By Doug Halberstadt
If the National Football League has been looking for parity and unpredictability, I think they’ve achieved their goal. After three weeks, only the Houston Texans, the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals remain undefeated. Only two teams have yet to get their first win. One of those winless teams is not all that surprising. They are the Cleveland Browns. I’m not sure anyone in America would have guessed the other winless team, the New Orleans Saints, would have started the season with three straight losses.
As erratic as the league is so far this season, I’m still not deterred from making my weekly predictions. Tomorrow night (Thursday, Sept. 27), the aforementioned winless Cleveland Browns take their show on the road to face the Ravens in Baltimore. This should be a lock for the Ravens, but the way the season is going, I’m not so sure. I’m picking Baltimore, but I wouldn’t be all that surprised if somehow Cleveland pulls the upset.
Sunday’s games begin with Carolina at Atlanta. The Falcons will be looking for their fourth-straight win. Carolina is a young team, and that liability will no doubt be exposed by the Falcons. Atlanta will stay undefeated and improve to 4-0.
The Patriots are on the road in Buffalo. The Bills lost in week one, but since then, they’ve picked up two consecutive wins. I think that streak will come to an abrupt halt this week. I’m taking the visitors. Another road team I like this week is the Vikings. They are coming off a huge upset win over the 49ers. This week, they are in Detroit to face the Lions. Despite scoring 41 points against the Titans last week, Detroit still lost. Their defense gave up 44 points in that game. I look for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to take advantage of the Lions’ generous defense and lead his team to another win. This time, it won’t be an upset.
The Texans will be looking to stay perfect when they play at home against the Titans. The Titans’ defense has given up more points (113) than any other team in the league. On the opposite side of the field, the Texans’ defense is one of the stingiest in the league. They’ve only allowed a total of 42 points in their first three games. That should equate to big numbers for the Texans’ offense and a fourth-straight win.
The Kansas City Chiefs will be in Arrowhead Stadium hosting the San Diego Chargers. KC surprised the league last week by knocking off the Saints in New Orleans. The Chargers’ offense took week three off —they only managed to score a field goal in their loss to the Falcons. I look for Phillip Rivers and San Diego to come charging back against KC and pick up a road win.
A team I thought I could count on from week to week was the 49ers. They let me down last week when they suffered a defeat at the hands of the Vikings. This week, I’m giving them a chance to redeem themselves. They will be in New York to take on the Jets. I don’t see San Francisco losing two in a row. I think they’ll be the ones flying high after this game and the Jets will be left in the hangar.
Another team that would like to rebound from a loss last week is the St. Louis Rams. This week, they are home against the Seattle Seahawks. Instead of picking up a rebound win, I think the Seahawks will prevail and hand the Rams their second loss in a row.
Can the Cardinals stay undefeated and improve to 4-0? I say yes. This week, they host the Dolphins. Unless the football gods decide to mess with things again this week, the win should go to the Cardinals.
I haven’t picked the Raiders right this season. The first two weeks of the year, I had them winning. They lost both of those games. Last week, I thought the Steelers would hand them another loss. Instead, the Raiders picked up their first win of the season. I don’t know which way to go this week when they travel to Denver. I want to take the Broncos at Mile High Stadium, but something tells me if I do, Oakland will pull out the win. I have to go with the gut, and it says take Denver at home, so that’s what I’ll do.
The Bengals are tied with the Ravens for first place in their division. This week, they’ll have to defeat the Jaguars on the road to try to keep pace with Baltimore. I like their chances to improve to 3-1 and drop Jacksonville to 1-3.
It’s highly possible that when the month of September comes to a close, the New Orleans Saints will be 0-4. It’ll be determined in Green Bay. I think Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will hand Drew Brees and his Saints another loss. I really wouldn’t mind being wrong on this one.
Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Redskins lost last week. This week, they face one another in Tampa Bay. The Redskins are having some growing pains with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III leading the team. He’s exciting to watch and should provide some fireworks again this week. I like his chances to pick up another win and improve the Redskins’ record to 2-2.
The final game of the month will be played in Philadelphia. The Eagles will host the New York Giants. This Sunday night game should be one of the better matchups of the week. Both teams are 2-1 and will be looking to take the early season lead in their division. Philadelphia can be tough to beat at home. The Giants have had a few extra days to rest. They last played Sept. 20. I think they will be refreshed and ready for the prime-time lights. I’m taking the G-Men.
The Monday night game features the Chicago Bears traveling to the Big D to face the Cowboys. Both teams are coming off wins over mediocre teams. The Bears’ defeated the Rams, and the Cowboys beat Tampa Bay in week three. This week, it won’t be as easy for either team. The Bears’ defense is playing well, but the offense is still not up to preseason expectations. For the Bears to win, they’ll have to stop Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo from having a big game, and their offense will have to step it up a notch or two. I’m confident the Bears’ defense can accept that challenge, I’m just not so sure about Jay Cutler and his supporting cast. I’m going to go with my heart on this one and count on the defense to get the job done for the Bears.
The Steelers and the Colts have a bye this week.
I am 6-9 with only the Monday night game undecided at press time. I took Green Bay over Seattle in that one. That’s two rough weeks in a row for me. My season record is 24-23. I’m really hoping there aren’t so many upsets this week. I could definitely use a 12-3 or better record to get things back on track.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2012, issue