Friday, September 16, 2016

NFL Picks, Week 2

The end is nigh! Stock up on non-perishables and water! The end is nigh! Somehow I managed to go 12-4 last week. And on week one of all weeks. Either a gross market correction is coming, or I'm buying a lottery ticket on Tuesday. No in-between. 

Welcome back to Overreaction Week! From last year's week 2 picks:

It's week 2 of the NFL season, which means we're right in the middle of overreaction week. You see, fans, "experts", and even the clubs themselves come into the season with (relative degrees of) informed opinions about how the season will play out. Then week 1 comes along and trashes many of those preconceived ideas. So does that mean we were wrong? Or was this just a small-sample-size issue that will be corrected as more games are played?
What's that? How did I do last week in week 2? That's not important. What's important is I have a theme to re-use to tie this post together. Hooray themes!

As always, home teams are in CAPS.

DETROIT(-6) over Tennessee
Question: Is Tennessee actually any better than last year?
Well, it's going to be hard to be worse, given they were 3-13 last year and earned for themselves the #1 overall pick in the draft. Will they win juts 3 games again? I'm going to say no. Will they win appreciably more games? Also no. They've made some gains on offense, but their defense still isn't very good. And the Lions have actually been quite good offensively since Jim Bob Cooter took over about halfway through last season, which bodes poorly for a young team on the road.

Kansas City (+2.5) over HOUSTON
Question: Is Houston ready to take the next step forward?
We don't really know, but I'm leaning towards no. Could they win their division again and book another trip to the playoffs? Absolutely, but that says at least as much about their division as it does about them. I was expecting a step forward from the offense this year, and early returns are a bit worrisome given the opponent was the Bears. This week will be a good test for Houston, as Kansas City beat them twice last season, including in humiliating fashion in the Wild Card round.

NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) over Miami
Question: Is Miami going to mount a challenge to the Patriots this year?
They were impressive going across the country and shutting down Seattle's offense for 58 minutes. Even more impressive is they should have won the game but for the fact that Ryan Tannehill and their receivers (well, at least Kenny Stills) weren't quite up to the task.

But therein lies the problem: Tannehill hasn't been good enough in the past. It's a pattern. There's some hope for him as his head coach has coaxed workable seasons out of Jay Cutler and Tim Tebow, but it's Tannehill's 5th season in the league. He is what he is at this point. And he is not going to go into Foxboro and knock off the Patriots. Tannehill-led Dolphins teams have lost all 4 games they'vbe played in New England, by scores of 28, 10, 28, and 29 points. Expect more of the same this week.

Baltimore (-6.5) over CLEVELAND
Question: Just how bad is Cleveland going to be?
Bad. They're trusting the 76ers' process. Though they're probably better off with McCown under center rather than RG3 (in the short term). But their defense is going to give up bunches of points.

Cincinnati (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
Question: Are the Steelers the best team in the AFC?
No. That's still the Patriots. But the Steelers are #2 and #3 isn't particularly close. So why am I picking against them? Because Washington didn't put up hardly any resistance (seriously, I get not having expensive new CB toy Josh Norman follow Antonio Brown around all game, but why on earth weren't you giving your #2 CB help over the top? There wasn't a safety in sight, even after it became abundantly clear that Brown was torching Breeland. That's criminal.

Cincinnati will put up resistance, they play the Steelers tough (even without the added motivation to avenge the playoff game they gave away last season). They know the Steelers (from playing them twice a year). And Pittsburgh is down a number of weapons on offense.

WASHINGTON (-3) over Dallas
Question: Has the Kirk Cousins bandwagon already crashed?
If you're expecting him to rise to a top-5 QB, then yes, but that wagon should never have gotten started. If you're expecting him to play well enough to justify the Redskins signing him longterm? No it hasn't crashed but it's certainly taken some damage. Cousins can certainly sling the ball, the problem is makes it rain INTs when he does. That problem disappeared in the second half of last season, but came back with a vengeance Monday night. I'm going to say the 2.5 years before the second half of last year just might be a better representation of who Kirk Cousins is.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-4.5) over New Orleans
Question: So New Orleans still doesn't have a defense?
Nope. Still no defense in the Big Easy. Last year New Orleans beat the Giants 52-49. This game should be a boon to fantasy players.

CAROLINA (-13.5) over San Francisco
Question: Wait, is San Francisco going to be somewhat good?
No, no, definitely not. The Rams were just that awful. Remember, the 49ers beat the Vikings last year on Monday night in week 1, too. The Panthers will devour these 49ers. Order will be restored.

ARIZONA (-6.5) over Tampa Bay
Question: Wait, are Arizona frauds?
Frauds is too strong, but Arizona has a giant cornerback problem. They have Patrick Peterson...and....and....and...not much else. The good news is it looked like Carson Palmer has gotten over his disastrous end to last season, as the Cardinals had 0 turnovers on Sunday night. The bad news is that without two turnovers of their own, they might have been held to just 7 points. I'm going to chalk that game up to week 1 rust and going up against the (dark) master in Bill Belichick.

LOS ANGELES (+6.5) over Seattle
Question: How on earth is Jeff Fisher getting an extension right now? 
I have no idea. All I know is the Rams are a train wreck on offense, gave up a ton of draft capital to get their quarterback, and still will beat the Seahawks this weekend because that's what they do. They get up for the good teams in their division, and then lose focus against everyone else. Hence the repeated sub-.500 records. How that merits a multi-year extension I can't explain. You keep doing you, Jeff.

DENVER (-6) over Indianapolis
Question: Is Denver an AFC contender?
In a word, no. They could make the playoffs, but if teams can slow down their run game, the Broncos offense will stagnate. The Colts don't shut down run games.

OAKLAND (-4.5) over Atlanta
Question: Is Oakland ready to take the next step to playoff contender?
I said yes before the season, and I'm sticking with that. Giving up 34 points in week 1 was a bit of a concern, because an improved defense was a big reason for the expected step forward, but it was against Drew Brees and the Saints in the Superdome. If Atlanta hangs 30+ on the Raiders this week? Abandon ship.

Jacksonville (+3) over SAN DIEGO
Question: Is Jacksonville ready to take the next step to playoff contender?
Likewise, I'm sticking with my pre-season prediction of no. I simply have no faith in San Diego, especially since they lost Keenan Allen 7 weeks early this year.

Green Bay (-2.5) over MINNESOTA
Question: Isn't Minnesota good? Why couldn't they put away the Titans?
Yes, the defense is good. Yes, Adrian Peterson is good. No, they aren't good enough where you can plug any old QB off the street (or Shaun Hill), and expect no bumps in the road. Is Sam Bradford an improvement over Hill? Probably. Will it make enough of a difference against legitimate playoff teams? Nope.

CHICAGO (-3) over Philadelphia
Question: Was Carson Wentz worth the draft pick bounty he cost the Eagles? 
Much, much too early to tell. He beat the Browns at home. That's not saying much. And remember, the Eagles are gutting their roster this season too, to undo as much of what Chip Kelly did as possible. There will be pains this year, but as long as they don't break Carson Wentz (either RG3-style or David Carr-style), they can set themselves up for success down the line.

This week: 1-0 (Whoo-hoo!)
Last week: 12-4 (.750)

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