Version 1.0

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(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.

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Coinage!

The race for the "Big Apple" should yield plenty of twists and turns. Buckle in!

The race for the “Big Apple” should yield plenty of twists and turns. Buckle in!

ARIZONA CARDINALS: (5-11) 2013 O/U: 5.5 Will a brutal division offset a new head coach, new philosophy and new QB? Close call. I watched Carson Palmer up close with the Raiders, and the former #1 pick can still spin it. Larry Fitzgerald, enjoy your respite from your recent tortured past. Good enough to win more than 5.5 games? Yes. Good enough to matter from late November on? No. Verdict: OVER.

ATLANTA FALCONS: (13-3) 2013 O/U: 10 Previous playoff failures aside, Matt Ryan is entering a stretch in his career that will produce gaudy stats and plenty of wins. Enjoy the ride, Atlanta. This team is loaded, and SHOULD have been in New Orleans playing Baltimore last February for the Lombardi Trophy. Verdict: OVER.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: (10-6) 2013 O/U: 8.5 Speaking of Baltimore, congrats to a great organization and terrific fan base on an amazing run towards glory. Now, hold on to that feeling when things go awry this season, because they will. Too many injuries and other defections to overcome. Verdict: UNDER

BUFFALO BILLS: (6-10) 2013 O/U: 6.5 The Bills last winning season came in 2004. The perpetual rebuild continues: new HC, new QB’s, etc. I’m rolling Missouri-style when it comes to this team: SHOW ME. They’re intriguing, but until they actually crack thru, I’m not buying anything Bills related. Verdict: UNDER, but close and by all accounts, they’re slowly emerging from the abyss. SHOW ME. 

CAROLINA PANTHERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7 I’m a Cam Newton fan, period. Verdict: Over, 8-8.

CHICAGO BEARS: (10-6) 2013 O/U 8.5 Jay Cutler, meet Marc Trestman. You’re going to like this guy, trust me. Verdict: OVER

CINCINNATI BENGALS: (10-6) 2013 O/U 8.5 On paper, Cincy has as much balance as anyone in the league. Vertical weapons at TE should make life easier for Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to connect on some quick strikes. Tough early schedule gives me pause, but this team is still ascending, and they were pretty good last season. Verdict: OVER.

CLEVELAND BROWNS:  (5-11) 2013 O/U 6 See, Buffalo Bills. Verdict: UNDER, but improving.

DALLAS COWBOYS:  (8-8) 2013 O/U: 8.5 New contract, new play-caller…same old Tony Romo? Tough division, and given RG III’s injury and questions for Big Blue on defense, I’m expecting a revival in Big D. Verdict: OVER, but tread lightly.

DENVER BRONCOS: (13-3) 2013 O/U: 11.5 Peyton Manning + Wes Welker + Oakland + San Diego = wins. Verdict: OVER.

DETROIT LIONS: (4-12) 2013 O/U 8 Better balance for Matthew Stafford with Reggie Bush on the scene, allowing more methodical drives, which in theory, should keep the defense off the field more than last season. Last year was a disaster, but clearly, this team has the talent to win double figures. Verdict: OVER, barely. 9-7, 10-6 feels right for this squad. 

Leader of the Pack.

Leader of the Pack.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Are they getting better or are they beginning to level out? Tough call. This is one I’d probably stay away from given the conflict between my brain and my eyes. The last time I watched this team play, they couldn’t tackle a QB. Granted a very, very fast QB, but a QB nonetheless. They were shredded at the ‘Stick, yet my brain says Aaron Rodgers will once again dominate the regular season. Verdict: Over, with sincere hesitation. Translation: stay away.

HOUSTON TEXANS: (12-4) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Plenty of horses, but last season’s swoon should be reason for slight concern as the Texans dropped 3/4 to close out the regular season. Are you truly a Matt Schaub believer? I’m not. Verdict: UNDER, but close. 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 8.5 Seamless transition for Andrew Luck, who never stopped winning after leaving beautiful Palo Alto. However, there were more than a few charitable bounces that Indy cashed in. What happens if they bounce the other way this season? Are they good enough to close the gap. If it’s my money, I’m leaning towards no. Verdict: UNDER.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: (2-14) 2013 O/U: 5 Would you risk a penny on any team with real, legitimate QB concerns? Of course not. Verdict: UNDER, as the Blaine Gabbert “era” officially ends.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: (2-14) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Plenty of talent for Andy Reid, and Alex Smith should stabilize the circus that emerged under center last season. How bad was Matt Cassel? Wow. As long as they don’t ask Smith to shoulder too much, the Chiefs should be much improved. I watched Smith mature with my own eyes in the Bay Area, and while I recognize some obvious physical limitations, he’s smart and tough. Exactly what this franchise needs right now. Verdict: OVER, Wild-Card threat in AFC.

MIAMI DOLPHINS: (7-9) 2013 O/U 8 Very, very tough call. All summer I’ve positioned Miami as a Wild-Card threat in the AFC, but O-line issues might be too big to overcome. One thing working for Miami (aside from a fair amount of talent) is the dearth of talent in their own division. They should bag enough wins to push the number past 8. I’m sticking with my instincts here. Verdict: OVER

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: (10-6) 2013 O/U: 7.5 I could be wrong, but the 2012 Vikes felt and looked like a team that somehow stumbled upon 10 wins. While that might be unfair and a 2.5 drop in wins represents a radical twist, I think they are “capable” enough to do just that. Verdict: UNDER, not sold at all. 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: (12-4) 2013 O/U: 11 I’ll just save everyone the trouble: it’s over. The league has changed quite a bit since ’05, the last time the Pats hoisted the big one. Respect Brady immensely, and they should once again win the division, but the erosion is obvious. Why is everyone so afraid to say it? Prediction: UNDER, 10-6.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 9 They won 7 games without Sean Payton, which means they’ll win at least 2 more with Sean Payton. Love the fact that it’s an even 9. I like this play quite a bit. Prediction: OVER.

NEW YORK GIANTS: (9-7) 2013 O/U: 9 I like the fact that the 9 stands alone here as .5 would probably force me to go the other way. Terrific coaching, team pride and QB play should push the number north of 9. If not, a push looks more likely than a loss here. This team always bounces back under Coughlin. Right? Verdict: OVER. I think.

NEW YORK JETS: (6-10) 2013 O/U: 6.5 I like the Jets defense quite a bit and if Chris Ivory stays healthy, along with Bilal Powell they should be able to run the ball with enough efficiency to surprise a few teams. The sooner Mark Sanchez disappears, the better. Is Geno Smith the real deal? Regardless, an overall dearth of talent at the skill positions makes this offense pedestrian, at best. Verdict: OVER, BARELY (or complete implosion)

OAKLAND RAIDERS: (4-12) 2013 O/U: 5.5 GM Reggie McKenzie is gutting the roster, and understandably so. Things are real bad in Oakland. By deleting bloated contracts and underachieving, lazy veterans the cupboards will slowly fill with hungry, viable NFL talent. The question is, will Dennis Allen be around to enjoy the fruits of his GM’s purge? My gut says no. This team is terrible.  Al Davis was lost for a decade, and it shows. Verdict: UNDER

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: (4-12) 2013 O/U: 7.5 By early October, Chip Kelly will be reaching into his own pocket, hoping to book Bowling Green for a layup win. Tough camp for Philly as injuries and Riley Cooper’s stupidity have dominated the NovaCare Complex. Who’s playing QB, by the way? Verdict: UNDER

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: (8-8) 2013 O/U: 9 I want to respect the logo, they’ve earned it. The Raven’s stumble could open the door for a revival in Pittsburgh, and at the very least, inspires enough to lay a little wood on the Steel Dawgs. Verdict: OVER, barely.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7.5 What the heck happened to Phillip Rivers’ career? He should rebound, but not enough to invest any real coin in the Bolts. Tough call. Verdict: UNDER

Less posing minus Crabtree?

Less posing minus Crabtree?

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: (11-4-1) 2013 O/U: 11 They’ll miss Crabtree and Dashon Goldson, but Jim Harbaugh is a brilliant head coach, and he has a great locker room. This team loves football, and has strong interior play on both sides of the ball. Love Kaepernick, but Boldin’s odometer is running high and the division is getting better. They desperately need a young WR to emerge. Verdict: UNDER, but a playoff lock and viable threat for the title. 10-6 sounds right.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Last time Seattle played the 49ers, they beat them to a bloody pulp. It’s the kind of loss that empowers one franchise and possibly raises question for another. Another playoff lock, I think they edge out SF for the division by a game. Verdict: OVER, legit.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: (7-8-1) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Ignore the sub-500 mark from 2012 for a moment, as it doesn’t tell the entire story. This team improved as the year progressed, and oh yeah, by the way, also had the best divisional record: 4-1-1. Sam Bradford remains the key, but Fisher will have this team ready to roll after laying the foundation last season. Ascending. Verdict: OVER.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Interesting offseason for Tampa, as Greg Schiano and ownership drew a line in the sand for Josh Freeman: it’s time. I like Freeman, always have, and think he responds nicely. Improved field position courtesy of a revamped secondary will help. I’m buying the Bucs. Verdict: OVER, and playoffs.

TENNESSEE TITANS: (6-10)  2013 O/U: 6.5 Aggressive play by Tennessee in FA tilts the needle in the right direction, and given the small bump in wins, I’m inclined to roll the dice and push the number to 7, possibly 8. They’re not as bad as most people position them to be. Verdict: OVER, barely.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: (10-6) 2013: 8.5 RG III is great for football, and like everyone else, I’m rooting for a quick and full recovery for the second year star from Baylor. That knee, however, has been problematic for quite some time. When it comes to green, I’m rolling with my head over emotion and sentiment and I’m simply not convinced he’ll hold up for the  duration of the season. Plenty of holes on the roster. Verdict: UNDER

*Team record from 2012 in ( ), followed by updated Vegas Over/Under projected win totals in ’13.

***If you take this too seriously, you’re insane.

Prove it!

Quick, name an NFL QB without pressure. Impossible. Whether it’s aging icons like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning or developing neophytes like Luck and and Wilson, when it comes to the shield, no one one’s safe from the unrelenting spotlight. Had a good season? Great, have a better one this year. Finally brought your franchise back to the playoffs? Terrific, now get to the conference championship.

In attempting to quantify the pressures certain QB’s face entering the ’13 season, I used one pretty simple gauge: which players could have the course of their careers permanently altered if they stumble badly beginning in September? With that in mind, I automatically disqualified last season’s rookie crop: Luck, RG III, Wilson and Tannehill are safe. Regardless of what this season yields, they’re already locked in as starters for the ’14 season.

Immediately, Tony Romo came to mind, but let’s face it: I could have written this piece three years ago with the same result. Even with all of his miscues, in Dallas, his armor is impenetrable. Win, lose or draw there never appears to be any real consequence for Romo, unless of course you count contract extensions. His head coach of course, is another story.

With all of the whispers coming from Tampa, it’s impossible not to study Josh Freeman. I believe in Freeman and expect his play to mute the groans and silence his critics, so I eliminated him.

Sure, I’d like to see Andy Dalton take another step forward, particularly with his deep routes, and with another weapon at TE, the microscope is out, to an extent. Is he merely very good, or is he a superstar? Either way, safe. The Jaguars simply drafted the wrong guy in Blaine Gabbert as did the Vikes with Christian Ponder, so I won’t waste anyone’s time there. Eli and Big Ben, multiple rings, safe regardless. Philip Rivers’ implosion the last two seasons is a head scratcher, but I attribute that to other factors and for the most part, exonerate the former NC State star. He still resonates enough, barely, for him to avoid the heat of this column.

I’ve never truly been a huge Matt Schaub fan, and while I’ve always gone against the grain and supported Jay Cutler, his talents alone will keep him around, somewhere, for a while. Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford, armed with new deals and lofty expectations, will invariably have to fend off a few detractors at certain points this season, same with Cam Newton in Carolina, who by the way, will deliver. As always, there’s a revolving door under center in Buffalo and Oakland, and while the Bills situation is less intriguing to me, I strongly considered Matt Flynn, before ultimately passing. We know Matt, you tossed 6 TD’s a few years ago in a meaningless game, cashed out and haven’t been heard from since. Wake me when he’s actually relevant, which quite frankly, will probably be never.

Aaron Rodgers remains the best all-around QB in football and until one of the kids fully ripens, that title appears safe for another few seasons. Is Drew Brees still a Hall of Fame QB, or will there be a trace of attrition? Can Matty Ice take the next step? I’ll keep an eye on Carson Palmer in Arizona, now that he’s finally paired with an elite WR again, and while they could surprise, there’s not enough happening in Tennessee or Cleveland to make me loook twice, not yet anyway.

Michael Vick could easily headline my short list of QB’s facing the most pressure entering September, but quite frankly, it’s 50/50 that he departs Lehigh’s campus with a starting job, so he gets a reprieve for now. That ship has sailed.

For a select few, it’s less about money and glory, and more about salvation. Can they regain the wheel of their career or veer off into a very undesirable exit on the NFL Freeway. It’s called Obscurity Avenue.

sam-bradford

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: I like Bradford quite a bit. Talented kid, but there’s one very important stain on the former #1 overall pick’s resume: his W/L record. While the NFC West is now undeniably the strongest in football, for most of his career, it was irrefutably among the worst. Yet, entering his 4th season, Bradford’s career mark is a ghastly 15-26-1. While his TD/INT ratio is relatively solid, his overall efficiency lags behind many of his peers. Franchise QB’s connect on more than 60% of their pass attempts, plain and simple. The kid has the requisite tools, and he still has my support, but it’s time. He finally has the coach and a nice toy in 1st round stud Tavon Austin, plus with FA import Jake Long locking down his blind side, he’ll have time to throw. At the end of the day, QB’s are judged on how many games they win versus how many games they lose. He needs to start stuffing a more W’s in the left-hand column. Simply put, Bradford needs to prove that he’s not a bust. Will the real Sam Bradford stand up? Or perhaps, he already has?

Can Smith win without Harbaugh? We'll find out soon.

Can Smith win without Harbaugh? We’ll find out soon.

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: Since being drafted #1 overall by the 49ers in 2005, two Alex Smiths have emerged: Alex Smith without Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith with Jim Harbaugh and boy, they are two very, very different players. Without Harbaugh maniacally patrolling the sidelines, Smith’s first five seasons in the Bay yielded the following results: 2-5, 7-9, 2-5, 5-5 and 3-7. Following Dr. Jim’s rehabilitation, Smith rallied to win 19 of 25 games before having the plug pulled in favor of Colin Kaepernick last season. Yet, plenty of questions linger. Can Smith win without an elite defense? Remember, short fields equal fewer risks and fewer risks equate to fewer turnovers. What happens when he has to fling it 35-40 times on the road? He’s a smart kid, and a lot tougher than people give him credit for, but can he win without Harbaugh holding his hand? The training wheels are off, and Alex Smith needs to prove that he can play. I wouldn’t bet too much on Smith, personally. 

Fewer butt-encounters and more TD's must he on the menu for Sanchez to remain in New York.

Fewer butt-encounters and more TD’s must be on the menu for Sanchez to remain in New York.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: I have to admit, Sanchez tricked me. Looked the part, won a few games early, made some big throws on the road, in tough venues, in the playoffs. The problem with the former USC star, is that not a single part of his game is clearly above-average. His arm is solid strength, but he doesn’t have a blaster. At one point, his accuracy was developing nicely, but his mechanics dissolved and he now resembles a helpless pitcher aiming the ball. He’s a good athlete, but not nearly dynamic enough to actually have to game plan against outside of the pocket. But most disconcerting to the organization is his inability to lead other grown men, which at this level, is paramount. Santonio Holmes and others poisoned a winning culture, and Sanchez did nothing to stop it. At the end of the day, he’s an average QB with poor leadership skills. The Jets drafted Geno Smith for a reason and with Rex Ryan’s rope fraying to the core, Sanchez is out of chances. Stand up, put up and deliver, or get bounced from New York. Mark Sanchez needs to prove that he’s more substance than show. Simply stated, he needs to prove that he’s a starting QB in the NFL. My opinion? He trips early and stays on the canvas.

Prove it.

BT’s “6 pack of picks” Version 8.0

Maintaining Jedi-like focus during World Series nuttiness has proven difficult for many mere mortals in the Bay. Lucky for you, my middle name is Obi, nickname Wan.

Let’s blast Week 8, Solo-style, shall we?

Season to date: 23-18-1 ATS

Last week: 5-1 ATS

Week 8 picks: (home team in CAPS)

New Orleans Saints (+6) over DENVER BRONCOS: Work this sizable line to your favor and bank on a solid effort from a decaying but still proud team getting nearly a full TD. Strap in for a shootout in Mile High, and while there’s a pretty good chance the home team emerges with the “W,” Brees and the Saints keep it tight and secure a cover.

NEW YORK JETS (-2.5) over Miami Dolphins: Plenty of smack hitting the walls leading up to this one, which suits Rex Ryan’s squad just fine. New York rewarded me two weeks ago by blasting the Colts and also handled their business against the Pats, easily covering a double digit number. I like Ryan Tannehill, and Miami is improving, but the Jets get this one at the gun, and cover the number yet again.

ST. LOUIS RAMS (+7) over New England Patriots: I’m banking on the Giselle’s stumbling into some late-night, off-the-radar drug-feuled orgy bash in London tonight, which should lead to a tired and uncharacteristically sloppy Tommy B on Sunday. It’s the only way I’m able to rationalize this pick, quite frankly. Just a gut play, nothing more. Move along.

Carolina Panthers and CHICAGO BEARS UNDER 43.5: The Bears are very good, the Carolina Panthers are not. Even worse, their freakishly gifted QB has some serious body language and leadership issues. Not good. Bears put the squeeze down on D, keeping this one under en route to the win.

Just because.

DALLAS COWBOYS and New York Giants over 47.5: These games in Big D are always fun and usually involve plenty of  4th quarter fireworks. Unfortunately for Dallas, Eli is almost always the one holding the match and the fuse. This game has 50+ points written all over it. Roll with the over kids.

TENNESSEE TITANS (-3.5) over Indianapolis Colts: Soft Colts run defense + rejuvenated Chris Johnson = tough day for Indy on the road.

BT’s “6 pack of picks” Version 4.0

Baby steps.

While the Steelers late nap in Oakland robbed me of a momentum-building 4-2 week, at this point, I will settle for 3-3. The Jets and Chiefs rewarded my faith, while the Redskins and Bengals combined to nail the over in the Nation’s Capital. Took a flier on the Rams in Chicago and was rightfully burned, and while the Ravens knocked off the Pats, they failed to cover the number. That’s .500 in any language, folks.

Before diving into this week’s picks, how about a hearty “Welcome back!” to the zebras. You were sorely missed.

Last week: 3-3

Season to date: 7-10-1

Week 4 picks (home team in CAPS)

New England Patriots (-4) over BUFFALO BILLS: Injuries have ravaged the backfield for the boys from Western New York, leaving them one-dimensional against the mad scientist. Advantage, Pats. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled mightily in this rivalry, combining for 11 INT’s in his last 4 games against NE. If Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller were healthy, the line and the outcome might very well be different. If. I like the Pats to pull away on the road.

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) over NEW YORK JETS UNDER 41.5: Interesting stat on Alex Smith: Of the NFL’s 32 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 30 passes, only Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick has attempted fewer of at least 20 yards than Smith. Minus Revis Island, you would imagine that changes on Sunday in New Jersey. The Jets don’t run the ball well against average defenses, let alone stout, disciplined ones like SF. The Niners are very good and very focused following last week’s head scratcher in Minny. Not a good look for a Jets team with 7-9, 8-8 written all over it. By the way, who exactly covers Vernon Davis? Ugggggh.

New Orleans Saints (+7.5) over GREEN BAY PACKERS:  No, I do not think the Saints rebound from such a dreadful start. They are cooked. I do, however, see enough cracks in GB’s armor to take the touchdown plus, hope for an early Drew Brees score and pray that they are able to hang on. Proud, experienced teams usually go down swinging, and I’m hoping Brees and the offense have a few haymakers in reserve to reward this play.

Oakland Raiders and DENVER BRONCOS OVER 48.5: Is it rust, or is this simply the new Peyton Manning? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, and he should improve as he gains chemistry and familiarity with his new ‘mates. The Raiders secondary, while game down the stretch vs Pitt, remains a week-to-week issue and is in for a long season. They simply lack the horses to keep things in the high teens. However, I like what I saw from Carson Palmer last week, and a 64 yard scoot from RUN DMC should keep the box stacked, opening things up downfield. Fun game, shootout. Enjoy.

Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: The Jags are always dangerous because MJD is capable of exploding for 150 + against anyone in the league. That threat alone makes this one, on the surface, a bit of a risky play. However, Jacksonville’s defense ranks 28th in the NFL, which means AJ Green could flirt with 2 bills on the day. I viewed Cincy as a playoff team in August and I view them as a playoff team entering October. Playoff teams find ways to win games like this.

Washington Redskins and TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS OVER 47.5: Tough to ignore certain trends, and on this one, I’m working the numbers to my advantage. The ‘Skins average 33 ppg and the Bucs average 20. Add it up, and ding, we have a winner. Defensively, Washington allows 33.7 ppg while Schiano’s crew allows 22.3 ppg. Add it up, and ding, we have a winner. Or at least, we should have a winner.

 

BT’s “6 pack of picks” Version 3.0

Pass the match.

I recommend you either A) completely ignore these picks or B) pick the exact opposite.

Last week: 2-3-1

Season to date: 4-7-1

Week 3: (home team in CAPS)

New York Jets (-2.5) over MIAMI DOLPHINS: Two words: Revis Island. Rex Ryan will confuse the talented but very inexperienced Ryan Tannehill from the opening series. Something tells me Brian Hartline will revert back to being Brian Hartline. This isn’t the Raiders secondary, it’s the Jets. For additional fodder, Tim Tebow punches in his first TD of the season for Gang Green.

Kansas City Chiefs (+9) over NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: In attempting to correct a tactical mistake on my end two weeks in, rather than sweating out big point spreads without much reward, I’m taking two scores worth for the ‘dogs and hoping for the best. I know KC is better than they’ve shown thus far, but quite frankly, I’m not so sure about New Orleans. Eventually, it’s going to click for the Chiefs…I think.

No one said it was easy.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-4) over OAKLAND RAIDERS: Thus far, the Raiders are absolutely the worst team in football. Penalties, coupled with an inability to transition to a new blocking scheme makes this an easy call. Mix in a band-aid secondary and this should be a very strong play. While a cross country jaunt is always a factor, it’s early enough in the season where Pittsburgh is fresh, and should pounce early. Optimism is fading fast in the East Bay, and suddenly, you sense this has the potential to bottom out for the Silver and Black. Get that draft board ready, Reggie!

BALTIMORE RAVENS (-3) over New England Patriots: Strange happenings up in Foxboro, as Wes Welker is slowly phased out of the offense. There are probably more appealing games to reach for since it’s always dicey betting against Brady. However, the Ravens are the class of the AFC, and will be highly motivated after last week’s loss in Philly. No need to over think this one. I’m rolling with the better team, and that’s Baltimore.

St. Louis Rams (+7.5) over CHICAGO BEARS: The Rams are quickly taking on Jeff Fisher’s feisty personality, just ask RG III. I still think Chicago is pretty decent, despite Cutler’s antics on Monday night against the Packers. They may rally the troops, or they could be staring at a divided locker room. I’ll split the difference and take the home team, in a close one, as the points work in your favor.

Cincinnati Bengals and WASHINGTON REDSKINS over 49: Not sure if you noticed, but the Browns exploited Cincy’s D last week. Yup, the Browns. That, coupled with some devastating news on the injury front to Washington’s defense, and the score board should get worked over early and often.

 

 

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.

BT’s “6 pack of picks” Version 15.0

Lions-Raiders should point to plenty of points...

Week 14: 4-2 ATS

Season to date: 39-31-1

Week 15: (home team in CAPS)

New York Jets (+3) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Sorry Philly, but this is familiar terrain for Rex Ryan’s Jets. New York is in the midst of another late season push, something they are very comfortable doing. The running game has shown flashes in recent weeks, giving the Jets the look of a playoff-bound team. Take the points–but the Jets win this one outright.

New England Patriots @ DENVER BRONCOS, UNDER 46.5: The Patriots soft defense should enable Tim Tebow to move the sticks a bit (before the 4th quarter) and kill some clock, further frustrating the Patriots. Not sure if I have the guts to ride Denver to another win, but this game should be close, and Denver’s defense keeps this one below the number. Roll with the under.

Detroit Lions @ OAKLAND RAIDERS, OVER 47.5: Both teams are desperate, and both teams remain very, very sloppy. Expect a nice bounce back from Carson Palmer to provide some scores for the Silver and Black while Stafford does enough on his end to put the scoreboard to work early and often. Shootout.

Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5) over ST. LOUIS RAMS: Cincy’s defense will stifle the pitiful Rams, and Andy Dalton keeps the surprising Bengals firmly in the AFC playoff picture with a relatively easy, double-figure win.

Carolina Panthers (+6.5) over HOUSTON TEXANS: Sometimes it’s all about the gut, and my gut tells me Carolina makes Houston sweat this one out into the final minutes, with an upset not completely off the table.

Washington Redskins @ NEW YORK GIANTS, OVER 46: Coughlin’s crew is riding high after shocking the ‘Boys on national TV Sunday Night. The good times continue, but Big Blue’s secondary allows the ‘Skins to keep things within shouting distance with a breakdown or two. Plenty of points on the way, ride it.

Holiday Cheer for everyone!

BT’s “6 pack of picks” Version 14.0

back on track, for the stretch run...

Week 13: 4-2 ATS

Season to date: 35-29-1

Week 14: (home team in CAPS)

GREEN BAY PACKERS (-11) over Oakland Raiders: The Packers rank 1st in scoring, while the Raider’s defense remains dangerously close to the bottom (27th) in PPG allowed. That, combined with a ridiculous amount of injuries for Hue Jackson’s team amounts to a very, very long day at Lambeau. Tough to even imagine Carson Palmer keeping Oakland within shouting distance. The march toward perfection continues–without much resistance from the Silver and Black.

NEW YORK JETS (-9) over Kansas City Chiefs: Who in their right mind willingly invests a dime in Tyler Palko? Exactly. The Jets, poised for a 3rd straight win, remain in the mix in the AFC despite an inconsistent season. Expect Gang Green to punish KC on the ground, setting up some big plays downfield for Mark Sanchez. Shonn Greene is coming off a career-best 3 TD’s in last week’s win at FedEx Field, and the porous defensive front for Todd Haley’ s team will get pushed around on the road. Lay ’em!

brought the jersey out west...

Buffalo Bills @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, OVER 47.5: Two teams going nowhere, but with plenty of offensive weapons on both sides to play with, expect a wide open, high-scoring game from the opening kick.

DENVER BRONCOS (-3.5) over Chicago Bears: #Tebow

San Francisco 49ers @ ARIZONA CARDINALS, OVER 40: Slowly but surely, the 49ers have opened the playbook a bit under Greg Roman,  and it’s paying dividends. They are no longer predictable, with Alex Smith developing chemistry with Michael Crabtree and gaining trust with HR hitter Kyle Williams. Red-zone efficiency will be an issue the rest of the season, but this number appears very, very attainable as the Cards contribute multiple TD’s to reach the number.

Amazing turnaround at the 'Stick...

New York Giants (+3.5) over DALLAS COWBOYS: Speaking of the Cards, Dallas is still licking their wounds after last week’s brutal OT meltdown in Arizona. Expect the unexpected in this rivalry, which is why the Giants will probably win (and certainly keep it close in Big D) with the ‘Boys returning the favor in a few weeks at Met Life Stadium. Bottom line? I trust Eli more than I trust Romo. Roll with Big Blue.

BT’s “6 Pack of Picks” Version 6.0

Stop the madness!


Week 1: 4-2 ATS

Week 2: 4-1-1 ATS

Week 3: 3-3 ATS

Week 4: 3-3 ATS

Week 5: 4-2 ATS

Season to date: 18-11-1 ATS

Week 6: (home team in CAPS)

Expect a magical day at the Coliseum.

OAKLAND RAIDERS (-7) over Cleveland Browns: While the porous Raiders run defense should, in theory, prove the perfect tonic for Peyton Hillis’ early season struggles, this one’s all about Al. After an emotional last-second win last week in Houston, the Silver and Black return home for what could become, possibly, the most memorable Raiders game of all-time. Al Davis’ shadow looms that large in the Bay Area, and should fuel the home team early. If the emotions work in reverse, eventually, talent will take over, and from top to bottom, the Raiders are simply more talented. The key is to keep Josh Cribbs out of the end zone on special teams. If they do, the Raiders cruise by double figures, with McFadden making a run at two bills on the ground. Rest in peace, Al.

NEW YORK JETS (-7) over Miami Dolphins (Monday Night): The Jets have some potentially crippling deficiencies, including, for the first time during the Rex Ryan Era, a fractured locker room.

The wheels are loose, but they're not off yet.

Chemistry aside, their defense is quickly eroding and their offense has become very predictable. Still, after a three game roadie thru Oakland, Baltimore and New England, the Jets catch one of the worst teams at the perfect time. With Matt Moore subbing for the injured Chad Henne, expect Ryan to dial up blitzes and hand Mark Sanchez a short field all night. With the Bills showing no signs of slowing down, and the Pats still the Pats, the Jets are hardly a lock for the playoffs. Still, simply put, they are supposed to bludgeon Miami. And they will. Jets, BIG.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS/Jacksonville Jaguars OVER 40: The Steelers average 20.4 ppg, 23rd in football, while the Jags average an anemic 12 ppg, 31st in football. Based on the stats and the math, the play here is the under. However, the Steelers mind-boggling performance in Week 1 (35-7 loss to the Ravens) weighs down their point-per-game average significantly. Instead, they should come close to duplicating last week’s drubbing of the Titans, when they sniffed 40 points. Basically, you’re hoping for 10-13 points from the Jags, and expecting Pittsburgh to do the rest of the heavy lifting. Remember, it’s not that I love the Steelers this season. I don’t. Personally, I think they, like the Jets, are slipping from the “elite” radar. But I love them here. Make sense? Roll with over.

New Orleans Saints (-4.5) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Considering that the Saints lone loss came to the Packers, and they ARE 4-1, something still seems as if it’s missing. When you dig deeper into some of their games, they simply haven’t been overly impressive. Before pulling away from the Jags in Week 4, they were locked in a 14-10 death match in the 3 rd quarter, and followed that up with a narrow 3 point win last week versus Carolina. The Bucs, meanwhile, are still licking their wounds after being pummeled 48-3 in San Francisco last Sunday. File that in the “aberration” file. Still, this is a gut play, and my gut says the Saints are due for a double-figure win. It”s been a while. Lay the points.

St. Louis Rams @ GREEN BAY PACKERS OVER 48: Last season, one NFL team averaged 30 points per game, the Pats. So far in 2011, six teams are hanging the same amount on opponents, and no team is more prolific than the Packers. Basically, GB has turned the NFL into the SEC, averaging 35 points per game and doing so seemingly, without even breaking a sweat. Sure, the defense has a little work to do (allowed 23 points to Carolina and Denver), but with the Rams down to their FOURTH and FIFTH CB on the depth chart, this one gets ugly fast, as Aaron Rodgers threatens 500 yards in the air. Take the over.

Dallas Cowboys (+7) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I know, I know, the Pats are simply too good, right? I’m not so sure about that. They have weaknesses, they just do a great job of masking them, and with the exception of the Bills, have yet to face a team capable of exploiting those deficiencies. Enter, Dallas. Coming off a well-timed bye, Tony Romo is expected to have his receiving corp in tact for the first time since Week 1. Mix in three new starters on the New England’s offensive line, and DeMarcus Ware and Co. should punish Brady, who was sacked a season-high 4 times last week versus the Jets. I expect Dallas to hang, and quite honestly, wouldn’t be surprised if they flat-out win. Buckle in, this is the game of the week, not Niners-Lions. ‘Boys reward your faith, and cover the number.

4-2 last week? Yup, you guessed it: pimpin' once more.


Trouble brewing…

Joe Willie's firing heat...and the Jets are returning serve.

This isn’t going to end well.

Not because the Jets are sentenced to a lifetime of unfulfilled promise and expectations.

Nope.

Has nothing to do with “Same old Jets” either.

Personally, I’ve always resisted such a pessimistic outlook on things. Expect to lose, and you will lose.

It’s not going to end well, because, pssssssssst!…the Jets are simply overrated.

Fatally flawed, plain and simple.

To be fair, they’ve earned the national spotlight. You don’t stumble upon consecutive conference title games without doing a multitude of things well, not at this level.

The problem is, the Jets simply don’t do enough things well. More specifically, they no longer do well…what they used to do so well.

Natural pass rush? Still waiting.

Offensive line? Brutal. With Mangold? Average at best.

Running game? Non-existent.

Playmakers on defense? Don’t see many.

The punter sucks.

The offensive coordinator is maddeningly overrated.

Leadership? Did you see how fast “captain” Santonio Holmes passed the buck after Sunday’s beat-down in Baltimore?

“It starts up front with our big guys, they need to do a better job protecting Mark and Mark has to do a better job making his reads and getting the ball to playmakers,” Holmes said.

That’s not leadership.

That’s called “Imploding 101.”

Pointing fingers is always dangerous, especially in New York where each day is a soap opera, each game a season.

Even worse, their identity doesn’t remotely match their true identity. Amazingly, people still buy into the “Ground & Pound” crap.

Sounds good, too bad it’s anything but true. The Jets can’t line up and blow anyone off the line of scrimmage for 60 minutes, and with slow LB’ers, the entire middle of the field is like centerfield at the old Yankee Stadium: cavernous.

Sorry, but Darrelle Revis can only be in one place at one time.

Bart Scott can no longer cash checks his mouth so desperately wants to write, and as talented as Antonio Cromartie is, he lacks discipline and natural instincts.

That’s a problem.

But perhaps, not their biggest.

Mark Sanchez might be.

I like Sanchez, I do. I know he wants to win, and I know he puts the necessary time in to succeed, but in terms of pure, natural NFL talent, he lags painfully behind the next breed of signal-callers. Even more alarming is that his ultimate upside seems much lower than anyone imagined several years ago.

Without hesitating, I’m pretty sure you could rip off 15 names you’d rather have as your franchise QB. If you really give it some thought, that list could swell to 18, or 20.

His TD/INT ratio remains poor, and his completion % is simply unacceptable. 54.5 %. Are you kidding me? That’s not bad. That’s HORRENDOUS.

Imagine a starting pitcher with say, a 5.76 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP.

That’s where he currently resides, roughly.

Considering the way the game has evolved offensively the past few seasons, it’s fair to wonder whether the Jets drafted the wrong guy.

Josh Freeman is better, and it’s not as close as you think.

He has the look, but does he have enough game?

As if there weren’t enough obstacles to overcome, the Jets are now tempting fate, laughing in the face of karma.

kar·ma

[kahr-muh]

noun

1.

Hinduism, Buddhism . action, seen as bringing upon oneselfinevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in areincarnation:
in Hinduism one of the means of reachingBrahman. Compare bhakti ( def. 1 ) , jnana.
2.

Theosophy . the cosmic principle according to which eachperson is rewarded or punished in one incarnation 
accordingto that person’s deeds in the previous incarnation.
3.

fate; destiny. Synonyms: predestination, predetermination,lot, kismet.
4.

the good or bad emanations felt to be generated bysomeone or something: Lets get out of here. This place has bad karma.
Which brings us to Namath.
I know, I know, Joe comes across as aloof and at times, petty, during his weekly radio spots, complaining and voicing his displeasure with certain things. Dismiss him at your own peril, but, I think he was seriously onto something last week, following the thrashing in Oaktown.

“I think these guys might be believing that they’re better than they are,” Namath said. “Rex has been the only coach that we know, in maybe the history of the game that I’m familiar with, that keeps continually telling his guys how good they are. And they have been pretty good — pretty good — but they haven’t won a championship yet. I think they’ve got to remember that there’s room for improvement.”

One thing we know about the Jets, and for the most part, it’s a good thing, is that nothing and nobody is off limits. Take a swipe at our guy, and we’ll take two at yours. Remember when Rex Ryan said that a few years ago? It’s been their mantra, and it’s worked. It’s sparked unity within the locker room and hope within the long-suffering fan base. That’s a good thing.

Unless you’re taking a swipe at Joe Namath, and Ryan didn’t hesitate.

That is anything but good.

“Namath can come in here, and if he can still throw, we’ll have him as a backup quarterback, but you know what? He doesn’t know our team.”

Backup quarterback? Namath?

And because one good insult deserves another, Matt Slauson joined the party after Rex’s 1-2 combo:

“We don’t care one bit what Joe Namath has to say. He means nothing to us.”

Matt Slauson!

Wow.

The season is 25% complete and the Jets under Ryan have always bucked the odds. They win on the road, regularly. They win playoff games on the road, regularly.

But there’s a fine-line between being aggressive and cocky, and reckless and irresponsible.

The Jets are crossing that line, and in this league, you can’t always go back once you do.

They need to nip this immediately, and as always, it starts with the coach, followed  by the QB.

I have every reason to believe Rex will take care of his business, he always has.

The QB?

For the first time, I have serious doubts.

Hey Mark, it’s your huddle and your offense.

Fix it.

Before it’s too late.

BT’s “6 Pack-of-Picks” Week 4

Your picks, are served!

Week 1: 4-2 ATS

Week 2: 4-1-1 ATS

Week 3: 3-3 ATS

Season to date: 11-6-1 ATS

Week 4: (home team in CAPS)

CLEVELAND BROWNS (PK) OVER Tennessee Titans: Perhaps Vegas knows something we don’t (entirely plausible), but this line jumped out immediately to me. Not only did I peg the Browns as a sleeper in the AFC over the summer, but so much of Tennessee’s early season success is a result of Kenny Britt’s explosion at wideout. With Britt lost for the season (torn ACL, MCL), Matt Hasselbeck becomes ordinary, which allows Cleveland to focus solely on Chris Johnson. Look for an emotional boost in the stands with the return of crowd favorite Peyton Hillis, and watch the Browns roll to their first 3-1 start in nearly a decade. Don’t expect a lot of points, but expect exactly what you should play: another win for the Dawg Pound.

He's back. Ride the "Rhino"

Buffalo Bills (-3) OVER CINCINNATI BENGALS: There’s no question the Bills have talent, we’re way past that. The next step, especially for a franchise with no recent winning pedigree, is to avoid reading the press clippings, stay the course and remain hungry. Following an emotional, inspiring win over the Pats, that’s not as easy as it seems. Still, given the apathy that’s already settled into the ‘Nati fan base (only 43,000 people showed up for their home opener vs. the Niners), the Bills have one advantage in that a road game takes on more of a neutral feel. Look for the Bills to pounce early lead, and settle into cruise mode somewhere near the middle of the 3rd quarter. The Bills 4-0? Absolutely.

Atlanta Falcons (-4) OVER SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: On the surface, it’s difficult  to pinpoint Atlanta’s early-season inconsistencies and erratic play given their overall talent base. However, upon deeper review, the offensive line jumps out as the main culprit. Matty “Ice” is melting under an avalanche of pressure up front, and it’s impacting the bottom line. “We are very disappointed with the way we have protected our quarterback in the first three ballgames,” Head Coach Mike Smith said. “We’ll have to look at what’s going wrong schematically as well as evaluate our personnel.” Translation: They better, otherwise the franchise QB will wind up on IR. Already sacked 13 times, Ryan has swallowed turf at least four times in each of the first three games. Not good for a team expected by many, to be playing into January. Seattle’s the perfect remedy, despite winning last week. They are still garbage. Treat them like such. Falcons roll.

Detroit Lions/DALLAS COWBOYS OVER 46: I like Tony Romo, always have. I also lived and worked in Detroit early in my career, so their revival takes on greater meaning for me knowing just how passionate and hungry their loyal fans are for a winner. Truth be told, I believe that both of these teams will make the playoffs, but there are a few variables that make this one tough to call: can Dallas snap the ball straight? Will Detroit handle prosperity well? Personally, I have no idea, however, with Stafford, Best, Johnson, Romo, Jones, Bryant and Witten on the field, points should come early and often. Roll with the over.

Still not a fan of Romo? Fine. But give the man credit: he always gets up.

New York Giants (-1) OVER ARIZONA CARDINALS: Cards receive a boost in the backfield with the return of Beanie Wells, but I’m not sure it’s enough to slow down Big Blue in the desert. Eli Manning is playing well, and brings his 104.3 QB rating back into the stadium of his greatest professional triumph: Super Bowl XLII. Doubt Victor Cruz ever duplicates what he did last week versus Philly, but with the return of Mario Manningham, he won’t have to. This is a matchup of NFC East (arguably, the best in football) vs. NFC West (undeniably, the worst in football) Don’t over-think this one. By installing the visiting G Men as favorites, it’s obvious Vegas didn’t. Generally, home field advantage is worth 3 points, yet the Giants are laying a point. They are flat-out telling you the Giants are better. They are. Side with Coughlin’s crew.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (-3) OVER New York Jets: Remove Rex Ryan and his booming voice from the equation for a moment, and what are you left with when evaluating the Jets?  A porous offensive line, a spotty run game, zero natural pass rush and really, at the end of the day, just one elite defender in Darrelle Revis. The Jets receive a lot of national run, and they deserve it with back-to-back AFC Title games on their resume. However, their LB’ers are slooooow, something Ray Rice, like McFadden, will expose this week. For the first time in years, I actually believe the Jets are regressing. I watched the film on the Raiders game from last Sunday, and quite frankly, it’s worse than I originally thought. Mix in some bad karma with Joe Willie and Rex exchanging barbs, and it just feels like the Jets are about to enter a bit of a chaotic phase.

The arrow appears to be pointing in the wrong direction for Gang Green.

We’re not done yet…

Destination: The Lone Star State

Is there a franchise more maddening in the history of this great city than our beloved New York Jets?

At least the Islanders had the guts to make a sharp turn onto “Insignificant Boulevard” years ago. They don’t hide their lack of sizzle, as evidenced by the Disco-inspired dump they still call home. They have a small, albeit loyal and raucous fan base, sure, but for the most part, seem comfortable playing in the shadow of the grand metropolis.

For years, the New York Jets lagged painfully behind the Yankees, Knicks and Giants in two important categories: marketability and street-cred, in no specific order. Many of their off-season acquisitions failed to measure up, and for the most part, the coaching tree is lined with a bunch of uninspiring, unsuccessful names. They tried.

They simply failed.

Year after year after year.

The Jets were a national punch line, and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it as fans.

Until recently.

The Jets are clearly marketable, as shown by the summer-long love affair with “Hard Knocks” on HBO, and the prime-time games that peppered their regular season schedule. They were also the marquee matchup on Wild-Card Saturday, playing prime-time against Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Personally, I think the organization increased it’s Q rating for good with the signing of Brett Favre, and while many fans are selective in what they recall from that season, it represents a turn in the organization’s philosophy. No longer were the Jets trying to replicate the Patriots mundane (but highly effective approach). Instead, the Jets showed guts, and by rolling the dice, finally occupied a space on the national landscape–something they rarely enjoyed.

The Jets finally figured out that fans crave ownership of a team, and the way to do that is to put people who relate to us, front and center. It’s OK to make mistakes, just get up, laugh it off, and continue the journey.

Charts and data and “due-dilligence” yes, it’s an integral part of the game, but we respond to emotion, not graphs and buzz words.

Laugh at Favre all you want, but his mere presence forced people to view the team differently. Suddenly, they were a focal point of SportsCenter, and were no longer the tri-state’s “other team.” They were 8 and 3, and firmly entrenched in the Super Bowl discussion after beating the Titans and Pats in back-to-back games.

They had momentum, and they had cache.

I also believe dealing with the Favre circus conditioned Mike Tannenbaum to take more chances. Chance # 1: Braylon Edwards. Chance # 2: Santonio Holmes. Chance # 3: Antonio Cromartie.

Tannenbaum learned to work with increased scrutiny and exposure, which I also believe allowed him to take a chance on Rex Ryan, which quite frankly, has changed the Jets forever.

Rather than hide, the Jets went all out with daily shows on SNY and increased radio exposure on 1050. And it’s worked.

Aside from Joe Namath, the Jets have had a handful of shooting stars, players who momentarily lit up the NFL skies before eventually flaming out for various reasons: Klecko and Gastineau, Toon and Keyshawn. Vinny and Chrebet had legions of fans, but aside from # 12, the Jets have never raced out of the tunnel prior to kickoff with all eyes on one specific player.

Never.

As consistent and productive as Curtis Martin was, did he ever resonate nationwide like say, Marshall Faulk, or Terrell Davis? Marcus Allen? Eric Dickerson?

If you close your eyes, and try to capture one lasting NFL image this season, player or coach or team, it’s probably Rex Ryan. He’s colorful, sure, bombastic, you bet. But he’s smart.

Damn smart.

The way he handles the psychology of the sport is amazing, deflecting criticism and inspiring simultaneously. Lots of coaches push buttons, but Rex has the guts and instincts to push them while the rest of the world is watching, and he does so without a net.

What do you think the Giants are thinking, now that several players have gone on record saying they wish their head coach was “more like Rex?”

Deep down, many of you are terrified, terrified that the Jets will fall painfully short, and stomp your football soul. Again. They will manipulate your mind and emotions like other Jets teams have in the past:

Miami, 1982.

Denver, 1998.

Indianapolis, 2009.

Not this season. Not with this coach.

It's time.

I urge you to embrace the stage, embrace this opportunity. Forget the ’83 draft and the “fake spike” and Blair Thomas and Rich Kotite and “HC of the NYJ.”

For once, think like a winner.

Rather than lament the past, and expect the worst, enjoy this ride and adopt the mindset of your head coach.

Dallas better tighten the screws for the storm that’s about to hit in a few weeks.

The New York Jets.

Yes, the New York Jets.

Herm Edwards: unplugged with Mac & Tierney

as heard on 1050 ESPN New York with Mac & Tierney:

On his personal experience dealing with difficult press conferences as a Head Coach:

“Well, when you’re in those situations all of them are hard but the hardest one I had to handle obviously is 9/11…nothing comes close to that. It starts there and ends there and nothing ever will come close to that. Without that there are some other deals that you deal with, what Coach Ryan is dealing with is always interesting to say the least, in the fact you have player whose priorities are a little screwed up right now and doesn’t realize the importance of how we have to prioritize our responsibilities over the regular season is a little bit different than the offseason… and what you do and how you act during the season is just as important as the season, but now it’s the season and you are focused on, and have six months committed to what we do and try to win football games and again, this is a good player that got himself in a situation that no one likes and now you have to make a decision as a head coach–and every coach is faced with this at times when it becomes a public distraction for your football team–I think according to how you look at it and the rules you set forth prior to your football team before that action even took place…in other words, at training camp there are things you talk (about) to your football team, especially during the season about how you conduct yourself and if things come up this is what is going to happen to you.  So, I think this conversation was already talked about…I know when I coached, at training camp, I let it be known that hey, when you do certain things this is what’s going to happen to you. I don’t care what the rules are, the regulations are, I’m the head coach and I’m going to do what I see is fit for this football team, so when you handle that early , when it comes up, it’s addressed and its done…and when you make the decisions it’s really not hard.”

On whether Rex Ryan handled Braylon Edwards’ situation properly:

“No, I mean,  I don’t think so, he has to do what he feels best. I had the same thing happen to me with John Abraham and I benched him, and we still won.  I mean everyone handles it different and Rex has to handle it his way. And that’s the great thing about being a head coach you can do it the way you want to do it. No one can tell you what you can do. For me,  I know myself, I know how I’m built, I know what I am made of, I know things that bother me and players know if they cross the line with me you understand. But the players understand these things way before anything happens. I’m not just talking so they know when it happens, guess what: every player in that locker room knew on Tuesday that John Abraham wasn’t playing Sunday, there is no way he was going to play and I didn’t care what the league said or anyone else said, you want to fine me then fine me, but John isn’t playing.”


On the recent turmoil of the New York Giants:

“Well,  (I think) no one likes to lose and if you get a player, heat of the moment, he’s a little disappointed how he and the team played. But I always tell players I’ll never tell you what to say but realize before you say it, how many people it’s going to affect. Sometimes you say things and it becomes oh-ohu, what did I say, and now not only do you have to hear about it for the whole week, but everyone else in that locker room is going to be hearing about it all week as well.  That’s OK, players get emotiona, you can never tell players they can’t talk to the media because they need to talk and get certain things off their chest.  But understand when it comes out of your mouth who else this is going to affect.  Is it going to distract this football team from their game against the Titans?  So I get it, I have been there before, I heard players say something and I’m going man, Coach isn’t going to like that…but that is just what you go thru.”

On a possible return to coaching:

“I’ll tell you which one, but understand this: if you get a job as a head coach in the National Football League it’s a privilege, trust me and they are all good teams. They all got good players, every team has about 20 good players, and if you are lucky you have a couple more. If you’re really lucky those guys are key guys such as the QB’s, and the dominant left tackle, there are some positions that are more important than others. You know what one team I find really interesting right now, and I shouldn’t be saying this because I am out of the NFC East and you learn to hate these guys, are the Cowboys. They are very interesting because they are like the Ryder Cup team, they got all these guys, great players, but they just can’t figure out how to win together. They can’t figure that out yet and I can’t figure out why. I sit there and watch them and I go this is amazing to me, they have a great defense, got a good mobile QB, good receivers, and not one but three good running backs, and you sit and watch them play and  you wonder what are you guys doing? Now they would kill me in Philly if I went to the Cowboys, we are talking a hypothetical here, right. I’ll be calling you next year discussing a different team.”

This town is green…for now

 

Granted, in the history department, it’s no contest, not even close.  

It’s The Globtrotters vs. The Generals, Dartmouth vs. JUCO’s in the library and Rocky vs. Lang–Part I. 

In essence, it’s a complete and utter mismatch. 

One organization, the Giants, has a secure lineage with the league, proactive and  instrumental in sharing funds and preventing the NFL from basically becoming MLB. Feel free to thank the Giants and the Steelers for competitive balance, and it’s a beautiful thing. Their trophy case is pretty full as well, all the way from Parcells to Coughlin, from Simms to Eli, from Taylor to Strahan. 

New York Giant fans have earned their platform, their stage, and to their credit, they have gracefully protected it and shielded it from their co-tenant, the New York Jets. 

For decades. 

Despite Joe Willie’s guarantee, the Jets timeline remains a snap shots of fumbles, failed draft picks, fake spikes, and empty (burning) seats. Yes, they’ve enjoyed intermittent success, and long ago managed to escape the unforgiving cellar of pro sports. However, unlike the Giants, that ascension rarely lasts, and the fall usually results in a demoralizing and resounding thump. 

And usually, the climb back towards relevance is sheer and utter hell. 

Jet fans know that, and Jet fans accept that. Basically, the Giants always matter, and the Jets rarely do. 

Want proof? Stare at the logo below, go ahead. Is there a trace of enjoyment, a modicum of success that enters your realm upon examining it? The answer is no. Study it long enough, and you’ll probably throw up. 

 

Sick yet? 

The excruciating part is accepting the fact that until they win a Super Bowl in my lifetime, I’ve signed up for a terminal amount of pain. 

The easy part is enjoying last season’s riveting finish coupled with the flashy start to camp and the 2010 season. 

The Jets are the hot commodity, one of the teams to beat, and currently, offer a blueprint for all teams to emulate: a demonstrative and gifted head coach, a rock-solid defense supported by myriad offensive weapons, anchored by an elite offensive line protecting a blossoming franchise QB. 

The Giants? Are they even the 3rd best team in their division? While they certainly have their QB in Eli, when you truly evaluate the two overriding issues in camp thus far, it’s not pleasant. The O-line is aging and on the cusp of a shakeup, and the defense is battling injuries everywhere. 

Still, the pessimist points to the inevitable fall, how the Jets will quickly abdicate the “throne” and become peasants once more, and face the wrath of NFL fans everywhere. 

“They talk too much.” 

“They’re still the Jets.” 

“It’s still a Giants town, always has been, always will be.” 

Funny, I don’t think it is, hardly. Not now, and not last year. 

Mid-80’s flashback: the Yankees, even with all of their championships and Hall of Fame plaques, were shoved aside by the Mets. The Mets ran this town the same way the Jets are hoping to strengthen their grip on the city–with arrogance, with personality, and with results. 

They pummeled you and they laughed at you, and if you resisted, fists flew. Ask Eric Davis. 

From Day 1, Rex Ryan planted the seeds of bravado, much like Davey Johnson did with Doc, Keith and Strawberry, and they followed his lead. They operated without rules, and without a net. Watch any Ryan press conference and you’ll quickly discover, he’s doing the same thing. 

It’s great if it works, embarrassing if it does not. Not an inch of middle ground. 

Defining relevance and buzz and marketability are pretty tough, and the results are often blurred. Still, some things cannot be ignored, and the HBO cameras and national TV appearances confirm the Jets current stranglehold on the market. 

Unlike the last stadium, the ownership papers for this one are up for grabs. Who wants 'em?

 

And there’s not a damn thing Giant fans can do about it, really, aside from A) hope the Jets fail miserably and B) pray the Giants successfully patched together the 3rd worse defense in football a year ago this offseason. 

The Jets are the hot ticket, and their jerseys are flying off the rack. By now, you have your Eli jersey, and your Tuck jersey and your Jacobs jersey. Actually, the rack at Modell’s is pretty stale when it comes to the blue jerseys, no? Which one are you racing out to buy? You’re not, because quite frankly, no one knows what the future holds, and long-term, there are few guarantees on this roster, including the head coach. 

Do you honestly believe that the stripe that punctuates this great city, at this moment, isn’t green, compared to the usual blue? 

Of course it is. 

It doesn’t mean the Jets have a better history, they never will, and that’s not the point. 

Forget the past, and absorb the moment, take note, because at this particular moment, you better believe that this city is dripping with green spray paint–despite the feeble and immature rejections of those wearing blue. 

Then again, I get it, and I always have: fans are fans, and sometimes passion gets in the way of the facts, and that’s OK. 

But deep down, Giant fans are perceptive enough to know, and curious enough to sneak a peek at the real story in town, and that story is the New York Jets. 

Like I said, this town is green. 

Game on.

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