Frighteningly Good Matchups On Tap
Just Two More Wicked Bye Weeks Left
What a wicked web the NFL weaves, while the rest of us have to go rake leaves.
Back to the 14-game schedule this week. And, boy, what a week it should be. There are five matchups of teams that are 4-2 or better. It should be .. er, spook-tacular.
Last week was brutal ("ghoulish" in the parlance of the season) -- for me, anyway. I hardly ever check the odds, so I don't know if I pick all favorites, but I'd have to assume there were a lot of upsets.
Only one more week of creepy byes after this. Then we can start looking at Wild Card haunts .. uh, prospects.
Oh, brother. I'm starting to sound like Dr. Z -- What a Hallo-weenie! That's pretty scary.
I've made some picks that suck .. your blood. (Thanks, Krusty.) Here they are:
Sunday, Oct. 29
Arizona (1-6) at Green Bay (2-4), 1 p.m.
Dennis Green. Who can he blame for losing to Oakland? Arizona scores 23 against a great defense. Green fires the offensive coordinator. They score 9 against an inert defense. There are a lot of high school coaches out there wondering why they don't have NFL head coaching gigs. That switch from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart really helped. And I bet Leinart is wondering "Why couldn't the New York Jets or ... take me?" Green Bay has beaten Detroit and Miami, two awful teams, and there's no reason to believe they can't beat the Surprise Team of the Year. It's going to be sunny and chilly, but not quite frozen. Arizona has a bye next week. Will they quit on this game and try to regroup during the bye, or will they go all out today in hopes of taking something positive and some momentum into the off week? Probably the former.
Prediction: Packers, 31-23.
Atlanta (4-2) at Cincinnati (4-2), 1 p.m.
Key wins for both teams last week. Atlanta pulled off a great win over Pittsburgh, and Michael Vick actually looked like a quarterback for a while. If only he played that way a little more often. Cincy likewise earned a tie for first in the AFC north by beating Carolina. Certainly, there are no perfect teams in the NFL, and these two have their flaws. It's hard to say which Atlanta team and which Cincinnati teams will show up any given week. Atlanta runs the ball. Cincy doesn't have a great running defense. Cincinnati throws the ball. Atlanta doesn't have a great pass defense. That will be exacerbated by several injuries on Atlanta's D line. Could be a lot like the Atlanta-Pittsburgh game last week -- last team with the ball wins.
Prediction: Bengals, 41-38.
Baltimore (4-2) at New Orleans (5-1), 1 p.m.
Both division leaders are coming off a bye weeks. Baltimore's followed a pair of losses to a couple really good teams (Denver and Carolina); New Orleans after two wins, the last over Philadelphia. New Orleans is 3-0 at home, and they're probably getting pretty comforable in that full dome. This could end up being the most spectacular one-year turnaround in the history of sports. But they have to keep winning. Baltimore has an awful offense (and a new offensive coordinator), while New Orlenans has a pretty decent defense. New Orleans also has a very good, balanced offense, while Baltimore has a top-notch defense. No significant injuries. Baltimore is almost depserate for a win; three straight losses is a tailspin. I have doubts their defense, as good as it is, can stop an offense that does everything well.
Prediction: Saints, 23-17.
Houston (2-4) at Tennessee (1-5), 1 p.m.
Houston comes off a bye and gets crushed by Dallas, and then hammers Jacksonville. Tennessee gets crushed by Dallas, then almost beats Indianapolis and does beat Washington, then heads into a bye. Who the heck can figure this stuff? Houston is 0-2 on the road; Tennessee is 0-2 at home. Neither offense or defense is anywhere near the top third of the league, and hardly in the top half. Houston's passing defense is next to last. Tennessee's run defense is last. Well, home field is supposed to be good for three points.
Prediction: Titans, 17-14.
Jacksonville (3-3) at Philadelphia (4-3), 1 p.m.
Talk about up-and-down teams. Jacksonville loses to Washington in OT, annhiliates the Jets, has two weeks to prepare for Houston and loses. Philly wins an emotional game over Dallas, loses an emotional game to New Orleans and then falls to 1-4 Tampa Bay. Jacksonville has some significant injuries, including to QB Byron Leftwich, a big loss to an already low-ranked passing offense. Philly has the top-ranked passing offense in the league. Otherwise, these teams have similar run offenses and similar overall defenses. Jacksonville is 3-0 at home, but 0-3 on the road, and Philadelphia is 2-1 at home, the loss to the New York Giants in Week 2.
Prediction: Eagles, 28-20.
San Francisco (2-4) at Chicago (6-0), 1 p.m.
This should be an easy game to pick. It's been those kinds of games that have been killing me lately. Both teams are coming off byes. San Francisco hasn't given us any reason to believe they'll even be in this game, and Chicago has been steamrolling everybody (if you don't count the first 43 minutes of the Arizona game).
Prediction: Bears, 26-9.
Seattle (4-2) at Kansas City (3-3), 1 p.m.
Seattle has been enigmatic at best, and they're just not so good without Shawn Alexxander, who's listed as doubtful this week, and now they're without Matt Hasselback too (up to four weeks). That clearly didn't help last week against Minnesota. (By the way, why wasn't that a penalty for roughing the quarterback? The hit was clearly below Hasselback's knees and The Carson Palmer Rule says that's a penalty. It was called against Ty Warren against Denver.) Super Bowl runner-up has not been an enviable epithet the last few years (not that the winner is doing all that great). Kansas City is another inconsistent who-can-figure-them performer, who needed some luck to barely hang onto a win at home against San Diego. K.C. has to love Arrowhead, and that may be a distinct advantage this week too. But Trent Green is still out, and Damon Huard is questionable (groin), and he did not practice this week. Next on the list is Brodie Croyle. If he ends up in the game, that changes everything. Right now, it looks like Coyle vs. Seneca Wallace.
Prediction: Chiefs, 14-12.
Tampa Bay (2-4) at N.Y. Giants (4-2), 1 p.m.
The Next Tom Brady has been very Tom Brady-like in leading his team to a couple unlikely victories, including a near win over New Orleans. That makes Tampa a dangerous team, and New York is just the kind of team they want to play: An (yet another) inconsistent team that has won three straight who may think this game is already in the bag. New York is simply a better overall team, and they're playing at home, where they've played only twice so far this year. Four games of six on the road can explain that inconsistency.
Prediction: Giants, 37-17.
St. Louis (4-2) at San Diego (4-2), 4:05 p.m.
St. Louis is coming off a bye after a very disappointing loss to Seattle, but they've done little to impress otherwise, beating three terrible teams by a total of 12 points (and before that, they lost to San Fran). San Diego is livid after failing miserably at Arrowhead last week. After their last loss (to Baltimore in Week 4), they smashed Pittsburgh and then destroyed Frisco. I'm thinking you don't want to play an angry San Diego team, which they most certainly are. St. Louis's game, nothing new, is passing; but San Diego has one of the best pass defenses. St. Louis is also week against the run, which is San Diego's strength. Pretty even in other matchups, but San Diego is clearly the better team. And angry.
Prediction: Chargers, 30-17.
Indianapolis (6-0) at Denver (5-1), 4:15 p.m.
Without a doubt, the Game of the Week. Indy has been skating by, until they did a pretty good job against Washington -- with a lot of help -- in the second half. Denver has not been lighting up the scoreboard, but if you want dark scoreboards, look at their opponents: 44 points in 6 games, two touchdowns. Indy hasn't lost at all, and Denver not since Week 1's fluke at St. Louis. Indy has one of the top pass offenses (No. 2); Denver pass defense is No. 8. Indy's run offense is middle of the pack; Denver's rushing defense is No. 7. Denver's passing offense is awful (No. 29), and Indy's passing defense is No. 3. But that's because you can run on Indy. Their rushing defense is 31st. Denver's running offense is No. 4. This would be a great matchup in the playoffs, huh?
Prediction: Broncos, 24-20.
N.Y. Jets (4-3) at Cleveland (1-5), 4:15 p.m.
In case you haven't heard, New York head coach Eric Mangini replaced Cleveland head coach Romeo Crennel, for whom he worked for years, as New England's defensive coordinator when Crennel left Foxboro for the .. um .. oranger pastures in Ohio. As usual, this has little to no impact on the game. New York has been pretty good, barring the Jacksonville game. Their only other losses are to Indy and New England, and they were in those games. Of course, their wins are over Tennessee, Buffalo, Miami and Detroit. Cleveland is .. not good. But they did score one of the two touchdowns allowed by Denver. But, once again, Cleveland's rushing defense is pretty poor, and it's hard to win in this leauge when teams can run on you. Their offense stinks too. Completely.
Prediction: Jets, 27-7.
Pittsburgh (2-4) at Oakland (1-5), 4:15 p.m.
You have to wonder about the wisdom of Ben Roethlisberger playing in this game. In fact, I hesitate to call it "wisdom." Roethlisberger is not too many hits away from Troy Aikman V-8 Land. Maybe Bill Cowher figures the Pittsburgh blockers can handle lowly Oakland, but why take a chance? What is this win-now-at-all-costs mentality on a 2-4 team with two (Allegedly) excellent teams already in front of them? Does the future (after 2006) mean nothing? Charlie Batch's performances have shown that you can probably plug almost any mediocre quarterback into this system and be successful. It's certainly not the quarterback winning most of the games (well, two wins) here. Maybe they'll just run Willie Parker against Oakland's run defense, in which case, can't Batch hand off the ball as well as Roethlisberger? I'm sure Art Shell is happy that part two of his coaching career doesn't end winless, but does Oakland have any chance of making it two in a row?
Prediction: Steelers, 33-13.
Dallas (3-3) at Carolina (4-3), 8:15 p.m.
OK, it's only Week 8, but both teams are on the fringe of the playoff hunt. While not quite desperate (yet), both would certainly love a win here. The quarterback situation in Dallas is dire. Drew Bledsoe is not the answer, but switching to Tony Romo is certainly a step away from panic. Owner Jerry Jones doesn't like the move. Terrell Owens does. Bledsoe is apparently trying the "good soldier" role he played in New England so well in that Super Bowl season. He plays that role better than he plays quarterback. Think he'd make a good quarterbacks coach? He's clearly not fit to be Jeopary! champion, but he seems to be pretty good and might even excel when he doesnt have to make split-second decisions. Most of his backups seem to do rather well with Bledsoe on the sideline. Carolina is yet another of those mysterious now-we're-good-now-we're-not teams. Carolina's defense is fantastic, when they decide to play, and mediocre otherwise. Dallas will probably try to run the ball while Romo gets acclimated.
Prediction: Panthers, 23-21.
Monday, Oct. 30
New England (5-1) at Minnesota (4-2), 8:30 p.m.
Please see the separately posted game preview.
Prediction: Havea nice day.
Open Date: Buffalo (2-5), Detroit (1-6), Miami (1-6), Washington (2-5)
Oh, that explains all the good matchups this week.
Last week: 4 - 9.
Um, let's never speak of this again.
Season: 62 - 38.
That's an even 62 percent after 100 games. I was 6-8 in Week 7 last year leaving me at 57-45. I don't know why I keep bring up last year. As we all know, last year doesn't mean anything. Right, coach?