Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Hail Mary - Week 14

The college football regular season has ended, and with it so has Cram Session for at least the next three weeks. So for the rest of the season The Hail Mary will be posted Thursday with a preview of that night's game, and then the rest of the week's slate will be posted Friday. There is only one game this weekend between teams with winning records (Texans at Patriots), but that doesn't mean there still aren't a slew of games with playoff implications. As we head to the last quarter of the season there is still plenty that has to be resolved in the playoff picture.

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


Phipps said...

I hope you are right about Washington, and wrong about Dallas and New York!

Ryan G. said...

NOT BAD! Good work man.

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