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

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