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

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