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Week Three Picks

September 24th, 2004

Does this week freak you out? No? Well, my friend, it should. Wanna know why? Because there are a couple of big, like major, upsets coming on. There always are in weeks that the oddsmakers see as this black and white. Six games with spreads of a touchdown or more. Six. Out of fourteen. Three of those with double-digit spreads.

So I’ll say what I always say: If you’re stupid enough to touch a double-digit spread on an NFL game one way or the other, you deserve to lose money. I’d say go ahead, maybe you’ll learn your lesson, but I know you won’t. You never do. Because if you did, you wouldn’t be listening to me about any of this stuff.

For those picking straight up for pools, my advice is this: Is there a year-end contest in your pool or is it all week-by-week? And if there is a year-end payout, do you want to win it? If there is, and you do, go conservative. Take the favorites without asking why in all but the five closest matchups. You’re gonna take a hit on two of those games, and you’re not gonna win the week, but the alternative is to try to figure out the upsets. And that’s a bad idea. You’re not gonna get ’em all no matter what, so at best you’re gonna break even, and at worst, you’re gonna miss ’em entirely, and you’re also gonna miss the games where the upsets actually do happen, which is gonna bring you in at, like 4-10 or 5-9 on the week, which will screw up your quest for the bigger prize. If, on the other hand, you’re in a pool that only pays out for weekly wins, then you’ve gotta hunt the upsets, ’cause if you don’t get them, someone else will.

One last bit of overall advice: As usual, it’s a good idea not to listen to me.

Arizona (+10) at Atlanta
We all know what’s gonna happen here. Michael Vick is back in a big way, looking once again like the most dangerous (and most talented) player in the league. And Arizona, shockingly, is struggling once again, failing to balance minor improvements on offense with any improvement on D. So Vick has a big day, and the Falcons sail. But what if the Falcons are thinking the same thing? What if they’re thinking more about Carolina than Arizona? What if Atlanta’s D, which gave up 19 points to the 49ers in week one, doesn’t come to play? You absolutely have to take the Falcons straight up. And you have to believe they’re gonna win by 14. But I for one won’t be putting any real money on that.

Baltimore (-3) at Cincinnati
[Insert funny gag about Deion Sanders’ showboating. Ha, ha, ha! What a jackass.] Sanders is a non-issue. Jamal Lewis, on the other hand, is just ever so slightly more than Cincinnati’s D can handle. Baltimore, 14-13.

Cleveland (+3) at NY Giants
If Lee Suggs were definitely gonna be back, and Kellen Winslow weren’t out, and the Cleveland secondary weren’t so banged up, I’d almost certainly be looking for the upset here. But Suggs may or may not play. And both Browns’ starting corners are in bad shape. So there’s no way to be sure. Still, with Ron Dayne ailing, Tiki Barber’s gonna get extra opportunities to fumble. Look for him to make good on a couple of those. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion Cleveland’s gonna be able to capitalize on turnovers and pull off the upset victory even in the shape they’re in, but that’s about as hunchy as hunches get.

Chicago (+9) at Minnesota
Onterrio Smith rushed for 148 yards the last time these two teams met. And, yeah, that was last season. And, yeah, that wasn’t the same Bears team that shut down Green Bay last week. But I’m still looking for a big day out of Smith. The Vikes will win, and they’ll probably do it by 10 or more. But after what the Bears pulled off last week, I’d hesitate to put real money on this thing.

Houston (+8.5) at Kansas City
Kansas City can’t afford to start 0-3. And chances are, they’ll find a way to win this game. But not by eight and a half points. Not with a defense that’s giving up close to 200 yards a game rushing. Take the Chiefs straight up (unless you must pick an upset somewhere, in which case, what the hell), but the Texans to keep it to within a touchdown.

Jacksonville (+6) at Tennessee
I think this is a closer game than six points and I don’t care where it’s being played. The Jags know how to play D, which may not be true of the Titans. I think Tennessee finds a way to win it, but not by more than field goal.

New Orleans (+7) at St. Louis
Here again, I like the road dog to keep it close, but lose. Deuce McCallister, of course, is out. But Joe Horn isn’t. He’ll score two TDs on the day, which won’t be quite enough for the win, but it’ll cover.

Philadelphia (-4) at Detroit
The Eagles continue yet another push toward a stunning loss in the NFC championship. They’ll win and cover.

Pittsburgh (+1) at Miami
How low are the oddsmakers opinions of Miami when they’ve got the Dolphins giving just one point to a visiting team starting a rookie QB? Not quite so low as they’ll be after Pittsburgh actually pulls off the upset.

San Diego (+10) at Denver
The Broncos are favored by four more points than they managed to score last week against Jacksonville. That’s not saying much for the Chargers. Denver will win the game, of course, but not by anything like 10 points.

Green Bay (+5.5) at Indianapolis
My prediction that the Colts would start 0-3 went down in flames last week. I’d like to see Indy fall to 1-2 here, but it’s hard to have faith in Green Bay after what Chicago did to them at Lambeau. Ahman Green will have a big day (’cause he pretty much always does) and, with luck, lift his team over the whiny, whiny (and — aw, poor Indy — Edgerrin-free) Dolts, but I can’t see taking the Pack straight up. Take the points, but expect Vanderjagt to come through in the end and Indy to win by three.

San Francisco (+10.5) at Seattle
I don’t have a lot to say about this game other than never give this many points in an NFL match. Seattle will be up by two touchdowns late, but they might give up a meaningless score playing clock management D.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Oakland
Revenge for Super Bowl XXXVII? Not so much. Just a sloppy win by the Raiders and a sloppier loss by the Bucs. This one’s a push.

Dallas (+2) at Washington
ABC was always gonna sell this game by way of the Joe Gibbs vs. Bill Parcells angle, but in the end what choice did they have? The Skins, who turned the ball over seven times last week, are gonna have Patrick Ramsey under center. That should lead to some picks. The Skins defense, meanwhile, will be joining Vinny Testaverde in the backfield pretty much at the moment of the snap on most Dallas offensive plays. And with Vinny already throwing more times per game than would be comfortable for a guy half his age, you can expect a couple of picks to go the other way, too. Take the home team and give the points, but be aware that in the end it’s a coin toss.

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