ravens @ patriots
can the patriots win without randy moss? they've sort of been doing it for almost a year, so i don't see why not. but the schedule looks tough, and defensively this patriots team is not as good as we've come to expect from belichick. overall, the team is full of young players, and with eight picks in the first four rounds of next year's draft, i fully believe that belichick is building his next super-team, which may take shape a few years down the line. baltimore is an interesting test to see how competitive new england will be this year. the ravens, having already beaten the steelers (without roethlessberger) and the jets (without an offense), could do a lot for their reputation by beating the patriots (without moss). but i wouldn't go putting this team in the super bowl yet: their one loss was in week 2 to the hapless, terrible cincinnati bengals, and this does not look good on a resume. in that game, joe flacco threw four interceptions, and the ravens scored only 10 points for the second time in a row to open the season. since then, they've really picked up their offense, averaging 24 points over the last three games. give ray lewis and that defense three touchdowns and a field goal, and they'll win every time. i like the ravens in this game, as the patriots will probably need a couple weeks to get used to life without moss. but until joe flacco shows more consistency, and convinces me that that four INT performance against cincy was a fluke, i would view any super bowl predictions with a healthy dose of skepticism.
lions @ giants
speaking of healthy doses of skepticism, the giants. as i write this, the giants are number one in the nfl in yards allowed. this is the same team that, all of three weeks ago, gave up almost 70 points in two games. so what happened? well, the bears came to town, and my prediction of mike martz having a field day against a witless giants defense was slightly off the mark. the giants racked up ten sacks in the game, knocking out two quarterbacks. osi umenyora and justin tuck look, once again, like guys who won a super-bowl not all that long ago. but i won't jump off my "giants suck" bandwagon, not at the moment at least. this is a team that gets frustrated when things don't go their way, and when the giants get frustrated, they seem to loose lopsided games. top-flight teams don't loose by three scores to the titans. the giants seem to be ready, at the drop of a hat, to stop trying; if adversity strikes again, i won't expect them to get back up. adversity may come to town in the form of the lions. in spite of the fact that everyone understands how much better today's lions are than the 0-16 team of two years ago, detroit still found themselves with a gnarly losing streak they needed to break. and break it they did, with a 38-point win over the also-up-and-coming rams. shaun hill has been lights out filling in for matthew stafford, and javhid best, much to my whatever-the-opposite-of-surprise is, is an early rookie of the year candidate (but he'll probably loose it to bradford). at 1-4, the lions come into jersey desperate for a win over a contending team. with the nfc north looking all screwy and injured, a win over the giants could put detroit right in the middle of things, so go with the lions, who need it more. on the other hand, if the giants get another ten sacks, then maybe -- just maybe -- they might not totally suck.
oakland @ san francisco
ah, the niners. what a fucking disaster. if a team is widely picked to make the playoffs, and not infrequently picked as a super bowl contender, they probably shouldn't get blown out by seattle and kansas city. san francisco lost those two games by a combined score of 61-16. their other three losses were excruciatingly close, and all to teams that should be playoff-bound (saints, falcons, eagles). each of those three games could have been wins, had it not been for san francisco's multiple devastating mistakes on both sides of the ball. and that's just why the niners suck so far: if you fuck up really bad nine times in a game, you can kiss it goodbye. it seems like you can count on just that many monumental fuck ups every time the niners take the field. i haven't seen their discipline moving in the right direction and i don't expect it to be transformed in the space of a week. the raiders, meanwhile, are enjoying relatively good times. it really says a lot about how awful oakland football has become that a 2-3 start feels like a winning record. the raiders do look a lot more poised than they have been in the recent past. they haven't been out of a game since their season-opening debacle against tennessee, but neither have they notched a convincing win yet. of course, their big city rivals have yet to notch even an unconvincing win, so the raiders should really be heading into this game as favorites. it exhibits the power of preconceptions that they're one touchdown underdogs. there's no doubt that san francisco matches up well against oakland, especially with the injury to bruce gradkowski. with five division games in the second half of the season, a niner resurgence is not impossible; the team that's currently winning their division is starting a late-round rookie at quarterback (a mormon, no less), so the mountain to climb is not terribly steep. i think the niners beat oakland, and rattle off two more wins before their bye, getting them out of the basement. but i'd still go with oakland to cover the spread.
jets @ broncos
are the jets the best team in the afc?
no. the steelers are much better, and the colts still need to be regarded as the class of the nfl.
but. are the jets playing the best football in the afc RIGHT NOW?
absolutely. everything's falling into place. first, sanchez is five games in and hasn't thrown an interception yet (anyone who watched him last year is really struggling to believe this). second, the running back tandem of ladanian tomlinson and shonn greene is the best in the league. third, the jets defense is terrifying. and fourth, they have the best turnover differential in the entire league. add it all up and you get a team that looks pretty tough to beat right now.
the broncos have a lot of injury problems at half-back, and as a result they have the fourth-worst rushing offense in football. if this jets defense doesn't need to worry about the run at all on sunday, pray for kyle orton. barring a collapse by sanchez (which is utterly terrifyingly possible), or some sort of transcendent tim tebow miracle, i don't see any way for the broncos to win this match-up. my call: jets win by eight hundred million billion.
p.s. drew brees and the saints are obviously suffering the madden curse.
p.p.s. colt mccoy will get his teeth smashed in at pittsburgh, but when all is said and done, he and bradford will be the best quarterbacks to have come out of last year's draft.