September 21, 2016
For the gambling degenerates, here are my Week 3 NFL picks. To note, the helmets indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.
Texans (-1) at Patri*ts: Patri*ts backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is listed as doubtful this week after suffering a shoulder injury Week 2. With starting quarterback Tom Brady watching from the sidelines because he cheated, the Pats will have to roll with third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett. While I liked Brissett quite a bit as a prospect this offseason, this is a tall order against a team like the Texans, who have a tremendous pass rush.
Then again, the Texans' headsets will mysteriously stop working on a key 3rd and 8, I'm sure.
Cardinals (-4.5) at Bills: The Bills are a train wreck at the moment, while the Cardinals are coming off a blowout win over the Bucs. The Bills looked feeble in their secondary against the Jets last Thursday night, giving up one chunk play after the next. It won't get any easier against arguably the most vertically-oriented passing offense in the NFL.
Raiders at Titans (-1.5): The Raiders are first in the NFL in offense, but dead last in defense, giving up 517.5 yards per game through the first two weeks as they've been involved in two shootouts. That should calm down some this week, as they'll face a running offense in Tennessee. The 1.5 line in favor of the Titans feels like the oddsmakers are suckering you in to take Oakland, and I'll take the bait.
Browns at Dolphins (-10): The Dolphins are a bad football team, and yet they're double-digit favorites over a Browns team that has already lost two quarterbacks.
Ravens (-1) at Jaguars: Remember the hype the Jaguars were getting this offseason, with some suggesting this would be the year they made the leap to the playoffs? Welp, after two games, the Jags are 0-2, with the worst point differential in the NFL, at -28. Gus Bradley's career record is 12-38 (.240). I'll start picking the Jags when they actually, you know, start winning. Until then, they're an easy win almost every week in this column.
Lions at Packers (-8): Including the playoffs, Aaron Rodgers hasn't had a passer rating above 100 in any one game in his last 14 starts. That's crazy. That could change this Sunday against the Lions, who have allowed a a combined passer rating of 112.7 against Andrew Luck and Marcus Mariota so far this year.
Broncos at Bengals (-3.5): It's really hard to bet against that Broncos' defense, but the Bengals have lost just four games at home since 2013.
Vikings at Panthers (-7): The Vikings' offensive line has struggled protecting the quarterback so far this season, and the Panthers have arguably the best defensive front seven in football. That's a bad matchup for the Sleeved One.
Redskins at Giants (-4.5): The Redskins are desperate for a win here, as a loss would put them at 0-3 overall (three games behind the Giants), and 0-2 in the division. Kirk Cousins has been an enormous disappointment so far, despite a quality group of skill position players.
Rams at Buccaneers (-4.5): Even with a win last weekend against the Seahawks (who the Rams seem to have figured out), the Rams still have not yet scored a touchdown.
49ers at Seahawks (-10): After losing to one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Seahawks will take their frustrations out on Chip.
Jets at Chiefs (-3): The Chiefs nearly burned me Week 1 when they narrowly escaped against the Chargers at home with a win, and then they burned me last week when the Texans beat them comfortably. I had previously thought Kansas City looked like a Super Bowl contender. I'll be pumping the brakes on that for the time being, but I do still like them to pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick into mistakes and come out with a win here.
Chargers at Colts (-2.5): The Colts have given up 73 points, the most in the NFL. This defense stinks, and the Colts could very well be in free fall mode.
Steelers (-3.5) at Eagles: Offensively, the Steelers are who the Eagles should aspire to be over the next few years, surrounding Carson Wentz with quality skill position players. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the Steelers had the best offense in the NFL over the last two years. In 2015, the Steelers had the third-ranked offense in terms of yards, and the top-ranked offense in yards per play. In 2014, they had the second-ranked offense yardage-wise, and were second in yards per play.
So far in 2016, the Steelers have picked up where they left off, scoring an average of 31 points per game to start the season. This may be the best challenge the Eagles defense will face all year.
Defensively, the Steelers are less impressive, as it is a very young, inexperienced group. In fact, the Steelers have the third youngest starting defensive front seven in the NFL, as of July 12. Much like the Eagles' first two opponents, the Steelers don't have much in the way of starting pass rushers with impressive career sack numbers. (Note - James Harrison is still on the team, but does not start and is nowhere near the player he once was). The Steelers' personnel defensively is better than the Bears' and Browns', but this isn't the high-quality Steelers defense you once knew.
If the Eagles can hit Ben Roethlisberger early and often, they can win this game. If the Eagles' defensive front can't dominate, the Steelers' offense has too many weapons, and an absolute star in Antonio Brown, who should give the Eagles' depleted corners all they can handle and then some. Steelers, 27-23.
Bears at Cowboys (-7): As we all saw Monday night, Jay Cutler just isn't a very good starting NFL quarterback, but at least he's better than Brian Hoyer, who the Cowboys will get to face Sunday. And if Hoyer goes down, you know who's up next? Matt Barkley!
Falcons at Saints (-3): In 2013, the Saints swept the Falcons. In 2014 the Falcons swept the Saints. In 2015, the Saints swept the Falcons. Therefore, I've concluded that the Falcons will sweep the Saints in 2016. That's my dumb analysis for this game, as I have not yet seen the Falcons or Saints play this year.
• Picks against the spread: Raiders (+1.5), Panthers (-7), Redskins (+4.5), Chargers (+2.5), Cowboys (-7).
• 2016 season, straight up: 18-14 (.563)
• 2016 season, ATS: 6-4 (.600)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)
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