A bettor's guide to Week 3
Aaron Rodgers has memories of the Dallas Cowboys, and they're not all bad. He stepped into the middle of a rout last year and brought the game down to respectable proportions. The Cowboys were on their way to a blowout, scoring on their first five possessions, knocking Brett Favre out of the box with a dislocated elbow, after they had held him to 5 of 14, with two interceptions.
Enter Rodgers, down 27-10 in the third quarter. He put together some drives, gave the defense a little rest, quieted the Dallas crowd. At the end, he brought the Pack to within seven points, with enough time left to tie the game, if the defense could have managed just one stop. They couldn't. Dallas put the game away with a final field-goal drive, 37-27, but Rodgers had nothing to be ashamed of -- 18 for 26 for 201 yards, a TD and a fancy 104.8 rating.
The game had a weird aftermath. Detroit's Jon Kitna, who faced the Cowboys the following week, looked at the films and announced that the Dallas defense could be had. This prompted Dallas cornerback Terence Newman to put out a personal contract on the Lions QB, the league finally stepping in and announcing that Newman would be "closely monitored." Sure enough, the Lions found something they liked in that Cowboy defense, and Kitna and his gang put up 27 points against them, losing by a single point.
And now Rodgers, whose gaudy showing against Dallas started all the furor, gets another shot at them, under different circumstances, of course. This one's in Green Bay. Even Packer fans admit that he seems to know what he's doing, and if he could bring the hated Cowboys down to earth, well, they could use another hero, now that Favre is wearing the Jets green.
I think Rodgers and the boys up north are going to pull it off. Green Bay has won the last two meetings in Lambeau against Dallas, scoring 41 and 45 points, respectively, in a pair of blowouts. The Cowboys seem to have all the pieces in place this year, but I don't think the world has yet seen what Rodgers and the Pack are capable of. He ran a high-percentage, controlled passing game against Minnesota, then cut it loose for 328 yards and three TDs against the Lions.
I see a free-scoring game Sunday night, with lots of points and yards, and Tony Romo turning the ball over just one more time than Rodgers does. I see Rodgers in the biggest win of a very brief career, and a few more of those cherished Lambeau leaps. One question: If they lose, but get in under the 3 points, does he do, uh, a Vegas leap?
The second game that intrigues me is Philly-Pittsburgh. It's a heavyweight fight, with both clubs having knockout punchers running the show. Nothing against Big Ben, even with the bad shoulder, but I just think that Donovan McNabb has his quickness again, and he'll be back making plays with his legs, if he has to.
Plus, the Steelers hate playing in Philadelphia. They've lost their last seven there. The last time they won in Philly was 43 years ago, almost a decade before the Steel Curtain and Mean Joe and the glories of the Steel City. Eagles are the pick to cover the 3 in a slugfest.
I'll take Atlanta, giving the points, over Kansas City. Running team against team that can't stop the run, at least against Oakland. Looks too easy, but so be it.
I had no strong opinion on Denver-New Orleans, but Jimmy, whom we all know is a degennie, or a degenerate gambler, said he'll never talk to me again if I don't send it in on the Broncos. "Saints can't run, Colston out," all the usual reasons. Since he's the only one at SI who talks to me, and I don't want to lose that, I'm going to go with his pick -- for this week.
FORMULA GAMES: And until this thing starts kicking in -- yeah, I know, it got shmeared last week -- I'm not going to devote too much verbiage on these picks:
Bills minus 9 over Oakland. In the old days the word was always to bet against the Raiders on coast to coast trips, because it gave them all that time to screw around. Now who knows? They're screwy enough as it is.
Bucs plus 3 at Chicago. Sunday night I had the Bears favored by much more. Someone knows something.
Texans plus 5 at Tennessee. With the post-hurricane turmoil at home, they'll welcome a road trip.
Chargers minus 9 over the Jets. This line made absolutely no sense to me. An 0-2 team giving away a million against Brett Favre? Jimmy, quick -- when's the last time a Favre team got this many points?
Last week: 2-4