Another sub-.500 week, though I didn't have a great feel for it going in, and I got a little unlucky with Calvin Johnson being scratched in the Lions-Packers (I actually switched my office-pool pick to GB before the game, something I can't do here). One bad mistake I made was laying the points with Atlanta - it's one thing to go square with the Broncos, riding that train until it derailed, but the Falcons-Jets was just dumb. If you're crushing it, you can play a hunch, just like you can raise with anything right after you've raked in two big pots in poker. But what I did was more like playing J-2 suited right after my Aces got cracked by a runner-runner flush.
Overall, I was 1-2 on the games I liked and 2-2 on coin flips, so in that respect I deserved to have a losing week. It was especially disappointing because I was 5-4 on the early games, and the losses were the Packers (Calvin news), and three close games (Pats, Titans and Jaguars) that broke against me late. In other words, I thought it would be a monster week, wound up 5-4, then wound up 5-9.
But enough about last week - let's attack this one as if it's Week 1 of 1999, and I'm writing this column for the first time...
There are some interesting games here with six home dogs, two regular double-digit point spreads and the largest line in NFL history. I particularly like the Bucs, Browns, Cardinals, Texans and Redskins. The Colts-Chargers, Packers-Ravens, Bengals-Bills, Saints-Patriots and Panthers-Vikings were coin flips.
Giants +8 at Bears
After backing the Giants for the first three weeks, I've thankfully faded them the last two because they were being treated as a something other than a league doormat. This week, they're finally getting their due - eight points against a Bears team that's slipped defensively. I don't love it, but I think it's time to take the Giants - their defense has actually been above average on a per-play basis and the turnover bounces can't go against them forever. Back New York.
Giants 27 - 20
Raiders +9 at Chiefs
I'm not a huge believer in the Chiefs, and while the Raiders are below-average, this is a big enough line to take the dog. Back Oakland.
Chiefs 19 - 16
Eagles -1 at Buccaneers
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I think the drop-off from Michael Vick to Nick Foles (should he play) would likely to be substantial. But I'm not laying points on the road with either against this stout Bucs defense, especially when the Eagles can't stop anyone. Back the Bucs.
Buccaneers 23 - 17
Packers -3 at Ravens
I'd feel a lot better about this if Clay Matthews were healthy, but I'll still lay the points with the far superior offensive team, even if the Packers defense is poor. Back Green Bay.
Packers 31 - 23
Lions -3 at Browns
The Browns have the best per-play defense in the league (4.3 YPP allowed) so far this year, and Calvin Johnson still isn't practicing as of Wednesday. Back Cleveland.
Browns 24 - 23
Panthers +2.5 at Vikings
The Panthers are the Ricky Nolascos of the NFL - peripherals always look great, but the results never match up. Still, I'm going with Carolina, which after all has the better defense and quarterback.
Panthers 24 - 17
Rams +7 at Texans
This seems like a clear buy-low, sell-high scenario based on last week's results. Take Houston.
Texans 31 - 17
Steelers +2.5 at Jets
I seem to take the Steelers every week, so let's do it again. The Jets looked great in Atlanta, particularly on defense, but they looked just as bad the week before in Tennessee. Back Pittsburgh.
Steelers 20 - 16
Bengals -7.5 at Bills
This line would be a lot smaller if Buffalo had a functional quarterback, but Cincinnati's quarterback isn't great, either, and the Bills are getting more than a TD at home. Back Buffalo.
Bengals 20 - 17
Titans +13.5 at Seahawks
This line looks awfully big, but Seattle tends to beat up on teams at home, and I'm not sure I buy into the Titans' early-season improvement. Back the Seahawks.
Seahawks 31 - 13
Jaguars +27.5 at Broncos
The teams might be 27.5 points apart, but that presumes both will try their hardest for 60 minutes. If Denver's up 40-6 in the third quarter, there's a good chance Peyton Manning goes to the bench, and the Broncos simply take their foot off the gas. And you have to feel pretty good about being down 40-6 and still alive for the backdoor cover in the final minutes. Back the Jaguars.
Broncos 40 - 13
Cardinals +11 at 49ers
The Niners looked good against Houston, but that's easy to do when the road team spots you an immediate pick-six. The Cardinals typically drop off on the road, but they have a good defense, and this line is simply too big. Back Arizona.
49ers 24 - 16
Saints +2.5 at Patriots
My brain says the Saints, my gut says the Patriots. Since my feel has been off lately, I'll take New Orleans and the points.
Saints 24 - 23
Redskins +5.5 at Cowboys
The Cowboys probably deserve to be bigger favorites than this after their showing against the Broncos, but this is a rivalry where past performance often goes out the window. Plus, I like Robert Griffin having the extra week off and having gotten through the early part of the year without a setback. Back Washington.
Redskins 31 - 30
Colts -1.5 at Chargers
It's so obvious the squares will be on the Colts, the sharps on the Chargers. Like everyone else, I really want to take the Colts, too. But San Diego has to be the right play, right?
Chargers 24 - 20
Last week we went 5-9 to go 30-43-4 on the year. Last year we went 121-129-6 on the regular season. From 1999-2012 we've gone 1,810-1,641 (52.4%), not including ties.