Friday, November 8, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 10

Sunday, November 10

Philadelphia (4-5) at Green Bay (5-3), Green Bay favored by 2 1/2

These two teams perfectly capture just how much the landscape can change in the NFL on a week to week basis. Before last week's game the Eagles had been held without a touchdown on offense in back to back games. There was talk about how much of a failure the Chip Kelly offense had been, and how the Eagles needed to find their franchise quarterback. Then Nick Foles goes out and ties an NFL record by throwing 7 TD passes. He now has 13 TDs and 0 INTs this year, which are Peyton Manning like numbers. For Green Bay, their season went up in the air in an instant as soon as Aaron Rodgers was sacked and fractured his collarbone. The Packers had already been besieged by injuries, but with Rodgers under center they were able to overcome them. Sticking Seneca Wallace under center doesn't have quite the same affect. The Packers could be without Rodgers for at least a month, which to me meant they would give Matt Flynn a call. He knows the system and has performed well in the system when given a chance. However, no call to Flynn has been made, so Mike McCarthy seems content to go with Wallace right now. Normally, I wouldn't give Philly a chance in Lambeau, but without Rodgers the look of the Packers offense changes considerably. Eddie Lacy should have another big game, but I think the Packers passing game will struggle yet again. Foles won't have a monster game like last week, but I expect him to be solid.

Prediction: Philadelphia 24, Green Bay 20

Seattle (8-1) at Atlanta (2-6), Seattle favored by 6 1/2

A rematch of last season's classic NFC Divisional Round game. Quite a bit has changed since that January afternoon, as the Falcons have imploded and the Seahawks are currently the best team in the NFC. Matt Ryan has struggled mightily the last two weeks without his top two receivers. There is a chance Roddy White will be back Sunday, which would be fun to see him renew his rivalry with Richard Sherman. The Seahawks have looked vulnerable the last two weeks, barely beating crappy teams St. Louis and Tampa Bay. The 49ers would love for the Seahawks to drop a game ahead of their matchup with each other but I think that on Sunday the Seahawks will once again find a way to slither away with a victory. Marshawn Lynch should have a big day for Seattle against the Falcons poor run defense.

Prediction: Seattle 30, Atlanta 24

Detroit (5-3) at Chicago (5-3), No Line

Jay Cutler' has been cleared and appears set to start on Sunday for the Bears. The Bears seem to have finally gotten their backup quarterback situation right. Josh McCown has been solid since having to step in for Cutler. Whoever starts for Chicago in this game, I like the Bears to win at home. The Lions offense doesn't seem to be as crisp on the road, so I don't expect Reggie Bush and Matthew Stafford to go off like they did when these teams played in Detroit. The Bears offensive line has been playing well, so that should mitigate the impact that Ndamukong Suh and that Lions defensive line will have on the game.

Prediction: Chicago 28, Detroit 21

Jacksonville (0-8) at Tennessee (4-4), Tennessee favored by 13

I watched this special on Discovery channel that focused on the Jaguars/Niners game in London and it was amazing how positive Jaguars coach Gus Bradley remains. His father had just died, his football team is atrocious, but the guys kept smiling. The players seem to really like him, unfortunately, if they don't start winning games he won't be around much longer. You couldn't pay me to pick the Jaguars in a game right now. The AFC South is down to the Colts and Titans right now, so games like these are must win for Tennessee.

Prediction: Tennessee 35, Jacksonville 16

St. Louis (3-6) at Indianapolis (6-2), Indianapolis favored by 10

I was not as fast as others to jump on the Andrew Luck bandwagon, but I'd have to be a fool to not recognize that he has proven himself as a top tier quarterback this season. He could still stand to raise that completion percentage, but he has cut way down on the turnovers this season. The way he helped bring the Colts back at Houston last weekend was highly impressive. The Rams are still competing hard but don't have the players on offense to consistently win games. However, it had to be nice for them to see Zac Stacy break out last weekend against a tough defense in Tennessee. If Stacy can run consistently well that will take a lot of pressure off of Kellen Clemens. Plus, their young defense has been up and down all season. I expect them to stay within shouting distance of Indianapolis but for Luck and the Colts to win again.

Prediction: Indianapolis 31, St. Louis 22

Oakland (3-5) at New York Giants (2-6), New York Giants favored by 7 1/2

Despite being 2-6, the Giants remain very much a part of the NFC East race. They go for their third straight victory against a struggling Oakland offense. Terrelle Pryor has had his moments but hasn't been able to consistently get the Raiders passing game to produce. Darren McFadden is once again injured, so the Raiders will have to get something going with the passing game to have a chance on Sunday. After the way Foles lit up the Raiders secondary, Eli Manning has to be licking his chops. The Giants will also receive a boost to their run game, as RB Andre Brown is expected to make his debut and split carries with Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hills.

Prediction: New York Giants 32, Oakland 25

Buffalo (3-6) at Pittsburgh (2-6), Pittsburgh favored by 3 1/2

The Steelers season reached a new low last week when they allowed 55 points to the Patriots. The Steelers just aren't very good and age has seemed to catch up to the team in critical positions. The Bills will have E.J. Manuel back, which is good news after Jeff Tuel time had to start for them last week. These teams are about equal in my opinion talent wise, so if in doubt, go with the homefield advantage.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Buffalo 17

Cincinnati (6-3) at Baltimore (3-5), Cincinnati favored by 1 1/2

I have to say, I am feeling pretty good about myself as the Ravens are proving me right in my belief that they would be pretty bad this season. They are halfway to the 6-10 mark I predicted for them. All the problems I expected with trying to have Joe Flacco carry your offense with no weapons are coming to fruition. I guess one thing that has been stunning is how terrible a player Ray Rice has been this season. Some of it is the fault of a poor offensive line, but Rice is an explosive back, sometimes you have to make plays happen on your own. The Bengals are the best of a bad division, which is good news for them as they are losing players to injuries on the defense at an alarming rate. Geno Atkins was the latest to go down, and Andy Dalton proved that talk of his ascension to elite might have been premature with a poor performance against Miami. The Ravens aren't good but they are still a tough team to beat at home. With all the injuries facing the Bengals defense, I think Flacco and company can make enough plays to keep their season alive for now.

Prediction: Baltimore 23, Cincinnati 20

Carolina (5-3) at San Francisco (6-2), San Francisco favored by 6

Pinto vs. Hirsch. My most loyal reader Matt Pinto has got to be filled with joy over the four game winning streak his Panthers are on. They pushed the Falcons aside last week and have made the NFC South a two team race between themselves and the Saints. However, plenty of doubters of the Panthers still remain. They rightfully point out that the four teams the Panthers have beaten during this streak are a combined 6-27. But this Sunday in San Francisco, we will get a true barometer of just how much Carolina has improved. The biggest improvement for Carolina from last season is that they are back to being able to run the ball effectively. That will be a difficult task against the 49ers, who are 12th in the league against the run. The 49ers defense is also expected to have Aldon Smith back for this game. The 49ers got some good news during their bye week, as Mario Manningham should be back for this game, and Michael Crabtree has begun passing. They could use all the help they can get for their passing game which ranks dead last in the NFL. That hasn't really mattered though because their rushing game is first in the league and Frank Gore is once again averaging over 4 yards per carry. The Panthers are second in the league against the rush, so Colin Kaepernick may have to make more plays with his arm this game than he has been used to having to do this season. I'm a wait and see type of guy and until the Panthers beat teams with a pulse, I'm not buying what they're selling.

Prediction: San Francisco 28, Carolina 17

Houston (2-6) at Arizona (4-4), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

Case Keenum appears to be the truth. Matt Schaub should get used to that spot on the bench and stop with his Alex Smith impersonation of wearing his helmet on the sidelines like he might go in at any minute. Keenum lit up the Colts in the first half, but then him and his teammates let down in the second half, mostly because they were worried about the health of their coach Gary Kubiak. Wade Phillips is taking over as the interim coach, but I don't expect him to change the Texans fortunes. Whatever mojo the Texans had the last few years appears gone, and their defense especially isn't making key stops. The Cardinals are a tough team to beat in Arizona, and with emerging running back Andre Ellington, they hopefully won't have to ask Carson Palmer to make too many plays.

Prediction: Arizona 26, Houston 21

Denver (7-1) at San Diego (4-4), Denver favored by 7

The Chargers are coming off a brutal loss at Washington. Any time you have first and goal at the 1 to win the game, then you should win the game. It was curious to me how Ryan Mathews disappeared from the gameplan. He was running pretty well against Washington in the first half, but then the Chargers went exclusively with Danny Woodhead in the backfield. Denver starts the second half of their season without their head coach, John Fox. Fox had to have heart surgery, so Jack Del Rio is taking over in place of him. Let's be hones though, Del Rio will still command the defense, but Peyton Manning is the coach of the offense. We will learn a lot about just how good the Broncos are these next few weeks, with their next five games being against teams that are .500 or better. The Chargers porous secondary is going to be in trouble with Denver's multiple wideout sets. Philip Rivers will probably throw for a ton of yards, but I don't think the Chargers will achieve the balance on offense necessary to beat Denver.

Prediction: Denver 35, San Diego 27

Dallas (5-4) at New Orleans (6-2), New Orleans favored by 7

It is always fun when these two teams get together. Expect lots of points, and a lot of passing, with very little rushing attempts in between. The Saints are coming off a highly disappointing performance against the Jets and the offense especially struggled. Brees made a few too many careless passes with the ball and obviously missed the presence of Darren Sproles and Marques Colston. Colston and Sproles are both questionable for this game, but if Colston does play, the Saints have to hope that he and Brees can get back on the same page. Jimmy Graham has been excellent but the Saints need their other wideouts like Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, and Robert Meachem to be more consistent. The Cowboys got DeMarco Murray back but still seem to avoid running the ball like it is a virus. Without a run game, Dallas will continue to be the average team they have been for so long. The Cowboys number one objective either via the draft or free agency should be to complement Tony Romo with a top flight running back.

Prediction: New Orleans 41, Dallas 27

Monday, November 11

Miami (4-4) at Tampa Bay (0-8), Miami favored by 2 1/2

The Dolphins have a game this weekend? You wouldn't know it based on all the talk surrounding the team concerning Richie Incognito's alleged bullying of Jonathan Martin. I think what has surprised me the most about this whole ordeal is the fact that Incognito called Martin the n word and yet people are still defending Incognito. Remember when Riley Cooper got caught saying the n word and people wanted him kicked out of the league? Why do people seem to care so little about Incognito saying it? It is hard to really have a firm opinion on this because no one outside of the locker room knows these guys relationship and what led up to Martin freaking out and leaving the team. I do know that the voice mail Incognito left went way too far, but I also think it was poor form on Martin's part to walk out on his teammates in the middle of a season. Coach Joe Philbin has to make sure that his players don't get too distracted by all the noise around them and are ready to focus on Tampa. Tampa proved that despite their dismal record they are no walk over after nearly beating Seattle. I thought they had quit on Greg Schiano, but the effort they had last Sunday proved me wrong. The Bucs are hungry for a win and this is a dangerous game for Miami if they aren't ready to play. The Dolphins were already weak at offensive line and now are missing two starters from the line so Tannehill will really need to develop some wheels. The Dolphins run game has looked good the past two games, but they have to be ready for Bucs RB Mike James who gashed the Seahawks. I've already devoted entirely too many words to this game.

Prediction: Miami 24, Tampa Bay 21

Last Week Against the Spread: 5-8
Overall Against the Spread: 66-63-4

Last Week Straight Up: 8-5

Overall Straight Up: 92-41

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