Friday, September 11, 2015

NFL Picks, Week 1

Three thoughts on the Kickoff Classic:

1. I knew I was going to have to relive the events of last February, but I took steps to limit my exposure to that, namely, keeping the TV off as long as possible during the pregame. But of course, as soon as I turn on NBC, I'm confronted with Tony Dungy holding his tablet getting ready to diagram the Butler interception. As Lego Batman said,

2. I was not surprised by Pittsburgh's inability to offer much resistance to the Patriots offense. It's hard to do so when this is your secondary:

Image result for dumpster fire

I will admit to being somewhat surprised that there were more than 0 plays where Rob Gronkowski was completely uncovered. And to being completely shocked that there were multiple such occasions of total coverage breakdown. Much is made of how New England starts their defensive gameplan by trying to take away the thing their opponent's offense does best. It sounds like common sense...until you watched last night's game.

3. New England's secondary looked better than I anticipated (admittedly my expectations very extremely low). Malcolm Butler acquitted himself pretty well against Antonio Brown, especially in the first half. In the second half, Butler started getting fooled on double moves, and it remains to be seen if this is a function of going up against the most consistent receiver in the league (33 straight games with 5+ receptions and 50+ yards), or if it's something coaches can explout as they get more film on Butler.

I had higher expectations for the Patriots' front seven, and they did not play to that level. While it appears I was too dismissive of Pittsburgh's signing of D'Angelo Williams, New England made him look much better than he has any right to be at this stage of his career.

On to the picks. Home teams in CAPS. Odds this year are courtesy of

Green Bay (-7) over CHICAGO
Green Bay comes into this game missing Jordy Nelson (out for the year). Chicago comes into this game missing a quarterback who takes care of the ball, a decent offensive line, and a functioning defense. Advantage, Packers.

Kansas City (+1) over HOUSTON
Both of these teams have strong defenses with very good pass rushers. Kansas City has a competent quarterback (Alex Smith) with a top-5 running back. Houston has a below-average quarterback (Brian Hoyer) with a top-5 running back who won't dress due to a groin injury. I trust the Chiefs offense to put up more points than the Texans.

NEW YORK JETS (-3) over Cleveland
I simply don't see the Josh McCown-led Browns offense putting up much of anything on that Jets defense.

Indianapolis (-2.5) over BUFFALO
If I trusted in Tyrod Taylor more, I'd pick Buffalo in the upset. I believe Rex's defense will fluster Andrew Luck and the Colts, and will keep the game winnable despite the talent the Colts have on offense. I just have no idea how many points a Taylor-led offense is capable of producing, even against a suspect Colts defense.

Miami (-3.5) over WASHINGTON
Poor Kirk Cousins. Poor, poor Kirk Cousins.

JACKSONVILLE (+3) over Carolina  
The Jaguars actually had a pretty strong pass rush last year. That's bad news for Cam Newton, because his offensive line is shaping up to be terrible this year. With him losing his top receiver for the year as well, offense should be pretty ugly for the Panthers. This seems like one of those results that will look pretty odd when we look back on it at the end of the season, but week 1 is always good for a couple of those.

ST. LOUIS (+4) over Seattle
The Seahawks have struggle with the Rams in St. Louis ever since Jeff Fisher arrived.
2012: Rams 19, Seahawks 13
2013: Seahawks 14, Rams 9
2014: Rams 28, Seahawks 26
Seattle treating their offensive line as an afterthought really hurts them against the Rams' front seven. Wilson takes a ton of hits and Seattle tends to have their pants pulled down by the Rams' special teams in these games via trick plays. The saving grace for Seattle in this game? The Rams OL might be even worse than Seattle's. I don't foresee many points being scored in this one

ARIZONA (-2.5) over New Orleans
The Cardinals have carved out a pretty nice little home field advantage for themselves with their University of Phoenix stadium. As long as Carson Palmer makes it through the game intact, the Cardinals should put up enough points against this very much a work-in-progress Saints defense.

Detroit (+3) over SAN DIEGO
Each year recently I look at the Chargers and expect them to finally rise up and mount a legitimate challenge to the Broncos for the AFC West title. Each year we're instead treated to massive inconsistency and about a .500 record. Will this year be different? I'll believe it when I see it.

TAMPA BAY (-3) over Tennessee 
I like the team around Jameis Winston quite a bit better than I like the team around Marcus Mariota.

Cincinnati (-3) over OAKLAND
Nothing about Oakland simulates a playoff-caliber opponent (except maybe Amari Cooper), so we should be able to avoid Bad Andy Dalton surfacing and seeing his shadow this weekend.

DENVER (-4.5) over Baltimore 
Because this matchup is happening in September, when Manning has yet to be beaten down by the grind of the regular season, I see Denver's offense looking strong and balanced in this game. That's enough to beat what I called the best overall team in the AFC in week 1.

DALLAS (-6) over New York Giants
I believe the Giants will be very good on offense this year. I simply believe they're also going to be incredibly bad defensively, especially with their best defensive player a) out of this game and b) relegated to nine fingers going forward. Dallas should be able to run all over the Giants front seven.

Philadelphia (-3) over ATLANTA
The Falcons have made a huge coaching upgrade, especially defensively, and they've added some sorely needed talent to that side of the ball. Remember these words after the Eagles hang 40 points on Atlanta Monday night.

Minnesota (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
I trust Teddy Bridgewater more than Colin Kaepernick right now, plus I like Teddy's supporting cast more.

This week: 0-0-1

Regular Season History:
2014 Season: 130-122-3 (.516)
2014 Midweek Picks: 13-5
2013 season: 115-134-7 (.463)
2013 Midweek Picks: 7-9-1
2012: 114-133-9 (.463)
2011: 51-55-4 (.482)

Postseason History:
2014 Postseason: 6-5 (.545) / Miles' 2014 Postseason: 6-5 (.545)
2013 Postseason: 4-5-2 (.455) / Miles' 2013 Postseason: 6-3-2 (.550)
2012 Postseason: 6-4-1
2011 Postseason: 6-5

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