Week 1 was a pretty big disappointment for me from a financial perspective. This is the third straight year in which I’ve been decimated in the first week of the season, and I really can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because I fall in love with certain games when the lines are first released a couple of months before the season, or maybe it’s just coincidence, but regardless, it’s not unusual for me to get off to a slow start.
I really don’t like the Week 2 board too much. I’m looking for spots where the general public may have overreacted to what they saw in Week 1, but that’s going to lead me to picking a lot of bad football teams this week just based on line value. Hopefully I can bounce back from my 4-9 ATS record last Sunday, going a paltry 1-3 ATS on my recommended bets.
Buccaneers @ Giants: The Giants aren’t deserving of being more than a touchdown favorite at home. Their secondary is a complete abomination with all of the injuries that they’ve suffered to start the season, and their run defense can be easily exploited. This is not the same dominant defense that we saw in last year’s postseason run. New York gave up over five yards per carry against Dallas in Week 1, while Bucs’ rookie Doug Martin was slashing his way through the Carolina defense. Tampa’s offense didn’t look great in Week 1 but the presence of a running game allowed them to control the ball for more than 37 minutes and keep the Panthers’ offense off the field. I think we’ll see more of the same here. New York typically struggles to start the season and get better as the year progresses. Big upset potential here. Giants 17, Buccaneers 16
Cardinals @ Patriots: The Cardinals could pose a bit of a threat to the Patriots in this contest. With New England traveling to Baltimore next week to take on the Ravens, this could be a potential letdown spot. I’m not ready to completely change my tune on Kevin Kolb, but there’s no question he looked much more comfortable in the pocket last week against Seattle than the Kolb of last season. He’ll be looking to target Larry Fitzgerald early and often, which should presumably work out well since Fitzgerald is four inches taller than both of the Patriots’ starting cornerbacks. Arizona’s running game should also fair a little bit better this week with New England having to respect Fitzgerald’s big play presence on the field. Defensively, Arizona’s defensive line, which consists of two beasts in Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, poses a big threat to the offensive line of the Pats. Furthermore, Arizona’s linebackers and safeties are extremely athletic and will have as good a chance as anyone in the league at stopping New England’s tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. That’s not to say that they will though. Patriots 28, Cardinals 20
Vikings @ Colts: I don’t like this situation for Minnesota. They’re coming off of an emotional home overtime victory over Jacksonville with games against San Francisco and Detroit on deck in the next two weeks. Indianapolis, after getting blown out in Chicago, will be highly motivated to win in Andrew Luck’s home debut. The Colts really struggled to defend the run all of last season and again in last week’s matchup with Chicago. I’d anticipate that they’re going to stack the box and do everything it takes to limit Adrian Peterson, forcing Christian Ponder to have to win the game with his arm. In games where Ponder had to throw the ball 30+ times last season, the Vikings went 0-5, and Ponder had an average quarterback rating of 65.0. Minnesota has a great receiving weapon in Percy Harvin, but Indianapolis has a pair of formidable cornerbacks in Vontae Davis and Jerraud Powers. I really think that despite being a rookie, Andrew Luck is the better of the two quarterbacks in this contest. Opposing quarterbacks posted some colossal stats against Minnesota last year and I’d expect the same here. Colts 24, Vikings 16
Saints @ Panthers: I love the Panthers here. New Orleans is in complete disarray and will essentially be going up against the same type of quarterback that absolutely shredded them last week. The Saints couldn’t mount any pass rush whatsoever against the Redskins and had to resort to a lot of cornerback and safety blitzes to get any sort of pressure. A repeat of that this week will leave New Orleans’ defense susceptible to a lot of big runs, whether it be by Cam Newton himself or one of his two running backs. The Saints gave up 153 yards rushing to Washington and will face a better backfield this weekend, so I’m not liking their chances of generating stops. Offensively, the Saints were far from the well-oiled machine that we’ve grown accustomed to in years past, and it largely had to do with some terrible play calling. The loss of head coach Sean Payton is a far bigger blow than most people realize as he was an expert play caller. The Saints were tops in the NFL in converting third downs last year, but converted only 18 percent of their third downs in Week 1. If the Saints can’t extend drives this week then they’re doomed, because their defense is pathetic. Panthers 38, Saints 24
Chiefs @ Bills: I’m not sure what to make of this game. Once again, the Bills have been decimated by injuries early in the year, while the Chiefs return stud cornerback Brandon Flowers from injury and linebacker Tamba Hali from his one-week suspension. However, this is Buffalo’s home opener, and they’re due for a bounce back game after bringing the Jets’ offense back to life last week. Buffalo’s defensive line is very talented but was flat in the team’s opener. I think they’ll create all sorts of trouble for Matt Cassel this week. On offense, the losses of Fred Jackson and David Nelson will hurt, but the Bills have shown an ability to plug-in players on offense. Meanwhile, Kansas City has to go on the road after a tough home loss. Last season they laid an egg against Buffalo in Week 1, losing 41-7. This is a spot where Kansas City will need to show some pride, so I don’t think the Bills will run away with the game like they did last year, but I do think they’ll pull off the win. Bills 24, Chiefs 20
Ravens @ Eagles: I’m going with the Eagles in a bounce back spot here. The Ravens looked amazing on Monday night against the Bengals, but I’m not going to overreact to a big home win against one of the more overrated teams in the league. Baltimore has shown a propensity in the past to follow up a big win by laying an egg. Last year, the Ravens destroyed the Steelers 35-7 in Week 1, only to lose 26-13 to the Titans as a 6.5-point favorite in Week 2. The Eagles, and particularly Michael Vick, looked atrocious against the Browns last week, but Philadelphia’s defense was as dominant as advertised. The Eagles allowed a total of 210 yards and only 12 first downs, while forcing four turnovers. Baltimore’s no-huddle offense was very effective against Cincinnati in Week 1, but Philadelphia is much better equipped to handle it. On the other side of the ball, Vick’s costly mistakes last week will ensure that Philadelphia gets LeSean McCoy more involved in the offense. Baltimore gave up 5.1 yards per carry to BenJarvus Green-Ellis last week, so I’m sure they’ll have their hands full with McCoy. Eagles 27, Ravens 23
Raiders @ Dolphins: If the Dolphins are going to win one game this season, it’s going to be this one. Oakland is awful. “Captain Checkdown” Carson Palmer refuses to throw the ball more than five yards downfield, and on top of that, the Raiders still haven’t figured out how to avoid taking penalties. It also looks like they’ll be without their most valuable player, long snapper Jon Condo, which is a huge blow since apparently no one else on Oakland can snap a ball. The Dolphins just held the dynamic Texans’ rushing attack to just 2.4 yards per carry so I have faith that they’ll keep Darren McFadden in check. Defensively, the Raiders are a very physical team, but they’re also very slow. Miami is by no means an offensive powerhouse, but the majority of their weapons on offense are burners. Reggie Bush and Davone Bess will be heavily involved in the short passing game, and Miami will do just enough to pull out a narrow victory. Dolphins 13, Raiders 9
Browns @ Bengals: It would really make me happy if I could just skip this game entirely because I’m about to get an ulcer just thinking about these two teams. If you’ve been reading my blogs up until this point, you know what I think about the Bengals. They’re one of the most overvalued teams in football because the general public believes that Andy Dalton is a capable quarterback, despite the fact that he has the arm strength of John Hawkes. Dalton catches a break with Browns’ cornerback Joe Haden missing the game due to suspension, but ultimately, I don’t want to lay a touchdown with an inconsistent quarterback. Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden was brutal against the Eagles last week, but most of his mistakes came when he made poor decisions under pressure. Cincinnati doesn’t boast the same type of pass rush that Philadelphia does, meaning that Weeden will have more time to try to connect with his receivers. The key word being ‘try’. If anyone other than Weeden was starting this game I’d take the Browns to win outright. Instead, I’ll say they keep it close. Bengals 17, Browns 12.
Texans @ Jaguars: The Texans are a solid football team and will probably win this game, but covering a spread of more than a touchdown on the road can be a daunting task. The style of offense that Jacksonville runs can really slow this game down. Maurice Jones-Drew will see a heavy dose of the ball, and Jacksonville will try to counter Wade Phillips’ heavy blitz packages with a lot of quick throws and screens. Houston’s defense is solid all around and will likely be able to limit the Jaguars’ yardage totals, but I don’t see Jacksonville turning the ball over and giving Houston short fields to work with. The Texans’ offense wasn’t as dynamic against the Jaguars last season in large part due to the fact that Jacksonville was able to contain Andre Johnson. Considering Johnson is Houston’s only game changing weapon in the passing game, that’s a pretty good strategy. Blaine Gabbert is starting to show signs that he can be a moderately effective quarterback, and while I doubt the Jaguars will win this game, I don’t see them getting blown out either. Texans 20, Jaguars 14
Cowboys @ Seahawks: Last week, the Seahawks would have been favored over the Cowboys here, but all of a sudden they’re a three-point home dog. Dallas did a lot of great things against the Giants last Wednesday, but it all started with their ability to pound the rock with DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys are effective when they can establish a running game, but Seattle has one of the best run stopping units in the league. Another thing that Seattle does really well is use their big cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman to press receivers at the line of scrimmage—something that Cowboys’ receivers have struggled with in the past. I’m pretty confident that you’re not going to see the same explosive Cowboys’ offense that you saw just over a week ago. Russell Wilson’s first career NFL start was a disappointment, but he’ll take comfort in the fact that the Dallas defense has really struggled against mobile quarterbacks in the last couple of years, as evidenced by two beatings at the hands of the Eagles last season. With Cowboys’ nose tackle Jay Ratliff unlikely to play again this week, Seattle should be able to establish their running game en route to a tight victory. Seahawks 19, Cowboys 17
Redskins @ Rams: I’m not yet a believer in the Redskins. Robert Griffin III had a fantastic NFL debut, but he’ll face a much tougher St. Louis secondary this week. Veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan and rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins both have excellent man coverage skills, which will allow the Rams to use multiple blitz packages to put Griffin under pressure. With Pierre Garcon a game-time decision for Washington, the Redskins may be without any sort of game changing receiver. Under a constant stream of blitzes, Griffin will have to make quick decisions in the pocket this week—something that we didn’t see from the rookie signal caller last week. I really like what Jeff Fisher has done with this Rams team since taking over, especially with his quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford regressed heavily last season after enjoying a solid rookie campaign, but he looked poised in the pocket against the Lions. Stephen Jackson was a non-factor last week but that’s not too surprising given the stout defensive front of Detroit. If the Rams can get Jackson heavily involved in this game, they’ll pull the upset. Rams 20, Redskins 16
Jets @ Steelers: Well it didn’t take long for the Jets to get back into the good graces of the public. New York put in a complete effort and dismantled the Bills last week, but I doubt they’re going to enjoy the same success offensively against Pittsburgh. The Steelers defense is superb against the run, meaning that Mark Sanchez is going to be facing a lot of third-and-long situations. I’m not quite sure Sanchez has turned the corner after one good performance, so I’d venture a guess that he’ll commit at least a couple of turnovers. Pittsburgh has a big defensive front seven and you can bet that they’re going to test the often criticized offensive line of the Jets. On the other side of things, Pittsburgh’s offense was moving the ball quite efficiently against Denver on Monday night until a couple of their offensive linemen went down. Neither right guard Ramon Foster or right tackle Marcus Gilbert are listed on this week’s injury report, which means that the Steelers offensive line will be intact for the heavy blitzes of the Jets. With both teams presenting a threat defensively, I trust Ben Roethlisberger much more than the ever inconsistent Mark Sanchez. Steelers 27, Jets 17
Titans @ Chargers: The Chargers are not a good football team, and the Titans are not a poor football team. It would seem as though San Diego was dominant against Oakland on Monday night, but they were mired in a dogfight until Raiders’ long snapper Jon Condo got injured, and replacement Travis Goethel proceeded to piss all over himself. Ronnie Brown was highly ineffective at tailback and forced Philip Rivers into many long third down passing situations. The Titans are by no means a defensive juggernaut, but with the Chargers’ offense posing no threat in the running game, Tennessee will be able to concentrate their efforts on stopping Rivers. The Titans offense really suffered from the absence of Kenny Britt last week. With no legitimate downfield threat, New England was able to stack the box and limit Chris Johnson to just 4 yards on 11 carries. San Diego’s defense was able to shut down Darren McFadden last week, but the Raiders were also missing their top receiver in Denarius Moore. The presence of Britt immediately changes things. The Chargers are forced to devote more players to pass coverage, and the running game should open up behind a talented Titans’ offensive line. I really don’t think there’s much difference between these two squads so I’ll go with the upset here. Titans 20, Chargers 17
Lions @ 49ers: When I checked the line for this game a couple of weeks ago, the 49ers were 3.5-point favorites. I get it, they looked great in Week 1, but 6.5-points is a bit of a stretch here. Detroit struggled with turnovers when they barely scraped by the Rams last weekend, but believe me when I say that Jim Schwartz has had this game circled on his calendar since the “Handshake Incident” last year. Schwartz will have his team ready for this contest, and it’s worth mentioning that Detroit led last year’s meeting with less than two minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Matt Stafford should be able to find success against San Francisco’s defense after throwing for 293 yards and two scores against them last year. Defensively, Detroit will get back Chris Houston to boost a banged up secondary, while the front line that was able to limit Steven Jackson to just 53 yards on 21 carries should have more success this time around against Frank Gore after he averaged a season-high 9.4 yards per carry in last year’s meeting. For the 49ers, as long as they continue to employ a game manager at quarterback, I can’t trust them to cover a big spread like this one. I expect another tightly contested battle that comes down to the wire, and the Lions may even be able to pull off the upset, but I’ll pick the Niners to win a close one. 49ers 23, Lions 20
My general rules of thumb for making survivor picks are:
a) No division games
b) No road teams
c) No underdogs
Based on my rules of thumb and general common sense, here are the games that I would consider for this week in order of confidence:
1) New England vs. Arizona – Pats are the biggest fave on the board and great home team, no reason to look elsewhere
2) NY Giants vs. Tampa Bay – HUGE drop-off in confidence from #1 to #2
3) San Francisco vs. Detroit – 49ers should win but Lions have huge revenge factor
4) San Diego vs. Tennessee – I don’t trust the Chargers at all, I predicted Tennessee to win outright
Take New England and don’t look back. If you’re one of those guys (or gals) that doesn’t want to take the same pick as everyone else, then I don’t know what to tell you. There really isn’t another solid, safe option.
Week 1 – Houston Texans – W 30-13
Week 2 – New England Patriots – ?
AGAINST THE SPREAD-SHEET
Week in and week out, you will get a look at my spreadsheet which shows my confidence in each selection.
The ‘Strength of Pick’ column indicates how confident I am in my selection with 1 being the most confident and 16 being the least confident.
The ‘Initial Reaction’ column indicates my confidence when the game lines were first released.
The ‘Mid Week’ column indicates my confidence on Wednesday.
The ‘Final Selection’ column indicates my final picks against the spread.
|Strength of Pick||Initial Reaction||Mid Week||Final Selection||2012 Record|
It’s one thing to show you a table indicating who I like in each game, but it’s another thing to actually show you where I’m throwing my money down.
I rate my plays on a scale of 3* to 6* with a 6* play qualifying as my top play. I would estimate that 1 out of every 25 plays earns a 6* distinction, with approximately 50% of my plays earning a 3* distinction.
Last week’s results: 1-3, -7.45 units
Three picks this week:
3* Carolina Panthers +3 (-110) – SportsInteraction
Grab the three points now. SportsInteraction is the only spot with a three on the board. I’ve seen the line as low as 1 at Pinnacle.
3* Tampa Bay Buccaneers +8 (-120) – 5Dimes
Grab anything you can find that’s over a touchdown. This game will probably close at seven points.
3* Tennessee Titans +7 (-110) – SportsInteraction
You could probably hold off on betting this one until game time. I can’t imagine there are a bunch of people lining up to bet the Titans.