Friday, September 25, 2009

NFL Week 3 picks

After last week's horrendous 8-8 showing, my season record stands at 20-12. On with the predictions:

Browns at Ravens: This one should be easy. Baltimore appears to be one of the best teams in football, and the Browns are likely one of the worst. I'll take the Ravens.

Redskins at Lions: If the Lions are ever going to win a game again, this could be the one. The Lions don't appear to be much better than they were doing the 0-16 season last year, but they hung in against Minnesota last week for three quarters. On the other hand, the Skins stunk it up against the Rams (who are also horrible), barely squeaking out a 9-7 win. I ordinarily don't like to pick my favorite team to win (since they rarely ever do), but I'll take Detroit in this one.

Jaguars at Texans: Houston took a major step forward last week with its win against Tennessee. I thought they were bad after losing to the Jets in Week 1, but it turns out maybe the Jets are better than I initially thought. Jacksonville meanwhile appears to be completely uninterested in winning football games. They'll maybe get on track eventually, but I think the Texans take this one.

Falcons at Patriots: This is kind of a tough game to pick. The Falcons have looked impressive in their first two games, and the Pats haven't looked at all like a Belichick-Brady team, winning a game against Buffalo they could have easily lost and then dropping a game to the Jets. Still, you have to believe New England figures things out at some point. I'm still going to take the team with momentum in this one and pick Atlanta.

Packers at Rams: I honestly believe that Green Bay is a quality football program and that they had a bad day at the office last week when they lost to Cincinnati. I also believe that the Rams are a worse team than the Lions right now. That said, it's hard to not pick the Packers in this one.

Giants at Buccaneers: Gone are the days of Tampa Bay being a fearful defensive team. So far, they haven't stopped anyone this season. Everyone knows about the Giants' running game, although last week Eli got it done through the air. I expect New York to control the clock in this one and grind out a win against a Bucs' team that will be hard pressed to keep up on offense or defense.

Titans at Jets: Tennessee starts the season 0-2 after many picked them to be a shoe-in for the playoffs. The Jets, meanwhile, weren't expected to make any noise at all and start 2-0. Surely this can't go on forever. I think New York is playing above itself right now, and the Titans have lost a couple of very tough games. I'm taking Tennessee to get back on track in this one.

Chiefs at Eagles: It doesn't look like Donovan McNabb is going to be ready to go again this week, but I don't think it will matter. Kevin Kolb filled in in impressive fashion last week but the defense let down against a red-hot Saints squad. They shouldn't have as much difficulty against the Chiefs. I don't think that K.C. has the weapons to hang with Philly for very long in this one. I'll take the Eagles.

49ers at Vikings: The Niners have been surprising so far this year. Before the season started, it would have been a pretty safe pick to say that they would finish third in the NFC West behind Arizona and Seattle; yet, they've beaten both of those teams already to start out 2-0. That said, I think the Vikings are one of the elite teams in the league. I still believe Adrian Peterson is not from this planet, and San Fran will have trouble containing him. Minnesota wins this one.

Saints at Bills: I think this could be kind of a coming out party for the Trent Edwards-Terrell Owens duo, since the Saints have been allowing yards like crazy during the first two games. Fortunately for them, they've also been scoring like crazy on offense. Look for Drew Brees to come back down to earth in this one, but I'll still take New Orleans to win.

Bears at Seahawks: Seattle is racking up injuries reminiscent to last season, and it looks like they are quickly falling by the competitive wayside. I'm not convinced the Bears are really all that good though either. If Hasselbeck is healthy, I'd say the Seahawks take this one. But since he's banged up and may not even play, it's more of a toss-up. Since I have to take one or the other, I'll take Chicago; I'm not going to shout that pick though.

Steelers at Bengals: What's up with the Steelers this season? They look great one week and paltry the next. I understand that Troy Polamalu is a key part of their defense, and losing him really hurts, but getting torched by Johnny Knox last week? Really? It seems like the Bengals always play Pittsburgh tough but usually lose. I'm going to predict that tradition continues with a narrow Steelers' victory.

Broncos at Raiders: The early-season schedule makers certainly love Denver. The Broncos have opened up with wins against two lower-rung teams in Cincinnati and Cleveland, and now have the luck of playing the Raiders. Oakland has been playing a serviceable type of football so far, but I don't think JaMarcus Russell has developed enough into a winning NFL QB to get this team over the hump this season. This one should be an awful game, but I'll roll the dice and take Denver.

Dolphins at Chargers: I don't think that San Diego is as good as I anticipated, but I think they are still okay. Miami looked like a team on Monday night that wasn't really sure what it needed to do to close out a ball game. I think they are fairly solid defensively, but the offense just lacks big-play capability. Plus they are playing in a short week with a cross-country trip in the middle. I think Philip Rivers will light it up in this one, and the Chargers will win.

Colts at Cardinals: I'm going to stick with my preseason gut and say that Indianapolis isn't as a good a team without Dungy at the helm. Sure, they're still good, but I don't they're as good. Both Jacksonville and Miami had a solid chance of winning at the end of the first two games, and that tells me that Indy isn't putting games out of reach for the easy victory like they have over the past few seasons. That's a dangerous game to play against a Cardinals team that can score points in a hurry. Arizona handled Jacksonville easily in Week 2 after struggling in Week 1, and I think their momentum carries over into this shootout.

Panthers at Cowboys: This should be the week that the Boys can bring a win into their new house. Carolina so far has looked pretty bad, although getting a little better. I don't really have much to say about this one other than that I think Dallas will win because they are the better team.

Good luck everyone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Week 2 NFL picks

Let me start by recapping my results from last week. I went 12-4. Not incredible, but not a bad way to start the season. Admittedly, it's two games worse than the predictions made by fellow blogger footballfanaticjoe, but it's on par with most of the analysts at So I can't complain. In my defense, the Bengals should have won their opener, but somehow Denver was victorious in spite of Kyle Orton's efforts to lose.
Anyway, on with this week's picks:

Houston (0-1) at Tennessee (0-1)
I drank the kool-aid on the Texans last week, but after a poor outing against the Jets, I'm convinced they still aren't ready to make the jump to the next level, despite what all of the talking heads say. Meanwhile, the Titans looked great in defeat. It might surprise me and be a good game, but I'll take Tennessee.

New Orleans (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1)
In all likelihood, Donovan McNabb's broken rib will keep him out of this game, and that definitely hurts the Eagles. The Philly defense was incredible last week and they'll need to be again if they want to shut down the potent Saints' passing game. I know they played Detroit, but six TD passes?! Seriously. Still, I'm not really high on New Orleans. I think they're a pretty one-dimensional club, and the Eagles' D should be able to scrape by with a win.

Arizona (0-1) at Jacksonville (0-1)
A week ago, I think this would have been an easy call, but now I'm not so sure. Arizona plays a very similar style of offense to what the Jags faced in Week 1 against Indy. And Jacksonville was able to hold its own pretty well in that game. Add to that the fact that Arizona has historically been a very poor road team. This one should be close, but I look for MJD to run the ball, and the clock, enough to Jacksonville out in front.

Oakland (0-1) at Kansas City (0-1)
Both of these teams performed better against tough opponents than I expected in Week 1, but in the end, they both lost. It's tough to say which one actually looked better. It's a long rivalry, even though they've both fallen a long way from their glory days. For lack of anything good to analyze, I'll give the edge to the home team and go with the Chiefs.

Cincinnati (0-1) at Green Bay (1-0)
I think the Bengals had about the best chance they'll have to get rolling last week and couldn't close it out. The Pack meanwhile looked pretty impressive. Their running game, which was somewhat of a question mark in my book, wasn't great last week, but wasn't awful either. Aaron Rodgers looks more comfortable running the offense, and I don't think Cincinnati will put up much of a fight. I'll take the Packers.

Minnesota (1-0) at Detroit (0-1)
Probably one of the easier picks this week. Adrian Peterson isn't human, and the Lions (while improved) still have a long way to go before they aren't awful. It pains me to say that, but it's starting to come a bit more easily. 'Nuf said. Vikings.

St. Louis (0-1) at Washington (0-1)
While the Redskins always finish the season with a worse record than they actually are, it's mainly due to the fact they play in a very competitive division. The Rams on the other hand really are that bad. While I anticipate this being a pretty ugly game, I think Washington will come out on top.

New England (1-0) at N.Y. Jets (1-0)
Both of these teams surprised me a little bit in Week 1. The Patriots because they played badly enough that they should have lost to the Bills, and the Jets because I didn't think they would play as well as they did. I think this one will be somewhat of a different story though. By the end of the opener, Tom Brady looked like he was thinking more about the game and less about Gisele, and that's when the tide really turned. The Pats should start a little more quickly this week and take this one the distance.

Carolina (0-1) at Atlanta (1-0)
The Panthers were awful in Week 1. They turned the ball over seven times enroute to a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Eagles. The Falcons won't make things any easier on them. I think opening weekend showed that the Panthers may be a team that is clearly in transition, and I don't look for them to compete in this one. Atlanta will win.

Tampa Bay (0-1) at Buffalo (0-1)
We'll get to see this week if the Bucs are more successful stopping former Cowboy Terrell Owens than they were stopping current Cowboys Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton last week. The return of Cadillac makes Tampa a better team, and the Bills are no powerhouse, but I think they played well enough to win last week. I think Buffalo finds a way to finish it out in Week 2.

Seattle (1-0) at San Francisco (1-0)
The Niners were another of those surprise victors in Week 1, but I still haven't really figured out how they pulled it off. While it's feasible that they would be even better at home than they were in Arizona, this team really has me scratching my head. Seattle on the other hand is actually a pretty good team. They were the only squad to pitch a shutout in Week 1, and I think they can get it done on the road this week.

Baltimore (1-0) at San Diego (1-0)
This is probably one of the tougher games to call this week. Both of these clubs have a legitimate shot to contend in the AFC, and I didn't really see enough good or bad in Week 1 to point out any major flaws or highlights. I will say that L.T. doesn't appear to be the same back he once was, and if San Diego insists on riding him all season, it may be more of a hindrance than a help. Ordinarily when I feel a game is kind of a push, I'll just play it safe and go with the home team, but for some reason, I've got a feeling about the Ravens in this one.

Pittsburgh (1-0) at Chicago (0-1)
Both of these teams lost a key member of their defense to injury in Week 1, but I think that Chicago will feel the effects more than Pittsburgh. The Steelers showed that they are much more than a power running team last week, but I still think that's their bread and butter. Without Urlacher to help shut down the ground game, I think Pittsburgh will be able to pick up their rushing attack in Week 2 and keep the sporadic Jay Cutler off the field. I'll go with the Steelers to start the year 2-0.

Cleveland (0-1) at Denver (1-0)
How did the Broncos manage to get this cakewalk of a schedule to start the year. I haven't looked ahead, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that they have Detroit up next. Anyway, neither of these teams are any good, and this one promises to be as lame as Denver's Week 1 snooze against Cincinnati. Maybe someone will actually find the end zone with more than 2 minutes to play in the game this time around. As weird as I feel doing this, I guess I'll take the Broncos to win again.

N.Y. Giants (1-0) at Dallas (1-0)
It's the big new stadium debut we've all been waiting for. Well, at least that's what all of the television analysts are saying. I could give a rat's ass. Longtime face of the franchise Emmett Smith said a week or so ago that he thinks Dallas is a 7-9 team this season, and I think he probably knows more than I do. I think the Boys probably looked better than the Giants in Week 1, but then again they were playing Tampa. I usually like to pick Dallas at home, but I think this might be one of those games that they lose. I'll take the G-Men.

Indianapolis (1-0) at Miami (0-1)
I think I mentioned last week that I'm kind of a Colts hater, and I was kind of glad to see them struggle a little in their opener. I'll give them credit though; they can win games. I don't think that this is the week Indy's ground game finally gets on track, but I don't think the Fins have enough stars on defense to slow down the Colts' passing. I'm going to take Indy on the road.

Good luck everyone.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NFL overtime rules: The age old debate

I just caught a little bit of today's pregame show on CBS, and the panel of analysts were discussing the results of Thursday night's game between Tennessee and Pittsburgh. For those of you who don't know, the Steelers won the game in the first possession of overtime. Anyway, every time this happens, there's inevitably a huge discussion about whether or not the overtime rules are fair.

Here's how it works now. If the fourth quarter ends with the score tied, the team captains meet with the referee for a coin toss. The visiting team gets the chance to call the flip, and whichever team wins has the opportunity to decide whether or not to play offense or defense to start overtime. Pretty much across the board, teams will take the ball first. That's because the NFL plays sudden death overtime, so whichever team scores first wins. So, it makes sense that if you are on offense, you have the best chance of winning.

Anyway, many times the team that starts overtime on offense marches down the field and scores on the first possession to win the game. The other team's offense doesn't even take the field during the extra period, and many people question whether or not that's fair. In Thursday's game, Pittsburgh won the coin toss, got within field goal range and put up three points for the victory.

Was that fair? I think so.

It takes more than offense to win a football game. Just as the Steelers' offense had the chance to score in overtime, the Titans' defense had the chance to stop them. It's not as though Tennessee doesn't have a great defense. With four sacks, three turnovers and only 13 points allowed, it could be argued that they played a great game. Add to that the fact that Pittsburgh's offense put up only 37 more yards than Tennessee's, and you could even say that the Titans' D played a better game than the Steelers. So, in a game between two teams more known for the defense than their offense, is it fair that one team's offense didn't get the ball in O.T.? Yes.

In last season's playoffs, the Colts lost in overtime to San Diego when the Chargers scored on the first possession. The outcry was a lot louder then because television viewers across the country saw Peyton Manning sitting helpless on the sidelines while his team was eliminated from the postseason. But was it fair? I think so. The sport is about more than offense. Coaches tell players from a very early age that offense, defense and special teams are equally important in winning games. That's especially true in overtime. Some teams are better offensively than defensively. The ones that are well-rounded typically win championships.

Are there alternatives to the overtime rules that would work in the NFL. Probably. College football has a system that seems to work. High school football has a system that seems to work. But chances are good that if all of the rules were changed in pro football, people would still have beef with something.

There are rules and regulations in every aspect of life that don't seem fair to everyone. But you live with it. The rules are the rules, and the rules are fair.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

NFL Week 1: My "expert" analysis

So, the preseason is behind us, and it's finally time to get down to the games that count. It's the most long-awaited Thursday night of the year tomorrow, when the NFL regular season kicks off. Not to be outdone by all of the "experts" at ESPN and, etc. I've decided to put together a weekly preview of my picks. Here goes:

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers 8:30 p.m. Thursday
This one could be an interesting matchup. The team with the best regular-season record from last season (Tennessee) vs. the defending Super Bowl champs (Pittsburgh). But some things have changed since last season. On the Titans' side, QB Kerry Collins gets a year older and the defense will certainly miss the presence of Albert Haynesworth plugging up the middle. Still, they're a running team, and Jeff Fisher is a smart coach who knows what works. For the Steelers, Fast Willie Parker and Big Ben Roethlisberger have both been a little nicked up this preseason, so we'll have to see how they respond. Defensively, I think they're still as sound as ever, and they return most of the pieces from the championship squad on both sides of the ball. In somewhat of a toss-up of two really quality teams, I'll give this one to the Steelers, playing at home with the emotion of hoisting the Lombardi trophy still fresh in their minds.

Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons 1 p.m. Sunday
Miami was the feel-good story of the NFL last season, turning around a horrid program and clinching the AFC East title. Atlanta, also a playoff team a year ago, got the job done with a bunch of unproven players who really shined. QB Matt Ryan had an excellent rookie season, and with a year under his belt, and the addition of future hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, should be even better. Michael Turner, perhaps a little overworked in his first season as a feature back, still looks like a beast in the backfield. On the other side, Miami took a lot of people by surprise with its wildcat offense last season. I don't think it's going to happen again. Atlanta's had all preseason to gameplan against the Dolphins' tricks. I'm going with the home team again in this one.

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens 1 p.m. Sunday
Gone are the days when Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes were striking fear in the hearts of opposing defenses for Kansas City. With new management, new head coach Todd Haley and a new quarterback who last year started his first game since high school, the Chiefs are a mess. Conversely, Baltimore still gets the job done defensively, runs the ball well and second-year QB Joe Flacco takes care of the ball. The Raves should make this one look easy.

Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers 1 p.m. Sunday
This is another tough one. Two playoff teams from last season that both bring back most of the key players. Carolina's running game features a great one-two punch of the electrifying Deangelo Williams and the bruising Jonathan Stewart (when healthy). The return of injured star receiver Steve Smith helps the Panthers' cause, but I'm going to roll the dice on Philadelphia in this one. I think as the careers of Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, and an experienced defensive backfield, start to wind down, the Eagles are going to be motivated this season. In a close one, that could go either way, I'll pick Philly on the road.

Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m. Sunday
I kind of feel bad for all of the fans who are going to have to endure this one. The Broncos traded their quarterback, feuded with their No. 1 receiver and enter the season with a whole lot of question marks. The Bengals have been bad for a long time, but if Carson Palmer can stay healthy and Cedric Benson and Chad Ochocinco play up to their potential, they have a chance to not finish last in their division this season. Cincinnati takes this ugly, ugly contest.

Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns 1 p.m. Sunday
Things are bad enough in Cleveland that coach Eric Mangini has yet to decide which of his quarterbacks will make his team look less horrible. With about four days 'til game time, you might want to figure that out coach. In Minnesota, all of the drama has surrounded the return of the aging Brett Favre, but what's important for this team to be successful is that they have the best running back in the game and a very tough defense. I'll save my Favre tangent for another time. The Vikings are coming to Cleveland, and the Browns are ripe to be pillaged.

New York Jets at Houston Texans 1 p.m. Sunday
Houston has one of the best receivers in the game in Andre Johnson. They have an emerging star in running back Steve Slaton. Defensively, Mario Williams continues to legitimize his status as a No. 1 draft pick. But watch out for the Jets. They have one of the best ... um... well ... they've got ... Mark Sanchez sure has a nice smile. That said, the Texans improve every season. The Jets aren't improving. I'll take Houston to win this one handily.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. Sunday
I predicted back in May that Indianapolis wouldn't make the playoffs this season, and I'm going to stick to my guns on that one. Mostly because I'm kind of a Colts hater. But, as much as I would like to say that their downward slide starts in Week 1, I'm going to have to take Indy to win the opener. Peyton Manning and the Colts offense are still very explosive, if the o-line can do its job. Defensively, I think they have some problems, especially against the run. If Maurice Jones Drew was 100 percent healthy for Jacksonville, I might give this one a little more thought, but he's not. And without him, the Jags just don't have enough weapons to outscore the Colts.

Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints 1 p.m. Sunday
Lions coach Jim Schwartz named rookie No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford as the team's starting QB earlier this week, which I think was a good move. He appears to have all of the skills to be a successful pro quarterback. Still, there's bound to be a learning curve, and I don't think this is the week where Detroit breaks its losing streak. New Orleans is a tough place to play, and Drew Brees was the league's best passer last season. Their defense isn't great, but it should be good enough to force Stafford into some bad decisions. Begrudgingly, I'll take the Saints in this one.

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m. Sunday
Most analysts are saying that the Cowboys are better with Terrell Owens, but I fail to see how that's true. Sure, the locker room's probably a little quieter and the quarterback's probably a little happier. But we'll see how long that lasts when he realizes he doesn't have his playmaker downfield. Still, the Cowboys are better than the Bucs. Byron Leftwich is the quarterback by default, their running game is led by a guy who's missed most of the past two seasons and a couple of guys who are career backups, and they released the heart and soul of their defense in Derrick Brooks. I think the Cowboys win this one prettily easily.

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals 4:15 p.m. Sunday
San Francisco always seems like it's just a couple of pieces short of being competitive. They're so close, that they likely will pull off some wins this season that many people won't expect. But I still don't think they're quite there yet. Arizona ended its Cinderella trip through the postseason last year with a narrow loss in the Super Bowl. And, although a little older, I think this team may have gotten even better during the offseason. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are the best receiver tandem in the league and the addition of rookie Beanie Wells and the emergence of Tim Hightower should improve a non-existent running game from last season. The big question mark is whether the Cards can get it done on the road this season. But that's a question that can wait for another week. They should win this one at home.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants 4:15 p.m. Sunday
The Redskins have kind of been the forgotten members of the NFC East over the past few seasons, and I'm not sure that's going to change this year. They may take a step forward as I think the Cowboys and Giants have gotten a little worse, but I don't think they're ready to really contend for a division title. Clinton Portis will continue to put up consistent numbers without really being a superstar, but the rest of this offense kind of lacks win potential. The Giants, as I mentioned, have some work to do as well. Brandon Jacobs is a tough enough runner to make it a little easier on the offense, but Eli Manning will be expected to win games without a lot of help at the receiver spot this season. I think because of this, the Giants go from being a top-tier team to a mediocre team with playoff potential. That still should be good enough to win this week at home.

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks 4:15 p.m. Sunday
The Rams were one of the worst teams in football last season. Unfortunately, I'm not really sure their rebuilding efforts have started to show any results yet. The Seahawks had an off year last year mainly due to an injured Matt Hasselbeck. He's healthy now, and Seattle added veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to the mix. This one will get ugly early for St. Louis, and Seattle should come away an easy winner.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers 8:20 p.m. Sunday
Most people are conceding the NFC North to the Vikings this season, but I think both Green Bay and Chicago will be in the picture when it's all said and done. These are two quality teams, which makes this a hard game to pick. The Bears upgraded in the offseason with the addition of Jay Cutler at QB. Matt Forte burst onto the scene as a solid running back in his rookie year, and everyone knows how solid the defense is. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is no slouch at quarterback for the Pack. With the nice receiving tandem of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, he should have another great year. Ryan Grant has the potential to be a game-changing back, but he hasn't really shown it yet. So the questions are the Bears' receivers and the Packers' running game and defense. I think the score will be close in this one. The Bears should dominate the time of possession and be in a position to win the game from start to finish. The Packers will stay in it with big plays, but I'll pick Chicago to win on the road.

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots 7 p.m. Monday
Terrell Owens brought the circus to town in Buffalo this offseason which should help the Bills passing game. The trouble is that Trent Edwards will likely be running for his life behind a porous offensive line. Marshawn Lynch is suspended for the first three games of this season, which doesn't help. For the Pats, Tom Brady looks to be back from his season-ending knee injury of last season and should connect with Randy Moss for big plays numerous times this season. Brady's comeback party should start Monday with a convincing win against the Bills.

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders 10:15 p.m. Monday
The Raiders should still be one of the bottom dwelling teams of the league this year with a subpar quarterback, running game, receivers and defense. Meanwhile, LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles will combine to make a fearsome backfield. And QB Phillip Rivers and pass catchers Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates will round out a scary offensive attack. I don't really think the Raiders stand a chance in this one.

And that's my take. Let me know if you agree or disagree. I'll keep a running tally to see if I need to polish my crystal ball a little bit more before next week.