A very good week last year has me sitting well above .500 for now as I went 11-4 last week. Or 10-5 if you don't want to give me the Bears game in the explanation I picked the Bears if Jay Cutler plays, the Raiders if Jimmy Clausen plays. The games I did miss, I miss badly on though! I thought the Dolphins would show some life and they just completely quit and I really expected the Bills to man handle the Giants offensive line, but the Giants countered with a quick passing spread attack which proved to be very effective. Hopefully both the Giants and I can keep things going this week.
Houston and Indianapolis (Pick 'em)
The Colts have been one of the more disappointing teams in the league so far this year, but the Texans haven't been much better. Thankfully for the Texans they have help on the way as Arian Foster should soon be back to being the bell cow of the Texans offense. Foster, when healthy is one of the best and most consistent offensive weapons in the game in Arian Foster. But I don't think it's enough this week especially if Andrew Luck plays. If he's out I'm not as confident in the Colts.
EDIT: I changed this pick after Luck was ruled out. I think Luck covers up a lot of the Colts flaws and I like the Texans here.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
And the game thousands of people will begrudgingly watch all across Florida. When the so-far over-matched rookie Jameis Winston takes on the so far over-matched, but slightly less so second-year player Blake Bortles.
Pick: Jaguars because the coin said heads
Buffalo Bills (-2.5) at Tennessee Titans
I know the Bills struggled last week against the Giants and also against the Patriots but they should be able to adjust on defense now that they have struggled twice with the quick passing games of the Giants and Patriots. Rex Ryan might be a loud mouth, but he does know his defense. Plus, as good as Marcus Mariota has been he's not Eli Manning or Tom Brady. Before the Giants game the Bills were one of the top scoring offenses in the league, Sammy Watkins return should also help (assuming he's back) even though he's not putting up big numbers he draws a lot of coverage and opens up lanes for others. I still believe the Bills roster is among the best in the league and I think they win this one convincingly.
Cleveland Browns (+6.5) at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are a bad football team. There I said it. They are giving up 26 points per game and a middling defensive team in terms of stopping both the run and the pass. Their schedule has not been the easiest, but they are down three of their best game-breakers from last year in Ngata. Suggs, and Torrey Smith. Throw in that even though Forsett remains on the active roster he has not been that good and Steve Smith's injury things look bleak for the offense. But Harbaugh is a good coach and I think they'll rally.
There are still some pieces like Dumervil, Jimmy Smith, and C.J. Mosley that gives them hope, but they are struggling because they are not one of the league's top teams when all is said and done. But fortunately for them they are playing the Cleveland Browns who lack any true dynamic players without Josh Gordon, though they do play hard. I think they might back-door cover, but I expect a good performance from the Ravens here.
Washington Redskins (+7.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Call me crazy, but this is a gut reaction game for me. The Redskins are building a tough team, they may not be great, but they have some intriguing pieces. And too many people are talking about how good Atlanta is. I think Atlanta is playing well, but I think this game is much closer than people perceive. I like the match up because I think the Redskins will be able to run the ball on Atlanta and chew up some clock. I don't think ultimately they can hang with the Falcons offensively, but I think they do play a good physical close game.
Weird scheduling quirk -- after this week the Falcons will have played all four NFC East teams and the Texans -- they have yet to play a divisional game.
Pick: Redskins stay within a touchdown
Chicago Bears (+9.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
I'm not laying 10 points with any team that takes a year and a half to throw a touchdown to a WR. Check-down Alex Smith. I can definitely see why the point spread is so high though the Chiefs have 2 dynamic pass rushers that will likely force Cutler into at least one mistake. The Bears are having a fire sale where they are basically gutting their whole team, their quarterback always looks disinterested. The Bears are going to play in the second loudest stadium in the league which could cause them problems. But I Think the Bears will play well here.
New Orleans (+4.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Last week I talked about a Dolphins team that was perilously close to quitting on their coach, but was expecting a final hoorah. Instead, they just tanked it andJoe Philbin got fired. I kind of feel the same way about the Eagles. Chip Kelly came into the league with a ton of hoopla and for a while looked like a genius, but he might have gotten too smart for his own good.
He inherited one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, but jettisoned DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and pretty much their entire offensive line. He has been accused of being a racist by former players, there has been griping about the way he handles the Eagles conditioning and practices, there seems to be a feeling that the players don't particularly love their coach. Sitting at 1-3 in a hostile stadium and environment and a coach that there are already rumblings and projections that he could be leaving the NFL for the college game once again things look bleak in Philly. Could there be a disaster brewing here ... or I'm a biased Giants fan looking for a reason for the Eagles to completely self-destruct?
Pick: New Orleans covers the spread, and it would not surprise me to see them win out-right
St. Louis Rams (+9) at Green Bay Packers
The emergence of Todd Gurley for the Rams could really pay big dividends. They are also getting back WR Brian Quick probably their most talented wide receiver. I don't think the addition of those two players is enough for them to go into Lambeau and pull out a victory, but I do think that their ability to rush the passer, their run game, and their weapons on special teams is enough to keep them in the game.
Seattle Seahawks (+3) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Seahawks offensive line is not playing up to their reputation of the last few years, even though the defense is still top notch. I think this is a tough spot for them on a short week traveling to what might be the second best team in the league. The Bengals are top 10 in offensive and defensive scoring and excel at stopping the run on defense, which I Think will pose problems for the Seahawks. The 'hawks are also a team that isn't great on the road. I think this should be one of the best games of the weekend, but something feels a bit different about this Bengals team and I think they'll show up in this big spot even though they have played plenty of eggs in these situations in their recent history.
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) at Detroit Lions
I think the Cardinals are much better than the Lions. The Lions offense is struggling against pedestrian defenses now they get one of the league's toughest. They also have a short week after a devastating loss against a team that is looking to rebound off a bad home loss.
New England Patriots (-9) at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys offense is not any good and they are facing Bill Belichick coming off a two week bye. This has blowout written all over it, and unlike many other teams the Pats continue to run up the score and don't relent when they are up big.
Denver Broncos (-5) at Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are a team that is on the upswing. Derek Carr looks poised to have a much better career than his brother David ever had and at the moment is completing 62.7 percent of his passes an averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions good for a 97.7 QB rating. Amari Cooper looks like he's going to be a very good WR in the league and Khalil Mack is a promising young defensive star. That's the foundation of what might soon be a good team. The Broncos Peyton Manning is on the downside of his career, but his still guiding this team to a 4-0 record doing enough to win the game ... if Peyton had the defense he has now in Indianapolis in his prime he might have a couple more Super Bowls!
San Francisco 49ers (+7) at New York Giants
Typical Giants fan here. This game has me nervous. The Giants best defensive player this year maybe be Devon Kennard and he looks like he'll be out. It's a Sunday night game which always brings out the best in people. Colin Kaepernick has had some very good prime-time moments and the 49ers were good in prime time the first week of the season.
I don't love how some Giants players are talking about how they should be 4-0. I don't like how disrespected the 49ers are in general. Really what it is is I don't trust the Giants as heavy favorites.
Now there are reasons to be very optimistic about this game -- the Giants are an opportunistic defense and the 49ers turn the ball over too much. The 49ers strength is running the football and the Giants run defense might legitimately be the best run defense in the league, not just from the numbers but based on their size up front. The Giants have a very strong advantage in the head coaching department where Jim Tomusla is pretty much a caricature of what a NFL head coach should be. The Giants can't rush the passer, but the 49ers are equally as bad at blocking up front so the Giants should be able to apply more pressure than they have in any other game this year. The 49ers are very beatable in the secondary and the Giants happen to have one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the game. The Giants are home.
The Giants should win this game big, but they are the New York Giants.
Pick: Giants squeak out a game they should dominate and the 49ers cover the spread
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) at San Diego Chargers
I don't trust Michael Vick to keep the ball out of harms way and Rivers and the Chargers are moving the ball well through the air. I'll take the home team.
I'll try to highlight three or so games a week that I feel pretty confident in.
I really like the Chargers by more than 3.
The Cardinals to win by more than 2.5 feels like a lock to me.
I also expect the Bills to win by a lot more than 2.5
Games I'm most torn on
The Broncos covering 5 and The Ravens winning by 6.5. Especially the Ravens game I was initially learning towards the Browns there.