If you don’t mind TNP Nation, I’m going to journey in a different direction this week. On the morning of Monday, September 20th, the sports world learned of the untimely death of second year Denver Bronco Kenny McKinley. He was found dead in his Centennial, Colorado home with what appeared to be a self-inflicted bullet wound. A 2009 fifth round draft pick out of South Carolina, McKinley had an impressive rookie campaign in the special teams department, despite an injury which limited him to just eight games. He was the only rookie to average 22 yards a punt return and 10 yards a kickoff return. Going back a notch, McKinley concluded his Gamecock career with 207 receptions and 2,781 receiving yards, making him South Carolina’s all-time leading receiver and 11th all-time in the South Eastern Conference. In an ironic era (2005-2008) where a Steve Spurrier coached offense was stagnant, McKinley was the one constant when it came to making plays.
As a fan of the National Football League, South Carolina Gamecocks and life itself, this story hit me times three. My deepest condolences goes out to every family member, friend, football organization and fan that McKinley’s life touched. Kenny McKinley, we hardly knew you.
Please forgive me for opening week three’s picks on a somber note, but due to self-obligatory reasons, I had to. In the midst of this difficult story, I have to keep things in perspective. There is a reason why you, the subscribers of Take No Prisoners tune in on a weekly basis from September-February. With that said, it’s back to business as usual:
Giants over Titans– If there’s any front seven that can mimic what Pittsburgh did to Tennessee’s rushing attack, it’s that of Big Blue. They have the personnel needed to stack the box, keep Chris Johnson under 100 rushing for a second straight game and dare Vince Young to beat them with his arm.
Texans over Cowboys– Houston is dead last in pass defense. Dallas is second in the league in pass offense. Unfortunately, Dallas has a cancer that’s stifling that offense’s overall production. His name, Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator. Until he utilizes his talented stable of runners, the ‘Boys are in for a disappointing season.
Chiefs over 49ers– As much as I like Mike Singletary (redundant, I know), Kansas City’s defense flies to the ball too quickly for Alex Smith to have two consecutive stellar games.
Bengals over Panthers– Until Carolina’s quarterback situation becomes more stable, I can see myself going the opposite direction in a lot of its 2010 matchups.
Steelers over Buccaneers– Looking at the brief carpet ride Tampa Bay has been on, you can’t help but notice its productivity. Now it faces a Pittsburgh team that has what it takes to bring that ride to a screetching halt.
Patriots over Bills– Who says Randy Moss is a slouch? Looking at the other sideline, the only thing I’m looking forward to is C.J. Spiller getting more carries. Not only is he the lone bright spot on Buffalo’s offense, he’s also one of my fantasy running backs. C’mon Chan Gailey…get him active!
Ravens over Browns– This game is going to be closer than most people think. Charm City’s aerial assault has yet to take flight as many projected. Seneca Wallace is a serviceable backup quarterback who can keep Cleveland in the game. I’ll go with the Black Birds on the strength of home field advantage.
Lions over Vikings– Dare I say it…say it I dare. Detroit’s pass offense is 11th in the league. I can’t say the same for Minnesota’s. Minnesota’s pass defense is 7th, but the doughnut in the interception category tells me the secondary can be picked on. I look for Shaun Hill to have a nice outing in the Twin City. I mean, what quarterback couldn’t with Megatron’s ability to catch virtually anything thrown his way?
Falcons over Saints– Although it’s early, New Orleans’ offense isn’t quite lighting up the league the way it did a season ago. They crept out the back door with wins against two teams that have offensive issues. The Houdini act ends against the Dirty Birds.
Redskins over Rams– Washington, here’s a formula to consider: you gave St. Louis its first win of the season in 2008; you narrowly escaped them a season later; that same season (2009), you finished 4-12; finally, you blew a 17 point lead in week two of this season against a solid Houston team. Oh, by the way, Sam Bradford thus far is having a solid rookie campaign. Nothing about this formula suggests you can take the team from the “Show Me State” lightly. DO NOT PLAY DOWN TO YOUR COMPETITION!
Eagles over Jaguars– Jacksonville can’t seem to stop anybody defensively and Andy Reid chose wisdom over pride. What Michael Vick is going to do to the Spotted Cats will look like a YouTube tribute video.
Colts over Broncos– Indianapolis, I owe you an apology. I thought the younger Manning’s team would be the one to win the physicality battle. If you are consistent in that department, Houston will have a tougher time than I thought in securing that AFC South changing of the guard I mentioned two weeks ago.
Raiders over Cardinals– Does Bruce Gradkowski equal wins? I don’t want to go that far, but he did make Darius Heyward-Bey look like an NFL receiver. Oakland rides the momentum of that comeback against St. Louis into another week. Jason Campbell has officially been removed from the frying pan and put into the fire.
Chargers over Seahawks– Which Seattle team is going to show up this week, the one that mopped the field with San Francisco or the one that just about flatlined against Denver? I’ll save myself the mental anguish and go with the Bolts.
Dolphins over Jets– Gang Green will be without two key defensive players, Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pace. Miami appears to be A-okay health-wise. Look for the no-named defense to make life more “Hard Knock” like for New York.
Packers over Bears– Between Jay Cutler’s seemingly improved play and Chicago’s penetrable defense, the Cheeseheads are in for a challenge under the bright lights of Monday night. In further evaluating the skill positions, the advantage goes to Green Bay, in the form of its more reliable receivers. This one will be something to behold.
In week 2, I duplicated my opening week mark of 10-6, making me 20-12 for the season thus far. A lesson I learned in light of the McKinley situation is outside of what we see on the exterior, we never know what a person is really going through internally. If you do nothing else this week, take time out to let a loved one know you love them. Take it a step further and deliver that message to a loved one you wouldn’t say such a thing to on a regular basis. You never know how far a kind word can take someone. Until next week, please be safe and at peace. I love you TNP Nation and thank you for your continued support.
By Antoine Hoffman