Last week was a great week. We went 14-2 (assuming you all followed my advice). Week Three was also home to perhaps the biggest upset so far this season, with a mediocre Cincinnati Bengals defeating the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in a last-second nail-biter.
The other big game of the week was the San Francisco 49ers visiting the Minnesota Vikings. That one ended in a gorgeous last-second pass from Brett Favre to Greg Lewis with two seconds left on the clock.
We begin bye-weeks this week, giving us only 14 games to pick. Games to watch this week include the battle between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots in Foxborough and the “Battle of the Unbeatens” between the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints in Louisiana.
Sunday, October 4, 2009, 1:00 PM EST
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
First off, congratulations are in order. The Detroit Lions, last week, snapped an 19-game losing streak by beating the Washington Redskins. That said, they won’t begin a winning streak this week. Their defense was a little off (it looked hard for them to stop the Redskins near-comeback drive at the very end of the game).
Also, Jay Cutler is actually improving every game. This week, he should be able to exploit the Detroit defense and get another win at Soldier Field. Also look for Devon Hester to have another big game; he wants to be the go-to guy in the Windy City.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
The Browns looked positively horrific in their 34-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week Three, and are now having quarterback issues again. Until Eric Mangini can make decent decisions and get that locker room on the same page, the Browns will always be, well, the Browns.
Cincinnati had one of the most glorious last-minute wins I’ve ever seen. While a great team would have crushed their opponent (instead of waiting until 14 seconds were left to win), even the most blasé of teams could beat the Browns. That, and I want to see Chad Ochocinco dive into the “Dog Pound” again.
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Until the Oakland Raiders realize that they have one of the worst quarterbacks ever to set foot on a gridiron, they will never win a game. Okay, so it’s not all JaMarcus Russell’s fault, but he is pretty bad.
The Raiders need to get some O-Line blocking for a run game (and to protect Russell), and their upper management needs to not be…crazy (see the comments they made to CBS Sports about Rich Gannon for evidence).
The Houston Texans are looking sad, but a nice, easy win in front of the home crowd should cheer them up. They can do it, they have the offense, and you don’t need a defense against the Raiders, so have fun with your gimme, Houston.
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
Without Matt Hasselbeck, the Seattle Seahawks are in complete disarray. They finally have T.J. Houshmandzadeh healthy and now have no one to throw to him. It looks like they could have a repeat of last season, what with the Cardinals and reformed, re-energized 49ers in their division.
The Colts actually looked like they had a defense against the Cardinals last week, something I had never seen before. That, and their offense kept getting big plays from Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark. If they can keep it up, this week should provide them with an easy win.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee is angry and in desperate need of a win. They’re 0-3 and not happy about it. Jeff Fisher will not let this stand and neither will Kerry Collins (not with Vince Young waiting in the wings). They have the passing game, and running game (with Chris Johnson), and should have the defense to pull this off.
It is my personal belief that the Jaguars only won last week because they got lucky. That and they have Maurice Jones-Drew. They won’t be so lucky this week going up against a run defense trying to prove it doesn’t need Albert Haynesworth.
New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
The New York Giants are starting to bring back memories of the pre-merger New York Giants. They look amazing and unstoppable. Proving they don’t need Plaxico Burress and that they can play through major injuries is only a further sign of their path to the Playoffs. Their defense wants another shutout.
The Chiefs look like they could use some performance enhancers, if you know what I mean. Matt Cassel has looked something less-than-stellar these past two weeks. Granted they were playing Philadelphia last week, but losing to Oakland in Week Two was unacceptable. There is just no way their defense can stop the Eli Manning-Mario Manningham connection.
Winner: New York Giants
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
This game will be the game to watch this week. The Baltimore Ravens are 3-0 and coming off a 34-3 defeat of their AFC North rival Cleveland Browns. Their new-found, explosive offense (of all things) can get past the beat-up Patriots defense, but Baltimore’s secondary has been letting big plays get by them. Can they hold Tom Brady and Randy Moss (and apparently Fred Taylor) back?
The New England Patriots are looking to defend their home turf and not go 2-2. They cannot allow themselves to get any further behind the Jets than they already are. Brady should have most of his weapons back, and he is getting more and more knee-confidence each week. He says he likes the pressure, but we’ll see if he can handle the best defense in the league. Something tells me, the magic may be gone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are giving the Browns a run for their money in the “Worst Team in the League” category. Of course, so are the Redskins. No team looks sadder, slower, and more pathetic, however, than the Bucs. They have no quarterback, no receivers, and no run game, and they look like they don’t even care.
Though losing to the then 0-19 Lions was a harsh turn for the Redskins, they at least tried to win, just not very hard. They have the ability, just not the passion. If Jim Zorn can do the unthinkable, and fire up his team, they just might have a chance here.
Sunday, October 4, 2009, 4:05 PM EST
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
Buffalo has had some bad luck, but don’t expect T.O. to let that go on for too long. Trent Edwards is looking surprisingly good and their defense should be able to stop the Wildcat offense, the only thing Miami has going for it (really, any defense can stop the Wildcat, but none of them really try).
Miami is now without Chad Pennington for the rest of the season. Chad Henne could be good, but we won’t know that until he takes a snap. Miami’s whole problem is their inability to just give the quarterback the ball (if they do, they apparently don’t protect him very well). Still stuck on last year’s fad schemes, this offense is going to have a hard time doing anything against anyone, much less the Bills.
New York Jets at New Orleans Saints
This is another game to watch. Both the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints are undefeated and are gearing up for one hell of a showdown. The question really is which quarterback is better?
However, we cannot forget Drew Brees. Sure, the Saints defense isn’t that great, and the Jets defense is really good, but did you see what happened to the Philly defense in Week Two? Or the Bills defense last week? The Saints offense—in particular their passing game—is the best in the league and though the Jets defense is great, Brees will still get 30 points on the board, somehow. And there’s just no way Sanchez can keep up with that.
Winner: New Orleans
Sunday, October 4, 2009, 4:15 PM EST
Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos
This was a tough game to pick and is my upset of the week. Though technically, looking at the records, this shouldn’t be an upset (the ‘Boys are 2-1 while the Broncos are 3-0). However, most people believe that Dallas has the better team and Denver has only played crap teams. Did you see who Dallas played? Tampa Bay and Carolina are crap teams if I ever saw any. And then they played the Giants, to whom they lost.
Denver was supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league for more than one reason. They got rid of Jay Cutler (good idea, in my opinion), dealt with Brandon Marshall, and were supposedly falling apart, but have won every game.
It doesn’t appear the rift was very deep, and the players seem to be buying whatever Josh McDaniels is selling. That and they’re playing outdoors, a mile above sea-level, always an advantage.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
The St. Louis Rams are fast becoming the worst team in a decade, not to mention this season. Now with Marc Bulger out, at least my hopes of seeing Kyle Boller do half-decently can improve slightly.
Unfortunately, just like when he played for Baltimore, he has no line, a washed-up running back, and receivers who don’t want to catch. Until many, many problems are fixed, I can’t imagine the Rams being good. They need Kurt Warner back.
The 49ers, oppositely, are fast becoming this season’s biggest surprise. Mike Singletary is doing a great job, and their recent loss to Minnesota was because of a fluke, miracle play with two seconds left in the game. A defense that can stop anyone, special teams that have more blocked field goals and punts than any other has, and an offense than can run well and pass well-enough make this team the NFC West team to beat.
Winner: San Francisco
Sunday, October 4, 2009, 8:20 PM EST
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Here’s another daring pick. The chargers may have lost to the Ravens, but only by five points, and last week they crushed a Miami team that was supposed to be hard for them. If Cincinnati can score just enough points to beat the Steelers, an offense like San Diego’s can score even more.
Big Ben’s offensive line is looking shaky, and that amazing Pittsburgh D just hasn’t been the same since Polamalu was knocked out of the first game. Now, I could be wrong (it’s happened before), and the Steelers could kick it up for their first home game since Week One. Mike Tomlin has the ability to reform the team and get them back in winning shape, but it doesn’t look good.
Winner: San Diego
Monday, October 5, 2009, 8:30 PM EST
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
This pick was extremely hard to make and is perhaps yet another game to watch. As Green Bay is one of my favorite teams, and Brett Favre is my favorite quarterback, it’s hard to watch them play against each other. At the same time, I have to pick one of them.
The Green Bay Packers came back strong against the Rams after losing to Cincinnati in Week Two. But that’s where they fall for me.
As much as we have discussed the return-to-form of Cincinnati, losing to them that early in the season, especially after just barely beating the Bears in Week One, makes Green Bay look not-so-good. Aaron Rodgers will have a brilliant career, Donald Driver is always reliable, and Ryan Grant is one of the most underrated running backs in the league, but they still aren’t clicking the way I thought they would, or should.
Brett Favre and the rest of Minnesota are clicking. Favre’s pass to Greg Lewis to win against the 49ers last week is proof positive of that. If the stories are true, Favre wasn’t sure a receiver would even be there to catch the ball, and Lewis wasn’t sure Favre would ever throw it his way, but Favre did throw it, and Lewis was there.
Lastly, which is more detrimental, one man’s hatred for a team, or a whole team’s hatred for one man? Favre might lose his cool here, but the whole Green Bay offense can’t afford to lose theirs trying to prove they can do it without him, and I’m afraid they might.
Though 14-2 is a great weekly record, it’s not as good as 16-0. That’s what we’re aiming for this week. Tough games still stand in our way: Ravens-Patriots, Jets-Saints, Chargers-Steelers, and the Monday Night Packers-Vikings showdown will all be great games to watch. The NFL is an exciting, surprising, and unforgiving league, and we can only hope that it lives up to the expectations.
Also, I forgot to make a Super Bowl XLIV pick last week. Judging by how well both these teams are doing right now, I’m going to say Baltimore Ravens vs. New York Giants with a slight edge to the Giants to win in a close, defensive battle.