Friday, November 21, 2014
The Hail Mary - Week 12
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