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Week Three Picks

September 19th, 2019 No comments

The darts in week two struck only slightly less accurately than they did in week one. I’ll take it.

I was right on 11 of 16 games picking straight up last weekend, and on eight against the spread. That lands me at 23-8-1 (.734) straight up and 16-15-1 (.516) on the young season.

And the really good news is that 14 weeks is a lot of time for me to get way worse at this. Should kick in right around the time I start to think I know something — maybe two weeks from now.

Here’s what not to expect in week three.

Tennessee (-1.5) at Jacksonville
Here’s where the Jaguars finally get a win. It’s pretty much guaranteed. What makes me so sure? Simple: I always pick the Thursday night games wrong. And I’m expecting the Titans to win by a field goal.

Denver (+7.5) at Green Bay
Every time the Broncos take the field, the Ravens end up looking that much smarter. Green Bay by nine.

Detroit (+6) at Philadelphia
I’d take the home team in this match no matter which it was. Eagles by three.

Baltimore (+6.5) at Kansas City
Although their stats indubitably are skewed by the fact that they faced weak opposition in their first two games, I think the Ravens are the more complete, more balanced team. Were this game being played in Baltimore, I’d be sorely tempted to pick them. But it’s in Kansas City, so I’ll just look for the Ravens to make it interesting. Chiefs by a point. At the buzzer.

Cincinnati (+6) at Buffalo
Sooner or later, the Bills are going to have to face a good opponent. … Wait, what’s that again? Oh, OK. … Next week, the Bills are gong to have to face a good opponent. But next week isn’t this week, is it? Buffalo by seven.

Atlanta (+1.5) at Indianapolis
Hey, look, the Colts are playing a home game! That’s novel. Indy by a field goal (yes, an Adam Vinatieri field goal).

Oakland (+9) at Minnesota
Which one of these teams is more uneven? Why it’s the Raiders, of course. Though maybe not by quite as much as one might be temped to think. Vikings by six.

NY Jets (+22) at New England
Maybe the only thing stranger than seeing a 22-point spread on an NFL game is figuring it’s pretty safe to give the points. The Patriots outscored their first two opponents this season by a combined 76-3. And one of those teams not only had a quarterback (at the time), but a decent team around him. New England by 36.5. (And the Jets front office asks the musical question, “We fired Todd Bowles for what exactly?”)

Miami (+22) at Dallas
You almost get the feeling that Vegas doesn’t think very highly of certain AFC East teams. The Dolphins were outscored 102-10 in their first two games. They were home games. Cowboys by as many as they want. But for the purposes of this prediction, let’s figure the margin comes out at something like 51.

NY Giants (+6.5) at Tampa Bay
New quarterback, same old struggles for New Jersey. Bucs by seven.

Carolina (+1.5) at Arizona
You might have heard this, but quarterback is kind of an important position in football. Cardinals by three.

New Orleans (+4) at Seattle
See immediately above. Seahawks by six.

Houston (+3) at LA Chargers
I don’t know. I think the Texans are a bit better than anyone seems to realize. Houston by three.

Pittsburgh (+6.5) at San Francisco
I’ve got a feeling the Steelers are going to end up being a fairly strong team before this season is out. But not quite yet. Niners by seven.

LA Rams (-3) at Cleveland
The Browns are 1-1 headed for 1-6.

Because the Browns are still the Browns. Rams by 10.

Chicago (-4) at Washington
The Bears are nothing to get excited about. But the Racists are a misfortune headed for a disaster. Chicago by five.

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Week Two Picks

September 12th, 2019 No comments

Not bad for pure guesswork. I suppose.

I got out of week one with records of 12-3-1 (.781) picking straight up and 8-7-1 (.531) picking against the spreads. It was pure luck that got me there, of course. No one knows what the hell to expect in week one. Or week two for that matter. My darts just happened to land on the right part of the board more often than not.

Let’s see if I can’t plunge toward mediocrity with this week’s wild and largely uninformed guesses. Which is to say, here’s what not to expect in week two.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Carolina
Jameis Winston is a turnover machine. And he’s extra fond of giving the ball to he Carolina defense. In seven career starts against the Panthers, Winston has thrown nine picks and lost five fumbles. You don’t need me to do this math for you, but I will anyhow: That’s an average of two giveaways a game. Not a hopeful sign for a team traveling on short rest. Panthers by nine.

Indianapolis (+3) at Tennessee
As if the Colts didn’t have enough obstacles to deal with this season, they get to start year with two straight road games. Who knows, maybe Marlon Mack goes off again this week. And maybe it makes a difference this time. But I’m not counting on either of those results. Titans by four.

LA Chargers (-2.5) at Detroit
Whichever team comes closest to playing all four quarters this week wins. I’m thinking that’s probably the Chargers. By a point.

Buffalo (-1.5) at NY Giants
The Bills wrap up their two-week residency in East Rutherford with a Super Bowl XXV rematch. How exciting! Better still, if the Bills win, they capture the title in the closely watched real New York vs. fake New York occasional football tournament. And all the rest of the league will be able to do is look on in envy. Buffalo by a field goal.

Arizona (+13.5) at Baltimore
On one hand, this week’s unimpressive Ravens opponent actually appears at least to be interested in playing to a tie. On the other, the Cardinals have to travel across the country to play an early game against a team that is probably a good bit better than they are. On the third hand, well, there is no third hand, of course. (Are you new here?) Ravens by 17.

New England (-18.5) at Miami
This year, it’ll be a miracle if Dolphins manage to put as much as three points on the board. Patriots by 28.

Dallas (-5) at Washington
In which the Cowboys continue to masquerade as an elite football team, a pageant that is scheduled to end two weeks from now in New Orleans. Dalls by a field goal.

Jacksonville (-9) at Houston
Can Gardner Minshew continue to complete 88% of his passes? Can he continue to throw TDs on eight percent of his passes? Can he maintain his 11 yards per attempt? His 122.5 passer rating? These are the big questions. … No they aren’t. They barely qualify as little questions. They do have a little answer, though. It’s no. Texans by six.

Seattle (+4) at Pittsburgh
The Seahawks barely got by the Bengals at home. They’re not traveling across the country and beating an angry, embarrassed and desperate Steelers squad. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

San Francisco (+1.5) at Cincinnati
YepIn case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not particularly high on the 2019 Bengals. But they’ve got to be better than the Buccaneers. And playing a second straight game on the road is always a challenge. Cincinnati by a point.

Minnesota (+3) at Green Bay
Dear Vikings: Woody Hayes is 32 years dead. You may need to work out a passing attack at some point. Packers by four.

Kansas City (-7.5) at Oakland
Patrick Mahomes’ ankle might prove problematic at some point this season. But not this week. It’s a second straight road game for the Chiefs, and against a division rival no less, which makes seven and a half feel excessive to me. But only by a couple of points. Chiefs by six.

New Orleans (+2.5) at LA Rams
I’m not sure I’d pick the Saints in Los Angeles under any circumstances. But traveling on a short week after their nail-biter at home on Monday night? I just don’t see the ball bouncing their way this time. Should be a great one to watch, though. Rams by four.

Chicago (-2.5) at Denver
Am I crazy or is this the one of the easiest picks of the week? Bears by a touchdown.

Philadelphia (-1.5) at Atlanta
The Falcons kind of have to win this game. Which is a shame for them. Because they’re not going to. Eagles by six.

Cleveland (-2.5) at NY Jets
I’m not even sure the Jets are going to be able to field a complete team. Browns by seven.

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Week One Picks

September 4th, 2019 Comments off

There’s a part of me that really likes picking week one games. It’s the part that should be in control throughout the season, the one that says, “Dude, you know exactly nothing. Stop thinking. Take your best guess and move on.”

This is the one week I’m smart enough to listen. Or where I make it look like I’m smart enough to listen by virtue of having nothing I can pretend to base my inaccurate picks on.

For whatever little it’s worth, I wrapped up the 2018 regular season 163-91-2 (.641) straight up and 124-122-10 (.504) with the points. I went 5-6 in the postseason both picking straight and picking against the spread, which landed me at an aggregate 168-97-2 (.631) straight up, 129-128-10 (.502). But, you know, I totally nailed Super Bowl LIII (yes, I am going to keep pointing that out; you would, too). So I’m going into this year riding high.

Here’s what not to expect (or maybe what you should expect; I don’t know) as the 2019 NFL season gets underway.

Green Bay (+3) at Chicago
The line on this game amounts to Vegas saying, “Yeah, we don’t know either.” Which I suppose is kind of comforting. Now watch me hedge: Bears by a point.

Atlanta (+4) at Minnesota
I’ve got both of these teams making the playoffs this season. So that’s a little bit of a thing. Entirely beside the point in week one, of course. But a bit of a thing just the same. In any meeting of evenly matched squads you take the home team. So I’m taking the home team. Vikings by three.

Washington (+9.5) at Philadelphia
The Eagles should be the better team here by quite a lot. And maybe they really are that much better than the Racists. But nine and a half in a division game? It’s just too much. Philadelphia by a touchdown.

Buffalo (+3) at NY Jets
It’s almost a given that one of these teams won’t lose this week. I’ll just figure it works out to be the home team. Jets by two.

Baltimore (-7) at Miami
If I weren’t expecting the Ravens to get off to a bit of a slow start (what with the whole new offense thing) I might be tempted to give the points. The Ravens still should win this game (unless they don’t), but I’m thinking it’s by something more like four.

Kansas City (-3.5) at Jacksonville
I’d love to feel good about picking the Jaguars. I really would. I mean, look, the Chiefs have no defense. Nick Foles ought to be able to do something with that, right? And Jacksonville should once again have a very good D, so maybe they can limit the much ballyhooed Kansas City O. But I don’t know. A loss by everybody’s Super Bowl LIV favorites on opening weekend would be just too perfect, wouldn’t it? Too perfect indeed. I’m gonna call a close (one-point) victory by Kansas City, and mischievously hope for an outright upset by the home dogs.

Tennessee (+5.5) at Cleveland
If this game were being played in Nashville, I’m pretty sure I’d take the Titans. I know the Browns are everybody’s pet pick this season, but I’m not entirely sold. Cleveland has some O line issues. And Tennessee has the personnel on the defensive front to expose those. I don’t think it will be enough to earn the Titans a win in Cleveland on opening day. But I do think it will keep things close. Browns by a field goal.

LA Rams (-3) at Carolina
The Rams are just the better team. Los Angeles by six.

Cincinnati (+9.5) at Seattle
Don’t even think about putting money on this game. Nine and a half points in week one. Are you kidding? Yeah, the Seahawks win. And they probably cover. But one weird bounce and it’s a late field-goal to cut the lead to 7 or extend it to 10 and you’re shaking your head and muttering about how you should have known better. And you should have. Since there’s no money on the line for me, I’ll say Seattle by 10.

Indianapolis (+6.5) at LA Chargers
Can you belive the team in this game scrambling to replace a retired QB is the Colts? Chargers by a touchdown.

NY Giants (+7) at Dallas
Seven’s a lot to give in a divisional game. But the Giants are not a good football team. And the Cowboys should at least sustain the illusion that they’re a good football team through the early part of this season. Dallas by nine.

Detroit (-2.5) at Arizona
Better line play wins the day. Detroit by four.

San Francisco (pick ’em) at Tampa Bay
Neither of these teams is going far this season. But the Niners come into the campaign in slightly better shape than the Bucs. San Francisco by three.

Pittsburgh (+5.5) at New England
You’ve no doubt heard or read about Tom Brady‘s career success in home games against the Steelers. And, yeah 5-0 with 18 TDs, 0 INTs, and a passer rating of 130.8 is … well, it’s pretty damned good. But it’s meaningless in terms of forecasting this game. Every season is different. Every game is different. And the Patriots and Steelers teams that will meet on Sunday night are different from the Patriots and Steelers who have met in the past. Don’t get me wrong. This looks to me like a New England win. I just think it’s likely to be a defensive victory. Maybe 16-10. Something like that. So, yeah, I guess I’m still giving the points.

Houston (+7) at New Orleans
The Texans are going to win a few games this season. But this won’t be one of them. Saints by 10.

Denver (pick ’em) at Oakland
… Not with a bang but a whimper. Oakland (I guess). By a field goal (probably.)

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2019 Season Predictions

September 3rd, 2019 Comments off

I think I’ll start by noting that a year ago at this time, I predicted the Patriots would beat the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Seriously. I totally did.

And then (ready for this?) the week before the game, I predicted that the Patriots would force Jared Goff to make a fatal mistake late in the game and that New England would come away with a 10-point victory. Which is, you know, exactly what ended up happening. And, OK, sure, I got pretty much everything in between completely wrong. But still, pretty good, right?

So what I should do now is retire from making any kind of predictions. Because I’m never doing any better than that.

And also, trying to predict the outcomes of football games five months in advance is an exceedingly stupid thing to do. But, uh, I guess I’m an exceedingly stupid person. Because once again, here I go.

As usual, I’m not going to predict win-loss records. I’ve found I can be just as wrong just as often in offering a range of the total wins I think each team is capable of. And then, I’ll get into specific matchups and outcomes in my postseason predictions, mostly because I can’t come up with a way out of it.

Let’s get on with it, then, shall we?

AFC East

New England Patriots, 12-14
The 2019 Patriots offense was always going to need a bit of time to get into a groove. No, not because Tom Brady is 42 years old, though there will be no shortage of pundits and fans ready to pin a slow offensive start on the GOAT. And not entirely because of the significant adjustment losing a player like Rob Gronkowski requires, though Gronk’s retirement is certainly a significant factor (and one the will be pointed to frequently by frustrated fans and gleeful haters alike). It’s to do with the scope of changes the O has undergone during the off-season. The New England offense during Brady’s career has been better than most (all?) at adjusting to change. But even they need time to work things out on the field. And that task became even harder with the last-minute loss of their starting center to injured reserve. I expect the Pats to lean on the ground game early on, perhaps through the entire first half of the season. And I expect that shift to scare the life out of fans. But at the same time, I expect a Patriots defense that looks stronger than it has in maybe 16 years to allow the new offense the luxury to grow into itself. And assuming everything manages to click by the time December rolls around, I expect New England go to into the postseason strong and ready to make yet another run at the championship.

Buffalo Bills, 7-10
The Bills were maybe a half step better than a shrug a year ago. And they’ve probably improved by half a step, which means they should be a shrug and a friendly sigh this season. But they’ve also got a tough schedule. So maybe the ball bounces their way a few times and they finish a bit better than last season’s 6-10. And maybe not.

New York Jets, 5-8
Somewhere in the middle of their transition from a one-dimensional team focused on defense to a one-dimensional team focused on offense, the Jets may accidentally achieve enough balance to win a few games they really should lose.

Miami Dolphins, 2-4
The Dolphins weren’t looking like a very good team even before they gave up on the season (or didn’t, even though they did). Which might explain why they gave up on the season.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-11
The Steelers are going to go as far this season as their defense takes them. And that’s not my way of saying I think Ben Roethlisberger can’t or won’t pick up where he left off in 2018, which wasn’t his best season but was his best season in quite some time. I honestly don’t know whether he can, particularly in light of the Steelers’ meaningful off-season changes in offensive personnel. But I do know that the younger, more athletic D Pittsburgh is fielding this season looks like the kind of unit that can carry a team with an evolving offense for at least half a season, and possibly a good bit longer. The Steelers may miss the playoffs again. Or they may get to the second or third round. Which it is will depend largely on just how good Pittsburgh’s D turns out to be.

Cleveland Browns, 8-12
Maybe the Browns turn out to be as good as the hype around them would have one believe. Maybe they turn out to be the Browns yet again.

Baltimore Ravens, 7-11
Lamar Jackson might take a step back this year. Or he might not. And if he does, it will probably be less about Jackson than the Ravens’ new offense. (Jackson’s a talented QB, who’s going to work out just fine for Baltimore over the long term.) Whether the Ravens end up repeating as division champs or getting an early start to their off-season will depend not only upon how Jackson plays, but on whether the D is up to last year’s high standard, and whether the team gets a few good bounces over the course of a challenging schedule.

Cincinnati Bengals, 5-7
The best thing that can happen with the Bengals this year is that they finally figure out their quarterback is a liability.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts, 7-11
I thought about changing my forecast for the Colts following Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement. And then I didn’t. No disrespect to Luck, who was a terrific passer when he was healthy. It’s just that you never really knew how healthy Luck was or how long he’d stay that way (which, you know, is a huge part of why he’s now retired). I still feel about the Colts roughly the same way I feel about the rest of the AFC South. They could be good. They could be mediocre. They shouldn’t be awful. And they probably can’t be great. Let’s see how the ball bounces.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-11
Another AFC South team I have no idea what to make of. (See the second half of my thoughts on the Colts above.)

Tennessee Titans, 7-11
And another.

Houston Texans, 7-11
And still another.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers, 11-13
I know it’s heresy to pick any team except the Chiefs to win the AFC West this season. (Hell, it may be heresy to pick any team other than the Chiefs to take the conference title.) But I’m one of those folks who remembers that the Chargers exist. And, well, they were good enough last year to reach the divisional round. And this year’s squad is probably a notch better than last year’s. So let’s see what happens.

Kansas City Chiefs, 10-12
I’d probably go along with the crowd and take the Chiefs to win the division if Kansas City had used the off-season to develop a defense. It didn’t. (This, I have to say, is not a surprise.) The Chiefs O is still more than good enough to carry a team to a division title and deep into the playoffs. But the team is going to falter eventually. It’s just a question of when.

Oakland Raiders, 5-7
The Raiders are probably going in the right direction. But they’re not getting there fast. Not in this division.

Denver Broncos, 3-6
I’ve never been a Joe Flacco hater. He’s fine. Not as good as he thinks he is. Not as bad as his detractors make him out to be. Fine. But Flacco is not the answer in Denver.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles, 9-12
Philadelphia put a balanced team on the field last season. And were it not for a bit of wear following their 2017 title run, they might have repeated as division champs. As it was, they seemed to figure things out down the stretch and into the first week of the postseason. They look like a pretty balanced squad again this year. And I’m expecting a little more experience and a little more rest to make a difference.

Dallas Cowboys, 8-11
Last season, the Cowboys struggled early and surged late, earning a division title and winning in the wild card round before falling to the eventual conference champion Rams. I expect to see the opposite this year. The Cowboys should come hot out of the gate, but I suspect they’ll stumble as the games get tougher down the stretch. In the end, I think the best they’ll manage is a wild card berth.

Washington Racists, 7-11
I think the Racists are still probably a season away from making a run at the division and the playoffs. But I won’t be shocked if it turns out I’m not giving them enough credit.

New York Giants, 4-7
The Giants have some work to do.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings, 8-12
I’m looking at the NFC North in much the same way I see the AFC South. Except for this part: I know that I’m supposed to be excited about at least one (most seem to think it’s this one) and perhaps as many as three of these teams (all but the Lions). But I’m just not. Which isn’t to say I think they’ll all stink. I actually think the division may send two teams to the postseason. It’s just that I couldn’t tell you which two. And I think all four of them have a shot

Green Bay Packers, 8-12
Maybe they’ll be great. Maybe they won’t. Depends in a lot of ways on whether Aaron Rodgers believes he’s playing for the Packers or playing for himself.

Chicago Bears, 7-11
I’m still not sold on Mitchell Trubisky. But sometimes I’m wrong about stuff.

Detroit Lions, 7-11
I still believe football games are won and lost in the trenches. So I still believe the Lions can win games. How many depends on whether they can do more than win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints, 12-14
Sooner or later age is going to catch up with Drew Brees (just as it’s going to catch up with the guy in New England). But I’ve seen nothing that leads me to believe it’s going to happen this season. The Saints ran away with the division last season. They may get more of a challenge this time around. But they still come out on top.

Atlanta Falcons, 9-12
The Falcons might have made a run at the division a year ago if they’d been a bit healthier. They still wouldn’t have overtaken the Saints, mind you. But they might have made it interesting. Maybe this year.

Carolina Panthers, 7-11
If Cam Newton can stay healthy (assuming he’s actually healthy right now), the Panthers can be dangerous. Do you believe Newton can stay healthy? Because I’m not sure I do.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-8
I’m confident Bruce Arians can get the Buccaneers turned around. But not all at once.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams, 11-14
The Rams look like the kind of team that’s going to be very good for a very long time. And unless the Seahawks surge, I think that puts Los Angeles in line for a third straight division title and probably at least a first round bye.

Seattle Seahawks, 10-12
The Seahawks definitely have the look of a postseason contender again this year. Whether they end up on the road as a wild card qualifier or at home for at least a week probably comes down to whether they can split the season series with the Rams, something they didn’t manage last year. Which means Seattle will probably know what their postseason prospects look like come October 3.

San Francisco 49ers, 7-10
The 49ers might be dangerous this year if Jimmy Garoppolo can shake off the rust quickly. Me, I tend to think Garoppolo’s going to need at least half a season to get into form. And by then, the Niners will probably be looking ahead to 2020.

Arizona Cardinals, 4-6
Kyler Murray should be fun to watch, anyhow.

Playoffs

This is the really stupid part of this exercise. (OK, the extra stupid part.) The part where I pretend it makes some kind of sense to predict what will happen 17, 18, 19, 20 or 22 weeks down the road. Because that makes sense.

AFC
1. New England
2. L.A. Chargers
3. Pittsburgh
4. Jacksonville
5. Kansas City
6. Cleveland

NFC
1. New Orleans
2. L.A. Rams
3. Philadelphia
4. Minnesota
5. Seattle
6. Atlanta

Wild Card Playoffs

AFC
Pittsburgh defeats Cleveland
Kansas City defeats Jacksonville

NFC
Atlanta defeats Philadelphia
Seattle defeats Minnesota

Divisional Playoffs

AFC
Los Angeles defeats Pittsburgh
New England defeats Kansas City

NFC
New Orleans defeats Atlanta
Los Angeles defeats Seattle

Conference Championships

AFC
New England defeats Los Angeles

NFC
New Orleans defeats Los Angeles

Super Bowl LIV (forever to be known as the Geezer Bowl)
New England defeats New Orleans

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