It's 888 Miles to Chicago...
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Well, here we are...the official shake out week. This week will take us a quarter of the way through the season for most teams, and provide enough of a sample to at least know what the strengths and weaknesses of the different teams are.  But, some things are already clear...

The Bears have ripped the hearts out of all their fans...they have then thrown it against a brick wall a few times, stomped on it, fumbled it a few times...and then for good measure threw it to a guy wearing the other teams colors.  Maybe it's just me...nah; it's all of us...

Along those lines...high expectations followed by pathetic collapse...it's one of the worst feelings in the world.  As a fan, if you enter the season with the expectation of , "Hey, we're hoping for 8-8" it's a lot easier to take a loss...but if you enter the season with "We're going to the Super Bowl baby!!!" and then you have your teeth kicked in...well...that hurts about as much as being dumped by a girl that you were only with until you found someone else...the old, "how can you reject me, you should be lucky to have me!"  You know what I'm talking about Chargers and Saints fans.

Anyone that took Drew Brees instead of waiting a few rounds and picking up Tony Romo (and yes, I'll raise my hand) is really in a world of hurt on their fantasy team.

By the way, Madden alert...don't know if anyone else caught it...but Madden started drawing comparisons between Romo and Favre...which means, that once Brett does retire, I have a feeling that Tony will be Madden's new man love...just beware on this one.

What would really make being a Bears fan fun again...let's just cycle through as many free agent QBs as possible this year.  How about a different stiff every week?  Henry Burris, Tommy Maddox, Todd Marinovich, Tim Couch, Akili Smith...the list goes on and on...and don't announce it before hand, surprise us as they run out of the tunnel...man, that would give me something to look forward to!

Finally, while the Pats haven't played the best teams yet...and sorry Chargers, the way you're playing you don't qualify...if you've gotten a chance to watch them, they are pretty amazing.  Good football, is good football...and it's a real joy to watch these guys play.  They are good at all facets of the game...and it will be a lot of fun to see them up against stiffer competition.

Anyway, on with the picks....

Houston at Atlanta

Having Andre Johnson out really hurts.  He's far and away their only real offensive playmaker...plus he's a big part of my fantasy team...and that was clear in the Indy game.  The Texans hung around, but just didn't have that extra gear that Johnson provides.  Would have been interesting to see the game played with him healthy...they'll meet again...

The comment was made that "At least Joey Harrington doesn't start for the Bears" on the Grossman post...right now, Joey would be refreshing in a Bears uni.  Maybe he wouldn't do any better...but he can play the piano...so that's at least something!

The Texans get back on track this week in the Georgia dome...with the get well quick medicine that every team wishes they had...a game against the Falcons.

NY Jets at Buffalo

Knowing that Dick Jauron is still coaching in this league...lowers my opinion of NFL General Managers.  Everything this guy touches turns to dried out cow dung.  The Bills are like the Bears under Jauron...there is talent there...but this guy doesn't know what to do with it.  It's like he's trying to put together Ikea furniture with only 1 page of the directions...the basics are laid out, but after that it's all guess work.  At least after this year he'll never work in the NFL again.

Pennington and Thomas Jones lead the Jets to victory again...and pound another nail in the coffin of Mr Jauron.

Baltimore at Cleveland

Back in college, I had a good friend that was a huge Browns fan.  It also happened to be the year that Art Moddell decided to move the team...I remember seeing the look on his face when he heard the news...and how pissed he was about it.  He spent the rest of the year cursing Moddell.

The image of his face always flashes through my mind when these 2 teams play...and one has to assume it brings up similar emotions in every Browns fan.

The Ravens Defense is not hitting on all cylinders right now...they let up 27 to Cincy...the Jets would of tied the game if not for 2 drops...and the Cardinals erased a 17 point deficit.  Maybe losing Adaluis Thomas was a bigger blow than they thought?  Now don't get me wrong, this unit isn't performing at the level of the Giants defense...it's just not up to its normal excellence.

Why is this an issue?  Well, Cleveland fans are going to be pumped up for this game...and finally, this Brown offense is showing signs of life.  Derek Anderson has got a little mojo working...and he's got a couple receivers that can help.  There is this nagging voice telling me this is going to be a Browns upset....and nagging voices tend to be right.  Things like "Josh, don't eat a 12th piece of cake" or "Vaseline does not work as engine lubricant" or the disastrous "Hay bales only work as jump ramps in Dukes of Hazzard"...yep, the nagging voice makes some good points.

Browns sneak one out in this one, and Derek Anderson gives Cleveland a moment of pause about Golden Boy Quinn.

St. Louis at Dallas

The Dallas offense is for real.  They have 2 solid backs...Barber is just a beast, he just squirts through holes and finds a way to get the extra yard all the time.  They have TO and Whitten and know how to use both.  Their line is solid...moving Leonard Davis inside to guard was a great move.  And holding it all together is Romo.  The guy is a lot of fun to watch, and he's responded great to the whole playoff screw up...just come out this season playing great.  Gotta respect that in a player.  They'll be scoring on everyone this year.

But the Defense still needs some work.  Look, the Bears offense is like a styrofoam cooler...anyone can punch a hole in it.  The Rams have the QB and the WRs to test this D a little...with Steven Jackson out, it won't matter...but watch Bulger and Co operate.  If they are able to move the ball with ease on the Boys...well, then this D isn't ready for prime time.  They're real test will come in Week 6...circle that one on the calendar.

Romo and Co will be more than the Rams can handle.  Steven Jackson will sit on the sidelines realizing that he's let a lot of fantasy owners down this year...

Chicago at Detroit

My Senior year of college, I had gone home one January weekend to visit the folks.  My Dad volunteered to drive me back to school in his little 1989 Geo Metro.  For those that don't know, an Illinois winter is cold...if you haven't experienced a Illinois winter, you can share in the fun by taking a hand full of ice cubes and shoving them into your underwear.  Yeah, it's cold.

Anyway, we're driving along, and my dad starts telling me about the fact that the alternator in the car has been giving him issues, and that it's been dying on him.  He claims it's fixed...but I'm now dreading breaking down some where in central Illinois, on a dark stretch of 55 and freezing to death.

We make it safe and sound...and my Dad, as proud as ever, says, "Let me show you how I fixed the Alternator"

It turns out the alternator had a stripped bolt, and it wouldn't stay tight...so it would slip out of place causing the battery not to charge, and eventually the car to die.  To fix it correctly would of require pumping more money into the car than it was worth...so my dad...

...had crammed a chunk of 2x4 into the engine.  And I stood there in the parking lot of my college apartment...staring at a chunk of 2x4 sticking out of the engine...realizing that it was responsible for me getting there safely.

My dad hit the road...and promptly broke down outside of Joliet.  He then had the car towed all the way back to the Northwest suburbs...costing a pretty penny and sending my mom into a rage...all because of a 2x4.

My friends...Brian Griese is that 2x4.  He might get us down the road a bit...but he won't get us that far, and in the end, we'll just have to scrap the car.  This isn't the answer...unfortunately, due to Rex's demise, there isn't an answer on the team right now.

A chunk of 2x4 won't be enough this week...and the Bears D has too many people banged up to completely shut down the Lions...and the Bears aren't going to win any shoot outs.

Oakland at Miami

All is fair in love and war...Oakland gets screwed by Denver one week...and then uses the same tactic to it's advantage the next.  At least Lane Kiffin is a quick study.

But what should worry Raiders fans...did this anger the football gods?  We saw what happened to the Broncos last week...definite retribution by the gods...and so what of the Raiders?  Was this their get out of jail free card?  Or did they just doom themselves this week by employing this dirty trick?

The football gods have a chuckle about this one, and let the Raiders get off Scot free.  Oakland wins this one with defense and a running game...strange words to utter about the Raiders.

Green Bay at Minnesota

A few years ago, I was trudging along at this job...it was boring, the work wasn't very exciting, the management not all that engaging, but yet I couldn't leave...and then we got a new boss.  He was engaging, smart, motivated, and fun to be around.  All of a sudden, work was fun...my energy level shot through the roof, and my productivity sky rocketed.  What I did mattered again...and I even gave the new boss a phantom Cheeto addiction.

Most of us have had an experience like that...where a new boss, co-worker or even new job energize us, get the blood flowing, our brain firing...you feel good about things...

That's how Brett Favre feels right now.  What he does matters again.  He's no longer just Madden's Man crush, and a record chaser...he's the QB for one of the hottest teams in the league.  And that sort of thing has got his juices flowing...and that is a bad thing for the rest of the teams in the league.  Favre has always been an emotional player...and when he's in a groove like this, he can do some special things.  This team is going to be a lot of fun to watch all year.

The Packers thump the hapless Vikings...who couldn't even beat the lousy Chiefs last week...and stretch their record to 4-0.

Tampa Bay at Carolina

Folks, your NFC South showdown!!

Seems strange to think that these are the division leaders...weren't the Saints supposed to have this thing wrapped up already?  Sorry, couldn't help myself.  Oh, and one other note on the Saints, can Kornhiser shut up about the Aints?  He kept going back to that well...and the phrase "Beating a dead horse" came to mind.

Okay, back to this game...

The Tampa defense is playing like the dreaded D of old...they are allowing an average of 12.5 points a game!!  Not too shabby.  This game will be their big test...a team worthy of the challenge.  They beat up on the Saints, but that's looking less and less like an upset every day...and they took down the Rams...which isn't all that exciting either.  So are they good?  Or just better than a couple of lousy teams?  We'll see Sunday...

But then again....Carolina is facing similar questions...beating up on St. Louis and Atlanta is nothing special...and being beaten by the Texans?  Wait a sec...

Is the NFC South now the weakest division in football?  Two 0-3 teams...and 2 2-1 teams that haven't beaten anyone good....hmmmm....there might be something to this...let's keep an eye on this...

Chucky's boys come out and chase the Panthers off the field.  Tampa gets the win, and takes early command of the division.

Seattle at San Francisco

The Seahawks are undefeated against non-NFC West teams....and winless against the NFC West...so what if it's only been 3 games...it's just cool to say.

Shaun Alexander has decided to play through his broken wrist...which will be interesting to monitor.  Weird stat...he's averaging 2.4 yards a carry in the first half...and 5.5 yards per carry in the second half.  This is not out of the norm for Alexander...he's always been someone you just keep feeding the ball too...eventually he breaks a big one...he'll be getting nothing but 2 yards...and then BAM he breaks it.

The question is...do the Hawks rise up, play to their ability and beat a division foe?  Or does the voodoo of the NFC West bite them again?  The Niners showed last week that winning ugly against inferior teams...doesn't translate well when playing a good team.

These Seahawks are a good team.  Holmgren goes in to San Fran and comes away with a win over the 49ers...Alex Smith just hasn't impressed me yet.

Pittsburgh at Arizona

Just the mere fact that Kurt Warner might start for Arizona means this game is over already.  Sorry, he's got nothing left...yeah he came in Sunday and had a little flurry...but this guy is no longer starting material in the NFL.  On the other hand, this sends the right message to Leinart..."Hey, get your act together man, if you stink out there, you get benched."  Lovie, are you listening?

The Steelers roll continues against an improved, but still not good Cardinals team.  Warner is not the answer...and proves it by fumbling a couple times just for good measure.

Kansas City at San Diego

Both Dan and I have gone on record several times that the Norv thing was a huge mistake.  And now the Chargers are 1-2, and their running game looks horrible...LT has gone now where...he's the best back on the planet and he can't gain a yard?  How is it that last year he was gashing the league for 1800 yards...and this year...he's lucky to get 30 yards in a game?  What changed...hmmm....oh yeah, the coach!  Nothing else...just the coach...

But here comes the Chiefs....if the Chargers can't break out this week...Norv should be shot on sight.  Seriously, how does a team with this much talent struggle this much?  This was supposed to be a Super Bowl team...and they look like their going to challenge the Bears and Saints all year for biggest disappointment.  What's Marty up to these days?  Maybe he would come back if the Chargers are really nice...

When there is this big a disparity in terms of talent and neither team is well coached...go with the talent.  Unless you're a Chargers or Chiefs fan...don't watch this game.  It's not going to be pretty in any way.  Chargers get a win, and start crowing about how it will get them back on track...don't believe it...beating the Chiefs is nothing to get excited about.

Denver at Indianapolis

Well, Denver fell pray to the football gods last week...retribution for the Timeout.  They have only themselves to blame.

And now they go against Indy, a team that has battered them pretty badly over the last few seasons...especially in the playoffs.  Have a hard time seeing this game end any differently...Denver just doesn't have all the pieces yet.  They have a good young QB in Cutler...Travis Henry is a decent RB...but there is just something missing...this team just doesn't have that something special...haven't seen enough of them this year to know what it is...but once it's discovered, you'll be the first to know.

Indy keeps right on winning...Addai continues to make everyone hate whoever they picked in the first round in Fantasy...and Manning...well...he just keeps on keeping on...

Philadelphia at NY Giants

Philly and the Giants decided to make me look bad last week...the Giants decided to play with a little heart, something completely unexpected...and the Eagles...well, I've already explained how they are KFC to me...my Achilles heel to use the common vernacular.

A few years ago, I gleefully drove to Home Depot to buy a pneumatic brad nailer...one of the coolest tools ever.  That feeling you had when you were 10 and you had saved up enough money to buy that toy you always wanted...that complete joy, and excitement...all the things you were going to do with it running through your head....that's how I feel going to Home Depot.

Anyway, I make the purchase, and not another second can go by without opening the box and holding my new toy...er...brad nailer.  I pop the trunk, open the box, pull out the brad nailer...and just stare at it for a few minutes.  After feeling like my arm was complete, I carefully put it back in it's case, and slam the trunk closed...and then realize my car keys are in the trunk.

My brain flew into action...

"Wait a sec, if I can just get into the car...the back seats fold down, so I can easily get my keys out...wait...I need my keys to get in the car...okay...if I could get into the trunk, the seats fold down so I can unlock the car and....ah, crap...I'll just call my wife."

It is this circular logic that has crowded my brain with regards to this game.  One of these 2 teams is going to mess me up again this week...it's just a matter of which one...do I unlock the car first...or bust open the trunk....

Eagles offense exposes a porous Giants Defense...Philly wins, and McNabb has another good game...that is unless they read this, and decide to mess with my head.

New England at Cincinnati

The good news about this game?  We all get to see it.  This should be a fun game no matter what the outcome...this is the type of game that Monday Night was made for.

Here's a simple breakdown of this one...2 good offenses...1 good defense...1 terrible defense...Bad news for the terrible defense.

The Patriots are running on all cylinders right now, and the Bengals sad D can't stop them...and can't even hope to contain them.  New England gets another win...and we have to listen to Kornhiser make some stupid point over and over again.  Hopefully Jaws punches him this game.

And there you have it...another week of picks down...and another weekend of football is ahead.  Maybe just maybe...that chunk of 2x4 will hold for a week and the Bears can add a W...but let's not hold our breath.

If these picks don't satisfy you, you can always turn to Dan for a second opinion...

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