Important note before we screw up the Week 4 picks: We're commemorating Sunday's phenomenal TV night by doing a special Grantland Live on our very own Grantland Channel. Starting at 8 p.m. ET, we will be live-streaming on our YouTube Channel with me, Dave Jacoby, Chris Ryan and Atlanta native Rembert Browne — we'll be recapping Week 4 in the NFL, looking forward to the Falcons-Patriots game and getting ready for the series finale of Breaking Bad. Halfway through Breaking Bad (in the 9:35-9:40 p.m. range, whenever there's a commercial around then), we'll be popping back on the livestream to quickly break down the show to that point (almost like a halftime show). And after Breaking Bad ends at 10:15 p.m., we'll jump back onto the livestream to rehash what just happened.
How long will we keep it going? I have no idea. How will I remain coherent when there's also a Patriots game happening? Again, no clue. But here's the link to Sunday's livestream page, and here's the @GrantlandLive Twitter link if you want to be updated whenever we're going live. On to Week 4 …
(Home teams in caps)
RAMS (+3.5) over 49ers
Whoops. Grantland's Andrew Sharp raised the right question on Twitter: "Four years in, I still can't figure out whether Sam Bradford is bad or the Rams are ruining him." You're right, that wasn't technically a question. But I figured out Bradford's problem last night: He can't make any of those "WOW!" plays that separate All-Pros from also-rans. He can't throw a gorgeous deep ball like Flacco. He can't pick you apart like Brady or Manning. He doesn't keep plays alive in traffic like Roethlisberger does. He can't take off for first downs like Kaepernick and Wilson, or even Locker and Ponder. His body language couldn't be more bland and uninspiring — you'd never know he was the dude in charge of 10 other dudes.
So what's the difference between him and, say, Brian Hoyer? I honestly can't tell. Giving him a lousy running game, mediocre receivers and a dreadful playcaller (Brian Schottenheimer, who helped destroy Mark Sanchez's career and now seems to be coming after Bradford) almost seems like a death sentence. The most incompetent quarterbacks of 2013 have been Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden, Josh Freeman and Bradford in that order … unless you want to throw Eli Manning in there just to be a dick. (Thinking.) The most incompetent quarterbacks of 2013 have been Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden, Josh Freeman, Bradford and Eli Manning, in that order. The first two guys can't be salvaged. The last guy hasn't had a chance behind that crummy offensive line. Freeman clearly needs a change of scenery. But Bradford keeps getting the benefit of the doubt, even if it remains unclear why anyone would want to build a football team around Sam Bradford.
By the way, I knew this four weeks ago and that didn't stop me from picking them in Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.
Which brings me to a crucial point: In football handicapping, sometimes it just isn't your year. I can't get a feel for the 2013 season. Every time I think I have a team figured out, it double-crosses me. Every time I need a break with a late-game cover, I don't get it. It's been a comedy of errors. In the past week alone, I picked the Bucs (lost by 20), Giants (lost by 38), Texans (lost by 21), 49ers (lost by 20), Cards (lost by 24) and the Rams twice (lost by 24 and 24, again). When you have the wrong side in big spreads, that's when you know you're floundering. I was overdue for an everything-goes-wrong season — it hasn't happened in a few years, and when it's happening, you always know it. Please, take advantage and go against me every week. I'm here to help YOU. Got it? Got it.
Steelers (-3) over Vikings
Has anyone made the "it's like Crystal Palace and Norwich City playing a Premier League game in New York City" joke yet? If so, I'll take it. Anyway, in Monday's podcast with Cousin Sal, I suggested that the Steelers should blow it up and trade Ben Roethlisberger to Houston for Matt Schaub and a first-round pick. That was immediately followed by dozens of Steelers fans e-mailing me various ways to have sex with myself. Kudos to Pete in Wexford, Pennsylvania, for suggesting that I buy a Tom Brady bobblehead on eBay and see how far I can cram it up my ass while "filming it for your piece of shit YouTube Channel." We might have to try that! From the producers of House Eats 3, it's Tom Brady Bobblehead Ass Cram!
Well, what if Houston offered Schaub and TWO first-round picks? Would you consider it then? Would the Texans do it? (Cut to Houston fans nodding "yes" vigorously with tears in their eyes.) Where are you headed with a 32-year-old QB who has already taken a ton of hits and now finds himself stuck on a crummy team with a Swiss cheese offensive line? It's worth a conversation, at least. I wouldn't deal Big Ben — instead, I'd come up with a fake injury for him around Week 8 (to guarantee a top-five pick), then shelve him until 2014 so he didn't keep getting shellacked. But this Sunday in London? I think he drives his trade value up against Minnesota's violently awful pass defense.
Speaking of trades, Fox's Jay Glazer reported that Leslie Frazier will have Christian Ponder on a "short leash" this weekend. I'm sure that will go well. Um … why haven't the Vikes traded for Josh Freeman yet? I check Twitter every 20 minutes waiting for Schefter to tweet, "Vikings deal conditional third-rounder to Tampa for Josh Freeman." Just call the trade in to Goodell already. Anytime you can pair up the poor man's Daunte Culpepper with the poor man's Randy Moss (Cordarrelle Patterson), you have to do it. Who's up for some Year 2000 flashbacks?5
BUCS (-2.5) over Cardinals
In the second half of last weekend's loss in New England, Tampa's collective body language was somewhere between "I just found out that a sports blog posted a picture of me drinking a cocktail out of a coconut" and "it's 3 a.m., my car just broke down, my cell phone is dead and it's pouring rain right now." Anyone watching that game knew Greg Schiano would make Freeman the scapegoat over falling on the sword himself. Now they're starting rookie Mike Glennon, and as Schiano told reporters this week, "I think Mike Glennon is Mike Glennon." Feel the excitement!
Some Glennon facts for you: Backed up Russell Wilson for two years at NC State (+1) … he's 6-foot-6 and not that mobile (-1) … threw for 7,000-plus yards and 62 TDs in two college seasons without any real help (+1) … after Tampa drafted him in Round 3, Mel Kiper wrote, "fans are way overstating it if they think Glennon can provide actual competition at this point. He needs some time" (-2) … earned a Masters in college with a 3.8 GPA (+1) … looks like Brad Lohaus (-1) … from ESPN.com's draft profile of Glennon: "Does not show confidence and/or toughness to step into throws when pocket is muddied. ... Is not a threat to take off running. Has below average balance and strength [to] ward off sacks." (-1) … Even so, he can't be worse than Josh Freeman those first three weeks (+1) … and if that's not enough, Greg Schiano thinks Mike Glennon is Mike Glennon (+1).
My verdict: Too much, too soon for Mr. Glennon. Then again, he can't look any worse than Freeman, who doesn't turn 26 until January and clearly needs a change of scenery. Will we ever have an acceptable explanation for his bizarre demise in Tampa that doesn't include words like "blackmail," "cocaine" or "voodoo doll"? Barnwell covered this topic on Thursday and unearthed a chilling answer for the question, "Has any other NFL QB submitted such a quality season at age 22, then regressed as badly as Freeman did?"
(Hold on, I can't type the answer's name yet. Give me a couple seconds. I'm fighting off Nam-like flashbacks.)
That's right, the one, the only …
Oh God …
I can't …
I can't type his name.
Regardless, we'll never find out if Freeman could have kept his "consecutive games completing less than 50 percent of his passes" streak going (it's frozen at three), or whether he could have become the sixth QB in NFL history to throw at least 450 passes without completing half of them.6 Would he have stayed under the immortal Trudeau Line for a QB rating (63.3)? Best-case scenario: Freeman rallies in a new city, puts together a decent career (on paper, anyway) and joins Kerry Collins as one of the least likely QBs to ever throw for 40,000 yards. Worst-case scenario: He becomes this generation's … (I can't type his name).
CHIEFS (-5) over Giants7
Take it from someone who lost money on the Giants these past three weeks: They can't block, they can't run the ball, their front seven suddenly stinks, and Kevin Gilbride is like Unfrozen Caveman Offensive Coordinator. I don't understand your new pass-friendly rules … I'm just a caveman! I'm used to pounding the ball like it's 1986! I see a receiver running wide-open over the middle and think, "Did a spectator just run onto the field?" The thought of this specific Giants team going into Arrowhead — against a top-five defense and a beyond-fired-up-to-be-relevant-again Chiefs crowd — feels like a recipe for disaster. How is this line less than seven?
LIONS (-2.5) over Bears
I like both of these teams. Purely a home-field advantage pick. Since we're here, our Sneaky-Good Watch for Week 4: the Saints' defense; the guy in your draft who didn't get into a bidding war for David Wilson or Stevan Ridley and settled for DeMarco Murray instead; Ryan Tannehill in crunch time; NaVorro Bowman stock; every Caleb Sturgis field goal; Ndamukong Suh as a franchise defensive lineman only; any CFL coaches turned NFL coaches; all seemingly impossible-to-catch throws to Julio Jones; how secretly fired-up Jets fans are right now about Geno Smith even if they're afraid to bring this up in public yet.
Ravens (-3) over BILLS
Sunday was crazy. The banged-up Bills gave up 513 yards to Geno Smith's offense and lost to a Jets team that committed 20 penalties. Tom Coughlin's Giants got shut out in a "Nobody Believes In Us" game, lost by 38 points to Ron Rivera and officially became Vegas poison. Aaron Rodgers blew a 16-point lead to … (gulp) … Andy Dalton. The Colts became the first double-digit underdog to win a road game since Week 2 in 2012 (Cards-Pats), murdering every knockout pool and three-team teaser in the process. Jon Stewart lost the variety show Emmy for the first time in 10 years. Brian Hoyer won on the road, in the Metrodome, with help from the brother of Matt Leinart's and Blake Griffin's baby mama. Jeff Daniels beat Bryan Cranston for Best Actor in a Drama even though you will never meet a single person who thinks Jeff Daniels is better than Bryan Cranston. Sweet/kind/thoughtful Landry from Friday Night Lights officially turned into a psychopath. And Dexter submitted the worst series finale in the history of season finales.
Quick tangent: I bailed on Dexter three seasons ago, immediately after the incredible John Lithgow season, simply because I got a weird vibe from the first episode of Season 5. It felt jump-the-sharkish to me. The episodes started piling up on my DVR, I never caught up, and that was that. I never came back. I told my friend Hirschy (who stuck with Dexter to the bitter end) this story and he reacted like I had magically escaped from a burning building. "That's unbelievable! That's the greatest television viewing decision I've ever heard! You literally saved 33 hours of your life!"
Actually, 32 hours — I watched the last episode just because, by Monday night, it had assumed Tommy Wiseau/The Room–level respect on the Internet.
BROWNS (+4.5) over Bengals
From the Desk of the Very Very Junior Ewing Theory Committee,
September 27, 2013
If the Browns beat the Bengals, they could be hosting the Bills on Thursday night with a good chance to improve to 3-0 since the Richardson trade. Let's send a scout to Cleveland on Sunday to be safe.
Jimmy Kimmel (+4.5) over KANYE WEST
Just don't let this end with Cousin Sal getting shot. I can't lose Lombardi and Sal from the B.S. Report in the same season.
Panthers' Bye Week (+7.5) over PACKERS' BYE WEEK
My favorite moment of Week 3: Ron Rivera finally going for it on fourth-and-1 on the Giants' 2-yard line, getting the first down AND scoring the game's first touchdown. It was one of those "RON RIVERA IS ALL GROWNS UP AND HE'S ALL GROWNS UP AND HE'S ALL GROWNS UP!" moments … only after the game, we found out that Rivera kept his offense on the field only because he mistakenly believed that they had gotten a first down on the previous play. I love the Ron Riv era so much. More, please.
As for Green Bay, Scott Kacsmar wrote for ESPN Insider that Green Bay is 5-24 in games when Aaron Rodgers has the ball in his hands, in the fourth quarter, with the Packers trailing by eight points or fewer. Compared to Tom Brady (27-23) and Peyton Manning (38-44), that 5-24 looks pretty grisly — you never want to have more commercials than comeback wins. But wait, that's not the worst thing that happened to Packers fans this season. Have you SEEN this commercial yet?
JAGUARS (+9.5) over Colts
My worst pick maybe ever. But did you know Blaine Gabbert is 3-1 lifetime against the Colts? Doesn't this have all the makings of a Trap Game, especially with Indy just winning an emotional "Nobody Believes In Us!" game in San Francisco and preparing to host Seattle in Week 5? And what about Justin Blackmon and Maurice Jones-Drew-Please-Trade-Me coming back? Oh, and who isn't throwing Indy into a three-team teaser and making them a knockout pool this week? Don't say I didn't warn you.
(By the way, the fact that I picked an 0-3 team that's averaging about nine points a game is just one of many reasons why you should be going against me this season.)
Seahawks (-3) over TEXANS
TITANS (-4) over Jets
In case you want to know how Houston's Super Bowl chances are looking right now, a reader named Shyan in London recently sent me an inspired e-mail comparing Matt Schaub to Rudy Gay. Really solid analogy. Because of Schaub, I don't know if Houston has an A-game — it's more of a B-plus-at-best game. That's not cutting it against the big bad Seahawks, especially with Andre Johnson Banged Up (his new nickname). As for the semi-rejuvenated Titans, this e-mail from Nashville reader Will Dossett sums up what the crowd has in store for Geno Smith on Sunday:
"I just read your new column. I was so excited that the Titans got a 'wild-card dark horse' shoutout I jumped off the couch and gorilla chest-pounded. In case you were wondering what being a Titans fan feels like."
I think we get it. And if you want to know what being an Oilers fan feels like, here's an e-mail from Jason Norris in Anchorage: "Can I interest you in a video of Christopher Cross singing 'Sailing' while playing a double-necked guitar and wearing an Earl Campbell Houston Oilers jersey?" YES YOU CAN.
The D.C. Daceys (-3.5) over RAIDERS
The Alfred Morris Fantasy Breakout Game. It's coming. You don't want to watch this game, much less read about it. I can't think of a better place to run an unexpected rant from my wife — she e-mailed it to me with the subject heading, "PUT THIS IN YOUR COLUMN." I read the e-mail and wrote back, "Are you sure?" She e-mailed back, "Yes, it's important." Here it is …
"I am addicted to skinny jeans that are built to stretch. They are as comfortable as sweatpants, yet you can wear them anywhere including a fancy dinner. The problem is that you can't tell if you're putting on weight when you wear them! I don't like to weigh myself because I don't trust scales. They are always a little off and they are too abrupt. I don't want to find out immediately that I might be becoming a fat-ass, it's too painful. I would rather slowly figure this out by trying on ten pairs of jeans. It used to be I could go into my closet and trust different pairs of jeans to tell me how I looked. I had certain jeans that, if I was skinny and in shape, I know they'd fit and that would be enough. Today, all jeans want to deceive you into feeling like you're skinny. I could be 12 pounds overweight right now and have no idea. But I can't stop wearing skinny jeans either. That's why I am going on a cleanse next week, and the cleanse is going to include skinny jeans!"
(Look, I don't know why that happened, either. Let's just move on.)
CHARGERS (+2.5) over Cowboys
It's the Somebody's Blowing This Game In The Most Agonizing Way Possible Bowl! Did you know the AFC is 11-3 this season against the NFC? Please add that to the long list of things I was dead wrong about heading into this season: The NFC is much better than the AFC. Speaking of shaky, here's our Shaky Watch for Week 4:
Minnesota's pass defense; any offensive coordinator with the same last name as a famous head coach; everyone who splurged on Robert Griffin III rookie cards; anyone who listened to me and picked up Kenny Stills; every fantasy team built around CJ Spiller and Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger's chance to play 16 games; the Matt Schaub era; Seattle's offensive line; any fantasy team or real-life team that picked Danny Amendola over Wes Welker; all Steve Weatherford punts; Jacksonville taking a Round 3 punter five spots before Russell Wilson; Miami's defense without Cameron Wake; Tavon Austin's "Ted Ginn Jr. in Miami" potential; anything involving the word "Giants."
FALCONS (-2.5) over Patriots
SAINTS (-7) over Dolphins
Can't get past the "It's always terrifying to pick against explosive dome teams in night games" thing. Can't get past the "too many people on the Miami bandwagon" thing. Can't get past the "thought of Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins repeatedly running into each other because they can't hear a suddenly furious Tom Brady" thing. Can't get past the "Cameron Wake is out for three weeks and took Miami's pass rush with him" thing. Can't get past the "Neither the Pats nor Dolphins REALLY need this game, but the Saints and Falcons need it" thing.
BRONCOS (-11.5) over Eagles
A few readers have been pushing the concept of Evil Manning — that four neck surgeries, two Super Bowls for his brother, and last January's devastating loss to Baltimore pushed him over the edge, flipped him beyond Eff You Mode and made him "evil." As the theory goes, now he's gunning for a 666 season — 600 points, 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns. And what's funny is MULTIPLE readers, independently of one another, suggested this theory using Evil Manning Face (his 2013 head shot for televised games) as their final piece of evidence. A Boulder reader named Mark Westhoff even went so far as to find an Evil Manning Face picture and send it to me.
Anyone notice how PFM's tv headshot this year looks a little... malevolent? Haha pic.twitter.com/4D5rW8HXAw
— Mark Westhoff (@westhoff0407) September 23, 2013
I like it … EVIL MANNING FACE! Peyton Manning has gone to the dark side! The whole thing reminded me of an e-mail from last spring that I never used, courtesy of Los Angeles reader Tim Savage:
"I can't tell you how excited I was to see you reference Garthe Knight in your latest 30 questions NBA column. I will let it slide that you dropped the 'e' in his first name (common mistake), but for future reference you'll definitely want to remember that if you want any respect whatsoever from Knight Rider elitists. What does it take to be a Knight Rider elitist, you wonder? I'll tell you. I spent almost three decades dedicating my life to looking the way Garthe Knight did at the same age David Hasselhoff played him on Knight Rider. You can see the proof of that in the video I made documenting my success:
"It takes a lot of passion and work to succeed on the level I have, but it has all been worth it just to blow the minds of all 206 people that attended this year's Knight Rider convention in Simi Valley, California.
"Your friend, Tim Savage"
(Yup, these are my readers.)
This Week: 0-1
Last Week: 6-8-2