Week 2 was a great bounce back week for me. After struggling with my picks in Week 1, I rebounded nicely with a 9-4-1 ATS record to get back to the .500 mark. The main difference in that one week span was that I was more willing to bet on bad teams if I felt that there was a little bit of line value with them. I tend to bet a lot of underdogs because there’s usually a lot more value in taking underdogs than favorites. In Week 1, I couldn’t make a case for a lot of the underdogs so I decided to go with the favorites instead of taking the line value. I tweaked my strategy a little bit in Week 2 and I was rewarded for it.

Week 3 presents a lot of good betting opportunities and a lot of games I’m not quite sure about. We’ve only seen two games by each team, so for the second straight week I will stress that the key will be not to overreact to such a small sample size.  Hopefully I can carry the momentum from Week 2 into Week 3.

Rams @ Bears: This is a tough game to call. On one hand, I’d like to go with the Bears because I feel that good teams tend to play well after being embarrassed on national television. On the other hand, Chicago’s loss to Green Bay was quite demoralizing, and I could easily see them laying another egg this week, especially after Jay Cutler and his offensive line took turns bashing each other this week. I’d say the latter scenario is a little bit more likely. Cutler is still far too inconsistent to be trusted as a favorite, especially considering how poor his offensive line has been to start the season. Chris Long is one of the best pass rushing defensive ends in football and it’s all but guaranteed that he’ll wreak havoc on the Bears’ offensive line all afternoon. On the other side of things, I doubt that the Rams’ putrid offensive line can hold up against the Bears’ front seven, and historically Sam Bradford has crumbled when he’s put under pressure. However, so far this season offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has created a fairly successful dink and dunk type of offense for Bradford, which allows him to get rid of the ball much quicker.  In the end, the Bears have too many playmakers to lose this game at home, but rest assured, the Rams will put up another fight in a game that they’re being written off in. Bears 23, Rams 17

Buccaneers @ Cowboys: Dallas had a rough go of it in Seattle last weekend, getting dominated in nearly every facet of the game. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they go up against a Bucs’ defense that has been dismal against the pass this season. Tampa Bay has been selling out to stop the run this season, and while their rush defense has been outstanding; they’ve given up over 800 yards through the air in the first two games of the season. That doesn’t bode well for them against a pass first offense this week with a ton of weapons in the passing game. The Bucs will likely do a good job of generating pressure against Dallas’ awful offensive line, but Tony Romo is a pretty elusive quarterback that does a good job of escaping pressure and getting the ball downfield. Ultimately, the Bucs will have to match points with the Cowboys and I just don’t trust them to do that.  Aside from the fact that this is Dallas’ home opener and the crowd will be rocking, I just don’t feel like Josh Freeman is playing very well right now. Freeman has especially struggled with his accuracy to start the year, and has made a lot of ill advised throws under duress. With the Cowboys sure to bring a ton of pressure, Freeman will need to exhibit some good decision making—something I haven’t seen from him in a couple of years.  Cowboys 34, Buccaneers 17

49ers @ Vikings: I’m not going to continue to underrate the 49ers. They’re a great football team and a legitimate Super Bowl contender (if not the Super Bowl favorite right now). With that being said, I like the situation for the Vikings at home this week and think that this game could be closer than people think. For starters, the ‘9ers played back-to-back tough games to start the season against the Packers and Lions, and it would be easy for them to overlook the Vikings this week.  Minnesota has the ability to keep this game close because they don’t turn the ball over. Christian Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season, while Adrian Peterson is a couple of years removed from the fumbling issues that plagued him earlier in his career. If the Vikings continue to protect the ball, they won’t give the 49ers the same short fields that they were accustomed to in the first couple weeks of the season. San Francisco is of course still fully capable of putting together long drives on offense, and putting up enough points to win, but it won’t be a rout.  49ers 19, Vikings 14 

Lions @ Titans: The Titans have opened the season with back-to-back blowout losses, but they’re not nearly as bad as those losses would indicate. I think this is a prime spot to bet the Titans as a home underdog against one of the most overrated teams in football. Matt Stafford has really struggled to start the season.  In each of the Lions’ first two games, opposing defenses have put an emphasis on blanketing Calvin Johnson, but Stafford has still felt the need to force balls into tight windows. It clearly hasn’t worked, but don’t expect Stafford to abandon his number one target just yet.  This is a big statement game for Tennessee. Their offensive line has been dreadful to start the season, but make no mistake; this is a talented group up front. Despite the size of Detroit’s defensive line, the Lions have struggled to stop the run in the last couple of seasons, and I believe that this is the game where Chris Johnson finally gets going. With their running game finally working, the Titans will be able to control the clock and give Jake Locker an opportunity to throw out of some favorable situations for a change. I have no faith in Jim Schwartz’s team to rebound after losing their rematch with the 49ers last weekend. Titans 27, Lions 24

Bengals @ Redskins: The Bengals are a pretty easy team to figure out. They beat non-playoff teams and they lose to playoff teams.  Are the Redskins a playoff team this season?  I don’t think so. Robert Griffin III is going to develop into a great quarterback with time, but it can’t be forgotten that he’s still a rookie. Griffin tossed a pick last week against the Rams and should have tossed a couple more if it weren’t for some easy dropped balls by Rams’ defenders. This week he’ll go up against a very fast Cincinnati front seven that should be able to limit his scrambling ability and force him to win the game with his arm. The Bengals’ main weakness in their first couple of contests has been their pass protection. Andy Dalton has been sacked a whopping ten times in the first two games of the season , but Washington is going to have a tough time generating pressure having lost outside linebacker Brian Orakpo for the season. The Redskins have really struggled to stop the run to start the season, and the loss of defensive end Adam Carriker is only going to make things worse. The Bengals didn’t play well on the road in Week 1 against the Ravens, but I just don’t see how the Redskins will generate enough stops to win this week.  Bengals 27, Redskins 21

Jets @ Dolphins: I can’t believe that one of these two teams is going to have a winning record after this game. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you probably know that there’s no chance in hell that I’m going to pick a team led by Mark Sanchez to win on the road. Aside from the fact that Sanchez is completely inept, the Jets just don’t have enough weapons on offense to put up points consistently. At some point Sanchez is going to have to make some throws to win this game, and with Dolphins’ outside linebacker Cameron Wake exposing Jets’ right tackle Austin Howard, you can bet that he’s going to have to make those throws under pressure. I don’t like that scenario much for New York.  I’d like to make a heavy wager on Miami this week, but unfortunately the Dolphins are equally as inept as the Jets. Ryan Tannehill is a scrub and probably won’t be able to make any completions downfield with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie shadowing his hopeless group of wideouts. Essentially, the Dolphins’ probability of winning is completely contingent on the performance of Reggie Bush. The Jets are usually pretty stout against the run, but Bush is so versatile that he can provide offense in short passing and screen situations as well. At the end of the day, this will probably be a close game, but I’ll side with the Dolphins because I feel as though they’re less likely to turn the ball over.  Dolphins 17, Jets 10

Chiefs @ Saints: The Chiefs have a legitimate chance of pulling the outright upset in this game. The general public still hasn’t caught on to how out of sorts the Saints are both offensively and defensively. Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in football, but his pass protection has been non-existent this season, which has led to Brees having to throw to his checkdowns all too frequently. The Chiefs pass rush hasn’t been good this season, but this is the perfect matchup to get the likes of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston back on track. The Saints offense still has a ton of firepower and will undoubtedly score some points, but they don’t seem to have the fluidity that we’ve seen in years past.  Defensively, New Orleans is an abomination.  Although Gregg Williams was a psychopath, there’s no denying that he was an outstanding defensive coordinator. The drop-off from Williams to Steve Spagnuolo has been significant as the Saints’ defense is not generating any of the turnovers that saved them in previous years.  New Orleans simply can’t stop anything right now, and even though the Chiefs’ offense doesn’t pack a big punch, I wouldn’t expect the Saints to be able to generate enough stops to win this game. The Saints lose at home again.  Chiefs 31, Saints 27

Bills @ Browns: This is a really tough spot for the Bills. Aside from the fact that they’ve lost eight straight road games dating back to last year, they have two huge games against the Patriots and 49ers on deck. It’s extremely common to see good teams lay an egg against poor teams when they have a big game coming up. Buffalo looked outstanding at home against the Chiefs last week, but I think you’re more likely to see the same Bills team that got shellacked by the Jets in Week 1 than the playoff calibre team that you saw in Week 2. The Browns are going to be competitive in their home games this season, in large part because they have a quality running back in Trent Richardson. The Bills were absolutely torched on the ground against the Jets in Week 1, and while they rebounded nicely last week, it should be noted that they were ahead for most of the game and Kansas City was forced to throw the ball. If the Browns can keep the chains moving on the ground, Brandon Weeden will be asked to do less and there’s less of a chance that he makes any reckless passes that I’m sure you’ll be accustomed to seeing in the near future. Defensively, Cleveland has a fairly strong secondary that should be able to force some turnovers from Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Fitzpatrick has thrown 25 interceptions in his last 15 road games.  Overall, Buffalo is a better football team than Cleveland, but I like the situation for the Browns this week.  Browns 17, Bills 16

Jaguars @ Colts: The Jacksonville Jaguars could be the worst team in football. I’m not going to overreact to their loss to Houston because the Texans are a good football team, but it’s the manner in which they lost that bothers me. They were beaten soundly in every aspect of the game. The Texans offensive line was able to push the Jaguars defensive line a couple of yards back on every rushing attempt, even when the Jags began selling out to stop the run. The Colts’ offensive line is nowhere near as strong as Houston’s is, but they have a capable back in Donald Brown that should be able to hit the century mark in yards this week. Andrew Luck’s home debut was excellent as he was able to make great accurate throws downfield, even when he was under duress. Until the Jaguars get outside linebacker Daryl Smith back from injury, their defense lacks the type of playmaker that they need to be competitive. On the other side of the ball, Blaine Gabbert is arguable the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. He looked completely lost last week, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone since he looked hopeless last year as well. Historically, the Colts and Jaguars have played very close games but I just don’t see it this week. The Colts have found a franchise quarterback while the Jaguars are stuck with a lemon. Colts 26, Jaguars 17

Eagles @ Cardinals: I’m pretty sure that this game is going to come down to the wire. The Eagles haven’t looked particularly impressive in their first couple of games, but they sit comfortably at 2-0 despite having turned the ball over nine times. I’d be surprised if there weren’t at least a couple more turnovers this week. Arizona’s defense is the real deal as evidenced by the constant harassment of Tom Brady last week. Meanwhile, Michael Vick’s decision making on the field is arguably worse than his decision making off the field which landed him a couple of years in prison. Yeah, it’s that bad.  With Jeremy Maclin expected to miss the game due to injury, you can be sure that Vick will try to force a couple of balls in to a double-covered DeSean Jackson. If Arizona had any semblance of an offense they’d win this game easily, but they don’t. The Cardinals’ running game has been brutal this season, averaging a measly 2.8 yards per carry. Kevin Kolb will be relied on to move the chains with his arm, but unfortunately, he’s incapable of throwing the ball more than ten yards downfield. Kolb is basically useless, but it’s unlikely that he’ll make any grave mistakes that cost the Cardinals the game, so I’ll pick them to show the Eagles how it feels to lose by one point. Cardinals 13, Eagles 12

Falcons @ Chargers: This is a really tough spot for the Falcons. Atlanta just played on Monday Night Football and now have to travel across the country to play San Diego on the west coast. In the past, that’s been a recipe for disaster for most teams, but I’m ready to lump Atlanta in with the group of elite teams in the NFL. The loss of cornerback Brent Grimes for the season is a huge blow, but defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has this defense playing great right now. It’s silly to think that Atlanta is going to walk into San Diego and completely shut down the Chargers offense, especially with San Diego getting running back Ryan Mathews back from injury, but the Falcons have done such a great job at disguising coverages this season that they might be able to bait Philip Rivers into throwing a couple of picks. Offensively, Atlanta is a well oiled machine. The Chargers have teed off on Carson Palmer and Jake Locker so far this season, but they’ll have their hands full with a far superior quarterback in Matt Ryan. “Matty Ice” has so many weapons at his disposal and is so calm and collected in the pocket.  San Diego’s pass rush will be negated by Ryan’s ability to run the no huddle offense, and ultimately, that will allow the Falcons to outscore the Chargers in what could be the game of the week. Falcons 28, Chargers 24

Texans @ Broncos: Peyton Manning looked awful in the first half of the Monday Nighter against the Falcons, but I fully expect a rebound performance this week. Don’t get me wrong, the Texans are no pushover, but I don’t like the way they match up with Denver. For starters, Texans’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips loves to bring pressure, which isn’t exactly the best game plan against Manning since he’s outstanding against the blitz. Manning is one of the few quarterbacks in the NFL that is able to stand in the pocket and make accurate throws downfield when he’s under pressure.  He’s also great at sniffing out defensive schemes before snapping the ball. Willis McGahee may prove to be a huge difference in this game as he’s one of the top running backs in the league at picking up the blitz.  On the other side of things, it’s no secret that Houston is going to try to establish their running game. While Denver’s defensive front seven is fairly small, they’re one of few teams that are able to feel comfortable stacking the box to stop the run because their starting cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter can handle themselves one-on-one with most receivers in the game.  This will be Houston’s first real test of the season after beating up on two of the worst five teams in the league in their first couple of games.  The Texans are probably a better overall team than Denver, but I just don’t like the matchup for them.  Broncos 23, Texans 20 

Steelers @ Raiders: The Steelers have a habit of making things dicey in road games against bad teams (see games against KC and CLE last season), but I just don’t see how they lose this game to the Raiders. Oakland is an incredibly bad football team, and I’m not sure people are aware of how truly pathetic they are. Carson Palmer thinks the year is 2005 and he can rocket balls tight windows, but his arm strength isn’t much better than Jamie Moyer’s right now. When Palmer isn’t throwing predictable screens and dump offs to Darren McFadden, he’s busy throwing ducks into defenders’ hands downfield. The absence of Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu will undoubtedly be a blow to the Steelers’ secondary, but Ryan Mundy should serve as a capable replacement considering he’ll have a good ten seconds to react to any ball thrown downfield.  Defensively, I’m not sure how Oakland is going to generate any stops. Oakland’s top two cornerbacks Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer are both injured, meaning that the likes of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown will be going up against a pair of mediocre nickel corners in Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson. Yikes. Oakland’s main defensive strength is their defensive line, but unfortunately for them, the Steelers’ offensive line is relatively healthy right now. With Pittsburgh’s bye on deck in Week 4, their entire focus will be on this game and they should outclass Oakland in every way possible.  Steelers 27, Raiders 14 

Patriots @ Ravens: It’s going to be pretty weird to see one of these teams lose two games in a row. I wouldn’t read too much into New England’s loss at home to the Cardinals last week. The Patriots lose a game like that once a year and everyone starts to question whether the Patriots are good enough to win the Super Bowl. They always follow up that stinker with a dominating performance.  Last year, Tom Brady threw four interceptions in a 34-31 loss to Buffalo, but followed that up with a 31-19 win in Oakland.  In 2010, New England got molested 34-14 by the Browns in Week 9. They followed that one up with a 39-26 beatdown of the Steelers at Hines Field. And if you go further back, you’ll see that the trend continues. Nothing is wrong with the Patriots. They’re still awesome in all facets of the game and the Ravens will really have trouble slowing down their offense when they spread things out. Ultimately, Baltimore is going to have to match points with New England and I just don’t trust them to do so. The Ravens really struggled with the Eagles’ pass rush last weekend, and the Patriots really excel at getting to the quarterback. Baltimore will have to rely on Ray Rice to ensure that Joe Flacco isn’t stuck in third-and-long situations all night, but New England has been incredibly stout against the run thus far, limiting opponents to 2.3 yards per carry. Expect the Patriots to rebound in a strong way this weekend.  Patriots 31, Ravens 24

SURVIVOR PICK

Ok, so I lost my survivor pick last week. Do I regret taking New England?  Not at all. I’m a firm believer in picking the safest outcome in every week, and the Patriots were undoubtedly the safest outcome last week.  I knew going into that game that they’d probably lose to Arizona once out of every ten times or so, and it just so happened that last week was that one time. I had the Giants and 49ers in the 70% range, so it would have been stupid for me to pick an outcome that is less likely.

Anyways, even though I’m out of my survivor pool, and you’re likely out as well if you took my advice, I’ll continue giving you my thoughts on who I would take every week.

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, there are only two games that I consider trustworthy:
1)  Dallas vs. Tampa Bay
2)  Chicago vs. St. Louis

New Orleans is probably going to be the most picked team this week, but I find it absolutely ludicrous that anyone would trust a team that hasn’t won a game yet as their survivor pick. I have the Saints losing outright to the Chiefs so I wouldn’t consider them whatsoever.

San Francisco and Pittsburgh will probably also be heavily selected, but I just don’t trust road teams, no matter how good they are. The 49ers and Steelers went a combined 25-7 last season, but amongst them, they lost five road games. Even the worst teams in the league usually win somewhere around three home games, so I’d just prefer to stick to picking teams at home. San Francisco and Pittsburgh are also HUGE public plays this weekend, so it wouldn’t be surprising if one of them lost outright, even though I picked them both to win.

I’d roll with Dallas this week. I like them to rebound at home and cover the spread so I have no problem taking them to win outright. They probably win their game at home against the Bucs 75% of the time. Chicago will likely beat the Rams as well, but I think that that game could be close, so I’d prefer to go with Dallas.

SEASON RESULTS:
Week 1 – Houston Texans – W 30-13
Week 2 – New England Patriots – L 20-18
Week 3 – Dallas Cowboys

AGAINST THE SPREADSHEET

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.

FINAL SELECTIONS

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.

Three plays again this week:

4* Dallas Cowboys -8 (-110) – Bet365
Most of the offshore odds are already up to 8.5-points, and even up to as much as 9.5-points at 5Dimes, so if you’re using an offshore book, grab the 8 at Bet365 as soon as possible. If you’re lucky enough to be in Vegas right now, you can still grab Dallas -7 at the Mirage.

4* Kansas City Chiefs +10 (-115) – 5Dimes
I’m grabbing the only 10 on the board at 5Dimes. I still really like this bet at +9 which is basically what is being offered at every other sportsbook, so if you can’t find a 10, feel comfortable taking the Chiefs +9.

3* Tennessee Titans +4 (-110) – SportsInteraction
SportsInteraction has the only 4 that I’ve seen so far.  I’d hold off on betting this one up until game time. There’s bound to be money pouring in on the Lions because the public still thinks that they’re a good team.

For those of you asking for me to keep a running tally of my picks, here have been my selections to date: