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BOSTON (CBS) – Making NFL picks is a hard enough task as it is. Adding the unpredictability of the inept replacement officials made it nearly impossible.
Sure, I still might have had a rough go of it last Sunday even if Ed Hochuli had been sunning his biceps in the Miami sunshine, but when I go 4-12 in my picks for a week, I need excuses. And you, replacement officials, are my excuse.
But I won’t rely on any more excuses. Over the course of a 17-week NFL season, you’re going to take your lumps. It’s unavoidable. When you have to pick every single game every single week, a four- or five-win week happens to even the best of the best. The key is how to respond the next week. So it’s no nonsense this week. No more flip-flopping opinions from week to week; it’s time to follow the gut.
So what’s my gut telling me? Essentially that no teams can really be trusted on a regular basis. Houston and Arizona are 3-0 against the spread, but that’s definitely going to change for the Cardinals once they start becoming a regular favorite. In Weeks 1 through 3, they got 2.5 points, 14 points and 4 points. This week, they have to win by a touchdown.
The Texans, meanwhile, nearly let a blowout victory turn into a stunning loss, and while Greg Focker might assess them as strong to quite strong, you still can’t trust they’ll cover every week (they’re nearly a two-touchdown favorites this week).
The Falcons, the NFL’s other 3-0 team, are also 3-0 against the spread, and they’re actually 6-1 against the spread in their last seven regular-season games. Before that, though, they were 4-6-1 against the spread last season, so to call them a sure bet going forward would border on lunacy.
Beyond that, it’s just wild. The only safe bets each week might be to pick against the Browns. I’ll be sure to do that, make some other picks, and rehash all the Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks (RQFLWP) below.
(Home team in caps; Thursday lines)
BALTIMORE (-12) over Cleveland
Short week? Don’t care. Two-touchdown spread? Don’t care. Possibly no giant American flag for Brandon Weeden to get stuck under? Don’t care.
If I’m going to get back to respectability, I’m going to have to follow what I believe in. And the Cleveland Browns are the exact opposite of what I believe in.
Tennessee (+12.5) over HOUSTON
The Titans scored 44 points last week despite 59 total rushing yards. The leading rusher last week was Jake Locker, and he leads the entire team in rushing through three weeks. He gets paid to play quarterback. Chris Johnson, meanwhile, is getting paid $8 million to be a running back. With a whopping 45 yards on 33 carries, that is not working out so well.
On the other side, Houston has covered five straight spreads, dating back to last postseason. They’re not that good, people. Only one of those spreads has been in double digits.
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “I would’ve never guessed [the Lions' defensive line would] make it through two weeks without a complete mauling of a quarterback. Jake Locker, you officially should be worried.”
Note: Locker threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns, and he was sacked exactly zero times, and he also rushed for 35 yards. However, I was only listening to that game on radio, and I wasn’t watching it, so in my mind, it never happened.
San Diego (Pick ‘em) over KANSAS CITY
One of the few truths I’ve come to discover through the first three weeks of the season is that the only thing worse than replacement refs have been the replacement Saints coaches. I never would’ve believed a team that good could be 0-3, but it’s clear from watching them that with an interim interim head coach (not a typo) at the helm, they’re an awful team. So I put no stock in the Chiefs’ win over the Saints last week. I like the Chargers in a rout.
ATLANTA (-7.5) over Carolina
I still don’t love the Falcons, and I think this has the potential to be a big letdown game for them after hearing all week how they’re one of just three undefeated teams left. But for one, the Panthers had some extra time to prepare for this one, which sounds good but could be counterproductive if your quarterback is reportedly seeing a “mind coach.” Also, I pointed out two weeks ago that for all of Cam Newton’s fantasy stats, he doesn’t win very often. I’m sticking with that. It helps that last year against Atlanta, he threw two touchdowns and five interceptions while averaging 256.5 yards per game as the Panthers lost both games by an average of 11 points.
RQFLWP: “I couldn’t be any less impressed by the Falcons.”
Note: Obviously, the Falcons took a 20-0 lead before halftime.
ST. LOUIS (+2) over Seattle
I’m not sure any team would respond well to the utter fiasco that took place in Seattle on Monday night, but I just can’t envision Pete Carroll keeping his troops focused this week. By Sunday, the Seahawks will have received more attention in one week than they’ve received in a year. Golden Tate appeared indignant in the immediate aftermath of the game, so I don’t see him having a solid week of practice. And for Russell Wilson to practice, he’ll have to stop doing postgame interviews, which I’m not sure he’s done yet.
The offense, behind Wilson’s 145 passing yards per game, will struggle, and the Rams … well. This should be an ugly game. I predict a 6-6 tie.
San Francisco (-4) over NEW YORK JETS
I’m not exactly encouraged by the Niners’ face-plant in Minnesota last weekend. But I’ve trumpeted Rex Ryan’s Jets for their stunning lack of resilience, and the Darrelle Revis injury will prove the old adage that if you give a team an excuse to lose, they’ll take it.
RQFLWP: “If this game were in San Francisco, what would the line be? Twelve, probably? Yet because it’s in Minnesota, where the Vikings went 1-7 last season, it’s just 7.5.”
Note: As it turned out, the Niners could have been given 7.5 points, and it still wouldn’t have been enough.
New England (-4) over BUFFALO
The Patriots are going to win by 100 points this weekend. I have no doubt.
Minnesota (+4.5) over DETROIT
Sort of impossible to forecast this one, considering the health of the starting quarterback is in question and everything. But Detroit’s yet to win against the spread all year, so here’s hoping it lasts another week, regardless of who’s under center.
Miami (+6.5) over ARIZONA
It’s crucial not to let decent showing against the Jets and Raiders change your view on the Dolphins. I like them here though for two reasons. One, because I hate the Cardinals as big favorites, and two, because the matchup of the strengths and weaknesses of these two teams just works to the Dolphins’ favor. The only thing the Dolphins can do is run the ball (fourth in the NFL) and stop the run (third); Arizona can’t run (27th in the NFL) and can’t pass (29th).
Oakland (+6.5) over DENVER
Denver gives up almost 26 points per game, a continuation of last year’s 24.4 points per game. The defense isn’t all that good.
Raise your hand if you had Carson Palmer with a better completion percentage and more touchdown passes than Peyton Manning through three weeks.
RQFLWP: “I know the Steelers have their issues but they’re playing the Raiders. The same Raiders who just got blown out by the Dolphins. … It’s not entirely unfathomable to see the Steelers starting the season 1-2 … until you remember that they’re playing the Raiders. The Raiders, man.”
Note: That was pretty harsh, in hindsight.
RQFLWP: “I’ve watched Peyton Manning for two weeks now, and I see a man who is unable to throw a football. That touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas has to be the worst pass ever completed in the NFL. The ball comes out of Manning’s hand like he just finished devouring greasy Popeye’s chicken, and it’s not outrageous to believe he lost a lot of strength and some feeling from his neck surgeries.”
Note: Manning looked pretty strong last week. I wonder how much the Denver air has to do with it.
Cincinnati (-2) over JACKSONVILLE
So as a challenge this year, I’ve decided to see if my wife can beat me in NFL picks. It’s not working out too well for me right now. I’m an ugly 20-27-1, and she’s 27-20-1. She doesn’t fully understand point spreads, and every time I ask for her pick on the Jacksonville game, she asks me to remind her what the team name is. I’m going to have to start saying “Purple Parrots,” “Orange Iguanas” and “Blue Baracudas” to mess with her.
RQFLWP: “INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Jacksonville. Don’t watch this football game.
Note: Probably still my best advice from last week.
TAMPA BAY (-3) over Washington
It took a couple of extra weeks, but Robert Griffin officially looks like a rookie. Worse, he sounds like a rookie. Plus, I’ve liked Tampa all year …. minus the whole trying to kill the quarterback and linemen on kneel-down thing.
RQFLWP: “You’ve also got 100,000 crazed Redskins fans jacked up for their first glimpse at Robert Griffin. I smell a romp.”
Note: There was a bit of a romp on Sunday in Washington. The Redskins just weren’t invited.
GREEN BAY (-8) over New Orleans
The Packers are going to win by 200 points this weekend.
New York Giants (+1) over PHILADELPHIA
Last week, I had the Giants at -2, before I watched “SportsCenter” and had Adam Schefter tell me that the Giants just had too many injuries to overcome on a short week. The line shifted, and so did my pick, and I ended up taking Carolina -2.5. I was swayed by Adam Schefter! What a mistake. Shame on me.
So with the champs getting points, against an Eagles team that just got smoked by the Cardinals and is suddenly dealing with quarterback questions, I’m taking the points, thank you very much.
Chicago (+3.5) over DALLAS
Smokin’ Jay Cutler! Tony Romo! A whole … bunch … of sacks! And interceptions! Monday Night Football!
Last week: 4-12