Monday, September 30, 2013

My Thoughts on Breaking Bad, the Final Episode and Season

So, Breaking Bad ended last night. I started watching concurrently with the show since Season 2, catching up on Season 1 the few weeks before. That was a long time ago in my life, but an even more long time ago in Walt's world. I marathoned most of the show during my Round the World Trip earlier in 2013, and seeing Walt's quick growth from shackled, curt, depressed schoolteacher looking for anything to excite his life to a maniacal, demonic druglord bit-by-bit was so amazing to watch. It happens all so quickly. In the beginning, he wanted to make something out of the name Walter White, but in the end, when he asked Declan to 'Say [his] name', he wanted Heisenberg as the answer. It all came down to this 55 minutes of TV, 55 minutes to end a 62-piece epic character piece. It isn't quite The Wire, but it had the chance to end with one of the Greatest Final Seasons ever. Did it? I'm not sure, but it definitely made us all remember why we love this show.

My first reaction to the finale was that it took Breaking Bad's propensity to make all of Walt's plans work just a little too well and turned that up to 14. I mean, everything worked perfectly. First, Walt was able to go all that way to Albuquerque, break into multiple homes and do this all undetected. I like the fact that Vince Gilligan didn't even try to show us how Walt got into Skyler's home without being found, because who knows how that could have happened. Anyway, moving past that, why do the Nazi's let Walt park where he wants? Why doesn't anyone notice that he is reaching for the keys? How can everyone get killed by an automated weapon when it took forever for anyone to die in the shootout with Hank and Gomie?

But then I realized that who gives a shit? This whole show has alternately told us to see Walt and a genius and a tyrant at the same time, and for one last moment, his genius won. Everything worked just how he planned it. Maybe it was having time to rehearse and rehearse this whole plan on his drive to Albuquerque? Maybe it was having the plan end with his death (which happened, but of course not the way he wanted)? Who knows what. Either way, some of the greatest moments of this show have been Walt being brilliant, from his plan to get the RV to work again in 'Three Days Out', to the way his plan worked to kill Gus, to the magnets and the train caper last year. Hell, even Gus had a plan work perfectly in 'Salud'. Some plans went very wrong, but so many went right. This was just the last one.

I like that the episode gave us a glimpse of all the major players from the show while still making it about Walt. They give us one last Skyler scene, one last scene with Marie, one last look at Walt Jr., and even a brilliant cameo by Badger and Skinny Pete. Breaking Bad has always had a tight show in terms of cast size, and even though most people not named Walt or someone directly related to Walt were marginzaled in Season 5.2, they were able to remind us how great the shows band of characters were.

As always, the cinematography was stunning, if understated. There were few beautiful shots of New Mexico scenery, something that was as important to the early success of the show as anything else - at least from a critics perspective, but there was great camera play like the slow reveal of Walt being there for the phone call between Skyler and Marie and even the final aerial shot of Walt lying in the meth lab he helped design. Some parts of the show were lost over the years, most noticeably the loss of the 'Buddy-Cop' of Walt and Jesse and the show's isolation of the beauty of Chemistry. There was no real meth cooking in Season 5, which was regrettable, but for it to end with Walt dying peacefully in a meth lab was a really nice way for the show to finally fade to black.

I've never seen a show that was able to really introduce a new Big Bad at the very end of a show and still make it work, but that is really what Breaking Bad did with the Nazis, and that is my only real gripe of the Final Season. We entered the final half season of Breaking Bad with the impending Walt vs. Hank battle and that really seemed like the natural way for this show to end. Hank spent years trying to find Heisenberg and now he has. There were so many ways to take that battle and to Gilligan's credit, they did explore most of those areas, but to me that should have been where this show ended. I understand the idea of Uncle Jack, but he wasn't a real creation of the meth game but of Walt. He was inserted in the last season maybe even just for people not to totally hate Walt by the end of the season, but that seemed easy. I would have liked to see it just end with Hank vs. Walt. It didn't and Vince wrote and directed the shit out of these final eight episodes, but something in me wishes that it did.

I don't think Breaking Bad reached the overall brilliance of The Wire, but it came about as close as anything I can imagine. It had the best single character I have ever scene and one of the best performers doing an All-Time performance in portraying him. It created its small little world and could be brilliant at both large overarching dramatic moments and suspense and also even more brilliant at highlighting the small moments in life. Breaking Bad is a show that on paper should have never worked. But it did, it worked amazingly well. We may never see another show like this again. We probably will because something better will always eventually come along, but it will be a long time. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 4 Picks

Year-to-Date: 27-21

San Francisco 49ers (1-2)  @  St. Louis Rams (1-2)  (SF -3.5)

This is an interesting line, because right now the public hates the 49ers, and for good reason. Hard to get much love when you lose to what was a publicly perceived average team by 20 at home. Now they don't have Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis might miss the game as well. Of course, I think the Rams just aren't good enough to win these types of games. The line gives the chance of a field goal loss by the Rams and still cover the number, but I just can't see the 49ers dropping to 1-3. Even shorthanded, they are a more talented team than St. Louis. They've heard all week how horrible they are and how the Rams know how to play them. I just can't see such a talented team losing again.

49ers 24  Rams 16  (SF -3.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3)  @*  Minnesota Vikings (0-3)  (PIT -3)

In the history of the London series, the NFL has sent one good game, with the Saints narrowly beating the Chargers 36-33 in 2008. That was it. The rest have been crap, and this is more of the same (as will 49ers/Jaguars later this year). How is the NFL planning to grow its product by sending lousy games over. At least this one looked better preseason. Anyway, as for the game, I can't see the Steelers dropping to 0-4, but of course I couldn't see them at 0-3 either. Their offense finally showed some life against the Bears, but counter that with their defense playing worse than ever. Of course, all this analysis became moot when Ponder was ruled out in favor of Matt Cassel. At that point, who can blame you if the Steelers can't even beat him?

Steelers 24  Vikings 13  (PIT -3)

Baltimore Ravens (2-1)  @  Buffalo Bills (1-2)  (BAL -3)

I really don't know what to think of the Ravens. They gave up 510 yards and 7 TDs in Week 1 in Denver. They've given up 523 yards and 0 TDs in the two games since. Of course, you can chalk it up to Manning being Manning, but what you can't chalk up to that is the Ravens offense still not playing well at all. Flacco has completed barely over 60% of his passes for a career low 6.4 y/a. The run game has done little and Ray Rice has been hampered. They still have no dependable #2 receiver. Still, they are 2-1 having just beaten the Texans by 21. I actually like this Bills team overall, but I don't know if I like them to beat Baltimore. Honestly, after last weeks' mediocre results, I'm really unsure about most of these picks. I'll take a stab at it, though, and go with the team that has shown some ability to move the ball and play good defense at home.

Ravens 20  Bills 23  (BUF +3)

Indianapolis Colts (2-1)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)  (IND -9.5)

This line terrifies me, because I know that the Colts are absolutely good enough to win this game by that much. Or rather, the Jaguars are definitely bad enough to lose this home game by this much. But there's history here, with the Jaguars often pulling games out of their ass against the Manning era Colts. These aren't the Manning era Colts, but even then Cecil Shorts somehow got an 80-yd TD to win their first meeting last year. I know the Jaguars are terrible, but they can't lose ATS every week. Sooner or later they might have a decent performance, and I have a bad feeling it will be this week. I hate taking a line this high, especially with a team that until last week showed no ability to build on a lead, but at the end of the day, personal bias does come in to this. I know one of the tenets of sports betting is to bet a number and not a team (basically, with your head, not your heart), but sometimes we have to just forget about all that and go for it.

Colts 27  Jaguars 13  (IND -9.5)

Arizona Cardinals (1-2)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)  (TB -2.5)

At first I thought I had to refresh the website I was using. I mean, they must not have factored in Mike Glennon playing? Evidently they have, so I either have to believe that Josh Freeman meant nothing to this line (certainly possible) or Vegas hates the Cardinals (also possible, though they are 2-1 ATS). Personally, I love this spot for Arizona. The easy reason is that they are better, even had Josh Freeman started the game. Secondly, Mike Glennon was quite bad if memory serves me right this preseason, and the Bucs seem to have basically quite on Schiano. Finally, that home crowd probably outright hates this team right now. Finally, I still think the Cardinals are better than people believe. I would have liked the line to be a bit higher towards Tampa, but I consider this a really lively underdog.

Cardinals 23  Buccaneers 13  (ARZ +2.5)

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)  @  Cleveland Browns (1-2)  (CIN -4)

I talked about it a lot on Tuesday's Power Rankings and the Rest piece that I think Brian Hoyer will find life a tad tougher in this game, against a great defense. I'm stunned the Bengals are only favored by four here, so much so that I'm worried if there is some injury I'm not seeing. The Bengals are more talented, and even if the Browns hold them to just 20, they probably cover this without too much stress. I'm definitely not backing away from this one now after dreaming of laying this all week.

Bengals 24  Browns 14  (CIN -4)

New York Giants (0-3)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)  (KC -4.5)

I started the week leaning towards the Giants... I need help. I try so hard to cut the ties with that team, and to give them their due so are they. The Giants did exactly nothing in that game that could convince anyone to take another chance betting on them. They basically had one of the worst performances that we have seen this season. The Chiefs, on the other side, won't make mistakes, will have a good chance to hammer Manning nearly as bad as Carolina did. I still like the comparison to the 49ers of 2011, and those 49ers lost an early season home game to an average at best Dallas team. This could be that game. I just now that the one week I decide to divorce the Giants they'll win by 20+ and rope me (and so many others) back in. Also, isn't this the perfect place for the Dr. Jekyll half of the Giants to come out of the closet, going to an undefeated team and winning to keep whatever hope they have alive? Yes, yes it is, and I hate what I am about to do:

Giants 21  Chiefs 17  (NYG +4.5)

Seattle Seahawks (3-0)  @  Houston Texans (2-1)  (SEA -2)

The Texans haven't lost as a home underdog since... I have no idea when. They haven't been a home underdog too much in recent years. There is a good reason why they are home underdogs, since Houston has looked really spotty, barely winning their first two games and putting up a completely lifeless performance in Baltimore. The Seahawks, on the other side, have taken care of business after the Week 1 scare, including covering a 20 point spread with ease. The problem with just taking the two points (allowing a field goal win) and running is that this is a 10AM PT game. The Seahawks struggled in such games mightily last year, losing to Miami and Detroit, among a few others, in such games. Even this year they struggled in Week 1 against Carolina. The Seahawks are also missing two O-Lineman, including their center, which is a bad spot against JJ Watt (who quietly has been dominant, again) and the rest of teh Texans still good defense. This should be a low scoring game, and one where the Texans could steal, but I hate betting on this Texans team to show up (although Andre Johnson should play). There isn't a lot of value at +2 for Houston, but the Seahawks can't go undefeated and this is as good a spot to lose in as any other.

Seahawks 17  Texans 20  (HOU +2)

Chicago Bears (3-0)  @  Detroit Lions (2-1)  (DET -2.5)

I ranked this my #1 game of the week, and while #'s 2-3 (the SNF and MNF games) are just as good, the division rivalry aspect of this game does it for me. With Green Bay on a bye, the winner gets a chance to get some distance between them and the Packers (of course the Bears, who started 7-1 last year, had quite a bit of space between them and the Packers and little good that did). The Bears pass rush has been rather quiet, but it is hard to really get to Stafford anyway. What the Bears need to do is shut down Calvin like they did in both games last year. The other side has the Bears new O-Line getting its best test so far with a great Detroit front. They only have 6 sacks but have gotten worlds of pressure. The line gives decent value for the Lions, who just need to win by a field goal, and to me that is the deciding factor. I think a lot of 3-0 teams are going down this week, and the Bears are one of them.

Bears 19  Lions 24  (DET -2.5)

New York Jets (2-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (2-1)  (TEN -3.5)

Lot of potentially low scoring games this week. Through three weeks, scoring is a little down from last years' record setting pace. Overall offense is slightly up, but QBs are a little less accurate this year and Y/A has dropped. Anyway, I don't know what this all means (if anything), but scoring is still down. Defenses adjusted well to the zone-read, and while the top QBs are still great, points aren't coming as easily. Anyway, as for this game, it is shocking that the winner of this game will be 301. The AFC so far has been the dominant conference, and that is because of teams like the Jets, Titans (and Dolphins and Chiefs) rising up so far in 2013. The Jets are a strange team that has a potentially good offense. The Titans actually remind me a lot of the Jeff Fisher Titans in 1999, winning close games with good, consistent defense and a QB making just as many plays as necessary. I don't know if it lasts long term, as that strategy was far more successful league-wide in 1999 than it is 14 years later. The Jets have, in the Ryan era, dominated middling offenses like this and with them getting good value I think they continue it, but I like the Titans to do what they do and pull out the win.

Jets 20  Titans 21  (NYJ +3.5)

Dallas Cowboys (2-1)  @  San Diego Chargers (1-2)  (DAL -2)

The Cowboys beat a terrible Rams team, and 0-3 Giants team and lost to the Chiefs. The Chargers lost to two teams that are 2-1 and beat the Eagles. I don't know which equation of results gives a better team, but I like the Chargers here. They've been blocking really well in pass protection which is key against that Dallas rush, and if they can continue to do so, they can give Rivers a lot of options against a still average secondary. The Chargers defense is also just good enough to keep the scoring low enough. Some of it is also narrative, as both the AFC Wild Card Race adn the NFC East Race is enhanced with both of these teams 2-2 after this week.

Cowboys 24  Chargers 27  (SD +2)

Washington Redskins (0-3)  @  Oakland Raiders (1-2)  (WAS -3.5)

So Matt Flynn is starting. That is all the reason I need to pick the Redskins. The Raiders aren't a good team, and the only reason they've been quasi-competitive is Terrelly Pryor playing really well. Matt Flynn could get killed behind that terrible O-Line. Give me the Redskins.

Redskins 27  Raiders 14  (WAS -3.5)

Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)  @  Denver Broncos (3-0)  (DEN -11.5)

Effing garbage time points. Not only does it make the Broncos defense and scoring differential a little less impressive (they easily could have won 42-17, 38-16 and 37-14 - giving them a point differential of 117-47, nicer than 127-71), but they failed to cover by a half point because of it. The Broncos have scored fewer points each game, going from 49 to 41 to 37, but they've also given up fewer points each game (27-23-21), and fewer yards each game (~390 to ~370 to ~340). The Raiders were the #1 rush offense coming into last weeks' game, and they had 49 yards on 17 runs. The Eagles are the #1 rush offense now, and while I think they get more than that, they aren't winning this game (or staying close) by running the ball. This is the worst position for Chip Kelly's offense to be in, as giving Manning more possessions is the exact way to be routed by the Broncos, and I think it happens.

Eagles 17  Broncos 34  (DEN -11.5) 

New England Patriots (3-0)  @  Atlanta Falcons (1-2)  (ATL -2.5)

I hate being semi-confident in the Patriots losing. Then again, the last time I was was back in Super Bowl XLVI, when I was pretty sure they would lose to the Giants. The Falcons need this game really badly, and despite their 1-2 record and the Patriots 3-0 record, the Falcons are basically about as good by 2013 performance. Both of the Falcons losses were close losses to 3-0 teams that the Falcons could have easily won. The Patriots were supremely lucky to escape 2-0 after two weeks, and while they dominated the Buccaneers, the Falcons offense is a different animal. The Falcons are also money in night games in the Ryan era, going 7-2 at home at night. They were 2-0 at home in primetime games last year, beating the Broncos and Saints, picking off Manning and Brees 8 times. One little nugget about the Brees game, that ended Brees' TD streak at 51 games, and Brady currently has a 49 game streak going. Anyway, the Falcons are as good as New England, and far more desperate, and I think they win.

Patriots 23  Falcons 28  (ATL -2.5)

Miami Dolphins (3-0)  @  New Orleans Saints (3-0)  (NO -7)

If Cameron Wake was playing, I would lean towards taking Miami and the points (of course, the line probably would be -6 or -6.5 in that case). The Dolphins are a real good team, beating two quality teams in their three wins. The Saints aren't clicking on offense as well as people believe, but they should still score quite a few points. The question here is how far does Rob Ryan's defense stay good, because history shows it will fall off at some point. Is it this week? Is it next week? Is it the week after (when they get New England)? Who knows. I like this Miami team, and I think seven is a high number, but it is also a perfect number. It is so hard to go for Miami here, but I'll do something I rarely do, which is pick them to cover but lose.

Dolphins 23  Saints 27  (MIA +7)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 4 Power Rankings & The Rest

Not a great week for me in picks. Had a couple of wins that lost late, which kind of sucks, but on to bigger and better things in Week 4.

Reviewing Last Week's Picks

Chiefs (+3.5)  over  EAGLES  (CORRECT  =  1-0)
VIKINGS (-7)  over  Browns  (WRONG  =  1-1)
Chargers (+3)  over  TITANS  (WRONG  =  1-2)
PATRIOTS (-7)  over  Buccaneers  (CORRECT  =  2-2)
SAINTS (-7.5)  over  Cardinals  (CORRECT  =  3-2)
Lions (+1)  over  REDSKINS  (CORRECT  =  4-2)
Rams (+3.5)  over  COWBOYS  (WRONG  =  4-3)
Giants (-2)  over  PANTHERS  (WRONG  =  4-4)
Texans (-2.5)  over  RAVENS  (WRONG  =  4-5)
BENGALS (+3)  over  Packers  (CORRECT  =  5-5)
JETS (-2.5)  over  Bills  (CORRECT  =  6-5)
Jaguars (+20)  over  SEAHAWKS  (WRONG  =  6-6)
Colts (+10)  over  49ERS  (CORRECT  =  7-6)
Falcons (+2)  over  DOLPHINS  (WRONG  =  7-7)
STEELERS  (+2.5)  over  Bears  (WRONG  =  7-8)
BRONCOS (-16.5)  over  Raiders  (WRONG  =  7-9)

Week 3: 7-9

Year-to-Date: 27-21

Power Rankings

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (0-3  =  28-92)

Well, they scored more points than the Seahawks first two opponents combined. So what if most of it was in extreme garbage time? The Jaguars are still terrible, with an offense that is bad no matter who the QB is, and an ineffective MoJo Drew at this point in his career. The one good thing about their future is they have a stable owner. Of course, they have nothing else. Rarely does a team go 3-13 and get almost assuredly worse.

31.) Minnesota Vikings  (0-3  =  81-96)

They lost to Brian Hoyer. They gave up 31 points to Brian Hoyer. I'm sorry, but Brian Hoyer is not a good QB. He should never beat anyone. Brian Hoyer will likely have an awful game this week against Cincinnati, because he is not that good. The Vikings defense made him look like a good player. The Vikings defense wasn't all that great last year, but they wouldn't have lost to Brian Hoyer. I'm not sure if Leslie Frazier's job is in jeopardy if they miss the playoffs, but he is not too long for the NFL world.

30.) Washington Redskins  (0-3  =   67-98)

The good news, RGIII looked better. The bad news? Better was 32-50 for 326 yards and a crucial fumble. They fell apart after that correct overturn of the Aldric Robertson TD, and while I think the Lions are a quite good team, that was a winnable game. The Redskins, in truth, were a .500 team last year, and when you take the best part about that team, their pistol offense run by a brilliant runner in RGIII, they become far worse than that. What is more troubling, of course, is their defense regressing an incredible amount. They probably won't stay historically bad, but it may not be good enough.

29.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (0-3  =  34-57)

They had the Patriots on the ropes, but that missed 4th and 5 early in the 2nd quarter (not to mention the missed field goal before that) killed their chances. Sure, it was the right call, but there's why I don't think the 'always go for it' mentality is right, even if it is mathematically provable. It was so obvious that the Patriots would take their good field position and drive it and take the lead. The Buccaneers never scored again. Josh Freeman has now completed less than 50% of his passes in all three games this year. That is not good. That is not good even if this was 1973. This team is only going to get worse too.

28.) Oakland Raiders  (1-2  =  57-67)

I'll say this, Terrelly Pryor throws a lot better than he is given credit for. He had really good timing and placement on a lot of those throws against Denver. He's also great at escaping pressure. For the first time, he didn't go off running the ball and still had a nice game. The bad news to all of this is that none of it mattered, and they were lucky to get beaten by just 16. They won't embarrass themselves, though, and that is as good as anything else at this point.

27.) Cleveland Browns  (1-2  =  47-64)

The Browns beat a winless team and suddenly there is some hype about them. Maybe it is just me, but when you need a 4th Quarter comeback to beat a bad team after scoring just 16 points in the two previous games, you still are not a very good team. I think Brian Hoyer had the game of his life last week as well, and I'll be stunned if they hang with the Bengals this week.

26.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (0-3  =  42-76)

25.) New York Giants  (0-3  =  54-115)

I'm putting these two together because, as I've mentioned, I picked each to go 12-4 and make their respective Title Games before the season. Of course, they are now a combined 0-6, and while the Steelers gained some life, their defense is starting to really break down. The Giants defense has also broken down, and that was one of the most lifeless performances I have seen. Strangely, the Giants have now had three absolutely terrible games against Carolina in the Manning era, first was a 23-0 loss in teh 2005 Wild Card Game, then a 41-9 loss in the final game in the Meadowlands in 2009. Of course, in between they beat them 36-14 in Carolina last season.

24.) Buffalo Bills  (1-2  =  65-73)

That offense didn't quit, but to lose when your opponent gets 20 penalties called against them is quite something. I don't really know how they do it. The Bills defense that looked so good in Weeks 1-2, the Bills defense looked terrible against the Jets. It is hard to believe that teams that have a running QB can look so terrible trying to defend another running QB.

23.) St. Louis Rams  (1-2  =  58-86)

I really don't know why I have them so high. They looked absolutely deplorable two weeks in a row to start the game, and while they at least showed some heart in Atlanta, that was the opposite in Dallas. I think they can give San Francisco a game because they always do (and bad, bad losses have never seemed to stop Jeff Fisher teams before), but right now the Rams are what the Rams have been ever since 2005: a bad team. Even their defense, which was supposed to build into a Top-10 unit has been anything but so far this season.

22.) Arizona Cardinals  (1-2  =  56-79)

That was one of the closest 31-7 games that I have seen. The Saints were never really in sync apart from a few nice plays. The Cardinals moved the ball a bit, but always ran out of steam somewhere near midfield (and add into that Carson Palmer's one interception). Their defense continues to play well (and yes, holding Brees to 24-39 is playing well) and they'll probably never be out of any game, but they still most likely win more than 7 games, and that is the best case scenario.

21.) Philadelphia Eagles  (1-2  =  79-86)

For the second straight game, the other team controlled the ball. This time, though, it wasn't because the Eagles were scoring so quickly, but it was because the Eagles were doing all of the same things they did in 2011 early in the year, with terrible turnovers, missed snaps, bad reads and continually shooting themselves in the foot. Honestly, if you go back to 2011 (the 'Dream Team' Eagles), they were so close to the same Eagles, except they weren't as fast between plays and could play defense. Nothing has really changed.

20.) New York Jets  (2-1  =  55-50)

Lo and behold, the Jets are a really fun team to watch. They could easily be 3-0 right now, and after one average game and one terrible game, Geno Smith had his best game yet. I don't remember his arm being nearly as good in college, but that final TD throw to Santonio was absolutely perfect. This team has a murderous schedule coming up, so they better get a win against Tennessee. After that, it may not be too easy, with games against New Orleans, Atlanta and the return leg against New England in the next month.

19.) Tennessee Titans  (2-1  =  60-56)

I'm not sure how it happened, but the NFL's worst defense in 2012 has suddenly become a thoroughly league-average unit (if not better). They didn't really stop Philip Rivers (18-22), but they kept his output below 200 yards and dominated the middle of the game. Jake Locker never makes it look pretty, but with his mobility and good arm, he can make enough plays. Locker really is like a poor man's Andrew Luck, or alternatively a very rich man's Christian Ponder. I don't know what that combination means long-term, but for now it ain't too bad.

18.) Dallas Cowboys  (2-1  =  83-55)

The Cowboys are awfully good during day games at home, huh? A quick scan back shows them at 7-3 in day games at home the past two years. So what if some of those were awfully close, they were wins. This past one wasn't close, and it is nice to see the Cowboys have some sort of running game, but I still don't like the team long term. What helps them is that they are the best team in the division right now. After all those years of pumping up the NFC East, I think it is bad enough that maybe they won't have umpteen night games in the second half of the season.

17.) San Francisco 49ers  (1-2  =  44-84)

The 49ers are still really talented, blah, blah, blah. What I really want to talk about is this idea of everyone giving Kaepernick a pass because he has no one to throw to. You know what? Kaepernick has been awful the past two games. If that was Mark Sanchez, or Christian Ponder, who both also have no one to throw to, they would be pounded for being bad. Instead, Kaepernick isn't. Why? Because everyone wants him to be great. Fact is that he is not a great passer yet, and the league has solved the Zone Read quite quickly after all.

16.) Houston Texans  (2-1  =  70-82)

I wanted to think Matt Schaub wasn't permanently ruined last year, but the more and more he throws short and doesn't test the arm I think it might be true. He's thrown for less than 10 yards per completion through the season, including well under 10 these past two games. Some of it is Andre Johnson's nagging injury, but DeAndre Hopkins has played well on the other side. No, there is no real reason why Matt Schaub has turned into the latter day David Carr. The defense is still quite good, but that was a harrowing loss to the Ravens, and they are in a much tougher division than I'm sure they imagined.

15.) Carolina Panthers  (1-2  =  68-36)

They are about five plays away from 3-0, and have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They have the league's best pass rush as of now. Sure, they have no one in the secondary outside of the wonderfully named Captain Munnerlyn, but when they pressure the QB so well it doesn't really matter now, does it? The offense finally looks in sync as well, and to me the key is that DeAngelo Williams is running well again. The Saints are two games up, but I still think that division is winnable for Carolina.

14.) San Diego Chargers  (1-2  =  78-81)

Here's another team that could easily be 3-0, but the reason why they aren't says a lot about them. Their defense in the end just isn't good enough to win close games without their offense doing more in the 4th Quarter. The Chargers could have run out the clock but they just couldn't run the ball to close it out. The Chargers are still a good team, but the AFC as a whole seems a lot better than most expected, as does the AFC West, and they need to pick up some wins quickly.

13.) Atlanta Falcons  (1-2  =  71-74)

Here's another team that couldn't run the ball out. If they get another first down against Miami and hit one throw against New Orleans, they too are 3-0. The Falcons have a massive game coming up and they can't afford to fall to 1-3. The offense is still fine, but they just can't translate that to points each week, which is a problem. What has been a nice surprise is the effectiveness of their pass rush even without John Abraham. I'm sure the Giants would love to go back and resign Osi Umenyiora right about now. If they can just get slightly better play from their backend they should be fine going forward.

12.) Indianapolis Colts  (2-1  =  68-48)

Well, that was impressive. I don't think anyone imagined them winning, let alone completely dominating the 49ers in every countable way. They mostly shut down the 49ers run game, they were able to run themselves against the good 49ers rush defense. They were able to protect Luck better than ever before. I don't like the fact that Grigson, Pagano & Co., seem hell bent on turning the Colts into a power-run team that doesn't go deep ever, but for one weekend, it worked about as well as it ever could.

11.) Baltimore Ravens  (2-1  =  71-64)

How good are the Broncos? They score 49 against a team that hasn't given up a TD since. The Ravens defense has been on a roll these past two weeks. It sure is fun to play at home again. Flacco still looks like the inconsistent above average player he always has, but their Defense and Special Teams could easily still lead this team back to the playoffs. Their games against Cincinnati will be amazing this year.

10.) Green Bay Packers  (1-2  =  96-88)

That was probably Aaron Rodgers worst game of his career, with two bad interceptions and quite a few other bad throws. Of course, mixed in there was some beautiful back shoulder stuff to Nelson. The fact that the Packers use that play as a repeatable one is just insane given how tough that type of deep timing pattern is. Their defense still goes through lulls where they won't get close to the passer, but their overall numbers have been far better than either of the past two years. The biggest problem as I see with the Packers is that they're division has two teams that are good.

9.) Miami Dolphins  (3-0  =  74-53)

I said if they were to be a legitimate team in 2013, they beat the Falcons in their home opener. Well, it took a while to get the lead, but they did just that with a beautiful drive by Tannehill with the clock winding down. The Dolphins defense will now have to operate without Cameron Wake, but should get him back by at least the first New England game, and those two New England games may end up being the ones that decide the AFC East. Fun for the Pats to actually be challenged for a change.

8.) New England Patriots  (3-0  =  59-34)

I didn't want to overreact to Tom Brady barely completing 50% of his throws through two games, and likewise I don't want to overreact to the Patriots finally having a comfortable win. Tom Brady has still not thrown for over 10 yards per completion even once, but he should be getting Gronkowski back soon and Amendola soon after. The Patriots have room to improve and are already 3-0. They have three tough games coming up (@ATL, @CIN, vs NO), and if they can make it out of that at 5-1, they can easily be a #2 seed (or even a #1 if I'm overrating Denver).

7.) Detroit Lions  (2-1  =  82-69)

That was a big win for the Lions, to close out a worse team on the road without playing their best game. The Lions seem to have a more sustainable 'good'-ness about them this time than in 2011. The NFC is deep, so they are no lock for the playoffs, but the Lions seem more structured. That defensive line has been slightly underwhelming in terms of sacks, but their revamped secondary has worked well. If they can get Ndamukong Suh to play at his normal level, look out. Huge game in the NFC North this week with them hosting the Bears.

6.) Kansas City Chiefs  (3-0  =  71-34)

One more game, and one more sign that maybe the better comp for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs in the 2011 San Francisco 49ers (a legitimate 13-3) and not the 2010 Chiefs, who also started 3-0 (but finished 0-6 and collapsed the next two years). Alex Smith looks sloppy at times, but he doesn't turn it over. The defense is playing at an extremely high level. I don't think they are as good as Denver, and I don't see them winning the division, but they should be a wild card contender, if not a healthy #5 seed.

5.) New Orleans Saints  (3-0  =  70-38)

The good news is that their offense can still get better, as Brees still hasn't clicked close to what he was in 2011 with Payton. The bad news is their defense will almost certainly get worse because Rob Ryan defenses almost always do. The best news, though, is that the good news should offset the bad news. I heard a lot the past two days about who is the 2nd best team in the NFC right now with the Packers, 49ers and Falcons all being 1-2. Well, why not the Saints? If they can steal that #2 or #1 seed, we could see two of the best Home Crowds hosting division games.

4.) Chicago Bears  (3-0  =  95-74)

The Bears ability to consistently create turnovers and more consistently return those for points is beyond all levels of understanding. How they can do it year after year playing essentially the same scheme is one of the most amazing things about the Bears. On the other side, the O-Line has still done a great job, and Cutler is starting to trust players not named Brandon Marshall, with Alshon Jeffery having a particularly nice start to the season.

3.) Cincinnati Bengals  (2-1  =  75-64)

Big win for the Bengals in the best game of the week. There are two teams that are clearly better than both the Packers and Bengals in their respective conferences, but I got the feeling that that could have been a Super Bowl preview under the right circumstances. Both teams played well, but ultimately the Bengals greater talent everywhere outside of QB and WR made up for the alternative this time. They clamped down that defense in an extremely impressive way, especially given the short fields they were constantly made to defend. The Bengals are a really good team and they can go on a run here. A key game is their hosting of the Pats in two weeks.

2.) Seattle Seahawks  (3-0  =  86-27)

Sure, the schedule gave them a favor by throwing Jacksonville at them in Week 3, but the Seahawks didn't let up a bit. They effectively ended that game in half a quarter, as a good team should against a terrible one. At some point, it won't get so easy, and then we will see what happens in a close game with them, but for right now their defense is the best in the NFL, their offense is solidly in the Top-10, and their Special Teams is good enough to give them good field position and their opponents bad. Everything is going right for Seattle right now.

1.) Denver Broncos  (3-0  =  127-71)

And everything is going right for Denver apart from the injuries. Champ Bailey should be back in a week or two and Von MIller back a few weeks after, which should help remedy their defense. Of course, their defense mostly needs to be remedied because they gave up garbage points. Also, it may not matter, since that offense is unstoppable right now. Peyton is playing at a level even I haven't seen from him since that brilliant 2009 AFC Championship Game performance. The Broncos are scary, and with Von Miller coming back in less than a month, they will only get scarier.

Playoff Projections


1.) Denver Broncos  =  14-2
2.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  12-4
3.) New England Patriots  =  12-4
4.) Houston Texans  =  10-6
5.) Kansas City Chiefs  =  11-5
6.) Miami Dolphins  =  10-6


1.) Seattle Seahawks  =  13-3
2.) New Orleans Saints  =  12-4
3.) Green Bay Packers  =  11-5
4.) Dallas Cowboys  =  9-7
5.) Detroit Lions  =  10-6
6.) Chicago Bears  =  10-6

Ranking Next Week's Games

15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3)  @  Minnesota Vikings (0-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Washington Redskins (0-3)  @  Oakland Raiders (1-2)  (4:25 - FOX)
13.) Arizona Cardinals (1-2)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Bad Team vs. Bad Team is not a good Equation" Sunday, as these are the games with two bad teams playing each other. Few notes, there is some intrigue to Steelers at Vikings, but it being in London ruins any chance of it being anything but last.

12.) Indianapolis Colts (2-1)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)  @  Cleveland Browns (1-2)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "Divisional Seperation" Sunday, as we get two good teams going on the road to play a bad team from their division. I think this will be the first game where the Jags aren't blown out badly, as they usually play Indianapolis close. On the other side, I think the Bengals flex their muscles and ruin the Browns shit.

10.) New York Giants (0-3)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)  (1:00 - FOX)
9.) Baltimore Ravens (2-1)  @  Buffalo Bills (1-2)  (1:00 - CBS)
8.) New York Jets (2-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (2-1)  (4:05 - CBS)

I call it "If I didn't have Sunday Ticket Max I wouldn't Care" Sunday, as these three games are barely interesting if you could only watch one or two. Well, with Sunday Ticket for the first time, I can watch more, so I'll see more. Also, that Jets @ Titans game is good, but I've never seen a game more assured to be a boring 17-13 type affair.

7.) San Francisco 49ers (1-2)  @  St. Louis Rams (1-2)  (TNF - NFLN)

I call it "Desperation Sunday" with the 49ers and Rams both trying to stave off a dreaded 1-3 start. The Rams, if you haven't heard, played the 49ers to a draw in San Francisco and beat them in St. Louis. We'll see if they still match up well against the 49ers this time as well. Another subplot: can Kaepernick complete more than half his passes.

6.) Seattle Seahawks (3-0)  @  Houston Texans (2-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
5.) Dallas Cowboys (2-1)  @  San Diego Chargers (1-2)  (4:25 - FOX)
4.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)  @  Denver Broncos (3-0)  (4:25 - FOX)

I call it "Is the AFC Really the better conference" Sunday, as so far in 2013, the AFC has dominated the NFC to the tune of 11-3, including wins by seemingly above average AFC teams beating seemingly good NFC teams (Indy over San Francisco, Miami over Atlanta). The Seahawks get another good road test early, and the Cowboys and Chargers get to play what should be a fun game. The final one should be fun in that cathartic "You should have learned from Nick Saban that the NFL is a cut above, Chip" kind of way.

3.) Miami Dolphins (3-0)  @  New Orleans Saints (3-0)  (MNF - ESPN)
2.) New England Patriots (3-0)  @  Atlanta Falcons (1-2)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "Every Now And Then the Night Games Are Just Great" Sunday(and Monday), with two great AFC East @ NFC South games. The Patriots and Falcons one has bigger stakes so it is a bit higher. We get to see the Pats defense face a good offense for the first time, and we get to see if the Falcons can avoid their first time being two games under .500 in the Matt Ryan era. On the other side, we get a surprise game between two undefeated teams. Can't ask for too much more.

1.) Chicago Bears (3-0)  @  Detroit Lions (2-1)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Old School Divisional Grudge Match" Sunday, with a beautiful game between two powerful NFC North teams. They'll play the return leg much later in the year, when the weather should fit the tone, but the game should still be damn fun. Winner gets early control of the NFC North (and if it is Chicago, they go 2.5 up on Green Bay). Good early season game.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 3 Picks

Week 2: 11-5

Year-to-Date: 20-12

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)  (PHI -3.5)

Are the Eagles just going to have inflated lines all week. I can't wait to beg against their inflated line next week in Denver. Anyway, earlier this week I made the comparison between the 2013 Chiefs and the last surprise Alex Smith team, the 2011 49ers. Those 49ers also played a close game against Dallas in Week 2 (they lost, the Chiefs won) and had an early season road trip to an overhyped Eagles team (they won). I think this Chiefs team at least covers this line. The Chiefs talent on defense is ridiculous, built much like the 49ers with a bunch of high draft picks coming together at the same time. They are the perfect ball control tough defense type of team to beat Philadelphia, and I think they do. I believe in Andy Reid and Alex Smith. But more than them, I believe in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry.

Chiefs 23  Eagles 20  (KC +3.5)

Cleveland Browns (0-2)  @  Minnesota Vikings (0-2)  (MIN -7)

This line seems a little high when considering how good the Browns defense has played at times through two games. They have a lot of talent on defense, enough so that had they gotten Andy Reid and Alex Smith, maybe they become the 2013 Chiefs instead. Of course, they have Brandon Weeden, but now they don't even have him, they have Brian Hoyer. The Browns GM is Mike Lombardi, who came off as a babbling idiot in his many appearances on The BS Report. How he possibly got another job as a GM is beyond me, and he's so far traded away their best offensive player and is now strarting Tom Brady's backup who has been terrible in limited action. I was all ready to bet on the Vikings here, but how can I with Brian Hoyer. This is a really tough game to bet, and if I was risking real dollars, I probably would stay away.

Browns 10  Vikings 20  (MIN -7)

San Diego Chargers (1-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-1)  (TEN -3)

The line is essentially saying the Charger and Titans are even teams, and I think that is giving too much credit to Tennessee. I guess there could be some 10AM West Coast bias here, but the Chargers just won on the East Coast LAST WEEK! The Chargers have a QB who has looked exactly like he used to when he was arguably the league's best QB from 2008-2010. Their defense looked bad against Philly, but was quite good against Houston the week before. Tennessee probably won't be able to win with a QB who throws for less than 200 yards in this one like they did in Week 1 and almost did once again in Week 2. The Chargers rush defense hasn't been great, but with Chris Johnson, it all has to do with the blocking he gets. They have the players in the secondary to contain whatever few targets Locker has to throw to. In the end, I just think San Diego is a better team getting great value here.

Chargers 27  Titans 17  (SD +3)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2)  @  New England Patriots (2-0)  (NE -7)

I hate this line. In two short weeks, Vegas went from overrating the Patriots to essentially treating them like a normal team for the first time in seven years. The Buccaneers are 0-2, but they could easily be 2-0, just like the Patriots could easily be 0-2 (or at least 1-1). The Patriots defense has played well, but this is the best pass offense they have faced so far (which says more about the Bills and Jets, really), and I could see Vincent Jackson having a nice game. The key is if they can give Josh Freeman time, which I just can't see happening too often. I don't foresee a great game from this Patriots offense because the problems they have aren't getting solved anytime soon, but so far they haven't faced an offense good enough to make the Pats score like they used to. That all changes next Sunday Night in Atlanta, but that comes later.

Buccaneers 16  Patriots 24  (NE -7)

Arizona Cardinals (1-1)  @  New Orleans Saints (2-0)  (NO -7.5)

Arizona just likes playing close games, I guess. The Cardinals actually won the last matchup between these two teams in 2010, picking off Brees three times in a shocking win in Arizona with Max Hall at QB. Yeah, that happened (the Saints also lost to a Colt McCoy led Browns team at home that year, too). The good thing for the Cardinals is that they don't need two defensive scores this time to stay with the Saints. I am still seeing all of the bad things that crept into Brees's game last year, like throwing wildly under pressure and inability to throw close to the goal line, and that offense is scoring less now than it did last year. Brees can put up the 300 yard games all he wants but they aren't translating into a lot of points. The Cardinals have a defense that can capitalize on any mistake, and if Larry Fitzerald is good and healthy, that offense can capitalize as well. I can see Rob Ryan's defense going horribly wrong here, but I want to see them fail once before I pick them to do so at home (maybe in New England in two weeks).

Cardinals 20  Saints 30  (NO -7.5)

Detroit Lions (1-1)  @  Washington Redskins (0-2)  (WAS -1)

Why are the Redskins favored here? Until ultra-garbage time, Griffin has looked totally hampered. Their defense has been historically putrid through two games. They've been down a combined 50-7 at halftime of their first two games. On the other side, the Lions have looked quite good, even in their loss in Arizona, a place that many teams look bad in each of the past few years. The Lions have exactly the type of defense to really bother Wilson, with relentless pressure up the gut, making whatever little foundation he has in those legs even more impaired. On the other side, the Lions offense should chew up the Redskins defense, and I can see Calvin doing some bad, bad things. Again, why exactly is Washington favored here? I'm so scared to be so confident.

Lions 34  Redskins 17  (DET +1)

St. Louis Rams (1-1)  @  Dallas Cowboys (1-1)  (DAL -3.5)

Underdogs have generally been good the past few years and the same has been true this year. I've already picked four underdogs out of the first six games, and I'm leaning towards picking the Rams here as well. Tony Romo has struggled against teams that can rush him with just four throughout his career (Giants, Vikings in that ill-fated playoff game), and the Rams defense, while giving up some big plays in the first few games, has generally toughened up as the game went on. They gave up just 24 offensive points in Atlanta last week, for instance, and that Falcons offense I do like more than Dallas. My worry is whether Sam Bradford and the Rams offense can really do work against the Cowboys defense. Dallas has looked good in Monte Kiffin's defense so far, and it has had no impact in Demarcus Ware's effectiveness. In the end, I have no idea what to do. I would definitely stay away if I was betting real money, but I'll go with my gut for now.

Rams 20  Cowboys 21  (STL +3.5)

New York Giants (0-2)  @  Carolina Panthers (0-2)  (NYG -2)

I had a long explanation of the matchups and the Panthers offense against a bad (so far) Giants defense, and the Giants offense against a depleted secondary that has only become more depleted as time has gone on. But then I read the tragic story of Tom Coughlin's brother dying after a freak accident when attending the Giants/Broncos game last Sunday. It is a terrible, terribly story. My thoughts and prayers are with Tom's Brother's family, Tom's family and everyone involved. Anyway, what I mean to say is after reading that, if the Giants can't turn their season around with that motivation, then I'm giving up on them forever.

Giants 27  Panthers 20  (NYG -2)

Houston Texans (2-0)  @  Baltimore Ravens (1-1)  (HOU -2.5)

Interesting game here. It is the second of the 6 games between the Big-4 (Texans, Patriots, Broncos, Ravens - the winners of the four AFC Divisions two years running), and with most coming late in the season (Broncos @ Texans and Patriots @ Ravens on the same day in Week 16). The first was the opener, so this is the first game when we know something about the teams performance in the current season (though not much more). What we do know is the Ravens through loss of personnel and injury have an offense that doesn't even resemble what it was in last year's regular season. Now, news is slowly coming in that Ray Rice may miss the game as well. Houston has not played good football but is still 2-0, but unlike in New England, where the bad football is due to not having as good personnel, in Houston it is more just good players not playing really well. Andre Johnson will play, as will Ed Reed, and I can see the Texans defense playing really well just with the emotional return of Reed to Baltimore. Honestly, I think even Ravens' fans would love to see a Pick-6 by Ed Reed. I don't know if they will see that, but I think they see their team lose.

Texans 24  Ravens 16  (HOU -2.5)

Green Bay Packers (1-1)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)  (GB -3)

Really tough game to pick here. The Bengals defense may not have as many sacks as people would have thought, but have given up just 31 points and the 6th fewest yards in the league. The one thing I know is that they will most likely shut down that run game completely, which will put a lot on Aaron Rodgers. Of course, Rodgers is good enough to handle that, but he will be under durress all game long. This is the type of team that can give Rodgers a lot of trouble: shut down the run game, tee off on Rodgers behind that bad O-Line. Seattle did this in the Fail Mary game. The 49ers have done this three times running. Cincinnati themselves did this in 2009, sacking Rodgers' 8 times. Of course, the other side of this is if the Bengals offense can score enough on the Packers defense. The Packers defense looked good in the 1st half against the Redskins, but that might say as much about the Redskins offense right now. Dalton is behind a good O-Line, and the Bengals have enough targets now to take advantage of that injured secondary. Personally, I think the Bengals are, in totality, about as good of a team, and they are at home. Either way, I think the winner of this game goes on a really nice run to start the season.

Packers 24  Bengals 27  (CIN +3)

Buffalo Bills (1-1)  @  New York Jets (1-1)  (NYJ -2.5)

Terrible game. Worst part is, since I live in the NYC TV Market, this game gets the 4:25 PM slot on CBS. Thankfully, I also live in the Philly TV Market, so I can avoid this like the plague. What you have here is really two even teams. Both run offenses based off a running QB. The Jets will throw more, which they shouldn't given those WRs, and the Bills will run more. The Bills offense seems more directed and focused right now. On the other side, the Jets defense is better. The Jets defense has actually played really well so far in 2013. They did great work against Tampa Bay and then dominated the Patriots offense in a way no one has really done since maybe the Jets themselves in the 2010 season. They made Brady look lost. They should do at least the same to EJ Manuel. I hate trusting the Jets offense, especially when they have to win for the bet to come in, but they usually do well against marginal teams.

Bills 17  Jets 21  (NYJ -2.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)  @  Seattle Seahawks (2-0)  (SEA -20)

There's no analysis to this game at all. Teams that are favored by 20 are 4-11 ATS. That's not good. That's about as good of a trend as you get. Sure, there is a small sample, but that is because usually there isn't a good reason for any team to be favored by 20 points against another. It is hard to make any case for the Jaguars, but all they have to do is not lose by three TDs.

Jaguars 10  Seahawks 27  (JAX +20)

Indianapolis Colts (1-1)  @  San Francisco 49ers (1-1)  (SF -10)
This game looked a lot nicer eight days ago, before Luck lost the 'money at home' and 'money in a close 4th Quarter game' mystique and before the 49ers were depantsed in Seattle. I have seen a lot of people play the '49ers will be angry and take it out on the Colts' card, but is there proof of that actually happening. It seems like the rationale people used to use when betting the line on New England after losses, and while New England usually won the next game, they didn't always cover. Of course, the 49ers are just better than Indianapolis, and the line honestly could be higher and still get good action on both sides. The Colts offense did a decent job against a good pass rush last week, but the 49ers, on the road, is a different animal. The Colts defense will get their first test against one of the Pistol-QBs, which seen how bad they did against Terrelly Pryor in Week 1 could get ugly. By the way, I hated the Trent Richardson trade, but that is neither here nor there. I hate betting teams to cover double digit lines, and I can't get myself to do it here.

Colts 21  49ers 28  (IND +10)

Atlanta Falcons (1-1)  @  Miami Dolphins (2-0)  (MIA -2)

Nice game here on FOX. Of course, FOX is choosing to show Giants @ Panthers at 1PM instead of this game in the Philly area, but I digress. This is a nice early season test for Miami. So far, the Dolphins have played two road games and won both. The teams they beat are at best middle-of-the-road AFC teams and now they get what seems to be at worst a solid NFC team, which is a steady jump up. The Dolphins are a solid team, but I am not ready to trust them to cover against a good team like this. Even if they lose here, they can still do well this season.

Falcons 27  Dolphins 20  (ATL +2)

Chicago Bears (2-0)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2)  (CHI -2.5)

This game also looked a lot nicer before the season, didn't it. I can't believe that out of the four teams I picked to make the Conference Title Games, three are 0-2 (of course, Denver is a beautiful 2-0). Overall, out of my 12 predicted playoff teams, there are those three at 0-2 and the Broncos, Patriots and Texans are 2-0, with the Packers, Lions, Chargers, Bengals, 49ers and Falcons are at 1-1. That means nothing for this game, but just a nice little update of how I am doing. As for this game, I can't see the Steelers at 0-3, and I don't think the Bears are a good 2-0 (of course, few teams are in 2013). The Bears could struggle in this game, but the Steelers haven't showed any consistent ability to rush the passer. The Steelers are just so out of sync offensively right now. So many times Roethlisberger lofted up deep balls that were well thrown, but his outside guys just aren't fast enough. Of course, with some better luck (like not having the Paulsen fumble or the really shady 'tripping' penalty wipe out a 40-yard play) they might beat Cincinnati anyway. In this AFC, the Steelers are still alive, but they need this game. Chicago doesn't. To me, that is what it comes to.

Bears 17  Steelers 20  (PIT +2.5)

Oakland Raiders (1-1)  @  Denver Broncos (2-0)  (DEN -16.5)
Teams favored by 20 or more do terribly. Teams favored by 16-17 do about as bad. I don't have any good number for that one, but it happens far more frequently. I think the Broncos win and probably win by 10, but that last TD spread is what matters here. The Raiders have shown ability to at least run the ball, which could shorten this game (it is harder to win by more when the game is shorter in terms of possessions), but the Broncos are the best rush defense in the NFL right now. The Broncos in the Manning era haven't faced any of the running QBs (and Pryor is a good warmup for the Eagles next week and RGIII in a month or so), but I don't think they'll have any problems with their speed at LB and the good tackling of their secondary. If the Broncos can get an early lead, they should cover this easily since their corners should shut down the marginal Raiders receivers, but with the Broncos propensity to start slowly, that early lead is far from a given. In the end, I don't know where to go with this game. But then I think this: Manning is great in primetime, especially at home. They've won by 22 and 18 so far against better teams. Why not take the Broncos.

Raiders 14  Broncos 38  (DEN -16.5)

Enjoy the Games!!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 3 Power Rankings

Reviewing Last Week's Picks

Jets (+11)  over  PATRIOTS  (CORRECT  =  1-0)
Chargers (+7)  over  EAGLES  (CORRECT  =  2-0)
RAVENS (-7)  over  Browns  (CORRECT  =  3-0)
TEXANS (-9)  over  Titans  (WRONG  =  3-1)
Panthers (-3)  over  BILLS  (WRONG  =  3-2)
FALCONS (-5.5)  over  RAMS  (CORRECT  =  4-2)
Vikings (+6)  over  BEARS  (CORRECT  =  5-2)
Dolphins (+3)  over  COLTS  (CORRECT  =  6-2)
CHIEFS (-3)  over  COWBOYS  (WRONG  =  6-3)
PACKERS (-7.5)  over  REDSKINS  (CORRECT  =  7-3)
RAIDERS (-6)  over  Jaguars  (CORRECT  =  8-3)
Saints (-4)  over  BUCCANEERS  (WRONG  =  8-4)
CARDINALS (+2.5)  over  Lions  (CORRECT  =  9-4)
Broncos (-4)  over  GIANTS  (CORRECT  =  10-4)
SEAHAWKS (-2.5)  over  49ers  (CORRECT  =  11-4)
Steelers (+6.5)  over  BENGALS  (WRONG  =  11-5)

Week 2: 11-5

Year-to-Date: 20-12

Power Rankings

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (0-2  =  11-47)

Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, it doesn't matter really. The Jaguars are just a bad football team. I guess their defense has some pride, because they have at least h**eld opponents under 30 (though that probably ends this week with a little trip to Seattle) in both games. In one sense I feel bad for the Jaguars, who don't have any immediate relief in the draft coming (I'm not a huge fan of Teddy Bridgewater, but I've been wrong before).

31.) Washington Redskins  (0-2  =  47-71)

There actually haven't been too many awful teams through two weeks (and few dominant teams, there have been a ridiculous number of competitive games overall), but the Redskins have been as bad as any. Garbage Time stats aside (and that is a meaningful sentence, since the Redskins have been as prolific in garbage time as Carson Palmer was last year), the Redskins have basically been dominated like no team in the NFL. They were down 7-26 at the half of one game and 0-24 in the other. RGIII is clearly hurt and is clearly not a great pocket passer, at least this gimpy version isn't.

30.) Cleveland Browns  (0-2  =  16-37)

Same old Browns. They do everything right on defense against Baltimore, but only put up six points against a team that gave up 49 the week before. The Browns defense is still solid and will keep them from being blown out all too often, but when your QB options are either a potentially hurt Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, it won't matter in the win column. The one saving grace is that the AFC North may be in a down period (like every AFC Division, for that matter).

29.) Oakland Raiders  (1-1  =  36-50)

Yeah, I'm giving them little credit for beating the worst team in football. Whatever credit goes away when you realize that the passing offense once again did nothing and now they take their run-based offense into Denver and the league's best rush defense (among the other things they are the best in the league at) on Monday Night. Just to say this: that line can't get high enough.

28.) Minnesota Vikings  (0-2  =  54-65)

Tough break for the Vikings who could have won that game, but then again their offense was mediocre for the second straight game. Christian Ponder telegraphed that pass so bad I thought it was Jay Cutler throwing it. It was nice to see Jared Allen with a strip sack, playing like it was 2009 all over again. Too bad these days in Minnesota they wish they had Brett Favre back.

27.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (0-2  =  31-34)

I'm probably slamming the Buccaneers too hard, because they were winning both games with 59:56 gone, but lost both on walk-off field goals. That said, Josh Freeman looks terrible and they are close to redoing basically the exact same mutiny they had at the end of Raheem Morris's tenure. That defense still plays really hard, and whoever replaces Greg Schiano will have a lot to work with on that side of the ball, but they need to sort out that QB situation. With the ridiculous depth at QB in the league, teams without a legitimate QB are just screwed week in, week out.

26.) New York Jets  (1-1  =   28-30)

Couldn't they throw me a bone and win that game against New England? Couldn't they just do me a solid for once (other than that time when they did win that game in New England in January, 2011)? That defense is still good enough to beat any average offense (and New England without any for Tom Brady to throw to qualifies), but their offense just can't keep making terrible mistakes. It's not all on Geno either. Receivers run bad routes, drop passes, fumble for no apparent reason. The Jets could be 2-0, instead, they embark on the toughest part of their schedule (outside of this coming week), and are probably a handful of weeks away from Rex Ryan potentially being fired.

25.) Carolina Panthers  (0-2  =  30-36)

Let's just erase the fact that I picked them to not only win the division, but make the NFC Championship Game. Let's just forget that. How can a team be so ridiculously terrible at playing in close games time and time again. If DeAngelo Williams doesn't fumble against Seatttle, they likely win in Week 1, and if they just go for it on 4th and 1, or if the refs don't call a mysterious DPI penalty on the last drive, they win in Week 2. I was so close to being vindicated for one of my ballsier predictions.

24.) Buffalo Bills  (1-1  =  45-46)

Lost in the DPI is that EJ Manuel had another effective game, and more and more it looks like Doug Marrone actually knows what he is doing and that hiring a middling college coach wasn't such a 'Bills' like idea after all. That was a beautiful play on the game winning touchdown, worthy of a game winning touchdown. If anything, the Bills are exciting to watch again. Of course, in this wacky, every-game-is-close season, there are only a handful of teams that aren't exciting to watch.

23.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (0-2  =  19-36)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have given up just 18 points per game. That is the good news. The bad news is they've scored just 19 points total in two games. I won't put this on Roethlisberger. His o-line sucks once again, he has the worst Running Back By Committee ever established, and the Steelers let another good WR walk (following the footsteps of Plaxico, Nate Washington, Santonio Holmes). They are a mess. I can't believe I picked them to go 12-4 and make the AFC Title Game (thank God for the Broncos, my only good preseason pick). Of course, in the AFC they probably aren't out of it, but that game hosting Chicago becomes awfully important now.

22.) Philadelphia Eagles  (1-1  =  63-50)

Well, two weeks in an Chip Kelly is leading the 3rd highest scoring team in the NFL, the team that leads the league in yards per play. So why do I have them this low? Well, for one, if the Chargers don't fumble on back-to-back possessions inside the Eagles red zone in the 1st Half, this game isn't even close, and they still can't play defense. They never had a practice with live tackling in training camp and it shows. The best moment was when they left Eddie Royal wide open on a three-man rush. Something that is hard to do in Madden.

21.) Indianapolis Colts  (1-1  =  41-41)

I never liked the hiring of Pep Hamilton. I thought it was a move made by Irsay, thinking he can outsmart everyone by getting Andrew Luck's old college coordinator to coach him. Well, this offense doesn't play to Luck's skills at all. Andrew Luck is Ben Roethlisberger, with the potential to be even better. Just as Roethlisberger has been neutered in Todd Haley's offense, Luck is neutered. I hope to hell the Pep era fails just so they can replace him with someone good.

20.) St. Louis Rams  (1-1  =  51-55)

Is it strange that through two weeks the real problem in St. Louis has been their defense? Their D-Line has been good but not great, and their corners are getting torched a little too much. It is still early, and the NFC should be a blood-bath all year, but with the best defense in the NFL, another top-five defense, and another borderline top-10 defense (Arizona) in the same division, the Rams better figure out how to get close to that level. It is nice to see Sam Bradford finally play to his level.

19.) Tennessee Titans  (1-1  =  40-39)

I'm stunned at Tennessee right now. Until their inevitable late collapse, they had totally dismantled the Texans offense. This was the worst scoring defense in the NFL last year. They were awful defensively, and weren't much better in 2011. Then, without making any huge moves outside of getting known Patriots killer (which isn't Aaron Hernandez, a known Patriots' killer) Bernard Pollard, they have become a good unit all of a sudden. There's something strange brewing in the AFC, where so far the South and West are the two best divisions in the conference.

18.) New York Giants  (0-2  =  54-77)

As bad as my Panthers NFC Championship Loss prediction was, it is even worse since the team I picked to knock them off in that game was the Giants. Of course, they meet in Week 3 both 0-2. The loser of that game is gone. That said, the Giants are just half a game back, with a light schedule coming up. Even their second half schedule this year is better than in years past. I'm not giving up yet. In 2007, they started 0-2, and those losses were a shootout in Dallas (35-45), and a blowout home loss to an aging legend at QB (13-35 to the Favre-led Packers), and they won the Super Bowl. One can hope?

17.) Dallas Cowboys  (1-1  =  52-48)  

Is there anything more Cowboys-ish than for Romo to go 30-42 for 298 yards with a TD and no picks and somehow have the team score just 16 points. I lambasted the Cowboys back in my 2009 Playoffs Preview for being terrible at converting yardage into points, and over the years they haven't gotten any better at it. I have never seen a team that can put up pretty yards each week and still somehow end the season scoring less than 400 points.

16.) Arizona Cardinals  (1-1  =  49-48)

I don't know why I have them so high, but I'll just say this: neither Seattle or San Francisco is going to go into Arizona this year and win by more than 10. That place is damn tough to play in, and has been that way since 2007. Even in the lean years (2010-11), the Cardinals were good for some great home performances. That defense is still awfully good, and that they could come back against a good Lions team without Larry Fitzgerald speaks volumes to how well Carson Palmer has fit into the Cardinals. There's a reason I thought they were Super Bowl contenders in 2012 had they gotten Peyton Manning. They got Palmer a year later, and while that is quite a downgrade, he's still good enough to make them a really fun team.

15.) Baltimore Ravens  (1-1  =  41-55)

That was a classic 2010 Ravens win: a slow, plodding effort against a middling team ending in a more convincing win than it should have been. They were in control all along it seemed. It was nice to see Stokley and Clark look slightly better this time around. I worry about Ray Rice's injury and I still don't think Flacco has nearly enough to score a lot of points consistently, but it was nice to see that defense rebound greatly after that embarrassing 49 points allowed effort from week 1.

14.) San Diego Chargers  (1-1  =  61-61)

For someone who hated everything about Philip Rivers from 2007-2009, I can't believe I am about to say this, but it brings me a lot of joy to see Philip Rivers play awesome once again. He was so good in that game. He answered every jab the Eagles threw at him with two of his own. The Chargers probably should have scored 40+ points (two red zone fumbles will do that to you), and he threw for over 400 yards with missing his main receiver for most of the game. Now, the Eagles defense is pathetic, but I still think Rivers was never as bad as his 2012 made it out to seem. There is life in San Diego yet.

13.) Detroit Lions  (1-1  =  55-49)

I think people are wildly overreacting to the Lions loss in Arizona. As I said before, Arizona is not an easy place to play. They have a really good defense. Now, the Lions scored just 14 points on offense, which isn't great, but Calvin got into the action. The Reggie Bush injury scares me, but the Lions still played a pretty good game defensively. No team goes 16-0, teams lose games, including often to average teams on the road. That is all that was.

12.) Miami Dolphins  (2-0  =  47-30)

There's a lot to like in Miami right now. Their run game showed life, their defense continues to play at a really high level, Mike Wallace made some plays, and Ryan Tannehill has definitely gotten better in Year 2. Of course, the best part is that they are 2-0, and both games are on the road. I'm sure no one more than them is upset that the Patriots are somehow sitting at 2-0, but the Dolphins have a chance at winning the division. It would help their cause if Amendola and Gronk stay out, but they aren't going away.

11.) Kansas City Chiefs  (2-0  =  45-18)

Do you know who the 2013 Chiefs remind me of? The 2011 San Francisco 49ers, the first Jim Harbaugh team that gameplanned their way to 13-3 behind a mistake-free Alex Smith (just 10 turnovers as a team) and a dominant defense. That was another great game from the Chiefs defense (how good is Dontari Poe?), and another mistake free game from Smith. If they can go to Philly and win a game that they are built to win (they are the perfect team to ball control the fuck out of the Eagles), then I think this Chiefs team is close to a lock for the playoffs (and Andy Reid is a lock for his 2nd Coach of the Year award).

10.) New Orleans Saints  (2-0  =  39-31)

They could easily be 0-2 if Matt Ryan completes one of three passes or if the Buccaneers hit a field goal, but the Saints are sitting nicely at 2-0 with two divisional wins. It should be a little concerning that they have scored under 20 points per game (their offensive level through two games is actually DOWN from last year), but the Rob Ryan defense has worked splendidly so far. They get Arizona next week, and I could see that game going any number of directions.

9.) Houston Texans  (2-0  =  61-52)

Yes, the Texans have had to come back down from 21 and 8 to win their two games, but their defense has actually played quite well. They had awful field position and red zone luck against San Diego, and they only gave up 17 points on defense to Tennessee. I'm still concerned that they've needed to resort to such ridiculous measures to beat San Diego and Tennessee, but they are still the class of the AFC South. Their next few games will tell us a lot, as they get Baltimore, San Francisco and Seattle in a four week span.

8.) New England Patriots  (2-0  =  36-31)

How is this team 2-0? Tom Brady has completed 53% of his passes, for a passer rating under 75. This is worse than Brady in 2006 for all intents and purposes. Yet here they are, with a game against the winless Bucs to come. Of course, would I be shocked if the Bucs control this passing offense that will be without Vereen and Amendola once again? No, but I can't imagine Josh Freeman doing great either. I can already see it, the Pats win 23-14 and everyone rights stories about the 3-0 Pats, led by their defense for the first time since 2006 due to good games against two rookies and Josh Freeman, heading to Atlanta as a trendy upset pick, and then have Matt Ryan rip them apart. I can't wait.

7.) Chicago Bears  (2-0  =  55-51)

That was a Bears game, alright. Devin Hester was ridiculous. Jay Cutler was awful at times. Jay Cutler was also brilliant at times. I don't know what to make of the Bears so far. The Marc Trestman offense is working on its face, as Cutler's only been sacked once against two good pass rushes, but the run game is not there and Alshon Jefferey is still among the league's biggest teases. Of course, if they still maintain their Lovie Smith-era level of defense and Special Teams, it won't matter.

6.) Atlanta Falcons  (1-1  =  48-47)

Nice to see a return to form for Matt Ryan, who casually threw for 374 yards with Roddy White again a decoy. Julio Jones is just an incredible player, so amazing to watch. Also, I liked their pickup of Osi, and I like it more even now. The Falcons have a nice game coming up against the Dolphins to go out and make a statement that they won't be up and down all year, and personally, I think they do it.

5.) Cincinnati Bengals  (1-1  =  41-34)

The league's new title holder of 'best roster outside of QB', the Bengals took care of business Monday Night. To take them serious at the end of the day, they needed to win that game, to avoid an 0-2 start, to place an 0-2 start on Pittsburgh, and to show up in a primetime game (just look at their performance in their SNF game hosting Pittsburgh last year). They accomplished all three. Andy Dalton still needs to get better, but that division is eminently winnable, and with the Texans and Patriots starting out a lackadaisical 2-0, so is a 1st Round Bye.

4.) San Francisco 49ers  (1-1  =  37-57)

It is weird ranking a team that has been outscored by 20 points through two games 4th, but that was basically an unwinnable game. They were also gobsmacked last year in Seattle (a 42-13 loss in December), and then rolled off three straight wins and went to the Super Bowl. One thing to worry about is that in a game where Anquan Boldin didn't go wild, Kaepernick looked awful. His second and third pick were about as bad as I've seen him read a defense. He still ran nicely, but he too isn't exactly as good of a pocket passer as people seem to believe.

3.) Green Bay Packers  (1-1  =  66-54)

I've never seen anyone get hot like Aaron Rodgers. Maybe Peyton in his prime, or Kurt Warner, or Tom Brady back in 2007. Of course, I expect Rodgers to look way more mortal against a great Bengals defense in Week 3, but those Rodgers performances are special. I was happy to see McCarthy keep throwing it after getting that huge lead, a nice change from previous years. What pleases me most about the Packers is their defense had a good game (forget the garbage yards, they dominated the Redskins passing game). If their defense keeps this up, and the NFC West teams hammer each other, they can steal the #1 seed.

2.) Seattle Seahawks  (2-0  =  41-10)

The Seahawks were so good that Russell Wilson could have a terrible game (8/19, looking lost at times) and they could still win by 26. Sure, some of it was fortunate field position and some timely penalties extending drives, but that was a demolition. More than anything, though, I was happy to see defense being played so well (by both teams, really), and this was without Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons or Bruce Irvin. Just a fantastic effort by the most fun defense to watch in the NFL. With the Jaguars next, they could have a ridiculously low points allowed total after three games.

1.) Denver Broncos  (2-0  =  90-50)

Who else? They just beat the last two Super Bowl Champions 90-50, and that was with playing a sometimes sloppy, sometimes lazy first half in both games and giving up late scores to make the games seem somewhat close. Peyton looks as sharp as ever, and that offense just keeps going. Drops don't faze them. Fumbles don't faze them. Nothing fazes them. Their pass rush was silent after a great Week 1, but their secondary made up for it in spades. No team is deeper in the secondary than Denver, and no team has a better rush defense. That is a nice combination, after all.

Postseason Projections (Why not do these right after Week 2?)


1.) Denver Broncos  (14-2)
2.) Cincinnati Bengals  (12-4)
3.) New England Patriots  (11-5)
4.) Houston Texans  (11-5)
5.) Kansas City Chiefs  (10-6)
6.) Miami Dolphins  (10-6)


1.) Seattle Seahawks  (13-3)
2.) Atlanta Falcons  (12-4)
3.) Green Bay Packers  (12-4)  [why not pick a random one]

4.) New York Giants  (9-7)
5.) Detroit Lions  (10-6)
6.) San Francisco 49ers  (10-6)

Ranking Next Week's Games

16.) Cleveland Browns (0-2)  @  Minnesota Vikings (0-2)  (1:00 - CBS)
15.) Buffalo Bills (1-1)  @  New York Jets (1-1)  (4:25 - CBS)

The "Two Bad Teams Playing Each Other" division. If anyone has this as their Sunday doubleheader (and I don't think that is possible), I truly feel sorry for them. I guess the Bills and Jets are marginally interesting, but really all the winner gets is a leg up to being the 3rd place team in the AFC East.

14.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)  @  Seattle Seahawks (2-0)  (4:25 - CBS)
13.) Oakland Raiders (1-1)  @  Denver Broncos (2-0)  (MNF)

The "Let's Just Remember Who The Road Teams Were When The Home Team Wins By 30" division. Seattle will probably come close to shutting out Jacksonville, and come close to some sort of record for fewest points allowed through three games (13 is the current record, set by the 2001 Packers and 2004 Seahawks). The Broncos get to play another boring night game where Manning looks like Peyton Manning and the world realizes that Terrelle Pryor isn't as exciting when playing teams outside the AFC South.

12.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2)  @  New England Patriots (2-0)  (1:00 - FOX)
11.) San Diego Chargers (1-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-1)  (1:00 - CBS)
10.) Detroit Lions (1-1)  @  Washington Redskins (0-2)  (1:00 - FOX)
9.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1)  @  San Francisco 49ers (1-1)  (4:25 - CBS)

The "You'll Talk Yourself Into Them Being Fun, But They Won't" division... and yes, I'm including the Lions @ Redskins in there, because the Lions front will come close to ruining RGIII's other knee (and I hope they don't because I like watching a healthy RGIII). The Colts are walking into a bloodbath in San Francisco against an angry 49ers team. The Buccaneers could be entering something similar. The Chargers and Titans are both surprises so far, but I can't imagine the two teams that combined for one of the most boring playoff games of the last 10 years playing an exciting game here.

8.) Arizona Cardinals (1-1)  @  New Orleans Saints (2-0)  (1:00 - FOX)
7.) Houston Texans (2-0)  @  Baltimore Ravens (1-1)  (1:00 - CBS)
6.) St. Louis Rams (1-1)  @  Dallas Cowboys (1-1)  (1:00 - FOX)

The "Sneaky Fun Games That You Didn't Expect" division. The Texans and Ravens have started slowly (well, for the Texans, a slow 2-0), but should play a fun little game in Baltimore. The other one is the more intriguing one for me. I don't know why, but I like the matchup from the Cardinals perspective. Brees is still a little careless with the ball, and that Cardinals team will make them pay. I'm not saying they are going to go into the Superdome and win, but they'll give the Saints a run. As for the Rams, I think their defense can also give the Cowboys some problems up front, and it will be interesting to see if Bradford can take his good play to the biggest stadium in the country.

5.) New York Giants (0-2)  @  Carolina Panthers (0-2)  (1:00 - FOX)
4.) Chicago Bears (2-0)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2)  (SNF)

The "Desperation Is Usually a Good Thing" division. Because it is the NFC, one teams season is probably ending in that first game. I guess the Giants could start 0-3, finish 9-4, and steal the NFC East, but the Panthers need a win to have any shot at the NFC South. A fun little do-or-die Week 3 game right there. The Bears are one of the more surprising 2-0 teams, and the Steelers among the most surprising 0-2 teams. The Steelers looked lifeless again, and honestly, if they don't beat the Bears, they should fire Todd Haley on the field after the game.

3.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1)  @  Miami Dolphins (2-0)  (4:05 - FOX)

The "Prove Yourself" Division, as Miami gets their first chance this season against a good team. Winning in Indianapolis is nice (only one other team has done it against Andrew Luck), but beating the Falcons in Miami would be a bigger signal to the NFL, along with the Patriots, that they could actually make a run at the AFC East.

2.) Green Bay Packers (1-1)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)  (1:00 - FOX)

The "Offense vs. Defense" Game, one of the few potential Super Bowl Previews' we have had during these first three weeks. The Bengals took care of business against Pittsburgh, and now gets the other Super Bowl team from 2010 in their building. The last time Aaron Rodgers played the Bengals, he was sacked 8 times in a lifeless loss in Lambeau Field. That was a different Bengals team completely, this is a scarier one. Their defense will test Rodgers in a way that is the polar opposite of what the Redskins did. Should be fun.

1.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)  @   Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)  (TNF)

The "Revenge of the Ried' Game. Few Thursday Night games ever turn out good, but a few have over the years. No one seems to remember a great game played by the, at the time, 9-2 Ravens and 9-2 Falcons back in 2010, or even the Jets win in New England with Favre in 2008, or the Redskins first of four straight wins in the aftermath of Sean Taylor's death in 2007, or the Colts, at the time, keeping perfection alive against the Jaguars in 2009, or Tebow's miracle win over the Jets in 2011, or even the first 49ers/Seahawks game in the modern rivalry last year. What I'm saying is there usually is a good game or two each year, why not this one?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 2 Picks

Week 1 Picks: 9-7

New York Jets (1-0)  @  New England Patriots (1-0)  (NE -11)

This is a high line for a team missing their best receiver (and only receiver who played worth a damn in the first game against Buffalo), with one half of their running game combo gone and Gronkowski not back. As they showed again last week, Rex Ryan can gameplan the hell out of an offense with no weapons. Tom Brady is great, but yeah, they have no one to throw to. To me, it comes down to whether I think the Jets can even score 10 points. Geno Smith played better than I he would be, but this is a really tough spot for them. I'll take the Jets just because that line is a little ridiculous, but I've been burned by New England before.

Jets 14  Patriots 20  (NYJ +11)

San Diego Chargers (0-1)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)  (PHI -7)

Overreaction line of the week part 1. The Chargers probably should have closed out a good Houston team Monday Night, and the Eagles had to hang on to beat an average Redskin team. Yes, the Chargers did their mess at home while the Eagles did theirs on the road, but I think these teams are close than that line would make it seem. What scares me is the Chargers having to go to Philadelphia to play an early game, but I love going against the overreaction lines from Week 1. No one is as good as they looked in Week 1 (Denver, probably) and no one looks as bad (Jags probably won't get shutout on offense again). The Eagles probably won't look as good. I don't know why I keep doing this, but I'll still trust Philip Rivers. Again, I don't know why. I just don't know. I need to stop. This blog started in 2009, and when I think of Philip Rivers, I mentally just go back to then, I guess.

Chargers 23  Eagles 20  (SD +7)

Cleveland Browns (0-1)  @  Baltimore Ravens (1-0)  (BAL -7)

What's weird is this line was probably dropped a bit because of just how bad Baltimore looked in Week 1 in Denver. Of course, the Browns looked about as bad at home against a worse team. The Browns were just so unable to do anything against the Dolphins defense (which is admittedly quite good), while the Ravens actually scored 14 legitimate points. So far, I went against the high lines for the Jets and Chargers, but I hate the Browns here. The Ravens were embarrassed after that Week 1 performance and will come out strong in their home opener (not sure if there will be some Super Bowl festivities before the game), and the Ravens love to cream the Browns. Once again, this reasoning worked better when Reed and Lewis were there, but that Ravens defense, as weird as this sounds, wasn't all that bad in Week 1. They can dominate Weeden, and I think they will.

Browns 13  Ravens 27  (BAL -7)

Tennessee Titans (1-0)  @  Houston Texans (1-0)  (HOU -9)

I hate this game. I hate a line this high when it seems so easy to push the points. The Texans are still a lot better, and the Titans offense looked quite bad in Week 1. I'm not really sure how the Titans managed to score at all in Week 1, and the Texans defense is probably better than the Steelers defense at this point. The Texans offense started clicking late in the game, and they're going up against a defense that played pretty close to perfect. Anyway, I don't want to overthink this at all, I'll just go with the better team at home.

Titans 13  Texans 28  (HOU -9)

Carolina Panthers (0-1)  @  Buffalo Bills (0-1)  (CAR -3)

Two of the teams that had the most heartbreaking losses in Week 1. The Panthers, I think, win that game if DeAngelo Williams doesn't fumble. The Bills win that game if they just make one more play on those Patriots 3rd downs on the final drive, or if Doug Marrone realized that you shouldn't run a hurry-up fast paced offense when up late in the 4th quarter, and if he realized that on a 3rd and 1 at midfield, with the running game starting to really work, maybe a run is a better call than a pass. Anyway, no, I'm not bitter that they couldn't close out the Pats. Anyway, I'm surprised the Panthers are favored here by this much, but I do think they are a more talented team. Their defense is great, and as long as you can shut down that Bills run game, they are a pretty easy team to figure out.

Panthers 23  Bills 17  (CAR -3)

St. Louis Rams (1-0)  @  Atlanta Falcons (0-1)  (ATL -5.5)

High line, but I can't imagine the Falcons going to 0-2. The question is can I see them winning this game by at least 5.5. The Rams offense looked alive last week, playing about as well as I have seen them play since maybe Week 2 last year (a wild win over the Redskins). They have a dependable target for the first time in Jared Cook. What scares me for Atlanta is that they looked so bad trying to block the Saints last week, and the Saints aren't a particularly good defensive front. The Rams are a pretty good defensive front, and they might wreak havoc on that Falcons offense. I really think this is a perfect line for this game. I have no idea what to do, but I do think the Falcons just can't start 0-2.

Rams 17  Falcons 24  (ATL -5.5)

Minnesota Vikings (0-1)  @  Chicago Bears (1-0)  (CHI -6.5)

Is this an overreaction line? The Bears somehow pull out a win over the Bengals, while the Vikings do everything wrong after Peterson's first run. Either way, this line seems a little high. I'm not ready to truly trust that Chicago offense, and while it's nice to be at home, I don't like this line this high. My problem is can the Vikings score enough to keep it close? The Vikings offense ended up scoring a decent amount of points, but all of the problems that Ponder showed in 2012 was quite apparent in Week 1 this year. Either way, what I would love to do is do a three-team tease with the Vikings as one of them (pushing them into double digit underdog territory), but since I'm not advocating being a gambling addict, I'm avoiding that temptation and taking the Vikings normally.

Vikings 17  Bears 20  (MIN +6)

Miami Dolphins (1-0)  @  Indianapolis Colts (1-0)  (IND -3)

The Dolphins definitely looked to be a better team in their Week 1 win than the Colts looked like in Week 1. Both had what seems to be bad opponents (Cleveland, Oakland), but the Colts had to escape with a four-point win at home and the Dolphins owned Cleveland on the road. They played an entertaining game last year after both started 3-2, with the Colts winning behind Andrew Luck's rookie-record 426 yards. I can't see Luck doing that, but I have major problems with the Colts right now. Their defense has no real identity, no real mission. I'm not quite sure what they're building over there. The Dolphins know what they have and it works really well. The Colts offense is still good and in the Luck era, the Colts are now 8-1 at home, but I just don't like how that team played in Week 1. Combine this with Ballard on IR and Allen likely out, and I don't think the Colts can score enough.

Dolphins 24  Colts 20  (MIA +3)

Dallas Cowboys (1-0)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)  (KC -3)

I'm surprised the Chiefs are favored by so much. I realize that the Chiefs were really, really impressive beating the Jaguars in Jacksonville and the Cowboys needed a sixth turnover to close out a team after getting five already. That's not good. What's worse is that Cowboys offense was really ineffective. I've never seen a guy have 36 completions for barely over 250 yards. That was dink and dunk to a level I haven't seen before. The Chiefs are a decent team, but I can see some regression after a picture perfect Week 1, but Andy Reid loved to beat up on the Cowboys. I'm sure he would love to once again, especially in his first home game of his tenure there. The line is also low enough to be safe with picking the winner and the line correct together.

Cowboys 20  Chiefs 24  (KC -3)

Washington Redskins (0-1)  @  Green Bay Packers (0-1)  (GB -7.5)

I actually was really impressed with the Packers performance in Week 1. Their offense blocked the 49ers better than it did in either game a year ago, and the Rodgers-to-Nelson combination looked like it did back in 2010-11. Their defense was aggressive, shutting down the run, and while Kaepernick and Boldin diced him all over the place, they were missing some of their guys. I can't see the Redskins establishing much of a run game in this game either. I didn't see much of the MNF game against the Eagles, but by all accounts RGIII just isn't close to 100% yet, and a game in Lambeau against a rejuvanated defense probably isn't the best way to get ready.

Redskins 21  Packers 31  (GB -7.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)  @  Oakland Raiders (0-1)  (OAK -6)

The Raiders could end up as the worst team ever to be favored in a game by six points. And yes, that is how bad the Jaguars were last week. The Raiders actually seemed somewhat competent in that game, with Terrelle Pryor playing really well. I think he might struggle a bit at home, but they don't need to score too many points to beat the Jaguars, a team that scored all of zero points last week. By the way, I've already written five lines on this game. That is four lines more than necessary.

Jaguars 14  Raiders 21  (OAK -6)

New Orleans Saints (1-0)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)  (NO -4)

So, are the Saints back, or are they just lucky that the Falcons screwed up an inside the 10 scenario down by less than a score for the third time dating back to last October. Rob Ryan's defense seemed OK in the first game, but history shows that Ryan's defenses have a tendency to play up or down to their competition (not in a good way, by the way). I can see their defense trying to be too cute and give up ~160 yards to Vincent Jackson. I say this as a long way of saying that I still think the Saints win and cover this line, because I can't think less of what the Buccaneers are right now.

Saints 27  Buccaneers 20  (NO -4)

Detroit Lions (1-0)  @  Arizona Cardinals (0-1)  (DET -2.5)

Oddly intriguing game here. If the Broncos and Giants weren't playing Manning Bowl III, I might sit down and watch a whole bunch of this game. Fun teams, fun stadium, fun everywhere. Can Stafford throw for a bunch of yards against a good defense at home. Can Palmer survive the Lions front with his O-Line? Can the Cardinals become one of the best 0-2 teams of all time? So many possibilities. Honestly, I can see a lot of potential things happening here. However, what I think will happen is the Cardinals, like they are prone to do a handful of times each year, play inspired at home.

Lions 20  Cardinals 23  (ARZ +2.5)

Denver Broncos (1-0)  @  New York Giants (0-1)  (DEN -4)

Manning Bowl III. Yes, this was also my preseason Super Bowl pick, and a Giants loss here makes them 0-2, which is not exactly good for their Super Bowl hopes. Of course, in 2007, they started 0-2 and won the Super Bowl, but that is notable because it is rare. Anyway, I can't really see the Giants stopping the Broncos from scoring in the high 20's at the very best. The Broncos defense was really impressive, even for a team that gave up 27 points, and they have enough players in the secondary to slow down those Giants receivers. The Giants run game is also in dissarray. The Broncos are just a better team right now, and I may have truly overestimated the Giants (and Steelers) this year.

Broncos 30  Giants 21  (DEN -4)

San Francisco 49ers (1-0)  @  Seattle Seahawks (1-0)  (SEA -2.5)

Great game. Great rivalry. These teams met in two night games last year, with the 49ers winning a bloodbath 13-6 against the Seahawks early, and the Seahawks blowing them out 42-14 in the return leg in Qwest (I refuse to call it whatever they do these days). I can't see 42-14 happening this time (that was the week after the 49ers played an emotional, tiring, bruising game in New England), but I can definitely see the Seahawks winning by enough to make everyone think they are the to Super Bowl candidate. The Seahawks defense needs to get more pressure though. They did nothing against Cam Newton last week, and they need to get bodies after Kaepernick to have a shot. I think they do, just enough, and take the points with a low line.

49ers 20  Seahawks 23  (SEA -2.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)  (CIN -6.5)

This is the most the Steelers have been underdogs in since their game against the Patriots in 2007 (with Roethlisberger starting). The Bengals themselves let a win slip away last week, the type of game they have to close out if they want people to take them seriously as Super Bowl contenders. The Steelers offense looked as bad as it ever has considering the perceived mediocrity of their opponent. The Titans aren't a great team, they were abhorrent in scoring defense last year, and the Steelers only offensive points came in garbage time. The Steelers defense is still good, and they absolutely dominated the Bengals offense in Cincinnati in a night game last year. I still like the Steelers defense, but that offense is just so bad. In the end, the line seems high enough that there is some value in the Steelers in this game to cover, but still lose.

Steelers 17  Bengals 21  (PIT +6.5)

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.