First off, my desktop is back up and running so you will see more frequent posts around here. I apologize for slacking off while it was in the shop and I’ll try to make up for it over the next few weeks. That being said, if anyone out there is interested in coming aboard, writing for TPS and having your opinions read by at least tens of people, shoot me an email and we’ll set something up.
Also, if you can’t get enough of me, I recently stumbled across a great opportunity and reached an agreement with Matthew Cerrone at MetsBlog (after a short trial period, he offered to let me write for free and I eagerly accepted) to join as a beat blogger during the hot stove season and hopefully well into the future.
…Now back to your regularly scheduled column…
Durden returns from Atlantic City in one piece which has led to an extra long post as I apparently disregarded the fact that he'd be back and continued to write a short novel for several games. But where else can you get a combined 600 words or so on that enticing Dolphins/Eagles matchup!
Last week, I was above .500 for the 4th consecutive week and gained another game on Durden to cut his lead to 7 cheeseburgers. That should mean this will be a particularly disappointing one as he's scheduled to fly out here for the Ravens game Thanksgiving weekend where I’ll have to settle up what’s owed at the time. But, with 7 games different this week, I do have slim hope to get back to even just in time. So, on to the picks.
San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars -3
Mazzone: Before the 2006 draft there was a lot of talk that Antonio Cromartie would drop way down the draft boards due to being out of football for a year after a torn ACL. Prior to the draft, I was praying for him to fall so the Dolphins (who were, and still are in desperate need of DB’s) could snag him in the 3rd round.
Unfortunately, just 3 picks after Miami took Jason Allen at pick 16 in the first round, the Chargers ignored the expert’s warnings and picked based on what they saw of Cromartie prior to his injury, and at his pre draft workout. Smart move – aside from the highlight reel plays in recent weeks, he’s just an incredible athlete with the perfect physical attributes to be a successful CB. As long as he’s not a complete idiot, he should progress into a top CB.
The cross country flight, David Garrard’s return to the lineup, and the win over the Titans last week make this pick tough, but I still like the Chargers.
Pick: Chargers +3
Durden: While it’s tough for me to forget Jacksonville’s loss two weeks ago against the Saints, it’s even more difficult for me to forget San Diego’s loss two weeks ago against Adrian Peterson. Of course, the Jags also followed it up with an impressive win vs the Titans, while the Chargers barely beat a banged up Colts team. When you only win by two at home, despite intercepting the opposing QB six times and getting two special teams TDs, you didn’t win the game. The other team lost it.
Pick: Jaguars -3
Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts -14.5
Mazzone: I’ve been wavering between two schools of thought on this one. The first: Peyton without Dallas Clark, Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez, and a couple key pieces of the offensive line becomes human, and the loss of Dwight Freeney certainly won’t help matters, making 14.5 points A LOT to give.
The other side is that the Colts should have won on the road against the Chargers, despite the special teams giving away a boatload of points and Peyton throwing six INTs. Neither of which will come close to happening again. So, therefore they should have no problem covering against the Brodie Croyle led Chiefs, right?
Pick: Colts -14.5
Durden: Peyton proved against the Pats that he clearly STILL can not win a big game, and we saw his resulting hangover last week. I don’t want to hear about how he’s missing multiple offensive tackles and only has one healthy receiver, because it’s his job to figure out how to best use the strengths of Bryan Fletcher and Craven Moorehead. However, I do think the Colts will win in spite of all of Manning’s inadequacies, I’m just not sure they’ll cover.
Brodie Croyle does face a daunting task in his first game as a starter, when you consider they’re traveling to Indy and will have to deal with all the fake noise. Unfortunately for them, the Patriots must have the best evidence and tapes to prove noise-gate, but I’m guessing they’re refusing to submit it to the league. Therefore, I expect the Chiefs to come in with a very conservative game plan, and keep this one close enough.
Pick: Chiefs +14.5
Oakland Raiders @ Minnesota Vikings -5.5
Mazzone: From the meaningless but really fun stat department, I give you this gem. Over the last 12 seasons, scorned QB’s are an astounding 40-7 in games against their former teams. Daunte is likely getting the nod this week in Minnesota, and they won’t have to face Adrian Peterson – so that bodes well for the Raiders. But, Chester Taylor is no slouch and should be able to produce behind that offensive line against one of the league’s worst run defenses. I also like the VIkes defense to rattle Culpepper and take a fumble or pick to the house. Daunte got his revenge against the Dolphins earlier this year, he’ll have to settle for that.
Pick: MIN -5.5
Durden: This Raiders team continues to just hang in games, and I don’t see why this game will be any different. As for Minnesota, I probably won’t have very much to say about the Vikings until Adrian Peterson returns. They’re terrible, but it appears they’re at least having a good time and it seems pretty harmless to me. Hey, if you can’t fly prostitutes in from around the country to perform sex acts on a boat, what can you do??
Pick: Raiders +5.5
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens +3
Mazzone: Durden is excited about McNair all but admitting he’s got nothing left and is a big reason for the Ravens’ struggles. While I agree, he’s been finished for awhile, I also think the Ravens have issues beyond the QB position. Home underdogs to the Browns? The Browns hanging with the Steelers last week was a mirage (see below), but the times they are a changin’…
Pick: Browns -3
Durden: I’ve always said that if the Ravens are to go 1-15, the game they HAVE to win (for me), is the home game vs the Browns. There is reason to be slightly optimistic too, as Stevie Wonder was finally demoted due to an “injury” to his non-throwing shoulder. That’s funny because not only is Kurt Warner playing with a similar injury, but can anyone even tell which shoulder is McNair’s “throwing” shoulder at this point?? However, there’s really not reason for even the biggest fan to have faith at this point, until they show even the slightest signs of life. As much as I hate to admit it, these are not last year’s Browns.
Promoting Kyle Boller is a decision that was well overdue, and yet it’s not likely to make a significant difference given the current injury situation. The Ravens definitely are not the only team that has suffered multiple injuries to key players, but coming into this season, they simply were not prepared to handle that and it’s showing. The opening-night secondary of Rolle, cornerback Chris McAlister, free safety Ed Reed and strong safety Dawan Landry has not started since Sept. 16 against the New York Jets. That’s a big problem against Cleveland, who has excelled passing the ball this season.
It’s also unfortunate that the Ravens now lost Demetrius Williams to an injury, as Boller could actually reach him down the field, though it may not have mattered with the way Billick’s mismanaged the offense.
If I could be wrong about any one pick this year, I hope it’s this one.
Pick: Browns -3
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Jets +9.5
Mazzone: The Steelers were on the receiving end of the “eff you, Madden game” last week…and won. To recap: The Browns totaled just 163 yards of offense and 76 of those came on their longest drive of the season and first of the game (yep, that means they had 87 yards of offense during the remaining 51 minutes of the game and still scored 28 points). Pittsburgh fell behind early, 21-6, thanks in part to a big kick return, a red zone interception, this RIDICULOUS TD catch by Braylon Edwards, and the aforementioned drive that the Browns probably won’t duplicate again for the rest of the year.
Even so, the Steelers battled back with 18 unanswered points and managed to take the lead in the fourth quarter 24-21, at least for a second anyway. Then, Joshua Cribbs (who tallied over 200 return yards ) took the ensuing kick to the house, which he somehow managed to pick up at the goal-line, hop over and slide by five would be tacklers inside his own five yard line, keep his balance and stay in-bounds despite sprinting along the sideline and having his shoulder nearly ripped off. That’s the point I would have thrown the controller.
Only two things kept the Browns from miraculously finishing off the eff you game. A holding call on another nice Cribbs return which would have put them in great shape for a potential game winning FG drive, and Phil Dawson coming up just short on the eventual 52 yard attempt.
Oh yea, something about the Jets…they suck.
Pick: Steely McBeam -9.5
Durden: My only real thought about this game, is how Pittsburgh isn’t favored by double digits. Mangini is proving to be more Mangina than Mangenius, and I don’t think the bye week or home-field advantage will be of much help on Sunday.
Pick: Steelers -9.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons +3
Mazzone: A Falcons win would put them a game out of first. I’ll have none of that. The Bucs remaining schedule should be just bad enough to win them the division and earn them the right to be double digit underdogs against their first round playoff opponent.
Pick: Bucs -3
Durden: This one seems fairly simple. While Atlanta coming off consecutive victories would appear to be impressive, it’s been far from convincing against two of the league’s worst teams right now. Tampa Bay will not only be well prepared for this game, but they’re better on both sides of the ball, than anything Atlanta’s seen in about a month.
Pick: Bucs -3
Arizona Cardinals @ Cincinnati Bengals -3
Music is my boyfriend
Music is my girlfriend
Music is my dead end
Music is my imaginary friend
Music is my brother
Music is my great-grand-daughter
Music is my sister
Music is my favorite mistress
Music is my beach house
Music is my hometown
Music is my king-size bed
Music is my hot hot bath
Music is my hot hot sex
Music is my back rub
Music is where I'd like you to touch.
Enjoy that for the rest of your day and all weekend.
Pick: Bengals -3
Durden: I didn’t think the Lions would struggle against the Cards last week, let alone lose, so I was definitely impressed by Arizona’s win. That’s more than enough for me to pick them against a Bengals team that is in really bad shape. Let’s just say their win last week against the Ravens was not your typical, 21-7 victory.
Pick: Cardinals +3
Miami Dolphins @ Philadelphia Eagles -10
Mazzone: It was a tough loss to the Bills, but you can’t blame Miami for looking ahead to the Eagles.
The John Beck Era is officially upon us and Ricky Williams is back – it doesn’t get much more exciting for the winless Dolphins! I am genuinely excited to get a look at Beck, although I’m not sure I would have made his first games AT Philly and Monday Night AT Pittsburgh. If Cam Cam was going to protect him this long, why throw him to those wolves now? Curious decision (I would have started him last week – Bills at home, or two weeks from now- Jets at home), but I’m anxious to see what he’s got, so let's do it.
As for Ricky’s return (I’ve always been and will always be Pro- Ricky Williams), I’m trying to figure out who would trade for him and what kind of value he’d have since there’s no logical reason for the Dolphins to hang onto him longer than the rest of this season to showcase him.
Maybe the Packers after making a run this year think they are a RB away and Favre talks them into it? Though completely unreasonable, it’d be really fun if he went to any of the following:
Eagles – McNabb heading out the door, and the fans booing the decision to draft Donovan over Ricky, it’d be a nice happy ending
Bears – Cedric Benson would probably cry
Denver – where they support his habits
Who am I kidding? He’ll probably end up with the Patriots for a fourth round pick and run for 2500 yards.
As for this week, sorry Eagles fans, but the Dolphins are the best 0-9 team in the NFL right now and John Beck has never lost his first ever NFL game.
Pick: Miami +10
Durden: I’m not big on moral victories, but I would think the Dolphins must draw some inspiration from at least remaining competitive, despite not having won a game yet. In fact, I was set to pick Miami to cover this week until they made the switch at QB to John Beck. I’m just not sure Beck’s first NFL action should’ve come on the road, against the Eagles and their blitz-happy defense, even if he is the league’s oldest rookie QB I can remember since Chris Weinke.
I was still a little unsure though, I was looking for some reassurance and definitely did not come across anything helpful. Instead, I came across a few of good quotes that tell me neither team really deserves to be favored by 10.
First, Eagles’ TE LJ Smith, what are your thoughts going into this game? "Right now I'm looking at being on another team," said Smith, Wow, OK. How about you, Joey Porter? You’re probably not qualified to be speaking on the Ricky Williams situation, having just joined the team, but what do you think since you’ll just tell us anyways? "Yeah, I would. We're 0-9," linebacker Joey Porter told the Miami Herald. "I'd welcome bin Laden if he could run the ball like Ricky did." Finally, John Madden, anything we should know about Philadelphia that we may not already know? “Rocky has muscles in places you don’t have muscles.” –John Madden
Anyway, I’m going to stick with Philly, mainly because Mazzone will be hosting my trip to Cali next week and this should subtract a burger in the standings.
Pick: Eagles -10
*Editors Note: I don’t want your stinkin’ charity, beotch! Besides, everyone knows there’s no way in hell you’d concede an IN-N-OUT cheeseburger if you really felt that way about the game.
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills +16
Mazzone: JP Losman and Dwayne Wright will be in the backfield for the Bills who are fresh off their dominating three point escape in Miami. Wright was the Bills 4th round pick (111th overall) out of Fresno State where he was second team ALL-WAC in 2006 . That’s all I know about him, because that’s all that’s really on his Wikipedia page. The line could be 30, and I’d be hard pressed to find a good reason take the Bills.
Pick: Patriots -16
Durden: The only concern here is the possibility of New England being a little quicker to take their foot off the accelerator, now that they have a two game lead in the AFC. Otherwise, how can you like the Bills to keep this close (especially without Marshawn Lynch), while the Patriots are coming off a bye?
Pick: Patriots -16
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys -10.5
Mazzone: Big win for Big D last week that solidifies their hold on the NFC East and now they come back to three straight home games that should continue to pad their lead, starting with the Redskins. I can’t really decide how to feel about the ‘skins, which makes sense since they’re about a .500 team and should finish that way. I like the Cowboys to win and for it to feel like a comfortable win, but think the Redskins get a meaningless score late in the game for the cover.
Pick: Redskins +10.5
Durden: The only real hope Washington has in this game, is overconfidence on Dallas’ part after last week’s big victory. Clinton Portis has been a man possessed of late, but it may not matter if the Cowboys come out strong against a Washington secondary that should be overwhelmed without Sean Taylor and Carlos Rogers. I think that’s a highly likely scenario, yet even if it doesn’t play out that way, the Redskins will find that running against Dallas is far tougher than running against Philly or the Jets.
Pick: Cowboys -10.5
New Orleans Saints @ Houston Texans -1
Mazzone: Just when I thought the Saints were headed for the playoffs, they fall flat on their face at home against the Rams. That’s completely unacceptable and warrants an automatic benching in my weekly picks, regardless of the opponent.
Besides, the Texans get Andre Johnson back and though he’s not 100 percent, that Saints secondary couldn’t stop him at 50%, let’s take a look at WR’s numbers against New Orleans this year.
Reggie Wayne/Marvin Harrison: 198 yards 3 TDs
Joey Galloway/Ike Hilliard: 186 yards, 2 TDs
Brandon Jones/Roydell Williams: 110 yards, TD (also Vince Young’s only game with two TD passes)
Steve Smith/Keary Colbert: 121 Yards, TD
Bobby Engram/Ben Obamanu/Nate Burleson: 255 yards, 2 TDs
Roddy White/Michael Jenkins: 179 yards, TD
Reggie Williams/John Broussard: 199 yards, TD
Torry Holt/Isaac Bruce: 186 yards, TD
They did sorta shut down the 49ers “passing game”, if you can call it that. Vernon Davis had 71 yards and a TD, but no receiver (the likes of Billy Gilmore and Arnaz Battle) had more than 25 yards.
If you’re still not getting the hint, start Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Andre Davis, and any other Texan that’s eligible to start at WR/TE for your fantasy teams this week.
Pick: Texans -1
Durden: Anyone else surprised that ESPN hasn’t done more to lamely spin this as Reggie Bush vs Mario Williams? Well, as promised a couple of weeks ago, the success the Saints were enjoying was indeed a product of its schedule. The problem here is that I have no idea what to make of the Texans right now. While I think New Orleans will definitely put up at least 20 points, Houston could prevail in a shootout or get blown out, and neither outcome would surprise me. Since I’m already bracing for the “Reggie Bush’s Eff You Game to Houston,” I’ll take New Orleans.
Pick: Saints +1
Carolina Panthers @ Green Bay Packers -9.5
Mazzone: I wish this were true. Anyway...I’m borrowing Durden’s Brett Favre Slurping Award this week and handing it out to Brad Evans over at Yahoo! - “Because Brett Favre wears comfortable jeans, never has heartburn and sports a Bowflex-chiseled body, it's safe to assume he'll average close to 300 yards and two touchdowns per game during the most crucial weeks of the season.”
Pick: Packers -9.5
Durden: Carolina’s another team I have almost no desire to talk about, nor do I really care to figure out how they got so bad, so fast. I know it’s tough to overcome the Vinny Carr Experiment at QB, but it’s not like anyone was really enamored with Delhomme coming into the season. To make matters worse, Steve Smith hasn’t practiced yet this week and he’s probably the only guy for Carolina who still gives a shit.
Pick: Packers -9.5
New York Giants @ Detroit Lions +3
Mazzone: Detroit got brought back down to earth last week and now they have a difficult schedule the rest of the way. I don’t think the Lions know this game is more important for them than the Giants, and they are probably looking forward to the Favre matchup on Thanksgiving. I think Eli Manning is in for a big day and the Giants bounce back nicely.
Pick: Giants -3
Durden: I know Detroit’s defense has overachieved thus far this season, but their offense is what had me believing coming into the season and it’s been pretty mediocre. As I mentioned before, their loss to Arizona was surprising and I’m going to give the edge to New York in this game. There’s quite a bit I’m not sure about, but I know the Lions are very good at allowing Kitna to get sacked, and the Giants are equally adept at sacking opposing QBs.
Pick: Giants -3
St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers +2.5
Mazzone: Ever get that creepy Déjà vu feeling? San Francisco and Miami appear to be headed for 1-2 draft position again (as in 2005), though the Dolphins have the inside track on the first pick this time. Remember when the Niners were everyone’s bandwagon pick this year, what happened to that? Rams were unlucky the first time these two met, it won’t happen again.
Pick: Rams -2.5
Durden: Hey, where are all those Steven Jackson commercials I was complaining about earlier this season? The man’s throwing TDs now!
Pick: Rams -2.5
Chicago Bears @ Seattle Seahawks -5.5
Mazzone: The Bears are Bringin’ Sexy Back, so the choice here is obvious.
Pick: Seahawks -5.5
Durden: Given their inconsistent nature, it pains me to take Seattle in consecutive weeks but even when the Seahawks try to give this game away, I don’t see the Bears taking it. This win will help Seattle in a few weeks as they back into the playoffs, while Arizona ultimately decides they’d rather not play more than 16 games.
Pick: Seahawks -5.5
Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos -2
Mazzone: Vince Young matches up real well with the Broncos as they are a great team to hand the ball off against and not pass at all (Broncos defense is tied with Oakland for last in yards allowed per carry at 4.8).
The Titans are in the top five in both stopping the run and running the football. It should be the perfect recipe for success against this Denver team, but I can’t help but think back to how poorly the defense played a week ago without Albert Haynesworth (166 rushing yards and 3 TDs allowed) and how easy that will make things for Jay Cutler and the Broncos if they can run the ball.
Pick: Broncos -2
Durden: Denver is like Seattle to me, in that I feel both teams are better on paper, and both frustrate me as they insist on underachieving. Therefore, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised that I find myself picking Denver to come out with another win this week as well. Bare with me here, but could it be that it’s actually Albert Haynesworth who just wins football games? It appears he’ll be missing another game for the Titans who will miss him again, and his ability to kickstart the team.
Pick: Broncos -2
If you haven't seen the Cal Marching Band's tribute to video games (tetris, mario bros, zelda, contra, etc...), here it is.
And just because I felt like adding a third video, completely unrelated to anything...
Say Anything - Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too