You’ve seen prison movies, right? Well, then you’re familiar with the one scene they all have: reaching freedom–Andy embracing the air and staring up to the storming night skies in Shawshank Redemption–you know. I achieve a similar feeling every Labor Day weekend. It’s over. That two and a half month trudge from the end of the NBA Finals to College Football’s opening weekend. I usually look back at that time of the year like a baby boomer looks back at the 70s. It’s a haze, a cloud of smoke, something I walked through uncomfortably, trying to find any way out (like arguing how hard LeBron James should dunk during his child’s AAU game) and coughing on the most advanced neurological disease: boredom.
But I made it! Surprisingly. (There may have been two or three times over the sports waste period that my friend Goss almost bludgeoned me because I was splattering him with shrapnel spit from a screaming fit over Devin Booker skipping the FIBA World Cup). The NFL is back and with it comes a weekly picks article from myself and in correspondence with my Bovada account.
Before it’s too late, here’s my take on that matchup and four others I found worth investment:
PACKERS at BEARS (-3)
This is a classic Vegas line: a three-point home favorite in a matchup of two even teams. But these teams aren’t even? The Bears are just better? Yes, yes, you can stop hesitating whether to agree. Jesus, you look like the principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off after his ditsy secretary told him Ferris was on line two and not one impersonating Mr. Peterson. (It’s at 2:12 in the clip below. And this is peak Cameron Ruck–he’s phenomenally funny).
Chicago is better than Green Bay. I know, this decade of football and Aaron Rodgers’ strange mustache pull at your heartstrings but stop! Aside from Trubisky, Chicago has the edge at every single position on the football field. Oh, shoot! I forgot to mention–and this may be of some importance: CHICAGO HAS THE BEST DEFENSE IN THE LEAGUE. The Mack-a-Sack is as dangerous as the villain in Scream–almost like two monsters in one–the secondary is packed with former Alabama All-Americans and Roquan Smith still hits harder than my friend Big Willy does on my other friend Kayla but with actual results. They have playmakers on offense, flat out DUDES on defense, continuity, a second-year head coach and rivalry hate. At home, I like the Bears.
CHIEFS (-4) at JAGUARS
Patty Mahomes is the NFL’s child–the collective hombre of the woke football fanbase. I think he’s the Stephen Curry of the NFL. A prolific offensive specimen who makes weekly plays that send his fans into a coma or renders them so overcome with “Holy Shit” syndrome that their only reaction is to scream and tweet out goofy emoji faces. Everyone loves Patrick Mahomes. He’s cool, light-skinned (makes you more handsome/popular, I swear by it) and wears a perpetual smirk. He’s so flipping cool. Admit it, you want to be Pat Mahomes. And his arm was borrowed from Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. Plus, last time I checked, Tyreek Hill does beat women but he also runs really really fast so we kinda let it slide (my condolences to his former teammate Kareem Hunt who also roughed up his girl but got caught on camera, making him actually punishable). I don’t expect a steep drop-off from Hunt to Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy and Travis Kelce and that O-line lay the asphalt for scoring joyrides. Andy Reid (who will be played by 95-year-old Wilford Brimley in the Mahomes movie someday) knows what he’s doing (until December) and this unit is going to annihilate folks, Jags included. (BTW, watch this Brimley/Cruise clip from The Firm. It is just so hilarious and strange. “The kind of intimate acts, oral and whatnot.” Jesus!)
Hold on, there is a caveat here: Big Dick Nick. Every household in Philadelphia has a minimum 8-foot totem pole outside their snow-buried houses with Nick Foles’ face (or his Diggler-ian body part). He became a religion. Like the Buddha but better because he won a Super Bowl. Two years ago, Jacksonville made the playoffs with Blake Bortles–do we award purple hearts to team defenses?–and last year went through a circus of issues: Leonard Fournette went out for the year, they faced a first-place schedule and the starting QB lost his job to Cody Kessler for goodness sakes! That defense is still loaded and they added the best defensive player in the draft (my guy, 41, Josh Allen). Foles is no superstar, but he’s a Super Bowl winner and there are less of those than the former. He can effectively direct a run-based offense loaded with tough, speedy wide receivers. Pound the rock, own the clock. But I still like Mahomes and his army of athletic Indian leaders to prevail heavily in this one.
Rams (-3) at Panthers
Re-read the Cheifs riff. I still believe the Rams and Chiefs are two of the best three teams in the NFL. Goff is a stud, Gurley is a freaking tank when he’s on the field, Aaron Donald, a talented defense, McVay at the helm. Elite team. Every reason I gave you to take the abundantly talented side over the weaker side up above can be applied here. Except for Wilford Brimley. He’s not playing Sean McVay. Eh, how about any blonde-haired kid in the top SEC fraternities?
49ers @ Buccaneers (-110)
There are three guarantees during at the beginning of each NFL season.
- Chris Collinsworth referring to someone by the wrong name and refusing to correct himself
- No one understanding the new rules until after Thanksgiving
- Tropical storms canceling Florida football games
Every single September the weather channel makes it annual appearance on ESPN. Impromptu storm analysis by a bunch of sports goobers is incredible television but we could avoid the fiasco altogether by just not having games in Florida for the first two weeks of the season. How difficult is it to just not play games in Florida during the peak weeks of the tropical storm season? Either way, it looks like Dorian is flanking the East Coast rather than berating Florida so the Buccaneers should be good to beat the 49ers on Sunday. About that…
In a pick ’em between two seemingly even teams, wouldn’t you take the home team? Of course you would. San Francisco has no track record of success with their current roster or coach, their quarterback is coming off an ACL injury–the reports on him sound iffy at best–and the defense is a questionable mix of super young guys and veterans in their mid-30s. This Bucs team scored points last year (they did, I swear) and ditched hopeless Dirk Koetter for at-least-competent Bruce Arians (a major upgrade). Jameis is a basketcase off the field but there’s no denying he has a dynamite arm and impressive athleticism. Plus, I love their defensive depth chart. They acquired Suh (still a top-notch D-lineman), drafted Mike Edwards from Kentucky (he’s my guy and he doesn’t miss tackles) and have been stashing years of early draft picks on this side of the ball. Expect a young, explosive side from Arians this year and I’m betting them to make the playoffs at +500. They’ll also dismantle the 49ers, don’t worry.
STEELERS at PATRIOTS (-6)
Brady and the Pats at home against Pittsburg and you’re only spotting Pitt six points? Huh? The Patriots always beat the Steelers. They’ve whupped them since the dawn of the decade. I’m not sure what it is–maybe that Belichick and Brady are the two GOATs of their professions–but New England has the Steelers figured out. They’re Mike McDermott and they figured out the Oreo tell half a dozen years ago. So the Pats will “go on busting them up all night” this coming Sunday. You should be all-in on this pick with me. Do I really need to vouch for the Patriots? If you systematically bet on them to win everything over the past five seasons, you’ve won a lot of money. If you haven’t, start investing now. (No, this isn’t a prudential commercial. But it could be! I’m open for advertisements!)
Thinking about the Steelers? I’ll remind you: