very interesting week one from the NFL. We had several teams escape
with victories… Pittsburgh I’ll say was one, but New England and
San Diego were even more notable (and closer to losses). Green
Bay is another prime example… although I don’t think a loss there
would have provided quite the Oakland or Buffalo shock value.
teams turned in amazing performances… either in victory or defeat…
showing more than expected. Again, Buffalo… Oakland… and so on.
trick is… week two is a rough one if you get carried away by all
of it. A few teams that did better than expected last week actually
may be better than expected. But for some of them, they may have
just turned in their best effort of the season… we just don’t
know it yet… and here we are, judging their second contests based
on it. (I am looking directly at you in upstate New York. Good
luck against Tampa.)
l ucky us. Picking with that as a source of reference material.
you’re interested in where all of us stand in the friendly wager
of weekly In My Backpack picks, I’ve listed the season
records at the end of the column.
for week two… and this week, we bring in the mighty Monty
Python and the Holy Grail for our film quotes… some of them
aren’t perfect, but it’s such a damn funny movie.
at Atlanta (6)
– “When danger reared its ugly head,
he bravely turned his tail and fled.” “I never did!” “Yes, brave
Sir Robin turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out.” “Oh,
you liars!” Nothing like a quarterback that doesn’t
show up. Ok… fine… not exactly fair of me. But really, with Jake
Delhomme… is there a point when he has lived up to expectations?
I mean... since he fell out of the clouds and set those expectations?
He has given Panther fans some great rides and good seasons. And
he will… if you ask me… give them some more great games and memories
in the future. But consistency? Nope. And so now after a bad defeat
against Philly, Carolina has to travel to face one of the more
balanced and strong teams in the league. Do the Falcons have the
best quarterback in the division? No… though he is very good.
How about the best defense… offense… special teams in the division?
Maybe… no… and open for debate. But again, all potentially very
good… and frankly, in all of these cases, the Falcons could be
a playoff team and legitimate Big Game possibility before all
is said and done. I’m not saying that’s definite… just saying
it’s possible. So right away, you have to look at this… and Carolina’s
performance last week… and kind of shrug at the point spread.
I mean… come on… Atlanta’s the better team. Right? Well… actually…
yes. But wait… because it gets better. Early last year, Carolina
won the first contest between these two clubs, 24-9 in Charlotte.
Later in the year… remember, a 12-4 year for Carolina… the Falcons
stomped all over Carolina, 45-28 in Atlanta. The point being…
I think the Panthers are going to struggle this year and the Falcons
aren’t. And, during a 7-1 home march last season, they kicked
the tar out of a playoff-level Panthers at home. You see where
this is going…
Louis at Washington (9½)
– “Is there someone else up there
we can talk to?” “No, now go away or I shall taunt you a second
time.” 9½ points? Really? Nine and a half?
Nine wasn’t bad enough? Ten was too much? And yet… it sure seems
like an easy decision, doesn’t it? St. Louis got bombed against
Seattle last week… on the road. Washington looked pretty good.
(I guess.) Anyone want to guess where the Rams got their first
win in the miserable 2008 season? Hey… look at that… 19-17 over
some team called the Redskins. And the Rams traveled for that
contest too. The point here being, can we really read into last
week’s performance and say the Rams are going to stink this week?
The answer is, yes, we probably could. But… let’s hold on one
second. Did you know the Redskins didn’t beat anyone last year
by more than 8 points? Not only is that true… but it was the Lions
they beat by 8. Their biggest wins at home were by 7 points over
the Cardinals and the Eagles. We need to go back to Joe Gibbs…
Todd Collins at quarterback, Jason Campbell out with an injury…
and 2007 to find some bigger wins. So… the Rams may stink, but
the Redskins don’t crush the opposition. Hmm… quite a dilemma.
Wait… I’ve got it… do we think the Rams can actually win? Not
that I’m willing to be money on, no. Ok, so if I think they’re
going to lose… how badly? Ready for this one? In 2008 the Rams
went 2-14. In those 14 losses, 9 were by more than 10 points.
Sure seems like we should be picking Washington. Only one last
thing to consider… because every so often, a club will just be
a bad match for the opponent. So… what happened last year when
the Rams won? Did Bulger or Jackson have big games? Did the offense
do well? Ready for this? St. Louis scored one touchdown… on a
75-yard fumble return. Bulger passed for 136-yards at slightly
over 5 per attempt. The Redskins offense almost out-gained them
2:1. In short… 19-17 looks like a fluke.
Mike: St. Louis
Gus: St. Louis
at Tennessee (6½)
– “It’s not a question of where
he grips it! It’s a simple question of weight ratios! A five-ounce
bird could not carry a one-pound coconut.” “Well, it doesn’t matter.
Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of
Camelot is here?” “Listen. In order to maintain air-speed velocity,
a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second,
right?” If you think Houston was pushed around
against the Jets… just wait and see what happens to them here
when the Titans need a win in their home opener.
Orleans at Philadelphia (Pick) –
“What makes you think she’s a witch?”
“Well, she turned me into a newt!” “A newt?” “I got better.” “Burn
her anyway!” Philly doesn’t know who their quarterback
will be yet. And, they trust their backup so much they brought
in Jeff Garcia. Folks… you don’t call Jeff Garcia to come in for
a week or two. If you’re Philly, you call him because McNabb might
be hurt worse than you think and you don’t trust any of the alternatives.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints are hot… look good…
and if you want to win in January, then you need wins like this
on the road.
Bob: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Dad: New Orleans
Gus: New Orleans
England (3½) at New York (Jets)
– “You must spank her well, and
after you are done with her, you may deal with her as you like.
And then, spank me.” “And me. And me too. And me.” “Yes. Yes,
you must give us all a good spanking.” I know
what happened last week. Yes, Buffalo looked good. But New England
looked better as the game moved along, and when bulletin boards
become involved, New England delivers spankings.
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Mike: New England
Dad: New England
Molly: New England
at Kansas City (3)
– “Right, I’ll do you for that!”
“You’ll what?” “Come here!” “What are you gonna do, bleed on me?”
“I’m invincible!” “You’re a loony.” These two
teams split their games last year, with each winning on the road.
Funny thing… would you believe Kansas City has only won three
games at home over the past two seasons? Not kidding… 3-13. Kansas
City used to be a tough place to visit. Oh… and Oakland has delivered
2 of those losses.
Terry: Kansas City
Gus: Kansas City
at Jacksonville (3)
– “Bring out yer dead.” “Here’s
one.” “That’ll be nine-pence.” “I’m not dead.” “What?” “Nothing.
There’s your nine-pence.” “I’m not dead.” “‘Ere, he says he’s
not dead.” In 2008 the Arizona Cardinals went
9-7. They began the year with a victory over San Francisco on
the road. Other road victories came against St. Louis and Seattle.
In 2007 the road victories came against Cleveland and St. Louis.
5-11 on the road. Not a brilliant start in reviewing them. Ahh…
but fortunately for the Falcons, if there’s a team that doesn’t
defend home field, the Jaguars may be it. Of their 5 victories
in 2008, Jacksonville recorded only 2 of them at home. Both of
them were fairly close (3 points and 4 points over Houston (in
overtime) and Green Bay respectively). The thing is… I just trust
Jacksonville more here. I like their running game better. As much
as I want to believe in the Arizona passing game, I just can’t.
The 49ers shut them down at home… I think they’re going to struggle
at times this year… and the Jaguars can win this one.
at Green Bay (9)
– “Don’t like her? What’s wrong
with her? She’s beautiful. She’s rich. She’s got huge…
tracts of land.” Big spread here… but the Bengals
had troubles at home against the Broncos last week. I expect more
out of the Packers this week at home. By the way… don’t underestimate
the importance of this game for the Packers. After this, they
go on the road for two weeks before hitting the bye week. Next
week is St. Louis… another winnable game… and then the first huge
media game against the Vikings. I don’t see any way Cincinnati
can win this game… and as such, can’t pick them just to cover.
(By the way… underdogs went 7-9 in week one… with 7-point or more
games splitting at 3-3. So for those of you thinking about caution
since ‘dogs and road ‘dogs and large road ‘dogs can be tempting…
yeah, this season so far things are 50-50 on that front.)
Bob: Green Bay
Terry: Green Bay
Dad: Green Bay
(9½) at Detroit
– “When I first came here, this
was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a
swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank
into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp.
So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into
the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you're
going to get lad, the strongest castle in all of England.”
Eventually, the Lions might build that castle. In this game, expect
the Lions to burn down… and possibly fall over as well.
Bay at Buffalo (5)
– “I don’t want to talk to you no
more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your
general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt
of elderberries.” I’m going to admit that right
away I want to puncture a hole in Buffalo’s balloon and find a
way to pick them to lose. So let’s see what we’ve got. Last week
against Dallas, the defense let Tony Romo look an awful lot like
Tom Brady against Buffalo… Romo threw for 353-yards with 3 touchdown
passes. Ok… but… Cadillac Williams ran for 97-yards, and the Bucs
presented a decent running attack. And, Romo connected on 3 long
TD passes (2 for more than 60-yards, all 3 for over 40). And…
Mike Nugent had 2 attempts at field goals fail… with a block and
a miss. Get this… Tampa has never played a regular season
game in Buffalo! I’ve got too many favorites this week. I’m going
for the outright upset here.
Bob: Tampa Bay
at San Francisco (1½)
– “Please! This is supposed to be
a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who.”
One of these clubs will be 2-0 when this games ends (yeah… barring
a tie). And… both of their wins will be divisional victories.
So let’s see… I think both defenses should be decent, and present
problems for the opposing passing games. That leaves me with Frank
Gore. Or Julius Jones. I don’t expect another 100+ effort from
Bob: San Francisco
Terry: San Francisco
Dad: San Francisco
(2½) at Chicago
– “Armaments, chapter two, verses
nine through twenty-one.” “And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade
up on high, saying, ‘O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that
with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.’
And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs
and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast
cereals, and fruit-bats and large chu…” “Skip a bit, Brother.”
“And the Lord spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy
Pin. Then shalt thou count to three. No more, no less. Three shall
be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting
shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou
two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right
out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached,
then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy
foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.”
Have I really picked 8 favorites so far in 11 games? Yeah. I guess
I have. That’s not too good. The trouble here is… Pittsburgh’s
defense is good, Chicago’s defense is hurting, and I just don’t
expect the Bears to be able to put up the fight the Titans offered.
at Denver (3)
– “Go and tell your master that
we have been charged by God with a sacred quest. If he will give
us food and shelter for the night, he can join us in our quest
for the Holy Grail.” “Well, I’ll ask him, but I don’t think he
will be very keen. Uh, he’s already got one, you see.” “What?”
“He said they’ve already got one!” “Are you sure he’s got one?”
“Oh yes, it’s very nice!” Upset! Is there much
difference between the Browns and the Bungals? Probably not… and
yet Denver needed help to knock off Cincinnati (in the form of
a miracle touchdown pass delivered during the final 30 seconds…
a pass that included some of the niftiest time management efforts
ever offered by a wide receiver). If not for that touchdown… two
field goals for the Broncos. That’s it. And since the pass went
for over 85-yards, I’m just saying the miracle was the only way
Denver cracked 10 points in the game. I like the Browns here…
for whatever stupid reason… I like them alot.
at San Diego (3½)
– “Well, we’ll not risk another
frontal assault. That rabbit’s dynamite.” Another
road upset for me… but this one shouldn’t be so surprising. Last
week we learned that the Ravens are actually putting an offense
on the field. If you watched San Diego play last week, a decent
running attack was working against them. Hmm… look in the Baltimore
backfield. Sure… some of it is a gut feeling… but I just think
the combination of a well-balanced Ravens offense, a good Ravens
defense, and a short week of practice for the Chargers is going
to hurt San Diego in this game.
Mike: San Diego
Dad: San Diego
York (Giants) at Dallas (2½) – “Listen,
strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for
a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a
mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony…
Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just
because some watery tart threw a sword at you.”
Over the past 3 seasons, these clubs have split every season series.
And, over those years, each has won two games on the road. Last
season, in the only loss on the road against Dallas in 3 years,
New York had an injured Brandon Jacobs and an 11-2 record (in
other words… no desperation to win). This is a big game for the
Cowboys. Opening a new stadium… their first divisional game… and,
well, we’ve seen how Dallas does in big games.
Bob: New York
Terry: New York
Mike: New York
Molly: New York
(3) at Miami
– “Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious
streak a mile wide! It’s a killer!” “Get stuffed!” “He’ll do you
up a treat, mate.”… “I warned you, but did you listen to me? Oh,
no, you knew, didn’t you? Oh, it’s just a harmless little bunny,
isn’t it?” Ok… so how are we now? 9 favorites,
5 underdogs, and 1 road team in a pick-‘em game. That makes a
bit more sense as we head into the Monday night contest. Several
years ago, I recall Bill Parcells talking about the Patriots and
making the point that his team wasn’t good enough to make mistakes
and win. The inference being simple… his club was good enough
to win some games, and maybe even some games they shouldn’t win,
but overall they were going to have to execute almost perfectly
from the beginning of the game to the end to win. That concept
reminds me of Miami. Sure, last year they were more prepared than
many of their opponents. But last week we saw that talent matters.
And while Miami has some good players… some of the surprises and
good fortune that went their way in 2008 might not work in their
favor in 2009. But this week I can go with them. Why? Because
I don’t see the Colts as a monster of an opponent this year. They
certainly didn’t destroy a team at home last week that was any
better than the Dolphins. And with Anthony Gonzalez out, I don’t
think their passing game will be that effective.
~ ~ ~
– Last week 10-6, season 10-6
Terry – Last week 8-8, season 8-8
The Dogs – Last week 8-8, season 8-8
Dad – Last week 7-9, season 7-9
Mike – Last week 5-11, season 5-11