Friday, September 26, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Four

An unexpected blogging hiatus this week cannot deter me from my football picks! The need my bad picks, I told myself, like McCain needs an international crisis. Who am I to deny you the medicine for what ails you?

(Home team in caps.)

San Francisco (+5) over NEW ORLEANS
Maybe I'm turning into a Bay area homer with my picks, but I can't resist taking the 49ers on the road. They've already endured the insanity of playing up in Seattle. The only thing marginally frightening about playing in New Orleans is a broken levee or two. Offensively, New Orleans has an edge -- with the belated arrival of the Reggie Bush-era. But, because the 49ers actually field something that resembles a defense, I don't think the different is as big as you might immediately think. I'm not overly confident in this choice, since despite its statistical strength SF's defense is still giving up quite a few points, but it's one I'd regret not stepping out on.

Arizona (+1.5) over NEW YORK JETS
This game may very well tell us whether the balance of power has shifted to the NFC, after years of AFC domination. It's hard to say for sure, but Arizona's defense actually looks to have some spunk to it. Certainly more fire so far than Miami's. Consider this: the fact the Jets have played only one team with a legitimate passing attack (San Diego), they rank 21st in passing defense. Boldin and Fitzgerald could drop them a few more spots down before the week is through.

CINCINNATI (-3.5) over Cleveland
I'm not giving Cleveland anymore credit. If they can't get anything going there, Anderson is going to be another highly-paid backup QB. I didn't watch a second of their game last week against Baltimore, and still can't fathom how they were beaten so badly. A lot of what ails the Bengals will be solved if they can keep Chris Perry on track. That inability of that defense to prevent a big play at a big moment, though, has been a downfall for years. If anything can shake up Cleveland, if but for a week, it's this game. Braylon Edwards owners, don't give up on him just yet.

Green Bay (+1) over TAMPA BAY
Tampa Bay is a capable team. But they really shouldn't be favored in this game. Losing to Dallas last week should not be a big set-back for Green Bay. They're still the class of the NFC North. They're still loaded offensively. And Dallas was clearly had its A-game going. Not to mention Ryan Grant was still not 100%. From what I understand, he's nearly there now. With a play-action option comes the deep threat that is Greg Jennings. The only problem with Green Bay, so far, is its defense. The playmakers on each of the teams they've faced have gashed them in a bad way. With that in mind, Earnest Graham owners, take heart. He should bounce back from his horrible showing in Chicago.

CAROLINA (-7) over Atlanta
I can't figure out this Carolina team. They have played a hell of a schedule so far, and come out 2-1. Not bad. But the numbers have not been sources of confidence. Not to mention their atrocious record of covering spreads at home. That said, I think this is the week Delhomme and Steve Smith really get to shine, and Michael Turner gets reminded once again that running against Detroit and Kansas City is a very different thing running against a quality defense.

TENNESSEE (-3) over Minnesota
This should be a really fun game for people like me who love defense over offense. The balance of Tennessee's defense so far is almost as shocking as the imbalance of Minnesota's. I foresee good games for Bironas and Longwell here.

JACKSONVILLE (-7) over Houston
Jacksonville's offense should basically come in with the same game plan as last week against Indianapolis. Run. Houston has been woeful so far -- giving up around 170 yards p/game on the road. I'm really intrigued to see if Slaton can pick up where he left off last week, against a worst defense. But, even if he does, like last week, it just won't be enough. I see Houston playing scrappy, keeping it close for two-and-a-half quarters, and Jacksonville's two-headed running attack wear them down.

Denver (-9) over KANSAS CITY
Buffalo (-8) over ST. LOUIS
Not much to say about either of these game. Both Denver and Buffalo have their problems, but KC and St. Louis, both with newly installed backup QBs (because, yeah, Bulger was the cause of that trainwreck) seem as capable against them as Sarah Palin was when interviewed by Katie Couric.

San Diego (-7.5) over OAKLAND
I'd love to take Oakland at home. Not because I'm a fan -- but only because it would add another level of fun to the whole drama playing out here, between owner & coach, fan & owner, organization & media. Really, it's a delight. San Diego, however, is going to beat the holy hell out of them this week -- and for a brief moment, we'll remember how bad they are on the field.

Washington (+11) over DALLAS
It seems like a no-brainer to pick Dallas, I know. I really should, too. It just seems too easy to do so. As good as they are, Dallas still is pretty bone-headed. And I really could see them somehow sleep-walking into a divisional game after a big win last week. Plus, I grew up a 'Skins fan, and even now that I've grown out of that phase of my life, I can't yet go against them against the 'Boys. (BTW ... I read Boys Will be Boys this week. Brilliant book. Buy it. Check it out. Steal it. Whatever. If you're a fan of football, you'll love this book.)

Philadelphia (-3) over CHICAGO
Chicago's defense is no slouch, but Philadelphia's is something to behold. I like the Bears, but I see Orton making one too many mistakes here, and giving a weakened Eagle offense just enough leverage to get by. This is, however, a bigger game for the Bears. A statement game, saying that the opening win against Indy wasn't a fluke. (My hypothesis: it wasn't a fluke -- Indy is actually that mediocre right now.) It pains me, but I might have to sit Westbrook for this one. This is probably the game I'm most excited about this week.

PITTSBURGH (-5) over Baltimore
Parker out. Big Ben's nursing a gimpy shoulder. Pittsburgh offensive line exposed by Philadelphia last week. Baltimore, against all odds, actually looking good on both sides of the ball. But in the end, I've picked against Pittsburgh way too many times, only to see them defy my expectations. Plus, it's Flacco's first encounter with a Pittsburgh crowd. That doesn't bode well, no matter the injuries for the home team.

Last week: 6-10
Season: 23-23-1