We’re teetering closer and closer to mediocrity here, folks. Much like the Eagles, I stormed out of the gate and shocked the world with some real solid wins in my picks against the spread, but these last two weeks have been a struggle.
So it’s tough times like these when I have to pause, look in the mirror, and ask myself tough questions.
Then I watch that glorious clip and I’m reminded that there’s no time to feel sorry for myself. I’ve got a job to do and it starts with getting back on the horse.
Plus, it’s quarterback homecoming week in the NFL, so let’s get excited!
Two — count ’em — TWO, starting quarterbacks are returning to their former stomping grounds from last season to get booed and ridiculed by the fans that used to rain cheers upon them when they represented their favorite squad.
On top of that, we have some big division matchups to get to, a Geno Smith sighting at MetLife Stadium and a game in London.
But before we dive in, let’s look at last week’s numbers.
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 6-7-2 (Season Record – 47-42-3)
Straight Up – 8-7 (Season Record – 49-43)
Locks of the Week – 2-3 (Season Record – 20-12-1)
As always, I’ve categorized my picks for the week based on my level of confidence in the game as follows:
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.
Let’s start with Thursday night.
All spreads courtesy of CBSSports.com, as of 10/19
(1-5) Chicago Bears @ (3-2) Green Bay Packers (-9) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Packers
I have no concerns about Aaron Rodgers and you shouldn’t either, especially when his opponent is the 2016 Chicago Bears. Whenever criticism comes his way, Rodgers embraces it like Odell Beckham Jr. embraces kicking nets — but then instead of proposing to the criticism, or whatever the heck Beckham does with kicking nets these days, he vanquishes it with a 300-plus yard performance and four plus TDs. I think that made sense.
That’s the Aaron Rodgers I’m expecting to see on Thursday night, especially since he’s playing a Bears squad that just squandered what might actually have been their last chance to win a football game this year against the Jaguars.
Packers win big on Thursday night.
No Way We Can Lose… Locks of the Week
(0-6) Cleveland Browns @ (2-4) Cincinnati Bengals (-9.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bengals
Typically division matches are tight ones, but when the Browns and Bengals meet the opposite seems to be true of late.
Last year the Bengals absolutely waxed the Browns both at home and on the road, winning 37-3 in Cleveland and 31-10 at home. In fact, the last six times these teams have met, the game was decided by at least 11 points.
Cleveland did win two of those last six matchups, but I don’t see them pulling that off this time around.
Bengals get a much-needed win in big fashion at home against Cleveland.
(5-0) Minnesota Vikings @ (3-2) Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Vikings
Have the fans in Philly started booing already? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’re warming up their vocal cords already in anticipation of Sam Bradford’s return to the city of brotherly love.
It’ll be a chilly reception for Bradford, but it won’t exactly matter much when his Vikings leave Philly with a perfect 6-0 record.
Yup, going with the Vikings here. The Eagles are still reeling coming out of their bye week two weeks ago and the Vikings defense is going to wreak havoc on Carson Wentz in this one.
(2-4) Indianapolis Colts @ (3-3) Tennessee Titans (-2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
This week Colts owner Jim Irsay said, “we could be 6-0 if the ball bounces a little differently,” to which I just have to say, no, Jim, no. BAD JIM.
Listen, if you need a ball to bounce a little differently to beat the Lions, Jaguars or hold a 14-point lead over the Texans, you’re probably not a very good football team to begin with.
It’s nothing personal, Colts fans, I just don’t have much respect for your team. I think they’ve been horribly built around their superstar quarterback for the last several years and the end result is the extremely mediocre squad that gets trotted out in white and blue each Sunday.
Meanwhile, I still think the Titans are a team on the rise. I think they take care of business at home and drop the Colts to 2-5 on the year, putting the Grigson-Pagano tandem in severe danger of becoming the season’s first GM/coaching casualties.
(2-3) New Orleans Saints @ (3-2) Kansas City Chiefs (-7) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Chiefs
The Saints’ defense is beyond atrocious and while their offense helps mask those deficiencies, they haven’t had to do it against a top-tier defensive unit yet this year.
The Chiefs are a Top 10 defense and are solid when it comes to defending both against the pass and the run. While their offense is far from high powered, their running game has proven efficient enough to help them keep their defense off the field against even decent defenses, which the Saints, are not.
I think Alex Smith and company will have their way with the Saints’ defense the same way every other team does, but the difference here will be that scoring at will against the Chiefs’ defense will prove to be a difficult task for Drew Brees and the Saints.
Chiefs by 10.
(3-3) Baltimore Ravens @ (1-5) New York Jets (-1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Ravens
I’m still grappling with the notion that the New York Jets — starting Geno Smith for the first time this season — are favorites in this game.
Sure, Joe Flacco has a mystery arm injury that kept him out of practice Wednesday, but surely Flacco with a bionic arm would be at least as good as a healthy Geno Smith, right?
(Note: I’ve been a supporter of seeing what Geno’s got and have been pretty ardently anti-Fitzpatrick all along. Still, let’s be real here.)
Forget about the Flacco-Smith thing though.
Take it from a Jets fan — the Jets are in deep, deep trouble. Everything about this team has been awful and there’s no reason to even consider picking them to win until they prove otherwise. So I’m not going to.
Ravens win big at MetLife.
(2-3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ (1-4) San Francisco 49ers (-2) – Sunday, 4:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have had an absolutely brutal schedule to start their year. Two road games to start the season against the Falcons and Cardinals, followed by home games against the upstart Rams and the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos, followed by last week’s Monday night game against the Panthers.
All things considered, maybe 2-3 isn’t really that bad for a team still learning how to win coming out of that stretch.
I’m going to go ahead and say it’s actually pretty damn good considering. So good, that I like the Bucs to go into San Francisco and beat the 49ers by at least a touchdown.
(2-4) San Diego Chargers @ (4-2) Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) – Sunday, 4:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Falcons
Guys, the Chargers tried so hard — SO FREAKING HARD — to hand that game to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night.
Somebody please look me in the eye and tell me how I can trust this team, uh, ever.
Alright, forget about the Chargers for a moment and let’s be real here, the Falcons got jobbed at the end of that game last weekend. You know it, I know it, the whole league knows it.
So what does it mean?
It means that we have definitive proof that the Falcons are a good football team.
If you’re twisting my arm and forcing me to say something positive about the Chargers, it’s that they’ve overcome their calamity Jane moniker twice this year and have actually won football games. Still, if they can do it against the Falcons, or even keep it close against them, I’ll be shocked.
Feeling pretty… pretty good:
(4-2) Oakland Raiders @ (2-3) Jacksonville Jaguars (-1.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Raiders
I keep waiting for the Jaguars to wake up from what’s more or less been a season-long slumber for a team many projected to be on the rise this year, but it doesn’t seem any closer to happening.
My apologies for not doing cartwheels after they pulled out a comeback win against the hapless Bears.
The key for both teams is pretty much the same here and it’s controlling the line of scrimmage and being able to run the ball effectively.
For the Jaguars, that means getting their 31st-ranked rushing attack going against the Raiders’ 29th-ranked rushing defense.
And for the Raiders, it means running the ball early and often to take pressure off of Derek Carr and preventing the Jaguars’ defense from pinning their ears back and coming after the young QB.
I think the Raiders have a better chance of getting their ground game going and it leads them to victory.
(5-1) New England Patriots @ (4-2) Pittsburgh Steelers (+7) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS – Steelers
Straight Up – Patriots
What should have been one of the games of the week — and arguably of the season between two Super Bowl contenders — will likely not be that at all.
Big Ben Roethlisberger will be pacing the sidelines, taking all of the air out of (heh) the fanfare of this game.
But still, the game must go on.
So can Landry Jones lead the Steelers’ offense to a victory over the annoyingly unstoppable New England Patriots?
Probably not. But I think thanks to the weapons he’ll have at his disposal and the fact that this game is being played in the friendly confines of Heinz Field, he’ll at least be able to keep it close.
Patriots win, but not by much.
(3-3) New York Giants @ (3-3) Los Angeles Rams (+2.5) – Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET (Game will be played in London)
ATS/Straight Up – Giants
The cross-country plus trans-Atlantic travel the Rams will have to endure to just to get to England is cruel. Cross-country travel wreaks enough havoc on teams on a weekly basis, so I can’t even imagine how the Rams are going to manage here.
I mean, think about the sheer difference in time zones alone. The game is being played at 2:30 p.m. local time in London, which is really 6:30 a.m. for the Rams. The whole thing is just weird and quite frankly I’m getting tired just trying to comprehend what the Rams will have to go through to play this game.
Anyway, the time zones are far from the most interesting thing about this game. What’s the most interesting thing about this game, you ask?
Odell Beckham Jr. versus the Greg Williams-led Rams defense.
The Rams — and Williams’ defenses, in case you’ve forgotten — don’t exactly have the reputation of being choir boys around the NFL, so you just KNOW that the Rams are going to try to get under Odell’s skin in any possible way.
That battle, will go a long way towards deciding this game. The Giants have no running game and the Rams are pretty adept at stopping it anyway (10th in the league in yards per game allowed).
Sparks will fly, but I think Odell gets the better of the Rams’ secondary and has a big day, leading to a big Giants win.
(4-2) Buffalo Bills @ (2-4) Miami Dolphins (+3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins’ victory over the Steelers on Sunday afternoon was nothing short of stunning. Sure, they hobbled Ben Roethlisberger early, which helped a lot, but make no mistake, this was a massive step in the right direction for the Dolphins and coach Adam Gase.
About 1,000 miles north and a ways west of Miami, the Buffalo Bills were busy rolling over the 49ers en route to their fourth straight win and a 4-2 record.
Unlikely incidents all around.
So who has the edge between these AFC East rivals?
I like the Dolphins to capitalize on their momentum from last week’s big win and shock the Bills at home.
Plus, I REALLY love a division opponent that’s getting three points at home.
Heads or Tails
(4-2) Washington Redskins @ (3-3) Detroit Lions (-1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Redskins
This, is going to be an interesting one. The Redskins are on a tear right now having won four straight while the Lions are looking to follow up three consecutive losses from earlier this year behind them with their third consecutive win.
Every game the Lions have played this year has been tight. Each one — win or lose — has been decided by one score or less with two of the games being determined by just one point.
Point being, this game will likely be a close one.
I think these two offenses go toe-to-toe, but I like the Redskins’ defense to make the big play in the end and seal the deal.
(4-1) Seattle Seahawks @ (3-3) Arizona Cardinals (-1) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals
Here’s your game of the week, folks.
The Seahawks have won three straight while the Cardinals have turned things around with back-to-back wins over less-than-steller opposition. Nonetheless, they’ve vaulted themselves back into contention in the NFC West and can take a chunk out of Seattle’s division lead with a win at home against the ‘Hawks.
Both teams are similar in so many ways it’s really hard to find an edge to give either squad. They’re both above average offensively with stifling defenses, both can get to the quarterback and are Top 10 in the NFL in sacks, and they both certainly know how to force turnovers and how to win big games.
So I guess the question you’re asking yourself, is why do you like the Cardinals?
The Seahawks aren’t the same on the road, so when there’s no real discernible edge elsewhere, go with home field.
(4-2) Houston Texans @ (4-2) Denver Broncos (-7.5) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Texans
Straight Up – Broncos
This could have had the makings of a really, really bad week for Brock Osweiler if he didn’t stage a miraculous comeback on Sunday night against the Colts.
But he did, and he takes his Houston Texans into Denver with renewed confidence (you’d think) and a chance to dispatch the team that he detached himself from at the end of last year.
At least the Broncos totally aren’t bitter about it or anything.
God speed, Brock.
I think Osweiler has a strong showing on Monday night. As badly as the Broncos may want to kill him is how badly Osweiler surely wants to prove that he’s a worthy starter in this league to his new squad, and what better way to do it than to defeat the Super Bowl champs in their own building?
Osweiler keeps it close, but the Broncos find a way to win it late.
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.