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.

Not sure if he's smiling or not, but I don't think he'll be smiling after Sunday Night

So we have finally crossed the midway point of the regular season in the NFL and so far, as expected there have been some surprises and some disappointments.  My ability to pick games probably falls in neither of those areas, but rather in more of an “as expected category.”  After last week’s 5-8 disaster, the season record crept further downward to 65-61-1 (.516).  Here’s another attempt at a turnaround in Week 10.

Thursday Night
Bears (+3)
at 49ers: After seeing both of these teams play last week, the NFL probably regrets putting them in the Thursday Night game this week.  The Mike Singletary vs. the Team He Used to Play For storyline loses its luster when you see these two teams matchup.  I’ll take the Bears, solely because I know they’ll put up some points and they’ll win if they can just stop Frank Gore.  Alex Smith will throw at least 2 picks to bail out Chicago.

Sunday Games
Bills (+7)
at Titans: I have no idea what has gotten into the Tennessee Titans the last couple of weeks but they have looked very good.  However, I think part of that is because they haven’t been pressed into making Vince Young make a whole lot of big plays.  I think that the Bills will load the box early and often for Chris Johnson to make this happen.  Also, it sounds like Trent Edwards is going to be back from his injury, so the Bills might even have a halfway competent passing game this week.

Saints (-14) at Rams:  This needs very little analysis.  The Saints are 8-0 and rolling over opponents.  The Rams are 1-7 and beat the Lions for their only win.  New Orleans should crush them.  This one will be over by halftime.

Buccaneers at Dolphins (-10): My first impression of this game was to pick Tampa Bay.  Then I realized I would be taking the league’s 30th-ranked rush defense against Miami’s wildcat offense, which is prided on the run.  That made my decision much easier.  As long as Joey Porter shows up this week (he had a big ZERO tackles in New England) the Fish should be fine.

Lions at Vikings (-17): Minnesota got off to a slow start in Detroit and still managed to beat the Lions 27-13 at Ford Field.  That being said, I think Minnesota has gotten stronger while Detroit is starting to pack it in again.  Minnesota should be able to win by at least 17 in the Metrodome.

Jaguars (+7) at Jets:  I really don’t understand how the Jets are favored by 7 points in this game.  Other than the 38-0 win over Oakland, they haven’t blown anyone away, and since starting 3-0, just haven’t looked like the same team.  Jacksonville is a lot tougher than people give them credit for, and a win would put them at 5-4 with the Texans and into the playoff hunt.

Bengals (+7) at Steelers: So yet again the Bengals are playing a team they beat once already and are the underdog?  Did Vegas learn nothing from Cincy’s 17-7 win over Baltimore last weekend?  Apparently not.  I’m not sure who’s going to win this game, but you can be certain that the Bengals and Steelers will play a hard-fought and close game.

Broncos (-4) at Redskins:  Denver’s been knocked back to Earth the last couple of weeks, but those were two tough opponents.  Washington should provide the kind of bounce-back they are looking for.  I expect to see Denver have much greater success running the ball against the Skins and win by at least a touchdown.

Falcons at Panthers (+2): I have really liked what I’ve seen from the Panthers the last couple of weeks.  It seems like John Fox just opened his playbook to the section listed as “running plays” and it’s been looking pretty good ever since.  So long as they don’t put the game in Jake Delhomme’s hands at any point, I like Carolina’s chances at home against a struggling Matt Ryan and the Falcons.

Chiefs (+2) at Raiders:  I have no real explanation for picking the Chiefs to beat the Raiders other than the fact that they should have beaten them in Week 2 at home.  The game will be low-scoring, unwatched, and forgotten about soon after, but Kansas City might have its last chance at winning a game this weekend.

Eagles at Chargers (-3): The Chargers seem to be getting hot again as they attempt to chase down the AFC West-leading Broncos and are coming off a big win over the Giants.  The Eagles need this one just as badly after dropping their battle with the Cowboys last week to drop out of first place, but are without Brian Westbrook again it appears right now.  They need him on the field to be successful against San Diego’s defense.

Seahawks at Cardinals (-9): The Seahawks and Cardinals are two teams going in very different directions right now.  Since blowing out Jacksonville 41-0, Seattle has look just terrible, not even looking very convincing in its 32-20 win over Detroit last week.  The Cardinals, on the other hand, scored an easy win over the Bears and Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald looked very much on the same page.  That’s bad news for the Seahawks’ secondary.

Cowboys (-3) at Packers: Dallas showed up in a big way last week by beating the Eagles.  Green Bay decided not to show up by losing to the Bucs.  Who do you think I should pick???

Patriots (+3) at Colts: From a completely biased view, I would love to see the Colts win, even though I’m about as much a fan of Peyton Manning as I am of Tom Brady.  However, I’ve seen this matchup before and Brady has gotten the better of Manning five out of seven times in the regular season.  The Pats take another step towards being a Super Bowl contender by beating the Colts, 24-21.

Monday Night
Ravens (-11)
at Browns: This could be -21 and I would probably still take the Ravens to shellac the Cleveland Browns.  Cleveland is in complete disarray right now and just doesn’t show any signs of life.  Baltimore desperately needs a win to try and catch the loser of the Pittsburgh-Cincy game if they expect to make the playoffs.

Tony Romo might find himself in this position again if the Eagles have it their way on Sunday Night

With the baseball season finally coming to its end last night, I can now focus 100% on the NFL the rest of the way.  This is probably coming at the best time possible considering the issues I’ve run into making picks the last few weeks.  Last week was OK, but not great, with a record of 7-6, thanks in part to that late field goal by Jason Elam that cut the Saints’ final margin to 8.  The season record moves to 60-53-1 (.531).  Here’s the picks for this week:

Redskins at Falcons (-10):  Despite the fact that they ended up losing last week in New Orleans, the Falcons looked pretty good, with the exception of all the turnovers forced by the Saints’ D on Matt Ryan, whose nickname I am temporarily taking away from him.  The good news for the Falcons is that they get to finally start playing some bad teams again, starting with the lowly Redskins on Sunday in the Georgia Dome, where Atlanta is unbeaten this year.

Cardinals at Bears (-3): This is a really tough game to choose simply because you can’t predict what you’re going to see from either of these teams.  Two weeks ago, Arizona looked solid in beating the Giants in New York.  Last week, they put up a Kurt Warner INT-filled fiasco against the Panthers.  Likewise, the Bears beat up on the Browns last week after getting just smoked by the surprising Bengals in Cincy.  But I’m taking the Bears for two reasons: they haven’t lost at home yet this year and because Chicago will force Kurt Warner to make mistakes.

Ravens at Bengals (+3): So, let me get this straight. Cincy beat Baltimore on the road 17-14 just a few weeks ago but the Bengals are the dog at home in the rematch? How did this happen?  In all seriousness, though, Cincy wants this game badly to put some separation between themselves and 3rd place B-More and they wouldn’t mind keeping pace with the Steelers, either.  The Ravens haven’t looked good in a few weeks and are in serious trouble if they lose this one.

Texans (+10) at Colts: I must be out of my mind picking against Peyton Manning & Co., especially considering their 7-0 record and the fact that the Texans’ D isn’t exactly one of the league’s best.  However, I think that you’ll see why Houston is considered to have one of the most explosive offenses in the league in this game, especially if Ryan Moats can get going on the ground to open it up for the Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson connection.  The Colts should win, but Houston will keep it interesting.

Dolphins at Patriots (-11): Ever since Miami introduced the Wildcat against the Pats at the beginning of last year, New England has had that game on its mind.  Now they get the Dolphins sans a competent QB.  New England will be well prepared to handle Ronnie Brown and his partners in crime and the Pats will cruise to an easy victory.

Packers (-10) at Buccaneers: Have you seen the Tampa Bay Bucs play this year? If the answer was yes, I’m sorry you had to suffer through it.  Packers by a significant margin.

Chiefs at Jaguars (-7): Jacksonville proves almost every week that they are a competitive team.  Last week’s loss to Vince Young and the Titans says otherwise, but I think that you’ll see Maurice Jones-Drew have a big day against the Chiefs’ run defense and that the Chiefs will continue to lack any kind of offensive consistency.

Lions (+10) at Seahawks: Both of these teams just don’t seem to have very much to play for already at this point in the season.  It’s important to note that Matt Hasselbeck continues to play with his broken ribs.  One bad hit and it’ll be back to Seneca Wallace and a lot less points being scored in the Pacific Northwest.  The Lions will find a way to keep it close, win or lose.

Panthers at Saints (-13): This would normally be a very easy pick, but it seems like Carolina remembered how to run the football last week with D’Angelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart, which is going to make it a lot tougher on their opponents to win big, if only because the Panthers can control possession better.  Still, no team has given me a good reason to pick against the Saints thus far and I expect to see an 8-0 team in the Big Easy.

Chargers (+5) at Giants: This is a game that both teams need badly since they’re both chasing good teams in front of them.  In the last few weeks, though, San Diego has looked as if they’re turning the corner after a slow start, especially with the reemergence of LaDanian Tomlinson.  The G-Men, on the other hand, have lost three straight and Eli Manning might be more injured than we’ve been led to believe because he has looked just awful the last two weeks.

Titans at 49ers (-5): The San Francisco defense should be able to contain Chris Johnson a good bit better than Jacksonville did, forcing Vince Young to actually make a tough play with his arm this week.  As a result, San Fran should probably win this game behind the legs of Frank Gore.

Cowboys at Eagles (-3): The last time that Dallas was in Philly, they got embarrassed as the Eagles claimed the final NFC playoff spot in Week 17 of last season.  I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of that, but I think we’ll see the same Eagles team that we saw last week against the Giants as they have just started to click on all cylinders.  Not to say that Dallas isn’t playing well right now, but once again we have Tony Romo in a big game, which could be enough to give the game to the Birds.

Steelers (-3) at Broncos: Denver finally looked the way I thought they would all year against Baltimore last week.  Now they get to play an even better opponent in Pittsburgh, who might need this game to keep pace with the Bengals depending on their result on Sunday.  The Broncos appear to be losing some of that head of steam they opened the season with, and that could mean the beginning of a painful end to the 2009 campaign in Denver.

That’ll do it for this week.  Make sure to check back on Tuesday for my mid-season recap and self-assessment on how right or wrong I’ve been so far. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Saints will be tested again by a team from New York on Sunday.  Can they handle the Giants the same way they did the Jets?

The Saints will be tested again by a team from New York on Sunday. Can they handle the Giants the same way they did the Jets?

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat unpredictable in the NFL and has left me with some spectacularly mediocre numbers.  An 8-6 record in Week 5 pushes the season record to 44-32 (.579).  Let’s take a look at the Week Six matchups (Picks in Bold, Home Team listed second):

Texans at Bengals (-5): This is a game between two teams that have gotten off to very different campaigns in 2009.  The Bengals might be one of the biggest surprises in the AFC this year, leading the North Division with a 4-1, which really should be a 5-0, overall record.  The Texans continue to be a first half disappointment, coming off of last week’s loss in Arizona, where they failed to punch it in from a yard out late in the fourth quarter.

Lions (+14) at Packers: Since when are the Packers one of the better teams in the league this year? The Steelers couldn’t cover an 11-point spread last week against Detroit and I think that Pittsburgh is better than Green Bay.  I also don’t think the Lions are THAT bad anymore.  This is a divisional game. Much like against the Vikings, the Lions will compete.   Alas, they will probably lose.

Ravens at Vikings (-3): I think it’s time we all realized that Baltimore’s defense is not the class of the NFL anymore.  This, combined with the struggles of the Ravens’ offense and the way the Vikes have played in their first five games, means this one might not be as close as some people think.

Giants (+3) at Saints: The Saints’ offense was somewhat exposed by the Jets’ defense two weeks ago.  I think the G-Men will have similar success containing New Orleans and that Eli Manning won’t make the same mistakes as Mark Sanchez, allowing New York to win this battle of the unbeatens by a touchdown margin. I think it’ll be 24-17 Giants.

Browns at Steelers (-15): I’m starting to buy back into Pittsburgh after they looked shaky when Troy Polamalu went down with his injury.  The offense seems to finally be clicking and they have a great young RB in Rashard Mendenhall, who holds onto the ball much better than Willie Parker, making it far less likely that the Browns’ very pedestrian offense will get the ball in scoring position more than a couple of times.

Panthers (-3) at Buccaneers: Carolina shouldn’t have much trouble with Tampa Bay, if only because no one else has really had an issue playing against Tampa Bay.  Neither of these teams are good at all, and it might come down to which starting QB, either Jake Delhomme or Josh Johnson, makes less mistakes to determine the winner.  There might also be more defensive TDs than offensive in this game.

Chiefs (+7) at Redskins:  Giving the Washington Redskins 7 points is an absolute crime considering they just lost to Carolina and Detroit earlier this year and look like they can’t put 7 points on the board most of the time.  I actually don’t think it’s unrealistic to say Kansas City will pick up their first win this season over the ‘Skins, plummeting Daniel Snyder’s group of over-payed and under-talented football players into further disarray.

Rams at Jaguars (-10): Jacksonville seems to be like two teams in one.  Either they will play you very tough and look very competitive, or they will throw up a complete goose egg like they did last week against the Seahawks.  The Jags will come out looking to put that game behind them, and shouldn’t have much trouble doing that against the lowly Rams, who might be the worst of the winless teams in the league.

Cardinals at Seahawks (-3): It’s amazing how much different Seattle looks when Matt Hasselbeck is under center.  Their performance against the Jaguars last week was nothing short of dominant, and they now look to make another big statement by beating one of the favorites in the NFC West in ‘Zona.  The Cards survived at home against Houston last week, but still look like they might be experiencing some of that Superbowl hangover from last year.  This might be a rude awakening for Kurt Warner and Co.

Eagles (-15) at Raiders: After last week’s 44-7 loss to the Giants, New York LB Antonio Pierce noted that playing the Raiders felt like “a scrimmage.”  The Eagles should win this game by at least 3-4 TDs if the Raiders are as bad as Mr. Pierce is suggesting.  Plus, Philly needs to keep winning as long as the G-Men are unbeaten.

Titans at Patriots (-10): Have you seen the Tennessee Titans lately? They are a complete and utter disaster.  Going up against a New England team that doesn’t lose back-to-back games ever, I highly doubt that Tennessee will prove to be much of a road block.  Expect to see Vince Young make an early appearance in this game. Should be a blowout.

Bills at Jets (-10): The Jets have gone from 3-0 and Superbowl contenders to 3-2 and really needing to win this one at home against a Bills team that just cannot do anything offensively, being held to just 3 points by the Cleveland Browns last week.  I expect the Jets to get back on track this week by taking care of business before heading out to play Oakland.  As for Buffalo, maybe they’ll actually get Terrell Owens involved in the offense, but he’ll be up against Darrelle Revis, so it won’t be easy.

Bears at Falcons (-3): I really have no idea who to pick in this game. Two pretty good teams in a game that they could both use to keep up with the undefeated team that’s ahead of them in their respective divisions, and both coming off of solid victories.  When all else fails, take the home team and hope for the best, plus Matt Ryan is my fantasy QB so I would like it if the Falcons won a high-scoring game.

Broncos (+3) at Chargers: After five weeks of mocking them, I can deny it no more. The Broncos have a good football team, as unjust as it may be, they are good, and probably the best team in the AFC West, especially with the Chargers struggling so far this season.  Here’s the chance for the Broncos to separate themselves from the rest of the division.  Now that I’ve stopped saying they aren’t that good, they’ll probably get killed, but that’s football, right?

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.

Peyton Manning made it look easy against a struggling Cardinals team Sunday Night.

Peyton Manning made it look easy against a struggling Cardinals team Sunday Night.

Week 3 in the NFL is officially in the books, with Indianapolis and Dallas winning their primetime battles with Arizona and Carolina, respectively.  There’s a lot that can be said about all four of these teams so far this year, so let’s get right to it.

On Sunday night, the hotly anticipated matchup between two of the league’s most proficient passing offenses turned into a one-sided affair, as the Colts handled the Cardinals, 31-10.  After the Cards failed to score and extend an early 7-0 lead, it seems like the wheels just completely came off on both sides of the ball.  They gave up multiple big plays to Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark, and even rookie RB Donald Brown.  The big issue that the 1-2 Cards seem to have right now is that their offense has no balance, with the running game being amongst the worst in the NFL.  Tim Hightower was limited to 9 carries for 22 yards in the game, forcing Kurt Warner to throw 52 times in the game, often under a ton of pressure from Dwight Freeney and the rest of the Indy D-Line, which dominated in the trenches throughout the game, accumulating 4 sacks in the win.  The Cards are going to need to shore up their running game if they really expect to make it back to the playoffs this season.  They get a bye week this week before hosting another disappointing team so far in the Houston Texans.

The Colts have to feel good about themselves right now, moving to 3-0 and already holding a 2 game lead in the AFC South.  Peyton Manning is proving that he can win games with just about any combination of receivers on the field, as the unlikely Pierre Garcon once again looked very good in place of the injured Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown looks like a very smart first round pick.  The Colts now head home to take on a banged up Seahawks team before going into Tennessee to take on the 0-3 Titans.

Moving into the Monday Night game, it was another matchup of offenses that never really came into being, as Dallas grinded out a 21-7 victory over the still winless Panthers.  The big story in Big D was just that. Their defense finally showed up the way most people expected them to, pressuring Jake Delhomme, sacking him 3 times, and getting 3 turnovers from the struggling starter for Carolina.  There is some concern as Felix Jones left the game with a knee injury, but Tashard Choice carried the ball 18 times for 82 yards and a TD for Dallas’ lone offensive score. Dallas now looks to move to 3-1 as they head to Mile High Stadium to take on the 3-0 Denver Broncos next week.

As for the Panthers, it might be serious time for them to consider their options at QB.  For the second time in three weeks, Jake Delhomme was terrible, looking lost on the field and not being able to protect the football.  They also need to get back to running the football, which is what their team is built on with DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart on the roster.  It’s now critical for Carolina to get a win after the bye week, and they get a decent shot, hosting the Redskins in Week 5.

Ive picked the Lions 11 times in the past two seasons. Im 0-11 picking them. So naturally, I picked them again this week.

I've picked the Lions 11 times in the past two seasons. I'm 0-11 picking them. So naturally, I picked them again this week.

After last week’s 11-5 triumph for yours truly, I realize that I am bound to follow it up with something slightly less spectacular.  It’s the law of averages, really.  After two decent to above average weeks in a row, I have to come back to Earth…or do I? Maybe I’ve finally found the right formula in picking games. OK, probably not, but I’ve been lucky so far and avoided disaster, so let’s see if I can keep it going in Week 3. (Picks in Bold, Home Team listed 2nd):

Redskins at Lions (+6): A week after finally realizing the error of my ways by picking Detroit, I am going right back to the one team that fails me the most.  Honestly, I have been so uninspired by the ‘Skins in their first two games that it wouldn’t shock me to see the Lions find their way to a stunning victory, which would be their first since December 2007.  Look for Calvin Johnson to come up big against this Washington secondary.

Packers (-7) at Rams: Green Bay is going to come out firing on all cylinders after last week’s embarrassment against the Bengals in Lambeau.  This is bad news for a Rams team that has managed to score a grand total of 7 points in its first 2 games of the 2009 campaign.

49ers (+7) at Vikings: I like the Vikings to win this game, although it wouldn’t shock me to see either team win it, which is why I struggle to see this one be a victory of 7 points or more.  This is a game that will be won on the ground and in the trenches by Frank Gore or Adrian Peterson.  That adds up to a low-scoring affair in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Falcons at Patriots (-5): Bad news for Matt Ryan & Co. The Patriots haven’t lost back-to-back games in almost 3 full seasons.  Worse for Atlanta, New England is still mad about losing to the Jets last week and they are looking to take it out on someone.  I think the Pats will dominate a pretty good Falcons team at Gillette Stadium.

Titans (+3) at Jets: Good news for Kerry Collins & Co. The Jets haven’t stopped talking about last week’s win over the Patriots, clearly a sign of a team that is not prepared to take the field against a desperate 0-2 Tennessee side.  The Titans, behind Chris Johnson, are going to take it to the overconfident and unaware New York defense all game in this one.

Chiefs at Eagles (-9): Donovan McNabb might not be playing in this one, but if the Chiefs show up and play the way they did last week at home against the Raiders, then Kevin Kolb might look like Joe Montana out there on Sunday.  The Eagles’ D will also be thankful to be facing a much more pedestrian offense after getting torched by the Saints last week.

Giants (-7) at Buccaneers: The Giants are looking really good after going in and grabbing the W in Dallas last weekend.  The Bucs have looked awful in their first two games of the season, losing to Dallas and Buffalo.  I expect the G-Men to go into Raymond James Stadium and win this one much easier than last week’s game.

Browns at Ravens (-14): Under normal circumstances, I would always take the points here.  However, after seeing Baltimore’s offense put up big numbers against a solid San Diego defense and seeing the Browns get smacked 27-6 by a Broncos team that I really don’t think is that good, it’s hard to see the Ravens not annihilate them in Baltimore.

Jaguars at Texans (-4): Last week we saw both of these teams play the way I expected them to in Week 1.  The Texans’ offense was nothing short of explosive against the Titans in Nashville while the Jaguars looked like a team that would struggle to fill its stadium because everyone knows they’re not good enough to compete this year.  The Texans will build on last week’s momentum and crush Jacksonville to make up for losing their home opener.

Bears (-3) at Seahawks: At first I almost picked Seattle. Then I had flashbacks to last season when Seneca Wallace had to step in for the oft-injured Matt Hasselbeck…it wasn’t a pretty sight.  The Bears will get the job done, and the misery will begin for the Seahawks and their fans.

Saints (-7) at Bills: It’s very hard not to expect New Orleans to explode for 40+ points, especially against a defense that isn’t even close to as good as the unit they faced last week.  Drew Brees has made this entire offense better than anyone ever thought it could be, and he will continue his great start in Ralph Wilson Stadium against a Bills team that should be 2-0 going into this game.

Steelers (-4) at Bengals: Pittsburgh owns Cincinnati  on the road much like the Patriots owned the Jets on the road.  However, this does not mean that the Bungles will get the same result as the Jets this year.  I think that Chad Ochocinco will have a big game against a depleted Steelers’ secondary, but at the end of the day, Big Ben will push his team to a 7 point victory, 24-17 is my guess.

Broncos (+2) at Raiders:  I have absolutely no clue how or why the Raiders are a favorite in any game.  I understand that they won last week in their pillow fight with the Chiefs, but have you seen their offense?  If the Broncos can score 17 points, they’ll win this game and I will continue to give them no respect for their quick start purely based upon beating the Bungles, Browns, and Raiders.  I wish that my Jets had this schedule to open the season.

Dolphins (+6) at Chargers: The Dolphins’ offense is basically designed to keep games close by milking the clock as much as humanly possible, kind of like what they did against the Colts on Monday Night.  If they can accomplish that feat again, they’ll lose in a very similar way, which means they won’t get blown out.

Colts at Cardinals (-3):  In what will most likely be one of the highest-scoring games in Sunday Night Football history, I like Arizona to manage to outlast a depleted Indy team in a game that fits exactly into Kurt Warner’s style: Arena Football (Note: I was trying for about 20 minutes to think of a way to make a joke about bagging groceries, but I failed. If you can think of a way to fit it into this, send it to me and I will give you all the credit.  If it doesn’t make sense, I will post the comment and mock you publicly for the dozens of readers on this blog to see.)

Monday Night
Panthers (+9)
at Cowboys: Dallas should be able to control this game fairly easily, but their secondary should be having nightmares about Steve Smith right now. Smith has been limited in his first two games, but it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out of his shell.  Against Dallas’ mediocre secondary, expect Smith to go for a couple of big plays, to at least keep it close.

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.)

NFC South:  My question to the world, how will Jeremy Shockey handle New Orleans?  I see some major problems brewing.  However, I do like the outlook of this division, with this divisional race coming down to the wire.

New Orleans Saints (9-7):  After a dissapointingyear where they went from national darlings to underachievers in a matter of seconds, they are back again with an easy schedule and lowered expectations.  Fantasy Pick:Drew Brees has established himself as a top-5 quarterback in New Orleans and the addition of Jeremy Shockey should only help him as defenses can no longer key on Marques Colston.  I look for Brees to have a huge year, lets say 4000 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.  Burning Question:  The Saints took two huge gambles this offseason by trading for MLB Jonathan Vilma and TE Jeremy Shockey.  Both are All-Pro players when healthy but both players are coming off of major injuries.  Will they be ready in time to contribute and if they do play, will it be at their formal exceptional level?  I say yes to both.  Final Outlook: The Saints will be back in the playoffs this year and their high flying offense will scare some better teams but they will be knocked out in the first round.  Sean Payton is just not that good of a coach and Reggie Bush is not tough enough to be the running threat that he could be.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8):  This team surprised many last year after making it to the playoffs and even expected to win their home game.  This year is different though.  Jeff Garcia is a year older and there is too much controversy surrounding this team and its quarterbacks.  Fantasy Pick:Joey Galloway has shown that he is a consistent deep threat despite his advanced age.  He’s a good third wide reciever in a shallow league and a decent number two in a very deep league.  Quarterback Controversy:  So many questions surround this teams quarterbacks.  They currently carry 5 and at least two are on the way out.  Chris Simms is not on speaking terms with the organization and they are holding him hostage.  Brian Griese is a capable backup but not very valuable on this team.  Starter Jeff Garcia has recently thrown himself into the Brett Favre controversy by claiming he would demand his release if Favre landed in Tampa.  This team is a mess mentally.  Final Outlook: Tampa will tease its fans with a frustrating season in which they go on hot and cold stretches.  The defense will be excellent again but it won’t be enough to disguise a painfully average offense.  However, if Favre ends up in Tampa, everything changes.

Carolina Panthers (7-9):  The Panthers are a team that always confuses me.  When I think that they will be good, they are bad.  When I think they are bad, they do good.  This offseason, they did little to improve upon a team that had a weak running game, no QB depth, and no second reciever.  They are in quite a predicament.  Fantasy Pick:  Steve Smith, the Panthers star reciever is out for the first two games due to suspension.  However, he is worth a look as your number two reciever.  But don’t overvalue him and pick him too high (between rounds 4 and 6), look for him in round 8 or so.  Coaching Hot Seat:  John Fox came into Carolina as the next big thing and he has taken them to a Superbowl but time is not on his side.  If the Panthers do not win this season and make the playoffs, Fox will be asked to pack his bags.  Final Outlook:  I always like this team but I just don’t see it this year.  Quarterback Jake Delhomme is coming off a major injury (and hes getting up there in age), there seem to be some chemistry issues surrounding the team, and there is no reliable secondary offensive weapon for Delhomme to use, whether it be a running back or a wide receiver.  Until they figure out who their secondary playmaker is going to be, they are not going to be very good.

Atlanta Falcons (3-13):  With the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino eras finally erased from memory, Falcons fans can look forward to another season of just plain old sucking.  There is very little to be excited about here.  Fantasy Pick:Michael Turner signed a big contract in the off-season to come here to be the starter.  Does he have what it takes to carry this offense?  I believe he has the skills to become a pretty good starter but this team has so little going for it that its going to be tough for him to find room to run because teams are most likely going to stuff the box against the Falcons.  He is still worth a flier as your third running back and could even surprise a few with a good season, try 1050 yards and four touchdowns.  Impact Rookie:Matt Ryan was picked at number four with the idea that he would be the franchise quarterback that this team desperately needs.  However, in order to keep him away from the David Carr syndrome (I just made that up and here is the definition: fear of getting pummeled by big and athletic defensive linemen.  Symptoms: The loss of confidence, happy feet, and throwing in front of receivers).  I didn’t think he was the best quarterback in the draft but he’ll be a player, but he needs to ride the pine for a little to ensure his success.  Final Outlook: The Falcons are not going to be very good this year.  They know it and we know it.  However, their defensive front seven is pretty good and should keep them in most games.  They’ll be competitive, but won’t win many games.

NFC West:  Perhaps the worst division in football, all of these teams will struggle to make it .500.  None of them are a threat to make any noise (especially the proverbially overrated Seattle Seahawks).  I do expect to see Seattle fans come out in droves to support their only half decent team.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7): Now you may be thinking, this guy is obviously an idiot if he is picking the Cardinals to win the division.  A closer look at the other teams in this division I believe they are the strongest one (even though one key injury would destroy them).  Fantasy Pick: You can’t go wrong with either Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald so I recommend them both.  I expect to be above 85 catches, 1300 yards, and 9 touchdowns.  That looks pretty good to me and should be in your top 5 of wide receivers.  Quarterback Controversy:  Is this the year that Matt Leinart finally realizes that he’s Matt freakin’ Leinart and he’s letting the fumble king Kurt Warner make him look silly?  I believe it is.  A man can only party and date supermodels for so long (who are we kidding, I could do that for the rest of my life).  But he steps up and wins this battle.  Final Outlook:The Cardinals showed a lot of promise last season and in Ken Whisenhunt’s second season, look for them to make an even greater step forward.

Seattle Seahawks (8-8): The team that I find to be consistently overrated finally loses its stranglehold on the division.  No more Shaun Alexander and an aging team finally shows that it just isn’t that good.  Fantasy Pick: Matt Hasselback has shown that he is a consistent quarterback who you can rely on for 3400 yards and 24 touchdowns.  Mark him down for that again.  Free-agent Bust:Lets be honest here, Julius Jones was not welcome back in Dallas.  He is a soft runner who can not be a starter in this league.  How can the Seahawks expect him to come in and take charge of this situation.  Letting go of Shaun Alexander was the right thing, but find someone who is better, not worse.  Final Outlook:Mike Holmgren’s last season will be one to forget.  They play six playoff teams from last season, including the two who made it to the Super Bowl, the tough NFC East, and the much improved AFC East.  Getting to .500 should be considered a good year.

San Francisco 49ers (6-10): What happened to the 49ers?  They used to be one of the best run organizations in the NFL with fantastic players and coaches.  Now they are stuck with Mike Nolan and a three-headed quarterback from hell.  Enjoy your season 49ers fans.  Fantasy Pick:The only redeemable thing that 49ers have for it going on offense is Frank Gore, RB.  However, with Mike Martz running the offense and Gore coming off an injury plagued season (I was personally crushed by him last year), I see him rushing for about 1100 yards, 500 yards receiving, and 9 total touchdowns.  But buyer beware.  Quarterback Controversy:  With Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, and J.T. O’Sullivan all battling for the QB position, this is a battle that could last all of preseason.  I recently read that J.T. O’Sullivan has the inside track right now but they have too much money invested in Smith to not play him.  When will teams learn the lesson to NEVER take option quarterbacks with the first overall pick.  He is a system quarterback who had one good season.  Idiots.  Final Outlook:  The 49ers will improve over last season when the pressure of playoff expectations crushed them.  Gore and Vernon Davis will be healthy but beyond them, there is very little to like on offense.  Defense will be good though with tackling machine Patrick Willis leading the way.  They are still a few years away or until they get a legitimate QB.

St. Louis Rams (4-12):  Scott Linehan is perhaps the worst coach in the NFL, consistently getting outcoached.  He makes Brad Childress look like a genius.  Fantasy Pick: Steven Jackson is a top 5 fantasy talent but this holdout has me worried a little bit.  But he does have Marc Bulger throwing the Torry Holt, which always helps open up the running game a little.  Pick him high and have confidence that he can lead you to victory.  Impact Rookie: Chris Long has everything you want in a high draft pick: Pedigree, success at a big time program, and a good attitude.  He’ll become a good all-around defensive end this season, maybe even winning defensive rookie of the year, and make a Mario Williams like leap next season into stardom.  Final Outlook:  I want to believe the Rams will win more games.  The more I look at their roster, the more I like it (except for CB and WR where there is no depth behind Torry Holt).  But I remember that Scott Linehan is the coach.  He automatically takes away a couple of wins because he is just so bad.  There are quality guys out there who are ready to take over a franchise.  Fire him and this team will be much better.

 

Part Three to come very soon or when I have time at work to write it