Last Week: 8-8 Season Record: 25-23
My picks in bold. Lines taken from ESPN Pigskin Pick’em Game (currently top 8.1% of all entries)
(follow my entry here: http://games.espn.go.com/nfl-pigskin-pickem/en/entry?entryID=181280 )
Read the introduction to my Week One Picks for more information on what the I Ching is, how it works and how I use it: http://daodesam.blogspot.com/2012/09/nfl-season-2012-week-one-i-ching-picks.html
Browns @ Ravens -12.5
Hexagram 1: Primal Power 乾
This a nightmare matchup for Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. A Monday night game, on the road, against his team's biggest rival, which happens to boast the league's most intimidating defense of recent years; the signs point to him having a difficult night. His first game was so bad that many rushed to call him a bust one game into his career, but he has since shown that can look the part of a legitimate NFL quarterback occasionally.
It is troubling though, heading into to this game that these flashes of competency have come at the expense of very average pass defenses, the Bills (ranked 19th vs. the pass) and Bengals (22nd), while his disastrous debut was against the formidable pass rushers and secondary of the Eagles (3rd). Although the Ravens are ranked near the bottom of the league in this category as well, I think this is largely due to the quality of their competition. Their talent and overall ability at combating the passing game is much closer to Philadelphia than the other two even if the numbers do not yet bear it out.
LarDarius Webb has been maybe the most underrated player in the league at any position since becoming a lockdown corner last season, and Ed Reed is still always a threat to make a game changing play at any moment. Their problems have come on the other side as teams have relentlessly targeted the other starting corner, Cary Williams, rather than test Webb. However, I feel the Browns lack not only the offensive weapons, but also the quarterback play to exploit this weakness, at least compared to the Ravens' opponents who had success throwing on them thus far: the Patriots, Eagles and even Bengals.
Williams time as a starter may soon be up as Jimmy Smith is playing well behind him on the depth chart. The Ravens pass rush has to be factored in as well. Terrell Suggs may be out, but guys like Pernell McFee and Albert McClellan have helped fill the big, athletic disruptive pass rusher role in that defense, and Haloti Ngata is the best pass rushing defensive tackle in all of football. I say the defense improves as the level of competition slacks off, starting with a big game at home in primetime tonight.
Some of the names on the Ravens defense may have changed, but they are still a force and one that I don't anticipate Brandon Weeden and the Browns to be able to reckon with.