Abysmal marries Dismal and they have a child named Crap. I think that would about describe my last week, when I someow managed to be below .500 against the spread AND straight-up. Do you know how difficult that is? I did get the Dolphins-Falcons game right and I also had Colts-with-points over Niners and, um, ah, that would just about do it for the highlight reel. Did I mention I picked the Giants to win a game they lost, 38-0? Let’s move on. Quickly, please! [Note: Thursday-game pick was 49ers (-3) over Rams, 24-17].
DOLPHINS (3-0) AT SAINTS (3-0)
Frankly there are better Week 4 matchups I’d peg more likely for closer games — Seahawks-Texans and Patriots-Falcons come to mind — but I can hardly be accused of playing the homer card in giving the Game of the Week nod to a pair of 3-0 teams merging on a Monday stage. I only wish I could give Miami much of a chance to get to 4-0 for the first time since 1995 in its record 79th MNF appearance. But I can’t. I don’t. It isn’t that I think the Dolphins are a fluke; Miami should be one of the 75.4 percent majority of 3-0 teams that go on to make the playoffs. No, it is that Drew Brees seems all but unstoppable, and doubly so at home. He has eight straight 300-yard games and also is on an 8-0 run on Mondays, with a 24-5 TD/pick ratio and a 120.6 rating over that span. The Dolphins also tend to have trouble with other teams’ tight ends, and the ex-Cane Jimmy Graham happens to be a one-man wrecking ball, with 313 receiving yards in past two games. Factor the possibility both DT Paul Soliai and DE Cam Wake could miss the game injured and I just can’t see Miami keeping the Saints under 30. This is the Dolphins’ big chance to barge into the national conversation. Alas, the likelihood of a rout seems greater to me than the chance of an upset.
BEARS (3-0) AT LIONS (2-1)
“AAAWWWK!” yodels the Upset Bird, coptering over this game as a vulture might hover over carrion. “Marc Trestmaawwk!” New coach Marc Trestmaawwk I mean Trestman has the Bears believing, but series trends predating his arrival make me like Chitown here. Bears have beaten Motown in nine of past 10, with 27 takeaways. My big concern about this call isn’t that Detroit should have Reggie Bush back. It is that the Windies might not have CB Charles Tillman (groin), who is one of the few guys with a positive history covering Calvin Johnson. “Indeed, Megatron poses a concern,” admits U-Bird. “Nevertheless: Chicaaawwwk!”
Hello, London! Will you forgive us turning Wembley Stadium into Winless Stadium? Actually there is at least one NFL game this week I’d much less rather watch than this one (nothing personal, Cardinals-Bucs), but the Dog committee simply could not resist the week’s only clash of 0-3’s. Luckily, “Steelers-Vikings” seems like a great matchup to most Brits, wo don’t know any better. Pittsburgh and Minnesota are going from country to country until they find one they can win in. QB Christian Ponder (ribs) is iffy for Purples, helping tilt the pick.
The Ravens risk a natural letdown after last week’s home rout of Houston, but the Buffs present a struggling offense to a Baltimore defense that has not allowed an opponent TD for two straight games. Also, Ray Rice should return from injury here for Crows, his welcome wagon a god-awful Williams run-D.
The font of Ohioans’ pride, this state battle finds both teams coming off dramatic wins. Brownies rallied past Vikings, and Gals became first team since 1999 to somehow win despite allowing 30 unanswered points. Cincy’s Marvin Lewis is 14-6 vs. Earthtones, including seven of past nine, and two of past three by the lake. Like Clevers to stay close, though. CB Joe Haden should make A.J. Green work for his yards.
So many reasons point to Chiefs here. K.C. and Justin Houston lead league in sacks, and Giants O-line is what Charles Barkley might call “turrible.” Carrful Chiefs are plus-9 on turnovers, and bumbling NYG is minus-13. Andy Reid is 2-0 this season vs. former NFC East rivals. And yet! I gut-feel this one close, and give NYG a major upset shot. Bonus fact: Giants, Redskins and Steelers are all 0-3 for first time in NFL history.
Third-round rookie Mike Glennon out of North Carolina State makes his first QB start for Buccaneers upon the benching of Josh Freeman. Coach Greg Schiano’s desperation is showing, but this is needed fresh air and could be a spark. — especially if WR Vincent Jackson (ribs) can play. Zona is battling a bunch of injuries so make it an unconfident venue pick.
Indy has a stout ground game (146.3 average) fortified by Trent Richardson, and J-Ville has the dead-worst run defense in the league. Still, Jags are home and should have Blaine Gabbert back, and they catch Colts coming off a big upset of San Fran. So there are reasons to be tempted by that large point spread, especially if the homies can manage an afternoon of vintage Maurice Jones-Drew.
Upset! Houston was my preseason Super Bowl pick (yes, I still admit that), and I like Texans to bounce back big at home here after that embarrassing loss to Ravens. Seattle, though good everywhere, is not as dominant on the road, and is due a stumble. The recipe for HOU: A lot fewer penalties than last week’s 14, no Matt Schaub INTs, Andre Johnson (shin) in the lineup and J.J. Watt reminding Russell Wilson he isn’t in his home comfort zone.
Two teams pleasantly surprised to be 2-1 finds Jets leading league with 34 penalties and Titans (31) not far behind, but Tennessee has zero turnovers. Take Nashvillians at home in what essentially is a coin-flip game, but leaning Planes ATS with that dangling extra half point tantalizing me like a damned piece of pie.
Terrelle Pryor’s iffy status (concussion) had Matt Flynn on call for Oakland, not a huge drop-off. Two really bad defenses here. Washington’s is worse, but Robert Griffin III is better equipped to take advantage of fissures on the Raiders side. Give Oaks a medium-large upset shot but stikc with the Unmentionable Nicknames.
The Saturday over/under (57 points) suggests an entertaining game if not a close one. How can you go wrong with Peyton Manning’s awesome air-raid offense on one side and the flurry of Chip Kelly and his blitzkrieg rushing attack on the other? But here’s the difference: Broncos put up a solid run defense against Philly’s strength, but the Birds have little on pass-D to suggest Peyton won’t put up huge numbers once again. Big point spread, but an even bigger faith in Manning right now.
Chargers family jarred this week by the suicide of former teammate Paul Oliver, a safety from 2007 to 2011. Hard to read the effect of that, if any. More tangibly, Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray could fantasy-pleasing stats against a beatable Diego defebse, and Cows’ pass rush should really test a shaky Bolts O-line.
Here’s a game I’d pay to watch. So strange for the Patriots to be getting points (even two), and that’s makes English a seriously tempting underdog in this Sunday prime-timer. It’s just that Atlanta is much more desperate and also is a very strong home club; Matt Ryan is 34-5 as a starter in the ATL. Tom Brady and his Pats are due an offensive bustout game, but with Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola likely both still out, this doesn’t feel like the week for that.
OFF THIS WEEK