We’re back with some more fearless, peerless predictions. If you were paying attention last week, you’ll notice that we didn’t do so hot. Fret not, dear reader, because it was only a test. A way to weed out the truly devoted from the fair-weather fans. Now that I’m confident only the most loyal of readers remain, I’m willing to give my true, infallible picks. Some great matchups this week, and my beloved Patriots take the field in an important scrimmage against Foxborough High School. Let’s get to the games.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)
The first of four rematches sees the Seahawks travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. The Seahawks won the previous game thanks to a predictably missed pass interference against Richard Sherman. While it would be easy to say that since the Seahawks are on the road they won’t get the benefit of literally every single call during every game played since 2012, but the reasons they lose go deeper than that. For starters, Atlanta’s offense is insane. Top five in passing and rushing yards per game. Number one in scoring. Number one in offensive DVOA. This is quietly one of the greatest offenses ever facing a defense that, while very good, is missing its best player. Opponent passer rating has gone up and they only have one interception since Earl Thomas went down. Seattle’s ugly destruction of the hapless Lions made them look far better than they really are. The Seahawks offense isn’t very good. Granted, the Falcons defense is very bad, but not bad enough to sink them in this matchup. Seattle just doesn’t have enough weapons to keep up. Everyone loves to say Matt Ryan can never get it done, forgetting he was once on the goal line with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Atlanta is going to score, and, as the home team, is going to get the benefit of the whistle. I can’t wait for Richard Sherman’s post game anti-official rant. Come at me 12s!
Pick: Atlanta -4.5
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots (-16)
Will the Brocket Ship return to orbit or will Terry Bradshaw collect a nice royalty check as Failure to Launch airs for three hours on Saturday night? I think we all know where this is going. I will say this, though. I usually prepare myself for the doomsday scenarios. The unthinkable Patriots losses against inferior opponents. Those thoughts haven’t even begun festering in my mind. If Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo both die on the field, everyone on the Pats D blows their knees out, and Goodell takes out the lead official and becomes the ref WWE-style and the Texans win, this would be the most embarrassing loss of my lifetime. Worse than losing to Rex Ryan. Worse than the Bruins blowing a 3-0 lead to the Flyers. Worse than the Red Sox completely no-showing last year against the Indians. Nothing could top losing to this JV squad. On a lighter note, without the Redskins in the playoffs, my streak of consecutive football posts mentioning the god of quarterbacks Colt Brennan was finally snapped. I was hoping the Raiders would give me a reason to bring him up again, but, alas, they lost. The only connection I could find is that he played for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League in 2011. The Patriots almost moved to Hartford once. This game is going to be such a blowout I wouldn’t be surprised if Nantz and Simms start talking about this eerie coincidence in the fourth quarter.
Pick: Pats -16
Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)
I have two schools of thought about this game. The first is that there’s a real possibility the Cowboys repeat the beating they put on the Packers in week five. This Cowboys team is perfectly built to beat the Packers. The Packers’ small front seven can get swallowed in the wake of the righteous wave of fury cast down upon us by the immortal beings known as the Cowboys Offensive Line from their Holy Seat on High, the ball control offense keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field, and though the Cowboys have a vulnerable defense, they actually intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in week 5, a true accomplishment. On the other hand, I don’t really want to be on the other side of Aaron Rodgers. Benefitting from my fairly obvious jinx attempt last week, he slayed the dragon that haunts my nightmares, and, for that, I am eternally grateful. He’s the most naturally talented quarterback I’ve ever seen and he couldn’t be hotter. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last eight games. That’s insane. I don’t think the Cowboys relatively weak defense will really be able to contain him, even with Jordy Nelson, the NFL’s leader in touchdown catches, sitting out. This could be a weird shootout, with the Cowboys driving down methodically and scoring after 7 or 8 minutes with the ball, then the Packers responding instantly, lather, rinse, repeat. This won’t be a defensive game, and I think it goes down to the final drive. With apologies to fellow UConn Husky Byron Jones, (random tangent: My senior year I took a one credit basketball class because I had so much free time. You just showed up and played hoops. Byron Jones was in the class and he wasn’t allowed to play with everyone else, either by his own volition or administrative decree. He would just go to a basket no one was using and dunk for an hour. It was breathtaking.) Packers at least cover.
Pick: Packers +4.5
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)
This is an interesting game and a rematch of a Steelers blowout win. I expect a different game this time around. For starters, the Steelers aren’t going to go up 22-0 right away this time. I know they just destroyed the Dolphins, but, if you read last week, you know that I predicted that they’d wipe out the hapless Dolphins easily. The Chiefs lead the NFL in takeaways, and Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 88 interceptions in his 93 career road games, including 17 in his last 14. That adds up to bad news for the Steelers passing game, despite the fact that the Chiefs run defense is putrid. Everyone always love to trash Alex Smith, but if he just keeps feeding Travis Kelce and breakout star Tyreek Hill they should be able to move the ball effectively against an average Steelers defense. Every little thing matters, and the Chiefs special teams unit is probably the best in the league, lead, of course, by Hill. And if you still weren’t convinced, this game was just moved to 8:20 pm. Night games in Arrowhead usually end badly for opposing teams, as the best fans in the league (suck it 12s) cause havoc. Chiefs roll.
Pick: Chiefs -1.5