No need to ball your hands into fists and theatrically rub your eyes. I actually DID go 3-13 last week, my worst ever in 22 seasons captaining The Friday Page. At least six results coulda/shoulda gone my way but didn’t, from Dan Carpenter’s missed kick in Miami to the Saints’ and Steelers’ blown leads. The only man who had a worse week than me was the guy who ruled it a Golden Tate catch for Seattle. Rally time! [Thursday pick: Ravens (-13) over Browns 27-10].
DOLPHINS (1-2) at CARDINALS (3-0)
Remember when the schedule came out and this looked like a pretty easy game for Miami? Get me a rewrite! Into these teams’ first meeting since 2008, the Cardbirds bring a 3-0 record for the first time in 25 years in the desert. They also are 10-2 dating to last midseason (best in NFL) and have won seven home games in a row. Arizona’s is by no means a scary offense (apart from WR Larry Fitzgerald), but oh that defense! The Cacti have allowed only two TDs in three games and have 12 sacks. And now Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson probably will return from injury, too. Despite all this gloom I give Miami a small-to-medium upset shot for two reasons beyond the fact I expect Reggie Bush to play. 1) Miami’s front seven including longtime ex-Card Karlos Dansby will dominate ’Zona’s weak O-line and keep the score low. 2) Every scintilla of human nature says the home team will be overconfident. You win at New England and then rout Philadelphia back to back, you take the Dolphins lightly. It’s practically a law. Bottom line, though? Miami has lost eight of its past 10 road games, and not a lot of imagination is needed to see Ryan Tannehill having a rough day.
SAINTS (0-3) at PACKERS (1-2)
Sure, Giants-Eagles had support from the conservative wing of the Game of the Week committee, but the fact the Saints and Packers are stunningly a combined 1-5 is what lends the intrigue here. Extenuating circumstances have rocked both of these erstwhile NFC powers, with N’Awlins decimated by the Bountygate punishment and the Gee Bees flat-out jobbed by the replacement officials in that Monday night travesty. Saints are desperate for a win, and angry Packers are antsy to hit somebody. Like Rodgers at Lambeau but hunch it inside the betting line. An outright upset would not surprise.
REDSKINS (1-2) at BUCCANEERS (1-2)
“AAAWWWK!” trills the Upset Bird, wearing a neat beige sweater in honor of departed crooner Andy Williams. “Washingtaawwk!” Tampa’s favorite’s role rests largely on the fact it has won six in a row at home over Skins, but I see that as a law-of-averages thing ready to swing the other way rather than as a trend you’d saddle up with any confidence. Both teams have putrid pass defenses, so give me Robert Griffin III over Josh Freeman to better take advantage. “Bucs really struggling on offense. Their red zone is a dead zone,” notes U-Bird. “Dead zaaawwwk!”
BENGALS (2-1) at JAGUARS (1-2)
Real Dog game of Week 4 probably was Browns-Ravens on Thursday for its expected lopsidedness. There isn’t a proper awful matchup left so we’ll take this one by default as simply largely uninteresting even though both teams are coming off wins. Jax is 7-2 all-time at home in this series, but Bengals arrive as clearly the better all-round squad. See a big day for Andy Dalton-to-A.J. Green. Usually look hard at a home ’dog, but this isn’t a very big number for Cincy to cover.
Falcons are bubbling with confidence these days behind a very hot Matt Ryan and a defense that already has forced a league-high 11 turnovers. ’Lanta also has won four in a row in this series. But Carols have had lots of prep time after losing a week ago Thursday so give ’em a big chance to cover here if Cam Newton gets his head right, bounces back and avoids picks.
Here’s one of nine Sunday division games, so it might bear mulling that Pats have best division mark in NFL (.783) since 2002 realignment — buoyed by a 21-2 run against Buffalo — while Williams have lost 21 of past 25 to AFC East foes. I’m just sayin’. English won’t lose a third consecutive game. Bison likely missing RB C.J. Spiller makes me that much more sure. By the way, I’m taking up a collection to help Bill Belichick pay that 50K fine for grabbing a fake ref. Who’s in? [Awkward pause] Nobody!?
Motown QB Matthew Stafford (questionable; hip) appeared likely Thursday to play so our pick will assume that. Make it a venue call shaped by too much Lions offense as Detroit wins a fourth game in row in this series for first time since 1961-63. Chance Vikes to keep it close, though. Any team good enough to beat San Fran has my attention.
This one settled in as the season’s first pick-’em game after Diego opened as slight favorite. Part of that is that Bolts and KC both are inconsistent squads capable of wild swings. Unpredictable, in other words. Well, when in doubt, stay home. Give me Jamaal Charles and that Chiefs ground game to limit the time the ball is in Philip Rivers’ hands.
Wouldn’t it be fast-acting karma if Seattle lost this game after being the beneficiary of Monday night’s officiating debacle and Big Cheat by WR Golden Tate? Pete Carroll is probably the only coach who didn’t want the real refs back. An upset could happen; Rams are improved. But I’d not bet on it. Seabirds have won 13 of past 14 over STL and bring too much defense.
This one got a stray Game of the Week vote or two. Niners, our preseason Super Bowl pick, proved mortal in losing to Minny last week. NYJ didn’t prove much in lucking to beat Miami in OT. Of course the great intrigue in a Jets home game they are expected to lose is the whole Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow dynamic. “Tebow Time” is always more fun as a question than as a statement.
Houston, right now, is the best team in football. When the best team is home and has a back (Arian Foster) who has 258 rushing yards in past two games against this opponent, that team strikes me as a good bet. Titans are 7-3 all-time in Houston, but forget that. I prefer this trend: Matt Schaub has never lost a game following one in which part of his ear lobe was torn off.
If the betting number feels a tad plump it is because Oakland has a bad pass defense and bettors continue to romanticize the comeback year of Peyton Manning, whose 64th career 300 game last week bumped Dan Marino to second all-time. Give me Raiders with those points. Oaks have won four in a row at Mile High, and Darren McFadden has 438 ground yards in past three meetings.
This NFC East matchup looks marquee-ready for Sunday prime time. Phils have won six of past seven over Biggies, but give me NYG here in a small upset. They get Ahmad Bradshaw back but more importantly probably Hakeem Nicks, too. They’ve had extra time after playing last Thursday. And that Giants pass rush is no way for Mike Vick to get hit less or make fewer errors.
Monday stage has itself a tasty duel, especially for those who like serious defense. Dallas D leads NFL with 250 average yards allowed. Chitown’s D is coming off a six-sack, two-INT game. Matt Forte’s expected return buoys Bears shot, but I like Boys for their first 3-1 start since ’08.