As usual, I shall begin with a review of last week’s offerings:
I liked the Saints – 13 against the Browns. The Saints lost by 13 instead of winning by 13.
I liked the Chiefs – 9 against the Jags. The Chiefs covered.
I liked Philly/Tennessee Over 43.5. The game was comfortably Over.
I liked the Falcons – 3 over the Bengals. The Falcons covered.
I liked the Skins to win outright so I took them +3 against the Bears. The Skins won outright.
I liked Pittsburgh/Miami Over 40.5. The game went Over – - not by much, but it went Over.
I liked the Rams + 3 against the Bucs. The Rams lost but covered.
I liked St. Louis/Tampa Over 37.5. The game went Under.
I liked the Ravens – 13 over the Bills. The Ravens won by 3 in OT.
I liked the Panthers +3 against the Niners. The Panthers won outright.
I liked Arizona/Seattle Over 40. The game went Under.
I liked the Raiders +8 against the Broncos. The Raiders won by more than 6 TDs.
I liked New England/San Diego Over 47. The game went Under.
I liked the Pats +3 against the Chargers. The Pats won straight up.
I liked the Vikings +3 against the Packers. The Vikings did not cover.
I liked Minnesota/Green Bay Over 44. The game went Over.
I liked the Giants +3 against the Cowboys. The Giants covered.
I liked the Giants on the money line at +160. The Giants won.
That was a mythically profitable week at 11 – 6 with a money line win on top of it. This weekend I shall be spending many hours in the sportsbook at The Mirage in Las Vegas; if my actual selections this Sunday fare this well, I will not need to dip into my IRA funds as deeply this year as I had planned.
Nevertheless, no one should make the mistake of thinking that I have any kind of “inside information” that makes my picks anything more than educated guesses. That is what they are. Anyone who cannot see that and therefore relies on information here in order to make a real wager on an NFL game this weekend was probably voted as “Most Likely To Be A Darwin Award Winner” when he/she was in high school.
When the Cleveland Browns beat the New Orleans Saints last weekend, everyone called it a shocker. I was obviously shocked too since I thought the Saints could cover 13 points against the Browns. Nevertheless, that win makes it 3 seasons in a row where the lowly Browns have beaten the defending Super Bowl champion. In the ’08 season, they beat the Giants; in the ’09 season, they beat the Steelers; now in the ’10 season…
Brett Favre is providing a bit of cover for Saints’ QB, Drew Brees. Favre is having a bid “downer” of a season so far in terms of his stats and the team’s record. There has been a huge media focus on Favre’s bad stats – - thrown more INTs already this year than he did in the entire 2009 season. However, if you look at Drew Brees’ numbers, you will see a similar drop-off from last year. In 19 games last year – - through the playoffs and Super Bowl – - Drew Brees threw only 11 INTs. In 7 games this year, Brees has already thrown 10 INTs.
In no way am I trying to hint that the Vikings’ 2-4 record has little to do with Brett Favre’s poor play this year. However, there is one more aspect of the 2010 Vikings that has shown significant decline compared to 2009. Last year, the Vikings pass rush collected 48 sacks; Jared Allen had 14.5 sacks by himself. In 6 games this year, the Vikings defense has only 6 sacks and Jared Allen has only 1. The Vikings’ offense has been hugely disappointing this year but the Vikings’ defense has also declined compared to last year.
Here is an item from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:
“Best line of the week came from a female friend who said, ‘If Brett Favre really wants to impress women, he should text them photos of his paycheck.’ “
Nominally, the NFL is a “passing league”. Over the past couple of decades, there have been rule changes and points of emphasis for the officials that favor the passing game. Notwithstanding, all of that, consider:
The Pats are 5-1. Tom Brady has yet to throw for 300 yards in any game this season.
The Steelers are 5-1. In their first four games, they did just about anything they could to avoid throwing the football; they won three of those four games.
The Jets are 5-1. Mark Sanchez has been under 200 yards passing more times than he has been over 200 yards passing in games this year.
In the Browns win over the Saints last week, Colt McCoy passed for a total of only 74 yards.
The NFL is a “passing league” – - but that does not mean that you have to be able to throw the ball all over the lot all day long in order to win.
Roger Goodell keeps scheduling games in London with the idea that those games will “grow the brand” of the NFL and American football internationally. He has to hope that the British fans who bought tickets for this week’s “London Game” have not been following the NFL too closely for the first seven weeks of the season. The Niners/Broncos game shapes up as one which deserves any and all of the following adjectives:
You get the idea…
The Niners are 1-6; their first string QB had his arm in a sling on the sidelines last week; David Carr will be the starting QB on Sunday with Troy Smith as the #2 QB behind him. Sounds pretty bad … until you also consider that the Broncos are 2-5 and are coming off a 45-point loss to the Oakland Raiders. Fans in Britain paid straight-up NFL regular season prices for tickets to this stinker. If that happens again next year, the “London Game” might just “shrink the brand” for the NFL internationally.
The most fun that the Niners have provided for fans in 2010 is to watch how they will screw up sufficiently to make steam come out of Mike Singletary’s ears during the post-game presser. But even that kind of act can get old; it runs the risk of becoming sadistic like watching a horde of ants devour a grasshopper. Therefore, I want to turn my attention to the Broncos and pose a simple question to them here:
How the Hell did you lose to the Raiders by 45 points?
With half of the second period still left to play, the Raiders led the game 38 – 0. Yes, Darren McFadden ran the ball for 165 yards – - and 4 TDs – - but that does not explain how the Broncos’ defense gave up an additional 163 yards rushing to other guys wearing Raiders’ uniforms. Please recall that exactly one week prior to scoring a franchise record of 59 points against the Broncos, this same Raiders’ team eked out the grand sum total of 9 points against – - the San Francisco 49ers. Sheesh!
Last season, the Broncos sped out to a 6-0 record – - and limped home without making the playoffs. Ever since that 6-0 start, the Broncos have gone 4-13 and this year they are 1-3 at home where traditionally they have been a tough out. I wonder if it is time to pose this rhetorical question:
Could it be that Josh McDaniels is over his head in this job?
The Arizona Cardinals continue to thrash about in their attempts to replace Kurt Warner as their QB. They ditched Matt Leinart; they started Derek Anderson for a while until he bored people to sleep. They started undrafted free agent Max Hall against the Saints and Hall provided a win. Obviously, Hall started the next game – - last week against the Seahawks – and had to be pulled from the game in the second half because he was 4-16 on the day for 36 yards and 1 INT.
Ed Reed returned to the Ravens last week off the PUP List (Physically Unable to Perform).
[Aside: I wonder how long it might be until the NFL PUP List is brought to you by Viagra…]
Some players have the label “impact player”; Ed Reed deserves that label. In his first game back, he intercepted two passes and forced a fumble. Not bad…
The Chicago Bears have an “Indonesia Offense”. If you have followed the news for the past couple of weeks, Indonesia has suffered an earthquake, a tsunami and a volcanic eruption. That is a “Disaster Trifecta”. And that is a perfect description of the Chicago Bears offense. They have sub-par wide receivers; they have possibly the worst offensive line in the league; plus they have a QB who does not take care of the football. Like I said, “Indonesia Offense” / “Disaster Trifecta”.
You might not believe what I am going to put here so please feel free to go and check out the drive charts for last week’s Bears/Redskins game. In the second half of the game – - which the Bears led at halftime by 4 points with the use of some kind of legerdemain – - the six offensive possessions for the Bears were:
The best possession – - the one that did not result in a turnover – - was a punt. That is simply atrocious.
By the way, maybe it is time to pose one more rhetorical question here:
Could it be that Mike Martz carries his “offensive genius” label based solely on past glories from a decade ago?
Considering that performance by the Bears last week, here is another point that has to be considered:
Even though the Washington Redskins are 4-3, please remember that they beat the Bears by only a field goal in a game where the Bears soiled themselves mightily.
If I have counted correctly, there have been 104 NFL games this season and 60 of those 104 games (58%) have ended with a point differential of 8 points or less – - meaning they were one-possession games as the clock expired. I mention this only because I have a good friend whose hatred of “NFL parity” makes it easy for me to tweak him. And, I have not yet reached the point of being sadistic in my tweaking…
Buffalo at KC – 7.5 (46): These lines have moved a lot this week. The spread opened at 10 and has dropped all the way to 7.5. People must be convinced that last week’s offensive showing against the Ravens portends big things for the Bills. The Total Line opened at 43 and shot up to 46. People must be convinced that last week’s offensive showing against the Ravens portends big things for the Bills. Here is the nagging reality I cannot get past. The Chiefs run the football well; the Bills have great difficulty stopping the run. I like the Chiefs to win and cover here.
Jax at Dallas – 6 (42.5): This game started out at 7.5 points and has dropped to 6 at many sportsbooks and 6.5 at the others. Let me be clear, I am not a big Jon Kitna fan. At the same time, Tony Romo was not doing a whole heck of a lot to help the Cowboys win so in this simple circumstance I do not think this is a disastrous change for the Cowboys. Now, if Kitna were to go down in the first quarter of this game and the Cowboys had to go to the bullpen one more time, get FEMA on the phone. The Jags’ offensive line is decent and not much more meaning that the Cowboys’ DL ought to be able to make whomever the Jags’ QB is uncomfortable in the pocket. I like the Cowboys to win and cover. The only reason I am loath to play this game Over is that I do not know that the Jags will score very much.
Carolina at St. Louis – 3 (37): By winning last week, the Panthers left Buffalo as the only winless team in the NFL. Matt Moore looked efficient and effective at QB last week. So, does this mean that the Panthers have found ways to win football games instead of ways to get themselves blown out of football games? I suspect that process is underway in Carolina and maybe John Fox is just the kind of coach that can build that process. I know the Rams are better this year than last but I think the Panthers are the better team here so I will take them with the points.
Miami at Cincy – 2 (43.5): Short and sweet here … I think Miami is the better team and will win the game straight up so I’ll take the Dolphins with the points. I also think this game will go Under.
Washington at Detroit – 2.5 (44): The Skins are 4-3; the Lions are 1-5. This game started the week as a “pick ‘em” game and the line moved in favor of the Lions all week. If that is not locker room motivation for the Redskins, I do not know what it might take to get them riled up. The sticking point for the Redskins here is that their biggest weakness (their OL) has to go against the Lions greatest strength (their DL). The Redskins cannot count on the kind of largesse the Bears’ provided last week. I like this game to go Over.
(London Game) Denver vs. SF – 1 (42): In pro ‘rassling they often stage “Loser Leaves Town Matches”. The coaches in this game should be in a situation where “Loser Stays Out Of Country”. Unless this game turns into a Keystone Kops comedy, it should be “avert your eyes awful”. Because I said I would make a pick in every game, I will make one here. I’ll take the game Under – - mythically of course…
Green Bay at Jets – 6 (43): This is one of the 3 best games of the weekend. The Jets had a bye week to figure out how to stop Aaron Rodgers. My guess is they will try to do that the same way they try to stop every other QB in the league – - lots of pass pressure and tight man coverage in the secondary. Containing Rodgers is important in this game because the Jets figure to be able to shut down the anemic Packers’ running offense as an afterthought. I like the Jets to win and cover here and I like this game Over.
Tennessee at San Diego – 3.5 (44): This may not be one of the best games of the weekend, but it will be interesting to watch because of the import this game can have down the road. The Chargers record is 2-5; they have lost three games in a row and they have to travel to Houston next week. If – - I said IF – - this team decides that it wants to exploit the fact that it is in a hugely weak division and can still win that division, it needs to start winning this week not next week. I suspect that is why the Chargers are favored here. The Titans are 5-2 but they cannot afford to let up because their division contains both Indy and Houston. A coin flip says to take the Chargers to win and cover.
Tampa at Arizona – 3 (39.5): Tampa is 4-3 but they are not winning because they have a great defense. Arizona is 3-3 but they are not winning because they have a great offense. There is the potential here for a “Mexican Standoff of Incompetencies”. The big difference here is that Bucs’ QB, Josh Freeman, is better at that position than anyone on the Cardinals’ roster; Ken Whisenhunt does not have the ability to get his team to prevail in that match-up. Therefore, I’ll take the Bucs with the points here.
Minnesota at New England – 5 (44): I have no idea who will start at QB for the Vikings. I do know that the injury to Brett Favre’s ankle would have to be very seriously debilitating to create the situation where Tarvaris Jackson “gave the Vikes a better chance to win” here. This is a late afternoon game so the Pats will probably know the result of the Jets/Packers game as they take the field; a Jets’ win would mean the Pats need to win to keep pace with the Jets in the AFC East. I think the Pats can provide sufficient pass protection for Tom Brady that he can dissect the Vikes’ secondary. I like the Pats to win and cover here and I like this game Over.
Seattle at Oakland – 2.5 (42.5): I am not sold on the Seahawks – - particularly on the road. I am not sold on the idea that the Raiders’ offense has found a way to channel the Raiders’ offense of the 1960s. I think this game stays Under.
(Sun Nite) Pittsburgh at New Orleans – 1 (44.5): This is one of the three best games of the weekend. Because the Saints’ defense has nowhere near the mojo it had last year, I think the Steelers can score points. Even though Drew Brees is having a far less productive year than he had last year, it is hard to count on him tossing 4 INTs again this week; that means the Saints should score points too. I like this game Over. Also, I like the Steelers with the point.
(Mon Nite) Houston at Indy – 5.5 (49.5): This is one of the 3 best games of the weekend. If you like watching teams go up and down the field as if this were an NBA basketball game, you should like this one. Houston can run on the Indy defense meaning they will also be able to throw. Indy can move the ball on anybody as long as the guy playing QB for them wears #18. Both teams had a bye last week; both teams need this game – - particularly if Tennessee happens to beat San Diego on Sunday – - but Indy needs it more having already lost to Houston earlier this year. I like the Colts to win and cover at home.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…