NFL Week 4

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				

Early Games
** 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.

Very daring of you, picking the Lions to lose.

The Lions use the Skins game as a confidence springboard and declare to the NFL world that they are tired of being the doormat of the league, and pass that honor onto the Cleveland Browns.

Lions 28
Bears 24

For the record, I enjoy reading your picks more than any of the local print guys. I cannot wait to hear you wax poetic over Monday night’s Favre-fest.

Also, I have a bad feeling about the Titans this week.

I’ll go on the record and say I don’t have a great feeling about Monday night in the Hefty Dome. Minnesota is hot, Green Bay is not. Although if Favre throws enough picks, who knows. I know he hasn’t done that yet this year, but he will at some point and the one thing the Packers have been able to do this year is create turnovers.

Favre won’t throw picks against Green Bay because he will be in game management mode. GB hasn’t shown the ability to stop the run yet and certainly won’t come to life against Steve hutchinson and AP. With Kampman sitting out there itching to blitz the best thing the Vikings can do is just run past him and let Favre dink and dunk enough to keep them off balance.

That’s one reason I say I don’t feel good about Monday night. The good news for the Packers is that they have a four-week stretch with STL, MIN, a bye, and CLE. If they only lose one game in there, that’s not too bad. Hopefully after that they’ll be healthier and firing on all cylinders by late October.

Any word on whether Raji is playing this week?

And I agree, I don’t expect Favre to throw a lot of picks. But as a longtime Packer fan, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been surprised in that regard. That’s the most plausible victory scenario for the Packers this week.

I’m really looking forward to the PIT-SD Sunday night game. The Chargers had a couple tough losses in Pittsburgh last year, each including a fairly amazing tipped ball interception for the Steelers. You have to figure that the Steelers will be pretty amped up for the game after their last two.

Yeah, this should be good, all right.

The thing that worries me is that Tomlinson’s going to be either out or playing hurt — and we saw last year how well that latter idea works — and the Chargers don’t seem to know how to get into the end zone without him. They can get to within spitting distance nine times out of ten just by virtue of Rivers’ arm (or Sproles’ kick returns for that matter), but it seems no one can seal the deal quite like LT…or any other way, apparently. No reason that should be true with the plethora of other offensive threats they’ve got, but there it is.

That said, the D is looking up. Rivera seems to have taken a cue from the Jets (and may I never have to say that again) in noticing that there might just be something to this “pass pressure” concept. If that keeps up and the SD secondary manages to show up like it did [del]last week[/del] in the second half last week, things should get interesting, red zone troubles or no.

Either way, it promises to be a hell of a game. With the number of Stillers fans in this town, I’ve got any number of beers (and bragging rights) riding on this thing, so…GO CHARGERS! :smiley:

OK, time to get cracking and finish this up.

Late Games
** NEW ORLEANS 7 NY Jets 45 **
This is the most interesting game this week. An elite offense against and elite defense featuring two 3-0 teams. The Point differentials for both teams are interesting, 64 - 33 for the Jets and 120 - 56 for the Saints, each are dominant but it really highlights how explosive the Saints have been. Even defensively they’ve been competent, more competent than years past. I think that the Jets aggressive style on defense will be a liability against the Saints spread offense. They need to get pressure to be effective, and I think they will, but Brees’ quick release will win out most often. The Jets have talent in the secondary but the Saint have the power of sheer numbers, every player on the field for them can break a huge one. If this thing becomes a shoot out I don’t think the Jets can keep up.

The Pick: Saints 31 - Jets 23

**	Buffalo  	2	MIAMI  	36½	**

The TO situation could be reaching critical status and from the larger perspective the Bills passing game is in real trouble. I’m nearly shocked that TO and Evans have been so unproductive. The Miami defense is very capable and won’t prove to be a push over this week regardless of their record. The Bills get Lynch back this week and that could give them a boost but frankly it’s not the running game that needs some life, it’s not clear that Lynch will be a huge upgrade over Jackson immediately anyways. On the flip you’ve got Chad Henne replacing Pennington for the Dolphins. I’ve long been sour on Pennington, while I respect his leadership and accuracy, that noodle arm costs him a lot of games against above average competition. An untested 2nd year man is usually a big red flag but I’m willing to stomach that for the Dolphins who use the Wildcat well and who’s better arm will open up options for Ginn and Bess. They’ll have to survive some mistakes for sure, but at home against a shaky Bills team I think they can.

The Pick: Dolphins 20 - Bills 17

**	SAN FRANCISCO  	9½ 	ST Louis  	37½	**

Really tough loss for the Niners last week but I don’t think they’ll be beating themselves up over it too much. Singletary will have them focused and they understand that losing on the road on a fluke play like that to a very good team is nothing to be angry about, considering the injury to Gore they are probably very pleased with the showing. They get the Rams at home and they’ll get back to feeling very good. That this is merely a 9.5 point spread is a shocker. Gore is out and Jackson had a solid week so perhaps the running game favors the Rams but every other factor is heavily tilted in the Niners favor. I do like the idea of Boller starting over Bulger it seems at this point he’s a more dynamic player but the loss of Robinson and the lack of a real replacement undermines him. I hate that I’m projecting so many favorites to win and most to cover, but this week looks like all chalk.

The Pick: Niners 23 - Rams 10

**	Dallas  	3	DENVER  	42½	**

Count me among the many who think this Broncos team is nothing but a paper tiger. They’ve played an amazingly soft schedule and have been catching all the breaks, perhaps a bit of karma bestowed by the football gods as payment for the struggles of the offseason. The football gods are wrong though, firing Shanahan and trying to trade away your stud QB for a one year wonder should make the football gods angry. Less mystically it seems that the chaos around McDaniels, Cutler and Marshall forced the team to bond and generate a bunker mentality which seems to have helped quite a lot. They get the Cowboys this week and again it appears that they are living a blessed life with the injuries to the Cowboys running game. There are rumors that Barber might in fact play and Choice has been pretty impressive in relief so perhaps the Cowboys offense will be close to 100%. Everything tells me that this is the game where Denver gets their comeuppance but they are playing at home and the Cowboys have been inconsistent at best. Grrr, the weigh of all these previous favorite picks is making me question my gut. You can’t give points on EVERY game, but damn it there’s no way the the Broncos win this game is there?

The Pick: Denver 26 - Cowboys 24

**	PITTSBURGH  	6½ 	San Diego  	43	**

These two underachieving teams get the prime time nod and I expect another ugly performance from both. The Pittsburgh WRs look flat out terrible this year and are dropping balls more often then they are catching them. The running game is a mess and it’s killing them, and my fantasy teams which is more important. LDT should be back taking some of the load off Sproles but I think he’ll still be suffering from the pounding and LDT hasn’t shown much punch, and for all the Steelers flaws they can still stuff the run. It will fall on the Chargers passing game and I think that without Polamalu they will be able to make some plays especially over the middle to Gates. He and Vincent Jackson could really have big games and put the Steelers on their heels. I suspect Big Ben and Holmes will find some holes against a shaky Chargers pass defense as well but the Chargers pass rush will push around the Steelers line and harass him. Weird prediction, I think Stefan Logan returns a kick for a TD this week. Not so weird prediction, this game will feature a ton of big hits (and quite a few dirty ones).

The Pick: Chargers 29 - Steelers 20

	Monday, Oct. 5				
**	MINNESOTA  	3½ 	Green Bay  	45	**

This is the game that will get most of the media attention with Favre facing off against the Pack. I don’t think the Pack or the Vikes really give a shit and it’s just another divisional rival in primetime. Of course, divisional games in primetime don’t really need any extra juice for players. Most people like the Vikings in this one it seems and I certainly remember seeing the Packers O line looking drunk 3 weeks ago. Jared Allen is drooling over the prospects. Regardless I’m not so bullish on the Vikings because they simply haven’t looked that impressive in these wins. For as amazing as last weeks throw to Lewis (Illini!) was it was pretty damned fluky and without it they’d have lost to a team missing it’s best offensive player at home. The previous two wins cam against some truly awful teams and they weren’t nearly as decisive as one would have expected them to be considering the talent the Vikes are supposed to have. The Packers for all their flaws have played pretty well on defense and if they can get off the field and protect against the big play they can frustrate the Vikes. It’s that big play that will decide this game. The Packers secondary give up quite a few and the Packers offense has lived on those deep passes. The Vikings well all know about.

The Pick: Packers 23 - Vikings 21

Bye Week Teams: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Arizona, Carolina

I don’t like the Steelers and I want them to lose every game, but I have a gut feeling that they are suddenly aware that their Superbowl hangover (if there is such a thing) is making them languid, and I think their defense is too good and has too much pride to lose to the Chargers, as much as I want the Chargers to put the Squeelers into a divisional hole. Steelers win, unfortunately.

I also think the Bills are going to finally find an offense and will beat Miami.

I think Denver loses to the 'Boys.

I cannot predict the Vikes/Pack game. It will at least be interesting, AND, there won’t be a John Madden present to fellate Favre once again, although someone else assuredly will.

So you’re saying that all my underdog picks are wrong and that I should have gone all chalk?


Again with the Steelers.

Sadly, it’s unavoidable as a Bengals fan, as fraught with envy as I am…

Given how far off my prediction was for the Browns last week, I’m going to tone it down a little bit. Browns 82, Bengals 20

What was your prediction last week, Browns 164, Ratbirds 3?

I think the question is can Favre play in “game management mode” against the Packers? One of his biggest problems is his ego, which makes him throw picks he shouldn’t and doesn’t let him adjust if he’s not playing well (just ask the Jets about last season). Childress doesn’t have the spine to rein Favre in, so it will be up to Brett. If his grudge against TT, the trash talking, or if he runs out of patience handing the ball off or dinking and dunking, and they outweigh his desire to win by game management, he’ll fling some picks.

It should be an interesting game. If the Packers can contain AP (that’s a big if) and the O Line gives Rodgers a modicum of time (they are, at least, improving), they can win. I am by no means confident, but it should be a very telling game for both teams.

Don’t sleep on Josh Johnson. He might be Washington singlehandedly.

Actually, for the Buccaneers to win, he’ll have to, because there’s nobody on our team who’s any good right now.

Where do these point spreads come from?