NFL picks: Economic meltdown week

Sure, our civilization is circling the drain, but come on, we've got Cowboys-Packers and Steelers-Eagles.

Topics: Football, Peyton Manning,

I don’t want to make light of Wall Street melting down, the economy crashing and our civilization and culture as we’ve known them coming to an end, but my record picking NFL games is worse than the Dow.

Hey-o!

Come on, lighten up. So we’ll all be wearing barrels and living in cars soon, surviving off the land and fighting off marauders. Doesn’t mean we can’t have a couple of yuks on a Sunday.

As a fan of both the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams, I have a couple of yucks every Sunday.

So let us now consider Week 3, not just this column’s annual chance to trot out its third-album theory but also … Actually, that’s all it is.

Remember, my kids take all favorites of six points or more. Otherwise, 5-year-old Buster makes picks and 3-year-old Daisy flips a coin. The What the Heck™ Pick of the Week is available for sponsorship, and in light of recent economic news the kids are for sale too.

Sunday early games

Kansas City (0-2) at ATLANTA (1-1)
We all knew the Chiefs would be bad this season, but they really showed us something last week by losing big to the Raiders. Drinks for the house if you can name the Chiefs starting quarterback before I do. Tyler Thigpen. Sorry. Times are tough and I can’t go buying rounds.
Kids: Atlanta

Oakland (1-1) at BUFFALO (2-0)
The Bills, who I said nice things about before the season, have started with two wins, and now they’re about to enter the NFL’s rest and relaxation program, back-to-back games against the Raiders and Rams. They’re eight stumble-free days from being 4-0. I like this team, but even I have to admit that would be a bubble.
Kids: Buffalo (9-point favorite)

CINCINNATI (0-2) at N.Y. Giants (2-0)
What the Heck™ Pick of the Week, and if I have to explain why, you must not have seen the Bengals yet.
Kids: Giants (13-point favorites)



Miami (0-2) at NEW ENGLAND (2-0)
A What the Heck™ Daily Double? May have to propose that rule change at the next meeting of the International What the Heck™ Society in Uncertain, Texas. I actually have a funny feeling the Dolphins could win this game. That’s why I went with the other option.
Kids: New England (13-point favorite)

Houston (0-1) at TENNESSEE (2-0)
Two teams recovering from rough weeks. Of course, Hurricane Ike, which forced the postponement of the Texans’ game, was a bigger deal than the media storm surrounding Titans quarterback Vince Young. But any time you have a friend and teammate even reportedly, allegedly, maybe talking about suicide, that’s pretty serious business.

Young won’t play in this game. Kerry Collins will get the start. There’s no way to know if the Texans, who are talking about being a bright spot for their battered hometown fans, will be inspired or rattled and out of sorts. Might as well bet on the elite defense playing at home. Right kids?
Kids: Tennessee

TAMPA BAY (1-1) at Chicago (1-1)
This should be a low-scoring bruiser between teams with good defenses and bad quarterbacks. The Bears’ best offensive weapon, kick returner Devin Hester, is hurting. Predicted final score: 48-39.
Buster: Tampa Bay
Daisy: Chicago

Arizona (2-0) at WASHINGTON (1-1)
You’ve probably noticed I ran out of economy jokes a long time ago. Too bad, because here’s a game between one of the league’s traditional economic powerhouses and one of its traditional underclass. And I’ve got nothing. In my bank account, that is. If I had about a billion dollars, I’d buy the Washington team and rename it the Insiders. Nobody’d take offense at that because nobody admits to being one.

Nothing is also what the Cardinals have had as opposition so far, as Edgerrin James pointed out this week when he said, “We haven’t played nobody,” by which he meant San Francisco and Miami. Washington is a little bit of somebody, coming off a nice win over New Orleans in which it looked a lot less disorganized than in coach Jim Zorn’s debut game. I think the Cardinals will win some games once they start playing some somebodies, but not this one.
Buster: Washington
Daisy: Arizona

CAROLINA (2-0) at Minnesota (0-2)
Gus Frerotte is the Steve DeBerg of the post-Steve DeBerg era, though he’ll never match the Beethoven of Backups, the Shakespeare of Second Stringers, the Olivier of Other Guys, the Rembrandt of Reserves, Earl Morrall. He’ll start Sunday, and that would have been the eighth team he’d started for, except that the fifth was the Vikings too.

He’s a reasonably competent guy, which is why he’s in his 15th season, but the Vikings are about to relearn what they, Washington, the Lions, Broncos, Bengals, Dolphins and Rams already know: If the answer is “Gus Frerotte’s starting at quarterback Sunday,” the question is probably something along the lines of “What’s wrong?”

For all that, he should be an improvement on the two games turned in by Tarvaris Jackson, and the Vikings do still have Adrian Peterson and a stout run defense. They could win this, which would turn around the surprising starts by both teams, but I think the Panthers will stay hot. They can run a little too, though that’ll be tough against the Vikes. But they also have Jake Delhomme, who has Steve Smith back this week.
Buster: Minnesota
Daisy: Carolina

Sunday late games

New Orleans (1-1) at DENVER (2-0)
The Broncos would be looking like one of the surprise teams of the first two weeks if not for two things. One is that you should never be surprised when the Broncos do well. The other is that what they’ve done is beaten the Raiders and gotten a gift against the Chargers. The Saints struggled without receiver Marques Colston last week. He won’t be back for a while, and the Broncos should be able to keep rolling against a banged-up Saints defense.
Kids: New Orleans

Detroit (0-2) at SAN FRANCISCO (1-1)
The Lions let quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan and offensive coordinator Mike Martz go this offseason. Both signed with San Francisco, and they’ll face a Lions defense that’s given up 82 points in two games. Martz will almost certainly try to light it up through the air, but Frank Gore might be able to put up 82 points on his own against Detroit’s terrible run defense.
Buster: San Francisco
Daisy: Detroit

St. Louis (0-2) at SEATTLE (0-2)
How the World Works columnist Andrew Leonard and I put our heads together and figured it out. The minimum number of wins a division champion can have is three. Can’t imagine what made me think of that just now.
Kids: Seattle (9-point favorite)

Pittsburgh (2-0) at PHILADELPHIA (1-1)
Big game. Huge game. Should be a doozy. The Steelers might be the AFC’s best team after two weeks, and the Eagles almost knocked off the Cowboys, who might be the NFC’s best team after two weeks, on the road last week. Both teams have attacking defenses and weapon-laden offenses. I like a healthy Donovan McNabb over a sore-shouldered Ben Roethlisberger, I like the wild-card elements of Brian Westbrook lining up any old where and DeSean Jackson running back kicks — all the way across the goal line from now on, please, DeSean — and I like the home field. I’ll take the Eagles to plant a flag in the NFC playoff picture with a huge, hard-fought win.
Buster: Pittsburgh
Daisy: Philadelphia

Cleveland (0-2) at BALTIMORE (1-0)
Let’s see what you’re made of, Cleveland. Were the Browns the biggest overhype since Y2K? It’s a tough assignment to get that high-octane offense going against the Ravens. Catch my tuba, someone. I’m jumping off the bandwagon right here.
Buster: Baltimore
Daisy: Cleveland

JACKSONVILLE (0-2) at Indianapolis (1-1)
The Colts are a different team without Bob Sanders, and he’s out for a while. The Jags haven’t looked as good as they were supposed to, thanks largely to injuries on the offensive line, which has kept the usually strong running game from getting in gear. The Jags have a little bit of Steeleritis — they don’t throw as much as they should — but with Sanders out, maybe Jack Del Rio will let David Garrard open it up, which should open things up for running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. That probably won’t happen, and Peyton Manning will probably start looking like he’s all the way back from his offseason knee surgery, but I’ll take a little flyer on the Jags anyway.
Kids: Indianapolis (6-point favorite)

Sunday night game

Dallas (2-0) at GREEN BAY (2-0)
Dallas won a humdinger over a good Eagles team Monday night, and this looks like it should be another dandy. I’d like to see the Cowboys play a little more defense before I pick them to go into Green Bay and beat a solid, balanced Packers team. Even if this game does represent the return of Brett Favre to Wisconsin. Well, Favre 2.0, anyway: Tony Romo.
Buster: Dallas
Daisy: Green Bay

Monday night game

N.Y. Jets (1-1) at SAN DIEGO (0-2)
The Chargers are a pretty tough 0-2. They’ve been beaten by a touchdown at the gun and by a historically bad officiating call. I don’t buy the idea that good teams find a way to win the close ones. Good teams find a way to win blowouts. Close ones aren’t exactly coin flips, but they’re pretty coin flippy. On the other hand, it does seem like Norv Turner’s teams will always find a way to lose the close ones. On the third hand, the Chargers should be all right, and that starts here.
Kids: San Diego (8.5-point favorite)

Season record: 8-7
Last week: 17-14
What the Heck™ Picks: 0-2
Number of times in real life I’ve ever said, or heard, the words “Drinks for the house”: 0

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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