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The Black Cat's 128K Picks of 2014
2013's "Mr. September" (Weeks 2-4) was 17-9-1!
WEEK 1: 2-6 ($100 Bet Net: -$418.18, $25 Stars: $-355.68)
WEEK 2: 3-5 ($100 Bet Net: -$227.27, $25 Stars: $-282.95)
Overall: 5-11 ($645.45, -$638.63)
Week 2 featured another bloodbath for the home teams and home is off to one of its worse starts in probably a decade. Usually the home field advantage abates for week 3 but we'll have to see how it plays out given the bizarre start. I also noticed that passing yardage was way down in week 2, but -- surprisingly -- I don't see this being offset by an increase in penalty yardage. Pass defenses were actually more effective than usual last week. Perhaps the lack of games coming down to frantic fourth quarter comebacks played a role. I know many sharps have joined me with weak starts this season but we have a long long way to go and I'm in for the longhaul.
Here’s how my top 6 games went last week:
17-10 (line -5.5) Up 1.5 points
6-3 (line -3) EVEN
17-7 (line +6.5) Up 16.5 points
27-3 (line -7) Up 17 points
17-0 (line +10.5) Up 27.5 points
24-7 (line -7.5) Up 9.5 points
Straight up: 6-0
Spread: 5-0-1 (Up 72 points on the spread)
Unfortunately, that was HALFTIME! It was all downhill from there. I ended up 2-4 on these games. That’s right, I blew a 72 point lead, including losing the 27.5 pointer (Phily) and the 17 pointer (Cleveland). To add insult to injury, #7 and #8 were simply bad picks. Next season, if I refuse to pick week 1 like I typically do, you will know why!
WEEK 2: MR. SEPTEMBER #1
9. Tennessee -3.5 Dallas (5 Stars) LOSS
Back in July, the Titans and Rams seemed to be on parallel paths. Both had oft-injured Qbs that they were expecting to breakthrough this season. We know what happened with the Rams. For the Titans, there are signs that things might go the opposite way. The Titans pulled off a dominant win over the Chiefs last week, always a good sign that your team is at least decent. They are pitted against the Cowboys, another team that flopped at home. The Cowboys may possess one of the worst defenses in football and their offense seems gimpy at best. While the Cowboys Pass D didn't give up a lot of yards, they were torched for over 9 yards per attempt, 4th worst for the weekend. Last season, the Titans would have run and passed all over the Cowboys and still might. They figure to be in the top 10 in rushing yardage and should have a productive passing game. Even if the yardage ends up similar, the Cowboys are a very high-turnover risk judging from last week while the Titans took care of the ball.
Titans 29, Cowboys 20
10. San Francisco -7 Chicago (4.5 Stars) LOSS
Last week, the 49ers gashed the Cowboys for 9+ yards per attempt and they face a Bears Pass D that isn't much better. While Kap won't outpass Jay Cutler in yardage, it figures to be an efficient day. More concerning is the run game, where SF would have obliterated the Bears last season. Even projecting from last weekend, they figure to have a sizeable edge as the Bears struggled to run the ball. The Bears were terrible against the Zone Read last week - and that was against the Bills! Jay Cutler will get yardage but should commit turnovers in the process. This should lead to at least a one TD edge and more if the 49ers run rapshod.
49ers 24, Bears 13
11. Green Bay -7.5 NYJ (4.5 Stars) LOSS
Green Bay is coming off a disaster after drawing the road game in Seattle, something not to be read too much into. Their passing game was anemic and the running game was worse, with Lacy leaving the game early. The Jets, meanwhile, are coming off an absolute laugher vs. Oakland where the Raiders barely showed up offensively. Still, the Jets didn't even cover the spread! I don't think we can conclude much from either game, so lets look at last year. An Aaron Rodgers-led team would have gotten 371 yards breaking 10 yards per pass, while holding the Jets to 150 yards. Last week, the Jets showed no improvement in their passing game. GB should win by double-digits as Aaron Rodgers returns to form.
Packers 31, Jets 19
12. San Diego +5.5 Seattle (3.5 Stars) **WIN**
Seattle finally breaks their run of high profile games with a lackluster road trip against an AFC team. Last year, the Chargers would have matched up for at worst 5.5 points statistically and likely would have kept the game closer that that as they play well at home. Despite the Seahawks dominating their opener and the Chargers falling short, the numbers still stack up as a tight game with the Seahawks yielding significant value against the spread.
Chargers 21, Seahawks 23
13. Tampa Bay -5.5 St. Louis (3.5 Stars) LOSS
Tampa struggled mightily against the Panthers defense even though the Qb situation for the Panthers was poor. I expect the Bucs to play much better in this one.
Bucs 29, Rams 20
14. New England -5.5 Minnesota (3.5 Stars) **WIN**
The Vikings lapped up on the hapless Rams but don't expect that to carry over this week. The Vikings had a great edge in the running game coming in, but don't expect Jet Sweeps to make up for Adrian Peterson being out. The Patriots were decent containing the pass and that'll be easier without a substantial run threat. Brady will play substantially better in this one. Last year, this was a 9 point matchup and I'd expect something similar without Peterson.
Patriots 30, Vikings 21
15. Washington -6 Jacksonville (2 Stars) **WIN**
The Redskins got destroyed on the offensive line last week and RG3 likely led the league in yards per sack. The Skins defense did ok, particularly in the running game. A year ago, the Redskins offense could have obliterated Jacksonville and new weapons like DeSean Jackson should make an impact this weekend. With the offensive line not overwhelmed, the Redskins should look substantially better.
Redskins 24, Jags 16
16. Oakland +3 Houston (2 Stars) LOSS
Kind of hard to feel too good about this one. The Raiders offense was just terrible last week and now a young Qb will face an onslaught of pressure. But Houston is hardly a juggernaut either so perhaps they hang in.
Texans 17, Raiders 16
1. Seattle -5.5 Green Bay (4 Stars) **WIN**
Welcome back! I've never been much for week 1 as the data is a bit non-existent, but I'll make some educated swings of the bat. Looking at the Packers, getting 5.5 points on Aaron Rodgers has to make one drool a bit. Since his 40th game, you'd be hard pressed to find a game that the Packers lost by more than 5 points. Rodgers had a streak of 20 road games in a row without losing by more than 5 points not too long ago and he's basically done this something like 46 out of the last 49 game. He's also played lights out on opening night, throwing for over 300 yards in the last 2 outings against stellar defenses. And yes...there's a "but" coming. The "but" is that in the past two openers -- despite throwing for 300+ yards, Rodgers lost by 6 and 8 points to the 49ers, who are about as close to the Seahawks as one can find. Rating the Packers on the games Rodgers played last season and projecting them against the Seahawks of 2013, this opens as a 7 point game. If the Seahawks are showing chinks in their armor, I haven't seen it. Possibly the best hope for the Packer backers is the preseason showing of their defense looked vastly improved. Add to the consideration that the defending champions have done extremely well at home in this annual kickoff game, and the Seahawks strong home field advantage and their college bowl-type approach to big games makes one think "slaughter". In fact, on average last season I projected the Seahawks in home games by around 5 points -- and they won those games by an average of 14! So I'm going to take the hawkbirds and say its a pretty strong pick.
Seahawks 27, Packers 20
2. Arizona -3 San Diego (5 Stars) LOSS
This could be the best game for the Cardinals since Rod Tidwell yelled, “Show me the money!" Arizona would be a large favorite in this game in 2013 and I’m not sure what has changed to make people think this game will be different. Arizona plays well in their new stadium.
Cardinals 30, Chargers 20
3. Buffalo +6.5 Chicago (4 Stars) **WIN**
People expect great things out of the Bears offense this year, but that defense may be even worse than the woeful 2013 edition. They led the league is getting their ass kicked this preseason and the Bills always seem to produce more offense than one has any reason to expect.
Bills 24, Bears 28
4. Pittsburgh -7 Cleveland (3.5 Stars) LOSS
Cleveland’s offense looked positively woeful in August and Pittsburgh found the fountain of youth in rookie Ryan Shazier. Pittsburgh has gotten off to slow starts that have killed their season and they understand getting this win will be critical for 2014.
Steelers 27, Browns 10
5. Jacksonville +10.5 Philadelphia (3.5 Stars) LOSS
Large home favorites haven’t fared well in opening week and the Eagles look like the poster child of a large home favorite that won’t fare well in opening week. They may be worse this year, they face a bad team that can do nothing but get substantially better than last season, and they don’t even play that well at home. The line would be fare last year, but I smell substantial opportunity here in 2014.
Jags 19, Eagles 26
6. Denver -7.5 Indianapolis (3.5 Stars) LOSS
Last year, Manning played awful in Indianapolis on a short week. Now, with a month to prepare and at the comfort of home, he’ll do much better. While I don’t expect much from Indy’s defense, they’ll face a rebuilt Bronco defense that’ll be the story of the game. Kicker is a concern for Denver, but it shouldn’t factor in this one. I’ll give the Colts 20 points but expect 10 to come too little, too late.
Broncos 34, Colts 20
7. Washington +3 Houston (3 Stars) LOSS
A year ago, this would be a tossup so the question is, “Who has improved more?' I don’t see how you don’t answer that in Washington’s favor. The offense is absolutely stacked with weapons. The defense looks improved (could it be worse?) and while much attention was drawn to RG3‘s mediocre preseason, did you miss how great the defense did?
Redskins 23, Texans 20 (OT)
8. Baltimore -2 Cincinnati (3 Stars) LOSS
While the Bengals had the edge last year, I think the Ravens have reloaded and will come out significantly stronger this season. With the Bengals having lost their offensive coordinator, signs of the defense sliding back, and their Pro Bowl QB being on thin ice with the fans following the playoff debacle, I feel good about the Ravens starting things off right.
Baltimore 24, Bengals 19