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Week 4 NFL Picks

Someone needs to slap Pete Carroll and remind him Seattle didn’t win that game, the replacement refs handed it to them. Also, Sunday should bring plenty of excitement as nine division matchups highlight Week 4. (Photo by Kevin Casey/Getty Images)

Last Week:  7 – 9 – 0
Season:      29 – 19 – 0

Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)

Browns 16 at Ravens 23
Turns out Brandon Weeden was very capable against the Ravens defense. If Greg Little had hands, the Browns force overtime. While Baltimore’s defense wasn’t great, it wasn’t a stellar performance by the Raven offense, either. The last 25 minutes of the second half were especially brutal for Joe Flacco and Co. I should have known better than to expect a lights out performance from the Ravens against the Browns. The last time they blew out Cleveland was in 2009. 

Searching for a running game (Bye Week)

Colts
Losing to the team many consider the worst in the NFL is a lousy way to head into the bye week. Regardless, this season isn’t so much about wins and losses as it is about player development. Though Andrew Luck hasn’t taken the league by storm, he’s shown he’s capable of at least handling the pressure of being an NFL quarterback. Speaking of development, or lack thereof, it may be time to give up on Donald Brown.

Steelers
When the schedule comes out and you look at the teams with the Week 4 bye, your first thought is, “well that sucks.” However, the Steelers are probably grateful for the early bye. The extra week of rest means James Harrison and Troy Polamalu can continue to heal without the team racking up another loss. The bye week also gives the Steelers time to figure out how to fix their running game. Even if Rashard Mendenhall returns this year it’s unlikely he’ll return to his former level of play less than 12 months from knee surgery. Only Adrian Peterson can do that. The Steelers need to find a running game and fix their defense that looked so pedestrian in Denver and Oakland.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Panthers at Falcons
A 6-10 team in 2011 has started the 2012 season 1-2 and people are reacting as if the world is ending. Sure, the Panthers claimed they were Super Bowl contenders. And sure, many believed Cam Newton was an MVP candidate. But c’mon? Is it really that shocking the Panthers are 1-2? Not really. Carolina did little to improve an overmatched defense, and though the offense has its share of weapons, the coaching staff hasn’t quite figured out how to blend them into one fluid machine. Though the offense will likely improve as the season moves on, the defense is what it is.

Speaking of panic, the hometown newspaper publishing a comic depicting Cam Newton as a fraud was especially brash. I’m on the “Newton needs to relax with the Superman shtick and focus on football” bandwagon, but goodness… Philadelphia didn’t get this tired of McNabb until after his 3rd NFC Championship game defeat. In other words, settle, Carolina, just settle. Give Newton time to learn the NFL isn’t the NBA. There’s no time for brand management. Only winning.

As for the Falcons, are we sure we aren’t overreacting there, too? At 3-0, the Falcons have been the most impressive team of the young 2012 season. However, they’ve only beaten teams from the AFC West. Everyone loves talking about how bad the AFC West is this year. I think we can’t fully grade the Falcons then until they play a good team. (Disclaimer: I’m down on the Falcons every year. They’ll finish with 12 or 13 wins and then flake out in the playoffs like always.) FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley: Falcons -7

Patriots at Bills
Too bad CJ Spiller will be down for this one. It would have been entertaining to see if the Bills could send Tom Brady and the Patriots to a 1-3 hole. I’m probably writing off the Bills too easily but I can’t imagine the Patriots losing three in a row, especially with Spiller out and Fred Jackson not at full strength. Besides, Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t sucked for two weeks so he’s do for a stinker. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley: Patriots -4

Vikings at Lions
I haven’t the slightest clue what to think about the Vikings. In Week 1 they squeak by the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime. In Week 2 the Vikings fall short to the Colts. In Week 3 Minnesota trounces the hottest team in the NFL. Huh? I hate teams like this. I need stability. Here’s an educated guess on the Vikings: They jumped on the 49ers early knowing Alex Smith isn’t as good a quarterback as every says. Minnesota trusts Christian Ponder and the offense to score around 20-24 points per game. Against offensively challenged teams, the Vikings have a 70-30 shot at winning. However, if a team’s strength is throwing the ball up and down the field, the Vikings will struggle. (We’ll see how this theory holds up.) LIONS If I were Charles Barkley: Lions -4.5

Chargers at Chiefs
Jamaal Charles’ welcome back party in New Orleans was breathtaking. Charles would have been an MVP candidate in 2010 had Todd Haley not split his touches with the aging Thomas Jones. One win doesn’t convince me the Chiefs are finding their 2010 division-winning mojo again, but it’s definitely a possibility if they feed Charles the football. If this were a Monday night game I think I’d take the Chargers. Since it’s on Sunday, I have to pick the Chiefs, because there’s just no way San Diego finishes September with a winning record. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley: Chiefs +1

Seahawks at Rams
The Seahawks catapulted themselves right into the list of most hated teams, and it’s not because the replacement officials gifted Seattle a victory. It’s because of the way certain members of the Seahawks responded to Monday night’s catastrophe. First, we have Golden Tate and Pete Carroll. Both continually preached about never giving up and fighting to the end as if they had anything to do with the Seahawks winning that game. Carroll believed the call was correct (yeah, right), and Tate refused to admit he committed pass interference until Thursday afternoon. It’s one thing to win a football game because the refs are idiots, but pretending like the biggest fiasco in NFL history didn’t occur is downright annoying.

Then, on top of that, the whole world has Russell Wilson as this great northwestern hero. Really? From what I saw, Wilson made Tim Tebow look like Joe Montana. Seattle’s defense deserves all the credit Tate, Carroll, and Wilson are getting. Without the defense’s amazing play, the Hail Mary doesn’t matter. For so many reasons; karma, Wilson, ignorance; I’m out on the Seattle Seahawks. They won’t be a 2012 playoff team as long as Wilson is under center. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley: Rams +3

49ers at Jets
One team thinks Mark Sanchez is a franchise quarterback, the other thinks Randy Moss can still play. Losing Darrelle Revis for the year was a devastating blow to the Jets. Alex Smith could even surpass 230 yards as a result. I’m tempted to take the Jets due to the whole west coast team playing at 1PM on the east coast, thing, but the Jets offense is just so bad right now. Sanchez is obviously a mediocre quarterback at best, but worst of all, the Jets don’t have a running game. Shonn Greene’s career went downhill faster than Chris Johnson’s. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley: 49ers -4.5

Titans at Texans
Is the league office aware the Texans are still playing a preseason schedule? When do they face a real opponent? I can’t proclaim the Texans my AFC champion until they beat someone respectable. The keys to beating the Titans are; excelling on special teams; holding onto the football after a reception; and making the Hail Mary your go to offensive play. (By the way, the honeymoon is over for Houston after this week; @NYJ, GB, BAL, Bye, BUF, @CHI.) TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley: Texans -12

Late Games (4:25PM ET)

Bengals at Jaguars
Andy Dalton and AJ Green are quite the tandem. Blaine Gabbert and Cecil Shorts… not so much. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley: Bengals -2.5

Dolphins at Cardinals
The NFC West won’t send two teams to the playoffs. There. I said it. The NFC West peaked too early. Opponents will no longer take the Cardinals or Seahawks lightly. The whole division now has a bullseye on it, which wouldn’t be a problem if the teams were actually as good as everyone believes. But they’re not. True, both Arizona and Seattle have outstanding defenses, but the difference between them and the 49ers is competent quarterback play. Alex Smith isn’t going to be confused with Eli Manning anytime soon but he’s far better than Russell Wilson or Kevin Kolb/John Skelton. This is the NFL; you can’t win with lousy quarterback play.

The Seahawks are essentially 1-2 right now. The Cardinals are 3-0 because the Patriots couldn’t get out of their own way and because Kevin Kolb sincerely hates the Eagles, so of course he played his best game in three years. Don’t be fooled, though, Kolb still isn’t good enough to get the Cardinals into the playoffs, and Wilson may not be good enough to keep his job for the entire season. We’re three games into the 2012 season and already there’s talk of the NFC West sending three teams to the playoffs. Stop. Just stop. The Cardinals may get nine wins. I doubt the Seahawks finish with eight. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -6

Raiders at Broncos
The Broncos bandwagon has emptied significantly over recent weeks. However, if I’m a Broncos fan, I’m optimistic. Both of Denver’s losses were to two of the top five teams in the NFL. More importantly, the Broncos first three games were the most difficult stretch of their season. From here on out, the Broncos play only five games against teams with winning records – including one against the Bengals and two against the wildly inconsistent San Diego Chargers. So really, only Baltimore and New England stand out as probable losses for the Broncos.

This worked out nicely for Denver. If you were the Broncos, wouldn’t you rather work Peyton Manning back into game shape against the better teams (games your likely to lose anyway) and then get him into a groove against the lesser teams as the playoffs approach? Manning’s arm strength may never return to what it was, but he’ll figure out how to adjust to his declining abilities in time. With a relatively easy remaining schedule, Manning and the Broncos will have that time, starting with the Raiders lousy defense. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -7

Saints at Packers
The Packers have been fuming since the NFL stole their victory Monday night. The pathetic and desperate 0-3 Saints will receive the brunt of Green Bay’s frustration.

Can we talk about Aaron Rodgers’ performance Monday night? Please? It’s funny how we spend endless amounts of time dissecting a quarterback’s emotional breakdown after getting sacked too often (a la Jay Cutler). Then, when a quarterback gets sacked eight times in the 1st half and never blinks, we totally ignore it. Even though Rodgers had Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin draped on him like groupies at a bar, Rodgers remained cool. Michael Vick would have sucked the rest of the game. Tony Romo would have crawled into a shell. Even Tom Brady would have struggled. Not Rodgers. Rodgers came out in the 2nd half and strung together three consecutive scoring drives of 70, 66, and 81 yards. The drives consisted of 13, 11, and 16 plays, respectively. Though his statistics are currently down, there’s no doubt Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the NFL. Monday night proved as much. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -7.5

Redskins at Buccaneers
Losing record aside, Robert Griffin III’s rookie season has started off about as well as anyone could have hoped. He’s the Redskins only shot at winning on Sundays and he’s flat out electric. As an Eagles fan, watching Griffin getting lit up and then complaining about it to officials only to learn the hits he’s taking are completely legal has been especially fun. Check out this quote from Griffin III:

“I thought they were not legal hits but coach informed me that technically they can hit me, Griffin said. “Even on keepers, they can hit you if you’re carrying out your fake. I didn’t know that so I guess I’ll be running with my arms up a lot more, letting them know, ‘Hey, I don’t have the ball. Please hit me if you want to get a 15-yard penalty.’ ”

Let’s just say I’m going to thoroughly enjoy rooting against this whiner for the next decade. As for the game, I know the Buccaneers are stuck in mud right now, but the Redskins defense is the cure for any struggling offense. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers -2.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Giants at Eagles
If you missed it, I took the Eagles out to the woodshed on Wednesday. After three weeks, the only positive thing we can absolutely say about the Eagles is that, if given the chance, they’ll deliver on a game-winning drive.

Sadly, the defense, while playing mostly well, still has question marks, Michael Vick is under siege, and Andy Reid continues to ignore his all-pro running back. With that said, is there any doubt the Eagles win Sunday night?

Andy Reid does this to us all the time. The Eagles go on the road and get slaughtered. Reid looks like a buffoon. The whole city flips out and writes off the Eagles. Then, out of nowhere, Reid calls a perfect game and the Eagles, for one game at least, eliminate all the issues that normally plague them and emerge victorious. In 2010 the Eagles beat Peyton Manning and the Colts after getting drubbed by the Titans the week before. In 2011, the Eagles and Vince Young shocked the Giants after no-showing against the Cardinals. Hey… wait… run that back… “The Eagles shocked the Giants after no-showing against the Cardinals.” I like the sound of that. Besides, the Eagles can’t possibly lose on a night they honor Brian Dawkins and retire his #20, right? (Depressing note: the Eagles lost 42-0 the night they retired Reggie White’s jersey. Ooof.) EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -1

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Bears at Cowboys
It’s been fun ripping on the Cowboys offense. Though, it’s hard to ignore how well the Dallas defense has performed. My cousin likes to remind me of this fact by sending me articles like this one. It’s true, Dallas’ defense has been good through three games, or as the author exaggerates; “Even though the Cowboys’ D has looked good, they’ve been much, much better than ‘good.’ ” Please. Nearly the entire article praised Dallas for an amazing pass defense without even considering Dallas’ opponents. Allow me.

Week 1: Giants. We all watched that game. The Giants looked out of whack and the Dallas secondary was outstanding. You can argue rust on the Giants behalf but you can’t deny the Cowboys defense was suffocating. I give Dallas credit here. Nice job.

Week 2: Seahawks. Seattle is a one-dimensional offense, and that’s an understatement. The Seahawks ran the ball down Dallas’ throat all afternoon and the Cowboys could do nothing to stop it, so of course the passing statistics would flatter Dallas.

Week 3: Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are the worst offensive team I’ve seen this year. It’s amazing they successfully huddle before each play.

To recap: The author of the article probably should have mentioned the Cowboys have played the 29th and 32nd ranked offenses and the 30th and 32nd ranked passing offenses. Perhaps we should hold off on declaring the Cowboys a “much better than good” pass defense for now.

If you’re reading this thinking, “whatever, he’s just a bitter Eagles fan who’s depressed and trying to rain on everyone else’s parade,” then you’d be exactly right. Spending the last 30 minutes bashing that article was the highlight of my week. Oh, and by the way, Chicago is the 28th ranked passing offense. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys -3.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 6 – 10 – 0
Season:     23 – 24 – 1

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