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

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