After the last couple weeks being extremely underwhelming when it came to games between good teams, there are plenty this weekend. There are six games between teams with winning records and even the Monday Night game is a good one, as the Eagles are much better than their 3-4 record indicates. We are now at the halfway mark of the season, and it becomes more and more clear who are contenders and who are pretenders.
Week 9 - Sunday, November 6
New York Jets (4-3) at Buffalo (5-2), Buffalo favored by 1 1/2
The Jets are searching for their first road win of the season, while the Bills are undefeated at home. Sometimes things are just too obvious and you can get trapped by them, but its hard to pick against the Bills in this game. The Jets have been underwhelming on the road all season and have never gotten their running game going. The Jets can only win if Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson have an impact on the game. The Bills pass rush came alive against Washington last weekend and it might give them the confidence to make that a consistent part of their defensive attack. They already have a very opportunistic defense and I expect them to force Mark Sanchez into some mistakes. This game will be a tight, back and forth battle between division rivals, but I think Fred Jackson will carry the Bills through a close win.
Prediction: Buffalo 24, New York Jets 20
Seattle (2-5) at Dallas (3-4), Dallas favored by 12
It was a pleasure to watch the Cowboys and their overrated defensive coordinator Rob Ryan embarrassed by the Eagles last Sunday night. The Cowboys will get to a face a team more to their talent level this weekend, when they host the Seahawks. I expect DeMarco Murray to have a big game, and the Cowboys to get their passing game going, which was non-existent last weekend. However, a line that big? I know the Cowboys covered at home against St. Louis a few weeks ago, but I have a hard time picking a 3-4 team to cover a 12 point spread.
Prediction: Dallas 24, Seattle 13
Atlanta (4-3) at Indianapolis (0-8), Atlanta favored by 7
After a sluggish start the Falcons might be ready to make a run at the NFC South. The Saints have been unable to pull away, and the Falcons schedule lightens up considerably in the second half of the season. The Colts best chance at getting a win will be when they host Jacksonville next week. Until then, they just want to avoid being embarrassed and be somewhat competitive.
Prediction: Atlanta 29, Indianapolis 17
Miami (0-7) at Kansas City (4-3), Kansas City favored by 5
The Dolphins teased their fans by leading most of the game against the Giants, before remembering that they suck and lost their 10th straight game dating back to last season. The Chiefs, who looked dead after and 0-3 start and having their best players drop like flies, have won four in a row and find themselves in first place in the AFC West. The emergence of Jackie Battle to the running game, and now WR Jonathan Baldwin appearing ready to make an impact has the Chiefs feeling good about their chances.
Prediction: Kansas City 22, Miami 15
Tampa Bay (4-3) at New Orleans (5-3), New Orleans favored by 8
The Saints are definitely two teams in one. On the road, they are listless, can't stop anybody and appear to be at best a middle of the pack team. At home, their offense is a juggernaut, their defense creates turnovers and they look like a Super Bowl contender. Fortunately for them, they will be hosting Tampa this weekend and will be an angry team looking for revenge. The anger comes from the embarrassment of handing the Rams their first win of the season, and at one point trailing 24-0. The revenge factor comes from them trying to atone their loss at Tampa a few weeks ago. Tampa has played the Saints well in New Orleans, winning their the last two seasons. Because of that I like them to keep it close, but the Saints needs this win to get back on track and will get it.
Prediction: New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 21
San Francisco (6-1) at Washington (3-4), San Francisco favored by 3 1/2
I will be at FedEx Field for this one, getting to see my beloved 49ers in person for the first time in my life. Wow, that is really hard to believe. I guess that's what happens when your favorite team lives across the country from you. I knew I wanted to go to this game before the season started but I expected I would be going to see a bad Niners team try to pull off an upset. Instead, the Skins are the bad team looking to pull the upset. The Niners now have a four game lead in the NFC West and could possibly clinch the division as early as Thanksgiving. The Skins look like a perfect matchup for them. The Niners success has been the roll that Frank Gore and the running game has been on. The Redskins as of late can't stop anyone on the ground. Another benefit for the 49ers is the Redskins offense is in shambles. It reached the ultimate level of embarrassment against Buffalo, when Mike Shanahan saw an offensive team of his shut out for the first time ever. The offensive line is in tatters and you know that Justin Smith is licking his chops. The Niners will win if Gore goes over 100 yards again and the rush defense plays like it has all season. John Beck won't be passing the Skins to any victories so their only chance is if Alex Smith makes mistakes, instead of being a capable game manager like he has been all season. I think the Skins will show pride at home, but I think the line Vegas gave this game is generous for a 49ers cover.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Washington 14
Cleveland (3-4) at Houston (5-3), Houston favored by 11
This was a tough game for me to pick. Not straight up, as I love Houston but to cover 11? Normally, I would say no way but the Browns may be down to their 3rd string running back in this game, a guy whose name is too hard to spell for me to even bother trying. Plus, QB Colt McCoy has proven that he probably isn't the long term answer at quarterback. However, knowing the history of the Texans and their coach Gary Kubiak anything is possible.
Prediction: Houston 27, Cleveland 14
Cincinnati (5-2) at Tennessee (4-3), Tennessee favored by 3
No one would have guessed that this game would be a crucial game when it came to potential playoff spots. I thought the Bengals would be the worst team in the league but on the backs of a strong defense, and the beastly play of WR A.J. Green they are right in the thick of things. I am having a hard time believing in them though, as evidenced by me picking them to lose at Seattle this weekend. I was wrong then and I may be wrong again this week but I am not ready to pick them on the road at Tennessee. It will be competitive but I still keep thinking at some point the Bengals will remember how young they are and that they're peaking ahead of schedule. I think the Titans will win, but trust me, I don't think that bum Chris Johnson will have anything to do with it.
Prediction: Tennessee 20, Cincinnati 16
Denver (2-5) at Oakland (4-3), Oakland favored by 8
This whole upheaval in Oakland has me feeling like things aren't going to end well for the Raiders. You can't just bring in guys like Carson Palmer and TJ Houshmandzadeh, who have been sitting on their couches all season, and then think that you're going to the playoffs with them. I expect Palmer to look much sharper this game than he did two weeks ago, but people are fooling themselves if they think TJ is going to add much of anything. This might be Tim Tebow's last chance this season to hold onto his starting job. I want to see him do well but it can't be denied how atrocious he has played through two games this season. Usually I would advocate patience, but you can't keep starting a guy that isn't even completing 50 percent of his passes and is taking way too many sacks. The Raiders will escape with a win this week but their long term prospects aren't good in my opinion.
Prediction: Oakland 26, Denver 21
New York Giants (5-2) at New England (5-2), New England favored by 8 1/2
The Patriots offense has sputtered now for two straight weeks. People tend to forget because they won and it was followed up with a bye week, but the offense did very little against the Cowboys, much like they did very little against the Steelers. Of course, they had set the bar high by scoring 30 points a week before that. I'm betting on a return to form this weekend against a Giants team that despite its 5-2 record, is completely underwhelming. They love to play down to their competition, but they also seem to play up when competition is good. They're going to have to as starting with this week the schedule gets very tough. They feel good now with a 2 game lead in the division but things could go south quickly. I think Brady will pick apart their weak secondary and the Patriots defense will do just enough to get the win.
Prediction: New England 30, New York Giants 24
St. Louis (1-6) at Arizona (1-6), No Line
Prediction: Arizona 9, St. Louis 6
Green Bay (7-0) at San Diego (4-3), Green Bay favored by 6
People are foolish. They keep riding the Chargers despite the Chargers giving people no reason to believe in them. They have Norv Turner who has never gotten this team to play to its talent level, they have injuries at the running back position, and they have Philip Rivers who has looked about as good as Rex Grossman and John Beck this season. They are a flawed team without the necessary leadership to be anything more than a fringe contender. The Chargers would love to be the Packers, a team that can still play well despite injuries, has a competent head coach, and a world class quarterback. Now excuse me while I puke for having to pay the Packers all those compliments. I blame the Chargers, screw you San Diego!
Prediction: Green Bay 24, San Diego 19
Baltimore (5-2) at Pittsburgh (6-2), Pittsburgh favored by 3
One of the best rivalries in football takes the spotlight on Sunday night. Week 1 was a strange game for these teams, it wasn't competitive and Joe Flacco actually beat the Steelers. I think we are going to return to the norm in this game. Flacco and the Ravens were lucky that they played such an inept team in the Cardinals and were able to escape with a win. Its obvious that Flacco is another overrated quarterback, and is pretty much a glorified Trent Dilfer. The Ravens only hope of winning this game is Ray Rice. The Steelers defense has played much better in recent weeks, and the offense is really clicking. The Ravens benefited in the first game from all the turnovers Ben Roethlisberger committed but he and the passing game have been on fire the last few weeks. I love the Steelers in this one.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 17
Monday, November 7
Chicago (4-3) at Philadelphia (3-4), Philadelphia favored by 8
The way the Eagles played last Sunday was the team I envisioned when I picked them to win the Super Bowl. Their offense was a juggernaut, the corners weren't allowing any separation, and the defensive front continued their stellar play. The word on the Eagles has completely flipped from the media and now they are declaring the Eagles Super Bowl contenders again. The Eagles have to keep playing with the urgency they have shown the last two weeks because if they don't the Bears can beat them. Jay Cutler figures to be running for his life as Trent Cole and Jason Babin could have huge games going up against a suspect Bears offensive line. I think the Bears defense can keep them in this game and will frustrate Vick and not allow LeSean McCoy to completely run over them. The Eagles rush defense has been much improved the last few weeks but will have their work cut out for them facing Matt Forte. I know it's a risk signing running backs to long term deals (see Chris Johnson) but Forte is also a great pass catcher. The Bears offense will be nothing if they let him walk. I expect a tense, low scoring game, with the Eagles escaping with their third straight victory.
Prediction: Philadelphia 21, Chicago 15
Last Week Straight Up: 8-5
Overall Straight Up: 76-40
Last Week Against the Spread: 3-10, ouch :(
Overall Against the Spread: 56-57-3