Week 7 (first week) record: 2-1 against the spread. 9-3 picking the other games straight up. The straight up losses were the Seahawks, Bears, and Chargers. The Chargers and Seahawks games could have gone either way. On the flip side, wins by the Redskins and the Lions – who got a little lucky – were at the end by 2 and 1 points, respectively.)
Notable good calls: Picked the Jaguars to upset the Browns outright. Said that the Chiefs-Chargers game “could surprise a lot of people who are ranking the Chargers as the number 1 team in football.” And almost picked the Texans straight up, writing “Te” several times, but picked against them. (Here’s why that’s pretty funny).
Notable mishaps: Said the Panthers should play Green Bay tough – Yet they looked awful, and got trounced. Said the Raiders would keep it closer than most of their blowout losses this season. They lost 24-13. And, despite noting that the Dolphins “should be rip roaring mad after last week” still picked the Bears, who got slammed by the Dolphins, 27-14 at home.
Below are the picks for week 8. It’s early a.m. Sunday October 26, so picking the Chargers Broncos game at this point – since it already occurred, would be easy.
Still, I know some climate scientists who might botch it! (Ha Ha – not Packers Rookie Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix -Ha Ha just kidding: despite much hype and misunderstanding conveyed as information on climate change, climate scientists who professionally study the issue tend to know more about it than most who disagree with them, so ha ha just kidding about making so much fun of them.)
I would have struggled with this pick before the game. San Diego battled the Broncos close all three games last season, but they were missing some key players for this one. (As it turned out, they lost a few more early in the game, and, essentially got outplayed.)
All picks this week will be against the Spread.
Lions (-3.5) at Falcons
These birds may be the “home” team, but they’ve flown a long way to get there, as the game is being played in London, England.
The Falcons, under head coach Mike Smith and often clutch and super talented QB Matt Ryan, have been perennially good, and perhaps better than they should have been at times.
Last season they lost some players to injuries, and faltered; while much of the rest of the league seemingly got better. Surprising, and seemingly complacent from years of “being a very good team,” the Falcons did very little in the offseason, when there was a lot of indication that it was the moment to re-tool or add and improve.
It is showing, as they have been a bad team this year.
Still, they are playing one of the more unsuccessful franchises of the last 20 years. And there is something about those Falcons. They may be taking this game very seriously, and the Lions “might” not be.
I’m going to err on the side of second time around but still young head coach Jim Caldwell, and speculate that he will keep his team from making that mistake, and thus from underestimating a desperate Falcons team who may not catch either Ebola or that “when bad teams go to London they seem to play like crap” virus that has been prevalent since the NFL starting introducing games over there. (If they do though, we’ll know it.)
So now if the Lions lose, we all have someone to blame: Caldwell. They are the better team. They should realize they got lucky last week. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson seems like he may be taking the field again after (barely) playing hobbled in one game, and missing 1 or 2 others. But his ankle may not be fully healed. And while the Lions should let him tear it up if he can, they should stop relying on him or be much concerned about his absence. It’s a team game.
If the Falcons play tough, but the Lions pull out a close one, I’ll give Caldwell credit, and shoulder all the blame for this pick. Close call, but pick: Lions
Vikings (+2.5) at Buccaneers
The general consensus was that the Bucs would be an improved team under former Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who over a 9 season period took the Bears to the playoffs three times (along with some good fortune, amassing a 13-3 regular season record and getting all the way to the Super Bowl one year, where they may have been the weakest Super Bowl team of the past twenty years, and the NFC championship another); and had a winning record.
But maybe, for all his seemingly hard headed ways, former controversial figure Greg Schiano wasn’t all that bad of a head coach. As so far this season the Buccaneers have been worse than last season.
Pick? I’m taking a mulligan. Maybe after the game I’ll know who to pick – but possibly, on this game, not even then.
Bears (+6) at Patriots
The Patriots rarely lose at home. Their record in Foxboro under Tom Brady over the past several season is outrageous. It’s almost as good as Ben Rothlisberger’s, until two weeks ago, was against the Cleveland Browns.
I’m also always wrong on the Bears. Still, they fancy themselves a good team, show signs of it, are playing a team with a target on its back, and have plenty to be upset with themselves over. If they are a team with any character, they will play their hearts out.
The Bears are the decided favorites to lose, but this “should” be a good game. (The word “should” being about as tepidly above a coin flip here as is possible, given that this is, after all, the modern day Bears.) Don’t throw picks Cutler.
Rams (+7) at Chiefs
There’s something fishy about this game. Here’s what I wrote last week in the first week of picks. “It also can’t be a complete accident that over many years, Andy Reid brought his Eagles to…the NFC championship game something like four times. Then took over the maligned Chiefs last year, and they [vastly] improved to 11-5.”
The Rams, who still stink (but sometimes hang with the best, so long as they are in the same division), and have no QB right now, should get blown out of the water by a Chiefs team that since their week 1 home fiasco to the early season awful Titans, has really been rolling – with strong victories over a few good teams, and close battles in others – and who have one of the better home field advantages in the league.
The Rams are also probably still giddy that they just beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. (Never mind that they still somewhat stink, they have a bad record, even got blown out of the water early in the season by the Minnesota Vikings, and they let Michael Sam go – Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, who already has 5 sacks for the Dallas Cowboys. (Okay, he has none, and was recently released from the Cowboys practice squad. Still, it’s probably the Rams fault. Climate change, ISIS, and Ebola, are all the Rams’ fault.))
Still, there’s something fish about this game. Or it could just be my poor assessment. We’ll know soon enough. Pick, reluctantly: Rams
(Post game update: There was something fishy about that game after all. My analysis of it.)
Seahawks (-5.5) at Panthers
The Broncos were the best regular season team in the league last year. They crushed. This year they got back their pro bowl left tackle Ryan Clady, picked up Demarcus Ware (though notice how the Dallas Cowboys, whose defense was awful last year, but is much improved this year, have seem to have improved anyway – sacks are over rated if the player isn’t doing a whole lot else), and more notably, Aqib Talib at cornerback and T.J Ward at Safety.
Overall, the Broncos additions should make them a better team this year, but they really played well as a team last year, and were already tough. And, even though the Broncos technically took the Seahawks to overtime in Seattle, it wasn’t long ago that that the Seahawks outplayed a team which has otherwise dominated nearly every game it has been in.
But how the mighty have fallen. The Seahawks lost to a good Dallas team two weeks ago, and, although most of the points came on special teams, they lost to the Rams (the Rams!) last week. They pulled within 2 points with plenty of game left to play, and very un Seattle like, could not pull out the win.
Those mighty are going to be mighty angry this week at Carolina. And are going to play some good football.
While the Panthers are simply not a consistent, nor very strong team. (There is some indication that losing linebacker Greg Hardy, who along with tackling machine Luke Kuechly helped make the middle of that Panther defense somewhat monster, has really hurt this team. It’s just not talked about a lot, since Hardy is suspended for domestic violence – a touch subject in the wake of the national Ray Rice Roger Goodell Brouhaha.)
But the Panthers are not as bad as they showed last week at Green Bay. (Then again, who is.)
Good teams, and teams with character, respond after getting trounced. It is not clear where Carolina falls on this scale. But it is a home game. They are still in the early mid season “not out of contention yet” category – and their division is wide open. They are playing the Super Bowl champions. That should be enough motivation for them. This should be one of the better, and more interesting, games of the week.
Seattle should win, perhaps more likely in a close game than not, but it is not out of the question for the Super Bowl champions to lose 3 straight. Pick: Panthers
Bills (+3) at Jets
The Jets just got Percy Harvin. They’re never going to lose again.
Seriously, Geno Smith is erratic (playing well after the world decides he’s awful, then playing not so well once we start to think maybe this cat can really play – which come to think of it is not so erratic, and he played really well last week at New England so – uh oh…) And the Bills aren’t so bad this year. And Bills overpaid backup QB now starter Kyle Orton, inspiration for a hilarious “Shane Falco” email sent to ESPN’s (unless he is still suspended for calling Roger Goodell a (curse word) liar) Bill Simmons, isn’t bad at winning football games.
But the Jets are the Jets. It doesn’t much matter that they are home in this division game; but they will have more motivation, need to have more motivation, and should, put it together this game: As long as Harvin doesn’t get upset and unilaterally take himself out of it. And Smith remembers which team he is throwing the ball to. (Somewhat) more seriously, the gang that is the color of money (but once again, left far too much of it on the table for this season), will crush this game. Pick: Jets
I’m skipping most of the rest. It’s taken like six weeks to write this. (Meaning several of the prior weeks game results mentioned hadn’t even taken place when I started on it.)
And going right to the Monday Night Game: Wherein the Washington Redskins – on their 68 thousandth different head coach or something such, and from a city that just a few weeks ago was chanting “Kirk, Kirk” for starter – seemingly forgetting that just two years ago Robert Griffin put together one of the better seasons a starting quarterback has ever had (let alone for a rookie) – go to play some team out of Dallas.
Yes, that was then, this is now, and Griffin may never regain that form. But calls of a possible QB controversy were exceptionally premature. (Though Kirk himself prematurely ended most of the fun by throwing four interceptions – and looking awful in the process – in a 45-14 home blowout loss to the New York Giants; and then a few weeks later ended the rest of the fun by throwing three interceptions in the fourth quarter to lead Washington to a 30-20 loss to the, at this point still just one loss Arizona Cardinals, in a game Washington otherwise might have won.) So:
Redskins (+9.5) at Cowboys
It would be more exciting if Cousins were playing, than former third stringer Colt McCoy, who pulled out game after game in college (and did it again last week, coming off the bench to ultimately pull out the game against the Titans); but in the NFL – getting real game opportunities for the most part with bad teams (mainly the Browns) – McCoy hasn’t done as much. (And, as NBC’s Dallas-Fort Worth’s Channel 5 Sports Anchor/Reporter Pat Doney aptly pointed out to me yesterday after expressing my enthusiasm for McCoy’s “clutch” play, McCoy is 6-15 in the NFL as a starter.)
Still, he brings a leadership quality. Maybe. And head coach Jay Gruden is former Oakland and Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden’s brother. I don’t really know what that means, but he has these Redskins flying all over the place in terms of performance. Awful. Horrible. Good. Abysmal. Solid. Okay. Pick your adjective.
So with adjectives like that, how can the Redskins not beat the team that many are anointing “America’s new team”?
Seriously. Redskins may even win this one. Don’t let me down Jay, light a fire under your team. If the nation’s Congress can’t perform, at least it’s team ought to once in a while. Pick: Redskins
Okay, let’s do two more:
Ravens (-1) at Bengals
The Bengals crushed everybody at home last season. And they were supposed to be better his year.
But after starting off strong, they have rolled over – getting shellacked at New England 43-17, “rebounding” from that with a measly tie against the (so far) non contender Panthers (at home no less, where they went 8-0 least year, winning each of their last 5 their by at least 14 points or more); then getting blanked 27-0 at the Indianapolis Colts.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are, apparently, once again, good. And suddenly, the Bengals, are bad.
And this Bengals team, under head coach Marvin “concussions linger longer now” Lewis, has shown little character in the playoffs.
But it’s not the playoffs. It is put up or shut up time for the Bengals. Not that there’s much talk coming out of this team. (Who, incidentally, are one of four big cats in the NFL, outdone in team name only by the animal cats love to chase, which has wings, and flies around. That’s 9 of 32 – count ’em, 9 of 32 – teams named after cats or birds. This could even the NFL official cartoon.)
Here’s hoping that the Bengals, who will likely once again be without perhaps one of the top two or three wide receivers in the league, will play like this as a playoff game (not a Bengals playoff game, however, where under Lewis they are 0-5 but like a playoff game for a normal team), and show some spunk.
According to Sandra Bullock – or at least according to her movie title, “Hope Floats.” But it doesn’t win NFL picks. Still, in honor of Bullock, and in anticipation that it will float enough for a Bengals team that really should lose soundly but that can redeem itself with a season sweep over division rival Baltimore, here’s the pick: Bengals
Raiders (+6.5) at Browns
The Browns are (finally) better this year with new, first time head coach Mike Pettine, and spirited leader Brian Hoyer at QB.
And they demolished the Steelers in week 6 (the same Steelers who came into the game 18-1 against the Browns under quarterback Ben Rothlisberger) – this after pulling off the largest road comeback the week before in NFL history, against, of course, the Titans – before losing to the previously completely defeated Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-6.
Teams with character battle after an embarrassment like that. And the Browns have character. Still, I’m going with the Oakland Raiders, if for no other reason than Dennis Allen is no longer their head coach.
Tony Sparano has Oakland playing better, though they are underdogs to win. But they ought to give even a bounce back Browns team a bit of a game. If not, I’m jumping off the Sparano bandwagon. (That pretty much nobody is on anyway.)
This pick could also be influenced by the fact that, if you’ve listened to (or suffered through) enough Chris Berman, it’s kind of fun to say “The Raiders.” Even, to write it. Thus, the pick: Raiders
Best game of the week:
Somewhat under the Radar, the underestimated Eagles travel to the nobody gives them any respect Cardinals – where the Eagles, despite being the road team, aren’t even an underdog, and the game is a “pick ’em.” No pick for this pick ’em though. The Cardinals should win, but everyone apparently keeps expecting a let down. If that reality is jacking the Cardinals up, there won’t be one. This game will also tell a lot about both teams.
The Cardinals have a solid lead in their division. But the two teams that trail them, happen to be the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, arguably the two best playoff teams in the league last year, and certainly two of the top three teams in the league last year. And still super competitive, if possibly not as good, this year. (Not to mention also being pretty heated rivals with the Cardinals at the end of last year, in a wild division and wild card race down to the finish line. And the Cardinals have two games remaining against each team, having faced neither even once yet this season, which like last will also end with the Cardinals playing the 49ers – although, this time in San Francisco. And, just like last year, the Cardinals also play the Seahawks the week before, in week 16, as well.)
The Eagles, meanwhile, at 5-1, trail the 6-1 Cowboys, by half a game.
Where will they be after Monday Night? Still half a game back?