Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there who realizes, like me, that Thanksgiving is meant to be for three things: Family, Food, and Football.  Once again this year, we get a triple-header to feast on (Well, as long as you have NFL Network or live in or around New York or Denver.). Then on Sunday and Monday Night, we get our usual helping for games from around the league, topped off by the big game this week as the Saints host the Patriots in the Big Easy.  So before you go into your tryptophan-induced comas, here are the Week 12 picks.  Last week: 11-5. Season: 84-73-1 (.535)

Thanksgiving Games
Packers (-11)
at Lions: The annual Turkey Day showdown between these two teams kicks off a real yawner of a holiday in terms of the matchups.  There’s a ton of concerns for the Lions with respect to the shoulder of Matt Stafford and the Packers need to keep winning if they expect to win the NFC Wild Card.  The Pack should win easy in Detroit.

Raiders (+14) at Cowboys: I fully expect the Cowboys to beat the Oakland Raiders, especially considering that they still have a full complement of running backs, unlike the Bengals who were stunned in the Black Hole last week.  However, I think Oakland will come out playing very hard in this one and Bruce Gradkowski is trying to earn himself a shot at an NFL job for next season.  It’ll be closer than you think.

Giants (-7) at Broncos: In a matchup of two teams that are in dire need of wins, the G-Men seem to have a lot more composure than the suddenly dysfunctional Broncos, who are looking to avoid their fifth-straight loss and completely erase a 6-0 start.  If the Giants’ pass rush is as bad as its been in recent games, expect Brandon Marshall to have a big day, but I would still expect New York to pull this one out easily.

Sunday
Buccaneers (+13)
at Falcons: There’s really nothing going right for the Atlanta Falcons right now. Matt Ryan has been less than stellar and Michael Turner is banged up.  Tampa Bay seems to have found some hints of life with Josh Freeman under center.  The Falcons win it, but Tampa stays with them the whole way.

Dolphins (-4) at Bills: Last week I figured that the Phins were basically done with the loss of Ronnie Brown.  This week, I think Ricky Williams is going to carry the load once again, especially against the porous Bills run D.  Miami is on the cusp of being in the playoff mix.  They should get into the thick of the discussion after this one.

Browns at Bengals (-14): The Browns mustered 37 points last week in their loss to Detroit.  I’d be surprised to see them score 37 points in all of their remaining games combined.  Plus this week they get to face a very angry Cincy squad that’s coming off an unacceptable loss to the Raiders of all teams.  Cincy will reassert itself as the best team in the AFC North this week.

Seahawks at Rams (+3): This game is a complete pillow fight, but I’ve liked what St. Louis has done the last couple of weeks. It’s amazing that, even though the season is over, they keep playing so hard. I think they’ll be rewarded with win #2 on Sunday.

Panthers (+3) at Jets: Has anyone been watching the Jets the last two months? They’re playing they way a rookie coach and QB combination should be expected to play.  They might not win another game for the rest of the season.  Maybe Rex Ryan will cry about that, too.

Redskins (+10) at Eagles: Two reasons to take Washington this week. The first is that they almost beat Dallas in Dallas last week (should have won, too). The second is that this is an NFC East game, and how often are these games actually blowouts?

Colts (-4) at Texans: After their loss to the Titans on Monday Night, I’m beginning to cool on the Houston Texans, who now really need a win to hang in the playoff race.  Unfortunately, they face Peyton Manning & Co, who will not lose in Houston this time around.  Way too hard to pick against Indy right now.

Chiefs at Chargers (-14): San Diego is riding one heck of a high right now after routing Denver last week.  I don’t expect them to do anything less than run away with the AFC West now, and it starts with a big win over the lowly Chiefs.

Jaguars (+4) at 49ers: Jacksonville suddenly finds itself in 2nd place in an AFC South that most expected them to finish dead last in.  San Francisco is quickly realizing the importance of needing a viable passing game in order to make the playoffs.  Jacksonville will take this one and continue it’s unlikely playoff push behind another stellar performance by Maurice Jones-Drew.

Cardinals (+2) at Titans: I know that Vince Young has lit a spark under the Tennessee Titans, but they haven’t faced an offense like the Cardinals during the winning streak.  Plus, the Cards are 5-0 on the road this year and can basically wrap up the non-competitive NFC West with a win on Sunday.

Bears at Vikings (-11): The Bears are basically in crisis mode at this point of the season, and the calls for Lovie Smith’s head have begun.  The Vikings remain one of the hottest teams in the NFL this season and a frontrunner in terms of Superbowl contenders.  The Vikes should cruise and continue on their march towards the NFC North crown and playoffs.

Steelers at Ravens (pick ’em): Interesting stat- Troy Polamalu has missed 4 games this season. In those games, Pittsburgh is 0-4.  Also remember that one hard hit could end Ben Roethlisberger’s day and force Dennis Dixon into action. Dixon has thrown 5 career NFL passes.  Against the Ravens’ D? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Monday Night
Patriots (+3)
at Saints: I really want to take New Orleans in this game, but they have run into one of the teams I would least want to face in this part of the season.  In the last 10 years, New England in 52-10 in regular season games after Thanksgiving.  This is winning time and the Pats don’t lose very often in winning time.  It’ll be a battle, but Brady and Belichick will find a way to outwit Brees.

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.

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. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go, Chargers...Go

"Go, Chargers...Go"

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

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

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

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

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

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