Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week 3 NFL Picks: Coin Flip Or Blowout

Now That's A Blowout
Welcome to the most all-or-nothing week in NFL spreads, um, ever. By my count, there are 10 -- ten! -- games that fall in the plus or minus coin flip range, while four others are in the double-digit range. Such is the nature of the game now; you either have a QB or you do not, and woe, just all kinds of unrelenting woe, if you do not.

As for the picks, we really need to get it going, especially with the fantasy team more or less looking like it's Time To Tank before the summer is even officially over. I know, I know, it's early, and there are little things like getting shut out in kicker points for two straight weeks that just should not continue to happen all year. But I'm a realist about such things, and I'm already starting to think abut current horrible players that are in horrible situations (Denarius Moore can't be in Oakland again, right? Maybe Denard Robinson gets a shot at QB3/RB1 when Gabbert, Henne and MJD are all put down? Montee Ball can't be this awful forever, right?), and the hope that if I just suck it up for a year, they'll find themselves on a better team next year

So with that moment of wild enthusiasm.... on to the picks!

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Kansas City at PHILADELPHIA (-3)

How screwed are the Eagles? I almost got a ticket for this one, which would have absolutely screwed the pooch. The Chiefs are unbeaten with a walkover in Jacksonville and a squeaker against Dallas, and now have the mother of all baggage games against the Blur Birds. The Eagles left 11 points on the ground last week against San Diego, managed the clock late like Andy Reid was still in charge, and fielded a secondary that was nearly as pathetic as last year's team. So why do I like them to cover this week? Because in what is always a sloppy game due to inadequate preparation time, I'm going with the club that makes the other side prepare for more. Everyone in Philadelphia knows Reid's play-calling inside and out. We know he's not going to use Jamal Charles enough, just as we know that QB Alex Smith isn't going to exploit his advantage with WR Dwayne Bowe. There's going to be throws to a half dozen guys, trickery when there doesn't have to be, and weak halftime adjustments. Against Chip Kelly with three days of hard-assery following the first of what will be a discouraging number of gift games, I like the home team's chances for a bounce back -- and Smith finally making some mistakes that cause his team to lose. (Oh, and Chip? If you go 2-14 but deliver a spectacular ass kicking in this one, many people in town will be OK with it. Time's yours.)

Eagles 30, Chiefs 24

GREEN BAY (-1) at Cincinnati

Great match up. A solid team from the better conference against what might be the sneak team in the conference, with the home field advantage making things even closer. Both teams also really need the win due to their week one stumble, with the Pack still looking up at the Bears to boot. Cincy will put all kinds of pain on QB Aaron Rodgers in this one, and the Pack running game will not be able to take enough pressure off him as well. But there's a reason why the Bengals aren't a top six team, and that's because (a) they won't use RB Giovani Bernard enough, (b) QB Andy Dalton isn't good enough to build the lead high enough to be Rodgers-proof, (c) HC Marvin Lewis isn't going to be able to scheme 60 minutes of win, and (d) it's early enough in the year where Rodgers, WR Randall Cobb and the other members of the Packer aerial circus are healthy enough to have legs late. Had this game happened in November, different story.

Packers 27, Bengals 24

ST. LOUIS (+3.5) at Dallas

Just a little more than I'm willing to chew with a Ram team that gets after the QB, against a Cowboy team that gave up their home field advantage so they could have a Xanadu for the new Al Davis. I still think Dallas wins the game, because Jeff Fisher isn't exactly aces in close games either, but the NFC East is a terrible division for cause. Too tight for the nickel.

Cowboys 24, Rams 23

San Diego at TENNESSEE (-3)

The Chargers would be 2-0 without their epic opening night collapse against the Texans, but the Titans are a sneaky good defense. WR Malcolm Floyd won't play in this one, and secret weapon WR Eddie Royal is now on the radar, so I'm thinking they'll be unable to win in the red zone in this one. QB Jake Locker has a half dozen games a year that fool people into thinking he's got what it takes to win at this level, and this will be one of those games. (Seriously, the Charger secondary should have given up 40+ points to a team that got absolutely nothing from their defense last week. They aren't good.)

Titans 27, Chargers 20

CLEVELAND at Minnesota (-6)

Are you willing to lay six to QB Christian Ponder anywhere, against any team? Me neither, and Cleveland's just frisky enough -- particularly in run defense -- that an upset isn't impossible. Also, there's a real chance that this is the game where the QB play is so weak, the teams don't combine for six points combined.

Vikings 16, Browns 14

Tampa at NEW ENGLAND (-7.5)

Theoretical trouble for the Pats, who spent the last TNG game showing the world why PPR leagues are just wrong. WR Julian Edelman got force fed enough meh underneath throws to make everyone who roots for the Bradies to have Reche Caldewell flashbacks, but there's a few key differences at work here. First is that the Bucs are a team that's about two weeks away from open revolt against nominal starting QB Josh Freeman and HC Greg Schiano. Second is the the Pats have 3 extra days of rest and home field, and the Bucs are already 0-2 with two winnable games pissed away. The Pats live to crush flawed teams like this one, and while they aren't really right yet, the Bucs won't be able to do enough to make that obvious. And Freeman will turn it over enough to make short fields and quick scores to cover the number happen.

Patriots 27, Bucs 17

Arizona at NEW ORLEANS (-8)

Dome field advantage against a team that's fortunate to have a win. The Cards got themselves a win against the eternally giving Lions last week, but in the loud Superdome and against a defense that's showing a pulse, they won't be able to keep pace -- particularly with WR Larry Fitzgerald hobbled, and the offensive line still a mess. The Saints just might be able to run away with this division after all.

Saints 34, Cardinals 20

DETROIT (+1) at Washington

In the first half of their first two games, Washington just more or less dug themselves impossible holes, and only started to put together offense when the other team went into prevent mode. I'm not getting why they should suddenly pull it together against a team with strong intermittent talent, or how they are going to generate enough offense to make the defense work. (In case you haven't seen them play yet, it's a pretty simple scheme -- hope Ryan Kerrigan or Brian Orakpo sack the QB before he hits the wide open man downfield.) This one will be closer, because it's going to be hard to it not to be, but Detroit needs the win after last week's stumble in the desert, and DC just doesn't have enough NFL players, particularly on defense.

Lions 34, Washington 23

NY GIANTS at Carolina (Pick 'em)

Two desperate 0-2 teams that, if you were to combine them, could be an easy division winner. Think about it: you'd get Carolina's plus running backs and TE Greg Olsen, along with the best front defensive seven that no one knows just yet, along with Big Blue's world-class WRs and coaching. You'd still have secondary issues because nearly every NFL does, and I'm not certain which turnover-prone QB would get the nod, but they'd be a force. Alas, the Giants will win because QB Eli Manning does his best work on the road, they can't possibly be this turnover-prone all year, and Giants HC Tom Coughlin has forgotten more about football than Panthers HC Ron Rivera will ever know. Note that I didn't specify a time frame for Coughlin's memory loss.

Giants 27, Panthers 20

HOUSTON (-2.5) at Baltimore

Normally I'd love the home team here. They haven't played a very strong game yet, they need the game more, and Houston looks paper-tigerish with RB Arian Foster looking rusty, WR Andre Johnson banged up, and the strong Raven home field advantage. But RB Ray Rice isn't 100%, RB Bernard Pierce isn't ready to take a full load, and the Ravens are so not the team they were last year. I think this is one of those statement games, and that statement is Baltimore Won't Be A Factor In 2013.

Texans 23, Ravens 20

Atlanta at MIAMI (-1)

Bad time for the Falcons to lose the service of RB Stephen Jackson, but even with him, they haven't been doing anything on the ground, and late games in September in the swamps of South Florida just have the feel of slogfest to me. QB Ryan Tanenhill is having the secret breakout year that won't be a secret in two more weeks, and while WR Mike Wallace isn't everything he needs, he's getting enough attention to make the other weapons viable. The Falcon defense isn't going to get off the field enough to win this one, QB Matt Ryan will have one of those road games that encourages his skeptics, and the Dolphins are going to remain (gulp) unbeaten. Not that it's going to last, but the crest of the wave hasn't hit yet.

Dolphins 27, Falcons 20

BUFFALO (+1.5) at New York Jets

A sneaky secret about the Bills and #1 WR Stevie Johnson: he's owned the Jets in their last three matchups. And with rookie WR Robert Woods from USC making an impact, and teams selling out to stop RB CJ Spiller. the Bills have something resembling a competent NFL offense to go with their usually enthusiastic defense. Against a Jets team that's a gift penalty away from being 0-2 and devoid of hope, that translates to a road win, while Jets Fan looks on and wonders why they couldn't have taken QB EJ Manuel instead of QB Geno Smith... especially with rookie CB Dee Milliner bouncing on and off the pine. As with all Jets games, it won't be pretty, but the Manuel Era in western New York is going good so far.

Bills 20, Jets 16

Indianapolis at SAN FRANCISCO (-10.5)

Oh, Indy, you will not like the Niners when they are angry. A week after getting trucked by Seattle in the national SNF game, they come home to Stanford product Andrew Luck's homecoming against his college coach. The not-so-secret point about Indy, which is similar to Washington, is that a historically great rookie QB performance masked a franchise that had severe talent issues all over the field, and the Regression Police are coming to take it out in blood this year. The Colt defense will not have the personnel to match up with the physicality of WR Anquan Boldin and TE Vernon Davis, and Luck won't be able to extend enough plays, or avoid turnovers.

Niners 34, Colts 20

JACKSONVILLE (+20) at Seattle

Make no mistake about this: the Jags are terrible, and can not win this game. But they are also catching a Seattle team that's prone to domination via the running game, coming off a squash against their divison rivals, and facing their old defensive coach, who will not inspire run it up hate. Seattle's also undisciplined enough to lose focus in garbage time, and QB Chad Henne has put up numbers there. It's still your ironclad Survivor pool bet, assuming you don't want to get cute with a dicier proposition, but it won't be a cover. (Oh, there's also this/ I own Seahawks QB Russell Wilson in fantasy this year, just like last year. I cut Wilson due to depth and injury issues after the first half of last year, when he became a top 6 QB option. So if you are wondering why he's been Less Useful Than Alex Freaking Smith so far, I am the reason why. Sorry.)

Seahawks 31, Jaguars 17

CHICAGO (-2.5) at Pittsburgh

Last call time for the Steelers (and after this, there's going to be some Late Season Flexing going on), who are looking up at 0-3 if they lose this one... but even the home field and desperation isn't making me like them against the unbeaten Bears. Just too much defensive pressure, special teams firepower, and enough offensive diversity for the road team to go the other way. Long year in Pittsburgh, but this kind of thing happens every decade or so to them. As for Chicago, this is one more step to that 12-4 year that gets way too many people speaking like stereotyped asshats, and then ends in a home playoff loss that causes a massive freakout. Whee!

Bears 24, Steelers 20

OAKLAND (+15.5) at Denver

Another Garbage Time Cover Special here, where Oakland will make just enough scramble plays from QB Terrelle Pryor, and enough quality runs from sneaky good fantasy RB Darren McFadden, to make the not caring too much Broncos step off the gas. How is Denver supposed to get up for this game after taking ineffectual regular season vengeance on Baltimore and the NFL, then smacking around Little Brother? They can't and they won't, so while the win is just about a foregone conclusion, the cover isn't.

Broncos 35, Oakland 21

Last week: 7-8-1

Year to date: 13-17-2

Career: 683-679-32

1 comment:

Bill Becker said...

"In case you haven't seen them play yet, it's a pretty simple scheme -- hope Ryan Kerrigan or Brian Orakpo sack the QB before he hits the wide open man downfield." - My first thought was how funny your comment was...then I realized...crap it's true:(

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