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- Indianapolis host New England in the game of the season

Ian Hetherington November 4, 2007
Ian Hetherington
NFL Columnist

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NFL Week8 thoughts

An American sports game in London: I don’t think it’s much of a secret that the game itself at Wembley was particularly entertaining. Some of the most exciting plays got pulled back for penalties when they might have enlivened a game which sank into the mud. Heavy rain all day, no roof (or even retractable roof) plus a sport that isn’t forgiving to the turf showed that Wembley could really do with better drainage. However, the day as a whole was a great success, certainly for the fans. I managed to get myself tickets to the “Tailgate Party” (which was nothing like an actual tailgate party, more of an NFL bonanza) so I was able to get a taste for the entire experience the NFL laid on for the fans. After collecting our tickets we went off to the party to sample the various things on offer. Wembley Arena (to one side of the stadium itself) is a fine venue for this sort of event and the organizers were determined to make the most of what it had to offer. With a cinema screen showing an NFL Films production every hour, throwing and catching based games for those who wanted to queue, a few different live bands to the expected merchandise and food and beer stalls the whole thing was well organized and the atmosphere was excellent as fans of all NFL teams (though predominantly Dolphins and Giants, of course) mingled and generally had a good time as the game itself got near.

As for the game, it was my first time inside the stadium so once I’d enjoyed the spectacle of that I clambered up to my seat right at the back of the top tear and realized despite how far away I was, it made for an excellent view. After the formalities of the national anthems the game started, and although it took some of the fans a little while to get into the nuances of behaving like an American Football crowd, eventually they got the idea and the atmosphere ended up being excellent, as everybody (even the neutrals) had clearly picked a side and were making noise when they should. The fans rose to a crescendo once the Giants got the ball in time to take a knee, disappointed after the Dolphins had looked like they might be going for the unlikeliest of comebacks, and the boos rang out as New York brought the game to an end.

All in all, despite the best attempts of the weather to spoil the proceedings, I suspect the NFL have been more than pleased with how it all went and starting next season we’ll likely see more NFL games on this side of the world. And who knows, maybe if that goes well too there might be discussions about adding a 17th international game for every team sooner rather than later.

But anyway, with that done it’s time to get back to business as usual so here are more thoughts for week 8.

Champ Bailey: What’s wrong with Champ Bailey? In an age when new rules were making it harder and harder for true cover corners to ply their trade Bailey usually still stood out as probably the best in the league at doing that. This season he’s still been part of a mostly solid pass defense but I think the pass over his head by Brett Favre and then him diving in a doomed attempt to stop James Jones progressing after his catch. He and Bly are formidable, but Champ isn’t looking his best so far.

Still winless: Given their inability to convert being in a mud bath probably helped the Dolphins keep the Giants within touching distance in London. The Rams meanwhile looked like there was a little more life with Jackson and Bulger back in the fold, but they’re still going to have to tighten up that defense.

LenDale White: He might not have scored, but with Vince Young floundering White was the carthorse which tugged the Titans along to victory. A good job the Titans didn’t turn the ball over because it might have been enough to let Oakland in the door.

NFL Week 9

Game predictions
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa have proven themselves capable of convincingly defying expectation this year while being unpredictable in the face of our new opinion of them. Still, if the last three weeks are anything to go by we know that win or lose, their game could be a close one. Arizona missed a chance to steal one at FedEx field in their last game, and coming out of a bye week they’ll be making plans to cast that memory aside. These Bucs are proving sturdy though, so I see them putting down the Cardinals by a score.

Carolina Panthers vs. Tennessee Titans
Let’s make no bones about how bad Vince Young was last week. He was dreadful. But you know what? It doesn’t change my opinion of him even a little bit. He might have stunk the place up when throwing the ball but whereas other quarterbacks might have panicked a little and ended up giving the ball away, Young didn’t. He let his backs take the strain and didn’t force anything he shouldn’t. A little Bironas-reliant they may have been recently, but a Carolina likely to be led by David Carr shouldn’t worry the Titans too much on their own patch.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills
Marshawn Lynch might be in a position to make that toothless Bengals defense pay, but does the return of J.P. Losman give the Bills enough to keep up their good form? But for a scarcely believable comeback by the Cowboys, Buffalo would be on a four game winning streak. Lynch and the Losman-Evans relationship surely will cause the Bengals problems, but they’ve yet to beat a team with a solid offense and you know Carson Palmer is going to spread it around to potentially devastating effect.

Denver Broncos vs. Detroit Lions
I’ve a nasty feeling I could get burned on this one, but in spite of Kevin Jones giving the Lions a genuine threat on the ground, I think Denver have the right defense to stop Kitna and Co. They’ll need to pressure him more than they did Brett Favre, and an increasing injury list won’t help the Broncos, but Jay Cutler is still showing flashes of the sort of player he’s going to be. He’ll win if I’m right in my belief that the Broncos can stop this turning into a shootout. If Kitna is allowed to open up then Cutler and Denver could have big problems before they even start.

Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
After my recent unfair comments about their defense and subsequent wins, I decided I’d better look a little more closely at the Chiefs and was wholly surprised. The Chiefs have been, for me, one of those teams that slip under your radar and catch you by surprise when you notice them and they’re trundling along quite nicely. They’re not perfect, but hey, they’re top of their division right now. The Packers on the other hand, we’ve all heard a lot about. Brett Favre is clearly enjoying himself this season, and even with a more sedate passing game at times, he’s still capable of making the huge plays as Champ Bailey and Dre Bly learned last week. If Larry Johnson has his best game of the season, the Chiefs could take this one, but I’ll be a sissy and take the easy road by picking the Pack for a win by a touchdown.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New Orleans Saints
I don’t like the make decisions based on an injury to one player, but damn it sometimes that’s just the way it has to be. Without David Garrard keeping his steady hand on the rudder for the Jags, I see Drew Brees taking this one by the scruff of the neck and taking the Saints back to .500.

San Diego Chargers vs. Minnesota Vikings
I said last week that I was basically giving the Eagles the nod on the road because I felt they had more to offer as a whole than the Vikings. Well, at risk of sound like I’m regurgitating my own analysis and putting new names on it, that’s the order of the day for them this week as well. The Vikings are fortress-like when it comes to defending the run, but when you’re playing host to Tomlinson and Turner that doesn’t always help. Still, the variety is the spice of life and the package the Chargers bring to a game should be too hot for the Vikings.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Does anybody like to even make the effort thinking about a game like this? Atlanta are one of the few teams with the uninviting distinction of having looked poorer than the 49ers, but they do have home field advantage which could tip the scales back to even. I’d flip a coin, but it’d just land on its side. In a game where inefficient offense will probably be king (married, of course, to the queen of shaky defense) the Falcons will find enough give in their opposite to take the win.

Washington Redskins vs. New York Jets
Let’s ignore last weeks debacle against the Patriots, because given how New England have played this year it’s actually not that humiliating (though I suspect the players would tell you different) and it doesn’t alter the truth that the Redskins are a good team. A potentially very good team. And in the green corner, we have a Jets team who while their New York cousins were off in London hunting Dolphins, decided to stay at home and be made to look bad by the Bills. Do you want me to spell this out for you?

Seattle Seahawks vs. Cleveland Browns
Until the Seahawks look more reliable on offense they’re always going to be an unknown quantity and Cleveland isn’t an easy game right now as they’re managing to put a lot of yards up and score touchdowns when they need to. I wouldn’t have thought it at the start of the season when looking at this fixture, but I really think the Browns have a tremendous chance of a win here.

Houston Texans vs. Oakland Raiders
Josh McCown is back behind center as the Raiders receive the only franchise they’ve yet to beat. I think they might have to wait a little longer to break that streak, though JaMarcus Russell might not have to wait as long as we thought to start taking some snaps. Sage Rosenfels isn’t exactly the deadliest gunslinger in town, but he should do well enough with a group of receivers who’ve stepped up admirably in Andre Johnson’s stead.

***Game of the Week***
New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
There’s nothing I can add to this that hasn’t already been said. In short, it’s looking like a game that can’t fail to live up to the hype which is of course a sure fire way for people to get disappointed, but it really doesn’t seem likely somehow that the two best teams in the NFL clashing this weekend isn’t going to produce. It’s been scrutinised to death, so all I’m going to say is I’m picking the Patriots in the full knowledge that the Colts have it in them to keep their unbeaten streak going.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The fate of this game could rest in the hands of Donovan McNabb. There’s a chance that the Cowboys’ schedule has meant their defense is flattering to deceive, so if McNabb is on-form then he could provide the best test that the ‘Boys have had aside from the Patriots. There’s little doubt that if they get their offense firing on all cylinders then the Eagles are a hard team to survive. 3-4 speaks for itself though, and these Cowboys are shaping up into a fine team. It’s hard to call anything in the NFC East, but I think Dallas should take this one.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard for me to really see the Ravens as a 4-3 team, because they’ve struggled with offense once again and their defense didn’t click together at the start of the season. With their range of weapons and all-action defense I think the Steelers have more than enough to wrap this one up at home.

PFC Staff Fantasy Picks

If you’ve been following this column, you’ll have read the fantasy football game between a few of the PFC staff we’re running for a bit of fun and maybe a few fantasy football pointers

Kevin Figg opted for Eli Manning, Marshawn Lynch, Roy Williams and Dallas Clark. For these players he got 0 (Eli had a nightmare passing game in the Wembley mud), 2, 2 and 0 for what I think must be an all-time low for us of 4 points.

Chris Pokorny went for Derek Anderson, Willie Parker, Plaxico Burress and Antonio Gates. They pulled in 16, 10, 0 and 14 points respectively to get Chris a solid forty points for this week.

Finally, I plumped for a fantasy team of Peyton Manning, Reggie Bush, Braylon Edwards and Chris Cooley. Manning led the way with 17 points, while the other three got 4, 16 and 6 to give me a week-leading 43 points.

Thanks to Braylon having another good week and Cooley getting a touchdown in spite of the Redskins getting hammered, I managed to edge ahead of the other two this week as I lead Chris by a few points.

Chris Pokorny - 297 ˝
Ian Hetherington - 253
Kevin Figg - 221

So Kevin drops back behind after his players all had surprisingly disappointing games while Chris sits with a comfortable lead in the face of me clawing back a couple of points.

Kevin Figg:
QB: Jason Campbell (Redskins) vs. Jets - Campbell has been up and down this season so far. He'll be up against an average Jets defense.

RB: Frank Gore (49ers) vs. Falcons - Gore has had a terrible season thus far. But that will change this weekend against the struggling Falcons.

WR: T.J. Houshmanzadeh (Bengals) vs. Bills - The Bills defense has played well for most of this season. But that Bengals offense is going to break out.

TE: Dallas Clark (Colts) vs. Patriots - The Patriots play a lot of zone coverage. Look for Clark to have a lot of space over the middle.

Chris Pokorny
QB: Philip Rivers (Chargers) vs. Vikings - The Chargers know the Vikings aren't vulnerable against the run, and with Chris Chambers getting more acclimated to the offense, Rivers will look to throw the ball often down near the red zone to come away with touchdowns.

RB: Marshawn Lynch (Bills) vs. Bengals - After not making as much noise as Adrian Peterson has as a rookie, it's time for the "other" top rookie running back to have his breakout game against the Bengals' low-quality defense.

WR: Antwaan Randle El (Redskins) vs. Jets - He has yet to record a touchdown all season, but that's bound to change against the Jets, who will be prone to making mistakes under a new quarterback, setting up a shorter field for the Redskins.

TE: Dallas Clark (Colts) vs. Patriots - The impact that Clark has had in the past few meetings against the Patriots has been significant, and he'll be depended on even more if Marvin Harrison isn't able to play.

Ian Hetherington
QB: Drew Brees (Saints) vs. Jaguars – The Jags are hard to beat through the middle, but they’ll be having to concentrate to make sure Bush doesn’t break outside, and he’s got enough that even if he seems to be struggling they can’t forget him, and this’ll give Brees the time and space he needs to control the pace for New Orleans.

RB: Clinton Portis (Redskins) vs. Jets – The Jets could spend a lot of time on defense in this one, and although he’s had his ups and downs in 2007, Portis will be given the ball to offer support for Jason Campbell and I think he might end up as the main weapon on the day.

WR: Patrick Crayton (Cowboys) vs. Eagles – Even though it might not be as simple as all this, we know the Eagles will be desperate to stop Terrell Owens having a good day, which could cause them to shoot themselves in the foot with Crayton the beneficiary.

TE: Heath Miller (Steelers) vs. Ravens – Big Ben is going to be under a lot of pressure from the Ravens D, and it won’t be as simple as giving the ball to Willie Parker and unleashing him. Roethlisberger’s going to need to make some quick, smart passes and Miller is good enough with his hands to be an important outlet through the air for Pittsburgh.

Quarterbacks: Touchdown = 6 points; 50 yards passing = 1 point; interception or fumble (lost) = -˝ point

Running back: Touchdown = 6 points; 50 rushing/receiving yards = 2 points; fumble (lost) = -˝ point

Wide receiver: Touchdown = 6 points; 50 receiving yards = 2 points; fumble (recovered by defense) = -˝ point

Tight end: Touchdown = 6 points; 50 receiving yards = 2 points; fumble (recovered by defense) = -˝ point

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