By Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff)
Each week I’ll update the Against the Grain Wheel wager and share five contrarian thoughts on Sunday’s football action.
WHEEL WAGER UPDATE
Three underdogs to win outright ever week: Over 50%, Dan spins McLovin's Wheel of Awesomeness. Under 50% – McLovin spins Wheel of Punishment
Week 1: 0-3 (Bengals, Panthers, Falcons)
The Universe loves messing with Andrew Perloff. I was headed for a 3-0 start at about 3 p.m. ET before things went drastically awry. The Bengals committed mistake after mistake and blew a 21-10 third-quarter lead to the Bears, falling 24-21. The Panthers seemed to have an edge in the extreme heat against Seattle and were driving for the go-ahead late when DeAngelo Williams fumbled inside the 5. Carolina never touched the ball again in a 12-7 loss. And the Falcons had the ball inside the New Orleans 10 in the waning seconds, but failed to score in their 24-21 defeat.
This is going to be a tough bet to win. Only two underdogs won - the Jets thanks to a miracle and the Titans. The 'Fins ended up underdogs, but they were a Pick 'Em with the Browns when the bet was set.
Look Ahead to Next Week WOP picks: The Bills opened up as underdogs at home against the Panthers and the Vegas deemed the Chiefs a 1-point favorite over the Cowboys. Also have to consider the Cardinals, 1-point dogs against the Lions. Suggestions welcome!
Magic Number until Wheel of Punishment: 23 (how many losses until McLovin spins).
FIVE AGAINST THE GRAIN GRANULES
1. Don't anoint Terrelle Pryor yet: A great start for the Raiders quarterback, but please slow down before labeling him the next mobile sensation. He played well against a Colts defense that ranked 26th last season. Pryor was fearless downfield. Defensive coordinators will get tape on him and target him more when he runs. Lucky for Pryor, he's got the Jags next week and they weren't exactly hitting many people in Week 1.
2. Don't Worry about New England: I know, I know, they needed a last-second field goal to beat the Bills and a rookie quarterback 23-21. But the Patriots are usually shaky early. They lost to the Cardinals in Week 2 last season, the Bills in Week 3 of 2011, the Jets in Week 2 of 2010. They'll probably struggle against the Jets on Thursday night. But on the positive side, Shane Vereen ran for 103 yards on 14 carries after taking over for Stevan Ridley, who was benched for fumbling. The Pats amassed 158 yards on the ground - a total that will them a lot of games. They were surprisingly unproductive in the red zone and actually came closer to blowing the Bills out then the final score indicated. The Patriots definitely don't look like they're headed for a 14-2 season but they can win the woeful AFC East by grinding out ugly wins.
3. Don't worry about the Bengals: The Bengals outplayed the Bears, and lost because of turnovers and penalties. I'm not jumping off the Cincy Super Bowl bandwagon. A.J. Green had nine catches for 162 yards and is becoming like Calvin Johnson with the Lions. Defenses are going to have to put more resources into slowing him down and open up chances for other playmakers. This loss doesn't hurt in the standings and they're still tied for the lead in the winless AFC North.
4. Running backs can’t run: With the entire League geared up to stop passing attacks and using nickel and dime packages even on earlier downs, teams should be able to run. Most teams can't. There were only two 100-yard rushers through Sunday - Pryor and Vereen. The yards per carry numbers were embarrassing - 26 players had double-digit carries - only 13 of them averaged over 3 yards per carry. Big stars put up paltry lines - Frank Gore (2.1 ypc), Ray Rice (3.0 ypc), C.J. Spiller (2.4 ypc), Marshawn Lynch (2.5 ypc), Maurice Jones-Drew (3.0 ypc), Darren McFadden (2.8 ypc), Matt Forte (2.6 ypc), Doug Martin (2.7 ypc) and Chris Johnson (2.8 ypc).
5. Don't discount Lavonte David: The Bucs linebacker will probably be known all season as the player who hit Geno Smith as he was going out of bounds to draw a flag and set up the Jets' game-winning field goal. But he was all over the field for Tampa Bay. The second-year player had an interception and a sack and is poised to be step up as one of the premier linebackers in the League. It was a stupid play … a terrible play … but he's not a stupid player.
BRYCE PETTY WATCH
Weekly update on my preseason darkhorse first-round QB prospect out of Baylor
Week 2: 13-16, 388 yards, 2 TDs in 70-13 win
Petty continued his near perfect season against Buffalo - the college, not the Bills — although they're the Bulls, so I can see plenty of misunderstandings there. Petty only played one drive into the second half. Sounds like they beat up on an also-ran, but the Bulls gave Ohio State some trouble, losing 40-20.
THREE CALLS I NAILED
1. Jadeveon Clowney is overhyped: The South Carolina defensive end had a sack, but made little impact in South Carolina’s 41-30 loss to Georgia. He still very well could be the No. 1 overall pick if the top team doesn’t need a QB, but forget the Heisman hype.
2. The Patriots are going to run: I’ve been saying this all preseason. They learned from the Ravens last season that there’s value to keeping it on the ground even if it takes them longer to score.
3. Tavon Austin will have limited impact as a receiver this season: The rookie out of West Virginia had six catches for 41 yards. Other Rams receivers stepped up nicely and they did throw for 299 yards. But even if they do start trying to force the ball to Austin, he’s not Percy Harvin. He’s not strong enough to get off the line if defenses press him, so they’ll have to be creative. Austin might make a quicker impact as a returner, even though he didn’t do that much on Sunday (1 punt return for 1 yard). But do expect a big return soon.
THREE CALLS I REGRET
1. The Raiders are going to be the worst team in the League: They could have won on Sunday and are in serious jeopardy of falling out of the top three spots in the Draft. But if Pryor plays like that and stays healthy, they don’t have to worry about getting a Teddy Bridgewater.
2. The Browns could be interesting: Cleveland’s performance at home was one of the most disappointing efforts of opening week. Everything I liked about Brandon Weeden in the preseason evaporated. Although tight end Jordan Cameron is a breakout star in his third season.
3. The Packers will do better against the 49ers offense: So much for a whole offseason for Dom Capers to figure out San Francisco after last season’s playoff loss. Colin Kaepernick still did pretty much anything he wanted (412 yards passing). At least the Packers were competitive and you didn’t come away thinking they’re not the favorite in the NFC North.