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Week 9 NFL Picks

The Ravens and Steelers convene for another AFC North slugfest while division standing is on the line in the AFC East and NFC South. Also, the Madden Curse strikes again and sadly, Cam Newton and the loudmouth Lions sit out Week 9.

Last Week:  8 – 5 – 0
Season:      72 – 44 – 0

Amazed Kim Kardashian stayed married this long (Bye Weeks)

Lions
The Lions are undoubtedly the cockiest team in the NFL. Fittingly, they haven’t had a winning season since 2000. In fact, just three short years ago, the Lions finished 0-16. Settle down, fellas. Before you say too much, try actually winning something first.

Vikings
I watch 15-20 minutes of The Incredibles five days a week. It’s how I settle my son before he takes a nap. (It’s either that or Benadryl, so hold your judgment.) My favorite line from the movie is when the Mom looks at her son and says, “Everyone’s special.” The son, not pleased, responds with, “which is another way of saying no one is.” This is why I love professional sports. The trophy generation doesn’t translate to the pros. If you suck, well, you suck. Donovan McNabb isn’t getting the “he had a nice career” treatment right now. He stunk this season. Everyone saw it and no one hesitated to write/talk/blog about how poorly he performed. The same has been true with Tim Tebow. Although he’s a great human being, he was awful last week. Tebow received harsh criticism this week and rightfully so. In professional sports, you actually have to be special in order to get special recognition. I like that. And I like The Incredibles, too.

Panthers
Speaking of special, Cam Newton is special. On the NFL Network’s weekly SoundFX broadcast this week, Panthers head coach, Ron Rivera would not stop raving about Newton before last Sunday’s game against Minnesota. He must have spoken to seven or eight different people, and to each one he blabbed about how great Newton was and how hard he worked. It was like watching a father brag about his 15-year-old son after he threw a no hitter. By the way, I’m going to miss Cam Newton this week. I can’t even remember what Sundays were like without him.

Jaguars
Jack Del Rio is still employed. That tells me the Jaguars are hurting for money. Or, they’re content winning 4 to 8 games and missing the playoffs every season. Or, the owners aren’t paying attention because they’re house shopping in southern California.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Dolphins at Chiefs
On one side, we have the Dolphins. Who, at 0-7 are making a strong, albeit completely unintentional, push for Andrew Luck. On the other side, we have the Chiefs. Who, at 0-3 back in September, many considered the favorites to win the top overall pick. Four games later, the Chiefs sit atop the AFC West. Does this feel like a trap game to anyone else? I’ve watched the Dolphins, and they clearly aren’t buying into the “Suck for Luck” crap. They want to win. Kansas City could be flying a little too high right now. Besides, the Chiefs’ quarterback and head coach get along as well as Kim Kardashian and Chris Humphries. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +5

Falcons at Colts
Anyone else think it’s unfair the Falcons get two bye weeks in a row? Is Roger Goodell aware of this? Is there a way to vote Indianapolis out of the league until Peyton Manning returns? Should I stop asking questions? FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -7

Buccaneers at Saints
After defeating the Saints three weeks ago, Tampa Bay can take a commanding lead over New Orleans in the NFC South with another win on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Saints got a rude awakening last week against the winless Rams, so Tampa Bay should expect the Saints’ best effort. I know it’s taboo to blast Drew Brees, but his performance over the past 18 months has led me to the following conclusion: If I had to win one game and could pick any NFC quarterback other than Aaron Rodgers, I’m not taking Drew Brees and his multiple interceptions. No hard feelings, Drew. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +9

Jets at Bills
My good friend is a ginormous Bills fan. I’ve haven’t seen him this excited about the Bills since Andre Reed and Darryl Talley patrolled Ralph Wilson Stadium. That same friend is also expecting his first child soon. If the Bills and Ryan Fitzpatrick hang on to win the AFC East, I’d bet my friend names that child “Fitz.” Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter. It’s happening. He just doesn’t know it yet. By the way, how entertaining is this division? We’re halfway through the 2011 season and the Bills, Jets, and Patriots all have an equal shot at winning the division and could all just as easily miss the playoffs, too. I can’t wait to see how this plays out. I think the Jets punish Buffalo with the ground game on Sunday and win. I don’t feel good about. It’s just how I feel. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets +2

Seahawks at Cowboys
(Trying so hard not to laugh. I won’t say it. It’s in poor taste to gloat. Just move on, Ryan. Don’t do it… Stop… uh oh… I can’t resist…) How ‘bout them Cowboys?!?! 34-7 baby! Thirty. Four. Seven. Had Native Americans consulted Andy Reid a few hundred years ago about dealing with Cowboys, this country would be totally different today. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks +12

Browns at Texans
True story: When Peyton Hillis won the popular vote to be featured on the cover of Madden 2012 I was delighted. DELIGHTED. Michael Vick was the runner up. You never want your team’s most valuable player on the Madden cover, or any other player from your team, for that matter. It always ends badly. Always. Marshall Faulk, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Shaun Alexander, Troy Polamalu, and several others have fallen victim to the Madden curse. This season, Peyton Hillis has been sidelined by strep throat and a nagging hamstring injury. He’s been called out by his teammates, no-showed at scheduled events, been denied a contract extension, rushed for only 200 yards, and appears to have ruined any chance of signing an extension to remain in Cleveland. Had Vick won the vote, the Eagles would be 1-6 and Brett Favre would be under center. Eagle fans, we got lucky. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -11

49ers at Redskins
The Redskins’ currently start a quarterback, running back, and two wide receivers that would struggle to start on 30 other NFL teams. Mike Shanahan wouldn’t know talent if it lived inside his tanning bed. I’m still waiting for something awful to happen to the 49ers. Their season can’t continue this perfectly. I’m just hoping it won’t be this week. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -3.5

Game to Watch: Jets at Bills
Game on Call: Buccaneers at Saints

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Bengals at Titans
Right now, I have the AFC Wildcard boiling down to the Ravens/Steelers and the Bills/Jets/Patriots with the Bengals, Titans, and the disappointing AFC West a notch below. A win over Tennessee on the road would absolutely change my mind about the Bengals. This is one of those telling games where we learn whether a team is the product of a fluffy schedule or if they’re actually good. Andy Dalton, this is your time. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -3

Broncos at Raiders
Let’s just ignore Tim Tebow’s quest for redemption this week and focus on something a little more uplifting. For those of you that have real jobs and don’t work with a TV on in the background, allow me to introduce you to ESPN’s Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable. It’s a PTI-esque show where Le Batard (one of my favorite sports journalists) dishes about the day’s sports stories with his hilarious and lovable father. Earlier this week, the producers had some fun with Le Batard’s dad. Take a look. You won’t regret it. It didn’t end there, though. “Papi,” as Le Batard calls him, tried a second name. Nothing on TV makes me laugh more than these two. Not even Manny from Modern Family (although it’s close). RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +8

Giants at Patriots
Eli Manning has been spectacular this season. Even without his top wide receiver and reliable tight end from a year ago, Manning has flourished. However, if Manning wants us to believe he’s on an equal playing field with Tom Brady, he’ll have to prove it on Sunday. The Patriot defense looked horrible last week in Pittsburgh. Therefore, Manning should have his way with the New England secondary much like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ben Roethlisberger did. If New York’s pass rush is on, and the Patriots can’t establish an effective ground game, Brady will be a sitting duck all afternoon. Regardless, I can’t see the Patriots laying a clunker two weeks in a row. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants +9

Rams at Cardinals
Kevin Kolb is out with what he called a “weenie” injury (turf toe), so the Rams have an excellent opportunity to extend their winning streak to two. Although I don’t expect either team to finish with the NFL’s worst record, it would be fascinating to see what they’d do if they found themselves holding that top pick. The fascinating part wouldn’t be what they’d do with the pick, because drafting Andrew Luck is too obvious, but rather how they would dispose of their current quarterback. (Do you think at the beginning of the season either of these teams expected to have their names involved in conversations regarding the number one pick in the 2012 NFL draft?) RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +2

Packers at Chargers
You know how they say, “winning cures all”? It should really be, “winning masks all.” Monday Night was an ugly game. Philip Rivers lost it by fumbling while trying to kill time before the Chargers attempted the game-winning field goal. Let’s not forget, though, the Chargers dominated the Chiefs. San Diego marched up and down the field all night. If the Chargers could score in the red zone, they would have crushed the Chiefs. Instead, the Chiefs didn’t lose (I’m hesitant to say “won”) and are now playoff darlings while the talented Chargers have been left for dead. Red zone issues are a huge deal and not easily addressed. However, if the Chargers find even a slight fix, they probably run the table and clinch the AFC’s top seed. Obviously, that’s a gigantic “if,” but it’s true nonetheless. The Packers aren’t good enough to finish undefeated, but I don’t think a short week is enough time for San Diego to solve its red zone woes. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +6

Game to Watch: Giants at Patriots
Game on Call: Packers at Chargers

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Ravens at Steelers
It’s way too early for the most violent rivalry in the NFL to be finished for the year. The NFL schedule maker should be fined and punished. How do these teams play twice without the temperature dipping below 40? It’s absurd. Pittsburgh and Baltimore should play every December. Period. No questions asked. Also, ignore the Ravens’ struggles against the lowly Cardinals last week. Despite their ups and downs, I still think Baltimore is the better, tougher team this year. I know Pittsburgh dominated the Patriots, but New England doesn’t have the gusto of Baltimore. If Joe Flacco doesn’t do anything completely stupid… actually, let me rephrase that… If Joe Flacco only does one completely stupid thing, the Ravens should still win. I know picking Flacco in a big game, especially against Pittsburgh, is equivalent to investing with Lenny Dykstra, but I’ve got a feeling about this one. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +3.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Bears at Eagles
It seems like every year the Eagles battle the Bears, and for three of the past four meetings, the Eagles have found a way to lose. In 2007, it was Brian Griese (yes, you read that correctly) driving the Bears 97 yards in less than 1:50 with no audio in his helmet and no timeouts to score the decisive touchdown with 9 seconds left. In 2008, Correll Buckhalter and the Eagles couldn’t punch it in from the one yard line on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th down and lost by four. In 2010, the Eagles lost despite a late rally because they went one of five in the red zone. Will this year be any different? Well, the Bears’ offense is a one trick pony. Contain Matt Forte, and you contain the offense. Furthermore, Chicago’s offensive line is beyond bad, so the Eagles should have a heyday attacking Jay Cutler (assuming they can stop the run). On the other side of the ball, the Chicago secondary is a mess. Michael Vick and the offense should have success moving the ball. Almost everything points to an Eagles’ victory. Then again, the same was true in 2007, 2008, and 2010, and things didn’t turn out so well. With a loss to Atlanta already, the Eagles can ill afford to drop to 0-2 against NFC Wildcard contenders. They need this one, badly. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -7.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 5 – 8 – 0
Season:     55 – 55 – 6

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