Archive for October, 2011

Week Eight Picks

October 27th, 2011 Comments off

New Orleans (-13) at St. Louis
Statistically speaking, the St. Louis offense is about half as productive as the Indianapolis offense. But that’s mainly the St. Louis offense as quarterbacked by Sam Bradford, which isn’t the St. Louis offense that will be on the field for this game (or so it would appear). And even if Bradford were playing, we’re talking about half the usual production of an Indy offense that managed seven points against New Orleans on Sunday night. That ain’t pretty. The good news for the Rams is that their defense has performed better this season than the Colts’ D. Except, you know, for the fact that they give up 184 yards a game on the ground (no, that’s not a typo). So, Drew Brees probably won’t have another 325-yard, five TD outing (I know, I’m going way out on a limb here, right?), mostly because he won’t have to. And 62 points is probably out of the question. Still, I expect this game to take all of about two and a half hours to play and for the Saints to outpace the Rams by a solid four touchdowns.

Jacksonville (+9.5) at Houston
Wow. The 2-5 Jaguars almost looked like an actual pro football team on Monday night, didn’t they? You know that’s not gonna last, right? Of course you do, because you’re not a Jacksonville fan. (Nobody’s a Jacksonville fan.) Houston by 13.

Miami (+10) at NY Giants
I predict that Miami will be behind 24-3 with two and a half minutes to play and will end up losing 41-3. It won’t be about the Giants running up the score. It’s just that professional football players typically don’t tackle themselves.

Arizona (+13) at Baltimore
One thing I can say with certainty about the NFL is that when the inept travel to face the angry, things have a way of getting ugly quick. Ravens by 10.

Indianapolis (+9) at Tennessee
I think it’s safe to say the Tennessee Titans aren’t putting up 62 points on anyone. I think it’s also safe to say that the Indianapolis Colts have officially packed it in for 2012. Titans by 10.

Minnesota (+3.5) at Carolina
If this game were in Minnesota, I’d take the Vikings. Minnesota played well against Green Bay last week. And I continue to be concerned about Cam Newton‘s tendency to throw to defensive backs. But the game isn’t in Minnesota. And I don’t think the Vikings DBs have the ballhawking skills to take advantage of Newton on his home turf. Panthers by a field goal.

Detroit (-2.5) at Denver
So, wait, the Broncos actually sort of played football for three minutes but mostly fell ass backward into overcoming maybe the worst team in the NFL. And now I’m supposed to believe they can keep it competitive with the Lions? Because, what? The Lions might have to go with their backup quarterback? Really? Because, um, no. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. It isn’t really a matter of whether the Lions offense can succeed against the Broncos (though, you know, Detroit will put up points regardless of who’s behind center). It’s a matter of whether the Broncos offense can succeed against a team that isn’t likely to self-destruct. And, sorry, Tim, but I just don’t see it. Detroit picks off Tebow three times and wins by two touchdowns (one of them a defensive score).

Washington (+6) vs. Buffalo at Rogers Centre, Toronto
Wait a minute. Did you say the Bills put Shawne Merriman on IR? That would seem to indicate that Merriman has actually been on the Bills’ roster. Interesting. I hadn’t noticed. The team with the injury news that doesn’t matter tops the team with the injury news that matters a lot by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (-3) at Seattle
The Seahawks eked out 137 yards of offense last weekend in Cleveland. Total. They controlled the ball for 17 minutes. Total. They’re a joke. A total, total joke. Of course, the Bengals are only marginally better than the Browns. They’re also traveling cross country for this one. So I’m not giving more than a point. And there you have it: Bengals by one.

New England (-3) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers, when they’re good, don’t match up well with the Patriots. So what happens when the Steelers are bad? I think the Pittsburgh O line is gonna make the New England pass rush look a whole lot better than it is (which isn’t to say that the Patriots defensive front isn’t coming around — it might be — just that you won’t be able to conclude that it is based on what happens here) and Ben Douchelisbagger is gonna make the New England DBs look like the greatest ballhawks in football. All while Tom Brady once again carves up the Pittsburgh D.  Patriots by two touchdowns.

Cleveland (+9.5) at San Francisco
If you barely squeak by one of the NFC West’s three awful teams at home one week, what happens when you travel to face the division’s one good team the next? 49ers by a touchdown.

Dallas (+3.5) at Philadelphia
All I’m gonna say is that it’s really, really hard to run the ball against the Cowboys. Dallas by a point.

San Diego (-3.5) at Kansas City
The Chargers, fresh off a ridiculous collapse in New Jersey last weekend, undertake a second consecutive road game. This time, San Diego a division rival that appears to be on the verge of turning its season around. I haven’t been impressed with Philip Rivers all season long and I certainly don’t expect him to improve against a Kansas City defense that has picked off 11 balls over its first six games. Kansas City comes out on top by a field goal and pulls into official contention for the AFC West title.

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Week Seven Picks

October 22nd, 2011 Comments off

The last four games of this week are outright gimmes. The first nine are all pretty evenly matched and tough to pick. So, perhaps more than usual, here’s what not to expect.

San Diego (-2) at NY Jets
I don’t know about anyone else, but the whole Rex RyanNorv Turner dustup over who’s been the most disappointing head coach (for my money, the edge right now is on Turner, but only because he’s had far more opportunities to fail; Ryan may well pass him yet) has got me thinking about which of these two teams is the most overrated. I mean, look, going into the season, a lot of people, fans and media types alike, would have told you this game was one with potential playoff seeding implications. As of right now, it appears to me that the only way either of these teams will even qualify for the tournament is if Oakland’s shiny new(ish) quarterback fails to deliver (which is actually somewhere between somewhat and rather likely given the difficulties of jumping out of semi-retirment and getting comfortable with new receivers with a third of a season in the books). Think what you will, but the reality is that there’s no concrete evidence that either squad can beat a strong opponent. The last time the Frat Boys triumphed over a team that one could even attempt to describe as “good” was week one, when they edged the Cowboys (current record: 2-3) 27-24. That win took place in East Rutherford and came only by way of a classic Tony Romo blunder. New Jersey’s other two wins have come at the expense of the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 0-5 Miami Dolphins. In their three games against teams with winning records (Oakland, Baltimore and New England), the Frat Boys have lost by 10, 17 and 9 points. Of course, it’s not like the Chargers have been laying waste to the better part of the league, either. Yeah, San Diego comes in to this game with a record of 4-1. But, just like the Frat Boys, the Chargers have yet to overcome an opponent that anyone would describe as formidable. The Chargers have beat the Vikings (currently 1-5), Chiefs (2-3), Dolphins (0-5), and Broncos (1-4). Also like the Frat Boys, when the Chargers faced a good team, the Patriots, they got their asses kicked. So I’ll have to ask you to forgive me if my eyes roll fairly deep into my head at talk of who would have earned what rings where. As for the actual game, well, there’s at least a 96 percent chance that one of these teams is gonna win. Which one? Well, if you were to go by the established pattern, both beat teams with losing records and lost to teams with winning records, you’d have to pick the Chargers. Not sure that holds up here, though, partly because San Diego is one of those West Coast teams that traditionally don’t fare so well when they travel east and partly because the Chargers can’t hold onto the ball. San Diego’s -5 giveaway/takeaway differential is problematic to say the least. Philip Rivers has thrown seven picks through five games, while the Frat Boys D has logged nine interceptions in six games. That’s a tough combination. The Chargers also have managed to fumble away three balls. And while 10 giveaways isn’t a seriously troublesome stat in and of itself (not like, say, the Philadelphia Eagles’ 17), it becomes an issue when you’ve only managed five takeaways, all of them picks. To keep things fairly even, the Chargers will need to capitalize on the Frat Boys’ fairly bad case of fumblitis, and so far this season there’s no indication they can do that. What the Chargers can do is run the ball. The Frat Boys can’t (or at least they haven’t). That means San Diego brings the more balanced offensive attack into this game. The Chargers also bring in an arguably better defense. Those factors should help even things up enough that I expect the win here will go to whichever team has the ball last. I’m going to give New Jersey the edge, but only because they’re the home team. I think they win by a point. But if it goes the other way, my jaw won’t exactly hit the floor.

Chicago (-1) vs Tampa Bay at Wembley Stadium, London
Not for one minute (not one, I tell you) am I buying into the notion that the Bears’ Sunday night dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings makes Chicago a good team. Sorry, Bears, but you’ve given up 19 sacks already this season. That has been a problem, and it’s going to continue to be a problem. Tampa Bay by four.

Seattle (+3) at Cleveland
The Seahawks are facing the reality that 8-8 won’t win the NFC West this year (for a change). The Browns are facing the reality that they’re still the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are also the home team here, so let’s go ahead and look for them to win, if only by a point or two.

Atlanta (+3.5) at Detroit
You have to wonder how many running backs the Lions can lose for the season before their offense becomes problematically one-dimensional. Of course, I don’t think it’s a question we’re likely to get an answer to this weekend, since the Falcons have exhibited absolutely no ability to stop the pass. Take that factor, add the Lions’ D and home field, and I think you get a six-point Detroit victory.

Denver (+1.5) at Miami
I really, really, really need the Dolphins to win this game. Decisively. Because I simply can’t bear the thought that I might have to hear another word about Tim goddamn Tebow, the most overhyped, overrated quarterback in NFL history. And you know when you’re in trouble? When you really, really, really need the thoroughly inept Miami Dolphins to win a game. Because it just ain’t happening. Broncos by a field goal.

Houston (+3) at Tennessee
One of these mediocre football teams is gonna win the AFC South title. And lose in the first round of the playoffs. Hooray! If the Titans has any kind of balance on offense, I’d figure them to take this one easily — you know, what with being at home and all. But they don’t; can’t run the ball to save their lives. And they’re facing a team with a pretty solid pass defense. Still ans all, the Titans are coming off a bye and the Texans are traveling for the second straight week. So I’ll take the home team to win, though I’m looking for a push with the points.

Washington (+2.5) at Carolina
Who throws the most picks in this game, Rex Grossman or Cam Newton? Seriously. I’m asking because the answer is where the difference comes from. My money’s on the rookie. Native Americans by four.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Arizona
The Steelers’ offensive line woes could pose a problem again this week. The Cardinals haven’t shown much this season, but they evinced some ability to get to the quarterback. I don’t think knocking Ben Douchelisbagger on his patoot will be quite enough, though. The Steelers are 4-2 on the season primarily because of their ability to take advantage of weak opponents. And the Cardinals are nothing if not a weak opponent. Pittsburgh by three.

Kansas City (+4.5) at Oakland
The Chiefs can’t move the ball on offense, can’t stop the run on defense, can’t hold opponents to under 30 points, can’t take away the ball, can’t hold onto the ball. So, while I guess it’s fun to speculate, I’m not sure the question of who the Raiders start at quarterback ultimately matters all that much here. Oakland by no less than a touchdown.

Green Bay (-9) at Minnesota
Nine? I’m sorry, but did anyone see what the Chicago Bears did to Minnesota on Sunday night? Anybody? Green Bay by 20.

St. Louis (+12.5) at Dallas
Look, it’s a team even Tony Romo can’t find a way to lose to. Dallas by 14.

Indianapolis (+14) at New Orleans
Here’s another one of those games that must have looked like a surefire ratings bonanza to the schedule makers back in the spring. Peyton Manning playing in his home town against his dad’s team. Maybe it would even be called a Super Bowl preview. Now? Not so much. Just another in this season’s string of dud prime time games. Ugh. New Orleans by 13.

Baltimore (-7.5) at Jacksonville
And the prime time blowout parade continues. I don’t care what stadium this game is played in, the Ravens win it by two touchdowns minimum.

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Week Six Picks

October 16th, 2011 Comments off

Things are starting to make sense in the NFL, as they typically do around this time in any given season. And the fact that I think that probably just means I’ll be even more off the mark than usual this week. Here’s what not to expect.

Carolina (+3.5) at Atlanta
This game’s been a popular upset pick this week. I get it, too. Because, hey, while neither of these teams has had any success this season keeping opponents out of the end zone, the Panthers at least have been able to put up some points of their own. The Falcons, not so much. And that’s been with Julio Jones on the field averaging five catches per game and better than 14 yards per catch. It would be absurd to believe the Atlanta passing attack can be more effective without Jones. So there you go. Upset, right? Only, I’m not sure passing the ball all over the field is the way you beat Cam Newton and the Panthers. It’s no secret that Carolina can’t stop the run. So if you’re the Falcons, you focus on rushing the football, something you certainly should have the ability to do behind Michael Turner, who’s averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Assuming Atlanta’s able to keep the ball on the ground, and assuming that while both of these teams have been giving the ball away far too much, the Falcons continue to be slightly better at taking it away, I’m thinking the home team manages a win in spite of the injury situation. Atlanta by a field goal.

Philadelphia (-3) at Washington
I keep thinking that eventually the Eagles have to stop losing games. But lately I’ve been wondering why I keep thinking that. And you know what? I don’t  have a good answer. I do know that traveling to face a well rested division opponent with a solid defense (though the Native Americans run D, which allows 4.3 yards per carry, isn’t nearly so impressive as their 84 yards per game average makes it look, Washington nonetheless has given up less than 16 points per game this season) isn’t what one would call a sure way to get things turned around. So I’m not expecting the Eagles to get things turned around. Not this week. And, given the ineptitude of Philly’s linebacking corps, maybe not this season. Washington by six.

St. Louis (+14.5) at Green Bay
The Rams have been outscored by an average of 17 points per game this season. And now they get to travel to face the highest scoring offense in the league. What more do you need to know? Packers by 20.

Indianapolis (+6.5) at Cincinnati
Well, the Bengals have a defense, anyway. So that’s something. Cincinnati by a touchdown.

Buffalo (+3) at NY Giants
I don’t believe either of these teams is as good as it’s record, which gets me exactly nowhere in figuring out which will win this game. Injuries are stacking up for the 4-1 Bills, and a correction is coming at some point with or without them. The 3-2 Giants, on the other hand, are coming off an embarrassing home loss to Seattle and looking pretty shaky for it. I’m tempted to pick New Jersey, mainly because they’re at home and they really can’t afford another loss in the Meadowlands. But I can’t stop thinking about Eli Manning, who’s been making a living off of incredibly athletic plays by his receivers thus far this season, facing a defense that has picked off a league-best 12 balls through five games. So I’m taking Buffalo to pull off the upset here. Bills by three.

Jacksonville (+12.5) at Pittsburgh
I’m not sure I quite buy into the notion that the Steelers turned their season around by stomping on the Titans last weekend (not saying the win wasn’t impressive — it was — just that I need to see more from a Pittsburgh team that has been anything but impressive going into that game). But I do buy into the notion that the Jaguars are pitiful. So, sure, I’ll take Pittsburgh. I’m not giving twelve and a half, mind you. Ten seems more reasonable to me.

San Francisco (+4) at Detroit
If the 49ers hadn’t just lost one of their best wide receivers, you’d probably have to think they could go into Ford Field and at least challenge the Lions. But San Francisco did just put Josh Morgan on IR. And while you have to believe the Niners defense will manage to keep it close, there’s simply no way I can pick their hobbled offense to overcome the Lions D. Detroit gets to 6-0, winning by a field goal.

Cleveland (+6.5) at Oakland
Yeah, I get that this is the Raiders’ first home game since the death of Al Davis. And Oakland had a big, emotional win a week ago, playing for the first time since Davis passed. That’s nice and all, but the thing is emotion only gets you so far in the the NFL. You know what will get you somewhere consistently? Putting a punishing ground attack up against a defense that can’t stop the run. That’s how you win football games. Oakland by seven.

Houston (+7) at Baltimore
No Andre Johnson. No Mario Williams. No chance. Baltimore by nine.

New Orleans (-6) at Tampa Bay
It doesn’t matter what stadium you’re playing in, you have to be able to put up a lot of points to beat the New Orleans Saints. And the Bucs simply don’t put up a lot of points. Saints by two touchdowns.

Dallas (+6) at New England
OK, if I have to hear one more word about how the Cowboys can challenge the Patriots in Foxborough because they’re rested and their wide receivers have had a couple of weeks to get healthy, I’m going to lose my mind. Yes, it’s true, the Cowboys do have talented receivers. And, yes, the Patriots have given up far too many points to make anyone who roots for the team comfortable about their long-term prospects (things may get better as the defense logs more time as a unit, but they haven’t yet). But, um, the Cowboys still have Tony Romo, king of the stupid mistake, at quarterback. And he’s still playing behind a terribly shaky offensive line, right? Or were they able to correct that significant issue during the bye week without anyone noticing? New England by seven.

Minnesota (+2.5) at Chicago
The Bears have one of the worst offensive lines I’ve ever seen. Their defense has no ability to stop the run. And they’re playing on a short week and coming off a really ugly loss in Detroit. Yeah, you know what? I don’t care that the Vikings can’t pass worth a damn; I’m picking the upset here. Minnesota by a point.

Miami (+6.5) at NY Jets
The Frat Boys have to win this game, right? I mean, they have to. New Jersey has lost three straight; they’re two games behind the Patriots at the Bills in the AFC East. Their players are sniping at each other. Lose on national TV to a struggling Miami squad and things almost certainly will unravel in a hurry. And, you know, much as I’d love to see that happen, it won’t. Miami just doesn’t have the stuff.  New Jersey by a touchdown.

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Week Five Picks

October 7th, 2011 Comments off

I’m short on time, so I’ll just get right to it. Here’s what not to expect.

New Orleans (-6.5) at Carolina
I was gonna point out that the Panthers defense is atrocious, but then I realized that’s not true. Carolina’s defense can’t be atrocious, because Carolina doesn’t have a defense. They’ve got an offense, though, so that’s something. Saints by two touchdowns.

Kansas City (+2) at Indianapolis
I did see the Manningless Colts play well enough not to get stomped on by the Buccaneers on Monday night. I agree, it was impressive in a weird little way. That’s all very nice, but it doesn’t mean Indy is going to get its first win this weekend. Because, look, you beat the Chiefs by running the ball. And the Colts don’t know how to run the ball. So there you go. Kansas City by a point.

Philadelphia (-3) at Buffalo
I think there’s a distinct possibility no one ever throws the ball in this game. I mean, why bother? Neither defense can stop the run worth a damn. The world turns rightside up and the Eagles come out on top, though only by a point.

Seattle (+10) at NY Giants
Before the season started, when I predicted a tough year for the Giants, a friend on Facebook (not a Facebook friend, mind you, a real one who is also on Facebook) commented that I must not have looked at New Jersey’s easy schedule. He had a point. Here come the Seahawks, whose coach is proud of the fact that they didn’t get beat too badly last week, which is one of the many reasons Pete continues to be unsuccessful as an NFL head coach. Maybe this week, he can be proud of his team for not losing by double digits. Giants by nine.

Cincinnati (+2) at Jacksonville
The Bengals have a surprisingly good defense. The Jaguars have a defense, at least some of the time. Cincy by six.

Tennessee (+3) at Pittsburgh
Can someone explain to me how it is that the Titans are getting points in this game. Is it because the Steelers are supposed to be good? Because there’s a difference between a team that’s supposed to be good and one that’s, you know, actually good. Let’s see if Pittsburgh’s horrendous O line can figure out how to protect the quarterback, or the Steelers’ skill players can figure out how to hold onto the damned ball, before we install them as favorites again — on any field — shall we? Titans by four.

Oakland (+5.5) at Houston
Another game that I expect will be all about running offense. I’m not exactly going out on a limb here. Both offenses specialize in the run, and neither defense can stop it. I’m taking the Texans because they’re at home, but I’m not giving five and a half. I’m thinking the difference will come down to something more like three.

Arizona (+2.5) at Minnesota
Which former Eagles quarterback has been more disappointing this season? Yeah, I don’t care either. Vikings by a point.

Tampa Bay (+3) at San Francisco
Just about every week, there’s a game on the schedule that I’m certain will be decided by turnovers. This week, it’s this one. The Niners are great at taking the ball away. The Buccaneers aren’t sloppy by any means, but they’re at a disadvantage here. San Francisco by three.

NY Jets (+9) at New England
I’m sorry, but nine points is just insane in this game. OK, sure, the Frat Boys did just get their asses kicked by the Ravens last Sunday night. And, sure, New Jersey has an O line that’s … well it’s truly offensive, isn’t it? And, yes, the Frat Boys are on the road for the third straight week. It’s also true that the Patriots’ run game is better than it’s getting credit for being (the fact that the team hasn’t run the ball much this season doesn’t indicate that it can’t, just that they happen to have a great passer and they choose to use him). And the New England defense is getting healthier. That’s all well and good. I think the Pats win this game. But nine would be an absurd spread in any division game in which one of the teams doesn’t outright stink, and I don’t really think New Jersey has fallen that far. So let’s go with something more realistic. I’m thinking New England by three, four at the most.

San Diego (-4) at Denver
This game might be interesting to watch just to see two teams fumble the ball back and forth to each other. The Chargers have been getting away with some truly awful football so far this season. The Broncos haven’t. I can’t see any reason to expect anything different here. San Diego by six.

Green Bay (-6) at Atlanta
The Falcons may yet right the ship and do something with this season. But it won’t be this week. Not against the defending, and quite possibly repeat, champions. Packers by 10.

Chicago (+5) at Detroit
Bears awful offensive line, meet Ndamukong Suh. Lions by 17.

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Week Four Picks

October 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Awful lot of road teams giving points this week. That’s all I’m gonna say. I mean, that and here’s what not to expect.

Detroit (+2.5) at Dallas
The Lions have forced eight turnovers through three games. The Cowboys have surrendered seven. I’ll believe those trends are reversible when I see them reversed. Detroit by four.

New Orleans (-7) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars are one of two teams in the NFL (along with the Kansas City Chiefs) that have put up fewer than 10 points a game so far this season. The Saints score nearly 35. Why don’t you tell me what that implies. New Orleans by 14.

Tennessee (pick ’em) at Cleveland
One of these painfully uneven teams is gonna emerge from this game with a 3-1 record, something that will seem funny by the time the season ends. And since the Browns’ chief defensive vulnerability is to the run and the Titans have yet to figure out how to move the ball on the ground, I’m going to look for win from the home team. Let’s say Browns by two.

Buffalo (-3) at Cincinnati
For the first time in three weeks, the Bills won’t have to rally from three scores down to win a game. How do I know? Because the Bengals aren’t capable of putting up three scores in a single football game. Buffalo by nine.

Washington (-3) at St. Louis
Got Tim Hightower on your fantasy team? Start him. Hightower may gain as many yards today as he put up in weeks one to three combined. Native Americans by a touchdown.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Philadelphia
The outcome of this game will have a lot more to do with the health of Frank Gore than the health of Michael Vick. If Gore were fully healthy, the Niners might actually have a chance. They could try to exploit the pitiful Eagles run defense, control time of possession and maybe steal win. But he isn’t. So they can’t. And they won’t. Philadelphia by 10.

Minnesota (-3) at Kansas City
The Chiefs can’t score points, can’t stop the run, can’t keep opponents out of the end zone, and can’t hold on to the ball. That’s a really, really bad combination. Vikings by two touchdowns.

Pittsburgh (+3.5) at Houston
Yeah, I know, the Texans totally fell apart in the fourth quarter last weekend at New Orleans. You know what else I know? Ben Roethlisberger isn’t Drew Brees. Not even when he has a solid offensive line protecting him, which he doesn’t. Roethlisberger turns the ball over three more times and the Texans come out on top by a touchdown.

Carolina (+6.5) at Chicago
The Bears’ complete inability to protect Jay Cutler might not be such a huge issue this week. You know, what with the Panthers not having a pass rush and all. I’ll take the uneven home team over the uneven road team, though I wouldn’t give six and a half either way. Let’s call it Chicago by four.

Atlanta (-5) at  Seattle
The Falcons are playing their second straight road game. They’re coming off a tough loss at Tampa. And they’re traveling cross country. That’s what the Seahawks have in their favor. What the Falcons have in their favor is that the Seahawks stink in virtually every aspect of the game. Atlanta by a field goal.

NY Giants (-1) at  Arizona
I still don’t think the Giants are healthy or deep enough to have a ton of success this season, but I have to give them credit: They keep finding ways to win. The Cardinals, on the other hand, keep finding ways to lose. I see no reason to expect either of those trends to be reversed in this game. New Jersey by six.

Denver (+12.5) at  Green Bay
This one’s not too terribly hard to size up. One of the best teams in the NFL is hosting one of the worst. That’s what you need to know. Green Bay by 20.

New England (-6) at  Oakland
The Patriots just don’t have back-to-back bad games. Right? I mean, they don’t. And they probably won’t. But that doesn’t mean New England’s guaranteed a win here. The Pats are playing their second straight road game. They’re traveling to the West Coast to do it. And their defense, which hasn’t exactly been shutting opponents down (worst D in the league by some important measures) is going, once again, to be missing some key players (I’m more concerned about the lack of healthy cornerbacks than about Albert Haynesworth). All that said, the Raiders don’t bring much to the table by way of a defensive secondary. Oakland’s very good pass rush notwithstanding, it seems fair to expect a shootout here. And in a shootout, I’ve got to go with Tom Brady over Jason Campbell. Can you blame me? Patriots, 35-34.

Miami (+7) at  San Diego
The Dolphins have a bye in week five. Do you know what that makes this? If you went with Tony Sparano‘s final game as Miami’s head coach, you are correct. Chargers by an unlucky, for Sparano, 13.

NY Jets (+4) at  Baltimore
The Frat Boys probably should lose this game. They’re playing on the road for a second straight week. They’re coming off a tough loss in Oakland. They really haven’t been playing very well. And, you know, Joe Namath may actually be right about something for the first time in roughly 42 years. Plus, statistically speaking, the Ravens are just the better team here. Baltimore ought to win. I ought to pick Baltimore to win. Probably by six or seven. But I’ve got this weird hunch that New Jersey is gonna find a way this week. And for whatever reason, I’m going with it. Frat Boys by a field goal. In overtime.

Indianapolis (+10) at  Tampa Bay
Dunno if you’ve heard this, but Peyton Manning is still hurt. Buccaneers by fourteen. Game over by halftime.

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