My schedule has been kinda crazy lately (as you've noticed), so the weekly football preview is getting a little abbreviated this week. But there are still picks to be made - I've gotta make up that two-game gap you're holding on me. Our five spotlight games: Steelers-Fins, Packers-Vikes, Pitt-Rutgers, WVU-Syracuse, and PSU-Minnesota. Let's do it:
Steelers (-3) at Dolphins, Sunday, 1 PM
My pick: Can't wait to see how James Harrison, Ryan Clark, etc., deal with the new rule enforcement. Should be absolutely fascinating television. The Steelers will be playing sans Brett Keisel, but that can be overcome; the necessary chip will prominently be displayed on their shoulder. They're feeling like the victims again, and that's bad, bad news for their opponents. Steelers 24, Dolphins 14
Vikings at Packers (-2.5), Sunday, 8:20 PM
My pick: Speaking of fascinating, Brett Favre has managed to capture my attention on a regular basis this year, much to my chagrin. Every week, it seems like he's right in the middle of the biggest game at that given time, one that I absolutely have to watch. And once again this week, the embattled QB will be in the spotlight for a huge divisional game at his old home field.
I feel like these are two teams going in different directions: the Packers are losing players left and right to injury, while the Vikings are starting to get things figured out after a rocky start. Favre owned the Packers twice last year, putting up 68 points in their two games. He's got bigger, Sterger-y problems he's facing right now other than worrying about the reception in Green Bay, but the football field will be his happy place. He'll bring the Vikes back to .500 - while dropping the Packers under .500 - on Sunday night. Vikings 31, Packers 21
Rutgers at Pitt (-8), Saturday, 12 PM
My pick: Pitt finally had some good things happen last week in a surprisingly easy dismissal of Syracuse on Saturday, and on paper there should be no reason why those vibes can't continue this weekend. Rutgers has a very complex defense that they will throw at Tino Sunseri, but if the improved Pitt offensive line can withstand their push, their chances of victory will increase exponentially.
It's been a very emotional week for Rutgers dealing with the devastating Eric LeGrand injury, which most likely will be a rallying point for the Scarlet Knights. To boot, Rutgers usually gives Wanny teams all they can handle, lest we forget their 54-34 upset win at Heinz Field in 2008 over 17th-ranked Pitt (featuring 6 touchdown passes by Mike Teel). But I like the Panthers to get their heads above .500 after this one's done. Things seem to be headed in the right direction. Would've been nice to say that, oh, a month ago. But better late than never, I suppose. Pitt 27, Rutgers 20
Penn State (-8.5) at Minnesota, Saturday, 12 PM
My pick: I absolutely loved this quote from Minnesota interim coach Jeff Horton about this game: "We've really got nothing to lose. We can try anything. If if works, it works. If it doesn't, who cares?"
The Golden Gophers are 1-6, and that lone win was by a mere seven points in their season opener against Middle Tennessee. They've got a coach who is playing with house money, and a remaining five-game schedule that features three top-15 teams. In their eyes, this may be the best shot they have at victory, whether that's true or not.
The Minnesota crowd will be enthused and might even help their team to an emotional edge in the early going, but I think the Nittany Lions eventually pull away from the overmatched Gophers in this one. These aren't the two prettiest offenses you'll ever run into, but my eyes tell me that JoePa owns the more talented team. It's about time that he wins a game in the Big 10 this year. Penn State 30, Minnesota 20
Syracuse at West Virginia (-16), Saturday, 12 PM
My pick: West Virginia's quietly run their record to 5-1, outscoring their past two opponents by a combined score of 69-16. Things look like they are clicking for Bill Stewart's team, led by a scoring defense that ranks third in the entire country at 12.3 PPG.
Noel Devine (13 carries, 29 yards last week) needs to get back on track after his toe injury last month, and this might be that time. If last weekend's games proved anything, it's that Syracuse could be the cure for an ailing offense. The 'Eers have won eight in a row against the Orange, and that streak runs to nine on Saturday. WVU 38, Syracuse 13
My picks: 4-1 last week, 18-12 season (.600)
Your picks (via polls): 4-1 last week, 20-10 season (.667)
Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc): twitter.com/mondesishouse