Friday, September 23, 2016

NFL Week 3 Primer (With Picks): Damn You, Belichick, You Crazy Wizard

This is the first image that comes up when you Google search the phrase "Bill Belichick happy." I have no objections.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

I think it's been made clear by now that Bill Belichick is not a human being. He's some type of cyborg who was put on this Earth for one simple task - winning football games. It doesn't matter who his quarterback is; he's going to put together a game plan that an aardvark with slightly above-average intelligence and slightly below-average motor/mechanical skills could implement and pilot to success in the NFL. I don't know how he does it, but he does it.

Belichick and the Patriots got Week 3 started, and served as a wonderful introduction to the craziness that is usually Week 3. Week 1 is spent establishing a baseline. Week 2, very often, sees that baseline turned on its head. Lots of people over-react in Week 2, with varying degrees of success. Week 3, though, is when everything gets weird. You have some idea after Week 1. Week 2 usually confirms or upends those ideas. Week 3 is when everything you thought you knew turns out to be wrong. It's a weird week, showcased by the Patriots beating a playoff team with a 3rd string quarterback on a short week. Yeah. That kind of week.

Game(s) of The Week:

Denver at Cincinnati (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

These two teams both started 8-0 last year, but both appear to be just a touch off to start this season. A statement win here for either team could set the tone for the next few weeks and establish another potentially elite team in the AFC to join New England and Pittsburgh.

Minnesota at Carolina (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Minnesota is the surprise 2-0 darling of the league right now, but going into Carolina might be a totally different story. Another totally different story is that the NFL, as recently as Thursday afternoon, was considering postponing or moving the game out of Charlotte due to riots stemming from an officer related shooting. As of this writing, the game will be played as schedule, but the story could loom large over the proceedings.

New York Jets at Kansas City (4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

This could be a "two ships passing in the night" game. The Jets look like they might be legit. The Chiefs look like they might be in for a 7-9 season. If an AFC playoff team stumbles, it looks like the Jets are the logical pick to replace them, as of now, at least.

Atlanta at New Orleans (8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN)

For our money, maybe the most underrated rivalry in the league. Rivalries between southern NFL teams never seem to be taken as seriously as those in the North and East divisions (from both conferences), possibly because the region is dominated by college football in a way that the northeast isn't. But the fact remains, this is still a legitimate rivalry, and the atmosphere usually reflects as such.

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

NEW ENGLAND (-1) over Houston

We both somehow picked this one correctly, probably because we're idiots who thought a 3rd-string quarterback could hold up against a J.J. Watt-led defense. We still don't know how the Patriots won, let alone by 27.

CINCINNATI (-3.5) over Denver

JC: For two weeks, Trevor Siemian has been trying like hell to give away a winnable game. He hasn't been able to pull it off yet, but you can tell that he's zeroing in on it. I think it happens this week, and I think this is the week that Cincinnati puts itself back on the map.

JP: I really lucked out picking Denver last week. If not for that Von Miller strip sack, they wouldn't have covered against a struggling Colts team. The Bengals aren't the same team as last year, but they can keep this close at home.

Arizona (-4.5) over BUFFALO

JC: Arizona showed last week that they aren't going anywhere. They're going to pounce on every mistake and bludgeon you to death with it. Buffalo fired their offensive coordinator following last Thursday's loss, just in time to go up against one of the most athletic, versatile defenses in the league. This should work out great.

JP: Guys, I'm starting to think that Rex Ryan isn't actually a good coach, he's just a fun coach who got lucky in back-to-back years. I mean, we already assume that with Mark Sanchez, the quarterback of those Jets teams. Why not also put that label on the coach that hasn't done anything since?

Cleveland (+10) over MIAMI

JC: Are you *KIDDING* me? You expect me to lay 10 points with MIAMI?

JP: Which team will want to lose this one more? Either way, it probably won't be by 10 points.

Detroit (+7) over GREEN BAY

JC: What if the Packers aren't as good as we thought? They played Jacksonville way closer than a lot of people were expecting (and didn't cover), then lost to Minnesota despite Adrian Peterson being a non-factor. If they're still not back to their peak (which I don't think they are), I'm not that comfortable laying a touchdown.

JP: And Detroit is better than you think. Green Bay's secondary looked weak against Sam Bradford.

Minnesota (+7) over CAROLINA

JC: This Viking defense might be the best unit in all of football through two weeks. And even without Adrian Peterson, couldn't Minnesota's offensive line push around Carolina's defensive front the same way Denver did on opening night? Is it just me or is this line at least two points too high?

JP: Man, it's tough not to take these touchdown-sized spreads, especially when the Vikings are coming off a win. You said it, that defense is killer, and if Stefon Diggs can just make one highlight play, this game should be decently close.

San Francisco (+9) over SEATTLE

JC: How about this, let's not lay more than a touchdown with Seattle until we actually see them score more than a touchdown? That sounds reasonable, right?

JP: I guess not having Marshawn Lynch IS affecting the Seahawks offense a little bit...

TAMPA BAY (-5.5) over Los Angeles

JC: The Rams have scored a total of 9 points in two games. I'm willing to bet against them for a little while. I don't see Jameis Winston having two unmistakable stinkers in a row, even against a defense as good as LA's. If the Rams have a weakness in their defense, it's their cornerbacks, and Tampa Bay has some big receivers that can make plays.

JP: This looks like a bounce-back week for Tampa and a letdown for LA. I know the Bucs are dealing with some injuries, particularly to Doug Martin, but if Jameis can push this thing down the field, there are plays to be made.

PHILADELPHIA (+4) over Pittsburgh

JC: (*whispers*) What if the Eagles are good?

JP: If this spread were a point lower, or if Le'Veon Bell were playing, I'd be inclined to take the Steelers. But, here we are, with me betting against my favorite team for a third week in a row.

Maybe I should learn my lesson. Pittsburgh is 2-0 against the spread so far, but something tells me Carson Wentz is gonna have a nice day against that Steelers secondary, and that Roethlisberger's struggles last week weren't a good sign. 

New York Jets (+3) over KANSAS CITY

JC: The Jets are coming off extra rest and an impressive win last Thursday. The Chiefs aren't looking too hot right now, and I've been unimpressed with their defense. They need to get Justin Houston back to full health before I take them totally seriously.

JP: The Jets are actually pretty good. That's all I can really say. They're not great, but if a pretty good team is getting three points against another pretty good team, I'll take the points.

DALLAS (-7) over Chicago

JC: This Bears defense is bad, you guys. Like, really bad. And for as much guff as Jay Cutler gets, he's better than Brian Hoyer. Chicago could be in for a rough few weeks.

JP: I'm torn here between my Dak-a-mania picks and my Bears-suicide picks. Something had to give, so I went with the strategy that has actually worked this year.

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: TENNESSEE (-2) over Oakland

What if Tennessee's defense is kinda good (possible), Oakland's defense is hot garbage (likely), and Marcus Mariotta has gone unnoticed for so long that he's now pretty underrated (possible)? People spent all summer blowing smoke up Oakland's butt for reasons that still don't totally make sense to me. I'm betting on Tennessee pushing Oakland around up front and rushing for north of 200 yards.

JP: Oakland (+2) over TENNESSEE

I'll give you that Oakland's secondary looks pretty bad, but I don't see Tennessee's offensive line having its way with Khalil Mack and company up front. I'll take the points, and Oakland's offense to get back on track this week.

JC: INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over San Diego

The Colts are going to come around eventually. They just have too much raw talent at important positions to go 4-12. They're going to put a few crooked numbers on the board from time to time, and Andrew Luck is going to have a few games where we all remember that he's the best quarterback prospect to enter the league in the last decade.

JP: San Diego (+3) over INDIANAPOLIS 

We know that the Chargers can score points (averaging 32.5 per game), and that Indianapolis gives up points, both on defense, and by turning it over (surrendering 36.5 per game). Seems good enough for me to take the points.

JC: Washington (+4.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS

I'm not going to buy into the "The Sky Is Falling" routine in Washington just quite yet. They aren't a good team by any stretch of the imagination, but the Giants haven't done anything through two weeks to make me think they are, either. Washington is better than New Orleans is, and the Saints didn't have any trouble covering this same spread against the Giants last week.

JP: NEW YORK GIANTS (-4.5) over Washington

On the contrary, I was actually really impressed by New York's defense last week against New Orleans, and I'm ready to say the Giants are the favorite in this division already. Plus, you know the Giants are going to use the cheat code of "line Odell Beckham up on the side Josh Norman isn't on and allow him to destroy Bashaun Breeland all night," just like the Steelers did with Antonio Brown and the Cowboys did with Dez Bryant.

The Washington coaching staff will, predictably say "dur, uh, our defense is super complex, and we have to keep this guy we paid $75 million on the left side. Dur."

JC: JACKSONVILLE (PK) over Baltimore

Okay, so Jacksonville's coming-out-party hasn't happened yet. But I think it happens here - Baltimore is the weakest 2-0 team in the league right now (it's not even that close, either - even the Eagles could blow out the Browns), and their secondary is suspect.

JP: Baltimore (PK) over JACKSONVILLE

I don't know man. It's a pick'em, and one of these teams has found ways to win close games, while the other has lost them (or just gotten blown out). I wouldn't pick the Ravens if this were over a field goal, but I think they'll win it outright.

JC: NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Atlanta

Both of these defenses are terrible, and both of these offenses are pretty good. This has shootout written all over it. Normally in expected shootouts I say take the points, but in this case, I'll roll with the team with the better quarterback.

JP: Atlanta (+3) over NEW ORLEANS

Take the points.

Oh yeah, and the Falcons are just better right now.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 8-8
Season: 15-17
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-1
Season's Disagreements: 5-3

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-9
Season: 14-18
Last Week's Disagreements:1-3
Season's Disagreements: 3-5

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