Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cram Session - Week 14

Games That Matter To Me

Friday, November 28

Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) at Iowa (7-4, 4-3)

Prediction: Iowa 28, Nebraska 21

Saturday, November 29

Notre Dame (7-4) at USC (7-4)

Prediction: USC 41, Notre Dame 27

Top 10

Thursday, November 27

#5 TCU (9-1, 6-1) at Texas (6-5, 5-3)

Prediction: Texas 31, TCU 28

Friday, November 28

Stanford (6-5, 4-4) at #8 UCLA (9-2, 6-2)

Prediction: UCLA 34, Stanford 20

Saturday, November 29

#15 Auburn (8-3, 4-3) at #1 Alabama (10-1, 6-1)

Prediction: Alabama 38, Auburn 17

#2 Oregon (10-1, 7-1) at Oregon State (5-6, 2-6)

Prediction: Oregon 35, Oregon State 23

Florida (6-4) at #3 Florida State (11-0)

Prediction: Florida State 24, Florida 17

#4 Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1) at #19 Mississippi (8-3, 4-3)

Prediction: Mississippi State 21, Mississippi 20

Michigan (5-6, 3-4) at #6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-0)

Prediction: Ohio State 45, Michigan 14

#7 Baylor (9-1, 6-1) vs. Texas Tech (4-7, 2-6) in Arlington, Texas

Prediction: Baylor 66, Texas Tech 24

#16 Georgia Tech (9-2) at #9 Georgia (9-2)

Prediction: Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 35

#10 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) at Penn State (6-5, 2-5)

Prediction: Michigan State 27, Penn State 14

Last Week: 9-2
Overall: 91-25

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 13

Thursday, November 27

Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4), Detroit favored by 7

Prediction: Detroit 28, Chicago 23

Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3), Dallas favored by 3

Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 27

Seattle (7-4) at San Francisco (7-4), San Francisco favored by 1

Prediction: San Francisco 23, Seattle 20

Sunday, November 30

Carolina (3-7-1) at Minnesota (4-7), Minnesota favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Minnesota 27, Carolina 20

Washington (3-8) at Indianapolis (7-4), Indianapolis favored by 10

Prediction: Indianapolis 35, Washington 20

Tennessee (2-9) at Houston (5-6), Houston favored by 6

Prediction: Houston 27, Tennessee 24

Cleveland (7-4) at Buffalo (6-5), Buffalo favored by 1 1/2

Prediction: Buffalo 29, Cleveland 25

San Diego (7-4) at Baltimore (7-4), Baltimore favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Baltimore 33, San Diego 17

New York Giants (3-8) at Jacksonville (1-10), New York Giants favored by 3

Prediction: New York Giants 28, Jacksonville 15

Cincinnati (7-3-1) at Tampa Bay (2-9), Cincinnati favored by 4

Prediction: Cincinnati 26, Tampa Bay 19

Oakland (1-10) at St. Louis (4-7), St. Louis favored by 7

Prediction: St. Louis 22, Oakland 17

New Orleans (4-7) at Pittsburgh (7-4), Pittsburgh favored by 3

Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, New Orleans 24

Arizona (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Arizona 21, Atlanta 17

New England (9-2) at Green Bay (8-3), Green Bay favored by 3

Prediction: Green Bay 35, New England 33

Denver (8-3) at Kansas City (7-4), Denver favored by 2

Prediction: Denver 28, Kansas City 24

Monday, December 1

Miami (6-5) at New York Jets (2-9), Miami favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Miami 28, New York Jets 14

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-9
Overall Against the Spread: 88-87-1

Last Week Straight Up: 12-3
Overall Straight Up: 119-56-1

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 12

Sunday, November 23

Green Bay (7-3) at Minnesota (4-6), Green Bay favored by 9 1/2

The rest of the league might stand a chance, now that the Packers finally have to go a week without being at the comfy confines of Lambeau Field. Green Bay is unbeaten at home this year and the fewest points they have scored in a home win was 31 way back in Week 2 against the Jets. In their last two home games, they topped 50 points each time. Earlier this season, on a Thursday night game, the Packers destroyed Minnesota 42-10, and it only wasn't worse because Mike McCarthy called off the dogs or more specifically Aaron Rodgers, early on in the second half. Now Minnesota never had a chance in that game to begin with because Christian Ponder was starting. Teddy Bridgewater has been far from outstanding but he at least gives the Vikings a more dangerous weapon at the quarterback position than Ponder. The Vikings learned this week that they will be without Adrian Peterson for the remainder of the season and with the rushing attack scuffling between Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon, they signed the recently released Ben Tate. I wouldn't expect Tate to have much of an impact on this weekend's game, but I do think getting the Packers out of the comforts of home will slow down their offense some.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Minnesota 21

Tennessee (2-8) at Philadelphia (7-3), Philadelphia favored by 11

Philadelphia found out firsthand how unbeatable Green Bay is at home, getting stomped last week. They return home to the Linc where they are 5-0 this season. Remember last year at this time when the Eagles had lost 10 straight home games? Seems hard to believe now. It would take a shocking upset for them not to improve to 6-0 at home against the hapless Titans. Tennessee couldn't hold on to a 24-13 second half lead against Pittsburgh at home, losing their fourth straight game for the second time this season. The Titans are on their third quarterback, have no running game and their best receiver, who is a tight end, Delanie Walker is battling a concussion. The only reason I am not taking Philly and the points is Mark Sanchez.

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Tennessee 21

Cleveland (6-4) at Atlanta (4-6), Atlanta favored by 3

I predicted a Browns loss to Houston but I wasn't expecting them to completely poop all over themselves. However, help is arriving as WR Josh Gordon makes his season debut. The Browns also jettisoned malcontent Tate, and the rushing attack is now a two back system with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West.  The Falcons miraculously find themselves in first place in the NFC South, despite a 4-6 record. With both the Saints and Panthers unable to win games right now, if Atlanta can keep this winning streak up they might run away with the NFC South and only need to win 7 games to do it. One player that needs to get reinvigorated is WR Julio Jones. Jones hasn't scored a touchdown in 2 months now. I predict he will end that ignominious streak on Sunday and the Falcons will win their third straight game.

Prediction: Atlanta 27, Cleveland 20

Detroit (7-3) at New England (8-2), New England favored by 7

Detroit failed their first road juggernaut test last week at Arizona and have an ever tougher test at New England this weekend. The Patriots are currently on a six game winning streak and in back to back games have beaten the Broncos and Colts by a combined score of 85-41. Last week it was all about former Notre Dame RB Jonas Gray. Gray rushed for over 200 yards and scored 4 touchdowns. The Patriots bolstered their backfield even further this week by signing the recently released LaGarrette Blount, who was a strong runner for them last season. The Lions expect to have Reggie Bush back from injury this week but with the Patriots being so stingy against the pass, Matthew Stafford figures to be in for another long day.

Prediction: New England 28, Detroit 17

Jacksonville (1-9) at Indianapolis (6-4), Indianapolis favored by 14

The Colts can't beat anyone good but they have proven over and over again this season that they can rout the bad teams. The Jaguars are a very bad team and even without Ahmad Bradshaw and having to rely even more on Trent Richardson, the Colts will get another victory over a cupcake. 

Prediction: Indianapolis 41, Jacksonville 20

Cincinnati (6-3-1) at Houston (5-5), Houston favored by 2 

Will the real Bengals and Andy Dalton please stand up. A week and a half off their worst performance of the year, the Bengals went to New Orleans and dominated the Saints. The Bengals seem to be like my friend Jason, in that they play their best when the game is under the radar. In my fantasy football league, whenever I have put my friend Jason in our Game of the Week, he always loses. But when I don't, his team plays their best. So with Cincinnati in just any other 1:00 game this Sunday, I expect good Cincy and good Dalton to show up. They are also expecting back Giovanni Bernard, although they haven't missed him too much thanks to how well Jeremy Hill has been playing. The Texans are hoping their number one back Arian Foster can return this week, although Alfred Blue had a fantastic game last week in his place. Ryan Mallett looked good for his first ever NFL start, and he left some fans wondering what took Bill O'Brien so long to turn to him. I think Mallett will have another solid showing, but the Bengals and A.J. Green to do just enough to get the victory. 

Prediction: Cincinnati 28, Houston 24

Tampa Bay (2-8) at Chicago (4-6), Chicago favored by 9 1/2

This game serves as a homecoming for the Bucs quarterback Josh McCown and more importantly their coach Lovie Smith.  Lovie had a successful run in Chicago, including a trip to the Super Bowl. However, in his first season with Tampa he is enduring his worst season as a head coach. Things aren't much better for this replacement in Chicago, Marc Trestman, who is just 12-14 in 1 1/2 seasons at the helm. The Bears got a much needed win, and their first home victory of the season last week against Minnesota. The Bucs are coming off a win of their own, and are like the Bears used to be, winless at home, and only finding victory on the road. The Chicago defense will be hard pressed to slow down rookie Mike Evans who has been on an absolute tear for Tampa. Nothing ever comes easy for Chicago and you know Lovie's Bucs will be motivated to give him a good showing against his former time. The 9 1/2 point line is way too high but the Bears will eke out a victory.

Prediction: Chicago 26, Tampa Bay 23

Arizona (9-1) at Seattle (6-4), Seattle favored by 6 1/2

If the Cardinals can knock off the Seahawks in Seattle for the second straight season, they would virtually eliminate the Seahawks from defending their NFC West crown. That would guarantee that even if the Seahawks make the Super Bowl, they would have to go on the road three weeks in a row to do it. And everyone knows that means Seattle would have no chance in hell at repeating as Super Bowl champions. As a 49ers fan I am torn about this game. The Niners realistically need the division leading Cardinals to win, since they aren't likely to catch them, and are in a dogfight with Seattle for the final playoff spot. Drew Stanton was good enough last week as a starter and the Cardinals defense was spectacular, and if the Cardinals can keep that formula, they have a great shot at remaining Super Bowl contenders. The Seahawks just aren't anything like the team they were last year but I still have to respect their homefield advantage. I think Stanton will have problems dealing with the crowd noise and Russell Wilson will do just enough to keep Seattle's slim division hopes alive.

Prediction: Seattle 20, Arizona 17

St. Louis (4-6) at San Diego (6-4), San Diego favored by 5

I don't think even Rams coach Jeff Fisher could explain his team. The Rams have had a pretty brutal schedule and have beaten some top flight competition this season, including the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos. They have a chance to take down another team above .500 as they face the Chargers. San Diego ended a three game losing streak against Oakland but weren't impressive in doing so. The offense put up just 13 points and the last two games, Philip Rivers has seemed to have lost his touch. If the Chargers line can't protect Rivers, then the Rams pass rush, including Robert Quinn will feast on his status like pocket presence. This is a tough game to pick as both of these teams have major Jekyll and Hide sides to themselves. I think Rivers and the Chargers offense, and Ryan Mathews has their best performance in weeks.

Prediction: San Diego 29, St. Louis 23

Washington (3-7) at San Francisco (6-4), San Francisco favored by 8

I wanted to believe that Robert Griffin III wasn't just a flash in the pan, that his rookie season wasn't a fluke, but as he continues his struggles from last season into this season, even Griffin supporters don't have much to go on right now. Losing by 20 points at home to a 1-8 team like Washington did against Tampa last week is inexcusable. Knowing the Redskins and how they operate they will put in a respectable performance in a tough spot at San Francisco on Sunday. The 49ers won two straight crucial road games but last time they were at home they had an embarrassing offensive showing in a loss to the Rams. If the 49ers offense can't have a strong day a against the Redskins pathetic defense then even a victory in this game would feel pretty hollow. The Redskins themselves prove that stats don't always tell the whole story. They have the 7th ranked passing attack in the league, and 10th against the pass and 11th against the rush, all stats that you would expect for a team that was at least .500. But the Redskins defense never gets stops when they need to, they don't create turnovers and they are prone to give up the big play. I bet former Redskin Brandon Lloyd who hardly does anything these days might make a big play against his former team. The 49ers defense should be able to capitalize on the turnover prone Redskins, especially if rookie linebacker Chris Borland continues his awesome play. This game will be closer than the experts think, but I expect the Niners to get back on the winning track at home, and continue their winning ways going into a huge game with Seattle Thanksgiving night.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Washington 17

Miami (6-4) at Denver (7-3), Denver favored by 7

Sunday's game at Denver will present the Dolphins with a tremendous opportunity to prove that they are ready to be legit contenders in the AFC. With the Patriots being unstoppable right now, the division is likely out of reach but for the second straight year the Dolphins have themselves in playoff contention as we head down the stretch. They will be getting a Broncos team that was humbled last week at St. Louis and Peyton Manning might be without two huge targets in Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas. It will be highly intriguing to see how Manning plays against the Dolphins defense, especially their top notch secondary. Denver has been dominant at home this season so Ryan Tannehill will have his work cut out for him. The biggest key to this game for Miami is how Lamar Miller runs the ball. If Miller can get going on the ground that will relieve a ton of pressure off of Tannehill's shoulders. Even if Thomas and Sanders can't go, Manning still has Demaryius Thomas around. Thomas will have a strong day, even against Miami's stout secondary, and Brent Grimes, who I would expect the Dolphins will mostly put on Thomas. Manning and Denver has been too good at home, and the Dolphins aren't quite ready to win a game of this magnitude.

Prediction: Denver 27, Miami 17

Dallas (7-3) at New York Giants (3-7), Dallas favored by 3 1/2

Not sure why NBC didn't flex out of this game, especially with the Giants playing for nothing but pride and trying to end a 5 game losing streak at this point. Tony Romo had a week to rest and get his back right even further, while the Giants are coming off a tough loss to San Francisco, with Eli Manning having his worst game of the season, throwing 5 picks. DeMarco Murray should be in line for another big game, as he dominated the Giants in the team's first meeting this season. Homefield used to mean something for New York, but they have trouble winning anywhere this season., I am glad I will be watching Survivor Series instead of this game.

Prediction: Dallas 28, New York Giants 24

Monday, November 24

New York Jets (2-8) "at" Buffalo (5-5), Buffalo favored by 4 1/2

This game will be played in Detroit on Monday night, thanks to the massive snowstorm that hit Buffalo. The Bills are just a game out of the final playoff spot in the AFC, but the AFC is also such a jumbled mess that being a game out means that the Bills have about 5 other teams in front of them when tiebreakers are factored in. This will likely be a very strange atmosphere with this game happening in Detroit and the Bills won't have any sort of homefield advantage. The first time these teams played though, the Jets did have homefield advantage and were destroyed by a Buffalo offense that isn't anything special. I think this game will be less of an offensive explosion from both sides and more defensive oriented.

Prediction: Buffalo 19, New York Jets 14

Baltimore (6-4) at New Orleans (4-6), New Orleans favored by 3 1/2

Well now the Saints can't win anywhere. They have now dropped two straight home games and will have their work cut out for them trying not to drop a third in a row against Baltimore. The biggest problem for the Saints this season is the fact that Drew Brees hasn't been his usual self and hasn't been good enough to make up for a Saints defense that is terrible. It is interesting to me that Brees is having a supbar year by his standards because for the first time in what feels like forever, he has a legitimate rushing attack with Mark Ingram this season. The Ravens will be plenty rested for this game after having a week off. With Joe Flacco struggling in recent weeks, I think the Ravens would be best served by going with a heavy does of Justin Forsett. However, with just the 21st ranked pass defense in football, I think this is an opponent that Brees can find some of that lost mojo. I expect Jimmy Graham to have a huge game and for the Saints to get back on the right track at home.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, Baltimore 17

Last Week Against the Spread: 8-6
Overall Against the Spread: 82-78-1

Last Week Straight Up: 9-5
Overall Straight Up: 107-53-1

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cram Session - Week 13

Thursday, November 20

Kansas City (7-3) at Oakland (0-10), Kansas City favored by 7

All signs point to another boring Thursday night game when the Chiefs play the winless Raiders in Oakland. Maybe the Raiders could catch the Chiefs a bit off on a short week, but if the Chiefs even play up to half their ability they should have no problem putting away Oakland early in this game. Derek Carr doesn't throw too many interceptions but he also isn't throwing for many yards. In his past three games he has thrown under 200 yards in each of those games. The Raiders also have no running game despite forking money over to Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. The Raiders are near the bottom of the league against the run, so I expect Jamaal Charles to have a big game, and Alex Smith to manage things well and the Chiefs to win their 8th game in their past nine.

Prediction: Kansas City 28, Oakland 14

Game That Matter To Me

#24 Louisville (7-3) at Notre Dame (7-3)

Two weeks can change a lot of things. In just two weeks Notre Dame has gone from being right in the thick of the playoff chase to an unranked team. The loss to Arizona State was bad, but losing at home and giving up 43 points to Northwestern was one of the lower moments in Brian Kelly's tenure as coach. The defense has fallen off a cliff the past month, allowing an average of 42 points per game in their last five. Not surprisingly Notre Dame has gone just 2-3 in that stretch. QB Everett Golson played better last week but still turned the ball over, throwing one interception and fumbling the ball away once. Then Kelly had a massive brain fart, going for 2 late in the game when up 11, even though if they had converted Notre Dame would have gone up by 13 which would have made no difference.

The Irish close their home schedule with a challenging game against the Bobby Petrino led Louisville Cardinals. Louisville has 3 losses but those 3 losses were by 2, 6, and 11 points, showing that they have been competitive in every game this season. Louisville has turned over the starting quarterback job to freshman Reggie Bonnafon. Bonnfaon has gotten some action this year, starting three games in place of Will Gardner, who suffered a season ending injury in last week's win against Boston College. Bonnafon has a whole other rushing dimension to his game that the Notre Dame defense will have to account for. Brandon Radcliff and former Auburn Tiger Michael Dyer have a timeshare at running back, although when Dyer gets the chance he can explode as indicated by big games against NC State and Florida State. Lousiville is mostly successful because of their defense, which ranks 10th in the country in points allowed. Other than an outlier game against Florida State when they gave up 42 points, the Cardinals have not allowed more than 21 points in any other game this season.

The Notre Dame rushing attack and specifically Tarean Folston continue to shine, so it is up to Golson to finally play a mistake free game. Call me crazy but I think the Irish will have a little extra motivation in them for senior day and they will get the Louisville defense similar to how Florida State did. The Irish defense will have their problems with Bonnafon but they will also benefit from Bonnafon making some youthful mistakes and Notre Dame will squeak by with a victory.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Louisville 31

#25 Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) at #23 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2)

Anyone who has followed the Bo Pelini led Huskers couldn't be too surprised by last week's embarrassing performance at Wisconsin. The Huskers gave me a glimmer of hope when they jumped out to a 17-3 lead, but then they remembered that they suck on the road against good teams and promptly were destroyed. They made national headlines for all the wrong reasons, allowing Badgers running back Melvin Gordon to rush for an FBS record 408 yards against them. Bo Pelini talks about how consistent he is when defending himself but his consistency is not a bright spot. Nebraska has consistently lost four games a year with him at the helm and they have consistently been beaten like a drum by good teams.

The Huskers now look to avoid completely collapsing as the season wins down. This week at Minnesota and  hen at Iowa next week, the Huskers should be favored. If they can win those two games then they will avoid a four loss season for the first time under Pelini. The task will be difficult this week, especially as their fragile defense faces another strong rusher in the Golden Gophers David Cobb. Cobb averages over 5 yards a carry and has 11 rushing touchdowns this season.

This game will basically come down to whether or not Nebraska can avoid turning the ball over. If they don't turn the ball over they won't get too far behind, and then Ameer Abdullah will actually get chances to carry the ball. I expect Cobb to have a strong day but as long as he doesn't go for 400 yards, the Huskers can be content with him doing things, if they can slow down the rest of the Gophers offensive attack. One thing Pelini coached teams have been decent at is beating teams they are better than, and if the Huskers aren't better than Minnesota, then the case becomes even stronger to move on from Bo.

Prediction: Nebraska 29, Minnesota 27

Top 10

Western Carolina (7-4) at #1 Alabama (9-1)

Bama's win over #1 Mississippi State at home last week, convinced the college football playoff committee to catapult the Tide to #1 in their latest rankings. All that stands between Bama and a shot at the national title is a home game with Auburn and then the SEC Championship game. This week, Bama has a tune up game with Western Carolina, where the goal is to get the starters out of the game healthy as quickly as possible.

Prediction: Alabama 45, Western Carolina 9

Colorado (2-8, 0-7) at #2 Oregon (9-1, 6-1)

The Ducks have an easy one at home this week with Colorado and then a potential trap game at Corvalis next weekend against Oregon State. After that, they will play potentially Arizona, Arizona State, USC, or UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game. The Buffaloes have a pretty good passing game but no defense and shouldn't present any real challenge for Marcus Mariota and company.

Prediction: Oregon 66, Colorado 21

Boston College (6-4, 3-3) at #3 Florida State (10-0, 7-0)

Last weekend against Miami, the Seminoles followed the pattern they have followed all year, getting down big, then waking up and putting a team away. Despite being the only team from a major conference that is undefeated in college football, the Seminoles still find themselves third. It doesn't matter whether you are first or fourth in the final standings, but it has to chap the Seminoles a bit that 1-loss teams Alabama and Oregon are ranked ahead of them. Even against teams they were clearly better then, the Seminoles haven't been able to really blow anyone out since they beat Wake Forest by 40 in early October. The Eagles are bowl eligible and upset USC earlier this season so I don't expect Florida State to turn over a new leaf and steamroll them. I suspect that Jameis Winston will make some mistakes early, the game will stay close and then the Seminoles will exert their dominance towards the end of the game.

Prediction: Florida State 34, Boston College 20

Vanderbilt (3-7, 0-6) at #4 Mississippi State (9-1, 5-1)

Despite their loss to Alabama last week, Mississippi State still finds themselves in the coveted top four in the rankings. Now, will they remain there is the question? Their only chance of making the SEC title game is for Alabama to lose to Auburn next week and then the Bulldogs must win this week and next week at Mississippi. You know the Bulldogs players minds will be on the Rebels but Vanderbilt has returned to irrelevancy with the departure of James Franklin.

Prediction: Mississippi State 36, Vanderbilt 14

Indiana (3-7, 0-6) at #6 Ohio State (9-1, 6-0)

The Buckeyes got past a tough test at Minnesota and now have easy games at home against Indiana and Michigan. Some might say that it is presumptuous of me to call the Michigan game easy, but rivalry or no rivalry Michigan sucks and won't give the Buckeyes a game. In all likelihood the Buckeyes will have to get past Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. If they do that, then their home loss to Virginia Tech may be but a distant memory and the Buckeyes will be in the playoffs.

Prediction: Ohio State 58, Indiana 24

Oklahoma State (5-5, 3-4) at #7 Baylor (8-1, 5-1)

Baylor appears like they will need a lot of help to make into the final four rankings. Even if they were to win their final three games, it seems that the committee doesn't think much of Baylor and would only move them up if everyone in front of them lost. Even with a win over TCU, the committee is still putting Baylor behind them. The Cowboys are going through a rough rebuilding year and have lost 4 games in a row by an average of 28 points. Most of those problems have come from their inability to do anything offensively. Playing the 7th ranked Bears on the road doesn't figure to make things any better for Okie State.

Prediction: Baylor 45, Oklahoma State 21

#8 Mississippi (8-2, 4-2) at Arkansas (5-5, 1-5)

The Razorbacks finally earned their first SEC victory in two years and first under coach Bret Bielema. They try to carry that momentum against Mississippi which still holds outside hopes of making the SEC Championship game, but will need a lot of help. The Razorbacks need to win one of their final two games to become bowl eligible, so they will be ready to give the Rebels their best shot. The Razorbacks shut out LSU last week, so Bo Wallace figures to have his work cut out for him on Saturday. I think Ole Miss is still feeling the after effects of their back to back losses and the death of their national title dreams. Arkansas now has that monkey off their back and I think they will start an SEC winning streak and pull off a second straight upset at home.

Prediction: Arkansas 27, Mississippi 24

#19 USC (7-3, 6-2) at #9 UCLA (8-2, 5-2)

There aren't many finer images then when the Trojan red of USC takes on the blue of UCLA. Throw in some stakes as far as trying to make the Pac-12 championship and you have the recipe for a fun game in primetime this Saturday night. USC will be looking to win three straight games for the first time all season, while the Bruins look to extend their current four game winning streak, and their two game winning streak against the Trojans. Bruins QB Brett Hundley received more of the headlines heading into the season, but Trojans QB Cody Kessler is having the better season. Kessler has 29 TDs and just 3 INTs this season. Hundley doesn't have those passing numbers but where he trumps Kessler is his ability to run the ball. Both teams also have exceptional skill players at the running back and wide receiver positions. The Trojans are led by Javorius Allen, who has rushed for over 100 yards in eight of ten games this season. WR Nelson Agholor has 82 catches this season and 10 touchdowns and is coming off a 16 catch performance against Cal. The Bruins are led by RB Paul Perkins and WR Jordan Payton. These teams are very evenly matched but I give the edge to the Bruins because of Hundley's multi dimensional talents on offense and the homefield atmosphere of the Rose Bowl that UCLA will have.

Prediction: UCLA 34, USC 28

Charleston Southern (8-3) at #10 Georgia (8-2)

Todd Gurley returned from his suspension last week and then promptly tore his ACL, ending his season and possibly his college career and possibly adversely effecting his pro prospects. Georgia is done with their SEC schedule and for them to make the SEC championship game they need Missouri to lose one of its final two games against either Tennessee or Arkansas. Georgia closes the season next week with a challenging game versus Georgia Tech

Prediction: Georgia 42, Charleston Southern 14

Last Week: 5-3
Overall: 82-23

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 11

San Francisco (5-4) at New York Giants (3-6), San Francisco favored by 4

The 49ers saved their season with a gritty, tough win at New Orleans in overtime last week. At the end of the game, the Niners faced a fourth and 10 after blowing a 14 point lead. Colin Kaepernick was scrambling around and then heaved the ball downfield to an open Michael Crabtree. The 49ers eventually were able to kick the tying field goal. Then in overtime, poetic justice was served when Ahmad Brooks sacked and stripped Drew Brees and the 49ers recovered deep in Saints territory, allowing Phil Dawson to awkwardly make the winning field goal. However, if the 49ers go and lay an egg in Jersey on Sunday, all that effort will be for naught. With this week's game and then hosting the Redskins next week the pieces are in place for San Francisco to enter the game with Seattle at 7-4 and very much alive in the playoff race. The Giants have lost four straight games. They are struggling both offensively and defensively, but are hopeful they will finally get back their leading rusher, Rashad Jennings this weekend. Returning for the 49ers will be Aldon Smith from his 9 game suspension. Not returning is Patrick Willis, who is out for the season. However, rookie Chris Borland has stepped in and played admirably in Willis' place. The Giants are a mess right now and I think we are seeing the end of the Tom Coughlin era this season. The 49ers will help move that along by handing the Giants their fifth straight loss.

Prediction: San Francisco 35, New York Giants 21

Minnesota (4-5) at Chicago (3-6), Chicago favored by 3 1/2

The Chicago Bears have been beaten 106-37 in their past two games on the road, so you would think they would be happy to be returning home. Unfortunately for them, home has treated them no better, as they are 0-3 at home this season. In those three losses they have been outscored 88-51. The defense is even worse than people imagined, and the offense is nowhere near as good as people imagined it would be. Bears fans are tiring quickly of Jay Cutler and his apparent indifference, as well as coach Marc Trestman and his stoic demeanor that almost never changes. The Vikings have had a long history of struggling to win at Solider Field. RB Adrian Peterson has gone through the legal process but the NFL is not ready to let him get back on the field. Matt Asiata is coming off a 3 touchdown performance against the Redskins, and Teddy Bridgewater has proven that against soft defenses he is capable of good performances. The Bears defense certainly would qualify as soft, but I feel like the Bears have to win at home sometime, and there is no better chance than against a Minnesota team that struggles on the road.

Prediction: Chicago 27, Minnesota 23

Tampa Bay (1-8) at Washington (3-6), Washington favored by 7

The Redskins look to win their second straight home game and RG3 looks to win his first start this season where he actually got to finish the game. Griffin looked pretty good two weeks ago, but of course as I predicted the Redskins were unable to keep their momentum from the Dallas victory and now are just playing for pride. The Buccaneers have been just playing for pride since basically September. Josh McCown was unable to help lead them to victory at home against the terrible Falcons and now has 6 interceptions and 4 touchdowns this season. Doug Martin is possible to return at running back, although rumor has it that even if he is active, Bobby Rainey will get the majority of the carries over him, quite a fall for the Muscle Hamster. This game will be close, because almost every Redskins game is, but I think that Griffin will get his first true win of the season.

Prediction: Washington 31, Tampa Bay 26

Houston (4-5) at Cleveland (6-3), Cleveland favored by 3

During their bye week coach Bill O'Brien finally decided to make the switch from journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick to Ryan Mallett at quarterback. This will be Mallett's first career start after years of never playing while backing up Tom Brady. The Texans hope the switch will wake up their passing game, which besides DeAndre Hopkins has been underwhelming. The Browns are coming off an impressive whipping of the Bengals in primetime last Thursday. They were helped by Bengals QB Andy Dalton appearing to be on drugs during the game, as he couldn't complete a pass to save his life. Cleveland has struggled at home against teams you would think they are better then. Because of that, I like the Texans and Mallett to pull off the slight upset, against a Browns team that isn't used to dealing with success.

Prediction: Houston 24, Cleveland 20

Seattle (6-3) at Kansas City (6-3), Kansas City favored by 1 1/2

This game might be over quicker than the average NFL game, as the Chiefs and Seahawks are two teams that like to run the ball. Both teams rank near the bottom of the league in passing offense, but near the top in rushing. Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs and Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks are two of the best running backs in football. Lynch had 4 touchdowns against the Giants last week, while QB Russell Wilson continued to be underwhelming throwing the ball. Alex Smith and underwhelming have been in the same sentence often throughout his career. Smith has game managed very well this season, helping the Chiefs to six wins in their past seven games. Both teams have strong defenses, although this year's Seahawks defense has not been as adept at forcing turnovers. The Chiefs defense is best in the league against the pass, but 20th against the rush, so Lynch could be in line for another strong performance. Despite that, I still like the Chiefs to win, mostly because of the game being at Arrowhead. 

Prediction: Kansas City 28, Seattle 22

Atlanta (3-6) at Carolina (3-6-1), Carolina favored by 1 1/2

The NFC South, ladies and gentleman, where these two awful teams are just a game out of first place! The loser can probably kiss their season goodbye, while the winner will miraculously still be very much alive in the race for the division. The Panthers look dreadful on both sides of the ball, while the Falcons have played much better defense the past few weeks. With that being said, I do like Carolina to get the victory at home against an Atlanta team, that save for last week against Tampa, has had a tough time playing well on the road.

Prediction: Carolina 29, Atlanta 24

Cincinnati (5-3-1) at New Orleans (4-5), New Orleans favored by 7

When the Bengals lose, they don't just lose, they lose in spectacularly bad fashion. Their three losses this season have been by 26, 27, and 21 points. The most fascinating part of this game will be seeing how Andy Dalton performs after the worst game of his life last week. The Saints were finally beaten at home, so maybe now teams won't feel so overmatched when they go to the Superdome. The Bengals were pretty terrible in their past two road games, and their defense is next to last int he league against the run, and just 20th against the pass. That means that Mark Ingram, Drew Brees and all his weapons should have no problem piling up points against the Bungles.

Prediction: New Orleans 35, Cincinnati 17

Denver (7-2) at St. Louis (3-6), Denver favored by 9 1/2

Well the Austin Davis era ended with a thud. After another subpar performance in a loss against Arizona last week, Davis has been benched in favor of Week 1 starter, Shaun Hill. Hill will have to play out of his mind if the Rams are to keep up scoring wise with Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The running back position has seen a lot of changes this year for Denver with injuries to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, and C.J. Anderson is the latest to take the reigns. Anderson has been exceptional, including last week against Oakland. Now, just about any human can be exceptional against the Raiders, so we should just a tad bit more about Anderson this week. The Rams defense has been doing a great job of getting to the quarterback the past few weeks, so Manning will have to keep his head on a swivel in this game. Peyton is a master at quick releases so I don't foresee that being a problem.

Prediction: Denver 41, St. Louis 20

Oakland (0-9) at San Diego (5-4), San Diego favored by 10

The Chargers are probably pretty anxious to get back in action after their bye week. They have lost three straight games, and were destroyed by Miami two weeks ago, 37-0. The fact that they get to play the winless Raiders probably has them even more excited. Although to be fair, the Chargers nearly lost to the Raiders when they played them in Oakland about a month ago. QB Derek Carr had the best game of his young career against San Diego, throwing 4 touchdown passes. The Chargers hope to get a boost from the return of RB Ryan Mathews. I don't expect this game to be as close as the last one was between these two teams, and Oakland will move ever closer to 0-16.

Prediction: San Diego 27, Oakland 14

Philadelphia (7-2) at Green Bay (6-3), Green Bay favored by 5

So I was pretty skeptical about the new Mark Sanchez, but Sanchez did have a strong performance against Carolina on Monday night. Maybe it really will make a difference for him to have the amount of weapons the Eagles offense has. Interestingly, Sanchez seemed to prefer guys that weren't the usual suspects. WR Jordan Matthews and TE Brent Celek saw most of Sanchez's targets, while Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz were after thoughts. It will be interesting to see if that continues of if it was just a one game anomaly. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense keeps humming along and nothing appears to be able to slow them down. They will score points, so this game will come down to how the Packers porous rush defense deals with LeSean McCoy. McCoy had another poor performance last week against Carolina and hasn't been able to get any consistency going running the ball. A lot of that probably has to do with all the upheaval the Eagles have had on the offensive line due to injury and suspensions. I need to see more efforts like last Monday from Sanchez before I am convinced that he can take a team to Lambeau Field and win.

Prediction: Green Bay 34, Philadelphia 23

Detroit (7-2) at Arizona (8-1), Arizona favored by 1 1/2

Detroit versus Arizona for the best record in the NFC? Who would have ever thunk it? The Cardinals dream season might have been dealt a death blow last week with the loss of QB Carson Palmer for the season. Drew Stanton is once again the starting quarterback, a role he performed admirably in earlier this season when Palmer was injured. But playing well for 3 games is different than asking someone to play well the rest of the season and into the playoffs. Andre Ellington will have to really step up his game, and it would help if WR Michael Floyd can return from his recent disappearance. The Lions are coming off a dramatic win against Miami, as Matthew Stafford added to his history of late game magic. The Lions defense has no weakness, ranking second against the pass and third against the rush. I think they will make it a long afternoon for Stanton, and the Cardinals defense won't be able to shut down Megatron and Stafford.

Prediction: Detroit 20, Arizona 17

New England (7-2) at Indianapolis (6-3), Indianapolis favored by 3

This is a rematch from last season's divisional playoff game, except this time the Colts get to host the Patriots. Each team has had two weeks to prepare for the other so maybe we will finally see a competitive Sunday night football game. Both teams feature prolific offenses, but the Patriots hold a major edge on defense. Andrew Luck and Tom Brady will both have success slinging the football, so the difference in this game figures to be the two teams rushing attacks and which defense can make more stops. On both of those counts I believe in New England more than I do Indianapolis. I still question just how good Indianapolis is, as four of their wins have come against teams under .500, and their two wins against teams over .500 were at home. It takes a lot for me to pick against New England, and while Andrew Luck almost qualifies, the rest of the Colts surrounding him, especially on defense, won't be able to do enough.

Prediction: New England 34, Indianapolis 31

Monday, November 17

Pittsburgh (6-3) at Tennessee (2-7), Pittsburgh favored by 6 1/2

Stinker of a Monday night game this week. Although, the Steelers really enjoy playing down to their competition as evidenced by their losses to the 1 win Buccaneers and the 2 win Jets. Add in that this game is in Tennessee and I expect the Titans to make it more interesting than some might expect. You have got to believe that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will impress upon his team how serious they have to take Tennessee and Pittsburgh will at least come out with much more focus than they showed last week. So that means, don't expect Antonio Brown to fumble the ball twice like he did last weekend. Also, the running game should finally wake up for Pittsburgh going against the Titans soft rush defense.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Tennessee 21

Last Week Against the Spread: 9-4
Overall Against the Spread: 74-72-1

Last Week Straight Up: 9-4
Overall Straight Up: 98-48-1

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cram Session - Week 12

Thursday, November 13

Buffalo (5-4) at Miami (5-4), Miami favored by 5

The loser of this game will pretty much lose any realistic chance of catching the Patriots in the AFC East. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses last week where they blew leads late. For Miami, it was their second loss to an NFC North team that came in the final seconds. The Bills dominated the first meeting between these teams in Buffalo in September and that was before they had someone more competent at quarterback in Kyle Orton. Fred Jackson returned for Buffalo last week but appeared limited and it is questionable how much more effective he will be in this game since it comes on a short week. The Dolphins are having injury issues of their own at running back, as Lamar Miller did next to nothing against Detroit as he battles a shoulder injury. Miller should play but the Dolphins lost LT Branden Albert for the year in last week's loss. That could turn out to be a season changer, as Albert had helped bring stability to an offensive line that was dreadful last season. The Bills have owned the Dolphins in recent history but I like the Dolphins to break their Buffalo hex at home and to play good defense and do just enough offensively to get the win.

Prediction: Miami 24, Buffalo 20

Games That Matter To Me

Northwestern (3-6) at #18 Notre Dame (7-2)

Eliminated from the college football playoff discussion after an embarrassing loss to Arizona State, The Irish now really just have a spotlight bowl game left to play for. QB Everett Golson has been turning the ball over at an unprecedented rate, both fumbling and throwing interceptions. He has now thrown an interception in six straight games and if Notre Dame is going to beat either Louisville or USC, he will have to improve on those numbers. Against this week's opponent, Northwestern, it shouldn't matter. The Wildcats have dropped four in a row, scoring no more than 17 points in those games. Their quarterback, Trevor Siemian has turnover problems of his own, throwing 8 interceptions this season. The Wildcats offenses struggles have coincided with the struggles of their leading rusher Justin Jackson. Jackson averaged just 2 yards a carry in the loss to Michigan last week. Irish RB Tarean Folston saw his string of 100 yard rushing games end last week, mostly thanks to the Irish having to play catch up the entire game. I expect the Irish to lead early and for most of this game, and for coach Brian Kelly to ride Folston to a 100 plus yard performance. The Wildcats defense is adept at intercepting opposing quarterbacks, so I don't expect Golson to get through this game unscathed. However, overall I expect him to have a good game, both rushing and throwing to help him get back some of his confidence leading into the Irish's final two difficult games.

Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Northwestern 20

#16 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) at #20 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1)

Despite having just 1 loss, Nebraska can't get any respect from the college football playoff committee. Seven teams with 2 losses are ranked ahead of the Huskers. The Huskers might feel slighted but can't gripe with their ranking too much. This Saturday's game with the Badgers will be just Nebraska's second against a ranked opponent this season. Nebraska does control their destiny in trying to make the Big Ten championship game. They are currently tied with Wisconsin and Minnesota in the Big Ten West, and just so happen to play each of those teams the next two weeks.

Winning against tough teams on the road has been a bugaboo in the Bo Pelini era. Earlier this season Nebraska went to Michigan State and only a desperate fourth quarter comeback made the game appear closer than it really was. Wisconsin has put some all-time beatdowns on the Huskers over the past few seasons, including the last time these teams played in Madison. This game is all about the running backs. Wisconsin is led by Melvin Gordon. Goron has rushed for 1,501 yards this season and a mind blowing 19 touchdowns. Gordon has rushed for over 100 yards in every game but 1, and has rushed for over 200 yards three times this season, including last week in a victory against Purdue. On the opposite side is Ameer Abdullah for the Huskers. Abdullah had to leave the victory against Purdue a couple weeks ago with an injury but has been practicing this week and is expected to play. Abdullah has rushed for 1,250 yards this season and 17 TDs. He has rushed for over 200 yards in four games this season.

Each team can expect the opposing running backs to get theirs, so this game will likely come down to the quarterbacks. Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong Jr. has shown the maddening inconsistency that plagues most young players. Wisconsin has split time this season between Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy. Each quarterback has had trouble being accurate and not throwing the ball to the other team. I think Wisconsin will jump out to an early lead, thanks to Gordon, and will stretch that lead to the point where Armstrong will have to make plays for Nebraska, something the Huskers don't really want. Until the Huskers can prove under Pelini they are capable of beating good teams on the road, I have no reason to pick them.

Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 23

Top 10

#1 Mississippi State (9-0, 5-0) at #5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1)

Shockingly the game of the weekend is once again in the SEC. Seems like every week teams from the SEC are battling in a Top 10 matchup. Alabama pulled a win out of their ass at LSU last week, but saw TCU leapfrog them in the playoff rankings. Oddsmakers in Vegas aren't disrespecting Bama though, they are disrespecting the number one team in the nation, Mississippi State by installing them as 8 point underdogs. The difference in this game, one way or the other, will be Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott. For Mississippi State to pull off the upset, Prescott will have to successfully use both his legs and arms against Bama's stout defense. Bama QB Blake Sims had his struggles last week at LSU, but on the final drive of regulation, and in overtime he came through when Bama needed him most. He is often bailed out by his freak weapon at receiver, Amari Cooper. You also can expect RB T.J. Yeldon to be fired up to atone for his fumble late in last week's game. Bulldogs RB Josh Robinson has been less than at the top of his game the past two weeks, and if he can't turn it around the Bulldogs undefeated season will come to an end. I can't pick against Nick Saban and Bama at home in a big game. after this weekend there will be no more undefeated teams in the SEC.

Prediction: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 17

#3 Florida State (9-0, 6-0) at Miami (6-3, 3-2)

The Seminoles string of underwhelming performances continued last week, when they struggled to put away a bad Virginia team at home. Because of that, the college football playoff committee vaulted Oregon ahead of Florida State, despite the Ducks having a loss. The Seminoles will have a chance to impress the committee Saturday when they face rivals Miami on the road. The Hurricanes have won three straight games, all by 20 points or more so there are some people that think the U is back! The caliber of opponent Miami beat in those games is nowhere near as good as Florida State, and none of those teams had as talented a player as Jamies Winston. I expect Canes RB Duke Johnson to have a big game but I think freshman QB Brad Kaaya will run into problems. During Miami's three game winning streak Kaaya hasn't thrown an interception but I think that streak will come to an end in this game. The Canes will keep it interesting for the first three quarters, but the Noles will pull away late. 

Prediction: Florida State 44, Miami 30

#4 TCU (8-1, 5-1) at Kansas (3-6, 1-5)

After last week's rout of Kansas State, TCU finds themselves in the coveted top 4 of the playoff rankings. They will be heavily favored in their final three games this season and if Baylor wins their remaining games, there will be some major discussion if TCU is invited to the playoff over Baylor. Baylor defeated TCU a month ago, after overcoming a 21 point deficit but the committee has said they are more impressed by TCU's strength of schedule. A game against Kansas will do nothing to help TCU's profile and can only hurt if they don't blow them out as everyone expects. Despite Kansas finally getting a Big 12 win last week, I suspect things will return to normal for them this weekend and they will be bludgeoned by the Horned Frogs.

Prediction: TCU 53, Kansas 13

#6 Arizona State (8-1, 5-1) at Oregon State (4-5, 1-5)

The Sun Devils put themselves right in the playoff mix by thumping Notre Dame last Saturday. Their defense took advantage of how sloppy Irish QB Everett Golson is with the ball and their offense capitalized on their opportunities their defense presented them with. The Sun Devils have to be careful of a potential letdown spot at Oregon State this weekend, against a struggling Beavers team. Oregon State does have a pretty good quarterback in Sean Mannion but Arizona State trumps them in the rushing department with D.J. Foster. I think the Sun Devils keep rolling, even if they have trouble getting themselves fully pumped for a lower caliber opponent.

Prediction: Arizona State 42, Oregon State 27

#8 Ohio State (8-1, 5-0) at #25 Minnesota (7-2, 4-1)

The Buckeyes are coming off their finest performance of the season, crushing Michigan State at Spartan Stadium. That victory moved the Buckeyes to within shouting distance of the coveted top four in the race for the playoff. In typical Ohio State fans fashion, they are making excuses for their team and saying the committee shouldn't hold it against J.T. Barrett that he was making just his second start in the Buckeyes inexcusable loss at home to Virginia Tech. Barrett has matured quickly since that game, completing more than 60% of his passes in every game since. He shredded the formerly vaunted Michigan State defense to the tune of 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. The Buckeyes can't keep feeling good about themselves too much though or they could be upset by the newly ranked Golden Gophers. Minnesota has a lot to prove, as they have played just one ranked team previously this season, and that was TCU, who thumped them. The star of the team is senior RB David Cobb, who has 1,205 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. It can't be ignored that the Golden Gophers have fattened up their record against a mostly cupcake schedule. Urban Meyer will have the Buckeyes ready to play, as they still have plenty left to play for this season.

Prediction: Ohio State 40, Minnesota 21

#9 Auburn (7-2, 4-2) at #15 Georgia (7-2, 5-2)

Auburn is now a longshot to make the playoffs after a crushing, upset loss at home to Texas A&M last weekend. Auburn had two chances late in the game to win but fumbled each time. The Tigers will need a lot of help to make the SEC Championship game but with them remaining in the Top 10, you can't say their playoff hopes are entirely dashed. The Bulldogs probably have too much ground to gain in the playoff standings, but remain very much alive in the SEC East. However, with this being their final SEC game of the season, they need to win this game and hope that Missouri loses at least once more this year. Senior QB Hutson Mason has struggled at times but has been really good recently, throwing 8 TDs and 0 INTs in his last four games. The Bulldogs will be bolstered by the return of RB Todd Gurley for this game, as he has served his four game suspension for profiting off his name through autographs. Nick Chubb ran wild in Gurley's absence and the Tigers will have their work cut out for them against those two. But the Tigers have lethal rushing weapons of their own, QB Nick Marshall and RB Cameron Artis-Payne. The Gators ran wild over the Bulldogs a few weeks ago when they crushed Georgia and I think Auburn will do the same thing to Georgia. I like Gus Malzahn's guys to bounce back from a tough loss last weekend and play spoiler to the Bulldogs SEC Championship hopes.

Prediction: Auburn 33, Georgia 28

Last Week: 5-3
Overall: 77-20

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Hail Mary - Week 10

Sunday, November 9

San Francisco (4-4) at New Orleans (4-4), New Orleans favored by 4 1/2

The 49ers have been blown out a few times in the Jim Harbaugh era but no loss was as ugly as the one to the Rams at home last weekend. Scoring just 10 points and allowing 8 sacks to a Rams defense that is not very good is unacceptable. Even with their awful play they still had a great chance to win the game, but Greg Roman continued his history of awful goal line play calling, and refused to give the ball to Frank Gore. Roman gets way too cute in goal line situations and it hardly ever seems to work. The 49ers now find themselves three games behind the Cardinals in the NFC West, so basically they are playing for the 5th or 6th seed in the playoffs. The next two weeks, at New Orleans and at the Giants will define their season. The Saints and 49ers have developed a nice little rivalry the past few years. They had the classic playoff game three years ago, Colin Kaepernick cemented his role as the starter with a win at New Orleans two years ago and last year, the 49ers were screwed on that bogus penalty on Ahmad Brooks against Drew Brees. If the 49ers can't generate points and yardage against the Saints generous defense, then they have no hope. The Saints secondary is brutal, which means if the offensive line can give Kap protection, he should be able to connect with his wide range of weapons. Defensively, the 49ers have frustrated Drew Brees in the past and even with injuries and some new faces, I still think they can force Brees into some dumb throws. I have no real reason to pick San Francisco other than blind faith, but with their backs against the wall, I am counting on seeing the best from them.

Prediction: San Francisco 27, New Orleans 24

Miami (5-3) at Detroit (6-2), Detroit favored by 2 1/2

The Dolphins are officially on fire after bludgeoning the Chargers last week 37-0. But since the Patriots keep winning, so will the Dolphins if they want to keep pace in the AFC East. Traveling to Ford Field to face the Lions will be a challenge and much like themselves, the Lions have a very strong defense. That could mean long days for Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford. The Lions offense should be helped by the return of Calvin Johnson in this game, although Golden Tate made sure that the Lions didn't miss Megatron too much. The Dolphins defense ranks 2nd in the league against the pass, and the Lions are incapable of running the ball, so that is the critical matchup to watch. Dolphins RB Lamar Miller is quietly having a strong season, averaging almost 5 yards a carry and rushing for 5 touchdowns this season. He will have his work cut out for him against a Lions rush defense that is 2nd in the NFL. Points will be earned in this game and while it will be a tough road atmosphere, with how well they are playing right now, I can't pick against Miami.

Prediction: Miami 24, Detroit 20

Kansas City (5-3) at Buffalo (5-3), Kansas City favored by 2

This is a surprisingly important as the season turns towards the second half and the fight for playoff spots gets serious. Both teams come into the game hot, with Buffalo winning three of their past four games and the Chiefs five of their last six. Each team is good enough on offense and mostly carried by strong defensive play. Kyle Orton and Sammy Watkins will have their work cut out for them trying to throw on the Chiefs #1 ranked passing defense. The Bills offense will be helped if Fred Jackson is able to return for this game, although right now his status is questionable leaning towards doubtful. The Chiefs are a throwback team on offense, one that relies on their rushing attack, which is even more surprising considering their coach is pass happy Andy Reid. Jamaal Charles has had success against the Bills defense in recent history and he will be the key to Kansas City getting a tough road win.

Prediction: Kansas City 26, Buffalo 17

Dallas (6-3) "at" Jacksonville (1-8) in London, England, Dallas favored by 7

The wheels have started to come off the Dallas bandwagon after having lost two straight games at home. All of the Cowboys defeats have come at home this year, so they probably don't mind having to travel to London for a road game against the hapless Jaguars. Jacksonville has discovered a running game, led by Denard Robinson, but Bloof Borkey still is having problems avoiding throwing the ball to the other team. DeMarco Murray was held under 100 yards rushing for the first time last weekend, but this weekend I would be surprised if he doesn't come close to rushing for 150. Dallas seems hopeful that Tony Romo will start this game, and Brandon Weeden's poor performance last week made it even more clear how much Dallas relies on Romo.

Prediction: Dallas 38, Jacksonville 17

Tennessee (2-6) at Baltimore (5-4), Baltimore favored by 9 1/2

The Titans had a week off to try to figure out some way of moving the ball successfully on offense and scoring points. Maybe Zach Mettenberger spent that time taking selfies and enjoyed Halloween too much though, who knows. They do have to face a Ravens team that has to be very angry after losing back to back divisional games on the road and is desperate for a win. M&T Bank is one of the toughest stadiums for road teams to win, so I expect a long day for Mettenberger and the Titans, and for the Ravens offense to have a field day with the porous Titans defense.

Prediction: Baltimore 31, Tennessee 14

Pittsburgh (6-3) at New York Jets (1-8), Pittsburgh favored by 4 1/2

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense has gone off the past two weeks. Roethlisbserger has thrown 6 touchdowns in two straight games, and in their last three games the Steelers are averaging 41 points per game. In his past two games Roethlisberger has thrown more touchdown passes than the entirety of the Jets offense this season. Michael Vick played pretty well at Kansas City last week, but once again, couldn't get through a game unscathed and had to leave early due to injury. He will start this weekend but the question is will he be able to play the entire game? I don't think Roethlisberger will throw six touchdowns again this weekend, but I can guarantee that Antonio Brown will have at least 5 catches and 50 yards.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 35, New York Jets 21

Atlanta (2-6) at Tampa Bay (1-7), Atlanta favored by 1

In the dreadful NFC North, these two teams still have slight hopes of winning the division as the Falcons are just two games behind the Saints, and the Bucs are three games out. The loser of this game can probably officially throw the towel in on their season. Tampa Bay is still looking for their first home win of the season and playing the hapless Falcons, who find new ways to lose each week, should be the answer.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, Atlanta 22

Denver (6-2) at Oakland (0-8), Denver favored by 11 1/2

The Raiders made much more of a game of it in Seattle than most expected. The question is, was that because they are improving or because the Seahawks just really aren't that good this season? They get another chance to show improvement by facing the best team in the AFC, the Broncos. Denver is coming off an embarrassing loss at New England, and Peyton Manning shouldered the blame for it. Angry Peyton probably will go off for 5 touchdown this weekend and the Raiders will remain winless.

Prediction: Denver 42, Oakland 20

St. Louis (3-5) at Arizona (7-1), Arizona favored by 7

The Rams have played very well within the NFC West, knocking off both Seattle and San Francisco, and now will try to take down record-wise, the best team in football, the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams have a history of playing up to their competition in the Jeff Fisher era, so I expect them to give the Cardinals trouble on Sunday. If they can continue with the pass rush they had against San Francisco, then they will tee off on the immobile Carson Palmer. A lot has been said about the quiet season Larry Fitzgerald is having but Michael Floyd has been really quiet the past few weeks. Imagine how much better Arizona could be if those two could get hot at the same time?

Prediction: Arizona 28, St. Louis 20

New York Giants (3-5) at Seattle (5-3), Seattle favored by 9

The Giants slide continues and Tom Coughlin might finally be running out of the rope that two fluke Super Bowl wins earned him. Each week the Giants look a mess on offense and defense and the lone bright spot right now is rookie receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. They really miss RB Rashad Jennings, as their run game has disappeared the past three games with him out with an injury. Seattle is back to winning games, but they haven't been overly impressive and they still seem to be in some sort of Super Bowl hangover. QB Russell Wilson has not played very well the past few weeks but Marshawn Lynch did have his best performance in about a month last week against Oakland, rushing for two touchdowns. The Giants have a way of bringing out the best in their opponents, and with this game being in Seattle, I think the Seahawks will look like their 2013 selves for the first time since Week 1.

Prediction: Seattle 37, New York Giants 23

Chicago (3-5) at Green Bay (5-3), Green Bay favored by 7 1/2

The Bears are hoping that their bye week fixed what is quickly becoming a lost season. Chicago has lost four of five games and last time we saw them they were getting destroyed by the Patriots, 51-23. They will have to play their best game of the year if they are going to beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Or they have to do what they did last season and knock Rodgers out of the game. The Packers are also coming off a bye and a humbling loss to the New Orleans Saints. These teams met in Week 4 earlier this season, right after Rodgers told Packers fans to relax. He then dominated the Bears and Green Bay won at Chicago 38-17. It is mystifying that the Bears have all these skill players on offense and yet rank 11th in passing and 18th in rushing. Marc Trestman is in just his second season, but if this Bears season goes completely down the rails, he may be on the hot seat. I don't expect things to get much better this weekend, and doubt they will be able to dispose of Rodgers like they did last season.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Chicago 17

Monday, November 10

Carolina (3-5-1) at Philadelphia (6-2), Philadelphia favored by 6

The Panthers are reeling, having won only once in their past seven games. Cam Newton is coming off one of the worst performances in his career in last week's loss at home to the Saints. Losing to the Saints isn't shameful but losing at home to the Saints, and not only losing but getting spanked by them is. The Eagles got back on the winning side of things but lost starting QB Nick Foles for perhaps the rest of the regular season with a shoulder injury. Mark Sanchez came in and since he didn't completely screw everything up, he's had pundits far and wide singing his praises. He still threw 2 interceptions and I am not convinced that he will play well enough to lead the Eagles through the second half of the season. He definitely does have far more weapons in Philadelphia than he ever had in New York. He should be helped in this game by LeSean McCoy going up against the Panthers atrocious run defense. He better hope he plays well Monday night though, because if he thought Jets fans were harsh on him, he has seen nothing yet as far as vitriol that the Eagles can throw your way.

Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Carolina 20

Last Week Against the Spread: 9-4
Overall Against the Spread: 65-68-1

Last Week Straight Up: 12-1
Overall Straight Up: 89-44-1

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cram Session - Week 11

Thursday, November 6

Cleveland (5-3) at Cincinnati (5-2-1), Cincinnati favored by 6 1/2

Record wise this is a pretty good Thursday night matchup but accept my apology for not being entirely amped for a Browns/Bengals tilt. One player that is really jacked for this game is former Brown and current Bengal Greg Little. He talked about how badly he wants to get revenge on Cleveland for releasing him. I think Cleveland should want to get revenge on him for being a wasted draft pick that always dropped balls. The Browns are finally out of the powder puff portion of their schedule and aside from blowing a game at Jacksonville they won the games they needed to. The AFC North has all four teams currently over .500, making it arguably the strongest division in football. The Bengals offense got A.J. Green back last week and he paid instant dividends with a touchdown. Jeremy Hill also shined when given a chance to start due to Giovanni Bernard's injury and he once again will get the start in this game. He should have another huge game against the 30th ranked Browns rushing defense. I'm not buying the Browns as legitimate contenders because they have a winning record against a poo poo platter of a schedule. They don't look like a team that is ready to go win at Cincinnati on a short week.

Prediction: Cincinnati 29, Cleveland 17

Top 10

UT Martin (5-5) at #1 Mississippi State (8-0)

The #1 Bulldogs get the week off essentially before traveling to Alabama next weekend in a game with monstrous implications. Mississippi State hopes to have this game well in hand as quickly as possible and be healthy as possible for the game against Bama.

Prediction: Mississippi State 48, UT Martin 10

Virginia (4-5, 2-3) at #2 Florida State (8-0, 5-0)

Much like Mississippi State, Florida State has what appears to be a cupcake game before a challenging game on the road next week. The Seminoles trailed Louisville 21-0 last week but then stormed back thanks to some skill and some luck as well. This is another game where Florida State's goal should be to win comfortably and stay healthy, so they can be at full strength when they go to Miami next week.

Prediction: Florida State 49, Virginia 13

Texas A&M (6-3, 2-3) at #3 Auburn (7-1, 4-1)

The Tigers are another team that seem to have a lucky rabbit foot. Last weekend against Ole Miss, the Rebels were about to score the potential game winning touchdown but then lost their best player and the game all on the same play. The Kenny Hill era at Texas A&M ended almost as quickly as it started. Hill lost his job to freshman Kyle Allen and is suspended for this game for violating team rules. Allen looked pretty terrible against Louisiana Monroe last weekend, and he took the rest of the offense down with him. With the Aggies having such an atrocious defense, any lulls that the offense faces could be catastrophic. Auburn has had defensive issues of their own but Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne cannot be stopped rushing the ball. I think this game will be closer than people think, but still relatively easy for Auburn compared to the gauntlet they have gone through the past month.

Prediction: Auburn 38, Texas A&M 24

#4 Oregon (8-1, 5-1) at #17 Utah (6-2, 3-2)

The Ducks last major test they have to pass to ensure a spot in the college football playoff comes this weekend at Utah. If the Ducks win this game they clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship and will only have games against Colorado and Oregon State remaining. The Utes are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Arizona State where the offense couldn't do enough to supplement an outstanding defensive performance. The Utes defense will have to play above their heads again if they are going to slow down Marcus Mariota and company. Utes quarterback Travis Wilson isn't an outstanding player like Mariota, but is a solid game manager. He has not thrown an interception this season, and the Utes offense thrives when RB Devontae Booker is at his peak powers. Booker has rushed for over 100 yards in five straight games and also has six rushing touchdowns in that span. The Ducks have a rushing threat of their own, Royce Freeman, who averages over 5 yards per carry. The Ducks have had their problems on the road in the past, but are undefeated there this season. It will be tough sledding for Oregon in this road atmosphere at night, but I feel like this team has grown up, as shown by their throttling of nemesis Stanford last weekend.

Prediction: Oregon 31, Utah 28

#5 Alabama (7-1, 4-1) at #16 LSU (7-2, 3-2)

This Tide/Tigers battle will come down to which teams strength outperforms the other. LSU is at their best when they run the ball down teams throats and have to do very little passing. But Alabama's defense makes it near impossible for teams to run on them. But while the Tigers are known more for their rushing prowess, the Alabama duo at running back, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry have outrushed LSU's Leonard Fournette and Terrence Magee. The player that will make the difference in this game is Amari Cooper. LSU doesn't have a game changer at receiver like Cooper is. Other than a sorry performance against Arkansas, Cooper has been a beast, and is coming off a 9 catch, 224 yard, 2 touchdown performance in a win against Tennessee. I think he will be good for at least 2 touchdowns in this game and will keep the rabid Tigers fanbase at bay.

Prediction: Alabama 27, LSU 23

#7 Kansas State (7-1, 5-0) at #6 TCU (7-1, 4-1)

This game will serve as a virtual elimination game when it comes to making the college football playoff. The loser of this game will have 2 losses and will be pretty much shut out of any chance of ending up in the final four. TCU almost made this game irrelevant by themselves, barely scarping by with a victory in Morgantown last weekend. QB Trevone Boykin suffered through his worst game of the season, but when the 4th quarter rolled around and his team needed him, he was there to make some crucial plays. Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters is mister consistent. Every week you can count on him to throw for no less than 200 yards but never more than 300 yards, as he has done in all eight starts this year. Both teams have consistent rushing attacks, and both Waters and Boykin are part of those rushing attacks. Where Kansas State has an advantage is in their passing game. Waters has equally dangerous threats in Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. These teams couldn't be more evenly matched so nothing less than a nail biter would surprise me. In this instance, I give the edge to the Horned Frogs because of the homefield advantage they have. Kansas State has proven they can win on the road, as they did it at Oklahoma, but another major road win this season seems too much to ask.

Prediction: TCU 35, Kansas State 28

#14 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) at #8 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0)

Much like TCU/Kansas State this is another elimination game in the college football playoff race. Ohio State could win the Big Ten championship and still not make the top four because of their embarrassing loss at home to Virginia Tech. At the very least, if they can upset Michigan State they will have the inside track to winning the Big Ten eastern division. After a rough start to his season, Buckeyes freshman QB J.T. Barrett has been outstanding. Since the loss to the Hokies, Barrett has thrown 20 TDs and just 3 INTs. He is a dual threat as a runner in Urban Meyer's spread offense, and never lets a defense catch their breath when defending him. I expect the Buckeyes to call RB Ezekiel Elliott's number often in East Lansing on Saturday. They will want to use him to pound at the Spartans tough defensive front, and help the Buckeyes control possession. The Spartans squad last year that won the Big Ten was known for defense, but this year's version is an offensive juggernaut. Michigan State ranks 5th in the nation in scoring, and QB Connor Cook is having a very good season. But the Spartans biggest weapon on offense is RB Jeremy Langford. Langford has rushed for six touchdowns in his last two games. WR Tony Lippett is another weapon, as he has gone over 100 yards receiving in his past four games and in six of eight games this season. Good offenses playing good defenses should make for quite the game Saturday night. I expect the difference in this game to be turnovers and I think the Spartans can force Barrett back into this early season form, giving the Spartans the win.

Prediction: Michigan State 34, Ohio State 25

#10 Notre Dame (7-1) at #9 Arizona State (7-1)

And another playoff elimination game! The Irish had their yearly struggle with Navy last week, before eventually holding them off for a 49-39 win. The offense has been on point all season, but the defense, after a strong start to the year, has really struggled the last few weeks, giving up 43 points to North Carolina and then 39 to Navy. In order to go to Arizona State and pull off the upset, the Irish defense will have to perform much better. The Sun Devils lone loss this season came over a month ago at home, when they were bludgeoned by UCLA 62-27. The defense has come a long way since that performance, as Arizona State has allowed less than 20 points in three straight games. Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly has been adequate since returning from injury two games ago, but the Sun Devils have been relying more lately on RB D.J. Foster. The other major weapon for Arizona State is WR Jaelen Strong, who leads the Sun Devils with 57 catches and 8 touchdowns.

For Notre Dame, RB Tarean Folston continues to emerge as a consistent threat for Notre Dame. With the rushing attack now humming, that has allowed QB Everett Golson to be able to get away with more mistakes than he would have at the beginning of the year. Golson has been way too sloppy with the ball in the last month, and his interception late in the first half last week, allowed Navy to get right back in the game. After throwing no picks in the first three games of the year, Golson has an interception in 5 straight games. Fortunately for him, he threw three or more touchdowns in four of those games. WRs William Fuller and Corey Robinson had quiet games last week but they are Golson's top two targets and I expect one or both of them to play better games on Saturday.

My gut feeling is that Notre Dame will have a performance similar to the one they had against Florida State but this time it will result in a win. Sun Devils QB Kelly doesn't seem like much of a threat, and the Arizona State offense is underwhelming. I think that means the Irish will play better defensively this weekend, and that Golson will have it knocked into his brain by Brian Kelly that he has to much more careful with the football and in his decision making.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Arizona State 31

Last Week: 6-2
Overall: 72-17