Thursday, Sep. 4
N.Y. Jets at Washington
A bad break (no pun intended) takes Chad Pennington out and puts Vinny Testaverde back in as starting QB for New York. Remember that it was only because of Testaverde's inability to move the offense that Pennington became the starter. The Jets soared to the playoffs from there. Now it's back to the up and down veteran to take the reigns once again. In the other corner, Steve Spurrier has promised to stop his QB carousel and ride Patrick Ramsey until he bucks. And this is the way Monday Night Football wants to start its season? Oh well, at least the delicious (if untalented) Britney Spears is there to kick it off. If she puts on an old Joe Namath jersey and nothing else, then I'm totally there... Jets to win in a sloppy game.
Sunday, Sep. 7
Arizona at Detroit
A good way to start off the season for the Lions. They can run newly acquired Olandis Gary against a team that lost it's best defensive player, Kyle Vanden Bosch, to a knee injury. Lions will win.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Ravens' head coach Brian Billick just made his first big gamble of the year naming rookie Kyle Boller as his starting QB. Your first test, a Steelers defense that year in and year out has been one of the best. Good luck. Steelers in a sloppy game to win.
Denver at Cincinnati
Unlike the Ravens, Bengal head coach Marvin Lewis will sit #1 pick Carson Palmer for a while and start Jon Kitna at QB. Jon Kitna? If I had the choice, I'd start the rookie. At least if he screws up, it's because he's a rookie. What's Jon Kitna's excuse? Denver wins as Clinton Portis runs wild.
Houston at Miami
The Dolphins probably realize that their best opportunity is now. No more late season collapses and no more defensive lapses. Enter Junior Seau and Sammy Knight, two veteran defenders who know a little bit about late season collapses. Run Ricky, run! Miami easily.
Indianapolis at Cleveland
The Colts missed Edgerrin James last season and will need him to balance out this offense. The Browns have decided on Kelly Holcomb and the offense is set. Neither teams' defense is ready for the other. Cleveland wins a shootout.
Jacksonville at Carolina
The Panthers could be the surprise of the league after finishing 1-15 two years ago. This defense is one of the five best in the NFL and could follow in the footsteps of the Baltimore Ravens a few years back. No, not a Super Bowl win, but a good team with a solid running back (Stephen Davis) and a veteran QB (Rodney Peete) that they won't ask to win games, just not lose them. Carolina wins impressively.
Minnesota at Green Bay
The Vikings have lost Michael Bennett for the season and will run a troika of Doug Chapman, Moe Williams, and Onterrio Smith at running back. The Packers keep changing wide outs and Brett Favre keeps finding them for TD's. Packers win.
New England at Buffalo
One of the best games of the week will feature the Bills high flying offense and greatly improved defense against a Patriots team that knows Drew Bledsoe well and stops Drew Bledsoe well. The key will be how well the Patriots keep the ball on the ground with Kevin Faulk and Antowain Smith to keep that Bills offense off the field. The Bills defense will have to keep the team in the game by stopping an unpredictable offense that will go from a power lineup one play and a 5WR spread formation the next. Bills win a close one.
St. Louis at N.Y. Giants
Kurt Warner has been very impressive this preseason and looks to regain the form he had in 1999, 2000, and 2001. If he does, this is bad news for the rest of the league because the Rams will score early, often, and quickly. The Giants resemble their Super Bowl teams of 1986 and 1991, built on a tough defense with an All Pro (Michael Strahan) leading the way. Tiki Barber no longer shares the backfield duties with Ron Dayne and will carry the load on offense. The Rams will and their swagger will return.
Atlanta at Dallas
Damn, this would've been more fun with Michael Vick in the game. I would have loved to see what Bill Parcells' game plan for the fluid and elusive Vick would have been. But as it is, it's going to be a couple of bland offenses trying to run a scaled down offense for two inexperienced quarterbacks. Falcons win with the running game.
Chicago at San Francisco
Bears pick Kordell; 49ers pick Kordell early and often. 49ers in a wash.
New Orleans at Seattle
It's a make or break year for Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks. Luckily for him, Seattle is about as talented as it's even been on both sides of the ball. The Saints have less ground to gain with the Falcons all but counted out this season, but they will need to correct the inconsistency they showed last season. The swept the eventual World Champion Buccaneers last season, but also lost to the Bengals, Lions, and Vikings. Seahawks make one of their first big steps this season and win.
Oakland at Tennessee
Another big game this week is a rematch of last seasons' AFC Championship Game. The Raiders clock seems to be running out on them, but we all said that last season too. The Titans quietly played their way out of slow start to get to one game of their second ever Super Bowl appearance. They are young in key spots, but old in all the wrong places. If the Raiders don't start strong, they may never get going. But I'll give the Raiders this, there's no quit in them...well, there was this one game in January... The Titans will win, but the Raiders will keep it close throughout.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, Sep. 8
Tampa Bay at Philadelphia
The Game of the Week is in the right place this week. The World Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to Philadelphia where they broke Eagles fans hearts with a stunning win in last season's NFC Championship. Will the Eagles be ready this time? Well, that all depends on whether or not they can mix it up with a defense that read Donovan McNabb like an open book. The Eagles finally have Duce Staley in camp, but will probably run Correll Buckhalter until Staley is game ready. The Bucs have made few changes on their roster, but when you're the champs, why would you? Tampa Bay stops McNabb and the Eagles once again.
And of course...
San Diego at Kansas City, Sep. 7th 10AM PST
Does anyone really know this team? What Charger team is this? Are they the offensive juggernaut that has retooled and now may have their version of the 1990's Dallas Cowboys triplets in Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, and David Boston? Or are they the youthful but inexperienced defense that will perhaps see 3 rookies in the secondary and has had a history of late season collapses? Perhaps both are true and false all at once. The Chiefs are the pick of many prognosticators (Dr. Paul Zimmerman of SI) to win the AFC Championship this year, although after looking at this defense, I'm still not sure why. They failed to upgrade their pass rush which was dead last in the league after missing out on Hugh Douglas in free agency and they still have yet to replace Donnie Edwards in the linebacking corps. As for that secondary, well....let's not talk about them and make Dick Vermeil cry. But the Chiefs do have an offense that trails only the Rams and Bills in matters of explosiveness. As long as Priest Holmes continues to play, the Chiefs will be tough to beat. The Chargers will have their hands full, but if they play Marty-ball and keep Trent Green off the field, the Chargers can win with LaDainian Tomlinson leading the way.
All letters, comments, mindless rants are welcome...=)
Dr. J can be reached at email@example.com
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