Finally! After two mediocre weeks to start the 2012 NFL season, Sportsmasher had a breakout week, going (10-5-1) and (2-1) in his best bets of the weekend. RexRated did not fare as well on his best bets going just (0-2-1) and Sportsmasher has taken the lead in their best bets competition. Entering week 4, we finally get the REAL referees back, and the players may actually decide some games! The Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers are on BYE this week, let’s get to the picks:
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens (-12.5) – A very tough matchup for the young Browns, they are struggling both offensively and defensively, and visit Baltimore (2-1) one of the consensus best teams in the NFL. Working to the Browns advantage is the fact that the Ravens played a late game on Sunday night against the Patriots, but they should make short work of the (0-3) Browns, who rank towards the bottom in the NFL almost every major category. I do not think the Browns have the skill or makeup to hang with the Ravens in a nationally televised game.
The Pick: Ravens (-12.5) FINAL SCORE: Ravens 34 Browns 13
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills (+4.5) – The Patriots are a disappointing (1-2) however, they have lost those two games by a combined three points, and the case could be made that if it were not for the replacement referees they would be undefeated. The one area that the Patriots are really struggling in right now is stopping the opponent’s passing game, their secondary is still a weakness, and they can be beaten with the deep ball. The Bills are (2-1) lead by running back C.J. Spiller, who has burst onto the scene, and is currently the NFL’s second leading rusher. I think this will be a better game than people think, and it is not yet a “must win” for New England, but I think they will right the ship in Buffalo this weekend.
***RexRated BEST BET Patriots (-4.5)***
The Pick: Patriots (-4.5) FINAL SCORE: Patriots 31 Bills 23
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions (-4) – The Lions have struggled this year, and may be without quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is nursing a hip injury. The (1-2) Lions have had no problem moving the ball offensively and are coming off a high scoring overtime loss to the Titans, if their playoff dreams are going to come true, they need a win here. The Vikings have been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season and are coming off of a shocking upset of the 49ers lead by quarterback Christian Ponder. I have caught a lot of flack from Vikings fans, saying I hate their team because my preseason prediction for Minnesota was so bad. I think this will be a great game, but I’m picking the Lions to win at home, and get going in the right direction. It makes this division more interesting if the Lions win this game, and they will, behind a huge game from Calvin Johnson.
The Pick: Lions (-4) FINAL SCORE: Lions 23 Vikings 17
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons (-7.5) – The Falcons have looked like the best team in the NFL throughout three weeks, and at the present time, their quarterback Matt Ryan would be the league MVP. The Carolina Panthers were absolutely crushed by the New York Giants last Thursday night, and will have had 10 days to prepare for their undefeated division rivals, while the Falcons are coming off of a late afternoon west coast win over the San Diego Chargers. One of the Falcons weaknesses is the lack of a pass rush, which will give Cam Newton time to make plays, it was the strength of the Giants pass rush that gave Newton so many problems. I like the Falcons to win this game, but think it will be much closer than the spread indicates, take the points.
The Pick: Panthers (+7.5) FINAL SCORE: Falcons 24 Panthers 20
San Francisco 49ers @ New York Jets (+4.5) – The Jets lost their best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis for the season with a knee injury last weekend, but I do not expect that to hurt them too badly against the 49ers offense. What troubles me a lot more is figuring out how the Jets will be able to move the ball against a stingy 49ers defense, but Christian Ponder and the Vikings seemed to figure them out better than anyone in recent memory last weekend. I expect this to be a low scoring, heavy hitting affair, I just wonder what the loss of their best player will do for the psyche of the Jets.
The Pick: 49ers (-4.5) FINAL SCORE: 49ers 16 Jets 10
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs (PICK) – Our first “pick em'” game of the young 2012 season, the Chiefs (1-2) are slightly overrated in my mind, they are coming off an overtime win in New Orleans against a Saints team that is flat out bad. Meanwhile, the Chargers (2-1) are a little underrated, following a disappointing home loss to the Falcons in which they could find no rhythm offensively. This game comes down to one question “Can the Chiefs run the football” if they can, they’ll win and they have the best rushing offense in the NFL (191.7 YPG). The Chargers have an excellent rush defense (4th in the NFL 67.3 YPG) so I am picking them to win this one in Kansas City, but if the Chiefs can run this pick changes instantaneously.
The Pick: Chargers (PICK) FINAL SCORE: Chargers 23 Chiefs 20
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans (-12) – The Texans (3-0) look like the class of the AFC right now, while the Titans are highly confident, coming off of a shootout overtime victory over the Lions last weekend. As Chris Johnson fantasy owners know, the Titans have been unable to get the rushing game going at all this season, and are last in the NFL with 39.0 rush YPG. The Texans will stuff the run, make Jake Locker pass, and rush him when he does. They should also be able to run the ball at will on the Titans, who are 29th in the NFL in rush defense. Expect big games from Arian Foster and Ben Tate, I like the Texans to win, and I don’t think it’s close.
The Pick: Texans (-12) FINAL SCORE: Texans 41 Titans 17
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET Texans (-12)***
Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams (+3) – The Seahawks are riding high following a controversial but huge home win on Monday night over the Green Bay Packers, but they are a MUCH better home than road team. The Rams are not as bad as they were in 2011, however, they are still struggling to move the ball offensively and have given up a lot of yards on the ground. Their pass defense is better, but they need to stop Marshawn Lynch and make Russell Wilson throw to have a shot in this one. I like Lynch to have a big game, the spread seems about right, but give me Seattle.
The Pick: Seahawks (-3) FINAL SCORE: Seahawks 24 Rams 20
Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+3) – The Bengals (2-1) main objective in this game has to be stopping Jags (1-2) running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and if they are able to do so, they should walk away with an easy win. The Bengals biggest weakness is their pass defense (29th in the NFL), however the Jaguars will not be able to exploit this, due to their terrible pass offense (31st in the NFL). I like the Bengals to blow out the Jaguars in this one, they will pound the ball in the running game and open up the passing game and receiver AJ Green (2nd in the NFL in receiving yards) offensively. Unless MJD has a monster game (like he did last week) I like the Bengals to win big.
The Pick: Bengals (-3) FINAL SCORE: Bengals 31 Jaguars 10
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET Bengals (-3)***
***RexRated BEST BET Bengals (-3)***
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos (-6.5) – I feel like I am the only person who does not think the Broncos (1-2) are a contender. The Broncos have had a tough schedule (Pittsburgh, @ Atlanta, Houston) but I am more worried about the fact that Peyton Manning does not seem to have the same pre-surgery zip on the ball as advertised and the defense has struggled. The Raiders have also struggled, but would have had a chance in the season opener against the Chargers if their long snapper had not gotten hurt. I cannot explain getting blown out by the Dolphins in Miami week two, but in week three they beat the Steelers. I think Denver wins this game and defends home turf, but I’m taking the points here.
The Pick: Raiders (+6.5) FINAL SCORE: Denver 24 Oakland 20
Miami Dolphins @ Arizona Cardinals (-6.5) – The Arizona Cardinals (3-0) have been the most surprising team in the NFL through three weeks, with wins against the Seahawks, Patriots and Eagles. The offense may not be pretty, but the defense is downright scary, and the entire team is playing with confidence and swagger. The Dolphins (1-2) are slightly better than expected, they had the Jets on the ropes last week and beat the Raiders, but they could be without top offensive weapon running back Reggie Bush. I do not think this young Dolphins team is ready to go into the desert and play against what could be the best defense in the NFL.
The Pick: Cardinals (-6.5) FINAL SCORE: Arizona 23 Miami 10
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET Cardinals (-6.5)***
New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers (-8) – The Saints (0-3) are downright horrible, especially defensively, where they rank dead last in the entire NFL (allowing 477 yards per game). The Packers (1-2) have to be extremely angry coming off of that controversial loss to the Seahawks on Monday night and need to do whatever it takes to avoid falling to 1-3. The Saints cannot stop anybody and the Packers (scoring just 19.0 points per game) are due for an offensive outburst. I think Aaron Rodgers has a huge passing day the Packers get back on the right track with a much needed win.
The Pick: Packers (-8) FINAL SCORE: Packers 38 Saints 24
Washington Redskins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) – I feel bad for Robert Griffin III. Due to injuries the Redskins cannot play defense or protect the young quarterback, who is getting absolutely crushed every time he drops back to pass. The Buccaneers (1-2) have also struggled, but played the Cowboys tough last week and had a enormous lead over the Giants in New York in week two until an incredible comeback. I think that the Bucs are a little better than they looked so far, while the Redskins are decimated by injuries. Taking the home team here.
The Pick: Buccaneers (-3) FINAL SCORE: Tampa Bay 24 Washington 17
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles (-1) – The Eagles (2-1) had a pair of nail biting one point victories under their belt before losing to the Cardinals last Sunday in Arizona, while the Giants (2-1) are coming off a blowout win of the Panthers in Carolina last Thursday night. The Giants were undermanned due to injuries last week, but players like running back Andre Brown and wide receiver Ramses Barden stepped up and fill the void. Now the Giants get wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw back to take on an Eagles team that is gaining a lot of yardage, which has not translated to a lot of points. I think this will be a high scoring shootout type game, but give the edge to the Giants, because their pass rushers will hit Michael Vick early and often. Plus the Giants enter this game with 10 days perpetration and rest.
The Pick: Giants (+1) FINAL SCORE: Giants 31 Eagles 27
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) – This matchup features two teams that should be explosive offensively, but have not been, because neither team has been able to protect their quarterback due to atrocious offensive line play. Worse still, the Cowboys have Demarcus Ware and the Bears have Julius Peppers, two of the most dynamic pass rushers in recent NFL history, so each quarterback will be under a ton of pressure. I like Dallas in this one, simply because Tony Romo seems to make better decisions in the face of pressure than Jay Cutler does, but be prepared to witness some big hits on each quarterback.
The Pick: Dallas (-3.5) FINAL SCORE: Cowboys 20 Bears 13
***RexRated BEST BET Cowboys (-3.5)***
Week 1: (9-7)
WEEK 2: (7-8-1)
Week 3: (10-5-1)
2012 Season: (26-15-2)
Sportsmasher Best Bets: 5-4
RexRated’s Best Bets: 4-5-1