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.

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.

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

The Good-AFC

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

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

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

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

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

The Bad-AFC

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

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

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

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

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

The Good-NFC

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

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

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

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

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

The Bad-NFC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two seasons ago, New England Patriots star Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts phenom Peyton Manning were in a league of their own. Peyton Manning was coming off of a Super Bowl victory and Tom Brady was introduced to a new, valuable friend in Randy Moss. Brady and Manning were the cream of the crop. They were 1 and 1A. 

Well, it is time for people to give a new man props and that’s Drew Brees. Don’t get me wrong, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are still phenomenal quarterbacks and I’d take them on my team anyday, but look at what Drew Brees has done on the New Orleans Saints the past three seasons.

In each of his three seasons with the Saints, Brees has thrown for over 4,000 yards and averaged at least 29 TDs. Last season, Brees came up just 16 yards short of breaking Dan Marino’s single season record for passing yards. Brees finished with a fat 5,069 yards…the second greatest total in NFL History.

So how has Brees followed up his near historic season? He has thrown for 9 touchdowns in his first two games and is on pace for 72 this season. To put that in perspective, Tom Brady holds the record with 50 TDs in one season where the Patriots went 16-0.

Drew Brees needs to win and play well in the playoffs. I get that.  Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have won Super Bowls…I hear ya. But that doesn’t mean the media and public can’t give this man some love for his personal achievements.

Do you think Entourage regrets not having Brees instead of Brady come on the show? I hear Brees is a big hitter on the golf course…

-Tommy T

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go, Chargers...Go

"Go, Chargers...Go"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello once more from the wide world of sports. Yes football season has just started and maybe one day I will get to finish my AFC Preview (probably not because I am just too lazy to analyze the remaining 16 teams). However, with the NY Football Giants effectively embarrassing the Washington Redskins last night in East Rutherford, I would like to present you the ten most compelling story lines for the upcoming season and my thought provoking/dead-on/genius analysis.

1. What will Brett Farve do in Jets green?

Nobody really knows what to expect from Farve. Will he be the Brett from last year when he led the Packers to a 13-3 record with a berth in the NFC Championship game or the gunslinger from 2005 and 2006 who had a 38:47 TD to INT ratio and looked more finished than grandma’s overcooked Christmas turkey? I believe he will be a mixture of the two. The Jets will be better, maybe even compete for a playoff spot, but nothing really beyond that. And really, its not what he does during the season, its what he does after that is important for THE Brett Farve Network/ESPN.

2. Can Aaron Rodgers lead the Packers to the playoffs?

Ladies and Gentleman, YES HE CAN! Aaron Rodgers, if you remember was a pretty good quarterback at Cal and was expected to be a top ten pick. He then fell to the Packers and was lucky enough to rot on the bench for a few years until he was ready. Well, he is now ready. Look for the mountain man to put up good numbers this year as he leads the Packers back to the NFC Championship game (which he will also lose).

3. Can the Patriots go unbeaten again this season?

No. I can not be more emphatic in my answer. I have always believed in Karma and I trust that the Football G-Ds are going to seek revenge on the New England Patriots for running up the score and cheating their way to glory. They are still the best team in the AFC East, but the gap has closed significantly. And lets be honest, this team is a ticking time bomb. Lets look at the checklist: Over-inflated ego head coach (check!), celebrity QB (check!), aging defense (check), and one crazy drama driven receiver (CHECK!). The Giants exposed the Patriots in the Super Bowl for having an offensive line that was prone to pressure. And this rattled Tom Brady. I think teams are going to realize that giving him time to pick you apart is a bad idea. As long as you limit his throws to underneath routes to the TE’s and Wes Welker, they are beatable because this team is one-dimensional on offense (paging Laurence Maroney). Also, Randy Moss is a head case waiting to happen. Once he stops catching all of those touchdowns, he is going to go into crazy Randy Moss mode. I can’t wait to see/hear/read about Bill Simmons crying about the downfall of the Patriots (and Sports guy, how about you write about something other than your Boston teams. I thought you were supposed to be a national columnist.)

4. Will the Cowboys actually win a playoff game this year?

No, they won’t. Tony Romo, while a nice quarterback, doesn’t seem to have the testicular fortitude to will his team to a tough late season victory. They have the greatest collection of talent south of the Mason-Dixon line and yet they assume that because they are so good, they should just be handed the championship. Gentlemen, you must earn this trophy. That is why teams who play hard every game win it (Steelers and Giants come to mind). They will be good again, but they just aren’t tough enough to win games in the playoffs.

5. Will the New Orleans Saints turn into the 2006 Saints because of Hurricane Gustav?

I think the better question is will the Saints home field be under attack every hurricane season and force them to turn into football nomads? I believe the Saints will be much better this year. I really like their skill position players and their division is up for grabs. They will probably have a season similar to the 2006 post-Katrina season, so, yes, they will turn into the 2006 Saints.

6. Why are the Giants getting no respect after winning the Superbowl last year?

Because everyone thought that last year was a fluke. That they were lucky to be there. However, they proved them wrong but are still getting the same treatment this season. This year the experts see the loss of Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to injury are too great to overcome. I say hogwash. This team is loaded at running back and the defensive line. Eli Manning is ready to make a jump to elite status and Plaxico Burress is a top five wide receiver. By the end of the season, the pundits will all be saying how the Giants came out of nowhere again this year. Maybe then they will stop underestimating the number one team from New York.

7. Will any teams flirt with losing all 16 games?

Yes and they will be the Falcons, Dolphins, Ravens, and St. Louis. Each of these teams has glaring holes and so many issues that I could not possibly name them all, so I will just same one from each team. The Falcons and Ravens are starting rookie quarterbacks (more on that later) who are going to wish they had never been drafted. St. Louis has one of the worst head coaches of all time in Scott Linehan and the Dolphins just plain suck. Now, if any of you have watched the show, this past episode, I called my colleague Justin Fensterman an idiot (among many other things) because he said the Dolphins had a chance at making the playoffs. Theoretically, yes they do, but in reality, where most of us live, they have no chance in hell in winning more than 4 games this year. None of these teams will win more than 5 games this year and the Falcons and Dolphins will battle it out again for who is the worst team in all of football.

8. Which rookie quarterback is going to have a better season: Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco?

While neither of these players are going to be very good this year, I believe that Matt Ryan is going to have a better year statistically and Joe Flacco will win one or two more games (I know, I’m taking the middle ground, sorry). Both are going to throw more interceptions than touchdowns and have a completion percentage hover around 55 percent. But Matt Ryan also has better receivers (Roddy White is better than all of the Ravens wide outs put together) and Michael “Burner” Turner is going to have a breakout year. He is in a better position to play a little better than Flacco right now. Long term, lets just hope they don’t develop David Carr Syndrome.

9. How much will Peyton Manning’s removed bursa sac affect his game?

I don’t really know because I’m not much a medical guy. But if he says he is fine, I am going to take his word for it. I think that he is the best quarterback in the game and I am still picking him in fantasy drafts. What concerns me more about the Colts is the injury bug that still hasn’t left them. Now Jeff Saturday, their all-pro center is out and its going to be tough to replace him. However, Peyton will be fine and I look forward to the Colts reclaiming their status as the class of the AFC.

10. How crazy is Chad Ocho Cinco?

Britney Spears Crazy. Who changes their name from Chad Johnson to Chad Ocho Cinco? He has literally gone into the deep end. But I feel bad for him. He obviously does not have the pysche to withstand the daily pressures of playing football and being held to certain expectations. There was a reason the Bengals didn’t trade him this summer: nobody wanted his crazy ass on their team. And the only team that did want him would only have taken him if he changed his last name to Jones to fit in with the rest of the roster. Folks, stay away from Chad Ocho Cinco. He is crazy!

BONUS LIGHTNING ROUND:

1. Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton: Which one is starting in midseason? Kyle Orton.

2. WIll Wade Phillips lose his job after this season? Yes.

3. Playoff Picks? AFC: Patriots, Cleveland, Indy, San Diego, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh. NFC: Cowboys, Packers, Saints, Arizona, Giants, and Eagles.

4. Championship Picks: AFC: Indy over Jacksonville. NFC: Packers over Giants

5. Superbowl Pick: Indy over Packers

6. Will Brett Farve retire at the end of the year? Undoubtedly.

BEARD

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