Can Devin Hester help keep Da Bears undefeated against the G-Men?
Week 4 is already here (we're already a quarter of the way through the season? WHAT?!?) and now is when we should be figuring out which teams are good and which teams are not. Some of the expected teams have looked pretty darn good so far: Indianapolis, Green Bay, and New Orleans.
Some teams that were not supposed to be great have looked pretty darn good: Kansas City, Chicago, and Pittsburgh (they were supposed to be good, but not 3-0 without Fat Ben).
It's also been made clear which teams will be almost automatic Ws on opposing teams' schedules. Annual pushovers like Buffalo and Cleveland both look terrible again, while teams that weren't necessarily supposed to be great like Carolina and San Francisco are still looking for their first win too.
Only one 0-4 team has ever made the playoffs, so if none of those teams win this week, their season is dead. Who are we kidding? None of those teams are going to make the playoffs (Sorry, the Niners have looked really awful).
So without further ado, here are my sure-to-be-incorrect picks for this crucial week in the NFL.
Last Week: 10-6 (vs. spread: 9-7)
Season: 27-21 (vs. spread: 24-24, Lock of the Week 3-0 (2-1), Upset of the Week: 1-2 (2-1))
San Francisco @ Atlanta
I feel bad for Niners fans. Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers might be the football version of Bowie over Jordan (more like Darko over 'Melo). At least they did something to address the terrible struggles of their offense (firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye). It has yet to be determined if Raye was the problem in San Francisco, but I have my money on Smith being the problem. He's just not, what's the word...good. Yep, that's the word.
Atlanta 27 (-6.5), San Francisco 10
NY Jets @ Buffalo
After struggling on Monday Night Football in their opener, the Jets have been as impressive as any team in the NFL. Mark Sanchez is slinging the ball all over the field, LDT looks like a new guy (what happened to Shonn Green? Anybody who took him in the first round of their fantasy league has to look like an idiot now.), and Braylon Edwards is actually catching touchdown passes.
Now the Jets finally get an easier game (Baltimore, New England, and Miami are all pretty tough matchups). The big question is will they take Buffalo seriously or just be waiting to go get the post-game snack?
NY Jets 24 (-5.5), Buffalo 3
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
Cincinnati has gone about their two wins in incredibly ugly fashion. I'm talking Khloe Kardashian ugly. Their 20-7 win over Carolina was one of the worst double-digit wins I've ever seen.
Carson Palmer was only good when he was dumping the ball off to Jermaine Gresham or Cedric Benson, and Benson wasn't exactly running over Panther defenders left and right when he carried the ball.
They benefited from facing a terrible offense more than anything. Luckily, they get another terrible offense this week. Seneca Wallace!
Cincinnati 20 (-3.5), Cleveland 13
Detroit @ Green Bay
Detroit might hold the record for covering, but still losing the game this season. As long as the lines keep going this high against the Lions, I'm going to go with Detroit. I really don't think that they are that bad this year. I mean Sean Hill is playing quarterback, but the rest...wait, Sean Hill is playing quarterback? Maybe I should reconsider this whole "Lions not being that bad" thing.
Green Bay 31, Detroit 17 (+14.5)
Denver @ Tennessee
I thought Denver would be terrible this year, but they haven't really looked terrible (or even that bad) so far. Kyle Orton has actually looked above average (something I thought he'd be). Their defense hasn't looked awful either. I mean, Peyton Manning ate them for dinner (actually David Gerrard beat them up too, but I'm trying to make a point), but doesn't he do that to everybody?
Slowing Vince Young should be a much easier task than slowing down the back-to-back MVP. The bigger question is whether they can stop Chris "Not gonna get 2,000 yards, let alone 2,500, again" Johnson.
Tennessee 20, Denver 17 (+6.5)
Seattle @ St. Louis
Seattle is going to be one of those "great at home, terrible on the road" teams this year. Qwest Field is one of the best two or three crowds in the league and it is always tough to play there (just ask Philip Rivers...actually, ask the Chargers special teams). St. Louis has been competitive in every game they've played so far this year and they get Seattle away from Qwest. Ah, who cares, I'm just going to flip a coin, it's Seattle versus the St. Louis "We're really good at losing" Rams!
Seattle 20 (-0.5), St. Louis 13
Carolina @ New Orleans
I was not expecting much from the Panthers this season, but I did not expect this. I did not expect Matt Moore to fizzle out in two games. I did not expect neither DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart to be without a 70-yard rushing game through three weeks. The Panthers motto this year: "Expect the unexpected." In no way is that a good thing.
New Orleans 31 (-13.5), Carolina 10
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (Game of the Week)
Could Pittsburgh really start the season 4-0 and have their franchise, huge-headed QB sitting on the bench (or in a bathroom stall) for all of those game?
The Ravens were beaten by the Carson Palmer-led Bengals two weeks ago. Charlie Batch might be a better quarterback than Palmer right now (seriously Cincy, put in the brother and see if anybody notices). Sad but true.
Big Ben walking onto a 4-0 team with the best support system in the league on the other side of the ball: also sad, but true.
Pittsburgh 23 (-1.5), Baltimore 20
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville
Peyton Manning vs. David Gerrard. This needs to be on a movie poster or something. All kidding aside, Jacksonville has played Indy very well for the past few seasons. That's going to change on Sunday.
Indianapolis 31 (-8.5), Jacksonville 16
Houston @ Oakland
Was the 2-0 start by Houston just another classic Texans tease that we see every year? Is it time for them to fall apart yet, or are they legit (remember, they could easily be 1-2 right now)?
The offense certainly seems to be potent when Matt Schaub is on (Arian Foster has been fantastic, even in a loss) and he definitely has weapons to work with, Mr. Johnson particularly.
The defense looks to be a big problem yet again though. They've allowed two 400-yard passers in three weeks and didn't exactly slow down Tony Romo. Bruce Gradkowski is next on the menu. What can the Big Gradkowski do against the Texans' excuse for a secondary?
Houston 28 (-3.5), Oakland 24
Arizona @ San Diego (Lock of the Week)
San Diego has had to go to maybe the two toughest road environments in the league so far this year. Arrowhead on Monday Night Football in the rain is about as bad as it gets and Qwest Field is always insanely loud. It also doesn't help when three special teams touchdowns are allowed in those games.
Arizona is the Jacksonville game all over again. San Diego is going to take a lead early and never look back. San Diego should get back on track now too; their next three games: vs. Arizona, @ Oakland, @ St. Louis. The going gets tougher after that, but they still get to play Denver twice, San Fran, and KC and Oakland at home. That is why San Diego will still win the division (plus they are notoriously slow starters).
San Diego 30 (-8.5), Arizona 14
Washington @ Philadelphia
I really hope Philly cheers Donovan McNabb as he runs onto the field in his return to the ironically named "City of Brotherly Love." I guess brotherly love isn't the purist form of love anyway. Don't brothers beat each other up? I guess brotherly love suits Philly perfectly actually.
I think McNabb will get a warm reception (even Vick got a good reception when returning home to Atlanta), but he's not going to leave happy. Vick is playing like a rabid dog right now (sorry, it's too easy) and I don't see that changing yet. What a great comeback (success will always bring forgiveness). How can you be a sports fan and not be rooting for Vick right now?
Philadelphia 20, Washington 14 (+6.5)
Chicago @ NY Giant (Upset of the Week)
This is the battle of the two most constantly overrated quarterbacks in the league. Both Cutler and Manning have the tools to be in that elite class of quarterbacks (Super Elite: Peyton, Brees, Brady. Elite: Rodgers, Rivers, Roethlisberger. Almost Elite: Romo, Schaub, Ryan, Eli, Cutler, McNabb, Vick), but have never quite put everything together (besides Eli's Super Bowl run in '08).
The "Cutler as an elite QB" talk was hot two years ago and it has had a re-emergence this year, but it will fade. Eli has another above average, but not that much better than average year ahead of him again. I do believe Cutler's team will be better though, including in this game.
Chicago 22 (+3.5), NY Giants 16
New England @ Miami
New England's secondary is "grade F" terrible. If they had any semblance of a defensive backfield, they would be a top-three team, but through the first few weeks it looks as if opponents have been throwing to receivers covered by invisible defenders.
When Ryan Fitzpatrick lights you up for 247 and two TDs, you have problems. Fitzpatrick, who went to Harvard, could maybe light up the Pats in a math contest, but shouldn't be lighting up a Bill Belichick-coached defense. Where art thou Romeo?
Miami 24 (+0.5), New England 21