September 26th, 2009
Another one in the books… and Al is on fire! 11-5 last week, now 21-11 for the season! I’m even doing OK with another 9-7 week, but that makes me 18-14 overall. I’d be happy to finish the season with a .56 winning percentage but if Al keeps this up, I won’t even be within shouting distance…
On to the picks!
Browns @ Baltimore(-13.5)
Last week I think we learned that the Ravens are very good and the Browns are horrific. Flacco is my new backup FF quarterback, and might even earn the staring job. I’ll lay the two TDs here.
Giants @ Tampa Bay(+6.5)
I watched some of the Tampa–Buffalo contest last week. Tampa is not good. The G-Men, on the other hand, are pretty good. We’ll see how those receivers pan out over the long term—personally, I’m hoping Manningham becomes a Pro Bowler—and if they can continue to play like that, the Giants will be tough to beat. Give the points against a hapless Bucs squad. (BTW, someone please explain to me how it worked out that Tampa’s defense is bad and Derrick Brooks is now an ESPN analyst. Was he really making that much? The Bucs defense looks like it completely lacks on-field leadership.)
Packers @ St. Louis(+7)
I’m not picking the Rams until they show me a reason to do so, and covering the spread against a bad Redskins team does not count as a reason. Right the ship, Packers.
Falcons @ Patriots(-4)
0-2 (well, they should be) vs. 2-0, and the Pats are giving points. Yeah, they’re at home, but I like Atlanta to keep it close. The Pats’ defense is suspect and Brady’s security blanket (that’s Wes Welker for those not paying attention) may still be out. (Side note: I do think blitzing Brady like crazy is a bad tactic in general but a great tactic if Welker is out. Well-played by the Jets, I have to say.) Anyway, Welker will probably be out, if for no other reason than I need in him in FF. I’m not sold on the Falcons’ defense just yet, but I just don’t see New England as dominant and the Falcons are good, so I’ll take the points.
Titans @ New Jersey Jets(-3)
People seem to be of the opinion that since the Titans were 13-3 last year, they cannot possibly go 0-3 this season. Well, they can. Something is very seriously wrong with the Tennessee secondary; in both their games so far, there have been a lot of receivers who were just… open. Is Sanchez good enough to capitalize? I think he probably is, and I’m starting to think the Jets might be the real deal this year. Give the FG.
Redskins @ Lions(+6.5)
Washington looked just plain awful last week and that’s a lot of points. On the other hand, the Lions haven’t beaten the Redskins since what, the 1980s? I don’t see them winning this, either, but can they keep it close enough? I’m thinking no, but I sure would like to see them get off the schnide.
Chiefs @ Philadelphia, no line
I presume the line is off because of the unknown QB situation. Since there are no points to lay, I’ll take Philly to win.
Niners @ Minnesota(-7)
The Vikings have looked pretty good, but against two really bad teams. I think the Niners are a pretty good team this year, and while the Vikings will probably still win, I don’t see them covering this big a number.
Jaguars @ Texans(-3.5)
OK, so I think us Texans fans are in for a roller coaster ride of a season with a lot of “which Texans offense is showing up this week?” Anyway, given that the game is in Houston, this says the Texans are a half-point better than the Jags. Neither of these teams has impressed me much, but I think the Texans may be a full point better on a neutral field so I’m going with them. If I’m really lucky, for FF purposes MJD will go off the hook like Chris Johnson did last week, but the Texans will still win, also like last week. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Bears @ Seattle(+2)
Isn’t Hasselbeck out? Without him I don’t see the Seabags doing a whole lot, so I’ll take Chicago.
Saints @ Buffalo(+6)
The Saints are the anti-Rams this year; I will continue to pick them until I see some reason not to. The Bills have shown me no reason not to, so I will once again go with the arena team.
Steelers @ Cincinnati(+4)
Pittsburgh is just a better team, though I think Cinci might not be the Bungles so much this year. Thankfully the spread is a manageable 4… I’m not sure I would give a full TD here. Stillers.
Dolphins @ San Diego(-6)
What a tough loss for Miami on Monday, and what a strange game that was. The Dolphins absolutely cannot move the ball quickly, but they sure can hold it against a mediocre defense. I’ve been a little underwhelmed by the Bolts so far this season, and they really need this win, but can they blow it out? I’m not sure they can, so I’ll be nutty and take the points.
Broncos @ Raiders(+2)
Based on the first week’s game, I don’t think the Broncos are good; I don’t think beating up on the Browns at home counts for much. On the other hand, the Raiders aren’t good, either—hey, JaMarcus, you’re trying to throw it at the guys’ chests, not just in the general vicinity of the guys with silver helmets. Of course, the Broncos often play like ass in Oakland… I think I’ll pick the Raiders for the second week in a row! (Looking around for other signs of the apocalypse…)
Colts @ Arizona(-2.5)
WTF? Wrong team favored, I absolutely love getting points here.
Panthers @ Cowboys(-9)
That’s an awful lot of points. I mean, sure, the Panthers aren’t very good, but nine points? Too rich for my blood. MNF has generally been close lately, right? Yeah, I gotta take the points.
September 20th, 2009
First weekend in the books, and all kinds of exciting stuff. Al and I are off to a decent start, 9–7 for me and 10–6 for Al. I still think the Giants should have covered that spread… stupid half-point.
Some storylines from week 1 that impressed me… Steelers defense looked great, we’ll see what the absence of Polamalu does. Lions still have no defense, or maybe the Saints offense really is that amazing? The Texans looked just plain horrific in pretty much every phase of the game, I take back everything good I said in the preseason. If they play like that the rest of the season they’ll be lucky to be 3–13. I think the Jets are getting overhyped, because I thought that was more the Texans being horrible than the Jets looking particularly good.
The Pats defense looked very, very shaky, and Brady didn’t look like Brady until the end. The Raiders look much improved, especially on defense. I’m not sold on the Chargers, either. Such a shame to see Cutler stink it up… I hope all his games go like that this season. Broncos looked horrible, but won anyway… good karma for getting rid of Cutler? Is Delhomme done? Is the Niners defense actually good, or is the Cardinals offense out of sync? How did the Ravens allow KC to score 24? I missed that one. AP’s run against Cleveland was sick. The Dolphins have to hold on to the ball to win; they would have at least beat the spread if they hadn’t handed Atlanta the ball so many times. The Rams appear to want to give Detroit a run for worst team; how awful did they look?
Wow, lots of stuff. I love Sunday Ticket…
Anyway, on to the Week 2 games.
Panthers @ Atlanta(-6)
Something is horribly, horribly wrong with the Panthers. I’m staying away from them until they win one.
Vikings @ Lions(+10)
OK, look, the Vikings beat the Browns by more than this on the road… are the Lions better than the Browns? I think not. Give the points.
Saints @ Philadelphia(+1)
With McNabb either out or very, very gimpy, I’m taking the arena football team here to win.
Bengals @ Green Bay(-9)
Only nine? Really? I thought the spread would be more like 12 or 13. I’ll happily give the points.
Cardinals @ Jacksonville(-3)
Ahh, I see Vegas has no idea here, it’s that default “home team by 3” spread. The problem is that I have no idea either. I was pretty underwhelmed with the Arizona defense last week, but I had about the same reaction to the Jags’ offense.
Raiders @ Kansas City(-3)
I dunno, this feels weird… I’m picking the Raiders! I like getting points, the silver and black showed signs of life last week.
Patriots @ New Jersey Jets(+3.5)
New England has owned the Meadowlands, and I really think the Jets are not as good as everyone seems to think after last week. Now, the Patriots aren’t quite all the way back, either, especially on defense, but I expect them to do more to confuse Sanchez than the zilch the Texans threw at him, so I’ll give the points. (I can easily see losing on the half-point as the Pats kick a last-second field goal for the win…)
Texans @ Tennessee(-7)
OK, so, the Texans can’t tackle, and if the opposing defense can double-cover Johnson and still stop the run, the Texans have no answers. Titans cover handily. Should be a big day for Chris Johnson.
Rams @ Washington(-10)
St. Louis is officially on the “do not pick until something changes” list. Even against the Redskins, who showed a bit more life than I thought last week.
Buccaneers @ Buffalo(-4.5)
Oh, look, T.O. is already criticizing his quarterback… I thought it would take at least until October. I actually think this game will go worse for the Bills because the Bucs will try to run and hold the ball, and will keep the Bills’ defense on the field for the nearly the whole game, and will keep it within a field goal.
Seahawks @ San Francisco(-1)
There’s something about the Niners that appeals to me… they seem to really be inspired on defense. That’ll keep them in a lot of games in a weak division, despite their suspect offense. At home, I’ll give the single point.
Steelers @ Chicago(+3)
Only six? Really? The Bears are down their defensive leader… well, I guess the Steelers are too, but even without Polamalu, the Pittsburgh defense is better than Green Bay’s. Cutler isn’t what you’d call a master at reading coverage or blitzes and so I expect Pittsburgh to throw the kitchen sink at him, and while he probably won’t throw 4 picks again, I don’t see him looking good. I would have said Pittsburgh by about six here, so I’ll gladly give the points.
Browns @ Broncos(-3)
Damn, once again, neither I nor Vegas has any idea. These teams were both expected to be bad, and they both delivered on that in week 1. Denver tends to be a little better at home… I guess I’ll take the Broncos, though I don’t really have any reason to go one way or another. If this were money, I’d stay far away from this game.
Ravens @ Chargers(-3)
No LT? Against that defense? I’m not sure the right team is favored in this matchup. I’m going with Baltimore.
Giants @ Cowboys(-3)
Wrong team favored… well, maybe. It is September. Were this December, it’d clearly be the wrong team favored. I like the Giants to keep it close and maybe even pull off the upset, so I’ll take the points.
Colts @ Miami(+3)
The Dolphins are going to need more than a field goal’s worth of help against the Colts, even if Indy is missing their #2 receiver. (This was inevitable, since Gonzalez is on my fantasy team. This is what I get for picking a Buckeye.) Anyway, I’ll take Indy here.
Should be a fun week…
September 12th, 2009
Off to a rip-roaring start, having predicted that the Steelers would win by three. Hopefully that’s a harbinger of the year to come…
Anyway, lines come from this page at USA Today. There are now eight lines listed; I use the mode. If there are two modes, I use the one that has a half-point in it, so that there are fewer ties.
Dolphins @ Atlanta(-4)
I predict regression to the mean for both of these teams this season. However, I think this is particularly likely for the Falcons, who played essentially nobody good last season and were very lucky on the injury front. I like Miami to cover this.
Chefs @ Baltimore(-12.5)
Look for the hapless Chefs to finish last in the division, that is, even behind the Raiders. Yes, I think they could easily be that bad this year. The Ravens, on the other hand, should be just fine. My problem here is the number of points involved. “Run the ball and play great defense” is a formula for wins, yes, but not for a lot of NFL blowouts; this is the 2009 NFL, not Nebraska in the 1990s. That’s a lot of points, but is it too many? The Chefs might not get the ball past midfield and still only lose 12–0. Dang I hate spreads like this early in the season. They’re just daring you to pick KC, but I can’t do it. Maybe they beat the spread on an Ed Reed return or something… I hope.
Eagles @ Carolina(+2.5)
Everybody’s all excited about the Philly offense, but what about the defense? They lost their long-time coordinator and didn’t add much in the offseason, did they? How do they stop Williams and Stewart here? How healthy is Westbrook, really? This must be why the spread is less than a field goal. I just don’t know… Eagles, I guess.
Broncos @ Cincinnati(-5)
I see no compelling reason to think that the Bengals are five points better than any other NFL team, even at home. I know it’s supposed to be a down year for the Broncos, but this is the Bengals we’re talking about here. I’ll take the points.
Vikings @ Cleveland(+3.5)
I do not understand this spread at all. The Browns were a train wreck last season, and what exactly happened to suggest that they’ll be any better this year? The Vikings, on the other hand, are stacked. Their defense should be excellent. They have Adrian Peterson. As long as Favre doesn’t go pass-wacky with the deep ball into coverage, he’ll be a significant upgrade. And did I mention that they have Adrian Peterson? Minnesota by at least ten here.
Jest @ Houston(-4)
If Schaub can stay healthy—which I have doubts about—the Texans should be solid this year. Andre Johnson is an animal, Slaton looks good, etc. The only problem is the division they play in, which I think is the best top-to-bottom in football (though the NFC East has an argument here). There are no bad teams in the division, and both the Colts and Titans are just plain good teams. In most divisions, I’d say the Texans would be a playoff team this year. In the AFC South, I’m not so sure. And the Jets, well, they’ve got a new coach and a rookie QB. I say Houston covers this.
Jaguars @ Indy(-7)
Too many points. Don’t get me wrong, I think Indy is a better team overall and will win, but Bob Sanders is out, and that means the Colts are likely to be very soft against the run. Lots of MJD in this game keeps it close, so I’ll take the seven.
Lions @ New Orleans(-13.5)
This is a joke, right? The Lions were one of the worst defenses in the league last year against the pass, and the Saints were the best passing offense. I’d give 18 here, easy.
Dallas @ Tampa(+5.5)
The Cowboys have started well lately, it’s just the end-of-season tanking which has done them in. Tampa has the possibility of being really, really awful this year and even if they’re OK, I expect a slow start. Dallas covers.
Niners @ Arizona(-6)
Perhaps the bookies missed this, but the Cards were in the Super Bowl last year, and they still have most of that offense intact. The big move for the Niners was drafting a guy who is already a hopeless prima donna (and apparently has a room-temperature IQ; how can he possibly think he’ll be drafted higher next year after holding out?) and hasn’t signed yet. Frank Gore is OK but that is, I think, the entire SF offense. The Cards cover this; I’d still give six if the game were in Candlestick (err, whatever it’s called now), but it’s in Phoenix so this is a no-brainer.
Redskins @ New Jersey(-6.5)
The Giants still have no credible deep threat, and with Ward gone to Tampa, it’s not clear who will spell Jacobs, who is in for a beating this year (though he may well be up to it). On the other hand, the G-men should be stout on defense. I kind of missed what the Redskins did this off-season, which probably means they didn’t do much; their pattern is to pay way too much for veterans who are past their prime and to have crappy drafts because they trade away most of their picks to acquire such players. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I think the Giants will win, though I’m not sure if a full TD is too much. Since I can’t see how Ports won’t face eight or nine in the box on every play and I have no idea how the Redskins can pass their way out of that, I will give the points.
Rams @ Seattle(-8)
The Seabags are the popular pick for team most likely to be a lot better this year. New WR, healthy QB, etc. They might be better on that basis, but unless they do something about their defense, their O-line, and their running game, they still won’t be good. On the other hand, the Rams were awful and I don’t see why to expect them to be anything but awful again this year. I’ll give the points, though I’m worried this is a 1-TD game.
Bears @ Green Bay(-4.5)
The Bears are the media darlings this year, but I have an aversion to me-first whiners like Cutler and other than Forte, I’m not sure I can name any other Chicago offensive player (Devin Hester doesn’t count, he’s really a special teamer, or should be). They’re still the Bears on the other side of the ball, sure, but this is a defense that’s starting to get old and it seems like they always have somebody hurt. On the other hand, I’m not sure I can name anybody who plays for the Packer defense at all, so there is that. But I sure can name the guys on the Packer offense: Rodgers, Jennings, Driver, Grant… not shabby. And it’s in Lambeau, though it’s too early for any meaningful “frozen tundra” effects. Still, I think defenses have the advantage early in the season, and that says Bears to me, so I’ll take the points.
Bills @ New England(-10.5)
In the last ten games between these two teams, the Bills are 0-10 with a lot of bad showings. I expect Brady and the Pats to come out guns blazing to make a statement, so I will give the points.
Chargers @ Oakland(+9.5)
The Chargers are a popular Super Bowl pick for the AFC (along with the Pats), but I may never be sold on any team headed by Norv Turner, who has a career regular-season winning percentage of 44.8%. Oh, wait, they’re playing the Raiders on the West Coast. One could make the argument that the Raiders are the worst-run franchise in sports, though of course the Nationals, Lions, Bengals, and Timberwolves have compelling arguments here. Yeah, OK, Bolts cover.
Good luck, Al!
September 9th, 2009
OMFG, football is back. <cue Hallelujah chorus>
I don’t know what it was this year, but the break seemed especially long. I guess at some point I need a post on my Fantasy team, but that’ll have to wait. For now, just be glad football is back, baby.
A fresh year. I’m 0-0, as is Al. Based on previous experience, it’s all downhill from here…
Titans @ Pittsburgh(-6)
That’s a tidy sum of points for the opening week. I think the defending champs are overall the better team, but I’m not so sure that translates immediately into huge margins of victory. In fact, when I looked at this matchup before seeing the spread I said “Steelers by a field goal.” So, in the spirit of the first night being exciting and close, I’m going to take the points.
Can’t wait for Sunday…