Friday, November 1, 2013

The Hail Mary - Week 9

Sunday, November 3

Minnesota (1-6) at Dallas (4-4), Dallas favored by 10 1/2

The Cowboys reached a new low against Detroit last week in finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. However, if they lose to the hapless Vikings at home on Sunday, that would be an even lower point. Leslie Frazier hasn't decided yet between Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder as his starting quarterback. Not because they are both so tremendous, but because he can't figure out which one sucks less. Whoever starts, I don't think they will take advantage of the Cowboys having the worst pass defense in the league. The Vikings offensive gameplan needs to be more like last season's, just keep feeding Adrian Peterson no matter what. The Cowboys expect to have DeMarco Murray back for this game, another weapon that should feast on a porous Vikings defense. I would be shocked if Tony Romo doesn't at least pass for 300 yards, and Dez Bryant doesn't have a big game.

Prediction: Dallas 34, Minnesota 24

San Diego (4-3) at Washington (2-5), Line is pick em'

Do or die for the Redskins on Sunday against San Diego. The schedule lines up nicely for Washington the next three weeks with this winnable game at home against San Diego and then winnable home games on the road against Minnesota and Philadelphia. But if they fall to the Chargers Sunday, any talk of the playoffs can pretty much cease. Yes, I know they were 3-6 and made it last year, but runs like that don't happen every season. The Redskins passing offense was very bad last week, but they face a terrible Chargers secondary this weekend. The Chargers rush defense isn't much better so hopefully Kyle Shanahan leans on and sticks with Alfred Morris this week, something he didn't do when Morris was running well last weekend against Denver. The Redskins defense will likely be in for a long day trying to stop the San Diego passing attack. Philip Rivers might be the front runner for Comeback Player of the Year right now. He's turning guys like Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen into one of the best passing offenses in football. The Chargers have an inconsistent running game but against the putrid Redskins rushing defense Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews will have opportunities to break big runs. Robert Griffin III played his best game of the season at home two weeks ago, but with his left knee now hurting, he more than likely won't be able to do much running. But against the Chargers porous secondary I am confident Griffin can make plays passing and not necessarily have to run. It would be nice if Pierre Garcon became more involved in the offense, as he has been a somewhat forgotten man these last few weeks. As I have mentioned before, the Skins seem to perform best with their backs against the wall, and that is what I am counting on helping lead them to victory on Sunday.

Prediction: Washington 35, San Diego 31

Kansas City (8-0) at Buffalo (3-5), Kansas City favored by 3

Matt Flynn has fallen so far that the thought of him potentially starting this game instead of Thad Lewis has Bills fans concerned. Lewis is a 50/50 bet to start his week as he deals with sore ribs. The Chiefs are coming off another unimpressive win, this time over Cleveland, but you can't really argue with 8-0. The defense continues to be excellent and has made it irrelevant that the Chiefs have only topped 30 points once this season. These are the two best teams in the league at getting sacks so it should be a long day for whoever Buffalo starts, as well as for Alex Smith. I expect the Chiefs to be in another close game, but once again come away with the win.

Prediction: Kansas City 23, Buffalo 17

Tennessee (3-4) at St. Louis (3-5), Tennessee favored by 3

Jeff Fisher faces his former team for the first time, in a game that is must win for one of these teams to remain in playoff discussion. The Titans haven't won in a month and with their defense getting to face backup Kellen Clemens, this is as good a chance as any to get a win. The Rams defense has been much improved the last few weeks, but with Clemens under center now, they have no choice. Clemens played decently against Seattle but the offense still managed just three field goals, and couldn't get a touchdown at the end of the game. The Rams rushing attack finally showed some signs of life last week, as Zac Stacy is doing what Daryl Richardson couldn't and grinding out yards. I think the bye week will serve Jake Locker well and I expect a performance closer to what we saw from him the first four weeks, then what we saw against San Francisco a few weeks ago.

Prediction: Tennessee 27, St. Louis 14

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

Kind of surprised I haven't heard about any quotes going back and forth between Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Jets coach Rex Ryan. Rex hasn't even bothered putting on a wig to look like his brother, and it was just Halloween! The New York Jets are the most Jekly and Hyde team in football. Some weeks they look like the worst team in football they were expected to be. Then other weeks, they pull wins out of their asses against the Patriots. This week against Drew Brees, I don't expect the Jets to be pulling off any upsets. Brees is coming off another 5 touchdown performance, and now has the most career 5 TD games in NFL history. The Jets made Andy Dalton look elite last week, so even if Brees isn't in the comfy confines of the Superdome, I still expect him and his many weapons to have big games.

Prediction: New Orleans 30, New York Jets 17

Atlanta (2-5) at Carolina (4-3), Carolina favored by 7 1/2

This is the Falcons last shot at salvaging their season, and it couldn't come against a worse team, the Panthers, winners of three straight. QB Cam Newton is back in the spotlight as during these three games he has been playing the best football of his NFL career. When faced with a better defense in the Cardinals last week, Matt Ryan crumpled and showed how much he misses Julio Jones and Roddy White. Now he faces the Panthers top 10 passing defense. Steven Jackson returned last week but was a non-factor and likely will be again this weekend against the Panthers second ranked rush defense. My most loyal reader Matt Pinto will be happy to see me picking his favorite team win another game.

Prediction: Carolina 25, Atlanta 20

Philadelphia (3-5) at Oakland (3-4), No Line for this Game

My, oh my, how far the Chip Kelly offense has fallen. After lighting up the Skins in the first half of the opener all the talk was about how his fast paced offense was going to revolutionize the game. Now, the offense can't even score touchdowns, held without a touchdown in back to back home losses to the Cowboys and Giants. The good news for Philadelphia is they are on the road this week, where they have won three games. Nick Foles will be making his third start of the season, and the Eagles hope they get the Foles that played so well against Tampa, and not the awful Foles that played against Dallas. They also need to get LaSean McCoy going again. McCoy still leads the league in rushing but has been a non-factor in the Eagles past two losses. The Eagles defense has been much better the past two weeks but they could have their work cut out for them if Terrelle Pryor starts running. Pryor passing would be much more to the Eagles liking since Pryor has struggled mightily in his past two games. Also, Raiders RB Darren McFadden has looked rejuvenated the last few weeks. The Eagles do have a good rush defense and a bad pass defense, so the Raiders sort of play into their hands. But with how off the offense has looked, I can't pick the Eagles to go into the black hole and pick up the victory.

Prediction: Oakland 24, Philadelphia 17

Tampa Bay (0-7) at Seattle (7-1), Seattle favored by 16 1/2

The Rams almost did the 49ers a huge favor by upsetting the Seahawks, but unfortunately the Seahawks managed to survive. Russell Wilson receives a lot of credit but it was obvious last week how dependent this offense is on Marshawn Lynch and how well he plays. With Lynch doing next to nothing, Wilson and the Seahawks offense was dreadful. The Bucs appeared to have quit on coach Greg Schiano, as the defense has given up more than 30 points in their last three games. Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon will be looking to outplay his former NC State teammate, Wilson. The chances of that happening would be slim as it is, but even more so in Seattle. Wilson lost Sidney Rice for the season, so he has got to be hoping that Percy Harvin is truly close to making his Seahawks debut.

Prediction: Seattle 37, Tampa Bay 17

Baltimore (3-4) at Cleveland (3-5), Baltimore favored by 2 1/2

Browns quarterback Jason Campbell actually played pretty well at Kansas City last week, keeping the Browns competitive. The Ravens are hoping that Ray Rice got a little healthier during the bye week and he will finally start to resemble the running back they are used to seeing. They also hope that history will be an indication of how this game will go, since Joe Flacco is 11-0 in his career against the Browns. Flacco will have his work cut out for his this time though, as the Browns have one of the best defensive units in football. With how much the Ravens have struggled to generate offense this year, it will be on their defense and special teams to make game changing plays. I'm not feeling much conviction in my pick of the Ravens but am supremely confident this game will be boring.

Prediction: Baltimore 19, Cleveland 16

Pittsburgh (2-5) at New England (6-2), New England favored by 7

Much like the Falcons and Redskins this game may serve as the Steelers last chance to save their season. All the good will they had generated in winning back to back games went out the window after a disappointing loss at Oakland. Tom Brady is having a pedestrian season but the Patriots defense has been bailing him out, and New England is on pace for another double digit, AFC East winning season. However, the defense has had trouble stopping the run, which should excite Steelers rookie Le'Veon Bell. Despite the struggles of both teams offenses this season, I think we will see some scoring from both sides in this matchup. It might help the Patriots offense if Bill Belichick would just commit to Stevan Ridley as his running back instead of constantly shuffling in Brandon Bolden and LaGarrette Blount. Things might get even more complicated in their backfield in a few weeks with Shane Vereen set to return. Should be a back and forth game, but I trust the Patriots to execute late in crucial moments more than I do Pittsburgh.

Prediction: New England 31, Pittsburgh 26

Indianapolis (5-2) at Houston (2-5), Indianapolis favored by 2 1/2

Case Keenum is the Texans starter going forward and makes his home debut Sunday night. Houston's fall has been precipitous, as I truly thought this was a team that could go to the Super Bowl this season. Andrew Luck and the Colts offense stalled the last time they played on the road in prime time, and this game will be their third straight in prime time. In a week and a half they play on a Thursday night so America is going to be very familiar with Luck and the Colts. Both defenses are terrible against the run, but the Texans rank first in the league stopping the pass. Does their struggles against the run mean Trent Richardson will finally do something for the Colts? I would bet on Donald Brown to make an impact before I would Richardson. Should be a hard fought game, but trust Luck over Keenum.

Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Houston 21

Monday, November 4

Chicago (4-3) at Green Bay (5-2), Green Bay favored by 11

Even after a bye, the Bears come into Lambeau a wounded team. They will be starting Josh McCown at quarterback and will be without Lance Briggs and potentially Charles Tillman on defense, to go with their other various injuries on defense. The Packers an infirmary as well, as Clay Matthews will likely miss this game and James Jones remains questionable to return. Aaron Rodgers is making new stars out of guys like Jarrett Boykins though and the Packers offense hasn't missed a beat without Jermichael Finley or Randall Cobb. Given the opportunity to face a hurting and bad Bears defense, I expect another fantastic performance from Rodgers. Also, now that the Packers have a ground attack with Eddie Lacy and James Starks, they are becoming a team to really take seriously come playoff time. McCown came in and played well for Cutler against Washington, but I expect a more measured performance from McCown Monday night. For the Bears to win it will take a lot of luck and Matt Forte going off on the ground. Don't see either of those happening.

Prediction: Green Bay 27, Chicago 13

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-7
Overall Against the Spread: 61-55-4

Last Week Straight Up: 10-3
Overall Straight Up: 84-36

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