If the A’s playing with volunteers can comeback down by 13 games in June, then last week is probably the start of something really good. My over/under picks need to take a break this week since that is the difference I needed to be able buy my girlfriend a birthday gift that didn’t come out of a gumball machine. Just like the refs, not all the games went well (thanks to some really bad calls against the Packers for the second straight week), but I said in my piece last week, that I would wait until next Monday to complain about bad calls since the returning zebras weren’t nearly as bad as the replacement refs. However, I am doing better than straight betting the favorites by a few games, so I must be doing something right.
So what stood out to me last weekend? Well the Lions have a bye week to fire their special teams coach after giving up four touchdowns in two weeks. The Raiders have returned this year to being the Raiders. They have a great kicker and punter, and are now resorting to safeties playing at corner back. (And the Redskins thought they have problems in the secondary.) Have they made a first round pick that has made the pro-bowl currently playing offense or defense? I got several letters asking me if I was crazy picking Carolina and Cleveland, but both of those worked out as they covered. This week I get the feeling I have one that will really have you scratching your head. Something I did learn, that if you aren’t sure about a game RUN when someone has a stone cold lock of the year. If your friend was that good at picking games he would be the one with the lights on his roof going 24/7, oxygen pumped into your system, and free booze flowing delivered by busty women in skimpy outfits. (Is the Playboy Mansion really just an undercover casino?)
(The pick is in bold. Green is a winner. Red is a loser. Black is a tie or not played yet.)
Atlanta (Give 3) at Washington – As if opposing receivers weren’t beating up the Redskins secondary enough, now their own wide outs are taking out the secondary in pregame warm-ups. Not that the return of Brandon Merriweather would shut down Julio Jones and Roddy White, but even the 29th ranked passing attack of the Buccaneers put up 293 yards through the air and almost came back to win after being down by 21-3 without him in the lineup. If Atlanta is favored by 3, then that means this game could come down to a field goal. So I ask you: Do you have more faith in Matt Ryan against the 31st ranked secondary, or Billy “Scott Norwood” Cundiff kicking field goals?
Arizona at St. Louis (Take 1.5) – Arizona is 4-0 but has yet to gain over 300 yards. This has never happened in NFL history. How did it happen in today’s pass oriented game? Three of those wins have been home and the other against a New England team on the road after a mysterious holding penalty, and then they pulled a Billy Cundiff to end the game. Arizona has a great defense, but the Jeff Fisher led team doesn’t turn over the ball as much as it takes it away. Kolb has played well, but is relying on his defense to win games. That all comes to a halt this week as the better running game wins out. I’ll take Steven Jackson over a guy that leads the Cardinals with a total of 131 yards rushing.
Miami at Cincinnati (Give 3) – Miami has played 10 quarters in the past 2 weeks, and lost both of those games. That is a lot of energy and emotion to put out there and not have success. GM Jeff Ireland is rumored to have tried to hire Buck Showalter to advise the Dolphins once the game goes into overtime. I am impressed with how they played in those two games, but they are primed for a let down, and in the NFL, that means blowout. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are competing this year with Ryan and White as the best passing combo in the league, and Miami gave up over 300 yards to Kevin Kolb. Cincinnati has an offense that you need either a top 10 type defense to slow down, or a top 10 scoring offense to keep up on the scoreboard and Miami has neither.
Cleveland at NY Giants (Give 8.5) – Yes the Giants have historically played down to their opponents, but now the Giants are the toast of the town ever since the Jets misread their altimeter and hit the side of a cliff. After letting the Eagles off the hook with a last minute penalty and Eli Manning throwing a 4th quarter interception, Tom Coughlin’s face went Jeff Dunham’s Walter. (Then again, he does look like that after he eats breakfast and finds out it will rain.) Meanwhile the Browns lost an emotional Thursday game on the road and could have a let down. It won’t matter because if it does come down to it, you can count on Greg Little to drop a pass that is desperately needed.
Baltimore at Kansas City (Take 6) – This week’s “you’re crazy” pick. A few quick facts. Kansas City has the number 5 offense and a better ranked defense (13th) than the Ravens. This team has also out-gained each of its opponents. (The NFL needs a week like ESPN’s Bracket Busters. I need to see the Chiefs play the Cardinals, out-gain them 500 to 150 and find out just how Matt Cassel loses the game. It’s sports, reality tv, and a mystery all in one!) Baltimore’s defense isn’t what it used to be (ranked 23), and if the Chiefs figure out they have the number two rushing offense in the league and Cassel borrows a copy of “What Happens When Your Quarterback Doesn’t Commit Three Turnovers a Game” from Micheal Vick, this will be this week’s upset of the week.
Philadephia at Pittsburgh (Give 3) – Michael Vick doesn’t turnover the ball and I lose when picking against him while Eli does throw a key interception. He won’t be so lucky this time with James Harrison and Troy Polumalu taking time out from doing shampoo commercials. There is little doubt the Steelers defense missed these top tier defenders and you know Harrison is just salivating over which player will account for his first letter, in the form of a fine, from Roger Goodell. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for Pittsburgh as Rashard Mendenhall is also expected to return to the lineup. Antonio Brown won’t fumble the game away this week, Vick will.
Green Bay at Indianapolis (Take 7) – You would think the calls would have gone in favor of the Packers after their sacrifice the week before brought the regular refs back to officiate. You would be wrong. I still wasn’t that impressed with Green Bay’s offense, and if they can’t get that spark at home in a game they needed to win against the Saints, then I don’t see them finding it this week on the road. The Colts with Andrew Luck will continue to be competitive at home. Don’t look now but if they can squeeze by this game, the next five games are all winnable. I don’t expect them to be in the playoffs, but this team with a confident quarterback aren’t exactly the doormat most people expected.
Chicago (Give 6) at Jacksonville – Each week I see the Jaguars play, and each week I see a team “led” by Blaine Gabbert. Cincinnati was able to stack the box and shut down MJD last week. Chicago showed they can play on the road and shut down a team with a decent offense. I can tell you their game plan this week will be put 10 in the box and make MJD quit. Maybe he already did. Players who hold out on a team that is 1-3 and have no other offensive weapons don’t play hard. With the trade deadline still a few weeks away, when does he make his demand to leave? Cutler is still throwing his tantrums on the sideline, but at least now he is just pouting and hiding from his coaches instead of hitting and yelling at his teammates.
Seattle (Take 3) at Carolina – In the spirit of the Presidential race: “Read my lips” Cam Newton can’t win without a running game. Last week Carolina rushes for 199 yards, and Cam Newton posts a 119.3 quartback rating. Let’s now look at Seattle. Uh Oh Cam, they only give up 62 yards on the ground each game. With the Seahawks coming to Charlotte with kryptonite in hand, this game reminds me a lot of when the Panthers played the G-Men two weeks ago. Yes, Russell Wilson isn’t Eli Manning, but he is a capable quarterback and he has a solid rushing game himself with Marshawn Lynch leading the league in that category. Seattle has a brutal next four weeks after this game, so they know they need to win Sunday.
Tennessee at Minnesota (Give 5.5) – I’m not an offensive line guru, but I’m guessing you need to improve yours when your starting quarterback has two separated shoulders in the first four weeks. Matt
Cassel Hasselbeck came in after Locker went down, and promptly showed why he is the backup. He will have more time to prepare this week, but Minnesota is playing in their (crumbling) dome where they have already beaten the 49ers. I don’t expect Hasselbeck to fare much better this week in a more hostile place to play. Ponder had his first poor game of the year, but still hasn’t thrown an interception this season. Give me the better quarterback and running game and you can have the points.
Denver at New England (Give 6.5) – The Broncos (read Manning) haven’t shown they play well on the road. The Bills woke the sleeping dog known as the Brady to Welker/Gronkowski. 45 points in the second half and 31 in the fourth quarter alone. Unfortunately for Brady, their defense also came out and showed what they used to be. So is this the 2011 offensive Patriots or the 2012 defensive Patriots? Either way, the Broncos will go home 2-3. The Broncos have had troubles with passing games and good pass defenses. So if Wes “Ferret” Welker isn’t benched or the defense shows up, they should be able to duplicate what the Falcons and Texans did to confuse noodle arm himself and put up points on offense. Belichick is a defensive mastermind who knows how to play copycat.
Buffalo (Take 10) at San Francisco – San Francisco is my survivor pick this week, but do I feel comfortable giving 10 points to a team that averages 29? Not so much. It’s hard (New England showed it’s not impossible) to win by that many points against a scoring team, and I don’t think San Francisco has the same sort of fire power as Brady’s passing game does. Yes, San Francisco put up 34 last week, but that included two turnovers on injuries, a blocked punt when they rushed only 2, and rushing against a defense that quit! Fitzpatrick is the type of quarterback you can’t count on or out. He won’t win, but he will keep this game within 10 points.
San Diego at New Orleans (Give 3.5) – It should tell you something when a 0-4 team is favored over a 3-1 team. The Chargers have three wins against teams with a total of three wins. Drew Brees is not going to let a West Coast team come into his house and ruin his record breaking day. Brees even conned Goodell to let head coach Sean Payton into the building on Sunday. Chargers, if I were you, start looking for wire taps in your suites, and blue tooth signals traveling from Payton to the Saints sideline. Brees will go Seal Team Six and play defense if that’s what it takes to win this game. The Chargers will give up too many yards, for the third week in a row, to win this game.
Houston (Give 8) at NY Jets – Houston, the Jets have a problem. Quick get your ticket in now. This line has moved 9 points since it opened at 1-point for the home team. (Tony called a guy who knew a guy to set it at -1 home so he could make some extra money.) By the time you read this, it probably will be -10 Houston. Let’s review. The Jets have no running game, have lost their top tight end, their second best wide out in Santonio Holmes (remember: Cromartie self-proclaimed himself as the best, but obviously needs to worry more about his coverage skills) is out for the year, and now have running back McKnight at corner back. At least Apollo 13 had the parts needed on the spacecraft that were able to fix their problems. At this point even Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin couldn’t help bail out Mike Tannenbaum’s horrible personnel decisions.
Last week: 8-7 (Against the Spread); 8-9 (Overall)
Season: 31-31-1 (Against the Spread) 32-35-1 (Overall)