Minnesota over ST. LOUIS (10)
Bob: Minnesota (-10)
These two teams are closer together than you think. Minnesota is the No. 11 team in terms of yards given up on defense while St. Louis is the No. 19 team. Minnesota is the No. 19 team in offensive yardage, while St. Louis is the No. 30. That isn’t to say St. Louis should have a chance here, but it does say that Minnesota isn’t as good as you think.
Minnesota will go 5-0, but this team is by no means elite. Its offense and defense don’t rank up against the Giants, Saints, Ravens, and Steelers of the world, so this team is due for a let down in the near future.
Steve: Minnesota (-10)
At this point, I have absolutely no faith in the Rams to sit the right way on a toilet, nevermind to win a football game, nevermind to win a football game against a team that does not entirely suck. Yeah, you can't ever completely count on a Brett Favre-led team to win a “gimme” game, given his love of throwing interceptions, but I don't think their letdown comes against the Rams.
Dallas over KANSAS CITY (8)
Steve: Dallas (-8)
Another stinker game. Dallas has not been impressive this year, especially last week, when Tony Romo had about 40 chances to score from the goal line and instead threw it at Champ Bailey's hands a couple times. Wade Phillips is a two or three-game losing streak away from losing his job, and Roy Williams is getting paid #1 WR money for #3 WR production.
So for the 'boys, the Chiefs are coming around at just the right time. I guess Scott Pioli needs a few more years to work up a better talent base. And who is that Cassel guy that they have at quarterback? To paraphrase Bill Reynolds, I'm glad we don't get quarterbacks like him here.
Bob: Dallas (-8)
I want to underscore the point I made a few weeks ago that the ‘Boys offense is not the problem, it’s their awful defense. In terms of yardage this is an elite offense (although Romo’s penchant for throwing picks is a problem), but the defense is hardly better than the Chiefs. That being said, the Chiefs are awful on both sides of the ball. What a letdown in must be to go from throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker to having your top pass catcher traded out from under you in the offseason, leaving you with Dwayne Bowe.
CAROLINA over Washington (3.5)
Bob: Washington (+3.5)
Well, I certainly shan’t be watching this game. Neither of these teams is exactly setting the world on fire. Both of these quarterbacks have completely turned their fan bases against them. In some ways, that makes it detrimental for Carolina to be at home because there’s the risk of Jake Delhomme getting booed off the field again.
Washington is the statistically superior team, but you just get the feeling that it’s the type of team that might help Jake Delhomme get his mojo back. Although Washington has been fairly stout against the pass, they have been vulnerable against the run and do not have a lot of picks. One should never count on Jake Delhomme to perform, though.
Steve: Washington (+3.5)
As bad / mediocre as Jason Campbell has been, at least his team has had a chance to win some games. Delhomme, man. I trust him even less than Brett Favre at this point. He is Brett without Super Bowl rings. The Redskins are still owned by the shitty Jerry Jones, but at least they have some talent here and there on their team. I don't think I could name more than five or six Carolina Panther players.
PHILADELPHIA over Tampa Bay (15)
Steve: Philly (-15)
How long until Vegas just prevents anyone from gambling on Tampa Bay at all? Geez, this line is 15, and it's not like the Eagles have been dominant world-beaters this season. And man, this is yet another horrible match-up. I guess the NFL is getting them all out of the way early this season...
This spread is incredibly high, but honestly, what chance does Tampa Bay have? Kolb has been a decent fill-in for McNabb, so I think he has a good chance of beating this line.
Bob: Tampa Bay (+15)
I actually feel worse about Philadelphia’s chances knowing that McNabb is starting. First of all, I have documented Kevin Kolb’s prowess in hunting wild hogs basically with his bare hands. So I don’t want to see him get benched. But secondly, McNabb just has a tendency to let this team down. I’m not saying they lose, but they may not be able to cover this spread.
Of course, I’m kind of ignoring the fact that Tampa is anemic on offense and Philly still has a shutdown defense. But I just don’t have faith in McNabb.
NY GIANTS over Oakland (15.5)
Bob: NY Giants (-15.5)
The Giants beat Tampa Bay by 24 and Kansas City by 11, both on the road. So the Giants perform well against the NFL’s bottom feeders (of which Oakland has been a contributing member for the past few years), but 15 is a wide, wide spread. Wait: the league’s top defense against the league’s worst offense? Woof.
Steve: Giants (-15.5)
See reasoning for Philly vs. KC. Man, the Raiders stink. I'm not picking them until they prove they can do something against a real team, regardless of how high the line swells.
BUFFALO over Cleveland (6)
Steve: Buffalo (-6)
Well, I'm glad to see this line under double-digits. The Stuckey era is upon us in Cleveland, so that is clearly the reasoning behind this 6-point figure.
I was surprised that the Browns managed to keep it close against the Bengals, to the point that overtime was needed, but I thought that effort was more an example of the Bengals still being the Bungles as opposed to the Browns' quality. A week later, I think what little luster he had will wear off Derek Anderson.
Bob: Cleveland (+6)
Every morning, I ride the Metro into work. I love the Metro. I get to walk two blocks from my apartment, get on for around two bucks, and then get off at a stop that is two blocks away from work. I never have to wait for a train (during rush hour) for more than 5 minutes, and at night I may have to wait a little longer but I also don’t need to drive home so I can partake in numerous adult beverages. Unfortunately, every so often other riders partake in too many adult beverages before riding the Metro, leading to conspicuous puddles of vomit being on the floor of some Metro stations in the morning.
I love football season. Most of the games are so good. It gives you something to do on Sundays. But sometimes you get a puke puddle of a game—a la Cleveland at Buffalo this week. Buffalo should win this game. But considering Cleveland was able to keep it close last week against the Bengals, and Buffalo seems to be quitting on Dick Jauron, I see the Browns at least covering. Of course, Mangina likes to lay a stinker when I pick them. So we’ll see.
BALTIMORE over Cincinnati (8.5)
Bob: Cincinnati (+8.5)
Not much respect for your Bengals, here, but I really don’t think there should be. They barely beat the awful Browns last week, and their stats are significantly worse than the Ravens. Still, last week I made the argument that the Ravens had played a fairly week group of opponents, and even though they hung in there with the Patriots I’m not convinced that hasn’t been a factor in their strong start. I’m probably going to regret this decision, but I’ll take the points.
On a related note, how lame do teams sound when they blame their losses on the officiating. There are certain times (I am looking at you, Ed Hochuli last year) when officiating can turn a game. But there was no one pivotal moment where we saw the officiating really do anything besides get the Pats a few extra yards on a drive. Was the game called tightly? Yes. But if you’re an NFL player you know that getting near the legs of Brady, Manning, and a few other elite quarterbacks will generally get a call. Why in God’s name would you even risk it? Alternatively, it’s not as though the Pats haven’t had a few egregious calls go against them, including one on Mike Wright during that game. It’s like blaming a baseball loss on an ump’s strike zone without there really being a decisive strikeout to really point to. Could it have influenced the game? Sure. But it didn’t help that your red zone defense let the Pats in the end zone after weeks of relative anemia, your return man fumbled to start off the game, and Joe Flacco threw a really inopportune pick.
Steve: Cincy (+8.5)
I agree with your take on the officials. Unless it is a play that causes a turnover, i.e. a false fumble ruling, then I think any penalty or lack thereof can be overcome with better execution. Seahawks' fans still complain about the officiating in that Super Bowl, but as a casual fan without a stake in either team, I didn't think anything especially egregious happened.
On to the game at hand! I am surprised that the line is this high, but the Ravens are at home, which probably pushed something in the 5-point range up to 8.5. The Ravens are kind of like a bizarro version of themselves this year – While they can now score, they can't seem to stop anybody, as Ray Lewis looks really old, Suggs is too busy cheapshotting opponents, and Ed Reed can't do it by himself in the secondary. I think Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson will spread the Ravens defense, although they will wisely avoid Ed Reed, who is a bad, bad man.
Pittsburgh over DETROIT (10.5)
Steve: Pittsburgh (-10.5)
I'm not crazy about this line – the spread seems so high – but Rashard Mendenhall is a bad, bad man. He scored 39 fantasy points last week, and the real world total seemed just a bit less. I think he has ended any idea of Willie Parker reclaiming the starter job in Pittsburgh, for which my fantasy team is thankful.
However, this is bad news for the Lions. I would almost be willing to take them, except that Matt Stafford won't be playing this week. Yeah, he's a rookie quarterback, but at least he's not almost-crippled like Duante Culpepper is. Teams keep giving him a chance, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he isn't that good without two Hall of Fame wide receivers (Cris Carter and Randy Moss) and two other Pro Bowl-caliber offensive players (Jake Reed and Robert Smith) on his team. With that Vikings' offensive talent, and in the dome, I think I could have thrown a dozen TD passes.
Bob: Pittsburgh (-10.5)
The Steelers were a decent team before. Looks like Mendenhall can run. Now they are a really good team again. Pile that with the fact that we get Daunte Culpepper starting for the Lions, I smell a blowout.
SAN FRANCISCO over Atlanta (2.5)
Bob: San Francisco (-2.5)
San Francisco has quietly produced the NFL’s No. 6 defense in terms of yardage. In the meantime, Atlanta is a bottom feeder defense, ranking only No. 30. Atlanta has the superior offense, but surprisingly Atlanta still is not that good—ranking just No. 23 in terms of yardage. The sample size is admittedly small—smaller still for Atlanta, who already had a bye—but I’m starting to wonder if Atlanta is as good as we thought. The one thing that could turn around this game is that San Fran has been somewhat vulnerable in its passing defense, although it makes up for that by producing interceptions. Matt Ryan could have a big day, but I don’t see how their defense can hold on to a win on the road.
Steve: San Fran (-2.5)
I think this game is pretty much a push, as the line implies, so I'm going with the 49ers because they're at home. It's weird, because Atlanta seems like the much better team on paper, yet San Fran keeps winning and at least hanging in games.
New England over DENVER (3)
Steve: New England (-3)
I guess I learned my lesson about picking against New England last week. True, Denver is undefeated, but they would have lost if Tony Romo wasn't intent on throwing it at Champ Bailey the entire game, or if he hadn't shit his pants shortly before game time when he realized that he had dumped Jessica Simpson this past year.
The Patriots haven't looked super-impressive this year either, but I'd rather bet on a resurgence from Tom Brady and company than hoping that Kyle Orton suddenly becomes a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Bob: New England (-3)
Like last week against the Ravens, this comes down to strength of schedule, as far as I see. Denver has pulled out wins against the Browns and Raiders, got a miracle win against the Bengals, and beat an unimpressive Cowboys team. Any quality team in the NFL should have gotten those wins, and I think the Giants, Saints, or Ravens could have done so a lot more impressively. So even though Denver is a slightly better team in terms of its statistics for the season, I’m not a believer in them being better than the Patriots.
That being said, I am nervous about this game. The Patriots have never been good playing in Denver. I don’t know if it’s the thin oxygen or what, but they just can’t get it done in that city. They should win this game, but the combination of not playing well in Denver and McDaniels having insider information on the Pats offense could make this game real ugly for the Patriots. I still think they can pull it off, though, particularly if Welker and Brady continue to regenerate a rhythm.
ARIZONA over Houston (5.5)
Bob: Arizona (-5.5)
I originally wanted to pick Houston to win this game, as I thought the spread was relatively high for two evenly matched teams. However, looking at the schedules, I saw that the Texans have played a relatively week schedule, with the Jets beating their pants off, a loss against Jacksonville at home, and wins against the Raiders and the disappointing Titans. ‘Zona, on the other hand, has lost to the frisky 49ers and the inexplicably underrated Colts while beating a perhaps-better-than-we-think Jaguars team. So pencil me in for Kurt Warner and the Cardinals.
Steve: Houston (+5.5)
I see this the opposite way you do, actually. Yeah, Arizona has been decent against a tougher schedule, but I'd rather take the team that has dominant against some crappy teams than the one that just manages to stick around. This is especially true in this game, where Arizona needs to win by a touchdown, essentially. This philosophy bit me on the ass last week, when I took the Ravens over the Patriots, but I'm sticking with it for this selection.
SEATTLE over Jacksonville (1)
Steve: Jacksonville (+1)
Didn't the Jaguars win last week? And isn't Seneca Wallace still the quarterback of the Seahawks? Am I missing something here? This seems like a slam-dunk line for the Jaguars...
Bob: Jacksonville (+1)
Jacksonville is very vulnerable to the pass, but I don’t think Seattle is the team that is going to capitalize on that. Maybe T.J. Houshmafdsn;lkdsajfsal will finally have a good game, but I don’t see how Seneca Wallace gets it done.
Indianapolis over TENNESSEE (3.5)
Bob: Indy (-3.5)
In the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, Admiral Ozzel is the commander of Darth Vader’s fleet and makes a number of errors. He doesn’t believe the Rebel base is on Hoth and then he brings the fleet out of lightspeed too close to the base so they have time to raise their shields. After learning of Ozzel’s latest error, Vader calls up to the bridge of his flagship and Force chokes Ozzel, saying, “You have failed me for the last time.” (Remember that time you called me out on my Star Wars knowledge last week Steve? Eat it.)
Well, the Titans have failed me for the last time. This team shouldn’t be as bad as it has been playing, but it looks like they may be. They are better statistically than their record, ranking in the top half of the league on offense and they are putting forward a slightly worse than average defense. But for whatever reason they can’t string together a win. They will win a few games this year, but I don’t see them starting their turnaround against Peyton and the Mannings. (This means the Titans will clearly win. I’ve just accepted that I may not pick a Titans game correctly this year.)
Steve: Indy (-3.5)
First off, I wasn't questioning your Star Wars knowledge. I was questioning how you could possibly justify having it behind Star Trek in your heart, which is totally a series more for tech geeks and nerds, as opposed to the virtuous and pure of heart.
And secondly, this line seems way too low, considering the teams involved. And this is yet another shitty match-up for this week. With the baseball playoffs, NHL season and NBA preseason, it's like the NFL is daring us to watch something else.
NY Jets over MIAMI (1.5)
Steve: Miami (+1.5)
I'm going with the Dolphins out of pure, personal greed. Ronnie Brown has been a consistent scorer for my fantasy team this year, and without Pennington in there to throw, he had a decent game last week. I think he's due for another one against the Jets, even if their defense with Rex Ryan is a bit more formidable.
Bob: NY Jets (-1.5)
If there is a way to beat the Jets, it’s by running against them. They are far more vulnerable to the run than they are the pass. But I feel like Rex Ryan will be able to find a way to shut down Miami’s high school Wildcat offense. I do think this game will be close, though.
Photo credits: Mr. Moneybags at the top is from this scammy-sounding betting site. The girl in front of some sort of metro is from here. The Jessica Simpson photo is from here. The Admiral Ozzel picture is from here.