Oct 21, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Unpredictable NFL: Week 3 Picks Against the Spread

From the grainy sideline of that old NFL Films footage, Vince Lombardi screams “What the hell’s goin’ ON out here??!?!”

That’s us, every Sunday. And Monday Night. And Thursday, and pretty much anytime Roger Goodell can get these guys suited up and in front of the TV cameras, we’ll be there watching. Even if we don’t know what the hell’s goin’ on out there.

It’s not the parity, it’s the unpredictability. That’s why we tune in, why sports is the original reality TV. Can Tom Brady win by himself? Can Peyton Manning still do it at 37 after neck surgery? Will the game be delayed an hour for lighting?

Then one day, we get hit with the news that the Browns suddenly traded RB Trent Richardson to the Colts. Just 18 games into the career of a franchise RB drafted #3 overall in 2012, they ship him to Indy. I’m surprised there weren’t Mayflower trucks involved. On the Colts, Richardson will join that years’ #1 pick, QB Andrew Luck. Cleveland’s new regime is in this predicament of permanent rebuilding because the previous regime couldn’t make the trade to get RG3 (the #2 pick in that draft).

Recent champs like the Giants and Steelers started 0-2 while recent chumps like Chiefs started 3-0. It’s like the only thing that makes sense anymore is that the Jaguars still suck.

Then I turn the TV on Thursday night and Andy Reid is back in Philadelphia as the visiting coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, looking like a red house over yonder. I thought the “Hey Kool-Aid!” guy had busted into the stadium. The Philly faithful gave him a warm reception… during the game they booed Mike Vick and at halftime they cheered Donovan McNabb. What IS going on out here?

In the first 2 weeks, there were hour-plus lightning delays in 3 games, including 2 of the first 7 nationally televised night games. There have already been 5 safeties scored in the first 2 weeks (there were 13 all of last season). And there are at least 6 guys on the set of every pre-game, halftime, and postgame show.

Every other day another member of the media comes out for or (mostly) against the Redskins nickname. The debate is starting to spin so fast I wouldn’t be surprised to read a Washington Post columnist vow to never mention Kirk Cousins by name anymore.

We’re getting injury reports admitting it’s “probable” that players who suffered concussions in the last game will play in the next game. When a guy pulls up with a cramp, we assume he’s faking it just to slow down the Eagles hurry-up offense.

So what will happen this week? Whether you call it parity or unpredictability, every game is too close to call. How close? So far this season, 22 of the first 32 games were decided by 7 points or less, including 11 by 3 points or less (both NFL records).

There’s no parity or unpredictability with Jacksonville visiting Seattle. Vegas has them favored by 19 points. Perhaps by as much as 20 by kickoff Sunday. Who’s gonna bet on the Jags? Monday night the Broncos are favored by a whopping 16 points over division rival Raiders. Who’s betting against Peyton at home in prime time?

Let’s get to this week’s NFL picks against the spread, with the same caveat as last week: I’m terrible at this. So if you really wanna make some money, bet the opposite of my picks.

Rams +4.5 at Dallas. Because Tavon on Turf and Tony in Texas. And you gotta like having Jeff Fisher getting 4.5 points against Jason Garret. Also keep in mind: the Underdog has covered the spread in 72% of all Dallas games over the last 4 seasons and the Cowboys are only 4-16 against the spread as a home favorite the last 3 years.

Green Bay -2 at Cincinnati. Because the Bengals suffer hangover from breakthrough division win and short week while Packers are humming and looking to grab a win heading into their bye week.

Tennessee -3 vs. the Chargers. Because the Titans might be pretty decent. They won at Pittsburgh and very nearly shoulda coulda beaten the Texans in Houston. Now they’ll have the energy of their home opener, while the visitors from San Diego play their second consecutive 10am-their-time 1pm game back east.

Vikings/Browns game Under 41.5. Because I don’t see either of these teams getting to 20 points. Even if Minnesota manages 28 points at home against a decent Cleveland defense, I doubt the Browns score more than 10 with a backup QB on the road in a dome without just-traded-away RB Trent Richardson.

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