The NFL looks to rebound from an underwhelming week five. This week’s schedule should provide some excitement with six games between legitimate playoff contenders. Included in this week’s preview; blackouts, ripping on the Worldwide Leader, and an NFC East admission that could cost me my Eagles license. By the way, I’m counting the ARIZ/SEA contest as one of those six because they’re both in contention in the NFC West. Gotta love mediocrity.
Last Week: 8 – 6 – 0
Season: 50 – 26 – 0
Still Enjoying MLB Playoffs (Byes)
After last week’s performance, the 49ers could use a whole lot more than a bye. The return of RB Frank Gore and the arrival of WR Michael Crabtree will give the Niners a big lift next Sunday. I never liked Deion Sanders. I like him even less when he promotes himself and his “protégés” on the NFL Network’s highlight show on Sunday nights. 49ers CB Dre Bly is one of the said protégés. Bly managed to be the biggest goat in the NFL last week. That’s impressive considering a QB only threw for 23 yards. Here’s why.
Peyton Manning and the boys are rolling. A six week stretch starting in November will give us a good idea of just how good these Colts really are. That stretch isn’t a killer (SF, HOU, NE, @BAL, @HOU, TENN, DEN), but the Colts have a relatively soft schedule so it’s the best litmus test we’ve got. By the way, the Colts are 5-0 AND they have a bye the next two weekends (@STL next week). Life is good in Indy, for now.
Life hasn’t been good for the Dallas Cowboys since the Giants marched into Texas Stadium on January 13, 2008 and bullied the NFC favorites out of the playoffs. A much needed bye week will allow the Cowboys to get healthy, begin the search for their 2010 head coach, and try one last time to persuade Roger Staubach and/or Troy Aikman to come out of retirement.
What a great job by the Miami Dolphins. After being left for dead following three tough losses to three really good teams, the Dolphins are alive and kicking, or flipping, whatever dolphins do, they’re doing that. I still don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but they’ll ruin some opponent’s seasons along the way. The Dolphins are the only wildcat offense that defenses actually worry about. They’ve mastered the art and rightfully so, they introduced it to the NFL.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Texans at Bengals
An intriguing matchup between two of my favorite teams heading into the season. The Texans are struggling to find consistency. Their offense is explosive but has made some critical mistakes in game altering situations i.e. fumbling at the goal-line vs. Jacksonville and failing to convert from the goal-line on three downs vs. Arizona. To avoid becoming the 2009 Buffalo Bills, the Texans will need to eventually move past these growing pains. The Bengals, on the other hand, are one of the hottest teams in the league. Fans must be loving it, right? Welllll, not exactly. We’re 48 hours from kickoff and the Bengals are flirting with a blackout. It’s hard to get on fans in this economic state for not selling out stadiums, but to have a 4-1 team on top of the rugged AFC North and NOT be able to sell out is pretty bad. Either Cincinnati fans think that that red team in the NLCS is the Reds, or they hate Bengals owner Mike Brown. If it’s the latter, I can’t say I blame them. BENGALS.
Lions at Packers
Once thought as a 2009 Super Bowl contender, the Packers have looked anything but. If Jay Cutler doesn’t get the yips in week one, the Packers could easily be 1-3 right now with their only victory coming against the lowly Rams. While QB Aaron Rodgers puts up some impressive numbers, he has a losing record as a starter and takes unnecessary sacks that hurt the offense. The Packers defense has also been inconsistent. They surrender 23 points per game, 60 points in their two defeats. If the Packers hope to contend for the NFC North, they’ll need better play from both Rodgers and their defense. With that said, the Detroit Lions come to town just in time. A nice win here and next week against the Browns will get the Packers rolling before they meet you know who again in week 8. I should mention that the Lions have impressed me with their play. They aren’t very good but they play like they expect to win and they do improve a little each week. PACKERS
Ravens at Vikings
The Metrodome is not where you want to play the Vikings. Their receiving core can fly on that quick turf and the Ravens secondary has been struggling mightily. I wouldn’t think twice about picking the Vikings here except for the fact that the Ravens have lost two tough games in as many weeks. Veteran teams like the Ravens don’t often lose three in a row. Because I have no choice but to pick them, I’m going to give the Ravens the blueprint for winning. First and foremost, the Ravens will need to successfully run against the Vikings stout run D. I know, easier said than done. A heavy dosage of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and Le’Ron McClain will give them a legitimate shot at producing on the ground. If they can establish some semblance of a running game, the defense will soften up and Joe Flacco will have big play opportunities via the deep ball and short screens to Rice, who I think is a special back. On defense, the Ravens need to batter Brett Favre and of course, contain Adrian Peterson. Winning in Minnesota certainly won’t be easy. Evaluating this pick on Sunday evening won’t be either. RAVENS.
Giants at Saints *Game of the Week
Three watchable games on the early slate! This is unheard of. I’m torn here because I rarely choose anything but a division matchup for my game of the week. The Broncos Charges matchup on BFAVRESPN meets all the game of the week criteria. Nonetheless, I can’t pass up this game. NFC supremacy is on the line. As an Eagles fan, I want both teams to lose. This early in the season, it’s hard to decide the best case scenario for my Birds. Normally, the “always root against division opponent” would take precedent here. However, the Giants remaining schedule is deadly (look at that thing, there’s not one automatic win there with the possible exception of the Cards). The Saints schedule isn’t as treacherous. I’m going with the assumption that the G-Men will lose their share of games due to that schedule. Therefore, I will root for Eli and the Giants to take out the Saints…………………………………………………………………………………………………Sorry for the delay. I had to shower. I couldn’t even look in the mirror. I know it’s for the best, but my gut knows I’ve disgraced myself. GIANTS.
Browns at Steelers
The Steelers look content. They win games, but they don’t scare opponents with the same killer mentally of years past. For example, they let the Lions hang around for the entire game and allowed the Chargers to waltz back from a blowout in week 4. That’s not Steelers football. The Browns are on a roll, just kidding. They didn’t lose last week though. The NFL standings should credit the Browns with a “Didn’t lose” instead of a “Win.” I can’t call it a win when your QB throws for 23 yards on 2/17 passing. It’s just disgusting. I’m taking the Browns to cover here because I’m an idiot. Derek Anderson goes off and has a huge day: 11/21 for 86 YDS and a TD. Raise your hand if you want your starting QB hosting WWE Monday Night Raw during the regular season? Nobody? Ok, how about ever? I see three hands. You three, I hate to alter your life, but it’s NOT REAL! STEELERS.
Panthers at Buccaneers
Panthers MLB, Jon Beason, is a young and talented player. He and 49ers MLB, Patrick Willis, will battle for the right to be named the NFL’s best throughout the next several years. Beason is also apparently not afraid to call out veteran teammates for underachieving. During the week prior to beating the Redskins, Beason criticized DE Julius Peppers for his poor play. While I do not approve using the media to do so (Beason admitted this mistake), it apparently bothered Peppers. He recorded two sacks and disrupted the Redskins’ backfield for most of the game last Sunday. I’m eagerly waiting to see if Beason uses any, “your mama’s so fat,” jokes to motivate Peppers this week. Stay tuned. Two in a row for the Panthers? I think so. Oh, I almost forgot. I enjoyed Bucs QB Josh Johnson last week. He may not have all the tools but he certainly has the fire. Sometimes, I think I’d rather have the fire than the tools. PANTHERS.
Chiefs at Redskins
If this isn’t the, “Activists petitioning the Supreme Court for a name change,” Super Bowl, than I don’t know what is. If you asked the people in these respective cities, I would bet you’d find 92% of them would rather see a regime change than a name change, especially in D.C. Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, is this generation’s version of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Open your eyes, Daniel; it hasn’t worked for Jerry since the mid 90’s, it won’t work for you either. If you both want long term success; stop firing coaches every two years, spend wisely, and build through the draft. Yes, that means you can’t trade away your draft picks anymore. On second thought, forget what I just said. The Giants are enough to deal with. You two stay in the basement. As for the Chiefs, they’re slowly improving. Yes, slowly is a good term there. REDSKINS.
Rams at Jaguars
Thank you, Mike Sims-Walker. You’re inability to control yourself led to my defeat last week in fantasy football. Apparently, sex with a lady after curfew is worth the embarrassment of a 41-0 drubbing. I wonder if his teammates agree. Sure, the pay is better, but is being a head coach for the St. Louis Rams really worth it. Especially when you were the defensive coordinator for the Giants? JAGUARS.
Game I’ll Watch: Giants at Saints
Game I’ll DVR: Ravens at Vikings
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Cardinals at Seahawks
Ohhhh, OK. It all makes sense now. The three intriguing matchups from the early slate were to make up for the underwhelming 4 o’clock batch. Although, this game isn’t all that bad. It may even turn into an entertaining shootout. The NFC Worst is muddled. At this point, the 49ers, Cardinals and Seahawks have a 33.3% chance at the title. If Matt Hasselbeck stays healthy, the Seahawks will be the champs. This game is huge in shaping the division landscape. Both teams have already lost to the Niners once. A win here for Seattle would put them at 2-1 in the division and drop the Cardinals to 0-2. If you want to contend in any division, you have to win your division games at home. Until the Cardinals solve their running game and wake up, they’re the third best team in an already mediocre division. SEAHAWKS.
Eagles at Raiders
The Eagles travel to meet the hapless remains of the Oakland Raiders. It’s a shame a team with such sweet uniforms is irrelevant for the umpteenth year in a row. Let’s chase a rabbit. I love ESPN. I watch a lot of their TV programming and I visit their website multiple times a day. Without ESPN, my sports life would be far less enjoyable. With that said, sometimes they look like real dopes. I was reading their Week 6 NFL Power Rankings (power rankings are bogus and subjective, I’ll get into this another time), when I noticed the summary for the Eagles at number seven. It read, “Against the Bucs, Donovan McNabb got back into a passing rhythm with youngsters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.” (Read it for yourself here.) DeSean Jackson’s stats for the game: 1 catch, 1 yard. Did they watch the game? Also, this wasn’t some little blog guy posting the description. It was John Clayton, one of, if not the biggest, NFL analyst for ESPN. Is anyone else bothered by the fact that a lot of the reporters we turn to for our game analysis don’t have enough time to watch the games? More on this later. Ok, I’m done. EAGLES.
Titans at Patriots
Tom Brady’s not healthy. The Titans stink. Yadi yadi yada. The AFC East stormed out of the gates and looked liked one of the better divisions in the league. Now, the Dolphins are the only team playing well. The Bills are horrible, the Jets are struggling, and the Patriots are still searching for their 2007 magic potion. For our sake, I hope they regain their offensive potency because they’re scheduled for national broadcasts three more times this season, and that doesn’t include flex scheduling. Right now, the Patriots are not fun to watch. Fortunately for them, the Titans are even worse. In 2006, did you ever think Vince Young’s name would only be pertinent to the 2009 NFL season because his team was 0-5 and considering starting him to play out the year? I can honestly say that my brother and I are not surprised. We called fluke the moment he was drafted. PATRIOTS.
Bills at Jets
I have a good friend who is a Bills fan. I’ve also always rooted for the Bills for two reasons: My friend did, and I never wanted the Giants, Redskins or Cowboys to win any of those Super Bowls. Obviously, the 2009 Buffalo Bills are causing a lot of discomfort for my friend and the rest of Buffalo nation. Poor coaching, injuries, and an overvalued QB have led to their downfall. With a new coach and improved health, the QB may be salvageable. The Bills need to fire Jauron and move on with an interim coach, their already playing for 2010 anyway. As for the J E T S JETS JETS JETS, I’m glad I wasn’t able to get on the band wagon a few backs ago. Those tires have flattened significantly as the Jets defense has struggled. However, it was nice to see Braylon Edwards come out of retirement to join the Jets. He wasn’t retired? Was he injured? Suspended? Switched Positions? True Story: I went up against my buddy Dustin in fantasy football last week. I was down 12 points and had Edwards yet to play. His MNF performance; one touchdown, an overturned touchdown, and one touchdown pass that was dropped/broken up via interference depending on who you ask. Such is life in fantasy football land. JETS.
Game I’ll Watch: Eagles at Raiders
Game I’ll DVR: Cardinals at Seahawks
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Bears at Falcons
I really like this game. I’d like it even more if it were in chilly Chicago. Both teams have a legitimate shot at winning their respective divisions or at least competing for a wild card. While this is likely to change, these are the teams that currently would be in contention for the NFC Wildcard spots; Falcons, Bears, Eagles, Cowboys, Packers. That’s a talented group of teams, and their simply battling for a wildcard. The NFC is finally a legitimate conference again. As for the game, I think the Jay Cutler Matt Ryan matchup is one that is worth watching. The Falcons have more weapons on offense but the Bears defense can limit those weapons if they can get to Ryan. I’ll take the Bears off a bye (yes, I still have yet to pick the Falcons). BEARS.
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Broncos at Chargers *Mini Game of the Week
I am only 82% excited about this game. The venue is what prevents total excitement. A Monday night game against a division opponent and the Chargers can’t sell out? This is pathetic. Can we penalize San Diego’s fans by moving this game to Denver? Denver fans know what they’re doing. It must be California fans. I’ll leave the Raiders and LA Angels fans out of this because they’re intense, and California hockey fans too because I have no idea what they’re like. The rest of California fans are weak. Golden State showed some potential in 2007 when they upset the top seeded Mavericks in round one of the NBA playoffs. Unfortunately, the rich wanted in on the excitement and totally ruined the atmosphere by the time round two rolled around. The Laker fans are annoying and make for a boring arena. The Clippers don’t have fans. The Dodgers fans don’t show up until the 4th inning and then leave during the 8th as displayed in last night’s NLCS opener. (It’s the playoffs you idiots. Never, ever, ever leave early!) The Padres, Giants, A’s, Sac. Kings, and 49ers haven’t been relevant in a few years so their respective grades are incomplete. I think I’m gonna write a book on how to be a great sports fan. Look for its release in 2013. Despite the poor atmosphere, the Chargers need this win to stay in contention for the division. I think they’ll get it. CHARGERS.
If I were Charles Barkley…
Weekly Reminder: I pick every game so I don’t look like a pansy and only pick the easy ones. Starting next week (I don’t have time this week), I’m going to pay more attention to these picks. Apparently picking after looking at them for the first time is hurting my performance. If this doesn’t work, I’ll need a contact number for an HGH dealer. Thanks. My goal is to be around 60% at season’s end (unlikely). As is the weekly custom, there is one over/under as well (because they’re too much fun not to have at least one).
Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Redskins (-6.5)
Houston Texans (+5) at Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns (+14) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens (+3) at Minnesota Vikings
St. Louis Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars (-10)
New York Giants (+3) at New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-14)
Philadelphia Eagles (-14.5) at Oakland Raiders
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-3)
Buffalo Bills (+10) at New York Jets
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-9.5)
Chicago Bears (+3.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (-3.5)
Last Week: 5 – 8 – 0
Season: 28 – 33 – 0
Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings Over 44.5
Last Week: 0 – 1 – 0
Season: 2 – 3 – 0
(Lines as of 10/15, 4:41PM ET, from bodog)