was a fabulous week one for all of us (as a group)… while no one
ran away with a dominating performance, everyone finished with
a winning record… only 2 games separate the top from the bottom
in our standings… and basically what you have is that with 16
weeks of games still left to go, representing more than 200 contests…
it’s alot of fun and too close to call.
Jr. leads the way with a 9-4-3 record. Molly and Terry got off
to good starts… and at different points on Sunday, both looked
like potential top finishers. Gus and Sam delivered good openings
two is a fun place in the NFL, because it may the biggest week
of potential overreactions that the season provides. Are the Bengals
done? Are the Patriots dominant? What happened to San Diego? …to
becomes all too easy to look at a club like Minnesota, make a
prediction entering that first game that their offense might have
some troubles given the overall health of everyone, see the results
against New Orleans, and then hold that opinion against the Vikings
this week as if it’s been proven rock solid. It’s a valid question.
It’s one I raised. Rock solid? No. Not yet.
yourself a favor… for your first glance, look at each and every
one of these games as if it is still week one of the season. Pretend
last week never happened for a moment. Then, after you’ve thought
about the game, bring in last week’s effort for consideration.
Some teams played exactly the way you expected. Some perhaps a
bit better… some a bit worse. And a few were off the charts in
one direction or the other.
important thing to remember is that someone that stunk last week
is going to look awesome this week… and someone that delivered
big is going to look like crap. If you automatically believe in
Seattle because they thumped the 49ers, you may be in for a surprise.
got a few large favorites at home this week… and it is worth noting
that last season in weeks 3 and 4 the large home favorites went
7-0 after going 2-2 in weeks 1 and 2. It fluctuated a bit for
the rest of the year, but that was where the big swing took place.
Even if week 2 and not 3, I think it’s worth considering when
you see a Green Bay club returning home… even when favored by
13. Worth considering when you see an embarrassed Dallas club
returning home… even when favored by 8½. (That game features
the man… myth… legend… Cutler on the road.)
week I thought we’d change things up a bit and head to visit Zombieland.
Great movie… you may not have seen it… and if you haven’t, go
find it now and then come back… I’ll wait.
City at Cleveland (2)
– “They’re in the back, aren’t they?”
“Just me.” “I’m really sorry. She was a good crouching tiger...”
“You got taken hostage by a 12-year old?” Strange
game here. For instance… let’s go back to the idea I expressed
in kicking off this column. Forget game one. If I tossed you the
schedules in August and asked you to pick a team, would you be
leaning more toward Kansas City or Cleveland? Confusing, right?
Neither club possessing much “best player on the field” talent
worthy of note. Neither club looking to be a major achiever in
2010. So let’s bring week one in to the mix. And there we find
that the world makes sense… Kansas City defeated San Diego on
the road, Cleveland lost to Tampa Bay on the road, and here we
have Cleveland favored. (Yeah, that was sarcasm. It makes no sense
at all.) Interesting note worth mentioning… after this weekend,
the Browns face a string of the Ravens, Bengals, Falcons, Steelers,
Saints, Patriots, Jets and Jaguars. 0-10 is definitely starting
to look possible. (And, if you saw the full schedule, they aren’t
many mistakes from 0-16.) Word on the street is that the Browns
might start Angie Smith, a 3-year veteran of their cheerleading
squad, at quarterback for an ailing Jake Delhomme.
Bob: Kansas City
Terry: Kansas City
Mike Jr: Kansas City
Sam: Kansas City
at Green Bay (13)
– “Where are you, you spongy, yellow,
delicious bastards?” There really is no Angie
Smith cheering for the Browns. (Does Cleveland even have cheerleaders?
I don’t think they do. Maybe it’s a Facebook page or something.
Cold weather city too. That screws things up. Oh… wait… we’ve
moved to Buffalo at Green Bay… sorry about that.) Wow. Two touchdowns.
It’s awfully tempting to say Buffalo can keep that spread low,
isn’t it? Ryan Grant out… and so on… and so on. Last year Buffalo
didn’t look hideous on the road… 3-5 was their record. But a deeper
look shows that they defeated the Jets, Panthers, and Chiefs while
traveling. While a couple of losses were close, 3 were just monstrous
blowouts, and honestly this club only did well against quality
opponents when they were divisional rivals. Edge… Green Bay. In
2009 the Packers pretty impressively took care of business. Sure…
they lost a couple of games to playoff teams (2 to Minnesota,
then Cincinnati) and on the road (Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay). Get
this though… 11 wins, every one of them by at least 6 points,
8 by at least 10 points, and 6 by 20 or more. Edge… you already
Bob: Green Bay
Terry: Green Bay
Mike: Green Bay
Mike Jr: Green Bay
Molly: Green Bay
Sam: Green Bay
(1½) at Cincinnati
– “There’s a box of Twinkies in
that grocery store. Not just any box of Twinkies. The last box
of Twinkies that anyone will enjoy in the whole universe. Believe
it or not, Twinkies have an expiration date. Some day very soon,
life's little Twinkie gauge is gonna go... empty.”
This is exactly the kind of game Cincinnati won in 2009. Quality
opponent… close score… surprise ending… move on. And guess what?
I expect them to rebound and play well in this game. The Ravens
defeated the Jets… but that game should never have finished with
that score. Amazingly, in a way I came away from it more concerned
about Baltimore than I did New York. The trick is… you simply
can’t play against the Ravens from behind. I know that isn’t a
100% certainty… but it’s true enough. If they score the first
10 or so points, the defense kicks in and they will shut you down.
The Bengals have to continue to play better than they did in the
first half against New England, likely score first, and hopefully
score often. I’m predicting a 20-17 win for the home team.
Mike Jr: Baltimore
at Tennessee (5)
– “Who’s Bill Murray?” “I’ve never
hit a kid before. I mean, that’s like asking who Gandhi is.” “Who’s
Gandhi?” Last year the Steelers survived a scare
from the Titans in the opener, and promptly lost the next 2 on
the road. Overall in 2009 they went 3-5 away from Pittsburgh,
with the most impressive victory being a total domination of Denver.
We should note though that one of those road losses was against
Baltimore… with one Mr. Dennis Dixon playing quarterback for them.
Dixon… Dixon… why does that name ring a bell? Tennessee is coming
off of a solid opener where they coasted to victory over the Raiders.
They went 8-2 in the final 10 games of 2009. And… if we combine
those 10 games with this year’s first contest, well… Tennessee
is scoring 28 a game while giving up 20. You would think that
the big question is can Pittsburgh stop Chris Johnson. (Can anyone,
really? What counts as stopping him? 140 combined yards and 2
touchdowns?) And that is a good question. But when you check out
the records you find that somehow, with Vince Young at quarterback,
the Titans are putting up 4 or more scores per game, and getting
into the end zone. And I don’t know if the Steelers can keep pace
Mike Jr: Tennessee
(4½) at Detroit
– “That guy down there... is me.
I’m in Garland, Texas. And it may look like zombies destroyed
it, but that’s actually just Garland.” On principle,
I want to pick Detroit. I hate… hate… hate this match for the
Lions though. Their quarterback… Stafford is out, Hill in… is
hit and miss. At best. Sure they won 2 home games last year… they
were against Washington and Cleveland. And while they did at times
look ok at home, none of the others were ever really close enough
to scare the opposing club. Philly often plays as well on the
road as they do at home. I know… I know… Oakland shut them down
last season. Still, they went 5-3 and the other losses were to
Dallas and San Diego. It’s not quite as ugly as the Raiders make
it seem. Last week, after scoring a field goal, the Eagles gave
up 20 unanswered, but still rallied to make a game of it. Now…
if you sense some flip-flopping… here we go with the true fun.
The Lions lost to the Bears… a Bears team that gave up 4 turnovers…
a Bears team that had 23 first downs and 463 total yards. I mean…
sure… you could even argue the Lions did win the game. The reality
is, in every area of play except turnovers they were beaten.
Mike Jr: Philadelphia
at Dallas (8½)
– “In those moments where you’re
not quite sure if the undead are really dead dead, don't get all
stingy with your bullets. I mean, one more clean shot to the head,
and this lady could have avoided becoming a human Happy Meal.
Woulda... coulda... shoulda.” Jay Cutler on the
road. Warning… warning… warning… danger Will Robinson, danger!
He almost blew it last week at home against Detroit, and was saved
by a simply horrible finish. Hmm… a ticked off Dallas team, looking
to shake off last week, visited by a questionable Chicago team.
Since I have nothing else to really say beyond the Cutler warning,
here’s a funny, stupid thought. A couple of years ago, as my fading
memory recalls, Tony Romo was leading the Cowboys against the
Rams. Dallas was favored by something like 47-points. I figured
there was no way they could cover. Only they did. Is it a big
spread? Yeah. Have you seen Jay Cutler wearing a Chicago road
uniform? It’s not an unreasonable spread.
Mike Jr: Dallas
Bay at Carolina (Pick)
– “Thank God for rednecks!” No
spread by Thursday morning, here at In My Backpack that
creates a pick ‘em. The Bucs got very lucky last week to defeat
the Browns. That was at home. I think Carolina is going to run
wild this week.
Mike: Tampa Bay
Mike Jr: Carolina
Molly: Tampa Bay
Gus: Tampa Bay
at Atlanta (6½)
– “You should actually limber up
as well. Especially if we’re going down that hill. It is very
important.” “I don’t believe in it. You ever see a lion limber
up before it takes down a gazelle?” Isn’t this
spread too high? I mean… sure… two or three weeks ago, when everyone
was talking about how the Cardinals were going to be running quarterback-for-a-day
radio promotions and looked a bit sad and disorganized. Then it
kind of worked. And over the full season, I think the Cardinals
will suffer by fielding an average to below average quarterback
each week. But a touchdown? Now? Funny thing though… Matt Ryan
tends to have a very short memory. And when Atlanta looks good…
they can look very good. Last week Arizona defeated St. Louis
in one of those great all-things-are-not-what-they-seem games.
Ugly… turnovers and fumbles and a 17-13 victory that shouldn’t
have been that close, only maybe it should have. Derek Anderson
is good for completing just over half of his passes. And… well…
his efforts last week actually were above his career numbers,
and also were, well, nothing more than average.
Mike Jr: Atlanta
at Minnesota (5½)
– “Are you...? What’s with the get-up?”
“Oh, I do it to blend in. You know. Zombies don’t mess with other
zombies. Buddy of mine, makeup guy, he showed me how to do this.
Corn starch. You know, some berries, a little licorice for the
ladies. Suits my lifestyle, you know. I like to get out and do
stuff. Just played nine holes on the Riviera. Just walked on.
Nobody there.” Last year I watched the Dolphins
take leads against quality teams (New Orleans), score in unusual
ways to win games (New York (Jets)), and not get fazed when behind
(New England). Basically, it may not be pretty, and may not be
what you expect, but they manage to win. I will say that the stories
of Minnesota not having an offense are premature, even though
I definitely think it’s a worthwhile question to consider… and
it is something I thought was true before the season started.
Simply put, this spread is too high. The Dolphins are going to
control the ball, keep the game close, and… if Favre can’t connect
with someone… win.
Mike Jr: Minnesota
Louis at Oakland (4)
– “You have just survived the zombie
apocalypse and drove half way across the country. Where are you
gonna go?” “I’m going to Pacific Playland! Woo!”
Last week Sam Bradford didn’t complete 60% of his passes… 55 pass
attempts by the way… threw for 250+ yards and tossed 3 interceptions.
The Rams lost by 4. Oakland got clocked by Tennessee. As near
as I can tell, the Oakland offensive game plan is to hand the
ball off to McFadden and get out of the way, or, throw the ball
to McFadden and get out of the way. Honestly, you can’t argue
the concept when it works so well for Tennessee. But… as shown
last week, head to head… McFadden is not Johnson. See how well
an argument can be made for the Rams? The trouble for me though
is that the Rams generally do not keep things close. 15 losses
last season, and 9 were by 10 or more points. Sure… I could see
this being similar to last year’s 9-7 game between St. Louis and
Washington. But I don’t expect it to be.
Mike Jr: St. Louis
Molly: St. Louis
Sam: St. Louis
at Denver (3½)
– “Oh, my God. Oh, my God,
I can't believe I shot Bill Murray.” This is one
of the best examples I can give you of week one results giving
you a confusing time with the spread in week two. Seahawks won…
big… so good for them. Broncos lost… bad for them. The obvious
read of the situation is that Seattle is much better than you
would think, and Denver has started this year the way they finished
2009… inconsistent and worse than expected. And the Broncos are
favored? It’s not that crazy though. Seattle travels in mysteriously
bad ways. 1-7 in 2009… only defeating St. Louis, and every loss
by at least 11. 2-6 in 2008… defeating St. Louis and San Francisco,
and 5 of the 6 losses by 10 or more. (Keep that in mind… because
in reviewing the division theme and trend, Seattle should get
swept on the road in 2010. We’ll worry about that later. Back
to Denver.) I’d love to tell you Denver looked good at home in
2009… because we all remember that they knocked off Dallas and
New England… but at 4-4, they didn’t look good at home. They just
had moments. Still, I have more faith in their ability to play
a good game than I do in Seattle on the road.
Mike Jr: Denver
(3) at Washington – “You
think you might pull through?” “No.” “If it means anything now,
I am so sorry. It was just instinctive.” “It was my bad. I was
never a very good practical joker.” “So do you have any regrets?”
“Garfield, maybe.” If the Texans want
to be taken seriously, they have to win this game. Yup… last week
was a huge victory. But a loss this week removes virtually every
shred of significance from the win. I wasn’t impressed by what
we saw of the Washington offense last week… which was, as I recall,
primarily supplied by their defense. And I had misgivings about
them before we began week one.
Mike Jr: Houston
at San Diego (8)
– “You see? You just can’t trust
anyone. The first girl I let into my life and she tries to eat
me.” Better head coach… better running back… I’m
leaning toward the Jaguars here. Really. I don’t think San Diego
is feeling any sense of urgency… which is what normally kicks
them in the pants in recent years. And their inability to beat
the Chiefs screams disorganized to me. By the way… the Chargers
have lost the second game of the season every year Norv Turner
has been their head coach. (Last time they won game number two
was in 2006, with Marty coaching.) Denver didn’t play horribly
last week… they just didn’t play well… and the more I try to find
out exactly what happened, it seems that the Jaguars outright
won the game.
Terry: San Diego
Mike Jr: Jacksonville
Molly: San Diego
England (2) at New York (Jets)
– “You know there’s a place untouched
by all this crap?” “Back east, yeah?” “Yeah. Yeah. You heard the
same thing?” “Out west, we hear it’s back east. Back east, they
hear it’s out west. It’s all just nonsense. You know, you’re like
a penguin on the North Pole who hears the South Pole is really
nice this time of the year.” “There are no penguins on the North
Pole.” “You wanna feel how hard I can punch?” I
didn’t see much of the New York Jets reality show this summer,
but one moment I did see stood out. It was when Rex Ryan was talking
about how they knew they had the right formula for winning. On
the surface… and in his argument for supporting that statement…
since he almost got to the Super Bowl, he could have a point.
But my reaction when I saw it was a bit different. (And immediate.)
Formula? Umm… does that formula include the schedule? Because
Indianapolis rolling over and Cincinnati not showing up gave New
York a nice last two weeks in 2009. And on top of that, things
change very quickly in the NFL. The Lombardi idea of everyone
knowing what the Packers were going to do, but just being completely
unable to stop it… see, that’s gone. Do the same thing over and
over… you know, a formula… and eventually people catch up. So
yeah… a month ago I would have had this game flipped… Jets by
2, Pats a bit better, but New York getting the edge at home. And
something tells me it could be a close game. Could be. But as
I go over the options, I simply don’t see a way the Jets win.
The emotions just don’t seem as palpable coming from New York.
The swagger is being attempted, but it’s not nearly the same.
The Jets are not in the zone. And that Patriots swagger… taking
care of business, one game at a time… may be returning to glory
days. In fact… a bit of true critical analysis, based of course
on gut instinct. Let’s take New England out of it. (The offense
at least.) How many points do you see New York scoring? 10? 14?
17? 20 or more? They’ve been having trouble protecting the football,
from preseason to now. We still haven’t established if they can
pass the ball (and I mean not just this year… last year too).
And last year one of my observations… I’m not looking it up, but
remember a few stats backed it up at the time… was that they were
kicking a ton of field goals and not scoring touchdowns. I think
9 to 16 points is really the target you are aiming at for the
Jets in virtually every game this season, regardless of the opponent.
And getting over 14 this week should involve alot of help from
the defense. Against them we find an elite offense. And I expect
a methodical, systematic victory for New England. Could be by
1 or 2 points… might be by 20. But I see the Patriots winning.
Bob: New England
Terry: New York
Mike: New England
Mike Jr: New England
Molly: New York
Gus: New England
Sam: New England
York (Giants) at Indianapolis (5½)
– “Are you one of those guys who
has to constantly one-up everyone else?” “Hell, no! I knew a guy
once who was a lot worse at that than me.” Indy…
no, no… New York… no, don’t be an idiot… Indy… hold on, hold on…
New York. Honestly, does anyone care about this game as much as
NBC does? There’s a reason the Colts have consistently won a ton
of regular season games over the past several seasons. They’re
good… and consistent. New York played nice in the second half
last week, but I refuse to be taken in by that. (Now… if you want
to argue that Eli has a history of getting the Giants close (or
better) in big games… at least for that argument I’d listen.)
In this contest though… coming off a rough loss… I expect a big
Terry: New York
Mike: New York
Mike Jr: New York
Molly: New York
Gus: New York
Orleans (4½) at San Francisco
– “When Tallahassee goes Hulk on
a zombie, he sets the standard for not-to-be-f**ked-with.”
Another game that really matters to the Saints. Honestly… after
starting out quite impressively, they didn’t look that hot as
the game against the Vikings moved along. And with an opportunity
to play potential 2010 division-winning clubs like Minnesota and
now San Francisco to start the season, they have a chance to take
control of the race for the top seed in the NFC. But you have
to expect San Francisco to be ticked off. They didn’t show up
for last week’s game, and an 0-2 start will be placing them somewhat
near where they were last year… stepping in holes. For every step
forward and gain they made last season, they seemed to create
another challenge. Minnesota beat them last minute… they played
well against Indianapolis… but in the end, they lost and couldn’t
make up ground when they won. Now they get decked by Seattle only
to see New Orleans arriving. Something is ringing in my head not
to predict the Saints will score 35 or more. That taking New Orleans
is too easy. Hey… maybe it is too easy. But as I said, don’t be
suckered in by week one.
Bob: San Francisco
Terry: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Mike Jr: New Orleans
Molly: San Francisco
Gus: San Francisco
Sam: San Francisco
~ ~ ~
Jr: Last week 9-4-3, currently 9-4-3
Molly: Last week 8-5-3, currently 8-5-3
Terry: Last week 8-5-3, currently 8-5-3
Bob: Last week 8-5-3, currently 8-5-3
Mike: Last week 7-6-3, currently 7-6-3
Gus: Last week 7-6-3, currently 7-6-3
Sam: Last week 7-6-3, currently 7-6-3