Archive for October, 2007

Week Eight Picks

October 26th, 2007 Comments off

Next weekend can’t come soon enough for me. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of what you probably won’t see in the near term.

Indianapolis (-6.5) at Carolina
Vinny’s gonna start again. That’s almost interesting. In other news, this game pits a mediocre NFC team against a squad one could hardly expect to get much of a challenge from one of the better NFC teams. So, yeah, I’ll give the points.

Detroit (+5) at Chicago
I have a hard enough time picking the Bears to win straight up these days. I’m certainly not surrendering five points. That said, I can’t really see the Lions managing 34 points in the fourth quarter a second time this season (or really ever in a road game). So I will take the Bears to win.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Cincinnati
Three and a half? Seriously? Because the Cincinnati defense has shown an ability to stop what exactly? Yeah, I’ll take the Steelers and give the points. In a heartbeat.

NY Giants (-9) vs. Miami (at Wembley Stadium, London)
What do you figure is more likely to happen in London this weekend, the Dolphins finding the end zone or the FBI finding Whitey Bulger? Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. Giants by two touchdowns, maybe more if they dig deep into their souls and decide they can live with accusations about running up the score.

Philadelphia (-1) at Minnesota
Tarvaris Jackson not being able to throw the ball ultimately may be the best thing that could possibly happen to the Vikings. Because Jackson throwing the ball to the Vikes’ hopelessly bad receivers is about the last thing Minnesota needs right now. Put the game in Adrian Peterson’s more than capable hands, trust the defense to shut down Philadelphia’s running attack and the Eagles to shut down their own passing attack, and the Vikings should be able to win this game without even a hint of a pass offense. That is, I’ll take the home team to pull off the minor upset.

Cleveland (-3) at St. Louis
Steven Jackson says he’s healthy and ready to start. Unfortunately for him, the Rams are unhealthy and pretty much finished. (Can I get a rim shot over here, please?) That’s right, I’m taking the Browns. On the road. And giving the points. How weird is that?

Oakland (+7.5) at Tennessee
Remember that thing where the Raiders had an impenetrable defense? Yeah, that was last season. Also, Vince Young is healthy again. I’m taking the Titans and giving the points.

Buffalo (+3) at NY Jets
This game likely decides which team plays a second-place schedule next year and which team comes in at third. So, you know, that’s pretty compelling. Looking at the stats, you can only conclude that the Jets are the slightly less awful team. Looking at what’s actually been going on both on and off the field, you have to like Buffalo. I’m going with the trends over the stats in this one. Bills pull off their second straight upset victory.

Houston (+10) vs. San Diego (at a location to be named)
It doesn’t much matter where this game is played. The Chargers are the better team. Moreover, they’re not the team with the big question mark at a key position. And they’re not the team that just had the rug pulled out from under them in dramatic fashion. So I’m taking San Diego, though I’m thinking 10 is way too much for this gypsy squad to give away right now.

Jacksonville (+4) at Tampa Bay
Apparently, Quinn Gray is in his fourth NFL season. Had you ever heard of him before last week? Right. So there you go. Jacksonville’s fine defense notwithstanding, the Bucs win here by six.

Washington (+16) at New England
I think this game might turn out to be New England’s biggest challenge so far this season. The Pats are coming off back-to-back road games, the first against one of the better teams in the league and the second against a division rival that had given them trouble in the past. They’re also just a week away from a showdown with the NFL’s other elite team. Even for a team with the kind of laser focus we’ve come to expect from the Patriots, there can only be so much emotional energy to go around. And whatever the Pats have applied to the games surrounding this one has to come from somewhere. Add to that the fact that Washington once again has a hell of a defense — though it’s worth noting that the Redskins are better at defending the run than the pass, and that the most prolific passing offenses Washington has faced this year, Green Bay’s and Detroit’s, each have scored exactly one third as many passing touchdowns as the Patriots so far this season. Of course, the Redskins offense has been lackluster at best, and their passing game absolutely stinks. That won’t serve them well if they find themselves in a shootout. There’s little doubt that the Patriots are the better team here. By far. But my guess is that the Skins D and the Pats’ schedule will conspire to keep it a bit closer than the oddsmakers expect. I think the Pats win by somewhere between 10 and 13.

New Orleans (-2.5) at San Francisco
Hey, I’ve got a great idea about how the Saints can keep the rebound from their 0-4 start on track: play a team so beat up and desperate it’s willing to start a quarterback with a third-degree shoulder separation. This game should be almost as painful for Niners fans to watch as it will be for Alex Smith to play. Saints by nine.

Green Bay (+3) at Denver
Is anyone in Denver even gonna remember this game’s happening? I mean, unless the Red Sox sweep? I guess that’s beside the point. Trouble is, for me, that the point is me picking against Brett Favre on a Monday night. Against a team I don’t think is all that impressive, no less. Thing is, the main reason Denver’s unimpressive is that they can’t stop the run. And the main problem Green Bay has on offense is that they have no running game. Assuming anyone’s watching, I expect what we’ll see is a lot of Brett throwing balls to the Broncos’ DBs. One of those will go for six the other way. Tack on the point after, and you get the likely margin of victory for the home team.

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Week Seven Picks

October 20th, 2007 Comments off

I hate to say it, but this week has upside-down week written all over it. Big spreads. Everybody thinking they know exactly which teams are good and which aren’t. Good teams lulled into a mid-season sleepwalk. Bad teams itching for one last chance to save themselves. This is when it always happens. So don’t be surprised if you start seeing final scores flashing across the bottom of your screen and they seem to indicate that Minnesota, Arizona, St. Louis … even the Jets have won their matches. And try not to bet real money this week if you can help yourself.

Now, all that said, I’m not picking massive upsets to happen straight up. Because, look, you can’t. I’m gonna pick the games the way I think they’d happen in a normal week. I’m just not gonna be terribly surprised if it turns out I finish 4-10. Of course, that can happen to me at any time anyhow. Here’s what not to expect.

Baltimore (-3) at Buffalo
Have you heard that Ray Lewis has been added to the long list of banged up Ravens? Yeah, that should just about even things up here. Baltimore by four.

Minnesota (+9.5) at Dallas
The Vikings may be one of the most spectacularly unbalanced teams I’ve ever seen. As everyone knows by now, you can’t stop Adrian Peterson, which is why the Vikings have posted a league-leading 170 rushing yards per game and an astounding 5.6 a carry (Peterson’s individual average is 6.3). But what’s truly remarkable about those numbers is the fact that they’re coming when everyone knows you don’t have to account for a passing offense when you play the Vikes. Their receivers stink. Similarly, on the other side of the ball, it’s almost impossible to run effectively against the Vikings (they allow only 66 yards per game on the ground, and just 2.7 per carry), but you can throw it all day long (Minnesota has allowed a league worst 288 passing yards per game). The Vikings D does have a nice nose for the ball — they’ve picked off seven passes already this season – which means this game isn’t gonna be a cakewalk for Tony Romo, but one still has to imagine that Romo and the ‘Boys will be able to accomplish enough through the air to make the lack of a ground game significantly irrelevant. Minnesota has the tools to slow this one down and keep it close, but not to win it. I’m taking the Cowboys to win and the Vikings to cover.

Tampa Bay (+2) at Detroit
I thought about trying to analyze this game, but then I realized it doesn’t matter. You know which team’s gonna win? Whichever one I don’t pick. So I’ll go with the home squad, because that seems the most sensible choice in a close game, to win by a field goal. But I fully expect it to go the other way.

Tennessee (-1.5) at Houston
If I knew whether Vince Young were going to start, I’d know how to pick this game. But I don’t. So I’ll just take the home team to pull off the upset. On paper, that is. Only a fool would actually place a bet on this game.

New England (-16.5) at Miami
I can come up with almost nothing to say about this game, so instead I’ve got a comment on each of the teams. I’ll start with the hosts: To my mind, the mere fact that Trent Green wants to go on playing is the clearest evidence that he really needs to retire. Now for the visitors: This constitutes thinking way farther ahead than is either reasonable or sane (you know, I’ve had a few concussions myself over the years), but I’ve been thinking it, so I might as well spit it out. It regards the 2008 draft. (And it assumes everything will continue to go as it’s been going, which is a ridiculous assumption to make, but it’s what I’ve got at the moment.) Let’s say the first-round pick the Patriots lost as a result of the whole videotaping scandal thing is going to end up falling somewhere between 29 and 32. That is to say, that lost pick would have come at #29 even if they were to finish with only the second-best record in the league and fail make the Super Bowl (which is really the worst-case scenario given the way things are going right now), and #32 if they manage to win it all. And let’s say the pick they’ve got coming as a result of their 2007 draft day trade with San Francisco ends up being somewhere between a top 10 and top 15 pick. (If the season ended today, the 49ers would be picking thirteenth, and their situation doesn’t appear to be getting any better.) And say it continues to be the case that the Pats don’t like picking in the top half of the first round. Now, let’s imagine that the Dolphins or the Rams or whomever ends up picking first overall, decide that what they really need in order to rebuild is two guys in the top half of the first round. What do you suppose the chances are that the Pats could end up making a deal in which they trade away that 49ers pick for the first pick in the second round of the 2008 draft (which, by virtue of the elimination of the Pats’ own pick would be the 32nd pick overall — that is, numerically equivalent to the last pick of the first round in most years) plus a first-rounder in 2009 and maybe a few other later round picks? If that were somehow to happen, it would mean the Pats could end up picking where a Super Bowl champion normally picks in 2008 — but with a discount based on the fact that the player selected would be the first pick in the second round rather than the last pick in the first — and have two first rounders in 2009. It’s just a random, and in all probability meaningless, thought, but I had it. And it concerns the Patriots. So here it is. Oh, also, I don’t see Miami’s awful defense having any ability to stop New England’s superb offense. Neither do I see the Dolphins O having much chance of making anything happen against the Patriots D. So I’m looking for a final score of something on the order of 42-0 in favor of the Pats.

San Francisco (+9) at NY Giants
Turns out the Giants have a defense, after all. Turns out New York’s particularly effective against the run. That’s bad news for Trent Dilfer, who won’t be able to count on Frank Gore to carry the 49ers offense. (Yeah, Frank hasn’t had much an opportunity to do that thus far this season anyhow, but he’s going to have to start getting those opportunities if the Niners are ever gonna have any chance to show some progress.) And given that Dilfer’s thrown three picks and taken eight sacks in two starts, the Giants’ Frank-stopping ability should turn out to be really, really bad news for San Francisco. I’m taking the giants and giving the points.

Atlanta (+9) at New Orleans
Maybe it’s true. Maybe the Saints have figured something out. Maybe they began a spectacular turnaround Sunday night in Seattle. But we won’t know that after this game. We won’t know it until they’ve played a few good teams. And the mere act of switching to a competent quarterback doesn’t make this Atlanta team good. It probably doesn’t even raise the Falcons to the level of not awful, which is about as high as we can, with any real confidence, place the Saints right now. New Orleans by six.

Arizona (+8.5) at Washington
I don’t think it much matters whom the Cardinals start under center. You can’t throw the ball successfully against Washington anyhow. Of course, neither can you expect to run the ball effectively against them, especially when they can comfortably stack eight men in the box. So, OK, from Edgerrin James’ perspective, it would probably be nice if the Cards had someone on the roster who was both qualified and healthy enough to start at quarterback. But they don’t. So that leaves Edge and the rest of the Cardinals offense without much of anywhere to go. And that spells a Washington victory, probably by three or four.

NY Jets (+6) at Cincinnati
You know when your team sucks? When you’re getting six points, even on the road, from the 1-4, defense-free Cincinnati Bengals. That’s when. Worse still for the Jets, I think Cincinnati covers. And then the Jets completely fall apart.

Kansas City (+3) at Oakland
This could be a record-breaking game. That is, it could turn out to be the quickest game in NFL history. I expect to see both offenses run the ball about 75 percent of the time (though Kansas City will mix in some effective play action and probably do its scoring through the air), which will keep the clock running. In the end, the Raiders will manage a few more rushing yards and one more point than the Chiefs.

Chicago (+5.5) at Philadelphia
Can I offer a little advice, Andy? Here’s what I’m thinking: Don’t kick the damned ball to Devin Hester. But, you know, it’s just a thought. You’re the coach. (Assuming Andy takes my advice, I’ll take the Eagles to edge the Bears by a field goal in a very high-scoring game.)

St. Louis (+9) at Seattle
So Seattle’s ineffective on both sides of the ball. And Shaun Alexander has been revealed as a guy who can’t pick up yards unless your O line opens giant holes for him on every play. And the Seahawks are lucky to be 3-3. And they’ll only win the NFC West if it turns out that Arizona doesn’t really want it. That’s all nice and everything. But the Rams absolutely stink. Seattle by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Denver
Pittsburgh gives up fewer points than any team in the league (9.4 per game) and scores more than all but four (26.4). Denver allows the fifth most points (27.2) and puts up the fifth fewest (15). I could spend all day talking about individual matchups that favor Pittsburgh, or about Denver always playing well coming off a bye, but what would be the point? Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Indianapolis (-3) at Jacksonville
If I were a smart man, I’d have looked at this game for 10 seconds, decided there’s no reason to pick against the Colts and called it a day. But I’m not a smart man. I’m a stupid, stupid man. So I started thinking about how Jacksonville has been running the ball well and stopping the run well. And how Indianapolis has been running the ball not quite as well and stopping the run not quite as well. And I thought about how that was kind of how things were trending when Indy traveled to Jacksonville in week 14 of last season, and how the Jags beat the living bejesus out of the Colts that week. So I decided to pick Jacksonville to beat the bejesus out of Indianapolis again here. But I know I’m gonna regret that come Monday night (or early Tuesday morning, most likely). I am a stupid, stupid man.

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Week Six Picks

October 12th, 2007 Comments off

Looks to me like there’s exactly one game worth watching this week. I can’t even bear to spend a lot of time contemplating the rest of these dogs. So give my opinion even less weight than usual this week. You know, if that’s possible.

St. Louis (+9.5) at Baltimore
GusFrerotte. You really need me to say anything else? I’m taking Baltimore and giving the points.

Minnesota (+5.5) at Chicago
I don’t care who starts at quarterback for the Vikings. Don’t care how bloody awful the Bears starting QB is either. The Vikings simply aren’t winning in Chicago. They’re not even coming close. Bears by a touchdown.

Miami (+4.5) at Cleveland
Man, you’d never guess the Dolphins are as bad as they are listening to Joey Porter run his mouth. But they are, which is why I’m happy to give the points in this matchup.

Washington (+3) at Green Bay
Turns out Green Bay isn’t that good after all. Is anybody truly shocked by this. I still like Green Bay’s chances at home against a Redskins team that I don’t believe is quite as good as its 3-1 record. I’ll take Green Bay straight up and look for a push vs. the spread.

Houston (+6.5) at Jacksonville
I’ve gotta tell you, I like the Jags because they’re at home. But six and a half seems more than a bit excessive to me. I’m looking for Jacksonville to come out ahead by two or three points in a very hard-fought battle.

Cincinnati (-3) at Kansas City
Why would Kansas City stick with an injured QB? Maybe it’s because Herm Edwards loves to lose. Or maybe it’s because Herm realizes that it wasn’t like his offense was putting up any points anyhow. Possibly both. Thing is, with one of the worst defenses in the league coming in to town, it’s entirely possible the Chiefs will be able to put up points no matter who starts under center. But will they be able to score enough to keep up with the Bengals high-powered offense? I’m guessing not. Cincy by a field goal.

Philadelphia (-3) at NY Jets
Quick: Which of these two one-win teams sucks the most? Give up? It’s the Jets. Because at least the Eagles have something resembling a defense. Enjoy 1-5, Eric. And, uh, good luck on the job market in the off-season. You’re gonna need it.

Tennessee (+3) at Tampa Bay
I still believe in Jeff Garcia I truly do. But I also still believe that you can’t win professional football games without a legitimate running back. And I just don’t see a one-dimensional Buccaneers offense being able to get much accomplished against the Titans’ very solid D. That means lots of three and outs, which means lots of time on the field for Tampa’s defense. And that means that no matter how strong the Bucs D might be, or how well it matches up here, eventually it’s gonna wear down. I don’t care how poorly they played at home a week ago, I like the Titans to pull off the upset on the road this week.

Carolina (+4) at Arizona
Can a 43-year-old man go from sitting on his couch watching games to starting for a new team in five days? Well, apparently he can. It’s just that you can’t hope for him to be terribly successful. I’ll take the Cards, give the points and do my best not to rubberneck if things get as ugly as I suspect they might.

New England (-5) at Dallas
The consensus of experts is that New England wins this one, but by nothing remotely resembling the 23-point average margin of victory the Patriots have enjoyed through the first five weeks of the season. I know that whenever the experts agree on too much, they end up being wrong about at least some of it. And since I’m certainly not gonna pick against New England in this game, or any other this season (Adam Schefter did a nice job of summing up my logic in a radio interview recently, noting that if you consistently pick the Patriots, you can feel pretty confident that you’re gonna be right about 15 times this season), so I’m looking for the consensus to come out wrong on the matter of how competitive the game will be. That is, I’m looking for the Pats to win this one in a blowout. And the difference, in my mind, won’t be the fact that the Dallas defensive backs don’t match up well with the Pats wide receivers (though that’s a factor) or the fact that Bill Belichick-coached teams typically eat relatively inexperienced quarterbacks like Tony Romo for lunch (though that will certainly come into play. The difference is line play. The Patriots are tougher than the Cowboys on the line of scrimmage — on both sides of the ball. Dallas’ pass rushers had a tough time getting to Trent Edwards on Monday night, and New England’s offensive line is stronger than Buffalo’s. That leads me to conclude that the Cowboys are unlikely to have much success getting to the league’s leading passer here. (Add to that the matchup problems for Dallas’ secondary and things don’t look too pretty.) Also on Monday night, the Dallas O-line was completely ineffective in keeping Buffalo’s pass rush out of Romo’s face. I don’t think anyone would argue that Buffalo’s D line is on par with New England’s. So I’m expecting to see Romo say arrivederci to a few more balls in this game (he probably won’t throw another five picks, but two will be more than enough). Dallas may see some limited success in the run game early on, but that will fade toward halftime, and will go away entirely if the Cowboys find themselves playing from a 10-point deficit, which I expect to happen by the middle of the third quarter. The Cowboys may keep it close through the first half, but the difference in line play will catch up with them as the game wears on, and the Pats will open up a big lead heading into the fourth quarter, a lead they’ll be able to protect much better than the Bills were. In the end, I expect New England’s margin of victory to rest somewhere between 20 and 24 points.

Oakland (+10) at San Diego
The Raiders go into this game leading the AFC West by half a game. Given that the Chargers at least appear to have come to life a week ago, I’m expecting Oakland to come out of this game tied for either second or last place in the division. Chargers by 14.

New Orleans (+6.5) at Seattle
Flex scheduling can’t begin soon enough for me. Nor, I expect, can the 2007 season end soon enough for the Saints, who are almost officially the biggest bust of the year. I don’t think the Seahawks are a particularly good team and I’d still give double the six and a half.

NY Giants (-3) at Atlanta
Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? The New England-Dallas game is on at 4:15 on Sunday afternoon, and this is what we get in one of the two prime time slots. I don’t even have it in me to discuss this game in any real way. The Giants apparently aren’t as bad as I expected them to be, while the Falcons are exactly as bad as everyone expected them to be. Therefore, I’m looking for the Giants to win this one by a touchdown.

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Week Five Picks

October 5th, 2007 Comments off

You know what happens a week after ten underdogs win outright in the NFL? Things settle down considerably. There may be some close games this week according to the oddsmakers, but we’ll see no more than two upsets, and possibly none at all. I’m guessing at one, but not for any real reason. My money likely will go on one of the bigger favorites — New England, Tennessee or Dallas — to cover. Here’s what not to expect:

Miami (+5.5) at Houston
Four weeks into the season and the folks in Miami are already wondering whom to blame. It’s gonna be a long, long season for the Fins. The Texans get some temporary relief from their running woes (it doesn’t matter who starts, you can’t fail to gain rushing yards against a Miami defense that gives up 200 of them a game), and have this thing put away by halftime. The final margin will be 10 points, minimum.

Jacksonville (-2.5) at Kansas City
Flip a coin. Both teams have been impressive on defense (Kansas City shockingly so, given what appeared to me heading into the season to be a questionable D line) and each has had exactly one good game on offense (its most recent). Jacksonville’s the better team, but Kansas City’s the home team. And since I don’t see much potential for outright upsets elsewhere this week, I’m gonna go ahead and take the Chiefs.

Cleveland (+16.5) at New England
I just don’t even know what to say about this game. I hope for Romeo’s sake it isn’t too ugly. The Pats have been winning by an average of 25. And the Browns, no matter what anyone says, aren’t nearly as good as their 2-2 record. So I’ll go ahead and give the points.

Carolina (+3) at New Orleans
Can the Saints get off the schneid and look like they’ve got half a chance to turn this season around? I can’t begin to guess about the season, but I’m pretty sure the David Carr-led Panthers are the cure for what ails just about any team in the league. Saints by four.

NY Jets (+3) at NY Giants
The Jets and Giants ought to be rooting for the Yankees and Indians series to make it to game four. Otherwise, someone might notice this game. And that won’t be good for anyone involved. The Giants fail to lose again, but only by a point this week.

Seattle (+6) at Pittsburgh
Six points seems rather excessive to me in this game. I mean, I expect Pittsburgh to win and all, but I also expect Seattle to play the Steelers tough. The Seahawks will set out to attack the Steelers in much the same way the Cardinals did last week, with physical play and an effort to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. And my guess is that Seattle will have a reasonable amount of success on defense, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to throw more than anyone associated with the Steelers would like him to, and creating some opportunities for Seattle’s DBs to capitalize on Ben’s inevitable mistakes. I don’t, however, expect the Seattle offense to be able to accomplish on the road what the Arizona O was able to do at home. And considering Pittsburgh’s defensive capabilities, that likely means some mistakes going the other way. By the time the clock ticks down to :00, I expect the Steelers to have won both the turnover battle and the game by a margin of one, two at the most (turnovers and points, that is).

Arizona (-3) at St. Louis
How long do you figure it’ll be before Gus Frerotte and Marc Bulger are sitting next to each other on the bench, nursing their wounds and watching Brock Berlin get his head knocked off? I’m thinking three quarters. Arizona wins this one by 10.

Atlanta (+8) at Tennessee
Could it be that the Falcons have started to get their feet back under them? I guess anything’s possible, but I’m gonna need to see a bit more than one good game, before I buy into anything. The Titans, meanwhile, have been looking more and more like a team that can compete with the top squads in the league and beat the stuffing out of most of the rest. The Falcons, whether they’re improving or not, remain one of the rest. I’m taking Tennessee and giving the points.

Detroit (+3.5) at Washington
I’m done dismissing the Lions outright. For the nonce, anyhow. Detroit still needs to establish a running game and a defense before I’ll even consider buying in for real (and I still have a feeling it’s all gonna come tumbling down eventually), but I’m willing to believe that their passing game is good enough to keep them in a lot of contests and even to lift them to wins more often than I might have expected. I still can’t imagine the Lions being hugely effective against Washington’s defense. And with Clinton Portis reportedly feeling good, I expect the ‘Skins will be able to play ball control offense and limit the Lions’ scoring opportunities. That adds up to a Redskins victory, by about a field goal.

Tampa Bay (+10) at Indianapolis
The good news for the Bucs is that it appears the Colts run D has taken a hit. The bad news for the Bucs is that it appears they don’t have a good option at running back at the moment. The Bucs may be able to keep this close for the first half, but the Colts will open it up in the second and end up winning it by about the 10 they’re giving.

San Diego (+1.5) at Denver
Look, I agree with everyone who’s saying the Chargers are too talented to be 1-3. And, you know, maybe it’s reasonable to expect San Diego to turn things around this weekend. After all, the Broncos can’t stop the run (they’re giving up 181 yards a game), and while San Diego has yet this season to move the ball effectively on the ground, you do have to figure Weepy Weepenstein is eventually gonna dry his eyes and start doing some damage. But, you know, LT hasn’t had a lot of success in Denver in the past, and I’m not sure you can reasonably anticipate anything either way here. I’ll say this: I don’t see Tomlinson getting a lot of support from the passing game this weekend. The Broncos have a fairly solid pass defense (statistically, it looks great, but that has a lot to do with the fact that NFL teams tend not to go to the air much when they’re kicking the living snot out of you on the ground), so I see no reason to expect the Chargers’ lackluster pass offense to come to life in this game. I do, on the other hand, expect Denver to have a good bit of success passing the ball against San Diego. I mean, the Chiefs managed to burn the Chargers to the tune of 284 yards and two TDs through the air, and the Broncos have a better passing attack than Kansas City. And I think Denver will be able to do enough on the ground (regardless of what may happen with Travis “Spliff” Henry)to keep San Diego from loading up the backfield. So, talent or no talent, I’m having a hard time seeing how I should expect the Chargers to manage an upset. That’s why I’m not doing it. Broncos by yet another last-second field goal.

Baltimore (-3.5) at San Francisco
I’m not entirely sure going with Trent Dilfer at quarterback ultimately presents that much of a problem for San Francisco. Yeah, Trent played horribly against Seattle, but I think that may have been a product of his having taken too much on his shoulders and trying to do too much. Assuming he’s been able this week to settle down and settle in to a role akin to the one he played when he was quarterbacking the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory a few years back, Trent should probably do OK. Eventually. But not this week. Because a QB like Dilfer needs a guy like Vernon Davis around to bail him out when he gets in trouble. And Vernon’s not gonna be back in the Niners lineup for another two weeks. That’s bound to make things tough on Trent, particularly given that the Ravens run D is among the best in the league (they allow just three yards a carry — 71 per game — and have given up only one rushing touchdown in four games). That means Trent likely won’t to be able to fall back on Frank Gore. With limited run support and a lack of a key target in the short passing game, Trent and the 49ers receiving corps are going to be under a good bit of pressure. And although Baltimore’s pass defense has been no great shakes so far this season, it’s not terribly hard to devise and execute coverages to stymie a journeyman quarterback whom your coaches know extremely well and who has limited options. It all should add up to a poor outing for Trent and the Niners, which means a fairly easy win for the Ravens. I’ll even give the points.

Chicago (+3.5) at Green Bay
Brian Griese as starting quarterback has to be just about the best idea for fixing a team since Norv Turner as head coach. At least the Bears were actually in the frying pan before taking the leap into the fire. I’m guessing that doesn’t make burning hurt any less, though. I’ll take the Packers and give the points.

Dallas (-10) at Buffalo
Who schedules these Monday night games? Whoever you are, nice going. Real nice. Dallas by 14.

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