It's one thing to have a great week telling you what's going to unfold on the fields of the NFL, as we did so successfully last week. It's another thing to predict a great week of predictions.
But that's exactly how Week 3 unfolded for the mighty, mighty Cold, Hard Football Facts and our real and spectacular picks.
As we wrote
: "(It) 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."
We followed up our prediction of better days ahead with a real and spectacular 12-4 effort against the spread. We were a relatively humble 11-5 straight up, but only because Saints kicker Garrett Hartley and Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski each missed crucial late gimme field goals that would have made us 13-3 straight up, without harming our mark ATS. All in all, an incredibly dead-on-balls accurate week.
It fact, last week's success reminds us of one of the three happy days we had in our childhood: that's right, the day we convinced Davy Jones to play our high school prom.
show video here
Anytime you think America's going to hell in a handbasket, folks, just watch that video and remember that the "Brady Bunch" was the No. 1 show in America 40 years ago. So things can't get much worse.
In the meantime, here's our week-by-week performance in 2010:
Week 1: 8-7 straight; 7-6 ATS
Week 2: 10-6 straight, 7-8 ATS
Week 3: 11-5 straight, 12-4 ATS
Year to date: 29-18 straight, 26-18 ATS
N.Y. Jets (-5.5) at Buffalo
After three games, New York's offense has been better than expected – 3rd in our Offensive Hog Index and 7th in Scoreability – and Mark Sanchez has posted a sterling 104.9 passer rating. The defense, on the other hand, has been good, but not great, (New York ranks a strong No. 6 in Bendability, but just 11th in Defensive Passer Rating and 20th on the Defensive Hog Index).
The Bills, however, do almost nothing well. In fact, Scoreability (ranked 11th) is the only one of our Quality Stats in which Buffalo ranks higher than 26th.
We're not always enamored of taking road favorites to cover – we do much better finding those road dogs to win outright, as we did so successfully last week and in previous years. But the cold, hard football facts say the Jets simply have too much for the Bills to handle.
N.Y. Jets 27, Buffalo 14
Cincinnati (-3.5) at Cleveland
The Bengals boast the top ranking in Defensive Passer Rating
, a status no doubt aided by the fact that they've faced the Ravens and Panthers over the past two weeks. But they are mediocre-to-poor in our other Quality Stats, ranking from an average No. 14 in Passer Rating Differential to a poor 27th on the Defensive Hog Index.
The Browns, despite an anemic scoring output (15 points per game average), have the No. 9-ranked Offensive Hogs (averaging 4.5 yards per carry) and a surprisingly solid 14th ranking in Passing Yards Per Attempt.
We like the desperate-for-a-win Browns to ride their superior Offensive Hogs against Cincinnati's poor Defensive Hogs, and will take them to win outright at home in this Battle of Ohio rivalry game.
Cleveland 20, Cincinnati 17
Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-1.5)
What in the world has happened to Joe Flacco? Despite the offensive weapons handed to him by the Baltimore front office in the offseason, the third-year QB has seemingly regressed badly from his very good 2009 numbers (88.9 rating). His 2010 passer rating is just 66.3 and he's already thrown five interceptions – four of them in Week 2 at Cincy. (He totaled 24 picks in his first two seasons).
Pittsburgh ranks No. 5 or better in four of our Quality Stats (No. 1 Defensive Hogs; No. 1 in Bendability No. 5 in Defensive Passer Rating; and a surprising #3 in Scoreability without Ben Roethlisberger under center). They've also allowed the fewest points in the league, 33 through three games.
We like the Steelers, at home, to improve to 4-0, a record that practically no one would have predicted in light of Big Ben's four-game suspension to start the season.
Pittsburgh 19, Baltimore 10
Denver at Tennessee (-6.5)
The Titans are 10-3 since starting the 2009 season at 0-6, and they'd be one of the big stories early in this NFL season had they not had a disastrous run-in with Pittsburgh's defense in Week 2.
Tennessee ranks No. 8 or better in five of our seven Quality Stats, including a No. 1 ranking in Scoreability, and their defense has allowed just 42 points (fifth). Vince Young isn't throwing the ball much (just 43 attempts so far), but he's throwing efficiently when he does (96.9 passer rating).
The Broncos rank 22nd or worse in four of our Quality Stats (their 28th-ranked Defensive Hogs are especially bad); this appears to be a bad matchup for Denver.
Tennessee is the better team and they're at home, so we'll bite.
Detroit at Green Bay (-14.5)
The Lions, despite being 0-3, really do appear to have improved over the last two seasons—even their legendarily horrid pass defense has "improved" (26th in Defensive Passer Rating and a sub-100 mark for the first time since the Edsel rolled into a showroom near you).
Unfortunately for Detroit, the Packers, despite giving away Monday night's game at Chicago with 17 penalties and a key late turnover, remain one of the best teams in the NFL (they rank No. 8 or better in five of our seven Quality Stats), and they're probably very, very angry heading into this home game against the Sacrificial Lions.
There have been few big blowouts here in 2010. But Lions-Packers could quickly turn into one of them.
San Francisco at Atlanta (-6.5)
On the bright side, San Francisco stands alone at No. 31 in scoring offense (38 points). So the 49ers got that going for them.
Atlanta is just one tough OT loss at Pittsburgh from being 3-0 and they're coming off a huge OT win at the Superdome last week. The Falcons rank No. 10 or better in five of our seven Quality Stats and QB Matt Ryan is playing back to his rookie season form (94.3 rating).
Atlanta should roll at home.
Atlanta 38, San Francisco 17
Carolina at New Orleans (-13.5)
The Carolina offense is incredibly poor (No. 31 in Scoreability, No. 31 Offensive Hogs, No. 32 in Passing Yards Per Attempt and No. 32 in scoring). But the defense is not nearly as bad (No. 6 in Defensive Hogs, No. 13 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 23 in scoring).
The Saints and Drew Brees still pass the ball better than most teams (No. 8 in Passing Yards Per Attempt). But it's obvious to one and all – even with the often deceptive eye test – that they're simply not playing as well this year as they did last year.
New Orleans' Offensive Hogs (20th) and Defensive Hogs (30th) have been mediocre or worse, and the Saints pass defense (No. 21 in Defensive Passer Rating) has declined significantly after an excellent ball-hawking 2009 season (No. 3) helped carry the team to a title.
Put most simply, the Saints right now are little more than an average team – 21 PPG scoring, 19 PPG allowed – until futher evidence tells us otherwise
New Orleans 24, Carolina 13
Seattle (-1.5) at St. Louis
Statistically, these teams are fairly even. St. Louis has the edge in Bendability and Defensive Passer Rating and with an almost even match in Passer Rating Differential.
Seattle, however, has, a big edge in trenches. The Seahawks outduel the Rams on both the Offensive and Defensive Hog Indexes and in Scoreability (No. 2 vs. No. 13). Most notably, Seattle ranks No. 3 playing run defense (2.6 YPA), while St. Louis is dead last (5.14 YPA).
Seattle was lousy in its one road game so far this season (blowout loss at Denver). But they'll run the ball well Sunday and thenforce rookie Sam Bradford to try to beat them with his arm.
Indianapolis (-7.5) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars have played the Colts very tough over the last four seasons and rarely have been blown out, especially at home. But the 2010 Jaguars are a disaster: No. 22 or worse in all of our Quality Stats and they've been outscored by an average of 28-13 per game.
The Colts have rebounded nicely from their opening day shellacking in Houston, blowing out the Giants and Broncos in successive weeks. Peyton Manning, who has a 116.9 passer rating and has yet to throw an interception in 2010, should feast on Jacksonville's poor pass defense, which ranks No. 29 in Defensive Passer Rating (dreadfully 109.0).
After this performance, look for the Peyton-as-MVP chatter to ratchet up and for the stat-gazers like us to start asking if the Colts QB can challenge his NFL record 121.1 passer rating of 2004.
Indianapolis 31, Jacksonville 13
Houston (-3.5) at Oakland
Where's George Blanda when you need him? Oakland, by all rights, should be 2-1 this season, but a horrid kicking day by Sebastian Janikowski cost the Raiders a win at Arizona last week.
Missed opportunities aside, the Raiders are just not a good football team: a mediocre 17th on the Defensive Hog Index and 24th or worse in every other Quality Stat (dead last in Bendability).
Bruce Gradkowski is an improvement (71.8 passer rating) over Jason Campbell (61.9), but they Raiders still can't pass the ball like a real NFL team.
The Texans have an awful pass defense (dead last in Defensive Passer Rating) that was taken to the woodshed last week, at home, by Tony Romo and the Cowboys. But Oakland will have trouble exposing that weakness.
Otherwise, Houston is excellent on offense (No. 9 in Passing Yards Per Attempt, No. 6 Offensive Hogs, No. 6 in scoring) should have enough to handle Oakland on the road.
Washington at Philadelphia (-6.5)
Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb returns to Philadelphia, the city that holds no brotherly love for Santa or for the best quarterback it's seen in the last 50 years, which McNabb certainly was.
McNabb is off to a solid start in 2010: the Redskins are a surprising No. 5 Passing Yards Per Passing Attempt, a big improvement over 2009 (16th), while McNabb boasts a solid 89.2 rating. But Washington ranks 20th or worse in five of our seven Quality Stats and defense has allowed 22.3 PPG so far (22nd)
The Michael Vick resurrection story (110.2 passer rating) has been the biggest news in Philly, but the Eagles' defense is still carrying more than its fair share of the load: (3rd in Defensive Passer Rating, 4th in Defensive Hogs, 1st in Passer Rating Differential).
It's this strength on both sides of the ball that will make a visit from Donovan Mc as welcoming in Philly as one from St. Nick.
Philadelphia 28, Washington 17
Arizona at San Diego (-8.5)
Arizona's two wins have come against St. Louis and Oakland by a total of five points. Kurt Warner's replacement, Derek Anderson, has a shoddy 67.6 Passer Rating and the defense has allowed nearly 26 points per game so far, despite the two lousy opponents on the schedule.
The Chargers, of course, struggle in September, as they always do under Norv Turner. San Diego's biggest problem is team-wide efficiency: No. 28 in Bendability and No. 22 in Scoreability. This inefficiency has overwhelmed their talent and statistical proficiency elsewhere: No. 6 Defensive Hogs, No. 2 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 3 in Passer Rating Differential and No. 2 in Passing Yards Per Attempt.
San Diego at home should be too much for Arizona. Plus, September is now in the rearview mirror. Time for the Chargers to make their move – and the Quality Stats tell us that they have what it takes.
San Diego 34, Arizona 20
Chicago at N.Y. Giants (-4.5)
The Giants are 4-10 since starting off the 2009 season at 5-0 and are coming off two horrendous performances in back-to-back losses to AFC powers Indianapolis and Tennessee.
Efficient defense (No. 31 in Bendability) is New York's main problem: the defense that once backboned them to a shocking Super Bowl championship run in 2007 is springing too many leaks (allowing 28.3 PPG, 30th). Eli Manning (81.7 passer rating, 6 INTs) is also struggling this season, and the Giants are minus-4 in turnovers; but they do rank No. 10 in Passing Yards Per Attempt.
The Bears lead the league in Passing Yards Per Attempt, while Jay Cutler's passer rating is 109.7, and they should have a strong day against New York's defense (No. 19 in Defensive Passer Rating).
But Chicago is coming off a short week and an emotional win over Green Bay, so we'll take the desperate Giants to win at home.
The Bears will not go unbeaten, and this is just the type of game they could lose against a desperate team.
N.Y. Giants 27, Chicago 26
New England (-1.5) at Miami
Miami has been a traditional house of horrors for New England, even as the Patriots have dominated the division over the past decade. In 2004, the Patriots were marching to their second consecutive 14-2 season and second consecutive Super Bowl victory, but lost in Miami to the 4-12 Dolphins. In 2006, a 12-4 Patriots team that played for the AFC title suffered its worst loss, 21-0, in Miami against a Dolphins team that went 6-10.
Miami's defense was on fire for the first two weeks of the season but was pushed around by the Jets to the tune of 31 points in Week 3. Miami sits right in the middle of nearly all of our Quality Stats, ranking from No. 11 to No. 15 in six of our seven categories (they're No. 21 in Scoreability).
The Patriots, meanwhile, have successfully completed their transition into the 2004 Colts. Their offense, backed by the NFL's top-ranked Offensive Hogs, has been excellent, leading the NFL with 30.0 PPG; and Tom Brady has an excellent 109.1 passer rating.
The New England defense, however, is a nightmare: No. 30 on our Defensive Hog Index and No. 28 in Defensive Passer Rating; and they've allowed a shameful 27.33 PPG and come fresh off a week in which the anemic Buffalo offense hung 30 points on them in Foxboro.
We cannot envision this New England defense doing enough to prevent another Patriots flop in the Miami heat and humidity.
Bye: Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota, Tampa Bay