Archive for September, 2017

Week Four Picks

September 28th, 2017 Comments off

Seems like maybe we got upside-down week out of the way early this season.

Or maybe not. Three weeks in, it’s kind of hard to tell whether some of last week’s results — seven underdogs won straight up — were quirky or revealing. Maybe some of the bad teams are better than we thought. Maybe some of the good ones aren’t quite so good.

Until I have solid evidence to the contrary, though, I’m going with the early upside-down week theory. But that’s mostly because it allows me to feel not so terrible about my picking performance.

I went 8-8 straight up in week three, 7-9 against the spread. That’s pretty damned terrible. And it dragged down my performance or the season, which had been solidly on the bad side of average going in. I’m now 27-20 (.574) straight up, 22-25 (.468) against the spread.

Come back next week and see me spin up another excuse for a poor performance. Until then, here’s what not to expect in week four.

Chicago (+7) at Green Bay
It’s hard to imagine the Packers have solved their glaring O line issues over the last four days. Or solved their problems on defense. Maybe they’ll be able to do some of that work as they prepare to host Dallas in week five. In the meantime, Green Bay should still be able to figure out a way to get out of Chicago with a win. Packers by six.

New Orleans (-3) vs. Miami at Wembley Stadium, London
If you can’t control the Jets, do you have any hope of containing the Saints? The answer is no, you really, really don’t. Playing on the soccer pitch at Wembley may slow New Orleans down a bit, I suppose (didn’t seem to be much of a problem for the mighty Jaguars, though). But what does that figure out to? I’m thinking if the Dolphins have a good day, we’re looking at Saints by 10.

Carolina (+9) at New England
The Panthers haven’t shown much on offense this season. But their defense was looking pretty good through two games. Until they ran into an NFL offense for the first time. And, yeah, I do know that the New England D has struggled. But the New Orleans D is no great shakes either, and it managed to hold Carolina to 13 points. Cam Newton and Tom Brady have been sacked 10 times each through three games. That’s a problem in the making for both Carolina and New England. But it’s notable that Brady’s 10 sacks have come on 120 drops back while Newton’s have come on 93. It’s also notable that Brady’s thrown for a league-leading 1,092 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions while Newton’s managed 566 yards, two TDs and four picks. Last week, I was reluctant to give up 13.5 points (and I was right). This week, the idea of giving nine doesn’t trouble me in the least. New England by 13.

LA Rams (+6.5) at Dallas
Neither of these teams has managed a win over an impressive opponent so far this season. (Each is 0-1 against tough competition.) And if the Rams are the team I went into the season thinking they were, my opening statement will still apply come Sunday evening. Cowboys by a touchdown.

Detroit (off) at Minnesota
I feel the same way the oddsmakers do about this game, which is to say that I can’t guess at what’s likely to happen without knowing whether Sam Bradford will play. My hunch is he won’t. So my hunch is the Lions win. Let’s say it’s by a field goal.

Tennessee (-1.5) at Houston
The AFC South is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and entertaining divisions in football, not just this season but potentially for the next several. The Titans are a bit farther along in their development than the Texans at the moment, so I’m looking for them to pull out the win here. But the margin might be just a point.

Jacksonville (-3) at NY Jets
It’s starting to look like the Jags may be for real. Unless the trip back from London took too much out of them, Jacksonville should take this one handily. And even if they’re a bit jetlagged, I’m thinking Jaguars by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (-3) at Cleveland
Enjoy your Sunday afternoon, football fans of Ohio. Should be a real barn burner. Bengals by four. Or more than four. Whatever.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Baltimore
Game one of the 2017 AFC North championship series goes to the team with the quarterback who throws more touchdowns than picks. Evidence suggests that should be the visitors. Pittsburgh by six.

Buffalo (+8) at Atlanta
If this game were in Buffalo, I’d … well, I’d still pick the Falcons straight up, but I might take the Bills to cover. Atlanta by 10.

NY Giants (+3) at Tampa Bay
Whichever of these teams I pick to win is gonna lose. Because that’s what they do. You can thank me later, Giants fans. Tampa by seven.

Philadelphia (+1.5) at LA Chargers
Maybe the Chargers are better than they’ve looked. Maybe the Eagles are worse. Maybe the cross-country travel will trip up the Eagles. Or maybe the Eagles win this one by three.

San Francisco (+7) at Arizona
The first of three straight road games for the 49ers. They may win the middle one. Cardinals by four.

Oakland (+3) at Denver
I’m not sure whether to take the team with the quarterback or the team with the defense. So I’m taking the easy way out and going with the home team (also the one with the D). Broncos win it straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Indianapolis (+13) at Seattle
The Seahawks have not looked good so far this season. But the Colts have been downright awful. I’m riding with not awful and looking forward to a riveting Sunday night. Seattle by 12. (See what I did there?)

Washington (+7) at Kansas City
Alex Smith in his career is a 62 percent passer with a TD/INT ratio of 1.8/1 and a passer rating of 86.2. He was better than that in his first four seasons in Kansas City, completing 64.5 percent of this passes, throwing 2.7 TDs for each interception, and earning a passer rating of 92.2. Only once has he ever led the league in any statistical category for a season. That was 2011, when his interception percentage, 1.1, was the high mark. Through his first three games this season, Smith has a league-best completion percentage of 77.4 and a league-best passer rating of 132.7. He’s thrown seven touchdowns, against zero interceptions, second only to Tom Brady (8/0). I’m not saying Smith’s numbers are going to regress toward the mean, but … um, yeah, that’s actually what I’m saying. Maybe starting here. Kansas City still comes out on top by a field goal.

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Week Three Picks

September 21st, 2017 Comments off

It’ll be about two more weeks before we really start to know anything about the identities of NFL teams in 2017. And then I won’t have any excuse for picking games so terribly.

For the nonce, I’m gonna keep on blaming uncertainty for my failures. Which is to say, hey, it’s not my fault I stunk up the field again in week two. I went 10-6 straight up, 7-9 against the spread. For the season, that gets me to 19-12 (.613) straight up, 15-16 (.484).

Sure, it could have been worse. But then again, it probably will be.

Here’s what not to expect in week three.

LA Rams (-2.5) at San Francisco
The Rams are probably the better team in this match. Better by enough to win on the road on short rest? Don’t know. Don’t think so. Niners by a point.

Baltimore (-3.5) vs. Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium, London
The Ravens have started this season doing one of the things a team needs to do in order to position itself for success over the long haul, winning the games it’s supposed to win. Things get a bit more challenging next week when Baltimore hosts the Pittsburgh. But that’s next week. The only major difference between this game and the Ravens’ first two is setting. Let’s deduct a touchdown from Baltimore’s average margin of victory in those games to account for jetlag and call it Ravens by 10.

Cleveland (-1) at Indianapolis
You know things are bad when you’re getting a point from the Browns in your own building. But I’m not convinced the Colts are quite that awful. Indianapolis by a field goal.

Pittsburgh (-7.5) at Chicago
The Bears are pretty much exactly that awful. Pittsburgh by 13.

Miami (-6) at NY Jets
And so are the Jets. Even adjusting for division rival familiarity, I like the visitors to come out ahead here by at least seven.

Denver (-3) at Buffalo
The Bills might actually have a solid defense. The Broncos certainly do. Denver by four.

Houston (+13.5) at New England
You know, I’m totally aware of the thing with rookie quarterbacks vs. Bill Belichick-coached teams. And I know the Texans are one of about 16 NFL teams that have struggled with offensive line play so far this season. But I’m also aware of the fact that the Houston Texans have a strong defense. So, yeah, I’m taking the Patriots here. And I won’t be surprised if they win by 10. But I’m not giving most of two touchdowns.

New Orleans (+6) at Carolina
The Panthers might not have enough offense to overcome the Saints. Or they might have just enough to get by, which would spell doom for New Orleans in 2017. Carolina by three.

Tampa Bay (+1) at Minnesota
The Bucs are a better team than most realize. That’ll change soon enough. Tampa Bay by four.

Atlanta (-3) at Detroit
Maybe I’ve been wrong all along. Maybe there will be no Super Bowl hangover for the Falcons. We’ll be a lot closer to knowing coming out of this game. Atlanta by one.

NY Giants (+6) at Philadelphia
If New Jersey doesn’t solve its offensive line issues soon, they’re going to end up out of the running by midseason. It would be sad to see a team squander all that potential. But it happens sometimes. Eagles by three.

Seattle (+2.5) at Tennessee
The Seahawks appear to have some things they need to work out. Titans by six.

Kansas City (-3) at LA Chargers
The Chiefs so far have looked like one of the best teams in the NFL. The Chargers may be among the worst. Kansas City by seven.

Cincinnati (+9) at Green Bay
The Packers have a few things to work on. The Bengals have everything to work on. Green Bay by 13.

Oakland (-3) at Washington
The Racists haven’t been able to so much as slow down an opponents’ passing attack so far this season. I don’t expect them to start here. Oakland by 10.

Dallas (-3) at Arizona
The Cowboys can’t afford to drop a second straight game. I suspect they won’t. Dallas by one.

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Week Two Picks

September 14th, 2017 Comments off

Grant Hart is dead. So this week is already officially filled to overflowing with suck. Thanks for nothing, universe.

Oh, also, my week one football picks didn’t work out so great. I went 9-6 straight up, 8-7 against the spread. I suppose I could have done worse (particularly against the spread). But I could have done a lot better. Let’s see which direction this miserable week takes me in.

Here’s what not to expect.

Houston (+6.5) at Cincinnati
Both of these teams suffered embarrassing losses in their home openers on Sunday. One of them has to fare at least somewhat better this time out. I’m thinking it’ll probably be the one that isn’t starting a rookie quarterback in a road game on short rest. Just, you know, a hunch. Bengals by two touchdowns.

Tennessee (-2.5) at Jacksonville
Put me down as yet one more person inclined to think both Jacksonville’s big road win and Tennessee’s big home loss in week one had less to do with the teams facing off here than with the quality of their respective opening weekend opponents. Tennessee by a field goal.

Cleveland (+7.5) at Baltimore
I don’t know when we’ll find out whether the Ravens defense is for real. But I feel fairly confident it won’t be this week. Baltimore logs another shutout, while once again putting double digits on their side of the scoreboard.

Buffalo (+7.5) at Carolina
Facing the Panthers in Charlotte may prove a bit more challenging than hosting the Jets. I think. Carolina by six.

New England (-6.5) at New Orleans
The Patriots played terribly in all three phases of the game in their opening night home loss to the Chiefs. That’s not something you expect to see from New England in one consecutive game let alone two. And given that the Saints will be playing on short rest following their own lackluster losing effort in Minnesota Monday night, I’m thinking that if the Patriots can get it right on offense and special teams this time around, that should be enough to get the job done. Patriots by a touchdown.

Arizona (-7.5) at Indianapolis
It would appear there’s a chance that no matter who lines up behind center, the Colts are just an awful team. Cardinals by 10.

Philadelphia (+4.5) at Kansas City
I knew the Chiefs were a good team heading into the season. They may yet be better than I realized. Kansas City by nine.

Minnesota (+6) at Pittsburgh
I’d pick the home team in this matchup no matter where it was being played. Pittsburgh by three.

Chicago (+7) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers finally get to open their season. And they do it with a win. Tampa by 10.

Miami (+4.5) at LA Chargers
The Dolphins also get a late start on kicking off their 2017 campaign. The Chargers, meanwhile, officially take a run at starting that new tiny stadium trend they’ve been talking about. Los Angeles Jr. by seven.

NY Jets (+14) at Oakland
The Jets reportedly are planning to make the most of their final visit to the Black Hole by cosplaying as a real NFL football team. They won’t play like one, of course. But one can only ask so much. Raiders by 20.

Washington (+2.5) at LA Rams
The Racists are probably better than the Colts. Probably. Rams by four.

Dallas (-2) at Denver
The Cowboys are almost certainly better than the Chargers. Better than the Broncos, too, for that matter. Dallas by six.

San Francisco (+13.5) at Seattle
Oof! Seahawks by 17.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Atlanta
The Falcons caught a break when they drew the Bears as their opening week opponent. Here’s where the Super Bowl hangover kicks in. Packers by six.

Detroit (+3.5) at NY Giants
The Lions are still a better team than they get credit for being. But the Giants are a much better than the team we saw on the field last Sunday night. Better, probably healthier, and playing at home makes a huge difference. New Jersey by five.

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Week One Picks

September 7th, 2017 Comments off

I don’t even know how to start one of these things when I don’t have previous weeks’ results to beat myself up over.

Wanna hear about my disappointing workout from this morning? I didn’t think so.

So let’s just get straight to the part where I make stupid statements about football games, shall we?

Here’s what not to expect in week one of the 2017 NFL season.

Kansas City (+9) at New England
The Chiefs were a good football team last season. And I think they’re likely to be very nearly as good this season. They’re also a well coached team that typically doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I think that — plus the fact that the New England defense still has some coming together to do — positions Kansas City to keep this game close throughout the evening. And it’s only a late score by the Patriots that makes the victory appear more decisive than it’s likely to be. New England by 10.

NY Jets (+8) at Buffalo
The Bills aren’t a good team, but they may very well look like one coming out of this game. Buffalo by 13.

Atlanta (-7) at Chicago
Let’s say you had a football team that really needed to get its season off to a strong start, because maybe the previous campaign ended in a way that could possibly do real, long-term damage to your players’ psyches. Just a, you know, hypothetical here. But let’s say you had that situation. You could do a whole lost worse by way of your opening week opponent than the Chicago Bears. In that hypothetical situation, I mean. Falcons by double the spread.

Jacksonville (+5.5) at Houston
There’s an old saying about how if a football team has two starting quarterbacks, it really doesn’t have any. I’m not sure whether there’s a saying about two teams having no starting quarterbacks. Other than, you know, ugh. Texans by six.

Philadelphia (-1) at Washington
I feel fairly confident (it is week one, you know) that the Eagles are the better team in this match. But I’m not sure they’re better by enough to beat the Racists in their home opener. Washington by a field goal.

Arizona (-1.5) at Detroit
This looks to me like a fairly even match between a pair good but unbalanced teams. And in even matches, particularly in week one, the wise move is to go with the home team. Lions by a field goal.

Oakland (+2) at Tennessee
I think there’s an excellent chance these teams could meet again in January. And the outcome of this game could potentially determine the location of that one. Titans by a point.

Baltimore (+3) at Cincinnati
The Ravens are going to finish ahead of the Bengals in the final standings. But they’re not going to finish ahead of the Bengals on the scoreboard this weekend. Cincinnati by three.

Pittsburgh (-8.5) at Cleveland
I’ve got this weird feeling that the Browns … you’re not buying it, are you? OK, here’s the real deal: Steelers by 10.

Indianapolis (+3.5) at LA Rams
This game may well end up determining which of these teams loses more games this season. Rams by a touchdown.

Seattle (+3) at Green Bay
Fox might have caught the best game of the week to anchor its first Sunday double-header of the season. I honestly have no idea how this game is going to turn out, but I can’t wait to see it. My best guess: Packers by four.

Carolina (-5.5) at San Francisco
The Panthers are early contenders to make the Super Bowl. The 49ers are early contenders to earn the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. Carolina by something in the double digits.

NY Giants (+4) at Dallas
The Giants started have taken three in a row from the Cowboys, including a win in Dallas in week one of last season. I think they keep the streak going. New Jersey by three.

New Orleans (+3.5) at Minnesota
I think the Vikings defense can slow the Saints offense. Not sure New Orleans actually even has a defense. Minnesota by four.

LA Chargers (+3.5) at Denver
Sometimes you look at the late game in the opening Monday night double header and wonder if fans on the east coast will be able to stay awake for the conclusion. And sometimes you wonder the same thing about fans on the west coast. Denver wins a defensive struggle 13-10.

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2017 Season Predictions

September 6th, 2017 Comments off

Last year at this time, as you may remember — I’m sure you totally remember — I predicted that the New England Patriots would stage a historic comeback to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

Totally true. You can look it up.

I mean, if you do look it up (because you just can’t take my word for it, can you?) you’ll see that what I wrote was that the Patriots would beat the Seahawks in a Super Bowl XLIX rematch. That’s what I wrote. What I meant, you’ll surely agree, was the other thing, the one that happened.

As it works out, my predictions generally turn out better when I make them after the fact. And the way I see it, that puts me a DeLorean and a flux capacitor away from making this annual exercise worthwhile.

For the nonce, all I can do is state up front that I recognize that it is entirely absurd to make predictions at the start September about the outcome of football games that won’t happen until the end of September — let alone in December, January and February.

But I do it every year anyway. I don’t know why. I’ve stopped asking myself, and I’m pretty sure I’m happier for that.

As always, I won’t try to predict final win-loss records. (Because, you know, that would just be completely over the top.) Instead, what I’ll give you is a range of how many games I think each can win. And based on that ridiculous exercise, I’ll push on to predict postseason seedings and outcomes. All of which is to say that you’ve already read the only content in this post that’s in any way based in rational thinking. And then I ignored that thinking. Move ahead at your own risk.

AFC East

New England Patriots, 12-14
This range of potential wins is pretty much what I predict for the Patriots every year. It’s worked a bunch of times in the past. And I’m pretty sure Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still with the team. So I don’t see a significant reason to change. I know there are some Pats fans (as always) who think 16 wins is a real possibility (even with Julian Edelman gone for the season), but it isn’t, because it never really is. And even the best teams typically find a way to drop two (in some cases, one of the losses happens simply because the team’s week 17 game works out to be meaningless). So when I set my cap at 14, you should read it as me saying this team can be incredible. The defense may need half a season to come together. And everything, as always, turns on how well the O line protects Brady. But if everything happens right, the Pats should land as the one seed. And they could end up as the one seed even if a couple of things happen wrong. That’s about as much as any realistic football fan can ask for.

Miami Dolphins, 6-9
In some seasons, there’s a lot to be said for being the second best team in the AFC East. I don’t think this is one of those. The Dolphins hit the ineptitude perfecta following Ryan Tannehill‘s season-ending injury by paying through the nose to pull Jay Cutler off the scrap heap. I think that nicely presages the team’s move back to the middle of the pack this season.

Buffalo Bills, 4-7
Is being better than the Jets a point of pride?

New York Jets, 1-3
The Jets might stumble into an extra win along the way. And the Patriots might be in a position to hand them a “victory” in week 17. Failing that, they’re a 1-15 team.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-13
The Steelers were good for 11 wins and a visit to New England for the conference championship game last season. And they look like a slightly better team this time out. The only thing I can see possibly getting in the way of Pittsburgh having at least as good a regular season in 2017 as it did in 2016 is Ben Roethlisberger‘s enduring failure to recognize that he is not indestructible.

Baltimore Ravens, 8-11
The Ravens defense should be formidable once again. The offense? Depends on whether Joe Flacco really is at full health (and can stay there). It’s an awfully long season.

Cincinnati Bengals, 5-8
I’m not confident Andy Dalton comes out of this campaign in one piece.

Cleveland Browns, 2-4
I’m sorely tempted to set up a template that populates this space with “The Browns are rebuilding.” Feel like I could save a ton of time that way.

AFC South

Tennessee Titans, 10-12
Heading into last season, I was one of those folks who thought the Titans could potentially be on track for a very strong bounceback from their 3-13 finish in 2015. Worked out we were right. I see them continuing the progression this year. They’re better on both sides of the ball than they were a year ago. I think this team could potentially be very dangerous.

Houston Texans, 8-10
If the Texans had an NFL-ready starting quarterback, they could contend for a division title. They don’t. Still might slide into the six seed if all goes right.

Indianapolis Colts, 6-8
This is not the Colts’ year.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-6
It’s even more not the Jaguars’ year.

AFC West

Oakland Raiders, 10-12
The Raiders have the best quarterback in the division. If the defense can hold up its end, this team could go deep into January.

Kansas City Chiefs, 9-11
The Chiefs were good enough to earn a first round bye and a home game in the 2016 postseason (though not quite good enough to make the most of their advantage). And they’re probably almost as good this season. Trouble is, the Raiders are better this year than they were last.

Denver Broncos, 7-9
I don’t care how good your defense is, you don’t win NFL games consistently if you don’t have a quarterback.

Los Angeles Chargers, 5-7
The Chargers are headed in the wrong direction.

NFC East

New York Giants, 10-12
The Giants were better than they got credit for being last season. I think they’re a little better still this time around. If they can manage a season sweep of the Cowboys again this year, New Jersey will take the division (and they might yet get it done with a split).

Dallas Cowboys, 10-12
I’ve been paying attention to football too long to believe Dak Prescott won’t take some kind of step back from his amazing rookie season. But I’ve also seen enough of Prescott to feel confident that he’s the real deal. I expect the Cowboys will work out whatever kinks they may experience during the first half of the season, then surge just in time to be trouble in the postseason.

Philadelphia Eagles, 8-10
The Eagles have most of the pieces. Let’s see how well they put them together. Might still be a year away from contending with Dallas and New Jersey.

Washington Racists, 6-8
The Racists aren’t a bad football team. They’re just the odd team out in a strong division.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers, 10-13
Same as it ever was: The Packers will go as far as Aaron Rodgers and the offense take them. Maybe the D will pitch in a little bit this year. Or maybe not.

Detroit Lions, 9-11
The Lions surprised me by turning out to be a threat last season. Maybe they’ll surprise me again by taking the division. Or winning a game in the postseason. You never know.

Minnesota Vikings, 9-11
The Vikings also have the ability to surprise me. They could end up legitimately in the mix for the division. Sam Bradford‘s had plenty of time to prepare heading into this campaign. And the team appears to have improved on the O line, and very possibly in the running game, in the off-season. If the defense can play as well as it did a year ago, Minnesota could do some damage.

Chicago Bears, 2-5
And, uh, speaking of damage.

NFC South

Carolina Panthers, 10-13
The Panthers have done the off-season work they needed to do. Assuming Cam Newton‘s shoulder holds up, Carolina looks to me like a team ready to rebound from their post-Super Bowl L slump and resume their position at the top of the division.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8-10
The Buccaneers might be even better than I suspect. But I’ll wait and see.

Atlanta Falcons, 7-9
I don’t think the Falcons have fallen that far from last season. I just have a hunch that it’s going to take them the better part of a season to recover from their collapse in Super Bowl LI. If I’m wrong, look for Atlanta to at least contend for the division if not take it outright again.

New Orleans Saints, 6-8
Drew Brees deserves a better end to his career than the one he appears likely to get.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks, 11-14
The Seahawks probably could have won the NFC West again without putting a better team on the field than they did last year. They improved anyhow. Maybe they’re hoping to advance past the divisional round this time out.

Arizona Cardinals, 8-11
I don’t know that Carson Palmer is consistent enough to carry a team at this stage in his career. Maybe David Johnson is, though. We’ll see.

Los Angeles Rams, 4-7
Maybe next year.

San Francisco 49ers, 2-5
Maybe the year after next.


This is where we cross the line from mostly ridiculous to completely absurd.

1. New England
2. Pittsburgh
3. Oakland
4. Tennessee
5. Kansas City
6. Baltimore

1. Seattle
2. Green Bay
3. Carolina
4. NY Giants
5. Dallas
6. Minnesota

Wild Card Playoffs

Oakland defeats Baltimore
Tennessee defeats Kansas City

Carolina defeats Minnesota
Dallas defeats NY Giants

Divisional Playoffs

Oakland defeats Pittsburgh
New England defeats Tennessee

Seattle defeats Dallas
Carolina defeats Green Bay

Conference Championships

New England defeats Oakland

Seattle defeats Carolina

Super Bowl LII
New England defeats Seattle

Second year in a row I’ve predicted the same Super Bowl. Second year in a row I’m destined to be wrong.

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