Week 8: Can’t Defend the Pretenders

11-2! Many keep saying pick with the spread, by why I’m not trying to help ya’ll gamble. I’m trying to do what the experts do, but at least I know people are checking the posts!

Don’t forget to check out the Lessons Learned from Week 7 after reading my picks.

THURSDAY

BUCCANEERS @ Vikings – Christian Ponder simply looked awful against the Cardinals, Adrian Peterson did not. But this Bucs’ defense is a top 10 run defense. I never expect anyone to hold Peterson down, but it will put more pressure on Ponder, which as last week showed he’s merely a game manager right now. These Bucs are pissed that they lost a heart-breaker to the Saints last week. This offense is for real and if the defense could stay healthy you’d be looking at possibly the second best team in the NFC South. I expect the Bucs to come out with a purpose.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yisxlE4p3BA – If you haven’t seen Joe Morgan’s Touchdown.

SUNDAY

Panthers @ BEARS – The Panthers season has been ugly and will continue to get ugly. Cam Newton has pouted his way through press conferences and most of the season. The GM has been fired and the coach is definitely next. They keep losing focal points of their roster to the IR: Beason, Gamble and Kalil. The Bears offense looked average at best on Monday Night, but the defense has looked masterful the whole season the turnovers and the shutdowns of teams’ number one receivers, now including Megatron.

CHARGERS @ Browns – The Chargers find themselves coming off a bye and off that 24 point blown lead debacle. Unfortunately, that means they’ve had two weeks to let it sink in and watch lots of tape. These things leave a bad taste on in your mouth, but Norv shouldn’t let off the gas now in games and I expect to see that weekend against the lowly Browns, who couldn’t get much against a bad Colts defense. Brandon Weeden is progressing especially with the help of Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon, but it won’t help coach Pat Shurmur.

Seahawks @ LIONS – Seahawks played their letdown game last week and came out flat, especially their wide receivers. Their defense is still living up to its hype, but the offense is just lacking solid play all game long. Russell Wilson dials up one big play usually each game, but you can’t win games like that forever. The Lions again looked flat against a solid Bears defense. Stafford will probably be running for his life a lot, but with two young wide-outs now playing we should expect a lot of throws across the middle, with the focus turned to Calvin Johson.

Jaguars @ PACKERS – No Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert is hurting pretty bad means enough said for this game. The Packers are on a roll and Rodgers won’t lose his funk here. (Side note: Greg Jennings is having surgery on his abdominal and will be sidelined even longer and Jordy Nelson might not play, but Rodgers will make others step up.)

COLTS @ Titans- Luck was a selfish fantasy football player last week as he ran the Colts’ only two touchdowns in himself. This team has not looked much like a playoff contender, except for the team that appeared in the Packers’ game. Luck will have plenty of chances to make the playoffs in what is shaping up to be an illustrious career. Chris Johnson has been going H.A.M the past few weeks and all in Tennesseee are hoping the roll continues.There is no reason to believe it shouldn’t continue in this game against a bad Colts defense, but the Titans are now 2-1 under Matt Hasselbeck. Does this spell Quarterback controversy?

PATRIOTS @ Rams – I dislike the London game, almost as much as I despise Thursday night games. It’s unnecessary travel for players who shouldn’t have to and it’s a marketing ploy by the league. If they wanted to play a game in London, don’t you think they would have played soccer? Anyway, the Pats looked beatable again last week against the Jets. Bill’s got to dial something up this week against a feisty Rams team, who lack play-makers on offense right now as teams stack the box against S-Jax and Daryl Richardson. Danny Amendola is making surprise returns to practice, and they (mostly Sam Bradford) need his slot capabilities.

Dolphins @ JETS – The Dolphins are coming off their bye week, in which they broke a tie and now find themselves in second place in the AFC East. Last game against the Jets, came down to one of the ugliest overtime games ever, in which the Jets won by a field goal. The Jets come off a very gritty overtime loss to the Patriots and they seem to be playing above their talent level. No Santonio Holmes and no Darrell Revis, but this team has been more than in the games that those two guys haven’t played. Expect no less from the Jets on Sunday, but Sanchez will look less than average again against a very underrated Dolphins defense.

Falcons @ EAGLES – Both teams are coming off a bye. The Falcons are 6-0, but have looked beatable and have needed some late magic from Matt Ryan to keep that “L” column clean. The Eagles are an ugly 3-3 in which the games they’ve won haven’t been great and the games they’ve lost haven’t been memorable. The Eagles are 13-0 coming off a bye under Andy Reid. This is the reason I am picking them. Keep in mind that Matt Ryan is from Philly and that Asante Samuel played in
Philly for a few years, and usually those two feed into great performances by individual players. This is my toss-up game for the week.

Redskins @ STEELERS – RG3 looked masterful against the Giants, but Eli Manning did what he does best. The Redskins defense is sub-par after injuries have taken its toll, and now it appears that London Fletcher’s consecutive games streak is in jeopardy. He isn’t as good as he used to be, but he is still a foundation in that defense. RG3 could really use Fred Davis and Pierre Garcon, but he will be without them possibly for the rest of the season as Fred Davis was just lost and Garcon hasn’t been there since the first game. The Steelers came out on top of a hard fought game on Sunday night against the Bengals. Big Ben is leading this team that has only had a running game in this past game. Big Ben will keep his swag this weekend against a bad Redskins defense.

RAIDERS @ Chiefs – The Raiders pulled off a nice comeback against a bad Jaguars team, but a win is a win. Carson Palmer has been much safer with the ball this season, but Darren McFadden hasn’t been putting up those same numbers as last year. The Chiefs are just straight awful. They have turned to Brady Quinn and they have said for good, “so that he won’t be looking over his shoulder.” Dwayne Bowe is just shaking his head. The Chiefs have talent, but turn the ball over a lot and their defense can’t stay on the field that long and expect to keep teams out of the end zone.

It’s Come to This … Now He’s Done!!!

Saints @ BRONCOS – The Saints are coming back, mark it down. They run into a tough test this Sunday against a 3-3 Broncos team that is really better than its records indicates. The three losses have been near comebacks in which they put themselves into a hole early. The Saints are scoring points at will. Drew Brees had over three-hundred yards and four touchdowns at halftime last week, not joking. Peyton is leading this talented offense the same way he did in Indy, the difference is his defense is ten times more talented in Mile High than it ever was in Indy. This is a home game for the Broncos, which spells trouble for Drew Brees, who doesn’t play very well in cold outside games.

49ERS @ Cardinals – America, say hello to your #1 Pretenders. The Arizona Cardinals are crumbling before our very eyes, blame the QB injuries and the RB injuries, but it wouldn’t have mattered. They have a solid defense, and Larry Fitzgerald, but that’s all they’ve had going for them. Even when they were winning game their greatest weakness was on display big time, their offensive line. The 49ers will expose this weakness with great magnitude because this teams defense is always hungry. The 49ers are out to prove the NFC West is still theirs and theirs only. This game is for a tie atop the division, but it won’t happen.

UPSET ALERT – I am putting the Falcons on Upset Alert as they have walked pretty thin ice while riding a 6-0 record, they better not come out flat against the Eagles. I have also put the Vikings on Upset Alert against the pretty high-powered Bucs.

 

SURVIVOR PICK – Simple. The Green Bay Packers. (If picked already: Patriots or Chargers).

Those are my two cents … cash ’em in!

Anthony (T-Catz)

 

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5 Things We Learned: Suggestions Are Welcome Edition

1) The AFC belongs to the Houston Texans. The Texans embarrassed their competition on Sunday, in the form of the Baltimore Ravens by hanging a 40-spot on them. The Texans are in a class of their own. There are only two other teams in the AFC that may be able to give Houston a run for its money and they are the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos. Thankfully for Houston, they face the Patriots in a couple of weeks, and we will get to see a (hopeful) preview of the AFC Championship Game.

2) Cam Newton equals Vince Young. Both men enjoyed great success on the field during their college football days. Both saw themselves go very high in the draft. But as we are all witnessing, neither of them knows how to deal with losing a few games.
Cam’s post-game interview had “I’m about to lose my mind if we win again,” all over it. The fact is, the guy is not ‘The Guy.’

He is used to being coddled, and now that he is being asked to step up and be a leader, he is having a difficult time playing a different role. Cam couldn’t lead me to the water at a beach, let alone lead his teammates in a game for 60 minutes.
3) Just give Robert Griffin, III the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award now! Is this even up for debate? Nope, didn’t think so. The guy is putting his team in a position to win week in and week out with very average wideouts. Had it not been for the subpar coverage of cornerback DeAngelo Hall on Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, RG3 would have come in the house of the defending champs and shown up Mr. 4th Quarter himself, Eli Manning. If the Redskins get a themselves a good wide receiver, who can stay healthy (Yes, I’m talking to you Garcon), they will have a great offense for years to come.
4) No one wants to play vs. the Chicago Bears defense right now. And you can’t blame them! That defense is making quarterbacks around the league fearful to snap the ball on long plays, knowing that the fast pass-rush is headed their way. Over their last 4 games, the Bears have held their opponent your scoring 3 times. This defense looks eerily similar to a 2006 Bears group that was able to carry the franchise all the way to a 2006 Bears group that was able to carry the franchise all the way to a super bowl trip. Stay tuned…

5) You can confidently pick up the quarterback playing vs. New Orleans, and the runningback facing Buffalo each week and be confident in them going off! The Saints rank 30th in net passing yards per game, while the Bills are dead last on the NFL in rushing yards per game. The rankings speak for themselves. Feel comfortable acquiring each of these position players vs. these two teams going forward.

#BookIt
-Cam Newton will be asking for even more suggestions after the Chicago Bears are done with him.
-If Michael Vick has another 3 turnover game, he’ll be benched.
-The Falcons will NOT be undefeated after Sunday.

This week’s recipient of The McKayla Is Not Impressed Award goes to the human suggestion box, Cam Newton. No one feels sorry for you. Not because you are making millions of dollars playing a recreational sport, but because you lose like a 5-year-old in a game of Red Light, Green Light. You put on that sulky Jay Cutler face and expect people to feel sorry for you. Keep your chip up and learn to lose like a man, instead of whining to the media that you are running out of solutions. Here’s a suggestion, learn to hit your wide-open receivers in the red zone.

Week 7: Average now Acceptable

Where’s Patches O’Houlihan when we need him?

Eleven teams currently sit at 3-3 in the NFL, and only two are better than that in the AFC. Take it in for a second, there’s never been a more average year. Last week I went 10-4 again and this week should only produce strong results as I try to continue this roll.

THURSDAY

Seahawks @ 49ERS – I’ll preach it again, it’s just becoming repetitive now, this is a letdown game. Great teams don’t have these, but a scrappy and average team like the Seahawks do. Tom “Terrific” couldn’t seal the deal on them last week and they were able to pull out what seemed to be another miracle win. The Niners were punched in the face by the Giants and will be looking to take some shots themselves.

SUNDAY

Redskins @ GIANTS – The Redskins offense looks great, but the defense is banged up. RG3 looks like the real deal and he can most certainly fly. Their receiving options are nothing to write home about when Pierre Garcon is hurt. The Giants are coming off a statement win in San Francisco, which snapped Eli Manning’s streak of 24 straight games with over 200 passing yards. Last year the Redskins had the Giants number and the Giants always play down to their opponents, especially at home. I believe the Giants will win because it is a must win in a division match-up if they lose they fall to 0-3 in the division.

Titans @ BILLS – How did this Titans team beat the Steelers? Beats me. The Steelers’ defense has been awful this year and Shaun Suisham missed the game winning field goal near the end of the game. Matt Hasselbeck is going to be under pressure this Sunday from a Bills’ defense that may be starting to turn the corner. Ryan Fitzpatrick simply cannot turn the ball over, he’s got a two-headed monster in the backfield now and should just rely on them.

Browns @ COLTS – Big win, Browns! Bad loss, Colts! Andrew Luck is poised to take down a worse defense than he just faced. The only problem is the weapons on the Browns overshadow those of the Colts, but guess who the home team is? Andrew Luck had a bad, BAD, game and many don’t expect to see consecutive ones of those too often and who better to keep that from happening against?

PACKERS @ Rams – The Packers just stomped out the Texans, in Houston. Rodgers showed why he was the MVP last year by tossing six touchdowns and no interceptions against one of the best defenses in the NFL . How bout a little Championship belt? The Rams played an ugly game in which they were heartbroken by the Miami Dolphins. This team has been feisty all year under Coach Fisher’s control. Don’t expect a hangover from the Pack.

The Doublecheck!

Cardinals @ VIKINGS – The Cardinals are finally coming back down to earth. They have no running game and their defense is solid, but not enough to carry them past their offensive woes. The Vikings still sit in second in the NFC North. This team ran into Hurricane Robert, who ran all over them like they were the football field, but I expect a bounce back game here against a falling Cardinals team.

SAINTS @ Buccaneers – A bye week is a nice gift after your first win during what has already been a long season. This team needs to fix its defense, and what better way than to get the leader of the defense back from injury. We will have to see how big of an impact Jonathan Vilma has in his first game of his dramatic 2012 season. The Bucs looked great last week against the Chiefs, but after all it was the Chiefs. The Bucs have not left Tampa in three weeks now, nice life. This match-up provided two great games last season, I expect no less this weekend.

COWBOYS @ Panthers – The Cowboys have to win this game, otherwise they will start to challenge the Saints for the biggest story this season, and don’t expect Jerry Jones to remain quiet. Cam Newton is defining “Sophomore Slump” right now and runs into a good Cowboys defense. The Panthers, I don’t even know. There’s so much talent on this team, but they simply don’t look like a team is the biggest problem. Cam is trying to force his throws and the defense needs to step up against a week Dallas offensive line.

Ravens @ TEXANS – The Ravens took so many hits last week in the win against the Cowboys: Injuries to Ray Lewis, Ladarius Webb and Haloti Ngata. Now they have to rush Terrell Suggs less than six months removed from an Achilles tear.  Now the weight of the team actually drops onto the shoulders of Joe Flacco. The Texans were shellacked by the Packers at home. They’ve had some time to digest it now and stay home and you better believe they’ll be ready to play the Ravens without their leader (don’t the Texans know how this feels) and their best cornerback.

Jaguars @ RAIDERS – These Raiders seem close to being able to compete in the AFC West. They went to the wire with the undefeated Falcons and played great defense the whole game against a high-powered offense. Carson Palmer is turning the ball over less, and they need more production out of Darren McFadden. The Jaguars don’t look good. Gabbert is definitely progressing, but not much. Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best running backs in the NFL and proves it weekly, but Gabbert has no protection and gets scared when it falls on him. They also don’t have much of a defense.

Jets @ PATRIOTS – The Jets had a great win. Sanchez threw for less than 90 yards, but their was a Shonn Greene sighting. Don’t expect the same this week. Sanchez will have to throw the ball much more. The Patriots are not a happy bunch right now. A very tough and heartbreaking loss in which Tom Brady was “owned” by Richard Sherman. Expect a lot of scoring from the New Englanders.

Steelers @ BENGALS – This is the toss-up game for me. The Steelers have looked plain crappy. The defense is the worst part and as usual their offensive line can’t stay healthy and Big Ben doesn’t have a lot of time in the pocket. Rashard Mendenhall is hurt again. The Bengals offense has looked great as I said last week, but last week Brandon Weeden tore up the defense. This will be a physical game as it always is, but I will take the home team.

Lions @ BEARS – The Lions were able to pull off an upset against the Eagles with some last minute and overtime heroics. The Lions were a great team last year, but do not seem to be half that team last year. If they are going to win, Stafford will have to make the throws he made last year be mistake free against a Bears defense that takes advantage of any mistakes. The Bears have looked like a complete team, mostly on defense. Cutler, of course, has been under fire for his turnovers, but that’s Jay being Jay. This will be a great Monday Night game.

UPSET ALERT – I am putting the Giants (because of what they are capable of each year) and the Bears on upset alert. Division games are always played harder than the rest of the games, because they actually do mean more.

SURVIVOR PICK – This week I like the Patriots over the Jets as my lock. (If used already: Packers and Cowboys). 

5 Things We Learned: The Highly Debatable Edition

When we reflect back on the season, Week 6 will be one of the most talked about and remembered. We learned an awful lot.

1) The New York Giants love when the world picks against them. The G-Men went into this game as slight underdogs in Vegas, but were hearing all week by football experts that they were not going to beat San Francisco. Needless to say, they went in there and stomped them out 26-3. The pass-rush looked like its former self; the same guys who continually put (Matt) Ryan, Rodgers, (Alex) Smith, and Brady on their butts last season en route to the franchise’s 4th Super Bowl win.

Alex Smith looked uncomfortable in the pocket all game, and that’s a position where the Giants defense thrives. Coming into the game, Smith had only thrown 1 interception on the season. He left Sunday afternoon’s game with a season total of 4.

When the Giants get front-four pressure like they did on Sunday, they are a difficult team to move the ball on. They force you to speed up your reads, and that internal clock for a quarterback to get rid of the ball reaches it’s limit much faster than he would like.

Keep in mind that Eli had a very quiet day as he ended his streak of 24 consecutive games with at least 200-yards thrown. The ground game showed up for a second week in a row as well. And when Ahmad Bradshaw rushes for over 100 yards, the Giants don’t lose.

As fictional coach Gordon Bombay would say, “That wasn’t a game, that was a statement!”

2) The Patriots’ cockiness is annoying. If you watched the game as a Patriots fan, you have every right to be especially upset by this loss because it was a very winnable game. I do understand that Seattle is a good team, with a very elite defense, but the Patriots handed the game over. The Patriots offense is an enigma. You truly never know which one of their offensive personalities is going to show up.

On the one hand, you have this Patriots offense that can move the ball very efficiently with 5-10 yard routes and draw plays, all the way into the end zone with ease. Then, you have their arrogant offense which swears they can run any ole play at any given time and it will magically work for them. This is what fans saw during the last two drives of the 4th quarter. It looked like offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had already declared victory, and started picking plays out of a hat.

The Patriots didn’t lose that game because they were offensively inept, they lost because their offense became arrogant with a lead that was anything but insurmountable.

Hats off to their defense though, who have been keeping them in every game so far (especially defensive lineman Chandler Jones).

3) The Atlanta Falcons are the last undefeated team left in the NFL…but they look beatable. 4 out of the Falcons 6 wins have been by a combined 18 points.

On Sunday, they were able to pull out a late fourth quarter win, despite Matt Ryan throwing 3 interceptions in the first half vs. the Raiders. The Raiders are one of the worst teams in terms of getting sacks and turnovers, so I’m certain their defensive scheme will be used as a blueprint for remaining opponents. They aren’t overpowering teams, but doing just enough offensively to secure the W and move on to the next game.

4) The Baltimore defenders are dropping like flies…or in this case birds. MLB Ray Lewis is potentially out for the season with a torn triceps, though the team won’t rule out a late season return. Corner back Lardarius Webb is also out for the season with a torn acl, and safety Ed Reed told a local Baltimore radio station that he has been playing with a torn labrum. But have no fear Ravens’ fans, outside linebacker and the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs is back on the practice field.

The long and short of that previous paragraph is that the Ravens will now have to rely on Joe Flacco more than ever. His game-managing quarterback style will no longer life them to wins this season, because he will not have that tremendous defense to fall back on. The question is: Can Joe Flacco be the elite quarterback he has been telling everyone that he is?

5) Aaron Rodgers had Aaron Rodgers on his fantasy team. Every now and again, someone in the NFL goes off and has a monstrous game out of the blue. Brian Hartline had one for the wide receivers, Jamaal Charles for the running backs, and that only left one offensive position to go, quarterback. Aaron Rodgers was ‘the guy’ on Sunday Night Football.

Now, it’s arguable that he didn’t need six touchdowns to win his team the game, but he was out there trying to make a statement. As Coach Reilly in The Mighty Ducks said, “It’s not worth winning, if you can’t win big!”

The Packers are not going down this season without a fight in them. They sense the weakness in their division, and understand that despite their slow start, they could still win it by multiple games.

Rodgers joined a special group of players that night, as one of only four quarterbacks to throw for over 330 yards, 6 passing touchdowns, and no interceptions in NFL history. The last person to accomplish this feat was Tom Brady, and he did it twice.

#BookIt
-The Giants are primed to go on a run, and have the schedule to do so.

-The Ravens aren’t winning the AFC North division anymore.

-Brady is due for one of THOSE GAMES vs. the Jets this weekend (you know what I’m talking about).

-The fight for USC quarterback Matt Barkley will come down to two teams who don’t need him: Jacksonville and Cleveland.

-CJ2K is going to get his first touchdown this Sunday! (Football gods help him if he can’t score against that horrid Bills defense)

The McKayla is Not Impressed Award for Week 6 goes to Eagles Management for firing Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo, following the Eagles defense blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter vs. the Detroit Lions.

Why am I not impressed? Because it was a bailout move. Why not fire the offensive coordinator who continues to let Vick have the ball in his hands each and every play? The Eagles have a top-3 running back in McCoy, and yet they vastly underutilize him.

Juan Castillo is out of a job for his guys blowing another fourth quarter lead, meanwhile, Steve Spagnuolo is coordinating the worst defense in the NFL right now in New Orleans, and his job seems in tact. He doesn’t appear to be on the hot seat whatsoever.

Meanwhile, in New England, Josh McDaniels is standing there giving off the impression that he asks Madden for his conservative play-calling advice, and his job security feels just fine too.

This all leads me to believe that the this is part 1 of 3-step process:
Step 1: Fire the defensive coordinator to buy your offense more time to get things rolling.
Step 2: Release Michael Vick at the end of the season because he will no longer ‘fit’ into the plan that the franchise has going forward.
Step 3: Fire Andy Reid because heaven knows this has been long overdue.

Week 6 … They Are Who We Thought They Were

After 12-3 we had a 10-4 showing. So let’s keep this baby rolling now that teams have come into their own, but some nice surprises are still shocking the NFL World, say the Vikings and the Cardinals. On the other hand we have disappointments like the Steelers and of course the ‘Aints (Saints).

Let’s get right into it:

THURSDAY

STEELERS @ Titans – This game is already over, but I’d be completely lying to you if I told you that I had even thought of picking the Titans. Chris Johnson is still playing like crud and Matt Hasselbeck’s arm just isn’t the same anymore. Mendenhall is back, not anymore seeing as he left this game and Big Ben has been playing great, but without Polamalu this defense just isn’t the same and they showed that by allowing the Titans to march down field with 45 seconds left in the game.

SUNDAY

Raiders @ FALCONS – Matty Ryan and his Falcons keep on rolling, but they almost slipped up last week at Washington until RG3 was knocked out with a concussion. They might have escaped one of their trap games and can breathe a sigh of relief and can now refocus as they head home to play an inconsistent Raiders team, which has played the Chargers and Steelers tough, but got wiped out by the Broncos and the Dolphins. Let’s see which Raiders team shows up, but it shouldn’t matter.

BENGALS @ Browns – The Browns came out firing against the Giants last week and looked good until they came back down to Earth and Eli Manning did his thing. The Bengals had a disappointing outing last week against a pretty solid Dolphins’ defense, but their offense this year has really been the story compared to their defense last year. The Browns are hurting having to play some unexpected wide receivers, but Brandon Weeden seems to be inching along. These two teams have already played this year and it was a close game at Cincinnati, this probably won’t be much different.

Rams @ DOLPHINS – Both of these teams have been somewhat surprising. Sam Bradford has regressed more than anyone I’ve seen (maybe not Cam Newton). Their strength for years has been their running game, but they’ve been playing solid run defenses and that doesn’t change this week against the #1 ranked run defense of Miami. All the scouts and experts are saying Ryan Tannehill’s progression is amazing, especially considering a few years ago this guy was playing Wide Receiver at Texas A&M, and I agree even though the numbers may not.

Colts @ JETS – This is now a let down game for the Colts. An emotional comeback win for Chuck Pagano against many people’s Super Bowl favorite. Now they have to go on the road to New York, where Jet fans are always loud. The Jets just played their hearts out against a very good Houston Texans team, without their two best players in Revis and Holmes. This fire and this heart leads me to this pick, also no Mathis for the Colts and Freeney is still clearly rusty. Sanchez might throw over 50% this weekend.

Only a matter of time …

Lions @ EAGLES – This is a must win for the Lions and that’s why I can see them winning this game, but the Eagles are coming off an ugly loss to the Steelers in which Vick turned the ball over three more times. The Eagles defense has been sound through the first five games, but the Lions are coming off a bye in which I’m sure Jim Schwartz has gotten his team focused. Stafford has not played anywhere near the level he did last year, but don’t expect that to last very long especially when you have Calvin Johnson to throw the ball to.

Chiefs @ BUCCANEERS – Both of these teams have been disappointing and now Matt Cassel is out with a concussion, apparently to the bliss of Chiefs’ fans. Brady Quinn who hasn’t played in a football game in almost three years, must now take the reigns against a Buccaneers team coming off their bye at home. Josh Freeman has to play better in order for the Bucs to win or even keep up with the way Jamaal Charles is running, and Romeo Crennel has said that his workload will not dwindle.

Cowboys @ RAVENS – The Cowboys are coming off their bye and the Ravens are coming home from one of the ugliest football games I’ve seen against the Chiefs, a 9-6 barn-burner win. The Cowboys looked horrific in their Monday Night game against the Bears in which Romo hurled five interceptions. The road doesn’t get easier against an always ball hawking Ravens defense. The Baltimore crowd is extremely loud and the Cowboys have enough problems on offense, forget not being able to hear. Joe Flacco must have a better showing than last week if he wants us to truly believe he has taken that next step. P.S. Did anyone hear them saying Ray Lewis isn’t playing at the same level?  The guy is 37 … get over yourselves.

Bitch, please ….

BILLS @ Cardinals – The Bills have been real bad the last two weeks against the 49ers and the Patriots, especially their defense. Fitzpatrick cannot keep throwing the magnitude of interceptions that he always does, but now they have a healthy two-headed monster in the backfield and the pressure can be taken off of his shoulders as long as their expensive defense can keep the Cardinals offense off of the field, which shouldn’t be all that difficult with the running backs the Cardinals have lined up for this week’s game.

PATRIOTS @ Seahawks – The 12th man will be the quietest it’s ever been this weekend when Tom Brady and his video game offense hit the field in Seattle. The Patriots have been playing to prove they are the top tier team in the AFC, and the past two weeks have done just that. Hopefully Bill doesn’t punish Wes Welker for his public joke about “shoving it in Bill’s face.” The Seahawks’ games have all been just pure ugly, and anyone can sit here and argue with me on that, but it’s true. Russell Wilson is having a better year than Mark Sanchez, not saying much but for a small rookie it’s a plus playing with the offense he has. Pats in a blowout of course.

GIANTS @ 49ers – I will tell you why I am picking the Giants to win this game in two words … Road Warriors. The Giants go on the road and win big games, it’s just what they do. They came up short against the Eagles, literally, but they played two great games against the 49ers last year and don’t expect anything different from these two this year. The Niners have played complete football all year long and their offense went off last week against the Bills defense, but who hasn’t this year? It’s tough to pick this game, but I’ll go with the G-MEN!!!

Vikings @ REDSKINS – The Vikings have looked good and may still be overachieving. Ponder has been good, despite throwing two interceptions last week (his first two of the year). Peterson hasn’t looked the same, but who can blame him. Harvin has looked like a complete player, seriously what can’t he do? Roger Griffin III has just been concussed and may not remember who he is, but let’s go ‘Skins! Alfred Morris has been running lights out and the Skins offense is as high-powered as any with RG3 under center. Even Kirk Cousins hit Santana Moss on a wide open post last week. This game is a toss-up to me, but usually on close games I go home team. Side note: Billy Cundiff is no longer kicking with the ‘Skins (every Ravens fan curses his name with pure hate).

CHEEESEEEE!!!

PACKERS @ TexansThe Packers are hurting and now their without Greg Jennings and Cedric Benson. They can’t keep Aaron Rodgers straight-up. Rodgers hasn’t looked like his MVP-self either, although it is tough to reproduce his performance from last year. This feels like a must-win for the Pack. The Texans are also hurting without Cushing now and Ben Tate is banged up. Cushing is the center of their defense, even with the emergence of JJ Watt. The Packers will be pissed, again, after another disappointing loss.

MONDAY

BRONCOS @ Chargers – The Chargers unfortunately ran into the Saints at the wrong time as Sean Payton looked on and Drew Brees broke the consecutive games with a TD pass record. Peyton Manning looked good against the Patriots, but just couldn’t keep up with Tom Brady in the first half, which seems to be a reoccurring theme for Peyton this year. His team gets behind and he brings them back, but cannot pull off the comeback. The Chargers had finally gotten that good start to the season they wanted, but after losses to the Falcons and to the Saints they need a bounce back game, unfortunately it’s against a good division rival Broncos team that sits under .500.

UPSET ALERT – The Colts are on Upset Alert going into Metlife Stadium after a big emotional win, this is letdown time! I am also putting the Vikings and the Cardinals on Upset Alert. The Vikings have been solid, but the Skins can score a ton of points with the play of RG3. The Bills can also score a lot and the Cardinals offense can’t keep up with many teams if their defense allows points.

To Survive!

SURVIVOR PICK – Falcons, hands down. The Raiders have already gutted me once this year when I picked the Steelers against them. The Falcons have now traveled back and forth from San Diego, Washington and now back home. The good side of this is they’re playing at home. (If Picked Already: Bengals and Patriots even though I don’t like away teams.)

These are my two cents … cash ’em in!

Anthony (T Catz)

5 Things We Learned: The Coach Is Here (In The Building) Edition

Judging from the title of this week’s blog post, you know exactly which coach and team I am referring to. So without further ado, I present 5 things we were able to take away from Week 5 in the NFL.

1) Drew Brees is capable of winning a game…as long as he knows Sean Payton is present. Raise your hand if you were shocked that the New Orleans Saints won this game? In the infamous words of Katt Williams, I say no more.

Truthfully, I am inclined to believe that most football fans knew two things were going to happen on this night: 1) Brees was going to break Unitas’ record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown thrown and 2) Brees and Co. would finally figure out how to win a game with head coach Sean Payton present. Is this a coincidence? No.

Call it a conspiracy, or call me crazy (and it wouldn’t be the first time today either), but there is something to be said about the Saints finally coming together and rallying behind their captain to win their first game of the season. Where has this fire been the previous four weeks? If the Saints can manage to put together a petition to have Sean Payton in the parking lot tailgating before and during games, they may be able to salvage the rest of this season and finish just outside of a NFC playoff spot.

2) You’re still having trouble justifying your first or second pick in your fantasy football league, on Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham.

Through five weeks, Gronk and Graham have looked very average. In fact, neither one of them is on pace to replicate last year’s numbers. I believe the old fantasy adage goes, “Never pay for last year’s stats.” Fantasy owners are learning this the hard way with these tight ends. Gronk, so far, is ranked 4th in ESPN standard leagues points wise, while Jimmy Graham is closely behind at 6th. That is unacceptable at any point for someone whom you wasted a first or second pick on.

Meanwhile, the ageless wonder that is Tony Gonzalez is enjoying being matched up against single coverage due to his teammates being Roddy White and Julio Jones. Also, Vernon Davis and Owen Daniels are also having great starts to their season, while not being the focal point of neither of their offenses.

With respect to both Gronkowski and Graham, they appear to be suffering from what I like to call “Drew Brees Syndrome.” What is Drew Brees Syndrome you ask? It’s when the quarterback has so many different weapons that he never goes to a single guy too many times, and finds himself spreading the wealth a lot.

Last season’s MVP Aaron Rodgers also contracted this ‘virus’ if you will. It’s the type of illness that plagues you as an owner of a specific guy in a high-powered offense, unless you have that quarterback. Also, Gronkowski may have it worst than Graham going forward due to the emergence of Stevan Ridley (more on that later).

3) The Buffalo Bills defense is garbage. It’s getting to the point where you could round up 10 of your least athletic and nerdy friends, who spend countless hours in a basement playing mystical card games every day, and step onto the field vs. that horrendous defense, and score at least three touchdowns, while amassing somewhere in the ballpark of 400 yards in the process.

Over each of the past two games, the Bills defense has surrendered over 550 yards of offense to the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. Now, the Patriots are understandable, but giving up that many yards to an Alex Smith offense is utterly disgusting.

4) You are just as surprised as anyone to see the Minnesota Vikings leading the NFC North Division. If you were asked six weeks ago who was the favorite to be atop the NFC North division at any given point in the season, conventional wisdom would’ve told you to pick the Green Bay Packers.

If you were under the influence of alcohol, you would’ve been feeling a bit risky and selected the Detroit Lions (because no one picks the Lions soberly). You weren’t picking the Chicago Bears unless you stumbled into a Delorian and gunned it back to 2006, where a superb defense could carry the most average quarterback far into a season. All of this concludes that you were never going to pick the Minnesota Vikings no matter what!

Nevertheless, the Vikings find themselves sitting atop the NFC North a quarter of the way through the season. Along the way, the Vikings were able to pick up a tremendous win against the NFC contending San Francisco 49ers.

The Vikings have been able to win games despite not having Adrian Peterson play at the high level we have come to expect from him. Instead, it has been their defense and quarterback who have led the team to three straight victories. Christian Ponder has looked great in the pocket, while connecting many times with his veteran wide receiver Percy Harvin, and emerging tight end Kevin Rudolph. Also, he has shown that he can move the chains with his nifty scrambling.

This team is already turning heads, and as the season goes on, Ponder will only continue to get better. If Peterson can get back to 100 percent, the Vikings may turn themselves into a NFC contender.

5) Patriots have a legit running game? Pinch yourself. Click your heels together three times. Heck, try to emulate Peter Pan off the side of your bed. No matter what you do, the fact will remain the same: The Patriots are developing a balanced offense.

Not that they ever appeared to need one in the Brady era, it sure doesn’t hurt to keep the defense honest. The emergence of Stevan Ridley is a problem for the rest of the AFC. Teams already have a hard enough time stopping throw-happy Patriots week to week, with Ridley, teams are going to be forced to scheme differently going forward.

This past Sunday, Ridley rushing for 151 yards and a score on 28 carries. This was the third time he has gone over 100 yards in a game. If he can minimize his fumbling woes, the already number 1 total offense in football will only get better, and that’s a nightmare that even Freddy Krueger himself wouldn’t want to face.

#BookIt

-Darryl Richardson will see pay dirt before Steven Jackson.

-Both the aforementioned running backs will see their first rushing touchdown’s before Titans’ back Chris Johnson does.

-2011 Cam Newton is to Steve Smith as 2012 Andrew Luck is to Reggie Wayne.

-The Bills will not give up more than 400 yards of offense this Sunday vs. the Cardinals.

-If the season ended today, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan would be your league MVP.

The recipient of Week 5’s McKayla is Not Impressed Award goes to Jets head coach Rex Ryan. There are times when a player takes sole responsibility for a loss, and then there are times like this past Monday night where the blame should be on Rex Ryan.

Prepare your team better! He promised the defense would be better, and it was, but where was the attention to the inexperienced wide receivers dropping passes all night?! You have got to get them more snaps during the week, so that sort of performance does not happen on game day. Also, you have Mark Sanchez under throwing Antonio Cromartie, who made a great double move on the play, on a deep route. How is that possible?

At what point does Rex say to himself, “Maybe I should give Tebow a drive or two to shake things up and fire up the team.” What he accomplished in Denver was not a fluke, but proof that when players believe in their quarterback, they go out and play at an even higher level on the field. If Rex doesn’t get it together, he will find himself as the former coach of a team that won’t be accumulating more than 6 wins this season.

5 Things We Learned: The Refs are Back, Jack Edition!

Let’s get right into another wild week of lessons we learned in Week 4 of the NFL.

1) Your ‘favorite’ zebra-striped officials are back and better than the same as ever. One week removed from being screwed over by a blatantly obvious bad call by the refs on Monday Night Football, the Green Bay Packers found themselves benefitting from blatant bad calls in their games vs. New Orleans. A key fumble by Darren Sproles went the way of the Packers, despite replay showing otherwise. If refs aren’t getting calls right with replay, we’re in trouble going forward.

If you watched any games this weekend, compare the reactions the fans gave the refs at the beginning with the jeers they received towards the end. The officiating wasn’t top-notch, but I am willing to cut them slack…they were rusty.

2) Tony Romo is never going to turn the corner. Every season, all the experts tell us that this is Romo’s year to breakout and show the world that he is one of the elite quarterback’s in the NFL…and then he steps on the field and has a game like he did Monday night vs. Chicago. It’s the type of game that makes you scratch your head and wonder why Jerry Jones and Co. are actually considering giving an extension to this guy.

I’m sure Tony is a stand-up guy off the field, but on the field he’s a sit down guy, as in all he usually does is throw picks in crunch time and goes back to sitting down on the bench. Romo played in his Super Bowl opening night when Dallas took on the Giants. The Cowboys actually haven’t looked that good since Week 1 too.

3) If the New Orleans Saints keep this up, Sean Payton should be a unanimous choice for Coach of the Year. This is coming from the same school of thought that Peyton should’ve won MVP last season because of his team’s abysmal performance all season long. The Saints should be able to go out and win games in spite of the absence of their head coach. This should be firing them up if anything.

The complete opposite is occurring though. They are playing well enough to keep their fans hopes alive until the waning moments of the fourth quarter. The play-calling doesn’t appear to be different from the naked eye. Drew Brees is doing the same thing he did last season: Brees drops back, checks his reads, throws a strike to (insert Saints wide receiver here), and then repeat; it’s like the cycles on a washing machine. For a man that is making 40 million dollars this season, Brees should have his team in a complete “us against the world” mentality, thus using Bountygate as bulletin-board material. Instead, they look more “woe is me.”

4) A quarter of the way through this NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals look better than people expected. Regardless of whether or not the Cardinals beat the Rams this evening, they have looked solid throughout the first four weeks of the season.

No one can use the excuse that they haven’t played anybody good because it would be dishonest to say so. The Cardinals handed the New England Patriots a loss at Gillette, a feat not many teams have accomplished during the Brady/Belichick era. On top of that, they convincingly beat down the Philadelphia Eagles at home. Their other two wins have come against the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins, the latter of which has one of the stingiest run defenses in this early season.

I’m not saying they are Super Bowl contenders just yet. Looking ahead, the Cardinals could very well be undefeated going into their match-up vs. San Francisco in three weeks. Not that NFL teams will admit to looking that far ahead, but I am sure the Cardinals understand that game will be their measuring stick for how where they rank amongst the class of the NFC.

5) The beef between Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is over…and by over I mean it was never really much of a ‘beef’ to begin with. Leave it to major sports outlets (mainly ESPN), to overhype something that never had much air under it.

Tupac and Biggie had a beef. Magic and Bird had a beef. Jay-Z and Nas had a beef. I could go on, but you get the point: those were actual feuds between two individuals who just did not get along. Osi and LeSean exchanged comments about each other through Twitter of all places. That alone is by no means an outlet that people will take you mildly serious on.

Kudos to them both though for providing the media, and both Giants and Eagles fans, entertainment to get us through the week leading up to the rivalry games these past two seasons.

#BookIt

-Brian Hartline is gone in every fantasy league you are in.

-Mr. Hartline is going to disappoint you big time this weekend coming off that monster game vs. a relatively sound Cardinals secondary. Cincy will be ready!

-Tebow will be starting for the Jets by/if not before Thanksgiving

-CJ2K is NOT back, and Sunday vs. Minnesota will show that his overdue 100-yard rushing performance was a fluke.

-RG3 WILL run away with the Rookie of the Year award, literally.

Week 4’s recipient of the McKayla is Not Impressed award goes to the New England Patriots. Let’s not run amuck declaring the Patriots offense is back and here to stay after they hung 52 points on the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday. The Jets hung 48 on them for crying out loud! If you didn’t expect the Patriots to go out and do the same thing, then I would question your football knowledge big time. The Bills are about as good on defense as the Phoenix Suns, and what is that saying? Absolutely nothing!

I reiterate, on behalf of NFL fans around the world: No one is impressed that the New England Patriots did something that was on par with an accomplishment that the New York Jets achieved in their season-opener vs. the Buffalo Bills.

With that said, if the Patriots come out and put on an offensive clinic against the Denver Broncos, then we can start saying the Patriots have found their offensive mojo once again.

Editor’s Update: The Cardinals may still have their San Francisco game circled, but they will not be undefeated going into it.

Week 5 – Keep on Rolling

12-3 Last week …

BOOM

Not to brag but sitting better on my picks this season than SI’s Peter King. The first three weeks were tough, but this past week I started 11-1 before Sunday night and went 0-2 on Sunday and Monday night. Let’s continue this strong showing.

THURSDAY

CARDINALS @ Rams- Last week I correctly predicted that the Rams would upset the Seahawks, although both teams should have been 1-2 going into that game. The Rams defense played much better than their offense as they seemed to be shying away from their #1 asset in Steven Jackson. This Rams defense is underrated and is flying under the radar more than these Cardinals. The Cardinals didn’t look like the same team in the first half against a less than average Dolphins team. The Cardinals had to make an emotional comeback and outlast the Dolphins in overtime to stay undefeated. That’s why I find this a very tough pick and think it might be the biggest toss-up game of the week.

SUNDAY

Browns @ GIANTS – The Browns are the only winless team left in the NFL and they will stay that way after this weekend. They haven’t looked great, but they’ve stayed in some games that they had no right to be in. Brandon Weeden has played like a rookie, unfortunately he’s seven years older than most rookies and has looked worse than a few of them. The Giants came within a 54 yard field goal of beating the Eagles and moving to 3-1 instead of the other way around. Still no Hakeem Nicks for the Giants, big blow to the offense, but Eli finds ways to get ‘er done and will continue Sunday.

Dolphins @ BENGALS – The Dolphins looked pretty solid in their almost overtime upset against the Cardinals Sunday, but they fell short, per usual these days. The Dolphins run defense has looked great, considering its #1 right now in the NFL, the problem is the Bengals have been throwing a lot, and for good reason, with weapons like stud receiver A.J. Green and dangerous slot man Andrew Hawkins, along with red zone threat in Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals defense hasn’t been the same as last year, but they should continue their winning ways this weekend.

PACKERS @ Colts – The Packers won a squeaker in which they were helped out by the referees (consolation for the Seahawks game?). Greg Jennings will not be playing yet again this week, which does hurt the Packers offense, but Rodgers will most certainly spread the wealth just fine. Andrew Luck will see a healthy dose of Clay Matthews in his face and he will not like it! The Packers will go into Indy and show Andrew Luck how it’s done.

RAVENS @ Chiefs – The Ravens have looked really good so far, but almost allowed the Browns to win that game on Thursday night. Flacco threw a bad interception but was pretty sharp after that and they seemed to keep the ball out of Ray Rice’s hands, chalk that up to the short week. That will change this week now that they’ve had a week and a half for rest. The Chiefs just won’t stop turning the ball over. They haven’t looked awful but their turnovers are head scratching with 15 of them, and the sledding won’t get much easier as they face the Ravens defense.

Eagles @ STEELERS – The Eagles played an offensive ugly game against the Giants until they started running the ball to the outside. They almost lost the game, but were able to pull it out after a bad offensive pass interference on Ramses Barden of the Giants. Vick looked better seeing as he didn’t turn the ball over. The Steelers are coming off of their bye, with a full load of healthy starters coming back: Polamalu, Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall. In state foes, but one needs the win more and that is the home team and that’s why I pick the Steelers.

I’M BACKKKKK

FALCONS @ Redskins – I don’t believe this will be an easy win for the Falcons and they can actually lose this game. The Falcons have looked like a complete team and Matty Ice actually lived up to his name because he was ice cold in that comeback win over the Panthers. The Redskins controlled the entire game against the Bucs until they let them take the lead by backing off the gas in the second half. Then, Robert Griffin marched his offense down the field and Billy Cundiff did what he couldn’t go all game long, hit a FG, and a clutch won at that. Falcons win here because of their weapons and the caliber of their defense right now.

Seahawks @ PANTHERS – The Panthers should have gone for it on Fourth down last week and the Falcons wouldn’t be sitting undefeated anymore, but hey that’s why they play the game. The Seahawks did not look good against the Rams, besides Lynch who has the most yards in the NFL this year. I think the Seahawks have a good physical defense, but it stops there, their offense is atrocious. The Panthers D looked good getting pressure on Ryan all day, but clearly they needed to double Roddy White, good thing is there is no one close to Roddy’s talent on the Seahawks.

BEARS @ Jaguars – I know everyone saw what the Bears did to Romo, imagine what they could do to Gabbert. The Bears defense was unstoppable and Romo is evasive, Gabbert is known for playing scared, so watch out. Cutler played pretty well in the Cowboys game against a good Cowboys defense. Maurice Jones-Drew is doing all he can, as usual, to carry this team, but it won’t be enough this Sunday.

Titans @ VIKINGS – Never thought I’d see the day where I was picking the Vikings while Christian Ponder was still their starting Q, but here I am. Adrian Peterson is going to have a field day and Ponder will continue his game managing ways. The Titans took step backward with Jake Locker’s shoulder injury and Kenny Britt’s setback. Chris Johnson had a good game against a tough Texans defense, but it’ll take more than one good game to get back to where he used to be, and the Vikings run defense has looked good so far.

Broncos @ PATRIOTS – I would like to pick the Broncos, but the Patriots can just light up a scoreboard no matter how good your defense is and how well your team has been playing. The Broncos Joe Mays will be coming back from a suspension and their defense is pumping on all cylinders now, but this is the wrong team to play when you start to. Peyton Manning has not thrown an interception since the first quarter debacle against the Falcons, not a bad stat. Tom Brady turned in a Tom Brady performance, but the biggest surprise was the explosion of the Pats run game, which we should all keep an eye on, because if they become two dimensional …. eek.

Bills @ 49ERS – The Bills had control of the Patriots in the first half forcing turnovers and not allowing Brady to slice ’em and dice ’em. Then it simply got ugly. The Bills have two solid running backs, possibly the best 1-2 punch in the NFL this year, but the 49ers don’t give up rushing yards to many. The 49ers looked great against the Jets, especially the defense and good news for them Fitzpatrick turns the ball over a lot. The 49ers defense are going to have their way with the Bills, but keep an eye on the other side.

Chargers @ SAINTS – The Chargers are playing quietly good and the Saints are playing noisily awful. Rivers has been carrying the team and Jackie battle bruised his way last week to a couple of scores. The Defense has looked good as well, but now they go into the Superdome, to play a battered Saints team. Here’s the difference maker, Sean Payton will be at this game. This will be one of those games where daddy shows up for the first time for little Johnny’s football game, and little Johnny goes HAM (Insert “Little Giants” movie quote here, please).

MONDAY

TEXANS @ Jets – Is there a team more depleted by the loss of two players, one on each side of the ball. The Jets looked like an FBS school against the 49ers last week and Santonio Holmes reaffirmed how selfish he is by throwing the ball into the hands of Carlos Rogers when he hurt his foot. HOLD ONTO THE BALL WHEN YOU GO DOWN! The Texans could be the most complete team in the NFL and they couldn’t have picked a better team to face to stay undefeated than the Jets. Tim Tebow might be looking mighty good after this game if Sanchez can’t do well with his now patchwork receiving corps after rookie Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller won’t play … OUCH.

 

UPSET ALERT – As I said be way of the Rams, (they already beat the Cardinals). Another upset to keep an eye on is the Redskins over the Falcons, just depending on how well the Skins defense plays. I’m not saying it’ll happen but let’s not forget that Arrowhead is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL and the Ravens can falter just don’t expect it. I also wouldn’t call this an upset, but the Broncos CAN beat the Patriots.

To Survive!

SURVIVAL PICKTexans over the Jets is a lock, but most have already used the Texans I’m sure so the next best thing is the Bears over the Jaguars.. (If picked already: Vikings and Giants )