Fortunately, we kept our heads above water on the season last week, but let's get back to our winning ways of two weeks ago, shall we? Here we go...
APPALACHIAN STATE +3.5 over Miami (FL)
This is a pick where, if you were put into Han Solo-style carbon freeze in, say, 2001, and then melted out of it in the middle of Jabba's lair this past week, you'd look at it and say, "Wait, what the hell is going on?!? Appalachian State over THE U?!?" Keep in mind, you'd have been frozen for the Appalachian State upset of Michigan in 2007, so you might not even know App State existed. You'd have also missed the Mountaineers' tight loss that they choked away against Tennessee in this season's opener. Mark Richt as a road favorite screams "GO OPPO!" and with this game televised on ESPN, Appalachian State will want to ball out for a national audience. App State wins outright, but still doesn't erase the memory of the worst school promotional video of all time...
Michigan State +7.5 over NOTRE DAME
This is one of a handful of early season "elimination games" for a few teams this weekend, teams with big aspirations who are in danger of picking up their second loss before the calendar flips to the final week of September. Notre Dame is one of those teams. They have a future first-round pick at QB in DeShone Kizer and seemed to get things straightened out last week against Nevada after their road loss to Texas to open the season. But that's Nevada. Michigan State frequently seems to have Notre Dame's number, especially in South Bend. I think Notre Dame gets the win, but that extra half a point makes the difference for me as I think this is a one-score game.
Ohio State -1.5 over OKLAHOMA
Like Notre Dame, Oklahoma is also one of those desperate teams trying to avoid that second loss. There are two differences here between Notre Dame and Oklahoma — 1. Notre Dame doesn't have a conference title with which they can salvage the season, so their desperation level is like DEFCON 1, and 2. Notre Dame is not overmatched in their game. Oklahoma may very well be this weekend. In their season opener against Houston, the Sooners were a team devoid of playmakers on offense and with severe Achilles heels on defense. J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes' dynamic QB, is my Heisman pick (got him at +1500, baby!), and he will wound the Sooners with his legs. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer called Tom Herman for some tips earlier this week on the Sooners, so he has a few of the answers to the test. The Buckeyes win here, and at 1-2 with a trip to Fort Worth looming in two weeks, things get a little warm for Sooners head coach Bob Stoops.
PANTHERS -13.5 over 49ers
So the NFL fined two Denver Broncos more than $40,000 total this week for vicious helmet-to-helmet blows to the head on Cam Newton in the season opener last Thursday, which means that Cam Newton's brain generated more revenue in one day merely by getting splattered inside its skull than most Americans' brains generate in an entire calendar year. Assuming Cam is thinking clearly, this game lines up perfectly. The 49ers won by 28 points last week (ALWAYS fade teams that won by 28 points or more the week before), and the Panthers are going to come out smoking at home after losing in Week 1. This feels like a 35-10 kind of game. There are like two other starting quarterbacks in the league that Blaine Gabbert can "outduel" — Case Keenum is one. Cam Newton...not so much.
PATRIOTS -6.5 over Miami
Jimmy Garoppolo's first game as a starter, a win on the road against a Super Bowl contender without his best offensive weapon (GRONK!), has everybody buzzing around the league over the future of the Patriots' QB position. Not so much this season, but, depending on how Tom Brady plays at the age of 39, after this season. With each successive quality start, Garoppolo either solidifies his future as Steve Young to Brady's Montana or becomes a shinier and shinier asset for Bill Belichick to flip and gather beaucoup draft picks in 2017 and 2018. Nice spot to be in. Oh, also, the Dolphins are a train wreck, despite their near upset of Seattle in Week 1. Getting the Patriots with a spread of under a touchdown is a gift.
Buccaneers +6.5 over CARDINALS
The fun thing about the NFL is that its week-to-week nature allows us to assess things on a fairly regimented schedule. Once the games are over on Monday night, we have a couple of days to evaluate and re-slot the teams and players based on what we just saw. The betting market becomes the equivalent of the stock market, in some sense, as the odds on the Super Bowl winner and the MVP reflect bettors' feelings about teams and players. So what does it say that Jameis Winston's odds for NFL MVP went from 100/1 down to 20/1 after just one week? Is it an overreaction to his four-TD performance in Week 1? I don't think so. I think of all the young quarterbacks — Bortles, Carr, Mariota, Garoppolo — Winston is the one who has the highest potential for cracking the elite shelf in the next two to three years. This feels like a shootout. Take the points.
Last Week: 3-3
Season Record: 7-5
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