GB @ Cleve (+6.5). Staph infections, Swine Flu, GBS (general badness syndrome) – being a Cleveland Brown just about now is not cool. While I don’t want any Packers to contract staph/swine flu certainly, I really don’t want any of them contracting GBS (though Poppinga already has had it for a while now and Hawk is complaining of symptoms). Somehow, I think the Pack will stay healthy here and put up some serious points. We do need to keep a close eye on Cleve’s running game though (even though Jamal Lewis sucks) – they average 103 ypg even though they often play from behind and have to pass a lot. Also, Joshua Cribbs is a scary return guy – as good as Hester when Hester was in his returning prime. Pack 27, Cleve 13.
SF @ Hou (-3.5). Matt Schaub may be looking at joining the group of higher profile professional athletes who take off their hat/helmet to reveal, surprisingly, a balding head. He still has some more receding to do, but he’s thinking about it. He’d join Matt Hasselbeck, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker. He has, however, officially joined the “throws a lot of TDs” group. Houston will take this game, but the defense will play more of a role in the victory than many anticipate. (By the way, I’ll be interested to watch SF’s Michael Crabtree grow in this league.)
SD @ KC (+4.5). KC isn’t great no, but this spread seems like too much for SD to cover. Yes, SD has Rivers, Gates, Jackson, but right now, that’s about it. One quiet injury that I think has devastated the Chargers is the loss of DT Jamal Williams. He was a quality run stuffer and his loss seems to have taken the punch out of this defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Larry Johnson finally run wild and KC to at least keep this close, and maybe pull off the upset. Playing in KC is no picnic…it’s more of a BBQ.
MN @ Pitt (-4.5). This game depends entirely on one thing: whether or not Antoine Winfield plays. Big Ben could throw for 500 yards if he doesn’t play. It was not a coincidence that Balt rallied for 21 points mostly through the air immediately after Winfield left the game with an injury last week. While I can see AP having a big game this weekend, I also see Rashard Mendenhall having his way with the #18, yes, #18 ranked MN rush defense. Pitt comfortably.
Indy @ StL (+13.5). Tempted to take the Rams here considering their solid effort last week in Jax and the fact that they’re at home. But I’m pretty sure they will lose by 14 points. While many have been busy blaming the Rams’ QB struggles on a weak O-Line, crappy WRs, poor coaching, etc – after several consecutive years of a sub-80 passer rating, I do wonder when the finger needs to be pointed in Marc Bulger’s direction too. I used to think he was a quality QB, but he just plain hasn’t gotten the job done now for 3 years. From 2002-2006, he played well, particularly so in 2006 (24TDs 8ints 4300 yards, 92.8 rating). But he hasn’t looked right for 3 years now – I wonder if they’ll pull the plug on him soon if things don’t start looking better.
NE @ TB (14.5). This game is in Old England. I would have bet plenty that this game would be a blowout if the game were actually in TB or NE. But given that it’s in England – I can see TB surprising here. I think Tampa’s D will key on NE’s passing game (not shut it down, but their overemphasis on stopping the pass should open up the run) – so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Laurence Maroney have a big day. This is a tough position for me to take this week considering the drubbing handed to Tenn last week (can a team be “handed” a drubbing?…they can now) – but I think TB may hold their own until the 4th quarter and may in fact end up losing by 14.
Buff @ Car (-6.5). That Buff win was heinous last weekend – what an awful game. Still, the fact that they played so hard really right to the end of the 5th quarter says something. I wouldn’t be surprised if Buff shows some fight in this game too – not sure they’ll win, but they’ll hang in there. While both teams suck against the run and it is likely the RBs will have big days, this game may also feature an unexpected passing element. Watch for TO and whining Steve Smith in particular – they could have big games.
NYJ @ Oak (+6.5). Still shocked that the Raiders won last week. I do wonder if Richard Seymour is gradually changing that environment from the inside out by himself. I’d feel very uncomfortable about this game if I were on the Jets. In the end, I can see both teams running the ball all over the place (esp w/the Jets’ Kris Jenkins out) and this game ending with some sort of ugliness – perhaps an on-field-during-the-game fist fight between Rex Ryan and Tom Cable. I think Oak covers but Oak may lose. (By the way, funny to read that Rex Ryan is backing off some of the cocky comments he made earlier in the year admitting that while he believes in his team, he may have gone a bit overboard.)
Chic @ Cincy (-1.5). Say what you will about the Cedric Benson situation in Chicago – but if I were management and saw this fantastic arrest picture, I’m not sure I would have kept him around either. (Though, if I were Bears’ management, I would not have drafted him in the first place because the team already had a quality RB in Thomas Jones – wasted draft pick). But Benson has resurrected his career – and I salute him for it. He’s run over some traditionally impressive run defenses (Balt/Pitt). He stuck it to the Packers at Lambeau. He is the #3 rusher in the NFL right now behind AP and Chris Johnson. The Bears will be keyed up to stop him for sure, but my guess is that Benson wins this revenge battle. If he indeed does win this battle, I hope he keeps a lid on the celebration.
Alt @ Dal (-3.5). I’m a little surprised by this spread – figured it would be -1.5 or -.5 or something. I don’t like betting against Atlanta at all – they are poised and very well coached. But for some reason I can see this game being about TEs – or I should say a TE – Jason Witten. In fact, I think the Dallas D will emphasize shutting down Tony Gonzalez and succeed. At least they should emphasize this: in the one game this year when Gonzalez was not a factor (at NE, 1 catch 16 yards), the Falcons lost. (Random fact: did you know that in his 7th year, Jason Witten has lost just 2 fumbles. Impressive.)
NO @ Mia (+6.5). Seems like the NFL may have overlooked the fact that the Dolphins are only playing at home (3 homes games in a row). Also curious to me, is that in the first 5 weeks of the season, the Dolphins played 2 Monday Night games. They also have 2 more national games this year – a Thursday night game and a Sunday night game. (Meanwhile both the Packers and the Vikes each have just 3 national games on the schedule this year.) I wonder if Jimmy Buffett has been busy forcing his Landshark beer on the powers that be. I know they went to the playoffs last year, but this surprises me. Anyway, onto the game – I don’t think the Wildcat will be overly productive Sunday vs the Saints. The Saints D will be ready for it and Mia won’t be ready to stop the balanced attack of the Saints. I can see Mia doing everything they can to take away the pass from Brees and in the process getting rolled over by Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell.
AZ @ NYG (-6.5). While the Giants will look to move on quickly from last week, I’m sure they’d rather have Detroit or someone this weekend instead of the Cards. The Arizona Cardinals shockingly have the #1 rush defense in the NFL and they just flattened the Seahawks in Seattle – one of the toughest places to play. Not even a game. While I suspect Ahmad Bradshaw will play, if he doesn’t or if he aggravates his injury, the Giants could be in serious trouble. I’ll take AZ in the upset here – but that’s not surprising at all because I never pick the Giants despite the fact that not picking them is really stupid because they often cover (except last week).
Phil @ Wash (+7.5). Well, Jim Zorn just got the ever-concerning vote of confidence from Vinnie Cerrato. In today’s world of blatant, intentional lying to the media, this could actually mean he’s already been fired. This is a huge game for the Redskins. Huge. They lose and their season is toast. (Actually, I want to retract my use of the word ‘toast’ here because for me, if a season were ‘toast’ that would mean the season almost couldn’t go better. Toast is delicious. In fact, at nearly any time of any day, what I’d rather eat more than just about anything is a freshly toasted piece of sourdough bread with butter.) Anyway, if the Redskins truly won’t consider firing Zorn during the season, a loss here could mean Zorn loses the team even more than he has already – making any sort of a comeback virtually impossible. Phil on the other hand, was probably just plain too cocky going into Oak last week. I can see McNabb sitting on the plane to Oak, eating soup, joking around with teammates saying now regrettable things about how bad Oak is. I prefer seeing McNabb lose.
–SF @ HOU: I like Singletary, and I think he’s got the 49ers going in a winning direction. The Texans, OTOH, are very uneven at best. 49ers win outright.
–SD @ KC: the last two meetings, SD won by 1 point. I agree, take KC and the points.
–ATL @ DAL: the Cowboys are a bad team this year, they’re going to struggle to win 8 games. Falcons win outright.
–PHI @ WAS: This one is tough. On the one hand, the Redskins actually swept the Iggles last year. OTOH, the Redskins are a train-wreck this year, and Sherm Lewis is going to be back calling Bingo games in January. Give the points.
Respectable picks. I do think NE will DESTROY TB though, not 59-0… 59-3 maybe? But in all seriousness, the GBP really need to take this scrimmage as an opportunity to get right going into next week! Sooner or later you have to play non-JV teams.