Thursday, September 18, 2008

Week Three NFL Picks: There Are Only 236 Games Left

Were you aware that over 10% of your yearly ration of NFL games for the season have already been played? Personally, I'm outraged by this on many levels, most of them manifesting as self-hatred. Why, I've missed whole series of games -- and I call myself a blogger. It's disgraceful. I can already feel February's cold chill on me, when the only thing I'll have to comfort myself with is a non-Bush presidency, the NBA, MLB spring training, college hoops, hockey and maybe a vacation. Damn you, NFL! In just about five months, I'm going to be mildly inconvenienced!

Anyway... last week was a back and forth affair, as good moments like Indy on the road, Carolina and New England in pick'em wins and the Pack covering a big number in Detroit were negated by the Raiders, Giants, Skins and Bills all being better than I thought. We still paid the bills at 8-7, but only just. So, on to the picks!

Kansas City at ATLANTA (-3.5)

A game that will make you long for February, really. The Chiefs are coming off a de-pantsing by the previously DOA Raiders at home, while the Falcons stayed with the Bucs for a long time despite Matt Ryan suffering big-time growing pains. Neither team should be trusted to find their ass with both hands and a map, but Atlanta's at home, with the better RB (Michael Turner, not Larry "Runs, And Bitches, Like Your Grandmama" Johnson), QB (Ryan over practice squadder and Coastal Carolina's own Tyler Thigpen), WR (Roddy White over Dwayne Bowe, in the battle of the only guys on the field that are fairly certain to be in the league in 5 years) and home crowd.

If you're betting this game, you also probably are a regular at the dog track... and I'm there with you. Avoid the nachos.

Falcons 20, Chiefs 16

Oakland at BUFFALO (-8.5)

Everyone's darling in the AFC East gets a big home number and, one imagines, an inordinate amount of Suicide Pool action. They are coming off a show-us win on the road in Jacksonville, and come home to a Raider team that seems to be trying to get head coach Lane Kiffin fired by taking football back to the Bronko Nagurski age -- seriously, Jemarcus Russell threw for less yards than his wideout's jersey numbers last week, and it's not like Kansas City has shutdown corners. I think he gets a little more this week, in that it would be impossible to get a little less, and it's hard to give up this many points to a team that's facing a potentially dominating RB in Darren McFadden.

It won't be pretty, but it will be a cover, especially if Buffalo QB Trent Edwards gets greedy on the Raiders' (overall) good corners.

Bills 21, Raiders 14

Tampa Bay at CHICAGO (-5)

Am I going with back to back road dogs? Hell and yes. The Bears are coming off a late-game road collapse against a frisky Panthers team, while the Bucs let the Falcons stick around for far too long last week before putting them away with Earnest Graham's first good run of the day. Against the vaunted Bucs Cover Two, I don't see Kyle Orton playing mistake-free football, and I also don't see Matt Forte being able to keep the sticks moving enough to matter. The schedule also helps the Bucs here, as cold-weather games in Chicago were really not their cup of tea in the old alignment.

Finally, there's this -- it's Brian Griese's Revenge Game! You're not going to stop Brian Griese in a revenge game!

So give me the Bucs in a mild shocker -- not just a cover, but a win -- that really won't be that much of a shock, given that the Bears start Kyle Orton. (Also, to be fair, because if Vince Young had Orton's options at wideout, he'd be dead already. I am so mean and racist!)

Bucs 17, Bears 13

Carolina at MINNESOTA (pick em)

The home team is going -- by choice! -- to Gus Frerotte, which helps to explain the lack of home-field favoritism, despite the really good home field advantage that the Vikings have in their dome. The Panthers are coming off a bit of a gift win against the Bears, and while they were able to run the ball with good success with Jon "Moment of Zen" Stewart in the second half, I don't see them having the same patience or effectiveness in a loud dome. If Matt Forte can go for big yards against Carolina, Adrian Peterson can go for two times big yards... and probably will, since Frerotte will resemble, at times, an NFL quarterback. Plus, with his experience, he only makes 6 bonehead throws a game, which is a distinct edge over Tarvaris Jackson's even dozen.

There's also this: the Vikings need this game a lot more than the Panthers, and will play like it... despite the return of Steve Smith. Hey, after the Panthers lose this game, can everyone start telling the Steve Smith Is A Team Cancer story? That's always fun.

Vikings 17, Panthers 10

Miami at NEW ENGLAND (-11)

If Matt Cassel is ever going to put up numbers for his increasingly bitter fantasy owners (and yes, the owners of Randy Moss are thinking about a class-action suit), it would have to be this week against the moribund Fish, who allowed Kurt Warner to achieve a perfect quarterback rating in last week's immolation in the desert. Miami hasn't been able to run the ball worth a damn, and the Patriots know all about how jumping Chad Pennington's routes. To all the people who bought my pre-season hype on Ted Ginn Jr., I am very, very sorry... and happy as punch that he never found his way to any of my rosters.

I'm looking for the Patriots in a blowout that will make stupid people start to wonder if they'll be better without Brady after all. The answer is, um, no.

Patriots 34, Dolphins 17

Cincinnati at NEW YORK GIANTS (-10)

The other big number that I'm willing to lay this week is the Giants, just to ensure that they struggle. Big Blue used some late game Marc Bulger pathos to cover the spread in St. Louis, while the Bengals continued to swap the e for a u in their name against the Titans. All of the wheels are off the Carson Palmer bus, and the defense seems to be the same old fluffy soft tabbies you've known and started all of your fantasy league players against. Thanks to the Rams, Cincy isn't the worst team in the league, but man, they are awful, and you'd have to think that Marvin Lewis is wondering how to get out of his housing investment in a down economy.

Big Blue has shown a quiet ability to ground bad teams into putty with their triple-headed running game and reasonable mid-range passing game, and the pass rush still has more than enough push to make a bad team worse. I don't think they are all that good, but the Bengals sure aren't the team to exploit them, at least not at this point in the year.

Giants 27, Bengals 16

Houston at TENNESSEE (-5)

The Texans, fresh off a hurricane-inflicted early season bye, come to the surprising 2-0 Titans, who rode the competent game manager hand of Kerry Collins (hey, he knows how to throw to the wide receivers! that's useful!) to a by-the-numbers win over the Bungles. I kind of like this Texans team, or at least I did until they became de facto homeless. With a bye and something to prove, I think they cover, but don't win; the Titans just run and defend too well for that, and the Steve Slaton Breakout Game (Be patient! It's coming!) isn't happening yet. But it'll be tight.

Collins, by the way, is the rich-man's Gus Frerotte, in that when he hurts himself against a wall, he's probably drunk at the time.

Titans 20, Texans 17

Arizona at WASHINGTON (-1)

Let's try this again... hotshot NFC passing team comes to the nation's capital to play a 'Skins squad that shouldn't be very good, given their wideouts and coaching changes. Last week, it was New Orleans (albeit without Marques Colston, which might make a world of difference). This week, it's the Cardinals, fresh off a romp over the fetid Fish. I'm giving the edge to the Cards, because I actually do believe in their defense a little, and dammit, someone has to not be very good in the NFC East.

Oh, and if you're looking for fantasy league advice on whether to start Kurt Warner in this game, just check my lineups before gameday; if I have him in, you get him out, and vice versa.

Cardinals 24, Redskins 17

Detroit at SAN FRANCISCO (-2)

Original Mookie, a longtime FTT contributor who lives in the Bay Area, tells me that the locals are far too enthused about JT O'Sullivan, who has been collecting nicknames (JTO, JT Throw, Jay-T) like he's, you know, a real quarterback. Bringing your team back on the road in Seattle after you've hit the ground eight times, and preventing the locals from having to watch more of Alex Smith, is nice. But keeping your QB from taking eight sacks is, well, better.

This is the game that Frank Gore fans have been salivating over, but it's also a bit of a danger game, in that the Lions probably won't be playing from two touchdowns down for most of the game, as is their usual wont. I'm even tempted to pull the trigger for the road dogs here. But any time your team is auditioning Shawn Alexander and Cedric Benson as back-ups during the week, that reminds me... hey! Matt Millen isn't very smart! Stay away from him and his utterly, utterly awful football team!

Niners 24, Lions 21

St. Louis at SEATTLE (-6)

The Rams have looked like the worst team in the NFL for two straight weeks, while the Seahawks are going through whatever walks the streets and plays wideout. Missed in last week's collapse against the JTOs (see, that nickname has legs) was Julius Jones going for 100 yards and giving fantasy league owners a hope in hell that the Seattle running back committee had a chairman. This week, he'll find the going nice and easy against a Rams team that looks like it's trying to get head coach Scott Linehan fired before the leaves fall, and your over-under on the next Marc Bulger injury is two weeks. Take the under.

Oh, and if you were fooled into taking Stephen Jackson in this year's draft, you can stop paying attention to your fantasy league team any time now, really.

Seattle 27, St. Louis 17

New Orleans at DENVER (-5.5)

The week's best candidate for the over -- any over -- comes in the high air of Denver, where the hometown Broncos are still living in the afterglow of Ballsy Mike Shanahan and his Ballsy Two Point Conversion Win. Left unsaid in the celebration of the Rat's Balls is the fact that he probably went that way out of a sincere desire to not see his defense take the field again for another seven days, win or lose, but 2-0 is 2-0. For the Saints, they lost the chance to make a statement that the 2006 Good Times were back in a stumbling road loss to the Redskins. Now, they have to contend with the thin air and continued lack of Marques Colston, while Jeremy Shockey's owners are officially bent out of shape. The real culprit for the Saints, of course, is the running game, where Pierre Thomas has clearly taken over for Deuce McAllister but without the old production, and Reggie Bush is well on his way to becoming the most overrated player in the NFL.

Despite all that, I like the Saints to at least cover here, as it's tough to give up this many points in a game that should be Last Ball Wins, and I'm not quite buying the idea that Jay Cutler is going to rewrite the record books *just* yet.

Broncos 38, Saints 35

Pittsburgh at PHILADELPHIA (pick em)

No respect for the home town team, who have a make or break game this week against the visiting Steelers in a match that deserves Prime Time a lot more than the Jets and Chargers. Pittsburgh comes off a workmanlike road win in post-hurricane conditions in Cleveland, while we all remember what the Eagles were doing in last Monday's game for the ages in Dallas. I like the Birds here for the following factors:

1) Ben Rothlesberger got a little banged up last week, and I suspect he's not 100%.

2) Pittsburgh's offensive line isn't the backbone of the team, which means that TE Heath Miller stays in to block a lot. As Jason Witten showed in the second half in Dallas, the way to roast the Eagles secondary is to throw to a quality TE on deep middle passes, and watch him torture the new fraud that's in Brian Dawkins' jersey, or the old fraud that wears the Sean Considine gamer.

3) DeSean Jackson's end zone antics notwithstanding, the presence of the new #1 WR on the team means more holes for Brian Westbrook, and I think this is the week that Andy Reid takes advantage of that.

4) Donovan McNabb is, inexplicable fumble notwithstanding, playing at too high of a level right now to lose at home.

5) The Eagles simply need the game more than the Steelers, who know, on some level, that their division is going to be a walk in the park this year.

6) The AFC isn't better than the NFC anymore.

7) Mike Tomlin in a big game is still suspect.

8) I think the Eagles defense and special teams are better than the MNF game, and that they come out and show it.

As you might be able to tell by all the reasons, I'm still nervous as hell about this game, and not just because a loss will put them at least two games behind either the Cowboys, the Giants, or both. From the moment the schedules were released, this was the keystone game for the Eagles' season, especially with the short week of work. Here's hoping they are up to the task.

Eagles 27, Steelers 24

Jacksonville at INDIANAPOLIS (-3.5)

This line was released prior to the Bob Sanders injury news, but as good as he is, I suspect it won't move things too much in either direction. Jacksonville comes in 0-2 and desperate, while the Colts are .500 thanks only to the Houdini act they pulled last week in Minnesota. I like Indy in this game because they are at home, Peyton Manning looks to be getting the rust off, and the Jags are still hurting bad on the front line.

Besides, if you can't keep Trent Edwards, Lee Evans and Fred Jackson from beating you at home, why should you be able to beat Manning, Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai on the road?

Colts 27, Jags 17

Cleveland (-1) at BALTIMORE

The hurricane-induced bye will kill the Ravens later this year, but this week it helps them a lot as they prepare for an 0-2 Browns team that has coughed up both games at home, albeit to quality opponents. The problem for the Browns is that what was supposed to be an explosive offense has been terrible, and their defense isn't exactly giving them short fields, either. For the Ravens, expect the defense to come out loud and proud in this one, and for the home team to win a field position battle in which Joe Flacco looks better than Derek Anderson, simply because he won't be playing with one eye over his shoulder.

Brady Quinn needs to be prepared to come into this game, and to hope like hell that he doesn't; it'll be much easier to keep the job with a week of practice and a win next week in Cincy.

Ravens 16, Browns 14

Dallas at GREEN BAY (pick em)

Surprising line on this one, where you'd think that Cowboy Luv and continuing skepticism over Aaron Rodgers might make the road team a field goal favorite, but maybe the bookies are thinking that everyone will play off that MNF and travel disadvantage. I like the home team here, because I think they have the ability to cover Jason Witten better than the Eagles did, and because I think Dallas will come into the game gassed from the MNF shootout.

Besides, as everyone is slowly starting to realize, the Packers have outstanding lineplay and skill people... and when you have that, the name on the back of the quarterback's jersey is not going to be the only thing that matters.

Packers 31, Dallas 28

New York Jets at SAN DIEGO (-6.5)

Watch this one with the sound off, unless you really, really want to hear Tony Kornheiser examine every minute detail of Brett Favre's New York Odyssey. The Chargers could not ask for a better get-well opponent, and after last week's Hochulicide in Denver, I'm betting that they come out hard and heavy against a Jets team that seems to have missed its opportunity. It's also not as if they don't have experience in coming back from early season holes in the Norv Turner Era. I'm looking for at least two turnovers from Number Four, and an easy Charger cover -- even if they don't get full participation from LaDanian Tomlinson -- with a special assist coming from the kicking game.

Finally, just to get you in the mood for the MNF telecast, here's a quick preview...


Chargers 30, Jets 17

Last week: 8-7

Year to date: 19-12


Tracer Bullet said...

Not me. If McCain wins, I'm leaving for someplace with a more engaged populace and more progressive racial attitudes -- South Africa is lovely in the winter. said...

TB, you're probably an admirer of Abraham Lincoln too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a McLame fan. I'm voting for None Of The Above. The whole cast sucks.

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