Every once in a while, a game comes around that reminds you that it’s virtually impossible to pick winners in the NFL on a weekly basis.
Man… I did NOT see that coming. I mean, the Buffalo Bills, who gave up 37 points to the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Jets and then inexplicably turned around and fired their offensive coordinator, absolutely steamrolled a team many, including myself, like(d) to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year in the Cardinals.
I’ve seen the highlights for three straight days now and still can’t quite comprehend what happened in Orchard Park.
On top of that, I have a little bit more crow to eat. After last week’s piece went live, I received an email from Tom W in Orlando, who had the nerve, the gall, the fortitude to challenge one of MY picks.
How dare he!
As you may have guessed, he was right.
Tom, congrats, I was wrong, the Saints (-3) were clearly not the play over the Falcons. Let this serve as yet another reminder that this exercise of game-picking is a futile one.
But you know what? It’s fun. So enough moping about, let’s roll into Week 4.
But first, THE WEEK 3 POST MORTEM!
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 9-7 (Season Record – 28-20)
Straight Up – 8-8 (Season Record – 24-24)
Locks of the week – 4-2 (Season Record – 11-4)
It actually wasn’t that bad of a week for me all things considered. That’s three straight weeks with a winning record against the spread and another good week of locks for y’all to feast on. Admittedly could do better on the picking winners front.
Anyway, same as last week, these picks will be divided up into the following categories:
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
Let’s let it ride once again with our Thursday Night Football game.
All spreads courtesy of CBSSports.com, as of 9/28
(1-2) Miami Dolphins @ (1-2) Cincinnati Bengals (-7) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bengals
Level of confidence – Heads or Tails
I’m going to level with you guys here: these are two teams that have given me fits the first three weeks of the season. I really haven’t been able to figure them out and trying to figure out who wins this matchup and by how much is giving me a headache.
But let’s give it a go.
I think the Dolphins struggle to keep this one close.
Jarvis Landry is banged up for the Dolphins and he’s been their most dangerous weapon for the last year plus. This being a short week, I don’t like his chances of being 100 percent by Thursday, assuming he even suits up.
On top of that, I think we’ve come to learn that the Broncos are just really, really good and last week was less about what the Bengals did wrong than what Denver continues to do right. Vontaze Burfict is back for Cincinnati and there’s little to no chance the Dolphins’ defense can stymie Andy Dalton and Co. like Denver did.
Plus, the Dolphins should have lost to the Browns, guys. I like the Bengals to win and cover the touchdown spread here.
No Way We Can Lose – Locks Of The Week
(1-2) Indianapolis Colts @ (0-3) Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5) – Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET (Game will be played in London)
ATS/Straight Up – Jaguars
Bryan, was it hard to rationalize picking the Jaguars again after they burned you last week?
No. Not at all.
Because they’re getting almost three points against a Colts team/defense that couldn’t stop a nose bleed. Plus, they’re kind of at home even though they’re playing in London…they certainly play there often enough.
Also, because the Jaguars’ defense is better than the Chargers’, which actually held the mediocre Colts in check most of the day up until that back-breaking T.Y. Hilton touchdown to seal the deal for Indy in the game’s final minutes.
Lock it in. Gus Bradley puts one in the ‘W’ column and takes the temperature of his seat down from molten lava hot to Hot Pockets fresh out of the microwave hot.
(1-2) Tennessee Titans @ (2-1) Houston Texans (-6.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Titans (LOCK)
Straight Up – Titans
UPSET ALERT/Potential hot take: I think the Tennessee Titans are a .500 or better football team. I like what I’ve seen from this bunch in the early going this year.
I thought the Raiders would carve them up, but they didn’t. I thought Matt Stafford and the Lions would do the same, but they didn’t. And when you look back at Week 1 and remember that they played the now 3-0 Vikings and lost because of two defensive touchdowns, you have ample evidence that the Titans are actually pretty good.
Their defense is ranked No. 11 in the league through three games and that’s against two offenses ranked in the Top 5 in the league (Raiders and Lions) in yards per game.
The Texans, meanwhile, looked abysmal in their loss to the Patriots. Of course the Patriots have made much better teams than the Texans look much worse over the course of their seemingly 100,000-year run of greatness, so I’m not holding that against them too harshly, but it was alarming.
The Texans aren’t that bad, but I think the Titans are good. I think J.J. Watt’s injury affects this team drastically and I think the Titans spring the upset down in Houston.
(1-2) Seattle Seahawks @ (1-2) New York Jets (+2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Seahawks
I watched the horror that was the Jets’ offensive effort against the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon and I can assure you, there is no way the Jets win this game or cover the spread against this Seahawks defense.
Here’s what’s going to happen: The Jets and their offensive brain trust will acknowledge that Ryan Fitzpatrick cannot win them this game. Therefore, they will not allow him to lose it for them.
The Jets will try to run 40 times and dink and dunk their way to a low-scoring victory over the Seahawks, but they’ll fail.
Because the Seahawks’ defense is too damn good. They’ll see it coming, stop it, and Russell Wilson hobbling around on one leg, or Trevone Boykin, will do enough for the Seahawks to win.
Seahawks by a field goal, because this could be a game where neither team scores a touchdown.
(Disclaimer: This may be a sick, twisted Jets fan’s desperate attempt to jinx the opposing team.)
(2-1) Oakland Raiders @ (3-0) Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Raiders
I’m still not buying what the Baltimore Ravens are selling. Give them credit, 3-0 is 3-0 any way you slice it, but their wins over the Jaguars (0-3), Bills (1-2) and Browns (0-3) haven’t exactly left me impressed.
Their defense may be ranked No. 2 in the league behind only the Seahawks in yards per game, but that’s because only one of the offenses they’ve played against this year is in the Top 20 in yards per game and it’s the Cleveland Browns (16th). Not exactly an offensive juggernaut.
Oh, and only the Bills are in the Top 20 teams of those three in points per game (15th).
My feeling is when they see a Top 10 offense in the Raiders’ this weekend it’ll bring them back to reality pretty quickly. I like the Raiders to win big in Baltimore.
(1-2) Detroit Lions @ (0-3) Chicago Bears (+3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
If you’re looking for that one team to pick against in your survivor pool on a weekly basis it’s starting to look more and more like it’s the Bears.
John Fox’s unit is just quite simply not good.
Jeremy Langford looks like a disappointment, Jay Cutler looks ready to continue being a disappointment in perpetuity and the Bears’ defense looks ripe to be run over every single week of the year.
Clearly the Lions aren’t great either, but the Bears look like they could be in store for a really, really sad year. Lions win this one in Chicago by at least a field goal.
(3-0) Denver Broncos @ (1-2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Broncos
Does this line look WAY too low to anybody else?
I’m trying to figure out why odds makers think the Bucs will keep this one close and I’m struggling to do so.
Maybe it’s because of their stout defense. What? They gave up 37 points to Case Keenum and the Rams AT HOME?!? OK…
Could it be because of Jameis Winston’s recent success against top tier defenses? Well, he threw four interceptions against the Cardinals two weeks ago, so not likely.
Maybe because Trevor Siemian is inexperienced and hasn’t proven he can win on the road? Wait… he just won on the road? In Cincinnati? Against a good Bengals team? And played his best game as a pro?!?
Alright, I’m stumped.
Broncos by at least a touchdown here.
Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
(1-2) Buffalo Bills @ (3-0) New England Patriots (-4.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Patriots
So the Buffalo Bills upset the Arizona Cardinals at home and now we’re supposed to buy the brash bravado coming from Rex Ryan and Co. as they head to New England?
Yawn. I’ll pass.
You know what the funniest/most depressing thing about this game is? Reports are that either Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett will be able to play and that’s literally ALL that I needed to hear to pick the Patriots.
I read that report and said to myself ‘welp, Patriots will be fine.’
The Patriots will be fine.
Sure, their starting options are either a guy who has two career NFL starts and has a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, or a rookie with one career NFL start and a torn ligament in his thumb on his throwing hand.
BUT THEY’LL BE FINE.
WHAT. IS. THIS. TEAM?
(0-3) Cleveland Browns @ (1-2) Washington Redskins (-9.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Redskins
The Redskins’ win over the Giants on Sunday was exactly what this team needed. Now, in all likelihood, an 0-2 start and a near mutiny against quarterback Kirk Cousins is behind this team and they can do what they’re expected to do and beat the Cleveland Browns.
At least, I’m expecting them to do that.
Based on their record, they have no business overlooking any NFL team. So I’m placing this game square on the shoulders of coach Jay Gruden. If he has his team ready to play and not looking past the Browns then there’s no reason the Redskins shouldn’t reach .500 when all is said and done.
With that type of stellar endorsement and everybody in America picking the Redskins in their respective survivor pools, what could possibly go wrong?
(1-2) Carolina Panthers @ (2-1) Atlanta Falcons (+3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Panthers
Yes, guys, I read the hot takes that teams know how to beat Cam Newton now… I’m just not buying them. So relax, the Panthers will be fine.
Moral of the story here is that the Falcons cannot do to the Panthers what the Vikings did to them, which was kick the ever-living crap out of them up and down the field on defense on Sunday.
The Falcons’ offense is formidable, and I don’t doubt their ability to potentially win this one at home, but I’m taking the Panthers to win and cover the spread.
Atlanta’s problem is still their defense and their offense has managed to mask that issue with big performances against even worse defenses, like the Saints.
Panthers D makes the difference and they get back to .500.
(2-1) Dallas Cowboys @ (1-2) San Francisco 49ers (+3) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – 49ers
UPSET ALERT: My problem here is that this line suggests to me that odds makers either think the Cowboys are a really good team — a notion that I’m not quite ready to buy into just yet no matter how good Dak Prescott and the ‘Boys have looked early on — or that the 49ers are a really bad team, which I’m not quite sold on either.
I’m basing that assumption on the fact that the odds makers are giving the 49ers and the Bucs the same odds to beat the Cowboys and the Broncos at home, respectively.
The 49ers and Bucs have the same record and the 49ers have lost to the Panthers and the Seahawks, who may not sport impressive records just yet, but we know those are good football teams.
They also blanked the now 2-1 Rams in Week 1. The Bucs on the other hand, have been abysmal.
Cowboys + laying three points + on the road + without a Dez Bryant = 49ers win.
(2-1) New York Giants @ (3-0) Minnesota Vikings (-4) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Giants
Straight Up – Vikings
The Giants have done a good job of giving Eli Manning a clean pocket to work out of this year and that’ll be a necessary, albeit, much more difficult task for them on Monday night when they take on the Vikings.
The Vikings’ defense has been ferocious and they’ve done an outstanding job of getting to the quarterback. They have 15 sacks this year, leading the next closest team — the sack-masters themselves in the Denver Broncos — by three sacks.
The Giants’ offense is a good one, but Rashad Jennings doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of defenses, and that’s assuming he’s a go for the game on Monday (questionable – sat out Week 3 with a thumb injury).
I think the Giants struggle to generate much in the run game and that allows the Vikings’ pass rush to do its thing. They’ll get pressure on Manning at key junctures of the game and will grind out a low-scoring win at home to go 4-0.
Heads or Tails
(0-3) New Orleans Saints @ (1-2) San Diego Chargers (-4) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Chargers
Somewhere, deep in the cold, dark Buffalo night, you could hear Rob Ryan’s cackling laughter as the Saints were getting torched by the Falcons on Monday Night Football this week.
This defense is not any better than last year’s unit.
That, combined with a cross-country trip to San Diego to face a formidable Chargers offense even without Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, will be a massive struggle for the Saints.
I like the Chargers to send the Saints to 0-4 and to cover the spread in the process.
(2-1) Los Angeles Rams @ (1-2) Arizona Cardinals (-8.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS – Rams
Straight Up – Cardinals
The past two weeks the Rams have been my upset pick of the week and on both occasions I was right (humble brag, I know). This week, however, their two-game winning streak comes to a close.
But not by much.
Believe it or not, after that 28-0 drubbing they took in Week 1, the Rams are a decent football team.
They’re not quite ready to hang with the Cardinals — especially a desperate Cardinals team playing at home — but they can hang with the best of them, in my opinion.
Rams keep it close but the Cardinals climb back to .500.
(2-1) Kansas City Chiefs @ (2-1) Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Chiefs
Straight Up – Steelers
This one’s tough because you can’t take anything away from either of these teams’ games last weekend. The Steelers probably won’t get blown out like that again this year and the Chiefs definitely won’t have a horrifyingly-inept quarterback giving out interceptions like they’re candy on Halloween.
So let’s forget about those debacles.
The reason I like the Steelers here is actually thanks to their ground game. DeAngelo Williams has been good, if not great in Le’Veon Bell’s absence but Bell has returned to lead the Steelers’ rushing attack.
His return can’t be understated.
He’s a monster as a pass-catching back out of the backfield and is a great pure running back as well. The problem for the Steelers against the Eagles last weekend was that they had to abandon their rushing attack so early due to their deficit. Williams wound up with only eight carries for 21 yards. He had 237 yards rushing on 58 carries in the first two weeks for the Steelers.
I think the combination of Bell and Williams proves to be too much for a mediocre Chiefs run defense and the Steelers win, but win a close one.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.