Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hail Mary - Week 13

The San Francisco 49ers and their quarterback Colin Kaepernick are all the talk of the NFL. Kap has replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback, leaving many befuddled. People point to the fact that Smith was playing so well and the Niners 6-2-1 record with him as starter as reasons why the move makes no sense. Those people haven't seen Alex Smith play for the 6 years prior to this. That's because the 49ers sucked  and weren't nationally relevant. Leading the team for many of those years was Smith. In 2 games, Kap has shown more potential than Smith has shown in his entire career. I completely agree with the move to Kap. Smith never played to a level that made him above competition. You can't erase 6 years of crap by playing well for a year and a half. Kap will not always play well but the ceiling for the offenses goes substantially up with his running and passing skills. He reminds me of RG3, not at that level of play yet but the strength with which his throws, his ability to evade pressure with his speed and his calm demeanor.

Now on to the games.

Sunday, December 2

San Francisco (8-2-1) at St. Louis (4-6-1), San Francisco favored by 7 1/2

A lot of eyes will be on this game to see if Kap can string together a third straight successful start. I am all in and I think the 49ers will do in this game what they couldn't do three weeks ago. That tie with the Rams, especially with how the 49ers have played the last two weeks, is so puzzling. In St. Louis on Sunday, I expect the 49ers defense to suffocate Sam Bradford and I expect Kap to continue to make Jim Harbaugh appear to be a genius.

Prediction: San Francisco 30, St. Louis 17

New England (8-3) at Miami (5-6), New England favored by 7 1/2

The Patriots can just about wrap up the AFC East with a win in South Florida. The Dolphins slugged out a tough win against Seattle last week to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. I think they can be competitive with the Dolphins, and I hope Joe Philbin gives Reggie Bush enough carries to get going. Tannehill will have to avoid mistakes, which has been an issue this season. He was bailed out last weekend by a penalty after throwing a terrible red zone interception, where he threw across his body. Dolphins will score late to get the cover.

Prediction: New England 27, Miami 21

Minnesota (6-5) at Green Bay (7-4), Green Bay favored by 9

This is a must win for the Vikings to remain in the NFC North race. It appears it will be another game without WR Percy Harvin, which is huge. Without him the Vikings have no other play makers in the receiving game. The Packers are coming off a humbling loss to the Giants, and you would expect that Aaron Rodgers, especially with the return of WR Greg Jennings, would bounce back. The Vikings defense isn't good enough to limit the Packers as they were last week. I also don't trust Christian Ponder to be able to make the plays needed to win at Lambeau. Adrian Peterson will be the reason the Vikings stay in this game.

Prediction: Green Bay 33, Minnesota 25

Jacksonville (2-9) at Buffalo (4-7), Buffalo favored by 6

The season is long over for the Jags but they have looked like a much improved team the last two weeks. They even went so far as to pick up former Eagle Jason Babin on waivers after he was released. Chad Henne has played very well and has left Jags fans wondering what might have been. The Bills are slogging through another disappointing season, which will likely result in the firing of Chan Gailey. Homefield advantage is the only reason I like Buffalo in this game.

Prediction: Buffalo 23, Jacksonville 21

Seattle (6-5) at Chicago (8-3), Chicago favored by 4

Jay Cutler returned last week and the Beras did what they normally do with him at quarterback, win. The Seahawks went to Miami last week and did what they normally do when they go on the road, lose. No reason not to like Chicago in this game. Russell Wilson has been decent this year but needs to learn to raise his level of play on the road.

Prediction: Chicago 21, Seattle 15

Indianapolis (7-4) at Detroit (4-7), Detroit favored by 4 1/2

Weird to see a 7-4 team an underdog to a 4-7 team, but that shows the doubt that still remains about the Colts. Indianapolis has mostly feasted on a weak schedule. The Lions would probably also qualify as weak but with the playmakers they have in Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson. They haven't lived up to their seasons from a year ago, but the Lions offense has looked reinvigorated recently. I expect this to be a back and forth shootout.

Prediction: Detroit 33, Indianapolis 30

Houston (10-1) at Tennessee (4-7), Houston favored by 6

The Titans and the Panthers have proven to be my dud preseason choices. The Texans have to got to be hoping from a strong defensive performance after two sub-par ones. Not a whole let else to say about this game.

Prediction: Houston 31, Tennessee 17

Carolina (3-8) at Kansas City (1-10), Carolina favored by 3

At least this isn't on Monday Night Football.

Prediction: Carolina 20, Kansas City 13

Arizona (4-7) at New York Jets (4-7), New York Jets favored by 4 1/2

Quite the season of up and downs for Arizona. They opened 4-0, a shocking start, and then have fallen to 7 straight losses. The only team more dysfunctional to them would be the New York Jets. The Jets remaining schedule actually lends them to finishing .500, but will they do it? This will be an ugly game to watch.

Prediction: New York Jets 18, Arizona 15

Tampa Bay (6-5) at Denver (8-3), Denver favored by 7

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum will be this game. Both of these offenses are known for their exciting passing games. The Bucs Josh Freeman has been having a season reminiscent of his 2010 campaign. Bucs fans have to be wondering which Freeman is the real one, since he was so bad last season. I don't expect a lot of defensive stands in this game, just two quarterbacks at the top of their game.

Prediction: Denver 37, Tampa Bay 31

Cleveland (3-8) at Oakland (3-8), Oakland favored by 2

Another poop game on the schedule this weekend. Maybe it will become interesting but neither team is playing for anything but 2013.

Prediction: Oakland 28, Cleveland 27

Cincinnati (6-5) at San Diego (4-7), Cincinnati favored by 1 1/2

The Bengals season has been a yoyo. They started off 3-1, dropped four straight to fall to 3-5, and now are on a three game winning streak and in the thick of the playoff race. The Chargers have lost seven of nine games and it appears that Norv Turner has to finally be on his way out. This is a team that will see a lot of changes this off-season. But for this Sunday, I think they can knock off the Bengals, who I don't quite yet buy into.

Prediction: San Diego 23, Cincinnati 19

Pittsburgh (6-5) at Baltimore (9-2), Line is even

These bitter rivals meet for the second time in three weeks. The Steelers season has fallen apart since the injury of Ben Roethlisberger, and hit its nadir in Cleveland last week when they had 8 turnovers. There was some talk that Roethlisberger might play in this game but it appears the Steelers will once again have to wake  Charlie Batch up from his nap. The Ravens pulled a pretty amazing comeback last week against the Chargers, with Ray Rice's amazing 4th and 29 conversion being all the talk. This will be an ugly game, I expect Pittsburgh will protect the ball much better in this game but it will be another loss that will eliminate them from the division race.

Prediction: Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 14

Philadelphia (3-8) at Dallas (5-6), Dallas favored by 10

Sadly, NBC didn't flex this game in time and now will feast this dud upon America in primetime. The Eagles will once again be driven by rookies Nick Foles and Bryce Brown. If Dallas can't beat this down on their luck Eagles team, then they should just close up shop for the year.

Prediction: Dallas 31, Philadelphia 16

Monday, December 3

New York Giants (7-4) at Washington (5-6), New York Giants favored by 2 1/2

Everyone in DC is hyped for this game as the Redskins have gotten back into playoff contention with back to back wins. The Giants looked like they were headed on their annual November downward spiral, but then spanked the Packers. Can RG3 befuddle the Giants defense a second time? Can the Redskins defense, especially their secondary avoid giving up the big play? This is a real tough game to call because both teams either look extremely good or extremely bad at times. The Giants were awful in their last road game but generally play very well there. Washing has had a hell of a time establish a homefield advantage, so FedEx isn't going intimidate New York. I expect Eli Manning to make enough plays to lead the Giants to victory.

Prediction: New York Giants 27, Washington 20

Last Week Against the Spread: 5-10-1 (ouch)
Overall Against the Spread: 81-90-5

Last Week Straight Up: 10-6
Overall Straight Up: 114-61-1

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cram Session - Week 14

Thursday, November 29

New Orleans (5-6) at Atlanta (10-1), Atlanta favored by 3 1/2

Every game is a must win for the Saints if they want to try to complete their recovery from an 0-4 start. They have a tall task ahead of them tonight as they try to win in the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons rarely lose. The Saints handed the Falcons their only loss of the season in New Orleans a few weeks ago. The trash talk has been pretty intense and this is starting to become a legitimate rivalry. The Falcons defense is decent to mediocre, while the Saints is bad, so expect plenty of offensive fireworks in this game. The difference in the last game was the Saints ability to run the ball versus the Falcons inability to run it against the porous Saints defense. I think we will see a reversal of that in this game, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Drew Brees throw a pick or two. I believe the Falcons will win this game, then see Tampa lose to Denver on Sunday and clinch the NFC South.

Prediction: Atlanta 34, New Orleans 27

Top 10 - Friday, November 30

Pac-12 Championship: #16 UCLA (9-3, 6-3) at #8 Stanford (10-2, 8-1)

These teams meet for the right to play in the Rose Bowl in Palo Alto. They just played last Saturday at the Rose Bowl and Stanford clobbered UCLA. There isn't much reason to think that UCLA can now go on the road and defeat Stanford. The Cardinal defense is firing on all cylinders right now and has made high-powered offenses like the Bruins and Oregon's look meek. For UCLA to have a shot they will have to figure out how to slow down Cardinal RB Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 142 yards and 2 TDs in the victory last week. UCLA's offensive weapons of QB Brett Hundley and RB Johnathan Franklin never got on track last week. They might play better in this game, but if the Bruins win this game it will be because their defense has an otherworldly performance. I just don't see that happening.

Prediction: Stanford 28, UCLA 17

Saturday, December 1

Games That Matter To Me

Big Ten Championship: #12 Nebraska (10-2, 7-1) vs. Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) in Indianapolis, Indiana

The Huskers are looking to return to a BCS bowl game for the first time since an embarrassing defeat to Miami at the Rose Bowl national championship game in 2001. If they defeat Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship they will be back in the Rose Bowl. This game will be a rematch from their September 29th meeting in Lincoln, when the Huskers overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat Wisconsin 30-27. The Badgers are only in this game because both Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible to play in it. Despite that fact people seem to think that the Badgers and not the Huskers are the favorites in this game. QB Taylor Martinez has quietly had a very strong season. His completion percentage is over 60% for the first time in his career, and he kept his interception level the same, while improving his touchdown passes by 8. The Huskers will also have RB Rex Burkhead back for this game. Burkhead proved to a major spark plug in the Huskers latest come from behind win at Iowa last week. Even the defense, which was maligned much of the season, has been playing much better as of late. The Huskers seem to be playing their best football at the right time.

Starting at quarterback in this game for Wisconsin will be Curt Phillips, the third quarterback that has started a game for Wisconsin this season. The Badgers finally feel like they have found the answer at that position. Make no mistake about it though, if they are to win this game it will be on the back of RB Montee Ball. In the game in September Ball was kept under 4 yards per carry but still scored 3 TDs. The Badgers defense is quite stout, so the Huskers will have their work cut out for them.

I think the recent surge that Nebraska has seen on defense will be the difference in this game, and give the Huskers their first conference championship since 1999.

Prediction: Nebraska 29, Wisconsin 23

Top 10 - Saturday, December 1

SEC Championship: #2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) vs. #3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1) in Atlanta, Georgia

The other conference championship games have meaning to those teams playing in them, but the SEC Championship game in Atlanta will be the only with any national significance. That is because it is essentially a semi-final, with the winner moving on to play Notre Dame for the BCS Championship on January 7th. I will be serving as a best man at a wedding during this game, so I won't be able to properly scout Notre Dame's upcoming opponent. However, doesn't really matter to me, I am confident that with one of the best defenses in the country, Notre Dame can beat either of these teams. Both mostly feasted on cupcakes this season, with Alabama only having two wins against ranked teams, and Georgia just one. The Tide are the heavy favorites, mostly on reputation and I guess based on their defense. Their defense is still very good but not nearly as dominant as it was last year. Georgia has a pretty prolific offense led by QB Aaron Murray and freshman RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Murray hasn't always played well against tough defenses though, so his effect will likely be minimized. It will have to be UGA's ground attack that does most of the offensive work.

The Crimson Tide offense doesn't get talked about too much but QB AJ McCarron was outstanding this year, throwing 25 TDs and just 2 INTs, with both of those picks coming against Texas A&M. Like Georgia, the Tide also have a two headed running back system powered by Eddie Lacy and and T.J. Yeldon.

This will play out like most battles between SEC heavyweights, entertaining at times but mostly ugly and boring. It will get interesting at the end with the game tight, but I give Alabama the slight edge, as they will win and set themselves up for a chance to defend their national championship.

Prediction: Alabama 24, Georgia 20

#18 Texas (8-3, 5-3) at #6 Kansas State (10-1, 7-1)

With a win Kansas State will clinch the Big 12 championship and head to the Fiesta Bowl. If they lose and Oklahoma wins their game at TCU, then the Sooners will win the Big 12. Standing in the Wildcats way is the Longhorns, who are licking their wounds from a poor performance in a loss at home to TCU on Thanksgiving. The Wildcats have had two weeks to stew over seeing their undefeated season and national title hopes go up in smoke, and will have a crowd and team that will be looking for blood. The Longhorns can't seem to settle on a quarterback on offense and defensively have not been nearly as good as advertised. I don't expect them to be able to put up much resistance Saturday night.

Prediction: Kansas State 42, Texas 24

Last Week: 6-3
Overall: 99-23

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Cram Mary

Thanksgiving is just two days away so the regular Thursday Cram Session, and Friday Hail Mary go by the wayside during this holiday week. Instead, to go with the Thanksgiving theme, I am giving you a jumbo sized edition combining both into The Cram Mary. No long write ups this week either. Will quickly say that Saturday night's game between #1 Notre Dame and USC is the biggest Irish game in 20 years and will likely be the most nervous I have ever been watching a football game. Go Irish! Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the games!

College Football - Week 13

Games That Matter To Me 

Friday, November 23

#14 Nebraska (9-2, 5-2) at Iowa (4-7, 2-5)

Prediction: Nebraska 33, Iowa 19

Top 10 - Friday, November 23

#7 LSU (9-2, 5-2) at Arkansas (4-7, 2-5)

Prediction: LSU 41, Arkansas 20

Saturday, November 24

#1 Notre Dame (11-0) at USC (7-4)

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, USC 20

Auburn (3-8, 0-7) at #2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1)

Prediction: Alabama 49, Auburn 7

Georgia Tech (6-5) at #3 Georgia (10-1)

Prediction: Georgia 37, Georgia Tech 24

#4 Florida (10-1) at #10 Florida State (10-1)

Prediction: Florida State 20, Florida 17

#5 Oregon (10-1, 7-1) at #15 Oregon State (8-2, 6-2)

Prediction: Oregon State 29, Oregon 27

#8 Stanford (9-2, 7-1) at #17 UCLA (9-2, 6-2)

Prediction: UCLA 24, Stanford 20

Missouri (5-6, 2-5) at #9 Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2)

Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Missouri 21

Last Week: 9-2
Overall: 93-20

NFL - Week 12

Thursday, November 22

Houston (9-1) at Detroit (4-6), Houston favored by 3 1/2

Prediction: Houston 30, Detroit 21

Washington (4-6) at Dallas (5-5), Dallas favored by 3

Prediction: Washington 24, Dallas 19

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

Prediction: New England 26, New York Jets 21

Sunday, November 25

Seattle (6-4) at Miami (4-6), Seattle favored by 3

Prediction: Miami 20, Seattle 16

Minnesota (6-4) at Chicago (7-3), No Line

Prediction: Chicago 21, Minnesota 19

Oakland (3-7) at Cincinnati (5-5), Cincinnati favored by 8

Prediction: Cincinnati 32, Oakland 26

Pittsburgh (6-4) at Cleveland (2-8), No Line

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 14

Buffalo (4-6) at Indianapolis (6-4), Indianapolis favored by 3

Prediction: Indianapolis 28, Buffalo 21

Denver (7-3) at Kansas City (1-9), Denver favored by 10 1/2

Prediction: Denver 35, Kansas City 14

Atlanta (9-1) at Tampa Bay (6-4), Atlanta favored by 1

Prediction: Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 22

Tennessee (4-6) at Jacksonville (1-9), Tennessee favored by 3

Prediction: Tennessee 21, Jacksonville 17

Baltimore (8-2) at San Diego (4-6), Baltimore favored by 1 

Prediction: San Diego 28, Baltimore 24

San Francisco (7-2-1) at New Orleans (5-5), No Line

Prediction: San Francisco 26, New Orleans 24

St. Louis (3-6-1) at Arizona (4-6), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Arizona 18, St. Louis 15

Green Bay (7-3) at New York Giants (6-4), New York Giants favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Green Bay 30, New York Giants 24

Monday, November 26

Carolina (2-8) at Philadelphia (3-7), No Line

Prediction: Philadelphia 20, Carolina 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 8-6
Overall Against the Spread: 76-80-4

Last Week Straight Up: 11-3
Overall Straight Up: 104-55-1

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Hail Mary - Week 11

Injuries to quarterbacks was the story of last weekend, with Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, and Michael Vick exiting their games with concussions, and Ben Roethlisberger leaving his game with a shoulder and rib injury. It is still unknown as I go to press whether Cutler or Smith will play when their respective teams face off on Monday night, but both Vick and Roethlisberger are definitely out. Aside from quarterback injuries, another story is the battle of the rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and his upstart Colts traveling to New England to take on grizzled veteran Tom Brady and his Patriots. The Colts/Patriots rivalry has been going for over a decade now, but Peyton Manning has been replaced by Luck. Will the Patriots continue to control the rivalry?

Sunday, November 18

Philadelphia (3-6) at Washington (3-6), Washington favored by 3 1/2

So last week was do or die when the Eagles took on the Cowboys, and it was do or die for the Redskins two weeks ago when they took on Carolina. Well both teams lost, but thanks to the Giants going through their usual second half funk, neither of these teams is mathematically that far off. Both teams aren't very good and it would take a pretty epic Giants collapse, but at least there is hope! The Nick Foles era begins in Philadelphia as he makes his first career start. Foles become Eagles fans favorite player when he tore it up in the preseason. Now we get to see what he does when the games count, although playing the Redskins defense is akin to playing backup scrubs in the preseason. The Skins are hopeful that with Brandon Merriweather playing his first game of the year, that the Skins secondary will see some improvement. Hope also remains that Pierre Garcon might return to action. An interesting stat relevant to this game is that the Redskins have lost their last eight games against rookie quarterbacks. The Skins should beat the Eagles, especially with the Eagles playing a rookie and their offensive line in tatters. But the Skins never win games they are supposed to, they stink at home, and I expect another disappointing loss for Washington.

Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Washington 21

Arizona (4-5) at Atlanta (8-1), Atlanta favored by 10

The Falcons dreams of an undefeated season came to an end, now they can focus on trying to hold on to homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Cardinals had a week off to lick their wounds as their season has seen extreme highs and extreme lows, starting the year with four straight wins and now being in the midst of five straight losses. It seems that John Skelton will remain the starter as Kevin Kolb is still injured. Atlanta doesn't really blow teams out so I think the Cardinals will hang but ultimately lose for the sixth straight game.

Prediction: Atlanta 28, Arizona 20

Cleveland (2-7) at Dallas (4-5), Dallas favored by 7 1/2

Things are looking up in Dallas after defeating the Eagles in Philadelphia last weekend. They only face one team with a winning record in their last seven games. Now sure the Cowboys themselves don't have a winning record, but hey they should at least be favored in a bunch of those games. The Brows have an offense that can drive the ball to the red zone and then poops themselves and either turns it over or settles for field goals. The Browns aren't awful, which allows them to be competitive, but they aren't good, which leads to them being 2-7 and after Sunday 2-8.

Prediction: Dallas 24, Cleveland 17

Green Bay (6-3) at Detroit (4-5), Green Bay favored by 3 1/2

Many are expecting this to be a shootout and I can't say I disagree. I love the Packers in this game, especially because they have had almost two weeks to prepare for Detroit. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson finally connected for a touchdown and got that monkey off their backs. Defensively, the Lions have a lot of talent up front, but their secondary is terrible and it costs them games week after week. The Packers bevy of receivers are licking their chops at the prospect of burning the Lions corners.

Prediction: Green Bay 35, Detroit 24

Cincinnati (4-5) at Kansas City (1-8), Cincinnati favored by 3 1/2

The Bengals destroyed the Giants, ending their four game losing streak in emphatic fashion. The Chiefs made the Monday night game against Pittsburgh much more interesting than anyone expected, but ultimately found a way to lose. At least they finally found a way to get stud RB Jamaal Charles going. They also led in regulation for the first time this season, so baby steps for Kansas City. They are winless at home this season, which to longtime fans is pretty crazy because Arrowhead was long considered the toughest place to win a game. Now, it's a place where the Chiefs are underdogs to the Bengals.

Prediction: Cincinnati 21, Kansas City 16

New York Jets (3-6) at St. Louis (3-5-1), St. Louis favored by 3

The Rams had multiple chances to upset the 49ers but each time they found a way to blow it and had to settle for a tie. The Jets are their usual circus selves and continue to spiral to irrelevance. I don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks in this game and think it will be a pretty boring game. I give the Rams the edge with the homefield advantage, as they have played well in their dome this year.

Prediction: St. Louis 20, New York Jets 14

Tampa Bay (5-4) at Carolina (2-7), Tampa Bay favored by 1 1/2

People are starting to take notice of the Tampa Bay Bucs and especially their offense which has been on fire for the past month. They have put up at least 30 points in four of their last five games. QB Josh Freeman is having a career year and has thrown 10 TDs versus 0 INTs in his last four games. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Cam Newton and the putrid Panthers offense. They have a lot of skill players but haven't clicked at all offensively. I think the generous Bucs defense might help their cause some this weekend, but not enough to pick up the win.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 34, Carolina 27

Jacksonville (1-8) at Houston (8-1), Houston favored by 16

16 points is a lot and unless you're the 2007 Patriots I can't pick you to cover that high of a spread. With that being said, the Texans will come pretty close.

Prediction: Houston 29, Jacksonville 14

New Orleans (4-5) at Oakland (3-6), New Orleans favored by 4 1/2

People are pushing each other to try to climb back on the Saints bandwagon, as they have won four of their last five games. Pretty much everyone is chalking this up as a definite win for New Orleans. If this were in the Dome sure, but the Saints have been really bad on the road this season. Also, Raiders QB Carson Palmer has been playing well and should have a huge day against the Saints suspect defense. This will likely be the most entertaining game of the weekend.

Prediction: Oakland 37, New Orleans 34

San Diego (4-5) at Denver (6-3), Denver favored by 7 1/2

If the Chargers lose this game it will just about wipe out any hopes they have of winning the division and should seal the fate of Norv Turner as their coach. I say should because Turner always finds a way to survive somehow. Last time these teams played Denver overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit, scoring 35 consecutive points to win the game. This time I expect them to jump out to the lead and the Chargers to have to try to play catchup. In typical Chargers and Philip Rivers fashion they will look brilliant at times but mostly look completely inept. This will become even more illuminated when put up against the precision with with Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense performs with.

Prediction: Denver 38, San Diego 28

Indianapolis (6-3) at New England (6-3), New England favored by 9 1/2

Another team that sees their bandwagon filling up is that of the Colts, winners of four straight and if the season ended today, securely in the playoffs. They have played well but they have also benefited from the awful competition they have played in last four weeks. For all the accolades Andrew Luck has been receiving, he still has just 10 TDs versus 9 INTs. Everyone might want to pump the brakes a bit. The Colts are not a team that is ready to go into New England and pull off a victory. But, because of the Patriots habit of letting teams stay in games, they will make things interesting on Sunday.

Prediction: New England 30, Indianapolis 27

Baltimore (7-2) at Pittsburgh (6-3), Baltimore favored by 3 1/2

This game has lost some of its luster with Roethlisberger being out and the Steelers having to start Byron Leftwich. The Steelers will miss Big Ben, but if they can get their running game going, something the Ravens defense has struggled to stop, they have a great chance. The Ravens are also not nearly as good a team on the road as they are at home. All that being said, I just can't see the Ravens letting Pittsburgh beat them with Leftwich under center. I expect Joe Flacco to play average, but Ray Rice to churn out some tough yards and push the Ravens to victory and control of the AFC North.

Prediction: Baltimore 21, Pittsburgh 17

Monday, November 19

Chicago (7-2) at San Francisco (6-2-1), No Line

Kind of hard to analyze this game since we still don't know who will be starting at quarterback for either team. It sounds like Alex Smith is likely to play, while Jay Cutler will most likely sit out. No matter who plays quarterback this will be a game dominated by defenses. The 49ers have been good on defense this year, but not at the level they showed last season. The Rams were able to pretty much pass at will on the 49ers secondary which is definitely concerning. It was also surprising to see the 49ers come out flat for that game, the second home game they have been flat for. I expect them to be sufficiently jacked up for a Monday night game, and Randy Moss will likely make an appearance as he loves Monday nights. This will come down to which offense can avoid costly turnovers that the tough defenses they are going up against will be looking for. I trust the 49ers options at quarterback of Smith and Colin Kaepernick to do that more than I do the Bears options of Cutler or Jason Campell.

Prediction: San Francisco 17, Chicago 12

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-8
Overall Against the Spread: 68-74-4

Last Week Straight Up: 10-3-1
Overall Straight Up: 93-52-1

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cram Session - Week 12

Thursday, November 15

Miami (4-5) at Buffalo (3-6), Buffalo favored by 1

These two are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. The Dolphins are currently two games out of the final spot and the Bills are three out. The loser of this game will pretty much see their slim hopes of making the playoffs this year completely disappear. The Dolphins were one of the surprises of the season two weeks ago, but a tough loss at Indianapolis followed by last week's embarrassing performance against Tennessee is what most fans expected to see this season. Ryan Tannehill stunk last week, throwing three interceptions, and RB Reggie Bush was benched for fumbling in the first half. Tbe Bills hung tough with the Patriots last week but once again couldn't find a way to pull out the victory. Both of these teams are evenly matched as far as mediocrity so this is a tough one to call. I will concede to the Bills homefield advantage and pick them, mostly because I expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to play a little better than Tannehill

Prediction: Buffalo 27, Miami 23

Games That Matter To Me

Minnesota (6-4, 2-4) at #14 Nebraska (8-2, 5-1)

The Cornhuskers thrive on making things interesting it would seem. Another week, another deficit overcome, this time a 20-6 halftime deficit to Penn State. They did get some help from the referees but either way the Huskers won their fourth straight game to remain in control of their destiny to reach the Big Ten title game. The schedule lightens up a bit for their final two games, starting with hosting Minnesota on Saturday. The Gophers are improved from last year but their six wins have come against pretty bad teams. The Gophers rely on their defense to keep them in games as their offense is pretty anemic. RB Donnell Kirkwood and WR A.J. Barker are their two best skill players but Barker hasn't played in two weeks and likely won't play in Saturday's game. For Nebraska, Taylor Martinez has shown great improvement as a passer this season and is completing over 60% of his passes for the first time in his career. Hopefully, RB Rex Burkhead can get in the game as it will be his final appearance at Memorial Stadium. As long as Nebraska doesn't come out flat, which shouldn't be an issue on Senior day, they should finally be able to coast to a victory.

Prediction: Nebraska 45, Minnesota 20

Top 10

#1 Kansas State (10-0, 7-0) at Baylor (4-5, 1-5)

I figured one of the top four unbeatens would lose last weekend and went with Kansas State as my choice. However, the Wildcats proved me wrong and gutted out a tough win on the road against TCU. They face their final road test of the season on Saturday at high powered Baylor. More scary than that perhaps, they have to overcome the SI cover jinx after QB Colin Klein graced the cover this week. The Bears offense has remained potent despite having to replace RG3, but the defense has gotten even worse. The Bears QB Nick Florence can keep them in the game with his arm, but I don't have confidence that they will be able to slow down Klein enough for it to matter.

Prediction: Kansas State 40, Baylor 27

#13 Stanford (8-2, 6-1) at #2 Oregon (10-0, 7-0)

This is the game of the weekend as the Ducks look to continue to roll through their schedule. The Ducks haven't scored less than 40 points all season but that will be tested by the Cardinal defense which is 12th in the country in points allowed per game. With that being said, the Cardinal did allow another high powered attack, Arizona's to score 48 points on them earlier this season, so their defense has its flaws. The Ducks offense is so prolific that people overlook their defense. Their defense has played tough football for most of the season but injuries to their secondary are starting to take their toll. The Cardinal passing game has shown improvement since freshman Kevin Hogan took over the starting quarterback job. Still, I don't think it will be enough to outscore the Ducks.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Stanford 31

Wake Forest (5-5) at #3 Notre Dame (10-0)

Honestly, as an Irish fan this game against Wake Forest has me more nervous than the trip to USC next Saturday. The Irish have struggled to put anyone away at home this season and I have a feeling Saturday won't be any different. It really doesn't matter that Wake Forest isn't a good football team. Purdue and Pittsburgh are both awful and they nearly knocked off the Irish. The Demon Deacons will find it tough sledding trying to score on the Notre Dame defense. QB Tanner Price usually avoids the big mistakes, but he isn't very accurate, completing just 55% of his passes this year. When he is on the mark he likes to go to WR Michael Campanaro, who just two weeks ago against Boston College hauled in 16 catches. Irish LB Manti Te'o will be playing his final game at Notre Dame Stadium and is sure to be emotional and play with the fire and passion Irish fans have become accustomed to. It won't be pretty but the Irish will improve to 11-0.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Wake Forest 17

Western Carolina (1-9) at #4 Alabama (9-1)

The SEC is pretty much off from playing each other the rest of the season so you get a lot of games like this. Alabama went from unstoppable juggernaut two weeks ago to now having to hope some breaks fall their way for them to play for the national championship. I'd hate to be Western Carolina in this game.

Prediction: Alabama 52, Western Carolina 7

Georgia Southern (8-2) at #5 Georgia (9-1)

The Bulldogs reserved their spot in the SEC Championship game with last week's win over Auburn so their last two regular season games are mostly about staying healthy. They do still have slim hopes of reaching the national title game so that can serve as some motivation. Georgia Southern will probably be in shell shock facing this level of talent.

Prediction: Georgia 45, Georgia Southern 24

Jacksonville State (6-4) at #6 Florida (9-1)

The Gators came awfully close to an embarrassing homecoming loss to Louisiana-Lafayette last weekend. They did loss QB Jeff Driskell for this game and possibly for the huge rivalry game with Florida State next weekend. Jacoby Brissett becomes the starter and this should hopefully serve as a nice tune-up for him before potentially having to play the Seminoles. However, after last week's struggles this isn't a game the Gators can take for granted.

Prediction: Florida 30, Jacksonville State 17

Mississippi (5-5, 2-4) at #7 LSU (8-2, 4-2)

Not a ton on the line in this game. The Tigers still have very slim hopes of reaching the SEC Championship but there is no chance in hell Alabama loses to Auburn. For the Rebels they need tow in one of their final two games to become bowl eligible. Tigers QB Zach Mettenberger has played outstanding football the last two weeks, and Tigers fans are hopeful he can play more consistently next year in his senior season.

Prediction: LSU 34, Mississippi 17

Sam Houston State (8-2) at #8 Texas A&M (8-2)

The Aggies shocked the football world with their win at Tuscaloosa last weekend. He was already becoming well known in college football circles but now QB Johnny Manziel is a household name. That victory last weekend may have earned him a trip to New York for the Heisman trophy presentation. They may start a little slowly in this one after such an emotional win last weekend, but it won't be enough to cause them to fall on the upset spectrum this week.

Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Sam Houston State 21

Wofford (8-2) at #9 South Carolina (8-2)

Not a whole lot to say about this one, just expect the Cocks defense to stiffen, and the running game to penetrate Wofford's holes equaling an easy victory.

Prediction: South Carolina 41, Wofford 13

#10 Florida State (9-1, 6-1) at Maryland (4-6, 2-4)

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher is miffed that his team is behind a bunch of 2 loss SEC teams. Apparently he wasn't watching his Seminoles nearly lose on the road to a horrible Virginia Tech team. The Terps had a nice start to the season but have lost so many quarterbacks to season ending injuries that they are now playing a LB under center. They will finally look good for a change with the Black Ops uniforms they are wearing Saturday, but the results will stay the same.

Prediction: Florida State 48, Maryland 14

Last Week: 7-3
Overall: 84-18

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Hail Mary - Week 10

Most of the games this weekend feature a winning team taking on a losing team. However, one game features two of the best teams in the league, the Sunday night game between the 7-1 Houston Texans and the 7-1 Chicago Bears. Before the season when NBC chose to show this game I am sure they thought they would have a nice matchup, but not the game of the season to this point. Both of these teams win the old fashioned way, with tough, physical defense. Some other games of note are teams that are fighting to save their seasons, such as the Cowboys at the Eagles. The Saints need to win at Atlanta to keep their dim playoff hopes alive, but that requires handing the Falcons their first loss of the season.

Sunday, November 11

New York Giants (6-3) at Cincinnati (3-5), New York Giants favored by 4

The Giants mystifying struggles at home continued last weekend when they blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead against Pittsburgh. The offense has been struggling for a few weeks now, and is that point where people are starting to notice and wonder why. I think traveling to Cincinnati will prove to be the tonic both the Giants and their offense needs.

Prediction: New York Giants 30, Cincinnati 20

Tennessee (3-6) at Miami (4-4), Miami favored by 6

Screw it, I'm done picking the Titans, they suck. They should be getting Jake Locker back for this game, but that won't help their porous defense. Maybe it will help their offenses inability to avoid turnovers. Playing the tough Miami defense isn't exactly a good place to start though. Ryan Tannehill has played well his last few games, and limited the interceptions that plagued him to start the season.

Prediction: Miami 27, Tennessee 22

Detroit (4-4) at Minnesota (5-4), Detroit favored by 2

The Vikings will likely be without their second best player, WR Percy Harvin. That means either someone has to step up or more likely that Adrian Peterson will have to continue playing out of his mind to give the Vikings a shot. The Lions won at the Metrodome last season in comeback fashion but historically Minnesota has been a house of horrors for them. Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford are still trying to hook up for their first touchdown together. Apparently Megatron has been suffering from some nerve damage that effected his grip on the ball. I think that nerve damage is known as the Madden Curse.

Prediction: Minnesota 26, Detroit 23

Buffalo (3-5) at New England (5-3), New England favored by 11

The Bills haven't won in New England since God knows when. Last year, they raced to a 21 point lead at Foxboro and then let the Patriots score 49 consecutive points. The Patriots are coming off their bye week and should be well rested and ready to play, avoiding a slow start. The Bills defense hasn't proven they can stop anyone, including the Patriots earlier this season in Buffalo.

Prediction: New England 38, Buffalo 24

Atlanta (8-0) at New Orleans (3-5), Atlanta favored by 2

The Saints defense finally had a performance they could be excited to watch the tape on, after seven embarrassing performances. It remains to be seen if that was a turn the corner type of game, or just the ineptness of the Eagles offense. The Falcons scraped another victory together and finished the first half of the season undefeated. They have only beaten one winning team during that stretch, which has left many people still skeptical of Atlanta. Plus, the Falcons winning in the regular season is old hat, it's the playoffs where they have to prove themselves. I don't see the Falcons going 16-0, meaning they have to lose sometime. I think their defense will have problems with the Saints in the Dome, and the offense won't be able to do enough to overcome those struggles.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, Atlanta 28

San Diego (4-4) at Tampa Bay (4-4), Tampa Bay favored by 3

This could be one of the more entertaining games this weekend. The Buccaneers offense has been on fire recently. Josh Freeman is playing fantastic and what can you say about their rookie running back, Doug "E Fresh" Martin? He has been absolutely unstoppable the last two weeks. If the Bucs maintain this type of balance on offense, they will make a strong run in the second half of the season. The Chargers found a team terrible enough that even Norv Turner can't find a way to lose to them. He won't have that luxury traveling to Tampa on Sunday.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 30, San Diego 26

Denver (5-3) at Carolina (2-6), Denver favored by 4

The Panthers finally got a victory and Cam Newton got to be chipper after a game for a change. It will be back to normal this weekend though when they lose to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. In true Panthers fashion they will keep it close and interesting but find a way to lose.

Prediction: Denver 24, Carolina 21

Oakland (3-5) at Baltimore (6-2), Baltimore favored by 7 1/2

The Ravens don't feel like a 6-2 team. Their offense, especially QB Joe Flacco is struggling and their defense, notably their run defense is not very good. The Raiders remain terrible on defense despite hiring the Broncos former defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen. They have some talented guys but they can't seem to bring them together into one cohesive group. This game should help Flacco get some of his confidence back, but I like the Raiders to make it interesting.

Prediction: Baltimore 27, Oakland 20

New York Jets (3-5) at Seattle (5-4), Seattle favored by 6 1/2

This is pretty much a must win for the Jets, and winning in Seattle is something no team, including the Packers or the Patriots have been able to do this season. The Seahawks and especially their QB, Russell Wilson play like a juggernaut at home. Despite some players considering Rex Ryan to be the most overrated coach in the league, I disagree and think he will have his Jets ready coming off their bye. But I can't pick Seattle to lose at home.

Prediction: Seattle 22, New York Jets 19

St. Louis (3-5) at San Francisco (6-2), San Francisco favored by 11 1/2

The 49ers play their third straight NFC West game and look to strengthen their hold on the division lead. Alex Smith is coming off a great game at Arizona, and the defense looked as dominant as ever. The Rams have been in free fall mode for the last month, dropping three straight. I expect the 49ers to mostly dominate a Rams offense that isn't running the ball well and has an inconsistent quarterback in Sam Bradford. Frank Gore continues to defy his age and injury history and is playing perhaps the best football of his career.

Prediction: San Francisco 25, St. Louis 13

Dallas (3-5) at Philadelphia (3-5), Game is a pick'em

This is a complete toss up, to the point that even Vegas couldn't decide on a favorite. Both teams will be desperate to get a victory. Each team has experienced problems on offense, while the Cowboys defense has played better than Philadelphia's. The Eagles can't afford to get off to a slow start because the crowd will quickly turn on them and negate any homefield advantage they could have. Most of the signs point to this being a Dallas victory but I think the Eagles have one last stand in them. The defense has to start getting pressure, as Tony Romo is known to panic and just throw the ball anywhere when he is getting harassed. Getting pressure on the quarterback has been a problem all season for Philly, but I expect Trent Cole and Jason Babin to have their best games of the season on Sunday.

Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Dallas 20

Houston (7-1) at Chicago (7-1), Chicago favored by 1

This will be a good old fashioned slugfest on Sunday night. These teams are almost mirror images of each other. Both have some of the best defenses in football today, steady quarterbacks, immensely talented running backs, and that one star receiver. The Bears run is reminding me a lot of their 2006 run with the way they have been causing turnovers. The difference though is that Jay Cutler is a huge upgrade over Rex Grossman. This is a game that could go either way but my gut tells me to go with Houston. I think by the slimmest of margins, they are a better team than the Bears.

Prediction: Houston 20, Chicago 17

Monday, November 12

Kansas City (1-7) at Pittsburgh (5-3), Pittsburgh favored by 12 1/2

Awful, terrible Monday night game. I'm too lazy to look right now but hopefully the Chiefs are done ruining primetime football after this game.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Kansas City 10

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-8

Overall Against the Spread: 62-66-4

Last Week Straight Up: 8-6

Overall Straight Up: 83-49

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cram Session - Week 11

Thursday, November 8

Indianapolis (5-3) at Jacksonville (1-7), Indianapolis favored by 3

Another lame Thursday night game, although this one could maybe be entertaining since the Jaguars only victory came against the Colts. The Colts are the talk of the football world after their surprising start to the season, and the story of their coach Chuck Pagano fighting leukemia. I am sure you saw Pagano's post game speech last week, which was really touching stuff, that even non-football fans could appreciate. As for this game, the short week could pose some problems for the Colts, as well as being on the road, where they have struggled. For those reasons I expect it to be close, but I like the Colts to get revenge for their earlier loss to Jacksonville.

Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Jacksonville 20

Games That Matter To Me

Penn State (6-3, 4-1) at #16 Nebraska (7-2, 4-1)

People seem to have it in pen that the Huskers will represent the Legends division in the Big Ten championship but there is still a good amount of season left. They have had some close calls, and had to pull off another come from behind victory last weekend in East Lansing. They will have their work cut out for them Saturday when they host surprisingly good, Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won six of their last seven games and coach Bill O'Brien has turned Matt McGloin into a good quarterback. McGloin has thrown 18 TDs and just 3 INTs, numbers that are far superior to the paltry effort he put up last year. Allen Robinson has been McGloin's favorite target and someone that the Huskers defense will need to blanket all day. Last weekend, Nebraska had all kinds of problems slowing down the Spartans run game, and this week they will need to stop Zach Zwinak. Zwinak had a strong game last weekend, and if he gets going makes the Nittany Lions offense incredibly difficult to stop. On the offensive side of the ball for Nebraska, they hope to be getting back RB Rex Burkhead. Burkhead has been injured most of the year but been highly effective when he has been healthy, and would be a huge lift for Nebraska. The defense will really need to step up in this game and prove they can slow down a pretty potent offense. Taylor Martinez will need to limit the turnovers, something he struggled with last weekend. This will be a tough task for Nebraska but I think they are better than Penn State and will win the game, leading into their final two games which should be much easier, against Minnesota and Iowa.

Prediction: Nebraska 28, Penn State 24

Top 10

Thursday, November 8

#10 Florida State (8-1, 5-1) at Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3)

My oh my how the Hokies have fallen. As a Hokie hater I used to enjoy when they would inevitably blow that one game they shouldn't blow and fall out of the national title race. But this season, they are so terrible that hating them isn't even worth the effort. One place they have played well is at home in Lane Stadium, where they are 4-0. That is the only reason they might have a snowball's chance in hell of knocking off the Seminoles. The home crowd will keep this game close for a half, but in the second half the talent advantage for Florida State will shine through and help them cruise to victory.

Prediction: Florida State 35, Virginia Tech 21

Saturday, November 10

#15 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2) at #1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0)

In a weekend lacking of big time matchups, this one probably is the best of the worst. Johnny Manziel has become a hot name in college football, and based on some pictures that hit the Internet this past week, he is parlaying his accomplishments into success off the field too. The Crimson Tide are lucky to still be undefeated after they squeaked past LSU last weekend. That game proved that Alabama is mortal and can be beat, especially their defense which was surprisingly gashed by Tigers mediocre QB Zach Mettenberger. I am sure that Nick Saban will have his defense working extra hard in practice this week, so that could be bad news for Manziel. The Aggies offense is high powered, but has been slowed before, such as when they lost to Florida earlier in the season. If the Aggies had a bit more defense I would consider this game as the potential for an upset, but the Aggies just aren't as good as Bama to win a tough game in Tuscaloosa.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Texas A&M 17

#2 Kansas State (9-0, 6-0) at TCU (6-3, 3-3)

This is a game that I am very tempted to call the upset. It seems inevitable that late in the college football season, when all the hand wringing begins about their being too many undefeated teams, that one of the unbeatens falls to a team you never would have expected. Based on performance this season, there is no reason to pick TCU, but sports doesn't always fall within reason. Adding to my case is that Wildcats QB Colin Klein had a concussion last week and is questionable for this game. I expect Klein will play, but will he be the same guy coming off his injury? A late night game, national TV audience, yep I like the Horned Frogs.

Prediction: TCU 30, Kansas State 27

#3 Oregon (9-0, 6-0) at California (3-7, 2-5)

The Ducks offense obliterated the Trojans defense last weekend, as those two teams played what appeared to be an arena football league game. A lot of people are salivating over the possibility of an Alabama/Oregon national title game, which would be an extreme clash in styles. This Cal game is a prelude to the Ducks crucial final two weeks of the regular season, when they face ranked teams, Stanford and their rivals, Oregon State.

Prediction: Oregon 57, California 21

#4 Notre Dame (9-0) at Boston College (2-7)

I knew the game against Pitt wouldn't be a blowout, but never expected the Irish to fall behind two touchdowns, or have to resort to getting downright lucky to defeat the Panthers. People are counting the Irish out the National Championship game even if they go undefeated but that's fine with me. Their have been doubters and haters all season, and the Irish have proven them wrong. However, this weekend, if they struggle with a downright terrible Boston College team, that would be discouraging. Thankfully, the game is on the road where Notre Dame has played much better as a team. I hope that even if Everett Golson struggles in this game, Kelly rides with him for a bit. In the past I have been a proponent of tossing in Tommy Rees, but Golson has won some tough games, and Rees had a negative impact when he entered the game last week. The time has come to ride or die with Golson, as constantly yanking him stunts his growth and shakes his confidence. The Eagles are a bad team but their passing offense is dangerous. QB Chase Rettig has thrown 16 TDs this season, but is coming off a poor game against Wake Forest where he threw 3 INTs. Because he plays for a bad team no one knows who he is but Eagles WR Alex Amidon is having a great season. He has gone over 100 yards in his last three games and has 67 catches and 6 touchdowns on the season. The Eagles undoing has been their porous defense, which gives up over 30 points per game. I want to see an impressive Irish performance in this game, before they close their home schedule with Wake Forest next weekend in what will inexplicably probably be a close one. This is a good chance for the Irish to get their mojo back, hopefully they take advantage of it.

Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Boston College 16

#5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1) at Auburn (2-7, 0-6)

The Bulldogs can clinch the SEC East with a win against hapless Auburn. The Tigers have been dismal this season, especially in league play and there is nothing to suggest that will be any different on Saturday. Gators fans will be praying for a miracle but it's not going to happen.

Prediction: Georgia 42, Auburn 13

Louisiana-Lafayette (5-3) at #6 Florida (8-1)

Florida has two tune-up games before they close their season in Tallahassee.

Prediction: Florida 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 20

#21 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2) at #7 LSU (7-2, 3-2)

These teams have the same records but the Bulldogs are not in the same class as LSU. Mississippi State has been exposed the last two weeks against tough competition. Their offense hasn't been able to move the ball and their defense can't stop anybody. Not the type of momentum that will lend itself to a victory or even being competitive in Baton Rouge.

Prediction: LSU 33, Mississippi State 16

Arkansas (4-5, 2-3) at #8 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2)

I know that Louisville's schedule has been a joke but there is no reason that 2-loss South Carolina should be ahead of them. The Gamecocks begin life without Marcus Lattimore for the rest of the season, while the Razorbacks inch closer to concluding a nightmare season. Feels like such a waste of talent in Tyler Wilson to have him playing for a team that probably won't even make a bowl game. The Cocks will be fired up as Lattimore will be honored before the game.

Prediction: South Carolina 35, Arkansas 21

#9 Louisville (9-0, 4-0) at Syracuse (4-5, 3-2)

I don't expect the Cardinals to end up undefeated but I think that defeat will come at the hands of Rutgers. The Orange will give them a battle on Saturday, but the Cardinals have been battle tested all season, so their quarterback with the cool name, Teddy Bridgewater will make the plays needed late to improve to 10-0.

Prediction: Louisville 27, Syracuse 24

Last Week: 8-0
Overall: 77-15

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Hail Mary - Week 9

Before the season the idea of Robert Griffin III vs. Cam Newton was circled on my calendar as a game I had to attend. Nine weeks into the season and the game doesn't have nearly the buzz I thought it would. Most of that has to do with Cam and the Panthers being far worse than anyone could have imagined. I've practically had to scour the Earth to find someone to take my second free ticket. All that being said, I am still excited to see these two electric quarterbacks go to battle for their "Last Showdown" (honestly, I have no clue why the picture says that but it does sound dramatic). There is a good late game this weekend between Pittsburgh and the New York Giants, and the Sunday (Dallas at Atlanta) and Monday (Philadelphia at New Orleans) night games should both be entertaining. Let's get into it.

Sunday, November 4

Miami (4-3) at Indianapolis (4-3), Miami favored by 2 1/2

No one would have pegged this as being a battle between two teams over .500 back when the season began. The Dolphins have been doing it through suffocating run defense and strong special teams play. The Colts have been mostly doing it through their offense and a strong passing defense. The Colts struggle mightily stopping the run so this might be the game where Reggie Bush gets back on track. It is not yet known whether Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill will make the start as he recovers from an injury he suffered in the win against the Jets. Whether it is Tannehill or Matt Moore, I don't think it matters. The Dolphins are on a roll and I expect them to grab their fourth straight win.

Prediction: Miami 23, Indianapolis 20

Carolina (1-6) at Washington (3-5), Washington favored by 3 1/2

The Panthers record is bad but save for the loss to the New York Giants, most of their losses have been in close games. They just still haven't learned how to win in a tight game, which was their problem last year. If Cam wants to have a game more like he was having last season then he is facing the right defense in the Redskins. Steve Smith could be primed for a breakout game, and maybe the Panthers can get their running game going for a change. The Redskins offense stumbled a bit last weekend, mostly because the wide receivers couldn't catch a thing, and also because they had to play catch up right away. I expect them to control the game much more this weekend, and for Alfred Morris to have a big game. Both these teams typically find themselves in close games so when they get together it seems natural to think this game will be a tight one.

Prediction: Washington 27, Carolina 23

Denver (4-3) at Cincinnati (3-4), Denver favored by 3 1/2

The Broncos bandwagon is becoming quite full, as is the Peyton Manning for MVP talk. The Broncos have gotten through the brutal first half of their schedule and the load lightens considerably in the second half. I may not be willing to agree to the Super Bowl and MVP talk but can conceded that they are pretty clearly the best team in the AFC West. The Bengals have lost three straight and unlike the Broncos they are now heading into the meat of their schedule. They had a chance to take advantage of some easy opponents to start the year and pad their record but they blew it. Andy Dalton still has not beaten a really good team since he became quarterback and I expect that streak to continue.

Prediction: Denver 34, Cincinnati 24

Baltimore (5-2) at Cleveland (2-6), Baltimore favored by 3 1/2

No matter what the records the Browns typically play the Ravens close. There has been quite a bit of unrest around Baltimore the last few weeks. The injuries to the defense have their fans in a panic as does the lousy play of Joe Flacco. Those issues won't disappear after this game, but I expect the Ravens to feel a little better about themselves after they get the win.

Prediction: Baltimore 20, Cleveland 16

Arizona (4-4) at Green Bay (5-3), Green Bay favored by 11

The Cardinals 4-0 start is a distant memory and they now look like one of the worst teams in the league. That being said, I can't pick the Packers to cover a spread that large, especially after they couldn't do it against Jacksonville last weekend. Injuries have mounted for both of these teams but the Packers have handled it far better than the Cardinals.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Arizona 20

Chicago (6-1) at Tennessee (3-5), Chicago favored by 3 1/2

I remain bullish on picking the Titans, probably because I am stubborn. I really think the Bears record doesn't match what they are as a team. I think they are an okay team, but 7-1? Not buying it. I think Jay Cutler will make some mistakes, and the Titans will get good field position as a result, allowing them to penetrate a stout Bears defense.

Prediction: Tennessee 27, Chicago 24

Detroit (3-4) at Jacksonville (1-6), Detroit favored by 3 1/2

The Lions have a chance to get back to .500 as they travel to take on the sorry Jags. The Jaguars have at least been competitive so this isn't a definite win for the Lions by any means. The Jags defense could give Matthew Stafford some problems, but I don't think the Jaguars can generate enough offense to win the game. Blaine Gabbert was tossed around like a rag doll by Ndamukong Suh in college, and he will be having painful flashbacks to those memories in this game.

Prediction: Detroit 25, Jacksonville 19

Buffalo (3-4) at Houston (6-1), Houston favored by 10

Mario Williams returns to Houston, where he was good but never quite what the Texans thought they were getting when they drafted him number one overall. Both these teams are coming off a bye week and it probably would have made more sense to put them in the Thursday game. The Texans have been dominant at home save for that loss to the Packers and the Bills have had a propensity for getting blown out. Expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to have a rough day against a stout Texans defense.

Prediction: Houston 31, Buffalo 17

Minnesota (5-3) at Seattle (4-4), Seattle favored by 5

This is another game that didn't look like it would be all that intriguing when the season began but could end up having major playoff implications at the end of the season. The Vikings are out to prove that the embarrassing Thursday night loss at home to Tampa was an aberration. The Seahawks are back at home, were they actually know how to win games. Vikings QB Christian Ponder has looked downright awful the last two games, which doesn't bode well for him on the road in a tough environment.

Prediction: Seattle 24, Minnesota 21

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

The Raiders looked dead and buried a few weeks ago, but two straight victories and a winnable game here could have them back in the thick of things. Carson Palmer is quietly having a pretty strong season, and the Raiders passing game has been their strength, while Darren McFadden and the rushing game have struggled. Another quarterback that is quietly having a good season is Tampa's Josh Freeman. The Bucs were very impressive in their last game, but this is a young team, and not one I envision winning back to back games in tough environments.

Prediction: Oakland 26, Tampa Bay 21

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

This is a tough game to pick. The Steelers have been terrible on the road this season, but the Giants are a far better road team than they are at home. It has been a week of chaos for both teams due to Hurricane Sandy. The Steelers will be driving in the day of the game since they are unable to find a hotel to stay. As far as actual on the field matters these teams probably couldn't be more evenly matched.  Both have good offenses and pretty solid defenses. I expect a game that will go back and forth and be fun to watch, much like the last time they played in New York, 8 years ago. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning were young pups then, now they are grizzled vets, playing in the prime of their careers.

Prediction: New York Giants 28, Pittsburgh 27

Dallas (3-4) at Atlanta (7-0), Atlanta favored by 4

I have seen some saying they think Dallas will win this game but Tony Romo is so careless with the ball that I can't pick the Cowboys. Matt Ryan has a fantastic record at home and the Georgia Dome will be rocking for Sunday night. The Falcons won't be going 16-0 but the Cowboys aren't the team to stop their undefeated streak.

Prediction: Atlanta 25, Dallas 20

Monday, November 5

Philadelphia (3-4) at New Orleans (2-5), New Orleans favored by 3 1/2

This is a make or break game for both teams. The Saints are definitely out of things if they lose, while the Eagles would have lost their fourth straight. Mike Vick seems to be hanging on to his job by a thread. If he can't get the offense going against the putrid Saints defense then it will definitely be time for a change. The Eagles have way too many playmakers to be struggling on offense like they have been. The Saints offense should get back on track after a tough game at Denver last weekend, but to me the Eagles are the more desperate team. I think the Saints have resigned themselves to this being a lost season without Sean Payton, while Andy Reid and Vick are fighting for their jobs.

Prediction: Philadelphia 33, New Orleans 27

Last Week Against the Spread: 9-5
Overall Against the Spread: 56-58-4

Last Week Straight Up: 9-5
Overall Straight Up: 75-43

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cram Session - Week 10

Thursday, November 2

Kansas City (1-6) at San Diego (3-4), 
San Diego favored by 8 1/2

This game fails the stink test as far as gambling is concerned. If a game smells funny you stay away from it, and both of these teams are so bad that trying to get a read on this game is next to impossible. If Norv Turner wants any hope of keeping his job he has to win this game. If the Chiefs want any hope of winning this game, they need to make sure RB Jamaal Charles get's more than 4 or 5 carries. I'll go on the safe side and pick the Chargers to win, but no way can I pick them to cover an 8 1/2 point spread.

Prediction: San Diego 19, Kansas City 12

Games That Matter To Me

#20 Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) at Michigan State (5-4, 2-3)

Before the season this game felt like it would have a little more luster, but it is still a big game for the Huskers who are in contention to play for the Big Ten Championship. Nebraska surprised me last weekend with a strong defensive performance against Michigan. It helped that Denard Robinson didn't play in the second half, but he wasn't doing anything of substance when he played in the first half. Taylor Martinez played mostly smart football and RB Ameer Abdullah once again stepped in admirably for an injured Rex Burkhead. Abduallah will likely have to do that again on Saturday. The Spartans are terrible on offense but like Michigan have one of the better defenses in football. Their QB Andrew Maxwell has been far better on the road than he has been at home, so the Huskers defense should be licking their chops for a shot at him. The player to contain on the Spartans offense is RB Le'Veon Bell, who has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. The Spartans rely heavily on him and will ride him no matter how successful he is. I think the Huskers can move the ball on the stout Spartans defense, and with the Huskers defense coming into this game with some confidence, they will force Maxwell into turnovers. I think Nebraska wins and takes an even firmer grip on the Big Ten Legends Division.

Prediction: Nebraska 28, Michigan State 21

Top 10

#1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) at #5 LSU (7-1, 3-1)

This is the game of the weekend but the hype is far less than we saw when these teams met a year ago. Some of it has to do with LSU having already lost but I think most of it has to do with how boring the games were between these teams last season. This does seem like perhaps the first time the country will get to see Alabama be tested. Unfortunately, the Tigers defense isn't as good as they were last year, while the offense is pretty much just as bad. AJ McCarron is quietly having a pretty amazing season, throwing 18 TDs and 0 INTs. He is also completing almost 70% of his passes and has shown great improvement this year. This game will be interesting for about a half, before Alabama scores to start the second half and coasts to victory.

Prediction: Alabama 27, LSU 13

#24 Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1) at #2 Kansas State (8-0, 5-0)

This game has the potential to be a shootout as both of these offenses have been clicking as of late. That being said, the defenses might make a statement as well, as those sides of the ball have played strong lately. We are beginning to learn more and more about Wildcats quarterback Colin Klein, including the fact that he didn't kiss his wife until his wedding day. He definitely has more game on the field than he does off of it, and if the Wildcats can win their last four games he may be a lock for the Heisman.

Prediction: Kansas State 41, Oklahoma State 28

Pittsburgh (4-4) at #3 Notre Dame (8-0)

What a sweet victory it was for Notre Dame and their fans last weekend. A win did not surprise me but as I stated last week I never would have expected a blowout victory. Now the challenge becomes navigating through the next three games against Pittsburgh,  Boston College, and Wake Forest, before what could be a major showdown against USC. The Irish have a history of winning big games and then losing to lesser opponents following those wins. The Panthers are just 4-4 but have won two straight in impressive fashion and aren't a team Notre Dame can take lightly. QB Tino Sunseri has put up some impressive numbers, throwing for 13 TDs and just 2 INTs with a 69% completion percentage. Pitt also has some pretty impressive wide receivers in Devin Street and Mike Shanahan, who is not the Redskins coach. You can't always look at records when handicapping games, and the Irish have a tendency to play down to competition. The Panthers also don't have that bad of a defense, so things will be tough as they usually are for the Notre Dame offense. It was good to see Everett Golson handle himself well in Norman. I like that confidence to be enough to carry over to this game and get a hard fought victory.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Pittsburgh 13

#4 Oregon (8-0, 5-0) at #17 USC (6-2, 4-2)

This is the other big game of Week 10, although this lost some luster with the Trojans choke job at Arizona. People have been pointing to this game as the time that the Ducks will finally be tested. Incredibly, Oregon has scored over 40 points in a game 11 straight times, with the last time they didn't being their 38-35 loss to USC last season. That Trojans team was brimming with confidence while this one has had theirs shaken. The amount of playmakers in this game is absurd. For Oregon you have QB Marcus Mariota, RB Kenjon Barner, and RB De'Anthony Thomas. USC has QB Matt Barkley, RB Silas Redd, and WRs Marqise Lee, and Robert Woods. Lee had an incredible game against Arizona last weekend, catching 16 passes for 345 yards and 2 TDs. Both these teams are pretty even offensively, the difference will come in defensively. The Trojans defense is susceptible to giving up big plays and Oregon specializes in that. The atmosphere will be electric and the Ducks will be tested, but I don't think the Trojans defense is up to the task, which will allow the Ducks to escape with a win.

Prediction: Oregon 45, USC 42

Mississippi (5-3, 2-2) at #6 Georgia (7-1, 5-1)

The Bulldogs surprised most everyone but themselves when they knocked off Florida in Jacksonville. Their offense looked terrible but the defense made the Gator offense look even worse. Ole Miss comes into this game with some confidence, having won two straight, although those wins came against the dregs of the SEC. Georgia controls their destiny when it comes to the SEC East and is just looking to avoid the upset bug.

Prediction: Georgia 35, Mississippi 21

Missouri (4-4, 1-4) at #7 Florida (7-1, 6-1)

The Gators close out SEC play for the 2012 season when they host newcomer Missouri. With their name recognition if the Gators win out they could still be in the running for a BCS at-large spot. They also still have slim hopes of representing the SEC East in the SEC Championship game if Georgia slips up. Jeff Driskel should play much better this weekend, but if he doesn't the Gators once dream season could turn into a nightmare.

Prediction: Florida 27, Missouri 20

Temple (3-4, 2-2) at #10 Louisville (8-0, 3-0)

The Cardinals have crept into the Top 10 mostly by being the comeback kids. Led by QB Teddy Bridgewater they have had to fight and scratch for pretty much their last six games. Temple may provide a respite as they have been shellacked in their last two games. Coach Charlie Strong and his team could use a breather.

Prediction: Louisville 35, Temple 14

Last Week: 4-4
Overall: 69-15