By Rich Levine
Do you know that no Patriots team has ever finished the season at 7-9?
I know the NFL has only been playing the 16-game schedule since 1988, but wouldn't you think that they'd finish with seven wins at least once over the last 22 years? I mean, how hard is it to go 7-9?
Or is it that we maybe don't give 7-9 enough credit . . . Maybe going 7-9 is more difficult than we think . . . Maybe 7-9 is an achievement!
Seriously, think about it.
In the meantime, I invite you to read along as I make a fool out of myself for the fourth straight week. (Something Mike Singletary and I will have in common.)
The Game: NY Jets (-5.5) at Buffalo
Lets all remember something: Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 250 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against an overall average Patriot defense and a below-average Patriot secondary.
Is he an upgrade over Trent Edwards? Yes. Of course. Chan Gailey himself would be better than Edwards. But that doesnt make Fitzpatrick a legitimate NFL quarterback. It just makes him better than Trent Edwards. Theres a huge difference; well see it on Sunday.
And with that glowing review, Im taking the Bills.
I dont think theyll win, but with the Jets coming off back-to-back gigantic Ws, the Bills looking like easy prey, the Buffalo crowd, the division rivalry and the fact that Rex Ryans boys having the collective mental capacity of Nate Robinson I think Buffalo keeps it close.
Just close enough for Fitzpatrick to screw them at the end.
The Pick: Bills (5.5)
The Game: Detroit at Green Bay (-14.5)
Im feeling for Lions fans. After a decade of misery that saw them withstand two years of Marty Mornhinweg (we defer!), four years of Joey Harrington and NINE years of Matt Millen (that comes to like 27 rookie receivers), 2010 was supposed to be their season. Not to make the playoffs, necessarily. Or even have a winning record. But 2010 was supposed to be a season for progress; the time for the team to make a collective leap, knock off a few quality opponents, maybe win six or seven games and then next year, come into the season atop everyone sleeper list.
But you know what happened next.
In Week 1, Matthew Stafford got hurt and Megatron "dropped" the touchdown in Chicago. In Week 2, they ran into Michael Vick. In Week 3, they went into one of the toughest stadiums in the league to play the most desperate team in the league. Oh, and Jahvid Best, the most exciting player on the roster and the biggest reason for Lions to keep the faith? Turf toe. Probably one of the most nagging injuries a running back can have.
So, now the Lions head into Week 4 in Green Baby with Shaun Hill at quarterback, probably Maurice Morris (yes, THAT Maurice Morris) at running back, against a Super Bowl contender coming off a crushing loss.
I feel for you Detroit.
(Im sure that makes it all better)
The Pick: Packers (-14.5)
The Game: Seattle (-1) at St. Louis
Did anyone else see the Pete Carroll mic'd up segment on Inside the NFL?
On one hand, I'll give Pom-Pom Pete credit he works it on game day. Granted, he doesn't so much work it like an NFL coach; it's more like a hyperactive, fourth-year equipment manager who's being allowed to suit up for the last game of his senior year (minus the uniform, but that can't be far behind). But still, for four quarters, Pom-Pom is HYPED. Its got to be exhausting. Maybe even a little bit contagious.
But I've got to be honest: The whole thing kind of creeped me out. Or more, I couldn't help but feel like it was creeping all his players out. Carroll's not coaching teenagers anymore; these are older, more rigid, jaded, and less idealistic professionals. And while the cheering and high fiving and relentless positivity might fly when youre 2-1, as the season wears on, the act will get stale.
The Pick: Rams (1)
The Game: Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-1)
Either Peyton Hillis is a lot better than we think, or the Ravens run defense is a lot worse. The answer? I have no damn idea, which is what makes this game such a crapshoot. But in the end, I think it comes down to Charlie Batch. Yeah, the same guy I was talking up last week. But also the same guy whos fresh off the least impressive three-touchdown performance in NFL history. The guy threw two jump balls that happened to end up in Mike Wallace's hands. That's all he did. Unless you count the two interceptions.
The Ravens will stack the box against Rashard Mendenhall; they know hes Pittsburgh's only legitimate offensive weapon. After that, Batch will make enough mistakes by himself to seal the deal.
The Pick: Ravens (1)
The Game: San Francisco at Atlanta (-7)
The same way Carroll;s well of exuberance will eventually run dry, you have to think Mike Singletary's is down to its last bucket. I mean, you can take the psychopathic ramblings when it translates into wins, but when youre 0-3, your quarterback sucks, your offensive coordinator just got fired and you coach is still running around screaming like someone just poured Tobasco down his pants, at some point you just turn it off. You turn your coach off. And that's not good for business.
This week, the Niners try to save their season, yet again, on the road against a Falcons team coming off the biggest, most dramatic win of the entire year to this point. With a win over the 49ers, regardless of how down they are, the Falcons take a huge step in proving that theyre for real. With a loss, the New Orleans victory becomes significantly less important. At least in the big picture.
I think the Niners fight, but stupidity, the Georgia Dome crowd and Singletary's insanity proves too much to overcome.
The Pick: 49ers (7)
The Game: Denver at Tennessee (-6.5)
The Broncos are a Top 10 rush defense after three games, going up against a Top 1 running back. But that's not where this game will be decided. Unlike the Titans, Denver has no running game (hello, Mr. Maroney!), so it will have to throw against a Tennessee defense that's tied for fourth in the league with 10 sacks and has only allowed one passing touchdown all season (and zero in the last two games).
Did I mention that Laurence Maroney is Denver's No. 1 back?
The Pick: Titans (-6.5)
The Game: Cincinnati (-3) at Cleveland
This is Cleveland's last chance to win for a while. After Sunday, the Browns play at Atlanta, then go to Pittsburgh and New Orleans, before coming home for a pair against the Pats and Jets. If Cleveland loses on Sunday, they're going at least 0-9.
Meanwhile, who the hell knows whats going on with this Bengals team? Somehow, theyve gone 2-0 since that loss to the Patriots, and even beat a pretty good Ravens team. But their offense is in a bad place right now. Their quarterback is in a bad place. Honestly, Carson Palmers fallen so far that I'm not even sure how much of an advantage he has over Seneca Wallace. Hey, at least Wallace can leave the pocket if he needs to. And wouldn't this be the perfect time, on the road, in hostile territory, against an inferior opponent, for Operation Diva to blow in the Cincinnati huddle?
The Browns are more desperate. The Bengals are lucky to be 2-1.
The Pick: Browns (3)
The Game: Carolina at New Orleans (-13.5)
Insult to injury
"Hey, listen, Garrett, not only are we taking you off the job, but we think so little of your abilities that we're actually replacing you with a recently retired 46-year-old, who's so reliable that he once missed a last-second extra point that could have helped send us to the playoffs.
"Anyway, hope you didnt already blow that Super Bowl bonus . . . "
The Pick: Saints (-13,5)
The Game: Houston (-3) at Oakland
This gets the Mind-Eff Game of the Week award.
First of all, we know that the Raiders are a bad team. They've gotten blown out by the Titans, barely beat the Rams, and then lost to a sad Cardinals team. Their coach is grossly overmatched unless he's fighting one of his own staff. Their owner's old enough to be Johnny Pesky's grandfather. They suck.
(Also heres a few words of wisdom on Bruce Gradkowski: If you have this guy on your roster, chances are you're in trouble. This is Gradkowskis fifth season in the league, and over those five seasons while he hasn't started even close to every game Dradkowski teams are a combined 23-44. Thats a .343 winning percentage. That's horrendous. Remember this when the Pats sign Gradkowski as a backup in 2013.)
On the other side, aren't we only a week removed from declaring the Texans the breakout team of 2010? Weren't they the real deal? Did the loss to Dallas expose that much? Arent they at least good enough to beat the hapless Raiders?
Yes, they are. But this is the Mind Eff Game of the Week. Somethings fishy. The line doesn't add up. And in those situations, I always go against my gut. I just assume Vegas knows something I don't.
And I go with the Raiders.
The Pick: Raiders (3)
The Game: Indianapolis (-7) at Jacksonville
Jacksonville's 1-4 in its last five games against the Colts, but we're gambling here. Who cares who wins?
More importantly, here are the final scores in those five games:
28-25, 23-21, 31-24, 14-12, 35-31.
Indy's been dominating the AFC South for the better part of a decade now, but they always play close, tough games within their division. Combine that with the fact that Jack Del Rio and David Garrard are coachingplaying for their jobs, Maurice Jones-Drew still hasn't broken out (he has to eventually, right?) and seven's a LOT of points to lay down on the road within your division, and I like the Jags.
On that note . . .
The Pick: Jaguars (7)
The Game: Arizona at San Diego (-8)
Heres my Lock of the Week: Before the end of this game Max Hall will be playing quarterback for the Cardinals.
I dont care what Ken Whisenhunt says, there's only so much any coach take of Derek Anderson.
The Pick: Chargers (-8)
The Game: Washington at Philadelphia (-6)
First, everyone overreacted to Michael Vick's back-to-back monster games. Then they overreacted in the other direction to the fact that those two games were against the Jaguars and Lions.
The real Vick lies somewhere in the middle, which is the Vick we'll see Sunday. There's no way the Redskins shut him down completely; he'll have a few big plays. But you can't discount the fact that this is Vick's first time starting an interdivision game since December 24, 2006. Theres an added level of importance and intensity that he might not be ready for. Or at least will need some time to adjust to.
By then, the Eagles will already find themselves in a tight one.
The Pick: Redskins (6)
The Game: Chicago at NY Giants (-4)
I keep hating on the Bears, and they keep me making me look stupid. I just cant help it though ay Cutlers too much fun to hate.
The Pick: Giants (-4)
The Game: New England (-1) at Miami
Chad Henne to Brandon Marshall. Get used to hearing it. Over and over and over. Get used to hearing Jon Gruden drool over Marshall's length and athleticism, Ron Jaworski nearing climax over Henne's presence in the pocket, arm strength and accuracy. Get used to hearing Mike Tirico ask a series of open-ended questions like: "Guys, what can the Pats do to save this secondary?" and "Guys, does it matter how deadly this offense is if they cant get on the field?"
Maybe Im just pessimistic, but I left that Buffalo game feeling unquestionably worse about the Pats' chances on Monday night.
I still can't believe theyre actually giving points.
The Pick: Dolphins (1)
Last Week: 7-9&8232;Season: 20-25-2