September 23, 2011
Still treading water here after a 2-2-1 week. But at least we're doing big-boy handicapping in this space; we're picking against the spread. Nothing's more annoying than a football scribe who makes all of his picks straight-up, then boasts of his win/loss record all over the Internet. You called Pittsburgh over Seattle last week, eh? Nice call — your best since you gave us Globetrotters over Generals.
Never mind the bollocks, here's the Week 3 slate. As usual it's heavy in underdogs, which is how I've styled my handicapping for as long as I've been doing this. We're looking for value at all times, and we're not afraid to go against a public team or saddle up to a team that looks awful. As always, the numbers below are culled from Yahoo! Pro Football Pick'Em.
Raiders +3.5 vs. Jets: The 2-0 record obscures a lot of holes with the Jets, especially on offense. Mark Sanchez(notes) is off to an inconstant start. The offensive line has issues all over the place, and not merely with the loss of star center Nick Mangold(notes). And Shonn Greene(notes) is not a back who forces the issue on his own; he's really just a gaping-hole runner, someone who needs perfect blocking if he's going to hurt you. It's Halloween every night in Oakland, a difficult trip for any East Coast team. If the Raiders have done their homework, they'll unleash Darren McFadden(notes) as a receiver against a Jets linebacking group that struggles in coverage. (Or I could just fall back to Lisa Simpson's logic: Take the Raiders, because they always cheat.)
Bills +8.5 vs. Patriots: This sleek and efficient Bills offense should move the ball every week, not that the New England defense has been stopping anyone. And you're paying an extra point or two merely for siding with the Pats, probably the biggest public team in the game today. I'm expecting this to be a competitive game decided by seven points or less, but the beautiful thing is that Buffalo should still be in covering range even if it plays poorly for the opening three quarters.
Vikings +3.5 vs. Lions: I'm more or less in on the Lions along with everyone else, but beating the crap out of the Chiefs in your own building doesn't prove that much. A road game in a loud dome is always a difficult assignment, and the Vikings can hang around if they don't ask Donovan McNabb(notes) to do too much. This line might have over reacted to Detroit's quick start.
Seahawks +3.5 vs. Cardinals: Home field probably means less these days than it has for as long as I've been following (and covering) the league, but Seattle is one location where the current rules don't apply. The Seahawks legitimately get a push from their environment, and I don't see what's so wonderful about this Arizona team, a club that was lucky to win in Week 1, then played an uneven game at Washington last week. Make me proud, 12th man. If the Seahawks win outright, I'll consider making Monday Brunch a never-ending stream of Foo Fighter references.
Chiefs +14.5 at Chargers: It's hard to cover this big of a number in the NFL. You can't have any let-up, you can't allow a garbage touchdown, you can't settle for too many field goals. I realize the Chiefs are down several key players, though Eric Berry(notes) isn't the superstar some want to make him out to be, and this team is probably headed for a 3-13 or 4-12 type of year. But only a few things need to go right for the visitors to land inside the number. When the spread gets this high, I'm going to reflexively be on the underdog. Go ugly, skate hard, few flukes.
Survivor: Even though I picked the Chiefs to cover, I'm not looking to be a hero on this side of the ledger. Pick the Chargers, don't get cute.
Now it's time for your take. Let's see your five best picks against the number, and defend your selections. Play along at home, keep score, see how you do. Show some stones, show some handicapping chops. (Note: the games with no spread, while part of pick-em, don't count in this space. No fair picking the Eagles with no line or the Cowboys with no line. Select someone else.)
Image courtesy Associated Press