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.
The only things predictable about the opening week of NFL play were that things were unpredictable. I came close on a number of my picks, and just missed, such as my prediction that I’d wind up going 6-10 in the opening week—I was actually slightly worse, at 5-10-1—or that the Texans would beat the Chargers by at least four points when they only won by three. But close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and groping women on the Tokyo subway, so it’s best we move on to the picks for Week 2.
(Note: All point spreads listed here are the lines at the time bets 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’s Record: 5-10-1
My Record So Far: 5-10-1
Thursday Night Game (9/12 8:30PM ET)
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-12)
I have DIRECTV, because last year I got hired at a business where one of the major revenue streams was selling DIRECTV, and I got a good deal on it. A year and change later, I’ve been laid off from there, the initial year of savings is over, and I’m still stuck in a two-year contract with the satellite provider when I’d rather get U-Verse. All of this is a long-winded (and whiny) way of saying that I have NFL Sunday Ticket, which is great, and also means that I wind up watching bits and pieces of nearly every game on the schedule, when teams are in scoring range. That means that yes, I saw the end of the Jets-Buccaneers game where the Jets kicked a game-winning field goal because of a personal foul penalty that put them close enough to do so. I also saw enough of the Patriots-Bills game to be truly disappointed that the Bills didn’t upset them—once it was clear my pick (Pats -10.5) was in the toilet, I wanted them to lose outright, not just against the spread. I wound up being wrong on both counts, which was pretty much the case all around last week. The Jets’ semi-miraculous, semi-absurd Week 1 victory is also tempting me to take them and a TON of points against the Patriots, but I just can’t do it.
My Pick: Patriots -12
Sunday Early Games (9/15 1PM ET)
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Buffalo Bills
The Carolina Panthers managed a total of seven points last week in a home loss to the Seattle Seahawks, playing at 1pm on the East Coast where the Seahawks went 1-3 last year in early starts. The Bills were within a couple of plays of knocking off the Patriots. Yet the Carolina Panthers are favored, by three, on the road. Does Vegas know something we don’t? Yes, they do: that everyone bets against the Bills, and they’re trying to get the money to even out. The underdogs did very well against the spread last week, for one thing; for another, EJ Manuel, who did end up playing for the Williams, looked very good in his first NFL action. I’ll take the Bills and the points.
My Pick: Bills +3
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
Up until the end of Monday Night Football’s second game, I had yet to see Ray Lewis on TV. ESPN snatched him up as soon as he retired from the Ravens after being their team leader in the 2012 season in such advanced statistical categories as B6PGAT (Being the 6th Person on Guys Already Tackled), SID (Stupid Introductory Dances) and HGAWM (you can figure this one out). I guess they missed his leadership or something, because they got spanked by the Broncos in their first game since getting their rings, allowing Peyton to throw a record-tying seven TDs, which hasn’t been done since before Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship. Speaking of Starship, is the song “We Built This City” about Cleveland, since it’s the birthplace of the term “rock and roll”? I would guess not. Anyway, I’m guessing the Ravens, thoroughly embarrassed, will come to play in their home opener. You can’t lose to the Browns after raising a banner. Only the Browns could do that—if they were ever to raise a banner. Oh yeah, Ray Lewis sucked on TV.
My Pick: Ravens -6.5
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (-6)
When Adrian Peterson ran the first Viking play 78 yards for a touchdown, it looked like he was going to pick up right where he left off last year. The rest of the game, he was held in check, yardage-wise, against the Lions, but did manage two more scores, one on the ground and one through the air. The Bears played a good game, but took advantage of some very Bengal-like clock management and turnovers to beat Cincinnati. The new offense didn’t look particularly exceptional, though—not yet, anyway. Were the Bears favored by a little bit less, I’d take them, but I think the Vikings will be less likely to throw, which means less likely to turn the ball over, so this one will remain close even if the Vikings can’t pull off the upset.
My Pick: Vikings +6
Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5)
One of the few correct predictions I made last week was that the Kansas City Chiefs would beat the Jacksonville Jaguars by at least four points. The only points the Jags managed against the Chiefs came on a safety—the KC defense was tight, and their offense put some points on the board. Alex Smith looked good under center and Dwayne Bowe was happy to have a real quarterback and an offensive-minded head coach. The Chiefs look leaps and bounds better than they ever did last year. BUT—it’s in all caps because it’s a big but, and I cannot lie—they shouldn’t be favored against the Cowboys, even if they are playing at home.
My Pick: Cowboys +2.5
Washington Redskins at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
Both of these teams lost in Week 1, but they couldn’t have looked more different doing so. The Packers fought valiantly against the San Francisco 49ers in the obvious best game of the week, barely losing on the road to what is probably the league’s best team. The Redskins looked like a practice squad for the Philadelphia Eagles to experiment with Chip Kelly’s offense against. True, the Skins came back, but a lot of those points were in garbage time and the result of the game was never really in doubt. If RG3 starts even half as slowly as he did against the Eagles, Aaron Rodgers will enjoy plenty of opportunities to march up the field and throw to his cadre of receivers who would be nobodies without him. I’d take the Packers in a home opener against just about anyone—that they’re facing what basically amounts to Preseason Game 2 of the Redskins offense deals the seal.
My Pick: Packers -7.5
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-9)
In Week One, the Titans beat the Steelers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Titans are good—just that the Steelers are worse than I thought. The Titans still don’t have much going for them. The Texans didn’t look much like a Super Bowl contender in the first half of their opener, the final game of the week Monday Night at San Diego, but in the second half they reminded us what they can do on defense, and Andre Johnson reminded us what he can do on offense. Ben Tate emerged as the featured back, with Arian Foster looking a little under the weather. The Texans are favored by nine, but I think they’ll come out right away and put the game out of reach quickly, so that they can get the taste of last week’s first half out of their collective mouth. Yes, I said mouth, not mouths. The Texans only have one mouth. Because I said so.
My Pick: Texans -9
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
Both of these teams, because of their first week performance, have me shrugging my shoulders and saying statements about them in an “Ehhhhhh” voice with a question mark at the end. Things like: “The Dolphins might actually be good?” Or: “Maybe the Colts totally suck?” “Eeehhhh?”
My Pick: Dolphins +3
San Diego Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)
“Eeeehhhh?” “Maybe the Eagles are actually really good now? Maybe?” “The Chargers suck.” No question mark.
My Pick: Eagles -7.5
St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons (-6.5)
As I discussed last week, I filed my feelings on this year’s Rams team as “too optimistic,” and I was in fact too optimistic about their result last week. They won, on a last drive field goal by Greg Zuerlein, but did not cover the spread. At times they looked good, at others they looked like, as my dad would say, SOSAR, standing for Same Old Sorry Ass Rams. Luckily, they played SOSAC. They won’t be so lucky this week, playing a Falcons team that many have picked going to the playoffs in their home opener after a tough loss to the Canonized Residents of New Orleans. The first professional football game I ever attended was a Rams home game against the Falcons in the era of quarterback Tony Banks, when the Falcons had Eric Metcalf being an awesome kick returner. The Rams, of course, lost, as they probably will this game, but then again, I’m too optimistic, and think they’ll keep it close.
My Pick: Rams +6.5
Sunday Late Games (9/15 4:05/4:25PM ET)
Detroit Lions (-1.5) at Arizona Cardinals
The Lions, in Week One anyway, defied my expectations by not being SOSAL. Other than the opening touchdown allowed to Adrian Peterson, they played well on both sides of the ball, and scary-ass Ndamukong Suh got a personal foul resulting in a $100,000 fine at which he won’t bat an eye. He may, however, bat off Carson Palmer’s head.
My Pick: Lions +1.5
New Orleans Saints (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Many pundits began the season thinking that the NFC South could rival the NFC West as the strongest division in football, with all four teams likely to perform well. After the Buccaneers’ very stupid loss to the Jets, the overreaction is going the other way, with people now saying the Bucs are totally out of it. While I’m not ready to proclaim them in the category of the Insaneey Clowney Posseey, they’re probably going to have their BuccanREARs handed to them by the team who goes marching in.
My Pick: Saints -3
Denver Broncos (-4.5) at New York Giants
Peyton versus Eli, Manningo a Manningo. Peyton’s coming off a performance in which he tied the record for most TD passes in one game, while throwing no interceptions. Eli is coming off of a performance in which he threw the ball right to Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Because he didn’t know Ware he was. Get it?
My Pick: Broncos -4.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders (-6)
The consensus before the season was that the Jaguars, Raiders and Jets were the three worst teams in the league, with all three vying for Jadeveon Clowney at the number one spot. The Insaneey Clowney Posseey, as mentioned earlier. In this game, the Raiders are Shaggy 2 Dope. Why? Because the other team is Violent J(aguars).
My Pick: Jaguars +6
Sunday Night Game (9/8 8:25PM ET)
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3)
Before the season, this was the game that many people were waiting for, a primetime showcase for the probable two best teams in the NFC. The 49ers did not disappoint in their first game, defeating the very game Green Bay Packers in a nailbiter. While the Seahawks won their first game, they were not as impressive in doing so, only able to put up twelve points on the Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks have a great home field advantage, with more than one pundit thinking they could go undefeated in Seattle. I think they’ll go undefeated at home as well . . . after this game, which they will lose, putting them behind the 49ers in the race for NFC West supremacy.
My Pick: 49ers +3
Monday Night Football (9/16 8:30PM ET)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-7)
This game looked a lot better before the Steelers looked so terrible in their opening week loss to the Tennessee Group of Greek Gods That Existed Before the Olympians, and before the Bengals lost in Bengal-like fashion to a team they should have beaten talent-wise, the Chicago Bears. These teams still always play each other tough, though, division rivals through and through. I still think the Bengals will get the better of the Steelers this year, and fight with the Ravens for the division; what I don’t think is that they’ll beat the Steelers in a primetime game by more than a touchdown.
My Pick: Steelers +7
Last week, I predicted I’d go 6-10 and wound up going 5-10-1. This week, I predict I will go 16-0. Think that’ll work?