New Orleans at GREEN BAY
The Saints got a road win in Cleveland last week (I was wrong, I admit it) as rookie RB Reggie Bush made a strong debut both as a runner and a receiver. The Packers on the other hand were embarrassed at home, shut out for the first time in a very long time. After taking crap for their poor performance all week, I’ll look for the Packers to bounce-back against the Saints who must play a second straight road game (this season). After facing perhaps the NFL's best defense in Chicago (okay, maybe the NFC’s best defense Steelers fan), QB Brett Favre should rebound off a dreadful game and play well enough to get the home team a win. As you may recall GB beat New Orleans like a rented mule on their home turf last season 52-3, so it’s very possible dear reader.
Neither team is getting within a sniff of the playoffs so neither team must have a win here, but Green Bay can ill afford a second straight home loss to a weak Saints squad, especially after being shutout. Lose this game and this once proud Packers franchise hits rock bottom and its open season on Favre and a possible benching for the season. That makes it a must win for Favre, and I like that kind of motivation. GB’s offense was better than it looked last week as they got 100 yards rushing against the Bears. Green and Favre are good starts as the Packers score over 24 points in this game to get the upset.
Buffalo at MIAMI
Buffalo nearly knocked off New England last week, jumping on the Pats early turnovers only to lose the game on a safety. Although the BUF defense was impressive, the Bills offense struggled gaining under 250 yards. The running game was decent but I’m far from sold on the quarterback. I don’t think this is the last time I’ll be making that observation this season.
Miami played well for about 45 minutes and then the bottom fell out in Pittsburgh. QB Culpepper threw a pair of costly interceptions in the fourth quarter to add to his growing string of late game blunders. This then becomes a crucial early season game for the Dolphins who have two very winnable games in September before playing the Patriots and Jets on the road to conclude a rare three game road trip (rare, unless you’re city is pancaked by a hurricane that is). In other words, they can’t start 0-2 or they’re in deep do-do making this a must win game.
This is a bad motivational spot for the Bills who are playing their second straight road game, especially after a heart-breaking loss. Miami in September is a hot, humid, nasty place to play for cold-weather football teams as the ‘Fins superior September home record demonstrates. The Fish bounce back big this week- start your Dolphins.
TAMPA BAY at Atlanta
Here is another bounce-back spot for a good team that needs a victory. Tampa Bay looked pathetic in losing at home to Baltimore last week. Atlanta is improved on defense, but I don’t think they’re nearly as good as the Ravens especially without DE Abraham in the line-up, so I’d expect a little more offense out of Tampa Bay this week (and perhaps a score or two). Atlanta has historically struggled against Tampa Bay, losing the last the games and six of the last eight since 2002. The Falcons ground game should be less effective against a very quick Buc’s defense that normally gives QB Vick fits. If QB Sims can avoid throwing another three interceptions, the Buc’s should get the victory as the emotional edge (Atlanta off a huge road victory and Tampa off a punishing home loss) favors Tampa Bay. Time to put Vick back on the bench and put your Buccaneers back in the line-up as TB gets the victory.
St Louis at SAN FRANCISCO
St Louis upset Denver last week without scoring a TD. That sounds odd for what once was the greatest show on turf, but STL didn’t score a touchdown in pre-season either, so you have to starting getting concerned if you have lots of Rams on your roster. The again K Wilkins is a fantasy god after booting six field goals. What’s more concerning about last weeks victory is that the Rams won the turnover battle 5-0, but were unable to find the end zone. Obviously, that’s not a good thing unless you have Wilkins on your roster.
As bad as the offense was there are concerns on defense as well. STL allowed Denver to rush for more than six yards per carry-a very bad statistic that normally indicates a poor record at the end of the season.
San Francisco also had a statistically interesting game last week. SF was competitive in their loss at Arizona even though they failed to convert a single third down. The 49ers outgained the Cardinals 393-367 which was a good thing considering their starting QB had thrown only one TD pass in his career coming into the game. SF averaged nearly six yards per rush (again, a very good sign) and the offense should continue to improve as QB Smith develops better chemistry with WR Bryant and rookie TE Davis. As you will recall, the 49ers upset the Rams on their home field last season as well.
The statistics point to a 49ers victory at home, so I’ll take SF to pull the mild upset here.
Detroit at CHICAGO
Love the Bears, don’t like them in this spot. Teams off big wins, and shutting out the hated Packers on the home field definitely qualifies as a big win, typically are sluggish in their next game. Chicago more or less played a perfect game last week in Wisconsin. I’d bet the players have spent the week getting slaps on the back from their fans, friends, and family and haven’t really been focused on the Lions. Then again, it would be hard to take Detroit seriously after scoring six points at home last week (OC Mike Marts’ picture must be on milk cartons in the Motor City this week).
Once again, this is an emotional mismatch as one team is too high and one team is better than their numbers last week indicate. Detroit’s defense isn’t as good as the Bears’, but they aren’t bad either and after one week I’m far from sold on Rex Grossman’s ability to play quarterback with any consistency. I would bet that Grossman returns to form and the Lions get a turnover or two in this game to keep it close with a decent chance for the victory in the end.
Houston at INDIANAPOLIS
Yet another huge let-down/sandwich spot. The Colts got way up for Manning Bowl I and now they face an opponent in the Texans they should crush, which is why they won’t get it done.
This is not a big game for the Colts, but it’s a huge game for the Texans who should be up for this contest. Houston will keep this game close (say 10 points margin or under) because: 1) The Colts used their emotional fuel in last week’s big Sunday night game, 2) because they have to save something in reserve for next week’s game against JAX, and 3) IND’s running game looked so bad against a rather ordinary NYG defense against the run that I don’t think the Colts will get the kind of balance on offense they need for a blow-out. I really expect to see a listless Indianapolis team go through the motions and play sloppy enough that the Texans can hang around. Not the best week for your Colts or your Texans.