Middle ground doesn't exist with this week's games. There are either game between good teams or games between bad teams. Thankfully, the games between good teams are some really good ones, which could have a huge impact on the playoff race as the second half of the season kicks into gear.
Week 10 - Sunday, November 13
New Orleans (6-3) at Atlanta (5-3), Line is Even
This is one of those good games I was talking about. The Saints can either get a leg up in the NFC South with a win or the Falcons can move into first place for the first time this season. The Saints have been a Jekyll and Hyde team all season. They have been at their best when at home, but the road has proven to be a struggle. Their last road game was their most embarrassing performance of the season, when they were soundly defeated by the Rams. The Falcons are coming off their bye and currently are on a three game winning streak. Michael Turner has been running well as of late and Matt Ryan has improved his play after a slow start to the season. Home field advantage doesn't mean nearly as much in the NFL as it does college but the Saints are the exception to that rule. I think these two teams are very evenly matched, so will give the Falcons the edge at home.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, New Orleans 23
Pittsburgh (6-3) at Cincinnati (6-2), Pittsburgh favored by 3
Now is the time where we find out just how real the 6-2 Bengals are. In their next four games they play the Steelers twice and the Ravens once. I thought the Bengals were going to be the worst team in the league. They just seemed way too young and I had no idea QB Andy Dalton would be so poised in his rookie season. The Steelers are coming off a stomach punch loss at home to Baltimore. The defense, which had been playing better, couldn't get off the field on third down and then let Joe Unibrow drive the Ravens 92 yards for the game winning touchdown. I think Mike Tomlin will have the Steelers seething after that loss and a tough week of practice. I expect the defense to play well, and cause Dalton to make some rookie mistakes. I am picking against Cincy for the third straight week, maybe I will finally be right this time.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 22, Cincinnati 16
St. Louis (1-7) at Cleveland (3-5), Cleveland favored by 2 1/2
These teams suck and anyone who watches this game probably hates themselves.
Prediction: Cleveland 6, St. Louis 2
Buffalo (5-3) at Dallas (4-4), Dallas favored by 5 1/2
Dallas seems entirely overvalued by Vegas. They have one good win this whole season, and that was back in Week 2 against a 49ers team that was nowhere near the team they are now. The Bills did stumble badly at home last week against the Jets but I am not ready to say this is the beginning of their descent. Fred Jackson will be ready to bounce back after an awful game last week and I think Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing game will have success moving the ball on the Cowboys. Dallas has been inconsistent all season and this just feels like a game they are going to lose.
Prediction: Buffalo 28, Dallas 24
Jacksonville (2-6) at Indianapolis (0-9), Jacksonville favored by 3
Call me crazy but I think this is the week the Colts finally get a victory. It will be ugly and this is another game where if you hate yourself you will be watching but the Colts aren't going to go 0-16. They have to win sometime and this is as good a chance as any.
Prediction: Indianapolis 10, Jacksonville 9
Denver (3-5) at Kansas City (4-4), Kansas City favored by 3
I hate it when there are games where I have a feeling about them and then I talk myself out of it. That happened last night when I didn't pick Oakland to beat San Diego, and happened last week when I didn't pick Miami to beat Kansas City. The Chiefs are an incredibly hard team to read. When they lose they seem to lose in spectacularly embarrassing fashion. Tim Tebow stood in the face of his doubters and played well enough to keep his job for another week. To be playing for your job is a tremendous amount of pressure from week to week. Sure, he still isn't accurate but his touchdown throws were some pretty throws and he is a huge threat running the ball. This is a very tough game to get a read on, but I am leaning Chiefs so I will listen and not talk myself out of it.
Prediction: Kansas City 26, Denver 21
Washington (3-5) at Miami (1-7), Miami favored by 3 1/2
Zero buzz about this game around Washington as it is obvious the season is doomed and the fans have checked out. John Beck returns to Miami, still looking for his first win ever as an NFL starter. I agreed with the move to Beck at the time but am not really seeing any justification for sticking with him at this point. He is missing some key players, but Santana Moss and Chris Cooley weren't setting the world on fire for Rex Grossman. The offense has looked terrible the past two weeks, with Beck hearkening back to the check down days of Mark Brunell. The Dolphins have played well for the past two weeks and they seem due for a home win. Things have gotten so bad in Washington, that Skins fans aren't even going to blink when Washington loses this game.
Prediction: Miami 17, Washington 14
Arizona (2-6) at Philadelphia (3-5), No Line
The Eagles are a maddening team. They seem scared to death of success or something. Once again they blew a fourth quarter lead and now their season is on life support. This game might have been interesting if Kevin Kolb was able to start for Arizona but instead its just John Skelton coming to Philly and not the return of Kolb. The Eagles should pummel the Cardinals, but at the very least, just need to win.
Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Arizona 17
Houston (6-3) at Tampa Bay (4-4), Houston favored by 3
Tough game to call here. Tampa Bay is completely mediocre but I still am not quite sure what to make of Houston. They have won three straight despite missing their best player on offense and defense, so they should be lauded for that. I might be more inclined to buy in if they can win at Tampa. The running game has been phenomenal for Houston, with Arian Foster and Ben Tate each contributing big games. This is now a passing league but as the Texans and Niners have shown, if you can run the ball successfully and consistently you will do pretty well. I think Tampa will slow down that run game just a bit this week, enough to get them the semi upset.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 21, Houston 20
Tennessee (4-4) at Carolina (2-6), Carolina favored by 3
I would take Carolina in this game but after they dropped what should have been a win at home against Minnesota it just doesn't seem like a smart pick. The Titans are certainly stumbling but with a veteran leader like Matt Hasselbeck I think they can win a game on the road against the rookie Cam Newton. The Panthers still just make too many mistakes, and will find some way to shoot themselves in the foot.
Prediction: Tennessee 28, Carolina 27
Baltimore (6-2) at Seattle (2-6), Baltimore favored by 7
That win for the Ravens over the Steelers was impressive but not impressive enough for me to completely forget how they couldn't cover against Jacksonville or Arizona in the two weeks prior. The Seahawks are awful, but I can just see Flacco struggle in this game, and the Ravens to suffer a let down after last week's big win. However, the Seahawks are so bad that the Ravens can still win this game with a letdown.
Prediction: Baltimore 20, Seattle 14
Detroit (6-2) at Chicago (5-3), Chicago favored by 1 1/2
The Bears are looking like contenders. Since losing at Detroit on Monday night the Bears have run off three straight victories. The offensive line has played much better, which has allowed Jay Cutler to play exceptionally. Matt Forte continues to be an offensive weapon, and the defense has been strong all season. The shine is coming off the Lions a bit. They are completely one dimensional on offense. It is Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson and that's it. That is a great weapon to have, but they need to establish some semblance of a running game if they want to be successful. The key to their win over Chicago was the crowd and the implosion of the Bears offensive line. Neither of those figure to be in play this time around, so I like the Bears in this game.
Prediction: Chicago 24, Detroit 21
New York Giants (6-2) at San Francisco (7-1), San Francisco favored by 3 1/2
It is the game of the weekend! It is so awesome to see the 49ers playing in big games again. Giants/Niners was a huge rivalry in the late 80's and early 90's, so its cool to see a battle of the titans between these two teams. The Eli Manning bandwagon is officially full after his quarterbacking led the Giants to a comeback win over New England. I was impressed at how he was able to lead them down the field, despite being without his best playmaker Hakeem Nicks. The defense was getting pressure on Tom Brady and is looking like the defense from a few years ago that won the Giants a Super Bowl. As for the 49ers it wasn't pretty but they controlled the game against the Skins and have a championship defense. Alex Smith continues to simply do what is asked of him, while Frank Gore carries the team. I know that formula isn't sustainable all season, so Smith will be called upon at some point to make some big plays. This is a great test for the 49ers and could have huge playoff implications. The NFC West is all but wrapped up but the Niners have a great shot at getting a first round bye. However, if they lose this game they will slip to third behind the Giants, and the Giants will own the tiebreaker. I have to go total homer with my pick and pick the Niners. I worry that this is the week Gore slows down but I think the defense can make enough plays to compensate.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, New York Giants 20
New England (5-3) at New York Jets (5-3), New York Jets favored by 1 1/2
Funny how quickly things change in the NFL. A few weeks ago it was the Jets that were in free fall, while the Patriots were sitting pretty. Those roles have now reversed as the Jets are riding a three game winning streak, while the Patriots have dropped two straight. The New England offense hasn't looked all that great for three games in a row now. The Jets defense on the other hand seems to be rounding back into their 2009 and 2010 form. The offense, while not quite the running team they had been, is finally seeming to go back to their identity of ball control. I can't remember the last time New England has lost three games. I think coach Bill Genius is losing his touch a bit but I can't pick the Patriots to drop a third straight game.
Prediction: New England 25, New York Jets 24
Monday, November 14
Minnesota (2-6) at Green Bay (8-0), Green Bay favored by 13 1/2
The Vikings gave Green Bay a scare when they played in Minnesota so I don't think the Packers should take this game for granted. If Adrian Peterson can run the ball well like he did in the last game these teams played, the Vikings might have a chance to pull off a miracle upset. Hell, who am I kidding? Aaron Rodgers is going to play near perfect again the Vikings will get a backdoor cover with a touchdown late.
Prediction: Green Bay 30, Minnesota 17
Last Week Straight Up: 7-7
Overall Straight Up: 83-47
Last Week Against the Spread: 8-6
Overall Against the Spread: 64-63-3