-Thank god the real refs are back. Am I right? You know I’m right.
-If there were ever a point this season for the Cleveland Browns to prove that a new era is officially underway, it would be Thursday night in Baltimore. I’m not saying they have to win, but if the Brownies don’t at least make their matchup with the Baltimore Ravens more competitive than last Thursday’s New York Giants–Carolina Panthers game, then I’ll know they’re at least a year or more away from being relevant again.
– I’m really looking forward to the Monday night Dallas Cowboys–Chicago Bears game. This is mainly because the winner will be 3-1 and set themselves up for a nice run to the postseason over the final three-quarters of the year, with two of their toughest games in the rearview mirror. The loser will likely expose themselves as frauds as far as any sort of title contention goes.
-The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints have both already lost as many games as they did all season in 2011. I don’t envy either squad but that will be especially true of whichever of them loses the game between the two, Sunday in Lambeau Field.
-I don’t see any way that the New York Jets, after having just lost Darrelle Revis for the season, can beat the San Francisco 49ers as they come off a bitter loss to the Minnesota Vikings this week. I tried to look at it from the west coast team playing at 1 p.m. ET angle, but Jim Harbaugh has his team staying in Youngstown, Ohio to stave off the jet lag (pun intended), and when he did this last year, his Niners won.
-I can’t think of anything less likely than Chris Johnson having a big-time performance against the Houston Texans’ defense this week. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to think of anything more likely. Such is the ever-changing landscape of the NFL.
-I feel like there are going to be a lot of positive feelings surrounding whoever wins the divisional matchup between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. If the Lions win, they will be a .500 team that just had a hiccup through the first quarter of the season, while Matthew Stafford struggled with injury and general performance, and while Detroit pieced together a running game. If the Vikings win, then a team that I picked to be the 31st-best team in the NFL and that many others predicted would be awful as well, would then be 3-1. Whether or not Mikel Leshoure can follow up off of his brilliant performance last week against the Tennessee Titans will say a lot about which story will be told.
-I would love to say that I can envision the Buffalo Bills defeating the New England Patriots at home for the second straight year, to make the Bills 3-1 and the Patriots 1-3. But really, I can’t express how confident I am in the Pats getting the win here. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be preparing for this one like a Super Bowl.
-You know how it seems like just the other day that the San Diego Chargers were 2-0 and the Kansas City Chiefs were 0-2? Well if the Chiefs defeat the Chargers this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium (a place that has caused Philip Rivers a lot of grief in recent years), Kansas City would leapfrog San Diego in the AFC West standings.