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NFC North Battle. Week 3 NFL Picks

It’s already been a great week. The Phillies swept the Braves, the Cowboys are in disarray, and the Sixers traded Willie Green. The only thing that could make this week better would be my three month old sleeping past 5:15 every morning. Oh well. A Jay Cutler/Aaron Rodgers showdown on Monday night will suffice.

By the way, did you know that when you Google, “Jay Cutler” and click on images, you get an overwhelming amount of pictures of this guy? I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure he can’t play quarterback. In fact, I’m not even sure he could bring his arms above his head. I’m going to have nightmares. Last week I stunk. This week, I’ll probably stink again.

Last Week:  9 – 7 – 0
Season:     19 – 13 – 0

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Titans at Giants
The two most surprisingly awful performances of week two face off in week three. One team will rebound; the other will slip further down the standings. (How’s that for analysis?) If Chris Johnson gashes the New York run defense like Indianapolis did last Sunday, the Giants will be in for a long afternoon. Regardless, I can’t pick Vince Young to rebound on the road, against an angry and embarrassed Giants squad. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -3

Steelers at Buccaneers
At first glance, your normal response is probably; “Steelers. No question.” If you slow down, though, you’ll remember the Bucs are 2-0, and quarterback Josh Freeman has played well thus far. Also, Pittsburgh enters week three with Charlie Batch at quarterback, so the Steelers are hardly a juggernaut. From a pessimist’s prospective, Freeman has only beaten the Carolina Panthers and the Cleveland Browns. Neither team is the same caliber as Pittsburgh, especially defensively. Hopefully, the Bucs enjoyed their run atop the NFC South while it lasted. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -3

Bengals at Panthers
For the past year and a half I have foolishly believed the Panthers were on the verge of turning the corner. I’ve officially given up hope. The quarterback situation is what it is, but how can a team with two stellar running backs and an all-pro receiver perform so badly? I’m flabbergasted. It’s not like the –solid defense, running game, and mediocre quarterback play– strategy hasn’t won in the past. Even now, the Steelers are successful with a similar strategy, as are the Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, Ravens, Titans, Chiefs, and 49ers. That’s 1/4 of the league. I’m pretty sure Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen can hand the ball off 45 times and complete 10 of 16 passes every game. Does John Fox pay attention to what’s going on around the league, or has he already checked out? Whatever. I’m done with the Panthers. The Bengals better enjoy this week because it’s one of the few times this season their quarterback is significantly better than the opponent’s. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3.5

Browns at Ravens
If Joe Flacco doesn’t put up 250 yards and two or three touchdowns this week he’s going to be skating on thin ice. One offensive touchdown per outing won’t put Baltimore in the Super Bowl. On the other hand, Flacco’s offense has scored two more touchdowns than any opponent has been able to score on the Ravens’ defense. Seneca Wallace and the loaded Cleveland offense will end that streak on Sunday, though. (Yes, I’m joking about Cleveland’s offense. No, I’m not joking about the touchdown. The NFL is strange like that – the Browns will find the end zone.) Shame on you, Jim Harbaugh. You should know better than to go for a feelski on an unsuspecting official. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -11

Cowboys at Texans
I’m beginning to believe in the Houston Texans. They do everything (pass, run, defense) well enough to win and proved last week they have the marbles to play from behind. Unfortunately, Houston isn’t winning this game. There’s no way. If the Cowboys were 2-0 or 1-1, I’d be confident in the Texans winning. However, a desperate Dallas team cannot afford to drop to 0-3. As much as we’ve all jumped on Dallas during their struggles over recent years, they always seem to bounce back. Tony Romo is due for a big game and the rest of the team will follow suit. Besides, the Texans are probably feeling a little too good about themselves anyway. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +3

49ers at Chiefs
Alex Smith kept himself employed for a few more weeks by going toe-to-toe with Drew Brees on Monday night. That game-tying drive was as impressive as the Saints’ defense was bad…. and that defense was awful. (How do you surrender that drive to Alex Smith in less than a minute? How?) I can’t say the 49ers absolutely need this win because 6-10 will probably win the NFC West. However, the 49ers could really use a win to avoid mutiny in the locker room and keep Mike Singletary’s rear off the hot seat. I’m skeptical about picking them, though. A young team coming off a short week, going on the road in a tough environment after a gut-wrenching loss on national TV isn’t an ideal situation when you’re in need of a win. Although the Chiefs are 2-0, I can’t believe they’re legit until they beat someone good without the aid of a monsoon. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs +3

Lions at Vikings
Brad Childress probably hasn’t slept in weeks. How many times since Tuesday do you think he’s called his old friend Andy Reid to beg for Kevin Kolb? I’m one of the few who doesn’t hate Brett Favre, but if his current play continues, the Vikings will be finished by midseason. In years past, the Lions were the perfect remedy for a struggling team. Now, the Lions are a feisty, talented bunch. If Favre can’t find his game, Minnesota will find itself winless come Monday. Even in his current state, Brett Favre is slightly better than Shaun Hill. Minnesota’s defense isn’t nearly as bad as Philadelphia’s either. For the third consecutive week I’m taking the Vikings. The third time better be a charm. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -11

Bills at Patriots
If Tom Brady gets outplayed by Ryan Fitzpatrick this week he’ll have to shave his head to win back favor in New England. Even though I wouldn’t lose sleep if the hair were gone, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -14.5

Falcons at Saints
I haven’t been impressed with New Orleans at all. Did anyone else think Drew Brees looked rattled and overwhelmed on Monday night? I’m not buying the whole, “the Saints forced those miscues and that’s why they win” garbage either. San Francisco gave that game away. No question about it. And what happened to the Saints’ offense? I didn’t see one deep bomb on Monday night. If I knew which Atlanta team was for real, I’d be a lot more comfortable with picking them. The week one Atlanta version was dreadful against a good defense. The week two edition was unstoppable against a minor league Arizona squad. If they’re only somewhere in the middle, that won’t be enough to beat New Orleans at home. Bummer. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -4

Game to Watch: Cowboys at Texans
Game on Call: Falcons at Saints

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Redskins at Rams
Is it just me, or are there a lot of lousy matchups in week three? I love football and can talk myself into any contest, but I’m digging deep this week. I’ll tune in here because I miss Donovan McNabb. That’s about it. REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins -4

Eagles at Jaguars
The more I think about the move to Michael Vick, the more I hate it. I was never a Vick fan. He was always overrated as a quarterback and accomplished little in Atlanta. Defenses figured him out back then and they’re going to figure him out now. If the Eagles burned their bridge with Kolb and Vick goes down the pooper, Philadelphia could have a Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn, AJ Feeley depth chart on the horizon. Just a thought: What would have happened had Vick gotten hurt in week one and Kolb played exceptionally well? If Reid reneged on his promise to restore Vick as starter, wouldn’t cries of racism flood the news outlets? EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -3

Raiders at Cardinals
It took Jason Campbell all of six quarters to get benched in Oakland. Maybe he and Kevin Kolb should demand a trade to Arizona because I’m quite certain Derek Anderson is not the answer there. Just ask Larry Fitzgerald. Kurt Warner should demand $15 million to return to the Cardinals after his Dancing with the Stars career. Even if they’re 1-7, they’ll still be in the hunt for the NFC West title. Ok, sorry. I’ll back off the NFC West. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +4.5

Chargers at Seahawks
It probably wasn’t the best move for his client, but the agent of disgruntled Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson called San Diego’s GM, AJ Smith, the “Lord of no rings.” That’s funny. What’s not funny is rookie running back Ryan Mathews’ performance thus far. As my fantasy running back, he’s given me one point in two weeks. Now he’s been declared out for this week. I’ve enjoyed watching Pete Carroll as Seattle’s head coach. He appears a lot more comfortable now that he won’t get in trouble knowing his players are being paid. Ba-dum-bum-CHING. Thank you. I’ll be here all week. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -6

Colts at Broncos
Even with a 1-1 record, Peyton Manning looks as sharp as ever. Unless the weather comes to the rescue, Denver is in for a long afternoon. On a more serious note, the Broncos have endured some horrible tragedies in recent years. We often forget that even professional athletes deal with life’s daily struggles. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -6

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

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Jets at Dolphins
If Rex Ryan wants to get his team’s attention and make a point that stupid behavior won’t be tolerated, he’ll punish Braylon Edwards for his drunk driving charge at 5AM in the morning. If Ryan needs ideas, here is mine: Have Edwards dress for the game. After pregame festivities, instruct Edwards to go sit at the end of the bench. Tell him he can’t move for the entire game. Not once. Tell the team they have to completely ignore him, or join him. The crowd will notice, the cameras will notice, and players will notice. If Edwards wants to embarrass the team with his actions, he should be embarrassed as well. Darrelle Revis isn’t a fan of Edwards’ conduct either, “truthfully, I don’t think he should’ve been out that late.” In Miami, the Dolphins are loving the attention heaped upon the Jets. Nothing motivates a team like being ignored by the media. The Dolphins are 2-0 and no one is talking about them. That is, until Monday morning. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -2

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Packers at Bears *Game of the Week
It’s always fun when the most anticipated game of the week is on Monday night. The Bears looked like a playoff contender in Dallas last week. If Jay Cutler can continue to protect the ball, Chicago will contend for the NFC North title too. Brian Urlacher’s return and the addition of Julius Peppers have revitalized the Bears’ defense. As a Carolina fan, my brother is disgusted by Peppers’ renewed energy, but even he saw it coming. Green Bay has also been impressive, but the Bears will provide the Packers their toughest challenge yet. With six sacks in only two games, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews may be the difference. If he’s whispering sweet nothings in Cutler’s ear hole all evening, it will be a long night for the Bears. Aaron Rodgers can’t afford to start slow like he did in weeks one and two. Scoring early and often will force Cutler to press, and that’s when the turnovers start. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3

Last Week: 8 – 7 – 1
Season:    16 – 14 – 2

(Lines as of 9/23, 10:59PM ET, from bodog)

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