Ambassador At Large went 9-6 last week, with the Ravens-Texans game being postponed due to Hurricane Ike. Overall, that leaves me with a respectable but not terrific 58% winning percentage. It's time to get back to basics and that means... picking the home team to win. Home field advantage is big in the NFL. Len Pasquarelli points out that only 6 NFL teams have winning road records in the past 10 years. So when in doubt, I go back to this most basic rule. You might see a trend in this week's selections, my friends...
My picks for Week 3 (home team in CAPS, as always)
ATLANTA over Kansas City: At one point, Oakland was up 23-0 on the Chiefs. In Arrowhead. Remember when the Chiefs were invincible at Arrowhead? Boy did Herm Edwards take command of this team at the wrong time. If Darren McFadden could get over 150 against them, I rather think Michael Turner will get his yards too.
BUFFALO over Oakland: It pains me to say the Bills are for real, but for the moment they are. The Jacksonville win looks impressive, though we have to see what sort of a team the Jaguars turn out the be this year. Certainly they have the goods to take Oakland, but it'll be painful to watch, because Buffalo has — I harp on this all the time — the most hideous uniforms in sports, and the Raiders have some of the best. But will the Raiders even have a coach in time for this game? No one knows.
CHICAGO over Tampa Bay: Bears could have won at Carolina, but I knew they'd blow it and they did. Tampa Bay's a different story though. We Chicago fans know how unreliable Brian Griese is, and I expect my team will take full advantage.
Carolina over MINNESOTA: I still think the Vikes are overrated. They were saddled with three brutal games to start off the year against teams I'm thoroughly convinced are better than they are. So what that two of them are at home? Jake Delhomme and co. won at San Diego, so surely they can handle the shell-shocked Vikings and their Stay-Puft Stadium. Losing a game like the Vikings did to the Colts can do a number on your psyche. Watch the Vikings in close games this year, waiting to find a way to lose. Better yet, watch their fans.
NEW ENGLAND over Miami: I am never, ever picking the Patriots to lose in the regular season again. I knew they were going to win and I let the pundits talk me into the Jets. A Jets team that had to struggle in fits to top Miami, which subsequently got plastered at Arizona. A wasted pick. Never again. Anyway, this game sets up all sorts of "Belichick meets his master" intrigue since Bill Parcells now runs the Dolphins establishment. That's about the only intrigue this game will have, unless someone dives into Matt Cassel's knee also, and even then, I'd pick the Patriots if they started having Randy Moss throw it to himself. Like I said, if they win their next 14, I'll be right every time. Watch.
NEW YORK GIANTS over Cincinnati: Whatever happened to strength of schedule? The Giants open the year at home against their weakest division rival who just made a coaching change. Then they get St. Louis on the road. Then they get... the Bengals? At home? New York could be 3-0 without having proven a doggone thing. And they probably will be. Cincinnati's defense has somehow regressed from last year, and I'm buying more into the whole Carson-Palmer-Hasn't-Been-The-Same-Since-The-Knee-Injury theory with each passing week. Poor guy.
TENNESSEE over Houston: Clearly, the Titans don't need Vince Young in the short term, at least not when playing the Bengals. Interestingly, given the emotional issues Young is going through, Kerry Collins has his own checkered past in this regard, most relevant the time he told Dom Capers that his heart wasn't in it to lead the Carolina Panthers, the team he'd quarterback to within a game of the Super Bowl in just its second season. I don't want to be glib and make fun of these guys. I'm glad Collins got himself straightened out and I rather think Young will too. It's just an uncanny coincidence that a young basket case gets backed up by an ex-young basket case. More to the point, do we see Matt Schaub making headway against the Titan defense? Didn't think so. Moving on.
WASHINGTON over Arizona: If that Jason Campbell 67-yard bomb to Santana Moss didn't remind you of Terry Bradshaw's 73-yard game-winner to John Stallworth in Super Bowl XIV... well... you haven't been watching as much NFL Films footage as I did as a kid.
DENVER over New Orleans: So this Eddie Royal fellow appears to be pretty good. Not that the Raiders have a great secondary, but the Chargers have a pretty good one, and Jay Cutler had how many yards passing? And now we get the Saints secondary. In Denver. Where, as the immortal Mark Grace once said, "there's no gravity." I will be seriously bummed if there is less than 700 yards passing in this game. I also demand another spectacular Reggie Bush touchdown followed by a taunting penalty on Bush, while his team goes on to lose the game by two touchdowns.
SAN FRANCISCO over Detroit: Mike Martz avenges himself against the team that even he couldn't make good when he was a coordinator there. The Lions defense, trying to stop Frank Gore, will sure miss Shaun Rogers, who spent a lot of time in a losing effort making Steelers fans cringe every time he bowled into Ben Roethlisberger's separated shoulder. It's seldom that you see a large man tackle another large man and realize how much it must HURT to get landed on that way. But I was sucking in my breath every down for poor Big Ben, who doesn't look so big next to the 6'4", 350 pound Browns defensive lineman. Think about that, 6'4", 350. He's 7 inches taller than me, and two and a half times as heavy. That is a large man.
SEATTLE over St. Louis: This is getting ridiculous. Seattle has now lost its top six receivers. Having lost their first four, they sent out Seneca Wallace and Logan Payne to start against the 49ers. Well, that's what they would have done, but Wallace pulled his hammy in warmups, and then Payne went down early and is lost for the year. Are you kidding me? Did the entire Seattle Seahawks receiving corps pose on the cover of Madden '09? No, they didn't. Brett Favre, in a Green Bay uniform no less, was on the cover. So what the heck is going on? All I know is, after losing their first two by a 79-16 tally, I sure as heck can't pick the Rams on the road.
BALTIMORE over Cleveland: Last week I said Joe Flacco wouldn't win his road debut. Well, Ike knocked five of the Texans' eight roof panels off the stadium and the game got canceled. I was right, wasn't I? Too bad you don't get road experience when that happens. Now he gets the Browns. The Browns were not good enough to beat the Steelers or Cowboys but they're too good to be 0-3, right? They'll be desperate. But one thing I can't ignore is that in their first two games, the Browns have all of 16 points. Can I expect them to improve on that against the Ravens? I just can't make the pick. Baltimore wins a low-scoring punt-off. Which undoubtedly makes you wonder which team has the better punter, right? Well, I looked it up for you. Dave Zastudil is averaging 46.8 yards a kick for Cleveland, but Baltimore's Sam Koch had a cool 48.2 average. So there! Ravens by a field goal.
Meanwhile, this reminds me... the state of Ohio is 0-4 right now, and if Cleveland can't win this game, 0-6 is a distinct possibility. How might this influence the election? Will Ohioan displeasure with their pro football teams (never mind Ohio State's bad couple of weeks, losing Beanie Wells, nearly getting knocked off at home by Ohio before being humbled by USC) translate into change we can believe in on Election Day?
INDIANAPOLIS over Jacksonville: I'm only doing this out of habit. Neither team has looked its usual self. Jacksonville has been handled physically in its first two, which never happens. Indy's had to work to get 13 and 18 points in its first two games. Something's got to give. Is it too late for the Colts to go back to playing in the RCA Dome? If they were in there, I wouldn't have to even think about this game. But then, they wouldn't have lost so badly to the Bears either in the Dome.
PHILADELPHIA over Pittsburgh: When I was a kid I watched highlights of Jim Plunkett torching Dick Vermeil's Eagles and Ron Jaworski getting picked three times by Rod Martin in Super Bowl XV. From there, I decided the Eagles never played AFC teams well. I consistently pick them to lose games they should win against the AFC. And I've been right an awful lot of times, gotta say. Not this time though. They could have had that Dallas game, they're at home, and Pittsburgh has much less to play for. Especially since an Eagles loss would put them two back of the Cowboys, who are going to win in Green Bay. Which reminds me:
Dallas over GREEN BAY: Remember how the schedulers would send Brett Favre down to Texas Stadium every year and he would lose EVERY YEAR? Well, the Packers finally got the Cowboys in Lambeau and beat the snot out of them, which was sort of the beginning of the end for those mighty Cowboys teams of the mid-90s. No Brett Favre this time, though, and this is a Dallas team on the rise. Green Bay has so far had fun beating two overrated divisional rivals. America's Team is a whole different kettle of fish.
(monday) SAN DIEGO over New York Jets: I can see it now, end of the game, Chargers by 5, Jets driving with the ball... will we see another last-second San Diego meltdown? NO, Antonio Cromartie intercepts a horrible pass from Brett Favre!!! In the battle of you-can-bet-on-its, Favre's ill-timed picks are more dependable than San Diego's horrible end-game meltdowns. An angry bunch of Bolts win going away.
Last week: 9-6