Welcome to Thursday’s Thoughts. This week, I go over my Weekly Wagers, discuss my Top 5 of the Week, and have a bit of fun with things I like and dislike. If you’re not a fan of sports, gambling, politics, pop culture, or fun, then you probably won’t enjoy many (any) of my blog posts, but oh well read them anyway and you might be surprised.
NFL Biggest Surprises through Week 3
At the start of the season, I predicted that Miami would go 6-11. This was mostly due to me doubting the ability of Tua Tagovailoa to utilize the weapons around him. Well, as it turns out, I was wrong. Tua has been impressive, and the Dolphins have thrived, going 3-0, including beating 2 Super Bowl contenders in the Bills and Ravens.
Arguably the worst division in football over the past few years, so far this season the NFC East is 6-2 in non-division games, the best record in the NFL. The Cowboys, despite losing starting QB Dak Prescott, have rebounded well under Cooper Rush. The Eagles offense has been elite, and Jalen Hurts has become a dark-horse MVP candidate. Saquon Barkley looks reinvigorated (2nd in the league in rushing), and though they’ve played a weak schedule, the Giants defense has held up far better than last year. The
Washington Football Team Commanders haven’t looked great, and their defense has been a disappointment, but Carson Wentz has shown flashes of his old form and their win over Jacksonville looks even more impressive in retrospect…
How bad of a coach is Urban Meyer? This team was the worst in the NFL last season, and Trevor Lawrence looked dangerously close to being a bust. One offseason with a new coach, and he looks like the heralded quarterback we all expected to see last season. In fact, the whole team looks better – the defense is getting pressure, the running game is holding up, and the offensive line looks vastly improved. They dominated the Colts and then absolutely handled a very good (albeit depleted) Chargers team. We’ll see if this has been a mirage or if the Jaguars are for real when they visit the Eagles in Philadelphia this weekend.
One of the best quarterbacks over the past decade, Wilson’s move to Denver was expected to turn the Broncos into contenders. But since his arrival, despite being 2-1, Denver is yet to score more than 16 points in a game. Even more concerning, however, is that Russ seems content to be relegated to a game manager role, throwing only 2 touchdowns over his first 3 contests. Russ hasn’t shown any signs of the elite quarterback play we’ve gotten used to, and Denver has looked anything but a championship-caliber team.
Top 5 of the Week
With NBA media day behind us, as we inch closer to the NBA season, we’re not only starting to kick off NBA predictions, but also the hot take machine is in full effect. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen quite a few bad takes, which led me to this Top 5 of the Week. This week, I will be going through the top 5 most underrated players in the NBA. Both ESPN and CBS put out top 100 lists ahead of the upcoming season. I used these as a baseline for how players are perceived, but also brought in my perspective of popular sentiment around the league. The full listing can be found here for ESPN and here for CBS, and I have included their rankings next to their names below.
5. Desmond Bane (ESPN 68; CBS 55)
Bane is already one of the elite 3-point shooters in the league, but he’s more than just the spot-up shooter his reputation suggests. His play is closer to Steph Curry than Seth Curry, and he’s a solid defender as well. There’s simply not 50 better players in the NBA right now, and he’s only been in the league for 2 years. He will be a borderline All-Star this season, and has the upside to be the secondary star next to Ja Morant, especially with Jaren Jackson slated to miss the first month of the season.
4. Draymond Green (ESPN 43; CBS 34)
Draymond has been perennially underrated, and even after winning yet another title, he still doesn’t seem to get the credit he’s due. He’s one of the 5 best defenders of all-time, and even though he’s not quite playing at the same level he was a few years ago, he’s still a top 25 player in the league. He’s known for his defense, but he’s also an elite playmaker. Many people think that he’s not a good offensive player because he doesn’t score a lot (or efficiently), but that misses his impact on the game. Just look at this graphic from BBall Index:
It can be easy to overlook Green’s impact on the game, but he’s been the second most important player on Golden State throughout the last 8 seasons (Durant years excluded, of course).
3. Zion Williamson (ESPN 40, CBS 17)
Zion is the most highly ranked (and regarded) player on my list, but he’s still underrated. When he plays, he’s undoubtedly a top 10 player in the league. Injuries have marred his career to this point, but the Pelicans have been careful with him and limited his minutes. He says he feels great and that (somehow) he’s “moving faster and jumping higher.” As soon as he plays a full season (or relatively full – we may be looking at a Joel Embiid-type situation where he misses a dozen games in a healthy year), he’ll be an immediate MVP candidate, and these rankings will look ridiculous.
2. Franz Wagner (ESPN not ranked; CBS 97)
Wagner had an incredible rookie season, and it seems to have been largely overlooked outside of Orlando. He’s a 6’10” small forward, whose floor is an elite 3-and-D wing, but he looks able to do a hell of a lot more than that. Offensively, he compares similarly to Tyler Herro (ranked 61 and 76), and even as a rookie, he’s already a far better defender. If you didn’t watch much Orlando basketball last season, you should keep your eye on Wagner this season.
1. Ben Simmons (ESPN 76; CBS 42)
I really don’t understand the Ben Simmons hate. Sure, he’s had a few bad playoff moments, including his last game before sitting out last season, but he’s still an elite talent and surefire all-star. Sure, he’s not a shooter, but neither was Giannis, and Simmons overcomes his weaknesses much in the same way as a young Giannis – he gets to the basket, distributes, and feasts in transition. He’s also the best perimeter defender in the league of any player without a DPOY trophy. Everyone focuses on the one thing he can’t do (shoot), while ignoring that he’s elite in nearly every other aspect. There’s a reason he’s a 3-time All-Star (in just 4 seasons), and was 2nd in DPOY voting the last season he played: simply, he’s really fucking good.
2022 Record 4-4
So I got back on track last week going 2-1, but still hope to make a better push this week. (Note that the spreads come from PaddyPower.com or Bovada.lv, depending on which site I’m gambling on a given week).
DET -4 vs SEA
The Lions are very good. They’re 2 possessions away from being undefeated, and their only 2 losses came against solid teams (and they definitely should have beaten the Vikings last week). Seattle has looked awful, and I think this will be seen as Detroit’s coming out party. Lions win by double digits. (Also, I’m not sure what the over/under will be on Amon-Ra St. Brown’s yards is, but take the over.)
ATL +1.5 vs CLE
The Browns are not a bad team, and Atlanta arguably is, but it also feels like they’re starting to click. They’ve covered the past 2 weeks, so I’m continuing to ride my gut here and going with Atlanta to win in a close one.
GB -10.5 vs NE
The Packers looked awful in week 1, and have looked good since then. It reminds me a bit of last season when they got blown out by New Orleans week 1 and then returned to form almost immediately after. This is a good team, and the Patriots are very bad. 10.5 is the largest line of the season thus far, and for good reason. Packers lead from start to finish and win by 14.
Framley Teaser League
In addition to my regular picks, I’ll also be giving my weekly teaser selections here. For those unfamiliar with teaser leagues, I’ll give a simplified version: Each person (or team) selects 4 teams each week, and the betting line is adjusted by 10 points in favor of the team you select (e.g. if you choose a team with a -3 line, their new line would be +7). Each team that goes 4/4 gets paid by all those who had at least 1 missed pick (and paid extra for more misses). I’m currently on a team with a friend – Nicholas – where we select our picks together, so he has 50% say in these picks, and our conversations will be a recurring theme here.
2022 Weekly Record: 1-2
The lines for this league finalize on Wednesdays, these are our Week 4 options:
We haven’t finalized our picks this week, but I’m surprising Nicholas with a Thursday night pick of the Dolphins. I just think they get it done, and with how well they’ve been playing, it’s hard not to take them.
Final picks: MIA+14.5, MIN+7, DET+6, ARI+12.5
Things I Like and Things I Don’t Like
Kirk Cousins. I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard Cousins fans (they exist!), but I do think he gets more criticism than he deserves. Every loss is magnified, every win is dismissed, and I’m not sure what he’s done to merit the animosity.
I don’t like
Aaron Rodgers. Throw him in Jail.
Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre. Great quarterback, gunslinger, down-to-Earth guy who just wants a comfortable pair of jeans. Got screwed out of a Super Bowl appearance in 2009 by the cheating Saints. Unbiased opinion: Minnesota quarterbacks seem like great people.
I don’t like
Green Bay Packers Quarterback Brett Favre. Interception machine. Retired (read: quit) a bunch of times, sent unsolicited dick pics. And now we find out that he stole welfare funds? I guess all Packers quarterbacks are scumbags.
International NFL games. I’m going to the first London game this season to watch the Vikings play, and hope to get to another London game later this year. We might possibly even travel to Munich for the Bucs vs Seahawks. These games add a cool dynamic to the NFL, expand the game, and (importantly) give us longer days of football, which is always a good thing. Still, it could be improved…
I don’t like
Uneven amounts of home games. As much as I love having additional football with the 17-game season, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to have certain teams have 9 home games while others only get 8. Why introduce a change that inherently makes things less fair? Similarly, it sucks that international games leave certain teams with one less home game. Luckily, there’s an easy solution: expand the international games to 16 per year, with each team playing in an international game. This would give every team 8 home games, 8 away games, and 1 international game, and allow for the expanded 17-game schedule to continue without inherently inequitable schedules. I don’t know the logistics of making it happen, but I have to believe there are plenty of other cities who would be excited about hosting a game. Let’s make it happen!
That’s it for this week! As always, send me a message if there’s anything you’d like me to write about, or just to tell me that my predictions suck!