NFL Week 3 Picks

Eli Manning

Last year my picks season mirrored the Giants’ season. My start was as bad as their 0-6 start, I picked it up in the middle of the season, but fell short of making up for the early-season mistakes to save the season. This year, unfortunately, I have a feeling I’m going to go down the same road.

Last week, Eli Manning threw two interceptions (even if one came with nine seconds left and the game already over), Rashad Jennings lost a fumble for just the second time in 55 career games despite after tripping over his own feet and going untouched, the special teams let Ted Ginn Jr. ran back a 71-yard punt return, Quintin Demps fumbled the kickoff following the Ginn Jr. return to seal the loss and on two plays the Giants’ 14-13 lead became an insurmountable deficit. As for me, well I went 4-12 in Week 2 and likely put myself in an insurmountable hole with still 15 weeks to pick games and then the playoffs.

(Home team in caps)

ATLANTA -6.5 over Tampa Bay
The Thursday game used to be my bread and butter. No matter who I picked, I would win. This year, however, I’m off to an 0-2 start thanks to thinking the Packers could hang around in Seattle with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and for thinking that the circus surrounding the Ravens would be too much for them to beat up on the Steelers. (But to my credit, 10 of the previous 12 Steelers-Ravens games were decided by three points and one of the other two was decided by four points.)

The Tampa Bay bandwagon has been pulled out of service like the New York subway cars with bed bugs and after losing at home to a Rams team quarterbacked by Austin Davis, I think it’s been derailed for the season. Normally I wouldn’t give 6.5 points in a divisional game (unless that game involves the Jaguars or Raiders), but I think I have to make an exception for the Buccaneers after their first two games.

BUFFALO -2.5 over San Diego
In 2008, the Bills started 4-0 and were 5-1 before finishing the season 2-8. In 2011, the Bills were 3-0 then 4-1 then 5-2 before finishing the season 1-8. Since making the playoffs in 1999, the Bills have finished over .500 once (9-7 in 2004) and were 88-136 in the 14 seasons since then.

I want the Bills to be good. Bills fans deserve to have a team that’s good. And this 2-0 start with wins over the Bears on the road and the Dolphins at home are either a sign that Bills fans are getting what they deserve or just the latest example of how insane parity in the NFL truly is. It’s hard to buy into a good Bills start when you consider the way two other good starts finished in recent years, but the Chargers are coming off the high of beating the Super Bowl champions and then have to fly across the country to face an overly-confident Bills team, so this un-Bills-like start might not be over yet.

Dallas -1 over ST. LOUIS RAMS
I wish I could use this:

Somewhere someone who isn’t a Cowboys fan or a Rams fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.

But because it’s the Cowboys, most of the country is going to watch and bet on this game. (I do realize a lot of the time I should be using that “Somewhere someone who isn’t a …” on Giants games.)

Washington +6.5 over PHILADELPHIA
After a long wedding weekend, I fell asleep before the Colts blew their 27-20 fourth-quarter lead and gave the Eagles a win I desperately didn’t want them to get for the Giants’ (very slim) playoff chances this year.

If RGIII were starting this game, I would have picked Philadelphia to cover, but Kirk Cousins is now the Redskins’ starting quarterback and that’s bad news for the Giants since the NFC East already has enough average teams who could possbily someway somehow sneak into the playoffs.

NEW YORK GIANTS +2 over Houston
This is it for the New York Football Giants and me. This is a must-win game and if they lose this game their season is over at 0-3, two weeks after it started. Last year at 0-6, the Giants were able to fight back to 4-6 and put themselves in position to control their own destiny, but this year that won’t work. After giving up a very winnable home game against a back-up quarterback, who hadn’t played in a game since 2010, the Giants now have to go 10-4 to make the playoffs. The problem is that after the Texans this Sunday and the Redskins on Thursday night, they have Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Indianapolis, Seattle and San Francisco. Even if the first three of those six games aren’t exactly a gauntlet, the last three certainly are. So this is it for the 2014 Giants and for me picking the 2014 Giants.

NEW ORLEANS -10.5 over Minnesota
The first Saints home game of the season. Let me go back to what I said before their last home game in 2013.

The Saints’ last home loss with Sean Payton as head coach came in Week 17 in 2010 when they had nothing to play for. Including the playoffs, with Payton as head coach, the Saints have won all of their home games since that loss and here are their margins of victory in those games: 25, 18, 3, 32, 18, 21, 24, 6, 17, 28, 29, 14, 25, 11, 55, 7 and 17.

The Saints don’t lose in the Superdome and that’s before you factor in that they are 0-2 and looking at watching their season end before it even starts like it did in 2012. On top of that, the Vikings have a PR nightmare on their hands with their best player being inactive and then active and then placed on the exempt list in a single day. The AP Vikings could have been in the mix for the NFC North title, but the AP-less Vikings will have Teddy Bridgewater learning to play in the NFL starting around Week 5.

CINCINNATI -7 over Tennessee
The Bengals are becoming the AFC Saints and Paul Brown Stadium is becoming the Superdome. The Bengals have won their last 10 regular-season home games since Week 14 in 2012 and have become the best team in the AFC North since the start of last year.

CLEVELAND +1.5 over Baltimore
I have been rooting against the Browns for the first two weeks of the season because Browns wins mean no Johnny Football. After putting a scare into the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Browns beat the Outside the Superdome Saints and instead of “JOHN-NY FOOT-BALL” chants in Cleveland, Browns fans think they have a chance to compete and an outside chance at the postseason with Brian Hoyer. As badly as I want the Browns’ season to hit a losing streak, so that Johnny Football starts to play, I want the Ravens to lose that much more.

Green Bay +2.5 over DETROIT
This is my third week picking the Packers and so far they have done nothing but give me two losses. After being run out of Seattle and having a real scare put into them and their season by the Jets at Lambeau, the Packers have three divisional games in a row and if they play like they did for the first six quarters of their season, they could be in the same spot as the Giants when October rolls around.

Indianapolis -7 over JACKSONVILLE
I would like to see the Jaguars be competitive this season since the team has won 11 games over the last three-plus years. But I do like free wins when it comes to picks, even though I stupidly picked them to cover 5.5 points in Washington last week (they lost 41-10). When the Jaguars led 17-0 over the Eagles in Week 1, I thought we were finally seeing the team turn a corner and maybe this year their losses wouldn’t be by an average of 18.5 points like they were last year. But then the Jaguars were outscored 34-0 in the second half of the game and have been outscored 85-27 in the first two weeks of the season. And now the Jaguars are getting an 0-2 Colts team that gave away a game to the Eagles on Monday and came up short in their comeback attempt against the Broncos in Week 2. That -58 point differential isn’t going to start getting better this week.

NEW ENGLAND -14.5 over Oakland
The Raiders are the worst team in football. Well, maybe they aren’t. I’m sure the Jaguars and even the Giants would give them a good game, but the Raiders’ schedule has 2-14 as the best-case scenario written all over it and a meeting with history and the 2008 Lions as the worst-case scenario.

The Raiders haven’t won an East Coast game since 2009 and now they are flying to New England just two weeks after flying here to play the Jets, and sandwiched in between the two games was a 30-14 loss at home to the Texans.

San Francisco -3 over ARIZONA
The way the 49ers gave away Sunday night to the Bears in their stadium-opening game looked the exact same way the Giants would give away a game and it brought a smile to my face knowing that the G-Men aren’t the only ones capable of self destructing in seconds and blowing what would appear to be a sure win. The difference between the 49ers and Giants is that these types of losses are extremely rare for the 49ers and a near-weekly occurrence for the Giants. The 2011-14 49ers aren’t used to what happened against the Bears and it’s unlikely to happen again. As for the Giants, well I don’t think it would surprise anyone if we get a re-run of the Cardinals game against the Texans.

SEATTLE -4.5 over Denver
Super Bowl XLIX was played in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium, about 3,000 miles away from CenturyLink Field. Imagine if it had been played in Seattle. I think we are going to get the chance to see that.

MIAMI -4.5 over Kansas City
I thought I had finally learned last year that you can’t trust the Dolphins after I kept picking them and picking them and picking them while they destroyed their playoff chances with back-t0-back losses to the Bills (19-0) and Jets (20-7) to finish the season. So after I picked against the Dolphins in Week 1 against the Patriots, only to have them win, I picked the Dolphins to win in Buffalo in Week 2, only to have them lose by 19. So here I am, once again picking for the Dolphins at home to cover a difficult and tricky 4.5-point spread against the 0-2 Chiefs. I fully expect a double-digit Chiefs win.

CAROLINA -3.5 over Pittsburgh
The Panthers went 12-4 and went 11-1 after a 1-3 start and their only loss in those 12 games was in New Orleans where every team has lost with Sean Payton as head coach since the end of the 2010 season. So this year when everyone picked the Panthers to regress and be a disappointment I jumped on the anti-2014 Panthers bus because that seemed like the cool thing to do at the time and everyone was doing it as if if I were a 12-year-old being offered to take a drag of a cigarette in the woods behind the junior high school. But then the Panthers won on the road with Derek Anderson as their quarterback in Week 1 and beat up on the Lions and shut down Calvin Johnson as well as anyone can shut down Calvin Johnson in Week 2 and now they’re 2-0.

After back-to-back postseason-less seasons for the Steelers, everyone was seemingly picking them to get back to being one of the league’s elite. The only theme I had been hearing consistently over the last two years about the Steelers was how old they have gotten (like a baseball team I root for), so I was a little unsure as to why they were suddenly being hyped up as if it were 2010 again. But like the Panthers, I bought in and picked the Steelers to cover in Week 1 against the Browns and then again in Week 2 against the Ravens. They barely escaped the Browns game with a win and then couldn’t get up for the Ravens despite the Ravens being in the middle of one of the worst weeks in the history of the NFL.

I’m back to being pro-Panthers and anti-Steelers, which is how I should have been all along.

Chicago +2.5 over NEW YORK JETS
If the Jets hadn’t blown a 21-3 lead at Lambeau Field and were now 2-0 on the season and 1-0 to start their impossible six-week gauntlet, I’m sure my friend Tim Duff would be calling me to do his post-Green Bay trip podcast. Instead, Duff has been “unavailable” this week to talk about the Jets’ timeout debacle and loss to the Packers (though we are supposed to record the podcast by Friday). And I think he represents all Jets fans who would have been proclaiming the Jets as the Kings of the City (this worked out well in 2011) and would have been looking ahead to January and the playoffs.

Last week: 4-12-0
Season: 12-20-0