go back to July. Close your eyes… take a slow, deep breath… and
try to picture the start of training camp.
that perspective, could you possibly imagine a scenario where…
with the middle of the season creeping in… Kansas City would be
a huge favorite over Jacksonville (and then cover)? How about
one where in the same week New Orleans and Denver wouldn’t just
be favored big, but would lose?
the NFL folks… with its parity and crazy outcomes. Best wishes.
favorites are running 38-59-7 on the year… and while I contend
that divisional games account for much of that tilt, I can’t rely
on it. Divisional contests were split evenly between the favorites
and underdogs last week… and the favorites went 5-9 overall.
week we have Kansas City again favored big… Oakland favored at
home while playing a division leader… heck, St. Louis favored
alot to consider.
it’s time for the New England rant.
few years ago… and I do mean a few years ago, back when New England
was winning Super Bowls… the Patriots were a funny team. See…
you knew they were going to win. They would win virtually every
week. You’d play that preseason win-loss game and just rattle
them off… “win… win… win… win…”… until you ended up with a 12-4,
13-3, or 14-2 record. And while occasionally they’d shock you
with a strange loss, 12 to 14 wins is exactly where’d they’d finish.
problem was, they were so damn methodical about it you couldn’t
make any money betting on them.
games rarely felt close. At home they couldn’t be beaten. And
there were enough romps to make you confident in selecting them.
But there’d be a 27-19 finish… or 35-28 ending… to games they
led by two scores or more. In other words, once the job was done,
occasionally there was a foot coming off the gas pedal. And… if
you picked them to cover the spread… there was crying to go along
with it. Because they were so efficient and you knew they would
win, the spreads as I recall were routinely 8 or more.
approach is what New England seems to suddenly be showing again.
There were whispers back in the summer and September that the
locker room was looking to get back to basics. In the past two
games it’s been visible. Defeated Baltimore… mark down the win
and move on. Defeated San Diego… mark down the win and move on.
Neither game was pretty. Neither game exhibited anything really
worthy of note. The offense didn’t go crazy. They still gave up
second half points. And yet… mark down the win and move on. Do
what it takes to improve the record, and then forget it to focus
on what’s next.
an interesting feeling in New England right now. I’m not sure
I’m completely sold on it. But in the next few weeks we are going
to see a couple of games that will say a lot about the Patriots…
because they’re going to be favored in most of them.
last thing before we hit the games. Our group.
Terry and I turned in solid efforts during week 7. The trouble
is… Molly was outstanding, leading the way with a 10-4 record
and once again placing herself at the top of our standings.
week there’s alot to be concerned by. There are several tempting
games on the schedule, along with an amazing run of favored home
teams. (In fact, only Pittsburgh over New Orleans represents a
home team not favored.)
on a bit of a journey for this week’s film… Stewie Griffin:
The Untold Story.
at San Francisco (Pick)
– “Thanks, Tom. You know what really
grinds my gears? Nobody’s come up with a new priest and a rabbi
joke in like thirty years. Ya know? I mean, okay, ah, umm. Priest
and a rabbi go, go into the supermarket, and, uh, the priest wants
to buy a ham. And the rabbi says, ‘Ah, I can’t eat it. It’s forbidden.’
Couldn’t eat it. Not allowed, pigs are like superheroes to them.
Is it perfect? No, but I, I don’t see you coming up with anything.
And that people is what grinds my gears. Tom?”
And right out of the gate we have a sucker punch game. If you’ll
allow for the designation of Denver as west coast… here we get
two west coast teams playing in London. Between them we have 3
wins and 11 losses, ridiculous levels of underachievement, and
all sorts of quarterback questions. Troy Smith is in for the 49ers.
Calls for Tebow in Denver. Let me explain why I’m taking Denver.
First… once you get over last week’s disaster, you’ll find a team
that has been ok offensively. The struggle has been on the defensive
side of that ball… where Denver early in 2009 seemed good and
then weakened. Injuries have been a part of it, but there have
also been mistakes and other problems. This club turned in October
or so of last season and has struggled defensively since. In this
contest, defense for Denver shouldn’t be a huge problem. Second…
can you tell me the record of AFC-NFC games this season? 17-12
in favor of the AFC. When you consider that San Francisco has
looked like the weaker team each week… even in their victory,
they weren’t good… I think the stronger conference in these types
of game deserves a nod. And third… I honestly believe that Denver
will be able to score in this game. With the quarterback change,
I can’t say the same about San Francisco. (By the way… Frank Gore…
basically the only ball carrier in San Francisco (135 carries
for Gore, 12 for the number two guy… Alex Smith). And Gore is
also the top receiver, with 37 receptions. They need some diversity.
Mike Jr: Denver
at Dallas (6½)
– “Ah, he is so right on. Women
are such teases. That’s why I went back to men.”
Last week I mentioned that as the 49ers were defeating Oakland,
one reporter was noting how at 16 for 32, Alex Smith had to be
happy. He finished 16 for 33 and under 200-yards passing. As Jon
Kitna gets ready to take over the Cowboys… he came in after Romo’s
injury last week… plenty of people thought he looked rusty. After
all, it’s been a while since he played in a game. Do I need to
tell you? Ok, in relief he went 16 for 33 and 187-yards with two
touchdowns. One reporter’s looking good is another reporter’s
rusty. It’s all in the perception. Amazingly, for me, the injury
isn’t the problem with the Cowboys. No. The problem with the Cowboys
is the Cowboys. Consider… they were leading the Giants 20-7 at
one point. Not too long after, they were trailing 38-20. Consider…
Eli Manning and the Giants put 41 points on the board… and Eli
threw three interceptions. So they sacrificed a big lead… allowed
a team to run all over them, even while that team was turning
the ball over… and this is a club that has had numerous penalties
and other problems in recent weeks while losing games to Tennessee
and Minnesota. In other words… the Cowboys are a complete mess.
Enter the Jaguars. At 3-4 you might be tempted to arch your eyebrows
and make some witty observation… something along the lines of
how a 3 or 4 game streak could put the Jaguars in the AFC playoff
hunt. Ignore that temptation. The Jaguars have given up 79 more
points than they’ve scored. Allow me to repeat that in three different
ways: (1) Jacksonville is the only club to have given up more
than 200 points this season, and they’re at 209 so the bye-week
stuff isn’t worthy of too much thought. That’s 30-points per week
to the opposition. (2) The Jaguars are being outscored on average
by 8-points per game, but even with Kansas City putting up 42
last week, every opponent has cleared 26 against them except Denver
in the season opener. (3) The Jaguars are being outscored worse
on the road… 106-69, or 35-23 per game. Those road games were
against the behemoths of 2010… San Diego, Buffalo (a win) and
Kansas City. You now see why a team like this Dallas club is such
a heavy favorite. And against my better judgment, I’m going to
take the Cowboys. For three reason. Number one… rusty quarterback
or not, they will score more than 20 points this week. Number
two… there are a few issues with the quarterback position of the
Jaguars. It is not that farfetched to suggest that within four
or five consecutive snaps they could lose their starter, number
two, and emergency quarterback to injuries. All three are iffy
heading in to this game. And number three… desperation. Ok… I
know… that’s a risky reason. But did you only glance those concepts
about the Jaguars and scoring points? Go read them again. Every
loss has been by 22-points or more. They don’t travel well. And
the Cowboys still have some offensive weapons.
Mike Jr: Dallas
at Detroit (2½)
– “This is gonna be so fun!” “Hey!
Zip it! Rule number one: No speaky until the man speaky to you.”
Ok… you got me. I almost believe the Lions were favored by a field
goal. Now, the real spread is… umm, ok… apparently the Lions are
favored by 2½. Wow. Actually, I guess that’s not too amazing.
The Lions have been close in some games and they are scoring points.
Plus… the Redskins play really close games. Five of their seven
games so far have been decided by 5-points or less. Of the other
two, one was a 6-point win over Dallas in a low-scoring game.
And… Washington is not likely to score more than 20… having accomplished
that feat only twice. Add some of that up, put the Lions at home,
and then start considering all the late passes (whether or not
ruled a completion) and you can see where Detroit either winning
comfortably or being able to pull something off late in the game
becomes an appealing prediction. I’m taking the underdog only
for the sake of taking the underdog. I’ve got no other reason.
I wouldn’t feel too comfortable with this game if I was bringing
money to the counter.
Mike Jr: Washington
Bay at New York (Jets) (5½)
– “How are you Betsy, welcome to
the show. You are a lovely young woman… and I’ll just get my hand
up there and feel that one… and that one. And we’re looking for
something you shop for at the mall, three seconds.”
In all three of their losses this season, the Packers trailed
by 3-points. Green Bay has held most of their opponents to 20
or less. The Jets lost the game before the bye week and the two
after in 2009. This year they looked bad against Denver in a game
they easily could have lost two weeks ago. Realistically the question
here is simple… can Green Bay score? And I mean touchdowns… not
field goals… because they’ll lose if they can’t crack 20. I could
see the Packers winning… I could see the Jets winning… I don’t
see the Jets winning big.
Bob: Green Bay
Terry: New York
Mike: New York
Mike Jr: New York
Molly: New York
Gus: New York
Sam: New York
at St. Louis (3)
– “Peter. Peter. Get on.”
A big thing to start out with… St. Louis is 3-1 at home, and Carolina
hasn’t won on the road. Here’s another little tidbit for you…
other than Detroit (on the road), no team has scored more than
18 against the Rams. That leads me to believe the defense is playing
well overall. Last week it was four field goals that helped Tampa
Bay to an 18-17 win over the Rams. What the Rams haven’t done
is score. 30 against Washington and then never more than 20. So
their numbers are really no better than average, and that means
trouble… because while they haven’t been brilliant at it in 2010,
the Panthers like to control the ball with a good running game.
And if St. Louis isn’t going to run away and hide, the Panthers
won’t be forced into changing their approach at all. One simple
question though determines everything in this game… can the Panthers
score? In six games so far, they’ve been held to 7 or less in
half of them. It’s a fair question. And while saying I think they
can get over 10-points, I do have a concern about how low they’ll
be. It’s that St. Louis has jumped out to big leads the past two
weeks only to slump in the second half and find both of them nail-biters.
I have to take the Rams… the Panthers haven’t shown me enough
yet not to. But this could be a close game decided late.
Bob: St. Louis
Mike: St. Louis
Mike Jr: St. Louis
Molly: St. Louis
Sam: St. Louis
at Cincinnati (2½)
– “Here comes Peter on a clothesline,
but his name’s not Peter it is Spiderman. Spiderman.”
I see what’s going on here… no one likes Chad Henne. Fair enough.
Bye week or no… no team in the AFC has scored less points. Frankly,
the 3-3 record is a testament to how good almost everything is
except the offense in Miami. So you want to favor the Bungals?
Go ahead. Makes a bit of sense. Oh yeah… by the way… would you
like to guess who the Dolphins have lost to? Try the Jets, Patriots
and Steelers. The Dolphins haven’t had a difficult schedule… it’s
been a killer. The big thing here though is simple… Cincy is going
to try and control the pace of the game. They are going to run
no huddle offensive sets, and they are going to try and put points
on the board. I don’t know if Miami is able to compete if they’re
successful at doing it. Amazingly though… often, they aren’t successful
at it. This is not a potent, dangerous team the Bengals place
on the field. And what I do know is that other than New England
(and perhaps New York, if you want to consider them potent), the
Dolphins have managed to keep some perceived-to-be-strong teams
to 20 or less. And last week… Pittsburgh probably scored 3 more
than they should have. Cincy is not winning big. The deciding
factor for me? Miami is 3-0 on the road this year.
Mike Jr: Miami
at Kansas City (8)
– “You’re drunk!” “You’re sexy!”
Yeah… not much to say here. The Bills haven’t
looked bad every week… they’ve had a couple of close games… and
some opponents have been lucky to get the win. Sorry though… Kansas
City hasn’t lost yet at home, and I don’t see the Bills recovering
from last week’s loss to Baltimore with another big effort.
Bob: Kansas City
Terry: Kansas City
Mike Jr: Buffalo
Molly: Kansas City
Sam: Kansas City
at San Diego (3½)
– “Hey, Stewie. How about Daddy
teaches you how to swim?” “Go... away... fat man. Dah! What do
you think you’re doing? No means no!” The Patriots
played horrendous football last week, and… at home… the Chargers
lost against them. Enter one of the better offenses and better
defenses in the league. The Tennessee Titans are 3-0 on the road,
and a solid 5-2 club that has been dominating in almost every
game, and counts the conference-leading Steelers as one of their
Mike: San Diego
Mike Jr: San Diego
Gus: San Diego
Bay at Arizona (3)
– “Hey, is he 18?” “Horace, the
drinking age is 21.” “Oh.” Both of these teams
have struggled offensively… but Tampa wasn’t supposed to be fielding
a top offense just yet. The really funny thing… and potentially
big difference in this game… is how badly the Cardinals have looked
in general and especially on defense. Still… last week the Cardinals
were 12 of 33 for 132-yards of passing. This in a game where they
were down 16-0 in the third quarter. I mean… yeah… yuck… on offense.
Of course, Tampa has been belted around by clubs with a winning
record, so make of their 4-2 record what you will. In this game,
I think the outcome will rest on which of these comes true: (1)
Can Tampa Bay have a balanced offensive attack, including a solid
running game? (2) Max Hall struggled last week, and was knocked
out of the game with a head injury. Will he be the 4 of 16 he
was when Seattle knocked him out and play like a learning rookie,
or, will he show flashes of brilliance against a Tampa defense
that is in the bottom third of the league overall and will be
missing starters on the defensive line? I’m going to take the
Bucs and their learning how to run the ball.
Bob: Tampa Bay
Mike: Tampa Bay
Mike Jr: Arizona
Sam: Tampa Bay
at Oakland (2½) –
“Hey Brian! Brian!” “What?” “Knock-knock!”
“Oh, come on!” “Knock-knock!” “Who’s there?” “Your friend, Stewie.
And he’s always gonna be there for you!” Hmm…
which team believes in their success more? I mean, this is a match
featuring two yawners of pretenders. And yet, the Seahawks are
really emerging as the favorites to win the NFC West. And Oakland
has won two straight and scored 23 or more in four straight games
despite not having a quarterback on the roster. Normally I’d say
Seattle on the road… tell you to pick Oakland… and be done with
it. But I’m going to take the Seahawks here. And the reason is
because they are shutting people down. Only the Jets and Steelers
have given up less points for the year… and against a club that
still hasn’t selected their starting quarterback, I think they’ll
play well. Even on the road.
Mike Jr: Oakland
at New England (5)
– “And you know what else grinds
my gears? You America! F**k you! Diane?” What
do you want me to say? The Patriots are 3-0 at home… defeated
a strong Baltimore team by 3 while trampling Cincinnati and controlling
Buffalo. The Vikings are spiraling out of control and the Patriots
defense looks faster every week.
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Mike: New England
Mike Jr: New England
Gus: New England
(1) at New Orleans –
“I’ll have water, please.” “I’ll
have water too, but with lemon, please.” “I’ll have a Sam Adams,
please.” “It’s 9:30 in the morning!” “And don’t you have an outstanding
DUI?” “Yeah, but I gotta get the taste of weed and hooker spit
out of my mouth.” The Saints haven’t looked good
often this year, and this week they will see the strongest defense
they’ve faced. Yikes. They’ve also lost two of the last three,
and both of the losses were to weak clubs that aren’t doing particularly
well this season. (That would be Arizona and Cleveland.) It’s
hard to gauge the Steelers, since they effectively have been getting
stronger each week. They started the season without Roethlisberger,
and haven’t played an easy schedule while racing out to a 5-1
start. In fact, you could argue that their only easy opponent
was the club that clocked New Orleans last week. (Again, that’s
Cleveland.) I’m taking the underdog… the Saints. The Steelers
are banged up on defense… they lost lineman Aaron Smith and are
facing a couple of injuries that could limit their starters (if
not sideline them). I don’t expect Brees to have another stinker
this week. And in picking games after what happened last week,
that may be about as good as I can do in looking at this one.
Bob: New Orleans
Terry: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Mike Jr: Pittsburgh
Molly: New Orleans
at Indianapolis (5½)
– “When I heard... when I heard...
that we were going to be in a movie, I was like, ‘F**k yeah!’”
Crap. I don’t want to pick this one. The Texans have played well
so far, are coming off a bye week, and really can’t be too disappointed
with a 4-2 record. Sure, the loss to Dallas hurts, but it isn’t
fatal just yet. Indianapolis is hurting… Dallas Clark is gone
for the year. And even though they keep winning, the Colts haven’t
looked good since facing Denver back in December. And yet… even
though history suggests that the games between these clubs can
be close… Houston has never won in Indianapolis. Gary Kubiak is
1-3 after the bye week with Houston. Peyton Manning is… yes, I
know, he’s the quarterback, but let’s face facts about who the
Colts really are… and Manning is 5-0 since 2005 after the bye
week. (In 2004 they lost to Jacksonville after the bye.) I expect
a high scoring game and something like a 38-30 or 34-28 win for
Mike Jr: Houston
~ ~ ~
Last week 10-4, currently 53-44-7
Terry: Last week 8-6, currently 51-46-7
Bob: Last week 9-5, currently 50-47-7
Mike: Last week 9-5, currently 48-49-7
Gus: Last week 5-9, currently 44-53-7
Mike Jr: Last week 7-7, currently 39-44-7
Sam: Last week 5-9, currently 39-58-7