Friday, November 13, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 10

Sunday, November 15

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

Just when it looked like the Saints were building some momentum and might be players in the NFC playoff race, they lose at home to Tennessee. No one has any idea what we will see from the Saints week to week except we know that their Rob Ryan led defense will give up a ton of points and look like dog excrement. As expected the Redskins had no chance in New England, thought it was not the fault of Kirk Cousins. Cousins made some pretty good throws but his receivers, tight ends, running backs, hell even random people on the sidelines all seemed to have a case of butterfingers. If the Redskins want to keep alive their hopes or what some would call a pipe dream alive of winning the NFC East, they have to win this game. The Saints passing defense gives up over 300 yards a game, and their rushing defense over 100, so maybe Alfred Morris or Matt Jones will finally have a good game for all four quarters. The Redskins defense struggles against the run as well so it could be a big day for Mark Ingram. I expect a lot of points and fireworks in this game, and ultimately for the Redskins to pull out the win at home, where they have played well so far this year.

Prediction: Washington 37, New Orleans 33

Miami (3-5) at Philadelphia (4-4), Philadelphia favored by 6 1/2

All those good vibes the Dolphins had after Dan Campbell was named interim coach have disappeared after two blowout road losses within the division. Miami is in must win mode now if they want to keep alive any playoff hopes for what was supposed to be a breakthrough season. The Eagles got a huge win at Dallas last week, and if the Giants fall to the Patriots as expected, the Eagles could be alone in first place in the NFC East with a win in this game. The Eagles defense suffered a blow when rookie LB Jordan Hicks tore his pec against Dallas and was placed on injured reserve. The defense has surprisingly been the consistent part of the Eagles, its the offense that is up and down each quarter. However, recently DeMarco Murray seems to be getting going, so maybe the Eagles are peaking at the right time. Playing the toothless Dolphins should help Philly continue to feel good about themselves.

Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Miami 20

Detroit (1-7) at Green Bay (6-2), Green Bay favored by 11 1/2

The Packers desperately need a get right game after losing back to back road games to Denver and Carolina. The offense finally got going in the second half against Carolina, but it was the defense that was falling apart. Cameras caught Julius Peppers, B.J. Raiji and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix getting into it on the sidelines. The schedule worked out though because the Packers get to host the sorry Lions on Sunday. It will continue to get trotted out each year until the Lions finally break the hex, but here it is again. Detroit has not won at Lambeau Field since 1991, and to put that in perspective that was when my old, tired, 32-year old body was just a young, vibrant 8-years old. Matt Stafford had a week off and maybe he spent some of that time working with new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter since apparently he didn't really like the old coordinator Joe Lombardi. He most likely didn't but I just wanted an excuse to type Jim Bob Cooter, the greatest name in the history of the world. The Packers offense always plays well at home, especially Aaron Rodgers, so after a tough couple of weeks, I expect a much jovial group of Packers on Sunday.

Prediction: Green Bay 42, Detroit 21

Dallas (2-6) at Tampa Bay (3-5), Tampa Bay favored by 1

Time is running out on the Cowboys who are without Tony Romo for they hope the last this week Sunday. If they can pull off this victory then they would still have realistic hopes in the NFC East and Romo back to possibly lead a great revival. Tampa Bay is showing all the signs of a young, growing team. Up and down from week to week, usually competitive, usually not able to close out games. I think this is the one game that the Cowboys will get without Romo. Matt Cassel played well last week, aside from one really bad pick six. I think that game helped his confidence and will lead to more good things from the offense, including Darren McFadden on Sunday.

Prediction: Dallas 26, Tampa Bay 20

Carolina (8-0) at Tennessee (2-6), Carolina favored by 5

Damn, these Panthers are for real, aren't they? Cam Newton had quite the day against Green Bay. He started it by stealing Packers banners, then had Julius Peppers try to stop him from giving a touchdown ball to a child, had an awesome performance against that Packers defense, and closed it out with the Panthers 12th consecutive regular season win. The Titans showed that maybe the perpetual loser Ken Whisenhunt was what was holding them back, as they impressively won at the Superdome. Now, they will be looking for their first home win of the season. This will be a fun quarterback battle between Newton and the increasingly impressive Titans rookie Marcus Mariota. But I am starting to learn my lesson, don't pick against these Panthers, they are the real deal.

Prediction: Carolina 27, Tennessee 17

Chicago (3-5) at St. Louis (4-4), St. Louis favored by 7

The Bears and especially Jay Cutler showed a lot of guts on Monday night, coming from behind on the road to beat the Chargers. The win kept the Bears alive in the playoff conversation and with them playing the Rams this weekend, they could be in the picture even more if they can pull off another upset.  The Rams made news for a dirty hit on Teddy Bridgewater and more news when they signed Wes Welker. Welker barely contributed to Denver last year but the Rams and their anemic passing offense will look to almost anyone to try to produce. People are very concerned that Welker will suffer another concussion but its his and his family's decision, so if he wants to play, I won't be losing any sleep over it. As for this game, these teams are pretty even stat wise but the Rams defense seems to take it another level when they play at home, having not allowed a touchdown at home in their past two games. I expect to see Cutler on his butt a lot and looking very frustrated and in the perfect pose for a cigarette to be photoshopped into a picture of him.

Prediction: St. Louis 23, Chicago 13

Cleveland (2-7) at Pittsburgh (5-4), Pittsburgh favored by 5

Injuries have been killing the Steelers this season and once again Ben Roethlisberger will miss time with an injury. He should not be out as long this time as he was when he first was injured and instead of Mike Vick replacing him, it will be Landry Jones this time. Ben should only miss this game, as the Steelers have a bye next week, before going to Seattle on November 29th. Cleveland is hoping that Josh McCown can return, as Johnny Manziel only does anything well in spurts, including staying sober, hi yoooooooooooo! It is another lost season for the Browns and you have to wonder if another complete overhaul will be in order again after this season.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 17

Jacksonville (2-6) at Baltimore (2-6), Baltimore favored by 5 1/2

The Ravens were doing a lot of talking this week that they believe they can still make the playoffs, just being just 2-6. One positive is that their first half schedule was front loaded with five road games, so five of their last eight will now be at home. Their next four games are certainly winnable so maybe there is something to the confidence the Ravens are projecting. The Jaguars are also 2-6 but are just a game and half back in the AFC South. With the Colts now being without Andrew Luck for 2-6 weeks, you know the perpetually positive Jags coach Gus Bradley will be telling his guys that they still have plenty to play for. Jacksonville has followed a familiar script this season of being competitive but usually not being able to close out games. I think that script will have a sequel this Sunday in Baltimore.

Prediction: Baltimore 34, Jacksonville 27

Minnesota (6-2) at Oakland (4-4), Oakland favored by 3

This will be a fun game between two rising teams. The Vikings are now tied for first in the NFC North and currently winners of four straight games. The Raiders are coming off a heartbreaking loss at Pittsburgh, but appear set for a long time at quarterback with Derek Carr, who has 19 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions this season. Both teams also feature dynamic rookie receivers in the Vikings Stefon Diggs and the Raiders Amari Cooper. Teddy Bridgewater left the win against St. Louis with a concussion but has passed all the necessary tests and will start on Sunday. The Raiders biggest problem this season is their defense, and especially their secondary which gives up a whopping 325 yards passing per game. The problem for Minnesota is that while Bridgewater is improving, he isn't likely to kill anyone through the air right now. But on the other side, the Vikings pass defense is awesome, so it will be intriguing to see how Carr fares against them. I am a Derek Carr believer and I think the Raiders will have the edge in the Black Hole.

Prediction: Oakland 28, Minnesota 23

New England (8-0) at New York Giants (5-4), New England favored by 7

Another chance for the Giants to try to spoil an undefeated Patriots season. New England received some bad news this week as probable Comeback Player of the Year Dion Lewis was lost for the season with an ACL tear. However, much like Lewis emerged out of nowhere, I am sure Bill Belichick will have James White or Brandon Bolden come in and take right over, and the Patriots won't miss a beat. I also expect Belichick to help come up with a defensive scheme that will make Odell Beckham Jr. largely disappear on Sunday. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have to be licking their chops to face a Giants defense that gives up 429 yards per game, with 315 of those coming through the air. This game will turn into a shootout and the Giants and Eli Manning won't be able to keep up.

Prediction: New England 40, New York Giants 27

Kansas City (3-5) at Denver (7-1), Denver favored by 6

The Broncos suffered a disappointing defeat at Indianapolis and also saw Aqib Talib poke someone in the eye, which will cause him to miss this game with a one game suspension. The good news is they are playing Alex Smith who usually only throws it as far as the linebackers. The Chiefs have had a week of rest and two weeks to prepare for this game, which their defense needed as they have been pretty awful this season. That being said, Peyton Manning has been mediocre to bad against just about everyone and there is no reason to expect that to change this week. After an off week last week though, I expect the Broncos defense to up their game back to a high level, and carry Denver to another win.

Prediction: Denver 24, Kansas City 16

Arizona (6-2) at Seattle (4-4), Seattle favored by 3

A lot of teams are intimidated by the Seahawks 12th man but one team that should not be is the Cardinals. Arizona went to Seattle two years ago and knocked off the Seahawks when they weren't on Seattle's level. Now they are the better team but are still underdogs. Seattle's schedule is back loaded with home games and they are confident they will make a second half surge like they did last season. Carson Palmer has had his struggles against Seattle, so it is imperative that he and the offense get off to a quick start and limit the impact the Seattle crowd will have on the game. The Cardinals defense has been opportunistic all season, and Russell Wilson's offensive line has struggled to protect him. I believe that combination will lead to Wilson putting the ball on the ground, and putting the Seahawks defense in a situation where they will have to defend a short field. The Cardinals have been stout against the run so I also think they can limit Marshawn Lynch's impact on this game. I am going with the upset that is not really an upset, as the Cardinals show the world they are a Super Bowl contender.

Prediction: Arizona 22, Seattle 17

Monday, November 16

Houston (3-5) at Cincinnati (8-0), Cincinnati favored by 10

The Texans had to have some good feelings inside after hearing about Luck's injury as it makes them viable players in the AFC South going forward. Brian Hoyer has been quietly outstanding this season, throwing 13 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. The Texans defense has seemed terrible this season, but interestingly enough they are allowing just 2 yards more per game than the Bengals defense is. Despite that stat, Houston is giving up 8 more points per game the Cincinnati, showing that the Bengals will bend, but not often break. Andy Dalton has continued his strong play and is likely giving Bengals fans some hope this this will finally be the postseason that he doesn't bomb out. The Texans have been blown out twice on the road this season but I expect a much more respectable effort from them in this game with two weeks of rest. While the effort will be respectable, it will not be a winning one. Too much pressure will be on Hoyer to do well now that Arian Foster is out for the season. The Texans had no rushing attack when Foster missed time earlier this year, so excuse me for not jumping on the Alfred Blue bandwagon.

Prediction: Cincinnati 35, Houston 24

Last Week Straight Up: 8-5
Overall Straight Up: 87-45

Last Week Against the Spread: 7-6
Overall Against the Spread: 63-65-4 

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