I really like DeAngelo Williams, especially against Miami tonight

I really hope that I’m not the only person out there right now who thinks that having Thursday Night games before Thanksgiving is as morally wrong as Christmas commercials on TV before Thanksgiving.  It’s just too much and it means I have to make my picks in the next 90 minutes before the Miami-Carolina game starts.  So here we go with my Week 11 picks.  By the way, last week we survived an 0-5 start and managed an 8-7 record to inch the record up to 73-68-1 (.518).

Thursday Night
Dolphins at Panthers (-3): Considering the way both of these teams like to play on offense, this game might not last for its 3-hour time slot.  The big difference in this one? Ronnie Brown is on the IR for the Fish now, which makes that Wildcat a lot more predictable.  Look for Julius Peppers to make the night a long one for Ricky Williams, who makes his first start in about a year.

Sunday
Redskins (+11)
at Cowboys: I know what you’re thinking right now and, trust me, I agree with you that Washington is not a good football team.  However, this is and NFC East rivalry game, and its one that the ‘Skins will get up for.  They won’t win the game, but they’ll make Tony Romo and the rest of the Cowboys earn the W.

Browns (+4) at Lions: This might be the Pillow Fight of the Year between two teams that just can’t seem to do anything right.  I’m taking the Browns solely because both of these teams are so inept offensively that I can’t see either team winning by more than a field goal.  Either way, whoever put this game on the 2009 NFL schedule deserves to be looking for a new job.

49ers (+7) at Packers: I’m not ready to give up on the San Francisco 49ers this season yet.  There is a lot of young talent on that team and I personally think that the Packers are a team moving in the wrong direction.  Frank Gore should be able to have a very productive day, and if the San Fran pass rush can disrupt Aaron Rodgers the way they threw off Jay Cutler last week, the Niners should win.

Steelers (-10) at Chiefs: At first I saw this game and was intrigued by the Chiefs.  Then Dwayne Bowe was suspended for PEDs and I woke up.  KC remains one of the most lost franchises in the NFL, it’s just that their hidden by the Oakland Raiders, who ironically play in the same division.  If the Steelers can’t beat the Chiefs by 2 touchdowns, then they really don’t deserve to make the playoffs.

Seahawks at Vikings (-11): Minnesota has yet to lose at home this year and bring in a Seahawks team that is reeling from its loss to the Cardinals last week after looking pretty good early in that one.  As always, Adrian Peterson will do what he does and the Vikes’ D should be able to win the battle up front to put pressure on a fragile Matt Hasselbeck.

Falcons (+7) at Giants:  Atlanta is only 1-4 on the road this year, but the Giants have looked just awful in their last four games.  It’s a big concern that the Falcons don’t have Michael Turner, but I think the combination of backup RBs will do okay against a Giants’ D that has been very suspect as of late.  Keep an eye on how sharp Eli Manning looks, too.  I suspect he’s more injured than he and the G-Men have led us to believe.

Saints (-11) at Buccaneers: Drew Brees hasn’t had a huge game since Week 2 and has turned the ball over a little too much lately.  Still, the Saints are 9-0.  Going up against lowly Tampa Bay shouldn’t be too difficult.  This is also another chance for the New Orleans D to prove itself by shutting down a weak offense as it should.

Bills at Jaguars (-9): The Bills have no run defense against one of the league’s best rushers in Maurice Jones-Drew, no offense to counter with, and just fired Dick Jauron (probably a good thing, actually). There’s no way they will compete with Jacksonville, who now sits only one game behind Houston in the AFC South.

Colts (+2) at Ravens: So how exactly are the 9-0, Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts the underdog against the Ravens this week? Sometimes, I wonder who makes these lines.

Cardinals (+9) at Rams: St. Louis showed a lot of fight last week against the Saints…but still lost.  Arizona has an opportunity to extend its NFC West lead to three games this week if San Fran loses in Lambeau.  Kurt Warner and Co will not let that opportunity go to waste.

Chargers (pick ’em) at Broncos: Two words should tell you why San Diego will handle Denver and take over the AFC West on Sunday: Chris Simms.  If you watched any of him during the second half of the Broncos’ loss in DC, you saw a guy who looked completely lost out there.  Finally, justice has arrived for Denver, and it comes in the form of a fourth straight loss.

Bengals (-10) at Raiders: Cincy is the talk of the league after its big win over the Steelers last week.  Now they basically get a bye week against the Raiders, who have decided to bench JaMarcus Russell for former Bucs QB Bruce Gradkowski…and that might be an improvement, which is really scary.

Jets at Patriots (-11): The Pats have yet to lose at home, almost never lose back-to-back games, and are still mad about what happened in Indy last week.  Plus, they’re facing a team that Bill Belichick, if given the opportunity, will beat by as much as possible.  The Jets are basically floating around like a dead fish after losing at home to the Jaguars, and would need nothing short of a miracle to beat New England in Gillette on Sunday.  Before you say anything, yes I’m serious, and yes, I am a Jets fan.

Eagles (-3) at Bears:  The Eagles are coming off of tough back-to-back losses to Dallas and San Diego.  Although Chicago isn’t exactly a gimme for the Iggles, I still think they have a lot more to play for than the Bears. That and Jay Cutler is guaranteed to throw at least a pick or two.

Monday Night
Titans (+5)
at Texans:  Houston couldn’t beat the bad version of the Titans by 5 points in Week 2, as they held on for a 34-31 win. Now the Texans have to beat the new and improved version of Tennessee, led by, of all people, Vince Young, who has looked sharp in his first three starts.  This is a golden opportunity for the Titans to ruin Houston’s season, and I think there’s a decent chance they’ll do just that.

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Well, I knew I was bound to have a stinker of a week sooner or later, and hopefully it doesn’t get any worse than last week’s 7-7 showing, which brings the season record to a respectable 36-26 (.581) for the year.  So, let’s take a look at this week’s games (Picks in Bold, Home Team Listed Second):

Browns (+6) at Bills: Last week, I was looking for either of these teams to show me something.  The Browns put up a good fight in a losing effort against the Bengals.  The Bills floundered against the Chad Henne-led Miami Dolphins.  This is the only reasoning I used in picking the Browns.  Both of these teams are awful.

Steelers (-11) at Lions:  The Lions looked like the toothless team we had become accustomed to seeing during their 19-game losing streak last week, while the Steelers played like a team that was desperate for a win.  Pittsburgh needs to win again this week in order to stay with the Ravens and Bengals in the AFC North.  I expect them to play very well again this week.

Cowboys (-9) at Chiefs: Dallas is having just a plethora of issues right now, the latest being an injury to WR Roy Williams that will sideline him for tomorrow’s game in Arrowhead Stadium.  Fortunately for the ‘Boys, they’re playing in Arrowhead Stadium, which means they get to face the hapless Chiefs, who look far, FAR away from being competitive in any game.

Vikings (-11) at Rams: Minnesota is flying high right now with their 30-23 victory over the Packers to move to 4-0 on the season.  Meanwhile, the Rams are a team with Kyle Boller at QB and, potentially, Rush Limbaugh for an owner…Recipe for disaster, methinks.

Raiders at Giants (-16): This is just an absurd spread for an NFL game, but if you’ve seen both JaMarcus Russell and the Giants’ defense, you would struggle to not pick the G-Men.  I wouldn’t worry too much about Eli Manning’s plantar fascitis, either.  This is an injury common with runners, and with the amount of time Eli should have in the pocket, he shouldn’t have to run at all.

Bucs at Eagles (-16): I am going way against my tendencies this week by picking all of these favorites with huge spreads, but I think it’s more of a testament to how much of a gap has been established between good teams and bad teams in the league this year.  Parity looks as if it might be dying in a quick and painless fashion.  McNabb is back for the Eagles, who could really use a win to show that they can compete with the G-Men in the NFC East, and will play that way too.

Redskins at Panthers (-5): Living in Washington has forced me, at times, to suffer through Redskins games this year.  As a result, I am baffled by their 2-2 record if I don’t remember who they beat.  Then I remember they beat the Rams and Bucs by a combined five points.  If there is any justice in the world of football, then Carolina will win this game, because the Redskins would be the least-deserving 3-2 team ever.

Bengals (+9) at Ravens: Call me crazy, but I am becoming a believer in the Cincinnati Bengals.  They seem to have enough offense to win games, and their defense is serviceable, as well.  That being said, I am a believer in them to lose by less than 9.  The Ravens are a team that doesn’t blow anyone out, but finds a way to win more often than not.  B-More wins an ugly one 24-21 at home.

Falcons (+3) at 49ers: This is a very interesting game because it’ll really be the Niners first game without Frank Gore (I’m not counting the Rams as a real opponent.).  The Falcons have been a team that hasn’t really had a ton of attention payed to it so far this year, which is odd considering they won the NFC South last year.  I think Atlanta will start to make some noise tomorrow with a win in San Francisco.

Jaguars (+2) at Seahawks:  Once again, Seneca Wallace will be starting for Seattle.  Once again, I am picking against the Seahawks at home.  Jacksonville is coming off of a resounding victory over Tennessee at home last week and needs to win this one in order to maintain position in a still-competitive AFC South.

Texans at Cardinals (-6): This is a very interesting game between two of the more high-octane offenses in the league, that have struggled to get going so far.  The Cardinals and Texans both need this game to keep up with their division’s leaders.  However, I think Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald will outgun Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson and continue Houston’s first half misery and underachievement.

Patriots (-3) at Broncos: Finally, after four weeks of playing some subpar competition, the Broncos and their 4-0 record are going to be tested.  It also is a matchup of Teacher (Bill Belichick) vs. Student (Josh McDaniels).  In the end, though, the Patriots are playing at a much higher level than the Broncos right now and should have little trouble going into Mile High Stadium and taking the game.

Colts (-5) at Titans: Peyton Manning and the Colts offense have looked as good as they have in a few years and the D isn’t too shabby, either.  Meanwhile, the Titans are in deep trouble of starting the season 0-5 after going 13-3 just last year.  I don’t see the Titans figuring out all of their problems in just one week and playing Indy doesn’t help them at all.

Jets (-3) at Dolphins: It took me five weeks to do it, but I’m finally taking the New York Jets to win a game.  The Jets lost in a very deceiving way last week that masked how well their defense played against the Saints’ highly-praised offense.  I think that Mark Sanchez will cut down on his mistakes from last week and the Jets’ D will take care of Ronnie Brown and Co. in the wildcat and win easy in Miami.

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.)

Leodis McKelvin made a name for himself in the worst way possible last night.

Leodis McKelvin made a name for himself in the worst way possible last night.

Last night’s Monday Night Football double-header provided more than just insomnia for people living on the East Coast.  It provided two games that were much more competitive than people were expecting and two of the marquee moments of this opening week of the NFL season.

First, the New England Patriots escaped at home with a 25-24 win over the Buffalo Bills after Tom “the Golden Boy” Brady found tight end Ben Watson in

In his first real game back, Brady was 39-53 for 378 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.

In his first real game back, Brady was 39-53 for 378 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.

the endzone twice in the final 5:43 to complete a great comeback from down 24-13.  However, its how the Pats got the chance to win the game that will be discussed more than anything else.  The Bills’ rising defensive star in CB Leodis McKelvin inexplicably decided to attempt to run back the kickoff after the Patriots cut the deficit to 24-19.  McKelvin, who by all accounts had a very nice game defensively, coughed up the ball at the Bills 32, setting up the game-winning strike from Brady to Watson.  Naturally, the camera focused on a forlorn Dick Jauron on the sidelines, who was once again left to wonder how his team could lose a game like THAT.  There are really only a few teams that could lose a game in such a fashion, namely, the Bengals, Lions, and now the Bills.  That’s not the kind of company you want to be in if you expect to be a winning team this year.  After the game, I was somewhat impressed by the way Brady and the Pats looked at the game, realizing that they had seized the opportunity given to them and that they could have played far better.  In actuality, this was a game where it seems like you were better lucky than good, as New England dominated almost every major stat category with 28 first downs to Buffalo’s 17, over 400 yards of offense, and just over 37 minutes of possession.  This sets up another battle with the division rival New York Jets in the Meadowlands on Sunday, which should certainly provide some fireworks both on and off the field this week.  As for the Bills, they will have to find a way to put this heartbreaker behind them as they host the Tampa Bay Bucs, who are coming off of a 34-14 loss at home to the Cowboys.

The second game might have been an even bigger surprise than the first, mainly because not one person really gave the Oakland Raiders a good

Rivers had a less-than-spectacular game, but was 6-7 for 79 yards on the Chargers winning drive.

Rivers had a less-than-spectacular game, but was 6-7 for 79 yards on the Chargers' winning drive.

chance against the San Diego Chargers.  Yet it took a final 89 yard TD drive, engineered by Philip Rivers, to help lift the Chargers to a 24-20 victory in the Black Hole.  The key to figuring out this one really is how well the Raiders ran the ball, as well as how they defended against the run.  Oakland out-rushed San Diego 148-77, and also forced LaDanian Tomlinson’s first lost fumble in almost 3 seasons.  Richard Seymour, whose status most people weren’t even sure of three days ago, looked like a force to be reckoned with in the trenches with his 6 tackles and 2 sacks, and the Raiders’ O-Line won their battle up front.  At the end of the day, though, the Raiders’ three turnovers proved to be very costly.  JaMarcus Russell threw two picks in the first half, showing that he still can’t make some of the throws a good NFL QB needs to be able to make and Darren McFadden doesn’t look like he’s cured his case of Fumble-itis.  The Raiders will look to bounce back next week as they face-off against another division foe in the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.  The Chargers will look to make it 2-0 as they host the Baltimore Ravens.

The NFL regular season is almost upon us, which for me means another chance to try and figure out who is going to win the Super Bowl before the first real snap is even taken.  Usually this means that by Week 9, I find myself looking at this article and laughing at my own stupdity.  This year I’m going with a new approach to this whole thing though.  In the past, I found myself buying into the ESPN hype machine on teams like the Browns, and Jaguars…not this time! This is basically blind analysis on my gut instinct this year, so it will certainly be interesting to see if this method works.  If not, I will walk from here in D.C. to Bristol, Connecticut, and apologize to John Clayton and his egghead for ever making fun of him.  So, here it goes, my predictions for this 2009-10 NFL Season. Today, the AFC.

AFC East
The East is one of the more intriguing divisions in the league this year because of the storylines surrounding each team.  The Patriots are a team

Much like Wes Mantooth said to Ron Burgundy.  Tom Brady, I hate you with every ounce of my soul. But, God do I respect you!

Much like Wes Mantooth said to Ron Burgundy. Tom Brady, I hate you with every ounce of my soul. But, God do I respect you!

that gets Tom “the Golden Boy” Brady back, but is going through a bit of a defensive revolution. The Dolphins are that team that everyone looks at and says “can they do what they did last year again?” The Bills have T.O, enough said and the Jets are led by a rookie QB and Head Coach.  That being said, this is how I see the East shaking out:

1. New England (13-3)
Yes the defense is a lot different looking and Tom Brady is coming off an injury, but anyone who thinks the Patriots aren’t going to continue to be the premier franchise in the NFL is out of their minds.  As much as it pains me to say this because of my unfortunate love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with the Jets, no one in this division will touch the Pats this year, and no one will get close to Tom Brady’s surgically-repaired knee because the Pats’ O-Line won’t allow for that and either will the NFL’s rules committee (The Bernard Pollard hit is now a 15-yard penalty).  Even with the changes on the defensive side, any offense that has Brady, Moss, Welker, and a re-vamped running game that now features Fred Taylor will be very hard to keep up with on the scoreboard.  The Patriots will win this division going away and look poised to make another deep playoff run.

2. Dolphins (8-8)
This might be even more painful than what I said about Tom Brady and the Patriots: I was wrong about Chad Pennington.  I admit that when Brett Favre became available, that I was vocal in wanting him and dumping No. 10, who ended up guiding the once hapless ‘Phins to an unlikely playoff run last year.  Granted, that was largely in part due to Brady’s injury and the Jets choke-job in the last five weeks, but hey, they won the division outright and you cannot take that away from Miami.  However, I struggle to see how the Dolphins have improved from the offseason and that combined with the parity of the NFL and the fact that the Ravens D exploded the wildcat last year leads me to believe that they will take a small step backwards this year.  Also, it’s important to note that Chad Pennington has only gotten through two straight seasons in his career without a serious injury once, and those were his first two seasons.  Chad Henne, be prepared to step in at some point this year.

3. Jets (6-10)
I’m feeling a little bullish on the J-E-T-S this year by even suggesting they will finish ahead of the Bills and win 6 games.  When I first saw the 2009-10 schedule, my gut reaction was 2-14 or 3-13.  The more I looked at it though, the more I relaized that this team isn’t awful, but they just can’t throw the ball.  They will get lucky a couple of times this year, and they do get games against the likes of Oakland and Cincinnati, so I think 6 wins is an achievable goal for “Mr. GQ” Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan and his big mouth.  However, do not expect the games against teams like New England to be pretty, especially their Week 2 showdown, where Belichick and Co. will be looking to run up the score if they have the chance.

4. Bills (4-12)
Many people out there are talking about the Bills as a surprise team this year.  My question is: What team are you looking at?  Yes, they added T.O. (or as Skip Bayless calls him, Team Obliterator) and yes, the team seems to have found a bit of an identity, but they still aren’t very good.  Marshawn Lynch isn’t available for the first three games, T.O. is already banged up, and Trent Edwards isn’t exactly Jim Kelly, even with a very fast and dangerous receiving corps.  Defensively, I really struggled to identify any of their returning starters, save Aaron Schobel and Paul Posluszny, whose name it took me about five tries to spell properly.  Usually you can make the argument that it’s because no one pays attention to defense, but I don’t think it’s the case with the Buffalo/Toronto Bills.  They aren’t very good, sorry Bills fans.

AFC North
The AFC North is kind of like a Tale of Two Cities, except with four cities…or something like that.  In Pittsburgh and Baltimore, hopes are very high that

With a name like Big Ben you should expect a little bit of trouble.

With a name like "Big Ben" you should expect a little bit of trouble.

their teams will compete for the Lombardi Trophy this year.  In Cleveland and Cincinnati, they just hope that their teams make it through the whole season in one piece.  So, in a two-horse race, who will take the crown?

1. Steelers (12-4)
The defending champs remain one of the most complete teams in the league and lack any major glaring weaknesses coming into this season, so long as Big Ben avoids motorcycles, lawsuits from suppossed jilted ex-lovers, and any other kind of things that would really only happen around the starting QB for the Steelers (Just ask Terry Bradshaw.)  If anything was a problem for Pittsburgh, it was that the lacked a great running game last year and at times were forced to rely a little bit too much on the likes of Mewelde Moore (My fantasy team’s MVP last year!).  That gets some serious help with the return of second-year man Rashard Mendenhall, who looks poised to get a good amount of the carries down by the goal line for Pittsburgh.  I fully expect Pittsburgh to be seriously discussed as having a chance to repeat before the end of the regular season.

2. Ravens (10-6)
I really like Joe Flacco and what he’s been able to do for the Ravens offense, but the problem for him, as has been for so many of the Ravens QBs since Trent Dilfer led them to their lone Super Bowl is that the receiving corps is just kind of, well, meh…No offense to Derrick Mason, who has had a very nice NFL career, or to Todd Heap, who is one of the top TEs in the league, but they just don’t matchup great against the better NFL secondaries (especially Pittsburgh).  The Ravens D will be the Ravens D and Ray Lewis will continue to give players nightmares, but they are just lacking 1 or 2 pieces right now.  They’ll make the playoffs, no doubt,  but I struggle to see the grounded Birds do much against the best of the best.

3. Bengals (5-11)
Cincinnati basically already knows that they won’t be competing for anything other than the AFC North cellar this year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a very interesting team to watch.  From Chad Ochocinco’s Twittering antics, that will definitely get him at least one fine during the course of the season, to the maturation of rookie LB Rey Malauga, who I expect to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year, (Seriously, watch this guy play and you’ll be very impressed) the Bungles afre beginning to show signs of life again, so maybe this year their win total will surpass their arrest totals…but not by much.

4. Browns (3-13)
It’s not that I think the Browns are this bad, in fact, I want to think they are going to be better than this, BUT we are talking about the Cleveland Browns after all.  I predict that by mid-season the Browns will have gone through at least 2 QB changes between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, that the rest of the offense will either be injured or just MIA, that the defense will not matter because of this, and that Eric Mangini will call up his old friend Tony Soprano and take out a hit on himself. Don’t worry though Cleveland, at least you still have LeBron for now.

AFC South
The AFC South might be the toughest division to call this year just because you can’t really say that any of the four teams in the division are bad teams.

Hi, you can watch me on DirectTV! Most irritating commercials on TV.

"Hi, you can watch me on DirectTV!" Most irritating commercials on TV.

  The Colts still have Peyton Manning running their offense, the Titans seem like they are ready to join the AFC’s elite, the Texans are a good first half of the season away from being a perennial playoff team, and the Jaguars have enough talent to compete with anyone.  This division might come down to the last week of the season.

1. Colts (11-5)
In spite of the fact that Tony Dungy is gone and the Titans seem to be the cool pick, I’m sticking with Peyton Manning and the Colts offense, which never seems to slow down.  I don’t really think that their in the elite of the conference anymore, but I think that they have just enough left for one more run in the division.  If they finish above .500 against division foes, they should take it.

2. Texans (10-6)
OH I LIED!!! I am on the Texans bandwagon this year and I really think that this is a playoff-caliber team with the lone caveat being the health of Matt Schaub.  They have one of the most explosive offenses in the league with Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton leading a young and fast corps of skill position players.  That, combined with the experience that guys like Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye have gained on the D-Line and this team will surprise a lot of people. 

3. Titans (9-7)
I know I said that the Titans are looking like they could be in the AFC’s elite soon, but every team has to go through some growing pains, and for the Titans it’ll happen on both sides of the ball.  Kerry Collins and Chris Johnson will not have the same years they did last year.  LenDale White dropping weight eliminates Tennessee’s power running game which opened things up for the passing game.  Defensively, that team relied on Albert Haynesworth more than you think as one of the top rush defenses in the league last year.  All that equates to less wins, and no playoffs, for the Titans.

4. Jaguars (5-11)
The Jaguars will be tthe most deceiving team in the league, and that team that’ll ruin your bet on the spread every week.  Their record is going to be very deceiving, much like the Chiefs last season.  The Jags will be competitive, and very tough to beat.  However, they’ll be good enough to lose a lot of close games.  Expect good things from Maurice Jones-Drew this year as he tries to carry the offense for Jacksonville, as well as try and get some more seats into the dingy Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

AFC West
This division is very simply the San Diego Chargers division to lose this year.  It’s not even because they’re that good, although they are pretty good,

Go, Chargers...Go

"Go, Chargers...Go"

but it’s more about how bad the other teams are in the division.  The Broncos are in complete disarray right now with Josh McDaniels systemically destroying every last trace of Mike Shanahan’s much-respected offense.  The Chiefs are already in trouble because of the injury to big money QB Matt Cassel, forcing them to bring back Tyler Thigpen, who I like as a player in the league, but makes way too many mistakes with the ball.  Finally, there’s the Raiders who are, well, um, yeah, they’re still the Raiders. I think that’s self-explanatory.

1. Chargers (10-6)
Like I said, this is the Chargers division to lose, and they aren’t going to lose it, unless both LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles suffer season-ending injuries and Shawne Merriman gets arrested for slapping Tila Tequila…oops.  Still only one of those things has happened so far and the Chargers have dealt with distractions and not having Merriman before.  They will presevere and go 5-1 at worst against division opponents and cruise into the playoffs.

2. Chiefs (7-9)
This is going to be one of the most improved teams in the AFC this year. They will beat teams that they probably shouldn’t and they’ll be competitive in every game much like last year, but they still aren’t a good team.  There are still numerous holes in Kansas City’s personnel to fill and they are about 2-3 years away from being a playoff team.  Chiefs fans are amongst the most loyal in the league and they deserve a winner, so I hope that this happens for them too.

3. Broncos (4-12)
As much as Denver has attempted to make itself as bad as the 2008-09 Lions, the Broncos will find a way to win a few games this year, especially since they get to play the Raiders twice, but it goes without saying that this team is just lousy.  They downgraded at QB, are relying on a rookie running back to carry the load, and their star receiver is so unhappy, he’s willing to go play for the Jets, which is usually not a good sign.  That, combined with one of the most porous defenses in the league last year means hard times at Mile High for the Broncos faithful, who are still looking for the second-coming of John Elway.

4. Raiders (3-13)
This is another team that I don’t think is THAT bad, but again it’s the Raiders we’re talking about.  Al Davis will find a way to ruin that team, whether it’s by having Tom Cable go Mike Tyson on JaMarcus Russell, or by alienating Darren McFadden by writing a letter calling him a pathological liar and a cheater, Oakland will find a way to destroy itself because that’s what Oakland does.  I figure that the Raiders will steal a few games from underachieving and unsuspecting foes this year, most of which will be too scared to go into the Black Hole because it makes them think of nearby Alcatraz with the characters in there.

So, there you have it.  Look back tomorrow for my preview of the NFC, where mercifully I won’t have to kiss Tom Brady’s golden…arm.