The Steelers are now 2-1, but they didn’t make it look very easy against the hapless Indianapolis Colts last week. They nearly made a star out of a quarterback whose career has mostly consisted of warming the bench up for Peyton Manning, barely keeping Curtis Painter from beating them in a 23-20 thriller. This week they face the much more powerful Houston Texans on the road, and the Steelers had better figure out how to stop a first-string QB, let alone a third-stringer. Their O-line needs some improvement, too, if Ben Roethlisberger expects to be breathing at the end of this game, and that means getting a running game going, which has eluded Pittsburgh all season. I probably should pick the Texans to win this at home, but hope springs eternal, so Steelers in an upset over the Texans 17-14.
I went back to 3-3 last week, bringing my season total for picks to 10-8, not exactly bringing back memories of Jimmy the Greek. Let’s see if I can do better with these picks:
- Vikings at Chiefs — Minnesota is simply the greatest 30-minute football team in the NFL. Seriously. If they only played the first half, they’d be 3-0 by a combined score of 54-7. Oh, wait — they only do play the first half, which is why they’re 0-3 with a combined score of 60-74. This week’s comedic NFL stylings comes to us from ESPN Insider’s Chris Sprow, who argues that the Vikes can still make the playoffs if they would just show up in the second half. Today may be their road back to the win column, because they may only need 30 minutes to beat the equally winless but much less competitive Kansas City Chiefs, even in KC. I’ll take the Vikings, 27-20.
- Lions at Cowboys — Tony Romo showed up with a huge gut check in last week’s surprise win over the Redskins, but the Lions look like they’re for real this year, too. The Lions came back strong in the second half last week — yeah, it was against the Vikings, but that’s big for a young team just tasting success for the first time in, well, decades. Romo probably hands them their first loss today, but it should be a very entertaining game. Cowboys over Lions, 20-17.
- Patriots at Raiders — The Patriots faced off against a team with some surprising early success last week and ended up getting stunned with a sloppy loss. Last week that was the Bills, and this week the Pats don’t want to make it the Raiders. Expect Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to right the ship in Oakland with a big win, 33-21.
- Colts at Buccaneers — I wouldn’t even bother with this game except that I like to make a Monday Night Football pick each week. Before Manning went out, presumably for the season, this looked like a prime-time matchup. The Colts hung tough against the Steelers at home, but I don’t expect them to do much against Tampa Bay but fall apart. Bucs over Colts 31-10.
- Panthers at Bears — Cam Newton looks great in his rookie season, but his Carolina team … not so much. Da Bears were supposed to be contenders for the division that they won last year, but they’re off to a 1-2 start and not looking sharp at all. Newton is the Panther’s rushing leader, but he’s going to find the Chicago defense a tough proposition on the ground, if not in the air, while Chicago’s rushing game is better equipped to deal with Carolina. Bears over the Panthers, 24-20.