Stuck in a land of mediocrity

Steve Brownlee

Bizz. Bizz. Bizz. Bizzz. Bizzzzzzzzzz.

That’s me pressing the reset button on this NFL season, but my heavy-handed approach with that device would have you thinking I’m really pressing the panic button.

That’s because I am.

After 11-4 and 15-1 weeks, I’ve sunk to 8-8 and 7-9 the past two.

I know the pickin’s been tough — who would’ve predicted that Buffalo would beat Atlanta at the Falcons’ new stadium? — but there’s been a lot of games that could go either way where my huge blind spot about one team or the other has led me astray.

For instance, I look at New Orleans and all I see is the leakiest defense in all the land.

Well, to start the season that was true, but now the Saints have shored up that side of the ball. Just to boot, they’ve discovered a three-headed monster at running back that allows Drew Brees & Co. to not only overcome any defensive deficiencies, but keep that ‘D’ off the field by chewing up large chunks of the clock.

Much the same can be said about Houston and the Los Angeles Rams at the top of the spectrum or Indianapolis and the New York Jets at the bottom. All are much improved from where most — including me — thought they’d be.

On the flip side, Tennessee and Oakland were disappointments even before their starting quarterbacks went down to injuries.

Oh what a mess.

The key is to look at what teams have actually done in these first four weeks of the season, not just have a knee-jerk reaction that, for instance, the Saints are bad, bad, bad.

So let’s try again, with 14 games on this week’s slate as the season’s first scheduled off weeks go to Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans and Washington:

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Today, 8:30 p.m.

New England at Tampa Bay — Oh boy, it’s starting already — the Patriots are one of those teams due for a major reassessment, which I think can be chalked up to injuries.

Their secondary looked putrid on Sunday vs. Carolina, but with a short week and going on the road, even Bill Belichick and his minions will be hard-pressed to fix it in time. Buccaneers, 30-20.

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Sunday, 1 p.m.

Buffalo at Cincinnati — Despite a letdown expected after Buffalo’s big win at Atlanta, I still like the Bengals to not put up enough of a fight. Plus Cincy should have letdown issues of its own after beating Cleveland. Really, beating the Browns is that much of an accomplishment? Bills, 23-19.

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New York Jets at Cleveland — By losing Sunday, the Browns’ record since Thanksgiving 2014 officially fell below .100 — 4-37. I’ll stick with the 90th-plus percentile here. Jets, 16-13.

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Carolina at Detroit — There’s two things to consider with Panthers’ QB Cam Newton vs. the Lions defense — the pass rush may not be as effective against a runner like Newton, but his so-so accuracy may allow interceptions like Detroit had against Arizona’s Carson Palmer and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.

All in all, give me the home team. Lions, 28-24.

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San Francisco at Indianapolis — Looks like a chance for Indy to get a rare easy win, playing the 0-4 49ers at home. But San Fran has lost its last three games to Seattle, the Rams and Arizona by a total of eight points. I’ll pretend to be smarter than the average bear and take the 49ers, 20-17.

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Tennessee at Miami — Because of Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins have played more games in Europe than in Miami. Titans QB Marcus Mariota is iffy with a strained hamstring, which brings the longtime washed-up Matt Cassel to the forefront. Give me the Dolphins, 22-20.

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Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants — There’s no wins between these two. Not only does home field mean more when teams are bad, but it’s a cross-country trip for L.A. Giants, 23-19.

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Arizona at Philadelphia — Arizona has its wins over San Fran and Indy, both in overtime. Next! Eagles, 27-17.

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Jacksonville at Pittsburgh — I keep waiting for Pittsburgh to implode. Maybe next week. Steelers, 20-13.

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Sunday, 4 p.m.

Seattle at Los Angeles Rams — The Seahawks are down supposedly because of their defense. That’s bad news on the road at this new juggernaut. Rams, 31-21.

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Baltimore at Oakland — I was impressed with what I saw of E.J. Manuel last week subbing for Raiders’ QB Derek Carr. Now that he’ll get all the reps in practice, Raiders, 33-24.

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Green Bay at Dallas — With the 10-day layoff, I gotta believe the Pack will get some of their injured players back, even if starting running back Ty Montgomery looks iffy with his ribs. I also don’t remember Jerry Jones Memorial Stadium (or whatever they call it) being that much of an advantage for the Cowboys. Packers, 26-24.

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Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

Kansas City at Houston — Wow, this could be the non-Packers, non-Lions prime time game of the year with the resurgent Texans offense. I’m told the Chiefs are comeback kings of the league. That may be the Houston rookie QB’s downfall if as expected he doesn’t keep the pedal to the metal after building a lead. Chiefs, 30-27.

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Monday, 8:30 p.m.

Minnesota at Chicago — This sounds like a mistake by the Bears, putting in rookie QB Marcus Trubisky for the first time against one of the staunchest defenses in the league. But I’m sure they were saying that in Houston a couple weeks ago when they brought Watson in. Bears 17-13.

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Last week — 7-9, 44 percent. Season — 41-22, 65 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@ miningjournal.net.