Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NFL Week 3 Picks: Almost A Very Great Thing

Oakland, Where Dreams Go To Die
Last Saturday, I went to Delaware Park and bought $50 worth of NFL silly bets, which is to say, about as much as I'll ever buy. One of those was a prop bet for my Eagles to win the Super Bowl (I feel like this is a rite of yearly passage at this point), and the other four were $10 parlay bets. Now, three of those were realistic 3-team variety, and the last wa a pie in the sky 8-team monster.  I had a really good week picking games, and two of those tickets hit to make for a $100 profit; good times.

And that 8-team ticket? It went... gulp, 7-1.

So if you want to get well and truly bent about things, the Oakland Raiders cost me $1,610 this last weekend. (I don't count the other 3-team parlay which also had the Raiders, as that was also compromised by the Bengals not covering the 1/2 point in their game against the Browns.)

And the scary thing was imagining just how hard I would have been gripping if the last game on that ticket, along with the last game on one of the other parley bets, was Atlanta to cover. Which they really looked like they were going to fail to do, as the Falcons more or less played the fourth quarter with their hands wrapped around their throats. Had that been $1680 on the line, rather than $70...

Well, I'd like to think that I would have held my crap together. But seriously, I'm not sure.

But on the other hand, I could be this guy. (NSFW, in that you'll be laughing too hard to remain employed.)


And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

New York at CAROLINA (+1.5)

In a battle of 1-1 teams with outsized expectations, give me the home Panthers on the short week. The Giants' secondary has been shamblesy in the first two games, and their offense is way too injured and imbalanced for comfort. I could also see Big Blue really missing WR Hakeem Nicks in this one, which will also make WR Victor Cruz less effective, and not quite getting the same production they would from RB Ahmad Bradshaw. On a quasi-national stage, I'm looking for a big game from Panthers QB Cam Newton and the Carolina running game.

Panthers 24, Giants 20

St. Louis at CHICAGO (-7)

Love, love, love the Bears here. They get the home field, the extra time, a dome team on the road and a bounce-back game for the ages for QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall, who have much to answer for after last week's TNF turdburger in Green Bay. In the long run, RB Matt Forte's absence will be a problem, but in the short, RB Michael Bush will carry the mail and salt this away late. The Rams are a lot more game than in previous years, but they aren't ready for a game like this.

Bears 31, Rams 17

Buffalo at CLEVELAND (+3)

Do you feel confident about either of these teams yet? I sure as hell don't. The Bills looked helpless against the Jets and dominant against the Chiefs, and honestly, there isn't *that* much difference between those clubs. The only thing I can think of is that they are a strong home team with road issues, and that the Browns, who looked a lot better against the Bengals than they did against the Eagles, might be able to sneak one of their few wins here. If you are really betting this game hard, you may have a gambling problem.

Browns 20, Bills 17

Tampa at DALLAS (-7)

I hate the number here, but the Bucs' defensive issues has road blowout written all over this one unless they can get some turnovers, and betting on those happening is a bad idea. On the fast home track with QB Tony Romo having one of his better Septembers -- and the man is not to be underestimated in this month -- I think they cover the number with relative ease, and get freshly deluded by their potential. Oh, Cowboy Fan, will you ever learn? DON'T GET (takes hit of helium) COCKY!

As for the Bucs, if they can keep this in the hands of RB Doug "Muscle Hamster" Martin, they'll have a shot to keep this in the range of a cheap shot during kneeldowns. Hey, it's an identity.

Dallas 31, Bucs 17

DETROIT (-3.5) at Tennessee

Not much going right for the Titans this year, who have to be wondering if QB Matt Hasselbeck might be a better idea by now, but QB Jake Locker is a long-term project. Speaking of unsatisfying, RB Chris Johnson isn't in danger of losing the job despite his second year of being flat-out terrible. Against a Lions team that's looking to bounce from a never really in it SNF game in San Francisco, I like QB Matthew Stafford -- and potentially serious fantasy RB Mikel LeShoure -- to salt away the number late. Also, lots of people seem to think that WR Kenny Britt is going to bust out in this game, but that assumes Locker has production, or time to throw. (Note: I also own LeShoure and Britt in my fantasy league, so if both go down with crippling injuries, you'll know who to thank.)

Lions 30, Titans 20

Jacksonville at INDIANAPOLIS (-3)

Second straight week where the Colts take advantage of the home field and an easy schedule to feel good about the QB Andrew Luck Era. Unlike previous games, this one is going to see some more room for RB  "Dammit" Donald Brown, because the Colts are going to (a) have a lead, and (b) have an opponent that's got enough tape to be scared of Luck. It also really doesn't hurt that they might have DE Dwight Freeney back for this one. As for the Jags, if you think they are winning this game, you are betting a road dome game with QB Blaine Gabbert or QB Matt Moore at the helm. Frankly, I'm a little surprised this line isn't higher; I'd be comfortable with 6.5.

Colts 23, Jaguars 13

NY JETS at Miami (+3)

Another of those no-confidence games; I went a couple of different ways before finally getting to the place where I just couldn't bet QB Ryan Tannehill against CB Darelle Revis, against a defense that's good enough to make someone other than RB Reggie Bush beat them. And while this flies in the face of the Ryan Jets being 2-4 against the Fish, so be it. Both teams need the game something fierce for their delusional AFC East championship hopes, and the Jets should just have a little more ceiling. The fact that this game will be available to be in HD will not make me watch it.

Jets 20, Dolphins 16

San Francisco at MINNESOTA (+7.5)

Lots of reasons to like the Vikings to cover the number here. San Francisco has all kinds of letdown potential here with the travel and road dome, and while the Niner defense is all that, it's not like the Vikings are out of weapons, especially at home. Also, QB Alex Smith is *wildly* overdue for a high INT game, and the Vikings special teams are also highly capable of making a big play or two here. I still like the Niners to win, but it'll be tight and late and with all kinds of worry for them.

Niners 24, Vikings 23

KANSAS CITY (+9) at New Orleans

Have you seen the Saints try to tackle anyone this year -- or even show any interest in the attempt? I haven't either. And while they are certainly due for a home laugher that makes everyone think they'll get back on track, and will be well and truly desperate after the 0-2 start, it's just too many points against a team with a running game, some offensive weapons, and a few hitters on defense. The Chiefs aren't very good either, but after this game, the word will finally be out that neither are the Saints. Despite the win.

Saints 31, Chiefs 24

CINCINNATI (+3.5) at Washington

The Skins lose LR Brian Orakpo and DE Carriker, which means that a unit that wasn't good enough to win last week in St, Louis is now clearly weaker against a borderline playoff team. The home turf hasn't been a very good thing for the Skins ever since the move, and while I love QB Robert Griffin's gifts, he looks like a guy who is going to struggle after there is a little bit of tape on him. (Oh, and a small aside to the media -- am I contractually obligated to say The Third every time I say this guy's name? I got things to do, I don't need to say two extra syllables, and I really don't give a rat's ass about his father or grandfather. And if you keep making everyone say this, I'm going to have to start calling him Thurston Howell THE THIRD in irritation. Moving on.) Anyway, this will be a solid game that the Skins lose late, especially on defense.

Bengals 27, Redskins 20

PHILADELPHIA (-4) at Arizona

I hate picking my team as a road favorite; they've done almost nothing to deserve it, and have serious health issues on an offensive line that really wasn't good enough to start with. Arizona's got a good defense and solid home-field advantage. They have won a ton of games recently, and might have the best special teams in the league. They also took this game last year, in Philadelphia, and QB Mike Vick has been a turnover machine for two games.

But my laundry has also been a lockdown defense -- perhaps the best in the league so far, though the Niners and Seahawks will have much to say about that -- and the law of averages says the offense won't turn it over four times this week. Two, perhaps. Or about as many as the Cardinals, and prone to pressure QB Kevin Kolb. This is the week that gets all kinds of people on the bandwagon, but don't worry: they'll be gone by the bye.

Eagles 30, Cardinals 17

Atlanta at SAN DIEGO (-3)

Man alive, did the Falcons make the world sweat a MNF game that had no reason to be close. When you pick the QB three times in the first quarter and are only up by 10 points, that's just begging for the soul-crushing comeback, let alone when you start to manage the play-calling by force-feeding a fat old drunk (RB Michael Turner). On the road against his old team, I think they try to establish the ground game long enough to fall behind, then give up a couple of picks against a surprisingly competent Chargers secondary. The Chargers have also been surprisingly good at keeping QB Philip Rivers clean, and Rivers has been exceptional at making second-tier receivers look good.

So while one of these teams is going to be 3-0 and we on their way to winning a surprisingly easy division, don't count on either actually, you know, winning a playoff game. But that's got nothing to do with this week.

Chargers 30, Falcons 24

Houston at DENVER (+1)

Big boy pants time for the Texans, who have advantages all over the ball... but not on the road, at altitude, and against a wily old coach (John Fox) who will take advantage of a team that's probably a little too full of themselves after two easy wins to start the year. Denver looked like the better team when QB Peyton Manning wasn't throwing it to the wrong laundry, and while this Houston team is going to cruise for much of the year, that's not the case this week. There's a reason why this Texans team hasn't ever really entered the public consciousness as an elite team. Gary Kubiak, don't betray my lack of trust.

Broncos 24, Texans 20

PITTSBURGH (+5) at Oakland

Bit of a trap game for Pittsburgh, but I don't particularly believe in trap games, or the Raiders at this point. The big problem has been that the running game has gone nowhere, with no holes at all for RB Darren McFadden, leaving QB Carson Palmer and his coterie of injured and not-ready WRs to convert way too many long third downs. On defense, they can rush the passer but can't cover, which isn't exactly a good mix against a QB that extends plays. It also doesn't hurt that this game is early in the year, when the older members of the Steeler defense aren't run down. Expect Steeler Fan to outnumber Raider Fan by the end of this one; they have a road fan base, the Bay Area's a nice place to visit, and bad seats at the Coliseum are easy to get.

Steelers 24, Raiders 16

New England at BALTIMORE (-3)

The marquee SNF game, and a great opportunity for the Ravens to step up and take the mantle of Best Team In The AFC, even if that doesn't look all that strong right now, or particularly accurate, given that Houston or San Diego is going to be 3-0 at the end of the day. But that's the way it goes for established powers under the lights.

Look for the Ravens to do more with the running game, which they foolishly got away from in last week's loss in Philly, and to take advantage of the suspect Patriot LBs with brand new toy TE Dennis Pitta. QB Joe Flacco's history is usually on-again off-again, and he's going to have opportunities at home. On defense, the Patriots have had problems historically keeping QB Tom Brady clean against these guys, and that's not going to get better with the current state of his line. I also don't like the way the Pats are executing in the red zone these days; without TE Aaron Hernandez to balance things out, the offense becomes a binary play between RB Stephen Ridley and TE Rob Gronkowski, and that's not enough to get it done in Baltimore.

Finally, of course, this is a Vengeance Game for the Ravens after last year's drop and choke job in the playoffs in Foxboro. It's far from equivalent, but it will be satisfying nonetheless for the home team.

Ravens 24, Patriots 19

GREEN BAY (-3.5) at Seattle

Call me crazy, but I'm looking forward to this game more than the SNF one for once. Green Bay showed flashes of who they are in last week's dismantling of the Bears, and they also have the extra two days of rest to help make the trip to the Pacific Northwest a little less onerous. Seattle really should be 2-0, and looked positively manly against the Cowboys; they also don't lose at home very often, and have some of the best unknown CBs around. I'm also really looking forward to seeing what rookie QB Russell Wilson can do in a game where his defense needs him to do more than manage, because while the Seahawks defense is elite, they aren't keeping QB Aaron Rodgers that locked down. I see this being won late, with Rodgers wearing the Seahawks down with his relentless precision. Should be a great one, and a surprise playoff preview.

Packers 31, Seahawks 24

Last Week: 12-4

2012: 19-13

Career: 561-537-26

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