Can you feel it? We actually did it. Real deal NFL football is upon us in a matter of hours.
Let's get to it. I'll save you the soliloquy. I fuckin love the Super Contest. Finished tied in the top twenty the last two years. (My father is my proxy). And now that The Barstool Sportsbook has its own "Overs Contest" I fully intend on making that my new go-to.
As Bill Belichick loves to repeat every year, you don't know your team until week 4.
And unlike Pete Rose, who loves to throw around 3 team parlays in Preseason Week 1, I tend to think the same.
This first month of games is a crapshoot.
We have nothing to go off of. One less pre-season game now means even fewer snaps for starters. Coaches showing less. A slew of adjustments and schematics being altered week to week before we can truly get a feel for a teams identity.
Which is why I think value, and common sense are so important here.
Let's get right to it. My five-game slate with some O/U's thrown in for good form.
CLEVELAND BROWNS +5.5 (+6) at Kansas City Chiefs
Let's get right to it shall we? "I'm taking the Browns are going to the Super Bowl" has the potential to become the most overused joke in the country come February, because for the first time since the Johnson administration, the Browns look poised to run the AFC North. Big bad brother Pittsburgh is down. Baltimore can't keep their backfield from shredding ligaments and tendons. And the Bengals are the Bengals.
They have a great head coach (more on this in a minute) in Stefanski, and it's scary to think where this offense, and more importantly Baker Mayfield's progression would be, had Cleveland had the ability to bring him in and absolve themselves completely from the Freddie Kitchens experiment. Yes, Baker is partly to blame for that debacle as he lobbied hard in the paint for his guy to get the HC job. But I don't think we would have seen the regression, team drama, and self-doubt creep in if Kitchens was still holding the clipboard as OC and not HC. I think the version of Cleveland team we saw last season arrives on schedule (in 2019), and we're all much more comfortable discussing the Browns actually having a shot at playing in the Super Bowl, and not referencing taking a shit.
But I also think this team, and Mayfield, play better sans one of the biggest freaks in the league, OBJ, because Mayfield doesn't have to key on him, or worry about getting him the ball. So what do I know?
I know that they are just as stacked on the defensive side of the ball this season as the offensive. That's what.
Signing free-agent safety John Johnson III after seeing what an absolute swiss army knife he was for the Rams to help button up a secondary that finished 25th in pass defense DVOA last season was a major first step.
Following that up with Troy Hill, who will man the slot, drafting White Sox Dave's consensus #1 Greg Newsome II, were two other very solid moves. They're also returning safety Grant Delpit after he missed his rookie campaign with an Achilles injury. And that's all without mentioning Cleveland's secondary should have a much easier job this season with Jadeveon Clowney and Malik Jackson joining Myles Garrett upfront.
Barring catastrophic injury, this team is a wagon. And they know it. And the city has hope!
But as my guy Red says
In what could very well shape up to be a preview of this year's AFC Championship, today sees the Browns visiting the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs. (I think it's going to be Cleveland at Buffalo, but I digress)
Everybody wants to talk about Kansas City's offensive line. It was exposed in full display as a wet paper bag by TB in last year's Super Bowl, and Chiefs fans will be the first to tell you they addressed the issue. "The offensive line is shored up" they are quick to tell you.
But I'm not sold.
First off, nobody loves Joe Thuney more than me. But as we've seen time and time and time and time again, Patriot's offensive lineman just don't play the same when Dante Scharnecchia isn't involved.
Kyle Long is one of my favorite people on the planet. Love the guy and really want to see him bounce back huge this year, but playing alongside three guys who have never played an NFL down before might not be much of an upgrade over the joke of a Bears O-line he played on his whole career.
Yes Orlando Brown Jr is a stud. So that's a help. But the trio of rookies - Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, and RT Lucas Niang are question marks.
Sammy Watkins is gone. As much of a speed merchant that Mercole Hardman is, can he step up and be a full-fledged #2 now?
I'm not sold on this team this year.
Factor in that Cleveland didn't lose a single road game by more than one score last season and I think 5.5/6 is a ton of value here for the Browns. Don't be shocked if they win this one outright.
p.s. - do I love that this matchup has had a ton of action and the line has barely moved? No. Not a great sign, unless you think this is the best-handicapped game of the year right out the gates. Spidey sense definitely tingling.
Pittsburgh Steelers at BUFFALO BILLS - 6.5
How the mighty have fallen. Pittsburgh has an oaf of a 39 year old qb and a cobbled together offensive line. Big Ben's weapons still include some elite players in Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and rookie Najee Harris. Which should help camouflage some of the concerns, but this is not your dad's Steelers team anymore.
Even with all those toys, we can't even be sure Roethlisberger intends to actually use them. If last season was any indication the answer is he won't because he can't.
He finished with the fifth-lowest average depth of target in the league last year (7.4) and the lowest average time to throw at 2.17 seconds. Due to the trash offensive line, the pounding he's taken for a decade and a half, and frustrations with offensive play calling, Big Ben's mindset looked to be to get the ball out as quickly as possible and let his teammates do the rest.
When he did actually throw the ball 10-plus air yards, Roethlisberger finished 32nd in completion percentage and 31st in “catchable” throw rate. AKA he threw ducks, hospital balls, or looking to draw flags. Puke.
Look to the other side of the field and it couldn't be more dichotomous.
25-year-old Josh Allen will possibly and probably wind up this year's MVP. He continues to look better and better, which is fucking terrifying to admit as a Patriots fan. There's no telling where this kid's ceiling is. Especially with Buffalo continuing to trick out the offense, and OC Brian Daboll opening up the entire playbook for Allen and remaining pass-heavy.
The big concern last year as everybody knows was the pass rush. It was nonexistent. It finished 24th in pressure rate on four-man rushes in 2020. So the Bills went out and used its first two draft picks on edge rushers Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham. Adding them to last year's draft stud, A.J. Epenesa, who has been untouchable this preseason, and things look up for the Buffalo defense.
Not to mention, "Highmark Stadium" will be a fucking zoo today. (It always will be Ralph Stadium in my heart. Despite being wrongly ejected a few years ago I still fucking love the place. Especially in September.)
I like Buffalo this year and laying the 6.5* today.
(I won't do it for these posts because it's not "standard", but buy the hook here if you can. Always buy the hook. There is NOTHING worse than losing on a hook, especially back door. It will haunt you the entire week. Laying an extra 10% to cover your ass is the best insurance you can buy. Worth it over the long run and worth it every time.)
NY JETS +4.5 (5) at Carolina Panthers
Back to my point about coach Stefanski and the impact he had on his roster and organization- it's immeasurable. It's more important in the NFL than in any other sport. Which is why it's so mind-boggling how teams like the Bears and Jets can perpetually fuck it up, dooming their fanbases for eternity.
But it seems the Jets finally did it right.
Robert Saleh is the fucking truth. Ask any player in the league, or any coach he's had the pleasure of working with and the responses are glowing.
He's one of the best defensive minds in the game and a master motivator.
Yes, losing free agent pass rusher Carl Lawson was a huge kick in the nuts in pre-season but laugh it up because I think Saleh is good for a field goal. Especially against a shit show like Carolina.
The kid they drafted from Goldman Sachs has looked solid at QB, and Corey Davis and rookie Elijah Moore do as well. So I don't expect the double digit "three and outs" we've become so accustomed to seeing with J-E-T-S football.
No this team won't compete with Buffalo, New England, and Miami this year. Or for a while. But I like them getting 4.5 today.
Carolina has some flashy weapons on offense, namely, everybody's favorite heartthrob Christian McCafrey who returns this year. But at the end of the day we're talking about a team that passed on drafting Justin Fields or Mac Jones to take cornerback Jaycee Horn instead and roll the dice on a soul-crushed Sam Darnold.
Can they resurrect and salvage the remainder of Darnold's career?
Haters will be quick to point out that the Jets were just 2-6 ATS on the road in 2020. To which I'll counter that the Panthers were just 2-6 ATS at home.
Jets and the points.
LA CHARGERS +1.5 at Washington Football Team
Washington's defense is legit. And that was before adding cornerback William Jackson and drafting first-round linebacker Jamin Davis. No qualms there.
The question revolves around the corpse of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
I'm still shocked this team hasn't signed Cam Newton yet. Not because he should be starting (here or anywhere). But because this is just an inevitability. The Cam Newton circus joining this team is as automatic as automatic can be. And I don't think it would be the worst thing that could happen for those games (also inevitable) where Fitzpatrick chucks up 4 picks in the first half yet his team isn't completely out of it. The offense features Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Logan Thomas, and Curtis Samuel. No way on fucking Earth they manage to finish dead last in DVOA like it did in 2020.
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers.
A west Coast team traveling east for an early game is always a cause for concern yes.
But the Chargers have Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert at quarterback and return their best defensive playmakers in Joey Bossa and safety Derwin James. Brandon Staley at the helm and Joe Lombardi now calling plays is a huge upgrade even if it does mean Justin Herbert is now learning his fifth playbook since he started college (he played in three different schemes at Oregon). But the kid is a fucking stud and there's zero indication he can't rise to the challenge. Lombardi should add a Saints-styled flair to Los Angeles' offense with Staley improving the defense. I think this team could make some noise.
Somewhere @diarrhea smiles.
It's week 1 so take what you will from past trends, but the Chargers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games.
I liked this Chargers team to win outright from the get-go. I LOVE this Chargers team to win outright after seeing Megan Makin Money's promo on The Barstool Sportsbook.
50 bucks to win 51 and worse case they lose? You get a dope hoodie.
SAN FRANSISCO 49ers -8.5 (-7.5) at Detroit Lions
We had a lot of line movement on this one and for good reason.
Despite another West Coast team traveling east for an early game, this matchup sees a potential Super Bowl contender playing arguably the worst team in the league. (Houston I see ya).
Detroit's defense is abysmal. It finished dead last in DVOA last season and hasn't improved one iota.
They downgraded at QB and overhauled the coaching staff. Dan Campbell seems like a nice guy, but also in way too over his head.
San Fransisco was RAVAGED by injury last season. Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman are just a handful of names that missed major parts or the entire season last year. Their defense, back to full strength, with the addition of absolute beast Javon Kinlaw will be one of the best in the league this year.
With a return to form from Pretty Jimmy, this team is going to be the real deal.
This is definitely one of the best in class vs. worst in class games we'll see this season and even at a whopping 8.5 points I still think the 49ers win this one, handily.
OVERS CLUB OVERS PICKS
Packers vs Saints OVER 49.5
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of Green Bay's last 5 games when playing on the road against New Orleans
- The total has gone OVER in 9 of Green Bay's last 10 games when playing New Orleans
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of New Orleans's last 5 games when playing at home against Green Bay
- The total has gone OVER in 9 of New Orleans's last 10 games when playing Green Bay
Points and a lot of them in this one.
Pats vs Dolphins OVER 43
- The total has gone UNDER in 6 of New England's last 8 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of New England's last 7 games against Miami
BUT - I think the offenses light it up in this one. Miami ALWAYS plays the Pats hard. I'm not drinking the Mac Jones Kool-Aid like everybody else is, but I know anything is an upgrade over who New England had taking snaps last season, so this offensive should be night and day. I see this going 24-21 Dolphins.
Let the boy watch.
p.s. - The Barstool Sportsbook just added another sick feature called the "Parlay Plus". It allows you to parlay player props and same game or mix and match props from different games. It’s a big feature that I don't think you'll find anywhere else.