We are now out of the least meaningful week in the NFL season. Hurray! I went 9-6-1 against the spread last week, and admittedly botched a couple games badly. My biggest advice to you is this: don’t be that guy that overreacts to Week 1. Remember, the Patriots, Packers, Colts, Cowboys, and Ravens all lost in Week 1 last year, and all five of those teams made the playoffs. There are a few things I was very wrong on though, and I will go into those. Let’s start with last night.
Last week I wrote to pick the Broncos in every game the first half of the season and pick against them in every game the second half of the season. I went against my own rule last night, picking the Chiefs (-3), and of course got burned. But I stand by that pick. Look, everybody is going to make all the excuses they possibly can for Peyton Manning. I applaud Jim Nantz and Phil Simms for figuring out a way to blame everything possible for Peyton Manning’s struggles besides Peyton Manning. It’s his new offense, it’s the offensive line, it’s the play calling, it’s the blitzes by the Chiefs, blah, blah, blah. I love Peyton, I think he’s a great dude and a top 3 quarterback of all time. But it’s done. He can’t put a whole game together right now, let alone a whole season. Yes, give him credit for getting through that game last night. But let’s be honest, he had two good drives. When his first read was open, and he got rid of the ball in two seconds or less, he was fine. He looked a little bit like the old Peyton. But if the pass rush was able to even get close to him, he missed the throw, usually badly. Sometimes he had time, and still floated a throw five yards away from his receiver. His arm has never been great, now it’s below average.
Give credit to an incredible Bronco defense, and say thank you to the Chiefs for playing so terribly. It’s not just that they had five turnovers, it’s that every one of those turnovers seemed to come at the worst time. Jamaal Charles fumbled inside the ten, costing them a field goal. Alex Smith’s first interception pretty much gave Denver a touchdown. His second interception came when they were driving down the field. And then of course there was the Charles fumble returned for the winning touchdown with under a minute left. The only non-costly turnover was the fumbled punt, which gave the Broncos the ball around the 30, and they missed a 4th and 1 instead of kicking a field goal. I’m going to hurt my head if I keep writing about this, so let’s just go to this week’s picks. Home teams are in all caps.
Houston (+3) over PANTHERS
The Panthers won last week because they played the Jaguars. The Jaguars scored nine points, because that’s what they do. The Texans certainly have some huge quarterback issues right now, and I think eventually they’ll settle on the more talented Ryan Mallett. They need to get that quarterback situation figured out, because J.J. Watt looks a little less terrifying when he’s down by 20 points. The Panthers offense struggled last week, they will again against a great Texans defense. This one’s easy.
STEELERS (-6) over 49ers
Can there be a less impressive 20-3 win than what the 49ers had late Monday night? I’ll be honest, that second Monday night game on opening weekend is always one of the worst games of the year. The Vikings offense was horrible, and San Francisco couldn’t move the ball consistently. I still think the Steelers are going to be really good. They didn’t play well against the Patriots, but a lot of people don’t. Big Ben still won’t have Bryant or Bell this week, but he’ll have a lot more success against the 49ers than Teddy Bridgewater did. Don’t forget, Pittsburgh moved the ball pretty well between the 20s in New England, they just couldn’t finish drives. They will this week.
Buccaneers (+10) over SAINTS
I know Jameis Winston and his offense looked terrible last week, and the Tampa defense gave up 4 touchdowns to Mariota in his first career game, but a 10 point spread is too much for me in an NFL game. The Bucs should get Mike Evans back this week, and that’s huge for a rookie quarterback. The Saints will move the ball well, but they weren’t great against the Cardinals, and I don’t expect them to cover.
Lions (+2.5) over VIKINGS
Forget everything I said about the Vikings last week. They still have a lot to improve on. Carlos Hyde ran all over them. Bridgewater was horrible against what was essentially a brand new defense. They couldn’t move the ball at all. The Lions had a pretty big collapse in San Diego, look for them to be motivated playing a Vikings team on a short week and I expect them to win rather handily.
Cardinals (-2) over BEARS
I’m really only giving the Bears two points in this game? Ok. The Packers beat them by eight and they didn’t play well. Arizona always flies under the radar, and if their spreads are going to be this low all year, keep betting on them. Other than a running game, they have all the pieces. Give me the Cardinals going away in this one.
Patriots (-1) over BILLS
Do not, I repeat, do not overreact to week 1 from the Bills. Remember, Tyrod Taylor is their quarterback. I repeat, Tyrod Taylor is their quarterback. Now, give them some credit. They probably have the best defensive personnel in the NFL, and now they have one of the best defensive coaches in the league. But seriously, Tyrod Taylor is their quarterback. It’ll be interesting to see what Rex comes up with to cover Gronk, that’ll be the big difference between the Pats and Colts. Also, Rex probably has them thinking they’re going to win the Super Bowl after one week, so they’ll be in for a let down. Once again, don’t be that guy that overreacts to week 1.
Chargers (+3) over BENGALS
I feel a little weird picking all of these road teams, but I’m not going to put a ton of stock into what the Bengals did last week. The Chargers were impressive in their comeback last week. Like I said, I’m expecting Philip Rivers to have a big year, he’s extremely motivated after all the rumors that swirled around him this offseason. Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon are rising stars. Give me San Diego in this one.
BROWNS (+1) over Titans
Mariota is definitely due for a letdown this week. After being that good in his debut, he can only go down from here. Give him a full season, maybe two or three before we crown him as the savior. Yes, I’m picking the Browns this week. What am I doing? I’ll take the home team getting points, yes, even if it’s the Browns.
GIANTS (-2.5) over Falcons
Despite how horribly they botched the 1st and goal from the one last Sunday, I think the Giants showed some good things. That defense can be good, they have a very good tandem of corners in DRC and Prince Amukamara. The Falcons were good, but they still were a missed field goal from blowing that game. I’ll take the Giants at home with Atlanta coming off a short week.
Rams (-3.5) over REDSKINS
I’m pretty nervous with this one, it seems way too obvious. I feel like a lot of people are going to jump on the Ram’s bandwagon after last week, and I don’t feel good about putting a lot of faith in Nick Foles. But the Redskins are not good. a 17-10 home loss was impressive for them. Their quarterback situation is a mess, the RG3 soap opera is still hanging around them, and I don’t think Jay Gruden is going to be a very good coach. I’ll take the Rams to cover, but expect it to be low scoring.
Dolphins (-6) over JAGUARS
I might end up picking against the Jaguars every game this year. Seriously, what is there to like? Blake Bortles is not good. Julius Thomas is already wasting away in this offense. There’s no offensive line or running game to speak of. The defense is nothing special. What am I supposed to like? The Dolphins should bounce back after struggling with the Redskins. And might I point out that despite struggling, they still covered. They’ll cover easily in this one.
RAIDERS (+6.5) over Ravens
I’m crazy for picking this, but I’m not going to jump ship on the Raiders after one week. The Ravens offensive line is horrible right now. I know they were facing a terrific pass rush in Denver, and an underrated defensive tackle in Malik Jackson, but they couldn’t run the ball to save their lives. The only time they moved the ball down field at all was their final drive running the two-minute drill. The Raiders will be ok. They still have a ways to go, but give them some time before you say they are as bad as they usually are. I’ll give them this one at home with the Ravens making the cross-country flight.
EAGLES (-5) over Cowboys
This line is a little big for me, but I really like the Eagles in this one. Their offense will be explosive. I think after reviewing the film Chip Kelly will realize he needs to run the ball more, and they’ll do really well with that. Sam Bradford found his groove in the 2nd half and looked really good when he did. Their secondary looked bad, but should gain some confidence against a depleted Dallas receiving core. As much as I love the Cowboy’s offensive line, their running game was not good last Sunday. I’ll take the Eagles to cover at home here.
PACKERS (-3.5) over Seahawks
This is a tough one to pick, but Green Bay is playing really well right now. The Seahawks’ offensive line didn’t look very good against St. Louis. Russell Wilson had no time to let deep routes develop. The absence of Kam Chancellor matters, don’t kid yourself. Aaron Rodgers walked right into Seattle in the NFC Championship last year and should’ve beat them on one leg. I’ll take the Packers right now in Lambeau.
COLTS (-7) over Jets
Yes the Jets were good on Sunday, but yes it was against the Browns. This Colts offense should get right back on track. Remember, they were playing at Buffalo, against the best defense in the league. That’s right Seattle, the Bills are the best defense in the league, at the moment. I expect Andrew Luck to get back on track, and I don’t see any reason the Jets should score enough points to cover.
If you’re a college football fan or just a degenerate gambler who will bet on anything, I’m in a weekly college football pick ’em. My picks for this week are: Louisiana Tech (+9), Ole Miss (+6.5), Purdue (+6), Cal (-6), TCU (-37.5), Colorado State, Georgia Tech, and Nebraska straight up.
For more useless sports banter, follow me on Twitter @rory_maccallum
NFL Record: 9-7-1
College Football Record: 5-3-0