Today's absurd prediction: The Rams get their first win, despite almost all of their offensive starters being out.
Miami at Houston - Andre Johnson is doubtful, and Ahman Green is day-to-day. Were both 100%, this would be a no-brainer-pick the better team, who happens to be playing at home. Zach Thomas, whose presence is desperately needed, should return from his concussion for Miami, which should help prevent them from surrendering 300 rushing yards again. The way the Dolphins have been playing lately, it seems they are the ground equivalent of the Bengals-it's a shootout, but they're using cannonballs. However, this week, I like Houston's front seven's chances to stop Ronnie Brown, and I trust Gary Kubiak to be smart and use Samkon Gado more than Ron Dayne if Green can't go. Dolphins 20, Texans 26. Game MVP: Samkon Gado - 21 carries, 137 yards, TD
Detroit at Washington - The Redskins bolstered the secondary heavily this offseason, presumably with the primary goal of not getting killed by Tony Romo, Terry Glenn, and Terrell Owens. As a bonus, they won't get killed by Jon Kitna and his mess of talented receivers. Early indications are that Jason Campbell is going to be modern day football's equivalent of Yogi Berra, having a knack for saying something profound yet obvious. "You have to get used to adjusting," is one of his latest. This was in response to the fact that Clinton Portis and Santana Moss might not play, and Keenan McCardell was just brought on board. While I don't like Washington's odds to outshoot Detroit, I do like their odds to get a few turnovers and keep Kitna off the field by sustaining long drives. Lions 24, Redskins 30. Game MVP: Jason Campbell - 18 for 26 passing, 251 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs; 5 rushes for 46 yards.
Atlanta at Tennessee - Joey Harrington has found his groove, steadily improving each week, and the question is if he'll be able to keep it up against the Titans. Tennessee has faced three quarterbacks-Peyton Manning, David Garrard, and Drew Brees-and each suffered their worst game of the season thus far. My guess is both trends will be broken; Harrington won't do worse than the 63.1 rating he posted in week 1, but won't improve on last week's 121.7. Dunn and Norwood once again won't get anything going on the ground, and Atlanta will fall to 1-4. Falcons 12, Titans 22. Game MVP: Cortland Finnegan - 3 PD, INT, 4 tackles. (keep an eye on this guy - he was a 7th rounder last year, and he's doing good stuff. Pacman who?)
Arizona at St. Louis - I have to say, I don't like Matt Leinart's attitude. I understand that playing two quarterbacks based on their different strengths is something one "doesn't do." Screw that, why not? It's working! Besides, virtually every innovation in the NFL started this way, with controversy and naysaying until it's been proven it works. And you, Mr. Leinart, are the only reason it shouldn't work. Anyway, between the fact that they're on the road, they're flying high after a huge upset, and Leinart is causing some locker room/press room strife, I like the Rams' odds of coming out of nowhere and getting their first win with Gus Frerotte at the helm. With almost the entire second-team offense starting, save the receivers and tight ends, they'll have nothing to lose, have a ton of fun, and happen to win. Cardinals 20, Rams 31. Game MVP: Gus Frerotte - 26 for 37 passing, 290 yds, 3 TDs, INT
Seattle at Pittsburgh - Prepare for endless clips from the Super Bowl, Seattle fans - you get to relive the awful memories on Sunday. Had Pittsburgh won last week, I'd pick Seattle, based on "the team that wants it more wins" logic, which enabled me to predict the Arizona upset. But with that loss, Pittsburgh's going to want this one a lot more. Dropping two straight to NFC teams would be shameful, and they want to keep being mentioned at the top of their own conference. Seattle, meanwhile, is coming off of a road win, which is rare for them, and I doubt they'll get two in a row. Hines Ward might be out, so the game should stay close. Seahawks 16, Steelers 24. Game MVP: Clark Haggans - 4 tackles, 2 sacks, FF, FR, TD
NY Jets "at" NY Giants - Jets' season ticket holders, your team is playing at the Meadowlands, but your ticket is no good. At least I assume that's how it works. Will it be disorienting to be in your own stadium, but painted with another team's colors, and red-and-blue-clad fans booing close calls that go your way? There is a little voice inside my head telling me to pick the Jets, though I don't see how it's going to happen. I'm going to shut it out for now, assuming it's the malicious part of me that loves watching Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin fail, but if it proves right, I'll listen to it from now on. Jets 14, Giants 27. Game MVP: the offensive line, for giving Eli hours to throw the football all day long.
Carolina at New Orleans - I'd love to pick the Saints to get their first win here. It makes sense - they're coming off of a bye, they're at home... but, in the words of the Knights who says Ni, "But there is ONE SMALL PROBLEM." And I do mean small - 5'9", 185 pounder Steve Smith. Yes, he's been ineffective for two consecutive weeks. But the Saints have shown they can't stop a fast receiver. David Carr or Jake Delhomme, it doesn't matter, that ball is going to Smith, he's catching it, and he's scoring touchdowns. Not to mention that the Panthers' linebackers won't have too much trouble containing Reggie Bush. Panthers 38, Saints 21. Game MVP: Steve Smith - 11 catches for 180 yds, 3 TDs.
Cleveland at New England - Rodney Harrison will suit up for the first time this season, making a defense that has been more dominant than necessary even better. Scary thought. Expect Jamal Lewis to be held to his worst game of the year thus far, and there's nothing Derek Anderson can do to compensate. Browns 15, Patriots 35. Game MVP: (yawn) Tom Brady - 28 for 34 passing, 320 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.
Jacksonville at Kansas City - could be one of the most interesting games of the day, but how many will care to watch? Damon Huard has looked like his 2006 self in the past two games, and LJ finally started to show some life against San Diego. Since week 1's defeat, David Garrard threw two brilliant games, and he hasn't thrown an interception yet this season. Jacksonville's mistake-free offense will get them a win at Arrowhead, and help them keep pace with the Titans. Jaguars 23, Chiefs 13. Game co-MVPs: John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, for shutting down Larry Johnson just like the Williamses did in Minnesota.
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis - it's likely neither team will have its starting running back. The difference is, Tampa Bay has a serviceable backup in Michael Pittman. Kenton Keith? Could be problematic. However, Tampa Bay also lost tackle Luke Petitgout for the season, which could decrease the amount of time Jeff Garcia has to throw considerably. If Marvin Harrison is able to play, the Colts should have no problem moving the ball through the air against the Bucs' Cover 2. Without him, this one would be close. I like the Colts to get stops when they need them, even though they'll give up a lot of rushing yards. Buccaneers 17, Colts 28. Game MVP: Dallas Clark - 8 catches for 113 yards, 2 TDs.Baltimore at San Francisco - Trent Dilfer plays his former team, where he earned the distinction of being the guy everyone points at to prove that a team doesn't need a decent quarterback to win a championship. Incidentally, Don Banks of SI.com made a rather silly error earlier this week-in reference to the fact that Trent Dilfer and Trent Edwards will both be starting, he was wondering if there had ever been a two-Trent Sunday before. Yes, plenty. But this is a three-Trent Sunday. It appears Mr. Banks forgot about Trent Green. Hm-I can't find the article now. Perhaps they went back and edited it out. Or I dreamt it. If anyone else remembers reading that, say so, so I know I'm not insane. Anyway, Brian Billick will remember Dilfer's weaknesses, after doing such a good job compensating for them in the past. The Ravens have been bad against the pass recently, but that won't happen Sunday. Ravens 17, 49ers 6. Game MVP: Ray Lewis - 11 tackles, 1 FF, PD.
San Diego at Denver - the two teams who should have been running away with the AFC West and have been thoroughly disappointing face each other. Should Denver lose, and Kansas City as well, Oakland will have the division lead by half a game. How scary is that? Denver has the most lopsided defense in the league - top-notch against the pass, awful against the run. So it's safe to say that the struggling Philip Rivers won't be able to get anything going, but LT is going to gash them. A few good red zone stands will preserve the win for the Broncos. Chargers 26, Broncos 28. Game MVP: Brandon Marshall - 7 catches, 115 yards, 2 TDs.
Chicago at Green Bay - The Bears are in pain, and watching them is almost as painful. They get something going, and throw a red zone interception. The defense plays a good game for three quarters, but due to the lack of depth, they can't keep it up in the fourth. This will be disastrous at Lambeau, against Favre and his newfound ability to spread the ball around accurately. They'll keep it low-scoring and close, until the Pack begin to run away with it at the end. On the bright side, they will break Favre's streak of throws without an interception. It will hardly be a consolation. Bears 17, Packers 31. Game MVP: A.J. Hawk - 8 tackles, sack, 2 FF.
Dallas at Buffalo - the Super Bowl rematch that far fewer people care about, even though it's a rematch of two consecutive championships. The outcome will be the same - a Cowboy slaughterfest. And against hard-hitting Roy Williams, there's no guarantee that someone else won't hit the IR list. Cowboys 41, Bills 14. Game MVP: (also yawn) Tony Romo - 23 for 31 passing, 277 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.
Normally, this is where I say if you don't like my picks, you should check out Josh's. However, we only disagree on one game - Panthers-Saints. Still, it's a good read. And we're open for suggestions on what we should debate, since we've already agreed that debating that one game wouldn't be as fun.