Jets couldn't stop McFadden and they won't be able to stop Rice. I have all sorts of good feelings about Baltimore covering. Let's say 26-15.

Colts (0-3) @ Bucs (2-1)
Monday night
Predicted Line: TB by 10.5
Actual Line: TB by 10

Josh Freeman is the comeback king, which means he doesn't typically blow teams out. Plus Indy looked impressive last week against Pittsburgh, keeping that game close. But this appears to be the debut start for Curtis Painter, and Talib will shut down Wayne. I doubt Indy puts up more than 10 points. Which makes it an easy cover for Tampa. 20-7.

That's it ... Go Lions!


  1. That's a pretty iffy survivor pick. Has Green Bay covered a spread yet this year?

    Also, did someone put a gun to your head to convince you to take Arizona?

  2. Survivor pick just means the straight-up win.

    Stupid Cardinals almost won! Dah!!