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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) gestures at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Fab 4 picks

Well, last week was entertaining in every way until it wasn't entertaining.

Stanford's wicked bad beat on Northwestern. Half-point decisions. Late-game penalties that turned covers upside down.

Are those excuses? Maybe. OK, yeah, they are excuses.

But pickers gotta pick and we're in, and after a 6-7 Week 1, we are going back to basics. We are looking for a terrible team or two to ride into a 2-10-type debacle. 

There are some contenders: Akron, which got rolled by Illinois last week 42-3, but they are facing a UAB team that survived Alabama State, so this is a stinky on stinky, but each is a contender moving forward for the "Hey, they have already bagged this year" award; Another one is South Florida, which was absolutely hosed by a good Wisconsin team, but the Bulls play a Georgia Tech team that could not get out of its own way. We also are watching to see what UConn does this week.         

But the major key here is not to overreact to Week 1. Yes, I know that's tough UT fans, because it was a disastrous Week 1 — the ESPN Power Index listed the loss to Georgia State as the fourth-worst upset in history. So there's that.

So, if we are going to react and not overreact, where does that leave us? It leaves us hunting value and playing more totals.

Let's roll.     

UCLA minus-7 over San Diego State. Chip Kelly needs this one, considering he's 3-10 with the Bruins. A loss to Cincinnati is far from humiliating. San Diego State has some issues — they beat Weber State 6-0 last week — and like we had with USC last week, the talent edge is clear here. Buy the number to be safe, but this may be my favorite play on the board.    

Tulane plus-18.5 over Auburn. The Tigers pulled despair from the jaws of the Ducks last week with some last-second magic. I would like this pick even more if it started at 11 a.m. Central — it's a night game at Jordan-Hare — but Tulane is pretty good and Green Wave coach Willie Fritz knows what he's doing. Auburn almost always comes out slow in moments like this, and man does this really feel like a 28-17 final. And goodness help Auburn fans if this game comes down to Gus Malzahn making a two-point conversion decision.   

Miami minus-4 over UNC. Another team entering Week 2 on an amazing high, but was UNC's come-from-behind win over South Carolina because of anything the Heels did or what the Gamecocks didn't do? They didn't stop the run. They couldn't get off the field on third down. Jake Bentley turned it over inexplicably. And Miami sat and watched and will bring a) the better freshman quarterback, b) a meaner attitude, and c) a roster that is more athletic at almost every position.  

Syracuse is plus-2 over Maryland over 57.5. Wow, this line is going nuts. It started with Syracuse at minus-5, it has gone to Maryland minus-2. Yes, Syracuse is the ranked team and Maryland is just getting votes, but (there's always a but, right Spy?) in the last 23 instances ranked team underdog against an unranked team, the unranked team is 19-4. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Stay away from the line. Play the over. Could Syracuse be looking ahead to Clemson? Maybe. This feels like a 38-35 outcome either way, which points to the over. 

Penn State-Buffalo over 55.5. Hmmmmmm, here's a thought that Penn State may cover that number by themselves. And they may need to, considering Buffalo scored 38 against Robert Morris. Side story: Forget what NCAA tournament it was but Robert Morris was playing UNC in a 16-1 and before the pods, I want to say Duke was there for the first round, too. The Duke fans obviously were trying to support Robert Morris, and the crafty Duke fans started the "Let's go Bob" clap-clap, clap-clap-clap. 

Last week: 6-7 against the number

This season: 6-8 against the number  


College football items of interest

Our picks are one thing. Those are the games we are chasing "entertainment."

The games that are more enjoyable to watch are another matter entirely. Here's a quick list of things we're looking forward to this weekend:

— Bounce back in K-town? We think Tennessee's coaches and players realize the magnitude of the moment. This is a must win and if we had to make a pick we'd take the Vols and lay the 3.5 but a lot of folks in Vegas are fading the Vols big time, which is scary because Vegas does this stuff for real.

— Clemson-Texas A&M. Speaking of Vegas, the sharp money loves, Loves, LOVES Clemson in this one. So there's that. I hope this is a good game, but I think Clemson is scary good offensively and the Aggies are overrated.

— LSU at Texas. Buckle up for the river of "Tom Herman is unbeaten as an underdog" stories this week. Has LSU really opened their offense up? Yes, the numbers were scary against Georgia Southern, but 70 percent of the Tigers' passes in Week 1 were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Will that work against an athletic Texas defense? We'll see. I like the Tigers to win, but that number has grown to 6 on the road in a crazy environment.

— What will Jalen and Justin and Jacob do for encores? The big-name former SEC quarterbacks lit it up in Week 1, what will they do in Week 2? Jacob Eason and the Huskies go to California, where Justin Wilcox is doing work. Justin Fields is in the crosshairs of a trendy upset pick when Cincy comes to The Horseshoe.

— Go Mocs. Big chance for a big win against a Jacksonville State that is not as good as we normally would expect from Jacksonville State. War Rusty. 



NFL projections

Well, we have to put the "Pick Bama until someone proves us wrong" version on the NFL season, right?

Can anyone beat the Patriots when it counts is the only question that matters for the big picture of the NFL season.

I say no.

We know no one in the AFC East has anything to keep the Patriots from winning the division.

Does the short-term leverage play by Houston offer a hope for Stewwie and the rest of the anti-Pats crowd? I don't think so.

Can Kansas City continue that scorching offensive production? Yes, but do you trust Andy Reid against Bill Belichick in January? Again, the answer is no.

Are there any teams in the NFC that could? Yes, especially the Eagles, who have the best roster 1-through-53 in the league.

With that, here are our annual NFL preseason picks:

AFC playoffs: (1) Patriots and (2) Chiefs with byes, (3) Cleveland over (6) San Diego and (5) Pittsburgh over Houston. New England over Pittsburgh and K.C. over Cleveland. New England over K.C.

NFC playoffs: (1) Eagles and (2) Rams with byes, (3) Packers over (6) Falcons and (4) Saints over (5) Dallas; Eagles over Saints and Packers over Rams; Packers over Eagles.

Super Bowl: Patriots vs. Packers. Hey, we Aaron Rodgers fan boys can hope, right?

MVP: Aaron Rodgers

Offensive player of the year: Patrick Mahomes

Defensive player of the year: Myles Garrett

Offensive rookie of the year: Kyler Murray

Defensive rookie of the year: Quinnen Williams

Comeback player of the year: Le'Veon Bell

Coach of the year: Freddie Kitchens

Thoughts?        



This and that

— So we don't get too pick heavy on Thursdays, we will have NFL picks in Friday's mailbag. Deal? Deal. That said, I'm on Aaron Rodgers and the 3.5 tonight in the opener. Giddy-up.

— This is pretty cool. Michael Lorenzen, the Reds' less-heralded version of Shohei Ohtani, did something last night that has not been done in the MLB since some dude named George Ruth. Lorenzen got the win as the starting pitcher, homered and finished the game in center field, which was last done by the Babe in June 1921. And his quote was money: "I'm going to have to look into what Babe Ruth would be making today and sit down with [the front office]. It's one of those funny little baseball stats. I'm definitely honored to be part of that. It's cool to be part of a Babe Ruth stat."  

— Braves-Nationals for four this weekend. Yes, there is a ton of football to pay attention to, but with a seven-game lead over Washington, the Braves have a chance to put their boot on the neck of the division this weekend.

— Again, if you have fantasy questions, we are still planning on having a RotoWire fantasy guru on Press Row today. Also, do not miss Jim Donnan at his 4:15 time slot. Giddy-up.



Today's questions

Who do you like in the NFL this year? Discuss.

Also, Delta was running a Twitter poll of the best football movies and the choices were "Friday Night Lights," "The Blind Side," "Remember the Titans" and "The Waterboy." With more than 143,000 votes, "Remember the Titans" is running away with it. Which of those would you pick, and for my money, the best football movie ever made was "North Dallas Forty." Thoughts?

As for today, Sept. 5, let's explore.

On this day in 1972, the murder of 11 Olympic athletes in Munich happened.

The first documented legal forward pass in American football was thrown by Bradbury Robison of St. Louis University. It was caught by teammate Jack Schneider in a 22-0 win over Carroll College.

Michael Keaton is 68 today, and he has a way better Rushmore than you realize. Freddie Mercury would have been 73 today.

On this day in 1698, Russian Tsar Peter the Great imposed a tax on beards.
Rushmore of beards.  

Go, and remember the mailbag.

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