Version 1.0

1

(home team in CAPS)

A word to the wise: work up a decent lather before bursting into an all out assault on Vegas. The sharps are formidable, particularly with several months to prep for Week 1. No need to slide down the mountain before mid-September. Tread lightly, grab momentum!

Atlanta Falcons and NEW ORLEANS SAINTS OVER 54: Handicapping, 101. Two elite QB’s with plenty of weapons on a fast surface with a comfy, controlled dome climate generally equates to a ton of scores. Brees and Ryan reward this play with 35 + points in the 1st half alone, making the final 30 minutes “Coast City.” Enjoy an early gift.

Elite vs elite.

Elite vs elite.

Kansas City Chiefs (-4) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: The equivalent of a tap-in putt for Andy Reid as the removal of the stench suffocating KC gets off to a quick start with a road win and cover. Beware, however, as Alex Smith is more dink and dunk than downfield, so a blowout seems unlikely. Still, the Jags are road kill once more in the AFC while the Chiefs should be in the mix for a WC. Better talent, better coaching. KC handles Blaine Gabbert and the Jags.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9.5) OVER Oakland Raiders: I’m not sold on Indy making a return trip to the playoffs, but I am very aware of the frightening dearth of talent Dennis Allen has to “work” with. It’s not his fault his GM has failed to stock the cupboards with a viable NFL roster. This game opened at 7 and has ballooned nearly three full points for a reason. Act fast, because the number ain’t going south. Indy exploits the Silver and Black’s deplorable offensive line and hangs a demoralizing loss on the worst team in the NFL. They’re baaaaaad. Biggest play of the day. By the way, anyone else think Reggie McKenzie resembles a “chubby” Blake Griffin?

Cincinnati Bengals and CHICAGO BEARS OVER 41.5: With back-to-back playoff appearances on their resume for the first time since the 80’s, the Bengals bring a wealth of explosive and hungry talent to the Windy City for a marquee matchup with the Bears. Injuries to Jay Cutler the past two seasons have derailed positive starts, but with QB-friendly Marc Trestman now calling the shots, look for Cutler to have his best season to date. Not sure this one climbs into the 30’s, but with a relatively low total of 41, lucky for you, it won’t have to. Roll with the over.

The next generation is here. #beast

The next generation is here. #beast

Arizona Cardinals and ST. LOUIS RAMS OVER 41.5: Bruce Arians looks to shore things up offensively with a vertical style that will match Carson Palmer’s skill set nicely. Both teams are trending in the right direction, particularly Jeff Fisher’s squad. In the bloodbath knows as the NFC West, the Rams, not the Niners or Seahawks, owed the best divisional record in ’12. (4-1-1) It’s officially time for Mr Bradford to step up. While this game lacks national sizzle, it has under-the-radar intrigue. Welcome back, Larry Fitzgerald. Over.

NEW YORK JETS (+3.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While the Jets have very publicly staged yet another QB circus, they have enough elements to hang at home against a team with QB and injury issues of their own. Darrelle Revis hasn’t played a meaningful snap in a year and will undoubtedly be very rusty. The Jets offensive line and defense is stout enough to keep things interesting before they become unraveled in Week 2 vs the Pats. If you’re patient, you might gain 1/2 point Sunday morning with some late action on the Bucs. Capitalize as Gang Green registers a surprise and possibly rare cover.

Advertisements

BT’s “6 pack of picks” Version 5.0

Admittedly, I was concerned.

For the first few weeks of the NFL season, I had about as much control over my picks as Jim Lehrer  had during Wednesday’s Presidential Debate: none.

I was in a slump, trying to mechanically fight my out of it, rather than simply trusting my instincts.

Lucky for you, the back of my baseball card is pretty good.

At the end of the day, you just have to tee it up, let ‘er fly, and deal with the consequences.

I’m back in the short stuff.

Last week: 4-2

Season to date: 11-12-1

Week 5 picks: (home team in CAPS)

Chicago Bears -4.5 over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS After Monday’s beat down in Big D, the Bears roll into Jacksonville winners of 3 of  4 with a chance to cash in against a spotty team with an apathetic fan base. The Jags are dead last in sacks, getting to the QB just twice thus far. That means one thing: less pressure on Jay Cutler, ensuring that “Good” Jay shows up and leads the team to a relatively stress-free win.

Cleveland Browns +8.5 over NEW YORK GIANTS I’ve seen the Giants choke on this type of number numerous times over the past decade or so. The Giants are the better team and should find a way to pull it out in the end. However, the Cleveland’s defense, Trent Richardson and some key NYG injuries make it way too risky to lay a touchdown plus. Give me the Brownies to cover the number.

Legend vs. Legend

Denver Broncos and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS over 51.5 Honestly, I’m far from convinced that Peyton Manning’s arm strength has returned  as much as so many talking heads yakked about this week. If they actually watched the game, rather than being fooled by the numbers, they would know that precious few of those 30 completions traveled very far in the air. The Broncs were aided by an embarrassing Raiders defense, making Peyton look better than he actually was. Still, these two iconic QB’s should find a way to shine enough to tilt the number over. Barely.

CINCINNATI BENGALS -3 over Miami Dolphins: Nice matchup of two very talented, young QB’s. Lucky for Andy Dalton, his WR’s are simply more advanced and explosive than Ryan Tannehill’s weapons. Add it all up, and the Bengals pick up win # 4 on the year. If you’re concerned with the cover, buying .5 point should quell those fears. With a small spread, take the better team at home every time.

NEW YORK JETS + 8 over Houston Texans: By no means am I fooled or leaning toward this pick with my heart. This one is pure business. The Jets are brutal, and it’s only going to get worse. Without Revis and Holmes (and a running game, and a natural pass rush, and an accurate QB and…) the season is absolutely over. However, every proud dog has his day, and with the entire nation watching, the Jets rally, ride emotion, and find a way to stick around and lose late. But they cover.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS and Buffalo Bills over 44.5: Bills have to be a bit demoralized after squandering a 21-7 home lead last week against the Pats, while the Niners are pumped to return to home turf after a lengthy two week roadie. The crowd will be howling and the defense greased up, which should lead to a few Ryan Fitzpatrick miscues. Short fields = points, while points = OVERS.

 

AFC Preview

The race is on!

 

EAST

1. New England Patriots: (11-5) Tom Brady and his small army of game-changing tight ends and core of receivers will once again light up the scoreboard, and while I like their defensive draft picks, the aura is slowly eroding in Foxboro. The Pats are good, and remain the class of a strange division, but I don’t like this team as much as others do. They’ll win double digit games, but big picture, are very vulnerable. This very well could be their last “great” season for a while.

2. Buffalo Bills: (10-6) It’s been a while since the pride of Western New York has had a legitimate chance at stealing the spotlight from their downstate neighbors, and that’s about to end. The Bills will run the heck out of it, and have enough perimeter weapons to cash in when opponents stuff the box. Mario Williams was a massive addition, one that propels the Bills into the playoffs.

3. New York Jets: (6-10) Strap in, this will get ugly. Tebow will keep it interesting, but offensively, the Jets have zero vertical weapons coupled with a below average running attack. While the defense will be good, this team lacks the necessary poise, leadership and maturity to navigate what promises to be a bumpy season for Gang Green. Does Rex lose complete control?

4. Miami Dolphins: (3-13) It’s never fun hitting the reset button, as  Miami is clearly doing, but in this case, it’s absolutely imperative. Slowly but surely, Joe Philbin will rebuild this organization the most effective way: from the inside out. It will eventually pay dividends…by about 2015.

NORTH

1. Baltimore Ravens: (12-4) The best team did not represent the AFC in last year’s Super Bowl, thanks to a 22 yard shank-job by Billy Cundiff. The Ravens are too well-coached , too balanced, and too hungry to let that happen again. Top to bottom, this is the class of the conference, even without Suggs for the first 6 games.

2. Cincinnati Bengals: (10-6) This young, ascending group will jump over the aging Steelers and they will do so by early November, for good. To hell with history, I like the QB, the defense, and at the end of the day, I like this team. They’ll be playing in January for the second consecutive season.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: (9-7) The swoon has set in. If you examine last season’s finish, the warning signs were evident: smoked in San Francisco 20-3, with a pair of cosmetic wins against doormats St. Louis and Cleveland, before drowning in Denver in the Wild Card game. Look past the great history, and accept the Steelers for what they are: aging and vulnerable.

4. Cleveland Browns: (4-12) Let’s face it, the Browns are good for one thing, and one thing only: betting the under. They are  boring, and for the most part, remain stuck in mud. Hopefully Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden represent a new day in the ‘pound, but I won’t believe it until I see it.

SOUTH

1. Houston Texans: (10-6) Tough blow last season, losing Matt Schaub and other key parts throughout the year. It’s easy to assume that the injuries alone derailed a possible Super Bowl appearance, but I’m not so sure. I like this team, actually I like them quite a bit, but I don’t love them. With guaranteed wins against rebuilding Indy and Jacksonville, the Texans will win a fair amount of games, but to me, they remain a bit overrated. Tread carefully.

2. Tennessee Titans: (9-7) Yes, they are handing the keys to a young QB, which usually means trouble. However, this team is extremely well coached, and their RB is ready to dominate from snap # 1 after last season’s slow start. If the Texans aren’t careful, this could be one of the big surprises in the conference. I like the direction of this franchise quite a bit.

3. Indianapolis Colts: (6-10) Andrew Luck will prove within the first month of the season why he is one of the most polished, enticing talents to ever hit the league. The kid has it all, and for that reason alone, the Colts will surprise a few times this season.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: (6-10) I actually like most of their offensive weapons, except their QB. I’m simply not a Blaine Gabbert fan. If he matures and spreads the wealth to TE Mercedes Lewis and rookie WR Justin Blackmon responsibly, I can be converted. Maurice Jones-Drew is an absolute superstar, although lengthy holdouts usually equate to nagging injuries. That alone worries me.

WEST

1. Kansas City Chiefs: (11-5) Last season, KC was absolutely rocked with season-ending ACL injuries to three key players, setting an irreversible tone. They still competed, even with Matt Cassel missing 9 games and an overflowing trainer’s room. This year, they are healthy, added a few pieces, and will enjoy a relatively benign schedule.

2. Denver Broncos: (9-7) I’m not buying all of the Manning hype, not yet. His numbers against the Niners this summer were very deceiving. Pretty on paper, suspect when watching live. His ball floated a few few times, and until he regains his fastball, his margin of error is not nearly as wide as most think. He’ll have a good season, but can he really be the Messiah? I have my doubts.

3. Oakland Raiders: (7-9) Ironically, the Raiders will fail to reach .500 this season, yet, they’ll be a superior team to the mess Hue Jackson handed off to Dennis Allen. It starts with discipline and erasing pre-snap penalties, and I believe they will take a big step in the right direction. Yet, in this division, subpar CB play is dangerous, and they’ll struggle to find that balance all year. However, if Darren McFadden finally plays all 16 games…

4. San Diego Chargers: (6-10) I know, Antonio Gates is in great shape, poised for a monster season, right up until his foot begins barking again, and it will. Vincent Jackson is gone, Ryan Matthews injured his clavicle early this summer, and Norv Turner is still the coach. I love their uniforms, and that’s about it.

Hey Hue, slow your roll!

Jackson hit the ground running, but he's encountered a few potholes in recent weeks.

Considering where the Raiders have languished for the better part of a decade, this season has already been a success for many on the outside-looking-in.

I’m no longer on the outside-looking-in.

I’ve been to the Coliseum often since relocating to the Bay Area in late July. Initially for A’s games, and now during football season, for Raider games. I’ve rubbed elbows with the wealthy during halftime at the stadium’s West Side Club and exchanged fist pounds with the gritty and creative tenants of the Black Hole on game day.

I get it.

The city of Oakland has character and soul, but then again, so does Brooklyn, my home town. Fitting in at the Coliseum, whether it’s on the field pre-game with Ice Cube or CEO Amy Trask, who I already respect tremendously, in the parking lot with the fans, or in the press box with my peers, it’s come pretty naturally thus far.

It’s why I’m comfortable issuing a warning of sorts for Hue Jackson.

I’ve seen this script before, and it goes a little something like this: an unapologetic rookie head coach, intelligent and funny, completely at ease in front of a microphone elicits reaction from everyone, and is the life of the party.

It’s great.

When you win.

Rex Ryan is like that, and he’s been like that from Day 1. Rex has also led his team to consecutive conference title games.

Hue Jackson is a LOT like Rex Ryan, and is using the same blueprint 3000 miles away.

Jackson’s  engineered a renaissance thru the first 7 weeks of the season, restoring passion and faith in the fan base, and gaining national headlines in beating the Jets and Texans, two squads every pundit positioned as playoff teams following the condensed offseason.

Truth be told, any lingering residue from the JaMarcus Russell nightmare was snuffed out last season as the Raiders, despite failing to qualify for the playoffs, earned respect by running the table in the AFC West.

Jackson’s upbeat training camp only added to the positive vibe, and heightened the expectations for Raider Nation.

However, the NFL is about discipline and consistency, and thus far, the Raiders are neither disciplined nor consistent.

Why?

Week 1: despite winning in Denver, the Raiders committed a ghastly 15 penalties.

Week 2: after jumping out to a 21-3 halftime lead in Buffalo, the Bills promptly scored on all 5 second half possessions, saddling the Raiders with a loss, quite frankly, they should not have.

Week 5: with emotions running high following the passing of Al Davis, Oakland stumbles thru an anemic offensive stretch before rallying for an inspiring last-second win in Houston. Still, the Raiders had only 10 defenders on the field as Matt Schaub was picked off in the end zone at the gun. A win is a win, especially on the road, but how in the world is that possible? At that moment? 10 players?

Week 6: back home to honor Al Davis, the Raiders jumped out to an early lead, and were about to bury the Browns for good when Jackson eschewed a short FG on 4th and 1 from the 5. Instead, the Raiders got careless, were slammed shut on 4th down, allowed a 95 yard drive to give the Browns life, and then, after failing to recover the onsides kick, sweated out a last second win with Cleveland driving with a chance to tie. Kick the field goal, and you’re up 3 scores with 5:00 to go in the game, and at that point, it’s lights out.

Week 7: Chiefs 28, Raiders 0. (oh yeah, 14 more penalties)

Sure, Kyle Boller is a backup for a reason, but was there even a game plan? More specifically, was there a Plan B, in case Plan A failed? I’m still not sure. During the week following the acquisition of Carson Palmer from the Bengals, offensive coordinator Al Saunders told a Kansas City radio station, that “as long as he’s breathing,” Palmer should be ready to go. The following days were filled with strange sound bytes and mixed signals, confusing the media and fans, but even worse, confusing the one guy you have so much invested in.

Carson Palmer.

I asked Palmer this afternoon on my radio show, when he went to sleep Saturday night, what was his expectation for Sunday? His response is frightening:

“I was told I was not going to play…it was a complete shock when (he) told me at halftime and obviously, I wasn’t prepared or ready.”

Whoaaaaaaa!

What?

Being coy with the media for the sake of gamesmanship, that’s one thing. It’s part of the culture in the NFL. Never divulge too much about injuries and game plans. Keep it vanilla, benign. I get it.

But when an NFL player uses the word “shocked” to describe how he felt upon entering a game, that’s just mind-boggling. Especially one who was lounging on the couch last week!

I like Hue Jackson, hell, I’m even rooting for Hue Jackson. The hope in the air on game day at the Coliseum, it’s palpable, and it immediately brings me back to 1997, when Bill Parcells was repairing the wreckage left behind by Rich Kotite. Maybe it’s because I can relate. These fans aren’t hungry. They are famished.

Hey Coach, I know you want to sprint. But you might be better served working up to a nice jog.

Less chance of tripping.

Owning the press conference is one thing, but at the end of the day, this sport is all about owning Sunday afternoons.

Back to basics.

  • About Brandon Tierney

  • Archives

  • BT’S Tweets

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 18,855 other followers

%d bloggers like this: