Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

WEEK 2 PICKS: The NFL is putting on airs

Forget the run game; it's all about passing

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Pour some out for stout defence and a smash-mouth run game.

Said brand of football is over, my friends.

That's the reality for NFL fans who love the very foundation the game was built on. It's a quarterback league forever and ever now; our Sundays and Mondays saddened with deep balls and pass interference calls.

For example: Tom Brady threw for 517 yards against the Dolphins, while some guy named Chad Henne answered with 416 yards passing. Together, they threw the ball 97 times.

At one point, the action looked like a pinball game -- when three extra bonus balls get thrown into the mix in a dizzying array of excitement and confusion.

Carolina's Cam Newton opened his pro career by throwing for 422 yards.

He was three yards better than Drew Brees, a Super Bowl MVP.

They have a certain air about them, don't they?

Fifteen different quarterbacks threw 35 or more passes on opening weekend, and 10 of those went over the top 40 or more times. Bonus balls everywhere.

This isn't a complaint -- not at all -- but more of a public acceptance of how things have changed. The quarterback is king now, with specific rules designed to protect the position and keep the spirals spinning.

Our only hope left to keep the ball on the ground? Donovan McNabb.

If he keeps throwing for 39 yards a game (like he did against the Chargers), Minnesota will have no other choice but to run the ball and get better on defence. Who knows -- maybe other clubs will want to be like the Vikings and run the ball on every down.

Cheers to that. On to the picks!


Kansas City at Detroit

Line: Lions -8

Wazny: The Lions straight up, Chiefs and the points. Forget about last week -- the Lions aren't really that good; the Chiefs aren't really that bad.

Lawless: Detroit both ways. The Chiefs are a mess and the Lions are surging.

Wiecek: Detroit straight up, Chiefs against the spread. Still having a hard time believing the Lions are for real.


Baltimore at Tennessee

Line: Ravens -5 1/2

Wazny: The Ravens both ways. Remember when Titans owner Bud Adams gave the home crowd the double bird from the owner's box? Matt Hasselbeck as the starting quarterback is worse than that.

Lawless: Baltimore both ways. The Ravens could shut out the Titans.

Wiecek: The Ravens straight up and Titans against the spread. Baltimore dominated a very good Steelers team.


Cleveland at Indianapolis

Line: Browns -2 1/2

Wazny: The Browns both ways. Wait, what?

Lawless: The Colts both ways. The Browns lost to the Bengals and that's not good.

Wiecek: The Colts straight up and against the spread. Peyton or not, this is still the Colts versus the Browns.


Oakland at Buffalo

Line: Bills -3

Wazny: The Bills both ways. Love the new (old) Bills uniforms. Buffalo hasn't been this trendy... well, since never.

Lawless: Buffalo straight up and Oakland with the points. This will be a squeaker with the home team winning.

Wiecek: Oakland straight up and against the spread. That sound you hear is the Bills crashing back down to earth.


Tampa Bay at Minnesota

Line: Vikings -3

Wazny: The Bucs both ways. Only two receivers (Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins) caught balls for Minnesota last week. Hey, maybe Tarvaris wasn't so bad after all.

Lawless: Tampa both ways. The Bucs need a win and the Vikes are a soft landing.

Wiecek: Tampa straight up and against the spread. McNabb was awful in Week 1.


Chicago at New Orleans

Line: Saints -7

Wazny: The Saints straight up, Bears and the points. The Bears looked great at home last week, didn't they? I'm not sure that effort travels well.

Lawless: The Saints straight up, Bears against the spread. The Saints offence was dangerous last week but they'll face a stiffer test against the Bears.

Wiecek: The Saints straight up and the Bears against the spread. I still hate the Bears.


Jacksonville at New York Jets

Line: Jets -9

Wazny: The Jets both ways. Tempting to take the points here, due to Mark Sanchez's uncanny ability to keep both teams in the game right until the end.

Lawless: The Jets straight up, Jags with the points. The Jaguars are better than people think and the Jets can defend but still are just OK on offence.

Wiecek: The Jets straight up and the Jags against the spread. The Jets fly high off emotional win.


Seattle at Pittsburgh

Line: Steelers -14

Wazny: The Steelers both ways. After getting embarrassed in Baltimore, the Steelers take out their frustrations by pounding the Seahawks right onto the endangered species list.

Lawless: Pittsburgh straight up, Seahawks with the points. The Steelers get it right this week but they're not 14 points better than anyone right now.

Wiecek: Steelers straight up and against the spread. Blowout of the week.


Arizona at Washington

Line: Redskins -4

Wazny: The Cards both ways. My gut has a hunch which has a feeling that tells me the Redskins are going to be one of those 'good week, bad week' type of clubs.

Lawless: Washington both ways. I hate the Cardinals.

Wiecek: The Skins straight up and Cards against the spread. Try to stay awake.


Green Bay at Carolina

Line: Packers -9.5

Wazny: The Packers both ways. Once again, with a big home 'dog' it's tempting to make a Panthers play here but that would just be really stupid.

Lawless: Green Bay to win, Carolina with the points. Cam Newton has some chops.

Wiecek: Green Bay both ways. Cam Newton impressed last week; Green Bay defence will impress this week.


Dallas at San Francisco

Line: Cowboys -3

Wazny: The 49ers both ways. Things were going so well for Tony Romo until he fumbled all the game balls into the bay. Cowboys forced to default. It's another -- and totally awesome -- way for Romo to lose.

Lawless: Dallas to win, San Fran to cover.

Wiecek: The Cowboys straight up and against the spread. There will be no late collapse this week.


San Diego at New England

Line: Patriots -7

Wazny: The Patriots straight up, Chargers and the points. This one quickly disintegrates into a game of H-O-R-S-E, with Brady and Rivers trying to top one another through the air.

Lawless: The Pats both ways. New England is the best team in the AFC right now.

Wiecek: The Patriots straight up and against the spread. Still think Tom Brady is overrated?


Cincinnati at Denver

Line: Broncos -4.5

Wazny: The Broncos both ways. The Bengals' only one-game win streak of the season ends here, though Denver isn't anything to write home about.

Lawless: Denver both ways. The Bengals and their win over the Browns don't fool me.

Wiecek: The Broncos straight up, Bengals against the spread. Cincy surprised me last week.


Houston at Miami

Line: Texans -3

Wazny: The Texans both ways. Imagine if Warren Moon was still the quarterback in Houston. Yeah, start all your Houston fantasy players this week.

Lawless: Houston to win and cover.

Wiecek: The Texans straight up and against the spread. Houston is for real.


Philadelphia at Atlanta

Line: Eagles -2.5

Wazny: The Eagles both ways. Wouldn't it be hilarious if the Falcons just never recovered from that playoff loss to Green Bay last season? That line of thinking starts after this one.

Lawless: The Falcons both ways.

Wiecek: The Eagles straight up, Falcons against the spread. Game of the week.


St. Louis at New York Giants

Line: Giants -6

Wazny: The Giants both ways. The G-men squander a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter but win at the end. Tom Coughlin's head explodes.

Lawless: The Giants win at home.

Wiecek: The Giants straight up and against the spread. New York wins this one for fun.



This season, the Free Press has assembled its group of four-down football prognosticators -- columnist Gary Lawless, lead football writer Paul Wiecek and reporter Adam Wazny -- to offer their fearless predictions each week.



Straight up (overall): Lawless 9-7 (9-7); Wiecek 10-6 (10-6); Wazny 8-8 (8-8). Against the spread (overall): Lawless 6-10 (6-10); Wiecek 9-7 (9-7); Wazny 8-8 (8-8).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2011 C6

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