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NFL Week 14 has been marked by teams reasserting themselves into the playoff conversation after stumbling last week (Colts, Chargers and Bucs) and by the absolute dominance of the New England Patriots.  The two other big stories concern the New York teams.  The Jets fell on their face in a loss to the Dolphins.  And the Giants escaped getting buried by snow and will play the Vikings in Detroit tomorrow night.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 14 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

New England Patriots – 36-7 at Chicago Bears

Larry English

Larry English was one of the Chargers turning in impressive performances in Week 14.

Most Important Win

San Diego Chargers – 31-0 over their division rival Kansas City Chiefs

Worst Loss

Green Bay Packers – 3-7 at Detroit Lions

Biggest Surprise

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest Disappointment

New York Jets

Offensive MVP

Tom Brady, New England Patriots – 27 completions 40 attempts 369 yards 2 TDs 113.4 QB rating

Defensive MVP

Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers – 2 interceptions (one returned 45 yards for a TD) 2 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals – 5-yard fake kick run for TD 5 FGs

Most Surprising Performance

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers – 17 completions 27 attempts 255 yards 3 TDs 130.9 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 27 completions 42 attempts 285 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 60.2 QB rating Lost fumble

Offensive Rookie

Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 receptions 122 yards 1 carry 17 yards

Defensive Rookie

Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals – 40-yard interception return for a TD 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – 16 carries 123 yards 2 TDs 3 receptions 86 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I am shocked at how quickly the Patriots absolutely dismantled the Bears.  Coming off the dominant win on a Monday night and having to go to Chicago in a snowstorm I thought New England might at least start slow.
  • The Bills could have packed things up long ago.  The fact that they are still fighting for wins is impressive and bodes well for Chan Gailey in the future.  Now they just need a lot more talent.
  • What has happened to the Jets?  Their offensive line looks nowhere near as strong as it was.  Their passing game is almost completely out of sync.  Mark Sanchez looks bad much of the time, but when he does make good throws his receivers are dropping the balls.  With their next two games at Pittsburgh and at Chicago the Jets better find their rhythm fast.
  • Adding insult to injury – the Dolphins only had 30 yards net passing and still beat the Jets.
  • The Jaguars scored another impressive win today over the Raiders.  They can clinch the division next week by going into Indianapolis and beating the Colts.

One BIG Question

Is there an NFL team that can hang with the Patriots?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on week 14.  Post a comment below and let me know what surprised and disappointed you.

Photo source:  SD Dirk

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With all the byes behind us, all 32 NFL teams are playing in week 11.  It got off to a surprising start, at least to me, with the Bears dominating the Dolphins in Miami.  With a packed slate, the action on Sunday was happening fast and furiously. There were some big matchups and some telling results.

Devin Hester

The Bears are finding more ways to make their opponents worry

With the very important Giants-Eagles game currently being played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 11 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 31-3 at the Minnesota Vikings

Most Important Win

Chicago Bears – 16-0 at the Miami Dolphins

Worst Loss

Cincinnati Bengals – 31-49 to the Buffalo Bills

Biggest Surprise

Washington Redskins

Biggest Disappointment

San Francisco 49ers

Offensive MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 22 completions 31 attempts 301 yards 4 TDs 141.3 QB rating 3 carries 21 yards

Defensive MVP

Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears – 3 sacks 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Bryan McCann, Dallas Cowboys – 97-yard punt return TD, 2 kickoff returns for 55 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense – held Browns to 88 yards on 27 carries

Most Disappointing Performance

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins – 3 receptions 41 yards (+ penalties and dropped passes)

Offensive Rookie

Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints – 23 carries 99 yards 1 TD

Defensive Rookie

T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns – 2 interceptions, 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 32 completions 44 attempts 366 yards 1 TD 104.9 QB rating

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – 6 receptions 109 yards

Quick Takes

  • I watched the bulk of the Redskins-Titans game.  I was really impressed with the play of the Redskins offensive line, especially because injuries led to a patchwork group.  They did a very good job of protecting Donovan McNabb and opening up holes for the running backs.  Kyle Shanahan clearly put together an excellent offensive game plan.
  • It was a real shame that Vince Young got hurt.  He was throwing a good ball before the injury.  I don’t know what the heck happend after that though.
  • Rusty Smith is not ready for primetime.  Not even close.
  • Of course, a stat that I always like to look at is third down conversions.  Coming into the game in Tennessee, Washington was last in the NFL on third down conversions at 22%.  In today’s win they converted 50% and it made a big difference in the game.
  • On the topic of third down conversions – they were definitely a factor in the Falcons-Rams game.  Atlanta converted nine of 17, while St. Louis was only one of 10.
  • I was glad to hear some NFL pundits considering a pick of the Rams.  It shows the progress the franchise has made this season.  But the Falcons are just too good to lose that game.
  • The Steelers showed that they truly do have one of the best defenses in the NFL, holding the recently explosive Raiders to just 182 total yards.
  • I was definitely impressed by the Bears and Bucs this week who showed that they are for real by posting shutouts on somebody else’s turf.
  • The Chiefs, Jaguars and Redskins all sent a message not to count them out yet.
  • Shovel the dirt on the Bengals and Vikings.  They are done.

One BIG Question

Can the Dolphins and Titans climb back into the playoff race?  Or are they done now too?

Let me know your week 11 thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Monica’s Dad

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Sunday was another crazy day in the NFL.  There were some huge defensive performances and a lot of defensive touchdowns, including nine from interceptions.  There were a number of receivers who had big games.  And throughout the day there were scores that just kept making you scratch your head. 

With it all shaken out before the Monday night game, here are the Average Guy’s NFL Week Seven Awards:

Oakland Raiders fan

This guy was surely happy on Sunday.

Most Impressive Win

Oakland Raiders – 59-14 at Denver Broncos

Most Important Win

Green Bay Packers – 28-24 over division rival Minnesota Vikings

Worst Loss

New Orleans – 30-17 at home to the Cleveland Browns

Biggest Surprise

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Disappointment

San Francisco 49ers

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Chicago Bears

Offensive MVP

Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans – 7 receptions 225 yards 3 TDs

Defensive MVP

DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins – 92-yard interception return for TD 4 interceptions 7 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Reggie Hodges, Cleveland Browns – 68-yard run on fake punt

Most Surprising Performance

Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers – 28 completions 41 attempts 308 yards 2 TDs 1 interception 96.4 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings – 16 completions 29 attempts 212 yards 1 TD 3 interceptions 50.4 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

David Gettis, Carolina Panthers – 8 receptions 125 yards 2 TDs

Defensive Rookie

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs – 1 interception 4 tackles 2 QB hits

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills – 29 completions 43 attempts 374 yards 4 TDs 2 interceptions 106.2 QB rating

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – 11 receptions 87 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entirety of the Steelers-Dolphins game.  It was an excellent matchup.  Miami was able to keep the game closer than I thought they would.  I was really impressed with their pass protection.  They only gave up one sack and kept the Pittsburgh pass rushers away from Chad Henne.  Their defense was also excellent.  Their pass rush was strong and their coverage was solid for the most part.  They were also stout defending the run.
  • This was my first chance to see Cameron Wake in action.  He brought everything I expected as a blitzer and also did a good job in run support.
  • I thought Ben Roethlisberger looked mostly solid but his habit of trying to hold the ball forever to wait for something to develop almost cost the Steelers the game.
  • It stinks that the replay call had such a big effect on the game, but I can’t think of any other way they could have called it. 
  • The Dolphins clock management, play calling and execution were all atrocious at the end of the game.  Just plain terrible.
  • The Bears were again involved in a game that produced some putrid offensive stats.  They combined with the Redskins to go four of 23 on third down conversions, one of four in the red zone and to turn the ball over nine times.
  • I’m absolutely shocked at the poor performance of the Baltimore defense.  They gave up 506 yards to the Bills – 506 YARDS.
  • The Chargers defense put up a valiant effort, holding the Patriots to 179 yards.  It’s too bad for them that the offense blew it with four turnovers.
  • A couple of Browns defenders had phenomenal games – Scott Fujita in his return to New Orleans had an interception, a sack and 11 tackles while David Bowens set an NFL record with two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

 One BIG Question

What in the world has happened to the Saints?

Which games and performance surprised and disappointed you?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: the_junes

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Through three weeks of the NFL season the story is starting to become clear.  We’ve got a pretty good idea of who the top level teams are (Pittsburgh, Green Bay, N.Y. Jets and a few more).  And we also have a pretty good idea of who the bottom level teams are (Cleveland, Carolina, Oakland and a few more).  But there are still a large number of teams somewhere in the middle.

Week four brings the first round of byes for the 2010 NFL season.  Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota and Tampa Bay have the week off.  I’m not sure if it is because of the byes or maybe just a scheduling quirk but I had a hard time finding important games to highlight this week.  I’m going with only five instead of the usual six.

So, let’s take a look at the five NFL games I think are most important in week four:

49ers Coach Mike Singletary

I want winners!

5.  San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Could this be the last stand for the 49ers?  Everything is working against them going into this game.  They are the most disappointing team in the NFL through the first three weeks of the 2010 season.  They fired their offensive coordinator this week.  They are coming off a bad loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, while the Falcons are coming off a huge win over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.  And to top it all off, they are a pacific time zone team traveling to the eastern time zone to play at 1:00.

The Niners win if: They can convert on third downs.  They were atrocious on third downs while being dominated by Seattle (1-15) and Kansas City (1-15)

The Falcons win if: The running game stays strong and they keep the Niners defense on the field and wear them down.

The Falcons could be in danger of a let down after an emotional win over the Saints.  The Niners should be extremely hungry for a win.  But I think they’ll still be starving after this weekend.  The Falcons are a strong team with an improving defense and a solid offense.  They should have very little trouble with a 49ers team that is still trying to figure out who they want to be.

4.  Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, 4:15 pm

This game has already started to get the majority of the hype for the weekend.  There are plenty of storylines here but the biggest ones will be the return of Donovan McNabb to Philadelphia and the comeback of Michael Vick.  Let’s start with Vick.  He’s been impressive, but let’s put it in context.  He’s played very well against the defenses of Detroit and Jacksonville.  They could prove to be the worst pass defenses in the NFL.  The good news for the Eagles and Vick is that the Redskins pass defense has been porous as well – they are currently ranked 31st in the NFL in opponents passing yardage.  On the other sideline McNabb will have his chance to give the town that never appreciated him a reason to wish he was still there.  The Redskins currently have the seventh best passing game in the NFL and when McNabb has had time he’s been good.  Their offensive line needs rookie left tackle Trent Williams to return from injury.

The Redskins win if: Their secondary can contain the speedy Eagles receivers and prevent them from making big plays.

The Eagles win if:  Their pass rush can get to McNabb early and often.  They are currently leading the NFL with 11 sacks.

I’ve heavily considered picking the Redskins.  But after watching them play the Rams last week I just can’t do it.  I think the Eagles pass rush will exploit the weak Redskins O-line and that Andy Reid will draw up some nice plays to get his playmakers in position to blow by the slow Redskins linebackers.

3.  New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Monday, 8:30 pm

Monday night should be very interesting as these two AFC East rivals match up in south Florida.  After starting 2-0 the Dolphins bandwagon lost some weight when they dropped a home game to the New York Jets on Sunday night.  While the game was certainly close, it was surprising how freely the Miami defense gave up yardage to the Jets.  On the offensive side of the ball Chad Henne was impressive and seemed to solidify an important bond with go-to-guy Brandon Marshall that should lead to success down the road.  The Patriots lo0ked very impressive in a week one win over the Bengals but have struggled in losing to the Jets and beating Buffalo in a game that was too close for comfort.  Before the season started I thought New England’s defense would be better than expected but they’ve played to expectations and are 20th in the NFL against the rush and 25th against the pass.

The Patriots win if: They can force a couple of turnovers.  The extra possessions should gave them all they need to outscore the Dolphins.

The Dolphins win if: They limit the catches of Randy Moss.  These teams split their two games last year.  The Patriots won the first game, with Moss catching six balls for 147 yards and a touchdown.  The Dolphins limited Moss to just two catches in the second game and won it.

Miami needs this game more than New England does.  If they lose they will have lost both home games against their AFC rivals.  Having said that, I like the Patriots in this one.  Bill Belichick and his staff will have had plenty of time to prepare for the Dolphins and I think Tom Brady will surgically pick them apart.

2.  Chicago Bears at New York Giants
Sunday, 8:20 pm

This is a matchup of two teams who couldn’t be farther apart on the spectrum of happiness with their performance so far this season.  The Bears have outperformed the expectations of all but their most optimistic fans.  At 3-0, with solid wins over Dallas and Green Bay, Chicago looks like a legitimate playoff contender.  And the Giants, well disappointing and underperforming are probably not strong enough.  The Giants beat a bad Carolina team in week one before losing consecutively to Indianapolis and Tennessee.  It’s last weeks loss to the Titans that is most disturbing.  New York fell apart at the seams, self-destructed and were defeated by a team they certainly could have beaten.

The Bears win if: They can keep the Giants pass rush off Jay Cutler.  The Giants only have six sacks but that’s a misleading stat because the teams they’ve played are run-heavy (Carolina and Tennessee) or led by a superhuman at quarterback (Indianapolis).

The Giants win if: They can hold on to the ball.  They turned the ball over three times in each of their two losses.

I don’t want to overlook the Bears again, but I’ve got to go with the Giants.  They’ve historically played well with their backs against the wall.  Granted, they don’t have the leadership they’ve had in the past, but similar to what I mentioned about the 49ers above, if they lose this game it could be the last slide down the slippery slope.

1.  Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, 1:00 pm

The battle for the toughest division in the NFL starts in earnest this weekend when the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh.  The Steelers have exceeded expectations by winning their first three games without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Their defense, with 10 forced turnovers and 10 sacks, and their running game, ranked third in the NFL, have led the way.  Meanwhile the Ravens pass defense has been excellent, ranking first in the NFL, but they were gouged last week in the running game by Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis who ran for 144 yards on 22 carries.  Baltimore is a game behind Pittsburgh in the standings right now, but if they can steal this one they’ll have a leg up with a win on enemy soil and a return game coming at home later in the year.

The Ravens win if: They can stop the run – it’s that simple.

The Steelers win if: They can score a defensive touchdown.  They’ll need the points from the defense.

I picked the Ravens to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and I greatly underestimated the Steelers ability to win with their defense.  I think it will catch up with them here, as long as Ray Rice is healthy.  Baltimore has the defense to play with Pittsburgh while also having an offense that should be much better than the three the Steelers have faced to this point.

Who do you like in these five games?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: SD Dirk

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It’s been a very enjoyable NFL Sunday for me.  The Rams got a solid win over the Redskins and looked pretty decent doing it.  As luck would have it I even got to watch the game due to some odd scheduling choices of our local affiliates. 

I was very impressed with Sam Bradford.  With Steven Jackson out of the lineup in the second half, Bradford took over the game.  He made good calls at the line of scrimmage and utilized quick passes in place of runs.  He showed poise in the pocket and often times threw the ball right where it needed to be even if the receiver could not hold onto it.  His touchdown pass to Daniel Fells was a beautiful play as he drew in DeAngelo Hall on the bootleg and then threw a gorgeous touch pass from a few yards out.  It’s clear to me that he is going to be a special player and that makes me extremely excited for the future.  The Rams are still missing a lot of pieces but I feel very comfortable that they are now on their way up.  It’s the first time I’ve been able to say that in a while.

On to the Average Guy’s NFL Week Three Awards (before the Sunday night game):

Most Impressive Win

Kansas City Chiefs – 31-10 over the San Francisco 49ers

Kansas City Chiefs logo psychedelic

Who predicted the Chiefs would be 3-0?

Most Important Win

Dallas Cowboys – beat Houston Texans 27-13

Worst Loss

San Francisco 49ers – 10-31 to Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Surprise

St. Louis Rams

Biggest Disappointment

New York Giants

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offensive MVP

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles – 17 completions 31 attempts 291 yards 3 TDs 119.2 QB rating 4 carries 30 yards 1 rushing TD

Defensive MVP

DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys – 3 sacks, 6 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss

Special Teams MVP

Leon Washington, Seattle Seahawks – 101-yard kickoff return TD and 99-yard kickoff return TD

Most Surprising Performance

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns – 22 carries 144 yards TD 7 receptions 36 yards

Most Disappointing Performance

David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars (2nd week in row) – 13 completions 30 attempts 105 yards 1 interception

Offensive Rookie

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills – 95-yard kickoff return TD 4 carries 29 yards 3 receptions 10 yards 1 TD

Defensive Rookie

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks – 2 interceptions 6 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos – 37 completions 57 attempts 476 yards 1 TD 1 interception 89.5 QB rating 2 carries 11 yards

Quick Takes

  • One more thing about the Rams – their offensive line did a superb job of protecting Sam Bradford.  He was only sacked once and hit twice.
  • Impressive job throwing the ball by Kyle Orton and the Broncos offense.  The Colts came into the game fourth in the NFL in pass defense, giving up only 117.5 yards per game.  The Broncos hung 472 on them.
  • The Patriots defense is going to have to step their game up if they hope to achieve anything this year.  The Bills averaged 176 yards of total offense per game in their first two games but gained 374 against New England.
  • Atlanta needed to run the ball with purpose in order to beat the Saints.  They did (50 carries for 202 yards) and they did.
  • I almost chose the Baltimore Ravens as the biggest disappointment.  Their game was way too close against a Cleveland team that was missing their best defensive player, starting quarterback and starting running back.  I expected the Ravens to destroy the Browns.  They fell far short of that.
  • I watched most of the Bengals-Panthers game.  I’ve got to say that Carson Palmer was pretty awful.  I thought Cincinnati’s playoff loss to the Jets was caused mostly by a lack of options and the Jets defense.  Today I was surprised by the lack of accuracy on Palmer’s throws as well as his mismanagement of the clock to end the first half.  The Bengals have high hopes, but if they are going to go anywhere they need Palmer to recapture his lost game.
  • Good to see Beanie Wells make his season debut today.  I expected him to have a big year but injuries have slowed him so far.

One BIG Question

Is it too late for the 49ers?

After an exciting Sunday of NFL action what are your thoughts? Who scored the most important win in your eyes?  What individual performances impressed you?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: MOmilkman – Darin House

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First things first – I’m pretty excited that I was perfect in week one, predicting correctly all six winners of the most important games I had chosen!

As I look at the NFL’s week two schedule I see a real theme developing that is magnified in the games I chose as the most important.  These games are really important for one of the teams and less so for their opponent.  In the NFL that usually means that the team that needs the game will win it.  But, they can also go the other way with the team that doesn’t need the win as much wanting it more, or just plain showing their dominance.  And sometimes the team that needs the win the most is stuck in a downward spiral from which they cannot escape.

Which result will apply to which week two games?  Read on and find out my thoughts:

Pittsburgh Steelers Helmet

Can the Steelers get another big win without Big Ben?

6.  Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans
Sunday, 1:00 pm

We start with a game that does not fit into the theme I mentioned above.  With Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games a 2-2 record for the Steelers would be a good start.  They should definitely beat Tampa Bay next week, so the win over Atlanta last weekend was the one they needed.  Now they are playing with house money in my eyes.  Tennessee showed their strength by destroying Oakland behind an excellent performance by Vince Young (13-17, 154 yards, 2 TDs, 142.8 QB rating, 7 carries, 30 yards) and an even better one by Chris Johnson (27 carries, 142 yards, 2 TDs).

The Steelers win if: They can consistently pick up four to five yards on first down and avoid third and long situations.

The Titans win if: They can keep their passing game going.  They won’t be able to run so easily on the Steelers.

With not a lot to lose in this one, Pittsburgh should do some gambling.  I don’t think it will help though.  I was really impressed with the Titans win over the Raiders and I think they’ll maintain their early season momentum with a win over the Steelers.  I think they’ll slow the Pittsburgh running game and force Dixon into difficult situations on third down.

5.  Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, 1:00 pm

The Ravens are coming off a really strong effort in a Monday night win over the Jets in the new Meadowlands.  Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin showed a lot of chemistry in their first regular season game together, connecting seven times for 110 yards.  Flacco showed poise in the face of frenzy, standing up to the constant third down blitzes of the Jets and helping Baltimore convert 11 of 19 third downs.  The story is a very different one for the Bengals who were dominated last Sunday in New England.  Because the game was never really close it’s hard to take anything from it to apply to future matchups.

The Ravens win if: Their pass rush can get to Carson Palmer early and make him nervous in the pocket throughout the game.

The Bengals win if: They can run the ball consistently with Cedric Benson and wear down the Ravens defense.

Cincinnati needs to win this game or risk falling two games behind the Ravens after only two weeks.  I think the Bengals will rally from their poor showing last week, work the ball to Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, and win at home in this critical AFC North battle.

4.  New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
Monday, 8:30 pm

Clearly the 49ers are the team that needs to win this game, badly.  They no-showed in the Pacific Northwest last Sunday going down hard to a Seahawks team with much less talent.  Their defense played okay but the offense couldn’t run the ball and was not effective in the passing game.  While it wasn’t pretty, the Saints scored a solid win over the Vikings in the opening kickoff Thursday night game.  Save for their first drive of each half, the Saints offense was nowhere near as explosive as expected.  Their defense was quite good though.

The Saints win if:  They can get their passing game back on track – there’s no way the Niners can keep up with them.

The 49ers win if: Frank Gore gets rolling and they can keep the Saints offense off the field.

With 11 days to prepare and an offensive statement to make I like the Saints in this one.

3.  Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Miami’s defense was real strong last week against Buffalo, holding the lowly Bills to 50 yards rushing and 116 yards passing.  Their offense struggled to get the ball in the end zone though.  They scored only one touchdown and two field goals.  Brandon Marshall did catch eight balls, but for only 53 yards.  The Dolphins will need much more out of the Chad Henne-Marshall combination if they hope to challenge for the AFC East title.  Minnesota was disappointing in the Thursday night kickoff game in New Orleans.  Or perhaps I should say, Minnesota’s offense was disappointing.  The Vikings defense covered up their backfield deficiencies well and managed to hold the Saints to a pair of touchdowns.  Unfortunately for them their passing game was out of sync and they could only score nine points.

The Dolphins win if: Their offensive line can stay strong against the vicious Vikings’ pass rush and give Henne time to find Marshall.

The Vikings win if: Brett Favre can find his passing rhythm with the receivers.

Minnesota absolutely needs to win this game.  At home with an emotional crowd, I think the pass rush will be a step faster, Adrian Peterson will be a step stronger and Brett Favre will feel more comfortable after 10 more days to work with his targets.  The Dolphins could give them a run for their money, but ultimately I think the Vikings will be victorious.

2.  New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, 8:20 pm

The battle of the Mannings will take place in front of a national audience on Sunday night with Peyton and the Colts needing to win the game.  Indianapolis struggled mightily against the Houston running game in losing only their second game of 17 historical matchups.  The Colts also had trouble slowing down the Texans pass rush as Mario Williams and his teammates were constantly in Peyton’s face.  While the Colts were getting beaten on both lines in Houston the Giants played very well against the Panthers to open the new Meadowlands.  The New York D held the vaunted Carolina running game to just 89 yards on 24 carries.  They also had four sacks.  Eli had a Peyton-esque game, connecting with seven different receivers for 263 yards.

The Giants win if: They can hold onto the ball.  They had four turnovers last week.  They’ll get blown out if they do that again.

The Colts win if: They can turn the game into a shootout.  In that scenario the Colts will make far fewer mistakes than the Giants will.

In my preseason picks I chose the Giants to win this game.  But, I also had the Colts beating the Texans.  Because of that loss I think the Colts will come out with a heightened sense of urgency on Sunday and get the win.  I think Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will get to Eli and their receivers will make the catches they dropped against Houston.

1.  New England Patriots at New York Jets
Sunday, 4:15 pm

Widely expected to be the best team in the history of football by many “experts,” the Jets were flat out bad on offense on Monday night.  Mark Sanchez looked confused and unsettled on the way to throwing for only 74 yards.  The good news for New York is that their defense was as stout as expected, holding the Ravens to 49 rushing yards on 35 attempts.  The bad news on that front is that they’ve lost big run stuffer Kris Jenkins for the rest of the season.  After somehow managing to fly under the radar during the offseason Jets love fest, the Patriots came out like barnstormers in week one.  They jumped ahead of the Bengals 24-0 and cruised from there. 

The Patriots win if: The Jets blitz as much as they did against the Ravens.  Tom Brady will carve them up like a heart surgeon.

The Jets win if: They can get their running game on track and keep the Patriots offense off the field.

By the middle part of the season I think the Jets will be a really good team, but they are not right now.  The way they blitz and the precision with which Brady can find the open man will spell L-O-S-S for the J-E-T-S.  I really think Bill Belichick will be on a mission in this game.

Who do you like in these six games?  Is there another game that you think is more important than one of these?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: AndyeMcee

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NFL Flag

Time to Fly the NFL Flag

The opening weekend of the NFL is always a fun one.  I had to explain to my daughters that Sunday was like Christmas for Daddy.  Unfortunately the Rams could not deliver a gift-wrapped win for me.  But on the plus side, I am perfect on my NFL week one predictions going into the Monday night games.

I watched all of the Vikings-Saints game and the Colts-Texans game.  I watched parts of many others.  Here are the Average Guy’s NFL Week One Awards (before the Monday night games):  

Most Impressive Win

New England Patriots – 38-24 over Cincinnati Bengals  

Most Important Win

Houston Texans – 34-24 over Indianapolis Colts  

Worst Loss

San Francisco 49ers – 6-31 to Seattle Seahawks  

Biggest Surprise Team

Seattle Seahawks  

Biggest Disappointment

Atlanta Falcons  

Offensive MVP

Arian Foster, Houston Texans – 33 carries 231 yards 3 TDs 1 reception 7 yards  

Defensive MVP

Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals – 2 interceptions 1 sack 2 tackles  

Most Surprising Performance

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears – 7 receptions 151 yards 2 TDs and 17 carries 50 yards  

Most Disappointing Performance

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons – 19 carries 42 yards 1 reception 7 yards  

Best Debut Performance

Aaron Kampman, Jacksonville Jaguars – 1.5 sacks 3 tackles 6 QB hurries  

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 32 completions 55 attempts 253 yards 1 TD 3 interceptions  

Defensive Rookie

Sean Weatherspoon, Atlanta Falcons – 8 tackles  

Best Coaching Debut

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks  

Observations

  • I thought the Vikings defense played well enough to win.  They slowed down the high-powered Saints offense.  The Vikings just could not generate scoring drives.  Their passing game looked rusty, or more like they just hadn’t worked together – that’s probably because they haven’t.  I thought they should have used Adrian Peterson more in the second half.
  • Two solid performances by Saints linemen, one offense and one defense, really caught my eye – left tackle Jermon Bushrod and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.
  • Wes Welker looked completely healthy and ready to go for the Patriots.
  • The pass rush of the Texans was relentless all day against the Colts.  Mario Williams was constantly in Peyton Manning’s face.  What looked like a season ending injury for Connor Barwin will hurt them though.
  • The way the Texans ran the ball in the second half was also very impressive.  Arian Foster will get the pub, and he deserves it, but the offensive line did a great job opening up holes.
  • I absolutely cannot believe the Seahawks beat the 49ers the way they did.
  • If the Steelers wanted to win two games during Ben Roethlisberger’s early season absence they needed to beat the Falcons – they did, impressively.
  • The Eagles got a lot of pressure on Aaron Rodgers.  I couldn’t quite figure out if it was because their pass rush is really good or if the Packers offensive line was regressing.
  • I really liked the Eagles throwback uniforms.

One BIG Question

Is there any way that the Eagles can start Kevin Kolb over Michael Vick next week?  

What are your thoughts on the first weekend of the 2010 NFL season?  Let me know in the comments section below.  

Photo source: sixoone

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