Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 06:25 PM
Posted Monday, September 15, 2014 03:06 PM
by Michael Stewart
Like I said when I debuted the Power Rankings last week, some teams are going to experience massive boosts while others suffer perilous free-falls as I try to get a cohesive sense of the league. It's still far too early to say which team is the best and which one's the worst, and gambling records are always going to factor in to how this plays out as well as actual records. That's why Denver, which is by all accounts the "best team in the NFL right now" is dropped to third overall behind Seattle and Philadelphia. Now is actually a good time to refresh you on the rules for my rankings...
-ATS records matter because this is a gambling article about gambling on a gambling website. Teams overachieving in the book are always going to get a bit more of a nod when they're making us money.
-I'm not scared to demote a good team, or promote a bad one, based on a small sample size (e.g. two weeks of NFL football). Case in point: the New Orleans Saints, who went from 7th in preseason to 14th to 19th. In my head, they're still one of the best teams in the NFL but right now they're not playing like it. The simple rule is that teams don't get a free pass based on reputation alone. Everything's earned.
-There is zero point for you to read this when I write stuff like, "Indy took a tough loss at home, but has a great chance to bounce back next week". I hate reading rankings with garbage copy like that, so I'm not going to write one that way. As usual, sometimes I feel the need to be hilarious and other times I'll dive in to some analysis. Depends on how drunk I am in the middle of the day, to be honest.
So look, Philly is by no means the best team in the league. Carolina is still an unproven commodity. New England took advantage of a pathetic matchup against a quarterback they knew inside and out. But the records are what they are. I promise that this will get sorted out by Week 5, but until then it's going to be a roller coaster ride for a lot of these teams. Let's get to it!
1. Chip Kelly's Eagles (2-0 SU and ATS)
Man if these guys can ever figure out how to score touchdowns in the first half, the rest of the league is in trouble! I understand the need for second-half adjustments. Harbaugh's Niners are notorious for being a terrific second half monster. Does Chip Kelly just study teams like a college student, procrastinating until the last-minute until it's time to get down to brass tax? It's baffling. You shouldn't be that wholly unprepared with an offence this gifted after preparing for a game over the course of an entire week, then suddenly figure things out after half an hour.
2. Seattle Seahawks (1-1 SU and ATS)
It's probably really easy to call Richard Sherman "just another guy" when you don't have to face him for another four years unless you get to the Super Bowl.
3. Denver Broncos (2-0 SU and 0-2 ATS)
Kansas City and Denver are division rivals and I'm still kicking myself for not giving the Chiefs some credit in that department as +13.0 dogs in Week 2. But to be fair, Denver hasn't covered a game. It will be nearly impossible for me to drop them out of the top-5 unless they don't beat the spread for an entire month. Then they'll just be the sixth best team in my rankings. Oh the pain of trying to maintain your integrity as a handicapper!
4. Carolina Panthers (2-0 SU and ATS)
I'm SO MAD that I fell asleep on Cam Newton and the Panthers after pumping up the hype train all year. Get on board! I'm going to go find my OshKosh B'Gosh overalls and start lumping coal in to a hot fire.
5. Arizona Cardinals (2-0 SU and ATS)
Bruce Arians has lost something like forty thousand starters and still pumps out victories. How? Because whatever system he has going for him works. This is a scary good team that's probably got the best coach in the game (qualifier: that nobody's talking about). Of course, I'm not putting all the stock in to them beating up on the Giants but they're undefeated against the spread, and were a betting force of nature last year at 11-5 ATS. So this isn't unjustifiable considering how lame the rest of the league is.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0 SU and ATS)
Here we go with betting on Cincinnati at home again...shoot me now.
7. New England Patriots (1-1 SU and ATS)
That was just Belichik knowing how to make Matt Cassel suffer. And also something something Adrian Peterson. I still don't totally trust the Patriots but they're playing it smart with Gronkowski and this revitalized defence can carry the load until we're ready to see all the Gronk Spikes.
8. San Diego Chargers (1-1 SU and ATS)
I'm one week away from starting my Philip Rivers for MVP campaign. I'm dead serious. There was no bigger Rivers fan than me last season. Read my archives if you don't believe me. If he continues to pummel teams without Ryan Matthews to back him up, the case will get even stronger. Rejoice, San Diego! It only took you two years to shake the stench of Norv from your jerseys!
9. Atlanta Falcons (1-1 SU and ATS)
The health and durability of Jake Matthews is going to make or break this season for the Falcons. They were already paper thin on the offensive line, and without him the offence was in shambles. If he fends off Tampa's Michael Johnson this Thursday, the Falcons might lock in to a top-10 spot for the remainder of the year. That says a lot about them, but it also speaks volumes about how much other teams are under-performing right now.
10. San Francisco 49ers (1-1 SU and ATS)
That was a kitchen sink game from Chicago, and Kaepernick was trying too hard to make things happen when he didn't need to. This Niners team can ride out the storm until their defence is at full strength (this does not include Ray McDonald, a player nobody outside of San Fran even know of until he beat up his pregnant wife...he's a product of the system...I mean Harbaugh's defence, not the ghetto or the 'burbs or wherever he actually grew up. Jeez.).
11. Indianapolis Colts (1-1 SU and ATS)
Does anyone else want Andrew Luck to read them bedtime stories with his baritone voice after hearing Gruden gush about it all night on Monday? Just me?
12. Detroit Lions (1-1 SU and ATS)
There are very few traditions I hate more than Detroit's annual "beat up bad teams, get clobbered by good teams" routine.
13. Green Bay Packers (1-1 SU and 0-1-1 ATS)
This team is softer than Charmin toilet paper. I REALLY want to drop them lower than this, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because of Aaron Rodgers. They couldn't possibly miss Ben McAdoo that much.
14. Chicago Bears (1-1 SU and ATS)
I have a lot of thoughts on Chicago's win over San Francisco, and the complexion of this team in general. I'll save that for my weekend previews. I just want to say on record that I'm insanely jealous that I didn't think of the Jay Cutler Smoking thing on the internet. What a great way to spend your Sundays, watching for images of a sad sack Jay Cutler looking like he's on the tail end of a weekend binge.
15. Houston Texans (2-0 SU and ATS)
Yahoo and NFL.com need to adjust J.J. Watt's designation as a "tight end" so that I can put him on my fantasy team.
16. Cleveland Browns (1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS)
Only an idiot would've ranked the Browns as the worst team in the league heading in to the regular season. Oh wait a second...sorry, Hoyer. I should've had more faith.
17. Baltimore Ravens (1-1 SU and ATS)
I guess you should never underestimate just how much the Ravens hate Pittsburgh...and how relieved they are to move on from the Ray Rice ordeal.
19. Buffalo Bills (2-0 SU and ATS)
I was reading up on Sammy Watkins saying how "E.J. Manuel is getting better". Isn't Watkins the rookie while Manuel's a second year pro? Does anyone else find this as comical as me? Nobody? Great, moving on!
19. New Orleans Saints (0-2 SU and ATS)
You don't lose two games to two teams that might not be elite and never cover and not throw to Jimmy Graham and lose Mark Ingram and not start tumbling fast and hard. The crazy part? They could still totally win this division. The NFC South everyone!
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1 SU and ATS)
I'm not giving up on the Steelers totally! Give me some Cow Bell! Seriously! HE'S THE ONLY THING HOLDING MY FANTASY TEAM TOGETHER!
21. Tennessee Titans (1-1 SU and ATS)
Remember how hot everyone was about Bishop Sankey? He has eight touches in two games. What a crazy rise and fall for a guy who never deserved it and is now being screamed at by douchey fantasy owners who were dumb enough to draft him in the second or third round.
22. Miami Dolphins (1-1 SU and ATS)
Ryan Tannehill really shouldn't panic that badly when teams cover Mike Wallace, but it's obvious that Philbin's play calling on the road is to blame for this team's travelling circus woes. His excuse was even worse. "I didn't want to be done 0-16 heading in to the half". Translation: I don't trust my offence one bit. Ouch.
23. Washington Redskins (1-1 SU and ATS)
It's sort of sadistic to me that Washington fans are so quickly rejoicing that the Kirk Cousins era can begin. Can't we be sad about what the hell is happening to RG3 for a minute before we start throwing dirt on his career? This totally sucks.
24. Minnesota Vikings (1-1 SU and ATS)
The Vikings should release Adrian Peterson only for the sheer joy of watching how every other team in the NFL reacts. You don't think Jerry Jones and other owners would pounce on him even after everything that's going on? Then you don't know how absolutely f'd up this league can get.
25. Dallas Cowboys (1-1 SU and ATS)
Two things are crazy to me about Dallas: that DeMarco Murray is on his way to becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL and that the sample size for Tony Romo's follow-up games after throwing multiple interceptions in the game before has such a large, and reliable, sample size.
26. St. Louis Rams (1-1 SU and ATS)
Gritty. Capable. Well coached. Nothing about the Rams is on the money or easy to predict. They're probably my favourite not-actually-favourite betting team. I have ZERO idea what to make of them with their current makeup. Or maybe the Bucs are just terrible and I shouldn't overthink it.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2 SU and 1-1 ATS)
Maybe I watch too much football (that's what the wife says), but announcers kept talking about Alex Smith's ability to use his legs. Isn't he ALWAYS using his legs? Like, even if he's sitting down he's technically using his legs. If he's throwing the football he's using his legs. If he's taking out the trash he's using his legs. I wonder if Gus Johnson sees Alex Smith carrying shopping bags around town and says to himself, "There's Alex Smith using his legs again! GODDAMN WHAT AN ATHLETE!"
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2 SU and ATS)
And the hits just keep on coming for Tampa with McCoy breaking his hand, Michael Johnson tweaking his ankle and Doug Martin hitting the injury report. These are all crappy injuries when the player they really need hurt is Josh McCown because that guy has got to go. I'm not suggesting a bad injury, just one that's bad enough to get Mike Glennon back on the field. I still don't know what that kid did to deserve a demotion other than looking like Napoleon Dynamite.
29. Oakland Raiders (0-2 SU and 1-1 ATS)
Is it weird that I thought to myself, "Wow, this is the best quarterback Oakland has had in ten years" while watching Derek Carr play this weekend? Has it really been that bad???
30. New York Jets (1-1 SU and ATS)
Trust Rex Ryan's staff to be dumb enough to ice their own quarterback. Obviously they've come out and said that they have to trust him more. It's been a year-and-a-half, guys. Either you do or you don't.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2 SU and ATS)
Man, I always liked Toby Gerhart (won some money thanks to his days at Stanford) but I guess we have pretty positive proof as to why no team every approached Minnesota to get him in the first place. A 1.1 YPC average on Sunday? Yeesh.
32. New York Giants (0-2 SU and ATS)
My pals and I were joking about how bad the Giants were, and wondered out loud if Eli ever pesters his brother about having more rings. "Sure, you've got more rings than me, Eli, but even with two Super Bowl wins everyone still hates you". That would end that imaginary conversation pretty fast.
Posted Saturday, September 13, 2014 11:35 AM
by Michael Stewart
I have always been terrified of The Dark Season, the year where we don't know anything. After watching myself get pummelled over the opening two weeks of the season, I'm starting to feel like 2014 is that year. All that being said, we can still get a handle on things which is what Buyer's Remorse is all about. Keep in mind that I've been warning you to take it easy for the first part of the betting season. Week 1 and Week 2 are exactly why.
Week 2 ATS Record: 4-11 ATS (Philadelphia +3.0 over Indianapolis still to go)
As always, the winning pick is listed first, my pick is listed second and the closing line details are in brackets. I already covered my dismal pick of Pittsburgh over Baltimore on Friday and this article is going to be long enough to begin with. Kick back and wallow with me in my utter failure.
Buffalo Bills PK over Miami Dolphins (BUF +17.5 against closing line of BUF -1.5)
The Bills just did what New England refused to do capably: cover Mike Wallace. When that started happening, the Dolphins looked lost. Losing workhorse Knowshon isn't a viable excuse because of Lamar Miller. Spiller might also end up being the ultimate x-factor because he usually only touches the ball about 12 times, but every time he does it can get out of hand. I still don't trust Buffalo and am converting to betting against Miami on the road, while standing pat at Sun Life. Oh yeah, and I hate both of these teams.
Washington Redskins -6.0 over Jacksonville Jaguars (WAS +26.0 against closing line of WAS -5.0)
Betting against RG3 is actually a bit easier than you might imagine. But Kirk Cousins is a legitimate prospect at quarterback and completely stabilized Jay Gruden's offence, which is something Griffin was never really able to do. Washington is a cagey play now and will always be daunting at home. I'm off Jacksonville until Blake Bortles gets the call. Yup, I still remember all the money he won me in college as a UCF Knight.
Dallas Cowboys +3.5 over Tennessee Titans (DAL +19.0 against closing line of TEN -3.0)
I mentioned on Friday that Linehan's use of DeMarco was a bit questionable against San Fran but when he's rolling like he was on Sunday there's no question you ride him like a dune buggy. The Cowboys are still a capable cover team, but I didn't expect them to have that kind of resolve on the road. I'm scared of Dallas but they are slipping in to my preseason prediction mould as a sneaky, mega-points team.
Cleveland Browns +6.5 over New Orleans Saints (CLE +6.5 against closing line of NO -4.5)
Cincinnati Bengals -5.5 over Atlanta Falcons (CIN +8.5 against closing line of CIN -5.5)
I fell in love with Atlanta and New Orleans after watching a thrilling Week 1 opener, but the truth is that neither are that good. Both have tons of sex appeal, but Cincinnati again looks infuriatingly comfortable at home and Cleveland is far more capable than any of us could have imagined. No Josh Gordon? No problem apparently.
Carolina Panthers -2.5 over Detroit Lions (CAR +16.0 against closing line of PK)
Did Jim Schwartz make a cameo appearance or something? That game reeked of his stench. Detroit was flat and ineffective, while Carolina has again stolen my heart with a staggering defence that might be the best in the league. Nobody makes Calvin Johnson vanish like that without earning my respect, although making Matthew Stafford look like a doofus is maybe easier than I think.
St. Louis Rams +5.5 over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (STL +6.0 against closing line of TB -4.0)
This has a lot less to do with how punchy the upstart Rams can be, and how awful Tampa has been this season. Yes, it's only two weeks, but Josh McCown was an absolute waste of time and money. The irony of the Glazers running the Bucs like they run Man United isn't lost on me. Tons of big name, free agency moves and no substance to speak of.
New York Jets +7.5 over Green Bay Packers (NYJ pushed against closing line of GB -7.0)
Holy hell Green Bay's defence looked soft AGAIN. What the hell is up with these guys? Like the Saints and Falcons, the Packers look like a deadly offence but a suspect defence all at the same time. That's a bettor's worst nightmare, especially with a heavily backed public team.
KC Chiefs +13.0 over Denver Broncos (KC +6.0 against closing line of DEN -13.0)
This was a lazy pick by me because Kansas City looked as flat and saggy as my grandmother's chest in Week 1. Denver is not as good as they were last year, which is easy to say considering they set records in 2013 at an astounding pace. Double digit lines with Denver are not to be taken lightly.
Chicago Bears +7.0 over San Francisco 49ers (CHI +15.0 against closing line of SF -7.0)
The Niners can't use the excuse of lacking linebackers this week as their secondary gave up big play after big play to the big receivers in Chicago. This isn't a likely trend continuing for the roller coaster ride that is betting on the Chicago Bears, and San Francisco's inability to assert their will against Chicago's porous defence is on Kapaernick's shoulders. I still don't have any faith in Chicago, and San Fran remains a touch-and-go play. This was just your run of the mill upset. If you saw this coming, you were throwing pickles at the window and you know it. (Yes I'm totally jealous if you took Chicago.)
Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 04:50 PM
by Michael Stewart
Week 1 went as well as I could hope. I took some chances where I shouldn't have and learned some hard lessons. Now let's apply them to Week 2! Should we expect anything better? Of course we should. It's just that it's still very early so don't go bonkers at this stage in the game. Betting on football is a marathon, not a sprint. Unless you're an idiot with your money. Then it's a sprint.
NFL ATS Record So Far: 7-9-1 ATS
Home teams are in caps, lines are subject to change and all games are on Sunday unless listed otherwise.
Pittsburgh Steelers over -2.5 over BALTIMORE RAVENS (Thursday)
You guys might not want to trust me implicitly with these Thursday night games because I've gone the wrong way in two absolute blowouts. I did not expect Pittsburgh's line to be that terrible, and while Flacco was great the one thing I totally underestimated was the galvanizing effect stemming from the closure of the Ray Rice situation. Baltimore is to be feared, but I already said this stating that these were the two best teams in the AFC North. The Steelers will be staved by Cow Bell. I hope.
Miami Dolphins PK over BUFFALO BILLS
I don't even care about the head-to-head record because in recent history both of these teams have been abysmal. The Bills have a great front-seven but I'm not betting against Miami right now, no matter where they play. The Dolphins look like a legitimate wild card team coming out of Week 1 and while it's still early, I still have hope. Ryan Tannehill is a consistently decent quarterback and that's usually all it takes against this upstart Bills team.
Jacksonville Jaguars +6.0 over WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Honestly, I'm absolutely terrified of the Washington Redskins because there's no way to properly measure the impact of a fully functioning Robert Griffin III. The question is whether or not he'll show up. A lot of teams will lose by boat loads of points to the Philadelphia Eagles. But Jacksonville at least looked competent for two quarters, and they love Gus Bradley. I'm willing to hedge on that instead of blindly hoping Washington gets their act together.
TENNESSEE TITANS -3.5 over Dallas Cowboys
The world caved in on Dallas last weekend when Romo was turnover-prone and the defence couldn't stop anyone. Linehan calling plays for DeMarco Murray when they were down by THREE TOUCHDOWNS didn't help, but whatever. You can't bet against Tennessee, especially at home with a tight line. This could very well be a three-point game, but I trust Jake Locker way more than I trust Romo.
Arizona Cardinals -2.0 over NEW YORK GIANTS
An offensive offensive line, Eli Manning throwing picks, and New York's incapable defensive front against a gritty Arizona team that has what feels like seventeen million offensive weapons? No thanks, New York. I'm going with the Red Birds.
New England Patriots -7.0 over MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Adrian Peterson's case is absolute BS as far as I'm concerned but that's for a different time. This line was already -4.0 for New England when it opened. This seems like easy money in a bad situation involving a Pats team in desperate need of a dominant win.
New Orleans Saints -6.5 over CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Browns had some cagey backdoor cover power after their second-half performance against Pittsburgh in Week 1 but after watching Thursday's game, the Steelers might not be that good. You know who is? The Saints.
Atlanta Falcons +5.5 over CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Bengals are usually an automatic, regular season home bet but Atlanta is in a completely different mode. The temporary loss of Jake Matthews will make some Falcons backers nervous, but it shouldn't. Cincinnati did not look very good last week no matter what people tried to suggest. Atlanta with the points is a gift.
Detroit Lions +2.5 over CAROLINA PANTHERS
Kelvin Benjamin might actually be the real deal, but Detroit is a deadly force in the opening weeks of the NFL season and I'm betting that they continue the trend they started last Monday by being a surly take. Ya know, before their bye week.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS -5.5 over St. Louis Rams
Even with the injuries Tampa suffered along its defensive line, you can't trust the St. Louis Rams running a backup quarterback. I made that mistake last week. Josh McCown is still categorically terrible, but he's nowhere near as bad as Shaun Hill. I have tons of metrics to prove it and you don't need to see them to know that it's true.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +5.5 over Seattle Seahawks
No matter how good they looked last weekend, I still don't love Seattle on the road. Playing a better-than-everyone thinks San Diego squad will probably catch them by surprise.
Houston Texans -3.0 over OAKLAND RAIDERS
I don't care what people say: I like Derek Carr. I think he's going to develop in to a fun, darkhorse of a betting monster this year. But this Houston team seems to have found its footing. The Texans are the safe bet. Oakland's the fun one, but there aren't enough points here to really make it worth my while to back the home dogs.
GREEN BAY PACKERS -7.5 over New York Jets
Revenge game, simply put. Not against the Jets specifically, but to prove that Lacy, Rodgers and these Packers aren't that far behind from challenging for that number-one spot in the NFC despite a dismal opener.
DENVER BRONCOS -13.0 over KC Chiefs
If you ever have any inclination to bet on the Chiefs this year, just do me a favour and donate all your gambling money to charity.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -7.0 over Chicago Bears (Sunday Night)
Apply pressure to Jay Cutler and he crumbles on cue. Enter San Francisco's front-seven. I also absolutely despise Chicago's defence this year and wouldn't trust them against...well, anyone really...but especially these Niners.
Philadelphia Eagles +3.0 over INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (Monday Night)
Only because Philly's secondary cast is better than Indy's. This is one of those "either way plays". Go with your heart. (Your heart should be saying Philly unless it's lying to your own face).
Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 12:05 AM
by Michael Stewart
I've had trouble coming to a fair conclusion about this whole fiasco with Ray Rice especially since my primary role as a handicapper is to focus on gambling. Part of me wants to expunge a deeply mediated string of thoughts. The other is filled with rage. I hate what Ray Rice did and that I had to see it, that his wife had to relive it over and over again throughout this week. I despise how the NFL handled it in an age where so many other institutions and companies are trying their best to be as transparent as possible.
And yet there's a part of me that is severely confused about our reaction to this whole thing.
I might say a few things that offend a lot of people and one of the fears of doing this in a public forum, especially as a writer, is readers taking my thoughts out of context. So I implore you to understand that the entire body of what I'm about to say is a complete thought and can't be disintegrated in to spare parts just for the sake of argument. That's not how people who care about what they write construct their pieces, even if we seem careless with our spelling and grammar on occasion. So read the whole thing if you can, or just skip down to the bottom where I talk about tonight's football game.
So back to my point. Tonight's game features a team that just released a known wife-beater, but only after the video of him smacking her around was made public. I think we can all agree that the video is disgusting. I watched it once and then couldn't watch it again. I hugged my wife when she came home that day because I knew she'd probably seen it (it was on TMZ after all) and she's likely be upset. We sat down and talked about the whole thing - how Ray Rice is being treated by the media, how he deserves it, his wife's statements before and after the release of the video and how the NFL totally mishandled everything.
My wife made the salient point that, "they never saw what happened in the elevator but there's obviously a camera in there. So why not suspend him indefinitely until you get to the bottom of it?" It's a fair point. I guess the NFL assumed that they had gotten to the bottom of it, and as most of you know I usually don't quibble over legal stuff because I don't understand the whole process. A two game suspension always seemed like a slap on the wrist. I don't know if a year suspension or an eight-game one would've sufficed either. But the two games certainly acted as kindling to a fire set ablaze by the TMZ video. We all know that Goodell and the NFL screwed the pooch on this. There's no reason to belabour that point (even though I do later on).
Anyways, eventually the conversation conlcuded about the social stuff and pointed towards the x's and o's of football because I'm a handicapping degenerate and my lovely lady knows this. So my wife turned to me asking about what Baltimore has to do as a team and then she causally asks who they're playing next. I told her it was the Steelers, and she replied, "The team with the rapist quarterback?"
That's when it started to hit me.
The league is filled with second chance stories. We once crucified Michael Vick for what he did, which in itself seems almost more deplorable than what Rice did because it was so premeditated and executed over a lengthy period of time. Vick's abuse of animals, and the defrauding of countless employees, was supposed to exile him from our good graces forever. I'm not comparing what Rice did to what Vick did in terms of "what's worse", but more so in the way we reacted. You couldn't quantify the vitriol thrown at Vick during 2007 and 2008. It was off the charts, and there was clearly only one side to take in it as a spectator or wayward bystander. After several years that included bankruptcy, rehab and prison time, Vick is now a 50-50 guy (meaning that it's no longer 100-percent of people that hate him).
The argument is always fairly simple - either you truly believe that he paid for his crime or you don't. You can be someone who is willing to explore the idea of forgiveness, or you can make up your mind and never want to change it. I'm not saying that one is better or worse than the other because I know just as well as anyone that scars run deep and sometimes never heal. But the truth is that the anger towards a person like Vick subsided over time.
Will we ever be able to forgive Ray Rice the same way?
Think about Ben Roethlisberger. Thing about Ray Lewis. Think about Plaxico Burress. Think about Donté Stallworth and Michael Vick again. Think about countless other players and professional athletes who have done something illegal, something morally deplorable. Think about Tiger Woods. Think about Mike Tyson, who went from chomping off a guy's ear, being convicted of rape and is now a beloved after-market celebrity doing broadway style shows and starring in movies. A lot of our heroes one day do something that seems irrevocably stupid. Eventually we as a collective tend to forgive, even if we don't do it personally.
But aren't we all about second chances? Isn't that kind of the point? Ray Rice isn't a repeat offender in any sense of the word. He doesn't have any full-blown problems with the law that we know of, and his name hasn't routinely popped up in our news crawls until this past summer. He made a mistake. It's not one I believe he should be forgiven for until he's served whatever "time" that social and legal justice deems necessary, but everyone slips. Most of us, however, don't sucker punch our loved ones and then drag them around carelessly.
There is, of course, a flip side to this. Does he hit his wife when they're not in an elevator? Has he beaten up girlfriends before and just paid them off? It's a can of worms I don't want to explore because Ray Rice is facing a completely fair level of scrutiny and character assassination already. I am not defending him whatsoever. And I'm not begging you to forgive him at all.
I'm just saying that it's inevitable. You'll stop caring about Ray Rice at some point. The idea that violence against women - or any helpless victim - is wrong should be ingrained deep in your psyche already if you're a good person. Hopefully you didn't need to see a video on TMZ to know that this sort of behaviour is wrong.
I wonder, instead, if our treatment of celebrity/athlete criminals serves as a pattern of behaviour. Time heals all wounds, and even the ones that don't heal completely tend to hurt less. This one feels different than past instances for a lot of reasons - the fact that he hit a woman, the fact that the league handled it unbelievably poorly and with almost zero moral compass, the fact that Ray Rice dragged his unconscious fiancee around without any type of agonizing body language to admit a mistake. The fact that the footage was horrifying.
But there has to be some semblance of "justice" here. Someone has to take the fall. Ray Rice has already been banned indefinitely and his path to redemption seems more difficult than Vick's or Roethlisberger's (or Lewis's) for a variety of reasons. His suspension already feels like it's going to last the rest of his life; that he'll never be able to go near professional football again.
So instead the anger has turned to the man upstairs - Roger Goodell. People are calling for his job. Keith Olbermann has been obliterating the guy on national television and there is nothing he says that I disagree with. Unlike Rice, Goddell is a repeat offender. In the most basic sense, he is entrusted with maintaining the overall integrity of the NFL across a complete spectrum. That includes finances, legalities and morality amongst other things. If he were smarter, he'd have appointed an officer to handle player conduct much in the same way that the NHL does to - at the very least - defer attention away from a commissioner that everybody already hates.
I don't hate Roger Goodell but it's hard to argue that one of the reasons he doesn't have that type of position underneath him is because he wants the spotlight focused entirely on him. Well, now it is, and it's illuminating all of his past and present fumblings concerning important cases where he needed to be firm instead of flakey.
The crazy part (well, one of them anyways) is that when Goodell took office back in 2006, you couldn't stop the guy from throwing suspensions at people. Pacman Jones was given a year ban for making it rain. Stallworth was suspended for a year even though what he did was legally deemed "an accident". This was the man that we needed to protect the sports league we all love so dearly.
It seemed that way until the 2011 NFL lockout, something we might have been willing to forgive him for until the 2012 referee lockout jeopardized the sanctity of wins and losses.
Just scroll through the sordid history of Roger Goodell's tenure and you find a lot of good things (we're making all the money!) and a lot of downright terrible decisions. Ray Rice has practically been burned at the stake and rightfully so. We've thrown our stones, cast our opinions and now we need to allow him the right to atone for his sins. He will have a personal life with his family whether we like it or not. As I said, I believe in second chances. What Rice makes of his will shape his reputation down the road. Right now I just don't want to see him making money playing football and he isn't.
I most certainly don't want to see Goodell earning millions governing the sport either. He's the real repeat offender. There just has to be someone with a stronger sense of will and morality to guide this league through its darkest hours, because there will be many more. History doesn't repeat itself but it tends to rhyme. Goodell has proven incapable of handling these types of situations with the consistency and conviction that we require from all of our leaders.
This is one of Goodell's many, many mistakes at the helm of this billion dollar entity. He's had his nine lives. He's made his money. Send him on his way. Yes, I'm talking to you, owners. This man has spent the last seven or eight years trying to appease your every need, made you stinking rich in the process and now he is damaging the very vessel that maintains that wealth while being a complete a-hole about it. If for no other reason than your own financial well being, and the reputation of a league that you should hold as dear as we do, fire Roger Goodell.
Pittsburgh Steelers -2.5 over BALTIMORE RAVENS
Now on to the less important stuff like gambling. The Steelers were tripped up last week by a Browns team that almost everyone (mostly me) vastly underestimated. They were leading 27-3 at the half, and were shellshocked when the Browns came out in the third with a semblance of pride. That sort of stuff happens.
What's important to understand about the matchup is that Cleveland and Baltimore's defensive structures are eerily similar since they're both heavily predicated on the 3-4 rush from the linebackers. Pittsburgh found a way to usurp that with Le'Veon Ball who totalled 197 yards last weekend while blistering the Browns. It should be no different against Baltimore.
Flacco and the passing game should be able to test a secondary that looked lost at times last Sunday, but it's not going to be getting any help from the rushing game. Justin Forsett slides in to the starting role, and while he runs behind Kubiak's World Famous Zone Block Scheme, it's not like he's the type of player that can take over a game. I like rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but he's an unproven commodity.
It's an even duel between Flacco and Roethlisberger as far as I'm concerned. Flacco has a strong compliment of weapons (hi, Steve Smith Sr.!) and is throwing against a weaker secondary but has a habit of disappearing in the regular season because he can be conservative with his decision making. Roethlisberger is a more consistent, big game quarterback with proven assets at receiver going up against a stronger secondary. I call that fair. It's Steelers-Ravens; you can't just nit pick things to death when they're so close.
If it helps at all, Pittsburgh is also 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 games against the Ravens and have covered in the past three games. All in all, both defences have issues at certain levels and the passing games can be prolific. But the x-factor is the running game where Cow Bell will be prescribed all day to keep the Ravens back peddling down the field.
The Ravens can win close games, but they can't contend with a high scoring offence like Pittsburgh's. The Steelers took their foot off the gas pedal against Cleveland last weekend. They won't make the same mistake tonight.
I PUT MY PANTS ON ONE LEG AT A TIME! NOW GIVE ME MORE COW BELL!
And please give me a lot less of Roger Goodell.
by Michael Stewart
Here's a quick look at some big time matchups across the country in college football followed by some quick bullets on the mammoth lines in college football's Week 3 slate of action.
THE DEMISE OF SPURRIER'S HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE
It's been a long standing trend in college football that you almost always bet on South Carolina at home unless they're playing someone incredible. Even then you just sort of think about it and still bet on them anyways. In 2012, the Gamecocks were absolute monsters at home with a 7-0 SU record and a 5-2 ATS run that included a tight game against Tennessee and a near-cover in a blowout win against Wofford that had a massive line. But in 2013 the cracks started to show. The Gamecocks outlasted their visiting competition in all games with a stern 7-0 SU record but fell to just 4-3 ATS with nerve wracking games against Florida and others.
This year it's gotten worse. The Gamecocks were destroyed by Texas A&M in this year's opener, and just gave up 453 yards to East Carolina in a 33-23 win that obviously didn't cover the two touchdown line. If you're tracking the math at home, that's two home games with a 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS run to start the season.
Everything in college football can turn a dime with evolving underclassmen and incoming freshman, so it's not like the ship is sinking in South Carolina. They're just having a bad year. At best, they play the role of spoiler down the stretch. At worst, nobody's scared of them and their supposed home field advantage.
Coming to Spurrier's den this weekend are the Georgia Bulldogs, who opened as -5.5 point favourites. They've had two weeks of rest since undressing Clemson in their own season opener, and Todd Gurley is clearly the best player in the country on offence not named Jamies Winston. The vulnerable Gamecocks no longer have the intimidating defence they once did, and Georgia won't be scared to unleash Gurley and run away with this game. The betting line is climbing high already, and will only get worse for Georgia but at no point does it make sense to trust South Carolina. Take Georgia as soon as you humanly can.
Georgia -6.0 over South Carolina
MORA'S TIME TO REMIND TEXAS WHAT THEY'RE MISSING OUT ON
Having star players at important positions is paramount in college football. Kids are still learning the game, learning how to become men and adjusting to life away from the comforts of home. Having a great coach can make a massive different to any major program. That's why Jim Mora has been such a breath of fresh air at UCLA. Combining his talents as a coach with those of quarterback Brent Hundley has made UCLA a dangerous threat in a tightly packed Pac-12.
Mora is now 21-8 SU since 2012 as the head coach of the surly Bruins, and with Stanford tumbling against the Trojans last weekend there's a chance for a newcomer to reign in this conference alongside Oregon. UCLA has encountered two big lines so far (average of UCLA -20.0) but earned wins against two tough teams like Memphis and at Virginia anyhow. With this line being so low, I wouldn't be worried about their status on the road.
I'm not sold that Strong was the right man for the job in Texas, and the school even knew it. Apparently Strong was the guy they hired after Mora turned them down, and if you've seen a glimpse of Texas Longhorns football this season then you know that the transition from Mack Brown isn't going to smoothly to say the least. I've always like Texas as a general college football fan, but it's lunacy to trust them at this point. Even at home.
UCLA -7.0 over Texas
MISSOURI IS ONCE AGAIN WELL UNDER THE RADAR
I get it and I don't understand it all at the same time. Missouri nearly won the SEC last year. They're routinely one of the best teams to bet on when they're not facing a mammoth line. So what the hell is with this line? They crushed South Dakota 38-18 to debut the season against a -25.0 line, but manhandled Toledo on the road 49-24 to cover a -3.5 line that was baffling to begin with. This week they host the UCF Knights, a team that's fallen in to the tank without Blake Bortles at the helm. The Knights were one of the best darlings in the college football betting world and can still put up points but I just don't see them peaking against a Tigers defence that is amongst the best in the nation. This is a small line that is also inflating a bit too quickly so I'd grab it before it starts to move in to double-digits. Even then you're probably going to be fine.
Missouri -9.5 over UCF
MAMMOTH KILLERS FOR WEEK 3
Calling a betting line "mammoth" has and always will be my favourite term for describing games that have spreads of four touchdowns or more. I don't know why. Maybe I not-so-secretly adore elephants? Either way, each week we'll look at the absurdity of these gigantic, mammoth lines in college football with some of the top tier teams taking on the lesser, punching bags of their conferences in a quick-pick format. Let's get to these Mammoth Killers.
OREGON -43.0 over Wyoming - Obviously this is the very definition of a line that seems way too gargantuan but it's not without reason. Oregon is well apt to scoring tons of points at home, while Wyoming has mustered 17.0 points in their first two games each. There's no way you can expect Wyoming to stand a chance here with Mariota and the Ducks flying high in the eyes of the pollsters. The safest bet might actually be the first half line on the Ducks.
Southern Mississippi State -48.0 over ALABAMA - Let's put this way: the Tide rolled over FAU 41-0 and still didn't cover a -42.0 point line. This is an outrageous amount of points to beat anyone by.
TEXAS A&M -32.0 over Rice - If Kevin Sumlin is trying to prove a point, he's certainly getting the required attention. The Aggies didn't take it easy on poor Lamar (not Odom) last week in a 73-3 obliteration that seemed inhumane. The Rice Owls are usually a tricky team in some, big time matchups but this isn't going to be one of them. Rice's defence has already given up 46.0 points per game in two road losses. Don't expect the Aggies to show any signs of sympathy.
STANFORD -28.0 over Army - It feels un-American to beat up on Army just because you lost a game last week, but that's what it looks like Stanford's going to do. Well over 3/5ths of the action is leaning towards the Cardinal so follow the buzzards.