Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Week 2 in a can

This weekend I was saddened to see that the Fox announcing team of Sam Rosen and Bill Maas -- my nominee for the worst duo on TV two years running -- had been split up. However, I was absolutely delighted to discover that the mad scientists at Non-Stop Fox had seized on this opportunity to assemble an even worse pairing: Maas and Steve Byrnes. Listening to these two call Sunday's Carolina-Minnesota game was like listening to sports radio at the nursing home. Maas, as usual, played the role of your ignorant but overbearing neighbor with short thumbs, leading every sentence with "There's no doubt in my mind that ..." or "Everyone in the NFL knows ..." Byrnes, usually the trackside reporter for Fox's NASCAR coverage, was the rat-voiced host with material skimmed off Joe Buck's reject pile. If you live in one of the markets at the bottom of the NFC ladder, pay attention the next Sunday Fox has a seven- or eight-game package. Your afternoon might be spent at the mercy of the Nobody (Byrnes) and the Know-Nothing (Maas).

Having calibrated the instruments after the Week 1 shakedown cruise, my record in the picks improved from a middling 9-7 to a could-have-been worse 12-4. If Ben Roethlisberger had done something rather than just sit around on his fat appendix, I could have been 13-3.

Atlanta 14, Tampa Bay 3: What could be worse than having Atlanta kicker Michael Koenen (4 missed field goals Sunday) on your fantasy team? Having Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms (0 TDs, 3 interceptions in each of his first two games) on your fantasy team. And what could be better than having Warrick Dunn (21 rushes, 134 yards) as your fantasy running back? Having Michael Vick (14 rushes, 127 yards, 1 TD) as your fantasy running back. Because God help you if you have him as your quarterback. Hey, how 'bout them Falcons? They've outscored two division rivals, the Panthers and Bucs, by a total of 34-9 in the first two weeks of the season. If the Panthers or Bucs ever get it together and beat ... well, anyone this year, Atlanta's 2-0 record will be looking My-T-Fine.

Minnesota 16, Carolina 13 (OT): Ryan Longwell now has as many touchdown passes as Brad Johnson this season. Every year, some team starts out with a couple close wins and gains a reputation as a gritty contender when in fact it was just lucky. In 2004, it was the Lions. In 2005, the Falcons. And in 2006, the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota's narrow victory over the Panthers, who looked terrible against a control sample (Atlanta) in Week 1, followed its narrow win against the Redskins, who looked worse than terrible against a control sample (Dallas) in Week 2. Lucky for the Vikings, they have four games still to come against the Lions and Packers. They're halfway to wildcard weekend already!

Baltimore 28, Oakland 6: It says here that the last time the Ravens started the season 2-0 was in 2000, when they won the Super Bowl. This perhaps says more about the 2001-05 Ravens than the '06 Ravens. Regardless, what's more impressive than the Ravens holding their first two opponents to a total of 6 points? How about the Ravens scoring 27 and 28 points two weeks in a row. Buccaneers fans: If Oakland, the worst team in the NFL, loses to Baltimore 28-6, what does it say about your team?

Indianapolis 43, Houston 24: Nothing builds self-esteem like a game against the Houston Texans. Looking to prove your offense can be high-powered even without T.O.? Play the Texans! Embarrassed about playing tight against your own brother on national TV? Play the Texans! Afraid of facing Reggie Bush? Play the Texans! Fantasy players should consider adding David Carr to their rosters. If any QB is guaranteed to get plenty of snaps against third-stringers playing prevent defense, it would be Carr. Sunday, he threw for 146 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter after Indy had built a 30-3 lead.

New Orleans 34, Green Bay 27: After suffering the first shutout of his career against the Bears last week, Brett Favre rebounded with 340 yards and 3 touchdowns. And here's what proved he was back to his old self: Down just 14-13 in the third quarter, Favre lofted a lazy pop fly into the end zone. Saints DB Omar Stoutmire drifted under it and recorded the out. Suddenly the New Orleans Saints are 2-0, and you know what that means: 6-8 from here on out.

Cincinnati 34, Cleveland 17: For the Bengals, so far, so good. For the Browns, so many games, so little hope.

Chicago 34, Detroit 7: The Lions can make just about any quarterback look great, so long as he's not wearing Honolulu blue and silver. That's not to say Rex Grossman isn't a great quarterback. He's been Roman Fucking Gabriel these first two weeks. But we're still dealing with a small sample size for Grossman, and Green Bay and Detroit appear to be way out on the shitty end of the bell curve.

Seattle 21, Arizona 10: I was about to make a snide comment about Edgerrin James' 3.6-yards-per-carry average on Sunday, but then I got a load of Shaun Alexander's 3.4-yards-per-carry average. And that was against the Cardinals. Matt Hasselbeck, lauded in this space not two weeks ago as the best quarterback in the NFC, put up Tim Hasselbeck-like numbers for the second week in a row: 12-of-27 for 221 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions. Blame Delilah.

New England 27, New York Jets 24: Bill Belichick and Andy Reid both set out to lose big leads Sunday. Reid's a closer.

San Diego 40, Tennessee 7: The Vince Young era in Tennessee began not a moment too soon, but 117 minutes too late. Young led the first scoring drive of his career Sunday, throwing a touchdown pass with 3 minutes left to cut San Diego's lead to 33-7. The Chargers then tacked on another touchdown -- with their second-stringers, who were just trying to run out the clock. Tennessee plays at Miami next Sunday. San Diego enjoys its third consecutive bye week.

Denver 9, Kansas City 6 (OT): Any Bronco fan who tells you he isn't panicking is lying.

San Francisco 20, St. Louis 13: If the 49ers could play the Rams four times a year, they could rebuild in half the time. The pregame line had St. Louis favored by a field goal, which was fitting, because with Scott Linehan as their coach, the Rams will be scoring a lot of field goals. When Linehan gets in the red zone, he's like a freshman at prom, all elbows and awkwardness. The Niners had problems of their own in the red zone Sunday -- two field goals and a turnover on three trips -- but got around them by scoring two TDs from outside the Rams' 20. Brilliant!

Philadelphia 30, New York Giants 24 (OT): Once again, Eli Manning stumbles through three quarters, has the game handed to him by his opponent in the fourth and comes away hailed as some kind of cardiac kid. I'm as sick of that act as I am of Tom Coughlin's "disciplinarian" bit -- though I suspect the Giants will take Manning's charade over Couchlin's any day of the week.

Buffalo 16, Miami 6: You know, maybe the Bills are good after all. You know, maybe the Dolphins aren't good after all.

Dallas 27, Washington 10: The playbook that Al Saunders famously brought to the Redskins is 700 pages long. Those 700 pages produced 3 Washington points Sunday night. Meanwhile, busted coverage by the Dallas special teams produced 7 Washington points. Imagine what would have happened if Washington had only the second-highest-paid offensive coordinator in the NFL. The Cowboys' victory gives their quarterback one more week to believe the crowd is chanting "Drew" rather than ...

Jacksonville 9, Pittsburgh 0: Last year against the Jaguars, Tommy Maddox cost the Steelers the game when he threw a late interception to Rashean Mathis. Never to be outdone, Ben Roethlisberger threw two late interceptions to Mathis. Roethlisberger played like ... well, like a guy who crashed his motorcycle, burst his appendix and pulled his hamstring. And who hadn't practiced since February. On the other side of the ball, last year I wondered whether and when a team would beat the Steelers by exploiting the free-lancing tendencies of Pittsburgh defenders, particularly Troy Polamalu. Answers: "Yes," and "Week 2 of 2006."

SEASON: 21-11
(2005 through Week 2: 18-14)

Down and Distance's exclusive KAPOW-ER RANKINGS are back for their second year. The product of a simple formula, the rankings have predicted 10 of the last 16 Super Bowl winners. Further, 14 of the last 16 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the KAPOW-ER system. Unlike with other, lesser rating systems, no opinion is involved in formulating these rankings. None. Teams are ranked on a centigrade scale, with 100 representing the NFL's strongest team and 0 its weakest. Don't like where your team is ranked? Sheesh, it's only Week 2. (Key: WK2 = This week's ranking. WK1 = Last week's ranking. POW = KAPOW-ER centigrade score)
1T1 Chargers100.00T1710Jets 51.58
2T1 Ravens 99.55T172049ers 51.58
3T1 Bears 98.821913Cardinals48.98
44 Falcons 86.302026Broncos 44.63
56 Bengals 72.91215 Eagles 41.38
611 Jaguars 70.692221Browns 35.94
79 Seahawks 69.752318Redskins 34.99
814 Colts 64.152429Panthers 33.12
917 Bills 59.812525Dolphins 32.86
1022Cowboys 59.232628Texans 32.06
1112Saints 59.202727Chiefs 31.67
1216Patriots58.5628T30Packers 28.92
1315Vikings 57.182923Titans 23.80
148 Steelers53.793024Lions 19.58
157 Rams 52.5631T30Raiders 3.60
1619Giants 52.1732T30Bucs 0.00

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