The first NFL picks – one week late!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

I know I missed last week with this, but that’s what happens when you have so much great field hockey to take up space. The girls from Lakeland and Nansemond River just HAD to play two outstanding games last Saturday, taking up MY space! Please, ladies – let it happen again!

Washington 17, Atlanta 14. Can you believe it’s been 12 years since the Skins started 2-0? Well, I can, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been longer! But seriously, this could be interesting. Doug Johnson came off the bench last week to lead the Falcons to a decisive defeat of Dallas, but who better to stop him than Steve Spurrier, who coached Johnson at the University of Florida? Washington gets the Pick because Atlanta lost Brian Finneran, last year’s leading receiver, last week. If Patrick Ramsey’s trick knee acts up, though, the Falcons might fly away.


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Cleveland 30, Baltimore 6. This might be the Browns’ year, because they certainly deserve it. In three seasons, 20 of their games have come down to the last minute, 13 on the final play – including a 9-6 loss to Indianapolis last week on Mike Vanderjagt’s last-second field goal. Baltimore, which was mauled by Pittsburgh last week, isn’t even a shadow of the team that won the Super Bowl three seasons ago, so Cleveland should put this one away early.

Green Bay 27, Detroit 21. Joey Harrington (who I’m STILL touting as a future star) showed his stuff last week by throwing for 195 yards and no interceptions in a 17-for-30 performance and whomping of Arizona. On the other hand, the Lion pass defense gave up an NFL record 217 yards to the debuting Anquan Boldin. Now they have future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre and new-and-familiar Antonio Freeman to deal with. The Packer defense was embarrassing in last week’s loss to Minnesota, so Harrington might bring it down to the wire.

Indianapolis 10, Tennessee 3. While Steve McNair showed his tendency to get injured by breathing last week, Peyton Manning threw two interceptions and couldn’t engineer a touchdown. If these teams are going to fight it out for the AFC South like they did last year, they’ll need to step things up. Eddie George and Edgerrin James have to step it up for their respective teams this week, and hope their defenses come through. Indy’s came through more last week, giving the Colts the Pick.

Buffalo 24, Jacksonville 21. A bad defense is the only thing that’s kept the Bills out of the playoffs since Drew Bledsoe came to town, and with the addition of linebacker Takeo Spikes, defensive tackle Sam Adams and most recently, safety Lawyer Milloy (please tell me what kind of parents would name their children Lawyer or Takeo?), the final piece may be in hand. Judging by their 31-0 whomping of New England last week (and I bet that former Patriot Bledsoe was saying ‘Nyah nyah nyah&uot; in the back of his mind afterward), the Bills could go far this season, and if they can hold off a Jacksonville squad that’s ticked after collapsing in last week’s loss to Carolina, another puzzle could be on the way to completion.

Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 17. Here’s another mystery. The Chief defense, the main reason why the team went a dismal 8-8 last year, shut down LaDanian Tomlinson in last week’s win over San Diego, while Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue were squashed in a victory over Baltimore. On the other hand, Priest (again with the names!) Holmes and Trent Green tore it up for the Chief offense, while Tommy Maddox and Plaxico Burress proved that the Steeler offense was fine without a ground game, temporarily. Holmes gives the Chiefs the Pick, but this one’s up for grabs.

Houston 30, New Orleans 10. David Carr and the rest of the Texans have all the momentum in the world after slipping past Miami last week, and the Saints played one of their worst games of the millennium in a loss to Seattle. For the first time ever, the Texans went a full game without a sack or turnover, and they now try to grab their first winning streak. I hate to write it, but my Saints might be at the beginning of a long season.

Miami 30, New York Jets 3. All streaks come to an end, as the Dolphins found out last week when they lost their first season opener since 1998 (to the Texans, no less!). Now they hope to end another; the Jets have beaten them the last five times the teams have played in New York. However, the Floridians have the edge because Ricky Williams is anxious to prove himself, and the Jets’ Swiss cheese-like defense should restore his self-confidence. Their offense, which amassed just 158 yards last week (against the Skins, no less!) isn’t much more promising.

San Francisco 56, St. Louis 21. Based on offense, this one might look close. Marc Bulger, again replacing Kurt Warner, led the Rams to a 6-1 record as a starter last year, and Marshall Faulk is ready to go after New York shut him down last week. The 49ers have the always-reliable combo of Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens, who combined for 341 and three touchdowns in last week’s 49-7 rout of Chicago. Then we examine the defenses, and why the Pick is so wide; the Niners forced five turnovers and held the Bears to 127 yards, while the Rams let Tiki Barber have 141 by himself in a 23-13 embarrassment.

Seattle 28, Arizona 27. Last week, the Seattle defense shut down the formerly top-ranked offense of New Orleans, recording four turnovers and three sacks. Arizona might not have the reputation that the Saints’ offense has (or HAD!), but Jeff Blake threw for a league-high 363 yards and rookie Anquan Boldin caught 10 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s loss to Detroit, and a certain guy named Emmitt Smith is in the Card backfield. On the other hand, the Seahawks churned out 270 yards last week, and should rack up even more against one of the league’s worst defenses.

Tampa Bay 16, Carolina 13. I’m not seeing this as a blowout, because Carolina, who stayed with the Bucs in 12-9 and 23-10 losses last week, is one of the few teams that Tampa didn’t dominate last season. But I’m not predicting an upset either, because Brad Johnson and Joe Jurevicius shouldn’t have many problems with a defense that hasn’t been the same since Kevin Greene left.

Oakland 26, Cincinnati 5. Both teams were disappointing last week, but disappointment is normal for Bengals fans. Rich Gannon threw for 264 yards in last week’s loss to Tennessee, but Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter seemed like they couldn’t care less. The Raiders will win today, but they’ll be in trouble against teams with talent.

Philadelphia 35, New England 33. Games like this are why I need medication every Sunday. Both teams were slaughtered last week, and the steam coming from these two squads could resemble a mushroom cloud. Neither offense did diddly in shutout losses, and their overworked defenses couldn’t have played to their potential. The Eagles get the Pick because they haven’t loss two straight for three years, but don’t be surprised if that’s another streak that comes to an end.

Denver 9, San Diego 3. Denver didn’t deserve to beat Cincinnati last week, as Jake Plummer threw like he was looking through a kaleidoscope, overthrowing open receivers and tossing three interceptions. Clinton Portis carried for 120 yards and two touchdowns, but the San Diego defense won’t stand around like Cincinnati’s did. The Broncos will win if they can stop LaDanian Tomlinson, which is never easy.

Minnesota 21, Chicago 3. Last week, the Bears were rocked by a starving San Francisco defense. Minnesota’s isn’t that good, but Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss (the NFL’s answer to Archie and Edith Bunker) tore up host Green Bay, something that few teams have been able to do in the past five seasons. All the Vikings need to do is score, because the Bears’ offense certainly won’t.

New York Giants 28, Dallas 21. Bill Parcells returns to battle the team that he led to a pair of Super Bowls, and he’s 1-1 against his former Giants. Monday, he should go on the downside of .500 as his Cowboys were mauled by Atlanta last week, while the Giants stormed past St. Louis. Neither team should contend this year, but the New York should be north of Dallas, and not just on the map.