Dec 4, 2011; Cleveland, OH, USA; Referee Ed Hochuli during the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE

NFL Week 4 Picks Against the Spread: The Refs and Redskins are Back

70,000 voice mails were left at the NFL’s commissioners office Monday night after the Inaccurate Reception occurred.  70,000 of the officials’ closest friends and family popped champaign after the call was confirmed.  Apparently holding someone that is holding the ball counts as simultaneous possession.  After realizing this could end interceptions for the rest of the year, the owners asked themselves: How much better are the regular refs than their replacements?  The decision was made that placing Ed Hochuli’s over the phone trained referees with less than 24-hour notice in Cleveland, was better choice than sending out the blind mice that have been acting like officials the past three weeks.

Now I’ve heard that the unionized refs are thanking the substitute refs for being so bad, so that they won’t be booed by fans, criticized by writers or yelled at by coaches.  And Mike Boogie from Big Brother thinks it’s a good idea to sacrifice players on their own alliance to keep Chill Town around.  However, they forget the relativity theory of referee criticism: “The amount of criticism and ridicule a referee/judge is subject to is relative to the level of play said referee/judge is presiding over.”  Nowhere in there does it say “NFL refs are excluded.”  Now there will be a grace period since these guys can’t possibly be as bad as the guys in first three weeks, but by the following Monday, “Substitute Refs Come Back” will be on a Seattle doorstep after a blown call, and Kharma, costs the Seahawks a game.

As for yours truly, my picks have suffered from some seriously bad reffing, but Vegas, and the other side of those bets don’t ask for excuses.  They ask for greenbacks.  So I’m forking them over again this week, but all things considered, 2 games under .500 during a 3-week referee debacle isn’t so bad.  That does get you into the NBA playoffs. (I’m looking at you ’10-’11 Pacers.) (The pick is in bold. Green is a winner. Red is a loser. Black is a tie or not played yet.)

Washington (Take 2.5) at Tampa Bay – Washington’s secondary can’t believe their eyes.  A team that gives up more passing yardage than us?   And the over/under isn’t above 50 with the worst two passing defenses in the NFL? These guys will go over 47.5 by the end of the third quarter, if not sooner.  RG3 leads a better offense, with a better rushing game, and a better front 7, so I like them in this close game.  My question: Will RG3 survive this game?  The Redskins have to make sure he takes less hits.  That includes having a big enough lead so that Greg Schiano doesn’t send the full out blitz when the Skins take a knee.

Cleveland (Take 12) at Baltimore – The home fans proved me right last week.  One of the toughest places to play/ref.  No seven second delay was going to work when they started fertilizer chants in perfect harmony instead of “defense” on Sunday night.  Ravens are entering the infamous trap game and so are their fans.  Emotional win late Sunday night, and a game in Missouri next week against a Chiefs team that will be in first by the end of the weekend.  Cleveland has nothing to lose.  They come off their worst game of the season, and Weeden and Richardson need to prove why they were taken in the first round.

Seattle (Give 2.5) at St. Louis – I would say St. Louis plays better at home, but to review, the lambs are a Captain Morgan meltdown and swiss cheese Redskins secondary away from being 0-3.  Seattle’s road loss doesn’t look too bad right now.  Now, they won’t be able to have Golden Tate blatantly shove a defender, then catch a safety, uh, I mean the ball, on a Hail Mary to win.  The real refs are back.  Good news for Seattle, they are playing the Rams, and it won’t come down to that.  Russell Wilson is throwing a respectable 86 passer rating, and Marshawn Lynch has over 100 yards per game rushing.  Running games travel well.

Carolina (Take 7) at Atlanta – I know you think I’m crazy.  Cam Newton has looked horrible.  But remember what I’ve said-  His kryptonite is having no running game.  This week Mr. Newton turns back into Superman.  Carolina doesn’t face a top 10 rushing defense this week like it has in the Panthers two losses.  Cam Newton faces a bottom 10 rushing defense.  Carolina will be able to put up points against this team, and I don’t think Cam will turnover the ball like noodle arms – Manning and Cassel, so this game will be close.  I don’t know if Carolina will win, but I will take the large spread in a high scoring game.

San Francisco (Give 4) at New York Jets – Do I feel nervous taking 5 road teams to start my picks.  YES!  Do I like a team where the spread has moved 5 points since the line opened with the home team favored by 1.  Yes! Yes! Yes!  Three yeses, trump one yes.  Brad Pitt took Angelina Jolie over Jennifer Aniston, right?  Last year the 49ers kept their team in Ohio in between two road games with early starts….and it worked.  So that negates the West Coast team playing an early game on the East coast theory.  Besides, do you think the 49ers defense is a little upset over giving up multiple 80-yard TD drives to a second year QB named Ponder?

New England (Give 4) at Buffalo – I really don’t like taking this many road teams.  But Buffalo is now onto their 3rd string running back.  Fitzpatrick just isn’t good enough to carry this team on his own, and Choice is a good replacement, not a work horse.  As for the Patriots, New England has lost their past two games.  Brady hasn’t lost three in a row since 2002.  Brady and Welker are getting their grove back and Belichick, $50,000 fine, won’t have to worry about attacking footlocker employees for bad calls with the Tuck Rule refs now back from their three week vacation.

Tennessee at Houston (Give 12) – 12 is a lot of points to give for a game, but the Titans gave up more than that last week to Shaun “Who” Hill in less than a minute.  Houston’s special teams will be on notice, and will not give up touchdowns at home unless their defense is on the field.  I know, you’re screaming “trap game”.  Well this is the AFC South, or as the Texans say, bye weeks.  Schuab has won his last six games against the AFC south and he leads a team that is solid on both sides of the ball.  The Mario Williamsless defense is ranked second in the league.

Minnesota (Take 7) at Detroit – I’m fairly certain crowd noise won’t be the problem this week for Detroit.  It probably won’t be a problem for Minnesota either.  Detroit has lost both games on the road, where typically you need a rushing game to travel.  Guess what Detroit doesn’t have.  Guess what they will have to rely on if Stafford can’t play on Sunday.  I’m not counting on Shaun Hill throwing Hail Mary’s to pull out this win.  Minnesota showed it can move the ball and has consistently played in close games this year.

San Diego at Kansas City (Give 1) – As taking notes from my Rule 3 above.  Take a team with a big spread move.  Especially if the money is coming in for the home team.  The line has already moved four points on this game.  Then again, maybe the gamblers realized the Chargers beat up on Tennessee and Oakland.  Kansas City has developed a pass rush, and as long as they can keep the ball out of Cassel’s hands (he has more turnovers than all but one TEAM) they will be fine.  I’ve seen teams come back from down by 18, but to do it with a running game?  Jamaal Charles and the resurgent pass rush will lead this team to a win.

Cincinnati (Give 2.5) at Jacksonville – The Bad Quarterback Axiom: A Blaine Gabbert led team should never be favored over another one that has a winning record. With a minute left to go in the game last week he had 68 yards passing.  Cincinnati puts up points (over 28 per game) and Jacksonville is ranked 28th on defense. I just don’t see how Jacksonville can keep up without a passing game.  Cincinnati might start putting 9 in the box on defense this week.  I’ll keep reminding you, MJD held out, and at some point that will come back to bite the Jaguars.

Miami at Arizona (Give 5.5) – You roll the dice anytime Kolb starts a game, but the bad quarterback axiom does call for them to play a team with a winning record.  I just don’t see how the Dolphins put up many points against the Cardinals.  Arizona is ranked 10th on defense and knows how to create turnovers.  Tannehill is reminiscing the old days when Reggie Bush was healthy and he had a Raider secondary to throw against.  Tannehill – Bush + Arizona Defense  + Kolb = Under 39. Don’t look now, but their schedule is set up where the Cardinals could be 7-0 when they play the 49ers on MNF.

Oakland at Denver (Give 6.5) – Why do you trust a quarterback that waits for the 4th quarter before attempting to lead his team back from double digit deficits and comes up just short each week?  Because Peyton’s last name isn’t Tebow and this week is going up against the 26th ranked passing defense.  Manning has literally only played three games in the past 21 months.  He faced three defenses that play well against the pass.  Now comes in a team that is starting guys that were watching tv a few weeks ago.  Denver is fully aware that the Oakland offense runs through McFadden.  Expect to see Jack Del Rio dare the Raiders to beat them with a depleted WR corps.

New Orleans at Green Bay (Give 7.5) – It’s hard to give up two scores with a Green Bay team that doesn’t average 20 points a game.  But when a Saints team comes marching in that gives up a 18 point lead to a team that is a rushing team, I see A. Rodgers’ offense coming alive.  What got lost in Monday Night’s debacle, is the adjustments Green Bay’s offense made at half.  In the first half Rodgers was sacked 9 times.  Second half: Green Bay had the ball for 36 of the first 42 snaps, and didn’t give up a sack in the second half.  Now they have a full week to dissect what the Saints defense does…or more accurately, doesn’t do.

NY Giants (Take 1.5) at Philadelphia – As long as Michael Vick keeps giving up the ball, I’ll keep taking the points.  Unfortunately Andy Reid looks like he is about 3 more turnovers away from pulling Vick as the starter.  That will mean I’ll have to find my easy wins somewhere else.  I was a little worried about my Giants pick last week, but E. Manning looks like he can take the Raiders’ receivers and make them pro-bowlers.  Defensively, the Giants are playing like the team that made the playoff run last year and Vick will have to throw the ball this week for the Eagles to win.  Turnovers in the first half, Nick Foles in the second half.

Chicago at Dallas (Give 3.5) – Hmmm Tony Cutler or Jay Romo.  Two quarterbacks that look incredible one week, and make you wonder if they are Super Bowl caliber teams.  Then they show up the following week and make ridiculous throws you’d get mad at a junior high quarterback making and throwing tantrums a five year old makes when you take away his favorite toy.  Add in two defenses that are ranked in the top 6, and this game has the makings of one ugly game.  I foresee Jay Cutler getting thrown out of the game for hitting his own offense line and the returning refs looking as confused as the replacement refs on how to assess the penalty.

Last week: 7-10; Overall: 24-26-1.

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