Kevin Kolb faces off against his former mentor, Donovan McNabb, the Jets try to do more than talk, the Chargers get another freebie, and Michael Vick and the Eagles hope to stave off a Philadelphia apocalypse. Come on, Roy Halladay!
The bye weeks are upon us. Or, as the folks in St. Louis and Miami call it, “vacation.” Instead of the usually blurb about each team on a bye, I’ll compare them to a Phillies player instead. This should be fun… or ugly… or therapeutic.
Last Week: 11 – 5 – 0
Season: 39 – 25 – 0
Enjoying the Breeze Created by Ryan Howard (Bye Week)
Shane Victorino. The Browns entered 2011 as a below-the-radar team that many expected to see improve dramatically. So far, it hasn’t happened. Similarly, we’re still waiting for the June through August Victorino (.333 AVG) to show up in the 2011 playoffs. To this point, we’ve gotten the September version (.186 AVG) instead.
Anyone not named Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins. The Cowboys love to disappear in the 4th quarter. Apparently, 95% of the Phillies’ roster likes to disappear in the postseason. Not a good time, fellas. Not a good time.
Cliff Lee. Ryan Howard’s breeze convention has distracted everyone from realizing Cliff Lee has been down right lousy in the playoffs since the start of the 2010 World Series. More importantly, he wasted a four run lead at home in Game 2 of the NLDS that would have given the Phillies a strangle hold on the series. If the Phillies wanted to give $100 million to a player that disappoints in the postseason, they would have just paid Ryan Howard twice.
Ryan Howard. Every time the Dolphins step to the plate they strike out. Jim Harbaugh – whiff. Reggie Bush – swinging at air. Bill Parcells – caught looking. Same is true for Howard. (Seriously, though, how many times does Howard need to strike out? Did he lose a bet? And please, please, pleaaaaase stop sitting your forehead on your bat before moving into the on deck circle. That stuff only works in Major League. Besides, seeing you psyched out before each at bat makes every Phillies fan die a little inside. I don’t care if you’re scared to death of striking out again; the meditating on the bat thing clearly isn’t working. In fact, I think even your bat hates it.)
Jimmy Rollins. Rollins has been tearing it up in the postseason. He’s one of only a few bright spots for the Phillies. Don’t be fooled, though. Like the Redskins, he’s not the real deal. The playoffs are his last opportunity to earn a big payday this offseason. Rollins has a superstar personality and mediocre production at the plate.
Roy Halladay. The Raven defense is often forced to outplay the opponent and Joe Flacco. Similarly, Halladay must shut down opposing batters and pray his lousy offense doesn’t let him down. If there’s anyone other than Justin Verlander you want on the mound in a decisive playoff game, it’s Roy Halladay. This is why the Phillies pay him the big bucks. Like the Raven defense, he better be lights out.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Titans at Steelers
I was supposed to report on the Titans/Browns game this week but I got caught up in the MLB Playoffs. My apologies. As a result, I still have no idea if the Titans are for real. With Roethlisberger hurting, Rashard Mendenhall possibly out, and the line already in shambles, the Steeler offense will continue to struggle. Tennessee could easily steal a win with a solid defensive effort and a few big plays like the ones they got in Cleveland last week. The Titans have been successful in keeping Matt Hasselbeck protected, and consequently, healthy. That could change this week against Pittsburgh, even without James Harrison. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -3
Seahawks at Giants
The Eagles won’t get any help from their NFC East foes this week. The Cowboys and Redskins have byes, and the Giants can’t possibly lose at home to the Seahawks. Or could they? Just kidding. New York’s defensive line against Tarvaris Jackson is a turnover convention. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -9.5
Bengals at Jaguars
Andy Dalton. Blaine Gabbert. Need I say more? (Oh, that’s not enough? Sorry, that’s all I got.) BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +2
Saints at Panthers
It’s only his fifth NFL game. Cam Newton’s not there yet, is he? Can he go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees in a shootout… and win? I don’t know. Brees is what makes New Orleans a contender. Without him, they’re probably 1-3. Chris Gamble looks like he’ll play, so that’s a huge boost to the Panther secondary. If Carolina can keep Brees in check and limit the Saints to… I don’t know, less than 24 points, I like Newton to pull the upset. Unfortunately, I can’t see the defense containing Brees. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -6.5
Raiders at Texans
While there’s no obvious premiere matchup in the early games, there are a handful of intriguing matchups. This is one of them. The Texans finally made a statement last week. They can’t afford to take two steps back this week. The Raiders are a solid team and self-proclaimed “bullies.” It would be devastating for the Texans to get pushed around in their own stadium after such a momentum-building win. I know it sounds crazy, but this is a must win for Houston. A loss would erase the progress they’ve made and raise flags that the team is, yet again, too inconsistent to be a real contender. Arian Foster will need to pace the offense as Andre Johnson is out with a hamstring injury. I want to believe in the Texans. We’ll see if they believe in themselves. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +7
Eagles at Bills
If the Phillies blow it on Friday night and the Eagles crumble in Buffalo, I may not crawl out of bed until May. This feels like one of those games when Michael Vick should just say, “screw it,” and win it by himself. Buffalo’s secondary is horrible. Vick needs to keep scoring until he has a lead even the Eagle defense couldn’t blow. 72 points should do it. By the way, I don’t think we give Vick enough credit for his grittiness. That dude cares. I like Michael Vick. I trust Michael Vick. Win this one for us, Michael Vick. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -3
Chiefs at Colts
Remember this game. It will go a long way in January when determining who wins the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. How about the Colts, though? Two very inspiring, competitive performances against playoff contenders in consecutive weeks. Perhaps Indianapolis isn’t as awful as we all thought? Ok, maybe they were just really desperate. Serious question: If you’re one of these teams, why not throw this game for a shot at Luck? CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs +2
Cardinals at Vikings
I wish this were on later because I would love to watch Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb go head-to-head. I don’t care if they’re no longer in Philadelphia. As long as they aren’t playing the Eagles, I hope they do well. Unfortunately, that isn’t currently the case for either of them. Their combined 1-7 record makes Andy Reid look like a double genius. He traded McNabb right before he totally fell apart, and then fleeced the Cardinals for a Pro Bowl cornerback and 2nd round pick in exchange for Kolb. If only he could coach, too. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -3
Game to Watch: Eagles at Bills
Game on Call: Panthers at Saints
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Buccaneers at 49ers
An intriguing battle between two NFC playoff hopefuls that no one cares about. Except for me, of course. Both teams seem to find a way to win. I want to believe in the 49ers and new coach, Jim Harbaugh, but I got burned when they got off to a hot start under Mike Singletary. I’m guarding myself this time. A win over the Bucs, would convince me. Tampa Bay flying coast to coast on a short week is in perfect position to get knocked off by the 49ers. However, the Buccaneers are a weird team. Despite a lack of superstar talent and an inexperienced coach, they find a way to win. Those teams are scary. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +3
Jets at Patriots
New England, despite a week 3 loss in Buffalo, looks like the second best team in the NFL. Conversely, the Jets can’t run the football, throw the football, or be taken seriously until they prove talking trash isn’t the only thing they can do on a consistent basis. The Patriots will have revenge on their minds after last year’s shellacking. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -7.5
Chargers at Broncos
San Diego’s wins: Vikings, Chiefs, Dolphins. Combined record: 1-11. This week, the Chargers visit the 1-3 Broncos. We won’t have an accurate reading on how good (or bad) the Chargers are until at least November. Is anyone surprised by Denver’s slow start? How could they be? The Broncos hired John Fox. Remember? CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -4
Game to Watch: Jets at Patriots
Game on Call: Buccaneers at 49ers
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Packers at Falcons
A rematch of their 2010 NFC Divisional round blowout. Otherwise known as Aaron Rodgers’ “I have arrived” party. The Packers are demolishing opponents en route to a 4-0 start. The Falcons have already fallen to two NFC playoff contenders, were gifted a victory from the Eagles, and struggled to close out the lowly Seahawks. It’s Sunday night, so anything could happen. Except it won’t. Matt Ryan can’t hang with Rodgers. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -5
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Bears at Lions
The Detroit Lions return to the national spotlight (Thanksgiving Day doesn’t count) for what feels like the first time since Barry Sanders retired. The Bears won’t have the luxury of another slow Detroit start, so it’ll be up to Brian Urlacher and the defense to keep Jay Cutler and the Bears offense close enough to have a shot at winning. Unlike the rest of mankind, I’m not totally sold on the Lions. Obviously, they can erase 20 point leads rather easily, but they still have holes. The defensive line hasn’t been great and the lack of a running game will make the offense vulnerable against superior defenses. I know we haven’t seen these issues bite them yet, but trust me, it’s coming. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears +6
If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 8 – 8 – 0
Season: 29 – 32 – 3