NFL picks, week 4
Baltimore at Cleveland (+4.5) - In week 2, Cleveland put up 51 points against Cincinnati. I don't expect that there will be a bigger single game fluke occurrence in an NFL game this season. And to the extent that any part of it wasn't fluke, it was the performance of Cincinnati's defense, not Cleveland's offense. I am not at all convinced that Baltimore's defense is the fearsome entity that it used to be, and I don't think much of their offense at all. In Cleveland, this probably ends up being a fairly close game. I started writing this thinking that I was picking Baltimore. I've changed my mind. Cleveland not only covers, they win.
Chicago at Detroit (+2.5) - After I started writing, I changed my mind on this one, too. I've still got last year's Bears and last year's Lions in my head. Right now, Detroit, notwithstanding last week's embarrassment in Philadelphia, is a better team than Chicago. Griese will make fewer mistakes than Grossman, but he won't make them a good offensive team, and they don't have the same defense they had a year ago. Detroit wins this one at home.
Green Bay (-3.5) at Minnesota - Is there any commentary really warranted? Minnesota couldn't beat Kansas City last week, while Green Bay beat San Diego. That tells me everything that I need to know. Packers, comfortably.
Houston (-2.5) at Atlanta - This is something that I'm sure Texan fans have been waiting for since they first entered the league. "Hey, Houston is just a much better team." Texans win. Texans cover.
N.Y. Jets (-3) at Buffalo - It didn't look like a great season in Buffalo before the season stared. But Dick Jauron's got to be wondering where he went wrong in his life. They've lost 1/3 of their starters already. And if the team looked weak with the starters, what does it look like with the backups? Frankly, this line looks like a mistake. The only victory for the Bills this week will be a Gaussian one. If they choose to claim it. On the field, the Jets win easily.
Oakland at Miami (-4) - The Dolphins have got about four winnable games on their schedule. This is one of them. They take advantage of it, giving the AFC East its first non-Patriots out-of-division win.
St. Louis at Dallas (-12) - Based on what we "knew" three weeks ago, this is a shootout. But you can't have much of an offensive shootout when one of the parties is unarmed. I love the Ted Baxter theory of football forecasting (how much difference can there be between two groups of professionals?), but I don't see how St. Louis scores enough not to lose by two touchdowns.
Seattle (-2) at San Francisco - It should be clear, by now, that I don't think much of the Seahawks. But they're still the best team in that decision. Plus, I'm rooting for the 49ers to lose every week, to improve the remaining first round draft pick for the Patriots.
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-3.5) - How on earth do you pick this game? I don't trust either one of these teams. Apparently Delhomme isn't going to play, and I don't even know how to factor that in. He's a "hit-or-miss" guy, whereas David Carr is more a "miss" guy, but that just means that Carolina plays differently, and, while Carr's less likely to win the game for them, he's probably also less likely to lose the game for them. In the end, I flip a coin. Then, not liking the outcome, I flip it again. And again. And again. After 10 minutes of the opening scene of "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," the Panthers get the nod.
Denver at Indianapolis (-10) - Indianapolis followed up a convincing thrashing of New Orleans with road wins against Tennessee and Houston. Denver's got wins over awful Buffalo and dreadful Oakland, both of which were determined by last second field goals, and a loss, at home, to Jacksonville. There's one game's difference between them in the standings - there's a world of difference in performance thus far. Until further notice, Indianapolis is favored against everyone except New England. And they not only win this, they cover. With room to spare.
Kansas City at San Diego (-14) - San Diego's not as good as people think they are. But Kansas City is as bad as people think they are. The Chargers are bullies, and they'll beat up on an inferior team this week.
Pittsburgh (-6) at Arizona - Whether you think that this is competitive or not depends on your perceptions of the Seahawks, and the Baltimore Ravens defense. I don't think much of either, so I think that Arizona, while inevitably bound to win a big game against a good team some day, isn't ready to deal with a good team right now. Steelers win by more than a touchdown.
Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants (+2.5) - I make the picks, and then, over the course of a couple of days, I write the text. Sometimes, I get to a game and wonder what the hell I was thinking. So let me see. Well, I don't care for the Eagles. I think that last week was a fluke. And I think that the Giant defense showed signs of coming to life last week, albeit against a less-than-stellar offense. (Idle tangent - I cannot believe that a Joe Gibbs team butchered its last possession as badly as the Redskins butchered their last drive last week. You cannot be spiking the ball to stop the clock when there is more than enough time to run all of the plays that you'll have the opportunity to run, and you need the chances more than the seconds.) Anyway, I think that line may be an overreaction to last week's Eagle romp, which reinforced perceptions (that may or may not have been justified) before the season that Philly was strong. I'm going to go with the home underdog Giants here. (And, to any arguments that this is just a strong anti-Eagle bias shining through, well, my anti-Giant bias is just as strong.)
New England (-7) at Cincinnati - The Bengals have allowed an average of nearly 32 points per game. The Patriots have scored 38 points in each of their three games. (Anyone want to calculate the average score? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?) The Patriots played at Cincinnati during week 4 last year and beat them 38-13. One struggles in vain to come up with a reason to think that they won't score at least 38 again this week. I can't come up with one. The only way Cincinnati keeps this competitive is if they score 35 or more. I don't see that happening. The Patriots roll continues...