Gonna get an earlier start on these this week. Still quite a few question marks with injuries and who’ll be starting where but the lines are up so I’ll go with it. It’s our first week with Byes so the fantasy leagues are going to get a little more interesting and tricky week to week. So far my weekly predictions are looking much better than my fantasy football fates.
Sunday, Oct. 4
** HOUSTON 9½ Oakland 41½ **
Man, JaMarcus Russell sucks. Is it lazy to take that angle now? Who cares… it’s by far the most important factor in predicting any Oakland games from this point on. I still think the Raiders have a decent group of players on the whole and their coaching is much improved this season. When you watch them play you can see that they are in good positions frequently and are narrowly missing some big plays. But Russell is a giant weight dragging them down. I’ve never seen a player whiff on so many wide open passes, at some point this will demoralize the rest of the team and you won’t be seeing those game efforts any more. In contrast the Texans are starting to come together after a really shaky start, though the defense is scary bad. That major flaw won’t be exploited against the Raiders and the Texans will simply outscore them. The only real question is if Russell’s one or two decent throws (accidents I’m sure) and a few big runs are enough points to cover that number. On the road I’m betting no.
The Pick: Texans 27 - Raiders 17
** Tennessee 3 JACKSONVILLE 41½ **
The Titans have to be completely desperate at 0-3 and they’ve got a divisional foe on the road who’s under similar pressure after a slow start. Things really couldn’t be much worse for the Titans. All in all they’ve played OK, though the WR’s have dropped way to many balls and they haven’t been able to control the game with their running attack. The Titans are banged up in the secondary and the Jags will really need to exploit that. So far MJD and the Jags passing game have been suspect and last weeks effort should be taken with a grain of salt. Over the past several year the Titans have had their way with the Jags and I suspect that Tennessee will get right this week against them.
The Pick: Titans 24 - Jags 10
** NEW ENGLAND 2 Baltimore 44½ **
Well, last week I noted that the Pats were the team I couldn’t figure out and I’ll probably get them wrong all season. In contrast I’ve pretty much nailed my Ravens picks ever since Flacco took over and this season I’ve really made some hay with them. So, what will give? The oddsmakers have really done me a favor with the spread though. It just feels like the Ravens should be favored, even on the road, in this one based on their performances so far this season. Last week the Pats flipped the script by controlling the rushing game on both sides of the ball, but the Ravens are better than the Falcons in both respects. The decisive factor though will be the Baltimore pass rush. Brady has still looked jumpy and the Ravens will sick the dogs on him and I expect it to have a dramatic effect. I have both QBs in one fantasy league and I’ll be starting Flacco over Brady. Call me crazy.
The Pick: Ravens 30 - Patriots 13
** Cincinnati 5½ CLEVELAND 38 **
Mangini for whatever reason has abandoned his silly secretive paranoid ways and announced that Derek Anderson will be the starting QB this week. I heard an interesting comment from a TV analyst, might have been Steve Young I’m not sure, that Brady Quinn’s strength out of college and through his entire career has been accurate short passes. While his overall stats are terrible his numbers on throws from 0-10 yards are very good while on longer throws they are god awful. Now, a NFL QB needs to do both in some measure but the implication was the the Cleveland gameplan has an absurd ratio of long to short and they were asking Quinn to do something he’s never shown an ability to do. Food for thought if it has any merit. Regardless, he’s out of this game and Anderson is in. I think he’ll help the offense a little but they still won’t run the ball against the Bengals and they drop far too many passes to sustain drives. The Bengals on the other hand are getting good and last week’s final drive against the Steelers should give them a new confidence. I expect Palmer to finally have a monster game a Ocho will be doing some dancing.
The Pick: Bengals 42 - Browns 20
** NY Giants 8½ KANSAS CITY 42½ **
Which narrative crutch do I use: that I can’t figure out the Giants this year or how much the Chiefs suck? I have a new found respect for sports columnists, it’s hard to be original talking about 14+ games every week. Lucky for me and unfortunately for you I don’t get paid to do this shit so I don’t care if it’s repetitive! So…the Chiefs suck. They suck like bimbo on Real World Cancun after an evening of Tequila and house music. Cassel looks like he might be a bum, he’s banged up and statuesque and facing a really good pass rush. He can’t really throw the ball downfield and he has no running game to steak of. People are killing Todd Haley and they might be right, but he’s not getting much help out there. By the time this one is over he might really wish he still had Tyler Thigpen on the roster because Cassel and Croyle could be in traction.
The Pick: Giants 27 - Chiefs 3
** CHICAGO 10 Detroit 39 **
I still need to put together my thoughts on this Bears team. I’m loving Jay Cutler, he’s everything I expected him to be and he’s the only reason we’re any good right now. Elsewhere this appears to be a very nonathletic football team, some of it is age and some of it is just lack of ability but for the most part they still do just enough to give us a chance. It’s no fun cheering for a team like that but it’s better than watching incompetence. The most pressing issue is Matt Forte and the run game. Initially I laid most of the blame on the O-Line, and they still don’t run block worth a damn, but Forte just looks slow and lost. Not sure if there’s an injury issue or if the lack of work in preseason and the stout competition in the early weeks have ruined his confidence, but he’s leaving lots of yards on the field. The guy needs to get to the point of attack with more authority and needs to make one cut and go, the tip-toeing and patience aren’t serving him well, at least not with this group of blockers. I’m glad the Lions are coming to town this week and I suspect Turner and Forte are hearing the rumblings, they’ll have to really focus on the run game this week and the Lions could be a ripe candidate to build some confidence against. Culter will get his but we can’t afford another week with him doing it alone. On defense I’m pretty concerned with Megatron and Bryant Johnson on the edges, Stafford can get the ball out there and the Bears have a history of struggling with elite WRs and tackling downfield. This secondary has been better than I expected, especially the safeties, but that’s not saying much. I expect to give up some points in the passing game this week, and we could be very lucky if Kevin Smith is out hurt.
The Pick: Bears 26 - Lions 17
** WASHINGTON 7 Tampa Bay 37 **
Wow, what a turd this game is. These teams are both is rough shape and the issues are compounded by key injuries on both sides. Josh Johnson gets the start for Tampa and that’s a really tough situation for him, it will be interesting to see how many plays he can salvage with his legs. If Haynesworth is on the field it will get tougher. I’ve been crushing Campbell and the Skins all season and I’m not ready to hand them the victory this week. They should outmatch a poor Bucs team that was humiliated by the Giants last week and brings in a completely raw QB with no experience. Still, that means trusting that Portis and Haynesworth will be on the field and that Campbell can avoid screwing it up. I think the Redskins will win this game handily and that Johnson will make more bad plays with his arm than good plays with his legs. I’m afraid to pick another favorite to cover, one of these crappy underdogs is going to surprise us this week (please not the Lions!) but picking Josh Johnson on the road I can’t do. Both teams were embarrassed last week and need to prove something but that 86 total yards is the most telling detail.
The Pick: Redskins 17 - Buccaneers 9
** INDIANAPOLIS 10½ Seattle **
The Colts looked amazing last week and coming home against the Seahawks with a backup QB doesn’t incline me to predict a change. 11 points are a lot and Seneca Wallace is a very competent backup so I expect them to score their fair share of points making that spread a tricky one to swallow. Will Peyton have the same success with Clark, Garcon and Brown? Will the Seahwaks again be without a half dozen Pro Bowlers? I mentioned last week that the Cardinals-Colts game really should have been much closer than it was and the Colts didn’t post double digit wins in their first 2 games against teams that are worse than the Hawks. I think last weeks performance will have the gamblers a little too bullish on the Colts and the win, but fall short of that number.
The Pick: Colts 28 - Seahawks 20
Going to step out for a little while. Hopefully I’ll finish the rest of the game before I crash tonight.