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.

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.

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.

Matty Ice has led the Falcons to a 4-1 start, but no one seems to be noticing. Maybe this week will help.

"Matty Ice" has led the Falcons to a 4-1 start, but no one seems to be noticing. Maybe this week will help.

I’m not going to preface this with anything other than oops.  Last week was just atrocious and hopefully no one that reads this bet using my picks after going 5-9.  If you did, and if I wasn’t a poor college student, I would pay you your losses, but alas I can’t.  Last week dropped the overall record to 47-41 (.534) for the season.  This is a big week for yours truly, so let’s take a look at the Week 7 picks.

49ers at Texans (-3): San Fran gets Frank Gore back, which is definitely good news for a team that was crippled offensively without him.  However, we shouldn’t forget what the Falcons passing offense did to these guys two weeks ago and the Texans are even better at throwing the ball around.  Houston seems like they’re on the verge of turning the corner after their typical slow start, and grabbing their first home win of the year this week would go a long way in helping them get into a muddled playoff picture.

Packers (-7) at Browns: One of the easiest picks of the week, considering the state of about half of the Cleveland players, who will be unavailable with the flu.  That, and Cleveland stunk with all of their regular players as it was.  The Pack in a yawner.

Chargers (-6) at Chiefs: After the loss to Denver at home on Monday Night, San Diego is at a crossroads in its season.  A loss to Kansas City might be a deadly blow to a team that has underachieved so far this year, especially defensively where Shawne Merriman has only 13 tackles in 5 games.  A win gets them back to 3-3 and keeps them in the playoff conversation in a congested AFC.

Colts (-14) at Rams: Unless Peyton Manning suffers a catastrophic injury during the course of this game, there is absolutely no way that the Colts are not going to blow the Rams away.  The Colts have beaten several good teams by convincing margins.  I wonder if Peyton will try and outscore Tom Brady and the Patriots from last week?

Vikings (+5) at Steelers: I think that everyone is kind of overstating how the Vikings’ D looked at the end of their game last week.  It was a complete blowout, and the D just packed it in early, nothing else.  Also, Pittsburgh almost never covers the spread and likes playing in ugly, close games.  This game will come down to a late field goal, and that will be the final margin.

Patriots (-16) vs. Buccaneers (in London, England): I don’t see how a game this lopsided is going to make the Brits like our version of football.  They send teams like Manchester United and Chelsea to the U.S. every summer.  We’re sending them the Tampa Bay Bucs.  The only thing that will even be entertaining about this game is to see how much New England can win by this week.

Jets at Raiders (+7): The Jets are beginning to play like the Jets again, which means that they’re due to throw up another stinker this week in Oakland.  Not to mention, the Jets’ run defense just took a big hit with the loss of Kris Jenkins, and Mark Sanchez will have to beat a tough Raiders secondary, which might be the only part of Oakland’s team that’s competent this year.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see Oakland pull the upset.

Bills at Panthers (-7): This game is definitely more of a pillow fight than a football game, but I think the Panthers are going to come out with a fire under their feet and play a very good game to get back to .500 for the year, if only by the grace of God, himself.  I expect to see two very good things from the Carolina offense. First, they’re starting to run the ball again, which is absolutely necessary for them to do considering the QB play of Jake Delhomme.  Second, the disgruntled Steve Smith will be a factor as a result of the success on the ground.  That’s bad news for the Bills.

Bears (+1) at Bengals:  The Bears are far more battle-tested than Cincy is and Jay Cutler is playing pretty well right now.  The Bengals defense is a complete mess with injuries and they looked very vulnerable last week at home against Houston.  In a game that’s basically a pick ’em, I think the Bears will take it 27-24.

Falcons (+4) at Cowboys: I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention to this team, but Atlanta is pretty good this year.  Matt Ryan is showing that last year wasn’t a fluke and the Falcons could, very quietly, join the conversation for NFC’s best team if they go into Dallas and knock off the Cowboys, who it’s impossible to tell what you’ll get from them.

Saints (-7) at Dolphins: Until a team actually gives me a reason to not have 100% confidence in taking the Saints, I am picking them for the rest of the season.  The Dolphins and the wildcat can’t keep up with Drew Brees & Co. on offense.

Cardinals at Giants (-7): The G-Men are coming into this one after being humbled a week ago in New Orleans, and they are not happy about that loss.  The Cardinals have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL so far this year, and after a couple of good games in a row, head into New York, where they were beaten 56-35 by the Jets last year in a sequence of 3 blowout losses in the Northeast.  I struggle to see ‘Zona play well in New York this time around, either.

Eagles (-7) at Redskins: Washington is a complete mess right now and couldn’t score on bad defenses before the most recent events surrounding Jim Zorn.  The Eagles are embarrassed after losing in Oakland and I fully expect them to show up in a big way for this one.  Philly should (note: SHOULD) win by a solid margin.

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.)

Cutlers effort in Sunday Nights loss to the Packers dropped me to .500 last week. Guess what team I didnt pick this week?

Cutler's "effort" in Sunday Night's loss to the Packers dropped me to .500 last week. Guess what team I didn't pick this week?

I thought after Sunday afternoon’s games last week that I had finally broken the cycle of incredibly mediocre picks on my part.  I was 8-5 with three games left I felt fairly confident about.  Then Jay Cutler decided to throw 4 picks, the Patriots refused to put the ball in the end zone until the 4th quarter, and the Raiders looked like a competent football team.  So, as I’ve grown accustomed to, I finished a very modest 8-8 in Week 1.  Let’s see if Week 2 is any better. Here’s the picks (Pick in Bold, Home Team listed second):

Panthers at Falcons (-6): I’m a little shocked to see that the Falcons are only getting six points after the way these teams played in Week 1.  Atlanta looked very sharp in a 19-7 win at home over the Dolphins while Carolina looked like a deer caught in headlights in its 38-10 smackdown at the hands of the Eagles.  If Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, or A.J. Feeley looks that bad again this week, this one could be ugly.

Vikings (-10) at Lions: OK, I made the mistake of picking the Lions last week, thinking that they might be better than expected and come out and play an inspired game.  After their 45-27 loss in New Orleans, they come back and have to try and figure out a way to slow down Adrian Peterson and Co.  Plus the Vikes D is far better than the Saints’ D.  Vikings win this one easy.

Bengals (+9) at Packers: Yes, I’m aware the Bungles only managed 7 points against a very suspect Broncos defense.  Yes, I’m also aware that the Pack looked very good against the Bears on Sunday night.  However, I think that the Bengals were finally starting to find the right mix on offense late in that game and will put up more points.  Also, I think that Cincy’s D is slightly better than advertised.  The Packers will win, but it’ll be closer than you think.

Texans at Titans (-7): After seeing the Texans muster no points on offense at home last week against the Jets D, I really struggle to see how they could possibly do any better at Tennessee, who looked very good in their loss in Pittsburgh.  Tennessee is going to be fire up for this one, especially with all the hype surrounding Houston this year. Titans could win by 2 TD’s.

Raiders (+3) at Chiefs: Both of these teams surprised me last weekend, in spite of the fact that they both lost.  However, the Raiders pushed the Chargers to the brink whereas the Chiefs were allowed to hang around by the Ravens.  Kansas City also might be without Matt Cassel again, leaving it up to Brody Croyle, who still is winless as an NFL starter. Expect it to be an ugly win for whichever side comes out on top.

Patriots (-4) at Jets: The war of words began months ago in the lead up to this one, but the Jets just don’t seem to know when to shut up.  All-Pro safety Kerry Rhodes’ comments earlier today should light quite the fire under a New England offense that really shouldn’t be prodded like that.  It’ll be a hard fought, gritty, old school kind of game, but the Pats will prevail by a TD.

Saints (pick ’em) at Eagles: Not surprised to see that the line is even on this game based off of what these teams did last weekend.  The tipping point for me is solely the uncertainty surrounding the status of Donovan McNabb combined with the fact that the Saints won’t turn the ball over 7 times.  Saints take this one.

Rams (+10) at Redskins:  The Rams are awful.  Just terrible.  Fortunately they go into a place like FedEx Field and play a team that doesn’t light up the scoreboard.  The Rams will keep it close but lose by a TD in one of the more forgettable games in Week 2.

Cardinals (+3) at Jaguars:  The Cardinals are an underdog in this game solely based off of last week’s flop at home against the 49ers.  The Jaguars are not the 49ers and if the Cards D stops Maurice Jones-Drew the way they did Frank Gore, then Arizona should come away with a victory.

Seahawks at 49ers (+2): In a battle for NFC West supremacy in the early season, both teams looked very good last week.  The thing that stands out though is who each team played.  San Fran gutted out a big win in Arizona while Seattle cruised against the lowly Rams.  I’m not sold on the ‘Hawks just yet, but I really like what Mike Singletary has done with the Niners.

Buccaneers at Bills (-5): If the Bills play anywhere near the level that they played at last week for the majority of the game in New England, then this one won’t even be a contest.  The Bucs looked atrocious in their loss at home to Dallas, and the Bills are looking to bounce back after their Monday Night letdown.  Expect to see big numbers from Terrell Owens in this one.

Steelers (-3) at Bears: Both of these teams are like wounded deer coming into this battle without the hearts of their respective defenses.  However, I think as an overall unit, the Steelers are far more prepared to play without Troy Polamalu than the Bears are playing without Brian Urlacher.  If Jay Cutler looks anything like he did last week, Chicago might get shutout.

Ravens at Chargers (-3): Both of these teams were very unconvincing in their Week 1 triumphs, with the Ravens allowing the Chiefs to hang around and the Chargers needing a late drive to stun the Raiders.  I think the Chargers will work out the kinks in their offense and slow down Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense enough to win this one by a TD.

Browns at Broncos (-3): I really don’t think much of either of these teams, but the game is in Denver, the Broncos have traditionally owned the Browns, and I don’t see the Browns moving the ball very well in this one.  So, congratulations to Denver for having the easiest first two weeks in the league this year!

Giants at Cowboys (-3): They had to set the line at 3 points.  These games are decided by a late FG way too often, which makes the odds of the one being a push fairly high.  However, I think Dallas pulls this one out and opens up the new Texas Stadium with a fantastic game.  I’m thinking 20-17 ‘Boys on a game winning 40+ yard FG by Nick Folk…as long as he doesn’t hit that Jumbotron, in which case all bets are off and Jerry Jones will have some ‘splaining to do.

Monday Night

Colts (-3) at Dolphins:  A battle between two teams that made the playoffs last year at Dolphin/Land Shark/Pro Player/Joe Robbie Memorial Stadium on Monday Night.  I like the Colts to look a bit more grounded in their offensive strategy in this one and win it comfortably over the Fins.  Look for Dallas Clark to be a bit more involved in the passing game and for Joseph Addai to get some receptions out of the backfield.

Age was served in Cleveland, with a LOT of help from Adrian Peterson

Age was served in Cleveland, with a LOT of help from Adrian Peterson

I am going to start this by saying that I am a little embarrassed for several reasons, the least of which being my 8-5 record heading into tonight’s Bears-Packers game, which based on Jay Cutler’s 2 INT’s will soon be 8-6.  The reasons that I’m embarrassed is because, I feel that after just one week that I already might have to re-examine my outlook on some teams in the league.  So let’s get right to the part where I very suddenly eat my words in humiliation.

Considering the teams that I saw either overacheive or underachieve today, I’m going to take this on one division at a time, starting in the AFC.

East
I feel like I might have the middle two teams in this division mixed up, as the Dolphins looked like dead fish in Atlanta while there were no problems in

The Dolphins offense was certainly not helped by Penningtons 3 picks

The Dolphins offense was certainly not helped by Pennington's 3 picks

Houston for the Jets.  Give credit to the Jets defense, which pitched a shutout against a very potent Texans offense.  In case you were wondering, no I didn’t forget I picked the Texans to win this game or that I said they would win by 10 points.  On the other hand, Chad Pennington did not look like the QB we saw last year and the Dolphins offense looked like the 2007 version that saw only one win.

Next Up: Bills at Patriots, Mon. Night ; Week 2: Pats at Jets, Bucs at Bills, and Colts at Dolphins (Monday Night)

North
I actually don’t think there were many surprises out of this division as the Steelers and Ravens both scratched out close wins, the Browns looked like the Browns we all know and love, and the Bengals lived up to their “Bungles” moniker with a bit of bad luck against the Broncos.  That being said, Baltimore’s defense was a bit disappointing, as was Cincy’s offense.  It will be interesting to see how these teams react next week, or if they are just not that good.

Next Up: Bengals at Packers, Ravens at Chargers, Steelers at Bears, Browns at Broncos

South
OK, I think I owe an early apology to the Titans.  Yes, I know they lost to the Steelers, but with the Colts barely escaping the Jags at home, and the injury to Anthony Gonzalez, combined with the Texans getting beaten at home by the Jets, the Titans might be the class of this South division, and a legitimate contender.  They are still a very good defensive team, and if the running game comes along the way it could, Tennessee could be very dangerous come playoff time.  On the flip side, Houston looks like they are not quite ready to play the first half of the season yet, which will once again make me and the rest of the bandwagon look very stupid.

Next Up: Texans at Titans, Cardinals at Jaguars, Colts at Dolphins (Mon. Night)

West
The two teams that have played in this division so far this week looked about the way I expected them to.  The Broncos caught a very lucky break and escaped with an ugly and undeserved 12-7 win over the Bungles, and the Matt Cassel-less Chiefs crumbled late under pressure just like last year’s Chiefs, falling 38-24 to Baltimore.  If this pattern continues, San Diego should beat Oakland by about 50 tomorrow night.

Next Up: Raiders at Chiefs, Ravens at Chargers, Browns at Broncos
NFC
Much like in the AFC, there were several surprises to me in the NFC.  I knew that the Eagles were a good team, but I had no idea how bad Jake Delhomme could be, as he turned the ball over 5 times in a 38-10 beatdown.  The other big news was Drew Brees exploding on the hapless Lions for 6 TDs in a 45-27 Saints victory.

East
I think the Eagles showed today just how versatile of a team they can be, scoring on offense, defense, and special teams…BUT Donovan McNabb’s

Donovan McNabb left Phillys rout with a cracked rib. Kevin Kolb may start against the Saints

Donovan McNabb left Philly's rout with a cracked rib. Kevin Kolb may start against the Saints

cracked ribs certainly raises the eyebrows of the Philly faithful.  Dallas did what it should be able to do against teams as offensively challenged as Tampa Bay, and the Giants, contrary to what the final score might say, pretty much controlled the game against the Redskins, 23-17.

Next Up: Saints at Eagles, Rams at Redskins, Giants at Cowboys (Sun. Night)

North
Well, it wasn’t pretty, but Brett Favre is pretty old after all and the Vikings got a 34-20 win in Cleveland behind Adrian Peterson’s 180 yard, 3 TD outburst.  Along the same lines, it’s never pretty for the Lions, who saw their defense get lit up by Drew Brees in a 45-27 loss.  Worse even for Detroit, Matt Stafford’s inability to find the endzone through the air while finding Saints defenders on 3 occasions.  Speaking of 3 INTs, Jay Cutler just threw another one!  It’s not looking so good for the Bears right now.

Next Up: Bengals at Packers, Vikings at Lions, Steelers at Bears

South
If today was any indication of how the NFC South is going to break down, then expect this to be a two team race between Atlanta and New Orleans,

Brees threw 6 TDs against Detroit.  Can he do this every week to hide the Saints D?

Brees threw 6 TDs against Detroit. Can he do this every week to hide the Saints' D?

both of which looked very good today against the Dolphins and Lions, respectively, although the Saints did surrender 27 points to Detroit.  Opposite this might be the pillow fight for last place that has begun between the Panthers and Buccaneers, both of which looked completely inept against their NFC East opponents.

Next Up: Saints at Eagles, Panthers at Falcons, Bucs at Bills

West
The NFC West took a bit of a turn for the unexpected as San Francisco went into University of Phoenix Stadium and beat the Cardinals 20-16. (On a side note, why does a school without a football team or even a real campus have a football stadium’s naming rights?) Anyway, I was very impressed by how the 49ers defense managed to contain Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, as well as how well Arizona contained Frank Gore on the ground.  But at the end of the day, the Cardinals are not built to play a defensive game and it showed.  In the other division showdown, Seattle showed that they won’t be fighting with the Rams for last place again this year in a 28-0 thrashing of St. Louis.  It really was a combination of Seattle’s improvement and St. Louis’ lack thereof.  The Rams might challenge the Lions for worst team in the league this year, and we’re even lucky enough to see them faceoff in Week 8.

Next Up: Rams at Redskins, Seahawks at 49ers, Cardinals at Jaguars

Check back tomorrow/Tuesday for reports on the Bears-Packers game as well as the Monday Night games…and now it looks like the Bears might pull this one out tonight, go figure.  Sorry, Jay Cutler. (EDIT: Greg Jennings just scored. I take back my apology.)