Season total: 47-30
Last week, I wrote at length about the Lions, how I wasn’t sold on all the hype surrounding them, and that I didn’t think that they are an elite team, despite their (now 5-0) record. I watched the Monday night game between Detroit and Chicago (it was the only game I saw from week 5, due to the fact that I attended a wedding on Sunday). The Lions won 24-13, so naturally, I’m feeling... validated.
Considering how poorly the Bears played, the game really should have been a blowout. Chicago’s offence committed 8 false start penalties (official reports from the game make a big deal about the 9 false starts, but I recall one of those being on special teams). Their offensive line could not protect Jay Cutler, and not just due to the talent of the Lions; the Bears’ Tackles looked more like turnstiles (The Bears’ starting RT was eventually removed from the game and will not start this week). Julius Peppers was injured early in the game, and was hobbled and played sparingly afterward, severely limiting the Bears’ ability to pressure Matt Stafford. Chicago’s Safeties are terrible; Calvin Johnson scored his only touchdown when he shoved Brandon Meriweather to the turf with one hand as the safety attempted to tackle him (Both starting Safeties have been benched for this week’s game). Even when the Bears played well on defence, they couldn’t catch a break. Brian Urlacher got an inexplicable Unnecessary Roughness penalty for a hit that should be a part of an instructional video on how not to hit dirty, and after the 15 yard march-off, Detroit scored a touchdown on the very next play. Overall, the Bears looked woefully unprepared by their coaching staff, and no adjustments were made during the game to correct glaring weaknesses in pass protection or the defensive secondary.
As for the Lions, their play was inconsistent and undisciplined. Their offence was mostly ineffective and relied too much on big plays and Chicago’s miscues. Their defence exerted great pressure on Cutler, yet the Bears’ QB still managed to make plays, and Matt Forte was able to top 100 yards rushing by simply running through holes that the Lions left due either over-pursuit or ineffective alignments (That “Wide 9” sure does leave some big gaps).
As I said last week, winning is the most important thing, and the Lions are doing that. It’s just that, if I’m going to believe that they can compete with the truly elite teams in the NFL, I’m going to have to see a whole lot better than what I saw last Monday night.
Now, let’s get to this week’s picks. Like an NFL team, I need to bounce back with a strong performance after last week’s debacle.
Panthers at Falcons
Tough call here. Carolina are so dangerous on offence. Cam Newton’s playmaking ability has reinvigorated Steve Smith. Atlanta has struggled. Last week, they got off to a good start against Green Bay, but couldn’t hold the Packers down for the whole game. The Falcons have to make a stand this week. It will be a close one. Winner: Falcons
Bills at Giants
The Giants really stunk it up against the Seahawks last week. The Eli Manning that I know and love finally showed up last week, throwing 3 interceptions and breaking out that mopey face. The Bills just keep chugging along, scoring points and forcing turnovers. This is not a good matchup for the Giants. Winner: Bills
Eagles at ‘skins
Philadelphia’s defence has been a huge disappointment. To have that much talent in the secondary be misused so egregiously is almost criminal. As for their offence, it has been predictably explosive, but has often blown itself up with costly turnovers and mental errors. Washington has had success by being low-key and consistent. They will play well, and the Eagles will either do enough to win, or do enough to themselves to lose. Here’s to consistency. Winner: ‘skins
Jaguars at Steelers
Nice bounce-back game last week by Pittsburgh against Tennessee. Pride and desperation can go a long way. Jacksonville does not have nearly enough talent on offence to be competitive in this one. Winner: Steelers
Rams at Packers
One of the worst teams in the league, which can’t score, on the road against an offensive juggernaut. For St. Louis to win this game would be nothing short of miraculous. Winner: Packers
49ers at Lions
After the Monday night game, Jay Cutler spoke about the difficulties that Chicago’s offensive line experienced in the game. He said that because they could not hear the snap count due to the noise, they eventually had to switch to a silent count. So, the Bears’ coaching staff did not anticipate that it would be noisy in Detroit? This illustrates just how poorly the Bears were prepared by their coaches. I mention this because this week, San Francisco is coming to town, a team that is playing extremely well because they are very well-coached, organized, and prepared. I think that Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff will come to Detroit prepared with a solid game plan, and that their defence and running game will give the Lions fits. Winner: 49ers
Colts at Bengals
The Colts are a mess. They will have a lot of trouble scoring against a rock-solid Bengals defence. It will be low-scoring and close. Winner: Bengals
Browns at Raiders
Oakland will play a very spirited game this week, their first at home since the death of Al Davis. Cleveland is reeling. This could be a blowout. Peyton Hillis is still struggling with the after-effects of his strep throat. He’s not sick anymore, just dealing with the fallout from choosing to sit out in week 3 against Miami. The curse works in mysterious ways. Winner: Raiders
Texans at Ravens
It’s amazing how quickly fortunes can change in the NFL. Two weeks ago, Houston was riding high after a victory over Pittsburgh. Last week, they lost at home to an Oakland team which fielded only 10 defensive players on the decisive play of the game, an end-zone interception of Matt Schaub. This week, the Texans face a Ravens squad which looks like one of the best, most balanced teams in the league. Muddying things even further, Houston will be without Andre Johnson for at least one more week, and top pass-rusher Mario Williams for the rest of the season. Add to that the resurgence of the Titans, and all of a sudden, things don’t seem so rosy for the Texans. Winner: Ravens
Cowboys at Patriots
If New England can’t figure out a way to disrupt the Dallas passing attack, they could find themselves on the losing end of a shootout. The Cowboys will put pressure on Tom Brady. It’s always bad business to pick against the Pats at home, though. Winner: Patriots
Saints at Buccaneers
I still contend that Tampa Bay is a mediocre team at best. They also have some injuries to key personnel to contend with this week. The New Orleans offensive engine keeps chugging along. Winner: Saints
Vikings at Bears
Chicago got humiliated on Monday night. Not by the Lions, though. They embarrassed themselves. They were woefully unprepared for the game, and the responsibility for that falls on the coaching staff. If they play terribly at home this week against division-rival Minnesota, the knives will be out for head coach Lovie Smith and company. And, if they do not have a solid plan to protect Jay Cutler, then Jared Allen will make them pay dearly. I think the Bears are properly motivated. Winner: Bears
Dolphins at Jets
Miami is going nowhere fast. The Jets see their season of high hopes slipping away. Matt Moore starts at QB for the Dolphins, on Monday Night Football. What a nightmare. Winner: Jets