What in the world happened there?
The Giants look like a mockery of a football team, getting blown out, tipping Eli's passes for interceptions, complaining about (of all things) the pregame schedule and throwing helmets like it's going out of style. They're 1-2 and have given up a whopping 85 points through those three games. They look, in short, like a team destined to finish 6-10.
The Cowboys, despite all their annual hype, don't appear to be all that special, either. Yeah, they won their must-win game at Houston last week, but when you have a must-win game in Houston in the third week of the season, your outlook can't be all that great.
Oh. And then there are the Redskins. Mike Shanahan's crew looked like a revamped bunch when they beat the Cowboys on Sunday night in Week 1. Since choking away a surefire win at home in Week 2 and then falling flat on their faces in St. Louis (St. Louis!) last week, they're back to being the mess they've been for quite some time now.
The Eagles? The Eagles are fine, but they've only beaten Detroit and Jacksonville. Let's wait until they beat an NFL team before saying they're all that great.
While the deterioration of the division may be obvious, the lines aren't yet affected by it, evidenced by the Giants' being four-point favorites this week. Time to take advantage.
Note: Though last week's picks went pretty well, there's always room to take a look back at some of the more Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks (RQFLWP), which will as always be sprinkled throughout this week's picks.
(Home team in caps.)
Baltimore +1 over PITTSBURGH
Was I the only person in the United States of America who noticed that Charlie Batch couldn't throw a touchdown pass without the ball bouncing off a defensive back's hands? I felt like I was taking crazy pills, as the only thing analysts could say was, "Batch has shaken off that rust!" and, "Batch throws a beautiful touchdown pass!"
Eventually, life without Ben Roethlisberger has to rear its ugly head, even if it is in the final week of his NFL seclusion.
Cincinnati (-3) over CLEVELAND
Road favorites last week did really well, going 4-1 and none of those wins were nail-biters. The one team that did make me sweat a little was the Bengals, who couldn't get out of their own way against the Panthers but scored a late touchdown to make things fairly comfortable. They should have a little easier time against the Browns, who, in case you forgot, are the Browns.
This line actually moved a half-point during the week, meaning scores of people were picking Cleveland. That's a pretty telling statement for the Browns — people figure, "Hey, they didn't lose that bad last week, maybe they won't lose that bad again!"
News flash: They'll probably lose pretty badly.
GREEN BAY (-14.5) over Detroit
Everyone keeps saying that the Packers need a running back. That's not the case. They just need to play the Lions. They'll be fine.
(I do generally hate those spreads of 14 or more points, but Green Bay already took care of one this year when they annihilated the Bills, I think they can do it again.)
ATLANTA (-7) over San Francisco
What a mess the Niners are. And because I can only make fun of myself so much with the RQFLWP, let's instead look at some ridiculous quotes from a preview of how good the Niners were supposed to be, courtesy of SB Nation Bay Area's "Top Five Reasons the 49ers Will Win the NFC West":
"1. The 49ers defense is going to be one of the best in the NFL."
Note: San Francisco has allowed 29 points per game, putting them in a tie for 31st in the NFL. That could be worded as tied for 32nd, depending on your outlook on life, and thus makes them … tied for dead last.
"2. Alex Smith Is entering his second year with the same offensive coordinator and the same offense."
Yeah, how's that working out?
New York Jets (-5) over BUFFALO
It's sort of hilarious when a guy (in this case, Ryan Fitzpatrick) can win a starting job, then throw two interceptions at the two most crucial moments of a game, and the team responds by releasing the guy who held the starting job before him. It's even funnier when that team is only a five-point underdog the following week.
Need more convincing? Consider that the Bills put up an impressive 30 points on a pourous Patriots defense but has still been outscored 87-47 this season. Buffalo will struggle to score 10 points in this one.
RQFLWP: "There's no way this Braylon Edwards fiasco doesn't distract the Jets, right? I mean, I know they're the kings of distraction, but this is a bit over the top, isn't it? Isn't it?!"
Note: Couldn't have been more wrong. These guys really are the kings of distraction. Braylon Edwards reminded me that when he was doing the Dougie right in my face. What a champion that Edwards guy is.
Denver (+6.5) over TENNESSEE
Jeez. I don't like Tennessee. I mean, I really don't like them. Not to win by a touchdown, at least.
Without taking too much away from the Titans' 2-1 record, they beat up on the Raiders and a Giants team in absolute disarray, and they lost to a Steelers team that only gained 127 yards all day. That's not good — definitely not 6.5 points good.
RQFLWP: "I don't think the Titans are as good as the team that beat the Raiders by 25 points, but they're not as bad as the team that mustered just 11 points against the Steelers. By my math, I think that puts them about a field goal better than the Giants."
Note: The Titans beat the Giants 29-10. That's a whole lot of field goals.
Seattle (-1) over ST. LOUIS
I honestly don't know. I just do not know. If you bet on this game, you are one sick individual. There are no statistics, there is no logic and there is simply no reason to involve yourself with this game. If you must, I'd go against the team that's won consecutive games just twice since 2007. That would be the Rams, who are coming off a victory over the Redskins.
But I'll stress this one more time: I do not know.
RQFLWP: "The Redskins are OK. The Rams are OK, too. I think, though, that the Redskins are OKer than the Rams. I'm pretty sure."
Note: That one was actually ridiculous on impact. No matter what happened in that game, that line, in retrospect, was destined to wind up in RQFLWP territory.
NEW ORLEANS (-13.5) over Carolina
The average score of the Saints' three games is 21-19, yet they're a two-touchdown favorite? Yikes. Only in America.
Then again, the Panthers have scored just 32 points, the fewest in the NFL, and their quarterback duo of Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore has a less-than-stellar combined QB rating of 43.9. You could actually add Moore's (41.8) and Clausen's (46.1) together, and it would still rank 16th in the NFL, just ahead of Seneca Wallace.
In case you're not following, you could make the Carolina quarterbacks twice as good as they've been thus far, and they'd just barely be better than Seneca Wallace.
I'll take the Saints, desperate for a rebound, playing in front of an always-crazy home crowd. Points be damned.
RQFLWP: Hey, Carolina. You stink.
Note: Just figured it was good karma to get that back in for another week.
Houston (-3) over OAKLAND
Listen, if Rolando McClain isn't going to be busting out his suplex move every Sunday, then count me out on the Raiders.
Indianapolis (-7.5) over JACKSONVILLE
I mean, did you watch Peyton Manning in Denver last week? It was vintage Peyton, as he just stood there hitting Reggie Wayne on 15-yard comeback routes and just generally savaging the Broncos' defense. The final numbers weren't obnoxious (325 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions) but they were typical of a standard 14-point Colts victory.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that the Jaguars have scored 16 points in the last two weeks. They've also turned the ball over seven times. Try that against Indy. See what happens.
PHILADELPHIA (-6) over Washington
There literally won't be one person in the country who will take the Redskins +6 after that ugly loss to the Rams. To the Rams!
I'm not going to be the one to buck that trend.
Still, I'm not buying into the celebration of Mike Vick just yet. For all his marvelous feats, he's throwing a lot of incompletions and the Eagles are converting on third down just 40 percent of the time. That's going to bite them in close games, but they should be just fine against the Redskins.
The same Redskins who lost to the Rams!
Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that Donovan McNabb will be making his return to Philly. I don't think you're allowed to discuss this game without talking about that, which doesn't really make sense. They booed this guy literally from the day he was drafted until the day he played his final game as an Eagle. The funny part is that they'll probably give him a nice cheer on Sunday. Philadelphia's the best.
SAN DIEGO (-8) over Arizona
The Cardinals went to the Super Bowl two years ago. They won a playoff game last year.
This year, they needed Sebastian Janikowski to shank a couple of gimmes to squeak by Oakland, they beat the lowly Rams by four points and they got absolutely eviscerated by the Falcons. Gross.
Oh, and San Diego's offense, despite the team's 1-2 record, is just fine. The Chargers lead the league in yards per game (461.3) and score a healthy 24 points per game. They might double that number this week.
Chicago +4 over NEW YORK GIANTS
OK. Who's playing the joke on me? Come on. Come out and tell me this isn't right. Nobody? Seriously?
OK, let me try to wrap my head around this one.
I will say that the Bears looked all sort of sloppy on Monday night, and the only reason they won is because the Packers forgot just about every single rule there is. However …
The Giants are a mess. You've got Tiki Barber coming out of the woodwork to question Tom Coughlin, Brandon Jacobs is still employed by the team (contributing nicely with 69 yards in three games, I might add), Eli Manning has started throwing the ball lefty (for picks in the end zone) and the 1-2 Giants could head into their Week 8 bye with a 3-4 record and no hope for football in January.
Well, unless Victor Cruz can save them.
Most damning, though, is that the Giants committed 11 penalties last week, giving away 86 free yards. They're averaging 7.7 penalties per game for an average of 68.7 yards. The Bears showed Monday night that they know how to capitalize on other teams' mistakes, accentuated by Jay Cutler's stunning ability to only throw interceptions on plays that end up not counting due to penalty. Way to go, Jay.
MIAMI (+1) over New England
Patriots beat the Bills by the narrowest eight-point margin in the history of sport, and they're now a road favorite on Monday night? And one week after Chad Henne threw for 363 yards against a Jets defense that's much better than that of the Pats? Love it!
Add in the Patriots' utter inability to play well in Miami, and this one seems simple. But fear not, Patriots fans — I'm 0-3 picking Patriots games this year. Can I round it out to a perfect 0-4 before their bye week? That's the real storyline to watch.
RQFLWP: "It's bad business to start thinking like [of last year's tight games with Buffalo]. Go with the Pats, and don't think about it until Monday afternoon."
Note: About 20 minutes into this game, I realized that this year's Patriots team is much closer to the '09 Pats than it is the '03-'07 Pats. Tom Brady is going to have the team contending for a victory every Sunday, but wins won't come easy — and definitely not 14-point spread easy.
So there it is. Last week, I went 12-4, and in my eyes, that's essentially as good a week as you can realistically expect. If you try to shoot for 16-0, you have to try to predict upsets like the Rams over the Redskins. Just keep it simple, don't take unnecessary risks (looking at you, Seattle-St. Louis) and above all, don't get cute.
Is that a winning strategy? I'm hoping so — at least for one more week.
Last week: 12-4
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