You’ve got to hand it to the NFL. The league definitely knows how to seize the spotlight. We’re just one week into the season and we’ve already witnessed Kevin Everett’s life-threatening tackle, New England’s attempted espionage and approximately 1.8 million Peyton Manning commercials. That’s more drama than you’d see from an entireseason
of “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Or so I’ve been told. Anyway, needless to say, I’m pretty pumped to find out what week two has in store for us. But before busting out my crystal ball, I want to hand out some hardware to the big winners and losers of opening week.
The Britney Spears “Oh my God, they’re even worse than we ever could have imagined!” Award
To the Cleveland Browns who, despite dropping a deuce on the NFL landscape year after year, still managed to shock and appall their fans with a disgusting display of incompetence and apathy during a 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh; a game which wasn’t nearly as close as the score might indicate. No doubt some inhabitants of the Dawg Pound enjoyed the shellacking, since it means the Brady Quinn era is about to dawn. However, the real celebration is taking place in Dallas, because the Cowboys own Cleveland’s first round pick in next year’s draft. And, yes, the thought of Arkansas super-stud Darren McFadden with a star on his helmet in 2008 just made me recreatethe barfarama scene
from “Stand By Me.”
The Kid Rock and Tommy Lee “You’re stupid. I hate you. Just go away!” Award
To Brian Billick, erstwhile genius head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. So let’s see… Your team has the ball at Cincinnati’s 2 yard line, needing a touchdown to tie and send the game into overtime. You’ve been running the rock for better than four yards a pop the entire game and you’ve got 40 million dollar man, Willis McGahee, in the backfield. Meanwhile, the Bengals’ mediocre defensive line is exhausted and desperate to get off the field. So what do you do? Throw the ball twice with Kyle Boller, of course! Shockingly, the Ravens’ drive ended with an interception and Baltimore lost. And, no, my anger about this particular sequence of events has absolutely nothing to do with the fact McGahee happens to reside on my fantasy football team. But I will admit that if I ever cross paths with Mr. Billick, my first impulse will be to ask him “What’s the capital of Thailand?” and then proceed to unleash all my fury and frustration upon his nether regions.
The William Shakespeare “Much Ado About Nothing” Award
To Bill Belichick, for his spying shenanigans. Professional athletes and coaches cheat to gain a competitive edge? Really??? What a bombshell! Look, what Belichick and the Pats did was wrong and they’ve been appropriately punished. So enough with all the talk about how this event places a stain on New England’s three Super Bowl championships. I’m usually the last person to go easy on cheaters, but stealing signs is part of life in the NFL. Yes, videotaping them is against the rules, but it’s not as if the Pats gained an insurmountable advantage by doing so. And does anyone actually believe New England is the only team doing this? This story is WAY overblown.
The Lisa Nowak “WTF? Are they trying to throw everything away?” Award
To the Chicago Bears. Lisa Nowak had it all. Then, she drove to Florida wearing adult diapers (allegedly) and the rest is history. Did the Bears make the same mistake when they handed the keys to Rex Grossman? I can’t imagine Lovie Smith wearing diapers, but I can imagine Sexy Rexy driving Chicago into the abyss.
The Miss Teen South Carolina “Nice body, too bad about the brain” Award
To the San Diego Chargers. They’re arguably the most talented team in the NFL. Yet, every U.S. American knows Norv Turner will ultimately sabotage the entire operation come playoff time with his -- everywhere, like, such as -- uncanny ability to blow football games.
The John Galt “The World can’t operate without me” Award
To Indianapolis safety, Bob Sanders. Like Ayn Rand’s superhuman protagonist in “Atlas Shrugged,” Bob Sanders apparently means everything to the Colts’ defense. Without him, they’re a historically bad D. But when he’s on the field, Indy is capable of winning a Super Bowl and holding one of the league’s most prolific offenses without a touchdown. Go figure.
On to the week 2 picks (home team in caps):
CAROLINA (-6 1/2) over Houston
Yes, there were many positives that came out of the Texans’ victory over the Chiefs. But there were plenty of negatives, too. Specifically, Houston’s play in the trenches still left much to be desired. While the O-line continued to be susceptible to pressure from the edge, the D-line was practically non-existent until an impotent Kansas City club was pressed into passing on almost every down in the second half. I believe the Texans are moving in the right direction, but I don’t yet think they’re ready to beat a seemingly rejuvenated Carolina team on the road. Our man Bryan Pittman says the final score will be 24-17. I agree. He thinks the Texans will win. Obviously, I don’t.
Panthers 24 – Texans 17
PITTSBURGH (-9 ½) over Buffalo
There are two schools of thought regarding this game: 1.) The Bills come out fired up; ready to win one for fallen teammate, Kevin Everett. 2.) The events of this past week will so detract from Buffalo’s focus that the Bills will get steamrolled by a superior Steelers team playing its home opener. I choose option two.
Steelers 31 – Bills 13
Cincinnati (-7) over CLEVELAND
No, I’m not on the Bengals’ bandwagon, despite their big win over Baltimore. Cincinnati forced 6 turnovers, yet still needed a Brian Billick brainfart to secure victory. But since they’re playing a team that just won the Britney Spears award, I’ve got no choice but to pick them anyway.
Bengals 37 – Browns 10
TENNESSEE (+7) over Indianapolis
We seemingly see it every year: The Super Bowl champs come out guns-a-blazin’ at home to open the season, then fall flat when they hit the road the following week. That’s reason enough to take the Titans and the points in this one. Then, when you recall that Vince Young is involved, you mock yourself for ever considering the Colts in the first place. The Force is strong with that one.
Colts 21 – Titans 20
ST. LOUIS (-3) over San Francisco
A confession: I initially took the 49ers here. But then I asked myself: “Did San Francisco look like a 2-0 team Monday night?” No way. And I can’t imagine my super-sleeper St. Louis starting the season by losing two straight at home. Although, now that the Rams have lost Orlando Pace for the year, they may very well just end up sleep-walking through the entire season.
Rams 24 – 49ers 20
Green Bay (+1) over NEW YORK GIANTS
What?!!? The Packers and their sneaky-good defense get to feast on fatty Jared Lorenzen, but New York is the favorite?!? This line almost makes me want to start betting on pro football. Almost.
Packers 27 – Giants 17
JACKSONVILLE (-10 ½) over Atlanta
There’s a reason the Jags are heavy favorites in this game. It’s because Atlanta sucks. I smell big games from Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor. Like more than 200 yards combined and one touchdown each, big.
Jaguars 24 – Falcons 10
New Orleans (-3 ½) over TAMPA BAY
Wow. Did Vegas lose faith in New Orleans, or what? From Super Bowl favorites to giving three and a half measly points against a terrible Tampa team? What gives? Am I missing something here? Aren’t the Saints still dangerous and desperate for redemption? Isn’t the only good thing about the Bucs the fact that their fans have an excuse to dress up like pirates every day? I think I’ll take the Saints.
Saints 35 – Buccaneers 20
Minnesota (+3) over DETROIT
This game is a killer. Which crappy quarterback do you take? Jon Shitna or Tavaris Jackson? In the end, I’m siding with Jackson and the Vikes, simply because Minnesota is perfectly content to lean on its defense and running game. They won’t ask the kid to do too much. Meanwhile, Mike Martz is going to have Shitna throw the ball 40 times, even if ten of those passes get picked.
Vikings 14 – Lions 13
Dallas (-4) over MIAMI
Assuming Cowboys’ safety Roy Williams doesn’t get burned deep half a dozen times this game (and that is by no means a safe assumption), there’s no way Dallas loses this game.
Cowboys 27 – Dolphins 13
ARIZONA (+3) over Seattle
If you weren’t able to stay up late enough to watch the Cards-49ers game Monday night, you’d be well-served to check out this recap. Actually, even if you somehow did manage to remain conscious for the entire thing, you should still read that brilliant piece of sports journalism. Once you’re done, you’ll no doubt realize why I’m terrified to take Arizona here. But they’re at home and, quite frankly, every team in the NFC West looks like a .500 club to me right now. And if the Cards and Rams win this weekend, that’s exactly where everyone in that division will stand.
Cardinals 20 – Seahawks 17
New York Jets (+ 10) over BALTIMORE
Sorry, I’m not sure what the Ravens did Monday night to deserve ten point favorite status. Sure, the Jets got obliterated by New England, but the Pats are the best team in the league (and they’re cheaters! Have you heard about that yet?!?), so they get a break. And don’t look now, but I think the Kellen Clemens era is about to begin in New York. And that’s a good thing for Jets fans.
Jets 17 - Ravens 13
DENVER (-10) over Oakland
I don’t know what to make of Denver yet. They absolutely deserved to lose to Buffalo last week. But they are playing the Raiders who, while better than last year, are still bad. I don’t feel good about this but…
Broncos 24 – Raiders 13
CHICAGO (-12 ½) over Kansas City
They can’t possibly make the spread high enough in this game. If the Bears were giving 20 points, I’d still take Chicago. Even Lisa Nowak award winner Rex Grossman is going to have a big day. Consider this Grossman’s feast before the inevitable gargantuan dump.
Bears 38 – Chiefs 3
NEW ENGLAND (-4) over San Diego
Two tremendous teams filled with fantastic players. But at the end of the day, one team has Bill Belichick and the other has Norv Turner. I’ll take the cheater, thank you very much.
Patriots 24 – Chargers 17
Washington (+7) over PHILADELPHIA
Not the kind of match-up that’s going to compel you to plan your Monday night around the NFL, is it? So the less said about this one, the better. Philly will win, but not by much.
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Eagles 20 – Redskins 16
Last week against the spread: 9-6-1
Last week straight-up: 10-6