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Guess Who’s Back? Week 4 NFL Picks

That’s right, Donovan McNabb returns to the city that originally didn’t want him, then grew to love him, and later loathed him. Will he be booed or cheered? Welcomed or despised? Only one question matters; will he win?

If at the beginning of the season I told you the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Cowboys, and Vikings would enter their week four bye with individual records of 1-2, 1-2, 2-1, and 3-0, you would have immediately assumed the Chiefs and Bucs were 1-2. Instead, the Cowboys and Vikings are 1-2 while Tampa Bay is at 2-1 and the Chiefs remain unbeaten. Ahh, the NFL.

Remember going into last week’s picks I told you I’d stink? Well I did. I finished 8-8. I need redemption.

Last Week:  8 – 8 – 0
Season:     27 – 21 – 0

Picking Apples and Avoiding DUI’s (Bye Week)

Cowboys
There’s a logjam in the NFC East for second place that includes Dallas, New York, and Washington. While Dallas is too talented to disappear this early in the season, a loss to Houston would have made a playoff run an arduous task. Oh well. We’ll leave it to the early bye to do them in. Philadelphia had the week four bye in 2009. Remember how they closed out the season? I do. It wasn’t pretty.

Chiefs
Sitting at 3-0 and loving life, Kansas City is atop the AFC West. They shouldn’t get too comfortable. Following the bye, the Chiefs travel to Indianapolis and Houston. Hello, 3-2!

Vikings
Brett Favre looked slightly better last week. Unfortunately, Minnesota will need a lot more from him when they return from the bye – if he returns at all. (Seriously, how great would it be if Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell had to fly to Mississippi again just to convince Brett to come back after the bye week? I’m rooting for this.) Coming out of the bye, the Vikings travel to New York to battle the Jets, host the Cowboys, and then travel to Green Bay and New England. Running into two spurned ex-girlfriends is never fun. Visiting them within three weeks of each other is a total disaster. We may see the end of the Favre era before November.

Buccaneers
How can a team ranked 19th in total defense and 27th in total offense be 2-1? Easy, Jake Delhomme and Matt Moore/Jimmy Clausen were the opposing quarterbacks in their two wins. (Not something a Carolina quarterback coach would want to include on his resume.)

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

49ers at Falcons
Earlier this week I broke down the NFC by class and declared Atlanta the best team (right now). What does this mean? It means Atlanta is probably going to lose this week and make me look like a moron. San Francisco is still four or five losses away from losing any shot at an NFC West title, but this is still a must win. The Falcons are at home, though. That should be enough to win (fingers crossed). FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers +7

Bengals at Browns
The battle for Ohio. Or, as some call it, the, “Please, make us forget that LeBron James left and Mo Williams is now the best player in our state” game. I’m expecting an ugly, offensively challenged affair. You know, everything you’d expect from a 2010-2011 Cleveland Cavaliers game. What’s the bigger understatement; Cleveland is a depressed sports town, or Carson Palmer’s skills have declined? BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3

Jets at Bills
Darrelle Revis is out again, so Ryan Fitzpatrick should light up the New York defense. Just kidding, I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention. After two big wins for young Mark Sanchez, I totally expect a dismal performance out of him. Buffalo is desperate for a win, plays well at home, the offense can at least move the ball under Fitzpatrick, and the coaching staff may finally unleash C.J. Spiller after last week’s performance. They won’t win, but the Bills will keep it close enough to give Jet fans chest pains. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +6

Seahawks at Rams
Raise your hand if you care? (Looking around the room…..scanning a second time…..aaannnndddd….no hands.) Welcome to the NFC West. (No offense, Sam Bradford.) SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -1.5

Broncos at Titans
A surprisingly fun matchup. For a week that doesn’t offer much as far as intriguing matchups are concerned, I’m somewhat excited for this one. The Broncos are ranked 1st in passing yards per game and 30th in rushing yards. Conversely, the Titans are ranked 30th in passing yards per game and 8th in rushing yards. I’ll take Chris Johnson and the Titans’ defense over Kyle Orton and a mediocre Denver defense. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -7

Lions at Packers
On Monday, Aaron Rodgers got a tiny taste of what Dwayne Wade experienced throughout the 2009-2010 NBA season. Rodgers was magnificent but his teammates couldn’t get out of their own way to win. Green Bay needs a running back if they want a shot at a Superbowl title. As for the Lions, why do they wait until they’re trailing by multiple scores before they start slinging the ball to their biggest weapon? Calvin Johnson was targeted five times in Detroit’s final two drives. Prior to those drives, he was thrown to only three times. The same thing happened against Philly a week earlier. Maybe get the ball to your best player as early and often as possible? Just a thought. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -14.5

Ravens at Steelers *Game of the Week
If the Ravens are serious about a Superbowl title, they must beat the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger. They can’t afford to slip to 1-2 in the division with their only win coming against Cleveland. Pittsburgh’s defense has been fantastic in Roethlisberger’s absence. This is one of those games where an offense will make one significant play all game and win the game because of it – see the Steelers week one victory over Atlanta. If Joe Flacco looks for Anquan Boldin as he did last week, I think that big play will come from Baltimore. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +1.5

Panthers at Saints
Throughout the NFL’s offseason, I recall hearing two things over and over again. 1. The Jets telling anyone and everyone they were going to win the Superbowl. 2. The Saints declaring they would remain hungry and avoid a championship season hangover. After three weeks, the Jets (despite a lapse in week one) have followed up their bold prediction with impressive play (though not Superbowl worthy in my opinion). The Saints, on the other hand, have lacked the hunger they promised. I’m not indicting New Orleans as a bad team, not by any means. However, they don’t currently play with the same urgency as last year. Watch them and you’ll see it. Someone better tell Jimmy Clausen this game is being broadcasted up and down the east coast. Ok, maybe we shouldn’t tell him. He’s probably nervous enough. By the way, I spoke to my brother after Chicago’s win on Monday night. He, like all Panther fans are absolutely appalled by the current play of Julius Peppers. The guy was a ghost in Carolina for the past two years because he was unhappy. Now, he’s terrorizing offenses again. Peppers should use caution when visiting his Alma mater in Chapel Hill. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -14

Game to Watch: Ravens at Steelers
Game on Call: 49ers at Falcons

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Colts at Jaguars
If Michael Vick and the unpredictable Eagles tore up Jacksonville last week; the Colts should roll with no problems. Or so one would think. In their last five meetings dating back to December 2007, Indianapolis is 4-1 against Jacksonville. In those meetings, the Colts have lost by 2 and won by only 3, 7, 2, and 4. That’s five consecutive contests determined by one score or less. Without Maurice Jones-Drew at full strength, Jacksonville is severely handicapped. David Garrard’s horrendous play won’t heIp either. The string of close games ends here, unless of course it rains or they play in the midst of a hurricane. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -8

Texans at Raiders
This is a scary game for Houston. Traveling to play a subpar team after a disheartening loss at home is always tough. Better teams often play to the level of their weaker opponent in these scenarios. The Raiders aren’t all that bad either. In fact, with Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback and the outstanding play of Darren McFadden, Oakland is borderline respectable. To compete with the Colts and Titans for the division title, the Texans can’t afford to drop games they’re supposed to win. This is one of those games. Gus Johnson alert! TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -3.5

Redskins at Eagles
Charles Barkley will proudly wear a Donovan McNabb Washington Redskins jersey to the Linc on Sunday. I love Sir Charles, but I can’t approve this (because you know, he’s asking me). If Barkley wants to support McNabb, then he should wear an Eagles McNabb jersey. You can’t turn your back on your team for one player. That’s not how the rules work. If they did, I would have stopped being a Sixers fan in 2006. Charles should know better. I’m disappointed. As for the game: The Eagles are going to get humbled one of these weeks. In a perfect world, McNabb would deliver the blow, but he’s a soldier without a platoon. The Washington defense will keep McNabb close, but that’s all. How unfair is it that Vick gets to play with all the weapons McNabb begged for throughout his entire career? While Andy Reid believes otherwise, I’m quite certain his “friendship” with McNabb is one-sided. Does anyone know if Kevin Kolb’s family retained the right to their suite at the Linc, or did the Eagles rescind that and give it to Vick too? Just wondering. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins +6

Cardinals at Chargers
They’re the four-time defending AFC West champions and yet Sunday’s game will be the Chargers’ second blackout the season. San Diego is not as good as years past, but even at 1-2, they’re still a contender for the division title and thus, a playoff spot. Granted, if they drop a home game to the Arizona “wearenothingwithoutkurtwarners,” then it might be time to give up on the 2010 Chargers. I don’t see that happening, though. Philip Rivers has blossomed into the fifth best quarterback in the league (Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Brees). He would have singlehandedly led the Chargers to a win last week in Seattle if it weren’t for the horrendous play of his special team comrades. Hopefully, rookie running back Ryan Mathews can establish a ground game to stabilize the offense and get San Diego back to .500. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -8.5

Game to Watch: Redskins at Eagles
Game on Call: Colts at Jaguars

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Bears at Giants
Last week I confidently picked the Cowboys to upset the Texans. This week, it’s the Giants’ turn. Chicago was the luckiest team in week 3 as Green Bay was penalized 18 times, had a field goal blocked, and fumbled at the most inopportune time. Anyone who watched that game would agree Green Bay beats Chicago 9 out of 10 times. The Giants weren’t as horrible last week as the score against Tennessee indicated. Eli Manning is due after two bad games and Jay Cutler is primed for a 3 pick outing. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -4

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Patriots at Dolphins
Another AFC East battle in primetime. I think last week’s game against New York was the one Miami was supposed to win. This week, I expect Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Randy Moss to lead New England to a win. It will be up to Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall to keep up. I’m still not over the Dolphins loss last week. When I look at Brandon Marshall’s 30 yard catch that brought Miami to the ten yard line, I’m still amazed he didn’t score. He looked slow there. Maybe a move back to the middle of the field fools the pursuing defender. Maybe I’m just bitter. I’d like the Patriots a whole lot more if they had a defense. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -1

Last Week: 8 – 8 – 0
Season:    24 – 22 – 2

(Lines as of 9/30, 11:38PM ET, from bodog)

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