|Marcell Dareus, head of the Bills defense now that Kyle Williams is out|
Well, my picks started off rough after the Chargers crapped the bed Thursday Night, giving Carson Palmer a career renaissance en route to a seven point Raiders win. So I started 0-1 this week. Also: the AFC West is insane and whoever comes out of this cluster**** cannot be foreseen at this point. Last week, for all my picks, I went 7-7 overall and 8-6 ATS. Nothing special. Some big whiffs, but some big hits, I guess.
What of this week? Well, there are no bye weeks, probably because of some weird lockout scheduling. It's also extremely difficult to pick; there are only two lines above seven points, with the rest ranging from "PK" to 6.5. There are some games easy to pick overall, on just winners, but picking these spreads is tricky. If I had real money to bet, I'd be saving it this week.
Pittsburgh (-4) at Cincinnati
The Bengals have been the shock of this season; behind rookies Andy Dalton and AJ Green, along with a stifling defense and a mistake free offense, they've climbed to the top of the AFC standings. Dirty little secret time, though: they haven't beaten a good team besides the Bills, and even that was a 23-20 victory. The rest of their games have been close wins over bad teams. Now they're running into the tough part of the schedule: two games against the Steelers, two against the Ravens, and the Houston game (along with a couple of creampuffs). The Bengals are in a good spot now, but look to be headed for a little bit of a fall. The Steelers have been really good lately, notwithstanding a last second loss to the Ravens last week. Their defense is alive and kicking (after they were presumed dead) and the offense has become a passing juggernaut. The Bengals are facing their first real test, and I don't see them passing this one: the Steelers are too good right now, and the Bengals have been lucky so far.
Pick: Steelers win, cover
Denver at Kansas City (-3)
Honestly? I have no idea about this game. The Chiefs got absolutely destroyed last week by THE DOLPHINS. The Broncos blew out the Raiders last week because they instituted the option. This is some bizarro universe I can't even come close to understanding. The Chiefs should have a week to prepare for the option attack (which somehow the Raiders couldn't react to), but they also just got BLOWN OUT BY THE DOLPHINS. Fine. I'll go with the Broncos. No idea why. The option works again? If it makes no sense, it makes sense in the AFC West.
Pick: Broncos win, Chiefs cover
Jacksonville (-3) at Indianapolis
If you want to cry tears of boredom, watch this game. Jacksonville has a terrible offense- rookie Blaine Gabbert is struggling more as the season moves on and his receiving core is comprised of cardboard cut outs of real NFL wide receivers. They have a great running back, though, and a really good defense. The Colts are just bad on both sides of the ball- a solid fantasy play is just to play whatever defense goes against the Colts. Seriously, the Colts have nothing going for them. The Jaguars should manage to win this one, and it certainly won't be pretty.
Pick: Jaguars win, cover
Buffalo at Dallas (-5.5)
Last week the Bills got flat out beat down by the Jets on both sides of the ball. The Bills looked flat and never were in the game, even when it was 3-0. Flat out, they laid an egg in one of the key games of the season. Once again, the Bills need a win here to stay in the playoff race and prove their legitimacy as a playoff contender. They haven't won against a good team on the road yet, and they're facing a stretch of tough road games. A loss here puts them in precarious position for the rest of the year, and squanders their fast start. The Cowboys are similarly in need of a win. At 4-4, they're in the middle of their division and losing ground to the Giants, and the NFC South and North look to have strong contenders in the wild card race. My homer side is picking the Bills here; the Cowboys don't have the same personnel as the Jets to shut down the Bills passing offense, and the run defense should be able to be exploited by Fred Jackson. My logical side is saying that the the Cowboys are at home, and even though they're missing Miles Austin, they have an explosive offense and plenty of talent on defense. The deciding factor for me, in the end, is that Dallas hasn't looked impressive against any good teams yet (besides one game against the Patriots which they managed to fumble away in typical Cowboys fashion.) I'm just not impressed, ever, by the Cowboys. So, without much logic behind it, I'm going with Bills. Let's hope my homerism is not once again misplaced, and the Bills actually come out to play- because a loss here would be damning for this season. Also, screw the Cowboys, their fans, their owner, and whoever called them "America's Team."
Pick: Bills win, cover
Houston (-3) at Buccaneers
Houston is rolling through the AFC South, and, with the Titans fall from contention, look to be a lock for the division. The Buccaneers seem allergic to scoring points and have no run defense. That's perfect for the Texans, who have Arian Foster leading the way on the ground and a decent passing offense without Andre Johnson. The Texans have a much better defense than last year, and the Buccaneers have none of the offensive explosiveness they seemed to show last year. It looks to be an easy game for the Texans.
Pick: Texans win, cover
Tennessee at Carolina (-3.5)
The Titans had a strong start to the season behind Matt Hasselbeck's unexpected career resurrection, but have fallen off their pace after the injury to Kenny Britt. The offense has nothing (hey, Chris Johnson, where are you?) and there's nothing special about the defense. Carolina is rested, coming off a bye, and they have Cam Newton (have you heard of him?). The Panthers have an awful defense, but against the Titans, it should be OK; and Cam Newton should keep doing Cam Newton things and win this game.
Pick: Panthers win, cover
Washington at Miami (-4)
I think it says a lot about John Beck that the Redskins can go into Miami, a 1-7 team who are 2-12 in their last 14 home games, and still be four point underdogs. The Redskins have just died after a 3-0 start. The Dolphins have been playing well enough to stay in games for a while, and finally pulled out a win last week in shellacking the Chiefs. I'll take the team that's made an effort versus the team that's dead in the water. Although I do think the Dolphins are crappy enough to let the Redskins hang around.
Pick: Dolphins win, Redskins cover
New Orleans at Atlanta (PK)
The Saints have an extremely efficient offense and a pretty bad defense; and they're prone to dropping games they should win. Atlanta has been inconsistent all year, but has managed to win three games in a row against opponents of varying quality. So far, I just know that Atlanta is no longer as dominant as they once were at home, and the Saints just look like a better team: more explosive on offense, better quarterback, and the defenses are just a draw. In the end, I'll take the Saints, even though they could easily drop this game.
Pick: Saints win/cover
Detroit at Chicago (-2.5)
The Bears have managed to figure out how to use Matt Forte, their defense is still making plays, and Jay Cutler has managed to survive and thrive despite his offensive line trying to kill him. The Lions shot out at the beginning of the season but have slowed down due to injuries; Jahvid Best is still not playing, and the offense has become somehow less than one dimensional (they just throw it to Calvin Johnson.) The Bears have seemed to figure it out, they're at home, and I see them taking this game.
Pick: Bears win, cover
St. Louis at Cleveland (-2.5)
If you hate yourself, you'll switch between this game and the Jags-Colts game during the 1 PM games. I can't say anything of note for these teams: both quarterbacks are kind of awful, both teams don't have any receivers of note (although Brandon Lloyd is trying to make a difference in St. Louis), and the defenses, well, they're both not very good. I guess I'll take the Rams in this one, if only because the Browns have too good of a record already at 3-5.
Pick: Rams win, cover
Arizona at Philadelphia (-14)
Despite the Eagles loss to the Bears last week, they still have incredible talent and have been playing much better since their horrid start. The Cardinals can only beat bad teams, and have John Skelton at QB, who managed a win last week only because of Patrick Peterson's heroics. I can't see John Skelton and the Cardinals horrible defense sticking around with the Eagles and their wealth of talent.
Pick: Eagles win, cover
Baltimore (-6.5) at Seattle
The line for this game is only so low because Seattle's at home and the Ravens have a terrible habit of dropping games against bad teams. The Ravens are clearly a better team than the Seahawks, and I feel like their big win over the Steelers last week should propel them through this game, even if they let Seattle hang around a little too long. Baltimore should pull away in the end. Seattle is just bereft of talent.
Pick: Ravens win, cover
NY Giants at San Francisco (-3.5)
The Giants were impressive last week in limiting the Patriots offense and engineering a last second drive to beat them. The 49ers have been impressive all year, with a stifling defense and a mistake free offense. When I look at this game, I think that the 49ers defense will be able to limit the Giants passing attack, but won't be able to stem it completely. The Giants defense, on the other hand, should be able to stop the 49ers offense, and that's why I like the Giants on the road. The 49ers are due for a let down, anyway.
Pick: Giants win, cover
New England at NY Jets (-2)
This one is huge for the AFC East. The Patriots are coming off two straight losses, something they seemingly never do. The Jets are riding high on a four game winning streak which has put them back at the top of the division (albeit in a three way tie). I'm taking the Patriots in this one, because I think their offense should be better than the Bills was last week and able to move the ball against the Jets. The Jets offense still didn't impress me last week; and while the Patriots defense is horrible, they can limit the Jets. I still see this as the Patriots division (although if the Bills can beat the Jets, they'll have something to say about that), and I find the Patriots suited to win this game. Plus, the Patriots NEVER lose three in a row. They won't let it happen, especially against these Jets.
Pick: Patriots win, cover
Minnesota at Green Bay (-13)
Minnesota was able to keep things close the last time these two played, but with more tape on Vikings QB Christian Ponder, that doesn't look likely to happen. The Packers are, offensively, unstoppable right now. There was a moment in last week's Packers game, where Aaron Rodgers was chased out of the pocket and rolled right. On the run, he whipped a forty yard pass to Jordy Nelson. It was unreal. No one can touch Rodgers right now, and as long as he's behind center, the Packers have a chance in every game. The Vikings aren't anywhere near elite, and they'll get blown out by this Packers juggernaut.
Pick: Packers win, cover
Season: 84-46 Overall, 66-62-2 ATS