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Ezekiel Elliott…and Week Six…

…no, I am not really going to talk much about Zeke here.  But I will say, now I know how the rest of the world felt about the Deflategate circus.  Well, I knew how they felt anyway on that, since I felt the same way.  Dragged on for far too long, with all the appeals and all the lawyers and all that nonsense.  Serve the suspension already.  That’s how I felt about Tom Brady at the time, even though I thought the offense was ridiculous and that every team likely does something similar, just that the Patriots were dumb enough to get caught.  In a nutshell anyway.  But I just wanted him to serve the suspension so that the whole thing went away.

Now, Elliott is supposed to start serving his six game suspension after the latest court ruling this week.  But does anyone think it is really “over”?  Zeke’s men are “considering all options” and, though I am far from an attorney, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the field during the Cowboys next game in Week 7.

The reality is, he has (allegedly) a brutal history of domestic violence.  Again, serve the suspension already.  You know you deserve it.  Not to mention some jail time too.  Zeke gets six games for “allegedly” beating women on a regular basis.  Brady got four for taking the air out of footballs.  Sigh…

That’s enough of that…from me anyway.

As for the picks, almost picked the correct score for Thursday Night this week (picked 27-24 and ended up 28-23).  Solid.  Better game than I thought it would be as well.  We shall see if this is a good sign for the rest of them…

Green Bay (-3.5) at Minnesota

Minnesota is always a tough place to play.  Divisional matchup to boot.  But Case Keenum under center again.  No Dalvin Cook.  No Stefon Diggs.  Tough for me to take the Vikes here.

Green Bay 27, Minnesota 17.

Cleveland at Houston (-9.5) 

All aboard the Kevin Hogan bandwagon!!  Hell, I don’t know if Hogan can actually play.  But with the Texans injury issues, I feel like taking the points with the Browns here.  I know, Houston put up 57 on the Titans at home 2 weeks ago and even 34 at home against the Chiefs in a loss a week ago.  How does anyone think the Browns are going to stop these guys?  I don’t know.  I just feel like the spread is too big.  I’ve been wrong plenty though.

Houston 24, Cleveland 17.

Miami at Atlanta (-10.5)

On the flip side, this spread may not be big enough.  In Atlanta, who is off a bye and off a terrible loss at home to Buffalo before the bye.  This could be over by halftime.

Atlanta 44, Miami 10.

San Francisco at Washington (-9.5)

Yup, I’m taking the points with another awful team on the road.  The Niners have lost all five games they have played.  But did you realize that 3 out of the last 4 have been on the road and they have lost all 4 by a field goal or less?  Sure, some of the competition has stunk too (Colts, Cardinals).  But the other 2 (Rams, Seahawks) were decent foes.  Similar to Cleveland, they may not win.  But I’m looking for them to keep it close.

Washington 31, San Francisco 24.

Chicago at Baltimore (-6.5)

Mitchell Trubisky looks like he has some skills.  But he looked nowhere near ready to play in the NFL when I saw him last Monday night.  I don’t expect that to change against the Ravens.

Baltimore 23, Chicago 13.

Detroit at New Orleans (-4.5) 

I put my faith in the Lions last week, while acknowledging it could be a mistake.  Surprise!  It was.  Not this week.  The Saints at home off a bye.  Stafford banged up.  Feeling good about N.O.  I’m sure I’ll be wrong on this one though.

New Orleans 27, Detroit 20.

New England (-9.5) at New York Jets

Battle for first place!!!  Who saw that line ever being printed in 2017, regarding the AFC East?  No one.  But this is where the Pats kick it into high gear and take off.  So says me.  Brady hurt?  Pffffffft.  This one won’t be close.

New England 38, New York Jets 17.

Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville (-2.5)

Goes without saying that these two teams, both sitting at 3-2, are the biggest surprises (on the positive side) in the league this year.  Unless you count the Bills and the Jets with the same record…which I don’t.  Although maybe I should count the Jets, since they did beat Jax.  Anyway…the Jags have been kind of inconsistent this year, alternating dominant efforts with mediocre to poor ones.  So I haven’t bought in on them at all.  But last week’s demolition of the Steelers in Pittsburgh finally got me to take notice.  So I guess it’s time for me to actually pick them to win for once.

Jacksonville 28, Los Angeles Rams 24.

Tampa Bay (-2.5) at Arizona

The Bucs stunk a week and a half ago and still almost came up roses at the end.  Arizona simply stinks.  Don’t try to convince me that AP is going to save the day here either.  Certainly not this week.

Tampa Bay 31, Arizona 13.

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland (-3.5)

I don’t believe that the Chargers have been as bad as their record.  Oakland probably has played as bad as their record.  Derek Carr is back after missing the last game.  Maybe Amari Cooper will finally show up too.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking that I think Oakland takes this game.  They were supposed to be battling for one of the top seeds in the conference after all.  Maybe this is the springboard.

Oakland 31, Los Angeles Chargers 24.  

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-3.5)

Is Big Ben done?  I hope so!  KC seems like a juggernaut.  Typically, this is where the underdog wins and makes everyone look foolish.  Sticking with the Chiefs at home this time though.

Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 23.

New York Giants at Denver (-11.5)

The Giants lost 14 wide receivers for the year last week.  Zero running game.  Plus their coach seems to be a buffoon.  And they plain suck this year.  Denver coming off a bye should be ready to roll in this one.

Denver 34, New York Giants 17.

Indianapolis at Tennessee (-1.5)  

Could go either way on this one.  Mariota or Cassel, does it matter?  Indy has surprised to go 2-3 in the absence of Andrew Luck.  The Titans have underachieved for sure.  Divisional matchup.  I have no idea.

Tennessee 20, Indianapolis 17.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread): 38-40

Season (straight up): 49-29

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Not There Yet…and Week Five Picks…

…Thursday Night Football was once again ugly this week.  The New England Patriots did hold off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, 19-14.  But it was kind of a sloppy game.  A thousand penalties, including several real stupid ones by the Patriots.  Jameis Winston missing wide open receivers…actually Tom Brady did too.  The Patriots offensive line made the Tampa pass rush look like they still had Warren Sapp in his prime.  One sack all year, they had three the other night.  But it felt like 20, they way they were hitting Brady.  I am not sure how the Bucs officially got only 6 hits credited to the stat sheet.  Fumbles.  Dropped passes.  Dropped interceptions.  And lastly, but certainly not least, a virtuoso performance by Tampa kicker Nick Folk.  I guess once you’ve played for the Jets, that stink never really goes away.  May explain why David Harris has only played a handful of snaps for the Pats this year, despite their linebackers being putrid.  But I digress…

If you are a Patriot fan, you should be happy they got the win.  Short week, on the road, against what is supposed to be a good team, defense in disarray and all that.  I am happy for that.  But…if you are a Patriot fan, you cannot say that all the problems from the first 4 games have vanished.

The defense played better, no doubt.  But it appears they simplified it a little bit, though I didn’t study any game tape, I must admit.  And they almost coughed it up late.  Maybe they relaxed a bit at the end, who knows?  But they could have very well lost the game on the last drive.

The offensive line…I don’t even know what to say.  The same five guys are back from last year.  And everyone’s favorite assistant coach, Dante Scarnecchia, is still here.  So what happened?  I really don’t know.  But these guys are going to get Brady killed.  And maybe you can lay a little blame on Tom himself for holding on to the ball too long.  Or the wide receivers for not getting open.  Or on the absence of Julian Edelman, and in this game, Rob Gronkowski, who are Brady’s favorite security blankets.  Or on Josh McDaniels and the coaching staff, because they seemingly have run more downfield routes this year…partly due to the absence of Edelman, but also due to the arrival of Brandin Cooks.  Or TE Dwayne Allen, who apparently sucks at both blocking and receiving.  But you’ve all heard the stat, Brady has been sacked more times in five games already than in the 12 games he played last regular season.  Not good.

Plenty of work still to be done.  And I do think the Patriots will do it.  But it’s going to take some more time.  In any event, 3-2 is better than 2-3.  With the Jets up next.  Beautiful!

Now for the rest of Week Five:

Tennessee (-2.5) at Miami

Miami has scored 25 points in 3 games.  Tennessee is probably starting Matt Cassel.  I hate to pick the Dolphins again and lose, but I feel like I have no choice here.

Miami 20, Tennessee 13.

San Francisco at Indianapolis (-1.5) 

A lot of people have some interest in this game…ummmm…ok, no they don’t.  Indy is at home, is favored and has won one game this year.  But I’m looking for the winless 49ers to finally break through after a three close losses in a row.  Why?  I don’t have any idea.

San Francisco 21, Indianapolis 17.

Carolina at Detroit (-3.5)

Maybe I am in the minority, but I really cannot jump on the Lions bandwagon.  Jimmy Caldwell, for one.  Matthew Stafford for two.  Maybe I should…and will…give these guys some credit some day.  Just not yet.  Ok yes, wait.  This week I will.  Carolina is coming off a big road win in Foxborough.  That means they will probably not show up in Detroit.  I may be going against my better judgement here.  But I really don’t know about this one.

Detroit 24, Carolina 20.

Buffalo at Cincinnati (-3.5)

Buffalo has been better than they should be.  Cincinnati has been worse than they should be.  Things have a way of evening out over time.  Especially when those things concern two mediocre teams.

Cincinnati 27, Buffalo 20.

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants (-3.5)

Speaking of two mediocre teams, or “SHOULD” be mediocre teams.  Since that what they should be, though they both remain winless.  A tie perhaps?  Doubtful.  This is another toss of a coin.  When in doubt, take the points.  But I will say that even though both offenses have also sucked, a shootout here would not shock me.

New York Giants 31, Los Angeles Chargers 28.

Arizona at Philadelphia (-6.5) 

Arizona is fairly lucky to be 2-2.  They beat both the hapless Colts and 49ers by three in overtime.  And got smoked in their other two games against Detroit and Dallas.  It’s an every other week thing too.  This happens to be the week of the smokeshow.

Philadelphia 34, Arizona 17.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-8.5) 

Speaking of smokeshows.  Look for Antonio Brown to be targeted early and often.  Despite all that talk about how he needs to grow up and stop the tantrums and all that.  The bottom line is that Big Ben WILL want to make him happy.  So he will get him the ball and shut him up.

Pittsburgh 38, Jacksonville 17.

New York Jets at Cleveland (-1.5)

Yikes!  Niners/Colts and Jets/Browns on the same Sunday??  Oh boy.

Cleveland 17, New York Jets 14.

Seattle at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5)

The Rams may well be for real.  But the Seahawks are not done.

Seattle 27, Los Angeles Rams 24.

Baltimore at Oakland (-3.5)

The Ravens have been abysmal the last two weeks.  But the Raiders are likely starting EJ Manuel.  ‘Nuff said.

Baltimore 24, Oakland 17.  

Green Bay at Dallas (-2.5)

I’m not feeling the Cowboys this year.  Still should be a pretty good squad.  But 13-3?  Nah.  Well, they would have to go 11-1 from here, so I suppose that is pretty obvious.  The Packers didn’t dominate out of the gates this year either.  Even though the game is in Dallas, I’m feeling the Pack here…with of course no real statistical evidence for me to back it up with.

Green Bay 34, Dallas 27.

Kansas City (-1.5) at Houston

Houston isn’t going to put 57 up on the Chiefs this week.  But the offense has found some rhythm for sure.  KC isn’t going to go undefeated.  They had a battle with Washington at home last week and managed to outlast the Redskins.  This game kind of looks like where they have a little bump in the road…on the road.

Houston 24, Kansas City 23.

Minnesota (-2.5) at Chicago 

Mitchell Trubisky may be better than Mike Glennon.  But that’s not saying much.  Sure, they’ve had a week and a half to get him ready for this game.  Well, to start this game.  They’ve had months to get him ready.  Anyway, throwing him in on a Monday Night Football game against a divisional opponent with a pretty good defense?  Not so sure about that.  Whether or not Sam Bradford comes back or if it is Case Keenum again under center for the Vikes.

Minnesota 24, Chicago 10.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread): 30-34

Season (straight up): 40-24

Keep Your Head Up…

…after another somewhat pathetic week of picking NFL games.  Though we almost had an exact score involving Kansas City again Monday night…until of course the lateral thing the Redskins were trying to do with 4 seconds left didn’t exactly work out the way they wanted.  Or the way many gamblers wanted either.  Oh well, at least we didn’t have any money on that game, like many real gamblers did.  Sucks for them…or maybe it worked out for them if they had the Chiefs and the over.  But that last line is why I can’t really gamble in real life.  It’s a fine line between winning and losing.  And I’m usually on the wrong side of that line.

So in this space on the first pick of the week, I usually talk about the previous weeks’ Patriots game.  Feeling exponentially angry and frustrated since I was in attendance at said game, I really don’t want to talk about it.  Especially about how the defense is playing at an embarrassingly low level.  Oh wait, I guess I kind of have to talk about it because…

New England (-5.5) at Tampa Bay

…yup, it’s the next game on the docket.  2nd Thursday Night Football game of the year for the Pats.  I’m sure they are hoping it goes better than the first.  Me too.

A lot of people are have been on the Bucs bandwagon this year.  I suppose a 9-7 finish in 2016, missing the playoffs in a tiebreaker, would get some people juiced up about the team.  Especially after a last place finish in 2015 at 6-10.  Tampa has some weapons on offense.  Jameis Winston may take another step up, in this his third year.  Mike Evans is a stud receiver and DeSean Jackson has plenty left to offer.  Cameron Brate and 2017 top pick O.J. Howard would seem to form a nice TE combo.  And Doug Martin is due back this week, if that floats your boat.  The defense?  I don’t watch a lot of Tampa Bay Buccaneer football.  But there are some recognizable names there on that side of the ball.  There are a couple that seem to be hurt and may not play, so that may be a factor.  I see that they also do only have one sack in three games.  But it’s only three games, so I’m not sure if that means anything yet.  So who knows how good they are either?

The way the Patriots defense has been playing, the Tampa offense should march up and down the field against these guys.  But will they?

TB is 2-1, getting smoked by the Vikings in Minnesota and hammering the Bears and squeaking by the winless Giants at home last week.  Not exactly inspiring results, to be frank.  They are home and it is a short week, so they have that in their favor for sure.

New England will sure as hell score some points, you can bet on that.  The key of course will be stopping the Tampa O.  Nothing the Pats have done this season has indicated that they will be able to do this at all on Thursday Night.  But…there’s a lot of things this season that haven’t made any sense so far.  The Pats and Cowboys at 2-2 have the same record as the Jets and Jaguars.  The Jets were supposed to go 0-16, weren’t they?  Houston put up 57 points last week, when they scored 53 in their first 3 games.  The Chargers and Giants are 0-4, and LA lost its first two games when their kicker missed a kick at the end of the game.  Buffalo and the LA Rams are 3-1 and have beaten the defending NFC champion Falcons in Atlanta and another top NFC team in the Cowboys in Dallas, respectively.  Not to mention the Rams have 12 games left to score the 83 points they need to pass last years total.

I could go on, but you get my point.  It would make sense for New England to need some time to fix things on defense specifically.  Short week, on the road, against what should be a good team…and all that.  Seems as if there is also some finger-pointing in the locker room to boot.  In this season of weirdness, you actually could see the Pats starting out 2-3.  Would be easy to pick the Bucs due to all of that.  Even though historically this is when the Pats play their best, when their backs are against the wall…or at least somewhat against the wall.  2-3 really wouldn’t kill them.  But it also wouldn’t be great either.

I’ve been back and forth on this one long enough.  The verdict?

New England 34, Tampa Bay 31.  I know, shocker I took the Pats.  I was leaning Tampa all week too.  The defense is still going to take some time to be fixed.  But the offense will continue to put up points.  TB’s performance thus far hasn’t exactly been earth shattering.  Pats know how to handle short weeks…generally.  Does Tampa?  Is Tampa ready for prime time?  Tampa may be the easy pick based on the Pats woes and lots of other stuff listed above.  But Thursday Night games are also pretty unpredictable historically, in and of itself.  Add it all up, this is what you get.

Week (against the spread):  7-9

Week (straight up):  8-8

Season (against the spread): 29-34

Season (straight up): 39-24

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