We’re a third of the way through a season.
Yes, seriously, a third.
And with football being played on seemingly every day of the week and schedule changes proving to be ubiquitous, that fact might have caught up with you.
But after a long pre-season with games that actually counted — three, four weeks — I think it’s fair to make some determinations on a few teams around the NFL.
Last week, we did well with unders.
Before that, we did well with overreactions and fading the public.
This week, we’re going to cash in on Las Vegas disrespect.
There are three teams that the books are fading this week that, frankly, deserve more respect.
It’s not the early season anymore. Some teams are just good. Some teams are bad. And holding onto 2019 — as much as we’d like to do that in every other area of our lives — is foolhardy.
Bears +1 at Panthers
So let me see if I have this right. The Panthers — who declared to the world that they are rebuilding for 2020, despite having some pretty good players — have won three straight games against the Falcons, Cardinals, and Chargers and now everyone is on the bandwagon?
I understand fading the Bears. I really do. They’re a weak 4-1.
But the Panthers are not an impressive 3-2.
Chicago’s defense is real. Their offense has more potential. And Chicago should be able to effectively run the ball against this Carolina defense and I think the Bears’ defense should create turnovers and limit Carolina yardage.
I don’t feel great about this bet, neither team elicits warm, fuzzy feelings, but the market over-correction to the Panthers compared to the denial of the Bears — a playoff team in 2018 — is suspect.
Browns at Steelers (-3.5)
The Steelers were average at best last year and horrible on offense.
That was last year.
This year, their defense remains elite and their offense isn’t far behind them. Pittsburgh might be the third-best team in the NFL. With Ben Roethlisberger back under center, this team is a bonafide Super Bowl contender.
The Browns have done nice things this year — I like Baker Mayfield in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. They have talent all over, too.
But they’re not the Steelers. Not yet. I expect that to show on Sunday.
Rams -3 at 49ers
Yes, the 49ers made the Super Bowl last year. But that was last year, and this year, they might be straight-up bad.
Not disappointing. Not mediocre. Bad.
The Niners’ offense looks hapless outside of running back Raheem Mostert. The defense, predicated on having an elite pass rush, has a bottom-third pass rush in the NFL this year and has not made up for that fact with talent elsewhere.
But other than that, everything is good in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, the Rams have been a revelation this season. After a transition year on their roster, they are back to running the ball well without Todd Gurley and they’ve added counters to the defensive schemes that shut them down in the 2018 Super Bowl — tactics that were repeated often in 2019.
Let’s pretend for a moment that these rosters are equal. They’re not. The Rams are a better team given San Francisco’s injury. But let’s pretend.
If it all comes down to quarterbacks, why would you pick the 49ers?
What more do we need to see from Jimmy Garoppolo, who was benched last week.
Jared Goff has been fantastic this year — he remains in an elite system and he’s improved in reading the field and hitting his spots on tight-window throws. He’s arguably the second-best quarterback in the NFC West.
Garoppolo is unquestionably fourth.
Oh, and his kryptonite (ok, one of them) is middle pressure, patricianly with his sprained ankle. The 49ers’ center and guard play this season has been abysmal.
They get to face Aaron Donald.
The Rams are a team that looks like a Super Bowl contender. They’re a team that knows what it’s doing. Don’t forget, in their bad 2019, they still won nine games.
The 49ers, after two terrible years to start Kyle Shanahan’s tenure in charge, won 13 games last year. This year, they’ll be lucky to win nine. Going back to the form of those first two years seems more likely.
If books want to continue to hold onto last year’s narratives — the Niners are an upstart dynasty, the Rams are on the downslope — there are free points for you to take. Seeing as I would take this game to five, six, even a full seven points, I’ll gladly pick up what the books are laying down.