The March Toward Mediocrity continues full steam ahead, after last week’s 7-9. We mentioned the fact last week that at this point there are several teams sitting at 2-0 which cause one to scratch one’s head, and this season is no different. The Lions, Texans, 49ers, Packers and Redskins all fit the bill. Equally surprising are some of the names found on the winless list, however: The Saints and Eagles, two teams which need to get better, now, and put up a number in the W column this week.
Self-congratulations are in order, as we correctly predicted an exact score last week (Chicago 20 Kansas City 10). The New York Times attempted to do this for several years before getting one right. Ha! Take that, Old Grey Lady! Also, new this week will be a “Best Bets” feature, where the three games of which we feel most confident will be noted.
Full of confidence, and ready to surge above the .500 mark, we submit the picks:
San Diego (-4 ½) over GREEN BAY
Surprising Pack getting points at Lambeau? The defense is for real, but will have its hands full against potent Charger attack. Bolts need a big performance here after the debacle in Foxboro Sunday night, and another ugly performance could be the beginning of the finger pointing and “maybe they’re not as good as we thought” columns. Look for LDT to get in gear and pace SD to victory. Norv Turner is still living up to his stellar coaching record, isn’t he?
Chargers 23 Packers 17
Indianapolis (-5 1/2 ) over HOUSTON
Loss of Andre Johnson is huge for host Texans, but Indy survived scare last week and won’t take Houston lightly. The fact that Houston is 2-0 keeps the number down, which makes Colts the smart play, not to mention the revenge factor in play after Colts lost to Texans late last season..
Colts 23 Texans 10
KANSAS CITY (-2 ½) over Minnesota
Chiefs had chances last week in Chicago, but couldn’t convert. Why is it that Herm Edwards’ teams always seem to start slowly? Is it a lack of preparation in training camp (if you saw Hard Knocks, that answer could be self-evident)? Although last year isn’t a perfect gauge, we note that KC was 0-2 then as well, having scored 16 points in two losses, then exploded in Week 3 to the tune of a 41-0 blowout of San Francisco. Vikes offense is in disarray (who, exactly, will be taking the snaps is still up in the air), and going to noisy Arrowhead won’t help. KC looks like a team that will get better as the season moves along, though that won’t necessarily translate to more than 6 wins, they should have enough in the tank to knock off Minny.
Chiefs 19 Vikings 13
NEW ENGLAND (-15 ½) over Buffalo
Potential letdown alert here for Pats. Bills come in struggling on both sides of the ball, and simply can’t match up with explosive Patriots. We can see perhaps a first half struggle which keeps things close, but talented Brady, Moss and Co. will pull away and cover the huge number. Start the “can the Pats go undefeated?” stories on Monday, and be prepared for many interviews with members of the ’72 Dolphins.
Patriots 31 Bills 10
NY JETS (-3 ½) over Miami
Jets showed moxie last week in nearly pulling out victory in Baltimore, while depleted Fins wore down in loss to Dallas. No Zach Thomas hurts Dolphins, while the return of Chad Pennington (with Kellen Clemens threat looming behind), plus a big effort from Thomas Jones, should help the Jets in Jersey.
Jets 24 Dolphins 14
Detroit (+6 ½) over PHILADELPHIA
Iggles are a mess, and playing at home doesn’t seem to help. Every little mistake is magnified, and Donovan “Woe is Me” McNabb juts doesn’t look right. Lions are rejuvenated, and should be able to at least cover this line on the road, if not win outright.
Lions 20 Eagles 17
PITTSBURGH (-8 ½) over San Francisco
Can’t see Steelers letting down against a Niner team that hasn’t looked particularly sharp, despite winning both games. SF QB Alex Smith will be under tons of pressure, and Pittsburgh will have a surprisingly easy time at the Field Named After Ketchup.
Steelers 27 49ers 13
TAMPA BAY (-3 ½) over St. Louis
Somehow we’d forgotten about the magic that is Jeff Garcia. Honestly, this guy is something else – he led basically the same Eagle team currently struggling under Donovan McNabb to 6 wins last year, and now has this Buc team lighting up the scoreboard. Rams minus Orlando Pace are finding it hard to open up decent holes for Stephen Jackson as well as protect Marc Bulger’s blind side. Hearty Buc D will keep the heat on in sunny FLA and move to 2-1.
Buccaneers 30 Rams 16
Jacksonville (+3 ½) over DENVER
Classic sucker bet here, but we’re taking it anyway. Jags can’t possibly seem more discombobulated, but are now entering the “do or die” phase. Broncs have eked out two wins against clearly inferior opponents, and could very easily be 0-2 right now. The less than crisp play will catch up to them this week. As Jack Del Rio coaches for his job.
Jaguars 20 Broncos 17
Cleveland (+3 ½) over OAKLAND
What? Browns, who put up 51 last week, are getting points against the Raiduhs? Seems like another sucker line, but the feeling here is that the resurgent Brownies will put together enough to at the very least keep this one close. Maybe this week Sea Bass Janikowski nails that late FG in one should be an entertaining game.
Raiders 30 Browns 27
SEATTLE (-3 ½) over Cincinnati
Hawks should be 2-0 but for a botched handoff exchange in the opener, while Bengals have been perhaps the most erratic team in the league. That inconsistency will doom them in the Pacific Northwest. Also, as a side note, Chad Johnson? We like you, honestly, but knock it off already.
Seahwaks 31 Bengals 20
Carolina (-3 ½) over ATLANTA
Falcons don’t seem to have it together yet, and now QB Joey Harrington knows the team has no faith in him as they brought in Byron Leftwich this week. Panthers kicking themselves after squandering 14-0 lead last week, and will not suffer similar fate here simply because Atlanta seems incapable of putting that many points on the board right now.
Panthers 24 Falcons 7
WASHINGTON (-4 ½) over NY Giants
‘Skins seem to be the real deal, with QB Jason Campbell improving each week to go along with decent running game. Either way, the extremely porous Giants defense will allow Joe Gibbs’ guys easy passage to the promised land. Quick show of hands: who saw this Washington team starting 3-0? Nobody? Yeah, us neither.
Redskins 34 Giants 17
CHICAGO (-3 ½) over Dallas
Another gut check game for the defending NFC champs. How much longer can they sustain with Rex Grossman running the show? Stellar defense should be able to bottle up Tony Romo and Co., but if the Bear offense doesn’t get it in gear soon it will be a very long year in the Windy City. It might be ugly, but Bears prevail in front of the national TV audience.
Bears 24 Cowboys 9
Tennessee (+4 ½) over NEW ORLEANS
Must win deal for the Saints, no doubt. Titans are a very tough team to blow out, that’s for sure, and should have no trouble keeping this one tight. We still believe in New Orleans, maybe too much, and the hunch is that Drew Brees and Reggie Bush will put up just enough to withstand the inevitable Titan late run.
Saints 23 Titans 21
BEST BETS: Colts, Patriots, Steelers
Last week: 7-9
Season total: 15-17 (46.9%)
Exact Score Total: 1