I went 9-7 last week, but I was a precious few inches from a strong 11-5 showing. What happened? Carolina blocked an extra point to send their game with Tampa into OT, which they won. Then on Monday night, Giants kicker Matt Bryant sent a kickoff out of bounds with 11 seconds to go, allowing the Cowboys to tie the game with a last second FG and win in OT. And to boot, the MNF discussion of the Shockey-Parcells homo-calling incident was limited to a lame point about how young players have to be careful talking to reporters.
So basically I'm due for some good luck this week. Unfortunately, the silly NFL TV rules mean I'll be getting the Cleveland-San Fran game on TV as a late game Sunday here in metro Boston. Maybe it'll turn out to be a good one--Garrison Hearst breaks 300 yards?--but I hope Fox has a game in the 4:00 slot here too. Giants-Redskins, pretty please. Gregg Easterbrook has a good point on the whole TV situation, which invariably causes me to miss masterpieces like the Tampa-Carolina game. I know I can pony up for Sunday Ticket, but I think we need full NFL football slates televised for the masses. This can be a movement, people, perhaps a winner for the wise political party in 2004?
Anyway, this week we get the annual phenomenon of seeing whether teams are "for real." I caution fans of teams like Buffalo and Kansas City that last year at this time I was dancing a jig (figuratively) over my beloved Patriots, who were coming off twin demolishings of the Steelers and Jets to open the year. Both Pittsburgh and New York ended up as division champions, and my Patriots missed the playoffs. In their previous, Super Bowl year, by contrast, the Pats opened 0-2. Even the mighty Bucs lost their opener to New Orleans a year ago. Don't go printing playoff tickets yet! Not that you actually would do that in September...
On to the picks, which, as always, are for recreational purposes only.
Kansas City at Houston
Did anyone catch the new Fox pregame picks guy last week? He impersonated Bush making predictions, offering arguments that Kansas City was strong because it had a priest and Houston Texans can't be messed with by anyone. So what gives in this matchup? The Texans showed some defensive issues last week against the Saints (whom "Bush" had picked against--aha!), so I'm guessing the Chiefs' week of reckoning will not be week #3. Beating a second-year team doesn't prove you're "for real", but it will make them a nifty 3-0.
Minnesota at Detroit
The duel of the domes! Vikes are 2-0, so are they for real? They looked sluggish versus Chicago, a team that was waxed by SF in week one. Then again, Minnesota won at Green Bay that week, and last week Detroit was toasted by those same Packers. I have just proved why previous weeks' games are useless in making picks. Hell, I'll just go with the home team, and give some other reason to justify it. How about the weakness of the Minnesota secondary? That'll do.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
The Colts are 2-0, so are they for real? Fat chance we'll get to know after seeing them beat the Jags on Sunday. Oddity about Jacksonville: starting QB Mark Brunell is left-handed, and the rookie backup trying to take the job is named Leftwich.
St. Louis at Seattle
The Rams are now firmly behind Bulger, or is Bulger ramming St. Louis, or are these just lame dirty jokes? The Seahawks shut out Arizona last week, thus proving that they did in fact manage to find the stadium and line up properly. Improbably, however, they will go to 3-0 this week, postponing their fall from glory until later, once the Niners or Rams get their act together.
NY Giants at Washington
Quincy Carter, whom I've insulted in the past, looked like the reincarnation of Dan Marino against the Giants Monday night, which does not bode well for the NY secondary. And now Spurrier and the pass-happy Skins are the next opponent after a short week. Washington may prolong the fantasy this week going 3-0, but I bet eventually they will fall apart with a pass-dominated offense in the cold months. This week is a close call, and I'm guessing the Giants, humiliated by last week, will respond, much as Quincy Carter flourished after I trashed him.
Buffalo at Miami
This is definitely a case of the wheels falling off the bandwagon. The Bills throttled a Patriots team that had no intention of playing football in week one, and last week they beat up a weak Jags squad. Except for that inexplicable hiccup versus the Texans a few weeks back, the Dolphins have a crazy-good September home record in recent years. Plus if they lose this thing Dave Wannstedt may end up swimming with the sharks off Key West. The Bills are at risk of being too content with what they've done already, but I'll add that they still may win the division, which is razor close.
Oakland at Denver
The NFL is upset Mike Shanahan initially lied about Jake Plummer's injury last week. Perhaps they would have preferred if the Broncos' training staff had affixed a bullseye to Plummer's uniform, indicating exactly where to hit him to inflict the most damage. Meanwhile, Bill Romanowski makes another return to Denver, where he mesmerized fans with his linebacking and bizarrely offensive personal behavior for several years. The Broncos have beaten Cincinnati and San Diego, so you probably know where I'm heading, though the fossilized Raiders looked pretty weak in their first two games too. Maybe KC really can win this division after all.
New England over NY Jets, Tampa Bay over Atlanta, Cincinnati over Pittsburgh, New Orleans over Tennessee, Green Bay over Arizona, Baltimore over San Diego, San Francisco over Cleveland