With a 72-31 overall record in my office pool (20-8 in the two weeks I have made picks on Associated Content), I’m feeling very confident about this week games as we approach the halfway mark of the season. I think one thing all NFL fans can agree upon is any given Sunday, any team can win. Did you have Buffalo beating the Panthers in Carolina? I think not. I’m still shocked the Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles, a team many experts are picking as an NFC favorite to be in the Super Bowl. Another thing that has caught my eye is every week no matter what the stats say, there’s always 1 or 2 games that never go as planned, take note of this as the season goes along. Let’s dive into this week’s match ups and predictions.
Denver @ Baltimore– The Broncos has been this season’s surprise team. Coach McDaniel’s has his team playing great football in all three facets of the game; offense, defense and special teams. They are physical and they play with controlled nastiness at the line of scrimmage. The most impressive thing about Denver is they always find a different way to beat its opponents from week to week. Kyle Orton is a great game manager and doesn’t turn the ball over (one interception in 194 pass attempts). Joe Flacco has been playing the quarterback position at a pro bowl level this year. This Ravens are too talented of a team to lose four in a row. Flacco must spread the ball around to his different receivers and backs because Denver likes to take away a team’s favorite offensive weapon. I expect this to be a very physical football game. Both teams must stay out of 3rd and long in order to keep the chains moving.
I like Baltimore in a close game.
Houston @ Buffalo- Fans have been telling me all season that the Texans are a playoff team. I was not seeing it. After a convincing win over the Cincinnati Bengals 28-17 in Cincy two weeks ago, I am convinced this team is for real. If the Texans are going to be a playoff team, then this is a must win game against an inferior Buffalo team that has been decimated by the injury bug most of the season.
I like the Texans by two touchdowns in this one.
Cleveland @ Chicago– Simply put, the Browns are a bad football team. When your defensive coordinator Rob Ryan comes out in the media and pleads with the Browns fans not to turn their back on the team, you know you’re a dreadful football team. Chicago needs to play better after getting manhandled by the Bengals last week. Let’s see here, bad football team on the road going against a decent team at home that just blown out the week before, yup I smell a blowout here. No analysis needed here. This one could be over by the end of the first quarter.
I like the Bears in this one.
St. Louis @ Detroit– I’m not going to lie, I wanted to pick the Rams in this game all this week, but I could not do it. I believe this is their best chance to get their first win of the season a game against the Lions who may be without rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford and stud receiver Calvin Johnson. Running back Stephen Jackson is the only real threat on offense for the Rams and is their only hope realistically if they want to pull the upset. Detroit has a very bad offensive line. If the Rams can apply pressure to the quarterback who starts for the Lions and force some turnovers, as well as keeping the game close in the 4th quarter, the Rams can pull the upset, with that said…………
I like the Lions in a tight ballgame.
Minnesota @ Green Bay– Oh yeah, it’s the game of the week. If there’s anything such thing as must see football besides the playoffs and the super bowl for the casual fan, it’s this very game. Whether or not Brett Favre will admit it or not, he’s got to be more than looking forward to this game. It’s well documented that Favre was the franchise quarterback leading the Pack to a super bowl in his 5th year as a starter in Green Bay. I’m anxious to see the response of the Green Bay faithful. I think Favre will get a mixed reaction of some boo’s and cheers. With that said, this game is personal. If the Packers lose this game, there will be some loyal Packer fan calling for Ted Thompson’s head. Favre is going to want to stick it to his old team, but Minnesota needs to get back to running the football. Minnesota must stay balanced offensively and not let Favre get too pass happy against his former team. The Packers must give Aaron Rodgers time to throw in the pocket because if he gets time, he’s more than capable of picking apart Minnesota’s 20th ranked pass defense. This game will come down to passion, energy and execution. Look for Green Bay to feed off its 12th man, the electric Lambeau Field crowd and look for the big play early and often with Aaron Rodgers to his talented receivers.
I like the Pack to return the favor 24-21.
Miami @ N.Y. Jets– This should make for an interesting game. Miami is still wondering how they blew a 24-3 lead to the Saints last weekend, but their focus has to be on the Jets this week. Miami has played great football in its own division thus far (2-0 against AFC east opponents, 0-4 against non AFC east opponents) I believe Rex Ryan’s coaching ability will be put to this test this week. Did he learn anything about slowing down Miami’s prolific running attack? He looked dazed and confused as his team struggled mightily against Miami’s wildcat offense in a week 5 loss to the Jets 31-27 on Monday Night Football giving up 142 yards on 32 carries to running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Miami will be without linebacker Channing Crowder, which will definitely hurt them in trying to stop the Jets number one rank run offense. Both teams are mirror images of each other because both teams want to run the football, and stop the run. Both have weak passing games, even though the Jets do have more down the field weapons in Braylon Edwards and Jericho Cotchery and both teams are asking their young quarterbacks to manage the football game.
I like the Dolphins to play their best game of the year and steal one at Giants Stadium.
San Francisco @ Indianapolis– Can the 49ers apply pressure to Peyton Manning and force his into turnovers this week? Highly unlikely, but that’s why they play the game. The 49ers have to find a way to make this game ugly, that’s how they have won this year, running the ball and playing very physical defense. After staring off 3-0, the 49ers are looking to get their mojo back. Arizona is starting to get hot on a streak reeling off 3 wins in a row, and the niners don’t want to lose ground if they want any chance of winning the division. Can Alex Smith be the man to lead the niners back into the playoff hunt? Only time will tell.
I like the Colts in this one.
Seattle @ Dallas– How bout them Cowboys? Yeah, I know it’s only week 8, but Dallas looked fantastic in beating a very talented Falcons team that has playoff aspirations this year. At 4-2, Dallas is in the thick of the NFC east division race. Seattle is an enigma. That’s not good at this point in the season. Which Seattle team will show up? The one that blew out Jacksonville 41-0 or the team that got its tail kicked in a 27-3 defeat last Sunday. Seattle also has some injuries on the offensive line, not a good sign either. A long day is probably in store for Matt Hasselbeck.
I like the Cowboys at home in this one.
Jacksonville @ Tennessee– Neither team really impresses me, but if I’m going to pick a winner, it would be Jacksonville because they are the better team. The Titans can’t pressure the passer and haven’t been competing the last few weeks. I think Coach Fisher has privately given up on his team, wearing a Peyton Manning jersey at a recent charity function. Are you kidding me? Could you imagine Dallas coach Wade Phillips wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey at Andy Reid’s charity function? NO WAY. Jerry Jones would fire him in a heartbeat, but I digress. Now the Titans are starting Vince Young after owner Bud Adams basically demanded this move through the media (never a good move). Good luck Titans, Vince Young is not the long tern answer. To say the Titans are a mess is a understatement.
I like Jacksonville in a rout.
Oakland @ San Diego– You can throw out the stats when these two teams play. The Raiders always seem to play the Chargers extremely tough. Chargers have been the Raiders 12 consecutive times. Just when it appeared the Raiders were making progress after an impressive win over the Philadelphia Eagles two week ago, they got manhandled and turnover prone against the Jets, no surprise there. San Diego can’t take this Raider team lightly if they want to get back into the AFC WEST division race. The Chargers would be wise not to throw toward Nnamdi Asomugha, the shutdown corner of the Raiders. How good is Asomugha? He made the Pro Bowl last season despite catching one interception all year last season.
I like the Chargers in a closer than expected victory.
N.Y. Giants @ Philadelphia- It must great to be a Philadelphia fan, I’m jealous. They get to see their Eagles at home against the G-men and then a little bit later, they get see their team host the Yankees at Citizens Bank Park for game 4 of the World Series. Wow, what a life. First place is on the line in this NFC East match up between the Giants and the Eagles. Eli Manning has won in 4 starts in Philadelphia. The Giants have not been getting pressure on the quarterback lately, resulting in their weak secondary being overexposed. The Eagles have struggled covering tight ends this year. Pssst Kevin Gilbride, you may want to get the ball to tight end Kevin Boss because you know the Eagles are coming with the blitz. It’s very simple what each team must do to win. The Giants must get back to running the ball with Brandon Jacobs to setup play action for Eli Manning. The Giants must get pressure on McNabb or it will be another long day for the G-men. The Eagles must stay balanced offensively and stay out of 3rd and long situations. Something tells me the Giants will be trailing in this game in the 4th quarter and find a way to win this game. Just a gut feeling I have.
I like the Giants in a tight ballgame 20-17.
Carolina @ Arizona- These two teams have gone in opposite directions ever since Arizona’s 33-13 playoff victory in Carolina. Jake Delhomme has not been the same since that game throwing a league-high 13 interceptions this season. It’s not a secret the Panthers want to run the football with its two headed monster attack with De’Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Arizona’s is ranked number one overall in run defense, giving up a league low 67.5 per game.
I like the Cardinals in this one.
Atlanta @ New Orleans– Stop the presses, the Saints are not going 16-0 this year. I never understand why the 3rd string guys make these statements. Reggie Bush needs to worry more about helping his team win ballgames and improve upon his 3.9 yards per rush. New Orleans is the scariest team in the league because they are explosive on offense and opportunistic on defense. Drew Brees does an excellent job of spreading the ball to different receivers, so the defense can never key on one guy. Atlanta is looking for a bounce win after last week thumping by the Cowboys. It’s vital that Atlanta stay out of 3rd and long situations because Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves to bring the blitz on 3rd down. Atlanta has to score touchdowns in the red zone in order to keep pace with the Saints offense.
I like the Saints at home.
In the words of porky pig- That’s all folks!!!!!