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

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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