A couple of random observations from a very dramatic and somewhat befuddling week two:
-Lions fans, fear not: Despite two tough losses, your two first rounders (Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best) are even better than originally thought. Just think, if Matt Millen were still your GM, he would have reached on draft day to the rookie Mike Williams out of nomenclature nostalgia. So be grateful.
-For Dallas to be getting this much hype from the media over their “mysterious” 0-2 start, it almost seems as if ESPN was looking forward to covering the Cowboys playing Super Bowl XLV in their own stadium. ESPN would never put the cart before the horse, would they?
-Speaking of the Cowboys, I think when someone as humble and stoic as Jason Witten is yelling at the trainer’s on the sidelines while threateningly pointing fingers, then that’s usually a good sign that his brain has been scrambled, and that the real Witten isn’t talking. Witten came out Monday and declared himself probable for Sunday’s game vs. Houston. If only Dallas had a head coach who could police the players and take charge….
-I’ll bet anything that by virtue of Peyton Manning beating brother Eli on Sunday night, that Archie let him ride in the front seat on the way home.
-The Ravens don’t allow a single touchdown over their first two games, yet somehow lose to the Bengals anyway, with Ray Lewis getting a ticky-tack tripping penalty to boot. Cleveland is next on the schedule for Baltimore. Should we take bets on what quarter Seneca Wallace’s shin bone pops out of his leg?
-To make Jimmy Clausen feel more at home for his first NFL start this week, NBC should broadcast each of his games, no matter how irrelevant or inane they may be.
-Watching Donovan McNabb make overthrows in overtime while trying to lead the winning drive fills my soul with bitter nostalgia but yet satisfied relief. The only thing missing was Andy Reid calling timeouts after the receivers got out of bounds.
-Speaking of that game, attention Jeff Fisher: if Chris Johnson can’t solve Pittsburgh’s suddenly nightmarish defense, then Vince Young won’t either. Benching him for Kerry Collins may have worked short term, but when Young starts displaying confidence issues again, I think this job you’ve held for sixteen years with many disappointing seasons may not be yours to keep much longer.
-The physical hatred between the Jets and Patriots was noticeable in their body language Sunday, and it’s got me all jazzed up for the rematch.
-As for the Vikings, well, I’ll get to them later. Time for some picks.
WEEK TWO: 9-7
FOR THE YEAR: 17-15
16. New England over Buffalo
It’s the deadliest possible combination: a pissed off Bill Belichick, who watched him team get humbled by the Ines Sainz Fan Club, looking to unleash a flurry of offense on a team who, in all likelihood, will be welcoming Jake Locker with open arms come April 2011. If you have any Patriots on your fantasy team, including the ghost of Ben Coates, this is the week to start em.
SCORE: Patriots 41, Bills 7
15. Baltimore over Cleveland
Who was the biggest loss for Cleveland in the last handful of years: Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards, or Kellen Winslow? My money’s on Romeo Crennel, who may not have been the greatest head coach, but he certainly has a defensive knack. Already, he’s provided structure for a very young Chiefs defense, something he was achieving in Cleveland in 2007 before a disastrous 2008 cost him his job. The Browns may not know what they’re missing, but they know what they’re getting Sunday: a Joe Flacco who’s coming off a turnover-wrought game, looking to make amends. Amend he will.
SCORE: Ravens 38, Browns 10
14. Washington over St. Louis
I get a little pensive when I realize that Donovan McNabb is facing a quarterback over a decade younger than him. This is probably how Bears fans felt the first time Sid Luckman took on The Packers with Brett Favre. I know I’ve been pulling for the Rams lately, and they lost two tough games, but there’s no way Shanahan gives them any oxygen. McNabb will have a career passing day, and Howard Eskin and the Philadelphia media won’t shut up about it. Unless the new Michael Vick toy retains its shine in J-Ville.
SCORE: Redskins 34, Rams 17
13. Cincinnati over Carolina
I hate Notre Dame (well, the dead-horse-beating coverage that NBC gives them two hundred years after they were last relevant), and I have a soft spot for the most underrated nutjob on the Bengals, Pacman Jones. I was delighted when Pacman picked off Joe Flacco this week, and here’s hoping he snags a few on Knute Rockne’s descendant. Unless Clausen has one of those “They have little film on me, so I’ll surprise em” games, the Bengals defense will gobble the Cats up.
SCORE: Bengals 24, Panthers 10
12. San Diego over Seattle
When the best thing you can say about a Seahawks performance is “Matt Hasselbeck was able to scramble for a touchdown without dislocating his spinal column”, then it doesn’t bode well for when you have to face a Chargers team that shook off a week one loss like Hulk Hogan shakes off Nikolai Volkoff’s punches late in the match. Ryan Mathews’ status is still up in the air, but it’s a good sign when Rivers has Naanee, Floyd, Gates, Crayton, and Sproles and can say “Who’s Vincent Jackson?”
SCORE: Chargers 31, Seahawks 13
11. Indianapolis over Denver
There’s no doubt that this is a tough week for the Broncos, with the death of Kenny McKinley, a 2nd year wideout, as a result of an apparent suicide. In less than four years, three players have died on the Broncos (Darrent Williams to homicide, Damien Nash to a heart defect), and it’s just a terrible thing to have to endure, both for his family and his community. I only really knew McKinley in passing from playing Madden, but instead of my original blurb I planned to write (about Peyton Manning’s reckless dominance continuing in his bid to catch Houston), I’ll use this spot as a reminder that life is a fragile thing, and a man’s death changes the lives of everyone around him.
SCORE: Colts 27, Broncos 14
10. Philadelphia over Jacksonville
So I send my picks in an hour before Kevin Kolb is benched in favor Michael Vick going forward, and now I’m forced to rewrite this entry, less my work becomes more dated than a housewife etiquette handbook from the 1950’s. I see no reason why Vick, with this new lease on life, won’t continue to enjoy his freedom by being a terror for clumsy blitzers and slow linebackers. Maurice Jones-Drew may have a good day like Jahvid Best did against the Eagles, but now Stewart Bradley is healthy, so look for the run defense to strengthen up. David Garrard is going to have his hands full, especially if Sean McDermott figures out how to send less-obvious blitzes for a change (and he can).
SCORE: Eagles 31, Jaguars 17
SCORE: Eagles 31, Jaguars 17
9. Pittsburgh over Tampa Bay
The battle of the 2-0 teams, and only one of them had to beat stiff competition to get there. Face it, Tampa beat up a lousy Browns team (having to come from behind to do so), and then they defeated a Panthers team with no identity. At least the Steelers held off a solid Falcons offense, and then stifled a challenging Titans offense. Tampa Bay has a modest offense, and they’re not facing a pushover this time. You may need two hands to count the sacks and picks.
SCORE: Steelers 27, Buccaneers 13
8. New Orleans over Atlanta
Sean Payton knows that his 2-0 is a weak 2-0, having won by a combined total of 8 points, and that won’t cut it against a Falcons team that used Jason Snelling to eat Arizona alive. I think the Saints will win a spirited shoot out, with Brees taking most of the load on his shoulders with Reggie Bush injured. Has a 2-0 defending champion ever had their backs to the wall before?
SCORE: Saints 27, Falcons 20
7. Arizona over Oakland
I think the commentary team for this game is Stephen A. Smith and Pat Summerall after three whiskey sours. I’d watch it if DirecTV picked up Fox Sports Hell. It comes down to who messes up less, and since Arizona’s quarterback scenario is more set in stone (perish the thought), I think they win based on continuity and better coaching. Bruce Gradkowski has already used his Miracle Juice (patent pending) for the season.
SCORE: Cardinals 17, Raiders 10
6. Houston over Dallas
Dallas’ biggest problem is that Tony Romo, when he tries to pass on every down, can’t find consistent success. The obvious solution is to run the ball more with Felix Jones, but how can Dallas do that if Houston winds up running up the score with their complex offense? Dallas is going to HAVE to pass the ball. Besides, if the offensive line of Dallas is still working the bugs out, Mario Williams will wreak havoc, thus making a potential catch-up situation harder for Romo, who’s been known to struggle with pressure.
SCORE: Texans 24, Cowboys 17
5. New York Giants over Tennessee
Pittsburgh set the template for how to beat the Titans: shut down Chris Johnson, win the game. Tom Coughlin needs his hot/cold defensive line to do their job and ooze through the offensive linemen, while hoping that his inexperienced linebackers can contain Johnson, and keep him from getting those demoralizing end zone sprints. If the Giants win the turnover battle, which they will, then they win.
SCORE: Giants 20, Titans 16
4. Green Bay over Chicago
A month ago, I’d have Green Bay near the top of this list, but now there are doubts. For one thing, Jay Cutler’s been working on his Kurt Warner impression with Mike Martz, and Martz is probably ‘accidentally’ referring to Matt Forte as “Marshall”. The Rams impression is uncanny so far, and Green Bay’s secondary can be exploited. What would once have been a defensive struggle is going to be a shoot out on Monday night, and, unfortunately for the Bears, I think Rodgers fires more bullets than Cutler in the end.
SCORE: Packers 31, Bears 27
3. San Francisco over Kansas City
The 49ers have to win; the Chiefs have to lose. Alex Smith looked so good in the second half on Monday, and the Chiefs offense is nothing special. I predict a defensive battle, with the 49ers containing Matt Cassel, and Romeo Crennel’s no name defense holding their own, forcing some fourth and short punting situations. However, thanks to Frank Gore, the 49ers will do more on offense and finally sneak into the win column.
SCORE: 49ers 14, Chiefs 10
Mark Sanchez surprised a lot of people, perhaps himself included. Can he beat the Dolphins, coming off of this high of crushing New England? Miami’s biggest strength is a conservative, containing defense, so maybe Shonn Greene may get shut down, but Sanchez can spread the ball around with vigor, and thus Miami gets worn down. On the flip side, Hit and Ron (Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown) will probably hit a wall here with the Jets D (even sans Revis). Jets take it in a squeaker.
SCORE: Jets 20, Dolphins 17
1. Detroit over Minnesota
And why not? The Vikings can’t get their offense going when it counts, and Brett Favre isn’t playing with any passion. When you’re not playing with passion, you lose to passionate teams. The Lions may also be 0-2, but they’re a dangerous 0-2, playing the Bears and Eagles to the bitter end. Jahvid Best can be painful and hard to spell, but the real story is Detroit’s defensive line vs. Minnesota’s offensive line. Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, and the little known Turk McBride have enough of a push to where, if Favre isn’t making quick decisions, they can give the Lions offense plenty of chances to score and, in my opinion, win.
SCORE: Lions 17, Vikings 13
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