I had an awful start to my season in Week 3 by going 7-9 , but I did get my pick of the week right. Hopefully I can turn it around and pick better than Eric Mangini with his quarterbacks. Home teams in CAPS.
EAGLES (-8.5) over Chiefs
Even without Donovan McNabb, the Eagles may still have the two best quarterbacks playing in Michael Vick and Jeff Garcia, although neither will start. Kevin Kolb looked great with 391 passing yards and two touchdowns, but did throw three picks. The Chiefs on the other have been thoroughly unimpressive and rookie Head Coach Todd Haley is already talking about switching up starting quarterbacks. Quite the vote of confidence.
Packers (-7) over RAMS
The Packers will be angry from the start after losing at home to the lowly Bengals, and watching Chad Ochocinco-Johnson make a Lambeau Leap. Anyways, the Packers are a way better team at every position except running back. But the Packers tough defense can easily put a stop to the one-dimensional Rams offense. So give me a Packer team with a purpose and Aaron Rodgers with 300 yards in the air.
49ers (+7) over VIKINGS
Sure, the Niners only beat the Cardinals and Seahawks, so they may be a misleading 2-0, but those were two tough divisional games, including a win against the NFC Champs. And if you think that San Fran’s 2-0 is misleading, take a look at the Vikings 2-0 record with wins versus Cleveland and Detroit, who likely could be the two worst teams in the league. To make matters worse for the Vikes, Adrian Peterson has a hurt back, so Brett Favre will have to throw down field a lot more. Gunslingers throwing to speedy receivers who don’t always get a handle on the ball often lead to interceptions.
Titans (+2.5) over JETS
The Jets are the young, surprise teams who is off to a 2-0 start, while the veteran Titans who had giant expectations coming into the year are already at 0-2. Remember that this very same Titans team won their first 10 games until the Jets came in and crashed the party. Also remember that Mark Sanchez is a rookie with only one year of experience in college. The Titans need this game more and want revenge. It’ll be one of those games for Sanchez.
PATRIOTS (-4) over Falcons
For those of you over thinking this game and pointing out the Patriots deteriorating defense, remember that this is the Falcons going up to Foxborough. Brady will finally face a soft defense and get back to his 2007-08 form. The Patriots are also 9-0 after losing their previous game. Randy Moss and Wes Welker have yet to catch a touchdown pass, and look for that to change big time as Matt Ryan doesn’t play well enough to win in his New England homecoming.
TEXANS (-3.5) over Jaguars
In a match-up of AFC South teams, the Texans return home to try and climb back into the division race. The Texans are way more talented across the board and are still waiting for second year running back Steve Slaton to return to his rookie form. The Jaguars are that team that you want to pick to win, but when you look closer, you see no reason to like them. Look for a big win in Houston.
Giants (-7) over BUCCANEERS
This line is way to small. The Giants are one of the top five teams in the league and the Bucs are one of the worst five. With the emergence of Mario Manningham and the other Steve Smith as semi-legitimate wide outs, the Giants could really wreak some havoc on Tampa. For the Bucs to have any shot of keeping it even within the spread, they’ll need Kellen Winslow and Antonio Bryant to have huge games, since their trio of running backs won’t have much room to move against the Giants ferocious defensive line.
Redskins (-6.5) over LIONS
You’re telling me this guy layed for the Packers?
This game is becoming a popular pick for the Lions. In case you forgot, the Lions haven’t won a game since December 23, 2007. Brett Favre was still playing for the Packers at that point. The Redskins are loaded with talented players like Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Albert Haynesworth, and many more. Washington has been underachieving, but they are still head over heels better than the Lions.
RAVENS (-13.5) over Browns
Although the Ravens nearly have a two touchdown spread against the Browns, it is not high enough. The Ravens went into San Diego and beat the Chargers by 5. The Ravens can also score now, not just eat you up on defense. Joe Flacco is emerging as one of the top young QBs in the league, and the combination of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain is becoming one of the better offenses in the league. Oh, yeah, and the Browns are awful. Completely and utterly awful.
Bears (-2) over SEAHAWKS
The Bears shocked the NFL by going to Pittsburgh and beating the Super Bowl Champs, even without their best defensive player, Brian Urlacher. The Seahawks are a great sleeper team this year, but without Matt Hasselback starting, they aren’t very good. The Bears are solid on defense and have a great quarterback and running back. Look for a big win for Da Bears in Seattle. This is…The Lock of the Week.
Saints (-6) over BILLS
Another popular upset pick, the Saints bring their NFL best scoring offense up to Buffalo. The Saints scored 45 on the Lions and 48 on the Eagles. I can guarantee you that the Bills don’t even compare to the Eagles on defense. The Bills still have their best offensive weapon, Marshawn Lynch, inactive because of his suspension, while Drew Brees and the Saints are in full swing. So if the Saints keep up their scoring, do you really think the Saints are going to score 40 points?
CHARGERS (-6) over Dolphins
Both teams are coming off crushing home games against AFC contenders. The Chargers are without LT for the second straight year, but they still have Darren Sproles and a great receiving corp that includes Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, and Chris Chambers. The Dolphins are very limited on offense, excluding Ronnie Brown and his Wildcat offense. The Chargers have the single most underrated defense in the league; Shawn Merriman is back and ready to put the lights out on the Dolphins.
Broncos (-1.5) over RAIDERS
The surprisingly good Broncos are off to a 2-0 start, and the Raiders are still abysmal. Through two games this year, JaMarcus Russell has a 35.4 completion percentage. Most NFL experts say that to be a starting quality quarterback, you need to have a 60% completion percentage, and if you don’t complete half of your passes, you don’t belong in the league. That with an improved Denver defense should lead to an easy win for the Broncos to bring them to 3-0.
Steelers (-4) over BENGALS
After the Bengals won at Lambeau, Cincinnati has become yet another upset favorite. But in case someone woke up from a very, very long sleep, the Steelers won the Super Bowl just six months ago and the Bengals haven’t made the playoffs since 2005. Don’t think too hard about this game, it’s gonna be the Steelers.
Colts (+1.5) over CARDINALS
The Colts want to prove that they are still one of the elite teams in the AFC and the Cardinals want to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. But Peyton Manning is a stud in night games, so why would you ever count against him? Give me the points and give me Peyton.
Panthers (+9) over COWBOYS
To start, this spread is ridiculous. To say that the Cowboys are three field goals better that Carolina, especially after Tony Romo’s Dehlomme-esque implosion Sunday Night versus the Giants, is insane. Here’s a question for the smarter group of football people: if the other Steve Smith tore up the Cowboy’s secondary for 10 catches on 134 yards, how do you think the better Steve Smith will fare? This game means more to the Panthers because if they lose, it is very likely that John Fox will be fired and they will bring in Bill Cowher to coach.
Last Week: 7-9
Lock of the Week: 1-0
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After missing Week 1, my picks for Week 2 are in. Home teams in Bold.
Panthers (+6) over FALCONS
I know that I was really harsh on the Panthers, their management, and Jake Delhomme, but if you remember, this same team won 12 games last year. I’m not going to go ahead and say that the Panthers will win a big division game on the road, but they are given a huge line. DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith can carry this team to within a touchdown of Matty Ice and the Falcons. Atlanta’s defense is a little suspect with aging and injury-prone like Mike Peterson, John Abraham and Chris Houston.
Saints (Pick) over EAGLES
To start, this line is ridiculous. The Saints, and specifically Drew Brees, torched the Lions defense for 45 points. Donovan McNabb will not play for the Eagles after having his ribs fractured at Carolina. Kevin Kolb is no McNabb. At that, Kolb is no Brady Quinn. If not for the fact that Kolb was a second round pick in 2007, the Eagles will end up cutting him when McNabb gets back. He is the fourth best quarterback on the Eagles and is only starting because Garcia hasn’t been around long enough, Michael Vick is still suspended, and McNabb is out. Anyways, the Eagles defense is not facing Jake Delhomme anymore, they’re facing possibly the best quarterback in the league. The additions of Darren Sharper and Malcom Jenkins has shored up New Orleans’ D. Look for the Saints to win BIG. Lock of the Week.
REDSKINS (-10) over Rams
Last week, the Rams were trampled by the Seahawks 28-0. Their offense is horrid, their defense is horrid, their offense is horrid, and their defense is horrid. Wait a sec, did I say that twice? Anyways Steven Jackson is their only offensive weapon, and Chris Long and James Laurinitus are their only defensive stars. They are possibly the worst team in the NFC if not the NFL. Marc Bulger? Laurent Jackson? Are these the players I want to run my team? No! I’m not high on the Redskins either, but Clinton Portis and Santana Moss are big playmakers on offense, and Albert Haynesworth is a huge addition to an already stacked defense.
Texans (+5) over TITANS
Both teams had high hopes last week going into this season, but were beaten, Texans in a more surprising way. I love the Texans offense with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Kevin Walters, and Steve Slaton. They have an up-and-coming defense, too, with Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing, Dunta Robinson, and Amobi Okoye. I hate Tennesee’s offense with Justin Gage and Kenny Britt as their top receivers. I also dislike their defense with out Albert Haynesworth. Put those together while giving the Texans a five point advantage, give me Houston.
Patriots (-4) over JETS
If you remember two years ago, Steelers safety Anthony Smith guaranteed a win versus the Patriots. When the Steelers played the Pats, Tom Brady threw a touchdown past Smith, he ran down all the way to where Smith was in the end zone to point his finger, say something, and smack him in the helmet. New England went on to win 34-13. Earlier in the week, Jets’ safety Kerry Rhodes said that he wanted to embarrass the Pats. So what do you think Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker are going to do? Jets’ “tough” coach Rex Ryan sent a voice mail to all season ticket holders saying that he was not as good of a coach as Belichick and his team is not as good as the Pats. Doesn’t sound like much confidence to me. A hint for the Pats this season: take the over on the line.
PACKERS (-9) over Bengals
The Bengals are getting better, especially on defense. They have play makers at receivers in Chad Johnson-Ocho Cinco and Chris Henry. Their quarterback is still top-10. But then again, their head coach is still Marvin Lewis. The Packers have a great defense with the addition of first rounders B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews. A 9 point line is a lot, but the Packers at home are very hard to beat.
Cardinals (+3.5) over JAGUARS
At first, I wanted to go with the Jags at home because I think they are very underrated and Arizona is way overrated. The Cardinals have a Big 10 running back (name one good active Big 10 running back in the NFL) and got hot in the playoffs after getting demolished at New England 47-7. But the line is outrageous, giving them more than a field goal advantage going into the game. This team, no matter how overrated, nearly won the Super Bowl last year. The Jaguars’ defense can’t cover Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston, even with All-Pro cornerback Rashean Mathis.
Raiders (+3) over CHIEFS
The Raiders are easily the worst run team in the NFL, but they are stocked with young stars-in-the-making like JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Chiefs are a great sleeper team this year but they have yet to play a game with Matt Cassel at the helm. Richard Seymour has really shored up the Raiders’ defense, so don’t expect Larry Johnson and the Chiefs to run all over the Black Hole.
Vikings (-9.5) over LIONS
In this match up of Midwest teams that no one cares about, you have the ol’ Gunslinger in Brett Favre, and the new Gunslinger in number 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford. But in the end, the Lions are an awful team on and defense. Adrian Peterson is a monster at running back. Put those two together and you have…
BILLS (-5) over Buccaneers
This is a tough game to pick. You gotta love the Bucs running back trio and Kellen Winslow, but then again, they have a really bad defense and underachieving quarterback. Bills have all sorts of weapons at wide receiver and Fred Jackson showed up at New England last week. And although they lost yet another Monday Night heart breaker, their defense and running game showed a lot of heart. Taking team T.O. at home this time.
Who is Josh Morgan?
Seahawks (+1.5) 0ver 49ERS
If not for a slew of injuries to all of Seattle’s wide receivers, the Seahawks would have won the NFC West last year. Add T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Aaron Curry to the mix, and that’s a great team. The 49ers beat an overrated Cardinals team last week, and Josh Morgan is their top receiver. Do you even know who Josh Morgan is? Exactly.
Steelers (-3) over BEARS
In a showdown of the defenses, the Steelers received a huge boost when the news that Brian Urlacher is out for the season with a sprained wrist. The Steelers will devour Jay Cutler and his group of no-name receivers featuring Earl Davis and Johnny Knox. Even without Troy Polamalu, the Steelers probably still have the best defense in football. Big Ben is always clutch, so I’m putting my money on him.
CHARGERS (-3.5) over Ravens
LT is out of this game, but this won’t be a huge problem for the high-powered Chargers’ offense. Darren Sproles will pick up the slack for the Bolts. With weapons like Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates, it’ll be hard for San Diego to lose at home. And as good as the Baltimore defense is, they are getting older. And don’t underrate the Chargers defense who gets Shawn Merriman and Antonio Cromartie back.
Browns (+3.5) BRONCOS
This is an awful game to watch, and if anyone not a Browns or Broncos fan watches this, they must have nothing to do in life. They are both pathetic at quarterback and on defense, but the Broncos have an awful run defense and Jamal Lewis is a compete ant running back and Braylon Edwards, when not dropping balls, is a very good receiver.
COWBOYS (-3) over Giants
The Cowboys play their first game at their billion dollar stadium with possibly the biggest crowd ever. Home field advantage plays a big role in the NFL, so I like the Cowboys. In a matchup of which team will recover better from the loss of their star prima donna wide receiver: Plaxico Burress and Terrell Owens. The Cowboys have Roy Williams and the Giants have Dominik Hixon.
Colts (-3) over DOLPHINS
In case no one remembers, the Dolphins were 1-15 just over a year ago and the Colts were the toast of the AFC. One Chad Pennington later, the Dolphins are a division leader and the Colts are a Wild Card team. Welcome back to 2007.
As a goal for the year, my goal is to to have a winning percentage good enough to make the playoffs and my pick of the week better than the Patriots. Also beating Bill Simmons, more ESPN guys and newspaper people would be nice to.
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It was just 8 months and a week ago that the Carolina Panthers were flying high in the NFC as the number two seed and set for a deep playoff run. That was before they ran into the high powered offense of the Arizona Cardinals, and Jake Delhomme threw five interceptions and fumbled the ball once.
Since that dreadful game, the Panthers have they have gone 0-5, including four preseason losses which were only highlighted by back-ups like fumble happy Mike Goodson, Kenneth Moore, James Anderson, and Dan Connor.
Their lone regular season game went exactly like their January meltdown versus Arizona. In the playoff game, return man Mark Jones brought the ball to mid field, and three minutes later, Jonathan Stewart ran the ball for a 9 yard TD run. In last Sunday’s game, the Panthers marched down the field versus a tougher, more physical defense and scored on a 11 yard DeAngelo Williams misdirection run in eight minutes. Both games when downhill from then on out and Delhomme had 11 count them 11 turnovers in just over six quarters of play, thanks to John Fox finally pulling the incompetent quarterback for back-up Josh McCown, who hurt his knee just a few plays later.
After two straight games of awful play and five years of mediocrity (not counting the 2003 Super Bowl year and 2005 NFC Championship year), it’s painfully obvious that something has to be done to fix this “Delhomm-a”. The Panthers had a perfect opportunity to replace Jake with a capable quarterback since Jeff Garcia was granted his release by the Raiders. Last season, Garcia led the vastly untalented Tampa Bay Buccaneers to within one win or an Eagles loss of the playoffs, won the NFC South the year before, and the year before that, he took over for an injured Donovan McNabb to lead the Eagles to the playoffs. But because of salary cap problems, Fox’s infatuation with Delhomme, and lack of timing, they failed to snatch up the quality QB before the Eagles signed him. Ironically, Philly only needed to bring in Garcia because McNabb was hurt when he was tackled at the end of a touchdown run by Panthers’ linemen Damione Lewis and Tyler Brayton. With Garcia off the market, Carolina opted to go with career back-up A.J. Feeley over former starters like Joey Harrington, Andrew Walter, and talented youngster Brian Brohm. So this off-season, if the Panthers can find a QB of the future, Delhomme needs to be released.
The next big move that needs to be made by the Panthers is to ship out All-Pro Defensive End Julius Peppers before the Week 6 Trade Deadline. Peppers has been one of the strongholds of the Panthers’ defense since his number 2 overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft. But over the off-season, Pep said that he wanted out of Carolina, preferably to a contending team with a 3-4 defense so he could play outside linebacker. The Panthers did not honor his request and slapped the franchise tag on him, so he had to come back and play for at least one more year under Fox. At this point, Peppers likely still wants out of Carolina, and probably won’t sign an extension once he hits free agency this summer, assuming the Panthers down slap the Franchise Tag back on him which will pay him over $20 million. So why not ship him to a team who is willing to part with several draft picks.
In a similar trade, the Chiefs sent All-Pro Defensive End Jared Allen to the Vikings for a first-rounder and two thirds. Peppers is older, but he didn’t have the baggage that Allen did at the time of the trade. Allen was coming off alcohol probation and received three DUI, including twice in five months. Other teams will have an upper hand on the Panthers, though since they know Julius wants out of Carolina. So if any teams offer up a first-rounder and maybe more, the Panthers should jump on the offer immediately. The Panthers aren’t going anywhere this year with or without Pep, so we might as well get something back for him before he leaves. The Panthers do have two solid young defensive ends in former second-rounder Everrette Brown and former third-rounder Charles Johnson, along with veteran former first-rounder Tyler Brayton.
A last move that should be made is to fire Head Coach John Fox, Offensive Coordinator Jeff Davidson, and General Manager Marty Hurney. Fox, like Delhomme, was brought in for the 2003 season, and were a hit success. But Fox’s run and control the line of scrimmage strategy no longer works now. Despite what Coach Fox thinks, it normally doesn’t work to well when you run the ball right up the middle on 3rd and 20, yet he seems to do it nearly every time the Panthers have third and long. Also, the pride of the Panthers used to be their defensive line, but that is no longer the case. Gone are the days when opposing teams feared Carolina’s front line of the Pathers’ great leader Mike Rucker, behemoth Kris Jenkins, steady vet Brenston Buckner, and young stud Julius Peppers. Now they are down to just Brayton, Lewis, Louis Leonard, and Peppers, who soon will leave. The last major flaw of Fox is his never ending love for Jake Delhomme. Through thick and thin, Fox has stuck with Delhomme since he finished out the Panthers first game of their 2003 season, where Jake came in at the start of the second half to replace Rodney Peete, and led Carolina to victory. Fox needs to know when Jake is rhythm and when he is 2009 Playoff Jake.
There is one very good former head coach without an NFL job that has lots of connection with Carolina. That man is Super Bowl winning coach Bill Cowher. Cowher attended N.C. State for college and currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. During a 2009 Carolina Hurrincans playoff game versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, Cowher spun the ‘Canes’s siren, showing that he’s not all about Pittsburgh anymore and still likes Carolina sports teams. If the Panthers lose their next two games heading into their Week 4 bye week, which they certainly could seeing as they play at Atlanta and at Dallas on Monday night, Fox certainly needs to be fired. Carolina could then implant Cowher’s system over their bye week and be ready to play by their Week 5 game versus the Redskins. This is a match made in heaven for the Panthers, and they have a perfect opportunity to utilize it.
When the Panthers fired current Miami Dolphin’s Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning, it was because their offense was flat and they needed a new spark. They hired Jeff Davidson to be their new OC to implant his new zone blocking scheme, but it all reality, Davidson is just a son to Henning. The Panthers run the same run first and run often offense they always have, and it’s just not working. The Panthers have to replace Fox with Cowher or another Head Coach before hireing a new Offensive Coordinator because the plays have to go through Fox before the Panthers can run them. Two coordinators who could replace Davidson are former Chargers’ Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer and former Buc’s OC Jeff Jagodzinski. Schottenheimer knows how to run a good offense, especially after leading the high-powered Chargers to a 14-2 record in 2006. He knew how to work with and keep happy great offensive stars like LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, and Vincent Jackson. However, Schottenheimer never has held the position of an NFL Offensive Coordinator, but rather has twice been a Defensive Coordinator and three times a Linebacker Coach. Jagodzinski is more of an offensive minded coach than Schottenheimer. He taught Matt Ryan at Boston College and was the Offensive Coordinator for the Buccaneers until he was fired a week before their first game, which they lost to Dallas. Jagodzinski also knows the NFC South well because he coached Matt Ryan for four seasons and was Tampa Bay’s OC, although only for a month or so. His insight into the offense of teams Carolina plays a combined four times a year would really help.
Like John Fox, General Manager Marty Hurney’s time has ran out with the Panthers. The Panthers made no off-season moves until training camp, and have traded future first-round picks the past two seasons. Perhaps the trades were in an attempt to keep his and Fox’s jobs an extra year, rather than make the team better in the future. The first-round pick that Carolina sent to the 49ers in this year’s NFL Draft netted picks that became Brown and Goodson. The first-rounder that San Francisco received could likely land them a very top-flight quarterback such as Sam Bradford or Jevan Snead, since the Panthers could easily be a bottom 15 team. The Panthers desperately need a quarterback of the future since Matt Moore, although he has had flashes of success, will ultimately never be a starter in the NFL. Along with making no off-season acquisitions, Hurney made another big mistake by signing Delhomme to a 5-year/$42.5 million extension as a gesture of faith. But how much faith can you really have in an aging quarterback who single-handedly killed your season in the playoffs? There is no logical fit for a new GM, but a suggestion would be to take front office personnel from the best run organization: the New England Patriots. Two names of people who could fit the job of Panthers GM would be Nick Caserio, Director of Player Personnel, and Floyd Reese, Senior Football Advisor.
The last move that needs to be made soon will happen in the 2010 NFL Draft. The Panthers need to draft a quarterback of the future, which will be a big prroblem if their top pick is around pick number 40. The top group of QBs entering the draft will be Heisman winners Bradford, Tim Tebow, along with Colt McCoy, Snead, Zac Robinson, Jacorry Harris, and Jimmy Clausen. Unless Carolina can acquire a first-rounder for Peppers, the Panthers will probably have to settle for Robinson, Harris or Clausen with their second round pick, but the last three quarterbacks are no where as talented as Bradford, McCoy and Snead.
The Panthers have several holes to fill, and these are only some suggestions that will help them. You have some serious problems at quarterback, defensive line, and on the sidelines. So take my advice, Panthers, and maybe, just maybe, you will be relevant later this year, or the year after.
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