Last Week: 5-9
(home team in caps, game pick in bold)
Denver Broncos (+1) over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. claim that they can rekindle their Ohio State fire and previous chemistry. Yet they fail to recognize three key factors that will lead to their demise:
1) The NFL requires wide receivers to run more than just a “go” route.
2) Ginn is the 4th offensive option.
3) Smith has not played in 3 years.
While I am reluctant to pick Denver since they have failed me on a number of occasions thus far, I like their chances by default. Normally teams can rally around backup QBs for a few games when their season is on the line, but SF’s season has already ended.
As likely as it is that a 9-7 or 8-8 team will win the NFC West, do we really see the 49ers finishing the season with a 7-2 record? Absolutely not. The Mike Singletary motivational tactics have obviously worn off.
My favorite part about this 49ers team is that they have a dynamic unfound anywhere else in the NFL. Normally a veteran backup QB tutors the young, more talented QB as he fulfills his potential. But instead we have career backup David Carr, a former #1 overall pick, tutoring Alex Smith, a soon to be career backup and former #1 overall pick.
How often do we have two #1 overall backups on the same team? If there were any defining elements of the 49ers, this has to be it.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5) over DALLAS COWBOYS
Imagine 100,000 Jim Caldwells at Cowboys stadium if you want to get a picture of the crowd noise this week. Usually a veteran backup on a talented roster can make some noise until the starter returns. But without a fiery coach and the possibility of playoffs a team cannot rally around its backup quarterback.
The Giants have already demonstrated the formula for defeating the Cowboys’ offense: blitz. Since Kitna has as much mobility as Flozell Adams, it should not be hard for Jacksonville to win the game.
Another part of me sees a different scenario happening. The Cowboys are down all game but quietly hanging around. A few punts and defensive stops and I will change the channel to watch something more interesting. But then there are two minutes left and the Cowboys are down 4.
Kitna marches them down the field and gets the go-ahead score. I flip the channel back, see what is happening and say “I had no idea Kitna could do this.” Because that is the type of QB Kitna has always been. No credit, no recognition and constantly surprising us with his mediocre ability.
DETROIT LIONS (-2.5) over Washington Redskins
Matt Stafford’s and Jahvid Best’s healthy return to the lineup would have brought new life to Detroit fans if they were not 1-6. Although in the NFC North, which is quietly the second weakest division in football, we cannot totally count out Detroit as of yet. But 1-6 never breeds optimism.
Assuming Green Bay never finds a defense, Minnesota dismantles its team once Favre retires (Their defense is like the post-Super Bowl Bucs. Had it been 2 years before, they would have performed up to their on-paper ability), and Chicago starts from scratch after Lovie Smith gets fired, Detroit seems to be on the rise at exactly the right time.
Dante Hall may have had 4 INTs, but most came from terrible throws that only Jay Cutler would think to make. Besides Cutler, the problem Chicago faced was not the inability to move the ball (Cutler threw for 281 yards); they simply have no red zone finishers.
Matt Forte is more a receiver than a running back. Mike Martz elminates the use of any TEs. Johnny Knox is a speed guy. What does that leave you with? Jay Cutler forcing the ball into tight spots.
Detroit has the finishers to get six in the red zone. Jahvid Best may not have size, but his ability to slide through miniscule cracks makes up for it, and Calvin Johnson is the ultimate fade weapon.
NEW YORK JETS (-6) over Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s expectations have always outshined their on-field performance. So whom do we blame? Aaron Rodgers has been phenomenal. The defense has at least been mediocre. The overall talent level is high. Injuries have hurt them, but not so much as to change the complexion of the team. The answer is simple.
We praised him for smoothly transitioning from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, but he has yet to take the next step. It seems we have another Marty Schottenheimer on our hands: a wonderful regular season coach who prepares his team well each week. But when the big game rolls around against a quality opponent, he shrinks into the background.
He is just another example of why player coaches no longer work in the NFL. Too much money, too many egos. Players need to be put in their places. McCarthy does not have the personality to do so.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (-3) over Carolina Panthers
It seems that Stephen Jackson will no longer suffer from Barry Sanders syndrome now that the Rams have climbed out the basement and into the playoff conversation. Granted it is the NFC West, but an accomplishment nonetheless. Carolina wasted their “this is the only game we can win all season” card to motivate themselves last week.
Now that they did get that victory, there is no motivation. John Fox and the coaching staff will leave at seasons’ end and new management will clean house. Players will only begin to audition for new teams once the end of the season rolls around.
For now, they are happy that Detroit will always be worse.
Miami Dolphins (+2) over CINCINNATI BENGALS
Not often is a 3-3 team 3-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. The Bengals are still on Vegas’ good side and are somehow favorites. Yes, they are at home, but considering Miami’s road record and Cincinnati’s porous defense, you’d think Miami would have been a small favorite.
A question I proposed earlier in the season still remains unanswered: Where does Carson Palmer rank among NFL QBs? We all know he has Pro Bowl talent. Before his ACL tear he was living up to his #1 overall pick status and then some. But now that he is damaged goods on a running team full of egos, it’s hard to tell exactly where he stands.
Also, considering the age of the Bengals, his window of opportunity is closing. If the Bengals do not put together a quality defense and an improved offensive line in the next 1-2 years, they will have to move into rebuilding mode.
Where that leaves Palmer remains to be seen.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-7.5) over Buffalo Bills
Despite the losing ways that have defined the Chiefs over the past several years, the fans at Arrowhead have remained faithful. Regardless of the team record, they have shown up and impacted every Chiefs’ home game.
Now that the team finally has the opportunity to make the playoffs, their home field advantage actually matters. And thus far this season, they have delivered with 3 decisive victories to zero losses. Buffalo had their fun last Sunday when they scared Baltimore half to death, but no more.
The fans at Arrowhead will not allow it.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-3.5) over Tennessee Titans
If you had told me Kerry Collins died of old age this past week, I probably would have believed you. His success at the ripe old age of 87 reminds me of Bruce Willis.
After the Die Hard series ended (Tennessee 1st round exit after a 13-3 regular season with Collins at the helm), his career took a turn for the worst and he churned out terrible movie after terrible movie, including Die Hard 4 (Collins as a backup). But every once in a while, Bruce Willis reminds you what has made him Bruce; the ability to churn out quality movies even after his prime has passed (Collins performance last week).
Longevity has been the key to his success. Same goes for Collins.
I know that has nothing to do with this week’s game since Young is starting, but I had to get that analogy off my chest.
The reason why I continue to stick with San Diego is because their losing is a result of dumb mistakes. Untimely turnovers and penalties have shot this team in its collective foot. Knowing San Diego, they will put it together. Their #1 ranked defense AND #1 ranked offense has to put it together sometime. They are not a 2-5 team, plain and simple.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) over ARIZONA CARDINALS
I’m done betting on an undrafted, rookie, Mormon QB. The fact that I even had to utter that statement is embarrassing, so I apologize. Somehow, Tampa Bay seems for real.
And by for real I mean not a 4-12 team, but more like 9-7. Since 1st round rookie QBs and the coaches that drafted them always suffer or enjoy the same fate, I was surprised that the Freeman/Morris combo fell on the “enjoyed” side.
At least for now.
Seattle Seahawks (+2.5) over OAKLAND RAIDERS
Last week I claimed that neither the Broncos nor Raiders were good enough to blow the other out. Well, that actually could not have been farther from the truth, considering I said that statement before the biggest blowout of the entire season.
So while I was partly upset that I put my stupidity on such great display, another part of me rejoiced as Josh McDaniels watched his job begin to slip away. (Okay I picked them again this week, but against the 49ers. So give me a break.)
I do not believe what Oakland did last week. The goods they sold to America via the Broncos were simply the result of inflation. Meaning, once Denver and Oakland began the game in exact opposite directions, the game spun exponentially out of control.
Darren McFadden did have his coming out party (finally), but let’s remember that it came against a rush defense that has refused to close the Albert Haynesworth-size gaps in its front seven. Does that mean that I think Seattle is for real by default? No. Just that they are more for real than the Raiders.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-6) over Minnesota Vikings
Did you know that Brett Favre has a 20-year games played streak? Did you know that he sent illicit photos to Jenn Sterger? Did you know that he’s a warrior and will probably play this week?
You did? Okay, just checking.
Normally I would go for the whole “Brett Favre will play especially well because everyone is down on him and does not believe he can be effective coming off of an injury” card, but not this time. And there is one simple reason for that: Brad Childress.
He does not endorse Brett as the almighty savior, as every other head coach of his has. In fact, has there ever been such open animosity between a QB and head coach?
He might as well announce publicly that he wishes Tavaris would start and Brett would retire. His half-hearted attempt to convince Brett to return was flag #1. Favre needs the entire support of coaches and players alike to rally himself to play.
As of now, he just does not have it.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-1) over Pittsburgh Steelers
I will never understand NFL offensive game planning. Anyone that has ever watched the Pittsburgh defense knows that stopping the run fuels them. Once they force opposing offenses into 3rd and long, they might as well trot out their special teams unit.
Their array of pass rushing linebackers has the QB so confused pre-snap that the play is already over before it starts. So how do you avoid these situations? Go college on them.
I’m talking Mike Leach Texas Tech. Spread the field out, 4 or 5 wide receivers. Force the Steelers to take their best assets, their linebackers, off of the field. They do not have the cover corners to handle New Orleans deep receiving corps.
If they run the ball more than 15 times, I will cry.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-5.5) over Houston Texans
Never bet against Peyton Manning at home in a night game. Actually, just do not bet against Manning in a night game period.
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