Any Way The Wind Blows

By now, you and everyone else tuned into the sports world knows that the Raiders are leaving Oakland and setting sail for Las Vegas.

You don’t need to be a Raiders fan to surmise just how devastating this is for a local community that not only remained loyal to its team through the previous exodus out of Oakland when the team moved to LA in 1982 but also through the 13 season-long nightmare that began the day the Tampa Bay Buccaneers disassembled the Raiders in the “Pirate Bowl.”

You don’t need to know just how compellingly promising the immediate future is for this new, young Raiders team, a swashbuckling crew lead by the venerable Captain Jack Del Rio and his first mate Derek Carr, arguably the most exciting young quarterback in the league today, to know how precarious the timing of the team leaving Oakland really is.

Neither is the historically sloppy and inefficient local politics of the City of Oakland and its struggle with sustaining three professional sports teams all demanding new stadiums required reading for you to grasp the most singularly salient takeaway here:

These people of the City of Oakland, of the East Bay… nay, of Northern California itself… have been pillaged and left for dead. Again.

There is plenty of sorrow and rage to go around right now and you don’t have to look very hard to find blogs and tweets and Facebook tirades to observe the great divide growing within the ranks of the Raider Nation (the only true “Nation,” by the way lol had to, sorry) and all the finger-pointing as to exactly who is at fault here.

At the risk of sounding like the one thing everybody in today’s charged socio-political terrain rails on for supposedly having no backbone, I can only offer one nugget of centrist wisdom and it is entirely up to you to see its worth and decide whether or not you are willing to accept it: It Is What It Is. Nobody and everybody are to blame.


The Blame Game

Mark Davis did exactly what his father, the great patriarch of the Raider family, would have done and in fact tried to do when he moved to Los Angeles in the first place. The younger Davis was in no position to be able to afford a new stadium on his own and any new investor would have required a chunk of the team that would almost undoubtedly relinquish majority ownership from the Davis family. That’s not an option nor should it have ever been. Say what you will about Mark and his hair-do or his infamous white caravan or his proclivity towards being a common man in a rather uncommon position but his family poured their heart and soul into the franchise and asking them to give it up for a stadium is no different than someone asking you to give up ownership of the house your father built just in order for you to live in it.  Then Oakland tripled the rent to force action. That was too much to ask.

The City of Oakland, though strapped with stark demographic disparity, overrun by a surfeit of tech-millennial gentrification, mired in failing municipal infrastructure and plagued with a dysfunctional city council struggling to bring Oakland closer to par with its shiny, worldly neighbor, wasn’t going to be able to provide public funding for a stadium even if it wanted to. Hell, the city barely was bailed out a little over a year ago by Alameda County of $100 million of the monstrosity of bad deals known infamously as Mt. Davis… and it was being asked to fund another gargantuan Davisonian project? Quan couldn’t find a solution. Schaaf desperately patchworked a handful of proposals that were so hastily concocted it drew the embarrassing public criticism of a man in Commissioner Roger Goodell whose credibility is as shot as Julie Andrews’ voice. That was too much to ask.

Sure, Las Vegas was willing to plunk down $750 million (!!!) in public funding to help build a stadium. That is certainly not an offer you can scoff at. It isn’t one that Oakland could match; not in any of our wildest dreams could they muster up enough local support off the backs of people scraping to get by on the day to day nor could they saddle their coffers with another loan of that magnitude. And Mark Davis? He’d be a colossal fool to turn away from that sum with the principled dogmatic martyrdom of settling on sharing the “Mausoleum” with the equally frustrated and disgruntled Oakland Athletics for another decade while the socioeconomic trends of the East Bay continued to offer no reprieve. That was too much to ask.

In the end, nobody could do anything. The City of San Francisco was very easily able to absorb the Golden State Warriors (and they were very gladly willing to move down the street from the incomparable AT&T Park in their very own fancy jewel by the bay), Nevada had money to spare and an ardent desire to get in on the pro sports fun (welcoming not one but two professional sports teams seemingly overnight after being blacklisted for decades), and the City of Oakland is barely lucky to keep the A’s.

Shit, at least we keep the A’s. Although anybody even topically aware of the bay area sports scene knows that the A’s had long been rumored of leaving, themselves, and their stance essentially opposite the Raiders in this endless and fruitless tug-o-war has left an eerie fog around them that even the most ardently loyal A’s/Raider fans are going to feel uneasy about.

We lost one child in order to save another. Ugh.


A Pirate’s Life

Alas, Raider Nation, the crew is packing their things and readying the sloop for its voyage to the desert. It’ll unfortunately be a drawn-out affair, a long farewell. Like a true band of scallywag privateers, they’ll leave nothing behind, tethering their loot across the sea to their new home and with them a king’s bounty. Three super bowl trophies, 25 hall-of-famers (19 of which are inducted as Raiders), a shield unlike any other and a legacy of battered and bruised miscreants wreaking havoc upon the gridiron will go with them. And a song. A song that not only typified the boisterous swagger of these unmatched warriors of the pigskin but the very game itself and the autumn wind that pervades its very soul.

Oakland’s citizens, understandably, want them to leave now. They do not want to spend two years saying goodbye. Not now, not with the Raiders finally a force to be reckoned with again, their swagger returned, their song bellowing through the September breeze once again. The hurt just runs too deep for the people who know in their hearts that their next parking lot bash may be their last one.

But hear me out: the Raiders are sailing into uncharted waters to a new land where there is no precedent for how any of this will play out. They are as likely to succeed there as they are to fail. The biggest concern is two-fold: on one hand, Sheldon Adelson bailing on the Raiders forced them to haphazardly take an unfriendly Bank Of America loan that could capsize the whole dang ship into the murky depths of the unforgiving sea. On the other hand, the move to Vegas, while promising a new state-of-the-art stadium on the strip in a state not beleaguered by an income tax, is effectively a move from the seventh most vital market in the United States (YAY AREA WUT) to the 45th market. That is not a good look.

Therein lies the excitement for many a Raider fan who, like the pirates and prospectors of old, are ever looking to the horizon for new lands to plunder and new unknown challenges to conquer. Nobody knows exactly how it’ll go down in Vegas but the NFL (as well as the NHL with the Golden Knights) may very well catalyze the market into a more competitive one fiscally by creating more jobs around the sports team and growing a new industry in the Sin City that it has sorely needed outside of the casino and hospitality industries. Perhaps that in and of itself, befittingly, is the gamble.

Then again, the NFL could be falling flat on its face (again) by allowing three team relocations within a year’s time one of which (the Rams) has already demonstrated to be less than ideal only to join it with another potential market failure (the Chargers) in the league’s long-standing jewel of their eye, LA. Could the NFL have just played its LA and LV cards disproportionately weak?

This will undoubtedly make for some interesting test cases in sports marketing and business management moving forward.


Of Loyalty and Despair

Fan loyalty is a peculiar thing.

We observe its many shades of intensity across every demographic in every nation and every sport. There are rabid fans who treat teams and their players as extensions of their family and there are casual fans who simply want to have something fun to do with their free time and disposable income. There are fans that love a sport itself but not any particular team and there are fans who love the team more than the actual sport. In as concise a nutshell as I can think up, there are as many different types of fans as there are sports.

Right now, there is a civil war brewing within the Raider Nation and it is bloodying up folks who were once as brothers and sisters. The conflict is between the Oakland-or-Bust crowd and the Raiders-4-Life crowd. There are fans who want to burn their Tim Brown jerseys, their Charles Woodson jerseys. There are others mostly living outside of the Bay Area who are gladly offering to pay shipping to take those jerseys off the formers’ hands. It all comes down to identity and how any given individual is able to tap into the shared consciousness between self and the pastime.

So who are the Raiders? What makes them the Raiders?

I wrote my thesis for my Public Relations degree on fan loyalty specifically contrasting the different market attitudes and attributes of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Greater Orange County (ok, ok, I’m sorry Angels fans but, don’t lie, you know your forceful branding is some janky nonsense). I’m not going to relate the entirety of my thesis or its enlightening market survey in the greater Los Angeles market here but there was one very intriguing case study found during my research that I think really helps put things into perspective.

When the NHL’s Hartford Whalers relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1997 to become the Carolina Hurricanes, the fallout was unmistakably messy for the fanbase when it came to how they perceived their identity as Whaler fans and ultimately as hockey fans. If you absolutely must see the numbers, let me know and I can dig up my thesis but most Whaler fans simply could not identify with the Canes. Demographically, there was very little similarity between Raleigh and Hartford. Hartford is a proper New England kind of town, one that embodies a certain brand of hockey. Raleigh is smack dab in the middle of North Carolina, over 600 miles away (which in East Coast terms is practically somewhere in the Andes mountains). When the Whalers moved, they (like the NFL’s Browns when they became the Baltimore Ravens) chose to rebrand completely and that posed a dilemma for Whaler fans. Some carried on with rooting for the franchise since it retained many of their favorite players. Very few (if any lol) decided to root for the Boston Bruins who were geographically no more than a hop and a skip away and made the most sense regionally… but alas, despite close quarters, there is no love lost between the many constituents of Northeast America and Whaler fans would rather stop watching hockey altogether than root for the Bruins.

Incidentally enough, most chose instead to follow local college hockey instead as there are a plethora of competitive hockey programs in the bevy of New England universities and colleges.

In short, they preferred to abandon the pro game entirely rather than follow a team that no longer represented them or a team that was regionally close but had previously never represented them. The Hartford Whalers didn’t just cease to exist; so did their fanbase.

Now granted the Raiders are a global brand and they are simply moving, not rebranding (as that would almost undoubtedly go down in history as nearly the stupidest sports marketing decision of ALL. TIME.) so their challenge isn’t exactly the same but part of the Raider mystique is uniquely Californian. From Oaktown to LA and back to Oaktown… their role as the embodiment of the recklessness, lawlessness and sharp-minded, sharp-tongued WOKENESS of the 70s transformed what it meant to be a bad boy then… before then becoming the face of the pop-cultural revolution in the late 80s and early 90s with the rise of hip hop and more specifically thug rap, again, redefining what it meant to be a bad boy. It was a Cali thing.

The Raiders in Vegas feels… off. Vegas, whether its contemporary moguls like it or not, will always be the Rat Pack et al crooning and partying their way up and down the strip while every day Joes show up for a weekend to live like billionaires. Vegas is probably the only other city in the nation capable of housing the Raiders… but it still doesn’t seem right.

It will take a great leap of faith for Raider Nation to adjust to this. And they might not adjust.

For Oakland fans and NorCal denizens in general, the Raiders also offered an alternative to the indelible “good guy” 49ers… with their unassuming legend Joe Montana and cheeky smiling Steve Young, the effortlessly lovable Jerry Rice, the quietly brilliant Bill Walsh. The Raiders offered the enigmatic and unpredictable Snake, the aptly named Assassin, the loud and abrasive John Madden.

Just as it is in the Star Wars universe, there needed to be a dark side for the light side to make any sense and so Northern California had that impeccable balance thanks to Darth Raider and Jedi Master Joe, something that most sports markets could only dream of having. It was marketing lightning caught in a Gatorade bottle. Going to Vegas punts that.

At the same time, the Raiders are in fact a global brand and have rabid fans just about everywhere. They were, as recently as last year, ranked as the 6th strongest/largest fanbase in the NFL. Their logo and colors have not changed for several decades and are immediately recognized. The Silver n Black is more than just a nickname. It’s a promise that they can play on the Moon and we can just go ahead and call them the Moon Raiders and it’d be ok.

Now, for fans who aren’t from NorCal and who didn’t grow up going to games regularly, they can revel in the glorious opportunity that the team has in a new stadium, with a young exciting team and a new found heading to sail towards. These fans are excited. They are positive. Optimistic. They are swaggering about boisterously, head high and chests puffed. And they’re waging war on the depressed, devastated Oakland fans who, in their pain and grief, are helplessly flailing about like a torn flag ripped from its mast and caught by a strong, merciless wind.

To these fans, I urge you:

Do not disparage your Oakland brothers and sisters. Be compassionate, ye who lives in London or in Mexico City or on the East Coast or even in LA where these Raiders made berth so near to you for a mere decade. Yes – even you, LA Raider fan. Sure, the Raider Nation is vast and perhaps loyal to a fault, maybe even more so than any fan of any other team in any other sport but this is not your calamity.

Those of us who have tailgated in the Coliseum parking lot over the years know that it is an atmosphere born specifically of the local community and is unique to the eclectic, eccentric East Bay crowd. Its people are a special breed of Bay Area folk, a hoard of hobbit-like purveyors of killer BBQ, good brews and some kind herb. Above all else, it is the family that we lament the most. You need only show up to the parking lot alone and you will make more friends than you can count on your fingers and toes combined. You end up hugging random Sons-of-Anarchy lookin’ behemoth teddy bears that would terrify even the boldest Bronco fan. You find yourself tossing the football around because some one, out of the blue, told you to go long but you were holding a steaming bratwurst in your hand and yet you still turn quickly, run a post past a family chillin in lawn chairs blaring some Steve Miller Band and one hand it better than any frosty haired Odell Beckham Jr. ever could. And that’s to say nothing of The Black Hole. Or Darth Raider. Or Dr. Death. Or the drums. Drums, drums, drums in the deep.

Raider Nation travels well, no doubt. It isn’t like a brand new, state of the art stadium in the city of supreme debauchery won’t tease out Raider fans from every city within a timezone but you’d be lying to yourself  if you think the atmosphere will be at all the same. Maybe with time. Maybe.

But be sure of this. Any way the wind blows, the Raiders will sail and they will land somewhere and they will pillage and plunder and there is nothing their adversaries will be able to do about it. This is a fanbase that has tasted every imaginable high and every imaginable low. They are battle-hardened and they lust for victory. For excellence. At any cost.

Any way the wind blows.

The Autumn Wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea,
With a rollicking song, he sweeps along,
Swaggering boisterously.
His face is weather beaten.
He wears a hooded sash,
With a silver hat about his head,
And a bristling black mustache.

He growls as he storms the country,
A villain big and bold.
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake,
As he robs them of their gold.

The Autumn Wind is a raider,
Pillaging just for fun.
He’ll knock you ’round and upside down,
And laugh when he’s conquered and won.

Just Win, Baby!

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NFL Week 6 Picks: This Whacky Game

Last week’s roll call was an easy one straight up; all you really had to do was pick mostly the Vegas favorites and you could have run a dozen correct picks easy. I came in at 13-2 with my only miscalls being Detroit’s unlikely meltdown and New England’s epic exorcism.

In a season that has otherwise been a temporal storm of uncertainty, that was one easy lineup of games to wrap your head around.

Now let’s get back to the TUFF STUFF.

Colts at Texans
The most impressive thing about Indy’s win against Baltimore this past weekend was how energetic and active they were on defense giving Joe Flacco fits all day. Elite talent or not, playing active defense is a recipe for success; just ask Peyton or Tony Dungy about Super Bowl XLI. This defense reminds me of that unit. The Texans, overall, have a top flight defense for sure but they are not that good against the run and not good enough against the pass to matter with Luck chuckin’ it around the way he has all season. I don’t like Fitzpatrick to keep up with Luck tossing five TDs or something ridiculous like that as the game wears on. Unless the Texans jump out to a very quick and big early lead, this one is a lock.
Colts

Bears at Falcons
The Bears are such a statistical nightmare to evaluate. They are practically league average in every efficiency cat across the board whether it be offensively or defensively, in the box or in the secondary. Strangely, they just keep losing games and won two questionable ones and could very easily have a much worse record. Now they go on the road to play a Falcons team that is completely different at home in a must-win situation. Not that they’re any good but the Falcons will do what the Packers did and outscore them faster on the way to a victory.
Falcons

Patriots at Bills
One of the contenders for Game of the Week. As much as I would like to call for a letdown by the Pats after their statement game on Sunday night and pick the Bills and their elite defense at home, I don’t trust Kyle Orton. He got away posting a nice stat line while playing a mediocre game because of the volume. Still, to be fair, he gave Buffalo a slightly better chance than EJ had been and for that, you gotta give him credit. I think the Patriots are going to harass him to no end. And if rediscovering the dual TE scheme is working for Brady, that might be enough to outscore the Bills readily on the road in a key AFC East battle between two 3-2 rivals.
Patriots

Panthers at Bengals
Whatever you want to say about these two teams, here is something that must be said: these are two defenses that are in need of showing up big this week. I believe they both do meaning this will be a sludgy, grungy low scoring affair. With AJ Green hobbled or out entirely, the Bengals are going to pound the rock with Gio and Hill against a Panthers team that has looked susceptible to the ground game. The Bengals’ D will have much to prove after getting smacked by the Patriots. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to worry about Carolina’s rushing (fortunate because that is Cincy’s biggest weakness defensively) since they have about one and a half healthy bodies back there. If Cam is forced to catch up through the air on the road, it may be a long afternoon. Or Superman, I dunno.
Bengals

Steelers at Browns
The AFC North is really tight and at the bottom of the division are the 2-2 Cleveland Browns, a team that maybe ought to be 3-1 or maybe even 4-0 right now were it not for a last second meltdown/FG against division rival Baltimore and a really sluggish start to the season against these same Steelers a month ago. In fact, the Browns have won or lost all four of their games by less than 3 points! Which means they’re just as likely to be 1-3 or even 0-4! Hahaha this whacky game that we love. Anyway. I love what the Browns are doing this year and can’t wait until they get their full roster but they are going to get shredded in the air by Big Ben who, along with Antonio Brown’s epic season, has been a monster. The Browns are fortunate to have an offense that can clearly move the chains when it needs to (and that did storm back on the Steelers in Pittsburgh before falling just short). But I just don’t know if they can hold them under 30 with an already tore up secondary now also missing CB Joe Haden.
Steelers

Jags at Titans
While the Titans have a win on their season and the Jags are winless, these are two teams with significantly different outlooks. The Jags are clearly going through growing pains but have an exciting young QB throwing the ball to a couple of exciting young athletic receivers. Their run game leaves a lot to be desired and their defense has been getting wrecked but they showed a little life last week. This week they visit a Titans team that is in such disarray, it is hard to figure out how they got there. More and more it is starting to seem like their week 1 triumph over the Chiefs who have since then improved in all areas was fluky at best and that this team is more or less the team that hasn’t been able to win since (and looked like shit while at it). They have an irregular commitment to the run game which isn’t doing well anyway and can’t keep their starting QB on the field. That is a recipe for disaster. And what is more disastrous than the Jags getting their first win against you in your own house?
Jags

Packers at Dolphins
The Dolphins certainly had plenty of time to prepare for the Packers with the bye and all. They’re also at home this week. And it still won’t matter a whole lot. The Packers are coming in scoring points unhindered, have rediscovered their run game and despite giving up a lot of yards defensively, also force an impressive amount of turnovers (tied for tops in the league). Tannehill does make mistakes from time to time and I think the Packers dictate the tempo of the game, force aforementioned mistakes and ultimately outscore the Phins. By a lot.
Packers

Lions at Vikings
There is a real temptation here to roll with the home team. Minnesota is getting Teddy Bridgewater back in action and that instantly boosts this offense’s value to around where it was when it shredded Atlanta en route to that beatdown. The Lions defense surely is not the Falcons defense … but there’s something seriously wrong with the Lions offense and that may very well be the determining factor of this game. They weren’t able to put up all that much in the way of points against Buffalo although Buffalo sports a pretty snazzy defense themselves. Still there has to be concern about a team without Megatron, without a healthy Reggie Bush and with a struggling Matt Stafford. Expect the Vikings to finally get Patterson and Wright going at the same time and more semblance of a running game than they showed last week. If they can score points against Detroit’s defense at home in Minny, look for the Vikes to win.
Vikings

Broncos at Jets
What can we say here? Yeah, yeah, Any Given Sunday, That’s Why They Play the Games, These Are All Pros… should I dig up anymore antiquated NFL clichés to describe the 2% chance the Jets pull off this upset at home? They’d have to break Peyton’s neck in half for that to ever happen. The Jets can stop anybody’s run game… but what if they are playing a team that doesn’t even run the ball because they have Peyton and his fifty good-to-great receivers? Why am I still typing?
Broncos

Ravens at Bucs
I was thinking about this one for some time. The Ravens are heavy favorites in terms of being picked to win no matter the line. They are one of the most solid teams in the league, no doubt. And yet I am still rolling with the Bucs at home. They have looked entirely different the past two weeks and barely lost in OT against an absolutely desperate Saints team. Fact of the matter is the Bucs are headed back to Tampa for the first time in nearly a month, are likely to play much stauncher defense at home and will square off with a Ravens team playing their second road game in a row. That is a recipe for a monumental upset. And don’t forget; these same Bucs pulled an equally impressive upset of the Steelers just a couple weeks ago. Roll em.
Bucs

Chargers at Raiders
Should I be the only not-completely-insane person to pick the Raiders here? After all, you’ve got a home game coming off a bye against a divisional rival that you have played tough in other purported lopsided matchups in the past. A game against a team that has been on such a profoundly good roll, it is almost inevitable that they are overdue for the sort of clunker that a team like the Raiders can take advantage of. There’s also this whole new coach thing and the ball he buried. You know, this is the perfect game for the Raiders to stomp the Chargers. You know… that game that I will be rolling Saturday Night on Madden when I play pretend that I am the new head coach/GM of the Oakland Raiders. Utterly STOMP.
Chargers 

Redskins at Cardinals
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins looked much better last week against the top defense in the league than they did against the rival Giants the week before. It just didn’t matter because they were utterly outmatched. That said, they have a far more manageable match up this week against a team that is just riddled with injuries and missing players. The funny thing is that even with all those injuries, the Cards are good enough defensively, especially against the pass, that it could make all the difference in the world at home. Especially with the Redskins coming to town on a short week. There’s also the matter of Arizona possibly getting Carson Palmer back and that would be a huge boon to an offense that was already finding ways to win with Drew Stanton under center.
Cardinals 

Cowboys at Seahawks
A contender for Game of The Week. It has been a nice little roll that the Cowboys have been on. They’ve won games that got out of control for their opponents and they won games that were close and tenuous. Impressive thus far, the Cowboys travel to the toughest place to play in the league to play against the best team in the NFC and possibly still the best team in the entire NFL. Unfortunately, this is where their run temporarily ends. I just don’t see them going into Seattle and beating this defense (especially when Dallas’ bread and butter these days is running the rock with Demarco Murray and the Hawks are now one of the better run D’s around) let alone being able to stop Russell Wilson who right now looks to be about as dominant a QB as you can be without spending a majority of your time in the pocket. Wilson makes throws that don’t make any sense given where he is and where the play is. The Redskins found out the hard way that the guy has about 50 eyes and they are all over the STADIUM let alone anywhere on his head. And Marshawn Lynch is probably the best overall running back of the past half a decade. Nice run but no dice this week, Dallas.
Seahawks

Giants at Eagles
This will be fun. Another contender for Game of The Week (I should have just titled this blog entry GAME OF THE WEEK, amirite?). Most of the nation is split 50-50 on the outcome of this one; that goes to show you just how unpredictable this game will be. That said, common wisdom suggests that in such a push, the home team is the one that has the ever so slight edge and while I am normally inclined to give that notion tread, these are two teams giving me entirely different impressions right now. The Giants look confident, dialed in and able to beat you with a suddenly reliable and balanced offense. Even without Jennings running the rock, rookie Andre Williams has looked strong and bruising bludgeoning in between the tackles in his stead. The return of Odell Beckham Jr. and the emergence of Larry Donnell gives Eli Manning four legitimate weapons in the passing game with which to rip apart a porous Eagles defense. On the flip side, the Eagles are an interesting dichotomy. While it is impressive that they have been scoring in a bunch of different ways, the fact they aren’t scoring consistently on offense is alarming. Even though they finally got LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles a lot of meaningful touches and they moved the chains a bit, neither scored… leaving the Eagles to build a large lead on blocked kicks and turnovers. While that works against crappy teams, these are not reliable ways to beat good teams. Home team or not, I expect the Giants to go all BIG BLUE on the Eagles and their cute little all black unis they plan on rollin’ out on Sunday.
Giants

Niners at Rams
This is one game the Rams won’t be able to climb back into if they fall behind big early on. Unlike the Eagles, the Niners will collect turnovers like Disneyland Pins. Good running football teams are great road teams because they can quiet the crowd and control the tempo by pounding the rock. The Niners, now that they’ve returned to their rushing strengths, are that kind of team and I expect them to control the game, harass Austin Davis and put up a healthy amount of points on the road on the way to a 4-2 record. Lock it up.
Niners

Dig it

NFL Week 5 Picks: What a Comeback Looks/Smells/Tastes/Sounds/Feeeels Like…

Just getting warmed up.

Even with a couple of 8-8 duds to start the season, I am at 36-25 overall in my office pool so I’m coming in at just about the same clip as a majority of the nation. But I don’t intend on being average…

Time is of the short variety this week so let’s get straight to them.

Picks:

Vikings at Packers
The Vikes surprised everyone last week by running shod over and through the Atlanta Falcons defense. But that game was at home. Teddy Bridgewater is gonna try and go all banged up on a short week visiting the Pack at Lambeau. He will likely have to rely heavily on the run game which at this point is the plodding, uninspiring Matt Asiata and the explosive yet unproven rookie Jerick McKinnon. All the while trying to keep up with A Rod and company. Too much firepower on that offense to keep up with them for four quarters. Packers run away with it eventually.
Packers

Texans at Cowboys
The Battle for Texas between a couple of 3-1 teams is going to come down to an utter bloodbath. The Cowboys have been one of the best teams in football on both sides of the ball and are going to be at home in a statement game. The Texans have been playing a little over their heads and have had some soft match ups. This week is maybe a bit too big a test for Fitzpatrick and company to overcome.
Cowboys

Bills at Lions
This may have looked like a really exciting match up a few weeks ago when the Bills seemed atop the world. Now with Kyle Orton under center, while they can’t be any worse offensively than they had been the past couple weeks, the Bills are going to have to do business with one of the top three defensive units in the game. On the road. Yuck. Lions win big.
Lions

Browns at Titans
The good news for Tennessee is that they are probably getting Locker back and are planning on running the ball early and often with underutilized rookie Bishop Sankey. That should open things up a bit for them. The Browns are getting healthy on defense and get their opening day starting RB back which means they now have three quality backs to roll out. The Browns are due for a win especially after the debacle that was the final few minutes of the Ravens game and have had two weeks to prepare for the Titans.
Browns

Ravens at Colts
One of the best games this week as we have yet another matchup between 3-1 teams. The Ravens have looked balanced so far this season with much improved offense thanks to Steve Smith Sr. stretching the field for big armed Joe Flacco. Can they keep up with Andrew Luck and the Indy offense on the road? That’ll ultimately be the question. In such a tight contest, one is well served to roll with the home team as I think Luck is nearly unstoppable late in games.
Colts

Bucs at Saints
The Bucs stunned the Steelers last week and must be flying high and feeling increasingly confident in running Glennon out there under center. Unfortunately for them, they run into a struggling Saints team at the wrong time. Nobody really knows what’s going on with the Saints which bodes poorly for Tampa. It just looks like a funk. A funk that Brees and company will break out of in a big way at home. Not quite as big as Matty Ice and the birds did but enough to win this one by two scores.
Saints

Falcons at Giants
Speaking of the Dirty Birds, they came crashing down to earth last week against the Vikings. Granted, they ran into an underrated defense but there has to be concern about their sieve of a defense. Eli has finally got a handle on things and I feel that keeps clicking, especially in this potential barn burner. Still, I am waiting each week for the Giants defense from late last season to show up. If they do, the Falcons are going to have a hard time on the road (for a second straight week) keeping up with Big Blue in New York on ten days rest.
Giants

Rams at Eagles
Eagles will bounce back in a big way this week following not only their first loss but one of the uglier losses you will see. 21 points and not a single one on offense. Philly’s offense is already one of the most explosive units in the game and at home, it is even more so. The Rams have an even tougher defense than San Francisco’s so it is possible they frustrate Foles and company but fortunately for Chip Kelly’s boys, the Rams simply cannot keep up on the scoreboard meaning even if they were to limit the Eagles, they are unlikely to outscore them.
Eagles

Bears at Panthers
That Panther defense just isn’t what it used to be. They’ve been getting gouged left and right and I don’t see an end to that in sight. Luckily for them, the Bears’ defense is even worse. Cam Newton has been limited and the Carolina run game nearly nonexistent. Still, they are due for a win and are at home and I expect Newton to go off.
Panthers

Steelers at Jags
This may be Jacksonville’s first winnable opportunity. And it also might be the wrong time to catch an explosive Steeler team on the heels of an embarrassing loss and some bonafide Tomlin rage. The Burgh will be in fine, amped form against the Jags who are on the cusp of getting out the cellar but will have to wait a little while longer to get there.
Steelers

Cardinals at Broncos
I tried to reason with myself as to how Arizona could come in and take this from Denver on the road but I can’t get over how difficult that would be without Carson Palmer. Hell it would be difficult even with Palmer. The Cards have been one of the more surprising stories this year given all their injury issues but I just don’t see it happening. Peyton and the Broncos have been resting and preparing for this game for two weeks. I get that the Cards are coming off a bye too lol But this is Peyton we are talking about and so in a lot of ways, the Cardinals are doomed because of that alone.
Broncos

Jets at Chargers
Yikes. A team with a red-hot QB taking on a team that is having some serious problems in their secondary with bad coverage assignments. This is a recipe for a home win for the Chargers who, so far, have looked like one of the top ten teams in the league. The Jets will have to stay very disciplined and not turn the ball over to have any kind of chance in this one on the road.
Chargers

Chiefs at Niners
Hard to tell what happens here. The Chiefs are clearly coming off a huge win against the Pats in which they showed off their running game, stout defense and up-n-coming star TE. And that was against a decent defense. Well, the Niners showed off a more than decent defense last week in shutting down one of the most explosive offenses in football. That is very much worth noting. This will be a great game especially given the storyline of Alex Smith returning to SF to play Kaepernick and the Niners but I don’t see the road team winning here.
Niners

Bengals at Patriots
Oh boy. So everybody is signaling the end of Brady’s career and of the Patriots’ run. That may be just a slight bit overblown. We have simply come to expect too much from them due to a decade of domination, that a 2-2 start is like an 0-4 for most other teams. Monday night’s game has awakened this sleeping giant, trust. The Patriots coming off that loss and heading home to host the de facto best team in football is the perfect recipe for a monumental upset. And it is entirely possible. Except I’m still rollin with the Bengals. Because they are the best team in football and I believe they are licking their chops at an opportunity to prove they are for real by passing this very tough test.
Bengals

Seahawks at Redskins
After what the Giants defense did to Kirk Cousins, it is really hard to imagine him finding much success against this Seahawks defense even if the game is being played in the nation’s capital. Most weeks, I am not entirely sure what is going on with the Redskins who get away with being the Raiders of the East Coast but are never nearly as blasted for it. They have talent but much less of it than Seattle does. And it is a Monday night game. Hook. Line. SUNK.
Seahawks

On Bye: Oakland (thank god), Miami

DIG IT.

Week 5 NFL Power Rankings

Listen, these are the rankings you want to follow… not the overrated, bloat content that the “experts” run out with their heavy pre-season biases and morning cocktails. These are rankings based on how teams are playing… right now.

Let’s go.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – There is absolutely no reason not to consider them the best team in the NFL right now. Their defense has been lights out, their offense creative and explosive. And they are undefeated in what has become one of the top divisions in the league.
  2. Seattle Seahawks –We don’t do power rankings based on last year’s performance or what we expect of a team pre-season. And therefore the defending champs with all their awesomeness come in 2nd because they lost to the Chargers.
  3. Arizona Cardinals –The only other undefeated team left in the league, the Cards don’t lose a top 3 ranking due to a bye week. The mere fact they have been able to win with Drew Stanton under center and the myriad of injuries they have endured on the defensive side of the ball is proof these guys are for real. Bruce Arians may be the best coach in the league right now.
  4. Detroit Lions –Boom diggity, watch out for the Lions. They, once again, have a high flying and explosive offense that showed this past week can still rip the top off a defense even if Megatron can’t go hard. And the scary thing is that their best feature is now their defense. Possibly the best run D in the game and their pass D is not far behind.
  5. Denver Broncos –There’s little doubt this placement will rub some folks the wrong way but the Broncos have not handily beaten anyone and the competition, while good, hasn’t been stellar. Their toughest game ended in a loss and it looks like Peyton is out there doing it all by himself. Everything is ok so far but that is not sustainable.
  6. Baltimore Ravens –Rankings are hard early on in the year because of the small sample size so it’s difficult to determine whether the 5, 6 and 7 slots can’t be shuffled in some other order but the Ravens have looked like one of the best teams in the NFL. Their only loss was to the beasts from Cincy and have otherwise shown a strong backbone in the face of media distractions and backfield uncertainty. Also, Steve Smith Sr.
  7. Dallas Cowboys –Yeah, they belong here and if you don’t think so, you’re not paying attention. They run the ball better than nearly everyone else, Romo is spreading the ball around and their defense is nothing like the unit they fielded last year. The SNF win over New Orleans is no fluke, neither.
  8. San Diego Chargers –The Chargers weren’t supposed to be this good, neither especially with their ruthless schedule. But whaddya know, they’re 3-1 and aren’t even bothering with running the rock. If the Chargers can get through the Jets and the Raiders the next two weeks with a couple of wins, they get Ryan Mathews back while sitting in first place. WTF.
  9. Philadelphia Eagles –They don’t play good defense and typically don’t start playing until halftime. They were utterly atrocious against the Niners and scored a pathetic 21 first half points off blocked punts and interceptions (tossed by an overrated QB). And their best trait is their offense! Which is so good, it’s good enough for a 9th
  10. Indianapolis Colts – They’re like the Falcons of the AFC except it looks like they might be capable of playing slightly better defense. It really does seem like Andrew Luck is going to throw for 400 and 4 every game. As long as all his weapons stay healthy, there shouldn’t be too many teams that outscore them.
  11. Houston Texans –I didn’t want to give their young season too much tread because their offense is still led by Fitzpatrick and that just doesn’t seem like a good thing. But they are winning games and getting production from their main offensive weapons. Which apparently includes JJ Watt who is probably right now the best overall player in all of football. He’s just simply stupid ridiculous right now. I would like to see them line him up at fullback in goaline situations and have him just bowl through humans.
  12. Green Bay Packers –The Pack are one of those teams that is tough to figure out and whose ranking may be slightly more speculative than others. That said, they still have looked more like a 3-1 team than some of the 3-1 teams. They weren’t going to beat the Hawks in Seattle and they lost a shitshow to an underrated Lions team. The Pack still look and feel like a big time team.
  13. San Francisco 49ers –That was a nice win albeit ugly. Signature win for this team’s rough season start. With all the BS drama floating around, the Niners went, stared down a must-win and won it against a team that had been lighting opponents up offensively. The Niners recommitted to the run and voilà. When they start getting guys back midway through the season, they will start to climb the ranks. Their defense and Kaepernick’s inconsistency keeps them here for now.
  14. Kansas City Chiefs – What did we learn from their epic MNF beatdown? They are pushin’ a formidable defense, an unstoppable running game and Alex Smith tossing the rock to Baby Gronk. To be fair, they haven’t been able to really unleash Jamaal Charles thus far and Alex Smith is trying to do his best with what he has to throw to and so they’re middle of the pack at this point. But from all indication, the combination of a healthy Charles, Knile Davis and Travis Kelce looks like a pretty decent outlook.
  15. New York Giants –Rankings are about trends and the Giants are trending upwards and FAST. Looks like Eli finally got the whole of McAdoo’s playbook down and the rest of the offense is falling into place. Donnell has been a great revelation. Jennings is one of the top backs in the NFL. In a wide open, high scoring NFC East, the Giants look strong. Don’t forget, this defense looked really strong down the stretch last year. Giants may be on to something.
  16. Minnesota Vikings –I know, I know. Somehow and despite all logic, they lose Adrian Peterson and manage to keep putting up monster rushing numbers. Teddy Bridgewater is a clear upgrade at QB over Cassel or Ponder. They have a functioning running back tandem. They’ve unleashed Jarius Wright. Cordarelle Patterson hasn’t even taken off yet. And their defense is real.
  17. Atlanta Falcons –Just when these guys looked like they were atop the world dropping near 60 burgers on the Bucs, they go and get crushed by a Vikings team that wasn’t supposed to be able to run the rock and a rookie QB who wasn’t supposed to assume the reigns just yet. But they just don’t play good defense and especially against the run where they let Matt Asiata look like, well, Adrian Peterson. Matty Ice can sling it and has a million offensive weapons but this team’s defense is a real problem.
  18. Pittsburgh Steelers –The Burgh was higher up before their meltdown against Tampa. Tampa, coming into the week, was my pick for worst team in the NFL and the Steelers utter collapse against them in the waning moments of the game was just pathetic. Still, Antonio Brown looks like possibly the most underrated receiver ever and LeVeon Bell is one of the top backs in the league. The Steelers can score with the best of them but can’t stop anyone from doing the same and combined with their penchant for penalties, offer a very mediocre outlook.
  19. New England Patriots –Their defense hasn’t been half-bad; until MNF. The real issue with the Pats is their offense. The line isn’t what it used to be, Brady seems to be losin some zip and accuracy and his receivers aren’t developing. Gronk and Edelman can’t do it by themselves. Everybody wants to hit the panic button and understandably so. But hold that thought.
  20. Buffalo Bills – It’s hard to figure out what the Bills are all about. Granted, both the Chargers and Texans are underrated and good looking squads right now but their schedule doesn’t get any easier and now that EJ Manuel has been benched, Orton needs to step it up if this team will turn the corner.
  21. Carolina Panthers – Whoa, whoa… whaaaat? Yes, the Panthers have fallen very quickly. They are decimated in the backfield and Cam is banged up and isn’t nearly as dynamic as he’d normally be. This has negated how raw the defense would normally be and how exciting rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin is. They still have the talent to turn things around but it doesn’t look good.
  22. New Orleans Saints –Don’t look good for these guys either. You always get this feeling that the Saints’ offense is going to get untracked but it seems like Payton’s game has been figured out and he isn’t adjusting it. And so much for upgrading the defense.
  23. Cleveland Browns – I’m gonna go ahead and say it: The Browns have no business being at 23. They should be higher. This team got shafted by the NFL and their stupid drug policy. All three games thus far have been decided by a field goal or less. They are as close to being 3-0 as they are to being 1-2. I’m tellin’ ya, rank 23 is way too low but fair for what they’ve put up.
  24. New York Jets – The Jets have been on the unfortunate side of Geno Smith’s continuing growing pains or otherwise would be at the very worst, 2-2 (all three of their losses have been by one score and considering how many picks Geno has thrown, that’s an amazing stat). They outplayed the Bears, and while they probably weren’t going to beat the Pack or the Lions, they showed they were right there in a position to compete. Their secondary is just a mess though.
  25. Chicago Bears – The Bears are really hard to peg but they had no business beating the Niners on the road and would have lost the Jets game had anyone else been playing QB for New York. Their defense gets shredded every week and while they look strong on offense, they haven’t gone off just yet and it’s mostly because of Forte’s lack of involvement. Good news for the Bears, they got him involved albeit in a losing effort to the Packers. To me, they’re bearly not an 0-4 team.
  26. Miami Dolphins – This team is a mess. In fact, the only team that could make them look good was the one they absolutely trounced in London. Tannehill survives another week but they come out of the bye with back to back offensive juggernauts that won’t be as accommodating as the Raiders. They’ll be 2-4 before you know it.
  27. Washington Redskins – Kirk Cousins doesn’t look like the answer to all their problems. He is probably still better for this Jay Gruden offense than RG3 is but Cousins looked awful staring down his receivers en route to a four pick night. The Redskins make no sense.  They have all the weapons in the world, a serviceable defense and a smart, young coach. And they’re still a dumpster fire at the bottom of the East.
  28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Speaking of dumpster fires. Whatever happened against the Steelers is mostly Pittsburgh’s fault. It was nice to see Tampa play better defense finally (something we expected with all their studs and Lovie Smith coaching them) but Glennon is going to give us both good times and bad times for at least the duration of this season. But it can’t get any worse. So begins their steady rise up the rankings.
  29. Louis Rams – Unsure what to make of these guys except that their offense is putrid. They won a game they really didn’t have any business winning with a guy who was on the practice squad earlier in the day but that’s just how it goes, sometimes. Their defense will keep some games close but their vaunted defensive line hasn’t done nearly as much damage or terrorized any QBs this season and that won’t get them much higher than 29thany time soon.
  30. Tennessee Titans – The season started off so promising for Tennessee. Since their solid 26-10 beatdown of the Chiefs, they’ve scored 35 points in three games. They have no idea what they’re doing with their run game and they have receivers walking their routes. Charlie Whitehurst started at QB because Locker is hurt. Again.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars – The future is actually kind bright-ish in JAX. Bortles is a beast. He’s a rookie but a beast. The game against SD proved just that. He’s going to sling the ball around and make all his weapons effective and meaningful but he’ll force some rookie decisions and lose to veteran, more talented teams like the Chargers. Their defense still gets ravaged but this team is going to be better sooner than the…
  32. Oakland Raiders – I don’t want to say anything about this.

Dig it.

NFL Week 4 Picks: To London and Back Again

Oops. I swear I had these finished prior to the Giants/Redskins.

The football season continues to pillage and plunder my feeble attempts at understanding or making sense of it. That’s alright. I start my Power Rankings next week (I used to typically begin ranking teams after three weeks but I’ve found that four weeks is a far more sensible starting point) and that means my picks will get much better as I benefit from sorting through these teams in a logical, categorical way.

So let’s just suck at this for another week in the meantime!

Picks:

Giants at Redskins
Boy, those Giants just love to run a screw through everybody’s happy office pools, huh? Pesky, inconsistent G-Men. What will we get from them this week? Any guesses? Are we going to get accurate passing Eli? Rashad Jennings going to look like the best running back in the NFL for a fourth week? Will they be able to outscore a Redskins team that is putting up points like stupidity? So many questions and no answers. Here’s the thing: this game is being played on Thursday night under the lights and is an interdivision tussle. That works to Tom Coughlin’s boys’ advantage. Eli has a knack in these kinds of games to overcome logic. The Redskins, even with Cousins at the helm, are no Goliath and we know Eli has slain that dude as well (a couple times, actually). And don’t look now but something tells me Cousins is going to be brutal while Eli gives us another reason to pick wrong next week.
Giants

Packers at Bears
Another great divisional tilt. Talk about this week being an early round of must-wins for a handful of teams. The Packers desperately need to get back on track because these very Bears seem to be sneaking through games they almost have no business winning but are up on the standings. And who knows if Detroit’s going to run away with the division but they certainly have the pieces in place to do so. Either way, with the way the division sits, both the Bears and the Packers have to take this game very seriously in nearly the same way that the Giants and Redskins need to. And I think Green Bay makes that power move and further muddies the division standings. Eddie Lacy is finally going to find room to run and it will unlock the currently stagnant Packer air attack. Green Bay’s defense was surprisingly stout last week against the Lions albeit in a loss and Chicago’s defense is decimated. Packers should easily outscore the Bears in this one. Emphasis on should.
Packers

Titans at Colts
How quickly things are unraveling for the Titans. It appears Wisenhunt is finally giving Sankey the bell but there are too many issues with the Titans right now to blame their ineffective run game for their inability to move the ball. Media darling Justin Hunter who was supposed to take the top off of defenses can’t even find the ball half the time. Not that it’ll matter this week, Jake Locker can barely grip the ball and if he doesn’t go, Charlie Whitehurst can barely throw it. The defense has been torched for two weeks in a row now on the ground and is about to get dosed with plenty of T Rich and Bradshaw. And nevermind that Andrew Luck is heated over his misuse in the first couple games of the season. Oh, the travesty! An incensed Andrew Luck is a pretty bad thing though for middling opponents like the Tennessee Titans. Don’t expect much defense in this one although Indy has a slightly underrated D (did those words come out of my fingertipz?) and should easily win this AFC South barnburner.
Colts

Dolphins at Raiders
To London! Like that will make a difference for the Raiders, right? Actually… look, the Raiders have to take em where they can, even if it is on a different continent. Incidentally, there are a ton of Raider fans in England (Menelik Watson grew up a Raider fan, funny enough) and maybe that makes it more of a home game for them than just a wasted home spot on the schedule. Any support would be nice for a team that really has to get up off the mat after getting punked by Houston and then showing up against New England just to walk away dejected after a very shitty, heartbreaking ending to what may have been an OT game and, who knows, maybe a win? Blech. The Dolphins are fading fast and Tannehill, in my mind, shoulders a lot of the blame. The running game, albeit missing Moreno, is there. The receivers, for the most part, are there. The defense looked strong in week 1. But this team just cannot score. Matt Moore is a scary option and I can’t believe they’re even considering it. Then again, how much worse can things get for Miami? They could lose to the Raiders, for starters. Which really is what I expect to happen and not because I’m a homer. The Raiders showed a lot of life last week and should be able to chase the QB all day. Derek Carr is going to have to work hard out there for the Raiders to win any games this year but I have a feeling he steps up this week and gets us in the win column. This will be Oakland’s first win of the season.
Raiders (IE the Dolphins for your Office pool and/or any betting inclinations)

Lions at Jets
The Jets are a depressing case. They really could be sitting at 2-1 right now; they truly did outplay Chicago for most of that game but Geno Smith’s inconsistency and erratic play doomed them from the start when it spotted the Bears 14 points on 6 total yards of offense. Not good, Geno, not good. The sledding doesn’t get easier against the Lions. Their offense is even more explosive than the Bears’ and their defense is way, way better. In fact, that is the one thing that has really impressed me this year with the currently 2-1 Lions; their run defense, which has been good for a couple years now, is climbing into elite status. They have shut down every running back they’ve faced so far including one of the hottest backs in the NFL right now in Rashad Jennings (a paltry 2.9 ypc). Chris Johnson sucks and Chris Ivory, bless his heart, is going to be up against it. And without their run game, on a short week and with a banged up Eric Decker, DOOM looms for Gang Green.
Lions

Bucs at Steelers
Two teams moving in completely different directions. The Bucs are the worst team in football even if they look better on paper than the Jags or Raiders or whomever. And they are likely about to stink it up again against the Steelers who are riding high after a STRONG win on the road at Carolina. They shredded one of the better run defenses in the NFL with two 100 yard running backs and the usual Antonio Brown posterizing. The Bucs are mistake prone and that doesn’t bode well against Blitzburgh even if they are decimated on that side of the ball with all the injuries. Let’s face it. There’s almost no way the Bucs win this game. Except if Waleed goes and jinxes it like just now.
Steelers

Panthers at Ravens
The Panthers are reeling after a tough, tough woopin at home. Not many saw that coming unless of course you’re a Steeler fan or just straight PSYCHIC. The Panthers were gouged on the ground, ripped up in the air and nevermind how whack they looked on offense. They have almost no healthy running backs left, their QB is all beat up and isn’t looking to run (which is bad because that is what makes Cam extremely hard to gameplan against) and their defense just got dumped on. Will they bounce back? No, sadly and as much as I want to pick them, there’s something wrong with Carolina right now and that is a bad place to be in when going against a veteran Harbaugh-led team like the Ravens. They have shown some incredible resilience in the early season with all the bullshit surrounding the team and have let it roll over them like water. Harbaugh is doing the opposite of what his brother is doing in SF and really pulling his team through a very rough spot. They are finding production from the backfield consistently regardless of who it is running the ball. This week’s flavor is Coastal Carolina’s Lorenzo Taliaferro. Steve Smith has turned back the clock (and is going to be fired up against his former team). Their defense is getting it done. The Ravens keep pace with the Bengals and Steelers this week in what has suddenly become a very good AFC North (the Browns are much, much better than you think. The NFL just hates them and took away their best weapon over some bullshit but I’m not getting into all that again).
Ravens

Bills at Texans
The Bills looked so promising with a strong 2-0 start to the year and then Ej Manuel started to happen. Listen, the Chargers aren’t exactly blowing the doors open on the league or anything and by midseason, they will have regressed back to their expected line. There just was nothing Manuel and the Bills could do right against San Diego’s defense. 10 points. The Texans have a better defense than the Chargers do, too. Houston, also at 2-1, are leading the division and could use a week 4 win to stave off the oncoming offensive juggernaut that is Indy (a near lock to win this week). To do so, they will have to get better play from Fitzpatrick who was exposed last week by a blah defense in the Giants. Arian Foster did not play and that may have factored, strictly speaking, but the offense was too out of sync for them to have won either way. This week, against the much tougher Bills defense, Houston will have to find a way to keep it clean and I believe they will. Ej Manuel just hasn’t taken the next step and is the only thing holding this team back from really making some noise. His corner could be this week or the next one but as soon as he does turn it, the Bills will run away with an AFC East that is waiting for them to take over. For this week, however, the home team plays strong D and ekes out enough offense to secure the game and a 3-1 start to the season.
Texans

Jags at Chargers
Well, San Diego’s unlikely start to a hardcore schedule continues this weekend as they get to beat up on the worst team in the NFL. Except watch out because Blake Bortles is no Chad Henne and if he figures things out quickly enough, he could put some points up. Then again, Jacksonville doesn’t have a good running game and Bortles is a rookie which means turnover heaven. Watch the Chargers just bumble this one like they tend to bumble winnable games. Except Norv is gone. Maybe?
Chargers

Falcons at Vikings
The Falcons have snuck up on everyone. Sure, there were folks talking about how they would bounce back from a dismal 2013 riddled with injuries and score points and yadda yadda, but did anybody see this much balance and panache? They are putting up Tecmo Bowl stat lines and even without a healthy Roddy White (still), they are tearing people apart. Granted, they lost to the Bengals (woopty do, that’s possibly the best team in all of football and it was on the road) and they destroyed a terrible Bucs team but do we even know that anybody else is going to score damn near 60 points against Tampa? The Falcons will continue to stampede teams until they meet a defense that is as grimy as Cincy’s was. Minnesota has a vastly underrated defense but their ineptitude on offense (no thanks in part to Adrian Peterson’s absence and Kyle Rudolph’s devastating injury) is going to, like we have seen so many times with so many teams, render their stout defense ineffective. Pity, too. The Vikes at full strength with Bridgewater under center could have been an exciting play in the NFC North.
Falcons

Eagles at Niners
A must-win for the Niners? Perhaps. The one thing that is perfectly clear is that the Niners are not themselves until about midseason so they are really going to have to dig deep to survive until then and stay within striking distance of both the division lead and any potential wild card. Yes, they have to start thinking about that now. The Cardinals are trying to run away with the division and the Seahawks, minus their hiccup in SD, aren’t going to lose many games. The Niners need to start winning games and it starts with their horrendous second half play. Unfortunately for them, they get the absolute worst match up given that specific set of circumstances as they draw possibly the BEST second half team in the NFL. The Eagles don’t actually play any first halves, if you look closely. This is a recipe for disaster. And that is why I am picking the Niners! (humans everywhere scratch their heads and wonder). The Niners are in a desperate must-win situation at home where they got blasted in the fourth quarter by Chicago a couple weeks ago. Philly’s offensive line is an infirmary and their defense got shredded by Cousins a week ago. The Niners dig deep and gut out a win and stay in the hunt while the rest of the division sleeps.
Niners

Saints at Cowboys
The Saints are in must-win territory, as well. They visit a surprising 2-1 Dallas team with  a miserable 1-2 start and I say miserable because most of their points were scored in the first game of the season and since then they’ve been shut down and sneaked by an out-of-whack Vikings team that can’t beat anybody right now. Not impressed. Now they get a Cowboys team that runs the ball really well, has explosive receivers on both sides of the field and a defense that is playing way over its head. The Saints obviously have the offensive weapons to unleash at any given time but they will have to do it on the road where they have traditionally not been particularly good. Their running game is a bit banged up but from all indications, Khiry Robinson is a useful back. For the Saints, this is must-win territory but I think the slide continues. No bouncing back in Big D for the Saints.
Cowboys

Patriots at Chiefs
Is Tom Brady on the decline? That has to be the pressing question in New England. He isn’t declining to where there needs to be any concern about finding other QBs or anything like that but it would be prudent of the team to strongly consider drafting one next Spring. Just saying. His accuracy is down, his arm strength questionable, his protection a mess. He is getting banged around left and right and can’t find his receivers. There is an unbalanced rushing attack in New England with no clear idea of who is running when and why. Somehow, some way, with the awkward mixture of elements, Belichick finds ways to win and the Patriots are sitting at 2-1 and are about to go 3-1 as the rug gets pulled out from underneath the Chiefs after a strong 34 point effort against Miami last week. New England has played a soft schedule so far and it continues against a Chiefs team that just doesn’t pass the ball very well and has a lot of questions in their backfield. Certainly, the possible return of Jamaal Charles is exciting but he was fairly ineffective prior to his injury and while Knile Davis looks pretty strong, he has fumbilitis. Defensively, the Chiefs are good but not great as they give up a lot on the ground; if New England can establish the run early, it’ll open up Brady-to-Gronk and the Pats will roll. New England doesn’t lose many games in primetime and Monday Night is where guys like Brady shine.
Patriots

Dig it.

NFL Week 3 Picks: Of Mediocrity and Hilarity

This has to be one of the messiest NFL seasons in forever; it certainly is the most erratic in recent memory (and that includes last year’s record-setting “parity”). This is part grown-man drama, part paradigm shifting social change, part epic injury pandemonium, part fantasy football mayhem. And it oddly mirrors my own personal life in its unbridled chaos which is tastelessly (albeit intriguing) and tragically funny. Or naw.

I was, again, shit awful last week with yet another mediocre, middling 8-8 showing. I have better odds flipping a fucking coin right now.

Picks:

Bucs at Falcons
The Bucs are one of the trainwrecks of the early season. So much promise, so little translation of it. Lovie Smith was supposed to turn this puppy around and instead, this team looks worse than last year’s edition. Knowing me and my shit luck, this is probably the week they put it all together on the road in primetime against a division rival and win! And yet I’m still going with the Falcons even despite their craptastic run defense and Bobby Rainey being everybody’s darling flavor of the week (or one of them, at any rate). Matty Ice will look to bounce back from last week’s tough match up and should have a monster game at home.
Falcons

Chargers at Bills
A tough call, actually. One thing you have to understand about the Chargers (and this is coming from very astute observation as a Raider fan) is that this is the one team in the NFL over the past decade that refuses to make any sense to anyone. They are as likely to beat the Seahawks in a fantastic show of offensive fluidity and rigid defensive gameplanning… and then follow it up with a dud on the road in upstate New York. Which is what I’m goin’ with. The Bills are one of the brightest surprises in the early season with an underrated defense, the same ol’ exciting backfield they’ve been rollin’ out there for the past couple years, a passing game that is gaining traction (and a QB that is gaining confidence) and a lot of off-field mojo feeding the momentum. The “Ralph” will be poppin’ and the Bills will ride this into an unexpected 3-0 start. Or they just lose just because and make me look like a tool.
Bills

Titans at Bengals
I’d tell you that the Titans are also a team on the uptick except for that stinker they laid at home against the Cowboys. They couldn’t stop anything defensively, through the air or on the ground and Locker looked lost against an overachieving but still pristinely untalented defense. Except for Delanie Walker, he found him ALL DAY. That won’t work with the Bengals defense in Cincinnati. Cincy has looked like possibly the best team in the NFL so far and that running game is so scary explosive with the two headed attack of Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, you know they’re licking their chops after seeing what DeMarco Murray rattled off against Tennessee. This one’s a lock. Unless you are me, of course.
Bengals

Ravens at Browns
Exciting that this game is between two rivals coming off huge wins in spite of suspended and/or outright cut superstars. That said, I have been far more impressed by the Browns and that is saying a lot considering how good the Ravens have been. The Browns have an exciting young running game with Terrance West and Isiah Crowell, a QB that is getting settled in and a stout defense. If the Browns can duplicate what they were able to do defensively last week against the far more formidable Saints offense, they’ll be able to easily limit Baltimore enough to overcome their defense with a solid ground game. Oh and it looks like Jordan Cameron is suiting up and that’s gotta be great news to Brian Hoyer. I’m riding the wave.
Browns

Packers at Lions
Lots-o-points Part 1. It isn’t so much that these are two awful defenses (because they aren’t awful), it’s just that these two offenses are way more potent than either defense is able to really manage; the one caveat being Detroit’s surprisingly decent run defense which will now be the third straight game that Eddie Lacy won’t factor as much into the result as McCarthy and co. would like. Sure, you’ve still got Aaron Rodgers tossing the rock to any of fifteen good receivers but the lack of balance suggests Detroit is still going to win the game, unfortunately. There’s utterly nothing that indicates that the Packer defense will be able to stop both the air attack of Stafford to Megatron/Starscream/Shockwave and the Bell-n-Bush show on the ground. Slight edge to the home team.
Lions

Cowboys at Rams
Well that was nice, Rams nation. Now back to Shaun Hill (probably) and the fail that is the Rams offense. Stacy is holding off the guys in the wings but he is no barn burner and the Cowboys made the Titans offense look ineffective despite much better weapons than this Rams team has. The Rams can play tough defense, sure, but the Cowboys through two games have looked like a very explosive offense that was suffering from a case of the Romos in week 1 but suffering from nothing in week 2. Expect a road win here for the Boys.
Cowboys

Raiders at Patriots
Ok, just shut up. I have nothing. Except that the Raiders suck on the East Coast, suck in general and can’t possibly ruin my prognostication record this week because I’m not going to be an idiot and pick them for the 12th straight year in every match up. This one is going to be a bloodbath. I hope they don’t break our shiny new Carr because I really do like the kid and feel sorry for him to be a part of this mess. OK I really don’t know why I’m still talking.
Patriots

Vikings at Saints
So the Vikings realized last week that Matt Asiata would be a third stringer on half of the teams in the NFL and that without Adrian Peterson, they look horrible. So they tried to bring AP back… and of course everybody in the world started to hate them for being Purple Baby Eaters. Which then led to them deactivating him AGAIN (Fantasy owners, like myself, hate the Vikings right now btw). Naturally, none of that will matter in a few days. Even with the tragically poor timing of Ingram’s injury (he was having such a nice season), Brees and co. (and Khiry Robinson) is going to unleash the fury of having to lose against the Browns on the Vikings in the Superdome.
Saints

Texans at Giants
What was effectively lost in the slaughter that was the Texans and Raiders game was really how much better the Texans look (you can never tell what a team is when they play against the Raiders who will ensure you look GREAT). Their defense is pretty tough (and that’s without Clowney. Wow) and Arian Foster is bringing 2010 back. So is Andre Johnson. And Fitzpatrick is quietly not fucking everything up which is good for the Texans. Also good for the Texans is that they get to play the Giants this week which is probably the only other team not named the Raiders that is completely dysfunctional. They’re so bad, they might make the Texans look like a super bowl contender for yet another week! (aka before they start playing real football teams again). That is, or Eli goes all 2010 and feeds his crybaby wideout buddy Victor “not dancing anymore” Cruz to the tune of 100+ yards and 2 scores. Which if you’re me…………
Texans

Redskins at Eagles
How was there ever a doubt that DeSean Jackson would find a way to get on the field for this one. He may not be at 100% but this is one of those few players that elevates when he feels like it and I know he will be FEELING it. Expect whatever Niles Paul was doing last week as Cousins’ go-to to be in the good hands and lightning feet of DJax. And even though Cousins looks considerably better than RG3 and has all those myriad of weapons between Morris and Garcon and Jackson and Paul, the Eagles look like the best offense in all of football. Their defense leaves a lot to be desired but even the Colts and their explosive offense couldn’t outscore these guys in Indy. Even when you slap them with double digit deficits in every game! Chip Kelly is playing dirty by rolling out both Shady McCoy and Sprolesy at the same time. That’s just yuck. It’s like playing Madden for cryin aloud. If the Eagles even pretend to not fall behind early, they will run away with this game by halftime.
Eagles

Colts at Jags
So the last two victims of Chip Kelly and his flying Eagles meet up this week and my money is going on Luck and company to avenge their rough MNF loss with a pounding of the Jaguars. For a moment the Jags started to look a little more promising than years past when they jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead in week 1 against Philly. But then again, we now know that Philly just doesn’t like playing 1st halves because they must remind them of Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb or something, I don’t know. Since then, the Jags have been destroyed in every possible way. And the Colts and their high flying offense is coming to town to destroy them some more. WOPZ.
Colts

Niners at Cardinals
One of this week’s truer toss-ups and what is likely going to be a really fun game to watch. Division rivals playing an early season power grab in a suddenly wide open NFC West thanks to the CHARGAZ. This means one of these teams has a chance to jump into a 2-1 lead or tie in the division while the Seahawks have to mess with an angry hive of bees, nest of hornets, den of bears, or stable of broncos. Or whatever. Anyway. The Niners defense isn’t what it used to be without their vaunted pass rush and with so many dinged corners and that bodes poorly against a talented offense like Arizona’s. Good news for the Niners is that Arizona is also missing a couple of pieces from their offense, chiefly Carson Palmer and Jonathan Dwyer (what is with all these beaters, anyway?). Stanton looked respectable under center (easy to do when your weapons include Fitz, Floyd, Brown and Ellington) and should be alright at home. Defensively, Arizona isn’t as tough as everybody expected them to be coming in due to a rash of injuries but they’re talented enough to get the job done at home against the Niners. The Niners showed last week to have some serious issues closing out games with a defense that might require them to score 30 just to win in the first half of the season. The Niners are definitely most people’s pick in this one but I’m going with the home team in such a coin flip. And also because I don’t really care who wins this game on a personal level. Except for in my office pool. That I do care about.
Cards

Chiefs at Dolphins
Another total tosser. Jamaal Charles’ injury poses an interesting quandary. Kniles Davis certainly showed that he is more than capable of running the rock with authority and effectively and Coach Reid has been clear about not intending on changing the game plan because of the injury. But really what does that mean? The Dolphins got pretty smashed on the ground last week but all in all have a tough defense and it may force the Chiefs to rely more on Smith to Bowe and Smith to Kelce. The Chiefs hung tough defensively with the Broncos offense so that is extremely promising but that was also a divisional rivalry and not in the Eastern Time zone.
Dolphins

Broncos at Seahawks
Yes, I know nobody ever beats the Hawks at home. Yes, I know they are coming off a tough loss against the Chargers and they don’t lose back to back games. Yes, I remember last year’s glorious Super Bowl beatdown of the Donks. And because of all of that, I am picking Peyton and the Broncos to avenge themselves. Why? Because I suck at these picks things. That and I know that this date has probably been circled on the calendar (oh the ol’ adage!) since the damn schedules were released and that Denver has gameplanned specifically to adjust to the offensive struggles they had in the Super Bowl. The Broncos retooled their defense and are getting Welker back. The Chargers didn’t “expose” anything but they did show that A) you can beat the Seahawks by mismatching with the TE (and Denver certainly has a good one in JT) and B) control the clock, convert your third downs (the return of Welker should help) and voilà. I totally get how risky this call is. But after going 8-8 in back to back weeks, I’d be a fool to go gunshy on an opportunity like this one. ROLL.
Broncos

Steelers at Panthers
The Steelers have been one of the more peculiar teams this year. At times, they look fantastic, able to move the ball on the ground with Bell and Big Ben slinging it all over the field between Brown and Wheaton and Miller and Bell. Then there are times when their defense looks like it can be slaughtered on the outsides. Then there are times when the Steelers can’t move the ball or score with regularity, relying on scoring in bunches to carry them… except with that defense, it is beyond folly. On the flip, the Panthers look filthy. Defensively, they may be the best outside of Seattle. With or without Hardy. Cam Newton showed some rust and rookie Benjamin dropped some passes in Week 2 against the Lions but that’s ok because once they start clicking, it’s over. Their run game leaves a lot to be desired as their oft-injured and at times over hyped tandem of Williams and Stewart just can’t ever be on the field consistently. That said, even without Williams, the Panthers offense is starting to get a little more untracked with the emergence of Avant as a reliable second option in the offense and with Cam getting a week of action under his belt. This one is in Carolina and that never bodes well when dealing with that sort of defense.
Panthers

Bears at Jets
Letdown time for da bears. Great, classic comeback on the road in primetime to spoil San Fran’s big party in Santa Clara. But that’s because SF’s defense is whack these days. The Jets have been quietly a very competitive team. Granted they beat up on a worthless Raider team and gave up a ton of 2nd half points to the Packers but that’s Green Bay and keeping them in check all game is damn near impossible. Is the Bears offense capable of the same thing? Absolutely. In New York? Meh. The Bears might not be so lucky to face a defense capable of giving up that much real estate late in the game as did the Niners. The Jets can hardly be run on which means this is going to have to lie in Cutler’s hands and things are usually not ok when that is the case. Marshall and Jeffrey are a bit banged up and the Jets are physical. Offensively, I expect the Jets to run, run, run and don’t look now but Geno Smith is starting to get more and more comfortable back there and may just be enough of a game manager to win these kinds of games. The AFC East is about to get interesting!
Jets

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NFL Week 2 Picks: The Rogering, The Ravening and Other Stories

What a tumultuous week in the NFL, eh?

This season has already been one of the worst PR trainwrecks the league has ever found itself in and we are barely a week in. Already, there are calls for the commissioner’s head and TMZ involvement is never good. This is like that accident you see on the side of the road that keeps causing other accidents because everybody and their mother can’t resist rubbernecking to catch a glimpse of The Rogering, the harsh reckoning that’s coming to Commissioner Goodell soon. In light of the reports that he either lied about not seeing the Ray Rice elevator footage or for running an inept ship to where something like that was kept from him, his position cannot be considered a very strong one.

Not to mention The Ravening; nothing good can come from GM Ozzie Newsome’s odd albeit earnest statement that Ray Rice had told him the truth about what happened in the elevator which now puts the organization in hot water as well for not having reported it or shared it with the league or union or otherwise acted on. All in all, it is like four trains crashing into each other simultaneously.

I mean, things are so awful with the Raygate, that the previous PR nightmare the league was going through with the league drug policy is suddenly an afterthought… and rightfully so. After all, Ray Rice clean clocking his fiancee in an elevator with the one-hitter-quitter left hook is a considerably more jarring indictment of the inhumanity of some (and a more permanent black eye for the league) than… you know… Josh Gordon not even smoking any pot and getting suspended a whole season for a borderline test, anyway due to some neanderthalic three-strikes rule. And of course Wes’ mystery molly (whatever, bro, cool hat). Oh and Vance MacDonald and Greg Hardy and….

It is hard to talk about the NFL these days without having to delve into all these off-field distractions. Granted, most casual observers of the game don’t really get too caught up in the in-game drama as much as the die-hards so this stuff is like candy for them. This is reality TV at its finest and so it makes sense that it dominates the airwaves and print and the blog-o-sphere. And trust me, I’ll be sharing my own take on these issues in due time as well. Naturally.

But I’m a football guy first and foremost and the only thing I give a shit about right now is Week 2 kicking off in a few hours in Baltimore. There’ll be plenty of time later to rant about the inhumanity of Ray Rice, the indiscretion of the league, the asinine witch hunt of marijuana in pro sports and the future of Roger Goodell as a result of all of it.

Moving on.
Week 2

Steelers at Ravens
What was more surprising? That the Steelers couldn’t stop the Browns in the second half and nearly gave the game away? Or that the Ravens stormed back on the Bengals only to fall just short of an improbable win? Either way, Pittsburgh has got to be concerned about letting the Ravens back into the game although one has to wonder how all the awful media attention the franchise has been getting because of Ray Rice will affect them. Typically, it either galvanizes a team or unravels it. Forsett was a reasonably effective runner after B Pierce was shut down. They’ll have to pound the rock on Pitts to beat them. On the other side, it looks like the Steeler offense is locked and loaded behind Bell and Ben… but their defense looks like, as one pundit put it, the Soft Curtain. I am weary of a Harbaugh led, inspired Ravens team in B-more on a Thursday night.
Ravens

Patriots at Vikings
For one half, the Patriots looked like your good ol’ Pats beating up on those good ol’ buds of theirs down in Miami. Except, by the second half, the Dolphin defense really started to harass Brady and took control of the flow of the game with an excellent edge rush and a very good run game. Looking at this match up, I don’t see much of a difference. The Vikings will obviously run the rock as effectively if not more so than Miami did and C-Pat has emerged as a near-impossible to stop force underneath. New England will have their hands full on that side of the ball and the 33 points they gave up to Miami will seem mild compared to Minnesota’s potential output as they have the potential to be a sneaky player in the NFC North.
Vikings

Saints at Browns
I expected the barn burner; but I was impressed by the Matty Ice Bros. They shredded and worked this supposedly improved Saints defense like it was soft cream dropping 30+ on them easy. Granted, the Browns won’t be able to put up that kind of scoring but they also showed a bit of explosiveness in the second half of their tilt with the equally soft and creamy defense. The Browns actually have a decent shot at giving the Saints some issues if the West/Crowell tandem is for real and they can not only dictate the flow of the game and keep it out of Brees’ paws but open up their own pass game. And of course if Jordan Cameron plays. And it would be nice if Josh Gordon was reinstated already. Yeah…
Saints

Falcons at Bengals
Speaking of the Matty Ice Bros… how about that fluid offense. When Ingram pummeled into the endzone near the end of regulation last week, I knew that Birds weren’t done but it looked like I was going to get away with a correct pick. Until the Falcons of course flashed the Matty Ice Bros! The defense for Atlanta still looks extremely suspect and the Saints game was something of a tossup, honestly. The Bengals are much tougher on that side of the ball and still have the offensive firepower with a very balanced attack to put up 30 some points just like New Orleans could. I don’t see Atlanta’s defense playing well enough on the road to unseat a Bengals team that may have hiccupped a bit late against their rivals from Baltimore but generally look set to win the AFC North and contend in the postseason.
Bengals 

Lions at Panthers
This is one of the tougher ones to call this week. What we saw from the Lions is an unstoppable offense (we also watched a putrid Giants team that could neither stop anyone nor move the chains themselves). What we saw from the Panthers is a defense so good, it allowed Derek Anderson to play loose enough to perform his best Tom Brady impression. Any way you slice it, this will be one of the stiffer tests the Lions will face this year, that’s for sure. Now plug in Cam Newton and this Lions’ defense will definitely be tested far more than Eli and company were able to last week. On the road. Hard to trust the Lions here. I really do like what they’re doing in Detroit but Carolina looks poised to get theirs this Sunday.
Panthers 

Cardinals at Giants
What to do about the Giants? It is hard to figure out what is going on with the G-men on either side of the ball, honestly. We thought their defense was going to be a low key surprise after how well they finished the year last season but they got torched by Detroit. And offensively, Eli looks a mess. His timing is off, he is running for his life behind the line, his receivers are pouty, and while Rashad Jennings has looked good, even as a bellcow he isn’t too convincing. On the flipside, Arizona survived a stiff show from the Chargers and that’s no joke; the Chargers are a sneaky team that is especially tough on defense especially in primetime. Yet when it counted, Arizona moved the ball fluidly and Palmer took advantage of one of his many explosive weapons. I don’t think where they play this game matters too much. The Cardinals will give up some points with all the attrition to their defense but this offense is barely starting to take off.
Cards 

Cowboys at Titans
What to do about Tony Romo? He looked visibly hurt out there, just to be clear… this maybe had less to do with Romo being Romo and more to do with just being out of sync and out of flow. Their defense is still as worthless as we thought they’d be and they face another rough go with the Titans. Even if the Cowboys don’t make as many mistakes as they did against the Niners, they are looking at a defense that can presently stop the run way better than the Niners who have injuries/suspensions throughout their front seven. The Titans will not give up as much real estate (in Nashville, no less) as the Niners did. And sleeping on Jake Locker and the Titans offense is also a big mistake. I think they may be the best team in their division and it wouldn’t even be a question if Luck wasn’t quarterbacking in Indy.
Titans

Dolphins at Bills
This is another exciting one that is tough to call. Both of these AFC East rivals got stunning wins to kick off the new season and in largely the same way. They dominated on the ground and they forced turnovers with strong defense. Both teams come in looking eerily similar; both have exciting dual-back attacks whether it is Miller/Moreno or Jackson/Spiller, they have exciting receivers that can stretch the field and elite pass rushes. This puppy’s a push; even Vegas has no clue. But I do. Conventional wisdom would tell you that the Dolphins going up to Buffalo would be a tall order given how otherwise evenly matched the teams are. However, Miami has the more reliable QB in the often underrated Tannehill. His line is still pretty atrocious but they looked really good the second half of their match with New England and if they hold up, this could be a surprising 2-0 start for the Phins.
Dolphins

Jags at Skins
Well, they both lost in week 1 but Washington’s is far more concerning. The Jaguars arguably shocked the football world more than anyone else with their first half against Philly… before giving up a gazillion unanswered points in the second half. They are what we thought they’d be. Washington on the other hand has to be concerned about RG3 and his very obvious lack of confidence in his game. He has a full arsenal of weapons and a decent enough defense to where they can win games. Against Houston, they moved the ball fine against a very good defense, ran the ball with authority with Alfred Morris in limited touches and passed the ball effectively enough. But they couldn’t close anything. Their one TD drive came with a missed XP. That’s just it; they don’t know how to win games. They better find a way to do so this weekend in their home opener.
Redskins

Rams at Bucs
Oi, what a train wreck. First of all, this game has the potential to be a shitshow. Secondly, I feel really bad for Rams fans (ok, I lied, I don’t but it is really sad) that on the verge of a really promising season where they were going to try and sneak into the NFC West conversation with all the hopes of a dominant division, they lose their QB (again) and now lost DE Chris Long. Their strongest strength, their defense, is going to get shredded only because they are going to be exhausted and worn out from their offense not being on the field much. Their offense is going to look as futile as it did Sunday, pretty much all season. The Bucs are also a trainwreck. They had all manners of hype coming into the year (as well as from yours truly) and they laid a fatty. McCown was a bad idea for the organization, they should have trusted in the young kid Glennon with all the shiny weapons they have on that side of the ball. Their defense didn’t look terribly bad against Carolina but it was hard to get any momentum or consistency going when you had McCown and the offense failing to do anything every possession. This is one of those situations where one of these fail teams has to win and the one that is playing at home is the more likely to do it. If the Bucs can get things going, they can be a tough out for anybody. Well, anybody except for the Rams.
Bucs

Seahawks at Chargers
The Chargers certainly don’t get an easy start to the season. A week after taking their first loss in a tough one against a tough NFC West opponent, they get the class of that division (and likely all football). Luckily for them, the game is in sunny San Diego. Unluckily for them, it doesn’t really matter. Listen, after what Seattle did to the Packers defensively in completely shutting down one of the best offenses in the NFL and after what Seattle showed with their use of Percy Harvin and the power by which Marshawn Lynch is still running, this team got BETTER. They will continue to roll.
Seahawks

Jets at Packers
Gang Green got the expected win last week against my Raiders. They fall to 1-1 this week. This is the absolute worst time to play the Pack in Lambeau lol All of that frustration from Opening Night is going to get taken out on the Jets to the tune of about 40 or so points. A-Rod is goin’ off, if Lacy suits up, he’ll go off, if not, Starks will go bananas… all this against a pretty solid defensive front and shaky but serviceable secondary. The Jets offensively will be able to score about the same amount of points they scored against the Raiders. That won’t be nearly enough. This one’s a wrap.
Packers

Chiefs at Broncos
The Chiefs get some guys back that they sorely needed with Dwayne Bowe being the most notable but the truth is, they are running into a team that is on a mission to crush ALL opposition. The Chiefs were exposed in the secondary by Tennessee and that Titan defense exposed the KC line for what it is without Branden Albert. The Broncos will pin their ears back, chase Smith, force them to abandon Charles early (except maybe in the pass game) when they jump out to one of their signature 21-0, 3 TDs to D. or J. Thomas or whoever Peyton feels like feeding on Sunday. Broncos keep rolling.
Broncos 

Texans at Raiders
If you know anything about me at all, it is that when it comes to picks, I have been handicapping myself since the beginning of time by always letting the homer make the pick for me. This week won’t be any different. I was burned by the Jets loss only because there really was plenty of opportunity to take that game had the Raider offensive line held up against the blitz better and had MJD not been completely useless against New York’s stout DL. Problem for the Raiders is that the Texans aren’t any slouches defensively either and will pose the same problems for the running game. However, MJD can’t go this weekend, meaning McFadden gets a shot at validating why the Raiders went there again in resigning him on a one year contract after so many promising years ended early with injuries. If he goes off (which he has always been able to do), that might be enough to open up the pass for Carr who looked great were it not for having to run for his life the whole damn time. The Raider defense looked solid enough against the Jets until they started to really get gouged. The Texans can still hurt you on that side of the ball but this may be one of the last winnable games for the Silver n Black for a long while so they are going to need to come out guns blazing in front of the Black Hole and handle their business.
Raiders

Bears at Niners
I didn’t see either of their first games coming. The Bears weren’t supposed to lose to Buffalo with that high powered offense of theirs. Jay Cutler did his best Tony Romo impersonation and didn’t make all his weapons count for anything. Speaking of Tony Romo, he made the Niners secondary look a lot better than they actually are. Forte will have no problems doing to the Niners what Murray did to them except with more versatility and maybe more damage as a result. All of that said, Cutler is shaping up more and more to be very Tony Romo like. He is great for your fantasy team in that he will throw a lot and there are big receivers who can haul in passes… but forget expecting him to win consistently because he just doesn’t. The Niners are basically playing the same type of game back to back weeks except this one is at home opening the new stadium (in a regular season game). No dice, Chi Town.
Niners

Eagles at Colts
So, are we expecting 70? 80 points? Niether of these guys play any defense. Both of these guys have really good young QBs who love to throw it all over the place. As unbalanced as Indy is, I just think they have the better QB and are at home and quite honestly, that is what I am basing my pick on. I don’t like how easily the Eagles allowed JAX to put up an early big lead. Granted they came back but that’s because the Jags couldn’t keep scoring points. The Colts basically only stop scoring points when the final whistle blows.
Colts

 

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