Friday, September 23, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 3

Tomorrow (Saturday, Sept 24) will mark the two-year anniversary of this blog. The first post was me complaining about Bill Smith and the Orlando Cabrera trade. When I started it, I couldn't have imagined I would still be writing it today. At that point I was a college student planning on majoring in business who had no idea what he wanted to do... now two years later I'm on the verge of getting a journalism degree... and still have no idea what I want to do. Regardless, I wouldn't still be writing this blog two years later if it wasn't for all of you people reading this stuff, so thanks a lot. 30,000 page views in 2 years isn't record-breaking or really even jaw-dropping as far as successful websites are concerned, but luckily I'm just a kid with some sports thoughts. 30,000 is a big number to me; here's to hoping over the next two years it'll be closer to 300,000 than 30,000.

As a thank-you, I'll be giving away two more Twins DVD's to lucky readers. I haven't yet decided how I will do that exactly, but when I do I'll let you all know. Look for details sometime next week. Seriously, thanks for reading.

Now, on to my week 3 picks for the NFL.

Last Week: 6-8-2
Overall: 12-16-4

Home team in Bold


San Francisco (+3) over Cincinnati


Jerome Simpson, the Bengals #2 receiver by default, is in the middle of a huge marijuana bust. The feds tracked a 2.5 pound shipment of Marijuana from California to his home in a suburb in northern Kentucky. They also found an additional 6 pounds already at Simpson's home.

I don't think that will play a big part in the game, because while Simpson had solid numbers last week I don't think he's really a great player. The Bengals should be able to replace most of his production with their other receivers. However, it's interesting, and noteworthy, considering the Bengals have a long, lengthy history of players getting into trouble with the law.

While the Bengals combination of Andy Dalton-Cedric Benson-AJ Green is considerably better than the 49ers combination of Alex Smith-Frank Gore-Michael Crabtree, I feel like the 49ers defense will ultimately make enough plays during the game to let them eek out a close victory.

Final Score: San Francisco 23, Cincinnati 17


New England (-8.5) over Buffalo


The Bills have been a great story through the first two weeks of the season. After trouncing the Chiefs 41-7 in week one, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense came back from a 21-3 halftime deficit to beat the Oakland Raiders 38-35 in the final seconds. The Bills offense has looked explosive through two weeks, and there's at least a decent chance that the Bills will in fact contend for a playoff spot this season.

But there's teams on the brink of contention, and there's teams that are contenders. The Patriots are contenders, and have looked even more unstoppable on offense than the Bills through two weeks. With Bill Belicheck game-planning, I expect the Bills offense to make more mistakes and be a little less explosive this week. Even if the game does become a shootout, I have enough faith in Tom Brady that I think the Patriots will win this game by at least 10 points.

Final Score: New England 34, Buffalo 21


New Orleans (-4) over Houston

One week after the Bears defense looked sensational against what was supposed to be a high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense, the Saints made them look brutal. The Saints reminded everyone why they're still a super bowl contender by dismantling the Bears and sending Jay Cutler to the turf time after time after time.

Houston has looked good this season, and Ben Tate has shown he's more than capable of carrying the load in the backfield while Arian Foster gets healthy. Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub haven't really gotten it going yet, at least not by their usual standards, but yet the Texans are still 2-0. The defense has looked much improved and the offense remains capable of scoring in bunches, but to me the Saints are simply too good.

Final Score: New Orleans 31, Houston 21


Miami (+2.5) over Cleveland


Chad Henne went from looking great in week one to terrible in week two. After being anointed as a possible sleeper, and someone who may have finally figured it out after week 1, Henne became the goat again this week. He played terrible last week against the Texans, so it wasn't undeserved, but it's hard to forget how good he looked against New England.

Cleveland, meanwhile, had trouble beating the punchless, Manning-less Indianapolis Colts. Colt McCoy played well down the stretch as Cleveland pulled away, but I expect Miami to take advantage of a slow Cleveland start. The Browns may climb back into the game, but I think Miami will go into Cleveland and get a victory, and at least for this week, Henne will again be praised.

Final Score: Miami 27, Cleveland 20


Tennessee (-6.5) over Denver

Chris Johnson has run for just 77 yards on 33 carries through two weeks. I'm not informed enough to know if Johnson's holdout is contributing to his low-level of play, but it would seem to at least be playing a part. That said, Johnson is simply too good of a player to have three poor showings in a row, and I think he'll explode against a Denver defense that allowed 150 yards to Darren McFadden in week 1.

With all the injuries Denver is dealing with, I just don't see them going on the road and keeping this game within a touchdown. Orton might throw for 300 yards and a pair of scores, but I expect at least two costly interceptions that should help seal a 2-1 start for the Titans.

Final Score: Tennessee 24, Denver 16


Detroit (-3.5) over Minnesota


It pains me to pick Detroit. I wasn't a big fan of the Lions before the season, and as good as they've looked through two weeks, I'm still not completely sold on them. They beat a Bucs team that is probably overrated and looks headed for a 7 or 8 win season, and they dismantled a Chiefs team that may not win a game this year. Now, a 2-0 start is a 2-0 start, and there's no doubting the talent the Lions have at key positions. If the kids can stay healthy, they could make some noise.

The Vikings have looked great in the first half of both games this season, but they've scored just three points after halftime in their two games combined, which is why they're 0-2. The Chargers and Bucs are both solid teams and won double digit games a year ago, so the losses aren't necessarily a sign of a lost season. However, good teams find ways to win games in key situations. When the Vikings went 12-4 in 2009, they won a lot of close games and made key plays when it mattered. This team seems to be much more like other Vikings teams (Or, I suppose, even the '09 team), choking in key situations. Sadly, I don't think this week will be any different.

Final Score: Detroit 30, Minnesota 20


Carolina (-3.5) over Jacksonville

Cam Newton has been getting hyped all week because he's the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in his first two starts. Certainly, that's quite an accomplishment. However, Newton's been far from perfect in either game. His 3 interceptions last week against Green Bay really cost the Panthers, and a poor roughing the passer call in week 1 overturned an INT. Newton looks well on his way to putting up monster numbers as an NFL quarterback, but until he can cut down on the turnovers I'm not ready to say Newton's proven all of his doubters wrong.

That said, Newton is a great deal ahead of Blaine Gabbert as far as in-game readiness. The Jaguars did not want to use Gabbert this soon, but head coach Jack Del Rio foolishly cut David Garrard on the eve of the season opener and then, predictably, had to bench new starter Luke McCown after he kept throwing the ball to the other team last week. If Gabbert couldn't beat out McCown two weeks ago, I don't think he's going to be very good in his first career start.

Final Score: Carolina 26, Jacksonville 13


San Diego (-14.5) over Kansas City

The Chiefs have looked terrible through two weeks, and three key players are already out for the season. Second year players Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki were expected to play vital parts for the Chiefs this year, and Jamaal Charles was expected to be one of the top running backs in football. After getting outscored 89-10 through two weeks, there's just no way I can justify taking Kansas City to cover any spread.

Antonio Gates was held without a catch last week against New England for just the second time in his career, but that's more a sign of the Patriots game-planning than Gates abilities. The Patriots dedicated two defenders to Gates at almost all times, whether they were bumping him with a defensive end at the line or keeping a safety over the top. I expect Gates and the Chargers to roll over the Chiefs.

Final Score: San Diego 44, Kansas City 10


Oakland (+3) over New York Jets

Mark Sanchez continues to be the most overrated quarterback in football. Rex Ryan is capable of hiding many of Sanchez's mistakes on a weekly basis because of the Jets superb defense, but eventually Sanchez is going to throw a game-changing interception that the Jets can't bounce back from. I expect it to happen this week.

Darren McFadden has emerged as one of the best running backs in football through the first two weeks, and as good as the Jets defense tends to be at taking away big plays, I think McFadden will still find a way to have a big day. If Jason Campbell can be smart with the ball and not turn it over, the Raiders could surprise a lot of people on Sunday.

Final Score: Oakland 21, New York Jets 17


Baltimore (-4) over St. Louis


Joe Flacco played very poorly last week in the Ravens surprising loss to the Titans. I don't expect that to continue this week; if Eli Manning can play solid against this defense after looking brutal in week 1 and throughout the preseason, I don't see why Flacco won't be able to do the same thing.

With Steven Jackson likely out again, the Rams offensive playmakers simply won't be able to make enough plays to keep this game within striking distance. Sam Bradford can't make every play, and after watching numerous drops by his receivers last week, it's clear the Rams are not quite yet a real playoff contender.

Final Score: Baltimore 28, St. Louis 17


Atlanta (+1.5) over Tampa Bay


The Bucs come from behind win against Minnesota last week is getting a lot of publicity, and Bucs QB Josh Freeman is getting a lot of credit. Unfortunately, as a Vikings fan, I've gotten used to seeing the Vikings choke away leads every year. As much as I like Freeman, he didn't do anything outstanding during that game. He made the plays he needed to, but the Vikings simply choked.

Atlanta also made a great comeback, defeating the Eagles after trailing by 10 in the third quarter. To me, Atlanta is simply the better team, and despite being on the road I think the Falcons will come out victorious. Look for Julio Jones to have a fairly big game against a slower Bucs secondary.

Final Score: Atlanta 35, Tampa Bay 23


Arizona (-3.5) over Seattle


That Tarvaris Jackson-Sidney Rice signing combination is working out really well for Seattle. Look for Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald to remind Seahawks fans what a good quarterback-wide receiver combination looks like, repeatedly.

Final Score: Arizona 31, Seattle 0


Green Bay (-3.5) over Chicago


This is a tough one. The Bears and Packers always play close games, and the fact that this game is in Chicago makes it even tougher. There's no doubting the Packers have the better team, but the Bears always seem to play well in divisional games.

Ultimately, I trust Aaron Rodgers a helluva lot more than I trust Jay Cutler, so I'll take the Packers.

Final Score: Green Bay 24, Chicago 20


Pittsburgh (-10.5) over Indianapolis


I think Rashard Mendenhall is going to have a huge game, and I expect the Steelers to cruise past Kerry Collins and the Colts with ease. Roethlisberger could have a big game, but I expect the lead to be large early enough where it's going to be a heavy dose of Mendenhall for most of the second half.

Peyton Manning is starting to look more and more like the most irreplaceable player in sports, but we'll see.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 31, Indianapolis 13


Update: Dallas is now a 3.5 point favorite for tonight's game, so I'm taking them. There was no line earlier in the week due to Romo's uncertainty.