Friday, September 20, 2013
The Hail Mary - Week 3
Cleveland (0-2) at Minnesota (0-2), Minnesota favored by 5 1/2
What a week it has been in Cleveland. But once again the Browns aren't making headlines for anything they have done well on the field. Instead, they are making headlines for rebuilding effort #123. They shockingly traded away last season's #3 pick in the draft, RB Trent Richards to the Colts for the Colts first round pick in 2014. Add to that, the fact that their starter Brandon Weeden is injured and the Browns look poised for another double digit loss season. I think you have to reserve judgment on the Richardson trade for now. I know that is sacrilegious to say in this era of hot takes, but the winner/loser of that trade won't be determined for at least a few years. It depends on how Richardson does in Indianapolis, compared to whatever player the Browns take with the Colts pick. Richardson wasn't very good, more like mediocre for Cleveland, but it did seem pretty early to give up on him, we shall see. As for this weekend's game, this seems like the perfect opponent for the Vikings to get their first win. Minnesota suffered a heartbreaking loss at Chicago last week. With Brian Hoyer starting at quarterback for Cleveland, the Vikings defense should be able to dominate and force turnovers. The Browns run defense has been strong so far, but it will be hard keeping up with Adrian Peterson on that fast Metrodome field.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Cleveland 13
Detroit (1-1) at Washington (0-2), Washington favored by 1 1/2
People are in full panic mode in DC following the Redskins being completely decimated a second straight week. RG3 and the offense can't get anything figured out in the first half of games. The only times they have put up numbers and points has been in the second half when the game has been out of reach. One bright spot that people haven't talked about was Alfred Morris' play last weekend, when he rushed for over 100 yards on just 13 carries. Another silver lining is that the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders are the Redskins opponents over the next two weeks. Now, if this week's game was in Detroit, then the Lions would definitely win. But it will be at FedEx Field, and the Detroit Lions have never beaten the Redskins in Washington DC/Landover, Maryland. In fact they are 0-21 in DC/Maryland against the Redskins. Now, this year's Washington Redskins already broke the Packers long streak of not having a 100-yard rusher, but losing to the Lions at home would be a new low. We may not know until kickoff whether or not Detroit will have Reggie Bush available. Bush is nursing an injured knee, so it may be Joique Bell getting the start. I don't really have a reason to pick the Redskins other than history. If they do win it will be because the offense starts fast for a change, and the defense bends but doesn't break. Matthew Stafford will find Calvin Johnson and find him often. The key for the Redskins will be to not let other guys start torching them.
Prediction: Washington 33, Detroit 27
Green Bay (1-1) at Cincinnati (1-1), Green Bay favored by 2
This is definitely an offense versus defense battle. The Packers win with offense, while the Bengals are at their best when their defense dominates. The Packers carved up the porous Redskins defense, but should find things much tougher at Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals started to see rookie RB Giovanni Bernard emerge, as he scored 2 TDs on Monday night against the Steelers. AJ Green was kept in check by Pittsburgh, but I think he could have a huge game against Green Bay. I just like the Green Bay offense a little more than I like the Cincinnati defense. Plus, I don't think Andy Dalton will make enough plays for the Bengals to get the win.
Prediction: Green Bay 26, Cincinnati 20
St. Louis (1-1) at Dallas (1-1), Dallas favored by 4
The Rams looked like they were going to be blown out by the Falcons, but came back to make a game of it. Rookie Tavon Austin had 2 TDs receiving, and Sam Bradford might finally have a real threat at receiver. The Cowboys offense failed to show up at Kansas City and wasted a strong defensive effort. I expect the Cowboys offense to bounce back against a Rams defense that has been surprisingly suspect to start the season. Teams have had real success throwing on the Rams, so look for Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten to have strong games.
Prediction: Dallas 31, St. Louis 17
San Diego (1-1) at Tennessee (1-1), Tennessee favored by 3
Back when I did my previews I said that Philip Rivers had a chance to be rejuvenated under new head coach Mike McCoy. However, even I didn't expect him to have 7 TDs and 1 pick after 2 games. What is more amazing is that Rivers is doing it with a mediocre run game and mediocre receivers. The biggest beneficiary thus far or River's resurgence has been WR Eddie Royal. Royal exploded for 3 TDs last weekend against the Eagles. The Titans defense has looked very strong through 2 games, so this will be a real test for Rivers and the Chargers on if the offensive improvement is for real, or was a factor of facing a very bad defense. Jake Locker had a pretty decent game in a tough environment in Houston, but can he become consistent and string some good games together? I think these teams are pretty even, so I will go with homefield advantage and Chris Johnson as being the difference.
Prediction: Tennessee 24, San Diego 17
Tampa Bay (0-2) at New England (2-0), New England favored by 7 1/2
The Patriots are 2-0 but their offense is hurting. Tom Brady and his lack of receivers looked absolutely dreadful in their ugly win over the Jets last week. The good news is that TE Rob Gronkowski is getting closer and closer to returning. Being overlooked but just as worrisome is how terrible Stevan Ridley has been so far this season. The Patriots had a very strong running game last season, and with Brady not in sync with his receivers, now is when they really need that running game to step up. The Buccaneers are a team in turmoil. Greg Schiano is apparently feuding with both Josh Freeman and Darrelle Revis right now. This is what happens when you start losing games, although at 0-2 it seems way too early for this level of turmoil. Things will only get worse this weekend. I think the Pats offense will look somewhat better and the Bucs offense to continue to look inept, save for Doug Martin.
Prediction: New England 23, Tampa Bay 14
Arizona (1-1) at New Orleans (2-0), New Orleans favored by 8
It is very strange to see the Saints at 2-0 and it being because of their defense and not really their offense. Rob Ryan seems to be pushing the right buttons so far. The offense hasn't been bad or anything, just not as explosive as everyone is used to. The Cardinals got their first victory of the season last week, and did it with the offense somewhat struggling and Larry Fitzgerald hobbling. Fitzgerald is questionable for Sunday, but I'd be surprised if he isn't out there. I think the Saints offense wakes up a bit this week though, and maybe even someone will step up in their rushing attack.
Prediction: New Orleans 30, Arizona 20
New York Giants (0-2) at Carolina (0-2), Carolina favored by 1 1/2
The loser of this game will be in some real trouble at 0-3. The Giants were destroyed by Denver, as they continue to turn the ball over way too much, and have one of the worst defenses in football. Carolina suffered a heartbreaking loss at Buffalo, and heartbreaking losses have become far too common under coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers offense still seems a step slow, and Cam Newton doesn't look much like the quarterback that arrived on the scene two years ago. I don't think the Giants are as bad as they have shown, but they do need their running game to start doing something. You can tell that Eli Manning is trying to do way too much, and that is why he has so many picks this year. Since I think Carolina will lose, I am picking them to do it the only way they know how, in a close one.
Prediction: New York Giants 22, Carolina 20
Houston (2-0) at Baltimore (1-1), Houston favored by 2
The Baltimore Ravens may have gotten a win, but they still look like a team destined for a playoff-less season. Ray Rice was dinged up and has yet to get going this season, and Joe Flacco is learning what life is like when you have very little weapons at receiver. The Texans have mastered the miracle comeback these first two weeks. They can't rely on that all season, but 2-0 looks far better than 0-2 and affords them the luxury of getting some of their kinks worked out. They may have S Ed Reed make his debut for them, which would be fitting since this game is in Baltimore. The Texans are a better team than the Ravens and that will bear itself out Sunday.
Prediction: Houston 28, Baltimore 21
Atlanta (1-1) at Miami (2-0), Miami favored by 1
Everyone is so surprised by the Dolphins 2-0 start, but had they read my AFC East preview they would have known that Miami was a sleeper team this season. Their defense is very good, and Ryan Tannehill is showing some real improvement at quarterback, especially last week when he outplayed media darling Andrew Luck. 3-0 is a real possibility with the banged up Falcons coming to Miami. They will be without Steven Jackson at RB, Roddy White continues to be hobbled and they also lost Sean Witherspoon and Kroy Biermann on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons defense really struggled against St. Louis when some of these guys started to go down. I think that is just too much for Atlanta to overcome on the road against an up and coming team. If Miami does lose this game, it will be a sign that they still have a lot of work to do.
Prediction: Miami 25, Atlanta 21
Indianapolis (1-1) at San Francisco (1-1), San Francisco favored by 10 1/2
It's the Stanford reunion bowl! Former Cardinal coach/quarterback combo Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck on the same field for the first in years. This game will also be notable for the Colts debut of Trent Richardson. It will be interesting to see how much of the workload they gave him right away, or if he and Ahmad Bradshaw have an even amount of touches. The 49ers are desperate to get back on the field and erase the stench of that Seattle game. The defense cannot ever stop Marshawn Lynch, and killed itself time after time with stupid penalties. I would like the 49ers defense to have a dominating effort for a change, something they haven't done in far too long. Luck will find some success passing, especially if he targets that bum Nnamdi Asomugha. However, I don't think Richardson or Bradshaw will do a ton running the ball, and that could be the difference in this game. The offense hasn't been able to run the ball for two games. If Frank Gore does next to nothing again, the talk of him falling off once turning 30 will grow very loud. Anquan Boldin should bounce back after last week's game, although Vontae Davis is a pretty good cover corner. I also expect Colin Kaepernick to have a bounce back game. I think he will have time to throw the ball, won't have to deal with an insanely loud crowd, and will look more like the Kap we saw in Week 1.
Prediction: San Francisco 34, Indianapolis 24
Buffalo (1-1) at New York Jets (1-1), New York Jets favored by 2 1/2
It is the battle of the rookie quarterbacks as E.J. Manuel takes on Geno Smith. Both had very different Week 2's. Manuel led a stirring comeback win over the Panthers, while Smith threw 3 INTs and was unable to lead the Jets to a come from behind win at New England. These are both pretty middle of the road, leaning towards bad teams, so I will go with the Bills since Manuel > Smith.
Prediction: Buffalo 24, New York Jets 21
Jacksonville (0-2) at Seattle (2-0), Seattle favored by 19 1/2
The Seattle Seahawks have officially entered my NFL hate zone occupied by the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. So sick of hearing about this team, sick of Pete Carroll and his goofiness, sick of Richard Sherman and his non-stop yapping, and sick of the 12th man. Vegas is even on the Seahawks bandwagon, anointing them as 19 1/2 point favorites. Last time we saw spreads this big was when the 2007 New England Patriots were running roughshod over the NFL. The sad thing is, I like the Seahawks to cover because the Jaguars are so atrocious.
Prediction: Seattle 28, Jacksonville 6
Chicago (2-0) at Pittsburgh (0-2), Chicago favored by 2 1/2
The primetime games this weekend leave a lot to be desired and it starts Sunday night with Steelers/Bears. Both these teams do have fat faced quarterbacks which is comical, but they also are both pretty boring to watch. The Bears are the cardiac kids of the NFC, coming from being in both of their wins. The Steelers are just plain terrible right now. They have rushed for 75 yards in two games, and things have gotten so bad that Heath Miller is now being labeled as a potential savior. The Bears tend to play down to competition and this is in Pittsburgh, so I expect at least a close game. But it will likely feature both offenses and offensive lives struggling, and not much in the way of entertainment. After how terrible the Steelers have looked in the two weeks I picked them, in good conscience I can't pick them this weekend.
Prediction: Chicago 20, Pittsburgh 17
Monday, September 23
Oakland (1-1) at Denver (2-0), Denver favored by 14 1/2
Why was this made a Monday Night game? Because of some rivalry that no one has cared about for almost 20 years? Huge loss for the Broncos with the news that left tackle Ryan Clady is out for the year. You know things are not good when you have to sign Winston Justice to help out your line. This is definitely a storyline to watch, because Justice might get Manning killed. Maybe Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor will run around a bunch and keep this game slightly interesting. That being said, the Broncos have killed their first two opponents, I don't see the Raiders breaking that trend.
Prediction: Denver 35, Oakland 14
Last Week Against the Spread: 8-7-1
Overall Against the Spread: 13-17-2
Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 21-11