I feel obligated to start this post with my thoughts on retirement Champ Bailey. After spending the first four years of his career with Washington, he was traded to Denver for Clinton Portis in a blockbuster deal before the 2004 season. He instantly became a pillar of the Broncos defense for most of the remainder of his career until injuries accelerated his decline beginning in late 2012. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention that Champ was probably my favorite Bronco of the post Elway era.
His numbers are somewhat modest for such a long career. Just 52 career interceptions in 700+ games. Please, don’t let that fool you. He was the epitome of a “shutdown corner.” No one was stupid enough to throw at him, and when they did, they pay for most of the time. For most of his career, he was matched up against the other team’s best receiver. Most of the time, he made them a nonfactor. I honestly feel that I was at Champ Bailey’s last great game of his career. It was in Cincinnati in the middle of 2012 season. Well into his 30s, Bailey ran routes for the much younger fangled wide receiver AJ Green all afternoon. The accolades speak for themselves. 12 time Pro Bowl selection, 7-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL’s all decade team of the 2000s. Oh by the way, he could tackle too, this sets him apart from most defensive backs. Most can either tackle or cover, not both. He is also well regarded in a league full of scumbags. He will waltz into the Hall of Fame in five years. I will miss watching him play and still wear his jersey occasionally.
Switching gears, here are my thoughts on some of the biggest games of week 9.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh- The Steelers are quietly putting it all together after consecutive wins over Houston and a thumping of a very overrated Indianapolis team. They may have the best “triplets” in football with Ben Roethlisberger Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Baltimore is coming off a difficult loss at Cincinnati. They are very talented, but can sometimes be hard to watch on office. A great game for Sunday Night Football. I expect people (other than me) to take notice of the Steelers after this week. Pit. 21 Bal 10
San Diego at Miami- This is my favorite pick of the week. I’m surprised at how quickly people are cooling off on the Chargers. They may be the second best team in the entire AFC Their last two losses are to Kansas City in Denver. Denver is Denver, and Kansas City is the most underrated team in the NFL. I expect the Chargers to take out some frustrations on a Miami team that is better than most people (including I) realize. SD 31 Mia 20.
Denver at New England- I will not be making an official pick for this game because I cannot do so objectively. Denver’s defense is playing really well right now. A fact lost on most people because of the attention the quarterback is getting. The pass rush led by Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware is flat out scary. On offense, the emergence of Ronnie Hillman has provided the running game and a much-needed boost. Reports of the Patriots demise were greatly exaggerated following the blowout loss in Kansas City. They are clicking on all cylinders right now as well. In recent matchups with New England, Denver has had no answer for TE Rob Gronkowski. They will need to find one on Sunday. I expect to sweat this one out in the early evening on Sunday. This game is really a coin flip
Jacksonville at Cincinnati-Playing to my audience here. There really isn’t much to analyze. Cincinnati is pretty good and Jacksonville is terrible. I will say this. There is absolutely no reason for the Bengals to play AJ Green in this game, they should not need him to win this game. So I say sit him one more week just to be safe. Jacksonville is improving and rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has shown flashes of brilliance. However, they are still miles away from competing with the team like the Bengals on the road. The Bengals and Steelers will have a legendary fistfight down the stretch for the AFC North crown. Cin 30 Jac 10.
Indianapolis at New York Giants-If you ever wanted proof that the NFL truly is a week to week league, look no further than the Colts. They shut out a decent Cincinnati offense two weeks ago, only to follow it up by allowing 51 points to Pittsburgh last week. The Giants have been the toughest team in the league to figure out this side of Chicago. When he’s been protected Eli Manning has been brilliant this year. Also, I’m just not sold on Indianapolis beyond Andrew Luck and the fact that they play in a weak division. I’ll take the Giants to bounce back after two clunkers and pull the minor upset on Monday Night Football to stay on the fringe of the NFC playoff race. NYG 24 Ind 20.
A quick note, I’m staying away from the Arizona/Dallas game due to unresolved injury questions for both teams. Enjoy your weekend of football. College football on Saturday should be really good as well.