The Slack Lines (@CHFFSlackLines) crew puts the fun in painful, financially crippling gambling losses. Read more about this panel of maladjusted social misfits here in our Week 1 introduction. You might also consider purchasing something from their Etsy page of NFL-branded fingerless gloves and toeless socks.
Current Slack Lines Standings:
Nick Altschuller (@altschuller): 6-6
Beau Sturm and J (@beausturm): 5-7
Luke O’Neil (@lukeoneil47): 5-7
Jerry Thornton (@jerrythornton1): 4-8
Matt Roberts (@KidRob21): 0-11-1
Last week’s cumulative record: 4-20-1. That’s just unprecedented failure. Our leader in decrepitude is, of course, Matt. Still winless, you’d think the smart play would be to just bet the opposite of his picks, but at the moment, Matt’s luck isn’t a normal bad.
This is evil, cursed-by-a-wart-covered-gypsy bad. Best to stay away. The rest of us have already spread goat’s blood over our doors as a precautionary measure. (DM me after; I know a guy.)
Matt’s leading off again this week. Please take a moment to burn some sprigs of sage and wave them around your computer screen.
On to the picks!
Matt hopes for the best with San Francisco @ St. Louis (+3)
As my record worsens, that "mean reversion" I've been hearing so much about would be welcome sooner rather than later. Without that sweet, sweet push in the San Diego game last week, I’d been seriously considering throwing darts at the list of lines.
Prior to last week’s game, I’d been outraged at the sanctimonious dinks in the media calling it disgraceful that the 49ers Aldon Smith was allowed to play after being arrested for a DUI.
Nothing irks me more than talking heads taking the moral high ground and acting as if NFL football isn't the most important thing in the world (it is). As a Pats fan, I'd welcome Edward Snowden onto the squad if he could get pressure on the quarterback out of a base defense.
As more details about Smith's situation came out (painkiller addiction, second offense, burned rubber), it was obvious there was something a lot darker going on than a simple DUI arrest, and there’s no way it didn't have an impact on the stinker San Fran had at home versus the Colts.
They went away from their bread and butter, which is a power running game behind their physical offensive line. The @rumfordjohnny named "Pantene role" (read: volume) needs to be reassumed by Frank Gore for the Niners to get back to winning games in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
The Rams laid an egg of their own last week, on the road at Dallas. For a team that had been on the rise, their age showed in a brutal loss. In the second half, their time would have been better spent warming up the proverbial bus. Any defense that allows DeMarco "Sick Note" Murray to gouge them like that needs to take a long look in the mirror.
Thursday night games are a mess, so I'm taking the home dog, which played surprisingly well against San Francisco last season (a TIE, everyone!).
Matt's Pick: Rams
Lions (-3) Nathan Pizzahands is replaceable, so the Lions offense won't miss a beat versus the Bears.
Patriots (+2) My maniacal fandom is called into question this week, as I (and many other white folk) will be watching Breaking Bad instead of the Pats. But at the pace the Sunday night games go, the second half will be just starting at 10:15 anyhow.
Steelers (-2) Pittsburgh figured out the offense last week, and has Heath Miller returning. The Vikings can’t stop anyone, including the immortal Brian Hoyer led Browns.
Luke peers through his monocle at Pittsburgh @ Minnesota (+2.5) (in London)
The only quicker way to drain all of the excitement out of an NFL game, other than banishing it to the sinkhole of Thursday night, is by playing it in another country.
The annual experiment in global branding/empire-building that is the London game, er, match, has all the allure of a 60-minute halftime show and the crisp execution of the first week of preseason. That's not going to stop us from watching, of course, even if precisely 0 percent of Britons will.
I asked my mate in London, who runs this fine site, if it seemed like anyone over there was excited.
"Those sure are some b-grade areas that they sent over here,” he said. “Are you sure they're the best ones to export to us? Can't we have the New York Yankees or the L.A. Lakers play instead? I at least own hats with their names on them.”
That's a good a summary of the current levels Pittsburgh and Minnesota, two 0-3 teams, have been playing at this year. On the plus side, at least neither team has a passing offense to speak of, so perhaps the rugby fans in attendance won't be put off.
So who's going to win? To be honest, I don't even care. Minnesota, I guess? It literally doesn't matter. On the other hand, maybe Pittsburgh will be fired up with fresh bulletin board material after seeing their owner disrespected earlier this week. Let's go with that. Just to shove it in Ashton Kutcher's face.
Luke’s Pick: Steelers
Chiefs (-4.5) 4.5? That's all? We're talking about a potentially historically bad Giants team here, and K.C. looks like they might be for real. Alex Smith is in eff-you mode, and it continues this week. Side note, as a Patriots fan, I know watching the Giants go 0-16 won't erase the memory of 18-1, but I'm not exactly going to complain about it.
Falcons (-2) I think I've picked against the Patriots every week, and so far it's paid off. This is the first time they're underdogs, however, and it’s also the first time I actually think they’re going to lose.
I was supposed to take a trip to Georgia to see my brother and sister-in-law and go to this game, but we didn't make it happen. The idea of watching the Patriots get beat amidst a bunch of Hawks fans didn't sound so great the more I thought about it. By the way, my brother-in-law, who I talk football betting with a lot, had only one response when I told him that I was writing a betting column: “lol.”
Broncos (-10.5) Could be -100.5, and I’d still take it.
Jerry suits up for Philadelphia @ Denver (-10.5)
I have to admit, when I first met Chip Kelly, I was merely intrigued. I mean, sure, I’d seen him around, coaching Oregon and going to bowl games and such. But his innovative offense seemed like a curiosity, nothing more.
Then I saw him for the first time in the NFL back on that Week 1 Monday night, and I was smitten. He was doing things I'd never seen before.
O-lines with three men in tight and the tackles split out by the numbers. Read options with overloaded sides, consistently putting the Eagles run game in a numbers advantage. As the night wore on and the empties piled up, it felt like I'd finally met not only the next great NFL innovator, but more importantly my next new coach crush.
The only thing missing was the sight of Kelly backlit, his hair blowing in the wind in slow-mo to the strains of "Dream Weaver."
But like most instant infatuations, it fizzled out quickly. A Week 2 loss to San Diego in which Kelly played for a field goal instead of going for a game-sealing first down was the piece of spinach in his teeth that was more off-putting then endearing.
Then last week, a measly 57 total offensive plays and 16 points in a loss at home to Kansas City was the bad breath and annoying laugh that made me question what I was thinking in the first place. In this week's contest, on the road against the best team in football, I'm expecting the bloom to come all the way off the rose, and that afterward I'll be trying to figure out how to block his calls.
The bottom line is Chip Kelly didn't bring a new style of offense to the NFL any more than Miley Cyrus brought sluttiness to MTV.
Jerry's Pick: Broncos
Vikings (+2.5) The Vikings land in England and lay waste of a team with no defense. This is not a repeat from 793 AD.
Chiefs (-4.5) As a shameless New England homer, I cannot express how much it galls me that the Giants have played exactly two solid months of football in seven seasons, and both cost us Super Bowls.
Cardinals (+2.5) Tampa Bay paying Darrelle Revis $96 million to play zone is like hiring a $2,000 per night Vegas escort, then having her actually escort you somewhere.
Nick straps in for New England @ Atlanta (-2)
Look, I'm going to level with you guys. I like Breaking Bad, but I also think it's overrated. Mostly because of all the navel-gazing articles and podcasts about the program that are starting to wear on me.
The worst aspect is the Sports Guy hand-wringing about which show to DVR, Breaking Bad or Sunday Night Football. To make a Simmons-esque tortured pop culture metaphor, this is not friggin' Sophie's Choice.
The stargate to the cultural zeitgeist won't close if you don't tune into AMC before JBug posts a spoiler on Twitter. So let's all just relax, as that's what Sunday night is for anyway, not dissecting some violent, drug-fueled look at the brutality of man.
So, on to football.
The defense has rightly been getting the credit for New England’s 3-0 start, holding teams to just 11.3 points a game. Of course, the opposing quarterbacks they’ve faced have been two rookies and a guy who just lost his job to one.
Now they’re up against Matt Ryan, who’s 35-6 at home over the course of his career.
Both teams are banged up, and both teams are desperate for a win. Atlanta because they’re 1-2, but they’re upcoming schedule is so cupcakey it’s written in buttercream frosting (Jets, BYE, Bucs, @ Cards, @ Panthers). The Patriots, on the other hand, head to Cincinnati next week and host New Orleans in Week 6, after which they could conceivably be a .500 club.
At that point, insane panic would ensue. Rumors will fly about Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Steve Largent. Radio callers will be screaming that Rohan Davey should start under center. Bill Simmons will write a 10,000-word article comparing Bill Belichick to Walter White, Tom Brady to Jesse Pinkman and, in a tangle of misguided logic, Gronk to Teen Wolf. I fear this is the first step toward that unpleasantness.
Nick’s Pick: Falcons
Saints (-6.5) New Orleans and Wolfman Rob was a marriage made in heaven, but who knew it was because of his defensive schemes and not just the close proximity to yard glasses of Hurricanes.
Titans (-3.5) Jake Locker’s reputation can be followed on a sine wave. Right now we’re at a high point, ‘cause JAKEY’S GOT WHEELS.
Steelers @ Vikings (Under 42) Whenever the NFL goes to London, where they prefer the original football, I'm reminded of how dumb it is that we call our sport by the same name.
It's like if we called basketball "free throws" or hockey "icing." Kicking is the lamest, least interesting aspect of the game. Although I guess that explains why Euros call their sport what they do.
Like we're trying to beat them in a dullness competition, the NFL inevitably exports terrible games to the UK. (The Jaguars just signed a four-year deal!) Both these teams are having a rough go of it this season. I don't expect many points.
J gears up for Miami @ New Orleans (-6.5)
If you had to guess which team in this matchup ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense, you’d be lying if you answered New Orleans. LIAR!!!!
The Saints, behind the other Ryan brother, have turned around a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2012, allowing 440 yards a game. That’s a lot. Not to take anything away from the Dolphins, who have impressive wins at Indy and at home against the Falcons, but they currently rank 22nd in total defense, including 28th against defending opposing teams tight ends, which, if you know anything about football, happens to be a major strength of the Saints offense with the unstoppable Jimmy Graham.
Neither team can run the ball, at all, so we’ll take that out of the equation and assume this is a shootout. Tannehill has all the tools to be a franchise QB, and now he has the weapons this year in Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. But without the semblance of a run game, it’s tough to figure how he can stay upright and not turn the ball over (see the five fumbles in three weeks).
The Saints can score with any team in the NFL, even the Broncos, to whom most have already handed the Lombardi Trophy. Now that they can pressure the quarterback (four sacks last week without calling one blitz) they’ll make a lot of teams look bad, especially at the Superdome.
Good luck if your facing Graham or Drew Brees this week in fantasy football. I also think Colston will put up big numbers as the Dolphins are susceptible to big plays down the field.
J’s Pick: Saints $100 bounty on anyone who disagrees.
Beau’s Locks: As you can see, my friend, coauthor and betting consigliere takes a rather analytical view of football. Following his lead has both worked and failed miserably this season. Time to change tactics. In the true spirit of Slack Lines, I’m gonna be the stupid, biased, knee-jerk fan that I really am. Let the experiment begin…
1. Who gives the Steelers points?
2. Dan Rooney, Sr. was the ambassador to Ireland. The Irish hate the British and both nationalities are notorious for fixing “football” matches. Conclusion: The lads rig the game like a Guy Ritchie movie, and the Irish-backed City of Steel overcomes all odds to bring home victory
Bengals (-4.5) Ok, I’ll bite. Why the hell are the Bengals only spotting 4.5 to a team who traded the future of their franchise and brought in a running back that couldn’t make an NFL roster in August? Wait, there’s more! They’re QB1 is still really just a QB3, and they spent all week shopping their only other offensive option, Josh Gordon, for a cup of Dunks and a cigarette.
Beau’s college pick: Alabama (-15) After a shaky start to the season, the Tide got a huge win in what was the most hyped game of the season against Johnny Football. Johnny Football. Alabama beat him, and only him. According to ESPN, Manziel was the only person on earth that week… sorry.
Anyway, Ole Miss is kind of a big deal after they “$landed$” one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory. Whatever. The Crimson Tide will roll right on through the Runnin’ Rebs by three or more TDs.
Until next week, folks.
Follow @CHFFSlackLines for more inane commentary.