The best drama on TV is back for yet another season.
No, Game of Thrones didn’t get renewed. Fuck that show, I hate that show. I’m referring to the 50th season of the National Footbaw League (well it technically started Thursday, but let’s pretend like I didn’t just come up with the idea for this blog on Friday). Like the true degenerate that I am, I’m going to be wagering lots of money this particular season, so I decided to record my picks against the spread (ATS) along with my friend David’s. David is too pussy to actually put money down, so I let him in on the fun as well so he can feel like he accomplished something when a pick finally goes his way.
We’re going to provide a pick ATS as well as units wagered for each and every game from here on out, as well as our thoughts on each game. Concluding each of our picks will be our Lock of the Week pick citing the game we feel most confident about. The remaining weeks’ picks will be published every Saturday, with David and I recording our Thursday picks with each other. Simple as that.
Before this turns into a 10,000 word intro akin to that fuck, Matthew Berry, in his columns, let’s just cut the shit and get on to the picks.
Tucci’s Week 1 Picks (1-0-0, +50 units)
Steelers (+7.5) at Patriots 50 units
Wow, what a musical. I actually bet this game IRL.
Packers (-7) at Bears 40 units
This isn’t my lock of the week, but god damn I’ll be embarrassed if I get this one wrong. I’m from Chicago, I’ve followed the team all my life, I can find more reasons the Bears are shitty than you can, truss mi daddy.
Fuck whoever decided not to put this game in a nationally televised time slot. I somewhat enjoy being able to turn off the TV at half time, free to do anything other than watch that sorry ass team representing my city. I don’t need to dive into any numbers to justify my selection in this one. That green motherfucker Aaron Rodgers always takes an enormous shit into the mouth of the Bears defense. Name a time, a place and bring the Bears defense along and Rodgers will surely shit on them, I guarantee it.
No Jordy Nelson, no problem. The Pack will probably be up by at least two touchdowns by half time, and the Bears only chance to ruin this pick is in garbage time.
Texans (-1) vs. Chiefs 5 units
Oh, fuck this game.
I feel sorry for fans of both teams who will have to endure this shit for 3 hours Sunday. I can see the play-by-play already: Alex Smith completes pass for 3 yards. Jamaal Charles rushes for 4 yards. Alex Smith incomplete pass. Dustin Colquitt 47 yard punt. Rinse and repeat, but with whoever the fuck the Texans are starting. The only reason I’m taking the Texans in this one is because they’re at home and they have the better defense in my eyes. If Clowney can play more than 4 snaps without leaving the game, the Texans should this eek this one out by 3 or something.
Also, shoutout to Eric Berry for coming back from cancer.
Colts (-2.5) at Bills 10 units
TRAP BET ALERT! TRAP BET ALERT!
In my honest opinion, I’d stay far away from this one. There are just too many unknowns in this game for me to confidently say either of these teams can cover. The Bills have a brand new coach, brand new running back, and a brand new quarterback. It wouldn’t shock me if Indy wins 31-0. It also wouldn’t shock me if Buffalo pounds out a 16-14 win. Rex Ryan knows how to coach a defense, and the Bills had one of the better defenses last season, finishing fourth overall in total defense (312.2 yards allowed per game). I expect Rex to have those boys ready.
So why am I taking the Colts? Because they have Andrew Fucking Luck, that’s why. I can’t rely on a team with an entirely unproven offense to beat out the best offense in the game (in my opinion). The Bills may end up being one of the tougher teams to wager on or against this season.
Jaguars (+3) vs. Panthers 15 units
I’m a huge fan of the up-and-coming teams, and the Jaguars are a perfect candidate, which is why I think they’ll be better than the usual this year. 2014 first overall pick Blake Bortles has looked like a very good QB in the preseason, showing poise in the pocket, a rocket arm, and elusiveness to buy the time he needs. Allen Robinson is probably the best wide receiver you never actually seen play. These two will finally be putting up points on the board in Jacksonville for the first time in a long time.
On the other hand, Cam Newton, also a former first overall pick, has the worst receiving help in the league. Panthers management tried their darnedest to get Newton some help with the selection of 6-foot-4 Devin Funchess in the 2nd round of this year’s draft, but he apparently isn’t even good enough to start over the mediocre Philly Brown and Ted Ginn. That wide receiver corps is shitty enough to even keep Cam from smiling his stupid smile. Also Jacksonville’s defense is underrated (53 fantasy points in the final 6 weeks of last season). I foresee Jacksonville winning this one outright.
Rams (+4) vs. Seahawks 10 units
Another tough cookie. Any inexperienced bettor will jump all over the Hawks minus the points. But anyone who’s ever made that bet in prior match ups knows that feeling of throwing money down the drain. It’s like a Cardinal rule that St. Louis plays Seattle close, I don’t get it. The Rams beat the almost 2014 Super Bowl Champion Seahawks while starting fucking Austin Davis. Now these guys have Nick Foles at the helm. Rams win 56-24. Just kidding.
If you remember last season, St. Louis pulled off two ballsy-ass trick plays in this game, one a clever faux punt return for a touchdown, and a fake punt pass on a short fourth down in order to ice the game. Jeff Fisher don’t give no fucks. I don’t think the Rams will need to rely on some fufu shit this week to cover, as their offense isn’t reliant on a QB thats as durable as wet toilet paper, and their defense is supremely talented at key positions. Seattle’s less than stellar offensive line will probably be the reason this one is close.
Dolphins (-3.5) at Redskins 25 units
The more I look at this spread, the more I think it’s a mistake. Vegas clearly doesn’t buy into the Dolphins offense, or at least its ability to play on the road. Washington did virtually nothing to improve quite possibly the worst defensive back corps in the NFL while Miami has vastly improved its offense, specifically the passing game. New additions TE Jordan Cameron, rookie WR Devante Parker, deep threat Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings join the immensely talented 2nd year WR Jarvis Landry. Can the mediocre Redskins offense, headed by Kirk Cousins, really be able to keep it close enough against a vaunted defense featuring the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Brent Grimes, two players near or at the top of their position? Doubtful.
Cardinals (-2.5) vs. Saints 10 units
I like the home edge here, basically. I expect the Cardinals defense to show up as it always has. Brees won’t be great on the road as usual, either. The Saints defense is far from scary and the Cardinals offense clicked when Carson Palmer actually played. A healthy Andre Ellington could mean a significant difference as well. John Brown’s potential emergence also adds a lot of depth to a talented receiving corps.
Chargers (-2.5) vs. Lions 5 units
This game seems so boring to me. Home team takes it.
Broncos (-4.5) vs. Ravens 30 units
Before the preseason started I thought this spread was a gigantic mistake. Now I’m a little more wary of it, but Peyton seems to figure it out no matter what, even if he starts to throw like a little girl all year. The Baltimore defense will be as legit as it’s always been, but I feel the team’s offense will struggle to put points on the board. Moral of the story: don’t bet against Peyton in the regular season.
Bengals (-3) at Raiders 20 units
This has trap bet written all over it, but I like Dalton a little bit more if he has weapons like WR Marvin Jones and TE Tyler Eifert back in the lineup, complementing the gawd A.J. Green and that very skrong two-headed RB duo in Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Oakland is on the come up, but it’s not this year. 2016 will be the year when Carr, Murray and Cooper turn the team around and vie for a playoff spot. If the Bengals blow this one, I already know it’ll be because of that soul-less ginger fuck Andy Dalton. Only he is capable of making that offense look as bad and inefficient as possible. Hopefully not this week.
Buccaneers (-3) vs. Titans 5 units
It hurts me to see such a talented player in QB Marcus Mariota in such a hopeless environment. I strongly believe Mariota is the better talent of the two by a mile, but Winston’s supporting cast will prevail. The Tampa Bay defense underperformed and I expect it to perform against a team with few weapons.
Cowboys (-6.5) at Giants 20 units
At first I thought the Giants could cover but then I looked at their recent history in the NFC East and changed it. The Giants will score a lot but the defense is so terrible that the Cowboys will score a lot more. Eye on the over for this game as well.
Eagles (-2.5) at Falcons 25 units
The Falcons are notoriously good at the Dome, but I feel this Eagles team just won’t be stopped if its facing a porous defense like Atlanta’s. Matt Ryan and company won’t be able to keep up in a barn burner. This will be the most entertaining game of the week in terms of offense.
Niners (+2.5) vs. Vikings 15 units
I hate to pick against my sleeper team, the Vikings, but I just don’t like them as road favorites just yet. I also have an eerie feeling that Colin Kaepernick will break out a year later than expected, when the pressure is completely off. That prediction can go up in flames and I totally expect it to. I believe the Vikings will end the season with a strong record, though.
Lock of the Week
Jets (-3.5) vs. Browns 50 units
People think I’m crazy but I’m somewhat high on the Jets this season. I feel they are better in just about all phases of the game compared to the Browns. I just don’t see an offense with QB Josh McCown at the helm, accompanied by a bunch of third string wideouts, will be able to advance the ball down the field against one of the strongest defenses in the league coached by one of the best defensive minds in the NFL in Todd Bowles. Bowles took a defense with less overall talent last season and dominated the Cowboys 28-17, ending Demarco Murray’s eight-game streak of 100 rushing yards to start the season. I’ll be shocked if the Browns are able to get more than one offensive touchdown.
I also firmly believe that the Jets offense should be able to produce enough successful drives in this one to get the definitive W. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker at WR are a formidable duo and Chris Ivory should thrive behind a solid offensive line. The loss of Geno Smith is inconsequential, as I believe Ryan Fitzpatrick gives the Jets a safer and smarter QB who can get the ball into the hands of his wideouts.
David’s Week 1 Picks (0-0-0)
Texans (-1) vs Chiefs 0 units
I don’t really have a feel for this game, and my mind says that the Chiefs should win this game with their offensive improvements. Alex Smith will be throwing more TDs to WRs than last year (0) for sure with the addition of Jeremy Maclin, and Travis Kelce is a very popular pick for breakout player of the year now that Anthony Fasano is gone. On the Houston side, star RB Arian Foster will be out as well. But my gut tells me that it’s a bad idea to pick against J.J. Watt at home, where he seems like a whole different animal. Plus, I love Deandre Hopkins this year, even though he’s got Brian Hoyer throwing him the ball who has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns (19) in his career. Hey, there’s a reason the spread is only 1 point, right?
Colts (-2.5) at Bills 5 units
Initially, I thought this pick was a lay-up. Andrew Luck and his improving offense (Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Philip Dorsett all come to mind) come to relatively warm (in September) Buffalo and stomp the Bills. Now I’m not so sure. Rex Ryan (who happens to be 5-1 in openers) and a few other interesting pieces are emerging in Buffalo (Lesean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Tyrod Taylor) to go along with probably the best D-line in football: Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, and Mario Williams. All four of those linemen made the player-voted NFL Top 100 players list. Andrew Luck will have to get the ball out very quickly and scramble effectively behind his patchwork offensive line if the Colts are going to win. Add new OC Greg Roman who loves to play at a molasses-slow pace if San Francisco’s offense was any indication, and you’ve got all the elements of a surprisingly close grind-it-out game. Still, I think you have to go with the elite quarterback with a spread this close. If the line was -3, I might be more likely to second guess the Colts.
Jets (-3.5) vs Browns 10 units
I would advocate the Jets here much more aggressively if the line hadn’t dipped down to -3.5. The half point makes a big difference when a large range of outcomes likely end with the Jets beating Cleveland by a field goal. But the Jets have made a ton of improvements on paper. They’ve adding fading stars like WR Brandon Marshall, CBs Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis to help forget about their awful passing game and secondary from last year. They added what some scouts regarded as the best defensive talent in the draft in Leonard Williams to bolster their already solid D-line, though star tackle Sheldon Richardson will be missing. I like the Jets to win at home against a Browns team that was better than I remember last year at 7-9 but failed to make any immediate impact moves in the offseason, unless you consider Dwayne Bowe, Josh McCown, or the many rookies the Browns drafted this season impact players. If you can get the Jets at -3 or better, I think you should probably load up.
Jaguars (+3) vs Panthers 5 units
I’m not too confident about this one. As horrible as the Panthers were last year (7-8-1), they won their division. But I’m not sure they got any better in the offseason, losing their leading touchdown scorer and receiver, Kelvin Benjamin to an ACL tear. The Panthers will be relying on a receiving corp of second year player Philly Brown (who had a bunch of drops in the preseason), 33 year-old Jerricho Cotchery, second-round rookie Devin Funchess, and Greg Olsen. I’m pretty sure there are college teams right now that have better receiving corps at this moment. Jacksonville may have been god-awful last year at 3-13, but that was with a very young offense. I don’t think that they’ve improved their offensive line woes, and they’ve had some unfortunate injuries to Julius Thomas and Dante Fowler, but I’m pretty sold on Blake Bortles making a big leap from last year (2908 yds/11 TD/17INT). It would be really hard not to. Bortles flashed talent last preseason too and then proceeded to be a disaster, but I think this year is different.
Rams (+4) vs Seahawks 10 units
The Rams have been trouble for the Seahawks at home for the past three years, winning two of the last three matchups, and losing by only 5 in the loss. The Seahawks may have acquired Jimmy Graham, but at the cost of any semblance of an offensive line by trading away Max Unger. Kam Chancellor will also miss this game. I think that Nick Foles is probably better than any of the quarterbacks the Rams were starting last year, too. Seattle is really good, and anyone’s first instinct would be to pick the Seahawks, but the Rams seem to have the gameplan for victory against them.
Redskins (+3.5) vs Dolphins 5 units
This is a classic trap game. A rational person would pick the Dolphins here. On one hand, we have the Redskins, probably the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL with only seven wins over the past two years. On the other hand, we have the Dolphins, who seem to be improving every year on the strength of their young QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Lamar Miller. In addition, the Dolphins have signed and drafted more receiving talent than ever before, along with the signing of the run-stuffing Ndamukong Suh. All signs look to point to a breakout season for Miami. I honestly don’t have a good reason for picking the Skins, but when a bet looks too good to be true, it usually is. You can make fun of me after the Dolphins beat the Skins by 10+.
Cardinals (-2.5) vs Saints 5 units
Both teams have a lot of questions entering this season, like can the Saints maintain their elite offense without Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills? Is Carson Palmer fully recovered from his ACL tear? Can Andre Ellington and company provide a run game behind a decimated o-line? I just think the Cardinals vertical attack is going to cause trouble for the Saints who are missing Keenan Lewis and Jairus Byrd (again). Drew Brees may have trouble trying to keep up on the road if this turns into a shootout.
Lions (+3) at Chargers 5 units
I guess we’ll learn how important the Detroit defensive line moves were this offseason, as the Lions lost beastly defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, and plugged the hole by trading for Ravens tackle, Haloti Ngata. The Lions were very successful last year (11-5) even with a gimpy Calvin Johnson for most of the year. This Detroit team won’t be nearly as good at run stopping as last year, but I think it’s okay because I haven’t been “wow”-ed yet by Melvin Gordon of the Chargers. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t end up like fellow Wisco alum Montee Ball. The Chargers will be missing their leading touchdown scorer from last season in Antonio Gates, and their backup TE Ladarius Green looks like he will miss the game as well with a concussion. That leaves last year’s underwhelming receivers Keenan Allen and new addition Stevie Johnson to catch balls from Philip Rivers. I think this game will be decided by how successful San Diego is at running the ball against Detroit.
Buccaneers (-3) vs Titans 10 units
I can’t think of a time when two rookie QBs started their first games against each other, especially two rookies selected first and second overall in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota respectively, so it should be easy for pundits to spin the result as “superior QB wins.” I don’t think it’s that simple. Tennessee is a mess on the offensive side of the ball. The coaching staff seems intent on using a five-man running back committee, and most of the receivers have been underwhelming. Then again, we’ve also seen how quickly a quarterback in a comfortable system can change a team’s winning hopes (queue flashbacks of RGIII “Griffin-ing” after his long TD throw against the Saints in 2012). I just can’t see Tennessee turning it around that quickly. Tampa Bay has more talent on both sides of the ball (Doug Martin looks rejuvenated), and home field advantage.
Bengals (-3) at Raiders 10 units
The Bengals are much better than the Raiders on both sides of the ball, even with Andy Dalton slinging the ball wherever he wants. The Raiders may be up-and-coming with players like Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, but I think this will be a ground battle, and the Bengals’ O-line, run D, and running backs are much more formidable than the Raiders’. The Bengals just seem superior at every skill position – for now.
Broncos (-4.5) vs Ravens 5 units
While I predicted the end of Peyton Manning’s career last year, it looks like he still has some gas left in the tank. But he’s also 39 years old, and when I hear that I think of how Brett Favre was retired from the NFL so unceremoniously at age 40 by the Bears after a sack in Minnesota. There is an age cliff for every sport, and maybe we saw the start of it last year. However, a rested and ready Peyton week 1 at home? Even if he can’t throw the ball with any zip past 10 yards I think he finds a way to break down the Ravens D. The Ravens lost a pretty solid receiver in Torrey Smith and Steve Smith is now 36 years old, and while the Ravens have a very strong run game, I can’t imagine them being able to win on the road just running the ball. They’ll need one of their unheralded receivers to step up if they want to win this game.
Cowboys (-6.5) vs Giants 5 units
Clearly, Vegas knows who is on the cover of Madden this year. Odell Beckham Jr. the star rookie receiver will be looking to build on his amazing stats of 1300+ yards and 12 TDS in 12 weeks of play. Meanwhile Dallas has to replace the 2,200+ yards and 13 touchdowns they lost with Demarco Murray signing in Philly. Their plan to do so currently consists of a trio of Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar. Not the most star-studded backfield, but it doesn’t matter, because Dallas has offensive line talent for the ages. I think Dallas compensates for the loss of Murray by letting Romo toss it more, and Dallas will be scoring in bunches against a weaker Giants defense than usual.
Eagles (-2.5) at Falcons 5 units
I’ve seen the line for this game at +3, and if it were that right now, I probably take the Falcons. That’s kind of surprising considering I believe in Chip Kelly’s football philosophies rather strongly. I also think Sam Bradford got a bad rap because he was always injured in St. Louis and the Rams never won anything with him, but he can make all the throws and find open receivers – but they all had iron mitts for hands. However I believe strongly as well in Kyle Shanahan’s ability to get his best receivers the ball, so look for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to have a great season. I also think the rookie DE/OLB Vic Beasley will be an impact player from day one and help to shore up what was an atrocious Atlanta defense last year. The Falcons should be able to keep pace with the Eagles offensively and it will likely be one of the best games of the week, as Vegas is projecting 55 points, and that might be conservative.
Vikings (-2.5) at Niners 10 units
The Niners lost a TON of talent in the offseason: Gore, Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Iupati, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald, Willis, and Chris Borland, just to name a few. Wait, are we sure that there is even a team left in San Francisco? It will be an interesting year in SF for sure. Meanwhile, the Vikings get a motivated Adrian Peterson back from a year long suspension and Mike Wallace, and we can expect Teddy Bridgewater to take another step forward after a pretty solid rookie season. The Vikings defense was also quietly pretty good. I think the only reason the spread isn’t more in favor of the Vikes is because they’ve lost their right tackle and center to injury.
Lock of the Week
Packers (-7) at Bears 20 units
Take it from me, a Bears fan, to reassure you that picking the Packers is the right move here. I know, Jordy Nelson is out for the year and Randall Cobb has a bum shoulder. And yes, the Bears are at home for their season opener unveiling their new 3-4 base defense. Aaron Rodgers is a Bears killer and I don’t think it really matters who the Packers field at receiver as long as they’re half decent. Do I need to remind you Jay Cutler is 1 for 11 against the Pack in his career? I’ll be pleased if the Bears show signs of life, but I wouldn’t bet on it.