Week four of the NFL season finally brought all the hard working men and women a winning week here at Pigskin Prognosticator Headquarters. The 9-6 mark was cause for celebration after repeatedly falling victim to some mysterious replacement officiating early in the year.
Last week, I defended the Monday Night Miracle, but remember, I sided with the Green Bay Packers just like the 70% of Las Vegans that couldn’t find enough drink vouchers on the Strip to drown away their anger that evening. It’s not surprising that my first positive week of the season came when the NFL employed a group of officials actually capable of removing yellow hankies from their pocket and tossing them in the general direction of an obvious infraction. Hallelujah! Without question the Commissioner, Roger Goodell, felt a tremendous amount of pressure from this column to act quickly after the week three debacle... OK, maybe that’s not entirely true, but the point is gamblers, and good natured, wholesome football fans, are thrilled to have the old officials back in action. We’ll never complain about another blown call again. Scouts honor.
We’ve hit the quarter pole of the NFL season which has traditionally been used as measuring stick to evaluate what we found out to be true, and what we learned to be false, about our presumptions heading into the season. In the AFC we knew the Houston Texans were good, but this good? No other team in football has impressed as much as the Texans. A strong defense and running game combined with an efficient passing attack has left Houston in the driver seat in the race for the AFC’s top seed. Supposed contenders, New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver have all looked vulnerable at times, only the Baltimore Ravens have lived up to their preseason hype. Of course, it’s still early in the season, a lot can happen between now and the playoffs, but Houston, New England, and Baltimore appear to be separating themselves from the field. Denver is the dark horse in this race. If Peyton Manning, who has played brilliantly in spurts, finds a consistent level of performance the Broncos could challenge the top teams. In New York, the Tim Tebow countdown is reaching a boiling point. It’s only a matter of time before the Big Apple finds out about its supposed savior. Before we move on to the NFC can we all just take a quick moment to appreciate what the Cleveland Browns have done for the NFL. In a vast world filled with uncertainty, the Browns will always be terrible at football. Their consistency, their determination to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory, is to be admired. They give us, the loyal NFL fan, comfort in knowing that some things will never change.
The Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles. What do those four teams have in common? They are all leading their respective divisions after four weeks. Say hello to the NFC, commonly referred to as the conference of chaos. Playoff teams from a year ago, the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Detroit Lions are all .500 or worse. The Saints have yet to win a game this season! The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants are 0-2 inside their own division. It’s madness! I still expect the Giants and Packers to contend for supremacy in the NFC along with the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. I’m extremely skeptical about the Cardinals and Vikings sustaining their level of success as the season advances. If they were stock, and Wall Street wasn’t an economic disaster, I still wouldn’t be buying. To borrow the infamous words of stock analyst and TV personality Jim Kramer, SELL, SELL, SELL!
Our 9-6 mark ATS last week leaves us at 30-31-2 for the season. There’s something to be said for being consistently average, but this week we strive to do better! With consultation from my wonderful girlfriend, and the use of a dart board, I’m about to make Nostradamus resemble a man lacking foresight.
Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams +1
Show me a man that had the Cardinals opening the season 4-0 and I’ll show you a liar. A strong defense has the Cardinals seeking their first 5-0 start in team history. I didn’t research that nugget, in fact, I made it up, but it’s probably true. I’m still bitter from the Rams defeating my Seahawks last Sunday without scoring an offensive touchdown. That’s one way to have your Sunday ruined. Cardinals win 23-16
Miami Dolphins @ Cincinnati Bengals -3
Red flag game! The 1-3 Dolphins travel to Cincinnati to take on the 3-1 Bengals and the home team is only laying a field goal? Joe Public is going to be all over the Bengals with that line. Sports books aren’t bringing in millions every week because they’re lucky. They want action on the Dolphins. Dolphins win 24-21
Green Bay Packers @ Indianapolis Colts +7
The Colts are coming on a bye week allowing them an extra week to prepare for the visiting Green Bay Packers, but does it make any difference with that defense? Aaron Rodgers and company should have a field day. Green Bay is still seething from the Monday Night Miracle. They won’t take anyone lightly. Packers win 35-17
Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs +6
How can anyone not side with the Ravens in this matchup? Kansas City has been very disappointing thus far and until they show signs of life you have to assume their losing ways will continue. Ravens win 31-20
Cleveland Browns @ New York Giants -8
Well you can’t spend a good portion of your introduction ripping the Cleveland Browns only to side with them once you get to the picks. The Giants can’t afford a slip up in an obviously winnable game, especially not in New York City. Giants win 41-17
Philadelphia Eagles @ Pittsburgh Steelers -3
The winner gets the rights to decide the “Voter Fraud” debate that’s currently raging in Pennsylvania. That’s how big this game is. OK, I stretched the truth just a little, but Pittsburgh can’t afford to fall to 1-3 with a loss this weekend. Steelers win 23-17
Atlanta Falcons @ Washington Redskins +3
It’s tempting to side with the home team here. Robert Griffin III has been incredible, and brought hope back to the nation’s capital, but that Redskins defense just isn’t very good. Washington has too many injuries and not enough remaining talent on that side of the ball to keep up with the high flying Falcons. Falcons win 35-28
Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers -3
If this matchup kicked off at your typical 9:00 am start for east coast games I would be really concerned. The Seahawks have been incredibly awful playing early games in recent memory. For reasons unknown this is an afternoon game giving Seattle fans some hope. With that said I’m taking Carolina for anti-jinx purposes. Panthers win 21-14
Chicago Bears @ Jacksonville Jaguars +6
I expect the Bears to suffer from a bit of a Monday Night hangover after their big win over the Dallas Cowboys. Jacksonville is terrible, but every NFL season is full a strange and unpredictable performances. I like Jacksonville’s chances in this matchup. Bears win 23-20
Tennessee Titans @ Minnesota Vikings -6
The Vikings have been one of this seasons surprise teams getting off to a 3-1 start to the year. Despite their success, the Vikings still play it very close to the vest on offense allowing teams to hang around. The Titans, now with veteran Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, have enough to keep things interesting. Vikings win 17-14
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots -7
Peyton Manning returns to Foxboro, this time as a member of the Denver Broncos, to face longtime nemesis Tom Brady and New England Belich icks. As long as Peyton’s bionic neck holds up this will be a shootout. Fate would have this be an instant classic. Patriots win 37-31
Buffalo Bills @ San Francisco 49ers -10
The Bills circled the wagons for last week’s matchup against New England. They were up 21-7 in the third quarter when the reality that they were still the Bills set in and 100 points later New England won in a rout. The 49ers were dominant in beating the Jets 34-0. Will the 49ers suffer a bit of a letdown? 49ers win 24-17
San Diego Chargers @ New Orleans Saints -4
New Orleans isn’t going 0-16 right? That’s the prevailing theory. A team with Drew Brees at quarterback is incapable of losing every game. The Chargers are 3-1, but I’m not all that impressed. Will the Saints finally come marching in? Saints win 35-21
Houston Texans @ New York Jets +9
Tebowmania will make its first appearance Monday Night as the quarterback of the Jets. Not just running the goofy “Wildcat” offense, Tim Tebow will take over for mop up duty after the Texans seize a huge lead. The Texans are playing the best football of anyone in the NFL. Monday Night will provide Houston with an excellent stage to drive that point home. Mark Sanchez, RIP. Texans win 30-10