DAN K: 10-12-1
ST LOUIS RAMS +7 AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Last week, the Rams SHOCKED THE WORLD! by upsetting the favored Seattle Seahawks at home, continuing the stunning run of competence in the Missouri sports world, second only to Ebola in the most disturbing trends of the month. It was more surprising not because it was the Seahawks, who have been decidedly average here in the middle of the season, but because St. Louis has continually shown a knack for not being able to get out of their own way, and “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”, as it were.
So now, they travel to their cross-state rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, in what will surely be a raucous atmosphere at Arrowhead, at least assuming everyone’s not at home watching the Royals. When our gambling syndicate was discussing lines earlier in the week, I said I had no idea what to make of the Chiefs. This is largely because I haven’t watched them closely since they mopped the floor with my Patriots on Monday Night Football, but examining their games has revealed a couple things to me.
Firstly, they are playing phenomenal pass defense. They are 2nd in the league, allowing only 209 passing yards per game – only New England is above them allowing 208 YPG, and the Pats have faced significantly inferior passers. The Pats have faced Tannehill, Cassel, Carr, Alex Smith, Dalton, Orton, and Geno Smith. The Chiefs have faced Locker, Peyton, Tannehill, Brady, Kaepernick, and Rivers. So that number is pretty, pretty impressive to me. They’ve done this behind the same pass rush they relied on last year, with Dontari Poe crushing the interior of the line and Justin Houston and Tamba Hali playing fantastic off the edges. I predicted some regression with their defense this year, due to some key departures, but they seemed to pick up pretty much where they left off last year. The secondary has held up well with the loss of Brandon Flowers, with Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah admirably holding down the middle of the field.
Secondly, while the Chiefs are 3-3, they’ve been playing more impressively than that number suggests. I’m fine with totally throwing out the loss to Tennessee in Week 1. I’m in favor of throwing out most Week 1 results, actually – it’s pretty clear that they don’t mean a god damn thing. They lost a one score game on the road to Denver, nothing to scoff at. They blew out the Fins and Pats, both quality teams, lost another one score game on the road in SF, and beat a very good San Diego team on the road. This team has only had 2 home games, one of which was that Week 1 Tenn game. So that game aside, they’re 4-1 against the spread, with the benefit of one of the strongest home fields in the NFL only one time.
The Rams… eh. I’m not sold on them. They’re frisky every week, but they had to rely on some truly ballsy trick plays to get past Seattle, who quietly has been very vulnerable on defense. The Seahawks D is living on reputation only at the moment. They’re generating no pressure against the quarterback, giving them time to find guys open. Austin Davis plays with MOXIE, showing willingness to pull the trigger down the field, something that must be refreshing for Rams fans after their recent run of signal-callers. But he hasn’t faced a matchup like this so far. His only two road games this year were at Tampa Bay and at Philly. Arrowhead is deafening, and he’s going to face a pass rush like he hasn’t seen yet. As for the Chiefs offense… whatever. They’re going to run the ball a lot, because the Rams are the 5th worst rush defense in the league and the Chiefs have Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Alex Smith will play his typical unsexy, safe game, where he hits open guys and doesn’t turn it over. Barring some mind-numbing clock management Andy Reidisms, the Chiefs should be able to control this game, get some turnovers, and grind St. Louis to pieces. 27-17 Chiefs.
THE PICK: CHIEFS -7
OAKLAND RAIDERS +7 AT CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Browns lost to the Jags last week. Take the Raiders.
Can that just be it? No? Ugh, fine. The Browns have been one of the surprises of the season so far. With most people writing them off after the preseason Manziel / Hoyer circus, and the suspension of Josh Gordon, they’ve played with some serious cajones so far. Aside from the 18 point (!!!!) loss to the Jags last week, they’d lost by a grand total of 5 points. 3 on the road against Pitt, and 2 at home against Baltimore. Pretty impressive. They’ve done it behind a rock-solid running game, featuring workhorse Ben Tate, with young upstarts Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West sprinkled in. Hoyer’s been efficient and dependable in a “game manager” role.
As surprising as the potency of their offense is, the unintimidating defense has been just as surprising. I thought that with Mike Pettine, former Buffalo and Jet defensive coordinator, as their new head coach, and a pretty decent collection of personnel, this would be a formidable defense to face week in and week out. Not so much. They’re allowing 397 yards per game, 4th worst in the league, and the most rushing yards with 155.5 YPG. The pass defense has been middle of the road.
The loss of center Alex Mack two weeks ago can’t be overstated. It’s no coincidence that the Browns rushing attack totally went off the rails last week against Jacksonville. Many feel Mack is the best all-around center in the league, and I certainly don’t disagree. To remedy this, the Browns shuffled their RG to C and threw journeyman Paul McQuistan in at RG, which isn’t ideal. The continuity of an O-line is nearly as important as the personnel on it. And it’s like not the passing game can totally compensate for the loss in the running game – this is still a team with Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin as their top 2 wideouts.
On the other hand, the Raiders have been playing with some serious piss and vinegar since their coaching change. BURY THE FOOTBALL! Hey, whatever. They played the Chargers really tough all the way to the end, and couldn’t quite keep up with the Cardinals either. But uh, those two teams are way better than Cleveland, in case you hadn’t noticed. They were at home, but still. This might be the only realistically winnable game for the Raiders. If you haven’t noticed their schedule, take a peek. It’s legitimately unfair. After this game, they are @ Seattle, hosting Denver, @ San Diego, hosting KC, @ St. Louis, hosting SF, @ KC, hosting Buffalo, @ Denver. This is after they already played the Chargers, Fins, and Pats, AND played in London! What the fuck?! That’s just sick. So I have no problem believing that these Raiders players are looking at this schedule like, “wow guys, this might be the only game we have a legitimate shot of winning all year.” These guys know their team sucks. They are still professional athletes with a lot of pride. Derek Carr has looked a lot better since being given a big vote of confidence by the coaching staff. This team DOES have some weapons. Darren McFadden is, by all accounts, still alive and well. Andre Holmes balled hard against SD.
This game comes down to two things for me. The Browns don’t deserve to be favored by 7 against ANYBODY. Their one blowout win was against a reeling Steelers team who couldn’t stop the run whatsoever. The Raiders are playing hard, and will be motivated to actually win a fucking game this year. Raiders cover, and possibly win on the field as well.
THE PICK: RAIDERS +7
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -3 AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Colts are the most publicly bet side of the week, but the line has barely moved, which makes me a little suspicious here. The Steelers played a Monday Night game last week where they beat Houston pretty decisively, but that was largely because of some absolutely heinous nonsense at the end of the first half where the Texans shit the bed twice within their own redzone, leading to a 14 point swing which they could never recover from. The Steelers looked like unmitigated shit in the first half, against a Texans defense that features JJ Watt and a Bunch Of Guys. They pulled it together in the 2nd half, where Antonio Brown kept doing Antonio Brown things, and Le’Veon broke off several large runs, but despite all that noise, they didn’t really score much more, even though Watt became largely unnoticeable for some reason.
The Colts, meanwhile, just continue to roll. I don’t know how much more I can say about them at this point. Luck is amazing, it’s simple as that. They’re also the number 4 pass defense in football, which is legitimately stunning. Vontae Davis is their #1 cornerback, and he’s playing his ass off this year. I think he’s an amazing athlete, but maybe not the brightest bulb in the pack. Some of you may remember this interview ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?
On the other hand, I don’t see anybody having a prayer of stopping the Colts offense. Last week, the defense was masked by Ryan Fitzpatrick’s complete inability to move the ball. Last time I checked, Andrew Luck is about nine thousand percent better at football than Fitzpatrick. The Steelers also had no answer for Arian Foster – I suspect Ahmad Bradshaw should be able to run with similar effectiveness. This is still a banged up Steelers defense, down several starters. Cortez Allen is still their number one cornerback. Reggie Wayne is out, but there is still TY Hilton and whatever’s left of Hakeem Nicks to deal with. Donte Moncrief has been the 4th option up until now, but has a lot of skill and should get a lot of looks as well. And Dwayne Allen has been awesome, while Coby Fleener has been… there.
Again, the fact that the public is so heavily on Indy gives me pause. I guess few were fooled by Pittsburgh’s primetime win, especially after getting routed the previous week by Cleveland. But I just don’t see too many ways that Pittsburgh can hang around with this Colts team. Indy is 6-1 against the spread. 15-5 ATS as a favorite in the last 3 years. 3-0 as a road favorite of 3 points or less. Let’s not overthink it. Take the better team to cover a field goal.
THE PICK: COLTS -3
ST LOUIS RAMS +7 AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Hoo boy, head to head against me mate Espo! Will I keep it boring and pick the Chiefs like he did, or go with the underdog? We did this last week and I got burned by shitty, freaking Atlanta last week and I’m not going to touch them with a ten foot pole until they fire Mike Smith or figure out what the hell the hell they’re doing. Anyway, on to the game at hand. The Rams are fresh off a victory over the Seahawks where they used every trick in the book and overcame a late rally to hang on and win by 2 points. They’re going with a formula of a strong defense and pass rush, combined with heady play from undrafted second year QB Austin Davis. Honestly, I have no particular allegiance to the Rams, but as a gambler I love Davis. He’s the kind of ballsy QB whose game just screams “late backdoor cover.” I dunno what it is about him, but he’s got it. To be honest, the Rams did catch quite a few breaks last week, the biggest of which was a fumble by rookie RB Tre Mason that was inexplicably given back to St. Louis. Not to mention all the trick plays and so on. That said, the Rams probably won’t make the playoffs, but last week likely won’t be the last time they make people money for going with them.
The Chiefs are coming in off of a close win over a divisional rival of their own, but by and large have a record that’s to be expected with the teams on their schedule. Jamaal Charles got what seemed to be a concussion last week and will probably play, but I still don’t know who any of the other offensive skill players are. They lean on their running game (3rd in the league) but they’re 30th against the rush in YPC so St. Louis could lean on their Tre Mason/Benny Cunningham/Zac Stacy combo in the backfield as well. Long story short, Kansas City is the better team.
Anyway, I’m tired and want to post this as soon as DICK sends me his picks so I’m just gonna say I’m picking the Rams here. I like their defense to stymie Alex Smith and slow down Jamaal Charles enough to keep it semi-close. Austin Davis maybe makes a big play or two and the Chiefs still win, but only 24-20. Rams cover.
THE PICK: RAMS +7
HOUSTON TEXANS -3 AT TENNESSEE TITANS
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -5 AT CAROLINA PANTHERS
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS -5
GREEN BAY PACKERS +2.5 AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
I hate fading Drew Brees at home, but until the Saints’ defense bothers to show up it’s almost impossible to lay money on them even on national television. And yes, we know, they are unbeaten in their last 10 at home. You could make the point that if the Saints had maybe four or five plays break their way they’d be 5-1 or 4-2, but in the real world they are lucky to still be in playoff contention because Carolina isn’t much better than them at 3-3-1. Dial back your mental film to the Lions game last week: With 3:38 left in the game the Saints were up by 12. Matt Stafford hit Golden Tate on a little crossing route that turned into a 73-yard touchdown. Sure, Brees got picked on and the Lions got a very friendly pass interference call on fourth down and another shot at the end zone, but the Saints were in that position because they can’t tackle. Keep this in mind going forward whenever they have to play a team that has anything close to a competent defense. Now they get to face Eddie Lacy and Rodgers looks capable of raining down 400 yards and four touchdowns on principal because right this second he’s the best quarterback in football. Seems solid, right? He’s got Jordy Nelson catching over the shoulder fades and gathering up touchdowns in bunches. Safe bet, right? Not even close. The Packers defense is plain shitty too. The Saints are going to be fired up and this is a great spot for them: Under the Superdome, Sunday Night Football, Brees looking to remind everyone he’s a bad ass, 73 percent of the bets on Green bay, and two shitty defenses. Saints at under a field goal? Follow the sharps, go Saints and do yourself a favor and consider taking the over 55.5.
THE PICK: SAINTS -2.5
BALTIMORE RAVENS -1.5 AT CINCINNATI BENGALS
I see the public’s jumping off the Bengals’ bandwagon. I can understand why since they are a historically shitty team that has never inspired much confidence, so whenever they hit a bad skid people run away from them like someone flying in from Sierra Leone. Sorry, couldn’t resist an Ebola line. Look, it’s not just the kids pajama uniforms, but the 40-plus years of Brown family nonsense that includes turning a profit while consistently putting out a mediocre team. No, the two Super Bowl appearances don’t really buy you anything since almost every other year of the team’s existence has been a depressing series of fuck ups and trying to turn defensive ends into tight ends. I guess if you live in southern Ohio and Kentucky is just over the river you can justify pouring all of your tax dollars into a stadium because you might have nothing else to live for, but think about how much more depressing must it be to wake up and know that you have Mike Brown running the show ready to fuck things up any given moment. When people talk about “changing the culture” or “learning to win” they are talking about replacing dipshits like him. He’s like a less racist Donald Sterling. Anyways, about the game. Can someone please remind Andy Dalton that he doesn’t necessarily need AJ Green to win because he has a pretty good running game back there? Speaking of which, how in the fuck does Giovani Bernard go from gashing Carolina for 137 yards to gaining only 17 against Indy? It’s not like Indy’s defense is elite or anything. It’s fucking Indy and they would be looking at going 2-14 if they didn’t have Andrew Luck. Listen, everyone’s all hot and heavy for Baltimore because they’ve gone apeshit and beat the likes of Tampa, Atlanta, and Carolina by more than 20 points. What-fucking-ever. This is on the road against a division rival that’s hurt, a little embarrassed, and pissed off. This is the Bengals’ gut check game and it’s not like Baltimore is especially good in Cincy (lost seven of their last nine there), so I like them bouncing back and putting up a good game this week as a home dog.
THE PICK: CINCINNATI BENGALS +1.5
WASHINGTON WAGON BURNERS +10 AT DALLAS COWBOYS
I swear, Daniel Snyder has no fucking shame. How many more tribal elders is he going to pay off and put in team jackets and trot out on to the field and put in his fucking luxury box before he gets it through his thick skull that everyone sees him as a clueless piece of shit? I figure he’s just figuring he can hum songs to himself and just wait until the last of the continent’s natives die off so he can just keep on keeping on with his team outfitted in straight minstrel outfits that would have been in perfectly good taste as recently as 1959. Anyways, enough soap boxing bullshit and on to things we really care about. I think the Cowboys have about 60-70 percent of the public on them right now, but with the late bets coming in it could climb as high as 80 percent. Bob Scucci on Behind the Bets was saying this week that he and the other oddsmakers in Vegas were bracing themselves for the moving trains that are Denver and Dallas and sounded resigned to the books taking a huge hit on both of those games this weekend. I know I hit on Denver and the over and I hope you did too. Even though this is a rivalry game, I’m all over the Cowboys and possibly the over. Colt McCoy is serviceable and Washington’s offensive numbers say they are a better team than their record indicates. I just wonder if their numbers are so great because they are actually good or because they are playing from behind all the time? Kirk Cousins turned out to be a fraud (which I’ll admit I was 100 percent wrong on), Jay Gruden is being coy about putting RGIII on the field because he obviously learned nothing from watching how Shanahan mismanaged him, and the season looks lost. This is Dallas’ week to peak because after this things only get more difficult with games against the Cardinals, Giants, Eagles (twice), and Colts looming in the distance. DeMarco Murray’s going to get that eighth straight 100 yard game, Romo’s going to get a couple TDs, and if they are lucky they will be far enough ahead to rest their starters for the back end of the fourth quarter. Sure, it could blow up in their faces and Washington could keep it close, but ask yourself if DC’s defense is capable of handling Dallas’ offensive line and then tell me you can see them staying within two scores.
THE PICK: COWBOYS -10