It’s almost November, which means it’s time for the real teams to show who they are. This is a post-Thanksgiving league, but teams with good records and flaws will start showing them about now. One team that is minimally flawed is the New England Patriots. Last night, they showed why it’s so hard to beat them.
Obviously, everything revolves around Tom Brady on offense. The guy is unbelievable, and at age 38, he’s somehow playing better than he ever has. He recently said he wanted to play ten more years. At this point, it’s kind of hard to say he’s crazy for saying that, isn’t it? I’ll believe Brady can keep playing at this level forever until I see him deteriorate, and he hasn’t yet.
Gronk caught his 61st career touchdown pass last night. that is one fewer than Shannon Sharpe, who played eight and a half more seasons. Once Gronk passes Sharpe, which he will do shortly, he will have more touchdowns receptions than any other tight end in the Hall of Fame. He’s changing the game.
Despite injuries upon injuries upon injuries, Belichick keeps finding a way to make this offensive line work. Just when it looks like they have an injury that they can’t sustain, they fix it without you even noticing.
Blount and Dion Lewis are perfect complements in the backfield. Lewis is so valuable both as a receiver and as a runner. He’s so quick that he can create space where there’s none. But at the end of games, when they need to run out the clock with a power running game, Blount is there to drop the hammer.
You might point to the Patriots defense and say it’s not as good as last year because of the personnel. I would tell you to watch them actually play. The secondary has yet to be an issue, and they’ve played against Big Ben and Andrew Luck, and most recently shut down Ryan Tannehill who was on fire. Their pass rush abused the Dolphins offensive line last night, and Jamie Collins is the best player in the NFL that no one knows about. He’s one of the best overall athletes and the league, and he’s excellent at playing in space.
The overlooked part of the Patriot’s team that is a complete testament to Belichick’s coaching is their special teams. It’s not just the fact that Stephen Gostkowski is arguably the best kicker in the league. Edelman and Amendola steal a lot of yards on punt returns. They’re shifty and know how to create space the way Lewis does. And their punt coverage is superb. I’m looking very intently, and I cannot find a glaring flaw in this team. They are heavy Super Bowl favorites until they prove they shouldn’t be. On to this week’s picks.
Lions (+3.5) over CHIEFS
Andy Reid and Jim Caldwell get sent to London. I think this is a great punishment for coaches that don’t know how to manage the clock. I think instead of a game clock they should take Big Ben and put it in the middle of the field, and tell both coaches to figure it out. Also, I’d be in favor of giving Reid an extra four timeouts per half just to see how he wastes them. But in all seriousness, these are two bottom ten teams in the league, and I’ll take the points.
FALCONS (-7) over Buccaneers
I think the Falcons offense will wake up against a Buccaneers defense that let Kirk Cousins go 80 yards in less than 2 minutes to win the game last week. Seriously, an offense that features Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Roddy White and that improved offensive line should score more than ten points this week. Then again, that offense only scored ten points against the Titans, who are an atrocious team outside of their quarterback.
BROWNS (+6) over Cardinals
Let’s backtrack a little bit on the Cardinals offense of Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald being an elite offense in 2015. But seriously how good would it have been six years ago? This is still a good team, but you saw them struggle to put the Ravens away at home last week, and Cleveland is a tough out. Plus Arizona is much better at home than on the road, and with a long flight I expect the Browns to cover.
RAMS (-8) over 49ers
This is going to be a long day for Colin Kaepernick. The only time he looks good is when he doesn’t have a pass rush, and the Rams have the best defensive line in football. I expect Kaepernick to be on the ground all day and Todd Gurley to run all over the San Francisco defense that has a ton of holes.
Giants (+3) over SAINTS
I’m really glad the Saints won two games no one expected them to win and now they’re getting too much respect. Let’s not sleep on the Giants. They beat the Cowboys by a touchdown, but because that wasn’t a big enough difference everyone’s jumping ship. This is still the best team in the NFC East, I expect them to roll in this one.
Vikings (+1) over BEARS
The Vikings could still be a playoff team. I don’t care that the Bears are at home, they shouldn’t be giving points to anyone. Minnesota’s offense is beginning to emerge as they now are finding who their playmakers are, guys like Stefon Diggs. Just because the Bears were on a bye last week doesn’t mean they’re a different team, this is still a horrible defense and Jay Cutler is an accident waiting to happen.
RAVENS (-3.5) over Chargers
Now that we’ve accepted the Ravens are a bad team, I think they’re a pretty good bad team. They hang around in games, they run the ball pretty well, and don’t act like Flacco can’t make plays. Most importantly, he’s at his best when he needs to be, and that’s when he has the ball in the last two minutes with a chance to tie or win. Also, congratulations to Phillip Rivers on his eighth child, you now have enough kids to get your own reality show. Also congratulations on being the best replacement for Ben Roethlisberger my fantasy team could’ve possibly asked for. You the real MVP.
Bengals (+1) over STEELERS
Big Ben is back, and while this is a much more compelling game because of that, don’t go too crazy. The Steelers are 2-4 in the first game after Roethlisberger comes back from an injury, and he’s averaged under 200 yards per game in those games. The Bengals are coming off of a bye and have the most complete roster in the league. While Big Ben makes this a more even matchup, the Bengals still have the edge.
Titans (Even) over TEXANS
It sounds like Mariota is going to play, and if he does I think the Titans are the better team. But, do yourself a favor and don’t go anywhere near these two horrible teams. Don’t watch this game, don’t bet on this game, don’t even think about this game. I already want to throw up, let’s move on.
RAIDERS (+3) over Jets
All of a sudden this is a really good game. I’ve been on the Raiders all year, and I will continue to be after seeing how they jumped on San Diego early last week. Had he been a part of last year’s class, Amari Cooper easily could’ve been the top rookie receiver last year (you hear that OBJ?). The Jets played really well against the Patriots last week, but they fell short, and now they have to fly cross country after an emotional let down. I’m grabbing the points and the better quarterback in this one.
Seahawks (-5.5) over COWBOYS
Maybe Dez plays, maybe he doesn’t, but does it really matter? Matt Cassell may throw down the field occasionally, something Brandon Weeden had absolutely no interest in doing, but he’s not Tony Romo. I’ll lay the points with a hobbled Dez going against a rejuvenated and desperate Legion of Boom, and I expect Russell Wilson to make Greg Hardy look silly on the other side of the ball.
Packers (-2.5) over BRONCOS
If only the Broncos had a quarterback right? Their defense has been spectacular. They deserve all the credit they’ve gotten for this 6-0 start. But they did give up big plays to the Browns two weeks ago, I think Aaron Rodgers can make a few more. Hopefully Cobb and Adams got healthy over the bye week, and to be perfectly blunt, Peyton usually spots teams seven points at some point in the game. Also, don’t bet against Aaron Rodgers in night games.
Colts (+7) over PANTHERS
I am 100% banking on the signature Andrew Luck backdoor cover in this one. The Panthers deserve to be undefeated in the sense that they’re better than all of the teams they’ve played so far, but the offense struggles to make plays despite the tremendous play of Cam Newton. His receivers were at least partially responsible for all three of his interceptions last week. But defensively Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are the best linebacker duo in the league right now. Hopefully Luck is healthy enough to do something about it.
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: Washington State (+11), Notre Dame (-10), Florida State (-20.5), New Mexico State (+5.5), Tulane (+32), Florida, Colorado State, and FI(Not A)U straight up.
NFL Record Last Week: 8-5-1
NFL Record Overall: 49-55-5
College Football Record Last Week: 5-3-0
College Football Record Overall: 31-25-0