Week Eight Picks

October 27th, 2016 No comments

If I had half a brain, I’d quit now before things get any uglier.

But I don’t.

Even in the face of a week seven finish of 8-6-1 straight up, 6-9 against the spread, I feel somehow compelled to soldier on. Because, you know, records of 63-43-1 (.593) straight up and 48-58-1 (.453) against the spread clearly are something one needs to build on.


Here’s what not to expect in week eight.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at Tennessee
The Titans defense goes into this game with six interceptions on the season. How much you want to bet they improve that total by 50 percent here? Tennessee by a touchdown.

Washington (+3) vs Cincinnati at Twickenham Stadium, London
Statistically speaking, these teams are virtually identical. (It’s a bit more nuanced than that, but it pretty much all comes out even.) Until you get to takeaway/giveaway differential, where the Bengals have a +5 advantage (Bengals +3, Racists -2). And since there’s no real home team in this game, I’ll hitch my wagon to that minor point of differentiation. Bengals by four.

Detroit (+2.5) at Houston
If the Lions had a ground game, they’d win this one easily. They don’t. So it’ll be a hard-fought victory. Detroit by two.

Seattle (-3) at New Orleans
The Seahawks offense hasn’t exactly been lighting it up. But the Saints D is about as sure a cure for that condition as you’ll find. And you can’t compensate for an awful D by putting up a ton of points in a game against Seattle. Seahawks by nine.

Arizona (+3) at Carolina
There’s no question but that the Cardinals are the better team in this match. And still … the Panthers are at home following a bye while the Cardinals are traveling across the country on the heels of a demoralizing slog of a five-quarter struggle for nothing. So I think I’ll look for the Panthers to win a close one. Carolina by a point.

New England (-6.5) at Buffalo
Revenge, blah, blah, blah. The Patriots don’t need a win here to avenge their only loss of the season, a game in which they barely participated. Tom Brady doesn’t need to pad his incredible stats here as part of some grand scheme to teach the league a lesson. Team and quarterback alike need a win here because the outcome of this game determines whether the Patriots organization can start designing its AFC East Champion T-shirts and caps while the coaches and players focus on capturing the one seed, or the Pats have to travel through the rest of the season with the Bills sitting just off their rear bumper. Regardless of motivation, I expect New England’s in for a tougher fight than many in Patriots Nation are counting on. The predictive stats (calculated based on four Pats games played without Brady), go like this: Scoring differential, Patriots +0.9; passer rating differential, Patriots +8.4; takeaway/giveaway differential, Bills +5. In Foxborough, that would point to a close Patriots win. In Buffalo, it points to a toss up. And still, with the Bills banged up, and Brady back in the mix, I expect New England to come out on top. It’ll be a game until very near the end, but it will end with the Patriots ahead by seven.

NY Jets (-3.5) at Cleveland
The Browns have to win a game at some point, right? Eh, maybe not. But what do I have to lose? I’m gonna be rooting for Cleveland anyhow. Browns by a field goal.

Oakland (+1) at Tampa Bay
No defense will be played in this game. Oakland by four.

Kansas City (-2.5) at Indianapolis
This would be a blowout in Missouri. But it’s not being played in Missouri. Chiefs by six.

San Diego (+5.5) at Denver
The Chargers managed to overcome a struggling Broncos squad in San Diego two weeks ago. I suspect Denver’s struggles are over, at least for the nonce. The Broncos turn the tables and even up the season series with an eight-point win.

Green Bay (+3) at Atlanta
Another game in which I don’t expect to see much by way of defense. When all the scoring is done, I think we’ll find the home team on top by four.

Philadelphia (+4.5) at Dallas
By the time the Eagles get to host a rematch in week 17, the Cowboys will have sewn up the NFC East. This game, however, should be a battle to the very end. Dallas by three.

Minnesota (-5.5) at Chicago
In which Jay Cutler resumes getting sacked all over the field. Well, maybe not all over the field. Just the Bears side of it. Vikings by 17.

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Week Seven Picks

October 20th, 2016 No comments

It just keeps getting worse.

Actually, scratch that. The problem’s nothing to do with any it. The truth is, I keep getting worse.

I had my most miserable showing yet in week six, finishing the week a sorry 8-7 straight up, and a much sorrier still 6-8-1 against the spread. I’m not sure what to say other than ugh. For the season, that brings me to 55-37 (.598) straight up and, ulp, 42-49-1 (.462) against the spread.

And yet, I will continue to roll this same rock up this same hill ad infinitum. You can’t fix stupid.

So let’s waste no more time getting my drive for failure underway for the slate of games ahead.

Here’s what not to expect.

Chicago (+7.5) at Green Bay
I don’t believe for a second that Aaron Rodgers‘ ongoing struggles indicate that he’s in an irreversible decline. But neither do I believe Rodgers is likely to have an opportunity to address whatever issues are dogging him while quarterbacking a team with no real running game. None of what’s wrong with Rodgers or the rest of the offense should pose a real problem as the Packers host the Bears on a short week. But I’m sure as hell not giving a touchdown plus. Green Bay by four.

NY Giants (-3) vs Los Angeles at Twickenham Stadium, London
The Giants probably shouldn’t expect to win a lot of games in which they end up a -3 in giveaway/takeaway. I mean, obviously, it can happen. But it’s not something you want to let yourself feel too sure about. New Jersey by a point.

Minnesota (-2.5) at Philadelphia
And then, of course, there are the teams that know how to hold on to the ball. These two squads have three giveaways between them. On the season. That’s one lost fumble each, plus a pick for the Eagles. I’ve got a feeling the Eagles stop their two-game skid in this homecoming game. Philadelphia by a field goal.

New Orleans (+6.5) at Kansas City
I don’t like the idea of picking New Orleans on the road, but I just don’t know that Kansas City has the juice to win a shootout. Saints by two.

Washington (+1) at Detroit
I’m still not ready to buy into the Racists. But this week, against an opponent with no ground game, I’m on board. Washington by three.

Cleveland (+10) at Cincinnati
I wonder if anyone in Cleveland even cares that this game is being played. Bengals by a touchdown.

Buffalo (-3) at Miami
The Bills rush for 166 yards yards a game. The Dolphins allow 147 rushing yards per game. This game may be on the books by 2:30. Buffalo by 21.

Oakland (+1) at Jacksonville
Since neither team has a defense, I’m taking the one with the better offense. That’s the Raiders. Oakland by six.

Indianapolis (+2.5) at Tennessee
Good news for Andrew Luck: Given the state of the Colts run D, he’s unlikely to spend enough time on the field this week to take his customary four sacks. So that’s something. I think. Titans by four.

Baltimore (+1) at NY Jets
The Ravens close their two-week residency in the Meadowlands with a decisive victory over the weaker of the New Jersey teams. Baltimore by 10.

San Diego (+6.5) at Atlanta
Welcome to the air show. Falcons by five.

Tampa Bay (-2) at San Francisco
I don’t know which of these teams is less interested in winning football games. So I’m going with the favorite. Tampa by a field goal.

New England (-7) at Pittsburgh
Here’s are your big three predictive stats, all based on results achieved by the Patriots playing four of six games without Tom Brady and the Steelers playing all but one series of six games with Ben Roethlisberger: Scoring differential, Patriots +2.2; passer rating differential, Patriots +8.8; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +6. And, you know, it’s Brady and Landry Jones under center for their respective teams this weekend. New England by 13

Seattle (+1.5) at Arizona
The Seahawks’ home win against the Falcons last week is the only victory either of these teams has managed over a strong opponent this season. That’s nice for Seattle. But I have no reason to believe it travels. Cardinals by three.

Houston (+7.5) at Denver
The last time Brock Osweiler played a football game in Denver, he was the better choice over a broken down Peyton Manning. That wasn’t such a great accomplishment, as Osweiler’s performance with the Texans this season has made abundantly clear. The Texans are a very different 4-2 than the Broncos. That’ll show in this game. Denver by seven.

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Week Six Picks

October 13th, 2016 Comments off

Well, at least my season started on a positive note. And I’ll always have that, for whatever little it’s worth.

As for right now, I’m mired in mediocrity. I finished week five 9-5 straight up, 7-7 against the spread. Nothing to weep over (especially for someone who doesn’t actually gamble), but not exactly bragging material. So, here I stand, 47-30 (.610) straight up, 36-41 (.468) against the spread.

Let’s see if I can’t figure out a way to do even worse this week.

Here’s what not to expect.

Denver (-7) at San Diego
I don’t think the Chargers are likely to lose by way of a late-game collapse this week. And that would be a nice change of pace, one supposes, except for the likelihood that San Diego will lose in a much more conventional manner. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to give a touchdown to the home team in a division matchup on a short week, though. So let’s go with Denver by six.

Cincinnati (+9) at New England
I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but, um, Tom Brady‘s back. Got his season off to a nice little start last weekend, too. And that’s not such great news for the Bengals’ D, which has not fared well in games against strong opponents so far this season. Here’s what the big three predictive stats say: Scoring differential, Patriots +5.8; passer rating differential, Patriots, +10.3; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +2. (And let’s not forget that New England’s stats are calculated based on four out of five games played without Brady.) Add in that the Bengals are on the road for a second straight week, and consider that the Bengals are no better at stopping the run (4.4 yards per carry) than they are at stopping the pass, and I think you get a fairly comfortable win for the Patriots. New England by two touchdowns.

Baltimore (+3) at NY Giants
The Ravens open their two-week residency in the Meadowlands with a close loss to the better of the New Jersey teams. Giants by a point.

Carolina (-3) at New Orleans
The Panthers expect to have Cam Newton back on the field for this game. That should get the job done. Panthers by four.

Pittsburgh (-7.5) at Miami
The Steelers will be ahead two scores before the home fans have had a chance to catch up with the Dolphins’ shifting roster. Pittsburgh by 17.

Jacksonville (+2.5) at Chicago
That’s right. Brian Hoyer. Bears by a field goal.

San Francisco (+8) at Buffalo
I want Colin Kaepernick to succeed because I admire the political stance he’s taken. Trouble is, this is a football game, not a debate. And the truth about Kaepernick is that he’s just not that good at football. The other difficult truth facing the 49ers is that it doesn’t matter who you start at quarterback (or any offensive position) when your biggest problem is the complete inability of your D to stop the opposing team’s run game. I have hunch that might pose a bit of a problem for San Francisco here. Bills by 10.

Los Angeles (+3.5) at Detroit
When neither team has a defense, you go with the one that has an actual offense. Especially if that team is at home. Lions by six.

Cleveland (+7) at Tennessee
If the Browns can get through an entire game with the same guy taking snaps, that’ll be a kind of victory in itself. Titans by nine.

Philadelphia (-2) at Washington
I know it’s the Eagles’ second straight road game (and the first didn’t go so well) and that it’s a division match. But I just have a hard time seeing Philadelphia dropping this one, particularly given Washington’s ineffectiveness against the run. Eagles by a field goal.

Kansas City (+1) at Oakland
Maybe Kansas City will come back from its early bye week having sprouted a run defense. But, you know, probably not. Oakland by four.

Atlanta (+6.5) at Seattle
Back-to-back road games are tough no matter what. Traveling to face Denver’s D one week and Seattle’s the next is just plain murder. And with the Seahawks coming off their bye, to boot. Kinda makes you wonder what the Falcons did to offend the schedule makers. Atlanta was able to overcome the first part of the challenge (thanks in part to the fact that Denver was starting a rookie QB who clearly isn’t quite NFL ready). I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to repeat that performance. But neither am I inclined to think Atlanta gets routed. Seahawks by three.

Dallas (+4) at Green Bay
If you look just at the aggregate stats, it appears Dallas is playing better football than Green Bay right now. If you look at the level of competition each team has faced, I’m not sure that conclusion holds up. Packers by a field goal.

Indianapolis (+3) at Houston
I don’t know how to pick this game, because I’m just not sure which of these teams has a greater propensity for finding ways to lose. So I’ll take the home team. By a point.

NY Jets (+8) at Arizona
The Jets season officially comes to a very early end. Cardinals by 10.

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Week Five Picks

October 6th, 2016 Comments off

I had a bad feeling about week four. But I ignored it, because I pretty much always have a bad feeling about every week. And, really, what’s at risk?

The answer, I suppose, is my pride. As if I had any left. (Or maybe I never had any to begin with.) And, you know, maybe my ability to sell myself on the lie that I actually have any idea what I’m doing.

That’s all gone. At least for the nonce. I went 8-7 straight up in week four, which seems really bad until you look at my 5-10 finish against the spread. Now, that’s what you call awful. For the season, I’m now 38-25 (.603) straight up, 29-34 (.460) against the spread. Let’s see if I can’t make things even worse with this week’s picks, shall we?

Here’s what not to expect.

Arizona (-3.5) at San Francisco
One of these teams runs out of chances with a loss in this game. You’ve got to figure it won’t be the one that was expected to make a Super Bowl run at the start of the season. As long as Drew Stanton can avoid throwing a bunch of picks, I expect to see the Cardinals come away with a narrow victory. Arizona by a point.

Houston (+6.5) at Minnesota
The good news for the Texans is that even after they lose this game, they’ll still be in first place in the insanely weak AFC South. Vikings by nine.

Tennessee (+3.5) at Miami
Neither of these teams can hold on to the damned football. Then again, neither of them has demonstrated any ability to take the ball away from opponents either. One imagines something has to give here. But maybe not. Maybe it just comes down to Miami’s inability to stop Tennessee’s run game. Titans by a field goal.

New England (-10.5) at Cleveland
The fan narrative in New England has it that Tom Brady commences his “revenge tour” this weekend. And that may well happen. Brady surely is champing at the bit for the opportunity to take his Deflategate frustrations out on Patriots opponents. So things are likely to get ugly sooner than later. I’m not sure the revenge tour gets off to a smooth start, though. I expect Brady’s going to have some rust to shake off before he gets into a real groove. That may come in the second half here or it may take a game or two. (Or maybe I’m wrong and he gets going with the first offensive play in this game. If anyone can go from zero to 120 that quickly, it’s the Greatest Of All Time.) Here’s the thing, though. In terms of assessing this game, I’m not sure it matters all that much when the revenge tour officially commences. Because I don’t think this would have been much of a game with Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett starting behind center for New England. We’re a quarter of the way through the season, which is about the time you’ve got a significant enough sample for the predictive stats to start paining a picture. And here are the big three (all of them based on results the Patriots achieved with Garoppolo and then an injured Brissett at QB): Scoring differential, Patriots +7.7; passer rating differential, Patriots +15.1; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +4. That’s not a formula for a Cleveland win. And, you know, I may be stupid, but I kind of like the Pats’ chances with a rusty Brady better than their chances with a wounded Garoppolo or Brissett. The Patriots start slow, worrying the crap out of their fans, but ultimately come out on top by 13.

NY Jets (+7) at Pittsburgh
Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s interception percentage, 6.5, is the highest in the NFL by a full two points. (Fitz also leads the league in total interceptions. He’s thrown 10.) Ben Roethlisberger‘s touchdown percentage, 7.6, is second highest in the NFL. (Roethlisberger also is tied with Matt Ryan for most total TD passes, with 11.) In a quarterback-driven league, that’s about all I need to know. Steelers by 10.

Washington (+4) at Baltimore
I have a hunch the Racists’ lack of a defense may hurt them in this game. But, you know, it’s just a hunch. Ravens by six.

Philadelphia (-3) at Detroit
As far as I can tell, there isn’t a single area of the game in which the Eagles don’t have the edge here. Philadelphia by … I don’t know, a lot. Let’s say 20 just because it’s a nice round number (except for the pointy part).

Chicago (+4.5) at Indianapolis
It’s hard to pick a team that’s as bad as the Colts and attempting to play through jet lag. But, well, they’re hosting the Bears. Indy by two.

Atlanta (+5.5) at Denver
The Falcons have done well for a team with no defense. Here’s what happens, though, when a team like that runs up against an opponent with an outstanding D. Broncos by at least a touchdown.

Buffalo (+2.5) at Los Angeles
Fresh off their Super Bowl championship big win over a team starting a rookie third string quarterback with an injured throwing hand, the Bills seem to be feeling pretty good about themselves. They should enjoy it while they can. Los Angeles by three.

San Diego (+3.5) at Oakland
The Raiders lack of a defense is going to present a problem in this game. But it won’t be quite enough to cost the home team a win. In a very high scoring game, Oakland comes out on top by a point, maybe two.

Cincinnati (-1) at Dallas
Thus far this season, the Bengals have looked like one of those teams that beats bad teams and loses to good ones. So what happens when they go up against an opponent that’s probably a bit better than average? I think it depends on where the game is played. And since this one’s being played on the slightly better than average team’s home field, I’m going with them. Dallas by four.

NY Giants (+7.5) at Green Bay
I don’t know what Giants fans are saying about it, but I can tell you this: If the Patriots had been scheduled to play road games in Minnesota and Green Bay over the course of six days (with the Packers coming off a bye, no less), fans in New England would be certain the NFL had conspired against the team. Doesn’t seem exactly fair to New Jersey, either, if you ask me. But you play the schedule they give you, I guess. Packers by 10.

Tampa Bay (+7) at Carolina
Man, is the NFC South not a good division. Panthers by four.

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Week Four Picks

September 29th, 2016 Comments off

I’m feeling OK with my 8-8 finish straight up in week three. And OK-ish about my 7-9 finish against the spread, too. Does either result actually point to an OK week? Not even close. But here’s the context: The favorites went 7-9 last week straight up. (Favorites were 4-11 against the spread. Just 15 games there because Baltimore-Jacksonville went off even.) And six of the favored teams that ended up losing outright were at home.

I’m not sure that counts as getting upset week out of the way. This early in the season, it’s more likely that many of us — fans, experts and oddsmakers alike — had overestimated a bunch of teams and underestimated a bunch more. So I’m still expecting a real upside-down week to hit somewhere around the middle of the season.

Just the same, I’m inclined to look at 8-8/7-9 in week three and figure things could have turned out a whole lot worse.

With that finish, I head into week four with my picks record for the season at 30-18 (.625) straight up, 24-24 (.500) against the spread. And that, of course, means it’s a fairly safe bet that I’m headed for disaster in week four. Fortunately for me byes start this week, which leaves me only 15 games to figure wrong.

Here’s what not to expect.

Miami (+7) at Cincinnati
Each of these teams is a win north of 0-3 by the narrowest margin imaginable. The Bengals got their sole victory back in week one when they managed to edge the Jets, another team with a talent for self-destruction. Then, last week, the Dolphins needed nearly half of an overtime period and an absolutely horrific day from Browns kicker Cody Parkey to stumble into their first win. That was in Miami. Against Cleveland, a team that had been outscored 54-30 in its first two games (both losses) and that was starting a rookie third-string quarterback. I expect each of these teams to do its damnedest to lose this game. But on a short week, I have to believe the visitors have the best chance of finding the losing formula. Cincinnati by a field goal.

Indianapolis (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium, London
Sorry, England. Colts by four.

Cleveland (+8.5) at Washington
Sorry, America. Washington by a point.

Buffalo (+5.5) at New England
Sorry, Buffalo. Maybe your next coach and quarterback will be up to their respective jobs. (Though you may feel like you’ve heard that before.) Patriots by 14.

Seattle (-1) at NY Jets
The Seahawks ought to be able to win this game, regardless of the condition of Russell Wilson’s knee. Seattle’s defense has been plenty stout through the team’s first three games (though it seems worth noting that the Seahawks haven’t exactly faced the league’s stiffest competition — and that their only other road game ended in an embarrassing loss). And it’s not like the Jets bring a powerful offense to the field. Hell, the Jets may not even bring a functional offense to the field. Seems like Seattle’s D ought to be able to keep New Jersey off the board and clear a path to victory in a low-scoring game. But I’m not so sure. The Jets D did a pretty good job of getting to the quarterback in the team’s only other home game so far this young season. If they can do that again, they’ll give their offense extra chances to wear down the Hawks. And traveling from west coast to east coast to play a one o’clock game is never easy (just ask the Cardinals). The Jets also have to feel like they’ve got their backs against the wall following last weekend’s fiasco in Kansas City. I’ve got a feeling New Jersey finds a way to win this one. Probably with a final score that looks something like 13-12.

Carolina (-3) at Atlanta
I have no idea what to make of the NFC South right now. What I do know is that the Panthers should be a better team than the Falcons. And, although the teams’ records don’t reflect it, I feel pretty confident that the Panthers actually are a better team than the Falcons. If the team is going to succeed over the long term, Carolina’s going to need to do a much better job of protecting Cam Newton than they did last weekend. But against a defense like Atlanta’s, which has shown no ability to get to the quarterback thus far this season, that shouldn’t be a huge challenge. I like the Panthers to come out on top by a touchdown.

Detroit (-3) at Chicago
Say what you want about Brian Hoyer‘s performance Sunday night in Dallas. But I’ll tell you this much: In his seven quarters of service this season, Jay Cutler dropped back to pass 54 times and took eight sacks for a league-worst sack percentage of 14.8; Hoyer, over five quarters, has dropped back 61 times, many of them against defenses protecting three-score leads, and has taken zero sacks (for a league best sack percentage of 0.0). I’m not saying that makes Hoyer a better quarterback than Cutler, but it certainly suggest to me that Hoyer is a smarter quarterback than Cutler. And that, I think, makes Hoyer ther better choice for the Bears at the moment. It’s uncertain who’ll start behind center for Chicago this week, but even assuming it’s Hoyer, I don’t expect him to lead the Bears to a win. I do, however, think Hoyer gives Chicago a chance to keep it close. And then, you know, anything can happen, particularly in a divisional matchup. Lions by a point.

Tennessee (+5.5) at Houston
Pat Kirwan likes to talk about a long-term trend of teams that have been shut out winning big the next time they take the field. There’s a competing trend at play here, too, though. It’s the one where overrated teams tend to struggle for a game or two after being exposed by the Patriots. I suspect the Texans will find a middle ground. The Titans will move the ball effectively on the ground and give the home team a good scare, but the Texans will find a way to come out just ahead. Houston by a field goal.

Oakland (+3.5) at Baltimore
It’s tempting to say that this game comes down to whether the unbalanced Raiders find a defense or the unbalanced Ravens find an offense. But I don’t think that’s where this one turns. In this battle between teams that have looked slightly better than average thus far this season, I favor the one that’s shown an ability to hold onto the ball. That’s the Raiders. Oakland by two.

Denver (-3) at Tampa Bay
Three? Three? Are you kidding? I don’t care where they’re playing, Denver wins this one by something closer to 23.

Dallas (-3) at San Francisco
Neither am I sure that three points is anywhere close to adequate in this game, though the difference might not be quite as pronounced as in Broncos-Bucs. Let’s say Dallas by 10.

New Orleans (+3.5) at San Diego
If the Saints fall to 0-4, they’re sunk. I’m pretty sure they’re sunk. Chargers by four.

Los Angeles (+8) at Arizona
Once again, the Cardinals make the most of a matchup with a weak opponent to work out their frustrations from a loss to an AFC East team. Arizona by 17.

Kansas City (+5.5) at Pittsburgh
I still haven’t quite got my head around what happened to the Steelers last weekend. I can’t imagine Pittsburgh drops a second straight, particularly given that they’re home for this one. But neither do I think the Chiefs are likely to go down without a serious fight. Steelers by three.

NY Giants (+4.5) at Minnesota
Let’s set everything else aside and just look at this. Through three games (so not an ideal sample size, but not nothing), the Giants rank 30th in the league in turnover differential, -6 (one takeaway, seven giveaways); the Vikings rank first, +8 (nine takes, one give). That’s some bad news for the visitors right there. Minnesota by a touchdown.

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Week Three Picks

September 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Well, I’m consistent if nothing else. Another week, another 11-5 finish straight up. I did improve slightly against the spread in week two, but was hardly a meaningful improvement. I landed at 9-7, exactly one game better than my week one performance. So here I sit (broken hearted? maybe not so much), 22-10 (.688) straight up, 17-15 (.531) against the spread. And who knows? Maybe in a few weeks I’ll look at those results and wonder how I managed to do so well.

Here’s what not to expect in week three.

Houston (-1) at New England
The Patriots have already accomplished everything they really needed to accomplish during Tom Brady‘s suspension. Arguably more. With the greatest quarterback of all time spending the first quarter of the season in his living room, it would have been ridiculous for the team or its fans to expect anything better than a 2-2 start. With the best tight end in football sitting out with a hamstring injury, the defensive front missing key players (including the leader of the unit), and the backup quarterback leaving with an injury less than halfway through game two, even a 2-2 open should have been out of reach. But 2-2 is the worst New England can do before Brady’s return. And 3-1 seems like a solid bet. But 4-0 doesn’t, mainly because you simply can’t expect the Patriots to come up with a win this week. You just can’t. Not with rookie third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett making his first NFL start on just four days rest and preparation. Not with Gronk still uncertain to play. Not with the well balanced Houston Texans bringing what has so far been one of the best pass defenses in the league into Foxborough. There has to be a tipping point for every team — even if it’s just a temporary tipping point — and you have to believe the Patriots have hit it. That’s simply the pragmatic point of view on this game. And yet, I remain mindful of what I wrote a week ago: “There’s no value in picking against New England. No matter whom the Patriots are playing. No matter where they’re playing. No matter what the circumstances. As long as Bill Belichick is on the sideline, the Pats more often than not are going to find a way to win.” I can’t imagine what that way might be this week. But if anyone can devise a path to victory under these circumstances, it’s Belichick. So I’m closing my eyes, holding my breath, crossing everything I can comfortably cross and taking New England. I’ll be truly awestruck if the Patriots win by more than a point.

Denver (+3) at Cincinnati
I’m not sure I understand the line on this game. I mean, I know the Bengals are at home. And I know we haven’t yet seen whether Trevor Siemian can be effective in a hostile stadium. But we know the Broncos defense can perform on the road. It appears that Denver has a balanced offense. And it appears that Cincinnati does not — and that the Bengals’ inability to move the ball on the ground thus far this season poses a particular problem given that they face a defense that doesn’t let you move the ball through the air. Young Mr. Siemian may find a way to cause me to regret it, but I’m going to take my chances with the visitors here. Broncos by a touchdown.

Oakland (+1.5) at Tennessee
The Raiders can’t seem to stop opponents from scoring. Maybe it will help to face a team that stops itself. Oakland by six.

Arizona (-4) at Buffalo
I’m sure getting three extra days to prepare and a new offensive play caller will make all the difference for Buffalo in this game. I expect to see an absolute magic show as the Bills transform from a struggling 0-2 team to a hopeless 0-3 team before our very eyes. Arizona by 10.

Baltimore (even) at Jacksonville
I don’t think the first two weeks of the season have told us anything useful about either of these teams. I’m not sure this game will get the job done either. All I can say is that if I’d seen any indication whatsoever that the Ravens were capable of running the football, I’d take them to win this one. Jaguars by a field goal.

Cleveland (+9.5) at Miami
One difference (and, yes, it’s one of very, very many) between Cleveland and New England is that the Browns weren’t able to win behind either the first or second quarterback on their depth chart. It’s possible that Cody Kessler has some special mojo, but considering that Cleveland quarterbacks have been sacked once every 10 dropbacks so far this season, I’m not sure he’s going to get much chance to put it to use. Dolphins by 14.

Washington (+4.5) at NY Giants
The Racists are just not a good team. Giants by six.

Detroit (+7.5) at Green Bay
If the Packers are going to have any kind of sustained success this season, they’re going to have to do a much better job of protecting Aaron Rodgers. But that shouldn’t be much of a worry this week. Green Bay by a field goal.

Minnesota (+7) at Carolina
I know everyone thinks losing Adrian Peterson to injury is a huge deal for the Vikings. I’m not so sure I agree.


Not having any kind of a run game to begin with might be a somewhat bigger deal. But maybe that’s just me. Panthers by ten.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Seattle
You have to believe the Seahawks are going to right the ship at some point, right? Or maybe not. But you’ve still got to like them to overcome the 49ers at home. Seattle by a touchdown.

Los Angeles (+5) at Tampa Bay
I know they beat the Seahawks last week and everything, but the Rams still look like a pretty bad football team to me. Hard to see them traveling across the country and beating a solidly mediocre squad like the Buccaneers. Tampa by three.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Philadelphia
One of these teams is for real. The other one is the Eagles. Pittsburgh by nine.

NY Jets (+3) at Kansas City
Here’s another game featuring two teams I don’t quite know what to make of. I know the Chiefs are at home, though, so I guess I’ll take them. Kansas City by a field goal.

San Diego (+3) at Indianapolis
One gets the feeling it’s going to be a long, difficult season for the Colts. Uneven though they may be, the Chargers win this one by four.

Chicago (+7) at Dallas
There’s nothing impressive about the Cowboys. But there’s nothing that isn’t downright awful about the Bears. Dallas by 13.

Atlanta (+3) at New Orleans
There’s an outside chance someone on one of these teams will make a defensive play at some point during this game. That players’ team wins. New Orleans by a point.

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Week Two Picks

September 18th, 2016 Comments off

Hey, so far, so not entirely terrible. Adding Thursday night’s result into the mix, I’m now at 12-5 straight up, 9-8 against the spread so far this season. As usual, one would hardly be wise to go around wagering actual money based on anything I have to say. But one would hardly be wise to gamble under any circumstances. So I’m calling the whole thing a win. Sort of. Let’s see how short-lived this relatively good feeling proves.

Here’s what not to expect in the rest of the week two games.

Tennessee (+5.5) at Detroit
This looks to me like the kind of game where the punters might end up wondering why they bothered to suit up. The Lions won one of those by four points last week. I’ll look for them to do the same here.

Kansas City (+2.5) at Houston
Whichever team figures out how to mount a ground offense comes out on top. I’m gonna guess it’s the home team. Texans by a field goal.

Miami (+6.5) at New England
I learned a valuable lesson last Sunday night. Sadly for me, it was a lesson I’d already learned years ago and simply found a way to forget. It’s this: There’s no value in picking against New England. No matter whom the Patriots are playing. No matter where they’re playing. No matter what the circumstances. As long as Bill Belichick is on the sideline, the Pats more often than not are going to find a way to win. That formula presents itself at a fairly simple level this week, with New England hosting a Miami squad that’s playing its second straight road game and coming off what has to be a demoralizing late-game collapse in Seattle. Games against division rivals have a way of being more competitive than they ought, but I think the Patriots defense (the pass rush in particular) takes control of this one and New England comes away with win by a margin of six.

Baltimore (-6.5) at Cleveland
Don’t pay attention to those who claim Cleveland’s season is already over. The Browns have to play 15 more games just like everybody else. It’s just that their next 15 games are going to much, much worse than most other teams’. Ravens by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
Somebody, somewhere can probably provide some great, prescient insight into how this game is going to play out. Me, I’ve got what most everybody else has. Don’t look for much in the running game. Expect a high score. And look for the home team to come out on top. Pittsburgh by three.

Dallas (+3) at Washington
Neither of these teams got this season off to an impressive start. But the Cowboys at least hung tight against a Giants squad that I believe is better than most observers realize. I’ll take Dallas to win this one straight up. Let’s say it’s by a point.

New Orleans (+5) at NY Giants
I don’t anticipate quite the shootout I’ve seen and heard predicted elsewhere. But I do expect both teams to get into the high twenties. Giants by a field goal.

San Francisco (+13.5) at Carolina
The Panthers, who come into this game on 10 days rest, are not the Rams. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more to say. Carolina by 17.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Arizona
One could make an argument that no team should be taken by surprise by the Patriots at this point in NFL history. But it happens just the same. Taken by surprise by the Buccaneers? Not so much. The Bucs appear to have a pretty good team. We’ll get an idea of just how good by whether — and perhaps for how long — they’re able to stay competitive against a very good Cardinals teams that needs a win to right the ship. It may be close right down to the final minutes, but in the end, even if it’s by way of a late touchdown that extends the margin, I think Arizona comes out on top by about nine.

Seattle (-6.5) at Los Angeles
I’ll admit I went to be fairly early Monday night, but I was still up later than the Rams. One suspects this first season back in L.A. is going to be longer than anyone realized. Seahawks by 10.

Indianapolis (+6) at Denver
The Broncos appear to be a balanced team. The Colts are not. Denver by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+4.5) at Oakland
I don’t think there’s anything the Falcons can do to slow down the Raiders offense. Oakland by 14.

Jacksonville (+3) at San Diego
One of these teams has to win. Let’s go with the hosts. Chargers win it straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Green Bay (-2) at Minnesota
Both of these teams will be facing much stiffer opposition than they faced in week one. But I suspect the Vikings are facing a slightly tougher bump. Packers by a point.

Philadelphia (+3) at Chicago
Another gem of a Monday night matchup. Ugh. Bears by six.

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Week Two Thursday Night Pick

September 15th, 2016 Comments off

I’m not going to get to all of this week’s games before the big AFC East showdown on Thursday night. So let’s start with that one and I’ll get to the rest later.

I got off to about as good a start as I could have hoped for with my week one picks. Finished 11-5 straight up, 8-8 against the spread. I’ll take it. And let’s see how much worse I do once I start thinking I know something.

NY Jets (-1) at Buffalo
You wouldn’t think the Bills could fare any worse against the Jets than they did against the Ravens. But I’m not sure. I certainly don’t expect Buffalo to have much more success running the ball this week than they did last. And that leaves Tyrod Taylor, who was sacked once for every 11 times he dropped back last week, to try to overcome a pass rush that put Andy Dalton on his back seven times on 37 drop-backs (18.9 percent) last week. None of that figures to help the Bills. I suspect the advantage of hosting a division rival on a short week is the only thing that keeps Buffalo in this game. In a low-scoring game, New Jersey comes out on top by a field goal.

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Week One Picks

September 11th, 2016 Comments off

Hey, look at that, I’m off to a split start: 0-1 straight up, 1-0 against the spread. So far this randomly guessing approach is producing results that are similar to the pretending I know and them randomly guessing approach. What a revelation.

Here’s what not to expect over the rest of week one.

Tampa Bay (+2.5) at Atlanta
Common sense tells me to take the home team in this matchup. My belief that that Buccaneers are rising and the Falcons falling tells me the opposite. And since I have nothing on the line but pride — and since I have no pride left to lose — Tampa Bay by three.

Minnesota (-2.5) at Tennessee
The Vikings defense needs to play up to the level of its reputation at least long enough for the Minnesota offense to get its legs under it. This seems like a good place to start. In a low-scoring game, Minnesota comes out ahead by a point.

Cleveland (+3.5) at Philadelphia
Neither of these teams is very good. And both may already have given up on the season. But at least one of them has a quarterback who has both something to prove and decent chance to start proving it. Cleveland by a field goal.

Cincinnati (-2.5) at NY Jets
The consensus seems to be that the Bengals are a considerably better football team than the Jets, and that only home field is keeping New Jersey in this one. I’m not sure that’s true. I’ll take the favorites, I suppose, but I think it comes down to the final seconds. Cincinnati by four.

Oakland (+1.5) at New Orleans
The Raiders are the more complete team in this match. I think they outlast the Saints in a high-scoring game. Oakland by six.

San Diego (+6.5) at Kansas City
Kansas City’s a tough place to start a season for Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Chiefs by 10.

Buffalo (+3) at Baltimore
I don’t think either of these teams is going much of anywhere this season. But the Ravens should at least be good enough to handle a middling visitor like the Bills fairly handily. Baltimore by a touchdown.

Chicago (+6) at Houston
The Bears have a long way to go before they’ll be competitive in road games against good opponents. Houston by nine.

Green Bay (-5.5) at Jacksonville
Even those who have bought into the hype about the Jaguars rebound don’t think Jacksonville has the juice to compete with Green Bay. Packers by 14.

Miami (+10.5) at Seattle
I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that needs to be said about this matchup. Seahawks by 21.

NY Giants (even) at Dallas
In which the Giants begin the work of dominating a weak division. Eli Manning has a big day and New Jersey opens with an eight-point win.

Detroit (+3) at Indianapolis
Shrug. Home team by six.

New England (+7) at Arizona
If the Patriots ever had a real chance in this game, it went away on July 14. And if they had an outside chance, it probably disappeared when the team traveled to Arizona without Rob Gronkowski. But in reality, this game was likely going to end in a Cardinals victory no matter who New England put on the field. At full strength, these are two of the best teams in the league. And, sure, there’s still some possibility that what appears to be a very impressive Patriots defense finds a way to take advantage of Carson Palmer and carry New England to a victory. (If that happens, by the way, Patriots fans should go ahead and book their hotel rooms in Houston for the first weekend in February.) But when two good teams meet in week one, you take the home team unless there’s a very good reason not to. Cardinals by four.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Washington
The Steelers put on a show in prime time, announcing that they’re back. The Racists … well, in a way, I guess they’re back, too. Pittsburgh by 17.

Los Angeles (-2.5) at San Francisco
In a nationally televised game that will be watched by no one outside of California, the middle-of-the-road team overcomes the bad team. What an exciting way to wrap up week one. Rams by four.

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Opening Night Pick

September 8th, 2016 Comments off

I’m just going with this one for the nonce. Maybe I’ll get the rest up before kickoff tonight. Probably not.

Carolina (-3) at Denver
If your defense is good enough to carry you to victory over a good team at a neutral site in spite of horrific quarterback play to end one season, it ought to be good enough to carry you to a victory over that same team on your own field in spite of an inexperienced quarterback to begin the next. I mean, that’s sound reasoning, isn’t it? Carolina by a point.

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