Hou @ Cincy (-5.5). Ummm…was TJ Houshas;dfj23850oawehpawhef0 actually THE bad egg in Cincy when he was there? Was his attitude and his possible hoarding of passes a quiet part of what made that offense underachieve? Is it coincidence that the offense is now flourishing when he’s not there? It’s so strange because when he was at Cincy next to Chad 8-5, I thought TJ was just someone who quietly went about his work and did a great job. Turns out that he’s a loud, trash-talking dude who may just be annoying. The question this week for Cincy, is can their pass defense continue to shut down the opposing team’s #1 WR, in this case Andre Johnson (read previous packergeeks post on this subject)? I think they may slow him down (not shut him out), but ultimately I think this game will come down to a rush-off between Cedric Benson and Steve Slaton – big days for both guys.
Det @ GB (-13.5). A few years ago, I could have worked myself up to be nervous about this game. Even though there are lots of questions about the Pack this year, and lots of places that need improvement, I am not worried about this game. I think the Packers offense is going to explode this weekend and Daunte Culpepper may, just may, set an NFL turnover record. Despite Woodson essentially having to apologize for his recent comments, Capers has realized Woodson was absolutely right – so Culpepper and the Lions are going to be blitzed non-stop. One guy we need to keep an eye on this weekend is rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew.
StL @ Jax (-9.5). I foolishly picked StL to cover last week facing Minn. It cost me both winning one pool and the winner’s cash that I had already figured into our family budget.
Balt @ Minn (-2.5). Now, I hate the Vikings and do try to pick against them whenever possible. Obviously. But this is a game I am positive Baltimore is going to win. And the reason they’ll win: their offense and Matt Birk, who sure would have been a nice Packer. Birk, the Harvard grad and former Viking, knows that offense better than anyone including the head coach and offensive coordinator. He also recognizes defensive packages better than any center in the NFL. He should be getting a good chunk of the credit for Joe Flacco’s impressive development this year. This will be a higher scoring game than many figure. Balt will run and pass right through the formerly staunch Vike’s defense.
NYG @ NO (-2.5). I can’t retain much credibility by continuing to slam Eli Manning because he’s actually kind of good now. So, I’ll go after his golf handicap: 10. Now, a 10 handicap is not bad, but for someone with that kind of money, that kind of access to good help and that kind of off-season time, he should be playing better than that. He should be down in the range of a Mason Crosby (3), Craig Hentrich (+2.6) or Tony Romo, also +3.3 (stats courtesy of Golf Digest). Though, come to think of it, I’m not sure Drew Brees’ handicap is much lower than Eli’s – but I’m fine with that because I like Brees. (CORRECTION, Brees’ handicap is 3). Back to football, Brees is the better QB here and the Saints will take down the Giants.
Cleve @ Pitt (-13.5). If Shayne Graham of Cincy indeed missed that 31 yard FG 2 weeks ago to win the game as some in Cleve contend, then we could say Cleve has been undefeated the last 2 weeks. Amazing. But more amazing is Derek Anderson’ 2 for 17 passing last weekend in Buffalo. That’s JaMarcus Russell completion percentage territory. In fact, the two QBs are duking it out for both worst pass completion percentage and QB rating: Anderson 46.4% and a 39 rating, Russell 42.1% and a 47.1 rating. Meanwhile, Brady Quinn has a 60.0% pass completion percentage and a 62 passer rating. Go figure. Pitt will win this one in the first half through the air and in the second half, with with 3rd stringer/never-injured Mewelde Moore running over the Browns D.
Car @ TB (+3.5). I have little faith in either of these teams. After my horrible call last week that Carolina would “blowout” the Redskins and emerge from their bye week a refreshed/quality team, I’ve backed down a bit. They may win here as long as Jake “hey defense, here’s the ball if you want it because deep down I’m just too nice a guy and I feel kinda badly when defenders are upset by our offense succeeding” Delhomme can keep a lid on his turnovers.
KC @ Wash (-6.5). I want to link to this great post by Anthony Stalter over at The Scores Report because he answers a question I found myself asking the other day: how exactly has Washington done under the guidance of the arrogant Dan Snyder? The answer is not well: 3 winning seasons since taking over the team in 1999 – and the team has done virtually zero playoff damage. I realize Snyder is the owner of the team, but Snyder is heavily involved in personnel decisions (which technically fall under the role held by Vinny Cerrato). Anyway, my point is that outside of making the Redskins very profitable (2nd highest grossing franchise in the NFL), Snyder hasn’t been good w/respect to helping the team win. KC is playing better so this is a tough one to pick. For some reason though, I can see the Redskins putting things together this week – and improving to 3-3. (By the way, going into every game they’ve played this year, the teams they’ve played have all been redefeated, if you will (redefeated being our made up term for a team that hasn’t won).
Phil @ Oak (+13.5). A coach who punches assistant coaches. An owner who looks like he’s melting. A QB who can effortlessly throw a ball 70 yards yet can’t complete a 5 yard out. A WR who, had he stayed in Green Bay and not been an idiot about his contract, could possibly be a top flight WR today instead of being an afterthought. A RB who was so dominant he could run, pass, catch, probably play defense, yet he can’t run for more than 20 yards in an NFL game. A team that Giants’ LB Antonio Pierce claims plays like it’s a “scrimmage”. A once proud fanbase who can no longer sell out their games. Phil by 80.
Ariz @ Sea (-2.5). Leave P Jon Ryan alone. First it was the former special teams coach Mike Stock with Green Bay, now it’s Jack Del Rio. Apparently before the Seattle/Jax game last week, Ryan hit a few punts from too close to where Jax was warming up. Del Rio went off on Ryan, f-word included. Some thought he may have done that to rile his guys – apparently it just pissed off the Seahawks who won 41-0.
Tenn @ NE (-9.5). For this game, I keep trying to have visions of Chris Johnson breaking long runs mixed in with that newer kind of bewildered look Brady/Belichick have been sporting lately (a look that says “wait, we’re not winning right now?”), but no dice. I think this one is lopsided – Vince Young may get some garbage playing time.
Buff @ NYJ (-9.5). Not a close game. Buff will start out playing inspired football for their likable coach’s livelihood, but that won’t last as they suddenly deflate and resort to the poor quality football they have come to know best. It’s kind of nice having T.O. in Buffalo because I feel like we hear less about him now than before. For all I know, he may be saying something controversial right now, but I don’t feel bombarded by it like I used to feel when he was in the Big D.
Chic @ Atl (-3.5). Atlanta FB Ovie Mughelli apparently may not play this weekend. I’d actually consider changing my pick if he doesn’t play. He is a quality FB who helps create some of the nice holes Michael Turner runs through – and Michael Turner’s production may be a key part of this game. In the end, because I have to pick someone before I’ll really know if this guy will play, I’ll take Atlanta because I enjoy watching both Jay Cutler field questions after a loss and the media react to his responses like celebrity gossip columnists.
Den @ SD (-4.5) Lately, LT has reminded me of Uncle Rico from the movie Napoleon Dynamite – “back in ’82…”. Yes, at one time “back in ’82” LT was the best back in football…no question. But he talked a lot before this season about how good he was going to be this year (leading many fantasy types to mistakenly draft him high), and then most recently he claimed he was still the best RB in football. I know that this was his “competitive spirit” talking and all that, but to a mental health counselor-type, it also sounded like someone suffering from delusions. It’s starting to look like not renewing with Michael Turner could have been a huge mistake by San Diego (unless they really give Sproles a shot and he pulls through). I will take SD here because P Rivers may go nuts throwing the ball despite having to throw against Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins (another safety the Packers should have looked at in the off-season). I can see this game developing into a TE contest between Scheffler and Gates.
Andy after my embarrassing statements last weekend about Jax/Sea I realize you put a lot more into this than I do but if you have ever been right please be right about GB/Detroit & Baltimore/MN. Please. And NOT using the spreads. We need a W (& I’m more worried about this game than you are, but then again that’s my nature) & MN needs a L. Would love to see them lose the next three going into their bye.