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NFL 2009 Season Week 4 Preview and Picks

Mark Sanchez New York Jets The NFL will officially wrap up the first quarter of the 2009 regular season this weekend. The big news thus far of the season is a changing of the guard. The Super Bowl teams are under .500 and falling hard. Early favorites like the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys have struggled. To top it off, a quarterback who had to fight for a starting spot last year in college is the darling of the NFL. This is quite the NFL season!

A year ago at this time the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers looked unstoppable. In 2009 neither team has been able to win one game. The rhetoric is, “Neither 0-3 team is as bad as record.” As a great man once said, “You are what you are.” I am so tired of the excuses by NFL analysts and journalists. These are two teams 0-3 for a lot of reasons and one of them isn’t bad breaks.

Conversely, you have two undefeated teams meeting this weekend in what should be the spotlight game. The New York Jets and New Orleans Saints are two teams that didn’t even make the playoffs last year. Both teams are 3-0 and this isn’t just your fluke 3-0. Both squads have beaten elite teams and look to be the real deals. The Saints have the advantage by playing in the Super Dome.

Every week I read that this will be Mark Sanchez’s toughest test. The New Orleans Saints defense will not be the toughest for Sanchez. The Saints offense could be a nightmare for Rex Ryan. The Jets defense has been all about pressure in their last three games. However, Drew Brees shredded the Philadelphia Eagles defense against the blitz. Pressure may work on most quarterbacks, but Drew Brees isn’t most quarterbacks.

This one could get ugly really fast for the Jets if they don’t get to Brees. Brees could have three touchdowns up by the second quarter if the Jets leave receivers open on the blitz. Mark Sanchez has proven to be a very smart quarterback in his short career. The Saints impressively shut down the Bills rushing game last week. The Jets are a touchdown underdog in a lot of sports books. I think that is about right. Rex Ryan gives most quarterbacks nightmares, but a quarterback like Drew Brees is salivating at single coverage options in the secondary.

While the Saints-Jets should be the spotlight game, all eyes will be on Monday Night Football. Brett Favre will get his long awaited opportunity at revenge against the Green Bay Packers. Favre is still bitter that after playing games for two years, the Packers finally had enough and wouldn’t take him back last season. It is hard to argue whether that was good or bad for the Packers since they went from the NFL title game to not even making the playoffs. Regardless, Favre’s revenge will be the storyline this weekend for most NFL enthusiasts.

How good are these two teams? The Vikings and Packers both have good records, yet needed last minute wins to get there. The Packers offensive line is just awful. Mike McCarthy is adamant about sticking with his tackles, even though they have been turnstiles. The Packers line is tailor made for a defense like the Vikings. The Packers will need to run to win, but I don’t know if they can win the battle at the line to sustain a consistent rushing effort. In the air, the Vikings are the number four ranked passing defense so opportunities will be thin.

The big question for the Vikings is what their game plan will be. It would be prudent for the Vikings to stick to their usual game plan, run Adrian Peterson, and take shots in between. However, you have an opportunity where your quarterback knows the defensive backs better than anyone outside of their team. It will be tempting to play a pass-heavy game and ask Favre to rely on his instincts about Woodson and the secondary. The Green Bay defense has been inconsistent and it will be interesting to see if the Vikes try and take advantage of that in the air.

Fun NFL Week 3 Fact- The Green Bay Packers have won the last 5 of 6 meetings between these two teams. The Vikings first win came last season after a Mason Crosby missed field goal.

The Baltimore Ravens look to do what they came within seconds of doing in 2007. The Ravens are looking to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Ravens were within seconds of ending the Pats undefeated season until they were victimized by some last-second Tom Brady magic. 2007 was a long time ago and the power may have shifted between these two teams in the Ravens favor.

The Ravens are one of the few playoff teams from last year to pick right up where they left off. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Ravens have an offense. For years this team was built on running to win. The team has given Joe Flacco the keys to the offense and he has unlocked a smorgasbord of lights-out play for Baltimore. The defense lost Rex Ryan, but the personnel remains the same. The same can’t be said for the New England Patriots.

The Patriots are a team in a transition year. There are more new players starting for the Patriots this season than I can remember in the Tom Brady-era. Tom Brady is playing like a quarterback who just came back from major reconstructive surgery. Brady is not nearly as sharp as he used to be and at times, very immobile. A big part of this is due to the absence of Wes Welker. The chemistry is off between Brady and Randy Moss to the point where some Boston writers are starting to question whether Randy Moss is taking plays off and “dogging it.”

If there is one area the Ravens can be beaten, it is the pass. The Ravens pass defense is not what it was under Rex Ryan. The Ravens are ranked 17th in overall pass defense thus far in the season. The Patriots could do some real damage in the air if Wes Welker plays. Unfortunately, no Welker will limit opportunities and Brady could get frustrated early. One thing that has remained consistent is the Baltimore rushing defense. Baltimore boasts the number one ranked overall rushing defense.

Joe Flacco has yet to be tested by real pressure. I don’t know if the Patriots have that kind of pressure on Sunday. The absence of Richard Seymour is killing them in my opinion. The Patriots need to get to Flacco and confuse him early. Flacco has a ton of poise and confidence right now and looks a lot like Brady did during that 2007 season. The Patriots have only given up three touchdowns in the air thus far and one on the ground. They are still a stingy defense. The Pats put 26 up last week on a good Atlanta defense. I don’t think they put up 26 on the Ravens, but this is a game they need to win.

Fantasy Fix – I can’t believe I am saying this, but I love an Oakland Raider this weekend. Darren McFadden should be in everyone’s lineup that has him. To me, McFadden is a week to week player. The Houston Texans are the worst rushing defense in the league and giving up an average of over 200 yards a week. I think JaMarcus Russell may be the worst quarterback in football. Tom Cable must know that. The key to winning here is keeping it on the ground and McFadden is your guy.

This is the week to play Jay Cutler. The Detroit Lions won their first game last week since going 0-16 last year. The Lions have won their Super Bowl and are likely coming in complacent this weekend. The Lions have given up 11 passing touchdowns thus far this season. Like McFadden, Cutler is a week to week quarterback in my opinion. This is definitely a great week to play him. He is going to shred the Lions on Sunday.

Waiver Wire – I love Ricky Williams this weekend. Williams was available in two of my leagues until I took him in both of them. The Dolphins were a run-heavy team with Chad Pennington. With Chad Henne, it is possible that this team runs the ball 80-20. Ronnie Brown is the starter, but Williams gets a ton of playing time when both are on the field in the wild cat offense. The Bills have a horrendous rushing defense. They have given up 9 touchdowns thus far this season. I would grab him and plug him in with confidence.

Glen Coffee will be stepping in for the injured Frank Gore. Coffee and the 49ers play the St. Louis Rams. Like the Dolphins, the 49ers are a run-heavy team. Reports out of San Francisco indicate that Coffee will get the same amount of carries as Frank Gore would get. The Rams are another terrible rushing defense. They are 27th overall and giving up over 140 yards a game. Coffee will get a touchdown on Sunday. He is a perfect pickup for those of you with running backs on a bye week.

So far, I am having my best season ever with the picks. I rebounded last week going 11-5 straight-up on my picks. I am 31-17 overall on the season straight-up. Now for the Week 4 Picks (Picks in BOLD) –

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals
at Cleveland Browns
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
NY Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
Tampa Bay Bucs at Washington Redskins
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
NY Jets at New Orleans Saints
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

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