HORT DE FORK, you might say? The Niners are all but tripping over their own feet right now. Last week they lost a toughy to the DREW STANTON-captained Cardinals (the only pick yours truly got right last week), and the week before they utterly imploded in a penalty/turnover filled nightmare to Chicago. Both losses filled me with glee, as I was punching in to my bar right at the the end of both games, to the looks of so many crestfallen NinerBros. FUCK BRUH THAT SHIT WAS HELLA GAY. MAYN FUCKIN BOOLSHET MAYN. It’s also great because now I can finally talk shit about Krapenflack and people actually agree with me instead of being like EY FUCK YOU BRUH TOM BRADY SUCKS and then I get reaaaal heat – plus, this year I don’t even actually have any comeback, because oh my god Tommy boy what the fuck is going on MAN? Anywho. Normally I would jump – LEAP! – at the chance to bet against the Niners, AND get 5 points to do so! And I’d get to root for the Eagles, who are pretty damn fun to watch.
But I don’t think I can do it. It pains me. I know, I know! What kind of home-team hater am I? Here’s the thing – this is the type of game the Niners are built to win. First of all, the Eagles are missing 4/5’s of their Week 1 offensive line. That line was the lynchpin of their offense last year and their cohesion is what allows Chip Kelly’s offense to do a lot of what it’s supposed to do. It’s not a coincidence that Shady and Sproles got bottled up a LOT against the Skins last week. The Niners D-line should win at the line of scrimmage more often than not. The Niners, a team expected to challenge for the NFC West crown, are coming off two straight losses and going to be FIRED up. The front 7 is not what it once was even 6 months ago, but they are going to be all over that Eagle offense. Foles got banged up last week, and if he gets roughed up early on by Justin Smith or Patrick Willis, he is going to be jumping at ghosts all day. And the Niners will be keen to keep him on the run, because holy fuck are their defensive backs overmatched. Even fucking pogues like sits-in-Guitar-Center-fucking-up-the-riff-to-Cowboys-From-Hell Riley Cooper will probably get some open looks in this one. Jordan Matthews is a speedster and you can easily imagine him zipping up on a post route like John Brown did to them twice last week. Maclin is a skilled all-around receiver who can get open and beat DB’s to the ball. By the way, start any and all of these guys in fantasy. They’re going to get looks – Foles won’t be on his back ALL day.
But the other side of the ball is key here – the Niners offense can absolutely take advantage of this Eagles D. It’s, quite simply, a sieve. They’re giving up 280 passing yards per game, 3rd worst in the league. The run defense is middle of the pack, but they’ve also played the Jags and Colts who struggle to run block.. and, y’know, run the ball. The one-two punch of Gore and Hyde should find much more room to work here – they’re also welcoming Anthony Davis back to the line who should vastly help the run-blocking, as well as Vernon Davis, who is a FAR better blocker (and receiver) than any other tight end on the roster. This game all comes down to clock control, discipline (no more penalties), and capping off drives. If they can keep the D honest with a consistent run game, Kap will do his thing where he hits wide open guys right on target and then kisses his biceps because he’s a fucking piece of shit. OH MAN did you guys see me hit Crabtree on that shit god I’m so fucking good uuugnnnnnghhhhhh I’m so gonna jerk off to myself in the mirror when i get home with my fucking Beats by Dre on breh
Niners blow a close game open with a late TD and win by 7-10.
THE PICK: NINERS -5
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS +7.5 AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS
This is such a classic betting situation. The Buccaroos looked so unspeakably miserable in prime time last week that if you showed that game to someone who had no idea what the NFL was, they’d probably ask if the Bucs were some team from some other, shittier league playing an exhibition game. Plus, their JERSEYS! My god, what a fucking abomination. It’s times like these when you really wonder if anyone in upper management even looks at their paperwork. When I heard the Bucs were debuting new jerseys, like any jersey enthusiast (there’s… there’s more than just me right?) [Ed. Note: No.] I immediately thought YES CREAMSICLE JERSEYS BUCCO BRUCE YES YES YES. I mean, fuck, those things are awesome. And we at least used to see them once a year, until the NFL went all No Fun League on us and said that throwback jerseys couldn’t use different colored helmets than the original jerseys (I mean, what the actual fuck is the point of that rule? Seriously.) So they scrapped them. And I was like, surely they want to at least go back in that direction, right? WRONG. What we got was a GIANT RED FLAG on the helmet instead of a normal red flag, because bigger obviously is better. Then they were like, huh, how can we make this hideous red/grey/white color scheme we’re rocking even UGLIER? I know! Let’s use numbers straight out of my childhood digital clock and give the jerseys absolutely no flow or line or anything and put some pointless swatches of vomit on the legs and shoulders. Then let’s put BUCS on the the shoulders too because all the kids these days are into abbreviating things. EL OH EL RITE GYS? Did I do it right? Plus, we need to make sure our fans know what team they’re watching, because they’ll probably be pretty confused when the ball keeps getting thrown to the guys in the different colored jerseys. They could start thinking the quarterback is like a soccer goalie, passing it to guys that are wearing different colors.
But I digress. The Bucs got absolutely pasted by the Falcons, and literally absolutely nothing went right. Julio Jones looked like LeBron in those high school clips where he’s just solo Harlem Globetrotting around the entire other team. Every time the Bucs got a sliver of momentum, there was a backbreaking pick or a ridiculous fumble. Like Barron intercepting that ball and then immediately getting it stripped again and the Falcons recovering. That, times a hundred. It was basically comical. Meanwhile, the Steelers looked like absolute world beaters on Sunday Night Football against the Panthers. They mauled the Panthers O-line, knocked the shit out of Cam, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown were the total studs they are, and they basically played their best game of football since opening kickoff. But, even with that, the game was probably a bit closer than the final score indicates. Still, you’d expect they would have no problem handling the hapless Bucs, right? Maybe. Maaaaybe.
I mean, Lovie Smith is not an idiot. He knows he got absolutely embarrassed in primetime. That’s not fun for him. They’ve got a long week, and his biggest mistake, signing and starting Josh McCown, has been corrected for him by the injury gremlin. You might recall that Mike Glennon actually played pretty well last year. He’s got a big arm and is not inaccurate. Another thing. The Steelers lost three defensive starters in that Carolina game. OLB Jarvis Jones, rookie ILB Ryan Shazier, and longtime CB Ike Taylor all are out. That leaves Cortez Allen as the #1 corner, who is literally graded LAST in PFF’s cornerback ranking. He’ll match up with Mike Evans, while V-Jax gets Taylor’s replacement, Antwon Blake, who is 8 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than Jackson. Good luck there. Doug Martin returns for Tampa, which should at least motivate Bobby Rainey to stop fucking fumbling. And most importantly, the Bucs also get back All-Pro DT Gerald McCoy, an absolute monster run-stopper and general disrupter of everything that draws breath. I don’t necessarily think the Bucs will be able to win this game, but I just can’t back the Steelers laying more than a touchdown. At the very least, this has backdoor cover written all over it.
THE PICK: BUCS +7.5
THE PICK: VIKINGS -3
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -3.5 AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
OK, this is the first pick in four weeks I’m going to attempt to back up with actual data rather than with blustering jagoffery and as such it will probably lose as the latter seems to have been really working out for me thus far, but here goes. The Patriots were only 4-4 on the road last year whereas the Chiefs were 6-2 at home. Also, I looked at this thing called the Pythagorean Expectation because my deep, dark secret as to why I am interested in sports or betting is that I am actually a nerd and just kind of like doing math. It tells you whether a team is overvalued or undervalued based on points for and points against from the previous season–a 3-point loss obviously reflecting better on a team than a 28-point one–and it says that New England should only have had ten wins instead of 12 and thus a worse record than the Chiefs. Now, Dick brought up the very fair point that Kansas City had a much easier schedule than they do this year, but as a counterpoint to that Dick can go fuck himself. I think the Patriots are one of those teams that people assume will just always be good when that is not necessarily the case and Tom Brady is off to the worst start of his career which is bad news for my friend from high school who’s gotten laid a couple times because he kind of looks like him.
THE PICK: CHIEFS +3.5
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS +13 AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Obviously I am mostly picking this game because I won on a two-touchdown underdog last week that I justified with rambling existentialism in lieu of facts and am shamelessly back here today to try and repeat it, but I know that Blake Bortles is playing and there was a lot of talk before the season about how he should be the starter. Also, my 14-point pick last week was the Raiders vs the Patriots and I feel like there is much less of a Chasm of Suck between the Jaguars and Chargers. San Diego QB Philip Rivers is not a name I hear very often on the football podcasts I put on when I’m driving to go buy ribs to eat while lying down in my bed so he must not be very good. Also he is without his two top running backs this week which I accidentally learned while Googling who San Diego’s quarterback is. I try to keep myself from acquiring such information because my picks are funnier when I don’t know anything.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES +4.5 AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
My only hesitation in picking the Eagles this game is it’s a bet on the 49ers to start 1-3 which nobody really saw coming but you can’t entertain these little doubts when you’re doing this. Each game is its own little universe and San Francisco has struggled against far worse teams than Philadelphia this year. What more do you want from me? The rest of these guys have a legitimate interest in football and know player names and are on fantasy teams and stuff. I know that Nick Foles is the quarterback for the Eagles and Colin Kaepernick is the quarterback for the 49ers. Oh, and that Ahmad Brooks is a linebacker for the 49ers because he went to high school in the town next to mine and my friend who played on our football team got tackled by him and got a concussion and says it’s a special moment he will cherish for the rest of his life because Brooks went on to play in the Super Bowl. Look, fuck the Niners and Colin Kaepernick. Hey, let’s call this player on the other team the n-word even though the NFL specifically instated a new penalty for using that word this season! That should really help my team win this game! Anyway, while I agree with the spirit of that rule I think it’s discriminatory against any future players who happen to have Tourette’s Syndrome.
GREEN BAY PACKERS -2 AT CHICAGO BEARS
So, the Bears go on the road and win in San Francisco (more on them later) and New York. Cross country travel be damned, Cutler lit up the scoreboard using them big, rangy receivers and they have catapulted themselves into the driver’s seat of the NFC Central. Maybe, but let’s keep in mind that the Niners are having a minor nervous breakdown and that the Jets outperformed the Bears by almost every metric and still lost because Geno Smith threw some very unfortunate interceptions. Just think, the Jets could have beaten both Chicago and Green Bay if maybe three plays go their way. Keep that in mind before you write the Jets off this week. Anyways, Green Bay’s due for a decent game, right? Was that abortion of a performance in Detroit a harbinger of things to come or just an off-game early in the season while they get their shit together? Speaking of which, I have to tip my hat to Detroit for doing exactly what I said they wouldn’t and win that game by pushing Green bay around. Anyways, the general vibe among a bunch of my gambling buddies is that the Bears are coming up and the Pack have been exposed as a legit pretender. I know I posed the question last week, but I am not convinced of either angle yet. Good teams have hiccups, mediocre teams get lucky, and right now three of the best teams in football are 1-2 and another loss would decimate their chances of making the playoffs. That shit counts and we’re talking about Rodgers taking a trip to Chicago where the defense has been decimated by injuries and Cutler’s offense has been relying more and more on the pass instead of balancing things out with Matt Forte. Early in the week I saw the Bears getting points at home and immediately thought, “oooooo, tasty” because that’s what all morons do when they see home dogs with winning records. But think about it, the situation is ripe for the Packers: Everyone’s got them on the down swing, Eddie Lacy isn’t getting his yards, Rodgers had a shit game, and the defense is garbage while the Bears have been swaggering across the country winning road games. Well, if you forget that they lost their fucking home opener to Buffalo. Listen, sooner or later Green Bay is going to come unglued and Rodgers led a nice comeback against a pretty good Jets defense and if he can do that I imagine he can have some fun against the Bears.
THE PICK: PACKERS -2
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES +5 AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
THE PICK: EAGLES +5
THE PICK: BUCS +7.5
I picked the Bills to go the over on their season win total (6) and things were looking good in the first two games. I still think they’ll do it, but they quickly fell to earth after a 2-0 start in a beatdown by the Chargers. EJ Manuel looked OK in the first two weeks, but nothing was on target against San Diego. It’ll be a shame if he doesn’t pan out, because the team around him is legit at every skill position, and they have a defense that’s adequate enough to keep them in games It seems like the key here will be to lean on the running game because it looks like sometimes Manuel tries to do too much and falls apart. Like I said, I think the team is good enough to overcome Manuel’s limitations at this point, they just hit a wall last week against a better team.
Houston is in the same boat. Started 2-0, dropped a game, and need to redeem themselves. Arian Foster will be back which is a plus, and this is Ryan Fitzpatrick’s old team, who he’s going to want to beat (though that’s a double edged sword, as Buffalo will also be very familiar with him). The Bills are the overall more talented team, but Fitzgerald is a better QB at this point. This is a tough one but I like Buffalo to bounce back and cover this week. They’re 2-1 against the spread this season and aside from last week’s debacle, where they got shredded in the passing game, I still think have a chance to be that team that sneakily seems to cover all the time and nobody notices. Take the points!