Friday, September 18, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 2

In an effort to get some more sports content up, I'll be doing a weekly football picks column with my buddy Bob during the football season. And, similar to the Sports Gal, his wife will be picking games as well; visit tomorrow morning for her picks.

KANSAS CITY over Oakland (3)

Bob: Oakland (+3)

When I was in Russia, I went to see Paul McCartney perform in St. Petersburg. It was kind of a neat experience to see a rock and roll legend in person, but it was definitely a little bit sad in a way, too. It is sad to see people when they are past their prime, and it seems even sadder when a someone was exceptional. That is why I'm kind of hesitant to buy the new Beatles Rock Band game — while it would be cool to play Beatles tunes, it would just remind me that two of them are dead and the other two are old.

I mention this because Kansas City and Oakland are like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Two formerly proud franchises that are now just shadows of their former selves. In fact, I bet it is somewhat worse to attend a Chiefs or Raiders game because at least Paul McCartney can still sing. That being said, I liked what I saw from Oakland better than what I saw from Kansas City last week. Oakland played respectably against San Diego, which should be very good, while Kansas City got absolutely roughed up by Baltimore. The Ravens look to be good this year, but not 38 points good. I like Oakland in this game, even if Cassel comes back.

Steve: Kansas City (-3)

I was absolutely shocked by how well Oakland played, and I can't decide if it's because they have a bit of their mean swagger back, or if San Diego has simply quit on Norv Turner already. I think there is a 50/50 chance of either, and Oakland getting Richard Seymour now makes Old Man Davis seem just a bit more sane.

That being said, I think people will be a bit too high on Oakland after that strong showing. I'm picking Kansas City just to go against the curve.

TENNESSEE over Houston (6.5)

Steve: Tennessee (-6.5)

After that horrible showing last week, I just can't trust Houston. The Titans also looked a bit better than I thought they would, although at this point, I still think they would be better served by handing the team over to Vince Young. Kerry Collins is ancient, and Chris Johnson is not Adrian Peterson, although he is at least a decent substitute – the Hydrox to Peterson's Oreo.

Bob: Tennessee (-6.5)

Why all the hate for Chris Johnson? I can't remember if it was Simmons, Cousin Sal, or another recurring person on his podcast, but somebody in the Sports Guy world was very down on him as well. The guy was fantastic last year—his rookie season—and is the “lightning” to Lendale White's “tequila-free thunder.” If Johnson doesn't put up good numbers, it is generally because he didn't get enough carries. That isn't to say he's better than Peterson, but people should give this guy some respect.

Actually, this matchup features two excellent runningbacks who got pretty much shutdown last week. Johnson showed flashes of life against a stifling Steelers D, while Slaton got shut down by a surprisingly frisky Jets team. The real difference here is going to be that Tennessee plays well on both sides of the ball. This one could be a blowout, and begin putting nails in the coffin of the en vogue sleeper team for this season.

New England over NY JETS (3.5)

Bob: Jets (+3.5)

How about that comeback last week? It is tough to evaluate the Patriots by 55 minutes of mediocre play and five minutes of fantastic comeback. Is the real team the team that was getting blown off the line of scrimmage and couldn't run? Or was it the team that forced a turnover when they needed it, could not be contained on offense, and got a big defensive stop to end the game? I am worried about the loss of Jerrod Mayo, since that means the Pats have a bad secondary and now a linebacker corps that is anchored by an aging Adalius Thomas.

The Jets, on the other hand, looked solid last week. They got a great performance from Sanchez, who averaged 15 yards per completion and ran all over a decent Texas pass rush. Their defense was able to contain an above average Texans offense, holding Matt Schaub to less than 10 yards per completion and forced a pick. They also stuffed future Texans superstar Steve Slaton. This matchup worries me immensely. I think Rex Ryan gives the home team J-E-T-S the swagger to upset the Pats.

Steve: Patriots -3.5

Okay, I think the Patriots get a blow-out for real here. Brady and the rest of the team was shaky in the first half, but I think they use the second half playbook with the spread offense a bit more. Also, overlooked in the final score was the performance of the Patriots WRs in the first half the game. It seemed like Moss and Welker both dropped a couple of balls that would have prolonged drives.

The Jets don't seem real to me. Or rather, at this point, me, you and Andy would give the Texans a run for their money. While Sanchez looked responsible and respectable in his debut, I think the Patriots will pick apart the super-aggressive Rex Ryan defense. He has them playing better, but I feel that blitzing a ton isn't the way to beat the Patriots. Generating pressure with your front four, like the Giants did in that Super Bowl, is the way to go. (Easier said than done, of course.)

GREEN BAY over Cincinnati (9)

Steve: Cincinnati (+9)

Ah, a match-up of my binkies! Who to chose? Even though they're playing at Lambeau Field, and even though they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Broncos, and even though they're the mother-effing Bengals, I think this line is far too high. Carson Palmer and Chad Formerly-Johnson have to be able to put up more points than they did last week, right?

I don't think the Bengals will win. However, I do think they'll keep it within 9 points. The Packers' offense didn't really impress me against the Bears. I'm also guessing that the Packers are getting a big boost because they're at home, but isn't Cincinnati freakin' cold this time of year too?

Bob: Green Bay (-9)

I think you're seeing things through orange-and-black (striped) tinted glasses. The Bengals just aren't good. Having Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson is great, but their running back is Cedric Benson. Their premiere wide receiver (other than Ochocinco) is one crime away from a long suspension and possible jail time. Marvin Lewis has shown no ability to rein in his team or win important football games.

If the Bengals even keep this close, it's because their defense is somehow quite good. This week, though, they don't have the good fortune of playing Kyle Orton and the typical Broncos Whitman's Sampler of running backs. Ryan Grant is still a solid RB and Green Bay has some aerial weapons. Combined with the fact that they're playing at home, I think this is a rout.

Minnesota over DETROIT (10)

Bob: Minnesota (-10)

Right now I am being forced to watch America's Next Top Model. I think that Tyra Banks forgot to take her medication before this season began; they are doing stupid little skits at the beginning of each episode and she talks in this faux French accent. Overall, it is painful to watch. And not just because I hated America's Next Top Model to begin with. Tyra Banks honestly makes me somewhat fearful for her mental sanity.

The Lions will be just as painful to watch this season. I don't see why this line isn't higher. Adrian Peterson runs all over the Lions, and Favre may have a week like Brees last week.

Steve: Minnesota (-10)

First off, how DARE you attack Tyra Banks! She is so insane that she is a national treasure. I wish they had a show like The Soup that followed JUST her shows and media appearances for its 30 to 60 minutes of satire. Like the idea of an all-Michael Jordan channel that one of Bill Simmons' friends pitched, getting a regular burst of Tyra's insanity would be the perfect start to my day. It would instantly make me feel better about my own life.

And second, yeah, I don't see how the Lions keep this one close. I still think they're better than most analysts give them credit for, but this isn't the week that they're going to break that streak, not as long as Adrian Peterson stays healthy. In my fantasy league, he had about 60 points by himself, and thank god I didn't have to face him that week.

PHILADELPHIA over New Orleans (PK)

Steve: Philadelphia

Philly is at home, and it is also home to The Roots. I think. I'm pretty sure that is their hometown, and I really do like The Roots. I mean, not enough to know where they are definitively from, but still. They have some hot tunes.

Oh, right – football. Even though McNabb is hurt, it seems like every time he is hurt, the Eagles somehow manage to win anyway. It doesn't matter if the QB is Garcia, Feeley or Touchie-Feeley. Therefore, I pick them to win against the Saints high-powered offense.

Bob: New Orleans

I don't get this line. Although you're right that the Eagles have shown a strange ability to win without McNabb (but a bizarre loyalty to the aforementioned QB), I think Kevin Kolb may have a rough first career start (then again, I said the same thing about Sanchez last week, so what do I know?). I actually don't really understand this line. Shouldn't there be a bunch of action on the Saints, who were able to score 45 points last week after forcing only three turnovers against the terrible Lions. In comparison, the Panthers coughed up the ball seven times last week, but the Eagles scored a touchdown less than New Orleans. Although Carolina has a better defense than the Lions, I doubt they were playing up to their usual standard after Jake Delhomme turned the ball over for the umpteenth time. I think there may be a few tear-stained cheesesteaks consumed in Philly to burrow sadness on Sunday.

ATLANTA over Carolina (6)

Bob: Atlanta (-6)

Every Week 1, there are teams that looks like they may not win a game that season. With the exception of last year's Lions, that usually doesn't happen. Carolina can't possibly be as bad as they looked Week 1. The defense looked good against McNabb, and probably would have looked better if it weren't for the fact that they were constantly working on short fields thank to Delhomme's ineptitude. They still got ran all over, but they shouldn't be as bad as they were last week.

That being said, I think Atlanta played well but not great against the Dolphins last week. Matt Ryan passed all over the Dolphins but Michael Turner was held to less than three yards per carry. The defense was able to contain the Dolphins, but honestly I foresee many teams containing the Dolphins defense this year (Chad Pennington blows). I think this game ends up close, but unless I see something better from Carolina I just can't pick them, particularly since Delhomme is on the road.

Steve: Atlanta (-6)

Turner isn't doing much to dispel the Curse of 370 belief yet, but I wouldn't trust Delhomme to sit the right way on a toilet at this point. Have they given him a vision test? Maybe he's color blind – that would explain a lot. I think Carolina has the better team overall, but unless Delhomme somehow gets the quick hook, they lose this one by more than a touchdown.

WASHINGTON over St. Louis (9.5)

Steve: St. Louis (+9.5)

This line seems too high to me. I realize that the Giants are the Giants, but I can't see an offense led by Jason Campbell putting up a ton of points against any team. His inability to be a threat to opposing defenses means that they can just tee off on Clinton Portis. I attribute this situation to Daniel Snyder, who probably freaked out Campbell at some point between his rookie and sophomore season. I imagine Snyder stroking a cat, making suggestions about how Campbell could “better help the Skins,” totally unnerving him as Campbell thought he meant something else entirely.

Bob: Washington (-9.5)

Fun fact: Jason Campbell never threw for more than two touchdowns in a game last season. He might not even throw that many touchdowns in a game this year unless they can find a way to get Santana Moss the ball. That being said, I think St. Louis is godawful this year. They gave up 28 against the Seahawks and weren't able to do anything against Seattle's defense. I would be surprised if St. Louis is picking anywhere but first overall in next year's draft. I think the 'Skins can score 10 points, and that should be all they need to cover.

JACKSONVILLE over Arizona (3)

Bob: Jacksonville (-3)

So I know Arizona made the Super Bowl last year, but they got beat by the 49ers last week. On the other hand, Jacksonville had a strong game on the road against Indianapolis where they held Peyton Manning and his 400 commercials to 14 points. This line should be higher.

Steve: Jacksonville (-3)

I agree that this line should be higher. I'm guessing that the Cardinals still have a lot of believers because of their Super Bowl success last year; this is dragging the line down. Maurice Jones Drew didn't have an incredible game last week, and since he's not playing my fantasy team this week, I think it happens against the Cardinals.

SAN FRANCISCO over Seattle (1.5)

Steve: San Francisco (-1.5)

At least for this week, I will hop aboard the Niners bandwagon. They're at home against the Hawks, who are no juggernaut themselves. Also, when Mike Singletary drops his drawers to reveal the big “2-0” tattoo he already confidently got in advance of the game, I think the Niners are really going to respond.

Bob: Seattle (+1.5)

I want the 49ers to do well, provided they aren't playing the Patriots. But honestly I don't think they're that good. They just barely held on for the win against the Cardinals, who honestly didn't have a very good game plan. Also, I think Seattle might surprise some people this year. I hope Singletary is careful and learned from NFL personnel who have had mooning incidents before, otherwise he might be paying an NFL fine “straight cash, homey.”

BUFFALO over Tampa Bay (5)

Bob: Tampa Bay (+5)

Mmm... buffalo wings. I feel sad for my parents, because according to TIME buffalo wings were invented in 1964. This means that there was a time where my parents were alive, but buffalo wings didn't exist. I'm not sure a world without deep fried wings covered in spicy sauce is a world I want to live in. Thank you, Buffalo, for inventing the buffalo wing. (Real men of geeeeeniuuuuus...)

I think Tampa Bay underperformed last week, while Buffalo overperformed. People seem to forget that a game against the Pats is many teams' Super Bowl, particularly a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a decade. The fact that it was a Monday night game during Week 1 made it even more so. Buffalo came to play, but couldn't keep that intensity for 60 minutes. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay got scorched by Tony Romo, who people seem to have forgotten is a dangerous quarterback. I think Buffalo has a letdown game while Tampa Bay bounces back.

Steve: Buffalo (-5)

I kind of wish I could just take a mulligan on this one, because I have no clue how this game will play out. I will go with Buffalo. On paper, there is no reason why their team or personnel should work in the slightest. They fired their coordinator, Trent Edwards isn't that good, Lee Evans should be unhappy that TO is around, and TO is TO. But yet, they were within a fumbled kickoff from beating the Patriots.

Tampa Bay looked as bad as Buffalo looked good, and unfortunately for the Bucs, I think the Freeman era is going to get started a lot sooner than they anticipated.

DENVER over Cleveland (3)

Steve: Cleveland (+3)

I'm not sure if it's possible to be lower on Denver than I am right now, and it is mostly for petty reasons. First, how they beat my Bengals last week is just a slap in the face. It's not enough that I follow one of the most pathetic franchises in professional sports – The Broncos apparently have to beat them in a shameful, flukey fashion.

Therefore, I'm punishing them this week by picking the Browns over them. I think Brady Quinn is better than people realize, and the talk of Derek Anderson starting over him is just folly. And hey, Josh, can you get my man Knowshon some more carries? He is a starting running back for my fantasy team. Thanks a bunch, sweetums!

Bob: Cleveland (+3)

I don't know which team to be more nonplussed by. Cleveland was never in the game against the Vikings after the third quarter while Denver needed that gift touchdown at the end of the game. I thought Denver was going to be good this year, but they were only able to put two field goals up on the Bengals before that final touchdown. Is the Bengals defense really that stifling, or was Denver hurt by their desire to use runningbacks like most people use condoms.

I think this all comes down to Eric Mangini—is he a Mangina or a Mangenius? He got a serviceable performance from Brady Quinn and Jamal Lewis has been surprisingly good for the Browns. If Cleveland's defense can show up—a big if—they win this game. For this game, at least, I think we'll see the Mangenius.

SAN DIEGO over Baltimore (3)

Bob: San Diego (-3)

This should be a good game. Despite the fact that these should be two of the stronger defenses in the NFL, neither unit really performed well last week. The Chargers were nearly upset by the lowly Raiders, while Baltimore gave up a bunch of points to the Chiefs (interestingly, the Chiefs and the Raiders play each other this week two. Did the NFL institute a losers' bracket?). On the other hand, these are still two powerful offenses, with the Ravens perhaps overperforming a little.

As Madden-esque as it sounds, this game is either going to be a shootout, or it won't. By this I mean either both teams will run up the score, leading to a game where the last possession probably wins, or the defenses will step up and we'll get a tough, physical battle. Perhaps now that Merriman's legal troubles are behind him and he no longer needs to think about cheap domestic abuse-“lights out” dance jokes, the Chargers defense turns it up and manages to win this game.

Steve: Baltimore (+3)

Well, you already covered the Merriman legal worries and “lights out” issue, so I'm not sure what else there is for me to talk about. I think the Chargers are just about ready to roll over and die on Norv Turner. If he loses this game, which I guess I'm predicting will happen, I think he's another loss away from losing his job.

Pittsburgh over CHICAGO (3)

Steve: Pittsburgh (-3)

Jay Cutler sucks. I think Denver's record and Cutler's QB stats this year are going to prove just how much Mike Shanahan meant to the Broncos and their players. With non-franchise Jay Cutler and no Brian Urlacher, I don't think the Bears have a snowball's chance in hell of lasting as long as a snowball in hell against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Speaking of the Steelers, I wasn't super impressed with their opening week performance, but I am glad that I have Brady and Big Ben on my fantasy team. I don't think any of the Steelers running backs will be effective this year – even though I do own Mendenhall – so I think I'll be able to package Ben's gaudy stats to another team for a running back that could help us, assuming none of the starters I have the back-ups for get hurt.

Bob: Pittsburgh (-3)

I'm going to come clean—I watch the Real World/Road Rules challenge. During the last season, Evan was challenged repeatedly to enter the duel. It was always very bizarre because Evan was clearly one of the stronger competitors, yet people would choose to challenge him over people who were obviously weaker. At least, it seemed like they were obviously weaker and perhaps sometimes emotions were the deciding factor in the choice to challenge him. Or perhaps people wanted to dethrone someone who was clearly good. Or maybe people were just underestimating him.

This line reminds me of that. How can Pittsburgh only be favored by three? I hate the Steelers as much as the next guy, but they were still able to beat a strong Titans team. Chicago, on the other hand, has a very uninspired Jay “Sugarless M&M's” Cutler. Perhaps people think Chicago will play well at home. Perhaps they think that teams will put their best efforts up against the defending champions. Or perhaps the Steelers are just being underestimated.

DALLAS over NY Giants (3)

Bob: Giants (+3)

Honestly, the Giants didn't look to good against a mediocre 'Skins team last week. The Giants may have won that game, but they scored only 16 points on offense and gave up 200 yards to awful Jason Campbell. Perhaps this can be attributed to some kind of hex. Curse of David Tyree, anyone? Curse of the Helmet? Curse of the Plax's Clubbing Sweatpants? Dead puppies, dead puppies, dead puppies? Somebody help me patent it before Dan Shaughnessy beats me to the punch!

On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing Tony Romo scorching the Giants like he did Tampa Bay last week. This is still a team that is two years removed from containing the 2007 Pats offense (ugh, helmet catch--I made myself mad again). I like the Giants chance at an upset.

Steve: Giants (+3)

How are the Giants even the underdogs in this? To steal something from Simmons and Cousin Sal again, there must be a huge contingent of rabid Dallas fans betting the S out of this game, since it's the first Giants vs. Cowboys match-up at the new stadium.

Yeah, based on their performances in week one, I would normally go with the Cowboys. However, the Bucs are just completely lost this year, and my nominee for the team most likely to challenge the Lions as losers of them all. Meanwhile, although I think the Redskins are owned by an evil guy, they still have some remnants of the decent coaching of the Joe Gibbs era. So, I think the Giants are even better than they were last week.

Indianapolis over MIAMI (3)

Steve: Indy (-3)

This line seems WAY too small. This game feels like a shootout to me, and since Ronnie Brown is on my fantasy team, I'm personally hoping for four TDs from him, despite a Dolphins loss. That's how I roll.

Bob: Indianapolis (-3)

I don't see how this is even within a touchdown, let alone a field goal. Peyton Manning is going to shred the Dolphins and the Colts will win easily. I hate the Colts.

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