Week 2 brought back a good friend I had forgotten over the off season, Garbage Time Matt Stafford. My pick of Niners -6 looked great with a 30-13 lead until he showed up. And he was magnificent. He brought his Lions back from that deficit while never giving them a chance to win their game. Instead, he took away my chance at a good day. His touchdown pass to Michael Roberts with 3:27 left in the game flipped my win to a loss and pushed my record for the week to 2-3.
At least I wasn't the only one with a bad week. I had warned about this in my preview last week, and Vegas indeed got the better of the bettors. Contest participants were right on only 36% of their picks, so at 6-4 I'm in fine shape with only 325 people in front of me. I can get into the top 100 with a little run from what I've learned so far.
And I think I've learned a lot - besides to never underestimate Garbage Time Matt Stafford regardless of how terrible his coach. I learned that Bucs coach and former offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, shed his play calling duties this year and handed them to turnaround artist Todd Monken. I've also learned to be careful of coaches that don't play to win the game. The Redskins lost 21-9 despite holding an advantage in time of possession, yards gained, turnovers forced and first downs earned because of a lack of Chutzpah on 4th down. They trailed the entire game yet punted and kicked field goals in these situations:
They didn't try to win, so I lost.
This past week shook off a lot of my confusion from week one and I'm ready to strike back at Vegas. For the first week of the season, I didn't struggle to reach five games I like. I'm happy with eight separate games. Here's to 4-1!
CHIEFS -6.5 vs 49ers
I'm 2-0 this year picking the Chiefs and I'm going to keep picking them until their lines reflect my thoughts on the team. Andy Reid designed Pat Mahomes in a lab to end his 18 season run of not winning the Super Bowl - and it's possible this is the year. In only two road games, Reid's coached Mahomes to the record for most touchdown passes in consecutive games. And despite his incredible athleticism, he's doing this from inside the pocket.
Jimmy Garoppolo is on the wrong side of this graphic - he's not doing well from within the pocket. He's relied on making plays outside of the structure of the offense in order to succeed. And he's been great at that, he has the sixth best QB rating on throws from outside the pocket. But each play outside of the structure of the offense is a gamble - can he be consistent enough to keep up with these Chiefs?
I doubt it. The Chiefs are going to score a lot of points. The 49er's have the third worst defense in third and long situations after two weeks so even when opponents need to stretch the field they can't stop it. How will they respond to a Chiefs team that is a threat to stretch the field on any down? I won't be shocked to see Mahomes tie or even break his touchdowns in consecutive games record with four or five more scores Sunday. The Niners will keep it close for a while, but won't make enough plays with their inconsistent offense to stay in this for four quarters. Chiefs win 41-27.
Bears -6 vs CARDINALS
Last week I laid 12.5 points on the Rams against the Cardinals because I expected the Cardinals to fail on offense. And I was right. The Cardinals were shut out 34-0. They were so bad on offense that they did not reach Rams territory until their final play of the game. Right now, they are averaging only 175 yards per game. That's embarrassing. On Thursday night Baker Mayfield entered his first game with 2 minutes left in the first half - without having any practice with the starters - and threw for 200 yards. This is a historically bad offense.
And they'll be up against an awesome defense. Khalil Mack and crew attack the quarterback like an actual swarm of bears. They're not content to just shut down offenses - they've scored two touchdowns in two weeks. The entire Cardinals team has scored zero.
This game is going to be a disaster. Sam Bradford will take at least one sack where he goes down in anticipation prior to being touched. The Arizona crowd will start booing and calling for Josh Rosen before the end of the first quarter. And the Bears defense will outscore the Cardinals themselves. Bears win 24-6.
VIKINGS -16.5 vs Bills
This is the same situation as that Rams Cardinals game last week. And I'm fine to lay huge points against a travelling offense that has no shot to score again. The Bills offense has no shot to score. Last week they scored 20 points, but 17 of those points came in garbage time - they were down 28-3 at half. The Chargers, who had traveled across the country for this excuse of a game half-heartedly toiled through the second half. That's the only reason Josh Allen was able to score touchdowns.
This week the conditions are different. Minnesota is a better defense and does not travel to Buffalo. And they'll have an extra sense of duty to "Protect their house" after last week. They gave up 29 points to the Packers at home after not giving up 20 points once there last year. They will not yield for a garbage time backdoor cover run by the Bills.
But that's what the Bills would need to cover this game. Their defense has been carved up by both teams they've faced so far and I see no reason for that trend to end Sunday. I've never taken on a spread this big, but I've also never seen ineptitude like Buffalo's. Vikings win 27-0.
SEAHAWKS -2 vs Cowboys
Seattle's fans are referred to as "The Twelfth Man" for a reason. The Seahawks are a different team at CenturyLink Field. They've won 75% of their games there versus 54% on the road since Pete Carroll took over in 2011. Since his debut they are 7-0 in their home openers despite starting 0-2 in two of those seasons. They're much better at home because their offensive and defensive lines play so much better. Football crowds only cheer when their defense is on the field - the home offensive line gets to hear the snap count in silence and the home defense gets to take advantage of the confusion in the noise. Seattle has been struggling on both sides of the line and this trip home is the perfect remedy.
Between the home crowd and their struggling opposition, their defensive line is primed to look better this week. The vaunted Dallas offensive line is not so dominant this year. Pro Bowl Center Travis Frederick is out indefinitely which has crippled Ezekiel Elliot's effectiveness and opened up lanes to sack QB Dak Prescott. Prescott has been sacked on 10% of pass attempts this year vs. 6.1% last year, while Zeke is only averaging 73 yards per game after averaging 98 yards last year. This is not the same Dallas team and we're going to see that on Sunday.
This is my most confident pick of the week. Public perception has been formed while Seattle struggled in two road games - including on national television Monday night. Now they return to their home field. I don't think this line properly weighs how much better they'll be. Dak Prescott is going to be under pressure while Russel Wilson gets a relatively clean pocket. Seattle gets five sacks and two interceptions on their way to a 20-12 victory.
BUCCANEERS +1 vs Pittsburgh
That Steelers logo is getting too much respect. I get it - they're a flagship franchise for the NFL with six Super Bowls and 10-6 is their worst record the past four years - but this is not the same team. Leveon Bell not playing has hurt their offense and losing Ryan Shazier to a neck injury last year has hurt their defense. Last year, Pittsburgh had been allowing 17 points per game prior to Shaziers injury. That's up to 28 per game since he's out. Nothing I've seen so far this season indicates that the Steelers should be favored to win this game on the road.
While the Steelers look like a team on the decline, the Bucs are a team ascending. Todd Monken and Ryan Fitzpatrick have turned this offense - that has awesome weapons in Desean Jackson, Mike Evans and OJ Howard - into the powerhouse they've been expected to be since Jameis Winston was drafted #1 overall to team up with play caller Dirk Koetter. They ironically reached their potential after changes to their quarterback and play caller. Now they are setting records - Ryan Fitzpatrick is the first QB to start the season with two straight 400 yard games.
If the Steelers were at full strength or had any momentum this line would make sense. Instead, I think this line is based on reputation alone. I'm taking the record setting offense over the just good offense in their matchups against average defenses. Bucs win 41-34.
Best of luck this week. I hope we all make a bunch of money. Subscribe below for notifications as soon as I post my picks. Also, I'm going to live tweet my football viewing this week @Gitzalytics - follow me to follow along.