After three weeks and divine intervention, I have finally posted a winning record. There is no telling how many games the replacement referees actually altered, but their immaculate Hail Mary put me over the top.
Here's betting Vegas won't be sad to see them leave. It lends too much unpredictability to an already difficult-to-prognosticate game.
Vegas has caught on to some of the sneaky-decent teams and appears to have abandoned a few early-season stalwarts. As always, the oddsmakers have left a little wiggle room to bolster the piggy bank.
Without further ado, click through to check out this week's NFL picks against the spread.
Last Week: 8-7-1
Season Record: 21-25-2
All lines provided by www.bovada.lv and www.sportsbook.ag.
The biggest spread of the week, and I'm thinking about laying the points. Yikes.
My argument? A rookie quarterback on the road against a rowdy Baltimore crowd, with only three days to prepare, and he must face Ed Reed.
Brandon Weeden is going to find himself forced to play catch-up. Filling the air with balls is not a solid strategy against the Ravens unless you know what you're doing. I'm not convinced he does yet.
D'Qwell Jackson will not be enough to slow down the Ravens' no-huddle offense. Especially without Joe Haden and with a possibly limited Sheldon Brown.
If that weren't enough, it's the Browns.
The New England Patriots have been forced to go back to Wes Welker, and it's working.
The former focus of the offense has looked like a franchise-tag-worthy receiver with 13 catches for 237 yards over the last two games.
The Patriots generally bounce back well from losses. They're dealing with the fallout from two close losses to teams with a single combined defeat. I have no problem laying those four points on the road.
If you haven't noticed yet, betting is all about trust. You wouldn't give your money to a financial advisor in worn-out clothes eating Ramen noodles, right?
Of course not.
Unfortunately, that's who Cam Newton is today.
The luster from his sterling start last year has been well worn. Considering how difficult it was for Peyton Manning to decipher the Atlanta Falcons' defense two weeks ago, what do you think will happen to Newton?
Conversely, the Carolina Panthers' defense, which has given up 31.5 points per contest the last two games, must stop Matt Ryan and his 31-point-per-game offense.
I don't see it happening.
Too many factors weighing against the New York Jets.
No Darrelle Revis, a motivated San Francisco 49ers team and a Vegas overreaction.
The oddsmakers apparently thought the 49ers' loss to the Minnesota Vikings signaled the end of their tenure in the top tier. That's ridiculous.
The Jets haven't faced a defense of San Fran's caliber, and it isn't as if Mark Sanchez has been lights-out lately. In fact, if you take out the season opener, he's completing far under 50 percent of his passes.
Revis is the linchpin of the defense. Antonio Cromartie is too inconsistent, and Kyle Wilson hasn't lived up to his first-round billing yet. Thus, this unit is going to struggle mightily.
I really like this game. Although I loved the Niners last week, too.
Another game where I'll focus on who's not there.
The injury to Dexter McCluster will play a large role in the Kansas City Chiefs' passing game. He was a reliable target (second-leading receiver on the team), which will drop a mediocre aerial attack down a level.
The Chargers are excellent against the run, as Week 1's shutdown of Darren McFadden proved. So the strength of the Chiefs will clash directly with San Diego's, making Matt Cassel too much of a factor for my liking.
Philip Rivers hasn't been playing well, but the Chiefs' defense hasn't, either. There's just enough doubt on the Kansas City side to justify not taking the point.
J.J. Watt has been getting tons of attention, and rightfully so. He easily has the inside track for Defensive Player of the Year.
However, every time I've watched the Houston Texans, I keep noticing Johnathan Joseph as well. He seems to be everywhere. He's third on the team in tackles, second in pass deflections and tied for the team lead in interceptions.
In fact, there are few weak links on the Texans' defense. As Jake Locker will soon find out, he's not playing the Detroit Lions anymore.
If you're worried about the 12 points, remember that the Tennessee Titans gave up 14 points in 18 seconds last week. Plus, Houston has covered every game so far.
I'm going heavy on favorites this week.
St. Louis had all kinds of problems moving the ball against the Chicago Bears. It scored a total of six points and gave up just as many sacks.
Now, the Rams have to deal with a Seattle Seahawks defense that just amassed eight sacks against Aaron Rodgers and company.
The Seahawks should be able to run the ball decently with Marshawn Lynch, and Russell Wilson will do just enough for Seattle to eke out a tough win on the road.
The last time we saw the Minnesota Vikings, they were finishing off the San Francisco 49ers. They punished the two-week crown holder in physical, efficient style.
The last time we saw the Detroit Lions, they needed two last-second touchdowns just to lose in overtime to one of the worst teams in the league. The final blunder was a microcosm of Detroit's sloppiness throughout this short season.
The Vikings look like the team that comes out of nowhere and makes the playoffs.
The Lions look like the playoff team that suffers a regression, and they're giving five points.
You never leave the table on a heater.
The Arizona Cardinals are definitely on a hot streak that stretches back to last season. They aren't the surprise team that makes the playoffs; they could be the 2012 version of last year's Niners.
Six points isn't enough to scare me off the Cards against a shaky rookie quarterback. Shouldn't be for you, either.
The Oakland Raiders couldn't possibly do it two weeks in a row, could they?
I labored over this decision and don't feel too confident about it. The Denver Broncos aren't the great team many thought Peyton Manning's presence would make them.
But, the Raiders have Carson Palmer and a mediocre-to-poor defense.
If the game were in Oakland, I'd grab the points, but Peyton should be good for seven.
Total gut call.
Maurice Jones-Drew has steadily been finding his groove as he seeks to justify his holdout. His yard-per-carry average has increased about a yard each game, finishing with a gaudy 6.3 against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Cincinnati Bengals' defense hasn't been the same physical unit that it was last year, ranking next to last in the league against the rush. So there is some justification for this pick.
The Bengals' passing attack is concerning, but when weighed against the Jags' rushing game, I'll take the points and move on.
I had a difficult time deciding which way to go on this game, and I'm sure Roger Goodell did, too. Perhaps he'll force them both into a tie so he can punish everyone one more time.
Which means I should probably pick the Saints, but I'm rolling with the Pack.
The New Orleans Saints will be highly motivated. An 0-3 start tends to have that type of effect on players as competitive as Drew Brees.
The Green Bay Packers will also be highly motivated. The difference is they have a proper coach who will channel their frustration into constructive and disciplined play.
That's a huge difference, as we've come to learn over the past few weeks.
Another three-point game that might as well be a tossup.
Robert Griffin III has come back to Earth a bit after his exciting debut. Defensive coaching staffs have focused on the Redskins' short passing game, making life difficult for the rookie.
Greg Schiano has surely taken notes, and his defense will be ready. Considering Schiano's late-game tactics, you can bet he will follow the Rams' game plan of hitting Griffin early and often. And late, if need be.
Tampa Bay's offense isn't electric. However, with Washington missing Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo, I'm going to keep picking against them until they prove me wrong.
This isn't about the Philadelphia Eagles losing last week. This has more to do with their two wins.
Both of them were by one point. So, at worst, you're looking at a push.
However, I still expect the New York Giants to pull through. They are playing lights-out ball right now, and Eli Manning must have noticed that the only thing he's missing is an MVP trophy.
Then there are all the backups who keep seizing opportunities to shine. The Sunday-night stage is the perfect place to show off how well New York drafts.
I might even have to take a look at a money-line wager on the Giants.
Now, I've gone too far. I'll take the Giants so that you can win with the Eagles.
The Dallas Cowboys have continued their seasons-long streak of being inconsistent. They won in Weeks 1 and 3, while losing in Week 2. Therefore, I'll play the even-week odds as opposed to breaking down actual football content.
Okay, maybe just a little football chatter.
The Bears' defense has been impressive in each game, despite the absence of their offense at times. The Cowboys' offensive line will have its hands full, putting Tony Romo in the difficult position of trying to carry the offense.
With Dallas scoring few points, Jay Cutler and company won't need to be acting in harmony to keep it close. When you also consider Matt Forte's possible return, the Bears will ensure that the Cowboys won't cover.