This is now my third year writing this NFL picks column, and I’m off to my worst start yet. This isn’t fun for me. Sure, I take a lot of cheap shots and poke fun at myself as much as possible, but that’s because you kind of have to when you stick your neck out trying to be bold every week. It’s just a part of it.
But know this: I hate to lose.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Kevin Garnett explain this to John Thompson:
If we was sitting here playing dominoes, playing cards, running back and forth, and you kept beating me … whatever we’re doing, I hate to lose. I hate. To lose. I don’t care what it is. That’s my biggest problem is that I can’t accept losing. And I won’t accept losing. I won’t ever accept losing. Ever.
Running back and forth! Kevin Garnett doesn’t even want to lose in a contest of running back and forth!
On that note, I am going to fly through these picks this week in search of the elusive 16-0 week. I’ve come close in the past, but I’ve always come up just short. There’s no better time than now. I could really use it.
Oh, and even though I’m dead serious this week, there are plenty of Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks (RQFLWP) to be shared.
(Home team in caps.)
CINCINNATI (-2.5) over San Francisco
Ew. This is one gross matchup. Is Jordan Shipley a big loss? Can the Bengals technically have a big loss? Can San Francisco win a game without two special teams touchdowns? The world may never know, but I’ll go with the Bengals because the 49ers have 415 yards of total offense in two games. Cam Newton accounted for more yards himself in his first four quarters in the NFL. That’s pretty bad, in case you’re keeping score at home.
Also, I’m still more than a little angry that Donte Whitner had to tackle Jesse Holley on the 1-yard line in overtime, thereby stealing a win from thousands of degenerates and turning it into a push. Come on, Donte. This is much bigger than you.
CAROLINA (-3.5) over Jacksonville
Fun fact: The Panthers are second in the league in pass yards and the Jaguars are 30th. Fun fact No. 2: There are only 32 teams in the league.
This line seems way too close here. I know the Panthers are 0-2, but if you were forced to watch the Jets-Jags mess on Sunday afternoon, your brain will not allow you to pick the Jaguars ever again, much less this week.
RQFLWP: “I was going to take the Panthers with the points here, but [Cam] Newton will quickly realize that he’s not in Arizona anymore. These are the Super Bowl champs.”
Note: Yeah, sure, last week Newton may have completed more passes and thrown for more yards against Green Bay than he did the week earlier, but he had three picks. So I’m not 100 percent an idiot. Maybe like 95 percent?
Detroit (-3.5) over MINNESOTA
What world do I live in where I have to take the Lions as a road favorite? There’s not even a choice here, either, so I’ll share with you a fun story.
I was contacted on Twitter on Sunday afternoon by a gentleman from Melbourne, Australia. This chap told me that he took my “tipping” advice and would not be making the same mistake again. It was certainly the friendliest way anyone has ever said “You suck” to me, and it’s the first time anyone from the other side of the world went out of his way to do so.
Denver (+6.5) at TENNESSEE
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you entry No. 2 in the three-way contest for the least watchable game of the weekend. You already know that Cincinnati-San Francisco is in the running, but who will be No. 3? Read on to find out … and make sure you don’t watch on Sunday. It’s for your own good.
I’m taking the 7 points here because I refuse to believe that what took place in Tennessee last week really happened and therefore refuse to believe such a thing could ever “happen” again.
RQFLWP: The Ravens played better than anyone last week. The Titans lost to the Jaguars. What am I missing here?
Note: That was literally the only thing I wrote about that game. The Titans doubled the Ravens’ score. This was a classic “I don’t believe in anything anymore” game.
PHILADELPHIA (-7) over New York Giants
This whole thing is obviously dependent on the status of Michael Vick, but I can’t pick a Giants team with a locker room apparently overrun by the bubonic plague. Domenik Hixon is the latest victim. Who’s next?
CLEVELAND (-2.5) over Miami
Everyone in the AFC North is 1-1. Isn’t that fun? Parity!
I don’t hate Miami, per se, but I don’t like the Dolphins’ defense trying to stop Peyton Hillis after allowing Ben Tate to go for 103 yards last week. At the same time, as much as I may like Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, I like Cleveland’s second-ranked pass defense more.
Houston (+4) over NEW ORLEANS
I don’t know what it is about this Saints team that has me continually doubting them, but there’s something missing. Even as I watched them hammer the Bears last week, there was just something missing from them that they’ve had in recent years.
Now, I’ll probably never believe in Houston the way everyone has tried to convince me to over the past few years, but if this isn’t a huge show-me game for the 2-0 Texans, I don’t know what is. I could go either way with this pick, which means those 4 points look fantastic right about now.
BUFFALO (+8.5) over New England
I was praying that this spread would somehow be under 7, that the oddsmakers would be fooled into thinking the Bills were elite based on that shootout last week in Buffalo. Alas, they are much smarter than I, and I’m staring this 9-point spread right in the face.
I know this: Tom Brady will throw for a ton of yards and a ton of touchdowns. The Bills gave up 454 yards to the Raiders and let Jason Campbell throw for 323 yards. Oakland only had to punt three times and attempted zero field goals. The Patriots are going to score a ton of points.
But the Bills will get their share, too. I like Ryan Fitzpatrick to keep things close and then score one of those meaningless touchdowns in the final minute to cut the lead to 7. That’s especially the case if Patrick Chung, who reportedly underwent thumb surgery, doesn’t play.
Still, I recognize picking against Brady and the Patriots (who have won 15 straight against Buffalo) can make me look very, very silly come 4 p.m. on Sunday.
RQFLWP: “So, hopefully without offending too many Bills fans, I’ll remain skeptical of their ability to string it together.”
Note: I’m a believer! For now, at least.
SAN DIEGO (-15) over Kansas City
Woof! Only in the NFL can you lose handedly one week and then be favored by more than two scores the next.
And only in the NFL does such a scenario look like a sure bet.
The Chiefs have been outscored 89-10 in two games thus far. Go back and read that again, and let it really sink in. Eighty-nine to 10! That’s awesome. Good thing Todd Haley didn’t need Charlie Weis around. Seriously, good call, Todd. Way to run things out there. You’re doing fine.
Do you think Haley calls Tony Sparano every week and the two talk and make plans for late October, when both will have some free time on their schedules? I do.
Baltimore (-3.5) over ST. LOUIS
At first glance, this seems like the toughest pick of the week. The Ravens have blown out the Steelers and gotten smoked by the Titans, while the Rams, despite the 0-2 record, are still the same team that had a ton of promise before the season.
But the Ravens have character. Last year, they lost four times. In games after losses, they went 4-0, winning by an average score of 33-23. It was a trend that started the year before, after they went on an uncharacteristic three-game losing streak early in the year. They lost four games after their bye week but again went 4-0 after losses, winning by an average score of 26-8.
The Ravens, like me, hate to lose.
RQFLWP: “The Ravens played better than anyone last week. The Titans lost to the Jaguars. What am I missing here?”
Note: This one was so ridiculous, I had to paste it in twice.
OAKLAND (+3.5) over New York Jets
Nick Mangold is a big loss. A huge loss. I fear for Mark Sanchez‘s health and safety without Mangold, who may be the best in the biz. I didn’t get a sneak peek behind the curtain of the Jets this year like we all got last year during Hard Knocks, but remember how thin they were at O-line back then? Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum watched film in horror as Steve Slauson nearly allowed Sanchez’s career to end in a preseason game. Now, an undrafted rookie named Colin Baxter is going to have his hand on the ball every snap and will be forced to make all the calls against a Raiders front seven that is no joke.
Last time Sanchez was in Oakland, he was able to just chill out on the sideline and snack on a hot dog. This time, he better hope he makes it out alive.
Atlanta (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY
I don’t like either of these teams, yet I’m forced to essentially pick an outright winner. That’s no fun.
Desperate for a reason to like either team, Covers.com told me that the Bucs are 5-17 against the spread in their last 22 home games. Hey, all right! Plus, the Falcons are coming off a victory on national TV over the preseason Super Bowl champs, and if this game were in Week 1 instead of Week 3, Atlanta would be a 4-point favorite at minimum.
Arizona (-3.5) over SEATTLE
If you had the Cardinals-Seahawks game as the third member of the least-watchable game of the week club, then ding, ding, ding! Congratulations, you can claim your prize.
I’m hoping that one of these years, the NFC West decides to secede from the NFL, just so I can stop trying to predict how their games are going to turn out. Well, I know they’re going to turn out awful, but it’s hard to forecast who’s going to win.
In this one, I’ll pick against the team that’s scored 17 points and gained 383 yards thus far. Stats are for losers, especially when you’re that terrible.
RQFLWP: “The fact is, even though the Seahawks lost by 16 last week, it was two plays that absolutely killed them. I’m willing to give them another week before deeming them so bad that they can’t keep within 15 points of a team that lost by 28 the week before.”
Note: I gave them a week. Never again.
Green Bay (-3.5) over CHICAGO
I decided to have a little faith in Chicago last week — an olive branch of sorts, for all the mean things I’ve said about the Bears — and they repaid me with one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen. So this pick is personal. It helps that the defending champs are playing, too.
RQFLWP: “It turns out they’re a decent team when Caleb Hanie and Todd Collins aren’t involved.”
Note: Jay Cutler was 19-for-45 with a lost fumble. Hanie would have done better.
Pittsburgh (-10.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
The Colts might be the gift that keeps on giving this year. My goodness they are terrible. They might win three games all year, and until we see them as two-touchdown underdogs, they’ll win my No-Brainer of the Week Award.
Washington (+6.5) over DALLAS
Raise your hand if you had the Redskins in first place in the NFC East through two weeks. Anyone? Anybody out there?
The key to this game (shocker alert!) is Tony Romo. If he can play and play well, then I’m nervous about this one. If not, I love the points. For now, I’ll stick with what seems safest.
Plus, like I said, I’m still mad at Jesse Holley. So rude.
Last week: 7-8-1