Friday, October 31, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 9

Sunday, November 2

San Diego (5-3) at Miami (4-3), Miami favored by 2

Both teams enter this game in opposite directions. The Chargers have dropped two straight, both within their division, while the Dolphins went on the road and won two in a row, to get themselves back in the playoff mix. The Dolphins used their defense to defeat Jacksonville last week and Ryan Tannehill and the offense weren't needed to do much. The Chargers won't make nearly the same level of mistakes that Jacksonville did so Tannehill, Mike Wallace and Lamar Miller will have to be at their best on Sunday. Philip Rivers is still throwing touchdowns but has also been a little more mistake prone the past few weeks. The Dolphins have a very opportunistic defense so Rivers could be forced into more mistakes in this game. These are two pretty evenly matched teams, so I will give the edge to Miami based on homefield.

Prediction: Miami 28, San Diego 25

Washington (3-5) at Minnesota (3-5), Minnesota favored by 1 1/2

This game stinks to high heaven. Everyone in Washington has their hopes up after the Skins shocked Dallas on Monday Night. They are assuming Washington will go into Minnesota, beat the Vikings and head to the bye week at 4-5, and with Tampa looming after that, they can be right back in the thick of the playoff race. That opinion is bolstered by the fact that reports are that Robert Griffin III will make his return on Sunday. Once ready to move on from him, after seeing the human turnover machine Kirk Cousins, fans are ready for RG3 to take over. Colt McCoy played very well in his lone start last week, but let's be real, he is still Colt McCoy and not the answer as your starter. But last season, the Redskins were also 3-5 when they played Minnesota. People saw that as a game the Skins would definitely win and they would climb back into the playoff chase. Then of course they Redskin'd and lost the game. Teddy Bridgewater has been supremely underwhelming since a strong debut but I wouldn't be surprised if he returns to form against the Skins. I also think that Vikings RB Jerrick McKinnon could be in for a big game. Having Griffin back is nice but he will be rusty early in the game and that may force Washington to play catch up. The Redskins haven't proven the last few years that they can handle any sort of success, so I have no reason to pick them this weekend.

Prediction: Minnesota 29, Washington 23

Philadelphia (5-2) at Houston (4-4), Philadelphia favored by 2

This game will serve as a homecoming for many Eagles players, including Connor Barwin and DeMeco Ryans. Beyond that, Philly just wants to get back on track offensively, especially QB Nick Foles who has struggled with not turning the ball over. Foles was tremendous last year when it came to ball security but this season he has 9 interceptions. LeSean McCoy is still averaging less than four yards per carry and any Eagles fan that says they don't miss big play DeSean Jackson is lying. The Texans defense ate rookie Zack Mettenberger for lunch last week and also got Jadaveon Clowney back. The Philly defense has also had some trouble creating turnovers but the bearded one Ryan Fitzpatrick should help them out with that. I like the offense to feed off the defense and for Philly to win relatively comfortably.

Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Houston 21

Tampa Bay (1-6) at Cleveland (4-3), Cleveland favored by 6 1/2

The Browns recent run of games against the doormats of the NFL ends this weekend with Tampa Bay. They already blew one game to Jacksonville, so if they want to be in the playoff hunt for the second half of the season they must take care of business against Tampa. I have sung the praises of Mike Glennon on here but he was pedestrian in last week's loss to Minnesota. Someone has to spark the Bucs offense since Doug Martin can't get back on track or stay healthy and Lord knows they can't count on their defense to win them games. Tampa does seem to put up competitive performances out of nowhere so I don't expect the Browns to roll them. Cleveland is inching closer and closer to having Josh Gordon back and for the first time in a long time, Cleveland fans have a reason to be excited about football in November and December.

Prediction: Cleveland 24, Tampa Bay 20

Arizona (6-1) at Dallas (6-2), Dallas favored by 3 1/2

The dream season for the Cowboys hit a sour note on Monday night. Not only did they lose to the hapless Redskins but they also saw QB Tony Romo suffer a new back injury. Romo is questionable for this game but I have a feeling he will play, especially since he returned to Monday night's game after exiting. The Cardinals find themselves with the best record in the NFC, something I can't remember ever being the case this late in the season in my lifetime. Also, Carson Palmer has time traveled to 2006 and is playing at an elite level. Gone is the interception prone Palmer, as he has thrown just one pick this season. Yes, he missed part of the year but that is still strong play from Palmer. The Cardinals do rank in the bottom half of the league in both rushing and passing and are terrible against the pass as a defense, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep winning at this level despite those trends. Even if Romo plays, last Monday showed that the Cowboys are vulnerable, especially to blitzes, and I like the Cardinals to exploit that.

Prediction: Arizona 30, Dallas 24

New York Jets (1-7) at Kansas City (4-3), Kansas City favored by 9 1/2

Even with the Jets season virtually over, Rex Ryan has finally turned the quarterbacking job over to Mike Vick. Geno Smith threw three interceptions instantaneously against the Bills last week and that was the end of the line for him. Vick had three turnovers himself but did manage to move the offense much better than Smith had. Vick's first start comes in one of the toughest places to play, Arrowhead Stadium, against a hot Chiefs team that has won four of their past five games. Alex Smith dinged his shoulder up against the Rams but Andy Reid says he will start on Sunday. The battle to watch in this game will be the Jets tough rush defense against the Chiefs scary rushing attack. Even if the Jets bottle up Jamaal Charles or Knile Davis they will find some other ways to screw up.

Prediction: Kansas City 33, New York Jets 24

Jacksonville (1-7) at Cincinnati (4-2-1), Cincinnati favored by 11

Cincinnati completed a season sweep of the Ravens, something that could end up being monumental at the end of the season if they are battling for the division or a playoff spot. It was even more impressive because the Bengals did it without A.J. Green. Green could return this weekend but likely the Bengals will hold him out since they are playing the Jags. Bloof Borkles has been pretty awful at quarterback, proving once against the preseason means jack crap.

Prediction: Cincinnati 38, Jacksonville 17

St. Louis (2-5) at San Francisco (4-3), San Francisco favored by 10

The Niners had a week to rest and lick their wounds after getting obliterated and embarrassed by the Broncos on national television two weeks ago. Thankfully for the 49ers help is on the way. Patrick Willis. Chris Culliver, and Mike Iupati are all expected back from injury for this game. Unfortunately, they are going to be forced to start a 20-year old rookie at center, Marcus Martin who has to replace the injured Chris Kilgore. The Rams have injuries of their own on their offensive line, and just lost Jake Long for the season last week. Austin Davis has cooled down a bit since people were comparing him to Brett Favre and Drew Brees. The Rams have been a bugaboo for Jim Harbaugh the past few years, either upsetting the Niners or always being strangely competitive. But with the bye week and the Niners wanting to get that nasty Denver loss behind them, I expect a strong effort from Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and company.

Prediction: San Francisco 35, St. Louis 20

Denver (6-1) at New England (6-2), Denver favored by 3

Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady Part 16! Somehow, someway these two quarterbacks always end up facing each other in the regular season despite almost always playing in different divisions. These teams split their matchups last year, with New England winning at home in the regular season, and the Broncos taking the game in Denver for the AFC Championship. The Broncos have had to go on the road just twice through seven games and start a stretch of 4 road games in five weeks with this one. Although they met twice last season, both teams look very different, especially defensively. Both teams are much improved on the defensive side and it will be interesting to see how Brady and Manning fare. Reports of Brady's demise have turned out to be highly premature. During New England's five game winning streak Brady has thrown 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions and now has 18 touchdowns and 2 interceptions on the season. Former Patriot Wes Welker has seemed to disappear from the Denver offense with the emergence of Emmanuel Sanders. Last season's game at New England started off as a Denver blowout and then New England clawed back. I expect this game to be competitive throughout and for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal at the gun to be the difference.

Prediction: New England 29, Denver 26

Oakland (0-7) at Seattle (4-3), Seattle favored by 15

The Raiders continue their march towards 0-16. Looking at their last nine games I only see two possible wins. At St. Louis on November 30th and at home against Buffalo on December 21st. Basically that means I give them no chance in hell of winning in Seattle. That being said, the Seahawks are nowhere near good enough for someone to bet on them beating anyone by 15+ points right now.  The Seahawks defense of last year showed up at Carolina and playing hapless Oakland, anything less than 2 or 3 turnovers caused will be a crap effort.

Prediction: Seattle 26, Oakland 13

Baltimore (5-3) at Pittsburgh (5-3), Line is even

The first meeting between these two teams this season was an uncharacteristic rout, with the Ravens winning 26-6. The idea of the Steelers only scoring six points in a game seems preposterous after the 51 they put up on the Colts last weekend. Ben Roethlisberger had the game of his life, throwing 6 touchdowns. Chances of him replicating that are slim but I would be willing to bet that Antonio Brown has at least 5 catches and 50 yards. La'Veon Bell has been superb this year for Pittsburgh but will have his work cut out for him against the Steelers 7th ranked rush defense. The same thing applies to Justin Forsett and Lorezno Taliaferro, who are both averaging over four yards per carry this season while the Pittsburgh rush defense is 11th in the NFL. I expect this game to follow the script that most Ravens/Steelers games do. It will be hard hitting, which will mean lots of flags because the NFL has become a league for pansies. It also means that it will be a close contest that won't be decided until the final few minutes.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 21

Monday, November 3

Indianapolis (5-3) at New York Giants (3-4), Indianapolis favored by 3

Shame on me for buying into the Colts defense. I praise them in last week's Hail Mary and they go out and get a 50 burger dropped on them. Somehow they went from shutting out the Bengals to allowing 51 points to the Steelers, quite the shift in fortune. The Giants offense will present some challenges, although the past two games New York has reverted to their early season form. They have really missed Rashad Jennings, as his replacement, Andre Williams has not run the ball nearly as effectively. Andrew Luck keeps putting up eye popping numbers week after week, and T.Y. Hilton has emerged as his favorite threat. Maybe Hakeem Nicks will resurrect his career from the dead since he will be facing his former team. I expect a lot of fireworks in this game, but the Colts defense to make a few more stops than they did last week.

Prediction: Indianapolis 35, New York Giants 27

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-9
Overall Against the Spread: 56-64-1

Last Week Straight Up: 11-4
Overall Straight Up: 77-43-1

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cram Session - Week 10

Thursday, October 30

New Orleans (3-4) at Carolina (3-4-1), New Orleans favored by 3

The Saints were impressive in blowing out the Packers last week, but again, it was another home victory. They have proven time and time again they can win and dominate teams at the Superdome. However, they have not proven they can win on the road, where they are 0-4 this season. Despite that, Vegas has inserted them as the favorites for tonight's tilt at Carolina. The Panthers are in bit of a free fall, having won just once in their past six games. They finally got a strong performance out of their defense last weekend, but the offense could hardly move the ball. They hope to have their running game back to normal with the return of DeAngelo Williams tonight. The Saints rushing attack has been bolstered by the sudden emergence of Mark Ingram. Ingram looked like a bust his first few seasons in the league but has been excellent this season. The Saints have to break this road bugaboo at some point and tonight seems like as good a chance as any against a struggling Panthers team.

Prediction: New Orleans 30, Carolina 28

Games That Matter To Me

Saturday, November 1

Purdue (3-5, 1-3) at #15 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1)

Each week Ameer Abdullah seems to add to his legend. Last week, he rushed for three touchdowns and over 200 yards for the second time this season. He now has 1,249 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on the season. He will have a chance to boost those stats even further against a porous Purdue defense. Tommy Armstrong has played well the last few weeks, and the key for Nebraska is to limit him to 30 or less attempts. When he has gone over that either Nebraska has lost (Michigan State) or had to scrape by with a win (McNeese State).

Purdue has lost two straight games but has been much more competitive as the season has gone along. They were able to put up 31 points against Michigan State and had a lead against Minnesota before eventually losing by one. Their improved play, especially offensively has coincided with the insertion of Austin Appelby at quarterback. Appelby is the latest in a growing trend of dual threat quarterbacks, and rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Golden Gophers two weeks ago. RB Akeem Hunt is no Abduallah but mostly because he doesn't get the right amount of carries. He nearly rushed for 100 yards in each of his past two games while only getting 12 and 17 carries.

The Huskers should win this game relatively easily and hopefully stay healthy before a week off and then they travel to Wisconsin in a game that could determine whether or not they make it to the Big Ten Championship game.

Prediction: Nebraska 45, Purdue 27

Top 10

Thursday, October 30

#2 Florida State (7-0, 4-0) at #25 Louisville (6-2, 4-2)

The Seminoles are on major upset alert as they travel to Papa John's Stadium tonight. They have already had a few close calls this season and this will easily be their toughest road test of the year. They had to deal with more distractions this week as running back Karlos Williams was being investigated for domestic battery. The investigation appears to be ending soon since the victim doesn't want to press charges and Williams will play tonight. The Noles will need Williams if they are going to get yardage against a Cardinals defense that is 4th in the country in points allowed per game. The Seminoles defense will try to frazzle sophomore quarterback Will Gardner. Gardner has thrown just 2 interceptions this season and those came in a loss at Virginia. The Cardinals defense will also have to focus their energy on Jameis Winston and his top receiving threat Rashad Greene. You can tell that Vegas believes the upset threat in this game is real as the Noles are only 4 1/2 point favorites. Bobby Petrino hasn't lost a home game the last 22 times he has coached in one as Louisville's coach. Jimbo Fisher has continuously gotten his team past the off the field distractions but at some point the Noles luck has to run out. I believe the sands of the hourglass will run out for Florida State tonight.

Prediction: Louisville 27, Florida State 24

Saturday, November 1

Arkansas (4-4, 0-4) at #1 Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0)

The Razorbacks best shot at finally winning an SEC game for the first time in two years would appear to be in the season finale at Missouri. Starting this week their next three games are against Top 2-0 teams. They will put up a fight against the Bulldogs but they don't have the talent, especially defensively to keep up with Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson and company. The Bulldogs have a joke game against Tennessee Martin next week before traveling to Alabama in what will be a huge showdown.

Prediction: Mississippi State 42, Arkansas 26

#3 Auburn (6-1, 3-1) at #4 Mississippi (7-1, 4-1)

So despite Bo Wallace's incredible stupidity in lofting the ball in coverage at the end of last week's game when all Ole Miss needed was a field goal, the Rebels would still be in the College Football Playoff. The committee has them fourth in their first set of rankings and if the Rebels can knock off #3 Auburn they will further solidify themselves in the top four. The Rebels excellent defense has taken a hit as they lost LB Denzel Nkemdiche for the season with a broken ankle. The Auburn offense has been firing on all cylinders, which has been important because their defense has been less than stellar the past few weeks. QB Nick Marshall is playing his best football of the season, and completed 12 of 14 passes last week against South Carolina while rushing for 89 yards. It was the first time in a month he had been held under 100 yards rushing. Cameron Artis-Payne is helping Auburn fans move on from Tre Mason, and is coming off his second best rushing performance of the season, going for 167 yards. The Rebels had trouble doing much of anything offensively at LSU last week, but playing in their own backyard should help things. Wallace's game costing interception was his first in SEC play this year and also his first in four games. He has been off the past two weeks, completing less than 50% of his passes in those games. He needs to improve on that and also find ways to get the ball to WR Laquon Treadwell. This will be another down to the wire finish for these two teams, but Auburn has to be starting to feel the effects of this brutal stretch of the schedule. Asking them to go on the road and win this game is too much.

Prediction: Mississippi 24, Auburn 20

Stanford (5-3, 3-2) at #5 Oregon (7-1, 4-1)

Stanford isn't ranked but I can guarantee the Ducks won't be taking them lightly. Stanford has won the past two meetings, ruining Oregon's national title hopes each time. If they can make it three in a row then they once again will ruin the Ducks season. Marcus Mariota finally threw his first interception of the season in last week's win at Cal, but also added 5 TDs bringing his season total to 24 TDs and 1 INT. He has struggled the past two years against Stanford however, as their defense has always been able to force him into mistakes. Mariota needs to play mistake free football because if he does, he is far superior to Stanford's quarterback Kevin Hogan. It will be interesting to see if Stanford has an answer for Oregon freshman RB Royce Freeman who has an insane 8 rushing touchdowns in his last three games. I expect this to be another close game between these rivals but this time the Ducks will prevail.

Prediction: Oregon 25, Stanford 21

#7 TCU (6-1, 3-1) at #20 West Virginia (6-2, 4-1)

Get ready for offensive fireworks when the Horned Frogs take on the Mountaineers. TCU is coming off an absurd 82 point showing last weekend, while West Virginia is looking for their second win against a top 10 foe at home in three weeks. TCU is averaging 50 points per game this season, while comparatively West Virginia averages a paltry 36 points per game. This game will feature a fantastic quarterback battle between the Horned Frogs Trevone Boykin and the Mountaineers Clint Trickett. Boykin threw 7 touchdown passes in the rout of Texas Tech with one of them going for 92 yards. The Mountaineers will have the best receiver on the field, senior Kevin White. White had a quiet game against the Cowboys last week but has 72 catches on the season and 8 touchdowns. He has caught a touchdown pass in every game this season except for one. West Virginia is more of a rushing team than the Horned Frogs, led by Rushel Shell, who should be back in action after sitting out last week. Defense is optional in the Big 12 and while West Virginia has played strong defense the last few weeks, I would be shocked if they hold TCU under 40 in this game. It will be a tough road environment for TCU, which had Baylor on the ropes on the road a few weeks ago but couldn't hang on. I think they will learn from that game, and seal the deal this time against West Virginia.

Prediction: TCU 48, West Virginia 45

Oklahoma State (5-3, 3-2) at #9 Kansas State (6-1, 4-0)

Despite defeating Oklahoma on the road and having their only loss be to number 3 Auburn, the Wildcats find themselves 9th in the first ranking released by the college football playoff committee. To me it shows that the committee doesn't think very highly of the Big 12. Kansas won't get much push from beating Oklahoma State this weekend. The Cowboys were ranked a few weeks ago but since then have been blown out by TCU and West Virginia. Their offense has been stymied and things won't get easier against a Wildcats team that just shut out Texas. The only thing that could make this game competitive is if the Wildcats are more focused on their game at TCU next weekend and not on the task at hand. Bill Snyder is an excellent coach though, so I don't foresee that being a problem.

Prediction: Kansas State 28, Oklahoma State 12

#10 Notre Dame (6-1) at Navy (4-4) in Landover, MD

Notre Dame ended up being lower than anticipated in the first College Football Playoff rankings and will have to do some work in their next five games if they want to earn their way into the Top 4.  It appears the committee was not overly impressed by how well Notre Dame played at Florida State and looked more at the fact that their six wins have come against teams with a combined record of 22-25, and only two of those teams having winning records, Rice and Stanford. A win against Navy won't help Notre Dame's resume much but remaining games against Arizona State, Louisville and USC would. But first, the Irish have to get past Navy, something that hasn't always been easy for them the past decade. Beating Navy is all about stopping their triple-option. Navy hardly ever throws the ball so getting a lead early on them and forcing them to pass is key. QB Keenan Reynolds completes just 44 percent of his passes but has rushed for 639 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Everett Golson needs to get back to his early season form and cut back on his turnovers. Over his past four games he has thrown six interceptions and also had fumbling issues. The Notre Dame defense has often been able to bail him out but that can only continue for so long. Some good news for the Irish offense is that they finally seem to have found their running game. Sophomore Tarean Folston has emerged and is coming off a 120 yard performance against Florida State. The lack of a rushing game was really holding back the Irish offense for most of the season. Now if they can just get Golson playing well and mix that with a rushing attack, their offense can be highly dangerous.

Like pretty much every game against Navy I expect this to not be easy and be a dog fight for Notre Dame. But I think their defense is better prepared and has the talent to slow down the Midshipmen's rushing attack. Once they do that, the rest of the game will take care of itself. Navy has given this team too many issues for Notre Dame to get caught looking ahead to the Sun Devils. Brian Kelly will have them focused and the extra week of preparation will also help greatly.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Navy 21

Last Week: 7-1
Overall: 66-15

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 8

Sunday, October 26

Detroit (5-2) "at" Atlanta (2-5) in London, England, Detroit favored by 3 1/2

The Falcons and Lions couldn't be on more opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to defense. The Lions have a good defense and the Falcons have a very bad defense. That should be on full display when these teams face each other across the pond on Sunday morning. Ever since destroying Tampa Bay the Falcons have imploded, dropping four straight games, all by double digits. Their offense has been especially bad the past two weeks, putting up a combined 20 points. The Lions are looking to keep pace with the red hot Packers in the North and can't afford any slip ups. They had a stirring come from behind win at home against New Orleans last week and should have no problem carrying over that momentum to another time zone.

Prediction: Detroit 34, Atlanta 17

Miami (3-3) at Jacksonville (1-6), Miami favored by 6

The Dolphins remain a hard team to figure out. Are they the team that beat New England, gave the Packers a great fight and dominated the Bears on the road? Or are they the team that was blown out by Buffalo and Kansas City? Ryan Tannehill carried over his superb second half play against Green Bay with a complete effort against the Bears. Also, quietly, the Dolphins have one of the best defensive units in football, ranking in the Top 10 against both the rush and the pass. The Jaguars got their first win of the season in convincing fashion against Cleveland last weekend. Their defense has been excellent the past three games, not allowing more than 17 points in any of those contests. That is important because Blake Bortles is having some major rookie struggles, already throwing 10 INTs this season. He might be able to get away with that type of performance against the Browns but against the Dolphins defense, that will be the cause of Jacksonville going back to their losing ways.

Prediction: Miami 24, Jacksonville 17

Minnesota (2-5) at Tampa Bay (1-5), Tampa Bay favored by 3

Doesn't say much for the Vikings when they are underdogs to the awful Bucs. Tampa had a week off to try to figure out why they have been so terrible this season. Teddy Bridgewater could use a week off to learn what team he plays for, throwing for less than 200 yards in each of his past 2 starts and a combined 5 interceptions. The Buccaneers have a very giving defense, so maybe this is a game where Bridgewater can get some of his swagger back.

Prediction: Minnesota 23, Tampa Bay 19

St. Louis (2-4) at Kansas City (3-3), Kansas City favored by 6 1/2

Both teams are feeling pretty good about themselves after upset victories last week. The Rams knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, while the Chiefs ended the Chargers five game winning streak. The Austin Davis bandwagon seems to be growing as he now has Brett Favre comparing him to some of the all time greats. Jon Gruden already said he saw similarities between Davis and Drew Brees. Even if Davis isn't on that level he is playing well enough that the Rams should feel comfortable cutting their losses with Sam Bradford after the season ends. The Rams have already seemed to move on from Zac Stacy at running back in favor of rookie Tre Mason. Mason was their lead carrier last week and Stacy didn't touch the ball once. After a slow start to the season, Alex Smith has played really good football the past few weeks, which has coincided with the Chiefs winning three of their past four.  The difference in this game will be Jamaal Charles, who should have a monster game against the Rams weak rush defense.

Prediction: Kansas City 27, St. Louis 21

Houston (3-4) at Tennessee (2-5), Houston favored by 1 1/2

Rookie Zach Mettenberger will make his first career start in this game as Ken Whisenhunt looks for something to give his offense a spark. The Texans have dropped four of their past five games after starting the season 2-0. Their defense has plenty of big names but the unit still ranks towards the bottom of the league against the rush and pass. Jadaveon Clowney wasn't able to play against Pittsburgh, but Bill O'Brien seems optimistic about his chances of returning for this one. JJ Watt should have fun making Mettenberger's life hell and I think Arian Foster will continue his strong running ways, helping the Texans to get back on the winning side of things.

Prediction: Houston 29, Tennessee 17

Seattle (3-3) at Carolina (3-3-1), Seattle favored by 5

Unrest has hit the Seahawks hard, which tends to happen when you lose two straight games and trade your playmaker Percy Harvin out of the middle of nowhere. With Harvin gone now we are hearing about all the unrest he was causing in the locker room and apparently some of Russell Wilson's teammates think he needs to watch the new show Blackish to add to his cred. The Panthers have their own unrest, especially on defense, where week after week they seem to hit new lows. Something will have to give in this game, as I doubt the Panthers will have their second tie in three weeks. I expect the Panthers defense to give, as they have been doing for the past month, and Russell Wilson will put up more gaudy stats and quiet the problems in Seattle for at least a week.

Prediction: Seattle 35, Carolina 23

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

Seems like ages ago that people were saying the Bengals were the best team in football. Cincinnati hasn't won since starting the season 3-0 and hit a new low last week when they were shut out by the Colts. It is obvious that Cincy misses A.J. Green, and he is once again questionable for this game. The Bengals are looking to sweep the season series, which would be huge for potential tiebreaker implications in the AFC North. Joe Flacco is putting together a Pro Bowl type season, and has rebounded quite nicely from last year's disappointment. The Ravens also have a much improved run game from last season and are looking closer to the 2012 version that won it all. I think these teams are pretty even and while Cincinnati did win at Baltimore in Week 1, I think they continue their hot play at home, where they haven't lost a regular season game in 2 years.

Prediction: Cincinnati 20, Baltimore 17

Chicago (3-4) at New England (5-2), New England favored by 6

Another team dealing with a great deal of unrest is the Chicago Bears. They dropped to 0-3 at home after an embarrassing loss to the Dolphins and reports of in-fighting in the locker room after the game came out. A week after playing excellently at Atlanta, Jay Cutler was horrific against a defense with a pulse this past Sunday. The Patriots have won three straight games and a battle of the titans looms with the Broncos next weekend. They got all they could handle from the Jets last Thursday night and I expect a similarly close game with the Bears. Matt Forte will have a good game against the Patriots questionable run defense, but Cutler will make some sort of crippling mistake, giving the Patriots the win.

Prediction: New England 28, Chicago 24

Buffalo (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6), New York Jets favored by 3

Geno Smith had his best game of the year, and one of the better ones of his career as the Jets came oh so close to knocking off New England. The Jets slowly seem to be figuring out that Chris Johnson is dead and that the majority of the touches should go to Chris Ivory. The Bills pulled out a last second victory at home against Minnesota, and remain a tough team to figure out. They are decimated with injuries at the running back position, losing both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in that Vikings game. That leaves former 49er Anthony Dixon as their lead running back. After six straight losses the Jets are due for a win and will earn just that on Sunday.

Prediction: New York Jets 27, Buffalo 22

Philadelphia (5-1) at Arizona (5-1), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

Based on records this is the best game of the weekend. Both teams enter 5-1 but unfortunately for Philadelphia their 5-1 record is only good enough for second place in the NFC East. The bye came at a great time for Philadelphia as it allowed RB Darren Sproles to rest up and he should be healthy and ready to play in this game. Nick Foles and Jeremy Maclin should be licking their chops over the prospect of what they can do against the league's 31st ranked pass defense. They will have to do something though, because the Cardinals are first against the run, which means LeSean McCoy might revert back to bad Shady in this game. The Eagles defense has moments of greatness but has had problems with consistency so the opportunities will be there for Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, Michael Floyd, and even the quickly disappearing Larry Fitzgerald. This should be a showcase game of two of the NFC's best teams, and come right down to the end.

Prediction: Arizona 27, Philadelphia 21

Oakland (0-6) at Cleveland (3-3), Cleveland favored by 7

For the second straight week the Browns face a winless team, but for their sakes hopefully it goes much better than the embarrassing performance they had in Jacksonville last week. Apparently the Browns got a little too into their press clipping, especially Brian Hoyer, who was terrible against the Jags. Losing a center like Alex Mack to injury for the rest of the season doesn't normally garner headlines but after how much the Browns struggled to run the ball last week, that could end up being a huge story of their season. The Raiders just hope that somehow, some way they can finally win a game. The Browns struggle to stop the run so the Raiders might try to lean on Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. Even if those two run the ball well, and even after the Browns pathetic performance last week, no way in hell am I picking the Raiders to win a game.

Prediction: Cleveland 20, Oakland 14

Indianapolis (5-2) at Pittsburgh (4-3), Indianapolis favored by 3

Things were getting ugly in Pittsburgh last Monday night as the Steelers trailed the Texans 13-3 late in the first half. But then the Texans imploded and the Steelers scored 3 touchdowns in less than 2 minutes, cruising to victory. The offense will be hard pressed to do that the entire game against a Colts defense that ranks in the top 10 against both the rush and pass. Andrew Luck and the offense get most of the accolades but the Colts look like they have a complete team this year. Their 0-2 start is a distant memory, as they have reeled off five straight wins. This should be a fun game to watch with the Luck/Ben Roethlisberger battle and seeing how each team's defense handles each other's strong offenses. In the end, I think Luck and the Colts will have too much firepower.

Prediction: Indianapolis 33, Pittsburgh 23

Green Bay (5-2) at New Orleans (2-4), New Orleans favored by 1 1/2

The only reason the 2-4 Saints are favored in this game is they are at home, where they are 2-0 this season. Four of their next five games are at home so if they want to keep any hope of making the playoffs they will have to run the table in those home games. They will be hard pressed to start that streak against a Packers team that is red hot, winning four straight games. Aaron Rodgers has been absurdly good this season, throwing 18 touchdowns and 1 interception. Drew Brees has thrown for more yards than Rodgers but has just 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. One of those picks was a crippling one late in last week's game at Detroit. The Saints were hanging on to a 6 point lead and had the ball late, but Brees threw the interception and the Lions converted it into the winning points. The Saints are 28th against the pass, so I wouldn't be surprised if Rodgers comes close to throwing for 400 yards in this game. I think this will be the best Sunday night game there has been this season, but the Packers will do the near impossible and win at the Superdome.

Prediction: Green Bay 34, New Orleans 30

Monday, October 27

Washington (2-5) at Dallas (6-1), Dallas favored by 9 1/2

The Redskins are in their worst possible spot, primetime. Prime time is the right time for Washington to typically embarrass themselves on a national stage. Despite being just 3-13 last season, this will be the Redskins third primetime game this season. Now, ESPN was probably anticipating RGIII being the Redskins starter for this game and not Colt McCoy. That's right, it is now the Colt McCoy era in Washington after Jay Gruden pulled the plug on Kirk Cousins last week against Tennessee. Cousins just couldn't get out of his own way and any good plays he would make would be almost immediately overshadowed by a fumble or interception. McCoy came in and immediately threw a 70 yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon. Sure, Garcon did most of the work, but that didn't stop hundreds of Redskins fans from buying Colt McCoy jerseys. The Cowboys just keep winning football games. Unlike in years past where the Cowboys would get a lead and then inevitably blow it, this year's team gets a lead and then holds on, making good plays in crucial situations. The only reason I expect this game to be close is because Redskins/Cowboys games almost always are. McCoy should come back down to Earth and I expect him to make a few mistakes and have a few turnovers. Without the support of Alfred Morris, who seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth, McCoy's mistakes will be too much to overcome.

Prediction: Dallas 24, Washington 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 9-6
Overall Against the Spread: 50-55-1

Last Week Straight Up: 11-4
Overall Straight Up: 66-39-1

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cram Session - Week 9

Thursday, October 23

San Diego (5-2) at Denver (5-1), Denver favored by 7 1/2

For the first time since Week 1, we finally have a truly appealing Thursday night game. The Chargers look to stay in the thick of the AFC West race but will have their hands full with the Broncos in Denver. Maybe they will look to how they performed last year when they visited Denver on a Thursday night. In that game, their defense shut down the potent Broncos offense, winning 27-20. The Chargers saw their 5 game win streak disappear at home against Kansas City last week, as Philip Rivers and the offense had trouble producing points. Denver and Peyton Manning were lights out at home against the 49ers, crushing San Francisco and Manning set the all time touchdown passes record. Other players might have trouble on a short week after setting such a record but I am sure Manning began preparing diligently for the Chargers on Monday morning. I expect a close game and the Broncos defense to make a stop on the Chargers final possession.

Prediction: Denver 27, San Diego 24

Games That Matter To Me

Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) at #16 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1)

The bye week seemed to serve Nebraska well, as the rushing attack was back to its potent self, with Ameer Abdullah rushing for four touchdowns in a rout at Northwestern last weekend. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. also had a strong performance, completing 18 of 29 passes and finally going without an interception for the first time in three games. Nebraska looks to follow that same formula against Rutgers on Saturday.

Rutgers was feeling pretty good about themselves and their ability to compete in the Big Ten and then they were run over roughshod by Ohio State last weekend. QB Gary Nova was under constant pressure from the Buckeyes and because of that, the Scarlett Knights passing game never got going. Nova has eight INTs this season but 5 of those came against Penn State, so Nova has been mostly good this season. His favorite option is WR Leonte Carroo, who managed 100 yards receiving in the 56-17 loss to Ohio State. Desmon Peoples has stepped into the lead running back role since Paul James went down with a torn ACL for the rest of the season.

Rutgers defense struggles against the run and I wouldn't be surprised if Abdullah clears 200, yes 200 yards and has multiple rushing touchdowns. That will take pressure off Armstrong, who can picks his spots with his receivers Jordan Westerkamp and Kenny Bell. The Huskers have no games left against a ranked opponent this season so maybe Bo Pelini can finally break his four loss hex.

Prediction: Nebraska 38, Rutgers 23

Top 10

Friday, October 24

#6 Oregon (6-1, 3-1) at California (4-3, 2-3)

The Ducks look to keep their playoff hopes alive as they navigate the terrain that is the Pac-12. They only have one game left against a ranked team, #19 Utah on the road November 8th. But they can't look past their personal bugaboo Stanford, who they host next week. This game might be slightly competitive as the Bears have a potent offense, but the most interesting aspect of this game will be watching to see if Marcus Mariota can continue to remain interception free this season.

Prediction: Oregon 48, California 34

Saturday, October 25

#1 Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0) at Kentucky (5-2, 2-2)

The Bulldogs play their first game since becoming the number one team in the country. It should be a challenge too, as they travel to Lexington to take on the improved Wildcats. A Bulldogs loss would be shocking as Kentucky has lost 26 of their past 27 games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Kentucky is unbeaten at home this year, but is coming off a putrid performance at LSU, getting blown out 41-3. Dak Prescott should make enough plays to hold off the Kentucky upset.

Prediction: Mississippi State 36, Kentucky 24

#3 Mississippi (7-0, 4-0) at #24 LSU (6-2, 2-2)

Ole Miss will be in the strange position of being favored at Death Valley on Saturday. LSU already has lost to Mississippi State at home last month, so if the Rebels want to keep up with their state counterpart, they will have to accomplish the same thing. Rebels QB Bo Wallace hasn't thrown an interception since September 27th and has 6 touchdowns in those games. Even when the team surrounding him wasn't as good as this year's version, Wallace has played well against tough LSU defenses the past few seasons. The Tigers greatest weapon is freshman RB Leonard Fournette. Fournette leads the Tigers with 544 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns.

LSU has struggled mightily against other top SEC West opponents, but I expect a better effort from them under the lights on Saturday. They are going to have to get Wallace to fumble or throw picks though, because any points they score will need to be off a short field, to counter the Rebels staunch defense. I expect the Tigers to keep it close but ultimately for the Rebels to remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Mississippi 28, LSU 24

#4 Alabama (6-1, 3-1) at Tennessee (3-4, 0-3)

With the SEC taking up so much real estate in this column, I think I might need to change the title to SEC Cram Session. After being criticized for poor performances the last few weeks, the real Alabama stood up, eviscerating Texas A&M 59-0 last week. The Vols remain mired in purgatory, able to beat mediocre programs such as themselves but not able to get over the hump against top tier programs. Blake Sims and T.J. Yeldon will both have big games as Alabama cruises.

Prediction: Alabama 42, Tennessee 14

South Carolina (4-3, 2-3) at #5 Auburn (5-1, 2-1)

Before the season this appeared like it would be one of the biggest games in the SEC this season. But the Cocks have gone limp and now are basically only playing to try to become bowl eligible. The Gamecocks defense has been their biggest problem, so that means that Mike Davis, who has rushed for 100 yards in 3 straight games, should have no problem doing it for a 4th straight game.

Prediction: Auburn 43, South Carolina 21

Michigan (3-4, 1-2) at #8 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0)

The roles have reversed in this rivalry, as now Michigan State is the big brother beating up on their little brother, Michigan. Two weeks ago the Wolverines got a one week reprieve from their awful season by beating Penn State, but the heat should be back on coach Brady Hoke after this game against the rival Spartans. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook should have no problem with the Wolverines weak defense, and Jeremy Langford will have a big game on the ground. Devin Gardner figures to fall into his old trap of turning the ball over, leading to another Spartans victory in this rivalry.

Prediction: Michigan State 38, Michigan 23

Texas Tech (3-4, 1-3) at #10 TCU (5-1, 2-1)

TCU has to focus on Texas Tech this week but you know they are probably looking ahead to the next two weeks when they play #22 West Virginia and #11 Kansas State. The Red Raiders have won the last two meetings between these teams, but have struggled most of the season, with their three wins coming against Central Arkansas, UTEP, and Kansas. The Red Raiders will look to sling it around with quarterback Davis Webb, who through seven games already has 22 TDs and 12 INTs. That amount of passing means their defense is often on the field and since they aren't a good defense, that has been one of the biggest problems for Texas Tech. Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin will do damage to Texas Tech with both his arm and legs.

Prediction: TCU 48, Texas Tech 24

Last Week:7-1
Overall: 59-14

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 7

Sunday, October 19

Miami (2-3) at Chicago (3-3), Chicago favored by 3 1/2

Miami was just seconds away from a huge upset of Green Bay, but the offense couldn't get a first down when they needed to and the defense was unable to stop Aaron Rodgers from driving the Packers down the field. The Bears won their third game of the year, but all of those wins have come on the road. That might be a good thing, at least for now, because their schedule is front loaded with road contests, as they go back on the road for two straight games after this one. If Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill could bottle up how he played in the second half against Green Bay, then the Dolphins might have a bright future. They won't have Knowshon Moreno for the rest of the season, so it is once again the Lamar Miller show in the backfield. The Bears have to win at home sometime and the Dolphins should be the team to do it against.

Prediction: Chicago 24, Miami 17

Minnesota (2-4) at Buffalo (3-3), Buffalo favored by 5 1/2

Well, the Teddy Bridgewater bandwagon lost steam quickly. After playing well against the Falcons in his debut, it might have turned out that the Falcons make everyone look good. Bridgewater struggled mightily last week at Detroit, throwing three interceptions. He will look to rebound in the cold of Buffalo. The Bills were all giddy about the debut of the new owners last week, but nothing changed as they were once again the Patriots bitches. C.J. Spiller has fallen off the face of the Earth and still continues to be outplayed by the ageless Fred Jackson. This will be Bridgewater's first road start and I expect last week's troubles to follow him to Buffalo.

Prediction: Buffalo 28, Minnesota 16

Tennessee (2-4) at Washington (1-5), Washington favored by 5 1/2

Jay Gruden announced this week that Robert Griffin III will be the starter once he returns from injury. Kirk Cousins made that decision easy by turning out to be the human interception machine. For the second time this season Cousins threw three interceptions in one quarter, this time in the 4th quarter of a winnable game at Arizona. Cousins best chance at winning a start comes this weekend against the putrid Titans. Tennessee barely defeated Jacksonville last week and struggled on offense against a bad Jacksonville defense. Like last week, the Redskins might not know what starting quarterback they are facing until gameday. Jake Locker is questionable, and it seems likely that Charlie "Jesus" Whitehurst will make another start for the Titans. The Titans defense gives up 127 rushing yards per game, so if Alfred Morris is ever going to really get going this is the week to do it. The Skins might just finish 1-15 if they can't beat the sorry Titans at home.

Prediction: Washington 26, Tennessee 23

Atlanta (2-4) at Baltimore (4-2), Baltimore favored by 7

The Falcons defense is atrocious, there is no other way to say it. They make rookies look good, veterans look good, hell, I think Trent Dilfer could come out of retirement and throw for 300 yards against them. Last week, Joe Flacco feasted on a poor defense, throwing 5 first half touchdowns against Tampa Bay. Flacco has been really good this season, which feels very weird to type. The Falcons were hopeful that last year's four win season was an aberration due to an abundance of injuries, but with many of their top offensive weapons healthy, they aren't getting any better results this year. It is obvious that GM Thomas Dimitroff will have to spend the off-season rebuilding the defense and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's days have to be numbered.

Prediction: Baltimore 31, Atlanta 17

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

Shit talking Dick Sherman didn't have too much to say after the Seahawks blew a 10 point lead at home to Dallas. The Seahawks are now in third place in the NFC West, and might be suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. They say time is the only real cure for a hangover, but what can cure a Super Bowl hangover is playing the hapless Rams. St. Louis jumped out to a 14-0 lead against the Niners on Monday night, but then San Francisco woke up and coasted to victory. Austin Davis had a strong start but in the second half he appeared overmatched by the 49ers defense. Seattle's defense is not playing at nearly the level they did last season, but they should still cause Davis to make some critical mistakes.

Prediction: Seattle 34, St. Louis 20

Cleveland (3-2) at Jacksonville (0-6), Cleveland favored by 5

The Browns favored for the third straight week?!? Have pigs started flying? In fact, the Browns should be favored the next two weeks as well when they player the Raiders and Tampa Bay at home. The AFC North is ultra competitive so it is imperative for the Browns that they win these games they are favored in if they want to try to earn their second playoff berth in franchise history. The Jags have started allowing less points but unfortunately are scoring less. You have to wonder if Gus Bradley will survive as coach if the Jags turn in a 1 or 2 win season this year.

Prediction: Cleveland 24, Jacksonville 18

Cincinnati (3-1-1) at Indianapolis (4-2), Indianapolis favored by 3

The Bengals somehow allowed over 30 points to the pedestrian Panthers offense and had to settle for a kissing your sister tie. The Colts come in to this game having won four straight, even though they did their darndest to blow their huge lead against the Texans last week. Despite not having A.J. Green last week or Marvin Jones, the Bengals offense performed well, especially RB Giovanni Bernard. The Bengals now know they will be without Jones for the rest of the season, while A.J. Green still hasn't practiced and is questionable for this game. Even if Green does play, I expect him to be limited, and for the Colts to win their fifth straight game.

Prediction: Indianapolis 36, Cincinnati 30

New Orleans (2-3) at Detroit (4-2), Detroit favored by 3

Perhaps Sean Payton spent the Saints bye week trying to figure out how he can coach his team up to play respectably on the road. At some point, if the Saints want to make the playoffs this year, they are going to have to win a road game. Unfortunately, trying to do that in Detroit could prove quite difficult. Drew Brees and the Saints offense has scuffled for most of the season and now has to face a  Lions defense that is first against the pass and second against the run. Unfortunately for the Lions, their offense has regressed this season. They are just 14th in the league in passing and remain a terrible rushing team. The Saints have a very generous defense though, so I don't expect offense to be a problem for the Lions on Sunday.

Prediction: Detroit 31, New Orleans 24

Carolina (3-2-1) at Green Bay (4-2), Green Bay favored by 7

Both teams enter this game with passing offenses that are humming. Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers are fun to watch, as they seem to always know what to expect from the other and normally in the most crucial situations.  Cam Newton and the Panthers had an impressive offensive showing at Cincinnati last week but continue to be let down by their defense. It is truly strange how quickly the Panthers have fallen off a cliff defensively. The Packers would like to see Eddie Lacy and their ground game get going, as aside from a game against the Vikings, their rushing attack has been non-existent. The Panthers would just like to be able to field healthy running backs and think they will have Jonathan Stewart this weekend. I think the Panthers will give up 30+ points for the fourth straight week, and Cam won't be able to do enough to get Carolina a win or tie this week.

Prediction: Green Bay 35, Carolina 20

Kansas City (2-3) at San Diego (5-1), San Diego favored by 4

Philip Rivers continued his outstanding season last week as he helped the Chargers beat a surprisingly feisty Raiders team. Next up for the Chargers, they host the Chiefs who have had an extra week to prepare for this game. If the Chiefs want to stay relevant in the AFC West race, they have to pull off the upset on Sunday. That means that Andy Reid should be setting up a gameplan that relies heavily on Jamaal Charles. Charles is likely the Chiefs only hope of moving the ball effectively against a Chargers defense that ranks in the Top 10 against both the run and pass. These rivals usually have tight games, and I think it will take Nick Novak field goal at the gun for the Chargers to escape with their sixth straight win.

Prediction: San Diego 23, Kansas City 20

Arizona (4-1) at Oakland (0-5), Arizona favored by 3 1/2

The Raiders at least showed some heart in interim coach Tony Sparano's first game as coach. The Raiders also had to be pleased with rookie Derek Carr's efforts against a good Chargers defense, as he threw four touchdown passes. The Cardinals enter the game in first place in the NFC West, despite a quarterback carousel, and a defense that ranks dead last in the NFL against the pass. The Cardinals got Carson Palmer back last week and despite barely practicing Palmer played excellently against Washington. He also finally found a way to get Larry Fitzgerald involved. However, for the Cardinals to win this game, they should focus on giving the ball to Andre Ellington, so he can run wild against a defense ranked 31st in the league against the run.

Prediction: Arizona 28, Oakland 21

New York Giants (3-3) at Dallas (5-1), Dallas favored by 6

Any positive energy coming out of the Giants locker room after winning three straight quickly dissipated in an embarrassing performance at Philadelphia. The Giants were not only shut out, but lost number one receiver Victor Cruz for the season.  The Cowboys had a much better Week 6, winning at Seattle and confirming that they are indeed a serious contender this season. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond to that win. Will they get too caught up in their improvement and not prepare properly for the Giants? They should be fine as long as they continue to follow their winning formula of riding the back of DeMarco Murray. The Giants will be without Rashad Jennings for a second straight week, and hope they can actually be competitive this week so Andre Williams has a chance to get out the blocks.

Prediction: Dallas 29, New York Giants 24

San Francisco (4-2) at Denver (4-1), Denver favored by 6 1/2

Peyton Manning will be looking to make history on Sunday night football. With three touchdown passes he will break Brett Favre's all time touchdown passes record. The 49ers defense took some time to get going last week against St. Louis, but were able to overcome a deficit. If they start slow against Denver, things will escalate and get ugly quickly. They might be without Patrick Willis, who suffered a toe injury against St. Louis. Asking the 49ers defense to stop Denver while missing Willis, Bowman and Aldon Smith doesn't seem fair. Colin Kaepernick is playing the best football of his career, having only thrown 1 interception in his past four games. He has a passer rating of 97.5 and is completing over 60% of his passes. He might be running for his life if Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have their way with the 49ers somewhat depleted offensive line. This should be a highly entertaining game and a possible Super Bowl preview. I think Manning will end up breaking the record and leading Denver to the win.

Prediction: Denver 33, San Francisco 26

Monday, October 20

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

Pretty poopy Monday night game between the Texans and Steelers. Not sure why ESPN wanted to feature a Texans team that won just 2 games last season. I suppose it is because of J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney. Clowney hasn't played since Week 1 but coach Bill O'Brien has indicated there is a chance that Clowney will return for this game. That would be bad news for a Steelers offense that is coming off an embarrassing showing at Cleveland last week. In a case of stats not telling the whole story, Pittsburgh ranks well in major categories in offense and defense but have been blown out in two division games and lost to the putrid Buccaneers at home. The Texans have a porous pass defense, and a run defense that isn't much better so I look for big nights out of Ben Roethlisberger, LaVeon Bell, and Antonio Brown.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 21, Houston 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 9-6
Overall Against the Spread: 41-49-1

Last Week Straight Up: 11-3-1
Overall Straight Up: 55-35-1

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cram Session - Week 8

Thursday, October 16

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

Two weeks ago people started wondering if the days of the Patriots being contenders were over. Since then, New England has handily defeated the Bengals and Bills, proving a resounding no as the answer. Beginning tonight, they start a stretch of three straight home games and could really begin to take control of the AFC East. The Jets are just desperate to get a win as they are currently on a 5 game losing streak. Last year, the Jets rode a great defense to overcome their pathetic offense and pull 8 wins out of their asses. That formula isn't doing the trick this season and unless things drastically change, Rex Ryan will be an unemployed coach by the end of the season. We finally got a close Thursday game last week and I am going to go out on a limb and predict another tight game this week. You would think the Patriots would blow out the Jets, but Ryan will have his players playing with pride, and I think their defense can at least keep this game interesting.

Prediction: New England 27, New York Jets 20

Games That Matter To Me

#19 Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) at Northwestern (3-3, 2-1)

After a week off, the Huskers rushing attack, especially Ameer Abdullah will be ready to try to get the bad taste out of their mouths following a disappointing performance against Michigan State. The performance probably moved Abdullah out of the Heisman race discussion but the Huskers are still very much alive for a spot in the Big Ten championship game. They will be challenged in Evanston this weekend against Northwestern. These two teams have played classic games the past three seasons, including last year when Nebraska defeated Northwestern with a Hail Mary on the last play of the game. The Nebraska defense will get some players back coming off the bye and the offense expects Kenny Bell to return after he had to leave the Michigan State game early.

Northwestern plays stout defense, which is a necessity since their offense is ugly. Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and the most points Northwestern has scored in a game this season is 29. But thanks to their defense the Wildcats have only lost their games by 7, 8, and 7 points. Freshman RB Justin Jackson has come on strong the past two weeks, going over 100 yards but he has been unable to find the end zone the past three games.

This will be a game filled with ebbs and flows and the Huskers will have to remain patient and committed to the run game. They can't fall behind, because Tommy Armstrong is not a good enough passer to lead the Huskers back from a deficit. If Northwestern had any offense they would easily be a top 25 team, but I expect another solid defensive effort to go to waste for them.

Prediction: Nebraska 28, Northwestern 23

Top 10

#5 Notre Dame (6-0) at #2 Florida State (6-0)

One quarterback will suffer their first ever regular season loss when Notre Dame and Florida State meet Saturday night. Everett Golson has suffered just one loss as a starter but that came in the National Championship game two years ago. Winston is completely undefeated but is completely defeated when it comes to staying out of the headlines for negative reasons. This past week was a double whammy as we learned that he is being investigated for violating the school's code of conduct from that rape charge he beat, and now he might have sold his autograph for money, which got Todd Gurley suspended. All indications are that Winston will be fine to play this weekend, but it remains to be seen how things will shake out for the remainder of the year.

The Irish come into this game off their best offensive performance but worst defensive showing of the season. The Tar Heels piled up 43 points on them and over 500 yards of offense. While the offense did put up 50 points, Everett Golson was once again a turnover machine, something that has plagued him the last few weeks. The Irish finally got their ground game going, but it remains to be seen if it was more than an aberration since it came against the porous Tar Heels defense. Sophomore Tarean Folston was the bell cow against North Carolina and I expect him to get the bulk of the carries against Florida State. WR William Fuller had 7 catches and 133 yards last week against North Carolina and is becoming Golson's #1 option.

You all know about Winston and how good he is but he also has many weapons to complement him. Rashad Greene is the Seminoles leading receiver with 44 catches and 3 touchdowns. The Seminoles employ a 3 back system with Karlos Williams, the emerging freshman Dalvin Cook, who just rushed for 122 yards last week against Syracuse, and sophomore Mario Pender who has four rushing touchdowns this season. The Seminoles average 39 points a game and the fewest points they have scored in a game that Winston started was 37.

As good as Winston is, he has been turnover prone this year, throwing 5 interceptions this year, and twice throwing two in a game. The Irish defense will have to force turnovers, because if the Seminoles have a non turnover game, they will run the Irish defense off the field. Notre Dame will have to be near flawless offensively, meaning Golson has to play more like the player he was the first three games this season. If Folson can run the ball effectively, at least averaging 3.5 yards per carry, that will take pressure off Golson to feel like he has to hit a homerun every play. I'm tempted to pick Notre Dame as I see some parallels to when they went to Oklahoma as underdogs two years ago and pulled off the upset. But I just don't think the offense will be able to make enough plays when needed, and play the mistake free football that is necessary to beat Florida State on the road.

Prediction: Florida State 28, Notre Dame 20

Tennessee (3-3, 0-2) at #3 Mississippi (6-0, 3-0)

So I just need to stop picking Mississippi to lose. I have been wrong three straight weeks now, with the latest upset pick of Texas A&M over Ole Miss not even coming close. The Ole Miss defense is starting to gain national recognition, as they are currently second in the NCAA in points allowed per game. Their best defensive player, Robert Nkemdiche, is currently involved in bong gate over a photo that has gone viral of what appears to be him smoking from a bong. No one should really give a shit about a college kid smoking weed but unfortunately that is the draconian world we live in at times. Even if Nkemdiche is suspended the Rebels will be fine against Tennessee. The Vols have shown some improvement under Butch Jones this season but still can't quite get over the hump.

Prediction: Mississippi 31, Tennessee 21

#4 Baylor (6-0, 3-0) at West Virginia (4-2, 2-1)

The Bears trailed TCU 58-37 and it appeared that their hopes of an undefeated season and playoff berth were coming to an end. But then the offense kicked into gear and the Bears came all the way back, winning 61-58. That close call did expose that the Bears defense isn't really as good as we may have thought. Now they have to travel to Morgantown to face a Mountaineers team that seems primed to gain a signature win this season. The Bears defense will be facing a West Virginia attack that has produced over 500 yards of offense in five straight games. Senior WR Kevin White is having a monster season, already catching 61 balls and 5 touchdowns. If he can go for at least 112 yards receiving in this game he will reach the 1,000 yard plateau. White has gone over 100 yards receiving in all six games this season so that appears likely. The close call against TCU showed me that Baylor is living on borrowed time, and trying to win at what should be an amped up atmosphere in West Virginia will prove to be too much.

Prediction: West Virginia 42, Baylor 37

#21 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) at #7 Alabama (5-1, 2-1)

Kenny Hill has tumbled out of the Heisman discussion and a once promising Aggies season is on the verge of collapse unless they can win at Tuscaloosa for the second straight time. Alabama got back on the winning side of things last week against Arkansas but are desperate in their own right. Their offense has not looked good the past two weeks as Blake Sims has struggled and the previously explosive Amari Cooper hasn't scored a touchdown in 2 games and had just 2 catches last week. If anything can revive the Bama offense it is the Aggies horrific defense. The Aggies have no momentum going into a majorly hostile atmosphere, so I am expecting another ugly blowout loss for A&M.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Texas A&M 17

#8 Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) at Indiana (3-3, 0-2)

The Spartans defense is coming off a disconcerting performance against Purdue last week and will be tested even further by the Hoosiers offense this weekend. Indiana is seventh in the nation in rushing, averaging an astounding 303 yards per game. Their RB Tevin Coleman has gone over 200 yards twice this season, including last week at Iowa, when he rushed for 219 yards on just 15 carries. I expect Coleman to run well again this week, but unfortunately for Indiana they don't play any defense, which means Connor Cook will pick apart Indiana.

Prediction: Michigan State 45, Indiana 24

Washington (5-1, 1-1) at #9 Oregon (5-1, 2-1)

The Ducks return home for the first time since a puzzling loss at home to Arizona. They recovered nicely last weekend by beating UCLA on the road and now face a Huskies team with a good record, but one that hasn't faced a lot of tough competition. Marcus Mariota is still interception free this season but his counterpart, Cyler Miles can say the same thing. The Ducks are three touchdown favorites in this game, but I think this will be closer than the experts think. Oregon has been in competitive games for three straight weeks now, and I don't see anything to believe that they will wipe the floor with Chris Peterson's team.

Prediction: Oregon 45, Washington 31

#10 Georgia (5-1, 3-1) at Arkansas (3-3, 0-3)

The Razorbacks came so close to getting their first SEC win in two years but lost once again, this time by a point to Alabama. The Bulldogs not only survived but thrived without Todd Gurley, shutting out Missouri on the road 34-0. They will be without Gurley again this week, but I don't expect them to be so dominant on the road against a desperate team like Arkansas. The Razorbacks have to fight the feeling of hopelessness and realize that they are competitive with Top 10 teams. Brett Bielema seems to be keeping his team with the right mindset and I think their perseverance will finally pay off on Saturday.

Prediction: Arkansas 24, Georgia 23

Last Week: 7-1
Overall: 52-13

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 6

Sunday, October 12

Green Bay (3-2) at Miami (2-2), Green Bay favored by 3 1/2

Each team will have plenty of rest coming into this game. The Packers will have not played in 10 days and the Dolphins in 14 days. Maybe that means we will see each of these teams at their best and a highly competitive game. Ryan Tannehill is coming off a superb performance but that was against the Raiders. For him to really solidify himself as the Dolphins starter he needs to perform well in this game. Ever since Aaron Rodgers told Packers fans to relax, the offense has been hitting on all cylinders. I think that will continue this weekend and the Packers will win their third straight.

Prediction: Green Bay 33, Miami 21

Detroit (3-2) at Minnesota (2-3),  Detroit favored by 1 1/2

Lions gonna Lions. Detroit found a way to blow a game at home against Buffalo, as kicker Alex Henery, who used to be a beast at Nebraska, has apparently lost all of his talent. Henery missed three kicks, which cost the Lions the game. He was cut the next day and with his suspension now over, Matt Prater is the new Lions kicker. Prater was awesome in Denver and I guess we will find out if he is legitimately awesome or was just a product of the Mile High air. The Vikings played like a team that wanted nothing to do with Thursday night football in getting blown out by the Packers. They also played like a team quarterbacked by the terrible Christian Ponder. Teddy Bridgewater will return for this game and look to build off the promise he showed in his first start a few weeks ago. I think Bridgewater will be the difference in this game and help Minnesota spring the mini upset.

Prediction: Minnesota 27, Detroit 23

Jacksonville (0-5) at Tennessee (1-4), Tennessee favored by 6

You couldn't pay me to watch or attend this game.

Prediction: Tennessee 3, Jacksonville 2

Baltimore (3-2) at Tampa Bay (1-4), Baltimore favored by 3

The Ravens offense looked horrible at Indianapolis last week. Bad Joe Flacco returned and threw 0 TDs, a pick and only averaged 6 yards per completion. Torrey Smith has been invisible this season, which is odd, because with how well Steve Smith has played you would think that would take some of the focus off of him. The Bucs came oh so close to their second straight road upset but couldn't hang on to an 11 point lead in New Orleans. Mike Glennon continues to play well and he and Vincent Jackson could be in line for some big plays against a Ravens defense that is terrible against the pass. Tampa Bay is also terrible against the pass, so each quarterback has a chance to have a big game.

Prediction: Baltimore 20, Tampa Bay 16

Denver (3-1) at New York Jets (1-4), Denver favored by 8

Eric Decker will face his former team, although I am not expecting him to completely decimate the Broncos like Steve Smith did to Carolina. Decker has been battling a hamstring injury that forced him to miss last week's game but I am sure he will do whatever it takes to get on the field against Denver. Geno Smith remains the Jets starter despite getting pulled last week and also having a hard time figuring out time zones. Most likely he is the starter because Michael Vick seems intent on showing no interest in playing. He admitted that he didn't prepare as he should leading up to the game since he didn't expect to play. Peyton Manning is coming off a vintage performance against Arizona, and facing the Jets leaky secondary, he should be in line for another great game.

Prediction: Denver 35, New York Jets 14

New England (3-2) at Buffalo (3-2), New England favored by 3

I finally picked New England to lose so of course they came out and obliterated the Bengals. It seemed that Tom Brady and the Patriots didn't take too kindly to everyone shoveling dirt on them in the build up to last week's game. The Bills also didn't seem to appreciate dirt being shoveled on to their season, as they pulled a win out of their asses against Detroit. The Patriots will have to be successful passing in this game, because the Bills rush defense is superb. While Buffalo will need to get their running game on track to counteract New England's defense, which is excellent against the pass. Kyle Orton appeared to be an upgrade over EJ Manuel in this game, and will have his hands full with a tough Patriots secondary. I have learned my lesson and will resume picking the Patriots to win.

Prediction: New England 28, Buffalo 24

Carolina (3-2) at Cincinnati (3-1), Cincinnati favored by 7

The Panthers return to facing their own house of horrors, the AFC North. In previous meetings with Pittsburgh and Baltimore the Panthers were destroyed. They got back on the winning side of things against the Bears last weekend. The defense still is having problems stopping people and can't regain their form from the first two weeks. The Bengals were embarrassed on national television last Sunday, leaving people to conclude that this is the same old Bungles. However, at home, at least for the past two regular seasons they have been unbeatable and downright dominant. Even without A.J. Green I expect a complete and thorough whipping of the Panthers to happen on Sunday.

Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Carolina 16

Pittsburgh (3-2) at Cleveland (2-2), Cleveland favored by 2

The Browns got down 28-3 to Tennessee last weekend and I tweeted out "Same old Browns". But then, the Browns ended up completing a miraculous comeback, winning 29-28 and it looks like we could have the new Browns. For the first time in forever, Cleveland is favored for the second week in a row, this time as they host arch rival Pittsburgh. The Steelers are coming off an ugly win over Jacksonville where they tried extra hard to make sure Antonio Brown continued his streak of consecutive games with at least 5 catches and 50 yards. This is a rematch from Week 1 when the Browns got down big but were unable to complete the comeback that time. I don't think they will need any miraculous comebacks this week, I expect them to be the better team and win in less spectacular fashion.

Prediction: Cleveland 28, Pittsburgh 25

San Diego (4-1) at Oakland (0-4), San Diego favored by 7

The Chargers continued their roll with an easy victory over the Jets, recording the first shutout in the NFL this season. They looked poised to win their 5th straight and with how well he is playing, there has to be some talk of Philip Rivers for MVP. Especially because of how banged up the Chargers are at running back where they have started using previously unknown Branden Oliver, who is being called the Chargers new Darren Sproles. This will be the first game for Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano, who replaces the fired Dennis Allen. The Raiders need way more than a new head coach in order to find the win column.

Prediction: San Diego 34, Oakland 13

Washington (1-4) at Arizona (3-1), Arizona favored by 3 1/2

The Redskins have gotten so used to losing that their players now take moral victories when they aren't embarrassed on national television. Those were pretty much the words that came out of the mouth of overrated Brian Orakpo following Monday's loss to Seattle. Orakpo might feel alright then after this game against Arizona, because I expect Washington to lose their fourth in a row but at least make a game of it. The biggest reason I think the Redskins could keep this close is the question mark that is the Cardinals quarterback situation. Drew Stanton left last week's loss to Denver with a concussion, and Carson Palmer is still battling his shoulder injury. That opens up the possibility of rookie Logan Thomas making his first career start. Thomas was a disgusting 1 for 8 when he replaced Stanton, but his one completion was an 81 yard touchdown. No matter who the quarterback is for Arizona, as long as their rush defense can continue to play well and shut down the struggling Alfred Morris, then the Cardinals should be fine. The Redskins will have a chance to make some plays passing, including DeSean Jackson, who has been on fire, and Pierre Garcon who has not. But you can trust that Washington will commit turnovers and stupid penalties and cost themselves the game.

Prediction: Arizona 24, Washington 20

Chicago (2-3) at Atlanta (2-3), Atlanta favored by 3

Jay Cutler and the Bears offense has started to come under some fire for not living up to their potential. They rank 14th in passing and 22nd in rushing, nowhere near the numbers people expected them to put up. Some of that criticism is because of the lack of touches Brandon Marshall has gotten the last few weeks. An interesting subplot to this game will be Devin Hester facing his former team for the first time. Hester has been a consistent weapon for Atlanta as a receiver this year, something the Bears decided that Hester wouldn't be able to help their offense with. The Bears defense has been hit with the injury bug again this season and once again looks like the awful unit we saw last season. The Falcons are an abysmal road team but much tougher to beat in the Georgia Dome. Matt Ryan should have a big game, along with receivers Roddy White, Julio Jones, and expect Hester to make his presence felt somehow.

Prediction: Atlanta 35, Chicago 31

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

Sunday we find out just how much Dallas' 4-1 record really means. The Cowboys have won four straight but I don't think anyone truly thinks they are an elite NFL team. The Cowboys four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 7-12, with only Houston having a winning record. Now if they can go to Seattle and at least be competitive, then I think the public perception of Dallas will change tremendously. DeMarco Murray has rushed for over 100 yards in each game this season, but has also fumbled just as much. But when he is running the ball so well, there is no way that Dallas can move away from making him the focal point of the offense. The media continues to love slobbing the knob of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. He had some spectacular plays against the Redskins last Monday night, but so does just about every quarterback in the league. To Wilson's credit he does have impressive numbers so far this season, throwing 2 TDs in every game. I think Dallas will keep this close for a bit, but will then eventually realize they are in way over their heads and the Seahawks will run away with the game.

Prediction: Seattle 38, Dallas 21

New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia (4-1), Philadelphia favored by 2 1/2

Some would say this is the best NFC East rivalry going right now, over Dallas/Washington. The Giants will look to continue their recent winning streak, while Philly could be all alone in first place in the division by the end of the night. The Giants rush defense is in the Top 10, so it could be another long night for LeSean McCoy, who hasn't been able to truly get going this season. However, the Giants struggle to stop the pass, so that should bring big smiles to the faces of Nick Foles and his favorite target Jeremy Maclin. Eli Manning has somehow gone two of his last three games without throwing an interception, and seems to be relishing the new offense of Ben McAdoo. This game will also mark the first start for Giants rookie bruising running back Andre Williams as he replaces an injured Rashad Jennings. Manning should be able to make plays on the Eagles secondary but I also expect him to make a few mistakes. Those mistakes will help catapult the Eagles to a victory.

Prediction: Philadelphia 28, New York Giants 23

Monday, October 13

San Francisco (3-2) at St. Louis (1-3), San Francisco favored by 3 1/2

The 49ers offense struggled once again but the defense came up huge for the second straight week in the second half, and the Niners are back over .500. They have a great chance to move 2 games above .500 when they go to St. Louis on Monday night. The Rams might have found their quarterback of the future in rookie Austin Davis who has thrown for over 300 yards in back to back games.  The Rams will know a lot more about Davis based on how he plays in a national stage and against a pass defense that has allowed less than 200 yards passing in their past two games. The 49ers back to back wins have coincided with a renewed emphasis on the run. The Rams defense struggles mightily against the run so I hope Greg Roman plans on working Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde in this game. The 49ers have a very challenging game at Denver next weekend, so hopefully they can keep their positive momentum going and knock off the Rams on Monday night.

Prediction: San Francisco 30, St. Louis 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-8-1
Overall Against the Spread: 32-43-1

Last Week Straight Up: 12-3
Overall Straight Up: 44-32

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cram Session - Week 7

Thursday, October 2

Indianapolis (3-2) at Houston (3-2), Indianapolis favored by 3

Can we please have a Thursday night game that is entertaining for more than 10 minutes? The public seems to hate the Thursday night game and I was one of the outliers, but this year has been downright dreadful. At least two winning teams face each other this week so the potential is there for it to be a good game.However, the last thing players and teams should be doing is complaining about having to play on Thursday nights. It is going to happen regardless, so sack up and get ready to play. Arian Foster complained some about it this week, but maybe he is extra tired after running all over the Cowboys on Sunday. Unfortunately for him, Ryan Fitzpatrick was unable to get much going through the air and the Texans eventually lost in overtime. The Colts finally had an impressive win, ending the Ravens three game winning streak. Their defense played well which was important since Andrew Luck was not at his best. Last season at Houston, the Colts got down big at halftime, then Gary Kubiak had a heart attack and the Colts stormed back in the second half to get the win. The home team has been mostly successful so far in Thursday games but I think this will be a game where that won't really matter. I expect Luck to bounce back this week and the Colts passing game to find success against the Texans secondary. I think the defense can also force Fitzpatrick into turnovers. I think we will have another boring Thursday game, as the Colts cruise to victory.

Prediction: Indianapolis 34, Houston 20

Top 10

#1 Florida State (5-0, 3-0) at Syracuse (2-3, 0-1)

The Seminoles managed to avoid the chaos that enveloped the Top 10 last week, handily defeating an overmatched Wake Forest. They have what appears to be another easy game this weekend at Syracuse. You can't blame the Seminoles if they are looking ahead to next weekend when they host the potentially undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Prediction: Florida State 42, Syracuse 10

#2 Auburn (5-0, 2-0) at #3 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0)

These two programs have come a long way from their ugly 3-2 game won by Auburn in 2008. Mississippi State has gone from unranked to number 3 in the country after impressive wins against LSU and Texas A&M. QB Dak Prescott has been superb and is garnering Heisman trophy consideration. Prescott plays similarly to Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall in that he is a dual threat to pass and run. These teams are built the same way, with offenses that like to pound the opponent into submission. In addition to Prescott, the Bulldogs have one of the best running backs in the SEC, Josh Robinson. Bulldogs WR De'Runnya Wilson doesn't catch a ton of passes but when he does he makes them count. He has scored a touchdown in all four games he has played in this season.Auburn has a bruising running back of their own, Cameron Artis-Payne, who has rushed for over 100 yards in 4 of 5 games this year. Both teams have pretty strong defenses. Auburn has yet to allow a quarterback it has faced to rush for over 100 yards, but that streak will be hard pressed to continue against Prescott. I picked Auburn to lose to LSU last week and was way off as they cruised to victory. I also picked Auburn to lose to Kansas State a few weeks ago and was wrong. You think I would maybe learn my lesson but I am all in on Mississippi State and Prescott and think the third time will be the charm for me to finally be right about Auburn losing.

Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Auburn 27

#3 Mississippi (5-0, 2-0) at #14 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1)

The Rebels are another team I keep picking to lose and they keep proving me wrong. Thanks to a comedy of errors by the Crimson Tide late in their matchup, Ole Miss was able to pull off the upset. Now they have to deal with being the team that everyone is gunning for and it starts at College Station. The Aggies defense is going to have to play much better than they did on the road last week against Mississippi State. Not just because of how poorly they played last week but also because of how good the Rebels defense is. The defense can't count on Kenny Hill and WR Josh Reynolds to do everything. They will have to focus must of their attention on Rebels QB Bo Wallace, who was superb against Alabama's defense, throwing 3 TDs and 0 INTs. His favorite target to throw to is Laquon Treadwell, the Rebels leader in yards and catches. What we don't really know yet about Wallace and the Rebels is how they will respond to a crazy road environment like Kyle Field. College Station is one of the toughest places to win at when A&M has a good team. If this game were at Mississippi I would like the Rebels, but homefield can make a major difference in college football and that will be the difference in this closely contested game.

Prediction: Texas A&M 28, Mississippi 24

#9 TCU (4-0, 1-0) at #5 Baylor (5-0, 2-0)

Show of hands if you ever though TCU/Baylor would be a marquee national matchup? But here we are, with this game taking national precedence over Oklahoma and Texas. TCU made this a marquee game by defeating Choklahoma at hope and catapulting themselves into the Top 10. This game will serve as Baylor's first game against a ranked opponent and first real test this season. Bryce Petty will need to step up his game after a dreadful performance in the win against Texas last week. Petty completed just 7 of 22 passes, but Baylor still rolled to a three touchdown victory. It shows how improved the Baylor defense has become that even when the offense isn't firing on all cylinders they can still win comfortably. Petty's struggles didn't matter because Bears RB Shock Linwood ran all over the Longhorns. If Petty struggles in this game, then look for Linwood to tote the rock as much as he did last week. Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin was instrumental in TCU knocking off the Sooners. He accounted for 395 yards of offense and was careful with the ball throughout the game. The Bears have an opportunistic defense and playing on the road this week, Boykin will have to be even more mindful of holding onto the football. I expect Boykin to keep this game close, but Petty should bounce back this week and Baylor will remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Baylor 35, TCU 27

North Carolina (2-3) at #6 Notre Dame (5-0)

The Irish survived a dogfight against Stanford and now are just one more win from setting up a titanic clash with Florida State next weekend. On paper this looks like a game that Notre Dame could win on auto pilot. The Tar Heels started the season ranked but have lost three in a row and have one of the worst defenses in the country. The fewest points they have allowed in a game this year was 27 against San Diego State in Week 2. In their three straight losses they have given up 154 points and on average allow 42 points per game. Maybe the Heels can finally serve as the launching pad for an Irish rushing attack that can't seem to get out of its own way. For Notre Dame to have any chance at Florida State next week, they will need to provide Everett Golson with some help. Golson threw the winning touchdown last week but struggled against the best defense he had faced all season. The Tar Heels provide him with a chance to have an outstanding game and be at his peak confidence wise for Florida State. He seems to find a new receiving weapon each week as Chris Brown joined Corey Robinson as emerging contributors from the wideout corps.

Carolina does have a pretty potent offense. Their quarterback Marquise Williams is a dual threat, and leads the Heels in rushing. Outside of Williams, the other players to watch on the Tar Heels offense are receivers Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins. But really the offense stops and starts with Williams. Teams seem to be figuring that out as the Heels are coming off their lowest offensive output of the season against Virginia Tech last week. Notre Dame really just has to key on the Heels pas, spy Williams and they should be able to contain Carolina. The Notre Dame defense has been superb this season and is reminding fans of the stout 2012 unit. They haven't allowed 20 or more points in a game this season and rank 3rd in the nation in points allowed per game.  The chic pick seems to be that Carolina will make this a game because Notre Dame will be looking ahead to the Seminoles. I don't buy that and have confidence that Brian Kelly will have Notre Dame sufficiently focused on this game. I really just want to see the rushing attack have success in this game and everyone stay healthy.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, North Carolina 17

#7 Alabama (4-1, 1-1) at Arkansas (3-2, 0-2)

Alabama's recent road struggles in the SEC continued last week with an upset loss to Mississippi.  They had a chance to win the game but turnovers killed them at the end. They still have hopes of playing for the SEC Championship and earning a playoff berth but will have to win out. The Razorbacks are just desperate to win their first SEC game under Bret Bielema. They would also like to actually give Alabama a game for a change, coming off back to back seasons of 52-0 losses against the Tide. The home crowd could help Arkansas early but Bama and back to back losses in the SEC don't really go together in the Nick Saban era.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Arkansas 17

#8 Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) at Purdue (3-3, 1-1)

The Spartans nearly had a collapse of epic proportions last week at home against Nebraska. Ahead 27-3 in the second half, the Spartans and their fans went on cruise control and Nebraska ended up having a chance to get the winning score at the end of the game. One player that didn't impress me much was QB Connor Cook. He and the Spartans offense turned the ball over multiple times and were desperate to hand Nebraska the game but the Huskers wouldn't take it. The Spartans won't face a ranked opponent for the rest of the season unless the Buckeyes can climb back into the Top 25. They should kill Purdue but I expect another slightly disappointing performance.

Prediction: Michigan State 30, Purdue 16

USC (3-2, 1-1) at #10 Arizona (5-0, 2-0)

USC comes into this game off the lowest of lows, while Arizona enters off the highest of highs. The Trojans became the second Pac-12 school to lose on a Hail Mary, when Oregon State pulled the trick last Saturday. The Wildcats know about Hail Mary's, they used one to defeat California a few weeks ago. Arizona shocked the college football world by defeating Oregon last Thursday in Autzen. The win propelled them from being unranked to reaching the Top 10. Even with that one, I still am not quite sold on Arizona. As mentioned above a Hail Mary is all that kept them from losing to Cal, and previous to that just barely beat Nevada and UT San Antonio. It will be interesting to see what the Trojans psyche is like going into this game and also whether Arizona can avoid a letdown effort. Trojans QB Cody Kessler has been outstanding this season, throwing 10 TDs and 0 INTs through the first five games. His play will help USC spring the upset as he will outplay Wildcat freshman QB Anu Solomon.

Prediction: USC 27, Arizona 24

Last Week: 5-5
Overall: 45-12