By Scott Taylor and Dave Petrishen
TAMPA — In the National Football League, everything old is new again.
Thursday, night the San Francisco 49ers whipped the St. Louis 35-11 because the Niners and head coach Jim Harbaugh went way back to the future.
For years, NFL coaches believe that if you ran the football and stopped the run you would win every game. With the advent of the Passing Era, that theory was abandoned but on Thursday in the dome in St. Louis, Harbaugh resurrected the thinking of folks like Chuck Noll, Vince Lombardi and Hank Stram.
Harbaugh’s 49ers carried the ball 40 times for 219 yards and held the Rams to only 18 yards on 19 carries (Where have you gone Stephen Jackson?). In probably his team’s most important game of the year, Harbaugh decided it might be worth his while to give Frank Gore the football. Gore carried for 1253 yards — more yards in than his three previous games combined.
“If you run the football, it changes the entire attitude of your team,” said Gore afterward. “Ask any offensive lineman, it’s easier to run block than pass block. When you’re run blocking you start to believe you can pound on anybody. Our guys up front were outstanding tonight.”
By running the football more, quarterback Colin Kaepernick had more time to throw, especially off play-action and despite the fact they had 11 drives of 12 yards or less, they were still able to grind it out and win in a romp.
Meanwhile, our brilliant prognosticators have been grinding it out, just like the Niners. Dr. Football and the Coach are still working on tremendous seasons. Their accuracy is even better than Colin Kaepernick’s.
Last week Dr. Football went 10-6 (34-14 overall) straight up and 8-8 (21-27 overall) against the spread while The Coach went 10-6 (32-14 overall) straight up and 8-8 (22-26 overall) against the spread.
This week, the Doc prepares our distinguished opinions while the Coach takes a nap by the pool and phones it in. By the way, like The Coach, Carolina and Green Bay have the season’s first byes.
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-3) in London, England Line: Steelers by 1.5.
Both teams are 0-3 but the Vikings at least have been competitive, twice being beaten in the dying seconds. As well, Matt Cassel will start at quarterback for the injured Christian Ponder. However, the real issue is that there is no home field advantage for Minnesota. After all, the Steelers have a way bigger global presence than Minnesota. The only way the Vikings will win over the crowd is if AP gets off to a huge start. The Coach says: It’s AP or bust.
The Doc: TAKE THE VIKINGS IN AN UPSET.
The Coach: TAKE THE VIKINGS.
Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-2) Line: Ravens by 3.5.
E.J. Manuel looked every bit like a rookie last week against the Jets, completing just 19 of 42 pass attempts. The Ravens aren’t the kind of team you can have a “bounce back” week against. The Coach says: This isn’t your older brother’s Ravens team. A year removed from the Super Bowl and these guys are just about rebuilding. But they’re playing the stinkin’ Bills.
The Doc: TAKE THE RAVENS TO WIN AND COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE RAVENS TO WIN AND COVER.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2) Line: Bengals by 4.5.
Not many gave the Browns a chance last week, but Brian Hoyer was able to get the job done despite throwing three interceptions. The Bengals would be undefeated if they hadn’t blown an 11-point lead in their first game against the Bears, something they we’re able to recover from in a shoot-out last week against the Packers. The Bengals are dangerous and they’ll light up the scoreboard in this one. The Coach says: Watch out for the NEW Browns.
The Doc: TAKE THE BENGALS TO WIN AND COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE BROWNS TO WIN.
Indianapolis Colts (2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) Line: Colts by 7.5.
Pretty sure the odds makers were asleep in picking this spread…the Colts beat the freakin’ 49ers by 20 last week! I’m pretty sure 11 seniors from Sarasota would put up a better fight. The Coach says: Wow! 7 ½? Really? This is the free spot on the Vegas bingo card.
The Doc: TAKE THE COLTS TO WIN AND COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE COLTS TO WIN AND COVER.
Seattle Seahawks (3-0) at Houston Texans (2-1) Line: Seahawks by 2.5.
Seattle has the best defense in football and appears to be the team to beat in the NFC. However, they’re way better at home, and in week one they almost were beat on the road to Carolina. Houston could have trouble scoring if a leg injury keeps Andre Johnson out, but I think they’ll regroup after a thrashing in Baltimore. The Coach says: The Texans had better do more than just regroup.
The Doc: TAKE THE TEXANS IN AN UPSET.
The Coach: TAKE THE SEAHAWKS TO WIN AND COVER.
Arizona Cardinals (1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) Line: Buccaneers by 3.
Josh Freeman will be on the bench when this one starts as the Bucs have decided to start Mike Glennon. It’s hard to imagine anyone playing worse, but stranger things have happened. The Bucs defense is better, but they can’t play on both sides of the ball. The New Orleans crowd rattled Carson Palmer last week, but there’s not that kind of passion in Tampa Bay. The Coach says: Mike Glennon or Carson Palmer? Not even a competition.
The Doc: TAKE THE CARDINALS IN AN UPSET.
The Coach: TAKE THE CARDINALS TO WIN IN WHAT IS NOT AN UPSET.
Chicago Bears (3-0) at Detroit Lions (2-1) Line: Lions by 3.
The Bears are 3-0, while the Lions have lost to Arizona and beat two winless teams. In fact, in his career, Matthew Stafford is 1-23 against teams with winning records. The Bears defense force turnovers and should be able to force Stafford into making a lot of mistakes. The Coach says: Christian Ponder looked good against the Bears. Matthew Stafford will throw for 500 yards.
The Doc: TAKE THE BEARS IN AN UPSET.
The Coach: TAKE THE LIONS TO WIN AND COVER.
New York Giants (0-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) Line: Chiefs by 4.5.
K.C. has reclaimed its spot as one of the toughest places to play. The Chiefs three wins is already more than what they had in 2012, and they’re only 3 games in. The Giants are a mess. The O-Line allowed seven sacks last week; and Peyton’s little brother was running for his life. The Giants season is essentially over after this one. The Coach says: The Giants are done, four weeks in.
The Doc: TAKE THE CHIEFS TO WIN AND COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE CHIEFS TO WIN AND COVER.
New York Jets (2-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-1) Line: Titans by 3.5.
Not many would of thought that one of these teams will start the season at 3-1. The Jets Geno Smith made a few big plays against the Bills and their defense will keep most games close. Jake Locker was sharp last week against the Chargers, going 23-of-37 for 299 yards and a touchdown to go along with 68 rushing yards and a TD on the ground. The Jets will keep it close. The Coach says: Doc won’t give up on those dawg-ass Jets.
The Doc: TAKE THE TITANS TO WIN BUT NOT COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE TITANS TO WIN AND COVER.
Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at San Diego Chargers (1-2) Line: Cowboys by 2.
The Chargers and Phillip Rivers didn’t look bad last week; in fact both of their losses have been decided by three points. They did have trouble running the ball, and this week they face one of the best rush defenses in the NFC. The Chargers sadly, can’t provide any kind of a defense, so look for Tony Romo and the offense to have a big day. The Coach says: I don’t like either of these teams. I’m going to hold my nose and take the home side.
The Doc: TAKE THE COWBOYS TO WIN AND COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE CHARGERS TO WIN.
Washington Redskins (0-3) at Oakland Raiders (1-2) Line: Redskins by 3.5.
Yikes. No one thought the Redskins would be winless and the Raiders have one win after three games. RGIII starts slow every week, but he did manage to get into a rhythm last week but it was too late. Both teams defenses are horrible. Oakland’s Terrell Pryor will play, but how effective will he be after having his bell rung on Monday night. I think Washington gets their first win here, but it will be a hard fought one. The Coach says: Griffin 3 isn’t right. I love the Raiders at home against a team that isn’t as good as we think.
The Doc: TAKE THE REDSKINS TO WIN BUT NOT COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE RAIDERS FOR FUN AND PROFIT.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Denver Broncos (3-0) Line: Broncos by 10.5.
The Eagles aren’t the team to slow down Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. They’ve scored at least 37 points in every game and won all three contests by two touchdowns or more. Ol’ Mike Vick won’t keep up in the thin Denver air, as Chip Kelly’s offense has been figured out. The Coach says: Are the Broncos, the next ’72 Dolphins?
The Doc: TAKE THE BRONCOS TO WIN AND COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE BRONCOS TO WIN AND COVER.
New England Patriots (3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2) Line: Falcons by 2.
Tom Brady just knows one thing; how to win. Even with a second rate bunch of receivers. That’s about to change as it sounds like Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski will be game time decisions. The Falcons aren’t unstoppable at home like they once were, especially with all of the issues with their defense. The Coach says: The Pats just aren’t that good and the Falcons aren’t that bad.
The Doc: TAKE THE PATRIOTS TO WIN IN AN UPSET.
The Coach: TAKE THE FALCONS TO WIN AND COVER.
Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0) Line: Saints by 6.5.
A battle of two very different 3-0 teams. The Saints have never been more focused, and their fans can sense a return to the Super Bowl. They completely threw Carson Palmer off his game, and will do the same this week after their fans have been boozing all day. The Saints defense will be all over Ryan Tannehill as well. The Coach says: Tannehill hits the wall this week.
The Doc: TAKE THE SAINTS TO WIN AND COVER.
The Coach: TAKE THE SAINTS TO WIN AND COVER.