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Week Three Picks

September 24th, 2015

Well, I managed to fare even worse in week two than I did in week one. So this year’s off to a great start. I went 8-8 straight up, a deplorable 5-11 against the spread in my picks of 2015’s second set of games. That gets me to 17-15 straight up and 11-20-1 against the spread on the season. You’d think things could only get better. But you’d be wrong. They can absolutely get worse. Let’s explore how, shall we?

Here’s what not to expect.

Washington (+4) at NY Giants
The Giants can’t possibly find a creative way to lose yet another game, can they? Seriously. Can they? I’m not sure anything would surprise me at this point. But I’m not counting on it. That said, it appears the Racists may actually have a defense, so I’m certainly not giving four. Let’s say New Jersey by a field goal.

Pittsburgh (-1) at St. Louis
Going into the season, I had the Rams figured for about a .500 team. And when I see a team that way, I tend to assume that they’ll beat the teams they should beat and lose to the teams they should lose to. So far, it’s been just the opposite. And that might spell trouble for the Steelers. But I doubt it. I expect Pittsburgh to bring just enough on both sides of the ball to come away with a victory, though not by a margin one would call decisive. Steelers miss one of their now standard two-point tries and end up winning by six instead of seven (or eight).

San Diego (+2.5) at Minnesota
A second straight road game is never an easy thing, and the Chargers in recent years rarely have been a team that traveled well. But I still think San Diego ultimately has more upside than Minnesota. And I feel better about the Chargers offense than I do about the Vikings’ D. So I’m looking for a San Diego win here, if maybe just by a point or two.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Houston
The good news for the Texans, I suppose, is that the Colts have also have lost their first two games — and looked considerably worse than Houston in doing so. And it’s hard to see the 1-1 Titans or Jaguars emerging as the new dominant team in the AFC South. So there’s still time to make a push for the division title. That won’t mean much, of course, if the Texans can’t handle the Bucs at home. But I think they’ll manage this task OK. Texans by four.

Philadelphia (+2.5) at NY Jets
It’s starting to seem like maybe, just maybe, there’s a slight possibility that Chip Kelly, in fact, is not a genius. Maybe. New Jersey by a touchdown.

New Orleans (+7.5) at Carolina
I don’t know if it’s all over for Drew Brees. But it’s pretty clearly all over for the 2015 Saints. Panthers by 10.

Jacksonville (+13.5) at New England
If the 2015 Patriots weren’t clearly out to embarrass as many opponents as possible, a date with the Jaguars, who have surged all the way to so-so, a week before an early bye might have been cause for concern. What we have instead is an opportunity for New England to hang seven touchdowns on an opponent — and perhaps all of them through the air (which would give Tom Brady a piece of yet another NFL record). Patriots by no less than double the spread.

Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering



Cincinnati (+2.5) at Baltimore
Andy Dalton sure is having a great season, isn’t he? That’s the conventional wisdom, anyhow. Through the Bengals’ first two games — a decisive 33-13 road win over the Raiders in week one followed be a somewhat sloppy (though not on Dalton’s part) 24-19 home victory over the Chargers — Dalton has completed 41 of 60 passes for five touchdowns while neither throwing an interception nor taking a sack. Dalton’s per game averages of 30 attempts and 20.5 completions are consistent with his career numbers, as are his 241.5 passing yards per game. But his TD percentage, 8.3, interception percentage, 0, and consequently his passer rating, 120.3, all are considerably better than what we’re used to seeing (in order, 4.8, 3.0, 86.1). It all points to a couple of possibilities. The one you’re hoping for if you’re a Bengals fan is that Dalton, in his fifth NFL season, has come into his own. If that’s true, he’d hardly be the first pretty good quarterback to ascend to another level at this point in his career. The other possibility, though, is that there’s a correction coming. Much as it did last season, when Dalton went the first two games of the season without throwing a pick or taking a sack — though while his 40 of 61 for 553 yards (226.5/game) from those games looks familiar, he threw just two TDs in that span, which kept his passer rating down to 105.4. I can’t see into Dalton’s head. But in watching his play I haven’t spotted anything that strikes me as convincing evidence that something has clicked. So for the moment at hand, I feel like the smart position is to anticipate a correction. Right now, Dalton’s in debt to his career interception and sack averages to the tune of two each. I don’t expect him to complete a regression toward the mean in a single game. But I do think that a visit to Baltimore — particularly with the Ravens going into their home opener desperate for a win, having dug an 0-2 hole with late-game collapses in Denver and Oakland — presents a nice opportunity for a bit of leveling for the Cincy QB. So I’m looking for the Bengals to have a rough afternoon and for the Ravens, whose troubles thus far have had more to do with Joe Flacco than with the defense, to assert their determination to remain a factor in the AFC North. Baltimore by four.

Oakland (+3.5) at Cleveland
The Raiders appear to have an offense. If they could grow a defense, they’d be dangerous. But I don’t see that happening in week three. Cleveland edges out a one-point victory.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee
Yeah, I know the Titans have yet to beat a good team. But the Colts have yet to beat any team. And, you know, obscured by the excitement about Tennessee’s shiny new quarterback has been the fact that Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster both have been playing pretty good football. And guess what team still can’t stop the run? So, right. I’m taking the Titans. By three.

Atlanta (-2) at Dallas
Like everyone else, I’m totally confident that the Cowboys will be able to overcome the loss of their biggest offensive weapons and find ways to win. Totally, totally confident. Falcons by seven.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Arizona
The Cardinals are better than I thought they were going to be. I only had them pegged for 12 wins this season. More fool me. Arizona by 14.

Chicago (+14.5) at Seattle
I don’t know where the Seahawks are headed this season. But I know that this week they’re finally headed home after opening with a pair of tough road losses. And I feel pretty confident that they’re headed for a win. Especially since I’m pretty sure the Bears are headed nowhere. Seattle by 20.

Buffalo (+3) at Miami
It’s always great when you can see a pair of recent champions square off in the regular season, isn’t it? The Bills and Dolphins both won the Super Bowl in week one. And commenced their hangovers in week two. I suspect the Bills are slightly better positioned to bounce back, having suffered their loss at the hands of an actual good team. Buffalo by four.

Denver (-3) at Detroit
Toward the end of the Broncos’ last game, I wondered aloud whether any of their 2015 opponents wouldn’t self destruct. The answer, as it turns out, is yes. The Lions won’t get the opportunity to self destruct; the Broncos will take care of it for them. Denver by 10.

Kansas City (+6.5) at Green Bay
Where’s this game being played? Pretty much my only question. Packers by a dozen.

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