By the time this week is complete, 25% of the season will be over. It is a time for coaches, players and fans to assess just how much progress has been made since the end of last season. People across the country are beginning to see the fruits of their labor for the NFL Draft, training camp and the exhibition season. Coaches can see the extent to which players have embraced and executed new philosophies (Ben Roethlisberger), or improved upon existing strategies (Randy Moss). Players can see if those free agency decisions are as attractive now as they appeared last spring (Jason David). General managers can determine if their off-season decisions should have them bound and gagged in a rubber room (A.J. Smith). We are beginning to get separation between teams and some fundamental questions are rising to the fore:
- Can the Packers continue their success or were their wins over the Giants and Chargers illusions?
- Will Brian Griese be able to rescue the Bears?
- Can anyone slow down the New England Patriots?
- What in the hell made folks think Randy Moss wouldn’t dominate with Tom Brady and a running game?
- What’s wrong with the Chargers and Saints?
- Are the Cowboys heading to the Super Bowl?
- How good is Vince Young?
- Is Mike Tomlin really this good?
These questions and many others will be answered over the course of the next quarter of the season. With all that has transpired, perhaps the biggest story (on the field) is really a non-story: that the Colts and Patriots appear to be the class of the AFC. After this week, we’ll check in and see how we’re doing at the first quarter turn. Last week was a good week.
This week, the NFL has a theme. I’ll call it Full Circle Week. Many division rivals are going head to head this week, but where they are not, the teams and their personnel or coaching staffs share some history. It should be interesting. Here are the picks for Week 4.
NFL Lines For Week 4 – NFL Football Line Week Four
NFL Game Lines 9/30 – 10/1, 2007
|Date & Time||Favorite||Line||Underdog||Total|
|9/30 1:00 ET||At Miami||-4||Oakland||41|
|9/30 1:00 ET||Houston||-3||At Atlanta||39|
|9/30 1:00 ET||Baltimore||-4.5||At Cleveland||40|
|9/30 1:00 ET||Chicago||-3||At Detroit||44.5|
|9/30 1:00 ET||Green Bay||-2||At Minnesota||38|
|9/30 1:00 ET||At Dallas||-13||St. Louis||46|
|9/30 1:00 ET||NY Jets||-3.5||At Buffalo||37.5|
|9/30 4:05 ET||At Carolina||-3||Tampa Bay||39|
|9/30 4:05 ET||Seattle||-2||At San Francisco||41|
|9/30 4:15 ET||Pittsburgh||-6||At Arizona||41.5|
|9/30 4:15 ET||At San Diego||-12||Kansas City||39|
|9/30 4:15 ET||At Indianapolis||-9.5||Denver||46|
|9/30 8:15 ET||Philadelphia||-2.5||At NY Giants||47|
Monday Night Football Line
|10/1 8:30 ET||New England||-7.5||At Cincinnati||53.5|
In Full Circle Bowl I, Daunte Culpepper and the Raiders are coming to Miami with a defense that prides itself on making teams one-dimensional. Ronnie Brown appeared to get it going against the Jets last week, even though the Dolphins came up short. The Raiders don’t have as much offense as the Jets, but they have more defense. I like Miami in a close game. Dolphins 24, Raiders 20 (Right at the line, just over the number). 35 years ago this would have been the Game of the Week. I know that Raider Nation and the Dolphin faithful can’t help but see Larry Csonka, Ted Hendricks, Cliff Branch, Clarence Davis and Paul Warfield in the recesses of their mind when these teams get together.
“Sea of Hands” (1974)
Full Circle Bowl II features the Houston Texans and Matt Schaub traveling to Atlanta to take on the Falcons and Joey Harrington. Even though Joey Billboards passed for 350+ yards last week, Arthur Blanck has to be kicking himself for letting Schaub go to Houston. The former University of Virginia signal caller has been stellar. The Texans are a team on the rise. They play tough defense and are anchored at each level by rising stars: Mario Williams (DE), DeMeco Ryans (LB – Defensive Rookie of the Year 2006), and Dunta Robinson (CB). The Texans are building the foundation for a team that can compete well into the next decade. I like Schaub to exact a bit of revenge on the Falcons, even without Andre Johnson. Texans 21, Falcons 13. I’m going under the number in Vegas. If the Texans defense shows up, the Falcons should struggle to score.
I like the Ravens to dispose of the Browns. Ravens 27, Browns 10.
Brian Griese only needs to play within himself and make an occasional pass to Bernard Berrian, Desmond Clark and Mark Bradley. How hard can that be? Chicago 35, Detroit 24.
I don’t where the points will come from for the Vikings. Green Bay 31, Minnesota 17.
Dallas is a big favorite over the Rams. I’m guessing that since Bulger divulged he’s played the last few weeks with broken ribs, he’s healing. If he’s healthy, he’ll be the first QB to pick apart the Cowboys secondary. I suspect this game will be much closer than the line. If Bulger is still banged up, the Cowboys will roll. I’m not anticipating Bulger leading a revival meeting down in Dallas – but the Cowboys defense will be in the house. Cowboys 38, Rams 21.
These were the games that made me a Steeler fan. Back in the 70’s, New Yorkers were forced to suffer through the double fiasco that was the Giants and the Jets. It seemed to me as though both teams were indifferent to winning. They played boring games. They had no personality, no distinctive style, no cool nicknames. It was before the Sack Exchange. It was before the original “LT.” It was the time of AM radio and the occasional bell bottom. It seemed like every week, there was another snoozer on television featuring the Jets and the post-OJ Bills or the Giants and some awful rendition of the Eagles. Well, that snoozer game between the Jets and Bills is back. The Juice is running through airports between Miami and Las Vegas and the Bills are still a one-dimensional team. J.P. Losman has not had the time and has not found the rhyme with Lee Evans, Peerless Price or Roscoe Parrish. The Bills have been grounded. That’s not all bad. Marshawn Lynch is special. It’s simply not enough. I like the Bills to give the Jets fits, as they often do, but come up short. Jets 17, Bills 14.
I don’t believe the Carolina Panthers are as good a team as we have been led to believe. I’m not blaming the media. I’m blaming my eyes. It is hard not to be impressed with this team. Only a few years ago, they were in the Super Bowl. More recently than that, Steve Smith has undressed the best defenses in the conference and sent teams like the Eagles home when bigger things were expected. I want to give the Falcons credit for playing a solid game last week. They were a conniption short of a victory. It happens. With Delhomme in less than perfect health and Dan Morgan nursing an ankle, I’m wondering what’s to stop Jeff Garcia and Geriatric Joey Galloway from wrecking shop on Sunday. The location of these games can’t be that big of a deal…these teams know one another well. I’m rolling with the Pirates to pull the upset. Just a feeling. Tampa Bay 23, Carolina 20.
If the 49ers are ready this season (my pick to win this division), they have to win this game. They shouldn’t put too much stock in their loss to the Steelers. When the 49ers were 18-1 en route to the 1984 Super Bowl, they stubbed their toe against the Steelers – in San Francisco. While this 49er team isn’t headed so far, that should be some consolation. During the off-season, the Niners must have marked this game on their calendars. They’ve gotta have it. Frank Gore and Alex Smith have to make it happen, period. Niners 24, Seahawks 23.
Full Circle Bowl III features the aforementioned Pittsburgh Steelers on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals, of course, are led by former Steeler offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Their offensive line is coached by former Steeler line coach Russ Grimm. There won’t be too many surprises in this game. And yet, it could be full of trick plays and “exotic” zone blitzes. Mike Tomlin, as head coach, will be an invited guest to a chess match between Dick LeBeau and Whisenhunt. The Cardinals are rumored to be playing with Anquan Boldin. That should seal their fate. Steelers 37, Cardinals 13.
Are the Kansas City Chiefs really 12 point underdogs to the team in search of a brain. The Chargers are as lost as a team can be. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are coming off a gritty win at Arrowhead over the tough Minnesota Vikings. The game is in San Diego so the Chargers should win the game, but I can’t expect them to cover. I like what the rookie wideout from LSU is doing. I certainly like that more than what Vincent Jackson and company are doing. San Diego in a squeaker. Chargers 20, Chiefs 17.
Full Circle Bowl IV features the Super Bowl champion Colts hosting the Broncos. The question before the Broncos when facing the Colts is the same as its ever been. Can you cover? The answer, however, is greatly complicated by the tragic loss of talented DB Darrent Williams. The Broncos are still a capable team on both sides of the ball. They play sound schemes and maximize the abilities of just about everyone on their roster. So do the Colts. The Colts have Manning, Harrison, Addai and Bob Sanders. I’ll take Indy – again. Colts 41, Broncos 23.
I’m looking forward to this Eagle-Giant matchup. I’d like to see if Donovan F. McNabb’s performance against Lions was real or Memorex. I’d like to see if Eli Manning can whip Jeremy Shockey into shape. If my tight end dropped that many passes, I’d have to bust his ass – twice. Shockey needs to concentrate and leave them hootchies alone. The Giants are losing games because of his performance. The next step would be a loss of confidence by the QB. If Manning ever decides he can’t look down the seam to Shockey, the offense will begin to get throttled. Derrick Ward has been amazing. Burress has been his usual self. The Giants defense, though, is enough to make a grown man cry. This is a tough game to call. I’m flipping a coin – and going against Vegas. Giants 20, Eagles 17.
In Full Circle Bowl V, Corey Dillon leads the New England Patriots into Cincinnati against the Bengals. Patriots 38, Bengals 7-14.