One man's Week 4 NFL picks (and there isn't an NFC West coach out there who wouldn't sign for 8-8, my record last week) …
GREEN BAY (+14.5) over Detroit
On November 4, 2007 the Lions, behind 252 yards passing and two TDs from Jon Kitna, whipped the Broncos 44-7 to move to 6-2 on the season. The playoffs were going to happen, it was assumed, the only question was if the defense was good enough to make a real playoff run. Mike Martz was a genius and Rod Marinelli the steadying force. Since that game the Lions have a record of 3-40. They have won one more games in the last 35 months than the Packers have the last three weeks. I know 14.5 is a big number but how is this game not "Packers 41, Lions 14?"
TENNESSEE (-6.5) over Denver
Literally a coin flip. I have no faith in Vince Young or Kyle Orton and no clue which way either team is going. I'll say this, though: If the Broncos lose here they have the Ravens and Jets the next two weeks and will be looking at 1-5 after a 2-8 finish last year. I'm sure Pat Bowlen and his fur coats still think the answer is Josh McDaniels but doesn't the seat have to get at least lukewarm?
Cincinnati (+3.5) over CLEVELAND
Carson Palmer gives off a "Bledsoe in 2000" vibe, doesn't he? Just comes across as thinking he's entitled to be an NFL starting QB (I was always struck watching last year's "Hard Knocks" that Palmer acted like he's won two Super Bowls). Never been pushed in high school, college or the NFL, his talent has always been enough. Great start to a career, played a big role in revitalizing a franchise on life support, but has clearly regressed. He makes terrible decisions with the ball and gets ecstatic feet with any pressure. I thought he was awful last year but got away with it because of the running game and defense. Not sure that's going to be the case this year.
NEW ORLEANS (+13.5) over Carolina
Saints get fat and happy against a lousy Carolina group, but I smell a Super Bowl hangover. Good. I've been down on this team since the photo of Sean Payton "falling asleep" with the Lombardi Trophy was released in August. Totally staged shot -- I don't buy for a second that he was really sleeping. It struck me as the sports equivalent of the guys on Facebook that post pictures of themselves carrying their sleeping daughters around Disney World -- just an attempt to get a "how cute!" comment from the girl that never spoke to them in high school. Not that I've tried that move or anything. My daughter is no prop -- plus she's too busy with 40-45 baby beauty pageants a year to waste time in Disney World.
PITTSBURGH (-1.5) over Baltimore
First team to 10 wins. I don't know, just seems that Joe Flacco throws too many picks when he faces OK defenses. What's he going to do against the league's best?
New York Jets (-5.5) over BUFFALO
I really didn't care if the Jets benched Braylon Edwards last week. It proves nothing -- show me a history of benched players suddenly learning life lessons and becoming the next Roberto Clemente. It's just done for show, to pacify the people that need to be pacified. If you or I got busted for a DUI would we be suspended from our jobs? Probably not. And don't try and sell me on the role model angle -- if your kid has Braylon Edwards as a role model you have already failed as a parent.
Nope, my problem is the Jets tried to have it both ways. You either bench him for the game or let him play the whole way and live with the criticism. What they did (one quarter) was gutless and more than a little insulting. Just admit that winning is more important to you than disciplining one of your players. Not perfect but I'm OK with that -- this is pro sports, after all. But they took the easy path and treated Edwards like the kid on the JV basketball team who was late for social studies.
Oh, and this is your lock of the week. The Jets defense will outscore the Bills offense. 31-6 final.
ATLANTA (-7) over San Francisco
The 49ers gassed O-Coordinator Jimmy Raye (sounds like a 1930s blues guitarist, right? Or a shooting guard on the 1978 Bullets.) this week. If I'm a coach in an offseason I take a look at all my assistants and ask this: If we get off to an 0-3 start would I get rid of any of these guys? If the answer is "yes" you should just fire them before and bring in someone you trust. Why start a season with such a short rope?
ST. LOUIS (+1) over Seattle
You think the Rams can't win the division? If they manage to dodge the practical jokes from Pete Carroll Sunday ("Is that Will Ferrell hiding in the replay booth? Oh, Pete." and get a win they'll be 2-2 with the next four games at Detroit, home vs. San Diego, at Tampa and home vs. Carolina. I think at worst they'd be 4-4 in an NFC West that could be won at 7-9.
Indianapolis (-8) over JACKSONVILLE
I'm on record with Peyton Manning as the best QB I've ever seen, and his start in 2010 (9-0 TD/INT, 116.9 passer rating) isn't doing a whole lot to urge me to fire up a mea culpa. This week he gets the Jaguars, who are 29th in passing yards allowed and coming off a shredding from Michael Vick. If I'm Jack Del Rio, I think of it as just one game closer to getting to share a booth with Gus Johnson next year.
Houston (-3) over OAKLAND
This scares me, this is the kind of game soft teams lose on the road. My computer actually froze when I picked Houston, and we all know the spinning rainbow usually means go with the underdog. But the spinning rainbow never met Tom Cable.
SAN DIEGO (-8.5) over Arizona
Was it really worth it for the Cardinals to punt on Matt Leinart and give the keys to Derek Anderson? Why not give Leinart a full year as the starter and see what you've got? How much worse can he be? This isn't getting rid of Leinart to bring in Kurt Warner -- Anderson's career passer rating heading into this season was 69.7, and it's 67.6 this year. Mediocre -- you'll never win with the guy. Hard to believe that Leinart couldn't at least produce at that level. Again, a head scratcher for me. Sure, if Leinart flopped this year you let him go, but you have to give him a chance.
PHILADELPHIA (-6) over Washington
Aside: I'm OK with NBC showing the Ryder Cup on a FIVE-HOUR delay on Saturday. One of these days, though, technology is going to move forward and we might get live results of events around the world. But until that day happens feel free to keep pulling the wool over our eyes, Dick Ebersol. And one day NBC will have a whole bunch of cable channels and they can show the Ryder Cup live to appease hard-core golf fans and put the taped stuff on the main network. What a day that will be.
Europe 15, US 13.
Chicago (+3.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Brandon Jacobs ($11.5 million) is just one rushing TD behind Danny Woodhead ($391K) this season.
MIAMI (+1) over New England
Look, it's simple: Until this defense shows they can play on a big-time stage, until this team shows that they can hold a lead against a quality opponent and until they beat a team with a winning record on the road (which hasn't happened since 11/23/08) I don't see how you can pick the Pats to win this kind of game. I expect the same script -- moments of dominance on offense but some late struggles and a defense unable to figure out how to get to the QB and how to slow down the run. The Bills were able to get huge chunks of yardage on the outside with Spiller and Lynch last week, so maybe the Wildcat actually does damage on Monday. It's a must-win game for the Dolphins, they can't afford home losses to the Jets and Pats. For me it just adds up to a 30-24 Miami win.
Last week: 8-8