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Week 8 NFL Picks

Game 6 of the World Series was epic. Twice the St. Louis Cardinals were down to their final strike, and twice they fought back to tie, eventually winning in the 11th. Will the 3rd time also be a charm for the Steelers? Can the Eagles channel their “inner Cardinal” for a midseason surge?

(By the way, as a Phillies fan, one thing became very clear during this World Series: The Phillies didn’t belong. [Well, duh. That’s why they lost. I know, but you know what I mean.] The clutch hits have been rampant, star players haven’t disappeared, and role players have stepped up. The Phillies weren’t capable of any of these things.)

Last Week:  8 – 5 – 0
Season:      64 – 39 – 0

Accusing NFL front offices of playing fantasy football (Bye Weeks)

Falcons
If I’m a Falcons fan, I’m not sure how I feel about this team right now. After a slow start, Atlanta has rebounded. The defense is playing better and Michael Turner’s recent surge has paced the offense. However, Matt Ryan still doesn’t look like a franchise quarterback. If he doesn’t get out of this funk dating back to January, the Falcons will find themselves out of the playoffs and more significantly, facing an uncertain future.

Bears
Even at 4-3, the Bears don’t look like a playoff team, at least not to me. The offense is beyond one-dimensional. It’s Matt Forte, and that’s it. If any team should roll the dice on Terrell Owens, it’s the Bears. They need a playmaker on the outside to keep defenses honest and prevent opponents from stacking eight in the box. If Owens turns into a cancer and ruins their season, it’s not that big of deal, because right now, the Bears aren’t making the playoffs. I don’t care if their record currently indicates otherwise.

Packers
Things Green Bay can work on during the bye week: 1. Catching the football. 2. Not dropping passes on 3rd down. 3. Hotel reservations and travel arrangements for Indianapolis in February.

Raiders
Based on his one half of work last week, I think Carson Palmer is going to need more than two weeks of practice before he’s ready to start for Oakland. Give Palmer another week or so after the bye and I promise you he’ll be in midseason form. He’ll cut those interceptions down to two per game in no time.

Jets
Jim Schwartz should watch Rex Ryan and the Jets closely. After they ran their mouths for 2+ years, no one is afraid of the Jets anymore. Cockiness is worthless. It’s a shield that, once broken, exposes your flaws for all to see. The rest of the NFL has clearly been watching. If the AFC West and South weren’t so putrid, the Jets would be in danger of missing the postseason.

Buccaneers
Maybe we got carried away with the quarterback love fest over the offseason. Quarterback coverage was everywhere. ESPN even designated this the Year of the Quarterback. Considering Peyton Manning is MIA, Michael Vick has been up and down, and Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco, and Philip Rivers all regressed; I’d argue ESPN got it wrong.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Cardinals at Ravens
For a fan base that lived through Derek Anderson, John Skelton, and Max Hall last season, Cardinal fans sure are ungrateful for Kevin Kolb. Put it this way, Cardinal fans, even with Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, or any other middle class quarterback, you’d still stink. Just accept it. And next time you want to complain about Kevin Kolb, go ahead and watch Joe Flacco. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -13

Vikings at Panthers
Christian Ponder vs. Cam Newton; an intriguing matchup, to say the least. As anyone who reads this blog consistently knows, I can’t say enough about Newton. He’s phenomenal. I can’t decide what excites me most about him. That he has the touch of a five year veteran, or that he made Steve Smith relevant again. There’s man crushage going on there, for sure. As for Ponder, he looked impressive last week but now he’s on film. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a rough outing this week as the Panthers put the final nail in Minnesota’s coffin. Side note: Why didn’t the Raiders send a 4th or 5th round pick to the Vikings for McNabb instead of shelling out a 1st and 2nd for Carson Palmer? While McNabb doesn’t always get the ball to his receivers, he doesn’t throw many interceptions. He also would have cost significantly less. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -3.5

Jaguars at Texans
Whoa. What a performance by the Jaguars on Monday. I’m not sure if Jacksonville’s defense put on one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen all season, or if Baltimore put on one of the worst offensive performances I’ve seen all season. Either way, Jacksonville looked impressive, at least defensively. We’ll find out this week if Monday night was a fluke or the start of a mini-revival in Jacksonville. We’ll also learn if Houston’s success in the ground game will carry over into Week 8 and beyond. The Texans should win the division, but without Foster at the top of his game, Houston will be one-and-done come playoff time. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -9.5

Dolphins at Giants
You know on ABC’s summer hit, Wipeout, where contestants run full speed into one of a handful of doors, but only a few are actually doors while the others are sealed shut?… That’s the Giants’ schedule after this week. They run full speed into a brick wall. It’ll be a miracle if they finish 4-4. It’ll be an even bigger miracle if the Miami Dolphins win before the Miami Heat. Although the NBA is currently locked out, I’d still put my money on the Heat. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -10

Saints at Rams
What happens if the Saints score more than 50 points again? I’m sure it’d be some sort of record. I understand records are meant to be broken, but there should be a HUGE asterisk next to the Saints’ record if they were to score more than 50 points this week (assuming there even is a record). The Colts and Rams would struggle in the SEC at this point. If I’m a St. Louis fan, I’m not sure what bothers me most. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense getting ripped to shreds, Sam Bradford regressing to his sophomore year of high school, or Tony LaRussa doing his best Charlie Manuel impression at such a critical juncture of Game 5 of the World Series. It’s a tough call. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -13.5

Colts at Titans
The Colts without Peyton Manning is like Toy Story without Woody and Buzz… uh, sorry, need a grown up example. Ummm, (thinking, thinking…) Oh, the Colts without Peyton Manning is like a Clint Eastwood movie without Clint Eastwood. On the other hand, the Titans without Vince Young is equivalent to Knight and Day without Tom Cruise – sucks either way. The Colts are clearly making a run at Andrew Luck. Chris Johnson is clearly making a run at the most regrettable contract ever. Should be a tight race. Take your mark, get set, suck! TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -9

Game to Watch: Vikings at Panthers
Game on Call: Jaguars at Texans… or Sleep

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Lions at Broncos
Soap box time. Just wondering, if Tim Tebow were Muslim, would mainstream media mock him for his beliefs? If Tebow were gay, would the media sarcastically credit his sexuality for his success? I didn’t think so. I honestly don’t have an issue with the irreverent Tebow coverage. This is America. Freedom of speech is our most treasured right as citizens. However, don’t turn around and tell me I can’t make fun of a gay celebrity who thinks I care one iota about him or her coming out of the closet. Because I don’t care. At all. Ever. (Unless it’s LeBron James – I knew it!). The Lions should win easily if they’re as good as they want us to believe. I don’t care. I’m going with another Tebow comeback. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +3.5

Redskins at Bills
The annual Toronto game makes less sense to me each year. Buffalo’s fan base is notoriously one of the best in the NFL. They give the Bills the greatest home field advantage in the league. Explain to me again why we’re taking a game away from those people instead of Jacksonville or Miami, or any other team that struggles to sell out? Let the Bills play a road game in Toronto if it’s that important Buffalo be involved. But don’t punish the wonderful Buffalo fans. They’ve been through enough. Moving on… How much longer until Mike Shanahan’s name starts getting tossed around with coaches on the hot seat? It was his call to trade for, bench, and ultimately cut McNabb. It was his call to enter the 2011 season without a viable starter. Plus, he’s failed miserably at establishing the running attack that made him so successful in Denver. Actually, let me rephrase my question… How much longer until Mike Shanahan is out of job? BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills -6

Bengals at Seahawks
According to ProFootballTalk.com, the Seahawks considered drafting Andy Dalton but decided to build their offensive line first. While it’s hard to criticize that logic, fans may not feel so comforted knowing Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst are the ones being protected. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -2.5

Browns at 49ers
Given their current record and five games remaining against the NFC West, it’s plausible the 49ers get the 2nd seed in the NFC. Personally, I don’t see it happening. At some point, either Frank Gore is going to get injured or Alex Smith is going to self destruct, if not both. Regardless, the 49ers look like a comfortable lock to return to the playoffs. The same cannot be said for the Browns. After four rebuilding seasons, the Browns appear to be in the same place they started; no franchise quarterback, very little talent, no direction. Poor Cleveland. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns +9.5

Patriots at Steelers
There aren’t a lot of fantastic matchups on Sunday. In fact, this is the only one before the NBC nightcap. This represents the Steelers third opportunity to defeat a good team. Thus far, they’re 0 for 2, albeit both losses came on the road. Even at home, I don’t expect Pittsburgh to win on Sunday because the Patriots are too good at too many things offensively. I know New England’s defense isn’t great, but they always seem to elevate their play in big games (like Week 6 against Dallas.) No need to fret, though, Steeler fans. The Ravens and Bengals aren’t going anywhere. You still have a solid chance at that number two seed. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -2.5

Game to Watch: Patriots at Steelers
Game on Call: Lions at Broncos

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Cowboys at Eagles
It was a lot easier to talk about an Eagles resurgence during their bye week. Now the rubber meets the road. It’s a whole lot scarier. On one side, I think the Eagles are about to hit their stride, finish 8-2 and compete for the Superbowl. I’m sure if you asked any team in the NFC which team they don’t want in the playoffs, the Eagles would be the most popular choice. If all that talent comes together at the right time, the Eagles would be difficult to stop. On the other side, all that talent hasn’t come together yet. If the Eagles were 4-2 or even 3-3, there’d be a little more time for that cohesiveness to develop. Unfortunately, at 2-4, time is up. The Eagles need to come together right now. I have no idea what team we’ll see Sunday night. The Cowboys are almost as desperate and almost as talented. Desperation makes for entertaining football. Here’s hoping the Eagles don’t sink before November. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -3.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Chargers at Chiefs
As I mentioned in my Week 7 recap, a win on Monday night would propel the Chiefs all the way to first place in the AFC West. The Chargers always struggle against the Chiefs. Blocked field goals, kick returns, a monsoon; San Diego always finds a way to lose to Kansas City. Regardless, I like the Chargers on Monday. Last week’s loss to the Jets had more to do with the Chargers giving the game away than the Jets taking it. I think it’ll serve as a wake-up call, and may even push Philip Rivers back on track. He’s long overdue for a 350 yard, 4 TD performance. Monday night seems like the right time. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -3.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 7 – 5 – 1
Season:     50 – 47 – 6

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