I had big plans for this week’s NFL open-thread post if the officials hadn’t returned to duty. Instead of handicapping the teams, I was going to handicap the refs, making a few references to Lingerie Bowl-reject officiating, and offer crazy predictions … well, crazier than normal, I guess. The debacle in Seattle derailed those plans, however, and the regular officials returned on Thursday night, and brought back a modicum of sanity in the Ravens’ close win over the Browns.
This week, the Steelers have a bye, so I’ll pick six other games rather than five. Last week I went 2-4, which I totally blame on the replacement refs, to put me back to .500 at 9-9 for the season. Let’s see if I can’t get out from behind last week’s eight-ball:
- Vikings at Lions — The Vikes took care of business against an excellent 49ers team at the Marshmallow Dome, but this week they face a pretty decent Lions team on the road. Christian Ponder is a little dinged up, too. I’m picking the Lions at home in a tough divisional contest, 34-30, but if the Vikes can win their first road game today, they may be for real.
- 49ers at Jets — The 49ers are going to be looking to rebound from their upset loss to the Vikes last week. The Jets play tough at home — but Darrell Revis is out for the season, too. I’m going with San Francisco to get out ahead early and keep Mark Sanchez under pressure, with the 49ers outlasting the Jets 24-20.Note: Jazz almost certainly disagrees with me.
- Raiders at Broncos – The Raiders won their first game of the season last week at home against the Steelers, who played sloppy defense. I don’t think the Raiders can duplicate that performance against the Broncos at Mile High. Look for Peyton Manning to start getting hot earlier in games, stick with the no-huddle from the start, and put some big points up on Oakland, 38-27.
- Dolphins at Cardinals – There are three undefeated teams still left in the NFL, a pretty low number after just three weeks. This might be the most competitive of the three games today in which they play. Don’t expect Arizona to slow down against Miami, though, which lost a tough OT game last week against the Jets at home. Arizona should win by a TD, 27-20, without OT.
- Panthers at Atanta – Another of the unbeaten teams takes the field against a 1-2 opponent — and also should have no trouble with them. The Panthers have some ability to surprise people, but I don’t think they can stack up against the Falcons in Atlanta. 31-20, Falcons. (The Titans-Texans game is so lopsided that I won’t bother to make a pick.)
- Giants at Eagles – This should be a really good game between two division rivals, both at 2-1. Giants have won their only road game, while Philly won their only home game so far. Philly’s looked a little ragged, though, and I think the Giants are the stronger team overall, with Michael Vick the real wildcard in the equation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this go to OT, but I think the Giants will edge the Eagles, 31-28.