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Off To A Good Start…

…well, not for Week Two.  Not only was that game horrific to watch, but the Carolina Panthers really blew that game at the end.  What kind of crappy play call was that?  Still would have lost here, but not in my two entries for them as a part of two different knockout pools.  I suppose that’s what you get for trying to be cute…and for playing and putting in too many separate entries into waaaaaay too many of those pools…but I digress…

Two timeouts in a row called by Tampa Bay during that last stand?  Yikes!  Even an elementary school kid knows you can’t do that.  And the officials…yuck.  Just the whole thing.

Last year there were some entertaining Thursday Night Football games…for pretty much the first time.  Looks like we are reverting to what was the norm before that.  And that’s not a good thing.

I knew picking a Thursday Night division game is not a smart thing to do.  But I did it anyway…shame on me.  But maybe now I will learn?

In any event, the title refers to us not having a bad first week.  The picks against the spread could have been a smidge better.  But not too bad considering the first week is always tough to figure…I think anyway…

And no, I have nothing more to say on Antonio Brown.  I don’t think.

On to it…

Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Detroit

Matty Patricia can’t be too happy about his Lions blowing an 18 point 4th quarter lead last week.  But the Chargers may not be too happy needing overtime to beat an Indianapolis Colts team, who probably should be taking a step back this year after the sudden retirement of QB Andrew Luck.  Not to mention that the Chargers should have lost the game.  The normally reliable Adam Vinatieri missed a few kicks or else the Colts would have taken the game.  I expect Adam to bounce back ok, even though he is 127 years old.  He can’t be any worse than some of these stiff kickers floating around the league.  And I guarantee if he got cut, some other team would sign him if he still wanted to play.  But this isn’t the Indy game to pick here.  So back to the Chargers, who should be a pretty good team this season.  Detroit should not.

Los Angeles Chargers 27, Detroit 18.  

Indianapolis at Tennessee (-3.5)

We’ve covered Vinatieri already above.  And the Colts kind of.  This is the Titans’ first home game of the year.  No one expected Tennessee to blast Cleveland last week.  On the road.  Sure, I picked the Titans to win, but not by that landslide.  Cleveland is in for a dose of reality this year, I think.  But again, this isn’t the Browns pick.  The Titans may not be a Super Bowl contender, but they appear to be a solid team from top to bottom.  Especially if they get anything at all from quarterback Marcus Mariota.  Mariota hasn’t been anything special since he entered the league as a #2 overall pick.  Though he has been hurt…or at least banged up…a lot.  Even so, one would expect more from someone drafted that high.  Is the 5th year the charm?  Won’t know for sure for a while.  But it looks like he has some support.  As for more on Indy, quarterback Jacoby Brissett hasn’t embarrassed himself as a starting QB in the league when he’s been out there thus far in his career.  But it remains to be seen if he can take them to the next level like Luck was supposed to this year.  There is still some talent on this team, however.

Tennessee 24, Indianapolis 17.

Jacksonville at Houston (-8.5)

Nick Foles, we hardly knew ye!  Yeah, he will be back, but not for a while.  So that’s reason enough to take the Texans here.  Maybe Gardner Minshew (who??!) can get it done.  His numbers were actually pretty good when he came on in relief of Foles last week.  But who is going to count on that for a second week?  Not me.  Though some bad coaching decisions by the Texans play callers down the stretch against the Saints left a lot to be desired.  The Texans are the more talented team all around, division game be damned.

Houston 31, Jacksonville 13.

San Francisco at Cincinnati (-0.5) 

The Bungles actually played Seattle close last week, much to everyone’s surprise.  Maybe this new Zac Taylor cat is a vast improvement over the dearly departed Marvin Lewis.  That wouldn’t take much though.  We will see what happens in Week Two.  I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon yet.  I have more faith in the Niners at this point, for really no good reason at all honestly.

San Francisco 27, Cincinnati 24.

Buffalo (-2.5) at New York Giants

The Giants were putrid last week.  The Bills won, but they played the Jets.  I’m not sure anyone in New York state even cares about this game.  That’s all I have on this one Pete, sorry…

New York Giants 20, Buffalo 17.

New England (-18.5) at Miami 

Normally I get a little nervous about the Pats going to Miami, especially in the September heat.  This is not one of those years though.  Miami has just about gutted its team and is in full blown tank mode…as everyone knows.  The Patriots could score 60 in this game…Antonio Brown or no Antonio Brown…but they won’t.  They will pile on points early but will let up on former Bill Belichick assistant Brian Flores.  Start running the ball a ton.  Then again, the ‘Phins gave up a lot of yards on the ground last week as well.

New England 38, Miami 7.  Lock of the week…how can it not be??

Dallas (-4.5) at Washington 

Another game last week that was closer than expected…the ‘Skins losing to the Eagles only by five.  After leading 20-7 at the half, to boot.  The ‘Boys were stout…albeit against the G-Men.  Adrian Peterson should be back in the saddle for Washington.  But I don’t know if that should be considered a good thing.  I’m feeling more of the same for Dallas this week.  And Zeke will be a little more up to speed.  That can’t hurt.

Dallas 41, Washington 20.

Minnesota at Green Bay (-2.5) 

The Vikes threw 10 passes last week in their easy win over Atlanta.  TEN?!  The Packers scored 10 points in their opener against the Bears.  Minny will have to throw more than 10 passes in this game.  But I also expect the Pack to score more than 10 points as well.  They will have had a week and a half to prepare for this one.  That alone may give them the edge.

Green Bay 27, Minnesota 24.

Seattle at Pittsburgh (-3.5)

The Steelers looked wretched last week against the Patriots.  Seattle barely beat what is usually a very average Bengal squad…at home  So what the hell to do here?  Welp, the Seahawks going cross country doesn’t help them here.  And Pittsburgh cannot be THAT bad, can they?  As average as Mike Tomlin is as a coach, one thing he is supposedly good at is firing up the troops.  Hard for me to believe Pitt. falls to 0-2 to start the year.  Especially with this being their home opener.

Pittsburgh 34, Seattle 27. 

Arizona at Baltimore (-13.5)

Helluva comeback by the Cards last week, albeit against the Lions.  Baltimore isn’t going to score 59 points every week either.  Lamar Jackson sure as hell ain’t gonna throw for 5 TD’s every week either.  But the Ravens can run the ball as well.  In the Ravens home opener, I expect another blowout is at hand.  Even if they run the ball 80% of the time.

Baltimore 34, Arizona 14.

Kansas City (-8.5) at Oakland 

THE RAIDERS!!  Nice win for them in their opener on the baseball field.  Maybe they don’t need Antonio Brown?  Well, let’s not get carried away.  They still need a lot of help.  And their opponent was the Denver Broncos last week.  No powerhouse for sure.  Now they get an actual powerhouse in the Chiefs.  The Chiefs D gave up 22-25, 275 yards and 2 TD’s to the aforementioned Minshaw, so I guess the defense is still less than impressive.  But the offense, even without Tyreek Hill, should be still pretty tough to stop.

Kansas City 38, Oakland 27.  

Chicago (-1.5) at Denver

Yaaaaaaaawn.  Mitchell Trubisky and Joseph Flacco.  No thanks.  The Bears have had a week and a half to improve upon the three points they scored in that scintillating NFL opener.  And their D is legit.  That’s enough right there.

Chicago 24, Denver 10. 

New Orleans at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5)

Looking forward to this one.  Both teams squeaked out wins in their opening games.  The Saints undoubtedly want some revenge on that abhorrent noncall in the NFC Championship game that may very well have cost them the game…although they did have the ball to start overtime, so realistically could have overcome that call with a TD drive there.  Just sayin’.  But still, it was a bad no call.  “Revenge” is also said here very loosely.  I mean Week Two vs a trip to the Super Bowl last year?  Far different circumstances of course.  That all being said, this tilt should be a pretty good one.  Per usual, I am going against the previous Monday Night Football winner and also with the home team here.  The game should pretty close, so these two things are kind of enough to tip the scales for me.

Los Angeles Rams 37, New Orleans 34.

Philadelphia (-0.5) at Atlanta 

The Falcons laid an egg in their opener.  As mentioned earlier, Philly had to come back against the ‘Skins.  The Falcons should be better, despite their coach, Dan Quinn, being on many “first NFL coaches to be fired” lists.  Still, even with Atlanta at home, I’m taking the Eagles.  Think Philly is the better overall squad.  And D-Jax hasn’t seemed to miss a beat in his return to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia 31, Atlanta 21.  

Cleveland (-2.5) at New York Jets

The Browns are up against huge expectations across the league this year…and fell flat on their face in Week One.  I am not on board with those expectations, as you well know.  But they still should be competitive.  Two words for you on this one:  Trevor Siemian.  That’s all.

Cleveland 34, New York Jets 14.  

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  0-1

Lock Of The Week (season):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  9-8

Season (straight up):  14-3

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Week Two Already?

Where did the week go?  Oh yeah, I guess it has only been a couple days since the last games.

In any event, a short and sweet one here (the post, not necessarily the pick…or the game itself).  Especially after that extended piece from yesterday.

What is there really to talk about after that anyway?  The Boston Red Sox got 2-hit by a bunch of bums on the Toronto Blue Jays last night.  Did they quit already?  Perhaps.  I suppose we could confirm that if Clay Buchholz no-hits them today.

The head coach of the Boston Bruins got a contract extension.  That was nice.  It would be even nicer if they could get their 2 restricted free agent defensemen signed.

AB news?  Well, he practiced Wednesday.  So there’s that.  I guess he will play Sunday.  But who knows?

Ok, that’s enough…

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-6.5)

Thursday night divisional games are always tricky.  Especially ones between teams that were a combined 12-20 last season.  And both lost in Week One as well.  The feeling here though is that Carolina has the upper hand.  Tampa lost at home in their opener, against what appears to be an average San Francisco 49er team.  Carolina also lost at home, but against a much better Los Angeles Rams team.  Christian McCaffrey is absolutely the real deal.  I didn’t believe in him when he came out of college and was drafted in the Top Ten.  Looks like I was wrong.  Oh well, wasn’t the first time, won’t be the last.  And although he has his critics around the league, Cam Newton can play QB.  Can Jameis Winston?  Many people thought Bruce Arians could help Winston take the next step in his career.  Perhaps he will at some point.  It is early, after all.  Hard for me to see Carolina dropping two in a row at home to start the season either.  Even at 7-9 last year, they were 5-3 at home.  Riverboat Ron Rivera needs this win more than Arians as well.  He may be on a short leash this season.

Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 17.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  14-2

Lock Of The Week:  1-0

Season (against the spread):  9-7

Season (straight up):  14-2

Champs…Yet Again…

…surprised?  I am a little bit…actually, a lot.

Sure, the New England Patriots have a ton of talent.  But, on paper, was it on par with teams like the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints?  Not so sure about that.  Not to mention having to play the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.  With that atrocious (for them) road record this season.

But that’s why they play the games, as they say.

Plus…the Pats have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  So there is that…

Now, Brady didn’t exactly play his best last Sunday.  But did he need to?  I guess not the way the defense played.  And with how putrid Jared Goff looked.  Then again, it would have been nice to see some points on the board.  And not waiting until about seven minutes left to score a touchdown.  But that’s what happens when you don’t give Brady many weapons.

I’m not sure what happened to Chris Hogan this year.  Hogan had been a fairly reliable wide receiver during his first two years with the team.  But completely disappeared for most of this year.  He supposedly fell out of the “Brady Circle of Trust”.  But seemingly came back in during the playoffs.  Zero for six in the Super Bowl for catches and targets, however.  Disgusting.  And Phillip Dorsett played a good amount of snaps and no one even saw him on the field I don’t think.  James White had one catch on four targets.  Surprisingly not part of the game plan in that respect, but apparently was chipping the Rams’ D-linemen often.  So we will give him a pass.

Other than that?  Just Gronk and Jules.  But I guess that is all you need…Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.  How could the Rams let those two catch ANYTHING?  Have to let those other stiffs beat you, no?

So the Pats won the game…with running and defense?  What, was this 2001 all over again?

Hard to believe.

When you look back, the running game wasn’t exactly stout the entire game.  154 yards is a nice total.  But it was also misleading.

What wasn’t misleading was the fact that the Patriots ran the ball down the Rams throat when it counted most.  Their last drive.  After Stephon Gilmore picked off a Goff floater inside their own five yard line with about 4 minutes left and the Pats up 10-3, the running game then took it to another level.  They marched down the field running the ball led by a pair of 26 yard runs, one each by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead.  (Though Michel couldn’t get two yards on a third and about a yard and a half, but we won’t nitpick too much).

That drive obviously sealed the game.  When is the last time that anyone could say the running game wrapped up a game for the New England Patriots?  The Corey Dillon days?  Usually, Brady would be throwing screens to guys like Edelman and White to get 3-5 yards and first downs because they couldn’t run the ball.  Seemed weird.  But it worked.

The Patriot defense? Sure, they played pretty well.  But was the performance overrated?  Perhaps.  Goff was absolutely abysmal, in all aspects.  And Todd Gurley can tell anyone he wants that he wasn’t hurt.  But that can’t possibly be the case.  He HAD to have been hurt.  10 carries in the Super Bowl?  A handful in the NFC Championship Game?  It’s noble for Gurley to deny his knee was a problem.  But we all know it was.

Not having a healthy Gurley was a huge blow for the Rams…and don’t give me “well, C.J. Anderson was lighting it up after they signed him…”.  Anderson isn’t Gurley.  I think we can all agree on that.  A player isn’t on three different teams in one season for no reason.

I’m sure this factor has been talked about ad nauseam this past week.  However, I have not been able to listen to a lot of the chatter, unfortunately.  But Sean McVay got taken to the woodshed in the game.  Simple as that.

According to people who watch film, and all the other information available that has been analyzed and re-analyzed, it appears that the Patriots had two different calls for the defense for every play…or a majority of them anyway.  One to show the Rams a look before the 15 second mark on the play clock and another for after the 15 second mark.

Why the 15 second mark?  Well, you have all heard about this too.  McVay can talk in Goff’s ear until then.  After that, the line of communication is shut off.  So McVay helped Goff before the time limit, then Goff was helpless thereafter.  Because the Patriots changed things up and Goff had no idea what to do.

My main question is:  How come no other team has figured that out?  I guess teams “do what they do” and don’t strategize to that degree.  Kind of a mistake I would say.  But then again, when you have the same coach and the same systems in place for almost two decades, I guess that makes it easier for a team to do.

My second question would be:  Wow, is Goff really that inept that he can’t figure things out on his own?  Makes you wonder if he is really a franchise type guy.  Not our problem I guess.  But worth noting nonetheless.

So there is your story:  Coaching, defense, running game…and maybe a dash of special teams.  Stephen Gostkowski did have 7 of the teams’ 13 points after all.  Yes, a little shaky.  But the job was done nonetheless.

For all those people who thought the game was boring?  I understand.  If you are not a fan of the teams, I imagine that more offense would have been what you wanted.  If you were like most of the country, wanting the Patriots to lose, well, having the Rams score only three points couldn’t have been that exciting for you.  And…we know that offense is now the name of the game.  See the 54-51 game between the Rams and Chiefs earlier this year.

The fact is, the Patriots should have scored more points.  How many times were they into Rams territory with nothing to show for it?  Plenty.  But defense is still a part of the game.  And fans should have been paying attention to that.  Wasn’t a boring game for the Blowhard.  Then again, being out in a pro-Patriot crowd while enjoying some (many?) adult beverages will often help that, I will allow.

In any event, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions for the 6th time.  Deal with it.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  People, for some reason, fail to remember the years before Robert Kraft owned the team.  Many failures, few successes, lots of laughable moments.  Drug scandals, head coaches in the playoffs creating distractions by taking other jobs before the season is over (Chuck Fairbanks AND Bill Parcells), sexual harassment scandals (Lisa Olson), a bogus roughing the passer call (Sugar Bear Hamilton), the Rod Rust (1-15) era, the Sullivan’s and their decrepit stadium, Matt Millen punching one of the Sullivan’s, James Orthwein, Victor Kiam, etc., etc., etc.  The list can go on.

Patriot fans should make no apologies for the past two decades of dominance.  Because we all know the other side of it…and how fast things can change going forward.  Who knows what this organization will look like once Brady and Belichick retire?  I believe that as long as the team remains under the Kraft’s ownership (which should be a significant amount of time, as undoubtedly Jonathan Kraft will take over for his father Robert at some point), I expect no 2-14 or 1-15 seasons.  But that does not mean they will continue winning Super Bowls.

Let’s enjoy this run, ignore the haters…and go for the seventh next year!

Which leads me to what’s next for this Patriot’s team.  Welp, seemingly a lot of roster decisions.  A whole slew of free agents of varying importance.  And we will cover that in due time…

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  147-120 (55.1%…1.5% better than last year!)

Season (straight up):  171-96 (64.0%…3.4% worse than last year…yikes!)

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