Friday, December 6, 2013
Miami (6-6) at Pittsburgh (5-7), Pittsburgh favored by 3
Every game left on their schedule is now a must win for Pittsburgh, while Miami is currently tied for the last playoff spot in the jumbled AFC playoff picture. Both teams are desperate so this game could have a playoff like atmosphere to it. I am sure Steelers fans will be ready to give Dolphin WR Mike Wallace a rude welcome upon his return to the Steel City. Wallace seems to be hitting his stride as a Dolphin these last two weeks, so maybe he has something in store for his former team. Neither team is exceptionally good at running the ball, so this game will likely come down to who has a better game between Ryan Tannehill and Ben Roethlisberger. Tannehill has shown definite improvement this season, but I don't feel comfortable picking him to win a shootout against Big Ben.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Miami 20
Minnesota (3-8-1) at Baltimore (6-6), Baltimore favored by 7
It appears that Matt Cassel will start this game for the Vikings, as Christian Ponder is still dealing with the effects of a concussion. It is hard to imagine that the Vikings won't be drafting a quarterback in April, and try to find some stability at the position. The Ravens have won back to back home games and currently hold the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. They will likely be underdogs in their final three games so it is imperative they win a game they should against Minnesota. The Ravens defense has steadily improved this season, as they have become more and more a cohesive unit. The Ravens offense still leaves plenty to desire, but the Vikings porous defense should provide ample opportunities for Ray Rice and Joe Flacco to make plays. Torrey Smith has a chance to have a real big game.
Prediction: Baltimore 28, Minnesota 23
Detroit (7-5) at Philadelphia (7-5), Philadelphia favored by 2 1/2
This game could end up having major playoff implications with these teams neck and neck in the standings. The Eagles actually have a home winning streak now and another streak going is Nick Foles has still not thrown an interception, while throwing 19 touchdowns on the season. The Eagles have won four straight but what has been worrisome the last two weeks is their inability to put teams away with some conviction. They have gotten comfortable leads over the Redskins and Cardinals the last two weeks and then each time let both teams back into the game. The offense seems to go on cruise control or something, as they appear to be an entirely different unit. What has not been worrisome is the play of the defense. Their stats aren't pretty, but the Eagles haven't allowed more than 21 points in a game since Denver hung 52 on them in September. They will have their work cut out for them trying to slow down the Lions offense. The Lions now have a fierce running game with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to go with Megatron and Matthew Stafford in the passing game. While the Lions rush defense is stout, their pass defense should be susceptible to big plays from DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. I think the Eagles newfound home success continues on Sunday, but I expect Foles to finally throw a pick.
Prediction: Philadelphia 35, Detroit 24
Kansas City (9-3) at Washington (3-9), Kansas City favored by 3 1/2
The Chiefs are reeling after a 9-0 start having dropped three straight, while the Redskins have lost four in a row. So I guess this is the something has to give game. What will likely give is the Redskins defense as Jamaal Charles runs all over them. Even Alex Smith has stepped up his production in these last few games as the Chiefs have been playing more catch up than they were in the beginning of the year. He should find open receivers against a Washington secondary that has been generous in allowing the big play. If Kyle Shanahan decides to stick with the run and not abandon it was he is so prone to doing then maybe Washington might have a chance against a wounded Kansas City defense. It would also help Robert Griffin III if his receivers can hold on to the ball this week and not suffer from massive cases of butterfingers like they did against the Giants. But no one in their right mind should be picking the Redskins right now, no matter how many games in a row the Chiefs have lost.
Prediction: Kansas City 30, Washington 21
Indianapolis (8-4) at Cincinnati (8-4), Cincinnati favored by 5 1/2
Despite their mostly dreadful play for the last month, Indianapolis can clinch the AFC South with a win at Cincinnati on Sunday. If the Bengals win, they will edge even closer to clinching the AFC North. They are getting healthy at the right time and could finally be ready to win a playoff game this season. The key matchup in this game will be the Colts Vontae Davis trying to cover A.J. Green. That means that Bengals QB Andy Dalton needs to avoid the mistakes that have plagued him his last four games. He may have to do that with Robert Mathis in his face most of they day since Mathis is having the best year of his career. The Colts avoided a slow start last week, but something still seems sort of off about them right now.
Prediction: Cincinnati 33, Indianapolis 24
Atlanta (3-9) at Green Bay (5-6-1), No Line
This game was bumped out of its original Sunday night slot since both of these teams have been colossal fails this year. Green Bay at least has somewhat better of an excuse since they have been without Aaron Rodgers since their slide. There is a chance Rodgers could return for this game and try to save Green Bay's season. I am going to pick this game going under the assumption that Rodgers will play and the Packers offense will more resemble what we have gotten used to seeing the last few years.
Prediction: Green Bay 28, Atlanta 14
Cleveland (4-8) at New England (9-3), No Line
The Browns are so thin at quarterback now due to injuries to Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, that they may have to start Caleb Hanie in this game. Bears fans just threw up after reading that sentence. The Patriots have needed to make double digit comebacks the last two weeks, but should not face the same quandary at home on Sunday. One story to watch is how the Browns record setting receiver Josh Gordon fares in this game coming off his second straight over 200-yard receiving game.
Prediction: New England 42, Cleveland 20
Oakland (4-8) at New York Jets (5-7), New York Jets favored by 2 1/2
Geno Smith was yanked yet again but after Matt Simms failed to impress while replacing him, Smith remains the Jets starting quarterback. The Raiders are hurting at running back, to the point that they may have to put converted cornerback Taiwan Jones back at running back. The starting quarterback battle of Smith versus the Raiders Matt McGloin could be seen as an indictment of the level of quarterback play in the NFL. McGloin has been serviceable but hasn't been able to get Oakland's passing game jump started. With both teams quarterbacks not throwing the ball all that well, and with defenses that are good at stopping the run, it should be a challenging day for the offenses and a challenging game for people to watch.
Prediction: New York Jets 18, Oakland 15
Buffalo (4-8) at Tampa Bay (3-9), Tampa Bay favored by 2 1/2
Old ACC acquaintances meet up when E.J. Manuel of the Bills faces Mike Glennon of the Bucs. And that's about all I can find worth talking about in this game between losing teams.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 35, Buffalo 27
Tennessee (5-7) at Denver (10-2), Denver favored by 12
This game could possibly be a snow bowl which is always the best type of football to watch. However, the last time the Titans played in a snowstorm they were destroyed by the Patriots, 59-0. After two weeks of being held to paltry scores of 28 and 27, the Broncos offense is back to scoring over 30 again. Eric Decker also got going, hauling in four touchdowns in last week's win at Kansas City. Montee Ball also went over 100 yards last week, so the Broncos may be getting even deeper offensively which is scary to think about. Ryan Fitzpatrick was awful in Indianapolis last week and its tough to imagine him playing as well as he will need to in the cold to beat the Broncos.
Prediction: Denver 31, Tennessee 20
St. Louis (5-7) at Arizona (7-5), Arizona favored by 6 1/2
The Cardinals remain a team that shows up much better at home than on the road, as evidenced by their loss at Philadelphia last week. Carson Palmer was back to his turnover happy self, and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wanted to go the loser route and blame the refs for the loss. The Cardinals lost on the road to the Rams in Week 1, and though St. Louis is just 2-4 on the road this year, those two wins were blowouts at Indianapolis and at Houston. One encouraging outcome from last week's game for Arizona was that Rashard Mendenhall finally looked somewhat capable of running the ball. If he can get going on a more consistent basis that will increase Palmer's chances of not turning the ball over.
Prediction: Arizona 27, St. Louis 20
Seattle (11-1) at San Francisco (8-4), San Francisco favored by 3
I am actually shocked that the 49ers are favored in this game. They will likely be without two of their starting offensive lineman, Joe Staley and Mike Iupati and they have been embarrassed by Seattle the last two times these teams have met. People still try to knock Seattle about their road play but they are 5-1 on the road this season. They also have Marshawn Lynch who runs over the 49ers every time he plays them, no matter how well the Niners defense is playing. Also concerning for San Francisco is that Frank Gore has not run the ball well the last two weeks. During his struggles, Colin Kaepernick has played better, which is frustrating because I wish the run and passing game could both be strong at the same time for a change. Couple the Seahawks embarrassing the Niners along with how annoying Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman are and the Seahawks have quickly become one of my most hated teams. A loss to Seattle on Sunday would be even more embarrassing for the Niners than those previous blowout defeats because it would allow the Seahawks to clinch the NFC West on the Niners home field. Winning the division is a longshot for San Francisco now, but they can still win this game and show themselves to be capable of playing with the best the NFL has to offer. This is a crucial game for Kap and the team as a whole, and I am counting on them responding to that pressure and getting a big win.
Prediction: San Francisco 20, Seattle 16
New York Giants (5-7) at San Diego (5-7), San Diego favored by 3
Both teams are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs and the loser of this game will all but be eliminated from playoff contention. The Giants overcame at 14-0 hole at Washington last week to save their season. I am not positive but I think this will be Eli Manning's first time playing San Diego at Qualcomm since he made it clear in 2004 he wouldn't play for the Chargers if selected by them. I wouldn't be surprised if that ramps up the Chargers crowd a little more than normal for this game. Philip Rivers has somewhat come back to Earth the last month after his otherworldly start, but I think he could be in line for a big game on Sunday.
Prediction: San Diego 28, New York Giants 22
Carolina (9-3) at New Orleans (9-3), New Orleans favored by 3 1/2
Control of the NFC South is on the line in the Superdome on Sunday night. The Panthers are the hottest team in football, having won eight straight games. The winner of this game not only takes control of the South but will also clinch a playoff berth. The Panthers defense is rightfully receiving high praise as of late, and what most people are interested to see in this game is that defense can slow down the Saints on the fast track of the Superdome. The Saints are unbeaten at home and Drew Brees has been nearly unstoppable. I think the Panthers defense will somewhat slow Brees, but I also think that the Saints defense also feeds off their home crowd. I expect them to get a lot of pressure on Cam Newton and force some mistakes out of Newton and the Panthers offense.
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Carolina 21
Monday, December 9
Dallas (7-5) at Chicago (6-6), Dallas favored by 1 1/2
The Sam Hurd bowl! Unfortunately, it won't be the Jay Cutler vs. Tony Romo bowl as Cutler is once again out with an injury. He seems to miss an awful lot of crucial games for the Bears and it will be interesting to see how much money and years Chicago is willing to invest in him in the off-season. Romo has been fantastic this season, throwing 24 TDs and even more impressively, just 7 picks. However, December has not been kind to Romo and the Cowboys in the past and their last three games after this are challenging enough to make another December collapse seem possible. Both teams struggle defensively but survive by creating turnovers. So hopefully we see a high scoring, turnover filled, action packed game that ends with the Bears winning.
Prediction: Chicago 31, Dallas 26
Last Week Against the Spread: 5-11
Overall Against the Spread: 89-95-8
Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 127-64-1
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Houston (2-10) at Jacksonville (3-9), Houston favored by 3
The NFL Network can't even try to pretend like this is a game anyone will want to watch. I won't be going out of my way to watch it, but I am realistic and I know that since it is NFL football, if I am home, I will check in on it. The never ending positive vibes of Jags coach Gus Bradley are starting to pay off with victories. Jacksonville has won three of four games, and the players are showing how much they enjoy playing for Bradley. The Texans are desperate to end a 10-game losing streak and maybe even score a touchdown this time against Jacksonville. I have come to grips with the fact that the Texans are my most embarrassing Super Bowl pick ever, but can't believe they are going to win their first two games and then lose their final fourteen. Jacksonville has yet to win a home game this season, so that is why I will predict that the Texans will finally break their losing streak.
Prediction: Houston 21, Jacksonville 17
ACC Championship: #20 Duke (10-2, 6-2) vs. #1 Florida State (12-0, 8-0) in Charlotte, North Carolina
Cheering for Duke typically feels dirty, but I expect that most of America will be rooting for the heavy underdog Blue Devils in Saturday's ACC Championship game. I honestly never thought I would write about Duke in this column. Maybe as some other Top 10 team's opponent, make a Duke sucks at football joke, and that would be it. But now, the Blue Devils are a win away from a BCS bowl. The odds are definitely against them, facing a Seminoles team that is a victory away from playing for a national title. Florida State hasn't won a game this season by less than double digits. The closest any team has come to beating them this season was Boston College, and they lost 48-34.
The Blue Devils best player is easily WR Jamison Crowder. Crowder comes into this game with 88 catches, 1,131 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. Four of his touchdowns came in Duke's last two games, including 2 in their Coastal Division clinching win at North Carolina. For Duke to have a shot, Crowder will have to make his presence felt early and often. Duke usually splits time at quarterback between Bradon Connette and Anthony Boone. Boone takes most of the snaps, and has been liable to force some throws. However, Boone hasn't thrown a pick in his past 3 games, after throwing 7 in his previous two. Duke splits the running back duties between Jela Duncan and Josh Snead. Combined they went over 1,000 yards but going up against Florida State's stout defense I don't expect Duke to be able to run the ball very well.
Florida State QB Jameis Winston is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be charged with sexual assault. Despite that, he and his teammates have played flawlessly, which is quite amazing. Winston's favorite targets on the team are Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw. A new weapon has emerged out of his receiving corps, Kelvin Benjamin, who just had a monster game in the Seminoles win over Florida. Add to those weapons the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams and it is easy to see why the Seminoles are second in the nation with 54 points per game.
I think Duke might be able to keep this game close for the first quarter, but beyond that, I don't see how they can compete with Florida State. The Seminoles are on a whole other level talent wise and as long as they have Winston running team, I don't think anyone in the country can beat them. The Seminoles will be back in the national title game for the first time over a decade.
Prediction: Florida State 41, Duke 14
Big Ten Championship: #2 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) vs. #10 Michigan State (11-1, 8-0) in Indianapolis, Indiana
This will be a good old fashioned offense versus defense battle. Ohio State has a high powered offense, and plays little defense. Michigan State has one of the best defenses in the nation and plays offense because they have to. We will really find out in this game if the old adage of defense wins championships is true or not. The Michigan State defensive game plan will center around containing Braxton Miller. No one has really stopped Miller this season but if a defense is capable of doing it, then the Spartans would be the ones. Miller is more concerning to defenses as a runner than a passer. That isn't because he can't pass, it is because if given any daylight Miller can turn anything into a touchdown run. Buckeyes RB Carlos Hyde also has to be dealt with. Despite being suspended for the first three games of the season, Hyde still has 14 rushing touchdowns and 1,290 yards rushing. He is coming off his best performance of the season, gouging the Wolverines for 226 yards on the ground.
Spartans QB Connor Cook isn't flashy like his counterpart Miller, but he is dependable. Cook has thrown just 4 interceptions on the season, and stabilized the Spartans offense. That stabilization is what has allowed their defense to shine even greater. Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans have a big time running back, Jeremy Langford, who led the team with 16 rushing touchdowns and has a rushing touchdown in his last 5 games. The Spartans will look to get Langford touches often, as he averages over 20 carries per game. Against a leaky Ohio State defense, Langford should clear the 100 yard mark relatively easily.
While the Spartans defense is spectacular, I don't think they have faced an offense the caliber of Ohio State's, or a quarterback nearly as talented as Miller. The Spartans defense will keep them in the game, and the offense of the Spartans will make plays, but ultimately, the talent advantage of the Buckeyes will win out and propel Ohio State to the national title game.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 27
SEC Championship: #5 Missouri (11-1, 7-1) vs. #3 Auburn (11-1, 7-1) in Atlanta, Georgia
Raise your hand if you had this as your SEC Championship matchup back in August? Both of these schools have recovered from dismal seasons last year, and if things bounce their way in other games, might be playing for the national title with a win in this game. Of course, unless you were out of the planet the last week, you have seen or heard about Auburn's miraculous win over Alabama last Saturday. Sadly, I was stuck in traffic and didn't get to see the play live, but I did hear it on the radio and it was still pretty incredible. That play has been all anyone has wanted to talk about, and I think the Tigers may suffer from a case of premature celebration. The Iron Bowl is such a huge game and then to win it in the fashion they did, a let down seems unavoidable for this game. Obviously, I am not saying Auburn doesn't have plenty of motivation for this game, but I just imagine it will be hard to turn their focus right around on Missouri.
Missouri has a balanced offensive attack, while Auburn's offense is more predicated on running the ball. Missouri QB James Franklin can be a threat running the ball, but he is at his best in the pocket finding his receivers such as Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington. Henry Josey is Missouri's leading rusher, and is spelled by Russell Hansbrough. Both backs average over 6 yards per carry and their success is a large reason that freshman Maty Mauk was able to come in for an injured Franklin and play so well. They take a lot of pressure off of the passing game.
As mentioned above Auburn is all about running and it starts at the quarterback position with Nick Marshall. Marshall has had many games where he has run the ball more than he has passed it. Auburn's leading rusher is Tre Mason, who has 237 carries on the season and is coming off shredding Alabama's vaunted defense to the tune of 164 yards rushing.
Even with all of the offensive talent, I still expect the defenses to lead the way in this game. I think Marshall will find it hard to run on the speedy Missouri defensive front and linebackers, and I expect the Auburn corners to make life difficult for Franklin, Green-Beckham and Washington. I can't shake the feeling that Auburn will start slow in this game, due to the hangover effect of the Bama game. I think Missouri will jump out to a lead and then hold off Auburn late.
Prediction: Missouri 23, Auburn 20
#17 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) at #6 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1)
The Big 12 no longer has an official championship game but to the Cowboys this is their championship game. If they knock off the rival Sooners, then Oklahoma State will win the Big 12 and be headed to a BCS bowl. Some Sooners players seemed to scoff at the notion that they are underdogs in this game, but based on their performance at Baylor it seems like they need a reality check. The passing game has been a struggle for OU all season but they have turned the reigns over to Trevor Knight at quarterback. They are going to have to score a lot on offense to keep up with the Cowboys high octane attack. Oklahoma State averaged more than 10 points per game than the Sooners did, and Oklahoma hasn't shown an ability to play stout enough defense against good offenses, especially on the road. The tide seems to be turning in this rivalry, and I expect the Cowboys to put an exclamation mark on that Saturday.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Oklahoma 31
Pac-12 Championship: #7 Stanford (10-2, 7-2) at #11 Arizona State (10-2, 8-1)
The Pac-12 will be decided in Phoenix, in a rematch from way back in September. Back then, these teams met at Stanford and the Cardinal dominated that game before a late rally from the Sun Devils made it respectable. Arizona State is unbeaten at home this year, while Stanford has dropped two road games, so the Sun Devils are seen as some as the favorites in this matchup. A win would put Arizona State in their first Rose Bowl since Jake Plummer led them there in 1997.
These teams have very different philosophies when it comes to offense while defensively Stanford probably has the edge, but the Sun Devils have some talent on that side of the ball as well. Stanford loves to run the ball and pound it down the opponents throat. When they are at their best, like when they played Oregon, then Stanford becomes unbeatable. If quarterback Kevin Hogan has to do take on a major load of the offense, that is when Stanford has gotten into trouble. The Sun Devils love to pass the ball, and quarterback Taylor Kelly had just 2 games this season without a passing touchdown. Sun Devils WR Jaelen Strong had a monster game against Stanford in the first matchup and he might be the difference in this game.
Arizona State will definitely stack the box and dare Stanford to try to beat them with the pass. Cardinal RB Tyler Gaffney hasn't been slowed much this year, but Arizona State did keep him under 100 yards in their first meeting. These teams are very evenly matched and this is the type of game where homefield will make a huge difference. The Sun Devils have been dominant at home against Pac-12 opponents this season, and that will serve them well in the championship. They won't dominate Stanford, but they will knock them off.
Prediction: Arizona State 34, Stanford 27
#25 Texas (8-3, 7-1) at #9 Baylor (10-1, 7-1)
Since this game begins after the Sooners/Cowboys game these teams will know whether or not their game is the de facto Big 12 championship. If Oklahoma can pull off the upset then the winner of this game will win the Big 12. Record wise there isn't a ton of difference between the Longhorns and the Bears, but if you dig into the stats a bit, this seems like it could be a pretty sizable mismatch. Injuries have started to catch up to Baylor the last few weeks, as they just barely beat a bad TCU team last weekend and have seen their offensive production dip the past few weeks. But if you needed a tonic to bad offense, the Texas defense has typically been the solution. The Longhorns need good Case McCoy to show up to have any chance in this game. Throw in the fact that Bears quarterback Bryce Petty is far superior to Case and Baylor will be on their homefield in a big game and I expect this to turn into a laugher.
Prediction: Baylor 48, Texas 27
Last Week: 6-2
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Green Bay (5-5-1) at Detroit (6-5), Detroit favored by 6 1/2
Prediction: Detroit 28, Green Bay 22
Oakland (4-7) at Dallas (6-5), Dallas favored by 9 1/2
Prediction: Dallas 31, Oakland 23
Pittsburgh (5-6) at Baltimore (5-6), Baltimore favored by 3
Prediction: Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 12
Sunday, December 1
Miami (5-6) at New York Jets (5-6), New York Jets favored by 1
Prediction: New York Jets 24, Miami 20
Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1), Chicago favored by 1
Prediction: Chicago 32, Minnesota 27
Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5), Philadelphia favored by 3
Prediction: Arizona 24, Philadelphia 17
Jacksonville (2-9) at Cleveland (4-7), Cleveland favored by 6 1/2
Prediction: Jacksonville 18, Cleveland 14
Tennessee (5-6) at Indianapolis (7-4), Indianapolis favored by 4
Prediction: Indianapolis 29, Tennessee 26
Tampa Bay (3-8) at Carolina (8-3), Carolina favored by 8 1/2
Prediction: Carolina 26, Tampa Bay 20
New England (8-3) at Houston (2-9), New England favored by 8 1/2
Prediction: New England 35, Houston 17
St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4), San Francisco favored by 9 1/2
Prediction: San Francisco 24, St. Louis 21
Atlanta (2-9) at Buffalo (4-7), Buffalo favored by 3 1/2
Prediction: Buffalo 28, Atlanta 21
Denver (9-2) at Kansas City (9-2), Denver favored by 4 1/2
Prediction: Denver 34, Kansas City 24
Cincinnati (7-4) at San Diego (5-6), San Diego favored by 2
Prediction: Cincinnati 25, San Diego 23
New York Giants (4-7) at Washington (3-8), New York Giants favored by 1 1/2
Prediction: Washington 24, New York Giants 21
Monday, December 2
New Orleans (9-2) at Seattle (10-1), Seattle favored by 6
Prediction: Seattle 26, New Orleans 21
Last Week Against the Spread: 4-9-1
Overall Against the Spread: 84-84-8
Last Week Straight Up: 5-8-1
Overall Straight Up: 116-59-1
Friday, November 29
Iowa (7-4, 4-3) at Nebraska (8-3, 5-2)
Prediction: Nebraska 24, Iowa 21
Saturday, November 30
#25 Notre Dame (8-3) at #8 Stanford (9-2)
Prediction: Stanford 34, Notre Dame 21
#1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0) at #4 Auburn (10-1, 6-1)
Prediction: Alabama 27, Auburn 21
#2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7)
Prediction: Florida State 42, Florida 17
#3 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0) at Michigan (7-4, 3-4)
Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 24
#21 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) at #5 Missouri (10-1, 6-1)
Prediction: Missouri 28, Texas A&M 26
#6 Clemson (10-1) at #10 South Carolina (9-2)
Prediction: South Carolina 30, Clemson 25
#9 Baylor (9-1, 6-1) at TCU (4-7, 2-6)
Prediction: Baylor 41, TCU 20
Last Week: 7-3
Friday, November 22, 2013
Carolina (7-3) at Miami (5-5), Carolina favored by 4
Despite losing 5 of their past 7 games, the Dolphins are tied with the Jets for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The next month of games will make or break Miami's season, starting with Sunday's game versus Panthers and followed up with games against the Jets, Steelers and Patriots. Last weekend's win over the Chargers was a gritty one, especially with three backups starting on the offensive line. Week after week Ryan Tannehill is getting killed back there, but to his credit he has hung tough and made plays when needed. The Panthers are the hottest team in the NFL, having won six straight games. Redskins fans that want to quit on RG3 should pay attention to Cam Newton and how he has recovered from his struggles in his second year. The Panthers have a championship level defense, so if the offense can raise their game just a bit more, then Carolina will be true Super Bowl contenders. Like most Panthers games I expect this week's game at Miami to be a struggle but for Carolina to be their new selves, and finding a way to win a close one.
Prediction: Carolina 24, Miami 21
Minnesota (2-8) at Green Bay (5-5), Green Bay favored by 5
Aaron Rodgers can't come back soon enough for the Packers. Green Bay has to hope he can return by Thanksgiving against Detroit or there may not be a reason for him to play again this season with how the Pack have been losing. If Scott Tolzein is going to win a game as a starter, playing the hapless Vikings at home will be his best chance. Minnesota is winless on the road this season and Lambeau Field is typically a house of horrors for them. This game will remain close because Tolzein will make mistakes that will keep Minnesota competitive, but I expect Eddie Lacy to go over 100 yards and literally carry the Packers to a win.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Minnesota 17
Pittsburgh (4-6) at Cleveland (4-6), Cleveland favored by 1 1/2
Pittsburgh has won four of their past six games to climb right back into playoff contention in the weak AFC. The Browns also are still fighting for that last playoff spot, so this is a pretty major game between two rivals. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing game have been on fire the past few weeks, as Antonio Brown is stepping into the number one role he was expected to take after the departure of Mike Wallace. The Browns rely on their defense to win them games, so when Jason Campbell throws three picks like he did last week and their special teams sucks, they get trucked, like they did by Cincinnati. The Browns have been pretty good at home, winning three of their past four games there while the Steelers have been terrible on the road. Sometimes making picks is just that simple, go with the trends.
Prediction: Cleveland 26, Pittsburgh 21
Tampa Bay (2-8) at Detroit (6-4), Detroit favored by 9
The Buccaneers are suddenly a juggernaut, having won two straight! Maybe that means they will win their first road game of the season. Bobby Rainey emerged into America's consciousness last week with a fantastic, dominating performance against the sorry Falcons. He will have his work cut out for him this week though, as the Lions rank 5th in the league against the run. The Lions pass defense on the other hand is awful and was repeatedly victimized in Detroit's loss to Pittsburgh last week. Bucs QB Mike Glennon is starting to earn accolades for his play, having thrown 11 TDs and just 4 INTs in his rookie season. However, I don't believe the Bucs defense will be up to the task of stopping Matthew Stafford in Detroit. The Lions offense goes to a whole other level at home. Most fun matchup to watch in this game, Calvin Johnson versus Darrelle Revis.
Prediction: Detroit 35, Tampa Bay 23
San Diego (4-6) at Kansas City (9-1), Kansas City favored by 5
The Broncos/Chiefs game pretty much played out as I expected. The Chiefs were shown to be good, but not truly an upper echelon team, because they don't have a quarterback in Alex Smith that can carry them above a certain level. When their defense isn't working and not being able to get to Peyton Manning once during the game qualifies as not working, the Chiefs will not win. Returning home to play San Diego and Philip Rivers, I expect the Chiefs defense to get plenty of pressure on Rivers. The Chargers offense has stalled out during their three game losing streak and while Rivers hasn't played poorly, he isn't playing at the high level he was to start the season. Also, the Chargers defense has struggled during their losing streak. If Smith can't take advantage of the Chargers defense, there isn't a defense out there he can take advantage of.
Prediction: Kansas City 27, San Diego 16
Chicago (6-4) at St. Louis (4-6), St. Louis favored by 1
Backup quarterbacks do battle in St. Louis. The Bears Josh McCown seems to finally be the backup the Bears have been searching for all these years. Unlike in past season's when Jay Cutler has gone down and the Bears season went down with him, McCown is keeping the Bears winning. The Rams are coming off their bye week, following a shocking road trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts. The game served as first round pick, WR Tavon Austin's coming out party. Austin had been a disappointment up until that game, but maybe now the Rams can finally feature him in their offense. Zac Stacy has also given them a running game, something they didn't have for the majority of the season. Strangely, the Rams most impressive wins have come on the road, so they might be better off if this game were at Soldier Field. The Rams defense allows 118 yards rushing per game, so Matt Forte should have a big game for Da Bears.
Prediction: Chicago 28, St. Louis 24
New York Jets (5-5) at Baltimore (4-6), Baltimore favored by 3 1/2
Geno Smith is laughably bad when playing on the road. For the season Smith has thrown 8 TDs and 16 INTs, and is turning the ball over at even more absurd rate than Mark Sanchez was. Matt Simms has looked smooth and confident when replacing Smith in games, so if Smith struggles in Baltimore we could see Simms sooner than when the game is out of hand. It has been a tough season for the defending Super Bowl champions but they still remain a strong team at home. They also received a ray of hope (get it!?!?) last week as Ray Rice finally ran the ball well. Including this game Baltimore plays their next three at home and each is a winnable game. The Ravens season will be made or broken over these next three weeks.
Prediction: Baltimore 31, New York Jets 14
Jacksonville (1-9) at Houston (2-8), Houston favored by 10
Vegas thinks so little of Jacksonville that they are making the Texans, losers of eight straight game, double digit favorites. I do agree that Houston won't lose fourteen straight to close the season, so it stands to reason this will finally be the game they pick up a win. I have no idea what Gary Kubiak was doing, yanking Case Keenum last week against the Raiders, inserting Matt Schaub, but then once again saying Keenum is his starter. Case has played well, you're playing out the string at this point, let the kid get some valuable experience. The Jags did finally score some touchdowns at home, so things have been looking up for them!
Prediction: Houston 28, Jacksonville 21
Tennessee (4-6) at Oakland (4-6), Oakland favored by 1
Last week against the Colts, Ryan Fitzpatrick looked determined to best Alex Smith in the game of human check down. The biggest beneficiary of that was former 49er Delanie Walker. With how awful the 49ers pass offense has been this season, I wish they would have found the money to keep Walker. The Raiders kept their season very much alive by winning in Houston last weekend. Even more surprising was that Matt McGloin played excellent in his first career start. McGloin was a terrible college quarterback until Bill O'Brien showed up his senior year. His college career was similar to Carson Palmer, as many people forget that Palmer was mostly useless in college until his senior year. McGloin versus Fitzpatrick is the least sexy quarterback matchup in a long time, but I'm going with the ginger.
Prediction: Oakland 25, Tennessee 23
Indianapolis (7-3) at Arizona (6-4), Arizona favored by 2
Bruce Arians faces the team he led to the playoffs last season. It is a good road team versus a good home team. The Cardinals have quietly snuck their way right into the wild card race and are nipping at the 49ers heels in the NFC West. Carson Palmer has been better during the team's three game winning streak, throwing 6 TDs and 2 INTs. Donald Brown is clearly the better back over Trent Richardson and it seems like the Colts are finally starting to feed him the ball more. Brown will have his work cut out for him, as the Cardinals rank second in the league against the run. Richardson would have his work cut out for him trying to run on me, so expect him to have no problem falling to the ground immediately against Arizona. Andrew Luck continues to play well despite not having Reggie Wayne and Darrius Heyward-Bey not being able to catch anything thrown his way. I think this will end up being one of the best games this weekend, with a late Jay Feely field goal being the difference.
Prediction: Arizona 27, Indianapolis 24
Dallas (5-5) at New York Giants (4-6), New York Giants favored by 2 1/2
In typical Giants fashion, just when New York looked dead they have won four straight and are just a game and a half out of first in the NFC East. If they win this week, they will move into a tie for second and just a game back of the Eagles. The biggest reason for the Giants winning streak hasn't been Eli Manning but the Giants defense. The Giants have given up just 47 points in their last four games and guys like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck are playing like their old selves. The offense has been helped by the return of Andre Brown at the running back position, allowing Brandon Jacobs to slide back into a backup role. When we last saw the Cowboys they were being embarrassed on national television by the Saints. They will be without star LB Sean Lee in this game, but expect DeMarcus Ware to play. The Cowboys offense couldn't get anything going against the Saints and Tony Romo and the passing game have been off in their last couple of games. Maybe Miles Austin returning to action will help, but he seems to be a shell of his former self. The Cowboys will probably struggle running the ball as usual, putting too much pressure on Romo to make everything happen.
Prediction: New York Giants 26, Dallas 19
Denver (9-1) at New England (7-3), Denver favored by 2 1/2
Manning vs. Brady XIV is how this game has been billed. If you look past the battle of two of the best quarterbacks in history, it will also be a game between two really good teams. The question is, how much can the Patriots defense slow down Manning? The Broncos could be without both Wes Welker and Julius Thomas in this game, but even if they were, they still would have Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas as major weapons. The Broncos do play into the Patriots strengths on defense. The Patriots are a good cover team that struggles to stop the run. Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno has had a resurgent season, but the Broncos still rank just 20th in the league in rushing. They are a team that likes to throw and throw often. Both Brady and Manning are stationery quarterbacks that have thrived all of these years because of their abilities to get the ball out quickly and having excellent offensive lines. The Broncos secondary is not very good, so Brady could be in line for his second best game of the season, like the game he had against Pittsburgh a few weeks back. He has all of his weapons back and will be facing a vulnerable defense. I expect this game to be a shootout and will come down to who has the ball last. With two quarterbacks at this level and two good teams, not a ton separates them, but to me the Broncos have the slight edge over the Patriots.
Prediction: Denver 35, New England 31
Monday, November 25
San Francisco (6-4) at Washington (3-7), San Francisco favored by 5
Both of these teams are reeling and desperate for a win. For the 49ers the desperation is a little more as they still have very real playoff hopes. Any chances of winning the NFC West have probably gone by the wayside, so it is about getting that 5 or 6 seed, not that it makes that huge a difference. For Washington, they just want a win to clear out the buzzards that are swirling around their dead season. Predictably, the media has begun turning on their poster boy from last season, Robert Griffin III. There is nothing the media relishes more than propping someone up, tearing them down, and then propping them back up again. What has been disappointing but shouldn't have surprised me is the number of Redskins fans already turning on RG3. Skins fans are so reactionary and in the moment. Last year Griffin was the best quarterback the franchise had ever seen. Now this season, coming off a major surgery, and having no true off-season work, he has struggled and people are quitting on him. I'll be rooting for Robert to have a great career like I think he will have and make his doubters look silly. I won't be rooting for him this week though, especially since I will be there live for this one. The cure for what ails the 49ers offense may simply be playing the Redskins historically bad defense. Colin Kaepernick is experiencing similar struggles to Griffin. The 49ers fanbase hasn't turned on Kap, but it has been disconcerting how much he has struggled this season. However, I think I underestimated how much Kap would miss Michael Crabtree. Thank goodness they traded for Anquan Boldin, because without him it would just be Vernon Davis and no one else for Kap to throw to. The Skins leaky secondary should open up plenty of things for Davis and Boldin and hopefully Kap can have his first real big game since the opener. The Redskins offense has been hit or miss most games, not usually able to put together a strong game. They will play well in spurts, mostly this relates to the passing game because Alfred Morris has been very good running the ball this season. Much like Kap, Griffin hasn't had a number two receiver step up. Leonard Hankerson showed flashes but not enough consistency and he is now out for the season. Josh Morgan will have a chance to step up now against his former team, and maybe they will even get Fred Davis out of mothballs. The 49ers are a better team than the Redskins, especially defensively and that should be the way to victory.
Prediction: San Francisco 30, Washington 20
Last Week Against the Spread: 6-6-3
Overall Against the Spread: 80-75-7
Last Week Straight Up: 11-4
Overall Straight Up: 111-51
Thursday, November 21, 2013
New Orleans (8-2) at Atlanta (2-8)
It is almost mind boggling how terrible the Atlanta Falcons are this season. They definitely had their share of injuries but so did many other teams in the NFL. If people didn't realize just how important Julio Jones is to this team, then check out Matt Ryan's stats since Jones has gone down. Harry Douglas has played pretty well in his increased role, but without Jones and Roddy White during a stretch, Ryan has looked really bad. The Saints are coming off a fraduy win over the 49ers where the refs protected Drew Brees to the point of absurdity from an Ahmad Brooks hit. The Saints need to keep winning as they have the Panthers hot on their tails in the NFC South. Before the season the NFL Network probably thought this would be their game of the year, but instead this should be a cakewalk victory for the Saints. The Falcons are atrocious on defense and let Mike Glennon go wild on them. Good luck trying to stop Brees.
Prediction: New Orleans 34, Atlanta 21
Games That Matter To Me
BYU (7-3) at Notre Dame (7-3)
After a week off following a horribly disappointing loss at Pitt, the Irish look to close out their home schedule in style against a tough BYU team. Basically, I can write 4 paragraphs about this game, but whether the Irish win or loss depends on which Tommy Rees will show up. Bad, very bad Tommy Rees was in Pittsburgh as he threw terrible interceptions and cost Notre Dame the game. Brian Kelly also has to take some blame, as he can't seem to settle on a running back. Freshman Tarean Folston seemed to have a breakout game against Navy, but then Kelly got him just 4 carries against Pitt. I understand having a backfield by committee but we are almost done with the season. its long past time to settle on at least a main guy from your committee.
BYU sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill has a lot of boom and bust in him. He has 16 TDs this season but has also thrown 12 INTs, and is coming off throwing 3 picks against Idaho State last week. While he has improved in recent weeks he also sometimes badly struggles with his accuracy. Opportunities will be there for the Irish defense to make plays off of Hill's mistakes. Where Hill could give the Irish major trouble is his ability to run the ball. He is the Cougars leading rusher, and in some games this season has run more than he has passed. Another threat running the ball for BYU is Jamaal Williams. Williams has rushed for over 100 yards in 2 of his last 3 games and averaged an absurd 10 yards per carry last week. I don't expect him to go off to that level against Notre Dame but the Irish defensive line has struggled with injuries all season. Hill's favorite receiver is Cody Hoffman, who leads the Cougars in catches, yards and touchdowns. He doesn't make short catches either, averaging a robust 17 yards per reception.
Big game for Notre Dame with having to go to Stanford next week in what is almost certainly a loss. 8-4 sounds a whole lot better than 7-5. Blind faith in my team is the reason I am going with the Irish to get the win on Senior Day.
Prediction: Notre Dame 28, BYU 27
Nebraska (7-3, 4-2) at Penn State (6-4, 3-3)
Nebraska is basically playing out the string at this point after last week's loss to Michigan State. Turnovers killed Nebraska, and has been an issue since Tommy Armstrong Jr. took over at quarterback. The Huskers defense isn't good enough to continuously bail out the offense when they shoot themselves in the foot. Ameer Abdullah has been spectacular and consistent all season, rushing for over 100 yards in every game but one, and in that game he missed it by 2 yards. I hope he doesn't get any thoughts of leaving early and will be back for his senior season next year. One player that needs to show up in Happy Valley is Quincy Enunwa, as he was held without a reception against the Spartans. Kenny Bell had a big game with Enunwa being shut out.
The Nittany Lions are similar to Nebraska in that they have a good offense and a mediocre to porous at times defense. They have to overall be pleased with the play of freshman quarterback Christian Hackenburg, who has 14 TDs and 9 INTs on the season. They also have a lethal, dual rushing attack in Bill Belton and touchdown machine Zach Zwinak. The player to watch is WR Allen Robinson. Robinson leads Penn State by a wide margin with 81 catches on the season, 1,204 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. Robinson has gone over 100 yards receiving in six of Penn State's 10 games this season.
I originally was going to pick Nebraska, but going on the road and trying to slow down the Nittany Lions offense seems like too tall a task. I think that Penn State's poor defense can keep Nebraska in the game, but Armstrong just makes too many mistakes right now.
Prediction: Penn State 30, Nebraska 27
Chattanooga (8-3) at #1 Alabama (10-0)
Bama seemed to still be thinking about their win over LSU from two weeks and not the task at hand as they slept walk to victory at Mississippi State last week. They could literally be asleep for this game against Chattanooga and win, but coach Nick Saban will have his guys ready to play after a disappointing showing. Alabama just wants to stay healthy for next week's Iron Bowl, which will determine their season.
Prediction: Alabama 48, Chattanooga 3
Idaho (1-9) at #2 Florida State (10-0)
If Jameis Winston and the Seminoles were distracted by the sexual assault investigation involving him, they didn't show it winning by a score of 59-3 for the second straight week last weekend. The Seminoles look destined to play for the national championship with the easy remaining schedule they have left. I mean, they could end up playing freaking Duke for the ACC title.
Prediction: Florida State 66, Idaho 0
Indiana (4-6, 2-4) at #3 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)
Urban Meyer can bitch about the BCS all he wants, the truth of the matter is, the Buckeyes haven't been impressive against inferior opponents like Florida State has. However, they still are very much alive to have a chance to play for the national title with Alabama's remaining schedule being tough. There is no question about the effectiveness of the Buckeyes offense, but their defense hasn't appeared championship level at times this season. It won't matter against Indiana, but could matter against Michigan and Michigan State when they play the Spartans for the Big Ten championship.
Prediction: Ohio State 58, Indiana 21
#4 Baylor (9-0, 6-0) at #10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1)
Baylor was on the ropes last week against Texas Tech, falling behind 14-0, before coming back to completely destroy the Red Raiders, 63-34. Now, they face their toughest road test of the season, in Stillwater against the Cowboys, winners of six straight since a mystifying loss to West Virginia. Both teams have very good offenses, but they also have accomplished defenses. The depth that Baylor has is what might be most impressive about the Bears. While missing their two leading rushers last week, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, third string back Shock Linwood seamlessly moved in and rushed for 187 yards. The good news for the Bears is that Martin should play and Seastrunk is working hard to be able to suit up Saturday. One player that won't be returning is WR Tevin Reese, who they lost for the season a few weeks ago. That didn't seem to matter last week either since they still have leading receiver Antwan Goodley. Bears QB Bryce Petty hasn't thrown an interception in 5 weeks and has just one the entire season.
The Cowboys made a midseason switch at quarterback from sophomore J.W. Walsh to senior Clint Chelf. Chelf hasn't always been flashy, but his rushing ability has overcome any mental mistakes he might make. The Cowboys offense as a whole doesn't have the flash that the Baylor offense has, but they haven't needed it with how well their defense has played, especially the last two weeks. No defense has managed to slow down the Bears, except maybe Kansas State's, and that was also a road game for Baylor. I picked against Baylor two weeks ago when they played Choklahoma and was way off, but I am still going to pick against them again this week. I just can't envision Baylor going the entire season unbeaten, and this looks like the prime spot for them to lose. Facing a hot team, in prime time, on the road. If Baylor wins this game, I won't pick against them the rest of the season. I like the Cowboys defense to make enough plays and Chelf to do enough damage running that Okie State pulls off the upset.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 33, Baylor 30
#5 Oregon (9-1, 6-1) at Arizona (6-4, 3-4)
The Ducks caught a break as Stanford was upset by USC, opening the door for Oregon to play for the Pac-12 championship, if they can take care of business in their final two games. After being 6-2, Rich Rod's Wildcats could be looking at four straight losses to close out the season since they go to Arizona State next week. A loss to Oregon would be their third straight home loss as they have lost heartbreakers to UCLA and Washington State the last two weeks. Like most teams that have faced the Ducks, the Wildcats will find the Oregon offense too overwhelming a force to match.
Prediction: Oregon 52, Arizona 24
Citadel (5-6) at #7 Clemson (9-1)
Clemson has rebounded well from the devastating home loss to Florida State and could still be in line to play in a BCS bowl if they beat South Carolina next week. This week's game against Citadel should serve as a tuneup to work out some kinks and get everyone out healthy.
Prediction: Clemson 53, Citadel 17
#8 Missouri (9-1, 5-1) at #24 Mississippi (7-3, 3-3)
How many people had this one picked as a marquee game when looking over the schedule in August? If the Tigers can beat Ole Miss on the road this week and the Johnny Manziel's at home in the regular season finale, they will play for the SEC Championship. Pretty amazing that the Tigers are in this position for a few reasons. One is that they lost their best player, QB James Franklin for a few weeks and had to replace him with freshman Maty Mauk. Mauk filled in more than capably in Franklin's absence. He was the starter during the Tigers demoralizing defeat against South Carolina. I thought that might derail Missouri's season but the team has responded well the last two weeks, winning in blowouts. Franklin returns this week and it will be interesting to see if he shows signs of rust. Ole Miss saved their season when they upset LSU at home a month ago. That win ended a three game losing streak and the Rebels haven't lost since. QB Bo Wallace hasn't received a lot of attention but has been excellent for the Rebels this season.
Like Baylor, maybe it is because Missouri isn't a traditional power, but I think they are primed for an upset loss this weekend. They might almost be better sticking with Mauk at this point, as I think Franklin will struggle a bit in his first game in a month. This Missouri loss will open the door for the Gamecocks to make it to the SEC title game.
Prediction: Mississippi 31, Missouri 24
California (1-10, 0-8) at #9 Stanford (8-2, 6-2)
A disappointing loss to USC means the Cardinal will likely miss out on defending their Pac-12 championship. Cal has had an awful season, with only their passing game proving to be anything they hope to build off of next season. This is of course known as The Big Game, but only these two teams fanbases will care about this game on Saturday.
Prediction: Stanford 44, California 7
Last Week: 9-1
Friday, November 15, 2013
Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (5-5), Philadelphia favored by 3
It seems like I have been saying this every week for the past month, but this Sunday is really do or die for the Redskins season. If they lose this game they will fall 2 1/2 games out of first place, and really 3 1/2 since the Eagles would have swept the season series. The Eagles probably wish this game was in Washington, as they have lost 10 straight games at home. To me, everything is lining up just right for the Redskins to be the team the Eagles break that streak against. Nick Foles incredible run continued last week against Green Bay, as he threw three more touchdowns and no interceptions, upping his season total to 16 TDs and 0 INTs. The Redskins have been saying all week that they will be prepared this time around for Chip Kelly's offense, but they were saying that before the season opener as well. The Eagles defense has been playing better as of late, even when the Eagles could do nothing on offense, so Philly might be coming together as a football team at the right time. Redskins fans hanging their hat on a turnaround this season because it happened last year need to get with reality. The defense seemingly can't stop any quarterback, so I expect Foles to have another impressive day and Philly to drive a stake through the heart of the Redskins playoff chances.
Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Washington 23
New York Jets (5-4) at Buffalo (3-7), Buffalo favored by 1
Ed Reed wasn't out of work long. Rex Ryan, his former defensive coordinator in Baltimore picked up the safety and Reed may make his debut for the Jets on Sunday. Believe it or not the Jets currently sit all alone in the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. The Bills are starting at another playoff-less season and will be looking to develop EJ Manuel the rest of the season and play the role of spoiler. The Jets, especially QB Geno Smith have had their share of troubles on the road with turnovers, and I think Mario Williams will make some plays that will carry Buffalo to a win.
Prediction: Buffalo 23, New York Jets 17
Baltimore (4-5) at Chicago (5-4), Chicago favored by 3
Jay Cutler came back sooner than anyone thought and then was promptly hurt again, meaning Josh McCown is back in the saddle as the Bears starter on Sunday. McCown has been very good any time he has played for Cutler this season so I don't expect the Bears to miss a beat. The Ravens held on to beat Cincinnati at home last weekend, but the road has been a different story for them this season. The Bears are banged up and not very good on defense, but the Ravens don't have an offense that will be able to exploit those weaknesses. The Ravens have to be hoping that Ray Rice's struggles this season are just a mirage and not a sign of an impending decline.
Prediction: Chicago 24, Baltimore 17
Cleveland (4-5) at Cincinnati (6-4), Cincinnati favored by 6 1/2
The Bengals goal in this game will not only be to win but to actually score a touchdown this time against the Browns stingy defense. Jason Campbell has been a breath of fresh air for the Browns offense since he was inserted for the putrid Brandon Weeden. The Bengals have had some tough road losses the past two weeks so they will be excited to return home. Especially Andy Dalton, who has struggled badly in the Bengals two straight losses. This will be a tough, defensive battle, and likely will come down to whichever team has the ball last winning the game.
Prediction: Cincinnati 18, Cleveland 15
Detroit (6-3) at Pittsburgh (3-6), Detroit favored by 2
Last week's win over the Bears at Soldier Field was a statement win for the Lions. With Aaron Rodgers out indefinitely for the Packers, the Lions appear to be the front runners in the NFC North. They have another tough road test this weekend at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh has won two straight games at home, and their defense has been especially stingy in those games. However, they haven't faced a combo like Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in those games. I also think the Lions pass rush could have a field day chasing after Ben Roethlisberger and expect Ndamukong Suh to make his presence felt. If anyone has any doubts left about the Lions, another road win this weekend will squash them.
Prediction: Detroit 30, Pittsburgh 23
Atlanta (2-7) at Tampa Bay (1-8), Atlanta favored by 1
Prediction: Atlanta 25, Tampa Bay 21
Arizona (5-4) at Jacksonville (1-8), Arizona favored by 6 1/2
I thought Jacksonville was on their way to being the second team to finish 0-16 but lo and behold they went to Tennessee and beat the Titans. Next step, score a touchdown in a home game at Jacksonville, something they have not yet done. I expect that streak to fall as well, but I don't expect this to be the start of a winning culture for the Jaguars. Not when their offense takes on the talented Cardinals defense, especially that secondary. Offensively, Arizona has to find a way to get Andre Ellington the ball more. I am not just saying that because I have him on multiple fantasy teams either. Rashard Mendenhall has nothing left in the tank, and the Cardinals could take a lot of pressure off mistake prone Carson Palmer if they ride with Ellington more. The Cardinals are quietly creeping up on the 49ers and could be a factor in the playoff race in the last few months of the season.
Prediction: Arizona 35, Jacksonville 14
Oakland (3-6) at Houston (2-7), Houston favored by 7
Another putrid game on this weekend's schedule. I don't think the Texans are going to finish 2-14 and with how well Case Keenum has played since becoming the starter, they seem due for a victory. The shine is starting to come off Terrelle Pryor who is struggling mightily to get the Raiders passing game going. Maybe the return of Gary Kubiak to the sidelines will inspire the Texans to victory.
Prediction: Houston 30, Oakland 24
San Diego (4-5) at Miami (4-5), San Diego favored by 1 1/2
A key AFC matchup between two teams trying to stay in the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Dolphins had a terrible loss at Tampa last weekend, and of course everyone blamed it on the controversy surrounding the team. However, the Dolphins had the lead late in that game and it simply came down to them not executing on offense or defense. They couldn't run the ball at all and Ryan Tannehill is not skilled enough to carry the offense without help. Maybe Mike Wallace can make an appearance in this game against the porous Chargers secondary. I am just not sure if the offensive line will be able to keep Tannehill upright enough, and the Dolphins are really trending downwards right now.
Prediction: San Diego 26, Miami 23
San Francisco (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2), New Orleans favored by 3
The 49ers struggles in the passing game reared their ugly head last week in a disappointing loss to Carolina. The passing game is the worst in the NFL and it is hard to figure out if it is Colin Kaepernick regressing, or the fact that the 49ers receivers aren't very good. Vernon Davis left the game early with a concussion and anytime he has been out this season, the 49ers can get nothing going through the air. Michael Crabtree can't come back soon enough. The Saints put on an offensive and defensive clinic last Sunday night, and are looking unbeatable in the Superdome. The 49ers defense is going to have win this game for San Francisco, by creating turnovers and short fields for the offense. Unfortunately, I don't believe the defense is at the level they were a couple years ago, and I think Drew Brees and his many weapons will be too much.
Prediction: New Orleans 29, San Francisco 20
Minnesota (2-7) at Seattle (9-1), Seattle favored by 13
Seattle got a nice, dominant win over Atlanta last week after two straight underwhelming wins. They could just about clinch the NFC West with a win and a Niners loss on Sunday. Christian Ponder had one of the best games of his career last weekend against Washington, but the competition steps up considerably on Sunday. The Seahawks have struggled at times to stop the run so I feel like Adrian Peterson can make some plays happen and keep the Vikings within shouting distance. There is a chance that former Vikings WR Percy Harvin will make his Seahawks debut in this game. Even without Harvin, the Seahawks could just give it to Marshawn Lynch all game and they would beat the Vikings.
Prediction: Seattle 35, Minnesota 24
Green Bay (5-4) at New York Giants (3-6), New York Giants favored by 6 1/2
Aaron Rodgers is making it plain as day that he is clearly the MVP of the league. The Packers offense looks like the Colts offense did two years ago when they didn't have Peyton Manning. They finally signed Matt Flynn after losing Seneca Wallace for the season, but Scott Tolzein, who was on the practice squad a few weeks ago, will be the starter for now. The Giants have a great chance to win their fourth straight after an 0-6 start. I don't think they are particularly good, they just have benefited from a break in their schedule. Their run game will be drastically improved, as shown last week with the return of Andre Brown. The Packers don't have a good enough defense to compensate for their offensive struggles. They are lucky that Eddie Lacy has been as good as he has, because with no run game, they would be getting blown out each week. Eli Manning will do something stupid to keep the Packers in the game, but the Giants should hold on for the win.
Prediction: New York Giants 27, Green Bay 20
Kansas City (9-0) at Denver (8-1), Denver favored by 8 1/2
The schedule makers had no idea when they put the schedule together that this game would be so huge, but it has added to the buildup that these teams beasts are meeting for the first time in Week 11. It is Denver's high octane offense against Kansas City's beast of a defense. Peyton Manning was hobbling at the end of last week's game and it looked like for a second the Chiefs would once again get to face a backup quarterback. But Peyton insists he will play and the Chiefs defense will have to be ready for their biggest challenge yet. I think the Chiefs can hold Denver to their lowest offensive output so far this season, but Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles are going to have do their part if Kansas City will have a chance to pull off the upset. Charles should be as good as ever, but Alex Smith might get exposed on a national stage. He has been riding the coat tails of the defense all season long, much like he did in San Francisco. He still isn't someone you can ask to go out and win a game for you. Also, KC might want to keep tabs on Dwayne Bowe, considering he will be in Colorado and could have plenty of access to marijuana. The Chiefs are good, but they aren't well rounded enough of a team to beat Denver, especially on the road.
Prediction: Denver 26, Kansas City 22
Monday, November 18
New England (7-2) at Carolina (6-3), Carolina favored by 2
Another excellent prime time game will be on Monday night between the Patriots and Panthers. This could prove to be another offense versus defense battle, as the Patriots offense showed some life two weeks ago, while the Panthers defense has looked dominant during the team's five game winning streak. I wasn't sold on Carolina but after watching last week's game, that is a championship defense they have over there. While the offense isn't great, its not like Cam Newton is Alex Smith or anything. I'm not ready to believe that because they obliterated Pittsburgh, now the New England offense and especially Tom Brady are going to roll the clock back to 2007. The Steelers defense is old and leaky, the Panthers are very young on defense and I think it could be a very frustrating night for Brady and company. The Panthers are equally as stout against the run, so it will be interesting to watch how effective the Patriots offense can be. I expect another huge win for the Panthers and their bandwagon to start to get full.
Prediction: Carolina 20, New England 17
Last Week Against the Spread: 8-6
Overall Against the Spread: 74-69-4
Last Week Straight Up: 8-6
Overall Straight Up: 100-47