Last night the Ravens finally got off the hook, beating the Steelers in overtime 23-20, and more importantly covering the three point spread. That game wasn’t really about the Ravens. Let’s admit it, they’re not a good team. They finally were able to run the ball in the fourth quarter, but their offensive line is terrible, and their only reliable receiver is Steve Smith, who’s health is now something to watch. And above all, they’re 1-3.
The important thing from last night’s game was this: the Steelers NEED Big Ben back as soon as possible. Michael Vick is a nice story. I really like how he came back from his jail stint and really rehabilitated himself as a person. But he’s not the same guy he was five years ago. Last night he seemed very indecisive, held onto the ball too long, got sacked a lot, and missed a lot of throws. The consensus report is that Roethlisberger will miss six weeks. That means that counting last night, he will miss at San Diego, Arizona, at Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Oakland. If they win two of those games they’ll be doing good, and that would put them at 4-5. Who knows how far behind the Bengals that puts them. And even if they get Big Ben back with a 4-5 or 5-4 record, they’ll still have games remaining at Seattle, Cincy, and Baltimore, along with home games against the Broncos and Colts. All winable games, but loseable also. I think 9-7 is a realistic goal for the Steelers this year, assuming Big Ben doesn’t come back for another five weeks, and that’s too bad, because I think this is a really good team. 9-7 won’t win that division, and may not get a wild card. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m wrong a lot. I was wrong seven times last week, let’s take a look at this week. Home teams are in all caps.
Jets (-1.5) over DOLPHINS
This game isn’t actually in Miami, it’s in London. Maybe more Dolphins fans will show up. The Dolphins are definitely the biggest disappointment through three weeks. A lot of people, myself included, liked them as a possible playoff team. Shame on us for not knowing they quit on Joe Philbin in August. It wouldn’t surprise me if he “accidentally” get’s the wrong flight information on the way home and they just leave him in London. That would probably be the best way the Dolphins have handled a situation since the way they handled their offensive line in 2013. Moving on…
Jaguars (+9.5) over COLTS
Andrew Luck has to carry this Colts team, and now he’s “legitimately questionable” for this game. That sounds like BS, he’s going to play, but a compromised Luck means a compromised Colts. And the Colts aren’t very good to begin with. The days of them running through this division might be over. I think they’ll still go 5-1 or even 6-0 in division, but they’re not all going to be blowouts like the last few years. I’ll take the Jaguars getting that many points.
Giants (+5) over BILLS
Buffalo is for real, but the Giants getting five points coming off of a long week sounds good to me. The Bills had a big win last week, so Rex Ryan will again have them think they’re winning the Super Bowl. But make no mistake about it, the Bills are for real. Their defensive personnel is scary good. And Tyrod Taylor is a perfect fit for them. They don’t need him to go carry the team. They just need him to manage the game, not turn the ball over, and occasionally make some plays. Is Taylor the last quarterback to sit and learn for a few years and then step in and play instead of getting thrown into the fire as a rookie? That’s kind of a lost art, but he’s got a big arm and is very mobile. He might be good. But Buffalo is due for a let down, and the Giants are flying under the radar. Their offense is legit and keeps getting better each week. I’ll take the points in a close game.
BUCCANEERS (+3) over Panthers
Carolina is a pretty weak 3-0 team. I think the Bucs are going to be ok. Jameis Winston doesn’t look overwhelmed, and he’s getting more comfortable with Mike Evans. A lot of people are jumping on the Panthers because they’re 3-0. The teams they’ve beaten are a combined 2-7 and they’ve won by an average of about 7.5 points. That’s not great. I’ll take the Bucs getting points at home.
Eagles (-3) over REDSKINS
The Eagles seemed to solve a lot of their running game issues last week. Now they need to get DeMarco Murray going this week. I don’t think that’ll be much of an issue, he’s a special talent. An improved running game will help out Sam Bradford, who really needs to build confidence right now. And something vastly overlooked with this Eagles team is how good their defense is. They should feast on a turnover-prone Kirk Cousins.
Raiders (-3) over BEARS
Call me crazy, but I think the Raiders might have the best chance to dethrone the Broncos in the AFC West. Seriously, which quarterback has played the best in the division thus far? You could make a real argument for Derek Carr. He continues to develop a great connection with Amari Cooper, and they have one of the best young pass rushers in the league in Khalil Mack. Plus they play a last-place schedule, and the Bears are a grease fire. I think the Raiders should win this one easy.
FALCONS (-6.5) over Texans
I’m a little nervous considering the Falcons gave up 28 points to Brandon Weeden last week, but they did figure it out in the 2nd half. Devonta Freeman ran wild, and while the Texans have a much better run defense than the Cowboys, the Falcons have a very balanced offense. Kyle Shannahan has been very good as their offensive coordinator. He keeps finding ways to get Julio Jones open, and that guy might be the best receiver in the NFL. Also this team is very well coached, and their defense has improved. Plus the Texans have scored 20 points, 17, and 19 respectively so far this year. That’s not going to cover against Atlanta. I’ll swallow the points here.
Chiefs (+4) over BENGALS
Beware the Monday night loser. Everyone saw the Chiefs get embarrassed in Lambeau, and teams that get embarrassed on a national stage usually play well the following week. And seriously, how long can Andy Dalton go before he just has one of those bad Andy Dalton games where he throws like four interceptions? I’ll take the points.
CHARGERS (-7) over Browns
San Diego has not looked good at all this year. Their only win was against an even more unimpressive Lions team, and they still needed a big comeback to win that one. All that being said, I look for them to have a big game this week at home against the Browns, a team that’s not very good and has to fly out west. The Browns locker room is slowly starting to divide, because believe it or not they once again mishandled a big decision and benched Johnny Manziel despite playing well in Josh McCown’s absence. Cleveland, as always, is a dumpster fire.
49ers (+9) over PACKERS
The Packers are on a short week and have to make a west coast flight. The 49ers were embarrassed last week, and like I said before, teams that were embarrassed the week before usually play well the following week. Everyone’s beginning to realize how much Jim Harbaugh elevated Colin Kaepernick, but he should play better this week. The Packers don’t have as opportunistic of a defense as Arizona. Their run defense has been excellent so far this year, however, but it’ll be interesting to see how the 49ers run game which goes around the edges a lot more fairs against it. I’ll take the points in this one.
CARDINALS (-7) over Rams
Everyone overreacted to the Rams after Week 1, and now we’re seeing what they really are. They scored six points against the Steelers last week. Six. That’s like a high school game. And the Steelers don’t even have a great defense. Arizona’s aggressive defense should eat up Nick Foles, and Carson Palmer is playing as well as any quarterback in the league not named Rodgers or Brady. I’ll take the home team in this one.
Vikings (+7) over BRONCOS
Denver is the weakest 3-0 team in the league. Their defense is legit, but defense doesn’t win in this league anymore. The reason they didn’t put Peyton in the shotgun/pistol to begin the year is because they know that’s not going to win in November, December, and January, but they found out quickly that they can’t do what they need to do to win in cold weather. The Vikings are also looking very good. Throw out Week 1, because that late Monday night game to open the season is typically a terrible representation of how good teams are. Just look at how the Vikings and 49ers have faired since. I love Minnesota getting this many points.
SAINTS (Even) over Cowboys
Luke McCown vs. Brandon Weeden on Sunday Night Football. I can’t wait. Actually it looks like Brees will at least try to play, but in all honesty it doesn’t make much of a difference. The Saints are a rebuilding team, and the difference between 2015 Drew Brees and 2015 Luke McCown isn’t as much as you might think. The Cowboys defense is atrocious, shame on whoever said they’d carry the team without Romo. That being said, this is one of the most winnable games Dallas has without Romo, but I’ll take the Saints at home.
SEAHAWKS (-9.5) over Lions
There’s a lot of question marks with this Seahawks team, but don’t bet against Seattle at home in a primetime game. Detroit has been a major disappointment this year. Their offensive line has been crap, and it’s unclear whether or not Calvin Johnson just isn’t what he once was or if they’re just not using him the right way. Jim Caldwell might be Joe Philbin’s biggest competitor for the first-coach-fired-competition. Seattle honestly didn’t look that great against the Bears, but of course still won 26-0 because it was the Bears. I see them improving a little with Kam Chancellor having another week of practice under his belt. I’ll swallow the points and take the 12th man on Monday night.
For college football fans or just degenerate gamblers who will bet on anything, I’m in a weekly college football pick ’em. Here’s my picks for this week: Air Force (+5.5), Michigan State (-21.5), Northwestern (-4), Arizona State (+13.5), Michigan (-16), Georgia, South Carolina, and Notre Dame straight up.
NFL Record Last Week: 9-7-0
NFL Record Overall: 26-23-2
College Football Record Last Week: 7-1-0
College Football Record Overall: 14-10-0