This is going to be a great weekend of football. Tons of rivalry games, several other good matchups, and then we get to end it all with...Niners-Seahawks. Okay, so it's anti-climactic, but man, Sunday will be great!
Today's absurd prediction:
Only 13 teams will come away with a win this week.
Atlanta at Carolina - Well, we're really starting off with a bang here, aren't we? The best news the Panthers got all week? ILB Dan Morgan is out for the year with an Achilles injury. Why is that good news? It wasn't a concussion. They're also looking at starting one of two guys who wasn't on an NFL roster at the start of the preseason: one is 44 on Tuesday, the other is 23. Meanwhile, the Falcons' three most important offensive players have been limited in practice this week: Dunn, Norwood, and Crumpler. If I had to pick two teams that would definitely lose this week, without looking at a schedule, I would have said these two. But they're playing each other, so they can't both lose. You know what? I'm going to go absolutely nuts here and for the first time in my prognosticating career, predict a tie. That's right; Falcons 13, Panthers 13. Game MVP: DeShaun Foster - 25 carries for 102 yds, TD.
Buffalo at Miami - Ah, there's a game. Well, by comparison. Miami's coming off a bye week, so who knows? And both teams have been playing most everyone not coached by Bill Belichick closely. So this should still be anyone's game in the fourth quarter, at which point Miami will get too tired and fall apart once again. Bills 24, Dolphins 16. Game MVP: Marshawn Lynch - 28 carries for 122 yds, 2 TDs.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh - All right, Derek Anderson, here's where you get a chance to prove yourself. If you outplay Roethlisberger, you get my Pro Bowl vote. And I probably won't pick you to lose by 14 any more this season. When did I pick them to lose by 14, you ask? Right now. Browns 17, Steelers 31. Game MVP: Hines Ward - 9 catches for 141 yds, 2 TDs.
Denver at Kansas City - Denver lost Cutler, Kansas City lost Johnson. The difference? Cutler wasn't the reason for the small amount of success that Denver has had, and he has a capable backup in Patrick Ramsey. No discredit to what Priest Holmes has done over his career, but those legs won't get anything going in his first game back as the starter. This ought to be a low-scoring, punt-heavy, high-turnover affair. Last time the Broncos got embarrassed, they bounced back and won. Furthermore, though they have lost 5 of their last 6, they've played a ridiculously rough schedule. They get the win, doing their part to keep everyone in a division called "West" under .500. Broncos 15, Chiefs 13. Game MVP: Jason Elam - 5 FGs, 2 50-yard+.
Jacksonville at Tennessee - Tough call here. David Garrard might be back, which is the big reason this one's tough. One can't deny Vince Young's win percentage, but the fact is, his passing has been awful. And the beige backfield (White and Brown) is hobbled, which means Young might be asked to do more. Tennessee won the opener in Jacksonville, and the Jags are coming off of a rough defeat to New Orleans. I think I'm going to have to go with Tennessee in yet another ugly game here, but with very little confidence. Jaguars 17, Titans 19. Game MVP: David Thornton - 10 tackles, FR
Minnesota at Green Bay - I'm tempted to pick Minnesota. Brad Childress seems to have finally come to his senses, giving the ball to Adrian Peterson most of the time. Nick Collins, the Packers' run-stuffing safety, is out; could mean another huge game for AD. But Green Bay still has a great bunch of linebackers that might be able to keep Peterson in check. Any one of Minnesota's bargain-bin quarterbacks might get the start, and they'll be lucky to get 100 yards against the Packers' corners. The question is, how will Favre do against a defense focused largely on him? I'm going to say well enough, but this is my other very-low-confidence pick. Vikings 13, Packers 17. Game MVP: Al Harris - 3 tackles, 2 INTs, 3 PDs.
Philadelphia at Washington - This one pains me. As bad as Philly's been lately, it's been against good teams, whereas the Redskins struggled to beat the Jets. Jason Campbell still has a long way to go, and the Eagles have been shutting down Clinton Portis for years (he averages 65 YPG against them, lower than any other NFC team). However, this Andy Reid-ism is one of the dumber things I've heard a coach say in a while: "We need to just win back-to-back games. That's what you need to do, and get yourself on a roll. Things can change quickly in the NFL, but you've got to do it." This wouldn't be nearly as dumb if the Eagles had won their last game, but they haven't. What happened to only looking at this week? One week at a time? Isn't that the coaches' mantra? So why are you suddenly looking at next week, too? I mean, as long as we're looking past Sunday, you should maybe say "We just need to win at least 6 of our last 8 games. That's all you've got to do." I almost want to predict an Eagles loss after that nonsense, but the sickening gut feeling holds. Eagles 24, Redskins 17. Game MVP: Brian Westbrook - 17 rushes for 77 yds, 9 catches for 81 yds, 2 TDs.
St. Louis at New Orleans - The only thing that gives me pause here is that the Rams are coming off of a bye week. I guarantee, however, that this game will not be close. Both teams are in a mental state where a few things going wrong early will cause the team to unravel like a Dan-made sweater. It's far more likely that it happens to St. Louis, and after beating up on Jacksonville to prove the comeback is for real, New Orleans should destroy a much weaker defense. Rams 14, Saints 48. Game co-MVPs: Drew Brees - 30 for 38 passing, 381 yds, 4 TDs; Reggie Bush - 19 carries for 80 yds, 6 receptions for 134 yds, 2 TDs.
Cincinnati at Baltimore - Didn't I already do this one? Oh no, wait, that was the GOOD NFC North teams. I was confused, because I thought these guys would be the good teams at the beginning of the season. Yeah, laugh it up, mikesteelnation. Be looking for this one in Josh's and my Friday debates. World's worst offense against world's worst defense. Can't-finish-the-job good offense against can't-get-off-the-field-for-five-seconds defense. This one will be... interesting, in the same way that your grandpa finds that favorite YouTube video of yours... interesting. Kyle Boller comes in at halftime, giving the Ravens enough of a surge to keep the home fans from throwing crab cakes at Brian Billick. Bengals 20, Ravens 23. Game MVP: Kyle Boller - 13 for 20 passing, 141 yds, 2 TDs, and the starting job from now on.
Chicago at Oakland - Lane Kiffin, at least your job is safe - you matched your predecessor's win total several weeks ago. But this'll be another loss for you, as the Bears defense finally has an opponent they can bully around a bit. Griese will be working with a short field much of the game, and will rack up some points. Oh, and Kiffin said earlier in the week that he'd be kicking to Hester. Ah, rookie coaches. What fun. Bears 26, Raiders 10. Game MVP: Devin Hester - 2 catches for 91 yds, TD; 5 returns for 180 yds, TD.
Dallas at NY Giants - Okay, you know everything Josh said about this game? Repeat it here. And I'm not copping out, it's the same stuff I've been saying for weeks. Cowboys 28, Giants 16. Game MVP: Terrell Owens - 8 catches for 113 yds, 3 TDs.
Detroit at Arizona - Jon Kitna, you're my kind of Bible-thumper. The kind who's not too self-righteous to consider it hilarious to dress up as one of your coaches naked. You also have a faith in your team as blind as...well, no need to go there...that causes you to predict a 10-6 season. And then you actually do a pretty good job of pulling it off. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. But after this week, your schedule is brutal, and I'm thinking: Screw this one up, and you won't make the playoffs. As for the Cardinals, I'm sorry. You're just in bad, bad, shape. I've read this quote from Kurt Warner a couple of times in the past week: "I'm way too good a football player to be a part of something that we just did out there on the field," and as a cute journalistic touch, every time I see that quote it's followed by his stat line, which, let's just say, amounts to a passer rating much closer to Matt Leinart's age than his own. Detroit gets an early lead, and churns out the clock for much of the second half. Lions 31, Cardinals 14. Game MVP: Kevin Jones - 26 carries for 129 yds, 2 TDs.
Indianapolis at San Diego - San Diego doesn't have time to sit back and wonder how Adrian Peterson gashed them for an NFL record in rushing yards - they have Joseph Addai to worry about, who broke 100 in both rushing and receiving yards against the PATRIOTS. Peyton Manning is furious after his game-clinching fumble, and I wouldn't be surprised if he breaks the record for consecutive completions during this game. Oh, and for good measure... Norv Turner can't coach. Colts 41, Chargers 20. Game MVP: Peyton Manning - 28 for 30 passing, 306 yds, 4 TDs, 0 INTs.
San Francisco at Seattle - Seattle leads the NFC West, which is about equivalent to being the first guy in line at the soup kitchen. But farther back in line is the old, cholera-stricken prospector known as the 49ers. And Seattle's seeing that one gold-capped tooth the prospector has, and is thinking, Hmm...I bet I could knock that tooth out and pawn it! It won't get you much, but in today's NFC West, one gold-capped tooth is enough to get you into the playoffs. I'd like to take this moment to replay a fun little comment made by some guy name reezy in a blog several months ago about how the 49ers would flop despite all their shiny new free agents:
"wow. first, dont ever .. .EVER compare my 49ers to your pathetic 'Skins. you guys splurged on 2 of our chumps and some other trash ala Randle El ... we went out and got QUALITY. you dont even address your opening claim in your article. please take some online journalism classes or something before you attemt another trainwreck article. NEVER EVER compare the greatness of the 49ERS to the year in year out sorry woeful 'Skins. i think Clinton Portis would actually become more idiotic than he already is by reading your trash. Aint nothin finer than a 49er, and dont forget it, SUCKA" - reezy
Ah, the fun we had, reezy and me. He has two comments in FN history, both on that one blog, though he's technically still a member. Now that I've stooped to his level, here's how the Seattle game will turn out. 49ers 10, Seahawks 27. Game MVP: Lofa Tatupu - 12 tackles, FR, INT
Once again, and I can't stress this enough, you should really also read Josh's picks.