The Illini General's Football Picks

I took it on the chin once more with my college picks (3-6-1 last week, 14-16-2 overall), but I scratched out a tie in the NFL (8-8 last week, 13-19 overall). I need to pick it up. But, with conference play starting in the Big Eleven and two weeks worth of the NFL under my belt, I think I've finally got a grasp on these teams. Or not, who really knows? Read here for my picks.

Purdue Boilermakers (2-0) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1)
Saturday, September 25th, 2004
11:00 AM Central (ESPN Plus)
Boilermakers by 20.5

This one could get ugly. Purdue comes to Chambana after scoring 172 points against Syracuse and 133 points against Ball State. Not really, but it felt like it. Illinois has a winning record for the first time in awhile, but they haven't really calmed anybody's preseason worries.

Joe Tiller and Kyle Orton could probably run for President and Vice-President and take the state of Indiana right now. The Boilermakers clearly look like the cream of the Big Eleven crop. They've played one less game than everybody else, but they've won blowouts, while everybody else has won close games or lost.

Illinois needs to bring their "A" game. Scratch that, Illinois needs to bring their "A+++" game. Even if they do that and play a solid game on both sides of the ball, Purdue could still win. There's a reason they are favored by more than twenty points.

Illini fans, don't write off the season if Illinois takes it on the chin in this game. It's still early and some of the Illini's opponents don't look as good as advertised. Except for Purdue, who looks better than advertised.

It's funny because Bruce Weber has taken flack for hiring some Purdue assistants and having close ties to the Boilermaker basketball program, but I would love it if our football program resembled Purdue. The Boilers have gone to a bowl game every year that Tiller has been their coach, including a Rose Bowl. Attendance has improved to the point where renovations were made to the football stadium. Also, numerous Boilermakers have made there way to the NFL, which only helps recruiting high school kids who want to make it to the league.

Building a football powerhouse from a team that has struggled isn't impossible. Just look to the east and see what they've done in West Lafayette.

I just reread this and I realize that I've kissed up to Purdue quite a bit. So, now I will make fun of them: Gene Keady has funny hair.

Purdue Boilermakers 45, Illinois Fighting Illini 21. The Illini's best bet for victory would be if the Boilermakers eat some tainted beef at the Beef House on their way to Champaign.
Iowa Hawkeyes (2-1) vs. Michigan Wolverines (2-1)
Wolverines by 13

Both of these teams head into their Big Eleven opener on a roll. Iowa comes off a nail biting loss at Arizona, while the Wolverines let San Diego State hang with them for a while, but had them all along. I hope that everyone is picking up on my sarcasm, because I'm laying it on pretty thick.

Michigan Wolverines 23, Iowa Hawkeyes 18. Iowa could have lost by 214 to Arizona State last week (I think they only lost by 201), and I still wouldn't take Michigan giving 13 right now.
Michigan State Spartans (1-2) vs. Indiana Hoosiers (2-1)
Spartans by 2.5

It's always a great game when these two powerhouses get together. Sorry, I still have the sarcasm button pressed down from the previous game. Spartans head coach John L. Smith's middle initial must stand for losing.

Indiana Hoosiers 21, Michigan State Spartans 20. This game should have all the excitement of banging your head against a brick wall for three hours.
Penn State Nittany Lions (2-1) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (3-0)
Badgers by 3

The ESPN crew heads to Madison this week, but the network has other things on its' mind. They can't be bothered to publicize their college football games because they have more important things to pimp. Coming this Saturday night, "Hu$tle" starring Tom Sizemore as Pete Rose. Because winning was everything, Pete Rose lost it all. I didn't want to run an advertisement in the space, but ESPN felt they hadn't plugged the movie enough.

Wisconsin Badgers 24, Penn State Nittany Lions 16. After defeating 2 MAC teams and losing to 2 non-MAC teams, the Nittany Lions should ask to take Marshall's place when they leave the conference.
Northwestern Wildcats (1-2) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0)
Golden Gophers by 15

Minnesota officials have declared Saturday's game to be "Salute to Offense Day." Between the Gophers rushing game and Northwestern's passing game, the first team to get their opponent to go three-and-out wins. Northwestern has declared the game to be "Who Cares About Defense Day," so I wouldn't count on them getting that first three-and-out.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 40, Northwestern Wildcats 27. This game will be more offensive than seeing ESPN football expert Beano Cook naked.
Chicago Bears (1-1) vs. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Sunday, September 26th, 2004
12:00 PM Central (FOX)
Vikings by 9

I prepared for the worst last week and I got the best. Lovie Smith and the Bears headed up the road to the land that time forgot, Wisconsin, and shocked the Packers. However, due to injuries to Mike Brown and Charles Tillman, many think the Bears have no upsets left in them. I am not one of those people!

When the Bears played Green Bay, the Packers were coming off a Monday night game at Carolina. When the Bears play Minnesota, the Vikings will be coming off a Monday night game at Philadelphia. The Bears need to take advantage of the Vikings having a short week of practice.

The loss of Brown and Tillman will hurt, but the Bears have some strong defenders left. They still have Wale Ogunleye and Brian Urlacher, who caused the Ahman Green fumble that Brown ran back for a touchdown. Also, don't count out the secondary just yet. Mike Green and Bobby Grey have been known to pick off a pass or two.

If the Bears want to find a way to beat Minnesota, just watch Monday night's game against the Eagles. Philly was all over Daunte Culpepper, who wasn't helped by an injured Minnesota offensive line. I wonder if Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera can mimic the Eagles defense? I bet he can since he was on their staff last year.

It all adds up, in my mind, to another division win for the Bears. I might be the only person who thinks that, but that will just make it sweeter when Chicago pulls off another upset. Or it will make me look like that much more of an idiot when they lose.

Chicago Bears 22, Minnesota Vikings 21. If the Bears do win, I suggest that Urlacher runs up to the press box and punch out the guy who constantly plays that annoying Vikings horn sound effect.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) vs. Miami Dolphins (0-2)
Dolphins by 1

The Steelers will be forced to start first-round draft pick Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback after an injury to former XFL MVP and Steelers starter Tommy Maddox. If the rookie gets hurt, Pittsburgh will be forced to trout out third stringer Brian St. Pierre. If St. Pierre is injured, the Steelers will go with WR and former Indiana QB Antwaan Randle El. If Randle El leaves the game, the Steelers could just directly snap the ball to running back Duce Staley. Even if they go through all those players, the Dolphins quarterbacks are worse.

Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Miami Dolphins 14. Many people don't know this, but when the Dolphins tried to bring Dan Marino into their front office, they originally asked him if he could still play quarterback. He's been retired for a few years and could still beat out A.J. Feely and Jay Fiedler for the job in a heartbeat. Plus, he was funny in "Ace Ventura."
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0) vs. Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Titans by 6

The Jaguars have scored 20 points this season and are 2-0. The Buffalo Bills have scored 20 points this season and are 0-2. If I was Buffalo, I would fly down to Nashville on their bye week and root against the Jaguars. Of course, the Bills probably still aren't over their loss to the Titans from the playoffs a few years ago and the "Music City Miracle." On second thought, if I was Buffalo, I'd stay home and eat wings and drink Canadian beer.

Tennessee Titans 21, Jacksonville Jaguars 13. If this were the WWE, the Bills would come out of the crowd and knock the Titans and Jaguars out with folding chairs. Also, if it were the WWE, there would be no point in me betting on a winner since the outcome would be predetermined.
Cleveland Browns (1-1) vs. New York Giants (1-1)
Giants by 3

Congratulations to Kurt Warner for winning his first game since what seems like his days in the Arena Football League as an Iowa Barnstormer. Brenda Warner's husband could make it two wins in a row when the horrible Browns come to the Big Apple. Cleveland lost the worst game in the history of football against Dallas last week. Plus, the Browns will need some new troops since they lost tight end/soldier Kellen Winslow Jr. with a broken leg.

New York Giants 16, Cleveland Browns 13. Since Winslow is a soldier, did anyone from the cast of "M.A.S.H." operate on his leg?
Baltimore Ravens (1-1) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Ravens by 3

The fans of Cincinnati should consider themselves lucky. They are being treated to performances from some of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. Last week, the Dolphins came to Cincy and charged through the Bengals for 25 rushing yards. This week, the offensive juggernaut that is the Baltimore Ravens touches down in the Queen City. Look for the points to just pile up.

Cincinnati Bengals 20, Baltimore Ravens 17. Deion Sanders might not play for the Ravens due to a bum left hamstring, but he has already petitioned the league so that he can play using a Rascal motorized scooter.
Houston Texans (0-2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2)
Chiefs by 8.5

It's been a rough week in Kansas City. First, the Chiefs are 0-2. Then, defensive end Eric Hicks lashed out at a female reporter who questioned the team's terrible defense. Next, cornerback Eric Warfield was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Finally, running back Larry Johnson and head coach Dick Vermeil are at each other's throats after Vermeil said that Johnson might have "to take the diapers off" and play if Priest Holmes misses the game due to injury. With all that said, I still wouldn't pick the Texans to win a game on the road.

Kansas City Chiefs 30, Houston Texans 21. If the Chiefs keep up this dysfunctional behavior, their highlights won't be shown on "NFL Primetime," they'll be shown on "Dr. Phil."
New Orleans Saints (1-1) vs. St. Louis Rams (1-1)
Rams by 7

The Rams offensive line is in shambles and in need of help. The only problem is that good offensive linemen are already taken. Where could the Rams find a bunch of guys that like to hit and fight and don't have anything to do for the near future? I've got it: the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis Rams 27, New Orleans Saints 23. If I were the Rams, I'd watch out for that Mike Danton guy from the Blues. There's something about him that makes me think you wouldn't want to mess with that guy. I don't know what it is, though.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) vs. Detroit Lions (2-0)
Eagles by 4

Excuse me if I haven't yet bought my ticket for the ESPN Detroit Lions Super Bowl bandwagon. Sure they're undefeated, but they've only played two games and the Bears and the Texans aren't considered one of the top two teams in the NFL. This week's opponent, the Eagles, is considered one of the top two teams in the NFL. Plus, don't think that Terrell Owens wouldn't love to beat his former boss in San Francisco Steve Mariucci.

Philadelphia Eagles 31, Detroit Lions 20. After Sunday, something tells me there will be lots of empty seats on the Detroit Lions Super Bowl bandwagon. I hope the folks at ESPN don't sprain their ankles while jumping off.
Arizona Cardinals (0-2) vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-0) Falcons by 10

Last week, I made the comment that Peyton Manning must be sleeping with the wife of the guy who makes the NFL schedule since the Colts have tough opponents in the first few weeks. Well, Michael Vick must be baking cakes and pies for the schedule maker, since the Falcons follow up games against the 49ers and at home against the Rams with a barnburner against Arizona. I think the Falcons hit the road next week to take on the Georgia College of Dentistry.

Atlanta Falcons 34, Arizona Cardinals 19. Memo to Rex Grossman: the NFL schedule maker likes chocolate cakes and cherry pies. You had better start baking for next year.
San Diego Chargers (1-1) vs. Denver Broncos (1-1)
Broncos by 10

Denver was fined $950,000 last week for not adhering to the NFL's salary cap from 1996-1998. Apparently, the Broncos don't feel that the rules of the NFL apply to them. The Broncos have also decided that when they score a touchdown it counts for 10 points and when their opponent scores a touchdown it's worth 4 points. Also, Denver will now play with 19 players on each side of the ball, while their opponents can have 7 players, 3 monkeys and a dwarf.

Denver Broncos 28, San Diego Chargers 24. These rule changes for Denver will certainly spice up what would otherwise be a pretty boring game.
Green Bay Packers (1-1) vs. Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Colts by 5.5

Green Bay started the season strong by going to Carolina and destroying the Super Bowl contender Panthers. They followed that up by coming home to Lambeau and getting run over by the beloved Bears. Indianapolis started the season on a down note by failing to play any defense and turning the ball over against the Patriots. They followed that by winning at Tennessee by two touchdowns. So, using that time-tested theory, the Packers should win. Except that I'm going to laugh in the face of history and pick the Colts, but not to cover.

Indianapolis Colts 30, Green Bay Packers 27. Knowing how much the NFL loves Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, the commissioner might tell the refs to make this one a tie so that nobody loses.
San Francisco 49ers (0-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (2-0)
Seahawks by 10.5

This can't be right. The 49ers are 0-2 and have no chance at the playoffs, while the Seahawks are 2-0 and were my pick to represent the NFC in the playoffs. I think I'm dreaming because the Seahawks are in the AFC, not the NFC. Plus, Dennis Erickson coaches the Seahawks, not the 49ers. It is 1994, isn't it?

Seattle Seahawks 35, San Francisco 49ers 24. After consulting with the paper, it is 2004 and not 1994, like I thought it was earlier. I need to quit drinking cough syrup for fun.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) vs. Oakland Raiders (1-1)
Raiders by 3

It's hard to believe that only two years ago, this match up occurred in the Super Bowl. I hate to break the news to Jon Gruden and Norv Turner, but we're not going to see a rematch between these two in Jacksonville this winter. Unless the teams decide to go on vacation there and play a touch football game on the beach.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16, Oakland Raiders 14. The early line on the beach football game is the Bucs by 4, with the over/under set at 37.
Dallas Cowboys (1-1) vs. Washington Redskins (1-1)
Redskins by 2

Just like the old days, it's Bill Parcells vs. Joe Gibbs on "Monday Night Football." However, unlike the old days, Parcells coaches the Cowboys and not the Giants. Plus, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf have been replaced by John Madden. Even Al Michaels has got a new hairpiece. So, it won't be that much like the old days.

Washington Redskins 19, Dallas Cowboys 15. I'm not a football coach, but I would think the Redskins might want to turn the ball over a little less than the seven times they did last week.

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