I’m all for teams wanting to show loyalty to players who helped them to success, in fact I think there needs to be more loyalty to players but the harsh reality is the game we all love is a business and to have success there needs to be someone to run the franchise as such. This week however I saw an article suggesting that the Colts, should they get the chance, pass on drafting Andrew Luck as a sign of loyalty to Peyton Manning who, by all reports, is expected to return next season and may even get some run this year (why they would risk him though is beyond me). Manning has been probably one of, if not the main reason for the Colts success over the last 12/13 seasons and he deserves to be recognized as a franchise icon but the fact of the matter still remains that he is in his mid-30′s and is coming off what was clearly a very serious neck injury. In the offseason he got his reward of a 5-year $90 million deal and is likely to see a fair bit of that money coming his way. The opportunity presented to Indianapolis here though is very rare if not almost unbelievable in that they had the #1 pick 13 years ago and the first time he’s missed in his whole career comes as he is approaching the twilight of his time in the NFL and his team sucks so bad without him they may get the top pick once again and a chance to draft a player who is by all accounts, the best quarterback since their current guy. I don’t think Manning would stand in the way of the Colts drafting Luck (should the opportunity arise) but the Colts should not pass on him if they get the chance since they could wind up in the rare situation of having a true franchise quarterback replace the current all-world franchise quarterback and be set there for another 13/14/15 years. It’s a business and it may not make Manning happy to see a true successor on the roster but the best case scenario for the Colts if they get the chance to draft Luck, it spurs Manning onto 2 or 3 years at the top of his game before he retires by which time Luck has learned the system and can produce an almost seamless transition. Anyway with that rant out of my system, onto this week! Which should be a touch more entertaining than nearly all the games last week.
Washington Redskins vs Buffalo Bills
4:05pm Rodgers Centre [Toronto]
Line: Bills -6
Storyline: Buffalo trying to get their first win in this building and get a good chance against Washington who started out strong but appear to be leveling out now.
For the Bills to Win: Coming off getting a new contract that pays him like a second tier quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to play like his is getting paid and do his bit to turn this game into a shootout. The Redskins defense is tough but not unbreakable and he should have his opportunities to make plays. On the ground it is usually a safe bet to count on Fred Jackson to get 100+ yards at 4+ yards a carry with the form he is in right now so there is no reason to think he won’t do the same.
For the Redskins to Win: John Beck isn’t getting paid like a second tier quarterback because he is still trying to prove he is one of the top 32 in the league and is worthy of a starting job and this will be a good chance to rebound after a rough showing against the Panthers. If the Redskins are to have any chance they need to slow down the Bills offense and turn it into a slug fest and hope that they can put up enough points to get by. They won’t be able to sell out trying to stop just one of the Bills running game or passing game but their defense may not have a lot of big names, but as a unit it could be enough to get the job done.
Pick: Bills, both teams are playing closer to expectations now but the Bills roster is healthier.
New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers
4:15pm Heinz Field
Line: Patriots -3
Storyline: Two of the more dominant teams in the last 10 years who, between them have 5 Super Bowls and 7 Lamar Hunt trophies face off in Pittsburgh in a rivalry that isn’t as close as some may think.
For the Steelers to Win: For starters, their defense needs to not get caught up in the mind games of the Patriots offense and they need to stick to their convictions and play smart. On offense they need to do something which Dallas did not and take a deep shot against the Patriots suspect secondary. If Mike Wallace gets one on one coverage against James Ihedigbo then all bets are off and he could have a field day going all over the defense for several scores. That is of course working on the assumption that the offensive line can give Big Ben enough time to throw long.
For the Patriots to Win: For this I went back and watched last season’s game between these two teams to see how Brady dissected the Steelers defense and the answer was pretty simple. There was some impressive play design which got favourable one on one coverage by spreading the defense out rather than employing the 2 tight end formation they usually do. Rob Gronkowski is a one on one nightmare for a lot of players with his 6’6″ frame and massive wingspan and last time he played the Steelers he went for 3 touchdowns and could have a big day again. By spreading the defense out the Patriots should be able to get Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley plenty of touches through the middle of a defense that is still good but is not as fearsome as it once was.
Pick: Patriots, can’t go against history & Brady here
Dallas Cowboys vs Philadelphia Eagles
8:20pm Lincoln Financial Field
Line: Eagles -3.5
Storyline: A divisional matchup between two teams facing a make or break run as they try to solidify themselves as playoff contenders.
For the Eagles to Win: Lesean McCoy is the key to the Eagles offense at the moment and he can break the defense by pounding the ball and picking up first downs. Michael Vick just doesn’t look like he is quite there yet & seems to be trying to hard to play the hero so if the Eagles can just run the ball they should have plenty of offensive success. On defense the Eagles are one of the few teams that could match up man for man with the Cowboys wide receivers and send the house after Tony Romo.
For the Cowboys to Win: Build off their success from last week’s thumping of the Rams and attack an Eagles defense that still doesn’t seem to be on the same page. Running backs have shown that they can gain yardage going after the pass rushers on the Eagles roster and Demarco Murray has made people stand up and take notice. Meanwhile the receivers should have a great day assuming the Eagles continue to refuse to play to the strengths of their secondary and line them up in one on one man coverage which suits players like Asomugah very well. If that continues look for the Cowboys receivers and Jason Witten to find holes and get through.
Pick: Cowboys, I realise they’re on the road but my gut says Dallas will get by (this was the same gut that said Baltimore -9 last week so I punished it with lots of spicy food).
San Diego Chargers vs Kansas City Chiefs
8:30pm Arrowhead Stadium [MNF]
Line: Chargers -4
Storyline: A few weeks ago this looked like a turd of a game but it has sneakily become an intriguing match since the Chiefs got better. They have already played once this season with San Diego escaping with a 20-17 win.
For the Chiefs to Win: Losing Jamaal Chales should have hurt the productivity of the Chiefs offense quite a lot but Jackie Battle (I had to look up who the hell he was), the 4th year back has filled in admirably. After getting his chance in week 5 against the Colts he made the most of the opportunity and is pitching in for the success of the offense. Meanwhile on defense they will need to create chances as Phillip Rivers is struggling with interceptions so far and he is likely to turn the ball over.
For the Chargers to Win: The Kasnas City defense is not great when it comes to stopping the run so the Chargers will need the up & down Ryan Matthews to have an up game and take the bell cow role on the offense and just pound the Chiefs into submission. When these two teams met last time Matthews had a good game carrying for nearly 100 yards and scoring twice. On defense, while Jackie Battle has done a good job for the Chiefs he’s not a superstar back and should be able to be stopped.
Pick: Chiefs, just to really mess up the division.
Indianapolis @ Tennessee (-9)
Pick: Titans, both teams got hammered last week but Tennessee can pull themselves out of it
Jacksonville @ Houston (-9.5)
Pick: Texans, Jags on a short week & emotional win.
Minnesota @ Carolina (-3.5)
Pick: Panthers, Cam Newton over Ponder, plain & simple
New Orleans (-13.5) @ St Louis
Pick: Saints, just a machine at the moment, St Louis is missing parts
Arizona @ Baltimore (-12.5)
Pick: Ravens, thinking they should be eager to make amends for last week
Miami @ New York (-10)
Pick: Giants, the Dolphins just suck now
Cleveland @ San Francisco (-9)
Pick: 49ers, this could have been a much better contest than it’s turned into
Cincinnati (-1) @ Seattle
Pick: Seahawks, there’s something about them playing at home that I like.
Season Picks Record: 73-32