Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Week 4 with a side of slaw

Another 8-6 week in the picks. I'm lucky I came out ahead at all after the events of the past week. First I mistook my Vicodin for Mentos, and then that dude cleated me in the melon. I'm a Cowboy, on a steel horse I ride.

Atlanta 32, Arizona 10: Michael Vick messed around and got a double-triple as the ... You know, it's just more fun to write about the Cardinals. After Sunday, Edgerrin James' per-carry average is down to 3.1 yards, a full yard lower than in all but one of his seasons in the league (2002, after he tore the ACL). At this rate, he'll need 323 carries just to reach 1,000 yards, but he won't be alive long enough to get them. That's what happens when your passing game is a mess. Last week, Kurt Warner was threatened with benching after he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. What an improvement: only two fumbles (one lost) and an interception returned for a touchdown. Performances like that had Cardinals fans calling for Matt Leinart, who then came into the game, lost a fumble and threw an interception. Atlanta fans can enjoy the win, but should perhaps ask themselves why they could muster only one offensive touchdown vs. six field goals against the hardly stout Cardinals.

Kansas City 41, San Francisco 0: Now there's the 49ers we know and love. Poor San Francisco gets caught in the middle of the highway as Damon Huard takes out the accumulated road rage of 5 years of carrying a clipboard.

Dallas 45, Tennessee 14: The Cowboys went out and stomped the Titans. Only one Titan stomped back.

Indianapolis 31, New York Jets 28: Oh, the collapse is looming. The Colts barely beat the Giants, clobbered the Texans (which doesn't count), squeaked past the Jaguars and, Sunday, needed nearly every second of the game to edge the Jets. They're the weakest of the three remaining unbeaten teams. After watching Sunday's limp game plan by the Colts -- 3 yard run, 3 yard run, incomplete pass, punt -- I was left asking: The Colts do realize that although it's Eric Mangini standing over there, he isn't coaching the Patriots secondary anymore, right? Talk about traumatized. And I'd think that Colts special teams coach Russ Purnell would get an earful from Tony Dungy this week after giving up an onside kick and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Except that I'm not sure anybody ever gets an earful from Tony Dungy.

Carolina 21, New Orleans 18: Carolina's now 2-2. At least no one had to get killed this week.

Cleveland 24, Oakland 21: The Fox Sports Game Trax report says, "The Cleveland Browns staged an improbable rally, winning 24-21 after trailing 21-3 in the first half." What's improbable about it? It's the Raiders. And if you don't know who Leigh Bodden is, just ask Randy Moss.

Chicago 37, Seattle 6: Wow, have the Seahawks fallen that far? More likely, the Bears have risen this far. Want trouble? Take a team that's tired of hearing about being the best in a soft division, put them on national TV against the defending conference champions, and then keep your head down. Will Rex Grossman get this team to the Super Bowl before the chip breaks his shoulder?

Philadelphia 31, Green Bay 9: Well, for a couple quarters that was uglier than it should have been. Attention Eagles equipment manager: You grease the footballs in practice, not in the real games.


Baltimore 16, San Diego 13: Late in the game, with San Diego up 13-7, the Chargers recovered a fumble at the Baltimore 25. In such a tight game, another field goal might well have iced it for the Chargers, but they shot themselves in the face: A sloppy clipping penalty pushed them back 15 yards, then Mike Scifres bobbled a perfect snap on the field goal attempt. The CBS announcer declared: "The Ravens defense always comes up with the big play!" With Ben Roethlisberger regressing to the mean (and he hopes it's his mean rather than Mike Tomczak's) and the Bengals reading their own press clippings, the early answer to the AFC North's big question -- Steelers or Bengals? -- is "Ravens."

Buffalo 17, Minnesota 12: Another week, another four field goals for Minnesota. This time around, it wasn't enough, but hey, it never is.

Houston 17, Miami 15: The Down and Distance Curse-in-Reverse strikes again! The week after we trash a team, that team invariably goes out and plays inspired ball. "Plays inspired ball," in this case, means "hangs on by their toenails as the league's most feckless offense stumbles toward a comeback like a chicken with its head and both legs cut off." The big difference for Houston this week was that David Carr's fourth-quarter heroics (one TD running, one TD passing) came when the team was down by less than four touchdowns. And look at this: Mario Williams got one and a half sacks! I don't see how the Dolphins can sink any lower than this, but they have the Packers on the schedule in Week 7 and the Lions in Week 12, so there's ample opportunity to do just that.

St. Louis 41, Detroit 34: This was my upset special, and it nearly went my way. I'm trying to get worked up over this, but it's just not happening. Good gravy: St. Louis is 3-1 and tied with Seattle for the division lead. The STL should enjoy it while it lasts.

New England 38, Cincinnati 13: Marvin Lewis is a great coach, and he's worked a near-miracle in Cincinnati. But he's just the latest coach to discover that no one knows his shit like Bill Belichick knows his shit. Everyone in The Writers Picks chose the Bengals to win this week because everyone forgot that Belichick and the Patriots always find a way to win when they have to -- except when their opponent is the Denver Broncos. Why did we forget it this week? Because last week's opponent was the Denver Broncos. When did you know this game was over? Down and Distance has long maintained that whenever an offense-oriented team scores a field goal on the opening drive of the game, that team is probably going to lose. If you get deep enough into enemy territory to kick the field goal, you should be able to score a touchdown. It's the first drive of the game; the defense hasn't had time to adjust. It's now or never! If you can't score a TD now, you probably won't later. And sure enough, that's what happened to Cincinnati on Sunday: Their opening drive fizzled out on the New England 22, and the Patriots would up rolling right over them. Offense-oriented teams need to jump out to the early lead. There's a reason Peyton Manning isn't known for his fourth-quarter comebacks.

Washington 36, Jacksonville 30: A solid win for the Redskins over a Jaguars team that must be feeling punch-drunk after consecutive games against the Cowboys (9-7 in 2005), Steelers (Super Bowl champs), Colts (14-2 and the No. 1 AFC seed) and Redskins (10-6 and a playoff team). Serves Jacksonville right after skating to a "12-4" record last year. Again, great win for the Redskins, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it's the "biggest Redskins win in five years." I don't have to. Everybody else in town is saying it. Pooh.

SEASON: 37-23
(2005 through Week 3: 38-22)

Down and Distance's exclusive KA-POWER 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 KA-POWER RANKINGS 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's ranked? Blame science. (Key: WK4 = This week's ranking. WK3 = last week's ranking. POW = KAPOW-ER centigrade score.)
13 Bears 100.001718Redskins45.98
21 Chargers 95.731815 Vikings 43.55
32 Ravens 85.82196 Seahawks 42.14
49 Cowboys 72.422020Steelers 39.59
5T27Chiefs 70.742121Giants 39.15
612Falcons 67.292223Panthers 37.34
78 Eagles 66.222326Browns 33.38
85 Saints 61.712425Dolphins 29.95
97 Colts 59.972519Cardinals29.33
1017Patriots59.4626T27Lions 23.29
1111Broncos 51.8327T27Texans 20.91
124 Bengals 51.502824Packers 20.80
1314Rams 50.51292249ers 19.38
1416Bills 48.383031Bucs 5.96
1513Jets 47.433130Titans 4.59
1610Jaguars 46.803232Raiders 0.00

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