Thursday, September 25, 2008

Week Four NFL Picks: Bye Curious

As a writer of a picks column, it's my duty to bitch and moan about how the first bye week just cripples the NFL schedule. It always seems to take out some of the most intriguing teams, and to leave nothing but dog games in its wake. Waah, waah, waah.

But really, I don't have that much of a problem with it, other than to look suspiciously at the timing if it doesn't seem to work out just perfectly for my Eagles.

The reason why, of course, is because with fantasy football and picks, it really doesn't matter if the games are good or not.

Take Falcons-Panthers, for instance; it should be a slugging yawnathon between two teams that, if they find themselves in a playoff game with a good opponent and the world hasn't changed a lot, should get rolled. If you watch it, it'll probably be tedious.

But with your intriguing fantasy plays in the game -- can Michael Turner give you points when he isn't playing against a terrible defense? Will Steve Smith become, well, Steve Smith again? -- it's fascinating. Just so long as you don't watch it too closely.

FTT continued its three-week reign of hard-core, triple penetration profitability by going 10-6 ATS last week, our third straight +.500 week, and our second of three where you really would have made some nice coin. Can the gravy train continue? Well, who the hell knows, really?

However, on one thing we can depend -- the search traffic for this picks column is going to really, really disappoint some people.

On to the picks!

(As always, your home team is caps, and the pick is in italics.)

Minnesota at TENNESSEE (-3)

And here we come to Bye Week Bitch Fest #1, aka the idea that Frerotte vs. Collins (what is this, the mid-90s NFC East?) would be one of the more intriguing games in week 4... and that said game would have huge implications to the playoff race. Yes, folks, QBs just aren't that important, at least not in games when neither team really has one.

I'm going with the road underdog Vikings here. Do I feel good about picking Gus Frerotte on the road against an undefeated Titans team, especially one that's been dominant defensively? Well, of course not. But if you were to look closely at the Titans' win last week against the Texans, you'll see some cracks in the foundation. They let Steve Slaton, Houston's rookie RB, run for 116 yards in a breakout game. If it weren't for some bad moments in the red zone, the Texans would have given the Titans everything they can handle.

This week, they get Adrian Peterson, who I'm thinking is just a little bit better than Slaton, especially now that he's had a little more time to heal a balky hamstring. They also face a Viking defense that's damn near impossible to run against. Finally, I keep thinking that (a) the Titans are not really ready to start 4-0, and (b) the NFC is just better than the AFC now, and that you need to keep things like that in mind in tight games. (As for Frerotte... I'm trying hard not to think about the media mouth jobs he'll be getting after saving the Vikings season by getting them back to .500. Eww.)

Vikings 20, Titans 16

Denver at KANSAS CITY (+9.5)

Denver is, on offense, a dead ringer for last year's Patriots team, a fact that the guy that drafted Jay Cutler in your fantasy league probably hasn't stopped mentioning. Defensively, they've been worse -- a lot worse -- so no one has accused them of running up the score or being anything but lovable.

This week, they get the I-AA Chiefs, who are burdened with a terrible "star" in Larry Johnson, a dream of getting *back* to Damon Huard, and a 2008 highlight film that will consist entirely of Tom Brady getting hurt.

I think Denver wins and covers just because I can't imagine the Chiefs keeping serve, even at home. I also think Denver gets a big lead and just tries to get out by taking time off with the running game, but all of that's beyond the point, unless you are playing the over. Denver wins and covers.

Broncos 28, Chiefs 13

San Francisco at NEW ORLEANS (-5.5)

The Saints keep losing targets -- two weeks ago, Marques Colston, last week, Jeremy Shockey -- while throwing out big offensive numbers. The Niners come off their second straight win (albeit a home job over the I-AA Lions) and a sneaking suspicion that they can contend this year, since, well, what the hell, it's just the NFC West. Someone's got to contend, after all.

My money is on the home town Saints, because I'm just not seeing this Niners team being able to operate in a road dome, and because the surviving Saints wideouts are actually still OK. Oh, and this Drew Brees guy is OK, too. Finally, this actual gambling tidbit... the Niners are 2-6 ATS on the road in their last 8 road games. That win in Seattle said more about the Seabags than it did about the Niners.

Saints 28, Niners 21

Arizona at NEW YORK JETS (-1.5)

The Jets are 2-6-1 in their last 9 at home ATS, and they also have the fun of flying back East with the short week after putting up numbers without consequence in a rolled over loss against the Chargers. The Cardinals continue their East Coast swing by moving north from Washington, where they were in the game until a bad no-call pick against the Redskins.

This Cardinals team should be better -- and isn't that a constant complaint of the past five years -- and against a Jets team that got torched by Phillip Rivers and the Charger targets last Monday, I'm looking for more of the same from Warner, Boldin and Fitzgerald. The Jets will also have more than a few chances against a Cardinals secondary that gave Jason Campbell a ton of opportunities last week, but I like the chances of the Cardinals defense to rebound better than I do the Jets, despite the slight Revenge Game motivation for one-time Cardinal Thomas Jones. Expect a shootout.

Cardinals 34, Jets 31

Green Bay at TAMPA BAY (-1)

The Packers come off a dispiriting home loss to the Cowboys, while the Bucs escaped Chicago with a pass-wacky win from the Lazarus-esque Brian Griese. Packer corner Al Harris will also miss this game, which makes all of those Tampa WRs you just picked up in your league *much* more entertaining.

I like the Pack here, as Ryan Grant slowly gets his fantasy owners off the ledge and Aaron Rodgers continues to show that he's a little bit more than a system QB, but it'll be more than a bit ugly. For the Bucs, they need to run the ball a lot better than they did last week to be a serious contender, because Griese will eventually show them why three other teams gave up on him. Including, well, them.

Packers 27, Bucs 20

Atlanta at CAROLINA (-7)

Matt Ryan and Michael Turner have been the biggest matchup plays in the NFL this year -- huge against the I-AA Lions and Chiefs, invisible against the actually in the NFL Bucs. This week, the yo-yo swings back to a competent NFL defense in the Panthers, and I'm counting on the pendulum doing bad things to the improbably first-place Falcons.

Look for Delhomme to Smith to make a stirring return, and for Ryan to struggle with game maintenance in the face of a fierce Panther rush. If you're picking a confidence game this week, take the Panthers (yes, even over Dallas), because there's never going to be a better time to take Carolina...

Panthers 28, Falcons 10

Houston at JACKSONVILLE (-7.5)

Two disappointing teams in the sudden train wreck that is the AFC South, and one of them will feel a whole lot better about life after this one. The Jags cut off Peyton Manning's escape win strategy last week in Indy, while the Texans folded late against the Titans, putting starting QB Matt Schaub's job in jeopardy.

I like the Texans to cover here as Schaub starts to enjoy life with a good rookie RB (Slaton) to keep the defense honest, especially given the Jags' historic tendencies to play to the opponent's level. As a matter of fact, given the Jags' offensive line injuries, I was even tempted to make this one an upset special... but, well, the Texans do have that disquieting tendency of falling apart late.

Jags 27, Texans 24

Cleveland at CINCINNATI (-3.5)

The very last chance, one suspects ever, for Derek Anderson to show that he wasn't just a flash in the pan. Even if he does, the Why Did Everyone Put Them In Prime Time So Much Browns will go back to killing their fantasy owners in the succeeding weeks, as their schedule is a mess. At least this week, their offensive line should dominate, but given that they haven't really done that all year, it's hard to expect them to flick the switch now.

As for Satan's Own Bengals, they almost pulled off a big-time upset last week in New York, and could look primed to finally break into the win column as well. Carson Palmer started to look like an NFL QB again, and Chris Perry gives them hope of a running attack that isn't just a case of reminiscing about when Rudi Johnson was good.

In a shootout game that will convince foolish people that both teams won't lose double-digits in games this year, give me the home team. Oh, and don't take the sell-high trade offers that you'll be getting from the people that drafted Ohio's Best on their teams this year. It won't work out well for you.

Bengals 35, Browns 31

San Diego at OAKLAND (+7.5)

Bettors love the Sunday trap game, where a home team rolls someone on MNF and then looks sluggish with the short week of work, especially when it's on the road. Those people are probably still avoiding the Raiders to cover, as the Chargers really just snapped back to form last week. (Besides, the Trap Game is mostly a myth -- you remember it when it happens, but forget all of the other times when the favorite rolls.)

Besides, the Raiders don't really (shh!) enjoy a home-field advantage; the locals have seen way too much bad football to give them support at this point, and when they fall behind, it gets eve uglier than usual. The Raiders lost a heart-breaker in Buffalo last week, and still have the bizarre Lane Kiffin Fired Or Not thing happening. Let's just say I don't like their chances to bounce back.

Finally, this: LaDanian Tomlinson has spent his entire career fattening up his numbers against the Raiders. His fantasy owners are expecting 3 TDs this week, and they'll get them.

Chargers 38, Raiders 17

Buffalo at ST. LOUIS (+8)

The second straight week where the Bills get a terrible opponent and a big money line. Will I get sucked in to the suck of St. Louis to cover, yet again? Well, why not -- it's only cost me money for two straight weeks and made me look like an idiot -- but this is just too many points for a road team in a dome that's been more lucky than good so far.

Expect the Rams to get a little juice from switching from Marc Bulger to Trent Green, simply because Green isn't turtling up for the sack every third throw like Bulger is right now... and also, because, well, he probably no longer has the ability to recognize fear after nearly being made brain-dead last year in Miami. The Rams will be winless last year, but the number's just too big.

Bills 31, Rams 24

Washington at DALLAS (-11)

Exposure time for the 'Skins, who step up in class after two straight weeks winning at home against average teams in New Orleans and Arizona. Dallas is the best team in football until injuries and chemistry prove to be their downfall, and they won last week in Green Bay despite not really playing all that well, especially on offense.

At home against a hated rival, expect them to turn up the jets a bit, then cover late with the offensive line exerting their will. It's a simple strategy, and it will work so long as they are healthy. (What's the opposite of knocking wood?)

Cowboys 38, Redskins 24

Philadelphia at CHICAGO (+3)

Maybe I'm missing something here. The Eagles have looked like one of the five best teams in football. The Bears are starting Kyle Orton. The Eagles put Ben Rothlesberger and Byron Leftwich on their ass eight times last week. The Bears... are starting Kyle Orton. The Eagles have completely shut down Willie Parker and Stephen Jackson, so Matt Forte shouldn't hold too much terror. Chicago... just gave up 400+ yards to Brian Griese at home.

It also doesn't help the home team's chances that Devin Hester is still sidelined. The Eagles' STs are better than they've been, but that doesn't mean (see Jones, Felix) that they can't be had. And, this just in: they are starting Kyle Orton. I like this spread for just the Eagles defense against the Bears offense.

Eagles 24, Bears 10

Baltimore at PITTSBURGH (-7)

The second of two night games where the outcome of the game is highly dependent on the presumed incompetence of one of the starting quarterbacks. Rookie Joe Flacco takes his game manager ways into Pittsburgh in an attempt to keep the surprising Ravens undefeated. I'm not seeing it, even for a Steelers offense that's going to be missing Willie Parker, and is still wondering what the hell happened to that offensive line last week in Philly.

I've got to say, this line is making me highly uncomfortable. Flacco has looked competent and composed, and the Steelers really had the air let out of the balloon last week. But when a home team wins, it usually covers... and it's not like the Ravens have skill players that fill you with fear. (At least, not since Todd Heap became, well, a heap.)

Steelers 21, Ravens 13

Last week: 10-6

Year to date: 29-18

1 comment:

Arnold said...

This upcoming Steelers vs Ravens game means way more than people ever want to realize...Sure the Ravens may not be a serious Super Bowl contender but who is to say 8 or 9 wins doesn't win this division?!? If they beat the Steelers on MNF that puts them just 1/3rd a way there and they have a win IN Pittsburgh under their belts! Wouldn't suprise me if the Steelers do a few 4/3 fronts instead of 3/4 this weekend as well

-Dave the Steelers Tickets at Face Value Guy

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