Friday, October 3, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 5

Sunday, October 5

St. Louis (1-2) at Philadelphia (3-1), Philadelphia favored by 7

The Eagles finally ran out of miracles and were unable to secure a fourth straight come from behind victory last week. The much ballyhooed Chip Kelly offense was held to 0 points by the 49ers and for the second straight week LeSean McCoy was completely shut down. Nick Foles really struggled last week and the whole offense just seemed out of sorts. The Rams highly touted but not quite living up to that type of talk defense should be the cure to the Eagles ills. Austin Davis is officially the starter for the rest of the season according to Jeff Fisher, until he isn't. The Rams will have an extra week of rest on Philadelphia but I don't expect that to make up the talent difference between these two teams. I expect McCoy to bounce back in a big way.

Prediction: Philadelphia 35, St. Louis 21

Chicago (2-2) at Carolina (2-2), Carolina favored by 2 1/2

The Bears are quickly starting to appear to be a team that performs much better on the road than they do at home. They are 2-0 away from Soldier Field and have suffered embarrassing losses in their two games as hosts. Jay Cutler was really bad last week against Green Bay, trying to force way too much. One bright spot for the Bears was that Matt Forte finally was able to run the ball effectively. The Panthers defense went from looking like one of the best units in the game the first two weeks to one of the worst the past few weeks. Maybe getting away from playing the AFC North will help them out. But then I think of all the weapons Chicago has, and how banged up the Panthers are on offense, especially at running back, and I expect the Panthers defense to struggle again.

Prediction: Chicago 27, Carolina 20

Cleveland (1-2) at Tennessee (1-3), Cleveland favored by 1

The Brows are expected to welcome back Ben Tate to the fold, and putting him in with Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell gives the Browns a plethora of options at running back. The Titans are expecting to welcome back Jake Locker after he missed last week's embarrassing loss at Indianapolis. The Titans have been blown out for three straight weeks, and nothing like the team that pounded the Chiefs in Kansas City. They don't have a consistent rushing attack and Delanie Walker is their best receiver at the moment. The Browns have shown signs of improvement in their first three games, and a road game like this, where they are favored, is one they have to have if they want to take the next step into becoming winners.

Prediction: Cleveland 26, Tennessee 23

Atlanta (2-2) at New York Giants (2-2), New York Giants favored by 4

The Falcons are a mess. They can't stop anyone on defense and now their offense, which has been a bright spot, could be in for some trouble after losing two starters to season ending injuries in last week's loss at Minnesota. The Giants are completely different, coming in feeling quite good about themselves and well rested after destroying the Redskins last Thursday. Eli Manning has looked especially good the past few weeks, and even the Giants defense has shown signs of waking up. Now, it would be very Giants like for Eli to come out and lay an egg, throwing picks left and right and the Giants get beat. But, the Falcons are so terrible on defense, I believe Eli and Rashad Jennings will have big games, leading the Giants to a third straight win.

Prediction: New York Giants 31, Atlanta 28

Tampa Bay (1-3) at New Orleans (1-3), New Orleans favored by 10 1/2

The Buccaneers make no sense. They looked completely dreadful the first three weeks of the season. Going into Pittsburgh last week, it was assumed by everyone that they were going to put up another embarrassing performance. But instead, they played the Steelers tough and completed an amazing come from behind win in the fourth quarter. My boy Mike Glennon played well, much better than Josh McCown ever had this season. Tampa was also bolstered by the return of Doug Martin, who found his way into the end zone. The Saints are a complete mess right now. They are absolutely atrocious on the road and have all the makings of a team that will finish 8-8, with an 8-0 home record and an 0-8 road record. Getting blown out by the average Cowboys was just startling to watch. Whatever magic Rob Ryan used on the defense last season has gone by the wayside. Being at the friendly confines of the Superdome should get the Saints back on the winning side of things at least.

Prediction: New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 24

Houston (3-1) at Dallas (3-1), Dallas favored by 4

I don't think anyone would have guessed these two would have 3-1 records when they met in Week 5. The Texans have already surpassed last season's win total and the Cowboys have made the media do a complete 180 and declare them as back! I'm still not sold on Dallas just yet, but playing at home against a mediocre Texans team with a medicore quarterback will keep people thinking that maybe their defense isn't nearly as bad as we all thought it would be.

Prediction: Dallas 27, Houston 17

Buffalo (2-2) at Detroit (3-1), Detroit favored by 7

Remember when the Bills were 2-0? Feels like so long ago. Doug Marrone has already benched their quarterback of the future EJ Manuel in favor of Kyle Orton. Orton makes his debut at Ford Field against the rising Lions. Detroit turned in a solid performance on the road against the Jets, and are playing pretty good football for Jim Caldwell.  There will be no absence of speed on the field in this game with Sammy Watkins and C.J. Spiller for Buffalo matching up with Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson. I think Orton will bring some stability to the Buffalo offense but I don't expect a noticeable difference between him and Manuel.

Prediction: Detroit 29, Buffalo 19

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

This should be one of the better games of the weekend. The Ravens have won three straight and the Colts have recovered from their 0-2 start by beating up on sorry teams Jacksonville and Tennessee. Indianapolis failed in their first two games against tough competition, so how they perform against Baltimore on Sunday will say a lot about them as a team.  Andrew Luck has been fantastic and is earning very early MVP talk. I have to give credit where credit is due, Joe Flacco has been very good so far this season. He is completing 63% of his passes and has 7 TDs against 2 INTs. Steve Smith Sr. has been superb for Baltimore and has supplanted Torrey Smith as Flacco's number one target. The Ravens are even starting to find a running game with Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro. I expect a back and forth game in this one, with lots of entertaining moments and a thrilling finish.

Prediction: Indianapolis 28, Baltimore 24

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Jacksonville (0-4), Pittsburgh favored by 6 1/2

There have started to be some whispers about Mike Tomlin being on the hot seat. The Rooneys are known for letting coaches ride it out so I chalk this talk up to frustration after an inexcusable loss at home to Tampa. After all, Tomlin won a Super Bowl and has two AFC championships.  Now if the Steelers lose at sorry Jacksonville this weekend, then I could understand firing talk. Hell, if the Steelers score less than 30 against Jacksonville then at least Todd Haley should be fired. The Jags closest loss this season is 18 points against Philadelphia. It is hilarious that some people think this is a team on the rise. Blake Bortles was decent in his debut but this team has so many holes that strong quarterback play won't be enough to make them competitive week in and week out. Look for big games from Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell, and Antonio Brown.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 33, Jacksonville 21

Arizona (3-0) at Denver (2-1), Denver favored by 7 1/2

This might be the game of the weekend, that is if Carson Palmer were starting for Arizona. Now I know that Drew Stanton has gone 2-0 but lets not kid ourselves. Stanton has been adequate but the Cardinals have been winning without Palmer because of their defense. I expect their defense to keep them in this game, but I also expect Stanton to have a long afternoon.  Give Peyton Manning two weeks to prepare for an opponent and I expect the Broncos to have a strong offensive gameplan in this one. Hopefully, Demaryius Thomas got his mind right during the bye week and will start to become a more consistent contributor. As expected, Manning has started to turn Emmanuel Sanders into a star. I expect Manning to hit and surpass 500 passing touchdowns for his career in this game and the Broncos to hand the Cardinals their first loss.

Prediction: Denver 23, Arizona 14

New York Jets (1-3) at San Diego (3-1), San Diego favored by 7

Hot damn Philip Rivers! Rivers is proving that last season was no fluke and he has officially returned to being an elite quarterback. Facing a porous Jets secondary Rivers could be in line for even more stat padding moments on Sunday. Geno Smith is the opposite of elite and has Jets fans yearning for Michael Vick. They seem to forget that should Vick enter game he more than likely will be injured within 5 plays and Smith will have to return anyway.  The Jets have a pretty brutal stretch the next couple of weeks, so the circus could really just be starting for New York.

Prediction: San Diego 34, New York Jets 21

Kansas City (2-2) at San Francisco (2-2), San Francisco favored by 6 1/2

Alex Smith makes his triumphant (?) return to San Francisco on Sunday. Smith says he is not bitter towards San Francisco, which is good, because he has no reason to be. The 49ers organization gave him more chances than most other franchises would and thanks to Jim Harbaugh he was able to resurrect his career and earn a big payday with Kansas City. The 49ers seemed to save their season with last weekend's win against Philly. It was damn sure bowling shoe ugly as Jim Ross would say but wins are on not based on style in the National Football League. Colin Kaepernick needs to learn that a play clock is 40 seconds and not any longer than that, as he has a hell of a time not getting at least 1 or 2 delay of game penalties each game. Also, I hope Greg Roman noticed that when he fed Frank Gore, the Tank delivered and the 49ers won. No more of this giving him 6 carries in a game nonsense. Feed Gore and feed him often. It looks San Francisco could be without Vernon Davis, so in his place they need Steve Johnson and Brandon Lloyd to step up their games. The Chiefs appear rejuvenated after an 0-2 start, and you know that Smith will be jacked up for this one. He might be so jacked up that he will throw the ball 7 yards downfield instead of 5! Hopefully, the 49ers defense can put up another masterpiece performance, as they will have to heavily gameplan for Jamaal Charles. I don't expect it to be a happy homecoming for Alex though, as Kap will show why he was inserted in place of Smith and lead the 49ers to victory.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Kansas City 17

Cincinnati (3-0) at New England (2-2), Cincinnati favored by 1 1/2

I'm too lazy to look back but in the years since I started The Hail Mary I think I have picked the Patriots to lose less than 5 times. But with how terrible they have been offensively the first month of the season, and following last week's shellacking against Kansas City there is no way I can pick New England to beat undefeated Cincinnati, even at home. I expect the Patriots to show pride and put up a much more respectable performance on Sunday night football this weekend, but I don't believe that will translate to a win. Who knows whether it is Tom Brady's fault the offense sucks, the offensive line's fault, or the fact that Brady doesn't have enough weapons. What we do know is after four games and after Brady admitted it himself, the Patriots are horrible offensively. That makes for a bad mix when playing one of the premiere defenses in football. Andy Dalton will receive some help on offense with Marvin Jones making his season debut in this game. I foresee the Bengals winning this game with a field goal as time runs out.

Prediction: Cincinnati 24, New England 21

Monday, October 6

Seattle (2-1) at Washington (1-3), Seattle favored by 7 1/2

Well the Kirk Cousins honeymoon was more like a minimoon. Any talk of Kirk taking RG3's job came to a swift end following his 4 interception debacle against the Giants last week. The knock against Kirk is that he is a turnover machine and that pitiful performance did nothing to dispel that notion. Now, knowing Kirk, he will probably turn the narrative around and play really well against Seattle's tough defense. Who knows, but I do think I can safely say I don't expect him to throw 4 picks again, let's say he will throw at least 1, maybe 2.  The Skins always seem to save their worst for primetime, so most people, especially Skins fans are expecting an ugly blowout. But given a week and a half to prepare, and after how humbled they were by the Giants, I expect a lot of energy from Washington for this game. The problem is, their crappy defense led by their crappy defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is going to not be able to stop Russell Wilson or Marshawn Lynch. With the Cardinals on the road looming next week, things are about to get very ugly in Washington. Somewhere in Denver, Mike Shanahan is in his mansion, overly tanning himself and laughing.

Prediction: Seattle 31, Washington 21

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-7
Overall Against the Spread: 26-35

Last Week Straight Up: 7-6
Overall Straight Up: 32-29

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