I have a confession to make.
I fell for the banana in the tailpipe.
Have you ever had one of those gut-wrenching, bankroll-busting weekends where every wager you placed, every hunch you had, every fantasy player you started, was drop dead wrong.
Welcome to my last Sunday.
I don’t know why I thought the Bears would turn over a new leaf and win a game at home against Green Bay. I even talked to a Bears fan who warned me about elevated expectations when it comes to Da Bears.
“No way,” I told them. “All is good in Chicago. You have your quarterback of the future and Aaron Rodgers is finally gone.” Little did I know.
I’m currently burping up kielbasa-flavored Kool-Aid and that tastes a whole lot worse coming up than it did going down.
The same goes with the Chargers. At least the Bolts had the decency to let us know in Week One how little we can expect from them. Usually, they wait until much later in the season to disappoint their fans.
Furthermore, who in their right mind thought that the three favorites to win the AFC, i.e., Kansas City, Buffalo and Cincinnati would all lose their openers? If you did, you won money… but I’m guessing you didn’t.
The first week of the season can be telling. This one was certainly that. So, it’s back to the drawing board to earn back some of the money I lost.
Speaking of kielbasa, this week’s celebrity guest is none other than J-Dub whose 3-7 career record in this contest leaves much to be desired. He’s either long overdue or, like the rest of us, probably shouldn’t be gambling.
Without further ado…
$50 on Miami (-2) at New England
I’m still not talking to Tua Tagovailoa. That six-foot-one (yeah right!) freak of nature single-handedly lost me my fantasy week by scoring, and scoring, and scoring again. Seriously, this guy is the second coming of Tecmo Bowl. Match him up with Tyreek Hill, a man on a quest to amass 2000 receiving yards this season (he’ll get it) and you have an offensive connection that few teams can stop. Amazing since they’re barely tall enough to ride this ride. The Patriots almost beat the Philadelphia Eagles last week but that final score of 25-20 is misleading. The Eagles were in control of that game, treating it like a scrimmage. They did everything in their power to give it away and the Pats still couldn’t wrestle it from their grasps. The Dolphins are far flightier than the Eagles but at their best, they are better offensively. I fail to see how the Pats will be able to keep up with a Dolphins offense that in Week One looked unstoppable. It might seem inconceivable for a Bill Belichick-coached team to begin the season 0-2 but that’s what happens when you play two teams with Super Bowl aspirations in back-to-back weeks when you yourself do not. Dolphins cover.
$40 on Tennessee at Florida (under 59)
There’s nothing quite like Florida-Tennessee week, the hatred brewing, the whiskey flowing and a rich history of classic games resulting in SEC East crowns, that is until Georgia started sticking their nose in things. Florida has traditionally owned this rivalry, winning 11 consecutive annual matchups from 2005-2015 but the Vols won last year, breaking another streak of five straight Gator wins. The Vols haven’t won in Gainesville since 2003. Second year coach Billy Napier has yet to beat a Florida rival (0-3 against UT, UGA and FSU). This is his first chance this year to right that ship. This was a high scoring game last year, but Florida’s defense is considerably better than it was in 2022. If they want any shot at winning this game, they can’t let things get out of hand. They have the capability of shutting offenses down as they’re one of only four teams allowing under 200 yards per game. If they maintain that pressure, it will be tough for these two teams to combine for more than 59 points. I see a return to smash-mouth, physical, SEC football where points are at a premium. Give me this total under 59.
$30 on New York Jets at Dallas Cowboys (-8 ½)
I’m drinking the Cowboy Kool-Aid, and why wouldn’t I? Between Aaron Roders’ Achilles injury and Daniel Jones’ muddied face, the two New York City football teams combined for the most memes in NFL history. With the Aaron Rodgers experiment lasting one possession, the Jets now look to Zack Wilson to take over. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys looked absolutely menacing on the defensive end of the football, giving the Giants an historic 40-0 opening night beatdown. I get a feeling this was no fluke. The Dallas defense is loaded. The Jets defense is no slouch either, which is why this over/under is only 38. Normally, it’s not wise to lay a big number with such a low total but I get the feeling that Dallas’ massacre of New York football teams is not over. They’ll frustrate the kid all afternoon giving Dak and company (see: Tony Pollard) enough opportunity to find a way to get into the end zone enough to cover the spread. Dallas minus the eight-and-a-half.
$20 at Western Michigan (+28.5) at Iowa
What am I missing here? Why is Iowa, a team traditionally known for its inability to score, a team that hasn’t scored more than 24 points in any of its last five games, laying more than four touchdowns? Betting Iowa unders was the safest play on the board last year. Western Michigan may be bad but even if they don’t score, that means Iowa’s offense will have to put points on the board. Even if Iowa’s defense scores, that still leaves three scores for the offense. Iowa is averaging 100 on the ground and only 259 total yards per game. I know that’s only through two games worth of statistics, a small sample size, but until Iowa proves to me that they can score in droves, I’m not taking them and laying over four touchdowns with anyone. Give me Western Michigan plus the point spread.
$10 on Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2 ½)
Since I’ve already opened the Kool-Aid bottle, I might as well continue chugging. I watched every second of that Buccaneers-Vikings game last Sunday and was mightily impressed. Pre-season skeptics had written off the Buccaneers and their new quarterback Baker Mayfield. But the defense I saw against the Vikings that afternoon was reminiscent of the defense that won them the Super Bowl back in 2020. Players were flying around the field and had Kirk Cousins screaming for that ice bath. Meanwhile, Mayfield seemed to relish the contact. The Buccaneers opened the second half of that game with a nine-minute scoring drive that set the tone for the rest of the game. If the Buccaneers maintain that sort of intensity throughout this season, they will be a team that nobody wants to play. The underachieving Bears roll into town after getting their butts whipped by Green Bay. While they’ll want to exact retribution for failing to show up in Week One, if they don’t match what the Bucs bring to Ray Jay on Sunday, they’ll get beat just like they did in Week One. Justin Fields better be 100% if he wants any shot of an upset. Until I see the Bucs effort drop, I’m going to take them at home to cover a small spread. Bucs minus two-and-a-half.
J-Dub’s Picks for the Week (career 3-7, -$210)
To make a long story short, I’m on a two-week winning streak on my college football gambling challenge; you can check out the details over at dubsism.com. But for some reason, SportsChump always invites me to his own weekly wagering wonder. I call it a “wonder” because I wonder why I keep doing it. Here’s the effect Chump’s invitation has on my college gambling…just imagine the sound of an 18-wheeler locking up the brakes at 85 miles per hour. I’m not going to say he’s a jinx, but I do know just last week he was talking about Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles tendon.
Having said that, here’s the truck not slamming on the brakes in time to avoid hurtling over the cliff…
$50 – Dolphins (-2.5) at Patriots (O/U 46.5) – There will be no muskets shooting the “Fish” in a barrel. Miami covers.
$40 – Vikings at Eagles (-7, O/U 49) – There won’t be any “kissing cousins,” but Kirk Cousins will kiss the turf plenty. Eagles all the way.
$30 – Commanders at Broncos (-3.5, O/U 38) – Both Custer the Commander and Sitting Bull knew how to ride a horse. Sean Payton has yet to figure that out. Washington stays inside the number.
$20 – Raiders at Bills (-9.5, O/U 47) – Remember the 1990 AFC Championship game? The Raiders got stampeded in Buffalo 51-3. Jay Schroeder still has PTSD from that day. Take the over.
$10 – Colts (-1) at Texas (O/U 40) – I live in Indiana and will have to watch this fertilizer pile. Forget the line, take the Texans all the way. Double or nothing I barf before the end of the third quarter.
Here’s an unrelated question. I heard somebody describe bartenders as “social chemists.” Given that alcoholism is recognized as a medical malady, does that make you a dispenser of social diseases? I’ve got a paycheck that says “absolutely.”
KP’s Picks for the Week
$50: Las Vegas Raiders at Buffalo Bills (-8.5)
So, the Bills lose a season opener to a Zach Wilson led Jets team that saw Aaron Rodgers have his season end in the opening minutes of the game, and Buffalo is… my… top pick of the week? Josh Allen was a turnover machine and the Jets defense tends to be his own personal Kryptonite. Following Allen’s openly honest postgame presser in New York, it’s hard to imagine him not coming back hungry – especially in front of that wild and zany Buffalo crowd. The Raiders defense is nothing close to what the Jets offer talent-wise. Vegas also gets to be the opposing team for the Bills home opener. Allen bounces back in a big way. Bills cover at home.
$40: Florida Atlantic Owls at Clemson Tigers (-24.5)
Speaking of bounce-back weeks and openly honest press conferences, let’s stick with that category, but shift to the college game. Enter Dabo Sweeney, following Clemson’s shocking three-touchdown loss to Duke. While many critics have ended Clemson’s season, let’s consider the strength of the ACC, and lesser opponents like Florida Atlantic. The Owls have faced Monmouth (42-20 win) and Ohio (17-10 loss) in its opening two games. Now, FAU travels to Clemson, where winning at home is as common as Cheerwine soda in the Carolinas. Last week, the Tigers had 422 total yards (more than Duke), but was abysmal in key situations and the red zone. That will be different this week, as Dabo and the Tigers return to form. Tigers cover at home.
$30: Penn State Nittany Lions (-14) at Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois gets home field against a talented Penn State team and while the Illini have hung with PSU over recent seasons, this year feels different. A 30-28 home win versus Toledo and 34-23 loss on the road to Kansas isn’t anything to write home about. The Penn State defense is talented and aggressive. Offensively, the Nittany Lions feature either five-star QB Drew Allar or the two-headed monster at the RB position (Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen). It’s only two games, but Illinois ranks 123rd against the run and 99th against the pass. The Fighting Illini also have just three sacks in two games. There simply isn’t enough firepower to stick with Penn State through four quarters. Nittany Lions cover on the road.
$20: Cleveland Browns (-2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Through one game of the NFL season, this pick seems obvious on paper. I can hear Admiral Ackbar screaming “It’s a trap!” in my head – over and over and over again. Yet, here I am – and that’s because the Browns defense made a talented Cincinnati offense look – well… to stick with the temporary Star Wars theme, like the Millennium Falcon – a “hunk of junk” that’ll eventually do flashy things. That Browns defensive front is likely to replicate what the Niners did to the Steelers last week – especially with weapons like Diontae Johnson out. Browns cover on the road.
$10: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)
To complete this bizarre batch of picks, I’m going to put my faith in Baker Mayfield. Reading this out loud makes me question which way is up. Although, with an impressive comeback victory in Minnesota last week, it’s quite possible that Baker himself is headed up. There’s enough supporting cast on both sides of the ball in Tampa Bay, we all know that. Mayfield just needs to limit his mistakes and the Bucs defense needs to find a way to limit big plays by Justin Fields. Considering a raucous home crowd and some hope following a post-Brady opening week win, it feels like the right pick to make. That and we saw what Jordan Love and the Packers did to Chicago last week. Bucs cover at home.