Thursday, September 12, 2013

Week 2 Picks

Week 1 recap:
11-5 straight up
7-8-1 against the spread

Jets (1-0) @ Patriots (1-0) 
Predicted Line: NE by 16.5 
Actual Line:  NE by 13
A few things about this game:
  • Pats are ridiculously lucky -- they get to open the season against two straight rookie QBs. Wonder if that's ever happened before. 
  • Shane Vereen broke his wrist and is out for at least two months. Amendola's out, Gronk's out, Sudfield's questionable.  So the Pats offense is reduced to ... Edelman, Thompkins, Ridley, and Leon Washington.  This will be a huge test for Brady.  
  • Jets didn't deserve to win their game against the Bucs, but then again, neither did Tampa. 
  • But the real question is, how did New England manage to only beat Buffalo by a score of 23-21???    I came up with about fifteen reasons that game should have been a blowout, and the Bills almost won outright. It made no sense. But let's be honest, the outcome was never really in question, and the Pats did get the win which is all that matters to them. 
So the line in this game probably went down a few points thanks to the close game against the Bills, and to me, that makes this a value.  I was prepared to take the Pats for up to 20.  Why?
  • A rookie against Belichick with only 3 days to prepare?
  • Brady dominates at home.
  • Geno Smith on the road.  
  • Brady hates the Jets as much as any player hates any team.  
  • The Jets suck.     
So I'll take the Pats in a blwoout just like I did in week one. Learning from my mistakes has never been my forte.  Pats 31-10.

Lions (1-0) @ Cardinals (0-1)
Predicted Line:  DET by 2.5
Actual Line:  DET by 2 

On one hand, the Lions played some of the most dominant football I've seen from them in years on Sunday.  Reggie Bush, the linebackers, the offensive line, and Stafford were all (for the most part) excellent. And although Calvin didn't put up big numbers, it was his presence that allowed the offense to rack up 469 yards and dominate time of possession.  He drew double teams on every single snap.  

On the other hand, it was one of the least disciplined, sloppiest, ugliest, dumbest games I've ever seen. 11 penalties, 2 very ugly turnovers, a botched field goal ... in most games, that's enough to warrant a loss. But thankfully, the Lions played the Vikings, who proved they are not a good football team.  Take away Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, and that has the makings of an 0-16 team.  

So, there's a lot to be excited about, and a lot to be nervous about.  Coaching was awful, but tackling was great. Suh made perhaps the dirtiest play of his already filthy career, but Riley Reiff handled Allen like a stud.  Reggie Bush was phenomenal, but Brandon Pettigrew was ghastly.  Typical Lions I suppose. 

This is what I consider a trap game. Arizona shouldn't be very good; after all, they lost 11 straight games last year!  But flying across the country for a west coast game is never easy, and the Cards showed last week that their defense is to be reckoned with.  The Honey Badger looked like the Heisman candidate he used to be, not the doped-up moron he transformed into, and Patrick Peterson has already proven he's an elite shutdown corner.  Furthermore, Carson Palmer showed that an upgrade from an F- to a C- at quarterback can make a big difference. The Arizona offense is no longer worthless. 

So, how do the Lions matchup?  

First, the bad news.  Chris Houston hasn't got a prayer against Fitzgerald, which means lots of safety help ('help' being theoretical), and that means a bum like Rashard Mendenhall might be able to plod through a thin defensive front and move the chains.  Plus, with Floyd and Roberts, the Cards have other mismatches with their WRs against our very poor secondary.  Darius Slay did not look good Sunday.  Delmas never looks good unless the goal is a personal foul out of bounds.  

More bad news - Peterson is one of the few CBs in the league who can (at least attempt to) cover Calvin solo.  It may or may not work for him, but it does mean fewer double teams, which means less room for the rest of the team.  If that equates to more targets for Pettigrew, might as well just chalk up the 'L' and head home with a 1-1 record.  

Seriously, if Lions management had any balls whatsoever, they would release Pettigrew unconditionally and immediately, and just admit they made a major mistake when they drafted him.  They would be better off with Jason Hanson playing tight end. 

Now the good news - the Lions defensive line, while unstable and idiotic, is athletically one of the best in the league, and they line up against a legendarily awful offensive line that drafted guard Jonathan Cooper #7 overall and then lost him for the season with a broken leg.  The Cards O-line is hideous, and they won't be able to keep Suh and Co. from crushing Palmer's skull.  I expect at least 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 tipped balls, and 2 personal foul penalties from the D-line. Minimum.  You can't draft D-linemen in the first round every year and then not expect them to annihilate the worst O-line in football.  

So Arizona has the coaching advantage (just like every team), the homefield advantage, and a few helpful matchups.  Detroit has the best player advantage (Calvin), the better QB, and the better overall roster.  In theory, Detroit should win pretty comfortably.  But intangibles all point to Arizona, specifically the part about Detroit always losing to inferior opponents and embarrassing themselves on the road. 

I can't bring myself to pick Detroit to lose to the lowly Cardinals, and since the line is so low, I'll say Lions cover by a late field goal: 30-27.  But I absolutely don't feel good about this game.  

Rams (1-0) @ Falcons (0-1)
Predicted Line:  ATL by 8.5 
Actual Line:  ATL by 7 

Something tells me the Rams just might pull this one off. Their defense is really good.  Finnegan might be able to hinder Julio Jones, and Roddy is limping around.  I've gotta at least take the 7 points.  I'll go with Falcons 27-24.

Chargers (0-1) @ Eagles (1-0)
Predicted Line:  PHI by 6.5

Actual Line:  PHI by 9

Going into last season, I had serious doubts about Robert Griffin III.  I questioned whether he should have gone #2 overall, whether he could really throw at an NFL level, and if he would be durable.  Then I watched week 1 (he lit up the Saints with a 139 QB rating) and I saw enough to be convinced.  I decided then and there not to be stubborn, but to admit I was wrong and wholeheartedly embrace RG3 the rest of the season. And he won ROY and made the playoffs, so clearly I was right to change my mind.

The point is, I learned not to stubbornly stick to what I think I know.  And this year, I went into the season doubting whether Chip Kelly could be a real NFL coach, if his Oregon offense could translate to the NFL, and whether Philly really had the personnel to really pull it off.  Then I saw week 1:  443 yards, 189 of which went to McCoy, and a pretty efficient game for Mike Vick, who ran about 60 plays out of the no-huddle.

I'm not going to be stubborn on this one.  Chip Kelly is for real.  The Eagles are legit.

Now, I still have plenty of reservations about Vick.  He's immature, selfish and possibly even psychopathic. Also, he's a turnover machine, and extremely injury prone.  But that doesn't mean he can't read secondaries and make good throws in a hurry.  He's actually a perfect fit for Kelly's offense.

Now, all that being said, this line went way too high, because people overreact to Monday night games.  The Chargers looked pretty good under Mike McCoy, and Phillip Rivers can engage in a shootout, particularly against this very bad Eagles defense.  But, Philly will start 2-0 leading into a Thursday night matchup against Andy Reid and the Chiefs.   I'll say 31-27 Eagles.

Browns (0-1) @ Ravens (0-1)
Predicted Line:  BAL by 9

Actual Line: BAL by 7

I know 7 points is a lot, but I'm actually thinking this is pretty good line value.  Examine the facts:
  • Baltimore got shellacked on the road by Peyton Manning and now the public is way down on them. But if Dallas Clark didn't drop an open TD and if John Harbaugh had challenged Welker's non-catch and forced Denver to punt, that game would have been much different.  Baltimore wasn't as bad as the score indicated.  And even if they were, it was against Peyton Manning, so let's give them a pass. 
  • Cleveland got beat up at home to the Dolphins, who manhandled the Browns O-line, which is supposed to be their strength.  Trent Richardson couldn't go anywhere because Weeden was so pathetic and the Dolphins keyed in on the run.  Seriously, how can you throw 53 passes and end up with only 289 yards?   12 quarterbacks threw fewer passes than Weeden on Sunday and gained more yards.  Twelve.   
  • This game features three massive mismatches in Baltimore's favor: coaching, quarterbacking, and overall roster.  Also, homefield, and a good defensive front 7 against Trent Richardson, Cleveland's only good skill position player other than Josh Gordon, who is suspended. 
  • Only one caveat in Cleveland's favor - Joe Haden will blanket Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones is out for 4-6 weeks, which means Flacco will need to move the ball with the likes of Brandon Stokley, Ed Dickson, Marlon Brown, and Dallas Clark.  Clark looked awful against the Broncos, but Brown looked like an emerging star.  He's a sneaky good play in fantasy.  But let's be honest, this is a Ray Rice game.  Look for him to run 30 times and and put up 150 yards easy.  
I'm taking the Ravens big, 34-13. 

Titans (1-0) @ Texans (1-0) 
Predicted Line:  HOU by 10
Actual Line: HOU by 10

I'll take about the Titans-Steelers game later, but suffice it to say, Tennessee is a little better than I thought, and Houston is a little bit worse.  So let's take the points.  Texans 27-20. 

Dolphins (1-0) @ Colts (1-0)
Predicted Line:  IND by 4.5
Actual Line:  IND by 3

I don't want to overreact, because I know the Raiders are pathetic, but Andrew Luck didn't throw an incomplete pass until there was 1 minute and 20 seconds until halftime.  At that point he was something like 12 for 12 for 127 yards.  He ranks 27th in passing yards right now, but 2nd in completion percentage, 2nd in QB rating, and also ran for 38 yards, including the game winning score.  True, Indy had no business being in a close game with Oakland, but just like New England, the outcome of the game was never really in question, and Luck did what he had to do to get the win. 

Miami was also impressive, but also against an inferior opponent.  The Dolphins D stymied the weaponless Browns, and Tannehill threw to everyone except whiny Mike Wallace, who didn't wait long to bring his diva act to Miami.  Doesn't the moron realize he was shut down by an elite cornerback?  Even I saw that coming. This week he gets Vontae Davis, so he might want to practice his angry tweets in preparation for Sunday night.    Neither team has any running game, for what that's worth.

Indy has a huge QB edge, and Miami has a much better defense.  It could be close, but I generally feel pretty good about taking the Colts this year.  27-23.  

Panthers (0-1) @ Bills (0-1)
Predicted Line:  CAR by 3

Actual Line:  CAR by 3

Both of these teams overperformed on Sunday despite losses.  The Panthers held the Seahawks to 12 points and stuff a great running attack, while the Bills were leading the Pats with 5 seconds to go and lost on a field goal.  The biggest surprise was EJ Manuel, who looked poised, and relaxed, and very much unlike a rookie. Perhaps he wasn't a bad 1st round pick after all?

Cam Newton, on the other hand, struggled immensely to move the ball, with a career low 125 passing yards. But let's give him a break - Seattle does have the best secondary in the NFL by a wide margin.  Against Buffalo, who is missing their two best secondary players in Byrd and Gilmore, Newton should find plenty of room to throw.  By the way, I didn't know Ted Ginn Jr. was on the Panthers.  When did that happen?

I'm very tempted to take Buffalo in the upset, but I have a pretty high opinion of Carolina's defense.  Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson are a great DE combo, and Kuechly in the middle is something of a rising star. Could be another measly game for Spiller.  Let's say Panthers, 18-13.

Redskins (0-1) @ Packers (0-1)
Predicted Line:  GB by 6.5

Actual Line: GB by 8

Green Bay certainly could win by 8+, but that's an awful lot of points to lay against a quarterback as good as RG3.  This game is screaming backdoor cover.  Packers 27-23.

Cowboys (1-0) @ Chiefs (1-0)
Predicted Line:  DAL by 2.5

Actual Line:  KC by 3

Wow, looks like people have bought into the Chiefs way earlier than I expected.  2-14 last year, and now a 3 point favorite to a perpetually overrated team.  I mean, yeah they destroyed Jacksonville last week, but it was Jacksonville.   It's not like Dallas looked awful week one.  They didn't look sharp, but they don't deserve to be underdogs to KC, do they?

The Cowboys have the major QB advantage, the best overall player advantage (DeMarcus Ware, who overmatches a pretty good LT in Branden Albert) and an excellent secondary to take Bowe out of the game. But the Chiefs have the better coach, the rowdy crowd, and the elite RB.  If I trusted Tony Romo a little more I'd pick the Cowboys without thinking twice.  But I don't know ... something tells me both teams will be 2-0 heading into the Reid-Eagles game on Thursday.  Let's say Chiefs win 21-20.

Vikings (0-1) @ Bears (1-0)
Predicted Line:  CHI by 4.5
Actual Line:  CHI by 6

Ponder looked dreadful against the Lions last week, so I'm inclined to take the Bears.  But the Vikings have two big matchup advantages - Matt Kalil can take Julius Peppers out of the game, and Jared Allen can get to Jay Cutler, who notoriously can't get rid of the ball fast enough.  Those two matchups, and of course AP's ability to keep games close, makes me think the Vikings can at least keep it interesting.  Bears 24-20.

Saints (1-0) @ Bucs (0-1)
Predicted Line:  NO by 7

Actual Line:  NO by 3.5

Perhaps Tampa is the new Dallas - big names on paper, weak results on the field.  When I look at the names on their defensive depth chat, it makes sense to argue that they'll be able to slow down Drew Brees.   But then I see that they were beaten by Geno Smith and Kellen Winslow.  Granted, the Bucs were one stupid penalty from being 1-0, but even if they had gotten the win, they didn't play well on either side of the ball. Gosh, why do I need to talk myself into this.  The line is outrageously low.  Saints 30-16.

Jaguars (0-1) @ Raiders (0-1)
Predicted Line:  OAK by 4
Actual Line: OAK by 6

Thanks to this game, only one of these teams can go 0-16.  Which is a shame, because they both deserve it.  I guess Terrelle Pryor's 112 rushing yards was enough to inflate this line a few too far.  I'll take 6 points any day against the ridiculously bad Raiders defense.  Even Blaine Gabbert can put up points against them.   ..... right?  Or will this be a 3-0 punt-a-thon?     Who knows.  How about Jags 13-10.

Broncos (1-0) @ Giants (0-1)
Predicted Line:  DEN by 10

Actual Line:  DEN by 4.5

How can you possibly pick against Peyton Manning after last week?  I mean, seriously.  Is this line a joke?  Broncos 34-24.

49ers (1-0) @ Seahawks (1-0)
Predicted Line:  SEA by 3
Actual Line:  SEA by 3

With two heavyweight Super Bowl contenders in the same division, this has quickly emerged as the NFL's best rivalry of 2013. The best part is:  these teams genuinely hate each other, from the coaches to the fan bases to the random players trash-talking on Twitter.  The exception seems to be the quarterbacks, two humble guys who let their play do the talking.  And while Russell Wilson has been great, it's Kaepernick who looks like the legend in the making.

Seattle's defense is outstanding - the best in the league - and their offense is much better than the unit who scored 12 points in Carolina last week.  But San Fran has the two best players in this game - Patrick Willis and Kaep - and probably the better team in the trenches, with Justin and Aldon Smith specifically.  Not sure how Kaepernick will deal with the Seattle secondary, but I just can't bet against that guy right now.  I'm gonna take the 49ers in the upset, 23-20.

Steelers (0-1) @ Bengals (0-1)
Predicted Line:  CIN by 6.5

Actual Line:  CIN by 7

Want to hear something beautiful?   No team began the season worse than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who not only got pounded at home by an inferior Titans team, but also lost arguably their best player - center Maurkice Pouncey - for the season with an MCL.  Take Pouncey off that O-line and they drop from an 80 to a 60.  It can now be said pretty confidently that Pittsburgh has the worse offensive line in football (excluding Arizona), which is a horrible thing when you already have no running game and a QB who loves to play chicken with pass rushers.  For all the effort Pittsburgh has put into rebuilding that O-line during the last several drafts, they are now in a terrible situation.

Replacing Pouncey will be some dude named Kelvin Beachum, a 7th round pick from 2012.  Not only has Beachum never played center prior to last week, but now he gets to line up against Geno Atkins, widely considered the best DT in the NFL right now.  That spells a nightmare for the Steelers offense.  Let's just say I'm probably not the only person checking the depth chart to see who will replace Ben Roethlisberger when he gets hurt. (Answer: Bruce Gradkowski, followed by rookie Landry Jones)

To top it off, them Stellers lost Larod Stephens-Howling, their third-down RB and kick returner, for the season, also with an MCL injury.  As a result they brought back Jonathan Dwyer, who they had just cut a week earlier.  They're waiting for LeVeon Bell to recover from a broken foot, but it may be another month before he can play.  Oh, and I should mention, Mike Wallace is long gone, and the new receivers can't seem to make a play.

I think it's safe to say the Steelers can't be counted on for more than 14 points, unless their defense scores. Which makes this seemingly crazy spread very credible.  Cincinnati may not be a juggernaut, but they have AJ Green who is probably worth 10 points of offense by himself.  Will this be the game that Gio Bernard makes a splash onto the ROY radar and starts to threaten BenJarvus's job?  I think it will.  I am liking the Bengals this week, mostly because I am hating the Steelers.   This has the makings of a 4-12 season for them.

Cincy 26-13.  

Go Lions!!

Bonus picks:

Alabama (-8) over Texas A&M
Michigan (-37) over Akron

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