Sunday, October 01, 2006

NFL Week 4 Preview

Heading into the last game of the first quarter of the season there are a few matchups that will go a long way to determining which teams really have playoff hopes and which teams can give it up. Here's a look at my Top 5 Games to Watch:

1.) (2-1) Patriots @ (3-0) Bengals 4PM
Talk about your Bizarro World: The Pats come into this game as the team on the ropes, with questions trailing them like beer cans off a wedding limo and disappointment creeping into the hearts of their fandom after last weeks' pasting by the Broncos. By contrast the Bengals are the darlings of the league, media-wise, and the team most every other team is afraid to play on the field; talk about your flip-flops. To put it simply, the Pats need this game bad, for many reasons. They have not proven they can get by without traded WR Deion Branch, something that Tom Terrific made abundantly clear to management before they gave him away to Seattle. They will also be without 2 of their top secondary players, CB Ellis Hobbs and S Eugene Wilson, causing painful deja vu of last season when the secondary was battered, broken and burnt all season long. To make matter worse, Trash-talkin' Chad Johnson has engaged in his playful war of words with his opponent, and amazingly enough General Belichick joined in. For fun. In the words of Vince Lombardi: "what the hell is going on over there?"
Anyway, although I love my Pats, I have to be a realist, and realistically I see Carson Palmer, Chad and TJ Whosyourmama torching the Pats secondary all day long at beautiful Paul Brown Stadium on the banks of the Ohio River; the Pats should score frequently,too (hopefully), but they don't have the firepower to hang with Cincy.
MY PICK: Bengals 35, Pats 27

2.) (3-0) Seahawks @ (3-0) Bears 8PM, NBC
This should be an exciting battle of undefeated titans in prime time on NBC SNF. The game is very difficult for Seattle because they historically have not fared well on the road (11-13 past 3 years), they won't have MVP RB Shaun Alexander (broken foot) and they will be trying to get Deion Branch more integrated into their passing attack. Trouble is the Bears won't let them do that, as the new Monsters of the Midway have only allowed 23 pts in 3 games this season. Throw in the fact that Bears QB Rex Grossman has been efficient (65% pass completions, 6 TDs, 3 INTs) if not spectacular and this has the makings of a long night in the Windy City for the 'Hawks. Nice game to cap off the day.
MY PICK: Bears 21-10

3.) (2-0) Chargers @ (3-0) Ravens, 1PM
They're baaaaaacckkkk! The ferocious Raven defense that carried Baltimore to a Super Bowl win in 2001 is back and as nasty as ever, thanks to a rejuvenated Ray Lewis and faith in their offense, now led by former MVP Steve McNair. After the QB carousel the past 5 seasons, Air McNair has brought confidence, stability and calmness to the entire team, allowing RayRay to do what he does best- almost kill people (oops, I mean on the field.) The Raven-ous D has allowed only 20 points in 3 games, but that was against the offensively challenged trio of Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland. This Charger team is much more proficient at scoring than those patsies, as Phillip Rivers, LaDanian Tomlinson & Co. have scored 67 points in 2 games (okay, vs. Oakland & Tennessee.) Plus San Diego, behind DE Shawnee Merriman (3 sacks, 1 INT) can play some defense, too- he's a freakin' beast. Today I guess we'll find out which team has been padding its stats against creampuff opponents and which team is actually really good; in this league usually the defense wins those battles.
MY PICK: Ravens 19, Chargers 17

4.) (3-0) Saints @ (1-2) Panthers, 1PM
The new America's Team travels to tobacco country to take on a wounded Panther squad which has almost seen their pre-season Super Bowl hopes go up in flames with their poor start. The normally awesome Panther D has allowed 60 points in 3 games and has been burned by Atlanta and allowed 24 points to the Bucs. To their credit they did put Chris Simms out of action with a spleen-jarring hit by DE Al Wallace, so I guess Saints QB Drew Brees better shield his major organs from attack. But the Saints are going to have a tough time gearing up for this tough road test after all the pomp, pageantry and partying surrounding their rousing return to Louisiana on Monday night. Look for the Panther D to get back to their old selves real quick and put the Panthers right back in Bowl talk.
MY PICK: Panthers 20, Saints 12

5.) (1-1) Cowboys @ (0-3) Titans, 1PM
Why is this game between two mediocre (at best) squads so interesting? Well for the drama, of course. But not just the drama created by human Paxil ad, T.-O.D.- the diva receiver will make his return to the field after 2 tumultuous weeks where he broke his finger, tried to commit suicide, errr accidentally took too many pills, gave a ridiculous news conference where his publicist made a complete ass of herself & her client, and fired his longtime trainer- in other words just an average fortnight in the life of T.-O.D. But the real story is Tennessee has decided to put untested but highly- touted rookie QB Vince Young on the field after 3 losses behind the artist formerly known as Kerry Collins ( 1TD, 6 INTs.) The MVP of the Rose Bowl for the National Champion Longhorns team will now get his chance to prove why he was the first QB selected in the 2006 draft over technically superior slingers Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart. So we get T.O. vs. V.Y. in a battle royale for the media spotlight. In the words of Mills Lane: "let's get it on."
MY PICK: Cowboys 34, Titans 13

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