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Week Three Picks

September 19th, 2008

Yeah, it’s week three and I still have absolutely no clue as to what’s going on. None of it seems real. None of it seems possible. Injuries are already at week fourteen levels. And I’m just stumbling around in the dark. So read with caution. And try hard not to believe any of it.

Kansas City (+5.5) at Atlanta
Three games, three starting quarterbacks for the Chiefs. It’s gonna be a long, long season in Kansas City. Falcons by a touchdown.

Oakland (+9) at Buffalo
So now it appears Lane Kiffin probably isn’t getting fired this week. Probably Al Davis figured the only way he could make the situation with Kiffin worse than it was already would be to string it out for a while. How very exciting. Buffalo, with it’s increasingly dangerous looking defense, wins 27-3.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Chicago
Devin Hester apparently isn’t quite sure what’s wrong with his ribs. My guess is that Devin didn’t come up with torn cartilage on is own. But whatever the problem is, I’ve got a feeling Hester’s ribs could prove to be an issue in this game. Tampa Bay’s kicking team has done a pretty good job of limiting returns so far this season. And if they don’t have to focus on kicking away from Hester, they can probably force the Chicago offense to work with long fields. That could prove rather problematic for the Bears decidedly one-dimensional attack. The Buccaneers don’t have a great run D, but it’s worth noting that they haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown so far this season (which, admittedly, is still very young). The Bears, meanwhile, have yet to score through the air, which isn’t surprising considering they’ve yet to do much of anything in the passing game. So I’m thinking there’s a lot riding on Hester’s ability to set Chicago’s offense up with good field position. If Hester can do his thing, Chicago can probably come out ahead. But my gut says he’s not gonna be able to do his thing. So I’m taking Tampa to pull off the upset.

Carolina (+3) at Minnesota
It’s hard for me to believe Gus Frerotte is the answer. But it’s entirely possible that I just don’t know what the question is. I guess the only question I need to worry about for the moment is, can Minnesota beat Carolina? Moreover, can they do it with Adrian Peterson at half strength and Steve “Slugger” Smith back from his involuntary vacation? And the answer is … I just don’t know. I think the Vikings defense should match up OK against Carolina’s offense. I don’t think Carolina’s pass D is really as good as it’s looked so far. And while I’m sure Frerotte isn’t someone who can carry his team to a win, I’m fairly certain he at least won’t go out of his way to lose. Plus, the game is in Minnesota. So I guess I’m gonna take the Vikings, but I’m not giving three points (they win it by one max), and I don’t feel at all confident about the pick.

Miami (+13) at New England
You know, it’s one thing to believe New England plans to stick with the short passing attack that worked so well for the team (and for Matt Cassel) in last week’s win over the Jets. It’s quite another to imagine the Patriots won’t take a few opportunities to open up the long game against a Miami defense that has surrendered a league-worst 11.88 yards per pass attempt (15.5 per completion) and has allowed opponents to complete 72.9 percent of their passes (also worst in the league) over its first two games. No, I don’t think we’ll see Cassel throwing 80-yard TDs to Randy Moss all afternoon. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 30- or 40-yard pass play here or there. Would you? Patriots by 17.

Cincinnati (+13) at NY Giants
You know what the Bengals really needed? Chad Ottocinque mouthing off about the O line. That’s what. I’m not saying Achtfunf is incorrect, mind you. (Cincy’s offensive line play thus far has been deplorable.) But you can be factually correct and still wrong. I’m not sure Achtvijf gets that. Giants by diecisiete.

Houston (+5.5) at Tennessee
The Texans come back from a hurricane-imposed early bye week to take yet another beating. Chris Johnson should be good for 120 yards on the ground. He might even carry the ball into the end zone this week. Maybe twice. Titans by 10.

Arizona (+3) at Washington
The spread makes this one look tougher than it is. Way tougher. I don’t care where this game’s being played, Arizona’s just a way better team. On both sides of the ball. Cardinals by seven.

New Orleans (+5) at Denver
I’ll tell you what: If this Denver offense is for real (and if that giant douchebag Brandon Marshall can manage to stay on the damned field, and Jay Cutler can learn to hold on the ball a bit tighter), the Broncos have a very good shot at winning the AFC. Of course, we don’t know yet whether the Broncos offense is real. They’ve only played one team that might turn out to be any good. But we’re not gonna get an answer this week, because the Saints appear not to have more than half a defense. And half a D isn’t getting it done in Colorado. Broncos by six.

Detroit (+4.5) at San Francisco
Quick: Which of these two teams is awfuler? Did you say, “Awfuler isn’t even a word”? Well, you’re right about that. But I don’t care. And the answer is still the Lions. San Fran by eight.

St. Louis (+9) at Seattle
Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom has vowed to shake things up if the team doesn’t get on the right track soon. I was gonna suggest that Chip consider adding a defense as one of the inevitable changes, but then I realized the Rams don’t have an offense either. Tear it all down, Chip. And start building a professional football team. Look for the 0-2 Seahawks to get off the schneid (if only temporarily) with a two-touchdown victory.

Cleveland (+2) at Baltimore
How long do you think it’s gonna be before we see Brady Quinn starting under center for the Browns? My guess is that if Derek Anderson doesn’t manage to lead his team to wins here and next week in Cincinnati, we’ll see Quinn make his debut against the Giants coming out of the bye week. Otherwise, it might take until the Browns fall to 2-4 at Washington in week seven. I have a feeling it’ll be the latter. I’m taking the Browns to win by a field goal here, though I half expect I’ll be kicking myself (again) for believing in them come Monday morning.

Jacksonville (+6) at Indianapolis
There’s one complete, healthy and talented offensive line involved in this game. Unfortunately, it’s split between two teams. Colts win 13-6. (For the record, yes, I do believe losing Bob Sanders is gonna hurt the Colts, but not until they play a team that can hold off Indy’s pass rush long enough for deficits in the secondary to become an issue. And that ain’t the Jags.)

Pittsburgh (+3) at Philadelphia
I don’t have the slightest idea of what to make of this game. Because I don’t know if the Eagles have a real defense and I don’t know if the Steelers have a real offense. I have no such questions when the ball’s moving in the other direction. I know (or at least I feel pretty sure) that both Philly’s O and Pittsburgh’s D are for real. Not that knowing that helps in any way. You’ve still gotta figure out which unit is stronger. As of right now — mostly because I’ve got nothing else — I’m figuring a slight advantage goes to the home team. I don’t imagine Brian Westbrook will be particularly effective running the ball, but I’m not sure the Eagles need him to be. Assuming Pittsburgh brings the blitz, Westbrook should get opportunities to catch short passes, which can open things up deep as effectively as the run. And I suspect that if the Eagles can slow Pittsburgh’s D down a little as the game moves into the second half, they should be able to move the ball down field. So, again, I end up pondering whether I think Ben “I Can Play Through It” Roethlisberger and his unit can keep pace against a Philadelphia defense that didn’t look nearly as impressive as I had guessed it would on Monday night. And, OK, yeah, I realize that the Steelers aren’t the Cowboys (just look at what each O was able to accomplish in Cleveland), but given that the Dallas offense is the only real offense the Eagles have faced this season (sorry, but the Rams don’t even belong in the NFL at this point), that defensive performance is pretty much all I have to go on. Still, as noted, the Pittsburgh offense isn’t the Dallas offense. And with nothing more substantive, that’s what I’m hanging my hat on here. Eagles by four. Maybe.

Dallas (-3) at Green Bay
Anyone else get the feeling the Cowboys are in for another obscenely high-scoring game? I mean, here’s a matchup between a pair of offenses that have put up better than 70 points a game between them thus far this season facing off against a pair of defenses that have allowed a combined 45.5 points a game. So, you know, it seems a fair assumption to me that we’ll see something on the order of 58 points on the board before all is said and done. What does that say about which team’s gonna win? Not one damned thing. It just tells you to bet the over is all. (The line’s at 52.) As for picking a winner, I guess I’ll go with the team that isn’t playing its second straight prime time game while traveling on short rest. It’s not much of a formula, but it’s what I’ve got. Green Bay by two.

NY Jets (+8.5) at San Diego
The Chargers have developed a nasty habit of losing at the last second. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ed Hochuli’s premature whistle. Blah, blah, blah. It was an awful call, granted. And if it doesn’t get made, San Diego wins that game. But it didn’t negate a great defensive play; it simply reversed a bit of good luck. Jay Cutler flat out dropped the ball. And, sure, luck is part of the game. But consider, too that the Broncos a) made it to the goal-line on their own; b) still had to score a touchdown; and c) managed a two-point conversion to seal the victory after that. So let’s not put it all on the officiating, shall we? Plus, the Panthers certainly didn’t win by virtue of anything but good, heads up play in week one. That habit of giving away games probably wouldn’t affect my thinking about this game much, if it were for the fact that Brett Favre has a career-long habit of winning games at the last second. And Favre is never better than on Monday night. I still have to believe the Chargers will manage their first win here, but I’m not giving eight and a half points. Not even to the awful, awful Jets. (And probably not to anyone as long as LT is hobbled.) And, frankly, I won’t be completely shocked if San Diego finds a way to lose straight up. Again.

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