With all this baseball, I don’t know if it could get much better, but here comes another set of picks! Ok, maybe it doesn’t quite measure up, but here goes.
(1) Florida @ (4) LSU (+7)
Not only will LSU cover that spread, they will beat the Gators at home. I am getting the sense that Tebow will be out, but regardless, I am taking the Bayou Bengals, who have not lost in their last 21 night games at home (as ESPN is hyping), to beat the Gators. I am not picking against Tebow, but rather for LSU. I think John Brantley will be just fine at QB; it is just a matter of LSU having a distinct home-field advantage. Remember when LSU went to Washington and we were unsure if they were just not very good, but still got the W? Well it turns out the Washington is pretty damn good and it was a hard-earned win. LSU has been in tight games, they are used to the pressure whereas Florida has played one team with any kind of national recognition, and that school, Kentucky, is recognized for basketball. Some reams have “close calls” and others have “tough wins”; LSU has had some tough wins with one close call at Mississippi State. They are ready. LSU 23, Florida 17.
I would have picked Nebraska over Mizzou, but alas, I was too late. You will have to take my word for it.
(3) Alabama (-3.5) @ (20) Ole Miss
Beware the road game. This game will be closer than it probably should be given the talent levels but Alabama should still come out on top. Ole Miss is still a good team, but just aren’t there completely for every play. I am not sure whether to put that on Houston Nutt, who has done a good job with the program, but if he wants his team to be a big-time contender, he has some work to do. Alabama will run the ball and throw it when needed while keeping Jevan Snead under wraps. Bama 27, Mississippi 21.
Atlanta @ San Francisco (-2.5)
This is a confusing game to pick, but speaks volumes about the NFL. Atlanta clearly has the better skill players with Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner, and Roddy White, but appear to be the inferior team. Though much of this comes on the defensive side of the ball where they have struggled, but the rest of it is up front. The 49ers are just a stronger, bigger, more physical team, and it shows on the offensive line. Atlanta is a little bit undersized and although scrappiness can help, there is only so long the smaller player can hold up against the larger player holding talent equal. Shaun Hill, Glen Coffee and Isaac Bruce will strike fear in the hearts of no one, but they are the more solid team. Which team do you think averages more points? That’s right, the 49ers. Skill players are important, but it all starts up front.
Offensive line is, without question, the most underrated aspect of any NFL team. Think about the teams of the past decade in their glory years: The Colts, Pats, Steelers, and for the early part of the decade the Seahawks. These teams all had unbelievably good offensive lines, and that let them both run and throw the ball successfully. It just makes everything work better. People should have figured this out during the Shaun Alexander years. Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, and Mack Strong blocked his way to a TD record and an MVP award. Anyone could have run through those holes. If Laurence Maroney was on the Seahawks at that time, he would have done just about the same thing. Offensive line is important. 49ers 20, Falcons 17.
Cincinnati (+8.5) @ Baltimore
Let me start by saying that that the Ravens are a very good team. However, the Bengals are not half bad either and to have Baltimore favored by that much is a little confusing. The Bengals are a miracle play from Brandon Stokley from being 4-0 and being everyone’s Cinderella. Baltimore will still likely win the game, but not by that wide a margin. Look for Chad “Most Entertaining Man in the NFL” Ochocinco to have a huge day against a frankly suspect Ravens D. If Cincinnati can protect Carson Palmer, he will put up some big numbers, just probably not enough to beat the Ravens. Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 31.
Let’s get the upset special going on this next one. I feel crazy even writing it, but that’s what makes it good.
Kansas City over Dallas
This is really just a pick against Dallas since I have no faith whatsoever in Todd Haley. This is at Arrowhead, one of the few stadiums to retain its home-field advantage, and Dallas is coming off a heartbreaker in Denver. Do not get me wrong, Dallas is the better team and should absolutely win the game, but something tells me they won’t. They will find a way to lose this game if for no other reason than the Cowboys doing this a lot (think Arizona last year before their run). I don’t trust Jamaal Charles or Larry Johnson, I don’t trust Matt Cassel to rip the weak Dallas D to shreds, but I do trust in the Cowboys to underperform and to dwell on their loss from last week. Chiefs 24, Cowboys 23.