Christian Ponder was picked 12th overall in the draft once. I believe the same GM is still in that job with the Vikings.
— Mike Kofron (@TestaverdeTD) October 3, 2014
I followed up today, and yes, Rick Spielman is still the GM of the Vikings.
2. I'm still not sold on Green Bay's defense.
3. The margins of victory for Thursday games this season: 20, 20, 42, 31, 32.
Now onto the picks. As always, home team in CAPS.
Chicago (+2.5) over CAROLINA
That's who Ron Rivera has to choose from when he sends out a RB to line up in the backfield with Cam Newton. You'll notice I omitted D'Angelo Williams (OUT), Jonathan Stewart (Doubtful), and Mike Tolbert (IR-designated to return) from that list. Add in the fact that Newton is still recovering from broken rib(s) and his only real threats in the passing game are rookie Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen, and I'm not liking Carolina's chances in this one.
Cleveland (+1.5) over TENNESSEE
Did we find the Titans team that showed up for week 1? Is that why they're favored in this game? Look, the move to give Bishop Sankey more carries can only be a positive one, as it means Shonn Greene gets fewer carries, and Jake Locker is a massive upgrade over Charlie Whitehurst, but that's not the same as saying Locker is good.
PHILADELPHIA (-7) over St. Louis
Philly has a banged up offensive line (though they get their starting right tackle back this week) and St. Louis has one of the top young defensive lines in the game. Of course, the Rams DL has mustered up a grand total of 1 sack in 3 games this season, so we might be overrating them just a bit. The Eagles' offensive effort was beyond ugly last week, but it says here that they bounce back with a much stronger effort this week, and Austin Davis cannot keep up.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-4) over Atlanta
Eli Manning looked other-worldly against a terrible pass defense (Washington). But I'm sure he'll come back to earth this week when he faces a better defense than that.
*checks schedule, sees the Giants play the Falcons this week*
Or not. I wouldn't expect another 31-point blowout, because Matt Ryan won't self-combust, but the Giants will do enough on defense to win a shootout.
Tampa Bay (+10) over NEW ORLEANS
This is a tough one. New Orleans shouldn't be favored by double digits over anybody*, even at home. But at the same time, Tampa Bay has been pretty awful at football for 3/4 of the young season. If Lovie Smith has his defense sit back in a cover-2 shell all night, Drew Brees will very quickly make everyone forget his early season struggles. If Josh McCown were still under center, I'd take the Saints here, but with Mike Glennon the Bucs actually looked competent.
*-well, maybe Oakland
DALLAS (-6) over Houston
On the surface, this is a matchup of two 3-1 teams, one with Tony Romo, and the other with a terrific defensive line led by JJ Watt. Houston's the easy underdog pick here, right?
To quote Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. The Cowboys have gotten to 3-1 because they haven't relied solely on Tony Romo's arm to win games for them. They've quietly put together a formidable offensive line and are letting DeMarco Murray run wild behind, around, and through them. You'd think Houston would put a stop to such nonsense, given their team strength is their DL, but again, I wouldn't count on it. Houston is giving up 5.0 yards per carry. Some of that is inflated by David Carr's numbers in Houston's week 2 win over Oakland (4 carries, 58 yards), but on the whole the Texans have done a poor job of shutting down the run. Add in the fact that Houston's quarterback may be even more turnover happy than Romo is alleged to be, and I don't see this one ending well for the road 'dog.
DETROIT (-7) over Buffalo
I'm not buying the Kyle Orton as the path to salvation (read: a division title) narrative that's poking its head out of the ground. Yes, EJ Manuel hasn't looked good and I understand that with the team being sold the current coaching and front office staffs are nervous about job security, but Kyle Orton was on his couch until August 30. It's barely a month later. By midseason he may emerge as the journeyman caretaker he's been throughout his career, but right out of the gate? I'm not buying it. Not against what looks like a pretty good defense in Detroit.
Baltimore (+3.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Yes, the Colts have Andrew Luck, but they also have the Colts defense. Sure it's not a problem against the Tennessees and Jacksonvilles of the world, but when they play a real team, it matters very much. With no Robert Mathis, they have no consistent pass rush. Without a consistent pass rush, it's difficult to force turnovers or prevent the other team from making big plays. Without turnovers and preventing big plays, your defense is going to give up a ton of points. I know Andrew Luck is a terrific quarterback, but he can't keep conjuring up late-game magic to paper over his team's deficiencies.
Pittsburgh (-6.5) over SORRY, JACKSONVILLE
The Jaguars are just a terrible team right now. Yes, Bortles gives them some hope, but their defense can't stop anybody (and Pittsburgh has a good offense) and their offensive line cannot protect him (and it seems like Pittsburgh's defense, even in their current state, should be able to take advantage).
Arizona (+7.5) over DENVER
I do not get this line at all. Yes, Denver is a very good team and should be favored in their own stadium, but more than a touchdown? Arizona is a legitimately good defense. Why do we think the Broncos will run away with this one?
SAN FRANCISCO (-6) over Kansas City
I just don't think the Chiefs have the weapons to attack San Francisco's defense where they are weakest: their secondary. Jamaal Charles isn't going to get the edge much at all like he did against the Patriots, and without that balance Alex Smith will struggle to put together scoring drives. Add in Kansas City's injuries to their front seven, and I just think it's too much to ask for Kansas City to go on the road and take this one.
SAN DIEGO (-6.5) over New York Jets
The Jets are terrific at stopping the running game and...well, that's it. The Chargers, a) haven't shown any real ability to run the ball, but have still started 3-1, and b) are down to their 3rd and 4th running backs. Luckily, they have Philip Rivers and the Jets have Geno Smith, both of whom should consistently demonstrate the ability to hit open Charger receivers in this game.
Cincinnati (-1) over NEW ENGLAND
I'm not sure which matchup I like less, the moribund Patriots offense going against a top-level Cincinnati defense, or the suddenly vulnerable Patriots defense going against the potentially explosive Bengals offense. I do believe the defense will rebound from the debacle against Kansas City, but I do not expect to see any signs of life from the Pats' offense this week.
Seattle (-7) over WASHINGTON
This is how I get into trouble, but I simply cannot get the image of Kirk Cousins throwing away the game last Thursday out of my head, and now he has to face perhaps the best pass defense in the league. Plus Seattle should be able to unleash Percy Harvin and their passing game against a putrid Washington pass defense.
This Week: 1-0 (Whoo-hoo!)
Last Week: 9-3-1 (.731)
2014 Season: 33-27-1 (.549)