Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Official NFL Week 3 Primer (With Picks)

The Eagles will look to come out on top against their former coach Thursday night.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

In a lot of ways, Week 3 is just as hard to figure out as Week 2. In Week 2, you're weighing Week 1 against your pre-conceived biases that you held entering the season. In Week 3, you're weighing Week 2 against the preconceived biases that you developed after weighing your pre-conceived biases from pre-season against Week 1.

If that makes sense.

Basically, what happens when the first two weeks of the season contradict each other? Let's say a team that looks like a sure-fire playoff team in Week 1 gets stomped on (or loses a game they shouldn't have) in Week 2 (I'm looking at you, Eagles, Lions, and 49ers). Which game should we believe? After Week 3, we'll have a better idea, because two out of the three games will swing one way or the other. And yes, while they may swing back the other way in Week 4, that itself gives us another possibility - maybe the team is just mediocre and beats bad teams and loses to good teams (*cough* *2012 Chargers* *cough*).

In any event - if Week 2 is Overreaction Weekend, Week 3 is Separation Weekend.

Game(s) of The Week:

Kansas City @ Philadelphia (8:25 p.m. Thursday; NFL Network)

The first game of the week might actually be the best - on paper. Andy Reid goes back to Philadelphia for a revenge game (and by revenge, I mean he eats enough that it causes food shortages throughout the mid-Atlantic), and the (not-so-)surprising 2-0 Chiefs against (perhaps) the most exciting offense in the league. Of course, because the game is on Thursday night, it will be choppy and laden with mistakes and generally doing its best to end the American obsession with pro football.

Green Bay @ Cincinnati (1:00 p.m. Sunday; FOX)

There's a lot to like about this game, especially if Gio Bernard sees action like he did on Monday night. Bernard is a very tough player to fit into an offense, especially in Cincinnati, because he's *clearly* a better receiver than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, which makes him valuable on 3rd down, but at the same time, he *clearly* can't recognize and pick up blitzers, which makes him almost unplayable on 3rd down (just as an aside, he'll probably have a nightmare against Dom Capers' defense with all of the blitzers they send from the secondary). But if they can find ways to keep him on the field, watching him and Randall Cobb in space will be a whole barrel of fun.

Houston @ Baltimore (1:00 p.m. Sunday; CBS)

It's two playoff teams from last year, I guess? Something about the Ravens just doesn't seem as fun this year. Doubly so if Ray Rice is hurt and is limited. If the Baltimore home-field advantage doesn't kick in this could be a laugher for Houston.

(It seems impossible, but somehow in Week 3 there isn't a single matchup where both teams are 2-0. Even a Dolphins-Bears matchup I would have given Game of The Week status but nothing else seems to qualify.)

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams in CAPS):

PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) over Kansas City

JC: So, I went into the season with the whole "NFC > AFC" thing, right? Well, through two weeks, the AFC is 5-1 against the NFC. Welp. Herein lies the Week 3 dilemma - do I give up on my theory after six games or do I ride it out a little longer? This IS a gambling column, now? Let's roll the dice. I'm sticking with it. There are a lot of them this week - eight inter-conference games total, and I'm taking the NFC in ALL of them. Yes, that's right. Every. Last. One.

Even beyond the whole "NFC over AFC" thing, I think there are a few legitimate reasons to take the Eagles here. As mentioned above, it's the Thursday night game, which gives the Eagles two distinct advantages:

1. The sloppy Thursday night games seem to favor the home team - home teams went 8-6 in those games last year (not including opening night, obviously, or Thanksgiving) - even more so early in the season - the first half of the season saw home teams go 6-2.
2. The Eagles offense is a pain in the ass to prepare for with a full week of practice. With only two or three days, with travel tacked on top of that? It could be a nightmare.

JP: Hard to bet against Andy Reid in his return to Philly, especially when his team has one of the best defenses in the league. That being said, I'm convinced that any team coached by Chip Kelly will, win or lose, score 30 points every time out. So, do I think the Chiefs can score more than 24 on a team that isn't Jacksonville? Well, Philly's defense is pretty bad, but I think the Eagles get up in this one early and, like you said, a few sloppy plays go in their favor on defense.

San Diego (+3) over TENNESSEE

JC: Both teams barely lost to Houston in games they should have won. In their other games, San Diego beat Philly (who seems to be pretty good), while Tennessee beat Pittsburgh (who might suck). By the transitive property, San Diego seems to be slightly better than Tennessee.

JP: Dang it! I wanted to keep up my trend of betting for Tennessee every week! I like what Tennessee is building, but I'm seriously not willing to give points with this team yet. Maybe next week, Titans.

MINNESOTA (-6.5) over Cleveland

JC: Cleveland traded Trent Richardson (gulp) and decided the bench Brandon Weeden in favor of Brian Hoyer (big gulp). And they're playing on the road against Minnesota. Yeah, I'll lay the points here.

JP: At this point, I'll take any team playing Cleveland by a touchdown. The fact that it's a playoff team from last year playing at home only makes it easier.

BALTIMORE (+2.5) over Houston

JC: If at any point in the game, either team leads by more than one possession, the game is over. Both teams are excellent at playing while ahead and terrible at playing while behind (unless, apparently, Phillip Rivers is involved). The game should be close throughout, so I'll just grab the points.

JP: Yeah, I don't know what to make of either one of these teams, but I am a little higher on the Texans... Still, Baltimore playing at home with the points is tough to pass up.

Arizona (+7.5) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: We've seen two straight weeks where New Orleans barely survived. Yes, one was against Atlanta and one was on the road in a weird game with a long weather delay, but they haven't looked all that impressive. Arizona is on the road (but still inside, where their speed on defense should show through), and they've actually shown signs of life on offense with Carson Palmer under center.

I'm perfectly happy to be proven wrong if New Orleans decides this is the week that they're going to lay the smack-down against a mediocre team and establish themselves as a legitimate threat in the NFC, but until that actually happens, my skepticism remains.

JP: The Cardinals haven't let me down yet and the Saints have. I'm playing this "solid defense and hope Carson Palmer throws it to the guys in the red jerseys" game of roulette for one more week.

Green Bay (-3) over CINCINNATI

JC: This could be the end of "NFC over AFC." If Green Bay can't take care of business I might retire the theory and return to the drawing board with my tail between my legs.

As mentioned above, I like what Dom Capers' defense can do against a team with poor blitz recognition. Pittsburgh was able to generate pressure with their blitzes on Monday night, so I expect Green Bay to do the same. Only this time, Green Bay can actually, you know, score points with their offense.

JP: This will be tougher than some people expect, just because I think Cincinnati will be able to run the ball, and I don't know that Green Bay has an answer for A.J. Green down the field. But, Green Bay's offense looked unstoppable last week. Cincy will do a better job than Washington, but it won't be enough.

New York Giants (PK) over CAROLINA

JC: Barf.

JP: I love me a good pick'em, and here are two teams that really know how to lose. I'll go with a team that has at least shown it can win in the past and take Eli over Fantasy Favorite Cam and the Cats.

Atlanta (+2) over MIAMI

JC: This is a bold move by Vegas. Miami has looked good in the first two weeks, but it's worth mentioning that it was against Cleveland (self-explanatory) and Indianapolis (who almost lost to Oakland in Week 1). If it turns out that the Colts just aren't good, what does that say about Miami?

Miami is kind of the AFC sleeper, and Atlanta is a popular regression pick in the NFC, but I think this is over-doing it. Also, another "NFC over AFC" pick. I told you, I'm all-in this week.

JP: Gosh, I want to disagree with you on one of these "NFC over AFC" picks, but Vegas is giving points to a Super Bowl favorite over the Dolphins. I like the Phins this year, and I actually think they can give New England a push in the AFC East given their offensive issues, but I can't imagine Miami winning this straight up, much less covering.

SAN FRANCISCO (-10.5) over Indianapolis

JC: The 49ers are going to be looking to bounce back from last week, and I really don't think Indianapolis is that good. Trent Richardson won't be up to speed enough to be a major factor, and even if he was, San Francisco's front seven should dominate an overmatched Indianapolis offensive line.

JP: I still think you're way too low on the Colts, but yeah, I don't see them staying within two touchdowns of a motivated Niners team at Candlestick.

SEATTLE (-20) over Jacksonville

JC: I actually went through old lines, trying to find one this big. I found a common theme. It seems like every time a team is favored by 17 or more, they don't cover (again - "SEEMS LIKE" - this was not a scientific study; it was me clicking around pro-football-reference for a half an hour). The last team that was consistently favored by more than two touchdowns was the 2007 Patriots, and if you include their playoff run (where they weren't favored by as much, but it was still double-digit spreads against legitimate playoff teams), they closed the season on a 1-7 stretch against the spread (all by 12 or more), including a game they won by 21 points and STILL didn't cover (they were giving 22.5). The biggest line they had that season was -24.5, in a Sunday night game against the Eagles, who were starting the immortal A.J. Feely. They didn't even come close to covering. In fact, they almost lost.

But I'm still taking Seattle. I can't even think of how high this line would have to be for me to take Jacksonville. Probably a round 28. That being said, Jacksonville will probably somehow win this game outright. That's the way this season is going for me.

JP: This has all the makings of an emotional letdown game. The Seahawks just dominated, perhaps, the best team in football, and did it in a building that set a new record for crowd noise. No way the team, or crowd, is that jacked up for this one against lowly Jacksonville. All that being said, if you beat the 49ers by 26, you may be able to beat Jacksonville by 30 playing without emotion or intensity.

Buffalo (+2.5) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: Both of these teams suck. Gimme the points.

JP: They do both suck, but right now I'm taking E.J. Manuel over Geno Smith, though I criticized the Bills for making him the first QB selected. Manuel looked in total control last week, and he has far superior weapons, so I'll take Buffalo and the points as well.

DENVER (-16) over Oakland

JC: Ryan Clady's injury almost gave me pause, just because he's an elite left tackle that needs to be replaced, and Oakland's defense has actually looked pretty good. On top of that, Terrelle Pryor is a high-variance quarterback. He led the NFL in rushing in Week 1 and made some big plays. If he starts scrambling around against a depleted Denver defense, it could be a closer game than you'd expect.

But nah, it's Peyton Manning in a night game. Against the Raiders.

JP: The Raiders are going to be the team I bet against every week, but always think "what if Pryor goes off?" That's pretty much what's going through my head right now, but Manning playing a night game at Mile High is tough to bet against.

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams Still in CAPS):

JC: Chicago (-2.5) over PITTSBURGH

Pittsburgh just isn't good. Sorry, Joe. If they can't move the ball against Tennessee or Cincinnati, I don't see any reason why it will be different against Chicago. Unless Jay Cutler decides to turn the ball over six times I just don't see it happeni-oh, crap....

JP: PITTSBURGH (+2.5) over Chicago

I agree that the Steelers aren't any good, but if they had squeaked out a win over Tennessee, then lost to Cincy the way they did, we'd be talking about how their defense is good enough for them to hang in games. They're expected to get Heath Miller back, which will be a huge boost to the running and passing game, plus Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor did a great job in "0" coverage on AJ Green last week. I expect him to do the same to Marshall, and it's a Monday Night Game in the 'Burgh.

Call it a homer pick if you will, but I picked against them the first two weeks. I just think they match up well with the Bears.

JC: Detroit (+2) over WASHINGTON

1. Washington's defense is bang-my-head-against-my-desk awful.
2. Detroit is good at offense. Especially when they throw the weirdly-shaped ball to the tall guy with the dark visor.

JP: WASHINGTON (-2) over Detroit

Not so fast my friend. The Redskins were dealing with injury issues along the defensive front last week, which they should get sorted out, and Detroit's one-dimensional offense won't be able to exploit their back end (hehe) the way Green Bay did. Plus, regardless of what Heidi Leach says, I think RG3 is rounding right into form. He looked solid in the second half last week, but as you pointed out with Johnny Football against Alabama, he isn't built to play from behind. That's okay this week, because he won't have to. Skins get back on track at home, and my fantasy QB delivers another fine performance.

JC: St. Louis (+4.5) over DALLAS

I think last week showed that St. Louis can hang with most teams and that Dallas really shouldn't be laying more than a field goal against anyone that's at least half-decent. 

JP: DALLAS (-4.5) over St. Louis

So all of a sudden St. Louis is half decent? Well, okay, they aren't as bad as I thought, particularly Bradford and their run defense, but Dallas needs this win and they're at home. I'll roll with the Boys.

JC: Tampa Bay (+7) over NEW ENGLAND

I simultaneously refuse to overreact about Tampa Bay (hey, they ALMOST beat New Orleans last week!) and am perfectly willing to overreact about New England (they're probably going 2-14 this year). This line is at least three points too high.

JP: NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay isn't as good as they looked in defeat last week, and New England is PROBABLY going to get better every week. The Bucs all hate each other and don't know how to win, while the Pats have one of the greatest coaches and quarterbacks in NFL history, plus they're playing at home. I think they can take this one by more than a touchdown. Oh, and I just really want to take an AFC team over an NFC team.

Three Team Tease(s) of The Week:

JC: San Francisco (to -0.5), Seattle (to -10), Chicago (to +7.5)
JP: It's like you don't even listen to me. No teases.
Jeremy's Records:
Last Week: 9-6-1 
Season: 14-16-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-3
Season's Disagreements: 3-5-1
Teases: 2-0

Joe's Records:
Last Week: 10-5-1
Season: 16-14-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-2
Season's Disagreements: 5-3-1
Teases: 0-0

No comments :