It's Week 4 in the NFL, and after three weeks of getting burned by the Buffalo Bills, maybe it's time we learned our lesson. And by "we" I mean "me". But before we get to this week's lines, we need to highlight a growing trend among football coverage.
It goes back to something Nate Jackson wrote on Deadspin last week. "You have 432 cameras for every game and hours of NFL-related programming to fill," he wrote, "and a whole week to pore over Sunday's footage to find a storyline—something to talk about, something to get mad about." And it's so true, especially if you pay attention to the first few weeks of this season.
So far this year, the first few days of each new week has been spent wringing our hands over something that happened the week before. In the leadup to Week 1 and in the immediate aftermath, it was the kickoff rule. After Week 2, it was the Giants faking injuries.
And then this week, it was all about Michael Vick complaining, and whether he was right. On that one, Fox Sports' referee puppet Mike Pereira has a phenomenally condescending, misleading take, where Vick gets more calls than Tom Brady, but we never hear about how often he's hit, and what percentage of those calls he gets. He later went on to say that Vick should be fined, just to put a little exclamation point on his week. Anyway, from now on we'll be highlighting the "Sports Shouting Story Of The Week" just so that we can keep track of all this fake outrage.
At the end of the year, we'll go back through and remember each week's crisis, and hopefully that'll put the news cycle in some sort of perspective. At the very least, we'll be able to make a lot of Mike Florio jokes. But enough prelude... Let's get to the picks!
After kicking off the year nine games above .500 through the first two weeks, things came crashing back to earth last week with a 6-10 mark. You know what that means? We're due for a bounceback.
Per usual, all picks in BOLD.
San Francisco at Philadelphia (-10) ... The 49ers really need to figure out whether they're playing for Andrew Luck this year, because right now they look like a team destined to go 7-9 and slowly kill their fans' will to live. Did you hear what an NFL scout said about Luck this week?
"He's really, really good," one NFC personnel executive, a veteran of a couple decades in the league, told me the other night. "He's the best quarterback I've ever done (a report on). The best I've ever seen coming out of college. He's the whole package -- born for the position with size, athleticism and arm strength. He's humble, a leader, respected. The whole package."
Wins like last week over the Bengals isn't gonna get it done, Harbaugh.
Minnesota at Kansas City (+1.5) ... Now these guys know how to tank.
Washington at St. Louis (+1) ... Sam Bradford's 1/16th Cherokee, you say? Time to exact some revenge on the Evil White Man and his funny nicknames.
New Orleans at Jacksonville (+7.5) ... This seems like one of those trap games where
Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars could snea... Wait a second. Nahhhhhhh.
Pittsburgh at Houston (-4) ... It's not just that the Texans lost last week, but they lost exactly the same way they've been losing for the past three years. Honestly, I'd have more confidence if they played it like a regular season NBA game, going through the motions in a blowout. But instead they went out and beat up the Saints, then watched as the win slowly slipped right through their fingers.
On the other hand, it's always fun to bet against the Steelers.
Tennessee at Cleveland (PK) ... There are a handful of teams that are better than people think. The Broncos, Panthers, Raiders, maybe the Bengals because of that defense, and either the the Browns or Titans. For now I'm betting on Chris Johnson, because, according to my fantasy projections for the first four weeks, he's due to rush for 500 yards and 7 touchdowns this weekend.
Detroit at Dallas (PK) ... Seriously, why does NFL Films even exist if we're not going to get audio of this conversation from Monday Night's pregame?
As for Lions-Cowboys, I think Romo's turned the corner and maybe you think Calvin Johnson's going to do horrible, horrible things to the Dallas secondary. But can't we all agree that it'd be cooler if this turned into an American Gladiators-style battle between DeMarcus Ware and Ndamukong Suh?
Buffalo at Cincinnati (+3) ... As someone who's been harassed by Bills fans on occasion, I sympathize with the woman who got berated for doubting the Bills last week.
"How about those Bills now you dumbass? You're a female too, what the hell do you know?"
Such a heartwarming story in Buffalo this season.
Carolina at Chicago (-7) ... The Panthers have covered every week so far, so we're not about to stop picking them. Also, Cam Newton's already impressed us with his arm and his ability to lead a comeback. This feels like the week he runs for 200 yards, just because.
Atlanta at Seattle (+4) ... My completely unsubstantiated gut feeling of the week! Feels like last week was the tipping point for the 2011 Falcons, and especially Michael Turner, who's had about 10,000 carries in the past two seasons, and gained 20 yards on 11 carries last week.
New York Giants at Arizona (PK) ... Picking against New York solely because of this Brandon Jacobs quote from the New York Daily News:
"The people outside that want to say they're fans and don't believe in us, I couldn't care less if they ever believed in us," Jacobs said. "They don't mean anything to us if they didn't believe in us. They can go back and finish living their miserable lives as they've been living and hoping that they lose and whatever."
Because anytime an athlete echoes LeBron James, you know his demise is imminent.
Miami at San Diego (-8) Take it from someone who had them in a survivor pool and wound up watching most of the game—the Chargers totally deserved to lose last week. Had it not been for some atrocious kicking from Ryan Succop and Matt Cassel shooting his team in the foot, the Chiefs would've given us our first "Why haven't they fired Norv?" loss of the season.
Meanwhile, FINS RULE.
New England at Oakland (+4) ... THE SAWX LAWST, TITO'S GONE, AND THE SKY IS FAWLING ON BAWSTON. TAWMMY BRADY A RED SAWX NATION TURNS ITS FAIRWEATHAH EYES TO YOU.
Denver at Green Bay (-13.5) ... We've reached the point in the season where Green Bay's going to be a double-digit favorite in pretty much every game they play, and until Ndamukong Suh shatters Aaron Rodgers' clavicle on Thanksgiving day, the Packers will be pretty much unstoppable.
New York Jets at Baltimore (-3) ... Ed Reed vs. Mark Sanchez, you guys.
Indianapolis at Tampa Bay (-11.5) ... Curtis Painter looks like the type of guy who would try to chloroform your little sister, fail, and then get arrested when his car breaks down during the getaway.
America, say hello to the new-look Colts!