Let’s see…News of the Week…the “government shutdown” dance took its first steps (cha-cha-cha) after playing through a long and off-key overture; real shutdowns of coal mining operations continue with threats of even more to come before that nightmare ever bottoms out; and high school football in Harlan County got the wind knocked out of it with a couple of shots to the solar plexus.
Yep, I’m definitely ready to talk about the Cleveland Browns. I really hope they beat the also encouraging Buffalo Bills Thursday night. Brian Hoyer probably had his hands full with a defense that is very opportunistic in swiping errant passes (which he has not really done much of anyway).
It was a home-team scenario and it should just warm our football-loving hearts to see two rookie head coaches with young teams playing so well this soon. When you think that the last Cleveland quarterback to win his first three games as a starter was Otto Graham (in 1940-something), you just know you’re living in special times.
At least I hope it turned (and turns) out that way.
Saints at Bears - Since it’s not cold coming off Lake Michigan yet, Drew Brees versus Jay Cutler is sort of a no-brainer. If it wasn’t for Peyton Manning’s amazing blast from the gate, we’d all be talking about Drew again. He’s got his things going that good.
Chicago loves to steal the ball and get most of their points that way while discouraging you in the process. As an object lesson for us all, Detroit put it to them on the ground last week and left them gasping for breath.
The Saints are not a running team so that means the Bears can bring all the pressure they want. Still, Brees isn’t the sort to throw into crowds, and his mates don’t put it on the ground. If I was a betting man I’d take New Orleans and give five because Rob Ryan’s defense will force Cutler into more than his share of weekly mistakes.
Patriots at Bengals - Cincinnati just keeps doing it to us. Just when we think they’ve at least got enough to move into the upper half of the league, they bungle it up yet again. If they can’t even score a single lousy touchdown against Cleveland’s defense, what chance do they have against one of the modern masters of the 3-4? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.)
However, the absence of an injured Vince Wilfork will make a big difference if Belichick has no backup plug for the middle of his D-line. I’m still betting on Bill (and that’s just an expression).
What I’m also counting on is Cincinnati’s stellar aptitude for making the wrong choice at the worst possible moment. (And that too is an expression, just of a very different sort!)
Lions at Packers - Here’s Detroit’s chance to make all us skeptics sit up and take special notice. This is the game that will define their identity for the season: Are they leaders or chasers? A lot of circumstances are stacked against them.
The Lions haven’t won on the road against the Packers since Brett Favre was slinging it at Southern Miss. Green Bay is coming off an early bye week, so they are lying in wait. The Packers have dominated this series since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach, winning 13 of 14.
Aaron Rodgers is a far more mature and consistent offensive threat than Matthew Stafford, who only has moments, and Detroit’s defensive secondary is a weakened bunch. Their team’s strength on that side is in the front seven and Rodgers is very good at executing avoidance strategies.
Detroit’s running game has shown the ability to become a proverbial game-changer, but the game’s not changed that much just yet. The flip side of the coin is Green Bay’s defense, which has been burned as much as it’s been the burner.
Barring some sort of special teams disaster by either side, this is a field goal difference of a game that comes down in favor of the home team.
Seahawks at Colts - Can Seattle’s defensive secondary make enough plays to give Andrew Luck uncomfortable fits? If Marshawn Lynch gets his first 100-yard game of the season, this one’s pretty much a lock for the visitors, but both teams have hard-nosed, even-keeled personalities.
They don’t back down and they don’t get rattled. That means it’s a wonderfully even matchup and a pick ‘em affair that just has to go to the home team.
Ravens at Dolphins - Baltimore has just not done well away from home so far, and Miami is one of the consistently pleasant surprises of the year everywhere they’ve gone.
The Raven’s running game has become pretty much non-existent and with all the offense depending on Joe Flacco’s arm and decision-making, it’s no wonder they are just 2-2. The defense is slowly getting the pieces in place and should have another shutdown unit operating by the end of the season. They’ll need it.
Both teams have a decent pass rush with offenses limited by an over-reliance on the quarterback. That’s the dynamic to watch. Which quarterback stays upright longest and makes the fewest mistakes.
Says here that’s going to be Miami, but that’s just me being a homer again.