NFL Week 4: Monday Morning Watercooler


NFL Week 4: Monday Morning Watercooler
By Michael D. Wright
9.29.08

So… how did I do with my picks in Week 4?

HORRIBLY.

Just as I have pretty much since Week 1. The NFL is more wide-open than ever, when I’m not even breaking even with my picks. Here is a rundown:

Minnesota Vikings vs. Tennessee Titans.
LP Field
Nashville, Tennessee
1 PM

I don’t know what to make about the Vikings right now. They benched their starting QB (T. Jackson) and put in ol’ man Gus Frerotte. Gus doesn’t make many mistakes, but the problem with Minnesota is still the fact they don’t stretch the field well enough with their WRs. Their defense is very good up front, but when the defensive line does not get pressure on the QB, the secondary looks average at best. They call Adrian Peterson A.D. because he can run… well… ALL DAY. With Chester Taylor spelling him whenever Peterson needs a breather, the Vikings are tough on the ground.

The Titans have Kerry Collins in for Vince Young at QB. Collins is to Frerotte as Young is to Jackson. Collins doesn’t try to do too much (at least until he feels like he’s the starter, then he reverts to the dumb nonsense he did while QB of the Giants). Like Minnesota, the Titans can run the ball all day. Their defense is tough up front like Minnesota’s. This is a pick ’em game, and I’m going to go with the team that has been most consistent this far.

Call:
Minnesota 23
Tennessee 27

Actual:
Minnesota 17
Tennessee 30

OK, I figured the Titans’ defense alone would be enough to stop Minnesota. While A.D. did his thing on the ground against the top-ranked Titans defense, they don’t have a competent QB in their stead and that killed them. I got the call right, but the margin of victory… yeah, next!

Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs.
Arrowhead Stadium
Kansas City, Missouri
1 PM

The Chiefs are abysmal. Every week I wonder how Herm Edwards still has a job. Then I remember, the GM, Carl Peterson is one of his lifetime buddies. I get it now. Both teams are awful on defense, and you would think this would be one of those Pinball games, where the last team with the ball wins 51-48 or something, except the Chiefs don’t have that kind of offense.

Denver is for real. I totally got it wrong with them in the preseason. They might rack up historic numbers on KC this weekend. Poor Herm.

Call:
Denver 48
Kansas City 10

Actual:
Denver 19
Kansas City 33

Just when I take a sip of Jim Jones’… *ehem*… Mike Shanahan’s grape Flavor-Aid, they come out and lay this egg against arguably the second-worst team in the NFL. I don’t get it. I’m not going to dwell on this. Here’s to Denver fulfilling my ORIGINAL prediction about their season. I feel very strongly about this.

San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints.
Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
1 PM

The 49ers are game. I thought they would be like fishkill this season, but not the case. They Play. To Win. The. Game! The Saints are smarting right now (to steal a line from Hubie Brown). They’re smarting. Missing Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey for about six weeks will hurt the Saints’ offense. Reggie Bush is good in space, so Pat Willis and Co. will have their hands full. The 49ers’ secondary is terrible outside of Nate Clements, but they won’t be tested too often in this game. Brees will stick to underneath passes and patterns in the flat. I think Frank Gore has one of his annual “he’s going to win the rushing title… watch!” games.

Call:
San Francisco 21
New Orleans 17

Actual:
San Francisco 17
New Orleans 31

Same thing here. I figured the Saints would be missing too many weapons on their offense to overpower the 49ers. Along with a porous defense, it is easy to see why I picked San Francisco. Rule #432 in calling games — NEVER bet on a Mike Nolan-led team to win any game.

Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Jets.
The New Jersey Meadowlands
East Rutherford, New Jersey
1 PM

Anyone who thinks the Cardinals are not for real, let me tell you: THEY ARE LEGIT. Their offense can score with the best of them, and as I’ve said every week, their defense is very good. They just do not get much publicity because they play out west and don’t get National TV exposure due to their annual ritual of not making the playoffs.

Benching Matt Leinart was the best thing the Cards could have done. Edgerrin James does his thing. Anquan Boldin (FROM?!?!?!) and Larry Fitzgerald form arguably the best WR tandem in the NFL. Both could catch 100 passes and well over 1,000 yards and possibly 10 TDs apiece if Kurt Warner stays healthy. The defense has players at each level who make plays every week. DE Bert Berry will not play Sunday, however. Brett Favre should thank God.

I think the Jets are a middle of the road team. Now that the New York media has gotten over the honeymoon with Favre, they know what football people already know: Brett Favre is AVERAGE. Their receivers, while being guys who I like (pause) are not game breakers. The Jets spent tons of money on both sides of the ball to improve and as of right now, they have not seen a return on their investment. I think the Jets will spend the entire game on their heels on both sides of the ball.

Call:
Arizona 38
NY Jets 21

Actual:
Arizona 35
NY Jets 56

Something crazy always happens when I am traveling while the games are on Sundays. Week 1, the Chargers lose to the Panthers on a Mike Patrick Special on the last play of the game (aka when he welps, “ARE YOU BELIEVING THIS?!?!?!” during a Duke/UNC basketball game and a player makes a great play). This week, an overrated Brett Favre and overtalked-about Jets team, both average at best, lay 56 on a very good defense! Kurt Warner just proved again why the Rams and Giants tired of him and his act. He can put up numbers like a pinball machine, but then every 3-4 games he’ll do what he did against the Jets — throw 3 INTs, fumble the ball 4 times and get sacked 5 times at that. The Cards’ defense isn’t as bad as the 56 points may indicate, as the Jets were working with a short field following Warner’s FIVE turnovers — including a couple of them going in for quick scores on the turnover. Ridiculous. Your kneejerk reaction would be to bench him, but then you remember another overrated USC bum named Matt Leinart is sitting there. So you stick with Warner and hope he plays as he did in Weeks 1 and 2.

Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Florida
1 PM

The Old “Bay of Pigs” rivalry (as Chris Berman calls it). It has lost its luster as guys like Warren Sapp, Brett Favre, Antonio Freeman are gone. However, the Bucs still have Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn is back after spending the past six seasons in Atlanta. The Bucs’ defense is solid and keeps them in most games. No one knows who the Bucs’ QB is from game to game, but Earnest Graham and Dunn get enough done on the ground to make defenses play them honest.

The Packers looked shellshocked against the Cowboys on Monday. No shame in that. I do notsee there being a carryover effect, though. Rodgers is the real deal. The question will be can the Packers control the ball long enough to outscore Tampa Bay? The Bucs typically eat up a lot of clock and their defense still gets it done even without all the big name stars they once had. Ronde Barber makes plays and so do Jermaine Phillips and Brian Kelly. I like the Bucs in this one.

Call:
Green Bay 27
Tampa Bay 30

Actual:
Green Bay 21
Tampa Bay 30

The outcome of this game was pretty much what I expected. Of course no one can predict what will happen during the course of the game to make it all come to pass as such, but I figured the Bucs to put up 30 and for them to shut down the Packers’ running game (Grant didn’t break 50 yards) and force A. Rodgers to win the game. Try as he might, Rodgers did not. So the Pack did not win. Simple as that.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers.
Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte, North Carolina
1 PM

The Falcons are surprisingly 2-1. The Panthers are, also. However, I expected the Panthers to be good (I have them winning the NFC South). I thought the Falcons would royally suck for the remainder of this decade and into the next. Matt Ryan’s playing some decent ball at QB, and his big play to WR Roddy White last week got me a few fantasy league points LOL

DE John Abraham is still the same guy who always gets 10+ sacks and he will get after Garcia (should Garcia start). Keith Brooking is the QB of the defense and keeps them under control. I figured the loss of DeAngelo Hall would hurt them dearly. Not so (thus far). I like the dimension that RB Michael Turner brings to the Falcons. He makes teams play the Falcons honest, so they cannot just tee off on Ryan, thereby preserving Ryan and lengthening his learning curve.

The Panthers look poised to go on a winning streak. QB Jake Delhomme looked rattled at times versus the Bears, but that is to be expected. WR Steve Smith is back in the fold, and with Muhsin Muhammad on the other side, the Panthers look like the team that went to the Super Bowl after the 2003 season. Their offense is intact with two very good running backs. The aforementioned wide receivers are very good, and the defense is healthy. That has been the key for the Panthers the past four years – the relative health of their players, especially on defense. I like the Black Cats in this one.

Call:
Atlanta 24
Carolina 34

Actual:
Atlanta 9
Carolina 24

I gave the Fulcons (as the guy doing the game likes to call them) too much credit. I know the Panthers are too good to lose to this team comprised of rookies, aging vets and castoffs who couldn’t cut it on already-bad teams. The Panthers are the second best team in the NFC behind the Giants.

Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jacksonville Stadium
Jacksonville, Florida
1 PM

The Texans are not as bad as they have looked in their two games. Their Week 3 game versus Baltimore might have been a better barometer of how good they are, but it was rained out due to Hurricane Ike. The Jaguars look like the average team that they are. Allowing DT Marcus Stroud to go to Buffalo in free agency was borderline lunacy. But hey, I’m not their capologist.

I think Andre Johnson lined up against Rasean Mathis is palpable TV. Mathis might get an INT, but I think Johnson will have about 8-10 catches for over 100 yards in this game.

The problem the Texans have is stopping the run. The Jaguars run the ball very well with Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew (questionable) and Greg Jones. Should be a close, low-scoring game. I think the Texans notch their first win.

Call:
Houston 19
Jacksonville 14

Actual:
Houston 27
Jacksonville 30

You just never know, huh? I thought the Texans were going to turn the corner this year with their guys healthy. I guess not. The Jaguars still aren’t that good in my mind. David Garrard did not turn the ball over on INTs. That was the only difference between this game and the last two Jacksonville games.

Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals.
Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati, Ohio
1 PM

Everytime these teams play, it is high scoring. They gave us a 51-45 last year and the game before that was high scoring as well. Both teams are a disgrace defensively, especially when stopping the run (although the Bengals did a surprisingly good job versus the Giants in Week 3). I see another shootout. Neither team has changed personnel or philosophy since last year. And I see Cleveland pulling it out because the Bengals just aren’t good at all; which is a shame, with Carson Palmer, Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh on offense.

Call:
Cleveland 48
Cincinnati 44

Actual:
Cleveland 20
Cincinnati 12

The high score was the only that could have made this game interesting. They couldn’t even manage this. Both these teams are even worse than I originally thought. I had Cleveland winning the division, which won’t happen. I had the Bengals winning six games, which won’t happen either.

San Diego (Super) Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders.
McAfee Coliseum
Oakland, California
4:05 PM

The Chargers got untracked last week versus the Jets on Monday Night Football. I hope my eyes aren’t deceiving me, but all those carries (approaching 2,500) are catching up with LaDainian Tomlinson. I know he has a toe injury, but he still looks as if he lost a step. I hope not. The Chargers can score with anyone, though. The defense is better than people think, but they have given up a ton of yards and points early.

I don’t see the Raiders giving much of a fight. JaMarcus Russell will be glad to get in the whirlpool Monday after he gets sacked a half dozen times.

Call:
San Diego 41
Oakland 16

Actual:
San Diego 28
Oakland 18

I don’t know why the Chargers even struggled with these losers for over a half. But a win’s a win. Tomlinson finally got 100 yards for the first time this season. Philip Rivers shook off a couple of early INTs and played well in the second half. The Chargers’ slow start is the only thing that preventing this game from turning out exactly the way I called it.

Buffalo Bills vs. St. Louis Rams.
The Edward Jones Dome
St. Louis, Missouri
4:05 PM

So the Rams switched QBs from Marc Bulger to Trent Green. *sigh*. This reeks of desperation on the part of head coach Scott Linehan. He might be gone before the end of this season if the Rams keep playing like this. They are the absolute worst team in the NFL — the same NFL with the Raiders and Chiefs! Bulger isn’t the problem. They just have an awful offensive line. They let WR Isaac Bruce leave. WR Torry Holt has lost a step. RB Steven Jackson cannot find holes in his turnstile of an offensive line. The defense is cavernous. They brought in a career backup and released a starter? I don’t get it. The Rams don’t have a plan. They look like Jimmy Carter at the end of his term in the White House in 1980-81! (History buffs know what I am referring to).

The Bills are for real. They may very well win the division. No other AFC East team is as balanced on both sides of the ball as Buffalo is. The Patrios are long in the tooth defensively. QB Matt Cassel will see more of the same pressure for the rest of the season. The Jets are middle of the road at best. The Dolphins think they are onto something because they got away with a few trick plays against a slow defense. Big deal. Watch out for the Bills.

Call:
Buffalo 47
St. Louis 21

Actual:
Buffalo 31
St. Louis 14

So they finally fired Scott Linehan in St. Louis. Now the GM and the interim coach aka the leader of the worst defense in the NFL (logic, please?) in Jim Haslett need to go before the Rams have a shot at ever being relevant again with the current set of stud (pause) players they have.

Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys.
Texas Stadium
Irving, Texas
4:15 PM

I suppose I gave the Redskins too much of a learning curve in Jim Zorn’s version of the West Coast Offense. They matched up well with the Saints in Week 2 and last week handled the wide-open Arizona offense. That tells me something. DE Jason Taylor is out indefinitely with a potentially career/life-threatening blood clot in his leg.
The Cowboys better not enter this game with a smug demeanor. Their receivers will not run free this week like they did versus Green Bay in the second half of their Week 3 game. FS LaRon Landry will meet WR Terrell Owens in the middle of the field a time or two. However, I don’t see any of the Redskins’ DBs stopping Owens or Crayton.
This game will be close.

Call:
Washington 35
Dallas 34

Actual:
Washington 26
Dallas 24

See, I know what I am talking about. The game was close. I also said the Redskins would pull it out late. Enough said. No reason to gloat with my bad picks.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears.
Soldier Field
Chicago, Illinois
8:15 PM (Sunday Night Football – NBC)

Why are the Bears on national TV so much? They are an eyesore.

Anyway, the Eagles are very good, but not better than Dallas or the NY Giants. That said, every team in the NFC East is better than the rest of the teams in the NFC except the Carolina Panthers. That may very well be the six-team lineup in the playoffs, if not for the 4 division winners automatically getting playoff bids (making the NFC North winner a waste of space, and preventing the 4th NFC East team from making the playoffs rightfully). I see Dallas and New York battling for the NFC East title, the one who doesn’t get it gets the 5 seed, I see Philly making it and I see Chicago (now) winning the NFC North and the Cardinals winning the NFC West. Nonetheless, the Bears are the Smoke & Mirrors team of 2008. They are a joke offensively, but hey, they don’t turn the ball over too much to the point where it kills them. Defensively, they’re stout as always. They will get after Donovan F. McNabb, especially if B. Westbrook cannot play.

I can’t name four guys on the Bears’ offense (just kidding), but most people can’t. Starting with their RB. However, this game will be close. The Iggles are too inconsistent to run away from decent-to-above average teams. The Bears are somewhere between decent and above average. Hence…

Call:
Philadelphia 25
Chicago 27

Actual:
Philadelphia 20
Chicago 24

Same thing here. Close game as predicted. Although we were basically watching The Unit while the fumble-fest was taking place in the second half of this game. I only wanted the Iggles to lose so that they, along with Dallas, would ensure that the Giants would be in first place ALONE heading into Week 5 vs. Seattle in East Rutherford.

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