Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Hail Mary - Week 8

Last weekend featured a pretty uninspiring slate of games, but fortunately things improve a bit this weekend. The Steelers and Patriots renew their rivalry, although with how New England has dominated in recent years its not really much of a rivalry. Also, both prime time games are good. Dallas travels to Philadelphia in a crucial NFC East battle, and the Chiefs look to continue their resurrection at home against the Chargers. Oh yeah, it also is Halloween weekend so expect lots of crowd shots of people dressed up in random costumes. Yippie!

Week 8 - Sunday, October 30

Indianapolis (0-7) at Tennessee (3-3), Tennessee favored by 8 1/2

The Colts already dreadful season reached epically embarrassing depths last Sunday when they were blown out on national television by the Saints, 62-7. Fortunately, the Colts can only ruin two more prime time games, and one of those games, against the Patriots will likely be flexed out. The Titans were an early season surprise at 3-1 but have been blown out their last two games and the shine is officially off. Chris Johnson can't run the ball to save his life, and Matt Hasselbeck has reverted back to the quarterback the Seahawks were eager to part ways with. The Colts should be the perfect elixir for the Titans to get back to winning.

Prediction: Tennessee 28, Indianapolis 20

New Orleans (5-2) at St. Louis (0-6), New Orleans favored by 13

The Saints offense was on fire last Sunday night and the Saints get another chance to put up huge points when they face a winless team for the second week in a row. The Rams may be without QB Sam Bradford for a second straight game, not that him playing would help much. The only way this doesn't get ugly is if the Saints go into cruise control early.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, St. Louis 10

Miami (0-6) at New York Giants (4-2), New York Giants favored by 10

I have picked the Dolphins to cover the spread the last two weeks and was burned each time. Last weekend, they did it in spectacularly awful fashion, blowing a 15-0 lead in the final two minutes of the game, and adding to the legend of Tim Tebow. I don't have a ton of faith in the Giants, I mean they lost to the crappy Seahawks at home, but I can't pick Miami a third straight week.

Prediction: New York Giants 27, Miami 14

Minnesota (1-6) at Carolina (2-5), Carolina favored by 3 1/2

A rookie quarterback battle is the main attraction in this game. Vikings QB Christian Ponder showed flashes in his debut against Green Bay but also made mistakes you would expect from a rookie. He has to improve his accuracy, but I did like his ability to scramble and make plays. The Vikings have nothing but pride to play for the rest of the season, so ride it out with Ponder the last nine games and get an idea of what you have. The Panthers were smarter than everyone else when they held strong and picked Cam Newton. I had my doubts about Newton and his ability to throw the ball but he is light years ahead of someone like Tim Tebow, who many wanted to compare him to. The Panthers are definitely in that middle tier right now. They can compete with the best but aren't good enough yet to win. However, like they showed against the Redskins last weekend, they can beat mediocre to bad teams.

Prediction: Carolina 26, Minnesota 19

Arizona (1-5) at Baltimore (4-2), Baltimore favored by 13 1/2

I don't know what that was that the Ravens were trying to pass off as offense on Monday night but it was offensive. I hope John Clayton was watching so he can finally stop telling everyone that Joe Flacco is a good quarterback. Flacco is mediocre at best and always has been. The Ravens defense remains legit and to me is a huge surprise. I thought it was finally time to move on from the Ravens defense is great narrative but they have proven me wrong. The Ravens are the same as they ever were, awful on offense and carried by their defense. The Arizona Cardinals are in the midst of a tailspin and traveling across the country to Baltimore is not the recipe to get them back on track. Kevin Kolb is going to have a rough day.

Prediction: Baltimore 24, Arizona 7

Jacksonville (2-5) at Houston (4-3), Houston favored by 9 1/2

The Jaguars are an awful offensive team but their defense has been showing up week after week. They may have to deal with the return of Andre Johnson this weekend. The Texans seemed left for dead with Johnson and Mario Williams out with injuries, but then crushed the Titans on the road and re-assumed control of the division. Blaine Gabbert has been completely underwhelming thus far but its hard to tell if that's more because his #1 receiver is some guy named Mike Thomas or if Gabbert just isn't very good. I was never that impressed with Gabbert in college, especially when he played Nebraska. The Jags defense will keep this close but the Texans will enter the halfway mark an encouraging 5-3.

Prediction: Houston 21, Jacksonville 13

Washington (3-3) "at" Buffalo (4-2) in Toronto, Canada, Buffalo favored by 6

If this game were in Buffalo I would pick the Bills to cover the six point line no question. Buffalo is a very tough place to win no matter what, and even harder when the Bills have a pretty good team like this season. After not feeling much of an injury bug for the first four games, players are dropping like flies now for the Redskins. The defense has been mostly unaffected but there is the possibility that LB London Fletcher could miss this game. The atmosphere in Toronto is less than intimidating and that is why I think the Skins can keep this close. However, I don't think they will be able to slow down Bills RB Fred Jackson, and I also expect WR Stevie Johnson to make some plays. John Beck will have some success but the Bills defense has been opportunistic and will likely force Beck into some interceptions. Beck looked awful to start the game against Carolina but seemed to find his comfort zone as the game went on. If the Redskins were healthier I might have picked them to pull off the upset, but they are too banged up on the offensive line and too inexperienced at quarterback to pull off the win.

Prediction: Buffalo 29, Washington 24

Detroit (5-2) at Denver (2-4), No Line

Matthew Stafford is questionable for the Lions, hence the reason this game is without a line. Tim Tebow makes his first home start of the season and will hope to avoid the clutches of Ndamukong Suh in this game. Suh continues to be called dirty and it is starting to get a little ridiculous to me. When did players in the NFL become such babies? Suh seems like he might have fit in better in the 70's when the Steelers were on steroids and the players were tougher. Even if the Lions have to go with Shaun Hill I like them to end their two game winning streak. Lions fans should be cautious though, the second half schedule is pretty daunting and I wouldn't be surprised if the Lions feel good story ends up being another non-playoff season.

Prediction: Detroit 23, Denver 16

New England (5-1) at Pittsburgh (5-2), New England favored by 3

I love this line and love the Patriots to cover it. The Steelers have never proven they can stop the Patriots when playing Tom Brady. He slices and dices their defense and dictates the course of the game with ease. I expect to see plenty of Brady to Wes Welker and Brady to Aaron Hernandez and budding porn star Rob Gronkowski. The Steelers offense will find success too but until the Steelers prove they can hang against the Patriots, it doesn't make sense to pick them to win, no matter where the game is played. Plus, the Steelers have beaten no one of note this season so while their 5-2 looks nice, it's not really legitimate.

Prediction: New England 35, Pittsburgh 24

Cleveland (3-3) at San Francisco (5-1), San Francisco favored by 8 1/2

It's weird to the 49ers favored by 8 1/2 in a game. I was pretty hesitant to take them to cover this line but then remembered that the Browns only scored 6 points at home last weekend against Seattle. I am a little worried about the Niners being rusty off the bye and also a little full of themselves after the hype they have been receiving. Hopefully, Harbaugh has kept that in check and keeps the Niners eyes on the prize. By time Sunday ends, they could be four games up in the division.

Prediction: San Francisco 28, Cleveland 17

Cincinnati (4-2) at Seattle (2-4), Cincinnati favored by 3

Seattle is a different team at home and Tarvaris Jackson may return and believe it or not has proven himself to be a considerable upgrade over Charlie Whitehurst. The Bengals are too young I think to go into Seattle and pull off the win. In fact the next two weeks will really tell us something about Cincinnati as they go to Tennessee next weekend. If they are as good as their record shows, those are games they should win, but I don't think the record tells the whole story with these Bengals.

Prediction: Seattle 20, Cincinnati 17

Dallas (3-3) at Philadelphia (2-4), Philadelphia favored by 3 1/2

The Eagles kept their season alive with a win against Washington two weeks ago and can really get themselves back into the NFC East race if they can knock off the Cowboys at home. Philly has yet to win a home game this year and dating back to last season has lost five games in a row at home. A statistic that works in their favor is that Andy Reid is 12-0 in the first game following a bye week in his career. These teams are very evenly matched and this game could really go either way. I think Michael Vick will make some plays like he always does and LeSean McCoy will find success running the ball. DeSean Jackson has always had the Cowboys number and I think he will find some success as well. The Eagles run defense will have to contain rookie sensation DeMarco Murray, and CB Asante Samuel needs to stop running his mouth and focus on coverage and picking off Tony Romo. I like the Eagles because of their success coming off a bye with Reid, as well as the fact that they have to win a home game eventually.

Prediction: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 21

Monday, October 31

San Diego (4-2) at Kansas City (3-3), San Diego favored by 3 1/2

A few weeks ago this looked like another Monday night snoozer, but the Chiefs have won three in a row and can be in a tie for first place with a victory Monday night. The Chiefs first showed signs of life when they gave the Chargers all they could handle in San Diego last month. They seemed to have found a running game with the emergence of Jackie Battle and that has taken some pressure off of Matt Cassel. As expected the Chargers blew a game against the Jets they should have won, which has been the story ever since Norv Turner has been the coach there. This game will be closer than it should, especially with how poorly Philip Rivers is playing right now, but the presence of Antonio Gates will be enough for the Chargers to get the victory.

Prediction: San Diego 23, Kansas City 21

Last Week Straight Up: 8-5
Overall Straight Up: 68-35

Last Week Against the Spread: 7-5-1

Overall Against the Spread: 53-47-3

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