It's time for the weekly duck shoot that is my picks. Almost forgot to post them.
Before we get to that though, we spare a moment to remember offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. Mike died on Friday, aged 58, after battling valiantly against Cancer. Mike had previously coached with College teams such as Florida, Air Force Academy, North Texas State, Cal State Fullerton, Duke and Rice, before moving on to the NFL where his career encompassed work with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and most recently the Tennessee Titans. He is survived by his wife Kathie and his two children - Brian and Alicia. My thoughts go out to them at this tough time and I also remind everyone of the great work that is being done around the world everyday by various Cancer charities to try and beat cancer, with more promising results appearing by the month. So if you have a few spare bucks, those guys could really use the help.
Ok. On with the picks;
Panthers @ Bears
Yeah, yeah, Cam Newton is great. Cam Newton is wonderful. Or so we're told. Two questions - 1) how well will the Panthers O-line stand up to the Bears pass rush? 2) Can the Bears get something going offensively against a far from great secondary? The answers I don't know, nor will we know till Sunday afternoon. At a guess though I'd say the Bears front seven will cause Cam some discomfort and the Bears offense will see a slight improvement against a weak Panthers D. Bears win.
Bills @ Bengals
I think this is a little harder to pick than it looks on paper. I say this because the Bengals do still have a pass rush that could disrupt the Bills offense. It is - however - a long shot. Don't forget that the Bills defense picked off Tom Brady four times last week. Let me just reiterate that; Tom Brady. Four times. On that note, I think Andy Dalton is facing an uphill struggle. Bills win.
Titans @ Browns
Credit where it is due, the Browns have been trying. Colt McCoy is starting to develop a bit of chemistry with his receivers now and the defense is looking on the up. Unfortunately for them, so are the Titans. On a weekend that will no doubt be emotive for many on the Tennessee sideline, the Titans look to be the favourites to win this one. Titans win.
Lions @ Cowboys
Somehow, though I'm not really sure how they've done it, the Cowboys are winning games. I mean it beggars belief. Half the time they can't even seem to snap the damn ball properly, yet they still manage to beat teams that in all probability should be putting them away. Could the Lions be the next team to fall prey to the Cowboys incompetent brilliance? Erm, I dunno. Yes, yes, Calvin Johnson is great. But the Cowboys have a pass rush easily the equal of the Vikings from a week before, along with a better secondary to shut down Johnson. If the Cowboys O-line can avoid self destructing for four quarters, then I actually favour the Cowboys. Cowboys win.
Steelers @ Texans
A year ago I'd have just typed "Steelers win" and left it at that. This year... I'm not that sure. The Texans are much better than they were a year ago. Their defense is showing signs of life. Their offense can still roll just as well as it did last year. Which is more than we can say for the Steelers. Their D is good, sure. But their offensive line is hideous. Just... vomit inducing bad. I'm not sure whether losing the worst offender - Guard Doug Legursky - to injury will make them worse or actually a bit better. Alls I know is this; The Steelers look inept right now. I'm going to have to favour the high scoring Texans. Texans win.
Saints @ Jaguars
Blaine Gabbert versus that Gregg Williams coordinated Saints D. Drew Brees versus that terrible Jaguars D. This one could get very ugly, very quick. Saints win.
Vikings @ Chiefs
This is the first real deciding clash in what has come to be known as the "Luck sweepstakes" or "Suck for Luck", depending on your preference (I think the second one is a little catchier). Not that the Vikings really need to try, as I think they picked up the best quarterback in this years draft with Christian Ponder. And frankly, I know the Vikings have struggled in the second half of games this year, but this isn't the Chargers, Buccaneers or Lions they're playing. This is the Chiefs. The Lions had Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The Chiefs have Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe. I think the Vikings can buck the trend this week. Vikings win.
49ers @ Eagles
A lot of people seem to be riding the 49ers for the win right now. Honestly I don't understand why, and remember that I'm a 49ers fan. I'm a 49er fanboy and even I'm not that optimistic. Everyone is wetting themselves over the performance of the 49ers D so far, but that has been against the offensive juggernauts that are the Tavaris Jackson lead Seahawks, the Andy Dalton lead Bengals, and the Cowboys who were missing Tony Romo for a decent chunk of the game. You would have to be clinically insane to take the 49ers over the Eagles in this one. Short of a miracle performance (fingers crossed), then the "Dream Team" walks this. Eagles win.
Redskins @ Rams
Two teams who are tough to make out right now. The Redskins have played really well on defense, not so much on offense. The Rams have... sucked. In every aspect. That's why I have to side with Washington, even if I'm not leaping out of my chair with excitement for that pick. The Redskins pass rush is just too good for the Rams O-line, and on paper at least they look much better on offense too. Redskins win.
Giants @ Cardinals
I want you to just digest something for a second; the Cardinals scraped a win over the Panthers, lost to the Redskins, and then lost to the Seahawks. The Seahawks. How can anyone take this team seriously? How has Ken Whisenhunt not just sunk into a deep depression already? How can Giants fans justify to their families spending money in these tough economic times to go and watch a Cardinals game? All good questions and all slightly irrelevant. Giants win.
Falcons @ Seahawks
So how bad are the Falcons O-line? We'll find out when they play the Seahawks. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner must have been licking their chops pre-season when they saw this match up on offer. That's before they realised their offensive line was weaker than a wet sheet of toilet tissue and just as much use. Though in all fairness, they're up against the Seahawks, so two scores should probably see them home. Falcons win.
Broncos @ Packers
Kyle Orton returns to Lambeau field, this time with the Broncos. That means that he has arguably better receivers and a worse run game than he did when he was a Bear. And that's really not saying a lot. I just can't look past Green Bay. They haven't been as explosive on defense this year, mainly because people seem to be clamping down on Clay Matthews, but then the Packers offense should be more than enough to handle a Broncos D that has failed to capture the promising form that it showed in the pre-season. Packers win.
Patriots @ Raiders
It never crossed my mind prior to the season that I might be looking at this game and calling it a marquee match up. The Raiders? A team to watch? What has happened to the world? Well it's true. Head Coach Hue Jackson is a little too smug about it all for my liking, kind of claiming credit for all the work done by Tom Cable with the offensive line last year, but there you go. This is also an interesting battle because it pits the run heavy Raiders against the pass happy Patriots. Now I'm a run loving kind of guy, when it's done properly, but that's not why I'm taking the Raiders. I think the Raiders have the pass coverage to lock out Welker and Gronkowski, as well as the pass rush to get after Brady. I'm not sure if the reverse is true about the Patriots shutting down Denarius Moore and getting after Jason Campbell. Raiders win.
Dolphins @ Chargers
A year ago I would have been real interested in this game. Right now it makes me want to vomit just thinking about it. I don't know what happened to the real Phillip Rivers, but the doppelganger that is out their right now masquerading as him has blown its cover with some horrible performances of late. Funnily enough, Cameron Wake's doppelganger is having the same problem for the Dolphins. These two teams just can't seem to get going. They played so well last year, at least in certain phases of the game, but right now they're both stinking it up. On balance I think the Chargers are stinking it up slightly less. Chargers win.
Jets @ Ravens
The fact is right now that the Jets are playing some great football at times and yet still losing. Revis is playing solid. Cromartie is playing solid. Dustin Keller is playing well at tight end. Plaxico Burress, much to my great surprise, has been a revelation for the Jets. Bart Scott is having a strong season. LaDanian Tomlinson is still making a big impact in the passing game at the ripe old age of 32, which in running back years is about 350, give or take a decade. Despite all this though, weak links keep letting the Jets down. Other than Scott, that defense lacks venom up front. Sanchez is still only flashing his potential, not living up to it. The running game has gone flat. The Ravens meanwhile are hot(ish) this year. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed can still go, Haloti Ngata is a dominant force, Flacco is somehow managing to play well, Ray Rice is Ray Rice, and Torrey Smith has just introduced himself to the league. I think the Ravens have more going for them right now. Ravens win.
Colts @ Buccaneers
I bet before the Peyton Manning injury became headline news, ESPN was rubbing its hands in glee at this one. Manning versus Freeman. The consummate veterans against the upstart youngsters. Now it just looks like a cake walk. The Colts are horrible. Even when their defense does make plays, unless they can run the interceptions or fumble recoveries back for touchdowns, then they get no points because out of it because the offense is so weak. Its simply a case of delaying the inevitable. Personally I think the Buccaneers may struggle a little offensively, but defensively they should rip the Colts to shreds. Like the Steelers/Colts game from last week, the scoreline could still be tight, but I have little doubt as to who will win this one. Buccaneers win.
Are we really a quarter way through the regular season already? Damn.