By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Beer Runner
Hot off the heels of our opening-game success (Colts and the under
), we bring you four more thoughtful selections for the traditional Sunday games (Monday night previews to follow on Monday).
Each week during the season, we look the six most competitive games of the week. Using only our Quality Stats as a guide (click here for a refresher)
, the Cold, Hard Football Facts emerge and a projected score comes to light.
This particular Friday Beer Run offers an intoxicating mix of upset specials, cases of whoop-ass and enough analysis to leave you drunk with knowledge.
And if the Cold, Hard Football Facts are wrong, well, we don't want to be right.
To the picks!
The Patriots must be slightly embarrassed at all the attention
they've gotten. On paper, they're no better for this game than they've
been for most of a half-decade -- yet they are favored by an outlandish
6½ points on the road against a 2006 playoff team.
So, forget betting on the Pats to cover. The better question is
whether they're actually going to win the game. The Patriots are a team
that thrives on making the most of their opportunities, but their No. 4
scoreablility ranking goes up against the Jets' No. 4 Bendability. The
Pats should have the better of it on the lines, although the loss of
Richard Seymour is a big one.
While the Patriots are a team in flux right now (Harrison out,
Moss maybe, a slew of new players), the Jets have had maybe the least
jarring offseason of any team. With their entire offense a carbon copy
of last year's they should be in midseason form, and that's no small
advantage -- especially when considering these teams split the series
and both games were decided by a score or less.
In 2003, the Pats went on the road to play an AFC East foe with
their emotional leader at safety (Lawyer Milloy) shockingly and
suddenly removed from the mix. The score? Bills 31, Pats 0. Will that
repeat itself again? Not the score, but the outcome.
Final score: New York Jets (+6.5)
24, New England 23
CAROLINA AT ST. LOUIS
These are two teams that are pretty good in the trenches, middling in the secondary, and with one dominating receiver apiece -- Torry Holt for the Rams, Steve Smith for the Panthers. Outside of Indianapolis, they're as good as you get.
But the Rams have two things going for them that the Panthers don't: home-field advantage, and RB Stephen Jackson. Give the Rams three points apiece for those huge edges, and the Panthers are going to have to play their asses off to win this one.
St. Louis did have a terrible run defense last year (4.88 a carry allowed, 30th), but a top-notch pass rush (4th in negative pass plays produced). Can the Panthers, with their underwhelming tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Deshaun Foster, take advantage while keeping Jake Delhomme upright and mistake free?
When it comes to the red zone, it'll be interesting to see how the scoring-challenged Panthers (29th in Scoreability) do against the bend AND break Rams (28th in Bendability).
Final score: St. Louis (-1) 24, Carolina 19
TENNESSEE AT JACKSONVILLE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts are higher than most on the Jaguars and lower than most on the Titans, so you can imagine which way this one will go.
Everything but the Vince Young highlight reel points to Jacksonville. The Jags' dominating O-line (2nd) against the Titans' terrible D-line (32nd) is a huge mismatch. So is Tennessee's 24th-ranked passing game (in YPA) vs. the Jags' No. 4 pass defense (66.8 passer rating against all opponents last year).
The Jags' passing game might be average (15th), but the Titans' pass D was worse (25th) -- and that was with Pacman Jones to at least make some big plays.
Vince Young is a heck of a winner and an exciting young pro, but just as Reggie Bush found out against the Colts Thursday night, there's still a way to go before the play catches up with the hype.
Final score: Jacksonville (-6.5) 34, Tennessee 15
CHICAGO at SAN DIEGO
The Bears are the unquestioned class of the NFC, which is kind of like being the toughest kid at sewing camp. Meanwhile, the Chargers were the class of the league, right up until they choked on a hairball against an outmatched Patriots team in last year's AFC divisional round.
If the Thursday night opener is any indication, the Chargers will be embarrassing the Bears and taunting them with chants of A! F! C! as they leave the field.
But the Bears have a good chance to win this one, if for no other reason that the Chargers don't force turnovers. The Chargers, despite playing with huge leads for much of the 2006 season, were 17th in interceptions (16) and 12th in fumbles recovered (12).
Chicago did just about everything well last year except for hang on to the ball, and when Rex Grossman was error-free the Bears were tremendous. How good? In the 11 games last year including postseason when he had one turnover or fewer, the Bears went 11-0 and outscored opponents.367-143. Wow.
Of course, the Chargers are better than the teams Chicago feasted on last year. And they're at home. But their No. 1 scoreability will be sorely tested by Chicago's No. 3 bendability -- the Chargers will likely be settling for field goals, and the Bears will be getting touchowns.
Final score: Chicago 28 (+6), San Diego 23