Sunday, September 23, 2007

NFL Week 3: With Videogate behind them Pats look to go 3-0

New England hosts the Bills, the Bucs are home for the disappointing Rams, and three other games to keep an eye on

1.) Buffalo (0-2) at New England (2-0)
After last Sunday night's absolute ass-kicking of the San Diego Chargers on national television, coupled with the historic fines laid down on Bill Belichick and the franchise PLUS the announcement that the league has destroyed all evidence related to the Pat's video taping scandal, I think it's safe to say New England is ready to put the embarrassing Videogate incident behind them.

At least until they face Man-snitcher and the Jets again.

Today they Pats should be distraction free when they take on the hapless Bills at Gillette. Buffalo was predicted to be a darkhorse playoff contender this season by many 'experts', but after suffering a last-second loss to Denver in Week 1, the Bills got clobbered 26-3 by the Steelers last week.

Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman, whom many are still holding out hope will turn into a good NFL QB, has been horrid, as usual, and his days as an NFL starter are most likely numbered. In two games Lostman has thrown for 251 yards with no TDs and one pick, and those numbers don't figure to get any better as he goes up against a defense that has allowed just 28 points in two games and decimated the high-powered Chargers attack last week.

Tom Brady is having a field day now that he finally has some targets to throw to downfield who aren't smurfs or geezers. Couple that passing attack with a solid ground game anchored by Lawrence Maroney and capable backups Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris, and you have the makings of a prolific offensive unit.

We already know the defense is good (just ask Ladainian Tomlinson), we know the offense is loaded, and now that the coach has shed the remnants of the first scandal that has somewhat tainted his legacy, New England can get back to doing what they do best: destroying other NFL teams hopes & dreams.
MY PICK: Patriots 38, Buffalo 14 (hey, third time's a charm, right?)

2.) St. Louis Rams (0-2) @ Tampa Bay Bucs (1-1)
This was supposed to be the year, right? The year that new coach Scott Linehan got awoke the offensive juggernaut that used to be known as The Greatest Show on Turf and made the once superior St. Louis Rams relevant again on the STML-afflicted NFL landscape.

Not quite.

After two games the Rams are going backwards. Despite a hefty new contract, Marc Bulger has been as invisible as Whitey Bulger as the starting slinger has totalled just 535 yards and 2 TDs in losses to Carolina and San Francisco, not exactly Super Bowl-caliber teams.

To make matters worse, stud running back Stephen Jackson is already upset that he didn't touch the ball enough in the loss to San Fran, and with just 118 yards on 39 carries and no TDs in two games, you can bet there are a lot of FF geeks who are pretty pissed off that his production is down, too.

All this turmoil could make for a rough day when the rams travel down here to sunny Tampa Bay, where the teams will have a hard time believing it's the first day of fall.

Much like the Saints last week, you can bet the dome-bound Rams will not take too kindly to the stifling 88 degree heat beating down on them at Ray Jay this afternoon, but the temperature should be the least of their worries.

Tampa bay bounced back from a lackluster loss to Seattle in Week 1 with an impressive 34-10 victory of the saints last week at home. Jeff Garcia is a marked improvement over the cavalcade of weak-armed losers Chucky Gruden trotted out behind center last season as the Bucs already have more plays of over 20 yards than they had in the first 10 weeks of last season.

That the offense would be improved with the fiery veteran quarterback leading the offense was no surprise, but it was the re energized defense, which swarmed Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, et al last week that has really surprised the Bucs fans this season.

Led by ageless leaders Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber, youngsters like Barrett Ruud, who was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts last week, Jermaine Phillips, rookie safety Tanard Jackson and rookie linemen Jovan Haye and Greg White, the unit punished the Saints offense, hearkening back to the stout D corps of the 2003 Super Bowl team.

So today will be a real test to see which of these teams is for real and which one can start making excuses as to why they aren't better than advertised.

But at least the Bucs had low expectations going into the season.
MY PICK: Bucs 27, Rams 24

3.) San Diego (1-1) at Green Bay (2-0)
Before the season began this game looked like a mere blip on the Charger's way to the Super Bowl. Then San Diego got steamrolled by the Pats, and Green Bay upset the Giants at home behind the rejuvenated Brett Favre, and suddenly the trip to the not-yet-frozen tundra bodes as a tough test for the playoff-minded Bolts.

Favre passed John Elway as the all time wins leader in the NFL with the victory last week, and coach Mike McCarthy's edict to have Favre curtail his gunslinging ways, i.e. cut out the costly INTs that have plagued him the last few years, has seemed to work, Favre has thrown just two picks in 80 attempts, and if he can continue to keep himself in check, the star-less Pack could be this year's surprise team.

It may not be frozen, but the Chargers won't have an easy day in Green Bay.
MY PICK: Packers 28, Chargers 27 **UPSET SPECIAL**

4.) Detroit (2-0) at Philly (0-2)
Who woulda thunk it? This early season battle between intra-conference rivals means more to the championship-starved Eagles than it does the perennially horrible Lions?

But with Philly adjusting to the newer, slower Donovan McNabb, who inflamed the NFL community when he pulled the race card as the reason for his struggles, and Detroit off to its first 2-0 start since the Eisenhower administration, POhilly desperatley needs this game to remain relevant in the city of brotherly love as the Phillies make a late-season push for the playoffs.

Detroit, behind surprising QB Jon Kitna and stud rookie receiver Calvin Johnson, has been the surprise of the league so far, while the Eagles have looked old and unimpressive. I'm not sure the young lions are ready to win a big game in a hostile environment like this, but it should be fun to see them try.
MY PICK: Eagles 24, Lions 17

5.) Dallas Cowboys (2-0) @ Chicago Bears (1-1) SNF
This should be a classic case of what's more potent: Dallas' offense, which has scored 82 points in two games, or Chicago's defense, which has yielded just 24 points in two games despite losing its first game 14-3 to San Diego.

The Bears unit will be put the test by Tony Romo, TO & Co. tonight at Soldier Field, and it better be up to the task because the Super Bowl runners up cannot afford to drop another game this early in the season.

Then again, this is the NFC, so I guess a handful of losses really shouldn't matter.

This one promises to be an entertaining game as a national audience will get to see just how good Dallas is this season and just how bad the Rex Grossman era can truly be.
MY PICK: Bears 17, Cowboys 14