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

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