The football season in the NFL has come down to the haves and the have nots, and we know that - for another season anyway - the burgundy and gold will reside with the have nots. But this is the second season the players and coaches talk about, and as of now everyone has the same record. Four games gets it all started this weekend, let’s take a look.
The first game gets underway in Seattle tomorrow with a 4:30 p.m. kick. New Orleans, certainly to the Vegas crowd, appears to be a strong favorite (N.O. -10 1/2 pts); however, offensively speaking, the Saints have quite a few dents from injury, having lost running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory to injuries this week. With tight end Jimmy Graham and safety Malcolm Jenkins yet to practice this week, the Saints have a few holes.
With a 7-9 record, it’s hard to take Seattle seriously, yet they get Matt Hasselbeck back to play quarterback for them. He’s been in the Super Bowl presence before, and he and his teammates are playing at home, so I don’t think the players will be overwhelmed. This game appears to be so lopsided that it makes me think Seattle has a chance. But ultimately, Sean Payton is a slippery offensive coach and I don’t think Pete Carroll can match him. I like the Saints to win, but not cover.
The nightcap on Saturday at 8 p.m. is what most people want to see. The Jets are 2 1/2-point underdogs to the Colts in Indianapolis, which seems about right. Rex Ryan has been doing his usual bluster, and I think at this point of the season it’s turned into white noise. This game will come down to how well the Jets can control the game offensively; they need to be able to run the ball and keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines, because Manning will make plays with whoever he has on the field with him. It’s either that or Rex has to employ a scheme that will harass Manning, and I don’t see that happening.
I like the Colts and I think they cover.
On Sunday, Baltimore will tee it up in Kansas City at 1 p.m. This is going to be the most intriguing game of the weekend to me. Kansas City, having come from out of nowhere this season, has an image problem for most of us, and they are taking on the vaunted defense of Ray Lewis and his Raven constituents. But Kansas City is improving every week, and the Chiefs can run the ball, which I think will be the difference in this game. Brian Waters the all-everything guard for Kansas City needs to be on the field, and if he is, Lewis will have his hands full. Too full, I think. I like the Chiefs to win this one outright, even though Baltimore is favored by 3.
The second game of the Sunday doubleheader is another game that makes your brain twist. There seem to be two very distinct outcomes, for Mike Vick and the Eagles. Vick is “Good Mike,” and we all get to watch a track meet, or it’s “Bad Mike” and Green Bay has an easy time of it, so to speak. I favor a third scenario, which is “So-So-Mike,” because Green Bay has shown a resilience this season few other teams have. The Packers defense is their strength and they have a wicked pass rush, which is the defensive device that turns Vick into “So-So-Mike.” Throw in a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers that is as good as anybody in the game today and you’ve got all the ingredients for a butt-kicking. With Green Bay catching 2 1/2 points, I have to go with them. They may not win, but they’ll keep it close.
If nothing else it should be a couple of good days of NFL football, while we all wait with baited breath for the faux college national championship game. Hey, NCAA and BCS folks, see if you can find your checkbooks and do what every other sport at any level does: Make the champ earn it instead of doing the beauty pageant with the winner and first runne- up.