SWEET” PETE’S WEEK 3 NFL PICKS!
Last week vs. the spread: 7-6-1. The “control group,” mindlessly picking all home teams, went 8-5-1.
The schedule so far this year has been frustrating, as somehow bad teams are constantly matched up with other bad teams, while good teams never get a break and have to face other good teams week in, week out, with few exceptions. I wouldn’t bet on all the games, of course. The safest picks this week are Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York (Giants), and Detroit, more or less in that order. Pick your favorite 7 and that’s a huge parlay if everything goes right! They say the safest car is one that never leaves the driveway, but since we like driving, the old Volvo 240 I drove in college is probably pretty safe. With that in mind, let’s call these my Old-Ass Volvo Safe Picks of the Week! ™
I strongly suggest you read this article previewing this week’s games. Mike Tanier is HILARIOUS. I LOL’ed about once per matchup.
Before getting to the games, I’d like to talk about being a football fan. Consider, for example. that stupid Buffalo Wild Wings advertisement they play all the time. You know the one, where a fan says, “the only thing that could make this better is if the game went to overtime,” and the bartender smiles knowingly and presses a button that alerts the groundskeeper to turn on the sprinklers and essentially fix the game they’re watching. One could take the ad to mean, “watching games here is as fun as it would be if all the games were fixed!” Maybe this is fun to some people, watching their favorite team beat up wildly inferior opponents week in, week out. In fact, I know that people watch football for that reason, just look at college football’s SEC fans. But that’s not why I watch football. I watch football because it’s fun watching the biggest, the strongest, and the fastest the human race can produce! They take these huge genetic freaks, and they give them lightweight plastic armor to wear, enabling them to hit each other even harder than would otherwise be possible? That’s awesome! I like watching amazing plays I wouldn’t have guessed were possible. I like seeing coaches come up with clever and creative new ways to take advantage of the skills their players have. I even like complaining about bad coaching that wastes the talent their players have, bittersweet as it may be. I am not a sports fan. I don’t watch baseball, and I only watch basketball for the playoffs, if watch it at all. For me, football is a far more compelling sport than any other.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Carolina Panthers
Line: Bengals by 3
Can anyone explain what “roughing the passer” means? I’m serious, I really don’t know. Sometimes the way the NFL enforces that rule is almost comical. The only hope the Panthers have is if rookie starter Jimmy Clausen gets “roughed” for a bunch of 15-yard penalties, or channels Football Jesus and gets the ball into Steve Smith’s hands. The original Steve Smith is still the superior Steve Smith, at least for one more year, as his namesake takes a backseat to Hakeem Nicks in New York. Pick: Bengals.
San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Line: 49ers by 1
Why do the Chiefs keep giving the ball to Thomas Jones instead of Jamaal Charles? Charles is a far, far better player than Jones, and it should be obvious. I read a rumor that it’s because Charles was drafted by the previous coach/general manager, and the new incumbency wants to play “their guys.” I used to think highly of Todd Haley and Scott Pioli and the job they’re doing with the team, but to see them stoop to that a level is a shame. The numbers favor the Chiefs, but as much as I think the 49er defense can stone the Chiefs, I would feel a lot better about it in San Francisco. Pick: Chiefs.
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
Line: Vikings by 13
Even if they don’t win, the Lions should make it closer than a two-touchdown game. They are better than most people think, and the Vikings are worse. The Lions may be only a couple starters away from fielding a top defense, but for now one of those starters is safety C.C. Brown. Brown is a big play machine, for the offense. Like Tampa Bay’s Sabby Piscitelli (see below), Brown is the kind of guy who should make you wince if your team signs him, even as a backup, because that means there is a chance, however small, that he will make it to the field at some point. And somehow, where ever he goes, he always does. I cannot believe there isn’t an undrafted rookie safety out there on a practice squad somewhere who’s better than this guy. Pick: Lions.
Dallas Cowboys @ Houston Texans
Line: Texans by 2.5
In two games, the Cowboys have lost to two playoff quality teams, and the Texans have won against two playoff quality teams. The numbers this year favor the Texans, and they are playing at home, but with left tackle Duane Brown suspended for flunking a drug test, the Texans offense could be vulnerable. And watching them play, you get the feeling that the Cowboys really are better then they’ve been playing, considering the gross misuse of their three talented running backs. As the line indicates, it ought to be close, and may come down to one or two random bounces of an oblong ball across the uneven turf. If the Texans offense looks familiar to you, think back to the 1990’s Broncos offense, except replace Jake Plummer or Brian Griese with Matt Schaub, Rod Smith with Andre Johnson, Eddie McCaffery with Kevin Walter, etc. Pick: Cowboys. I hope I’m wrong. My favorite thing in football is watching the Redskins win, but my second favorite thing is watching the Cowboys lose.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
Line: Saints by 3.5
Sportspickle’s DJ Gallo writes, “What a terrible week for Reggie Bush. He loses his Heisman and then also loses the connection between sections of his leg.” As good as Reggie Bush is, the Saints last year played better and scored more points per game without him. Like some others, this game is probably too close to call, and should be exciting to watch. The early-season numbers favor the Falcons, but I have a feeling the Saints playing at home with a more downfield-oriented Sean Payton playbook will come out with the win. Pick: Saints.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: Steelers by 1
The Bucs are 2-0 after beating Cleveland and Carolina. They are improving along with 2nd year QB Josh Freeman, but even with Charlie Batch starting the game at QB for the Steelers, the Bucs should be outmatched here. Pick: Steelers.
Bonus: Bucs safetey Tanard Jackson has been suspended for the year, and though Raheem Morris says Sabby Piscitelli isn’t going to start in his place, he is one step closer to seeing the field. Like the Lions’ C.C. Brown, Piscitelli is a big play machine for the opposite team. But on the plus side, he does have ridiculously veiny arms.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
Line: Ravens by 12
Baltimore hired Jim Zorn as their QB coach, and Joe Flacco has looked awful in his first two games. Maybe Jim Zorn just shouldn’t be an NFL coach. Look for him to get fired by the Ravens and hired by the Browns this off-season, that is unless not even his mentor Mike Holmgren trusts his ass. With Eric Mangini, the Browns are already the worst-coached team in the NFL. I’m sure they could find a place for Zorn. Pick: Ravens.
Tennessee Titans @ New York Giants
Line: Giants by 2.5
Both teams have played about average football so far, with each one winning big against a bad opponent, and losing soundly to a quality opponent. Mike Tanier did an excellent breakdown of Vince Young’s game last week before he was pointlessly benched for the corpse of Kerry Collins, and makes a strong argument that VY failed because his offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger put him in a position to fail. The Titans have a top pass defense so far, and they can win if Heimerdinger pulls his head out of his ass, but unfortunately, that’s a big IF. Pick: Giants.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
Line: Pats by 15.5
The Bills were 6-10 last year, and 7-9 the year before that. They came into 2010 with a good defensive secondary, a stable of good running backs, one pro-bowl caliber linebacker and wide receiver, and gaping holes at QB and on both lines. So with the #9 pick in the draft, they chose… another running back. Huh? Now they’re stuck replacing Trent Edwards with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, but neither of them can get the ball to Lee Evans anyway so it doesn’t really matter who starts over who. The Redskins gave up a 2nd round pick for Donovan McNabb this off-season. Imagine what could have been if the Bills would have traded their 1st round pick for him instead. Pick: Pats, though those 16 points are a lot to give.
Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos
Line: Colts by 5.5
I made a huge mistake picking against the Broncos last week, and there is a chance I might regret it again this week. The blueprint to beating the Colts is obvious in concept, difficult in execution. The Colts historically like to play a soft defense, taking away big plays but leaving underneath passes open. Kyle Orton and his wideouts need to be patient and consistent, taking what the defense gives them rather than trying to force the ball into coverage. Ryan Clady ought to be able to handle Dwight Freeney coming off the edge on his own, but with Ryan Harris ruled out again, they will need to find a way to control Robert Mathis, which probably means keeping a tight end in to block. Considering who the Broncos tight ends are, this might be a good thing. Knowshon Moreno has also been ruled out, but Correll Buckhalter should be nearly as effective, and we may even get a Laurence Maroney sighting! On defense, the Broncos need an effective pass rush, and I believe their “designated pass rusher” is Robert Ayers. More than anything else, I don’t see the Broncos winning unless Ayers has a big game. Pick: Colts.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: Eagles by 2.5
Can Aaron Kampman abuse the Eagles blockers like Clay Matthews did in week 1? The Eagles offensive line looks shakier than it has in the past, so it’s possible. Are the Jaguars as good as they looked against the Broncos in week 1, or as bad as they looked against the Chargers in week 2? The answer is somewhere in between. They probably won’t turn the ball over six times again, like they did last week. It will be mildly interesting to see if any fans show up to give them a home field advantage. The Sports Pickle suggests wearing alternate “Tebow” jerseys. Pick: Eagles.
Washington Redskins @ St. Louis Rams
Line: Redskins by 4.5
Pick: Redskins. This is a playoff caliber Redskins team. The old Redskins teams might have blown an easy game like this one, but not the Shanahan Redskins. They will be playing without Trent Williams for a game, but should be fine. Williams looks like a potential rookie of the year, except for the fact that no offensive lineman has ever won the award. I’m serious—only QBs, RBs, and Wrs have ever won. That is total bullshit, and this highlights the piss-fucking-poor job the media does covering football. You would think that football games are just one QB versus another QB from the way they cover the sport.
San Diego Chargers @ Seattle Seahawks
Line: Chargers by 5
Good news for Charger fans is that left tackle Marcus McNeil gave in and signed… for $400,000. One of the top 10 left tackles in the NFL is playing for $400,000 this year. I hope he avoids any major injury, so he can still go collect his big payday elsewhere next year. General Manager A.J. Smith built a nice football team, and he’s going to let it all crumble by mismanaging his best players. Consider: if the Chargers had traded LaDanian Tomlinson before the 2008 season, they could have gotten a 2nd if not a 1st round pick in exchange, and they could have signed Michael Turner to a long-term deal. Instead, they have neither Tomlinson nor Turner, and acquired a total of nothing in return. I also wonder how Smith feels about Drew Brees going off as a free agent and winning a Super Bowl in New Orleans. Phillip Rivers can be a great quarterback, and he could be even better with Vincent Jackson, but it’s hard to argue that Marty Schottenheimer + Drew Brees would have been far superior to Norv Turner + Phillip Rivers.
Both the Chargers and the Seahawks have one big victory and one ugly loss in two weeks, and the numbers are dead even. Subjectively, the Chargers look like they’re trending upward as they get used to life without Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil. Pete Carroll is a coach who can come up with some novel idea that actually works, but it’s just as likely for his novel idea to fail. Pick: Chargers.
Oakland Raiders @ Arizona Cardinals
Line: Cards by 4.5
Goddammit. Bruce Gradkowski is not a better quarterback than Jason Campbell. Neither is Derek Anderson, for that matter. Both offenses are better running the ball than they are passing it, and neither defense is any good stopping the run. The Nnamdi Asomugha-Larry Fitzgerald matchup should be exciting to watch; however, you will not get to see any of it, because the network cameras will focus instead on two of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks. Ugh. Pick: Cards.
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins
Line: Dolphins by 1
Pick: Dolphins. Mark Sanchez looked great against the Patriots last week, but it’s reasonable to expect that as the year goes on, the Pats secondary will prove to be awful. With a healthy Ronnie Brown, the Dolphins are a better team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ‘Fins winning the AFC East.
Packers @ Bears
Line: Packers by 3
Huge division rivalry game! Both teams are 2-0, with Green Bay looking slightly better because they had the good fortune to get to play Buffalo. Brandon Jackson has always been a better pass blocker than Ryan Grant, and in fact the team has been using Jackson as their third down back the past couple of years. It shows in their numbers, as the Pack’s offense has been much, much better on third down than on first or second down. If it’s really Jackson’s blocking behind that improvement, you’ve gotta wonder if they shouldn’t have increased his role in the gameplan long ago! The Bears look like “the real deal,” and should compete for a wild card spot in the playoffs, if they don’t actually win the division. Pick: Packers.