It's 888 Miles to Chicago...
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After a crazy weekend of upsets last week...week 5 is giving off a vibe of returning some what to normal.  Looking over the matchups this week...you get the feeling that this week is devoid of a really good game.  There are a couple interesting ones...but there isn't that big "Gotta watch this game"...that's a game that you can't miss even though it doesn't involve your team.  Seahawks-Steelers is a decent matchup...Chargers-Broncos is still a good game even though the Chargers lost to the Chiefs...and there is Bears-Packers which is always fun to watch...but no game really holds your attention.

Due to the lack of a big game...let's briefly talk about running the football...

With most teams favoring undersized, fast LBs...why aren't there more power rushing teams out there?  These defenses seem ripe for an old school smash mouth team to just grind them up.  Get the big hogs up front, an old school blocking FB (Matt Suey comes to mind) and a RB that never tires, and just keeps pumping...it seems like a great way to bring along a young QB.

There seems to be a few issues with this right now...

First the pass is in vogue, and it's also seen as the tool of the genius.  All the offensive gurus are pass happy coaches...smashmouth football is looked at as so last century.  And they're right, smashmouth contains none of the glitz and glamour of passing 40 times a game...but it's not easy to do correctly...and it is an art form.

Second, the colleges are all pass happy as well...the spread option is all over the place...and because of this, the lineman are smaller and there are no fullbacks...and a majority of the running backs out there are smaller shifty guys.

Finally, smashmouth doesn't sell tickets...doesn't make for great Prime Time games...it doesn't have the money behind it.  Sad but true.

Well, there are still things you can learn from the old school attack, even if you're not going to use it....these will seem obvious...but so many teams and players forget them...

If your line can't block...you can't run or pass.

Example:  The Bears.  The line isn't knocking anyone off the ball, and their O has gone no where.

If you have a horse, get on his back

Example: The Vikings didn't have Adrian Peterson in the game on their frantic, late drives...because he isn't skilled at pass blocking!!  He's your ONLY offensive playmaker, get him on the field...and he shouldn't be pass blocking at all!!!

Don't dance, get up the field

Example: Thomas Jones and Marshawn Lynch put on a clinic of this philosophy in the Jets-Bills game.  Brad Smith showed how not to do it, by getting to the line and moving back and forth, and losing a yard...had he just ran, he would have had 5.

With the lead late, you're playing the clock, not the other team...grind!

Example: The Bears had a 13-3 lead against the Lions entering the 4th quarter...get your power formation in there against a sorry Lions D, and just pound Benson down their throat.  Even after the Lions score to start the 4th...you still have the lead, run the clock!  Instead, Griese interception...and the game starts to unravel.

Running the ball wins football games, we tend to forget this with all the passing highlights...but for someone that grew up watching Walter Payton run...trust me, running can be beautiful to watch as well.

On with the picks...

Cleveland at New England

Did anyone catch the Kornhiser-Jaws exchange about the Patriots chances to go unbeaten?  Kornhiser kept trying to bait Jaws into an argument, saying things like "Which game are they going to lose?  Are they going to lose at Dallas?  Indy?"  And then Jaws unleashed the line of the night, "I don't know Tony, I don't have a crystal ball."  Which shut Kornhiser up for a second as he muttered under his breath that he thinks the Pats go undefeated.

First, Jaws is the best analyst in the game.  Just fantastic.  Always has great things to say about the GAME, and he's able to explain very complex things in very simple terms.  During the game, you really learn something from listening to Jaws.

Now, when can we vote Kornhiser off the island?  It seems to be all he's there to do is irritate Jaws, talk about his fantasy team, and repeat the same lame ideas over and over.  He's great on PTI, it's his element...but he doesn't belong in the broadcast booth.  Jaws, if you're listening, get out while you're still sane.

To be honest, right now the Patriots look unstoppable.  Will they go undefeated?  It's a long season, and any given Sunday, anything can happen...this last Sunday proved that...but if they play at this high of a level all year, no one can beat them...but maintaining that energy will be the key...as it always is.

The Browns aren't going to stop them...especially not at home.  Patriots roll...and everyone that didn't take Brady and Moss hits themselves again.

Miami at Houston

By far the worst video game I've ever played was ET for the Atari 2600.  For those that aren't familiar, this was the first big movie tie video game, and was rushed to market.  It was nearly unplayable...and my sister and I spent hours trying to figure out what to do...we were able to walk ET around and raise his neck...that's about it.  Just a frustrating game...

This game is giving me the same feeling...staring at these two teams...nothing jumps out.  On the one hand, Houston looks to be the more complete team...but they lost to Atlanta last week.  The Miami run defense was shredded by the Raiders last week...but Houston isn't running the ball especially well.  It looks like Andre Johnson will be out another week, so Houston will be missing their only real playmaker...and notice that they start 2-0 with Johnson...and have gone 0-2 without him?  Don't ignore that record...Johnson is a difference maker.

With all that info, it would seem Miami is the way to go...but between Trent Green and the whole Cam Cameron thing...the Dolphins just don't seem a safe pick...

When in doubt, pick the home team.  The Texans eek out a win at home, while Texans fans start sending get well soon cards, and every home remedy under the sun to Andre Johnson.

Detroit at Washington

My daughter is in the middle of potty training...doing quite well I might add...and so we cart her little training potty into whatever room she is to make things easier on her.  That means when we're watching football, the potty is right in front of the TV.

Let me pause for a moment to say, my daughter is just over 2 and already she has attained a goal that we can only dream of...being able to go to the bathroom without missing any of the game...

The other weekend while we were watching football, I was engrossed in a game, and said to her, "Why don't you sit on the potty for awhile, it's been about an hour".  She agreed, walked over to her potty, and said "there's nothing inside".

Not looking over, my response was "of course there's nothing inside, you haven't gone potty yet."

She walked over, grabbed my hand, and said "No, dad, no red bowl inside."

In my haste to return to football watching, I had forgotten to put the red bowl back inside the potty.  While I was oblivious to this, it was obvious to my daughter that this wasn't right.

That brings us to the 3-1 Detroit Lions.  Playing the roll of the oblivious, football watching Dad, we see a team that scores in bunches, has pulled out a tough win in OT, and has a solid QB in Kitna.  But looking through the non-tainted eyes of a 2 year-old we see a team that can't stop anyone, can't run the ball, and turns the ball over in the red zone way too much.  It appears that if the Lions don't fix those issues, they'll be peeing on the ground...

The Redskins rise up and smack the Lions down.  Detroit is going to be the team all year that has a record that is infinitely better than its team.  They do 1 thing really well, and that will be enough to win several games they shouldn't....just not this one.

Seattle at Pittsburgh

One of the things I don't miss about Seattle...is hearing "We should of won the Super Bowl"...which spread to "We should of beaten the Bears in the Playoffs" last year.  If you're hearing this for the first time, these are not said as a "Oh man, we blew our shot" way...these are said in a whiny, you're team is to blame for robbing the Seahawks of what was rightfully theirs.

Let me say it once and for all...the Seahawks lost.  They deserved to lose because...get this....they LOST!  They didn't make the plays when they needed too, and the other team did.  That's how it works.  The worst thing to do after a loss like that is to dwell on it with "shoulda, coulda, woulda".  Learn from the loss, and move on.  Instead of dwelling on the losses, revel in the fact that the Hawks made the Super Bowl, and that they've won their division for as long as I can remember.  They are a solid football team, and one that has a shot to get to the big game again.

That all being said, the Steelers aren't losing at home to an NFC West team...especially after they blew a game against the Cardinals.  The Hawks are a good team, unfortunately, the Steelers are a better one.

NY Jets at NY Giants

Who is really home?

Seriously, it's gotta be really weird to be the "visitor" in your own stadium.  Even as a fan it's gotta feel a little off.

New York fans, wouldn't it be great if the teams had stadiums IN New York?  Like the Mets and Yankees do?  When there was talk of moving the Bears out to the suburbs...or heaven forbid, Northwestern Indiana...it made me shutter.  The Bears, downtown on the lake...that's a part of what Chicago is...to remove it would be to kill a large part of what makes the Bears the heart and soul of Chicago.

That's why when I look at the New York teams...and not 1 but both teams play in NEW JERSEY...just wonder how that ever came to pass.  The Giants playing at Yankee Stadium...the Jets playing at Shea...didn't that just enhance not only football in New York, but the rivalry of the 2 teams?  Just something to think about...and yes, I know New York real estate is outrageous...

Usually, in games that are close like this, you go with the home team...but that really doesn't help in this one.  The Giants offense will be the deciding factor in this one....they steal a "home" game from the Jets.  Giants get the win, Jets face a long plane ride home.

Atlanta at Tennessee

Man, this game could have been Michael Vick vs Vince Young...what a hype machine that would have been...

Instead we get Vince Young vs Joey Harrington!!

Let me take a moment to apologize to the good people of Atlanta for calling them a bye week for Houston...the Falcons played a good game, and erased the donut hole.  Too bad their 23rd ranked rush defense is going up against the 2nd best rushing team in the league...ouch.

Titans run over, around, and thru the Falcons.  Joey is seen on the sidelines watching highlights of last week's game....

Jacksonville at Kansas City

Here's a logic puzzle for you...

The Chargers beat the Bears...

The Bears beat the Chiefs...

The Chiefs beat the Chargers...

Got that?  Okay, what can we conclude from this?  That the Bears are better than...no wait...the Chargers are better than...no, no...ah, that the Chiefs are the best of...okay, I've got it.

We can conclude that contrary to popular opinion, all 3 of these teams have joined the "field".  The Chiefs aren't as bad as we thought, and the Chargers and Bears aren't anywhere near as good as we thought.

What about this game?  This has all the makings of a letdown game.  Chiefs come out and beat the Chargers at home...only to return home and be beaten by the Jaguars.  Sorry Chiefs fans, but Jacksonville actually has a competent coaching staff.

Arizona at St. Louis

Here's an interesting tidbit...every Cardinals game has been decided by a Touchdown or less...and 3 of them have been decided by a FG.  They are playing close games with every one; don't know what to think of this...

But here's another thing...they are undefeated at home...and winless on the road...so they should lose by a FG right?

Then again, they are playing the Rams who have looked terrible...

The Rams get off the canvas and win this one.  The Cardinals are a team that is going to win games they shouldn't and lose games they shouldn't...something that drives their fans and gamblers crazy.  My gambling advice for you?  Stay away from the Cards.

Carolina at New Orleans

Have you ever been stuck on a particular level of a video game?  You've replayed it millions of times over...trying again and again to break through...your thumb starts to throb with pain...you're starting to sweat a bit...and you're starting to curse loudly at the screen.  You start to do worse and worse the more you try...but you keep thinking to yourself, "This next time will be it" and "I'm not leaving till I get this"...

Hours pass, and all that's been accomplished is a new record for controller hurling.  But you're still stuck at the same spot.  You reluctantly get up, and walk away, ice your thumb, eat something, and maybe even catch some shut eye.  Your mood starts to lighten, and your mind starts to relax...

And then it clicks...

You race to the game, and in minutes you pass the level.  And you sit there thinking, "How in the world was that so hard?"

The Saints have had a week away from things.  They've been able to let their minds relax...

This is the week it clicks.  Saints streak passed the Panthers, and get in the win column.  The offense starts to look more like the well oiled machine of last year, and less like a pile of garbage.

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis

Ominous sign for the Colts....Rob Morris is out for the season.  Remember, it was his insertion into the starting lineup coupled with Bob Sanders return, which sparked a resurgent Indy run defense...and got them to the Super Bowl.  Losing Morris means running on the Colts just got easier...which is not a good thing.  For the sake of Colts fans everywhere, hopefully this doesn't open the running flood gates like at the end of the regular season last year....

Luckily for the Colts they draw the Bucs this year...and Carnell Williams is out...so running is not going to be their strength.  The NFC South leaders fall to the AFC South leaders...but be careful Colts fans...pay close attention to the running game of the Bucs...if they are getting any easy yards be wary of it...you've been warned.

Baltimore at San Francisco

Back in college, one of the games that ate up countless hours of our time was NBA Live 95.  The Nick Van Exel led Lakers were my team of choice...and I would take on all comers with them.  It got to the point that I was talking a lot of smack about the fact that I was whooping everyone with the Lakers...if you remember; they weren't that good at the time.  Their only weakness was they had no one that could hit the 3...no one.

By far the worst team in the game was the Clippers...they had no one, and they were just terrible.  My friend Kevin was a terrible video game player...he had routinely been beaten on by everyone else, often losing by 30 points...and we were both very competitive...so we had a particularly heated series of games.  Finally, after I spent hours ragging on him about how I could whoop him...he threw down the "I'll beat you with the Clippers".  What happened was NBA Live history...

The Clippers couldn't miss from 3...Eric Piatowski was on fire...and the mighty Lakers lost as they couldn't keep up.  He took advantage of the Lakers one weakness...never heard the end of that...

The Ravens look very susceptible to the pass this year...Cleveland used it against them...the Jets were a couple wide open drops away from doing it...and Kurt Warner almost brought the Cards all the way back.  It appears this is the way you beat the Ravens...trade 3s with them...cause they can't keep up.

Luckily for them, the Niners can't pass.  Alex Smith is injured and likely out for the season...and they're WRs aren't very good.  The Ravens can concentrate on the run, and shut down Gore.  Ravens steal one in San Francisco.

San Diego at Denver

"They say the recipe for Sprite is Lemon and Lime, but I tried to make it at home, there's more too it than that." - Mitch Hedberg

That about sums up the coaching situation in San Diego..."Wait, you can't just take talented players and familiar coaches and win?  There's more to it than that?"  The resounding answer is YES.  This whole Norv Turner thing just smacks of arrogance...

He's had no success any where he's coached...

Marty had finally got the Chargers firing on all cylinders (except for the playoffs)...

The Chargers had already lost BOTH coordinators...

But AJ Smith ignored all that, and snatched up Norv Turner...and last week the Chargers lost to the Chiefs...ouch.  The only thing worse that could come of this loss...after the Chargers dump Norv...AJ goes out and hires Herm Edwards!!  Sorry Bolts fans...didn't mean to scare you like that.

On the bright side, the Chargers should have their pick of head coaches next year...great talent, super location, and lower expectations...what coach wouldn't love to jump into that?

The Homemade Sprite approach suffers another setback, as Denver romps over the Chargers at home.  The Chargers players start getting more and more vocal about the coaching staff...as they realize that they are squarely in the cellar of the AFC West.

Chicago at Green Bay

There are few certainties in life...Death, Taxes, and Favre in prime time against the Bears.

I've already gone on record that I have the utmost respect for Favre.  Watching him over the years, he's the type of QB the Bears should have...and yet there he is lining up for their archrival...just unfair.  But then you have the whole Favre in prime time against the Bears...it's painful to even try to remember all the shellackings he's given the Bears.

In the mid 90s, I wandered across the border into Wisconsin to attend college.  Little did I know that I was doing so just as the Bears were coming back to Earth, and the Favre lead Packers were launching a run that would see them in the Super Bowl.  Yes, it was the Wannstedt years...ah, mediocrity never smell so sweet...and I got to be tortured at the hands of my friends...Packers fans the lot of them.  It was good...learned to be humble...but man, I dreaded any Monday Night against the Packers more than anything at the time...I would hold out hope that the Bears would show up...but with in minutes, would be silent with horror as Favre worked the Bears over with another gem.

These painful memories, long thought dormant due to Favre's age, and the Bears rise to power, have come flooding back this week...it's as if I'm back at college...only with out the parties...the camaraderie...and the massive tuition bill.  Okay, so really, it's not like I'm back at college...but the wounds have never healed.

Bears Fans, I've been trying to rationalize this one...been putting on my thinking cap to come up with ways to turn the tables on the Cheeseheads...but alas, these horrible memories are all that dance through my head.  With the injuries on D, the O looking pathetic, and the Pack playing great right now...all that coupled with Favre on Sunday night, with Madden looking on....can only mean 1 thing...

Unless the Ghost of Walter Payton possesses Cedric Benson, the Packers roll over the Bears in this one...is it too late to see if Harbaugh would come out of retirement?  What about Mike Tomzack?  Does anyone have a number for Jimbo Covert?  Jay Hildenberg?  Mark Bortz?  Um, someone call the Jets and ask for a do over on the Thomas Jones trade....

Dallas at Buffalo

This should be a great game.  Anytime you have 2 great teams like this lining up on the same field it's magical.  Great defenses, high octane offenses, legendary coaches...it's the making of a very special game.  The star power alone is amazing...the Triplets...the K-Gun...

Sorry, couldn't resist...you know it will come up during the Monday night broadcast "It's a rematch of Super Bowl XXVII" (that's 27 for the Roman numeral impaired).  But this game does boast an interesting pair of triplets...

Romo-TO-Barber: Sorry, Julius Jones, Barber is the back that really impresses me.  Although to be fair, you should really include Jones and Whitten...but then it's not a triplet...it's a quintuplet...and that's not what we're talking about is it?

Edwards-Lynch-Evans: It was a pleasant surprise to see Marshawn Lynch last week...he looks great.  Good solid runner...gets up field...Buffalo has a keeper.  And Trent Edwards looked good as well...obviously a rook...but showed some real flashes...they have a good little group there...now if they could just do something about the coaching...

Roman Numerals and Triplets aside...the Cowboys have too much fire power in this one.  Bills fans have flash backs to '93 watching the Boys romp all over Buffalo.  But don't get too down Bills fans...with the core they have, the Bills could be back losing Super Bowls in a couple years.

One final thought before this weekend...

With the reality of the Bears season hitting me like a ton of bricks...a realization washed over me...every season ends badly for 31 teams.  The joy that was felt by Bears fans as our team made it's way to Miami is not a normal thing.  And just when a moment of "why do we do this to ourselves..." crept over me...Mitch Hedberg rode to the rescue again (if you haven't noticed, been listening to his CD today)...

"I like to drink Red Wine...this girl said ‘Doesn't red wine give you a headache?'...yeah, eventually.  But the first and the middle part are amazing.  I'm not going to stop doing something because of what happens at the end."

That's the motto for every sports fan out there...the first and the middle parts are amazing...I'm not going to stop cheering my team because of what happens at the end.

Feeling a little queasy?  Picks didn't agree with you?  Try Dan's, maybe they'll go down easier.

And if you think that Dan or I ran out of things to say...here's proof we didn't!! 

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