2010 UPDATE: This post is from 2009 – if you’re looking for Gamblor’s picks for this year, go here.

UPDATE: The lines wiggled a little bit before I placed my bets, so I updated the lines and the bet amounts to reflect my wagers. The only major change was the line in the Jets game dropping from +5 to +3.5. Smells like a trap to me. Here’s a summary sheet of the computer’s picks if you want to follow along at home.

Wow! For those of you who decided to blindly trust some guy on the Internet in his first week of making football predictions, congratulations! The computer hit the ground running, nailing its top three picks and five of its top six en route to a dazzling weighted win percentage of 77.5% (tabulated results are here)! I hope this isn’t the finest week the computer has this season, though it has set the bar awfully high for itself. Overall, the computer pulled in a profit of $156. My own personal predictions were much less impressive; I was 7-9 for the week. Some of my assessments were dead-on (Philadelphia, Atlanta, Minnesota, Green Bay), I was wrong about the particulars but ultimately prevailed on a couple (Buffalo, San Francisco), and on some I just flat-out missed the mark by a mile (Seattle, Oakland). And there were a pair of games where I was tantalizingly close to being correct. The first was my weeklong dream that Detroit would sneak in a backdoor cover against the Saints — which almost came true. They made it all the way to New Orleans’ 36 yard line with 5:00 left before Stafford tossed his third pick of the day and New Orleans put together a long drive to finish killing the clock. The second brings me to my feature for this week:

The Top 5 Indescribably Idiotic Decisions of Week 1.

insertbrainIs there anything more satisfying than second-guessing the decisions that players and coaches and referees make while they are in the midst of intense pressure, deafening crowds, and hurtling bodies that collide with such force that it’s a wonder fission doesn’t take place? Monday morning quarterbacking is one of the guiltiest delights of the game of football. The tactical nature of the game enables us to pick through every play in slow motion and critique every missed block, every mistimed route, every blown coverage that occurs during the course of a single play. There’s no sport that gives us a better chance to say “…if only” and be absolutely certain that if that receiver had just thought to lateral the ball before getting laid out by the safety while he was six inches short of the first down marker, the outcome of the game if not the ENTIRE SEASON would been totally different.

Of course, it’s not always tactical mistakes that raise our ire. Sometimes players can do things that are so mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly stupid that you want to reach into your television set, take off their helmet, and beat them about the ears with it. Players will call for a fair catch at the one-yard line, try to scoop up fumbles they should have just pounced on, spike the ball in the middle of a play, and casually run out of the back of the end zone as though the field were ten yards longer. Blooper reels are filled with players displaying magnificent lapses in judgment. Leon Lett’s entire legacy is built on a pair of these plays. It sometimes makes you wonder whether suffering a coma-inducing concussion would actually make some of these guys smarter. Here are my nominees for what I think are the most boneheaded decisions of the first week of NFL football:

5. Hines Ward, Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh. Once he’s inside the ten, all he’s got to do is protect the ball, let them kill a bit of clock, and then Jeff Reed would handle the rest. Instead, by trying to fight his way through for a touchdown, Ward fumbled away a sure victory and put the game in jeopardy. Without the good fortune of winning the coin toss, Pittsburgh could easily have lost this game.

4. NFL Officials, San Diego vs. Oakland. Absolute horseshit, and I’d say this even if I hadn’t been a Raiders fan since the age of seven. If a player has two feet down and has control of the football in the end zone, it’s a touchdown. End of story. Anything that happens afterwards is irrelevant. I don’t remember the league contorting themselves into sixteen different positions to explain why this was ruled as a touchdown. According to their own assessment of what the completely undefined term “going to ground” means, they applied the rule correctly. Except just like the “tuck rule,” it’s a terribly defined rule that whose inadequacies should have been blatantly obvious to them the instant it was committed to paper.

3. John Harbaugh, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens. With thirty-one seconds left on the clock, the ball on the Kansas City goal line, and a seven point lead, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh decides to try to run it into the end zone to build a fourteen point lead, cover the spread, and earn the eternal enmity of all the bookies in Las Vegas. What are the odds of getting a touchdown on fourth and goal from the 2 yard line? About 43%. From this distance, a field goal is essentially an extra point, and what are your chances of connecting on that? 98%. I know Harbaugh’s kicker is effectively a rookie and this ended up being irrelevant when they scored the touchdown, but this is an incredibly bad decision by an otherwise intelligent coach.

2. Patrick Mannelly, Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers. This was a disastrous decision, but at least there was a certain logic to it. Mannelly correctly noted that Green Bay had twelve men on the field and tried to take advantage of it, snapping the ball directly to running back Garrett Wolfe with the prospect of getting a free play; either Wolfe runs for the first down and the penalty is declined, or Wolfe fails and the Bears punt from five yards further forward. Unfortunately for Mannelly, by the time he snapped the ball the Packers had cleared their twelfth man and there was no penalty – giving Green Bay the ball deep in Chicago territory with just twelve minutes left in the game.

1. Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots. Wow. Leodis managed to fuck up this play in just about every possible way. Instead of taking a knee in the end zone, he runs it upfield. Possibly in a quest for late-game glory, possibly in an ill-advised attempt to run the clock down to the two-minute warning, either way it’s a bad idea. And then, rather than finding his way towards the relative safety of the sideline, he darts up the center of the field and plunges into a crowd of tacklers (who have undoubtedly been properly coached by Beilichick to STRIP THE BALL in this situation). And then, rather than go down at the first sign of contact, he tries to stay on his feet and muscle through, prolonging the play until the Patriots gleefully strip him of the ball and the kicker – the kicker – recovers the fumble. I’m not sure we’ll be able to top this level of ineptitude this season, but if we do, it’s going to have to be something special.

Without further ado, here are your picks for Week 2!




Computer’s Pick: Carolina (+6)

Bet Amount: $31.71 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: After their disastrous opener against the Eagles, Carolina is going to be feeling vengeful. Jake Delhomme has caught a lot of flak for his eleven (!) turnovers in his last two games, but nobody can sustain a turnover rate like that for long. He’ll get control of things here. Atlanta looked okay last week, but there were a few weak spots. They controlled the ball well (no fumbles or interceptions), but managed just one drive of longer than 50 yards. I see these two teams matching up pretty well against each other, enough that this game will be tight – and in that situation, I definitely want the points.




Computer’s Pick: Detroit (+10)

Bet Amount: None

WHY IT’S WRONG: It’s Minnesota’s second consecutive week on the road, but the trip to Cleveland was short and sweet. They built a lot of momentum with their win, and what better place to extend their run than against the Lions at Ford Field? The Lions defense will be exhausted from having been run up and down the field by the Saints, and what little gas they have left in the tank will be exhausted by the end of the first quarter as they try to contain Adrian Petersen and the rest of Minnesota’s ground game. Brady Quinn had marginal success against the Minnesota secondary, and I think that Matt Stafford will have a similar day – they won’t eat him alive like the New Orleans defense did, but he’ll be behind again early and won’t be able to catch up.




Computer’s Pick: Cincinnati (+9)

Bet Amount: $1.40 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Cincinnati looked laughable last week. They only managed to get within the red zone once, and although Carson Palmer managed to spread the ball around pretty well, Denver’s defense stiffened up each time it counted. It surprises me to say this, but I don’t expect as much from Green Bay’s defense. The Bears were able to move the ball relatively well against them, and without Cutler firing that hand cannon of his squarely into his own feet, the result of that game most likely would have been different. It will be interesting to see whether Green Bay’s offense can overwhelm Cincinnati’s defense, but ultimately I see this game as close enough that the spread factors in.




Computer’s Pick: Houston (+6.5)

Bet Amount: $30.84 (Hedge and Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Tennessee had a tough loss against Pittsburgh, and while I’m sure they’re disappointed, I don’t believe that they’ll let it get the better of them. Houston looked absolutely awful against the Jets in front of a friendly (at first) crowd. I doubt they’ll respond very well to a hostile one.




Computer’s Pick: Oakland (+3)

Bet Amount: $25.05 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Oakland looked fantastic against San Diego on Monday night (except for the final two minutes, of course). They’ve gone with very basic defensive and offensive schemes, which seems to have put a huge dent into the astronomical number of penalties they usually rack up during the course of their humiliating defeats. As a fan, I’m hoping they’ll consider their loss to the Chargers as a moral victory and pound on the Chiefs to make themselves feel better. As a bettor, I’m worried that the Raiders will turn around and screw the public, as they have consistently done for years, by blowing this game. The Chiefs offense only successfully moved the ball twice, and their defense was completely incapable of containing Baltimore’s running game – or passing game for that matter. The Raiders should make easy work of them, and as much as this feels like a trap, I’ll stick with them.




Computer’s Pick: New York (+3.5)

Bet Amount: $11.21 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: While Tom Brady and the Patriots put forth a pedestrian effort in the first three quarters of their game against the Bills, once the fourth quarter rolled around they became the same Patriots we saw in 2007. The momentum they picked up on Monday will keep going. The Jets put forth a very strong effort of their own against the Texans, but there’s no way they’re going to stop the New England juggernaut. The Patriots will score early and often and Sanchez’ honeymoon will be over as he tries to catch up.
UPDATE: This is a major trap alert. Despite having 90% of the money come in on New England, Vegas dropped the line down to 3.5. Are they really that greedy? I’m standing by my original prediction, but I’m glad my money is going the other way. This is just way too fishy to ignore.




Computer’s Pick: New Orleans (even)

Bet Amount: None

WHY I AGREE: I really have no idea what’s going to happen with McNabb, but I’ve decided that I don’t care either way. I think after such a great start, Philadelphia is going to flame out spectacularly. I’m taking New Orleans all the way in this one.




Computer’s Pick: St. Louis (+9.5)

Bet Amount: $18.75 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Washington got pretty thoroughly dominated by the New York Giants last week, but they’re not a terrible team. St. Louis, on the other hand, is absolutely awful. I completely underestimated how terrible they are. It’s their second week in a row facing a long road trip, compared to the Redskins, who only faced a short trip up to the Meadowlands last week. Ten points is a pretty big spread to cover, but I think the Redskins will be just fine here. The only thing to worry about is that they won’t take the Rams seriously, but even with their second squad on the field they’ll probably cover this spread with ease.




Computer’s Pick: Arizona (+3)

Bet Amount: $21.37 (Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Arizona is going to be pissed. They put forth a limp-wristed effort at home against a lackluster San Francisco squad and lost, and the Jacksonville secondary will provide them an excellent opportunity to rebound. Jacksonville put forth an impressive effort against the Colts (as they always do) and they won’t have much left to throw at Arizona. My only concern is that this line feels like something of a trap. I’ve picked too many away teams so far this week, so I’m going to take a flier on Jacksonville here and hope that the cross-country travel and humidity proves to be too much for the Cardinals.




Computer’s Pick: Buffalo (-5)

Bet Amount: $7.36 (Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Can Buffalo bounce back after such a tough loss? Nope. Tampa held their own against a very powerful Cowboys team, and as long as they don’t get down on themselves for losing, they should win this game straight up.




Computer’s Pick: Seattle (+1.5)

Bet Amount: $17.34 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Last week I said that Seattle sucks. I stand by that. Sure, my pick was wrong (man oh man was it wrong), but I hadn’t counted on the Rams’ ability to warp space and time in their relentless quest to create a singularity of suckiness. The Seahawks turned it over three times in the first quarter against the Rams – without any consequences whatsoever. They won’t get away with that again, and until I see something decent out of them, I’ll gladly take the free points. The 49ers did absolutely nothing to stop Arizona’s short-range passing game last week, but Seattle’s inability to score more than 50 points against a laughably bad St. Louis squad leaves me convinced yet again that they’re not nearly as good as everyone seems to think.




Computer’s Pick: Chicago (+3)

Bet Amount: $38.72 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Giving the Bears three points at home seems like a dangerous proposition. Despite all of Green Bay’s advantages last week, the Bears’ defense still managed to turn it into a nail-biter. The deciding factor in this game, I expect, is going to be Jay Cutler. Cutler made lots of bad decisions and lots of bad throws last week, but he didn’t get much help from his receivers. Then again, I’m tired of making excuses for him. Pittsburgh will have the same problems offensively against the Bears as they did against Tennessee, but that won’t matter unless Cutler get his shit together. I like Chicago in this one, but only just barely – which matches the computer’s conclusion that the spread is just about perfect.




Computer’s Pick: Baltimore (+3)

Bet Amount: $7.88 (Hedge Conflict)

WHY IT’S WRONG: The computer isn’t quite sure what to make of this one. Some models see the spread as being too high, that San Diego shouldn’t be laying this many points. Others see it as just about right. Personally, I’m all over San Diego. They were unpleasantly surprised by the Raiders on Monday night but managed to pull it together, and I don’t believe that they’re planning to repeat last season’s start. I think they’ll be firing on all cylinders in front of their home crowd, and the Ravens will be completely clueless as to how to contain them.




Computer’s Pick: Cleveland (+3)

Bet Amount: $7.01 (Hedge Conflict)

WHY IT’S WRONG: This game bores the hell out of me. I’m glad the computer is relatively indifferent to it too, because it would be damn near impossible to get excited about this matchup even if I had my entire 401k riding on it. After a miraculous win in Week 1, I feel like Josh McDaniels is coaching for his life here. I also feel like he’ll deliver, but only because he’s in front of a friendly crowd.




Computer’s Pick: New York (+3)

Bet Amount: $7.36 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Dallas’ relatively easy victory over Tampa Bay should give them the energy edge here, but this is a divisional rivalry that will inspire both teams to give it everything they’ve got. This should be a great game to watch, though it’s a tough one to bet on. This is one of the few games during the year when enthusiastic Dallas fans won’t be loading up on the Cowboys, and I actually trust their judgment in this case. New York’s offense didn’t look too flashy last week, but they were ruthlessly efficient, and good fundamentals like that should be enough to give them the edge here.




Computer’s Pick: Miami (+3)

Bet Amount: $0.35 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: I guess I’m too used to the terrific Indianapolis teams of the past to accept that they won’t flog the Dolphins into complete submission, but the spread tells me that most folks are expecting a close game. Missteps at the end of their drives last week kept the Colts from putting many points on the board, but I don’t think they’ll have those problems against Miami. I’m with the Colts all the way on this one.

For legality purposes, this website does not promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.