Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cram Session: 2015 College Football Playoff Semi-Finals

College Football Playoff Semi-Final

Rose Bowl

#2 Oregon (12-1) vs. #3 Florida State (13-0) in Pasadena, CA

The last two Heisman trophy winners face off as Jameis Winston and Florida State take on Marcus Mariota and the Ducks. The Seminoles have been squeaking by all season and many believe that having to play Oregon will be what finally exposes the Seminoles as fluke frauds.

Mariota has been absurdly good this season. He has thrown 38 TDs versus just 2 INTs. He had at least 2 touchdown passes in every start and hasn't thrown a pick since November 1 against Stanford. He is a large reason the Ducks offense is 3rd in the country in scoring, at 46 points per game. The Ducks were held under 30 points just once this season, and that was their lone loss of the season to Arizona. Mariota has two dangerous receivers in Byron Marshall and Devon Allen. Allen is just a freshman but led the Ducks in receiving touchdowns with 7. Most of those touchdowns were accumulated early on in the season, as Allen went 7 straight games without a touchdown before the Pac-12 Championship game against Arizona. The junior Marshall led the Ducks in catches with 61, but Mariota does a nice job of spreading the ball around so the defense can't key on just one person. Other contributing receivers include Dwayne Stanford, Pharaoh Brown, Charles Nelson and Keanon Lowe. Mariota also has an excellent backfield at his disposal, with freshman Royce Freeman and Mariota himself. Freeman led the Ducks with 16 touchdowns and almost 1,300 yards rushing this season. Mariota scored 14 rushing touchdowns himself, and has a rushing touchdown in his past 5 games.

The Seminoles offense wasn't near as potent as it was last season but they still have plenty of weapons. Winston was up and down all season, and it made zero sense that he received Heisman votes while throwing 17 interceptions. However, he is coming off his best performance of the season, in the ACC Championship game against Georgia Tech. He avoided turnovers in that game, threw three touchdowns and passed for 309 yards. Winston has to play similarly against Oregon to give Florida State a chance in this game. If he is turning the ball over like crazy, the Ducks offense will take advantage and will do it to a level that the Seminoles won't be able to come back from. Freshman Dalvin Cook has emerged as the Seminoles lead back, leapfrogging senior Karlos Williams. Williams missed the ACC Championship but will play in this game. Cook and Williams give the Seminoles a pretty formidable one-two punch in the backfield. Jimbo Fisher should be looking to pound the ball often with those two, and test the Oregon defensive front. While Oregon has about 5 or 6 receivers that can burn a team, Florida State's receiving corps is mostly about Rashad Greene. Greene has 93 catches this season and over 1,300 yards receiving. Oregon's secondary will be all over him, which could open up opportunities for TE Nick O'Leary and receivers Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson.

The Ducks have a more balanced offensive attack then Florida State and also a better defense. The Seminoles will have to pull a 2013 performance out of their you know what's if they want to continue their 29-game winning streak. The Seminoles have shown amazing resiliency this season but you can't win forever and they appear overmatched against the Ducks.

Prediction: Oregon 34, Florida State 24

College Football Playoff Semi-Final

Sugar Bowl

#1 Alabama (12-1) vs. #4 Ohio State (12-1) in New Orleans, LA

This game is almost more about Ohio State attempting to validate their presence in this game over Baylor. To me, you lose at home to a terrible Virginia Tech team and you have no business playing for a national title. However, I think the committee bought into the brand that is Ohio State, which is a much stronger brand than Baylor and that is why the Buckeyes are in New Orleans.

Ohio State was able to crush Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, 59-0, despite starting their third string quarterback Cardale Jones. Jones will get the start in this game, but the skill level between Wisconsin and Alabama figures to throw him for a bit of a loop. Jones was excellent against Wisconsin but there is a reason he started off this season third on the quarterback depth chart. The Badgers may have taken Jones lightly, but Nick Saban and the Tide have had a month to prepare for Jones. If the Buckeyes are going to keep this game interesting, it will be on the back of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott averages 6.5 yards per carry and has rushed for over 1,400 yards this season. He shredded the Badgers for 220 yards on the ground and took a ton of pressure off Jones in the process. It sounds like hyperbole but the Buckeyes chances of winning this game almost single-handedly rest on how well Elliott plays. The Buckeyes passing game is one that is more about finding its spots and then hitting a big play. While the Buckeyes offense mostly revolves around their rushing attack, they do have receivers capable of gaining huge chunks of yards. Ohio State's leading receivers are Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Devin Smith. Thomas averages 16 yards per catch and had 8 touchdowns this season, while Smith averages an absurd 27 yards per catch and has 11 touchdowns. The Buckeyes offense has relied on the big play all season long, so it will be interesting to see how well the Bama defense stops the big play. The Tide defense was strong all season aside from a poor performance against Auburn.

Crimson Tide senior quarterback Blake Sims has really come into his own this year. He had to battle for the job at the beginning of the year, but now the offense is clearly his. He was struggling mightily against Auburn as Alabama's season hang in the balance, but Saban stuck with him and Sims rewarded him for his faith by playing a flawless second half. Sims has a 65% completion percentage this season and just had his strongest performance of the season in the SEC Championship against Missouri, where he was 23 of 27 for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. Against a Buckeyes defense that is decent but not exceptional, Sims has the chance to pick apart the Buckeyes secondary, throwing to the best receiver in the country, Amari Cooper. Cooper is like watching a man amongst boys when he plays. He has 115 catches on the season and 25 in his past two games. Urban Meyer and Buckeyes will throw different coverages and looks at Sims to try to mess up his and Cooper's rhythm. The only team that has managed to slow down Cooper this season was Arkansas, so chances are no matter what Ohio State does, Cooper will get his. The Buckeyes should focus mostly on trying to take out the Bama rushing attack. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are a potent one-two rushing attack. They get about an equal amount of touches and both averaged over 5 yards per carry and ran for 10 touchdowns.

There is no denying that the Buckeyes offense has been spectacular this season. But asking a third string quarterback to beat a Bama defense that has had a month to prepare for him seems like too tall of an order. I think it will become apparent quickly that Jones is outmatched and this game will turn ugly pretty fast.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Ohio State 13

Overall: 104-32

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cram Session - Bowl Edition

Music City Bowl

Notre Dame (7-5) vs. #23 LSU (8-4), in Nashville, TN

Some teams are happy to earn a trip to a bowl game, as it gives them a chance to go into the off-season with a good feeling. But as a Notre Dame fan, this just feels like another opportunity to be embarrassed. Notre Dame comes into the Music City Bowl having lost four straight games and now have to face usual SEC powerhouse LSU. The Tigers aren't much of a powerhouse this season, but it is hard to feel like Notre Dame has any real chance of winning this game, especially with how poorly they played the last month of the season.

The Irish's current losing streak is an entire team effort. They have turned the ball over constantly on offense, and defensively, they have stopped no one. The Irish defense has given up 30+ points in their past seven games. Everett Golson has been such a turnover machine that Brian Kelly is electing to start Malik Zaire at quarterback in this game. Golson will likely see some playing time as well, but I like the decision to start Zaire. Golson is a senior and Zaire is the potential future starting quarterback and only a sophomore. A bowl game is a perfect opportunity to get him some real action on the field. Zaire saw a lot of action in Notre Dame's last game, a blowout loss at USC. He struggled with his accuracy, so that will be something to watch today. RB Tarean Folston was a bright spot in Notre Dame's lost season. In games that Notre Dame was actually competitive in down the stretch, Folston became the Irish's lead back they had been looking for. LSU has had problems stopping the run at times, so if Notre Dame can keep this game close, then Folston will have a chance to make an impact. Sophomore WR William Fuller and sophomore Corey Robinson are both two excellent receivers that Notre Dame will have at their disposal next year. Fuller has 14 touchdowns this season and had a touchdown in every game but two this year.

Tigers quarterback Anthony Jennings has struggled all year with his accuracy, completing less than 50% of his passes. Where Jennings likely will give the terrible Irish defense fits is with his legs. Jennings can take off at any time, and Notre Dame has been burned by quarterbacks like that this season. The Tigers also have strong running backs in freshman Leonard Fournette and senior Terrence Magee. LSU likes to wear teams out with the run, and if they dominate with their rushing attack today, that will leave Notre Dame susceptible to the big plays in the passing game. Sophomore Travin Dural is the only receiver worth watching for LSU, but after a strong start to the season, he hasn't produced much as of late.

I think Kelly should stick with Zaire at quarterback for as long as he is playing alright. If he tries to switch between Zaire and Golson too much, it will screw up the flow of the offense. I also think that Folston should be the focus of the gameplan, as he is less likely to turn the ball over. I think LSU will overpower Notre Dame's defensive line and run all over the Irish, and the defense won't get enough stops to give Notre Dame a true chance in this game.

Prediction: LSU 40, Notre Dame 26

Overall: 104-31

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Hail Mary - Looking Back on My 2014 Predictions

NFC East (My Predictions)

1. *New York Giants 10-6, 2. Philadelphia Eagles 8-8, 3. Washington 8-8, 4. Dallas 6-10

NFC East (Actual Results)

1. *Dallas 12-4, 2. Philadelphia 10-6, 3. New York Giants 6-10, 4. Washington 4-12

The Verdict: I need to stop picking the Giants to win the division. No one had Dallas going 12-4, and I was correct about the Eagles missing the playoffs.

NFC North (My Predictions)

1. *Chicago 11-5, 2. *Green Bay 11-5, 3. Minnesota 7-9, 4. Detroit 6-10

NFC North (Actual Results)

1. *Green Bay 12-4, 2. *Detroit 11-5, 3. Minnesota 7-9, 4. Chicago 5-11

The Verdict: Was way off on Chicago and Detroit, but pretty spot on with Green Bay and Minnesota.

NFC South (My Predictions)

1. *New Orleans 11-5, 2. Tampa Bay 7-9, 3. Atlanta 7-9, 4. Carolina 6-10

NFC South (Actual Results)

1. *Carolina 7-8-1. 2. New Orleans 7-9, 3. Atlanta 6-10, 4. Tampa Bay 2-14

The Verdict: Like many others, was caught off guard by how bad the Saints were this year. Basically predicted correctly that the division would stink.

NFC West (My Predictions)

1. *San Francisco 12-4, 2. *Seattle 10-6, 3. St. Louis 8-8, 4. Arizona 7-9

NFC West (Actual Results)

1. *Seattle 12-4, 2. *Arizona 11-5, 3. San Francisco 8-8, 4. St. Louis 6-10

The Verdict: The 49ers greatly underachieved compared to my expectations. I looked spot on about Seattle the first half of the season, but they turned it around in the second half to surpass my prediction. Arizona was much better than I anticipated.

In the NFC I correctly predicted 2 (Green Bay, Seattle) of the 6 playoff teams. I predicted a San Francisco/New Orleans NFC Championship game which obviously won't be happening with neither team making the playoffs. My Super Bowl pick of the 49ers did not pay off.

AFC East (My Predictions)

1. *New England 12-4, 2. Miami 8-8, 3. Buffalo 7-9, 4. New York Jets 7-9

AFC East (Actual Results)

1. *New England 12-4, 2. Buffalo 9-7, 3. Miami 8-8, 4. New York Jets 4-12

The Verdict: This is always the easiest division to predict a winner in. Only place I was really off was giving the Jets too much credit.

AFC North (My Predictions)

1. *Pittsburgh 11-5, 2. *Cincinnati 10-6, 3. *Baltimore 9-7, 4. Cleveland 7-9

AFC North (Actual Results)

1. *Pittsburgh 11-5, 2. *Cincinnati 10-5-1, 3. *Baltimore 10-6, 4. Cleveland 7-9

The Verdict: A perfect score in this division and I almost nailed the records too!

AFC South (My Predictions)

1. *Indianapolis 12-4, 2. Tennessee 5-11, 3. Houston 4-12, 4. Jacksonville 4-12

AFC South (Actual Results)

1. *Indianapolis 11-5, 2. Houston 9-7, 3. Jacksonville 3-13, 4. Tennessee 2-14

The Verdict: Colts ran away with the division as expected, the surprise was how improved Houston was.

AFC West (My Predictions)

1. *Denver 13-3, 2. Kansas City 9-7, 3. San Diego 8-8, 4. Oakland 4-12

AFC West (Actual Results)

1. *Denver 12-4, 2. Kansas City 9-7, 3. San Diego 9-7, 4. Oakland 3-13

The Verdict: Another division where I was almost perfect.

In the AFC I correctly predicted all four division winners and all 6 playoff teams. My AFC Championship game prediction of Denver/New England is still in play, as is Denver as my choice to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 17

Sunday, December 28

New York Jets (3-12) at Miami (8-7), Miami favored by 5 1/2

For the Jets, this should be the final game of the Rex Ryan era. It started off with a bang, producing back to back AFC Championship trips but Ryan has missed the playoffs four straight seasons since. Many Dolphins fans think this should be the end of the Joe Philbin era after missing the playoffs for a third straight year. However, Stephen Ross announced after last week's win that Philbin will be back next season.

Prediction: Miami 27, New York Jets 20

Chicago (5-10) at Minnesota (6-9), Minnesota favored by 6 1/2

This could be Marc Trestman's final game as Bears coach, as the Bears complete a bitterly disappointing season. Jay Cutler will return as the starter after sitting a game, as Jimmy Clausen is out with a concussion. The Vikings have some hope going forward thanks to some recently improved play from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The big question hanging over them this off-season is what happens with Adrian Peterson.

Prediction: Minnesota 31, Chicago 17

Philadelphia (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9), New York Giants favored by 3

A three game losing streak has killed the Eagles season as they were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend. The biggest issues to address in the off-season appear to be the secondary and possibly the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez is a free agent, and Nick Foles was turnover prone during his time as the starter. This could be the end of an era for the Giants, as speculation runs wild that this will be Tom Coughlin's final game as coach.

Prediction: Philadelphia 26, New York Giants 23

Dallas (11-4) at Washington (4-11), Dallas favored by 7

The Cowboys have a slight chance at earning a first round bye and homefield advantage but have already wrapped up a playoff spot and the NFC East. This game will mostly be about keeping everyone healthy, especially RB DeMarco Murray who is recovering from surgery on a broken hand. The latest talk out of Washington is that Jay Gruden and Robert Griffin III will both be back next season to try to improve on this year's disastrous campaign.

Prediction: Dallas 28, Washington 22

Cleveland (7-8) at Baltimore (9-6), Baltimore favored by 9

Finally, a game with some playoff implications! The Ravens are currently seventh in the AFC and need a victory, plus a Chargers loss to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season. They should be able to handle their business pretty easily against a Browns team that has lost four in a row and may be forced to start Connor Shaw in this game.

Prediction: Baltimore 27, Cleveland 10

Indianapolis (10-5) at Tennessee (2-13), Indianapolis favored by 6 1/2

The only question surrounding this game is how much time, if any, Chuck Pagano will have his starters play. The Colts are locked in as the fourth seed, but a lot of questions are being asked about just how good they actually are. Getting obliterated by Dallas last week didn't help their case, so maybe Pagano will play his starters a bit to get that bad taste out of their mouths.

Prediction: Indianapolis 20, Tennessee 17

Jacksonville (3-12) at Houston (8-7), Houston favored by 9 1/2

A year after winning just 2 games, the Texans are battling for a playoff spot on the final week of the season. Bill O'Brien should get some serious Coach of the Year consideration, especially since he is on his third starting quarterback this season. Houston has to win and hope for losses by San Diego and Baltimore in order to make the playoffs. Even if Houston misses out on the playoffs, a winning season would be quite an accomplishment after last year's debacle.

Prediction: Houston 25, Jacksonville 14

San Diego (9-6) at Kansas City (8-7), Kansas City favored by 2 1/2

Massive playoff implications rest on this game. For the Chargers, it is simple, win and they are in. For the Chiefs, they have to win and hope the Browns and Jags can upset the Ravens and Texans. The Chiefs hopes appear to be slim so the other thing to watch for in this game is if Alex Smith can manage to throw a touchdown pass to a receiver, something the Chiefs haven't done all season. The Chargers playoff hopes have stayed alive thanks to two come from behind wins on the road against the Harbaugh brothers. It will take another tough road victory to get them into the playoffs. Myself and the rest of the pundits of the NFL are quickly learning not to bet against Philip Rivers.

Prediction: San Diego 34, Kansas City 30

Buffalo (8-7) at New England (12-3), New England favored by 10

Nothing at stake in this game, other than the Bills looking to secure their first winning season since 2004. The Patriots have already clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs so I would be surprised if Tom Brady plays more than a series or at all in this game.

Prediction: New England 19, Buffalo 16

New Orleans (6-9) at Tampa Bay (2-13), New Orleans favored by 4

A highly disappointing season for the Saints concludes in Tampa on Sunday. New Orleans went from not being able to win on the road, to not being able to win at home. They dropped five straight home games to end the season and are currently on a three game road winning streak. The Bucs will clinch the first pick in the 2015 draft if they lose this game. You have to think that quarterback will be at the top of their wish list.

Prediction: New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 14

Arizona (11-4) at San Francisco (7-8), San Francisco favored by 6

A bitterly disappointing season finally ends for the 49ers on Sunday. It will also be the end of the Jim Harbaugh era in San Francisco. Three NFC Championship appearances and a Super Bowl appearance is the legacy that Harbaugh will leave behind. Apparently, he has become the modern day Bill Parcells. Someone that will quickly turn around a team but wear out his welcome just as fast. I think you have to find a way to make it work with a coach as talented as Harbaugh but GM Trent Baalke and owner Jed York don't seem to agree. The 49ers have a ton of free agents and will look vastly different next season. The offense will hopefully be led by a new coordinator and Colin Kaepernick will really have to prove himself in 2015 after a very disappointing 2014 campaign. The Cardinals loss to Seattle saw them fall from the number one seed to the number six seed. They were going to start Logan Thomas for this game but coach Bruce Arians has changed his mind and will once again give Ryan Lindley the nod. The 49ers are coming off an embarrassing loss at home to the Chargers, blowing a 21-0 lead. I have to think the players have some pride left and can beat a Lindley led Cardinals team at home.

Prediction: San Francisco 15, Arizona 12

Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9), Atlanta favored by 4

The battle for the short bus division culminates in Atlanta! The winner of this game will become the second team ever to win a division with a losing record. However, they will be in the playoffs and will get to host a Wild Card game. The Falcons are expecting to be without RB Steven Jackson for this game, but back up Devonta Freeman has shown he can make plays when given the chance. The Falcons also will have Julio Jones for this one, as Jones made his return last week after a one week absence and was instrumental in helping the Falcons knock off the Saints. The Panthers recent three game winning streak has been because of improved defensive play, as well as Jonathan Stewart running wild. Cam Newton came back from his car accident last week, playing well enough to lead Carolina to a win. The Falcons have lost four of their past five games at home, but I still like them to take the division because of the homefield advantage they will have against Carolina. They already knocked off the Panthers in Carolina, and I believe that Matt Ryan will have a strong game passing, with Roddy White and Jones being the key to the victory.

Prediction: Atlanta 29, Carolina 23

Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4), Green Bay favored by 7 1/2

The NFC North and a first round playoff bye are on the line in Lambeau. The Lions have been hearing all week about how they haven't won at Green Bay since 1991. The Lions dominated Green Bay when these teams met in Detroit earlier this season, and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had one of his worst games of the season. History gives the Lions no chance in this game, and they will have no shot if their offense continues to struggle on the road as they have all season long. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has had an underwhelming season and this Lions team has mostly been carried by its defense, which is 13th against the pass but best in the NFL against the run. That means that Rodgers should be able to get the passing game going, but Eddie Lacey's impact remains to be seen. The Packers are averaging 41 points a game at home this season, and it just seems like way too tall of a task to ask the Lions to win at Green Bay.

Prediction: Green Bay 38, Detroit 24

Oakland (3-12) at Denver (11-4), Denver favored by 14 1/2

The Broncos need a win to clinch a first round bye. Peyton Manning could use a good performance after his four interception dud at Cincinnati last Monday night. Manning has just 5 TDs and 6 INTs in his last four games. People are starting to question if age is finally catching up to Manning. All of this speculation seems a little silly, quarterbacks go through tough streaks at times. Plus, if Manning fails in the playoffs, how will that be different than every other year but one in his career?

Prediction: Denver 35, Oakland 13

St. Louis (6-9) at Seattle (11-4), Seattle favored by 13

A win gives the Seahawks the NFC West title and homefield advantage in the NFC for a second straight season. The Seahawks have gotten their mojo back after a 6-4 start that had many stating they must have been suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. As for the Rams, it will be another January at home for Jeff Fisher and company. I haven't heard much chatter about Fisher being on the hot seat but you have to think ownership is growing restless with winning 6 and 7 games each season. All I hear about is how the Rams crushed the Redskins in the RG3 trade but how exactly? They got a ton of players but they haven't even been to the playoffs.

Prediction: Seattle 25, St. Louis 17

Cincinnati (10-4-1) at Pittsburgh (10-5), Pittsburgh favored by 3 1/2

Both teams have secured playoff spots but the AFC North is on the line in the final game of the regular season. The Bengals will be looking for revenge for a loss to the Steelers at home a few weeks ago, when the defense collapsed in the fourth quarter. The Bengals are feeling good about themselves after a strong performance on Monday night against the Broncos. They had been dealing with talk of poor performances in prime time, so this quieted that down, at least for now. The next hurdle they will have to climb is trying to win in the playoffs. It would seemingly be an easier feat to accomplish if they get a home playoff game, as opposed to having to go on the road. The Bengals feel more hopeful this year because of two headed monster they have at running back with Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard.  The Steelers have quite the potent offense themselves, between Ben Roethlibserger to Antonio Brown, and Le'Veon Bell running the ball so well. I am just not sure how much the Bengals will have left in the tank after Monday's battle with Denver.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 33, Cincinnati 21

Last Week Against the Spread: 7-8-1
Overall Against the Spread: 120-116-3

Last Week Straight Up: 7-9
Overall Straight Up: 165-76-1

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cram Session - Bowl Edition

Holiday Bowl

Nebraska (9-3) vs. #24 USC (8-4) in San Diego, CA

Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian finds himself in a familiar position, facing off against the Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl. The difference this time is that Bo Pelini won't be on the opposing sideline. Nebraska finally made the move that was necessary, jettisoning Pelini despite his penchant for nine win seasons. Pelini might have the most misleading record in the history of coaching. On the surface it looks impressive, but when you dig deeper and see how miserably Nebraska failed against top tier opponents, you understand why a change was made. The hiring of former Oregon State coach Mike Riley didn't seem all that inspired, but there is no denying that his style will be in sharp contrast to what Husker fans saw out of Pelini.

In the meantime Nebraska's players, who weren't too enamored with the coaching switch, need to try to focus on the task at hand. Barney Cotton will serve as interim coach for this game, as seniors like Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell try to go out in style. Sophomore QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. had an up and down season, and Riley's biggest task going into next season will be the development of Armstrong. That will become even more critical with Abdullah no longer on the team next season. Abdullah had a special senior season, and you can bet that he will be a major part of the gameplan for this game. Receivers Bell and Jordan Westerkamp will have to try to win their individual battles with the Trojans athletic corners. Defensively, the Huskers have been up and down, and another reason Pelini was let go, was that despite his experience on the defensive side of the ball, he was never able to consistently field a dominant unit on that side of the ball.

The Huskers will have their hands full with a talented Trojans offense, led by one of the best quarterbacks in the country, Cody Kessler. The junior finished the regular season with 36 TDs and just 4 INTs, capping off his season with a dominant 6 TD performance against Notre Dame. In six games this season, Kessler threw 4 or more touchdowns. Kessler's favorite receiver is fellow junior Nelson Agholor. Agholor really came on strong down the stretch, finishing with over 100 yards receiving in five of his last six games, and going over 200 yards in two of those games. However, the Trojans offense isn't all about passing. Another junior, RB Javorius Allen led the Trojans with 1,337 yards rushing this season. Allen has been held in check in the Trojans last three games, not eclipsing 100 yards rushing in those contests. Before that, he had gone over 100 yards rushing in eight of USC's first nine games.

Talent wise, the Trojans are a step above Nebraska. Add in the shake up at the coaching position and this will be a tall task for Nebraska. It would be nice if they could at least be competitive with the Trojans but I don't see that happening. I expect the Trojans to dominate the Huskers on the offensive side of the ball, and the Huskers will finish with a Pelini staple, a four loss season.

Prediction: USC 38, Nebraska 24

Overall: 103-31

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 16

Thursday, December 18

Tennessee (2-12) at Jacksonville (2-12), Jacksonville favored by 3

Prediction: Jacksonville 24, Tennessee 14

Saturday, December 20

Philadelphia (9-5) at Washington (3-11), Philadelphia favored by 9

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Washington 17

San Diego (8-6) at San Francisco (7-7), San Francisco favored by 2

Prediction: San Francisco 19, San Diego 16

Sunday, December 21

Minnesota (6-8) at Miami (7-7), Miami favored by 7

Prediction: Miami 25, Minnesota 21

Baltimore (9-5) at Houston (7-7),  Baltimore favored by 6

Prediction: Baltimore 27, Houston 13

Detroit (10-4) at Chicago (5-9), Detroit favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Detroit 33, Chicago 17

Cleveland (7-7) at Carolina (5-8-1), Carolina favored by 4

Prediction: Carolina 18, Cleveland 12

Atlanta (5-9) at New Orleans (6-8), New Orleans favored by 6 1/2

Prediction: New Orleans 30, Atlanta 27

Green Bay (10-4) at Tampa Bay (2-12), Green Bay favored by 10 1/2

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Tampa Bay 17

Kansas City (8-6) at Pittsburgh (9-5), Pittsburgh favored by 3 1/2

Prediction: Kansas City 26, Pittsburgh 23

New England (11-3) at New York Jets (3-11), New England favored by 10 1/2

Prediction: New England 28, New York Jets 19

New York Giants (5-9) at St. Louis (6-8), St. Louis favored by 5

Prediction: St. Louis 29, New York Giants 21

Buffalo (8-6) at Oakland (2-12), Buffalo favored by 6

Prediction: Buffalo 22, Oakland 17

Indianapolis (10-4) at Dallas (10-4), Dallas favored by 3

Prediction: Indianapolis 35, Dallas 31

Seattle (10-4) at Arizona (11-3), Seattle favored by 9

Prediction: Seattle 24, Arizona 10

Monday, December 22

Denver (11-3) at Cincinnati (9-4-1), Denver favored by 3 1/2

Prediction: Denver 28, Cincinnati 20

Last Week Against the Spread: 10-5-1
Overall Against the Spread: 113-108-2

Last Week Straight Up: 13-3
Overall Straight Up: 156-67-1

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 15

Thursday, December 11

Arizona (10-3) at St. Louis (6-7), St. Louis favored by 4 1/2

It is not often that Vegas would have a team under .500 as 4 1/2 point favorites versus the number one seed in the NFC but here we are. The Cardinals have been sputtering without Carson Palmer, while the Rams have pitched back to back shutouts, outscoring their opponents 76-0 in those games. The Rams run is a little too late, as they are only mathematically alive for the playoffs at this point, but they could put a dent in the Cardinals chances at winning the NFC West and securing a first round bye. The Cardinals offense has been stagnant with Drew Stanton at quarterback and now their running game is in trouble after starter Andre Ellington was lost for the season. However, Kenwynn Williams stepped in for Ellington last week and rushed for 100 yards against the Chiefs. The Rams might be in a better position if Jeff Fisher had shown more faith in Shaun Hill, who has played well since replacing Austin Davis. I don't think the Rams will post a third straight shutout, but I do think with the advantage of homefield they can earn their third straight victory.

Prediction: St. Louis 20, Arizona 17 

Sunday, December 14

Miami (7-6) at New England (10-3), New England favored by 7 1/2

New England can clinch the AFC East with a win, which is something I feel like I have typed ever since I started this blog way back when. The Dolphins look like they will once again just miss the playoffs after playing terrible football at home against Baltimore last week. A third straight year of no playoffs would probably spell the end of the Joe Philbin era. I think Ryan Tannehill has had a strong enough season that the Dolphins should re-up him and make him their franchise quarterback. I think Philbin is a nice enough guy but he has taken the Dolphins as far as he can. They need to hire someone else to help them take that next step. The Dolphins tend to always play New England competitively., so I expect the Patriots to have to work their tails off but they will defeat Miami and become AFC East champs yet again.

Prediction: New England 27, Miami 20

Washington (3-10) at New York Giants (4-9), New York Giants favored by 6 1/2

The only intrigue surrounding this game between losers is who will start for the Redskins, Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III? McCoy injured his neck in the Skins latest embarrassing home loss last week, so Griffin might get a chance to wipe off some of the stink from his last start against San Francisco. No matter who starts for Washington, they will drop their sixth straight game and secure a last place finish in the NFC East for a second straight year.

Prediction: New York Giants 20, Washington 14

Pittsburgh (8-5) at Atlanta (5-8), Pittsburgh favored by 2 1/2

Atlanta keeps losing but it hasn't mattered as they remain in first place in the NFC South. But if they want to backdoor their way into the playoffs they will have to win at some point. Facing the usually potent Steelers offense with their usually awful defense does not seem like the recipe for a win though. Plus, their best player Julio Jones is dealing with a hip injury and may have to miss the game. The Steelers offenses latest explosion came in the fourth quarter at Cincinnati last weekend, keeping the Steelers very much alive in the AFC North race. Le'Veon Bell is on a tear, posting over 200 yards from scrimmage in three straight games. Him and Big Ben should be in line for another big game, against the Falcons 32nd ranked passing offense and 21st ranked rushing defense. Much like their game with Green Bay last week, Matt Ryan will keep his team in it but the defense won't be able to get the necessary stops.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Atlanta 24

Oakland (2-11) at Kansas City (7-6), Kansas City favored by 10 1/2

The Chiefs three game losing streak began with a loss to the Raiders and now they face a make or break game for their season at home against Oakland. Will this finally be the week that Alex Smith throws his first touchdown to a wide receiver this year? Raiders QB David Carr is having a pretty strong rookie season and giving the usually hopeless Raiders some faith that they may have landed a franchise quarterback. However, when the Raiders last went on the road two weeks ago, they were blasted by the Rams 52-0. The Raiders haven't been good for a very long time but they always play the Chiefs hard and have had some success against them in this rivalry game. I can't picture Kansas City getting swept by Oakland but this game will be closer than the experts think.

Prediction: Kansas City 28, Oakland 20

Houston (7-6) at Indianapolis (9-4), Indianapolis favored by 6 1/2

With a victory the Colts will wrap up the AFC South for a second straight season. Indy got an ugly win at Cleveland last week, but Andrew Luck continues to have trouble holding on to the ball, losing a fumble for the third straight game. He could be in line for a fourth straight game with a fumble with J.J. Watt running after him all day. Chances seem strong that Colts will win the division Sunday as the Texans have never won in Indianapolis. With #1 pick Jadaveon Clowney out for the year this season and barely playing at all prior to that, Texans fans have to be pretty pleased with Bill O'Brien in his first season. He has already improved the team by 5 wins from last year and has done that with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starter for most of the season. This is the Colts last home game of the regular season, and they want to make sure it is not their last home game period, and a win would guarantee that.

Prediction: Indianapolis 35, Houston 21

Jacksonville (2-11) at Baltimore (8-5),  Baltimore favored by 13 1/2

The already awful Jags are a little more awful for the final three games of the season after losing Denard Robinson for the year. That likely means that free agent bust Toby Gerhart will see the bulk of the carries on Sunday. No matter who is running the ball has a tough time against the Ravens fourth ranked rush defense. Last week, the Ravens overcame a 10-0 deficit at Miami and won but the defensive line definitely showed they missed Haloti Ngata. Lamar Miller averaged over four yards per carry, and the Ravens face a Houston rushing attack next week that is fourth in the league. If things break a certain way the Ravens could be in first place by the end of the day Sunday. The Jags haven't won on the road all season and the Ravens are very tough at home, especially QB Joe Flacco who is much better at home. This should be a cake walk for Baltimore.

Prediction: Baltimore 29, Jacksonville 10

Green Bay (10-3) at Buffalo (7-6), Green Bay favored by 5

The Bills will have to play their best game of the season if they want to keep alive their slim playoff hopes. Thankfully for them they will be hosting the Packers and not have to travel to Lambeau Field where the Packers have reasserted their dominance this season. The Packers defense was quite generous against Atlanta last Monday night, but I am not sure the Bills, led by Kyle Orton have the weapons to take advantage of them. The Bills defense should keep the offense in the game, as they are Top 10 in the NFL and held Peyton Manning without a touchdown pass last week. It would be quite a feat if they were able to do the same to Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. This is the Bills final home game of the season and it is a must win game so I expect a raucous atmosphere at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Those type of situations sometimes bring the worst out of the road team, but Rodgers is a special player and he will thrive in those conditions. 

Prediction: Green Bay 27, Buffalo 17

Tampa Bay (2-11) at Carolina (4-8-1), No Line

The Panthers saved their season with a rout of New Orleans in the Superdome but the good vibes didn't last long, when Cam Newton was hurt in a car accident on Tuesday. Newton will miss Sunday's game against Tampa and after that the team says they will take his status on a day by day basis. Derek Anderson will make his second start of the season, and his first came against Tampa in the regular season opener which the Panthers won. A win and losses by the Saints and Falcons would have the Panthers in first place in the NFC South with two games left to go. That is miraculous and speaks to how awful the NFC North is when you see that Carolina has just two wins in their past 11 games. Anderson should play capably and the Buccaneers suck, so the Panthers playoff hopes will remain alive after Sunday.

Prediction: Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 21

Cincinnati (8-4-1) at Cleveland (7-6), Line is pick em'

The Johnny Football era finally begins! Johnny Manziel will make his first NFL start in a must win game for the Browns. The offense has been stagnant for about a month and coach Mike Pettine had decided he had seen enough and was ready to bench Brian Hoyer in favor of Manziel. The Bengals will be hell bent on revenge because they were embarrassed by the Browns on national television when these teams last played. The Bengals have won three straight on the road and can practically eliminate the Browns from contention in the AFC North. Manziel has a chance against a Bengals defense that has really struggled this season. They are coming off allowing 4 touchdowns in the fourth quarter at home against Pittsburgh. They have been dealing with injuries all season and just placed LB Vontaze Burfict on IR. I think Manziel will make some plays happen with his legs and revitalize the Browns offense to a degree. But being that this is his first NFL start, I expect him to make just as many mistakes and for it to be too much for Cleveland to overcome.  

Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 20

New York Jets (2-11) at Tennessee (2-11), New York Jets favored by 1 1/2

What a disgusting game. 

Prediction: New York Jets 6, Tennessee 3

Denver (10-3) at San Diego (8-5), Denver favored by 4

The Broncos clinch the AFC West with a victory. The Chargers are hanging on to a playoff spot but are desperate for a win here as they finish on the road at San Francisco and at Kansas City. The Broncos passing offense has been surprisingly stagnant the past few weeks but Denver has won despite that. The Chargers are another team with a tough pass defense so I expect C.J. Anderson to see plenty of carries. However, the Denver passing game will receive a boost by the likely return of TE Julius Thomas to action. Save for a strong performance against Baltimore a few weeks ago, the Chargers offense has been scuffling, and it appears the lack of a consistent run game has finally caught up to Philip Rivers and the passing game. The Broncos pass defense struggles so Rivers

Prediction: Denver 34, San Diego 27

San Francisco (7-6) at Seattle (9-4), Seattle favored by 10

Such a bitterly disappointing season for the 49ers. I thought they had the toughness to overcome all the divisive talk in the media but it has become apparent that something will have to change in San Francisco next year. I would prefer it not be the head coach, but it sounds like things are pretty toxic and that Jim Harbaugh will be shown the door in some form or fashion once the season ends. The 49ers have been brutal in their last few regular season trips to Seattle and many are expecting a similar blood letting this time. The Seahawks defense has returned to form and been nearly impenetrable, while the 49ers offense has been the definition of putrid the last few weeks. Colin Krapernick seems to have contracted RGIII disease and now completely sucks.  I give San Francisco about a one percent chance of winning this game, but I also think they will at least go down fighting. Everyone is calling for a blowout and typically when everyone is in agreement on something, the opposite will happen. I can't really break down X and O reasons why the 49ers will make this game, other than to say this is a prideful group and I don't expect them to be eliminated from playoff contention without a fight. I hope I am right, because after how embarrassingly awful they played at Oakland last week, I know another tough game is entirely possible. 

Prediction: Seattle 26, San Francisco 20

Minnesota (6-7) at Detroit (9-4), Detroit favored by 7 1/2

The Vikings are hanging on by a mathematical thread to their playoff hopes, while Detroit is attempting to keep pace with the Packers for the NFC North. Detroit plays Green Bay in Lambeau the final week of the season, so we could be headed for a winner take all showdown.  Teddy Bridgewater could get nothing going the first time he played the Lions, as Detroit held the Vikings to just three points. I think he has improved since then and I expect a better showing from him against Detroit this time. Detroit is the better team though and their defense will make the crucial plays needed, and Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford will probably hook up for a touchdown or two. 

Prediction: Detroit 27, Minnesota 21

Dallas (9-4) at Philadelphia (9-4), Philadelphia favored by 3 1/2

These two bitter rivals meet for the second time in three weeks. Dallas was embarrassed at home on Thanksgiving but recovered nicely last week with a dominating offensive performance against the Bears. The Cowboys had a ready made excuse last time they played Philly as they had played on Sunday night and then had a very short week. No such excuse exists this time as they have had a week and a half to prepare for Philly. Bad Mark Sanchez came out to play for the Eagles last week, as he could generate next to nothing offensively other than a fluke touchdown pass. He was flawless last time he played Dallas and LeSean McCoy had an excellent game running the ball. I think that in this game both offenses will play well and overwhelm the defenses, but that McCoy will carry Philadelphia to the win and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.  

Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Dallas 24

Monday, December 15

New Orleans (5-8) at Chicago (5-8), New Orleans favored by 3

Two teams with identical records sitting in completely different situations. Chicago is eliminated from playoff contention while New Orleans is tied for first place in the NFC South. The Saints have swapped their narrative, having now lost four in a row at home, while winning two straight on the road. The Bears offense has already been highly disappointing and now is without Brandon Marshall for the rest of the season. Matt Forte has disappeared the past few weeks as the Bears have gotten behind and abandoned their run game. The Saints have been bad on defense but haven't been much better offensively at times, and it is really mystifying just how much they have struggled this season. Neither of these teams are very good but the Saints have a lot more to play for than pride and I think they win their third straight on the road.  

Prediction: New Orleans 28, Chicago 22

Last Week Against the Spread: 10-5-1
Overall Against the Spread: 103-103-1

Last Week Straight Up: 13-3
Overall Straight Up: 143-64-1

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 14

Sunday, December 7

Baltimore (7-5) at Miami (7-5), Miami favored by 3

The Dolphins currently hold the final playoff spot in the AFC. Similar to last year they find themselves controlling their own destiny, and they should be favored in three of their final four games. However, if they lose to Baltimore they will essentially fall two games behind Baltimore thanks to losing the tiebreaker. The Ravens let a great opportunity slip away when they blew a 13 point lead late against San Diego last week. Harbaugh's teams usually respond pretty well after some form of adversity and they have had Miami's number in recent years. The Dolphins will be helped by news of the suspension of Ravens monstrous DT Haloti Ngata for adderall. That should open up things for their rushing attack and Lamar Miller. Last week's ugly performance against the Jets was at least reassuring in the fact that the Dolphins won the game. That was often a game that they have lost in recent years. I think it is a sign that Miami has turned over a new leaf and is ready to take the next step with Tannehill and Philbin.

Prediction: Miami 24, Baltimore 17

New York Jets (2-10) at Minnesota (5-7), Minnesota favored by 6

The Vikings goal for the final four games of the season is to win all of them and finish over .500 or at least win three of four. They should have no problem with Geno Smith and the Jets in frigid Minneapolis this weekend. The Jets took ground and pound to a whole other level against Miami last Monday night, only allowing Smith to throw the ball 13 times. I'd expect a similar gameplan this week since the Vikings defense is 6th in the NFL against the pass, but 24th against the run. Like last week, it may keep the Jets in the game, but it won't lead to a victory.

Prediction: Minnesota 26, New York Jets 15

St. Louis (5-7) at Washington (3-9), St. Louis favored by 2 1/2

Both of these teams are playing out the string, although the Rams could be playing for Jeff Fisher's job, since this will make it the third year in a row the Rams miss out on the playoffs under his leadership. Washington could hardly ever beat the Rams when they were slightly better than St. Louis, so I don't expect that to change now that the tables have turned and the Redskins are the completely terrible team.

Prediction: St. Louis 23, Washington 20

Pittsburgh (7-5) at Cincinnati (8-3-1), Cincinnati favored by 2 1/2

The Steelers have mostly dominated Cincinnati in games played at Paul Brown Stadium, and have to hope that trend continues if they want to keep their AFC North hopes alive. The Steelers once again couldn't beat a bad team at home, falling to New Orleans last week. The defense hasn't been getting stops consistently and Ben Roethlisberger has been struggling after his two game tear when he threw 12 touchdowns. Cincinnati has won three in a row, all of those coming on the road. Last time they were at home, QB Andy Dalton had one of the worst performances of his career and the Bengals were embarrassed by the Browns. It was their first regular season loss at home in two years, but you have to wonder about Dalton's psyche playing at home. If he starts off this game struggling, the crowd could turn on him quickly. The Steelers make no sense and seem to win games you never expect them to, so that is the path I will follow with this game.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Cincinnati 20

New York Giants (3-9) at Tennessee (2-10), Line is pick em

Lord help the Giants if they lose in back to back weeks to the Jaguars and Titans. I think the Giants will finally end their seven game losing streak this weekend but who knows. What I do know is that Tom Coughlin won't be back next year, as I am guessing he will resign, and who knows, maybe Eli will move on as well.

Prediction: New York Giants 33, Tennessee 20

Carolina (3-8-1) at New Orleans (5-7), New Orleans favored by 9 1/2

With last week's loss and wins by the Falcons and Saints, we can almost stop pretending like the putrid Panthers have any chance of winning the NFC South. A loss to the Saints on Sunday would all but eliminate the Panthers from playoff contention and would also be their seventh straight defeat. Drew Brees is coming off his finest performance of the season as the Saints made it two straight wins on the road. Now apparently it is at home where they can no longer win, entering this game with a three game home losing streak. The three teams they lost to at home, 49ers, Bengals, and Ravens were all over .500 though and solid teams. I don't envision them not being able to beat a very bad Panthers team at home this weekend.

Prediction: New Orleans 34, Carolina 25

Indianapolis (8-4) at Cleveland (7-5), Indianapolis favored by 3 1/2

Browns coach Mike Pettine created unnecessary quarterback drama by removing Brian Hoyer from last week's loss against the Bills and inserting Johnny Manziel. The media is obsessed with Johnny Football so him leading a touchdown drive turned into the greatest feat ever accomplished. Pettine though has decided to stick with Hoyer, likely because the Browns remain very much alive in both the AFC North and wild card races. The Colts have only 2 wins against teams with winning records this season and both of those came at home. If they win and the Texans lose, then Indianapolis clinches the AFC South early for the second straight year. The Browns are no juggernaut and this is the type of game the Colts have to win if they are to be taken seriously as contenders in January.

Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Cleveland 19

Tampa Bay (2-10) at Detroit (8-4), Detroit favored by 9 1/2

The Bucs found a new way to lose last week, having 12 men on the field on a crucial gain late in the game and then watching Bengals coach Marvin Lewis illegally challenge the play, which drew the attention of the officials and ended up working out against Tampa. The Lions moved closer to a playoff berth by overcoming an early deficit against Chicago, and blowing out the Bears on turkey day. It was a much needed return to form for the Lions offense, including the reemergence of Megatron, Calvin Johnson. Tampa Bay has had recent success in Detroit, but I don't see their offense being able to generate enough to pull off the road upset.

Prediction: Detroit 30, Tampa Bay 22

Houston (6-6) at Jacksonville (2-10), Houston favored by 5

Usually if you were just a game behind the final playoff spot with four to go you would feel like you had a real chance. Unfortunately for the Texans, that one game out has them behind six teams that are all 7-5. Houston has two games left against Jacksonville so an 8 win season is highly possible and would be a nice turnaround after winning just 2 games a year ago. The Jaguars have played some of their better games at home though, so the Texans can't count on this game to be a complete pushover. Ryan Fitzpatrick won't throw six touchdowns against like he did last week, but he will play well and Houston will get back over .500.

Prediction: Houston 27, Jacksonville 14

Buffalo (7-5) at Denver (9-3), Denver favored by 10

Bills fans thought their season was over two weeks ago when they lost to the Dolphins to drop to 5-5. But back to back wins have the Bills right back in the playoff race, but they face a monumental challenge in Denver. Kyle Orton plays one of his many former teams, while the Bills defense looks to keep pace with Peyton Manning and the Broncos lethal offense. A new dimension has taken the load for Denver the last two weeks, their run game, led by third string running back C.J Anderson. The Bills have one of the better defenses in football, but so does Miami and the Broncos put up 30+ on the Dolphins in Denver two weeks ago. The Bills best chance will be if their defensive line can overwhelm the Broncos inconsistent offensive line and make life hell for Manning. But even if Manning can't throw as much, the line has proved they can pave the way for Anderson.  You need a dynamic offense to beat Denver, especially on the road, and Kyle Orton doesn't provide that for the Bills.

Prediction: Denver 34, Buffalo 26

Kansas City (7-5) at Arizona (9-3), Arizona favored by 1

The Chiefs loss to the awful Raiders could end up being the nail in their coffin if they end up missing the playoffs. A win at Arizona this week could be huge though as they get the Raiders at home next week and I can't picture them losing again to Oakland. The Cardinals are having problems of their own, losing two straight games as Drew Stanton has struggled. It hasn't helped Stanton that Larry Fitzgerald sat out the past two games with injury. The Cardinals are undefeated at home this season and have to hope the crowd can carry them to a win. The Chiefs defense is terrible against the run but the Cardinals don't have much of a run game to speak of. Kansas City is first in the league against the pass, so Stanton will have his work cut out for him. On the other side though, Mr. Dink and Dunk Alex Smith hasn't thrown a touchdown to a wide receiver all season. That won't make too much of a difference this weekend since I expect this to be a close game, but Smith's limitations are starting to frustrate Chief fans like they did 49er fans. I think this game might turn into a field goal battle.

Prediction: Arizona 18, Kansas City 15

San Francisco (7-5) at Oakland (1-11), San Francisco favored by 8

The 49ers three game winning streak is a distant memory after their embarrassing Thanksgiving loss at home to Seattle. The 49ers just went through the motions, not playing with any level of urgency and the offense is horrific. Colin Kaepernick seems to have RG3 disease and has regressed and when Frank Gore doesn't get enough touches early, the entire flow of the offense falls apart. If the offense was ever going to show signs of life, playing the Raiders this weekend is their chance. Oakland is coming off an embarrassing 52-0 pasting courtesy of the Rams in St. Louis. The Niners next three games after this are at Seattle, and then they close out at home against San Diego and Arizona. Those opponents have a combined record of 25-11, so if the 49ers do somehow find their way into the playoffs they would have earned it. The defense has played well all season and they should be licking their chops getting to face rookie David Carr. I think Carr will be good for about two to three interceptions, which will help make things easier for the offense. I really hope that Kap shows some improvement this week, and that offensive coordinator Greg Roman can start calling plays that accentuate his players strengths. It would also be nice if Vernon Davis could return from wherever it is that he has gone missing.

Prediction: San Francisco 28, Oakland 14

Seattle (8-4) at Philadelphia (9-3), Philadelphia favored by 1

The Seahawks are starting to find their swagger again and now just sit one game out of the NFC West race. If they end up getting homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, the Seahawks will likely repeat as NFC champions. The Eagles will have something to say about that though and if they can beat Seattle at home they would basically guarantee that Seattle couldn't overtake them in the standings this year. Mark Sanchez faces his former college coach Pete Carroll. Sanchez has performed pretty well since taking over for Foles but I still am not convinced that he can go against a defense like Seattle's and find a lot of success. I also am not sure how well the Eagles defense will be able to contain Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. The Eagles had a fine defensive performance at Dallas last week, but that was a tired Cowboys team. The Seahawks will be well rested and Wilson just creates so many opportunities with how he moves around the pocket. I expect a low-scoring game but the Seahawks to make the championship plays at the end of the game that separate them from other contenders.

Prediction: Seattle 21, Philadelphia 16

New England (9-3) at San Diego (8-4),  New England favored by 3 1/2

December is Philip Rivers month, and that will be put to the test right away as the Chargers host the Patriots. New England will be looking to avoid a 2 game losing streak after a tough loss at Green Bay last week. Primetime road tests seem to bring out the best in the Patriots, while playing the Patriots seems to bring out the worst in Philip Rivers. Rivers had a fine performance last week after some duds the past month. The Chargers will need that fine form to continue, as Rivers faces a very good New England secondary. The Patriots seem to feature a new running back every week, as last weekend it was Brandon Bolden who got into the end zone, while Jonas Gray has remained missing after shredding the Colts two weeks ago. Both teams play strong defense so both Rivers and Brady will have their work cut out for them. I can't pick against New England on a Sunday night though, especially with them looking to avoid a losing streak. Belichick and Brady will be at their finest and the Chargers won't be able to match it.

Prediction: New England 31, San Diego 21

Monday, December 8

Atlanta (5-7) at Green Bay (9-3), Green Bay favored by 12

Record wise this doesn't look like a matchup of teams with similar stakes, but because of the awful NFC South, the Falcons, like the Packers, enter this game in first place. Green Bay defeated New England last week in a potential Super Bowl preview, remaining unbeaten at Lambeau Field this year. Aaron Rodgers has been almost perfect at home, not yet throwing an interception, and he should have a field day against the Falcons porous pass defense, which ranks dead last in the NFL. I can't really envision any scenario where the Packers don't force their will offensively on Atlanta and because of that I think we will see another home Packer rout.

Prediction: Green Bay 42, Atlanta 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 5-11
Overall Against the Spread: 93-98-1

Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 130-61-1

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cram Session - Week 15

Thursday, December 4

Dallas (8-4) at Chicago (5-7), Dallas favored by 3 1/2

After getting blown out by the Lions on Thanksgiving last week, the Bears are left to try to play the role of spoiler in their final four games. They could really put a kink in Dallas' once promising season if they are able to beat the Cowboys. Dallas was also embarrassed on Thanksgiving, and now finds themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to being a playoff team. Some were quick to say that Dallas was at a disadvantage, having to play on Thanksgiving, after playing a Sunday night game just four days prior. That probably didn't help things, but what really hurt them was that Tony Romo couldn't get into any sort of rhythm. Himself and the rest of the Cowboys have been better on the road this season, sitting as the only undefeated road team left in the NFL, at 5-0. The Bears started the season 0-3 at home but have won two straight. The Cowboys defense had surpassed expectations during the first half of the season but has started slipping the past few weeks. The Bears offense continues to underwhelm, and can't seem to get into any sort of consistent flow. I think Dallas will play like the more desperate team, and I expect Romo to bounce back with a strong performance against a porous defense. The Cowboys will break the 8 win barrier for the first time since 2009.

Prediction: Dallas 30, Chicago 22

Top 10

Friday, December 5

Pac-12 Championship: #7 Arizona (10-2, 7-2) vs. #2 Oregon (11-1, 8-1) in Santa Clara, California

The Pac-12 championship is the prize, but for both of these teams, there are greater opportunities that await them. For Oregon, a win will cement their place in the College Football Playoff and exorcise their demons from their lone loss this season, which came against Arizona. For the Wildcats, it would take a confluence of events but a win in this game and they will have an outside shot of making the playoff, and an impressive resume with two wins over Oregon. He hasn't received the attention of Marcus Mariota, but it is clear Arizona has a star on their hands with freshman QB Anu Solomon. Solomon has thrown 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions this year. He wasn't spectacular int he win at Autzen, but he played well enough and mostly avoided any glaring mistakes. Another stud freshman that coach Rich Rodriguez recruited is RB Nick Wilson. Wilson led the Wildcats in rushing and averaged 7 yards per carry and had 2 touchdowns in their win over Oregon. Mariota played fine for Oregon in the loss, but the rest of his supporting cast was held in check by Arizona. RB Royce Freeman will need to play better than he did in the first matchup, and provide Mariota some support. Arizona has knocked off Oregon two straight times, and might be the new Stanford, as in a team that has the Ducks number. But trying to beat a team as good as Oregon twice in one season, seems like too tall of a task. I expect Mariota to make some big plays late in the game that will prove to be the difference. 

Prediction: Oregon 38, Arizona 28

Saturday, December 6

SEC Championship: #1 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) vs. #16 Missouri (10-2, 7-1) in Atlanta, Georgia

Missouri has proved the critics wrong by making their second straight SEC championship game. Now, they look to do what they couldn't last season and win the whole thing. If they were to upset the Tide they may actually do damage to the SEC as it could mean no SEC representation in the College Football playoff. Unfortunately for the Tigers, beating Alabama is a pipe dream. There is no way that a team that lost at home to putrid Indiana and was also shut out at home by Georgia, 34-0, is going to beat the Crimson Tide. I expect Tigers QB Maty Mauk to have his struggles with Alabama's defense, even their leaky secondary which was victimized often by Auburn last weekend. Crimson Tide WR Amari Cooper is an other worldly talent and if Blake Sims wants to avoid mistakes he needs to just keep trying to throw it up to Cooper and let him do the work. Cooper leads the Tide with 103 catches, and the second leading receiver on the team, DeAndrew White only has 33. Missouri was able to make a game of it with Auburn last year, but I don't expect a close one in Atlanta this Saturday. I think Alabama is clearly the better team and will stamp their spot in the playoff.

Prediction: Alabama 35, Missouri 17

Iowa State (2-9, 0-8) at #3 TCU (10-1, 7-1)

The college football playoff committee loves them some TCU. Despite nearly losing to a pathetic Kansas team just two weeks ago, after the Horned Frogs throttled a mediocre Texas team, the committee saw fit to catapult TCU over undefeated Florida State. Unlike Alabama, Oregon or the Seminoles, TCU doesn't have to play a championship game, instead they get to play the terrible Cyclones. I don't see any way TCU doesn't make the playoff, unless they only beat Iowa State by one or something. But knowing the committee they would probably think that is amazing and put TCU at #1. TCU needs to just use this game as a tune-up for the playoffs, try to put it away early and stay healthy.

Prediction: TCU 49, Iowa State 10

ACC Championship: #4 Florida State (12-0, 8-0) vs. #11 Georgia Tech (10-2, 6-2) in Charlotte, North Carolina

The Seminoles have avoided all the landmines, and are now just one win away from earning the chance at defending their national championship. Despite being the defending champion and not losing a game all season, the Seminoles keep dropping in the playoff rankings. If they are unable to beat Georgia Tech, despite having just one loss, it appears impossible that the Seminoles will make the playoff. Georgia Tech is the best team the Seminoles will have played all season. The Yellow Jackets have a high powered offense that ranked 17th in the nation in scoring. As is always the case with a Paul Johnson offense, they run, run, run the ball with the triple option, and pass only when necessary. Tech has three players over 600 yards rushing this season, QB Justin Thomas, RB Zach Laskey, and RB Synjyn Days. While the Seminoles focus on defense will have to be stopping the Tech rushing attack they can't outright ignore Jackets QB Thomas' threat to throw. When Thomas does throw his favorite target is WR DeAndre Smelter, who led Georgia Tech with 7 receiving touchdowns.

Jameis Winston is coming off a terrible game against Florida, throwing 4 interceptions. Winston hasn't been anywhere near the player he was last season, throwing just 21 TDs as compared to 40 last season, and has seen his interceptions increase from 10 to 17. In fact, Winston has put his defense in tough spots many times this season, only going 2 games he played this season without throwing an interception. WR Rashad Greene disappeared against Florida, so the Seminoles will have to try hard to get him involved in the gameplan. With Tech liking to run the ball and controlling the clock, it forces their opponents to take advantage of every position. Winston and the Noles can't get down 17 or 21 points this game, like they have in the past, because then Tech can just bleed the clock.

I don't expect Winston to play a perfect game and it will be interesting, but the Noles just keep finding ways to win, so at this point I can't pick against them. Somehow, some way, Florida State will do what they do best, overcome adversity and win.

Prediction: Florida State 33, Georgia Tech 30

Big Ten Championship: #13 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-1) vs. #5 Ohio State (11-1, 8-0) in Indianapolis, Indiana

The Buckeyes improbable rise from losing to a terrible Virginia Tech team at home to potentially making the playoff hit another road bump last weekend. QB J.T. Barrett, who after that terrible game against Tech turned into a Heisman trophy contender was lost for the season. Barrett had already replaced Braxton Miller so the Buckeyes are now down to third string quarterback Cardale Jones. Jones has attempted just 19 passes in two seasons and is now tasked with trying to lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten championship. That means expect Buckeyes RB Ezekiel Elliott to run often in this game. Elliott has had a strong season, averaging 6 yards per carry and rushing for 10 touchdowns. While how he plays will be key to Ohio State's chances, the most impactful player in this game figures to be Badgers running back Melvin Gordon. Gordon rushed for over 100 yards in every game but one this season. He is the Badgers offense, and if Ohio State is able to slow him down in any meaningful way than they will have a chance of winning with Jones at quarterback. I don't expect that to happen. Ohio State's defense will have to play the game of its life on Saturday and I don't think they are capable of it. The Buckeyes national title dreams will die for the second straight season in the Big Ten title game.

Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Ohio State 24

#9 Kansas State (9-2, 7-1) at #6 Baylor (10-1, 7-1) 

Despite defeating TCU earlier this season, and doing so with an impressive comeback, Baylor appears to be on the outside looking in when it comes to making the College Football Playoff. A win over Kansas State would be a nice boost to their resume, but it would likely take losses by Ohio State and Florida State for Baylor to reach the top four. But first, they do have to beat the Wildcats, who have dropped just one Big 12 game all season. The Bears have to be concerned about quarterback Bryce Petty, who suffered a concussion in last week's win against Texas Tech. If Petty isn't himself, the Bears can still rely on RB Shock Linwood, who has rushed for 15 touchdowns this season. Wildcats senior QB Jake Waters has been excellent this season and has great receiving weapons in Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. Like Waters, they are both seniors, so a chance at Big 12 title will be weighing heavily on the minds of those players, as the Wildcats face a rebuilding season next year on offense. I expect a highly competitive game, but Baylor's homefield advantage to make the difference as the Bears will hang on and win their 17th straight home game.

Prediction: Baylor 38, Kansas State 34

Last Week: 7-5
Overall: 98-30

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cram Session - Week 14

Games That Matter To Me

Friday, November 28

Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) at Iowa (7-4, 4-3)

Prediction: Iowa 28, Nebraska 21

Saturday, November 29

Notre Dame (7-4) at USC (7-4)

Prediction: USC 41, Notre Dame 27

Top 10

Thursday, November 27

#5 TCU (9-1, 6-1) at Texas (6-5, 5-3)

Prediction: Texas 31, TCU 28

Friday, November 28

Stanford (6-5, 4-4) at #8 UCLA (9-2, 6-2)

Prediction: UCLA 34, Stanford 20

Saturday, November 29

#15 Auburn (8-3, 4-3) at #1 Alabama (10-1, 6-1)

Prediction: Alabama 38, Auburn 17

#2 Oregon (10-1, 7-1) at Oregon State (5-6, 2-6)

Prediction: Oregon 35, Oregon State 23

Florida (6-4) at #3 Florida State (11-0)

Prediction: Florida State 24, Florida 17

#4 Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1) at #19 Mississippi (8-3, 4-3)

Prediction: Mississippi State 21, Mississippi 20

Michigan (5-6, 3-4) at #6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-0)

Prediction: Ohio State 45, Michigan 14

#7 Baylor (9-1, 6-1) vs. Texas Tech (4-7, 2-6) in Arlington, Texas

Prediction: Baylor 66, Texas Tech 24

#16 Georgia Tech (9-2) at #9 Georgia (9-2)

Prediction: Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 35

#10 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) at Penn State (6-5, 2-5)

Prediction: Michigan State 27, Penn State 14

Last Week: 9-2
Overall: 91-25

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 13

Thursday, November 27

Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4), Detroit favored by 7

Prediction: Detroit 28, Chicago 23

Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3), Dallas favored by 3

Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 27

Seattle (7-4) at San Francisco (7-4), San Francisco favored by 1

Prediction: San Francisco 23, Seattle 20

Sunday, November 30

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

Prediction: Minnesota 27, Carolina 20

Washington (3-8) at Indianapolis (7-4), Indianapolis favored by 10

Prediction: Indianapolis 35, Washington 20

Tennessee (2-9) at Houston (5-6), Houston favored by 6

Prediction: Houston 27, Tennessee 24

Cleveland (7-4) at Buffalo (6-5), Buffalo favored by 1 1/2

Prediction: Buffalo 29, Cleveland 25

San Diego (7-4) at Baltimore (7-4), Baltimore favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Baltimore 33, San Diego 17

New York Giants (3-8) at Jacksonville (1-10), New York Giants favored by 3

Prediction: New York Giants 28, Jacksonville 15

Cincinnati (7-3-1) at Tampa Bay (2-9), Cincinnati favored by 4

Prediction: Cincinnati 26, Tampa Bay 19

Oakland (1-10) at St. Louis (4-7), St. Louis favored by 7

Prediction: St. Louis 22, Oakland 17

New Orleans (4-7) at Pittsburgh (7-4), Pittsburgh favored by 3

Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, New Orleans 24

Arizona (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Arizona 21, Atlanta 17

New England (9-2) at Green Bay (8-3), Green Bay favored by 3

Prediction: Green Bay 35, New England 33

Denver (8-3) at Kansas City (7-4), Denver favored by 2

Prediction: Denver 28, Kansas City 24

Monday, December 1

Miami (6-5) at New York Jets (2-9), Miami favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Miami 28, New York Jets 14

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-9
Overall Against the Spread: 88-87-1

Last Week Straight Up: 12-3
Overall Straight Up: 119-56-1

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 12

Sunday, November 23

Green Bay (7-3) at Minnesota (4-6), Green Bay favored by 9 1/2

The rest of the league might stand a chance, now that the Packers finally have to go a week without being at the comfy confines of Lambeau Field. Green Bay is unbeaten at home this year and the fewest points they have scored in a home win was 31 way back in Week 2 against the Jets. In their last two home games, they topped 50 points each time. Earlier this season, on a Thursday night game, the Packers destroyed Minnesota 42-10, and it only wasn't worse because Mike McCarthy called off the dogs or more specifically Aaron Rodgers, early on in the second half. Now Minnesota never had a chance in that game to begin with because Christian Ponder was starting. Teddy Bridgewater has been far from outstanding but he at least gives the Vikings a more dangerous weapon at the quarterback position than Ponder. The Vikings learned this week that they will be without Adrian Peterson for the remainder of the season and with the rushing attack scuffling between Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon, they signed the recently released Ben Tate. I wouldn't expect Tate to have much of an impact on this weekend's game, but I do think getting the Packers out of the comforts of home will slow down their offense some.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Minnesota 21

Tennessee (2-8) at Philadelphia (7-3), Philadelphia favored by 11

Philadelphia found out firsthand how unbeatable Green Bay is at home, getting stomped last week. They return home to the Linc where they are 5-0 this season. Remember last year at this time when the Eagles had lost 10 straight home games? Seems hard to believe now. It would take a shocking upset for them not to improve to 6-0 at home against the hapless Titans. Tennessee couldn't hold on to a 24-13 second half lead against Pittsburgh at home, losing their fourth straight game for the second time this season. The Titans are on their third quarterback, have no running game and their best receiver, who is a tight end, Delanie Walker is battling a concussion. The only reason I am not taking Philly and the points is Mark Sanchez.

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Tennessee 21

Cleveland (6-4) at Atlanta (4-6), Atlanta favored by 3

I predicted a Browns loss to Houston but I wasn't expecting them to completely poop all over themselves. However, help is arriving as WR Josh Gordon makes his season debut. The Browns also jettisoned malcontent Tate, and the rushing attack is now a two back system with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West.  The Falcons miraculously find themselves in first place in the NFC South, despite a 4-6 record. With both the Saints and Panthers unable to win games right now, if Atlanta can keep this winning streak up they might run away with the NFC South and only need to win 7 games to do it. One player that needs to get reinvigorated is WR Julio Jones. Jones hasn't scored a touchdown in 2 months now. I predict he will end that ignominious streak on Sunday and the Falcons will win their third straight game.

Prediction: Atlanta 27, Cleveland 20

Detroit (7-3) at New England (8-2), New England favored by 7

Detroit failed their first road juggernaut test last week at Arizona and have an ever tougher test at New England this weekend. The Patriots are currently on a six game winning streak and in back to back games have beaten the Broncos and Colts by a combined score of 85-41. Last week it was all about former Notre Dame RB Jonas Gray. Gray rushed for over 200 yards and scored 4 touchdowns. The Patriots bolstered their backfield even further this week by signing the recently released LaGarrette Blount, who was a strong runner for them last season. The Lions expect to have Reggie Bush back from injury this week but with the Patriots being so stingy against the pass, Matthew Stafford figures to be in for another long day.

Prediction: New England 28, Detroit 17

Jacksonville (1-9) at Indianapolis (6-4), Indianapolis favored by 14

The Colts can't beat anyone good but they have proven over and over again this season that they can rout the bad teams. The Jaguars are a very bad team and even without Ahmad Bradshaw and having to rely even more on Trent Richardson, the Colts will get another victory over a cupcake. 

Prediction: Indianapolis 41, Jacksonville 20

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

Will the real Bengals and Andy Dalton please stand up. A week and a half off their worst performance of the year, the Bengals went to New Orleans and dominated the Saints. The Bengals seem to be like my friend Jason, in that they play their best when the game is under the radar. In my fantasy football league, whenever I have put my friend Jason in our Game of the Week, he always loses. But when I don't, his team plays their best. So with Cincinnati in just any other 1:00 game this Sunday, I expect good Cincy and good Dalton to show up. They are also expecting back Giovanni Bernard, although they haven't missed him too much thanks to how well Jeremy Hill has been playing. The Texans are hoping their number one back Arian Foster can return this week, although Alfred Blue had a fantastic game last week in his place. Ryan Mallett looked good for his first ever NFL start, and he left some fans wondering what took Bill O'Brien so long to turn to him. I think Mallett will have another solid showing, but the Bengals and A.J. Green to do just enough to get the victory. 

Prediction: Cincinnati 28, Houston 24

Tampa Bay (2-8) at Chicago (4-6), Chicago favored by 9 1/2

This game serves as a homecoming for the Bucs quarterback Josh McCown and more importantly their coach Lovie Smith.  Lovie had a successful run in Chicago, including a trip to the Super Bowl. However, in his first season with Tampa he is enduring his worst season as a head coach. Things aren't much better for this replacement in Chicago, Marc Trestman, who is just 12-14 in 1 1/2 seasons at the helm. The Bears got a much needed win, and their first home victory of the season last week against Minnesota. The Bucs are coming off a win of their own, and are like the Bears used to be, winless at home, and only finding victory on the road. The Chicago defense will be hard pressed to slow down rookie Mike Evans who has been on an absolute tear for Tampa. Nothing ever comes easy for Chicago and you know Lovie's Bucs will be motivated to give him a good showing against his former time. The 9 1/2 point line is way too high but the Bears will eke out a victory.

Prediction: Chicago 26, Tampa Bay 23

Arizona (9-1) at Seattle (6-4), Seattle favored by 6 1/2

If the Cardinals can knock off the Seahawks in Seattle for the second straight season, they would virtually eliminate the Seahawks from defending their NFC West crown. That would guarantee that even if the Seahawks make the Super Bowl, they would have to go on the road three weeks in a row to do it. And everyone knows that means Seattle would have no chance in hell at repeating as Super Bowl champions. As a 49ers fan I am torn about this game. The Niners realistically need the division leading Cardinals to win, since they aren't likely to catch them, and are in a dogfight with Seattle for the final playoff spot. Drew Stanton was good enough last week as a starter and the Cardinals defense was spectacular, and if the Cardinals can keep that formula, they have a great shot at remaining Super Bowl contenders. The Seahawks just aren't anything like the team they were last year but I still have to respect their homefield advantage. I think Stanton will have problems dealing with the crowd noise and Russell Wilson will do just enough to keep Seattle's slim division hopes alive.

Prediction: Seattle 20, Arizona 17

St. Louis (4-6) at San Diego (6-4), San Diego favored by 5

I don't think even Rams coach Jeff Fisher could explain his team. The Rams have had a pretty brutal schedule and have beaten some top flight competition this season, including the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos. They have a chance to take down another team above .500 as they face the Chargers. San Diego ended a three game losing streak against Oakland but weren't impressive in doing so. The offense put up just 13 points and the last two games, Philip Rivers has seemed to have lost his touch. If the Chargers line can't protect Rivers, then the Rams pass rush, including Robert Quinn will feast on his status like pocket presence. This is a tough game to pick as both of these teams have major Jekyll and Hide sides to themselves. I think Rivers and the Chargers offense, and Ryan Mathews has their best performance in weeks.

Prediction: San Diego 29, St. Louis 23

Washington (3-7) at San Francisco (6-4), San Francisco favored by 8

I wanted to believe that Robert Griffin III wasn't just a flash in the pan, that his rookie season wasn't a fluke, but as he continues his struggles from last season into this season, even Griffin supporters don't have much to go on right now. Losing by 20 points at home to a 1-8 team like Washington did against Tampa last week is inexcusable. Knowing the Redskins and how they operate they will put in a respectable performance in a tough spot at San Francisco on Sunday. The 49ers won two straight crucial road games but last time they were at home they had an embarrassing offensive showing in a loss to the Rams. If the 49ers offense can't have a strong day a against the Redskins pathetic defense then even a victory in this game would feel pretty hollow. The Redskins themselves prove that stats don't always tell the whole story. They have the 7th ranked passing attack in the league, and 10th against the pass and 11th against the rush, all stats that you would expect for a team that was at least .500. But the Redskins defense never gets stops when they need to, they don't create turnovers and they are prone to give up the big play. I bet former Redskin Brandon Lloyd who hardly does anything these days might make a big play against his former team. The 49ers defense should be able to capitalize on the turnover prone Redskins, especially if rookie linebacker Chris Borland continues his awesome play. This game will be closer than the experts think, but I expect the Niners to get back on the winning track at home, and continue their winning ways going into a huge game with Seattle Thanksgiving night.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Washington 17

Miami (6-4) at Denver (7-3), Denver favored by 7

Sunday's game at Denver will present the Dolphins with a tremendous opportunity to prove that they are ready to be legit contenders in the AFC. With the Patriots being unstoppable right now, the division is likely out of reach but for the second straight year the Dolphins have themselves in playoff contention as we head down the stretch. They will be getting a Broncos team that was humbled last week at St. Louis and Peyton Manning might be without two huge targets in Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas. It will be highly intriguing to see how Manning plays against the Dolphins defense, especially their top notch secondary. Denver has been dominant at home this season so Ryan Tannehill will have his work cut out for him. The biggest key to this game for Miami is how Lamar Miller runs the ball. If Miller can get going on the ground that will relieve a ton of pressure off of Tannehill's shoulders. Even if Thomas and Sanders can't go, Manning still has Demaryius Thomas around. Thomas will have a strong day, even against Miami's stout secondary, and Brent Grimes, who I would expect the Dolphins will mostly put on Thomas. Manning and Denver has been too good at home, and the Dolphins aren't quite ready to win a game of this magnitude.

Prediction: Denver 27, Miami 17

Dallas (7-3) at New York Giants (3-7), Dallas favored by 3 1/2

Not sure why NBC didn't flex out of this game, especially with the Giants playing for nothing but pride and trying to end a 5 game losing streak at this point. Tony Romo had a week to rest and get his back right even further, while the Giants are coming off a tough loss to San Francisco, with Eli Manning having his worst game of the season, throwing 5 picks. DeMarco Murray should be in line for another big game, as he dominated the Giants in the team's first meeting this season. Homefield used to mean something for New York, but they have trouble winning anywhere this season., I am glad I will be watching Survivor Series instead of this game.

Prediction: Dallas 28, New York Giants 24

Monday, November 24

New York Jets (2-8) "at" Buffalo (5-5), Buffalo favored by 4 1/2

This game will be played in Detroit on Monday night, thanks to the massive snowstorm that hit Buffalo. The Bills are just a game out of the final playoff spot in the AFC, but the AFC is also such a jumbled mess that being a game out means that the Bills have about 5 other teams in front of them when tiebreakers are factored in. This will likely be a very strange atmosphere with this game happening in Detroit and the Bills won't have any sort of homefield advantage. The first time these teams played though, the Jets did have homefield advantage and were destroyed by a Buffalo offense that isn't anything special. I think this game will be less of an offensive explosion from both sides and more defensive oriented.

Prediction: Buffalo 19, New York Jets 14

Baltimore (6-4) at New Orleans (4-6), New Orleans favored by 3 1/2

Well now the Saints can't win anywhere. They have now dropped two straight home games and will have their work cut out for them trying not to drop a third in a row against Baltimore. The biggest problem for the Saints this season is the fact that Drew Brees hasn't been his usual self and hasn't been good enough to make up for a Saints defense that is terrible. It is interesting to me that Brees is having a supbar year by his standards because for the first time in what feels like forever, he has a legitimate rushing attack with Mark Ingram this season. The Ravens will be plenty rested for this game after having a week off. With Joe Flacco struggling in recent weeks, I think the Ravens would be best served by going with a heavy does of Justin Forsett. However, with just the 21st ranked pass defense in football, I think this is an opponent that Brees can find some of that lost mojo. I expect Jimmy Graham to have a huge game and for the Saints to get back on the right track at home.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, Baltimore 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 8-6
Overall Against the Spread: 82-78-1

Last Week Straight Up: 9-5
Overall Straight Up: 107-53-1