Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hail Mary - Week 13

Week 11 - Sunday, December 4

Tennessee (6-5) at Buffalo (5-6), Buffalo favored by 1 1/2

The Bills season has gone off the rails as they enter this game losers of four straight. They had a great opportunity to get a season changing win at the Jets but Stevie Johnson dropped too many passes, and the defense couldn't get stops when they needed it. Must win games is a term that is thrown around all of the time but in reality, a loss here and the Bills will be playing out the string in the last four. The Titans are just a game out of a playoff spot, despite getting sub par quarterback play from Matt Hasselbeck in recent weeks. Chris Johnson had his best game of the season last weekend, but it might have been a mirage because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are atrocious against the run. The Bills have been much better at home all season, so I think this is the spot to end their losing streak. Ryan Fitzpatrick had his best game in over a month last weekend and I expect that momentum to carry over.

Prediction: Buffalo 23, Tennessee 16

Kansas City (4-7) at Chicago (7-4), Chicago favored by 8

This one will be ugly. The Caleb Hanie experience got off to a sluggish start at Oakland last week. Hanie's favorite target is obviously Johnny Knox but his other favorite targets were the Raiders defenders. Hanie's turnovers are what cost the Bears a game they had a great chance at winning. The Chiefs hung around at home against Pittsburgh but their backup quarterback Tyler Palko was also a turnover machine. I would be shocked if Kyle Orton doesn't get the start in this game, although the Chiefs season is basically dead. Talk about ups and downs, three straight losses to start the season, followed by four straight wins, and then a four game losing streak. The Bears at least have a running game when they decided to use it with Matt Forte, I expect Forte to be the key reason the Bears win this one.

Prediction: Chicago 21, Kansas City 14

Oakland (7-4) at Miami (3-8), Miami favored by 3

Peter King loves the Dolphins and if his predictions came true they would probably be 16-0. They have looked much better for the past month, but they are still a 3-8 football team and moral victories are for little kids. The Raiders are winning behind their special teams with punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski getting recognition for their awesome play. Michael Bush has also filled in more than capably for Darren McFadden, while Carson Palmer has been steady at quarterback. The Raiders have to be considered the front runners for the AFC West.

Prediction: Oakland 24, Miami 20

Denver (6-5) at Minnesota (2-9), No Line

That being said, don't count out the Denver Tebows. He doesn't look like your typical quarterback but his team is winning games and even worse he is openly religious. People can't stand it. Anyone willing to pick against the Broncos right now is insane. The defense has been a huge reason for their recent success, but its no coincidence that the team is 5-1 since Tebow took over, and were just 1-4 when the prototypical quarterback Kyle Orton was at the controls.

Prediction: Denver 20, Minnesota 13

Indianapolis (0-11) at New England (8-3), New England favored by 20 1/2

Boy did this rivalry die quickly. The Colts look poised to go 0-16 and I certainly could see them losing by more than 20 to the Patriots. However, that is an extreme number and Vegas knows people will be hesitant to bet the Patriots. Bill Belichick can lie through his teeth about this Colts team being similar to the ones they played in the past but everyone knows the truth. A fun bet for this game would be an over/under on number of times Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky runs out the back of his end zone.

Prediction: New England 30, Indianapolis 10

Cincinnati (7-4) at Pittsburgh (8-3), Pittsburgh favored by 6 1/2

The Bengals are a fun team to watch, especially their rookie tandem on offense, QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. They are a team to watch in the future, if they can overcome being the Bengals. They are on the precipice of being a contender but as was shown when they lost to Pittsburgh and Baltimore a few weeks ago, not quite there. I expect this game to follow that same pattern. The Bengals will hang around and keep it interesting
but fall just short in the end.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Cincinnati 24

Carolina (3-8) at Tampa Bay (4-7), Tampa Bay favored by 3 1/2

The Bucs have imploded this year and QB Josh Freeman has regressed badly. Although, maybe last seasons 10-6 record was really just a symptom of an easy schedule. The Bucs do have talent, but they haven't been able to put it all together, especially on defense. Home cooking should do them some good against a Carolina team that usually keeps it close but still is learning how to win.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, Carolina 24

New York Jets (6-5) at Washington (4-7), New York Jets favored by 3

Maybe I just shouldn't watch Skins games. I only saw bits and pieces of the Seattle game on Red Zone last weekend. When I saw they were trailing 17-7 in the 4th I assumed it was another loss. However, to the Skins credit they kept fighting and ended their six game losing streak. The talk for this week's game against the Jets has been how fun or miserable it will be to watch two inconsistent quarterbacks do battle. I expect to see a few interceptions from both quarterbacks, and strong defensive efforts from both teams. It will be a good test for new Redskins RB Roy Helu, who finally got a start last weekend about two months too late. The difference will be that the Jets know how to close out a game, while the Redskins usually find ways to blow games.

Prediction: New York Jets 21, Washington 17

Atlanta (7-4) at Houston (8-3), Atlanta favored by 2 1/2

Houston is down their third string quarterback, rookie T.J. Yates out of North Carolina. Yates actually performed pretty well when pressed into duty at Jacksonville last week. He really only has to be serviceable because the defense continues to play outstanding for the Texans. Unfortunately, the level of opponent this week is quite a step up from Jacksonville. The Falcons are depleted in their secondary, and if Schaub was starting or maybe Leinart I would like the Texans. But I believe Yates will be rattled by the Atlanta defensive front and make some mistakes. Offensively for the Falcons, Matt Ryan is playing very well right now and I expect him to make enough plays on the Houston defense to give the Falcons their third straight victory.

Prediction: Atlanta 23, Houston 13

Baltimore (8-3) at Cleveland (4-7), Baltimore favored by 6

It wouldn't shock me if the Ravens lose this game. Their modus operandi all season has been to win a big game, then lose to a bummy team. I just have no faith in the Cleveland Browns being able to capitalize on the Ravens inconsistency. The Ravens will let it be closer than it should be, but I think Ray Rice has a 100-yard game in him and will pound the Browns into submission.

Prediction: Baltimore 20, Cleveland 17

Green Bay (11-0) at New York Giants (6-5), Green Bay favored by 7

Seems that some people like the Giants to be the ones to hand the Packers their first loss. I haven't seen anything out of the Giants the last two weeks that would indicate to me they are up to that task. The performance against the Saints last weekend was pathetic, and if their defense thought the Saints offense was a juggernaut they need to be aware that the Packers are even better. I foolishly picked against Green Bay last weekend, but no more, Aaron Rodgers is just playing too well right now.

Prediction: Green Bay 34, New York Giants 26

Dallas (7-4) at Arizona (4-7), Dallas favored by 4 1/2

The Cardinals are expecting to have Kevin Kolb back as the starter when they welcome Dallas. Kolb isn't great but he is a definite step up from John Skelton. The Cowboys have won four in a row but haven't been that impressive against pretty bad teams the last two weeks. The Cardinals always play much tougher at home so I expect this to be a close game. I think it will come down to Dan Bailey's leg for the third straight week.

Prediction: Dallas 30, Arizona 27

St. Louis (2-9) at San Francisco (9-2), San Francisco favored by 13

The Niners saw their eight game winning streak go by the wayside at Baltimore last week. It was a tall task, asking them to go cross country on a short week and beat a very good team. I liked that the Niners were competitive and in the game until the final few minutes. I didn't like how poorly the offensive line played. The Ravens have a very talented defense, but the Niners offensive line has no excuse for letting Alex Smith get sacked nine times. I think the Niners will be rested and ready to beat up on a lifeless, poor Rams team at home. Plus, a win will bring them their first division title since 2002.

Prediction: San Francisco 27, St. Louis 10

Detroit (7-4) at New Orleans (8-3), New Orleans favored by 9

Nice that this game could be flexed into Sunday night in favor of the Colts/Patriots smushsmortion. I am not too sure this game will be ultra competitive though. The Lions defense will be without Ndamukong Suh, who foolishly stepped on an opposing player last week. I had defended Suh because he never seemed like a dirty player in college at Nebraska, but he definitely crossed the line last week and a 2-game suspension seems fair. The Lions are just 2-4 in their last six and most of that can be attributed to the struggles of QB Matthew Stafford. After a fast start he has been a turnover machine the last six weeks. The Lions lack of a running game is also starting to effect them. The Saints offense is like a machine when they play at home and are almost unstoppable at times. They are also getting healthy and might be peaking at just the right time.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, Detroit 20

Monday, December 5

San Diego (4-7) at Jacksonville (3-8), San Diego favored by 2 1/2

The Chargers are a joke and Norv Turner should be soon going the way of the Jaguars former coach Jack Del Rio. I am probably foolish to pick them to win this game, but they aren't going to finish 4-12 and have to find another win somewhere. Signing LB Takeo Spikes was a huge mistake, no matter where he goes, he sees the same hoes, I mean misses the playoffs.

Prediction: San Diego 24, Jacksonville 14

Last Week Straight Up: 10-6
Overall Straight Up: 110-66

Last Week Against the Spread: 10-6
Overall Against the Spread: 88-83-5

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