It’s a big weekend for the NFL as playoff implications are on the line in the NFC and American football jumps the pond for the third year in a row. Also this week, technology advances, two of the league’s undefeated will fall, and Eric Lindros gets a shout out. This is big time.
Last Week: 5 – 9 – 0
Season: 55 – 35 – 0
Investigating the disappearance of the LA Dodgers (Byes)
I’m willing to concede two things in regards to the Broncos. One: their defense is ferocious. They aren’t the biggest or most intimidating, but they are fast and they play to knock the tar out of opponents. During the Eagles’ heyday in the early and mid 2000’s, defensive stalwarts like Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas, and of course, Brian Dawkins, used to refer to their defensive teammates as “dogs.” Whenever Trotter used to mention Dawkins or another member of the defense, he’d always say, “Yeah, that dog can hunt.” Well, the Denver defense can “hunt” and it’s no coincidence that Mr. Dawkins is involved. Two: Josh McDaniels knows exactly what he’s doing. Turnovers kill football teams. Broncos QB, Kyle Orton has thrown just one interception in 6 games, and that was to Randy Moss on a Hail Mary attempt. Bears QB, Jay Cutler has thrown 7 interceptions in 5 games, including 3 in the red zone. It’s pretty clear McDaniels wanted a solid quarterback that would protect the football instead of a gunslinger. It’s hard to argue with the results.
I’m excited for the Lions. For the first time in years, Detroit has a football team worth supporting. Yes, they still stink, and no, they won’t win a lot of games, but you can see the change in culture there. They play hard, they think they’re good enough to win, and they’ve hung around in almost every game they’ve played. (Last week was an exception because they were without key components of their offense.) I’m happy for Detroit.
Read what I said about the Lions and apply it to the Titans. Only, read it backwards or upside down. This team is a disaster. When your coach begins making public appearances in a division rival’s jersey, you know your year is over, especially when his response is, “I wanted to feel like a winner.” Ouch. Gut shot to Tennesseeians everywhere.
Funny thing about being a Jaguar: If the coaching staff called for an intra-squad scrimmage this Sunday, the jerseys would be the only thing different than a regular season game. Bye week or not, these guys are used to playing in an empty stadium.
Did you say empty? Imagine what people in Seattle feel like. They lost their basketball team two years ago. That basketball team is now developing one of the NBA’s youngest and most talented rosters and also employs the league’s next great player (Kevin Durant). The Seahawks appear to be headed nowhere, and it rains all the time. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to put me in an extreme funk for at least two months.
Remember when the Ravens were 3-0? They’re 3-3 now. Looking at the teams they beat (Chiefs, Chargers, Browns), and the teams they lost to (Patriots, Bengals, Vikings), it’s hard to consider them among the league’s elite. Make sure you’re sitting down before you read this: It’s the Ravens defense that is costing the Ravens this year, not the offense. Never thought you’d read that before you died now did you?
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Packers at Browns
The battle of earth tones. In my week 6 preview, I correctly predicted Browns QB, Derek Anderson would have a break out week. He did: 9/24, 122, TD, INT, 51.0 Passer Rating. Seriously, that’s a break out week for him. Unfortunately, the Browns still lost. This week, Anderson will put up even better numbers, and the Browns will still lose. If you’re a Packers fan, how many times a day do you sit and wonder how Brett Favre is in Vikings purple? I think if I ever saw a legendary Philly athlete sign with a division rival I would hate both parties. Eric Lindros to the Rangers doesn’t count because poor Eric couldn’t even remember playing for the Flyers after so many concussions. I had no ill will toward that situation. It was like seeing your crippled dog get up and run around one last time. Speaking of Lindros, take a look at the Flyers team photo from 2001. PACKERS.
Chargers at Chiefs
In case you missed my LCS report, watching sports with girls can be fun. It’s a rare occasion that I watch sports with my wife because she’s busy and only watches sports if she’s extremely sick of studying, or wants to take a nap. Here’s an example of what it’s like to watch a game with a girl who’s in med school and has no time for silly things like being a fan. On Darren Sproles’ punt return for a touchdown last Monday night, these are our reactions to the play:
Me: It’s amazing how fast he is. I don’t think he was touched.
Lauren: Aawwwe, look how fast his cute little legs are moving.
As for the Chiefs, I can’t figure out how they compete. They have no running game, their defense isn’t overwhelming, and Matt Cassel has been average. Yet, they’ve been competitive in games against the Ravens, Raiders, Cowboys, and even beat the Redskins. I might have to tune into this game to figure this out. CHARGERS.
Colts at Rams
The Rams are at the point of their season where they should start considering moral victories. Here are a few possibilities for this week. Peyton Manning throws for less than 305 yards. Peyton Manning throws for less than 3 touchdowns. Their defense gives up less than 34 points. Peyton Manning’s jersey get’s a scuff mark on it, even if it’s from tripping on the sidelines. COLTS.
Vikings at Steelers
If Brett Favre makes it out of the steel city 7-0, I will certainly be impressed. The Steelers aren’t the same team that won the Super Bowl, but they’ll make sure to pressure Favre and force him into mistakes. If there’s a game where Favre could throw a handful of interceptions, this is it. I was beginning to believe in the Vikings until the tail end of their victory last week. Their coaching (Andy Reid offspring) is questionable, the defense is susceptible in the secondary, and most importantly, defenses are finding ways to keep Adrian Peterson in check. Favre has been able to beat defenses thus far, but I need to see him do it November before I write off last year’s collapse with the Jets as a fluke. Are teams (excluding the Browns) in the AFC North: A. good but inconsistent, B. simply average, or C. still waiting for the season to start? I can’t tell. If I had to choose, I would guess A. STEELERS.
Patriots at Buccaneers
The NFL sends a game to London each year in hopes of one day expanding to Europe and beyond. This expansion excites me about as much as the spread of swine flu. Maybe one day the rest of the world will appreciate American football, but the logistics of an international league would be impossible. It is quite hilarious that the NFL sent London the Patriots and Buccaneers. Were there any groups that terrorized Mother England more than patriots and pirates in the 1700’s? Regardless, an entire country should be rooting against the Patriots this weekend. Talk about the ultimate road game. I will tune into the beginning of this game to hopefully see two things. 1. Thousands of anti-Patriot fans dressed in red coats. 2. A group of Patriot fans wearing jerseys that contain the last names, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin. If fans could better organize themselves, sports would be a million times more amazing. PATRIOTS.
49ers at Texans
With the return of Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree, the 49ers offense could put up some points. Oh yeah, I forgot. With apologies to Derek Anderson, 49ers quarterback, Shaun Hill is the Bubby Brister of the 2009 NFL. If the Texans want to finally prove they’re a legitimate contender in the AFC, they have to win this game, and next week’s game in Buffalo to go into their week 9 showdown with the Colts at 5-3. AFC vs. NFC games underwhelm me. There’s a handful each year that are worth paying attention to, the others? Not so much. TEXANS.
Game I’ll Watch: Vikings at Steelers
Game I’ll DVR: 49ers at Texans
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Bills at Panthers
Panthers WR Steve Smith declared that he is no longer an asset to his team, and that was after their second consecutive victory. Let’s hope this week the Panthers find a way to get Smith the ball because if they lose, he may punch out another teammate. If Colts WR Reggie Wayne mouthed off after a game, win or lose, I’m pretty sure Peyton Manning would walk over and hit him in the head. While not everyone gets to play with a top caliber quarterback, whining to the media only makes him look like the idiot. Who’s having a rougher year, the Buffalo Bills or Robeson High School in Chicago? Let’s take a look. Buffalo Bills: 2-3 record, no passing attack, inconsistent QB play, poor coaching, and devastating injuries. Robeson High School: 800 female students, 115 pregnant or are already mothers. Yeesh. PANTHERS.
Jets at Raiders
Raiders DE Richard Seymour came out this week and declared the Raiders would be a playoff team…………..this year. As crazy at it may sound, he might just have a point. If the Raiders finish…..nevermind, I can’t even come up with a scenario that doesn’t include, “nine AFC teams forfeit season due to swine flu outbreak.” Will someone please take the bottle from Mr. Seymour? Okay, after making fun of the Raiders, I could see them winning this game. If the Raiders defense can get to the Jet’s interception machine, I mean quarterback, as they did Donovan McNabb, they’ll create a lot of opportunities for their offense. The reason I won’t pick the Raiders is because the Jets’ defense will also get to JaMarcus Russell and therefore create opportunities for their offense. The Jets still have a prolific running game where as the Raiders don’t run the ball as well. JETS.
Falcons at Cowboys *Game of the Week
I’m pretty excited about the afternoon slate. I could watch four out of the five games and be perfectly content. This one is probably my first choice for a number of reasons. It has a great deal of NFC playoff implications and importance to my Iggles. It will be interesting to see which quarterback outperforms the other. (If Matt Ryan outplays Tony Romo, you can bet you’ll hear cries for Romo’s replacement in Dallas.) Lastly, it will give us a good idea of whether the Cowboys are to be considered contenders in the NFC. I know they’re “America’s team,” but the Cowboys uniforms are ghastly. That is my opinion, even if it doesn’t matter. COWBOYS.
Bears at Bengals
If you want to check how many calories are in your lunch, there’s an app for that. If you want to check where you parked the car, there’s an app for that. And if you want to track Chad Ochocinco’s whereabouts, there’s even an app for that. Yep, there’s an app for just about, anything. Only on the iPhone. Seriously, Ochocinco has his own iPhone app. Too funny. Ok, back to football. It’s obvious the “Who Dey” Bengals don’t know who they are right now. Losing at home and turning the ball over twice in the 4th quarter of a tight game are not qualities of a good team. Unfortunately for the Bears, they’re in the same boat as the Bengals. Better find yourselves gentlemen, fast. BENGALS.
Saints at Dolphins
Let’s go back to week two. The Dolphins hosted a prolific offense and managed to lose by only four points. They controlled the ball, confused the Colts’ defense, and barring a few 4th quarter mistakes by the offense, the Dolphins probably would have won. This week, they’ll get their shot at redemption. The Saints are 5-0 but have not experienced the same success against the AFC East as they’ve had in the NFC. Against the NFC, the Saints have averaged 47 points and 476 total yards per game. Against the AFC East thus far (Bills and Jets), the Saints’ have averaged 25.5 points and 360 total yards per game. While each week in the NFL is unpredictable, there is clearly an AFC East blueprint for containing the Saints attack. The difference between the Dolphins, and the Bills and Jets, is their offense. The Dolphins offense can create some havoc and will put some points on the board. With the possibility of rain on Sunday, I like the Dolphins’ chances. DOLPHINS.
Game I’ll Watch: Falcons at Cowboys
Game I’ll DVR: Bears at Bengals
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Cardinals at Giants
Please excuse me for a second. I’m going to take a quick shower before this is over. Let me know if anything happens that could drastically change the outlook of what I’m involved in right now. You know, like Jimmy Rollins crushing a liner to the gap. Thanks. Ok, I’m back. If I’m the Cardinals, I’m not excited about marching into Giants Stadium to take on the Giants after their embarrassing loss last week. In fact, whether it’s due to injury or blowout, I’ll be surprised if we don’t see some Matt Leinart time in this game. Arizona can’t run the ball and the Giants will certainly pin their ears back and bring the pressure. GIANTS.
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Eagles at Redskins
The Eagles have gone into D.C. and performed well once since 2003. I know the Redskins are a disaster right now, but they’re still a division rival. However, I would feel significantly worse about this game if the Eagles would have won last week. Coming off a bad loss, the Eagles will look to rebound. They should be able to muster out a win in front of a national audience that will spend the duration of the game making fat jokes about Andy Reid and “look how confused he looks” comments about Jim Zorn. Oh wait, that’s what I’ll be doing. I apologize for the confusion. If the Eagles continue to lose linebackers to injury, we could absolutely see a reunion of Byron Evans, Seth Joyner and Willie “T” Thomas. I can’t say I wouldn’t love to see them back. EAGLES.
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. This is the first week I have taken the time to study and review my selections. Let’s hope this pays off. I’m on pace for my worst season ever. I have excel spreadsheets going back to 2006 to prove it too. 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).
San Diego Chargers (-5.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
Indianapolis Colts (-14) at St. Louis Rams
Green Bay Packers (-9) at Cleveland Browns
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)
New England Patriots (-15.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans (-3)
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (+7)
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (-7)
Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals (Pick)
New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins (+7)
Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys (-4)
Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants (-7)
Philadelphia Eagles (-7) at Washington Redskins
Last Week: 7 – 7 – 0
Season: 35 – 40 – 0
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders Under 35
Interceptions between Mark Sanchez and JaMarcus Russell Over 27
Last Week: 1 – 0 – 0
Season: 3 – 3 – 0
(Lines as of 10/23, 8:11PM ET, from bodog)