And they’re (almost) off!

AFC East

Still the man, but for how much longer?

Still the man, but for how much longer?

1. New England Patriots (11-5) Brady’s arm, strong running game and elite coaching enables Pats to feast on shallow division once more.

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8) Improving, but porous O-line could derail season. Liked this team a lot more in July.

3. Buffalo Bills (5-11) You want to believe, but where’s the evidence?

4. New York Jets (4-12) The circus is already underway. Dig in, Jets fans. 

AFC North

Absolute beast, and only getting better.

Absolute beast, and only getting better.

1. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) Most talented roster in AFC must take the next step: playoff success. I’m confident they will.

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7) Proud champions will not go as quietly as some think.

3. Cleveland Browns (7-9) Ascending, but not fast enough. Still, the Brownies could catch a few quality teams napping.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10) Descending, but proud. The logo stands for something, always has. Will it be enough to avoid the basement?

AFC South

Year 2 of the "Luck Era."

Year 2 of the “Luck Era.”

1. Houston Texans (11-5) Plenty of divisional wins in forecast, but how far can you truly ride Schaub? Not sold.

2. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) Luck’s efficiency improves, while the overall W/L record takes a baby step back.

3. Tennessee Titans (7-9) The absolute definition of irrelevant: good enough to avoid # 1 overall pick talk, nowhere near good enough to further the conversation toward anything pertinent.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) Yikes. Hello, blackouts. Again.

AFC West

Plenty of regular season wins, but plenty of January blemishes for Peyton.

Plenty of regular season wins and plenty of January blemishes for Peyton.

1. Denver Broncos (11-5) I like Denver, but not nearly as much as others. Good team, but far from dominant. Could be bumpy at points, particularly the first 5-6 weeks.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) Andy Reid slowly cleans up the stench from last season as Alex Smith dinks and dunks KC to a winning record. Barely.

3. San Diego Chargers (7-9) Crossroads for Rivers, which way will he turn? Very tough team to gauge. Show me.

4. Oakland Raiders (2-14) Pryor adds intrigue, but the trenches are pitiful. Overall dearth of talent leads to another coaching change in Oakland. This team is B-A-D.

NFC East

No greater unknown in the NFL. Is he ready?

No greater unknown in the NFL. Is he truly ready?

1. Dallas Cowboys (10-6) I’ve played this game before and been burned. But really, working in definitive terms, who’s better?

2. Washington Redskins (9-7) It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.

3. New York Giants (8-8) Poor LB’er play and decaying pass rush will force Eli to win shootouts every week. He’s good, but he’s not that good. Let’s be honest: he was spotty last year.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (5-11) I believe in Chip Kelly, just not immediately.

NFC North

Will the leader of the Pack once again lead his team to a divisional crown?

Will the leader of the Pack once again lead his team to a divisional crown?

1. Green Bay Packers (10-6) Defense was sliced up at the ‘Stick last January. Good team, but not a lock for divisional supremacy. 

2. Chicago Bears (9-7) If Cutler clicks with his new HC, this division goes thru the Windy City.

3. Detroit Lions (8-8) Bush helps, but there’s something about this team…not sold.

4. Minnesota Vikings (6-10) Playoffs last season, this season, not so much.

NFC South

Truly elite?

Truly elite? I believe so. Matty “Ice” has arrived.

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5) Class of an interesting division. Championship balance?

2.  New Orleans Saints (10-6) Welcome back, Sean Payton. Welcome back, playoffs.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) How will Freeman respond? Is Revis 100% healthy? Is Schiano the right man for this job? Lots of questions, are there enough answers? Could go either way.

4. Carolina Panthers (7-9) Exciting, but flawed.

NFC West

Flip a coin for divisional supremacy.

Flip a coin.

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4) Super Bowl talent, athleticism and depth. Best team in the NFC.

2. San Francisco 49ers (10-6) Second best team in football’s best division. Love Kaepernick, but he’ll miss Crabtree. Secondary issues, too.

3. St. Louis Rams (8-8) They’re coming, but in all probability, remain a year away. Still, buckle that chin strap when Fisher’s team rolls in.

4. Arizona Cardinals (6-10) With a little luck, the Cards might hang around into December. Can Patrick Peterson make an impact at WR? Bruce Arians inherits decent talent in the desert.

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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.

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.

 

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 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.


A Bunch for Brady

So, you think this kid Brady might make it in the league someday, huh?

Amazingly, Tom Brady is on pace for 8,272 yards and 64 TD’s. That’s EIGHT-THOUSAND-TWO-HUNDRED-AND-SEVENTY-TWO-YARDS-AND-SIXTY-FOUR-TOUCHDOWNS.

What’s even more amazing, is that I didn’t even flinch when typing those numbers, and I’m pretty sure you didn’t either when reading them. Remember, this is the same QB who effortlessly tossed 50 TD’s a few years ago, and with four already in his back pocket, and the Dolphins on the schedule again, hey, why the hell not?

While 8 large surely is a stretch, is 6000 yards possible?

Absolutely.

Twice, in league history has a QB surpassed the magical 5K mark: Dan Marino in 1984 (5,084) and Drew Brees in 2008 (5,069). One all-time great, and the other quickly working his way up the ladder. Unlike baseball’s (once) cherished single-season HR record, this number will only be reached by icons.

Roger Maris was pretty good. Actually, for a few seasons, he was really good.

Tom Brady is an icon.

Big difference.

Look at it this way: if Tom Brady lights up the Chargers like he did Miami, he will already have roughly 1,000 yards passing for the season.

24 Z Slot hook....ahhh, screw it, just run somewhere, I'll find you. On two, break!

On September 18th.

Need some additional context?

Donovan McNabb will need 4 seasons to catch Brady’s potential two-week output.

Clearly, the reason Brady even has a chance to crack the Y6-K is pretty simple: he’s simply too good for this league.

Yes, the league with 220 pound corners with 4.3 speed and LB’ers seemingly built in laboratories, this guy continues, really, to do whatever the hell he feels like.

Which brings us to another integral piece of the puzzle: his coach.

Forget the defensive background, it’s an act. Bill Belichick takes perverse pleasure in beating the crap out of people. The more the scoreboard flips, and the higher the numbers go, the better. It’s almost like a drug. I mean, really, this guy just loves emasculating professional athletes.

In the pursuit of the 6,000, that’s a key component. Up 20 + in the 3rd quarter? Let’s run a go route!

And, as if the guy needs any more help, well, here it is:

The lockout has left secondaries in shambles, creating yet another competitive advantage for teams with offensive chemistry and consistent roster personnel.

Check.

The amount of 300+ yard passers in Week 1 was eye-opening, and alarming to the point where a little research was in order.

Compare the 1st Week of 2002, and how many QB’s tossed the football around so freely:

Kerry Collins, 342 yards (Giants)

Shane Matthews, 327 yards (Redskins)

Kelly Holcomb, 326 yards (Browns)

Kurt Warner, 315 yards (Rams)

How about five years ago, for a more recent snap shot?

Chad Pennington, 319 yards (Jets)

Donovan McNabb, 314 yards (Eagles)

Kurt Warner, 301 yards (Cardinals)

This past weekend?

How much time ‘ya got?

Brady, 517 yards (Patriots)

Cam Newton, 422 yards (Panthers)

Drew Brees, 419 yards (Saints)

Chad Henne, 416 yards (Dolphins)

Tony Romo, 342 yards (Cowboys)

Phillip Rivers, 335 yards (Chargers)

Mark Sanchez, 335 yards (Jets)

Matt Ryan, 319 yards (Falcons)

Aaron Rodgers, 312 yards (Packers)

Jay Cutler, 312 yards (Bears)

Kevin Kolb, 309 yards (Cardinals)

Rex Grossman, 305 yards (Redskins)

Matthew Stafford, 305 yards (Lions)

Kyle Orton, 304 yards (Broncos)

Basically, everyone’s doing it, which means Tom Brady will do it a gazillion times better than everyone else.

Basically, everyone.

6000 yards.

It’s coming.

As much as I want to hate the guy, it’s tough. He’s really THAT good.

Jordan good.

The rest of the league better pray he doesn’t get greedy in the next few years.

Imagine Tom Brady on steroids?


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