Oh, to be an Atlanta fan in Heinz Field last Sunday.
First, to everybody who had safety concerns due to my not-so-subtle Falcons attire, the Steelers faithful couldn't have been friendlier. Sure, I got some ribbing when I walked up to the tailgate, but I also got drinks, shots, barbeque, brats, arms around my shoulder, pats on my back, and more "Welcome to the real NFL" greetings than I could count.
After the game, as we walked out dejected, there wasn't a single ill-mannered taunt. It was all "What a game," "It was close," "You'll be fine the rest of the way." Pittsburgh ain't Philadelphia, and now that we're finished with the black and gold, I'm pullin' for 'em until our Super Bowl rematch. Good people.
Arizona @ Atlanta (-6 1/2). Sadly, I wasn't as smitten with the team I was rooting for. I'm absolutely not going to overreact to one loss, but cracks in the 2009 foundation appear unrepaired. I spent early 2008 wailing about Matt Ryan - how Atlanta should ignore him in the draft, how I couldn't believe Atlanta took him in the draft, how I prayed this Thomas Dimitroff guy saw something I didn't. I spent late 2008 with a delirious grin, admitting my epic wrongness at every opportunity. Now I'm not saying my original estimation was correct - not by a long shot. I'm very happy to have Ryan as my quarterback. However, that euphoric feeling of "we have an all-timer!" is starting to wane. It's time for Ryan to come out firing and justify the hype, and he certainly has the tools to do it. And, quite frankly, this week he has the opponent as well. We get a rematch of the gut-wrenching 2008 playoff game, and two huge things work in Atlanta's favor. 1) Kurt Warner isn't there to beat us. 2) Neither is Keith Brooking. PICK: Atlanta
Buffalo @ Green Bay (-12 1/2). This one almost seems too obvious. Everybody's going to parlay it, everybody's going to have the Packers in a suicide pool - and then Trent Edwards is going to light up - naw, not really. I had you going until the words "Trent" and "Edwards." The Pack wins by four touchdowns. PICK: Green Bay
Baltimore (-1 1/2) @ Cincinnati. PICK: Cincinnati
Pittsburgh @ Tennessee (-5). The drawback of a Steel City weekend is being away from a TV during the one o'clock games, and crashing on a couch the rest of the day. (You might have heard, they like to drink up there.) So I didn't watch as much football as usual, and had to rely on Sportscenter and written accounts to catch up. So the Titans looked pretty good, did they? That running back dude was decent, I guess? Chalk it up to ignorance, then, but I can never get my brain to think the Titans are any good (I have the same problem with the Chargers). Thus, the scary-sounding call: Dennis Dixon goes 2-for-2. PICK: Pittsburgh
Kansas City @ Cleveland (-2). If Jake Delhomme can't go on Sunday, Seneca Wallace will start for Cleveland. I hear third-string is between a ticket-taker and a pile of dead puppies. Look, I haven't been to Cleveland in 10 years and still can't get that smell out of my nostrils - but don't you just weep for them at some point? Of course, my tears won't keep me from clearly seeing this absurd point spread. PICK: Kansas City
Tampa Bay @ Carolina (-3 1/2). At the time of this posting, Carolina QB Matt Moore has been upgraded to probable - so the Jersey Shore Era will have to wait in Charlotte. Really, for Falcons fans, has there been a more delightful 2010 development than the Panthers proclaiming Jimmy Clausen their QB of the future? PICK: Carolina
Philadelphia (-6) @ Detroit. Here we go. Michael Vick will be making his first NFL start since 2006 on Sunday, facing the Stafford-less Lions and probably 11 or so angry PETA protestors. Let me make this plain: GO YOU HAIRY LIONS. I was actually on the sideline during much of the Vick drama, unable to completely separate my disgust from how much I loved him as a player. That all ended with Philly's trip to the Georgia Dome last year. As soon as Andy Reid named Vick a captain for that game, the Eagles immediately became the most despicable team in the NFL. Arthur Blank, who lost millions due to Vick, deserves more respect than that - and the Eagles spit in his face. PICK: Detroit
Chicago @ Dallas (-8). PICK: Chicago
Miami @ Minnesota (-5 1/2). PICK: Miami
St. Louis @ Oakland (-3 1/2). St. Louis gay activists complained earlier this week there have never been any same-sex couples featured on Busch Stadium's Kiss Cam. Oh, you know Kiss Cam: a series of unsuspecting couples are featured on a jumbotron and expected to kiss. It typically ends with a close-up of two male fans of the opposing team, and the crowd erupts. And you know why they erupt? BECAUSE IT'S FUNNY EVERY TIME. Seriously, I'm a sucker for Kiss Cam. Yes, it's immature; yes, the punchline is more than a tad homophobic. But oh man, I laugh. So I plead to gay people: let this one go. If it were up to me, you'd have marriage, adoption, military service, whatever. Just leave Kiss Cam alone. No stadium, much less one in Missouri, is going to show two dudes kissing - they're just not. So come on, quash the complaints, because all they're going to do is cause Kiss Cam to go away for all of us. And nobody, save the odd, accidental brother-sister pairing, wants that to happen. PICK: St. Louis
Seattle @ Denver (-3 1/2). You know what else is endlessly amusing? It's half-time. A ref stands stoic on the court. The mascot starts messing with him, maybe pushing him, maybe trying to get him to dance. But oh no, the ref is having none of it - stone-faced, arms crossed. But then he suddenly rips off his shirt and goes to town, bumping, grinding, jiggling! Oh my goodness, it comes as no surprise to anyone, it was a fake ref all along! Never-ending hilarity. PICK: Denver
Houston (-3) @ Washington. Crazy, but true: there are six starting QBs named Matthew in the NFL this year. And though not one of them lit it up last week, they're an even .500 on the young season. Three wins (Cassel, Hasselbeck, Schaub), three losses (Moore, Ryan, Stafford). It's that kind of hard-hitting analysis you can expect here. PICK: Washington
Jacksonville @ San Diego (-7). PICK: Jacksonville
New England (-3) @ NY Jets. If there's a Horrible Commercial Hall of Fame, Tom Brady's Comcast spot has to be preparing its enshrinement speech. Brady's bad delivery, awkward posture, and teenage lesbian haircut make the ad excruciating, and I usually love to watch a Patriot flounder. (By the way, the Hall of Fame ceremony will also feature whoever wrote "So S-O, G-double-O-D Good." I'm feeling stabby just typing that.) PICK: New England
NY Giants @ Indianapolis (-5). How quickly will this broadcast make you want to throw yourself on a pitchfork? Oh look, there's Archie again. Ho-ho, Olivia is wearing both team colors. And there's poor Cooper. Poor, poor Cooper. Oh look, another Archie sighting! PICK: Indianapolis
New Orleans (-5 1/2) @ San Francisco. Anything can happen, but Seattle's Week One shellacking of the 49ers doesn't inspire hope. Sometimes it really this easy: "Drew Brees vs. Alex Smith." Good luck with that upset. PICK: New Orleans
Last week: 7-6-3