Last Week: 12-4 for the second week in a row. 32-16 on the season forecast. Iím hot baby! There will not be a $.10 this coming week as I will be in Orlando paying (emphasis on the paying!) homage to Mickey Mouse and I wonít be able to watch football on Sunday other than sneaking peeks on my brother-in-lawís phone. This is my first trip to Disney and Iím pretty excited, though nothing compared to my children. My 6-year-old son started counting down the hours on Monday. We leave on Saturday, about 64 hours from now, right Layne..? Look for a pretty lengthy insider look at several draft prospects in its place next Monday, assuming Disney doesnít charge more than $12 an hour for internet access. At a place where a 6oz coffee costs $3, you never know. Sunday Best: NY Jets (6) at Baltimore (7): Two of Baltimoreís three games have been one-sided dominations by the Ravens. In the game they lost, they struggled to run the ball against Tennessee and couldnít get Joe Flacco comfortable or in rhythm. Likewise, two of the Jets games were impressive victories, including a blowout of the Jaguars. But in their loss last week at Oakland, the team broke character much like Baltimore did at Tennessee. They couldnít run the ball, they couldnít stop the run, and they just seemed out of synch all day. Some of the credit has to go to the opponent, but I suspect we will see a much better effort from the Jets this week, especially on defense. The key to this game will be how well the Jets can manage Haloti Ngata without Nick Mangold, their injured Pro Bowl center and offensive line glue. Ngata is a dynamic impact performer, and his ability to collapse the pocket from the inside is a nightmare for a quarterback like The Sanchize (I love calling him that!) that likes to keep his feet clean when he throws. Because the Jets struggle to run the ball anyways, the pressure is really on Sanchez to produce through the air and put up enough points to hang with the Ravens. That is usually a bad thing for New York, as Sanchez just hasnít proven he can win games against quality opponents yet. The Jets have some impressive pelts on the wall, but Sanchez has only been part of the hunting party and not the lead dog in getting them. The Ravens have proven an elusive pelt lately, having won six of the last seven meetings. Make it seven of eight. Ravens 24, Jets 20. Sunny Games: This is an interesting test for New England. The Patriots pass defense is simply awful, but now they face an offense that is predominantly a rushing-based attack. Darren McFadden just lit up a pretty solid Jets defense for 170 yards, a number capped only by the end zone coming too quickly and sharing some of the load with Michael Bush. Now the Oakland passing attack gets back the dangerous Jacoby Ford, giving Jason Campbell a slot threat to complement excellent rookie Denarius Moore and the quietly emerging Darrius Heyward-Bey. Although he has just five catches in two games, my Raiders spies tell me he is playing much better and is much more comfortable with Hue Jackson, who has inspired confidence in him and worked hard to get his teammates to support him as well. Itís not often you get a feel-good story from the Raiders drafts lately, but DHB is trying hard to shed the bust label that many affixed to his jersey before he ever took the field. The question I asked to the clouds is, does Oakland have enough firepower to keep up with the Patriots? Tom Brady threw four INTs last week, the same amount he threw in all of 2010. In spite of throwing almost every pass to Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, or various Bills, Brady still put up monster numbers and nearly won the game on the road against a division rival. Oakland will likely be without Chris Johnson (no, not that one, this one plays corner) and will plug in rookie Chimdi Chekwa. Expect Brady to challenge the former Buckeye a lot, because the Raiders do a sound job covering tight ends and likes to double the main target on the other team. Chekwa swam alright in his first dip in the pool, but The Sanchize is no Tom Brady. The money seems to be thinking Oakland, as the line has dropped a full point and even 1.5 points at some books. But the Patriots know how to bounce back from their occasional losses; last year they followed each loss by hanging 38 on Buffalo and 39 at Pittsburgh. As bad as New Englandís defense may be, I canít see Oakland scoring 40 against it. Patriots 38, Raiders 36. Pittsburgh (3) at Houston (15): Being a transplant in Houston, I love watching the local natives and their reaction to the Texans. Before last week there was Super Bowl talk and all sorts of confidence in the new defense and the high-octane offense. Now, after the Saints rolled up 40 points and the offense went splat in the red zone, the fans are all gloom and doom again, wanting Gary Kubiak fired, wanting somebody besides Matt Schaub at quarterback, ready to accept another 8-8 (or worse) season. Iíve been in a lot of places but Iíve never seen a fan base that is more short-term in scope than Houston. They seem to relish being on the roller coaster with their Texans. This week that coaster had better come with barf bags in the restraints. Pittsburgh is smarting after nearly blowing the Colts game. Their offensive line is currently searching for healthy qualified applicants, and even though Ben Roethlisberger is fantastic on the move and very hard to sack, itís asking him a lot to play behind a line half composed of other teamís practice squad blockers. Cue Mario Williams, because if ever there was a game for him to break out, this is it. The two ends in front of him, Antonio Smith and JJ Watt, are both playing pretty well. The guys on the other side, namely Connor Barwin, have been inconsistent but not terrible. Yet Williams continues to play with little apparent sense of urgency or passion. He still has a nasty tendency to just run straight into the blocker and dance with him, instead of shedding him aside or driving him backwards. The prevailing wisdom was that having him play OLB instead of down on the line would give him more room to operate, but he squanders the advantage too often. Given how much action the bust-in-training that is Kareem Jackson gets, Mario Williams needs to demonstrate why he was once the #1 overall pick if the Texans are going to win this game. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders flying down the field against the likes of Jackson and Jason Allen is a gross mismatch, but Roethlisberger canít exploit it unless heís got time. I do think Houston will score some points in this one. Ben Tate has proven heís the best third-string running back in the league and arguably better than several starters, the Texans line continues to perform yeoman work, and Andre Johnson and James Casey are good receiving weapons. I even think they will fare better in the red zone this week, as it has been a major point of emphasis in practice. But I just donít see the Houston defense holding back Pittsburgh enough to outscore them. Steelers win a toughie on the road, 34-30. Detroit (5) at Dallas (13): Coming off a short week after a game where the offense looked like 11 complete strangers that happened to be wearing matching outfits, the Cowboys get to host the high-flying Lions of Ndamukong Suh, Kyle VandenBosch, and a resurgent Louis Delmas. If center Phil Costa struggled with nerves against the Ethnic Slurs, imagine what seeing Suh and Corey Williams lined up across from him will do. Tony Romo is still dealing with the rib issues, while favored target Miles Austin remains out and Dez Bryant is trying to tough out a bum thigh. It sure doesnít look promising for the Dallas offense. The icing on the cake is that Detroit expects first round pick Nick Fairley to make his debut in this one. But all hope is not lost. Jared Allen and Brian Robison proved the ďMatt Stafford hasnít been sacked in two gamesĒ boasts had more to do with Tampa and KC having awful pass rushes than any perceived strength of the Detroit offensive line. Everyone expected LT Jeff Backus to struggle with Allen, but just how handily and frequently Robison whipped Gosder Cherilus and then Cory Hilliard on the other side was eye opening. Now those guys have to deal with Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, both of whom line up off the line to give them even more of a quick start and better angles of attack. Matt Stafford took a beating last week but got up every time. Now he gets to prove he can do it two weeks in a row. Without having much of a run game to keep the defense honest, Stafford might want to ask Romo about the wonders of Kevlar vests and get his shoulder surgeon on speed dial. Normally, I would take the Cowboys here with more confidence than you might think. And I do believe Costa and Romo will work out the snap snafu in practice this week, assuming Romo can actually practice at least once. But given the short week and the paucity of weapons Dallas has thanks to injuries, I like the Lions. Detroit is developing a swagger, and Calvin Johnson has been unstoppable. That catch he made to set up the overtime game winner was phenomenal. I like how Stafford integrated Brandon Pettigrew and Nate Burleson as well. With Dallas struggling to cover Washington, I just donít see them holding back the Lions offense even though I do think Ware and Spencer will both get multiple sacks. Jason Hanson is a difference-making kicker too, which helps tilt the scales further towards the Lions. Gulping hard, I take the Lions to win in Dallas. Gulp. Detroit 33, Dallas 26. Gulp. Fair Skies: Washington (14) at St. Louis (31): There is so much going wrong with the Rams right now. Sam Bradford is the lowest-rated passer in the NFC, barely completing 50% of his passes and obviously lacking chemistry with his receivers. Starting right tackle Jason Smith, the #2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, has been benched because he plays a little too much like another Rams first-round tackle bust, Alex Barron. Their secondary has been ravaged by injuries so badly that Al Harris, at 36 and with no knees, has to play almost every snap. Both Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams are banged up, so the running game is hard-pressed to ease the pressure on Bradford. Their own defense ranks 31st in yards per carry and gives up over 5 yards per attempt on first down. They even struggle with dumb penalties, ranking near the bottom in penalty yardage differential. Oy! Even though they lost the field goal war Monday night in Dallas, I am still encouraged by Washington. Getting Laron Landry back at safety is a huge boost, and Brian Orakpo is becoming an elite pass rusher. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett has yet to meet a blitz he doesnít like, and the Rams have proven vulnerable to pressure. Yet I think where the Ethnic Slurs are going to make hay here is with Tim Hightower and Roy Helu running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. The patient, methodical Shanahan offense should have a ruthlessly efficient day, even with the anticipated Rex Grossman turnover or two. As long as itís not three or more the Skins win. Washington 27, St. Louis 17. Carolina (22) at Chicago (16): If ever there was a week for Bears Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz to break character and favor the run, this is the time. Carolina has two rookies manning the defensive tackle spot, and while Terrell McClain and Sione Fua are not without skill, they can be managed. Aside from the need to get Matt Forte more involved, Martz needs to understand that the offensive line needs a bone thrown their way. Let them fire off and go get Ďem; it is a great way to build confidence and keep the defense off balance. And given the relative inferior quality of Chicagoís wide receivers, leaning on Matt Forte seems like an even better idea. This is a good litmus test for Martz and his growth as a coach. In his Detroit and St. Louis days, he would continue to throw the ball 50 times against 12 runs just to prove he could and to thumb his nose at the critics. When Lovie Smith hired him, Martz promised to be more professional and diplomatic about these sorts of things. And it is all on Martz, because few head coaches willingly cede control on all matters offense than Smith does here. Never mind that his beloved defense gets gassed because of the quick offensive possessions, or that the turnover risk by having Jay Cutler throw 40+ times from behind that offensive line is astronomical. It will be very interesting to see how the Bears come out offensively. The Bears defense presents a new challenge for Cam Newton. Lance Briggs is as good as they come at closing on the ball carrier, and the Bears have nicely incorporated a designated spy on mobile quarterbacks into their zone scheme before. Charles Tillman is a very savvy veteran corner that can bait a QB and make a play on the ball, and Brian Urlacher is still a great variable weapon to deploy. Carolina tried harder to establish the run in the sloppy conditions last week, and I do still like their offensive line. I also really like Steve Smith, who has historically just devastated the Bears. In his last three games against Chicago, Smith has 30 catches for 484 yards, plus another 27 yards rushing. Thatís all the more reason for Chicago to come out early and set the tone for the game. But the Bears have done a sound job of keeping Smith out of the end zone, as he has scored just twice. I think their defense rises to the occasion at home. Bears 26, Panthers 24. San Francisco (21) at Philadelphia (18): I would feel a lot better about the Niners here if Frank Gore were healthy. Actually that is a truism no matter the opponent, but sadly it is becoming an increasingly infrequent occurrence. Much as Michael Vick winds up on the sidelines intermittently throughout a season, Gore is seemingly always battling a knee or a shoulder or a foot malady. Vick is good to go in this one, with the most discussed bruised hand in the history of the world apparently not enough of an encumbrance to keep him out. It certainly wonít help with his turnover issues, and the Niners defensive front has been great at generating pressure so far. It could be another day of Vick picking himself up off the turf and making sure his body parts are all intact. But I think his honest stream of consciousness whining about getting hit so much and not getting protection from either his line or the officials will pay off here. No offensive line likes to be called out like that, and you can bet Howard Mudd will have the line functioning better this week. Vick earned at least one benefit of the doubt roughing call that will extend a drive, and every extra play counts with this big-play offense. Lesean McCoy moves as fast laterally as anyone in the league, and both Maclin and Jackson will get chances to exploit a Niners secondary that likes to gamble for turnovers. And then there is the travel factor. San Francisco goes east for an early kickoff, never an easy task. They are playing in Philadelphia against a desperate, talented team with a wounded animal mentality. I think the Philly defense will play better at home, and the Niners weapons are limited by Alex Smithís relative lousiness. This is one of those games where The Dream Team will strongly resemble being who some thought they would be. Philadelphia 30, San Francisco 13. Buffalo (9) at Cincinnati (23): You might be surprised to learn that the Cincinnati Bengals have the best run defense in the league, allowing just 2.9 yards per carry (tied with SF) and only three runs of longer than 10 yards (tied with TEN and DAL). They also rank 4th in sack percentage, which is number of sacks per attempt. So the Bills are facing a much different animal than the nearly defenseless Patriots. This is where we find out a lot about Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense and whether they are really a team that puts up 35 per game because they are awesome or because theyíve been fortunate to face crappy defenses in KC, OAK, and NE. As with every good chicken vs. egg argument, the truth is scrambled somewhere in the middle with a smattering of cheese and 2% milk. I expect the Bills to still move the ball pretty well but face more 3rd and long situations and abbreviated drives, more field goals and less touchdowns. The problem for the home team is that their own offense is really struggling to sustain drives, as only Seattle has punted more often, and rookie QB Andy Dalton is more of a jabber than a knockout artist at this point. I think the Cincy defense will be game, but Buffalo will still outscore the Bengals at home. Bills stay undefeated with a 23-20 win. NY Giants (11) at Arizona (24): As I am writing this, I have the new Dream Theater CD on as background music. A Dramatic Turn of Events is their first album without The Greatest Drummer Ever, Mike Portnoy. I had some anxiety about the spirit carrying on without him, as he was the public face of the band and heavily involved in writing and producing the music. Thankfully the band has not really missed a beat. The new CD gets into a little more ethereal experimentation with the keyboards and lacks any real head-banging gravitas, but it still rocks. I kind of like the more restrained drumming, for as great as Portnoy is he does tend to add some unnecessary notes and fills. This is not quite to the level of their masterpieces like Systematic Chaos or Awake but it sounds more immediately accessible than the uneven Octavarium or humdrum Black Clouds and Silver Linings. You might be wondering why I inserted a music review into a football forecast. The honest truth is that I really donít have a strong inkling either way who will win this game. The two defensive lines are both vastly better than the opposing O-lines, but the secondaries are both vulnerable and the passing attacks pretty evenly matched. In the lowest confidence pick of the week, Arizona 24, New York 21. Rainy Days: Denver (30) at Green Bay (1): The only real question here is whether the Packers will cover the two touchdown spread. With so many key players in various states of injury and the stark talent discrepancy to begin with, Denver is going to be hard-pressed to cover those 14 points in the first quarter, let alone four of them. The Packers will have to fight to stay interested and focused as they roll to a 43-17 home win. Minnesota (26) at Kansas City (32): Somebody has to win. The Chiefs finally showed some life in the second half of their loss to San Diego, efforting a spirited comeback that wound up just short thanks to a Matt Cassel interception. Minnesota has yet to show any life in the second half of any game, blowing 10, 17, and 20 point halftime leads so far. I agree with Adrian Petersonís father that his boy needs to get the ball more, not less, when they are trying to hold onto a lead. But some of the issues are defensive oriented. Against Detroit, they started dropping their safeties deeper and quit mixing up the coverages. When Matt Stafford got time, he picked it apart. Alas, Matt Cassel is no Matt Stafford and Dwyane Bowe is no Calvin Johnson. I really like the way Minnesotaís defensive front played with getting Kevin Williams back, and the Chiefs simply do not have an answer for that. There is upset potential here, but I just donít see it happening. Minnesota 20, Kansas City 14. Last second edit: When I typed all of the above I kept getting this nagging feeling in my stomach that Kansas City was going to win. Iíll go with the gut, currently quite happy and full of pumpkin ice cream and caramel topping. Chiefs 20, Vikings 14. New Orleans (4) at Jacksonville (25): Sometimes a statistic just jumps out and smacks you in the face. That happened when I was perusing the red zone efficiency chart. Jacksonville has made exactly one offensive appearance in the red zone in three games. Are you kidding me?!? A team with Mo Jones-Drew, Mike Thomas, and Marcedes Lewis can only venture inside the opposing 20 yard line once in three weeks? I know last week featured Blaine Gabbertís first start and a torrential downpour, but that statistic is ugly. On the flip side, only Houston and New England have more red zone opportunities than the Saints have with 14, and the Jaguars rate near the bottom in red zone defense to boot. This one could get ugly, but if the weather is awful the Jags could cover the 7.5 points. As I will be a couple hours away from Jacksonville in Orlando on Sunday, please hope for some great weather! Saints 34, Jaguars 10. Tennessee (19) at Cleveland (20): These two are probably the biggest surprises of the 2-1 teams, and both have done it with scrappy QB play and solid defensive efforts. What makes Tennessee an even bigger surprise is the drastic shortage of yards from Chris Johnson, who in his last five games has rushed 79 times for 189 yards and zero touchdowns. Aside from the panic that has brought fantasy geeks, it makes the Titans a much less dangerous offense. Now that star receiver Kenny Britt is lost with a torn up knee, Johnson needs to get back to form right quick. The Browns are quietly playing some pretty solid defensive football, making the transition to the new 4-3 scheme nicely. But Tennessee has been playing some marvelous defense of its own, leading the league in yards per play allowed and also topping the league in yards gained on first down. I think they are overachieving some, but Colt McCoyís arm wonít scare them enough to make the Titans back off from their aggressive style. So long as they control the penalties, where the Titans rank dead last, and contain Josh Cribbs on special teams, I like Tennessee on the road. Titans 16, Browns 13. Miami (28) at San Diego (8): The Dolphins surrendered two big plays to Colt McCoy throwing to Mohammad Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs last week in Cleveland. All of those guys would be backups in San Diego. The Chargers continue to play just well enough to win, but theyíll happily take the 2-1 record after all those years of losing games early in the year. They should be getting healthier, though we might have seen the last of Antonio Gates as a relevant player. The Tony Sparano execution watch kicks into overdrive, while Chad Henne continues to make bad throws at the worst possible times. Be careful to not get overconfident though, as Miami is better on the road and the Chargers are still iffy in September. Chargers carefully cook the Dolphins 24-16. Atlanta (17) at Seattle (29): This is not the season Falcons fans envisioned after the aggressive offseason moves to gun for the Super Bowl. The biggest problem is that while GM Tom Dimitroff is aggressive, the offense is not. For all the accolades that Matt Ryan deserves at Matty Ice, his cool demeanor is part of the problem as well. This team needs some fire in the belly, some urgency when they have the ball, but Ryan just isnít that kind of guy. It would help him if he had better protection, as Ryan is on pace to be sacked 68 times and has been hit more than any other QB so far. They are 1-2 and staring up at a lot of teams, making this trip west a must-win. That just might be a bigger problem than you expect, even though Atlanta blew a superior Seahawks edition out of the water here a year ago. Seattle has some serious issues, but what they do well matches up nicely with what Atlanta does not. The Falcons are suffering from terrible punting and punt coverage, while the Seahawks have a dangerous return game. Seattle has an excellent edge rusher in Chris Clemons and a tough up-the-gut run defense, which means Ryan will continue to lack time and Michael Turner will have trouble finding room inside again. Still, the Seattle offense remains highly ineffective and impotent, getting to the red zone just four times in three games. The Seahawks defense does not readily force turnovers, though they do have a very underrated young safety combination in Chancellor and Thomas. They do not have a complementary pass rusher to balance Clemons on the other side, which should allow the Falcons to roll protection to help the woefully overmatched Sam Baker. Iím going to give the Falcons the benefit of the doubt here, but with very low confidence. Take Seattle and the 4.5 points, but the Falcons somehow come up with a 20-17 win. Monday Night: Indianapolis (27) at Tampa Bay (10): Can we stop all the Tony Dungy references with this game already? The man hasnít coached the Colts in three years and hasnít been with the Bucs in over a decade, and neither team looks anything like the units he had in those respective cities. Dungy was a pretty good coach (I find him overrated nonetheless) but nobody casts that broad a shadow, not even Phil Jackson, the greatest coaching entity in professional sports history. Sure, both coaches branch off form the Dungy coaching tree, but both are distinctive enough in their own style and results to stand on their own. And that coaching is a big reason why I favor Tampa Bay here. Bucs coach Raheem Morris is a fiery go-getter, enthusiastic and creative. His players love him and want to win for him, and Morris has fostered a great atmosphere of unity and physicality. Colts coach Jim Caldwell favors Dungyís quiet, reserved tone a bit too far. Obviously losing Peyton Manning is a devastating blow, but I get the impression that this Colts team would be more competitive with a more animated coaching presence than Caldwell. His style of standing silently like a defense lawyer listening to the prosecution pillorying his client, then countering with a meek ďI dispute your allegations and intend to prove you wrongĒ. Sometimes you need someone to stand up and pound their fist on a table, to inspire and challenge a team. This Colts team needs that, because there is still enough talent there to win some games. We saw that Sunday night as they gave the Steelers everything they could handle. But that was a home game in prime time against a team easy to find motivation against. This is a road game in prime time against a team with no real enmity or rivalry, just a very physical Bucs squad looking to elevate their national profile. Even Manning would have trouble pulling this one off. Tampa Bay 27, Indianapolis 16. Drinking in the Dorm Room Games: Last Week: 5-0. Ahh, thatís better! Virginia Tech 27, Clemson 24 Michigan State 20, Ohio State 17 Alabama 31, Florida 22 Wisconsin 24, Nebraska 20 Texas A&M 44, Arkansas 33