It’s nice to see the Buffalo Bills as relevant participants in the sporting world again. Unfortunately, the Bills’ resurgence could be short-lived as they welcome Tom Brady this week. Elsewhere, the top rated defense hits Bourbon Street and rookie phenoms go head-to-head in the Queen City.
I’m going no-huddle through this week’s slate of games. Don’t fake an injury to slow me down.
Last Week: 11 – 5 – 0
Season: 22 – 10 – 0
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Texans at Saints
Quick, name the NFL’s top defense… New York? No. Pittsburgh? No. Baltimore, Chicago, New England? No, No, and good gracious, no. It’s the Houston Texans, of course. Does ranking as the league’s top defense after two weeks mean anything? No, not really, especially considering Houston played the hapless Indianapolis Colts and the impotent Miami Dolphins. If Houston remains in the top spot after this week then I’d really be impressed.
Call me crazy, but I think the Texan defense is legit. Wade Philips has always put a solid defense on the field. Plus, Houston added a talented corner in Jonathan Joseph and welcomed back a healthy DeMeco Ryans and a steroid-free Brian Cushing. So yeah, I’m open to the Texan defense being this good all season long. Also, if you’re a New Orleans fan, you have to feel a little embarrassed welcoming the Texans to town, don’t you? I mean with all the fuss made over Reggie Bush dropping to number two in the 2006 NFL Draft, it is pretty ironic that Mario Williams is still with the team that drafted him. Williams is also playing at an all-pro level while Reggie Bush was shown the door in New Orleans, signed with Miami, and got benched for a rookie last week. The lesson, as always; drafting a running back in the first round is unnecessary unless he goes by the initials A.P. We’ve be waiting five years for the Texans to step up. Sunday is that day. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans +4
Giants at Eagles
I know it’s only been a couple of years, but it feels like the Giants haven’t beaten the Eagles since Jason Sehorn was still around. Seriously, Giants, win and then talk trash. With or without Michael Vick, I’d expect the Eagles to defeat the NFL’s all-infirmary team. On a side note, I lost count how many times someone’s told me Vick’s been hit 30+ times this season. I understand getting hit isn’t ideal for a franchise quarterback. On the other hand, isn’t this football? Isn’t hitting and getting hit 99.9% of the game? Could you imagine someone popping up on your TV 15 years ago and frantically yelling about Brett Favre getting hit 30 times in two weeks? That’s what I thought. (Eagles giving 9 points in a division game? This is getting out of control.) EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Giants +9
Jaguars at Panthers
Normally, I’d say something along the lines of “Carolina’s defense cannot wait to welcome Blaine Gabbert to the NFL.” Considering how well rookie quarterbacks have faired lately, I think I’ll refrain. The Panthers have played well this season (by recent standards), but they may be the first overrated 0-2 team in NFL history. As Cam Newton’s three interceptions proved last week, asking a rookie QB to wing the football 40+ times is not a recipe for success. Nonetheless, Newton and his fellow rookie quarterbacks have been impressive in 2011. Newton passed for over 400 yards in consecutive games, Andy Dalton put up “seasoned NFL veteran” stats; 37/56, 413 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and Gabbert got David Garrard cut before week one and chased Luke McKown after only seven quarters. If the kid’s half as lethal on the field as he is off it, the Jaguars should be in good shape. Let’s also not forget the Jaguars beat a Titans team that last week owned the Baltimore Ravens. JAGUARS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +3.5
Patriots at Bills
Let’s discuss how the Buffalo Bills could possibly win on Sunday.
1. Keep pace with New England’s offense and outduel them in a shootout. Likelihood: 3 out of 10.
2. Hope a defense that made Jason Campbell look like Tom Brady can make Tom Brady look like Jason Campbell. Likelihood: 1.25 out of 10.
3. Attack New England’s mediocre defense and commit to a heavy dosage of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller with hopes of limiting Brady’s opportunities, and thus disrupting the Patriots’ offensive rhythm. Likelihood: 4 out of 10.
4. Get lucky. Likelihood: 5 out of 10.
The Bills are still coached by Chan Gailey. I can’t ignore this fact. It’s Buffalo’s greatest disadvantage against New England. It’s like Ray Liotta vs. Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal.
PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -8.5
Dolphins at Browns
Hey look at this. It’s LeBron James’ homecoming. Quiz time: How many NFL titles have the Dolphins and Browns won in LeBron’s lifetime? Answer: The same as LeBron. Zero. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I miss the NBA.)
My goal this weekend is to call DirecTV and request a partial NFL Ticket refund for this game. I mean really, does anyone outside of Miami or Cleveland want to watch this? What’s that you say? Oh, right. Miami fans jumped ship already. Let me rephrase. Does anyone outside of Cleveland want to watch this?
I know I won’t have success with a refund, but I’ll settle for free Showtime so I can watch Homeland. I saw the pilot. I’m hooked. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +2.5
49ers at Bengals
In week two, three west coast teams traveled to the east coast to play at 1PM ET. All three lost. The 49ers are also coming off a devastating overtime loss to the Cowboys after blowing a double-digit lead in the 4th quarter. Bad teams don’t shake off those losses in a week. Plus, this is Cincinnati’s home opener. To recap: West to east for early game. Coming off bad loss. Opposing team’s home opener. Yeh, I’ll take the Bengals. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3
Broncos at Titans
TE-BOW, TE-BOW, TE-BOW! The quicker Denver gets to nine losses, the sooner we all get a definitive answer on whether Tim Tebow is a star or a bum. The suspense is killing me. (Sorry, Brian Dawkins. And you too, Kyle Orton.) TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -6.5
Lions at Vikings
I’m telling you, the Vikings aren’t a bad team. I don’t care if my 15-month-old son is the only one still listening. I trust Leslie Frazier. Everything is too peachy for the Lions right now, anyway. Something bad is bound to happen. I just hope it doesn’t involve Matthew Stafford. After watching/hearing him mic’d up on NFL Network this past week, I can honestly say I’m terrified of being in the same conference. He’s as talented as he is confident (always a deadly combination), and he appears unbelievably poised running an offense. Even the game’s official told Stafford he looked like he was having fun. I don’t like this. I want the opponent’s quarterbacks to be uneasy and nervous all the time, not relaxed. It’s been easy/enjoyable to admire Peyton Manning and Tom Brady from afar. Having Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in the NFC competing with my Eagles isn’t comfortable or pleasant. Last chance, Minnesota. Lose this and I’m jumping ship. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings +3.5
Game to Watch: Patriots at Bills
Game on Call: Giants at Eagles
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Ravens at Rams
By the time November rolls around, the Rams could be 1-6 or 0-7. Or, as they call it in the NFC West, “in the hunt.” Both squads are desperate for a win this week. In two weeks, I haven’t seen anything from St. Louis that makes me believe they’re any good. Baltimore losing last week won’t improve the Rams’ chances. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -4
Jets at Raiders
Mark Sanchez doesn’t look comfortable yet. It’s hard to blame him considering the Jets jettisoned (no pun intended) two of his top three receivers from a year ago. It’s only been two games, but Plaxico Burress, with the exception of the 4th quarter against Dallas, has played like a guy who spent the past few seasons in a federal prison. I know winning in Oakland is never easy, but I think we’re overvaluing the Raiders based on an exciting game last week in Buffalo. The Raiders looked bad in week one. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets -3
Chiefs at Chargers
San Diego received an extension to try to avoid a blackout. Really? This team has been competitive for over five years and they still can’t sellout? How is Los Angeles supposed to support an NFL franchise if this is how Southern Californians treat their football teams?
The line on this game jumped all the way to 15 before settling back at 14.5. Kansas City is beyond awful. I can’t think of one thing the Chiefs do well right now. Even their defense is surprisingly putrid. However, trusting a Norv Turner-led Charger team to take care of business against a lesser opponent early in the season is like asking Bernie Madoff to manage your investment portfolio. I’m nervous. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; -14.5
Cardinals at Seahawks
If the Seahawks fall to 0-3, they could only afford seven more losses before they’d be eliminated from title contention in the NFC West. He hasn’t really looked good doing it, but Kevin Kolb is off to a flying start in the desert. While I refuse to listen, my gut tells me the Seahawks win on Sunday. I mean, they have to win sometime, no? Are they really 0-16 bad? CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -3.5
Falcons at Buccaneers
I was confident the Buccaneers would be this year’s NFC team that completely falls off the map. Last week’s second half rally in Minnesota has me re-thinking that position. Bad teams don’t erase a 17 point deficit to win on the road, especially in the Metrodome. It wasn’t as if Minnesota threw the game away, either. Tampa Bay just took it. I need another week or two or three before I reach a verdict on the 2011 Buccaneers. Also, I’m just as uncertain about the Falcons. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons +1.5
Packers at Bears
I’ve watched almost every Packer snap this season. I can’t remember Aaron Rodgers getting tagged more than a few times. Jay Cutler gets annihilated a few times per drive. How about the Bears opening schedule? Atlanta, @New Orleans, and now Green Bay. That’s a heavy workload coming off a summer with little practice. Chicago’s performance in the Big Easy leaves me guessing this week. (Ok, I’m always guessing, but still.) Was the Atlanta game the farce or was it the New Orleans game? Come to think of it, if the Bears can’t protect Jay Cutler, it really doesn’t matter. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3.5
Game to Watch: Packers at Bears
Game on Call: Jets at Raiders
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Steelers at Colts
I can’t wait until May 2012 when NBC Sunday Night Football introduces its “Injury Flex” option for the first 10 weeks of the NFL season. It’ll work something like this: Both FOX and CBS can protect four games each. Minus the Monday night game, that leaves NBC anywhere between four and seven games to choose from, depending on the byes that week. Let’s apply the rule to this week. FOX would probably protect (in no particular order): PHI/NY, GB/CHI, ATL/TB and DET/MINN. CBS would protect NE/BUF, HOU/NO, NYJ/OAK, and BAL/STL. Assuming Peyton Manning isn’t going to be within 10 miles of Lucas Field on Sunday night, wouldn’t you rather see SF/CINC or JAC/CAR over the lifeless carcasses of the Manning-less Colts? I know I would. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -10.5
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Redskins at Cowboys
Regardless of whether Romo plays, I expect a tightly contested game, mostly due to injuries. Miles Austin is out, Felix Jones, Jason Witten, and Dez “I only play 25 minutes” Bryant are all banged-up. Jesse Holley may be the only position player at 100%. Unfortunately, he hasn’t left Candlestick Park yet (or whatever it’s called). Last I heard, he was still celebrating his overtime catch that should have been a touchdown but led to a field goal and angry gamblers instead. The Redskins tried to lose last week and failed. I think they get the job done here. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; N/A – waiting on Romo.
If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 7 – 8 – 1
Season: 15 – 14 – 3