"WHAT TIME IS IT?"
"I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
I remember my coach in middle school used to pump us up with cheers like that in the huddle. Kind of cheesy, yeah I guess. But it usually worked, and quite honestly we needed it. We were 7th graders, not particularly violent by nature, most of us at least.
Eric Cahan, he was a hell of a coach, and by my best judgment - as a middle schooler - a hell of a guy. I can remember this one time though, that he completely lost his shit. It was one of the scariest things that had ever happened to me at that point in my life.
I think it was a Monday, our first practice after getting walloped by another local middle school. Coach called the entire group of linemen together and gave a rousing speech about pulling together and things of that nature. The speech went well, it was what happened next... that took things from "alright we got this!" to "why in the absolute hell would you even say that Steve..."
Steve was a pretty regular guy, smallish even. In no way was this kid a world beater. He was a nice kid though. He was a smart kid, but sometimes he was a little to frank for his own good.
"What happened out there guys? You weren't getting a push off the line... you were missing your blocks, you guys are better than that. What happened?"
Coach Cahan asked the question, we looked around at each other, a big group of boys that didn't really know how to articulate what had happened just a few days before. Then Steven Graves... well, he articulated.
"Coach, those guys were bigger than us. We don't want to get hit by guys that big."
Oh. My. Dear God.
The look in coach Cahan's face is one I'll likely never forget. I can only imagine the immense feelings of frustration that welled up inside of him. No words left his mouth, at least none that I can remember. It took no words however, for the message to get itself across to every one of us. Practice was over.
We ran. We ran like the little pack of wussies we were, and didn't stop until we'd crossed the baseball fields and were safely in the locker room. We were all ripping our gear off, trying to get out of that locker room before he showed up. I got out in time; a lot of good guys didn't though.
That whole story doesn't have much to do with this week's games, but it's one of my better football stories and I figure if I'll be doing this column for a while you guys might as well get to know me.
How about them picks though?! Last week was a pretty big improvement, though I missed going 4-2 against the spread by an Alshon Jeffrey drop and an awful few possessions by the Raiders this weekend, I felt pretty good about the picks last week.
I had a chance to talk to Jacson this last weekend at the Seattle SBN Bloggers meet up and he assured me there will be some tough weeks, and there will always be a game or two that kind of work you over. That Jacson... guys... he's quite the guy.
Moving along, let's knock some picks out.
(-6½) Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
The Hawks are a much better team that the Cardinals. Laying them out on paper it's plain to see, in almost every way. However, the Cardinals have worked the Seahawks over at home for the better part of the last decade.
The Cardinals biggest issue right now is defending pass catching tight ends, something the Seahawks aren't exactly in the best position to take advantage of with Zach Miller working his way back from injury. Rookie tight end Luke Willson might be the difference between this game finishing in tight fashion, and the Seahawks comfortably finishing the Birds off. I'm not betting on it, one way or the other.
Seahawks win, 23-14
Look back in your minds people, did you play any sports in school? Any good stories?
(-4) New England Patriots at New York Jets
Is Rob Gronkowski finally going to play? That's got to be the biggest question for anyone looking for an answer here right?
The Jets are coming off a loss to a Pittsburgh team that might have honestly just been "due for one", while the Pats just drove down the field to take a late lead against the Saints TWICE. I'm going with the Patriots, as I think they're the better team even without the stud tight end. With him? They bring the beef and cover the four point spread.
Patriots win, 28-17
If you have any quality sports stories, you should really just share them. Seriously.
(-7½) San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Both of these teams are coming off impressive performances. The Chargers, a win over everyone's new sneaky favorite team in the AFC. The Jaguars beat the largest spread in NFL history, and impressively so, against a Broncos team that should've beat them by 20 in their sleep.
So what does it all mean? Well first off, Indianapolis is not as good as we all think, they're just not. Argue with me all you want, they needed some seriously silly shenanigans against a Seahawks team that brought it's B game to squeek out a win that is really the biggest flag they've got to run up the pole. So I'm not exactly calling the Bolts win on Monday night a major milestone.
That being said, the Jaguars are a terrible team. I can't imagine their valiant effort against the Broncos will be one that's regularly repeated, so I'm taking the chalk here - though I wouldn't bet on it.
Chargers win, 24-10
I mean, I don't want to hassle you about it... but I don't want to be the only one to share.
Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions (-3)
This game opened with no favorite, and for good reason. The Bengals have been slightly more impressive if you ask me, but only slightly. Take away one loss to a divisional opponent, where the Lions were missing their biggest offensive weapon though, and you could argue that Detroit has played just as well. As wish washy as this sounds, when two teams are as seemingly evenly matched as these are... I'll take the home team. Do not, I repeat, do not put money on this game.
Lions win, 35-27
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (-8)
The Dolphins are a huge favorite at home, and I can't figure out why. I guess it's Thad Lewis, he's the reason I picked the Bengals last week, and he was damn near the reason I was wrong.
Miami's running game has been incredibly inconsistent, and Buffalo's defense is better than advertised. All this, in my mind, means the Bills will beat the spread. Mark it down.
Bills win, 17-14
Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins (-1)
Robert Griffin the Third was my upset pick of the week against the Cowboys last week, and I was pretty disappointed in the team's effort. Not Vegas though apparently, as they are favored against a talented Bears team. Take the Bears to win this one.
I know, I know... the Bears have been on a bit of a slide as of late, with their only win since week 3 coming against a Giants team that is a genuine sinkhole. The Redskins have a legitimate shot at their first home win of the year, don't get me wrong. I just don't think it's going to happen. They'll keep it close into the second half, but fall in the end...
Bears win, 34-21
COME ON! I know somebody has a moving story about a time their coach told them they had to load up on spaghetti the night before a game so they have plenty of energy to play on.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
Aaaah the NFC East. Full of teams that are so talented, yet fail to deliver, regularly. Are we simply convinced these teams have talent because major sports networks are jam packed with Cowboys and Eagles fanboys?
Yeah, I honestly believe that's what is actually happening. Think about it. It would explain why Tony Romo is nailed for every moment in which he fails, even though he's the only reason the Cowboys are in moments that can be deamed "choke-worthy". That's so classic fan boy... "ROOOOMOOO YOU DIRT BAAAAG!"
Who would utter such words, as he puts together 500 plus yard games? Drunk frat house fan boys. The same ones that will keep telling you Eli Manning is a gamer, as he throws more picks than his more talented brother has thrown touchdowns.
The NFC East is a puppet show folks, and the hands inside belong to the mothership.
Don't bet on NFC East contests. There's always a better game to put your money on.
Now that I got all of that off my chest, I'm picking the Eagles. Not because they're the better team, but because they'll keep it close late, and that dirt bag Romo will toss it back to them at the end of a masterpiece of a drive that would have sealed the game. Chip Kelly's crew will then march down the field in tackle over formations all the way to victory.
Eagles win, 42-38
St. Louis Rams at Carolina Panthers (-6)
It's time for the Rams to come on home. Get on back down to that cellar, vacations over.
The Panthers defense is better than the Jags, and yes - I'm saying this - better than the Texans. Certainly better than the Texans when you consider the fact that Newton isn't crippling his team's defensive unit with interceptions of all sorts.
Carolina's front seven should control this game, and I'm expecting a pretty sizeable victory from the boys in Caribbean blue. Panthers cover.
Panthers win, 24-10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-7)
Man you guys have no idea how bad I wanted to sneak in and update last week's article when that whole MRSA thing kicked up again in the Bucs' facilities. On top of all that is the Schiano stuff about him leaking the Josh Freeman drug program information?
Wow, what a hot mess.
I love the Buccaneers roster; at least I think I do. I definitely did, at one point. Deep down in my gut I want to pick them for the third week in a row, but I can't. They're so incredibly broken right now, and the Falcons hope to have Stephen Jackson back this week. Don't bet on the Falcons to cover though, as Schiano may be loading their jocks up with flesh eating bacteria as we speak.
Falcons win, 27-17
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-6½)
I won't bet against the Chiefs until they lose. They're boring, they seem to somehow miss out on all the offensive weapons they've got that should make them an incredibly exciting team, and they haven't played very many good teams.
But that pass rush?
And don't even get me started on the Texans... Chiefs cover.
Chiefs win, 23-0
(-4) San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans
The 49ers shouldn't have much trouble covering this spread, as long as they can avoid any wonky plays that keep the Titans fighting into the second half.
While Tennessee shouldn't let Vernon Davis play "make believe" like he's Megatron this weekend, they'll likely have trouble slowing down every aspect of the Niners offense. Throw that in with some Ryan Fitzpatrick and you get a...
Niners win, 28-14
Oh and by the way, no, don't put money on Frisco in Tennessee. There's something about that Titan's team that seems potentially magical. Call me crazy, call me whatever. Just don't bet on that game.
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers (-10)
Browns are a team I won't be betting for or against the rest of this year, too fluky weird sometimes. When they make up their mind on what kind of team they're going to be, I'll happily change my mind. Barring a change of heart by the Browns...
Packers win, in unimpressive fashion, 17-10
BYE the way...
these teams aren't playing this week:
New Orleans and Oakland. Second straight week a team has gone into a bye praying their star pass catcher wasn't lost for too long. Let's hope Jimmy Graham fairs better than Julio Jones did...
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2)
First, I want to thank anyone who wagered on the Steelers last week due to my advice.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, don't bet on them this week. Call if division rivalry if you'd like. Call it a management squad desperate to prove their gargantuan investment in Joe Flacco was worth it. Call it whatever you'd like, but the Ravens will find a way to lose what should be a sure thing.
And for good measure, I'll now immediately follow that up with a proclamation that the Ravens will beat the spread. Just don't bet on it is all I'm saying.
"Come on man quick jerkin' me around!"
Sorry. The Ravens are the better team, that much I am sure of. I'm just not sure they know what makes them the better team, so I can't tell you in good conscience to bet on them.
Ravens win, 24-14
(-6½) Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts
Classic American sports fans. Overreacting to one game.
The Broncos lackluster performance against the Jags was a one off, as was the Colts win against the Seahawks. Wipe those games away and you'd have a 10 point spread in this game I'm convinced.
Bet on the Broncos to cover in Peyton Manning's homecoming.
Broncos win, 42-28
Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants (-3)
Did you know that underdogs were 5-10 against the spread last week?
Well now you do. I'm picking four this week, this Vikings team being one of them. Save your money though, this one's not worth betting on.
Josh Freeman might turn this into a kerfuffle, but that's worst case right? Besides, Eli has maintained kerfuffle status all year long in New York. It seems likely that if either quarterback costs his team the game this week, it'll be the little brother that couldn't.
Vikings win, 31-28
Them's the picks boys. I tried to keep it short and sweet this week so I could mentally prep myself for my boys playing the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football! Cheers!
Oh by the way, if you ever want to shoot the shit over some NFL games, spreads, or just some general football talk. You know where to find me... @MyHawkSoFly