Hey FanNation, sorry this took so long, it's been a crazy couple of days. Here are my predictions for today's games.
Today’s absurd prediction:
The Patriots are held under 30 points, and Tom Brady’s 3+ TD streak finally ends.
It’s a week of quarters and corners in the Game MVP section – most of the excellent performances this week will be from a passer who makes a secondary look bad, or a secondary who makes a passer look bad.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati – I've read several people criticizing Mike Tomlin for calling so many pass plays against Denver. While the criticisms make sense, given the Broncos' track record against the run, the fact is, they were down by 14, and running out the clock isn't a good strategy then. Now I'm reading people telling Tomlin he should just pound the ball against the Bengals. Sure, they should run a lot, but not until after a strong air game with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes now 100%. Bengals, sorry, you're not playing the Jets this week. Kenny Watson won't be looking like another Rudi Johnson this time (besides, you have enough Johnsons – insert tasteless joke here). Steelers 37, Bengals 19. Game MVP: Troy Polamalu – 9 tackles, sack, FF, PD
Cleveland at St. Louis – Steven Jackson may be back, though I don't understand why they wouldn't just wait until after the bye. Randy McMichael has reportedly guaranteed a win, and in the style of Bill Maher, New Rule: You can't guarantee a win for a team you've only been on for less than a season . McMichael is clearly trying to make up for earlier in the week, when he said he was embarrassed to be a Ram. But it's one thing when a loudmouth fun-loving guy like Chad Johnson who has earned a place as one of his franchise's faces makes such a guarantee, and when an import who hasn't done jack all year does so. I don't believe him, and I think Derek Anderson will continue to pad his résumé. Browns 38, Rams 16. Game MVP: Derek Anderson – 27 for 39 passing, 310 yds, 3 TDs, INT
Indianapolis at Carolina – there’s a lot of debate over who should start for Carolina. Vinny Testaverde is the hero of the month, David Carr is more familiar with the offense. To me, the choice is obvious. Carr knows Indianapolis, hates them, and has beaten them recently. Not that it’ll matter – the Colts handled the Jags last weekend, who right now are a far superior opponent to their expansion year classmates. The Colts will not get caught in a trap of looking forward to next week and forgetting this one – Dungy and Manning would never let that happen. Colts 26, Panthers 10. Game MVP: Peyton Manning – 24 for 28 passing, 298 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.
Detroit at Chicago – at Ford Field, the Lions had their way with the Bears on offense, and had just enough defense to preserve the win. At Soldier Field, it’ll be a different story. A tough win over Philadelphia behind a strong game from Brian Griese has given the Bears some confidence and they’ll come on strong, eager to overtake Detroit in the NFC North standings. Adrian Peterson will get more rushing yards than Cedric Benson despite having half as many carries, because he can actually bounce outside with some success. The Lions’ tackles won’t give Benson anything up the middle. Lions 24, Bears 30. Game MVP: Brian Griese – 25 for 39 passing, 270 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.
NY Giants vs. Miami – it’ll be disorienting to watch a live football game at 1:00, and see the sun setting. More eyes will be on the fans than on the field in this game, since the Giants have gotten better as the season has gone along, and the Dolphins have gotten worse. However, if there are any games this week that are trap upsets waiting to happen, it’s this one. Who’d think the winless Dolphins will knock off the won-their-last-five Giants? Not even me. Giants 34, Dolphins 16. Game MVP: Plaxico Burress – 8 catches for 113 yds, 2 TDs.
Oakland at Tennessee – Many critics said during the offseason that Oakland’s defense only put up such great numbers last year because the opposing offense was always working on a short field. It’s looking like that may have been true, as the Raiders aren’t anywhere near last year’s level on defense. But they have won more games. This ought to be a close one. I’m giving it to Vince Young and the Titans, because no one’s better in quarter four. Well, okay, the Colts and Patriots are, but they’re better in all four quarters. Raiders 17, Titans 19. Game MVP: Albert Haynesworth – 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 FF.
Philadelphia at Minnesota – The storyline of this game is Brad Childress vs. Andy Reid; a poor and boring man’s version of Vader vs. Kenobi. It’s Mustache Wars! Okay, so one can call Childress a lot of things, but evil isn’t one of them. So the Vader comparison doesn’t really apply. And the stakes are on the level of Uncle Owen vs. Aunt Beru. But this game does mean a lot to Childress, and it’ll keep Minnesota in the playoff fight. The Eagles have lost heart, it seems, and will lose even more when they lose this game as well. Eagles 18, Vikings 20. Game MVP: Antoine Winfield – 4 tackles, 2 INTs, TD.
Buffalo at NY Jets – The Bills got their first win here in Trent Edwards’ first start. Now Edwards has more experience and more wins, and he’ll enter this game with all kinds of confidence. Though someone else gets the MVP, Edwards’ solid play will keep the Jets a Miami game away from winless, and every time someone says Mangenius this weekend, people will snicker. Bills 28, Jets 22. Game MVP: Marshawn Lynch – 27 rushes for 148 yds, 2 TDs.
Houston vs. San Diego somewhere in Arizona – The story here seems to be about how the Chargers will respond to the wildfires – will it distract them or spur them to victory? The emotional sap in me says the latter, but the sardonic SOB says otherwise. And the sardonic SOB gets a lot more play time in the radio station of my mind. After finally getting some momentum going, a failure to beat Andre Johnson-less Houston sobers up the Chargers’ locker room even more. Texans 26, Chargers 20. Game MVP: Dunta Robinson – 2 tackles, INT, FR, TD, 4 PDs.
New Orleans at San Francisco – Their seasons have been mirror images thus far; with the Niners winning two and losing since, and the Saints winning their last two, having lost everything before that. The current momentum continues, though it’s one of the ugliest games we’ll see for some time. Saints 22, 49ers 17. Game MVP: Terrance Copper – 4 tackles, 2 INTs.
Washington at New England – A win here seems far-fetched for my Skins. And while I play a great game of fetch, I can’t see them knocking off the powerhouse Pats. What I CAN see is “the best defense” Brett Favre faced all year being the first to hold the Patriots under 30 points. But Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis, and the offense are far from unstoppable. Redskins 13, Patriots 27. Game MVP: Adalius Thomas – 8 tackles, 1 sack, FR
Jacksonville at Tampa Bay – Without David Garrard, I don’t have a lot of faith in the Jags, especially not against a good well-rounded defense like Tampa Bay. Quinn Gray will make more of the mistakes he showed against Indy, seeing as how the defenses are similar, and the result won’t be pretty. Jaguars 14, Buccaneers 24. Game MVP: Barrett Ruud – 10 tackles, INT
Green Bay at Denver – During the offseason, most people would have picked Denver to win this one with little hesitation. Now they’re doing the opposite. I, however, am picking Denver in an upset, with very much hesitation. Not that I have a lot of faith in Jay Cutler’s ability to beat a good defense, or Mike Shanahan’s coaching abilities thus far in 2007. But I do know that the Denver run defense finally showed up last week, and Champ Bailey should be back in action, giving Favre fits. Favre was never great at checking down, which is necessary against the Broncos. Packers 17, Broncos 21. Game MVP: Champ Bailey – 2 INTs, TD.