Every season there are inevitably a couple of weeks that you just want to forget about. They were so incredibly bad, and so utterly unlike you expected them to be, that you wish you had never gotten out of bed on Sunday morning. This was one of those weeks.
I didn’t realize that Christian Ponder and Jake Locker would suddenly look like Elway and Marino. I didn’t know that Philadelphia and San Diego had given themselves the week off. I assumed that the Steelers and Saints knew that there were four quarters in games, not three. I underestimated just how incompetent the replacement refs truly were. In short, it was ugly.
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Let’s pretend that it never happened, assume this week will make at least a little sense, and find ourselves some straight up winners. Remember, bye weeks start this week for Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, so there are only 15 games to pick:
Cleveland at Baltimore - The Browns haven’t been quite as bad as their 0-3 start would suggest, but they are far from an elite contender. Baltimore, on the other hand, has been very good in two of three. I’m a bit concerned about the potential letdown effect given their brutal schedule — Sunday night to Thursday night — but they are significantly better on both sides of the ball. Take the Ravens.
Carolina at Atlanta - The thing to watch here will be how Cam Newton bounces back after the debacle of last week. He played his worst game as a pro, and then he got soundly and deservedly criticized by Steve Smith for pouting about it during the game. Even if he is at his best, though, this is a tough spot. Matt Ryan is on fire, and Atlanta is playing very good football. Take the Falcons.
New England at Buffalo - I never would have guessed that the Patriots would find themselves in a virtual must-win here. At 1-2, though, a loss would be very costly. The Bills have found their game in the last two weeks, but last week was very costly on the injury front. And New England should be angry. Take the Patriots.
Minnesota at Detroit - I don’t know what to think of either team after last week. Detroit refused to play defense and made a pretty average Tennessee team look very good — especially through the air. Minnesota showed remarkable composure and made a very good San Francisco team struggle. Minnesota has to travel, though, and Detroit still knows how to score a whole lot of points. Take the Lions.
San Diego at Kansas City - I seriously doubted the Chargers in September heading into the season, but they fooled me with two good outings. Shame on me for believing it, though. They were back to their old tricks on Sunday — a brutal non-effort at home. Now they travel to a very tough stadium to face a team sky high after an incredibly gutsy performance. Take the Chiefs.
Seattle at St. Louis - Seattle is coming off the most suspicious win I can ever remember seeing. Hidden in the controversy, though, was the fact that the Seahawks defense was absolutely stifling. If they can bring a similar defensive effort here then it will be a long day for Sam Bradford and company. Take the Seahawks.
San Francisco at New York Jets - Mulligan. That game never happened for the 49ers. I’m not sure what bothered them so much in Minnesota, but I am sure that it won’t be a factor here. That was the kind of scare that gets good teams focused again. Darrelle Revis is missing, so the Jets should be overwhelmed on both sides of the ball. Take the 49ers.
Tennessee at Houston - I like Jake Locker and think he has a very bright future in this league. There is no way, though, he is half as good against the Texans as he was against the Lions last week. Houston’s front seven terrorized Peyton Manning, and they will do the same to Locker. Take the Texans.
Oakland at Denver - Oakland is yet another team last week that confounded expectations with a surprisingly solid, gutsy performance. Hard to see them replicate it here, though. Pittsburgh dominated them through the air last week, and Manning and company will do the same here. Denver will be starved for a win after a 1-2 start, and they are at home. Take the Broncos.
Miami at Arizona - The Cards are easily the most unlikely team in the league right now. They were counted out by everyone, but they have a legitimate look at 4-0 here. The Dolphins never quit trying, but they always seem to find a way to get in their own way. Arizona is at home and couldn’t be more confident. Take the Cardinals.
Cincinnati at Jacksonville - Jacksonville was surprisingly impressive in their win over Indianapolis last week — at least compared to how bad most people expected them to be this year. The same can be said for Cincinnati, though, and they have more talent and depth — and a more experienced quarterback. Take the Bengals.
New Orleans at Green Bay - How can you possibly justify taking the Saints right now? I wouldn’t take them anywhere, never mind on the road in one of the toughest stadiums to play at in the league. They are a total mess, and until they prove themselves to be otherwise they are very easy to pick against. Green Bay could be reeling after getting robbed of a win Monday night, but they should use that as a motivation. Take the Packers.
Washington at Tampa Bay - Robert Griffin III was lousy in the first half last week. While he improved a bit in the second half, it was still a harsh reminder that the league isn’t as easy as it might seem. Now he faces a tough defense rallying around their bizarrely aggressive new coach. Take the Bucs.
New York Giants at Philadelphia - Philadelphia is a total mess. The Eagles can’t protect their quarterback, and they look lost out there far too often. The Giants will be able to get to Vick early and often. and they will be able to pile up the points as well. This one shouldn’t be that close and the home crowd will really like that. Take the Giants.
Chicago at Dallas - Jay Cutler is very bad at football. It’s not like Tony Romo and company are exactly lighting it up right now, but they are the better team, they are at home, and they should come out on top. Take the Cowboys.
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