Oddly enough, the best week of the football season didn't involve the Rams, Dolphins or Bears. I was over .500 for the third consecutive week and gained 2 games on Durden (66-57-7). I'm now trailing by 8 cheeseburgers.
This week gives us two things I never thought we'd see. 1) Durden and I have an unprecedented 12 games picked differently - which probably doesn't bode well for me considering our current records. 2) Later in the column, I'll present to you the black Trent Dilfer, though you can probably guess who it is.
Before we get to the picks it should be noted that Durden phoned his picks in this week, literally - via drunken text message from Atlantic City. He'll be back in full capacity next week, assuming he makes it home alive. I'm taking all sorts of prop bets on Durden's weekend experience, so email me if you want in.
Alright, onto the picks.
STL @ NO -12
Mazzone: I should have known better than to count out any team in the NFC, even after starting 0-4. There’s no reason to think the Saints can’t win the pathetic NFC South and there’s no reason they shouldn’t roll over the Rams – who continue to lose key players to injury at an alarming rate. The latest to go down: Leonard Little (done for the season), Richie Incognito (done for the season), Steven Jackson for the 2nd time (done until he’s tackled again).
Also, if you’re a Saints fan that’s trying to talk yourself into this being a real turnaround rather than a product of the schedule, you can look no further than the offensive line and Drew Brees. In the first four losses, Brees had 11 turnovers, 929 yards, and 1 touchdown. In the last four wins, the Saints are averaging over 104 yards rushing a game, Brees has just 2 turnovers, 1246 yards, 11 TDs, and has only been sacked once – gaudy numbers regardless of the opponents.
Pick: Saints -12
Durden Pick: Rams +12
BUF @ MIA +3
Mazzone: For some reason, Cleo Lemon is still starting, but now he’s splitting reps with John Beck in practice, so hopefully Beck will get the nod soon. After picking apart the Bengals, the Bills should feel confident heading into Miami to face an equally atrocious defense. Marshawn Lynch’s career game was overshadowed by some guy in Minnesota, but Miami is known for making things easy on the RBs, so Lynch could do it again. Lee Evans typically destroys the Dolphins as well, and J.P. Losman knows how to throw the ball in his general direction more often than not.
The positive news for the Dolphins is that the Bills offensive line doesn’t allow many sacks which is good because the Dolphins don’t have a pass rush anyway so they can just abandon it all together and drop everyone in coverage on passing downs. Buffalo is a Cowboys miracle comeback away from 5-3 and being taken seriously in the playoff race, that’s disturbing and it’ll be nice for the Dolphins to put them back in their place with the rest of the AFC East teams not named the Patriots.
Pick: Miami Football Dolphins +3
Durden Pick: Bills -3
JAC @ TEN -4
Mazzone: These two teams are nearly identical in terms of philosophy. They’re going to try and beat you running the ball and playing defense while the passing game is almost non-existent. If all goes according to plan, this game should be low scoring and, barring overtime, it should finish long before the rest of the early games. If the Titans win, they should be able to book their playoff tickets as the rest of their schedule is pretty favorable.
I feel like anything not associated with the Patriots has flown under the radar this season, like how great the Titans and Steelers defenses have been. They may not be exactly on par with the greatest ever, but also not terribly far from the 2000 Ravens. Look for yourself and let’s get the “Vince Young is the black Trent Dilfer” bandwagon fired up.
Titans 2007 projected totals are in blue, 2000 Raven totals are in purple, Steelers 2007 projections are in black:
Passing Yards Allowed: 3276, 3175, 2588
Rushing Yards Allowed: 1056, 970, 1216
Interceptions: 26, 23, 14
Sacks: 44, 35, 50
Record: 12-4, 12-4 (Super Bowl Champs), 12-4
Here’s where the Ravens separate themselves:
Fumble Recovered: 14, 26, 18
Points: 248, 165 (least in NFL history), 196
Still impressive, and some year the Titans might even get Pac Man Jones back to boost the defense and special teams.
Just for fun:
Vince Young 2007 Projections, 2000 Dilfer:
Completion %: 61.6, 59.3
Interceptions: 16, 11
Total TDs: 10, 12
Fumbles/Lost: 8/2, 8/2
Total Yards (rushing + passing) per game: 145.7, 140.3
Sacks: 20, 23
Oh right, this is a picks column. Let’s go with a repeat of week 1 - 13-10 in favor of the black Trent Dilfer, Jags barely cover.
Pick: Jags +4
Durden Pick: Titans -4
CLE @ PIT -9.5
Mazzone: Aside from the Pats is there another team that would be favored by 9.5 or more two weeks in a row against the next best teams in their division? As mentioned above, the Steelers defense has been outstanding, but Ben Roethlisberger is not Trent Dilfer or Vince Young. Nobody will give it serious thought until it rolls around and the Steelers are 10-2 or 9-3, but there’s reason to believe they can give New England a run for their money in week 14. We talked about the D, and they are currently outscoring their opponents by about 16 a game, whereas NE is at 23 a game. The Steelers are a few garbage time “eff you” TDs away from being right with ‘em.
As for this week, if you hadn’t guessed already, I think the Steelers should win comfortably.
Pick: McBeams -9.5
Durden Pick: Steelers -9.5
PHI @ WAS -3
Mazzone: McNabb usually comes out on fire after he throws a pity party for himself (as he did earlier this week) and since he’s in a more friendly environment than the Linc, I’m going with the Eagles.
Pick: Eagles +3
Durden Pick: Redskins -3
ATL @ CAR -4
Mazzone: Let’s be honest, you’re only betting on this game if you routinely bet on every single game, and even then you’re still not going to watch any of it. DeShaun Foster destroys the Falcons, so it shouldn’t matter if Matt Moore (who?) or Vinny Testaverde are at QB. If David Carr plays though… go with the Falcons. Wow, what a trio, my head is spinning just thinking about those guys.
Anyway, yes, I just endorsed Matt Moore over David Carr and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen Matt Moore throw a football…and now I’m picking his team to cover against Joey Harrington, and I feel confident about it.
Pick: Panthers -4
Durden Pick: Atlanta +4
DEN @ KC -3
Mazzone: It’s tough not to root for a guy like Priest Holmes, especially when it’s so easy to root against Larry Johnson. With Priest coming back this week, I’m reminded of my favorite Denver/KC game in recent memory. It wasn’t really Denver/KC so much as Quentin Griffin against Priest Holmes.
They were ripping off ridiculous run after ridiculous run and I had both of them starting in a fantasy league that awarded each weekly winner with a big screen TV from Best Buy. I was giddy throughout the game, only to come up just short of winning as I didn’t have the top QB for the week by just a couple points.
Of course, that was week 1, and I never sniffed the top of the standings the rest of the way. I finally had to settle for buying a big screen on my own 3 years later. It’s still fun, but not as much as if it were free. In remembrance of that game, I’m going with Denver 34 – Kansas City 24, with Priest and Selvyn Young combining for 5 tds and 300+ rushing yards.
Pick: Broncos +3
Durden Pick: KC -3
MIN @ GB -6
Mazzone: I guess you could say this about a few teams, but Minnesota is a serviceable quarterback (Donovan McNabb next year?) away from being a legitimate playoff team, and that’s despite wasting a pick on Troy Williamson. We know about Adrian Peterson, the offensive line, and the run defense, but Sidney Rice is legit too (you’d see that if they had a QB). The pass defense has been among the worst in yards allowed, but that’s partially because teams know they can’t run so they’re throwing 41 times a game against the Vikes, that’s tops in the NFL. They have some talent in the secondary and are middle of the pack in yards allowed per passing attempt.
That being said, Favre is playing in the house that Favre built with his smile, gunslinger mentality and child-like love for the game, so he should be able to do to them what Philip Rivers couldn’t. Fortunately for me, I don’t care about any of that and am blinded by my season-long man crush on Adrian Peterson where I drafted him in my fantasy league and then touted him as rookie of the year before he took a hand-off (everyone forgets Adrian Peterson was NFL ready three years ago). And now I’m swiping this from the guys at Kissing Suzy Kolber because I couldn't say it better myself.
KSK Reader Gavin B. writes:
I nominate the following name changes:
Adrian Peterson is no longer Purple Jesus, he's just plain old Jesus.
Jesus (the "son of God" Jesus) is now to be called "Carpenter Jesus."
Make it so.
Pick: Vikings +6
Durden Pick: Green Bay -6
CIN @ BAL -4
Mazzone: The Bengals are terrible, but the offense still looks good on paper at least. The Ravens defense is no longer good enough to shut teams out but the offense is still awful and banged up to the point where I’m not sure they can score 14 points. Give me the points, I guess.
Pick: Bengals +4
Durden Pick: Ravens -4
DET @ ARI -1
Mazzone: Everyone probably loves Detroit here, but I feel good about a let-down game from the Lions, combined with a bounce back game for the Cards. If that comes through, then the Lions might be hard pressed to reach Kitna’s 10 win prognostication.
The remaining schedule is about as tough as an NFC North team’s schedule can be (NYG, GB, @MIN, DAL, @SD, KC, @GB). Four wins out of that group could be difficult, but I doubt the Lions are aware of that, so I expect them to downplay the Cardinals and come out flat after their demolition of the Broncos. The good news for Detroit is that there’s no way in hell that they’ll NEED 10 wins to make the postseason in the NFC.
Pick: Cardinals -1
Durden Pick: Lions +1
CHI @ OAK +3.5
Mazzone: The Bears give up 131 rushing yards per game and the Raiders are fourth in the league with 140 rushing yards per game (behind Adrian Peterson, Willie Parker, and whoever the Titans feel like handing it off to that week). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what Lane Kiffin should plan to do. Which is good, because Lovie Smith is no rocket scientist. The bottom line is that I still can’t believe the Bears are giving points on the road to any team that’s not winless.
Pick: Raiders +3.5
Durden Pick: Bears -3.5
DAL @ NYG +1
Mazzone: I guess it’s time to put my reader’s money where my mouth is. In the week 4 picks, I took the Giants over the Eagles and mentioned 6-2 going into the bye was a possibility. In week 7, I upped the ante saying they’d be one of the top two teams in the NFC and you’d hear some realistic Super Bowl talk in the near future.
The Giants two losses came to the Packers and Cowboys, arguably the best teams in the NFC, but that was back when the Giants were in shambles and there was a possibility of having a Derrick Ward/Jared Lorenzen backfield for several weeks. This is a different Giants team, one that’s certainly more dangerous than the Packers. Unfortunately for the G-Men, the Cowboys aren’t exactly ripe for the picking. The Giants are going to have to earn every bit of this one.
Pick: Giants +1
Durden Pick: Cowboys -1
IND @ SD +3.5
Mazzone: I was all set to pick the Chargers here, and then Luis Castillo had to go and get hurt and the Colts had to go and lose to the Patriots. Ah, screw it, I’m still going with the Chargers. Might even have to snag a ticket and walk across the street to enjoy it in person. The Chargers are significantly better at home than on the road and they match up pretty well with the Colts, assuming Rivers doesn’t duplicate the debacle that took place in Minnesota. This is a much bigger game for San Diego than Indianapolis, let's see if it plays out as such or if the Colts are jerks and take out their frustrations from a week ago on the poor city ravaged by wild fires.
Pick: Chargers +3.5
Durden Pick: Colts -3.5
SF @ SEA -10
Mazzone: I can’t think of a single reason why the schedule makers thought this was a good idea for prime time. Oh well, I’m really looking forward to that Niners/Rams matchup next week – the Niners should be too since they’re going to lose this one 37-6.
Pick: Seahawks -10
Durden Pick: Seahawks -10