How about those Buffalo Bills?
I wasn’t the only one who wrote them off before the season started, and I had plenty of good reason. The main one was they have always been terrible and didn’t look to have improved much at all. Now here they are at 4-1, with wins over the division-rival Patriots and super-dream-team-unbeatable-best-team-ever Eagles. If there was one thing I was sure of last Sunday morning it was that the Eagles were going to blow away the Bills. Instead, things went the opposite way.
It all makes things difficult going forward. How often do you see a team start out hot but fade away rapidly in October and November? It happens more often than you see a team come out of nowhere and turn a 4-12 season into a 12-4 season.
Fortunately, things won’t be so difficult this week, as the Bills are playing an opponent from downstate New York that is not looking so good right now. (Buffalo’s always referred to with disdain as “upstate New York,” but given the balance of power football-wise right now, I’m going with the insulting downstate.)
We’ll get into that, all the other picks, and, unfortunately, a decent amount of Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks (RQFLWP) below.
(Home team in caps.)
San Francisco (+4) over DETROIT
This goes against my better judgment, but I think the Niners are going to play the Lions tough.
There are a number of factors at play, with the biggest being the emotional letdown after the Lions’ first win on national TV in the color-television era. That game meant a lot to the Lions, and frankly, not a lot of players on that team have dealt with this level of success before. Now they have a short week to get hyped up for a Niners team that is 2-0 on the road and is coming off a 48-3 shellacking of the poor Buccaneers.
Fun fact: The top three quarterbacks in the NFL, according to passer rating, are Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and … Alex Smith. Granted, Rodgers and Brady average 151 and 182 more yards, respectively, per game than Smith, but it’s a funny thought, given how so many of us have been burying Smith for years.
RQFLWP: “[Covers.com] says three experts have picked Tampa Bay and zero experts have picked San Francisco. I’m obviously smarter than everyone, so the Niners are my pick here.”
Note: If you read this column regularly, you know I never toot my own horn, so that’s not why this is in here. Rather, it’s a reminder that “expert” picks are hilarious, particularly when the team that no “experts” pick wins 48-3.
CINCINNATI (-7) over Indianapolis
I couldn’t take the Colts seriously this year, and that was before they blew 24-7 lead and lost at home to the Chiefs.
As an odd side note, raise your hand if you had Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter combining to throw just one interception through five games. Anyone? Class? Anyone?
Buffalo (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS
This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. The Giants have proven to be one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. They’ve essentially lost two straight games to NFC West teams, saved only by a crazy call on a Victor Cruz fumble. Last week, Cruz showed off some fancy dance moves, but even that couldn’t help the Giants (favored by 10 points) from losing to the Seahawks by 11 points.
Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t know if the Bills can sustain their excellence forever, but I feel fairly confident that the Giants will sustain their mediocrity.
RQFLWP: “I’m trusting the Giants to put together a big day at home and get New Yorkers’ spirits up before the G-Men lose four of their next five.”
Note: I guess the Giants wanted to get a head start on that losing streak. Silly me.
Philadelphia (-1) over WASHINGTON
The situation in Philly is ugly. There’s no way around that. But they know they can still win their division. If they can beat the Redskins, then Washington becomes 3-2. The Giants could be 3-3 by Sunday afternoon, and the Cowboys face a tall task in New England to avoid falling to 2-3.
The 1-4 Eagles may not be the great team we all imagined they’d be, but the 2-4 Eagles will be in good position to win their division.
RQFLWP: “The Philadelphia Supervickasomughas can’t fall to 1-4. They just can’t. No, sir.”
Jacksonville (+13) over PITTSBURGH
Hey, look, it’s the NFL, and anything can happen. Anything — you know, like the Steelers absolutely blowing out the Titans last week.
But if you want to start betting on Steelers blowouts, even though they’d been outscored 72-64 heading into last Sunday, then that’s your problem.
RQFLWP: “The Steelers rank 27th in points scored; the Titans rank first in points allowed. … I’m comfortable taking the Titans for the second straight week.”
Note: I was very, very uncomfortable with this one by 2 p.m. on Sunday.
GREEN BAY (-15) over St. Louis
Packers blowouts, on the other hand? I can get down with some Packers blowouts.
I watched Rodgers last Sunday night and was just amazed at his arm strength. Some of his receivers dropped passes because, I felt, the ball was just thrown too hard. Whether Rodgers was in the pocket or scrambling and throwing off his back foot, it was just missile after missile after missile.
Anywho, Rodgers obsession aside, the Rams are an ugly football team. I never like two-touchdown spreads, but I can’t trust the Rams for anything right now. Now if I really wanted to, I could look at the fact that they’re sixth in the NFL in passing defense and 10th overall in yards allowed. However, that would overlook the fact that they’re 31st in points allowed per game, reminding us all yet again that stats are for (say it with me now!) losers.
Carolina (+3.5) over ATLANTA
This one’s interesting. I said last week that I lost all faith in the Falcons. At the same time, do you think the Panthers can really win football games? That’s proven to be quite the struggle thus far, despite Cam Newton and Steve Smith‘s brilliance.
I want to take the Panthers because of the awesome fight in the end zone last week, but I need more than that. I’ll add in that the Panthers are 4-1 against the spread this year and that the Falcons, in their two wins, have only won by four and two points. The Panthers, meanwhile, have lost four games by an average of 5.5 points. Good enough for me.
BALTIMORE (-8) over Houston
The Ravens have the best point differential (plus-62) in the AFC by a wide margin (Patriots second at plus-46). Sure, it’s a small sample size, but in the past two seasons, the Ravens are also 2-0 with an average margin of victory of 19.5 points when coming off their bye week. As much as my gut is telling me the Texans will hang tight, I can’t go against that kind of history.
OAKLAND (-7) over Cleveland
This is the game you probably want to stay away from the most. You could probably say that about every Browns game, come to think of it.
I like the Raiders, first and foremost, for the emotion they’ll have after what I’m sure will be a stirring tribute to Al Davis before the game. I also like their second-ranked rushing attack going against Cleveland’s 25th-ranked rushing defense. If that’s not worth a touchdown, I don’t know what is.
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Dallas
Jeez — enough already with this 7-point-plus spreads. They have this week as a potentially devastating week one way or the other.
I know the Boys are coming off a bye week, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I went with Tony Romo over Brady if it comes down to the fourth quarter. I’d legitimitely stop making picks if I picked Romo’s Cowboys, only to watch Brady lead a game-winning drive right in front of my face. I just can’t do it.
TAMPA BAY (+4) over New Orleans
Bounce-back time for the Bucs. They’ve put up two stinkers in a row, winning one only because the Colts are terrible, but this team has better makeup than to just let that continue, and what better way to start it than by gearing up for the division-rival Saints?
Plus, the Saints, in nearly giving away a 10-point, third-quarter lead to the
Bengals Panthers, looked way too vulnerable for my taste.
Minnesota (+2.5) over CHICAGO
I’ve watched football my entire life, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like what is going on in front of Jay Cutler. It is utterly embarrassing to watch his offensive line “try” to protect him. The poor guy’s heart rate must be through the roof. He probably can’t spell “pocket.” His favorite movie is probably Under Siege. His … OK, I’ll stop, but you get the point.
So take that into consideration, add in that Jared Allen (and his NFL-leading 8.5 sacks) plays for Minnesota, and go ahead and pick the Vikes here.
NEW YORK JETS (-7) over Miami
The Jets are on the breaking point. Believe me. The tension in that locker room is building, even if the words that are coming out of the players’ mouths are all positive. With the Chargers, Bills, Patriots and Tebows coming up on the schedule, you can bet they’ll have their meltdown.
Unfortunately, thanks to the presence of Matt “18 Career Picks and 16 Touchdowns” Moore and Sage “The Helicopter” Rosenfels, the Jets’ misery will be postponed one more week.
Just as unfortunate is this game being nationally televised. When Mike Tirico promotes the game by saying, “We’ll see if the Dolphins can hit the reset button on their season,” well, I can just hardly contain my excitement!
Last week: 8-5