NFL Week 4: Every Pick for Every Game – Straight Up, Against the Spread and Over/Under

 Exactly how old are the NFL refs?

I honestly saw two zebras chatting with Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines in Week One and one of them said,

“Haven’t seen you in a while; it’s great to have you back in the NFL.”    Excuse me???

 

My Picks Record 2011: 

Straight Up:  32-16 

Against the Spread:  26-22 

Over/Under: 27-21

 

EARLY GAMES:

Detroit Lions at the Dallas Cowboys

Straight Up:  Detroit

Against the Spread:  Detroit +2

Over/Under:  Over 46

Dallas is on a short turnaround from Monday night and the Washington Redskins’ defense denied any offensive touchdowns form the Cowboys. The Lions’ D is allowing an average of only 15.3 points per game. Warm up that rookie kicker.

I don’t know if this will decide the game, but the matchup I want to see is DeMarcus Ware going after Matthew Stafford. The Vikings sacked Matthew five times last week. So, it will be up to the Lions’ O-line to stop the best defender in the NFL. Yeah, I said it–and I’m a Redskins’ fan!

When he’s not hunting QB, Ware will be trying to swallow up quick RB Jahvid Best. Quick will be Best’s only defense against the entire Cowboys’ LBing corps, because power is not in his vocabulary. But there is going to be a lot of pressure on the Cowboys’ much-criticized secondary to at least try and slow down Calvin Johnson. Good luck with that.

Romo has crossed over to “awesome leader” status after his performances through injury the past two weeks. Good for him. We’ll see. Deep threat Austin is hurt and Bryant isn’t 100%. Felix Jones is probable even with a shoulder injury, but I don’t expect too much against the Detroit D-line. So the Detroit secondary will have their hands full, too, as long as the suspect Cowboys’ O-line can do their job in pass protection. And I’m sure that Schwartz is soliciting volunteers to go against Witten over the middle. On the fun side, let’s see if Holley can be more than a one-week wonder.

If Cowboys’ fans thought that DeAngelo Hall was gunning for Romo last week, you had better watch out for Suh.

 

Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears

Straight Up:  Chicago

Against the Spread:  Chicago -6

Over/Under:  It will be sunny and mid-60’s on Sunday. Nevertheless I’m going with the under (43). I simply don’t think that Cam is quite ready for the Bears’ D.

What’s that old adage about not antagonizing angry Bears? They got totally smoked by Rodgers and Finley last Sunday. Cam Newton is a star of the future, but he is no Aaron Rodgers. And Ron Rivera had better stop acting like he is. The Panthers have two of the best RBs in the NFL and they are averaging 84 yards per game on the ground. Yes, Cam is throwing for 400, but come on! Give your team a chance to win.

Don’t even get me started on the Chicago running game! (How many times a year do I have to trash Martz?) Cutler honestly deserves better. Yes, it was a bit better protection in Week 3, but… Even decimated by injuries you know that the Carolina defense will be coming after Chicago’s embattled QB. Deep drops and slow WRs (with appropriate exception of course made for Hester.) That’s a bad combo and will keep this team from winning until Matt Forte and/or Barber get 25 carries per game. Minimum.

Gross injury that won’t help:  rookie OT Carimi suffered a “subluxation of his right knee cap.” I do not even want to know what that means.

Meaningless but interesting trivia:  Cutler’s QB rating is 82; Cam’s is 85. This is merely a function of Newton’s mobility, but still.

 

New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars

Straight Up:  Saints

Against the Spread:  Saints -7

Over/Under:  Over 44.5  Sunny and the 70’s.

Brees will throw three TDs to three different people and Jones-Drew will probably score twice all by himself.

I’m not at all concerned about that Saints’ offense. Let’s see, you can throw to Moore, Henderson, Graham or Meachem. (Yes, I know Colston and his collarbone have been cleared to play, but eeeewww. It hurts just thinking about it.) And if that doesn’t work, you can hand off or screen to Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles or Joique Bell. It’s official; that is the best backfield in America. Wow.

But New Orleans’ D has been far too tame ever since last January. They are giving up almost 30 points per game! Are you sure you don’t need Darren Sharper? Toughen up in the red zone, dudes.

In Florida, Blaine Gabbert has arrived. With a safety and a successful Hail Mary all in his first game. In the five minutes before the monsoon last week, Blaine looked promising on the whole. Let’s see how he does in reasonable weather. We all know Mike Thomas from last year’s Hail Mary, but who the &^*#% is Jason Hill? I looked him up. He’s in his fifth year, has played with the 49ers and Jags. Forty-two games active; 5 starts. Yikes. I’m betting Gabbert targets Thomas, TE Lewis and MJD.

The Jags’ defense has not been bad, giving up on average only 280yards. But almost 21 points. See above note on red zone D.

 

Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns

Straight Up:  Tennessee  

Against the Spread:  Tennessee

 Over/Under:  rain.  Under 38.5

Colt McCoy is holding the ball too long and making decisions too slowly. And he led a fourth quarter game-winning drive like he’s been doing it his whole life. Which, I guess, he has. One piece of advice–don’t throw the ball towards Finnegan.

The Titans’ D has allowed only 172 yards per game through the air–but the competition hasn’t been that stiff. They are lucky this week in that two Cleveland starting O-linemen are hurt. Run, Colt, run.

The same holds true for the Cleveland D; accurate Hasselbeck is going to be a shock to their system on Sunday.

Matt Hasselbeck is a master at this offense, so Colt might want to take notes. But Kenny Britt (the only star WR in Tennessee) is out for the year. We’ll see this week how much of No. 8’s 102 QB rating was dependent on Britt. Now he’ll be throwing to Nate Washington (who does have a SB ring, don’t forget.) Then there’s Damian Williams. Um, yeah. The second year player out of USC has two receptions. I’m expecting TEs Craig Stevens and Daniel Graham to catch a lot of balls.

Quote of the week:  Titans’ coach Munchak said, “Matt Hasselbeck didn’t come here to retire quietly.”

 

 

Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals

Straight UP:  Buffalo

Against the Spread:  Buffalo

Over/Under:  sunny and 60’s. That’s a nice break for these cold-weather fans. Over 43.5

Both big trap games this season (Baltimore and Atlanta) have been losses for those suffering the letdown. I’m inclined to think that Buffalo cannot stay as high as they have been, especially after beating the Pats.

But, boy, is Fitzpatrick impressive or what? And how about Fred (C.J. who?) Jackson? I love it. Forget the flying footballs, the key matchup here will be the Bills’ ground game against a Cincy D giving up only 88 rushing yards per game. In fact, the Bengals’ D is better than most people think, so this won’t be a cakewalk.

Andy Dalton is quietly going about learning how to play QB in the NFL. And he’s climbing the learning curve rapidly. But will he have a running back with Cedric Benson possibly suspended? Word is that Benson is fighting the suspension and will play. If he doesn’t the odds will jump, so keep an eye on it.

I’m thinking that if Buffalo DB Mike Adams can pick off Brady, he can probably pick off Andy.

 

Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City

Straight Up:  Minnesota

Against the Spread:  Minnesota +2.5 (unless Harvin or Peterson can’t play) 

Over/Under:  Over 39.5. McNabb will score for sure (at least early) and Cassel and Co. have finally regrouped enough to cover this. Plus, it will sunny and mid-70’s. Enjoy it while you can, Chiefs’ fans. 

Is Leslie Frazier still the coach? I hope so, but man – three straight fourth quarter collapses? Even against the Chiefs, can the Vikings stop shooting themselves in the foot? If they don’t, it will be Christian Ponder under center in week 5 and heaven knows who on the headphones.

It’s perplexing; the Vikings are not playing badly–until the fourth quarter. And you might want to think about changing things up a bit in the second half. It’s mental; it has to be. Gestalt can work against you, too.

It’s also the Vikings’ secondary. Talk about being exposed. Football purists, avert your eyes.

This is bizarre:  both teams have lost to San Diego and Detroit. They both gave up at least 20 points and they both only scored 17 in those games. Both teams are 0-3 and desperate. I would say that home field would give KC the edge, but the Vikings are simply more talented. Except for that secondary. Ugh.

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles

Straight Up:  Philadelphia

Against the Spread:  San Francisco +9

Over/Under:  50’s and raining. Under 45

 Can Vick play effectively with a severely bruised non-throwing hand? I don’t know–probably. Kurt Warner played with his entire left arm and shoulder in a harness. And played well.

I have to be fair here. I will never, ever, under any circumstances be a Michael Vick fan. But he’s right. If anyone had hit Brady the way Vick was hit, they would have been flagged, fined and darn near suspended. Let’s make an effort to be consistent please.

How angry are the Eagles going to be? I bet their fans are plenty angry. I love it; people are starting to criticize Andy Reid. Boy, it must be bad. Reid has been Teflon for years. About time. What–you guys just noticed that he can’t protect a QB, is allergic to the power run and hasn’t had a D since Johnson passed away?

Of course that defense is lining up against Alex Smith this week. That should hide a multitude of weaknesses. But San Fran is toughening up under Harbaugh and already has one road win.

This game will be won on the ground:  either the return of Frank Gore will spur the Niners over those suspect ‘Iggles LBs or Vick and McCoy will break out over a San Francisco D only allowing 62 rushing yards per game. I’d say that Philly wins this matchup – except for that whole Reid prejudice against the run.

Philly should win on a significant offensive talent advantage (unless the WRs keep dropping every other pass), but Gore could also take over if his ankle sprain is healed enough for him to be 100%.

 

 

Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams

Straight Up: Washington

Against the Spread:  Washington +2

Over/Under:  Over 42.5

 Poor Rams. How many seasons are you going to go before you admit that Amendola is too fragile and no one else on your team can catch? And how about trying not to get your franchise QB killed before his 25th birthday? If, and only if, Steven Jackson is all healed up and ready to rumble the Rams may have a chance since I’m sure the ‘Skins are deflated. Or maybe some third string Rams’ WR will emerge from the shadows and become the next Rod Smith. Hey, it could happen.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

Straight Up:  Houston

Against the Spread:  Houston +3

Over/Under:  Over 45.5

 I really have no idea who will win this game–although I’m absolutely sure that the Steelers will be more *$%^ed off. Frankly, I think it depends on whether or not Mario Williams can be his usual dominating self on the D in spite of being “dinged.” What an athlete. He and Orakpo and Kerrigan are making the transition between DE to OLB seamlessly. Somehow I’m just sure that it isn’t that easy.

Williams hurt his knee last week but is listed as probable. Look out, Ben. Plus rookie J.J. Watt is proving that he belongs in the starting lineup of a NFL defense.

The Texans also get back Arian Foster Sunday. If Kubiak is smart he will run Foster and Tate until Harrison and Woodley drop from exhaustion. And then he’ll throw the ball to Andre Johnson. The only flaw in this plan is that if I can figure it out, I’m fairly sure that Tomlin can too. Hmmm.

On defense, Wade P. will undoubtedly come after Ben. But Ben is like Brady:  you know how to make them ineffective, you game plan it that way–and they simply do not allow you succeed. Not to mention the fact that Mike Wallace is faster than anyone in the league.

So I think it’s going to come down to the Texans’ secondary. If they can do what the Colts did, Houston can win. Time for Jonathan Joseph to earn that money.

 

LATE GAMES:

Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks

Straight Up:  Atlanta

Against the Spread:  Atlanta +4.5

Over/Under:  okay, right now it is supposed to be merely “partly cloudy”. If that holds I’ll go Over 38.5.

I am truly starting to wonder whether or not Atlanta is smoke and mirrors. They are absolutely too finesse, that is for sure. O-line, please. Defense, please. Give the &(*&#% ball to Michael Turner, please!

I’m still not sure what is going on in Seattle besides caffeine and rain. Everyone seems to feel that the monkey is off their back with last week’s win. Um, let’s recap: they won on a busted play scrambling TD. Otherwise the offense still mustered only field goals.

Atlanta’s offense is in similar trouble. On a team with Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julius Jones and Tony Gonzalez they are still coming up with FGs in the red zone except for a few Gonzalez circus catches that can only be made by a savvy veteran with HOF talent.

As for defense…are they playing defense? Oddly, the stats aren’t unprecedentedly horrible on either side:  they are allowing 22 and 25 points per game. But the Falcons look frankly inept these days on D. Meanwhile, the ‘Hawks gave up 33 points to San Francisco in Week one. San. Fran. Cisco. Yeah.

Neither team is running the ball successfully–and they have arguably two of the strongest power rushers in the 2011 NFL. You know where I’m going right? Offensive line.

I know Marshawn Lynch is streaky, but some blocking would be helpful and Atlanta risks the career of their franchise QB on every snap. If Ryan can’t stand in the pocket, it doesn’t matter how many HOF TEs and talented rookie WRs they put out there.

I want to believe in the Falcons, but this may be there last chance for my respect in 2011.

 

New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals

Straight Up:  New York Giants

Against the Spread:  New York Giants -1

Over/Under:  Over 44.5 – unless they run out of IV’s:  it’s supposed to be 100 degrees. Sunblock in the stands please.

As good as Eli can be, he can also be inconsistent. On the other hand, he can get on a hot streak that ends in the Super Bowl. Which is it, after last week’s excellent performance with a bunch of third string WRs. (Yes, I have to toot my own horn, here. Did I call it with Victor Cruz last week or what?) And what a brilliant play call on the pass to Brandon Jacobs. I haven’t seen running like that since Riggins.

Cruz may end up as the third wideout this week, since both Manningham and Nicks are supposed to play. Do not forget about Cruz, Mr. Gilbride. The kid is a playmaker. Plus the cha-cha thing is cute.

It’s fortunate that Kevin Kolb can throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, because the first three running backs on the depth chart have those little Red Cross symbols next to their names. I’m pretty sure that’s not good. In case you are wondering, the fourth-stringer is Alfonso Smith. He’s a second year player out of Kentucky. He has a career 17 carries for 54 yards. Well, it could be worse.

If only the Cardinals had a defense.

 

Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers

Straight Up:  Green Bay

Against the Spread:  Green Bay -12

Over/Under: Over 46 (still lovely weather in Wisconsin)

Oh dear. This could be ugly. The fans did it; they actually put up the Tim Tebowbillboard. How tacky is that? It would serve them right if Orton left them with Tebow under center.

But since No. 8 will at least start this game, it would be terrific if the Packer secondary wouldn’t triple cover Brandon Lloyd. But I wouldn’t count on it. That secondary is not as tough as it was last year–yet. The slump is due in no small part to the season-ending injury to Safety Nick Collins. They’ll rally, but Denver may have a better passing attack this week than they normally would against GB. Especially because they have to pass, since we have yet to see anything resembling that famous Denver running game of yore. Gone–and apparently forgotten as Moreno continues to disappoint. Thank goodness for McGahee. That turned out to be a good insurance policy, huh?

As for the Packer offense, the only thing new is the return of Jermichael Finely–who appears on a mission to prove he deserves that Super Bowl ring. The mission is going well. What isn’t going well on this offense is Ryan Grant’s kidney bruise. Ouch.

The only thing remotely in question this Sunday is whether the Pack will cover the spread. I’m going with the defending champs over the team that has the drama without the defense.


New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders

Straight Up:  New England

Against the Spread:  New England –4.5

Over/Under:  Under 55

Angry Pats versus empowered Raiders. Don’t miss this. Unless McFadden can’t play, in which case it won’t be that interesting.

But let me tell you–Brady had better find someone else to catch the football besides Welker. The under-sized slot king who was a Miami cast-off may be working his way into the HOF, but people will at some point figure out how to stop him. Or kill him–and no one wants that. I love watching No.83 and I’m happy for him with 16 receptions, 217 yards and about a thousand touchdowns last week. But he’s not made of steel. Deion Branch, OchoCinco–get with the program.

As for the Pats’ defense, you’d better be scared; you are simply dreadful. Jason Campbell is completing more than 65% and the Raiders are rushing for 185 yards every week. Gulp.

The fun matchup in this contest is a still-angry Richard Seymour against the New England organization that threw him out a couple of years ago. Be on your guard, Patriots’ O-line.

Bottom line:  New England will be determined to continue their tradition of never losing twice in a row and the Raiders might have a letdown after last week’s triumph.

Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers

Straight Up:  San Diego

Against the Spread:  San Diego –7.5 – but no higher 

Over/Under:  Under 44.5 – Miami has real trouble scoring. 

Battle of the Hot Seat Coaches!

Honestly, I would say that Miami doesn’t have a prayer. Except that both star San Diego WRs are hurt. They’re planning to play, but they are hurt. And the Chargers are just too hinky. It’s a real word, honest. It means, “ something as yet indefinable is wrong.”

Doesn’t that sum it up? The only player on that team that I truly trust to go out and rip it up is Philip Rivers. Matthews is improving, but you can’t hang the game on him, particularly when Antonio Gates is out.

Both defenses could use some backbone in the redzone. Too bad that rookie running sensation Daniel Thomas has a bad hammy because the Chargers are giving up over 111 yards every week. Without him there is no dependable Dolphin offense at all.

Unless San Diego self-destructs (which we all know is a real possibility), they should handle this easily.

 

Sunday Night Football

New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens

Straight Up:  New York Jets

Against the Spread:  New York Jets +3.5

Over/Under:  Over 42 – especially if Torrey Smith decides to score three in the first quarter again!

This could be a bad fortnight for the Jets. The loss to Oakland was a bit of a shock, but we all know that going to Baltimore is going to be violent. Are they ready? I don’t know, but if it’s possible to get them back together, Rex will do it. New York simply must find a way to run the football. Now, this is a bad week to try and get that rushing attack going since you’re going against the Ravens, but it must be done. What is the deal with Greene? He’s getting as bad asReggie Bush with the lateral running nonsense. O-lineman Mangold is questionable and boy it would be great for Gang Green fans to get him back.

Torrey Smith got the heat off of Flacco–for one week at least. If Rex’ D can slow down Ray Rice it may be a different story on Sunday. Don’t assume that Rice will gash them the way that McFadden did. I’m a Rice fan but it’d not the same thing at all.

Baltimore’s D will try to force Sanchez to win it; the Jets need to have the same goal. I’m going with an angry Rex Ryan.

 

 

Monday Night Football

Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Straight Up:  Tampa Bay

Against the Spread:  Indianapolis Colts +10

Over/Under:  Over 40.5

Another game that I’m pretty sure the schedulers saw going down differently. Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky? Oh dear. All right, you’re right, let’s be positive here. Painter led a very nice drive there at the end. Colt McCoy did not play well for three quarters last Sunday only to lead one good drive in the fourth and we think he’s terrific. So I hope Curtis plays well.

And I really hope that the defense plays with the same heart that they showed last Sunday. It’s a testament to character and, in America today, I need to see some character. I need to see a team play like a team and rise up. Isn’t that why we watch sports? I mean, it’s not like any of us are actually on the field. We want to be inspired. I want to be inspired. Go Colts!

Are we all feeling patriotic and hopeful? Good, because the Bucs are going to win.

 

Ready, Set, Football!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barbara Bruno

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