Season to Date:
Well then, a winning wager-record to start is nice. However… your one defeat coming from the team you’ve picked to win it all? Is not so nice.
I’ve seen the tape. The Vikings bungled the game the same way they have in previous years. A couple scores called back on penalties. More than a few balls laid down for the other guys, when they’re moving into position for a critical score (their final meaningful drive actually included 2 fumbles they managed to retain – before icing it with a ham-fisted interception on 1st and 10 from the TB 12 (1:52 to play, down 17-13). That’s just frightening, even if you witnessed the Seahawks 4th Q heroics). Minnesota simply could not run the ball at all (the loss of Matt Birk does appear to be a problem for that interior). And HC Mike Tice once again exampled inept play-calling, preparation, and anything close to steady discipline.
So they appeared to validate all naysayers. I can’t argue with what they showed us. I also can’t abandon ship on my Top Team pick quite that easily. I remain steadfast in my general expectations prior to WK1. In fact, with very few exceptions, my forecast prognosis held pretty nicely. So I’m feeling rather comfortable with my overall perception of the league heading into Wk2…you’ll note an excessive amount of picks this week.
Let’s start laying our money on the Truth:
PHI –13 @ SF
The Niners beat the Rams, and everyone thinks the world got turned upside down. The world may be upside down already, but the Niners beating the Rams had little to do with it. Am I surprised? Absolutely. The Niners are on my Suck list. But I’m not that surprised the Rams found a way to tank double the Net Yardage and double the 1st Down production – into a loss. They’re quite proficient in that area. But the Gold Miners were hardly impressive if you look at the stat sheet. They had no business winning the game.
And now the Eagles fly into town to avoid the worst that can happen to any NFL team – start off 0-2 (that’s right Hawk fans, see below). Did you all enjoy that Monday Night game? I sure did. Do you suddenly think the Eagles are incompetent because they lost by 4 in a very competitive football game? I don’t. In fact, I think they’re the perfect team to advantage a 49er squad that might falsely believe they’re any damned good. I expect the Red Stripe to turn the ball over like a bunch of drunken beach-ballers as frustration mounts vs that attacking Philly D. Did Mike Vick look comfortable to you back there? Just imagine what’s going to happen to QB Tim Rattay when they post rushing numbers like they did against the Rams (21att for 1.6/carry). And do we need to talk about the legacy of Terrell Owens? He’ll be winning the battle of “I’ll show you who’s who” on Sunday.
The Niners won’t be striking it rich. A 13 pt give will look simple by the 4th Q.
(Note: Due to the Questionable status of McNabb, this spread could drop considerably by game time. If McNabb doesn’t start, I’m still solid with the pick. But I expect you’ll grant me the closing line, rather than where it stands as of 9/15).
ATL +1 @ SEA
Does anyone really expect the Falcons to let down following a single win for the season? I think their approach to Philly says they’ve got their eyes on the big prize. It’s a confidence builder they’ll want to carry forward. Last year they failed to maintain such consistency, yet I don’t see that happening this year. Furthermore, they’re getting a remarkably favorable spread.
The Seahawks will have their hands full with the Falcons, no doubt about it. They’re going to bring the heat on Hasselbeck and we just don’t have the consistency in the passing game right now to handle it (I’m thinking Matt will be up to the task, he can bounce back - but his desire and the results may not match). I’m prepared to be overwhelmed. Defensively, I expect Vick to run rollouts and play-action until our inexperience at LB looks like a zit that wants to pop. At which point, they’ll gouge us between the tackles ‘till that face looks like Mars. I was very impressed with our play against the run last week, and particularly in positions where we had to make the stop (as usual, it was the inside passing game that killed us). But Atlanta is a different animal. They come at you like they want to rip your glove to shreds.
If I’m wrong? We win a game that keeps us at 1-1 for a chance on the year. If I’m right? At least I got paid for my pain…
MIN +3 @ CIN
Yup. I know, I know, I know. If they can’t win at home facing a team no one’s excited about, how can I expect them to go into The Jungle and handle Guns n’ Roses? Well first of all, the Bengals might have guns on Offense, but they’re servin’ up roses on Defense like a half-dozen for 1 sale. The production they allowed a sorry Cleveland Offense did nothing to change my perception of that (Dilfer almost hit 300 and Reuben Droughns racked up 78 on just 12 carries). Perhaps Minnesota can work some things on the ground facing this Defense, and therefore get some points on the board.
They’re going to have to, because Cincinnati does appear to be picking up right where they left off with QB Carson Palmer. His numbers facing Cleveland were excellent. But again, that was Cleveland – who are absolutely horrendous Defensively. Minnesota did appear to be much improved there (though that was against a continually conservative TBay approach). If they can keep Cincy to less than 24? I’ll bank on the Purple posting more than 21. Folks, I’m GETTING points for my SuperBowl Champion pick. There is NO WAY I can back off them this fast and ignore such an opportunity facing a team I think people are a little too excited about, who just came off a win vs perhaps the NFL’s worst.
If the Vikings can’t contain Cincinnati? Then I’ll back off them until they play Chicago in Wk6.
BUF +2.5 @ TB
Last week I begged off Buffalo having to offer up 6.5 to the opposition. I was too concerned about J.P. Losman to give up a score like that. Guess what – I’m no longer concerned. Buffalo gave Losman the keys and he went after Houston like he wanted 1,000 laps! He showed excellent touch where needed, zipped everything else with absolute certainty, and raised an eyebrow with good evasion skills in the pocket. It ABSOLUTELY looked like it was his team and that he had positively assumed that role and the right to prove its legitimacy. He was very, very impressive. They moved the ball at will and I don’t think their failure to punch it in (5 FG’s) will remain a problem throughout the year.
Furthermore, their Defense played possessed. They may have the finest Defense in the NFL when it’s all said and done. Facing a very conservative Bucs team - that looks like a credible ticket to me, mate. I am very excited about Buffalo following that performance by J.P. the Sophomore QB. Jump back, AFC. Buffalo is lookin’ somethin’ serious!!
KC -1 @ OAK
Once again, my Forecast article is looking pretty good. The Chiefs were that one team this pre-season that made me go ‘Hmmmmm…’. And sure enough, look what they did to a Jets team that expects to improve upon the success of last year’s youth. Next to the Colts, the Big Red may have had the most impressive win of the week. And like the Colts, they did it with Defense.
They now face one of the finest rivalries in the NFL, heading into Oakland. What was the one thing we could count on with KC the last few years? Offense. What is the one thing we can count on with the Raiders the last few years? A sorry Defense (sorrier this year than ever, mind you). The Raiders will find it impossible to put pressure on QB Trent Green and he will enjoy a most pleasant day picking apart that faulty Silver and Black Secondary. When they’re not making the fat and small guys look bad, they’ll be exposing a ridiculously weak LB core via that stellar Chiefs running game. The only chance the Raiduhs have here is that Kerry Collins plays superior football and Randy Moss goes nuts on a still foggy Patrick Surtain.
DAL –6 vs DC
Finally – a home pick! The Cowboys/Chargers game was a thriller. It was anybody’s ballgame at the end, and either team would have been deserving. I’m not backing off my expectation for the Chargers to win the Division (though KC might have something to say about that), they played a respectable game and didn’t look anything less than worthy of respect. Dallas however, not only proved deserving of my ‘Mutt’ category – but generally validated everything I said about them in that definition.
You might choose to question a successful Defense when they give up 24pts, but the fact is they brought the heat; held Brees to 50% accuracy and 2int’s; Tomlinson below 4.0/carry; and held a 4down goal line stand to secure the win with less than a minute to play. This in front of enormous Chargers fan support and a very scrappy drive by San Diego in those closing moments. Both of these teams appeared to be playoff caliber. And specifically, the alterations made by Dallas this off-season and the attitude they brought to the field made the ultimate difference. The Cowboys will make the post-season.
I’m not very comfortable giving 6 to what appears to be a continually impressive Redskin Defense, but I also saw the tape of the Chicago game – and lemme tell ya, that Chicago Offense doesn’t make you sweat much. Kyle Orton was on a seriously short leash (which speaks to how remarkable the Bears Defense is once again this year, holding the Skins to 9pts). The Cowboys should manage 20+ and that ought to be enough to cover.
NO +3 meets NYG
This is an interesting football game, for obvious reasons. Is there a fan of this Nation (sports fan or otherwise) that did not appreciate the result of the Swampland Senators dredging their way into Championship-caliber Carolina – carrying the very definition of ‘burden’ on their backs? Saints: 1, Defeat: 0. (Now THAT’S inspiration, folks. That’s kicking the crap out of The Man!)
What the Saints have lacked the last 3 years is a cohesive dedication to winning. You had to assume they would simply buckle under the circumstances been given them, but they showed last Sunday that the reverse may occur. They now have a reason for everything - and absolute focus is the order of the day. I often draw parallels between Football and the game of Life. There’s very little difference to me, actually. And that’s why Football receives the energetic devotion it does from its fans. Everyone would love the opportunity to have someone put the ball of accomplishment in your hands and declare “Here are the obstacles, make it to the other side and you win.” Shrink it all down and put all the difficulties in inches for me. Put me through the gauntlet, brutally throw everything you’ve got at me - but make it just 100 yards. And give me 60 minutes to get there. I want it that concise. I want to know succinctly that I can depend on everyone around me to get where I need to go. And I want the joy of knowing we did it together.
The New Orleans Saints are carrying the glue of a Nation. They know if they get to the other side? They win the game of life for not only themselves. But inspiration for millions of others as well. I don’t know about you, but that’s some pretty solid motivation to get across the goal line. (Furthermore, I’m thinking the opponent on the other side knows plenty about tragic struggle. I’m not sure they want so desperately to crush that groove and deny ascension. Particularly when they’re feeling guilty about the house they’re in this week).
I’m willing to bet my green on Hope. And that is what the New Orleans Saints will represent in 2005. Whether they’ll be able to maintain this momentum and survive on the fumes of faith is yet to be witnessed. However, I find it a mighty interesting coincidence that since tragedy 2001, the ‘Patriots’ have been the leaders. And now? Well patriotism is not quite enough to survive the flood of an unpredictable world. For that, you need… belief.
I’m not a religious man. But I do believe in belief. And the world could use a few Saints right now…
Beat The Man because… when the Saints come marching in? He gets discouraged.
G. Scott Jones is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Seahawks.NET. Reaction of any sort is always encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org.