Former first round pick and USC standout, Sam Darnold, runs for his life behind a subpar offensive line before fumbling the ball and sealing a Broncos victory

Elsa/Getty Images

Welcome back to "Picks, Parlays, and Props," in which I'll be going over the NFL slate every week of the season. How do we find value in these games? What favorite is getting too many points on the road? Who's going to score the first TD on Monday Night Football?

Coming off of a hot week going 4-1, I'm hoping to keep you winning into Week 4 with these picks.

The Niners, Pats, Seahawks, and Packers did us well last week. The last of which taught us an important lesson that can be applied to all facets of life: ACT ON SPITE. Did the Saints hurt you last week by laying an egg? Learn from that. Put the hex on. Get payback by having them pay you back.


Other observations from this past week. Kyler may have let the Lions prove that he's human and not about to go 16-0 on charm and dance moves alone, but there's still a larger lesson to glean here. It's pretty safe to bet the NFC West. As a division, they have a combined point differential of 100, leading far and away are the 49ers, who are currently in last place, and have played 1.5 games without their starting QB and RB, 2 without their most impactful offensive and defensive players, and 3 without their best WR. Not to mention, they had their team plane hit on the runway before spending two weeks in the Eastern time zone. The most important part of all that might be "East," because the NFC East has a combined point differential of -97. Thank the scheduling gods, those West teams will play those East teams this year, which leads us perfectly into this set of picks.

West Coast Best Coast

49ers -7 over Eagles

The Niners are back at home. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle are returning. Thanks to Kyle Shanahan's scheming, the dropoff between Garoppolo and Mullens appears minimal. The man's drawing up plays for first round draft pick Brandon Aiyuck that make scoring all but inevitable. Not to mention, the defense has seemed to relish the opportunity to prove themselves sans Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. It helps when Fred Warner has entered another stratosphere of linebacking by lowering his missed tackle rate, upping his pass coverage skills, and honing his ability to rush the quarterback. A player taking a leap like this, along with depth pieces, is how you weather an injury hurricane. Meanwhile in Philly, they had exactly one healthy wide out at practice on Thursday, Wentz has shriveled into a husk of his former self, and their coach punted with 19 seconds left in overtime to preserve a tie. We saw what the Niners just did to the Jets and Giants, who rank 31st and 30th in DVOA respectively, and guess who happens to be 29th.

Rams -13.5 over Giants

Brandon Aiyuck crosses the goal line for his first career score on end around play during which he wasn't touched by a defensive player.Elsa/Getty Images

Having just finished the eulogy for the Giants' season, allow me to kick off some dirt on their grave. The McVay-led Rams, and Jared Goff especially, have seen a resurgence this season, a Seanaissance, if you will. They narrowly missed out on starting 3-0 after a borderline pass interference call set up the Bills with a fresh set of goal line downs. In a post-Gurley/11 personal world, this team has quietly been the most efficient in DVOA (ranking 4th in passing and 2nd in rushing). Give them a home game against a miserable team traveling cross country and, yeah, the 13.5 doesn't scare me.

Seahawks -6.5 over Dolphins

Nobody thought it would be like this. A Russ allowed to cook has been unleashed and we were not ready. 14 touchdowns in the first three games of a season puts Wilson in a class by himself. The absurdity of nearly averaging five (5!) touchdowns a game can hardly be quantified. This game like any one involving the Seahawks could get absolutely wonky, given the long trip to Miami and a little Fitzmagic in the air. However, it seems more likely than not that this iteration of the Dolphins peaked against the Jaguars during the post-game interview with a deeply unbuttoned shirt.

Russell Wilson just keeps on cooking.Abbie Parr/Getty Images


Gimme Those Points

Lions +4.5 over Saints

The Saints offense continues to look very un-Saint-like with the absence of Michael Thomas and the rapidly aging Drew Brees. The connection between Emmanuel Sanders feels shaky and Jared Cook hasn't looked like himself since last year's injury. Only Alvin Kamara, literally, making something out of nothing has made this offense go. Now this team will be down six starters, including their top two CBs, on the road against a frisky Lions team. Matt Stafford has the offensive weapons to make big plays, especially against some second stringers. There's no reason to start taking the Saints until they prove us all wrong.

Chargers +7.5 over Buccaneers

I thought I was done betting against the Bucs and their inflated spreads, but they've pulled me back in for one more job. Look, I would never take the Chargers to execute a two minute drill to win a game with my life on the line. There must be something deep in the institutional fabric of the team that doesn't allow them to achieve something beyond tantalizing mediocrity. However, the defense has been solid, even without Melvin Ingram, as the other half of the league's premier pass rush duo. If Bosa, fresh off his own ankle issue, can create some havoc for a Tom Brady offense without Chris Godwin or Leonard Fournette, I think there's a real chance Justin Herbert keeps it close. They've shown implicit trust with him running the show, looking at 82 attempts in two games proves as much. This will finally be the week that giving Tom Brady too much respect pays out big, he said again.

Dark Territory

Texans -4.5 over Vikings

Here's a terrible thought to type out for the world to see. The Vikings are getting screwed by COVID protocols and we must capitalize as gamblers. There it's done and said and out of the way. A team who's hardly been allowed into their facility this week will be going on the road to face a team with Deshaun Watson as their quarterback. He's not going to let the Texans slide much further and if there was ever a game to pull out all the stops, this is it.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

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In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

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Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

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The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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