Music to listen to: Move Too Fast by Lotus
Sorry that it’s’ taken me three weeks to make NFL picks but shit happens and what can you do.
The good news is that watching the first two weeks of the season has given me an objective view of the state of the league. There are going to be a handful of terrible teams (Cleveland fans, at least the Indians are going to the playoffs and NBA training camp opens in a few weeks). There are also going to be some really good teams, especially in the loaded AFC. The rest of the 25 or so squads right in the middle makes picking games difficult but hell, we could use the clicks and it’s entertaining. Let’s get to it.
(home team in CAPS)
Houston (-1) NEW ENGLAND: I was completely wrong on this one. I figured that New England was working with a third-string quarterback, without a fully healthy Gronk and on a short week. Even though the game was at home, there would have to be some fall off I assumed. Well, that didn’t happen. Jacoby Brissett, who I like long-term as a starting quarterback in the NFL, was serviceable for the Pats last night and led a run-based offense that did enough to win.
The further indictment needs to go to the Texans in a shameful performance. Losing to New England isn’t the worst thing, many teams have experienced that. But to come out on national television with an undefeated mark and lose like that is inexcusable. I’ve been a supporter of Brock Osweiler and thought that Denver should have resigned him and last night was only one game but the Broncos may have saved themselves some major trouble. He showed no signs of progression as a quarterback. Defensively, JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney had no impact for the Texans. Houston will still win the AFC South and possibly a playoff game but anything beyond that looks unlikely.
CINCINNATI (-3) Denver: Expect a bounceback from the Bengals from last week’s loss at Pittsburgh. Cincinnati didn’t play bad against the Steelers but did get out played. I expect the growing pains for Trevor Siemian to come to light for the Denver starting quarterback. First start on the road, early Sunday game against a good defense. The Broncos defense keeps them in the game but it won’t be enough.
Oakland (+1.5) TENNESSEE: Both teams have had ups (Raiders winning at New Orleans on a two-point conversion, Titans coming back at Detroit) and downs (Oakland dropping a winnable game at home against average Atlanta, Tennessee losing at home to Minnesota). I’m going against the logic of taking the home team facing a west coast team in the early Sunday game and a close line. Give me the Raiders.
Arizona (-4) BUFFALO: The Bills are a mess, especially on the defensive end which is supposed to be the expertise of the head coach Rex Ryan and his defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Cardinals are too solid of a team overall for Buffalo, even on the road.
JACKSONVILLE (PK) Baltimore: I’ll take the home team.
Cleveland (+9.5) MIAMI: Both teams are a hot mess, especially in Cleveland which had below-average talent before the start of the season but are now dealing with injuries already. Miami just can’t seem to get it right under Ryan Tannehill which is the main problem for the entire franchise to start. He’s not a winning quarterback, not in college and not a professional. How the Dolphins are nearly a double-digit favorite, even at home, is puzzling. I’ll take the points.
NY GIANTS (-4.5) Washington: There’s always some drama with Washington and now it’s about Josh Norman and him shadowing Odell Beckham through this entire game. I didn’t like the initial signing by the Redskins of Norman who’s a zone defender and now being asked to be a one-on-one defender. The system doesn’t fit his skill set and everyone outside of the Washington front office saw that. Not bashing Norman, who should take every penny he can, but this was a bad situation to start.
Now after Washington’s defense gets exposed by Antonio Brown and Pittsburgh in Week One, focus is on Norman and his assignments. This is how we get to the point where the media is reporting on Monday before a Sunday game the defensive gameplan on the opponent’s best offensive option. You don’t think the Giants are aware of this now and can plan accordingly?
Besides that, Kirk Cousins is reverting back to the average quarterback we’ve known for years. Smart for Washington to not cave into a good stretch of games last season and signing him to a long-term deal. That franchise tag looks brilliant right now.
Detroit (+7.5) GREEN BAY: Green Bay wins the game but something is off about this team. Offensively, Aaron Rodgers is playing good but not as strong as he can especially with turnovers. The Packers’ defense made Sam Bradford look like an all-time great last week in Minnesota so there are issues on that side of the ball as well. Detroit is playing hard right now and can make this a difficult contest.
CAROLINA (-7) Minnesota: I know that San Francisco was able to move the ball last week at Carolina but there’s no way I’m taking Bradford on the road against that defense this week. The Vikings’ defense is strong but Carolina finds a way to score enough points to pull away win this one by double-digits.
San Francisco (+9.5) SEATTLE: The Seahawks win but this is another line that may be a little too high. The 49ers are showing effort so far this season and can easily cover.
TAMPA (-5) Los Angeles: Good for the Rams to win their home opener last week but reality is going to come for them at Tampa. The Bucs aren’t world beaters and they had a rough game at Arizona, especially with Jameis Winston turnovers, but should get back on track against Los Angeles.
Pittsburgh (-3.5) PHILADELPHIA: In the Keystone State battle, I’ll take Pittsburgh by six points. The Steelers are more talented and showing cohesion on both sides of the ball. I like what I’ve seen from Carson Wentz and he’s progressing well in the rookie campaign. However, he’s been taking intro classes facing Cleveland and Chicago and steps up to advanced courses facing Pittsburgh.
New York Jets (+3) KANSAS CITY: Coin flip game that can easily come down to a field goal which makes the line tough to pick (Vegas knows what it’s doing). New York’s defense will be enough to win.
INDIANAPOLIS (-3) San Diego: Is Andrew Luck looking at his professional future in Philip Rivers? Supremely talented quarterbacks with the physical and mental capacity to lead a team to a championship. However, their respective franchises haven’t provided them with enough help to make this next step. With Luck, the Colts have failed to develop a respectable offensive line to protect him and the defense hasn’t been impressive. Plus, Luck continues to force things on offense and has unnecessary turnovers. Rivers could have been on the same path as his contemporary quarterbacks taken in the first round of his draft in Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger but it hasn’t happened. The Joey Bosa fiasco exposed the ineptitude of the Chargers’ franchise for the world to see. This weak level of management has been going on for years. In the end, both of these guys can be Hall of Famers and not even get the chance to play in a Super Bowl. For Rivers, this looks like a reality and Luck may have the same fate.
DALLAS (-7) Chicago: Full disclosure, I’m a Vanderbilt alumnus who has followed Jay Cutler’s career from college to Denver to now Chicago. His potential to be an elite quarterback is over. Cutler is still in the top-half of starting quarterbacks in the NFL and can still play for another five years which isn’t something to ignore. However, arm talent can only take you so far. I’ve always said that too much is made of Cutler and his body language, especially facial expressions. YOu can have a permanent sad face but if you produce, that’s all that matters. But now, I understand why many people have been critical of him. Last Monday’s performance against Philadelphia was his career wrapped up in one game. He made some good throws, had a bad turnover, got injured and looked uninterested.
Cutler isn’t going to get cut because he’s still a viable NFL quarterback. But Chicago has to deal with the reality that he is who he is.
NEW ORLEANS (-3) Atlanta: The Falcons struggle in that building against a jacked up Saints’ crowd and franchise that will be acknowledging the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. That’s going to be a motivated and desperate Saints’ team that needs a win in the worst way. They will get it.
This week: 0-1