by Noah Pires
September 26, 2018
Here we are, 3 weeks in, looking like complete fools. I said week one would be the hardest to make picks because at that point, all we have to go off of is speculation, but so far, that's been my best week. I went 6-10 last week, once again missing out on my Lock of the MF Century (Bears didn't cover) and my Survivor Pick, of course, missed as well (Packers -2.5). I'm just a complete mush. This is the week I turn it around; if i don't go over 50%, then next week, I'm taking the opposite of my picks. As for now, I'm going with my gut, let's see how that turns out.
Current Record: 20-28-0
LA RAMS (-6.5) VS MINNESOTA VIKINGS
PICK: VIKINGS (+6.5)
The reason for my low confidence is twofold: one, I ALWAYS get Thursday games wrong (other than last week), and two, the Rams might be the best team in the NFL. They have an explosive offense with above average players at all positions, including the trenches, and dominate defensively with the Suh/Donald combo. As for their secondary, Peters/Talib have proven to be a deadly duo, but BOTH were injured last week against the Chargers, and I think this could allow the Vikings to keep it close.
Similar to the Rams, the Vikings are elite on both sides of the ball. Sure, they lost the the Bills...the muthafuggin Bills. If i were to put money on it, I'd bet the Vikings went into that game thinking it would be a walk in the park, under-prepare in hopes of maintaining health for this week's matchup, and rely on talent alone to get the dub. As we all saw, that didn't work. On a short week, they're not going to want to get steamrolled in back to back games, and this could be a preview of the NFC Championship game. What makes the difference here is the loss of Peters and Talib here. Not that the defense is lost without them, but when matched up against the likes of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, they'll be in for a long night. If it's a shootout, Minny can keep up, and if it's low scoring, the Vikings have the defense to keep it close. Because of this, I'm taking the Purple People Eaters to keep it within 6.5.
FALCONS (-5.5) VS CINCINNATI BENGALS
PICK: FALCONS (-5.5)
Apparently, Matt Ryan isn't #dead, but Julio's chances at finding the endzone might be. Despite this, ATL was able to keep their matchup with the Saints close, bringing it to OT before taking that L. They showed they could put up big points, and certainly have the weapons to do so. Ridley looks legit, Coleman is a threat, and Julio, although allergic to the last 10 yards of the field, burns defenses week in and week out. Because of this, they should have no problem putting up points on a Bengals team who allowed 31 to the Panthers just a week ago.
As for the Bengals, their two best offensive pieces are injured; Mixon is out and Green is banged up. If Green doesn't play, Tyler Boyd, who has been great lately, will be the team's #1 WR, a role he hasn't shown to produce in. Even with their losses, the Falcon's D have now lost their best linebacker and two starting safeties. If there's a defense to target, it could be Atlanta, but I'm not sure the Bengals will have enough firepower to keep up. This game could be high scoring, but I see Atlanta running away with it.
CHICAGO BEARS (-2.5) VS TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
PICK: BUCCANEERS (+2.5)
This is my Lock of the MF Century. Chicago, although having an elite defense, can't get much going on the other side of the ball. Last week, in a solid matchup against the Cards, they put up 16 points. Trubisky isn't living up to his draft capital despite having ample weapons at his disposal. I think the Bears can only go as far as their defense can carry them, and facing a high-powered Bucs offense, I'm not sure this one-sided style of play will be enough.
Who would have thought Ryan Fitzpatrick would be setting records 3 games into the season? He's now the only QB in NFL history to put up 400+ yards in 3 games. Sure, he played the Chiefs and Steelers, two of the worst defenses in the league, but they also dropped 27 on the Eagles, who gave up 16 to the Colts and 12 to the Falcons. By putting up these numbers against Philly, they showed that their offensive performance wasn't solely due to matchups, so even though they're facing the Bears, they should have enough juice to put up 20+ points. If that's the case, I'm not sure the Bears will have enough offensively to keep up, despite Tampa giving up the 2nd most yards/game (433.3). Trubisky hasn't shown an ability to put up points, which makes me super confident in choosing the high-powered pirates on the road.
DALLAS COWBOYS (-2.5) VS DETROIT LIONS
PICK: LIONS (+2.5)
As expected, the Cowboys don't have much offensively. They have no wide receivers of consequence, and outside of Ezekiel Elliott and their line, they have no players who put any fear into an opposing defense. Because of this, the Cowboys won't be able to exploit Detroit's biggest weakness, their defense. The Cowboys have put up 41 points over 3 weeks, and the Lions are coming off a week holding the Pats to 10 points. If I was a betting man, I'd bet that the Lions will, again, hold the Cowboys to a low total.
As for the Lions, they have rebounded from their week 1 performance against the Jets, posting 27 and 26 points in their last two matchups. Sure, the Cowboys' D is stronger than the 49ers and Pats, who they faced last, but I'm not sure they'll be stopped in their tracks in Dallas. The Lions have one of, if not, the best receiving trio in the league along with a decent running game. The Cowboys gave up 24 to the Seahawks, who have nothing outside of Russell Wilson, so putting up points shouldn't be a problem for Detroit. If the Lions can score, which I think they will, the Cowboys won't be able to keep up, making the Lions my pick this week.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-9.5) VS BUFFALO BILLS
PICK: PACKERS (-9.5)
If it wasn't weird enough that the Browns won and Pats lost, the Bills pulled off one of the biggest upsets in league history. I guess that's just football. In week 4, though, I don't expect the same outcome.
The Packers' offense, headed by ARod, is one of the most dynamic in the league. The Bills, headed by Josh Allen, are not. Sure, Allen may be a better than trash quarterback, but he still has nobody to throw to and can't make up for his defense's issues. Although they only gave up 6 to Minnesota last week, the Chargers and Raven poured on a total of 78 points over the first two weeks. The Packers' offense certainly has the ability to drop 30+ on the Bills, and with Buffalo's lack of offensive pieces, I'm not sure they'll keep this game within 10.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-3.5) @ TENNESSEE TITANS
PICK: EAGLES (-3.5)
Here we are, heading into week 4, and the Titans are 2-1. Their offense has looked awful and their defense is league average, yet enter this game with the same record as last year's SB champs. Despite this, I don't think this game will be particularly close.
In his first game back from tearing his ACL, Carson Wentz helped bring the Eagles to the promise land against the Colts without Alshon and Jay Ajayi. Neither are guaranteed to play this week, but even without them, they shouldn't have any issue taking advantage of the Titans' D. The Eagles still boast an elite o-line, defense, and enough offensive weapons to get the job done.
The Titans, on the other hand, aren't as lucky. Mariota is injured and is playing as such and Derrick Henry is averaging 3.0 YPC. Dion Lewis is a good player and Corey Davis has the talent to be a dynamic playmaker, but without a competent QB, these skills won't be put on display. The Eagles' defense should have no trouble shutting down Tennessee's offense this week, and I'm not sure the Titans can do the same to the Eagles. Because of this, I'm sure Philly can cover the 3.5 point spread on the road.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-1.5) VS HOUSTON TEXANS
PICK: TEXANS (+1.5)
The Texans may be one of the most disappointing teams this year, entering Week 4 with a 0-3 record. Their defense has been awful and their o-line isn't helping them offensively, but I think they win this game outright.
Andrew Luck doesn't look like the same player he was before injury, his throw velocity and arm strength are far from what it once was. Their whole offense is slower than it was expected to be, not being able to find a real runningback, and with Luck's lack of deep attempts, hasn't utilized TY Hilton to his full potential. Even with a Texans' defense that has struggled, I'm confident they'll be able to keep the Colts in check, and if they can't, their offense should be able to keep it close.
The Texans offense hasn't been great this year; their running game struggled last week and Watson hasn't returned to his 2017 form (which shouldn't be expected). Honestly, I watched all of the Texans' game last week, and one thing I realized is they run the ball way too often early in the game, which causes them to fall behind, and by the time they need to score, it's too late. Watson seemed to move the ball with ease last week, despite his offensive line issues, and I think if they shift away from the run early on, they'd be able to build a lead. This is all speculation, I can't say for certain they'll take a pass-heavy approach week 4, which is why my confidence is low. I just can't see them starting 0-4 and I think they'll want to show they have an ability to compete in the division.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-6.5) VS MIAMI DOLPHINS
PICK: PATS (-6.5)
The Dolphins are the 1st seed in the AFC East.
The Dolphins are undefeated and are the 1st seed in the AFC East.
Take that in for a second. Now, are you ready for this?
The Patriots are 1-2.
The only way I could describe the Patriots' performance last week would be "weird". The Pats were chasing points almost all game, yet continued to run the ball with Sony Michel, even when it clearly wasn't working. They looked like they just didn't want to win. Now, sitting at 1-2, there's no chance they're rolling over this week. I'd expect this to be a high scoring game since Miami has proven they can put up big points and the Pats' defense can't stop anybody. Despite this being a high point total, I'm not sure Miami will keep it close. Sure, their defense has looked great, but they've faced Tennessee, Oakland, and the Jets; none of which have the ability New England has. I'd expect them to make a huge bounceback this week, and if Gordon is 100%, he'll surely open up the offense, allowing guys like Chris Hogan and James White to have more space to operate.
As for the Dolphins, even though they're undefeated, they aren't an undefeated caliber team, if that makes sense. The other undefeated teams, the Chiefs and Rams, are objectively better than the Dolphins, and by a large margin. I don't think they'll be able to keep up with the Pats, who would be 3 games back if they lose Sunday. Belichick won't let that happen, so I have confidence they win, my only concern is the spread, but if they play like the Pats of old, they should win by 7+.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (-7.5) VS NEW YORK JETS
PICK: JETS (+7.5)
I'm keeping this one short since I don't think there's much to unpack here. Both offenses are below average, the Jets' D is above average, and the Jags' D is elite. Overall, Jacksonville is a better team, but I'm not sure how much they will score. The only reason I'm so confident is because of the size of the spread. The Jags have to win by a margin greater than the amount of points they scored last week against the Titans, and against a strong Jets defense, I would expect another low scoring day. The Jets aren't overly impressive offensively, but their defense makes up for these issues. Neither team will likely put up over 20 points, and in a low scoring affair, I'm sure the Jets can keep it withing a TD, especially if they're down late in the game and score in garbage time. To me, the spread is just way too big to choose the Jags in this spot.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (-2.5) VS CLEVELAND BROWNS
PICK: BROWNS (+2.5)
The Browns are a competent kicker away from a 3-0 start, and now, are going to be led offensively by Baker Mayfield, who should improve their offense. Their defense has been solid with Denzel Ward playing like a top 5 draft pick and Myles Garrett blowing up offensive lines. Even on the road, I don't understand why they're underdogs in this matchup. The Raiders haven't won yet, playing 2 teams who are probably on par or worse than the Browns (Dolphins and Broncos) and got handled by the Rams. Mayfield should have no problem tearing apart the Raiders' defense with Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Antonio Callaway, and other pieces at his disposal while balancing out the offense with Carlos Hyde on the ground. Last week, Tyrod under-threw Callaway on two would-be touchdowns, and after watching Mayfield enter the game, it was clear he upgraded their passing attack immensely. Because of their weapons offensively, they'll be able to run up the score against an awful Oakland defense, and the Browns' D should cause some troubles for Derek Carr and the Raiders. If the Browns were 3.5 point favorites, I'd still be confident in this pick, so the fact that they're underdogs is an obvious pick for me.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-3.5) @ ARIZONA CARDINALS
PICK: CARDINALS (+3.5)
This pick is my least confident of the week for one reason, Josh Rosen. This game is just hard to gauge. Bradford has been AWFUL, so it would seem no matter who they pivot to, their offense can't get much worse. Sure, Rosen didn't have a great outing last week, but he was thrown into a game against an elite defense with the task of coming back for the win. Not pretty. Now, knowing he's the starter, he'll have a week to prepare, and even though they are facing the Seahawks, who have a pretty stout defense, aren't on the same level as the bears. He has a ton of weapons at his disposal with DJ, Fitz, RSJ, and Kirk, so if they incorporate all of them into their game plan, they shouldn't have too hard of a time moving up the field.
As for the Seahawks, they got their first win against the Cowboys last week, but that doesn't give me much confidence in them. Their line is still AWFUL, and with Chandler Jones coming off the edge, that could be a major issue. Their offense is still depleted of weapons, and even if Baldwin returns, I wouldn't trust him to turn this unit around with his two injured knees in his first game back. I think this game will stay close and relatively low scoring, and at home, I think Arizona can do enough to keep it within a field goal.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-3.5) @ NEW YORK GIANTS
PICK: SAINTS (-3.5)
This makes no sense to me. Sure, the Saints defense is woeful, but the Giants offense isn't great. They have Saquon Barkley and OBJ, two guys who are arguably top 5 at their position right now, but with Eli behind center, you can never trust this offense to put up a ton of points, despite the talent they boast. Engram is out, so that's one less weapon for Eli to overthrow. In all seriousness, I don't see a way for the Giants to keep this within 3.5. The Saints have scored over 40 points twice so far, and I'm not sure the Giants have the firepower to do the same. Eeven on the road, I'm confident the Saints can rain points on the G-Men, and if that's the case, it shouldn't be close.
LA CHARGERS (-10.5) VS SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
PICK: CHARGERS (-10.5)
My confidence is two-fold. One, the Chargers are a good team. Sure, they're 1-2, but they lost to two undefeated teams (and no, neither were the Dolphins). Their early season schedule may have soured people on their seasonal outlook, but they're still an elite offense with playmakers all over the field. Their defense is nowhere near where it was last year, partly due to Bosa's injury, but they aren't so bad that CJ Beathard will expose them. Secondly, as I just mentioned, the 49ers' new QB is not only not Jimmy Garapolo, its CJ MF'n Beathard. That's like going from a Filet Mignon to a McRib. Beathard will likely make the Chargers look like the unit they were in 2017, and the Chargers offense will have no trouble putting up points on a weak 9ers team. There's really no homefield advantage here, but the Chargers don't particularly need it here.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3.5) VS BALTIMORE RAVENS
PICK: RAVENS (+3.5)
My pick here is for one major reason, the Steelers' defense is BAD. Like really, really bad. They looked to be holding off Ryan Fitzpatrick, helping him to pull off his famous disappearing act, yet still put up 400 yards, 3 TDs, and kept the game within 3, getting outscored 17-0 in the 2nd half. The Ravens have been shockingly great offensively this year, dropping 27 on the Broncos just a week ago. Their defense isn't as strong as it was last year, but they're still decent. This is sort of irrelevant, though, because of Pittsburgh's myriad of options through the air and on the ground, combined with them playing at home. This should be a high scoring affair, but the Ravens have shown an ability to keep up and post huge totals so far this year. Flacco is slinging the ball, and with John Brown and Crabtree in the receiving game, paired with Alex Collins and Succ Allen out of the backfield, they should have no problem taking advantage of Pitt's awful defensive unit. Paired with the Steelers' awful D, this is a divisional game. Baltimore will do whatever they can to pull out a win, and even if they lose, I think they have the ability to keep it within a field goal.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-4.5) @ DENVER BRONCOS
PICK: CHIEFS (-4.5)
If you're in your survivor pool, first, I'd like to rent your crystal ball, and secondly, you should take the Chiefs this week. If the Rams aren't the best offense in football, it's the Chiefs. Mahomes has a rocket of an arm with weapons all over the field who can make huge plays. The Broncos' defense is nowhere near their 2017 form, and even if they were, I'm not sure Patty Mahomes wouldn't rip them t shreds. They've put up 108 points through 3 weeks with a weekly low of 38, which they put up twice. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs may be the worst unit in the league, which will make this game fun to watch. Keenum isn't great, but with DT, Eman, and Lindsay, should be able to expose KC's biggest weakness. The way I think of this game is trying to push two magnets together with both magnets' "north" side facing one another. Sure, the magnet will get close, but once they are within reach, the other magnet will repel and shoot away. Wow, what a shitty analogy, but you get the picture. We say this in the Steelers game, where they tied it up 21-21 just for KC to turn on the jets and win 42-37. Their offense is just too good, and until Andy Reid f's it up, I'm not picking against the Chiefs. In Denver, the air is thin, and so are their chances of keeping this game withing 4.5.
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by Nick Ercolano
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