Last Week: 5-9
Oakland Raiders (+7) over Pittsburgh Steelers
Jason Campbell’s transformation from goat to hero in a mere two weeks has been remarkable. On the surface, Al Davis’ trade for Campbell did seem like a typical Davis player: strong armed QB with few other talents. After the first three weeks, everyone laughed as another Davis experiment blew up in his face.
Any time the words “let’s go to Bruce Gradkowski” are uttered, the franchise is probably in trouble. But then the trade was vindicated and all was well. In my mind, the Tom Cable fear factor played a crucial role in this turnaround. The Raiders of old were tough as nails.
Tom Cable has proven his willingness to strike women and coaches alike. Players know that if they do not perform, his wrath awaits.
Anyway, Oakland always plays Pittsburgh well. That and their only two convincing wins came against Tampa Bay (before Freeman developed his love affair with 4th quarter heroics) and Cleveland (before Colt McCoy took over and the Browns were considered the terrible team that plays to the competition’s ability).
Houston Texans (+7) over New York Jets
It has taken miracle upon miracle for the Jets to walk away with victories against Denver, Detroit and Cleveland. They might be 7-2, but they’re equally close to 4-5. Houston, meanwhile, has been on the opposite side of those miracles. Did anyone notice the surprise on Mike Thomas’ face during last week’s hail mary? Here was the sequence of events.
1) The ball is thrown into the end zone by Garrard and tipped backwards towards Mike Thomas.
2) The ball hits Mike Thomas’ hands, who reacts late and realizes, “wait, I should probably catch this.”
3) He catches the ball two yards outside of the end zone and proceeds to stare at the ball without moving. Upon realizing that he is two yards short, he hops forward, clutching the ball for dear life.
It was literally as if each action took a separate two seconds to complete. Everyone was in such shock at Thomas’ catching the ball that no Houston defender even considered tackling him.
Baltimore Ravens (-10.5) over Carolina Panthers
It makes me nervous that I have picked four road teams in a row, but what the hell. Carolina has already filled quota this season with one win. Consequently, their entire team has checked out and began auditioning for other teams on Sundays.
While their motivation might be higher and one would expect at least a few more Panther wins, this auditioning actually hurts the Panthers even more.
No one is at all cognizant of team strategy or even the idea of team and is simply padding his own stats. Running backs will try to break a big one on every touch and defenders will lose gap control in an attempt to rack up 15 tackles. Baltimore, like every other team from here on out, will take advantage.
TENNESSEE TITANS (-7) over Washington Redskins
It would appear that Washington and Minnesota share the same “rally around the coach we hate” mentality. Unfortunately for Redskins fans, the two situations have one key difference. Brad Childress will be fired at season’s end.
Mike Shanahan is just getting started. So while McNabb and Haynesworth might already be thinking about their next teams, the rest of the players are in for the long haul. Two factions will arise (if they have not already arisen), those who support Shanahan (because they want to keep getting paid) and those who hate him. The resulting chaos will tear down the Redskins’ season.
Joe House made an interesting point on the B.S. Report. Of all the great receivers, Randy Moss has put up the most 1 catch for 20 yards games. If Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson have an off day, they will still haul in 4 or 5 catches for 40-50 yards. Not Moss. He’s either 10 for 125 and 2 TDs or back to that 1 for 20.
But if Tennessee can win when Moss disappears, imagine what they can do when he shows up.
Detroit Lions (+6.5) over DALLAS COWBOYS
Dallas had its “let’s rally around our new coach” game last week. Take away the Giants turnovers, their biggest issue all season, and Dallas loses last week. When Hakeem Nicks did not finish his slant route and NFL anonymous CB #73 returned it for a TD, the entire complexion of the game changed. What I’m trying to say is that the Cowboys did not win. Instead, the Giants lost.
Jim Schwartz still has his players fighting every week regardless of the opponent. While they have been unable to close out a number of games, they have managed to hang around against just about everyone. I’m also looking forward to my favorite NFL QB, Shaun Hill, continuing his favorite method of throwing the ball away – chucking it high in the air in the vicinity of Calvin Johnson.
Green Bay Packers (-3) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Until Tavaris Jackson takes over at QB, Minnesota is not going anywhere. While their defense is nowhere near the same level as it was last year, it is the Favre turnovers that kill them. Only if Brad Childress had the balls to bench Favre (but we cannot blame him for keeping Favre in since he would be fired if the decision backfired. Then again, he will be fired anyway so he might as well try it.)
Let’s think about the situation critically for a second. What NFL coach would tolerate a 10/16 TD/INT ratio out of a non-rookie QB? None. Brett Favre’s treatment is obviously due to his status. But when your QB performs at the level of Jimmy Clausen, it is time for a change. I don’t care how good you were 15 years ago.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-5.5) over Buffalo Bills
Buffalo just won their first game of the season and will experience a Saints-like Super Bowl hangover. Their entire team can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that they will never again be compared to the Lions of old. That same motivation, however, was driving them to be competitive in every game.
While the desire for a Super Bowl ring may be strong, the desire to not go down as the worst team in NFL history is probably stronger. But now that it has disappeared, so has their motivation. Why should any player on the team care about this game?
Add in the audition factor that Carolina is also experiencing and Cincinnati wins by default.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (-1.5) over Cleveland Browns
Cleveland no longer has the safety of home fans to support them in times of trouble. They can, however, count on the fans of Jacksonville not to cheer against them considering no one will actually attend the game.
In another installment of “how can my team save my head coaching job,” Jack Del Rio watched Mike Thomas do exactly that. The last few weeks have indicated that Cleveland plays up to the level of the competition, but in reality they simply play to the level of their competition, good or bad.
The only difference in this game, then, is Jacksonville’s ability (not including the hail mary last week) to edge out close games.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-8) over Arizona Cardinals
Yes, Kansas City has sputtered lately. But now that the fans at Arrowhead have a chance to alter their teams’ fortunes, don’t expect them to pass up the opportunity. Just as 6-3 overrates the Bears, 5-4 underrates the Chiefs. Arizona, meanwhile, is in a terrible state of affairs.
I would enjoy meeting the man who decided that Derek Anderson was a suitable replacement for Kurt Warner. I would also love to have a one-on-one conversation with Ken Wisenhunt to uncover the reason for Matt Leinart’s release.
Since the issue was clearly personal, this has the potential for some juicy detail (assuming my powers of persuasion are sufficient).
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-11.5) over Seattle Seahawks
Seattle reminds me of Randy Moss. They either show up and dominate or disappear into the abyss of hopelessness. Luckily that is just about all they need to win the NFC West – a few more weeks of domination.
Somehow we have managed to underrate New Orleans and slide the underdog shoes securely onto their feet. The media cannot get enough of praising the Falcons and Matt Ryan’s development, but the Super Bowl champs are primed for a run.
They manhandled the Steelers and disposed of the Panthers in two consecutive weeks. For the first time all season, their offense is clicking. The four o’clock game will give fans plenty of time to drink and harness their inner rowdying. If you don’t believe that the 4:00 P.M. home game is a bigger advantage than 1:00 P.M., try getting up early on a Sunday morning to go to the game after a late Saturday night of drinking.
When you prefer to sit quietly and eat a few hot dogs, you will know that I was right.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (+3) over Atlanta Falcons
Rams in the playoff picture + 4:00 P.M. home game + Atlanta on too great an emotional high + Rams 4-1 at home = me probably being wrong in picking the Rams, but I am doing it anyway.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) over San Francisco 49ers
It seems Vegas believes the talk that the 49ers still have a shot at the playoffs. Too bad this game falls into the “Freeman Zone,” which is all games that have a spread of 3 or less. Anytime there is a potentially close game involving Josh Freeman and he is an underdog, it is impossible to pick against him.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-3.5) over Indianapolis Colts
Tom Brady’s emotions reappeared last week after a two-year hiatus. The Super Bowl loss to the Giants seemed to knock the wind out of him and it took until yesterday to regain it. Not once have I seen him that fired up on the field or on the sideline.
The only reason I can find for his emotional reemergence is that he has officially regained his title as the key to the offense. The Patriots thrived when Brady threw the ball to nine different receivers in the early 2000’s. No one wanted to let him down and thus played better. Moss did not fit this type. He is his own man, as he has continuously shown us, and did not want or need Brady’s encouragement.
So Brady held his emotions in check. But now that Brady is back to being Brady, I have a renewed confidence in the Patriots. Maybe he will finally get a haircut.
One more thing. New England at home: 4-0. Indy on the road: 2-3.
New York Giants (+3) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
I could give you statistics and other nonsense to back my pick here, but I would just be lying to you. The Giants offense has been destroyed by injuries and Michael Vick is frightening. But what kind of fan would I be If I picked the Eagles?
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-10) over Denver Broncos
San Diego has officially entered “now that we actually have to win let’s do it” mode. The only question is whether they will actually blow out Denver. The only thing holding them back thus far has been their mediocre defense.
Somehow Denver’s makeshift receiving corps has been outstanding, but there is no way San Diego even allows this to be a contest if they want their season to have meaning the rest of the way. Part of me thinks that it would be a positive for San Diego to collapse because the Norv Turner era would finally end.
Hopefully San Diego would then hire a non-mediocre ex-head coach, but someone new to the coaching ranks (Leslie Frazier) or a sure fire stud (Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher). But considering Kansas City’s recent collapse, it looks like San Diego will continue to fulfill their seasonal formula.
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