As you may well know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, that’s not the actual definition of insanity; It’s just a phrase we like to toss around — kind of like an oblong-shaped ball made out of pigskin — when somebody keeps doing the same thing over and over again to no avail.
But, if the shoe fits…
Ok, enough pithy phrases.
The point I’m trying to make is that when it comes to picking for, or against, certain NFL teams through the first quarter of the season, much like a bad defensive coordinator, I’ve abjectly failed when it comes to making the proper adjustments to succeed.
Teams like the Panthers, Chargers and Titans have burned me when I’ve put my faith in them, and now that we’ve passed the quarter pole of the season, I have to accept some hard truths about these teams that I thought would eventually come to be proven false.
Like that the Panthers’ defense would come around.
That the Chargers’ offense could still win them games even without Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead.
That the Titans are actually an above-average football team masquerading as a 1-3 squad.
This week, I’m working to reconcile what I think I know about these teams and what their record says they are now that they’re all a quarter of the way through their year: something I feel obligated to do after putting up my first losing record against the spread of the young season.
Let’s look at last week’s and our running totals for the season.
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 7-8 (Season Record – 35-28)
Straight Up – 8-7 (Season Record – 32-31)
Locks of the Week – 4-2 (Season Record – 15-6)
Locks continue to be stone cold locks, but the rest could use some work. So let’s get to it, starting with Thursday Night Football
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBSSports.com, as of 10/5
NOTE: Post will be updated with prediction for the Bucs-Panthers game once spread is listed
(1-3) Arizona Cardinals @ (1-3) San Francisco 49ers (+3) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
Level of Confidence – Heads or Tails
ATS/Straight Up – 49ers
Hear. Me. Out.
I know what you did. You looked at this line and you laughed maniacally. ‘THE CARDINALS ARE ONLY GIVING THREE POINTS TO THE 49ERS?!?’ BWAHAHAHAHA.
Here’s why the 49ers are the play.
They’re home, on a short week, on national television against a division rival with a QB who won’t practice or do much film study this week due to a concussion, if he actually does suit up this week. These divisional, primetime games are almost ALWAYS close. Count on that being the case this time even though the Cardinals will be without Carson Palmer.
But either way, take the 49ers and the points. Or, side with every other pundit and player in America and take the Cardinals. See if I care. I’ll be back here next Wednesday waiting to say ‘I told ya so’.
No Way We Can Lose… Locks of the Week
(1-3) New York Jets @ (3-1) Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Steelers
I said it last week and I’ll say it again — there’s just no, possible, way, that the Jets keep this one close. The Steelers’ offense is ridiculous and the Jets’ secondary is ripe for the picking, just like their quarterback!
Bad puns aside, take a guess what the Jets’ all-time record in Pittsburgh is… I’ll wait.
It’s 1-8. In fact, forget about home or away, the Jets just can’t beat the Steelers. They’re 5-19 against them lifetime.
If you’re a Jets fan looking for optimism (lord knows I’m trying to find it somewhere) it’s that the Jets won the last time they faced the Steelers and that four of their five lifetime wins against the Steelers have come in this millennium.
That’s good, right?
Also, their one win in franchise history on the road against the Steelers happened in 2010. So, like, guys from the Jets in 2016 (Mangold, Revis, Harris, maybe more) actually remember winning there.
So hey, who knows. Oh wait, I do.
The Jets have no shot. Steelers by two touchdowns and Geno Smith finishes this game.
(1-3) Tennessee Titans @ (1-3) Miami Dolphins (-3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I STILL believe the Titans are a decent football team. They’ve hung tight with much better teams than the Dolphins and will stick with them this Sunday but will finally pull out a ‘W’.
The Dolphins have looked abysmal. Lost on offense, lackluster on defense and it’s looking more and more like Ryan Tannehill’s Dolphins career may be nearing its end after what may well be a lost first season of the Adam Gase era.
If I’m picking either of these teams to turn it around and make a run at a Wild Card berth, it’s definitely the Titans, who will beat the Dolphins on Sunday and finally make me look smart for putting them here as a lock of the week.
(2-2) Washington Redskins @ (3-1) Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Redskins
My assumption about the Ravens this year has been all along that they were not as good as their 1-0, then 2-0, then 3-0 record suggested. While I promised to evaluate those stances, I’m sticking with my original assumption, and until they provide more proof that they’re a decent football team, I’m going to believe otherwise.
That’s why I have to go with the Redskins here. I think Washington is a better football team overall and I love the fact that they’re getting points.
Redskins for the win and the cover.
(1-3) San Diego Chargers @ (3-1) Oakland Raiders (-4) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Raiders
Last week’s crushing loss to the Saints sure feels like a ‘wheels coming off the bus’ kind of loss for the Chargers. Now, Philip Rivers is the talk of trade rumors, Mike McCoy’s on the scorching hot seat and injuries continue to pile up for San Diego.
So, can they reverse this tailspin?
Can they march into Oakland, take down an upstart Raiders team and take their season and their coach’s job off of life support for one more week?
Raiders win big.
(Thanks to one of our readers, Brett, for pointing out that I eviscerated the Chargers in writing but had listed them as the pick ATS/Straight up. That’s not the case and it’s been corrected. Raiders for the win and cover.)
(2-2) Cincinnati Bengals @ (3-1) Dallas Cowboys (+1) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bengals
The Bengals have proven that they’re a good football team multiple times over the course of the last several years. The Dallas Cowboys, in my humble opinion, have still yet to do so. And c’mon guys, this point spread is… say it with me… WAY. TOO. LOW.
Their win over the Redskins in Week 2 looks better now on the heels of back-to-back Washington wins, but that’s far from a marquee victory.
Beating the Bengals at home would certainly be one, but I don’t think the Cowboys are ready. I think Dak Prescott struggles against a seasoned Bengals team and Andy Dalton and his merry band of wide receivers expose the Cowboys defense for the mediocre unit they actually are.
(2-2) New York Giants @ (2-1) Green Bay Packers (-7) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Giants (LOCK)
Straight Up – Packers
Here’s our ‘line that makes no sense’ of the week, folks. Sure, the Giants were manhandled by the Vikings last week, but, uh, so were the Packers for the most part when they ran into Minnesota in Week 2.
The Giants are still working some kinks out on the defensive side of the ball, most notably trying to figure out how to do that whole ‘sack the quarterback’ thing.
The Giants only have four sacks on the season and are tied for last in the league with the Atlanta Falcons in the category, which could — no, will — be problematic. Even more worrisome, the G-men have forced just one turnover all season and have no interceptions.
So could Aaron Rodgers go off? For sure.
But, I don’t think the Packers’ defense can prevent the Giants from doing the same.
After all, the Packers’ defense only has three turnovers on the year, have allowed 25 points per game on average and the Packers have allowed an average of 307 yards through the air per game, good for 29th overall this year.
So this one feels like it has shootout written all over it. A last to touch the ball wins type of game, which is why the Giants will keep it close.
Feeling pretty… pretty good:
(3-1) New England Patriots @ (0-4) Cleveland Browns (+10.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Browns
Straight Up – Patriots
Beware of scorched Earth Tom Brady, folks. That’s all we keep hearing all week and while Brady going absolutely HAM on the Browns to the tune of 12 TDs and 741 yards does feel possible, it ain’t going to happen.
Brady is approaching 40. He’s playing his first game and taking his first meaningful snaps of the season with his team and he’s doing it on the road against an 0-4 team that, dare I say it, might not be that atrocious.
So they got beaten badly by the Eagles in Week 1. So did the Steelers.
Otherwise, the Browns should have beaten the Dolphins, could have easily beaten the Ravens and put a scare into the Redskins last week for three quarters.
Point being, I don’t see this being a blowout. And c’mon, how fun is Twitter going to be mid-way through the second quarter if the Browns are making Brady look like crap?
Hang on one second… just saving a draft of my “PUT IN GARAPPOLO!” Tweet in anticipation.
Anyway, Patriots win, but Browns keep it interesting.
(1-3) Chicago Bears @ (1-3) Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Bears
Straight Up – Colts
I think the Colts and the Lions are very similar teams. Neither can win when their quarterback has a bad day and their defenses are certainly nothing to write home about. Last week the Bears surprised me and beat the Lions at home.
Taking their act on the road and beating the Colts seems like too tall of a task, but I think there’s no reason to believe that Indy will blow them out.
Cutler, Hoyer, whoever, I think the Bears keep it close and even lead late in the fourth quarter. I say a last minute Andrew Luck drive saves the day for the Colts this time around.
(3-1) Houston Texans @ (4-0) Minnesota Vikings (-5.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Vikings
The Vikings are for real. The Texans… I’m still not so sure.
Give them credit, because the Titans completely took away their best offensive weapon in DeAndre Hopkins last week and they still found a way to win.
But, I’m not sold on their offense being able to hang with the Vikings’ defense.
The Texans’ offense is ranked 25th in yards per game, 29th in points per game and Brock Osweiler ranks higher than only four full-time starters in quarterback rating of 74.8 QBR. Those starters are Ryan Fitzpatrick (ew), Jameis Winston (ugh), Marcus Mariota (meh) and Blaine Gabbert (yikes).
So sorry if I’m not putting my money behind Brock Osweiler in this one. In fact, I see this one unfolding scarily similarly to the Giants-Vikings game we saw on Monday night.
The Vikings will be opportunistic on offense, relentless on defense and will grind out a win against a solid opponent once again to move to 5-0.
Heads or Tails
(3-0) Philadelphia Eagles @ (1-3) Detroit Lions (+3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
I think the Eagles and Carson Wentz are for real, but I think they’ll have some trouble here. The Week 4 bye week is never ideal, especially when you’re an upstart 3-0 team firing on all cylinders. Even though they had an extra week to prepare for the Lions, I think the week off hurts the Eagles’ momentum and they come out sluggish.
Detroit’s been a mess the last three weeks in all three phases of the game at different times so let’s just call a spade a spade here.
This is more of a gut feeling pick. The Eagles should win this game if you look at stats, records, rosters, ETC.
But I think the Lions get one over on them here. Don’t fret Eagles fans, you still have a good team even if you lose to the Lions — even if it doesn’t feel that way on Monday morning.
(3-1) Atlanta Falcons @ (4-0) Denver Broncos (-6) – Sunday, 4:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Falcons
Straight Up – Broncos
Last week should have been a true test for the Falcons, but it appears less and less likely that it actually was one. By that I mean, I fully expected the Panthers’ defense to show up in some capacity this season, but that certainly wasn’t the case as they allowed Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense to embarrass them with nearly 600 yards of offense – including 503 through the air for Matty Ice.
Anyway, I can say with unbridled confidence, that this week the Falcons will finally face a formidable defense.
The Broncos will be the litmus test game for the Falcons. If they put up 30-plus points and Ryan continues his absurd start I’ll officially declare that they’re for real.
However, I don’t see it happening.
I think the Broncos’ defense will prove to be too much for the Falcons to handle while their defense will struggle to contain the Broncos’ offense. Still, this game is huge for the Falcons. They know it’s a prove it game to the rest of the league against the defending champions and still undefeated Broncos, so I think they find an extra gear and keep it tight.
(2-2) Buffalo Bills @ (3-1) Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Rams
The Bills’ defense seems to have figured it out and now they’re getting key cog — nose tackle Marcell Dareus — back for the for their cross-country trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams.
Meanwhile, the upstart Rams have won three straight thanks to one of the best defensive lines in football and their ability to force their opponent into turnovers.
If you’ve followed my picks so far this year, you know that the Rams have been my underdog darlings as of late while I’ve gleefully and unsuccessfully predicted the Bills and Rex Ryan’s demise.
So why stop now?
I think the Rams get their running game going and grind out what should be a borderline unwatchable defensive struggle.
Plus, the travel across the country thing is weighing on me heavily. I think the Rams wear down the Bills and cover the spread.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.