Deadpan Wonderland: Week 2 NFL Picks

Editor’s note: unfortunately, a minor medical emergency in my household last evening threw me off schedule and as a result, I wasn’t able to finish this week’s NFL picks article until late Thursday evening; just before the Jets-Bills game started. Sadly, I was also unable to write a proper introduction for this week’s column as well and I’m not entirely sure this is going to be the funniest picks article I’ve ever written – for reasons I’ll explain below

As those of you who read this website are no doubt already aware, I am currently caring for my best friend in the entire world; who just happens to be a sick, nearly twenty year old cat who means more to me than air. She’s currently doing alright, but the prognosis isn’t good and I’m just trying to spend as much quality time with her as I can, while I can; if you understand my meaning. At some point yesterday, the stress apparently just became a little too much for me and I passed out, somewhat involuntarily and for about ten hours.

I’m awake and feeling markedly better now, but the part of me that writes funny jokes appears to be just beyond my ability to summon at the moment. In light of this, I’ve written up this week’s picks with a bit of a heavy heart and ask that you excuse me if it all comes off just a little bit too much like a normal sports article; I’m doing the best I can with the tools I’ve got to work with right now.  Assuming there are no other setbacks in the immediate future, the adventures of “the Gambler” and our regular NFL picks column should return next Wednesday at the normal time and normal length – thank you in advance for your understanding.

 

* * * * *

Jets (-1) over BILLS:

Week two opens with the accursed, game-like substance known as Thursday Night Football in an AFC East divisional match-up that features two teams who are not the Patriots and are therefore completely irrelevant to anyone outside of their own, immediate families. This game is also the NFL’s first “Color Rush” contest of the 2016 Season, which means at least one squad will be wearing hideous, gimmick uniforms designed expressly for the purpose of selling fans more useless shit; in last year’s Jets/Bills “Color Rush” game the teams wore monochrome red & green uniforms that made it impossible for colorblind people to watch the game on TV – which considering the general quality of your average AFC East divisional match-up, may have been a mercy.

After a frustrating one point loss to Bengals last week, Jets fans have to come away from week one with one utterly terrifying question: is the warden of Revis Island done as a shutdown corner in the NFL or is AJ Green just that fucking good that he can embarrass Darrelle Revis all goddamn afternoon like that? Saying that Revis was repeatedly burnt like fucking toast in his match-up with Green last week would be a mild understatement and while it’s true that Revis was dueling with one of the top WR in the NFL all day; that’s not supposed to be a problem for a corner of number twenty-four’s stature. Revis is a little banged-up at the moment but if he’s truly done as an elite corner, then the possibility of an elite Jet’s defense is probably done with him – although they should remain very good and welcome back noted child-care specialist Sheldon Richardson to an already savage defensive line this game.

Virtually everyone in sports media seems to be picking the Bills in this match-up based on some bizarre trust in “Rex Ryan voodoo against his old team” theories and because the Bills have won six out of the last seven contests between the two; which is a fine enough idea unless you saw how incredibly fucking putrid the Bill’s offense was last week against the Ravens. Buffalo got absolutely goddamn mauled up front by a Raven’s front seven that isn’t anywhere near as good as the Jets are; causing last-season’s breakout Bills QB Tyrod Taylor to look so confused and utterly ordinary that Buffalo’s season might legitimately be in jeopardy already after one fucking game. Star WR/dreadlocked warrior-king Sammy Watkins is still limping around on a fucked up foot that is at this point, beginning to call into question whether allowing one of the most gifted receivers of his generation to continually play on the harrowing, crappy turf at New Era Field represents a legitimate crime against humanity. He’s questionable for the game but if past history has taught us anything it’s that Watkins will play even on a smashed-up drumstick b/c the rest of the Bill’s offense is so fucking terrible, even half of Sammy Watkins represents a massive improvement.

When in doubt, always take the team capable of keeping it’s QB alive for four quarters; right now, there’s no evidence the Bills can do that against a NY Jet’s front seven that’s so aggressively violent they should be hooking up with Mobb Deep for a reunion tour.

LIONS (-5.5) over Titans:

I’m not going to talk much about this game because I don’t intend to write up Lions games every week but I would like to issue a warning – there is no reasonable information about this contest that suggests the Lions should have any trouble winning and indeed covering; which means there’s a non-zero percent chance they’re going to lose this game outright after a goddamn walk-off touchdown in overtime because that’s pretty much what the mutherfucking Lions do when they’re favored heavily. Bet accordingly.

When Satan is your co-pilot, it doesn't really matter who plays quarterback
When Satan is your co-pilot, it doesn’t really matter who plays quarterback

PATRIOTS (-6.5) over Dolphins:

This line is too high, but I’m tired of losing money betting on diabolical demon princeling Bill Belichick to fail; at this point New England could promise to hold a bloody punt, pass and kick contest at halftime to see who gets to play quarterback for the rest of the game and I’d still be picking them here.

Cowboys (+2.5) over RACIAL SLURS:

Owing to my longstanding policy of not placing bets I’d hate to win, we’ll be taking the Cowboys again and hoping Dak Prescott can finally break the curse of “being someone other than Tony Romo” that now haunts the Dallas franchise like a rotting fish taco in the middle of an overpowering hangover. In lieu of a game review, this week’s Dan Snyder fact is that during the 2009 season the petulant, bigoted shitstain that owns the football team in Washington instructed security to take away home-made fan signs (many of them critical of Snyder) while simultaneously allowing sponsor GEICO insurance to distribute branded signs with company-approved messages – that my friends, is fucking both ends of the cow and it’s a Dan Synder specialty.

Saints (+4.5) over GIANTS:

In a game which will no doubt inspire an overwhelming sense of bitter deja-vu for readers of this column last season, I am once again faced with the prospect of laying more than a bloody field goal on a Giants team capable of melting down and losing any game, at any time; by multiple scores if Eli Manning has one of his entirely too-frequent bad days.

Unfortunately, betting against the Giants this week means believing against all bloody evidence to the contrary that someone in the Saints beleaguered secondary can do something that virtually nobody else in the goddamn NFL has accomplished yet; stopping suspected cyborg killing machine Odell Beckham Jr – a task that isn’t made any fucking easier by the seemingly-healthy return of Victor Cruz opposite him.

Have I mentioned that the Saints (who’s secondary was already borderline horrible) are also without top cornerback Delvin Breaux after he broke his goddamn fibula last game? You don’t need a master’s degree in football to know that “putrid, injured and starting a rookie who couldn’t cover Mike fucking Crabtree” isn’t where New Orleans wants to be headed into this game, but that’s precisely where they are right now.

Making matters notably worse, the reliably goddamn awful Giants defense actually had moments of unbridled competence against Dallas last week and while the jury is still out on whether or not that was mostly the product of the Cowboys starting a rookie at quarterback; New York’s defense probably isn’t anywhere near as a porous as I thought it would be this season.

So why am I taking the Saints? When these two teams met last season, I gave away three points to take New Orleans in a game that ended in a push after Brees and Manning combined for thirteen goddamn touchdowns and precisely a billion fucking heart attacks across the nation in a single game. Nobody on the Saints roster could cover Beckham that day either (8 receptions, 130 yards, 3 touchdowns) and some how that son of a bitch Brees found a way to pull out the win despite his defense giving up an unreal forty-eight points.

Giants-Saints games have evolved into mortally terrifying, back and forth shootouts in recent seasons and right now, there’s no evidence on film that New York has figured out how to stop Brees; who just keeps churning out absurd, eye-popping stats year after year for a team that routinely starts guys who should be working in the snack bar at wide receiver because the Saints suck donkey cock at managing the salary cap. I honestly have no goddamn clue who’s going to win this game and in the horrifying vacuum of chaos these two teams create I’d just rather have the better quarterback and the free points; although I would slam the over with confidence almost regardless of how high it is.

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in..."
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…”

BROWNS (+7) over Ravens:

I hate this game, I hate this line and I hate almost every goddamn thing we saw from the Cleveland offense last week with the passion of a thousand dying suns. With that having been said, there’s just no way anyone who saw last week’s crime against football that was the Ravens-Bills game can seriously say Baltimore should be seven fucking point favorites on the road against anyone. I’ll take the points and hope that Cleveland’s transformation into the late-60’s, deep ball Raiders was a product of RG III’s notorious inability to take the underneath throw and not “the single dumbest offensive philosophy in the NFL today.”

These are however the Browns, so if replacement QB Josh McCown gets sacked nine times while taking seven-step, play action drops all day and ends up literally fucking dying on the field; don’t say nobody warned you.

49ers (+13.5) over PANTHERS:

Don’t give up double digit points to take teams that haven’t proven to you they can cover a college football point spread. The Panthers are going to win this game because despite shutting out the Rams last week, the 49ers are still hot steaming garbage; I’m just not ready to lay almost fourteen points on a team that nearly got it’s league-MVP quarterback killed last week in Denver – yet.

STEELERS (-3) over Bengals:

I’m not thrilled about giving up three points to take Pittsburgh here and I certainly wouldn’t advise betting the family farm on the outcome; this game means a fuck lot more to Cincy than it does to the Steelers after the Bengals shit all over themselves and choked away the playoff match-up between these two teams last season. Despite this, on paper Pittsburgh currently has the better collection of morally-flexible degenerates for this first of two annual contests between two teams only a supportive probation officer could actually love.

Chiefs (+2.5) over TEXANS:

Let me start by noting that there was absolutely nothing about KC’s dramatic, comeback win last week against San Diego that impressed me; not only did they cost me goddamn money by failing to cover a manageable seven point spread, but they probably would have lost the fucking game outright if mutant freak WR Keenan Allen hadn’t gruesomely shredded his knee in second quarter after lighting up the Chiefs secondary like a roman fucking candle for six catches and sixty-three yards in the first half alone.

Furthermore, the Texans are coming off a 23-14 home win over the Bears that looked pretty impressive if you didn’t actually watch the game on television long enough to realize Chicago’s offensive line and coaching staff pretty much left their quarterback for dead in the second half of that game; “Saving Private Cutler” quickly took a backseat to “not letting Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus fucking devour me whole on national television” and by the time Chicago started calling four wideout, deep ball passes to get back in the game – the Bears QB had been hit more times than the oilcan in a fucking Rocky movie.

Houston is also at home and the Chiefs can expect to see an even more destructive pass rush than the Bears did because famed headhunting narcissist JJ Watt has been practicing all week and would love nothing more than an opportunity to increase his Q score by dancing on television after driving chiefs QB Alex Smith’s helmet through the turf. All of this has lead to numerous obnoxious pundits picking the Texans this week; which is why I’m absolutely delighted to say I think all of those goddamn morons are wrong because they don’t actually watch the fucking games.

I did watch a notable portion of the Bears-Texans game last week and one thing I can tell you with absolutely certainty is that the Texans significantly overpaid for new signal caller Brock Osweiller; who’s defining feature as a quarterback remains that he’s freakishly fucking tall. Despite last week’s win, Osweiller looked sluggish, clumsy and paralyzingly confused in a way that simply cannot fucking happen when you’ve awarded a guy a seventy-two million dollar contract with thirty-seven million guaranteed in the first two years – the Texans did most of their damage on the ground against a defensive front seven that isn’t anywhere near as good as Kansas City’s and the next time anyone sees the Houston’s Ent-like quarterback win a professional football game with his arm, it’ll be a fucking career first.

There is another, perhaps more serious problem for the Texans than how surprisingly crappy Osweiller looked in week one however and it’s that they’re facing down a Chiefs offense that should scare the living shit out of them. Before you start laughing at me, please be reminded that the only thing the “exceptionally average” Chief’s passing attack does well is get the ball out of the pocket quickly for precise, but often embarrassingly fucking short completions that can frustrate and negate a dominant pass rush like Houston’s. Then, as the defense starts selling out to try and get to Smith more quickly and the home audience falls asleep from sheer goddamn boredom; Kansas City will unleash a couple of trap plays or a deep play-action passes and squeak across the goal line for an unexpected touchdown that salts away the game.

In short, this is precisely the kind of contest portly Chiefs coach Andy Reid and his utterly pedestrian quarterback Alex Smith were born to dominate! Expect this less-than-dynamic duo to team up for a never-ending wave of goddamn screens, traps and draws to effectively negate Houston’s vaunted pass-rush as the KC offense goes down the field at a pace reminiscent of fucking trench-warfare in World War I – just often enough to pull out the win against a Texans squad that really isn’t any closer to beating KC than they were during last year’s 30-0 wildcard loss to the Chiefs.

Jaguars (+3) over CHARGERS:

I cannot for the bloody life of me figure out why Vegas is prepared to give us points after watching the Chargers play last weekend but I’m a firm believer in taking free goddamn money if someone is dumb enough to offer it. After racing out to a 21-3 lead over KC at halftime, the Chargers got precisely fucking nothing done on offense once Keenan Allen blew up his ACL and by the time Smith hit Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin with a sublime back-shoulder fade to make it a ten point game – you just fucking knew the Chargers were gonna blow it and come away with the mind-numbing, divisional loss.

Alternately, the Jacksonville Jaguars actually managed to bear a striking goddamn resemblance to a professional football team in a surprisingly close loss to the vaunted Packers that literally required Green Bay to make several big time stops in the fourth quarter to avoid the upset. It has been a long, long damn time since the Jags looked as good as they did against the Packers last week and despite the fact that I’m still convinced their quarterback should be working in the team gift shop; Jacksonville’s offense just has too much burgeoning talent for even a concrete albatross like Blake Bortles to sink them this season. The Chargers just don’t have the athletes on defense to stop a pair of acrobatic assassins like the Jags “Two Allens” (Robinson and Hurns) and if free-agent bust tight end Julius Thomas is finally prepared to earn some of the lavish cheddar Jacksonville spent on him – this could actually be one of the better passing attacks in the NFL in short order; even with a goddamn stiff like Bortles at the helm.

I’ll take young and sexy over old and broken this week with all necessary apologies to the seventy-nine known children of Philip Rivers and all six other remaining Chargers fans on earth.

CARDINALS (-6.5) over Buccaneers:

I’m not thrilled about the six and a half point line and if this game were in Tampa, I’d probably be snap picking the Bucs here without a whole lot of hesitation. Although Arizona threw up some pretty good numbers in the air, the Cardinals were both stupid and sloppy on defense against the Patriots last week; despite playing against a team missing its elite suspended quarterback and its primary offensive weapon – secretly insufferable, neanderthal douchebag Rob Gronkowski.

It’s fair to say however that the Buccaneers aren’t exactly the New England Patriots yet and Tampa’s offense could be a little overrated right now after torching an Atlanta secondary that probably still has no fucking clue where WR Mike Evans is today; these teams may well be moving in different directions, but I’ll wait another week before I start throwing money at Tampa on the road – especially against a Cardinals team that might still win twelve games this season.

Jeff Fisher openly taunts Rams fans by refusing to actually choke himself to death
Jeff Fisher openly taunts Rams fans by refusing to actually choke himself to death

Seahawks (-3.5) over RAMS:

This game isn’t being offered on a lot of boards because Seattle QB Russell Wilson fucked up his ankle last week against Miami and many respectable pundits are picking the Rams because they shockingly swept the Seahawks last year head to head; even when Wilson was healthy. This is of course, objectively fucking insane. Clearly, none of these people saw the Rams offense throw-up all over themselves in the Monday Night doubleheader against San Francisco because if they had, there is no goddamn way on fucking earth they’d be betting money on the Rams.

It takes a special coach get shut out by a team as shitty as the San Francisco 49ers in a twenty-eight point loss that somehow made emerging demi-god runningback Todd Gurley look completely fucking ordinary, but inexplicably long-serving Rams fail-master Jeff Fisher is apparently just such a coach. If you can get the Seahawks for less than a touchdown, that should basically be like printing free goddamn money.

RAIDERS (-4.5) over Falcons:

After a mere one week of football, I am prepared to state without equivocation that the Oakland Raiders are either going to be the most exciting, or the most frustrating damn team in the NFL; there is absolutely no goddamn middle ground available here and I still have no idea which of these two possibilities will ultimately prevail. Three quarters of the way through last week’s showdown with the Saints I was basically prepared to write the Raiders season off on the spot; then they rallied for twenty-two fourth quarter points and Jack Del Rio showed the entire world his massive testicles (metaphorically) when he went for the two point conversion (and the win) heard around the NFL.

For the first time in a long damn time, people are excited about the Oakland Raiders again and after the Falcons basically shit the bed against the Bucs last week, it’s easy to see why Oakland favored in this match-up; which is of course why I’m actually fucking terrified of taking Oakland as a four and a half point favorite, even at home, because much like the Lions or Browns – staggering incompetence and heart-wrenching failure are baked deeply into the genetic makeup of this franchise.

On paper, the Raiders versatile and talented offense should be more than a match for the smoking crater of craplitude Atlanta ran out on defense last week; in reality however this is still the same Oakland team that got lit up for four touchdowns and gave up over three hundred combined yards to the Saints top two wide receivers, even tho they knew Drew Brees was going to pass almost every fucking down. If Matt Ryan and unstoppable mutant superhero WR Julio Jones are going to turn the Falcons around in time to keep their season from imploding before the calendar has even hit the month of October; a game against a pass defense that was completely incapable of stopping someone or something named Willie Snead, would seem like a great bloody place to start.

I’ll pick the Raiders, but I’m not confident about it and I question if they’ve done enough to justify the leap of faith required to cough up almost five fucking points in the process.

Colts (+6) over BRONCOS:

Our final Sunday afternoon contest feels like a classic example of Vegas overvaluing week one results while largely ignoring historical trends. While I have no doubt that the Broncos can and even should win this game; I am not even close to feeling comfortable spotting them six fucking points against a rejuvenated Andrew Luck who’s made something of a career out of eviscerating Denver on national television as a heavy underdog. Luck seems to delight in tormenting the otherwise formidable Broncos and even in the middle of Denver’s Superbowl run last season; the Colts were actually the first team to hang a loss on Denver in 2015 because a scintillating Luck simply refused to fucking lose that game.

Of course, the downside here is that the punishing Denver defense hit Luck so often they managed to (and I’m not making this up) “lacerate” his fucking kidney and knock him out for the season. Fortunately for us, we only care about the results of the game and not Luck’s ability to piss properly while standing up at the ripe old age of forty; so I’ll take Indianapolis.

Your tax dollars hard at work Minneapolis!
Your tax dollars hard at work Minneapolis!

Packers (-2.5) over VIKINGS:

On a fundamental level, the only thing you really need to know about this NFC North match-up is that Green Bay is starting Aaron Rogers at quarterback and the Vikings will counter with one of two men who don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Aaron Rogers. Yes the Vikings are at home, yes they’re opening their new (mostly glass and publicly funded) “Birdkiller” stadium on Sunday Night Football and yes Minnesota was the better of the two teams last week in games they were both expected to win easily; none of is going to mean jack, shit and squat however when an unhinged berserker like Clay Mathews locks on to whichever poor mutherfucker the Vikings trot out under center this week – and takes his fucking head clean off his shoulders in the first quarter.

After last week’s shockingly close contest against Jacksonville, I’m nowhere near as high on the Packers as I was to open the season – but they’re almost certainly still good enough to cover a manageable spread against a Vikings team trotting out one half of what has to be the worst fucking QB tandem in the NFL; regardless of whether the Vikings start has-been Shaun Hill or never-was Sam Bradford on Sunday night.

Eagles (+3) over BEARS:

Whelp, either Las Vegas thinks the Browns are the worst team in football by a fairly comfortable margin (actually, this is possible) or, nobody bothered to watch either of these two teams actually fucking play last week. The Bears were, in a word, horrible. The Eagles on the other hand unveiled a dynamic, new-look offense and dropped a mutherfucking bomb on the league by showing off freshly-minted franchise QB Carson Wentz.

The knock on Wentz coming into this season was that he was an intriguing physical specimen that would potentially need years to develop into an NFL quarterback because he played against inferior athletes at a postage stamp-sized, Podunk fucking college and that narrative lasted throughout the entire preseason after a rib injury kept the rookie QB on the bench and out of the spotlight. When the Eagles actually named him the starter despite the fact that he’d missed the entire preseason, that was enough for me to take the putrid Browns over the “clearly tanking” Eagles in week 1.

Then Wentz went out and fucking did this.

Please allow me to assure you my friends that many of those throws were big-time, professional goddamn football completions; there are probably less than twenty quarterbacks in the entire fucking league who could have hit either one of the former FCS-level quarterback’s touchdown passes and while the Cleveland defense isn’t scaring anyone this year – you just can’t fake the kind of confidence and touch Carson Wentz exuded all game at the highest level of competition in the sport of football.

You never want to read too much into a guy’s very first NFL game, but after watching Wentz in action last week I’m already considering taking out a second mortgage to bet on his eventual enshrinement in Canton. This game is probably going to suck (did I mention the Bears were horrible? I did? Oh good!) but most of America will be tuning in anyways just to see if Wentz can repeat his performance against a Bears defense that probably isn’t all that much better than the one the Eagles just absolutely fucking shredded last week; I’ll take the three points but I’m pretty sure Philly is actually going to just win this game outright and with considerable goddamn ease.

 

Last Week: 8 – 8 – 0

2016 Season: 8 – 8 -0

 

  • Nina Illingworth

 

 

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