Finishing Up the First Half
Big Division Games Shape Playoff Picture
Hmmm ... I just have nothing to say here. So let's just get right to the picks, shall we?
Sunday, Nov. 4
Atlanta (5-2) at Detroit (1-6), 1 p.m.
What a way to start the week. Michael Vick has resembled something of a quarterback lately. Detroit has resembled something of a high school team for years. Analysis? Please.
Prediction: Falcons, 35-13.
Cincinnati (4-3) at Baltimore (5-2), 1 p.m.
Huge battle for the division lead between a couple slightly better than average teams. Wow. It wasn't long ago that some people thought there were three excellent teams in this division. Steve McNair had a great game against New Orleans last week, and Baltimore's defense should be able to contain Cincinnati's offense. Cincy has lost two straight and no longer looks like a contender (Remember what I said about the 2001 Patriots and what happened to contending teams after they played New England?). Cincinnati doesn't win close, low-scoring games. They need to score lots of points, and I don't see them doing it here.
Prediction: Ravens, 17-14.
Dallas (4-3) at Washington (2-5), 1 p.m.
This really shouldn't be a big test for Dallas, but Tony Romo is starting just his second game, and while he looked great last week, we know he's know going to go undefeated in his career (right, Ben?). Washington beat Dallas twice last year. Dallas won both games in 2004. Fair or not, I'll attribute the 2005 Washington wins to Terrell Owens's disruption. Dallas won handily at home in Week 2. The rematch should reveal nothing new. Washington has lost three straight. Home field is their only hope, but Dallas is fighting to get back into the division race. Washington is fighting to ... um ... well ... nothing.
Prediction: Cowboys, 34-10.
Green Bay (3-4) at Buffalo (2-5), 1 p.m.
Both teams beat Miami. Green Bay also beat Arizona and Detroit. Buffalo beat Minnesota. Both are supposed to be cold-weather teams. Basically a coin flip.
Prediction: Bills, 28-24.
Houston (2-5) at N.Y. Giants (5-2), 1 p.m.
Here's my upset of the week: If you lay money on Houston, you'll be upset. Unless it's a "trap." New York plays Chicago next week.
Prediction: Giants, 38-10.
Kansas City (4-3) at St. Louis (4-3), 1 p.m.
Kansas City is just a game behind San Diego and Denver for the division lead. Damon Huard would have a shot at comeback player of the year -- except that he was never really anywhere to fall from leading to somewhere to comeback from. How about most improved? How about a possible Pro Bowl? This is a big test for Herm Edwards's squad to see if they can win on the road. Big wins in the last two week were at home, and one against a team that lost its offense. After losing two straight, St. Louis needs to win to prove they deserve some claim to the NFC West division lead, because they still haven't beat anyone really good since Denver in Week 1.
Prediction: Chiefs, 28-24.
Miami (1-6) at Chicago (7-0), 1 p.m.
Can Miami, coming off a bye, surprise Chicago at home? Chicago follows today with back-to-back trips to the Meadowlands to face the Giants and the Jets. Pretty interesting. At least until the ball is snapped.
Prediction: Bears, 31-13.
New Orleans (5-2) at Tampa Bay (2-5), 1 p.m.
Until last week, New Orleans played in three straight 3-point games, winning two and losing one. Until last week, Tampa Bay played in four straight games decided by 3 points or less, losing the first two and winning the lats two. Both teams got crushed last week. One of those three point games was New Orleans beating Tampa in the Superdome, 24-21. You have to wonder if New Orleans wins by just three at home if they can beat Tampa in Florida. You have to wonder if Tampa is really coming around since the advent of The Next Tom Brady (you all realize that I say that mockingly, right?) of if they just had a couple lucky weeks. New Orleans needs the win to stay in the division race. Tampa Bay would be better off at this point playing for a draft pick. But Jon Gruden doesn't think that way. Kind of hard to imagine how he thinks.
Prediction: Saints, 24-21.
Tennessee (2-5) at Jacksonville (4-3), 1 p.m.
After beating Washington and Houston, Tennessee is ready to beat Jacksonville, who, of course, lost to Houston. Yeah, it took me a while to stop laughing, too. I don't know about this QB switch under the guise of an injury, but David Garrard isn't too bad a quarterback. Still, it would be difficult to attribute last week's win over Philadelphia to him. He should be good enough to beat Tennessee.
Prediction: Jaguars, 21-14.
Minnesota (4-3) at San Francisco (2-5), 4:05 p.m.
Getting back to that thing I said about the 2001 Patriots and their opponents' fortunes following losses to New England, let's see how Minnesota does here on the road against a greatly overmatched opponent. You'd have to assume they really want to "make a statement." In their last four games, San Francisco lost three and beat Oakland. Their loses were 41-0 to K.C., 48-19 to San Diego, and 41-10 to Chicago. How the heck did Frisco end up with a tougher schedule than Indianapolis?
Prediction: Vikings, 45-13.
Cleveland (2-5) at San Diego (5-2), 4:15 p.m.
Cleveland needed a little help to hold off the New York Jets at home last week. San Diego's two losses have both been on the road, and by three points each. Dare I say Cleveland has "no chance"? Yes, I do. Cleveland has no chance.
Prediction: Chargers, 35-9.
Denver (5-2) at Pittsburgh (2-5), 4:15 p.m.
If Pittsburgh has any hope of salvaging even the slightest vestiges of respectability or pride, it's now. Otherwise, they'll be recognized as the most undeserving Super Bowl champion ... I was going to say "since the Trent Dilfer Baltimore Ravens," but I'll just go with "ever." I can't decide whether Ben Roethlisberger has some kind of death wish or martyr syndrome or if he's just an idiot. Bill Cowher is trying to ... well, salvage ... his legacy in Pittsburgh, which seemed solid before this year, but it appears he's willing to sacrifice Roethlisberger to do it. Denver has to be aggravated about losing to Indianapolis, especially at home, and they need to get back on track to maintain position in the suddenly very competitive AFC West. Do they have the fortitude to go on the road and beat what should be a good team? Will Pittsburgh have gleaned anything valuable from Indy's win in Denver? Did Indy "expose" Denver's defense? Can Denver score against Pittsburgh's hot-and-cold defense? How will Batman and the Boy Wonder escape this time?
Prediction: Broncos, 21-20.
Indianapolis (7-0) at New England (6-1), 8:15 p.m.
Please see separately posted game preview.
Prediction: Drive through, please.
Monday, Nov. 5
Oakland (2-5) at Seattle (4-3), 8:30 p.m.
Oakland has won two in a row (against teams that are a combined 3-12). Offensively decimated Seattle has lost two straight against teams that are a combined (8-6). Oakland's defense has looked pretty good (against teams that are a combined 3-12). Oakland has a few key injuries (mostly running backs), but Seattle is still without Matt Hasselback and Shawn Alexander. Oakland can probably win with a couple big plays to Jerry Porter and Randy Moss, but quarterback Andrew Walter has just 3 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. Seattle plays St. Louis before a couple easier games, by which time Hasselback and Alexander should be coming back. In the meantime, they want this win before facing St. Louis. Should be interesting, if not good.
Prediction: Seahawks, 17-14.
Open Date: Arizona (1-7), Carolina (4-4), N.Y. Jets (4-4), Philadelphia (4-4)
There's a pretty good chance Arizona won't lose this week (unless Dennis Green fires somebody). These other 4-4 teams are likely extremely happy to finally have this week off, and they'll all be seriously evaluating and reevaluating exactly what they've done to be 4-4, because at least two of them should probably be 6-2.
Last week: 7 - 7.
This is exactly what Paul Tagliabue wanted: mediocrity.
Season: 69 - 45.
That's what happens when several O-fer teams win two games each over three weeks. Bizarre. Down to 60 percent.