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Runnin’ Raiders. Week 4 NFL Picks

The Raiders steam-rolled the vaunted Jet defense in week 3, but can they contain Tom Brady? Michael Vick says he’s in, Kenny Britt is out, the Buffalo Bills hope to avoid a letdown, and the Chiefs or Vikings get their first win.

As you can see below, last week wasn’t good to me. In fact, my week may have been worse than the Eagles’. My NFL picks are coming at you a day early because the Major League Baseball Playoffs begin this weekend. That preview comes Friday. Before we get rolling, let’s have a moment of silence for the Red Sox and Braves. Aaaand we’re done. That was nice.

Last Week:  6 – 10 – 0
Season:      28 – 20 – 0

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Panthers at Bears
There are plenty of reasons the Panthers hate the Bears. Julius Peppers gave up on the Panthers and jetted to Chicago. Panther head coach Ron Rivera was once the defensive coordinator for the Bears before they decided he wasn’t good enough anymore. (In his two year tenure, the Chicago defense ranked 2nd and 5th in the NFL. The year after his departure, the Bears’ defense ranked 28th. Nice move, Chicago.) Greg Olsen was traded this past offseason from Chicago to Carolina because Bears offensive coordinator, Mike Martz hates tight ends. The list could go on and on.
Chicago is desperate for a win. Carolina is this year’s scrappy, “we’re going to make your day suck even if you beat us,” team. Should be entertaining. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears -6

Bills at Bengals
Now that the Buffalo Bills are America’s darlings, a loss against the lowly Bengals would be twice as devastating and equally embarrassing. As I’ve made pretty clear, I’m still skeptical of Buffalo’s playoff chances. Avoiding an obvious trap game and winning convincingly in Cincinnati would go a long way in proving the Bills are more than an early season feel good story. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills -3.5

Titans at Browns
There are reasons the consistently good NFL franchises avoid handing running backs contracts equivalent to those reserved for star quarterbacks, defensive ends, left tackles, and cornerbacks. 46 carries for 98 yards and zero touchdowns is one of those reasons. At this point, Tennessee is hoping Chris Johnson is somehow involved in an illegal cat-fighting ring so they can recoup as much of that contract as possible. I haven’t watched either of these teams yet this season. Hello, Week 4 Spotlight Game. BROWNS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns -.5

Lions at Cowboys
I expected Dallas to beat Washington on Monday, but not like that. As an Eagle fan, watching the Cowboys win a game in which they couldn’t score, couldn’t snap the football properly, and were hampered by injuries scares me. Dallas finally has some mental fortitude and toughness to back up all that talent.
Calvin Johnson against Dallas’ secondary could lead to an ugly blowout. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer must be in Mattthew Stafford’s grill all afternoon to give Dallas a chance. Minnesota was successful in disrupting Stafford and the Lion offense for the 1st half. Obviously, that wasn’t enough. The Cowboys must abuse Stafford for 60 minutes. Without Miles Austin, I don’t like Dallas’ chances. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +1.5

Vikings at Chiefs
It’s hard to believe Leslie Frazier “needed a reminder” that Adrian Peterson is his meal ticket. Did Luther Vandross ever get up on stage and ditch his musical talents for a magic show? Of course not. His gift was singing, so he sang. Frazier’s gift is Adrian Peterson. Give him the ball, early and often. Then, give him the ball some more until he batters the defense into submission. I understand coaching in the NFL is a difficult task, but c’mon on, this isn’t rocket science. Fixing the Kansas City Chiefs? Now that may require some advanced brainpower. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -2

Redskins at Rams
He was two weeks late, but the real Rex Grossman finally arrived. I knew he would. As talented as Washington’s defense is, the offense is once again inconsistent and lacking talent. We’re only a few weeks away from John Beck starting. We’re only a few weeks plus a week or two from Beck giving the job back to Rex Grossman. Someone should inform Mike Shanahan his offense still stinks. It’s hard to believe the Rams are really this bad, but getting blown out 37-7 at home is pretty definitive. Here’s to the Rams having a little bit of pride. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +2

Saints at Jaguars
Thus far, the 2011 rookie quarterback rankings are as follows; 1. Cam Newton 2. Andy Dalton. 47. Blaine Gabbert. Sorry, that was mean.
For all those who crowned Michael Vick an elite NFL quarterback, I beg you to a look at the Saints. Fewer offensive weapons than the Eagles, a weaker defense, and yet, they still win. Why? Because Drew Brees is actually an elite quarterback. Vick is a human highlight reel that can’t attack a blitz and reads a defense as well as I read Mandarin. Without Drew Brees, New Orleans is 0-3 and destined for a top 10 pick. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -7

Steelers at Texans
Houston is hoping the “healthy” return of Arian Foster will bolster the offense’s efficiency inside the red zone. If Gary Kubiak and the Texans are rushing Foster back before he’s completely, 100%, unquestionably healed, they’re making a monumental mistake. The AFC South is brutal. It’s not going anywhere. Foster’s health is the priority at this point. Losing him for an extended period isn’t worth the risk.
I don’t know what to make of the Steelers. Did the Colts defense play that well or is the Steeler offense as lopsided as it appears. Three weeks in, Pittsburgh looks like a team that could miss the playoffs. I hate picking the Texans. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -4

Eagles at 49ers
“David Akers haunts Eagles, boots game-winning field goal.” No lie, I read this headline on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer in my dream nightmare last night. Michael Vick says he’s playing. No word yet on if the defense will join him. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -9

Game to Watch: Lions at Cowboys
Game on Call: Steelers at Texans

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Giants at Cardinals
Andy Reid is widely considered a quarterback connoisseur in NFL circles. Obviously, one Sunday won’t refute that notion. Regardless, take a look at Reid’s protégés last Sunday on critical 4th quarter drives when they could have tied or taken the lead:

Mike Kafka: Giants: 22, Eagles 16. 0/1, 0 Yards, 1 Interception
Donovan McNabb: Lions 20, Vikings 20. 0/2 0 Yards, 3-and-out
Kevin Kolb: Cardinals 10, Seahawks 13. 3/7, 30 Yards, 1 Interception

Does this have anything to do with anything? No, I’m just mad about last week’s debacle and haven’t finished taking out that frustration on Mr. “I gotta do a better job there.” Also, well done by the Giants. Talked trash all week and then bullied the Eagles into submission. Nothing is easy in the NFC East. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -1

Falcons at Seahawks
What’s wrong with the Atlanta Falcons? Better yet, why is anyone surprised by the struggles of the Atlanta Falcons? Has a team ever catapulted themselves to the Superbowl by mortgaging a decent chunk of its future to draft a wide receiver? No team comes to mind. Matt Ryan is struggling because Michael Turner and the Falcon ground game haven’t produced. Atlanta has also surrendered the third most sacks in the NFL through three games. Furthermore, I think folks may have gotten ahead of themselves with the “Matt Ryan is the next great QB” movement. He looks skittish and uncertain in the pocket. Regardless of how awful the Seahawks may be, it’s rarely easy to win in Seattle. The Falcons better find a way, because an entire city has an unhealthy amount of Braves backlash ready to unleash on the underachieving Falcons. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -4.5

Broncos at Packers
Can the Broncos compete for a playoff spot with their current roster? Is Kyle Orton the quarterback to lead them to a Superbowl? Is Denver a couple pieces away from competing for a division crown? I don’t know about you, but I answered “no” to all three questions. If Tim Tebow isn’t starting when Denver enters December at 3-8, then John Elway should fire John Fox right then and there. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -12.5

Patriots at Raiders
I know Oakland physically dominated the Jets last week, but this feels like a Tom Brady First Blood performance. I can picture it now; Brady throws for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, never smiles or gets excited, and gives every single person in the stadium his “I’m pissed off” death stare for three solid hours. Oakland’s only hope is giving Darren McFadden and Michael Bush the football at least 45 times, hoping they dominate New England’s defense as they did New York’s.  Also, Jason Campbell isn’t lighting the league on fire, but he’s giving exactly what the Raiders need; efficiency, limited turnovers, and leadership. Too bad he’s not a superstar like Rex Grossman. (Do you think making fun of Mike Shanahan’s Washington tenure will ever get old? Me neither.) PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -4

Dolphins at Chargers
Philip Rivers was just traded in my keeper fantasy league. The bounty received did not include Brady, Rodgers, Brees, McCoy, C. Johnson, or any other top tier fantasy player. If you had told me this in August, I would’ve either laughed, stopped breathing, or become exceedingly jealous. But that’s how bad Rivers has been early in 2011. He looks, dare I say, average. Too many turnovers, poor reads, lack of game sense – not what I expected from my preseason MVP. Speaking of fantasy trades, some numbnut offered me Chad Henne for Michael Vick. When I declined, he got mad and cried about fantasy football only being fun if other teams in the league are open to trades. Stupidity – there is no cure. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -7

Game to Watch: Patriots at Raiders
Game on Call: Giants at Cardinals… or take a nap

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Jets at Ravens
By my amateur math skills, four games pit playoff contenders against each other. (Not including any game involving the possible NFC West champion, of course.) New York vs. Baltimore is the most appealing. Similar teams. Similar styles. Plenty of disdain. Last season it was a 10-9 bloodbath won by the Ravens. The Jets defense is nowhere near as good right now. Without a consistent running game, New York will need to rely heavily on Mark Sanchez. That’s bad news for Jet fans and great news for Terrell Suggs. I know I’ve been adamant about the Patriots and Jets reaching the playoffs, but if the New York defense is really this bad, I can get onboard with the high-flying Buffalo Bills sneaking past the Jets.
After the Ravens handle the Jets, is it safe to assume Baltimore and New England are the prohibitive favorites in the suddenly mediocre AFC? RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -3.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Colts at Buccaneers
Back in the Tony Dungy era, the Colts scored 28 points in the final five minutes (or something similar) to cap an amazing, unbelievable comeback in Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football. Considering Indianapolis has scored only three offensive touchdowns in three games and doesn’t have a quarterback capable of more than two scoring drives, it’s safe to assume we won’t see a repeat. The AFC South isn’t very good. With Kenny Britt out for the year and Chris Johnson’s kidnapping, the division is even less competitive. Apparently, the Colts believe they’re not good enough to compete for the division title. I can’t think of any other explanation for why David Garrard is not in a Colts uniform. I applaud Indy’s approach, though. Competing just to compete when it clearly won’t amount to something is wasted time. What’s another Wildcard exit in the playoffs? Taking a shot at Andrew Luck, or some other high-caliber draft pick, to better the team down the road is the savvier move.
If you have no better options and choose to watch, pay attention to Josh Freeman. He isn’t cut from the Peyton Manning quarterback mold but he knows how to win. You know, unlike anyone the Colts will trot out at quarterback. (Including this pick, that’s 12 favorites I picked to cover. There’s no way that happens. I apologize in advance.) BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers -10

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 6 – 10 – 0
Season:     21 – 24 – 3

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