Friday, October 2, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 4

Sunday, October 4

New York Jets (2-1) "at" Miami (1-2) in London, England, New York Jets favored by 1 1/2

Can the Dolphins leave Joe Philbin behind in London? Dolphins owner Stephen Ross seems to be the only person who has any confidence that Philbin can lead the Dolphins to the playoffs. Unfortunately for Dolphins fans he is the one who makes the decision. The Dolphins had an embarrassing home opener against Buffalo last week. Both the offense and defense were abysmal. They desperately need a win this week so they can remain at their usual mediocre level and not start to fall out of the picture. They won't be winning the AFC East, so it is all about trying to get a Wild Card spot. They desperately need to find a way to get Lamar Miller going so that Ryan Tannehill isn't forced to throw the ball all game. The Jets feel good vibes evaporated pretty quickly last Sunday when fell behind Philadelphia at home 24-0. They eventually made a game of it, but it was still a terribly disappointing defeat. They saw bad Ryan Fitzpatrick in that game and Brandon Marshall made some really boneheaded plays. Marshall will be eager to put up some big numbers against one of his former teams this week. The Jets are hopeful that Eric Decker and Chris Ivory can return to the lineup as it was painfully obvious how much they missed the two of them in the loss. The London games are always weird, so I will pick a semi weird result, a Dolphins victory.

Prediction: Miami 21, New York Jets 17

Philadelphia (1-2) at Washington (1-2), Philadelphia favored by 3

All the good vibes surrounding the Redskins got to last four days before the team reminded their fans why they are such a beaten down group of people. Kirk Cousins was dreadful against the Giants, or back to his normal self. Of course, we all heard from the Cousins excuse makers how the interceptions weren't his fault. That ignores the fact that he had several balls that were underthrown that would have been touchdowns if a halfway decent quarterback had been throwing them. I am no believer in Robert Griffin III anymore, but no one is convincing me that Cousins is any better. The handoff from Alfred Morris to Matt Jones seemed to kick into high gear last week, although Jones continues to struggle holding on to the ball. The Eagles earned themselves a much needed victory last week, largely thanks to defense and special teams. The offense still seems to be in somewhat disarray and the Eagles are waiting to find out if they will be without DeMarco Murray for a second straight week. The Redskins are usually the type of team you get well against, so I am predicting that the Eagles offense has their best, most consistent showing of the season.

Prediction: Philadelphia 32, Washington 24

Jacksonville (1-2) at Indianapolis (1-2), Indianapolis favored by 9

The Colts tour of the AFC South, i.e. their season saver, continues this weekend at home against Jacksonville. The Colts had to scramble to come back to beat the Titans, so while they got the victory, things are still very uneasy in Indy. Andre Johnson apparently left his soul behind in Houston, as he didn't even register a target in the victory. Frank Gore finally made his presence felt with a couple of touchdowns and against a porous Jacksonville defense he should be able to continue his success. Any hopes that the Jags might be turning the corner after their win over the Dolphins died in Week 3. We found out the Dolphins are really bad, and Jacksonville lost to New England by about a gazillion points. Bloof Borkles played reasonably well though and if he keeps it up I might finally give him back his real name. He may play pretty well this weekend against a sorry Indy defense, but I expect Andrew Luck to have his best game of the year and Indianapolis to cruise.

Prediction: Indianapolis 38, Jacksonville 21

New York Giants (1-2) at Buffalo (2-1), Buffalo favored by 5

Tyrod Taylor was excellent against Miami, and the Bills were ferocious on defense and back to resembling the potential playoff contenders we saw in Week 1. The Giants saved their season by defeating the Redskins but they still don't have any answers at running back, just a trio of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen. Vereen's role is at least clear, he is the pass catcher out of the backfield, but neither Williams or Jennings have been able to establish themselves. The early secret in Buffalo is that backup Karlos Williams is outplaying LeSean McCoy, who still seems far away from his 2013 form. The Bills shouldn't play favorites based on pay and if Williams keeps running like he has, he could eventually supplant McCoy. The Bills have no choice but to go with Williams as the lead back this week since McCoy will be out with an injury. With Eli going up against Rex Ryan's influenced Bills defense, I expect him to throw his first interception of the season and make a lot of Eli faces.

Prediction: Buffalo 27, New York Giants 17

Carolina (3-0) at Tampa Bay (1-2), Carolina favored by 3

The Panthers might be the most under the radar and underwhelming 3-0 team in league history. We should find out a lot more about just how legit the Panthers are in October and early November when they play at Seattle and then host the Eagles, Colts and Packers. The Bucs offense continues to struggle and playing at Carolina won't be helpful to Jameis Winston. I wish the Bucs would get Doug Martin going, only because I have him in one of my fantasy leagues. That's about all there is to say about this boring NFC South matchup.

Prediction: Carolina 23, Tampa Bay 12

Oakland (2-1) at Chicago (0-3), Oakland favored by 3

Are the Raiders for real? They have won two straight, although those wins came against teams that are a combined 1-5, while the actual good team they faced in Cincinnati destroyed them. But, they also lost Derek Carr early in that game and I am totally starting to believe that Carr is legit. He quietly had a pretty strong rookie season last year and has carried that over to this season. Amari Cooper is looking like a bonafide number one receiver for Carr and RB Latavius Murray burst onto the scene last week with 139 yards rushing. Forget winning, the Bears just hope to score some points on Sunday. Jimmy Clausen reminded anyone in case they forgot that he is a completely terrible NFL quarterback. The Bears had 10 possessions against Seattle last week and punted on all 10 of those possessions. The team started a fire sale on defense, trading Jared Allen to the Panthers and Jon Bostic to the Patriots. The Bears probably thought they reached rock bottom with their shutout last week, but being underdogs at home to the Raiders? That is truly rock bottom.

Prediction: Oakland 28, Chicago 20

Houston (1-2) at Atlanta (3-0), Atlanta favored by 6 1/2

The Texans got a much needed win against Tampa Bay and Ryan Mallett played well enough that it made me continue to wonder why Bill O'Brien ever named Brian Hoyer the starter. They also are hoping to be able to welcome Arian Foster back to the fold this weekend, which would give their running game a badly needed boost. The Falcons might have discovered the next big thing at running back with Devonta Freeman. Freeman shredded the Cowboys and if he can become a consistent weapon to go with Julio Jones in the passing game the Falcons will be even more dangerous offensively. They still have a ways to go defensively but with how well they are playing offensively and looking at their schedule, 9-0 could be a real possibility for Atlanta.

Prediction: Atlanta 29, Houston 23

Kansas City (1-2) at Cincinnati (3-0), Cincinnati favored by 3 1/2

My AFC West pick desperately needs a win but a week after having to play undefeated Green Bay on the road, now they have to face undefeated Cincinnati on the road. The loss to Green Bay was ugly but one bright spot was that Jeremy Maclin scored a touchdown. That finally put to an end the Chiefs embarrassing string of games without a touchdown by a recover that dated back to 2013. However, their defense, especially their secondary was victimized by Aaron Rodgers. I am not comparing Andy Dalton to Rodgers but with how well Dalton has been playing this season, it could be another tough day at the office for the Chiefs secondary. A.J. Green went off for the Bengals last week against Baltimore and almost was single-handily responsible for the victory. Next week the Bengals host the Seahawks, which could serve as a telling game as far as how serious a contender Cincy is. It is just hard to get excited for their regular season success because it has meant so little the last few seasons. I think Big Red, Andy Reid will coach the Chiefs up this week and they will perform much better than they did Monday, but Cincinnati will remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Kansas City 24

Cleveland (1-2) at San Diego (1-2), San Diego favored by 8

Injuries have hurt the Chargers early in the season and it started to show itself in their blowout loss at Minnesota last week. Now they return to the friendly confines of home and the even friendlier confines of playing the Cleveland Browns. The Chargers passing game has been strong this season but they really need to get Melvin Gordon and the rushing attack going. The Browns don't do anything well, they stink both offensively and defensively. I think this could be the game where Gordon makes his first real imprint on the NFL and the Chargers should roll to victory.

Prediction: San Diego 35, Cleveland 17

St. Louis (1-2) at Arizona (3-0), Arizona favored by 6 1/2

The Cardinals bandwagon is filling up after they destroyed yet another team last week. There is no denying that Arizona has been impressive, but so far the teams they have beaten have a combined record of 1-8. It should be another easy game on Sunday against the sorry Rams. The Rams still can no nothing offensively and continue to waste a strong defense. Todd Gurley made his season debut last week but after not playing football for a year, he has to deal with rust, as well as getting acclimated to the NFL, so the Rams can't count on any production from him for at least a few more weeks.

Prediction: Arizona 30, St. Louis 16

Green Bay (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2), Green Bay favored by 8 1/2

Colin Kaepernick's streak of owning Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will likely end in a big way on Sunday. It appears the 49ers are as bad as everyone thought they were. They can't cover anyone, can't stop the run, can't pass the ball, can't run the ball, the list goes on and on. Kaepernick was completely atrocious against the Cardinals, but hey, he says he get's to be himself now, so I guess that's cool. The Packers are looking like the best team in football. Their defense is still mediocre and a weird mix between getting pressure and causing turnovers but still allowing a lot of points. But it doesn't really matter because Aaron Rodgers is so damn good. I mean, he's turning James Jones into a Pro Bowler after the guy was cut by two teams this off-season. Eddie Lacy still hasn't really gotten on track, so if he can get some traction, look out NFL. I want to believe that the Niners will at least not embarrass themselves at home, but the fact is Green Bay is an excellent football team and the Niners are a very bad football team. I expect another ugly, long afternoon of watching them get dominated.

Prediction: Green Bay 42, San Francisco 21

Minnesota (2-1) at Denver (3-0), Denver favored by 7

The Broncos may be hitting their stride and it is all because of what appears to be a compromise between Peyton Manning and coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak prefers his quarterback operate behind the center, while Manning prefers working out of the shotgun. The Broncos offensive line is a bit of a mess at the moment and in the first two games, while Manning was trying to do things Kubiak's way, he was struggling. So Kubiak put Manning in the Pistol against Detroit and Manning had his best game of the season. If the Denver offense can continue to improve the Broncos could be the best team in football because of how strong they are defensively. I think we will know a lot more about Minnesota after this game. Adrian Peterson has been carrying the offense the last two weeks and the play of Teddy Bridgewater is slightly concerning. He hasn't been making the leap I expected to see from him in year two. The Vikings last road game was a disaster, so it will be interesting to see if they can put some of their improved effort from the last two weeks into this game.

Prediction: Denver 23, Minnesota 17

Dallas (2-1) at New Orleans (0-3), Pick Em'

Brandon Weeden versus Luke McCown, on Sunday night! That is a possibility, and I am sure not what the NBC execs had in mind for this Sunday night game. Drew Brees is battling to try to play this week and if he does it would give the game some much needed star power. The Cowboys came flying out of the gates last week in their first game without Tony Romo, as Joseph Randle was running all over Atlanta. But as well as Dallas played in the first half of that game was as bad as they played in the second half, and they eventually lost. Their defense just doesn't appear to be good enough to make up for the pieces Dallas is missing on offense. The Saints have a lot of issues of their own and seem to suck no matter who is quarterbacking. McCown actually played pretty well against Carolina but the Saints defense couldn't get a stop late in the game when they needed it. No matter who is quarterbacking for New Orleans, I expect them to put up points and at some point in time the Saints have to win a game at home again.

Prediction: New Orleans 30, Dallas 24

Monday, October 5

Detroit (0-3) at Seattle (1-2), Seattle favored by 9

The NFL schedule makers should have known better than to give the Lions multiple prime time slots. I guess they felt good about Detroit sustaining their success off of last year's 11-5 season, but after Monday night the Lions will be one loss away from matching their loss total of last season. The decline of their offense that we have been watching the past few years has gotten worse. Matthew Stafford seems to have plateaued and Calvin Johnson hasn't looked like Megatron in a while, as injuries have seemed to have slowed him. Seattle essentially had a bye last week playing the hapless Bears. This week's game won't be as easy but the Lions have showed nothing this year to convince me they have a prayer of going out to Seattle and earning a victory. Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham appeared to be finally getting on the same page last week, which is especially important since Marshawn Lynch is hurting right now and may not play Monday night.

Prediction: Seattle 27, Detroit 13

Last Week Straight Up: 13-3
Overall Straight Up: 31-17

Last Week Against the Spread: 10-6
Overall Against the Spread: 27-20-1

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