The best thing about the NFL coming to an agreement with the referees isn’t that the games will be controlled by cocky little striped-shirt wearing ninnies who now think they’re actual celebrities (more on them in a bit). The best thing is that excuses, for the most part, are taken away. While the permanent referees were often lambasted last season and in years previous, it’s rarely excusable to actually roll with the narrative that a game’s outcome was untoward, that the referees allowed the wrong team to prevail.

That happened on Monday night in Seattle, and that’s why the NFL and the referees came to an agreement before the next game kicked off.

What this also means is none of the five BASG writers picking these games have any more excuses when we make these picks. Bay Area Duck Guy was complaining during our podcast about getting screwed on the Packers/Seahawks game, which makes him kind of like a 19-year-old Charles Barkley, except Duck Guy will actually get his degree and probably doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line every weekend.

By the way, did you see the officials doffing their caps and strutting around before the Browns/Ravens game on Thursday night? All these officials in the major sports want to be celebrities, just like the players. Absolutely ridiculous, but those are the times we live in.

Onto the picks!

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens (-12)
**Ravens won 23-16**
Bay Area Sports Guy: Browns
East Bay Sports GuyRavens
Bay Area Stats Guy: Browns
Ruthless Sports Guy: Browns
Bay Area Duck GuyRavens

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans (-13.5)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Titans
East Bay Sports Guy: Titans
Bay Area Stats Guy: Titans
Ruthless Sports Guy: Titans
Bay Area Duck Guy: Texans

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs (PK)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Chargers
East Bay Sports Guy: Chargers
Bay Area Stats Guy: Chargers
Ruthless Sports Guy: Chiefs
Bay Area Duck Guy: Chiefs

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons (-8)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Falcons
East Bay Sports Guy: Falcons
Bay Area Stats Guy: Falcons
Ruthless Sports Guy: Panthers
Bay Area Duck Guy: Falcons

Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) @ St. Louis Rams
Bay Area Sports Guy: Seahawks
East Bay Sports Guy: Rams
Bay Area Stats GuySeahawks
Ruthless Sports Guy: Seahawks
Bay Area Duck Guy: Seahawks

New England Patriots (-3.5) @ Buffalo Bills
Bay Area Sports Guy: Patriots
East Bay Sports Guy: Patriots
Bay Area Stats Guy: Patriots
Ruthless Sports Guy: Bills
Bay Area Duck Guy: Patriots

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions (-4)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Lions
East Bay Sports Guy: Lions
Bay Area Stats Guy: Lions
Ruthless Sports Guy: Lions
Bay Area Duck Guy: Vikings

Miami Dolphins @ Arizona Cardinals (-5.5)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Cardinals
East Bay Sports Guy: Dolphins
Bay Area Stats Guy: Dolphins
Ruthless Sports Guy: Dolphins
Bay Area Duck Guy: Cardinals

Cincinnati Bengals (-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Bay Area Sports Guy: Bengals
East Bay Sports Guy: Bengals
Bay Area Stats Guy: Jaguars
Ruthless Sports Guy: Bengals
Bay Area Duck Guy: Bengals

Washington Redskins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Buccaneers
East Bay Sports Guy: Buccaneers
Bay Area Stats Guy: Buccaneers
Ruthless Sports Guy: Buccaneers
Bay Area Duck Guy: Redskins

New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers (-9)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Packers
East Bay Sports Guy: Saints
Bay Area Stats Guy: Packers
Ruthless Sports Guy: Packers
Bay Area Duck Guy: Packers

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles (-1)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Giants
East Bay Sports GuyGiants
Bay Area Stats Guy: Eagles
Ruthless Sports Guy: Giants
Bay Area Duck Guy: Giants

***

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos (-8.5)

Bay Area Sports Guy: Playing in Denver isn’t the same thing as playing on the East Coast for the Raiders, who face an offense that is gaining almost exactly as many yards per game as they are. I need to see Peyton Manning throw a spiral before I pick them to win by 9 or more. Pick: Raiders

East Bay Sports Guy: I know that this is a dangerously high line, but I also know that the Broncos are the best run-defense in the league, that the Raiders success is predicated on the run game (see: last week’s game), that the Broncos are 51-29 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, that the Raiders lost to the Miami Dolphins on the road by 22 points, that that is enough that’s. While the Raiders haven’t lost in Denver since 2007, law of averages says they’ll lose this one. If you’re going to lose, might as well lose big, right? Pick: Broncos

Bay Area Stats Guy I think that this line is pretty crazy. 8.5 points is quite a bit and I don’t buy that the Broncos are a team good enough to deserve that kind of line. After three games they have scored and allowed the same number of points. That doesn’t scream give more than a touchdown. My model agrees with a median difference of 2 with the Broncos only winning 53 percent of the time. Pick: Raiders

Ruthless Sports Guy: Here’s to hoping Dennis Allen knows enough about the Broncos to derail them like Singletary did to the 49ers last week. You want to see the Raiders rattle off two wins in a row, but even if they don’t, a touchdown plus a hook is a nice cushion in a division rivalry game. Pick: Raiders

Bay Area Duck GuySo far, every time I pick against the Raiders, they’ve won. Every time I’ve picked the Raiders, they’ve lost. This time, I really do think the Raiders will lose to Denver, so I’m taking the Broncos. But if this trend keeps up, I’ll keep picking against the Raiders just so they’ll win. Pick: Broncos

***

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) @ New York Jets

Bay Area Sports Guy: The 49ers’ overconfidence on defense was palpable throughout training camp after they dominated the first and second team offenses day after day. It was even mentioned by Vic Fangio after losing at Houston during the preseason. That defensive arrogance finally bit them in Minnesota, which is why that 24-13 loss to the Vikings might not be such a bad thing. This game also provides an opportunity for Alex Smith to show he can throw downfield, which is why the Niners certainly aren’t crying over Darrelle Revis’ ACL tear. Pick: 49ers

East Bay Sports GuyThe last time they played the Jets on the road, Alex Smith was a mere twinkle in the 49ers’ eye. Despite the best efforts of Kevan Barlow and Brandon Lloyd, the 49ers lost by eight. The next year, the 49ers would draft Alex Smith and wouldn’t win at The Meadowlands again. Period. Still, I’ll take the 49ers over a Darelle Revis-less Jets team any day. Heck, I’d take the 49ers over any Christian Ponder-less team. Pick: 49ers

Bay Area Stats GuyI have the 49ers winning this 53 percent of the time with a margin of victory of 3 points. Normally that would make me take the Jets but I am going to overrule the system (even if it has put me in first place in this picking contest) and go with the 49ers. The 49ers are too good a team to come out flat two games in a row, I expect them to reassert their dominance and win by at least a touchdown. I hope I don’t regret overruling this pick. Pick: 49ers

Ruthless Sports Guy: None of the expected story lines really apply here. The best runners in the world can’t handle the 49ers run defense, so Tebow should be an afterthought. Darrelle Revis is out, which makes the Jets’ secondary vulnerable; then again, when was the last time Alex Smith really exploited a secondary? This game is going to come down to good old fashion rebounding – 49ers win and cover comfortably.  Pick: 49ers

Bay Area Duck Guy: San Francisco will rebound. Alex Smith and his receivers will figure it out in New York after Jim Harbaugh gives them what-for all week. Plus, I can’t see the 49ers’ defense losing to a team that is desperate enough to put Tim Tebow at wide receiver. Pick: 49ers

***

GAME OF THE WEEK:
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys (-3)

Bay Area Sports Guy: Matt Forte probably won’t play, and if he does he’ll be on the gimpy side. Dallas’ offense has been pretty bad, but I’m going with the homefield advantage during a nationally televised game. Pick: Cowboys

East Bay Sports GuyI like the home team. I really don’t know why. Dallas has an outstanding run defense, which should force Chicago to become one-dimensional. If they can line-up DeMarcus Ware over J’Marcus Webb, the game should be won handily. Pick: Cowboys

Bay Area Stats GuyI was surprised by the numbers that my model spit out on this one, it says that the Bears should win about 52 percent of the time with a margin of 3 points. I was expecting my model to agree with Vegas but maybe that is skewed by all the people that bet Cowboys ever week regardless of who they play. Pick: Bears

Ruthless Sports Guy: I was convinced that Jay Cutler would be an awesome QB2 option in fantasy football this year, but I had to finally admit defeat and drop him after two weeks of literally killing me. Even without him on my team anymore, I know that at some point he’ll go off – just not this week. The Bears offensive line is downright awful and it won’t be any fun for Mr. Cutler with Demarcus Ware in his face all day.  Pick: Cowboys

Bay Area Duck Guy: Matt Forte isn’t healthy, and that means Jay Cutler will have to do a lot on his own. When that happens, things go bad for Chicago. Demarcus Ware will be putting pressure on Cutler all night in front of a home crowd, and the Bears’ offensive line won’t be able to stop him. America’s team takes it at home. Pick: Cowboys

2012 Non-Expert Records Against the Spread