It’s kind of funny how it works in this game. Week one: my SU record is atrocious, my ATS record is ugly, yet I make money. This week, beautiful SU record, satisfactory ATS record (anything over .500 is good) and I am in the red for the week. If Cam Newton doesn’t pick up a garbage time touch down and Mike Vick doesn’t get knocked out, we’re probably talking about a different story; regardless, I press onward.
Here’s what it looks like after week 2 if you’re keeping score at home:
Week 2 SU: 12-4
Week 2 ATS: 9-6-1
Week 2 +/-: -2 units
Season SU: 19-13
Season ATS: 15-15-2
Season +/-: + 1 unit
Enough reflecting; let’s get to some games.
New England Patriots (2-0) @ Buffalo Bills (2-0)
Line: Patriots -8 ½
The streak runs all the way back to 2003. The Bills embarrassed eventual back-to-back Super Bowl champion New England on opening day, and Bill Belichick has unleashed an unforgiving record on the NFL’s most sorry franchise for the better part of a decade defeating the Bills in 15 consecutive games. It has been impressive and entertaining for Bills fans this September, but the honeymoon comes to a crashing hault this Sunday. While Buffalo may sneak its way into the playoff discussion in December, let’s remember what the elite teams in this league look like and realize the Bills are not that. An Oakland attack that features Jason Campbell at the helm posted a 30 burger on a pretty awful Buffalo defense. Tom Brady is already 20% of the way to passing Dan Marino’s single season yardage record; well he might do it this Sunday (I hope your sarcasm meter is functioning.)
This is a changing of the guard, super bowl type game for the Bills. A win here changes everything in the eyes of the players and the fans. For the Patriots, it’s simply week three on the path to the Lombardi. New England simply doesn’t play trap games because they are too well coached and too well prepared. The Bills could hit some big plays with the suddenly electrifying offense but, defensively, it might make Miami’s effort on opening night look passable.
Pick: Patriots -8 ½
Bet: 4 units
Detroit Lions (2-0) @ Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
Line: Lions -3 ½
I became a believer in Matt Stafford in 2009 when he threw a game winning touchdown pass against Cleveland with a separated shoulder. I did the same thing with Aaron Rodgers back in 2008 that I’m about to do with Matt Stafford, so brace yourselves. I’m confident that by seasons end, this kid will be considered a top five NFL quarterback. The Detroit line has been stellar and his weapons have been superior. This offense is clicking on all cylinders and the Vikings will have no answer. The Minnesota defense likes to allow Antoine Winfield to play a Charles Woodson type of position where he bodies up the opposition’s number one half the time, and plays a blitzing linebacker the other half. He is physical, but there isn’t a corner that matches up well with Calvin Johnson. Expect Megaton to catch a couple of back shoulder throws and 9-fades in the corner of the end zone in this one. Without the Williams’ brothers and Ray Edwards playing in Atlanta, this once nightmarish match-up for the Lions suddenly swings in their favor with Jeff Backus getting help on Jared Allen and the Lions dominating the rest of the one on one match-ups. If the Vikings try to beat Detroit with the blitz, Brandon Pettigrew will eat the seam apart all day.
With Adrian Peterson being the only threat on the Minnesota offense, his effectiveness will be a moot point when the Vikings fall behind and are forced into a high tempo game predicated on big plays and a lot of passing. Donovan McNabb’s inability to eclipse even 100 yards in consecutive games in an era where 400 yard passing days are becoming natural is alarming to say the least.
The Lions need to remain humble and maintain the bigger picture. This is a team that has given the Lions a lot of heartache over the years so to bury Minnesota and stay even with the Packers will be plenty of motivation to avoid overlooking the Vikings.
Pick: Lions -3 ½
Bet: 2 units
New York Giants (1-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Projected Line: Eagles -6
Michael Vick is a complete wildcard in this game. Regardless if he plays or not, I like the Giants ability to run the football against a weak interior defense of the Eagles and keep Vick or Mike Kafka off the field. Casey Matthews continues to show his incompetence in diagnosing plays and the Falcons ran the ball at will last Sunday night. Ahmad Bradshaw is to shifty and quick for the defensive line to get a handle on him and Brandon Jacobs can blow the doors down in short yardage.
Offensively for the Eagles, they are too banged up and will get very few opportunities to dial up the big plays they rely on. The line probably won’t be up until Saturday night, but whatever it is, I’m laying the tiniest wager on the Giants.
Pick: Giants +6
Bet: ½ units
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) @ Carolina Panthers (0-2)
Line: Panthers -3 ½
The recipe for beating any good quarterback is always the same; create pressure and disrupt timing. If that cannot be accomplished, out scoring the aforementioned passer is the second best route. In the Panthers first two games, the latter has brought Cam Newton to the unfamiliar territory of losing. Regardless, it’s hard not to be in awe of the rookie’s first two performances. When the Jaguars come to town, Newton will have a clean pocket (despite losing Jeff Otah for the year) and the lack of big plays from the Jacksonville secondary will give the youngster his first NFL victory.
Rookie Blaine Gabbert takes over an inept offense for the Jags looking to inject a little life into an offense that turned it over four times last week in New York. I actually think Gabbert can have some success making quick decisions in a see the field and react type of offense I expect Jack Del Rio to put him in. A steady dose of Maurice Jones Drew can keep the aggressive Charles Johnson at bay and give the Jags offense a little momentum and continuity.
Neither team has a lot going for it right now as each is in a one week at a time mentality. It would seem logical that Newton could amass another 400 yards in this one, but the steam has to cool down sooner or later; and I expect him to be in a little more of a game management role rather than a catch-up position.
Pick: Panthers -3 ½
Bet: 1 unit
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Line: Bengals -3
The best thing Jim Harbaugh has brought to the NFL has been a steady pass-rush. The Bengals are a lot of things but one of those things is not a poor pass-protecting team. The Niners defense is going to have to find ways to create issues for the Cincinnati offense rather than just winning one-on-one match-ups. Andrew Whitworth can lock down the weak side single handedly and the Bengals have shown that they’re not afraid to keep the seam-busting Jermaine Gresham in to help chip a defender. With max protection, a lot is being called upon with A.J. Green to beat man coverage and even beat some double teams; and he’s been doing it. It’s still on Andy Dalton’s shoulders to make plays and move the safeties with his eyes as well as deliver accurate balls on time. I’m betting more on the average inconsistencies of a rookie than I am on the Niners here.
Pick: 49ers +3
Bet: 1 unit
Houston Texans (2-0) @ New Orleans Saints (1-1)
Line: Saints -4
It’s going to take some time for the Texans to get completely comfortable in Wade Phillips 3-4 “don’t think just play” scheme and that time does not come this Sunday. While the key to the Saints offense is balance, the addition of Darren Sproles has allowed the extension of the running game to come in even more glimpses of screens and flares to the tailback. Expect the Saints to attack early in the game, and mix in the run as the game wears on neutralizing Mario Williams off the edge and attacking Kareem Jackson with the deep receiving corps New Orleans features.
On the reverse side, this game has the makings for a shoot-out. The Saints will have no answer for Andre Johnson, bottom line. The main concern for the Houston offense is the speed on the shelf with Arian Foster still nursing a hamstring. Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle can be attacked with a back of Foster’s skill set, and while Ben Tate is a gifted runner, his bruising style doesn’t create enough problems for the Saints to commit heavy to the run.
This is the Texans first real test of the season and it’ll be geared up to take down a perennial contender. But too many options in the passing game will be insurmountable for the Texans thin secondary.
Pick: Saints -4
Bet: 2 units
Miami Dolphins (0-2) @ Cleveland Browns (1-1)
Line: Browns -3
Miami offensive coordinator Brian Daboll knows the Cleveland defense and the Browns defense knows Daboll. Finding ways to feature his best play-maker, Brandon Marshall won’t be a problem as he moves him around the line of scrimmage with short motion, slotting to the X position and utilizing the play pass, Marshall is going to have a field day against the Cleveland secondary. One thing the Browns haven’t seen from a year ago is a swarming pass-rush and the adjustment to the 40 front has seen it’s breakdowns in communication and coverage. The much maligned Dolphins offensive line should have some success in this one pass protecting Chad Henne and creating lanes for rookie runner Daniel Thomas.
The Browns offense doesn’t have the personnel to do to Miami what the Patriots and Texans did to it in the first two games. Peyton Hillis will have to get a lot of work and it’s up to the Miami front to stone him and disallow the Browns to sustain drives and keep another tired Miami defense on the field all game. Lastly, the Browns don’t have the receiver depth or tight end to create the mismatches Miami dealt with in the two losses.
I’ve not been kind to the Dolphins in the first two games but I think this one is an easy pick in favor of the road team that won six of eight away from Miami in 2010. It’s put up or shut up time for Miami.
Pick: Dolphins +3
Bet: 5 units
Denver Broncos (1-1) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Line: Titans -7
One concern I had with the Baltimore Ravens this year was the cornerback position. Last Sunday, Matt Hasselbeck and Kenny Britt did more than expose the unit; the two blew a gaping hole in the Ravens secondary. Champ Bailey is slowing down but his day against Britt will be much more formidable and the Titans will be forced to look elsewhere. With Chris Johnson continuing to come along slowly, a lot of folks would predict this to be a breakout game for the former 2,000 yard rusher. I still contend that Johnson will have a down year for the duration of the season and once the Titans give up on the run Sunday, Hasselbeck will encounter problems with the rush and turnovers.
Kyle Orton will spread the Titans out and use his new favorite toy in Eric Decker to press the perimeter of the field and keep Michael Griffin and Chris Hope ranging from sideline to sideline. This will open things up for Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee to find cut back lanes and get into the Tennessee secondary.
Tennessee is coming off a shocking upset and that can often lead to hangovers the following week. I expect Von Miller and Elvis Dummerville to make life tough on Hasselbeck and for Denver to steal one in Nashville.
Pick: Broncos +7
Bet: 3 units
Kansas City (0-2) @ San Diego (1-1)
Line: San Diego -15
Maybe it’s Norv Turner, maybe it’s the lack of urgency but, for whatever reason, the Chargers just can’t seem to get out of their own way in September. Turning it over four times and gifting Vince Wilfork his first career interception in New England, and just escaping the Vikings despite the special teams continuing its level of sucktitude, the Chargers are in familiar territory again this season. Lucky for the Southern California boys, a walking wounded team crawls into San Diego for a routine beating. The Chiefs have no pieces on the back end to slow any passing attack, let alone Phillip Rivers, and Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey aren’t playing the same game as everyone else around them up front.
However, Thomas Jones has been a steady cog anywhere he’s set foot on a football field. Todd Haley is going to change it up and become more reliant on pounding Thomas Jones between the tackles and getting Dexter McCluster a chance to flourish in Jamal Charles’ place getting the ball in space in the running and passing game. The front seven of the Chargers still isn’t where it needs to be and the Chiefs can wear them down up front a little bit.
Now I’m not crazy enough to pick the woeful Chiefs to win, but this is a large spread in a divisional game where the Chargers often play their worst ball (in September.) I also have to think San Diego is ripe to give up a big play in the return game to McCluster or Javier Arenas which will be just enough to cover.
Pick: Chiefs +15
Bet: 1 unit
Baltimore Ravens (1-1) @ St. Louis Rams (0-2)
Line: Ravens -4
The Rams are quickly learning that a difficult schedule means you must minimize mistakes and capitalize on opportunities. Poor red zone offense, dropped lateral screen passes that result in turnovers, and muffing punts will not result in the NFC West title the team thought was St. Louis’ to win. Sam Bradford makes the throws you only see from the elite and with a reeling Baltimore secondary, expect to see Mike Simms-Walker and Brandon Gibson getting separation and the ball sticking on receivers. Inside, beating the Ravens starts and ends with controlling Haloti Ngata. The Rams have the bulk and skill set to do this with Jason Brown and Harvey Dahl getting a handle on the all-world lineman. The offensive line is the key to beating the Ravens and the Titans handled Baltimore in the trenches and the Rams can have the same success.
Baltimore has grown surprisingly weak on the edge offensively at keeping Joe Flacco clean. Chris Long and James Hall typically thrive in these backs against the wall kind of games and the Rams can attack some serious problems exploited with the Ravens last week. I’m 0-2 with these Rams, but I can’t quit picking them.
Pick: Rams +4
Bet: ½ units
New York Jets (2-0) @ Oakland Raiders (1-1)
Line: Jets -3 ½
Nick Mangold is the straw that stirs the drink for the Jets and with the ankle injury, a much unheralded Raiders defensive line can find a way to get pressure and force an overwhelmed Mark Sanchez into mistakes. The Jets haven’t been able to run the ball ranking near the bottom of the league and when the team runs into some tougher opponents, it’s going to prove problematic. Coming off a disheartening loss in Buffalo, the Raiders are going to return home hungry, salty, and ready to impose its will on a team. The key is Jason Campbell protecting the football. Darren McFadden will get his chances to pick holes and get into the second level. The Raiders will offset Darrelle Revis by controlling the ground and screen game and attempting to take the top off the Jets defense. If the Raiders can keep Campbell clean, and they will, the Jets offense won’t be put in many positions to succeed.
The Jets performance in week one shouldn’t have been good enough to win and Luke McCown made sure the Jaguars weren’t beating them in week two. This is a team ripe for a loss.
Pick: Raiders +3 ½
Bet: ½ units
Green Bay Packers (2-0) @ Chicago Bears (1-1)
Line: Packers -4
Jay Cutler’s life insurance policy must cost him a fortune; the Bears still can’t protect him. When Clay Matthews, Eric Walden, Frank Zombo and Charles Woodson get a hold of J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi, this game will turn sour for the Bears quickly. Aaron Rodgers showed his true colors in the playoffs last season as the best player in the league not named Tom Brady by shifting the pocket, extending plays and making every single throw with pinpoint accuracy. When A-Rod gets into a rhythm and a comfort zone, he’s virtually unstoppable. The Bears are still without a force at the wide receiver position and have no one to alleviate the pressure Cutler endures in the pocket. Woodson, Traemon Williams and Sam Shields better be on the Juggs machine this week in practice because they’re going to get a lot of opportunities at take-aways.
This game tends to play closer than it should, but the Bears are completely over-matched. The Packers will do to Chicago what is should’ve done to Carolina.
Pick: Packers -4
Bet: 3 units
Atlanta Falcons (1-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
Line: Buccaneers -1
The Bucs have been handled for seven of the eight quarters it has played this season. Last year, the team turned to shambles when playing the elite competition and that’s not going to change any time soon. There are no threats on the perimeter to put Matt Ryan under duress, there’s no ball hawking safety that can play center field and, up the middle, there’s much to be desired. Mason Foster will get washed out by the stout interior line of the Falcons and Michael Turner will drive his bus through wide open ‘A’ gaps. Julio Jones will occupy Sean Jones and Cody Grimm up top leaving Tony Gonzales free to work Quincy Black in the seam all game long. This further opens things up for Roddy White who is too advanced of a technician in his routes for the aging Ronde Barber and the gamble oriented Aqib Talib to handle. The Atlanta offense has too many match-up problems for the Bucs defense to even give the offense a chance. The game is going to be over on this side of the ball alone.
Pick: Falcons +1
Bet: 5 units
Arizona Cardinals (1-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
Line: Cardinals -3
If the Seattle offense stands a chance to put together a string of solid execution and possibly take some shots down the field, this is the week. It may not face a weaker pass rush this season and doubling Darnell Docket won’t cause the issue of opening up other opportunities. For the first time this season, I expect Tarvaris Jackson to find a comfort zone and make some nice throws in the intermediate range. The Seahawks need to mix up the route combinations and keep Patrick Peterson busy in man coverage and utilizing some depth at receiver to wear the Cardinals down.
On the other side, the Cards offense can have even more success against the Seattle defense. Expect to see safety help over the top on Larry Fitzgerald and for him to abuse Marcus Trufaunt on the underneath stuff for the duration of the game. Alan Branch will have a chip on his shoulder inside and his pairing with Red Bryant might be enough to slow the Cardinals running game.
With all the exciting divisional match-ups taking place this week, this one mirrors in mediocrity. The Seahawks best player is a flag that has the number 12 on it and relying on that to win games is, for lack of a better word, silly. I might not pick the Seahawks all year.
Pick: Cardinals -3
Bet: ½ units
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
Line: Steelers -10 ½
I’m inclined to leave this explanation as, “there’s no Peyton Manning, Steelers win;” but I’ll take that whole professionalism thing into account. The Colts offensive line has been disintegrating for the past few seasons and without Manning there to put it in the right protection calls, it has been getting abused. There’s no ability to run the football, and Kerry Collins is a statue in the pocket and a turnover machine. It’s scary to think what this Pittsburgh defense will do it. The Colts defense might be able to get off the edge with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but after a couple of scores, the rush will be neutralized and the Steelers will pound the football down the Colts throat.
Pick: Steelers -10 ½
Bet: 1 unit
Washington Redskins (2-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Line: Cowboys -6
Tony Romo is a difficult player to figure out. One week he is absolutely vilified and the next he’s celebrated to no end. This is, surprisingly, a terrific match-up and could turn in either direction. If Rex Grossman is able to be quick and decisive, he can pick this Dallas secondary to pieces. Mike Shanahan has done a masterful job designing plays that create throwing lanes and has used the play pass to get Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong that extra step before the breaks of their routes. The key for the Redskins offense will be sealing off Jay Ratliff and getting a man to the second level on Sean Lee. Tim Hightower and Roy Helu run with enough to power to fall forward for extra yardage and keep Grossman in achievable situations.
Romo needs to be sharp and stay upright because the Redskins love to jump routes and get the take aways. Without Miles Austin to stretch the field and a banged up Dez Bryant, it’s going to be difficult for Romo to manipulate the defense and get match-ups he covets. He’s also one blown assignment by his adolescent offensive line (Tyron Smith and Phil Costa) away from inserting Jon Kitna in the game.
If the Cowboys were healthy, I’d like them in this one, but some integral parts to attack the Redskins weaknesses are out and it’ll prove costly.
Pick: Redskins +6
Bet: 1 unit
Week 2 At Risk: 31 units
Season Total Units: +1
Enjoy the games.