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

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