And now for the real games… The Exhibition Games are over and we can finally begin to see if any of the hype and hysteria over last April’s draft picks or the angst created during the free-agent signing season means anything at all.
Rant Interruption: In my pre-season predictions earlier this week, I said that the loser of the Jags/Raiders game in Week 2 would be on the clock for the first pick in the NFL Draft next April. A reader in Houston pointed out that next year the NFL Draft will be pushed back until May. Oh swell… We get a couple extra weeks for the Mock Draft Mouth-breathers to move players up and down on their draft boards – as if their draft boards had any value at all.
Since these mythical picks deal with wagering on NFL outcomes, perhaps I might suggest an interesting prop bet – one that I have not seen at any of the offshore sportsbooks:
Which will be greater?
A. The total wins by the 3 NFL franchises in Florida (Miami, Tampa, Jax)
– or –
B. The number of local TV blackouts for the 3 NFL franchises in Florida.
I predicted the total wins for these three teams to be 15 earlier this week. The three teams play 23 home games (The Jags have one in London and that game will not be blacked out) so this prop requires about 8 sellouts for the three teams combined. I do not know if the teams can do that…
By the way, there will be times during the season when I say that I am flipping a coin to make my pick for a game. That is not a figure of speech; I actually do that here in Curmudgeon Central with a standard protocol that involves two flips of a US quarter:
Flip 1: Heads means bet ATS; Tails means bet the Total Line
Flip 2: If ATS, Heads means bet the home team; Tails means bet the visitor
If Totals, Heads means bet the OVER; Tails means bet the UNDER
When I say I do not have a clue what to bet in a game, I mean it and the pick made here is literally the result of two coin flips.
Just to be sure that there are no misunderstandings, I do not have any special knowledge as to what is going on inside any NFL team. These picks are purely my mental meanderings. No one should use any information in any of these offerings as the basis for deciding which side to back in a real wager involving real money. If you are dumb enough to do that, you probably would confuse “jumping to a conclusion” with “jumping off a cliff”.
If you are someone who wagers on NFL games, one of the worst money management strategies you could adopt is akin to what I do here. You must not bet on every game; most of the time, the vig will kill you.
I pick every game here because that is the landscape within which I write these weekly rants. Please do not get the idea that because there is a pick in every game that every game is worth a wager. Some are not.
I have been doing this sort of thing for more than a decade. Only 3 times have I been able to “show a profit” – mythically speaking – after a season of picking every game. Two years ago, my overall record was 149-131-13 and last year my overall record was 140-117-8. Yes, both of those would have been profitable ventures betting on every game. Nonetheless, I will not be even mildly surprised come January 2014 to find that I cannot achieve that end 3 years in a row.
(Thurs) Baltimore at Denver – 8 (49): It is not every year that the defending Super Bowl champ opens up as an underdog – let along an underdog of more than a TD. The Broncos’ defense last year did not play well when it faced good offensive teams and/or good QBs. In this game, they will miss two of their best defensive players from last year – Von Miller and Elvis Dumerville. The Ravens’ defense will not have Ray Lewis or Ed Reed this year. Lewis’ value was leadership and stability; Reed provided those qualities and could still play a bit. I want to see tonight if the Ravens have found a way to replace Anquan Boldin (now with the Niners) and Dennis Pitta (now on IR). On the depth chart, it would appear that Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark will have those assignments; both were excellent players but how much do they have left? Just a hunch, but I like this game to stay Under.
New England – 9.5 at Buffalo (51): Will the Bills have rookie EJ Manuel (coming off a couple idle weeks rehabbing from a minor procedure on his leg) at QB or might they start undrafted free agent rookie QB Jeff Tuel at QB. In case you were not paying attention to college football last year, Tuel piloted the Washington State Cougars throwing 8 TDs and 8 INTs against PAC-12 defenses. For the Pats, Tom Brady will start at QB – unless the Wicked Witch of the West puts a spell on him and he sleeps through the game. I’ll take the Pats to win and cover.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh – 7 (41.5): Tennessee gave up a ton of points last year and the Pittsburgh defense did not play the way Pittsburgh defenses had played in previous years. Both sides need turnarounds in defensive performance this year. I think that total Line is too low; I like the game to go OVER. If I were a trend bettor – and I most definitely am not – the trends would say this pick is a lock:
Titans are 8-3 to go Over in their last 11 games against the Steelers.
Steelers are 8-2 to go Over in their last 10 home games against Titans.
What could go wrong…?
Atlanta at New Orleans – 3 (54): This is a big game between the two teams that I project as the powerhouses of the AFC South. The Saints are hurting at the LB position with Will Smith out for the year and with Jonathon Vilma not playing at all in the Exhibition Games. If that allows the Falcons to establish the run, then Rob Ryan will not be able to use his blitz calls in too many obvious passing situations. If the Saints’ defense cannot blitz, they can be had. I picked the Saints to win this division by a tie-breaker meaning I think they win here. However, I like the points here so I’ll take the Falcons plus those points.
Tampa – 3 at Jets (40): This just might be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Given the soap-opera qualities of the “Jets’ QB situation”, the fact that Darelle Revis is returning to Met Life Field to play against the Jets in this opening game seems to have been low-keyed. If Revis is even at 85% efficiency, the Jets’ QB – whoever he might be – should concentrate on throwing to the other side of the field. The Bucs play the run well; if that means the Jets have to try to “air it out”, the J-E-T-S are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E. I like the Bucs to win and cover – even on the road.
KC – 3.5 at Jax (41.5): The Chiefs have a new coach and a new QB. The Jags have a new coach and no QB. I like the Chiefs to win and cover.
Cincy at Chicago – 3 (41.5): Is Andy Dalton the real deal at QB? I do not think he is star on the rise, but he is far better than average. Does he have weapons to throw to? Yes he does. Is the Bears’ defense going to be as good as it was last year? Who knows? They have an entirely new defensive coaching staff and no Brian Urlacher. However, the Bears hired Marc Tressman as their head coach and he is supposed to be “the Quarterback Whisperer”. If he can make Jay Cutler into what Jay Cutler’s arm portended he could be, the Bears will be all right. Of course, this assumes that the Bears’ OL will be better this year than it has been in the last couple of years. That might take a few games to happen so I’ll take the Bengals plus the points here.
Miami at Cleveland “pick ‘em” (41): I think this game hinges on one aspect of the game. Can the Dolphins protect Ryan Tannehill well enough for him to get the ball downfield more than once in a while? Cleveland will probably run the ball a lot and chew up the clock; the Dolphins have to avoid giving the Browns short fields to play with. Here is the first coin flip game of the year and the US quarter in Curmudgeon Central says to take the Dolphins. Why not?
Seattle – 3.5 at Carolina (45): On the heels of the first coin flip game of the year comes the second such game. I think the Seahawks are the better team but they are traveling about 3000 miles to play this game in the 1:00 PM EDT time slot. That is never good for a West Coast team. The Panthers should be improved over last year – but are they ready to take on a defense as good as the Seahawks in Week 1? The coin flips say take the game to go OVER.
Minnesota at Detroit – 5.5 (47): I do not understand this line at all. The line opened at 3.5 points and has risen all week long. I do not think the Vikings are world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination but the Lions were awful last year and really have not shown that they are significantly better. Interesting matchup will be Adrian Peterson running inside against Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. I like the Vikings on the Money Line at +200 and I like the Vikings plus the points here.
Oakland at Indy – 9 (47): The Jets have QB “issues”; the Bills have QB “issues”; the Jags have QB “issues” do not let those situations obscure the fact that the Raiders have serious QB “issues”. The Raiders’ guys are not hurt; the problem is that the Raiders’ guys are not that good. Indy does not have a QB issue at all because Andrew Luck is very good. I do not think this game is going to be close. I’ll take the Colts and lay the points.
Arizona at St. Louis – 5 (41.5): This game involves two strong defenses playing against two very ordinary offenses. That situation cries out to me to take the game to stay UNDER.
Green Bay at SF – 4.5 (48.5): Here we are in Week 1 and we have another game that might have playoff implications come January with regard to seeding in the NFC playoffs and a bye week and stuff like that. I smell a shootout here. I like the game to go OVER.
(Sun Nite) Giants at Dallas – 3.5 (48.5): This is a “Something’s Gotta Give Game”:
Cowboys record against the Giants in Week 1 is 6-0.
Giants record in “The Jerry-Dome” is 4-0.
I do not understand this line. I think the Giants are the better team and so I will take them plus the points. Period.
(Mon Nite early) Philly at Washington – 3.5 (52): The nation will see early on if Chip Kelly’s high-frequency offense can confuse an NFL defense. The Redskins are not a great defense, but they are experienced and focused. Some folks say that Kelly’s approach to offense is the trendsetter for the league in years to come. That may be so; however, I remember the same kinds of things being said about the “Run and Shoot” and the “Fun ‘N Gun” and “The Wildcat” so you will pardon me for reserving judgment. The Redskins are the better team – so long as RG3 stays healthy. I’ll take the Skins to win and cover at home.
(Mon Nite late) Houston – 4 at San Diego (44): There is no reason to drag this one out. I think the Texans are better on offense and on defense. I’ll take the Texans to win and cover.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………