Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week Three Picks

Week 2 recap:
10-6 straight up
7-8-1 against the spread

21-11 straight up
14-16-2 against the spread

A big week for underdogs.  They were covering, they were winning straight up, they were showing that nobody really knows anything in week 2.  Excluding majestic performances by Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning (who both should be considered exceptions to normality this season), underdogs went 9-4-1 against the spread, and home underdogs went 3-0, including 2 straight up victories.  I was right about the Titans and Chargers being better than expected, and now you can throw the Jets, Bucs, Fins, and Bills into that rascally category of "watch out, they're not as bad as you think!"

A few teams are worse than I thought, including the Niners, Steelers, Redskins, and Rams.  I expected the Steelers to suck, and they sucked to a greater extent of suckiness than I could have imagined. Let the Roethlisberger Hot Seat Alert begin.

I feel I have a pretty good read on the league, with only a few teams baffling me.  I should start seeing some above .500 weeks pretty soon.

My best prediction this week was:  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.  With two TDs and this article, it's safe to say I nailed that prediction.  My worst call was Ray Rice for 150 easy yards; he ended up with 36 yards and a fumble.

Here's the week 3 picks:

Chiefs (2-0) @ Eagles (1-1)
Predicted Line: PHI by 4.5
Actual Line: PHI by 3.5

Lost in the hype of the Andy Reid Bowl is the fact that the Chiefs won only 2 games all of last season, and are now 2-0. Even if one of those wins was against the Division II Jaguars, that's still matching last year's win total by mid-September.

As expected, Philly's defense has been horrible, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in points allowed so far.  They've allowed 360 passing yards per game to RG3 and Rivers. So it stands to reason to even on a short week, KC should put up 24 or 27 points under Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles.

But it's the Chip Kelly offense that has been better than advertised, which is amazing because it was advertised so stinking much.  Philly ranks 2nd in yards and 3rd in points, and if you exclude the super-human Rodgers/Peyton offenses, they are 1st and 1st.  Furthermore, LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in rushing yards, DeSean Jackson leads the NFL in receiving yards, and Michael Vick is 1st in the all-important YPA stat.  I know it's early and those numbers aren't sustainable, but that's pretty incredible.

Defensively, the Chiefs have been very good thus far and should be a good test for Chip's offense.  But, let's keep in mind that KC allowing a microscopic 178 total yards to the Jags is more a result of the fact that they got to play the Jags.

But KC does have the makings of an elite defense, thanks to arguably the best tandem of pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, along with nosetackle Dontari Poe who is playing like an All Pro.  And of course they have Pro Bowlers in Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry.

It seems baffling, given that the Chiefs were a disastrous 2-14 last year and endured major busts with DE Tyson Jackson (#3 pick in 2009) and DT Glenn Dorsey (#5 pick in 2008), but this team has been brilliantly assembled through recent drafts, excluding the quarterback position of course.  Alex Smith seems to be better than expected so far.

I really want to see the Andy Reid upset, but I think Philly's offense is a tad too unstoppable.  Eagles 30-27.

Lions (1-1) @ Redskins (0-2)
Predicted Line: WAS by 3

Actual Line: WAS by 1 

All the talk this week about how RG3 stinks is so overblown.  He has been lousy so far, but he hasn't had the chance to face the good old Lions defense yet.  Pretty sure he could turn around and chuck the ball 50 yards backwards and there would be a pass interference on Bill Bentley.  Or a personal foul on Suh.  Or a late hit on Delmas.  Bunch of idiots ...

What does stink is the Redskins defense, which is excellent for Detroit.  They can't cover Calvin, they can't stop the run, and the really can't stop the intermediate pass.  They gave up 480 freaking passing yards last week and it could have been 600 if Rodgers wanted.  So, we will be able to move the ball with ease.

Two keys:
  • Get in the damn endzone. Don't settle for field goals. Especially now that we've seen what a crappy kicker David Akers is. 
  • Protect Stafford.  Washington's only strength on defense is the pass rush, so Reiff and whoever plays right tackle need to have great games 
Other than that, the defense just needs to bend but not break, don't give Alfred Morris any stupid 60 yard TDs, and don't give up any 30 yard penalties (ahem, Bill Bentley).  Also, don't give up any special teams or defensive TDs, don't let Pettgirew touch the ball, and don't have Michael Spurlock return any more kicks, because I've never seen a more pathetic display of kick returning in my life.  Also, let's establish the run with Bush+Bell early and often, because Washington gave up 132 rushing yards to James Starks, who isn't any good.  Then we can use the play-action to create big play opportunities for Calvin.   Repeat: do not let Pettigrew touch the ball.  

RG3 is going to turn things around, but Washington's defense is so bad that I feel fairly safe taking the Lions, 34-30.

Chargers (1-1) @ Titans (1-1)
Predicted Line: TEN by 3

Actual Line: TEN by 3

Two AFC teams who were severely underrated, but now after a couple solid games they may be on the verge of overrated. Let's get not carried away: neither of these are playoff teams.   They are frisky, but ultimately not great.  I like the home team but not with much confidence; let's say Titans 20-18.

Browns (0-2) @ Vikings (0-2)
Predicted Line:  MIN by 6.5
Actual Line:  MIN by 7

If it wasn't after midnight here in Dallas, I would expound on the bizarre Trent Richardson trade, but here's the quick review:  Cleveland's new GM Mike Lombardi knows the Browns aren't making the playoffs, or even coming close, until they get a real quarterback.  He knows it's a quarterback league (TM Mark Schlereth), and certainly not a running back league (with the only exception being AP).  He is smart enough to see that RBs are being drafted in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, round and making an impact. Heck, undrafted running backs are making Pro Bowls almost every season. That simply doesn't happen with quarterbacks. So Lombardi traded their most valuable asset, which happens to be a running back, for a 1st round pick, not because he wants to pick anyone with that pick, but because he'll package two 1st round picks and maybe a 2nd to move up to #1 or #2 and pick Teddy Bridgewater.  And guess what?  Every GM in rebuilding mode would rather have Bridgewater (almost Luck-esque potential) than Richardson.  So while Lombardi's name is being dragged through the dirt, especially in Cleveland, it may have actually been a genius move, IF (and only if) the Browns successfully obtain a franchise QB, and that QB ends up being good.  That's a big if, but I give Lombardi credit for taking the risk, because having absolutely no QB is just wasting everybody's time if we're being honest.  It sucks in the short-term, but Cleveland fans should be happy that they have a forward-thinking GM.

So this line is about 4 points too high because everyone is so excited to bet against the Richardson-less Browns.  And while Cleveland shouldn't be counted on to score more than 13 points, I don't exactly trust Christian Ponder to do anything, and the Browns have absolutely stuffed the run so far in two games, so maybe they can put 9 in the box and hold AP under 100 yards and keep the game close. Maybe.  I kinda think so.  Vikings 16-13.

Bucs (0-2) @ Patriots (2-0)
Predicted Line:  NE by 7

Actual Line:  NE by 7

What the heck, let's give the Pats one more chance before I stop picking them. I swear this is the last time.  New England 27-17.

Texans (2-0) @ Ravens (1-1)
Predicted Line:  HOU by 1

Actual Line:  HOU by 3

With both Andre Johnson and Ray Rice questionable, I don't really know.  I'm going to assume both guys don't play, and since I think highly of Ravens backup RB Bernard Pierce, and since I think Baltimore's defense is way underrated, and since it's chronically disrespected Joe Flacco as an underdog at home, guess I will take Baltimore. This line is weird.  Ravens 23-21.

Rams (1-1) @ Cowboys (1-1)
Predicted Line:  DAL by 4.5
Actual Line:  DAL by 4

The Cowboys are probably the most difficult team for me to pick; erratic quarterbacking, sloppy play, stupid mistakes, but a ton of talent.  Oh, and bad coaching.  The Rams are pretty sound and fundamental, but lack the talent on offense to score a lot of points.  But their defense can keep this game close.  Dallas 19-17.

Cardinals (1-1) @ Saints (2-0)
Predicted Line:  NO by 8.5

Actual Line:  NO by 7

The Cards match up pretty well here. They have a quality defense that can limit Drew Brees a little bit. And their lousy offense faces a lousy Saints defense.   This could actually end up being interesting, but there's no doubt the Saints will win and be 3-0.  I'll say Saints 26-20.

Packers (1-1) @ Bengals (1-1)
Predicted Line:  GB by 3

Actual Line:  GB by 3

This game will test the notion that the NFL is "a quarterback league."  On one hand you have the stacked Bengals:  great defense, balanced offense, star receiver, mediocre quarterback.   Then you have the Packers:  a 3-13 team without Aaron Rodgers.  Sure, Clay Matthews is good and has long flowing hair, but is Green Bay even close to competitive without Rodgers? No.

Jordy Nelson and James Jones and Randall Cobb look brilliant right now, but send all 3 of them off to Jacksonville and they would do absolutely nothing.

I will say Packers win 27-23.

Giants (0-2) @ Panthers (0-2)
Predicted Line:   CAR by 2
Actual Line:  NYG by 1 

Sometimes the lazy media causes athletes to become synonymous with a certain word or phrase.  Sports reporters don't always excel in creativity.  With Brett Favre it was "gunslinger," with Matt Stafford, it was "unflappable."  Chip Kelly's offense is "high octane" and Jose Iglesias is "slick fielding."   But the most prevalent and most annoying right now belongs to Giants running back David Wilson, who, as everyone on TV and radio will tell you, is "in Tom Coughlin's doghouse."  Not only is that the most overused phrase of the season, it's also stupid.  He's the Giants only good running back and should be getting 20+ carries, instead of sitting on the bench while guys who don't have NFL talent play.  Maybe if Coughlin wasn't such a badass with a unforgiving doghouse, the Giants wouldn't be 0-2.

The Panthers have a plethora of problems of their own: bad secondary, no running game, lousy receivers, a coach nobody likes, and Cam Newton's immaturity and decision making problems.

It's make or break time for both teams, and the Giants have every significant edge I can think of.  If Cam Newton ever wants his career to go anywhere, and if he wants to keep pace with the great young QBs like Luck and Kaepernick, this is the game to make a statement, put the team on his back, and get the win no matter what, even if he has to run 20 times.  But, we aren't seeing that kind of Cam Newton.  We're seeing a pouty, entitled punk, which is exactly what scouts warned about.  So it only makes sense to pick the Giants, even though I'm slightly worried about how obvious it is.

Also - Tom Coughlin's brother just died, so the team will be extra motivated and emotional. Even more reason to take the Giants.  26-20.

Falcons (1-1) @ Dolphins (1-1)
Predicted Line:  ATL by 1

Actual Line:  MIA by 3

This spread seems ludicrous, until you start to add up all the injuries the Falcons are dealing with. Stud linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is out. Steven Jackson, Asante Samuel, Roddy White, Kroy Biermann are all hurt.  It's pretty much just Matt Ryan and Julio Jones against Miami.

Don't look now, but Ryan Tannehill is playing pretty well, especially when he's not under pressure. He has a power arm, he is intelligent, and he is fairly accurate.  And it doesn't look like Atlanta can do anything defensively with all their rookie cornerbacks all over the place. I'm expecting Mike Wallace to bust a big play or two, and the Dolphins' below-average-offense to put up something like 2 touchdowns and 3 field goals.

Atlanta will have a hard time matching that with all their injuries and going up against a highly underrated defense.  Despite the huge QB advantage the Falcons have, Miami is the better pick.  I'm saying Dolphins 23-17.

Colts (1-1) @ 49ers (1-1)
Predicted Line:  SF by 8.5

Actual Line:  SF by 10 

With the Colts terrible defense against the pissed-off and embarrassed 49ers, this does have the makings of a blow out.  San Fran might score a touchdown on every single possession.

But, the Trent Richardson factor makes the Indy offense very intriguing.  I'm not buying into the idea that it'll take 3 or 4 weeks for Richardson to make an impact.  I think it happens this game.  San Fran's defense is great, but damnit, so is Andrew Luck, and now he has a running back who can make defenses pay if they disregard the run.

Also, I daresay that Patrick Willis isn't the All Pro he has been for the past several seasons.  Watching the game last weekend, I didn't see anything impressive from Willis the entire game.  Marshawn Lynch ran all over them, and Richardson is every bit as imposing as Lynch, and quite a bit faster.  

I'm not taking the upset, but I will take the points.  Niners 34-27.

Jags (0-2) @ Seahawks (2-0)
Predicted Line:  SEA by 17.5

Actual Line:  SEA by 19

Everyone saw what the Seattle defense can do last week against San Fran.  They made Colin Kaepernick look like a nobody.  They eliminated Frank Gore completely.  And Jacksonville's only competent offensive player (Jones-Drew) is questionable with a foot injury.  That dude never plays when he's questionable, so I think it's debatable whether or not Jacksonville will gain a single yard in this game.

Seattle could take a knee on half their offensive plays and still cover this spread.  I'll guess conservatively and say Seahawks 38-0.

Bills (1-1) @ Jets (1-1)
Predicted Line:  NYJ by 1

Actual Line:  NYJ by 3

I hate both of these teams for picking purposes. I'll take the Jets 18-16.

Bears (2-0) @ Steelers (0-2)
Predicted Line:  CHI by 3

Actual Line:  CHI by 3

Want to hear a secret? I think the Steelers are the third worst team in the NFL, behind only Jacksonville and Oakland.   Bears 23-17.

Raiders (1-1) @ Broncos (2-0)
Predicted Line:  DEN by 20
Actual Line:  DEN by 15.5

While I have Seattle covering their huge 19 point spread, I think I will take the Raiders in this one.  The main difference is Seattle's style at home:  angry, violent, almost murderous.  They won't show any mercy.  The Broncos, on the other hand, are led by a QB who embodies class. They will get out to a big lead, run the ball, and then let Terrelle Pryor score a backdoor TD or two to cover the spread.  No need to rack up stats against this joke of a team.  At least that's how I see it.  Broncos 35-24.

Go Lions!

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