Welcome back to The Ledger, where I review what went right, and wrong, with my picks against the spread from last week’s games.
In case you missed my original picks, look here:
My picks this past week were much better, as I wound up 9-5 against the spread, pushing the overall record to 37-25 on the season. It’s always good to bounce back with a solid week of picks after having a losing record the previous week. Without further ado, here’s my take on each game.
Texans 29, Raiders 6 (Oakland, +9.5)
If it wasn’t official before, it is now: JaMarcus Russell is brutally awful.
I expected Houston to focus on the Raiders’ running game, but limiting the Raiders to 44 yards on the ground was surprising to me, considering the Texans had surrendered over 200 rushing yards per game through the first three weeks of the season. As Houston was able to build a bit of a lead, Russell had to throw the ball more, and he finished 12 for 33 with 128 passing yards on the day.
Perhaps the Texans continue to build on their success from here, but I still wonder whether they’re good or not. This game proved nothing to me (0-1).
Jaguars 37, Titans 17 (Tennessee, -3)
Even false sense of hope is gone in Tennessee, and after losing big to the Jags, I wonder if the Titans will start Vince Young at QB soon. At some point, the team needs to know if they are going to get anything out of Young for his career, or if it’s time to write him off entirely and start over with someone else.
Meanwhile, the Jags have won two in a row and did it this week by riding QB David Garrard and not RB Maurice Jones-Drew. Garrard had over 300 yards in the air and spread the ball around to eight different receivers. (0-2)
Patriots 27, Ravens 21 (New England, -2)
The Ravens’ offense moved the ball pretty well. They out-gained the Patriots despite having the ball for 10 fewer minutes. However, two turnovers and some missed opportunities led to Baltimore’s first loss of the season.
Tom Brady played effectively. He and Randy Moss connected for a touchdown. New England ran the ball 30 times in an effort to hold onto the ball longer, and the tactic worked. I never thought we’d see the day when the Ravens’ offense was feared more than their defense, but we’re here. (1-2)
Bengals 23, Browns 20 (OT) (Cincinnati, -5.5)
The Bengals should have lost this game, but they didn’t. The best player on the field was Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs, who had 230 return yards. As the game dragged into overtime, it felt as though the teams would tie.
Despite the close call, and the fact that they didn’t cover the spread, the Bengals are 3-1, which is better than many would have expected at this point in the year. It’s a nice start for them. However, I am interested to see if they continue to win games. They won’t if they make the same mistakes against better competition (1-3)
Giants 27, Chiefs 16 (NY Giants, -8.5)
This was a full-fledged blowout until the Chiefs scored 13 points in the final quarter to make things interesting. In fact, 13 of the Chiefs’ 16 points and 136 of the Chiefs’ 193 yards of total offense came in the fourth quarter.
Considering the Giants were up 27-3 when the Chiefs started to move the ball at will, it’s hard to blame the Giants’ D for taking a quarter off. Given that they’re playing the Raiders this coming week, they might be able to take all four quarters off and win. (2-3)
Bears 48, Lions 24 (Chicago, -10)
Tied at halftime, and close for much of the first half, the kickoff return for a touchdown by the Bears’ Johnny Knox was a turning point in the game, as the Bears outscored the Lions 27-3 in the second half.
The Bears’ defense clamped down on the Lions following Knox’s TD return, a huge reason for the second half blowout. After allowing 288 yards of offense and 21 points in the first half, Chicago held the Lions to -8 yards on 12 offensive plays, and they forced a fumble that lead to a field goal. (3-3)
Redskins 16, Buccaneers 13 (Washington, -7)
And the title of “Worst 2-2 Team in NFL History” goes to the 2009 Washington Redskins! The two teams they beat (St. Louis, Tampa Bay) are winless and have been routinely pounded by their other opponents. Washington defeated them by a combined 5 points and didn’t cover the spread in either game. Not good.
Needless to say, I’m putting Washington on my “Won’t Bet On” list until they prove themselves worthy. (3-4)
Colts 34, Seahawks 17 (Indianapolis, -7)
Like the Giants-Chiefs game, this was a bona fide blowout until the Seahawks scored a couple cosmetic touchdowns to make the score closer. The Colts led 34-3 with about seven minutes left in the game.
They owned this game in almost every facet, the exception being in the running game, where the Colts continue to struggle. Of course, if Peyton Manning is going to keep carving up defenses as he has so far this year, maybe the Colts don’t need to run the ball. (4-4)
Saints 24, Jets 10 (New Orleans, -7)
A lot of the reactionary discussion about this game will focus on the Saints’ defense, and rightly so. They put 14 points on the scoreboard. However, the Jets’ defense held the potent Saints’ offense to one touchdown and kept Drew Brees under 200 yards passing. The Saints’ defense was opportunistic and forced Mark Sanchez into several mistakes and four turnovers. The Jets’ defense may be legitimately great though. (5-4)
Dolphins 38, Bills 10 (Buffalo, -2)
When I picked the Bills, I wrote: “This became a no-brainer pick the moment Miami lost Chad Pennington for the season.”
Oh, it was a no-brainer alright…as in I must have none. Miami ran the ball 45 times for 250 yards, holding the ball for 37 minutes on offense. On defense, they had three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in the first quarter. Chad Henne wasn’t a factor, but the Dolphins didn’t need him to be one this week.
As for the Bills, all there is to say is that they did nothing on offense, and they were equally bad defensively. One wonders how they nearly beat the Patriots in week one. (5-5)
49ers 35, Rams 0 (San Francisco, -9.5)
San Francisco’s defense scored touchdowns on each of the three turnovers they forced. In fact, the 49ers’ defense (21 points) outscored the 49ers’ offense (14 points).
The Rams have scored some points this year, but it doesn’t seem like they have. They’ve been that bad. This game was the easiest pick to make this past week. (6-5)
Broncos 17, Cowboys 10 (Denver, +3)
The key to this game was the way in which the Denver defense contained the Dallas running attack. Dallas came into this game as the best in the league at running the football. They left this game having gained just 74 yards on the ground, averaging only three yards per carry.
It’s fitting that Denver’s defense was the story; they’ve allowed just 26 points on the season now, less than a touchdown per game. However, the defense and rookie coach Josh McDaniels, must have been happy to share some of the spotlight with Brandon Marshall, who attempted to stage a Jay Cutler-esque exit out of Denver prior to the start of the season. Now, the team is 4-0, and its star receiver was last seen hugging his coach. Life is good in the Mile High City. (7-5)
Steelers 38, Chargers 28 (Pittsburgh, -6.5)
The Chargers played this game as if they were still physically and psychologically three hours behind. Pittsburgh raced out to a 28-0 lead and held on, as the Chargers played with a purpose for the last 20 minutes of the game. The Steelers got a great performance from RB Rashard Mendenhall, and Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes.
In what has become a trend, San Diego did not run the ball effectively and relied heavily on Phillip Rivers to move the ball on offense. The Chargers sacked Roethlisberger three times, but yielded nearly 500 yards of total offense. If they can’t run the ball or stop the run, San Diego will have a hard time beating quality opponents. (8-5)
Vikings 30, Packers 23 (Minnesota, -3.5)
This was an important win for the Vikings, not only because it was an intra-divisional matchup against the Packers, but because the Vikings learned they can rely on the surgically-repaired Brett Favre to put up big numbers and lead them to victory.
Through the first three weeks of the season, Favre did a lot of handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson. Against the Packers, Peterson was the complementary player and Favre was on center stage. The Vikings needed to see that Favre was able to shoulder the load, and he rose to the occasion.
Meanwhile, if Aaron Rodgers makes it through the season healthy, it will come as a surprise. He’s talented, but the Packers’ offensive line is porous. (9-5)