I’ll be referring all questions about my 5-7-2 record from Week 3 to my new publicist, Kim Etheredge.
Last week: 5-7-2
Arizona at Atlanta (-7) – Monday night, the New Orleans Saints showed the NFL how to slow down Michael Vick and the West Virginia option. (Surprisingly, it didn’t involve blisters or a burning sensation) The question for Arizona is whether or not they have the personnel to mirror what New Orleans did to Vick.
Speaking of Arizona, is it ok to admit that I felt sorry for Kurt Warner earlier this week? I know that I’ve taken jabs at him for being married to Mrs. Papadopoulos from “Webster”, and the phone calls to whatever sports radio station dissed her husband were embarrassing, but I was muttering “Poor Kurt” to myself after Chris Mortensen reported that Dennis Green was preparing to replace Warner with Matt Leinart as the starting quarterback for this week’s game against Atlanta. He’s a nice enough guy, that’s for sure. He doesn’t appear to be like Doug Flutie who submarined the Buffalo Bills a few seasons ago when they chose Rob Johnson over him. Is it wrong that a part of me felt that Warner was being prematurely removed as the Cardinals starter?
Ok, now I know why felt sorry for Warner this week. I just wanted one more chance to bet against the team he was quarterbacking. Thankfully, Dennis Green has had a change of heart. Thank you, Jesus! Pick: Falcons -7
Dallas (-9 ½) at Tennessee – In today’s world, where irrelevant information is just a mouse-click away, I couldn’t find any statistics about how road favorites perform in weeks where there best player is alleged to have attempted suicide. I would imagine they wouldn’t do too well, but without the info, I can’t really say for sure. Tennessee’s ineffective offense will inevitably speed up the timetable Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has for playing rookie QB Vince Young.
I understand Fisher’s reasoning for not wanting to put Young in right now, but at some point, he’s not going to have a choice. With the Dallas defense coming town, that time could be Sunday. Pick: Cowboys -9 ½
Indianapolis (-9) at NY Jets – I’ll give credit to 1 st-year head coach Eric Mangini. Winning two games on the road in his first month, even if it was against Tennessee and Buffalo, is a real accomplishment that his team can build on. The one guy I really like on the Jets is Jerricho Cotchery. His brilliant catch and run against New England reminded me of the “No (bleeping’) Way” plays the computer always makes in the 4 th quarter of a Madden game.
I’ve heard the argument on ESPN Radio that since Jets head coach is a defensive guy who previously coached in New England (who always had a way of shutting down Peyton Manning); the Jets will be able to keep this one close. Unless the Jets quickly trade for Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel, I don’t see it happening. Indianapolis may not be hitting on all cylinders, but the game against Houston showed that they’re capable of blowing out clearly inferior opponents. Pick: Colts -9
Miami (-3 ½) at Houston – In Week 1, I gleefully took the Dolphins…and they lost. Heading into Week 2 I was certain that Daunte Culpepper would lead the ‘Fins to a big win in their home opener…and they lost. Last week, the Dolphins hosted the hapless Titans, were laying down 10 ½ points and I thought that it had to be the week Culpepper throws a pair of scores to Chris Chambers and Miami rolls to an easy 3-touchdown win. They won, but needed a last minute field goal to do so. They didn’t cover, and I felt immediate shame.
So Miami, you are officially on notice. This is your last chance to prove to me that you’re worthy of my pick. You’re going up against the winless Houston Texans, who are giving up 320 passing yards per game and are ranked 32 nd in the NFL in total defense. If you can’t beat this team by more than 3 ½ points, you will be removed from my Christmas card list. Pick: Dolphins -3 ½
Minnesota at Buffalo (-1) – Before the season, many NFL observers were hyping Detroit, St. Louis and Arizona as potential sleepers in the NFC playoff picture. Meanwhile, a legitimate “sleeper” has emerged in the NFC. Emerging from the waters of Lake Minnetonka, the Vikings are 2-1, just played the defending NFC North champs very tough (ok, they gave that game away) and have a Duncan Hines-approved schedule in December (at Detroit and Green Bay, home against the Jets and St. Louis). If you take away the ugly uniforms, the mascot, and the loud horn sound they play in the Metrodome, I could downgrade my hatred for this franchise to a severe dislike. (No, I’m not completely over the Hutchinson/poison-pill nonsense)
Meanwhile, I’m not sure what is happening with the Buffalo Bills. They look good against New England and Buffalo, and then allow the bionic Chad Pennington to post a 94.5 passer rating in a windy Ralph Wilson Stadium? They sacked him just one time (for a measly 1-yard loss) and managed to lose a game in which they had a 300-yard passer (Losman), a pair of 100-yard receivers (Evans, Reed) and a 150-yard runner (McGahee)? What gives, Marv? Pick: Vikings +1
New Orleans at Carolina (-7 ½) – Following the highly emotional win over the Falcons in front of their real hometown crowd on Monday night, it would be totally excusable for the New Orleans Saints to come out Sunday and get the bayou kicked out of them. It’s a short week, they’re on the road against a Carolina Panthers team that many picked to win the entire NFC this year, and the Panthers are in must-win mode.
However, with the way the Saints are playing, particularly on defense, I’m strangely confident that they can cover this spread. In fact, an outright win would not be a surprise to me. It’s amazing how confident you can be in a team when their quarterback isn’t named “Aaron Brooks”. Pick: Saints +7 ½
San Diego (-2 ½) at Baltimore – The first real test of the 2006 season for these unbeaten teams will be against one another. Not to take anything away from their undefeated starts, but they haven’t played anyone yet. There’s no “really haven’t played” aspect of it, either. What’s the combined record of the Chargers and Ravens opponents? Yeah, try 0-11.
To make my pick for this game, which will undoubtedly be a close, physical match-up, I’ve asked myself three questions:
1. When the Chargers have the ball, who is the best player on the field?
2. When the Ravens have the ball, who is the best player on the field?
3. Which team has the best kicker?
The answers were LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman and Matt Stover. Ok, so aside from special teams plays, the Chargers will have the best player on the field. If that’s going to be the case, it’s a no-brainer. Pick: Chargers -2 ½
San Francisco at Kansas City (-7) – If the Kansas City Chiefs have any hope of getting to the post-season in Herm Edwards’ first year as head coach, this is a must-win game. Even with Damon Huard making just his 8 th start in 10 NFL seasons, this is a very winnable game. The 49ers have played well this year, but they’re still rebuilding and have some injury issues to key players (Vernon Davis, Frank Gore) on offense. Pick: Chiefs -7
(This might be the only game the Chiefs win before November. After hosting the 49ers, the Chiefs go on the road to face the Cardinals and Steelers. They close out October with home games against San Diego and Seattle. They do have a soft schedule in November and late December/early January, so 8-8 is still a possibility.)
Detroit at St. Louis (-5 ½) – If you notice a lot of tinfoil hats in St. Louis this Sunday, do not be alarmed. They’re just welcoming Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz back to the Gateway. Martz has done a phenomenal job in re-shaping the Detroit Lions offense. Though the stats show the Lions averaging just12.3 points per game, they’ve come dangerously close to scoring 40 points every time they’ve stepped on the field. One of these days, the other team isn’t going show up and those promises of a 40-point explosion are going to come true.
And what about the job Jim Haslett has done as the Rams defensive coordinator? So what if they’re averaging 130 rushing yards per game? Everyone knows that the measure of a good defense is how they do against erratic quarterbacks like Jake Plummer and Kurt Warner, right? Pick: Rams -5 ½ (Did I mention Jon Kitna is the Lions starting QB?)
Cleveland (-3) at Oakland – You know you’re in rough shape when you’re hosting the winless Cleveland Browns and Vegas is giving you a field goal. Those may be the only points Oakland scores, too.
One of the more bizarre stats for the Browns is that their leading rusher is Charlie Frye, who has 1 more rushing yard than Rueben Droughns in 13 fewer carries. If you have Droughns in your fantasy league, your fortunes are about to change. Pick: Browns -3
Jacksonville (-3) at Washington – Congratulations to Mark Brunell for setting an NFL record for consecutive completed passes in a game (22). Your reward is a sore elbow and 60 minutes against the Jaguars defense. Good luck.
Speaking of the Jaguars, I have a question: When did Rashean Mathis become a good cornerback? I could’ve sworn that a year ago, he was considered an ordinary cover guy. This year it seems as though he’s immune to having pass interference called on him. I saw him get away with sneezing on Marvin Harrison, and stuff like that always draws a flag. Is this his contract year or something? Pick: Jaguars -3
New England at Cincinnati (-6) – With WR Chris Henry allegedly vomiting out a rear window while already suspended teammate Odell Thurman was failing a sobriety test, nobody can say that the Cincinnati Bengals don’t know how to celebrate a huge divisional win! I know some people have had enough of the CincinnATTICA Bengals, but how could you not want to see more? I want this team to raise so much hell away from the field that their owner, Mike Brown, starts wearing black and orange sweat suits on the sidelines and threatens to move the team to Toledo. (That would be the Ohio equivalent to Oakland, right?)
From Tom Brady’s body language, it’s clear something is wrong with him. He’s on the injury report with as probable with a right shoulder injury, but I don’t think that’s why he’s been so melancholy lately. I think he knows that he left a lot of money on the table for the Patriots to keep the core of the team together, and he’s seen guys like McGinest, Vinatieri, Givens and Branch be replaced with cheaper, less talented replacements. Thankfully, they play in the weakest division in the NFL. Pick: Bengals -6
Seattle at Chicago (-3 ½) – Yes, I’m unbelievably biased, but you know what, I think that the Seahawks have an excellent chance of winning this game.
1. No team is going to be able to defend Seattle’s new 4-WR sets (Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram, Deion Branch) adequately enough, so someone will always be open. Teams are going to have to bring in an extra DB to account for the 4 th WR, which means that they’re taking one or even two linebackers out of the game. The strength of the Bears defense is the front seven. If you can reduce that number to 5, you’ve removed the teeth of the Bears defense.
2. People are making way too much out of Seattle playing without the league’s MVP. Anyone who has watched the Seahawks over the last 3 years knows that the real MVP of this team is Matt Hasselbeck.
3. Seattle is the more balanced football team. Chicago has one of the best defenses in the NFL, but the offense is still a work in progress. While the Bears can limit the Seahawks offensively, they’ll still allow some points. On the flipside, Seattle’s defense has the ability to completely shut down the Bears offense. Before the 2 nd half of the Giants game, when Seattle was rushing 3-4 guys and playing a soft zone, Seattle’s defense had allowed just 19 points in 10 quarters of football.
4. The NFL did the Seahawks a huge favor by scheduling the trip to Chicago this early in the season. Had this game been in December, with the snow, sleet and frigid temperatures, it would’ve been a huge advantage for the Bears. As it is, the forecast for Sunday night has clear skies and temperatures in the 50s.
This game may very well be a deciding factor in home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, so I expect a very tight, hard-fought game. If you’re wondering, I expected the same thing last week when the Giants went into Qwest Field. How’d that work out? Pick: Seahawks +3 ½
Green Bay at Philadelphia (-11) – You have to wonder how the Eagles locker room responded to the latest incident involving Terrell Owens. I’m sure that some of the guys in there have reached out to T.O., but I’m guessing McNabb walked over to Donte Stallworth, gave him a great big hug and whispered “Don’t ever leave me” into his ear. Or they split a bowl of Campbell’s Chunky Soup. You get the idea. This team is much better without Owens. Pick: Eagles -11
Brian McIntyre refers to Shaun Alexander as "Seamus McTouchdown", and writes about football from all angles. You can contact him here.