Archive for September, 2020

Week Three Picks

September 27th, 2020 Comments off

Well, this week is off to a fine start. I called the Thursday night game backward. And, of course, I should have known. You know, given the quality of the teams and the ease of playing on the road on a Thursday.

Let’s see how much deeper I can dig this hole, shall we?

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

Chicago (+3) at Atlanta
There’s really no picking this game. Even if one were to set aside the still results from these teams’ first two games — the Bears fared well against what we assume are weak teams while the Falcons have performed poorly (and heartbreakingly — if you care about the Falcons) against what we assume are strong teams — it’s not clear that Atlanta’s going to be able to field a team. I guess I’ll assume they are (lot of assumptions here) and hedge a bit by saying home team takes it by a point.

LA Rams (+2) at Buffalo
The Rams have looked good so far this season. But the Bills have looked better. And since Buffalo’s playing at home and the Rams are making the long trip east, I’m thinking Buffalo by a touchdown.

Washington (+7) at Cleveland
This may be a bigger game than many realize. The winner will pretty much have the season they were going to have anyhow, while the loser will face exactly the same fate. Exciting stuff. Browns by six.

Tennessee (-2.5) at Minnesota
Someone should probably tell the Vikings the preseason was canceled, not postponed. The Titans certainly seem to have figured it out. Tennessee by nine.

Las Vegas (+6) at New England
The Raiders offense has been playing very well so far this season. We’ll see if it holds up with a cross-country trip on a short rest. I expect Las Vegas will put up some points. Enough points? Probably not. The Patriots should have a good day against a Raiders D that struggles to stop the run. And that should be enough. New England by seven.

San Francisco (-3) at NY Giants
Anyone know if there’s an over/under on significant injuries in this game? I’m thinking 3.5 would be reasonable. Niners? By two points.

Cincinnati (+4) at Philadelphia
I’ve been able to confirm that there will indeed be a football in play throughout this week’s game. But no one has been able to assure me that either team will recognize it. Eagles by three.

Houston (+4) at Pittsburgh
After this week, the Texans get a short break from what’s been an absolutely brutal schedule. They can look forward to that, anyhow. Steelers by 14.

NY Jets (+11.5) at Indianapolis
The Jets are just not ready. Colts by 10.

Carolina (+6.5) at LA Chargers
The Panthers probably couldn’t win this one at full strength. They’re not at full strength. Chargers by 13.

Tampa Bay (-6) at Denver
Playing in Denver has posed a bit of a challenge for Tom Brady over the years. But winning there hasn’t exactly been impossible for the GOAT. And a fairly weak Broncos team should make the hurdle a little bit easier to clear. Bucs by four.

Detroit (+5.5) at Arizona
Can a team be done after two games? Probably not. But also probably yeah, maybe. Cardinals by 14.

Dallas (+5) at Seattle
Bet the over. And expect fireworks. Seahawks by three.

Green Bay (+3) at New Orleans
The Saints have looked a bit off. Might be just a factor of the unusual circumstances of this season. Might be something else. But it’s something. Packers by a field goal.

Kansas City (+3.5) at Baltimore
The Ravens are just better than the defending champs right now. Still, this should be a spectacular football game. Baltimore by six.

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Week Three Thursday Night

September 24th, 2020 Comments off

I’ve decided I should try to put less thought into my weekly picks.

Why? Because last week, I had next to no time to ponder the games and came out 14-2 picking straight up, 8-8 against the spread. The latter doesn’t matter, since I’m not a gambler and since I go into a season knowing I have no chance of predicting margins of victory before I have a decent set of stats to work with — around week five. The former feels pretty OK.

Here’s my note on tonight’s game. I’ll follow up with the rest once I’ve had a chance to think about them a bit less.

Miami (+3) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars are maybe pretty average. I mean that as a compliment. And even if I didn’t, it would be more than enough at home against the Dolphins on a short week. Jacksonville by six.

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Week Two Picks

September 20th, 2020 Comments off

Hey, look at that. I got the Thursday night game right straight up and against the spread.

Let’s see how much of a mess I can make of a solid start.

NY Giants (+5.5) at Chicago
I don’t think the Bears are quite in regular season form yet. But that’s mostly because I don’t think any team is really in regular form yet. Except maybe the Giants. It’s possible that what we saw Monday night against the Steelers is about what the 2020 Giants are going to be able to bring to the field. Chicago by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+3.5) at Dallas
This matchup at this point in this season goes to the home team. Cowboys by a point.

Detroit (+6) at Green Bay
Division games are often closer than the relative strengths of the teams would otherwise suggest they should be. And still six doesn’t strike me as half enough. Packers by 13.

Jacksonville (+7.5) at Tennessee
The Jaguars might not be so bad after all. Then again, they might. In any event, the division rivalry factor keeps this one closer than it ought to be. Titans by six.

Minnesota (+3) at Indianapolis
One of these teams has to be better than it looked in its opener. Maybe. Vikings by three.

Buffalo (-5.5) at Miami
The Bills are the better team. But Miami isn’t an easy place to play, particularly early in the season when it’s 90 degrees at game time. Buffalo by a field goal.

San Francisco (-7) at NY Jets
Hold on a second. I just need to check on something real quick. … Yeah, works out the Jets are still the Jets. Niners by four.

LA Rams (+1.5) at Philadelphia
I don’t think there’s any way any NFL team’s defense is playing its best football after a single game in a pre-seasonless season. But the Rams D certainly appears to have come strong out of the gate. I like what that says about the team. Los Angeles by three.

Denver (+7) at Pittsburgh
Both of these teams are playing on short rest. The better of the two — and, one suspects, by no small margin — is hosting. Steelers by 10.

Carolina (+8.5) at Tampa Bay
I think we might see a more typical game from the Bucs’ new quarterback this week. Three TDs and 350-ish passing yards, maybe. Something like that. Enough to fuel a comfortable win by the home team. Tampa by two touchdowns.

Washington (+7) at Arizona
Brand X looked better than expected last week at home. I’m not counting on them to keep it up. Cardinals by five.

Kansas City (-8.5) at LA Chargers
I can’t imagine anyone needs me to say anything about this game. Since it’s in Los Angeles, maybe the Chiefs only win by, like, 10.

Baltimore (-7) at Houston
The 2020 Texans can’t catch a break, can they? Ravens by three touchdowns.

New England (+4) at Seattle
It’s not that I don’t think the Patriots can win this game. They can. If it were in Foxborough, they probably would. (And if they meet again on a neutral field in early February, when the Patriots offense has had more time to come together, I suspect they will.) But in Seattle, even without the usual noise conditions, I just think it’s a lot to ask. Seahawks by a field goal.

New Orleans (-5) at Las Vegas
New Orleans by 14. I don’t know what else there could be to say.

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Week Two Thursday Night

September 17th, 2020 Comments off

Looks like I’m not gonna get to all of this week’s games before the exciting Thursday night matchup kicks off. So I’ll knock this one off and get to the rest when I do.

Oh, also, as for week one, ugh.

I can go on all day about how impossible it is to pick football games without actually knowing anything about the state of the teams competing in them. But it won’t make 9-7 straight up or 5-10-1 against the spread look or feel any better. So I guess I’ll just move on.

Here’s what not to expect in week two.

Cincinnati (+6) at Cleveland
It’s virtually a given that one of these teams will manage not to lose. Seems like maybe that will be the home team. I think. Probably. Browns by four.

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Week One Picks and 2020 Season Predictions

September 10th, 2020 Comments off

Normally, just before the NFL season gets going I spend a bit of time making fun of the whole notion of predicting the outcome of a 17-week season and four-week (well, five if you count the bye before the Super Bowl) postseason — only to go ahead and make predictions anyhow.

But there’s nothing normal about this year. Where I usually have little to go on as I try to assess five-plus months of a brutal war of attrition before it even starts, this year I have absolutely nothing to go on. I mean, there’s been some fine reporting out of training camps. So it’s not like the league is a complete mystery. But you can’t even pretend to size up a team based on secondhand information from practices. There’s been no preseason. And even if there had been, I don’t think it would have told us much. We know who’s opted out of this season. We won’t know who’s going to miss time (maybe a little, maybe a lot) due to Covid-19 until it’s happened. That goes not just for players but for coaches. And no one has any idea of how players are going to be affected by the limited preparation they’ve had for this season — or how they’re going to be affected by the pandemic itself, or the incredible period of societal upheaval we’re all living through.

So, yeah. All I can I really feel confident in predicting is disarray. I predict we’re going to see some terrible football in September. Some of it may look like good football to those who watch the games just to see offense, but most of it won’t actually be good football. I predict a lot of injuries, particularly early in the season when the first game action anyone sees is of the full-speed regular season variety. I predict strange events and confusing outcomes (or, you know, even more of these things than usual). And I predict that a lot of folks in the league, around the league, and outside of the league will pretend everything is going exactly according to plan unless and until it becomes entirely absurd to do so.

I will mimic one of my usual preseason practices, predicting a range of wins for each team. It’s just one range, though. And it’s 0-16. I’m confident every team in the NFL will win no fewer than 0 games and no more than 16. Everything in between is a possibility. That’s about as close as I can get.


Here’s what not to expect in week one.

Houston (+9) at Kansas City
In the face of abject uncertainty, the wise move is to play it safe. And safe says you don’t pick against the defending champs in the season opener. That said, nine seems excessive. Kansas City by six.

Seattle (-1.5) at Atlanta
The west-east travel factor will keep this one close. And I won’t be shocked if the Falcons come away with a win. But I’m taking the Seahawks to come out ahead by a point.

NY Jets (+6.5) at Buffalo
One of these teams finished last season looking like it was on the ascent. The other one is supposed to be getting better, but I’ve heard that story before. Like, a lot. Buffalo by four.

Chicago (+3) at Detroit
Home team by a field goal sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Minnesota
On paper, there’s reason to think the Packers may look pretty good by the time the season wraps up (well, if it goes full length, anyhow). But there’s also reason think they may need some time to get their legs under them first. And the home team in this match, on paper, looks like they’re coming in relatively fully formed. Vikings by five.

Miami (+6.5) at New England
Losing the greatest quarterback ever to play the game arguably is not a path to improvement in the NFL. But the Patriots managed to get an outstanding replacement. I think New England might be OK. Patriots by a touchdown.

Philadelphia (-6) at Washington
The Not-Still-The-Racists still have a lot of work to do, on the field as well as off. Eagles by nine.

Las Vegas (-3) at Carolina
This Las Vegas business is going to take some getting used to. Also, I’m not sure the Panthers have a team. Do the Panthers have a team? Raiders by seven.

Indianapolis (-8) at Jacksonville
Philip Rivers has something to prove. And probably only a couple of good seasons left in him. The Jaguars have work to do — possibly in the next offseason. Colts by 10.

Cleveland (+8) at Baltimore
If I’m right and play at the start of this season favors offense even more than it does in a typical season, the Ravens should probably get off to a very fast start. Baltimore by two touchdowns.

LA Chargers (-3) at Cincinnati
I’m not sure the Chargers giving points here makes sense. Bengals by a point.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at New Orleans
If the Saints pass rush hasn’t dropped off considerably and/or the Bucs O line hasn’t picked up considerably from what we saw last season, Tom Brady may find himself wishing he’s stayed in Foxborough by halftime. Tampa should put up some points no matter what. But maybe not quite so many as New Orleans. Saints by a field goal.

Arizona (+7) at San Francisco
Assuming the NFL season makes it to week 16, this matchup may look very different when these teams meet in Arizona in late December. Right now, I’m thinking 49ers by four.

Dallas (-3) at LA Rams
I don’t know. Cowboys by four, I guess.

Pittsburgh (-6) at NY Giants
The Giants will be good again when the Steelers aren’t good anymore. You know, in a couple of years. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-2.5) at Denver
I expect these teams to continue where they left off at the end of last season, with the Titans going in the right direction, and the Broncos going in the wrong. Tennessee by six.

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