I thought last week might be Black Sunday when it comes to the picks. There seems to be that one week every season that goes horribly wrong and can ruin a picks season for good and my confidence level wasn’t great with last week’s lines and the way the day was going at one point. Even after losses on Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football the week finished at 7-7. But the last few weeks have just been about staying afloat and treading water and that’s no way to go with the potential of Black Sunday looming in any week. It’s time to make that huge cushion and create enough separation from the .500 mark that it won’t be relinquished.
(Home team in caps)
Seattle -6.5 over SAN FRANCISCO
There’s just no way the Seahawks are bad as they have played. There’s no way the team the won the Super Bowl two years ago and the team that was on the 1-yard line with a chance to win the Super Bowl last year should be 2-4 and playing for their season now with the Cardinals emerging as a possible NFC West favorite. The Seahawks are still good and are still one of the elite teams in the NFC. The Seahawks aren’t like the 49ers, who are really the team that has fallen from grace over the last two years since their run of Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game appearances. It’s about time the Seahawks act like the two-time defending NFC champions.
JACKSONVILLE +4 over Buffalo
I hate the games in London. Not because the NFL is taking the sport out of the country and having it played in Europe and depriving teams of home games here, but because the games are always horrible matchups. Jaguars and Bills? Really? It’s almost like the Football Gods are punishing the NFL for having games in London by making sure Tyrod Taylor (not that he’s anything special) and Sammy Watkins don’t play and that EJ Manuel does. How again are the Bills giving 4 in this game? These aren’t the Jaguars of recent years.
ST. LOUIS -6.5 over Cleveland
Outside of their 21-point Week 1 loss to the Jets, the 2-3 Browns have been in all of their games. They beat the Titans by 14, lost to the Raiders by seven, lost to the Chargers by three, beat the Ravens in overtime by three and lost to the Broncos in overtime by three. The Browns are pesky and hard to put away and I have trouble picking against them every week even though they are depriving me of the Johnny Football era.
The Rams, meanwhile, are the hardest team in the NFL not named the Giants to figure out. They beat the Seahawks in overtime, lost to the Redskins by 14, lost to the Steelers by six, beat the Cardinals by two and lost to the Packers by 14. The win over the Seahawks in Week 1 and in Arizona were both impressive, but losing to the Redskins and the mostly-without Big Ben Steelers aren’t. (I give them a pass for losing in Lambeau since every team does.) Coming off a bye and at home, I have a good feeling about the Rams and mainly their defense winning this game.
Pittsburgh +3 over KANSAS CITY
If the Chiefs can’t win this game, they might lose out and finish the season 1-15 after winning in Houston in Week 1.
Houston +5 over MIAMI
The Dolphins were the most hyped team in the NFL this season, and when they just got past the Redskins with a 17-10 win in Week 1, it was written off as the first game of the season. Then they lost to the Jaguars (23-20). Then they were embarrassed by the Bills (41-14). Then they were somewhat embarrassed by the Jets in London (27-14). Then they fired Joe Philbin, had their bye week and routed the Titans 38-10 last week. Now after one good game this season, the Dolphins are suddenly back as a 5-point favorite?
New York Jets +7.5 over NEW ENGLAND
This is the hardest game of the week to pick. I thought the Patriots really cared about going to Indianapolis and sending a message and running the Colts out of their own building for everything that has happened since January, but the Patriots could have cared less about anything other than getting out of there with a win, no matter how close the score was. Now the 5-0 Patriots return home to face the 4-1 Jets with first place in the AFC East on the line for the biggest regular-season game between the two since December 2010 when they were both 9-2 and playing for first place on Monday Night Football.
I have no idea which version of either team will show up. You would think this game would be about the Patriots’ offense vs. the Jets’ defense, but after watching the Colts pick apart the Patriots’ defense and the Jets’ offense explode recently behind Brandon Marshall and Chris Ivory, this game might be about the Jets’ offense. vs. the Patriots’ defense. Either way, 7.5 points is too many. These aren’t the Rex Ryan Jets.
MINNESOTA -1.5 over Detroit
I didn’t think it was possible for Jim Caldwell to surprise me with a decision, but he did that last week in Chicago. With 5:09 left in the fourth quarter and the Lions trailing 31-24 with a fourth-and-4 on the Bears’ 13, Caldwell called for a field goal. The Lions were trailing by a SEVEN POINTS with five minutes left in the game and Caldwell elected for THREE POINTS meaning the Lions would still have to stop the Bears, get the ball back and then score a touchdown anyway since three plus three doesn’t equal seven. It was an incredible decision to watch be made, but Caldwell was bailed out as the Lions did kick the field goal and then get the ball back and score a touchdown (before the Bears went down the field to kick the game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime). It was like watching someone with a huge bet on the table (because Caldwell’s job must certainly be on the line with the way this Lions season has gone) stay with a 15 against the dealer showing a 7 and then having it pay off and thinking they’re a genius. No, you just got lucky, and Jim Caldwell got very, very, very, very, very, very, very lucky.
Atlanta -6 over TENNESSEE
Marcus Mariota is out. Zach Mettenberger is in. The same Zach Mettenberger that is 0-6 as a starter in the NFL.
WASHINGTON -3.5 over Tampa Bay
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Redskins fan or a Buccaneers fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Thank about that.
INDIANAPOLIS -5.5 over New Orleans
The Saints screwed me on Thursday Night Football last week. The Colts screwed me on Sunday Night Football last week. I’m probably going to get screwed again this week, but if it’s going to happen, it will need to be the Outside the Superdome Saints screwing me.
SAN DIEGO -3.5 over OAKLAND
It’s been a long tradition of mine to take the Raiders to cover against the Chargers, but when I see the Chargers schedule and see that they’re 2-4, I see a team about to go on a run. Since the end of the Chargers’ run as the AFC West power, which coincided with Peyton Manning going to the Broncos, the Chargers have been pretty much a .500 team that ends up making a run to either finish 8-8 or 9-7 and either barely make the playoffs or barely miss them. When you see those end-of-the-season clinching possibilities, it’s always the Chargers in the mix either needing three other teams to lose (or tie, which never happens). They don’t make things easy for themselves and losing a home game to the Michael Vick Steelers has put them in a bad position once again. But when you need something to go your way, a home game against the Raiders is a good spot to be in.
NEW YORK GIANTS -3 over Dallas
When the Giants went up 7-0 on the Eagles on the opening drive on Monday Night Football, and Jon Gruden was talking about how much the Giants’ offense has evolved with Ben McAdoo and how it looked exactly like the Packers’ offense with Aaron Rodgers, I started to think maybe just maybe the Giants would finally realize their potential. I thought this could be it. This could be what Eli Manning and the offense has needed to put them in position to win each week and make them a contender each season. They didn’t score again for the rest of the game, Eli threw two horrible interceptions and the Giants lost 27-7. Instead of being 4-2 and having a 1 1/2-game lead in the NFC East, they’re now 3-3 along with the Eagles, who have the tiebreaker over the Giants thanks to that head-to-head result.
The Giants never make it easy. Never. And they never will. I need to actually fully accept the fact and stop trying to talk myself into thinking they will ever be anything more than the most frustrating team in professional sports. But even knowing they could win or lose each week by 21, if they can’t beat the Cowboys at MetLife with Matt Cassel starting at quarterback, I shouldn’t waste anymore time watching this team.
CAROLINA -3 over Philadelphia
I have doubted Carolina all season, didn’t take them seriously as a true undefeated team and thought they would finally be exposed in Seattle. Well, the Panthers are for real. Any team that can go to Seattle and win, and not only win, but put together three touchdown drives of 80 yards or more is a real threat. Don’t let up now, Panthers. The Giants need you this week. I need you this week.
ARIZONA -9 over Baltimore
The fall of the Ravens has been fun to watch, but I feel like I haven’t appreciated it enough. This Monday I will make sure to soak it all in as I watch the Cardinals rout the Ravens, send them to 1-5 and destroy any glimmer of hope they had to going on some sort of run and making the playoffs.
Last week: 7-7-0