Caricatures who write sports columns face more criticism and have to live up to a higher standard than three-dimensional writers.
There are not that many caricatures writing sports columns, so we have to do a little bit extra. Just typing the column is a little extra. You can't see my hands, but they're huge, and I only have three fingers on each one.
I pick the Super Bowl winner and loser, it's "Ah, he could've picked this division winner, could have given the Dallas Cowboys more credit."
It's just reality.
Speaking of reality, the fifth edition of the King Kaufman's Sports Daily NFL Weekly Panel o' Experts is off to a flying start, with Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews.com racing out to an early lead over ESPN's Ron Jaworski and Joe Theismann and new entry Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports.
Iyer has bounced back from a poor showing in 2006, when he was mud wrestling for last place with this column for most of the season. This column is also off to a not-awful start, in a five-way scrum for sixth place, suggesting that moving away from St. Louis, as both Iyer and I have done since the Super Bowl, is beneficial when it comes to picking NFL winners.
Then again it didn't work so well for the Bidwill family.
Silver, who moved from Sports Illustrated to Yahoo Sports and now picks winners for every game, is one of three new entries this season. The other two are the Accuscore game-simulation program, the picks of which appear on the Web page with ESPN's experts' picks, and my daughter, Daisy, the coin-flippinest 2-year-old in the Western Hemisphere. Buster has retired his coin and begun picking games himself, expert style.
The Panel is now 19 strong. I'm thinking about realigning into divisions. Here are the standings through Week 2:
|1.||Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News||25-7||.781|
|2.||Ron Jaworski, ESPN||23-7||.767|
|3.||Michael Silver, Yahoo||23-9||.719|
|3.||Joe Theismann, ESPN||23-9||.719|
|5.||Mark Schlereth, ESPN||22-10||.688|
|6.||Merril Hoge, ESPN||21-11||.656|
|6.||King Kaufman, Salon||21-11||.656|
|6.||Peter King, Sports Illustrated||21-11||.656|
|6.||Sean Salisbury, ESPN||21-11||.656|
|11.||Cris Carter, Yahoo||20-12||.625|
|11.||Adriana Sage, EroticModelPicks||20-12||.625|
|14.||Daisy, Coinflip for Kids||18-14||.563|
|14.||Chris Mortensen, ESPN||18-14||.563|
|16.||Mike Golic, ESPN||17-14||.548|
|17.||Charles Robinson, Yahoo||17-15||.531|
|17.||Buster, Column fodder||17-15||.531|
|19.||Eric Allen, ESPN||14-18||.438|
On to Week 3. Have you noticed that the NFL has made a subtle change to the schedule? This used to be the first time that teams got a bye, with four clubs sitting out each week through Week 10. This year, the whole thing's been bumped back a week, with the byes covering Weeks 4-11 instead of 3-10.
That's a good thing. The third week of the season is too early for teams to be off. So's the fourth week, really, but at least that allows the league to get back to a full slate by Week 12, so nobody's sitting out down the stretch.
Here we go. Winners in caps.
Sunday early games
SAN DIEGO (1-1) at Green Bay (2-0)
I'm not sure that what we've seen so far isn't a fairly accurate picture of who these teams are, a good-but-struggling AFC team and one of the better teams in the NFC. What I think this game will show is the difference between the conferences. A good-but-struggling AFC team should beat the better NFC teams.
Buster: Green Bay
Daisy: San Diego
MINNESOTA (1-1) at Kansas City (0-2)
More of the same, just in the low-rent district of the standings. Both will have trouble moving the ball, but I like the Vikings' chances of being able to run a little better than I like the Chiefs' home field.
Arizona (1-1) at BALTIMORE (1-1)
Continuing the interconference theme, the Cardinals really do look like an improved club, though I've been unimpressed with Matt Leinart and I'm starting to think all his troubles can't be laid at the feet of his leaky offensive line. The Ravens are scuffling, but they'll still be too much for Arizona. Good measuring stick for the Cardinals.
Kids: Baltimore (7.5-point favorite)
San Francisco (2-0) at PITTSBURGH (2-0)
Are you detecting a theme here? See previous, except the Steelers are decidedly not scuffling.
Kids: Pittsburgh (8.5-point favorite)
BUFFALO (0-2) at New England (2-0)
The Patriots are on a roll and they have a chip on their shoulder -- there's room there now that they've put the camera down. Thank you! Try the veal. The Bills are better than their record or this point spread would indicate, but this game still qualifies to be a What the Heck Pick of the week, and since pretty much no other game does, here you go.
Kids: New England (16.5-point favorite)
INDIANAPOLIS (2-0) at Houston (2-0)
The Texans are better than their record would indicate also. Hey, wait a minute. The Texans are 2-0? Or are the interns spiking my champagne again? The Texans are looking like something's clicked under second-year coach Gary Kubiak, and they'll give the Colts some lumps, but without receiver Andre Johnson, who has a sprained knee, they're not better than that point spread.
Kids: Indianapolis (6-point favorite)
St. Louis (0-2) at TAMPA BAY (1-1)
The Buccaneers are trying to establish themselves as solid contenders in what could be a very winnable NFC South. A solid home win over a team that started the season with high hopes that now look mildly delusional would be a minimum requirement.
Buster: St. Louis
Daisy: Tampa Bay
Detroit (2-0) at PHILADELPHIA (0-2)
The Lions aren't as good as their 2-0 record, but they're better than they've been in a long time. The question is whether the Eagles are as bad as their 0-2. Donovan McNabb is in very bad need of a big game here. The Eagles are clearly not as good as I'd thought they were going to be, but my trick knee says they're going to have a "Hey, we're an NFC power after all" type game Sunday, then go right back to stinking.
Kids: Philadelphia (6.5-point favorite)
Miami (0-2) at N.Y. JETS (0-2)
The Jets get a win. Best not to look directly at this game.
Buster: New York
Sunday late games
N.Y. Giants (0-2) at WASHINGTON (2-0)
Allow me to refer back to my third album theory, which states that a hot young musical artist's third record, after the brilliant, career-making debut and the rushed, shaky sophomore effort, is the key to the rest of the artist's career. In a completely tortured, not even remotely logical way, I believe this theory applies to an NFL team's season as well, which is why this game will be a watershed for both of these NFC East clubs. This is when we'll see that Washington's going to be a team to be reckoned with, and the Giants are going to commence circling the drain.
Daisy: New York
Cincinnati (1-1) at SEATTLE (1-1)
The Bengals gave up 51 points to the Browns last week while the Seahawks gave up 431 yards, but somehow only 23 points, to the Cardinals. So of course this one's going to end 6-3. Going against the AFC dominance trend here because you don't get a 51 hung on you, even by a bad team, by fluke.
Jacksonville (1-1) at DENVER (2-0)
Both teams looked bad while beating bad teams last week, the Jags over the Atlanta Falcons and the Broncos over the Oakland Raiders. The Jaguars have made a franchise history out of playing badly against bad teams and well against good teams, so I guess that means they'll play well in Denver, except maybe Denver isn't so good. Both teams can run and have had trouble stopping the run, and they both figure to load up and make the opposing quarterback, David Garrard of the Jaguars, Jay Cutler of the Broncos, win the game. I don't know who to pick in that matchup, so I'll punt -- actually, I'll kick a field goal at the gun! -- and go with Denver's formidable home-field advantage.
Cleveland (1-1) at OAKLAND (0-2)
Fun stat of the week: The Browns, who scored seven points in their opener, can get shut out this week and still be averaging five points a game more than they averaged last year. They can get shut out this week, score only a safety next week against Baltimore -- a not unlikely scenario -- and still be averaging more points per game than they did last year. Here's another one: If the Raiders win this game, which I think they will but have nothing like reasoning with which to back up that thought, it will be their first win since Oct. 29. Unless you count last week in Denver.
Note: This column reserves the right not to have a fun stat next week.
CAROLINA (1-1) at Atlanta (0-2)
Middle of the first quarter. That's the over-under on when the fans start chanting Byron Leftwich's name. He figures to be the No. 3 quarterback, which means he'll only play if starter Joey Harrington and backup Chris Redman get hurt. Middle of the second quarter is the over-under on the Atlanta fans' coming up with a chant for that.
Sunday night game
DALLAS (2-0) at Chicago (1-1)
Cowboys fans have been writing me to say I've been underestimating them. Underestimating the Cowboys, that is, not the fans. Maybe so. They've played a couple of crappy teams so far, the Giants and Dolphins, and they've given up 55 points to go along with the 82 they've scored, so I remain unconvinced, but willing to be persuaded.
The Bears don't figure to keep up that scoring pace against Dallas unless Rex Grossman has one of his occasional Good Rex games. I'll go with the Cowboys' getting a tough road win here -- against the conference champs, in prime time -- and then really being overrated for a while, though possibly also the best team in the NFC. With only the Patriots looking like a quality opponent between now and mid-November, the Cowboys have a hell of a chance to be something like 8-1 when they meet Washington for the first time.
Monday night game
Tennessee (1-1) at NEW ORLEANS (0-2)
Last year's America's team opens its home season and should get an emotional boost from that, though nothing like last year's triumphant return from exile. The Saints have been blown out by the Colts and Bucs while the Titans have played a pair of nail-biters, a win at Jacksonville and a home loss to the Colts. Tennessee looks like a team that'll play everybody tough and give Vince Young a chance to win every game at the end. The Saints can't be as bad as they've looked, can they? If Drew Brees and the offense are going to get their sea legs, they'd better do it here or this is going to be a long year. I think they will, but I think it's going to be kind of a long year anyway.
Kids: New Orleans
Season record: 21-11
Last week: 9-7
What the Heck Picks: 0-2, thanks to Mike Shanahan
Number of divisions I'm thinking of dividing the Panel o' Experts into: 19
Previous column: Donovan McNabb on black QBs
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