Archive for September, 2005

Week Three Picks

September 25th, 2005 Comments off

More last-minute predictions guaranteed wrong or your money back.

Atlanta (+2.5) at Buffalo
It’s a defensive struggle, which favors either the home team or the team without the inexperienced quarterback. So there’s no picking this one right. But I’m looking for J.P. Losman to throw a couple of picks and hand the game to Atlanta. Take the visitors and the points.

Carolina (-3) at Miami
If you can beat the Patriots, you ought to be able to be the Dolphins, no matter where the game is played. Carolina’s defense has a bigger day than Miami’s, while the Fins offense sputters. Take the Panthers and give the three.

Cincinnati (-3) at Chicago
Here’s a likely place for an upset. The Bengals are probably a much better team than the Bears. In fact, Cinci could make the post-season while the Bears likely will crash and burn. But right now, in Chicago, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ced Benson comes on and the Bears pull off a win. Not picking it that way, though. I think Carson Palmer throws for 300+ and the Bengals cruise to a touchdown or better victory.

Cleveland (+13.5) at Indianapolis
If I had a nickel for everyone who brought up the whole “Romeo has Peyton Manning’s number” thing in conversation with me this week, I’d have easily 20 cents. Which is about what that observation is worth, incidentally. Yes, it could be true that it’s been former Patriots assistant Romeo Crennel, now head coach of the Browns, and not Bill Belichick, who’s had Manning’s number these last few years, but that’s neither here nor there as far as this game is concerned. Romeo hasn’t been in Cleveland long enough to establish his system or get the right personnel lined up. And his offense might have fared well against the sinking Packers last week, but it’s not gonna challenge the much-improved Indy D. I see a big week for Peyton (finally; my fantasy team needs it) and the Colts. Take Indy straight up, but, of course, never, ever bet on an NFL game with a double-digit spread.

Jacksonville (+2.5) at N.Y. Jets
The only way this isn’t the low scoring game of the week is if each D puts up a pair of touchdowns. The Jets can’t get it going on O, what with Chad Pennington’s obviously still hurting shoulder (Curtin Martin’s bad knee won’t help this week). And the Jags continue to have a Swiss cheese offensive line. Jacksonville’s D has looked a bit tougher to me, so, injuries aside, I’m looking for the upset here. Take the Jags and the points. And bet the under.

New Orleans (+3.5) at Minnesota
There’s no reason to expect that a Minnesota offense that’s been nothing but terrible over the first two weeks of the season will get any better with its #1 wide receiver, Nate Burleson, on the sidelines. Then again, there’s no reason to believe any NFL team can win in its third straight week on the road (last week’s “home game” in Giants stadium notwithstanding this is the traveling Saints’ third consecutive trip into a hostile arena. And the thing is, Travis Taylor’s been a better receiver than Burleson so far this season anyhow, and Mewelde Moore, who’s starting at running back in place of the healthy but unimpressive Michael Bennett, is the kind of slippery little back the Saints have a hard time stopping. So I’m going with the home squad to turn it on, if only temporarily. Take the Vikes and expect them to win by double the spread.

Oakland (+8) at Philadelphia
If the Raiders had played semi-decent football over the first two weeks of the season, this game might have had big billing: T.O. vs. Randy Moss in the asshole bowl. But no such luck. The Eagles are too good and the Raiders are too sloppy. Though it pains me to say it, take the Eagles and give the points. It’s gonna be a blowout.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) at Green Bay
Think about how bad the Packers have to have been playing for a Bucs team that’s made an art of losing at Lambeau to come in as a field goal-plus favorite. Still, you can’t argue with the math. The Packers have stopped nobody. The Bucs have played well. Cadillac Williams is looking more and more like the probable offensive rookie of the year. Brett Favre, while playing well, will probably be hearing calls for his retirement before the season’s a quarter of the way through. I see Williams and the Bucs’ rookie tight end, Alex Smith, having big days against a Pack D that is soft on short yardage plays, and the Bucs winning and covering.

Tennessee (+6.5) at St. Louis
Did these two teams really meet in the Super Bowl just a few years ago? Holy cow. What happened? Yeah, so the Titans have looked like they might be better this season than we all thought they’d be. The Rams, too. Me, I’m not so sure. I think both results last week were flukes. I think we’ll see a lot of ineptitude at work today. And I think the Rams will manage a victory, but not by a touchdown.

Arizona (+6) at Seattle
I suppose it’s possible that I could care about this game a little bit less, but I’m not sure how. Either of these teams could end up winning the NFC West this season (assuming Dennis Green gets the fully cooked Kurt Warner out of his starting lineup sooner than later). And both of them could end up 6-10. Neither will be playing past mid-January. The advantage here goes to the home team/the team with Shaun Alexander, but probably not by more than four.

Dallas (-6.5) at San Francisco
The Cowboys have gotta be pissed about Monday night. You play a mostly great game, giving up three decent plays to your opponents’ offense over the course of the evening and two of those go for touchdowns, which is exactly as much as the other team needs to beat you. That’s gotta hurt. It’s also gotta breed the kind of frustration you’re glad to take out on your next opponent if you get the chance. Today, the Cowboys get the chance. Take Dallas and give the points.

New England (+3) at Pittsburgh
Forget about all the stuff about Tom Brady having big games right after losses. Brady could have a good day here, but it won’t be because of what happened in Carolina last week. It’ll be because the Pittsburgh DBs don’t have the speed and stamina to keep up with New England’s receivers. Forget about the stuff about how long its been since the Pats lost two straight. That’s a streak that will be broken eventually, and it could as easily be here as anywhere else. But you can also forget about the stuff about how Pittsburgh’s better than last season and the Pats aren’t as good. Neither of those things have been established and at least one of them is very likely untrue. Here’s what to consider: 1). The blitz becomes less effective as the season goes on and offenses start to click. It’s especially ineffective against a good O that knows it’s coming. The Steelers’ D relies on the blitz, and the Pats’ O knows it. 2) The key to shutting down the Steelers O is not to blitz. Ben Roethlisberger will eat you up with short passes if you do that. The way to beat the Steelers O is to take away the run, keep your DBs back, and make Roethlisberger throw into coverage. He makes mistakes when you do that. 3) The key to last week’s Panthers victory was this: the Panthers cracked the Pats silent count code. And New England didn’t know it. That’s why Carolina defenders were in the backfield on every other New England offensive play. The O line needs a half-second advantage on the D to make good blocks (that’s why you don’t just snap on three every time in real football), and they didn’t have it. That won’t happen again, and if it does, the Pats will be looking for it and they’ll make the adjustment. Take the Patriots and the points.

N.Y. Giants (+6) at San Diego
Imagine traveling all the way from New Jersey to Southern California just to experience a good old fashioned Bronx cheer. Have fun, Eli. You brought this reception on yourself. The winless home team stomps the undefeated visitors. Give the points.

Kansas City (+3) at Denver
I’m not sure the Chiefs are as good as their record. The Jets aren’t a good team. And as sloppy as the Raiders played last week, Kansas City should have walked away with a 21-point victory (well, that might be overstating the case, but you get the point). Of course, neither have the Broncos looked terribly good. Yeah, they came back to beat San Diego, which is impressive, but there’s still that opening week loss to Miami to keep you wondering. Like every other game the Broncos play this season, this one will have a lot to do with whether the good Jake Plummer or the bad Jake Plummer shows up. Against a much-improved KC defense, I’m sort of expecting the band one. I like the Chiefs in the upset, but I’m not betting a dime on that.

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Week Two Picks

September 18th, 2005 Comments off

I haven’t had much time to write about football picks this week, but I’ve had way too much time to think about them. Here, in short, is how I see things breaking down. Don’t let my brevity fool you. I’ve overthought these games exactly as much as I always do, so I’m almost certainly gonna be wrong about pretty much all of them.

Baltimore (-4) at Tennessee
I don’t care who’s under center for Baltimore (Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright are virtually interchangeable anyhow). What matters is that the Titans defense won’t be able to stop Jamal Lewis, and the Ravens D should be able to stop pretty much anything the Tennessee offense attempts to do. Take the visitors and give the points.

Buffalo (+2) at Tampa Bay
Since you can’t know for sure which team’s impressive opening week outing was for real, this one becomes a coin toss. I’ll take the Bucs run defense to slow down Willis McGahee just enough for the Bills to have to put the game in the hands of still untested quarterback J.P. Losman, which gives a slight edge to Tampa. Take the Bucs straight up and the Bills to keep it to within a point.

Detroit (-2) at Chicago
I may have said this before (I have): With the first pick in the 2006 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears select Matt Leinart, quarterback of USC. Take the Lions and give the points.

Jacksonville (+9) at Indianapolis
Don’t talk to me about the Jaguars keeping up in this game. The Jaguars aren’t keeping up in this game. I don’t care how well they did in the RCA Dome last season. The Jags D isn’t nearly good enough to stop the Colts. And the Colts D should have a decent day given the Jaguars’ offensive line issues (even if those weren’t obvious vs. Seattle last week). Take the Colts and stay the hell away from betting an NFL game with a nine-point spread.

Minnesota (+3) at Cincinnati
If Koren Robinson is able to keep the bong in the back of the closet for a few months, and if the Vikings running backs can get healthy enough to compete at some point, the Vikings should be able to salvage their season. And, strong start or none, the Bengals are still the Bengals, so a collapse is coming eventually. But none of that stuff matters this week. Minnesota’s weak run defense spells a big day for Rudi Johnson, which means the Bengals cruise here. Take Cinci and give the field goal.

New England (-3) at Carolina
Super Bowl XXXVIII rematch? OK, sure. If you wanna look at it that way. (I don’t think the Pats are thinking that, and probably the Panthers aren’t either, but you do what you like.) Revenge for the Panthers? Mmmm, probably not. These Pats are a better team still than the one that beat Carolina in the Super Bowl. The once-again banged-up Panthers, meanwhile, are maybe just as good, maybe not. New England wins by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-6) at Houston
I’d love to see Houston rise up and make good for what happened last week in Buffalo by putting a hurting on the Steelers. But I don’t mistake what I’d like to see for what I expect to see. Whether it’s Ben Roethlisberger or Tommy Maddox under center, I expect the Steelers offensive leader in this game to be Willie Parker once again. I can’t encourage anyone to give up six points to a home team, but I definitely see the Steelers winning straight up.

San Francisco (+13) at Philadelphia
Don’t give or take 13 points in an NFL game. Ever. No matter how horrible the mismatch seems on paper. But certainly take the Eagles straight up, ’cause that’s a gimme.

Atlanta (+1) at Seattle
Monday night jinx? That’s the only reason I can imagine for the Falcons to come into this game as underdogs. Because the Seahawks looked pretty shoddy at Jacksonville last week, and the Falcons looked pretty damned impressive against the Eagles Monday night. I like a D that held Philly to 10 points to keep Seattle under that mark, especially given the fact that Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck hasn’t practiced much. Take the Falcons and by all means give the point. They’ll win by at least three times that margin.

St. Louis (+1) at Arizona
You’re the suckiest team in the NFL’s suckiest division. No, you’re the suckiest team in the NFL’s suckiest division. Have fun, guys. Take the Cards. Give the point. Ugh.

Cleveland (+6) at Green Bay
Romeo Crennel’s got some work to do in Cleveland. The Packers have some big shoes to fill at wide receiver. I’ll take the team with Ahman Green (to win, not to cover).

Miami (+6) at NY Jets
Man, would I love to see the Dolphins take it to the Jets. But, whatever may be up with Chad Pennington’s arm, it’s not gonna be enough. Unless the temperature in New Jersey gets up to 110 degrees, the Jets win this one. But I wouldn’t trust them to cover a six-point spread.

San Diego (+3) at Denver
The Broncos need very badly to rebound from their defeat in Miami last week. The Chargers need very badly to rebound from a defeat at home by the Cowboys. And divisional rivalries always make for intense games. That ought to favor the home team, but you know what, I like a team that got beat by Dallas better than a team that got beat by the Fins. So I’m going with the Chargers to win it straight up.

Kansas City (-1) at Oakland
Larry Johnson likes things in twos I guess. Two touchdowns a game. Two times accused of beating his girlfriend. Lovely, Larry. Just lovely. I think Larry’s gonna find the Oakland run defense a good bit tougher than his girlfriend, though. I think he misses tying John Riggins’ record of two TDs in seven straight games. And I think the Chief’s still not quite tough enough D gives up enough points for the Raiders to win and cover, if only barely.

New Orleans (+3) at NY Giants
Here’s why this game should not have been moved to New York. Forget the fact that had it been played in the Superdome as originally scheduled, this thing would have been a straight-out gimme, because obviously, it can’t be played in New Orleans. But this would have been all Saints even if it had been played in a neutral stadium. But the fact that it’s in the Meadowlands gives the Giants a slight edge. It also gives the Giants nine home games this season (however you decorate the end zones, it’s still Giants Stadium, folks), which is just plain old wrong. I think the Saints make it academic by pulling off an tough second straight road game. Take New Orleans and the points.

Washington (+6) at Dallas
And the game of musical quarterbacks in Washington begins. Joe Gibbs should have stayed on the racing circuit, where getting passed by is expected. Dallas wins this one by a touchdown, minimum.

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Week One Picks

September 8th, 2005 Comments off

So I thought about doing predictions for the entire season. More than thought about it, actually. I went through the schedule and ticked off winners all the way to week 17. Then I counted up projected records and made playoff predictions. Then I started writing about each team. And that’s when I realized that what I was doing was totally pointless.

Wanna know what I think is gonna happen this season? Some of it’s in this week’s rundowns. Like the fact that I think New England’s gonna win a third straight Super Bowl, beating Carolina. And the fact that I think Chicago and Tennessee are gonna battle it out for the rights to Matt Leinart. Some isn’t, because what do you care anyhow?

So what about this week? Well, here’s how I see it. Of course, I’m usually wrong. So don’t take my word for anything, especially if there’s money on the line.

Oakland (+7.5) at New England
The way I see it, the Raiders can’t lose here. Oh, I mean, they’ll lose the game. That’s almost a given (except for the whole any given Sunday — Thursday, whatever — thing); there’s just no beating the champs in their home opener. And I suspect — concerns about coordinators and run defense aside — there’s gonna be very little beating the Pats anywhere in the league this season. But as long as they can sort of keep up, which is what I expect to see, the Raiders are gonna have to come out of this game feeling pretty good. Kerry Collins, who started to click at the end of last season, should have a great year throwing the ball to Randy Moss and Jerry Porter. And LaMont Jordan is a guy who only needed to get out of the shadow of the great Curtis Martin to succeed. So there’s your high-powered offense. Still, I expect to see the Patriots O have an amazing season, too, starting tonight. I expect Corey Dillon to put up even better numbers than he did last season, partially because I think this team is on track to blow out more than a few opponents, and when you’re way ahead, you hand the ball off play after play. And to whatever extent there are questions on the Pats D, I expect many of them to be answered by the O putting teams on their heels. Getting back to the game at hand, though, what I expect tonight is a big showing from both offenses, as both Ds struggle to get going (as NFL defenses always do until around week four). I’m looking for a 34-30 Patriots win. And the way I see it, the Raiders can’t ask for anything more, and the Pats, who begin their run for what ought to be an unprecedented third straight championship season, don’t need anything more. Call this win one of 15 ahead for the Pats. Oh, and bet the over.

Chicago (+6) at Washington
Hoo boy. Will the Chicago Bears ever solve their quarterback issues? I expect they will. And I expect the solution will go something like this: “With the first pick in the 2006 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears select Matt Leinart, quarterback, University of Southern California. ” As for tonight, the Bears roll into Washington with a rookie under center. Something tells me it’s gonna be a long night for Kyle Orton and company — and the start of a very long campaign for the Bears. Take the Skins and give the points.

Cincinnati (-3.5) at Cleveland
Yep, the Bengals are getting better and better (though they’ll still fall apart before the season ends) and the Browns are just beginning to rebuild under new head coach Romeo Crennel. And it’s impossible to imagine the Browns are good for more than four or five wins this season. But something tells me one of them is coming by way of a home-opener upset over their hated divisional rivals. It’s just a feeling. Don’t bet it. But I think the Browns take it by a point with a late kick.

Denver (-4.5) at Miami
If things go Nick Saban’s way, the Dolphins should be in good shape to make a run at the playoffs — in 2006 or ’07. This season, not so much. Of course, the Broncos aren’t going all that far this season either (they’ll miss the playoffs by a game). Still, in this one, you’ve gotta like the team that’s already got it together. Take the Broncos and give the points.

Houston (+5.5) at Buffalo
If I had more faith (which would be any at all) in J.P. Losman, I might understand the spread on this game. Of if I had less faith in my own belief that the Texans are gonna surprise people this season by posting 10 wins. Do I think Houston pulls off the upset here? Not straight up, no. But against the spread with an unproven QB on the other side of the ball, you bet your sweet patoot.

New Orleans (+7) at Carolina
Look, I know everyone wants the Saints to put up a good showing here. I know there’s this idea that they’ll rally and take one for a city that’s taken a major beating this week. And I wish it were true, because New Orleans could probably use some kind of victory, no matter how meaningless (in the grand scale of things) the event might be. But it’s not gonna happen. Carolina’s healthy. Carolina’s headed for the Super Bowl (where they’ll lose to New England again). And they’re headed for a 10-point margin of victory in this game.

NY Jets (+3) at Kansas City
Sending Santana Moss to Washington in order to bring back Laveraneus Coles, who is ultimately a much better receiver than Moss, was probably a good idea on the part of the Jets. But that’s not gonna patch the gaping hole on the right side of the offensive line, or make Chad Pennington a more accurate passer. Bringing in Ty Law to try to shore up a secondary that was questionable at best was a good idea, too. But it’s not gonna turn the whole unit around. Chiefs additions Kendrell Bell and Patrick Surtain, on the other hand, should improve Kansas City’s defense just enough to protect some of the leads it’s big bad O can build. Watch. Kansas City wins by a touchdown.

Seattle (+3) at Jacksonville
I’m expecting a huge defensive battle here, one that could set the stage for a … you’re not really buying this, are you? See, the joke is that while a lot of people seem to be expecting a lot out of both of these teams this season, one of them (Seattle) has a defense that’s sits somewhere on the sucky side of average, and the other (Jacksonville) has a defense that could be quite good if the offense ever held onto the ball for five minutes at a time. But since they don’t, it isn’t. I don’t expect the Jags’ porous O line to pose that much of an issue here, since none of the Seahawks’ defensive linemen would know what to do if they spotted a hole, but I do expect Seattle’s superior offense to keep the team in the game, right up until the end, when they’ll lose by exactly a field goal.

Tampa Bay (+6) at Minnesota
I’m kind of expecting Jon Gruden to get his team going and save his job this season. I’m kind of expecting Brian Griese to finally have a season that doesn’t embarrass his dad. But I’m also kind of expecting the Vikings to win their division and maybe even a playoff game this season. And I’m totally expecting the Vikes to win their home opener by a touchdown.

Tennessee (+7) at Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has a better than average chance of turning the AFC North over to the Baltimore Ravens this season, if only by a game. But Tennessee has an average chance of stealing Matt Leinart from the Chicago Bears. If the Steelers don’t win this one by at least 10 points, I’ll be flabbergasted.

Arizona (+2.5) at N.Y. Giants
Yes, well, one of these teams is almost certainly going to win this game. Chances are, it’ll be the one I don’t pick. So I’ll take the home team to win it straight up, the visitor to cover. That way, I’ve gotta be right once.

Dallas (+4.5) at San Diego
Sometime around mid-season, the Chargers blocking schemes are gonna start to break down, which is what happens when you let the best O-line coach in the game (Hudson Houck) walk away, and then San Diego’s gonna have some trouble. And sometime much earlier in the season, Bill Parcells system is finally gonna kick in for real in Dallas, making the Cowboys dangerous. But neither thing is gonna happen this week. Take the Chargers and give the points.

Green Bay (+3) at Detroit
You see that line? You see that? Fucking Detroit is favored to beat Green Bay. This is wrong. Except for how it’s right. Take the Lions, but don’t make a bet, because a) it’s a push; and b) it’s just wrong.

St. Louis (-5) at San Francisco
The countdown to Alex Smith begins in San Francisco. Take the Rams and give the points.

Indianapolis (-3) at Baltimore
The temptation here, of course, is to take the home dog. Baltimore’s offense should be in decent shape this season (assuming Kyle Boller doesn’t manage to lose games all by himself, which is always a possibility). Todd Heap is back, which should make a difference. And Jamal Lewis mostly only disappoints when he’s in court or prison rather than on the field. Plus, the always great defense is promising to mimic the ’85 Bears, arguably the best defensive squad in NFL history, by working the 46 defense into their schemes. That’s lovely. It should be fun to watch. And it’ll certainly give a lot of teams fits. But the 46 is a run-stopping D, and the Colts, Edgerrin James or no Edgerrin James, have a pass-oriented offense. And 20 years later, every coach in the league knows that the way you beat the 46 is to throw to the weak side. You know who the Colts’ weak-side receiver is? Reggie Wayne. So I predict a lot of the Colts coming out of the huddle in a run formation, spotting the 46, audibling to a pass play and getting the ball to Wayne. And unless the Ravens can switch up quick and get a pass rush on, they’re gonna end up watching their secondary get burned bigtime out of those zones. And given the fact that defenses take time to gel, I’m going with the Colts to win and cover.

Philadelphia (-1) at Atlanta
What a way to bookend opening weekend. Raiders at Pats to kick it off; this game to wrap it up. Holy moly. It’s just too bad the only Falcon who can catch the ball worth a damn is the tight end. That don’t win football games. Not even at home. Take the conference champions and give the stinkin’ point.

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