I am in a NFL pool in which you pick the games every week. Given my performance in this column last week, you would think I did poorly. However, I went against most of my own advice and did pretty well. I know. You are welcome. What can I say, I had a bad week, and I was due for one after that impossibly good 5-0 start. The good news is that we have way more options to pick from this week and we will not have to re-hash the Bengals, Ravens, Patriots and Jets again. I feel like there is a joke to be had here concerning Brady’s hair, Ray Lewis’ history with limo drivers, and Braylon Edwards’ drunk driving charge, but I will leave that to you.
The college slate is much-improved this week as well. We have a top-ten matchup and a Smurf Turf Showdown in Boise to pick instead of reaching for a game like Iowa vs Arizona. Did you know that Iowa has not won west of the Rockies since 1984? I clearly did not know that either. Anyway, on to the picks, and I promise they will be better this week. If they aren’t, then I will start my next Picks column by telling everyone they can “eat cake”, letting readers storm the Bastille, and just other things about the French Revolution.
No one wants that.
Before I derail my own column, let’s get to the picks, and make it quick because I am getting very close.
(1) Alabama vs. (10) Arkansas
I am on record of saying that few things are harder than winning a road game in conference. This is especially true in the SEC. My theory is that the seats in SEC stadiums are closer to the field and it makes it harder to hear, and that when you combine this with the copious drinking involved with the fans and their rabid love for football, it just enters a level of its own.
That is all good and well, but the really good teams still take care of clearly inferior competition on the road. Arkansas did that with Georgia last week, but just barely. That is a team they should not have to come back against. They seemingly did everything they could to lose that game for about 3 quarters before turning it on and beating the Bulldogs like they should. To put it simply, I have zero confidence in Arkansas. Ryan Mallett is good, but the defense is not, and I think the Razorbacks are just not quite ready to make a big move.
It does not help that Bobby Petrino is not a very good motivator. The whole “we are Goliath” thing was just a bad idea. I get the idea that he is trying to instill confidence and get them thinking that they should win this game, but every single player (I hope) in that locker room already knows that Goliath loses. I get wanting to be the big kids on the block, but using Goliath when everyone knows that Goliath dies is a bad idea.
Alabama is the better team, and while Arkansas will probably jump out in front, I like the Tide to roll in what looks like a down year for the SEC. Florida is not good, Georgia is not good, LSU is mediocre, and so on. Just not a good year for the SEC and it gives Alabama definite hopes of going undefeated despite that tough-looking slate of games. Of course, they could be weaker too. We will see.
Alabama 31, Arkansas 23
I am not sure which game to pick next. I do not think anyone is picking Oregon State so it seems a less worthy game to pick, and South Carolina vs. Auburn and West Virginia vs. LSU is not very exciting either. Let’s move to the NFL and get an upset for our second college game.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
This one has postseason implications written all over it. Atlanta is coming off a drubbing of the Cards and is probably much better than we thought after that fiasco in Pittsburgh. On the other side, the Saints have really struggled against two teams that do not look very good right now. The offense has put up 39 points (2 fewer than the Falcons put up against Arizona alone, and the team just has not looked good so far. I think that most people will be taking the Falcons to win this game and that it will be the beginning of some struggles in N’awlins.
Not so fast. The Superdome provides a legitimate home field advantage and while the Falcons have been outstanding at home under Matt Ryan/Mike Smith, they have really not been that great on the road. The Saints are definitely stumbling a bit, but they can still handle their business at home. Atlanta is getting too much buzz to come out and put a beating on the defending champs at home.
Atlanta Falcons 24, New Orleans Saints 27
Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans
This is going to be one hell of a game to watch. It might cost the defensive coordinators their jobs (or in Dallas’ case, it might cost everyone their job), but it is going to be a great game to watch. The Cowboys secondary looked pretty bad against Chicago and the Texans Secondary has given up 800 yards through the air so far. I smell a good ol’ fashioned Texas shoot out.
I have a history of picking both of these teams to fall on their faces throughout the year and they traditionally come through for me. However, someone has to win this game and for once it seems like the game really matters. Dallas faces the apocalypse of mankind if they lose (or so you would think listening to the press and people around the organization) and the Texans still are out to prove they are legit and did not just build their entire season around that first game and then luck out with bad play-calling by Washington. It should be a shootout and a game that both teams are genuinely hungry for.
However, one team wants it more. Imagine a genie comes down and tells a homeless man and an average guy that they have to fight. If the homeless guy wins then he gets a home, a job, and unlimited food for the rest of his life. If the other guy wins, he gets to sleep with the celebrity of his choice, gets free beer for the rest of his life, and gets a ticket to the next Super Bowl. Who ya got? Gimme the homeless guy. Why? Because he NEEDS that, the other guy just wants that.
Neither of these teams is homeless, but the Cowboys clearly NEED this game. The Texans can start 2-1 and it not be a big deal, but if the Cowboys fall to 0-3, heads roll. Teams, and people, do things when backed into a corner and I think the Cowboys win this shoot out because they have no other choice. It helps that they took some responsibility for their failures after last week and I think the Cowboys come out and win this so we can all go back to picking them and being disappointed.
Dallas Cowboys 38, Houston Texans 35
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Coming into the year, I had the Bears at 4-12. I’m not afraid to admit it. They have a brutal schedule, a much-improved division, and injury-prone guys at key positions. That is not a recipe for success. But right now, they are healthy, the offense is working even without a good offensive line, and the defense is back to being the Monsters of the Midway. The Packers, on the other hand, have been pretty good so far, and though they have not really been tested so far, this should be a good barometer. They are clearly very talented, but this is a road game against a team that is playing very good football right now. If this game was in Lambeau, I would not hesitate in picking the Pack to bash the Bears. However, playing this game in Chicago is a game-changer. This game was already a battle for division supremacy (at least early supremacy) and I think the Packers can be attacked through the air. Al Harris is still out, and while the Packers will be able to get after the QB more effectively than Detroit or Dallas, I am not sure if it will be enough. I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl this year, but that does not mean there will be bumps along the way.
I am secretly afraid of picking the Bears here. They got lucky against the Lions with Shaun Hill playing the second half, and beat an uninspired Dallas team in their second game. There are so many reasons I should just take the Packers and make the Bears prove to me that they are real, and the fact that the Packers can get after the QB scares the crap out of me if I am a Bears fan. This may not be as good a game to watch as Cowboys-Texans, but it is going to be one hell of a game.
I came into the column picking the Bears. I almost talked myself out of it by telling myself that the Packers pass rush is going to make the Bears’ offensive line look awful. Um………
Packers 16, Bears 17
But don’t hold me to it.
Honestly, not many options in the NFL this week, so we are going to college for the upset. I mean unless you would really like for me to talk about Raiders vs Cardinals…
Notre Dame over (16) Stanford (-5)
Yeah, call me a homer. I like the Irish to protect their house as Stanford comes rolling in to give us what has got to be the highest combined tuition and highest combined IQ of any relevant game this weekend. The Irish pass defense has actually been pretty good so far, but the only guy I really trust is Gary Gray. However, Andrew Luck will be without his top receiver for the game so the secondary should get a break there. The Irish ground game should show up again and be able to fuel the Irish “onward to victory”.
Just a few reservations about this pick
- The fact that Stanford is missing their top WR is nice, but it always seems like a nobody steps up and kills Notre Dame every week. I can hear new-guy Mike Mayock drooling over how good Stanford’s 3rd string WR is from here as he racks up 150 yards. Calm down, Mike. He isn’t that good, he is just that good against Notre Dame.
- Even without Toby Gerhart, it looks like the Cardinal can still run the rock. They are 14th in the nation at running the ball, but I am not sure what to read into that. They have been blowing people out, so are those stats padded by running the ball for much of the second half? Are they legitimately that good? What is it? We will find out on Saturday.
- The line of Stanford being favored by 5 just seems too high. Am I missing something about a west coast team flying out to Notre Dame and an up-tempo offense? Stanford has played no one so far and they are still favored by 5 on the road?
Irish eyes will be smiling.
Stanford 24, Notre Dame 30
Last Week: 1-4
Upset Special: 1-1
Keep in mind I should be around .500 since they are games that people are actually debating> No one is picking the Ravens v Browns here.