As we enter October, football season rolls on with new contenders establishing themselves among the league’s elite. (Hello, Houston, we’ve been waiting for you.) Meanwhile, back in Princeton as the semester progresses, I get less time to write this article. So unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, if you don’t actually like this article, but then why are you reading it?), I present you with a briefer version of ‘Doug’s NFL Picks.’ My picks in bold. Last week: 6 wins – 8 losses. Season record: 32-27-3
Jacksonville Jaguars (+1.5) at Buffalo Bills: Do I believe that the Jags beating the Colts last week was a fluke? Pretty much. But you know what else I believe in? Betting against the Bills. If Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew can light up a porous Colts run defense, he should have no problem with a Bills defense that allows 174 rushing yards per game, good enough for last in the NFL. By the way, if Buffalo loses this game, they are definitely on notice for a 0-16 season. By my count, they only have two other winnable games: Week 10 vs. Detroit and Week 14 vs. Cleveland.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5): Even though I incorrectly picked the Bengals last week, my apprehension about this team returning to the playoffs (see Week 1+2 articles) seems justified now after they lost 23-20 to the lowly Cleveland Browns. Can I trust the Bengals? No. However, I can’t really trust the Bucs’ second-year QB Josh Freeman yet either. Cincy bounces back, just before the Reds are bounced out of the MLB playoffs.
Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Cleveland Browns: The Falcons struggled against the 49ers last week, but escaped with a 16-14 victory thanks in large part to a game-saving hustle play by WR Roddy White. After QB Matt Ryan threw an interception with 90 seconds left, White ran down the San Francisco defender and knocked the ball loose, allowing Atlanta to recover the fumble and drive for the winning field goal. As for this game, if Atlanta truly is a playoff team (and they appear to be a contender) then winning in Cleveland should be no problem.
St. Louis Rams (+3) at Detroit Lions: I am so on the Sam Bradford bandwagon. The Rams rookie QB has me on the hook, and he’ll get you soon. Also, should a winless team be favored to win, even if they are at home? Not to mention, the Rams’ one win from their 1-15 season a year ago was against the Lions. The Rams defeated the Lions 17 to 10 last November.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts (-7): I wonder what the odds were that the Kansas City Chiefs would be the last undefeated team in the NFL? 50 to 1? 100 to 1? Will that last beyond Week 5? Nope. Peyton Manning at home. Enough said.
Green Bay Packers (-2.5) at Washington Redskins: Green Bay struggled to defeat the winless Detroit Lions last week, staving off a Detroit comeback to hold on 28-26. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers should bounce back this week facing the third-worst passing defense in the NFL. The Washington Redskins are allowing 305 passing yards per game, so expect Rodgers and the dynamic Green Bay offense to have a big day.
Chicago Bears (+3) at Carolina Panthers: Another winless team favored simply because they are playing at home. I like my odds when I can take a 3-1 team against a 0-4 team, and still get points. This should be a low scoring game with backup QB Todd Collins filling in for Chicago’s starter Jay Cutler, who is out with a concussion. Meanwhile, Carolina has struggled to score points all year, averaging just 11.5 point per game.
Denver Broncos (+7) at Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens’ defense is really good, especially against the pass where many people thought they would be weak due to injuries. Baltimore is allowing a league-best 119 passing yards per game. However, the offense hasn’t put up big points yet. In Baltimore’s three wins, they have won by 1 point, 7 points, and 3 points. Baltimore doesn’t score enough to cover a high spread, so I’ll take Denver in a closer game than people expect.
New York Giants at Houston Texans (-3): I am not afraid to admit that I’m totally on board with the Texans’ bandwagon. It’s about time this team was good. In Houston’s previous eight years, they have never finished better than 9-7 or made the playoffs. This is the year!
New Orleans Saints (-6.5) at Arizona Cardinals: The Super Bowl hangover seems to be in full force with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have managed to hold on to some close victories (16-14 vs. Carolina, 25-22 at San Francisco), but the defending champs have really stumbled out of the gate. Arizona seems like a perfect matchup to get this Saints offense back in rhythm. The Cardinals are allowing 29.5 points per game, 31st in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys (-7): Which Cowboys team is the real Cowboys? The one that started the season 0-2? Or the one that soundly defeated the impressive Houston Texans 27-13? After a bye week, I think it’s the latter. The ‘Boys should be rested and well-prepared for the Titans.
San Diego Chargers (-6) at Oakland Raiders: The Chargers are 2nd in the NFL in total defense (yards allowed per game) and 1st in the NFL in total offense (yards gained per game). It seems like every year, the Chargers put together a regular-season juggernaut, and they consistently put up amazing statistics. That is until the postseason. It seems like they’re headed for another 13-3 season, followed by a first-round exit in the AFC Divisional round.
Philadelphia Eagles (+3) at San Francisco 49ers: Yet another winless team favored by three points! I certainly can’t trust San Francisco QB Alex Smith, who has led the Niners to just 13.5 points per game and a 0-4 record. Eagles QB Michael Vick is out with a rib injury, so Kevin Kolb will be taking his place. Kolb began the season as the starter, but was quickly replaced after mediocre play and his own injury troubles. This is the game the Niners need to win to turn around their season, and it’s not too late (especially in that putrid NFC West). But I’m not convinced Alex Smith is the guy to lead them in the turnaround, so I’ll take the points.
Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets (-4): The big story from this week has been Minnesota’s acquisition of WR Randy Moss from the New England Patriots. Moss returns to the Minnesota, where he played his first seven seasons in the NFL. I think the bigger story from this game will be how thoroughly the Jets crush the Vikes. With the considerable strides in Mark Sanchez’s development as an NFL QB and the return of suspended WR Santonio Holmes, I’m convinced this Jets team is the real deal. I wasn’t so sure at the beginning of the season, but Sanchez’s improved play has turned a mediocre offense into an above-average offense. And with their defense, that’s all the Jets need to win big.