Friday, October 19, 2012

The Hail Mary - Week 7

This is the first week of the NFL season where a bunch of teams are on byes. Because of that the schedule is thinner, including just two 4:00 games. Turns out for me that might be for the best as I likely have to come to the office on Sunday. There are some pretty strong 1:00 games highlighted in my opinion by the Washington Redskins taking on the New York Giants in New Jersey.

Sunday, October 21

Arizona (4-2) at Minnesota (4-2), Minnesota favored by 6

The Cardinals seem to be crashing back to Earth after their surprising 4-0 start. They enter this game on a two game losing streak and are back to John Skelton as their quarterback. Previous starter Kevin Kolb was taking a pounding and is now out a few weeks with a sprained ankle and injured ribs. They have also been decimated at running back, losing both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. The Vikings saw their three game winning streak halted at the hands of the Redskins. Their defense was no match for RG3, but they should find things far less complicated against the Cardinals. QB Christian Ponder continues to show improvement in his second year, giving Vikings fans hope for the future. Minnesota is a tough team to beat at home and with the Cardinals dealing with so many injuries it should be a long day for them.

Prediction: Minnesota 27, Arizona 17

Washington (3-3) at New York Giants (4-2), New York Giants favored by 6 1/2

The winner of this game will be in first place in the NFC East. The Giants are trying to maintain their foothold atop the division, while the Skins look to beat New York for the third straight time. The Skins have to feel some confidence going into this game for a few reasons. One, the Giants are not a very good home team, two, the Skins beat New York twice last season, and three RG3. People are mostly marveling at Griffin's running ability but he is also completing a ridiculous 70% of his passes this year. Unfortunately, Griffin can't play defense, and that is likely what makes this game unwinnable for the Skins. Eli Manning struggled last year against Washington, but I don't think that will continue Sunday. The Skins have had trouble slowing down anyone, and really, for them to keep it competitive, they will have to dominate the Giants run game. That will prove to be hard as the Giants have been running the ball very effectively the last few weeks. If the Redskins had a better defense they might be the favorites in the NFC, as their offense is that good. I just can't picture the Giants falling to 0-3 in the division. I don't think they will stop Griffin, but it won't matter.

Prediction: New York Giants 30, Washington 24

Tennessee (2-4) at Buffalo (3-3), Buffalo favored by 3

Hey, the Titans only need to go 7-3 the rest of the way to match the record I predicted for them to win the AFC South! After back to back embarrassing defeats of course the Bills went into Arizona and handed the Cardinals their first home loss of the season. Buffalo's season has followed the trajectory of their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, up and down. I think we see good Fitzpatrick and good Buffalo on Sunday.

Prediction: Buffalo 28, Tennessee 20

Cleveland (1-5) at Indianapolis (2-3), Indianapolis favored by 3

The Browns finally got off the schneid and Brandon Weeden has actually played pretty well since a putrid Week 1 performance against Philadelphia. The Colts came crashing back to Earth after their Green Bay win and got destroyed by the Jets. The quarterback battle between Weeden and Andrew Luck will be a rematch from last January's Fiesta Bowl. That game was exciting and high scoring, this one, not so much.

Prediction: Indianapolis 26, Cleveland 19

Green Bay (3-3) at St. Louis (3-3), Green Bay favored by 5 1/2

Raise your hand if you thought these two teams would have matching records when they were scheduled to meet in Week 7? That should be none of you raising your hand. The Packers finally looked like the team that they are capable of in completely eviscerating the Texans. Aaron Rodgers was sharp, and played like the league MVP that he was in 2011. The Rams have remained competitive and have shown improvement under Jeff Fisher. They have been tough at home this year, and I expect them to give Green Bay a battle. I envision a Mason Crosby field goal at the gun giving the Pack a hard fought win.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, St. Louis 28

New Orleans (1-4) at Tampa Bay (2-3), New Orleans favored by 2 1/2

This was the hardest game for me to pick this weekend. I still don't have a true read on either team. The Saints don't play any defense but the Buccaneers don't play pass defense, which plays to the Saints strength. Basically, I think the Saints defense is terrible enough that Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and company will outscore Drew Brees.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 34, New Orleans 31

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

The Panthers and Cam Newton have been probably the biggest disappointment of the young NFL season. Cam says he got some advice from his Dad and is now ready to be a leader. Hey, whatever works. Cam's dad might need to talk to the defense though, as I think Tony Romo will have a very good game on Sunday. The Cowboys running game showed signs of life last week, and even without DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones should be able to run on a poor Panthers defense.

Prediction: Dallas 30, Carolina 20

Baltimore (5-1) at Houston (5-1), Houston favored by 6 1/2

People are writing off the Ravens after they lost LB Ray Lewis and CB Lardarius Webb to season ending injuries last week. The defense was already struggling with them, ranking towards the bottom of the league against the run and pass. On the bright side for Baltimore, LB Terrell Suggs may return from injury for this one. Any other year, I might be joining the people writing off Baltimore, but this year, I think the offense is ready to take the reigns of the team. However, as far as this week, I think it won't be enough. The Texans defense has got to be steaming after getting embarrassed on national television by the Packers. I would be surprised if they don't come out with a ton of piss and vinegar and make Joe Flacco's life hell in this game. The Texans will need to commit to Arian Foster and the run, and with Webb out, I expect Andre Johnson to score a touchdown or two.

Prediction: Houston 27, Baltimore 21

Jacksonville (1-4) at Oakland (1-4), Oakland favored by 4

Awful, terrible, waste of a game.

Prediction: Oakland 24, Jacksonville 14

New York Jets (3-3) at New England (3-3), New England favored by 10 1/2

A few years ago this was a sexy game but now, meh. The talk this week is that Tim Tebow will play some running back. I guess I will believe it when I see it. The Patriots have been a tough team to figure out. Everyone wants to think of them as the favorites in the AFC but they keep blowing games. The Jets win games when they force turnovers, and I don't think they have the means to force Brady into enough bad decisions to give them a chance in this game.

Prediction: New England 28, New York Jets 17

Pittsburgh (2-3) at Cincinnati (3-3), Pittsburgh favored by 2 1/2

The Steelers have been awful on the road but over the years they have owned the Bengals, especially in Cincinnati. The Bengals have lost two in a row, games they were favored in, and blew a chance at being 5-1. That is important because the schedule becomes brutal for them down the stretch. The Steelers have to win on the road sometime, so why not this Sunday night?

Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Cincinnati 23

Monday, October 22

Detroit (2-3) at Chicago (4-1), Chicago favored by 5 1/2

The Lions avoided 1-4 thanks to the Eagles unbelievable ability to blow games late. Matthew Stafford is struggling and Calvin Johnson has just one touchdown through five games. The Bears are coming off their bye week and are feeling quite good about themselves. Their defense is playing great and is first in the league against the run. The Lions can't run the ball anyway, so Stafford will have to channel his 2011 self to give Detroit a chance. The Lions defense should be better with the talent they have on their front seven, but I don't think they will get the pressure necessary on Jay Cutler to beat the Bears. I think this will be a close, hard fought division battle but like the Bears to win their fourth straight.

Prediction: Chicago 24, Detroit 20

Last Week Against the Spread: 7-7
Overall Against the Spread: 42-46-3

Last Week Straight Up: 8-6
Overall Straight Up: 55-36

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