Sunday, September 25, 2005

Coconut Banger's Ball: Week Three Picks

WARNING: NFL Content to Follow

Thanks to Chlon wanting to switch shifts for interhall football today, I get to watch the entirety of the Patriots/Steelers game. Sure, I miss the slate of 1:00 games, but since I missed the Hallowed Supah Stees Victory last year, it’ll be nice to see how team that’s blown out two cupcake opponents handles the defending champs coming to town, struggling to a .500 record against two pretty good teams in Oakland and Carolina.

Last week’s early games were a lot of fun if only for the incredibly crappy quarterbacking throughout the league constantly being on display on CBS’s fantasy ticker thing on the bottom of the screen. Chrissy, Chad and I were amazed at just how bad some of the numbers coming across were. They were so bad, David Carr wasn’t have one of five worst afternoons. Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, JP Losman, Tim Rattay…heck, even Peyton Manning has having a terrible game in his home opener against the Jags. I’m not sure what the number of good, consistent quarterbacks in the league right now is, but I’m going to say it has to be around a dozen. If you take the “consistent” out, and don’t consider adding “trustworthy”, “proven” or “clutch”, you might be able to bump it up to about twenty. And I might count Trent Dilfer in that first dozen, if that makes anyone as nervous as it makes me.

Sadly, there are thirty-two teams, meaning some teams are in a lot of trouble. (Hello, Miami. Paging Houston. Maybe next year, Arizona?) Maybe it’s just teams adjusting to their offenses and working out the offseason rust, but hopefully this week we see a better all-around quarterback performance throughout the league. In a couple of weeks, after the quality leadership has risen to the top, picking is going to get so easy.

As of now? Still very difficult, as you can tell from my embarrassing efforts last week.

Week Three Picks

Atlanta (+2.5) over BUFFALO - I went back and forth on this one, realizing that Takeo Spikes and the Bills defense would stop the run to the point Mike Be Nimble would have to throw, but then I realized JP Losman would still have to move the ball against a speedy, good Falcons defense. They’re in the same mold of the Tampa Bay D that annihilated the first-year starter last week, so I’m feeling this will be a nice, ugly 20-13 win for the Dirty Birds, who are going to have to attempt to keep pace with the Bucs, a team that has owned them the last few years.

Carolina(-3) over MIAMI - Also wavered on this one, because I think the Dolphins will be able to keep Jake Delhomme in check at home. I just can’t imagine us getting any sort of running game going against the Panthers, which means Gus will have to throw forty times a game, and despite Ricky Manning, Jr.’s incredible ability to give up a big play in crunch time of any tight game, I can’t trust my Phins to pull it out.

(Although here’s to being pleasantly surprised.)

CHICAGO (+3) over Cincinnati - Carson Palmer coming back to earth against Da Bears secondary in 3….2….1…..

I’m sorry, I don’t mean it like that, I just think the Bengals defense hasn’t shown enough that they’ll be able to stop Thomas Jones and prevent the random deep ball from finding it’s target. It’s not that Carson is going to have a terrible game, it’s just that it’s the first real test for the Orange and Black Attack, and it’s on the road against a team feeling pretty good about itself. Fun game.

Dallas (-6) over SAN FRANCISCO - Had I actually cared/had enough concentration to watch through the end of that Monday Night Snoozer, I would have seen the Big D D break down and somehow allow two touchdowns in the last four minutes to a Redskins team that hadn’t scored one in the previous 116 minutes of the season. I’m thinking between the fact the Cowboys are going to be angry and the 49ers lost by four thousand last week that this will not live up to the billing FOX is giving it.

(Have you seen the commercials? They’re promoting this like it’s 1994 and you’re going to see Aikman vs. Young. Hope nobody wakes up from a decade-long coma on Sunday and has to watch Tim Rattay against The Artist Formerly Known As Drew Bledsoe.)

INDIANAPOLIS (-13.5) over Cleveland - Unless Romeo Crennel can use his Belichick-ness to stop Manning for the third straight week, I’d say the Colts offense is due for their breakout week. And since their defense is playing as well as any in the league right now, I’d say Trent Dilfer might be in for a long day.

I still can’t believe I let Dill talk me out of the easiness of the Colts’ schedule. They will probably be undefeated going into that Patriots game in Week 10, which would make it one of the most anticipated Monday Nighters in a long, long while. It’s also important to note that for all of Evil Lord Manning’s playoff follies, he’s been holding serve against crappy regular season opponents. The only teams to beat Indy the last two seasons?

New England, Denver, Carolina, Jacksonville and Kansas City.

New Orleans (+4) over MINNESOTA - When it comes down to Jim Haslett or Mike Tice, don’t you just want to take the points? For Rob’s sake, I hope Daunte at least gets one touchdown pass, although nothing is guaranteed after last week’s craptacular performance.

Jacksonville (+2.5) over NY JETS - Byron is taking Steve McNair’s “Toughest Man In the NFL” label after his performance against the Colts last week. I didn’t really think this was in question after he finished the drive with a broken leg back at Marshal, his offensive linemen walking him down the field. Curtis Martin is questionable, but since the most reliable back-up running back in football, Lamont Jordan, is no longer in town, that’s a pretty big problem, Donovan Darius or no Donovan Darius.

It’s amazing how many of the games this week are going to be just plain ugly, and this is going to be one of them.

PHILADELPHIA (-8.5) over Oakland - I really wanted to take the Raiders in the upset, but when you consider the strength of the Raiders – their passing game, Randy Moss, Jerry Porter – plays right into the hands of Philly’s most constant force – their secondary – it doesn’t bode well for the other facets of the game, like Oakland attempting to stop the Philadelphia offense with TO trying to outdo Moss at home.

New England (+3) over PITTSBURGH - Jason Whitlock wrote in his Page 2 column that Bill Cowher was the second best coach in the NFL. I’ll give Cowher a lot of credit for developing linebacker after linebacker and consistently having a strong run defense, but he’s never put together a quality secondary in the last half-decade nor out game-planned a superior, or even equal, opponent in the postseason.

If you want a coach who will give you quality seasons two out of every three years, Cowher is your man. If you want a coach who can get you an AFC Championship game at home at a better rate than we elect presidents, Cowher is your man. If you want a cheesy mustache and bulging jaw that makes him my mom’s favorite target of mockery in the entire world, again, Cowher is your man.

But second best coach in the NFL? I realize the quality under headset has seemingly gone way down with Mike Tice/Martz/Sherman all holding jobs, but I think we can stop heaping on superlatives until he can get that one for the thumb.

NY Giants (+6.5) over SAN DIEGO - I think the Giants are for real. It may just be those snazzy new uniforms talking, but if Eli doesn’t implode during games, their offense has some quality lynchpins with Shockey, Barber and Plax. Strahan is always a factor on defense, and they’ve played well now in five consecutive games, winning the last three with close losses to Pittsburgh (Remember the one where Eli looked better than Ben?) and at the Bengals.

I’m believing in the Giants, or maybe it’s just a lack of belief in the Chargers. I’m telling you, they didn’t add a major player on the outside of the field (cornerback or wide out) and letting Rodney Harrison go a couple of years back is looking worse and worse. Viva la Philip Rivers!

Arizona (+6.5) over SEATTLE - It’s not that I have faith that Kurt Warner will turn things around for the Cardinals, it’s just that I really don’t think the Seahawks can put two good games together in a row. They are playing at home, but the Cardinals are due and the Seahawks are due for a letdown.

Tennessee (+6.5) over ST. LOUIS - Revenge for the 1999 Super Bowl? Not quite, but the Titans are only going to get better as the season goes on and their young players gain experience. I don’t know if their defense is good enough to keep up with the Rams on the Turf, because odds are pretty good that the Ravens just blow pretty bad, but I think His Airness is up for a shootout.

Tampa Bay (-3) over GREEN BAY - I would bet, I don’t know, a hundred thousand dollars on this game if I had it. Remember when this game used to be huge back at the turn of the millennium? The Battle of the Bays. The Bay of Pigs. Sapp vs. Favre. The cold-weather factor.

Now Favre and Sapp are both shells of their former selves, and Warren doesn’t even play for Tampa Bay anymore. Brian Griese might be a little shaky on the road, but it’s not like the Packers will be able to put up more than two touchdowns on the revamped Pewter Power defense. I think Cadillac is good for that many, even slightly nicked up, so I’m confident.

Kansas City (+3) over DENVER - I think it’s been stated enough in this space about the amount of faith I have in both of these teams. I think the Chiefs are the real deal and the Broncos are doomed for a terrible season, and since the team I think is clearly superior is getting points, I’ll definitely trust Trent Green over Jake Plummer, Dick Vermeil over Mike Shanahan and the Priest/LJ combo over anything the Broncos trot out there. KC is going to run away with the division at this rate.

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