By Tony Johnson
I was sitting quietly by myself late on Thursday finalizing my selections for college football when my mind began wandering toward the NFL. This by itself would not be so unusual as NFL trumps NCAA football in popularity by a wide margin. (currently anyway, my guess is that won’t be the case much longer, more on that another time perhaps) It still was unusual it entered my mind right in the middle of college preparations so I decided to make sure I studied the NFL board later on. I still watch the NFL every week but without the same fervor that there once was. Nothing major but I’m currently more excited for Saturdays over Sundays in the fall sports season. All that said, I have a “Fervid Five” group of picks for this week in the NFL. As always all lines used will be based solely on major books based right here in Las Vegas.
San Francisco at Kansas City (San Francisco +6.5 at W Hill)
This pick makes sense to me for multiple reasons. First, San Francisco is a much better team than the public believes they are right now. Granted they have struggled on pass defense and committed too many turnovers on offense but there are many other bright spots to be seen. The running game has been solid despite the absence of McKinnon for the season and this has allowed Garoppolo some space to find some targets down the field. It’s an offense in progress but Shanahan has shown in the past he can get the best out of a unit. Kansas City is flying high right now after two big road wins to start the year and this looks like a point where a regression will be made. Mahomes is still a young 1st year starter and the big gadget plays are not going to be there every week. They are going to have to manufacture some wins at some point soon and I’m not sure this team is ready to do that. Final score 24-23 Kansas City.
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams (LA Chargers +7 at W Hill)
It still feels uncomfortable just writing out the names of these two teams. Even the computer seemed displeased that Los Angeles had to be written in front of the Chargers. Oh well. I think an argument could be made that the Rams are the best team in the NFL and if not they are certainly in the discussion. They are great on both sides of the ball. Gurley is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball and I love the way the receivers seem to complement each other based on their differing skill sets. That all sounds great but they have a legit opponent facing them this week. Piggybacking from the success at the end of last season, the Chargers look extremely potent on offense and could have scored a bunch more against the hapless Bills last week. The addition of upstart Ekeler in the backfield allows them to fully open the playbook. As an added bonus, Gordon now gets the rest he needs so he won’t wear down as the season moves along. I give a slight benefit to the Bolts for not having to travel for an away game and I think it will be a close one. I have the Rams winning 27-24 in a squeaker.
Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals (Arizona +6 at W Hill)
This is a classic Tony Johnson fade the public game. Matt Nagy has brought new life to this Bears franchise in the form of a weird gadget offense that seems to simultaneously play as fast as any team in the league while also somehow look slow when Trubisky goes through his fourth “check with me” at the line on a single drive. Kidding aside I like what Chicago has done knowing the limitations of the quarterback. The addition of Khalil Mack has made an already improved defense look much better too. Arizona on the other hand is a dumpster fire. Sam Bradford looks like a rookie qb in need of a lot of schooling. Defensively they gave up chunk yards to anyone that wanted them in the first two games These reasons are probably why a team most people predicted to finish 3rd in it’s division is a six point favorite on the road! It’s truly amazing. Too amazing. Arizona needs a win to stop the bleeding. OK fine. Stop the gushing. They have a good shot to get it right here. We have the final in this one 24-13 Arizona.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks (Seattle -1 at W Hill)
Admittedly my analysis for this game is weak but it wouldn’t be the “Fervid Five” without one of these gems thrown in. The Seahawks are a proud organization with a strong recent winning history and they’ve found themselves 0-2 to start the year. This happens to be their first home game of the year and I believe a must win game to avoid being potentially three games back of the first place Rams. By scheduling happenstance, they face off against a Cowboys team that looks like a mere shell of themselves from only a few years ago. Their once great offensive line looks passive at best and there appear to be no playmakers left on a previously potent offense. Dallas defensively still looks solid enough but it won’t be any match for a motivated Seattle ballclub that needs a victory. This one may be a snoozer before happy hour even gets started back in Dallas. I have the final 31-10 Seahawks.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Over 54 at MGM)
This was a game you passed by quickly when the schedule came out and chalked it up to another weird Monday Night matchup that made no sense. Then things started to happen. Le’Veon Bell decided to light a bunch of money on fire. Old washed up Ryan Fitzpatrick was washed up no longer and single handedly torched the Saints defense in week one. The Steelers then allowed the sad sack of the Browns to squeak out a tie. Fitzpatrick annihilated another opponent and gave a press conference that was more entertaining than the game. Antonio Brown said mean things to some coaches, players, and anyone who would listen. You get the point. This game rocks now! I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Pittsburgh needs a win. They play abysmal defense. Tampa is currently lights out on offense and also play pretty sour defense. What will happen? Points. Lots of them. Final score 38-27 Pittsburgh but let’s be honest I want Tampa to win just so we can see Fitz having fun at the podium again.
Good luck to everyone this Sunday and Monday!!!