Today it was announced that Al Davis died earlier this morning. Al Davis was the heart and soul of the Oakland Raiders for over four decades. Al Davis is one of the main reasons that the NFL is the entertaining money machine that we see now. He was an integral part in the merger between the AFL and the NFL. This was a guy who loved to win. He will be deeply missed. You can read more here, here and here.
Philadelphia Eagles versus Buffalo Bills – What happened to the Buffalo Bills last week? A lot of people are saying that the Cincinnati Bengals are a lot better than we thought. Maybe. I think the Bills just had a letdown after beating the New England Patriots. They just couldn’t get up for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Philadelphia Eagles have been everybody’s whipping boys (we can’t forget the Cowboys as long as we are piling it on). As I see it, the Philadelphia Eagles have two major problems. First, they’re having a lot of difficulty in their offensive line. They are simply not protecting Michael Vick. They’re running the ball a little bit better than expected, but this may be because LeSean McCoy is a really good and fast running back. I think the Buffalo Bills are going to win this one.
New Orleans Saints versus Carolina Panthers – Although Cam Newton is proving to be much better than anybody thought he was going to be this early in his career, the Carolina Panthers still need a lot of work. I think both their offensive and defensive lines are somewhat suspect. It appears to me that the New Orleans Saints are figuring out how they’re going to win this year. The New Orleans Saints must be thanking the football gods for Darren Sproles. How the San Diego Chargers let him go is beyond me. Drew Breeze is completing 69% of his passes. They have the number two offense in the league, scoring almost 32 points a game. I just don’t see how this trend is going to be changed by the Carolina Panthers. I look for the Saints to avoid mistakes and win this one fairly easily. As an aside, I really would like to see the New Orleans Saints defense tighten up just a little bit. I’d like to see them create more turnovers like they did two years ago.
Oakland Raiders versus Houston Texans – With the death of Al Davis, this game takes on a new dimension. I think the Oakland Raiders are a team to be reckoned with this year. I like the way that they’re running the ball. I really like the way that Jason Campbell is throwing the ball. The injury Andre Johnson sustained really does hurt the Texans. I think Matt Schaub is playing well. Of course, I said this early last year, only to have him collapse at the end of the year. Getting Arian Foster back will help mitigate the loss of Andre Johnson. Foster ran extremely well last week. I don’t think he will run wild this week, but I think he will probably grind out close to 100 yards. I think this is going to be a hard-fought game but I’m giving the edge to the Houston Texans playing at home.
Kansas City Chiefs versus Indianapolis Colts – Every week there is a game that makes you wonder why the NFL is actually putting these two teams on the field together. The Kansas City Chiefs had high hopes at the beginning of this year. Unfortunately, their high-powered running attack took a huge blow when Jamaal Charles blew out his knee. Dexter McCluster is no Jamaal Charles. He’s somewhat small, so he’s not to be able to carry the ball 20 or 30 times a game. He is listed at 170 pounds. If the Kansas City Chiefs are going to play reasonable football this year, they need Matt Cassel to play better. He has to eliminate turnovers. The Indianapolis Colts are proving they’re not going to roll over. They played better last week that I expected but they still didn’t win. Curtis Painter played okay. He didn’t suck. Now, if he can play well, the Colts have an opportunity to win. I think that this game is a toss-up. It’ll be decided by turnovers.
Cincinnati Bengals versus Jacksonville Jaguars – Blaine Gabbert versus Andy Dalton. Who? Cincinnati appears to be playing winning football for the first time in years. They’re running the ball the way Marvin Lewis wants to run the ball. Cedric Benson is more of a disappointment because… playing football is a privilege. Being placed in jail for five days for an assault charge is completely unnecessary. I’m giving Cincinnati a slight edge. Look for Cedric Benson to be suspended next week.
Arizona Cardinals versus Minnesota Vikings – Have you noticed that Kevin Kolb has happy feet? He doesn’t seem to be able settle down the pocket. He seems to be nervous and jittery, yet he does make some throws. The Cardinals are running the ball fairly well. Donovan McNabb is having some trouble with his accuracy. He is spraying the ball all over the place. He has done this before in his career, but he has always been able to shake it off and play well. He may start off rusty but by the third and fourth quarter he’s throwing darts. That was several years ago. Now, he’s missing wide-open receivers. Unless he can shake the rust off his game, I just don’t see how the Minnesota Vikings are going to win many football games. I’m picking the Arizona Cardinals in a close one.
Seattle Seahawks versus New York Giants – I know that everyone is saying that the NFC East is one of the weakest divisions in football. I disagree. I think NFC East will get their act together over the next several weeks. Philadelphia, New York and Washington will figure out a way to play winning football. The Cowboys will go as far as Tony Romo will take them. The Giants are really beat up on their defensive frontline. They just got Osi Umenyiora back from injury. Justin Tuck has been in and out of the lineup since the beginning of the year. In order for the Giants to win they need these two guys to be playing well. As long as Eli Manning doesn’t turn the ball over, the Seattle Seahawks don’t have a chance in Giants Stadium. I’m picking the Giants by at least a touchdown.
Tennessee Titans versus Pittsburgh Steelers – This is going to be one of the best games on Sunday. Can the Pittsburgh Steelers turn around? Are the Tennessee Titans a legitimate elite NFL team? I think that the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is the problem with Pittsburgh. They can’t pass block and they can’t run block. Until Pittsburgh gets this fixed, their team is going to struggle. The Titans are solid both in offense and defense. Matt Hasselbeck has been amazing. I see the Tennessee Titans winning this one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus San Francisco 49ers – I have no idea how the San Francisco 49ers are 3-1. I do know that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to be playing better week after week. Josh Freeman seems to be learning at an exponential rate. I think there is an opportunity for him to become an elite quarterback. On the other side of the ball, Alex Smith has never impressed me. Frank Gore is running okay, but not great. The offensive line for the 49ers is mediocre. The San Francisco 49er receivers, Vernon Davis and Josh Morgan, are not making enough plays. On the other hand, Tampa Bay is running the ball very well. I think Tampa Bay is going to win this one.
San Diego Chargers versus Denver Broncos – To me, this game comes right down to the Denver Broncos defense. Can the Denver Broncos contain Philip Rivers? The simple answer is no. The Denver Broncos defense is giving up an average of over 400 yards per game. I know Antonio Gates is probably not going to play, but San Diego still has too many weapons on offense. I need to mention that the Broncos offense is somewhat anemic. I look for San Diego to win this game going away.
New York Jets versus New England Patriots – It is hard to say that you have a must-win game this early in the season, but I think that’s one of the great things about the NFL. In the NFL you don’t play 120 games or 160 games. With only a few exceptions, every game counts. The New York Jets have not been able run the ball the way they want to and they haven’t been able to apply that suffocating defense. They’re just not playing as well as they did last year on both sides of the ball. New England’s a little soft on defense, but they make up for it by being outstanding on offense. Unless the Jets can figure out a way to slow down Tom Brady, they’re looking at another loss. I’m marking this up as a win for the Patriots. (Can anybody stop Wes Welker? Revis can and has.)
Green Bay Packers versus Atlanta Falcons – Last week, I said that Atlanta had to win in order to stay close in their division. As a matter fact, I went so far as to say that Atlanta had to win in order to prove to the NFC that they were still an elite team. So, they won last week. They have to do it again. If Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers come in and destroy the Atlanta Falcons, I’m not sure that the Falcons are going to be able to recover. I don’t think that Atlanta is running the football as well as they would like. I don’t think that Matt Ryan is getting the time in the pocket that he would like. I think that the Packers are clicking on all cylinders. The only way I can see for Atlanta to win this game is to create turnovers and integrate them early. It is possible that Aaron Rodgers may be in his Tony Romo (3 interceptions in the 2nd half), giving mood. Possible, but unlikely. I look for the Green Bay Packers to chalk up another win.
Monday Night Football
Chicago Bears versus Detroit Lions – I think that this has the potential to be the best Monday Night football game of the year so far. Both of these teams like to play fast and hit hard. Both of these teams have a long history. I really don’t think the Detroit is playing amazing football but they’re winning. I think Calvin Johnson will be covered from the time he gets off the bus to the time he gets back on the bus. I think that Julius Peppers and the rest of the Chicago Bears are cooking up some exotic blitzes to get some pressure on to Matthew Stafford. I’m still not believing in Jay Cutler. He looks harassed. Look for his harassment to continue against the Detroit Lions. This is going to be a good game. I think the Jay Cutler is too accident prone for me to lean towards the Bears. I’m looking for the Detroit Lions to go 5-0. (Pretty mind-boggling. The undefeated Detroit Lions. Wow.)