This week’s story lines include:
**Donovan and the Eagles coming off their bye. McNabb can take comfort knowing that it’s not just white quarterbacks that the members of the media give preferential treatment to. I’m also anxious to see if he can find his receivers when they aren’t wearing powder puff blue and yellow.
**The Ravens giving more points than they scored all last game.
**Kellen Winslow telling Joey Porter he's an angry man that needs a hug.
**Deuce Davenport is in the news again, unfortunately it doesn’t involve a closet or a girl’s laundry basket this time.
**Trent Green is alive…sort of.
**The Saints needing a miracle...or a tragedy, to help turn their season around.
**Durden and I picking 5 of the 13 games differently.
**Oh, and there’s a game in Dallas that’s supposed to be pretty big.
So, here we go…Click Clack
Bengals @ Chiefs +3
Mazzone: I’m sure Chad Johnson is trying to figure out a way to upstage the TO/Moss battle. Hopefully he has something spectacular in store for his TD celebration this weekend. The Bengals can’t play defense and the Chiefs have a few guys that should be able to take advantage (Bowe, Gonzalez, LJ). Arrowhead is a tough place to play, but I think Carson and friends know they need this one and will find a way to light up the scoreboard.
Pick: Bengals -3
Durden: Tough game to start with, as I think both teams have had at least some bad luck with their schedules. Honestly, no one’s really got either team truly figured out. Give me the points and the home team, against a Bengals team without Willie Anderson, Jonathan Joseph and (maybe) Rudi Johnson.
Pick: Chiefs +3
Texans @ Jags -6.5
Mazzone: The Jags find a way to dominate time of possession despite the fact that their running game is the worst in the NFL at converting 3rd/4th down and less than 3 yards. They also have a league high 34% of their running plays “stuffed”, resulting in either no gain or negative yardage on first down and on downs two through four, plays resulting in less than 1/4th of the distance needed for a first down. The good news is that the Texans are near the bottom at stuffing the run and stopping 3rd/4th and short running plays, so the Jags should have an easier time of it on Sunday.
Pick: Jaguars -6.5
Durden: I want to talk about how the Texans D is pretty good, but it let up 19 points to Miami last week. I want to talk about how every Jaguars game is close because of their vanilla offense and stifling D. Most of all though, I want to complain about another spread being too high. Then I’m going to pick it anyways, and still be pissed when I’m wrong.
See? - - - > Pick: Jaguars -6.5
Dolphins @ Browns -4.5
Mazzone: I’m excited for this one. The Dolphins passed on Brady Quinn as part of their plan to land John Beck in round 2. Now it’s time for Quinn to try and extract revenge. With Trent Green concussed again, all eyes will be on Quinn vs. Beck. The Ginn Family should have a bigger role with Hagan out, as well... What’s that?
Derek Anderson?…Cleo Lemon? Really?!
Oh, ok, never mind…
Pick: Ronnie Brown +4.5
Durden: Add fortune teller to the list of Jason Taylor’s many talents: "He'd better not get hit. One big hit, and he could be scrambled eggs." –Jason Taylor (speaking this summer about Trent Green). The real story being overlooked though, is Ted Ginn finally shutting up his critics. Who would have guessed that Ginn in just Week 5, would give this Miami team its biggest, most important play of the season? Well, his botched reverse play was just that, as it led to Trent Green’s concussion. You don’t exactly hear anyone pushing for Green to come back soon, do you? That will be looked back upon as a turning point for a team that was going nowhere fast, but in the meantime, I expect the Dolphins to at least keep it close again this Sunday.
Pick: Dolphins +4.5
Vikings @ Bears -5.5
Mazzone: The Vikings are clearly here solely for our entertainment. They brought us the love boat, the original whizzinator and now WWE in the locker room. Supposedly, Erasmus James threw a punch then Chester Taylor took a chair to James and put him out of commission for at least this week. The scuffle has been confirmed, the details have not yet, but I'm rooting for the chair rumors to be true. As if that wasn’t a bad sign in itself, Tarvaris Jackson likely returns to the lineup for the Vikings. You know what that means…
Pick: Bears -5.5
Durden: Difficult to like much about the (1-3) Vikings on the road, but they’ve at least been in every game they’ve played in. We know the Bears won’t be able to run on them, and I just don’t see Griese pulling away from them at any point through the air. This, combined with the Bears still being banged up on D, and it’s suddenly easier than I thought it would be.
Pick: Vikings +5.5
Eagles @ Jets +3
Mazzone: It’s a spell off! The J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS! vs. E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles! The winner is the first one to correctly spell chrysanthemum. Since McNabb is well spoken (you know, for a black QB), and Pennington is spouting off things like this, "You hear the saying, 'More is better,'" Pennington told Newsday. "Well, sometimes less is better", I’m going with the Iggles. If you prefer logical football reasoning: Eagles are 8-0 under Andy Reid after a bye, the Jets pass D is ranked 25th and is nearly identical to the Lions D that McNabb shredded earlier in the year with the exception that that Jets don’t pick the ball off like the Lions have.
Pick: Eagles -3
Durden: The Eagles come right back to Giants Stadium after the bye, and I think they’ll be more than ready for this Jets team. Thomas Jones is already complaining about a lack of touches, but you’re not going to beat this Philly team on the ground. Fortunately for the Eagles, we know the Jets’ air attack has been awful while Pennington’s been under center. I also anticipate that two weeks was enough for Philly to address its pass protection issue, though getting to the QB isn’t really a strength of the Jets’ either. Then again, what is really?
Pick: Eagles -3
"There are a lot of possibilities," said McNair, who has more turnovers (five) than touchdown passes (two). I think that's the thing that people look at. They want to see this explosive offense instead of seeing the fact that this team moves the ball down the field at their own pace."
Rams @ Ravens -9.5
Mazzone: The Ravens offense has scored five touchdowns in 20 quarters of football. Their wins have been by 7, 3, and 2 points against the likes of the Jets, Cardinals, and 49ers. The defense is still solid, but not spectacular, like it once was. To nobody’s surprise, McNair is going to try and play hurt. To everyone’s surprise, even I think the Ravens might be better off with Kyle Boller at the helm. I wonder if the Ravens realize how important these next two games are before their week 8 bye. Weeks 9-17 have this to offer up, in order: @Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, @San Diego, New England, Indianapolis, @Miami, @Seattle, Pittsburgh. Ouch.
Pick: Rams +9.5
Durden: More easy money for anyone interested this week, as this Ravens team being the biggest favorite in any week is simply absurd. If it wasn’t bad enough that McNair continues to be the QB, injuries have now decimated the offensive line and it is now the youngest starting line in the league, with an average age of 23 and no more backups! The next youngest line in the league is Arizona’s, whose average age is 26. Steve McNair, what’s wrong with the offense? Is it your weak arm that’s led to only THREE 20yd+ completions??
Pick: Rams +9.5
Titans @ Bucs -3
Mazzone: Last week, Vince Young couldn’t even lose when he tried to and now you’re going to give him points?!
Pick: Vince Young +3
Durden: The Bucs proved last week that their “strong” start was just a function of their weak opening schedule. They’re a team that can be run on by anyone, and the Titans offense will be more than happy to oblige, after an awful performance last week. Tampa’s weak offense would’ve struggled against a solid Tennessee D with Petigout, Cadillac and Pittman, but now they’re really up against it without those guys.
Pick: Titans +3
Redskins @ Green Bay -3.5
Mazzone: I don’t hate Brett Farve, I swear. I just think we should spend more time talking about his pain killer addiction and his refusal to be a mentor for Aaron Rodgers. Or maybe the interceptions that cost them the game last week? Or how he cheated on his wife with John Madden? Anyway, going into Lambeau without Santana Moss (might play) and Randle El (doubtful) would be bad news for Jason Campbell. The poise everyone’s been raving about (myself included) will be tested. Farve’s child-like love for the game and sheer determination should be able to will the Packer defense to rattle Campbell.
Pick: Green Bay -3.5
Durden: Anyone else excited to watch the Packer bandwagon go down in flames?? Maybe it’s out of spite, but I really do think it’s about time that teams figure out they can just wait out Favre mistakes. This game will be close, but I expect Washington to run on Green Bay and finally get Favre to the INT record.
Pick: Redskins +3.5
Panthers @ Cardinals -4
Mazzone: "I felt like my grandpa Monday. I felt like my dad today. Hopefully I'll feel like my 7-year-old son by Sunday," David Carr said regarding his injury. I’m not sure what to make of that, does his son wear dainty white gloves too? Well, if Carr is unable to go, it means Grandpa Vinny could get the call. Sure, the Cardinals aren’t exactly sitting pretty at QB, but with Jon Kitna’s Lions on a bye this week there’s no reason to think God won’t be in Kurt Warner’s corner.
Pick: Cardinals -4
Durden: God is a woman, and her name is Brenda Warner. Matt Leinart should’ve known better, and the Cardinal offense will finally be led by the better QB on the roster, on a full-time basis. On the other sideline, Steve Smith may actually kill Vinny Testaverde before halftime. Seriously.
Pick: Cardinals -4
Patriots @ Cowboys +5.5
Mazzone: I’m sure you’ve heard enough about this game by now. So I’ll leave it at this. The line opened at 4, moved to 5.5, and it’s probably not done going up. I wouldn’t mind if I was wrong, but this looks like free money.
Pick: Patriots -5.5
Durden: Much to the dismay of the national media, I think Romo’s MNF performance is conclusive proof that he is actually not the lovechild of Tom Brady & Brett Favre. The media was however helped out by Nick “Queer as” Folk and the Bills, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and provide us all with an overhyped battle of unbeatens this Sunday in Dallas. The truth though, is that it’s too early in the season for the AFC to be embarrassing the NFC, and I really don’t think it’s fair. I’m not the only one who thinks so either, right Nate? "We've got a little place over here where we're running some whores in and out, trying to be responsible, and we're criticized for that" – Cowboy OG, Nate Newton.
Whoops, sorry. It’s already been a bad week for quotes involving legendary Cowboys, but like the late Jimmy Valvano once said, “if the quote works, use it.”
Pick: Patriots -5.5
Raiders @ Chargers -10
Mazzone: The Raiders have beaten the Dolphins, the Browns, and played the Broncos close. They ran for over 185 yards in all three games. Not coincidentally, those are the three worst teams at stopping the run. So, now the Raiders have had a bye week to prepare for a team that’s actually shown some semblance of being able to stop the run, but they’ll likely be without LaMont Jordan. This week will go a long way in showing if Lane Kiffin’s running game is legit or just the product of porous defenses. I’m going with the latter.
Pick: Chargers -10
Durden: Wow, I just realized that people have already knocked the Ravens spread lower than this game’s. Of course, I’m not sure the Chargers should be the most heavily favored team right now either, but at least they have a pulse on offense with LDT and Gates. They probably are back on track now, but I gotta see it again to believe it.
Pick: Raiders +10
Saints @ Seahawks -7
Mazzone: Archie Manning’s not walking through that door, fans. Deuce McAllister’s not walking through that door, and Hurricane Katrina’s not walking through that door.
Pick: Seahawks -7
Durden: Every week’s a guessing game with these Seahawks. Instead of trying to guess on them though, I just think it’d be fun to go with the Saints already playing the role of spoiler! On a more serious note, I do think that Reggie Bush will have a strong game, while Seattle struggles on offense without Branch. Give me the points.
Pick: Saints +7
Giants @ Falcons +3.5
Mazzone: NFL Schedule makers 1 – Mazzone 0. I’m taking a hiatus from publically criticizing the prime time matchups after last week, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. Here's this week's token Peta reference.
Pick: Giants -3.5
Durden: As promised, another scintillating MNF showdown! This one has all the makings of Giants vs. Eagles, as the Falcons have lost both of their starting tackles. The over/under for Osi sacks is 2.5, but that’s subject to change once Fatwich enters the game.
Pick: Giants -3.5
As always, bet safely and BELIEVE IN FOOTBALL