Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will.
Forgive a brief bout of sincerity to open this week’s NFL Picks: Steve Sabol, the creative force behind NFL Films, died on Tuesday, succumbing to brain cancer at the age of 69. The cinematic quality of NFL Films made the sport the first to truly embrace the medium of television, and the result is the NFL’s status as America’s real pastime today.
I’m just old enough to remember when there weren’t 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week sports channels covering nothing much more than the NFL, and the Yearbook shows put out by NFL Films were the only real way to see footage of the teams you didn’t normally see in your area. Even as ESPN took over, I can remember being home sick in January, watching hour after hour of NFL Films leading up to the Super Bowl. Steve Sabol and his father made all this possible, and NFL Films still sets the gold standard for sports television. RIP Steve Sabol, the man who did all of that, and wrote what may be the definitive poem about football.
(Note: All point spreads listed here are the lines at the time picks were made. Be sure to consult your very legitimate and legal sports book [cough] before making a bet of your own; lines move constantly due to the action on particular games. Also, gambling is illegal in many states. And watch out for those offshore betting sites, lest you end up like an online poker professional. Okay? Okay. Onward and upward.)
Last Week: 6-9-1
My Record So Far: 12-19-1
Thursday Night Game (9/20 8:20PM ET)
New York Giants (-1.5) at Carolina Panthers
After all that seriousness, let’s get down to how seriously bad my picks were yet again last week. I got the games involving both of these teams wrong, though to be fair, the Giants should have beaten the Bucs by more than a touchdown. Judging by past opponents, I’ll pick the Giants in this one, since the Giants beat the Bucs and the Panthers lost to the Bucs. As long as Eli doesn’t throw more picks than TDs, I feel confident in my choice, especially with this small point spread.
My Pick: Giants (-1.5)
Sunday Early Games (9/23 1PM ET)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (-7)
The Bucs won outright in Week One and covered last week, which means they’re better than we all thought they’d be under their new head coach, the guy from Rutgers who pissed everyone off by having his players continue to play as the Giants entered the victory formation last week. While I agree with his choice to play to the final whistle, I do not agree with how much he has ruined my sports talk background listening at work with his actions, and I think the football gods will punish him this week by having the Cowboys, who were awful last week in Seattle, be awesome again at home. Then again, continuing to bet against the Buccaneers could be my ultimate downfall.
My Pick: Cowboys (-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)
All that talk of Blaine Gabbert not being as horrible as he used to be was a bigger lie than when I tell people I’m a writer. Colts in a rout at home.
My Pick: Colts (-2.5)
Buffalo Bills (-3) at Cleveland Browns
This battle of teams from decaying rust belt cities will not even have the beauty of the players “grow[ing] suicidally beautiful” because these are professional athletes who are neither from Buffalo nor from Cleveland.
My Pick: Bills (-3)
New York Jets (-3) at Miami Dolphins
I got all high and mighty and above my station declaring the Steelers dead and buried and the Jets completely fixed last week, and that was probably the greatest of my errors. I had also declared that the Raiders (who did plenty of disgrace to that Autumn Wind poem above) would destroy the Dolphins. I obviously don’t have much of a read on either one of these teams, but I still think the Jets are more than three points better than the ‘Phins, even on the road. It’s not like there’s gonna be anyone besides Jackie Long and Lauren Tannehill in the stands, anyway.
My Pick: Jets (-3)
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints (-9)
Just what the Saints need after starting 0-2 is another 0-2 team, one who’s just lost blowout games to the Falcons and the Bills. Drew Brees will also secretly be playing long snapper and free safety, in order to lead in all three phases of the game. Good thing there are enough Drew Brees to go around.
My Pick: Saints (-9)
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins (-4)
I’d like to use this space to talk about how the Redskins lost to the RAMS, giving them their first win in a home opener since Scott Linehan’s first game as the Rams’ head coach. You know who played for the Rams then? Isaac Bruce and Torry “Big Game” Holt, in the midst of his awkward Imo’s ad campaign. That’s right, the square beyond compare. Oh, we’re talking about the Redskins here? Sorry, I’m just so excited the Rams are .500. Let me have it, it’s all I’ve got. I mean, there’s not gonna be a hockey season this year, right?
My Pick: Bengals (+4)
St. Louis Rams at Chicago Bears (-8)
THIS was probably where I was supposed to talk about the Rams winning last week…so I’ll continue to do so! Sam Bradford looked good, Danny Amendola’s budget Wes Welker impression looked just as good as the real thing, Stephen Jackson was tearing it up until he went out with a groin injury, and the Rams secondary ruffled feathers by pushing, poking, taunting and prodding. If Cortland Finnegan can get under the skin of someone as mild-mannered as Josh Morgan (no relation to Dexter or Deb Morgan, or Morgan Freeman, or Morgan Stanley Dean Witter), imagine what he can do to Brandon Marshall (no relation to Justice Thurgood Marshall, Marshall Faulk, US Marshal Sam Gerard, or the process of Court-Martial).
My Pick: Rams (+8)
San Francisco 49ers (-6) at Minnesota Vikings
So far, so good for the 49ers. Alex Smith hasn’t thrown a pick since the middle of last year’s regular season, the defense is tough, and they’re moving the ball while stopping the other team from scoring. Even if Adrian Peterson were to run all over them (which I don’t think he will) they’ll easily handle the lesser Vikings.
My Pick: 49ers (-6)
Detroit Lions (-3) at Tennessee Titans
Let’s see: the Lions nearly lost to the Rams and got owned by the 49ers. They still have Megatron (no relation to Transporter 3 director Olivier Megaton), though, and the Titans have been blown out in both of their previous games, by the Patriots and Chargers respectively.
My Pick: Lions (-3)
Sunday Late Games (9/23 4:05PM ET)
Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers (-3)
The Falcons’ first win against the Chiefs wasn’t impressive to me, mostly probably because I didn’t see a single second of it. I saw every excruciating second of their win over the Broncos, though, and can see that their balanced offense, mixing the run power of Michael Turner (no relation to Turner & Hooch) with the no-huddle passing attack of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White, is definitely for real. I’ll take the Falcons and the points over Philip Rivers Cuomo Origato Mr. Roboto and the Chargers.
My Pick: Falcons (+3)
Philadelphia Eagles (-4) at Arizona Cardinals
Two 2-0 teams who could very easily be 0-2 teams battle it out in this matchup. The Eagles offense is dynamic enough to still enough points to win even when they’ve turned the ball over nine times in two games, and the Cardinals defense, especially the front seven, is tougher than they were given credit for after last year. I’m taking the Cardinals, a home underdog, and the points.
My Pick: Cardinals (+4)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5) at Oakland Raiders (4:25 start)
The autumn wind probably is not a pirate, not this year. The Raiders are unspeakably terrible. I didn’t want them to be, but they are. Obligatory Carson Palmer (no relation to Emerson, Lake & Palmer) joke here.
My Pick: Steelers (-4.5)
Houston Texans at Denver Broncos (-1) (4:25 start)
Remedial lesson for new gamblers: the standard point advantage given for home field is three points, so if a home team is -3, the teams are seen as just about exactly even. It’s more complicated than that (some spreads are set differently because there are teams that are bet on more than others due to their national fan base, such as the Cowboys) but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb. So the spread, with Denver only favored by a point at home, means that the guys setting the lines in Vegas think that the Texans are at least slightly better than the Broncos. They are wrong: the Texans are MUCH better than the Broncos.
My Pick: Texans (+1)
Sunday Night Game (9/23 8:20PM ET)
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
I was sure this would be a matchup of two 2-0 teams; instead it’s two really good teams who are 1-1 after heartbreaking last-second losses in the season’s second week. From what I’ve seen of the Ravens, they look better than the Patriots, because they’re a team that’s more balanced. That hasn’t stopped the Patriots in the regular season before, but, I mean, they just lost to the Cardinals with Kevin Kolrn on the Kolb at QB.
My Pick: Ravens (-3)
Monday Night Football (9/24 8:30PM ET)
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Are the Packers back? Have the Seahawks arrived? Is Aaron Rodgers elite? Is Russell Wilson clutch? Is there such a thing as the friendzone, or are guys just oblivious to the fact that women aren’t interested in them? Is Bob Dylan overrated? Is he underrated? Is Bob Seger properly rated? What about Thin Lizzy?
My Pick: Packers (-3.5)
Thin Lizzy is actually underrated, and the Bob Seger breakdown is this: in Michigan, Seger is overrated; in the Midwest as a whole, properly rated; everywhere else, underrated. See you next week.