Pittsburgh Steelers @ San Francisco 49ers Monday Night Football Pick: Hey!!! For the first time in what seems like forever, it’s an interesting Monday Night Football game. Who is the donkey punchee (yes, the guy being donkey punched) that picked the Monday Night Football schedule? It can’t be something the NFL just handed ESPN, there has to be some guy about to get fired for his terrible attempt to predict entertaining games for Monday Night. But wait, has he totally redeemed himself?
It’s easy to foresee the Steelers being here this time of year, I mean, they always are, right? But the 49ers? That’s brilliant work, donkey guy. Talk about believing in Harbaugh! This game has no relevant rivalry of late, and the 49ers went into the season starting Alex Smith at QB! No, I won’t forgive you for making me deal with the Hawks and Rams, the Chargers and Jaguars (Jacksonville twice, actually, who in their right mind would put the Jags on MNF twice? – did dude not know Jack Del Rio was still coaching the Jags?), the Patriots and Chiefs, the Packers and Vikings, gross. But this one is almost guaranteed to be good football, because, even in defeat, both of these teams play good football.
I like the 49ers for a couple reasons, playing at home on Monday Night, putting together a team that expects to win every game, coming off a disappointing loss, and not having a quarterback that hasn’t practiced all week and is barely hobbling around with a walking boot on. That last thing is big, because the Steelers have that in Big Ben. Ben lucked out and got 10 days to prepare for this one, but the 49ers are pretty tough defensively, and unless Ben is going to throw them into a win, I think they are in trouble. SF can beat up on the run game, and Pittsburgh has only ran well a couple weeks this season. I like the 49ers in a close one.
San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars Monday Night Football Pick: I can’t think of anything exciting to say about this game. It’s a Monday Night Football game which means it’s almost surely going to be close – but it’s a game between two teams that couldn’t possibly disappoint anymore than they have. The Jaguars finally fired their head coach, Jack Del Rio, a move that should have been made 7 years ago, or whenever they hired him. That’s about the only thing I’m excited about in this game – will the new guy use Maurice Jones-Drew in the passing game? Will the new guy be smarter?
And on the other side of the football, here’s Norv Turner, a flat out guaranteed firing by the end of the season. Phillip Rivers is either hurt, which everyone denies, or he’s regressed into a bad quarterback that steps off his back foot and throws terribly soft balls late in plays to the middle of the field. My respect for Rivers as a good player and competitor makes me think he’s lying, but hell, he might just be bad. His offensive line has been brutal most of the year, but now he’s stepping back and running out of the pocket even when there’s no pressure. It’s ugly. And there aren’t many guys that do less out side the pocket than Rivers. He absolutely won’t run, and that’s probably because he’s slow, he just throws the ball away and makes a scrunchy face. It’s hard to watch.
So… In review, a coach filling in for the last few weeks of the season against a coach that is getting fired. Two ugly offenses with quarterback displaying how not to step into your throw. Monday Night game. Hopefully there’s a good movie on HBO5 Monday Night, because otherwise I’ll have to watch this.
New York Giants @ New Orleans Saints Monday Night Football Pick: The New York Giants could, quite possibly, lose every single game the rest of the way in what would be seen as an epic collapse, but would actually be an epic schedule that grabbed them by the collar and slapped them right in their overrated faces. I know, I don’t like the Football Giants much, and it shows, but I’m also keeping it real here. Who do they play going forward? After this very tough game at New Orleans, the Giants host Green Bay, travel to Dallas, host Washington, battle the Jets, and host Dallas on the last Sunday of the season. Okay, they should beat the Redskins, but besides that, will they be favored in any other game? I don’t think they should be.
It’s possible that Drew Brees absolutely slicing up the Giants’ secondary like a perfectly cooked turkey – okay, like mashed potatoes (easy cutting). But the Giants post a tough rush to stop with Justin Tuck and company, and Brees will have to deal with that all day long.
New Olreans is the better football team, playing at home where they are very good. Drew Brees is coming off a bye week to ready himself for New York – and that can’t be good for Giants’ fans. New Orleans has a couple weird losses, but has otherwise been very good this season. BUT… Yes, there’s a but, they play a lot of close football games, and as much as I don’t like the Giants, I find them a very good value getting a touchdown against a Saints team that has struggled against Carolina, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, and Atlanta. I know this is the time when Eli Manning starts evening out those TD to INT ratios with some questionable throws, but doesn’t that have to stop one of these years?
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots Monday Night Football Pick: I usually hate taking any team that is a dog over 14 points (okay, it’s not “usually” it’s “always hate”) but this one is tough to hate. The Chiefs have struggled against elite passers, and the Patriots come to town with one of the most accurate and elite passers of all time. Tom Terrific played one heck of a game last week, and he’s looking ready to take off in the Super Streaky kind of way that only guys like Tom Brady can do.
The Chiefs have been banged up all year, and now they kid they traded for a few years ago from the Patriots (Matt Cassel) is on the bench with an injury. Tyler Palko will be getting the start for the Chiefs, and while the Patriots haven’t been the stingiest of defenses this season, they’d seem to have a good chance at giving the Chiefs offense the stink-eye a little bit. Kansas City doesn’t run the ball well. They don’t throw the ball well. They don’t even do these things mediocre. Bad to real bad is what I’m thinking. And that’s with Cassel!
Listen, it’s Monday Night Football (somehow they put together this match-up for prime time, awesome) and crazy things can happen when a team is a huge dog in a big game like this. The Chiefs have been competing, they are 4-5 on the season, just a game out of first in their division – but the Pats are looking better. The defense looked decent last week. Just in time for me to take them as a huge favorite!
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers Monday Night Football Pick: It’s a lot of points, and last time these two went head to head, it was a heck of a lot closer than people expected. Aaron Rodgers can’t be perfect for an entire season, and since I just traded him in my fantasy league, I’m lifting the curse of greatness from Aaron’s shoulder pads! You are free Aaron, have a stinker if you feel so inclined!
No, but on a non-fantasy/real football note –this guy is playing as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. Tom Brady, when he’s on fire, is as good as it gets, but Aaron doesn’t have anybody to look up at. His team can’t run it, he is responsible for some of the most difficult throws in the game, and his completion percentage is ridiculous despite all that. The Packers are well coached and they game play awesomely.
But still, I like the Vikings. You know Minnesota thinks they can win and ruin the Packers undefeated start to the season. They were close last time and Ponder gets better and better the more time he plays. Harvin is healthy and explosive and Peterson looks to attack a defense that has given up a lot of yards, a lot of big plays.
I think Minnesota uses a powerful rushing attack to stick close to Green Bay. The Packers don’t have that same counter punch with the rushing attack, so no early lead is a sure thing. I like the points, that’s what I’ll take.
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars Monday Night Football Pick: The Ravens should wrap up the Jacksonville Jaguars pretty easily on Monday Night. Baltimore is not the team I’d want my freshman quarterback to go up against, especially when I don’t have receiving threats that put the secondary on alert. That will be Blaine Gabbert’s assignment on Monday Night Football, where the Ravens always get a kick out of playing on the big stage. He’ll be throwing to Jason Hill, Mike Thomas, and Marcedes Lewis. Jack Del Rio seems to hate throwing the ball to Maurice Jones Drew, so already the Jaguars are helping the Ravens out a little.
Don’t get me wrong, Blaine has played pretty good football thus far (in fact, all the rookie quarterbacks have been really dang good this year) but I think he’ll have a whole new problem on his hands with Baltimore in town coming off a win over Houston after a nice week off (their bye in Week 5).
Ray Rice is going to be a tough stop in the passing game, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Jaguars will continue their solid season stopping the rush. If Joe Flacco is on point, this will be a boring game to watch – if he’s not, I still think they pull a 10 point win out in Jacksonville.
The Dallas Cowboys just aren’t as good as we all think they are. Listen to Vegas, they seem to be pretty well informed about how good a team is. Last week the Cowboys were only 3 point favorites in San Francisco – a team currently saddled with no rushing attack and Alex Smith throwing to an injured Braylon Edwards and an injured Michael Crabtree and of course a big bad man named Vernon Davis. Frank Gore hasn’t looked good, either. The 49ers are good against the run, sure, but terrible against the pass. So if they were only a 3 point favorite in San Fran (and they barely managed to push that game), how good does Vegas really think they are? You know they aren’t enamored with the 49ers…
Now, Washington on the other hand, they’ve looked pretty solid. They have run the ball well with a team consisting or Roy Helu Jr and Tim Hightower (not in that order) and Sexy Rexy has put up numbers under center. Shanahan’s magic is working!!! Dallas has a very questionable secondary, so Grossman shouldn’t have too much trouble putting in work on Monday Night.
To add more power to Washington’s side, the Cowboys are hurt up and down the board. Dez Bryant might play, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to practice all week so he can’t possibly be 100%. The same can be said for Felix Jones who hasn’t done anything all season. Myles Austin is also out for the Cowboys, taking Romo’s #1 target away from him. The offensive line hasn’t been good, and that leaves a healthy QB at risk. Throw in the fact that Romo has broken rips and soft lungs and you might just have a recipe for a Cowboy disaster.
Getting a field goal plus is good enough for me as I’ll take the Road-Skins.
The Rams are beat up, they have no real threats offensively for young gunner Sam Bradford, and defensively they are barely above average. The Giants look like a MASH episode right now, hurting just about everywhere, especially in the ol’ ego department. That being said, the Giants have to play better, right? I know Sam Bradford is supposed to play, but in getting interviewed last week he admitted that there was no way he’d be playing in Week 2 – so mentally, even if he does play, he’s already behind. I think the Giants will go to the ground a little more in Week 2, and possibly win by a touchdown at home on Monday Night. In all honesty, I don’t like this game in many regards – tough pick, eh match-up, and injuries effecting the game across the board.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins Monday Night Football Pick: Oh the Patriots are an interesting beast, just a couple weeks ago they got blasted by the Detroit Lions in the pre-season, and that was a game where Thomas Brady and company were in for a big chunk of that game. The young defense that was supposed to get better over the offseason with big additions up front and the maturing of the youth got shredded by Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Lions.
But that’s just one game, right, and I can’t change everything I believe about the Patriots over just one game. I see a really good team that always hits the regular season running. A team that got better over the offseason while adding two wily vets (Chad Johnosn and Albert Haynesworth) that will come to play at their full potential.
I don’t think the Dolphins are consistent enough to get it done here. They have some upside, some big play guys, definitely – but they still don’t have a great offensive line, and Chad Henne won’t be better without a running game to lean on. I’ll take the Pats.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings Monday Night Football Pick: It’s amazing when you can look at numbers and hardly recognize which team is 9-4 and which team is 5-8. Obviously, this isn’t just a game of statistics or the Chargers would only have a couple losses – but Chicago scores just 2 points per game more than the Vikings and they give up just a few points less. The average point-differential for the Bears is just +2 – but I’m sure that was skewed down a bit after the Patriots went ballistic on them last week. But it’s outside of obvious stats like points against where the difference is harder to explain. The Vikings gain more yards and allow fewer yards than the Patriots. They hold the ball longer and take fewer penalties. You wouldn’t think they’d be better in all those categories, but the numbers are there. The numbers obviously lie from time to time, but they are there.
This game is without a line because nobody wants to give the game a spread when they know the Vikings are almost an impossible bet. They will almost surely be putting rookie quarterback Joe Webb in as their starting quarterback (unless Brett Favre makes a miraculous recovery). Tarvaris Jackson is on IR and Brett’s career is in the ER.
The Bears have been lucky with injuries, keeping most of their core alive and well through the first 14 weeks of the season. They only have 2 players on IR, both of which were IR’d before the season. Desmond Clark and Marcus Harrison are questionable and Pisa Tinoisamoa is out for the regular season. So they have one regular guy not playing this week. The Vikings have 6 guys on IR, a couple guys out, and a few more questionable.
I just don’t find a reason to go with the Vikings – the game is even suited to better fit the Bears, as it will be an outside game because the Vikings’ dome is all out of air.
If the Vikings are without Favre, I don’t know, I’d take the Bears -7 (there offense isn’t good enough to go much further than that, and even 7 is scary). If Favre plays, I might take the Vikings +4. So it’s a tough one. Hope that helps!