Week 4 seems a little wan on paper because the four teams getting their annual week off are among the most interesting in the league, leaving us with a whole lot of Jacksonville-Houston and Cincinnati-Cleveland type games.
Last week the Panthers, Bears, Cowboys and Eagles took the weekend off, and I don't know that anybody missed them terribly, but this time around it's the Buccaneers, Dolphins, Seahawks and Giants: the defending champs, a team that recovered from a terrible upset to bludgeon a super-hot opponent last week, an undefeated upstart, and a club that nobody has any idea what to make of. The Giants, who are 2-1, could easily be 3-0 or 0-3, and it's even harder to get a handle on how good they are because we don't yet know enough about the quality of their three opponents so far: the Rams, Cowboys and Redskins.
One thing we do know is we won't get to watch Bucs defensive lineman Warren Sapp line up at tight end, catch a touchdown pass, and do his booty dance in the end zone, as he did last week. He later said he was paying tribute to the booty dance Beyoncé Knowles does in her "Crazy in Love" video, which was surprising to me. I thought a lot of things while watching Sapp's rump go wump, wump, wump, but Beyoncé Knowles wasn't one of them. In fact, Warren Sapp's booty dance was one of the few things all week that didn't make me think of Beyoncé Knowles' booty dance in the "Crazy in Love" video, but now I think I've veered off subject.
I did a little better with my picks last week, going 9-5 to improve my record to a still-mediocre 26-20. But I feel that a decent season is still within reach. I just have to take it one week at a time, not worry about what I can't control, stay within myself, avoid turnovers, and let the score take care of itself, cuz your love's got the best of me, and baby you're making a fool of me.
Sorry, off subject again.
I think I'm just about ready to stop kicking myself for taking the Bengals over the Steelers as my What the Heck Pick of the week instead of the Cardinals over the Packers. Just in time for more disappointment, no doubt. And away we go, with winners in all caps.
SAN FRANCISCO (1-2) at Minnesota (3-0): Will the 49ers be looking past the Vikings to next week's game against Detroit and their old coach, Steve Mariucci? Nah. The 49ers are already in a must-win game, not wanting to fall more than two games behind idle Seattle. They were embarrassed last week by the Browns, who shut them down seven days after giving up a quarter of a mile rushing to Jamal Lewis. The Vikings are banged up and ready for a fall after a 3-0 start that's brought their winning streak, dating to last year, to six. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a Minnesota win, but I'll take San Francisco.
Arizona (1-2) at ST. LOUIS (1-2): Just what the Rams need, a win to convince themselves that at 2-2, they're going to be just fine. They aren't.
New England (2-1) at WASHINGTON (2-1): This is an interesting game between two teams that could go to the playoffs or fizzle out to 6-10 or so. The Patriots are hurting bad on defense, especially with the news that free agent pickup Rosey Colvin is lost for the year. Ted Washington is also out. Just in time to face the No. 1 offense in the league. And quarterback Tom Brady has a sore arm too. A win here would be huge for the Patriots, but we all know Patriots never win in Washington. (They lost in 1981 on their only visit, but you see what I did there?)
Philadelphia (0-2) at BUFFALO (2-1): Last year in Week 4 I was driving through the vast flat fields of Illinois listening to the Bears-Bills game when word came that the Rams had been beaten by the Cowboys to fall to 0-4. "The Rams are officially toast," one of the announcers said. That phrase has kind of stuck with me. I like it. After this game, the Eagles are officially toast.
Cincinnati (0-3) at CLEVELAND (1-2): Just what the Browns need, a win to convince themselves that at 2-2, they're going to be just fine. They aren't.
KANSAS CITY (3-0) at Baltimore (2-1): We'll know a lot about whether the Chiefs are for real after this game, when they go up against the Ravens' tough defense. Or we won't. If the Chiefs win, they'll match the best start in franchise history, in 1996. And you know what happened to the '96 Chiefs. Oh, you don't? That's because they went 5-7 down the stretch and missed the playoffs. This game features two of the league's premier backs, Lewis and Priest Holmes, who used to be in the same backfield. Holmes will be 29.97808 years old Sunday, eight days shy of his 30th birthday, at which point, as an NFL running back, he's scheduled to have his body fall apart. He'll help the Chiefs get a hard-fought win before that happens.
Tennessee (2-1) at PITTSBURGH (2-1): The marquee game of the weekend is this first meeting between the Titans and Steelers since their wild divisional playoff game last year. Remember how Titans kicker Joe Nedney kicked the winning field goal after a questionable running-into-the-kicker penalty, then said he might try acting when he's done playing ball? Ha ha! Nedney's out for the year with an injury, so he won't be there Sunday, allowing the Steelers, who really don't like Joe Nedney, to live by this failsafe rule: Ignore everything kickers say. The Steelers beat the Bengals last week by running the ball, but the Titans are brutal against the run, so they'll have to go back to the aerial attack of the first two weeks, when they were 1-1. The Titans have won 11 of the last 13 games between these two teams, but all of those games happened before Tennessee running back Eddie George turned 30, which happened Wednesday. And you know what that means.
JACKSONVILLE (0-3) at Houston (1-2): Just what the Texans need, a win to convince themselves that at 2-2, they're going to be just fine. They aren't, and they aren't even going to be 2-2.
Atlanta (1-2) at CAROLINA (2-0): If the Panthers win, they'll match the best start in franchise history, most recently accomplished last year. And you know what happened to last year's Panthers. They lost their next eight games before winning four of their last five. They've now won six of their last seven, including a stunning win over the Buccaneers before their bye week. And they can really play defense. And the Falcons still don't have Mike Vick. With the Falcons at 1-3, will sports fans in Atlanta actually be paying attention to the Braves' playoff run this year?
Dallas (1-1) at N.Y. JETS (0-3): What an emotional moment it's going to be as former Giants and Jets coach Bill Parcells returns to Giants Stadium for the first time since the Cowboys' last game, two weeks ago. Brings back memories, doesn't it? Gosh, the way time flies by, a year feels like 11 seconds. And of course, sometimes vice versa. This is already a lost year for the Jets, but a hunch says they win this one.
DETROIT (1-2) at Denver (3-0): What the Heck Pick of the week.
San Diego (0-3) at OAKLAND (1-2): Just what the Raiders need, a win to convince themselves that at 2-2, they're going to be just fine. They aren't.
Indianapolis (3-0) at NEW ORLEANS (1-2): The Colts try for their first 4-0 start since 1996. And you know what happened to the '96 Colts. Oh, you don't? That's because they lost four of their next six, finished 9-7, and got throttled in the wild card game by Pittsburgh. Colts running back Edgerrin James is iffy with a bad back, which puts pressure on Peyton Manning and the passing game, and Manning's incessant checking off at the line of scrimmage won't go smoothly in the Super Dome. The Colts have been a little better defensively than the Titans so far, but the Saints should be able to run against the Colts, which they couldn't do against the Titans. If they can avoid fumbling the ball away, which they've done five times in their two losses, I like the Saints in a mild upset. Just what they need, a win to convince themselves that at 2-2, they're going to be just fine. Which they might be.
GREEN BAY (1-2) at Chicago (0-2): Can the Packers lose two straight games to dreadful teams? They better hope not. After this they host Seattle and Kansas City, so they could be staring down the barrel of a 1-5 record if they lose. Hard to picture. Fun to picture, but hard.
Season record: 26-20
Last week: 9-5
What the Heck Picks: 0-3
Ratio of mentions of Beyoncé Knowles' booty dance this week to mentions of Britney Spears' tiny shorts last week: 2:1
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