What a great week 1. As an Eagles fan, just about everything that could go right went right. Not only did we beat the lowly Texans handily, but all our division rivals lost so we're already in our rightful place atop the division, and I don't expect us to give it up anytime soon. Correll Buckhalter was a beast inside, giving our offense the power back dimension we've sorely missed for three seasons, and Donte Stallworth had himself a pretty solid first game in the midnight green as well. The defense came up with five sacks, but that's not much to brag about against Houston's woeful line, and we'll see how much pressure they can put up against a legit NY Giants o-line in Week 2.
But really, how can I not be excited about the Eagles' offense? Stallworth's speed changes EVERYTHING. To me, it's the equivalent of the Spurs all of a sudden acquiring Chris Bosh to play center. All of a sudden you can't double team Duncan and basically they'd get whatever shot they wanted every trip down court. You know, unless TP messed it up.
Well, that's basically what kind of shape the Eagles are in this season. Now Donovan McNabb will see the same weak defenses and coverages that Duante Culpepper faced for years and years in Minnesota with Randy Moss. The opposing teams' free safety will have to double team deep on every play, so the entire middle of the field will be wide open for RB Brian Westbrook or TE LJ Smith on crossing routes, where they'll easily win speed match-ups vs any strong safety or linebacker in the league. Even with TO, they haven't a guy with the pure speed that Stallworth brings to the table since the days of Fred Barnett, and he didn't play with an o-line that bought him enough time to take advantage of it.
This will only leave two options for defensive coordinators: 1) Either blitz heavy up the middle and hope they get to/fluster McNabb or 2) let the Eagles dink and dunk down the field and hope they either shoot themselves in the foot with penalties or drops or simply get impatient. Previously option 1 has worked the best against Andy Reid's offenses, but there is much more meat in the interior of the line than in years past, especially with Jamaal Jackson replacing weakass Hank Fraley at center. The Giants will bring the heat next week, but from the ends, and we'll see how well William Thomas and John Runyan hold up against Michael Strahan and Osi Umeniyiora.
For the Giants to win, their two-headed monster of Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs have to combine for at least 130 rushing yards, and the team has to have the ball for at least 34 minutes. If Eli Manning has more than 30 passing attempts, they're in big trouble. For the Eagles to win, McNabb has to suffer no more than three sacks and one turnover, and has o have less than 40 attempts. Brian Westbrook having over a combined 100 rushing/receiving yards is a good sign too.
As for the rest of the league, I'm happy to report that I got a lot of things right and made only one or two big mistakes. I don't know what I was thinking taking Oakland, they're miserable. Robert Gallery is easily the biggest OL bust since Tony Manderich. I felt bad for Aaron Brooks. The game wasn't his fault. When he wasn't running for his life, his TE Courtney Anderson was dropping every pass that came his way. It sure is gonna be ugly for them this year.
And perhaps the Rams defense will be spunkier than I gave them credit for under new coordinator Jim Haslett. But for the most part I think I've got most of these teams pegged pretty early on, and I've damn near torn my labrum patting myself on the back for telling everyone how good the Ravens will be this year with Steve McNair at the helm. Even though I was a pedestrian 10-6 picking winners and losers, I finished a very healthy 11-5 vs the spread. But don't count on that ever happening again this year. Everybody knows Week 1 is always the easiest gambling week.
To my credit though, Peter King went either 6-8-2 or 7-9. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/peter_king/09/07/week1/index.html
I'm not sure how to compute it because the fat bastard picked two scores that would've been a tie according to the spread.
And the Sports Guy went 7-9 as well. At least he can take pleasure in having beaten the Sports Gal, who checked in with a miserable 5-11. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060908
What were the highlights of the week? Off the top of my head the top three go something like this...
- Watching Reggie Bush play. Even though it was only Cleveland, the guy let everyone know right away that he's going to be a phenom. Right now a Brian Westbrook-like stat line will be his absolute floor, and even Faulk's prime 1,000-1,000 years in St. Louis might not be enough of a ceiling. The Saints will join the Iggles, and the Colts as Must See TV for me every Sunday, and I'm leaving the door open on Arizona as well since their offense looks to be pretty exciting as well.
- Impressing everyone at the sports bar with my wizardry. I was calling plays on the money all afternoon before they happened, and I even got the woman to my left ask if I had been a coach at some point, the way I was nailing all the details. My absolute topper though was predicting that the Jaguars would run a quarterback draw for Byron Leftwich on 3rd and goal from the 4 yard line. They tried two lob balls previously that didn't come close to working, and the spread formation they trotted out there looked a little too familiar to me. The Vikings would run the QB draw around the 5 yard line all the time with Culpepper, and now Mike Tice is their assistant coach...
- Witnessing the Fox cameras catching the always-reserved Andy Reid telling an assistant coach "watch this" right before the brilliant play-action bomb to Donte Stallworth. I was watching this game with a bunch of Eagles fans and we all caught it right away and knew something fancy was going to be in the works. It's a credit to Reid's play calling skills that he knew he'd have a wide open man there, and he set it up perfectly. As always, YouTube has the proof, it's right at the beginning of the clip, you have to read Reid's lips.
Anyway, here are this week's picks...
Buffalo at Miami (-6) Nick Saban and Duante Culpepper will be out for some redemption, and the Bills vets are in a bad mood over the treatment of veteran Troy Vincent. Dolphins to win and cover.
Carolina at Minnesota (+1) The Panthers are banged up everywhere, the Vikings are coming off the high of an opening week road win on Monday Night Football. All the signs point to the home team here, but I'm gonna go with the better coach and trust John Fox to figure out a way to come out ahead here. Panthers to win and cover.
Cleveland at Cincinnati (-10.5) I'm not crazy enough to pick an upset, but the Browns usually do a decent job on Chad Johnson, and T.J. Whosyomomma might still be out. Plus between Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, the Brownies will find a way to score a few themselves. Bengals to win, Browns to cover.
Detroit at Chicago (-9) An early chance for the Bears D to cram Mike Martz' fancy playbook right into Roy Williams' big mouth. However Detroit's defenders will be spunky, at least for a month or so before they quit, so the game should stay relatively close. Bears to win, Lions to cover.
Houston at Indianapolis (-13.5) These early season point spreads are ridiculous. Two touchdowns is way too much for an Indy team that has yet to prove that they've adequately replaced Edgerrin James. And the Colts defense wasn't exactly too impressive against the Jints either. Colts to win, Texans to cover.
New Orleans at Green Bay (+2.5) Isn't this the final insult for Brett Favre? They're underdogs at home against a Saints outfit that would shock the world if it could even manage to finish 3rd in its division. Just retire already. Saints to win and cover.
Giants at Philadelphia (-3) Obviously it's early, but this could very well be the only Week 2 matchup between two future playoff teams. Arizona-Seattle, Kansas City-Denver, and Jacksonville-Pittsburgh could all prove me wrong, but we'll see. If the Eagles are as legit as I think they are, they win this game going away. Eagles to win and cover.
Oakland at Baltimore (-12.5) I'm only going to take my chances with one huge favorite, and here it is. The Raiders are too inept, on both sides of the ball, to give the Ravens any kind of competitive game. This coupling belongs on Saturday really. Ravens to win and cover.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-5.5) Haven't picked an upset yet, so here goes. Jon Gruden and co. pick themselves off the mat and turn it around on the road. For the most part the Bucs have owned Michael Vick, and I'm hoping the trend continues. Buccaneers to win and cover.
Arizona at Seattle (-7) I've picked the Cards to make the playoffs (mostly because of the "only 7 returning teams out of 12" rule, but they won't get there without the D playing substantially better than it did last week vs the Niners. Look for all the Seahawk receivers to be on their games, for fear of losing playing time to Deion Branch. Seahawks to win and cover.
St. Louis at San Francisco (+3) Upset # 2. I'm not sold on the Rams quite yet and the Niners are looking quite frisky, especially on offense with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Antonio Bryant. 49ers to win and cover.
Kansas City at Denver (-11) Giving Denver 11 points after how lousy Plummer played in Week 1? I don't get it. They'll be lucky just to win the game, and that's with Damon Huard at QB for the Chiefs. Broncos to win, Chiefs to cover
New England at Jets (+6) I've been burned too many times by thinking that Chad Pennington can ever get the better of the Patriots, so I won't pick the upset here. Not the way the Jets run the ball... But, if there's anyone on the planet who knows the holes in New England's defensive schemes, it's Eric Mangini. Looks like a field goal game to me. Patriots to win, Jets to cover.
Tennessee at San Diego (-12) I don't think the Titans will let themselves get pushed around quite so easily as Oakland did vs San Diego. And Marty Ball's gonna get even Martier with a rookie QB. Chargers to win, Titans to cover.
Washington at Dallas (-6.5) I know Clinton Portis is out for the Redskins, but these two teams always play tight games. The quarterbacks will keep the other side in it, both ways. Cowboys to win, Redskins to cover.
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville (+2.5) No way the Jags let Willie Parker get off like Miami did. They're gonna put the game on Big Ben's shoulders. I say he's not ready for that yet. Here comes upset # 3 (and I'm already second guessing myself for not picking these teams for the playoffs). Jaguars to win and cover.