Friday, September 13, 2013
The Hail Mary - Week 2
Miami (1-0) at Indianapolis (1-0), Indianapolis favored by 3
The Dolphins defense was tremendous against Cleveland last week, forcing multiple turnovers and sacking Brandon Weeden throughout the game. The challenge figures to increase this week against Andrew Luck and the Colts. That being said, the Colts only mustered 21 points against a poor Raiders defense. Luck only threw for 178 yards but he was very accurate, which is a good sign for Indy. Vick Ballard again ran the ball well but only received 13 carries, as the Colts continue to insist on relying on the pass, when Ballard has proven to be a capable runner. One negative for the Dolphins coming out of last week's win was Mike Wallace only having 1 catch for 15 yards. Hopefully, that was simply a case of him being shut down by Joe Haden. However, it doesn't get easier this week with former Dolphin Vontae Davis on him. I think Luck being better than Ryan Tannehill and homefield advantage will carry the Colts over Miami.
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Miami 19
Minnesota (0-1) at Chicago (1-0), Chicago favored by 6 1/2
Save for Adrian Peterson's opening run for a touchdown, last week was ugly for Minnesota. Christian Ponder looked terrible and is not becoming the consistent quarterback the Vikings were hoping he would be by now. It doesn't get any easier as the Vikings travel to Soldier Field this week. Soldier Field has always been a house of horrors for Minnesota. The Bears played a solid game against Cincinnati last week, with both the offense and defense complementing each other nicely. The Vikings defense will be helped by the likely return of DT Kevin Williams, but I don't think the offense will muster up enough to avoid Minnesota from falling to 0-2.
Prediction: Chicago 23, Minnesota 13
San Diego (0-1) at Philadelphia (1-0), Philadelphia favored by 7 1/2
For NFL fans that aren't college football fans, they finally got to experience the craziness that is Chip Kelly's offense. Even I had seen Oregon play and was still pretty amazed at how fast paced it was. The Washington Redskins didn't look like they knew what to do and the Eagles were able to jump out to a huge lead. The Chargers shocked everyone by jumping ahead of the Texans 28-7, but then in typical Chargers fashion they blew the lead and the game, losing 31-28. I believe it is going to take the NFL about a year to figure out Kelly's offense. That means that the Eagles should be able to score at will the majority of the time, and as long as they stay healthy, Michael Vick, LaSean McCoy, and DaSean Jackson should all have Pro Bowl type seasons. I think much like the Redskins, the Chargers aren't going to know what hit them.
Prediction: Philadelphia 38, San Diego 21
Washington (0-1) at Green Bay (0-1), Green Bay favored by 7
After all the months and months of hype, Robert Griffin III's return to the field was a huge bust. He looked slow and incredibly rusty and despite only losing by 6, the Skins were basically destroyed by the Eagles. Arm-chair quarterbacks were saying that this was proof that Griffin should have played in preseason to knock off the rust. I enjoy that all of the sudden we are going to act like preseason matters and would have made a huge difference. Griffin is coming back from a major injury and it is going to take time for him to feel comfortable and look like himself again. Plus, he's had everyone in his head for 6 months talking about how he has to change his style of play. It was obvious that was going through his mind Monday night, as he was much more indecisive than we ever saw him be last season. Another dud in the Eagles game was the play of Alfred Morris. Morris couldn't hold on to the ball, fumbling twice, and couldn't get anything going on the ground against Philly. I think he will struggle again on Sunday, trying to rush against the Packers front of BJ Raji and John Jolly. That means for the Skins to have a chance, Griffin will have to find his game early on, and the passing game will have to carry the team. It also means that the defense will have to try to prevent Aaron Rodgers from making too many big plays. Unfortunately, I expect none of these things to happen. The Packers receivers should have a field day against a porous Washington secondary. I think the offense will scuffle again this week, and the Skins will drop to 0-2.
Prediction: Green Bay 28, Washington 17
St. Louis (1-0) at Atlanta (0-1), Atlanta favored by 7
The Falcons offense sputtered against the Saints defense. Some are crediting Rob Ryan for improving the Saints defense already, I think it is more that Roddy White is not healthy. He is on the field, but last week he served mostly as a decoy. The Falcons will be tested by the Rams defense, although Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals had success throwing the ball. I'm still not sold on the St. Louis offense, as it appears TE Jared Cook is their most dangerous weapon. The Falcons had to be encouraged by the play of their defense against the Saints. I think they can dominate the St. Louis offense and give Atlanta their first victory.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, St. Louis 16
Carolina (0-1) at Buffalo (0-1), Carolina favored by 3
The Panthers young defense, led by LB Luke Kuechly stymied the Seahawks offense, but Cam Newton didn't play well and the Panthers fell to the Seattle Seahawks 12-7. The Panthers may try to feed DeAngelo Williams the ball more, as he ran for over 5 yards a carry last week, although he did fumble once. The Bills gave the Patriots all they could handle but lost at the final gun. EJ Manuel played pretty well, and is quickly earning fans in West Orchard. The Bills want their running game to wake up a bit, as C.J. Spiller did next to nothing against the Patriots. I think this game will be more of a defensive battle, with whatever offense that turns the ball over less, winding up the winning team.
Prediction: Buffalo 20, Carolina 17
Dallas (1-0) at Kansas City (1-0), Kansas City favored by 3
The Chiefs streamrolled Jacksonville, getting the Andy Reid/Alex Smith era off to a winning start. Smith won games like he always does, with pedestrian numbers. Smith is competent, but it is so obvious what a step below Colin Kaepernick he is. RB Jamaal Charles played well but was dinged up, which is a constant story with him. The Cowboys defeated the New York Giants, with the defense being the highlight forcing six turnovers. The media was quick to give new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin all the credit, but mostly it was ineptitude of the Giants. The Cowboys defense will get more credit after this because the Chiefs and Smith will play conservative and try to win with defense. I expect this game to come down to the final seconds, and Tony Romo to lead Dallas on a final drive, culminating in a Dan Bailey game winning field goal.
Prediction: Dallas 22, Kansas City 19
Cleveland (0-1) at Baltimore (0-1), Baltimore favored by 6 1/2
The Ravens played well in the first half against Denver and I was starting to think that maybe they would be a contender this season despite all the turnover. Then they were blitzkrieged in the second half and I felt even better about my 6-10 prediction for them. The problems I expected the Ravens to have were apparent. Flacco has hardly anyone to throw the ball to and make him look better than he is, and is now without Jacoby Jones for at least a month. The Ravens defense looked awful, as you can't replace half a defense and expect it to come together right away. The Browns looked decidedly like a team that isn't ready to improve. Any thoughts I had about Brandon Weeden turning a corner this year went away pretty fast after that Miami game. It is never a good thing when Jason Campbell might be the best quarterback on your team. The Ravens will win this game because they always beat the Browns in Baltimore, but they won't cover the line.
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 18
Tennessee (1-0) at Houston (1-0), Houston favored by 8 1/2
The Titans shut down the toothless Pittsburgh Steelers offense and everyone jumped on their "Gregg Williams is there see how much better they are" stories. Nevermind that Williams is simply a defensive assistant and not the coordinator, or that Williams is completely overrated as a coordinator to begin with. I'm still skeptical about the Titans defense, but will believe in them more if they can replicate last week's effort against the Texans. It will have to be the defense that does their work, as outside of Chris Johnson the offense remains mostly terrible. The Texans defensive play was very disappointing against the Chargers. Maybe being back in front of their fans will get them going, including J.J Watt. Brian Cushing did have an interception return for a touchdown in his first game back from an ACL tear, so that was a good sign for Houston.
Prediction: Houston 20, Tennessee 14
Detroit (1-0) at Arizona (0-1), Detroit favored by 1
This could be a sneaky, entertaining game in the late afternoon slate on Sunday. Both of these teams have quarterbacks that like to air it out. Both teams also feature two of the best receivers in football in Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. Reggie Bush had a great debut for the Lions, running the ball well and proving to be a receiving threat too. The Cardinals rookie, Tyrann Mathieu had a memorable debut, chasing down the Rams Jared Cook and stripping him right in front of the goal line. Carson Palmer played pretty well in his first game, and it looks like Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd will be much greater weapons with a half decent quarterback throwing them the ball. The key to this game will be if the Cardinals offensive line is up to the task of blocking the fearsome Lions front that includes Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. I think they will do just enough, and the Cardinals will eek out a win.
Prediction: Arizona 34, Detroit 31
New Orleans (1-0) at Tampa Bay (0-1), New Orleans favored by 3
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman didn't start the year the way he had hoped. He struggled in the Bucs loss to the New York Jets, as talk grows louder that his days as the starting quarterback are numbered. As mentioned above, the Saints defense came to play in the season opener, and now Rob Ryan is getting his ego stroked this week. Freeman loves his turnovers as much as he loves oversleeping and I think the Saints will pressure him into a couple in this game. The Saints offense did nothing on the ground last week, but the passing game was as good as ever. They may have even found a new weapon in wide receiver Kenny Stills. One thing to watch is how often Brees targets Marques Colston who likely will be covered by Darrelle Revis. I expect the Saints will score in the 30s this week and improve to 2-0, while the Bucs misery will continue.
Prediction: New Orleans 35, Tampa Bay 23
Jacksonville (0-1) at Oakland (0-1), Oakland favored by 6
The worst game of the weekend is easily this one. One reason that might make it worth watching is new Raiders quarterback Terrell Pryor. People had to put away their arm punt jokes about Pryor after last week's performance against the Colts. If he can keep playing up to that level and limit some of his mistakes, the Raiders might actually be competitive this season. Blaine Gabbert is already hurt in Jacksonville, which might actually be a good thing. Chad Henne receives the start, but the Jaguars losing ways should remain the same. Even if Henne is a little bit better than Gabbert, he is still surrounded by crap.
Prediction: Oakland 21, Jacksonville 10
Denver (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1), Denver favored by 4 1/2
Manning Bowl III. Peyton has won the first two games between him and his brother and I don't think the third time will be the charm for Eli. The Giants passing game looks good, but their running game is a mess. David Wilson Chokies the ball too much, but with Andre Brown hurt the Giants had to sign the tip toe burglar Brandon Jacobs. Anyone expecting Jacobs to make much of a difference must think it is 2008. Peyton won't throw seven touchdowns this week but he will still have his way with a weak Giants defense. One player that will be looking to get more involved for Denver is WR Eric Decker, who somehow didn't have a touchdown catch in a game with seven of them.
Prediction: Denver 38, New York Giants 28
San Francisco (1-0) at Seattle (1-0), Seattle favored by 3
The Seattle Seahawks have quickly entered into that Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers zone of teams I really, really hate. I hate how overrated the Seahawks are by the media. The media decided Seattle was their Super Bowl pick this year, while I had the Seahawks missing the playoffs. Seattle barely beats a crappy Carolina team and the media wants to make it seem like it was some great win. I don't deny that Seattle has a very good defense. What I question is their offense, especially when Marshawn Lynch is struggling like he did against Carolina. The 49ers offense, with Colin Kaepernick throwing instead of running led the Niners to beat Green Bay a third straight time. Again, the lazy media has tried to characterize Kaepernick as a running quarterback, when anyone who has actually watched him play, knew how good of a passer he was. His running complements his passing game but it doesn't define him. Another lazy media plot point was that Kap and Vernon Davis didn't have chemistry. That might have been the case during the regular season last year, but in the playoffs Davis and Kap were connecting all of the time. That carried over to the opener last week. Almost as impressive as Kap was WR Anquan Boldin. I loved the addition of Boldin but admit to being nervous about him being the #1 receiver when Michael Crabtree went down. Those fears were quickly erased after his performance last week. The reason why his numbers probably went down in Baltimore was because he had a mediocre quarterback throwing the ball to him. So needless to say the atmosphere will be intense in Seattle. The Seahawks embarrassed the 49ers in Seattle last season, so San Francisco should be highly amped up for this game. Seattle is in incredibly tough place to win a game, but the 49ers have won in some very difficult places before, so winning in Seattle isn't impossible. Both teams have traded words back and forth, but on Sunday, none of that will matter and it will simply come down to which team imposes their will on the other. The 49ers have to do a better job of containing Russell Wilson, and not let him run wild like he did last December. Kaepernick and the offense will have to show more poise and get the crowd out of the game early. This should be a hell of a game, and of course I am going to pick the Niners to win.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Seattle 19
Monday, September 16
Pittsburgh (0-1) at Cincinnati (0-1), Cincinnati favored by 7
Only the Jaguars had a worst start to the season than Pittsburgh. Much like the Giants, their running game is in tatters, forcing them to bring back Jonathan Dwyer, who they had just cut a couple weeks ago. They also lost one of their best players on the offensive line, center Maurkice Pouncey for the season. So obviously the Bengals will win at home then, right? To steal a line from Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. The Steelers have beaten Cincinnati on the road 10 of their last 11 meetings. Pittsburgh just seems to own the Bengals and especially Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals defense did not look very good last week, and the offense appears to be A.J. Green and nothing else. When everyone thinks something is so obvious, that is when the opposite happens.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Cincinnati 17
Last Week Against the Spread: 5-10-1
Overall Against the Spread: 5-10-1
Last Week Straight Up: 10-6
Overall Straight Up: 10-6