Week 3 real and spectacular picks
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 23, 2010
Like a steely nerved gridiron gunslinger, eyeing the kill, the Cold, Hard Football Facts real and spectacular picks are sauntering slowly out of the gate here in 2010. We went a humble 10-6 straight up, and suffered an extraordinarily rare down week against the spread (7-8).
We don't like coming out on the losing end, but we've still posted an incredible 15 winning weeks ATS in 19 chances since the start of the 2009 season. That's pretty damn good, for those of you keeping score at home.
Here's our season total:
Week 1: 8-7 straight; 7-6 ATS
Week 2: 10-6 straight, 7-8 ATS
Year to date: 18-13 straight, 14-14 ATS
If you've been around here for a while, you know the deal: takes a few weeks for our Quality Stats to get their bearings on the new season. We were just 15-17 ATS through two weeks last year, and ended the season a glorious 144-111 (.565). So expect much better days ahead.
If not, we'll just cry ourselves to sleep in the lovely 1990s era Teri Hatcher's real and spectacular milky, farm girl bosoms.
Tennessee at N.Y. Giants (-3.5)
The Titans enter this game at New York No. 1 in total defense (206.5 YPG), No. 1 in pass defense (85.5 YPG) and with some of the best Defensive Hogs in football (No. 3 overall). Mostly, they get after the quarterback quite well, with eight sacks while forcing Negative Pass Plays on 14.29 percent of drop backs.
Tennessee also boasts a fairly good pass defense (66.02 in DPR), but that status is largely due to the fact that they've faced two offensively challenged teams (Oakland, Pittsburgh).
The Giants counter with Offensive Hogs who rank a mere No 28, including 29th in Negative Pass Plays (15.25%). It adds up to a long day for the G-Men, a week after they were humiliated by the Colts.
Tennessee 20, N.Y. Giants 16
Cincinnati (-3.5) at Carolina
The Bengals rebounded nicely from their Week 1 debacle at New England by showing some shades of 2009 (bad offense, good defense) in a 15-10 win vs. Baltimore.
The tough defense creates a statistical mismatch against the Panthers, who rank No. 31 in Passing Yards Per Attempt (4.26 YPA), who scored just seven points last week against the Bucs and who put the offense in the hands of a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start.
Jimmy Clausen will probably depend heavily on running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but the tandem has disappointed through two weeks, combining for just 46 carries and 171 yards (3.71 YPA) in two games
On paper, the Bengals win. But this is also the type of game, on the road, that the inept Bungles organization typically blows. We'll side with the Cold, Hard Football Facts, but only with reservations.
Cincinnati 21, Carolina 13
Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
This battle of undefeated shapes up as a classic old-school slobberknocker, the kind in which the Steelers historically and recently revel (note victories in Weeks 1 and 2).
Pittsburgh's championship-form defense, boosted a dangerous group of top-rated Defensive Hogs, has has played extraordinarily well, surrendering just 20 points in two games against what most people consider pretty good teams (Atlanta and Tennesseee).
Tampa second-year QB Josh Freeman has impressed (4 TD, 1 INT, 95.0 passer rating), but against bad opponents, while his ground game has struggled (3.34 YPA, 24th).
Look for Pittsburgh to win ugly, but convincingly, in Tampa.
Pittsburgh 19, Tampa 9
Buffalo at New England (-13.5)
It says a lot about the Bills that the flawed Patriots are two touchdown favorites. Mostly, it says that this has been the most one-sided rivalry in the NFL in recent years.
New England has won 18 of the last 19 meetings, the lone defeat way back in Week 1 of 2003. The Patriots showed plenty of firepower in Week 1, before disappearing in the second half of last week's game against the Jets.
The Bills counter with very little: they can't run (3.55 YPA, 22nd), they can't protect the passer (15.25% Negative Pass Plays, 28th), they can't score points (8.5 PPG, 32nd), and they can't play defense (24.5 PPG, 22nd).
We like the Patriots to win big. But two-touchdown victories have proven few and far between early in 2010.
New England 26, Buffalo 14
Cleveland at Baltimore (-10.5)
It's the same old Browns here in 2010, with an offensively challenged club that's put up 14 points in each of its first two games – against what were two of the worst teams in football last year (TB, KC).
It's the same-old Ravens here in 2010. Baltimore, too, can't score points (20 in two games), but at least they're armed once again with one of the best defenses in football, surrendering just 24 points against the Jets and Bengals – two playoff teams last year.
If there are going to be any shutouts in 2010, this could be the first.
Baltimore 14, Cleveland 0
San Francisco (-2.5) at Kansas City
The 2-0 Chiefs of 2010 remind us of the temporarily sober Aerosmith of the early 1980s. It's been done with mirrors, a surprising 2-0 team behind a quarterback with a 55.7 passer rating. Doesn't add up, folks.
But we have no confidence in the 49ers to cross half the country and win a game. Sure, they went toe-to-toe at home with the champs Monday night, but last time we saw them outside San Francisco, it was an ugly 31-6 loss at Seattle.
The 49ers have won just two measly road games outside the division since 2006, victories over the lousy Bills and Redskins in 2008.
Kansas City 17, San Francisco 16
Dallas at Houston (-3.5)
This is a very, very intriguing match-up. Everybody's 2010 darling, the historically inept Texans, are 2-0; and here comes to town the glitzy cross-state club called America's Team, the 0-2 Cowboys, everybody's favorite whipping boy so far this season.
We actually believe this shapes up as a bad match for the Texans. Dallas is desperate to get its offense in order, and Houston provides just the recipe to make it happen.
While everybody is fawning over the Texans, we pointed out this week that they have a critical, gaping flaw in their game: a brutal pass defense (113.4 Defensive Passer Rating). They're also very bad at pressuring quarterbacks, forcing a Negative Pass Play on just 5.0 percent of dropbacks (30th).
Dallas, meanwhile, has suffered just one sack and has averaged a respectable 6.51 Passing YPA, while Romo has thrown two picks in 98 attempts. That's a pretty good protection.
The Cowboys will struggle to run the ball, but Romo and the offense break out of their funk and win a shootout.
Dallas 33, Houston 30
By the way, if you're wondering what Aerosmith sounded like in the mid-1980s, after they sobered up for a while and lost their edge, but before they became rappers and balladeers, this is kind of what it sounded like. Now you know why Aerosmith was better on drugs.
show video here
Detroit at Minnesota (-10.5)
The 0-2 Cowboys face a death struggle this week against the Texans. Their partners in 0-2 shame from Minnesota, meanwhile, get the sweet, welcome relief of the perpetually pathetic Lions.
Detroit has actually been competitive this year, losing its first two games by a combined seven points, while getting jobbed out of a victory against Chicago in Week 1. However, the Lions once again are on pace to field a historically inept pass defense, which will allow BrettFavre to find his 40-year-old footing and lead the Vikings to a long overdue win.
Minnesota 27, Detroit 23
Atlanta at New Orleans (-4.5)
This is our Game of the Week at SportsIllustrated.com, but it hasn't been published yet. We'll link to it when it's up and ready.
New Orleans 23, Atlanta 21
Washington (-3.5) at St. Louis
We love it: a battle of grizzled veteran quarterback in a new town, trying to rekindle a franchise's glory days vs. baby-faced rookie quarterback trying to lift the worst franchise in football out of its misery.
Washington's Donovan McNabb led the Redskins to a gutty Week 1 win vs. Washington, and then got his statistical feet under him in a Week 2 loss to the Texans (426 yards, third most of his career, 119.0 rating). Statistically speaking, Rams QB Sam Bradford has given us just about what you expect after two games in the NFL: three picks, four INT and a 63.5 passer rating.
The most encouraging news in St. Louis, though, is not the potential of Bradford. It's the fact that the defense has looked competent: the Rams are No. 13 in Defensive Passer Rating (72.9), a huge improvement over 2009, when they finished No. 31 in DPR (96.9).
The improved defense (albeit against bad quarterbacks) is a big reason why the 0-2 Rams of 2010 have looked far more competitive than the 1-15 Rams of 2009.
Washington 20, St. Louis 19
Philadelphia (-3.5) at Jacksonville
The talk show circuit in Philly lit up a filthy hippie at Woodstock in the wake of the QB drama that unfolded this week. Talk is cheap. But smart decisions are worth their weight in gold.
And, the fact of the matter is that Andy Reid made the right decision picking Michael Vick to start ahead of Kevin Kolb, no matter how awkwardly the whole situation unfolded.
Put most simply, Vick looks like an entirely different QB than we've seen out of him in the past. We're not projecting here, we're just putting out what the numbers tell us after about six quarters of play, and they're impressive: Vick is more accurate (63.8%), more effective (7.9 YPA) and more efficient (105.5) than he has been in any past season, even back in his mid-2000s glory days. Most importantly, his three TD tosses have come without a single INT.
He's also rushed 18 times for 140 yards (7.8 YPA). Vick ust looks good, folks, real good, there's no other way to say it.
He's the most obvious difference between these two teams.
And it shapes up as a big advantage for Philly. Jacksonville was incredibly poor against the pass in 2009 (95.98 in DPR, 30th) and have shown no improvement in 2010: the Jags have napped three INTs already, but they rank a mere No. 27 in DPR (103.49) because they've surrendered an awful 10.14 yards per pass attempt, easily the worst in the league after two games.
Vick rolls, Jags roll over.
Philadelphia 28, Jacksonville 20
Indianapolis (-6.5) at Denver
The Broncos defined mediocrity in 2009: 8-8 overall, 4-4 at home, 4-4 on the road, 326 points scored, 324 points allowed. An extra point here or there, and we're taking truly spiritual middling-ness.
The 2010 season is not looking a whole lot different for a team searching for an identity: the lost on the road to a blah Jacksonville team in Week 1, and then won at home in Week 2 against a lousy Seattle team. Not much to go on.
Indy comes to town, though, with plenty of identity, one you're quite familiar with: a quarterback with a serious case of on-fire-itis. Peyton Manning is on a furious 2004-style pace: 60 of 83, 72.3%, 688 yards, 8.3 YPA, 6 TD, 0 INT, 121.0 passer rating.
That's some good sh*t right there, hombre. The Broncos contend against that type of performance with a humble Defensive Passer Rating of 87.13 (21st) and the No. 27-ranked Defensive Hogs.
The Colts are vulnerable on run defense (5.63 YPA against them, 31st). But the Broncos have not shown that they're capable of taking advantage: they're dead last in the NFL right now running the ball, with an average of 2.44 YPA.
We're not football analysts, folks ... oh, wait we are football analysts. And that all adds up to a bad mismatch.
However, Denver is a shocking No. 3 in Passing Yards Per Attempt right now, one spot ahead of Indy, so they'll keep it close at home against a Colts defense that's a question mark this year.
We know it's an old story, but expect the Colts to shoot up D-Town pretty well.
Indianapolis 27, Denver 23
Oakland at Arizona (-4.5)
We'll make this short and sweet: the Raiders have actually been a fairly competitive team when Bruce Gradkowski plays quarterback, as we reported this week. Gradkowski gets the nod this week.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have not been competitive as they struggle find their footing in the post-Kurt Warner years. Oakland's pass defense has sh*t the bed in two games, but Arizona has done nothing right (except eke out a win over the Rams) in two road games.
Taking a chance here rolling the dice on the Raiders.
Oakland 21, Arizona 20
San Diego (-5.5) at Seattle
Two teams in search of a little direction. The Chargers lost a shocker on the road in Week 1, then won big at home in Week 2. The Seahawks won big at home in Week 1, then lost big on the road in Week 2.
But put most simply, the Chargers are a better team and will win the passing battle: They're better than the Seahawks on offense (No. 2 in Passing YPA vs. No. 12) and on defense (No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating vs. No. 19). Seattle will struggle to get pressure on Philip Rivers.
San Diego 27, Seattle 20
N.Y. Jets at Miami (-1.5)
The Dolphins are one of the surprise stories of 2010, 2-0 and with an early advantage in the AFC East, thanks to an impressive defense that's surrounded just 20 points in two games while embarrassing the old gunslinger BrettFavre in their 14-10 win in Minnesota last week.
BrettFavre looked just like a kid out there: a scared college kid who kep throwing the ball into the hands his opponents.
But we digress.
Not really sure how to play this one, folks. Mostly, we think the Jets have the biggest advantage: their run defense has been incredible (1.84 YPA), and they'll force Miami into becoming a one-dimensional team.
That's not a good dimension in which to find yourself when your quarterback is Chad Henne. He'll be staring into the face of the mighty Gang Green defense that frustrated Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker just one week ago.
N.Y. Jets 17, Miami 16
Green Bay (-3.5) at Chicago
Big NFC North battle, the oldest rivals in pro football, national TV, Monday Night Football.
Hell, we're so excited for this game that we may actually stay sober until intermission so that we remember the first half.
We only have two games of evidence, but so far it's obvious that the Packers have been the most dominant team in football. It's a natural progression, and a promising one for Green Bay, after a year in which they were statistically proficient in 2009, but couldn't quite live up to their potential.
But Chicago is making things happen on both sides of the ball: No. 1 in run defense, surrendering a meager 1.37 YPA, and surprisingly, No. 1 passing the ball, with an average of 9.16 YPA.
Chicago's sudden proficiency passing the ball makes for the statistical battle of the night, because Green Bay is No. 1 in the NFL, forcing Negative Pass Plays on 18.03 percent of dropbacks. That effort has been lead by early NFL sack leader Clay Matthews (six).
That playmaking ability on defense could spell trouble for Cutler, who's fronted by one of the worst offensive lines in football (No. 30 on our Offensive Hog Index through two weeks).
The Bears have been a nice story, but they've gone 2-0 against a lousy Detroit team and a Dallas team struggling to get itself together. The Packers, meanwhile, are the most impressive team in football right now and have enough juice to win on the road in front of a thunderous Soldier Field crowd.
Green Bay 24, Chicago 21
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