Thursday, September 15, 2011

Week Two Picks

Chiefs (0-1) @ Lions (1-0)
Predicted Line: DET by 8.5
Actual Line: DET by 8

Wow. It took me a pretty long time, but I finally found the last game in which Detroit was favored by more than a touchdown.

Eleven years ago, the 9-6 Lions, led by Charlie Batch, headed into week 17 against the 4-11 Bears and infamous quarterback Cade McNown. Detroit lost that game, 23-20, and consequently missed the playoffs. I remember that game because I couldn't watch it; I had to work, at Meijer, pushing shopping carts in the snow.

Now, I am out of college, married, almost 2 kids, and the Lions still haven't played a playoff game since that fateful Decemeber day. Nor have they been favored by 7 points. This is wonderful but completely unfamiliar territory.

The line certainly makes sense on paper. Detroit outplayed a pretty good Tampa team, KC got destroyed at home by a supposed terrible team, and now Eric Berry is out. With Berry in the lineup, this line is probably Lions by 6 or 6.5. But with all the hype surrounding our Lions, it's no surprise that 76% of bettors are going with Detroit to win by 8, and that argument can easily be made.

To wit: Suh and Co. will dominate against KC's lousy O-line, Cassel looked clueless last week and everyone knows he's going to suck without Charlie Wies, and ohbytheway, Matthew Stafford is God's gift to the art of quarterbacking. Add in the injury to Berry and you've got the makings of a blowout.

On paper.

But Detroit has never played on paper. Last week was sort of an exception. We have always played down to inferior foes, and played our best against elite teams. Even back in the 90s.

Historically, Detroit hasn't been a dominant home team. Getting off to an early lead will be key, because that could potentially take Jamaal Charles out of the gameplan. He's the Chiefs best player, and possibly the most dangerous big-play running back in the league. The linebackers were great last week against Blount, but Charles is a completely different animal. It's definitely going to require 8 in the box, which is okay because our safeties excel in run support.

The toughest matchup for Detroit's defense is Chris Houston against Dwayne Bowe. Not only does Houston give up 3 inches and 40 pounds, but he's also going to see plenty of single coverage. Fortunately for Detroit, Matt Cassel sucks, so Bowe should only be able to find 6 or 7 balls for maybe 80 yards.

On the other end, Detroit has mismatches all over the secondary and with both tight ends. KC gave up 63 yards and 2 scores to Buffalo's tight end whom I never heard of. Brandon Flowers is a decent cornerback, but he doesn't have a chance against Calvin.

The only dangerous player on KC's defense is OLB Tamba Hali, who will definitely overpower Jeff Backus. Detroit needs to play it smart and give Backus some help; expect to see lots of Maurice Morris in the backfield on passing downs, giving Backus some help. Probably Pettigrew lines up next to Backus a lot and keeps Hali in check.

I feel really confident about a Lions victory, probably more confident than I have in 10 years. But the spread is a reflection of Detroit's slight overratedness, and a possible overreaction to Berry's injury. Detroit just hasn't earned the right to be 8 point favorites; Stafford has only won three games in his career, so let's not overreact.

Lions 27, Chiefs 21.

Browns (0-1) @ Colts (0-2)
Predicted Line: CLE by 2.5
Actual Line: CLE by 2.5

This is not at all what I think the line should be, but it makes sense. After last week's debacle, America will be anxious to bet against Kerry Collins. It's 56% action on Cleveland, although the Colts are at home, and they've won at least 10 games in 8 straight seasons. They may not have Peyton Manning, but they do have some proud veteran players in Freeney, Clark, Wayne, Brackett, Mathis, Saturday ... and with America completely bashing them for the past week, they might be eager to beat up on the Browns.

Cleveland has some key matchup advantages (Joe Thomas-Dwight Freeney stands out), but I just really see this as a Colts win. Low scoring, not pretty, but Colts win their first game without Peyton in 14 years. I'll say 19-14.

Buccaneers (0-1) @ Vikings (0-1)
Predicted Line: MIN by 2
Actual Line: MIN by 3

With Kevin Williams still suspended, the Vikings defense won't pose many threats to Josh Freeman, who barely had a chance to produce last week. This week I think he'll be much happier, and Mike Williams should have a big day, as will Blount. Minnesota just doesn't have the defense to stop a well-rounded offense like Tampa Bay.

On the other side, Tampa won't stop at putting 8 in the box. They'll likely go 9 on most plays, leaving Talib in single-coverage against Harvin. Defenses are going to be forcing McNabb to try to beat them all year. I'd expect AP to run for 80-90 yards but McNabb should struggle again. The 0-2 Vikings will be forced to start thinking about Christian Ponder.

Bucs win this one on the road, 34-24.

Packers (1-0) @ Panthers (0-1)
Predicted Line: GB by 11.5
Actual Line: GB by 9.5

This is about as big a spread as you'll see for a road team. 87% of betting is on Green Bay, a clear sign that the public isn't buying into Cam Newton's marvelous week one. Throwing for 422 yards against any defense is impressive, but the Cardinals might have the league's worst D in the NFL this year. On the other hand, Green Bay is probably the league's best, with apologies to the Steelers. They've got star players at 7 or 8 positions on D. It's unfair. For those of you who picked up Steve Smith off waivers, good move, but don't play him this week. Don't play any Panthers. Newton will be lucky to get out of there alive.

Rodgers won't have any issues whatsoever. 10 points is a lot for a road team, but I just don't see how this game can be close. Packers 38-13.

Not taking this as my survivor pick because I'd rather not take a road team unless I have no better option. Which leads me to ...

Seahawks (0-1) @ Steelers (0-1)
Predicted Line: PIT by 14.5
Actual Line: PIT by 14

I'll keep this short: Lock of the Week, Survivor pick, no doubt whatsoever. Steelers score 6 touchdowns, 4 on offense and 2 on defense. Not only does Pittsburgh have them outmanned at every single position, but Seattle has to fly from West to East for an early game, which is always a recipe for disaster. If you need a WR this week in fantasy, pick up Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown. One of them, or maybe both, will score a 50 yard TD.

Dem Stellers er back. 38-6.

Ravens (1-0) @ Titans (0-1)
Predicted Line: BAL by 6.5
Actual Line: BAL by 5.5

After seeing Tennessee fail to compete last week against Jacksonville, it's curious that this spread is less than a TD. The matchups all swing in Baltimore's favor.

Tennessee only does one thing well, and that's the running game. Last week they forgot about that page in the playbook, and consequently lost. This week they'll respond to Chris Johnson's unhappiness and give him 25 carries. Too bad Balitmore doesn't let you run. Sonic will get maybe 70 yards, and that means lots of 3rd and longs for Matt Hasselbeck, which means sacks, INTs, and all sorts of bad things for the Titans.

Baltimore rolls again. Two straight blowout wins. Flacco for MVP?

Ravens 31-10.

Cardinals (1-0) @ Redskins (1-0)
Predicted Line: WAS by 3
Actual Line: WAS by 3.5

The classic Week Two Battle of Terrible Undefeated Teams. I always hate this game. One of these goofs is going to be 2-0.

Guess I'll take the Redskins. The whole 'West to East, 1pm' thing. 23-17.

Raiders (1-0) @ Bills (1-0)
Predicted Line: BUF by 3
Actual Line: BUF by 3

A third West coast team going East for an early game. Oakland played Monday at midnight so they've got an even shorter week. Plus Buffalo just looked dang good against KC, particularly against the run, which is Oakland's strength. I'd bet real money on this game if I could. Bills win big, 30-13.

Jaguars (1-0) @ Jets (1-0)
Predicted Line: NYJ by 9
Actual Line: NYJ by 9

To cover a 9 point spread, you've got to score at least 9 points. Is this Jets offense even remotely good? They'll almost certainly win, but I've gotta take the points until I see more from Mark Sanchez. New York 23-16.

Bears (1-0) @ Saints (0-1)
Predicted Line: NO by 6.5
Actual Line: NO by 6.5

We've seen a trend over the last few years that the Saints don't usually cover big spreads. They aren't 'Run up the Score' guys. But they've got to be pissed coming off last week's Thursday night loss, knowing they are the best 0-1 team in the NFL. Sean Peyton has had an extra 3 days to prepare for the Bears D. Despite being without Marques Colston, I still love the Saints in this game. Mainly I just hate the Bears. Go figure. How about 34-13 in favor of the home team.

Cowboys (0-1) @ 49ers (1-0)
Predicted Line: DAL by 2.5
Actual Line: DAL by 3

Tough call. I'm going with the homedog, because I think Dallas is all hype at the sexy positions but no substances in the trenches. Conventional wisdom says the Cowboys will score bunches of points and San Fran can't keep up, but I don't think logic ever applies to the Cowboys. Plus it's Harbaugh's home opener. Final score: Dallas 24, San Fran 23.

Texans (1-0) @ Dolphins (0-1)
Predicted Line: HOU by 3
Actual Line: HOU by 3

There are a lot of 7 point spreads this week, and I'm mildly surprised this isn't one of them. I've got Houston at 12-4 and Miami at 2-14, so the talent disparity is quite enormous in my mind. The Dolphins usually have an edge with CB Vontae Davis, but Andre Johnson is one of the few receivers he isn't able to stop. Miami has a B+ defense, but Houston will counter with an A- offense. On the other side of the ball, we've got an All Pro matchup with Jake Long against Mario Williams, which is a push. But Houston wins nearly every other battle, and wins this game big, on the road. Miami's homefield advantage is an oxymoron. Texans 28-16.

Chargers (1-0) @ Patriots (1-0)
Predicted Line: NE by 7
Actual Line: NE by 7

Not fair because I heard the spread on the radio. It seems a little bizarre to say that anybody is 4 points better than the Chargers, but I don't think this line is a reflection of the Chargers at all. It's merely saying 'New England is in a league of their own.' Which is true. Rivers fights admirably, but Brady is the superior quarterback and competitor. Pats cover, 42-30.

Bengals (1-0) @ Broncos (0-1)
Predicted Line: DEN by 1
Actual Line: DEN by 3.5

In a sick way, this game might be entertaining to watch. Lots of highly motivated players: Orton trying to prove to his home crowd that he deserves to play; Dalton trying to prove that he's not a colossal doofus; Denver's defense trying to redeem itself. Neither team has much talent at all, but the best player in this game is probably Elvis Dumervil, who has a cake matchup against LT Andrew Whitworth. Cincy will try to offset Denver's scary DEs with Cedric Benson through the tackles, which shouldn't be too difficult. Meanwhile, Denver has 3 key injuries - Knowshon Moreno, Brandon Lloyd, and Champ Bailey. All three guys are questionable. Because of that, Cincy is probably the better team. Their defense is a little bit underrated. I'll take the road team in an upset, 24-20.

Eagles (1-0) @ Falcons (0-1)
Predicted Line: PHI by 3
Actual Line: PHI by 1.5

Philly definitely wins this game on paper; Asomugha can reduce Roddy White to nothing, the dynamic duo of DEs can rush Matt Ryan, and Atlanta does not have the speed to contain or adequately pressure Vick. But with all the emotion in the Georgia Dome as Vick makes his pseudo-triumphant return, I don't think this game will play out in a predictable manner.

Philly really has only one weakness, and that's the interior of the defense. They can be run on. And Michael Turner surprisingly looked full-strength last week. Expect Atlanta to run early and often with Turner, for no reason other than to keep the dog-killer on the sidelines. If they move the chains and eat the clock, they can keep this score low enough to give them a chance to win.

When Philly has the ball, they'll score almost at will. The only person who can defeat Michael Vick in this game will be Michael Vick. A couple errant throws or careless fumbles and it'll be a win for the Falcons. Atlanta's job is to keep Vick off the field, keep the crowd in the game, and keep the score low. At home, Matt Ryan is 15-6 against the spread. I like Atlanta by a late field goal, 27-24.

Rams (0-1) @ Giants (0-1)
Monday night
Predicted Line: NYG by 3
Actual Line: NYG by 6

This line is preposterous. The Giants just lost to the Redskins! Their entire defense is hurt. Eli Manning looks absolutely godawful. And the Rams are coached by New York's former D-coordinator. Plus Hakeem Nicks is questionable, which is a bigger blow to the Giants than Steven Jackson's injury is for St. Louis. Running backs are easier to replace. Cadillac is going to have a huge game. I'm taking the Rams to win outright, and I'm making it the Upset of the Week. 23-17.

Go Lions!

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