Okay, after last week’s picks, I’m starting to feel a little better about myself. I’m not quite ready to move out of my cardboard box but at least my bags are packed.
My picks the first two weeks were nothing short of pathetic. At least my desperately adopted Costanza approach earned me some well-needed credibility in Week Three. Either way, picking games at a 35% clip is not going to get me any calls from Al Pacino. My colleague, KP, is picking games with 56% accuracy, considerably better than me and pretty much all one needs to be making money on every single game. So listen to him and not me, for now.
Either way, I plan on narrowing that gap this week with some solid guessing and a handful or tarot cards. After looking at this week’s point spreads, this should be a pretty tough week to predict, so my fingers are doubly crossed (which also makes it quite difficult to type). Our guest prognosticator this week is Darrell Harden from The People’s Democratic Republic of Hardenistan. Hopefully he knows very little about football.
But enough about us. Here are my take ‘em as you see ‘em picks for Week Four.
SPORTSCHUMP’S WHY DO I FEEL FUNKY ABOUT THIS WEEK’S PICKS PICKS
NY GIANTS +3.5 at (THAT TEAM FROM) WASHINGTON
The first game of the week is one of the tougher ones to predict. Kirk Cousins is playing well enough to make people in Washington start to utter RG Who. The Giants finally got off the snide with a victory last week but is that something they’ll be able to sustain? Only the Shadow knows for sure. The loser of this game will be severely behind the 8-ball in this division, dropping to 1-3, not that anybody in their right mind expected either of these two to contend in the NFC East. That being said, I like to be consistent, even if it’s means being consistently wrong. I’m going with the Giants and the points this week because they have to win eventually, don’t they?
MIAMI -3.5 at OAKLAND
This game is being played in London which means two things. 1) No Miami Dolphins fans will be peed on by a face-painted, Kiss-look-alike Raiders fan and 2) the league probably can’t wait to move one of its shitty Florida teams across the pond. Here’s an idea. Let’s ship Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald and the like over to England to play for an NFL expansion team. If having bad dental coverage and having to eat bangers and mash on the regular isn’t punishment enough, I don’t know what is. Considering both these teams are pretty horrid and the fact that neither will be celebrating a home field advantage (Cheerio, old chap), I’m taking the Raiders. Even though the Fish beat their only common opponent, the Patriots, while the Raiders did not, I think the Raiders are playing better football right now. So I’ll take the commitment to relocation and the three-and-a-half.
GREEN BAY -1.5 at CHICAGO
Someone please get me a coin to flip. That’s how confident I feel about this game. This line actually opened with the Bears as the favorite then flipped. Who would have thought after Week Three that Jay Cutler would be having a better year than Aaron Rodgers? Well, he is. Plus the Bears are 2-1 where the Pack is 1-2. I really want to pick the Packers in this game but they can’t score and they can’t stop teams from scoring. The Bears are returning home after a two game roadie and… (I’m trying to talk myself into take Chicago, can you tell?) … I guess I just can’t understand why the Packers are favored. This has all the makings of a trap game. Can I visualize Green Bay starting off their season 1-3? It’s hard to but damn, I’m going to have to take Chicago and the points here. Wait, I take that back. I’ll take Green Bay for the victory on the road… begrudgingly.
BUFFALO +3 at HOUSTON
This is where we begin the short-lived conversation that goes “Hey, remember when Buffalo was 2-0 and a playoff contender?” Guess what. They’ll be 2-2 shortly. In fact, I think Houston covers this line easily. How’s that for brief, succinct analysis. Let’s move on.
TENNESSEE +7.5 at INDIANAPOLIS
I’ve never been a big fan of laying a ton of points in division rivalry games. The teams just hate each other too much to get blown out. I have no hard evidence to prove this but when point spreads are a touchdown or more in divisional rivalries, more often than not the underdog covers. I know Andrew Luck had his target practice against Jacksonville this week but Tennessee is not Jacksonville. Jake Locker has a bum wrist so expect to see a lot of Shonn Greene. I still think the Colts bring home the W but I just have this eerie feeling the Titans keep this one close.
CAROLINA +3 at BALTIMORE
This is another tough one to pick. I liked the way Carolina was playing… until they got manhandled by an unpredictable Steelers team. This week, they’re going up against another AFC North opponent who is just as unpredictable. I think the Panthers are out of their comfort zone. These teams are far too evenly matched, hence the three point spread. Both are pretty stingy defensively and neither can score in droves. Wait, where’s my coin again? Decisions, decisions. In toss-up games, I have to go with the home team, right? If that’s the case, give me the Ravens and lay the trey.
DETROIT -1.5 at NY JETS
What’s up with the point spreads this week? How is anybody supposed to make any money? Again, I think Detroit is the better team but I also don’t think we’ve seen the real Jets yet. Or maybe we have and that consists of Geno Smith consistently throwing the ball into the arms of his opponents. Might we soon have more quarterback controversy rumblings in the Big Apple? Paging Michael Vick! Detroit’s the better team here and the Jets have problems keeping teams out of the end zone. That could be scary against a team like Detroit that has the potential to score at will. I’m taking Motor City in this one.
TAMPA BAY +7.5 at PITTSBURGH
Let me know when it’s time for Tampa Bay to start waving the white flag. Seriously, start off the season 0-3 and you’re rewarded with a trip to Pittsburgh? That doesn’t sound very fair but they brought it on themselves. Sure, the Steelers are also struggling to find any sort of consistency but dating back to last season, the Bucs have lost six straight games. Furthermore, Tampa Bay hasn’t beaten Pittsburgh this century but can the Steelers cover the number? Last Thursday’s embarrassment to the Falcons confirmed the fact that the Bucs are one of the worst teams in the league. They’ll be looking for redemption against a Steelers team that is so banged up defensively they had to bring James Harrison out of retirement. With so many key injuries for both teams, this game might just be unwatchable. Even though some fans in the bay area are already calling for Lovie Smith’s head, he put his foot far so far up his team’s ass last week they’ll have to respond. And despite Vincent Jackson’s injury, Mike Glennon will want to impress against a makeshift Pittsburgh D. While I don’t think a team that’s looking to sign Terrelle Pryor is going to go into Pittsburgh and win, I do think they’ll cover.
JACKSONVILLE +13 at SAN DIEGO
Speaking of throwing in the towel, do you think we could field an All-Star team out of the three Florida teams and have them be worth a damn? And who would be their starting quarterback? Blake Bortles? Well, this just in. The Bortles experiment is about to begin. And it couldn’t happen soon enough as Jacksonville has been outscored by 75 points in three games. There’s nothing like a hostile road environment to kick off a career. I know Jax sucks but I think this team believes in Bortles enough to keep this thing within thirteen.
PHILADELPHIA +5 at SAN FRANCISCO
With the way both these teams have been playing lately, I’m surprised this spread is so high. We all know Philly can score when they want to so taking five against a 49ers team that we still can’t figure out should be the wise choice here.
ATLANTA -3 at MINNESOTA
It’s amazing how many teams’ seasons are already over after only three weeks and yes, I’m considering the Vikings to be one of those teams. Last week’s scrimmage against the Buccaneers might be all Atlanta needs to start a nice little hot streak. Wake me when they play a real NFL team. I like Atlanta to cover.
NEW ORLEANS -3 at DALLAS
I was sitting at a cigar bar with a buddy the other night in Ybor City. We live in Tampa and that’s what people here do. As my friend and I engaged in relatively normal conversation that abnormal guys engage in, i.e., women, booze and football, I overheard the gentlemen to my right talking about the upcoming Saints-Cowboys game. As I was torn about the outcome and desperate for a winner, I asked them who they felt would win. The gentlemen in the middle blurted out “Saints all the way.” I found out shortly thereafter that he was a biased, Saints fan. To counter his argument, the impartial friend to his left brought up a rather interesting and certainly unprovable statistic. He said that over the past few years, in any game the Saints play, whether they host or not, the home team covers 72% of the time. This guy may have been totally full of shit but since I was already leaning toward the Cowboys and the Saints homer sounded like, well… a Saints homer, I decided to go with a stranger’s impartial instinct. Plus I could use a little 72% right now. I’m calling for the upset and taking the home team and the three. How ‘bout them Cowboys!
NEW ENGLAND -3.5 at KANSAS CITY
Kansas City is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL to play. A Monday night game should make the already raucous crowd more… well, raucous. Tom Brady is generally unflappable but if there were ever a time to be flapped, this might be it. The Chiefs haven’t hosted a Monday nighter in three years so the place should reek of barbecue and beer. Alex Smith is no Brady and he’s going up against the league’s stingiest pass defense. The outcome of this game should rest upon the health of Jamaal Charles who missed last week with a high ankle sprain. They didn’t skip a beat, however, as Knile Davis carried the ball 32 times in his absence. New England is also pretty solid against the run. If the Chiefs can control time of possession, they’ll win this game. I think New England is the better team but this isn’t a must win game for them while it is for the Chiefs who can ill afford to go 1-3 in that division. I’ll take the Chiefs and the points only because of the home field advantage.
DARRELL (AND HIS WIFE’S) PICKS WHICH ARE PROBABLY FAR BETTER THAN MINE BUT WHO’S COUNTING PICKS
Since my WIFE (hereafter known as Jess) and I both want in on the action, we decided to alternate picking games. With the NFL bye weeks starting up this week, there is an odd number of games, and Jess gets to make the extra pick. Given my stellar (read, “awful”) lifetime track record of picking games, this can only improve my results. (Note: Odds are via CBSSports.com.)
New York Giants (1-2) at Washington Redskins (1-2, -3.5) – Jess’s Pick: Giants to cover and win
Jess envisions the Giants mashing redskin potatoes with their giant feet. (Seriously. Picture it. It’s a fantastic mental image.)
Buffalo Bills (2-1) at Houston Texans (2-1, -3) – Darrell’s Pick: Houston to cover and win
As a child, I was a Cowboys fan, remaining steadfast in that love until the day that Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry. When I had to pick a new team, I landed on the Bills, and have ridden that emotional roller coaster ever since.
The trek to Houston is a daunting task for the Bills, even without Jadaveon Clowney as a counter to J. J. Watt. Both of these teams are sitting on 2-1 records and coming off losses. Inexplicably, Houston both lost to the Giants and failed to intercept Eli Manning. My heart wants me to pick Buffalo, and I will would if they were at home. This game is in Texas, though, so I’m going with Houston. The Bills are better than they were last year, but I don’t think they’re where they need to be – yet. E. J. Manuel still isn’t really impressing me, and the defense took a step back last week. Oh, and I think Houston will be angry, which doesn’t help things.
Carolina Panthers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1, -3.5) – Jess’s Pick: Carolina to cover and win
Jess was initially going to pick this game to end in a scoreless draw, because she didn’t want to pick either side to win, because – seriously, you all know why. Then, she came to realize that many, many NFL teams have players who have committed violent crimes, so she scrapped that idea. Instead, given that we have a black cat that is basically a miniature rescue panther, she’s taking the Panthers, and bemoaning the state of the NFL.
Green Bay Packers (1-2, -1.5) at Chicago Bears (2-1) – Darrell’s Pick: Green Bay to cover and win
Aaron Rodgers is coming off one of the worst performances of his career. Of late, though, Green Bay has fared well against Chicago. Chicago doesn’t run the ball well, and Green Bay does a good job in pass defense. None of this stacks up well for Chicago, and I think Green Bay will into Soldier Field and get the win.
Detroit Lions (2-1, 1.5) at New York Jets (1-2) – Jess’s Pick: New York to cover and win
Jess grew up in Lions country. All she knows about the Lions is that they lose. That’s what they do. That’s what they have always done. Why would that change now?
Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2, -7.5) – Darrell’s Pick: Tennessee to cover, Indianapolis to win
Do you remember when these teams were always the teams to beat in the AFC South? Well, times have changed. The Colts have a win only because they got to play the Jaguars. The Titans got theirs against the not-as-good-as-last-year’s Chiefs. In this week’s NFL pillow fight, I’m taking the Colts to win at home, but 7.5 points is a lot for me. I’ll step out and suggest that the Titans will cover the 7.5-point spread.
Miami Dolphins (1-2, -4) “at” Oakland Raiders (0-3) – Jess’s Pick: Miami to cover and win
Jess picked Miami “because of that one Hootie song.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1, -7.5) – Darrell’s Pick: Pittsburgh to cover and win
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying very, very hard to live up to the reputation of Buccaneers teams of the 1970s. Sure, you might think they aren’t trying at all, but I think it takes effort to give up 56 points in a game. Granted, some of the credit for that is due to Lovie Smith’s undying loyalty to Devin Hester (that’s why the Bucs kept kicking to Hester, right?), but a team can’t achieve (the lack of) greatness unless everyone is committed to the cause.
Yeah, I’m picking Pittsburgh. While 7.5 points was a lot for me when Tennessee and Indianapolis were involved, I have sufficiently little faith in the Buccaneers that I’m giving the points.
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) at San Diego Chargers (2-1, -13) – Jess’s Pick: Jacksonville to cover and win outright.
Jess loves an underdog, and Jaguars go “rarr.” (Darrell picked the video, because he thinks the Jags are more like kittens, especially with a rookie starting quarterback.)
Atlanta Falcons (2-1, -3) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – Darrell’s Pick: Atlanta to cover and win
The 2014 Minnesota Vikings season will be defined by things that have nothing to do with football. That’s an unfortunate thing for fans of the Vikings. Despite the separation (as much as possible, anyway) from distractions, I don’t think that’s going to be enough to help the Vikings stop an in-form Atlanta offense coming off a tune-up game against FCS foe Tampa Bay.
Also, seriously, three points? Yes, please.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2, -5.5) – Jess’s Pick: Eagles to cover and win
Jess picks the Eagles for no particular reason.
New Orleans Saints (1-2, -3) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – Darrell’s Pick: New Orleans to win
I’m pretty sure that, if this game were hers to pick, Jess would pick Dallas to win this game, exclusively because of one man: Derek Dooley. Dooley is Jess’s all-time favorite football coach, because of the words that come out of his mouth. Once, when Dooley was the on-set guest for the halftime show during a CBS broadcast of an Alabama-Arkansas game, Jess delayed our departure to dinner just so she could hear what Dooley had to say. I was devastated when Tennessee let him go, as that put an end to Jess’s actually being interested in watching college football.
As for this game, it’s the Rob Ryan Bowl! The Saints finally got a win in Week 3, but have been in every single game. I don’t think the Cowboys are going to have an answer for the Saints offense, though I hope that Jerry’s Team will let Cole Beasley play defense so we can see another relatively small NFL player toss Drew Brees around the field.
New England Patriots (2-1, -3.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – Jess’s Pick: Kansas City to cover and win
People talk about Tom Brady too much.
KP’S I’M REALLY BEGINNING TO HATE THIS GUY PICKS
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (-3.5)
Statistically, it is a major surprise that the Redskins are 1-2, considering the following ranks: pass offense (3rd), rushing offense (9th), passing defense (10th) and rushing defense (3rd). Also, consider the fact that Kirk Cousins looks very comfortable under center, throwing for more than 400 yards against the Eagles last week. The Giants, on the other hand, finally showed some promise on offense. Rashad Jennings was a beast and Eli Manning had a much better overall performance. So, who has the advantage in this divisional rivalry? That’s a tough call, considering the tricky line. Look to Washington’s ten sacks (tied for 1st in the NFL), leading to significant pressure on Eli Manning. Throw in a raucous D.C. crowd in a nationally televised night game. ‘Skins win by a field goal.
Against the Spread: New York Giants
Straight Up: Washington Redskins
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-7.5)
Tennessee was torched by the Bengals last week, a game that I thought could be close. Major blunder there. Next up is the Colts, a team not nearly as potent as Cincinnati defensively, but very dangerous offensively, especially at home. The Titans will have to execute a clean game plan in order to keep up with Andrew Luck and Co. Tennessee is actually 2nd in the NFL against the pass, swiping four picks and holding opponents to a 71.6 QB rating. The Colts are fairly one-dimensional on offense, but Tennessee’s 31st ranked scoring offense doesn’t appear to have the horses to stay in this game. Yes, that’s the worst pun that you’ll hear today. Colts cover.
Against the Spread: Indianapolis Colts
Straight Up: Indianapolis Colts
Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
The Panthers are a tough team to read, with a hampered Cam Newton that lacks his normal mobility, along with a defense that allowed the Steelers to dominate them on their home turf. The Ravens have just two sacks on the season, potentially opening the door for Newton to have plenty of time to throw the ball. Baltimore’s running game is unsettled, but still ranked in the NFL’s top ten. All signs point to the Ravens, but my gut pushes me away, considering Baltimore inching past the Browns last week. Carolina is better than it showed in Week 3. Panthers win this one outright.
Against the Spread: Carolina Panthers
Straight Up: Carolina Panthers
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (-3.5)
Both the Bills and Texans each lost for the first time last week. Buffalo’s strength is running the ball and stopping the run. Houston has struggled against the run, especially last week versus Rashad Jennings and the Giants. Both teams feature top ten rushing offenses, which could lead to clock management and fewer scores. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be seeking revenge against a Buffalo team that cut him. I like that spin, and I like the Texans in a close one. Take the Bills and the points. Houston by 3.
Against the Spread: Buffalo Bills
Straight Up: Houston Texans
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-1.5)
What on Earth is up with Green Bay’s offense? Aaron Rodgers is telling fans not to panic, and those cheese-loving folk should listen to him. There’s simply too much talent on this Green Bay squad. But that doesn’t mean this one will be a cake walk, as the Bears have Cutler, Forte, Marshall and Jeffery to steady its offense. The Packers are 30th against the run, which should open the door for Matt Forte to have a big game. But all stats aside, I highly doubt that Rodgers and the Pack will exit another week leaving the cheese heads smelling like limburger. Green Bay wins.
Against the Spread: Green Bay Packers
Straight Up: Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
The Bucs were the embarrassment of Week 3, while the Steelers impressed with a dominating road victory in Carolina. It’s a major surprise that the line didn’t hit double digits. Tampa is dead last in passing offense and 20th in rushing offense. Opposing quarterbacks have put up a 117.1 QB rating against Tampa’s ‘D’. That stat alone should make you pick the Steelers. Consider it done.
Against the Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers
Straight Up: Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami Dolphins at Oakland Raiders (+4.5)
The first matchup to look at here will be new starter Lamar Miller (108 yards against the Chiefs last week) versus the Oakland run defense. The Raiders are ranked 31st against the run. Next, it’s rookie Derek Carr versus Miami’s pass rush and defense. The Dolphins are 7th against the pass, but have zero interceptions, while opposing QB’s have posted a 92.3 rating against them. Playing at home, the Raiders aren’t usually the train wreck that we are used to. The Dolphins are so unsettled at the QB position, that I have a hard time seeing Lamar Miller single-handedly leading this team to a blowout W. Take Oakland and the points…if you dare.
Against the Spread: Oakland Raiders
Straight Up: Miami Dolphins
Detroit Lions at New York Jets (+1.5)
The Lions shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense last week, in what many thought would be a shootout. Now, Detroit gets Geno Smith, Chris Ivory and the Jets… not nearly as intimidating. Picking one of those two offenses is like choosing between Jennifer Aniston and Rosie O’Donnell. The Lions are third against the pass, allowing just three TD’s through the air in three games. The Jets are a run-first team, but the Lions are also second against the run, allowing just 63.7 yards per game. Other than the home field advantage, I’m not sure why this line is so close. Lions cover.
Against the Spread: Detroit Lions
Straight Up: Detroit Lions
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers (-13.5)
The Jags have allowed 17 sacks in three games, which is six more than any other team in the league. Any opponent with a pass rush is likely to give Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense fits. Surprisingly, Jacksonville is also tied for the league lead in sacks, although half (5 of 10) were during the first half of its Week 1 loss to the Eagles. San Diego, meanwhile, has proven its potency, especially at home after beating the Seahawks in Week 2. Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and the team’s potent pass game should be able to shred a Jacksonville defense that is ranked dead last against the pass. Chargers win big, cover at home.
Against the Spread: San Diego Chargers
Straight Up: San Diego Chargers
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings (+2.5)
It is surprising to see the spread this tight, after seeing what the Falcons did to Tampa Bay last week. Minnesota is playing at home, but it will be rookie Teddy Bridgewater getting his first start, replacing the injured Matt Cassel. Matt Asiata is still starting for the Vikes, and has been far from stellar running the ball. Atlanta, meanwhile, currently owns the league’s top passing attack, averaging 333.7 yards per game. Anyone think Minnesota’s 31st ranked passing offense – flashing its 69.6 team QB rating – can keep up with the Falcons? Yeah, me neither. Atlanta covers…easily.
Against the Spread: Atlanta Falcons
Straight Up: Atlanta Falcons
Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers (-5.5)
The Eagles are the league’s comeback kings, trailing by double digits in each of its first three games, only to erase each deficit and win every game. Why is San Francisco such a heavy favorite? The Niners are clearly vulnerable. Frank Gore has just 139 rushing yards on the year, leaving San Francisco to be somewhat one-dimensional offensively. Colin Kaepernick (4 TD, 3 INT) has been far from stellar this season, allowing all three picks at home versus the Bears a few weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, the Niners will put up a fight, but I like the Eagles to get to 4-0. Philly wins outright.
Against the Spread: Philadelphia Eagles
Straight Up: Philadelphia Eagles
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys (+3.5)
On paper – and prior to the start of the season – this game was likely predicted to be one of the biggest shootouts of the year. But three weeks in, Dallas is running the ball a ton, leaving Tony Romo to be a game manager, while Drew Brees and the Saints have failed to post consistent and gaudy numbers. The Dallas pass defense, however, has been beatable, as expected. The Saints have, too, though. Maybe we’ll get that shootout, but with Drew Brees on one side, for Dallas, it will be the shootout at the not-so-O.K. Corral. Saints win by a TD, cover on the road.
Against the Spread: New Orleans Saints
Straight Up: New Orleans Saints
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (+3.5)
Like last year, people are whispering as to whether Tom Brady has lost a step. Don’t blame Brady, but an offensive line that has struggled, leaving the Patriots to allow seven sacks and be ranked 27th in passing offense. New England needed a fourth quarter stop to hold off the Raiders at home last week. The Raiders! The Chiefs have played better in recent weeks, but this K.C. team has allowed 11 sacks on the year, the second most in football. New England has been a Jekyll and Hyde team, and it is strangely difficult to pick Belichick’s boys to cover a 3 1/2 point spread. The Chiefs should have a raucous Monday night crowd, but I expect “Big time Brady” on the big stage. Down a few beers, some K.C. BBQ and then pick the Pats to cover. That’s what I’ll be doing.
Against the Spread: New England Patriots
Straight Up: New England Patriots
Bye Week: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks