I’m not sure what to make of this football season so far. It’s only been four weeks, and yet already the vast majority of the teams seem so decidedly average, if not just flat-out bad.
Injuries are rampant: The Cowboys, Steelers, and Ravens were all supposed to be dominant teams this year, but they’re all so banged up that none might finish above .500. Everyone loved the Dolphins, and they are an absolute trainwreck — maybe the worst team in Florida, which is really saying something.
What on earth is going on in Indianapolis? Is Luck just a little bruised, or does he need shoulder surgery? Is a Patriots vs. Packers Super Bowl already inevitable?
It’s only October, which means we still don’t know much for certain other than that NFL games will look a lot more pink around the edges for the next few weeks. There’s still ample time for things to pick up, for players to return and the competition to improve. And it’s not all bad — everything is falling perfectly into place for the 16-0 Patriots to meet the 8-8 Giants in the Super Bowl!
Last week I limped to an unimpressive 6-7-1 record against the spread, mostly because I made some idiotic choices that, in retrospect, only seemed logical because I was riding high from my — ahem, blistering — 13-3 performance the week prior. That and the fact that every single kicker in the NFL seemed to develop the yips, or the ones on the teams I picked, anyway.
My record is still solid (28-24-2), and I’m feeling great about this week. I only changed my mind about ten times per pick.
Indianapolis Colts (+4) at Houston Texans
A violently ill Matt Hasselbeck against a violently bad Ryan Mallett! This is Thursday Night Football at its absolute finest, people. J.J. Watt is going to break Hasselback’s 40-year-old back. Oh, man, is this going to be a horrible game. I’m thrilled for it.
The pick: Colts +4
Jacksonville Jaguars (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I honestly can’t figure out why this isn’t the Monday night game. Why are people surprised that Jameis Winston has been throwing a lot of interceptions?
The pick: Jaguars +3
Cleveland Browns (+6.5) at Baltimore Ravens
This line is slightly too high for comfort, and last week I got crushed by putting too much faith in teams covering the spread. So I’m going the opposite route this week.
The pick: Browns +6.5
Washington Redskins (+7.5) at Atlanta Falcons
This, too, is at least a point too high to feel good about. But Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones are better than anyone on the Redskins.
The pick: Falcons -7.5
Chicago Bears (+9) at Kansas City Chiefs
Why is this line so high? The Bears are bad, but are the Chiefs nine points better? The Chiefs have a quarterback who is terrified to throw the ball down field, and they have a coach who is still figuring out how to properly manage his timeouts.
The pick: Bears +9
New Orleans Saints (+4.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Expect a ton of check-downs in this game. I don’t like either of these teams and haven’t correctly predicted an Eagles game yet this season. So I’ll take the Saints!
The pick: Saints +4.5
St. Louis Rams (+9) at Green Bay Packers
If the Rams play like they did against the Cardinals, I think they can make the playoffs. The Packers will win simply because Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, but Todd Gurley and Rams will cover.
The pick: Rams +9
Seattle Seahawks (+3) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals look like one of the top teams in the NFL, whereas the Seahawks have major problems on their offensive line. It’s a short week for Seattle, who really shouldn’t have had such a hard time against the Lions on Monday night. I think the Bengals win this.
(Cue Andy Dalton throwing 5 picks…)
The pick: Bengals -3
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) at Detroit Lions
If the Lions have any life left after that Monday night loss, this one might be close. But it’s a short week and the Cardinals will get back on track after a disappointing loss at home to St. Louis.
The pick: Cardinals -2.5
New England Patriots (-8.5) at Dallas Cowboys
This is the lock of the week, and for once I’m actually rooting for New England. Good for Katie Nolan for saying what everyone else was thinking about Greg Hardy. The guy is garbage and reason enough to root against the Cowboys. Do yourself a favour and watch her segment if you haven’t already.
The pick: Patriots -8.5
Denver Broncos (-4.5) at Oakland Raiders
How many rings would Peyton Manning have if he’d had a defence like this in Indy?
The pick: Broncos -4.5
San Francisco 49ers (+7) at New York Giants
So what if Odell Beckham Jr. is a prima donna — the Giants should be 4-0!
The pick: Giants -7
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) at San Diego Chargers
Both of these teams are banged up, but last week I severely underestimated Michael Vick (and really Mike Tomlin), so I’m not going to do it again.
The pick: Chargers -3
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