Zach (5-5) bested me (2-8) in last week’s picks of the conference championship games, making a dent in my season lead in the process. I’m below .500 again, although there’s still plenty of football left to be played. We are finished with college football except for the bowl games, which we’ll deal with separately and won’t count as part of these picks. It’s all NFL all the time here for the next month, and I’m going to try not to be redundant in discussing the same teams over & over…but I can’t make any promises.
My Season: 45-51
Zach’s Season: 37-59
Las Vegas at Kansas City (-9.5)
It seems like just yesterday everyone was wondering what was wrong with KC, while Vegas was a team on the rise. But now everything is returning back to normal…or is it?? The oddsmakers sure seem to like the Chiefs, which is understandable since they have won five straight games. However, the Raiders are only two games out and certainly find themselves in the thick of the wildcard race. Arrowhead does provide a significant home field advantage, but the points are just too much for my taste. The Chiefs won’t win by more than a touchdown. Conversely, Zach sees two teams heading in opposite directions and thinks KC won’t have any issues covering.
My Pick: Las Vegas
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Baltimore at Cleveland (-2.5)
The AFC North is playing out pretty much as I expected, which is good because that means our Steelers still have a postseason opportunity in front of them. I know the Browns have the home field, but I’m still a little surprised they are favored. That doesn’t say as much about any legit love the powers-that-be have for them as much as it shows a lack of respect for the Ravens. Zach doesn’t have any faith in the home team’s defense or their ability to stop QB Lamar Jackson.
My Pick: Cleveland
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
Dallas (-4) at Washington
These teams meet twice in the next three weeks. It’d be great if the Redskins would sweep, but I’m not counting on that. However, I believe they might pull off the upset at home. Zach foresees a fun & competitive game that’ll be close into the 4th quarter, but he thinks the visitors have what it takes to get the victory.
My Pick: Washington
Z’s Pick: Dallas
Chicago at Green Bay (-12.5)
The Bears are 4-8, but after missing the past two games with a rib injury rookie QB Justin Fields is back under center this week. Green Bay is 9-3 and has the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in their favor. This is the Sunday night game on NBC and I fully expect the Packers to win, but by how much?? I feel as if it’ll be more like 10-ish points. Zach, on the other hand, believes Green Bay might pull off a four TD beatdown.
My Pick: Chicago
Z’s Pick: Green Bay
LA Rams at Arizona (-3)
The first time these teams met in early October the Cardinals scored an impressive 17 point victory. This time they are at home and playing on Monday Night Football. Will the results be any different?? I don’t think so. Zach has a lot more faith in the new look Rams defense and thinks they’ll do enough to slow down Cards’ QB Kyler Murray.
We didn’t pick the Clemson game last week, but please indulge me while I give myself a rare pat on the back. In my pre-season poll I pondered the question “Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the (Clemson) Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been??”. It didn’t go down exactly like I thought it would, but yeah…I called it!! No playoff for Clemson this season. Now, if only my weekly picks in these games were as accurate. Sadly both Zach (2-3) and myself (1-4) struggled again last week, so I’m going against my better judgement by chasing wins with bonus picks. Y’all are welcome, even though it may just blow up in our faces.
My Season: 11-15
Zach’s Season: 10-16
Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)
I can’t be the only one who gets these two teams mixed up, so let’s take a little climb up the learning tree. The 2-2 Florida Atlantic Owls call Boca Raton (45 miles north of Miami) home, represent Conference USA, and are coached by Willie Taggart (former head coach at Oregon & Florida St.). The 1-3 Florida International Panthers are out of Miami, also play in C-USA, and their head coach is Butch Davis (who has also coached for Miami, North Carolina, & the Cleveland Browns). I don’t think there’s much of a home field advantage to be had, and in rivalry games like this most other conventional rules can be tossed aside. So it comes down to vibes and what assumptions one can make based on what we’ve seen thus far. FAU lost to Florida & Air Force, allowing both teams to score 30+ points. FIU has only played one game against top tier competition, and that was a four TD+ loss to Texas Tech. This feels like a relatively low scoring, tight game to be decided by turnovers, penalties, & special teams. Something along the lines of 28-24, which means that I don’t like the spread at all and will take the underdogs to cover. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Florida International
Z’s Pick: Florida International
Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame
I had to look at those odds multiple times utilizing a few different sources. Sure, Cincy is a solid team that had two consecutive 11 win seasons before last year’s abbreviated campaign in which they logged 9 victories before narrowly losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. They handled a well regarded Indiana team last week. I am by no means saying that the Bearcats aren’t good. However, they’re an AAC team typically not on the same level as a program like Notre Dame. Not only that, but this game is in South Bend and the 4-0 Irish have given no one any reason to doubt them outside of being pushed into overtime by Florida St. in the season opener. Hell, they took Wisconsin’s best punch a week ago and still won by 4 TDs, so what am I missing?? Why is Cincinnati favored in this game?!?!?!?? It sounds pretty insane to me, so I’m going with the home team to score the “upset”. Conversely, Zach believes the Bearcats are for real and this is their opportunity to prove they belong in the playoff conversation.
My Pick: Notre Dame
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)
Well, atleast we don’t have to worry about Clemson in the playoff, so it’ll be fresh to some degree. Now if only we could see the Tide lose a couple of games and fall out of contention, how cool would that be?? Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen. ‘Bama has won four games by an average of 29 points, although it should be noted that they’ve not faced anyone with a pulse other than Florida, a game they only won by two points. The Rebels are 3-0 and have also beaten up on clearly inferior competition. In attendance will be highly touted recruit Arch Manning, Peyton & Eli’s nephew. It is my understanding that both Ole Miss & Alabama are high on his list, so it’ll be interesting to hear down the line how this game affected his decision. At any rate, if it were being played in Oxford I might be tempted to pick the upset. Enigmatic Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin spent a few years as ‘Bama’s offensive coordinator awhile back so obviously he’d love to snatch a shocking victory. However, with the game being contested in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it happening. The only question is if the home team can cover the points, and I believe they will. Zach’s man crush on Nick Saban makes his choice easy.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)
I didn’t think the Razorbacks were legit, but I was wrong. They handled Texas A&M and moved into the Top 10. Unfortunately they now must travel to Athens and challenge the undefeated #2 Bulldogs. I’d be really surprised if Georgia loses, but can they cover?? The points feel a bit disrespectful. Having said that, it feels like a “go big or go home” moment, and I did pick Georgia to be a playoff team and thus far they’ve done nothing to dissuade me, so I’m counting on them to notch a three touchdown victory. Zach respects Georgia’s defense & team speed, but he doesn’t like the spread and thinks Arkansas will keep it close.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Arkansas
Detroit at Chicago (-3)
Good Lord the Bears were awful a week ago. At the time of publication it is unknown whether the Bears’ starting QB will be rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or Nick Foles…but does it matter?? Conversely, the Lions are coming off a last second loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which it took the longest field goal in NFL history to beat them. Can they use that heartbreaking defeat as motivation?? If they were playing a playoff caliber team I might have doubts, but the Bears aren’t that, so I think Detroit scores the mild upset. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Detroit
Seattle at San Francisco (-3)
In my NFL Preview I predicted that the NFC West would be fun to watch, and so far they have not disappointed. This game might end up being a factor in a few months when deciding a playoff spot, and don’t think for a second these teams don’t realize that. Seattle lost to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, while ‘Frisco was on the losing end of an unsurprising Aaron Rodgers miracle, so both clubs will be looking to rebound. I think the home field actually does make a difference, so I’m picking the Niners. Zach, on the other hand, believes potential league MVP Russell Wilson will lead his team to victory.
My Pick: San Francisco
Z’s Pick: Seattle
Arizona at LA Rams (-6)
Staying in the NFC West, these are the teams I believe will be battling for the division crown at the end, so it’s a pretty big early season matchup. Both are undefeated, but obviously that’ll change for one of them. It looks like the trade for QB Matthew Stafford was a wise move for the Rams, while the Cards have developed into a seemingly complete team. This is a tossup for me, but whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach foresees a close game but believes the home team will cover.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England
It’s the Brady Bowl. I’m sure the folks in Boston & Tampa are pumped, but personally I’d rather see both teams lose. That being said, I think it’s been well established by now that the “Patriot Dynasty” was more about Brady than it ever was about Belichick. The oddsmakers seem to agree since the home team is a near touchdown underdog. The Sunday Night Football folks at NBC are probably going to be disappointed because I think this one will be over rather quickly and the defending Super Bowl champs might win by 4 or 5 TDs. Zach concurs.
It is weekends like this when I really feel the need to look for a different job. There is so much action I’m going to miss. Of course there’s also the fact that I haven’t been able to go to church in over a year, but that’s a whole other story. Y’all are here for football, right?? A week ago Zach & I both went 5-3, which is pretty good for us. I understand that much of the attention in the sports world is focused on the impending World Series, but luckily for The Manoverse I can multitask. There are some big games that we are ignoring this week (atleast in this space) for various reasons, but I think we have cobbled together a worthy lineup. Enjoy.
My Season: 26-18
Zach’s Season: 21-23
TCU (-3) at Kansas State
The talking heads like to promote the Big Ten & SEC, and credit where it is due…those two conferences are a lot of fun. But let’s not totally overlook the Big 12. At the moment 9 out of 10 teams have a winning or even record, and the games are usually exciting to watch. Both the Horned Frogs and the Wildcats are 3-2. Both are trying to rebound from a loss. Both had a bye last week. It’s interesting that TCU is the favorite, but I’m going to disagree with the oddsmakers and believe that the home field will make a difference. Conversely, Zach likes TCU’s offense better & thinks they’ll get the job done.
My Pick: Kansas St.
Z’s Pick: TCU
Baylor at Oklahoma State (-3)
More Big 12. Sorry…deal with it. The Bears are undefeated, lead the conference, & got a big double OT victory over Texas Tech a week ago. The Cowboys are coming off a bye week and trying to rebound from a loss to the aforementioned Red Raiders. Baylor is good, but I have to once again lean in the general direction of the home favorites. Zach believes Baylor’s offense is too fast for OK St. to keep up.
My Pick: Oklahoma St.
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Boise State (-6) at BYU
The Broncos are who we thought they were…undefeated and in the Top 15. They haven’t got a prayer of being a playoff team, but winning their conference and playing in a New Year’s bowl game is a nice consolation prize. The Cougars are 2-4 and might not play in any kind of post-season game. This the exactly the kind of late night matchup that I used to look forward to, but instead I’ll be asleep before kickoff because I have to get up so damn early on Sunday morning. At any rate, BYU may not get blown out on their home field, but neither do I expect them to win and the six points seems more than manageable for Boise. Zach likes Boise in a rather mundane defensive struggle.
My Pick: Boise St.
Z’s Pick: Boise St.
Miami at Buffalo (-17)
Yes ladies & gentlemen…it’s true, the Buffalo Bills look like they might actually be a good football team. I don’t know if they’ll make the playoffs (they’re not winning the division), but we’ll let the good folks in upstate New York enjoy their moment. Conversely, the Dolphins may or may not be tanking to secure the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft so they can snag Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, but either way they are winless and I don’t think Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Josh Rosen can save them. The points make me a little nervous, but this is the perfect opportunity to make a statement and prove they’re for real, so I’m going to ride with Buffalo. Zach believes Miami might have enough FitzMagic to atleast cover the points.
My Pick: Buffalo
Z’s Pick: Miami
Arizona at NY Giants (-3)
We knew this was going to be a learning curve season for the Cardinals with a rookie head coach & a rookie QB. All things considered they haven’t fared that badly and the folks in Arizona have reason to be somewhat encouraged. The new norm for the Giants is rookie quarterback Daniel Jones at the helm, and even though the initial excitement has dissipated he too has shown that the future doesn’t have to be bleak for the G-Men. It’ll be interesting to watch the growth & evolution of these two young signal callers in the next few years, but for now I expect a sloppy game with lots of turnovers & mistakes. Defense will win the day, and I think the return of RB Saquon Barkley is enough to secure the home team a close victory. Conversely, Zach foresees a big game from Kyler Murray and an upset for the Cards.
As happy as I am to have football back I have to say that last weekend wasn’t so great in The Manoverse. Both my West Virginia Mountaineers & Pittsburgh Steelers got mauled in their games, and the ol’ alma mater’s Thundering Herd looked like they had a shot to upset Boise St. until their offense decided to stay in the locker room after halftime. As far as our picks go, both Zach & myself were 5-3, which I guess isn’t terrible. The NCAA schedule is a bit prosaic this week, but I think we’ve cobbled together a slate of college & pro games that will be fun to keep an eye on.
My Season: 7-6
Zach’s Season: 6-7
Pitt at Penn State (-17)
It’s a damn shame that so many intrastate and other geographic rivalries have gone by the wayside in recent years in the wake of conference realignment, but occasionally they do throw us a bone. I’m not sure one could call this particular rivalry all that competitive, as the Nittany Lions have won 9 out of the last 11 meetings and have clearly been the superior program dating back to atleast the 1970’s. The Panthers were beaten handily by the Virginia Cavaliers a week ago, while Penn St. is 2-0 and averaging 62 points per game, although that is against really weak competition. I don’t think the outcome is in much doubt; the only question is whether or not Pitt can muster enough pride to cover the points. My answer?? I don’t think so, and Zach agrees.
My Pick: Penn St.
Z’s Pick: Penn St.
Iowa (-2) at Iowa State
Here we have another intrastate rivalry featuring two teams in different conferences (because the NCAA is stupid). The Hawkeyes are 2-0 and haven’t broken a sweat, while the Cyclones took three OTs to get by a 1-AA team two weeks ago. Anyone who’s been with me on these picks over the years will recall that I don’t abandon ship on a team that I’ve predicted good things for, and I had State ranked 11th in my pre-season poll. I opined that they’ll beat either Oklahoma or Texas this season, and I’m not ready to move away from that. I understand why the oddsmakers are a bit trepidatious and have the visitors listed as favorites, but I believe the home team will defend their house. Conversely, Zach likes the Hawkeyes’ tight ends even though they’ve been virtually invisible thru the first couple of games, and he’s predicting a double digit victory for the visitors.
My Pick: Iowa St.
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Arizona at Baltimore (-13)
The sports media is still singing the praises of Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury & rookie QB Kyler Murray, even after a riveting tie last weekend. I remain steadfast in my opinion that Kingsbury will be a college coach & Murray will be playing baseball a few years from now. The Ravens beat down the Miami Dolphins in the season opener, but a lot of teams will do that in the next few months. Having said that, it does seem like Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson is doing his best to quiet the doubters and prove he is a legit NFL quarterback. I’d be surprised if the Cards won the game, but it feels like keeping things competitive before ultimately falling short (pun unavoidable) might become Murray’s thing, so I think they’ll cover the points. Zach likes the Ravens’ defense to give the rookie a tough day and lead the way to an easy win.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
New Orleans at LA Rams (-2)
If I were feeling a bit peppy I’d do some research and see who the officiating crew is for this one, but I’m not so I won’t. Bottom line: this is a revenge game for the Saints, and they’ll be motivated to put on a show. Sure they struggled to get by Houston last weekend, but the Texans are a really good team. The Rams went into Carolina and barely got by the Panthers, which I find considerably more alarming. Could the Super Bowl Curse be a real thing?? Are the Rams in for a tough season?? I don’t know about all of that, but I’m pretty sure New Orleans will win this game rather easily. Zach concurs.
My Pick: New Orleans
Z’s Pick: New Orleans
Cleveland (-2) at NY Jets
A year ago I wouldn’t have had any interest in watching a Browns-Jets game, but both teams are allegedly on the rise, so it theoretically should be fun. However, with Jets QB Sam Darnold on the shelf due to mono and Cleveland suffering an embarrassing loss in the opener after so much offseason hype the matchup is far less attractive than it could have been. The Monday Night Football folks can’t be very happy. Trevor Siemian will be behind center for the Jets, and I think it’d be absolutely hilarious if he hands the Browns their second loss. Zach doesn’t believe either team is any good, but likes Cleveland to score a close victory.