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

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