2017 NFL Picks: Week 3
Okay, last week wasn't exactly great. It definitely wasn't as bad as Week 1, but I need to do a lot better than 4-6 if I want to turn this season around, justify the existence of this corner of the broader QQ content library, and convince Kat and my family that gambling on the NFL is a totally legitimate investment strategy. There's a lot on the line here, and it's easy to get discouraged, but one of the best parts of picking NFL games is blaming misses on "freak" occurrences like injuries and cooky turnovers while ignoring their role in your hits. I totally should have been 8-2 last week! Check it out:
- I thought the Vikings could keep the Steelers close enough to cover with an extra 5.5 points after Sam Bradford's solid Week 1 performance. He does something to his knee, and suddenly I'm counting on Case effing Keenum to keep Minnesota in the game. It's not like I could have predicted Sam Bradford would get injured!
- I expected the Packers to deliver a classic back-and-forth battle in the Falcons' new stadium; instead, Sunday dinner kicked off with sloppy joes, homemade coca-cola BBQ sauce, and the revelation that neither of Green Bay's starting offensive tackles were active. Add that to a questionable-at-best lateral call, and the game likely stays closer.
- The Eagles seemed to have things in hand for a cover with 5.5 points, keeping the game tied into the fourth quarter. If Zach Ertz doesn't get caught at the 11-yard line just before halftime or their kicker makes the ensuing 30-yard field goal, their 7-point loss could turn into a cover.
- The Cardinals went into Indianapolis and...ugh. I wish it was an unforeseen injury or a series of freak gale-force winds inside Lucas Oil Stadium that led the Cardinals to squeak past the Colts, but the truth is more depressing than that. We'll touch on it more later.
Obviously, Week 2 could have gone more smoothly. With just a little reversal of fortune, we'll go 8-0 this week and bring our record up above .500 for the year. Let's go!
Oakland Raiders -3.5 at Washington Redskins
Sunday Night Football this week features two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. Oakland trounced the Jets last week (as real NFL teams should) after an impressive Week 1 win over the Titans. Washington struggled in a loss against the Eagles before holding on for a win against the Rams. I'm grateful for the win, but shouldn't a good team beat the Rams more convincingly?
There's a version of this Washington team that can rack up yards and points, but the results just haven't been there, particularly in terms of wins against quality opponents. Since Week 7 of 2015, when Kirk Cousins suddenly stopped throwing interceptions and started sleeping on a bed of Daniel Snyder's money, Washington has scored 25.4 points per game. They're 16-11-1 over that stretch, with wins against last year's Packers and a Cowboys team with nothing to play for in Week 17 of last year as their best showings. Oakland is a quality team; they were 12-3 last year with Derek Carr under center, and they boast one of the league's best offensive lines. Without a healthy Jordan Reed and with DeSean Jackson playing in Tampa Bay, Washington won't be able to keep up with the Raiders. I'll include a link to our Sunday Night Football drinking game for their fans.
Kansas City Chiefs -2.5 at San Diego Chargers
Last year, the San Diego Chargers went 1-8 in one-score games. For the most part, teams regress towards the mean of a .500 record in these close games over time, but we haven't seen it happen in Los Angeles yet. Still snake-bitten, the Chargers enter Sunday's game 0-2 thanks to a blocked FG in Week 1 and a missed FG in Week 2. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have two of the most impressive wins of 2017 in the bag, and their offense looks scary enough to support a defense with impressive talent even after losing Eric Berry in Week 1. Andy Reid hasn't struggled with the Chargers either, winning his last six games against them. Unless the move to Los Angeles somehow fixed the Chargers' coaching issues, he'll extend his streak to seven.
Atlanta Falcons -3 at Detroit Lions
Rule One of watching the Lions is that they'll always disappoint you eventually. Rule Two is that they don't beat good teams. Over the past four years, Matthew Stafford and co. have a 5-46 record against teams finishing the season with a winning record. As this article lays out, every quarterback struggles against winning teams; that's why those teams end up with winning records. It's wildly oblivious to the discrepancy between the Lions' record and the other examples they give, though. Saying the Lions' 9.8% win rate is comparable to the Saints' 29.4% is ludicrous; if those numbers play out and both teams play 8 opponents with winning records, it's a difference of 1.5 wins per year. To be clear, this isn't a criticism of Stafford, who I think is extremely talented and as competitive as they come. The Lions supporting cast in terms of players, coaches, and management are more to blame, but the results are what matters.
The Lions may be 2-0 now, but neither of their fallen opponents will be finishing the season with more than 8 wins. The Falcons almost certainly will. Thrashing Green Bay last week, even with the injury and turnover misfortune I mentioned above, suggests Atlanta is still the class of the NFC South. I don't know if their defense truly made a jump since they began the tear that led them to the Super Bowl in Week 11 of last year, but Desmond Trufant returned from injury this season and they added Dontari Poe in free agency. Those additions, plus their still-formidable offense, should combine to form a wet blanket for Lions fans getting ahead of themselves. If not, I'll buy a horrendous NFL color rush jersey of Eric Ebron.
Green Bay Packers -9 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Ah, the first of two picks involving last week's 13-9 Thursday Night Football snoozefest. The Packers are a little dinged up, but they'll right the ship this week at Lambeau. We've already seen their defense dominate a team with offensive line problems, holding the Seahawks to a meager 9 points in a Week 1 win. The Bengals' defense is nowhere near Seattle's level, so this one will be closer to 35-10 unless Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis find a time machine large enough to fit the multiple free agents they've lost since their best first-round playoff exit in 2015-16.
New England Patriots -13 vs. Houston Texans
And now for the Texans. I wasn't any more impressed with Houston under Bill O'Brien than I was with Cincy last week (or in the past three years, for that matter), and they'll be facing Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck in Foxborough this week. Sure, the Texans' defense looked great against the Patriots in their Divisional Round matchup last year, but they still lost by 18 points thanks to the offensive malpractice of the one and only Brock Osweiler. In the meeting before that, the Patriots won 27-0 with Jacoby Brissett starting his first-ever NFL game. In fact, since Bill O'Brien took over in Houston, New England is 3-0 against the Texans with a combined score of 88-22. Do you have any reason to believe the Texans can top their season-high 13 points on offense in Deshaun Watson's second career start? I'm optimistic about his future, but this is too tough a task.
Dallas Cowboys -3 at Arizona Cardinals
This one hurts me to write. I really want the Cardinals to recapture their 2015 magic, but with each passing week it seems farther and farther away. I'm picking the Falcons to beat the Lions because I think Detroit is mediocre; if I'm right about that, the Cardinals fell apart against a mediocre team as soon as David Johnson left the game with a dislocated wrist, then eked out an overtime win over a Colts team that might be the NFL's worst. And now they're only getting three points against a quality Dallas team that let last week's game in Denver slip away late? The Cardinals defense is too talented to no-show, but Carson Palmer shouldn't strike fear into anyone at this point. I hope I'm wrong, but I see the Cowboys winning 28-17.
New Orleans Saints +6 at Carolina Panthers
As long as Luke Kuechly stays healthy, the Panthers boast one of the best defenses in the NFL, on par with Denver's in my opinion. They've allowed 6 points through the first two weeks, impressive even if those games came against the 49ers and Bills. Unfortunately, they've only scored 32 points over the same stretch, and it's clear Cam Newton isn't healthy. Most NFL quarterbacks could throw for 300 yards with their off-hand against this Saints defense, but these two teams have played oddly close games over the past few years. Eight of their last nine meetings have ended in either a Saints win or a Panthers win by six points or fewer. Now look at the spread and consider that Cam Newton's favorite weapon, Greg Olsen, is out with a broken foot. If the Panthers can barely reach 20, I think we can count on the Saints to reach 14. Six points is just too many.
Philadelphia Eagles -6 vs. New York Giants
When Odell Beckham Jr. was healthy last year, the Giants averaged 19.0 points per game. With him out or hampered this year, they've managed 6.5 points per game. New York's offensive line is abysmal, Eli Manning is playing like we expected 36-year old quarterbacks to play before Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees skewed our expectations, and the defense just isn't on the same level as it was last year. I don't expect Carson Wentz to light the Giants on fire, but with the massive advantage enjoyed by the Eagles' defensive line, it may only take one touchdown to win by 6.
That's all for this week! Kick back, relax, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.