Friday, December 27, 2013

Cram Session - Bowl Edition

Pinstripe Bowl

Rutgers (6-6) vs. Notre Dame (8-4) in Bronx, NY

The Fighting Irish look to finish the 2013 season off right, as they face heavy underdog Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Notre Dame had some great victories this season, including handing Big Ten champion Michigan State their only loss of the season, and they also defeated Pac-12 runner up Arizona State. However, some mystifying losses, like at Pittsburgh and at what turned out to be a mediocre Michigan team, derailed the Irish's chances of returning to a BCS bowl.

Irish QB Tommy Rees had an up and down season. He finished with 27 touchdowns and almost 3,000 yards passing, but he also threw 13 interceptions, including 7 in his last four games. He also completed just 54% of his passes this year, and combining his inaccuracy with an uneven running game and the Irish were unable to make plays when needed at critical times this season. Rees should have a chance to be good Tommy against a terrible Scarlet Knights pass defense. Cam McDaniel led the Irish in rushing but the truth is Brian Kelly never was able to settle on a number one back. George Atikinson III was the second leading rusher, but each back had just one game over 100 yards rushing this season. A major focus for Notre Dame next year has to be to have a more established rushing attack. The Irish's three headed attack at receiver includes wideouts TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, and tight end Troy Niklas. The Irish know they will lose leading receiver Jones to graduation, but I hope that junior Daniels comes back for his senior season. The Notre Dame defense seemed to fall under the weight of high expectations that 2012 squad had left. They were also beset by injuries most of the year and never quite were able to get above being mediocre.

The Scarlet Knights have a good offense but their problem this season was their defense was so bad that the offense couldn't usually keep up. The Scarlet Knights went just 2-5 in their last seven games and had to beat South Florida in their season finale to become bowl eligible. Gary Nova made too many mistakes at quarterback for coach Kyle Flood's tastes so he inserted Chas Dodd as his quarterback in the 11th game of the season. Dodd had mostly struggled when he saw action this year, but was impressive against a bad South Florida team. Rutgers most dangerous player is RB Paul James. James led the team with 9 rushing touchdowns and averaged over 5 yards per carry. The Rutgers passing game likes to spread the ball around and has four different main options at receiver. Tylor Kroft led the team in catches and yards, while Leonte Carroo led the team in touchdowns. Unfortunately for Rutgers Carroo missed the final two games with an injury and is doubtful for Saturday's game. That means Quron Pratt and Brandon Coleman could see more targets.

The only chance I see Rutgers having in this game is if bad Tommy shows up and Rees throws a lot of interceptions. But with how poor Rutgers pass defense is, I expect Rees to look more like the quarterback we saw against Air Force. I expect Daniels and Jones to have huge games receiving. All six of Rutgers wins came against teams with losing records, so they have shown nothing this season to indicate that they should be in Notre Dame's league. A month away from not playing may have Notre Dame rusty at first but after a sluggish start I expect Notre Dame to blow out the Scarlet Knights.

Prediction: Notre Dame 48, Rutgers 23

The Hail Mary - Week 17

Sunday, December 29

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11), Carolina favored by 6

Prediction: Carolina 26, Atlanta 23

Baltimore (8-7) at Cincinnati (10-5), Cincinnati favored by 6

Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Baltimore 21

Houston (2-13) at Tennessee (6-9), Tennessee favored by 7

Prediction: Tennessee 27, Houston 21

Jacksonville (4-11) at Indianapolis (10-5), Indianapolis favored by 11 1/2

Prediction: Indianapolis 30, Jacksonville 22

New York Jets (7-8) at Miami (8-7), Miami favored by 6 1/2

Prediction: Miami 28, New York Jets 14

Detroit (7-8) at Minnesota (4-10-1), Minnesota favored by 3

Prediction: Minnesota 29, Detroit 24

Washington (3-12) at New York Giants (6-9), New York Giants favored by 3

Prediction: New York Giants 27, Washington 23

Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (7-8), Pittsburgh favored by 7

Prediction: Pittsburgh 25, Cleveland 16

Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7), No Line

Prediction: Green Bay 35, Chicago 28

Denver (12-3) at Oakland (4-11), Denver favored by 12 1/2

Prediction: Denver 45, Oakland 24

Buffalo (6-9) at New England (11-4), New England favored by 9 1/2

Prediction: New England 34, Buffalo 20

Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5), New Orleans favored by 12 1/2

Prediction: New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 17

San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5), Line is Pick Em'

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Arizona 21

Kansas City (11-4) at San Diego (8-7), San Diego favored by 10 1/2

Prediction: San Diego 28, Kansas City 21

St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3), Seattle favored by 11

Prediction: Seattle 23, St. Louis 17

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7), Philadelphia favored by 6 1/2

Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 24

Last Week Against the Spread: 11-5
Overall Against the Spread: 112-104-8

Last Week Straight Up: 10-6
Overall Straight Up: 159-80-1

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 16

Sunday, December 22

Miami (8-6) at Buffalo (5-9), Miami favored by 2 1/2

My faith in Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins was rewarded, as they upset the Patriots last weekend just as I predicted. Despite that win, the Dolphins are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. Baltimore would get in over them right now so it leaves Miami in a weird position of not really wanting either Baltimore or New England to win when they play each other Sunday.Although, if the Dolphins were to choose, I guess they would want the Patriots, because Baltimore and Cincinnati losses, and a Dolphins win clinches a playoff spot for Miami. The Dolphins can't overlook the Bills as winning in the frigid air of Buffalo in December can be a challenge. Hell, the Dolphins couldn't even beat Buffalo at home a few weeks back. Just like last game, the Bills will be starting Thad Lewis, as EJ Manuel is once again injured. Lewis won't have Stevie Johnson to throw too, as he grieves the death of his mother. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller have been running the ball well as of late so stopping the run will be Miami's number one concern. The biggest key to Miami's success seems to be Tannehill. He has really limited his mistakes in recent weeks and because of that the Dolphins are thriving. I feel the switch is flipping for Tannehill at the best time for Miami and his hot play will continue Sunday.

Prediction: Miami 28, Buffalo 22

Minnesota (4-9-1) at Cincinnati (9-5), Cincinnati favored by 7

Road Bengals and home Bengals are two very different teams. The Bengals finished just 3-5 on the road this season but fortunately for them they finish up the season with 2 games at home. At home, Cincinnati is 6-0, and has scored 41 points or more in their last three home games. The Vikings overall record still remains putrid but they have a winning record in their last six games. Their offense has been playing really well, and Matt Cassel is coming off a game where he looked like 2010 Cassel. Even down to their third string running back last weekend, Minnesota still scored 48 points. This week they could have both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart back, against a stout Bengals defense. The Bengals are going to try to find some consistency on offense, and have both their rushing and passing attacks at their peaks on Sunday. The Vikings generous defense should make that more than possible.

Prediction: Cincinnati 33, Minnesota 27

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11), Dallas favored by 3

The two most dysfunctional franchises in football. Despite their dysfunction the Cowboys are still very relevant when it comes to the playoff chase. If they win, it guarantees that their final game at home against Philadelphia will be for the NFC East and a playoff spot. If that happens it would mark the third straight season the Cowboys were playing for the NFC East in the final week. The Redskins are playing out the string, but ruining the Cowboys season would be a little bit of consolation in a loss season. Kirk Cousins lit up Atlanta last weekend, but was mistake prone. He will have a chance to light up a Cowboys defense that has loved making backup quarterbacks look exceptional the last two weeks. These teams always seem to play close games and you can pretty much throw out the records any time they meet. I think Kirk will have another strong passing game, and I think the Redskins will spoil the Cowboys season. Hey, maybe Tony Romo can throw another boneheaded late game pick, or Dallas can refuse to run the ball despite averaging over 7 yards per carry. You know, the usual.

Prediction: Washington 34, Dallas 31

Indianapolis (9-5) at Kansas City (11-3), Kansas City favored by 6 1/2

The Patriots loss lost week put the Colts in play for a possible bye if they wan win their last two games and have some breaks go their way. The Chiefs once faint AFC West hopes became much more real due to the Broncos loss to the Chargers. The Chiefs offense continued their hot play but their defense has slid a ton ever since the offense began to play well. The Colts Jekyll and Hyde act continued last week, as they were dominant in a win against the hapless Texans. People are still not sold on the Colts being a real threat come playoff time and a road game in Arrowhead will be quite telling. I expect the Chiefs offense to come back to Earth a bit and the Chiefs defense to play its best game in over a month.

Prediction: Kansas City 24, Indianapolis 19

Tampa Bay (4-10) at St. Louis (6-8), St. Louis favored by 5 1/2

Teams that are playing for the chance to have good vibes going into the 2014 season. The Rams have been a very good team at home recently, especially last week when they dominated the Saints.

Prediction: St. Louis 29, Tampa Bay 17

Cleveland (4-10) at New York Jets (6-8), New York Jets favored by 2 1/2

Another game between two teams with nothing but pride left to play for in 2013. If it follows the normal Browns and Jets scripts, the Jets will look like a playoff team at home, but the Browns will be winning late and somehow blow the game in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: New York Jets 27, Cleveland 20

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4), Carolina favored by 3

If the Saints win, they clinch the NFC South and will lock up a bye in the playoffs. If Carolina wins, then they will control their destiny in the NFC South going into Week 17 and themselves be in line for a playoff bye. Losses by either team could mean that they are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. That of course means major stakes, and a game that will have a playoff atmosphere. The Saints destroyed Carolina in New Orleans two weeks ago, but the Superdome Saints and the road Saints are two vastly different teams. The Panthers have won six straight at home and five of those wins have been by double digits. The Saints offense is just not the same unit away from the Superdome and it puts too much pressure on their defense. The defense is incredibly improved from last season, but it isn't good enough to compensate for the offense playing poorly. The Carolina defense had never been pushed around like they were a few weeks ago, and playing at home I expect them to improve their performance this time by about 100 percent. Even if you are a Saints fan, I can't think of any logical reason right now why you would pick the Saints in a road game with any confidence.

Prediction: Carolina 28, New Orleans 21

Tennessee (5-9) at Jacksonville (4-10), Tennessee favored by 5 1/2


Prediction: Tennessee 29, Jacksonville 26

Denver (11-3) at Houston (2-12), Denver favored by 10 1/2

Broncos can clinch the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss. Denver has looked very so-so over the last month and not as clearly the favorite to come out of the AFC. Peyton Manning seemed to really miss Wes Welker last week. I think the Broncos will likely hold out Welker for this game, but against a Texans team that hasn't won since September, I expect Manning and the Broncos offense to return to putting up video game like numbers.

Prediction: Denver 42, Houston 24

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7), Detroit favored by 9

The question used to be is Eli better than Peyton? The new question seems to be is Eli the worst quarterback to ever win multiple Super Bowls? Eli is having a truly awful season and unlike Brett Favre he isn't a gunslinger having fun out there, so it is harder for people not to notice. He is more like a guy making derpy faces and awful decisions out there. The Lions went from first in the NFC North to third and on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Matthew Stafford has been atrocious the last few weeks, and he was really hurt by the case of butterfingers Megatron contracted on Monday night against Baltimore. Even with their struggles, I think the Lions can beat a Giants team at home that has looked mostly awful this season.

Prediction: Detroit 25, New York Giants 20

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2), Seattle favored by 10 1/2

The Cardinals just won't go away and continue to make life nervous for teams like the 49ers, Panthers, and Saints. As a Niners fan I am slightly torn about this game. I would like the Cardinals to lose so the Niners can wrap up a playoff berth, but a Cardinals win would keep alive the 49ers hopes of coming back to win the division. That being said, I can never, under any circumstances cheer for a team coached by Pete Carroll and with Dick Sherman playing for them. Arizona barely beat a bad Tennesee team on the road, so the chances of them winning in Seattle seem very slim. The Seahawks defense feasted on mistake prone Eli last week and Carson Palmer is another quarterback that likes to serve up interceptions.

Prediction: Seattle 35, Arizona 24

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1), No Line

Another Packers game with no line as no one has any idea whether or not Aaron Rodgers will play. If Rodgers does play I really like the Packers in this game, but even if he doesn't I still think a Matt Flynn led Packers team can beat a mediocre Steelers team at Lambeau. The Steelers are coming off their best game of the season when they trounced the Bengals, but I don't expect that performance to translate to this weekend. This will be a competitive game between two old school franchises, and the Packers will be desperate as they have to win out. The Packers defense will have to step up their game, as Ben Roethlisberger is enjoying one of the best years of his career. Eddie Lacy will have his work cut out for him running the ball, as the Steelers run defense has been shutting teams down the last few weeks. Even with those things working against them, I like the more desperate team.

Prediction: Green Bay 26, Pittsburgh 23

Oakland (4-10) at San Diego (7-7), San Diego favored by 10

December seems like when Philip Rivers and the Chargers are at their best and that was again made apparent by their shocking win in Denver last week. They still sit a game out of a playoff spot with two to go but a home victory against Oakland would keep their season alive for one more week. The Chargers will be looking to avenge an embarrassing loss at Oakland earlier this season. The Raiders defense has been in the holiday spirit, giving out touchdowns like Santa gives away gifts. The Matt McGloin era started off pretty well but he has been a turnover machine recently and coach Dennis Allen now splits time between him and Terrelle Pryor. It is obvious the Raiders need to draft a quarterback in the off-season. McGloin and Pryor have shown flashes but neither appears to be the type of consistently good quarterback the Raiders need to be relevant again.

Prediction: San Diego 38, Oakland 21

New England (10-4) at Baltimore (8-6), Baltimore favored by 2 1/2

Oddly, NBC decided to flex this game out in favor of Chicago/Philadelphia. This game still has major playoff implications, while there is a possibility that Chicago/Philadelphia might mean nothing for one of the teams depending on earlier results on Sunday. These teams have developed quite the little rivalry over the years, with memorable meetings in the regular season and of course, their back to back battles in the AFC Championship the last two years. The Ravens of 2013 seem to be modeling the Ravens of 2000 a bit, where offense is optional, the kicker is their best offensive weapon and the defense bails out the offense. More amazing to me than Justin Tucker hitting a 61-yard field goal to win the game, was that the Ravens trusted that more than their 120 million dollar quarterback Joe Flacco to get them 7 yards with the game on the line. The Patriots record is a bit deceiving, as without those miracle wins against the Saints, Broncos and Browns they would be on the outside looking in on the playoffs. They have won more games than they probably should have because of the Brady/Belichick effect. While I have ended up being wrong about the amount of games the Ravens would win, I still cannot pick them to beat the Patriots. I just don't trust Flacco to make enough plays and I think the Ravens are eventually going to lose living on the edge like they have.

Prediction: New England 24, Baltimore 20

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6), Philadelphia favored by 3

Various scenarios cold take this game and make it quite meaningless for one or both teams. Chip Kelly has said he will play to win no matter what, but that could be tested if Dallas loses and the Eagles already have the NFC East clinched. Even a Dallas win makes this game pretty meaningless because Philadelphia would have to beat Dallas no matter what next week to win the division. But after a very poor performance in Minnesota, I agree with Kelly that the Eagles need to focus on winning and not so much on how much the game means. The Eagles defense had been playing so well but that all fell apart at the Metrodome last week. Against the beasts the Bears have at receiver,  Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery the Eagles secondary will have to literally play above their heads to keep up with those gigantic guys. Jay Cutler started off slow in his return last week, but then pulled it together and led the Bears to victory. I think this game could turn into a shootout between him and Nick Foles. I also think both LaSean McCoy and Matt Forte could be in for big games. The Eagles have been much better at home lately, winning three in a row there after breaking their 10 game losing streak. I think that will ultimately be the difference in a game between two similar, and every evenly matched teams.

Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Chicago 27

Monday, December 23

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4), San Francisco favored by 12

A rematch of last season's NFC Championship is instead more being hyped about being the last game the 49ers will probably ever play at Candlestick Park. The Falcons should be the perfect opponent, almost like a homecoming opponent, for the 49ers to beat up on and close out Candlestick in style. The Falcons defense can't stop a soul, and the 49ers defense has been impenetrable for most of the season. The Falcons are dead last in rushing, so their only hope will be Matt Ryan airing it out to Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Harry Douglas. But the 49ers secondary has been on point this season, and I expect the 49ers pass rush to wreak havoc on the Falcons poor offensive line. The 49ers passing offense has crawled out of last in the NFL, up to 30th, as Colin Kaepernick has started getting his weapons back. Frank Gore should run for over 100 yards against an Atlanta rush defense that hasn't proven it can stop anyone.

Prediction: San Francisco 34, Atlanta 13

Last Week Against the Spread: 11-5
Overall Against the Spread: 112-104-8

Last Week Straight Up: 8-8

Overall Straight Up: 149-74-1

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 15

Sunday, December 15

San Francisco (9-4) at Tampa Bay (4-9), San Francisco favored by 5 1/2

Looking at the records this would appear to be a guaranteed win for San Francisco. However, the Bucs have been playing very good football as of late, winning four of their last five games. The Niners are also playing well, having won three straight, which includes a fantastic victory over the Seahawks last weekend. The 49ers defense, which showed worrisome signs at the end of last season, has been back to their dominating selves this season. They have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, and Bobby Rainey doesn't figure to be able to break that streak. The offense has all of its pieces back now, but still could use these last three games to gel together. Arizona is still nipping at the 49ers heels for the final playoff spot, so each week remains of critical importance for San Francisco. Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon has struggled the past few weeks and I think he is ripe to have the 49ers defense manhandle him. Maybe Kap can hit some plays to Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and show up former 49er Dashon Goldson. Harbaugh will have San Francisco ready to play and take the Bucs seriously, and I expect a strong effort on Sunday.

Prediction: San Francisco 27, Tampa Bay 14

New England (10-3) at Miami (7-6), New England favored by 2 1/2

The Patriots clinch the AFC East this weekend if they beat the Dolphins in Miami. Miami had the Patriots on the ropes in their last meeting, but then fell apart in the second half, as well as had some questionable calls go against them. Just as the Patriots offense was rounding into form, they have now lost injury prone TE Rob Gronkowski for the season. It will be interesting to see if Brady regresses without Gronk or if he can use what he learned as far as playing without him earlier this season to his advantage now. Miami had their best game of the season last week in my opinion. To win in Pittsburgh, in the snow, the way they did, showed a lot of heart. They almost ended up losing on the most fluke play possible but thankfully Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds. I think the Dolphins are getting back to playing the type of football they played to start the season, and I really like the strides Ryan Tannehill has taken this season. I think the Dolphins will pull off the upset this weekend and keep alive their slim AFC East hopes.

Prediction: Miami 24, New England 21

Philadelphia (8-5) at Minnesota (3-9-1), Philadelphia favored by 4 1/2

Both these teams had snow games last week but very different outcomes. The Eagles came from behind to bludgeon the Lions in the second half. LaSean McCoy had the greatest rushing day in Eagles history and continues to make clear that he is one of the best running backs in all of football. The Vikings had one of the craziest finishes you will ever see, as they and the Ravens traded 5 touchdowns in the final 2 minutes of their game. But as they have done countless times this season, the Vikings managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Adrian Peterson is questionable for this game, but Toby Gerhart has shown some of the college ability he had at Stanford that made the Vikings draft him a few years ago. While the Eagles have won five straight, the Vikings have been playing better football as of late, and WR Cordarrelle Patterson is really starting to come into his own. The Eagles defense continues to step up week after week, but they could really be tested this weekend. I do think the Eagles will pull out the victory and stay atop the NFC East.

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Minnesota 27

Washington (3-10) at Atlanta (3-10), Atlanta favored by 6

No point in discussing this game because no one cares. What everyone cares about is Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Robert Griffin III for the final three games of the season, and start Kirk Cousins. I'm torn on the decision because I can see both sides of the argument. Maybe Shanny wants to play Kirk so that Kirk can play well and the Skins might be able to flip him for some draft picks this offseason, and recoup some of what they lost in the trade for the #2 pick a few years ago. Maybe he really does think this is necessary to keep Griffin healthy and make sure he is able to work on his craft this offseason. I don't really like the message it sends though, that Griffin is above the team. We can't let Griffin play because he might get hurt but the rest of you guys, well screw you. People had Shanny as good as fired on Monday but now I am not so sure. I really think that Snyder might keep him for his last year since he knows he is going to have to pay Shanny the 7 million dollars anyway. But as what has unfortunately become usual over the past 20 years, the Skins are making headlines off the field, and not for anything they are doing on the field.

Prediction: Atlanta 35, Washington 30

Chicago (7-6) at Cleveland (4-9), Cleveland favored by 1 1/2

It was announced yesterday that Jay Cutler is healthy and will start on Sunday. Some Bears fans and even former Bear Brian Urlacher were clamoring for Josh McCown to remain the stater. McCown has definitely played well in Cutler's place, but I can't say I disagree with Marc Trestman in going back to Cutler. Now if Cutler looks off in this game, I wouldn't hesitate to turn to McCown. One of the biggest reasons for McCown's success has been the emergence of Alshon Jeffery as one of the new premiere receivers in the game. The Bears identity has completely shifted this year from a defensive led team to a team that wins games only because of their offense. Jason Campbell is another quarterback that has had a resurgent years and if the Browns weren't the Browns they wouldn't have found a way to blow last week's game at New England. They also have a premiere receiver, Josh Gordon, who has gone absolutely insane the last three weeks. This should be a fun, high scoring game, but the Bears are the more desperate team, so I like them to win.

Prediction: Chicago 33, Cleveland 27

Houston (2-11) at Indianapolis (8-5), Indianapolis favored by 6

People have crapped on the NFC East this season but a division that is a bigger joke is the AFC South. The Colts were bludgeoned by Cincinnati last weekend but with the Titans loss, they have already clinched the AFC South despite being just 8-5. The Texans fired Gary Kubiak last week after losing again to Jacksonville, and dropping their 11th straight game. The Texans job should be a desirable one, as they are a team that has a lot of talent, and could make a Kansas City like turnaround with the right coach next season.

Prediction: Indianapolis 29, Houston 21

Seattle (11-2) at New York Giants (5-8), Seattle favored by 7

The Giants loss last week to the Chargers eliminated them from playoff contention, meaning they have now missed the playoffs four times in five seasons. Coach Tom Coughlin is bullet proof because of his two Super Bowl titles, but even those years the Giants were never that good in the regular season. The Seahawks were handed a much needed loss last week but it wasn't enough to humble that idiot Richard Sherman. Like a true loser Sherman blamed the refs and every other dumb thing he could think of for why Seattle lost. I will be rooting like mad for a team to take down Seattle in Seattle during the playoffs and shut up Sherman and the stupid 12th man.

Prediction: Seattle 34, New York Giants 20

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

Just like Tampa Bay, the Jags have won four of five games since starting the season 0-8. The Bills are trending the opposite way, so to me, the easy money is on Jacksonville.

Prediction: Jacksonville 24, Buffalo 17

Kansas City (10-3) at Oakland (4-9), Kansas City favored by 4

Another lost season for the Raiders, as they will miss the playoffs for an 11th straight season, a mark only eclipsed by the Bills who will be missing the playoffs for a 14th straight season. The Raiders have been in games this season but don't know how to close out victories. The Chiefs do know how to close out games, and ended a three game losing streak in dominating fashion last weekend at Washington. Their offense has really come around the last month, and if the offense can stay at this level, then maybe the Chiefs can make an impact and win their first playoff game in 19 years this year.

Prediction: Kansas City 30, Oakland 17

New York Jets (6-7) at Carolina (9-4), Carolina favored by 11

Carolina was humbled at New Orleans last week, and showed that they still have some work to do to be a Super Bowl contender. They should gain their confidence back pretty quickly this week hosting the New York Jets. The Jets are absolutely awful on the road. They are 1-5 away from home this season and in their 5 losses have been outscored 175-55. Geno Smith is especially dreadful on the road and going up against the Carolina defense I would be shocked if he and the Jets have less than three turnovers.

Prediction: Carolina 27, New York Jets 9

Green Bay (6-6-1) at Dallas (7-6), No Line

No line for this game due to the questionable status of Aaron Rodgers, although reports seem to indicate that once again Matt Flynn will start. These teams are both in tight divisional battles and winning their divisions is the only way either team is likely to be able to make the playoffs. That means that stakes will be high in this game, as neither can afford a loss. The Cowboys defense was embarrassed on national television Monday night, as the Bears scored on every single possession against them. That has to give the Green Bay offense some confidence that even with Flynn in, they should be able to move the ball against Dallas. However, Tony Romo continues to have an excellent season and I expect him and the Cowboys offense, including DeMarco Murray to make a lot of plays against the suspect Packers defense. This should bring back some memories of these teams battle in the 90s as the game will come down to the final possession.

Prediction: Dallas 28, Green Bay 24

Arizona (8-5) at Tennessee (5-8), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

The Titans are playing for pretty much playing for pride at this point while the Cardinals are still very much alive in the playoff race. With both Carolina and San Francisco a game ahead of them, Arizona has to keep winning to keep their hopes alive. Winning on the road has been tough at times for this group and I think Sunday's game at Tennessee will present a hiccup. The Titans offense has actually looked pretty good since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over and they are desperate to end a four game home losing streak. The Cardinals suffered a pretty big loss on the defensive side of the ball with last week's season ending injury to Tyrann Mathieu. I think that could leave the Cardinals vulnerable and will help the Titans earn an upset victory.

Prediction: Tennessee 31, Arizona 28

New Orleans (10-3) at St. Louis (5-8), New Orleans favored by 5 1/2

If this game were at the Superdome I would give the Rams no chance, but the Saints are a different team away from home. They will be happy to be indoors for this game but will be facing a Rams team that has been catching their stride as of late at home. What will likely be the Rams undoing in this game, besides having to try to stop the Saints offense, is their porous offensive line. Kellen Clemens has been getting battered the last few weeks and Rob Ryan's Saints defense leads the NFC in sacks with 43.

Prediction: New Orleans 23, St. Louis 20

Cincinnati (9-4) at Pittsburgh (5-8), Cincinnati favored by 3

Another dull Sunday night game for NBC as they gambled that the Steelers would still be in the playoff race and lost. Cincinnati is looking to edge closer to another division title and reach the playoffs for a third straight season. It would be the fifth time they have made the playoffs under Marvin Lewis but a playoff win has eluded Marvin and the Bengals. Cincy is still in the hunt for a first round bye so they will be plenty jacked for this game. Mike Tomlin will have his team ready and motivated but motivation can't always overcome a talent discrepancy, and the Bengals are much more talented than the Steelers. As long as Andy Dalton can play more like the Dalton we saw last week and less like the one we had been seeing, the Bengals will be fine.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Pittsburgh 20

Monday, December 16

Baltimore (7-6) at Detroit (7-6), Detroit favored by 6

The Ravens have won three in a row and managed to beat my predicted total of 6 wins with three games remaining in the season. However, with games at Detroit, home to New England and at Cincinnati remaining, I am picking the Ravens to at least finish 7-9. They should have lost at home to Minnesota last weekend, but were bailed out by the Vikings inability to ever hold on to a game in the final seconds. With the Ravens at just 1-5 on the road it seems like a sure bet to expect the Lions to cover in this game. Detroit's offense always looks much better on their fast track at Ford Field, and with the Lions running game starting to produce along with the passing game I expect a relatively comfortable victory for Detroit on Monday night.

Prediction: Detroit 31, Baltimore 19

Last Week Against the Spread: 12-4
Overall Against the Spread: 101-99-8

Last Week Straight Up: 14-2
Overall Straight Up: 141-66-1

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 14

Sunday, December 8

Miami (6-6) at Pittsburgh (5-7), Pittsburgh favored by 3

Every game left on their schedule is now a must win for Pittsburgh, while Miami is currently tied for the last playoff spot in the jumbled AFC playoff picture. Both teams are desperate so this game could have a playoff like atmosphere to it. I am sure Steelers fans will be ready to give Dolphin WR Mike Wallace a rude welcome upon his return to the Steel City. Wallace seems to be hitting his stride as a Dolphin these last two weeks, so maybe he has something in store for his former team. Neither team is exceptionally good at running the ball, so this game will likely come down to who has a better game between Ryan Tannehill and Ben Roethlisberger. Tannehill has shown definite improvement this season, but I don't feel comfortable picking him to win a shootout against Big Ben.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Miami 20

Minnesota (3-8-1) at Baltimore (6-6), Baltimore favored by 7

It appears that Matt Cassel will start this game for the Vikings, as Christian Ponder is still dealing with the effects of a concussion. It is hard to imagine that the Vikings won't be drafting a quarterback in April, and try to find some stability at the position. The Ravens have won back to back home games and currently hold the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. They will likely be underdogs in their final three games so it is imperative they win a game they should against Minnesota. The Ravens defense has steadily improved this season, as they have become more and more a cohesive unit. The Ravens offense still leaves plenty to desire, but the Vikings porous defense should provide ample opportunities for Ray Rice and Joe Flacco to make plays. Torrey Smith has a chance to have a real big game.

Prediction: Baltimore 28, Minnesota 23

Detroit (7-5) at Philadelphia (7-5), Philadelphia favored by 2 1/2

This game could end up having major playoff implications with these teams neck and neck in the standings. The Eagles actually have a home winning streak now and another streak going is Nick Foles has still not thrown an interception, while throwing 19 touchdowns on the season. The Eagles have won four straight but what has been worrisome the last two weeks is their inability to put teams away with some conviction. They have gotten comfortable leads over the Redskins and Cardinals the last two weeks and then each time let both teams back into the game. The offense seems to go on cruise control or something, as they appear to be an entirely different unit. What has not been worrisome is the play of the defense. Their stats aren't pretty, but the Eagles haven't allowed more than 21 points in a game since Denver hung 52 on them in September. They will have their work cut out for them trying to slow down the Lions offense. The Lions now have a fierce running game with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to go with Megatron and Matthew Stafford in the passing game. While the Lions rush defense is stout, their pass defense should be susceptible to big plays from DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. I think the Eagles newfound home success continues on Sunday, but I expect Foles to finally throw a pick.

Prediction: Philadelphia 35, Detroit 24

Kansas City (9-3) at Washington (3-9), Kansas City favored by 3 1/2

The Chiefs are reeling after a 9-0 start having dropped three straight, while the Redskins have lost four in a row. So I guess this is the something has to give game. What will likely give is the Redskins defense as Jamaal Charles runs all over them. Even Alex Smith has stepped up his production in these last few games as the Chiefs have been playing more catch up than they were in the beginning of the year. He should find open receivers against a Washington secondary that has been generous in allowing the big play. If Kyle Shanahan decides to stick with the run and not abandon it was he is so prone to doing then maybe Washington might have a chance against a wounded Kansas City defense. It would also help Robert Griffin III if his receivers can hold on to the ball this week and not suffer from massive cases of butterfingers like they did against the Giants. But no one in their right mind should be picking the Redskins right now, no matter how many games in a row the Chiefs have lost.

Prediction: Kansas City 30, Washington 21

Indianapolis (8-4) at Cincinnati (8-4), Cincinnati favored by 5 1/2

Despite their mostly dreadful play for the last month, Indianapolis can clinch the AFC South with a win at Cincinnati on Sunday. If the Bengals win, they will edge even closer to clinching the AFC North. They are getting healthy at the right time and could finally be ready to win a playoff game this season. The key matchup in this game will be the Colts Vontae Davis trying to cover A.J. Green. That means that Bengals QB Andy Dalton needs to avoid the mistakes that have plagued him his last four games. He may have to do that with Robert Mathis in his face most of they day since Mathis is having the best year of his career. The Colts avoided a slow start last week, but something still seems sort of off about them right now.

Prediction: Cincinnati 33, Indianapolis 24

Atlanta (3-9) at Green Bay (5-6-1), No Line

This game was bumped out of its original Sunday night slot since both of these teams have been colossal fails this year. Green Bay at least has somewhat better of an excuse since they have been without Aaron Rodgers since their slide. There is a chance Rodgers could return for this game and try to save Green Bay's season. I am going to pick this game going under the assumption that Rodgers will play and the Packers offense will more resemble what we have gotten used to seeing the last few years.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Atlanta 14

Cleveland (4-8) at New England (9-3), No Line

The Browns are so thin at quarterback now due to injuries to Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, that they may have to start Caleb Hanie in this game. Bears fans just threw up after reading that sentence. The Patriots have needed to make double digit comebacks the last two weeks, but should not face the same quandary at home on Sunday. One story to watch is how the Browns record setting receiver Josh Gordon fares in this game coming off his second straight over 200-yard receiving game.

Prediction: New England 42, Cleveland 20

Oakland (4-8) at New York Jets (5-7), New York Jets favored by 2 1/2

Geno Smith was yanked yet again but after Matt Simms failed to impress while replacing him, Smith remains the Jets starting quarterback. The Raiders are hurting at running back, to the point that they may have to put converted cornerback Taiwan Jones back at running back. The starting quarterback battle of Smith versus the Raiders Matt McGloin could be seen as an indictment of the level of quarterback play in the NFL. McGloin has been serviceable but hasn't been able to get Oakland's passing game jump started. With both teams quarterbacks not throwing the ball all that well, and with defenses that are good at stopping the run, it should be a challenging day for the offenses and a challenging game for people to watch.

Prediction: New York Jets 18, Oakland 15

Buffalo (4-8) at Tampa Bay (3-9), Tampa Bay favored by 2 1/2

Old ACC acquaintances meet up when E.J. Manuel of the Bills faces Mike Glennon of the Bucs. And that's about all I can find worth talking about in this game between losing teams.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 35, Buffalo 27

Tennessee (5-7) at Denver (10-2), Denver favored by 12

This game could possibly be a snow bowl which is always the best type of football to watch. However, the last time the Titans played in a snowstorm they were destroyed by the Patriots, 59-0. After two weeks of being held to paltry scores of 28 and 27, the Broncos offense is back to scoring over 30 again. Eric Decker also got going, hauling in four touchdowns in last week's win at Kansas City. Montee Ball also went over 100 yards last week, so the Broncos may be getting even deeper offensively which is scary to think about. Ryan Fitzpatrick was awful in Indianapolis last week and its tough to imagine him playing as well as he will need to in the cold to beat the Broncos.

Prediction: Denver 31, Tennessee 20

St. Louis (5-7) at Arizona (7-5), Arizona favored by 6 1/2

The Cardinals remain a team that shows up much better at home than on the road, as evidenced by their loss at Philadelphia last week. Carson Palmer was back to his turnover happy self, and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wanted to go the loser route and blame the refs for the loss. The Cardinals lost on the road to the Rams in Week 1, and though St. Louis is just 2-4 on the road this year, those two wins were blowouts at Indianapolis and at Houston. One encouraging outcome from last week's game for Arizona was that Rashard Mendenhall finally looked somewhat capable of running the ball. If he can get going on a more consistent basis that will increase Palmer's chances of not turning the ball over.

Prediction: Arizona 27, St. Louis 20

Seattle (11-1) at San Francisco (8-4), San Francisco favored by 3

I am actually shocked that the 49ers are favored in this game. They will likely be without two of their starting offensive lineman, Joe Staley and Mike Iupati and they have been embarrassed by Seattle the last two times these teams have met. People still try to knock Seattle about their road play but they are 5-1 on the road this season. They also have Marshawn Lynch who runs over the 49ers every time he plays them, no matter how well the Niners defense is playing. Also concerning for San Francisco is that Frank Gore has not run the ball well the last two weeks. During his struggles, Colin Kaepernick has played better, which is frustrating because I wish the run and passing game could both be strong at the same time for a change. Couple the Seahawks embarrassing the Niners along with how annoying Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman are and the Seahawks have quickly become one of my most hated teams. A loss to Seattle on Sunday would be even more embarrassing for the Niners than those previous blowout defeats because it would allow the Seahawks to clinch the NFC West on the Niners home field. Winning the division is a longshot for San Francisco now, but they can still win this game and show themselves to be capable of playing with the best the NFL has to offer. This is a crucial game for Kap and the team as a whole, and I am counting on them responding to that pressure and getting a big win.

Prediction: San Francisco 20, Seattle 16

New York Giants (5-7) at San Diego (5-7), San Diego favored by 3

Both teams are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs and the loser of this game will all but be eliminated from playoff contention. The Giants overcame at 14-0 hole at Washington last week to save their season. I am not positive but I think this will be Eli Manning's first time playing San Diego at Qualcomm since he made it clear in 2004 he wouldn't play for the Chargers if selected by them. I wouldn't be surprised if that ramps up the Chargers crowd a little more than normal for this game. Philip Rivers has somewhat come back to Earth the last month after his otherworldly start, but I think he could be in line for a big game on Sunday.

Prediction: San Diego 28, New York Giants 22

Carolina (9-3) at New Orleans (9-3), New Orleans favored by 3 1/2

Control of the NFC South is on the line in the Superdome on Sunday night. The Panthers are the hottest team in football, having won eight straight games. The winner of this game not only takes control of the South but will also clinch a playoff berth. The Panthers defense is rightfully receiving high praise as of late, and what most people are interested to see in this game is that defense can slow down the Saints on the fast track of the Superdome. The Saints are unbeaten at home and Drew Brees has been nearly unstoppable. I think the Panthers defense will somewhat slow Brees, but I also think that the Saints defense also feeds off their home crowd. I expect them to get a lot of pressure on Cam Newton and force some mistakes out of Newton and the Panthers offense.

Prediction: New Orleans 27, Carolina 21

Monday, December 9

Dallas (7-5) at Chicago (6-6), Dallas favored by 1 1/2

The Sam Hurd bowl! Unfortunately, it won't be the Jay Cutler vs. Tony Romo bowl as Cutler is once again out with an injury. He seems to miss an awful lot of crucial games for the Bears and it will be interesting to see how much money and years Chicago is willing to invest in him in the off-season. Romo has been fantastic this season, throwing 24 TDs and even more impressively, just 7 picks. However, December has not been kind to Romo and the Cowboys in the past and their last three games after this are challenging enough to make another December collapse seem possible. Both teams struggle defensively but survive by creating turnovers. So hopefully we see a high scoring, turnover filled, action packed game that ends with the Bears winning.

Prediction: Chicago 31, Dallas 26

Last Week Against the Spread: 5-11
Overall Against the Spread: 89-95-8

Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 127-64-1

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cram Session - Week 15

Thursday, December 5

Houston (2-10) at Jacksonville (3-9), Houston favored by 3

The NFL Network can't even try to pretend like this is a game anyone will want to watch. I won't be going out of my way to watch it, but I am realistic and I know that since it is NFL football, if I am home, I will check in on it. The never ending positive vibes of Jags coach Gus Bradley are starting to pay off with victories. Jacksonville has won three of four games, and the players are showing how much they enjoy playing for Bradley. The Texans are desperate to end a 10-game losing streak and maybe even score a touchdown this time against Jacksonville. I have come to grips with the fact that the Texans are my most embarrassing Super Bowl pick ever, but can't believe they are going to win their first two games and then lose their final fourteen. Jacksonville has yet to win a home game this season, so that is why I will predict that the Texans will finally break their losing streak.

Prediction: Houston 21, Jacksonville 17

Top 10

ACC Championship: #20 Duke (10-2, 6-2) vs. #1 Florida State (12-0, 8-0) in Charlotte, North Carolina

Cheering for Duke typically feels dirty, but I expect that most of America will be rooting for the heavy underdog Blue Devils in Saturday's ACC Championship game. I honestly never thought I would write about Duke in this column. Maybe as some other Top 10 team's opponent, make a Duke sucks at football joke, and that would be it. But now, the Blue Devils are a win away from a BCS bowl. The odds are definitely against them, facing a Seminoles team that is a victory away from playing for a national title. Florida State hasn't won a game this season by less than double digits. The closest any team has come to beating them this season was Boston College, and they lost 48-34.

The Blue Devils best player is easily WR Jamison Crowder. Crowder comes into this game with 88 catches, 1,131 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. Four of his touchdowns came in Duke's last two games, including 2 in their Coastal Division clinching win at North Carolina. For Duke to have a shot, Crowder will have to make his presence felt early and often. Duke usually splits time at quarterback between Bradon Connette and Anthony Boone. Boone takes most of the snaps, and has been liable to force some throws. However, Boone hasn't thrown a pick in his past 3 games, after throwing 7 in his previous two. Duke splits the running back duties between Jela Duncan and Josh Snead. Combined they went over 1,000 yards but going up against Florida State's stout defense I don't expect Duke to be able to run the ball very well.

Florida State QB Jameis Winston is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be charged with sexual assault. Despite that, he and his teammates have played flawlessly, which is quite amazing. Winston's favorite targets on the team are Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw. A new weapon has emerged out of his receiving corps, Kelvin Benjamin, who just had a monster game in the Seminoles win over Florida. Add to those weapons the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams and it is easy to see why the Seminoles are second in the nation with 54 points per game.

I think Duke might be able to keep this game close for the first quarter, but beyond that, I don't see how they can compete with Florida State. The Seminoles are on a whole other level talent wise and as long as they have Winston running team, I don't think anyone in the country can beat them. The Seminoles will be back in the national title game for the first time over a decade.

Prediction: Florida State 41, Duke 14

Big Ten Championship: #2 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) vs. #10 Michigan State (11-1, 8-0) in Indianapolis, Indiana

This will be a good old fashioned offense versus defense battle. Ohio State has a high powered offense, and plays little defense. Michigan State has one of the best defenses in the nation and plays offense because they have to. We will really find out in this game if the old adage of defense wins championships is true or not. The Michigan State defensive game plan will center around containing Braxton Miller. No one has really stopped Miller this season but if a defense is capable of doing it, then the Spartans would be the ones. Miller is more concerning to defenses as a runner than a passer. That isn't because he can't pass, it is because if given any daylight Miller can turn anything into a touchdown run. Buckeyes RB Carlos Hyde also has to be dealt with. Despite being suspended for the first three games of the season, Hyde still has 14 rushing touchdowns and 1,290 yards rushing. He is coming off his best performance of the season, gouging the Wolverines for 226 yards on the ground.

Spartans QB Connor Cook isn't flashy like his counterpart Miller, but he is dependable. Cook has thrown just 4 interceptions on the season, and stabilized the Spartans offense. That stabilization is what has allowed their defense to shine even greater. Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans have a big time running back, Jeremy Langford, who led the team with 16 rushing touchdowns and has a rushing touchdown in his last 5 games. The Spartans will look to get Langford touches often, as he averages over 20 carries per game. Against a leaky Ohio State defense, Langford should clear the 100 yard mark relatively easily.

While the Spartans defense is spectacular, I don't think they have faced an offense the caliber of Ohio State's, or a quarterback nearly as talented as Miller. The Spartans defense will keep them in the game, and the offense of the Spartans will make plays, but ultimately, the talent advantage of the Buckeyes will win out and propel Ohio State to the national title game.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 27

SEC Championship: #5 Missouri (11-1, 7-1) vs. #3 Auburn (11-1, 7-1) in Atlanta, Georgia

Raise your hand if you had this as your SEC Championship matchup back in August? Both of these schools have recovered from dismal seasons last year, and if things bounce their way in other games, might be playing for the national title with a win in this game. Of course, unless you were out of the planet the last week, you have seen or heard about Auburn's miraculous win over Alabama last Saturday. Sadly, I was stuck in traffic and didn't get to see the play live, but I did hear it on the radio and it was still pretty incredible. That play has been all anyone has wanted to talk about, and I think the Tigers may suffer from a case of premature celebration. The Iron Bowl is such a huge game and then to win it in the fashion they did, a let down seems unavoidable for this game. Obviously, I am not saying Auburn doesn't have plenty of motivation for this game, but I just imagine it will be hard to turn their focus right around on Missouri.

Missouri has a balanced offensive attack, while Auburn's offense is more predicated on running the ball. Missouri QB James Franklin can be a threat running the ball, but he is at his best in the pocket finding his receivers such as Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington. Henry Josey is Missouri's leading rusher, and is spelled by Russell Hansbrough. Both backs average over 6 yards per carry and their success is a large reason that freshman Maty Mauk was able to come in for an injured Franklin and play so well. They take a lot of pressure off of the passing game.

As mentioned above Auburn is all about running and it starts at the quarterback position with Nick Marshall. Marshall has had many games where he has run the ball more than he has passed it. Auburn's leading rusher is Tre Mason, who has 237 carries on the season and is coming off shredding Alabama's vaunted defense to the tune of 164 yards rushing.

Even with all of the offensive talent, I still expect the defenses to lead the way in this game. I think Marshall will find it hard to run on the speedy Missouri defensive front and linebackers, and I expect the Auburn corners to make life difficult for Franklin, Green-Beckham and Washington. I can't shake the feeling that Auburn will start slow in this game, due to the hangover effect of the Bama game. I think Missouri will jump out to a lead and then hold off Auburn late.

Prediction: Missouri 23, Auburn 20

#17 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) at #6 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1)

The Big 12 no longer has an official championship game but to the Cowboys this is their championship game. If they knock off the rival Sooners, then Oklahoma State will win the Big 12 and be headed to a BCS bowl. Some Sooners players seemed to scoff at the notion that they are underdogs in this game, but based on their performance at Baylor it seems like they need a reality check. The passing game has been a struggle for OU all season but they have turned the reigns over to Trevor Knight at quarterback. They are going to have to score a lot on offense to keep up with the Cowboys high octane attack. Oklahoma State averaged more than 10 points per game than the Sooners did, and Oklahoma hasn't shown an ability to play stout enough defense against good offenses, especially on the road. The tide seems to be turning in this rivalry, and I expect the Cowboys to put an exclamation mark on that Saturday.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Oklahoma 31

Pac-12 Championship: #7 Stanford (10-2, 7-2) at #11 Arizona State (10-2, 8-1)

The Pac-12 will be decided in Phoenix, in a rematch from way back in September. Back then, these teams met at Stanford and the Cardinal dominated that game before a late rally from the Sun Devils made it respectable. Arizona State is unbeaten at home this year, while Stanford has dropped two road games, so the Sun Devils are seen as some as the favorites in this matchup. A win would put Arizona State in their first Rose Bowl since Jake Plummer led them there in 1997.

These teams have very different philosophies when it comes to offense while defensively Stanford probably has the edge, but the Sun Devils have some talent on that side of the ball as well. Stanford loves to run the ball and pound it down the opponents throat. When they are at their best, like when they played Oregon, then Stanford becomes unbeatable. If quarterback Kevin Hogan has to do take on a major load of the offense, that is when Stanford has gotten into trouble. The Sun Devils love to pass the ball, and quarterback Taylor Kelly had just 2 games this season without a passing touchdown. Sun Devils WR Jaelen Strong had a monster game against Stanford in the first matchup and he might be the difference in this game.

Arizona State will definitely stack the box and dare Stanford to try to beat them with the pass. Cardinal RB Tyler Gaffney hasn't been slowed much this year, but Arizona State did keep him under 100 yards in their first meeting. These teams are very evenly matched and this is the type of game where homefield will make a huge difference. The Sun Devils have been dominant at home against Pac-12 opponents this season, and that will serve them well in the championship. They won't dominate Stanford, but they will knock them off.

Prediction: Arizona State 34, Stanford 27

#25 Texas (8-3, 7-1) at #9 Baylor (10-1, 7-1)

Since this game begins after the Sooners/Cowboys game these teams will know whether or not their game is the de facto Big 12 championship. If Oklahoma can pull off the upset then the winner of this game will win the Big 12. Record wise there isn't a ton of difference between the Longhorns and the Bears, but if you dig into the stats a bit, this seems like it could be a pretty sizable mismatch. Injuries have started to catch up to Baylor the last few weeks, as they just barely beat a bad TCU team last weekend and have seen their offensive production dip the past few weeks. But if you needed a tonic to bad offense, the Texas defense has typically been the solution. The Longhorns need good Case McCoy to show up to have any chance in this game. Throw in the fact that Bears quarterback Bryce Petty is far superior to Case and Baylor will be on their homefield in a big game and I expect this to turn into a laugher.

Prediction: Baylor 48, Texas 27

Last Week: 6-2
Overall: 110-22

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 13

Thursday, November 28

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

Prediction: Detroit 28, Green Bay 22

Oakland (4-7) at Dallas (6-5), Dallas favored by 9 1/2

Prediction: Dallas 31, Oakland 23

Pittsburgh (5-6) at Baltimore (5-6), Baltimore favored by 3

Prediction: Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 12

Sunday, December 1

Miami (5-6) at New York Jets (5-6), New York Jets favored by 1

Prediction: New York Jets 24, Miami 20

Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1), Chicago favored by 1

Prediction: Chicago 32, Minnesota 27

Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5), Philadelphia favored by 3

Prediction: Arizona 24, Philadelphia 17

Jacksonville (2-9) at Cleveland (4-7), Cleveland favored by 6 1/2

Prediction: Jacksonville 18, Cleveland 14

Tennessee (5-6) at Indianapolis (7-4), Indianapolis favored by 4

Prediction: Indianapolis 29, Tennessee 26

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

Prediction: Carolina 26, Tampa Bay 20

New England (8-3) at Houston (2-9), New England favored by 8 1/2

Prediction: New England 35, Houston 17

St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4), San Francisco favored by 9 1/2

Prediction: San Francisco 24, St. Louis 21

Atlanta (2-9) at Buffalo (4-7), Buffalo favored by 3 1/2

Prediction: Buffalo 28, Atlanta 21

Denver (9-2) at Kansas City (9-2), Denver favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Denver 34, Kansas City 24

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

Prediction: Cincinnati 25, San Diego 23

New York Giants (4-7) at Washington (3-8), New York Giants favored by 1 1/2

Prediction: Washington 24, New York Giants 21

Monday, December 2

New Orleans (9-2) at Seattle (10-1), Seattle favored by 6

Prediction: Seattle 26, New Orleans 21

Last Week Against the Spread: 4-9-1
Overall Against the Spread: 84-84-8

Last Week Straight Up: 5-8-1
Overall Straight Up: 116-59-1

Cram Session - Week 14

Games That Matter To Me

Friday, November 29

Iowa (7-4, 4-3) at Nebraska (8-3, 5-2)

Prediction: Nebraska 24, Iowa 21

Saturday, November 30

#25 Notre Dame (8-3) at #8 Stanford (9-2)

Prediction: Stanford 34, Notre Dame 21

Top 10

#1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0) at #4 Auburn (10-1, 6-1)

Prediction: Alabama 27, Auburn 21

#2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7)

Prediction: Florida State 42, Florida 17

#3 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0) at Michigan (7-4, 3-4)

Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 24

#21 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) at #5 Missouri (10-1, 6-1)

Prediction: Missouri 28, Texas A&M 26

#6 Clemson (10-1) at #10 South Carolina (9-2)

Prediction: South Carolina 30, Clemson 25

#9 Baylor (9-1, 6-1) at TCU (4-7, 2-6)

Prediction: Baylor 41, TCU 20

Last Week: 7-3
Overall: 104-20

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 12

Sunday, November 24

Carolina (7-3) at Miami (5-5), Carolina favored by 4

Despite losing 5 of their past 7 games, the Dolphins are tied with the Jets for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The next month of games will make or break Miami's season, starting with Sunday's game versus Panthers and followed up with games against the Jets, Steelers and Patriots. Last weekend's win over the Chargers was a gritty one, especially with three backups starting on the offensive line. Week after week Ryan Tannehill is getting killed back there, but to his credit he has hung tough and made plays when needed. The Panthers are the hottest team in the NFL, having won six straight games. Redskins fans that want to quit on RG3 should pay attention to Cam Newton and how he has recovered from his struggles in his second year. The Panthers have a championship level defense, so if the offense can raise their game just a bit more, then Carolina will be true Super Bowl contenders. Like most Panthers games I expect this week's game at Miami to be a struggle but for Carolina to be their new selves, and finding a way to win a close one.

Prediction: Carolina 24, Miami 21

Minnesota (2-8) at Green Bay (5-5), Green Bay favored by 5

Aaron Rodgers can't come back soon enough for the Packers. Green Bay has to hope he can return by Thanksgiving against Detroit or there may not be a reason for him to play again this season with how the Pack have been losing. If Scott Tolzein is going to win a game as a starter, playing the hapless Vikings at home will be his best chance. Minnesota is winless on the road this season and Lambeau Field is typically a house of horrors for them. This game will remain close because Tolzein will make mistakes that will keep Minnesota competitive, but I expect Eddie Lacy to go over 100 yards and literally carry the Packers to a win.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Minnesota 17

Pittsburgh (4-6) at Cleveland (4-6), Cleveland favored by 1 1/2

Pittsburgh has won four of their past six games to climb right back into playoff contention in the weak AFC. The Browns also are still fighting for that last playoff spot, so this is a pretty major game between two rivals. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing game have been on fire the past few weeks, as Antonio Brown is stepping into the number one role he was expected to take after the departure of Mike Wallace. The Browns rely on their defense to win them games, so when Jason Campbell throws three picks like he did last week and their special teams sucks, they get trucked, like they did by Cincinnati. The Browns have been pretty good at home, winning three of their past four games there while the Steelers have been terrible on the road. Sometimes making picks is just that simple, go with the trends.

Prediction: Cleveland 26, Pittsburgh 21

Tampa Bay (2-8) at Detroit (6-4), Detroit favored by 9

The Buccaneers are suddenly a juggernaut, having won two straight! Maybe that means they will win their first road game of the season. Bobby Rainey emerged into America's consciousness last week with a fantastic, dominating performance against the sorry Falcons. He will have his work cut out for him this week though, as the Lions rank 5th in the league against the run. The Lions pass defense on the other hand is awful and was repeatedly victimized in Detroit's loss to Pittsburgh last week. Bucs QB Mike Glennon is starting to earn accolades for his play, having thrown 11 TDs and just 4 INTs in his rookie season. However, I don't believe the Bucs defense will be up to the task of stopping Matthew Stafford in Detroit. The Lions offense goes to a whole other level at home. Most fun matchup to watch in this game, Calvin Johnson versus Darrelle Revis.

Prediction: Detroit 35, Tampa Bay 23

San Diego (4-6) at Kansas City (9-1), Kansas City favored by 5

The Broncos/Chiefs game pretty much played out as I expected. The Chiefs were shown to be good, but not truly an upper echelon team, because they don't have a quarterback in Alex Smith that can carry them above a certain level. When their defense isn't working and not being able to get to Peyton Manning once during the game qualifies as not working, the Chiefs will not win. Returning home to play San Diego and Philip Rivers, I expect the Chiefs defense to get plenty of pressure on Rivers. The Chargers offense has stalled out during their three game losing streak and while Rivers hasn't played poorly, he isn't playing at the high level he was to start the season. Also, the Chargers defense has struggled during their losing streak. If Smith can't take advantage of the Chargers defense, there isn't a defense out there he can take advantage of.

Prediction: Kansas City 27, San Diego 16

Chicago (6-4) at St. Louis (4-6), St. Louis favored by 1

Backup quarterbacks do battle in St. Louis. The Bears Josh McCown seems to finally be the backup the Bears have been searching for all these years. Unlike in past season's when Jay Cutler has gone down and the Bears season went down with him, McCown is keeping the Bears winning. The Rams are coming off their bye week, following a shocking road trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts. The game served as first round pick, WR Tavon Austin's coming out party. Austin had been a disappointment up until that game, but maybe now the Rams can finally feature him in their offense. Zac Stacy has also given them a running game, something they didn't have for the majority of the season. Strangely, the Rams most impressive wins have come on the road, so they might be better off if this game were at Soldier Field. The Rams defense allows 118 yards rushing per game, so Matt Forte should have a big game for Da Bears.

Prediction: Chicago 28, St. Louis 24

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

Geno Smith is laughably bad when playing on the road. For the season Smith has thrown 8 TDs and 16 INTs, and is turning the ball over at even more absurd rate than Mark Sanchez was. Matt Simms has looked smooth and confident when replacing Smith in games, so if Smith struggles in Baltimore we could see Simms sooner than when the game is out of hand. It has been a tough season for the defending Super Bowl champions but they still remain a strong team at home. They also received a ray of hope (get it!?!?) last week as Ray Rice finally ran the ball well. Including this game Baltimore plays their next three at home and each is a winnable game. The Ravens season will be made or broken over these next three weeks.

Prediction: Baltimore 31, New York Jets 14

Jacksonville (1-9) at Houston (2-8), Houston favored by 10

Vegas thinks so little of Jacksonville that they are making the Texans, losers of eight straight game, double digit favorites. I do agree that Houston won't lose fourteen straight to close the season, so it stands to reason this will finally be the game they pick up a win. I have no idea what Gary Kubiak was doing, yanking Case Keenum last week against the Raiders, inserting Matt Schaub, but then once again saying Keenum is his starter. Case has played well, you're playing out the string at this point, let the kid get some valuable experience. The Jags did finally score some touchdowns at home, so things have been looking up for them!

Prediction: Houston 28, Jacksonville 21

Tennessee (4-6) at Oakland (4-6), Oakland favored by 1

Last week against the Colts, Ryan Fitzpatrick looked determined to best Alex Smith in the game of human check down. The biggest beneficiary of that was former 49er Delanie Walker. With how awful the 49ers pass offense has been this season, I wish they would have found the money to keep Walker. The Raiders kept their season very much alive by winning in Houston last weekend. Even more surprising was that Matt McGloin played excellent in his first career start. McGloin was a terrible college quarterback until Bill O'Brien showed up his senior year. His college career was similar to Carson Palmer, as many people forget that Palmer was mostly useless in college until his senior year. McGloin versus Fitzpatrick is the least sexy quarterback matchup in a long time, but I'm going with the ginger.

Prediction: Oakland 25, Tennessee 23

Indianapolis (7-3) at Arizona (6-4), Arizona favored by 2

Bruce Arians faces the team he led to the playoffs last season. It is a good road team versus a good home team. The Cardinals have quietly snuck their way right into the wild card race and are nipping at the 49ers heels in the NFC West. Carson Palmer has been better during the team's three game winning streak, throwing 6 TDs and 2 INTs. Donald Brown is clearly the better back over Trent Richardson and it seems like the Colts are finally starting to feed him the ball more. Brown will have his work cut out for him, as the Cardinals rank second in the league against the run. Richardson would have his work cut out for him trying to run on me, so expect him to have no problem falling to the ground immediately against Arizona. Andrew Luck continues to play well despite not having Reggie Wayne and Darrius Heyward-Bey not being able to catch anything thrown his way. I think this will end up being one of the best games this weekend, with a late Jay Feely field goal being the difference.

Prediction: Arizona 27, Indianapolis 24

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

In typical Giants fashion, just when New York looked dead they have won four straight and are just a game and a half out of first in the NFC East. If they win this week, they will move into a tie for second and just a game back of the Eagles. The biggest reason for the Giants winning streak hasn't been Eli Manning but the Giants defense. The Giants have given up just 47 points in their last four games and guys like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck are playing like their old selves. The offense has been helped by the return of Andre Brown at the running back position, allowing Brandon Jacobs to slide back into a backup role. When we last saw the Cowboys they were being embarrassed on national television by the Saints. They will be without star LB Sean Lee in this game, but expect DeMarcus Ware to play. The Cowboys offense couldn't get anything going against the Saints and Tony Romo and the passing game have been off in their last couple of games. Maybe Miles Austin returning to action will help, but he seems to be a shell of his former self. The Cowboys will probably struggle running the ball as usual, putting too much pressure on Romo to make everything happen.

Prediction: New York Giants 26, Dallas 19

Denver (9-1) at New England (7-3), Denver favored by 2 1/2

Manning vs. Brady XIV is how this game has been billed. If you look past the battle of two of the best quarterbacks in history, it will also be a game between two really good teams. The question is, how much can the Patriots defense slow down Manning? The Broncos could be without both Wes Welker and Julius Thomas in this game, but even if they were, they still would have Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas as major weapons. The Broncos do play into the Patriots strengths on defense. The Patriots are a good cover team that struggles to stop the run. Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno has had a resurgent season, but the Broncos still rank just 20th in the league in rushing. They are a team that likes to throw and throw often. Both Brady and Manning are stationery quarterbacks that have thrived all of these years because of their abilities to get the ball out quickly and having excellent offensive lines. The Broncos secondary is not very good, so Brady could be in line for his second best game of the season, like the game he had against Pittsburgh a few weeks back. He has all of his weapons back and will be facing a vulnerable defense. I expect this game to be a shootout and will come down to who has the ball last. With two quarterbacks at this level and two good teams, not a ton separates them, but to me the Broncos have the slight edge over the Patriots.

Prediction: Denver 35, New England 31

Monday, November 25

San Francisco (6-4) at Washington (3-7), San Francisco favored by 5

Both of these teams are reeling and desperate for a win. For the 49ers the desperation is a little more as they still have very real playoff hopes. Any chances of winning the NFC West have probably gone by the wayside, so it is about getting that 5 or 6 seed, not that it makes that huge a difference. For Washington, they just want a win to clear out the buzzards that are swirling around their dead season. Predictably, the media has begun turning on their poster boy from last season, Robert Griffin III. There is nothing the media relishes more than propping someone up, tearing them down, and then propping them back up again. What has been disappointing but shouldn't have surprised me is the number of Redskins fans already turning on RG3. Skins fans are so reactionary and in the moment. Last year Griffin was the best quarterback the franchise had ever seen. Now this season, coming off a major surgery, and having no true off-season work, he has struggled and people are quitting on him. I'll be rooting for Robert to have a great career like I think he will have and make his doubters look silly. I won't be rooting for him this week though, especially since I will be there live for this one. The cure for what ails the 49ers offense may simply be playing the Redskins historically bad defense. Colin Kaepernick is experiencing similar struggles to Griffin. The 49ers fanbase hasn't turned on Kap, but it has been disconcerting how much he has struggled this season. However, I think I underestimated how much Kap would miss Michael Crabtree. Thank goodness they traded for Anquan Boldin, because without him it would just be Vernon Davis and no one else for Kap to throw to. The Skins leaky secondary should open up plenty of things for Davis and Boldin and hopefully Kap can have his first real big game since the opener. The Redskins offense has been hit or miss most games, not usually able to put together a strong game. They will play well in spurts, mostly this relates to the passing game because Alfred Morris has been very good running the ball this season. Much like Kap, Griffin hasn't had a number two receiver step up. Leonard Hankerson showed flashes but not enough consistency and he is now out for the season. Josh Morgan will have a chance to step up now against his former team, and maybe they will even get Fred Davis out of mothballs. The 49ers are a better team than the Redskins, especially defensively and that should be the way to victory.

Prediction: San Francisco 30, Washington 20

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-6-3
Overall Against the Spread: 80-75-7

Last Week Straight Up: 11-4

Overall Straight Up: 111-51

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cram Session - Week 13

Thursday, November 21

New Orleans (8-2) at Atlanta (2-8)

It is almost mind boggling how terrible the Atlanta Falcons are this season. They definitely had their share of injuries but so did many other teams in the NFL. If people didn't realize just how important Julio Jones is to this team, then check out Matt Ryan's stats since Jones has gone down. Harry Douglas has played pretty well in his increased role, but without Jones and Roddy White during a stretch, Ryan has looked really bad. The Saints are coming off a fraduy win over the 49ers where the refs protected Drew Brees to the point of absurdity from an Ahmad Brooks hit. The Saints need to keep winning as they have the Panthers hot on their tails in the NFC South. Before the season the NFL Network probably thought this would be their game of the year, but instead this should be a cakewalk victory for the Saints. The Falcons are atrocious on defense and let Mike Glennon go wild on them. Good luck trying to stop Brees.

Prediction: New Orleans 34, Atlanta 21

Games That Matter To Me

BYU (7-3) at Notre Dame (7-3)

After a week off following a horribly disappointing loss at Pitt, the Irish look to close out their home schedule in style against a tough BYU team. Basically, I can write 4 paragraphs about this game, but whether the Irish win or loss depends on which Tommy Rees will show up. Bad, very bad Tommy Rees was in Pittsburgh as he threw terrible interceptions and cost Notre Dame the game. Brian Kelly also has to take some blame, as he can't seem to settle on a running back. Freshman Tarean Folston seemed to have a breakout game against Navy, but then Kelly got him just 4 carries against Pitt. I understand having a backfield by committee but we are almost done with the season. its long past time to settle on at least a main guy from your committee.

BYU sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill has a lot of boom and bust in him. He has 16 TDs this season but has also thrown 12 INTs, and is coming off throwing 3 picks against Idaho State last week. While he has improved in recent weeks he also sometimes badly struggles with his accuracy. Opportunities will be there for the Irish defense to make plays off of Hill's mistakes. Where Hill could give the Irish major trouble is his ability to run the ball. He is the Cougars leading rusher, and in some games this season has run more than he has passed. Another threat running the ball for BYU is Jamaal Williams. Williams has rushed for over 100 yards in 2 of his last 3 games and averaged an absurd 10 yards per carry last week. I don't expect him to go off to that level against Notre Dame but the Irish defensive line has struggled with injuries all season. Hill's favorite receiver is Cody Hoffman, who leads the Cougars in catches, yards and touchdowns. He doesn't make short catches either, averaging a robust 17 yards per reception.

Big game for Notre Dame with having to go to Stanford next week in what is almost certainly a loss. 8-4 sounds a whole lot better than 7-5. Blind faith in my team is the reason I am going with the Irish to get the win on Senior Day.

Prediction: Notre Dame 28, BYU 27

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

Nebraska is basically playing out the string at this point after last week's loss to Michigan State. Turnovers killed Nebraska, and has been an issue since Tommy Armstrong Jr. took over at quarterback. The Huskers defense isn't good enough to continuously bail out the offense when they shoot themselves in the foot. Ameer Abdullah has been spectacular and consistent all season, rushing for over 100 yards in every game but one, and in that game he missed it by 2 yards. I hope he doesn't get any thoughts of leaving early and will be back for his senior season next year. One player that needs to show up in Happy Valley is Quincy Enunwa, as he was held without a reception against the Spartans. Kenny Bell had a big game with Enunwa being shut out.

The Nittany Lions are similar to Nebraska in that they have a good offense and a mediocre to porous at times defense. They have to overall be pleased with the play of freshman quarterback Christian Hackenburg, who has 14 TDs and 9 INTs on the season. They also have a lethal, dual rushing attack in Bill Belton and touchdown machine Zach Zwinak. The player to watch is WR Allen Robinson. Robinson leads Penn State by a wide margin with 81 catches on the season, 1,204 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. Robinson has gone over 100 yards receiving in six of Penn State's 10 games this season.

I originally was going to pick Nebraska, but going on the road and trying to slow down the Nittany Lions offense seems like too tall a task. I think that Penn State's poor defense can keep Nebraska in the game, but Armstrong just makes too many mistakes right now.

Prediction: Penn State 30, Nebraska 27

Top 10

Chattanooga (8-3) at #1 Alabama (10-0)

Bama seemed to still be thinking about their win over LSU from two weeks and not the task at hand as they slept walk to victory at Mississippi State last week. They could literally be asleep for this game against Chattanooga and win, but coach Nick Saban will have his guys ready to play after a disappointing showing. Alabama just wants to stay healthy for next week's Iron Bowl, which will determine their season.

Prediction: Alabama 48, Chattanooga 3

Idaho (1-9) at #2 Florida State (10-0)

If Jameis Winston and the Seminoles were distracted by the sexual assault investigation involving him, they didn't show it winning by a score of 59-3 for the second straight week last weekend. The Seminoles look destined to play for the national championship with the easy remaining schedule they have left. I mean, they could end up playing freaking Duke for the ACC title.

Prediction: Florida State 66, Idaho 0

Indiana (4-6, 2-4) at #3 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)

Urban Meyer can bitch about the BCS all he wants, the truth of the matter is, the Buckeyes haven't been impressive against inferior opponents like Florida State has. However, they still are very much alive to have a chance to play for the national title with Alabama's remaining schedule being tough. There is no question about the effectiveness of the Buckeyes offense, but their defense hasn't appeared championship level at times this season. It won't matter against Indiana, but could matter against Michigan and Michigan State when they play the Spartans for the Big Ten championship.

Prediction: Ohio State 58, Indiana 21

#4 Baylor (9-0, 6-0) at #10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1)

Baylor was on the ropes last week against Texas Tech, falling behind 14-0, before coming back to completely destroy the Red Raiders, 63-34. Now, they face their toughest road test of the season, in Stillwater against the Cowboys, winners of six straight since a mystifying loss to West Virginia. Both teams have very good offenses, but they also have accomplished defenses. The depth that Baylor has is what might be most impressive about the Bears. While missing their two leading rushers last week, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, third string back Shock Linwood seamlessly moved in and rushed for 187 yards. The good news for the Bears is that Martin should play and Seastrunk is working hard to be able to suit up Saturday. One player that won't be returning is WR Tevin Reese, who they lost for the season a few weeks ago. That didn't seem to matter last week either since they still have leading receiver Antwan Goodley. Bears QB Bryce Petty hasn't thrown an interception in 5 weeks and has just one the entire season.

The Cowboys made a midseason switch at quarterback from sophomore J.W. Walsh to senior Clint Chelf. Chelf hasn't always been flashy, but his rushing ability has overcome any mental mistakes he might make. The Cowboys offense as a whole doesn't have the flash that the Baylor offense has, but they haven't needed it with how well their defense has played, especially the last two weeks. No defense has managed to slow down the Bears, except maybe Kansas State's, and that was also a road game for Baylor. I picked against Baylor two weeks ago when they played Choklahoma and was way off, but I am still going to pick against them again this week. I just can't envision Baylor going the entire season unbeaten, and this looks like the prime spot for them to lose. Facing a hot team, in prime time, on the road. If Baylor wins this game, I won't pick against them the rest of the season. I like the Cowboys defense to make enough plays and Chelf to do enough damage running that Okie State pulls off the upset.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 33, Baylor 30

#5 Oregon (9-1, 6-1) at Arizona (6-4, 3-4)

The Ducks caught a break as Stanford was upset by USC, opening the door for Oregon to play for the Pac-12 championship, if they can take care of business in their final two games. After being 6-2, Rich Rod's Wildcats could be looking at four straight losses to close out the season since they go to Arizona State next week. A loss to Oregon would be their third straight home loss as they have lost heartbreakers to UCLA and Washington State the last two weeks. Like most teams that have faced the Ducks, the Wildcats will find the Oregon offense too overwhelming a force to match.

Prediction: Oregon 52, Arizona 24

Citadel (5-6) at #7 Clemson (9-1)

Clemson has rebounded well from the devastating home loss to Florida State and could still be in line to play in a BCS bowl if they beat South Carolina next week. This week's game against Citadel should serve as a tuneup to work out some kinks and get everyone out healthy.

Prediction: Clemson 53, Citadel 17

#8 Missouri (9-1, 5-1) at #24 Mississippi (7-3, 3-3)

How many people had this one picked as a marquee game when looking over the schedule in August? If the Tigers can beat Ole Miss on the road this week and the Johnny Manziel's at home in the regular season finale, they will play for the SEC Championship. Pretty amazing that the Tigers are in this position for a few reasons. One is that they lost their best player, QB James Franklin for a few weeks and had to replace him with freshman Maty Mauk. Mauk filled in more than capably in Franklin's absence. He was the starter during the Tigers demoralizing defeat against South Carolina. I thought that might derail Missouri's season but the team has responded well the last two weeks, winning in blowouts. Franklin returns this week and it will be interesting to see if he shows signs of rust. Ole Miss saved their season when they upset LSU at home a month ago. That win ended a three game losing streak and the Rebels haven't lost since. QB Bo Wallace hasn't received a lot of attention but has been excellent for the Rebels this season.

Like Baylor, maybe it is because Missouri isn't a traditional power, but I think they are primed for an upset loss this weekend. They might almost be better sticking with Mauk at this point, as I think Franklin will struggle a bit in his first game in a month. This Missouri loss will open the door for the Gamecocks to make it to the SEC title game.

Prediction: Mississippi 31, Missouri 24

California (1-10, 0-8) at #9 Stanford (8-2, 6-2)

A disappointing loss to USC means the Cardinal will likely miss out on defending their Pac-12 championship. Cal has had an awful season, with only their passing game proving to be anything they hope to build off of next season. This is of course known as The Big Game, but only these two teams fanbases will care about this game on Saturday.

Prediction: Stanford 44, California 7

Last Week: 9-1
Overall: 97-17