September 16, 2011
Last week, I went 9-6-1 in my picks which looks pretty good on the surface. However, I made a Facebook group with a few of my friends that is a very interesting microeconomy. Essentially, we post bets and respond to those of others with payment due via Paypal on Tuesday morning. On this group, I posted seven potential $10 bets for people to choose whether or not to accept. On these “conviction” bets, I went 1-6. Ultimately, four bets were taken–one by Asif–and on these I went 0-4. I therefore went 8-0-1 on the picks with which I had the least conviction. The lesson, as always, is that I actually have no idea what I’m talking about and you should never ever ever ever ever ever listen to my gambling advice.
Overall, though, it was a very good weekend of watching football with one glaring exception. During the first half of the Sunday 1pm games, DirecTV Sunday NFL Ticket was FROZEN. This means that at the bar I was at we were stuck with Bears-Falcons (which was OK for awhile) and Colts-Texans which sucked from almost the very beginning. I truly do know how lucky we are to be able to watch every football game on TV, especially ones from out of market. Until comparatively recently, we wouldn’t have been able to listen to these games on the radio. We would have had to READ about them the next day in the NEWSPAPER. That being said, we now live in a day and age where the technology exists to broadcast all of these games. DirecTV, having bid on an exclusive monopoly to do so, has a responsibility to make sure that IT WORKS WHEN THE GAMES COME ON. Semi-relatedly, I don’t understand why the local Chicago CBS affiliate must stay on Colts-Texans instead of switching to a more compelling game when the Texans are up 31-0. Nobody in Chicago wants to see this, ESPECIALLY Colts fans. If Ravens-Steelers was any closer, I don’t know if I would have been able to contain my rage.
As will be the case throughout the season, I am picking against my friend Asif who writes at Uninformed Commentary.
Asif : 8-7-1 and $10 of Glasspiegel’s money
Chicago @ New Orleans (-7)
Ryan: As I wrote earlier this week, Jay Cutler appears to be in full-fledged Eff You mode. The Saints looked great on offense last week against the Packers but struggled mightily on defense. This deficiency could obviously be partly attributed it to the weapons of mass destruction that are the Packers offense but the ease with which Green Bay moved the ball up the field was substantial even when taking this into account. This line seems a little bit too high, especially if Urlacher plays for the Bears as is expected. Bears cover.
Asif: Sorry, but I’m not buying the Cutler renaissance, and here’s why. The Bear’s offensive line is terrible. Cutler was sacked four times and hit six times against Atlanta last Sunday. All this is a year after he was the most sacked QB in the NFL. The Saints lack a pass rusher on the order of John Abraham, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves to bring the blitz so don’t expect Cutler to be upright too much. Sooner or later he’s going to fold. He is, after all, Jay Cutler. Saints cover.
Kansas City @ Detroit (-8.5)
Ryan: The Chiefs were abysmally bad last week versus the Bills and the Lions were exceedingly good last week versus the Buccaneers. To make matters worse for the Chiefs, they lost safety Eric Berry for the season. It is never good when a bad team loses one of its best players.
As much as I hate to pick a team coached by noted egomaniac Todd Haley, I think that this line is a little bit too high and that Detroit is susceptible to relinquishing a back door cover. I think Detroit wins but Chiefs cover.
Asif: Detroit is my NFC sleeper, although I guess they’re not really a sleeper because everyone expects them to outperform. Matthew Stafford looked like an all-pro last week, but I do think that Tampa might have been the most overrated team in football coming into the season.
Todd Haley might the worst coach in the NFL. He randomly shuttles his best offensive player (Jamaal Charles) to the bench in favor of an aging Thomas Jones and his play calling is general is abysmal. His stupidity is exacerbated by his inability to work with others, evidenced by his forcing Charlie Weis out of town and firing Chan Gailey. Gailey’s Bills of course, trounced Haley’s Chiefs last Sunday. This line seems a bit high, but I’m not convinced of the Chiefs ability to play defense at all so I’ll bite on Detroit to cover.
Jacksonville @ NY Jets (-9.5)
Ryan: For the first three quarters versus the Cowboys on Sunday night, the Jets did not look very good on either side of the ball. They had to have A LOT of random things go their way to win that game; they blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown and capitalized on two unforced Tony Romo errors–a fumble on the Jets one-yard line and a monumentally stupid interception. Even then, the Jets barely squeaked by with a 27-24 victory. The Cowboys are a lot better than the Jaguars but I just don’t see the Jets offense as being good enough to cover this spread. Jets win but Jaguars cover.
Asif: The Jets always seem to find some way to upset me. The Jaguars are about as interesting as the city of Jacksonville, which is to say that they’re not interesting at all. Fun story: I was in the Jacksonville airport once. It sucked. I’ll go with the Jags to cover mostly because I’m not much of a believer in Mark Sanchez. I would be very surprised if Jacksonville actually won the game.
Oakland @ Buffalo (-3)
Ryan: I never predict Oakland games right. When I think they will win, they lose. When I think they will lose, they win. Let this be your disclaimer that if you want to double your assets you should bet the house against whatever I decide in the next paragraph.
At least on offense, Buffalo is pretty good. I’m not necessarily on the “Ryan Fitzpatrick straight up wins football games” bandwagon quite yet but I’m on the “Ryan Fitzpatrick straight up wins football games against bad teams and covers the spread against good teams” bandwagon. Despite their win against Denver last week, I am still of the opinion that the Raiders are a bad football team. Last week when they wanted to give the game ball to Al Davis, the only thing I could think of is that the Raiders players are abundantly self-aware and recognize the extent to which they have been collectively drafted ahead of where they should have been and/or overpaid. Buffalo covers.
Asif: Oakland beat Denver. That and five dollars will get you a cup of ice cream. I’m jumping on the Bills bandwagon now. Although beating Kansas City is no great accomplishment, I like their offense. This line seems way too low to me, Buffalo covers.
Arizona @ Washington (-4)
Ryan: Week 2 is kind of difficult to pick against the spread because on one hand we have impressions going into the season but on the other we have seen real football which can alter those impressions to some extent. I am particularly grappling with how I feel about Washington; my preseason prediction for them was that they would quit on Mike Shanahan early in the season in the hopes of ridding themselves of such an oppressive dictator but then they came out and trounced the Giants last week. Was this a mirage? Are the Giants actually awful? How many times will they make Asif cry this season? There is no way to know yet. That’s why they play the games.
At home last week, the Cardinals were unable to convincingly beat a team starting a rookie quarterback. Granted, Cam Newton appeared very poised and collected but did the Cardinals and their lack of an NFL-caliber secondary enable him to be so? This game is tough because I still think the Redskins are going to be bad but the Cardinals might just be worse. With no conviction (and if last week is any indication, I will get this pick right), I say Cardinals cover.
Asif: The most overrated unit in all of football right now is the Redskins defense. Sure they looked great against the Giants last week, but here’s the dirty little secret: New York’s O-line is dogsh*t. The Redskins did nothing to get better on defense in the offseason so I’m not going to buy the line that they’re magically improved by Albert Haynesworth’s not being around.
Cam Newton put a scare in the Cardinals and I’m not sold on their defense. Going up against Sexy Rexy, it shouldn’t really matter if they’re actually good. The Kevin Kolb experience looked like a success last week with over 300 yds passing 2 TDs, 0 INT and a 130 passer rating. I still think that there will be some ups and downs, but having Larry Fitzgerald around will certainly help Kolb as the season wears on. I’ll take Arizona and the points.
Baltimore (-6) @ Tennessee
Ryan: Based on the facts that the Ravens destroyified the AFC Champion Steelers last week and that Tennessee couldn’t beat a team that had cut its starting quarterback earlier in the week to save money, this line seems at least 3-6 points too low. OR IS THAT JUST WHAT VEGAS WANTS US TO THINK? Last week, the Patriots covered in the “this line seems way too low” game and sportsbooks reportedly got crushed.
I think that the Titans struggle through a re-building year and we see Jake Locker starting around Week 8. Baltimore covers, perhaps twice.
Asif: Baltimore absolutely dismantled the Steelers last week. I watched a fair amount of the game and it was domination from the first quarter on. Baltimore definitely looks like an early Super Bowl favorite which means we’ll get to enjoy plenty of pictures of toothless Ravens fans throughout the season.
I have a soft spot for Matt Hasselbeck since we share an alma mater (Boston College); and he wasn’t terrible last week, so I don’t really see much wrong with starting him. I like Jake Locker a lot, but he was pretty raw in college so a year sitting behind Hasselbeck and learning a few tricks might be good for him. That said, there isn’t a whole lot to like about the Titans. Baltimore covers easily.
Seattle @ Pittsburgh (-14)
Ryan: Last Sunday, I ended up watching the second half of the 4pm games by myself. This wasn’t particularly weird as if there is something I really enjoy doing–and as you might guess by reading this far in this column, watching football is one of those–I won’t not do it just because I don’t have someone to do it with me. What was particularly weird, in an AWESOME way, was that there was a cute girl at the table next to mine doing the same to root for the Seahawks against the 49ers. Because I had mistakenly bet $10 on a team led by Tarvaris Jackson, I had the same rooting interest. My bet and her team lost in devastatingly painful fashion.
The Steelers looked dreadful last week so I am masochistic enough to pick T-Jack on the road again because this line is so high. I will put my picks column reputation on the line for it but I will NOT be betting money on it again this week. Seahawks cover.
Asif: Pittsburgh, or Sh*tsburgh as Sienna Miller calls it, looked terrible last week, but I think they’re too good of a team to put up consecutive stinkers (see what I did there with the pun? Get used to it, poop jokes are about all I’ve got). Seattle is not. This line still seems too high though. I’ll take Seattle to cover and I’ll probably regret it.
Green Bay (-9.5) @ Carolina
Ryan: The worst game in any sport that I have ever been to was Panthers @ Packers during Week 13 of the 2008 season. Lambeau Field was filled with Favre-loving, Thompson-hating malcontents as the Packers came back from a 21-10 deficit to make it 31-28 late in the 4th quarter. All I kept saying to anyone around me who would listen and many who had no desire to was to put two defensive backs on Steve Smith because I just KNEW from how the season had been going that he was going do something that supremely pissed me off. Sure enough, Jake Delhomme hit Smith on a bomb to the 1-yard line and DeAngelo Williams ran the ball in on what I think was the next play. In this instance, I was not happy to have been right.
As I briefly alluded to earlier, I am now calling the Packers offense the Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is almost unfair to the rest of the league to give the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who won their last six games last season in methodical fashion, a healthy Jermichael Finley and speedy Randall Cobb. If ARodg stays healthy this season, the Packers are gonna score a lot of points. In related news, when it’s daytime and there aren’t any clouds, the sky is blue.
Cam Newton did look very good last week against Arizona but they don’t have any defensive backs as good as the Packers’ third best cornerback, Sam Shields. With a week of game tape on Newton coupled with his having had a limited chance to learn the playbook due to the shortened offseason, I think the Packers straight up dominate this game on both sides of the ball. Packers cover.
Asif: I’m not sure what to make of Cam Newton. Everything in my gut tells me he’s going to be a bust, but every time I bet against him (see: title game, BCS) I lose. So, here you go Cam, I’m going to admit that you actually might be good. The rest of your team however, leaves a bit to be desired. I could see Carolina making teams sweat or possibly pulling off a couple upsets as long as Newton plays well, because they have a solid running game. I don’t think that they’ll be able to keep up with a team as good as Green Bay, who are my NFC favorites. Packers Cover.
Tampa Bay @ Minnesota (-3)
Ryan: When you are watching four games at once with no sound, you miss subtleties that you would otherwise pick up like Donovan McNabb’s only having 39 passing yards. 39! That is a historically dreadful performance which was somewhat obscured on the final scoreboard because of a Percy Harvin return touchdown at the beginning of the game.
Tampa Bay also had a dismal performance last week versus Detroit that was slightly obscured by an Aqib Talib pick-six. They couldn’t get ANYTHING going on offense. Some of this can be attributed to what may end up being a beastly Lions defense but there should be some cause for concern for the 45 Bucs fans out there. Ok, that was mean, the Bucs have at least 75 fans. I am picking the Buccaneers to cover but will be extremely dismayed if this doesn’t happen in a game where LeGarrette Blount only gets five carries like last week.
Asif: Unlike Ryan, I did notice how terrible Donovan McNabb was last weekend. Mostly because my Eagle hating sense also applies to former Eagles and the stink coming from McNabb’s performance was too much to ignore. Strangely it smelt like Cocoa Puffs and week old mayonnaise. I don’t see this McNabb thing in Minny ending well, but at least the layer of blubber he’s put on should keep him warm during those cold Minnesota winters.
Tampa is the most overrated team in the NFC. They were lucky to play an easy schedule last year. I like Josh Freeman, but take a quick look at the rest of their roster. Any names jump out? Didn’t think so. Their best receiver is Kellen Winslow and he hasn’t been good in like five years. Aqib Talib is pretty good at football, but much better at shooting people. Minnesota to cover.
Cleveland (-2.5) @ Indianapolis
Ryan: Last week, at an indie coffee shop, I ordered a small coffee which came out to be $2.04. At first, I pulled out my credit card to try to pay. I STRONGLY prefer to pay via credit card because it means I have a paper trail of where in the world all my money has gone. Also, I know this runs counter to common consumer spending habits but I spend much less money when I don’t have any cash. Finally, going to the ATM is an arduous chore and the less often I spend cash the less often I have to do so. Of course, the barista made me pay cash, which I actually DID have at the time. I pulled out two dollars and asked if that would be enough and she INSISTED that I break another dollar. Why aren’t establishments more lenient in situations like this? It’s four cents and my inconvenience of having to now carry around 96 cents in my pocket that I will NEVER use except for maybe on laundry would strongly outweigh theirs of being four cents short. If this happened to the store 100 times in a week and they gave in to the customers on all of them it would add up to four dollars. That’s NOTHING. I left the transaction feeling gravely injusticed.
Considering I used my CBS/Colts rant in the opening, I don’t have too much to add in the way of analysis for this game. Whereas last season Kerry Collins was merely a statue, last week he looked like one of the rancidly decaying variety. This game should be blacked out nationally. Browns cover.
Asif: In my recap of last week’s games, I wrote this:
“There’s a lesson to be learned here. No matter what the line is and no matter who the opponent is, when you’re predicting a game involving the Browns and Cleveland is favored, just take the points. Trust me, you’ll never be disappointed.”
At the risk of sounding like Bill Simmons, I’m going to amend that to add, “Unless that opponent is the 2011 Colts.” Without Peyton Manning, the Colts are terrible. The Texans could have dug up Johnny Unitas’s corpse and they would have beat Indy by two touchdowns. Seriously, Arian Foster didn’t play, Matt Schaub tossed two picks and Houston still won by four touchdowns. If the Colts somehow win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, though, I might consider giving up on football entirely. Browns Cover.
Dallas (-3) @ San Fransisco
Ryan: As I mentioned in the Jets passage, anything that plausibly could have gone wrong did for the Cowboys last week. San Francisco had a lot of luck in blowing out the Seahawks. In a game that it looked like the Seahawks would cover, Ted Ginn had two return touchdowns in about 10 seconds to make it look like a blowout victory. With conviction (this means you should STRONGLY consider betting the other way), Dallas covers.
Asif: Tony Romo is the best crappy quarterback in the NFL. He looks great on paper, has every tool you’d want in a quarterback, puts up great fantasy stats and somehow manages to always kill his own team in the clutch. I hate the Cowboys so I’m not complaining about any of this, just pointing it out. I wish I could find a bottle of the tears Cowboys fans shed after that last interception. San Fransisco is not good. Cowboys cover.
Houston (-3) @ Miami
Ryan: The Texans looked really, really good last week and this was not just because they were playing the suddenly hapless, Manning-less Colts. They were dominant on both sides of the ball. Everything we read about Mario Williams struggling with his new role in Wade Philips’s defense seemed to go away immediately as he had two sacks and a forced fumble.
The Dolphins had a decent game on the offensive side of the ball, especially considering Reggie Bush’s known deficiencies as a conventional running back, versus New England but struggled mightily on defense as it seemed like the Patriots could gain 40 yards on any play they felt like it. I’m riding with Houston to cover.
Asif: If the Texans don’t win the AFC South they should be contracted. So much for Vontae Davis and Sean Smith being the best corner tandem in the NFL. I think Chad Henne might be slightly better than he’s given credit for. He’s certainly no worse than Mark Sanchez, who manages to escape the same rap due to his superior supporting cast. Still, I think that Houston is simply the better team in this match-up. Texans cover.
San Diego @ New England (-7)
Ryan: As I mentioned earlier, Donovan McNabb only had 39 passing yards last week versus San Diego. The Chargers also held Adrian Peterson to under 100 yards but somehow only beat the Vikings by a touchdown. You would have to imagine that at some they would figure out a way to stop giving up return touchdowns. Considering, though, that New England gave up 488 yards of total offense to the Dolphins last week, I am expecting the Chargers to put up some major points this week.
Having two absolutely beastly tight ends, the Patriots may well represent the prototype for where offense in the NFL is going. Individually, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are almost impossible to cover–they are too big for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers. When they are on the field together, it goes from being a match-up nightmare to waking up covered in blood. That being said, I don’t see the Patriots putting up another 600 yards of offense this week. I think they win this game out but the Chargers cover, either in a close game or via the dreaded backdoor.
Asif: New England is frustratingly good, but they do have a fundamental flaw–their secondary. Devin McCourty had a great rookie year but I worry about their ability to cover second and third receivers. Chad freakin’ Henne passed for 416 yards against the Pats on Monday night. This would be a weakness that the Chargers could exploit, if they were coached by someone not named Norv Turner. Patriots Cover.
Cincinnati @ Denver (-4)
Ryan: This line completely hinges on whether Andy Dalton or Bruce Gradkowski starts for the Bengals. I never thought that Bruce Gradkowski would ever swing my decision to bet in favor of the team he was starting for as opposed to against it but, well, here we are.
Denver was another of the four teams that I bet on last week and as soon as I saw one offensive series I immediately regretted doing so. They could get absolutely nothing from the run and when you are relying on Kyle Orton to singlehandedly beat the opposing defense you are likely going to come away disappointed. Because it looks like Dalton is going to start, I am picking the Broncos to cover. From a monetary perspective, though, I am staying the F away from this game. Like Browns-Colts, it should just be blacked out nationally and we should have to read about it the next day in the newspaper in box score form.
Asif: Some Denver fans bought a billboard trying to get John Fox to start Tim Tebow. Man are they going to be disappointed if and when he actually does start. For Fox, the whole Tebow situation has to be like dating a girl whose ex gave her herpes. You like your new girlfriend, but you just can’t get rid of the disease. It goes away for a while, you push it back out of your mind (to the bench), but it never goes away and always bothers you. And yes, this is probably the only NFL picks column that will compare Tim Tebow to a venerial disease. Personally, I think Fox should just troll everyone and start Brady Quinn.
As crazy as this sounds, I think that people are sleeping on the Bengals. Their QB situation is a mess, but their defense is basically the same as it was two years ago when they won the NFC North. Their receiving corps might actually be improved as I’d take AJ Green over the 2010 versions of Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Jordan Shipley is definitely a serviceable second receiver as well. I’ll take Cincy and the points.
Philadelphia (-2.5) @ Atlanta
Ryan: I am torn on this game because the Eagles looked great last week and the Falcons looked horrible but went 7-1 at home in the regular season last year (to make that stat look more impressive I conveniently ignored their playoff shellacking at the hands of the Packers…shhhh). This looks like one of those games where Vegas is daring you to take the Eagles. I really can’t get into this game where I take the choice that is obviously wrong because I think that is what Vegas doesn’t want me to do, though. If I do, I’ll end up I’ll end up like the guy in the Princess Bride battle of wits. I’ll take Philly to cover.
Asif: The Eagles are the best NFC team that doesn’t play in Wisconsin. The Falcons are good, but I think last week exposed some of their weaknesses, namely the offensive line. For all his other great attributes, Matt Ryan isn’t the most mobile quarterback. Philly is known for putting on the heat and they have the corners to effectively cover Roddy White and Julio Jones. The Falcons are good in coverage, but I think they might have trouble containing Mike Vick when he scrambles. Give me Philly to cover and excuse me while I go punch a wall repeatedly.
St. Louis @ NY Giants (-5.5)
Ryan: While the Rams were pretty bad last week, at least it was against an Eagles squad that is projected to be one of the best in the league. The Giants were brutally bad last week versus the Rex-Skins. With injuries and just simply tiring of what Tom Coughlin brings to the table, this season may just end up being a lost cause for the Giants. Sorry, I’m not sorry, Asif. Rams cover.
Asif: To answer Ryan’s earlier question I predict the Giants will make me cry about six times this season. After that I will die on the inside and just accept defeat after defeat. They should get a boost from the return of Justin Tuck, but the pass rush wasn’t their problem last Sunday. There just isn’t a ton to like about the Rams, especially if Sam Bradford plays like he did last week. As apprehensive as I am, I’ll take NY to cover.