I feel a need to explain how I quantify what the "most interesting watch" is. It will focus on a unique, worth-watching match-up, maybe including a couple of dark-horse or surprising teams, a game with serious division/conference implications, maybe a battle of good players on bad teams. I look at the schedule, and one game will hopefully jump out and make me go "Ooh, that could be interesting..." This week, there were two, but instead of picking Steelers/Bears, I chose:
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Over/Under: 39 1/2
Line: 49ers by 1 1/2
I'm interested in this game because it will probably give a good indication of who will win the NFC West down the road (get out of the way, Arizona). Long derided as the weakest division in football, the NFC West is shaping up to be pretty competitive this year. This game, in particular, just has me curious. Jim Mora is stepping up as the Seahawks new coach, and he's got TJ Houshmanzadeh and Aaron Curry to help him out. On the other sideline is now-full-time coach (the legendary) Mike Singletary, who has his team playing as hard and ferocious as any team in the league. I can realistically see both of these teams pushing last year's NFC Champion Cardinals to at least third place in the division, and one of these two hits the playoffs.
I'm interested to see what San Fran's offense looks like this week, after a somewhat poor showing in week one. Shaun Hill probably shouldn't start for anyone, much less a playoff contender. However, Frank Gore and Glenn Coffee can bring the pain on the ground, and Vernon Davis is a good a pass-catching tight end as there is, so he has some help. The defense, though, is what this team is all about (never thought I'd say that about the 49ers). Patrick Willis has been one of the best in the business since he got drafted, and with Urlacher out, has to be the best MLB in the NFC. He leads a very tough, talented defense that has taken on its coach's personality.
Seattle, on the other hand, is a good team trying to bounce back off a miserable year. Hasselbeck to Housh hasn't shown the promised fireworks yet, but that is going to be a solid hookup. If people stay healthy, the Seahawks defense should be plenty good to give the offense a chance, and they have a really good group of linebackers. Two things worry me about the 'Hawks, though. One, can they run the ball effectively enough? Willis and company are more than capable of controlling Julius Jones and Edgerrin James. What can Seattle do to establish themselves on the ground? And two: can they stop the run? Arizona did, but I'd rank their defensive line slightly ahead of Seattle's. They've got their work cut out for them this game, as Mike Singletary will want to run right at them all game, and limit exposure to Shaun Hill.
I have a feeling that whichever team wins this game rides that momentum to a division crown. It's almost refreshing to welcome back relevant football to the NFC West. This is an incredibly difficult game to pick, and my gut says the Seahawks pull this one out, but my heart is telling me to run with San Fran. Arizona isn't as bad as the Niners made them look last week, and I think this will be a sloppy game with a low score and a lot of turnovers, but San Francisco's defense leads the way to a close win. Give me the under, laying points and the 49ers.
San Fransisco 20
Tough game to call, but should be an interesting one to follow. Last week, being a fool, I only picked 3 games.
3-0 straight up
2-1 against the spread