Two days before the Seahawks played the St. Louis Rams, I got a call from my brother asking what Branch’s stats were. In the background, I could hear one of his friends saying “Branch hasn’t done ---- since going to Seattle.” Two days later, Branch scored two touchdowns in the 30-28 win.
Earlier this week, exactly six weeks after the trade, I was in a local grocery store when I came across a cardboard cutout of Branch, in his Patriots uniform, pitching some product in the dairy section. Someone had decided to “black out” a few of his teeth. But the Patriots fans aren’t bitter about this. Nope, they’re glad he’s gone. Suuuuure they are.
Time to make like Drew Bledsoe, and toss some picks!
Last Week: 6-7
2006 Season: 42-54-4
Arizona at Green Bay (-3 ½) – The Matt Leinart Era hasn’t gotten off to a good start. As much as the Cardinals fans would like to believe their team has hit rock bottom, which losing to the then-winless Oakland Raiders would indicate, as long as Denny Green is openly trying to get fired (so he’ll keep getting paid), the potential is there for this team to reach a new level of futility. On the bright side, the Cardinals appear to be heading for another Top 10 pick in next April’s draft, which means they’ll get to be everyone’s “sleeper” pick next year, too! Pick: Packers -3 ½
Atlanta at Cincinnati (-4 ½) – It was “Bizzaro Week” in Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Bengals won with defense, and the Falcons win came courtesy of Michael Vick’s arm. Things have quickly returned to normal, though, as Chad Johnson has called out Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall. #85 has promised to shave off his blond Mohawk if the Bengals lose this Sunday. Since I think that divot on the top of his head looks ridiculous, I’m taking the Falcons +4 ½
Baltimore at New Orleans (-2) – I’m interested to see if the Ravens offense improves now that Brian Billick is taking a more active role with that unit. I’ve always felt that Billick was a vastly overrated head coach, and if the Ravens still struggle after the dismissal of Jim Fassel, Billick won’t have any scapegoats.
New Orleans has played tough teams this year (Carolina, Philadelphia), but the Ravens defense is the biggest challenge Drew Brees and the Saints offense have faced thus far. The Saints will want to get to 6-1 now, before they hit the gravel for a few weeks. Pick: Saints -2
Houston at Tennessee (-3) – Houston has won two of three for the first time since 2004, and the Titans are looking for consecutive wins for the first time since 2003! With stats like that, you don’t need Scooby Doo and the rest of “Mystery, Inc.” to get to the bottom of the “How the Colts Have Owned the AFC South” mystery. Pick: Texans +3
Jacksonville at Philadelphia (-6 ½) – After losing to the Texans last week, do we still take Jacksonville seriously as a playoff contender? I don’t care if it was on the road, no team with playoff aspirations should lose by 20 points to the Houston Texans. Now the Jags are turning to David Garrard at quarterback (Byron Leftwich has an ankle injury), and with Marcus Stroud still ailing, this team doesn’t seem equipped to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia.
The good news for Donovan McNabb is that he won’t have to worry about “reproducing his Campbell’s Chunky” on the field this week. Temps in Philadelphia this Sunday will be comfortable (upper 50s), so McNabb can leave the vomiting to the less-than-sober Eagles fans. Pick: Eagles -6
Seattle at Kansas City (-6) – I’m nowhere near convinced that Kansas City wins this game just by showing up. In the last 3 weeks, Kansas City has:
- Narrowly avoided being the 1 st team to lose to Matt Leinart, who was making his 1 st NFL start. Leinart looked brilliant against the Chiefs defense, right up until he failed to realize Ty Law doesn’t play for his team.
- Last week, KC jumped out to a huge lead, and in the second half, they gave it right back to a team coached by Marty Schottenheimer. The only head coach worse than Herm Edwards in close games is Marty Schottenheimer.
(And after I wrote this, word has come out that Damon Huard is “probable” after turning his ankle in practice. How does this game look if Brodie Croyle is playing QB for the Chiefs? If you answered “like a pre-season game”, you’ve just won a few of the expired movie passes I’ve got laying around the Mac Mansion)
San Francisco at Chicago (-16 ½) – You’d have to an ignoramus, or Denny Green, to not realize by now that the 2006 Chicago Bears are a very good football team. But wasn’t it a bit too early for ESPN to compare this Chicago Bears team to the vaunted 1985 Bears in their intro on Monday Night Football two weeks ago? The Bears team from 1985 was one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. The current Bears? They’re 6-0 in a 16-game season, so let’s not “crown their ass” just yet, ok? Pick: 49ers +16 ½ (Too many points for any team coming off a bye week to be laying)
Tampa Bay at NY Giants (-9 ½) – The Bucs have won two in a row, but how many times can they expect Ronde Barber to return two interceptions for touchdowns and a 62-yard field goal from Matt Bryant as time expires?
It’ll never happen, but wouldn’t it be horrible if Tiki Barber suffered a season-ending injury after being tackled by his brother? Pick: Giants -9 ½
St. Louis at San Diego (-8 ½) – Between Luis Castillo and Shawne Merriman (steroids), Terrence Kiel being investigated by the DEA after shipping prescription cough medicine to his native Texas, and Steve “Holy” Foley being shot up by an off-duty cop, the Chargers have been openly auditioning for PlayMakers 2: Electric Bugaloo.
In all honesty, Shawne Merriman probably isn’t a bad guy. ESPN did a piece on him earlier this season, and I came away very impressed the guy. He appears to know how lucky he is to be in the NFL, and he personally gets involved in helping his community. He doesn’t deserve the “turd” moniker, just like he didn’t deserve the Defensive Rookie of the Year award last year. (Couldn’t resist. I’m still irked by that)
Pick: Rams +8 ½ (To clarify, the Rams won’t win, but they’ll cover)
Indianapolis at Denver (-2 ½) – Every major media outlet is calling this game a preview of the AFC Championship game. Apparently, every major media outlet is willing to overlook the struggles that Jake Plummer and Peyton Manning tend to have in January. It’s a good match-up, though, so you can’t really blame them.
I’ve gone back and forth on this one all week. I know that Denver’s offense is so stagnant the fans have been calling for Jay Cutler to replace the erratic Jake Plummer. I also know that the Colts defense has been banged up, and that’s affected their performance. So to me, this game comes down to what’s worse: The Colts defense or the Broncos offense? Right now, it’s the Broncos offense. Pick: Colts +2 ½
NY Jets at Cleveland (-2) – When the Jets named Eric Mangini their new head coach, Romeo Crennel was probably happy for the guy who was his defensive backs coach in Crennel’s last season as Patriots defensive coordinator. In the back of his mind, though, he had to be wondering why it took him so long to get a top gig after spending several years coordinating top-notch defenses, and it only took Mangini one year as a coordinator to land a much higher profile coaching job.
I don’t know if Mangini is the better head coach or not, but the proof is in the pudding (and Mangini’s man-boobs indicate he likes pudding). The Jets are 4-3, and have been of the AFC ’s biggest surprises. The Browns are 1-5 and are averaging about 4 torn ligaments per week. Pick: Jets +2
Pittsburgh (-9) at Oakland – After suffering yet another concussion, Ben Roethlisberger still has no plans to switch to one of the newer helmets that are designed to protect against head injuries. Doesn’t that show that the cumulative effects from his concussions are beginning to take hold? This week, Big Ben came out and said that Falcons players were taunting him regarding his head injuries. Whining like that will not only prompt more taunting from opponents, but it also puts him on the short-list of babies waiting to be adopted by Madonna. Pick: Steelers -9
(Speaking of head injuries, ESPN’s Merril Hoge just reported that Pittsburgh is a city in western Pennsylvania)
Dallas at Carolina (-4 ½) – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has come out and said that the decision to insert Tony Romo as the starting QB isn’t a sign that the Cowboys “were junking this season”. I’m not so sure I trust the words of a man who has undergone so much plastic surgery he’s lost the ability to blink. Pick: Panthers -4 ½
Word of warning to Tony Romo: You probably think you’ve developed a good relationship with Terrell Owens. You threw to him after practice during training camp, have stood by him on the sidelines, and he’s said a few things to the media that could be construed as an endorsement. But be careful, Mr. Romo. Owens has a history of throwing his quarterback under the bus, even resorting to questioning the sexuality of one of them. With a name that can be easily manipulated to fit Owens’ modus operandi, you’d be wise to watch your back, kid.
New England (-2) at Minnesota – Tom Brady has never lost in a domed stadium. Seriously, look it up. He’s 9-0. Those nine wins include two Super Bowl wins, as well as two Super Bowl MVP trophies. I usually take this kind of stat with a grain of salt, but under Bill Belichick, they seem to care about keeping streaks like this alive. Pick: Patriots -2
Brian McIntyre writes about football from all angles, and unlike Terrell Owens, he can easily think of eighty-one words that rhyme with "Romo". You can contact Brian here.