“The storms we go through in life are the tides that change us, better us and make us stronger. God is at the helm of our life, although he gives us the freedom to steer and to manipulate the waves, he often guides us, unknowingly, quietly, yet in his wisdom, right into the waves, because he wants us to learn, and there is no other way we can learn than to surf the tides of eternity in what may seem to be the tiniest ship afloat in the greatest ocean”. — Garrett Fredlund
There you have it folks. Definitive proof that God wanted me to get off to a miserable start against the spread this NFL season. The immense failure that the opening week represented has left me more determined than ever to sail my tiniest of ships to NFL glory! I know last week’s 5-10-1 ATS result is not good enough. I won’t stand for it, and if I can’t do any better we’ll put somebody at the helm who can. Raise anchor, baby! Its full steam ahead towards week two.
The second week of the NFL season has presented us with significant questions to answer. Can the New York Giants establish a competent running back, one capable of maintaining possession of the football during the course of play? Will Peyton Manning throw for 3,432 touchdown passes this season? Are the Saints the old Saints again with Sean Payton back on the sidelines? Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be forced to forfeit the rest of their games this season after losing to the inept New York Jets in one of least inspiring, rudderless performances in recent NFL memory? Questions abound, but due to word count restrictions we can’t possibly answer all of them in this space.
What we can do is preview the game of the week. Sunday evening, on NBC, the San Francisco 49ers travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks in what I can assure you will be an absolutely wild environment. It’s common knowledge that the 49ers and Seahawks don’t get together for tea during the offseason. The coaches despise each other going back to their days coaching at Stanford and USC. The front offices routinely sign castoffs from the opposing team to gather inside information, only to re-release the player a week later. The fans? Well, let’s just say an intelligent human wouldn’t wear a Kaepernick jersey into “The Clink” this weekend. The rivalry has become the NFL’s version of the Cold War, full of scandal, intrigue, and subterfuge. It’s wonderful.
What makes all that hatred so delightful is that both teams are Super Bowl contenders. This match-up, despite taking place early in the schedule, is pivotal. The winner has a leg up in the NFC West division race and ultimately home field advantage in the playoffs. The loser faces a challenging uphill climb.
Other games of note include the Denver Broncos visiting the New York Giants in the latest rendition of the Manning Bowl and the Washington Redskins traveling to Green Bay to face the Packers with both teams hoping to avoid disastrous 0-2 starts to the year. Speaking of disastrous starts, here’s hoping for a positive week so the “Sultan of Sides” doesn’t experience one as well. On a side note, congratulations to the USA soccer team for defeating Mexico 2-0 and earning a birth in the upcoming World Cup. Take that Mexico!
NEW YORK JETS @ New England Patriots -13
With all the injuries plaguing the Patriots offense it’s hard to see them scoring effectively enough to cover a double digit point spread. The Jets are awful, they’re on the road, and they have a rookie at quarterback. That’s a recipe for disaster, but it’s a rivalry game and games like these tend to be close. Patriots win 21-10
ST. LOUIS RAMS @ Atlanta Falcons -7
The beat up Falcons offensive line struggled to keep Matt Ryan upright against the New Orleans Saints last week. Why should we expect them to improve against a vastly superior group in St. Louis? Rams pass rushers Robert Quinn and Chris Long will be in the backfield all day. Atlanta should win at home but St. Louis will be competitive. Falcons win 27-24
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ Buffalo Bills +3
Carolina’s front seven dominated the Seattle Seahawks offensive line last week. There isn’t any reason to suspect the Bills will fare better than the Seahawks against this talented group. Without an effective run game Buffalo will depend on rookie QB EJ Manuel to match the production of Carolina’s QB Cam Newton. Tough task for a guy playing just his second NFL game. Panthers win 24-16
MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ Chicago Bears -6
Minnesota can’t afford a 0-2 start within the NFC North coming off a week one loss in Detroit. Expect Adrian Peterson to have a big bounce-back performance after failing to top 100 yards in the opener. The Bears were impressive coming from behind to upend the Cincinnati Bengals behind the play of legendary whiner Jay Cutler. I like the Bears, under “Captain Canada” Marc Trestman, to pull out another narrow victory. Bears win 23-20
Washington Redskins @ GREEN BAY PACKERS -8
I hate to give up more than a touchdown to an offense as explosive as Washington’s but star QB Robert Griffin III looked like a shell of himself on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. Redskins’ brass can say his knee is 100% all they want, but Griffin was clearly playing at less than full speed in the opener. Without the threat of the Read-Option the Redskins won’t keep up with Aaron Rodgers and company. Packers 34-21
Miami Dolphins @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -3
Love, love, love, the Colts in this spot. Which is probably a bad thing! Colts QB Andrew Luck shredded the Dolphins secondary last season and I expect him to do the same this year in Indy. The Dolphins are incapable of running the football effectively and without a balanced offensive attack QB Ryan Tannehill will be hard pressed to keep up with Luck on the scoreboard. Colts win 30-20
Dallas Cowboys @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS -3
I’m nervous if I’m a Cowboys fan heading into this one. Arrowhead Stadium, when it’s rocking, is a brutal place to place. Off the heels of a 28-2 shellacking of Jacksonville last week I anticipate the Chiefs faithful to be thoroughly hydrated well before kick-off. It’s not a good sign that Dallas needed an onside kick recovery to seal a victory at home when you were on the positive end of six New York Giants turnovers. Chiefs win 19-13
San Diego Chargers @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -7.5
I’m buying stock in the Chip Kelly offense. The Eagles made professional football look easy in the first half against the Redskins on Monday Night. Philly had 21 first downs before halftime! Wow. They need to do a better job of milking a lead in the second stanza but that was still an impressive performance. The Chargers will still be suffering from a meltdown hangover after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory last week against the Houston Texans. Eagles win 36-20
CLEVELAND BROWNS @ Baltimore Ravens -7
Cleveland burned me last week and I’m very tempted to side against them out of spite in this match-up but I have a feeling the Ravens collective confidence has been wobbled by the surgery Peyton Manning performed on them in the NFL season opener. The bottom line is things aren’t right when you give up seven touchdown passes and quit in the 4th quarter. Ravens win 28-24
TENNESSEE TITANS @ Houston Texans -10
The Titans dominated the utterly helpless Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh last week. Houston isn’t Pittsburgh. While Tennessee will find the sledding much tougher in Texas I think they have a defense capable of slowing down the Houston offense. With Jake Locker at quarterback the Titans won’t score enough to pull off the upset but it will be a four-quarter game. Texans win 23-16
Detroit Lions @ ARIZONA CARDINALS +2
The Detroit offense led by Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Reggie Bush looked fantastic against the Minnesota Vikings and very well could lead the NFL in points scored this season. Arizona is much improved from last year, primarily because they have a functional human under center in Carson Palmer, opposed to the neophytes that manned the position last year. Arizona wins in the desert 30-28
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5
Tampa Bay’s stunning loss to the New York Jets last Sunday surely defied the laws of physics in some fashion. They were pathetic. An embarrassment to the United States of America! OK, that might be a little over the top, but that’s how bad the Bucs were. The Saints looked fantastic. Expect the quality play to continue in the Sunshine State. Saints win 31-17
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ Oakland Raiders -6
How awful is this game? It’s beneath me to even discuss it, but I’m contractually obligated to enlighten you, the loyal reader, on every NFL matchup. I expect the Jaguars with Chad Henne filling in for Blaine Gabbert to be more effective on offense than they were a week ago. Gabbert is capable of single-handedly ruining an organization. With Henne throwing passes the Jags should, in theory, get a first down at some point. This might be the only game the Raiders are favored in all season. Raiders win 18-17
DENVER BRONCOS @ New York Giants +4.5
Seven days isn’t enough time for the Giants to recover from the circus act they put on in Dallas last week. Six turnovers!? Vince Lombardi is rolling over in his grave. Peyton Manning won’t throw another seven touchdown passes, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he threw four or five. The Broncos are in mid-season form while the Giants are uncertain if retaining possession of the football is a good thing. Broncos win 37-28
San Francisco 49ers @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -3
A minus three line favoring the home team means Vegas believes that the game would be a “pick” on a neutral field. That’s how closely matched these two contenders are. The 49ers looked like the better team in week one, unless you’re aware Seattle held Cam Newton to the lowest offensive output of his career en route to a 12-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers. That was without four injured starters on defense. Two or three of those players will suit up this week. San Francisco worries me. They’re very good, but you can’t overstate the advantage Seattle has at the Clink, widely regarded as the loudest, most hostile place to play in the NFL. If the 49ers get off to a slow start and the crowd gets into a frenzy, functioning will become very challenging for the visitors. I don’t expect another 42-13 woodshed performance like Seattle put on San Francisco last season. It’s going to be a close game but the Seahawks pull out a victory at home. Seahawks win 24-20
Pittsburgh Steelers @ CINCINNATI BENGALS -7
Pittsburgh is a mess. How do you explain getting virtually shut out at home for 58 minutes last week against a very average Tennessee Titans outfit? It appears like one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL is finally heading for an organizational swoon. The Bengals will be too much at home with all the lack of talent and injuries facing the Steelers. AJ Green goes wild and Giovani Bernard has something just short of a coming-out party. Bengals win 28-13