Last Week: 2-3
Season to Date: 7-9 (see? That’s funny!)
The Man has been clownin’ us over at his place. He’s been killin’ me (Whitey!) giving points on the road, teasin’ me with a number I think I can beat. But when I get to his crib and find him there lounging in his oversized recliner with a big grin on his face – he just reaches off to the side, snatches up his favorite bat, and clubs me over the head with it. THUMP - “This is MY house, ya dumb schmuck!”
So this week we’re goin’ with the Homeboys. I got nothin’ but Home Favorites on the roster (which is purely accidental, actually). If The Man wants to thump me with his club? He’s gonna have to visit MY place… I don’t have a recliner, but at least I got ice close by.
TB –6.5 vs DET
How ‘bout those Bucs, eh? A boatload of pirates cruising on the back of a Cadillac is some odd imagery, but that’s what’s goin’ on in Tampa Bay these days. If you can find me ONE person on the planet who thought the Buccaneers were a team to be dealt with this year? Um… I’d call that guy a liar.
You’ve got to love the ability to control the ball with that kind of dependability in the running game, and a Defense that has just simply chokes their opponent into submission week to week. They’re facing a Detroit team that squeaked by the Pack at home and then made the Bears look like world-beaters their first game on the road in Chicago, where ‘everyone-is-looking-at-me-to-see-if-I-can-be-something’ QB Joey Harrington tossed 5 Int’s. They then limped back to the cave for an BYE week (and managed to lose starting CB Fernando Bryant in the process)… you think they’re gonna pull the thorn out against the most physically suffocating team in the league? That seems highly unlikely, Tommy (um, what was the name of that kid who pulled the thorn out of the lion in that biblical cartoon I saw like 30 years ago and suddenly remembered just now? Somebody get me a pencil, I got dots all over my brain that don’t connect anymore).
The only thing that makes me nervous in this game is (besides my out-of-nowhere references)… it’s too damned obvious. All eyes have turned to Tampa, and everyone’s lost interest in Detroit. When the truth is, the Bucs have played 3 teams with lousy records. And they don’t play the type of game that you’re comfortable giving 7 with. Furthermore, the last 10 match-ups between these teams had the Lions covering 7 of 10 (many of those less than 7pt spreads). But last week I made a mistake in erasing a write-up I had for a Bengals win in Chicago for that very reason. It’s too early to worry about ‘trap’ games. And you’ve got to take the Bucs here based on reasonable belief. I believe I need to try and be reasonable…
JAX –4 vs DEN
You have to like the Jagz returning home (where their win against Seattle is looking a bit more well earned) after 2 scrappy games on the road against Indy and NYJ. They’ve proven they’re ready to step it up another notch from last year. Leftwich is taking command, and the Defense has held steady with an impressive 3rd down conversion rejection (allowing 13/37). Conversely, the Broncos have only managed 3rd down success 9/36. Think they might have problems maintaining drives in Jack-o-ville? Furthermore, you think Denver might be a little timid crossing coasts on a short week – heading back into the Florida heat that the Dolphins splashed them around with in week1? Horsey carry cart long time… get weary before fast cat attack and chew him yum yum? (Yup – I’m losin’ it. Clean up on isle 13!)
Forget about what you saw on Monday Night in Denver. They busted a couple runs inside early and once that happens - Shanahan is able to run his redundant roll-out schemes to perfection. That’s not going to happen in this game as the Jagz D is far more disciplined than the Chiefs (though Marcus Stroud is an important injury concern with Denver’s cut-back scheme coming to town). When the Broncos are unable to find success between the tackles, the Offense is SO dependant on the roll-out – the whole thing falls apart. And with it Jake Plummer. Let’s recognize that even with Monday’s success, Denver’s leading rusher Mike Anderson has only 152yds @3.9/carry for the season. That don’t spell success to me, mate.
Defensively, Denver was impressive on ABC. That’s a concern as JAX has allowed 11 take-downs and Lefty has been flattened far more often than that. Champ Bailey is a very important game time decision for if he IS able to play, that ought to remove WR Jimmy Smith from the deep threat. Nevertheless, it’s time for JAX to exploit his focus and mature Reggie Williams or Matt Jones into a consistent threat. I like the growth I’ve seen in the Cats and I expect we’ll learn that Denver is a mediocre team at best. Yee-Haw!!
OAK –3 vs DAL
I am really ticked off at Dallas after last week’s performance. How in the world did they allow the most pathetic Offense in the NFL to rack up mega-success on the ground AND in the air (including several deep balls) to the tune of 31pts? Perhaps I was mistaken – The Tuna is not superior to The Walrus. The Walrus spent his Sunday bashin’ bird brains, while The Tuna barely avoided the fishing nets in San Francisco Bay. That’s bad news for The Tuna as he’s still stuck in the muck, crossing over to Oakland - where they don’t give a damn WHAT they eat. And this just in: They’re starving!
Dallas has not been too successful Rushing. While Oakland’s cruddy Defense HAS been able to manage success in that area. Furthermore, Dallas has not been able to STOP the run allowing 4.4/carry. And THAT – is precisely what Oakland needs to do. Establish the run with your brand new quality back, suck the Safety up, and exploit a long ball secondary that reminds us of last year’s Seahawks. That deep Secondary is getting torched by guys named “Lloyd”. A name like Lloyd doesn’t make me think of fast things - but a name like “Moss”… oops, that metaphor ain’t gonna work (not to mention another Moss already did some torching. Connect the dots, Schlep, connect the dots…) In any case, you get the point. Who can kill a Secondary deep better than Randy Moss? And if Dallas plays to protect that? LaMont Jordan will have his break-out game of the young season.
The Raiduhs have played some respectable football against 3 quality opponents (NE, KC, PHI). Much like the Chargers last week, they do not deserve a winless record (btw, props go out to Eli Manning who had the finest game of his career facing the hate in San Diego. I am impressed). It’s time to get off the schnide. Can they stop the Dallas Passing game from exploiting their own struggling Secondary? That will be quite difficult, as Bledsoe can do plenty of damage to a team that’s only managed 2 sacks the entire season. But when your back’s against the wall… you punch the guy. There ought to be plenty of that in the Black Hole come Sunday…
ATL –5.5 vs MINN
Aw, Schlep – what you doin’? Your Super Bowl pick finally got on track and now you’re picking against them?! That’s right, sportsfans, I reserve the right to alter my opinion (and often be incorrect). The manner in which the Vikings played in Weeks 1 and 2 was absolutely horrendous. Complete disarray. They were unprepared and showed zero ability to adapt. They sucked. Now they’re ‘on track’ by advantaging a team that’s been stuck in Training Camp mode since July? I don’t think so.
Atlanta is coming off a very impressive win in Buffalo. They’re now headed back home where inspirational memories remain from de-clawing the Eagles in Week 1. Their Secondary got healthy (that’s right, Jason Webster and Allen Rossum are now back in the line-up). And they face an opponent in their Conference who they can basically knock out of functional Playoff seeding with a win. The following week facing New England is not nearly as important as this game. And they know it. I believe the Falcons are to be dealt with. And they ought to dictate the game to the Purps much like the Bucs did a few weeks ago. (Only – the Vikings are on the road for this one. The Man is coming to OUR house, remember?)
Additionally, Mike Tice and his dysfunctional crew are not looking too well on the injury front. Three starters on Defense (DE Kenechi Udeze, S Darren Sharper, and OLB EJ Henderson) are Questionable for this game. Add backup DE Lance Johnstone to the Doubtful list. And #1 WR Nate Burleson is already verified Out for the contest. That’s a lot of hurt for a team that’s trying to get well. The Falcons create turnovers and the Vikes love to serve ‘em up. Eggs n’ bacon, baby.
Bottom line? Minnesota is not nearly on track and Atlanta is going to rip into them with a determined eye on the prize. It ain’t even funny…
NE -5 vs SD
This is a tough pick to put on the ledger, but I’m gonna do it. Cuz I’m a gambler damnitt! And I fear NOTHING! Put doubt in my face on a plate, so I can mash it into silly putty… and make it do what I want it to. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
If you look at the Chargers’ Passing game, they’re averaging a measly 180yds/gm. While that “unqualified” Patriot Secondary (following the disastrous loss of S Rodney Harrison) has allowed less than 200/gm. Pats Defensive Coordinator Eric Mangini (far off descendant of Houdini, or was it distant cousin of Jazz Musician Chuck Mangione? Hmm, maybe those aren’t dots in my brain – they’re just spots, or blotches. That can’t be good) uh, that guy was the Secondary coach last year. Remember what happened last year? The same damned thing. They ended up pulling WR Troy Brown over to the Defensive side of the ball, like it was College ball or something. And since I might be developing brain rot I can’t be sure but… weren’t the Patriots quite successful last year in spite of their unqualified Secondary? The Defense is designed to scheme interchangeable parts into a myriad of confusion for the opposing Offense. And this year’s Defensive Coordinator just happens to have a very fine grip on the mechanics of a Secondary. Until they prove otherwise, I’m not worried about it.
Furthermore, the Chargers Achilles heel has PROVEN to be their Secondary. They’re near the bottom allowing 254yds/gm, 5tds to 1 Int, and a 63.7% completion rate. The Pats have had difficulty Rushing, but run an Offense that won a SuperBowl without a running game and have a QB that makes the Passing game look even more efficient than handing the ball to Eric Dickerson in Los Angeles. Yes, I’m aware of the injuries on the left side of the O-Line (the Chargers also have concerns missing their 2 best Linemen in C Nick Hardwick and OG Toniu Fonoti) but keep in mind this is a passing game designed to get rid of the ball quickly. Often maddeningly so. Particularly frustrating for an aggressive Defense that gets real tired of blazing after a QB that makes their efforts appear hopeless.
Having said all that. I think the Chargers are a quality team. And they have a chance to win the game, not to mention stay within the number. But the Patriots match up well against them and they ought to be able to survive their current condition. And let’s not forget… until further notice… the Patriots are absolutely unbeatable at home.
Is it more than a little tempting to take Seattle on the road at DC this week? Oh, you bet it is. But I’ll have to hold off on that. I’m not convinced yet what we’ve got this year. The results of this game will do much to sway my opinion concerning the Rams game the following week, however. Yes indeed…
This week's pain:
Beat the Man ‘cuz… he’s been givin’ me brain damage with that bat of his. And that just ain’t cool.
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.