Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week 4 NFL Picks: Armageddon Soap Opera

This week, the picks column, along with everything else in the greater Philadelphia area, is being co-opted by the Vick-McNabb Eagles-Redskins game. Will Philly Fan boo Donovan? Will McNabb bring forth terrible vengeance? Will Vick rise to the occasion and dominate the game? How will Andy Reid scheme to stop the QB he knows better than anyone? And will Fox cover every single part of this until you are ready to squeeze out your own eyes and ears from the sheer maddening repetition of it all?

The rule, as always, is simple: if you really want to enjoy the NFL, you need to limit your exposure to it. Paying any attention to timewaste like Philly Fan's reaction (um, it's a football game, who the hell cares), or the personal nonsense of who says what and how so and so feels... well, look. The game's good enough for us, right? I'm pretty sure that I'd be watching this game if there were no names or numbers on the jerseys. So we'll just, you know, deal with the games.

And the sharper-eyed among you will notice that there are a few less of them this week, as we're already into the bye. I'm done complaining about this innovation of modern NFL life, since the end effect -- more football over a longer amount of time -- is beneficial, mostly because it gives us one less week of having to care too much about baseball. So, um, there's that.

And with that... on to the picks!

San Francisco at ATLANTA (-6.5)

I'm disturbingly interested in picking the Niners here. The talent on the roster just doesn't say 0-4, and after firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, I'm thinking there will be a dead cat bounce. The Falcons may also be feeling very full of themselves after last week's win in New Orleans; they were a missed chip shot field goal away from gagging it up, despite dominating the lines. There's every possibility of a letdown here.

Except that... QB Matt Ryan is actually really good, and the Niners just made Matt Cassel look competent. The Niners have not been a good road dome team for a while now, and the Falcons are going to enjoy a real home field advantage. If they had simply made a few more plays in Pittsburgh in Week One, we'd be talking about them as the best team in the conference, especially given the strength of schedule they've faced. I think they struggle early, the Niners don't take advantage, the home team wears them out, and we get some full-scale sideline blow-up between head coach Mike Singletary and some random target. Michael Crabtree, you might want to avoid the coach in this one.

Falcons 31, Niners 17

NY JETS at Buffalo (+6)

So much for that .500 Jets season that I was predicting. One hard-fought win in Miami, the week after punching the Patriots in the mouth, and that Week One wipeout against Baltimore is forgotten. Buffalo has historically been a very tough place for the Jets to play, and they did show a pulse on offense last week in New England, but there's a mile of difference between the Jet defense, even if it's not at full strength, and the Patriots. The Jet special teams are also not prone to giving up the big plays that the Bills need to stay close, and while they might sleep on the Bills, you kinda can.

Jets 24, Bills 16

CINCINNATI at Cleveland (-3)

How bad have the Bengals looked, especially on offense? So bad that the moribund Browns are a home favorite, despite one of the worst QB situations in the league. That's how little QB Carson Palmer is regarded right now, and that's correct. He's horrible. And whichever team has to use their QB more will lose this game.

If you enjoy 1970s style football, this is the game for you. Between Cedric Benson and Peyton Hillis, you'll see 80 carries or more, with few of them going more than 5 yards. The Browns have an edge with PR Josh Cribbs and the home field, and the fact that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis keeps managing the game as if he's got a passing game is worrisome. In the final analysis, I'm going with the Bengals because I like their defense more, but honestly, this will just be a case where the team with the fewest turnovers wins.

Bengals 20, Browns 16

Detroit at GREEN BAY (-14.5)

Oh, you poor Lions. You were just a thoroughly attainable red zone garbage score from a perfect sneaky cover on the road in Minnesota last week. Then, the Packers were going to show Jay Cutler who is boss, and you'd catch the Pack at home, fat and happy with a 3-0 record. You'd free up speed back Jahvid Best for some plays, show that you are well-coached if not exactly well-heeled, and continue to solidify your status as a marvelous hedge bet for point spread bettors.

Now? You get one angry Packers team, who just gift-wrapped that MNF game against the Bears, in the cauldron of unhealthiness that is Lambeau. Plus, Best is hurt. Let's just say that I don't like the Lions' chances of giving this one a lot of drama. Finally, the Packer wideouts deliver on their pre-season promise.

Packers 38, Lions 17

DENVER at Tennessee (-7)

Two fabulous frauds. The Titans come in with a win on the road in New York against the Giants that the home team could not give away fast enough. The Broncos moved the ball up and down the field at home against the Colts, but couldn't score in the red zone, and that's starting to look like a real problem. The Titans didn't do much on the road but accept gifts freely, and QB Vince Young is not giving them much of anything right now. So give me the big road dog to keep it close. That much, they can do.

Titans 20, Broncos 17

SEATTLE at St. Louis (+1.5)

Wow, can't this game go to a bye? Watching these teams is like being sick and sober, in that you get to really think hard about what's in front of you, and hate it. I like the road Seahawks because I don't think the Rams can handle prosperity, or sixty minutes without starting RB Stephen Jackson. But the only win in this game is not to watch it, because taking the Seahawks in any road game prompts the sick.

Seahawks 23, Rams 20

Carolina at NEW ORLEANS (-14)

A very similar game to the Lions visiting the Pack, in that the road dog was going to cover until the home team lost a winnable game and will now look to relieve some frustration. QB Drew Brees is going to get his fantasy owners off the ledge in this one, and QB Jimmy Claussen on the road, in a dome, against a defense that's good at provoking turnovers? If the Panthers aren't close enough to run the ball, this one's going to be a wilding.

Saints 38, Panthers 13

Baltimore at PITTSBURGH (-3)

Big Ben's absence could not be going any better for the Steelers, who are lapping the field when it comes to scoring fantasy points on defense this year, and are starting to look like the league's only potentially dominant team. With the resurgent defense leading the way, the Steelers are getting great contributions all over the roster. Plus, there's this: the Ravens, outside or WR Anquan Boldin, have been mostly MIA on offense this year, and do-everything RB Ray Rice looks to be compromised by injury in this game. For once, Baltimore won't lose this game on their own mistakes, and the Steelers will end the No Ben segment of their schedule unblemished.

Steelers 24, Ravens 20

HOUSTON at Oakland (+2)

I've been watching Texans games far too closely this year, having gone all-in on them in my head-to-head fantasy league. When they play teams that get after the QB, they struggle, because while the running game is better than last year's nightmare, it's still not that great. (Why? Because RB Arian Foster is, shh, fumble-prone. Ask the people who watched him in college. The Texans are pretending this problem doesn't exist, because they were so crushed by it last year during Steve Slaton's year of losing everything.) Two years ago, the lack of protection in the passing game wasn't such a problem, because WR Andre Johnson was 100% and dominating on everything that came his way. This year, he's just good, rather than the best player in the game at his position. It's such a delicate mechanism, really.

Anyway, the Raiders should have won the game several ways from Sunday last week in Arizona, with gutty QB Bruce Gradkowski making multiple do-or-die plays in the clutch, only to be taken out by K Sebastian Janikowski's shocking failure at the gun. This game will be close -- the Raiders have too much talent on the lines, and heart with Gradkowski, for it not to be -- but in the end, I think they get out-coached in a battle of men who don't win a lot of games that way. I also like the Texans' other weapons at WR to pick up the slack for Johnson this week.

Texans 27, Raiders 24

INDIANAPOLIS at Jacksonville (+7)

How bad was Jaguars QB David Garrard last week? So much that you have to think that discard QB Trent Edwards, acquired on Tuesday on waivers from the Fish At The Table Bills, could be playing in this game, and early. When the ownership is on record as saying that they aren't convinced in your work ethic, that's a Rubicon that you don't cross. Garrard has skills and might be OK in a better coaching situation, but with head coach Jack del Rio swirling the drain in his own Why Did We Extend You conundrum, loyalty to the QB that's swirling with him should not be expected.

As for the Colts, another year, another breakout WR. Unfortunately for me, this year it's named Austin Collie, while I had gone all-in on Pierre Garcon. A few years ago, it was Brandon Stokely. One of these years, it'd be nice to see QB Peyton Manning do that trick with someone who sucked somewhere else -- Hank Baskett turned his lonely eyes to you, Peyton -- just so we have one more reason to think the guy is the best who has ever played the position. In the regular season only, of course.

Colts 31, Jags 17

WASHINGTON at Philadelphia (-6.5)

Independent of the QB sideshow, there's this: the way to beat the Reid Eagles when they are on defense has been to have an effective running game and feed the TE. No one knows this more than QB Donovan McNabb, of course, but the Skins fail on that first part, with the usual Mike Shanahan Committee Work providing little so far this year. Starter Clinton Portis is looking pretty spent, the old frauds (Willie Parker and Larry Johnson) have been run off, and the new names haven't really jelled yet. The rest of the Skins offensive situation just isn't a good match up for them. WR Santana Moss is the kind of guy that CB Asante Samuel makes big plays on, and there really isn't another target here that should have a big game. So unless McNabb can make plays with his legs -- fairly unlikely at this stage in his career and against a defense that runs well -- or rack up 150 yards to Fred Davis and Chris Cooley, it's hard to see the Skins sustaining drives, or converting them into scores in the red zone.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles are still a little too boom-busty, especially against good defenses, and sadder than spilled ice cream in short yardage. But QB Mike Vick has been deadly in the red zone. So the overall mix is for Green, but not for the full cover, which also ties in to the historical way these games go down. Besides, McNabb will bring his "A" game.

Eagles 28, Redskins 23

Arizona at SAN DIEGO (-8)

Are the Chargers running the same script as past years -- big hole early against a paper tiger division opponent (this year, it's looking like the Chiefs, rather than the Broncos), stirring mid-season comeback, followed by a home playoff loss that everyone has to pretend to be shocked by? If so, count me on board, as I can use the wins. The comeback begins this week against the worst 2-1 team in NFL history, your Arizona Football Cardinals. Last week against the Raiders, they benefited from a staggering amount of penalties, only to answer right back with their own, particularly crippling pass interference calls being the piece de resistance.

Adding to the woes for the Cardinals is that quality second WR Steve Breaston, who has racked up nice numbers somehow with QB Derek Anderson under center, is out for the next month following meniscus surgery on a knee. So now WR Larry Fitzgerald is the sole focus for the opposition, and that sound you heard was all of Fitzy's roto owners trying to convince themselves that this is good news, since it must mean every pass will be throw to their man. Anderson's over-under on picks for 2010 should be 40 by now...

But if you like the Cardinals to cover, here's one reason why: they can return kicks, and I'm not sure anyone on the Chargers can make tackles in special teams. That's a leading indicator, by the way, of a roster that's on the down slope. AJ "Lord Of No Rings" Smith, your work is nearly complete!

Chargers 34, Cardinals 16

Chicago at NY Giants (-3)

Wow, I'm really starting to hate both of these teams. The Bears escaped MNF with a home win and an inordinate amount of turnover-saving flags. The NFC's only 3-0 team still looks like something that will get their QB concussed, but the defense is back to proud professional levels, and they do tend to catch the clear picks that you throw to them.

The Giants are just a world of mess right now, with the lines acting like sputtering bullies who have started to take damage in a fight they expected to win easily, and don't know what to do now. This week, they will get a little bit of their swagger back, because even their weak pass rush will get to Cutler a half dozen times, and QB Eli Manning's pattern is to usually bounce back from terrible games with competence. Had he just been competent in the red zone last week, New York wouldn't be in such fine fuss.

Giants 24, Bears 20

New England at MIAMI (Even)

This MNFer is the second straight week in which the Fish host a division rival that looks shaky, and will probably win anyway, just to spite me. Miami could have easily taken last week's game against the Jets, but a critical slip by a CB got DUI WR Braylon Edwards loose for one of the least karmically satisfying moments in years.

So, anyway. I still like the Dolphin line play, still think that the Pats can be pushed around by a stout line, and still think that the Dolphins can hold the ball for 40 minutes in this game. And maybe the Pats' secondary is so bad that QB Chad Henne can have the rare back to back good game for a mediocre QB. But this is a shaky one.

Dolphins 24, Patriots 17

Week Three: 7-9

2010: 21-22-5

Lifetime: 277-269-16

1 comment:

poker affiliate said...

The Vick-McNabb story is already become tiresome and its 4 days away. The media blows these stories up to be much bigger than they are. Its only week 4, and the Bears and Chiefs have surprised everyone with 3-0 records.

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