Friday, October 16, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 6

Sunday, October 18

Washington (2-3) at New York Jets (3-1), New York Jets favored by 6

The Redskins played their hearts out in Atlanta but it wasn't enough as Kirk Cousins threw a pick six in overtime. Receiver Ryan Grant slipped on the play and he took the bullet for the play but the throw was so off from where Grant was going to be, that to me it just looked like Careless Kirk rearing his ugly head. Now to be fair, Cousins did drive the Redskins down the field at the end of regulation to force overtime. No one is denying that Cousins has moments where he looks like a bonafide NFL starter. His problem has been he can't string enough of those moments together without having a major screw up in between them. The Jets are well rested for this game after having their bye week and their best position players, RB Chris Ivory and WR Brandon Marshall should be in line for strong games. The Redskins run defense had no answers for Devonta Freeman last week and Marshall's size will give the Skins corners trouble. Washington might get DeSean Jackson back this week but he would probably be covered by Darrelle Revis and thus be mostly a decoy. I think Cousins is going to struggle against the Jets secondary and try to force the issue, which means more interceptions. The Redskins will do enough to keep it close but once again come up short in the clutch.

Prediction: New York Jets 20, Washington 17

Kansas City (1-4) at Minnesota (2-2), Minnesota favored by 3 1/2

The Chiefs aren't going to win the AFC West I predicted and now without Jamaal Charles for the rest of the season, the question is when will they win another game. Charcandrick West will have to be the second coming in order for the Chiefs to not desperately miss Charles production. The Vikings have struggled in recent years coming off of a bye and while they are just .500 so far this season, their last game was a strong performance at Denver. Adrian Peterson has looked refreshed and as awesome as ever but Teddy Bridgewater hasn't taken the leap this year many expected of him. He seemed to develop a rapport with Mike Wallace last game, and hopefully they can carry that chemistry to this weekend against the Chiefs porous pass defense. How awful the Chiefs defense has been so far this year is one of the more surprising stories in the league. Big Red Andy Reid will have to try to drown his sorrows in a lot of barbecue after this game.

Prediction: Minnesota 28, Kansas City 17

Miami (1-3) at Tennessee (1-3), Tennessee favored by 2 1/2

I asked for the Dolphins to leave Joe Philbin in London and that is essentially what they did, firing Philbin another listless defeat. Interim coach Dan Campbell reminds me of Mike Singletary which isn't really a good thing. However, he seems to love old school football which should mean increased carries for Lamar Miller, which makes my fantasy football side very happy. QB Ryan Tannehill needs to get his play together and also his demeanor, as it is never a good look to berate practice squad guys for taking advantage of your sorry play. The Titans blew a game against Buffalo last week that they should have won. They were playing at home, and the Bills were down a lot of weapons on offense. You have to wonder how patient ownership will remain with Ken Whisenhunt, who is now 4-28 in his last 32 games as a coach. That is astoundingly bad. I think he will be 4-29 after Sunday as the new voice of Campbell will breathe some life into Miami.

Prediction: Miami 24, Tennessee 21

Arizona (4-1) at Pittsburgh (3-2), Arizona favored by 3

After taking a week off the Cardinals defense was back to its swarming, turnover causing selves in a blowout at Detroit. The offense was given good field position all game and Carson Palmer and David Johnson took advantage of it. The Steelers won their game on the last play of the game when they boldly went for a touchdown, instead of settling for a game tying field goal. Ben Roethlibserger is still likely about a week from returning, so Mike Vick is expected to make his third straight start. Vick was awful for three quarters at San Diego before turning things around just in time in the fourth quarter. If he is terrible on Sunday, then the Cardinals defense will eat him alive. He was helped out last week by Le'Veon Bell carrying the rushing load but for Pittsburgh to win this game Vick has to find a way to get Antonio Brown involved in the offense. No one is wishing for Roethlisberger to be back more than Brown, who has had just 8 catches and no touchdowns in his past two games. The Cardinals offense is just filled with weapons, even more so now that Andre Ellington is back and Chris Johnson seems to be undergoing the same career revival that Larry Fitzgerald is having. You can bet Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will be revved up for this game, as he was fired as the Steelers offensive coordinator a few years ago. With no Ben, I don't think the Steelers will be able to knock off the Cardinals.

Prediction: Arizona 34, Pittsburgh 24

Cincinnati (5-0) at Buffalo (3-2), Cincinnati favored by 3 1/2

Quite a stirring comeback from the Bengals, who overcame a 24-7 deficit to knock off the Seahawks in overtime. The Bills got an ugly win at Tennessee but it was a good win considering they were without Sammy Watkins, Karlos Williams, and LeSean McCoy. They may get Watkins and Williams back this week, but McCoy is likely out and now QB Tyrod Taylor is likely to miss the game. If Taylor can't go that would mean the return for at least one week, of E.J. Manuel to the starting position. To beat the Bengals you need to be at your best and be healthy and the Bills are likely to be neither on Sunday. They will need their defense to try to keep them in the game, but I don't think they will be able to do enough offensively to really give the Bengals a scare.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Buffalo 17

Chicago (2-3) at Detroit (0-5), Detroit favored by 3

The Bears pulled out a gutsy win at Kansas City last week, while things might have hit rock bottom in Detroit as Matt Stafford was benched after throwing his third interception. Stafford will be back under center on Sunday as the Lions try to join the 31 other teams in the NFL that have victories. At this point Detroit is simply playing for pride. The Bears probably thought they were only playing for pride after starting the year 0-3 and trading away defensive starters. But since then they got healthy against the AFC West and a third straight win is certainly within reach. They are hopeful that Alshon Jeffrey will return for this game and see his first action since Week 1. It would help the Lions if RB Ameer Abdullah could curb his fumbling problem. At Nebraska, it was often overlooked because he would be running for so many yards, but he isn't doing that in Detroit so far. Calvin Johnson isn't the same player as injuries have caught up with him and so a year after an 11-5 season, things are back to looking bleak for Detroit. But for one Sunday at least, I think they will find some light, as they will knock off the Chicago Bears behind a fired up Stafford and earn their first win of the year.

Prediction: Detroit 24, Chicago 20

Denver (5-0) at Cleveland (2-3), Denver favored by 4

Peyton Manning has 6 TDs and 7 INTs this year and yet the Broncos are 5-0. Two or three years ago, hell, even last season, there is no way this could have ever been the case. But on the backs of a strong defense, Denver keeps winning games in spite of their offense. They can't find a running game and Manning seems like a shell of his former self. The Browns QB Josh McCown is having a throwback to his 2013 season with the Bears. He has been putting up video game like numbers recently and it could be reasonably argued that at this point in the season he is currently a better quarterback than Manning. If Manning is going to have a vintage Manning performance, then the Browns are the perfect team to do it against. The Browns defense is giving up 413 yards per game, and 263.6 yards passing per game. Maybe this is also finally the game where Ronnie Hillman or C.J. Anderson will do something. I was thinking about picking the Browns to pull the upset, but they're the Browns, and while they had a one week reprieve last week of Brownsing a game, order will restore itself on Sunday.

Prediction: Denver 22, Cleveland 20

Houston (1-4) at Jacksonville (1-4), Houston favored by 1

Another solid performance from Jaguars quarterback Bloof Bortles. If the Jaguars would actually win, then I think I would finally come around on Mr. Bortles. The Houston Texans are so sorry that they couldn't beat a Matt Hasselebeck led team at home, and also allowed Andre Johnson to come out of hiding and catch two touchdowns on them. To top it all off, Bill O'Brien once again made a switch at quarterback, going back to Brian Hoyer. Jacksonville has been coming oh so close in recent weeks, and even with Bortles dealing with a shoulder injury, I am confident in his ability to put up another strong game and given Jacksonville their second wind of the season.

Prediction: Jacksonville 35, Houston 31

Carolina (4-0) at Seattle (2-3), Seattle favored by 7

I have been accused of hating on the Panthers, but even I think this line from Vegas is ridiculous. Seattle is a botched call from the refs against the Lions away from being 1-4. It has to be troubling to the Seahawks that their vaunted defense couldn't hold on to a 17 point second half lead. A year or two ago and that type of lead would have meant game over. The Panthers have had two weeks to prepare for this game and Josh Norman is quickly making a name for himself as a premiere cornerback in the NFL. If he keeps this up he might become the new Richard Sherman and teams will avoid going to his side altogether. Panthers LB Luke Kuechly is out of the concussion protocol and should be back for this game. Now, while I do find the line too high, I still have respect for the power of Qwest Field and how hard it is for opponents. This should be a game highlighted by defensive performances more than offensive. It will be interesting to see how Cam Newton and Russell Wilson use their legs to evade pressure in this game and make plays. Whichever quarterback is more successful at that will lead their team to victory. In this case, I think the homefield will be the difference, although I think the Panthers are the better team.

Prediction: Seattle 20, Carolina 17

San Diego (2-3) at Green Bay (5-0), Green Bay favored by 10

After a brutal loss last Monday night the Chargers now have to travel to Lambeau and try to be competitive with the Packers. Aaron Rodgers showed he was human by actually throwing 2 interceptions at home last week against the Rams. The Packers still won comfortably, as their defense forced turnovers themselves. The Packers defense of recent years has seemed to have that bend but don't break philosophy. They will give up yards and points in bunches but create enough turnovers that it doesn't hurt the team. Philip Rivers has thrown three pick sixes this year and I think it is likely he throws another one in this game. Antonio Gates had 2 touchdowns last week in his return, which helps the passing game, but the Chargers still can't get Melvin Gordon or the run game going. Speaking of struggling rushing games, the Packers are waiting on Eddie Lacy to have his first impactful game of the season. The Chargers don't have a good rush defense, so maybe this is the week.

Prediction: Green Bay 38, San Diego 21

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

A couple interesting storylines in this game between bad teams. John Harbaugh coaching against his brother's former team. John said that he doesn't harbor any resentment towards the 49ers on how things ended between them and his brother, but surely he was just being diplomatic. Former Ravens wideout Torrey Smith plays his former team, and based on his lack of production so far this season, its hard to tell that he actually is a part of the 49ers now. The 49ers played their best game since the opener against the Giants last Sunday, but it wasn't enough as they lost in heartbreaking fashion. Colin Kaepernick and the offense at least looked competent again. The Ravens used to be unbeatable at home but then blew a lead to the Browns and it is becoming increasingly clear that the Ravens are not the team they used to be. Joe Flacco hopes to have Steve Smith Sr. back for this game, but even his group of unknown receivers will probably rack up big yards against the 49ers generous pass defense. The 49ers have played just two home games so far this year but in their first home game they actually looked like a good team and in their second one they surprisingly were somewhat competitive with Green Bay. With how the Ravens are floundering, I think this is a good spot for the fart whisperer Jim Tomsula to lead his team to their second win of the season.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Baltimore 21

New England (4-0) at Indianapolis (3-2), New England favored by 8

Based on how the Patriots have dominated the Colts since the Andrew Luck era begin, including in last season's AFC Championship game, you think this would be a possible revenge game for the Colts. But you also would have been living under a rock the past 10 months, which might have been a good thing so you wouldn't have heard about this stupid DeflateGate story. The Patriots will be the ones looking for revenge after the Colts snitched on them and nearly got Tom Brady suspended for a quarter of the season. Their snitching did lead to a fine for the Patriots and a loss of draft picks. Tom Brady even admitted that he has an extra bit of motivation for this game because of the controversy. The Colts managed to win their past two games without Andrew Luck and as expected got healthy playing the AFC South for three straight weeks. However, it is back to real competition and even with Luck expected to return for this game, I expect nothing less than another Patriots blowout win. The Colts have never been able to stop the Patriots run game, so I would expect a gameplan centered around LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Frank Gore has started looking better the past few weeks and he will need to have a strong game for the Colts to have a chance. But even if he does rush pretty well, Luck has looked uneven all season, and the Patriots are not the team for him to get right against.

Prediction: New England 42, Indianapolis 24

Monday, October 19

New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia (2-3), Philadelphia favored by 4

The Eagles offense put 3 quarters of strong football together and routed the Saints last Sunday. DeMarco Murray finally got over 20 carries and scored his first rushing touchdown for Philly and now the Eagles could be tied for first place in the NFC East if they can beat the Giants. Murray could be in line for another big game if Philly commits to him as the Giants run defense is mediocre at best. New York has won three straight after an 0-2 start, mostly because QB Eli Manning is having one of the finest seasons of his career so far. It was pretty amazing watching him lead the winning drive against the Niners without Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. serving as only a decoy. The Eagles are favored in this game but I don't have a good feeling about this one. They haven't been able to sustain any forward momentum this season and Sam Bradford, while playing better recently is still throwing too many interceptions. With how well Eli is playing right now, I think the Giants make it clear after Monday night that they are the team to beat in the NFC Least.

Prediction: New York Giants 26, Philadelphia 21

Last Week Straight Up: 9-5
Overall Straight Up: 50-27

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-7-1
Overall Against the Spread: 37-38-2

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