Week 4 NFL Picks: Peyton Manning-Michael Vick, Tom Brady-Matt Ryan Matchups Highlight Sunday’s Slate
BOSTON (CBS) – I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.
Well, I do know what I’m doing, it’s just that far too many NFL teams aren’t cooperating with me. And now … now I’m embarrassed.
Look, I won’t waste any time here: I went 4-11-1 in Week 3. That’s actually difficult to do. It’s hard to be that bad.
The right thing to do would be to stand here, take my lumps, accept responsibility, and hold myself accountable for my failure across the board.
But I’m not going to do that. Instead, it’s time to play the blame game.
Green Bay Packers, hold on to the football. Don’t fumble kickoffs. Don’t fumble kickoffs in the first quarter. Don’t fumble on a fourth-and-1, and try to stop Andy Dalton a couple of times. Yikes.
New York Giants, you are simply the worst. Just. The. Worst. You should all retire.
Philadelphia Eagles, you know what, I sensed your stink coming before the season began, but I let your Week 1 performance change my mind. That’s my fault. You still stink, though.
Atlanta Falcons, my goodness, I know you’re banged up, but you’re supposed to be a Super Bowl team. You can’t be losing in Miami. Ever.
Buffalo Bills, to be honest I feel kind of sorry for you, but not that much, because you lost a game in which your opponent committed 20 penalties for 168 yards. One-hundred and sixty-eight free yards! And you lost. To the Jets! End your season.
Oh, and Houston Texans. Houston! You’ve got to be kidding me. You only gave up 236 yards of offense but you still lost by 21 points. That is record-level efficiency of awful. You lost to a Ray Rice-less Ravens team. What is wrong with you?
San Francisco 49ers, maybe you need to set up some more nonsense interviews where Colin Kaepernick can talk about his tattoos to distract everyone from the fact that you’re playing awful and oh yeah, you let Aldon Smith play Sunday after a DUI on Friday. And then you lost anyway. Whoops!
I won’t go too hard on the Jacksonville Jaguars, because after all, they’re the Jacksonville Jaguars. But I trusted you (to not lose by 20 points). I believed in you (to get blown out but then make it close when all the backups were playing). I thought you could do it (“it” being not get embarrassed and blown out of the building). You disappoint me.
And you, Minnesota Vikings. You were the worst of all last week. After everyone spent four days discussing the Browns – the Browns – tanking their season for a top-five draft pick after shipping out Trent Richardson, facing Brian Hoyer, you lost. You lost to the Browns. To the Browns.
I’ll be honest with you all – I’ve had bad weeks in the past. You do this for a while, they’re bound to happen. And sometimes I let them get me down, get me to question myself, screw me up for weeks on end. But not this time. This time, as far as I’m concerned, I made great picks. Those teams just screwed it all up.
Let’s shoot for something better this week, shall we?
(Home team in caps, Wednesday lines)
San Francisco (-3) over ST. LOUIS
I think I might stop watching these Thursday night games. They’re horrible. Who could have ever thought that teams wouldn’t play well after having zero practices in the brief three-day window of preparation for the game?
So what I’m expecting more than anything this game is for some sloppy, ugly play. I think – think – that San Francisco’s ugly play is better than St. Louis’ ugly play, but I won’t find out, because I won’t be watching.
(Just kidding. I’ll be watching. Even if it’s 30-10 with 4:55 left in the fourth quarter and it’s midnight and I have to wake up in six hours, I will be watching every play like the sad addict I am. You’ve got me, NFL. You’ve got me good.)
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “The 49ers are clearly a different team at home, and they respond well to losses. … The 49ers don’t like losing, and the poor Colts are the ones who have to learn that this weekend.”
Note: Instead of a 49ers blowout, we got endless shots of Colin Kaepernick standing on the sidelines, wearing a hat, staring blankly into space. I think — though I am still awaiting confirmation from a second source — that I got this one wrong.
Baltimore (-3.5) over BUFFALO
It’s nice that E.J. Manuel got to celebrate that win over Carolina with some on-field crying because after last week, I’m not sure he’ll get the chance to celebrate a victory again.
Cincinnati (-4.5) over CLEVELAND
That little burst of mediocrity from the Browns last week was a nice story … buuuuttttt it will not last.
There is the risk here that the Bengals get a little too sure of themselves after knocking off the Packers, but I think the fact that the Browns actually won a football game last weekend will provide the Begnals with enough of a reminder that they’ll have to actually try (at least with 80 percent of their effort) to beat the Browns.
RQFLWP: “It’s going to be an ugly scene in Cleveland on Sunday. Cleveland deserves better.”
Note: That’s what I get for doubting the machine known as Brian Hoyer. How silly of me.
Chicago (+2) over DETROIT
Looks like a swing-and-a-miss from the oddsmakers on this one. Jump on it.
New York Giants (+4.5) over KANSAS CITY
Look, every week, there’s at least one score you see at 2 p.m. that makes you turn your head sideways and wonder what world you’re living in. It happens every week. Last week, it was the Giants getting blown out by the Panthers. I’m picking the Giants to be the surprise pick this week again, only this time on the other end.
It doesn’t make sense, but neither does the NFL.
RQFLWP: “The Giants still have that explosive offense, and the Panthers are coming off a loss to the Bills. It takes weeks, maybe months, to get over a blown game against the Bills.”
Note: (Sad face.)
Pittsburgh (-1.5) over MINNESOTA
The 0-3 Steelers travel to play the 0-3 Vikings in London, and, well, this is why my record can look so ugly sometimes. I’m looking at this game because I have to. If you choose to get involved with it, you really ought to find something better to do.
I’m not entirely convinced that Pittsburgh can do anything at all, but the Vikings just lost to Cleveland. You don’t go back to the team that just lost to Cleveland. Not now, not ever.
Arizona (+3 ) over TAMPA BAY
There were a few voices from Tampa last week that said the reports of the turmoil and unrest in the Buccaneers locker room was overblown, that things weren’t as bad as they seemed. But if anything, the reports undersold how much of a mess the Bucs are. They don’t have a quarterback (see ya, Josh Freeman), their $55 million star receiver takes himself out of games with minor injuries, the entire receiving corps drops passes left and right, Darrelle Revis floats around in zone coverage, and so on and so forth.
The Bucs are bad. At least people have stopped saying “they could just as easily be 2-0 right now instead of 0-2.” They proved last week that they deserve to be 0-3, and with the decent Cardinals in town, and with Mike Glennon getting thrown into the fire, I have no doubt the Bucs will prove worthy of being 0-4 by mid-afternoon Sunday.
RQFLWP: “But the Cardinals have undeniably played a couple of decent games, decent enough to make me believe they can at least keep things competitive in the dome.”
Note: In my defense, the Cardinals did keep things competitive for a full half of football. If the power went out at halftime, I’d have looked like a genius.
Indianapolis (-8.5) over JACKSONVILLE
The Jaguars might be one of the worst teams ever, but at least they have those snazzy two-toned helmets. So cool, guys! Looking sharp!
(Fun fact: The Jaguars rank dead last in points scored, dead last in rushing defense, 29th in passing offense, 30th in rushing offense and 29th in points allowed. They’re nothing if not very consistent.)
HOUSTON (+2.5) over Seattle
It’s as simple as this: There are seven teams right now that are 3-0. They can’t all win this week. That doesn’t happen. Each week, the undefeated teams start losing. This week, I think we’ll lose the Seahawks, mostly because there is always an adjustment/wake-up period when a team goes from playing against an FCS team (Jacksonville) one week and a real NFL team the next. By the team that team realizes what it’s up against, the uphill climb can be too much.
RQFLWP: “Kind of a laugher of a line here. The Ravens are not good. … With Ray Rice hampered with a hip injury, there’s really no thought required for this one.”
Note: That is the last time I express that much confidence in the Houston Texans. The last time.
TENNESSEE (-4) over New York Jets
Did the Jets even celebrate their win last week? Were they happy about the fact that they basically won by default?
Sure looks that way:
I actually read this story this week. It was from the New York Post. Its headline was ” Now’s a good time to start taking Jets seriously.” It made me laugh out loud.
Spoiler alert: there will not be any such stories in the New York Post next week.
Washington (-3) over OAKLAND
The NFL won’t allow teams to use throwback helmets this year because of a suggestion that players should wear the same helmet all season long in order to lessen the chance of concussions. First off, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Second, when you have Terrelle Pryor getting concussed but staying on the field to finish a drive, then tweeting the next day that he doesn’t remember much from the game, only to say hours later the he feels great and is “ready to go,” maybe it’s time to focus on things other than helmets?
Concussion discussion aside, this game’s tough. Oakland has covered two spreads this year, while Washington has covered zero. You could ride that trend or you could have a brain and say “the Raiders are going to fail a lot more often than they’ll succeed this year.”
DENVER (-11) over Philadelphia
Can’t cover double-digit spreads every week. At a certain point, it catches up to you. But not this week.
Chip Kelly’s three-ring circus is only successful if it … actually works. When the offense goes three-and-out in 57 seconds, it’s hard to compete in a football game.
The big pause I have with taking the Broncos is that the Eagles had extra time to prepare for this one, which theoretically means they should actually run a successful offensive play or two. But extra practice time doesn’t carry enough weight when the team on the other side is going to be Peyton Manning’s Broncos. Manning is frighteningly hot right now, somehow able to throw his lollipop passes with pinpoint precision, and until he even shows one sign of hitting a speed bump, you’d be nuts to go against him.
SAN DIEGO (+1) over Dallas
This is a tough one, considering the Cowboys are 3-0 against the spread this year and the Chargers are 2-0-1. It becomes even harder because these two teams rarely play each other (just three meetings this millennium) and they’re among the most inconsistent franchises of the past decade or so.
Further complicating things: I don’t trust Tony Romo on the road, but I also don’t trust Phil Rivers anywhere.
The Chargers have played one home game and they didn’t look too good. The Cowboys have played one road game, and they also didn’t look too good.
There’s no good reason to take either side, but when the lines for Cowboys games are this low, I tend to go against them. They always get the Vegas bump that comes from having so many fans bet on them that they’re probably more of an underdog right now.
ATLANTA (-1.5) over New England
Here’s the story with the Patriots in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era: They don’t lose very often. They lost four games last year, three the year before that and two in 2010. Typically, when they’re getting points, you go ahead and take them, because the odds are in your favor that they’re going to win outright.
However, the Falcons win a lot at home (21-4 since 2011), and they desperately need a win this week. If ever I were to be comfortable with leaving free points for the Patriots on the board, it’d be on the road, in a dome, against a should-be contender trying to avoid falling to 1-3.
RQFLWP: “With Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski both likely to miss this one, the Patriots just aren’t the type of team that’s going to blow anyone out. Not right now at least.”
NEW ORLEANS (-6.5) over Miami
What a perfect opportunity for the Dolphins. They’re 3-0, they look to be legit, they just took care of the Falcons a week after winning in Indy, and we’re all starting to take notice. But are they seasoned enough to waltz into the Superdome on Monday Night Football?
I just can’t make that leap. I believe in the Dolphins this year, but this game has “team-building learning experience at the hands of a Drew Brees beatdown” written all over it. And if there’s any category in which I should be able to consider myself an expert by now, it’s gaining learning experiences through beatdowns.
Last week: 4-11-1