First off, apologies for the lack of posts in recent weeks. My desktop is fried and won't be fixed for another week or so. I'm stuck working off my crappy laptop in the meantime, and since I associate that with my real job I try to stay off it as much as possible. But there is plenty of stuff in the works for when I get the desktop back up and running again.
Durden and I are, for the first time this season, both coming off respectable weeks. He was 9-5 and I was 8-6 and also correctly predicted that a kicker would kick 8 field goals last week. Unfortunately, I went with Matt Stover and not Rob Bironas.
Week 8 has some interesting story lines, but no one cares about those. Next week, the Colts beat the Pats and the following week the Chargers beat the Colts and the '72 Dolphins get to pop some champagne. I guess we'll pick games this week anyway.
Cleveland @ St. Louis +3
Mazzone: I can't believe I actually said, "Wow, the Browns are only giving three to the Rams?!" Which screams of a Rams victory, but I'm not listening.
Pick: Browns -3
Durden: First, a note from a recent ESPN journal entry of Steven Jackson’s: Have a great week, everyone. And hold tight to me in your leagues. You may be seeing me sooner than you expected. (Great! Because I was expecting an effective Steven Jackson in Week 1, but to accelerate that expectation by negative 7 weeks would be AWESOME!)
And now, always take the Browns when the opposing coach is talking like this: "Maybe I'll go call the coach at Rutgers and get some of his plays. Maybe that's what I need to do. ... That's a great idea. That's what you ought to do. You ought to watch TV and just get plays, and we'll do that." -St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan when asked by a radio reporter at yesterday's press conference if he would call trick plays to jump start his slumping offense.
Pick: Browns -3
Detroit @ Chicago -5
Mazzone: Meh, the Bears have no business giving five points to a team that's ahead of them in the standings, and 2-0 in the division already. But, after Philadelphia cheated and turned off Brian Griese's headset, he said "Eff You", called his own plays and brought Chicago the length of the field to victory… on the road. You can't bet against that man this week! At least wait 'til the Lions pick him off three times before turning on him again.
Pick: Bears -5
Durden: I was caught off guard last week by the Lions getting away from the pass, but it made sense as the Bucs are far worse at defending the run, and it worked out. Sure, it helped that Jon Kitna’s dad hooked them up with some key fumbles and a field goal miss, but hey, that’s how God rolls. No such worries this week though, because the Bears have struggled against both the pass and the run, in large part due to injuries. Therefore, I expect the Lions to revert back to Tank Johnson football – guns a blazin’, baby.
Pick: Lions +5
Indy @ Carolina +7
Mazzone: There's no such thing as a trap game if David Carr is the opposing team's QB. I think the Colts will be looking ahead to the Patriots, so they may only win by 13. In related news, how many people have to talk about the Colts flying under the radar, before they aren't flying under the radar anymore? It's always great when every media outlet is a week late on a potential story like that and all the stories come out within a couple days of each other. This just in, the defending champs are still great!
Pick: Colts -7
Durden: A couple of things you could look at are the Panthers coming off a bye, and the Colts playing on short rest. Then when you’re done, you can stop wasting your time. There’s no way the NFL is letting Vinny or Carr come remotely close to ruining Pats @ Colts next week.
Pick: Colts -7
NYG @ Miami (London) +10
Mazzone: Ah, I remember when I heard about the London game, it being a "home" game for the Dolphins and how annoyed I was at that. "This better not cost them a playoff spot!" The good old days… Anyway, I'd feel better about the Dolphins chances if giant robotic Jason Taylor lined up on defense for them. Even though you could make a legitimate argument for not throwing John Beck to the wolves with this mess of a team, I'd like to see him after the bye week regardless of whether or not the Giants D-line eats Cle Lemon this week.
Pick: Miami +10
Durden: I get what the NFL is doing here, it’s just stupid. As if their season hadn’t been enough, Miami now loses a home game to London, and people over there are forced to watch them play. Whatever happens in London, stays in London! Speaking of London, here’s Channing Crowder joking around about it – or is he? Sadly though, I think any wild card introduced to a match-up can only benefit the Dolphins, but a decimated defense and no Ronnie Brown is too much to overlook.
Pick: Giants +10
Oakland @ Tennessee -7.5
Mazzone: The Titans are coming off their first win in franchise history without Vince Young at QB, so that should give them some added confidence in case he can't make it through the full game this week. I expect a defensive struggle, and the Raiders to keep it close.
Pick: Raiders +7.5
Durden: I’m pretty sure this is the most surprising line of the week. The Titans just proved they’re woefully inept in the red zone, and almost let Sage Rosenfels complete a 25 point, 4th quarter comeback. These Raiders may not be good, but they’ve managed to stay in most games.
Pick: Raiders +7.5
Philadelphia @ Minnesota +1
Mazzone: The two Eagles wins came against awful pass defenses (Lions ranked 30th, Jets ranked 26 th). Minnesota is dead last in defending the pass and they only have one thing to game plan against on offense. Sure, Adrian Peterson is an animal and his touches might be increased with Chester Taylor being bothered by injuries, but the Eagles are solid against the run (ranked 8 th) and Minnesota, barring defensive touchdowns, can't beat them any other way as long as Tarvaris Jackson is throwing the football.
Pick: Eagles -1
Durden: The few things I’ve read about this game suggest that the Vikings should go with Kelly Holcomb at QB, because he’s very familiar with the Eagles. It’s not bad logic, except that it means the Eagles are also very familiar with Kelly and whatever few strengths he may actually have. Truth is, I just don’t have a great feel for this game but I have a hard time believing the Eagles are a 2-5 team.
Pick: Eagles -1
Pittsburgh @ Cincy +3.5
Mazzone: It took a couple weeks, but I finally believe that the Bengals are actually as bad as they've shown us so far. Even so, their schedule is pretty weak the rest of the way, and it wouldn't be shocking if they gave false hope to their fans and went on a little winning streak. But it won't start this week.
Pick: Steelers -3.5
Durden: Maybe it was just the “brutal” 35 degree weather, but Big Gay Ben was TERRIBLE on Sunday night before the Steelers realized he really just shouldn’t be throwing further than 10 yards down the field. He was lucky to only have 2 of his passes picked off in the first half, yet those likely made the difference against the Broncos, as Pittsburgh was not too bad otherwise. I think they’ll bounce back just fine against a bad, banged up Bengals team that appears to be a mess right now. Finally, I wanted to show you all that classy, civilized Steeler fans do exist. Unfortunately, this is all I could find.
Pick: Steelers -3.5
Buffalo @ NYJ -3
Mazzone: Um, I haven't picked many home teams yet. So, there's that…
Pick: Jets -3
Durden: Maybe this would’ve been a better London game, since the Giants are actually playoff bound. Anyways, now that the Jets are 1-6, my guess is that teams will stop videotaping them from the sidelines. Fortunately for them, I think that and the home field advantage should be enough to double their win total for the season.
Pick: Jets -3
Jacksonville @ Tampa Bay -4
Mazzone: The Jacksonville defense is excellent, but their inability to hit the playmaker button and force turnovers will continue to haunt them. A short field would significantly help and offense that will be without David Garrard and possibly MJD. While I don't think Quinn Gray can possibly be as bad as he was in relief last week (and Tampa is certainly not Indy), I'm still not ready to take him on the road.
Pick: Bucs -4
Durden: Before the Garrard injury, these teams were almost much mirror images of each other, with their D and ultra-conservative offenses keeping them in games. Not surprisingly, the AFC team in this case is better, but not when you replace Garrard with Quinn Gray. Words can not describe how bad that guy was against the Colts, and anyone that saw him play, knows what I’m talking about. Gray and a banged up MJD should equal bad times for the Jags.
Pick: Bucs -4
New Orleans @ San Fran +3
Mazzone: A matchup of two 2-4 teams (truth be told, the Niners should be 0-6 as anyone who saw their two wins can tell you). One was America's Team just a year ago, and the other was the favorite sleeper amongst the "experts" this season. Alex Smith is back at the helm for San Fran, but he may be without Darrell Jackson due to a quad injury. It's certainly more exciting to take the sexier Saints, but the truth is both these teams are bad, so I'm going with the home team and the points.
Pick: Niners +3
Durden: The Niners at home off the bye are enticing, but Alex Smith and Frank Gore less than 100% behind a line that’s been bad, do not inspire much confidence. Maybe the Saints should’ve looked better than they did against Atlanta, but I think they’ll win their 3rd in a row and flirt with playoff contention for a few weeks before they miss out.
Pick: Saints -3
Houston @ San Diego -11
Mazzone: It was tough to see Sage Rosenfels and the Texans "ROBBED" (oooooh) of a miraculous comeback win by Bironas and the Titans last week. Another loss, more injuries to deal with and now they have to face the new America's Team. By now, we all know that if there's anything that can save southern California and lift the people's spirits in the wake of the latest wildfires, it's professional football and the San Diego Super Chargers.
Pick: America's Team -11
Durden: Katrina Jr.? It’s unfortunate what’s going on out there, and it simply does not help that George Bush doesn’t care about white people. Yes, I know Norv Turner already has a big enough obstacle heading into games (himself), and this probably didn’t help much. However, I’m still taking them in my own Survivor Pool, and I feel confident that they’ll take care of business. Pick: Chargers -11
Washington @ New England -16.5
Mazzone: I don’t think the Pats are susceptible to a “trap game”, but the Redskin defense should be good enough to cover.
Pick: Redskins +16.5
Durden: The Patriots have only beaten a team by less than 20 once all season. The Redskins may be the most respectable opponent they’ll face to date, but Washington’s secondary did not finish the game as healthy as it started, and that’s enough for me to pick the Pats to cover yet again.
Pick: Patriots -16.5
Green Bay @ Denver -3
Mazzone: Brett Farve is fresh off a bye week where I’m sure he took home the Fed Ex air player of the week award and won another spot on the horse trailer for his performance watching the Colts/Jags game. The defeat of the Steelers was almost an impressive win for the Broncos before they fell apart and had to eke out a last second victory. I’m still not sure what to make of them, but I know I’m sick of a severely average Packers team winning games, so…
Pick: Denver -3
Durden: Anyone else suspect that John Madden will conveniently overcome his fear of flying to be at this game for his beloved Brett? I hate to say this, but Madden or not, I think we all may be in store for some of that “magic” on Monday. Of course, by magic, I just mean I think the Packers will beat a Denver team who hasn’t put together consecutive good games yet. We all know how the media will spin it on Tuesday morning though…
Pick: Packers +3