So as we reach the end of Week 9, every team is now halfway through the regular season.  Some teams have been great surprises and others have not. Meanwhile, Oakland is, well, yeah.  It’s at this point in the season where I like to take a look at my preseason predictions and see which ones were good, and which ones were not so good.  Let’s start with some of the good ones.

The Good-AFC

1. As predicted, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are well on their way to taking yet another AFC East crown with relative ease.  Since the Week

This is the one prediction I would have truly been OK with being wrong on. Why do you torture me, Tom Brady?

2 loss to the upstart Jets, the Pats have looked very much like the perennial playoff team we’ve been used to seeing since the beginning of this decade.  Their true test of whether or not they are completely back as a contender comes on Sunday night against the undefeated Colts, but even if they lose that game, it’s hard to see them lose this division.  It would take a collapse much like the Jets had last year, but let’s be serious now people. If anyone truly believes that The Golden Boy is going to let his team falter then stand up and show yourself because I’d like to examine your brain.  Yet again, the bane of my existence in Tom Brady will guide the Pats to a deep playoff run.

2. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the T.O. in Buffalo situation just doesn’t seem to be working at all, which I feared at the beginning of the year and is the main reason I had picked them to finish dead last in the AFC East.  Through eight games, Owens has been limited to 15 catches for 215 yards and 1 TD…wow.  Trent Edwards has somehow managed to avoid his primadonna wideout’s venom so far this season.  However, if this trend continues, expect to be hearing from ESPN’s favorite disgruntled WR very soon.  Get Ed Werder on the next flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Buffalo.

3. The Indianapolis Colts remain the class of the AFC South, especially after pulling out a 20-17 win over the Texans today.  At 8-0, it’s only a matter of time before the Colts clinch the division and start playing Jim Sorgi and a plethora of other reserves in the middle of Week 14.  It’s amazing how consistently dominant the Colts have been since Peyton Manning took the reins of the franchise in 1999.  Staying in this division, the Houston Texans, despite the loss, seem to be in decent position to make the playoffs as a wild card.  So long as they can avoid some of the baffling losses they’ve had in the past, they should be able to get to 9-10 wins and sneak into the postseason.

The Bad-AFC

1. The Cincinnati Bengals are 6-2 and leading the AFC North at the end of Week 9.  I predicted said Bungles to finish 5-11 this year.  It’s partly luck that

I am still not justifying this man's idiocy by calling him by his legally changed last name. Why are people I dislike doing so well this season?!?

they are where they are, but it’s also partly bad luck that they aren’t 7-1 considering their Week 1 loss to Denver, who we’ll revisit in a bit.  Cedric Benson has been a massive surprise on the offensive side of the ball, giving Carson Palmer the complement that he hasn’t had since Rudi Johnson’s sudden decline and subsequent exiling to Detroit.  If the Bengals have staying power, then I look for this team to finish with 11 wins and potentially win the AFC North, meaning that either Pittsburgh or Baltimore is staying home this year for the Playoffs.

2. Well, I was right about the Tennessee Titans taking a step back this year.  But they have taken several hundred steps back.  sitting at 2-6, with back-to-back wins now, thanks in part to Chris Johnson getting going in a big way.  Vince Young has replaced Kerry Collins, playoff hopes seem bleak at best, and we even had Jeff Fisher donning a Peyton Manning jersey because he “wanted to feel what it was like to be a winner.” This team’s got issues, but should manage to finish with 5-6 wins and spend the offseason regrouping for 2010.

3. Who are these Denver Broncos, and since when do teams in complete disarray perform well on the field? (see Raiders, Oakland) I guess at 6-1 going into their Monday Night showdown with Pittsburgh, we have to say that the Broncos are for real, even if I can’t figure out how they’re winning games.  I still think San Diego is going to win this division, and I really think Denver should have lost in Cincy and at home to New England, yet Kyle Orton continues to win like he’s still in Chicago.  I guess it’s poetic justice in the sense that Orton has outperformed Jay Cutler, but other than that I just don’t get how this team hasn’t completely melted down yet.

The Good-NFC

1. Brett Favre has been as good as advertised for the Minnesota Vikings, who at 7-1 look poised to run away the NFC North.  Jared Allen has looked

I hate this guy too...but the Minnesota Favres wouldn't have been this good without him there.

completely revitalized and Adrian Peterson is making Favre look like the All-Pro QB he was in his prime.  I really hope that we get to see these guys play the New Orleans Saints for the NFC title.  That would be one helluva game.

2. The NFC East remains the toughest division to call in all of the NFL.  After a 5-0 start, the New York Giants have fallen way back to Earth and almost to the .500 mark at 5-4. Meanwhile, after looking like they were going nowhere fast, the Dallas Cowboys are leading the pack at 6-2, scoring a big win in Philadelphia earlier tonight.  The Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants will certainly take advantage to playing the Redskins, so it should come down to head-to-head battles between the three teams.

3. The worst teams in the NFL still reside in the NFC.  The Rams, Lions, and Buccaneers’ seasons are already over, as all three stand at 1-7.  The question at this point is will these teams continue to play hard for the final eight games, or think better of it and just throw away contests to try and get the first pick?  It’s never fun to have to look at it that way, but it’s a cruel reality in St. Louis, Detroit, and Tampa Bay this year.

The Bad-NFC

1. Who Dat? Apparently “Dat” is the New Orleans Saints, led by Drew Brees, a solid rushing attack, and a better than advertised defense.  The Saints are 8-

I think I liked it better when the Saints were bad and they wore paper bags over their heads.

0, and unless they do the unthinkable and lose every single game from here out, they will not finish 8-8 as I originally thought.  The Saints have separated themselves from the pack and hold a three game lead over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.  With games left against their division opponents, they should have very little trouble getting to 11 wins.  How many beyond that remains to be seen, but if they get to 10-0 or 11-0, you know that Mercury Morris and the ’72 Dolphins are going to be getting thirsty for their champagne.

2. The Eagles are definitely not a 12-win team this year and with the loss to the Cowboys tonight, might not even make the playoffs.  The team just has too many issues on the offensive line and too many young skill position players to win big games, which showed tonight.  To complicate things further, Brian Westbrook’s concussion took the main cog right out of the Philly offense, which means it’ll be on LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver to get the job done, which they failed to do tonight.

That just about does it for the things that are either surprisingly spot-on or just way off mark for me in the first half of the season.  If I missed anything or if you just want to nitpick a bit, then go right ahead.  Look back for picks for Week 10 on Thursday or Friday.

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I don't know who could use a good week more in Week 8, me or these guys?

Maybe it’s the fact that I am stuck in a deathbed for football this year in Washington, or maybe I just am missing something, but the last two weeks have not gone according to plan.  After what looked like a promising start with four easy wins, the Texans forgot how to play offense and failed to cover against San Fran after nearly blowing a 21-0 halftime lead and Brett Favre decided to throw one of his patented late-game picks for a Pittsburgh TD.  The rest of they day went the same, pretty much, with my only win coming thanks to the Saints’ 2nd half rally past Miami.  The Eagles’ easy win over the ‘Skins salvaged a 6-6-1 week and moved the season record to 53-47-1 (.530).  Here’s the picks for Week 8:

Dolphins (+4) at Jets: The Jets lost to the Dolphins three weeks ago when they were completely healthy and still had Kris Jenkins in the middle to plug up holes in the run defense.  Now he, along with RB Leon Washington and potentially WR Braylon Edwards will not be available against a Miami rushing attack that had a field day against the Jets on Monday night.  The Jets will need to limit Ronnie Brown to under 100 yards and get a good game out of a struggling Mark Sanchez to win this one. I don’t see either of those things happening.

Giants at Eagles (-1): In the first game of what will be a wild Sunday in Philadelphia, I expect the Eagles to play a very strong and sound game and beat the New York Giants in a close one at the Link.  The G-Men haven’t gotten the production they need out of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw the last couple of games, and the Eagles’ defense might be the best out of the last three teams they’ve faced.  Also, the Eagles seem to have found the right offensive formula and are being driven by their youthful skill players in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy.

Broncos (+3) at Ravens: Going into Baltimore and winning is still a very tough task, but the way things have been going for the Denver Broncos, it wouldn’t surprise me to see it happen at all.  If Elvis Dumervil can get the better of his matchup on the line, I expect it’ll be a long day for Joe Flacco.  If this happens, the Broncos’ D can load up the box for Ray Rice and could make this ugly.  I also expect to see Denver spread the ball out offensively to anyone and everyone in order to buy Kyle Orton more time in the pocket and open things up for both Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter.

Texans (-4) at Bills: This is a matchup of two teams that shouldn’t be where they currently are.  The Texans are better than their 4-3 record would lead you to believe and they are just starting to click into gear, which is huge considering how well they play in the second half.  The combination of Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, and Andre Johnson should prove to be too much for a 3-4 Bills team that has really been the beneficiary of playing well against some weaker opponents so far this year.  Plus, I don’t see Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for less than 150 yards and Buffalo beating Houston.

Browns at Bears (-14): Normally I would see Chicago with this big of a spread and run away from them.  This time, though, Da Bears are in desperate need of a win and Jay Cutler & Co. have one of the more porous defenses in the league to go up against.  I think the most interesting thing that will happen during the course of this game will be whether or not Cleveland switches between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn yet again.

Seahawks at Cowboys (-10): It took them six games to do it, but the Cowboys showed me something last week to make me think that they could be a serious factor in the NFC this year.  The emergence of the Tony Romo-Miles Austin connection, having Marion Barber and Felix Jones healthy, and the improvement of the pass rush has turned things around in Big D.  More than this, though, might be that the last time I saw Seattle, they got shellacked by Jacksonville, 41-0.  The Seahawks have some serious issues right now and are going to need some serious help to win this one.

Rams at Lions (pick ’em): Two reasons for picking the Detroit Lions this week:
1. They’re at home
2. At least when they’ve lost this year they’ve managed to be somewhat competitive.
This game merits no further conversation because of these teams’ combined 1-12 record.

49ers at Colts (-13): Indianapolis has just rolled through all of its opponents so far this year, and San Fran’s fairly suspect pass defense was exposed by the Texans last week. Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne is certainly not going to be easy for the Niners to contain, not to mention the rest of the cast from a Colts offense that once again is amongst the best in the NFL.

Jaguars (+3) at Titans: I want to meet the individual who made this line and ask him if he’s watched the Titans this season.  I also want to ask him if he made this line before or after he heard Vince Young might get the start, or if he just thought that Jeff Fisher wearing the Peyton Manning jersey was inspiration for his team.  So long as Tennessee plays the way they have thus far, they will not win on Sunday.

Raiders (+17) at Chargers: The Raiders and Chargers met at the beginning of the year on Monday Night and Oakland actually managed to play what might have been its best game so far this year, falling on a late TD drive engineered by Philip Rivers.  The Raiders still stink, but they seem to know something about San Diego that keeps them in the game.  Chargers will win, but it’ll be closer than you think.

Panthers at Cardinals (-11): The Cardinals seem to have finally shook off whatever was affecting them at the beginning of the year, as was obvious with their big win on Sunday Night over the Giants.  Kurt Warner is finding Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin again, and the defense is making stops when it needs to.  This is very bad news for the Carolina Panthers, who desperately need to re-commit themselves to their running game as long as Jake Delhomme is under center.

Vikings (+3) at Packers: If Favre vs. Green Bay goes anything like Round 1 did, then the Vikings will definitely win this game.  Jared Allen and the Vikes’ D is going to be gunning for Aaron Rodgers early and often in this one and I expect Adrian Peterson to have a bounce back week after being pretty quiet in Pittsburgh.  The Vikings might be the class of the NFC this year and will continue to make their case on Sunday night.

Falcons at Saints (-10): I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week, until some team gives me a reason to not pick New Orleans, I am taking the Saints every week for the rest of the season.  Drew Brees should be able to cut down on his mistakes and take advantage of playing against an Atlanta defense that seems to have some growing issues in the secondary.  Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense just doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Saints in a high-scoring game.

The big one is the game on Monday Night, with Brett Favre going up against his old mates from Green Bay.

The big one is the game on Monday Night, with Brett Favre going up against his old mates from Green Bay.

Week 4 of the NFL Season is just about 36 hours away now and I almost forgot to make my pick for this week…oops.  Last week was another solid one, going 10-6 to push the overall record for the year to 29-19 through the first three weeks.  Let’s see if I can give all of those 10 games over .500 back in one week. (Picks in Bold, Home Team listed 2nd):

Ravens (+2) at Patriots: It’s not very often I pick against the Pats at home, but I really think that this Ravens team is the best in the AFC right now.  Their offense is drastically improved from a year ago, Joe Flacco is a star in the making, and their defense is still formidable enough to allow the Ravens to win close games.  Baltimore wins it, 31-28.

Bucs at Redskins (+8): Two of the worst teams is the league battling in FedEx Field, with most ‘Skins fans preferring to see an encore presentation of U2 instead.  The ‘Skins offense should be able to take advantage of a non-existent Tampa secondary and shouldn’t give up more than 10 points against Josh Johnson and the worst offense in the NFL.  Expect Santana Moss to have a big day in this one.

Titans (-3) at Jaguars: Tennessee can’t possibly start the year 0-4, can they? This is a competitive football team that’s run into some tough opponents to start the year, and Jacksonville might just be the break they needed.  If Chris Johnson can get going and the Titans neutralize Maurice Jones-Drew, then Tennessee should pick up its first win in ’09.

Raiders at Texans (-9): In a game that both teams need to win to prove something to their fans, Houston will finally find a way to win at home, mainly because of the erratic play of Oakland QB JaMarcus Russell, who is looking more and more like a big, 275-pound bust.  The Texans should have very little trouble moving the ball against Oakland’s front seven, too, which could make this one more lopsided than Oakland’s 23-3 loss last week to Denver.

Lions (+10) at Bears: After Detroit’s hex-breaking victory last week (that I said would happen, by the way.) over Washington, I expect the Lions to play a bit above their expectations for a little while.  Although I am confident the Bears will win this game, Chicago’s offense hasn’t done much to make me believe that they could win by more than a touchdown.

Bengals (-6) at Browns:  It’s not easy to pick a team that hasn’t scored a touchdown in the last two games, so I didn’t.  The Browns might be the worst team in the NFL this year and part of the problem is that the offense can determine who its leader is because of Eric Mangini’s nonsensical act of keeping the starting QB decision under wraps until the last minute.  Either way, neither Brady Quinn nor Derek Anderson have played well this year.  Going up against a surprisingly good Cincy squad doesn’t bode well for them.

Seahawks at Colts (-11): After seeing what the Colts did to the Cardinals in Arizona last Sunday night, I’d be a fool to pick them to go down against the Seneca Wallace-led Seattle Seahawks.  If the Colts play the way they should, then this one should be in the bag by halftime.

Giants (-9) at Chiefs: After seeing Kevin Kolb light up the Chiefs last weekend, it’s hard to imagine Eli Manning doing anything less than that.  Even worse for the Chiefs, the Giants have a more proficient power running game and might have a slightly better defense than the Eagles, too.  I expect another blowout in this one for the G-Men.

Jets at Saints (-7): At the beginning of this week when I saw this one, I was inclined to pick the Jets to, at the very least, cover.  However, with the injuries to both Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland, it’s hard to imagine the Jets’ secondary holding Drew Brees in check for the whole game.  I also think we’ll see Mark Sanchez, under the pressure to come up big yet again, finally struggle a bit in the Superdome.  I think it’ll be something like 27-13 in favor of the ‘Aints.

Bills at Dolphins (+1): I really don’t know what to make of either of these teams right now.  The Bills lost about half to their defense, with injuries to Donte Whitner, Leodis McKelvin, and Paul Posluszny (sp?) while the ‘Phins lost Chad Pennington for the year with yet another injury to his throwing shoulder (which I said might happen in my season preview.)  However, I think the Wildcat will prevail in this battle of struggling teams.  Miami in a low-scoring and ugly one, 17-13.

Cowboys (-3) at Broncos: It’s about time that the Denver Broncos had to play some decent teams, after winning over Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Oakland.  Dallas comes into this one coming off a tough win at home over the Panthers and desperately needs a statement win to show that they are going to compete in the NFC East this year.  For Denver, this is the start of a rough three game stretch.  After Dallas, it’s home to the Patriots and then to San Diego.

Rams at 49ers (-10): The Niners are without Frank Gore, which is very bad news for my fantasy team.  The Rams are without Marc Bulger, which is very bad for their real team.  St. Louis’ offense was awful with Bulger at the helm, so God only knows how much worse they could get with Ravens reject Kyle Boller.  The SF defense is going to be fired up, as well, after last week’s crushing last-second loss in Minnesota.

Chargers (+7) at Steelers:  Neither of these two teams has looked overly impressive in their first three games.  The difference is that San Diego is healthy and has a much more effective offense than do the Steelers.  I don’t know how the Chargers are being given 7 in this game, but I’ll gladly take it to the bank.

Packers at Vikings (-4): Brett Favre says it’s not about revenge, but at least part of it might be.  He has the best weapon of vengeance that any NFL QB could possibly want, too, with Adrian Peterson carrying the football behind him.  Aaron Rodgers hasn’t really been tested to much, yet, and he didn’t look great in the loss to the Bengals in Week 2, either.  I expect the Vikes to win by a touchdown, 28-21.

A wild weekend so far in the NFL, with several surprising results making things very interesting in the early season.  So let’s jump right into things so I can finish this and maybe even take a break before the end of the Sunday Night game.

Falcons 28, Panthers 20
The Panthers looked far better than they did last week against the Eagles, but Atlanta and Matt Ryan proved to be just too much for Carolina.  Ryan was very efficient throwing the ball yet again going 21/27 for 220 yards and 3 TDs in the winning effort.  On the other side, Jake Delhomme looked a bit more like an NFL quarterback this week, going 25/41 for 308 yards, with a TD and an INT.  Much better than last week’s embarrassment, but still not enough for the Panthers, who now must attempt to climb out of an 0-2 hole to start the season.

Next Up: Falcons at Patriots (Sun. 1 p.m.), Panthers at Cowboys (Mon. 8:30 p.m.)

Vikings 27, Lions 13
After a first half where it looked like Detroit might finally exorcise its demons, the Lions remembered who they were and Matthew Stafford looked very much like a rookie QB who isn’t ready to play as the Vikings outscored them 17-3 in the 2nd half to take it by 2 TDs.  Stafford struggled again, going 18/30 for 152 yards a TD and 2 INTs.  Brett Favre faced pressure most of the game from the Lions’ D, but still had very good numbers at 23/27 for 155 yards and 2 TDs.  Adrian Peterson came back to Earth after last week as well, only managing 116 total yards and a TD.  Alas, the frustration and embarrassment continues for the hapless Lions.

Next Up: Redskins at Lions (Sun. 1 p.m.), 49ers at Vikings (Sun. 1 p.m.)

Bengals 31, Packers 24
Cedric Benson ran for 141 yards, and Chad Ochocinco got his wish, doing a Lambeau Leap after catching a TD pass in Cincinnati’s surprising 31-24 triumph over Green Bay.  The Packers defense was exposed by a Bengals’ offense that was coming off getting shutdown by the Broncos last week, as Cincy was able to move the ball at will for the majority of the game, as evidenced by Benson’s big day.  For the Packers, a last ditch drive to tie the game up after recovering an onside kick came up short as the Packers ran out of time at the Bengals’ 11-yard line.

Next Up: Steelers at Bengals (Sun. 4:15 p.m.), Packers at Rams (Sun. 1 p.m.)

Texans 34, Titans 31
After last week’s debacle at home against the Jets, Houston responded in a big way, stealing one from the Titans in Nashville, behind a great bounce-back performance from Matt Schaub, who went 25/39 for 357 yards and 4 TDs, 2 of which went to his favorite target in Andre Johnson, who had 10 catches for 141 yards.  The Titans’ wasted a brilliant individual effort from RB Chris Johnson, who had 284 total yards and 3 TDs in a losing effort for a Tennessee team that has surprisingly started 0-2.  The Titans had a chance to tie or win the game late in the 4th quarter, but a Kerry Collins fumble handed the game to the Texans.

Next Up: Jaguars at Texans (Sun. 1 p.m.), Titans at Jets (Sun. 1 p.m.)

Raiders 13, Chiefs 10
Oakland was outgained 409-166, but they managed to pull out a victory in Arrowhead Stadium on a Darren McFadden 5-yard TD run with 1:07 remaining in the game.  Matt Cassel’s Chiefs debut was spoiled as he had a mediocre day going 24/39 for 241 yards, a TD, and 2 picks, but he far outshined JaMarcus Russell, who was a pathetic 7/24 for 109 yards, the majority of which came on the Raiders’ final drive.  Nevertheless, Oakland improves to 1-1 on the year.

Next Up: Broncos at Raiders (Sun. 4:15 p.m.), Chiefs at Eagles (Sun. 1 p.m.)

Jets 16, Patriots 9
In a game that was marred by penalties and missed opportunities on both sides, the Jets managed to back up their trash talk during the week and get the win over New England.  This was a tale of two halves, with New England controlling play in the first half, but a well-adjusted Jets team dominating 2nd half play.  Trailing 9-3 at halftime, New York struck quickly on their opening drive of the second half, added two Jay Feely field goals, and rode a defense that has still not given up a TD this season.  Tom Brady was limited in his effectiveness, going 23/47 for 216 yards and a pick, as he was under pressure often from a blitz-happy Jets D, although the Jets recorded no sacks in the effort.  Rookie QB Mark Sanchez looked like two different players in this game. After going 3/5 for 15 yards with a fumble in the first half, he recovered nicely to finish 14/22 for 163 yards and a TD.

Next Up: Falcons at Patriots (Sun. 1 p.m.), Titans at Jets (Sun. 4:15 p.m.)

Saints 48, Eagles 22
Drew Brees’ and the Saints’ offense continued where they left off last week against the Lions, running up the score on the Donovan McNabb-less Eagles, who turned the ball over 4 times, including 3 picks from backup QB Kevin Kolb.  Brees was 25/34 for 311 yards and 3 TDs, throwing two to Marques Colston, who had 8 catches for 98 yards.  Darren Sharper put an exclamation point on the blowout win for New Orleans with his 97-yard interception return for a TD late in the 4th quarter.  Kolb was 31/51 for 391 with 2 TDs, but his 3 picks all led to Saints’s scores and left fans calling for Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick, who is active for next week’s game.

Next Up: Chiefs at Eagles (Sun. 1 p.m.), Saints at Bills (Sun. 4:05 p.m.)

Redskins 9, Rams 7
Three Shaun Suisham field goals proved to be just enough for Washington to sneak past St. Louis, who saw a golden opportunity to win the game slip through its fingers on WR Donnie Avery’s lost fumble midway through the 4th quarter.  In a game that neither team will really want to remember come tomorrow, Marc Bulger and Jason Campbell both looked very average, neither really taking many chances downfield and counting on their running backs to give them field position. Bulger finished 15/28 for 125 yards and a TD, while Campbell was 23/35 for 242 yards. 

Next Up: Packers at Rams (Sun. 1 p.m.), Redskins at Lions (Sun. 1 p.m.)

Cardinals 31, Jaguars 17
Kurt Warner responded to the criticism following the Cards’ loss last week to the 49ers with the most efficient performance by an NFL quarterback ever as Arizona dominated Jacksonville.  Warner completed 24 of 26 passes for 243 yards and 2 TDs and left the game in the 3rd quarter up 31-3 with a sore shoulder.  Maurice Jones-Drew was limited to 66 yards on 13 carries and the Jaguars offense turned the ball over 3 times.  Antrel Rolle added a 87-yard return off of a blocked FG attempt for Arizona.

Next Up: Colts at Cardinals (Sun. 8:20 p.m.), Jaguars at Texans (Sun. 1 p.m.)

49ers 23, Seahawks 10
Two big TD runs from Frank Gore and another solid defensive performance gives San Francisco sole possession of the NFC West lead.  Gore broke runs of 79 and 80 for scores in a day where he totaled 246 total yards.  The other big storyline in the game was that Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck left the game after taking a hard hit in the back, forcing Seneca Wallace into action.  It’ll be interesting to see the extent of the oft-injured Hasselbeck’s injuries and how the Seahawks will respond to having Wallace under center.

Next Up: Bears at Seahawks (Sun. 4:05 p.m.), 49ers at Vikings (Sun. 1 p.m.)

Bills 33, Buccaneers 20
Buffalo jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead, T.O. made his first TD catch as a member of the Bills, and Buffalo bounced back from last week’s disappointing loss in New England by handling Tampa Bay.  The Bucs were limited to 57 yards rushing for the day and Byron Leftwich threw 2 picks, one of which was returned 76 yards by Donte Whitner for a Bills touchdown.  Trent Edwards looked solid again this week, going 21/31 for 230 yards, with 2 TDs and 1 INT.  The big story might have been the performance of Fred Jackson, who has shined in place of the suspended Marshawn Lynch, as he carried the ball 28 times for 163 yards. 

Next Up: Saints at Bills (Sun. 4:05 p.m.), Giants at Bucs (Sun. 1 p.m.)

Bears 17, Steelers 14
A defensive struggle that lived up to its billing, the Bears rallied behind Jay Cutler to comeback from down 14-7 to win 17-14 at home.  Cutler was a drastically improved 27/38 for 236 yards and 2 TDs, including a game-tying strike to Johnny Knox with 6:21 to play.  After Jeff Reed missed a go-ahead field goal with 3:20 remaining, the Bears marched down the field and Robbie Gould hit the eventual game-winner from 44 yards to improve to 1-1.  Ben Roethlisberger was 23/35 for 221 yards, with 1 TD and 1 pick in a game where neither team had success on the ground.

Next Up: Steelers at Bengals (Sun. 4:15 p.m.), Bears at Seahawks (Sun. 4:05 p.m.) 

Ravens 31, Chargers 26
Baltimore gave up 474 yards of offense, but it was their own offense that led them to a big victory in San Diego.  Joe Flacco continues to look solid in his second year, going 17/26 for 190 yards and 2 TDs.  Philip Rivers was also very good, throwing for 436 yards, but made 2 big mistakes that the Ravens picked off and got points off of.  Willis McGahee continues to play an unexpectedly large role in the Ravens’ offense, as he had 15 carries for 79 yards and 2 TDs to lead all running backs.  Darren Sproles was limited in his effectiveness on the ground, as he was held to 26 yards on 10 carries, but made his impact felt receiving 7 catches for 126 yards and a TD.

Next Up: Browns at Ravens (Sun. 1 p.m.), Dolphins at Chargers (Sun. 4:15 p.m.)

Broncos 27, Browns 6
Denver outgained Cleveland 449-200 and made it look easy at home against the Browns, who never really got on track offensively. Brady Quinn struggled again, turning the ball over twice and failing to lead a single touchdown drive against a Broncos’ D that might just be better than advertised.  Kyle Orton was solid yet again, going 19/37 for 263 yards and a TD, and Correll Buckhalter had 9 carries for 76 yards and a score for Denver, who moves to an unlikely 2-0 and has a great opportunity to move to 3-0 against the Raiders next week. Cleveland was limited to 54 yards on 21 carries on the ground and lost two fumbles as they dropped to 0-2.

Next Up: Browns at Ravens (Sun. 1 p.m.), Broncos at Raiders (Sun. 4:15 p.m.)

    Wow, its been way too long since I’ve posted here and to make up for it, I am going to release my  NFL Preview over the next couple of days.  I know, ludicrous.  Let the insanity begin:

NFC Preview (teams are listed in predicted order of finish):

NFC East:  This is by far the toughest division in all of football with each of these teams capable of winning the Super Bowl or least getting there.  I see at three of these teams making the playoffs with all four of them finishing at or above .500

Dallas Cowboys (13-3):  The team with the most talent west of Foxboro got better in the offseason with the addition of Pacman Jones and Zach Thomas and the promotion of Marion Barber to starter.  Fantasy Pick:  While T.O. and Romo are givens, Jason Witten comes in as my top rated tight end because he is going to draw the double teams away from T.O. on the outside and destroy opponents down the middle of the field.  I expect a huge year.  Position of Concern: Wide Reciever, after releasing Terry Glenn, the Boys only have one reliable reciever and a bunch of unknowns.  Patrick Crayton was decent as a number 3 be does he have what it takes to be a number two?  After him you have even more questions.  Will the recievers lack of experience ground their vast air attack?  Final Outlook:  The Cowboys are obviosly the class of the NFC and have the talent and coaching to gather the number one seed.  However, Tony Romo’s history of choking in the playoffs will not be forgotten as the Cowboys lose another divisional playoff game.

New York Giants (11-5):  The defending Super Bowl Champs have seen a lot of players exit from their championship team.  With the addition of only rookies and role players, will this team take a step back?  Fantasy Pick: I really like Brandon Jacobs and always have.  If he stays healthy this year expect top-10 fantasy numbers from him (like 1800 total yards and 12 touchdowns).  He’s bigger than some defensive ends and will play to contact.  Gotta love that in a running back.  Impact Rookie:  First round pick Kenny Phillips has been flying around camp laying the smackdown.  Pencil him in as the Giants free safety for the next 5-10 years.  Final Outlook:  While they won’t win the division, I like them getting to the playoffs as the top wild card entry and fighting their way to the NFC Champsionship Game. 

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6):  The Eagles have the potential to win the Super Bowl this year or finish below .500.  It all depends on whether or not McNabb is healthy enough to lead this team.  Fantasy Pick:  Brian Westbrook led the league last year in yards and I see no reason he won’t do it again this year.  If i’m drafting in the 4 or 5 position in the first round, I’d think long and hard about grabbing him.  Free-Agent Bust?:  Asante Samuel came from a system that primarily used zone, which allowed Samuel to play an area and wait for the balls to come his way.  Now in Philly, hes going to be primarily a man corner and does he have the skills to justify that massive contract and locker room resentment that Lito Sheppard holds towards the organization?  I don’t think so.  Final Outlook:  This will be the final playoff team and will surprise a few teams when they get there.  I see them reaching the NFC Championship game and maybe something more.

Washington Redskins (8-8): New Coach Jim Zorn has a daunting task of replacing Redskins coaching icon Joe Gibbs.  However, this Quarterback Guru has been busy teaching his stable of quaterback to run his offense.  Fantasy Pick:  Chris Cooley is a guy that I would highly recommend.  He catches everything thrown to him and is always reliable for 800 yards and 6 touchdowns, which is easily attainable when your two best red zone options are rookie wide recievers.  He’s my 5 TE off the board so keep an eye on him.  Burning Question:  What will Jason Taylor’s impact be on the Defense?  The Taylor trade was important on two fronts: they found a great replacement for Philip Daniels and kept him away from the G-Men.  However, they are playing him out of his normal position of LE, but he will still have an impact, but not really add wins to this team.  Final Outlook:  This team just has too many questions and not enough answers to justify a finish better than 8-8.  Jason Campbell still hasn’t proven that he is a winner or can put up the numbers desired from a franchise QB.  Clinton Portis is hurt again and will he be ready for opening day?  Also, how will Zorn handle himself late in the season when his decisions are questioned by the media?  Give them one more year and then they’ll have something. 

NFC North:  The “Drama Division” as I like to refer to it now, has seen the Packers hog all of the media attention while the other teams lurk in the shadows, waiting for all the distractions to destroy the team.  Watch out for Minnesota, if Tavaris Jackson can figure out how to play quarterback, they could be good.

Green Bay Packers (9-7):  I hate Brett Favre.  There I said it, now I can get on with my life.  If I didn’t know any better, I would be led to believe that the Packers are the only team in the NFL.  Fantasy Pick: Greg Jennings, the third year wide reciever is going to explode into stardom this year.  I expect at least 1100 yards recieving and 6-10 touchdowns.  I’d pencil him in as an elite No. 2 reciever/borderline number one.  Burning Question:  How is Aaron Rodgers going to respond this media circus that Brett Favre has created?  Is he the player that fell in the draft or the player who showed enough flashes of brilliance during the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game to lead them to the promised land.  He’s sat enough and now is the time to let him prove it, no matter what number Four thinks.  Final Outlook:  This is still the best team in a week division and Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the division.  They also have a running game to complement Rodgers growth and a defense that features the best press corners in the NFL.  That alone guarantees them a spot in the playoffs. 

Minnesota Vikings (7-9):  While most experts are drooling over the Vikings because of Year Two of A-Pete and the addition of Jared Allen, I still see a team with a bad coach, bad recievers, and a bad quarterback.  Fantasy Pick:  There is nobody worth drafting on this team except Adrian Peterson and he is going to go a couple spots too high.  With all of the hype surrounding him, I see him as a sell high candidate who can give a pretty nice return in a two for one deal.  Free-Agent/Trade Bust:  While this trade was widely hailed throughout the the NFL, I feel like the Chiefs came out on top in the Jared Allen trade.  He is a player who went after his own stats (sacks) and sacrificed run stopping.  In a division that is short on QB prowess, will he live up to lofty standards…I don’t believe so.  Final Outlook:  This is the most overrated team in the league.  They have major holes at all of the offensive skill positions except for running back.  They have a coach that is overmatched and lost.  They will be a major dissapointment and will miss the playoffs.

Detroit Lions (7-9): The Lions dropped ego-maniac/offensive coordinator Mike Martz and his pass happy scheme in favor of something that suits bulldog coach Rod Marinelli.  Lets see if this is the answer to the prayers of Lions nation.  Fantasy Pick:  Roy Williams always has put of monster numbers and he will again this year.  He is the only thing certain on a roster full of questions.  Impact Rookie:  RB Kevin Smith was drafted with the idea that he would give the running game some stability.  Even though he led the nation in rushing last year and is coming into they same system that was run at UCF, he has a lot of wear and tear on him (450 carries last year, over 30 a game) and did not come out of a big time program.  I believe he wins the starting job but doesn’t set the world on fire.  Final Outlook:  The Lions will not be very good again, but they won’t be horrible.  There first priority is to find a franchise QB because Jon Kitna is just a stopgap option.  Two questions though: Will Rod Marinelli last the season and is this the year that Matt Millen finally loses his job?

Chicago Bears (5-11):  The Bears have all sorts of problems on offense, mainly a lack of playmakers.  The defense should rebound from a poor year but they can’t score for the team.  Fantasy Pick:  Chicago DEF/Brian Urlacher.  Urlacher should become a top-5 defense again now that (hopefully) everyone is healthy.  This is more a statement that I would stay away from everyone on this roster, even Devin Hester.  Quarterback Controversy:  Kyle Orton vs. Rex Grossman does not really inspire much confidence but I believe that Orton gives them a better chance to win right now.  He seems to better understand what needs to be done on offense in order to put his team in position to win the game.  Grossman has more talent but it just doesn’t translate on the field.  Final Outlook:  The Bears believe they will be back but I just don’t see it.  Too many holes on offense and top pick Chris Williams has not practiced with the first team offense yet and Matt Forte was a bit of a reach in the second round.  Will he be the answer at RB?  I don’t really think so.

Part Two of Four Coming Tomorrow