Oops. I swear I had these finished prior to the Giants/Redskins.
The football season continues to pillage and plunder my feeble attempts at understanding or making sense of it. That’s alright. I start my Power Rankings next week (I used to typically begin ranking teams after three weeks but I’ve found that four weeks is a far more sensible starting point) and that means my picks will get much better as I benefit from sorting through these teams in a logical, categorical way.
So let’s just suck at this for another week in the meantime!
Giants at Redskins
Boy, those Giants just love to run a screw through everybody’s happy office pools, huh? Pesky, inconsistent G-Men. What will we get from them this week? Any guesses? Are we going to get accurate passing Eli? Rashad Jennings going to look like the best running back in the NFL for a fourth week? Will they be able to outscore a Redskins team that is putting up points like stupidity? So many questions and no answers. Here’s the thing: this game is being played on Thursday night under the lights and is an interdivision tussle. That works to Tom Coughlin’s boys’ advantage. Eli has a knack in these kinds of games to overcome logic. The Redskins, even with Cousins at the helm, are no Goliath and we know Eli has slain that dude as well (a couple times, actually). And don’t look now but something tells me Cousins is going to be brutal while Eli gives us another reason to pick wrong next week.
Packers at Bears
Another great divisional tilt. Talk about this week being an early round of must-wins for a handful of teams. The Packers desperately need to get back on track because these very Bears seem to be sneaking through games they almost have no business winning but are up on the standings. And who knows if Detroit’s going to run away with the division but they certainly have the pieces in place to do so. Either way, with the way the division sits, both the Bears and the Packers have to take this game very seriously in nearly the same way that the Giants and Redskins need to. And I think Green Bay makes that power move and further muddies the division standings. Eddie Lacy is finally going to find room to run and it will unlock the currently stagnant Packer air attack. Green Bay’s defense was surprisingly stout last week against the Lions albeit in a loss and Chicago’s defense is decimated. Packers should easily outscore the Bears in this one. Emphasis on should.
Titans at Colts
How quickly things are unraveling for the Titans. It appears Wisenhunt is finally giving Sankey the bell but there are too many issues with the Titans right now to blame their ineffective run game for their inability to move the ball. Media darling Justin Hunter who was supposed to take the top off of defenses can’t even find the ball half the time. Not that it’ll matter this week, Jake Locker can barely grip the ball and if he doesn’t go, Charlie Whitehurst can barely throw it. The defense has been torched for two weeks in a row now on the ground and is about to get dosed with plenty of T Rich and Bradshaw. And nevermind that Andrew Luck is heated over his misuse in the first couple games of the season. Oh, the travesty! An incensed Andrew Luck is a pretty bad thing though for middling opponents like the Tennessee Titans. Don’t expect much defense in this one although Indy has a slightly underrated D (did those words come out of my fingertipz?) and should easily win this AFC South barnburner.
Dolphins at Raiders
To London! Like that will make a difference for the Raiders, right? Actually… look, the Raiders have to take em where they can, even if it is on a different continent. Incidentally, there are a ton of Raider fans in England (Menelik Watson grew up a Raider fan, funny enough) and maybe that makes it more of a home game for them than just a wasted home spot on the schedule. Any support would be nice for a team that really has to get up off the mat after getting punked by Houston and then showing up against New England just to walk away dejected after a very shitty, heartbreaking ending to what may have been an OT game and, who knows, maybe a win? Blech. The Dolphins are fading fast and Tannehill, in my mind, shoulders a lot of the blame. The running game, albeit missing Moreno, is there. The receivers, for the most part, are there. The defense looked strong in week 1. But this team just cannot score. Matt Moore is a scary option and I can’t believe they’re even considering it. Then again, how much worse can things get for Miami? They could lose to the Raiders, for starters. Which really is what I expect to happen and not because I’m a homer. The Raiders showed a lot of life last week and should be able to chase the QB all day. Derek Carr is going to have to work hard out there for the Raiders to win any games this year but I have a feeling he steps up this week and gets us in the win column. This will be Oakland’s first win of the season.
Raiders (IE the Dolphins for your Office pool and/or any betting inclinations)
Lions at Jets
The Jets are a depressing case. They really could be sitting at 2-1 right now; they truly did outplay Chicago for most of that game but Geno Smith’s inconsistency and erratic play doomed them from the start when it spotted the Bears 14 points on 6 total yards of offense. Not good, Geno, not good. The sledding doesn’t get easier against the Lions. Their offense is even more explosive than the Bears’ and their defense is way, way better. In fact, that is the one thing that has really impressed me this year with the currently 2-1 Lions; their run defense, which has been good for a couple years now, is climbing into elite status. They have shut down every running back they’ve faced so far including one of the hottest backs in the NFL right now in Rashad Jennings (a paltry 2.9 ypc). Chris Johnson sucks and Chris Ivory, bless his heart, is going to be up against it. And without their run game, on a short week and with a banged up Eric Decker, DOOM looms for Gang Green.
Bucs at Steelers
Two teams moving in completely different directions. The Bucs are the worst team in football even if they look better on paper than the Jags or Raiders or whomever. And they are likely about to stink it up again against the Steelers who are riding high after a STRONG win on the road at Carolina. They shredded one of the better run defenses in the NFL with two 100 yard running backs and the usual Antonio Brown posterizing. The Bucs are mistake prone and that doesn’t bode well against Blitzburgh even if they are decimated on that side of the ball with all the injuries. Let’s face it. There’s almost no way the Bucs win this game. Except if Waleed goes and jinxes it like just now.
Panthers at Ravens
The Panthers are reeling after a tough, tough woopin at home. Not many saw that coming unless of course you’re a Steeler fan or just straight PSYCHIC. The Panthers were gouged on the ground, ripped up in the air and nevermind how whack they looked on offense. They have almost no healthy running backs left, their QB is all beat up and isn’t looking to run (which is bad because that is what makes Cam extremely hard to gameplan against) and their defense just got dumped on. Will they bounce back? No, sadly and as much as I want to pick them, there’s something wrong with Carolina right now and that is a bad place to be in when going against a veteran Harbaugh-led team like the Ravens. They have shown some incredible resilience in the early season with all the bullshit surrounding the team and have let it roll over them like water. Harbaugh is doing the opposite of what his brother is doing in SF and really pulling his team through a very rough spot. They are finding production from the backfield consistently regardless of who it is running the ball. This week’s flavor is Coastal Carolina’s Lorenzo Taliaferro. Steve Smith has turned back the clock (and is going to be fired up against his former team). Their defense is getting it done. The Ravens keep pace with the Bengals and Steelers this week in what has suddenly become a very good AFC North (the Browns are much, much better than you think. The NFL just hates them and took away their best weapon over some bullshit but I’m not getting into all that again).
Bills at Texans
The Bills looked so promising with a strong 2-0 start to the year and then Ej Manuel started to happen. Listen, the Chargers aren’t exactly blowing the doors open on the league or anything and by midseason, they will have regressed back to their expected line. There just was nothing Manuel and the Bills could do right against San Diego’s defense. 10 points. The Texans have a better defense than the Chargers do, too. Houston, also at 2-1, are leading the division and could use a week 4 win to stave off the oncoming offensive juggernaut that is Indy (a near lock to win this week). To do so, they will have to get better play from Fitzpatrick who was exposed last week by a blah defense in the Giants. Arian Foster did not play and that may have factored, strictly speaking, but the offense was too out of sync for them to have won either way. This week, against the much tougher Bills defense, Houston will have to find a way to keep it clean and I believe they will. Ej Manuel just hasn’t taken the next step and is the only thing holding this team back from really making some noise. His corner could be this week or the next one but as soon as he does turn it, the Bills will run away with an AFC East that is waiting for them to take over. For this week, however, the home team plays strong D and ekes out enough offense to secure the game and a 3-1 start to the season.
Jags at Chargers
Well, San Diego’s unlikely start to a hardcore schedule continues this weekend as they get to beat up on the worst team in the NFL. Except watch out because Blake Bortles is no Chad Henne and if he figures things out quickly enough, he could put some points up. Then again, Jacksonville doesn’t have a good running game and Bortles is a rookie which means turnover heaven. Watch the Chargers just bumble this one like they tend to bumble winnable games. Except Norv is gone. Maybe?
Falcons at Vikings
The Falcons have snuck up on everyone. Sure, there were folks talking about how they would bounce back from a dismal 2013 riddled with injuries and score points and yadda yadda, but did anybody see this much balance and panache? They are putting up Tecmo Bowl stat lines and even without a healthy Roddy White (still), they are tearing people apart. Granted, they lost to the Bengals (woopty do, that’s possibly the best team in all of football and it was on the road) and they destroyed a terrible Bucs team but do we even know that anybody else is going to score damn near 60 points against Tampa? The Falcons will continue to stampede teams until they meet a defense that is as grimy as Cincy’s was. Minnesota has a vastly underrated defense but their ineptitude on offense (no thanks in part to Adrian Peterson’s absence and Kyle Rudolph’s devastating injury) is going to, like we have seen so many times with so many teams, render their stout defense ineffective. Pity, too. The Vikes at full strength with Bridgewater under center could have been an exciting play in the NFC North.
Eagles at Niners
A must-win for the Niners? Perhaps. The one thing that is perfectly clear is that the Niners are not themselves until about midseason so they are really going to have to dig deep to survive until then and stay within striking distance of both the division lead and any potential wild card. Yes, they have to start thinking about that now. The Cardinals are trying to run away with the division and the Seahawks, minus their hiccup in SD, aren’t going to lose many games. The Niners need to start winning games and it starts with their horrendous second half play. Unfortunately for them, they get the absolute worst match up given that specific set of circumstances as they draw possibly the BEST second half team in the NFL. The Eagles don’t actually play any first halves, if you look closely. This is a recipe for disaster. And that is why I am picking the Niners! (humans everywhere scratch their heads and wonder). The Niners are in a desperate must-win situation at home where they got blasted in the fourth quarter by Chicago a couple weeks ago. Philly’s offensive line is an infirmary and their defense got shredded by Cousins a week ago. The Niners dig deep and gut out a win and stay in the hunt while the rest of the division sleeps.
Saints at Cowboys
The Saints are in must-win territory, as well. They visit a surprising 2-1 Dallas team with a miserable 1-2 start and I say miserable because most of their points were scored in the first game of the season and since then they’ve been shut down and sneaked by an out-of-whack Vikings team that can’t beat anybody right now. Not impressed. Now they get a Cowboys team that runs the ball really well, has explosive receivers on both sides of the field and a defense that is playing way over its head. The Saints obviously have the offensive weapons to unleash at any given time but they will have to do it on the road where they have traditionally not been particularly good. Their running game is a bit banged up but from all indications, Khiry Robinson is a useful back. For the Saints, this is must-win territory but I think the slide continues. No bouncing back in Big D for the Saints.
Patriots at Chiefs
Is Tom Brady on the decline? That has to be the pressing question in New England. He isn’t declining to where there needs to be any concern about finding other QBs or anything like that but it would be prudent of the team to strongly consider drafting one next Spring. Just saying. His accuracy is down, his arm strength questionable, his protection a mess. He is getting banged around left and right and can’t find his receivers. There is an unbalanced rushing attack in New England with no clear idea of who is running when and why. Somehow, some way, with the awkward mixture of elements, Belichick finds ways to win and the Patriots are sitting at 2-1 and are about to go 3-1 as the rug gets pulled out from underneath the Chiefs after a strong 34 point effort against Miami last week. New England has played a soft schedule so far and it continues against a Chiefs team that just doesn’t pass the ball very well and has a lot of questions in their backfield. Certainly, the possible return of Jamaal Charles is exciting but he was fairly ineffective prior to his injury and while Knile Davis looks pretty strong, he has fumbilitis. Defensively, the Chiefs are good but not great as they give up a lot on the ground; if New England can establish the run early, it’ll open up Brady-to-Gronk and the Pats will roll. New England doesn’t lose many games in primetime and Monday Night is where guys like Brady shine.