“There is nothing new under the sun.” This concept is the nemesis of all types of creative endeavor. In the Internet Age, creativity has become even more challenging because not only is nothing new, but now everything is cataloged permanently in an easily accessible way. Despite this, I try to bring you something fresh and original (as original as anything can be at least) that also stays true to my true thoughts and shuns clickbait and hot take culture. Adhering to both originality and authenticity can be especially challenging writing about the most popular sports league in the world. All this to say, you may have read the title of this column and rolled your eyes. If you did, I can’t really blame you. After all, plenty of people have already “penned” their early season panic indices for various teams or players. Here’s where this piece will be different and more self-absorbed: this is my early season panic meter for my personal preseason picks, takes, and bets. Oh yeah that and the real reason you’re here: Week 3 picks.
Tier 1: Double Down (Season Record: 4-2)
Bucs -1.5 over Packers
49ers -1.5 over Broncos
Chiefs -5.5 over Colts
There were three reasons why betting the Buccaneers 5/1 odds for best regular season record was a good bet. First, the NFC is the significantly weaker conference. Second, the NFC West is the one division in the NFC that will cannibalize itself. Third, Tampa Bay gets to play Carolina and Atlanta twice. Through two weeks, Tampa Bay’s defense looks like a dominant unit, and they have already taken down the Saints, who have been the one thorn in Tom Brady’s side since moving to the NFC South. The Packers were the main preseason contender with the Bucs for best record and I feel good that Tampa Bay beats them this weekend at home. Green Bay’s offense is far from a finished product, and they will struggle to consistently move the ball. One of my other preseason bets was San Francisco to win the NFC West. Oddly, I feel better about that bet with Jimmy G taking over the offense again. The devil you know is preferable to the devil you don’t. Nathaniel Hackett’s game management so far in Denver has been embarrassing and that was against bad Seattle and Houston teams. He will look even sillier against a well-coached San Francisco team. Kansas City looked human against a good Chargers team last Thursday night, but with a long week to prepare they will cover against an Indianapolis team that just got shut out by the Jaguars.
Tier 2: Feeling Aaaaalright (Season Record: 2-4)
Ravens -2.5 over Patriots
Bills -6.5 over Dolphins
Giants -1.5 over Cowboys
Through seven quarters, I felt great about holding a bet slip for the Ravens to win the AFC North. Then, Baltimore’s secondary fell flat on their face and blew the first fourth quarter 21-point lead since my freshman year of college. Even after the collapse, I feel confident that Baltimore is the best team in the division. I just hate that they gave a home win away. I also like them to beat New England this week, mostly because I believe in this coaching staff and their ability to solve the communication issues that plagued the secondary on Sunday. The Bills look like a juggernaut right now and this pass rush will give Tua problems. This week’s Monday night game should be a competitive, if not well played, affair. Brian Daboll has the Giants at 2-0 and, somehow, they are barely favored against an incompetent Dallas team. Dallas may have beaten the Bengals at home last week, but I’m not betting on Cooper Rush on the road in a primetime slot. You can’t make me.
Tier 3: Not Cashing Out Yet (Season Record: 2-6)
Eagles -6.5 over Commanders
Rams -3.5 over Cardinals
Seahawks -1.5 over Falcons
Titans +1.5 over Raiders
Full disclosure, I don’t have any outright preseason bets on any of these teams, but in a roundabout way the bets I did make informed how I viewed some of these teams. Through two weeks there are both reasons for optimism and concern for those preseason takes. For starters, I bet the Jets 9/1 odds for worst record in the league, which means I felt that there would be at least one team worse than both the Seahawks and Falcons. It only took one week for me to feel good about that. Seattle upset Denver and Russell Wilson on Monday Night Football and Atlanta proved itself capable of going up two scores on the road, even if they did eventually blow that lead. They play each other this week and I like Seattle’s homefield advantage with a line this low. Betting the 49ers tacitly implied that I was also betting on the Rams to take a step back this season. Teams who just won the Super Bowl usually do. The Rams got blown out by the Bills in the season opener, which looks defensible after what the Bills did to the Titans on Monday night. Speaking of the Titans, I know they got blown out on Monday and they have a short week, but they are getting points at home against a Las Vegas team that has major offensive line problems. Back to Los Angeles, they followed up the opening week loss with an uninspiring win over the Falcons at home. The Cardinals look like a mess though and needed a miracle to beat the Raiders, so betting the Rams this week feels like the play. Philadelphia looks unequivocally like the best team in the NFC East, and I regret not betting them to win the division. Washington, on the other hand, looks like a trainwreck and they are fortunate to be 1-1. Six and a half points is a lot for a road favorite, but I’d feel a lot dumber being wrong betting on the Eagles than trying to defend betting on this Commanders team against a legitimate playoff team.
Tier 4: Might Be Time to Hedge (Season Record: 2-4)
Saints -3 over Panthers
Jaguars +7 over Chargers
Bears -2.5 over Texans
Another tier where I have no preseason skin in the proverbial game, but indirectly I bet against the idea that the Bears, Texans, or Panthers would be the worst team in the league. The Bears pulled a huge upset in Week 1, but they won’t get to play in “kiddie pool” levels of standing water every week. The Texans couldn’t hold onto a 17-point lead against the Colts and chickened out in overtime when they could have gone for the win. They followed that up by losing to the most poorly managed team in the NFL. Chicago’s horrid field conditions give them a bizarre homefield advantage. The Panthers are a bad team, but New Orleans isn’t exactly setting the world on fire right now. Jameis should continue to improve the further removed he is from last season’s injury. He also made plays when the Saints needed them to complete their comeback against Atlanta. If I had more money to play with, I would have sprinkled some on Jacksonville to win the AFC South and on the Chargers to win the AFC West. I don’t regret not doing so, but they don’t look like bad bets right now either. The Jaguars did blow their opener against Washington, but they followed that up by shutting out the Colts. Los Angeles looked like the better team for much of the Thursday night battle with Kansas City, but they still came out of Arrowhead with a loss and Justin Herbert with busted ribs. It was a road game though and their defense looks legitimate. Seven points is a big spread for a team with an injured quarterback, and this Jaguars team isn’t the laughingstock it was last year.
Tier 5: Setting Money on Fire (Season Record: 4-2)
Vikings -5.5 over Lions
Jets +5.5 over Bengals
Browns -4.5 over Steelers
At 9/1, the “Jets to have the worst record” odds were too good to pass up. But when you’re out here trying to get the number one pick you can’t snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a 13-point comeback in less than two minutes. Those are the kinds of slip-ups that will land you second on the clock come April. They are getting five and a half points at home this weekend against a Cincinnati team that looks lost right now. As much as I think the Jets are bad, the Bengals haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. The Browns were the unfortunate sad sacks who blew the 13-point lead against the Jets Sunday. Pittsburgh’s offense is putrid in both phases though, and Cleveland at least has Nick Chubb. Minnesota laid an egg on Monday night (which seems to be a running theme) but this week’s game isn’t in a primetime slot, which means Kirk Cousins will return to being a reasonable starting quarterback in the National Football League.
Special thanks to my golden retriever, Cooper, for helping me type this week’s column.
Season record: 14-18
Prop record: 1-3 (Note: I voided the Gabe Davis prop given that he was injured and didn’t play after last week’s post was published)
Cover Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports