Friday, September 26, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 4

Sunday, September 28

Miami (1-2) "at" Oakland (0-3), in London, England, Miami favored by 4

Poor England always seems to get the worst matchups. The Raiders are dreadful as I and anyone that isn't a dumb superfan of the team expected, and Miami has created a quarterback controversy out of thin air. Usually, the media will start chirping and then a team has a quarterback controversy. But Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was bored or something and decided to create one of his own. He won't commit to Ryan Tannehill as his starter, despite the fact that benching him for middling Matt Moore would not be positive in any for the team. Tannehill has played poorly though, and is struggling with consistency and that is despite not throwing the ball far downfield. The Dolphins Week 1 one victory over New England feels like a distant memory at this point. A bright spot in last week's embarrassing loss at home to Kansas City was the play of Lamar Miller. Miller was running great and despite the Dolphins being close for most of the game, the Dolphins didn't embrace the success he was having. If Miller gets going strong in this game, they need to ride him and let Tannehill just manage the game. Raiders rookie QB David Carr has been decent, but he hasn't had much support from his teammates. Darren McFadden has stayed healthy but is barely averaging over 3 yards per carry. The Raiders are hoping to have Maurice Jones-Drew back, but he is over the hill and not that good anymore. If the Dolphins can't beat the sorry Raiders, maybe there should be a new coach instead of a new quarterback.

Prediction: Miami 28, Oakland 17

Green Bay (1-2) at Chicago (2-1), Green Bay favored by 1 1/2

Football's oldest and some would argue best rivalry is renewed this Sunday. The Packers come in desperate, and in a way that is different than previous years. This is the third straight season Green Bay has started 1-2, but instead of there being questions about their defense, it is their offense that has come under fire. Aaron Rodgers has been underwhelming in two out of the Packers three games, and Eddie Lacy seems like he is still shaking off the cobwebs from his Week 1 concussion. The Bears are banged up on the defensive end and have had rushing problems of their own, as Matt Forte has essentially disappeared from the team the last two weeks. Brandon Marshall has also been fighting injuries, but his presence has been made up for by TE Martellus Bennett. In the past, the Packers have always responded well when their backs have been against the wall. I expect a similar performance this Sunday, as the Bears will fall to 0-2 at home.

Prediction: Green Bay 27, Chicago 20

Buffalo (2-1) at Houston (2-1), Houston favored by 3

It's the Ryan Fitzpatrick bowl! Bills and Texans fans can unite and share Fitzpatrick horror stories. All the good feelings in Buffalo dissipated after a dispiriting home loss to the Chargers last week. A major reason for that loss was the lack of plays C.J. Spiller was able to make. The Texans were beaten like a drum by the Giants rushing attack, so Spiller and Fred Jackson could be in line for big games. The Texans were without Arian Foster last week, and he looks to be a game time decision for this game. This game will be won based on the quarterback, Fitzpatrick or EJ Manuel, that makes less mistakes. I'll go with the veteran over the second year player.

Prediction: Houston 20, Buffalo 16

Tennessee (1-2) at Indianapolis (1-2), Indianapolis favored by 7 1/2

The Colts found that the cure to losing is to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. They flatted the Jags and have calmed down some of the panic that was beginning in Indy. However, if they lose at home to the Titans that level of panic will quickly return. The Titans, much like the Dolphins, have lost all of the good vibes they had after an opening weekend win. Jake Locker has been especially terrible, and now he is injured because that's one thing Locker is good at doing. His cause won't be helped if one of his favorite targets, TE Delanie Walker, is forced to miss this game due to a shoulder injury. Even if Walker were to play, it won't matter, Andrew Luck and company are going to carve up that Titans defense.

Prediction: Indianapolis 31, Tennessee 17

Carolina (2-1) at Baltimore (2-1), Baltimore favored by 3

The main story around this game is Steve Smith Sr. facing his former team, the Panthers. Carolina decided that at 35 Smith was expendable, but Smith has played like a man possessed and quite motivated to prove the Panthers wrong. Smith will be all sorts of jacked up for this game, and I would be really surprised if he doesn't snag at least one touchdown. I had doubted the Panthers to start the season but started to come aboard after their 2-0 start. It looked like they could have an all-time type of defense. But then last week at home against Pittsburgh, the defense completely fell apart, giving up over 100 yards rushing to both Le'Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount. The Panthers are also hurting on offense, but are hopeful they will have RB DeAngelo Williams for this game. Joe Flacco has lost one of his favorite security blankets, Dennis Pitta for the season, so expect to see Owen Daniels step into that role. I think this will be a defensive struggle type of game, and give the Ravens the edge due to homefield.

Prediction: Baltimore 19, Carolina 15

Detroit (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2), Detroit favored by 1

It wasn't pretty but the Lions got the job done at home against the Packers last week. Matthew Stafford though has not looked right the past two games and the Lions offense has really stagnated. As has been the problem in Detroit for many years, running the ball has been tough sledding so far this year. Joique Bell is getting the majority of the carries but is only averaging 3 yards per carry. If he can get going that would open up things so much for Megatron and Golden Tate. The Jets were sloppy on offense in their loss to Chicago and there are already whispers starting about benching Geno Smith in favor of Mike Vick. Much like in Miami, I think that is a knee jerk type of move that wouldn't make much of a difference and really just stunt Smith's growth. A fun battle to watch in this game will be in the trenches between the Lions defensive line and the Jets offensive front. I think the Lions are a different team away from Ford Field and because of that, expect them to fall to 0-2 on the road.

Prediction: New York Jets 26, Detroit 18

Tampa Bay (0-3) at Pittsburgh (2-1), Pittsburgh favored by 7

So somehow, despite adding respected coach Lovie Smith, the Bucs seem to have gotten worse. They were lambasted by the Falcons last Thursday night, 56-14 and at one point, actually trailed 56-0. Josh McCown was really struggling and is now out with an injury so Mike Glennon has his job back. The Steelers were told how awful they were for a week and a half and seemed to take it to heart because they played angry at Carolina. I expect Tampa to show much more heart in this game and not get completely railroaded, but the chances of them winning at Pittsburgh are about slim to none. Expect Blount to be motivated playing his former team that gave up on him a few years ago.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Tampa Bay 21

Jacksonville (0-3) at San Diego (2-1), San Diego favored by 13

The Jaguars should just focus on baby steps. They shouldn't be looking to win, because lets face it, they suck and won't win this game on the road. Their goal should be to lose by single digits or allow under 30 points for the first time all season. They have already ended the Chad Henne plan and are implementing the Blake Bortles era. Bortles seemed to get the offense going when he stepped in last week, and I think the benefits of getting Bortles experience now outweighs the risks of him getting killed. San Diego is being talked about as an upper echelon team after beating Seattle at home and following that up with a convincing road win against Buffalo. It will be interesting to see how they fare in this game, against a bad opponent and after having their egos stroked.

Prediction: San Diego 35, Jacksonville 23

Philadelphia (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2), San Francisco favored by 5 1/2

The 49ers found themselves in the same position one year ago. They were 1-2, coming off back to back ugly losses and faced a must win game at St. Louis. They started off terribly but eventually righted the ship, and won the game in a blowout. After that, they proceeded to go 10-2 the rest of the season. The point of this history lesson is to try to convince myself that the 49ers season isn't going off the rails just yet. But now, welcoming undefeated Philadelphia to Levi's Stadium, a third straight loss would be disastrous. The biggest worry through the first three weeks for the 49ers is the disappearing act their offense has done in the second half of games. Before this year, when Jim Harbaugh's 49ers had a halftime lead, it guaranteed victory. But for whatever reason this year, a halftime lead just means the 49ers will completely forget everything they did in the first half. In the second half they commit stupid penalties in the second half, be unable to get stops on defense, and go three and out on offense. Greg Roman once again abandoned the run game last week for no reason, and I am starting to tire of his erratic play calling. If the 49ers lose this game it will feed the media monster that the players have tired of Harbaugh and the team is on the verge of mutiny. Philly is 3-0 but don't tell Cary Williams that. He is on the verge of his own mutiny because he has to practice too much or something. Philly has taken the opposite approach of the 49ers. They start games really crappy and then turn on the jets in the second half. LeSean McCoy is coming off perhaps his worst ever game as a pro, so the 49ers have to be ready for a revved up Shady McCoy. The Eagles pass defense is there for the taking, so this is a huge statement type game for Colin Kaepernick. Hopefully, Vernon Davis can play because history shows that without him the 49ers offense can do next to nothing. I have no reason to pick the 49ers other than blind homerism, but sometimes you just have to have faith. I think in an odd twist, this game will see the Eagles jump out to a lead, and then the 49ers rally for the win in the second half.

Prediction: San Francisco 28, Philadelphia 24

Atlanta (2-1) at Minnesota (1-2), Atlanta favored by 2 1/2

Teddy Bridgewater makes his NFL starting debut and will be the Vikings quarterback for the rest of the year after Matt Cassel was placed on IR with broken bones on his foot. Bridgewater acquitted himself pretty well in relief duty at New Orleans last week. He will need Matt Asiata to step up his game at running back to provide him some support. Asiata has been strong out of the backfield as far as catching passes, but is averaging just 3 yards per carry. The Falcons are coming off a performance they aren't likely to come anywhere near matching. They now have to prove that they can play well away from the Georgia Dome. The Vikings are a much easier opponent than the Bengals were and add to that facing a rookie quarterback and a loss in this game would be unacceptable for the Falcons.

Prediction: Atlanta 24, Minnesota 14

New Orleans (1-2) at Dallas (2-1), New Orleans favored by 3

New Orleans has dominated Dallas in recent meetings, but Dallas is feeling pretty good after overcoming a large deficit at St. Louis last weekend. Despite getting behind big Dallas stuck with DeMarco Murray, who has been sensational the first three weeks of the season. However, after securing the ball well in his career, he has had a case of fumbleitis this season. The Saints are coming off their first victory of the season. However, the offense is still not at the level we are used to seeing. Khiry Robinson has stepped in for the injured Mark Ingram at running back, and Brandin Cooks has been as good as advertised at receiver. The stats are there, the Saints just aren't converting all those yards into points. The Cowboys defense has been better than expected so far this year, but playing this Saints team will serve as a litmus test for both their defense and the Saints offense. Tony Romo has been susceptible to some bad throws this year, and at a higher rate than he was throwing them at last season. It is obvious that he is still trying to get himself right coming off surgery in the off-season. The Saints are a putrid road team but the Cowboys themselves aren't very good at home. I'll go with the better offense. 

Prediction: New Orleans 28, Dallas 24

Monday, September 29

New England (2-1) at Kansas City (1-2), New England favored by 3 1/2

The Patriots seem to have this penchant this last few seasons of not being able to blow out teams that you think would be overmatched. It happened again last weekend against Oakland, when they couldn't put away the Raiders. Tom Brady has been average at best and even saying that might be kind. He said he would retire when he sucks and it might be closer to happening than he realized. The only receiver that he seems to be able to consistently get the ball to is Julian Edelman. The run game has been stagnant as Stevan Ridley has probably had his confidence completely damaged by the yo-yo treatment Bill Belichick has given him over the years. The Chiefs did what I expected them to do and got off the schneid at Miami. Alex Smith played safe and avoided huge mistakes and Knile Davis looks like he could be a star in the making at running back. The Chiefs are hopeful they will have Jamaal Charles back for this game, but even if he returns they should use Davis a little more, since Charles is so brittle. Arrowhead Stadium used to give the Chiefs great homefield advantage, but as evidenced by how the Titans destroyed them there in Week 1, I don't expect it to be much of a factor in this game. I expect the Patriots to win ugly yet again.

Prediction: New England 24, Kansas City 21

Last Week Against the Spread: 8-8
Overall Against the Spread: 20-28

Last Week Straight Up: 11-5
Overall Straight Up: 25-23

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cram Session - Week 5

Thursday, September 25

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

The Giants got a much needed shot of confidence and a victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday. Eli Manning played well, finally going a game without turning the ball over. It helped that RB Rashad Jennings had a monster game, taking pressure off of Manning to force plays. The Skins defense bottled up LeSean McCoy in Sunday's loss but their pass defense and special teams were hit hard by the Eagles. The Redskins are without their number one corner DeAngelo Hall for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles. That means that Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle, relatively quiet through the first three weeks of the season could be in line for big games tonight. A major bright spot for the Skins in their loss was the play of QB Kirk Cousins. Cousins made some critical second half mistakes, but overall he was awesome, and if he keeps up this level of play, it will be impossible for Jay Gruden to give Robert Griffin III his job back. Even on a short week, I think that Cousins can keep the same standard of play he had last Sunday. I also believe that Washington will find more success running the ball with Alfred Morris than they did last week. The game will be close, as most Redskins games are, but I like Washington to remain undefeated at home and earn a much needed victory before they host Seattle next week.

Prediction: Washington 31, New York Giants 24

Games That Matter To Me

Illinois (3-1, 0-0) at #21 Nebraska (4-0, 0-0)

Expect points and lots of them when the Illini and Huskers tangle in Lincoln on Saturday night. Nebraska continued their offensive dominance by putting up 41 points on the Hurricanes last Saturday. RB Ameer Abdullah added to his legendary status at Nebraska by rushing for 229 yards and surpassing Johnny Rodgers as the all-time Huskers leader in all-purpose yardage. The Huskers focused on pounding Miami with Abdullah, so QB Tommy Armstrong only threw the ball 13 times. You can't work Abdullah to that level every week, so expect to see some more passing out of Nebraska this weekend. Or, you might just see Armstrong run the ball even more, like he did last week.

The Illini will test the Huskers defense, especially QB Wes Lunt. Lunt is just a sophomore and seems to have taken a major leap forward from his freshman season. Through four games Lunt has 11 TDs and just 3 INTs. Lunt can hit the big play and also is accurate while doing so, completing 65% of his passes thus far this season. Geronimo Allison and freshman Mike Dudek are Lunt;s go to weapons. The Huskers struggled with pass coverage against Miami last week and will be just as challenged by Illinois this week. Nebraska can't focus solely on Illinois' passing game though. RB Josh Ferguson had success against Nebraska last year and is coming off a 190 yard, 2 touchdown performance against Texas State.

Nebraska has to avoid the urge of looking ahead to next week's monster game at Michigan State. That game will lose a lot of its meaning and luster if they don't take care of business at home like they should against Illinois.

Prediction: Nebraska 42, Illinois 31

Top 10

#1 Florida State (3-0, 1-0) at NC State (4-0, 0-0)

The Seminoles long winning streak almost came to an end at the hands of Clemson last week. Jameis Winston went from being suspended for a half to suspended for the entire game. Clemson had chance after chance to knock off the Seminoles, but couldn't get out of their own way and eventually lost in overtime. Winston is back in the lineup this weekend as the Seminoles travel to Raleight to take on the Wolfpack. The Wolfpack have had a lot of success against Florida State at home, but despite their 4-0 record, they are heavy underdogs in this game. That is because two of those wins were close ones at home against Georgia Southern and Old Dominion. The Seminoles last ACC loss was two years ago at NC State but that was before they had Winston. In the two games he played Winston hasn't been near the player he was last season, but Winston at half his best should be enough for Florida State to knock off an overmatched NC State.

Prediction: Florida State 38, NC State 24

Louisiana Tech (2-2) at #5 Auburn (3-0)

The Tigers are coming off an impressive road win at Kansas State. The Wildcats alleged that Auburn was stealing their signals, which of course Auburn denied. Auburn won't have to resort to any signal stealing this weekend at home against Louisiana Tech. However, what Auburn would like to do is get better performances out of their offensive stars, including QB Nick Marshall. Louisiana Tech is coming off a home loss to Northwestern State, so they would seem to be the team for Auburn to break out against. This is Auburn's last cupcake game before a brutal stretch of six straight games against ranked opponents.

Prediction: Auburn 44, Louisiana Tech 14

Arkansas (3-1, 0-1) "at" #6 Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0), in Arlington, TX

Jerrah Dome hosts this SEC battle on Saturday. Texas A&M has had three straight weeks of easy opponents since their breakout win at South Carolina to open the season. Arkansas has won three in a row after getting blown out by Auburn in the opener, and is eager to earn their first SEC win under Bret Bielema. This game is another chance for Aggies QB Kenny Hill to add to his legend that he has built in record time. With 13 TDs and 1 INT throw four games, Hill has placed himself in the Heisman trophy discussion. The Aggies defense will have to try to contain the Razorbacks dangerous rushing attack of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. As a unit Collins and Williams have already rushed for 881 yards and 12 touchdowns. I don't think the Aggies will wipe the floor with the Razorbacks like they did South Carolina but I expect them to remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 30

#7 Baylor (3-0, 0-0) at Iowa State (1-2, 0-1)

The Cyclones aren't a juggernaut but they will be the toughest test of this young season Bryce Petty and the Bears.  The Cyclones have a history of pulling off upsets of ranked teams at home in primetime, and the atmosphere will be electric in Ames. Baylor has been electric on offense and is doing it despite suffering injuries to many starters. Petty has dealt with injuries of his own but looked healthy and efficient against Buffalo two weeks ago. Iowa State also had a week off leading up to this game and I expect the first three quarters to be a dogfight, before Petty and company get out of Ames with a victory.

Prediction: Baylor 36, Iowa State 23
#8 Notre Dame (3-0) "at" Syracuse (2-1), in East Rutherford, NJ

After a week off, the Irish look to continue their perfect season, as they travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the Orange of Syracuse. Starting this season, Notre Dame will play at least four or five ACC opponents a season and stretch of the schedule begins this weekend. A fun stat, Notre Dame will be looking to score 30+ points in their first four games of a season for the first time since 1943. Everett Golson will also look to continue his Heisman playing ways against an Orange defense that has had their problems slowing down quarterbacks, including last week in a loss to Maryland. It would be nice if Notre Dame could establish a run game, but that doesn't seem to be a priority of Brian Kelly's. When Notre Dame has to play teams like Stanford and Florida State it will likely come back to bite them, but against Cuse it should be alright.

The Orange's offensive attack centers around stud RB Prince-Tyson Gulley, who is averaging a ridiculous 7 yards per carry. The Orange also have a dual threat at quarterback as Terrel Hunt is Syracuse's leading rusher this season. Hunt passes when only necessary so the Irish defense need to key in on whatever fakes he might try and be prepared to stop him from running. On paper this would appear to be a relatively easy win for Notre Dame but Irish fans won't soon forget 2008, when a God-awful Syracuse team won at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame started off slow against Purdue in its last game before putting them away, so I am hoping for a more consistent, dominant performance in this one.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 17

Wyoming (3-1) at #9 Michigan State (2-1)

Sparty has to make sure they aren't caught looking ahead to next week's game against Nebraska, as they host the Cowboys this weekend. Wyoming gave Oregon a bit of a fight before eventually being steamrolled, something that Michigan State can understand as well. Wyoming will be good preparation for the Huskers rushing attack, as Wyoming is a run first, pass second type of team. 

Prediction: Michigan State 38, Wyoming 13

Memphis (2-1) at #10 Mississippi (3-0)

Picking upsets in college football can be quite difficult. But it is around this point in the season that we begin to see some wacky results. On the surface, Mississippi should be fine to beat Memphis at home. But when looking closer at Memphis, you see a team that is quite good and nearly knocked off UCLA in Pasadena. The Rebels have played no one so far this season and they could look past Memphis as they prepare for the SEC season to begin. Memphis QB Paxton Lynch has been impressive this season and I think he is line for another good game Saturday.  Anyone watching this upset will have to do so on their computer, but it would be worth firing up ESPN3 as it expect this to be an instant classic type game.

Prediction: Memphis 30, Mississippi 27

Last Week: 6-2
Overall: 33-6

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 3

Sunday, September 21

Minnesota (1-1) at New Orleans (0-2), New Orleans favored by 9 1/2

Controversy is surrounding the Vikings due to the indictment of Adrian Peterson for "disciplining" his 4-year-old child. Peterson felt that beating his son to the point of leaving scratches and bruises will instill discipline in him, rather than fear and confusion. The Vikings sat him for last weekend's game and then reinstated him on Monday. But the PC police weren't having that, so now Peterson is on an exempt list and will not play for an undetermined length of time. The Vikings offense showed how much they will miss Peterson as Matt Cassel forgot that he no longer plays for the Patriots and kept throwing it to them. Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon don't figure to make Vikings fans forget about Peterson anytime soon. The Saints couldn't be happier to be returning to the comfy confines of the Superdome. They still appear to be the same team that can't win on the road. The Saints offense scuffled last week at Cleveland, but a return to the fast turf of New Orleans figures to kick this offense back into high gear.

Prediction: New Orleans 38, Minnesota 21

Washington (1-1) at Philadelphia (2-0), Philadelphia favored by 6

The Redskins got their first win of the season last week but it came at a price. Robert Griffin III continued to be injury prone, suffering a non contact ankle injury that could have him out for at least a month and a half. Kirk Cousins stepped in and didn't miss a beat though as the Skins piled up 41 points on the hapless Jaguars. Cousins will receive a much stiffer test this weekend on the road against the undefeated Eagles. This game is also the homecoming for former Eagle, DeSean Jackson. Jackson was also injured in the win against Jacksonville but has been insisting he will be back and ready to play in this game on Sunday. The Eagles had an impressive come from behind win against the Colts on Monday night, making it two straight weeks that they overcame a double digit deficit. I am sure Chip Kelly would prefer that they get off to a faster start this week. It will be key for Philadelphia to protect Nick Foles, as the Skins registered 10 sacks last week, including Ryan Kerrigan grabbing four of those. The Eagles run defense also struggled against Indy, so they should be expected a heavy dose of Alfred Morris in this game. I believe that Philadelphia will get off to a good start this weekend and hold off Washington late to secure the victory.

Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Washington 20

San Diego (1-1) at Buffalo (2-0), Buffalo favored by 2 1/2

The Chargers smacked around the Seahawks, dominating the Seahawks vaunted defense and cooling the talk of this Seattle team being some sort of juggernaut this season. The Bills dominated the Dolphins at home and have their fans excited. However, I hope their fans remember that the Bills have had a lot of 2-0 starts in the last 15 years and it has never ended up well. That being said, with the Chargers having to play on the East Coast at 1 PM, after flying cross country, I have to go with C.J. Spiller and the Bills to win this one.

Prediction: Buffalo 23, San Diego 17

Dallas (1-1) at St. Louis (1-1), Dallas favored by 1

It is unknown at this time whether Shaun Hill or Austin Davis will get the start for St. Louis. Davis led the Rams to victory at Tampa Bay last weekend and was pretty impressive in doing so. The Cowboys had an impressive win of their own, dominating Tennessee on the road behind RB DeMarco Murray. Let's see if Jason Garrett remembers this game and continues to feed Murray the ball instead of forgetting that he has a very good running back and forces Tony Romo to do everything. The Rams have really struggled against the run in the first two weeks of the season, so all the signs are there for Murray to carry Dallas to another win.

Prediction: Dallas 25, St. Louis 17

Houston (2-0) at New York Giants (0-2), Houston favored by 2 1/2

I have way too much faith in the New York Giants. They have made me look foolish for two weeks now, but I still can't stop myself from picking them to beat the Texans at home. I don't think the Giants are good and I am already regretting picking them as my NFC East winners but they can't be so bad as to lose to Houston and Ryan Fitzpatrick at home, can they? I guess it depends on how effectively the Giants line can protect Eli Manning from the beast that is J.J. Watt. Watt also had a touchdown catch last weekend, so maybe New York needs to gameplan for him on defense as well.

Prediction: New York Giants 24, Houston 21

Tennessee (1-1) at Cincinnati (2-0), Cincinnati favored by 7

The Bengals remained unbeatable at home during the regular season, completely dominating Atlanta. The defense was especially potent and matching up with a Titans team that has far less talent on offense, I expect another dominating defensive performance in this game. Even if WR A.J. Green is unable to go I don't expect that to slow down the Bengals offensive attack. Andy Dalton has yet to be sacked this season and Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill are proving to be quite the dynamic duo at running back. The goodwill Jake Locker and the Titans had built up after Week 1 disappeared pretty fast when their offense could do nothing against a porous Cowboys defense. If the Titans couldn't score on the Cowboys at home, it could get pretty ugly at Cincinnati.

Prediction: Cincinnati 33, Tennessee 17

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

Thanks to Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and Jonathan Dwyer it appears the Ravens are disappearing from the headlines caused by the Ray Rice story. They didn't seem bothered by the controversy at all last week, when they annihilated Pittsburgh at home on Thursday Night Football. The Browns are coming off a stirring come from behind win at home against the Saints. The Ravens and especially Joe Flacco have had their problems in the past playing at Cleveland, and that was against some bad Browns teams. This Browns team might be decent and their defense is definitely good. One of the keys to the Ravens win last week was they were able to run the ball effectively with Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett. I don't think they will find the same success in the Dawg Pound on Sunday.

Prediction: Cleveland 20, Baltimore 14

Green Bay (1-1) at Detroit (1-1), Detroit favored by 1

The Packers were staring at a disastrous 0-2 start to the season as they trailed the Jets 21-3 at Lambeau Field. But they persevered and came back to take the victory as Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson both had huge games. The Lions wilted badly on the road against a good Carolina defense, slowing down any excitement that Lions fans might have had after Week 1. Matthew Stafford was sloppy and turnovers killed the Lions, like they did last season. The Lions will feel better being at home, but I think the Packers are the better team, and Rodgers has a history of feasting on the Lions defense.

Prediction: Green Bay 26, Detroit 21

Indianapolis (0-2) at Jacksonville (0-2), Indianapolis favored by 6 1/2

The Colts did something different for a change. Instead of getting behind by a ton of points and either coming all the way back or at least coming close, they were the ones who gagged away a large lead. Leading the Eagles by 14 points in the second half at home, the Colts defense wilted and the Eagles ended up winning the game. If the Colts can't right the ship against the putrid Jags, then they might want to call it a season. Jacksonville was blown out by the Redskins and quarterback Chad Henne was sacked 10 times. No wonder coach Gus Bradley isn't in any rush to start the Blake Bortles era. This game should serve as a much needed jolt of confidence for the Colts.

Prediction: Indianapolis 38, Jacksonville 20

Oakland (0-2) at New England (1-1), New England favored by 14

Two games in and it already looks like another lost season for the Raiders. They were dominated at home by an average Texans team. They appear to have no offense, no defense, and no hope. The last place you want to go to when feeling this down is to play the Patriots on the road. The Patriots bounced back against Minnesota, but the offense, especially quarterback Tom Brady still doesn't look quite right. Brady and the offense have a great opportunity against a porous Oakland defense to start to figure things out.

Prediction: New England 30, Oakland 17

San Francisco (1-1) at Arizona (2-0), No Line

The regular season opening of Levi's Stadium couldn't have gone much worse for the 49ers. It started off well, as they raced to a lead against the Bears, but then conservative play calling, a litany of penalties, and poor play from Colin Kaepernick came back to bite the 49ers and they lost. Now, San Francisco has to go on the road and try to beat division rival Arizona. The Cardinals will be without starting QB Carson Palmer for the second straight week, meaning Drew Stanton will once again be the starter. Stanton completed less than 50 percent of his passes last week in the win against the Giants, so he will really have his work cut out for him going against the 49ers. The Cardinals will also be without backup RB Jonathan Dwyer who was arrested for beating his wife and hurting his young child. Kaepernick has to do a better job of consistently getting the ball to Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. He might not have TE Vernon Davis available for this game, so both teams are coming into this game with issues. Playing at Arizona will be challenging but I don't think Stanton will give the Cardinals good enough play at quarterback to defeat San Francisco. I think this could be a good game for the Niners to win and feel good about themselves again.

Prediction: San Francisco 27, Arizona 17

Kansas City (0-2) at Miami (1-1), Miami favored by 4

Both these teams suffered major injuries to their top running backs last week. Jamaal Charles has a high ankle sprain and it is unknown how long he will be out, while Knowshon Moreno dislocated his elbow and will miss at least a month. That means it will be up to Knile Davis of the Chiefs and Lamar Miller of the Dolphins to try to step in and carry the load. Davis has shown a lot of potential when he has played in Charles absence, while Miller has been mostly disappointing. Its important the backs do something because each team's quarterbacks have been underwhelming thus far this season. Smith has been especially dreadful, completing less than 60% of his passes and throwing just 1 touchdown against 3 interceptions. I think these teams are pretty evenly matched, so I give the edge to the Chiefs because of Andy Reid. Reid certainly has his faults, but his teams usually win, so it is hard for me to imagine the Chiefs starting 0-3.

Prediction: Kansas City 20, Miami 17

Denver (2-0) at Seattle (1-1), Seattle favored by 5

The schedule doesn't break this way often but we have a rematch of last year's Super Bowl. Denver will be highly motivated to go to Seattle and shock the Seahawks, and gain some measure of revenge for the shellacking Seattle gave them in last year's Super Bowl. The Broncos are expected to have Wes Welker make his season debut for this game, joining an already loaded receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas, Emmnauel Sanders, and Julius Thomas. That means that Dick Sherman will have his work cut out for him this week, after being exposed by the Chargers last week. We will see if Dick is exposed again and if he is, whether or not he sticks around to talk to the media. The Seattle defense will have to do a much better job of getting off the field then they did last week when dominated by the Chargers. Denver has to try to take the lead early and mitigate the effect of Seattle's electric crowd. If the Broncos start off slow, then they will have no chance in hell of winning this game. I expect Marshawn Lynch to have a pretty big game, so Seattle can ensure much more ball control then they had last week. This game will also rest on the type of pressure Seattle can get on Peyton Manning. I expect Denver to put up a much better fight this year, but homefield advantage will be the difference.

Prediction: Seattle 30, Denver 27

Pittsburgh (1-1) at Carolina (2-0), Carolina favored by 3

Thankfully, the WWE has a pay-per-view Sunday night so I will be watching that instead of this game, which is sure to be a snoozefest. The Steelers have played dreadful football the last six quarters, while the Panthers keep proving me and many others wrong. It doesn't seem to matter what Carolina does on offense, because their defense is so damn good. I expect Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to have a very long night, and for Luke Kuechly to become even more well known nationally after a big game.

Prediction: Carolina 20, Pittsburgh 10

Monday, September 22

Chicago (1-1) at New York Jets (1-1), New York Jets favored by 3 

The Bears looked dead in the water at San Francisco. Their offense could do nothing, so it was up to their much maligned defense to help bring them back. But the defense did just that and then Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall did the rest. The Jets had the opposite week, they blew a big lead and then had a massive blunder when assistant coach Marty Mornhinweg called timeout right before the Jets secured the tying touchdown late in the game. Despite the win the Bears would like to start seeing more results out of running back Matt Forte. They had to abandon the run because they were behind last Sunday, and Forte will have his work cut out for him against a tough Jets defensive front. It could be another big game for Marshall as the Jets secondary just allowed Jordy Nelson to go over 200 yards receiving.

Prediction: Chicago 24, New York Jets 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 8-8
Overall Against the Spread: 12-20

Last Week Straight Up: 6-10
Overall Straight Up: 14-18

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cram Session - Week 4

Thursday, September 18

Tampa Bay (0-2) at Atlanta (1-1), Atlanta favored by 6 1/2

I am not anti-Thursday NFL like some people are. I don't necessarily buy into the theory that the games are of lower quality due to the short turnaround. I have an insatiable appetite to watch the NFL and like having the option on Thursdays. However, because of the NFL's edict that each team play a Thursday night game, you get left with dud matchups like this week's. People in Atlanta and Tampa Bay might care about this game but even that is somewhat debatable knowing the fanbases in those cities. The Falcons were feeling pretty good about themselves after their win over the Saints in Week 1, but were whipped by the Bengals last Sunday and know they have a long way to go. The Buccaneers were though of by many as this year's sleeper success story. But two home losses to Derek Anderson and Austin Davis have made it clear that Lovie Smith has a ton of work on his hands. So far, the Josh McCown pick up looks to be a bust. The Bucs rank 31st in the league in passing through two games and it appears like it might have been a mistake to shove Mike Glennon to the sidelines to make room for McCown. Tonight will be telling because so far the Falcons defense has been atrocious in all facets. If McCown and the Tampa offense can't get anything going against Atlanta, their may be no hope for this offense. Signs are pointing to Doug Martin returning for the game but the Bucs have to be wondering how much they can count on Martin to be a factor. The Falcons are typically a strong home team and that figures to play in their favor in a short week.

Prediction: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 17

Games That Matter To Me

Miami (2-1) at #24 Nebraska (3-0)

Hard to not get nostalgic when thinking about Miami playing Nebraska. My favorite memory from this rivalry is when the Cornhuskers won their first national championship under Tom Osborne by beating Miami in the Orange Bowl. I will never forget Huskers fullback Corey Schlesinger slicing through the Miami defense, and watching Warren Sapp with hands on his knees, a tired and beaten man. The stature of these programs has gone down quite a bit since then, as Nebraska blowing out Fresno State last week is what made this matchup not just a game between two unranked teams. This figures to come down to a battle between Nebraska's dominant offense and the Canes tough defense. That is not to say Miami is without weapons on offense. They have an excellent running back in Duke Johnson and receiver Phillip Dorsett is coming off a 200 yard receiving game against Arkansas State last weekend. Canes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya has been up and down as freshman usually are, throwing 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in three games. Kaaya has had trouble with his accuracy but should be feeling confident after a 4 touchdown performance against Arkansas State.

The Huskers offense hit big play after big play at Fresno State last week. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. had his best game of the season, coming oh so close to completing 60% of his passes. RB Ameer Abdullah is averaging 7 yards a carry, and Jordan Westerkamp is turning into a star at receiver, scoring a touchdown in each game this year. In Week 1 the Canes were overwhelmed on the road against a ranked Louisville team and I expect a similar result for this game on Saturday. I think Nebraska's offensive skill will eventually overwhelm the Miami defense, and I think Kaaya will make a lot of mistakes in a tough place to play.

Prediction: Nebraska 34, Miami 24

Top 10

Thursday, September 18

#5 Auburn (2-0) at #20 Kansas State (2-0)

The Tigers best beware of the Thursday night upset, especially when you have to go on the road. Auburn is favored by 9 in this game, but my upset senses are tingling. Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall had some Heisman talk prior to the season but has been underwhelming in the 1 1/2 games he has played this year. Auburn isn't much of a passing team though, so for Kansas State to spring the upset they must focus on stopping Auburn's rushing attack. That attack is a three headed monster of Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Kansas State has a dual threat weapon of their own at quarterback, Jake Waters. The senior is coming off a 239 yard passing and 138 yard rushing game against Iowa State. Sophomore running back Charles Jones has big play capabilities, averaging over 6 yards a carry. Both of these teams have had a week and a half to prepare for this game. I expect to see a tightly contested battle, with tons of drama and great athleticism from Marshall and Waters. In the end, I think it will be a good night for the Big 12 as they knock off the SEC.

Prediction: Kansas State 27, Auburn 20

Saturday, September 20

#22 Clemson (1-1, 0-0) at #1 Florida State (2-0, 0-0)

The big news coming into this game is the first half suspension of Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston. Being perhaps the dumbest person on the planet, Winston decided to yell out something about having sex with cats in a common area at school and is now being disciplined for it. If I am an NFL team, I don't care about how talented Winston is, he is dumb as a box of rocks and I want him nowhere near my team. Sean Maguire will star the first half for the Noles and the Tigers will be chomping at the bit to tee off on him and assert themselves in that first half. Clemson is still smarting from the embarrassing beatdown given to them by Florida State last season in Death Valley. With Winston sitting out the first half that could mean a heavy dose of Seminoles running back Karlos Williams in the first half. Tigers quarterback Cole Staudt will look to improve his game after suffering a poor performance in the season opener at Georgia a few weeks ago. Winston's absence will be felt in the first half, but not to a point that Florida State won't be able to recover from. Seminoles will pull the game out in the second half and Winston will celebrate by f@*!ing a girl right in the pu@@y, hopefully consensually.

Prediction: Florida State 38, Clemson 31

#2 Oregon (3-0, 0-0) at Washington State (1-2, 0-0)

The Ducks open the Pac-12 season in Pullman against Mike Leach's Cougars. Washington State can pile up the points but they aren't very good at stopping opposing teams from doing the same. Washington State gave up 38 points to Rutgers anemic offense a few weeks ago, so Marcus Mariota and company should be salivating about what they might do this weekend.

Prediction: Oregon 56, Washington State 24

Florida (2-0, 1-0) at #3 Alabama (3-0, 0-0)

This is a spotlight game because of name value but the current incarnation of the Gators don't figure to put up much of a fight in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The Gators were lucky to escape with a victory against Kentucky in Gainesville last weekend. They didn't look anything like a team ready to travel on the road and give the #3 team in the country a good game. It doesn't seem to matter who is at quarterback for Bama, the plan is simply get the ball to wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper "only" had 8 catches against Southern Miss last weekend, slightly less than the 12 and 13 catches he had in the first two games this season. The Gators secondary is young and was torched by the Wildcats last week, so expect Cooper to have another huge day.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Florida 14

#4 Oklahoma (3-0, 0-0) at West Virginia (2-1, 0-0)

The Sooners could be on upset alert this week as they travel to couch burning country to take on the Mountaineers. Oklahoma will be without leading rusher and pass catching threat Keith Ford for this game. The Sooners will no doubt miss him but have an abundance of talent at the running back position, including Samaje Perine, who averages over 5 yards a carry. The most intriguing matchup will be how Oklahoma's defense fares against Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett. Against Maryland last week, Trickett completed 75.5% of his 49 passes for 511 yards in West Virginia's 40-37 victory. The Sooners defense is 8th in the country in points allowed so if Trickett can play well against them the Mountaineers will really know what a stud they have at the position. The previous two meetings between these teams have been pretty close, and I expect this one to follow that script.

Prediction: Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 35

#6 Texas A&M (3-0) at SMU (0-2)

This game is slightly notable because it is the first game for new SMU coach Tom Mason, who is replacing the recently resigned June Jones for the season. Jones resigned after the Mustangs were obliterated by both Baylor and North Texas to open the season. Offense had always been Jones calling card but the Mustangs have scored just 6 points in two games. Kenny Hill and company should find themselves with another easy victory before opening up SEC play next weekend.

Prediction: Texas A&M 45, SMU 10

Mississippi State (3-0, 0-0) at #8 LSU (3-0, 0-0)

This is the conference opener for each of these teams and after this game we should know a lot more about where they truly stand. The Bulldogs have played no one worth a damn yet, while LSU is three weeks removed from their come from behind win against Wisconsin. LSU is currently second in the country in points allowed per game, and their passing defense has been especially stingy. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott has a terrible name but has thrown 9 touchdowns through three games. The Tigers are going to look to ram the ball down the Bulldogs throats with running backs Kenny Hilliard and Heisman trophy posing freshman Leonard Fournette.

Prediction: LSU 33, Mississippi State 20

Last Week: 8-2
Overall: 27-4

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 2

Sunday, September 14

Miami (1-0) at Buffalo (1-0), Miami favored by 1

The Dolphins got off to an excellent start for the 2014 season, thoroughly dominating the Patriots in the second half and cruising to victory. Now before Dolphins fans go printing playoff tickets, they should remember that Miami started last season 3-0, and ended up missing the playoffs. They didn't have much of a run game last season, but if Knowshon Moreno can play even at 75% the level he did last weekend, the Dolphins should be all set at running back this year. Buffalo is coming off an impressive victory of their own, winning at Chicago. The defense gave up a ton of yards but also forced three turnovers and the offense was surprisingly effective, after a lot of negative talk surrounding that unit in the preseason. EJ Manuel is likely going to be asked to just be a game manager at this point, while the Bills focus on running the ball with Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Anthony Dixon. I think the Dolphins defense will present more of a challenge for Buffalo then Chicago did, and I like Miami to build off their Week 1 momentum.

Prediction: Miami 20, Buffalo 17

New England (0-1) at Minnesota (1-0), New England favored by 3

Two weeks ago if you had said one of these teams would be winless going into this game, almost no one would have predicted that team would be the Patriots. New England played one of the worst halves of football they have played in a long time last weekend in the second half against Miami. The offense could do nothing and their defense couldn't get pressure on Miami or slow them down. After an average performance, some are beginning to wonder if Tom Brady simply is just a good quarterback at this point, and won't ever regain his elite status. The Vikings Matt Cassel will face his former team for the first time in his career. He was mostly a game manager in Minnesota's win, as the defense and Cordarrelle Patterson did most of the heavy lifting. After the big game Moreno had against New England last week, Adrian Peterson has to be excited about what he might be capable of doing. This is the Vikings first home game at the University of Minnesota, and they will be playing outdoors, although weather shouldn't really be a factor in this one. Hard to imagine the Patriots starting off 0-2 for the first time in 13 years, so somehow and someway I think they take this one.

Prediction: New England 27, Minnesota 20

Jacksonville (0-1) at Washington (0-1), Washington favored by 6

The Redskins overall looked dreadful in their Week 1 loss at Houston. The offense struggled most of the game and when they were able to move the ball, they killed themselves with turnovers. Special teams was still a mess as they had an extra point blocked and a punt blocked that turned into a Houston touchdown. The defense did well enough, only allowing 7 points but wasn't able to get a stop at the end of the game when they needed to. The Skins were running the ball effectively with Alfred Morris but went away from that for some reason, calling stupid gimmick plays for DeSean Jackson. The Jaguars jumped out to a 17-0 lead on the road at Philly but then remembered they are the shitty Jags in the second half and allowed 34 straight points, losing 34-17. Allan Hurns became the biggest pickup in fantasy football with 2 first half touchdowns and playing the Redskins poor secondary he could in for a second big game. Toby Gerhart was dreadful in his first start with Jacksonville and is now dealing with an ankle injury. This will likely be just as ugly as Redskins/Texans was and I am happy that I will be watching football on Sunday at a place with Red Zone so I am not subjected to this entire game. If the Skins lose at home to Jacksonville to fall to 0-2 they may just not win a game this season.

Prediction: Washington 21, Jacksonville 17

Dallas (0-1) at Tennessee (1-0), Tennessee favored by 3 1/2

Not surprisingly, the Cowboys season got off to an ugly start against the 49ers. What did surprise some people, was that it was Tony Romo's fault more than it was the defense's. Romo threw three awful interceptions and put the Cowboys in a position where they had no chance of winning. The Titans surprised everyone by lambasting the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Jake Locker played superbly, but Titans fans have seen this story before and will continue to hold their breaths about his health. The Cowboys want to keep this game close so they have a chance to get DeMarco Murray more involved. It would also be nice for Romo to attempt to throw it to Dez Bryant instead of the other team. I think Dallas will turn in a better performance this week, but it won't be enough to win.

Prediction: Tennessee 31, Dallas 28

Arizona (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1), Arizona favored by 2

These teams had vastly different Monday Night Football experiences. Despite my faith in them, the Giants were completely destroyed by the Lions. The Cardinals overcame a 17-6 deficit in the 4th quarter to beat the Chargers, despite Larry Fitzgerald having just one catch. The Giants offense looked completely out of sync and Manning seemed to have no chemistry with any of his receivers, despite many of them being guys he's played with for years. I would expect both Victor Cruz and Larry Fitzgerald to have much better games for their respective teams than they did to open the season. I am sticking with the Giants for another week, but if they drop this one, I will be convinced that they suck.

Prediction: New York Giants 24, Arizona 20

New Orleans (0-1) at Cleveland (0-1), New Orleans favored by 8 1/2

Both the Browns and Saints lost heartbreakers on last second field goals. The Saints blew a double-digit lead, while the Browns almost came back from a double-digit deficit. The Browns had to have been pleased with their offensive showing in Week 1. Terrance West had 100 yards rushing in place of the injured Ben Tate, and Isaiah Crowell had a touchdown. TE Jordan Cameron is questionable, but Andrew Hawkins picked up the slack from him when he went down last week and could be Hoyer's favorite target. The Saints had to have been happy with the performance of Mark Ingram in Week 1, as he had two touchdowns and rookie WR Brandin Cooks made his presence felt right away. What the Saints were not happy about was their defense reverting to their terrible 2012 form. The Falcons gashed the Saints, making everyone wonder what the hell happened to the improved unit we saw last season. This game will show whether or not that was a one week aberration or a sign of trouble for the Saints this season.

Prediction: New Orleans 34, Cleveland 27

Atlanta (1-0) at Cincinnati (1-0), Cincinnati favored by 5

The Falcons took a major step towards erasing the stink of the 2013 season by defeating the Saints in Week 1. The offense looked fantastic and Matt Ryan looked like himself with his full complement of receivers available to him. The Bengals erased some demons by going to Baltimore and winning and both their offensive and defensive units seemed to be okay despite the change in coordinators. Each team would like to see a little more out of their run games this week but with the amount of talent on the field at receiver, expect the passing games to shine in this one. Julio Jones and A.J. Green will be facing each other for the first time since their SEC days at Alabama and Georgia respectively. The Bengals have been tough to beat at home in recent years, and I expect them to win pretty easily in this one. I don't think Ryan will perform as well with the pressure the Bengals will apply and that will force him into turnovers.

Prediction: Cincinnati 33, Atlanta 21

Detroit (1-0) at Carolina (1-0), Carolina favored by 2 1/2

The Panthers got an impressive road win at Tampa with Cam Newton not playing due to injury and Derek Anderson having to take the reigns. I admit I laughed to myself when #1 Panthers fan Matt Pinto said he had faith in Anderson, but he was proven right. The Panthers defense looked like the dominant unit people expect them to be. The Lions looked great on Monday night, but it remains to be seen if they actually are that good, or the Giants were simply that bad. Playing at Carolina should be a sufficient test, at least to see how good the Lions are offensively. The Panthers will have their hands full with Megatron, who dominated the Giants and dominates just about everyone. I'm still not sold on the Panthers, especially offensively, so going with the Lions.

Prediction: Detroit 20, Carolina 16

St. Louis (0-1) at Tampa Bay (0-1), Tampa Bay favored by 5 1/2

The Rams laid the biggest turd in the NFL in Week 1, losing by 31 points at home to Minnesota. Shaun Hill and Jeff Fisher couldn't seem to agree on whether Hill was benched or hurt. If Hill was benched I think that was an absurd decision by Fisher. You can't give a guy a half to acclimate himself after not starting for 6 years and expect him to be lights out. The Rams defense also looked terrible and now will be without Chris Long for an extended period of time. Tampa Bay seemed to take about a half to wake up and realize the season had started. Josh McCown looked very shaky and Doug Martin got hurt once again. Martin is expected back for this game and I think the porous Rams should cure some of the Bucs ills.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 28, St. Louis 13

Seattle (1-0) at San Diego (0-1), Seattle favored by 6

If Week 1's domination is a sign of things to come, then sadly the Seahawks look to be the favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions. With the added dimension of Percy Harvin to the offense, and Marshawn Lynch running like a beast, the Seahawks offense looked unstoppable. Their defense looked just as dominant, and the Packers didn't even attempt to throw at Dick Sherman's side of the field. The Chargers had their game in hand but then the bad Chargers from the Norv Turner years reared their ugly head and they blew the lead late. The Chargers didn't do enough to get the ground game going and even if they try to do that Sunday, it may not happen against the stout Seahawks. I think that Seattle will make another statement on Sunday and earn a second straight rout.

Prediction: Seattle 37, San Diego 20

Houston (1-0) at Oakland (0-1), Houston favored by 3

The Texans already have half the wins they had last season, although unfortunately for them they started 2-0 last season before losing 14 in a row. They have a shot to start 2-0 for the second straight year with a game against the putrid Raiders. Derek Carr will be facing the Texans, the team that drafted his older brother with their first ever draft pick. Things didn't work out for David and you know Derek wouldn't mind exacting a little revenge against the franchise. Houston has already lost their number one pick from this past year's draft, Jadaveon Clowney, who will miss 6-8 weeks. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Texans offense didn't move the ball very well against a poor Redskins defense, and they could fare worse on the road this weekend. The Raiders sometimes seem to pull wins out of their butts in the black hole, and I expect strong showings from Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden to be the difference in this game. Each player had less than 10 carries in last week's loss to the Jets, so that gameplan needs to definitely change in this game.

Prediction: Oakland 19, Houston 16

New York Jets (1-0) at Green Bay (0-1), Green Bay favored by 8

The Packers received a scare when Eddie Lacy had to leave last week's loss to Seattle with a concussion. Despite it being his second concussion in two seasons, all signs are pointing to him playing this weekend against the Jets. Lacy will have his work cut out for him against the Jets front, but Aaron Rodgers should be able to exploit the Jets weak secondary. The Jets might lean on the run, with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory after seeing how the Seahawks rushing attack manhandled Green Bay last week. Homefield advantage will make a huge difference for Green Bay but I expect the Jets to keep this game close.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, New York Jets 17

Kansas City (0-1) at Denver (1-0), Denver favored by 13 1/2

The Chiefs 2014 season already turned into a nightmare after one week. They were blown out at home by the Titans and lost two defensive starters for the season in Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito, as both players ruptured their achilles. Fresh off his new contract Alex Smith looked terrible. He was his usual dink and dunk self but he did the one things that he usually never does and that was turn the ball over. Trailing most of the game, Jamaal Charles only had 7 carries, and if Charles isn't doing anything offensively, the Chiefs are going to be hard pressed to score points. They will be helped by the return of WR Dwayne Bowe,w ho is coming off a one game suspension stemming from an arrest in Denver last season. Hard pressed to score points is never a sentence you will read about Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The offense didn't seem to miss Knowshon Moreno or Eric Decker at all with Montee Ball and Emmanuel Sanders comfortably stepping in to take their places. Even the absence of Wes Welker didn't seem to matter much. Tempted to take Denver to cover the huge 13 1/2 point spread but not bold enough.

Prediction: Denver 35, Kansas City 23

Chicago (0-1) at San Francisco (1-0), San Francisco favored by 7

I had most of my fears relieved last Sunday when the 49ers dominated the Cowboys. It wasn't so much that I was surprised San Francisco won or even that it was relatively easy that made me feel better. It was the fact that the offense looked sharp, especially new addition Carlos Hyde, and the defense still looked strong despite all the changes. Now the level of competition wasn't exactly high and I would expect the Bears to be a little tougher, even with the 49ers and their fans being jacked up for the debut of Levi Stadium. However, it doesn't appear the 49ers will be getting a Bears team at full strength. Both Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall have missed practice time this week and are questionable. The Bears are also banged up on the offensive line with Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson fighting injuries. The Bears are coming in as the desperate team after a surprising opening week loss to Buffalo at home. Jay Cutler made some poor throws last weekend that cost Chicago and he could be in trouble with this 49ers secondary, that is coming off a 3 interception game. The 49ers defense will focus much of its game plan around Matt Forte, the Bears dual rushing and receiving threat. Much like the Cowboys porous defense, the Bears aren't much better so there will be plenty of chances for plays to be made by Colin Kaepernick and his plethora of receivers. After this game, I expect things to start getting quite panicky in Chicago come Monday.

Prediction: San Francisco 28, Chicago 20

Monday, September 15

Philadelphia (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1), Indianapolis favored by 3

Both the Colts and Eagles are dealing with injuries early on in the season. The Colts were already without Robert Mathis for four games due to a suspension and now will be without him for 16 games due to an Achilles tear. The Eagles were already hurting on their offensive line with the suspension of Lane Johnson and now will be without Evan Mathis until at least November. The problems on the line seemed to effect Nick Foles, who was a turnover machine in the first half against Jacksonville last weekend. Andrew Luck seemed to revert back to his 2012 form and threw two interceptions and was too careless with the ball. The Colts once again nearly overcame a huge deficit but it has to be somewhat concerning to their fans that they keep finding themselves in these holes. Trent Richardson continued to look useless but Reggie Wayne had almost 10 catches and remains Luck's favorite passing target. The Colts also did a nice job of using Ahmad Bradshaw out of the backfield as a receiving threat. LeSean McCoy didn't have a rushing day up to his standards but the Eagles had to be encouraged by the breakaway play new acquisition Darren Sproles made. These teams both have good offenses and questionable defenses, so I am expecting a high scoring and entertaining game on Monday night. I give the edge to Indy because of the game being at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Prediction: Indianapolis 34, Philadelphia 27

Last Week Against the Spread: 4-12
Overall Against the Spread: 4-12

Last Week Straight Up: 8-8
Overall Straight Up: 8-8

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cram Session - Week 3

Thursday, September 11

Pittsburgh (1-0) at Baltimore (0-1), Baltimore favored by 2 1/2

Normally, one of the best rivalries in the NFL would be getting the spotlight shone on it, with it airing in primetime tonight. However, dominating the headlines is former Ravens RB Ray Rice. For some reason people needed to actually see him hit his wife to understand that is why we saw video of her a few months ago, knocked out. This changed everything for everyone. The Ravens cut Rice immediately, and Roger Goodell upped Rice's suspension from 2 games to indefinitely. I am sure during this game, the announcers will mention it from time to time but eventually all eyes will be on this intense rivalry. It is always hard hitting and a guaranteed close game when these teams meet. The Ravens have to move on with their season and another home loss within the division would be catastrophic. Joe Flacco made one of the most boneheaded plays you will ever see a quarterback make last week. The Ravens were driving to end the half and had a chance to kick a field goal. Flacco's dumbass runs around the field and lets the clock run out, and the Ravens get zero points. Just more proof that the Ravens severely overpaid him. The Steelers got off to a fast start at home against Cleveland, before letting the Browns back into the game. They eventually pulled out the win but have to be slightly concerned with how their defense played. On the positive side, their running game looked good, especially Le'Veon Bell. I thought the Ravens would be too tough at home against Cincy last week and was wrong, but I'm stubborn and choose to go to that well once again this week.

Prediction: Baltimore 24, Pittsburgh 21

Games That Matter To Me

Purdue (1-1) at #11 Notre Dame (2-0) in Indianapolis, IN

The 2014 season seems to be about end of an era for Notre Dame and Big Ten opponents. They ended their rivalry with Michigan last week in resounding fashion, blowing and shutting them out 31-0. Saturday's game with Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium will be the last time these teams play each other for at least 6 years. The Boilermakers probably won't be shedding too many tears over this rivalry temporarily ending, as the Irish have dominated, including a current six game winning streak.

Everett Golson has been fantastic through two games and is starting to receive some early Heisman trophy buzz. He is completing 66% of his passes and has 5 throwing touchdowns, 3 rushing touchdowns and no interceptions. The run game is still not at the level the Irish need it to be. Through two games, Notre Dame doesn't have a running back that has even broken 100 yards rushing on the season, let alone in a game. Some of that has to do with the sharing system that Kelly has going as Tarean Folston leads the team with just 21 carries. WR William Fuller seems to be entrenching himself as Golson's number one target, leading the team with 13 catches and two touchdowns. Amir Carlisle is also coming off a big game against Michigan, he had 7 catches and two touchdowns.

Purdue enters this game off an embarrassing loss at home to Central Michigan, 38-17. Sophomore QB Danny Etling was terrible, throwing 2 picks and barely completing over 50% of his passes. His life could become even more miserable Saturday against a Notre Dame defense that dominated Michigan. RB Raheem Mostert had a monster game in week 1 against Western Michigan but was shut down by Central Michigan. Etling's weapons are almost non-existent. The Boilermakers leading receiver is tight end Justin Sinz and he has just 10 catches in two games. The Boilermakers are challenged offensively, and you can bet the Irish defense will be like a shark smelling blood going against this offense.

Hopefully Notre Dame doesn't take Purdue too lightly, even if this looks like it should be a cakewalk victory. As long as they have prepared themselves right for this game and play with the right attitude, the Irish should breeze to a 3-0 start to the season.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Purdue 14

Nebraska (2-0) at Fresno State (0-2)

Any good feelings the Huskers had engendered after Week 1, quickly dissipated after they struggled to beat I-AA McNeese State at home last weekend. It took an incredible play from Ameer Abdullah in the final seconds for the Huskers to pull out the victory. This week they travel on the road for the first time this season against Fresno State. East coast Huskers fans might be up until 2 AM watching this game if Nebraska is stuck in another close one. However, the Bulldogs have been soundly defeated by two Pac-12 schools to start the season in USC and Utah, so one would hope that Nebraska can do the same. Tommy Armstrong is still struggling with his accuracy, remaining barely over 50% on his completions. Abdullah is an amazing talent, but last week he struggled rushing and it was apparent how much the Huskers rely on him offensively. I would be surprised if he is held in check by Fresno State this weekend, but that doesn't change the fact that Armstrong needs to start throwing the ball better.

The Bulldogs have a split quarterback system between Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette. They might prefer if one outshone the other but both have been pretty much equally marginal through two games. Burrell is a little less mistake prone than the interception happy Connette. The Bulldogs number one receiver is Josh Harper, who leads the team with 12 catches for 139 yards after two games. If the Bulldogs can keep this game close they might be able to give more touches to RB Marteze Waller, who is averaging over 5 yards per carry. The Bulldogs have been getting so far behind though that it is hard for Waller to have much of an impact.

I am hopeful that Nebraska plays angry this weekend and with something to prove. The Bulldogs are the perfect victim for Nebraska to take their aggression on. They aren't very good offensively and are terrible defensively. Anything other than a dominant victory will be very disappointing for Nebraska going into their home game with Miami next weekend.

Prediction: Nebraska 41, Fresno State 21

Top 10

Friday, September 12

#8 Baylor (2-0) at Buffalo (1-1)

The Bears will get back QB Bryce Petty for this game, not that they would probably even need him to beat a team of the Bulls caliber. The Bears are finally done playing cupcakes after this week and open up their Big 12 schedule.

Prediction: Baylor 45, Buffalo 10

Saturday, September 13

Wyoming (2-0) at #2 Oregon (2-0)

The Ducks showed some toughness against Michigan State last weekend that many questioned whether or not they had. After getting punched in the mouth and trailing by 9 points in the second half, Oregon rallied and ended up crushing the Spartans. The Cowboys defense has been strong in their first two victories but that doesn't mean they will have an answer for Marcus Mariota and company.

Prediction: Oregon 49, Wyoming 16

Southern Miss (1-1) at #3 Alabama (2-0)

Bama's blowout win over Florida Atlantic last week was cut short due to lightning. The game was still long enough for Bama to be able to afford a lot of playing time to their dual quarterback system of Blake Sims and Jake Coker. I would expect these two to both play a large amount of time against the porous Golden Eagles. It is Bama's last cupcake for a while before their begin their SEC schedule with Florida next week. It doesn't seem to matter who the quarterback is, Amari Cooper is going to catch a lot of passes, 25 in fact through just two games this season.

Prediction: Alabama 44, Southern Miss 7

Tennesee (2-0) at #4 Oklahoma (2-0)

Based on records this would have been a marquee matchup about a decade ago. Now, it is still gets primetime billing but mostly because the schedule is so craptastic this weekend. While Tennessee isn't elite, they do play in the SEC, a conference that Sooners coach Bob Stoops always enjoys earning victories against. Plus, the Vols do have some talented players, like quarterback Justin Worley, that will be some good competition for the Sooners defense to compete against before they start their Big 12 schedule.

Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Tennessee 21

#6 Georgia (2-0, 0-0) at #24 South Carolina (1-1, 0-1)

The Bulldogs can essentially end the Gamecocks SEC East hopes with a win on Saturday. South Carolina has looked less than impressive in their first two games but were at least on the winning side of things against East Carolina last weekend. One thing they can perhaps take solace in is how they have thoroughly dominated Georgia at home in the last two meetings in South Carolina. However, times have changed and the Bulldogs are confident that with outstanding running back Todd Gurley leading the way, they can erase those demons. The Bulldogs also have the benefit of having last week off and almost 2 weeks to prepare for this game. Gurley will likely have to carry the load because quarterback Hutson Mason didn't make many people forget about Aaron Murray after the game against Clemson. Mason was accurate but threw for just 131 yards and no touchdowns. Now, the Cocks have shown themselves to be susceptible to the pass, so the chances should be there for Mason to senior receiver Michael Bennett.

The Cocks are led by Dylan Thompson who is one South Carolina player that has played pretty well during the team's sluggish start. RB Mike Davis played much better last week after not getting to see the ball much in the opener against Texas A&M. Thompson also has some dangerous receiving weapons in Nick Jones and Pharoh Cooper.

Recently, the games between these teams have turned into routs for each side but I expect a close, back and forth affair this year. I think the two weeks preparation will be a real edge for Georgia, and they just are a more confident bunch right now than South Carolina. More importantly, they are the better team.

Prediction: Georgia 34, South Carolina 27

Rice (0-1) at #7 Texas A&M (2-0)

Should be another ho-hum victory for the Aggies and a chance for quarterback Kenny Hill to pad his stats.

Prediction: Texas A&M 55, Rice 21

#9 USC (2-0) at Boston College (1-1)

The Trojans earned a massive road win at Stanford last week, but unfortunately for them it was overshadowed by their Athletic Director Pat Haden going to the sidelines to argue with officials. What really upset people is that Haden is a member of the new College Football Playoff Selection committee, so people though his behavior gave the committee a whole a bad look. It was an odd scene but I think some people are just looking for a reason to be outraged or create a story. RB Javorius Allen is beginning to emerge as a star for the Trojans. The Eagles aren't very good, but I think the Trojans having to travel cross country for this game will have an effect and make it closer than some might expect.

Prediction: USC 28, Boston College 20

UL Monroe (2-0) at #10 LSU (2-0)

Two undefeated' teams from the state of Louisiana do battle! UL Monroe is undefeated because of playing Wake Forest and Idaho though, nothing like the level of competition they will see in Baton Rouge Saturday night. LSU begins conference play next weekend so they just want to win and stay healthy this weekend.

Prediction: LSU 40, UL Monroe 14

Last Week: 9-1
Overall: 19-2

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 1

Sunday, September 7

New England at Miami, New England favored by 5 1/2

No better opportunity than the season opener for the Dolphins to try to prove that 2014 will finally be the season that they take a leap forward. They get to open at home with the long standing best team in the division, the Patriots. The Patriots feel confident about their offense, especially with Rob Gronkowski healthy and Brady now having extensive experience with his receivers, something he didn't have last season. For the first time in years they are also excited about the potential of their defense, especially with the addition of longtime foe, CB Darrelle Revis. They also have the gigantic Vince Wilfork back healthy. Miami has proven to be a tough place for Brady to play at times over his career, so I expect a tight one, but hard to pick against the Pats.

Prediction: New England 24, Miami 20

Minnesota at St. Louis, St. Louis favored by 4

Matt Cassel vs. Shaun Hill, exciting!!  This was supposed to be a make or break season for Sam Bradford, but he tore his ACL again and is already out for the season. While the quarterback battle will likely be underwhelming in this game, there will be plenty of playmakers on the field for both sides. Adrian Peterson has expressed his excitement about Norv Turner's new offense and is running behind an offensive line that has remained unchanged for years now. Cordarrelle Patterson looks to be primed for a breakout seasons for the Vikings as well. The Rams are excited for a full season of Zac Stacey as their lead back and want to find more ways to get Tavon Austin the ball. They also still have one of the more talented and young defenses in the league. I think new coach Mike Zimmer was a good hire for the Vikings and the team will see immediate improvement this season.

Prediction: Minnesota 19, St. Louis 14

Jacksonville at Philadelphia, Philadelphia favored by 10

Some people are taking the bold step of proclaiming the Jaguars as a sleeper this season, especially with some of the additions they made on defense, adding Red Bryant and Chris Clemons from Seattle. However, while I think things are looking better for Jacksonville, they are still a year or two away from seeing any change in results on the field. The Eagles are excited to start another year in Chip Kelly's offense, especially RB LaSean McCoy, who is coming off a career season. However, they will be without DaSean Jackson this season, and it remains to be seen if Jeremy Maclin is ready to take on the spot of number one receiver. A player to watch for the Eagles this season is TE Zach Ertz. Ertz showed a ton of potential his rookie year and big things are expected from him this season.

Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Jacksonville 21

Washington at Houston, Houston favored by 1 1/2

These two teams regressed in spectacular fashion last season. They went from division winners to the two worst teams in football.  That means both have new coaches, and the Texans have a new, old quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Texans used the number one pick to take Jadaveon Clowney, and just signed another fearsome defensively player, J.J. Watt to a huge contract extension. The Texans chose to not address the quarterback position and because of that are starting the year with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback and a rookie, Tom Savage as his backup. Idiots like Bill Barnwell seem to think that last year was an aberration and Houston will return to playoff form, but you can't tell me a Ryan Fitzpatrick led team will even sniff the playoffs. The big story in Washington the past few weeks has been how awful RGIII has looked and because of that the less awful looking Kirk Cousins should be the starter. Then you have people like Mike Florio saying the Redskins should trade Cousins because its too much pressure on Robert. Seriously? RGIII can't deal with a little competition? If he can't handle that level of pressure, how the hell is he ever going to lead the Redskins to a Super Bowl? Griffin needs to stop worrying about his Twitter and his logo and blaming others for his failures and start looking in the mirror. He has the support of his coach this year, and he is being given every opportunity to succeed with the additions of Andre Roberts and DaSean Jackson. Lord help those that listen to DC sports talk if the Redskins lose this game because Griffin doesn't play well. Despite having a horrific defense last year, the Redskins chose to pretty much bring everyone back, including their awful coordinator Jim Haslett. Like everything that happened last year according to those in Redskins Park the defense sucking was all Mike Shanahan's fault. Nevermind that Haslett has never coached a good defense in his career. I don't expect the defense to get hit too hard this weekend by the sorry Fitzpatrick but the defense will end up being an issue at some points this year.

Prediction: Washington 23, Houston 20

New Orleans at Atlanta, New Orleans favored by 3

A lot of people like the Saints to reach or even win the Super Bowl this season. The key to the Saints season will likely be whether or not they win the NFC South and can secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. New Orleans is near unbeatable at the Super Dome, but is a mediocre team on the road.  Going into Atlanta to open the season is a good chance for the Saints to make a statement that they can be just as good on the road. The Falcons are happy for the season to start, so they can get the disgusting taste of last season out of their mouths. Julio Jones is back healthy and Atlanta is excited about new rookie running back Devonta Freeman and what he might possibly do when Steven Jackson is inevitably injured. The Saints have a new weapon of their own on offense, WR Brandin Cooks. Some people even seem convinced that this will finally be the year RB Mark Ingram puts everything together. I expect this to be a high scoring battle and for Drew Brees and Matt Ryan to both play very well, with the Saints just barely coming out on top.

Prediction: New Orleans 34, Atlanta 30

Cleveland at Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh favored by 6 1/2

This game would be more intriguing if Johnny Manziel had been named the Browns starting quarterback. Instead, Brian Hoyer is the starter until Johnny Football inevitably replaces him at some point this season. It is another new era in Cleveland, as the Rob Chudzinkski era lasted just one season. Now it is the Mike Pettine era but unfortunately for him his first year as coach will be without the Browns best player, WR Josh Gordon. Gordon is serving a year long suspension for multiple violations of the leagues drug policy. So instead of being a beast on the field, Gordon hopes to be a beast as a car salesman. The Steelers have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and surprised everyone by starting last year 0-4. The Steelers have some question marks but one of the sure things for them is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play well. Another almost sure thing is that they never lose to Cleveland at home.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 13

Oakland at New York Jets, New York Jets favored by 5 1/2

The Raiders are the only team starting a rookie quarterback to open the season David Carr's little brother, Derek Carr. Carr impressed enough in the preseason to beat out Matt Schaub, making it two straight seasons that the Raiders have brought someone in to be their quarterback in the off-season and then have them lose the job before the season has even started. The Jets brought in Michael Vick to serve as a big name backup to Geno Smith. If the Jets are to get back to the playoffs Smith will have to learn to be much more careful with the football. The Jets did provide him some new weapons, including WR Eric Decker. However, myself and many others believe that Decker will fall into Smith's level, instead of being able to help Smith become better. These are two franchises that aren't doing anything of note this season but the Jets will at least get to feel good about themselves after Week 1.

Prediction: New York Jets 21, Oakland 13

Buffalo at Chicago, Chicago favored by 7

I am bullish on Chicago this season and feel if their defense can even be mediocre they will win the NFC North. There is no question that they have the horses on offense to put up a ton of points. A couple interesting storylines for the Bears offense will be whether Jay Cutler can finally play all 16 games and beyond that, will he develop the type of chemistry with Alshon Jeffery that Josh McCown did last season? The talk has been mostly negative around Buffalo, which isn't surprising for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in this century. Excitement over E.J. Manuel has quickly turned to dread as he looked very unsure and inconsistent in the preseason. Bills fans won't be feeling any better after Sunday.

Prediction: Chicago 35, Buffalo 17

Cincinnati at Baltimore, Baltimore favored by 1 1/2

The Super Bowl hangover is far removed from Baltimore now and the Ravens hope that means a return to the playoffs in 2014. The AFC North figures to be a tight race, and this game could go a long way towards determining the division when all is said and done. The Ravens will be without Ray Rice, serving a 2 game suspension for knocking out his wife. That will give Bernard Pierce an opportunity to be the feature back. The Ravens as a whole couldn't run the ball worth a damn last season, and that exposed Joe Flacco for the slightly above average quarterback that he is. For Cincinnati what they do in the regular season doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot. Of course, they need to win enough games to make the playoffs, but the success of their season, and especially Andy Dalton's will ride on whether or not they finally win a playoff game this year. Even when they struggled last season, winning in Baltimore remained challenging for opponents, so I expect that trend to continue.

Prediction: Baltimore 21, Cincinnati 17

Tennessee at Kansas City, Kansas City favored by 4

The Chiefs have hitched their wagon to Alex Smith, signing him to an extension last week. They could do a lot worse at quarterback but don't expect Smith to bring the best out of guys like Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery. Smith is what he is, a decent quarterback that doesn't turn the ball over much but also doesn't throw it more than six yards too often. The Titans are hoping that Ken Whisenhunt can help improve Jake Locker. Whisenhunt has had success with quarterbacks but he can't make Locker stay healthy. CJ2K is also gone now, and the Titans have a plethora of options at running back with Shonn Greene, rookie Bishop Sankey and former Chief Dexter McCluster. Another former Chief playing in this game will be Titans kicker Ryan Succup, who the Titans picked up earlier this week after the Chiefs cut him. The Chiefs better win this game because unlike last season, the early part of the schedule isn't filled with cupcakes.

Prediction: Kansas City 28, Tennessee 17

Carolina at Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay favored by 2

These look like two teams headed in opposite directions. The Panthers had a storybook regular season last year until reality struck and they got beat by a team much better than them in the 49ers. Instead of improving, they ended up completely turning over their entire wide receiver corps and have left Cam Newton with such dung as Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. When Greg Olsen is probably your #1 option to throw to, you're in trouble. Newton is also dealing with health issues and is questionable for this game with bruised ribs. The Bucs are excited about their new coach Lovie Smith and optimistic about Josh McCown as their starting quarterback. McCown was a journeyman backup until last season, when he shined with the Bears. I thought it was somewhat odd that McCown was given the job instead of having to compete with Mike Glennon. I thought that Glennon played pretty well last season and showed some potential. The Bucs are also excited to have their Muscle Hamster back at running back, Doug Martin. Both of these teams have strong defenses so I am expecting a defensive struggle.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 16, Carolina 10

San Francisco at Dallas, San Francisco favored by 5

I would be lying if I said I wasn't very nervous about the 49ers coming into this season. I am sticking with them as my pick to win the Super Bowl but things that have happened this past off-season and preseason have me concerned. Making headlines for arrests has become the norm for the 49ers and the defense is going to look quite different this season. Aldon Smith has been suspended nine games for various arrests and stud LB NaVarro Bowman will miss at least six games as he recovers from the devastating injury he suffered in the NFC Championship. The offense, despite adding Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, and Bruce Ellington looked completely listless in the preseason. The 49ers did finally get some good news when RG Alex Boone ended his holdout. I will be even more concerned about the offense if they can't put up points in bunches against the Cowboys putrid defense. Dallas was awful defensively last season and could be even worse this year. They lost their best defensive player, Sean Lee for the season in mini camp, and are also without Orlando Scandrick for four games due to a suspension. They do have a ton of talent offensively, and are happy to have back the criminally underrated Tony Romo at quarterback. Romo and Dez Bryant figure to test the 49ers secondary early and often on Sunday. TE Jason Witten could be in for a big day with the 49ers depleted linebacking corps. This should be a high-scoring shootout, but the team with the better defense will win.

Prediction: San Francisco 38, Dallas 27

Indianapolis at Denver, Denver favored by 7 1/2

Peyton Manning hopes the second time will be the charm as he faces his former team. This game won't be nearly as emotional for Manning as last year's when he returned to Indianapolis. This time the Colts come to Denver and their quarterback Andrew Luck is receiving a ton of hype. I was questioning of the hype put on Luck after his rookie season but have boarded the Luck wagon after the season he had last year. He cut his interceptions way down and looks well on his way to being a superstar in the league. The Broncos will be without Wes Welker for this game after Welker failed a drug test for amphetamines. The rumor was that Welker took Molly, but Welker claimed he had never heard of it. I believe that coming from my Dad, who thought Molly was fake marijuana, but from Welker? Come on, man! Even without Welker, I think the Broncos newest addition, Emmanuel Sanders is primed for a huge season with Manning throwing him the ball. The Colts are clearly the best team in a bad division, but where they will continue to struggle is on defense. Manning and the Broncos should have no problems hanging 30+ on the Colts.

Prediction: Denver 38, Indianapolis 24

Monday, September 8

New York Giants at Detroit, Detroit favored by 5 1/2

I think I have more confidence in the Giants ability to win the NFC East than even their own fans do. I know that Eli Manning is coming off a disastrous season and is learning a new system for the first time in his career. However, I don't think that is a negative. I think Manning had become stale and too comfortable in Kevin Gilbride's offense. Manning will still make a couple throws a game that will leave you shaking your head, but I also know that Manning can be one of the best when he is on. Even if Manning does rebound, the Giants have to hope that Jason Pierre-Paul and the defensive line are able to get some pressure on the quarterback this season. The Lions are filled with talent but can't find the right coach to lead that talent. After letting Jim Schwartz go they had a chance but instead hired the most boring man alive, Jim Caldwell. I mean seriously, my farts have more personality than Caldwell. The Lions problem has been that they always play like a bunch of individuals instead of a cohesive unit. Manning will have plenty of Ndamukong Suh in his face Monday night, especially with a reworked offensive line, but I think Matthew Stafford will make enough mistakes, that the Giants will pull off the road upset. 

Prediction: New York Giants 28, Detroit 27

San Diego at Arizona, Arizona favored by 3

These two teams are looking to build off positive, rebound type seasons in 2013. The Cardinals won 10 games but it wasn't enough to get them to the playoffs. 9 wins was good enough to get the Chargers in the playoffs in the AFC and then they knocked off the Bengals in the Wild Card round. Philip Rivers had a career resurgence with Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator. Whisenhunt is gone now so it will be interesting to see if Rives can maintain his strong play. One player that will help him is stud receiver Keenan Allen, who had a fantastic rookie season. Ryan Matthews also had his best season as a running back last year and he joins a loaded backfield with Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown. The Cardinals got pretty good play out of Carson Palmer last season and started to see the emergence of RB Andre Ellington and WR Michael Floyd. The Cardinals have some questions on defense. Karlos Dansby left via free agency and Darnell Dockett is out for the season due to injury. San Diego had their share of problems on defense last season as well, but showed positive signs of improvement towards the end of last year. If people on the East Coast can stay up for it, they should be in for an entertaining, and exciting game.

Prediction: Arizona 27, San Diego 20