Thursday, September 18, 2008

NFL 2008 - Week 3

Week 2: 8-6-1

Overall: 14-16-1

The Smartest Thing I Said Last Week:

It's like they're giving away money this week, isn't it? The Lions defense got carved up by a rookie QB and a career backup running back last week; do you really think the mighty Packers will have any trouble with them?

The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week:

The 49ers stink, probably, but injuries have so depleted the Seahawks at wide receiver that, out of desperation, they just went and signed a couple of those guys who catch the fish that they throw at Pike Place Market.

I think those fish guys will get the job done.

Chiefs @ FALCONS -5.5

I said something last week along the lines of a five-point spread being a "Vegas has no idea" line. Thinking it over, I had it wrong; a five-point spread is actually a "Vegas thinks you have no idea" line.

And Vegas is right, in this instance; I don't really have much of an idea. I think this number might be lower if the Falcons hadn't won relatively big in Week 1. Then they lost relatively big last week. So who knows?

Well, one thing everyone knows is that the Chiefs really stink. I didn't spring for the DirecTV football package this season (good thing, too; if I'd had to watch that Vikings-Colts game live I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have survived it) so I was stuck with Raiders-Chiefs (the L.A. CBS affiliate apparently thought we'd rather watch that than a good game), and never did I think we'd see the day when there were large patches of unoccupied seats in Arrowhead Stadium at kickoff of the Chiefs home opener. Against the Raiders, no less.

You know it's really bad when a Vikings fan can look at the Chiefs' quarterback situation and think to himself, "wow, there but for the grace of God goes my team."

Raiders @ BILLS -9.5

Sure, the Raiders won in Kansas City last week, but they're in disarray. Nobody wants to be there, from the players to the coaches. When the attitude of everyone in the organization is less "we're going to win it all this year, yay!" and more "I didn't know it was even possible to be this miserable while making this much money," you're probably not winning two straight road games.

They're begging you to consider taking the Raiders, aren't they, with that ten-point line. I won't bite. It seems like every year a team seemingly comes out of nowhere, builds some momentum, gets every bounce and, before you know it, makes the playoffs at 12-4. This could be the Bills' year, and a home game against the Raiders could be Buffalo's coming out party.

BENGALS @ Giants -13.5

Faithful readers will remember that last week, I predicated my picks on the idea that I would want to be able to justify my incorrect picks after the fact. "Hey, how could I not pick the Cowboys, as good as they've been?," I imagined -- and later found -- myself saying after they failed to cover the 7-point spread in their 41-37 victory over the Eagles. I went a middling 8-6-1 last week, as we've seen, with no major regrets.

I tell you all of this because I'm abandoning it this week, or at least for this game. For reasons that remain unknown even to me, I'm taking the Bengals in this one. I suppose I figure that the Bengals offense can't possibly continue to be as bad as it's been, and the Giants -- last week against the Rams notwithstanding -- don't seem to be the type of team that scores a crapload of points.

So we'll see; it's a reckless pick, but maybe it will pay off.

Dolphins @ PATRIOTS -12.5

I'm still not sold on the Pats with QB Matt Cassel at the helm. Their defense has looked impressive, but against the Chiefs and the Jets. And the Chiefs and the Jets are not exactly the 1999 Rams on offense.

But the Dolphins may be even worse, so it would be silly not to pick New England this week. And, while I may be -- and sometimes am -- wrong, you've got another thing coming if you think for one solitary second that I'm going to be silly.

Texans @ TITANS -5

The Texans are coming off of a bye week, but, I'm not sure that means they'll be incredibly well-rested. I mean, there's the "banging your way through the hotel staff at some secluded Caribbean resort" bye week, and then there's the "fleeing a catastrophic hurricane" bye week, and Houston's bye week was more the latter than the former.

This was supposed to be the Texans' year (isn't it always?), but they looked pretty bad in Week 1. And the Titans look like they're for real, that kind of tough, smashmouth team with a suffocating defense and a grinding running game that needs only a competent quarterback who can keep the mistakes to a minimum (and, as luck would have it, I have just described Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, who's starting on Sunday).

Buccaneers @ BEARS -3

What a nice Week 3 game, huh? Even if it does feature two starting quarterbacks -- Brian Griese of the Bucs and Kyle Orton of the Bears -- who very recently used to back up Rex Grossman (which would be a little like a boxing match between two guys who had each recently lost a fight to Arvid from "Head of the Class").

I'm not sure these two teams are as evenly matched as the oddsmakers seem to think they are (seeing as how home field advantage is generally though to be worth three points). The Bears beat the Colts in Indy and then lost to a Carolina team that I'm convinced may well be among the NFC elite, while the Buccaneers, I contend, are a middle-of-the-pack outfit. Maybe we were all wrong about Chicago; maybe last season was the fluke, and the 2006 Super Bowl team represented the real Bears.

Cardinals @ REDSKINS -3

If you look at the Cardinals schedule, you can make the case that they could very well win the NFC West and make the playoffs without beating a single decent team. They haven't beaten one yet, and the Redskins seemed to show that they were decent last week, when they beat a decent Saints team.

I really think the Cardinals are finally going to the playoffs, but they might go 7-9 as they do. It's not as if they've got no chance against the 'Skins, but I'll believe they can beat a decent team when I see it.

Panthers @ VIKINGS -3.5

Picking with my heart rather than my head; with all the excitement at the beginning of the season, I can't bear the thought of the Vikings starting out 0-3.

But the Vikings aren't a completely irrational choice; their defense has been really good, and it looks like they're making the switch at quarterback from Tarvaris Jackson to Gus Frerotte, the world's second-most famous football-playing Gus (the most famous being the titular field goal-kicking mule from the 1976 Disney movie "Gus," starring, among others, Tim Conway, Dick Butkus, Bob Crane, Johnny Unitas, Tom Bosley, Don Knotts and Ed Asner. If you haven't seen it, you must).

SAINTS @ Broncos -5.5

You know, I'm not convinced about either of these teams. The Broncos, by all rights, should be 1-1 with their one victory coming over a bad, bad Raiders team. The Saints have played two good-but-not-great teams, beating one. So, just because I need some road teams in there, I'll pick the Saints (and, it should be noted, this game has the "Vegas thinks you have no idea" point spread, and I, in fact, have no idea. Vegas is smart).

LIONS @ 49ers -4

The first of two games in a row that, although it's only Week 3, promise to have absolutely no effect on anything relating to which teams ultimately make the playoffs. But, much like how it's the pee-break categories that often decide the winner of the Oscar pool, games like this often decide whether you put up a good week or a bad week, and there's nothing you can do about it.

I still think the 49ers are bad. I talk once in a while about how good teams, even borderline-great teams, have a hiccup every once in a while where they lose to a team they shouldn't. It should follow, then, that bad teams have a hiccup every once in a while where they beat a team they shouldn't. Really, every team in the NFL has tons of good players; a weird bounce here or there, and any team can beat anyone else (I'm really breaking some news with that revelation, I know). You only have your best ideas about what's most likely to happen; that's all you can go on. And I think the 49ers are likely to lose to the Lions by more than four.

Rams @ SEAHAWKS -9.5

There's really no way a person can justify picking either of these teams this week, is there? The Seahawks have fallen far and fast, but, since they still might be able to talk themselves into believing that they've got a shot at the playoffs if they win this week (even if I'm pretty sure that's not the case), I'll go with them.

Steelers @ EAGLES -3

I think we've got a good idea what to make of the Eagles; this game could well turn out to be a referendum on the Steelers. Are they really the best team in the AFC? If they are, you have to think they'll win this one.

I'm more sure that the Eagles are a darn good team, capable of holding serve at home, than I'm sure that the Steelers are one of the two or three best teams in the league. Throw in the fact that Big Ben is a little banged up at quarterback for the Steelers, and I'm willing to give the Eagles a shot.

Browns @ RAVENS -2.5

Because it's pretty obvious that God hates Cleveland.

JAGUARS @ Colts -5.5

Another five-point line, and another "no idea" game for me. Both teams desperately need a win, both teams are looking up at the Titans, both teams have been disappointing thus far. I like the Jaguars; the Colts had no business winning against the Vikings (a competent offense would have been up 30-0, not 15-0, over the Colts last week), and the Jaguars are too tough to expect them to lose by six or more.

COWBOYS @ Packers +3

I think the Cowboys are emerging as the team to beat in the NFC, if not the entire NFL. They'll win in the road, they'll win in shootouts, they'll just win. That classic Monday-nighter against the Eagles was too close for comfort; I don't see the Cowboys letting the Packers hang around on Sunday night.

Jets @ CHARGERS -9

The case has been made that no team ever suffered worse back-to-back losses than the Chargers the last two weeks, and that could well be true. First, they lose to Carolina on a last-second heave into the end zone. They, they lose to the Broncos in part because a referee blows a premature whistle on a play that would have wrapped up the game for San Diego (and I say "in part" because although the proper call would have certainly given them the game, the blown call didn't necessarily lose it for them).

I don't think that the Jets are all that great, even with Saint Favre under center, and I think the Chargers will win a no-doubter. They'd better, if they have any intention of getting into the playoff picture this season.

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