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BOSTON (CBS) — They don’t call me Mister .500 for nothing.
Actually, nobody calls me Mister .500, but if they’ve been paying attention to my picks, they would. For a multitude of reasons, I’ve had a knack of ending up at .500 at the end of every season. No matter if I start the year 80 percent or 20 percent successful, I end up at .500.
So I wasn’t surprised to look at my picks last Sunday afternoon and see that I was 5-5-1 after the 1 p.m. games. I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t happy.
This season, .500 is not going to cut it. Mediocrity is not going to fly. Not this year. That’s a promise. I’m 50 percent certain that I’ll follow through.
Let’s get to the picks.
(Oh, and Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week — RQFLWP for short — make their 2013 debut in a very big way.)
(Home team in caps; Wednesday lines)
New York Jets (+12.5) over NEW ENGLAND
If you got this line earlier in the week, when the Patriots were 13.5-point favorites, then bully for you! You’ve won yourself some free money.
Even as it stands now, though, I don’t see how the Patriots are getting this much respect. Danny Amendola (10 receptions, 104 yards, nine first downs) was the most important player in Tom Brady’s offense, and he’ll most likely sit this one out with a groin injury. Shane Vereen (101 rushing yards, 58 receiving yards) was equally important, and he’s out with a broken wrist.
Stevan Ridley is capable of carrying the load in the backfield, but without options in the passing game, how is Brady going to win this one by two touchdowns? It’s not out of the realm of possibility for rookie Kenbrell Thompkins to wake up and play like he did in the preseason, but when you’re leaning on Kenbrell Thompkins, you’re best to take the points.
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “I think for Jets games this year in which they’re getting anything less than a touchdown, I might just write ‘LOL’ and move on to the next one.”
Note: Sorry, Jets. Not really, but well, whatever.
GREEN BAY (-8) over Washington
The Packers haven’t lost two in a row since 2010. And Robert Griffin III looked like a man who needs about four weeks of practice, not a man who needs a short week to get ready for a trip to Lambeau. Eight is a little steep, but the sting of Monday night’s Redskins showing still hurts. I’ll admit, I have my concerns about that Green Bay defense, which got torched for nearly 500 yards, but Washington looked just bad enough for me to take the leap of faith for the Packers.
Cleveland (+7) over BALTIMORE
The Ravens’ best offensive player is probably their fullback. That’s an issue. Their most-targeted receiver last week was 34-year-old Dallas Clark, who was hanging out on his couch eating Haagen-Dazs in early August. Joe Flacco may be happy about his $120 million contract, but if it means throwing 10 passes to a 37-year-old Brandon Stokley instead of Anquan Boldin, it’s not going to be very fun for him.
RQFLWP: “I think this might be the best performance the Ravens have all season.”
Note: It’s nice when you have a solid RQFLWP all set up for you on Thursday night. It helps prepare for the coming week.
PHILADELPHIA (-7.5) over San Diego
The big story from Week 1 was that Chip Kelly’s offense was a runaway success, that the Eagles ran a million plays in the first half, that Mike Vick from 2004 is back, that LeSean McCoy is unstoppable, yada, yada, yada. Big deal. The big story is that the San Diego Chargers will always be the San Diego Chargers, and they will therefore always be hilarious.
RQFLWP: “I don’t know if Chip Kelly’s crazy ideas are going to work in the NFL, but if they are, I think they’ll take some time to function at a winning level. Week 1 in his first season is probably a little bit optimistic.”
Note: This is a RQFLWP Hall of Fame nominee. I think it gets in on the first ballot.
Carolina (-2.5) over BUFFALO
A meeting of two teams which found themselves staying much closer to their Week 1 opponents than most predicted. I’ll go with the team less likely to commit 12 penalties and implode in crunch time.
HOUSTON (-10) over Tennessee
That’s an awfully big spread for a team that consistently buys into its own hype. It’s still a tough pick, when you consider that seven of the Texans’ 12 victories last season were by more than 10 points. Included in that stretch was a 24-10 Houston win in Tennessee, and last week’s Titans field goal party doesn’t convince me that Tennessee has gotten that much better.
I’m taking Houston. But I’m not entirely happy about it.
INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Miami
I like the Dolphins, but, well, they managed just 20 rushing yards against the Browns. That was on 23 rushing attempts. That’s impossible. The Colts will actually be able to possess the ball this week, and they’ll be able to actually generate some offense.
ATLANTA (-7) over St. Louis
I just like the Atlanta offense too much to go against the idea of a huge response week in the Falcons’ home opener.
Minnesota (+6.5) over CHICAGO
Adrian Peterson isn’t good enough to carry an entire football team on his back every week … but he’s about as close as you can get.
RQFLWP: “It’s to the point where you can probably just go with the opposite of my Bears pick every week and make a living out of it.”
Note: Might be putting that in every week. At least you know I wasn’t joking.
Dallas (+2.5) over KANSAS CITY
On the fact alone that the Cowboys beat a very, very good offense and the Chiefs beat perhaps the worst team in football, this line is just off. Dez Bryant’s foot is OK, and the Cowboys are adding Brian Waters to the line. Consider me not sold on Andy Reid as some sort of difference-maker for the Chiefs.
New Orleans (-3) over TAMPA BAY
Is this line real? Is there a missing digit in there? Three points? Against the team that lost to the New York Jets? Going to very … quietly … make this pick … and move on.
Detroit (-1.5) over ARIZONA
Carson Palmer puts up good numbers, but they’re somewhat deceiving. He’s not very good when facing pressure, and against a Detroit front that will bring all sorts of extra nastiness after spending a week defending Ndamukong Suh’s character, he’ll be facing a lot of that.
OAKLAND (-5.5) over Jacksonville
NEW YORK GIANTS (+4.5) over Denver
I’m excited to see what the Giants offense can do when the team doesn’t turn the ball over six times. Yes, I was captivated like everyone else by the magnificence of the Denver offense, but I also believe that Baltimore defense may end up in the bottom five of every statistical category by the time December rolls around. I found the Giants’ ability to damn near win on Sunday night despite all those turnovers to be a more impressive feat, and I think Denver is going to have its hands full with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Plus points? I’ll take it.
RQFLWP: “The Giants will probably win, because they’ve won four straight in Dallas, even when they fully commit as a team to only play for about two full quarters.”
Note: I didn’t fully anticipate how dedicated the Giants would be to playing just two full quarters. That’s on me.
San Francisco (+2.5) over SEATTLE
Everyone’s favorite summer Super Bowl pick sure didn’t look like a championship team, and the 49ers looked like they’re capable of playing with passion. Anquan Boldin also looks like an absolute monster in that offense. The 49ers made it all the way to the Super Bowl last year, yet they spent the summer seeing every talking head pick the Seahawks to win the NFC this year. Now, the 49ers are underdogs, and I have a feeling those things didn’t go unnoticed in the San Francisco locker room, and we’re going to see it pour out onto the field Sunday night.
Pittsburgh (+7) over CINCINNATI
Things change from year to year, but still, when these two teams meet, it’s either a tight contest or a Steelers blowout. In Cincinnati’s three wins against the Steelers since 2008, the final margins of victory were three, six and three points. In the Steelers’ seven wins since 2008, they’ve won by an average of 15 points. The Bengals should win this game, but I’m not sure they’re primed to be the type of AFC North force that can just roll over the Steelers.
Last week: 7-8-1