Sunday, September 18, 2011
Week 2 NFL Picks. Indulging Delusions.
After an oftentimes thrilling and record setting first week of the season, we finally get to see these teams in action again. This is critical because in seeing a team play again, we get to expand our frame of reference- right now, all we know is the result of week 1, which doesn't give us much because we don't know if the team that won is really good or if the team that lost is really bad. For instance, the Bills unexpectedly demolished the Chiefs, 41-7, last week, but its still tough to get a read on the Bills- did they beat a talented team (meaning that the Bills are really good)? Or did they beat an awful team (meaning that the Bills are just decent?) This is the question that faces a lot of teams, and now, thankfully, we get to see them play again and start to figure out the direction this season is headed. Until then, the picture is still muddy. Anyway, onto the week 2 picks.
Last week I went 9-7 overall and 8-8 against the spread. A decent week. Totally missed on the Ravens and...the Buffalo Bills. I did not properly Billieve, I suppose.
Chicago at New Orleans (-6.5)
Nothing like a fluky win (5 recovered fumbles) last week to give delusional Bears fans hope for a Super Bowl this year. The Bears have what might be the best luck in the NFL pretty much every week, and I continue to doubt them and they continue to back themselves into wins. It's like the opposite of being a Bills fan. Somehow everything just works out. Still, the defense was good enough to shut down the Falcons offense (when they weren't fumbling) and Jay Cutler had one of his good statistical days (although he got plenty of yards off two short throws that the receiver took for long gains). The Bears now travel to New Orleans to play a team that just came off a heartbreaking loss to the Packers. The Saints were able to move the ball well against Green Bay and, at the end, just couldn't punch it in with no time remaining. There's no shame, though, in playing close with the Packers, who look to be among the year's strongest teams. The Saints also have the advantage of more rest- they played last Thursday and should be more fresh than the Bears. The Bears defense might be fired up, rallying around Brian Urlacher, whose mother recently passed, but I don't see it being enough to shut down the Saints. The Bears offense hasn't shown, to me, that it can keep up with an offense like the Saints', so if it comes down to scoring points, the Saints should be in control for his one. Hopefully this is one week where every ball doesn't bounce Chicago's way.
Pick: Saints win, cover
Kansas City at Detroit (-8)
Well this is odd. When was the last time Detroit was an 8 point favorite in any game? Detroit has been the one team as bad as the Bills since 1999, and they now enter the season as a dangerous team, looking to finally break through. They handled the Buccaneers while playing their "C" game- they won below their best, which usually portends future success, especially if they can start playing at their peak. The Chiefs, meanwhile, played some seriously sloppy football last week and ended up getting crushed by the Bills. The Lions should be riled up to play at home and also boast a more dangerous offense and defensive front than the Bills, which is a good sign for them. Even if the Chiefs play remarkably better this game, I don't think they can match the offensive and defensive pressure the Lions will put on them. Still, the Chiefs can't be THAT bad, right? They should be able to at least stay in this one.
Pick: Lions win, Chiefs cover
Jacksonville at NY Jets (-9)
Jacksonville tried to mask their awful starting quarterback last week by handing the Titans a steady dose of Maurice Jones-Drew, and they ended up winning a close one. The Jets, however, are not the Titans- they have a much better defense. The Jaguars will have trouble running on this defense and will have to rely on Luke McNown to make plays... and there aren't many more quarterbacks in the league that I'd rather NOT rely on to make plays. No matter how sloppy the Jets looked last week, Jacksonville is nowhere near as talented as the Cowboys, so the Jets should take this one pretty easily.
Pick: Jets win, cover
Oakland at Buffalo (-4)
Last week I was cautiously optimistic that the Bills would be able to contend with the Chiefs, so, needless to say, last Sunday's 41-7 beatdown was surreal. I was stationed at a bar in Montreal, found some other Bills fans (BILLS NATION!) and watched the most satisfying Bills opening day since 2003, when they crushed the Patriots 31-0. Unfortunately, we've been down this road before- Bills start well, then fizzle out, which means all my optimism (and many others) is tempered- I can't commit yet. After all that 2003 team ended up being terrible and losing to the Patriots in week 16, by a final score of...31-0. The Raiders come into Buffalo this week coming off a punishing win over the Broncos. The Raiders play a type of smashmouth football on both sides of the ball and love to run the football whenever possible, making this a true test of the Bills run defense. Last week, they were able to limit the Chiefs in part because they had a sizable lead early. The Raiders will probably stick to the run all game, so the fans get to see if all the work done to the defense has made actual improvement. Last week I went with my head over my heart and picked against the Bills. This week, I'm not making the same mistake. I think the Raiders will be tired off a short week and a cross country flight for a day game, and the Bills will be able to move the ball on offense if they can't stop the Raiders run game on defense. I'm trying not to get too excited about this team, and a win these week would make it awful hard to keep tempering those expectations.
Pick: Bills win, cover
Arizona at Washington (-3.5)
Arizona won last week, but that fact was overshadowed by the fact that they gave up 422 yards of passing to a rookie QB last week (I think his name was...Cam Newton? I don't know, he doesn't get that much media attention...). Now they're going cross country and playing a team with an established, if erratic, starting QB in Rex Grossman? Don't see how the Cardinals are going to stay in this game, if they barely beat a team with a worse defense than the Redskins last week. Rex Grossman will be gunslinging his way to a win, and the fans in Washington will become just a little more insufferable.
Pick: Redskins win, cover
Baltimore (-6) at Tennessee
I think Baltimore made a pretty big statement last week in crushing the Steelers, showing that they've made the step many predicted them to make. Ray Rice looked amazing against what is supposed to be a tough Steelers run D, and he should be able to get through the Titan's defense fairly easily. The Titans don't have much on offense besides Chris Johnson, and it showed last week, as they struggled to 14 points while severely underutilizing Johnson. They plan to give him the ball more this week, but the Ravens are no slouches against the run. Barring a huge game from Johnson (he is capable of winning games by himself sometimes), I can't see anyway the Titans stay in this one.
Pick: Ravens win, cover
Seattle at Pittsburgh (-14)
As I mentioned last week, Tavaris Jackson is an awful NFL quarterback, and the Seahawks will be pretty awful as long as he's under center. Pittsburgh got smoked last week and will be looking to take revenge on the hapless Seahawks this week. It'll be a bloodbath. Pittsburgh might not be Super Bowl contenders this year, but they'll still be able to beat up on terrible teams, and the Seahawks are brutally bad.
Pick: Steelers win, cover
Green Bay (-10) at Carolina
Lost in all the Cam Newton hype last week was the fact that his team still lost to the Cardinals last week. When your quarterback has the best day for a starting debut EVER, yardage wise at least, and you lose, you usually don't have a very good team. This week Cam will be seeing some tricky defenses and, you know, actual coverage (Steve Smith was WIDE open for a lot of last Sunday), which should make Cam stumble a bit. The Packers also have an offense exponentially better than the Cardinals, and I look for them to absolutely destroy the Panthers D here. Green Bay is still in Super Bowl form, and the Panthers are no worthy opponent.
Pick: Packers win, cover
Tampa Bay at Minnesota (-2)
A little confused about this line, seeing as the Vikings are starting the corpse of Donovan McNabb at quarterback (he threw for 39 yards last week. That's over 4 quarters.) and have exactly one weapon on offense- Adrian Peterson. The Buccaneers have a more dynamic offense and some talent on the defensive side of the ball to at least match the Vikings. Barring one of those games where Adrian Peterson has like 300 yards and 3 TDs, I don't see the Vikings pulling this one out, and I see the Bucs getting back on track with a win after a sloppy performance last week.
Pick: Bucs win, cover
Cleveland (-2) at Indianapolis
That's right folks, it's your 2011-12 Indianapolis Colts! Watch as a team crumbles when the pedestal of their team gets a debilitating neck injury! Still, even with that being said, the Browns looked terrible last week in losing to the Bengals last week, causing many people to jump off the "Browns to the playoffs!" bandwagon. I hope to not have to see a second of this game because it just looks awful. I think the Colts can't get any worse than they were last week and maybe have put together a game plan for how to succeed with Kerry Collins. Cleveland, well, I still don't see them having much of an offense with their no name receiving crew, and their defense isn't scaring anyone. The Colts, I guess, will take this one. If they don't...yikes, it'll be a long season in Indy.
Pick: Colts win, cover
Dallas (-3) at San Francisco
Wait, the 49ers are three point underdogs? WHY? Last week they beat the lowly Seahawks on the strength of two special teams touchdowns by Ted Ginn, not something you can count on week to week. Otherwise, they are still starting Alex Smith at QB, which is a recipe for failure. The Cowboys and Tony Romo especially may have grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory, but they still have enough talent to put away a cruddy team like the 49ers. Unfortunately for the 49ers, you can't play the Seahawks every week.
Pick: Cowboys win, cover
Houston (-3) at Miami
Tough to get a read on this one, because last week Houston beat up on a disheveled Colts team,while the Dolphins got smoked by the Patriots, who are among the league's elite. Chad Henne surprisingly threw for 400+ yards last week, but didn't do so well in the red zone, which ended up screwing the Dolphins. The Texans were able to move the ball well without star running back Arian Foster, and now they get him back in time to face a defense that has the potential to be dominating (even though they really did not show it last week). So, did the Texans just beat up on a bad team, or are they that good? Did the Dolphins just lose to an amazing team, or are they that bad? I can't get a read on it, so I revert back to my preseason expectations, which say that Chad Henne is not that good, the Dolphins won't be that good, and the Texans will make the playoffs. At home, though, I can see the Dolphins putting up a fight.
Pick: Texans win, Dolphins cover
San Diego at New England (-7)
San Diego was pretty underwhelming to start the season, and now they face one of the most impressive teams from week 1, the Patriots. The Patriots one problem, though, was that their defense looked porous against the pass, against a quarterback as decent as Chad Henne. The Chargers have an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers who leads an elite offensive attack that I don't think the Patriots defense will handle too well. Luckily for the Patriots, their offense is more than good enough to make up for any shortcomings on the defensive side, which is why I still see the Patriots winning this one, but the Chargers being able to stay in it.
Pick: Patriots win, Chargers cover
Cincinnati at Denver (-3.5)
Even after their win last week, I can't get behind the Bengals (and neither can Vegas). I don't believe Cedric Benson can run that way against most teams, and the two headed quarterback of Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski is overwhelmingly decent. Denver isn't much better, but Kyle Orton isn't awful and the defense looks improved from last year. Denver has some angry home fans (who want Tim Tebow at QB... now that's delusional), and I think the Broncos will come out hard in this game to show them something. Plus, it's the Bengals. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut every once in a while, and last week's win looks to be the Bengals'.
Pick: Denver wins, covers
Philadelphia (-2.5) at Atlanta
Michael Vick returns to Atlanta, where people inexplicably still love them, even though he torpedoed their team after his arrest. The rest of the Eagles, especially LeSean McCoy, looked good in dispatching the Rams last week. The Falcons played an incredibly sloppy game against the Bears, uncharacteristic of their fundamental style of football. The Falcons should bounce back this week and play their solid game, but I can't see them beating the explosiveness the Eagles have on both sides of the ball. The Falcons bet big on this being "the year" for them (trading next year's first round pick), but so far, they have not shown the look of a Super Bowl team, and I think an 0-2 hole to start the season will create some urgency down in Atlanta, even if they keep this close. Vick and the Eagles, however, should be getting better each week, gelling together, towards Super Bowl contention.
Pick: Eagles win, cover (but it's close)
St. Louis at NY Giants (-6.5)
St. Louis was doing well against the Eagles last week until the injury bug hit them, hard. The Giants are in a similar situation, as defensive starters seem to drop left and right. The Giants still have most of their offense intact, while the Rams are missing Steven Jackson, he of the perennial, it seems, hamstring pull. Justin Tuck might be coming back to help the Giants D. The Rams still haven't shown me they can win big games against quality opponents, and they don't really have a good receiving core, either. The Giants need this one to stay afloat in the NFC East, and should play with energy, while the Rams, I think, still have a ways to go before their anything more than an NFC West contender. They can stay in the game, but win it? Not with these injuries, anyway.
Pick: Giants win, Rams cover
Season: 9-7 (8-8 ATS)