Autumn rolls in and there’s a distinct aroma of football in the air – not to mention on the ground, in the den, coming from the big bedroom TV, and out of the trunk of the car. What fun!
Seahawks at Panthers – The obvious temptation here is to note how West Coast teams don’t travel well to play on the East Coast, but again we have a 4:00 start time so the “jet lag” edge is muted.
This is convoluted logic, but on the plus side for the visitors, Seattle’s impressive defensive front was neutralized by the Rams last week and Carolina’s offensive line has been giving up sacks, hits and pressures on Cam Newton all year, so the Seahawks are apt to get some of their pent up frustrations released.
On paper these two look evenly matched, but the reality of performance so far goes in favor of Seattle. Even though rookie phenom Russell “short stuff “ Wilson has been brought down to earth the last two games – with St. Louis humbling his passing game last week to the tune of three INTs leading to a critical upset loss in the division – his upside will be on serious demand this week.
Actually, in terms of rehabilitation missions for quarterbacks, this one is in Game of the Day territory. While Newton has more weapons and experience, and is playing at home, Seattle’s defense travels and is too fast and strong for what Carolina can do right now.
Bears at Jaguars – Chicago’s defense should be enough to make this road test a bunny, of the road kill variety. Jacksonville has yet to show any potential to move the ball with consistency. In fact they may be just frustrated enough at this point to throw some surprises Chicago’s way.
The Bears don’t handle surprises well. Certainly if there is any offensive line the Jags can harass, it’s Jay Cutler’s, but as long as the Bears show up for this one it should be 12 points-plus in the win column.
Titans at Vikings – Tennessee’s surprise explosion against Detroit two weeks ago gives us some hope the Titans can make this a competitive game, but their defense is so bad they may not be able to stop Minnesota’s backups.
The Titans have probably the best backup quarterback in the league in veteran Matt Hasselbeck, but this matchup is a long way from the potential Adrian Peterson versus Chris Johnson heyday that existed a couple of years ago.
For their part the Vikings just need to worry about keeping Johnson from any kind of breakout game because it just doesn’t appear likely the Titans can’t control the ball long enough otherwise to have a winning chance.
Broncos at Patriots – So we’re at lucky number 13 in the Manning Versus Brady Bowl series set for Foxboro in a late 4:25 start Sunday. Denver’s defense is active and very fast on the back end, which should present more of a challenge to The Brady Bunch than last week’s somewhat obliging Buffalo defense.
On the other side, New England gives up a lot of passing yards, which is just what Dr. Manning ordered. The running game goes slightly in favor of Denver. Being at home benefits the Patriots even more than most teams, so I have to compromise by taking the Pats for that reason, but this should be the one game all fans will be watching this week. It could even be one for the ages.
Bills at 49ers – The strong possibility exists Buffalo will be sent on a detour through Routesville before heading back east via San Francisco International Airport. Even with the highest resolution of Google Earth, I can’t find a rest stop along the way in a burg called “Upset.”
Chargers at Saints – The Sunday night NBC special will have lots of pomp and history given the extreme likelihood Drew Brees will break Johnny Unitas’ record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
There is no sense getting into the comparisons between the two great quarterbacks because pro football has fundamentally changed where the passing game is concerned. In a lot of ways, they are not playing the same game.
Only one number matters to Brees right now that that’s the number one; as in victory; as in getting a single tally into the win column. As in, this has surely gone on long enough! New Orleans is probably the best 0-4 team in NFL history.
San Diego is so thin in the defensive secondary they are paying double fares to the taxi squad. Philip Rivers has been average (for him) and the Chargers have enjoyed good fortune in scheduling and by playing in a division that’s turned out to be weaker than most expected. He will make some good things happen, but his interception ratio is still high, they still don’t run it well enough, and they will not stop nor even slow down the Saints at home in the big dome.
Texans at Jets – At least the Monday night crew gets a nice fall weekend in New York. The jolly green midget of a team playing there is in the extremely rare position of being totally overmatched at every position. Nobody watches this farce because the baseball playoffs start the same night and the Yankees are playing. This is the kind of thing that kills a coaching staff.
It’s early yet, but somebody’s hauling out some well-cured wood for the hot stove Rex Ryan’s about to back into.