Monday, December 31, 2012
Capital One Bowl
#7 Georgia (11-2) vs. #16 Nebraska (10-3) in Orlando, Florida
You could call this the runner-up bowl as both Georgia and Nebraska had to settle for appearances in this game after losing in their conference championship games. At least the Bulldogs showed up for their game and gave Alabama all they could handle. The Cornhuskers were thoroughly embarrassed by Wisconsin and basically helped Bret Bielema land the Arkansas job. A signature win has eluded Bo Pelini during his time in Lincoln, and while Huskers fans were hoping for a Big Ten championship, a win over an SEC power like Georgia would give Nebraska fans great hope going into 2013. The Huskers maligned defense will have its work cut out for them against a Bulldogs attack that is proficient both throwing and running. QB Aaron Murray had an outstanding season for Georgia and there are rumors this could be his final collegiate game before turning pro. What's even more impressive about Murray's play is he doesn't have any real elite receivers to throw the ball to. He has some good ones that he spreads it around to, including Tavarres King, who gashed the Crimson Tide and led the Bulldogs in receiving touchdowns this season, and Malcolm Mitchell. More concerning for Nebraska is the Bulldogs running game, led by Freshman Todd Gurley. Gurley scored 16 TDs this season, rushed for 1,260 yards and went over 100 yards in 8 of the Bulldogs 12 games. He gets spotted by Keith Marshall, who averaged 6.6 yards per carry. The Huskers defense will have to play its best game of the season to keep things competitive with Georgia. Husker QB Taylor Martinez had his best season throwing the ball, but will have his work cut out for him against the blazing fast Bulldogs defense. Luckily for him Georgia is without John Jenkins, however, the potential number one pick in the draft and SEC Player of the Year LB Jarvis Jones will be in action. Martinez should be helped by having his full complement of running backs, including senior Rex Burkhead who battled injuries all season. It will be up to Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah to get the ground game going and take some pressure off Martinez. Martinez has shown that he can still be a turnover machine when the game is placed in his hands. Martinez will also need his top receiver Kenny Bell to make some plays. Bell has disappeared in the last two games, catching just 2 passes for 14 yards. I think Nebraska should be plenty motivated to get the bad taste out of their mouths from the Big Ten title game. However, I think talent wise they are far behind Georgia, and they can't make the Herculean effort necessary to win this game. The defense has not shown the ability to stop a good offense, and the Huskers will have trouble scoring on the Bulldogs stout defense.
Prediction: Georgia 38, Nebraska 21
Wisconsin (8-5) vs. #6 Stanford (11-2) in Pasadena, California
If you like power football this will be the game for you to watch. Both of these teams pass because they have to but win games on the backs of their rushing attacks. Usually you talk about a quarterback battle to watch but in this game it will be running back vs. running back. For the Badgers you have record setting running back Montee Ball going against the Cardinal's Stepfan Taylor. Ball saw his numbers dip in his senior year, but it was still good enough for him to have 21 TDs and 1,730 yards rushing. Pretty incredible to say he almost had a down year, compared to his ridiculous junior season. He sometimes gets lost in the shuffle because of Ball but the Badgers also have James White, who shredded Nebraska for 4 TDs in the Badgers Big Ten title win. For Stanford, Taylor saw his carries increase a ton, as the Cardinal became a running team with the departure of Andrew Luck and inconsistent quarterback play for most of the season. Stanford has not lost since Freshman QB Kevin Hogan took over, throwing 9 TDs against just 3 INTs in 6 games this year. Picking up where Coby Fleener left off, TE Zach Ertz has become the number one receiving target with 66 catches and 6 TDs. The Badgers are on their third quarterback this season, and now roll with senior Curt Phillips. Phillips isn't asked to do a ton, but he has capably managed games since he got the nod, throwing 4 TDs and just one interception in his four starts. To go with their strong rushing attacks, each team has tough defenses, both of which were Top 20 in the NCAA in points allowed. The other subplot to this game is with Bielema's departure, Wisconsin will be coached by their athletic director and legendary coach Barry Alvarez. Perhaps that is why despite having just 8 wins, the Badgers are only six point underdogs to Stanford. Also, Alvarez is 3-0 in the Rose Bowl, while Bielema lost both of his appearances. That is all well and good but this Stanford defense his Badgers will be facing is legit and isn't going to fall for the gimmick runs Wisconsin unleashed on Nebraska. I have more faith in Hogan than I do in Phillips at quarterback and with the running backs basically being a wash, that will give Stanford the edge to get the win.
Prediction: Stanford 27, Wisconsin 20
#15 Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. #12 Florida State (11-2) in Miami, Florida
Some MACtion has crashed the BCS this year, as Northern Illinois parlayed an undefeated conference record into a BCS bid. This left some people apoplectic, such as Kirk Herbstreit who couldn't believe that the Orange Bowl, home of such legendary matchups as Louisville vs. Wake Forest and Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech, would have to degrade itself to include Northern Illinois. Then there is Florida State, which was probably happy because this game fit in well with the rest of their schedule of playing nobodies. Now I confess to not having watched a single second of Northern Illinois football this year but it appears that on offense they are a two man team. They are led by QB Jordan Lynch, who threw for 2,962 yards and 24 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns. He completed 63% of his passes with a 8.4 yards per attempt average so he seems to be quite the threat. His favorite target is WR Martel Moore, who had 71 catches and 12 TDs this season. The Huskies were also strong defensively, allowing just 19 points per game, good enough for 18th in the country. Most of you are a little more familiar with the Seminoles, especially QB EJ Manuel who will be playing his final game at Florida State. Manuel is extremely accurate but can get sloppy with ball at times and throw a costly interception. The Seminoles don't run the ball all that much and mostly rely on WR Rashad Greene to make plays. The Huskies lone loss this season was to a terrible Iowa team that couldn't even make one of the 500 bowls. Now, to be fair that was way back in September, but the Huskies most impressive out of conference win came against Army. What I am trying to say is they probably aren't ready for the avalanche in talent that will be coming at them from Florida State. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Florida State is all that great, as Florida basically exposed them as frauds, but they are well above teams like Central Michigan or Kent State. I don't expect to see a Boise State/Oklahoma type game, I more expect to see a Hawaii/Georgia type of affair. The Huskies may hang around for a quarter but will be all downhill from there.
Prediction: Florida State 42, Northern Illinois 17
Overall Record: 102-24
Friday, December 28, 2012
Sunday, December 30
Philadelphia (4-11) at New York Giants (8-7), New York Giants favored by 7 1/2
The Giants have to beat the Eagles then hope that the Vikings, Bears, and Cowboys all lose to get themselves into the playoffs to defend their championship. On paper you would think that them beating the Eagles would be easy, but Philly will have both LaSean McCoy and Michael Vick back in the lineup. Plus, the Giants can't take anyone lightly with how crappy they have played the last two weeks. I think it is obvious that the Giants are trending downward, and they won't be able to quickly right the ship on Sunday. I like Philly to pull off the upset, and lead to a lot of soul searching for the Giants this off-season.
Prediction: Philadelphia 24, New York Giants 20
Tampa Bay (6-9) at Atlanta (13-2), No Line
For the Falcons this game is about just staying healthy so I wouldn't expect their starters to play the entire game. Even with their backups they should still beat Tampa Bay, losers of five straight, as they are collapsing at the end of the season for a second straight year.
Prediction: Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 20
New York Jets (6-9) at Buffalo (5-10), Buffalo favored by 3 1/2
For some reason people care about who will start at quarterback for the Jets in a game that means absolutely nothing. Mark Sanchez is back as the starter as Greg McElroy is out with a concussion. The Bills have basically quit on Chan Gailey, so I expect the Jets to finish a season sweep of the Bills.
Prediction: New York Jets 22, Buffalo 19
Baltimore (10-5) at Cincinnati (9-6), Cincinnati favored by 3
Had the Ravens lost to New York last week this game could have been for the division title. Instead, not much is on the line, as the Bengals are locked in as the sixth seed for the second straight year. The Ravens could possibly move up to the third seed with a win and a Patriots loss, but that doesn't really make that much of a difference. The Bengals finally won a tough game, and I expect the confidence of this young team to be sky high. Because of that, and because of the Ravens recent struggles, I like Cincinnati to get revenge for their Week 1 shellacking from Baltimore.
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 16
Chicago (9-6) at Detroit (4-11), Chicago favored by 3 1/2
The Bears must win and then cheer for their arch rival, the Packers to defeat Minnesota later in the day. The Lions have the best passing attack in the league, but for some reason can hardly ever find the end zone that way. Stafford hasn't thrown a TD in his past two games despite passing for over 500 yards. Stafford has just 17 TDs and has regressed badly after his breakout season last year. Calvin Johnson set the single season receiving yards record last week against Atlanta. Now he looks to become the first ever receiver to break the 2,000 yard barrier. Johnson needs just 108 yards so it is definitely within reach. Even with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, the Bears have one of the worst passing attacks in the league. Because of that, they definitely need Matt Forte to play through his injury, especially with his backup Michael Bush already out for the season. I am tempted to take Lions but then remember that they have lost seven straight games and suck.
Prediction: Chicago 21, Detroit 17
Jacksonville (2-13) at Tennessee (5-10), Tennessee favored by 4
This might be Mike Munchak's swan song after a very disappointing year for the Titans. I think owner Bud Adams read my blog and saw that I picked Tennessee to win the AFC South, so a 6-10 season will be completely unacceptable. For the Jaguars this will be their last game before the probable Tim Tebow era starts next season.
Prediction: Tennessee 28, Jacksonville 21
Houston (12-3) at Indianapolis (10-5), Houston favored by 7
The Texans must win to guarantee home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A loss could and wins by the Broncos and Patriots would drop them to third, losing them a first round bye. For the Colts, they are locked in as the 5 seed, but they will be motivated by the return of head coach Chuck Pagano. Both teams will be highly motivated which should mean a very competitive game. Because of the emotions behind Pagano returning I think about taking the Colts, but feel like the Texans desperation to hold on to home field will win out. You know that over hyped Andrew Luck is good for a few turnovers, and that will prove to be the difference.
Prediction: Houston 35, Indianapolis 30
Carolina (6-9) at New Orleans (7-8), New Orleans favored by 5 1/2
These teams meet in the disappointing seasons bowl. Both caught fire towards the end of the year, but slow starts were too much to overcome.
Prediction: New Orleans 36, Carolina 24
Cleveland (5-10) at Pittsburgh (7-8), No Line
Speaking of disappointing seasons, the Steelers finish off their first non winning season since 2006. This might be coach Pat Shurmur's swan song and with Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy both hurting some scrub third stringer who I am too lazy to look up might start for the Browns. This season has already been bad enough for Pittsburgh, if they add getting swept by the Browns to it, Pittsburgh would become apoplectic.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Cleveland 10
Arizona (5-10) at San Francisco (10-4-1), San Francisco favored by 16 1/2
Last weekend's butt whooping at the hands of the Seahawks was quite depressing to watch. The 49ers looked completely over matched and outclassed. Colin Kaepernick appeared overwhelmed by the crowd noise and it was the first time I wondered if Alex Smith would have performed better in that environment. Don't get me wrong, I am still all about keeping Kap at quarterback. Missing Justin Smith on the defensive end was huge. He tore his triceps against New England and will sit out his second straight game. The Niners are hoping he can play in the playoffs but it is doubtful he will be the impact player the Niners have grown accustomed to. San Francisco can clinch the division as long as they can stop Brian Hoyer and the bumbling Cardinals offense. They will be watching the score of Green Bay/Minnesota and rooting for the Vikings to win, so that San Francisco can earn a first round bye. Anything less than a blowout of the Cardinals will be highly disappointing and cause for concern.
Prediction: San Francisco 23, Arizona 6
Miami (7-8) at New England (11-4), New England favored by 10
The Patriots had a ton of trouble with Jacksonville, and seem to be struggling a bit heading into the playoffs. Despite all that, they actually have a chance at earning home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They would have to win and hope for losses by the Texans and Broncos. The Broncos losing to the Chiefs seems impossible, so the more likely scenario is that they can move ahead of Houston for a first round bye. Miami is hoping to finish off a .500 season with first year coach Joe Philbin and first year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This could also be Reggie Bush's last game as a Dolphin, as his contract is up after this game. I hope they bring Reggie back, like he showed last week against Buffalo, when the coaches have made sure he gets the touches, he produces.
Prediction: New England 27, Miami 21
Green Bay (11-4) at Minnesota (9-6), Green Bay favored by 3 1/2
Tons of storylines in this game, making it the second most intriguing game of the weekend. The Packers have plenty to play for, as a win guarantees them a first round bye, while a loss more than likely means they will have to play next weekend. For the Vikings, they control their own destiny, a win guarantees them the sixth seed, while a loss throws everything into chaos. There is also the Adrian Peterson watch. Peterson is just 102 yards away from reaching the 2,000 yard mark for the season. Catching Eric Dickerson's all time single season rushing yardage record is still a remote possibility but not likely. Peterson will have to come up huge like he did against Green Bay the first time for Minnesota to have a chance. QB Christian Ponder has been better the last few weeks but still can't be trusted. Without his poor play in Lambeau, the Vikings had control of the Packers in Lambeau and might have won the game. The Vikings defense has also quietly been a strength this season and had one of their strongest performances in last week's win at Houston. The Green Bay offense has been up and down this season, but they are coming off a 55 point explosion last weekend. The Vikings crowd will be a great advantage for Minnesota and to me will be the difference in this game. This game will really come down to whether or not Ponder can manage it and avoid costly interceptions and turnovers.
Prediction: Minnesota 25, Green Bay 22
Kansas City (2-13) at Denver (12-3), Denver favored by 16
By time the game starts the Broncos will know if they still have a chance at earning home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if that isn't attainable, they will still be motivated to get the victory and hold on to a first round bye. For the Chiefs, this dreadful season can't end soon enough. Despite just 2 wins, they managed to have 5 Pro Bowlers, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Prediction: Denver 29, Kansas City 14
Oakland (4-11) at San Diego (6-9), No Line
Goodbye to the Norv Turner as head coach era. He can now enjoy the rest of his career as an offensive coordinator, something he actually does well.
Prediction: San Diego 17, Oakland 10
St. Louis (7-7-1) at Seattle (10-5), Seattle favored by 10 1/2
The Seahawks are on fire, averaging 50 points a game in their last three games. 50! The Rams have made a point of talking about this game being important as they want to finish over .500 and also go undefeated in the division. A great goal to have, and while they seemed to befuddle the 49ers this season, I don't think they have the chops to beat the scorching hot Seahawks in Seattle. Russell Wilson can't be stopped lately, and either can "Beast Mode" Marshawn Lynch.
Prediction: Seattle 30, St. Louis 16
Dallas (8-7) at Washington (9-6), Washington favored by 3
When these teams played on Thanksgiving it was a shootout, with the Skins jumping out to a big lead early and then hanging on. I expect another high scoring contest Sunday night. I had questions about how Washington would handle being the hunted, but those concerns were put to ease as they handled it well at Philadelphia last week. The defense has had a bend but don't break mentality during the Skins six game winning streak and that will probably be how things go on Sunday. The Cowboys have the weapons to take advantage of the Skins weak secondary, so the Skins have to make sure the Cowboys don't get their ground game going. If DeMarco Murray starts breaking runs, the Cowboys will win this game. As for RG3 and the Skins offense, they just need to keep following the formula that has worked all year for them. Avoid costly turnovers, get Alfred Morris his carries and then let RG3 hit the big play. I think the Skins might come out a little jumpy and let the atmosphere of this game get to them. But I expect after the first few possessions they will settle down and get into their groove. This game is really a toss up, but do you really think their is a chance in hell I pick the Cowboys? Hail to the Redskins!
Prediction: Washington 35, Dallas 27
Last Week Against the Spread: 10-6
Overall Against the Spread: 112-121-7
Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 155-84-1
Friday, December 21, 2012
Saturday, December 22
Atlanta (12-2) at Detroit (4-10), Atlanta favored by 4
It is kind of nice to see that things are back to normal and the Detroit Lions suck at football. Calvin Johnson may have overcome the Madden Curse after a slow start to the season, but we can now say the curse struck the Lions. Detroit has lost six straight and it would take an upset in one of their last two games to avoid ending the season on a 8 game losing streak. I'm not really talking about the Falcons because really who cares about Atlanta and regular seasons. They can get home field advantage and no one will really be scared to play them at the Georgia Dome after the Packers made them mince meat their two years ago. For Atlanta, it really is all about how they perform in the playoffs.
Prediction: Atlanta 34, Detroit 20
Sunday, December 23
Buffalo (5-9) at Miami (6-8), Miami favored by 4 1/2
The Dolphins are still technically alive for a playoff berth but it would take a tremendous confluence of events to happen for them to sneak in. More realistically, they are playing to finish their first season under Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill at .500 and have something to build from. Bills fans are hoping they have just two games left of the Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick era.
Prediction: Miami 24, Buffalo 16
Minnesota (8-6) at Houston (12-2), Houston favored by 8 1/2
Another huge game this weekend is in Houston. The Texans can clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win, while the Vikings need to keep winning to try to stay in the playoff picture. It is amazing that without a viable passing game, RB Adrian Peterson continues to run at a record pace. He is only 188 yards from a 2,000 yard season, and that isn't even what people are talking about. They basically assume Peterson will get that, the real question is will he break Eric Dickerson's single season record of 2,105 rushing yards? The Texans are 5th best in the league against the run so Peterson will have his work cut out for him. Christian Ponder has to avoid any mistakes and Vikings will have to play excellent defense to stay in this game. I think they will be competitive, but Peterson alone can't will them to victory against a top flight team.
Prediction: Houston 23, Minnesota 20
Washington (8-6) at Philadelphia (4-10), Washington favored by 4 1/2
Well, Kirk Cousins and Mike Shanahan sure made a lot of people look foolish last weekend. They made people that thrashed the Skins for picking Cousins in the fourth round look foolish, and they made people talking about how they should have played Sexy Rexy instead look really foolish. Now it appears that the reigns will be handed back to RG3, who from all indications will start on Sunday. This game is making me nervous as Skins fans are dangerously assuming this is a victory. Sure, the Eagles are terrible but they still are professionals and aren't just going to roll over, especially at home. They also get back RB LaSean McCoy, who will be raring to go after sitting out the past month with a concussion. The Redskins will be hoping that Bryce Brown still receives plenty of touches since he is good for a fumble returned to the house at least once a game. The big question is will Griffin show any rust or will it be business as usual? I expect this game to prove to be a tense affair, with the Skins scratching and clawing their way to victory and just one win away from their first NFC East title in 13 years.
Prediction: Washington 28, Philadelphia 21
New Orleans (6-8) at Dallas (8-6), Dallas favored by 3
The Cowboys and Redskins are headed towards a prime time showdown next Sunday night for the division title and possibly just to make it into the playoffs. Before that the Cowboys have to handle their business at home against the Saints. I want to pick New Orleans in this game but they have been mostly dreadful on the road, especially QB Drew Brees. The battle between Brees and Tony Romo could either be exquisite, or one that is downright ugly and filled with turnovers. I am going to go with the former, but think the Cowboys defense being better than the Saints defense, will be the difference.
Prediction: Dallas 35, New Orleans 31
Tennessee (5-9) at Green Bay (10-4), Green Bay favored by 12
The Packers wrapped up the NFC North with their victory over Chicago last weekend and now in a battle with San Francisco for the second seed and a bye the first week of the playoffs. The Packers sometimes play down to their competition and surprisingly the offense hasn't broken 30 points in over a month. I think the Pack are due to have a breakout game against a bad Titans team.
Prediction: Green Bay 35, Tennessee 17
Indianapolis (9-5) at Kansas City (2-12), Indianapolis favored by 6
The Colts can wrap up a playoff berth with a victory at lowly Kansas City. They received great news this week, as head coach Chuck Pagano is expected to rejoin the team Monday after being given a clean bill of health from his doctors. What better way to celebrate Pagano coming back then with a playoff berth secured.
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Kansas City 14
San Diego (5-9) at New York Jets (6-8), New York Jets favored by 3
Absolutely no reason to watch this game, including even if you are a Chargers or Jets fan. The way that Jets blew that abortion of a game on Monday night against the Titans was comical. Now with the season over, coach Rex Ryan has decided it is finally time to pull Mark Sanchez. Too little too late for Rex and the Jets, but I have to say Rex deserves a ton of credit for dragging this rag tag bunch to 6 wins.
Prediction: San Diego 19, New York Jets 12
Cincinnati (8-6) at Pittsburgh (7-7), Pittsburgh favored by 4 1/2
Huge statement game for the Bengals. A win gets them into the playoffs and fittingly they have to do it against a team that has had their number the last few years. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are building a nice foundation in Cincinnati but the duo has yet to defeat either the Steelers or the Ravens. Now is the time to do it as the Steelers are reeling and Ben Roethlisberger let his frustration with offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense become public. I don't doubt that the Bengals can win this game but I am not picking them in a game like this until they prove they can win it.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 25, Cincinnati 21
St. Louis (6-7-1) at Tampa Bay (6-8), Tampa Bay favored by 3
The Rams have faint playoff hopes but really are just playing out the string. The Buccaneers were riding high at 6-4 but have lost four straight, with things reaching their nadir last weekend when they were somehow shutout by the atrocious Saints defense. I think they have some fight left in them though and won't suffer a complete collapse to end the season like they did under Raheem Morris last season.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, St. Louis 20
Oakland (4-10) at Carolina (5-9), Carolina favored by 9
The only interesting storyline in this game is that Raiders backup Terrell Pryor might see some action. Carolina could possibly be headed to another 6-10 season, whoopity doo.
Prediction: Carolina 30, Oakland 22
New England (10-4) at Jacksonville (2-12), New England favored by 14
Something is very wrong if the Patriots don't absolutely beat the crap out of the Jaguars. They might even have the Gronk back for this game!
Prediction: New England 42, Jacksonville 17
Cleveland (5-9) at Denver (11-3), Denver favored by 12 1/2
The Broncos are neck and neck with the Texans for home field advantage and also need to keep winning to secure a first round bye. Browns and Broncos was quite a rivalry in the 80s, now it is just another game the Browns are major underdogs in, or the status quo.
Prediction: Denver 30, Cleveland 20
Chicago (8-6) at Arizona (5-9), Chicago favored by 5 1/2
The Bears collapse continues and now they are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. If they can't beat Arizona on Sunday they definitely don't deserve to make the playoffs. The Cardinals ended their nine game losing streak last week but they still are completely dreadful on offense, and the Bears defense, though depleted, should dictate this game.
Prediction: Chicago 20, Arizona 13
New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore (9-5), New York Giants favored by 1
Someone has to win this game between two reeling teams. Well, I suppose they could tie but the chances of that are very slim. The Ravens were once unbeatable at home, but have now lost two straight. The Giants were once road warriors but have lost three in a row away from home. Both of their quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco can look great and awful multiple times a game. Flacco is catching a lot of grief but his numbers are actually better than Eli's. This game is a toss up, but I can't envision Baltimore dropping a third straight home game, so I will go with them.
Prediction: Baltimore 26, New York Giants 23
San Francisco (10-3-1) at Seattle (9-5), Seattle favored by 1
Another week, another road challenge for the 49ers and another week of people picking them to lose. The Seahawks are unbeaten at home this year and have beaten some really good teams in Seattle. The win over the Packers shouldn't really count because of the ref fiasco but they did beat New England, Minnesota, and Dallas at home, and those are all teams either in the playoffs or right there to make the playoffs. Things have changed quite a bit for both teams since their last meeting two months ago in San Francisco, which the Niners won 13-6. The Seahawks offense is now rolling and Russell Wilson is no longer a liability, he has become a star. The 49ers are no longer held under the constraints that the Alex Smith era held them in, they have renewed hope and life on offense with Colin Kaepernick. In their tough road wins this season, the Niners have done a good job of taking the lead early and silencing the crowd quickly. They will need to follow a similar path if they want to be successful Sunday night. That means not allowing Marshawn Lynch to get going, which was a problem in the first meeting. The run game worked for Seattle in October, they just couldn't generate an aerial attack. They had plenty of chances but either guys dropped balls or Wilson threw bad passes. Those things have been improved since then, so the 49ers will have a very slim margin of error on defense. I'm not worried about them suffering from a letdown. Coach Harbaugh will have them ready to play and they know that this is an opportunity to wrap up the division in their biggest rivals house. I have complete faith in this team to conquer another challenge.
Prediction: San Francisco 20, Seattle 17
Last Week Against the Spread: 10-6 (bout damn time)
Overall Against the Spread: 102-115-7
Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 144-79-1
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Thursday, December 13
Cincinnati (7-6) at Philadelphia (4-9), Cincinnati favored by 4 1/2
The Bengals missed a huge opportunity to take control of their destiny in capturing a playoff spot when they blew a nine point lead at home to the Cowboys. With both the Ravens and Steelers losing, a Bengals win would have meant not only holding the final playoff spot but also been right there with Baltimore for the AFC North crown. They proved that while they are getting better, they still can't win the games they should win when the pressure is on. They have a chance to rectify that tonight at Philadelphia. The Eagles finally got off the schneid, shocking the Bucs and ending their eight game losing streak. Nick Foles played his best game since taking over for Michael Vick and the Eagles showed that they aren't ready to roll over and quit. Tonight, the Eagles will attempt to end their four game home losing streak and put a huge dent in the Bengals playoff hopes. They will once again be without LaSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and now Brent Celek. Their offensive line is also banged up and that is where the Bengals can dominate. I expect Foles to be running for his life most of the night, avoiding the pressure of Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson. The Eagles are a turnover prone team and the Bengals have the players to exploit that. They also have the offense to make some plays on the Eagles woeful defense, and after a quiet week last week, I think A.J. Green will shine.
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Philadelphia 17
Sunday, December 16
Jacksonville (2-11) at Miami (5-8), Miami favored by 7
This game has playoff implications in the sense that the Dolphins are still mathematically alive. They would basically have to win all of their games and then get a lot of help. Last week they finally seemed to figure out that Reggie Bush is their best option at running back and should be getting the bulk of the touches. Too little too late for the season, but if they follow that formula Sunday they should have no problem with the Jags.
Prediction: Miami 23, Jacksonville 14
Minnesota (7-6) at St. Louis (6-6-1), St. Louis favored by 3
The loser of this game could see their playoff chances completely extinguish. The Rams have won three straight and have been winning on their backs of their young, up and coming defense. That doesn't bode well for Christian Ponder, who has played terribly since losing Percy Harvin to injury. The Vikings have also been awful on the road, with a 1-5 record. For them to have a chance it will be the same formula as every week. Adrian Peterson will have to have a monster game and Ponder will have to avoid making too many mistakes. Ponder can't seem to avoid crippling mistakes on the road, so I don't like the Vikings chances.
Prediction: St. Louis 21, Minnesota 14
Washington (7-6) at Cleveland (5-8), Washington favored by 1
Will RG3 play or not play, that is the question. From everything I have heard this week, with him practicing and supposedly looking good, I expect Griffin to suit up and give it a go. It remains to be seen if he will make it through the entire game and how limited he will be with his injured knee. Idiots on DC sports radio keep talking about how the Redskins could be alright with a loss because the Browns are an AFC team, but that is a lie. The Skins are one back of the Giants in the NFC East and one back of the Seahawks and Bears for the Wild Card. If you are behind anyone, you can't afford any losses. The Browns are one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of three straight, although two of those wins came against putrid Oakland and Kansas City. For all the talk I have heard about Brandon Weeden playing better of late, he still has 13 TDs against 15 INTs. Even during the Browns winning streak he has just 2 TDs against 3 picks. With or without RG3, I think that Alfred Morris is the key to this game. If he keeps running like he has been, that will take a ton of pressure off the quarterback position. I think if Cousins does start we can expect Morris to get 25-30 carries, heck, even with RG3 in there, he might see that many. This will be a gritty, grind it out type of game, and with the hot streak the Skins are on, I wouldn't bet against them.
Prediction: Washington 24, Cleveland 21
New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2), Atlanta favored by 1
The Falcons will be looking for revenge after being embarrassed by the Giants in the playoffs last year. New York will just be looking for a win and to keep their lead in the NFC East. The Falcons were humbled last week at Carolina, and provided more fodder for the critics that doubt they are as good as their record indicates. For years, the Giants have been known as road warriors but currently have lost their last two road games. Neither teams defense is that strong, so their should be plenty of opportunities for Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. The difference will be the running game, as even if Ahmad Bradshaw doesn't play, I like the Giants rushing attack far more than the Falcons.
Prediction: New York Giants 30, Atlanta 22
Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5), Green Bay favored by 3
The Packers can clinch the NFC North with a victory at Soldier Field. The Bears have dropped four of their last five games and the firing squad is forming around longtime coach Lovie Smith. If the Bears end up missing the playoffs, it would be the second straight season that happened after a 7-3 start. These games are always slug fests, and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense always has a hell of a time with the Bears defense. It will help that Brian Urlacher won't be playing and the Packers defense usually makes life for Jay Cutler. The Packers are trending upwards while the Bears are stumbling, so I expect the Packers to wrap up the North on enemy turf.
Prediction: Green Bay 27, Chicago 17
Tampa Bay (6-7) at New Orleans (5-8), New Orleans favored by 3 1/2
Both of these teams are still mathematically alive but are both unlikely to be able to make the playoffs. Neither team's defense is particularly strong, and I think the Bucs secondary is the tonic that Drew Brees needs to get back on track after three sub par performances in a row. If Brees can avoid throwing costly interceptions, I like the Saints to win the game on the last drive.
Prediction: New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 35
Denver (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4), Denver favored by 2 1/2
John Harbaugh seemed to realize that even at 9-4 his team was pretty fraudy and fired his offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron. I'm not sure replacing him with the robotic Jim Caldwell will make much of a difference. The Broncos have won eight in a row but many of those wins have come against poor teams. The Ravens aren't a great team but they are a tough team to beat in Baltimore. I will take the Broncos Super Bowl chances much more seriously if they can pull out the win at M&T. Peyton Manning has always had trouble with the Ravens defense, but this isn't the same Ravens, even if Ray Lewis returns, and Terrell Suggs ends up playing.
Prediction: Denver 28, Baltimore 21
Indianapolis (9-4) at Houston (11-2), Houston favored by 8 1/2
The Colts are two games back of the Texans in the South but with two of their final three games against the Texans are still very much alive. The Texans are coming off an embarrassing loss at New England. Most disconcerting the last month has been the play the Texans defense, as they have been gashed in three of their last four games. Andrew Luck continued to pile up interceptions while his team found ways to overcome those mistakes and win. Luck will definitely be good for two or three turnovers in this game, and won't be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat this time.
Prediction: Houston 34, Indianapolis 27
Seattle (8-5) at Buffalo (5-8), in Toronto, Seattle favored by 5 1/2
The Seahawks are unstoppable at home and the schedule breaks out perfectly for them as their lone remaining road game is actually in Toronto instead of Buffalo. The Seahawks are still very much in play in the NFC West, as a win here and a 49ers loss to New England, would have Seattle playing for first place next week at home against San Francisco. The Bills had a chance to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff race, but lost late at home to St. Louis and probably sealed the fate of their coach, Chan Gailey. Seattle is clicking on both sides of the ball while the Bills can never get both sides on the same, so all signs point to Seattle winning for the fifth time in six games.
Prediction: Seattle 26, Buffalo 20
Detroit (4-9) at Arizona (4-9), Detroit favored by 6
For as good as the 1:00 games are this week, the 4:00 games, save for Pittsburgh at Dallas are as bad. The only thing to watch for in this game is to see what new low the Cardinals can fall to with Ryan Lindley at quarterback. I mean seriously, Donovan McNabb or Vince Young isn't better than the poo poo platter the Cardinals have been putting on the field at quarterback?
Prediction: Detroit 28, Arizona 14
Carolina (4-9) at San Diego (5-8), San Diego favored by 3
It was so Norv like that when it is leaked that he is a goner at the end of the season, the Chargers shock the Steelers on the road in dominant fashion. Knowing Norv, the Chargers will end up finishing 8-8 and he will somehow keep his job. The Panthers won impressively at home against the Falcons, playing how myself and many others expected when we picked Carolina to make the playoffs.
Prediction: San Diego 28, Carolina 24
Pittsburgh (7-6) at Dallas (7-6), Pittsburgh favored by 1
This game has massive implications for both teams. Neither one can afford to lose so expect to see some heavy hitting and tough, gritty play. These two teams have met in three Super Bowls, so it is always fun when they play each other. Eight years ago was the last time Ben Roethlisberger played in Dallas and he was a rookie at the time. I remember watching him in that game and thinking that the Steelers had really found something. Two Super Bowl titles later that has proven to be true and now they need him to try to carry them into the playoffs. The Steelers stunk the bed last week, but I expect the offense to play far better this week, and Tony Romo to do Romoish things that cost Dallas.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 29, Dallas 26
Kansas City (2-11) at Oakland (3-10), Oakland favored by 3
Prediction: Oakland 21, Kansas City 13
San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England (10-3), New England favored by 5
It is downright befuddling to me how few people are giving the 49ers a chance in this game. No denying the Patriots are hot right now. They have won 7 straight and Tom Brady is having another MVP like season. But the 49ers, especially their awesome defense are no slouches. They already took down Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees on the road, and I think they can hit the trifecta against Brady. The question mark the 49ers have is on offense, and QB Colin Kaepernick. Kap has proven to be a game manager like Alex Smith, but the difference is that Kap can break off a 50 yard run to seal a game like he did against Miami and Alex can't. If Kap plays poised like he did in the Superdome, which let's face it, is a much tougher place to play than New England, the 49ers can win on the back of their defense. It would be nice if Randy Moss can see a few balls as he returns to New England, and it will also be important to feed Frank "the tank" Gore consistently, as well as mix in the recently debuting LaMichael James. I know the 49ers have been hearing all week how little chance they have so I expect them to be amped for this game.
Prediction: San Francisco 21, New England 20
Monday, December 17
New York Jets (6-7) at Tennessee (4-9), Tennessee favored by 1
The Jets are still lurking for a playoff berth and the schedule lines up for them where 9-7 is entirely possible. However, with how inconsistent and bad they have been at times, 6-10 is just as likely. The Titans are terrible and have lost five of their last six games. Even with the Jets still having a sliver of hope to make the playoffs, this is an awful way to end the Monday Night football season. I expect to see lots of penalties, and generally awful football.
Prediction: Tennessee 19, New York Jets 15
Last Week Against the Spread: 6-9-1
Overall Against the Spread: 92-109-7
Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 133-74-1
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Thursday, December 6
Denver (9-3) at Oakland (3-9), Denver favored by 10 1/2
These two teams are headed in vastly different directions. The Broncos have won seven straight games and the Raiders have lost five in a row. Raiders coach Dennis Allen will be coaching with a heavy heart as his father passed away on Monday. The Broncos clinched the AFC West last week with their win over Tampa Bay and are now playing to stay in the race for home field advantage and a possible first round bye in the playoffs. The Raiders defense hasn't been able to stop anyone all season, including the Cleveland Browns last week, so expect Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas to have big games. The Raiders hope that the return of Darren McFadden can jump start their porous rushing attack, but McFadden wasn't doing all that much before he got hurt. All signs point to a Broncos rout, but Thursday night games can go against the norm due to the short week. I still expect Denver to win but the Raiders to keep it somewhat interesting.
Prediction: Denver 34, Oakland 24
Sunday, December 9
St. Louis (5-6-1) at Buffalo (5-7), Buffalo favored by 3
Wins by both of these teams last weekend kept their slim playoff hopes alive. As weird as it sounds,the Rams probably wish they could play the 49ers all season long. They have given San Francisco fits and both of those games are the best they have looked all season. Jeff Fisher, while slightly overrated, is definitely a good coach, and the difference he can make with a team is already paying off. This game is pretty much a toss up so I give the edge to the Bills based on their home field advantage
Prediction: Buffalo 24, St. Louis 20
Dallas (6-6) at Cincinnati (7-5), Cincinnati favored by 3
The Cowboys have beaten just one team with a winning record all season, but that is good enough to have them just one game out of first place in the NFC East. The Bengals have won four straight and in a neck and neck race with the Steelers for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Bengals haven't been all that great at home this season, losing three times, so the home field advantage is negligible. The Bengals have a tough defense against both the run and pass, so Tony Romo will find himself having to play at an upper echelon level for the Cowboys to be able to win. After a slow start to the season Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been running well, going over 100 yards in his last three games. With the Cowboys defense struggling as of late, it seems most of the trends point to a Bengals win. Maybe it is me holding the Bengals past failures against them, but just something about this game feels like they will lose.
Prediction: Dallas 30, Cincinnati 27
Kansas City (2-10) at Cleveland (4-8), Cleveland favored by 5 1/2
The Chiefs dealt with unspeakable tragedy last week with the actions of their teammate Javon Belcher. They went out and played their best game of the season, defeating the Panthers. Who knows how the players and coaches will respond to playing out the string. For some of their players and coaches this game will have extra meaning. QB Brady Quinn and RB Peyton Hillis are returning to Cleveland, as is coach Romeo Crennel. The Browns have won two straight and have been showing signs of life the last few weeks. I think they will carry that momentum to their third straight victory.
Prediction: Cleveland 22, Kansas City 17
Tennessee (4-8) at Indianapolis (8-4), Indianapolis favored by 5 1/2
Andrew Luck once again struggled through most of a game but then pulled a rabbit out of his hat at the end, absolving himself of all his mistakes. Luck is receiving a ton of praise and yes he is playing pretty well for a rookie but overall his numbers aren't all that impressive. 17 TDs against 16 INTs and a completion percentage at just 55%. Anyone seriously saying that Luck is the Rookie of the Year over RG3 must be smoking something real good. And any person seriously saying Luck deserves league MVP consideration is on a complete bender. That being said, Luck could play like Curtis Painter and the Colts would still beat the hapless Titans.
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 20
Chicago (8-4) at Minnesota (6-6), Chicago favored by 3
The Vikings have lost four of their last five games following a 5-2 start and received more bad news with their second best player, WR Percy Harvin being placed on IR. Without Harvin, QB Christian Ponder has been exposed as being woefully bad at the position. Backup Joe Webb has played pretty well when given the chance, and I wish the coaching staff would give him more of a look. The Bears have lost three of their last four games and are dealing with injuries of their own. LB Brian Urlacher could be out for the rest of the regular season. The Vikings are back in the Dome, where they are 5-1 this season, and very difficult to beat. The Bears are facing three road games in their last four, so the playoffs are not assured by any means for them. If the Vikings win this game as I predict they will, it will solely be on the back of one of the best players in football, RB Adrian Peterson.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Chicago 21
Philadelphia (3-9) at Tampa Bay (6-6), Tampa Bay favored by 7
Andy Reid announced that even when Mike Vick is recovered, Nick Foles will remain the starter the rest of the season. I also expect the Eagles to shut down LaSean McCoy, since Bryce Brown has run so well while proving incapable of not fumbling. The Eagles are in full tank mode, and Reid is riding out the string before he is fired the day after the season ends. The Bucs have to take each week as if it is a playoff game if they want any hope of sneaking into the playoffs. Josh Freeman and Doug Martin should have field days against Philly's putrid defense.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 34, Philadelphia 28
Baltimore (9-3) at Washington (6-6), Washington favored by 2
Well things have gotten interesting in Washington. The season seemed over after they dropped to 3-6 with their dismal performance at home against Carolina. Their coach Mike Shanahan said as much. But since then, the Skins ran off three straight wins all within the division. Now people are touting them as the favorites to win the NFC East based on their remaining schedule and the tiebreaker advantages they hold. Some have even gone as far to say that this game isn't a must win, which makes zero sense to me. If they lose and the Giants win as I predict, and the Seahawks also win, then the Skins would sit two games out in both the division and playoff races with just three games to go. This is a huge game, and arguably even bigger than the Monday night win against the Giants. It concerns me that the Skins have to turn around on a short week after a highly emotional win and try to defeat Baltimore. It also concerns me that the Ravens are coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Steelers and geriatric Charlie Batch. A final concern is Cedric Griffin being suspended for the remainder of the season, taxing an already crappy secondary. What makes me feel good about this game is the Ravens defense struggles against the run, the inconsistency of Joe Flacco, and the fact that I generally think the Ravens aren't nearly as good as their record suggests. Like just about every Redskins game this will be a close one that comes down to the end, but perhaps against my better judgment I like the Skins to keep rolling.
Prediction: Washington 23, Baltimore 19
San Diego (4-8) at Pittsburgh (7-5), No Line
Chargers fans might finally get their wish as it sounds like Norv Turner is a goner after the season ends. Besides their obvious talent deficiencies and the fact that Philip Rivers downright sucks now, how can the Chargers get motivated to play for a lame duck coach? To make matters worse for them the Steelers are getting back QB Ben Roethlisberger, as they ready themselves for a playoff push, following their season saving victory at Baltimore.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30, San Diego 20
Atlanta (11-1) at Carolina (3-9), Atlanta favored by 3 1/2
Curious line in this game, showing you just how little confidence Vegas and the general public has in the 11-1 Falcons. Regular season success doesn't mean much for Atlanta, they have had plenty of that, people need to see them win in the playoffs to be convinced. A win at Carolina will move them one step closer to clinching home field advantage for the second time in three seasons. The Panthers are just plain bad, and after two seasons the Ron Rivera tenure could be ending.
Prediction: Atlanta 28, Carolina 20
New York Jets (5-7) at Jacksonville (2-10), New York Jets favored by 2 1/2
The Jets started their own quarterback controversy last week as Rex Ryan pulled Mark Sanchez against Arizona after he threw three interceptions. With Tim Tebow inactive, third stringer Greg McElroy came in and led the Jets on a game winning touchdown drive. Rex though, showed his undying loyalty to Sanchez and named him the starter for the trip to Jacksonville. People want to blame the Tebow signing for Sanchez's struggles but the real root of it is that Sanchez was never that good. He looked better than he was his first two years due to an outstanding running game and defense. Now those facets of the team are mediocre at best and Sanchez has proven he can't carry the team. I like the Jags to pull off the "upset" as they have shown some signs of life the last month with Chad Henne under center.
Prediction: Jacksonville 17, New York Jets 14
Miami (5-7) at San Francisco (8-3-1), San Francisco favored by 10
Incredibly frustrating defeat for the 49ers last week at St. Louis. This team has done that a few times this season. They can look incredibly dominating and like the best team in football some weeks, and then they lay an egg. QB Colin Kaepernick looked uneven and was responsible for almost of the Rams points with his safety and his terrible pitch to Ted Ginn that the Rams turned into a touchdown. I do agree with keeping him as the starter but would feel much better about it if he plays well against Miami. Under Harbaugh the last two seasons the 49ers have always played very well after a loss, so that is what I am counting on in this game. It also helps that Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill isn't good and should have tons of problems with the Niners defense. The Niners must win this game because the next two weeks sees them traveling to New England and Seattle.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Miami 10
New Orleans (5-7) at New York Giants (7-5), New York Giants favored by 5
Some people thought the Giants might be writing a different late season script after their dominating home win against the Packers, but then they lost to the Redskins, their third loss in their last four games. Now they find themselves in a dogfight and hosting a Saints team that has to win its last four games to even enter the playoff discussion. Drew Brees not only pretty much killed his team's playoff hopes with his 5 INT performance last week against Atlanta, he destroyed my fantasy team. Hopefully he knows that and is motivated to return to form this weekend. Eli Manning has been uneven this season, and while the Saints defense has looked improved recently, they still are bad enough where Manning should find some success against them. If he doesn't, then Ahmad Bradshaw definitely should, as the Saints made Michael Turner look revitalized last weekend. This should be a really fun game to watch.
Prediction: New York Giants 32, New Orleans 28
Arizona (4-8) at Seattle (7-5), Seattle favored by 10 1/2
The Cardinals have John Skelton back at quarterback which is good news. Sure Skelton sucks but sucks isn't enough to describe how bad Ryan Lindley is. Ken Whisenhunt has been unable to find a quarterback since Kurt Warner retired and it will likely cost him his job. The Seahawks finally got a signature road win at Chicago last week, and Russell Wilson has been playing Pro Bowl level football recently. The Seahawks are seemingly unbeatable at home this season, so expect the Cardinals to drop their ninth straight game.
Prediction: Seattle 35, Arizona 20
Detroit (4-8) at Green Bay (8-4), Green Bay favored by 7
NBC has done a terrible job with the Sunday night schedule the last few weeks. For whatever reason they didn't flex out last week's Eagles/Cowboys game and now this week's Lions/Packers game. The Lions haven't won at Lambeau since Dinosaurs was on TV. Hence, they have no chance in hell of winning Sunday, making this a boring game. They seemed to have returned to being themselves after last season's aberration, as they keep finding new and ridiculous ways to lose each week. The Packers are in a fight with the Bears for the NFC North and if things swing the way I think they will, they will be all alone in first place at the end of the night, heading into next week's huge showdown with the Bears at Soldier Field.
Prediction: Green Bay 38, Detroit 24
Monday, December 10
Houston (11-1) at New England (9-3), New England favored by 3 1/2
Monday Night football has been getting the good games the last few weeks, while Sunday Night Football has had the scraps. This is the last good Monday night game of the season, as next week is a game no one will want to watch between the Titans and Jets. The Texans can inch even closer to securing home field advantage and potentially clinch the AFC South with a win. People aren't as doubting about the Texans as they are the Falcons, but many need to seem them beat a team like New England on the road to be truly convinced that they have arrived. Both defenses struggle against the pass so Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson could have big games. The Texans defense looked more like themselves last week against Tennessee but will have to play even better to slow down the Patriots potent offense. I think this game will showcase a good mix of well played offense and defense and come down to the wire, with the Patriots doing something Tom Brady hasn't always been good at, pulling out the win.
Prediction: New England 24, Houston 21
Last Week Against the Spread: 5-10-1
Overall Against the Spread: 86-100-6 (just a terrible year)
Last Week Straight Up: 8-8
Overall Straight Up: 122-69-1