The NFL played a pretty neat trick on you, average football fans. You were thoroughly hoodwinked and/or bamboozled, and you didn’t even know what hit you. It was a perfect con.
How so? Well, how did you feel about the officiating this weekend?
I can’t tell you how pleased I was by the relative lack of flags in week one. If you were parachuted to the planet Earth from a distant planet, with no concept as to how American football is played, and you just had to soak up the culture of the game from scratch, the preseason would have left you with the opinion the men in vertical, monochrome stripes were the star players in the National Football League.
Chipping a tight end six yards down the field? Illegal Contact! Automatic first down! Clutching a receiver as he tramples over you? Defensive Holding! Automatic first down! 3rd and 19, and you and receiver collide seven yards downfield in a perfectly legitimate fight for the ball? Too bad! Defensive Pass Interference! First downs for everyone!
I was in attendance for the Patriots-Eagles preseason contest in August. An enjoyable affair for the most part, but the zebras did their very best to rain on everyone’s parade. There were several drives marred by consecutive penalties, many of which had neutral and opposition members of the crowd booing on penalties called on both sides. This is not to only bring up anecdotal evidence; a quick survey of teams and matchups around the league came to the same conclusions: the referees were specifically instructed to call more ticky-tack penalties on the defense. Everyone knew it, everyone acknowledged it, from Dean Blandino to your local play-by-play guy.
And for what, you ask? It’s obvious, isn’t it? the NFL attracts the casual fan through scoring. Offense is sexy. Long touchdown passes bring in the guy with a short attention span and the lady from work who usually doesn’t pay attention while the game is on. Defense, on the other hand, leads to bad press from concussions and writers/bloggers/anonymous internet posters complaining about 13-10 games, not to mention pretty-boy quarterbacks getting hurt and losing endorsement deals.
Fantasy football also takes a huge hit when offensive players get smacked around and injured. The fantasy market is in direct competition with the true football fan market. I play fantasy, but I know people who don’t give a damn about the local team, and only watch RedZone in lieu of their local squad. These people are slowly killing the sport. They don’t care about the health of the sport, only that their RB2 doesn’t get vultured by the goal line back. Defense be damned. Integrity of the game be damned. Who cares that the NFL is breaking scoring and yardage records with abandon? We want more!
And the NFL wants this. Which leads me to the crux of this post.
What did you think of the penalties in the preseason? “Way too many!” you may exclaim. “They’re ruining the game!”
Comparatively, what did you think of the penalties in week one? “Well,” you may respond, at least it’s way down from the preseason.”
Hook, line, and sinker.
According to the good folks at NFLPenalties.com, this is the highest amount of week one penalties they have on record. It’s quite clear the NFL called that many penalties in the preseason to make the amount of penalties they call in the regular season seem reasonable. By making the rate of flags in the preseason outrageously high, they’ve successfully tricked the public into thinking this absurd amount of penalties is totally acceptable.
I’m no Roger Goodell. As much like I’d like to trick the public into thinking my week one picks against the spread were totally acceptable, it’s inarguable that was by far the worst week I’ve ever had picking games.
I was fine straight up, but I was massacred ATS by extremely close calls multiple times. No excuses, it’s just how it goes; surely, the lines can’t be as cruel from here on out.
I was right about the Jags showing up to play against the Eagles, but the late scoop and score by Fletcher Cox was a classic backdoor cover when the Jags were about to walk away with the +10.5. The Jets won by 5 with -5.5 line. And the Steelers and Broncos blew massive leads to cough up their ATS victories. But hey, if you’re going to have a terrible week, it may as well be week one.
Straight Up: 9-7
Follow these at your own risk:
Pittsburgh (+2.5) over BALTIMORE
You’d have to be crazy to take the Ravens right now, considering their current situation. No, I’m not talking about Joe Flacco’s monstrosity of a contract. And yes, I know it’s tasteless to make jokes about their current situation. The Steelers played pretty well last week too. I like this play.
Jacksonville (+6.5) over WASHINGTON
The Skins played very poorly last week, and RG3 was as godawful as ever. The Jags had a little fight in them last week. They may or may not win, but I like them with the points.
Jacksonville 21, Washington 20
Miami (-0.5) over BUFFALO
All aboard the Knowshon Moreno hype train! Seriously though, as well as the Bills played last week, beating the Patriots soundly was quite impressive. For all intents and purposes, this is a pick ’em.
Dolphins 28, Bills 20
CINCINNATI (-4.5) over Atlanta
Boy, did I blow it on Atl vs. NO last week. But I still thought the Bengals were incredibly impressive. This line should be a little lower, but I don’t think the Falcons will have that spark they came out with in week one, and the Bengals will win this game at home.
Bengals 26, Falcons 21
New Orleans (-6.5) over CLEVELAND
Boy, did my Super Bowl picks look terrible last week. There are two games that I think the quarterback will come out pissed off and annihilate the overmatched opposition. This is one…
Saints 35, Browns 12
New England (-3.5) over MINNESOTA
And this is the other. Always pick the Pats after a loss in the Brady and Belichick era, it’s easy money, even with how well the Vikes played last week. I’d be stunned if they follow up that abortion of a performance with another one in Minnesota.
Patriots 31, Vikings 17
Arizona (+0.5) over NY GIANTS
This is the most questionable line of week 2. How is this not higher? Is there something I don’t know? They Giants looked lost in Detroit. Eli was awful, their receivers didn’t know their assignments, their o line got bullied, the defense blew coverages, etc. etc… and the Cards beat a very good Chargers team. That weak home field advantage in MetLife surely isn’t worth enough to make this a +.5 spread, right? The Giants are FAVORITES? How? What am I missing?
Cardinals 27, Giants 17
TENNESSEE (-3.5) over Dallas
I couldn’t have been more wrong on the Titans. That offensive line is dynamite. They should handle the sorry Cowboys at home. Tony Romo looked cooked last week. Either his back is that bad, his colorblindness is acting up, or he lost his confidence. Any way you slice it, it’s bad news for Cowboys fans. Speaking of which, that was some pretty pathetic home field advantage they had last week. Getting outnumbered in your own stadium is even worse when it’s the biggest stadium in America. Cowboys fans are frauds.
Titans 31, Cowboys 27
Detroit (+2.5) over CAROLINA
I was very impressed with the Lions on Monday night. If they play like that, they should have no problem with the Panthers. Who’s covering Megatron?
Lions 33, Panthers 20
TAMPA BAY (-5.5) over St. Louis
This is less an endorsement of the Bucs than it is an inditement of the Rams. They were easily the worst team of week one. I see no reason a squad like that can go on the road and beat anyone.
Bucs 17, Rams 6
Seattle (-5.5) over SAN DIEGO
I love this Chargers team. A lot. In fact, if there was a game I was going to pick against the Seahawks, it’d be this one, on the road in the heat against a vengeful Philip Rivers and co.
But then I remember what I saw on opening night, and I remind myself there’s no logical way I can pick against Seattle until I see them lose.
Seahawks 30, Chargers 21
Houston (-2.5) over OAKLAND
The Texans were a pleasant surprise week one. The Raiders looked pretty bad. I could see this game go either way, though. I’ll go with the team that showed me some fight last week.
Texans 17, Raiders 10
GREEN BAY (-8.5) over NY Jets
I think Aaron Rodgers will pick apart the Jets. Sure, the Jets looked good against Derek Carr, but the best QB in the league should torch them. The Packers defense will play better at home.
Packers 28, Jets 13
DENVER (-13.5) over Kansas City
Wow, were the Chiefs bad against Tennessee. Throw in a couple crippling injuries on defense, and Peyton at home, and this smells like a blowout. Andy Reid will be getting flasbacks of his 2005 and 2012 Eagles squads this year.
Broncos 40, Chiefs 17
SAN FRANCISCO (-6.5) over Chicago
I don’t like this game at all. I like the Niners to regress this year, and the Bears to improve. The line is too high. But I can’t ignore the fact that the 49ers are at home and the D played well last week, and that the Bears blew an easily winnable game against the Bills. I must have changed my mind on this one five times, but I’d go with the home field in this spot.
49ers 24, Bears 17
Philadelphia (+2.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
The Eagles were the worst team in the NFL for a half against Jacksonville. Then they decided to play and blew the Jags out. The Colts were awful in the first half as well before showing up in the second half. Both of these inconsistent teams will have something to prove on Monday night. I like the Eagles’ supporting cast slightly better than the Colts. Indianapolis really do look like Luck and a bunch of guys off the street out there. If Robert Mathis were playing, I’d consider Indy. But I’ll take the Eagles here.
Eagles 31, Colts 27