Ok, so the Profit (prophet?) took it on the chin last week…and in the ear, and in a few other delicate places. An ugly 1-4 start to the action. In ancient times such a performance was rewarded with scorpions and boiling oil and a cactus bath. Fortunately, I can hole up in a darkened room behind some computer.
This week we welcome the pros to the action. Things should start turning up from here. (Home teams in caps.)
Pitt (-4) over BOSTON COLLEGE: Panthers never favored on the road except for maybe Rutgers or Navy. So, yes, a screwy line here. Last Saturday we learned little – okay, Pitt better than Delaware, BC better than UMass. Tyler Murphy first Eagle QB to rush for 100 yards in 30 years. Pitt may have its top QB talent in ages with versatile Chad Voytik. That’s like someone telling you all about the best pizza joint in Korea.
Southern Cal (+2.5) over STANFORD: A game for play-action pass lovers. Trojans took down Stanford last year in L.A. SC still outclassed at QB here (Hogan vs. Kessler), but could have surprise season with new coach Steve Sarkisian and a roster that’s being rebuilt quickly. Young Cardinal attack slams into an SC defense with eight returning starters. A milder upset than last year, but one just the same.
OREGON (-12) over Michigan State: A showdown of styles. Spartans love to play murderball, a 1960s attitude. Head slaps and meat-grinder drills. Ducks come at you like psychedelics from the Penn Relays. Oregon offense with 10 returning starters; Spartan D only five. QB Mariota passed up the pros to shine on days like this. He won’t disappoint. Quack, quack.
TOLEDO (+3.5) over Missouri: Strictly a wiseguy pick. Defending SEC-West champ versus middle-road MAC operation. Close your eyes and this should be a 21-point line; instead, it’s a FG and change. Money should come pouring in on the Missouri side. We’ll call their bluff and side with the Rockets.
FALCONS (+2.5) over Saints: Falcons coming off a 4-12 stinker, which has people once again chirping about Mike Smith job security. Offensively the Falcons should rebound well, if they can align a few pass protection issues. Saints talented enough to play deep into January, but at the moment Atlanta has a bit more to prove.
STEELERS (-6.5) over Browns: Steelers typically feast on neophyte QBs who wander onto their block. Brian Hoyer is 29 but getting only his fifth NFL start. Cleveland defense methodically stocking fine talent. Let’s see if coaching staff can fire it up. No dropoff from QB Roethlisberger – yet. Steelers finally deep at running back, but WRs and DL collected off of Craigslist. Rookie LB Shazier looking like a bigger Polamalu. If Browns keep it close, it’s not because they lifted their game; it’s because the Steelers lowered theirs.
Raiders (+5.5) over JETS: No Mona Lisa here. More of a drunken Dali. Raiders the choice even before they named rookie Derek Carr over Matt Schaub as QB starter. NY pass rush will give Carr trouble, and Raiders probably won’t score over 20, but Jets no greased machine either. Improved on paper, yes, but QB Smith still a shaky actor. Trust an issue. Last year I watched him clip New Orleans then go 8-for-23 in Buffalo. That notion, plus a highly flammable Jet secondary, tilt things in Oakland’s favor.
BEARS (-7) over Bills: An anti-Manuel choice. QB never big-time at Florida State, but zany Bills picked him high anyway. Big skill set, upside… all that blah-blah. He’ll annoy you to pieces with four-yard curls and dumpoffs then they’ll send out the punter. Bears’ defense an embarrassment during exhibitions, but Cutler & Co. eventually will take it out of reach.
COWBOYS (+4.5) over 49ers: This choice based not so much on Dallas grit but on 49er unrest. Harbaugh has problems all over the place. Defensive heavies Smith, Bowman, Dorsey not in uniform. Brand new secondary, as well. But offense is where bigger trouble may lie. Weaponry has suddenly thinned out. Kaepernick, with that big money contract, may start out pressing. I see Niners playing tight. Cowboys have woes, too (defense), but Romo can stick enough on the board to keep Dallas in it.
Last Week: 1-4
Season: 1-4 (College 1-4; Pros 0-0)
Tom Danyluk joins NFL Spin Zone after nine years as a columnist with Pro Football Weekly. He is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Super ‘70s,” which you can purchase on Amazon.com. Questions or gripes? Please contact Tom at [email protected]