Friday, September 30, 2005

I'm sick, so I want to talk football. Week 4 picks. 

I'm kind of sick (health-wise, not mentally...), so here's a post to take my mind off the agony by talking about what I love to talk about. Also, to forget that my room was virtually an oven last night and there was no real fresh air to be had because of the smoke from the wildfires in Chatsworth. I actually found my car, after work, covered with a thin layer of ash along the windows. And I'll be damned if the acids in the gallons of orange juice I was guzzling last night didn't feel like sand paper on the back of my throat.

Before we get into it, a couple notes on my favorite teams.

1. With the A's finally (mercifully) being eliminated from playoff contention, baseball season is pretty much over for me. I don't really care who wins (though I'll likely watch just because it's the playoffs) and, just for kicks, I'll be rooting for the Padres who don't have a hope in hell of getting out of the division series.

2. LA Kings note. Hopefully Jeremy Roenick won't miss too much time after suffering his 11th concussion of his career in a preseason game last Sunday. He slated to play on NHL opening night on Wednesday the 5th, but concussions are tricky as everyone knows. Kings need Roenick if they're going to make the playoffs which, I think, is a very attainable goal even in the deep Western Conference and brutal Pacific division -- without a doubt the toughest division in hockey this year.

3. Liverpool got screwed big time in their Champions League match this past Wednesday against Chelsea. The result was 0-0, but the ref clearly botched two clear calls that would've ceded a penalty to Liverpool. William Gallas clearly buggered everything for Chelsea, yet the ref let him off the hook. It is clear that as good as Chelsea are, Liverpool have their number and, now, a mental edge every time the two square off. Everyone who saw the match and has followed the meetings between these two over the past two seasons recognizes that plain as day.

Okay, to the gridiron. Finally recovered from a dismal week one. After a strong week three showing, the record jumps above the .500 mark to 24-22 overall, 5-4 best bets. This week there are some gimmies and some traps that I would stay away from in Vegas.

Winners and best bets (BB) in bold

Buffalo "at" New Orleans (San Antonio, TX) - This is a very even matchup. Vegas even thinks so, listing it as a "pick 'em." Buffalo may be in better condition, but they also sport the worst run defense in the league after the first three weeks. Doesn't help that they'll have to contend with Deuce McAllister this week. Couple that with what could be an emotional and warm welcome for the Saints to their temporary and I think Buffalo comes up just short.

Denver at Jacksonville - I think this one is a cinch. The Jags are fearsome on defense and will shutdown Denver's running game. Additionally, Denver is primed for a letdown after two big home wins against division rivals. I don't like their fortunes on the road against what looks to be more and more like a playoff-bound Jacksonville team.

Detroit at Tampa Bay - This one appears to be a gimmie. The Lions are absolutely dreadful on the road, playing on grass. The bye week probably didn't help them that much for two reasons. 1) Tampa is on a hot streak, riding Cadillac Williams for all he's worth and 2) Joey Harrington is still their starting quarterback. Bucs win by at least a touchdown. (BB)

Houston at Cincinnati - I've joined up with a second suicide pool where the game is pick one team, survive and advance. This week's pick is Cincinnati. They're a lock at home. Only concerns are that Houston is coming off a bye and whether or not the Texans will be able to get Dominick Davis going on the ground. The Bears' Thomas Jones showed last week that you can run on Cincy. However, Houston looked hapless and hopeless in their first two games and the Bengals are hot hot hot. No doubts here. Ride Carson Palmer's hot hot arm to another win. (BB)

Indianapolis at Tennessee - Remember that vaunted, dangerous, explosive Colts offense? Yeah, me neither. Seriously, what's happening? True, Indy hasn't lost yet this season, but the struggles on O are cause for concern. This Sunday in Tennessee they'll have a great opportunity to right the ship as the Titans are pretty young on D.

San Diego at New England - The Patriots just don't lose at home. They don't. And you know who just doesn't win in New England? Yeah, San Diego. The Patriots, despite losing Rodney Harrison for the season, have regained their confidence after last week's huge win over Pittsburgh. Belichick outcoaches Schottenheimer.

Seattle at Washington - This game is dangerous. By all rights, Seattle is the better team. However, they're a shaky road team facing a Redskins squad that is fresh off a bye week and extremely tough against the pass. That means we can all expect a lousy-to-average day from Matt Hasselback. However, picking against the Redskins makes sense when you figure that their QB, Mark Brunell, probably won't produce as many points as Josh Brown -- the Seahawks kicker.

St. Louis at N.Y. Giants - This should be a close one. Initially, I was thinking I'd go with St. Louis, but I'm taking the Giants because Eli Manning is quietly playing very well and the Giants are bigger and more physical than the soft Rams on both the offensive and defensive lines. New York outmuscles the fast and flashy Rams, but not by much. St. Louis also may not be with Steven Jackson or Isaac Bruce on Sunday, so their options on offense may be limited, even though the Giants defense has been giving up a ton of points this year.

N.Y. Jets at Baltimore - This one could be the stinker of the year. You want a lock? Go to Vegas and bet the under on this one because there won't be many points scored. I'll take the rested Ravens and their nothing quarterback at home against the beat-up Jets and their super-nothing quarterback. The Jets look pooched for the rest of the year. Brooks Bollinger (poor Jets) will be starting this weekend at QB. After that, they have old man Vinny Testaverde to look forward to. Good night, New York. They're a beaten team without the leadership and confidence of Chad Pennington.

Dallas at Oakland - I've been screaming this one all week: Raiders finally win one! It's clear that the schedule makers hate us (our first three games @New England, home to KC, @ Philly), but this is a must-win. No really, week four and we have a must-win. Now, some may say that at 0-3, you're already screwed for the year, but this Raiders team has it in them to make a serious run provided they don't rack up penalties like they're going out of style. Should've beaten KC, were good enough to win last week against the Eagles, will win on Sunday. Dallas has shown serious weakness in blowing what should've been a win against Washington and barely eeking out San Francisco last week. The key for the Raiders, though, will be getting pressure on Drew Bledsoe. Any pressure at all. We're ranked 2nd worst against the pass thanks in part to our toothless defensive line and Bledsoe is cutting it up this year. But Bledsoe has almost no mobility, so with any luck, some sacks and hurries will throw him off his game.

Minnesota at Atlanta - No, sir, I still don't like Minnesota. It'll take more than beating the worn-out Saints to convice me. Their one bright spot this week is that Atlanta has been awful against the run and Mewelde Moore seems to have stepped up as a solid play at running back. He could have a huge day. But Minnesota's problems on offensive line might be just what the Atlanta doctor ordered for their defense (very solid a year ago) to get back on track. On the other side of the ball, however, the Falcons are running as they please this year. Dunn and Duckett will be opening up the field for Michael Vick, who I expect to have a big game.

Philadelphia at Kansas City - The Eagles are underdogs for the simple fact that they're on the road. Make no mistake, though, they are still the better team. Kansas City looked downright bad against Denver on Monday and they'll get no reprieve this week as Brian Westbrook and Terrell Owens tear them up. Chiefs' QB Trent Green will continue to struggle mightily as the ground game continues to stall due to the absence of all-world tackle Willie Roaf. The presence of Roaf opens up everything for the Chiefs on offense. The Raiders had absolutely no luck running the ball against Philadelphia last week. I don't expect Kansas City -- Priest Holmes (dinged up) and Larry Johnson or not -- to be any better.

Sunday Night
San Francisco "at" Arizona (Mexico City) - Forget the awful matchup we have here, I just want to rail on the NFL for robbing Arizona of a home game and playing a regular season fixture in freaking Mexico City! For shame, NFL. Yeah, I get it, you're seeking the dollar, but save this international crap for the pre-season when nobody gives a damn. The NFL might be the least accessable American sports league, internationally, because, well, no other country plays American football! You want to set up shop in Mexico City or Tokyo or Germany or London or wherever the hell you think you can sell more mechandise, you save it for the meaningless pre-season! Argh! I hate it. Now, some of you might say, "Hey, Alan, the Cardinals are so bad anyway. What good would their lousy homefield do?" And you may be right. But it's the principle of the matter. Also, you think they'd strip a home game from Dallas who has, by far, a bigger Mexican fan base than any other team in the league? Yeah right. Dallas would riot if that happened. So here's what I'm doing as protest: Not watching the game. Screw you ESPN! I'm taking my ball and going elsewhere. Maybe I'll catch a movie. Anything but watch this ridiculous game. I encourage all of you to do the same. Seriously, don't watch. Oh, and the Cardinals are doomed with Josh McCown in the lineup. San Fran's only two wins last year both came against Arizona. 49ers look pumped and should've won last week. This is mostly a bet against the Cards.

Monday Night
Green Bay at Carolina - All signs point to Carolina here. However... it's Brett Favre on Monday night. This is when he shines and the Packers are a desperate club. This game will be the difference between a losing season and an embarrassing season. But Carolina's two losses this year both came on last second field goals, both of which could haunt them down the road. I don't see this one coming down to the last second. I like the Panthers to do as they please on offense and win by ten. (BB)

Okay, time to buckle down and write the first act for the new episode at work.

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