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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

Super Bowl…

…the Big Day is finally within sight.  The two weeks between the Championship games and the Super Bowl seem like an eternity, no?  Well, I suppose it is only that way for the fans of the participant teams anyway.  Sorry to you also-rans!

So we all know what happened by now in the Conference Championship games.  The Los Angeles Rams stole one from the New Orleans Saints…or did they?  And the New England Patriots held off the Kansas City Chiefs.

Back to the Rams.  Everyone has been talking like they shouldn’t have beaten the Saints.  All because of that non-penalty call on Nickell Robey-Coleman.  Sure, it was a penalty.  Sure, it should have been called.  And sure, the Saints would have been almost able to run out the clock after that.

BUT, everyone seems to forget that New Orleans had a 13-0 lead early on.  PLUS, it should have been 17-0, or even 21-0.  Are the Rams coming back from that deficit if it occurred?  Not so sure about that.

Ok, the Saints couldn’t get to 21-0, so I guess the point is not applicable.  But they had several chances to put the game away early on.  And didn’t capitalize.  So although they did get kind of screwed late, let’s not forget the rest of the game.

As for the Pats, well, that one was an Instant Classic.  Their defense dominated early, then Patrick Mahomes started lighting it up all over the place.  The Patriots absolutely got a few breaks, but hey, that’s what has happened to them during this Bill Belichick/Tom Brady run.  So I think everyone needs to accept it already!

All kidding aside, what a game.  But that has been analyzed left and right, top to bottom, so no need to dig down deep on it two weeks later.

Let’s focus on the present…and the immediate future…

New England (-2.5) “at” Los Angeles Rams

Let’s be honest right off the bat.  We are not going to sit here and pretend that we watched a ton of Ram football this season.  Certainly not any film, breaking down the line play and such.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t give some opinions, bogus or not!

We can say at 13-3, it was a helluva a season, sneaking out from the NFC Championship or not.  They scored the second most points in the NFL.  Explosive.  And since they will be playing indoors, that’s something that needs to be noted.

Sean McVay gets all the credit.  Boy genius and all that.  And he’s good.  But I have to tell you that having Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator on his side kind of scares the bejesus out of me.  I heard on the radio this week that the Pats have chewed up Phillips’ defenses on occasion.  Unfortunately, I only seem to remember Phillips being able to shut Tom Brady and the New England offense down.  Not sure why that is…guess it’s the recurring nightmares…ok, that was a little strong.

But Phillips and his crew do scare me a bit for sure.  Aqib Talib is pure gold when he speaks.  But he’s pretty f’n good when he’s on the field too.  Aaron Donald?  No explanation necessary.  Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters…there are some names out there.  And if they play to their capabilities, it feels like they can dominate.  Maybe that’s just me looking at names.  But still…

Robey-Coleman?  Nah.  Brady will look to torch him of course because of his comments earlier in the week…where he called Brady old and all.  And maybe Tom will.  But if NRC is covering Chris Hogan or Cordarrelle Patterson or Phillip Dorsett, Brady may not be able to take advantage of even that matchup.

Everyone always points to the fact that Bill Belichick has two weeks to prepare for this game and should dominate because he is so much smarter than everyone else.  But doesn’t the other team have the two weeks to prepare as well?  And what happened last year against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Bill had two weeks to prepare…and somehow thought that Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards were better options to have on the field than Malcolm Butler?  Yup…

What if Phillips comes up with a great game plan?  Maybe put Talib on Rob Gronkowski?  Like the Pats did when he was here, putting Aqib on Jimmy Graham.  Yeah, Gronk may not be Gronk this year.  But he is still dangerous.  Wade can come up with something himself in these two weeks.

But here is the twist…I think the Patriots try to run the ball down the Rams’ throat.  Just like against the Chiefs.  Time of possession.  Keep the explosive offense off the field.  Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, a little bit of James White and some old fashioned James Develin blocking.  Then unleash Brady when appropriate…although hopefully without that brutal interception at the goal line against KC.

Will it work?  No idea.  But expect a fair amount of those screens to White and Julian Edelman as well.  With Aaron Donald poised to wreak some havoc, Brady may not have a ton of time to throw.  Then again, the Pats line has played well.  Maybe Dante Scarnecchia comes up with another gem.

Although the Pats did not do this nearly as much as I would like this year, I have a feeling we see the hurry-up offense a little more on Sunday.  Yes, I did just say I feel like they will try to win time of possession by running the ball, so why the hell would I say that they will hurry up?  Welp, doesn’t mean that they won’t run the ball out of the hurry up.  I’m just thinking they will try to tire that D-Line out even more…by not allowing them to substitute.  Work quickly, but still eat clock.  I don’t know, just a gut feeling there.

The Rams may try to run the ball too.  Not exactly a Patriot strength.  But is Todd Gurley anywhere near 100%?  Doesn’t seem it.  C.J. Anderson has been nice.  But he’s not Gurley.  Especially catching balls out of the backfield.  Jared Goff will most assuredly go downfield more, but if Gurley is good to go, watch for plenty of short passes to him with the likes of Elandon Roberts trying to cover him.  Not ideal.

That being said, my guess is the Pats will let the Rams do what they please with the running backs and prevent guys like Brandin Cooks from getting by them deep.

One more thing to consider:  History.

This game will be played 17 years to the day after the Pats won their first Super Bowl against the high flying…St. Louis Rams.  Brady can win his sixth Super Bowl.  Would be a nice bookend.  The Pats can tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most wins in Super Bowls.  Etc.  Food for thought.

Experience?  Yeah, it can matter.  Talent usually wins out in the end, however.  Of course, lack of experience in this setting can make even the best dudes make the wrong decisions in crunch time.  Something to think about as well.

The Patriots are playing their “no one respects us” card again.  Kind of silly, but whatever works.  Hopefully, they are using last year’s Big Game as motivation too.  They should be.  Throw in the fact that the team could look a little different next year.  I know, every team looks a little different each year.  And Brady already said there is zero chance he is retiring.  But Gronk might.  And Devin McCourty threw that word around this week…though I am not sure that is likely.  But Dev and guys like Dont’a Hightower do have high cap numbers next year and aren’t the same players.  Could they be cut?  Trent Brown and Trey Flowers could cash in elsewhere.  There could be more turnover than usual next year.  And a 42-year-old quarterback that showed some decline this year, whether he wants to admit it or not (yes, I said it).

Some of us have been saying it for a while, but it is appropriate.  This really could be the New England Patriots’ “last hurrah”.

I expect they will take advantage of it.

New England 34, Los Angeles Rams 30.

Week (against the spread):  1-1

Week (straight up):  1-1

Season (against the spread):  146-120

Season (straight up):  170-96

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