Friday, September 27, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 4

Sunday, September 29

Pittsburgh (0-3) "at" Minnesota (0-3) in London, England, Pittsburgh favored by 1

Hey London! You want American football, how about watching two teams that can't win a game! Obviously, this was not what Roger Goodell had in mind, but it is pretty funny that this has ended up being a matchup of winless teams. The Steelers are hoping their anemic rushing attack will be helped by the debut of rookie La'Veon Bell. The Vikings just wish games were 58 minutes, then instead of 0-3, they would be 2-1. With this being on a neutral field, I tend to lean on coaching and I believe that Mike Tomlin will outcoach Leslie Frazier. The Steelers also have the advantage at quarterback with Big Ben being well above Vikings backup Matt Cassel, who has been pressed into duty in place of the injured Christian Ponder.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 26, Minnesota 23

Baltimore (2-1) at Buffalo (1-2), Baltimore favored by 3 1/2

So maybe the Ravens weren't as bad as I thought? Or is Houston just not as good as I thought? The Ravens destroyed Houston in Baltimore last week, and look to win their third straight game in Buffalo. The Ravens defense performed very well in their past two games after an embarrassing start to the season. Playing against rookie E.J. Manuel, they have a chance to tee off on him. Manuel has performed pretty well at home though, and I still am not sold on that Ravens offense.

Prediction: Buffalo 20, Baltimore 16

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

Wow, so everyone said the Browns were tanking, and then they go out and win. Pretty incredible, and Browns fans had to like how much better the offense looked with Brian Hoyer under center. Now, while Hoyer did play well, he also had 3 INTs, so Browns fans shouldn't start printing their playoff tickets just yet. The Bengals won a crazy game against Green Bay. They managed to give up 30 straight points, yet still won. The defense gave up points but also forced a ton of turnovers, and have a chance to do that again this weekend. I look at last week's Browns win as more of a fluke, then the beginning of something.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 20

Chicago (3-0) at Detroit (2-1), Detroit favored by 2 1/2

These two teams are the front runners in the NFC North. The Lions finally won in Washington, and Joique Bell looked really tough running the ball last week. Even if the Lions have to go without Reggie Bush against this weekend, I think they have something in Bell. Detroit caught some breaks against the Redskins, as Washington seemed intent on committing unforced errors. But being at home for this game, I think that they can get some push on the Bears offensive line, and force Jay Cutler to make some pretty major mistakes.

Prediction: Detroit 28, Chicago 17

New York Giants (0-3) at Kansas City (3-0), Kansas City favored by 4 1/2

Really Giants? Losing 38-0 to Carolina, really? My NFC East pick is in major trouble and now has to go to Arrowhead Stadium to face a revitalized Chiefs squad. Alex Smith has landed himself in the perfect situation. He has a good running game and a tremendous defense, so he can dink and dunk his ways to win, and convince people that he is somehow better than average. Unless the Giants have a miraculous week of practice, I don't think they can solve their problems in time to get their first win. This Chiefs defense is going to feast on the Giants porous offensive line, and Eli will be doing tons of shoulder shrugs and derp faces throughout his game.

Prediction: Kansas City 21, New York Giants 14

Arizona (1-2) at Tampa Bay (0-3), Tampa Bay favored by 3

I knew eventually that Tampa would turn to Mike Glennon at quarterback, but wasn't expecting it to happen after just three weeks. I originally was going to pick Tampa to win this game, but with Glennon being a wild card I have switched to going with Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald versus Darelle Revis is about the only thing worth watching in this one.

Prediction: Arizona 20, Tampa Bay 13

Indianapolis (2-1) at Jacksonville (0-3), Indianapolis favored by 8 1/2

Tough to get a read on the Colts just yet. Their loss against Miami doesn't look bad with the Dolphins at 3-0, and their win over San Francisco was pure dominance. We won't know much about them after this weekend because they play the Jags, and everyone beats the crap out of the Jags.

Prediction: Indianapolis 31, Jacksonville 12

Seattle (3-0) at Houston (2-1), Seattle favored by 3

Most everyone is picking Seattle to win this game and I understand why. The Texans defense has been dreadful this season, while the Seahawks defense has been dominant. Russell Wilson should get his against the Texans, but it will be fun watching JJ Watt try to chase Wilson down. Sometimes games go against what we have seen in previous weeks and that is what I am predicting to happen in this game. I think the Houston offense will make some plays, with Arian Foster having a strong game, and the defense will do just enough to eke out a victory.

Prediction: Houston 28, Seattle 27

New York Jets (2-1) at Tennessee (2-1), Tennessee favored by 4

Raise your hand if before the season you predicted that both these teams would be over .500 when they played each other? I doubt even Jets or Titans fans would raise their hands. I believe the Jets still will suck but Tennessee might be a contender. Their defense seems legit and Jake Locker continuously shows flashes of improvement. The question is can he string it together over the course of a season? Geno Smith struggled mightily in his first road start and I expect that trend to continue on Sunday.

Prediction: Tennessee 23, New York Jets 14

Philadelphia (1-2) at Denver (3-0), Denver favored by 10 1/2

Get your popcorn ready for this game, and expect to see a lot of scoring. The Eagles offense struggled against Kansas City, but I think some of that had to do with it being a Thursday night game. The Eagles defense is not good and Peyton Manning could throw for over 400 yards in this game. Denver looks unstoppable so far and I am getting a 2007 New England Patriots vibe from them right now. Denver is just a more talented team on both sides of the ball, and add in homefield advantage and this is a pretty easy pick. I do think the Eagles will manage to cover though.

Prediction: Denver 38, Philadelphia 28

Washington (0-3) at Oakland (1-2), Washington favored by 3

The 2013 Washington Redskins have made a lot of history in just three weeks of the season. Unfortunately, it has all been negative history. They added to it last week by becoming the first Redskins team to lose DC or Maryland to the Detroit Lions. They hope the fourth time is the charm on Sunday as they try to finally win their first game of the season. They may be catching a break as the latest reports are that Terrelle Pryor will likely miss this game with a concussion. Pryor has been very impressive so far this season, especially with his ability to run. His replacement, Matt Flynn, won't bring that same dimension, and really no one knows what he will bring as he has only started two games in his career. The Redskins defense has struggled against the run and pass this year, so Darren McFadden has a chance to have a big game for Oakland. Washington's offense showed some signs of rejuvenation last weekend against Detroit but Robert Griffin kept turning the ball over and killing drives. If he can cut back on that, I think the offense is getting close to what it was last year. 1-3 would still suck but going into a bye next week, at least having a win would be tremendous for the Redskins psyche. Oakland is not a very good team, and then if they are without their starting quarterback, this is a game the Redskins should win and have to win.

Prediction: Washington 31, Oakland 21

Dallas (2-1) at San Diego (1-2), Dallas favored by 1 1/2

Almost by default the Cowboys are the class of the NFC East at this point. They have a chance to really run away with the division early, but when is the last time Dallas took advantage of the opportunities handed to them. San Diego suffered their second loss of the season last week and just like their first it was in heartbreaking fashion. The San Diego pass defense has been making quarterbacks look unstoppable, so Tony Romo has to be licking his chops for this game. Dallas discovered a run game last week with DeMarco Murray, but he only really seems to come alive when he plays the Rams. Philip Rivers is still playing well and at three weeks people may just have to accept that this isn't a fluke. The Chargers are close to being able to make some noise in the playoff race this year and I think being at home will take them over the hump this weekend.

Prediction: San Diego 24, Dallas 21

New England (3-0) at Atlanta (1-2), Atlanta favored by 1 1/2

This game could be the return of Gronk, which should make Tom Brady a very happy man. It remains to be seen how long Gronk lasts in his return as last time he promptly got injured in his first game back. The Patriots defense has been very impressive this season, although most of that is because of the lousy offenses they have played. The Falcons are dealing with tons of injuries and weren't able to hold on to beat the Dolphins last Sunday. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling put forth strong efforts in place of Steven Jackson, but it's the lack of plays from Roddy White that are really hurting the team. Tom Brady seemed to get a little bit more on the same page with his receivers last week, so his play should get better. It would help the Pats if Stevan Ridley could do anything on the ground, this season has been a nightmare for him thus far. If Atlanta were at full strength I would pick them at home, but I think the Pats are a little less banged up, and will remain undefeated.

Prediction: New England 21, Atlanta 17

Monday, September 30

Miami (3-0) at New Orleans (3-0), New Orleans favored by 6 1/2

A lot of people are shocked, shocked I say by the Dolphins 3-0 start. But I am not shocked, in fact I predicted the Dolphins would make the playoffs this season. Of course I will keep banging that drum and ignore my other incorrect picks. Ryan Tannehill has been very good this year and did a great job keeping Miami in last week's game against Atlanta and ultimately bringing them to victory. Even more impressive is that he has only really had new signing Mike Wallace as a weapon for one of their three games, as Wallace was once again hardly noticed against the Falcons. One thing I did not predict was that the Saints would be so good on defense through three games. I tended to think Rob Ryan was incredibly overrated but there is no denying the change in the Saints defensive play with him as coach. The offense also broke 30 points for the first time last week, so if they get on track then the Saints will be one of the favorites to come out of the NFC. The Dolphins passed last week's test but that was at home, this test is one I don't think they are quite yet ready for, but they will make it interesting.

Prediction: New Orleans 24, Miami 19

Last Week Against the Spread: 7-8-1
Overall Against the Spread: 20-25-3

Last Week Straight Up: 8-8
Overall Straight Up: 29-19

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