By Neil Keefe
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“I just didn’t have it today. I made a few mistakes and didn’t follow the scouting reports and the game plan. I’m just going to have to work harder over these next few days and be better the next time.”
That’s what I would say if people cared about my NFL picks and I had to be held accountable for them, and there were microphones and cameras in my face at my desk at the conclusion of Week 1 on Monday night after a disastrous start. 6-8-2. That’s my record after Week 1. So, if you want to close this page right now and not read my picks for Week 2, I completely understand (please don’t do that). I do hold myself accountable and will come back stronger in Week 2. (Obviously, there’s no guarantee in that, but major league pitchers get away with lines like that all the time, so why can’t I?)
I made a few terrible decisions last week like believing in the Giants, trusting Colt McCoy and the Browns, thinking the Bills would suck again and going against the Lions bandwagon, which is now at capacity though there might be some tickets available on StubHub. Looking back on these choices, how could I be so stupid? I might as well have given the ball to A.J. Burnett in a must-win game.
At least I’m holding myself accountable and I have to because I don’t have someone like Suzyn Waldman to support me and say, “Ya know, John … If Neil didn’t make a few mistakes with his picks in the 1:00 games and a few more in his picks for the 4:00 games and then another one on Sunday Night Football, he would have gone 16-0 in Week 1!”
Then John Sterling would tell her “you can’t predict football” and so on. But I don’t have a radio team to narrate my Sundays and Monday nights and analyze the good and the bad, and I’m thankful for that since last week was bad.
The good news is I have 16 more weeks to redeem myself. The bad news is that Week 2 is harder than Week 1. Why? Well in Week 1 everything you have thought about regarding all 32 teams since the Super Bowl ended is put to the test. Some of your personal theories are proven right and some (most apparently) are proven wrong. So, you throw everything that went wrong out the window and create new theories off of what you saw in Week 1, which is obviously the smallest of sample sizes. It’s a dangerous game, but everyone does it, and I have done it.
Week 2 … let’s go!
(Home team in caps)
NEW ORLEANS -6.5 over Chicago
How mad must Drew Brees have been after he brought Saints down the entire field and then Sean Payton decided to give the ball to Mark Ingram on the final play of the game (a play that shouldn’t have happened)? Probably even more mad than I was on Wednesday when I saw the 53rd Bob’s Discount Furniture commercial of the day, so I googled “Bob’s” net worth and couldn’t find anything.
The Bears had their way with the Falcons last week, but I don’t think things are going to go over that well in the SuperDome where the Who Dat Nation has probably already started consuming alcohol in preparation for Sunday’s game. Jay Cutler in the SuperDome? Yeah, I think I’ll take the Saints.
DETROIT -9 over Kansas City
That line is not a typo. Can the Elias Sports Bureau tell me the last time the Lions were giving nine points? I would have to think they could. I mean they can tell me what Derek Jeter’s batting average is against right-handed relievers born in the month of April on Thursday nights when it’s at least 67 degrees outside and between 9:33 p.m. and 9:41 p.m. So I’m pretty sure they can find out for me the last time the Lions were favored by nine points. Get on that, Elias.
NEW YORK JETS -9 over Jacksonville
The Jets have had a lot of bad luck for a long time. A looooooong time. Now it seems like everything is beginning to fall their way. The way they got into the playoffs in 2009. The way they won a bunch of games late in 2010 to return to the postseason. The way they beat the Cowboys on Sunday night. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that just a handful of years ago the Jets don’t win that game. Things have changed.
Now sure they had the perfect storm of Tony Romo’s late-game brain farts and the inconsistent Nick Folk getting payback on his old team and without those things the Jets would be 0-1 right now and Rex Ryan would be getting slammed by every media outlet. I know “could of, should of, would of” is for losers and like John Mason (Sean Connery) says in The Rock, “Losers whine about their best.” (If you want to know what he says winners do, you should watch the movie since I’m not allowed to write it here). And that is essentially what the Cowboys are doing as Jerry Jones has praised the effort of Tony Romo. The Jets on the other hand have taken the win and moved on the way they did last year when they pulled out miracle wins in the fourth quarter.
I don’t know if the Jets are a Super Bowl team. No one does. No one knows who is a Super Bowl team right now after one game and if they think they do, they are lying to you. But I know one thing. The Jets are a winning team. And winning teams get the breaks and the lucky bounces like the Jets did on Sunday night.
BUFFALO -3.5 over Oakland
I owe the Bills an apology. Everyone does. Especially my friend Mike Hurley who ripped them in his own picks column and then had to deal with Buffalonians (no idea if that is what they are called, but it sounds funny) tearing him apart. For that alone, I’m riding the Bills this week. Let’s go Bills!
Arizona +4 over WASHINGTON
My friend Ray is the biggest Redskins fan I know. (I think I only know like three Redskins fans.) He spends nearly every second of his time online (I hope no one at his job is reading this) reading about the Redskins. He can tell me every piece of information I would need to know about every player on the team (I would never need to know any piece of information about the Redskins). But even he thought the Redskins would lose to the Giants. Prior to Week 1, he emailed me his prediction with the Giants winning by 10, and as a Cubs fan, he said he was pumped for Sunday for the first Redskins game of the season, but that he would be looking forward to MLB Opening Day 2012 on Monday. Do you know how bad this makes me feel about the Giants?
I really want the Cardinals to lose to the Redskins on Sunday, so I don’t feel so bad. I think they will lose, but I think it’s going to be close. Closer than the Giants’ 14-point loss to them.
Baltimore -6 over TENNESSEE
If you could project Ed Reed’s stats against the Steelers over the course of a 16-game season of games only against the Steelers, he would be considered the best football player in history. The Titans aren’t the Steelers, but after watching Joe Flacco looking like he improved significantly and the Ravens defense looking primed for another big year, I don’t think it would be wise to start believing in Matt Hasselbeck against this team.
PITTSBURGH -14.5 over Seattle
I think I found my survivor pool pick. I think everyone did. I don’t see the Steelers opening the year 0-2 and losing at home. And after their defense dropped an A.J. Burnett-like egg in Week 1, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks can’t find the scoreboard until garbage time.
Green Bay -10 over CAROLINA
Last week I said this about the Packers:
The Packers scare me in a way that I feel like they will never have to punt. Obviously that’s ridiculous, but that’s what it seems like.
I was only kidding. Or at least I thought I was. There was a point in the game where I thought they might score 109 points per game this year. That was against the Saints, who could very well see the Packers in the NFC Championship. What’s going to happen against THE PANTHERS?!?!
Well, last week I also said this:
I think the Packers have a chance to do what the Patriots did to spreads during the 2007 season. The Patriots offense forced Las Vegas to make double digits lines for most of the year because of their ridiculous win differentials in the first eight weeks (24, 24, 31, 21, 17, 21, 21, 45). If I’m right about the Packers following this lead, it’s time to jump on board now before they are favored by 17.5 points in a few weeks.
I hope you were listening because we are getting there and this is only going to get worse. In a couple weeks we are going to look back at this Week 2 line and laugh and say how were they not favored by 17.5 against THE PANTHERS?!?!
MINNESOTA -3 over Tampa Bay
I picked the Buccaneers last week off the logic last week that they had improved dramatically from 2009 to 2010 (3-13 to 10-6) and that if you’re going to pick the Lions off the same logic (2-14 to 6-10) that it made more sense to pick the Buccaneers. I was wrong. But I’m not wrong this week when Donovan McNabb shows that he isn’t the has-been that many think he is.
INDIANAPOLIS +2.5 over Cleveland
The Colts aren’t going anywhere this season without Peyton Manning and with Kerry Collins. But this game will be interesting because you will be able to see if Colts fans just completely gave up at the news of Peyton’s unknown return, or if they still believe in the Colts and still believe in football in Indianapolis without No. 18. If the crowd brings it on Sunday then we will know, and I’m hoping they do because after Week 1, I’m anti-Browns for 2011.
Dallas -3 over SAN FRANCISCO
Last week I said this about the 49ers:
Another year of football and another year of the 49ers getting love from Las Vegas. Alex Smith is still the starting quarterback, right? OK, just checking.
Well, they won. They beat the Seahawks. Congratulations! So, once again Las Vegas decides to feed the San Francisco hype. After the way the Cowboys played in Week 1 and nearly beat the Jets on the road, I thought this line would be Dallas -7 when you consider those things and that America likes to bet for the Cowboys. But like Jim sending messages to Dwight from the future that the coffee is poisoned in The Office, I’m warning you … the 49ers Kool-Aid is poisoned. Don’t drink the 49ers Kool-Aid!
Houston -3 over MIAMI
Maybe the guys in Las Vegas missed Monday Night Football. If Bart Scott thought the 2010 Patriots defense couldn’t stop a nose bleed then what would he have to say about the 2011 Dolphins defense?
Tony Sparano rocking the sunglasses at night like he’s the Situation or sitting at the final table of the World Series of Poker will always amaze me. I don’t think I have ever seen Sparano’s eyes. He’s sort of like Wilson in Home Improvement.
NEW ENGLAND -7 over San Diego
I wouldn’t be surprised if John Gruden has pictures of Tom Brady around his house instead of family pictures. Gruden professed his love for Brady on Monday Night Football and he had a right to as Brady threw for 109,152 yards against the Dolphins.
I despise both the Patriots and the Chargers. But Tom Brady at home and coming off that performance? Someone might stop him this year, but it’s not going to be Norv Turner’s Chargers.
Cincinnati +4.5 over DENVER
The Bengals are 1-0. Their schedule is Denver, San Francisco, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Bye. That’s not very hard, and there’s a very good chance the Bengals COULD be undefeated or in very good shape entering their bye week in Week 7. Do I think they will be? Of course not. But there’s a chance. And if they get there, suddenly Andy Dalton will be a hero and everyone will be in love with the Bengals. But not me. They knocked me out of one of my two survivor pools and now it’s personal. So go ahead, Cincinnati. I want you to become the next “great story” and the “2011 Cinderella.” I will be rooting against you the whole way.
ATLANTA +2.5 over Philadelphia
No one told the Falcons that last week’s game counted against the Bears. I think they will be more than ready for the Eagles this week on Sunday Night Football. If they’re not then the Giants will arrive in Philadelphia next week to face the undefeated “Dream Team.” I think I should make other plans for next Sunday.
NEW YORK GIANTS -6 over St. Louis
I’m scared to read tweets from any Giants beat writer for fear of bad news. Anytime I see a tweet or any mention of the New York Giants at this point I just assume someone tore their ACL.
Let’s be honest. Last week was embarrassing. Rex Grossman threw for 305 yards, and the Giants didn’t score in the second half. Anyone surprised by this Giants loss hasn’t watched this team for the last decade. Outside of a four-game playoff winning streak, the Giants are the team we saw on Sunday. An inconsistent and undisciplined group of underachievers is what they are. The best part is that if Grossman could pick apart the Giants defense like that, what’s going to happen with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers on the schedule? If the Giants can’t beat the Rams, who lost just about their whole team against the Eagles, then it will be time to wave the white flag and focus on the Yankees playoffs and look forward to opening night for the Rangers.
Last week: 6-8-2
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilKeefe