Thursday, September 29, 2016

Week 4 NFL Picks: Being An Adult

This week, there's been a lot of stuff that I haven't really wanted to do. Medical shots. Yard work, including little trafficked areas of serious overgrowth. Trying to catch up on running miles, because I'm about a week behind. Paying attention to the presidential campaign, because I need to gauge just how much work I'm willing to do to avoid feeling bad if things go wrong. Paperwork, cleaning, etc., etc. It's all about as much fun as it sounds.

But, well, it is what it is. Adulting seems to be on the extinction list, what with people puling for special snowflake choices that aren't realistic, using the greatest communication breakthrough in the history of the species to troll women and lower the discourse, and just, well, avoid work. Like reading the intro to picks columns. Who the hell wants to do that work, anyway? Just gimme the meat!

And with that... on to the picks!

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Miami at CINCINNATI (-7.5)

Last week at home against Denver, the Bengals fed power RB Jeremy Hill on the opening drive. Hill gashed the Bronco defense for big gains, eventually punching it home and ending a +70-yard drive for the early lead. And then... well, they didn't exactly forget about Hill, but they certainly didn't press the advantage, and the Bronco secondary did work against QB Andy Dalton. Hill wound up with 17 carries for 97 yards and 2 TDs. On Terrible Night Football, against a Dolphin team that is competent kicking from 0-3 with a home loss to the Browns while working with QB3, expect ground, pound, and pound some more.

Bengals 24, Dolphins 13

INDIANAPOLIS (-2.5) at Jacksonville

Two teams that don't deserve prosperity, but one will get it in London, because that's what the AFC South is all about. Jacksonville might be in the final days of the Gus Bradley Era (remember how much we wanted him, Eagles Fans? We were so young then), because what tends to happen in UK games are beat downs followed by mid-season coach firing.

Colts 41, Jaguars 20

Tennessee at HOUSTON (-4.5)

The Texans are coming off their worst loss of the year, and the loss of do-everything DL JJ Watt. But they also are at home, with extra rest, against a Titans team that hasn't been able to avoid turnovers. In the long run, losing Watt is going to crush this club, but the long run has nothing to do with Sunday's game.

Texans 24, Titans 17

CLEVELAND (+7.5) at Washington

We're supposed to lay over a touchdown for DC, a 1-win team with massive injury issues and a shaky QB situation, against anyone? Not going to do it, especially with the poor Factory of Sadness showing surprising friskiness in two of three games this year. DC still wins, but it will be a fight, and WR Terrelle Pryor will show he wasn't just a one-week wonder for fantasy honks.

Slurs 27, Browns 24

Seattle at NY JETS (+2.5)

There's a reason why Ryan Fitzpatrick is so well-traveled; he's a turnover machine, and the bad games are truly terrible. But there's also a reason why he keeps getting starts, and that's because he bounces back in places you wouldn't expect... and that's where the Seahawks come in. QB Russell Wilson might miss this one, the defense is more about stopping you than generating turnovers, and the way to beat the Legion of Boom is with big post up WRs... which is to say, Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa, and maybe even new TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. The topper for me is that it's a 1pm EST / 10am PST start, which doesn't usually work for West Coast clubs.

Jets 24, Seahawks 20

Buffalo at NEW ENGLAND (even)

Massive QB uncertainty, a game they don't need and a Bills team that looked good when things were bleak last week at home leads many to think this is the week that the Patriots don't come through, prior to getting back suspended QB Tom Brady and laying waste to the NFL. This is where I note that they are at home, on long rest, and the Buffalo defense is coached by the worst DC in the history of the NFL. So, um, yeah, going for the Pats, and thrilled to have a nil line.

Patriots 23, Bills 16

CAROLINA (-3) at Atlanta

Anger time for the 1-2 Panthers, who have extra time, a recent track record of treating the Falcons like a speed bag, and much more need for the win that the home team. Atlanta also is dealing with a sudden and shocking drop in production from WR Julio Jones, which is not exactly the way to go after the Panthers this year. And the Falcons' 2-headed RB isn't the way to get them this year, either.

Panthers 31, Falcons 20

OAKLAND (+3.5) at Baltimore

Just can't see the Ravens going to 4-0 with their current +13 point differential, and while the Raiders have been a terrible road team, maybe the defense has come alive after last week's exercise in competency. But I gotta confess to you, this one's low on the confidence scale, especially if Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon can return and put the middling committee backfield to rights.

Raiders 26, Ravens 24

DETROIT (-3) at Chicago

Are the Bears one of the worst teams in the league? You'd have to think so, especially when they are going with QB2, RB2, and CB8 and up. Detroit's a bad bet on the road, but the Bears just aren't beating anyone right now, and the Lions can move the ball enough to get it done.

Lions 24, Bears 20

Denver at TAMPA BAY (+3)

The Broncos are undefeated, coming off a great road win in Cincy, and basking in the glow of rookie QB Trevor Siemian, who was the best QB in fantasy scoring last week. But what the box score doesn't tell you is that he was damned lucky to avoid multiple turnovers, and bad things tend to happen to road teams on their second straight week away from their own beds. In the swampy hell of Tampa, against a defense that got gashed by the toothless Bucs, I'm looking for a moment of pride for the home team.

Bucs 23, Broncos 20

LA Rams at ARIZONA (-8)

Two inexplicable teams, but a reversion to form for the home team with the mostly functioning offense is in order here, especially with the division on the line. With the win, three teams will be tied for first in the division, which just seems like it's rubbing it in to poor Nero Kelly in San Francisco. (Well, that and the Eagles being one of the best teams in football by doing everything they humanly could to reverse all of his decisions ASAP.) Anyway, back to this game: QB Carson Palmer in a bounce-back effort, and surprising ease, because you can hurt this secondary if you get the front seven blocked.

Cardinals 34, Rams 20

New Orleans at SAN DIEGO (-4)

The Drew Brees Vengeance Game! Well, no, because that was a lifetime ago, the Saints aren't nearly as potent outdoors, and are coming off a short week where the got punked at home. The Chargers are maimed all over, but not at QB, and you don't need first-team offensive personnel to score a lot against the Saints. Look for both teams to do major damage with their TEs in this game, because neither club has a LB that isn't a dumpster fire.

Chargers 34, Saints 27

DALLAS (-2.5) at San Francisco

A few years ago in an opening game road win, Niner Fan took over Jerruh World, because the home fans knew their team was trash and wanted to cash in for, well, something. Consider this one that game in reverse, because Cowboy Fan is crazy for the Dak, and Niner Fan knows that this current team in mid-collapse on defense, and won't get better against this multi-faceted and patient offense.

Cowboys 30, Niners 19

Kansas City at PITTSBURGH (-5.5)

One of these teams has a healthy RB1, is coming off an embarrassing beatdown, has downfield threats in the passing game, and is at home. The other team, well, not so much. Look for the Steelers to deal a fresh blow to the idea that the Chiefs are an elite defense, because for most of the year, they really haven't been. Also, note that it's the SNF game, so weird stuff will happen. Just not weird enough.

Steelers 33, Chiefs 20

NY Giants at MINNESOTA (-4.5)

Time to admit defeat in the idea that the Viking defense wasn't going to be able to replicate 2015 triumphs, and the Giants' RBBC isn't going to get it done here, either. As it's a national broadcast, look for WR Odell Beckham Jr. to do something to show the world that he enjoys doing odd things on camera. Also, turnovers from QB Eli Manning. That happens pretty often, too.

Vikings 27, Giants 20

                                                     * * * *

Last week: 7-9

Year: 18-30

Career: 777-780-49

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Eagles Are Making Their Own Luck

Doug Shows The Way
In the day after of one of the more surprising and encour- aging wins in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise, I am struck by how, well, lucky the franchise has been so far this season.

This is where you might start to think about the unsustainable part of how rookie QB Carson Wentz has played three games without an interception, which is almost freakishly fortunate... but that's not what's going on. Having seen all of the snaps, I can tell you that even if Wentz had gotten unlucky, there wouldn't have been more than a pick or two in those games. Part of this -- OK, a lot of this -- is coaching, but the kid just hasn't put the ball in harm's way very often.

Next, you might look at whether the defense had been fortunate. Not overly so. Defenders have been close to the ball on any number of occasions, and haven't converted a freakish number of those plays into takeaways. There have been big and well-timed plays -- the Jordan Hicks INT against Cleveland that prevented a loss of the lead, Bennie Logan's blocked field goal early in the Steeler game -- but nothing that has turned a game around. Some luck, like the PR TD in Chicago, have also gone against them.

What's really been the luck for this franchise is, frankly, Teddy Bridgewater going down in Minnesota, and GM Howie Roseman being able to get his price to send Sam Bradford out of town. There's a very real possibility that, given how well the defense has played, that the team would be 3-0 with Bradford at QB as well, and a Drew Brees v. Philip Rivers narrative might have started in town, even while the ceiling for the team stayed limited. But with Bridgewater going down (and honestly, no other franchise was going to come down the pike and pay that price for him, it's not as if Cleveland is going there, and there really isn't another team that is desperate for Bradford), that's just, well, luck.

But what isn't luck is the single biggest advantage that this team has over recent years, and that goes for the last years of Andy Reid as well, is the remarkably better coaching. Frank Reich was almost a head coach after resurrecting Rivers in San Diego, but his star fell with the Chargers not being able to stay healthy. Jim Schwartz had some rising moments in Detroit, and no one ever said he couldn't coach a defense. Dave Fipp led the Kelly Eagles to extraordinary special teams performance, and Pederson kept him despite what I'm presuming is Roseman's desire to purge the place of all of them. He also kept Duce Staley and convinced him that continuing to coach the running backs was a good career move, and the depth RBs have performed admirably. For the first time in forever, the defense makes sense to the personnel, gets better over the course of a game, and Pederson has, in all three games, coddled the clock and kept his defense protected and fresh.

You don't make the playoffs in September (well, unless you are New England), and the best team in the league int he first few games of the year almost never is the team that wins at the close. This is still a team that beat two terrible clubs before dismantling a good one, and there's every chance that it was just a bad day for that team. If they come out of the bye week flat and lose in Detroit (and yeah, I'm going to be at that game, so count on it), or suffer a major injury or two, this could still turn south in a hurry. There are always surprise teams in the NFL, and there is also always surprise fades. It's September. Deep breaths.

But what your eyes tell you is that this is a smart and well-coached team, with an athletic defense that's opportunistic. Their QB has been dynamic in terms of getting big chunks of yardage, while avoiding turnovers, and no one thinks that he's reached his eventual ceiling yet.

And finally, this.

I've watched this laundry for longer than many of you have been alive.

I've never been more encouraged after the first three games.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Top 10 NFL Week 3 Takeaways

Nero For Never
10) Ryan Fitzpatrick must have had the Kansas City defense in fantasy this week, because he completed six passes to them

9) Pittsburgh trailed by the most points in a game in nearly 20 years as Eagle Fan took their good fortune with patience and a clear understanding that this is just September

8) Cleveland somehow lost a road game by missing three field goals despite playing QB3 and QB4, who is also WR2, because the Factory of Sadness never sleeps or stops innovating

7) Oakland proved that they could win on the road and play defense, so long as they got to go against the Titans

6) Carolina is now 1-2 after a home loss to the 3-0 Vikings, and this doesn't so much for the Adrian Peterson is Important theory

5) Washington saved their season with a 2-point win in New York, which proved that Kirk Cousins can too beat a +.500 team, so long as they aren't much over .500, the punter executes a game-changing fake, and the defense makes a couple of saving picks

4) Green Bay got out to a big lead early and hung on against Detroit, despite their offense still not being close to right

3) Indy nearly lost at home to San Diego to go 0-3, which would have made Patriot Fan who blames them for getting caught in Deflategate to take their good fortune with humor and patience

2) Rex Ryan saved his job with a dominant performance over the Cardinals at home, because that's how he's kept the job this long. you know, despite being an utter train wreck

1) Chip Kelly got his head kicked in by Seattle despite QB Russell Wilson being unable to finish the game, while his old team went to 3-0 with their best start in forever, so, um, yeah, scoreboard, you fat lying piece of garbage

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Eagles - Steelers Diary / Takeaways

This Image Keeps Working
Exceptional coverage on WR Antonio Brown for no gain to start, and immediate stop of TE Jesse James to set up third and long and defensive competency

> To get off the field quick, it's no pressure and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger floating a ball to WR Eli Rodgers for 32 yards of easy

> Yeah, it's Secondary Worry Time as Brown gets 13 off a screen as two guys take terrible angles

> RB DeAngelo Williams with good running for low results, then third and 6 and get off with just a figgie try is Ben for the scramble first as the line loses contain

> Running plays do nothing but make life difficult for Yellow, leading to third and 13 and please get off the field, which is dropped by WR Markus Wheaton on a classic Ben schoolyard throw

> K Chris Boswell is blocked from 36 by DT Bennie Logan, and that is a bullet dodged

> RB Ryan Mathews for a 2 yard loss as the o-line fails, then QB Carson Wentz from the empty backfield to TE Brent Celek, who does damage to LB Ryan Shazier, which could be really meaningful

> Super nifty screen to RB Darren Sproles, with LG Allen Barbre ducking a flag, for a 40-yard gain

> Red zone work is a big damned deal against good teams, with Wentz oddly going into triple coverage to throw it away to Celek, then WR Josh Huff getting just one on the bubble screen against a blitz

> Third and red zone money from the 13 is Huff again for a yard, just a poor design, and that looked way too conservative in a league where DPI gets called a lot in the end zone

> K Caleb Sturgis slaps a knuckler through from 29, and it's Green 3, Yellow 0

> Good strategic kick by Sturgis and coverage, aided by holding, starts Yellow at their 8

> Screen to Williams for 2, then easy bubble to Brown to move the sticks

> CB Nolan Carroll fights through Wheaton to cause a third down, with an all-out blitz just barely getting there; holding declined and the defense gets off the field

> Shazier back as Yellow run blitzes for another Mathews loss, then Yellow LB Lawrence Timmons picks up a dumb 15 yard flag at the end of TE Trey Burton's crawl for another first

> Wentz to Sproles for 2 after a terrible snap by C Jason Kelce, then Huff gets a little run that comes back due to WR Jordan Matthews' hold

> Wentz through the hands of WR Dorial Green-Beckham to make third and 12 a problem, then a laser to DG-B for the redemption first down

> That throw gave us all wood, and ended the first quarter with Green 3, Yellow 0

> Impressive work by Huff to spin off tacklers and get a first down, then  Wentz tries Burton in triple coverage off multiple fakes, and Yellow had that scouted well

> Nice ball to Celek for another first, and kid's got heat for days

> Now in figgie range, it's RB Wendell Smallwood an ankle tackle away from six as the left side of the O-line does manly work

> Smallwood for one, then a perfect cross to Matthews for the score, and Eagle Fan is getting dangerously excited about this team right now

> Sturgis with the PAT, and it's 10-0 Green after 17 minutes

> Yellow runs it out again to no good effect, Timmons leaves the field, and everything's coming up green right now

> S Malcolm Jenkins with the near pick, then James for six yards as the pressure is everywhere but where it needs to be

> Third and continue the avalanche is Ben from the gun to WR Sammie Coates, who is open for the entire 41 yards of arc

> Ben to Brown for another 20 as CB Ron Brooks isn't at this level, then Williams gets two as Yellow does Green the favor of not throwing at shaky corners for a play

> Coates for a yard as Jenkins closes with a vengeance, then third and 7 and save points is Ben to the ground as DT Fletcher Cox gets an excuse-me sack for a de facto four point play

> Boswell from 40 is true, and Yellow is on the board halfway through the second

> Huff to the 23 as both teams are angling kickoffs, then DG-B with an easy catch and power for a first down

> Nifty fake by Wentz out of the bubble screen to Agholor for 7 yards, then 2 yards to Agholor

> Third and 1 and keep the ball is a big play, and made worse by a Kelce flag

> Third and 6 as Phil Simms and Jim Nantz talk a lot of Not Game, with a late DPI call on CB William Gay against Agholor; really big play and a marginal call

> Wentz for 10 as Yellow doesn't cover the right side of the field, and the QB avoids contact for a promising moment of mental development

> Sproles for 4, then RB Kenyan Barner gets room on the sweep for 14 and another first as LT Jason Peters gets multiple defenders

> Fake jet sweep is a near disaster as Yellow has it scouted hard, but Wentz barely avoids grounding and a turnover

> 2 for Barner, then 4 for Sproles as Wentz continues to play tight in the red zone; after the Mark Sanchez Experience, we'll live with it

> Sturgis from 38 connects, and it's Green 13, Yellow 3 with 2:25 left

> Williams for 8, but comes back on a hold; Brown gets 10 on a de facto screen, which takes the clock to the 2-minute warning

> Too much time leads to a throwaway, then 3rd and 4 and wow, this really could get well fast is a checkdown with excellent coverage on Rodgers for no gain and a three and out

> 3 points and a missed figgie against this offense in a half is really doing monster work

> Sproles to the 20 with 93 seconds left and two Green timeouts; enough for this offense on this day

> Near pick on first down as Yellow CB Artie Burns cheats the Huff out, then Sproles for nothing as Green gets a little disturbingly conservative; Yellow time out

> Great play and execution on the misdirection screen to Burton, who gets the first

> Wentz just misses Burton downfield as LB James Harrison gets the hurry; the hurt TE Zach Ertz might have had that

> Burton drops a 2nd and 10 throw as the QB is holding it too long; worrisome

> Third and 10 is Don't Screw It Up, with a screen to Sproles only getting 6 and stopping the clock

> Shazier in continued pain as P Donnie Jones does the job; Yellow at their own 15 with 2 timeouts and 27 seconds left

> Williams for nothing as Yellow is content to end it, and with Green getting the kick to start the second, a 10-point lead is more than fine

> Wentz to Sproles for 73, and dear heavens, Green might be a good team or something

> Just a next level bit of improv by the QB to tightrope the line of scrimmage and make Sproles open, and suddenly it's a 17-point lead with 27 minutes left to play

> Yellow's going to have to be really good the rest of the way, and haven't been so far

> Ben to Brown for 5, then 19 more as Ben handles a bad snap and the WR is just absurdly good

> Poor challenge by Pederson might be his first clear coaching mistake in 3 games

> A sack for any other QB, incomplete for Ben, as he shrugs off DE Vinny Curry

> Williams for 15 great yards, and yeah, Yellow isn't just going to fold their tents

> Ben misses a wide-open James for a serious gain as the MLB has a brain fart, then is nearly picked by Carroll

> Third and prevent points is another near pick as Rodgers falls, with S Rodney McLeod not staying up, and it's not Yellow's day so far

> P Jordan Berry falls down on contact, with S Chris Maragos with the mistake; just a terrible play

> 4th and 5 brings back the offense for the biggest play of the game, as Yellow avoids the 50-yard figgie, and Jenkins nearly picks another ball; Yellow holding is declined, and even the mistakes are working out for Green today

> Huff loses yards and gets bailed out with a face mask on Gay for 15; Yellow just giving out gifts all over the place

> Rodgers out as Yellow is losing more than a game

> Barner for a straggling yard as Green starts to run clock, then Wentz hits Celek on a perfectly covered blitz for an easy 24 yard gain

> Sproles loses a little, then Smallwood gets 14 on a draw, and the RB Carousel is working fine

> Smallwood on the same play gets another 12 as the line is just destroying Yellow, and, um, wow

> Heavy package from the one as Yellow looks unsettled, but Smallwood is stopped

> Gun on second, easy run for Smallwood and his first NFL score, and this is approaching rout

> Sturgis connects, and it's Green 27, Yellow 3 in what might be one of the more surprising results of the day

> MLB Jordan Hicks with the break-up, then Ben finally has a completion to Brown to set up third and five

> 20 minutes left as Yellow gets a bailout flag on CB Jaylen Mills for weak DPI; gahhh

> Wheaton separated from the ball by Jenkins, but that's mostly on the WR

> Ben to Brown moves the sticks for 17, then Logan for the avalanche sack, because the defense is still fresh and everyone knows what's coming

> Sack and strip by Cox, DE Brandon Graham with the recovery, and this offensive line can not deal

> Wentz tries DG-B in the end zone for the kill shot, and the ball is absolutely perfect, but the WR can't make the play

> As this is Green day all over, they get a gift 15 yard roughing the passer flag anyway

> 4 for Barner, then 14, and this is just domination

> Barner for 8 yards and the touchdown as Yellow has pretty much given up; Green 34, Yellow 3, and Ye Gads This Is Surprising

> Williams for 10, through Brown's hands twice but not very accurate either, and incomplete on third and 10 against pressure, and we might be at the point where Yellow just pulls Ben for safety

> End of three and about as happy as you'll ever hear the Linc

> Wentz to Agholor for 11, as CBS tries to will the offense into a sack or turnover

> Smallwood for 5, Agholor for 3 to get to 300 yards for the day, then a toss to Smallwood for the first, but it comes back on a hold

> Third and 13 as CBS trolls for sad Steeler Fan is a give up run for a loss, as Pederson plays it to continue the turnover-free streak

> Jones with a short one, but it's not going to matter

> Ben still in for no good reason, connects with Brown despite pressure and a face mask, so maybe Tomlin is playing his guys in fantasy

> DL Destiny Vaejo jumps, then Graham gets another sack, clean speed rush; 4th of the day for Green

> Near sack and a drop by Williams as CBS flashes that this is Yellow's biggest deficit in 20 years; 3rd and 14 is a missed screen

> 4th and 14 is a 4-0-7 defense, with DC Jim Schwartz getting porny; cheap yards stopped for a de facto turnover

> Even in this game, Brown has 127 yards, so yeah, no one should complain about taking him first in their nerd nit fantasy football draft

> Wentz still in for no reason, as Smallwood gets 12 on wide open spaces

> Smallwood for one, then five, and it looks like his RB1 job now, as much as Sproles will allow it

> Wentz to Matthews for an absolutely gorgeous arc ball, but there's no way it's a catch

> CBS is so bored they threw up a Merrill Reese chyron

> Ben still in, no idea why, and woe to Tomlin if he gets hurt; he makes a bunch of meaningless short completions, so good for him, I guess

> McLeod with a pick on an insane play in the end zone, because WR Darius Heyward-Bey is just that way, really

> Game ends without incident or injury, which is a relief, as both HCs played QB1 all the way to a gun in a blowout

> This is the third straight game where Green has made their opponent look like they play in North Dakota State's conference, didn't turn the ball over, and had a defense that looked like they can't stop smiling after the Nero Kelly Era

Top 10 NFL Week 3 Ad Questions

Flo Brings Chaos
10) Does Flo from Progressive routinely cause massive property damage by summoning fluid demons?

9) Is anyone else profoundly disturbed by fat creepy white guys spanking their terrible comfort food?

8) Does owning Toyotas make for uncomfortably close and borderline flirtatious relationships between brothers?

7) Has stand-up done so poorly for Demetri Martin that he's been reduced to New York Life commercials?

6) Is there something about owning a Dodge that inspires idiotic driving in rain?

5) Does anyone you know refer to their conference call as "the meeting field"?

4) Could Southwest cut fare prices if they didn't spend so much employee time on synchronized dance routines?

3) Do Honda Ridgelines come with Walter White's blue meth to give you the time-lapsed crazed energy to make all that crap?

2) Now that aliens are crying at Pizza Hut, doesn't that make their "food" a galactic war crime, rather than a simple crime against humanity?

1) If you are screaming about a lack of Wal-Mart pizza, don't you have far greater problems than crap food can solve?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Week 3 NFL Picks: Sticking With It For No Good Reason

Yes, Indeed
After two weeks of the NFL season, a promising fantasy football year for me lies in ruins. My RBs are Jamal Charles (hurt, hasn't played yet, probably no more than committee guy now), Doug Martin (now hurt, out for the next 3 weeks at least, probably will be slowed for the rest of the year) and Jeremy Hill (hasn't done much, showing no bounce back to his rookie year). We've been already reduced to Christine Michael, who is likely unplayable if and when Thomas Rawls is healthy. Our WRs are Brandon Marshall (hurt, hasn't scored), Randall Cobb (showing no bounce to the value from two years ago, hasn't scored), Doug Baldwin (hurt, on an offense that has seemingly forgotten how to block, with a mobile QB who is now hobbled), and a bunch of bench guys that have had their value evaporate (Devin Funchess, Kamar Aiken, Rishard Matthews). My tight ends are Zach Ertz (hurt) and Martellus Bennett (bad in my starting lineup in week one, great on my bench in week two, working with QB3 in week three and likely about to become useless with Gronkowski returning). The QB is Ben Roethlisberger, who will likely get hurt at any moment now, and we're in last place, 60 points out of the money, and staring down 3+ more months of getting my head kicked in.

Oh, there's a second league, of course. That one is head to head with people from work, and I'm 0-2 there, mostly because I'm double invested in Cobb and Marshall, and Latavius Murray and Mark Ingram can't escape committees, and Julio Jones also can't stay healthy. Oh, and my TE is Coby Fleener, who has been horrible, and my flex guy is Golden Tate, who has been nearly as bad as Fleener. My opponents have also had career days, because of course they have. For all intents and purposes, my fantasy chances have likely ended before summer did.

This should be what I expect now, because fantasy football is the worst, and I am past my prime and out of luck and my solutions for every other task in life -- study and work harder, do more research and learn from past mistakes -- don't seem to work here. Funchess and Cobb and Hill were all darlings of the fantasy football community before the season started, and I'm sure that if I just traded or released any of them, they'd recover to Pro Bowl status with a quickness. It is what happens. I publish my players so that you can avoid them.

Something similar is going on in the picks, frankly. Two straight weeks of losing on the nickels, expecting the preseason Super Bowl picks to get their act in gear and fail to cover favorites lines, and the activity of picking games seems as pointless as picking fake teams.

But, well, I'm going to grind it out, and hopefully get better, because that's the honorable thing to do. I don't quit jobs because it might make sense to. Besides, if I were to do that, all of my football eggs would be in the Carson Wentz Eagle basket, and the kid's got enough riding on his shoulders as is.

And with that... on to the picks!

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HOUSTON (-1) at New England

Can the Patriots win with QB3 Jacoby Brisset, at home, against an emerging and physical defense? Well, sure, because they do that all the time, but the Houston offense is also better than you'd think, and will grind out enough points to win. But if the Pats win this one, they're gong to be a top 2 seed at the end of the year.

Texans 24, Patriots 20

ARIZONA (-4) at Buffalo

Counter indicator NFL Logic, the kind that says the Rams can win a week after getting punked by the Niners at home against Seattle, would point you to the Bills here, who are 0-2, coming off long rest, desperate as hell and playing a Western team at 10am on their body clocks. But screw all of that. The Cardinals are pros, the Bills are Ryan ass clowns who hired the worst defensive coordinator of his generation, and the Cardinal deep threats are going to put up points beyond measure.

Cardinals 38, Bills 24

OAKLAND (+1.5) at Tennessee

Are the Raiders just the new Saints, an offense-only club that have to score 40 to win every week? Maybe, but the Titan attack of ground and fumble is the kind of outfit that can hide some ills, if only because it takes them a while to score, and a lot can go wrong, especially in the red zone. Oakland's offense has avoided turnovers and might be explosive enough to inspire mistakes.

Raiders 31, Titans 23

Cleveland at MIAMI (-9.5)

Oh, you poor Factory of Sadness. Now on QB Whatever, with WR Corey Coleman out after a practice mishap, Team Tank needs to be seriously considered as an exceptional bet for a winless year. That's probably unlikely, because the NFL has all kinds of randomness, but this week, against an 0-2 Dolphins team that has shown steel in both losses and has a hot weather home field advantage, it gets ugly.

Dolphins 27, Browns 10

BALTIMORE (-1) at Jacksonville

Time for Gus Bradley to get pink slipped in Florida? Last week's "effort" in San Diego was absolutely lifeless, the offense has been a turnover machine, the defense isn't showing signs of improvement, and we're well into Year Four of Patience, Patience, What The Hell. Baltimore is looking frisky with a better than expected passing offense, and while they aren't as good as their record, the Jags are as bad as theirs.

Ravens 24, Jaguars 20

Detroit at GREEN BAY (-7.5)

Is the Packer offense just bad now? It's been the better part of a year since QB Aaron Rodgers has had numbers that matched his pedigree. The WRs are just not getting separation, the OL isn't doing the work, but the QB has also been less than his usual self. I think some home cooking and a Lions DL that doesn't get push off the line will get him back to what appears to be normal, and the Packer defense is looking better. I'm not sure they have the ceiling I projected of them, but this week will be encouraging.

Packers 31, Lions 19

Denver at CINCINNATI (-3.5)

Wake-up time for Denver QB Trevor Siemian, who gets a road game against a quality defense (especially the secondary), and is due for looking like, well, a late draft pick and lightly regarded prospect who will be turnover-prone and rattled by serious pressure. On the other side of the ball, QB Andy Dalton will move the ball with short passes, the Bengals will be patient with the running game, and they'll look like a quality playoff team. Who will, of course, lose in the playoffs.

Bengals 27, Broncos 16

MINNESOTA (+7) at Carolina

There's something about this Panther team that doesn't feel right, and it's pretty obvious; cracks in the secondary where CB Josh Norman used to solve problems. Now, S Kurt Coleman is a real concern, the opposition does real damage with deep balls (when Torrey Smith and Blaine Gabbert are burning you in a have to throw catch-up situation, that's a red flag), and the Panther offense has to carry the mail. They'll be able to do that against the Vikings at home with slightly short rest, but not enough to cover the number. (Oh, and dirty little secret? The Vikings aren't going to miss Adrian Peterson at all, because their committee backs are just as good or better than his aging self, and their line will give new QB Sam Bradford enough time to make more plays than expected). (Oh, and there's a reasonable chance that this game goes all kinds of directions due to the local protests over the most recent police killing. Fun times, America.)

Panthers 31, Vikings 27

Washington at NY GIANTS (-4.5)

Fun fact: Slurs QB Kirk Cousins has never beaten a +.500 team, and Big Blue looks to be all of that now that they've bought themselves a defense. This game will have all kinds of stupid sideshow with WR Odell Beckham having his lover's spat with Norman, but the game will actually be won with the other starters on the field. Blue's got advantages on the vast majority of those guys. These games are always close and sluggish, but I'll take the home team, and a continuing spiral that should be very familiar to people who've paid any attention at all to Daniel Snyder's sorry ass franchise.

Giants 26, Racial Slurs 20

Los Angeles at TAMPA BAY (-5.5)

I can't figure out either of these teams so far, but the simplest theory is that neither of them can play a road game to save their lives. The Bucs will be without Martin, which might actually help since they'll be more tempted to abandon the run, and the Rams do better against that. In Florida heat, eventually the pass rush doesn't get there, and Bucs QB Jameis Winston does damage that the feeble Ram offense can't match.

Bucs 24, Rams 13

San Francisco at SEATTLE (-9.5)

I'm really tempted to say the Seahawks don't cover the number here, because their offense seems barely trustworthy to score that many on their own, and the defense hasn't been getting takeaways to give the struggling offense a short field. But what happens to Chip Kelly teams is that they fade over time, because the defense gets burned up with too many plays and too much tempo. Against a smart and physical defense and a home crowd that can turn games into runaways, I think the Seahawks get well and cover the number.

Seahawks 27, Niners 13

NY JETS (+3) at Kansas City

I'm getting off the Chief Bus, folks. Two straight games of slow starts, the defense not making plays against intact offenses, banged-up top tier weapons and an overall feeling of is this all there is. Maybe this is a lack of patience, but they just don't pass the eye test, and the Jets coming in with long rest and a pretty solid road record doesn't hurt, either.

Jets 23, Chiefs 20

San Diego at INDIANAPOLIS (-3)

I know that Colts QB Andrew Luck is a little banged up, and the Colt defense is piddling... but this is still an 0-2 team, at home in a dome, with a top-tier QB, against a defense that has coverage issues across the route tree. Oh, and the Chargers also have both of their top two weapons on offense on the shelf for the year, which means it's all on Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers now. Too much.

Colts 31, Chargers 20

PITTSBURGH (-3.5) at Philadelphia

Reality check time for the pristine Eagles, who have eight quarters of interception-free football to go with their 2-0 record and refreshingly active defense. The fact that they've done this against two of the worst teams in the league makes going against one of the AFC's best a big step up in class, and the fact that the secondary has been roasted by WR1s is really scary with the NFL's best in Antonio Brown coming to town. I think it will be a game, but that Wentz's streak of mistake-free football ends, and the Eagle WRs don't make enough plays to cover for him.

Steelers 25, Eagles 20

Chicago at DALLAS (-7.5)

Man alive, the Bears just look like dead meat right now, and get to go on the road with a short week and a banged-up QB and defense. This is the week that Dallas QB Dak Prescott has the margin to take a few chances... so if his final line still looks game managerish, that's not a good sign. Also telling: whether RB Ezekiel Elliott is over his fumbling issues, because if he isn't, the Poke offense just picked up a rather low ceiling. (Oh, and who decided that the Bears needed to be in prime time for two straight weeks? Hasn't America suffered enough with the current election campaign?)

Cowboys 27, Bears 17

Atlanta at NEW ORLEANS (-3)

For most of the Drew Brees / Sean Payton era, there have been few better bets than a MNF game in the Bayou, especially against a division rival with a suspect defense. They've got a suspect defense in their own right, and Falcons QB Matt Ryan has been solid so far this year... but I have to think that this is the week that Ryan fails in the red zone a bit, and in a shootout like this one, that's more than enough.

Saints 34, Falcons 27

Last week: 6-10

Year: 11-21

Career: 770-771-49

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Eagles Are 2-0, And We Still Don't Know If They Are Good

Go Rook Go
Tonight in Chicago, the Eagles were supposed to have a much harder time then they did in their opening week win against Cleveland.

It was a road game, for one thing. Chicago had an established QB and quality WRs, and the club was also short their top CB and starting TE. Rookie QB Carson Wentz was going to struggle, and the defense would get exposed, and a fun but doomed 8-8 ish team was going to be exposed.

Instead, it was nearly as easy of a win, and the nation got to see why the franchise went all-in on Wentz. He became the first rookie QB to start and win his team's first two games with no turnovers, and while his fantasy numbers aren't going to light up the world, he was criminally underserved by his WRs, who dropped several beautiful deep balls.

But more importantly, the defense just kept crushing the line all night, and when there were plays to be made, the defense made them, especially when it came to cashing in on turnover opportunities. They kept flying to the ball, ending pass plays so that young corners didn't have to defend for absurd periods of time, and the unit never had to race back on to the field after speed three and outs.

Was it perfect? No, of course not. Wentz keeps taking big and unnecessary hits. The punt coverage team blew one later. K Caleb Sturgis might be hurt. The play-calling with all empty backfields to start might not be replicable against a good defense. The offensive line got flagged a lot, and doesn't look like they can just carry a team.

But man alive, Wentz has played eight quarters of NFL football, after nearly no work in the pre-season, and hasn't turned the ball over. That's crazy.

So is how good he looks against pressure, how calm is while in clockable situations, his joy in the act of playing, and so on, and so on...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Eagles - Bears Takeaways

Bear Fans Tonight
> Bears QB Jay Cutler is, after all is said and done, a 33-year-old guy who is a .500 starter, and that might be one of the more amazing things about his career, really

> S Malcolm Jenkins with a massive hit on an uncovered blitz, and wow, 3rd and 20 already

> Cutler airmails a screen for a near pick-six while looking understandably jittery, and that's about as good of a start as the defense could hope for

> P Pat O'Donnell kicks it high and short, and Green starts on their own 45

> QB Carson Wentz from the gun to start, before the crowd can get loud, and takes WR Nelson Agholor for a solid 9 yard button

> Again from the gun, Wentz checks out and hits WR Dorial Green-Beckham for the first on another easy out

> Manning-esque gun and pre-snap, then a slant to WR Jordan Matthews off the hot read for 4

> Green in figgie range as Wentz takes Matthews for 3 more, with the Bear defense getting very blitzy

> 3rd and 3 from the 30 is important, and the fifth straight play from an empty backfield, as Wentz goes to Sproles, who can't make his man miss to move the sticks

> 4th and 2 from figgie range on the road when you haven't called a running play is aggro, but HC Doug Pederson is going there, and from long count, Wentz hits DG-B for the first, and that's a monster play

> Sproles for 3 as Green finally runs it, then finally with an incomplete, as the nickel tips a ball away from TE Brent Celek in the end zone

> 3rd and 7 for money is Wentz to Agholor, who gets a great spot for the first

> Sproles to the 6 as Ryan Mathews' fantasy owners have heart attacks, then Wentz to Mathews on a bubble screen for a few more

> Pederson seems to enjoy milking clock

> 3rd and goal from the 5 is Wentz without a target, eventually leading to a 3 yard sack

> Decent decision making to not give up the chip shot figgie, and I know that's not saying much, but this is a franchise with an awful lot of Mark Sanchez in our recent past

> Caleb Sturgis connects, and it's 3-0 Green with 51 minutes to go

> RB Ka'deem Carey gets head damage twice for 2 yards, then Cutler bounces a ball as the Bear O-line fails again, and gets called for holding to boot

> Cutler to WR Eddie Royal for 31 on a quick screen, and yeah, corner are not good

> Cutler from play-action to WR Alshon Jeffery for another 22, and he's still got zip on the ball

> From the 30, Cutler makes a bad screen work to TE Zach Miller for 12, and he did that all on his own

> From the 18, Cutler shovels to Carey for a few more, and the defense is dominating the line of scrimmage, but the QB is making it work anyway

> Nice tackle by CB Jaylen Mills on the bubble screen to Jeffery, then 3rd and keep it tied is Cutler nearly getting picked by CB Ron Brooks; just a bad ball on an undercut to Royal

> K Connor Barth clangs one of the uprights, and Green still leads as Bear Fan is really not happy with the management for saving money in the kicking game right now

> Wentz to Mathews, and everything is an out, which seems like it's setting up something

> Pre-snap adjustments, then a run by Matthews for the first, but it comes back on a hold by T Jason Peters

> Audible to a Sproles carry, who jitters his way for 7

> 3rd and 9 from the gun has Wentz barely beating the rush and missing DG-B in front of the sticks; nothing about that play looked very good

> P Donnie Jones to the 34, where Royal fair catches it to end the first; Green 3, Black 0

> Royal for 8 off a missed tackle and Cutler reading a blitz; Mills with the failure to wrap up

> Carey doesn't get the first on second, but a random Kiwi FB gets it on third

> Cutler to Jeffery who has to wait for an arm punt as Mills gets roasted; huge gain and yeah, we're missing CB Leodis McKelvin and shouldn't have traded CB Eric Rowe

> Would have been a score if Cutler could have gotten it to the end zone, but some benefit to pressure

> CB Nolan Carroll with DPI on Jeffery in the end zone, and these corners aren't holding up on either side

> RB Jeremy Langford in for the score, and it's 7-3 Black after Barth makes the PAT

> If the DL doesn't absolutely own this game, Black is going to put up 30+ points, because this secondary just isn't up for this

> KR Wendell Smallwood with the nice return that gets Green a net of one positive yard from the end zone, because taking it out of the end zone just isn't a really smart play right now

> Matthews for nothing as Wentz is under center, then from play action under heavy pressure to Celek for the first... but despite the massive hit, it comes back on holding by C Jason Kelce

> The QB can sue for non-support, and his reaction after the blown play is not exactly poker player-ish

> Blown-up screen as Wentz nearly gets his man killed, and another flag on the line to book (Kelce, face mask, declined)

> 3rd and 20 is a give up run to Sproles for nothing, and this game is going away fast

> Jones with a bad time for a weak punt, which is 33 yards of back-rolling meh

> Cutler sacked by DE Brandon Graham off play action for a small loss, then finds WR Kevin White for 9

> 3rd and 2 and keep this in the realm of non-runaway is Cutler from the gun missing Royal, and Bears HC Jon Fox elects to punt from the 40; good recovery by Mills

> O'Donnell to Sproles at the 12, and that's a pretty great series by the defense

> WR Josh Huff for the tentative jet sweep to nowhere, then Mathews for five good yards

> 3rd and 5 and the offense hasn't done much in a long time is Wentz to TE Trey Burton, just a stick throw in a tight window, and that's a quality first down

> Wentz on a pretty touch throw to Matthews off play action for 32, and that was Green's best play of the night by a lot

> CB Lamar Houston goes down as Wentz is wild high, but one less starting DE for Black might be a fine trade to make

> Sproles for a yard, then 3rd and 9 for figgie possibility is Wentz to Burton on a nice cross, and Black takes on another 15 with a hit to the QB's head

> Really nice throw under pressure, really big play

> From the 14, Went runs for 4 and takes way too much of a hit because he tries to ease out of bounds; don't do that again, please

> RB Kenyan Barner gets nothing as the line doesn't execute a trap

> 3rd and de facto goal is Wentz trying Burton, but its broken up and not a great decision, as Sproles had his man stumbling

> Sturgis from 29 connects, and it's Black 7, Green 6

> Poor kick return, Black runs it to burn clock, and Pederson doesn't take a timeout before the 2-minute warning; hmm

> False start helps, then White gets little on a bubble screen; first Green timeout on a play where White nearly was knocked out of bounds

> 3rd and 8 and get the ball back is a give up dump which is stopped by LB Nigel Bradham before the sticks, and that was professional

> Sproles has to take a fair catch on a 51-yard bomb by O'Donnell, and Wentz will have a fairly long field and 98 seconds to work

> Sproles for 6 in bounds, not terribly quick, then a gutsy throw across the middle to Agholor in a triple coverage window

> Low to Matthews, then double clutches to Burton to get into figgie range

> Spike by Wentz with 19 seconds left and one timeout still in his pocket; reasonable poise

> Great ball by Wentz to the pylon, but Matthews drops what should have been a touchdown, and Christ, Jordan, that's just a mind-numbingly bad drop and a borderline kill shot before the half

> Weak throw in the flat is short, and Sturgis has to try from 53; Black ices a bad miss to the right

> Second try with time to think about it is good with plenty to spare, and Green leads at the half, 9-7

> Huff lucky to return a dicey ball at the corner of his end zone, with another Black CB (Bryce Callahan) down in the wash

> Green with a chance to take control with the opening drive, and it starts with Mathews for 2, then Celek for a first, but it comes back on yet another flag

> Between the flags and the drops, Wentz is being strongly sabotaged

> Sack by DE Willie Young as G Allen Barbre looks clueless on a stunt

> 3rd and forever is a scramble and heave to Agholor deep, who isn't good enough to get an obvious DPI flag

> Jones gets off a good punt, and yeah, Wentz deserves better than 9 points in 2+ quarters

> Langford for 15 as the DL fails, then Cutler to Miller on misdirection for 5

> Royal for 7 on a missed tackle by Jenkins for another first

> Cutler has time and then not on play action, with DT Destiny Vaejo forcing a huge fumble and recovery

> Wentz tries Agholor deep, who plays patty-cake and drop on a mildly underthrow ball, but FFS, catch the goddamned ball

> Tipped ball on second, then Wentz takes another man-sized hit on a doomed 3rd and 10 scramble that had no chance

> Kid is game, but can't keep letting himself get banged like this

> Jones to the 10 instead of aggro on 4th and 3, which is probably the right call given the struggles of the Bear offensive line

> Langford for 6, then 3 and 2 as the DL shows more sign of wear

> white for 10 on an end-around, then RB Jordan Howard for another first as Black is doing it all on the ground against over-pursuit

> Howard for 8 as the edge isn't contained again, then a loss of 4 as Graham stunts the line; nice play

> 3rd and 6 has Cutler from the gun bouncing one to Miller as Bear Fan is Not Happy with his QB

> Wentz to Matthews on a good cross after a weak punt, and for once the WR catches it; 22 yard gain

> Wentz for 5 on a scramble against good coverage, then Smallwood through a big hole for 14, and Green is in figgie range again

> Smallwood again for 5 as the line seems to be gaining balance, then Wentz to Burton on a good hook, and Black is on the ropes

> Complicated screen to Agholor, who fakes the jet, then hits the brakes and gets 8

> From the 6, it's Barner to the four for the first, 16 minutes left and Cutler looking sad on the sidelines

> A lot of clock burner in tight, then Mathews for great second effort off contact for the score

> Missed tackle by Young, but that's great balance and pedigree by Mathews as Road Eagle Fan starts to make noise

> Sturgis sneaks in the PAT, which is a big damned deal; Green 16, Black 7

> Sturgis isn't right, but hopefully, won't matter for the rest of this one

> LB Nigel Bradham picks Cutler and takes it to the 2, and that might be the end of this game

> Just a bad decision and worse execution by the QB, and this defense is starting to look downright frisky

> From the 3, Wentz to Burton on the screen for the score, and the flag is on Black for offsides

> Pederson with a nifty play design there, and Sturgis, clearly not right, can't make the PAT; Green 22, Black 7

> Cutler pulled with a hand injury, and this is where I should mention that I played Cutler tonight in fantasy, which is why he was so useless against a vulnerable secondary

> QB Brian Hoyer in, and he's one rousing comeback away from having this job, honestly

> End of 3, and it's Green 22, Black 7, and Green Fan is getting dangerously excited about this team

> Hoyer to Royal, Black to hurry-up, but it's not exactly speedy

> Hoyer to Jeffery, S Rodney McLeod barely misses a pick six

> Langford fumbles, and Black Fan can beat the traffic as DE Vinny Curry does the damage

> Mathews through non-tackling for 30, and he's looking really solid later

> Sproles for more, and Black has pretty much given up

> Fade to Agholor, who of course can't make the catch, and Wentz's stats might be ungodly if he had WRs

> Give to Sproles, then going for it from the 2 because of a lack of kicker, and oddly, the scatback gets it on a dive in the middle; he doesn't get there

> Bailout flag for offsides gives Green another shot at the coup de gras, and more injuries, too

> Mathews in off the fake jet sweep, and that was well-designed, with Peters doing the work

> Sturgis tries another PAT, and seems to have recovered; Green 29, Black 7, and Black may be really bad

> Rest of game goes to prevent mode as Hoyer racks up meaningless yards for anyone but the fantasy honks

> Eddie Royal with a score off a punt return, just to give Green coaches something to be angry about, and why Jones gives him an opportunity to do that, we'll never know

> Punching while down 15 with 5 minutes left doesn't speak well to Fox's discipline among his young defensive players

> Among the virtues of Pederson's first two games, low penalties and no turnovers by the rookie QB are really high on the list

> Much of Pederson's game plan tonight was clean, but keeping fragile RBs in the game late in a blowout isn't smart, though it was kind of fun to hear Sproles curse like mad at the two minute mark, both live and on tape

> Green moves to 2-0, Black moves to 0-2, and it's hard not to see how one of these teams might be really good, and one of these teams is utterly terrible

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Top 10 NFL Week 2 Takeaways

Too Pretty For Pain
10) Cleveland found a new way to lose, this one involving blowing a huge early lead to their most hated rivals, because LOL Cleveland

9) The Rams beat Seattle, because that seems to be the only good team they ever beat, and the Seahawk offense is always terrible when Jimmy Graham is active

8) Tampa utterly crapped the bed against Arizona, putting to rest for a while the idea that the NFC South might have multiple decent teams

7) Tennessee hung on for a 1-point win on the road in Detroit when QB Matthew Stafford threw a late pick, which was such a shock to Lions Fan, who is only used to nice things happening to their team

6) New England is now on QB3, which almost mattered in their win against Miami, except that they were up by a ton before that happened

5) San Diego lost a key offensive player to a brutal injury, but unlike their last game, decided to keep playing anyway

4) Washington continued to isolate CB1 Josh Norman for no good reason, undercut QB Kirk Cousins for cause with in-game and post-game sniping, and served notice why they never repeat as NFC lEast contenders

3) The Giants won their second straight game with a defense that no longer looks like the same old turnstiles, but then again, New Orleans outdoors doesn't exactly have a great track record

2) Denver scored twice on defense in the fourth quarter for the first time in forty years, sending Indy to their third straight 0-2 start to the year, because the Colts believe in hiring rodeo clowns to work on their offensive line

1) Pittsburgh showed the Bengals the door in an 8-point win at home that had fewer penalty yards in the entire game than a few minutes of last year's playoff game

Top 10 NFL Week 2 Ad Questions

Or, Um, Not
10) Does driving an Acura cause halluci- nations about driving a far more interesting car?

9) Is Apple marketing the new iPhone as magic because they enjoy being compared to an illusion foisted upon the gullible?

8) Does the spirit of Larry Fitzgerald's mom ever express disappoint over her son's inability to get his degree from a real college?

7) If I pay extra, can I get a rental car that isn't infested with Loverboy?

6) Is TD Ameritrade keeping Andrew Luck so busy that it's hurting his performance on the field?

5) Does anyone else find the seeming sentient behavior of Corona beer cans to be a little bit disturbing?

4) If you are lining up to buy a new phone, don't you have problems that a coverage network can't solve?

3) Isn't changing your beer's name to "America" something of a cry for help?

2) How does having a dead foreign explorer cosplayer in your above-ground pool help to sell car insurance?

1) Why isn't Bo Jackson called for a safety when he runs out of the end zone to get into his SUV for the Tecmo Bowl play?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Week 2 NFL Picks: We Getting Stoopid

Yes, Brock Sampson, It Is
In an entire opening weekend of The NFL Is Back And Dumber Than Ever, there wasn't anything more striking to me than DC's, um, "Plan" to limit CB1 Josh Norman's impact on the game by always keeping him on one side of the field, so that the Steelers got to run WR Antonio Brown all over for Maximum Possible Comfort. I thought I'd never see anything dumber than the job that DC Billy Davis did for the Wasting Innovation Eagles, but man alive, this was Extraordinarily Stupid.

And yet, in our Age of Trumpian Declining Standards, this barely hit the radar as even all that dumb. Multiple WRs could not run out of bounds at the end of games. Teams went for 2, rather than force overtime, because defense doesn't exist, and neither did killing the clock. After converting the deuce, teams then celebrated and got 15 yard flags that nearly gave away the game as well. Refs failed to call finable offenses because, well, I have no idea why, but did make sure to protect America from the horrors of Choreographed Happiness. Teams called fake punts without punters. Everywhere you looked, idiocy reigned.

I wasn't above it. All of that dumbness also applied to my picks, which combined poor luck (3 picks lost on the half-point "nickel") with an over-estimation of the goodness of home field favorites, and somehow deciding that Case Keenum and Jeff Fisher were fine to ride as road favorites. Will it continue this week? Man alive, I hope not, because it hurt a lot, and Daddy needs a new pair of everything. And my lifetime coin flip record says it's time to bounce back.

And with that... on to the picks!

                                                                   * * * * *

NY JETS (pick 'em) at Buffalo

This one is a much more interesting game on paper than reality, with both teams fighting out of the opening loss hole, and the Jets having last year's devastating late loss and Ryan Problem distracting them from the job at hand. Buffalo's got a great home field advantage, will likely rebound from last week's terrible game, and have a mobile QB to help limit the damage the Jet defensive line can do... but the Jets are just better in a lot of places, and will eventually show it.

Jets 27, Bills 19

Cincinnati at PITTSBURGH (-3)

Not the best spot for the Steelers to be missing RB LeVeon Bell and with a short week, but the home crowd and improved defense should make up for things. Also, there's something terrifying about the idea of going against WR Antonio Brown right now, and I'm not convinced that HC Marvin Lewis can be trusted to win a game where he needs to be patient.

Steelers 27, Bengals 23

TENNESSEE (+5.5) at Detroit

This is probably wishful thinking on my part, as I'm hoping that Lion Fan is going to sell off a ticket to the Eagles game to me and my group in a few weeks for less if his team doesn't look like a surprise contender in the NFC North... but that defense was absolutely shredded by the Colts last week, and their line and running game is terrible. At home against a Titans club that was handling the Vikings before turnover issues, I don't think they cover the number, and maybe even lose.

Titans 24, Lions 23

BALTIMORE (-6.5) at Cleveland

There's a real chance that the Factory of Sadness goes deep into cold weather before lucking out to a win, and being at home won't matter that much against a Raven club that looks like it remembers how to defend. Look for RB Terrance West to make his best bid to end the RBBC with a vengeance game against the team that drafted and quit on him, and for this game to end without anything but relief that it's over.

Ravens 22, Browns 13

DALLAS (+2.5) at Washington

If you are wondering how Dallas lost a game at home where they came out and pretty much dominated the ball for most of the first half, you aren't alone. But that's what happens when you go crazy with the Rookie QB conservatism, and when said rookie QB isn't willing to force feed overrated WR1 Dez Bryant. This week in DC, I think HC Jason Garrett plays to win instead of not to lose, and QB Dak Prescott prospers accordingly. Also, um, DC's defense is garbage, and they are on a short week. One that will end with them 0-2, with both losses at home. Woof. Oh, and does anything say Dumb DC more than CB Josh Norman in Single Side of the Field Siberia?

Cowboys 27, Racial Slurs 24

New Orleans at NY GIANTS (-5)

What happens when a terrible defense loses its best (only?) CB to injury, then has to travel for an outdoor game against what might be the best WR in the league? Fantasy spooge in a big way for Odell Beckham Jr.'s owners, and Big Blue jumping out to a 2-0 start despite not having much in the way of an offensive line.

Giants 34, Saints 27

San Francisco at CAROLINA (-13)

Boy, is this not going to be pretty. Carolina is at home, on extra rest, smarting from a tough luck loss. They get a Niner team that travels across the country on short rest, probably are feeling way too good about themselves after a surprising home win, with a gimmick offense that gave the Panthers absolutely no problem last year, when it was manned by much better personnel. It might take a little while, but this is going to be a cover with ease, and everyone's slam dunk Survivor pick.

Panthers 34, Niners 9

MIAMI at New England (-6.5)

Bipolar performance for both teams last week, with New England mixing dominant plays with terrible ones, then getting lucky with a missed field goal at the gun. Miami hung tough in Seattle by manhandling the Seattle offensive line and hanging an ankle injury on QB Russell Wilson, but couldn't get stops when they needed them late anyway. The AFC East is, you will be shocked to hear, setting up perfectly for the Patriots, who will likely clinch the division by Halloween. Against my better judgment, I think the Fins cover the number here.

Patriots 24, Dolphins 20

KANSAS CITY (+2.5) at Houston

There's certainly a strong argument to make for the Texans here, in that the Chiefs defense was getting royally trucked at home last week to an inferior Charger team, right up until WR Keenan Allen went down with a devastating ACL injury. WR Jeremy Maclin also bagned up, and RB Spencer Ware set up for regression. But at some point, you have to think that actual talent levels will bear out, and the AFC South will betray its, um, pedigree. I have the Chiefs going deep this year, so I'm taking the road club. But I'm not loving it.

Chiefs 24, Texans 20

SEATTLE (-3.5) at LA Rams

Kind of the same story as the Chiefs, in that I got burned for loving a presumably good team to cover a big number at home, only to watch them derp around before recovering too late to get the number. Seattle has offensive line issues, a possibly gimpy QB in Russell Wilson, and the biggest name in the NFL that doesn't really do any anything in TE Jimmy Graham... but the Rams have no QB, no WR that can do much beyond run ahead in the backfield like a second-rate overpaid punt returner, and there's only so much a quality RB can do when he's facing 11 in the box. Gimme the Seahawks, with WR Doug Baldwin continuing to punish people who doubt his talent.

Seahawks 24, Rams 13

TAMPA (+7) at Arizona

Just too big of a number for me to feel comfortable with the home team, who are desperate to not start 0-2 with two home losses, but not so good that they keep the emerging Bucs from scoring and keeping it close. QB Carson Palmer is also INT-prone enough to make me think the Cards never get any margin.

Cardinals 27, Bucs 24

JACKSONVILLE (+3) at San Diego

Time for the baby Jags to move past the Good Try phase? They get a crippled and heartbroken Charger team, who were shocking the world until they suddenly weren't, in their home date in yet another Last Year Ever? in San Diego. I think it's going to be a year of misery, that RB Chris Ivory returns from his illness to save the team from TJ Yeldon, and that the Jags pull away late.

Jaguars 27, Chargers 20

Atlanta at OAKLAND (-5)

Even before the Raiders were good, they gave trouble to road teams, let alone road dome teams that were in free-fall, the way these Falcons are. Look for a bounce-back game from the Silver and Black defense, a patient and potent offensive game plan from David Carr and friends, and Raider Fan to become well and truly delusional about their first 2-0 start since many of you have been alive.

Raiders 34, Falcons 19

Indianapolis at DENVER (-6)

A good QB can help to lessen the impact of a turnstile offensive line, but man alive, are the Colts pushing that theory hard with the bums in front of QB Andrew Luck. At altitude, with long rest, I think it's a very long day for the Colts, with a ball-control attack slowly squeezing the life out of them.

Broncos 24, Colts 16

GREEN BAY (-2.5) at Minnesota

Lost in the statistical struggles that QB Aaron Rodgers had last week in Jacksonville was the fact that the Packer defense made plays all day against a solid offense. This week, against a Vikings offense that didn't score an offensive touchdown in their Week 1 win in Nashville, I think they have another solid outing... and, well, you aren't holding down Rodgers forever, especially with WR Jordy Nelson shaking off the rust.

Packers 27, Vikings 16

Philadelphia at CHICAGO (-3)

National spotlight and hype for rookie QB Carson Wentz, who is selling jerseys hand over fist and exciting the Eagle fanbase... but he's going to be without security blanket TE Zach Ertz in this one, against a team that won't roll out the red carpet the way the Browns did. I think he turns it over a couple of times, the defense doesn't get off the field on third down against Smoking Jay Cutler, and the Bears get a tight but professional home win. I'm not ready to say the Eagles are an above .500 team this year, but if they get this win, they just might be.

Bears 27, Eagles 20

Last week: 5-11

Career: 764-761-49

Sunday, September 11, 2016

5 Points About The Eagles Win Over The Browns, Or The New Kids In Town

Well, That Went Well
So here's the thing about the Eagles' win over the Cleveland Factory of Sadness today... there's really a lot of ways to look at it.

The first and most obvious of which is that Cleveland might just be a truly terrible football team, rather than just one that played a really bad game. The Browns did not get a first down until the second quarter. They didn't throw the ball past the first down yardsticks for the same amount of time. They called one of the dumber and least plausible fake punts you'll ever see, with no punter on the field to even give the defense anything to distract them with. Instead of letting QB Robert Griffin do the single thing that he might still do at an NFL level -- throw the deep ball on fly patterns to big and fast WRs that aren't very experienced at running routes, but are, well, big and fast, against suspect CBs -- they went sideways and slow developing, putting maximum pressure on an overmatched offensive line, in a road game against a loud crowd. Having seen this game, it wouldn't surprise me if the Browns go winless, and honestly, you couldn't have asked for a more welcoming opponent. Plus, the Browns auto-ejected out of the game with a gift safety when things were still tight in the third quarter. We should all find opportunities in life to be so abundant.

Oh, and the terrible team... also made sure to provide locker room material by slagging rookie Eagles QB Carson Wentz in the run-up to the game, because GM Paul DePodesta hasn't figured out that football guys play on emotion, unlike, well, baseball guys. But I digress.

The second point is that as easy as this was, it should have probably been easier. K Caleb Sturgis missed a makeable figgie in the first half, which would have helped. Wentz wasn't perfect in the red zone, and the WRs dropped a few balls, which is probably going to be a recurring problem. The Browns' D was a gift drive from the refs, but still something the defense should have managed. Despite being better than the Browns all over the field, at home, with a resounding opening drive, this was still a game in the third quarter. The Eagles aren't operating with a massive amount of wiggle room. They will need to be sharper than this, and soon, to play meaningful football when it gets colder.

Third... it was kind of refreshing to see a sanely managed football game. No speed outs to burn the defense. No poorly designed run plays, ran over and over again. No staredowns of the running back in the flat, as if the QB was daring the defense to jump the route for a pick six. If there's a single person in the fan base who misses Nero Kelly, they are either liars, masochists, or secret fans of the other NFC lEast franchises. HC Doug Pederson did not overwhelm with this game plan, but he also didn't outsmart himself, and the speed in which the defense was rushing Griffin at the end of the game was rarely seen in the Kelly Era, no matter what the score was.

Fourth, speaking of that pass rush, it was downright encouraging to see the defense look the way it did, for most of the game. As much as time of possession is an idiot stat -- it's number of plays defended, rather than how long you are standing on a field, that should concern you -- there's just something strong to be said about the fact that the unit looked like it had a clue. Defensive backs had swagger, defensive linemen shot gaps, linebackers didn't trail basic plays over and over again. Cleveland dropped a lot of catchable balls and is a terrible offensive unit, but it wasn't all them. This may be, for the first time in a long time, a defense that won't make you just think the worst is about to happen, every series.

Fifth and final, there's just no getting around the fact that Wentz looked absurdly good for his circumstances. If he had done this for all of August in a busy pre-season, sure, no surprise... but the dude only played in one game, and didn't look this good in that action. If you didn't know it was his first start, or that his last competitive game was in Southern Canada against future oil rig workers, you'd have never guessed it from his play or his stat line. 22 of 37 for 278, 2 touchdowns, no picks, just one carry for two yards, no lost fumbles, with enough drops and out of game conditions to cost him the 300 yard day that he should have had. One play in particular, where Wentz had to handle a live ball from a bad snap, but simply picked the damn thing up without panic and nearly made the play, was striking in its poise. In the two-minute drill before the first half, he showed more command and control of the situation than many Eagle QBs of my lifetime, and it was, well, his first freaking time doing it. He moved to extend plays, not to be jittery. He took too many hits, but didn't seem to court danger. He didn't look like a guy that was a time bomb of Waiting To Get Hurt. He seemed like he wanted to be there, and loves to play the game. It's all wildly appealing.

He reminded me, in a lot of ways, of... well, lots of players you'd want to QB your team in the long run of a franchise. Aaron Rodgers, but bigger. Andrew Luck, but with less turnover issues. Ben Roethlisberger, but with more willingness to get the ball out of his hands quickly. John Elway, in terms of just mow much heat the ball had on stick throws.

All of which is plainly and criminally irresponsible for a kid who did nothing more than beat a really bad team at home in his first start.

But your eyes tell you what your eyes tell you, and what your heart wants to hear.

With all of the unreasonableness of hope that being a sports fan can have.

Next week is Chicago, at night, on MNF, with the whole country wanting to see if he's for real. Against a team that's coming off a loss, who are better than the team they just beat.

Intriguing, yes?

Top 10 NFL Week 1 Ad Questions

Round The Corner, Fudge Is Made
10) Can anything stop Peyton Manning from sucking on the corporate teat?

9) Since Southwest remembers historic disasters, isn't that kind of a really big reason to use someone else for travel?

8) Do I need to tell the TSA about my boner pills now, or are they still fine for agents to smirk at in the X-ray machine?

7) If I use Voya for my retirement planning, will I start hallucinating about origami squirrels?

6) Are passive aggressive douche-bags FedEx's best customers?

5) Can I buy a car that doesn't make me ruin my suit by inspiring me to dive into pools?

4) Why can't Aaron Rodgers keep his hands on his golf club when he's trying to murder flies?

3) Has anyone on the planet ever had their decision on which tablet to purchase been swayed by the NFL's use of Microsoft products?

2) Will Peyton write in visits from his brother outside of the regular season in ink?

1) How does celebrity rappers sitting in lawn chairs on suburban lawns bellowing at illiterates sell car insurance?

Top 10 NFL Week 1 Takeaways

Framed, In His Office, At Work
10) Oakland went for two on the road and got it, then nearly pissed away the win with a 15-yard celebration flag, because LOL Raiders

9) The Carson Wentz Era started in Philadelphia with a de-pantsing win over Cleveland, who traded away the rights to the pick that would become the QB, and then went on record with the media as to how Wentz wasn't good enough to be picked by the mighty Factory of Sadness

8) Minnesota won with a road game without resorting to Sam Bradford, or the offense scoring a touchdown

7) You can safely stop worrying about Revis Island now, especially if you are AJ Green

6) Jacksonville nearly won at home against Green Bay, giving hope to the idea that the AFC South won't be a total dumpster fire

5) Jameis Winston had a huge day in a road win, which would be a bigger deal if it weren't Atlanta, who might be just that horrible

4) Kansas City had the biggest comeback in franchise history, mostly because I drafted Jamaal Charles in fantasy, which means that Spencer Ware is now the most valuable RB in football

3) Owning Drew Brres in fantasy was awesome, because as always, the Saints defense will ensure that he's always going to be throwing it all over Creation to try to win the actual game

2) Buffalo lost, looked terrible in doing it, and got us one week closer to an inevitable league without a publicly identified toe fetishist having a head coaching job

1) Dallas nearly pulled off a comeback win at home behind their promising offensive rookies, but couldn't master catching the ball in sunlight, or getting out of bounds when they no longer had timeouts

Eagles - Browns Takeaways

Kind Of Looked Top 20-ish To Us
> QB Carson Wentz got a hard-count first down for the first of his career, so he's a Savvy Veteran already

> Wentz's first pass was dropped by WR Jeremy Matthews, which is also something that's going to happen a lot

> TE Zach Ertz with a one-handed catch that was among the best of his career to date

> A lot of RB Kenyan Barner early, which would be OK if he weren't so ordinary

> Absolutely gorgeous pick frees Ertz for another first down, and this is looking like Good Kansas City so far

> Perfect throw to Mathews for the coup de grace score, and that's about as good a start to the Wentz Era as you could hope for

> Drop, stop and give up run by Griffin, who reacts badly to contact while in bounds, as if he was important or something

> Wentz seems to enjoy hard count shenanigans, perhaps too much

> Second drive was much more Young QB-ish, but no major mistakes, and unlike past regimes, didn't end with defense-killing lightning speed

> Trent Green loves 2-yard checkdowns, because of course he does, so that third-down 1-yard checkdown must have made the booth sloppy

> Honestly, it's probably for the best that the Cavs won the NBA title last year, because the Browns are just so terrible

> PR Darren Sproles with the great return, and yeah, that guy is just relentlessly cool

> Wentz holding the ball too long creates the figgie attempt, which K Caleb Sturgis misses from 46, and the crowd was confused because one of the refs blew the call, while the other, um, didn't

> S Rodney McLeod ended the first quarter with cheerful anger on an end around, and more of that, please

> On the first play of the second quarter, Cleveland actually tried a play beyond the sticks, which didn't work

> Cleveland tried something tricky and remarkably stupid for a fake punt, with no punter, which, um, Did Not Work for a de facto turnover

> Wentz tries Matthews again in the end zone, but CB Joe Haden had solid coverage, and Green settles for the figgie

> The Factory of Sadness got its initial first down of the year just 18 minutes into game play

> The percentage of drops to throws for the Factory of Sadness was really impressive

> FOS passes the 50 on a competent screen, then false starts right away because, um, FOS

> WR Terrell Pryor makes a great uncalled OPI to get the FOS into the red zone, with CB Nolan Caroll getting victimized

> WR Andrew Hawkins with an absurd overreaction to no contact, then a ridiculously late DPI call on Malcolm Jenkins to give the FOS a gift first down

> Terrible call, with an uncalled hold on the defensive line as well, despite Green selling out for something that doesn't exist

> RB Isiah Crowell for the 2-yard score, and that was about as big of a gift of a touchdown drive as you've ever seen

> Three and out as the FOS defense shows pressure, and it's a game again with a depressing quickness

> Green believes a throw on the hands is a difficult catch, because, um, I have no idea why he believes that

> Green believes a failed fake punt gave the FOS momentum, and I think we might have a new candidate for the concussion protocol

> Missed tackling keeps the defense on the field, then Griffin runs for another first down, and yeah, this game is going south

> Defense just not tackling with the same crispness or penetration, but McLeod turns things with a tip drill INT, as Griffin misses a wide open guy in the flat; phew

> MLB Jordan Hicks gets credit for the tip, and he might not be a very good player, but stuff just seems to happen around him

> Barner for 17, and yeah, read option looks a lot better when the QB is an actual threat to move

> Wentz in the 2-minute drill was officially encouraging, as he didn't freak out with sideline throws, and used timeouts like a man with a functioning brain

> Really nice screen to Sproles, with Green not understanding that the clock really isn't an issue right now

> Sproles with a rare drop kills a chance at the first, and it's Sturgis time again

> The FOS iced the kicker from 37, which didn't work, which cost them after a good draw by RB Duke Johnson

> Obvious clip not called as Griffin runs out of bounds for a yard and seven lost seconds

> Absolute gift 58 yard splash play to WR Corey Coleman as the Eagle secondary decides to not look at the ball, and for heaven's sake, that was brutal

> Third and keep the lead is FOS pre-snap confusion and a timeout, then Griffin misses a wide-open Hawkins, as S Ron Brooks gets lucky

> K Patrick Murray connects, and it's 13-10 with 29 minutes to play

> Wentz wasn't on the same page with WR Josh Huff, because no one ever is

> Wentz to Matthews for a first was a very nice throw, and Green got lucky on a no-call for offsides

> TE Brent Celek for the obvious pick flag, then Sproles with another drop to set up third and rut roh

> Third and 16 is the pointless safe checkdown, and Green, of course, loves it

> P Donnie Jones finally gets one to not go in the end zone, but the 15 isn't exactly great, either

> You will be relieved to know that cheese steaks still exist in Philadelphia

> FOS for the gift safety with a blown snap, and that's fun; Green 15, FOS 10

> Uncalled hold for Haden on a deep ball, then a nice check down for WR Dorial Green-Beckham to set up third and keep momentum

> Really nice and patient run by Mathews to covert, and he's done well today in limited opportunities

> Great play fake by Wentz to set up the cross to Matthews for another first

> Third and get in figgie range is a drop by Matthews, not that it was a great throw or an auto conversion had he caught it

> Fourth and go for it because your punter has stunk is a hot read to Ertz and a first, and that's just perfect work by Wentz

> Wentz follows it up with a brilliant deep ball to WR Nelson Agholor, and yeah, Kid Might Be Special

> Big sack for DT Fletcher Cox from a basic rush, and that was porny

> Refs completely ignore the play clock, Griffin air mails a touch pass, and 3rd and 13 is in front of the stick and pointless, so yup, NFL Football Is Back

> Wentz looks beyond comfortable on a throw to Ertz, then Mathews and Barner get into the fun, and this looks done pretty soon

> Drive ends on a fumble and broken play, but clock was burned at we're 15 minutes away from a win

> Jones finally gets one to check up, and the FOS will start from their one yard line

> CB Leodis McKelvin out, which is worrisome, but probably more for later than now

> Piddling pass with decent coverage, overthrow deep ball to Coleman, and a no-hope throw-away for good work by the defense

> Holding, middling Mathews run, Wentz for a couple, then 3rd and 17 and don't turn it over is a Sproles screen for 9, so still a game

> Jones can't do it again, not one of his better days

> Drop, Connor Barwin sack and near strip, give up draw and yeah, nice series for the defense

> It's OK to grab Sproles by the helmet, because he's short

> Massive time of possession win for Green, which I guess is OK to have again

> Matthews for 9 on a gimpy Haden, Mathews for a first through a run blitz, and it's clock burning time

> Green told us that the Browns have to take chances when down 12 with 10 minutes left, when they don't have the ball

> Wentz didn't panic on a bad snap, whuch was also all kinds of encouraging

> Great throw to Matthews to convert, ball is just about the only place it could be

> Wentz even got lucky on a tip ball off Huff, as Agholor collected it for more

> Head bob flag for five, then Went from the gun on 3rd and 11 for another flag, and the false starts need to get cleaned up against real teams

> 3rd and 16 is batted down, but again, clock burns, no turnovers, we'll take it

> Jones with his umpteenth chance to pin gets it done with a decent effort

> Griffin sacked by Brandon Graham, fumbles, but gets it back

> Near safety, near pick, defensive line just owning life right now

> 3rd and 14 from the gun is a sprint by Griffin into CB Jaylen Mills for a nearly self-inflicted concussion

> 4th and 3 and end it is an incomplete to Hawkins, and enjoy the bus ride home to Ohio

> There may be few things on the planet as fascinating as the phrase "Cleveland's Hurry Up Offense"

> Griffin leave with his arm dangling, and yeah, we can safely say he's not going to be helping fantasy teams this year, unless you start the defense that gets him

> Mathews twice gets it 12 of the 15 yards to the end zone, then another yard to the two minute warning

> Pederson went hard to run it up points and a score for Mathews, but maybe he just needs to see this package work in short yardage

> After multiple attempts, Mathews gets a hole, and there's your everybody eats fantasy moment

> Mathews got gently placed to the ground by Peters, who had nothing better to do in the end zone

> Green 29, FOS 10, and it's Jon Dorenbos Magic Time, because there's no reason why not, really

> Griffin back on the field, because HC Hue Coleman has just been nothing but good ideas today

> Three handoffs and we're done; Green has now won 5 of their last 6 openers, but this one was more encouraging than most

> Oh, and one last thing... nice trade, Browns, thanks for Wentz!

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