13. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-8) OVER @OAKLAND RAIDERS
1. Bolts have Silver ‘n Black’s # – being on the road is not an issue. Phillip Rivers is unbeaten against Raiders. Last time Oakland defeated San Diego was close to five years ago with Rich Gannon: September 28, 2003, Week 4 – 34-31 @ Home.
2. SD OL is getting healthier (Marcus McNeill is the best LT in NFL) while Oakland’s DL is getting weaker with sack artist Derrick Burgess (triceps) questionable and top DT Gerard Warren (pectoral) out.
3. Chargers aerial attack is one of the best with Rivers’ league-leading 9 TD passes (124.8 passer rating), whereas the Raiders and slowly developing 2nd year red shirt QB JaMarcus Russell, could possibly own the absolute worst – having no receivers capable of making an impact could even be a bigger reason.
12. @TENNESSEE TITANS (-3) OVER MINNESOTA VIKINGS
1. Both Tennessee lines could arguably be considered the strongest and most dominant. I believe Titans strength facing Vikings strength = Titans advantage. (157.3 rush yards gained/89 rush yards allowed) Also consider the bigger, yet slower Minnesota’s LB’s as they’re more adapt to stop the run than cover in open space – this means both TE’s Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler will make their presence felt early and often.
2. For Minnesota to win they need to be as close as you can get to being mistake-free and nearly flawless come crunch time if they want to challenge Jeff Fisher’s rock-solid squad.
3. Titans possess four elite position players on D: CB – Cortland Finnegan (leads NFL in INT’s with 4), DT – Albert Haynesworth, LB – Keith Bulluck, SS – Michael Griffin. These fiery four play makers will make sure to impose their will on LP Field Sunday.
11. @PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-5.5) OVER BALTIMORE RAVENS
1. Since 1992, Steelers haven’t lost on Monday Night Football (12-0, this fact complimentary of the fine friends at The National Football Post). Couldn’t pass up the chance to hand out props and credit where credit is deserved and most certainly due, along with this mind-boggling, game-altering statistic from the always insightful writer Michael Lombardi. Anyways, is there a better team other than New England that plays through and deals with adversity and key injuries better than Pittsburgh – you gotta love Coach Tomlin’s tough as nails squad facing a rookie QB in the spotlight at home at Heinz.
2. Rookie QB Joe Flacco reminds me of a younger Big Ben – just without the excellent supporting cast at his disposal. DC Dick LeBeau will have lots of fun drawing up blitzes to get to the young kid outta Delaware.
3. I don’t know much much Baltimore will be able to blitz Pittsburgh with both Dawan Landry and Samari Rolle out in the secondary. They’ll need Ed Reed back there to patrol and enforce as the center fielder. With that being said, this will take away from Ed Reed’s ultra-aggressiveness, and remember he bites on the play-action fake a ton – that’s one of the bread ‘n butter plays stapled in Pittsburgh’s offensive game plan.
10. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-3) OVER @CHICAGO BEARS
1. Eagles blitz schemes/packages presented by DC Jim Johnson will completely overwhelm Kyle Orton/Offensive Line.
2. Philly is too deep and talented to let Brandon Lloyd have another week like he did last week against Tampa – plus, take into consideration the “silent” Bears TE’s. For Chicago to be successful, they’ll have to execute the short/intermediate passing game and stretch the field by going over to the middle with their TE’s – something they haven’t been able to that up until this point.
3. Keep an eye on DeSean Jackson – Philly needs him to produce and they need this game, it means more to the Eagles because they have to stay with Dallas & NY in the NFC East, while Chicago’s division is up for grabs.
9. @DALLAS COWBOYS (-11) OVER WASHINGTON REDSKINS
1. Greg Blache’s Washington defense has too much of a “bend but don’t break” mentality – you can’t have that type of conservativeness going up against the offense of Dallas.
2. Dallas’ defense was brilliant last Sunday Nite at Green Bay (held Packers without a TD for 57:49 – ’till mop-up time). Secondary is healthy now (Getting Terrance Newman back) and DeMarcus Ware is unstoppable (#1 pass-rushing LB).
3. ‘Boys OL will dominate the LOS – making it nearly impossible for Washington to make stops on a consistent basis and the get the ball back into the hands of the offense – ‘Skins D will dismantle because of exhaustion.
8. @NEW YORK JETS (-1) OVER ARIZONA CARDINALS
1. Cardinals woes away from home: Since 2003, Arizona has only won a whopping grand total of two road games outside out of their own division – and those wins were against Cincinnati and Miami, who both had losing records. Think: Classic rebound/bounce back game at home for J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS – does it get any easier than this?
2. Jets have the physical corners to help slow down and disrupt Boldin/Fitzgerald in order to allow the pass rush to receive extra time to attack the immobile Kurt Warner.
3. The loss of DE Bertrand Berry (3 sacks) to a torn groin hurts a lot. Jets OL has enough talent to be a factor and make a huge difference, ultimately giving Favre more time to pass than Warner.
7. @JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (-7) OVER HOUSTON TEXANS
1. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor both went over the century mark last week at Indy – expect more of the same because Jags have figured out how much they need the run to be successful.
2. If Jacksonville starts off strong, which they’ve been known to do and accustomed to at home in recent history, I don’t believe Houston can play catch-up and come from behind because of their two previous losses of a combined 40 points – flat-out demoralizing.
3. It doesn’t help that the two playmakers for the Texans, Steve Slaton and Andre Johnson, have to go up against a Jags defense that has just the right solution for both their tremendous ability and breakaway speed. All-Pro Rashean Mathis, a true man-to-man cover corner, will give Johnson fits just as Cortland Finnegan of Tennessee did last week and the Jacksonville defensive line and linebacker core is stout and quick to the edges.
6. GREEN BAY PACKERS (+1) OVER @TAMPA BAY BUCCANEEERS
1. Watch out for Greg Jennings, the NFL’s league leader in receiving yards (373, 19.6 ypc, and 124.8 ypg) to either fly by the 33-year old miniature-sized Ronde Barber or out-maneuver and out-muscle Phillip Buchanon. Makes sense: Tampa’s pass D has allowed close to 240 yards per game and GB’s pass O has recorded just over 250 yards per game – may I say, 175+ yards through the air for Greg Jennings a.k.a. Mr. Monday Night Miracle? I mean, the unwanted Brandon Lloyd went for 124 yards and two scores last week against these same Bucs!
2. Green Bay’s defensive line knows the pressure is on ’em to get to the QB after seeing Chicago go without sack as Brian Griese passed the ball 67 times. Also, keep in mind the fact that starting CB Al Harris (spleen) is out and Charles Woodson is still a bit nicked up. Don’t worry, Kampman and Co. sacked the at the time sack-less Tony Romo three times, as they went toe-to-toe with the most heaviest, biggest, meanest, and massive offensive line the NFL had to offer.
3. Close games come down to RZ efficiency, QB production, T.O.P., and the all-important turnover battle – give the edge to Green Bay in all four of those facets, despite playing on the road at Raymond James.
5. @CINCINNATI BENGALS (-3.5) OVER CLEVELAND BROWNS
1. It seems like Cleveland’s offense (mainly the fans) is still pointing fingers figuring out who’s to blame and who’s to be the QB, waiting for someone to step and get the job done, while on the other hand Cincy’s offense has gotten back on-track after putting up 23 points against a vaunted New York Giants defensive unit in the Meadowlands.
2. Until Cleveland learns to utilize Jamal Lewis more and run the ball consistently, they will not win anytime soon because their pass game is a mess at this present moment.
3. Housmandzadeh and #85 against a shaky Browns secondary… should be lots of fun & games since Crennel’s 3-4 defense cannot get to the QB. Add Chris Perry’s emergence to the equation and as a threat out of the backfield, I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is over by half the way Cleveland’s offense is playing.
4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (+5) OVER @NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
1. Frank Gore, who leads all backs in total yards from scrimmage, will undoubtedly deliver against a porous Saints defense which allows over 133 rushing yards per game. Simply, to make matters worse, New Orleans problems don’t stop there when defending the run, as they also cannot run the football, averaging around 81 yards per contest.
2. Just when you thought Drew Brees was going to pump up the volume like Christian Slater with his incredible passing clinic in which he completed a remarkable 39 of 48 passes for 421 yards, the dynamite signal caller has to prepare for the league’s 9th rated defense which allows just under 161 passing yards per game, featuring an impressive corner back tandem of Nate Clements and Walt Harris that would make Ronnie Lott and Dwight Hicks proud. Add the most intimidating and talented LB, Patrick Willis to that killer 1-2 punch, and you have a rising unit that will make Brees’ afternoon, a rough one. Memo to Drew: Sorry buddy, you ain’t goin’ against Denver defense no more!
3. Making it tough on Sean Payton’s team, will be none other than “Project Mike Martz” J.T. O’Sullivan, who comes in with the 4th best QB passer rating at 104.8. You know what this means, not only can the 49ers run the football effectively, they also can finally make big plays through the air which will be too much balance for a dismal Saints defense. As long as Reggie Bush doesn’t get more than two highlight reel-type plays and the 49er OL doesn’t self-implode – SF should easily cover and more than likely leave the Superdome with a “W”.
3. @KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+10) OVER Denver Broncos
1. Larry Johnson is back after a 24-carry, 121-yard, TD outburst last week in the Georgia Dome. Denver’s defensive line is neither strong nor quick enough to prevent LJ from stomping past the LOS and into the open field, where it’s “game on” once he meets the LB’s on his way to going one-on-one with the defensive backs.
2. QB Damon Huard is a wily veteran who will make the Broncos defense pay if they persist in putting eight in the box.
3. Close Attention Alert, Don’t Sleep: Former Mizzou standout and St. Louis native, 4th round selection WR Will Franklin, was in my opinion the most physically gifted athlete at the wide out position in this past April’s Draft. This is his first opportunity to play at home at Arrowhead wearing “red” in front of his family & friends this Sunday – keep that in mind, along with the fact he has the blazing speed to get past the weak Denver nickel backs with ease for six. This very well may be the difference between losing by 17 and covering the spread for K.C.
2. ATLANTA FALCONS (+7) OVER @CAROLINA PANTHERS
1. Other than the last-second 4th quarter heroics in the opening day comeback against San Diego, Delhomme and the gang have not been all that impressive on offense – well, quite frankly, they’ve been an overall disappointment to say the least (27th overall).
2. Leading the NFL in rushing at 203 yards per game, Michael “The Burner” Turner and Jerious Norwood are the most electrifying backfield combination in the game. Keep an eye on Jerious in the pass game on 3rd downs – he’s got game-breaking SPEED.
3. I believe Atlanta’s ability to move the chains with Turner in short yardage situations will play it’s part, as the Falcons offense will be given ample opportunities to open up the play-action in the red zone, thus eventually turning into Turner scores adding to his NFL-high 5 rushing touchdowns. Mike Smith’s attacking front seven and ball control offense will dictate the tempo/flow, keeping this game within striking distance for the upstart Falcons – the erratic inconsistency of Delhomme will help in making this a close, down-to-the-wire battle.
1. @ST. LOUIS RAMS (+8.5) OVER Buffalo Bills
1. It’s time for Steven Jackson to show up – he’s bound to break a big run in the ground department because the team will depend upon him to be their anchor. Buffalo will allow Rams to hang in there, thus giving more reason to believe Jackson will receive the rock from Trent Green 30+ times – he’s a work horse this Sunday – plus, the former Oregon State Beaver will be pumped up about his school’s performance in their upset victory Thursday night in Corvallis over #1 ranked Southern Cal.
2. Donnie Avery will have a Roscoe Parrish-esque coming out party, making some key plays with his bursting moves and explosive quickness. He wasn’t drafted as the first WR for nothin’ to watch from the sidelines. Making his first pro start, Avery is finally healthy and up to full speed – and he’s also preparing extra hard for his TD dance! Now that’s the WR nature/spirit for ya’!
3. Expect Trent Edwards (already sacked 7 times) to be on his back and not resting in the 2nd half. The unbeaten Bills squad is on an emotional high from last week’s comeback against Oakland at Ralph Wilson, so look for ’em to come out a bit low (emotionless) as the dreary, winless Rams might lull ’em to sleep (figuratively). This game smells like an upset – Rams have too much talent on defense. Pass rushing specialist Leonard Little will return and boost a loaded DL that will get their act together and start playing up to their potential against a lackluster Buffalo OL. The young rising free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe will get his hands on his first interception, after catching eight in ’07 – this former Stanford Cardinal is a ball hawking star in the making.