A month into the NFL regular season and we’ve fallen somewhat behind the pace set the past few years in the race for that most coveted of prognostication trophies: The Portent of Belshazzar, a laurel perfectly crafted for those too dense to understand what’s so obviously right in front of them.
When you pile up weeks of 8-8, 9-7, and 8-8, then a decent showing like last week’s 11-4 really doesn’t make you feel much better. Still, a .571 average is better than some of the guys who apparently get paid really well to do this stuff.
Eagles at Giants - Once upon a time this was a “stuff of legends” game that really made you want to sit up and watch carefully. Now you just want to avert your eyes like when you got dragged into one of those “Saw” movies by mistake. (Like that third one with the bloated putrid pig scene.)
Okay maybe that’s a tad too harsh, but for teams with some first-class talent, they are definitely riding below steerage and bathing in the bilge. So far, New York has shown no ability to stop anyone, and at least Philly has the advantage of being more than able to pile up yards and points.
The Eagles can’t stop anybody either, but New York has shown plenty of ability to stop itself with drive-killing turnovers every single game. Even when they’re playing well, these two teams seem to split their season series.
Because the NFC East has turned out to be least, neither team really has much to lose yet. So what’s most likely: Eli stops turning it over or Philly finds a defense? I’m going with Eli.
Jaguars at Rams - It’s probably time for Maurice Jones-Drew to show up and poke some holes in an already damaged defense. If it wasn’t for the fact they’ve lost three straight, this is exactly the sort of trap St. Louis would fall in to. Thank goodness their lousy record prevents them from thinking way too much of themselves.
The psyche of pro players is such an odd thing to observe. Thank goodness most of us get to do it from a distance. If Jeff Fisher ever straightens this bunch out, he’s earned his money.
Chiefs at Titans - Now here’s a matchup we shouldn’t have to wait for! It’s too bad that Jake Locker has to miss it. Bad for Tennessee, too. He was just starting to look capable from the pocket. That means Chris Johnson has to have a breakout game and this is just the defense he can gash. Being at home is an added bonus.
Still, it seems most likely that Kansas City will be the one to make the fewest mistakes, but it certainly will bear some close watching.
Panthers at Cardinals - Carolina is definitely a team on the brink. They lost two close ones to start the year and then blew away the Giants in a six score shutout stadium special before taking an early bye week off. In the third year of Ron Rivera’s leadership, they have just got to find a way to do something good on the road.
Arizona’s struggling offensive line will have a really hard time with Carolina’s pretty tough front seven. While Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald seems intriguing, it certainly doesn’t put the fear of failure deep into your heart yet.
A lot is being made of the return of Daryl Washington to the middle of the Cardinals’ defense, and maybe his presence will make the difference in containing what Cam Newton can do, but I (for one at least) don’t think it’s going to be enough. Arizona still has too many other defensive weaknesses.
Broncos at Cowboys - This is sure to be the ratings winner in the second half of Sunday’s afternoon double-header of network games. Monte Kiffin is also sure to have some surprises in store for Manning and Company when they arrive in Big D.
It won’t really matter after all though because we all know, just as sure as we know our own names, that Tony Romo is not going to win this one. Even if he has to find a way, he won’t.
Texans at 49ers - It’s way too early in the season to start panicking, but that’s exactly what Houston is doing. Or at least it’s what they started doing after they finished screaming their heads off at Matt Schaub’s consistent game-killing ineptitude.
It’s likely Schaub’s not going to get a lot of help from a very capable running game because that’s the first thing San Francisco is going to take away, and they are very good at it.
On the other side, the Niners have had their own struggles at the quarterback position, with Colin Kaepernick definitely showing signs of the dreaded sophomore jinx. Houston’s defense is primed for a bit of statement-making. (Just check out J.J. Watt’s nose!)
If Houston’s going to turn the corner and develop any sort of championship personality as a team, this is the game they simply have to win. They can dominate other teams later. They have to win this one now.
The Niners just don’t play on the edge like they did last year. Not sure what’s missing, but whatever was removed really hurt.
Chargers at Raiders - Thanks to the baseball playoffs, this game gets moved to a Pacific prime time start of 11:35 p.m. (EDT) and only gets shown on the NFL Network. Probably one more nail in the coffin of the Oakland Coliseum.
Philip Rivers is having a really great season. It’s much too early for anyone like the Raiders to pull the rug out from under him. While Terrell Pryor’s likely return to Oakland’s lineup presents some interesting scoring possibilities (because San Diego’s defense is really weak), it’s not enough to outscore Rivers when he’s on a roll.
Until the Raiders show they can beat someone other than Jacksonville, I am going to doubt it’s possible.
Jets at Falcons - Atlanta is the NFC’s version of the Cincinnati Bengals. All the pieces seem to be in place and yet, it just ain’t happenin’. The Falcons are all banged up and bandaged out, not to mention dispirited after losing at home while racking up over 420 passing yards.
New York is without their best wideout in Santonio Holmes and his downfield mate Stephen Hill, so even if Geno Smith is capable of making some interesting deep throws that Mark Sanchez never could, who’s going to catch them?
Smith has still got a lot of “rookie-itis” tendencies and that means lots and lots of strange behavior leading to multiple turnovers. He has plenty of settling down to do. On the other hand, Matt Ryan is ready to explode and Atlanta’s defense will likely take out a pile of its frustrations, along with the rest of the trash, on this Monday night.