Frankly, the replacement refs were an unfettered embarrassment to the NFL. There’s no way around it. The NFL tried to save a few bucks here and there but in the process totally lost control of players in games and tainted the outcome of countless games.
Eventually, it took the replacement refs horribly butchering a Monday Night Football game (including swinging the betting line, too) for Roger Goodell to actually step in and strike a deal with the real referees. And really, it looks like it was the bad publicity, not the bad product that expedited the process.
Players and coaches had been complaining for weeks–even months–but media outlets made a gigantic ruckus about the whole situation. This was all capped off with ESPN running a 90-minute SportsCenter following the Monday Night Debacle, which received a rating over 5–the highest in 17 years.
So here we are, three weeks into the NFL season with our regular referees back. Every game will still be filled with a fair share of disputable calls and fans who think their team is being colluded against, but the overall situation will be better. Games will be shorter. Players won’t get into fights nearly as often. Coaches won’t have to waste challenges on blatantly missed calls.
What’s ironic about this entire situation is that the ratings for NFL games won’t change. With or without real refs, America is still addicted to football. The replacement refs didn’t turn us off from football, it just got us talking about football more. And as the saying goes: any publicity is good publicity.
Hopefully one last thing the return of the real refs will do lower the variability in games. In other words, hopefully games will be easier to pick. Since Week 1, I’ve had a rough two week stretch, and Lord knows I could use some help. I don’t mean to put blame on the high school social studies teacher replacement ref, but some more accurate jurors couldn’t hurt.
And without further ado, here are my Week 4 picks. As always, home teams are in CAPS.
Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:
RAVENS (-12) over Browns
There’s no way Brandon Weeden is going into Baltimore and winning in primetime. No way.
Titans (+12) over TEXANS
Of course the Texans are going to win. I just feel really nervous about giving up nearly two touchdowns. Will I be surprised if the Texans pull off a 40-13 win? Nope. But there’s always a good team that falls asleep against a very average team.
Redskins (+2.5) over BUCCANEERS
I was almost ready to jump on the Tampa bandwagon until they laid a giant stinker in Dallas last week. And when it comes down to it, I’d rather have Robert Griffin III than Josh Freeman, although I’m a pretty big fan of both quarterbacks.
Broncos (-7) over RAIDERS
I keep expecting the Raiders to go away, but they never do. I’ve also been expecting the old Peyton Manning to come back, but all I’ve seen is Old Peyton Manning. And with that in mind, I’m taking the Broncos!
Saints (+7.5) over PACKERS
Fool me four times…
Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:
FALCONS (-7) over Panthers
This game is about 50-50 between the Falcons winning big and the Falcons winning really big.
Giants (+2.5) over EAGLES
So let me get this straight: the Eagles are coming off a 6-27 drubbing in Arizona while the Giants handed Carolina a 36-7 beatdown with nine days off, yet the Eagles are favored.
LIONS (-4) over Vikings
This game is like the tale of the good husband who’s been treating you badly lately against the bad husband who’s been treating you well lately. Which would you rather have? If I were the football bachelorette, I’d take the one who’s actually good deep down.
Bears (+3.5) over COWBOYS
I don’t have a ton of faith in this pick, but I have even less faith in Tony Romo in primetime.
KFC Double Down Games:
Niners (-4) over JETS
Yes, the Niners ruined my Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week seven days ago, but they’re still one of the three best teams in the league. The Jets, on the other hand, are only one of the three biggest basket case/circus/reality show-disguised-as-a-team teams in the league.
Bengals (-1) over JAGUARS
I’m picking against Blaine Gabbert AND I only give up one point? Sign me up right now!
CARDINALS (-5.5) over Dolphins
How is this line not four points higher? The Cardinals are undefeated, downed the Patriots, handily beat the Dream Team, and have been doing it all with nothing-short-of-banal quarterback play. The Dolphins have very little going for themselves–I just can’t see them staying in this game after a cross country flight.
Seahawks (-3) over RAMS
Seattle’s playoff chances are certainly more legitimate than their game winning “catch” last week, but how are they good enough to outpace the Niners and Cardinals for a division crown? They’re certainly good enough to beat the Rams by a field goal, I do know that.
Chargers (-1) over CHIEFS
Has anyone ever looked at Matt Cassel and felt secure? Or confident? Or not even excited?
Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:
Patriots (-3.5) over BILLS
It’s certainly a shock to see the Patriots have a losing record, but that doesn’t lesson my faith in TFB and this juggernaut offense. Let’s just put it this way: there’s no way the Patriots lose three straight games, especially with the last game against Buffalo. And the Pats aren’t just going to win by four, they’re going to win big–or else.
Overall record: 18-28-2
Last week: 7-9
Apple Total: -150
Apple Total Last Week: -85