Thursday, September 11, 2014

NFL Week 2 Picks: Regression

Last week, I had a unique experience watching football: damn near total satis- faction. Which is going to go away soon, so I really need to note the occurrence, and try to remember the feeling for later. Because it's so very, very likely to go away...

Every year, I'm pretty much ready to toss my fantasy team into a dumpster after a week. Either I leave points on the bench or I suffer huge injuries in the first quarter, in addition to clear boned picks that just wipe me out. Then I spend days trying to talk myself out of the idea that the next four months are going to be an unrelenting slog to mediocrity.

But this year? Well, I had QB Matt Ryan and TE Julian Thomas, which meant that I had the two best guys in fantasy at their position, and enough other good moments to lead in a 12-team league. Everything is not locked down and shutdown, but I think I'll contend all year. For, well, the first time ever. It's Nice!

The biggest part of my fan experience is, of course, my real team... and the Eagles overcame a hopeless first quarter to win going away, with the rest of the division going 0-3 while getting their heads kicked in. It wasn't the best game or day ever for the home squad, but it could have been so much worse. Like, say, rooting for the Giants, Slurs or Cowboys.

The final point is, well, this picks column. And that's the only slip, really: a 7-9 week with some nice wins, some irritating covers (Indy and Oakland with last-minute suckouts), and a few clear mistakes (Green Bay, Kansas city). But if every week goes as well as last, it's going to be a good year.

So look this week for my fantasy guys to tank, my Eagles to lose (in front of me, to boot -- see below), and these picks to be gold. Bet early and often!

And with that... on to the picks!

PITTSBURGH (+2.5) at Baltimore

Wow, just what the NFL and CBS needed: Team PR Meltdown, alone on national television in a prime-time game where there's loads of money on the table to get the ratings up from past years on NFLN. Proof, not that you needed it, that God is Funny, though maybe not in a really nice way. And if you really want to see the league squirm, root for this to be a blowout, where the media team feels compelled to discuss the unconscious elephant in the room.

Assuming the game is decided by actual footballery and not by the Festival of Sad or Righteous Overcoming Of Media Circus... the Ravens have real issues these days. The running game was bad last year, and may be down to RBs3 and 4 now. The passing game was always pedestrian. And the defense is no longer lockdown.

I'll take the road team, because the Ravens aren't good enough on offense to outscore the Steeler offense, especially with suddenly potent Le'Veon Bell. The Markus Wheaton Breakout Year is a go. But honestly, I'd stay the hell away from this game, as the chance that Ricegate makes it about things other than football is way too big.


Oh, and if you don't feel good about watching the Ravens in the wake of their role in this hopeless mess, and wind up not watching the game? Well, it's not as if TNF has been a source of great games over the years, and... well, I know I can't quit this drug. But I'm increasingly glad my kids aren't into it.

Steelers 27, Enablers 17

MIAMI (-1.5) at Buffalo


The surprising co-leaders of the division (along with the Jets, Week One Was Fun!) clash, and it's good timing for the Fish. They get decent weather, an offense that probably thinks they don't need to go max protect after the Bears win, and the simple fact that Buffalo isn't that tough of a home field any more. They also pressure the QB with a quickness, which is going to be the deciding factor in this one.

Dolphins 23, Bills 13

JACKSONVILLE (+6) at Washington


Last week's column mentioned how much I hated, as an Eagles fan, last weeks' match-up, as it was a big fat line and an underrated opponent. That was uncomfortably prescient, and the plain and simple is that the Jags were more than a little unlucky to lose that game. They'll get a more urgent opponent due to DC Redacted raising alarms after getting slapped around by the People What Live In Texas last week, but I like their chances of pulling off the upset, let alone covering the number. This is a good defense but thin, and they'll be able to run the ball better against DC than Philly. As for the DC offense, man alive, is this a dumb dinkfest...

Jaguars 26, Washington 24

Dallas at TENNESSEE (-3.5)


Did you catch Jimmy Johnson's act at halftime of last weeks' thoroughly enjoyable Niner Takeover of the Jerruhsoleam? He calmly explained how if you just took away the hopeless and ridiculous turnovers, the Cowboys were right in this one, and how the teams were really much more even than this, as if not having a turnover machine at QB wasn't, well, the most non-evening factor imaginable for a football team.

Anyway... point taken, JJ! The Cowboy defense did not look like an utter trainwreck in their limited amount of time on the field. Dallas kept the ball and moved it until they gave it away like cafeteria food. And there's no way that this team isn't on an express route to a 6-win season where the stadium only fills when the road team has a draw. Man alive, is this year going to be fun.

As for the Titans, they have a defense, QB Jake Locker might not be awful anymore, and, um, I don't really need much more to pick against Dallas in 2014. Moving on.

Titans 27, Cowboys 20

ARIZONA (-2.5) at New York Giants


Let's imagine, Giant Fan, that your QB hadn't ridden two improbable hot streaks to win rings, and his last name wasn't Manning. Is there any way he'd still have your starting job? He'd be aging and pick-prone. He'd have limited mobility and be clearly on the downside of his career. And no one would blame you for wanting to see who's next.

Instead, you've got a guy that clearly looks out of sorts with the new way of doing things, who doesn't threaten the opposition with the deep ball or his legs, and who doesn't seem in any way ready to crack into the top tier of QBs. But since he's got that name and those rings, he's got the gig.

The same, of course, goes for the coach.

By taking the Cards, I have to go for the Western team with 1pm start, Carson Palmer on the road against a good defense, and the shaky injury record of RB Andre Ellington. Also, LB Jon Abraham is looking like he's going to retire following a concussion. So, not exactly dripping with win... but CB Patrick Patterson could outscore WR Victor Cruz, and it's not as if Big Blue has been unstoppable at home in recent years. Look for short fields and a depressed defense to give up points late.

Cardinals 30, Giants 20

NEW ENGLAND (-3) at Minnesota


Could Week One have gone any better for the Vikings? Chicago and Green Bay lost, they rolled the Rams, QB Matt Cassell wasn't bad, the defense dominated and they won a road game going away. But one thing didn't happen: New England lost in Miami, and the track record of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick coming off a loss is absurd. Look for the Pats to re-start the running game, make Cassell look like what he really is, and end all of our dreams of a Patriot meltdown that makes 2014 the best season ever.

Patriots 34, Vikings 20

New Orleans at CLEVELAND (+6.5)


Everyone is going to jump on the Saints for a bounceback blowout here against the lightly-regarded Not Manziels, but there are reasons to not think that will be the case. First off, the Saints on the road, on grass, rarely bring the track meet. Second, they just gave up 500+ yards to a Falcons team that doesn't have as good as n O-line as the Browns. Third, the Browns look like they can run the ball, and have some reasonable talent in the secondary. I think the home team grinds out 35+ carries, moves the chains with short passes, and generally has enough time of possession to cover the spread. And maybe even excite their fatalistic fans, for a little while.

Saints 27, Browns 21

Atlanta at CINCINNATI (-5)


I'd like this line a lot more if LB Vontaze Burfict had a clean injury status, but the defensive line is going to get home and bring QB Matt Ryan back to earth after his best in class week one. On the other side of the ball, a surprisingly deep Bengal WR group will go to town early, with the ground game salting it away late. The Falcons might be relevant again after beating the Saints in week one, but not against a physical team on the road.

Bengals 31, Falcons 23

DETROIT (+2.5) at Carolina


This is one of those classic trap games, where the home field winner on MNF goes on the road and gets punked on the road. There's loads more if you like the Panthers. They get back QB Cam Newton, WR Kelvin Benjamin looks beastly, the defense has held opponents down for the better part of a year, and the Lions are prone to feats of dumbness that cost them all kinds of close games.

But, well, there's a healthy WR Calvin Johnson, and a Panther team that doesn't look like they'd be able to run the ball in this one, and Newton probably shying away from contact rather than miss more time, and my faith in the home team pales. There's also the fact that they let the Bucs back in the game for no reason last week, and that I started the year thinking they were going to disappoint. That starts here.

Lions 23, Panthers 17

St. Louis at TAMPA (-5.5)


The best choice for worst game of the day is this 4:05 start in the Florida sun, with both teams trying to avoid an 0-2 start and the end of all hopes. I think the Bucs get it done with their big WRs and an utter lack of success for the Ram offense, and if you watch this game, I think it qualifies as community service. (It also doesn't help that DE Chris Long is going to undergo ankle surgery and miss big time. Wonder if they are regretting not putting Michael Sam on the practice squad?)

Bucs 16, Rams 9

SEATTLE (-6) at San Diego


Just what the Chargers need after a blown lead on MNF: the defending Super Bowl champions with four extra days of rest, as they are coming off a Thursday night beatdown of the Packers. I'd look for heretofore unknown multitudes of Road Hawk Fan to take advantage of one of the easier road trips on their schedule, as well as the historically accommodating Charger home field situation... and man alive, is QB Philip Rivers so not the guy you want going after this defense. Though, to be fair, I'm not sure there is a QB you'd want going after this defense. Maybe Russell Wilson?

Seahawks 31, Chargers 20

HOUSTON (-3) at Oakland


I suppose the Raiders are going to win a game this year, but it's hard to really go out on a limb and find one. In this match, they have to deal with the disturbingly dominant DL JJ Watt, a still healthy RB Arian Foster, and their own trollish talent levels. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is the kind of turnover machine that can make miracles happen, but after watching the Jets use patience to pound out a win last week, I think we've seen the blueprint for how not to lose a game that will haunt you.

People What Live In Texas 24, Raiders 13

NY Jets at GREEN BAY (-8)


Maybe the strongest confidence pick of the week. You get Green Bay, fresh off a road loss in Seattle with extra rest time, at home with one of the better home field advantages in the NFL. Even the injury status of RB Eddie Lacy might help, as it will get more balls in the air for QB Aaron Rodgers, who should find plentiful quick hitting opportunities against a vulnerable secondary. On the other side of the ball, the Jets will try to run their way to freedom; easier said than done on road grass against a defense that got embarrassed by a far better RB and OL last week. Look for the Pack to get up early, force some turnovers from hit or miss QB Geno Smith, and provide four quarters of reassurance for the home crowd.

Packers 34, Jets 17

Kansas City at DENVER (-13.5)


Looks like way too big of a line, doesn't it? Especially with the Chiefs getting back the closest thing they have to a starting WR, and Denver's propensity for taking the foot off the gas with leads. But the problem with that hypothesis is that the Broncos are eventually going to get the running game to work, the Chiefs might not be able to score even against prevent defenses, and the road team's defense lost multiple starters to season-ending injuries in that disaster game against the Titans. Remarkably, it's a good idea to own Broncos in fantasy again this week.

Broncos 41, Chiefs 20

CHICAGO (-7) at San Francisco


A week ago, everyone thought the Niners were ripe for upset,and that the Bears were a stylish little playoff dark horse. Now that the Bears somehow spit the bit against the Bills at home (well, we know how that happened: weak defense and head shaking INTs from QB Jay Cutler), and the Niners laughed their way to a Dallas beatdown, the line is seven.

I'm calling over-reaction. The Niner defense is still susceptible and aging, and they won't get to Cutler the way the Bills did. Home field games in new venues rarely produce blowouts, as the new yard tends to depress the advantage for a couple of years. (Trust me on this: my Eagles have never had anything close to the same home-field edge after moving to their nice new digs.) Chicago will move the ball on offense and put pressure on a Niner offense that rarely has had to play from behind. And SNF games tend to be nail biters anyway. I like the Bears to pull off the upset, which makes the cover easy. Oh, and one last thing -- in pre-season, field goals in this yard were *very* dicey. And Niner K Phil Dawson is pretty damned old.

Bears 31, Niners 28

PHILADELPHIA (+3) at Indianapolis


I'm going to be at this game, as it's the annual game (usually on the road) with the Shooter Mom. The overall record is 3-3, with wins in Cleveland, St. Louis and Tampa, and sloppy losses in Philly and Green Bay and Chicago. On the bright side, we're on a 3-game winning streak.

Philly has an extra half day of rest to counter the dome field edge, and catch a very needed break by missing LB Robert Mathis, especially with the OL reeling with injuries. But the back-ups looked good in the preseason and the second half of the Jags' game, and the Jags are better in the trenches than the Colts. Indy showed major issues in the secondary and against big TEs, and if you couldn't run on the Broncos, you won't be able to run on the Eagles much, either.

So this game will come down to which QB does a better job at protecting against turnovers, and I think that's going to be QB Nick Foles... because unlike Colts QB Andrew Luck, he's going to be able to hand the ball off 40 times and get real benefit out of RBs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Luck's going to get his numbers, but he's not exactly airtight against batted balls and deflection picks. It's also encouraging that the Eagle STs look like they could be really good this year, and that might be the difference in a tight game. Should be one of the closer and better games of the weekend.

Eagles 34, Colts 31

Last week: 7-9

Year to date: 7-9

Career: 495-509-39

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule