Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy Sunday

Last week was like taking candy from a baby. I went 11-5, with my best surprise picks being Buffalo and San Francisco, two of the great teams from the '80s and '90s who have fallen on hard times. That makes the season record 19-13 so far. This week's slate has a number of great games on the board, including a revenge match in Pittsburgh with the Steelers taking on the Bengals and Carson Palmer; the Bears and Vikings in Minnesota, where we'll find out if the Bears are as good as they seem; in Indianapolis, where the juggernaut Colts run into the smashmouth Jaguars; and finally, in Seattle, where the Seahawks and their crazed fans try to make life as miserable as possible for the New York Football Giants. Best of all, our Patriots play tonight against Denver, meaning we get the feeds for the Cincy-Pittsburgh battle, the Bears-Vikings, and the Seahwaks-Giants. Not a bad day of NFL watching at all.

On to the picks. Again, these are made against the spread published in my local rag.

Carolina (-3) @ Tampa Bay: The Panthers - the trendy pre-season Super Bowl pick - have stumbled out of the blocks and are winless entering this game against the Bucs. Is it because they haven't had All-World WR Steve Smith? Is it the loss of their middle linebacker Dan Morgan? Whatever it is, Carolina isn't as bad as their record suggests. They'll make Chris Simms look like Tony Eason today.

Chicago (-3.5) @ Minnesota: The whole world wants to know if the Bears are as good on offense as they are on defense, and today will give a good indication. Is Rex Grossman for real? Who is Bernard Berrian? How are they doing this? They've beaten up on bad teams in the first two weeks (Green Bay and Detroit), and the Vikings would appear to be a stiffer test, especially in the Metrodome. I may regret this, but I'm going with the Vikings to pull off an upset today.

@Pittsburgh (1.5) vs. Cincinnati: Should be a great game, with the Steelers coming off an absolutely dreadful performance last Monday night against the Jaguars, and the Bengals coming in with revenge on their minds. Cincy had legitimate playoff hopes last year until that big oaf Kimo von Oehlenwhatever rolled on Palmer's leg. The Steelers will be loaded for bear, but I'm going with the Bengals in this one. Too much firepower. Plus, Carson's on my roto team so I have to root for him.

@Detroit (-7) vs. Green Bay: A snoozer. Green Bay comes into Motown a wounded team, having lost to (gasp) New Orleans last week on the frozen tundra. Detroit, meanwhile, under offensive whiz Mike Martz, has scored a grand total of 13 points through two weeks. Take the under and the Lions to cover. Roy Williams said so.

@Indianapolis (-7) vs. Jacksonville: All sorts of intriguing angles here. Indy is missing Adam Vinatieri today, who is out of action for the first time in his illustrious NFL career with a groin problem. Those damn groins. Peyton has been Peyton, but the Jags have a better secondary than most people think. If the Jaguars want to be taken seriously this is a good place to start, but I just don't think Indy will lose at home. I'm going with the Colts laying the points.

@Buffalo (-5.5) vs. NY Jets: The Jets showed me something last week in their comeback against the Pats, but they're too one dimensional. They're entering week 3, and they still don't know who their starting running back is. Curtis Martin, where are you? Buffalo rides to victory on the back of their stout defense and hometown crowd.

@Miami (-10.5) vs. Tennessee: If the Dolphins don't win this one... but they will, even with Daunte Culpepper calling the shots. The question is will they cover the 10 and a half? I don't even remember the Titans anymore. Who plays for them? McNair? Eddie George? Or was that back in like 1998? What the hell - take the Titans and the points.

Washington (-4) @ Houston: Like the Dolphins, this is a must-win game for Joe Gibbs and the 'Skins. The Texans are one of those bad but competitive bad teams, but go with Washington in this one.

Baltimore (-6.5) @ Cleveland: Will Art Modell be at this game? The team he stole away to Baltimore takes on the city he abandoned. The Ravens have looked impressive so far, but still not sure how much improved the offense is. Then again, you don't really need an offense when your D is pitching shutout ball. Ravens win this one, 21-7.

@Seattle (-3.5) vs. NY Giants: This one has all the makings of a letdown game for the Jints. They won an emotional game against a division rival last week, and they're going into the worst (best?) noise den in the league. The Seahawks also may get a boost from Deion Branch today, which they may need with a hurting Shaun Alexander. On the flip side, young Eli continues to gain confidence. I'll go with a mild upset here and take the Giants.

Philly (-6) at San Francisco: This one could be interesting. The Eagles are banged up on both sides of the ball, but McNabb has been pretty impressive through the first two weeks. The Niners counter with their big three of QB Alex Smith, WR Antonio Bryant and RB Frank Gore. The Eagles find a way to win, and cover, but it won't be a walk in the park.

@Arizona (-4.5) vs. St. Louis: Kurt Warner goes against his old team, which bears zero resemblance to his old team. The Rams have some skill players, no doubt - with Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Steven Jackson. They had a nice win against the Broncos in week one, but then fell to the 49ers last week. Arizona counters with Kurt, the Edge, Larry Fitz and Anquan Boldin. Take the Cardinals in an offensive shootout.

@New England (-7) vs. Denver: Another good one. Denver's gotten the best of the Pats in recent years, and that playoff loss last year still sticks in our collective craw. Win that one, host the Steelers at home in the AFC title game, and we may be looking at a 4th Super Bowl win. But hindsight's 20-20. We lost, although we'll always have that amazing visual of Ben Watson chasing down Champ Bailey and absolutely leveling him. I'm confident in the Pats' D-line and our running back play tonight; not so confident in Brady's throwing accuracy and our secondary. The key to me will be Brady. We know the D-line, Dillon and Maroney will show up, and we know Plummer and Rod Smith will connect a few times tonight. Brady needs to be sharp. Pats take it, but the Broncos cover in what may be a field goal game. Remember, the Pats don't blow anybody out.

Atlanta (-3.5) @ New Orleans: Lots of emotion for this one, with the NFL planning a big night to remember Hurricane Katrina. Two of my favorite bands - U2 and Green Day - are collaborating on what is supposed to be a fantastic song at halftime. And oh yeah, there will be some football played in the Superdome. Mike Vick. Reggie Bush. I think the Falcons will win and cover, but I'm going with my heart for this one and picking the Saints.

Bah, Vikings had the game won! :(
The Bears have a horseshoe up their butts. The Rex Grossman Experiment will come crashing down at some point in the next few weeks, though they now catch a break next Sunday with Shaun Alexander out with a broken foot. I like your Vikes. Now my Patriots? That's another matter.
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