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

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