A new round of Picks

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 11, 2005

The time between the end of one NFL season and the beginning of the next is probably the year’s longest seven-month period, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Let’s just hope that the Redskins start showing some of that fondness for winning this year.

Washington 10, Chicago 7. You know, it makes me feel old, but I can recall the Redskins knocking the Bears out of the NFL playoffs in both 1986 and 1987. Come to think of it, that was probably the last time that a meeting of these teams meant much.

Denver 23, Miami 6. Jake Plummer is like Vinny Testaverde used to be – he can throw like nobody’s business, but he keeps hitting jerseys of the wrong color. That’s why he threw for a team-record 4,089 yards last year, but still got picked off 20 times. Rod Smith finally got hot at 35 last year, racking up 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and Anthony Leslie is there for Plummer as well. The Bronco defense, which ranked fourth against the run last year, doesn’t even have Ricky Williams to deal with, as he’s still got a four-game suspension to serve.

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Carolina 20, New Orleans 13. After Hurricane Katrina, the Saints have become something of America’s sentimental favorite, but sentiment doesn’t win games, and it probably won’t today. Both teams are coming off disappointing seasons, but the Panthers won six of their last eight this year, and they’re healthy on both sides of the ball.

Minnesota 21, Tampa Bay 17. From a team standpoint, Minnesota did the right thing getting rid of Randy Moss (personally, I might have followed suit with Terrell Owens). On the other hand, that puts Dante Culpepper in the position Kobe Bryant was in last year with the Lakers – he based the entire season around trying to prove that he could win without his &uot;partner&uot; (in this case, Shaq), and the season ended up a debacle. If the Vikings get to the playoffs this year, we’ll know where the power in that pair was from. On the other hand, does anyone remember that the Bucs won the Super Bowl just three years ago? Seems like a decade.

N.Y. Jets 34, Kansas City 13. Has there ever been a team more night-and-day than the Chiefs? They’ve had one of the best offenses in the league the past two years, but their defense couldn’t stop a team of turtles. But now the gauntlet might swing straight at them – Priest Holmes and Trent Green, both cornerstones of the offensive success, are subpar with leg injuries. The Jets, on the other hand, may have Curtis Martin ready to go, but they’re getting Bridesmaids Disease, making it to the playoffs the past three years and not getting even to the AFC title game. If they’re not there this year, I’m jumping off the Chad Pennington bandwagon.

Houston 19, Buffalo 14. The Texans had (repeat, HAD) some serious momentum coming into this season – their record has improved every year of existence – but they got the tar beaten out of them by Tampa Bay in their last preseason game, and their defense was among the league’s worst last year. However, with Drew Bledsoe gone to Dallas, the Bills are led by J.P. Losman, who’s throw five passes in his career. Willis McGahee better hit the back machine in the weight room, because he’ll be carrying Buffalo’s offense this year.

Cincinnati 28,

Cleveland 27. This could be a war. The Bengals want to get off to a quick start after JUST missing the playoffs for the third straight year last season, while the Browns are anxious to show what they can do while healthy. Neither team’s defense is particularly talented, so whoever has the ball last wins here.

Pittsburgh 21, Tennessee 20. No, wait, THIS is today’s war. Today, we find out if Ben Roethlisberger is for real – for the first time in his career, he’ll be relying completely on his arm, as Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley are out with injuries. The Steeler defense was the AFC’s best last season, but there’s no sure gameplan with Steve McNair around. Pittsburgh gets the Pick because Tennessee’s defense is a little below reliable, but no surprises.

Seattle 26, Jacksonville 16. Oh man, another tough one?! Did I misspell the name of the schedule-maker’s kids or something? Seattle got its act together last season by taking the NFC West, and Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselback are back. Jacksonville finished 9-7 last season, but remember that they lost four of their last seven. If Fred Taylor, who’s running neck and neck with McNair for the &uot;Jim McMahon Most Brittle NFL Player Award&uot; stays healthy, the offense could do something. Seattle spent the off-season overhauling one of the league’s worst defenses, so today we see the results.

San Diego 30, Dallas 21. The Chargers want to prove that the 12-4 stunner they pulled on the AFC West last season wasn’t a fluke, while the Cowboys hope their 6-10 record was. Jerry Jones went shopping in the off-season and bought a new offense, while San Diego returns its entire starting lineup from last year’s playoff loss to the Jets. I’m picking stability over enthusiasm.

Detroit 24, Green Bay 10. I’ve been touting Joey Harrington for three years, and he’s had it with me if he doesn’t win. The potential’s always been there for Detroit, it’s just a case of bringing it together. This season, we find out if Brett Favre stuck around too long – with a defense holier than Pope Benedict, he could be looking at a tough time of things.

New York Giants 27, Arizona 12. I want to make something clear – I want Arizona to win, so Kurt Warner can show the Giants they shouldn’t have dropped him. Unfortunately, realism (and statistics) show that New York gets the deuce. Warner’s got up-and-comers like Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald to throw to, while Eli Manning – whom I’ll never cheer for because of his draft day temper tantrum – has Plaxico Burress to hit and Tiki Barber to handoff to.

St. Louis 30, San Francisco 6. After the tragic death of lineman Thomas Herrion, it’s hard not to root for the 49ers, but the fact is that they’re a young team with a new coach. St. Louis probably won’t get back to the playoffs this year, but this game will be a warmup for tougher opponents.

Indianapolis 21, Baltimore 17. Last year, after so many disappointments, Boston finally swatted aside their enemy Yankees and won the World Series. Now, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and the rest of a hungry Colt squad wants to follow suit on the gridiron. But don’t forget that the Raven defense that won them the Super Bowl four years ago hasn’t quite gone away, and quarterback Kyle Boller and running back Jamal Lewis breathed some new life into the Baltimore offense last year. The Colts get the Pick, but the Ravens could contend.

Philadelphia 13, Atlanta 10. Atlanta hasn’t forgotten that Philly kept them out of the Super Bowl last year, and Michael Vick has Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett in his backfield, so his passing, which fell off last year, might not carry as much as importance as it once did. But the Eagles know that there’s no excuses for not getting back to the Big Game this season.

Jason Norman is the sports editor for the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9614 or by e-mail at jason.norman@suffolknewsherald.com.