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Homecoming. Week 2 NFL Picks

Michael Vick returns to Atlanta to prove his Eagles are the real birds of prey in the NFC. The Colts drag on without Peyton Manning while two potential MVP candidates go head-to-head in front of 80,000 “lubed up” fans in New England. Let’s get to it.

By the way, I hate this week’s games. I feel confident about three, maybe four of my picks at most.

Last Week:  11 – 5 – 0
Season:      11 – 5 – 0

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Chiefs at Lions
The Chiefs were so dreadful last week they enter Detroit as double-digit dogs. Not only has Kansas City’s bandwagon been evacuated, the wagon left, too. Of all the week one injuries, Eric Berry’s was the most disappointing. Berry, along with Jon Beason, was one of my favorite defensive players to watch. Unfortunately, he won’t return in 2011. And neither will the Chiefs. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; -10

Raiders at Bills
I think the Raiders are better than Buffalo. However, traveling east on a short week after an emotional win is never conducive to winning. Besides, rooting for Ryan Fitzpatrick is fun. His beard is the greatest thing to come out of Harvard since Facebook. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; -3.5

Buccaneers at Vikings (This week’s Spotlight Game)
Defending Donovan McNabb over the past three seasons has been more exhausting than raising my 15 month-old son. Seriously, Don, 39 yards? I can’t do much with 39 yards. Bengals rookie QB, Andy Dalton doubled McNabb’s output despite exiting due to injury in the 3rd quarter. Even worse, McNabb is on pace to reach Tom Brady’s week one passing total… around week 15! (Assuming he doesn’t get injured, benched, or assaulted by teammates, of course.) McNabb was a great player. It pains me to see him like this. Clearly, his confidence is shattered. The worst part, though, is he’s completely oblivious to how bad he sucks. Still, Minnesota’s defense and Adrian Peterson are good enough to beat the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFC. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -3

Bears at Saints
Drew Brees and the Saints will have had 10 days to stew over their defeat to the defending champions. Even without Marques Colston, it’s hard to fathom Brees losing at home with extended preparation time, especially considering the tough week Chicago has had. Before I forget, is it possible we don’t appreciate Drew Brees enough? Compare his gaudy statistics with his supporting cast and the scales don’t balance out. Brees is doing more with less than any other quarterback has done in the same time frame, including Tom Brady. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears -6.5

Ravens at Titans
Chris Johnson came out this week and accused the Ravens of trying to injure him in the playoffs two years ago. Umm, duh.  Also, in case you missed the ceremony, Ed Reed was awarded the “Greatest NFL Safety, Ever” title last week. I think this is one of those times when Matt Hasselbeck seriously regrets not retiring. After seeing the Ravens chase down and abuse the mobile Ben Roethlisberger last week, I fear for Hasselbeck’s safety. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans +6

Browns at Colts
If I’m a Colts fan, what incentive do I have to attend a home game before Peyton Manning returns? (Thinking…thinking…thinking…) Oh yeah, none. Fans stopped showing up to Kerry Collins’ games two years ago. Without a capable quarterback, Indy’s other stars are mostly irrelevant (Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clarke). As Mike Lombardi of the NFL Network pointed out, even the defense can’t play to its strength due to Manning’s absence. Without a lead courtesy of Manning, teams will run more often than not, punishing a defense built to get after the quarterback. It’s amazing how unprecedented this is. Even when Tom Brady went out in 2008, the Patriots moved on, played well, and narrowly missed the playoffs at 11-5. Without Manning, the Colts utterly collapsed and are possibly the worst team in the NFL. The offense is worthless, coaches are exposed, even the defense struggles. I like the Colts to compete this week and possibly win at home, even though I think they paid Manning to take a year off so they can draft Andrew Luck. What? It’s not THAT crazy. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts +2.5

Jaguars at Jets
I’m going to let Ronnie from the Jersey Shore take this one. Take it away, Ronnie.
Thanks, dude. The Jets got super lucky last week, bro. I mean, they’re good, but I was disappointed, bro. What happened to Shonn Greene, dude? I thought this was finally gonna be his year, bro? At some point, the Jets need to figure out their running game, dude. There’s no way they get past the Wildcard round without Greene stepping up, bro. I’m telling you, bro. Just trust me, dude.
Thanks, Ronnie. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets -9

Seahawks at Steelers
Warren Sapp of the NFL Network declared, “it’s over” for the Steelers. After one bad game against a talented division rival, I’m not so convinced. Unfortunately, we’ll need to wait two weeks before we get another fair assessment of the Steelers. Unless of course you think the Seahawks or Colts pose a threat. One thing is for sure, though, there will be more pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to win games than at any other point of Roethlisberger’s career. The offense has the talent to overcome an aging defense. It’s up to Big Ben to lead them. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -14

Cardinals at Redskins
I got so caught up in Cam Newton hysteria last week that I missed most of the Redskins victory over the Giants. I have no clue why the Redskins won. Was Eli Manning that awful? Are the Redskins actually a threat? I may need to pay attention this week. This much I know, the Cardinals are the 3rd best team in the NFC West. Considering I picked them to win the NFL’s Pee-Wee division, that’s bad news for me. While Arizona’s offense isn’t bad, the defense is a mess. Rex Grossman may even throw for 600 yards on Sunday. I think that’s the first time in history “Rex Grossman” and “600 yards” were ever used positively in the same sentence. REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins -4

Packers at Panthers
I like this Panther team. Cam Newton’s arrival brought renewed energy that had been missing since the 2008 season. (You know, the last season before Jake Delhomme transformed into the ultimate fantasy quarterback for opposing defenses.) Newton gives his teammates confidence they can compete and even win. If Carolina can get its running game chugging, I could see them reaching eight wins. Confident or not, Carolina won’t beat Green Bay. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -10

Game to Watch: Bears at Saints
Game on Call: Packers at Panthers

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Cowboys at 49ers
I’ve spent the last two days staring at this game, trying to convince myself the 49ers don’t have a shot. Why do I like the 49ers here? 1. When has this group of Cowboys proved they’re mentally capable of ignoring and overcoming controversy or a devastating defeat? 2. For a team full of divas, going from a national Sunday night broadcast to an obscure west coast afternoon game won’t help the team’s focus. 3. Every season there’s a team that rallies around its new coach and exceeds expectations. San Fran is that team this year. 4. Gut feeling.
While all are pretty valid reasons to pick an upset, I think this Dallas team is different, mostly because I think Tony Romo is different (despite Sunday night’s debacle). Therefore, I’m going with Romo to rebound. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys -3

Chargers at Patriots
Proof the NFL hates the west coast: Four west coast teams travel to the east coast on Sunday. San Diego is the only one scheduled for kickoff after 10:00AM PT. In other words, the Raiders, Seahawks, and Cardinals wake up, eat breakfast, and go run into other massive human beings at full speed a full hour before their hometown Olive Garden opens. Not cool, NFL. Not cool. By the way, don’t miss this game. With the exception of the nightcap, it’s the game of the week. Everything points against the Chargers – traveling east, injuries crippling the defense, New England’s Monday night performance. Regardless, I like Philip Rivers against the Patriots’ secondary – a lot, in fact. I’m already bracing myself for an afternoon with Philip Rivers – the highs, the lows, the anger, the joy. No quarterback is as emotionally exhausted after the first quarter as Philip Rivers. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +7

Texans at Dolphins
Monday night was the most horrific treatment of Dolphins I’ve witnessed since I saw The Cove six months ago. Arian Foster is expected to return. Dan Marino is not. Neither is good news for Miami. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -3

Bengals at Broncos
Denver’s offense was painfully boring, the defense was uninspiring, and the quarterback looked lost. All in all, everything you’d expect from a team led by John Fox. Congratulations, Denver. You’re the 2009-2010 Carolina Panthers – Rocky Mountain style. A week ago I would’ve picked the Bengals to win. After Monday’s embarrassing performance, I can’t expect the Broncos to lie down at home again. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -3.5

Game to Watch: Chargers at Patriots
Game on Call: Cowboys at 49ers

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Eagles at Falcons
I’d feel a lot better about this one if the Falcons didn’t flop against Chicago. A team coming home to a national audience after a disappointing defeat is always bad news for the visiting opponent. Thankfully, Michael Vick’s homecoming raises the stakes for the Eagles, too. The last time Vick had something to prove in front of a primetime audience he scored six touchdowns. Hopefully, an encore performance is in store. Atlanta’s power running game, spearheaded by Michael Turner, will probably gash the Eagles, and Jonathan Abraham will undoubtedly give Vick headaches, both literally and figuratively. Still, I don’t see the Falcons containing Philadelphia’s electric offense enough to win. That secondary is too suspect. I know the Eagles won’t go undefeated, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to pick against them this season. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -2.5

Monday Night (7:00 & 10:00PM ET)

Rams at Giants
Six months ago, or whenever the NFL schedule was finalized, ESPN was probably excited about this matchup. Sam Bradford, Eli Manning, rising team from the NFC West against a title contender in the east. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, the schedule was set before both teams were decimated by injuries. Just curious, how much longer do the Giants give Eli Manning? At this point, they almost have to take another quarterback in the 2012 NFL draft, if only to groom him for the future. Right? Manning has looked terrible for over a year now. Even Derek Anderson thinks he sucks. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -6

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 8 – 6 – 2
Season:     8 – 6 – 2

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