Even at 2-0 the Texans and Arian Foster are searching for their lost mojo. Also, defending the Trent Richardson trade as a reasonable move by Cleveland. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Last Week: 11 – 5 – 0
Season: 20 – 12 – 0
Chiefs 26 at Eagles 16
A lot’s happened since the Eagles dominated the 1st half in Week 1. I won’t waste anyone’s time listing all the sad truths we’ve learned, but several of them played a role in Thursday’s ugly defeat to Andy Reid and the Chiefs.
Let’s start with the defensive performance. Don’t get carried away with the Eagles apparent success. The Chiefs offense is worse than advertised. Alex Smith looked like a rookie afraid to throw the football downfield. Kansas City’s offense didn’t extend 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Essentially, the Eagles greatest weakness (the secondary) got the night off.
The comedy in Thursday night’s defeat was the Eagles being plagued by all the things that disabled them in the final Reid years; turnovers, failure to sustain drives, defense can’t get off the field on 3rd down, missed opportunities. The Eagles brought in a new coach and hoped to change the “culture” of the team, but that’s hard to accomplish when you build around the same players. A flashier offense masks the ugly pimples but doesn’t make them disappear. I also thought Thursday proved how much they miss Jeremy Maclin. Against a great secondary like the Chiefs the Eagles needed a second playmaker downfield.
It’s a long season and the Eagles certainly have time to figure things out. The division isn’t running away from anyone either, so the playoffs are still a very real possibility. But as I mentioned yesterday, something has to be done about the time of possession differential or the defense. The Eagles simply won’t win many games when a questionable defense is on the field for 40 minutes. Furthermore, if they can’t protect Vick, they’ll find themselves staring down the barrel of another 4-12 campaign.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Packers at Bengals
It feels like the Bengals are in a holding pattern. On paper, they have all the pieces to be an AFC title contender. Year three is often when teams make “the leap.” But if you’ve watched Cincinnati the past two weeks (and years) they still look like a fringe playoff team. Andy Dalton is a perfect example. He’s a solid quarterback but I wouldn’t sleep peacefully at night knowing he’s my quarterback in a big game. At some point this season the Bengals need that statement win to prove to their fans and most importantly, themselves, they’re ready to make the leap. Sunday won’t be it. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3
Rams at Cowboys
With every passing week I feel more and more confident in picking the Cowboys to win the NFC East. Dallas is the only NFC East team with anything close to a respectable defense. The offense is still flawed by dropped balls, turnovers, and most of all, lousy coaching, but Dallas’ defense will give the team a shot at winning more often than not. That can’t be said about the rest of their division. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys -4
Chargers at Titans
The 2013 Titans remind me of the Eddie George era Titans. Solid defense, pound it on the ground, and don’t ask too much of your quarterback is apparently the recipe for success. It’s mostly worked, too. Tennessee is a 4th quarter collapse from 2-0. This is a big week for Jake Locker. The Steelers and Texans boast solid defenses, so I won’t hold it against him that he has yet to surpass 150 yards in a game. San Diego’s defense should let Locker surpass the 200 yard plateau. Next up: the Hall of Fame. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -3
Browns at Vikings
The Cleveland Browns are under siege, and rightfully so. When you draft a running back with the 3rd overall pick and then trade him for a lower 1st round pick (probably in the 14-20 range) less than 18 months later you deserve some scrutiny. HOWEVER, I think we’ve all forgotten the current Browns regime is not the one that drafted Trent Richardson with the 3rd pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. New coaches and GMs almost always want “their own guys.” Guys they drafted. Guys they signed. Guys they believe in. Clearly, Joe Banner (CEO) and Mike Lombardi (GM) weren’t in love with Richardson. I can’t really blame them. For a 3rd overall pick, you want more than “solid.” Richardson was a “solid” back, but he’ll never be an all-pro like Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson. Richardson won’t carry a team to the postseason. Most running backs don’t. (Peterson being the exception.) There’s no point in committing yourself to a player just because it looks stupid to trade such a high pick after only one season.
Furthermore, let’s not forget equal production can probably be found elsewhere, and cheaper, too. Talented running backs are available outside the 1st round. Of the top seven rushers from the 2012 NFL season, three were 1st round picks. Two were undrafted free agents. That list doesn’t even include Ray Rice or LeSean McCoy – two of the NFL’s premiere backs – who were both drafted outside the top 50.
Lastly, Mike Lombardi is an NBA fan. In the NBA if you’re not winning you best get busy losing. It’s the only way to improve in the long run. Perhaps he’s applying a similar approach to the Browns. Lombardi knows Cleveland isn’t a playoff team in 2013. Yes, Richardson makes them better now, but he won’t change the franchise’s fortunes for years to come. Though the move is wildly unpopular, I like it. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -6
Buccaneers at Patriots
I’m shocked how well the Buccaneers played last week despite the constant drama surrounding the team. One would think a solid outing and singular focus would rally the team and put them on the right track. Nope. More drama developed this week, this time with all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. We’re two weeks away from Gregg Schiano letting his Rutgers roots take over. He’ll be chucking footballs at players during practice in no time. PATROITS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +7
Cardinals at Saints
I consider the Cardinals to be one of the feistiest teams in the league along with the Titans and Rams. The Saints are so much better at home but I’m not convinced the Saints offense is all that unstoppable anymore. I like the Cardinals to win right up until I imagine the back-breaking Carson Palmer pick six.
Also, I have a confession. I’m rooting for Walter White. I have been since the start. Why? I don’t know. My sister started watching Breaking Bad last week and we’ve talked about how much she hates Walt. Of course. EVERYONE hates Walt. He’s the devil. And still, I can’t help but like him. It bothers me when he’s outsmarted. I hate it when people take his money. Everything Walt does contradicts all I believe in and yet I can’t help but hope he makes it out of this mess in one piece and with his money. I’m a horrible person. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -7
Lions at Redskins
It’s time Robert Griffin III stop telling us his knee is 100% and start showing us on the field. Here’s my solution: Give the football to Alfred Morris early and often. It’s clear Griffin is still tentative with the knee. It’s understandable. It takes him a full half to settle in and stop thinking about injury. They always say the hardest part of coming back from knee surgery is the mental side of it. Griffin may be healed physically but he’s far from over the mental hurdle. Morris is the perfect medicine. REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins -1.5
Giants at Panthers
Given the desperation of both teams, this should be a real bloodbath. I think this one means more to the Panthers. The Giants obviously would love to avoid 0-3 but even a horrific start won’t end their season. For the 167th time, the NFC East is a mess. The Panthers, on the other hand, live in the top heavy NFC South. A 0-3 start would all but end their season and likely seal the fate of scaredy-cat coach Ron Rivera. (So maybe losing Sunday is best for the Panthers.) If I’m Carolina, I’m looking at the next four weeks as a golden opportunity to save my season; BYE, @Cardinals, @Vikings, Rams, @Buccaneers. Not only is it an ideal time to get back to a winning record, it’s the PERFECT time to fire your coach. Do the right thing Carolina. You’ve waited long enough. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -1
Texans at Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens need a hug. Even in victory they looked lost. The Texans aren’t perfect either, nearly starting the season 0-2. Neither offense has much of an identity right now. Both Arian Foster and Ray Rice are struggling. Rice could even miss the game due to injury. Even with Rice, Flacco is short on weapons. He could be in for a disastrous day. Where Flacco lacks alternatives Matt Schaub has Andre Johnson (who is set to play after a concussion last week), an underrated tight end in Owen Daniels, and the exciting rookie from Clemson, DeAndre Hopkins. (By the way, when was the last time the defending champs were underdogs at home just two weeks into the season? Is this a first?) TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -2.5
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Falcons at Dolphins
Miami’s bandwagon is getting crowded. It’ll be interesting to see how empty it is on Friday, November 1. Here’s the next seven weeks for the Dolphins: Falcons, @Saints, Ravens, BYE, Bills, @Patriots, Bengals. That’s a tough stretch. Also, it’s amazing how much we ignore the Falcons. I know they have issues with losing big leads, but let’s not forget they took out the Seahawks and had the 49ers on the ropes in last year’s playoffs. Even without Steven Jackson, I think Atlanta is one of the league’s top seven teams. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons +1
Bills at Jets
I think this is where Jets fans become really depressed about Geno Smith. It’s one thing to see Smith fall at the hand of Tom Brady and the Patriots. It’s a different story when he flounders and falls to a rookie quarterback the Jets opted to pass over in the 2013 draft. Did I mention said rookie quarterback is a near lock for rookie of the year? BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +1.5
Colts at 49ers
This is one of those “wrong place, wrong time” games for the Colts. Though they did nothing to deserve it, Indy will certainly get a beat down from an angry 49ers team. I’m sure the Colts know it’s coming, too. Good teams like the 49ers don’t respond well to being humiliated on national TV. If Andrew Luck knows what’s best for him, he’ll give the rock to his new toy 35 times and let him take the brunt of the pounding from a frustrated 49er defense. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -10
Jaguars at Seahawks
The line is currently 19.5. I think that says all you need to know about this one. (Please note: I’m taking the Jaguars because, though they stink, they’re still professionals and have some pride. Or so I hope.) SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +19.5
Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)
Bears at Steelers
I’m less than thrilled about watching the Steelers offense trip all over itself in prime time again. Regardless, I like Pittsburgh to pull out an ugly win thanks to the annual Jay Cutler 3+ turnover performance. The Bears have been flirting with defeat for two weeks now. They’re due. Also, I’ll likely be comatose for the 2nd half after watching Breaking Bad. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers +2.5
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Raiders at Broncos
Denver defeated the Ravens by 22 and the Giants by 18. Would a 20 point loss be a moral victory for Oakland? Believe it or not, I’m excited to watch Terrelle Pryor for a full game. I’ve peeked in here and there on Sundays but the Raiders are just too bad to justify turning off the other games. Monday I’ll have no other distractions. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -15.5
If I were Charles Barkley…
Last Week: 6 – 9 – 1
Season: 11 – 19 – 2