Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cram Session - Week 10

Thursday, October 31

Cincinnati (6-2) at Miami (3-4), Cincinnati favored by 2 1/2

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was seen as the team's biggest question mark, despite leading them to the playoff in each of his first two seasons. However, this season he is one of the biggest reasons the Bengals are well in front of the AFC North and winners of four straight games. Against the Jets stingy defense last week, Dalton threw 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also helped to introduce the world to Marvin Jones, who caught four of those touchdowns. One area that the Bengals need to improve in is their running game, as both the Law Firm and Giovanni Bernard are averaging less than four yards per carry. The Dolphins 3-0 start is but a distant memory, as they blew a first half lead against New England last week to drop their fourth straight. Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace still can't spark any sort of chemistry with each other, and the offense has been inconsistent. Tannehill hasn't been good during the losing streak, and has been turning the ball over way too much. Tannehill needs to develop some chemistry with Wallace fast, especially now that he lost WR Brandon Gibson for the season. I would like Miami's chances better if this game was on Sunday and they had a full week to prepare for the Bengals. But on a short week, I think talent wins out over strategy and the Bengals are far more talented than the Dolphins.

Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Miami 20

Games That Matter To Me

Navy (4-3) at #25 Notre Dame (6-2)

After two discouraging losses on the road, Navy got back on the winning track at home against Pittsburgh last weekend. That means they will go into South Bend with some confidence and a quarterback/runner in Keenan Reynolds that could cause some headaches for the Irish defense. The Irish just faced Air Force last week so they should be pretty studied up on rushing oriented offenses. The most passes Reynolds has completed in a game is 10, but he has rushed for over 100 yards in 3 games. Reynolds does avoid mistakes and turnovers, and he will have to do that Saturday or things will get ugly for Navy like they did for Air Force.

Tommy Rees was exceptional against Air Force, throwing 5 touchdowns and not committing any turnovers. As I discussed last week, Rees can be frustrating to watch, but there isn't a doubt that he's the best the Irish have at quarterback right now. TJ Jones seems to be his favorite target and he had a huge game against Air Force. Jones is the latest in a line of Irish receivers that seem to be able to outjump the corner or safety and make leaping touchdown catches. The Irish run game was quiet again last week, but the blowout did allow them to give freshman Tarean Folston a look.

The Irish should be favored in their next three games and could be 9-2 heading into their showdown with Stanford to close the year. No one is mentioning a BCS bowl as a possibility but if they go 9-2 and then beat Stanford, I can't see one of the major bowls passing up on a 10-2 Irish team. They need to remain focused though and that begins this week with Navy. Navy cannot be taken lightly, especially because they treat Notre Dame as one of their biggest games of the year. I think Reynolds will make some plays early, but like last week the Irish defense will adjust and begin to stop him. I think Rees could be in line for another big game as well.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Navy 21

Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) at Nebraska (5-2, 2-1)

Bo has gots to go. I fully expected the Minnesota game to be difficult, but no way should Nebraska lose by double digits to the Golden Gophers. Maybe someone can say he was smoking pot with his brother Carl. After the loss, Taylor Martinez said the the Huskers goals are still in front of them, and that is true, but the competition is going to get harder than the Gophers here in the last month. Martinez started last week after missing a few games, and he was adequate, but definitely didn't appear to be himself. He didn't rush for much yardage and combine that with a pedestrian passing attack and the Huskers were struggling on offense. Now news has come out that he suffered a hip pointer in the loss and Tommy Armstrong is once again the starter for Saturday. The Nebraska defense once again couldn't slow down a team's offense, this team getting run all over by the Gophers.

This week, they get to host a reeling Northwestern team. The Wildcats have dropped four straight, completely collapsing since giving Ohio State a tough game. Their quarterback situation seems up in the air. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian had been mostly splitting time but Colter took all the snaps in last week's loss to Iowa. Colter did help the Wildcats beat the Huskers in Lincoln two years ago, mostly using his legs to his advantage, rushing for two touchdowns. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald stuck with Colter last week because he was playing well, and I would assume he will start the game with Colter. Leading rusher Treyvon Green didn't play against Iowa last week and has been battling injuries. It remains to be seen if and how much he plays at Lincoln on Saturday. If he doesn't expect freshman Stephen Buckley to get the bulk of the carries, coming off a strong 99 yard performance against Iowa. The Wildcats best pass catcher is Tony Jones, but he has had a lot of quiet games this season.

The Wildcats don't have a very good defense, so there will be plays to be made by Armstrong and holes for RB Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah had another good performance last week, but it is obvious that for Nebraska to win Martinez has to be at least good and not simply average. The Wildcats offensive line isn't that strong of a unit, so the Huskers will have a chance to create some pressure and hopefully some turnovers. A loss to Northwestern will really intensify the calls for Pelini's job. Not only because it would be the second straight time losing to Northwestern at home, but because of how poorly the Wildcats have played the last month. I am going with the Huskers but not with any sort of confidence.

Prediction: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 20

Top 10

#7 Miami (7-0, 3-0) at #3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0)

Been a long time since this rivalry had a game as big as Saturday night's will be. Unfortunately, this is an instance where I don't believe the game will live up to the hype. That is because Miami is not even close to being in the same league as the Seminoles. One area that is a major mismatch is at quarterback. It's odd because the Seminoles have the advantage at that position with Jameis Winston over Miami's Stephen Morris, despite Morris being a senior and Winston being a freshman. Morris had as many interceptions in the Canes victory against Carolina a few weeks ago, four, that Winston has so far this entire season.

The Canes only chance in this game will be their defense or special teams scoring points and RB Duke Johnson having one of the best games of his career. Duke is coming off an impressive 30 carry, 168 yard rushing performance against Wake Forest, including scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute. However, at wide receiver the Canes don't have a game changing player like the Seminoles Rashad Greene. The junior has already set a career high for touchdowns and is averaging 8 catches and 141 yards receiving in his last two games. While Miami was clawing out a victory against Wake, the Seminoles were resting their players for much of the second half after killing NC State in the first half.

The Canes are 11th in scoring defense but that stat is a bit misleading. The last three weeks they have let mediocre ACC opponents roll up yards on them. It has to be troubling for Miami fans to know their team has played so poorly against bad teams, and now has to face one of the best teams in the country. If this game was in Miami, I might give the Canes a prayer of keeping it closer, but under the lights in Tallahassee I expect this game to get ugly early. No team has shown any ability of slowing down Jameis Winston, so I expect another dazzling performance from him, as he inches closer and closer to a Heisman trophy.

Prediction: Florida State 38, Miami 16

#4 Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) at Purdue (1-6, 0-3)

The Buckeyes season comes down to November 30th when they travel to Ann Arbor to face Michigan. These next 3 games at Purdue, at Illinois, and home to Indiana are simply dress rehearsals. The Buckeyes goal in these games is to win and win by a lot to try to help their perception and move up in the polls. They also want to stay healthy. The awful Boilermakers give the Buckeyes a chance for a blowout victory. Anything less than a win by three or four touchdowns will be looked down upon by the pollsters.

Prediction: Ohio State 49, Purdue 14

#8 Clemson (7-1, 5-1) at Virginia (2-6, 0-4)

Clemson struggled to put away a highly depleted Maryland team last week and is beginning to look more and more fraudtastic with each passing game. That being said the Virginia Cavaliers are one of the worst teams in college football, so maybe Clemson can use them as a way to possibly get back on track.

Prediction: Clemson 42, Virginia 17

Tennessee (4-4, 1-3) at #9 Missouri (7-1, 3-1)

The Missouri Tigers look poised to cap off an amazing three week stretch of wins against Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. They led the Gamecocks 17-0 going into the fourth quarter, but then Connor Shaw was inserted at quarterback and the game completely changed. Missouri ended up losing 27-24 in 2 OT after missing a 24-yard field goal. Now they have to try to recover from that crushing defeat and avoid a letdown against Tennessee. A once proud program, Tennessee has lost 18 straight games on the road to ranked foes, including a blowout loss at Alabama last weekend. After a strong performance against the Gators, Tigers freshman quarterback Maty Mauk came back to Earth against South Carolina. He was able to complete just 40 percent of his passes. RB Henry Josey has to have a better game if Mauk struggles again. I don't think this will be easy game for the Tigers but they still have plenty to play for.

Prediction: Missouri 31, Tennessee 24

Last Week: 10-2

Overall: 78-12

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 8

Sunday, October 27

San Francisco (5-2) "at" Jacksonville (0-7),  in London, England, San Francisco favored by 16 1/2

The 49ers are headed back to jolly old England, where three years ago they knocked off the Denver Broncos. Things expect to be considerably easier this time as they face the worst team in football, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Kinda funny that it worked out that three of the four teams picked to play in London this year entered the game winless. The only way I could see this being a close game is if the 49ers somehow suffer from jet lag despite being in London since Monday. Frank Gore has been the 49ers bell cow after a slow start to the season and now he gets to face the worst rush defense in football. It would be nice if Colin Kaepernick could have a big day passing the football, especially since another of his weapons, Mario Manningham is closer to returning to action. The 49ers defense should make lifer miserable for Chad Henne and I expect them to be able to get a lot of pressure on him. Maurice Jones-Drew is a shell of his former self so he doesn't worry me all that much. The Niners just need to get out of London healthy and keep pace with the Seahawks in the NFC West.

Prediction: San Francisco 34, Jacksonville 13

Miami (3-3) at New England (5-2), New England favored by 7

Both the Dolphins and the Patriots are looking to bounce back from disappointing division losses last week. The Dolphins couldn't beat a Bills team starting a quarterback that was on their practice squad three weeks ago and have now lost three in a row. The Patriots finally had Rob Gronkowski back and he made an immediate impact but it still wasn't enough to beat the Jets. Ryan Tannehill had 3 TDs last week but also threw costly interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Traveling to New England is not ideal for a team that desperately needs a win to get back on track. Tom Brady could have Danny Amendola back for this game and would finally have the receiving corps he anticipated before the season started. The Patriots defense started to show some signs of their injuries as Chris Ivory ran for over 100 yards against them. The Dolphins haven't shown an ability to consistently run the ball, and I don't think Tannehill is at a point where he can win a tough game like this on the road without a lot of help.

Prediction: New England 28, Miami 20

New York Giants (1-6) at Philadelphia (3-4), Philadelphia favored by 6

The Giants finally got off the schneid, beating the Minnesota Vikings in perhaps the most unimpressive victory in NFL history. The Eagles are coming off their worst offensive game of the season, where Nick Foles was kind enough to make it clear that Michael Vick is a much better quarterback than him. Vick is expected to start on Sunday, and hopefully this time he will be able to finish a game against the New York Giants. The Eagles loss to Dallas last week was their ninth straight home loss, an unbelievable streak. The Giants felt due for a win last week, and the Eagles feel due for a home win this week. The Giants may once again have to start Peyton Hillis at running back, meaning another game of averaging 2 yards per carry is likely to happen. Eli Manning managed to not throw an interception last weekend so that means he is due for at least one or two against Philly.

Prediction: Philadelphia 27, New York Giants 23

Dallas (4-3) at Detroit (4-3), Detroit favored by 3

A silly back and forth has been going on about whether or not Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant said he was as good as Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. That makes for some good copy leading up to the game but won't mean a thing once the game starts. The Dallas defense was very impressive in shutting down the Eagles high powered offense this week, and faces another tough offense in the Lions. Both teams have pass defenses that rank towards the bottom of the league, so this game has the potential for a lot of fireworks. In the end with both teams about even, I'll lean towards home field and take the Lions.

Prediction: Detroit 28, Dallas 24

Cleveland (3-4) at Kansas City (7-0), Kansas City favored by 7

The Browns are turning to their third quarterback this season, former Redskin Jason Campbell. Campbell is pretty much terrible at this stage of his career, and he gets to face the best defense in football in the Chiefs. Texans quarterback Case Keenum actually did alright versus the Chiefs defense but was eventually overwhelmed by the pressure of their pass rushers. The Chiefs schedule is so easy this year, that I don't feel like we will get a real read on them until they play the Broncos at Denver on November 17th.

Prediction: Kansas City 24, Cleveland 10

Buffalo (3-4) at New Orleans (5-1), New Orleans favored by 12 1/2

Little known fact about the Bills, they are the only team in the NFL besides the Denver Broncos to score at least 20 points in every game so far this season. They have done this despite having to start Thad Lewis the last two weeks. Lewis has acquitted himself pretty well for a guy that started the year on the practice squad. The Saints are playing their first game in two weeks, and most likely used the bye to get the bad taste out of their mouths following the last second loss to the Patriots. The Bills defense ranks towards the bottom of the league against both the run and pass, so Drew Brees has got to be licking his chops. The Bills best chance is if Mario Williams can continue to wreak havoc as he done so successfully this season.

Prediction: New Orleans 34, Buffalo 23

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

Everytime I am ready to bury the New York Jets they pull another win out of their asses. I don't think anyone saw them beating the Patriots coming, especially once they got down 21-10. Rex Ryan is a very good coach, because the talent or lack thereof on the offense is staggering, yet the Jets are very competitive. This should be more of a defensive than offensive battle as both teams have defenses that can slow the opposing teams run and pass games very well. Geno Smith has struggled with turnovers in some road games, and while it is nice for him that Leon Hall is out for the year, the Bengals still have plenty of guys that can force Smith into bad decisions.

Prediction: Cincinnati 28, New York Jets 14

Pittsburgh (2-4) at Oakland (2-4), Pittsburgh favored by 3

The Steelers return from the dead has a good chance of continuing as they travel to Oakland on Sunday. However, Big Ben still probably has nightmares from his most recent trips to Oakland, both which resulted in losses. The Steelers recent success can be tied to their running game finally starting to come alive, led by Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers have had problems of their own stopping the run, so Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden could be key factors in the game. In fact, the Raiders defense as a whole has been surprisingly pretty good. I think Big Ben has to win in Oakland at some point and he will break the hex on Sunday as the Steelers win their third straight.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Oakland 22

Washington (2-4) at Denver (6-1), Denver favored by 13

Mike Shanahan makes his first return trip to Denver where he won two Super Bowls and built a reputation that he lives on to this day. The Redskins offense saved the day and their season last Sunday. Robert Griffin III looked like the RG3 of 2012 and Roy Helu looked like he was back at Nebraska ripping off touchdown after touchdown. The defense scored another touchdown but also gave up points in bunches and that has Redskins fans fearful of what Peyton Manning might do to them this Sunday. Making matters worse, the Redskins will be without head hunter Brandon Merriweather at safety. Although, let's be honest, Skins are more used to him not playing than actually being on the field. His absence means we will probably get to see Bacarri Rambo's corpse resurrected so he can get burned a few times. The Broncos should be extra focused this week after a disappointing performance last weekend in Indianapolis. The Skins should be able to keep this competitive because the offense seems back on track. They also should be able to get at least some pressure on Manning with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. But still, the Broncos just have too many weapons for the Skins defense, and plus, with the game being in Denver, the Skins have no shot.

Prediction: Denver 42, Washington 31

Atlanta (2-4) at Arizona (3-4), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

The Falcons and Matt Ryan made it known that they aren't ready to be buried yet. Despite injuries to his top two receivers, Ryan had an outstanding game against the Buccaneers, turning Harry Douglas into a fantasy football star. The Cardinals have dropped two in a row and Carson Palmer has been a turnover machine this season, throwing 13 interceptions. He was expected to bring the Cardinals passing attack alive but instead they rank 17th in the league. They also can't run the ball with any sort of success, once again putting way too much pressure on their defense. The Falcons think they will have Steven Jackson back in this game, some good news for a team in desperate need of some. For the Falcons to keep alive Wild Card hopes, this is a must win game on the road.

Prediction: Atlanta 30, Arizona 23

Green Bay (4-2) at Minnesota (1-5), Green Bay favored by 10

As the quarterbacks turn continues in Minnesota as it appears that Christian Ponder will get back his starting job due to Josh Freeman suffering a concussion in the loss to the Giants. Maybe that explains why Freeman was so horrible and off throwing the ball last Monday night. I understand being new to an offense, but that doesn't explain throwing the ball well over your receivers heads and out of bounds all the time. It almost seemed like the Vikings were simply having Freeman throw a ton as a sort of try out, as they hardly tried to use Adrian Peterson. Peterson could find it tough sledding against the Packers as they rank third in the league against the run. Ponder did have the best game of his career at home against Green Bay last season, and former Packer Greg Jennings will be looking to make an impact. On the offensive side of the ball for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers lost another receiver, this time tight end Jermichael Finley. Rodgers didn't really miss a step though against Cleveland last week, throwing for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is being helped by the emergence of Eddie Lacy, who is giving Green Bay their first consistent threat at running back since the Ryan Grant era. The Vikings have yet to win a game at the Metrodome this season and were embarrassed by the Panthers last time they played here. Not exactly closing down the dome in style.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Minnesota 17

Monday, October 28

Seattle (6-1) at St. Louis (3-4), Seattle favored by 11

Rams fans are going to learn to be careful what they wish for. All those Rams fans that were tiring of Sam Bradford, despite him having 14 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions, now get to watch Kellen Clemens quarterback their team. That's because Bradford tore his ACL against the Panthers and is now out for the season. The Rams already were without a running game, now they will more than likely be without a passing game. Even worse for them, they are hosting the best team in the NFC right now, the Seahawks. Seattle's defense is going to make life miserable for Clemens on Monday night, and the Rams defense hasn't shown the ability to stop anyone on a consistent basis. Ranking 30th against the run, the Rams should have no problem allowing Marshawn Lynch to enter beast mode.

Prediction: Seattle 27, St. Louis 9

Last Week Against the Spread: 9-6
Overall Against the Spread: 55-48-4

Last Week Straight Up: 11-4
Overall Straight Up: 74-33

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cram Session - Week 9

Thursday, October 24

Carolina (3-3) at Tampa Bay (0-6), Carolina favored by 6

The Thursday night schedule is mostly atrocious from here on out. For any of you on Twitter expect to see plenty of comments talking about this game sucking because the players are tired from not having enough rest. Ignore that noise, this game would suck if these teams had 3 weeks to rest and prepare for each other. All of that being said, I have a football sickness so I will be watching this game. I mean I dedicated a few hours to Giants/Vikings last Monday and that was one of the most disgusting games I have ever watched. Cam Newton should provide some slight entertainment in this game, as he is quietly having a pretty strong season and has been at his best the last two weeks. The Bucs have pretty much been in every game, but always do just enough to ensure they remain winless.

Prediction: Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 21

Games That Matter To Me

Notre Dame (5-2) at Air Force (1-6)

So maybe Tommy Rees aint that bad? Well he still isn't all that great but compared to Andrew Hendrix he is Joe Montana. The Irish could probably beat a bad Air Force team with Hendrix at quarterback but thankfully Rees is already practicing and set to start Saturday afternoon. Rees has played well against bad defenses and he faces a really bad defense on Saturday.

Defensively, the Irish know what they have to do to stop Air Force. The Falcons hardly throw the ball and are all about the run. Air Force has started three quarterbacks this season and will either start freshman Nate Romine or Karson Roberts in this game. Romine actually made some plays in the passing game last week against San Diego State, but the Falcons still blew a 20-6 lead in the fourth quarter. The players to really pay attention to on the Falcons are their running backs. Broam Hart and and Jon Lee were not really getting the job done, so it appears the new primary back is senior Anthony LaCoste who ran for 109 yards against the Aztecs.

Notre Dame should be able to run and throw the ball effectively against Air Force. Cam McDaniel is starting to emerge as Notre Dame's best running back, averaging over 5 yards a carry for the second straight game last week. An encouraging sign from the USC game was the play of tight end Troy Niklas. Tight end has been a position of strength for Notre Dame for years now and the junior is starting to make more and more big plays each week.

This should be a game that the Irish win with relative ease. If they struggle to put away Air Force like they did Purdue a month back it would be highly disconcerting.

Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Air Force 17

#24 Nebraska (5-1, 2-0) at Minnesota (5-2, 1-2)

Props to the Nebraksa AD for putting together this schedule as he got his team two bye weeks in the past month. The time off has the Huskers hopeful that Taylor Martinez could make his return for what will be a challenging road game at Minnesota. The Huskers defense has looked much better in recent weeks and is facing a Golden Gophers offense that isn't all that fearsome. The Gophers have employed two quarterbacks this season, alternating between Mitch Leidner and Phillip Nelson. Leidner has been sick this week so Nelson might get the start. Both quarterbacks are dual threats that can run the ball effectively. Minnesota is also without their head coach Jerry Kill, who is finally taking some time off to deal with the seizures he has been having during games the last few years.

The Gophers offense is most effective when they can run the ball, which they did with success against Northwestern last weekend. David Cobb went over 100 yards for just the second time this season. Contrast that with Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska who hasn't gone over 100 yards rushing just one time this season and in that game he had 98 yards. If Martinez plays expect to see a lot more plays from WR Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa who have been quieted some recently by the shift at quarterback. Robert Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr. have been splitting time but in their last game against Purdue Kellogg looked much sharper than Armstrong.

The Gophers have some confidence after going on the road and beating Northwestern. Plus, they will be motivated to play well for coach Kill who is expected to be watching the game from the press box. I don't expect an easy day for the Huskers, who may actually be a bit rusty from the extra time off they have had. Hopefully, Martinez can return for this game and start to get back into game shape as the Huskers Big Ten schedule gets tougher over the next month.

Prediction: Nebraska 30, Minnesota 24

Top 10

Tennessee (4-3, 1-2) at #1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0)

Tennessee is riding high after upsetting South Carolina, and that has caused some people to say Alabama should be on upset alert this weekend. I'm not buying it. This is the same Vols team that was completely outclassed on the road by the number three team in the country, Oregon. They were also helped in their upset win by the injury to South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw. Since giving up 42 points against Texas A&M, Bama has allowed a total of 16 points in their last five games. That is some lights out defense.

Prediction: Alabama 41, Tennessee 7

North Carolina State (3-3, 0-3) at #2 Florida State (6-0, 4-0)

People have been dying for it to be true for years but after the way they tore apart Clemson on the road last week, it is finally true, Florida State is back! What they did to Clemson should have been illegal, it was that bad of a butt whooping. Jameis Winston might quickly be moving to the top of the Heisman leaderboard. He has 20 TDs, 3 INTs and is completing an insane 71 percent of his passes, and he is only a redshirt freshman. That 71% completion percentage isn't some fluky dink and dunk number either. He is averaging 12 yards per attempt. North Carolina State has been the Seminoles bugaboo over the years, including last season when they handed Florida State their first loss of the season. If that happens this season, I will go run naked throughout my apartment complex.

Prediction: Florida State 45, North Carolina State 10

#12 UCLA (5-1, 2-1) at #3 Oregon (7-0, 4-0)

The game of the weekend is in Eugene, Oregon as the Bruins become the latest team to try to slow down the Ducks offensive arsenal. Believe it or not the Ducks offense could be even better Saturday as De'Anthony Thomas is expected to return after missing three games due to injury. The news isn't as good for the Bruins when it comes to the run game as Jordon James is expected to miss his third straight game. That means a lot of pressure will once again fall on the shoulders of quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley struggled trying to carry the offense last week at Stanford, throwing 2 interceptions. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota apparently doesn't have the word struggle in his vocabulary. He still hasn't thrown an interception this season and is also the Ducks second leading rusher. I think the UCLA defense can hold the Ducks to their smallest point total of the season but unfortunately for them all that will mean is the Ducks might score less than 45. To beat the Ducks you need to be healthy, something the Bruins aren't right now.

Prediction: Oregon 41, UCLA 27

Penn State (4-2, 1-1) at #4 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)

Ohio State had way too much trouble at home against Iowa last week. Adding to that, their close win over Northwestern looks worse and worse as the Wildcats have completely collapsed since having to play teams with a pulse. After the preponderance of upsets we saw last week, it is the cool thing to say everyone is on upset alert where you wouldn't expect it. I am not going to let one weekend of crazy results completely shift my thinking. It is weird that people went from such doom and gloom for the Penn State program two years ago, to now saying they can go into Columbus on a Saturday night and upset Ohio State. The Buckeyes defense is their Achilles heel, but Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are too good for the Nittany Lions to slow down.

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Penn State 24

#21 South Carolina (5-2, 3-2) at #5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0)

The Tigers have come from out of nowhere to all the sudden front runners in the SEC East and a part of the national championship picture. They took advantage of depleted rosters on Georgia and Florida and are quickly going from the role of underdog to favorite. Most impressive about their win over Florida was the play of freshman quarterback Maty Mauk. Mauk was facing a very good defense in the Gators in his first ever start and managed to throw for 336 yards. I thought the Tigers season was probably over once they lost James Franklin but Mauk might be up to the challenge. The Gamecocks didn't show that same level of resiliency when Connor Shaw went down to injury against Tennessee. Once Dylan Thompson came in the Cocks couldn't move the ball and it cost them the game. Maybe with a week to prepare Thompson will play better, as he has come in and played well for Shaw in the past. I am tempted to pick the slight upset and go with South Carolina, but without Shaw, I don't trust their offense to make enough plays on the road.

Prediction: Missouri 28, South Carolina 26

#6 Stanford (6-1, 4-1) at #25 Oregon State (6-1, 4-0)

Oregon State fell off the national radar after an embarrassing opening game home loss to Eastern Washington. But since that time they haven't lost and are right there with Oregon tied for first place in the Pac-12 North. The best quarterback you haven't heard of is Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion. Mannion has already thrown for a ridiculous 29 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. It is an incredible improvement from his first two seasons when he had 31 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. The biggest beneficiary of his sudden improvement has been WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks has 76 catches and 12 touchdowns in just 7 games! The Beavers may run into trouble though, because slowing down the pass is the specialty of the Stanford defense. The Stanford offense doesn't put up video game numbers but they have weapons throwing and running the ball. The Beavers have had trouble slowing teams down all season and when faced with a tough defense like Stanford's, I expect that Mannion will look a little more like the Mannion of old.

Prediction: Stanford 37, Oregon State 30

Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) at #7 Miami (6-0, 2-0)

The U has moved up to number 7 but an underwhelming win at North Carolina left me feeling that the bottom could fall very soon. The good news is that RB Duke Johnson should play in this game, which should take some pressure off inconsistent quarterback Stephen Morris. Wake Forest has won two in a row, but when they had to play some tough competition a few weeks back, they lost 56-7 to Clemson. I think they will keep this game a bit closer but lose, setting up the top 10 showdown next week between the U and Florida State.

Prediction: Miami 34, Wake Forest 20

#8 Baylor (6-0, 3-0) at Kansas (2-4, 0-3)

The Bears have cracked the Top 10 and Art Briles is proving that he built a program to last and one that is bigger than just Robert Griffin III. Baylor leads the nation in scoring, averaging a robust 64.7 points per game. Surprisingly, their defense is in the Top 10 when it comes to points allowed per game, ranking 7th while giving up 16 points per game. Baylor has weapons all over the field and leading the offensive unit is quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty has thrown for 15 TDs, and just one interception. You don't just have to worry about Petty though, RB Lache Seastrunk is averaging almost 10 yards per carry. We will find out just how for real the Bears are over the next three weeks as they face ranked opponents Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. The good news for Baylor is that only Oklahoma State will be on the road.

Prediction: Baylor 55, Kansas 17

#9 Clemson (6-1, 4-1) at Maryland (5-2, 1-2)

It will be very interesting to see how the Tigers respond a week after their disheartening loss to Florida State. They can either galvanize themselves, or let their season go off the rails. Dabo Swinney will be tested as a coach like never before. Clemson did suffer that embarrassing Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia a few years ago, but Swinney didn't have to get his guys ready for a game a week after that one. Fortunately for Clemson the annual injury bug has started to hit Maryland. Star receive Stefon Diggs broke his leg in last week's loss to Wake Forest and is out for the season. Any game now the Terrapins should start losing their quarterbacks one by one. Without their best offensive playmaker, I don't like the Terps chances against the Tigers.

Prediction: Clemson 34, Maryland 26

#10 Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0) at #15 Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1)

Kliff Kingsbury is on his way to becoming the hottest young name in coaching. He has the Red Raiders off to their best start since their memorable 2008 season. The Sooners aren't quite as good as they have been in years past, but winning in Norman is still the benchmark for proving yourself as one of the top dogs in the Big 12. Much like Baylor the Red Raiders haven't had to face too much difficult competition, but with Oklahoma this week and Oklahoma State next week, we will know a whole lot more about whether the Red Raiders are contenders or pretenders. The Red Raiders defense was a bright spot to start the year but the last three weeks they have shown signs of cracking. Sooners quarterback Blake Bell will be looking to take advantage of those cracks, especially since the Sooners run game has disappeared the last few weeks. If this game was at Texas Tech I would take the Red Raiders, but expecting Red Raiders freshman quarterback Davis Webb to win his first start in Normal is too much to ask.

Prediction: Oklahoma 28, Texas Tech 27

Last Week: 6-4
Overall: 68-10

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 7

Sunday, October 20

Buffalo (2-4) at Miami (3-2), Miami favored by 8

Jokes were made about Thad Lewis starting at quarterback for the Bills last week, but he actually acquitted himself quite well. He threw 2 touchdown passes, no picks and gave the Bills every chance to win the game. With EJ Manuel likely to be out another month, the Bills signed Matt Flynn as insurance, but Lewis will remain the starter. Hopefully, Miami spent their bye week working on blocking and not just getting a tan. The Dolphins offensive line is abysmal, and if they haven't shored things up at least a little bit, Bills defensive end Mario Williams could be in for a huge day. Tannehill has actually played very well for having such little protection. I think the bye will have helped Miami to get better at some things and that will play itself out against Buffalo on Sunday.

Prediction: Miami 24, Buffalo 17

Dallas (3-3) at Philadelphia (3-3), Philadelphia favored by 2 1/2

First place in the NFC East is on the line in this divisional matchup. The Eagles might wish this game were in Dallas, since they haven't won a home game in over a year, 8 straight home losses to be exact. Nick Foles played excellent last week against Tampa, and if his play remains at that level it is going to be hard for Chip Kelly to put Michael Vick back in as the starter. The Cowboys special teams carried them to a win against the Redskins, allowing Tony Romo and the offense to take a back seat for a change. I don't expect that to be the case in this game, and the Eagles mediocre secondary will give Romo plenty of chances to make plays. The Eagles should also be able to make plenty of plays on offense, but until they show they can win at home, I have a hard time picking them at the Linc.

Prediction: Dallas 31, Philadelphia 24

Chicago (4-2) at Washington (1-4), Washington favored by 1

This game is the Redskins last stand to attempt to make something of the 2013 season. A loss would put them 2 1/2 games back in the division, and with the Broncos on the schedule next week, almost certainly headed to 1-6. Obviously, Vegas doesn't feel that impressed by the Bears 4-2 start, and the Bears suffered a major loss on defense with D.J. Williams now out for the year. The Bears expect to have Charles "Peanut" Tillman back at corner for this game, which is huge as their defense is just 23rd against the pass this season. The Redskins defense has received a lot of negative press but against Dallas the offense and special teams were to blame for the latest loss. The score said Dallas had 31 points but only 10 of those could really be attributed to the defense. Robert Griffin is starting to look more comfortable running but his decision making has been poor. He has tried to force way too many passes, and he remains way too casual with the ball, leading to him being the leading fumbler in the league over the last year by a wide margin. The offense has been way too prone to turnovers, and the Bears have the kind of defense that feasts on turnovers. Another interesting aspect of this game will be the reunion of Jay Cutler going against DeAngelo Hall. Last time these two saw each other, Hall picked off Cutler four times. However, this time Cutler will have Brandon Marshall to throw to which gives him the advantage. Another aspect of the game to watch will be Devin Hester's impact. Hester isn't quite the dynamic returner he once was, but as porous as the Skins special teams has been, he will have a chance to make some plays. Do or die is something the Skins seem to respond to, so somehow, some way I think they pull a win out of their asses on Sunday.

Prediction: Washington 27, Chicago 23

Tampa Bay (0-5) at Atlanta (1-4), Atlanta favored by 7 1/2

The dregs of the NFC South attempt to at least beat each other in Atlanta on Sunday. The Falcons are losing games and also losing bodies. They will likely be without Roddy White for this game, and lost Julio Jones for the season. That means Harry Douglas will likely be the Falcons number one wideout on Sunday, with TE Tony Gonzalez also seeing plenty of looks. Gonzalez has to be regretting to some extent his decision to come back as the Falcons fall further and further out of the playoff race. The Bucs have pretty much been in every game but haven't found a way to win one yet. One of the main issues is that RB Doug Martin isn't running at nearly the same clip as he was last year. Unless he can really get going, the Bucs will remain winless.

Prediction: Atlanta 22, Tampa Bay 19

Cincinnati (4-2) at Detroit (4-2), Detroit favored by 3

Both the Bengals and Lions scraped out wins last week but went about them in slightly different fashions. The Bengals blew a lead to the Bills, before winning in overtime. The Lions came from 10 points behind at halftime to eventually bludgeon the Browns. Calvin Johnson was back on the field for the Lions but basically a non-factor. It had to be somewhat encouraging for Lions fans to see the offense find a way to score even with Megatron not at his best. Tight end Joseph Fauria might be the new Cris Carter, all he does is catch touchdowns. The Cincinnati defense will certainly present some challenges, but I think the Red Rocket Andy Dalton is going to be running for his life from the Lions fearsome front of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

Prediction: Detroit 29, Cincinnati 21

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

Like the Falcons, the Patriots are having players drop like flies, but unlike Atlanta they keep winning. The Patriots had a stirring comeback victory against the Saints last weekend, despite their own spoiled fans leaving early because they didn't think it was possible. No Gronkowski and no Amendola again for Brady this week and now the defense is without Jerod Mayo to go along with Vince Wilfork. At some point you have to think these injuries will finally catch up with New England. As I suspected the Jets win over Atlanta was more a case of the Falcons being terrible than the Jets actually being any good. The Jets followed up that win with an uninspired loss to the previously winless Steelers last Sunday. The Jets might be a little more up for this game against New England, but even a depleted Patriots team is more talented than the Jets.

Prediction: New England 23, New York Jets 14

St. Louis (3-3) at Carolina (2-3), Carolina favored by 6 1/2

Interesting that these two meet on Sunday because both had shocking road wins last Sunday. The Panthers winning at Minnesota wasn't shocking, but completely killing them was. The Rams winning and decimating the Texans in Houston was one of the most surprising results I've seen in a few years. The Rams defense finally showed up and looked like the unit most were expecting to see this season. The Rams even almost rushed for 100 yards as a team!! I have no clue which version of these teams will show up this weekend, so I will hedge my bet. I'll pick Carolina to win but not cover.

Prediction: Carolina 20, St. Louis 17

San Diego (3-3) at Jacksonville (0-6), San Diego favored by 8 1/2

Most of the country was surprised by the Chargers beating the Colts on Monday Night but if you read my column you know I predicted it. It just jumped out to me as the kind of game the Chargers would show up for. Now, I can't claim to have expected that they would win on the strength of their running game, rather than Philip Rivers slinging the ball all over the field. This game against Jacksonville this weekend is the kind of game I could see the Chargers not showing up for, and suffering a horrible loss like they did at Oakland a couple of weeks ago. But you would almost have to put a gun to my head to get me to pick the Jags straight up against anyone right now.

Prediction: San Diego 33, Jacksonville 20

San Francisco (4-2) at Tennessee (3-3), San Francisco favored by 5

Remember when people were worried about Colin Kaepernick having chemistry with Vernon Davis? Seems so long ago, especially after Kap and Davis destroyed the Cardinals last weekend. Going on the road to Tennessee will be a challenge but I am excited to see the havoc the 49ers defense can lay on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick can't help but turn the ball over and with the Niners now having Patrick Willis back, their defense seems to be hitting their groove that went missing for a while. There are late rumors that Jake Locker may try to come back earlier than expected and start this game. Locker was playing very good football before his injury, but trying to rush back to face a tough 49ers defense doesn't seem like the brightest idea. Will be interesting to see if Mike Munchak puts him out there. Frank Gore also continues to run the ball well and put his slow start far behind him. The Titans give up 111 yards rushing per game, so things are lining up nicely for Gore to have another stellar game. Gore running well and Fitzpatrick turning the ball over, will lead to the 49ers fourth straight win.

Prediction: San Francisco 25, Tennessee 15

Cleveland (3-3) at Green Bay (3-2), Green Bay favored by 10

My brothers two favorite teams finally face off. I don't think this game will be on national TV though, which is kind of sad because the thought of them watching this game together makes me smile. If only they had Red Zone. As for the actual game, Brandon Weeden basically summed up the Browns state of their season when he incomprehensibly threw the ball up in the air to no one and had it intercepted last week. With Brian Hoyer at the helm the Browns might have had a chance, but with Weeden they have none. Aaron Rodgers will definitely be without Randall Cobb and might also be missing James Jones. Won't really matter though, much like Brady, Rodgers can make any player look good.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Cleveland 14

Houston (2-4) at Kansas City (6-0), Kansas City favored by 7

With the Texans having lost four in a row and Matt Schaub being hurt, Gary Kubiak apparently feels now is the perfect time to give Case Keenum his first ever start, as he goes up against the Chiefs ridiculously good defense. A sliver of hope for Keenum and the Texans is that the Chiefs have struggled against the run and the Texans have an excellent running back in Arian Foster. I would expect the Texans to give the Chiefs a heavy dose of Foster, as long as they don't get too far behind right away. I kind of want the Chiefs to lose so I don't have to keep hearing about the Alex Smith led undefeated Chiefs. I will keep saying this, the Chiefs are undefeated because of their defense and Jamaal Charles. Alex Smith is completing just 56% of his passes, and is averaging a paltry 6 yards per completion. This formula will work for the Chiefs during the season, but come playoff time, Smith and the Chiefs will be exposed.

Prediction: Kansas City 23, Houston 14

Baltimore (3-3) at Pittsburgh (1-4), Pittsburgh favored by 1

Steelers/Ravens has been one of the better rivalries in football for the past decade but this year's edition is receiving zero buzz. Obviously, that is because both teams aren't any good. The Ravens run game is pathetic and Ray Rice has turned into an also ran. I think this is mostly because no one is scared at all of the Ravens pedestrian passing game. The Steelers have started getting a little healthier and their remaining schedule makes the chance of a turnaround at least possible. This is going to be an ugly football game, but as long as they hit each other hard like they done in the past, it should be worth watching. And like most Ravens/Steelers games, it should be decided in the final minutes.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 18

Denver (6-0) at Indianapolis (4-2), Denver favored by 7

Easily the Game of the Week is Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis. This should be a fascinating game to watch, mostly for how the crowd will respond to Peyton during the game. You know beforehand he will get a standing ovation, but will Colts fans be full throttle against him once the game begins? A lot has been made about the comment Jim Irsay made where he told the truth about the Colts being the Atlanta Braves of football. Irsay is an idiot and he owes Peyton a ton for what he did for the Colts, but people getting all upset about his comments has been pretty funny to me. It's better for him to just act like one Super Bowl in 11 playoff appearances is good? Now people are convinced that Peyton will be out for blood, like he wouldn't have already been hyper competitive about this game to begin with. Honestly, the most pressure will be on Andrew Luck in this game. The Colts have been intent lately on getting their ground game going, which is a good idea. The bad idea is they keep trying do that with Trent Richardson, when it is Donald Brown who has been the far more effective runner. Manning is going to win this game for the same reason the Broncos won their previous 6, the Colts can't match scores with them, and the Colts don't have the defense to keep the Broncos under 30 points.

Prediction: Denver 34, Indianapolis 26

Monday, October 21

Minnesota (1-4) at New York Giants (0-6), New York Giants favored by 3 1/2

Well that didn't take long. Just a couple weeks after signing, Josh Freeman will be starting for the Vikings on Monday night. It says a lot about Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel that Leslie Frazier feels a guy that's been on the team for five seconds is a better option at quarterback. As for the Giants, Eli Manning is on pace to throw 126 interceptions (stat may be slightly exaggerated). It continues to be surreal to see so many of the guys on the Giants Super Bowl teams, now playing for the next to worst team in football. At some point you have to think the Giants will get a win, and playing a bad Vikings team at home seems like the right spot.

Prediction: New York Giants 30, Minnesota 24

Last Week Against the Spread: 9-6
Overall Against the Spread: 46-42-4

Last Week Straight Up: 13-2
Overall Straight Up: 63-29

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cram Session - Week 8

Thursday, October 17

Seattle (5-1) at Arizona (3-3), Seattle favored by 6 1/2

The Seahawks got a little more than they bargained for from Titans last weekend but remained undefeated at home. The Cardinals hung in with the 49ers before succumbing late to turnovers. Now Arizona looks to spring an upset against Seattle at home, where they are usually pretty tough to beat. The Seahawks are working to shed the label they have earned as simply being home warriors. They thought they had done that when they came from behind to beat Houston a few weeks ago. However, as the Texans continue to tailspin that win looks less and less impressive. Marshawn Lynch will have to work extra hard to reach beast mode against a Cardinals defense that is ranked 5th in the league against the run. That means that Russell Wilson might have to carry a heavier burden. Arizona is just 19th against the pass and was torched last week by Vernon Davis. The opportunities will be there for Wilson and his mediocre receiving corps. Carson Palmer is likely good for an interception or two going against the Seahawks superb secondary. All of that leads me to believe the Seahawks will win and cover.

Prediction: Seattle 27, Arizona 17

Games That Matter To Me

USC (4-2) at Notre Dame (4-2)

After a week off, the Irish are back to face one of their biggest rivals, USC. USC has had a season of turmoil that led to the firing of Lane Kiffin a few weeks ago. He has been replaced by interim coach Ed Orgeron, and the Trojans responded in their first game under him, defeating Arizona at home. A bright spot in recent weeks for USC has been the play of sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler. Kessler's accuracy was a bit off against Arizona, but he didn't throw any picks and had 2 touchdowns, without leading receiver Marqise Lee. Lee is expected back this weekend, which couldn't be worse timing for the Irish defense. Kessler has developed a chemistry with Nelson Agholor in Lee's absence. Agholor had 7 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown in the win last week. The Trojans leading rusher Tre Madden had to leave the Arizona game with a hamstring injury and his status is up in the air for Saturday. If he can't go then former Penn State running back Silas Redd will likely get the bulk of the carries after making his season debut last week and running well. Justin Davis is another threat running the ball for USC and has a penchant for finding the end zone.

The Trojans defense started off the year very strong, but has fallen off considerably in their last two games. That means plays will be there to be my made by Tommy Rees and company. Good Tommy showed up against Arizona State two weeks ago, but bad turnover Tommy is always lurking. The running back by committee will likely continue with Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson III sharing the carries. Both backs have had their moments but neither has been able to breakout at the same time in a game, and really take control of the position.

The Irish defense still is a far cry from last season's unit but as fans it is time to stop comparing the two defenses. The Irish still have a very strong rush defense that will need to stop the Trojans various rushing weapons. They need to put pressure on Kessler and force him into making mistakes that a young quarterback often makes. Rees will have to avoid making the mistakes that he far too often makes for a senior quarterback. If the Irish can get the ground game going, that will help things considerably. I expect this to be a close, hard fought game like these Irish/Trojans games always are. I think Notre Dame can make more plays on offense and get more stops on defense, and beat USC for the second straight season.

Prediction: Notre Dame 28, USC 23

Thursday, October 17

#10 Miami (5-0, 1-0) at North Carolina (1-4, 0-2)

The U is back! That remains to be seen, but Miami is in the Top 10 for the first time in four years. They will be back in primetime tonight as they travel to North Carolina to take on the terrible Tar Heels. Miami's talented offense led by quarterback Stephen Morris should be able to gash a porous North Carolina defense. If the U is truly back they need to win this game and win it easily.

Prediction: Miami 35, North Carolina 17

Friday, October 18

UCF (4-1, 1-0) at #8 Louisville (6-0, 2-0)

Louisville had to fight and claw their way to victory against Rutgers and have another challenging opponent coming to Papa John's Stadium on Friday in Central Florida. UCF won at Penn State, something Michigan couldn't do, and gave South Carolina all they could handle. They have a talented quarterback in Blake Bortles, and he could prove to be a capable foil to the Cardinals more heralded quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. The Golden Knights also have a good running back in Storm Johnson, who averages over 5 yards per carry. Both teams have pretty strong defenses, so I expect a hard fought back and forth contest. The game will come down to turnovers most likely and which team is able to be smart with the football. Basically, what I am trying to say with all these cliches is that Louisville wins because of homefield and having a little more talent.

Prediction: Louisville 27, UCF 21

Saturday, October 19

Arkansas (3-4, 0-3) at #1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0)

Coach Bret Bielema is learning that life in the SEC is much more challenging than life in the Big Ten. Arkansas has been smacked around the last three weeks and it could get even worse Saturday in Tuscaloosa. The Razorbacks don't figure to present much of a challenge for Alabama, who really is just trying to skate through until November 9th when they host LSU.

Prediction: Alabama 41, Arkansas 13

Washington State (4-3, 2-2) at #2 Oregon (6-0, 3-0)

The Ducks smacked around Washington on the road and while they weren't able to hit 50, they did pour on the points, scoring 45 against the Huskies. Things should be pretty easy this weekend against Washington State, which hasn't really been able to build much momentum since beating USC on the road. The Ducks really are probably thinking past the Cougars when they host undefeated UCLA and then travel to 1-loss Stanford. Oregon has never shown any signs of letdown during this season, so Marcus Mariota and company will be in fine form Saturday night.

Prediction: Oregon 63, Washington State 20

#5 Florida State (5-0, 3-0) at #3 Clemson (6-0, 4-0)

The ACC has taken its lumps in recent years when it comes to football. When Florida State and Miami joined the conference, it was supposed to take the ACC to heights never seen by the conference in football. But instead, the Seminoles and Hurricanes have struggled and the ACC has mostly been a punching bag. That all seems to be changing this season. Clemson, Florida State, and Miami are all in the Top 10, and on Saturday night the ACC will have the marquee game in the country, a game with major national championship implications. Florida State and Clemson used to be appointment viewing when it was the Bowden Bowl, but this year it is appointment viewing because of the teams. That is mostly thanks to the quarterbacks of each team, Tajh Boyd for the Tigers and Jameis Winston for the Seminoles. Each quarterback has thrown just 2 interceptions, with Winston having the slight edge in touchdowns, 17 to 15. Where the Tigers do have an edge is the playmaking ability of Sammy Watkins at wide receiver. Watkins has gone over 100 yards receiving in every game but two.

The defenses don't receive as much attention but each defense is in the top 10 in points allowed per game. Clemson hasn't allowed more than 20 points since giving up 35 in the opening game win against Georgia. Florida State is coming off a 63 points shut out of previously ranked Maryland. Oddly both of these teams had trouble with mediocre Boston College before eventually putting them away.

I gave the defenses some attention but like last year's game this will be an offensive showcase. You couldn't get more evenly matched than these two teams. Homefield went a long way for Clemson against Georgia in Week 1 and I think it will again on Saturday. The Seminoles haven't won in Clemson since 2001 and I expect that streak to continue.

Prediction: Clemson 35, Florida State 33

Iowa (4-2, 1-1) at #4 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0)

The Buckeyes have no ranked teams left on their schedule and finishing 12-0 seems likely, although the final game at Michigan will certainly be a challenge. Iowa is mediocre at best, which they seem fine with since Kirk Ferentz earns extensions every time the Hawkeyes suffer an embarrassing loss. Iowa's young quarterback Jake Rudock is just a sophomore and figures to be intimidated by the atmosphere at the Horseshoe.

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Iowa 14

#6 LSU (6-1, 3-1) at Mississippi (3-3, 1-3)

Ole Miss came oh so close to upsetting Johnny Football and the Aggies, but instead dropped their third straight game. Now they have to face the high powered Tigers offense, and apparently will be without half of their defensive starters for this game. The LSU offense was slowed down by the Florida Gators strong defensive unit, but I don't expect them to run into much trouble against a depleted Rebels defense. The Tigers defense has struggled this season but had their best performance of the year last Saturday. I think they can carry over a performance like that to later games this season, as their young unit continues to improve.

Prediction: LSU 37, Mississippi 20

#24 Auburn (5-1, 2-1) at #7 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1)

The Tigers defense will face a test the likes of which they haven't seen when they go to Kyle Station to take on the Johnny Manziel's. They did face LSU's offense on the road earlier this season, which is a very good offense, but the Aggies offense has remained unstoppable. Auburn has a dual threat of quarterback as well, Nick Marshall, who will return in this game after sitting out last week against Western Carolina. In his last start Marshall ran for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns, so the Aggies defense will possibly have to spy him all game. The Aggies defense makes games a challenge since they can't stop anybody, but I think that Manziel will do enough in this game to keep it from being close. Auburn had a real tough time with the Tigers, and I think their troubles with the Aggies could be twice as much.

Prediction: Texas A&M 48, Auburn 27

#9 UCLA (5-0, 2-0) at #13 Stanford (5-1, 3-1)

This was setting up to be a battle of unbeaten, top 10 teams, but then Stanford was unable to win at Utah. A week prior UCLA had narrowly avoided losing at Utah, and now will look to end the Cardinal's 12 game home winning streak. The Cardinal come into this game playing pretty mediocre football. The offense hasn't been gaining a lot of yardage, and their defense is hurting and allowing yards in bunches. They will have to get right quickly to try to slow down Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley. What could help is that the Bruins will be without leading rusher Jordan James for the second straight week. This is another one of those games where you could flip a coin to try to pick. Because of the impact homefield can have in college football, I lean with Stanford.

Prediction: Stanford 28, UCLA 27

Last Week: 7-2
Overall: 62-6

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 6

Sunday, October 13

Carolina (1-3) at Minnesota (1-3), Minnesota favored by 2 1/2

The Vikings made news during their bye week when they landed recently released quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman signed a one-year deal with the Vikings, and it seems that if he picks up the offense, he will have a chance at the starting job. He won't be ready to start this weekend, and it appears that Matt Cassel will make his second straight start. This despite the fact the incumbent starter Christian Ponder has been cleared to play. Cassel did some nice things in the win against Pittsburgh, so it makes sense to me to give him another start. The Panthers don't have a quarterback controversy yet, but they might if Cam Newton continues to play as dreadful as he did last weekend against Arizona. Newton showed so much promise in his rookie year, but in these past few seasons he hasn't been able to match that production. Some would argue that the Panthers have done a lousy job of providing him adequate weapons. While that is true to some extent, it doesn't completely absolve Newton, who hasn't shown a ton of growth as a player. I think the Vikings win their first game of the year at the Metrodome, and Cassel makes it clear that the starter's job is his. This also is the type of game where I expect Adrian Peterson to make his presence felt often.

Prediction: Minnesota 23, Carolina 16

Philadelphia (2-3) at Tampa Bay (0-4), Line is a pick em'

Philadelphia earned a season saving win at New York, and it was backup quarterback Nick Foles that led the comeback. Michael Vick was injured, this time after not even being touched, and will at least miss this game against Tampa. Foles can't add that extra dimension of running that Vick does, but he throws a pretty ball and gives the Eagles one of the better backup quarterbacks in football. The Bucs had a week off, got rid of Josh Freeman, and are hoping that Mike Glennon spent the bye week working on his game, instead of lounging around. The Bucs actually have a pretty good defense and I think they can slow down the Eagles high powered offense. I just don't trust Glennon to make enough plays to keep the Eagles defense honest, so they will focus all their attention on slowing down Doug Martin.

Prediction: Philadelphia 21, Tampa Bay 17

Cincinnati (3-2) at Buffalo (2-3), Cincinnati favored by 7 1/2

EJ Manuel is hurt and the Bills saw enough of Tuel time against the Browns to know they wanted nothing to do with him as their starting quarterback. They missed out on Josh Freeman, so they instead called up Thaddeus Lewis from their practice squad. Lewis has started one career game, with the Cleveland Browns last season. Lewis was decent in that game, but he will have his work cut out for him this weekend against a Bengals defense that made life miserable for Tom Brady last week. Cincinnati has not been a good road team this season, and questions are getting louder about the capability of quarterback Andy Dalton to lead them deep into the playoffs. If Manuel was playing I would pick the Bills, but I don't think Thad Lewis can go from practice squad member to winning starting quarterback in a week.

Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Buffalo 17

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

The Lions may never win again at Lambeau Field. This seemed like their best chance in years, but then WR Calvin Johnson was ruled out right before the game, and the Lions offense went out with him. He will be a gametime decisions for this one, and whether or not the Lions win probably hinges on whether or not Johnson suits up. The Browns have won three in a row and that would usually lead to optimism, but Cleveland sports fans are never allowed to be too happy. Brian Hoyer was lost for the season in the win over Buffalo, so the Browns are back to the Brandon Weeden era. You know expectations are low when Weeden completes barely over 50 percent of his passes against Buffalo and people are praising him. The Browns had a nice little run there, but with Hoyer out, that comes to an end on Sunday.

Prediction: Detroit 28, Cleveland 17

Oakland (2-3) at Kansas City (5-0), Kansas City favored by 9

With each passing week Terrelle Pryor looks more and more like the real deal. Against the Chargers, he showed his accuracy, and so far the Raiders aren't nearly as bad a team as people were predicting. The Chiefs continue to win with their beast of a defense, and behind the running of Jamaal Charles. To beat the Chiefs a team will have to take Charles out of the game, and force Alex Smith to try to beat them. Facing a hostiel crowd at Arrowhead, I don't think the Raiders have that kind of effort in them.

Prediction: Kansas City 26, Oakland 18

Pittsburgh (0-4) at New York Jets (3-2), New York Jets favored by 2 1/2

The Jets shocked everyone by going into Atlanta and beating the Falcons. Even more shocking was that turnover machine Geno Smith didn't have any turnovers. Jets fans are taking this as a sign that the team might be a playoff contender. However, I choose to see it more as just how terrible the Falcons are. The Steelers have inched closer and closer to getting that elusive first victory the last few weeks. The return Heath Miller, and now having La'Veon Bell in the mix should take some pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger. I think the Jets might be feeling a little too high on themselves this week, and with the Steelers having had a week off to prepare, this is the perfect set up for Pittsburgh to earn their first victory.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, New York Jets 21

Green Bay (2-2) at Baltimore (3-2), Green Bay favored by 3

The Ravens defense has steadily improved since an embarrassing open to the season against the Broncos. The offense went back to featuring Ray Rice last weekend, and that is a formula offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell should stick with. Baltimore is always tough to beat at home, and while the Packers have had their troubles on the road, I think talent wise they are a far superior team to Baltimore. I think the Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will find holes in the Ravens secondary, and I think that Eddie Lacy can pound the Ravens defense into submission. Joe Flacco has been good for an interception or two the last few weeks, and even without Clay Matthews I still think the Packers defense can put pressure on Flacco.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Baltimore 17

St. Louis (2-3) at Houston (2-3), Houston favored by 7 1/2

Matt Schaub is an absolute mess. Four straight weeks he has thrown a pick six, setting a dubious NFL record. Greg Kubiak is sticking with Schaub, probably because the Rams defense has made every offense look good against them. If Schaub can't play well at home against the Rams, then it is definitely time for Houston to see what T.J. Yates can do. One player that will definitely have a big game is RB Arian Foster. The Rams rush defense is trifling, so not only could Foster have a big game, so could Ben Tate. I just don't trust Schaub enough right now to pick the Texans to cover.

Prediction: Houston 34, St. Louis 27

Jacksonville (0-5) at Denver (5-0), Denver favored by 27

Didn't think I would ever see the day where one NFL team was favored by 27 points over another NFL team. But with the paths the Jaguars and Broncos have taken so far this year, you can't argue with the spread being that large. Dallas exposed what might could turn out to be Denver's weakness, their defense, but this is the last game they will play without Von Miller. Chad Henne is back at quarterback for Jacksonville. I'm not sure if Blaine Gabbert is hurt or was benched to sucking and quite frankly I don't care enough to look it up. I think Peyton and most of the starters will be pulled for this game by the 4th quarter, allowing the Jags to get the backdoor cover.

Prediction: Denver 43, Jacksonville 17

Tennessee (3-2) at Seattle (4-1), Seattle favored by 13 1/2

The Seahawks blew a lead a week after a furious comeback and dropped their first game of the season to the Colts last week. The 49ers are getting back on track so it appears the Seahawks are back in a dog fight for the NFC West. They get to return home this weekend, a place where no one has come close to them so far this season. Tennessee might have been game, but with Jake Locker hurt, Ryan Fitzpatrick will do what he does best, throw interceptions and turn the ball over.

Prediction: Seattle 35, Tennessee 16

Arizona (3-2) at San Francisco (3-2), San Francisco favored by 11

The last two weeks the 49ers have been blowing out their opponents and getting some of their mojo back. What has been really good to see is the play of the defense. The defense went through a long stretch there where they couldn't slow down anyone. But in the last few weeks, even playing without Aldon Smith or Patrick Willis, they have looked tremendous. I am still concerned about the offense. The running game has gotten going the last two weeks, but the passing game was basically non-existent against Houston. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham can't get back fast enough. Colin Kaepernick hasn't been able to run the read option with much success, so he hasn't looked nearly as dynamic this season. The Cardinals won't be a cake walk, and their defense is coming off a tremendous performance. The 49ers corners will have their work cut out for them against Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. The 49ers run defense has been stingy the last two weeks, so the Cardinals only hope is the passing game clicks. Carson Palmer is a statue in the pocket, so the defense should be able to get a lot of pressure on him. I didn't take the Niners to cover last weekend and regretted it, so going to take the leap of faith this weekend.

Prediction: San Francisco 28, Arizona 14

New Orleans (5-0) at New England (4-1), New England favored by 2 1/2

Tom Brady is finally starting to get some of his weapons back. His favorite toy, Gronk, is set to make his debut on Sunday against the Saints. What would also help Brady is if Stevan Ridley returned and actually made himself useful for the first time this season. Sorry, letting some of my fantasy football hate get through. The Saints defense continues to impress and after five games can no longer be considered a fluke. I don't expect Brady and Gronk to instantly hit it off, Gronk has missed far too much time. The other question is, will Gronk even remain healthy once he is back on the field? This should be a very competitive, back and forth game, and a chance to watch two of the best quarterbacks go at it in Brady and Drew Brees. I feel like the Saints have to lose sometime and with this game being in New England, this is the week it will happen.

Prediction: New England 27, New Orleans 24

Washington (1-3) at Dallas (2-3), Dallas favored by 5 1/2

Despite being 1-3, if the Eagles lose to Tampa on Sunday, the Skins would be all alone in first place in the NFC East at 2-3. It makes those people that were declaring the Skins season over at 0-3 (cough, Chris Russell, cough) look pretty foolish. Now any Skins fan watching the Cowboys last weekend had to be terrified at the thought of the Skins secondary trying to slow down the Cowboys passing attack. Tony Romo played one of the best games of his life though, that isn't something that he can do every single week. For the Redskins to win this game, it is quite simple. They have to get Alfred Morris going right away and ride him throughout. They cannot fall into another hole in the first half and have to try to pass their way out of it. They have trailed so much this season that it has been difficult for Morris to ever be allowed to get going. Hopefully, the bye week served Robert Griffin well, and he will look a little more comfortable out there. I want to pick the Skins, but I don't think the defense has the effort needed in them to win this game. I think both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten will have monster games. If the Cowboys try to give DeMarco Murray enough touches, I think he can find success running on the Skins defense. Also, with Washington having swept Dallas last year, I think the law of averages means the Cowboys will get a win this time at home.

Prediction: Dallas 31, Washington 27

Monday, October 14

Indianapolis (4-1) at San Diego (2-3), Indianapolis favored by 1

The Colts are getting tons of love everywhere after knocking off the Seahawks last Sunday. It was definitely an impressive win, made even more impressive by the comeback they pulled off. With the Texans struggling, the Colts appear poised to possibly run away with the AFC South. As for the Chargers, they are coming off a disappointing loss at Oakland. Philip Rivers once again passed for a ton of yards, but he fell victim to what had been his problem the last few years, committing too many turnovers. He is being asked to do a ton with Ryan Mathews constantly hurt and also his receiving corps battling injuries. For the Chargers to win, Rivers will have to play more like he was before the Oakland game. They will also need their line to step up and slow down Robert Mathis, who is having a beast year. I just have a feeling that the good Chargers will show up Monday night and pull off the upset.

Prediction: San Diego 28, Indianapolis 24

Last Week Against the Spread: 7-7
Overall Against the Spread: 37-36-4

Last Week Straight Up: 10-4
Overall Straight Up: 50-27

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cram Session - Week 7

Thursday, October 10

New York Giants (0-5) at Chicago (3-2), Chicago favored by 8

It is hilarious to still read and hear Giants fans clinging to playoff hopes because they are only 2 games out of first place in the pathetic NFC East. How about you all win a game first? The Giants are easily the next to worst team in football, only better than the Jaguars. The Giants defense is terrible, and Eli Manning is making a mockery of the fact that anyone even once uttered that he was better than his brother Peyton. Now they have to try to win at Chicago on three days rest. The Bears are also stumbling, losers of two straight. Brandon Marshall started griping a bit after the loss to the Saints. Like most Brandon Marshall rants it didn't really make sense and seemed to have no point. If his real point was that he didn't see the ball enough, the Giants terrible secondary should be more than happy to oblige him tonight. I am a little nervous about picking the Bears to cover, but I think that is more because I haven't quite gotten it in my mind just how awful the Giants are. Jay Cutler should pick apart the secondary, Matt Forte should have a big game, and the Giants offense is destined to turn the ball over against the ball hawking Bears defense.

Prediction: Chicago 30, New York Giants 20

Games That Matter To Me

Nebraska (4-1, 1-0) at Purdue (1-4, 0-1)

Nebraska put in by far their finest all around performance of the season last week, routing Illinois 39-19. Tommy Armstrong Jr. wasn't asked to do a ton, but was excellent in what he did do. He didn't have to do a lot because Ameer Abdullah ran wild, going for 225 yards rushing. What was most encouraging was the play of the defense. They played very well against a senior quarterback and a talented offense. This weekend Nebraska has a chance to build on that performance when they face hapless Purdue. It appears that Armstrong will once again start. If he keeps winning, whether he likes it or not, Bo Pelini will have a quarterback controversy on his hands.

Purdue is just a completely terrible team in all phases of the game. Last time they played they were beaten by 31 points by Northern Illinois at home. If the Nebraska defense plays with the same level of intensity and focus that they did against Illinois they should put together another strong performance. This is the first road game of the season for the Huskers, so they might come out a little bit flat to start. But I expect them to overcome that quickly and improve to 2-0 in Big Ten play.

Prediction: Nebraska 35, Purdue 20

Thursday, October 10

Top 10

Rutgers (4-1, 1-0) at #8 Louisville (5-0, 1-0)

This is supposed to be the Cardinals first real test of the season, but with them hosting Rutgers I don't see the Scarlett Knights putting up much of a fight. They do have a talented offense, but I think their downfall will be their defense. Against average competition the defense is giving up 27 points a game, so Teddy Bridgewater has to be licking his chops. Even if he doesn't have leading receiver DeVante Parker, he has plenty of other weapons, including himself. The Louisville defense has been stingy all season, and when they get a chance to face the best offense they have this year, I think they will make a statement.

Prediction: Louisville 38, Rutgers 17

Saturday, October 12

#1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0) at Kentucky (1-4, 0-2)

The Wildcats gave South Carolina a bit of a scare last weekend, but don't figure to do the same this weekend against Alabama. The Alabama defense has been dominant in every game this season except against the Aggies high powered offense. The light schedule has given the defense time to grow, which they will need in preparation for facing LSU later this season.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Kentucky 14

#2 Oregon (5-0, 2-0) at #16 Washington (4-1, 1-1)

Are the Huskies the team to finally challenge Oregon? Through five games, Oregon is averaging an absurd 59 points per game, with their lowest point total in a game to date being 55. They haven't lost on the road in four years. So it pretty much sounds like the Huskies will have to do the impossible. While they are coming off a loss, they were impressive at Stanford. They outgained the Cardinal yardage wise and had a chance to win the game down to the very end. QB Keith Price has struggled in years past against the Ducks, and while Oregon is known more for its offense, its defense has been one of the best in the country so far this year. That means that all phases of the offense will have be on point for Washington. Price will have to find the open receivers, avoid turnovers, and the run game needs to be chugging along, led by Bishop Sankey. The Washington defense has to stop a quarterback in Marcus Mariota, that appears unstoppable. Mariota has thrown 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions. It remains unknown whether or not De'Anthony Thomas will play in this game, but the Ducks offense remains just as potent whether he plays or not. The atmosphere in Seattle should be electric and I don't expect the Ducks to put up 50 against Washington. The Huskies will be competitive, but Oregon is just too talented to fall to Washington.

Prediction: Oregon 37, Washington 27

Boston College (3-2, 1-1) at #3 Clemson (5-0, 3-0)

The only challenge for Clemson in this game is themselves. If they get caught looking ahead to next week's game with Florida State, then the Eagles could give them some trouble. But this Tigers team has responded to different tests in ways not usual for a Clemson team, so I expect them to focus on Boston College this weekend and take care of business.

Prediction: Clemson 43, Boston College 20

#5 Stanford (5-0, 3-0) at Utah (3-2, 0-2)

The Cardinal keep finding ways to win games, even if they are helped by crappy officiating like they were at the end of their win against Washington last Saturday. There didn't appear to be conclusive evidence that Washington dropped a play ruled a catch, but that didn't stop the refs from changing it anyway. Utah is a tough place to win, but the Cardinal will be catching Utes quarterback Travis Wilson at his lowest, following a six interception performance at home last week against UCLA. Question is, can Stanford force Wilson into those same type of mistakes, considering the Cardinal defense has struggled to force turnovers all season? Either way, the Cardinal offense should do enough to keep Stanford unbeaten.

Prediction: Stanford 41, Utah 27

#25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0) at #7 Georgia (4-1, 3-0)

Missouri is 5-0 but that 5-0 isn't as impressive when you look deeper. The only teams they have played of any sort of value are Indiana and Vanderbilt. Needless to say, traveling to Top 10 Georgia will be their first true test of the season. We will learn a lot more about the apparent improvement of Missouri quarterback James Franklin in this game. Now, the reason why some are giving Missouri a chance to spring a big upset, is how hurt the Bulldogs are on the offensive side of the ball. Georgia was already without leading rusher Todd Gurley, and then lost his backup Keith Marshall for the season last weekend. They also have injuries all along their receiving corps and it seems besides the offensive line, only quarterback Aaron Murray is still standing. Thankfully for Georgia Murray is an accomplished enough quarterback that he can make due with whatever is left around him. If Missouri had played some better competition leading up to this game I would probably pick the upset. But I don't think the Tigers are anywhere near as good as their 5-0 record says they are.

Prediction: Georgia 28, Missouri 24

#9 Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1) at Mississippi (3-2, 1-2)

Since beating Texas, the Rebels have dropped two straight and out of the national picture. They will be back in it this weekend by association as they take on Johnny Manziel and the Aggies. The Aggies defense can hardly stop anyone, so Mississippi shouldn't have trouble scoring. Problem is, no one, including Alabama has been able to slow down Manziel and the Aggies attack. The Aggies are averaging 49 points a game and 586 total yards of offense a game. Manziel receives all the pub, but the Aggies have another future NFL prospect in receiver Mike Evans, who is only a sophomore. After this game, the Aggies play four straight at home and none against ranked teams, so the future is looking bright in Aggieland.

Prediction: Texas A&M 46, Mississippi 35

#17 Florida (4-1, 3-0) at #10 LSU (5-1, 2-1)

This should be a classic battle of great offense versus great defense. LSU surprisingly has the great offense this season, while the Gators have the terrific defense. The Gators offense has looked a little better since Tyler Murphy took over the starting quarterback job. In the two games he started Murphy completed 31 of 40 passes for 4 TDs and 1 interception. The biggest beneficiary of Murphy becoming the starter seems to be WR Solomon Patton. Patton had a monster game against Arkansas, catching 6 passes for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. People are quick to point out that the Tigers offense hasn't face a defense like Florida's all season. While this is true, you could also say the Gators defense hasn't faced an offense as good as LSU's. I have touted Zach Mettenberger week after week in this column, but another Tiger that is an offensive threat is RB Jeremy Hill. Despite missing the first game due a suspension Hill has already rushed for 9 touchdowns and is averaging over 7 yards a carry. These are two very evenly matched teams, so the winner will be the team that wins the turnover battle. The atmosphere at LSU will be a whole new ball game for Murphy and I believe it will be almost impossible for him not to be rattled at times. That will lead to mistakes and will allow LSU to escape with a victory.

Prediction: LSU 26, Florida 19

Last Week: 11-0
Overall: 55-4

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 5

Sunday, October 6

Baltimore (2-2) at Miami (3-1), Miami favored by 3

The Dolphins received a rude awakening as to where they stand with the upper echelon of the league last Monday night. They were beat down by the Saints in the Superdome last Monday night, especially Ryan Tannehill. Hopefully, Joe Philbin can right the ship after that butt whooping and improve the team. One thing they need to do is find some way to get Mike Wallace the ball. Wallace and Tannehill have no chemistry right now, and through four games are showing no signs of improvement hooking up. The Dolphins also need to get Lamar Miller going a bit more and take some of the pressure off Tannehill. Joe Flacco continues to struggle under the weight of not having any true number one receivers, throwing 5 interceptions against Buffalo last week. The Ravens might still be a contender when playing at home, but so far this year they look like an afterthought when playing on the road. Because of that, I think Tannehill and the Dolphins get back on the winning track Sunday.

Prediction: Miami 24, Baltimore 17

Philadelphia (1-3) at New York Giants (0-4), New York Giants favored by 2

This game usually features two teams battling for the NFC East but this year it is two teams desperate for a victory. Ever since taking the league by storm with his offense in the opener, Chip Kelly has felt more like the teams his Oregon Ducks used to slap around. It is amazing just how terrible the Giants are. They haven't even been competitive the last three weeks. The offense can't move the ball and the defense can barely stop anyone. That being said, I think they have to win sometime and why not at home against an opponent struggling like Philadelphia.

Prediction: New York Giants 27, Philadelphia 24

New Orleans (4-0) at Chicago (3-1), Line is a pick em'

The Bears got way too far behind the Lions and fell short in their comeback attempt. The offense was sloppy with the ball, which made it too difficult for the defense to slow down the Lions. Lack of pass rush has been an early issue for Chicago, and if they are to beat New Orleans they have to find it this week. Drew Brees isn't quite as potent on the road but if given enough time to throw he has too many weapons to not make plays. This is a game the Saints wouldn't have won last season, because their defense wouldn't have been able to make the necessary plays. But this season, the worst defense in the history of football has quickly turned into one of the better ones in football.

Prediction: New Orleans 26, Chicago 18

New England (4-0) at Cincinnati (2-2), Cincinnati favored by 1 1/2

Tom Brady is once again proving what a great player he is. This current receiving group makes David Givens and Deion Branch from the early 2000s look like a fearsome group. He has developed a chemistry with Kenbrell Thompkins, and Julian Edelman is doing his best Wes Welker impersonation. The offense might get Danny Amendola back for a few plays this weekend before he injures himself. The Patriots are now starting to get beat up on the defensive side of the ball, losing Vince Wilfork for the season. The Bengals are a terrible road team, but seem to take on a different identity at home. A fun battle to watch in this game will be A.J. Green against Aqib Talib. This is a tough game to pick, but I think at some point, these litany of injuries have to catch up to the Patriots.

Prediction: Cincinnati 22, New England 20

Detroit (3-1) at Green Bay (1-2), Green Bay favored by 7

The Lions finally ended their winning in Washington hex. Next they take on the not winning at Lambeau Field for 21 years hex. The Lions last won at Lambeau in 1991. That was so long ago it was before Brett Favre was even a Packer. The Packers are coming off their bye week and have had plenty of time to stew over letting that game get away from them in Cincinnati. With two high octane offenses on the field I would be surprised if this doesn't turn into a shootout. The Packers are hoping to have Eddie Lacy back at running back, as well as Jermichael Finley at tight end. I think this is one hex the Lions won't put an end to just yet.

Prediction: Green Bay 38, Detroit 30

Kansas City (4-0) at Tennessee (3-1), Kansas City favored by 3

Two of the biggest surprises of the NFL season face off in Tennessee. Jake Locker was having a superb season, as he had thrown no interceptions and the Titans hadn't committed a turnover on offense through four games. But now, Locker is hurt and the job becomes Ryan Fitzpatrick's. Fitzpatrick at least has plenty of experience as a starting quarterback, but it is hard not to think that the Titans will struggle due to Fitzpatrick's inconsistencies that led to him being dumped by Buffalo. The Chiefs have benefited from beating up on the NFC East and now catch the Titans at the right time. Things are just falling into place this year for Andy Reid and Alex Smith.

Prediction: Kansas City 30, Tennessee 17

Seattle (4-0) at Indianapolis (3-1), Seattle favored by 2 1/2

I was feeling so good about my Texans over Seahawks pick. The Texans raced out to a 20-3 lead and then Matt Schaub happened. Schaub made some terrible decisions, and pretty much cost the Texans the game. This game is a battle between second year quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, or two quarterbacks that are overrated. It hasn't been talked about too much because Seattle is winning but Wilson hasn't been all that great this season. To Luck's credit he has improved his accuracy so far this year but has only thrown 5 TD passes in four games. This is a really hard game to call. I know I am becoming the last person in the world that doubts the Seahawks, but I still can't see them winning road games back to back that are this difficult.

Prediction: Indianapolis 28, Seattle 25

Jacksonville (0-4) at St. Louis (1-3), St. Louis favored by 11 1/2

This is a game that no one should be forced to watch. That is all.

Prediction: St. Louis 27, Jacksonville 16

Carolina (1-2) at Arizona (2-2), Carolina favored by 2

Cam Newton returns to Arizona, where two years ago he announced his arrival on the NFL scene by passing for over 400 yards in his debut. He hasn't really lived up to those lofty standards since, but the Panthers are looking to put together a winning streak after beating the Giants two weeks ago. Arizona is looking to get over .500 for the first time this season. Arizona can't run the ball to save their lives, but Carson Palmer has at least reinvigorated Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals are always a tough team to beat in Arizona.

Prediction: Arizona 31, Carolina 28

Denver (4-0) at Dallas (2-2), Denver favored by 7

Can anyone slow down the Denver Broncos offense? That question remains to be answered but I am definitely saying the Dallas Cowboys won't be slowing them down on Sunday. The Cowboys will be able to score points with Denver for a while, but eventually, as the Broncos have done to their other opponents, they will pull away. The Broncos keep getting injuries but it doesn't seem to matter. Peyton Manning is playing the best football of his career, and the abundance of weapons he has almost isn't fair. Tony Romo is having a very good season, but the continued inability of the Cowboys to run the ball on a consistent basis continues to be their downfall on offense.

Prediction: Denver 35, Dallas 24

Houston (2-2) at San Francisco (2-2), San Francisco favored by 7

The 49ers got a much needed win at St. Louis. The offense got back to doing what it does best, pounding the ball with Frank Gore, allowing the passing game to open up. Hopefully, Greg Roman continues that trend and feeds Gore heavily in this game. That means even if Gore is struggling initially not abandoning the run right away and forcing Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis to try to do everything. The Texans defense isn't as good as it should be, but they still have a lot of dominating players, so it is important the Niners offense get in a rhythm relatively quickly. The 49ers still don't know if they will have Patrick Willis for this game. NoVorro Bowman was an absolute beast in his absence against St. Louis, and the Niners defense didn't miss a beat. However, the Texans offense will present much more of a challenge than the Rams offense. Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Owen Daniels will be a major challenge for a 49ers secondary that has struggled this season. I don't expect this to be a comfortable win, but I do think the 49ers will play much better at home this time, than they did a few weeks ago.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Houston 21

San Diego (2-2) at Oakland (1-3), San Diego favored by 4 1/2

This game will start at the very odd time of 11:35 PM eastern on Sunday. The Raiders share their field with the Oakland Athletics and since the A's will be hosting a playoff game that day, the Raiders had to move the start time of their game. Philip Rivers is starting to get noticed after another fantastic performance last weekend. It looks like my prediction of him being renewed under new coach Mike McCoy is coming true. Unlike Manning, Rivers doesn't have a ton of weapons, but he is playing like 2007 Rivers right now. The Raiders should have Terrelle Pryor back at quarterback for this game. That at least gives them a glimmer of hope to win, but I expect Rivers to continue to play well and lead San Diego to a win.

Prediction: San Diego 28, Oakland 21

Monday, October 7

New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta (1-3), Atlanta favored by 9 1/2

The Jets offense, already not very good, is in even worse shape now with both receivers Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill expected to miss this game. This is just the type of opponent Atlanta needs to try to get right and stop a 2 game losing streak. If the Falcons can't beat, and also dominate an undermanned, overmatched Jets team at home, they have some serious problems. Geno Smith has been awful on the road, and I expect that to continue as he will be good for a few turnovers.

Prediction: Atlanta 30, New York Jets 16

Last Week Against the Spread: 10-4-1
Overall Against the Spread: 30-29-4

Last Week Straight Up: 11-4
Overall Straight Up: 40-23