The Ledger: NFL Week 3

Andrew ZercieCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Quarterback Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during their game on September 27, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Travis Lindquist/Getty Images)

Welcome to The Ledger. I didn’t have a stellar showing in week three, but I am not afraid to acknowledge my mistakes when I make them. This week, there were plenty of mistakes to look back on, so without further ado…

Sunday (record vs. spread in parentheses)

Jets 24, Titans 17 (Tennessee, +2.5)

At some point, “good” teams win games, and I’m beginning to wonder if the Titans are a “good” team. Tennessee committed four turnovers in this one. Kerry Collins is a journeyman quarterback, after all, and his 55.2% completion percentage this year is in line with his career numbers (55.7%). Chris Johnson, as great as he’s been in his young career, can only do so much on offense.

Meanwhile, the Jets beat a soft team on the road (Houston) and beat two quality opponents at home (New England, Tennessee). I’m not ready to proclaim them as a top-five team in the league, but they’re better than I expected. I was surprised by this result, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. (0-1)

Jaguars 31, Texans 24 (Houston, -4)

At least I got something right: I did say that Maurice Jones-Drew would have a big day for the Jaguars. Of course, that’s not saying much, because the Texans’ run defense is putrid.

The Jaguars don’t have much to brag about themselves though. Were it not for an offensive pass interference call against Houston’s Kevin Walter, the result could have been different. Of course, Houston probably wouldn’t have covered either way, so they can lose for all I care. (0-2)

Eagles 34, Chiefs 14 (Philadelphia, -9)

Much of the focus in this game was the fact that Michael Vick’s production didn’t match the hype surrounding his return to the NFL. However, Kevin Kolb topped 300 yards passing for a second straight game and has proven he is capable of guiding an NFL offense. While it’s unlikely he gets that opportunity on a regular basis in Philadelphia, he may have played himself into being the Matt Schaub of 2010. (1-2)

Ravens 34, Browns 3 (Baltimore, -13.5)

The Ravens are pretty good; the Browns are pretty bad. That about sums it up.

I was off by a touchdown in my prediction (34-10), so there’s no surprise in this result. The question now: Is the Browns’ coach still a Man-Genius? (2-2)

Giants 24, Buccaneers 0 (NY, -6.5)

The Giants were efficient and dominant at the same time in this one, holding the ball for over 40 minutes of game action and limiting the Bucs to 86 yards of total offense. As Eli Manning’s receiving options develop, the Giants become that much better. Right now, they appear to be the team that will win the Super Bowl. (3-2)

Lions 19, Redskins 14 (Washington, -6.5)

Last week, I said I wouldn’t bet on the Lions until they showed more than flashes of talent. Against the Redskins, they ran the ball well, and Matthew Stafford played mistake-free football.

Meanwhile, the Redskins failed to run the ball effectively and post-game comments were of the “not everyone wants it” variety. The Jim Zorn Watch is on and, not surprisingly, the Mike Shanahan Watch is on as well. (3-3)

Packers 36, Rams 17 (St. Louis, +6.5)

So much for my Upset Special. The first quarter went like this:

–Rams drive into field goal range, field goal is blocked and recovered by Packers. Packers eventually convert into field goal of their own.

–Rams receive kick off. Marc Bulger is sacked on 3rd play of drive, fumbles, and Packers recover deep in Rams’ territory. Packers convert turnover into field goal.

–Rams receive kick off. First play following kick off, Stephen Jackson runs to the left for three yards, fumbles, and Packers recover deep in Rams’ territory. Packers convert turnover into field goal.

Green Bay ran the score to 16-0 before the Rams knew what hit them. Boy, did I miss on this one. (3-4)

Vikings 27, 49ers 24 (Minnesota, -7)

I was wrong about the pick, but right about the Vikings opening things up a bit in the passing game and using their speed more on the turf. Percy Harvin’s kick return for a TD was Exhibit A of the Vikings’ turf being a factor for their fast players.

It would have been interesting to see how the 49ers would have fared with Frank Gore healthy for the whole game, instead of losing him early in the game. Gore’s injury is a significant one of course, but the 49ers nearly had this game won without him. There may be more to the 49ers than I originally thought. (3-5)

Patriots 26, Falcons 10 (New England, -4)

It was the bad weather that did in the Falcons, some are saying. The reports of the Patriots’ demise were premature, say others.

Me? I say the Falcons are average on defense and can be exploited, and the Patriots’ offense kept the Falcons’ offense off the field with their short passing game and a solid running attack, led by Fred Taylor. How the Falcons adjust based on this game could tell the story of their season.

Meanwhile, the Patriots will continue to get better on offense as Tom Brady continues to rediscover his rhythm in the pocket (4-5).

Bears 25, Seahawks 19 (Chicago, -2.5)

Jay Cutler did a nice job leading the Bears to a comeback win on the road. Moving forward though, I wonder if the Bears can effectively run the ball. If not, they will have to rely on Cutler’s decision-making and a shaky receiving corps to put points on the board.

With Brian Urlacher out for the year, the offense may have to win some ballgames without a stellar defensive effort week-in and week-out. Cutler had better options in Denver, and we all know how that turned out. (5-5)

Saints 27, Bills 7 (Buffalo, +6)

The Saints’ defense stepped up and shut down the Bills’ offense. Either that, or the Bills’ offense that was on display in the first two weeks of the season was a mirage, and the Saints’ defense had a field day against a mediocre team.

Most impressive stat of the day: the Saints gashed the Bills for 222 yards on the ground, averaging a healthy 5.8 yards per carry. (5-6)

Chargers 23, Dolphins 13 (Miami, +5.5)

With the score in this game tied at 3-3 at halftime, I thought for sure the Dolphins would slog their way to a win. Then, Chad Pennington left the game with an injury that will sideline him for the season. Enter Chad Henne, exit Miami’s chances at covering the spread or winning the game. Oh well.

I still contend the Chargers are an overrated bunch. They beat teams quarterbacked by JaMarcus Russell and Chad Henne. They don’t run the ball well, their defense isn’t what it used to be, and they miss Jamal Williams to boot. On the surface, they remain the favorites in the AFC West to many, but I don’t believe it. (5-7)

Bengals 23, Steelers 20 (Cincinnati, +4)

It’s amazing how a last-second play can change the fortunes of two teams. Led by Carson Palmer, the Bengals scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left and, with that score, Cincinnati is thought of as up-and-coming, instead of “The Same Old Bengals.”

Meanwhile, the Steelers are a reeling defending champion with a boatload of issues. Of course, I’m simplifying when I say the Steelers have a boatload of issues. The truth is, all three of their games have been decided late, and they could be anywhere from 3-0 and “looking good,” down to 0-3 and “being in real trouble.” (6-7)

Broncos 23, Raiders 3 (Denver, -1.5)

The Broncos dominated the Raiders. The defense held Oakland’s ground game in check and forced three turnovers. On offense, the Broncos relied heavily on the run, gaining 215 yards on 45 carries. I know the opposition hasn’t been impressive, but the Broncos have been, there’s no denying that. (7-7)

Colts 31, Cardinals 10 (Arizona, -2.5)

Arizona had their chances in this game before halftime. Tim Hightower’s fumble inside Indy’s 10 yard-line killed a scoring chance for Arizona, and the Colts capitalized on the turnover by starting a scoring drive of their own. Then, trailing 21-3, Arizona QB Kurt Warner drove the Cardinals down the field right before the end of the half, but he threw and interception in the end zone with 29 seconds left in the half. A momentum-building scoring drive died right there.

After that, the Colts pressured Warner into a lot of bad throws and the game was pretty much in hand. (7-8)

Monday Night

Cowboys 21, Panthers 7 (Carolina, +8.5)

I was surprised at how little the Panthers ran the ball against the Cowboys in this one. Carolina led 7-0 at the half and were facing an average run defense. Running the ball is their strength. However, once the Cowboys surged ahead 10-7 in the third quarter, the Panthers pretty much abandoned the run, and that was all she wrote.

Terrence Newman’s interception return for a touchdown with five minutes-and-change left in the game sealed the Dallas win, and spoiled bettors’ hopes of a Carolina cover. (7-9)

Final Analysis

As far as bad weeks go, 7-9 isn’t terrible. With weeks one and three a wash, I am eight games over .500 on the season (28-20) against the spread. Stay tuned for week four picks on Friday here on the site. Thanks for your readership.

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