More than a quarter of the way through the 2009 season it has become evident that this season is being defined as one of haves and have nots. There are a handful of superior if not outstanding teams while at the other end there are a number of teams that are, quite bluntly, pathetic.
The long time NFL mantra of parity is being put to the test with four teams still seeking their first win. That makes for more than a quarter of the league -9 teams – that have yet to either savor a win or taste defeat.
Here’s a look at the 14 games to be played.
Kansas City (+6½) at Washington (Over/Under 38): The Chiefs continue to play hard but just come up short as they did again last week in losing at home in OT to Dallas. They now face their fourth straight NFC East opponent and it’s the weakest of the quartet. The Chiefs have played better than both the Buccs and Rams and it’s hard to justify the Redskins as such large favorites. Preference is for KANSAS CITY.
Houston (+4) at Cincinnati (45): Cincinnati continues to make believers out of skeptics as their fine defensive play from the second half of last season has carried over to this season and has the Bengals atop the AFC North at 4-1. Houston remains one of this season’s biggest disappointments as both their offense and defense have regressed from last season. The Bengals are playing with confidence. Preference is for CINCINNATI.
Cleveland (+14) at Pittsburgh (38): In a battle between two inept teams, Cleveland emerged from Buffalo with a 6-3 win, their first of the season after having lost in OT a week earlier. Pittsburgh again had a comfortable lead in Detroit but their inability to run the ball effectively allowed the Lions to have a chance to tie the game late. Preference is for the UNDER.
Baltimore (+3) at Minnesota (43½): This is a character tester for Baltimore following tough losses at New England and to Division rival Cincinnati. Their streak of 39 straight games without allowing an opposing runner to gain 100 yards came to an end. Preference is for the UNDER.
St Louis (+10) at Jacksonville (42): St. Louis is in the running for the worst team in the league, an honor for which there is, unfortunately, stiff competition. Four of their 5 losses have been by at least 19 points. After evening their record at 2-2, Jacksonville was routed last week in Seattle by a desperate team that had their starting QB return from injury. Preference is for ST. LOUIS.
New York Giants (+3) at New Orleans (47): This is the game of the week between a pair of unbeaten teams, one of which, New Orleans is rested following their Bye. QB Eli Manning will be fresh after sitting out the second half of Sunday’s rout of Oakland. Preference is for N. Y. GIANTS.
Carolina (-3) at Tampa Bay (40): It took a fourth quarter comeback by Carolina last week to prevent this game from being a battle between winless teams. The Panthers still suffer from poor QB play from Jake Delhomme while the Buccs have turned to second year QB Josh Johnson. Preference is for UNDER.
Detroit (+13) at Green Bay (48): Green Bay is rested following their Bye and are off of that Monday night loss in Minnesota. Packer QB Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 20 times this season while Detroit QBs have endured 17 sacks. That will take offenses out of good field position and tend to limit scoring chances. Preference is for the UNDER.
Philadelphia (-13½) at Oakland (40½): Oakland is in the discussion for the league’s worst team as they were again non-completive in losing to the Giants last week. They were down 31-7 at halftime and were held under 200 yards of total offense for a fourth straight week. Preference is for PHILADELPHIA.
Arizona (+3) at Seattle (47): The return of QB Matt Hasselbeck was evident last week as Seattle routed Jacksonville 41-0, their second home shutout this season. Preference is for SEATTLE.
Buffalo at New York Jets: Buffalo coach Dick Jauron could well be axed before much longer following his team’s pathetic display on offense in last week’s 6-3 home loss to previously winless Cleveland. The Jets are playing a second straight Divisional contest and will be close to a double digit favorite, a margin by which the Jets have not beaten the Bills since 2003. Preference is for BUFFALO.
Tennessee (+9½) at New England (43½): It’s time to stop making excuses for Tennessee as it appears clear they miss former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, now Detroit’s head coach. Expect a fully focused effort from the hosts against a team greatly lacking in confidence. Preference is for NEW ENGLAND.
Chicago (+3) at Atlanta (45½): The Bears return from their Bye week to face an Atlanta team that lit up what had been defensively sound San Francisco, putting up 35 first half points en route to an easy win. Preference is for CHICAGO.
Denver (+4) at San Diego (44): This may be the wrong time to jump aboard the Broncos bandwagon but there are compelling reasons to so in this specific matchup. First, the Broncos are playing to avenge their season ending 52-21 loss to the Chargers that decided the AFC West last season. Preference is for the OVER.
Watch every Tuesday for a brand new Pigskin Picks article.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe