Three weeks, three consecutive 7-9 weeks from our resident gambler Greg Kaplan. Needless to say, we had to triple check on him Tuesday after the Touch-ception. What we did find out is he wasn’t a happy camper.
What does he have to say about this week’s slate of games? Let’s find out…
Last Week: 7-9
Wellp….WELLP…I don’t know what to say. The new motto for this column each week may be “Greenberg’s Sports Book; where only 7 of these games will be correct!” It’s making for some of the most frustrating weekends of my life. If there is any sign that I am truly a problem gambler, it’s that I’m going to keep betting on these games until I break even. Which, of course, is never going to happen.
What’s that 1-800 number again? Anyway…
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens (-12.5)
Over the last couple of seasons, we’ve seen it time and time again where one of the teams that has to play Thursday night on a super short week comes out and puts up an absolute turd. After playing in two of the worst games called by these replacement refs, I don’t see it being the Ravens. It is worth noting that, despite being 0-3, the Browns have lost by 1, 7 and 10, respectively. Still, their offense is anemic at best, and the Ravens have been playing much better against tougher competition. It’s a large spread to cover, but this has the making of a 24-3 final in favor of Baltimore. Have to put the faith in the Ravens.
The Pick: Ravens
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons (-7.5)
Maybe it’s been a case of catching the right teams at the right times, or maybe it’s that the three teams the Falcons have played this year may not be all that good, but the Atlanta Falcons look like a true Super Bowl contender through the first three weeks. Their offense, even with the lack of a real potent running game, has been virtually unstoppable once they get rolling. As for Carolina, they’re coming off one of the worst stinkers so far this season at home against the Giants. Though they’ve had nearly 10 days to prepare for this game, nobody can convince me this team will be able to slow down Roddy White or Julio Jones after getting burnt by Ramses Barden.
The Pick: Falcons
New England Patriots (-3.5) @ Buffalo Bills
Last week, I thought it would be hard to imagine the Patriots losing two straight games with Brady at quarterback and Belicheck as the head coach. Even though they lost, this was one of the few games I covered, thanks to a second consecutive +2.5-point cover in Ravens games.
Though I was proven wrong the first time, it’s even more difficult to believe the Pats losing a third straight game, this time to a AFC East rival. Especially considering that AFC rival has a chance to be without both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Even if one, or both, play, they won’t be at full health. Jackson has been on record this week saying that, right now, he’s probably feeling around 70-75%. Yes, it is still relatively early in the week. But, you just have to think that things will not by this bad for the Patriots much longer. They’re too talented a team to fall to 1-3 this year. Nobody panic in New England. At least, not yet.
The Pick: Patriots
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions (-4.5)
This was one of three games this week I continually went back and forth on. My gut instinct was to take the Vikings after their very impressive performance against the San Francisco 49ers. I mean, take into consideration the Niners had defeated Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford before falling victim to a dominant performance from Christian Ponder. Yes, that Christian Ponder.
Thought about it more and remember that these replacement refs have been leaning in the favor of home teams, directly or indirectly (right, Seattle?). That, and Mikel Leshoure looked pretty strong against the Titans, and the offense has made it clear that they will be able to score with whoever is at quarterback, Stafford or Shaun Hill.
But, then I remembered the Lions got outplayed by the Tennessee Titans, who had looked like one of the worst teams in football before their 44-point explosion against a team that was supposed to be a popular dark horse pick for the Super Bowl this year. You could make an extremely good case that the Lions should be 0-3 right now, with the only thing saving their tails is an undeserving Week 1 win against the Rams. It is possible that Ponder is just a better quarterback than the majority of us thought before this season started, and that this team isn’t so reliant on Adrian Peterson as we once thought. Add in the return of Jerome Simpson, which is giving the Vikings another deep threat to team with Peterson, Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph, and you have yourself a quietly strong offense.
The Pick: Vikings
San Diego Chargers (-1.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Chargers got out of the gates hot for what feels like the first time under Norv Turner. So, naturally, they followed up their two decent wins with a fart of a game against the Falcons at home. That’s right, a fart of a game. It’s an industry term.
As for the Chiefs, yes, they rallied to beat the Saints in New Orleans for their first win of the year last week. But, honestly ask yourself, how much of that was the Chiefs getting back in the game, and how much of that was the Saints giving that game away? That’s a very important differentiation. When comparing these two teams, neither do something extremely well that really separates them in what will be a close match-up. When you are trying to pick between two teams you personally think are evenly matched, you should always go with the home team first, and then the points. In this case, the home team is also getting points. I’m not sure this is going to be the best game on Sunday, but it has a chance to be decided by a field goal or less.
Someone is going to have to come out of this AFC West. I still believe Arrowhead Stadium is a dangerous place to play for a team looking to rebound after a flat week. This game could be played 10 times between the two teams and the Chargers could win 6 of those 10. However, this is one of the four the Chiefs would claim. It’s set up pretty nicely for them.
The Pick: Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) @ St. Louis Rams
Controversial call aside, the Seahawks defense really flexed their muscle against the Green Bay Packers. Is it possible that the NFC West is the most competitive division in football between Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona? It’s very possible.
We saw what the Chicago Bears defense was able to do to the Rams. The Seahawks may have a defense on that level. You have to think they’ll have a significant edge heading into this early in-division match-up.
The Pick: Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) @ New York Jets
Christian Ponder looked fantastic against the 49ers defense. However, there isn’t one person on god’s green Earth that thinks Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow will be able to perform at that level to justify them out-performing the Niners even on their worst day. Also, the loss of Darrelle Revis is going to be tremendous. Him not being on the field changes the entire scope of what the Jets can and can’t do on that side of the ball. Yeah, I have no worries the 49ers are going to win this game easily.
The Pick: 49ers
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans (-11.5)
Yes, the Titans scored 44 points last week against an opponent many thought to be superior. Yes, they got the big plays when they needed them. Yes, Jake Locker looked very good. And yes, they did all of this without any sign of life from Chris Johnson.
However, the Houston Texans are clearly a different beast. I was totally wrong on them last week against the Broncos, and I’m starting to warm up to the idea that this may be the most complete team in the NFL. Where is their flaw? Maybe they don’t have a lot of targets in the passing game? Maybe? Is that really where we’re going to nitpick for Houston?
The Texans are going to flex their muscle in this division all season. I wrongly took the Dolphins Week 1 because I was worried the Texans would start to coast after getting a double-digit lead. But then I realized that the Texans coasting are still better than at least half the teams in the NFL.
The Pick: Texans
Miami Dolphins @ Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
We’ve been giving Brandon Weeden a ton of grief this year that he may be the worst rookie quarterback the league has seen since JaMarcus Russell. Well, maybe it’s time we take a closer look at Ryan Tannehill. The Jets did everything they could to give the Dolphins the game on a silver platter, and the combo meal of Tannehill and Dan Carpenter decided they just didn’t want it enough.
As for the Cardinals, yeah, they’re for real. Patrick Peterson, maybe the new ultimate shutdown corner? And trust me, he’s not alone on that defense. I could highlight each and every player and be like “yeah, he’s got an amazing shot at being a Pro Bowler”. It’s overkill at this point. What does make the Cardinals a deadly team, Ken Wisenhunt lets Kevin Kolb do enough to get the lead, then makes sure he doesn’t lose the lead. He literally takes the controller out of Kolb’s hands and rides it out to the end with his defense. Winning formula, no question.
The Pick: Cardinals
Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
What have I ever done to you, Cecil Shorts? Twice this season, this guy has burned me with last second touchdowns to turn the game in the Jaguars favor and cover spreads. What the hell man?! What did I ever do to you?!
Anyway, the Bengals are starting to gel offensively, and Andy Dalton is proving that he wasn’t just a decent rookie quarterback. He has a real love connection with A.J. Green (thank god for Heyward-Bey, I Just Met Drew…err…my fantasy team) and Jermaine Gresham has quietly moved himself into the top tier of tight ends in this league. As long as the defense can prevent the big plays that RG3 was able to pull out his magic hat late in last week’s game, they should be able to coast.
The Pick: Bengals
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos (-6.5)
We’re all a little concerned with Peyton Manning’s inability to put any zip on his passes at this point, right? And we’re also agreeing that I totally overvalued the Denver defense last week when I thought they would beat the Texans heads up last week, correct?
With all that said, Carson Palmer still appears to be, at the very minimum, a league average quarterback. Darren McFadden still has the game-changing abilities inside of him that make him more than dangerous. Their secondary is their greatest weakness, but, again, what level of Peyton Manning are we dealing with here? I like the Oakland’s offense and can tolerate their defense. The Broncos, I need to see more to believe. I’m going to take the points and see where the Raiders can take me.
The Pick: Raiders
New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
What an interesting match-up. On one hand, we have the 0-3 Saints, a team that hasn’t lost a game by more than one score. However, the really blew their game last week against the Chiefs, not scoring once in their final six possessions that could’ve iced the game and instead eventually lost in overtime. Can we really envision a New Orleans team starting a season 0-4?
On the other, we have the Packers. They lost to Seattle. Kind of. That’s all I have to say about that.
Right now, I have zero confidence in the New Orleans defense. None. I truly believe Aaron Rodgers is going to pick them apart and Green Bay is going to come out of the gates like a bunch of pissed of teenagers and beat the crap out of whoever is in their way at home. I’d be more surprised if the Packers fell to 1-3 than New Orleans falling to 0-4. That’s the truth.
The Pick: Packers
Washington Redskins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5)
I did it! Hoozah! I finally got a Tampa Bay pick correctly! I don’t care if you try to tell me that it was a back door cover and I got incredibly lucky! I don’t want to hear it! NOT LISTENING!
Moving on, I’m feeling lucky. Let’s double up, baby. Washington’s defense may be the worst in the NFL. Fact. Tampa Bay has proven they can score this year, despite their measly 10 points last week against Dallas. Tampa Bay has the type of defense that can slow down, if not stop Robert Griffin III. We’re going Tampa Bay!
The Pick: Bucs
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5)
Lesson learned: the Giants are fantastic on the road. Also, the Eagles aren’t all that good on offense. Two important things to remember heading into this one. Kind of says it all, right? As of now, 10 times out of 10, I’m taking Eli Manning over Michael Vick. Never really thought I’d catch myself saying that, but there it is. In writing. Take it to the bank.
The Pick: Giants
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)
Two elite defenses, and I will admit that this game kind of smells like another Jay Cutler stinker. Can’t we all see the likes of Lee and Ware just tormenting Cutler and the poor Bears offensive line all night and running train on Chicago?
However, I can also see Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers putting Tony Romo on his butt six times, while DeMarco Murray struggles for a second consecutive week to try and establish some form of a running game. Remember, the Bears D has been great so far this season. Like, really great. 14 of the points the Bears have given up thus far came on a pick six by the Colts and a fake field goal by the Packers. Otherwise, they’ve virtually allowed nothing. Have to like it.
The Pick: Bears