Thursday, September 25, 2014

Week 4 NFL Picks: Bye Sweet Bye, And The 1972 Dolphins Are Asshats

A Town Called Asshat
Every year in the NFL when the byes come along, every writer goes off on how awful this is, how thin the schedule is, and yada yada yada. When, frankly, it's something of a relief. I don't know about you, but I generally do better in my nerd work when you have to go deeper into the muck and mire, because I can't leave well enough alone and just, you know, limit my timesuck to the guys who actually play.

Which leads us to this slate of games, the last of the September Silly Season, when you can more or less forget everything that 2013 taught you about the teams. This is usually when the lines start to tighten up, especially on road favorites, and you have to start paying attention to get anything out of your fantasy honking.

And it also may be the second to last weekend where we have any unbeaten teams (the Cardinals and Bengals are on a bye), which means we can get the annual smug off by the most overrated team in NFL history, the 1972 Dolphinsy. Why overrated? Because their schedule was the biggest set of creampuffs this side of college football, and the NFL post-merger had about as much parity as a history of Polish military conflicts. They weren't nearly as good as the Fish team of 1973, which also won the Super Bowl. But since 15-2 doesn't sing as hard as 17-0, despite the fact that the '73 playoff wins were far more convincing, immortality is what it is. Gahhh. Well, on the bright side, most of them will be dead relatively soon. And, Lord willing, Chris Berman with them.

Anyway, moving beyond that little moment of rooting for the reaper...last week was a disaster on many levels, with a good chunk of them coming when I thought had covers in the bag. Not good times, so I'm clearly due. And with that... on to the picks!

NY GIANTS (+3.5) at Washington

As much as I'd like to give my Eagles credit for a gutty win last week against the Slurs, the simpler fact of the matter is that the DC secondary wasn't good to start, and is now playing with the second stringers. Against a Giants team that actually found its gears on offense last week against a far superior Texans outfit, in the home field that has never done much for them, I see a Blue Thursday for the home team, and lots of Manning stat padding. There's also this: QB Kirk Cousins really isn't as good as the Eagle secondary made him look last week.

Giants 31, Slurs 20

GREEN BAY (-1.5) at Chicago

Strong gut check time for the Pack and QB Aaron Rodgers, who looked ordinary or worse on the road in Detroit last week against the on-again, off-again Lions. The Bears have back to back road night wins under their belt, but the history of this rivalry for the better part of the Obama Administration is that head to head, Rodgers shines and Bears QB Jay Cutler fails. I think it will be a shootout that goes for the far more desperate road team.

Packers 34, Bears 30

Buffalo at HOUSTON (-3)

Possibly the worst QB matchup of the 2014 season, and that's saying something. Bills QB EJ Manuel does less with more than any guy in the league, while People What Live Round Here QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is a vagabond turnover machine. It's also a Vengeance Game for Rhino, and the thing about turnover machines is that they usually get the job in the first place from running up numbers in home games, on short fields.

Texans 24, Bills 16

Tennessee at INDIANAPOLIS (-7.5)

All better time for the Colts? More likely than not, though they have tended to struggle a bit in this division matchup. The Titans are looking to RB Bishop Sankey and WR Justin Hunter to carry the mail, but both guys are too inconsistent to keep the hammer down in a pinball game, as is QB Jake Locker. QB Andrew Luck? Not really an issue.

Colts 41, Titans 20

Carolina at BALTIMORE (-3)

I'm starting to wonder about the make-up of the Panthers. Remember, this is one of those secondary embarrassments for the NFL with Greg Hardy getting off the field due to home life, and while the short run of that sort of thing is usually adrenalin-based We'll Show You, the long run is not so good. Especially with a mediocre at best secondary, and a suddenly injury-riddled RB corps. Charm City has its own injury issues, with do-everything TE Dennis Pitta out, but I think they'll get it done here. Oh, and I'm also really not comfortable with the idea of betting against Steve Smith Sr. in this one, because he might murder a half dozen guys with the sheer excellence of his vengeance.

Ravens 26, Panthers 17

Detroit at NY JETS (+1.5)

One more fantasy disappointment in a year filled with them has been Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who failed to take advantage of a cushy home field match up against the Pack last week, and now has to go on the road against a Jet club that can hurt you in the trenches. It's also high time for one of those Geno Smith bounce-back moments, especially since the game isn't at night. The Jets are just horrible outside of 1 and 4pm.

Jets 23, Lions 17

Tampa at PITTSBURGH (-7)

How much of that TNF massacre was Tampa's true level, and how much of it was just getting into a wilding moment in a loud dome? We'll find out a little more this week, when they have to go to probably better QB2 Mike Glennon in a road game in Steeltown, which usually doesn't end well for the team with the young QB. On the other side of the ball, Steeler RB Le'Veon Bell has been money, and will be late in the game in this one, too.

Steelers 24, Bucs 14

MIAMI (-4) at Oakland

Remember Week One? The Fish trucked the Patriots at home, looked all kinds of physical, seemed like the class of the division. Then in Week Two, they lost in Buffalo in a game where they suffered injuries; last week, they lost at home to a Chiefs team that looked like a dead team walking after their own defensive injuries. This week against the Raiders in one of those America Hates You games in the UK, they get to get well against the dregs of football, who actually aren't looking that dreggish just because QB Derek Carr is avoiding sacks. He won't find that easy to do against this Fish defense, though, and QB Ryan Tannehill reclaims the job to boot.

Dolphins 27, Raiders 17

JACKSONVILLE (+14) at San Diego

It's starting to look a lot like last year in JVille, where the Jags were DOA after a disaster start, then changed QBs and got all the way to mediocre, albeit slowly. This week in San Diego, look for the Chargers to throw their way to a big lead early, then allow the who cares back door cover as QB Blake Bortles resuscitates the offense, and the Charger ground game isn't effective enough to just kill the clock.

Chargers 34, Jaguars 24

ATLANTA (-2.5) at Minnesota

Viking Fan is excited to see QB Teddy Bridgewater in his first home start, but the bigger problem is that without RB Adrian Peterson and TE Kyle Rudolph, they just don't have the tools necessary to give him what he needs in a shootout. And, well, this is going to be a shootout, because QB Matt Ryan has a working O-line again, and the tools to show what he can do. It also doesn't hurt that WR/PR Devin Hester looks like his own self again, too.

Falcons 31, Vikings 20

PHILADELPHIA (-5.5) at San Francisco

No one who follows my laundry has thought this game was going to be a win from the moment that the schedule was announced, and after three thrilling but wildly flawed wins, that hasn't changed. But SF is 1-2 for cause, with QB Colin Kaepernick having turnover issues and the entire club having major problems in the second half and fourth quarter. They also need to run the ball to be effective, and that's the one thing my team has done well on defense, along with turning into a good team in close and late moments.

The very scary thing for Green is how they'll bring a makeshift offensive line across the country to face a desperate and solid defense, and that's very valid. But QB Nick Foles has shown the ability to get the ball away quickly, and the Niner LB corps isn't as airtight as they used to be. Look for Green to fall behind early, get back some equilibrium with the screen game, benefit from a turnover and scare the Niners senseless late. Which means a cover, if not a win. (And no, not a win, because my team isn't good enough in the red zone.) They'll feel better about it than the Jags' win, and should.

Niners 31, Eagles 27

NEW ORLEANS (-3) at Dallas

Are you serious, Vegas? I get to take the Saints in a night game, against a Cowboys team that damn near killed themselves to beat the Rams with QB2, a couple of days after they demoted a CB and had him go AWOL?

Look, I get that the Saints have been a disappointment to date, far from the predicted 2nd-best team in the conference. I understand that RB DeMarco Murray is the only high drafted RB in fantasy that has actually played to expectations. And that home field advantage is a thing, and that thing is hard to just disregard.

But great googly moogly, have you people learned nothing about past SNFs with the Saints? Or how Niner Fan took over the Jerruhsoleam in Week One -- Week One! -- and that Saints Fan is barely a plane ride (It's 500 miles from the Superdome, or about a 6-hour drive, the way people go in Texas) away? And that the Cowboys have absolutely no one who can stay with Jimmy Graham or Brandin Cooks, and the Saints have been running the ball well, too? Finally, that the Cowboys can still be terrible at defense even if they have had three tolerable games to start the season, because they haven't faced anything close to a very good offense yet?

I'd take the Saints at 9.5. This is just stealing. Bet with confidence, bet hard, bet much.

Saints 38, Cowboys 24

NEW ENGLAND (-3.5) at Kansas City

I can't defend this pick on the merits of the teams involved, because I have no idea who these teams are. The Patriots are, to date, a game manager team with a good defense, but no one thinks they are really going to stay that way, or that QB Tom Brady will continue to be unsuitable in fantasy. The Chiefs came into the year with what was presumed to be a good defense and a great RB; both have gotten hurt, but the team has still gotten that performance from the back ups. They are also attempting to win games without passing with a pass-first HC... so, well, no one really thinks this is the team that will remain, either.

So I'm pretty much picking the road team based on the fact that Bill Belichick has owned Andy Reid before, and probably will do again. Especially in front of a national audience. Should be a decent game, though.

Patriots 24, Chiefs 20

Last week: 5-11

Year to date: 18-29-1

Career: 506-529-40

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