Week three picks
This is a make-or-break week for a lot of teams. Week three is when a game can legitimately be described as a “must win” for those 0-2 teams aspiring to make the playoffs. The Titans and Panthers, winners of 13 and 12 games last year, respectively, are indeed facing must-win situations. Also, there are three 1-1 powerhouses: the Patriots, Steelers and Chargers, who desperately want to win, but don’t necessarily need to win. A win for them may end up being the difference between a division title and a wildcard berth. Remember, in the AFC Playoffs, home-field is everything.
Then there are the 2-0 teams, nine of them in all. Some, like Denver, San Fran and the Jets, are just ecstatic to be where they are; others, like the Colts, Giants and Vikings, are hoping to ride the unbeaten wave as far as they can and win their difficult divisions. Baltimore is somewhere in between; happy to be 2-0, but not completely surprised. Then there’s Atlanta and New Orleans, both undefeated in convincing fashion and making the NFC South very interesting early.
The rest of the league is composed mostly of crappy teams. At 0-2, there are seven teams - five of which (Detroit, Cleveland, Tampa, KC and St. Louis) are the sludge of the league. The other two, Jacksonville and Miami, are verging somewhere between terrible and just a little bit frisky. Then there are a slew of highly mysterious 1-1 teams: the Packers, Bears, Cowboys, Redskins,
Eagles, Bengals, Bills, Seahawks, Cardinals, Texans, and Raiders. Of these 1-1 teams, only Oakland should be completely dismissed. For the rest, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
It’s still early. Week three is huge. Here are my picks.
KC @ Philly
The classic trap game of a bad team on the road against a good team. McNabb’s injury is a factor. So is Michael Vick’s eligibility to play in this game. He won’t start, but he’ll still be the domnant story of the game, at least from a media standpoint. Andy Reid will probably have some Wildcat trickery ready to go, but the key will be can Philly’s defense carry them while their offense has two key injuries and is run by Kevin Kolb? After the loss against the Saints last week, I’m betting the defense has vengeance on their mind, and they win this one in a rout. KC has nothing to play for after losing at home to Oakland last week. (Random prediction: Todd Haley will be the first head coach to be fired this season). Eagles 30, KC 10.
Cleveland @ Baltimore.
Another potential trap game. But you’d have to be an idiot to actually pick Cleveland. Ravens 35, Browns 17.
NY Giants @ Tampa Bay
Apparently are all the great teams are playing against all the horrible teams this week. I’ll take the Giants 31-24 and hope Eli doesn’t screw it up.
Atlanta @ New England
This is my favorite matchup of the week. I seriously can’t wait for this game. So far this year, Matt Ryan has played like an absolute monster. But, his competition has been Jake Delhomme and Chad Pennington, and now he faces Tom Brady. Thus far, Brady has been a sensational bust, but do you really think that will continue, especially now with Welker back on the field? On the other side of the ball, is New England’s defense able to stop anybody? Losing Mayo kills them in the middle of the field, and Atlanta has so many weapons. Tony Gonzalez is proving to be the most underrated offseason acquisition in the NFL. If this game was in Atlanta, I’d take Atlanta; but in Foxboro, I like the Patriots 26-23.
Titans @ Jets
Another great game. It’s hard to believe the Jets could be 3-0 after this game, and even harder to think that the Titans could be 0-3 after going 13-3 last year. If the Jets win, you can bet that every sports announcer in the United States would say some variation of the phrase: "The Titans already have as many losses in the first three games as they had all of last year!" But not so fast ... The Titans are closer to being 2-0 than any 0-2 team. They should have beat Pittsburgh in week 1 (if Bironas could make a 35 yard field goal) and should have won last week as well (if they could hold on to a two-touchdown lead). But the game is in New York and the way the Jets defense is playing, it’s hard to see them giving up anything to Kerry Collins. In consecutive weeks, Darelle Revis has completly shut down Andre Johnson and Randy Moss. Wow. He has surpassed Asomugha as my major-crush cornerback to always talk about. (Asomugha, meanwhile, has allowed a touchdown in both games. Maybe his injury is really holdidng him back) Anyway, the key to this game is simple: Chris Johnson. Against a blitz-crazy defense like the Jets, you need a speedy back who can stretch the field. No one fits that description better than CJ. Eventually Marc Sanchez has to lose. Titans win a squeaker 20-17.
Green Bay @ St. Louis
Obviously I should pick the Packers. They’re coming off a tough home loss and playing against the only team in the NFL who looks worse than the Lions. BUT … If the Rams are going to win any games this year, they’ll have to compete at home. And Steven Jackson has this annoying tendency to disappear for a few weeks and then explode for 250 yards and 3 TDs. And I still want to believe in their new coach... even if the Rams are off to an 0-2 start and looking absolutely putrid on offense. Yeah, this is probably a reckless pick, but after missing more than half the games last week I am picking with reckless abandon. Rams 28, Packers 20.
San Fran @ Minnesota
Whoever wins this is going to be in real good shape. Gore and Peterson are probably the two best running backs in the league thus far. Neither team has a dynamite passing game, and both teams boast tough defenses. I don’t trust Brad Childress, but it’s hard to pass on the Vikings the way AP is playing. I’ll go with the Vikings 24-16.
Jacksonville @ Houston
Must win for the Jags. Big game for the Texans as well, who need to avoid going 1-2 to keep their fans playoff-hopeful. Houston has momentum and, more important, a better team. I wish I wouldn’t have picked Jacksonville to make the playoffs. Houston by a score of 30-14.
Chicago @ Seattle
No Hasslebeck, no chance for the Seahawks. Bears 28-20.
New Orleans @ Buffalo
Nobody is stopping Drew Brees this week. Especially not the Bills. Saints cruise 38-24.
Miami @ San Diego
Must win for Miami if they want to sniff the playoffs again. Must win for San Diego unless they want to spend all year catching up with the Broncos. I’m guessing they hated doing that last year enough to make sure it doesn't happen again. San Diego absolutely pulverizes the Fins, 52-17, and Tony Sparano's job falls into jeopardy.
Denver @ Oakland
Putting aside my many biases and just looking at this as a football game, I have to go with Denver. JaMarcus Russell is just too horrible to be taken seriously. He's the Darko of the NFL. Broncos 24, Raiders 16.
Steelers @ Bengals
Allow me to explain this game in Pittsburghesee:
“So I turn aroun and I says to Donny, I says uh, I says, Donny, oh my gawd, you see them Stellers?”
“So he turns around and he’s says uh, he says uh, yeah. I saw it. I was dontown at Pernani's with Monty and Johnny.”
“I was at home sittin on my cawch, watchin the game, rootin on them Stellers and I says uh, I says, where’s Troy?
“So Donny turns around and says uh, he says, uh, he says to me, he says, uh, oh my gawd, Troy’s hurt. He’s dawn ‘er, on them sidelines.”
Both in unison: “Oh my gawd.”
Translation: With Polamalu injured, the Steelers defense isn’t the same. Cincinnati wins. 20-16.
Indianapolis @ Arizona
Manning is on a roll and though the Cards will put up a fight, they won’t be enough. Colts 35, Cards 27.
Carolina @ Dallas
It would sure be a shame if the Cowboys couldn’t win in their new monstrosity of a stadium two weeks in a row on national TV. But Carolina is 0-2 and they’re desperate. Tough game to call, but I’m gonna go with the Panthers. Although Felix Jones could have one of those 'I'm a Backup and This is my One Chance' games of 200 yards. We'll see. I'll stick with the Panthers - 27-20.
And last but not least,
Washington @ Detroit
A lot of Detroiters are hyping this up as “the one we can win.” I don’t buy into all that. Not that this game isn’t winnable. It certainly is. But the idea that the other games weren’t and aren’t winnable. Every game is winnable. We had the Vikings beat in the first half. It would have been 13-0 at half instead of 10-7 if Stafford hadn’t thrown that one stupid interception. The Lions can win any game if they stop playing like a bunch of losers. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Redskins steal this one in the fourth quarter, 27-24.