On the positive side, you have teams like Washington. On the negative, you have teams like Miami.
Case in point: the New England Patriots. Who could have predicted their performance at Cincinnati last week? Until the last Sunday in September, the Patriots had two lackluster wins and had been dominated at home by the Broncos. Now, they've got stardust in their hair again.
But Bengals fans should not lose heart. Lots of good things happened in the game, as long as you don't relive that fourth quarter ever again. The offense can't score if Palmer can't hold onto the ball. The O-line has now been called out. Let's see if they answer the call.
Here are the picks and opinions leading into the pro football weekend:
-- Bills at Bears: Buffalo coach Dick Jauron returns to Soldier Field, where he enjoyed one great year during a five-year tenure. Although his star back, Willis McGahee, leads the league in rushing, he will be controlled by a Bears defense that does not allow others to score.
Chicago can be 5-0 for the first time in 20 years. Since the Bills so far this season have always done the opposite of what I pick them to do, this week I pick them to win.
(Sorry, that's a joke.)-- Cleveland at Carolina: When the Panthers' front four overwhelms Charlie Brown - um, I mean Frye - Lucy enjoys a hearty early autumn laugh once again.
I'm sorry. I don't like picking on Cleveland. They have moved up. They are now the 25th-rated team in the league. In case you were wondering, there are only 32 teams, so that's still not too good.
Carolina's not yet top 10 as expected, but they are top 20.
-- Lions at Vikings: Detroit cannot win. I was going to elaborate, but I lost interest.
-- Dolphins at Patriots: This is a division rivalry, and that keeps this game closer than anyone has any reason to expect. Not that Miami has no chance, but it would be one of those “even a blind pig” moments.
-- Rams at Packers: Green Bay will have the home field motivation, seeing as how they have not won there this year, but Favre is nursing some football-type bruises from last week (a pinched nerve and slight concussion), and his best runner, Ahman Green, is on the questionable list for Sunday.
The Rams have the better defense, are terrific at takeaways, showed lots of scoring ability last week in a sort of low-rank shootout with Detroit, and, amazingly, have yet to throw an interception.
My head says to take St. Louis, and a mind is a terrible thing to waste. This is just the sort of game that trips me up.
-- Buccaneers at Saints: Do you really think I'm stupid enough to pick against the Saints at home after they absolutely destroyed one of the best teams in the NFC on that very same field last Monday night? No way!
I know Tampa Bay is desperate, but that's too bad. Their situation just gets worse. Jon Gruden's progression from hero to goat continues.
-- Titans at Colts: Tennessee fans must go into hiding until their excellent coach gets himself a real team again. This will be the second-ugliest game of the week. You won't have to guess at the first.
-- Redskins at Giants: It seems Washington is considered resurgent following an impressive performance and overtime win over Jacksonville at home last week. New York is falling apart from the inside.
The loser here winds up at the bottom of the NFC East. The Giants are the more desperate team. They deserve it.
To be desperate, that is - not to win.
-- Chiefs at Cardinals: Major trap game! So far, this is the second-toughest call this week. Kansas City was spectacular last week. Phenomenal would be a better word, but they were playing the 49ers, so maybe I'll just stick with spectacular.
Arizona has shown none of the improvement that was expected from them. The only thing better about this franchise right now is its venue. It's a great-looking park. The quality of play remains sadly lacking.
Matt Leinart makes his first professional start behind arguably the worst offensive line in the league. They'll probably get it together for once, because the Cardinals always have at least one surprise game in them each year.
I still take Kansas City and their great defense. (And who among us would have thought that word combination would ever belong in the same sentence since Bobbie Bell retired?)
-- Jets at Jaguars: Two good teams playing well. Pennington was taken out for the year during this game last year. Anyone who questions the quality of college football in the MAC, please note that Pennington and Jags QB Leftwich both played at Marshall.
The Jets still get pushed around this year. Besides, can the Jaguars lose three straight? I think not.
-- Raiders at 49ers: Lock up the women and children! This one will be an ugly of epic proportions. This is the kind of game only masochists could watch. I suggest it be kept off the dish and no highlights be shown, except on broadcast channels in the Bay Area. ESPN can show the score. That's all I'll need to know.
And to think, one of these teams has already won a game. (It's that “blind pig” thing I mentioned earlier.)
All right, if you must know - take San Fran.
-- Cowboys at Eagles: Do you recall when Terrell Owens was a 49ers rookie and a sympathetic figure? Nah, neither do I. The great football diva ruins a perfectly good revenge story Philadelphia fans want to tell their grandchildren. It's not fair when the nice guys finish on the short end, but it sure is real life.
It should be a tough game, but, hopefully, not an ugly scene - but that 4:15 start time gives the belligerent in Philly plenty of beer time by halftime. And we thought last week's head-stomping incident of a Cowboy was bad news. Everyone, please keep helmets on until you reach the locker room!