NFL Week 4 Picks!

More 8-8
More utter mediocrity. Flip a coin.

OR maybe these refs really did do a number on my picks???

Browns @ Ravens
Oh yeah, there’s this game on Thursday that I don’t really get to watch.
Ravens (though the Brownies are underated still)

Dig it.


NFL Week 3 Picks!

8-8 last week.

Worst week in recent memory. As some anonymous reader suggested, you’re better off making your picks based off of Vegas odds. Maybe he or she is right.

But they’re probably not.

Giants @ Panthers
So Eli Manning has this habit of bringing his team back from horrendous holes afforded by the Giants’ awful defense. He’s pretty amazing, have you heard? One of my favorite QBs in the league. He has big talented receivers and an incredible sense for the dramatic all while being as stoically unreadable as a lamppost. He has a couple things going against him this week though. Injuries to both Bradshaw and Nicks take away a quasi reliable run game and his biggest, baddest receiver. I love Victor Cruz but Cruz is a function of Nicks’ size and possession ability. The Panthers are not the best team defensively but have the ability to shut down the NY running attack, making them one dimensional and we saw what happened to the Saints last weekend when that happens. If the Giants fall behind early, they might not make it back the same way they stormed on Tampa last weekend. I like Cam to again terrorize the second level with the threat of his legs and the power of his arm. Panthers at home, baby.


Bills at Browns
I’ve spent the early part of this season fixated on up and coming teams turning the corner and while some have, some have been a mix bag. One of those teams is the Bills who looked like shit against the Jets in week 1 but then devastated a Chiefs team I thought coming into the season was going to surprise. I still think last week is the aberration and as good as Spiller is, KC wasn’t any good in week 1 against the run either. The Browns on the other hand are an underrated defense, apparently have found a QB in Weeden and have a stud RB in Richardson. And I don’t trust the Bills on the road.
Niners at Vikings
I wish there was a way I could predict the Vikings win and sound like a genius but as improved as Christian Ponder has appeared to be and as quickly and strongly as AP has returned, I cannot bet against the best team in the game, right now. Niners trump the Vikes in every aspect of the game with *maybe* the exception of running back although the Niners don’t have too shabby a backfield committee themselves. This one’s a lock.
Lions at Titans
The Titans might have the worst defense in all of football and that’s saying a lot cuz there’s some really craptastic ones. Mix that with an explosive offense like the one the Lions sport and that spells doom. Chris Johnson is having an even more disastrous season than even, say, McFadden and that’s pretty bad. Jake Locker is even more inaccurate than I last remember him. That can’t be good.
Bengals at Redskins
The issue with my pick here is that the Washington defense is decimated at key positions. It simply leaves room for an ambiguously middling team like the Bengals who aren’t great at anything (but not awful at anything either) to come in and grind one out. Which could still happen. Except for RG3 bouncing back from a tough loss against a surprisingly good Rams team. Yeah, they’ll bounce back.
Chiefs at Saints
The Chiefs are starting to look a lot like how the Raiders look to me; could-have-beens. They can’t hope to catch the Saints tripping for a third straight week and certainly not at home. Of course the Saints are a disaster themselves, showing that Sean Payton was a lot more important to this team’s leadership, playcalling and discipline than was previously figured. Still, they have enough talent (and Drew Brees) to beat the Chiefs and get their first win of the season.
Jets at Dolphins
I don’t say this as a jilted Raider fan but the Dolphins got very lucky last week and played (and consequently demolished) a really, disjointed, awful team in the Raiders. They play a better Jets team who should do just barely enough to win the game. Let’s just say guys like Hartline aren’t going to light up the Jets D… with or without Revis.
Jags at Colts
I generally like what I’m seeing out of the Colts. I think they’ve got a ways to go in terms of team sync but the offense has its potential even in spite of a questionable offensive line. The Jags are not quite a bad as they seem but they’re also not good enough to win on the road in Indy especially after Andrew Luck notched his first career win and is now hungry for one against a beatable divisional rival. I like the Colts at home with a rookie quarterback.
Bucs at Cowboys
Two things can happen here: either the Bucs come out and bounce back from a tough 2ndhalf controversial meltdown of a loss and take it to the Cowboys with basically the same nice balance of strong defense and effective offense… or the Cowboys explode offensively (as they certainly are capable of doing) after being suffocated by the Seahawks and run away with it early. At which point a heavy dose of DeMarco Murray won’t help. I’m betting on scenario B.
Rams at Bears
My initial pick was the Bears. I had picked them against the Pack because I thought they were balanced and potent… much like a poor man’s Niners. Instead, their defense looked Swiss, their running game worthless even with Forte out there and Cutler melted down. What they run into this week is one of the best stories so far this season, a Rams team that finally has enough healthy pieces to show off what most people around the NFL thought they were getting in Sam Bradford and a defense loaded with talented, young studs. The Bears running game will still be pressed to move the rock and Cutler is going to be throwing into coverages all day. I’m not so thrilled about the Bears in this one but I do think the team will find a way to overcome all the drama surrounding the team right now, Forte’s injury and somehow eke out a win at home. My head tells me Rams…but my gut says
Da Bears
Eagles at Cardinals
I’m taking the Cards. I don’t like bandwagons but I’d be an even bigger chump if I ignored a real trend like the Cards and their killer defense. They have all sorts of questions on offense, primarily in the passing game but they’ve been getting it done defensively and I expect that to continue to put them in excellent field position to continue to just smother opponents into the turf especially with Michael Vick playing mistake prone football. The Bird bowl is between two undefeated’s but I am less impressed by the Eagles than I am by the Cards even though they snuck by the Ravens. And they’re at home. Call it a trendy pick but I’m going with the
Falcons at Chargers
The Chargers are home favorites here. Understandably so; they’re a talented squad with an uncharacteristic 2-0 start and are starting to get healthy again. That would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the team coming in is probably the second best team in the NFC right now with an excellent balance of strong defense both against the pass and the run, a good run game and an elite passing attack. The Chargers have taken advantage of two really awful teams en route to 2-0. The Falcons showed they were for real with how thoroughly they dominated a fairly strong squad in Denver. This is a big test for both teams as we gotta see the Falcons string these kinds of wins on the road and we need to see the Chargers beat somebody good before we start talking about their hottest start maybe ever. My monies are on Matty ICEEEE
Steelers at Raiders
I could write an entire blog on the Raiders and how this one will go down but I’m going to keep it simple. Unless Coach Allen and co. ditch the now infamous ZBS (zone blocking scheme) for the power game that unlocked McFadden last season, this is going to be another 10-15 yards on the ground performance and a loss. Which is pretty much what’s going to happen. FML.
Texans at Broncos
Boy, the Broncos sure did get a tough opening schedule. After looking great against the Steelers on Opening Night, they were handled (despite the customary late Peyton surge) by the Falcons and now draw the Texans who might have the best defense in the AFC lol YAY! The Texans can run the ball better than the Falcons and wear that defense down the same way that Turner and co. did allowing them to buoy themselves for when Peyton starts to toss self-targetting heatseekers all over the field. Three extremely tough defenses to start the season for Peyton. Who said he’d break? Lol Still…
Patriots at Ravens
One of the games of the week. Some pundits say that the Patriots lost last week because Coach Belichick refused to roll out the whole playbook in anticipation of this game. Pfft. Coach Belichick does whatever is necessary (even videotape OMG lulz) to win. The Pats have other issues to worry about than hiding plays from the next team on the schedule and those issues might be exploited this week when now free-throwing Joe Flacco lines up under center. The Ravens defense is going to be raring to go after losing a tough one to the Eagles and they’ll be at home. I like the Ravens in this one.
Packers at Seahawks
Call me stupid but I’m picking against the Pack for the third straight week. I love Aaron Rodgers and his receiving corps but I just don’t know how much longer we can keep forgiving this team for being OK at everything else. Not bad, granted, and the number their D put on Chicago was pretty funny as an unbias bystander but that defense won’t scare many week in and week out. Now the Seahawks don’t have a particularly good passing offense but Marshawn Lynch is going to stampede through that soft defense all day in Seattle. The Packers as explosive offensively as they are will find playing against the top notch Seahawk defense very hard to manage in Seattle where it will always seem like there are 12 guys on the field. It might be low scoring and with Benson and Lynch grinding it out but this is going to the home team in what will be a shocking upset (for some).

There. I’ll continue to be bold with my picks.

NFL Week 2 Picks!


9-7 wasn’t what I had in mind when I set upon week 1 in a fury of inspiration. Granted, there were a couple surprises but the more blatant mistakes were my misappropriated faith in players and teams that performed well last year but did not project well this year. 
Won’t be making that mistake again.
Bears @ Packers
I’m going with an unpopular underdog pick right off the bat. And why not? This is the most classic rivalry in all of football and regardless of who’s better than who, you know they’ll whittle each other down to the bone. At a quick glance, it doesn’t seem likely that a contender as explosive as the Packers will find itself at 0-2 to start the year. Only that might very well be the case once the Bears come to town with their renovated offense and always stout defense. The concern for the Bears will be that they gave up a good chunk of yards and points to the dilapidated and rebuilding Colts while this is an entirely different beast altogether offensively in Green Bay. To their advantage, Greg Jennings might not be able to go and Cedric Benson was nonexistent in week 1. A Rod still has plenty of weapons but the fair question now has to be will it be enough to keep up with the Bears who sport the Forte/Bush attack along with big physical receivers in Marshall and Jeffrey who will challenge the physical man to man style of the Packer corners. Couple that with a bland pass rush that won’t hit Cutler nearly enough and one can see how the Bears can pull this off. I’m going on a limb here calling the upset on the road but 
Da Bears


Cards @ Pats
Tha Pats might be the team to beat in the AFC and the Cards barely held on to beat the Seahawks without getting much out of their offense which will be stuck in idle for probably the rest of the season. There’s not much to see here. Patriots should roll at home by two TDs, Cards don’t cover.
Raiders @ Dolphins
Raider offense should bounce back. WR Denarius Moore is suiting up, young stud center Stefen Wisniewski starts and it looks like long snapper Condo has passed all Concussion Protocol tests meaning the major areas of concern from last week (deep threat, run blocking and special teams) should all improve. The Raider defense will be too tough for the Miami offense to score points (ask the Charger high flying offense what that was like) and in spite of a short week and traveling East, the Raiders should take it.
Vikings @ Colts
I expect Andrew Luck to break through against the Vikes at home in Indy. After all, he didn’t look too bad against an above average Bears defense and with limited weapons on the Colts. Donald Brown should be able to do a little more against the Vikes than he was against the Bears and that should open things up a little more for Luck. This is by no means a lock because it’s clear that Adrian Peterson is back and the Colts are nowhere near as stout on run D as the Jags. Still, I expect the rook to get his first big league win and upset in the home opener.
Texans @ Jags
The Texans are going to continue to roll in the early going with another favorable matchup. They already have the rest of the AFC South looking up at them and that’ll continue as they improve to 2-0 behind stifling defense and a healthy offense. Texans win by two TDs.
Browns @ Bengals
The Bengals looked so atrocious last week that this game will not only be a welcome sight but an opportunity to test their young leaders Dalton and Green on their resolve and ability to bounce back. The Browns are better on D than most realize but losing Haden to suspension is no insignificant matter and it will show when the Bengals are able to move the ball through the air with regularity in this AFC North matchup. Browns might be able to cover the spread but I wouldn’t count on it.
Chiefs @ Bills
Both teams got off to terrible starts and are looking to bounce back. However, I have more faith in KC doing that than Buffalo who got smashed in every facet of the game by the Jets. Spiller is a beast but the Chiefs defense is much better than the Falcons made it look. Expect Cassel to find a groove early and Charles and McCluster to be wild cards that Buffalo’s “revamped” defense will be unable to contain.
Ravens @ Eagles
One thing is for sure; Michael Vick is going to need to look a lot better if he wants to beat the Ravens. Four picks against the Browns (albeit that they’re an underrated defensive unit) can translate into double that total against the Ravens although I’m guessing the Eagles are going to have worked out those problems during the week and we should see less mistakes. Even then, the Ravens pose a serious threat on both sides of the ball as suddenly their offense is explosive enough to not have to piggyback on Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to contend. Eagles will keep it close but Ravens will triumph.
Saints @ Panthers
Wrong time, wrong place for the Panthers. Sure they also want to get things back on track after a forgettable afternoon being stifled by a surprising Buccaneer defense that is trying to rebound from being one of last year’s most horrendous units. But now they run into a Saints squad that is coming off of a home opener that saw them give up 40 points to a rookie QB and get almost nothing from their running game. Cam will rebound from a soft start to his sophomore campaign but the Saints should win by more than the spread.
Bucs @ Giants
The Giants defense does not look good. At least their secondary doesn’t at any rate. The front seven can rush the passer with the best of them and that will be Josh Freeman’s main concern as he tries to find his new weapons quickly but it might not be enough unless they can establish the quick slot stuff the same way that Romo and the Cowboys did leading to Ogletree’s huge day. It’ll be an interesting test for the Bucs’ defense in terms of what they do with Eli. I’m banking on the Giants getting it done.
Cowboys @ Seahawks
Playing in Seattle against this defense is never easy and it isn’t as though the Cowboys will be seeing that same soft pass coverage that they torched last week. Luckily for them, their defense is going to be able to limit the Seahawks as long as they can contain Russell Wilson in the flats and not let him hurt them with his legs. Still I expect the Cowboys to start the season 2-0 after they eek out a tough road victory. Seahawks might cover.
Redskins @ Rams
The RG3 show continues. The Rams are surprisingly solid on defense but they go from trying to rush a pocket passer like Matt Stafford to chasing the most explosive QB we’ve seen since Vick. And he’s better than Vick in almost every aspect of the position. If Pierre Garcon is good to go, it’ll be a long day for St. Louis. And the toughest complimentary piece you could have given a guy like Griffin is a strong defense.
Titans @ Chargers
The Chargers should be able to find the endzone more than once this week as the Titan defense, after hanging tough for a while against the Pats, eventually gave in and were pounded. Their only real saving grace is that the Chargers can’t run the ball worth a damn and will be one dimensional. Lucky for them, that one dimension is pretty good. Chargers should handily win their season opener by a couple scores.
Jets @ Steelers
The Jets come back down to Earth this week against the Steelers who controlled the clock and the field for most of the game against the Broncos. Then again Denver only needed Peyton to do Peyton a couple times a game. If Sanchez does Sanchez a couple times Sunday, the Steelers should win by a couple scores as they bounce back and finish the job this time around. The Jets are going to find out that week 1 was a fluke and that offensive lack of chemistry in the preseason did have some value and that the Bills really just stunk it up.
Lions @ Niners
As much as I’m feelin the Lions this year as dark horses to challenge for the NFC North in spite of incumbent Green Bay and trendy pick Chicago, they are going to visit what I think is the best team in the NFC and strong contender for the Super Bowl in San Francisco. Granted last year they went the distance and it was one of the best games of the year at a point where both teams were undefeated and rollin’ but the Niners have improved and I’m not sure if the Lions have shown any real maturation since last year in that they waited to really break through against the Rams in the later part of the fourth quarter… a strategy that will not work against San Fran who will already be up by multiple scores by that point.
Broncos @ Falcons
The Broncos looked pretty scary in week 1 in terms of efficiency. With very limited time they took it to one of the past decade’s premier defenses. The Broncos got it done with tough defense and what appears to be a rejuvenated Peyton Manning. The Falcons absolutely blew up a pretty decent Chiefs team and the score still didn’t even look as bad as it really was. The Falcons are going to have to finish their drives with points unlike the stall-happy Steelers from a week ago in order to win. The Broncos will need more from their running game and are going to have to control the clock more to beat a team of Atlanta’s quality in their house.


NFL Week 1 Picks!

Many things in life operate cyclically. There is almost always the ebb of flow of when something functions at a significantly high level before dropping into a lull… just to find a way home.

I recently found my way home, so to speak. I was meandering about for years pretending to function highly only because my outward demeanor afforded me the ability to appear that way but underneath, I was operating barely over 60% capacity both intellectually and psychologically. Then in a single flash like a ray of sun burnt across your vision cuz you stared too long, it all changed and so much overwhelmingly positive, constructive, creative energy shot through me and reinstated what had been dormant. It’s only natural that I find a way to harness the energy I’ve been infused with and channel it into the things I do best and aim to do better.

Like my life and many other lives, the NFL is also standing on the cusp of a new day, a new ebb in its rich history. We had a peculiar offseason, not one as mired with anxious uncertainty as a year ago when the very season itself was in jeopardy with the lockout but instead one with just as much drama with the Bountygate scandal. Of course, you have your standard run-of-the-mill variety of offseason drama; the quarterback controversies, the aging stars looking for rebirth in new cities, the guys beating their mothers, exciting new rookies… you know, the regular stuff.

I’ve struggled in the past couple of years with my picks (and I’ve already started this season off 0-1… freakin’ Cowboys!!) but I don’t intend on that being the trend. Sooooo……..

Let’s DIG IT.

Cowboys @ Giants
If you want to start a football season, you gotta start it with a rivalry and there just aren’t as many rivalries that get it done better than this.

I was surprised at how many “experts” were going with the Giants in this one. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m picking the Giants lol but this is still a pretty evenly matched game. While the Giants are the defending champions, nobody can deny that like their previous Super Bowl run, they were mediocre regular season performers and there’s nothing that leads me to believe they’ll be any different this year. The Cowboys on the other hand are usually pretty good during the regular season and… well, not so good in the postseason.

Let’s break this down quick because we gotta go haha The Boys have the better running game with the emergence of DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo has all sorts of targets to throw to even with Witten’s injury. Their defense has some talent and are expected to be a better unit as they are much healthier than they were last year.  The Giants are going to struggle stopping Murray as it isn’t their strong suit. They’ll get after Romo with one of the most formidable front lines. But expect the Giants offense to get the job done against the Cowboy defense and therein lies the difference in this game; Eli’s deep ball will torment this Cowboys secondary. That’s where we will see Eli shine under the lights where he is most focused and effective. And they’re at home.

This will be a fairly high scoring affair, higher even than the line; 31-24

Falcons @ Chiefs
I’ve often suggested that the Falcons have been overrated and with Turner having so many touches over the past few years (more than just about anyone in the NFL, by the way), it’s only a matter of time before the team becomes one dimensional when his YPC trends downward. Against a tough Chiefs defense, that might spell doom… except they’re still not at full strength with Hali, Johnson, Flowers and more out. That’ll be difficult to keep up with Matty Ice and his endless array of targets. Turner will eventually give up more touches to Jacquizz Rodgers who is capable of doing big things. The X factor story here is that Tony Gonzalez is coming back to KC for the first time and probably the last time. Arrowhead will be rocking and the Chiefs are going to put up one hell of a fight but I think the Falcons beat the spread and win.
Eagles @ Browns
The Eagles were so bad at underachieving last year that most will have written them off for this season… unless of course you were paying attention at the end of last season when the defense locked in and shut everybody down to finish with four straight wins. Expect that defense to continue to be extremely tough especially with the addition of Demeco Ryans. The big question for the Eagles will continue to be Michael Vick’s health. Now that DeSean Jackson is fully compensated for his skill level, it is likely that he will have a career season (typically, players perform better in a contract year and then slouch once they’re paid but Jackson has, thus far, done the complete opposite and I’m banking on him rewarding the Eagles). Suffice to say, none of that really matters this week as the Eagles offense is too overpowering for Cleveland’s talented but overused defense. Shady McCoy will run shod over the D and Cleveland’s offense is so screwy, it isn’t likely they’ll stay on the field long enough to keep their D fresh. Eagles should roll on the road and beat the spread handily.
Redskins @ Saints
I’m really excited about the Skins; really, really. It’s not just the RGIII phenomenon because even though Griffin is going to be great and might even have a Cam Newton type of rookie year (in the sense that he can easily accumulate double digit passing AND rushing TDs), it’s the fact that the defense has always been fairly stout and their running game effective with its Shanahanigans that’ll make the difference. However, like all good teams, it takes a while to ramp up and getting a week 1 date with an explosive Saints team coming off one of the worst offseasons in the history of pro sports is just not a good fit for this young, budding Skins team. The Saints will be extremely tough at home, the dome will be rocking and Brees will be so far out of his mind, he might as well wear a cape. Consider this thing in the bag. I am likin’ me some skins right now but the Saints will march on here…
Patriots @ Titans
Possibly the scariest team entering this season, the Patriots are so stacked they (omg brace yoself) cut Deion Branch (who Belichick would typically rather start at kicker or long snapper or something rather than cut). The Patriots have brought on a deep threat that actually works (Ochocinco/Johnson/He Who Cannot be Named didn’t do jack) in Brandon Lloyd, are going to run out 4 TE sets and have juiced up a bit on D. They are going to be the toughest team in the AFC. The Titans have a bright future and I do think Locker is going to be better than most expect but this just isn’t the right match up to start the season with although playing at home might make the pain sting a little less. Chris Johnson will have to have one of his CJ2k type games in order for there to be much of a chance in this one. Patriots should easily beat the spread on this puppy.
Dolphins @ Texans
The Texans are in a precarious position. On one hand, they’ve been one of the more steadily rising teams over the past couple of years but after a season that saw them lose their top wideout (and one of the best in the game) Andre Johnson for a majority of it as well as their trusted TE Owen Daniels as well, they remain a team on the cusp of a playoff run but not quite ever prepared or locked in for one. At least they return this season at full strength offensively. Defensively, they lose their cornerstones Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans but still boast a solid defense that, when on point, can certainly be a top 10 unit. They should easily take the South (although a surprising Titans team should not be overlooked)… but their expectations have to be set well beyond that as they need to get into the AFC championship game at least in order to justify their rise. Conversely, the Dolphins are a mess. They sported a QB controversy that was decided at the last possible moment between three strangely mediocre to below mediocre QBs and there’s no real relief in sight. The Phins are going to struggle and struggle bad. They won’t even cover this weekend’s 12 ½ point spread.
Bills @ Jets
The (secondary) power in the AFC East has shifted from the Jets who were promising for a couple years under Rex Ryan to the Bills who have steadily improved on both sides of the ball. The Bills now sport Mario Williams on a defense that was rather weak in the pass rush and as a result porous in the secondary. Offensively they can put up points and have talent at every major position even if Fitzpatrick is the best QB you hardly hear about. The Jets have two QBs everybody’s heard about and for all the wrong reasons. I dislike overly dramatic sports teams and the Jets are at the very top of that heap. It ought to be offensive to any sports fanatic that Eli gets less press and less attention than either of the tools manning (rofl pun) the Jets offense. That said, the Jets should still be tough enough on defense to make this game interesting but the high powered Bills are still likely to beat them by two scores and easily beat the spread in this battle of New York State.
Jaguars @ Vikings
I don’t mean to be a hater but YAWN. Two of the league’s doormats are going to tangle in what will be a rushing, low scoring snorefest. The Vikings have the edge in this only because they’re at home and have the less fail option at QB. Both Adrian Peterson and MJD are question marks in this game but the edge here goes to the Jags only because MJD’s limited appearance isn’t due to injury and his backup Rashad Jennings is going to have an easier time getting it done than Gerhart will. This will be close and low but I’m calling the Vikes at home just because they’re at home?? Lol
Colts @ Bears
This rematch of Super Bowl whatever Roman numeral it was is going to be nothing like that game was. It won’t be close, it won’t be low scoring and the Colts are not going to win. The Bears might be the most balanced team in the NFL (yes, I did say that) and are one of my favorites to win the NFC and return to the big game (Oi! Yeah, I said that too!). They can run the ball with two very effective backs, Cutler has all sorts of weapons including his boy Brandon Marshall who, when on, is one of the best in the game, and a solid strong defense (as usual). I’m excited to see what Andrew Luck will do with his career and if Donald Brown can take advantage of the new system and new vision in Indy. But not this week.
Rams @ Lions
I’m honestly one of those (few) who are expecting something out of the Rams this year. Not much, granted, because their division has toughened a lot in the last couple years but they can easily finish ahead of the Cards who I think don’t have as much upside as the Rams who still have a once highly touted QB in Sam Bradford and some talent around him on both sides of the ball. BUT… this week is going to be something of a slaughter. The Lions have been improving steadily for a couple years now and last year was indicative that they’re very close to being a real contender. Stafford to Megatron will destroy the St. Louis secondary enough times to stay ahead by a couple of scores and make their Opening Day a fe(a)stive one in Detroit. Rams won’t even cover. Two scores.
Niners @ Packers
The Packers are fairly favored in this matchup with a 4 ½ line in Vegas. Although that isn’t drastic (merely more than a FG but less than a TD), it’s the fact that pundits across the webosphere are flooding the picks with the Pack. I respectfully (or not) disagree. I’m not suggesting that the Pack are overrated or that they are not capable of being the same dominant team that has crushed most of their opponents for the past couple of seasons behind the electric play of possibly the best QB in the game but… well, that’s just it; they’ve done it largely because of Aaron Rodgers. His receiver corps is obviously talented with the likes of Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and the emergence of Jordy Nelson but their running game, even with the addition of Cedric Benson, leaves a lot to be desired as far as playing what could very well be a grind game with a team built to grind. Speaking of which, the Niners sport a very good running game with stud top back Frank Gore backed by a handful of talented backs like Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs. They’ll keep the chains moving with fresh legs for 60 minutes allowing Smith to take advantage of his legs and a lot of good targets like Vernon Davis, Crabtree and a rejuvenated and always dangerous Randy Moss. Most will make this to be a battle between Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers over the draft fiasco that found the underwhelming Smith going first overall and the studly Rodgers going 24th. However, the real discerning factor here is both teams’ defensive units and this is where the advantage is completely in San Francisco’s favor. The Niners might have trouble scoring buckets of points on an improved Packer defense but Green Bay’s secondary can be passed on once the run is established against their front seven; can’t say the same about the Packers against the best defense in football. Rodgers will always find a way to move the ball and score but they will be more limited by the Niners than they will be by just about anyone else on their schedule. And special teams? With Tedd Ginn back there (and not Kyle Williams lol lol), advantage Niners. These two teams will undoubtedly take it down to the wire so expect one of the best games of the weekend here. I know I’ll be watching. I’m going to go on a limb here and call this an upset for the visiting Forty Niners.
Panthers @ Buccaneers
Another great matchup this weekend, this time between NFC South rivals. The Bucs took a nasty step backwards last season that ultimately got Coach Raheem Norris fired and some underachieving key players jettisoned. What’s left in Tampa is a strong armed, smart young QB in Josh Freeman, an explosive young receiver in Mike Williams and an elite veteran newcomer opposite him in Vincent Jackson. Drafting rookie Doug Martin was a brilliant move by the Bucs who are now pairing him with Lagarette Blount for what ought to be a very strong offensive unit. Their defense is a bit soft and it’ll be their problem all year but they should definitely bounce back this season. This week, they go up against a team that is rising with one of the most exciting QBs in the league, Cam Newton, who has a lot to live up to in his sophomore year if he’s to exceed his EXCELLENT rookie campaign. They’re a bit banged up in the backfield but once John Stewart is back and healthy, the two headed monster of Stewart and De’Angelo Williams will rampage. There are receiver issues in Carolina ranging from age to injury to lack of talent but it really does seem like Cam can do anything. More importantly for this matchup at least is that the Carolina defense is FINALLY healthy after missing key talented contributors at the linebacker position. All last year, the Panthers would jump out to quick 14-21 point leads just to see them whither behind porous, inconsistent defensive play. I expect that to change after one full season under defensive minded HC Ron Rivera and the return of their studs. This game should be a good one but I’m giving the edge to the Panthers easily beating a 1 point spread.
Seahawks @ Cardinals
I’m a sucker for division rivalries and we have a handful of good ones this week but this isn’t one of them. As tough as the Cards will play Seattle, this Seattle team seems on the verge of being strong and have been mentioned as some folks’ dark horse, sleeper team. This year’s Niners, even. They have a tough defense (maybe top 5?), a beastie running back, a rookie QB who came out of nowhere and stole the job from a high priced acquisition, and a once pro bowl receiver rejuvenated and focused. Don’t look now but this team might push for a wild card. If Skelton can execute, they’ll have a shot. Otherwise this is going to be two scores.

Steelers @ Broncos
I distinctly remember when Joe Montana suited up for the Chiefs. I was already a Raider fan so a QB going from one team I disliked very much to a team I disliked even more was upsetting but not tragically so. When Peyton signed with the Broncos, I think part of me died. I don’t presume to be a doctor or anything but I’m not settled on 16 games out of Peyton Manning this year not doing more damage than good. Like all good veteran superstars, he’ll do just enough to score a bunch of TDS some times and fuck up royally some of the other times. But consistent elite performance, one should not expect from under center for the Denver Broncos this year. The Steelers are also somewhat on a decline of sorts and the current injury to Rashard Mendenhall will certainly make it more difficult to buck that trend and rejoin the elite of the conference. The Broncos D have taken a step back with loss of their DC (and now Raider coach) Dennis Allen who brought this team back from givin up to 40 points on some nights to under 15. Though the Broncos will be at home and Manning is an excellent bright lights QB, I think the advantage is squarely with the Steelers who will play disciplined, aggressive football and win on the road.

Bengals @ Ravens
After the hype of the Harbaughs potentially meeting up in the Super Bowl, both the defensive-driven teams were edged by the offensive counterparts. The Ravens sniffed the Super Bowl and want to return and the word out of B-more is that Flacco is looking more focused and throwing the ball crisper than ever before. They begin their climb back to the top of the AFC with a fierce rivalry game with a Bengals team eager to build upon a solid campaign for having rebooted their offense with rookies at both QB and wideout and both having impressive individual seasons. Now this young Bengals team with their above average defense and capable offense is prime to do big things. Only issue is that their running game has question marks and the Ravens D is a savvy unit that will make Cincy one dimensional and then shut the door. The Ravens are favorites by a full TD. I’m calling a cover on this one; Bengals will pull within a score, maybe a field goal and maybe a little more than that but they will lose. 

Chargers @ Raiders
The last time these two met, they met in Oakland and the Chargers ensured that the Raiders would not be finishing 9-7 and advancing to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade due to tiebreakers. The AFC West was, even with Tebow running the show in Denver, shaping up to be one of the more competitive and exciting divisions in football anyway (and usually are, honestly) and that was before the Chiefs got healthy, committed to Romeo Crennel and Manning arrived in Denver as a massive upgrade. These two here, though, are still the best in the division regardless and the Raiders will show that they are not to be overlooked this year just because they are going through a massive overhaul and difficult transition. McFadden is finally healthy (and *cross your fingers* I think will stay that way, honestly, and register his first full 16 game ledger) and will destroy the Chargers run defense setting up Palmer for easier passing opportunities which in turn should limit the number of times he completely fails. On the other side of the ball, Philip Rivers, looking to rebound from his worst season as a pro one where he found himself constantly forcing the ball and trying to do too much will find again that he has to do exactly that as Ryan Mathews is hurt again and there are no viable options behind him (Ronnie Brown hasn’t been relevant in a couple years). Worse yet for Rivers is that he’ll also come to find just why the Raider defensive line is being heralded by a lot of critics as possibly the best in the NFL. A completely revamped secondary and the Chargers might have some problems. It’s a total homer pick, no doubt, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Raiders will come away victorious.

Dig it.