2016 NFL Picks: Week 3
Last Week: 2-3
Oakland Raiders +1.5 at Tennessee Titans
Arizona Cardinals -4 at Buffalo Bills
Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5 at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 2 Recap
Let's address the abominable, monstrous, deformed elephant in the room before we get into any further discussion.
My Chicago Bears went up against Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football. After some encouraging early signs from the defense, things rapidly deteriorated, starting with a missed 31-yard field goal from Connor Barth. As pointed out in this article Mollie sent me, Robbie Gould finished his career 101-101 on field goals of equal or shorter length.
So great job filling his void, front office, with a kicker who posted a negative DVOA on field goals and kickoffs last year. Do you know who can make a 31 yard field goal from the right hash? Me, that's who. And according to my resume I'm an HRIS Analyst!
I'm overreacting to an event bound to happen at some point, especially considering the damage done by Gould's poor kickoff performance. But like I said, the missed chip shot was only the beginning; the Bears briefly held a lead before coaching miscues allowed Philadelphia to kick a go-ahead field goal before halftime. The first mistake was playing the same soft coverage I watched Lovie Smith employ in late-half situations for nine years with the consistent effect of yielding points. After allowing the Eagles to move into field goal range, John Fox called a timeout in an attempt to "ice" Caleb Sturgis. For those unfamiliar with the term, the goal is to give the kicker extra time to ponder the field goal attempt in hopes of causing anxiety and a higher miss rate. There is zero evidence to support this theory. Pesky statistics aside, it's hard to imagine a professional kicker struggling with an extra 40 seconds to contemplate a kick after warming up on the sidelines for the past two minutes. Mediocre coaches do it anyway, simply because they can. At worst, the kicker misses his first attempt (about 36% from this range) and the timeout negates it, giving them another chance (64%) to make it. Which is what happened.
The second half resumed the collapse of the first at an accelerated pace, and Carson Wentz finished with 190 yards on 34 attempts on a slew of slants and crossing patterns. That's an average of 5.6 yards per attempt! Guess what, John Fox and Vic Fangio? Even North Dakota State University knows how to throw slants and shallow crossing routes given five seconds to deliberate! Maybe consider pressuring the FCS standout into a mistake rather than sitting back to protect against notorious deep ball wizards Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor next time.
On the other side of the ball, our quarterback of eight years left the game midway through the second half with an undisclosed hand injury, which certainly won't do wonders for his soft reputation. I'm less inclined to argue with each passing year, but I'll try anyway, out of habit: Cutler has a track record of getting mauled with the Bears and was branded soft for leaving a playoff game with a sprained MCL. Based on his throws in the first half, his hand is probably in legitimately bad shape. So that's good.
What was the purpose of the preceding paragraphs besides letting me vent? I think I'm giving up on this cast of characters. John Fox is so behind the times he doesn't understand the value of going for two points earlier than later when down by 15, Cutler is a slightly older and slower version of the same quarterback he's been since arriving in 2009, and despite some decent front office moves this team is in the basement of the NFC North. I won't enjoy watching them this season, or probably next season for that matter. More importantly, (and relevant to this column) I don't need to be picking the Bears game each week. I purposely avoided them for years to great effect, and their absurd inconsistency was more of a reason than any bias I had.
The same goes for the Lions, who managed to score one more offensive point than Shaun Hill in their game against the Tennessee Titans. Remember my preaching about the risk of the Lions going LIONS at any time? Failing to close out that game is exactly what I meant.
Okay, let's review last week's picks to find valuable information:
Philadelphia Eagles 29 (+3) AT Chicago Bears 14 - LOSS - Noooooooooooooooooooooope.
Tennessee Titans 16 (+5.5) AT Detroit Lions 15 - LOSS - Nope.
Houston Texans 19 (-2.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs 12 - LOSS - Unfortunately I had the volume on for the Texans game this week, meaning I was subjected to Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots anointing Brock Osweiler the next Tom Brady. He managed a line of 19/33 for 268 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions; let's pump the brakes, guys. He underthrew more receivers than 2015 Peyton Manning, but was bailed out by DeAndre Hopkins and a swarming defense. The Texans forced three turnovers against a Kansas City team that finished with the second- and fifth-fewest giveaways in 2015 and 2014. It was an uncharacteristically sloppy game from the Chiefs, and the Houston defense acquitted itself well enough to cover a 3.5 point spread. I'm not thrilled with the outcome, but I'm no less convinced Brock Osweiler sucks.
New York Jets 37 (0) at Buffalo Bills 30 - WIN - Way back on Thursday night when I still had positive feelings towards football, the Jets offense went HAAM on the Bills behind a huge game from Matt Forte and a solid game from Ryan "hey-did-you-know-he-went-to-Harvard" Fitzpatrick. Their defense was again strong with the exception of Darrelle Revis, who was roasted deep for the second consecutive game. The Bills showed life after a depressing Week 1 performance, but it wasn't enough to keep them in the game.
Arizona Cardinals 40 (-6.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 - WIN - At least I'm not a total idiot when it comes to the sport I write about online. Jameis Winston turned the ball over five times (four interceptions and one fumble) and the Cardinals offense flashed 2015 form, winning 40-7. This one was never really in doubt.
What did we learn?
The Bears suck; the Lions can't be trusted; the Texans defense is legitimately good; the Jets will be the same team they were last year (good enough to beat the Bills); the Cardinals are a contender again. Good, let's get to Week 3.
Oakland Raiders +1.5 AT Tennessee Titans
There are a lot of red flags for the Raiders going into this game. They're facing the potentially real disadvantage of a west coast team traveling to the east coast to play an "early" game, they've given up over 500 yards of total offense in each of their first two games, and they looked rough in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons last week. I'm expecting them to bounce back with help from a mediocre Tennessee offense. So far the Titans are 17th in offensive efficiency, while the Saints and Falcons are 6th and 4th, respectively. I may be a little worried about the Raiders, but not enough to consider them underdogs here.
Arizona Cardinals -4 AT Buffalo Bills
Tyrod Taylor and the Bills aren't as turnover-prone as Jameis Winston and the Bucs, but other than the aforementioned deep touchdown their offense hasn't been inspiring. I think the Cardinals are Super Bowl contenders, and they have the edge in talent across the board. Beating mediocre teams on the road is how you lock up a division title and put yourself on track for a first-round bye. Plus, I've adopted Kat's Cardinals for the year so I can cheer on a team capable of winning games.
Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5 AT Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz has been impressive in guiding the Eagles to a 2-0 start, but those wins came against the Browns and my Bears; let's not crown them just yet. The Steelers, meanwhile, were a trendy Super Bowl pick heading into the season, and they're only giving 3.5 points after a strong win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Antonio Brown will have a big day, DeAngelo Williams will continue running like a twenty-something version of himself, and Wentz will finally struggle. This one might get ugly fast.
Speaking of getting ugly, Yax's section contains some strong (censored by me) language; you might not want to read it out loud to your family. You've been warned.
I am not making picks this week other than the mandated Bears/Lions picks. And, if it wasn't mentioned above, those picks are no longer going to count against us because f*** the teams we grew up rooting for.
I was 0-4 last week. F*** the NFL. F*** the f***ing idiots that coach and play this stupid game. F*** the Jags. My Bortortle devolved into a Bortle. That turd.
The Lions. My god. Ziggy Ansah out for the entire game after the third play? Check. The GM/Next Future Failure out of New England's Front Office, Bob Quinn, thought it was a good idea to start the season with five "healthy" linebackers. Never mind that Kyle Van Noy and DeAndre Levy are basically known for being injured. Of the three remaining healthy LBs, one is a 5th-round rookie and the other one had been on the team for two f***ing weeks.
With Levy ruled out before the game, you go into a game with four healthy linebackers. Hard to see how that one blows up in your face. Did Van Noy get hurt? You betcha. That's three. C'mon, no one else though, right?
Wrong. I'm going to switch subjects, it's difficult to type through the tears.
Since I am required to pick the Lions and Bears, I will do that now. Each team is getting seven points from their respective opponents. Here are my picks.
Detroit Lions +7 at Green Bay Packers
For the last 3 seasons, the Lions have split with the Packers. Each game has been close(ish) and they finally ended a 25 year drought of defeats at Lambeau Field last year. That being said, I am taking the Packers. The past few seasons, the Lions' success has been due to their ability to create a pass rush against Aaron Rodgers. Ziggy Ansah is going to be out, and I'm not convinced the remaining Lions will get to him. Also, it's Green Bay's home opener. So. Cool.
Truck: I guess I'll take the Lions and the points because they've played the Packers close over the past few years and Mike McCarthy can't coach his way out of a paper bag. Then again, neither can Jim Caldwell. So...Lions?
Chicago Bears +7 at Dallas Cowboys
Seriously, Bears? This line is absurd. Plus seven against the Fighting Daks? Ugh. Brian Hoyer is in the house. I hate the NFC East. Literally, I will stab my own face off before I pick the Cowboys and a rookie QB minus seven against anyone. Ezekiel Elliott is a hilarious person. I especially loved when he declared for the NFL Draft after OSU blew it against MSU last year.
Truck: I would say the Bears could handle a rookie quarterback, but last week suggests otherwise. I think the Bears cover this spread because the Cowboys will try to shorten the game by running the ball as much as possible. It should be a good opportunity to fine-tune the Sunday Night Football Drinking Game, though!