This week in: American Football – Week 9

Judging by my predictions last week, the NFL this season has been somewhat unpredictable.  A few highlights from my week 8 picks:

Colts +9.5 over Titans

What I said: Hard to take Indianapolis after they were crushed by the Saints

What happened: I took them, and they lost by 17

Giants -9.5 over Dolphins

What I said: Last time I took the Giants when they were heavily favoured at home, they failed to cover…

What happened: They failed to cover, I failed to learn my lesson

Saints -10.5 over Rams

The Rams sacked Saints QB Drew Brees 6 times on Sunday

What I said:   I’m not sure how high they would have had to make this line for me to take the Rams – maybe -20.5.

What happened: The Rams lost their starting Quarterback, Sam Bradford for the game, but beat the Saints by 10

In other games: the Cardinals had a big lead over the Ravens in Baltimore, but failed to hold on and lost by a field goal; the Bills won for the first time in five tries playing in Toronto, keeping the injury plagued Redskins off the scoreboard in a 23-0 win; Tim Tebow had another bad game but without the fourth quarter heroics – the Lions beating the Broncos 45-10, moving Detroit to 6-2 for the season; the Steelers dominated the Patriots, whose secondary could not contain any of Pittsburgh’s receivers in a 25-17 loss for New England; and the Eagles put in the kind of performance that shows why many predicted them as Superbowl favourites before the season, as they beat their divisional rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, 34-7.  On Monday night, the Chiefs won their fourth straight game, having lost their first three, and now sit atop the AFC West with the team they beat, the San Diego Chargers.

This week sees several good divisional matchups across the league: AFC East contenders the Bills and Jets meet in Buffalo; the Steelers look for revenge for their week 1 loss against the Ravens in Pittsburgh; the New Orleans Saints hope to recover from their shock loss to the Rams, at home to the Buccaneers, who had a bye last week after their trip to London the previous Sunday; and in a battle of the Bad Quarterbacks, Tim Tebow’s Broncos face off with Carson Palmer’s Raiders in Oakland.  There is also a rematch of Superbowl 42, when the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots to spoil their perfect season; the Packers will look to continue their unbeaten season when they play the Chargers in San Diego – though Sports Illustrated jinxed Green Bay this week by putting them on their cover with a headline of “The Perfect Pack”; the 6-1 49ers come to the East Coast to play the Washington Redskins; and the Rams try to improve on last week’s surprise win over the Saints when they travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals.

Predictions:

Last week 6-7, somehow – having gone 1-5 in the early games; Season 61-55

Home teams in bold

Falcons -7.5 over Colts

Bills -1.5 over Jets

Texans -10.5 over Browns

Seahawks +12.5 over Cowboys

Chiefs –6.5 over Dolphins

Saints -7.5 over Buccaneers

49ers -3.5 over Redskins

Bengals +2.5 over Titans

Raiders -7.5 over Broncos

Chargers +5.5 over Packers (SI might jinx the Packers, I’m definitely not going to)

Rams +4.5 over Cardinals

Giants +8.5 over Patriots

Steelers -3.5 over Ravens

Eagles -6.5 over Bears

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This week in: American Football – Week 8

Tebow- an adequate QB for at least 10% of one game

Last week in the NFL, Denver Quarterback, Tim Tebow, lead his team to an improbable comeback – having been 15-0 down with less than three minutes of the game remaining, the Broncos recovered to win 18-15 in Overtime.  Tebow’s performance in the final few drives of the game went someway to disguising just how bad he had been for the first 54 minutes – in that time he completed just 4 of his 14 pass attempts for a total of 40 yards.

Elsewhere, Chiefs QB, Matt Cassell, had a very unimpressive day in Denver – his completion rate was just 50% (15/30), he threw for only 161 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.  Nevertheless, his side easily won 28-0 thanks to Raiders QBs Boller and Palmer combining to throw six picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns by the Kansas City defense. Peyton Manning remained on the sidelined for the Colts after neck surgery – an area of his body that would not have got much exercise during Sunday night’s game with the Saints – it was one way traffic as New Orleans spent most of the game driving towards the Colts endzone and ended up winning 62-7.

With Indianapolis struggling, the Titans and the Texans met in Tennessee with first place in the AFC South up for grabs.  The contest ended up being another one-sided matchup, as Houston thrashed the Titans 41-7.  In the fifth NFL game to be played in London, the Bears beat the Buccaneers in front of more than 76,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.  The Packers stayed perfect with a win in Minnesota, moving them to 7-0; the Panthers beat the injury-riddled Redskins; the Jets won at home against the Chargers; and the Jaguars defeated the Ravens on Monday night, despite running back Maurice “What Would” Jones-Drew fumbling the ball four times.  In the race for projected number one draft pick Andrew Luck, the Rams lost to the Cowboys and thus kept pace with the Colts and the Dolphins having lost all of their games thus far this season.  The Browns and the Seahawks played out a dull 6-3 game in Cleveland – the home team winning by two field goals to one – and people say that there isn’t enough scoring in “soccer”.

Predictions

Last week 7-6; Season 55-48

Home teams in bold

Colts +9.5 over Titans – Hard to take Indianapolis after they were crushed by the Saints last week – but the Titans were almost as bad and QB Matt Hasselbeck threw three interceptions in their loss to the Texans – taking the points.

Saints -10.5 over Rams – St. Louis, many people’s pre-season tips for the NFC West, have proven to be a terrible team and the Saints will be looking to continue their high-octane offense from last week.  I’m not sure how high they would have had to make this line for me to take the Rams – maybe -20.5.

Giants -9.5 over Dolphins – Last time I took the Giants in a home game they were heavily fancied in (Week 5 over the Seahawks), they ended up not only failing to cover, but actually lost the game.  However, I still cannot take Miami – who gave up that late lead to the Broncos last time around.

Panthers -3.5 over Vikings – Cam Newton led his Carolina team to victory against the Redskins last week, and I can see him making it two in a row this time against Minnesota.  Despite a spirited comeback that fell just short against the Packers last week, Vikings QB Christian Ponder – who has replaced the benched Donovan McNabb – threw two interceptions and needs to prove he can compete before his team is 16 points down.

Ravens -12.5 over Cardinals – Although Baltimore lost the Monday Night game in Jacksonville, they have been very strong at home this year (3-0, aggregate score of 98-38) and can expect to beat an Arizona team who have lost their last five games.

Texans -9.5 over Jaguars – After that impressive win over Baltimore, I should really be taking the Jaguars to at least cover this spread.  But they have been the worst team in passing yards gained thus far this season – QB Blaine Gabbert has thrown for just 810 yards this season and four touchdowns, compared with Houston’s Matt Schaub who has gained 1893 passing yards and 12 TDs.  Jacksonville also has a short week to prepare for the game after playing on Monday and are 0-3 in road games this year.

Bills -5.5 over Redskins – Before this season, bye weeks for teams usually resulted in a strong performance the following week as they had two games to prepare.  This year, teams coming back from a week off are just 3-9 – this could be in part to rules under the new labour agreement which prevent franchises from contacting their players for four straight days during this period, resulting in less preparation time than was previously available.  Alternatively, it could reflect the standard of the teams who have thus far had bye weeks – the 9 losses were for the Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins, Redskins, Titans, Cardinals, Chargers and Seahawks – combined record: 19-35.  Either way, the Bills should not have too many problems as they come back from a two week break to play the Redskins, who have benched their starting Quarterback, Rex Grossman, and have lost Tim Hightower and Santana Moss to injuries. Even though this game is being played in Toronto, not Buffalo, I think the Bills should win comfortably.

Lions -3.5 over Broncos – The Lions have lost two straight games, after winning their first five; the Broncos are on a high from their fourth quarter comeback last weekend – but Tebow was very bad for the first 54 minutes in that game and Detroit’s defensive line will cause him many more problems than the Dolphins did.

Bengals – 2.5 over Seahawks – Tough call, as neither team has been particularly impressive so far, but decided that I trust Cincinatti’s defense (111 points conceded in 6 games), more than Seattle’s offense (97 points scored in 6 games).

49ers -9.5 over Browns – Somehow, Cleveland is 3-3 going in to week 8.  They do have the number one pass defense in the NFL this year, but the main reason they do not have a losing record is a weak schedule.  Their wins have been against the Seahawks, Colts and Dolphins – who have a combined record of 2-18.  The 49ers have been the surprise team of the season – if they had not lost a late lead to the Cowboys, they would be 6-0 – and should take care of business at home against the Browns.

Patriots -2.5 over Steelers – With Tom Brady as their Quarterback, New England is 6-1 against Pittsburgh and have the top rated offense in the NFL again this season.  The Steelers have recovered from their week 1 mauling by the Ravens, and are now 5-2, but their five wins have been against Seattle (2-5), Tennessee (3-3), Indianapolis (0-7), Jacksonville (2-5) and Arizona (1-5) – their other loss coming against Houston (4-3).  I think Pittsburgh might be a secretly mediocre “good” team, and believe the Patriots will prove that this weekend.

Cowboys +3.5 over Eagles – Philadelphia is in desperate need of an impressive win, as they try to live up to all the pre-season hype surrounding them – but the Cowboys have been playing well this year and, if they had held on to big leads against they had against the Jets and the Lions, would be 5-1 and top of the NFC East.  As it is, they are 3-3, but I think they will keep the Eagles winless at home so far this season.

Chiefs +3.5 over Chargers – After two weeks, it looked as though Kansas City were among the worst teams in the NFL, having lost 41-7 to Buffalo and 48-3 to the Lions in their first couple of games.  Following that, the Chiefs played the Chargers close in San Diego – losing 20-17 – and then won their next three against the Vikings, Colts and Raiders.  A win this weekend would give them a share of the AFC West lead with the Chargers – who themselves have not played particularly well this season and lost last week against the Jets.  This promises to be a close game, with the home field advantage potentially the key to a Kansas City win.

This week in: American and English Football – NFL heads to Wembley

The NFL Returns to Wembley

There is a perfect crossover in footballs of both types this week, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears will play the fifth regular season NFL game at Wembley Stadium, the home of English “soccer”.  This now annual event is well received by the legion of fans the NFL has attracted across the Atlantic, but there is still disdain on both sides for the other country’s “football” – which results in those who only embrace one of the sports, missing out on the other.  To most Brits, American Football is nothing more than ‘rugby with pads”; alongside those in the US who consider soccer boring, due to a lack of scoring.

I first started following the NFL in the early 90s, picking the Packers as my team with their young quarterback, Brett Favre – in the days before he had a phone that could send picture messages – as an alternative to the dominant Steve Young led 49ers, or the widely loved Dallas Cowboys.  While I enjoyed the sport for the game itself, it was not until I moved to New York that I discovered the culture surrounding it – watching the games in a bar with friends, drinking some beers and eating some hot wings – really adds to the experience.  On the other side, those who think that English football* is dull are missing out on the tribal nature of clubs supporters, on the boisterous atmosphere at the games, the anxiety of potential relegation, the joy of winning a trophy or beating your arch-rivals.  I have attended fixtures in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and dozens of baseball games, but nothing comes close to the experience of going to a football game.  Those who dismiss the other code of football are usually doing it out of ignorance, I love both types and recommend either to any sports fan.  Besides, they are both much better than rugby…

*I’m calling it English football, but of course I could say European, South American, everywhere else on earth – as only the US calls it soccer

To help bring these two sports together, at least for this weekend, here’s a look at how the season has gone in each league – with a comparison of teams who find themselves in similar positions:

Championship Contenders

These are the teams everyone expected to be competing for the top prizes and, thus far, have been proving people right:

Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers (NFL)

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea (Premiership)

Strong Starters

The clubs who have jumped out to a good opening to their seasons, but there is a doubt as to whether this success has any longevity:

San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL)

Newcastle United, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur (Premiership)

Strong Teams, Indifferent Starts

Teams that have been dominant in recent years, but have not looked themselves in the first few weeks of this season, yet they cannot be written off just yet:

Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles (yep, even at 2-4) (NFL)

Arsenal, Liverpool (Premiership)

Middle of the Road Teams

The ones who will be mid-table in the Premiership, or will be on the cusp of a wild card for the playoffs but unlikely to contend for the Superbowl – essentially, they are mediocre:

Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)

Aston Villa, West Brom, Fulham (Premiership)

Big Teams Down Low

In the NFL, this does not have as much impact as there is no relegation, in the Premiership, falling all the way down can be fatal:

Indianapolis Colts (NFL)

Everton (Premiership)

Luck Needed

For the Premiership clubs, they require some luck to avoid relegation, for the worst in the NFL, getting the number 1 pick in next year’s draft means acquiring ace college QB, Andrew Luck (N.B. Colts & Everton are in these races too)

Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL)

Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Norwich City, QPR, Swansea City, Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers (Premiership)

CLICK HERE FOR THIS WEEK’S GAMES AND PREDICTIONS

This week in: American and English Football – Preview and Predictions

If you missed Part I of the American and English Football crossover weekend preview, CLICK HERE

Manchester Derby - One For the Lovers

In the Premiership this weekend, one game stands out above all others – Manchester United versus Manchester City – a battle of the top two in the league, who meet on Sunday at Old Trafford.  Having won the FA Cup last season, City at least will not have to see the banner boasting of the length of the trophy drought they had been in, which has been hung at their rival’s stadium for many years.  After last week’s results (when City beat Villa, while United were held to a draw by Liverpool), Roberto Mancini’s team travel across Manchester knowing that a point would be enough to remain in pole position.  There is also a south-west London derby on Sunday, as QPR host third place Chelsea; while in the Midlands, Aston Villa take on West Brom.  Arsenal hope to continue their revival at home to Stoke; Norwich go to Anfield to play Liverpool; Newcastle host Wigan and Fulham and Everton meet at Craven Cottage.  Tottenham, who are unbeaten in their last five, travel to Blackburn – but have a game against Rubin Kazan (who I think Bob Dylan sang about in “Hurricane“) in the Europa League on Thursday to contend with first.

Week 7 of the NFL, as well as having the London game between the Buccaneers and the Bears, includes an NFC North match-up as the Packers play the Vikings in Minnesota; the Titans host the Texans in the AFC South; the Jets meet the Chargers at the Meadowlands; and the Cowboys are home against the St. Louis Rams.  There is a rematch of both Superbowl XLIII (Steelers vs Cardinals) and Superbowl XLIV (Colts vs Saints) – though both sides look very one-sided now – with the teams that triumphed in those two games (Pittsburgh & New Orleans) likely to win again this weekend.  New quarterbacks will be on show for both the Redskins – who will start John Beck having benched Rex Grossman for this week’s game with the Panthers – and the Raiders, who lost Jason Campbell to injury last weekend and have traded two first-round picks for Carson Palmer – his first appearance will be against the Kansas City Chiefs.  Tim Tebow will also be taking over as a starter for the Denver Broncos, and does so back in Florida, where he made his name in college, as his team travels to Miami to take on the Dolphins.

Predictions

NFL

Last Week 8-5, Season 48-42

Home teams in bold

Lions -3.5 over Falcons

Buccaneers +0.5 over Bears (at Wembley Stadium, London)

Seahawks +3.5 over Browns

Broncos +3.5 over Dolphins

Titans -3.5 over Texans

Chargers -1.5 over Jets

Panthers -2.5 over Redskins

Chiefs +3.5 over Raiders

Steelers -3.5 over Cardinals

Cowboys -12.5 over Rams

Packers -8.5 over Vikings

Saints -13.5 over Colts

Ravens -7.5 over Jaguars

Premiership

Last week 6-4, Season 29-20

Wolves vs Swansea – Draw

Aston Villa vs West Brom – Home win

Bolton vs Sunderland – Draw

Newcastle vs Wigan – Home win

Liverpool vs Norwich – Home win

Arsenal vs Stoke – Home win

Fulham vs Everton – Home win

Manchester United vs Manchester City – Draw

Blackburn vs Tottenham – Away win

QPR vs Chelsea – Away win

This week in: American Football – Week 6

It is never a good sign for fans when their team is being widely lauded in the media before they have won anything – or

Last week the Bills took down the highly fancied Eagles

had not even played a game.  Just ask those who root for the Phillies, Red Sox, Heat or Eagles – all of whom were being predicted to go all the way prior to their respective seasons started, but failed to meet those expectations.  So when I read in Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” column on SI.com this Monday that the Packers and Lions, should they both keep winning, would each be 10-0 going into their Thanksgiving day showdown in Detroit, I knew that Green Bay were cursed for this week’s game.

Then I checked the fixtures for week 6 and saw the reigning Champs are home to the woeful St. Louis Rams and my fears dissipated. Having overcome an early deficit against the Falcons in Atlanta in last Sunday night’s game, the  schedule has really opened up for Green Bay.  Before the Turkey Day showdown with the Lions, the only other unbeaten team left in the NFL, the Packers face the struggling Vikings twice, host the Rams and the Buccaneers, and must travel to San Diego to play the Chargers – the only one of those games they will not be heavily favoured in.

Since I’ve spent around 200 words jinxing my own team, time to move on to a recap of last week’s games.  The Eagles dropped to 1-4 after their loss to the Buffalo Bills; the Vikings picked up their first win of the year by beating the Arizona Cardinals in Minnesota; and the Oakland Raiders, who lost their long time owner, Al Davis, who died on Saturday.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were routed by the 49ers, who are looking strong favourites to win the NFC West this year; their divisional rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, provided the upset of the week when they beat the New York Giants in the New Meadowlands; and the Chargers survived a Tim Tebow fueled comeback from the Broncos in Denver, holding on to win 28-24.  The Patriots got a measure of revenge on the Jets for last year’s playoff loss; the Steelers routed the Titans; and the Chiefs won in Indianapolis, dropping the Colts to 0-5.

The pick of the games this week sees the Redskins, coming off a bye week, try to maintain their lead in the NFC East when they host the Eagles; Alex Smith and the 49ers travel to Detroit to face the 5-0 Lions; and the struggling Cowboys head to New England to play the Patriots.  In the race for the worst record and therefore the number 1 draft pick, which this year mans landing superstar college Quarterback Andrew Luck, the 0-5 Colts are playing the Bengals; while the winless Dolphins, who had a bye last week, take on the New York Jets in New Jersey in Monday Night’s game.

Predicitions

Last week, 8-5; season 40-37

Home teams in bold

Panthers +4.5 over Falcons

Bills +3.5 over Giants

Bengals -6.5 over Colts

49ers +4.5 over Lions

Packers -14.5 over Rams

Redskins -0.5 over Eagles

Steelers -12.5 over Jaguars

Raiders -5.5 over Browns

Ravens -7.5 over Texans

Cowboys +7.5 over Patriots

Saints -4.5 over Buccaneers

Bears -3.5 over Vikings

Dolphins +7.5 over Jets

This week in: American Football – Week 5

Don't cry for me Tony Romo

Last week in the NFL, the Cowboys gave away another late lead, to lose a game they had seemed destined to win.  Having lost to the Jets in week 1 after a Romo fumble and a blocked punt, this time the Cowboys literally threw away a seventeen point lead, their quarterback throwing three interceptions – two of which were returned by the Lions for touchdowns.  The Eagles also were victims of a comeback, losing to the San Francisco 49ers 24-23, dropping Philadelphia to 1-3 for the season.  Elsewhere, the Patriots bounced back from their defeat to the Bills in Week 3 to beat the Raiders in Oakland; the Packers were powered by four throwing touchdowns from Rodgers, who added two more with his feet, in their 49-23 demolition of the Denver Broncos; the Ravens thrashed the Jets 34-17, in a game in which neither quarterback, Sanchez nor Flacco, distinguished themselves.  The Giants and the Redskins both won, leaving the two tied atop the NFC East with records of 3-1; Washington beat the St. Louis Rams, who remain winless alongside the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts, who have still not been able to cope with the loss of their quarterback and leader, Peyton Manning.

Week 5 is the first to include bye weeks, so this round gives a rest to Cleveland, Dallas, St. Louis, Miami, Washington and Baltimore.  For teams that are playing, NFC North rivals the Bears and Lions play each other in Monday Night Football in Detroit; the Packers travel to Atlanta to face a Falcons team they defeated in the playoffs in convincing fashion last January; .  In another rematch from January’s postseason, the Jets and Patriots meet up again in Boston, Tom Brady looking to gain revenge for New England’s defeat.

Predictions

Last week 8-8, season 32-32 – this week I’ll provide a reason for each pick

Home teams in bold

Bills + 2.5 over Eagles – because Buffalo is 3-1, Philadelphia 1-3 and the line is just wrong

Bengals +2.5 over Jaguars – because Cincy has a good defence and I do not think Jacksonville will win the game, let alone cover

Titans +7.5 over Steelers – because I do no see Pittsburgh covering when their QB is injured and they have been unconvincing thus far

Chiefs +2.5 over Colts – simply taking the points – Kansas City has looked much improved in the last two weeks, and Indy are still winless.

Raiders +6.5 over Texans – Houston has not played particularly well thus far and yet are 3-1, meanwhile Oakland has lost to New England and a tough one in Buffalo, but I can see them at least covering this spread.

Vikings -2.5 over Cardinals – because the coin came up tails – I could not pick between these two woeful teams.

Saints -5.5 over Panthers – New Orleans has been quietly putting together good results since their opening day loss to the Packers.  They’ll continue that run here.

Giants -9.5 over Seahawks – I do not think the Giants can cover this spread, yet I do not think that Tavaris Jackson can keep Seattle this close…changed my mind several times but decided that the NFC West is so bad, I had to take New York.

49ers -1.5 over Buccaneers – because although I do not trust Alex Smith, despite him leading San Francisco to last week’s win over the Eagles, Tampa Bay played Monday night on the East Coast and have a short week before the West Coast game on Sunday.

Chargers -4.5 over Broncos – I would have taken San Diego at 9.5 let alone -4.5

Patriots -9.5 over Jets – because Brady will be out for revenge, and will doubtlessly get it, as well as the Jets looking very ropey in their last two games.

Packers -5.5 over Falcons – because Green Bay is the best team in the league, and I’m biased.

Bears +5.5 over Lions – I think this will be a close game, so taking the points.

This Week in: American Football – Week 3

Harvard's finest - Ryan Fitzpatrick

Although Week 2 in the NFL reinforced some of the lessons from the opening round of fixtures, some of the games showed that the season is still early and the shape of it is still to be determined.  New England, Green Bay and the New York Jets have started strongly and have the look of dominant teams for this season; the Colts without Peyton Manning, the Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks appear to be cannon fodder for their opponents.  The Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, two franchises that have suffered barren years of late, are both 2-0 and are showing signs of promise for their fan-bases.  The Bills’ Quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, led his team to 35 second half points, scoring a touchdown on every drive they had in the third and fourth quarters, for a dramatic last-minute win.  However, their opponents, the Oakland Raiders, had played the late Monday game on the West Coast prior to this game on the East Coast at 1pm on Sunday, so this comeback may have had as much to do with their fatigue as the Bills resilience.

The Ravens and the Cowboys had much different outcomes in their second games compared to their initial outings.  Baltimore followed up their thrashing of the Steelers in Week 1 by themselves taking a beating from the Tennessee Titans; while Dallas QB Tony Romo, who had fumbled away a 14 point lead over the Jets in the opening fixture, was the hero this time around – throwing a 77 yard pass in Overtime to set up the winning field goal, despite having suffered a fractured rib on an earlier play. The Eagles and the Falcons are both 1-1 after Atlanta won on a night that their former Quarterback Michael Vick came back to face them for the first time as a starter for another team – though it took a concussion to Vick in the third quarter to swing the momentum in that game.

The Eagles are expecting Vick to return in time to face the New York Giants for their game in Philadelphia.  Elsewhere this week, the Bills host the Patriots in a battle of 2-0 teams; the Bears and the Packers meet in a Chicago in a rematch of the NFC Championship game in January; the unbeaten Redskins face their divisional rivals, the Dallas Cowboys; and the Steelers get to beat the Indianapolis Colts.

Week 3 Picks

(Last week 8-8; season 17-15)

Home teams in Bold

Bills +8.5 over Patriots

Bengals -2.5 over 49ers

Dolphins +2.5 over Browns

Titans -6.5 over Broncos

Lions -3.5 over Vikings

Saints -3.5 over Texans

Eagles -7.5 over Giants

Jaguars +3.5 over Panthers

Chargers -14.5 over Chiefs

Raiders +3.5 over Jets

Rams +3.5 over Ravens

Buccaneers -1.5 over Falcons

Packers -3.5 over Bears

Cardinals -3.5 over Seahawks

Steelers -10.5 over Colts

Redskins +6.5 over Cowboys

This week in: American Football Week 2

The first weekend of the NFL season is in the books and there are already plenty of talking points.  Most impressive performance of the week went to the Baltimore Ravens, who tore apart their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers, winning 35-7 against the team that knocked them out of last season’s playoffs.  They also forced seven turnovers in the game – have they ever done better than that? “Never More” quoth the Ravens.

February’s Super Bowl winners, the Green Bay Packers, won a shootout 42-34 over the previous year’s champion New Orleans Saints in the NFL opener – the Packers defense stuffing Mark Ingram’s run on the one-yard line in the final play of the game. Elsewhere, Cam Newton looked impressive on his debut, throwing for a rookie record 422 yards and 2 touchdown

Look out Cam Newton - Clay Matthews is coming to town

passes, but his Carolina Panthers team still fell to the Arizona Cardinals 28-21.  The Peyton Manning-less Colts were roughed up in Houston and with their quarterback likely to miss the whole season, it could be a tough year for Indianapolis – and my pick of them making the playoffs.  The Eagles new dream team won their first game of the season in St. Louis; the Jets made a storming comeback, thanks to a fumble from Tony Romo and a blocked punt touchdown, to beat the Dallas Cowboys; and the Redskins defeated fellow NFC east team, the New York Giants.

This week’s fixtures sees the Packers head to Carolina to give Cam Newton a proper introduction to the NFL, as he’ll be seeing Clay Matthews coming around his offensive line – much more intimidating than anything the Cardinals threw at him last week.  The Saints and Bears face off in New Orleans in a matchup of two of last year’s NFC teams; the Steelers can get their season on track with a home game against the Seattle Seahawks and the Cowboys are in San Francisco to play the 49ers – a game that would be a must-see…if this was 1993.

Week 2 Picks

A reminder: Each week I will pick the game’s against the spread (as set by ESPN on Pickskin Pick ’em). Last week I went 9-7 against the spread (see them here) – a whole 1 game better than a coin flip would perform on average.

Home teams in bold

Bills -3.5 over Raiders

Saints 7.5 over Bears

Browns -2.5 over Colts

Lions -8.5 over Chiefs

Packers -10.5 over Panthers

Ravens -5.5 over Titans

Buccaneers +3.5 over Vikings

Jaguars +10.5 over Jets

Redskins -4.5 over Cardinals

Steelers -14.5 over Seahawks

Cowboys +2.5 over 49ers

Broncos -5.5 over Bengals

Texans -2.5 over Dolphins

Patriots -6.5 over Chargers

Eagles -2.5 over Falcons

Rams +6.5 over Giants

This week in: American Football

The National Football League returns this Thursday, September 8th, with a matchup of the last two Super-Bowl winners – the reigning Champion Green Bay Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints.  As the preparations for this season were disrupted

Last year’s Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers

by a lockout, teams that have returning quarterbacks and coaches are at a clear advantage over those who have new people learning the playbooks. Both of these sides have such stability, and the Packers, who only made it into the playoffs thanks to an improbable comeback by the Eagles against the Giants, return hoping to stay healthier than last year.  If they do, they have the chance to make the postseason as a Number 1 seed and have an excellent opportunity to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

Elsewhere this week, the rival Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers face off in the first game of the regular season, and the Indianapolis Colts face the Houston Texans in a repeat of last year’s first fixture which saw an upset as the Texans beat Peyton Manning’s Colts.  With Manning’s fitness in doubt, a condition which could see the QB end his streak of 227 consecutive NFL game starts,  the Houston Texans will like their chances of beginning 2011 with a win.  Also, the new superteam, the Philadelphia Eagles, have a tough opening trip to a rejuvenated St. Louis Rams team –  the dome atmosphere could help the Rams to a surprise victory over Michael Vick’s highly rated Eagles.

Season Picks

NFC North – Packers                                                    AFC North – Ravens

NFC South – Saints                                                       AFC South – Titans

NFC East – Cowboys                                                    AFC East – Patriots

NFC West – Cardinals                                                 AFC West – Chargers

Wild Cards – Eagles, Falcons                                   Wild Cards – Colts, Steelers

NFC: Packers over Saints                                          AFC: Patriots over Chargers

Superbowl: Packers over Patriots

Each week I will also pick the winner of each game, but to make it harder, I’ll go against the spread* – as laid out by ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game: (home team in bold)

Packers – 4.5 over Saints

Falcons -2.5 over Bears

Bills +6.5 over Chiefs

Browns -4.5 over Bengals

Buccaneers -3.5 over Lions

Titans +3.5 over Jaguars

Texans -2.5 over Colts

Rams +5.5 over Eagles

Ravens -2.5 over Steelers

Chargers -8.5 over Vikings

Redskins +3.5 over Giants

Cardinals -5.5 over Panthers

Seahawks +5.5 over 49ers

Cowboys +4.5 over Jets

Broncos -0.5 over Raiders

*The spread basically handicaps the teams, so for example the Packers have -4.5 favourites over the Saints, meaning a win by 5 or more points would be a win for Green Bay, but a win by 4 or less points or a Saints win is a New Orleans win against the spread.

You can also pick against me by joining the group on ESPN Political Footballs, or by clicking here