Before we get to the picks for the week, I want to go team-by-team and talk about at least one surprising thing about each team. Why? Because I don’t have much else to write about specific to this week and some of these guys/factors really deserve attention.
Buffalo Bills (5-2)– There are a lot of directions we could go with the DIVISION LEADING BILLS. I could focus on how awesome Fred Jackson is, or how Ryan Fitzpatrick is somehow one of the more reliable quarterbacks this year, but the biggest surprise in my mind is that going into most weeks, I have a lot of confidence in them to not only be in the game, but to have a legitimate shot to win. Last year they had some talent but did not even look close to contention at times. This year I would be more surprised by the Bills getting crushed than, say, Stevie Johnson becoming a breakout player last year.
New England Patriots (5-2)– I don’t think anyone really thought it was going to be a great defensive team but they are struggling to stop any team with a half-decent quarterback. Devin McCourty needs to be a little better, but the rest of the secondary needs to be a lot better.
New York Jets (4-3)– I can’t say I am shocked that Mark Sanchez isn’t that good, but perhaps more surprising this year is that the Jets can’t seem to run the ball especially well either. That was supposed to be a huge factor in their battle with the Patriots for the division crown. Now they are just fighting for a playoff spot.
Miami Dolphins (0-7)– The Dolphins being bad is pretty expected. So is Reggie Bush failing to establish himself as a big-time back. Signing JP Losman as a real starting option? Shocking regardless of situation.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)– I wasn’t entirely sure on them coming into the year but figured they could get to 11-5 or something and be pretty good. That still looks realistic, but what is more surprising is how unconvincing they have been for a 6-2 team that can be fairly called the AFC favorite. I am generally not a Big Ben fan (we are talking football only here, not other issues) because he holds the ball too long, often seems to make bad decisions and really doesn’t inspire confidence, BUT with what he is doing without an offensive line again is pretty impressive.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)– I thought Dalton could be alright and I thought AJ Green could be alright. I never thought the offensive line would hold up to let them build any kind of rapport and I did not think they would click this well. I think they will ultimately miss the playoffs, but it wouldn’t be a complete shocker if they made it.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2)– It is a little surprising that the defense is as good as it is, but the real surprise here is just how bad Joe Flacco is. He never inspired a ton of confidence but he at least seemed capable in the past. This year he has looked like JaMarcus Russell.
Cleveland Browns (3-4)– I am not sure if there is really anything surprising about the Browns. They looked like a really average team and they are nothing if not average. Dick Jauron has done a pretty good job with the defense, so I guess that is my surprise. Boring, I know.
Houston Texans (5-3)– The big surprise here is that defense. Wade Phillips (!) deserves a lot of credit here, as does Jonathan Joseph. That defense is what will win the Texans a playoff game this year.
Tennessee Titans (4-3)– A Memorial Service will be held for Chris Johnson this Friday at 9:00 AM. Pay your respects to the classically overpaid running back who has a bad year after getting paid. As a side note, if someone could alert Nashville PD’s Zombie Unit that Matt Hasselbeck’s grave has been robbed and he seems to be alive again.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)– That defense is pretty good for being such a bad team otherwise. Tough schedule, but I need to see more growth out of Baline Gabbert before I decide to sign off on this year’s QB class being good top to bottom.
Indianapolis Colts (0-8)– Peyton Manning has been the most valuable player to his team for the last 6 years at least. Pat Angerer is pretty good. I don’t know what else to say that will not incite a page-long rant about my Colts.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)– I thought, along with everyone else, that the Chiefs were set up perfectly to crash and burn. They did for 4 weeks, then turned it on again and are now tied for the division lead. I still am but buying them to win the division, but they have been the most impressive team in the AFC West because of their last 4 games. Also, there is no team in the AFC West that I would give a grade higher than a B-.
San Diego Chargers (4-3)– Philip Rivers has been really, really mediocre. I don’t know if he is hurt like local reporters say, if he just isn’t having a good year, or if something else is up, but he has been extremely disappointing.
Oakland Raiders (4-3)– The big surprise here is not that the Raiders were decent and ran the ball well most of the year. The real surprise is that they really, truly thought that Carson Palmer was the answer and were willing to pay top dollar for him. Have they not seen him play the last 2 years? That is a trade they will really regret in a few years.
Denver Broncos (2-5)– There is not really any surprise here when you consider that the Broncos traded their best receiver and have some key injuries. I don’t really have a surprise for the Broncos, but I think I am contractually obligated to mention Tim Tebow and use the phrases “just wins games” and “comically inaccurate”. Done and done.
New York Giants (5-2)– There really isn’t any big surprise about the Giants either. They have a brutal stretch coming up and no one expects them to do much during that stretch. That sounds exactly like what will happen. Defensive injuries, inconsistent pressure on the QB, and over-reliance on Victor Cruz is not a very healthy combination.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)– The obvious surprise here is that the Eagles have struggled so mightily, but equally surprising is just how good LeSean McCoy is. If I need a running back, I take Peterson, Forte, and then a tie between Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy for 3rd. He does everything you want. On another note, expect a giant letdown against the Bears.
Dallas Cowboys (3-4)- The least surprising thing about the Cowboys is that the media has overreacted to just about everything the team has done. The most surprising thing is that a defensive coordinator who hasn’t really had any major success at any point in his career (Rob Ryan) is having a hard time. Oh, wait.
Washington Redskins (3-4)- This one is not close. The most surprising thing about the Redskins by a long shot is that I have a clear and distinct preference for Rex Grossman over any other quarterback.
Green Bay Packers (7-0)- The Packers beat the Panthers by 7, Vikings by 7, were shut out in the 2nd half by the Rams, and because of the relative parity around the league they are clearly the best team right now. So I guess the most surprising thing would be that they were able to gain separation via those somewhat unimpressive results.
Detroit Lions (6-2)- Matthew Stafford is healthy. So is Calvin Johnson.
Chicago Bears (4-3)- Mike Martz swallowed his pride and protected his quarterback. Nothing else is really even close.
Minnesota Vikings (2-6)- If you would have asked me which quarterback among Ponder, Dalton, Flacco and Sanchez were most likely to be terrible this year, I would have picked Ponder. I would have been wrong. He seems alright and I need to watch him a little more to know just how decent he is.
New Orleans Saints (5-3)- The inconsistency with this team is pretty surprising, but specifically I am going with Drew Brees’ complete blackout-suck games that he has been throwing around lately. He seemed like Mr. Consistency.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3)- If I told you Tampa Bay’s Point Differential was pretty close to Arizona, Cleveland, and Kansas City and notably worse than Washington, Carolina and Minnesota, would you be confused? I know I was when I looked it up. The San Francisco game is the main culprit here (accounting for 45 of the -38, but damn.
Atlanta Falcons (4-3)- So I wrote the Falcons in for a Wild Card spot last week, but I am still not really sure if they are good. If they focus on Turner and use Ryan only when needed, i am in, but if they try to turn into the Flyin’ Falcons I can’t see them getting that last wild card spot. I guess the thing I am most surprised by with the Falcons is that no one has overrated them nor underrated them this year. Every step of the way it seems to be about right.
Carolina Panthers (2-6)- Cam Newton is surprising, but not THAT surprising. The big one for me is just how bad the defense is after hiring defensive-minded Ron Rivera from San Diego. That is a really bad defense that the Colts actually might have a shot at beating.
San Francisco 49ers (6-1)- Where do I start? Is it their 4 game lead in the division going into week 9? The awesome defense? Jim Harbaugh doing this good a job coming out of a lockout? Alex Smith seeming serviceable? All of it.
Seattle Seahawks (2-5)- 2nd place in the division at 2-5 is pretty surprising, but so is the entire thought-process that lead to Seattle thinking that some combination of Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst could compete.
Arizona Cardinals (1-6)- I am a little surprised that Kevin Kolb is this bad, but the big surprise is how much heart this team is showing in its quest for Andrew Luck. You couldn’t give this team a game at this point. They just want it too badly.
St. Louis Rams (1-6)- When you look at their schedule so far, it isn’t really that surprising that they are 1-6. The big surprise with the Rams is that the Cardinals got so incredibly hot going into the postseason and won a really great World Series.
Falcons (-6.5) vs Colts
Michael Turner is going to tear the Colts a new asshole. That will make it at least their 4th new asshole this season. The plastic surgery is getting expensive.
Buccaneers (+8.5) vs Saints
Bounce-back for the Saints or Bucs play the Saints close again? I am going with the latter but it could easily be the former.
Browns vs Texans (-10.5)
I can’t see the Browns scoring more than 17 points, and probably fewer.
Jets vs Bills (-2.5)
I believe in the Bills. I don’t think the other shoe is going to drop quite yet.
Dolphins vs Chiefs (-4)
Hot teams tend to beat cold teams. Someone tell the Nobel Prize board about my breakthrough theory.
49ers (-4) vs Redskins
Not even the 49ers penchant for close games can get me to bet on the Redskins.
Cowboys (-11) vs Seahawks
This line is 3 points too high, but I think they are going to kill the Seahawks so I can’t take the Hawks to cover.
Broncos vs Raiders (-7)
I’m not betting on Carson Palmer as much as I am betting against Tim Tebow and betting on Darren McFadden.
Bengals (+3) vs Titans
The quality-but-boring game of the week.
Rams vs Cardinals (-3)
This is a must-watch for all Andrew Luck Sweepstakes fans. Should be a terrible game.
Giants vs Patriots (-9)
This line seems a little high too, but how am I supposed to bet against an angry Pats team against a really mediocre Giants team?
Packers (-5.5) vs Chargers
I really do not understand why everyone seems to be picking the Chargers here. They have lost to both really good teams they have played this year and they have yet to look good. The Chargers do seem to zig when they should zag, but I would be really surprised to see the Packers lose this game.
Ravens vs Steelers (-3)
I am pretty sure the Ravens were looking past the Cardinals last week, but they have no excuse for the Jaguars game. The Steelers will win this game and I would bet a lot on it.
Bears (+7.5) vs Eagles
Upset of the week. The Eagles seemed posed for a letdown and I have been a vociferous Bears supporter for the second half of the year. It starts right here. Bears 23, Eagles 21.
Last Week: 5-9