After a year which I was (finally) able to post this weekly column with some regularly, i’m back again with another season of weekly NFL lines and picks.
Last year, through 15 weeks of the season, I finished with a record of 86-70-4 when making said picks… which, looking back, only makes me wish I actually wagered some money in doing so. But, of course, the minute I actually put money into said process is the minute my luck turns irreversibly for the worst.
For those of you who might be new to the column, a few ground rules:
- My picks are in bold
- No matter the circumstances, I always pick the Redskins to win each week. This is why I don’t actually put on any money on these picks.
- No matter the circumstances, I always pick the Dallas Cowboys to lose each week. Let nobody say i’m without moral integrity.
Given all of that, please consider these picks for nothing more than entertainment purposes only.
Carolina (-3) at Denver — Pick made last night. To be honest, I think Denver’s offense impressed me a little more than their defense last night (though the latter is still really good). But, more than anything else, I think I underestimated the “season after losing the Super Bowl” hangover from Carolina in general… you know, right after I talked about how badly teams fare the year after going to the Super Bowl and losing it.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-3) — I’m “50 Shades of Meh” on the Atlanta Falcons for yet another season. After going 13-3 in 2012 and coming one game shy of playing in the Super Bowl, Atlanta has won a total of 18 games over the last three seasons, failing to record a winning season in any of them. I don’t see that streak changing this year.
Minnesota (-2.5) at Tennessee — Look, there’s simply no other way to say it: the Vikings made a panic move and overpaid for the likes of the noodle-armed quarterback vagabond that is Sam Bradford. A first and fourth round pick? Blech. Shameless self-promoting plug forthcoming: You can read my full thoughts on that deal here.
Cleveland at Philadelphia (-4) — You have no idea how tempted I am to find the nearest place that I can make any wager on the total over/under of this game (currently at 41.5 points). The Eagles are starting a rookie quarterback who needs at least two years of development, putting him behind a rag-tag offensive line, and giving him a group of wide receivers that’s as about as scary as a basket of kittens. The Browns have Robert Griffin III throwing to Terrelle Pryor and a bunch of rookie wide receivers. This game just stinks of a 13-10 or 16-13-type final score. In other words: i’d bet my next mortgage on the under (41 points total). It’s free money.
Cincinnati (-2.5) at NY Jets — It’s no longer a question of whether the Bengals are going to be a playoff contender. Cincinnati has won the AFC North twice in the past three years, won double-digit games in each of the past four seasons, and made the playoffs in each of the past five seasons. The real question is whether they’ll actually advance past the first round of the playoffs. Marvin Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs as head coach of the Bengals, losing in the wild card opener each time he’s taken Cincinnati to the postseason.
Oakland at New Orleans (-1) — I have some strange “he loves me, he loves me not” relationship with the Oakland Raiders. I think they’re one of the most (potentially) exciting teams in the AFC, even though i’m not entirely sold on Derek Carr (go back and look at his stats over the second half of 2015), running back Latavius Murray (who I could totally see losing carries to rookie DeAndre Washington over the course of the season), and Michael Crabtree (only 38 receptions and 331 yards over the second half of 2015).
San Diego at Kansas City (-6.5) — Genuine thanks to whichever gambling gods decided Kansas City should give seven points to the Chargers. San Diego wants to throw the ball all over the field, and Kansas City’s biggest weaknesses is their depth at cornerback.
Buffalo at Baltimore (-3) — To “help” his defense that so badly under-performed last season, Rex Ryan brought in his brother Rob to ‘co-coach’ the Bills defense (alongside current defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman). How or why anyone thinks that’s going to work is beyond me, but to each their own. But lest we forget: Rob was available (read: without a job) because his defense wasn’t just the worst in the NFL, in terms of points allowed per game last season (29.8); they had the worst Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) ever recorded by Football Outsiders. That’s not just terrible, that’s impressively terrible. I get that Rob is Rex’s brother and all, but Rob clearly didn’t spend very long bathing in the gene pool of their dad, the late Buddy Ryan.
Chicago at Houston (-6) — Interesting stat: the Bears were 31st in the NFL in DVOA in defending the #1 receiver of opposing teams in 2015. Their top cornerback, Kyle Fuller, had an arthroscopic procedure on his knee in the middle of August, and even if he is back for the season opener, he’s not going to be at 100%. I’m less bearish on the Bears than others (pardon the terrible pun), but their secondary is still a bit of a mess. If you happen to be one of the fantasy football degenerates (like myself) who partakes in football-centric Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), DeAndre Hopkins is totally worth the price you’ll have to pay to have him in your lineup. He could have a monster day.
Green Bay (-5.5) at Jacksonville — Memo to Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack: you guys were the big fish in the college football pond. Now, you get to start off your professional career by playing against Aaron Rodgers. Welcome to the big leagues.
Miami at Seattle (-10.5) — The two biggest problems the Dolphins had in training camps was an offensive line that couldn’t block through a wet kleenex, and a secondary that got consistently burnt more often than popcorn bags in a college dorm. The latter seems to be a carry over from last year, when Miami finished 32nd in DVOA against #1 wideouts and 27th against an opponents #2 wide receiver. So, you can just imagine what Russell Wilson — who threw for 2,146 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only two interceptions over Seattle’s last eight regular season games — and this Seahawks defense will do to Miami. If you’re a Dolphins fan with heart conditions or a weak stomach, you might want to pay attention to your team starting in Week 2.
NY Giants at Dallas (Pick ‘Em) — Weird stat that I can’t really explain: in two games against the Dallas Cowboys last season, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had nine catches for 79 yards total (and zero touchdowns). Compare that to the fact that his career averages is basically seven catches for 100 yards and a touchdown per game. This might be a good week to avoid him in DFS lineups.
Detroit at Indianapolis (-3.5) — Colts Owner Jim Irsay and General Manager Ryan Grigson could very well be the Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn of the NFL. Few teams continually makes baffling roster construction decisions in the way that Indianapolis does. The Las Vegas odds makers have the Indianapolis Colts as the favorites to win the division. But just take a step back and ask yourself: are we sure that the Colts are actually a good football team? What’s exactly is their “Plan B” if their primary plan of “force Andrew Luck to single-handedly win games for [us]” fails?
New England at Arizona (-6) — The Patriots are going to start the season in Arizona — where the Cardinals were 7-1 in the regular season last year — without right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, running back Dion Lewis, … and that Tom Brady guy. Jimmy “Happy Feet” Garoppolo against a secondary with two of the five best defensive backs in the league (Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu)? This is practically stealing. I can’t think of the last time the Patriots were underdogs by a touchdown, and it still seemed a bit low.
Pittsburgh (-3) at Washington — If you saw my postseason predictions column, you’ll notice that I veered away from the trendy pick of Pittsburgh representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. To be clear: I love the Steelers offense, but have serious questions about their defense. Their offense has the firepower to score on anyone however they want to (throwing or running the football), but I question whether they have the same game-altering players on defense. As we’ve seen time and time again (most recently just this past season): offense wins in the regular season, defense wins in the postseason.
Los Angeles (-2.5) at San Francisco — I was a huge fan of Jared Goff coming out of Cal, and I would’ve argued with anyone that he was the best quarterback in this draft class. So, while everyone overreacts to the fact that Goff was named the 3rd string quarterback for the Rams this season, i’m actually glad that they’re not starting him right away, because they’d ruin this kid. Even with Todd Gurley, the Rams might have the worst talent on offense of any team in the NFL. Their receivers suck, their tight ends suck, their offensive line sucks, the offensive coaching staff sucks, and their head coach sucks. To borrow from the legendary Jim Mora: they can’t do diddly poo offensively. They just suck. Letting Jared Goff “redshirt” for a year, while this team goes 6-10 and Jeff Fisher (hopefully and mercifully) gets fired, might be the best thing for his career.