Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2014 05:31 PM
Posted Monday, September 29, 2014 07:12 PM
by Michael Stewart
Due to a glitch in my ability to use computers last week, I wasn't able to post a Week 4 Power Rankings which is totally fine because ranking teams over the first few weeks of the season is a fool's errand anyhow. With four weeks in the bank, we can now start looking at the state of the league with some informed understanding.
And what have we learned? Simply put, there are no clear cut Super Bowl favourites. Nearly ten teams are vying for "best team in the NFL" and the Chargers and Cardinals are in the mix. This is a nightmare situation for everyone involved, from oddsmakers all the way down to the weekend warriors. That doesn't mean that the NFL was as tightly knit as it was last year, when there were upsets and covers all over the place. There's merely a very defined line between the good teams and the bad teams.
Before I get to the rankings, here's a review of the general rules:
1) The ATS records weigh in heavily, which is why a team like Denver can't be any higher than they are when they haven't covered a game. As usual, this is a gambling article, written by a gambler for other gamblers on a site about gambling.
2) I try to be as fair as possible when teams like the Saints and Patriots are 1-3 SU. That's pretty awful, especially when you look at who they've played. It's still early, but a team or player's reputation isn't going to float them that high in my rankings. Mostly because I'm petty.
3) Actual analysis can be pretty slim here, and I have to spend the majority of my time defending my stance because this is the week where the power rankings start to matter. Sometimes I'll say something meaningful, most of the time I won't.
That's pretty much the gist of it. Don't take this personally if I've thrown your team to the wolves. They probably deserve it.
1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1 SU and ATS)
There is no argument about which team is the best in the NFL right now, but the gap between Seattle and everyone else is very close. I might just pick up this Ricardo Lockette guy in fantasy so I can scream "LOCKETTE DOWN!" every time he scores a touchdown. The Seahawks aren't infallible but the rest of the league is in shambles right now.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0 SU and ATS)
That talk about Andy Dalton not deserving his contract extension sure died down pretty quickly.
3. Arizona Cardinals (3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS)
Yeah, this isn't going to last. In fact, this is probably the highest that the undefeated Cardinals are going to climb but I gave the Chiefs the exact same kind of nudge last year when they were running the table. Let's also keep in mind that Arizona has defeated both San Diego and San Francisco this season. It's not like their undefeated 3-0 SU record is built on swiss cheese.
4. San Diego Chargers (3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS)
If you don't want to agree with San Diego as a top-5 team, then fine but they're the ONLY team in the league that has covered in every single game this year so respect has to be given. I'm a massive Phillip Rivers backer and will continue to collect money as the oddsmakers continue to underestimate the Chargers. You can scoff at me thrusting the Chargers this high, or you can get on board and start winning some damn money.
5. Denver Broncos (2-1 SU and 0-3 ATS)
Without the gambling angle these power rankings are based around, the Denver Broncos are probably the second best team in the league. But I'm not completely convinced that they're an airtight play, and the oddsmakers continue to treat the 2014 Broncos as if they're the 2013 Broncos. This team can't outpace opponents on the scoreboard like they used to because they made some bad, but necessary, bets. Montee Ball isn't the bell cow that Moreno was and Sanders can't create endzone separation like Decker did every weekend. I'm not saying that Denver is bad, they're just not as good as last year...which is easy to say because no team in history was that dominant statistically.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS)
We always hear about Chip Kelly's offensive abilities. It's about time he showed some flashes of brilliance on defence, right?
7. Indianapolis Colts (2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS)
Nobody told Reggie Wayne that it's supposed to take two years to recover from ACL surgery, especially when you're in your thirties.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS)
Who would've thought that the AFC and NFC West would be the best divisions in football? Certainly looks that way with Jamaal Charles making his MVP case on Monday Night Football. It's almost staggering to think that these guys lost to the Titans in Week 1. Since then it's been fifth gear with a near-loss in Denver, and two blowouts against Miami and New England. The collective public doubted them last year instead of getting behind them. Don't make that same mistake this season.
9. Detroit Lions (3-1 SU and ATS)
I like that everyone on the Jets were so mortified by the presence of a hobbling Calvin Johnson that nobody noticed how injured he was. Now that's respect.
10. San Francisco 49ers (2-2 SU and ATS)
They're treading water until Navarro and Aldon get back, and doing a damn fine job of it. I mean, I wouldn't have Kap throwing across the field, across his body, off his back foot while on the run on every play, but in the meantime it'll get the job done.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS)
I have no idea how to rank the next five teams, I just know that they're all in the right section of the power rankings. I'll give the Steelers a slight advantage even though I shouldn't because they feel like the best overall team. Yes, a loss to the Bucs absolutely sucks but it happens. Pittsburgh can put up points at any moment, and their defence just needs to get remotely healthy. A pick-me-up against Jacksonville is just what the doctor ordered. They literally can't make that spread high enough.
12. Baltimore Ravens (3-1 SU and 2-1-1 ATS)
Doubt Joe Flacco at your own risk. He looks like he's going for it this season, which is the same type of veracity he played in the playoffs with when he won a Super Bowl. The book on Flacco has always been that he makes the "safe play" instead of the risky one which is why his numbers are never great, but never awful. I'm still not totally sure if Taliaferro is a bankable asset. That's the only thing holding Baltimore back to be honest.
13. Dallas Cowboys (3-1 SU and ATS)
At some point or another, the Cowboys will start stumbling offensively and this defence isn't good enough to carry the load in those kinds of matchups. I was way off with most of my preseason predictions, as was everyone else, but I hit the nail with Dallas. They're the Outscore You team of 2014.
14. Carolina Panthers (2-2 SU and ATS)
Anyone looking at that Chicago-Carolina matchup with any type of confidence is either a Panthers fan or a Bears fan. That's the Do Not Touch matchup of the week.
15. Chicago Bears (2-2 SU and ATS)
If it wasn't for his sourpuss face, we'd rave about Jay Cutler as one of the most fearless gunslingers of our generation. But the fact that his visage gave rise to "Jay Cutler Smoking" on the internet makes me feel okay about it all. Oh and by the way, the idea that the Bears have a porous defence needs to end. They're much better than everyone gives them credit for.
16. Houston Texans (3-1 SU and ATS)
To be fair, Houston has built their 3-1 record against the Redskins, Raiders and Bills while losing outright to the Giants. They now face the Cowboys, Colts and Steelers over the next three weeks. I'd be stunned if they stayed this high but the Week 5 power rankings reflect - surprise! - the results up until this point. So listen to Frankie and relax.
17. Minnesota Vikings (2-2 SU and ATS)
I roasted Teddy Bridgewater as a pro prospect because he played in the Big East and racked up big numbers against unranked competition. He may not be great, but right now he's more exciting than Matt Cassel, Tavaris Jackson and Joe Webb combined. That's not exactly a compliment either.
18. Green Bay Packers (2-2 SU and 1-2-1 ATS)
When Green Bay's defence generates turnovers, they start to play like one of the most complete teams in the NFL. But they don't create those picks and fumbles at the rate that they did the year they won the Super Bowl. They continue to employ an unattractive "bend but don't break" mentality on defence, which would be fine if they didn't break all the damn time.
19. New England Patriots (1-3 SU and ATS)
Even this feels generous. You can skunk this all you want, but the Patriots have only been good in one game this year and that was against their former quarterback. They couldn't create separation on the scoreboard against the Raiders and were whipped by the Dolphins.
And here's the ultimate problem: I don't see how they get better even if their defence starts playing to their potential. Gronkowski's health has been a big red herring so far; it looks like it's going to take a lot longer to get him to where he was in 2011 and that's understandable given the nature of his ACL injury. But even with a healthy Gronk, what does this offence actually look like? Julian Edelman is not a top receiver and he doesn't have much help, unless you think Brandon LaFell is any good (the fact that Carolina, who are now pinning hopes on Jericho Cotchery, let him go should tell you all you need to know). Vareen can get contained because all he does is catch screen passes, and Ridley hasn't done anything productive in two years.
The blame squarely falls on Bill's shoulders as well. He's seen how indestructible this team can be with a high-end back, like Clock Killin' Corey Dillon, or a top receiver, like Randy Moss. Why not recreate those type of offences when you have Brady in his prime? The obvious answer is "arrogance" and the nerdy answer has something to do with the salary cap.
Listen, you can be mad that I've dropped New England all the way to 19th but I've made it known that teams can make serious jumps given some moderate success. I just don't expect that to happen on a short week against Cincinnati. What's even crazier about New England's problems is that they still might actually win the division. The AFC East totally blows. So it's not all bad news for Pats fans. It's just mostly bad news.
20. Miami Dolphins (2-2 SU and ATS)
Simply put, if they can play more consistently like they did in Week 1 and 4 and avoid the appearance of Week 2 and 3, we're looking at a team that has a legitimate shot at dethroning the Patriots. They were 7/1 long shots to win the AFC East. If you made that bet, you have to be smiling right now. Why rank them below the Patriots? Because I don't totally think Joe Philbin is head coaching material, and the Dolphins still have to prove that they're more consistent than an 8-8 SU team.
21. Atlanta Falcons (2-2 SU and ATS)
I've often said that one trick ponies get led to the slaughterhouse over the long haul, and that's exactly what the Falcons feel like. The run game is consistently below average and predictable. They could go and air it out against anyone at this point, and I would still fear that anyone could chase them from behind. Offensive line health is a big sneak when it comes to making a team a viable option, especially when their game plan is predicated on scoring touchdowns, and the Falcons have three starting trench warriors on the injured reserve. This season will be a struggle.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3 SU and ATS)
At least I didn't have to go on Twitter and rave #freeMikeGlennon before it actually happened. And they should have outright lost to Pittsburgh after Lovie decided to let Bobby Rainey throw the football in to the endzone. I'm still not convinced Lovie is the right guy for this job.
23. New Orleans Saints (1-3 SU and ATS)
At some point or another, you can't keep calling Rex Ryan a defensive guru/savior when his defense is ranked 29th. Outside of stifling the pathetic Raiders, they've allowed 33.7 points against against Dallas, Atlanta and Cleveland. So there's no way I can consider New Orleans an elite team by any standard.
24. Cleveland Browns (1-2 SU and 2-0-1 ATS)
Why is everyone so excited about Jordan Cameron coming back? Are we sure he's any good? He only made the Pro Bowl because three other guys couldn't make the trip. That's like calling The Miz a former WWE World Champion. It doesn't actually mean anything.
25. New York Giants (2-2 SU and ATS)
I think we've found a successful pathway for the Giants as an underdog play: just match them against teams that aren't any good at defence! Oh good, they're playing Atlanta, Philly and Dallas over the next three games? Wait a second...they're -4.5 favourites against Atlanta?!!?!?! DAMNIT!
26. St. Louis Rams (1-2 SU and ATS)
I have nothing positive or negative to say about St. Louis. They're quite literally as good as they're going to get and are in the toughest division in all of football. And their home advantage is gone now that the oddsmakers are sick and tired of getting blasted by them at Edward Jones Dome. It was fun while it lasted.
27. Buffalo Bills (2-2 SU and ATS)
Buffalo fans didn't think it could get worse...and then Kyle Orton's music started playing.
28. Tennessee Titans (1-3 SU and ATS)
Charlie Whitehurst might have the best scumbag hair of any player in the NFL. That doesn't happen by accident. Unfortunately, growing his hair to look like a degenerate is the only thing Charlie Whitehurst does well.
29. New York Jets (1-3 SU and 0-3-1 ATS)
Hey Rex, the entire universe wants to see Michael Vick and Chris Johnson running the option together. Can you just pretend it's 2010 and make it happen? It would make your team 100% more intriguing than watching Geno Smith mess his pants on every play.
30. Washington Redskins (1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS)
It takes a certain type of terrible for a fan base to turn on RG3, see his backup and then pray for his return. Again, and I've said this before, I'm not putting it on Jay Gruden. That locker room must have a terrible aura. They need some sort of exorcism to cleanse FedEx Field.
31. Oakland Raiders (0-4 SU and 2-2 ATS)
Just when I thought I had escaped trying to type Tony Sparano's name properly, he gets named interim head coach! Seriously. I have to double check it every single time. Sparano. Sparro? Soprano? Urgh.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4 SU and ATS)
Last year, I raved about Jacksonville doing the unimaginable: run the table at 0-16 ATS. I was heartbroken when it didn't happen. Good news, everybody! THE DREAM IS ALIVE!!!
Posted Saturday, September 27, 2014 02:16 PM
by Michael Stewart
With Week 4 in the books, it's time I went back and looked at where I screwed up. I found myself on the wrong side of two revenge games, and have a handful of other teams I'm still trying to figure out. I pushed on the Eagles-Niners game, but included it here because there are a couple points worth glossing over. C'mon, Brady! Get me back to .500!
Week 4 ATS Record: 5-6-1 ATS (Patriots -2.5 over Chiefs still to go)
As always, the winning pick is listed first, my pick is listed second with closing line details featured in brackets.
Baltimore Ravens -3.5 over CAROLINA PANTHERS (BAL +24.5 against closing line of BAL -3.5)
Steve Smith Sr. is a master motivator. That's all this comes down to. Carolina is a gritty team facing far too many challenges this season after taking a glorious step in the right direction last year. Their biggest weakness on defence is quickly becoming their secondary and the Panthers just don't have that defiant attitude that helped define them last season. As for Baltimore, they're quickly becoming a team worth trusting in the book. Hopefully you had a little more faith than I did.
HOUSTON TEXANS -3.0 over Buffalo Bills (HOU +3.0 against closing line of HOU -3.0)
I said to stay away from this game, and a 23-17 victory by the unimpressive Texans was par for the course. I guess this was actually Ryan Fitzpatrick's revenge game instead of Mario Williams'? Who cares. I hated this matchup, I still don't like either of these teams and now it looks like E.J Manuel's career is over before it even starts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7.5 over PITTSBURGH STEELERS (TB +10.5 against closing line of PIT -7.5)
Talk about upsets! I've been screaming all year that Mike Glennon deserved the start from the beginning of the season, and here he is, gunning corner passes to V-Jax and winning monumental games on the road against a team that just kicked the tar out of one of their division rivals. I don't know what's more impressive: the Bucs' win, or that last, run-on sentence. The Bucs have a ton of upstart potential against lines like this heading forward especially with the castaway nature that the public generally treats them with. As for Pittsburgh, it was a badly mis-managed fourth quarter away from being another win and a cover.
Miami Dolphins -3.5 over OAKLAND RAIDERS (MIA +20.0 against closing line of MIA -4.0)
Miami is "that team" this year. They're decimated the Patriots and Raiders, and been blown out by Buffalo and Kansas City. Nobody knows what to make of them, and that kind of inconsistency simply comes down to discipline. As for Oakland, they're still a tad bit of fun but not without Derek Carr. They're a team that hits home-runs or doesn't even bother getting on base. That makes both of these teams absolute nightmares to bet on.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers -5.0 push against Philadelphia Eagles (SF +1.5 against closing line of SF -3.5)
Ooooph. Was this the worst game to watch all day? Philadelphia never got going offensively, and while people seem to think that the offensive line was the culprit here, that dismisses just how effective the Niners are up front with Justin Smith and company. People are discussing this game as if the Niners developed a blueprint for the rest of the NFL to deal with Chip Kelly's offensive onslaught. Unless "injure Justin Peters" and "have Justin Smith and the Niners' players" are part of that defensive plan, you can forget about it. The Eagles had a terrible game on offence but it should be treated as a red herring instead of a new standard bearer. As for the Niners, they have useful and capable weapons at every phase and are close to being the toughest team in the league. Too bad for them that the actual team that's more mentally tough is Seattle.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS +3.0 over Atlanta Falcons (MIN +18.5 against closing line of ATL -5.5)
If you can tell me with a straight face that you saw this game coming, then I'd still strip you naked and light your pants on fire. Teddy Bridgewater was all sorts of electrifying on Sunday afternoon, as were his fellow second-stringers Jarrick McKinnon and Jarius Wright. They were well used, x-factors that nobody could account for. Atlanta's defence continues to be a horrifying weakness, as does the running game. I still like the Falcons in general, but they're not even remotely close to being a complete team. As far as the Vikings go, we'll have to wait and see. They're going to be a huge public bet this week after Bridgewater's 317-yard display but a short week might not give them time to fine tune this new-look offence. We'll find out on Thursday when they play...
Green Bay Packers +1.0 over CHICAGO BEARS (GB +19.0 against closing line of GB -2.0)
...these Green Bay Packers. Sure, they still don't know how to use Eddie Lacy (who might not actually be as good as his reputation dictates) but they can still pass like crazy, especially when teams decide that it's a good idea to cover Jordy Nelson one-on-one. The Bears weren't able to keep up offensively because of their refusal to give Brandon Marshall the rest he obviously needs, which I can understand given that this matchup was against a division rival. Still, it's not like Chicago was decimated here. They still racked up 33 first downs, found some wiggle room down field. They just couldn't capitalize, which is fairly expected from this Chicago team. Both are strong candidates to be spotty bets throughout the year as the public changes opinion on them in droves. Just play the matchups. There is plenty of opportunity for points with these two teams. Unfortunately, I mean that in a "two way street" kind of way. Are you seriously going to invest in Green Bay's ability to generate defensive turnovers when they happen so infrequently? I hope not.
Posted Friday, September 26, 2014 05:21 PM
by Michael Stewart
We're back on track and dishing out picks like they're ninja stars at an assassination convention! Week 3 went splendid for me in terms of betting, though it was a mess work-wise trying to figure out what happened to the blog. In any case, I'm starting to get a better handle on all things NFL. Week 4 is where we start to loosen our purse strings a little bit and lean a bit more heavily, but there are still something we're trying to figure out so don't go crazy.
Week 3 ATS Record: 13-3 ATS
NFL Season Record: 24-23-1 ATS
As usual, lines are subject to change and all games are on Sunday unless otherwise specified.
New York Giants +3.0 over WASHINGTON REDSKINS (Thursday Night)
If you happened to bet against the Giants in this game, you misread one thing from the massive, 37-point outing that Washington had against Philadelphia: they allowed 34 points as well. New York looks and feels like a team that is slowly building their identity. The alternate line on this game (I took NYG at +7.0) was very kind to me. I have no idea who or why the hype on Kirk Cousins started to build. Sometimes backups are backups for a reason and there's nothing he showcased in any game that screams "man we've got a franchise playa right here!". Cousins is no Matt Flynn. He's not even Josh McCown.
CAROLINA PANTHERS +3.5 over Baltimore Ravens
The Panthers were just eviscerated by Pittsburgh on Sunday night, meaning they technically have a shortened week to travel to Maryland to take on the Ravens. Their quarterback is hurt. They have a single running-back left. There is one, lone hope at receiver. The defence looked abysmal against Pittsburgh. The difference between Baltimore and Pittsburgh? Le'Veon Bell. Listen, I like this Lorenzo character but until he's a fixed commodity in the Ravens' game plan, I can't bank on him. Baltimore can barely run the ball despite the presence of Kubiak on the coaching staff. This is one of those, "doubt Carolina at your own peril" type of bets. I would not bet this game heavily as a standalone, but I would side with the Panthers if you want to tie them in to a fun parlay as a moneyline bet.
Detroit Lions -2.0 over NEW YORK JETS
Gee thanks, oddsmakers! The entire universe is betting on Detroit in this game. You should too.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS -7.5 over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Part of me is saying that there's no way Tampa walks out of a billion-point beat down on national television and comes in to this game soft. But I'm also sick and tired of getting my hopes up for these Bucs. This game has the typical type of injury stuff that makes bettors think they're getting savvy. The Steelers may be without a few key cogs on defence, but the last time I checked, their offence was humming and Tampa couldn't stop anyone. Doug Martin returning to form he's over a year departed from would be the kicker here, but you can't place your money in that kind of faith. Either take a hail mary on Tampa to win, or side with Pittsburgh and the points.
OAKLAND RAIDERS +3.5 over Miami Dolphins
Joe Philbin apologized to his team and his quarterback for remotely suggesting that Tannehill is in danger of losing his job. Why should he be sorry for Tannehill soiling his own bed? That kind of questionable leadership makes a road team a spotty play at best. Unlike the rest of the universe, I happen to enjoy these Raiders. I only wish this line were higher. And yes, I find it completely mystifying that New England is the only team Miami's been able to contain this season.
CHICAGO BEARS +1.0 over Green Bay Packers
I just traded Eddie Lacy (and a bunch of parts) for Jordy Nelson (and a bunch of parts) in my most expensive fantasy league. Why? Because I've just got Lacy fatigue. He feels like he's one step away from being the next Trent Richardson. Roll Tide! McCarthy doesn't know how to use him, and until Green Bay shows a semblance of balance on offence, I'm not willing to invest in them. Chicago still terrifies me as the kind of team that blows it in big games, but so far this has been one helluva season for the high-flying Bears. Green Bay's ultimate inability to play defence will haunt them. Again. For the first time (this week).
Buffalo Bills +3.0 over HOUSTON TEXANS
If there's any matchup that screams, "Stay away from me!!!!", it's this one. Both teams are 2-1 ATS. Both teams look curiously terrible. The action coming in is 50-50, down the middle. Even the oddsmakers are slapping the natural homeline on this one and just walking in the other direction. Seriously, the line hasn't budged. So why am I taking Buffalo? Mario Williams revenge game, baby! Yes, sometimes you have to find dumb reasons to bet on football games just to make the process less soul killing. But for the record, I also think that Buffalo can run all over Houston's overrated run defence.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -7.5 over Tennessee Titans
And I'm going to double down this live when Charlie Whitehurst's music starts playing.
Jacksonville Jaguars +13.0 over SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
C'mon, Bortles! Let's do this! Go UCF Knights!
(I don't think San Diego blows Jacksonville out of the water...this game has backdoor cover written all over it in graffiti)
Philadelphia Eagles +5.0 over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The dirty little secret in San Francisco nobody wants to admit is that their secondary isn't very good on the edges. You don't challenge Ed Reid. That's a fool's errand. But the rest of this group? Go for it. San Fran has been torched by two and a half good passing teams, and were just obliterated by a backup quarterback (Drew Stanton) and Michael Floyd. Can you imagine what a galvanized, post-brawl, Philadelphia team is going to do in their most important game of the season?
Atlanta Falcons -3.0 over MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Is Adrian Peterson playing? Is Teddy Bridgewater starting? Then will someone please explain to me why this line is so low? Oh, you happen to think that Teddy Bridgewater is capable? LOL
DALLAS COWBOYS +3.0 over New Orleans Saints (Sunday Night)
It's the Cowboys in prime time. You just KNOW they're going to screw it up. But my inclination is to side with Dallas's ability to generate a ton of points over New Orleans' strange inability to do the same. The Saints are scoring fewer points every week, while Dallas is managing to find the endzone routinely against strong defences. The reason is staggingly simple: Dallas has matchup-proof offensive weapons like Murray (when he's healthy) and Dez. The Saints only have Graham. Every one else on the roster is slightly above average or pedestrian. I don't have unconditional love for New Orleans like the rest of the world, and their defence is going to be tortured in this one by the fixed commodities Dallas throws at you every week.
New England Patriots -3.0 over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (Monday Night)
Ok, so the hard truth is that Kansas City might actually be just as defiant as they were last year. None of it makes sense and they just rolled over a Miami team that beat the piss and vinegar out of the Patriots a couple weeks ago. The only thing I'm hinging my money on is the idea of Gronkowski getting a full run in this game. This one will be stupidly tight but the Patriots are graded here as a -4.5 point favourite in my eyes. This is going to be a fun, standalone bet or a perilous catchup play depending on how I do on Sunday. One thing we know for sure is that when Gronk is at full steam, the Patriots are a completely different team. I'm betting that's the New England offence that shows up on Monday Night Football.
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 06:25 PM
by Michael Stewart
First off, apologies have to be made. I've had some technical difficulties with the blog, posting to it and general "dumb smart guy with computer" type stuff happening. So I have some catching up to do. I'm going to skip the Week 3 Power Rankings because, to be fully honest, they're a complete mess.
What I am going to do is retro-actively post my buyer's remorse thoughts on the week that has already happened with a full rundown of Week 3 as it occurred. These are my honest-to-Odin predictions that I tried to post last week in italics, with the buyer's remorse blurb of hindsight below. I'll be back tonight or Saturday morning with my Week 4 picks, and if I can maintain some momentum after a profitable Week 3 then we'll all be whistling dixie.
Week 3 ATS Record: 13-3 ATS
NFL Season So Far: 24-23-1 ATS
Remember, these are the games from last weekend. Sorry to make this confusing, just trying to get on record with my business here. It'll be good toilet reading at the very worst.
ATLANTA FALCONS -7.0 over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Thursday) (ATL wins a billion to 14)
There is a zero percent chance that I bet on Tampa Bay until they put in Mike Glennon. And with Lovie standing so reverently behind McCown, that might take a while. Atlanta's about to rip this team to shreds.
This got a little creepy, even for me. In my Week 3 Power Rankings, I even said that I wanted some type of minor injury to befall McCown and what happens? He hurts his thumb. Glennon played fine in relief with an overwhelming deficit and while the rest of the world doesn't seem to like him, I still believe in him. Tampa has an impossible matchup against a surging Steelers team, and times are only going to get tougher while Atlanta looks like it's crawling forward as a fringe contender.
San Diego Chargers +2.5 over BUFFALO BILLS
I love Phillip Rivers and I trust him implicitly against a
Buffalo team that has proven nothing on offence. This line reflects the absence
of Ryan Matthews more than anything. Buffalo shows some moxy at home, it’s not
going to be enough against San Diego.
Buffalo ended up getting slaughtered by San Diego, proving that there's nothing worth trusting in Orchard Park. As for San Diego, they have great coaching throughout all their levels and can overcome the loss of a starting tailback. Believing in Rivers continues to be a fun, little moneymaker for those that are riding on this bandwagon alongside me.ST. LOUIS RAMS +1.5 over Dallas Cowboys (DAL wins 34-31)
I’m not really sure what to make of Austin Davis. Did you
know he broke a bunch of Brett Favre’s college records? He has to be better
than we collectively think he is. Hopefully the St. Louis defense ranks out as
highly as I estimate at home and make life difficult for Romo so this Davis kid
can shine. I continue to trust St. Louis as a fun home bet.
It totally sucks to lose a bet like this. St. Louis has generated such a strong following as a home bet that this line should have been way lower, but the oddsmakers are just generally terrified of all the NFC West teams in their own buildings. As for Dallas, they continue to be what I estimated them to be: a fantastic offensive set with a terrible defence.
CINCINNATI BENGALS -6.5 over Tennessee Titans (CIN wins 33-7)
I just have nothing to say about the Bengals at home anymore. You just have to do it.
Yup. Oh, and forget all the positivity I gushed about Tennessee in the preseason.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -4.0 over Washington Redskins (PHI wins 37-34)
Terrified of the DeSean Jackson revenge game but I think
that Philadelphia is just a much better football team. Sometimes over-analysis
comes in to a play with games like this. There’s DeSean, the division rivalry
thing and so many head-to-head stats. But Philly is just way better than
Washington, right? Can it be that simple?
Apparently, it can be. Foles is proving that he's a franchise-caliber quarterback (franchise quarterback caliber?) and resonating toughness while totally saving my fantasy football team in the process, just like he did last season. And there's just no telling if Washington is just a locker room full of dummies who are so infected by the culture of the franchise that they don't know how to get their act together no matter who's in charge. It's a residual Shanahan effect, if you will. Case in point: a walking, breathing moron like Chris Baker. Case in point number two: Thursday night against the Giants.CLEVELAND BROWNS +2.5 over Baltimore Ravens (BAL wins 23-21)I'm throwing Cleveland a bone after railing them relentlessly in my preseason preview. I also don't trust Baltimore, a team that's predicated on running the ball effectively. I picked up Lorenzo Taliaferro in all my fantasy leagues, and until they unleash him, Baltimore doesn't have the balance you would normally expect. And Cleveland might just be flat out good.Another creepy prediction from yours truly! Taliaferro is a beast in the making and I'm thrilled to have him on board. He brings the type of downhill running game that any coaching staff can build around, especially with a passing game that is relatively effective. The loss of PItta is huge, but nobody should sleep on either of these dangerous teams. Both are solid, above average, cover teams this year despite general reputation saying otherwise.Indianapolis Colts -6.5 over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (IND wins 44-17)This line is a joke right?Jacksonville didn't find it very funny.Oakland Raiders +14.0 over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (NE wins 16-9)
The joke is that New England against -14.0 lines isn’t a
solid play, but have the Patriots been secretly terrible? They were killed by
Miami, beat up on their old quarterback and…what am I supposed to draw from
this? Oakland has some sneaky big play ability and that’s what I’m banking on.
The Patriots are still working their way in to shape as Gronk returns to full health, and everything hinges on him playing a high snap-count because Zombie Amendola, Thompkins and Aaron Dropson are all abysmal. Why can't Brady have nice things? Either it's a terrible offensive weaponry system, or a brutal defence or both. And don't think I'm just turning a blind eye on Oakland, even though I got lucky here when Gronk dropped a touchdown to keep the 16-9 matchup from stretching past the double-digit line.
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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
-10.0 over Minnesota Vikings (NO wins 20-9)
Matt Asiata almost always plays well in his first game when
relieving Adrian Peterson, but the Vikings looked completely lost last weekend.
A lot of it is based on Cassel going up against his former team, but have you
seen anything out of Minny that makes you like them against an elite team? New
Orleans isn’t due for a blowout win, but a double-digit victory is easily
within reach against a bad defensive team like Minny.
Wasn't super easy money, but I'll take it. You can basically assume that you know both of these teams as well as you do. New Orleans always has blowout potential, but they're simply not firing like they used to. I'm intrigued by Khiri Robinson as a feature back, and that'll help but the Saints are a lot less experienced on the edges of their offence than even they'd like.
DETROIT LIONS -1.5
over Green Bay Packers (DET wins 19-7)
The play calling in Green Bay is driving me absolutely
crazy. I just don’t trust it anymore; it’s too erratic. Detroit at home feels
comfortable and the illusion of Green Bay’s defensive prowess will finally be
put to rest in this one.
It's not like Detroit played really well in this game either. Green Bay just doesn't have a playbook with any real direction and now every one is wondering if Eddie Lacy is even that good. Even if he isn't, why does Aaron Rodgers look and play like he only has one receiver? Oh wait...
NEW YORK GIANTS -1.5
over Houston Texans (30-17)
Two of the worst teams in the league bashing head first in
to each other? Let me just say that there’s nothing about Houston that you
should like. There’s still a tiny bit of hope for New York.
The Giants were never a bad football team, and as far as coaches go, I tend to defend Tom Coughlin more than I crucify him. He's proven time and again that he can get quite a bit out of a lacking roster which is exactly what's starting to happen. The Giants might very well be the gatekeeper for defining good teams and bad teams, because they feel spot on as the 16th best team in the league after being featured as the absolute worst team in the league after Week 2 in my power rankings. I need to get that thing sorted out!
-3.0 over San Francisco 49ers (23-14)
The traditional NFC West home team lean is in play here.
Especially when San Francisco is giving up big passing plays. Keep in mind that
this line is -3.0 with Drew Stanton likely to play. That’s how lowly the
oddsmakers grade the Niners right now.
And they were right to do so. San Francisco ran the ball - what? - five times when they have two every-down backs in Gore and Hyde? That's insane. Arizona is a well coached and disciplined team that can make all sorts of big and small plays on both sides of the football. That stems from coaching. Bruce Arians is legit. I'm not sure if Harbaugh is starting to lose his grip, but I do know one thing for certain. The Niners are talented enough to get out of this slump. Don't panic completely.
Denver Broncos +4.0
over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (SEA wins 26-20)
I picked the game like this in the Super Bowl and think this
game goes the way it was originally supposed to. This is also one of those
games you might not want to bet on. Just sit back and enjoy football at it’s
highest level. You don’t have to bet on every
game do you? Oh you do? Well then fire away! There are no bad bets here.
Follow your heart and take the side you believe in.
If only that had been the Super Bowl! What a game. I'll never get mad about losing a game in overtime on a line like this. Ok, maybe a little.
MIAMI DOLPHINS -5.0
over Kansas City Chiefs (KC wins 34-15)
Kansas looked fun last weekend, but I’m just not believing
that they play that well against a non-division rival. And I generally get
weird vibes with Miami at home.
Yeah, I was way off with this one. Miami sucks and Kansas City is punching above their weight class. Moving along!
+3.0 over CAROLINA PANTHERS (Sunday Night) (PIT 37-19)
Every metric I have indicates a Carolina win here. Every
single one. So I’m following my gut and going 100-percent against the grain
here because I think there’s more fight in the Steelers than they’re letting
on. I am happy to eat this one. You can’t always lean on numbers and stats,
sometimes you have to fly in the face of convention like a blind idiot driving
a moped in to traffic.
People keep saying that the Seahawks-Broncos game was the best of the day, but I submit that the Steelers-Panthers brawl was a very close 1b. Things got nasty for Cam Newton, who had to exit the game, but Kelvin Benjamin left his imprint on this league as did the Cheech and Chong duo of Bell and Blount. Carolina still grades out as a strong team regardless of who's playing quarterback, but Pittsburgh's rep is gaining tons of cred right now.
Chicago Bears +2.5 over
NEW YORK JETS (Monday Night) (CHI wins 27-19)
I don’t trust either team in the least, but Chicago has to
be the play here. Betting on these Jets is lunacy at this point in the season.
And betting on the Jets will be lunacy for the rest of the season, it seems. Is it too late to start the Mike Vick bandwagon? C'mon, even you have to be curious if he's better than Geno Smith (hint: he has to be by default because Geno is terrible). One other thing - is it me or are the Bears actually good on defence? I can't tell completely because they just beat up the Jets but they seem like they are.
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.