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2013 NFL Season: Week 2 Predictions

Week 2 of the 2013 NFL season is upon us and there are a handful of tasty match-ups on the menu for this week including the Manning Bowl, the 49ers/Seahawks tilt in prime time, a dog-fight between two 0-1 teams in the Redskins and Packers, as well as some other interesting story-lines to follow in the list of other games.  In Week 1 there were a lot of surprises and I swung for the fences in this column (hence the non-impressive 8-8 record so far).  The second week is always a bit easier to predict because we now have a full week’s worth of game tape to go off of, so there shall be much less speculation this time around.  Now, let us take a closer look at the sixteen games that will take place from Thursday to Monday.

Thursday, September 12th, 8:25 e.t.

New York Jets (1-0) @ New England Patriots (1-0)

Both of these teams are coming off of last second field goal victories and will both have something to prove heading into this game.  The Jets want to prove that they can make some noise with Geno Smith at quarterback and the Pats want to show the world that they are not going to limp through the 2013 season without the usual weapons that Tom Brady has come accustomed to throwing to.  Quick thinking leads me to pick the Patriots, but a few things have me worried here.  First of all, Danny Amendola is likely to be a scratch with his groin injury for this game.  He was targeted 14 times and had 10 receptions vs. Buffalo last Sunday, so his production in the middle of the field will surely be missed.  Also, the Patriots plan on going into this game without one organized team practice for the week.  I know the Jets may not be AFC superstars, but Bill Belichick should consider rallying the troops at least once to go over some of the idiosyncrasies that could plague them in this game.  With this being said, I still expect Tom Brady to play a little bit better than he did against Buffalo.  Look for Julian Edelman to step up and make some big plays in the slot for New England.  This game could be a lot closer than most people may predict, but the edge has to go to the Patriots in their home opener.

New England 27, New York 20

 

Sunday, September 15th, 1:00 e.t.

Minnesota Vikings (0-1) @ Chicago Bears (1-0)

The Bears did enough to edge the Bengals at home last week, and I think that Cincinnati is a better team than Minnesota.  However, do not underestimate the running capabilities of the great Adrian Peterson.  Sure, he gashed the Lions for 78 yards on his first run of the year, but after than he picked up only 15 yards on 17 carries.  The 0.9 yards/carry after his huge touchdown has to leave A.P. with a big chip on his shoulder.  I expect him to have a much better game carrying the football this week that he did against Detroit.  However, this still doesn’t give the Vikings enough fire power to go over here.  Christian Ponder was inconsistent against the Lions, throwing three interceptions to only one touchdown.  Until he can prove that he can play at a higher level on a regular basis, it is going to be tough to select the Vikings on the road against tough opponents.  For that reason, I’ll take the Bears in this one.

Chicago 23, Minnesota 14

 

Cleveland Browns (0-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (0-1)

Brandon Weeden is coming off of another ugly Week 1 performance (remember he threw four picks in the season opener last year, and three last week).  Perhaps he will always put his left foot forward when it comes time to begin a new year.  Anyways, the Ravens did not look much better in the premier game of the season.  Their defense was shredded for 7 touchdowns and over 450 yards.  It is pretty safe to say that the Browns will not put up 49 points against the Ravens as Brandon Weeden and the Browns are not on the same level as Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  Not to mention this game is being played in Baltimore, where the Ravens rarely lose.  Also, for what it’s worth, Joe Flacco is a perfect 10-0 vs. Cleveland in his career.  Look for the Ravens to play much better at home than they did out in Denver last Thursday.

Baltimore 28, Cleveland 14

 

Washington Redskins (0-1) @ Green Bay Packers (0-1)

The Packers are coming off of a close loss to the 49ers while the Redskins were rocked by the Eagles on Monday night.  However, both teams have something to build off of in their Week 1 losses.  The Packers did an excellent job shutting down the San Francisco running game and containing their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in the pocket.  Meanwhile, the ‘Skins were able to mount a little bit of a comeback against the hurry-up attack from Philly.  Washington did a better job stuffing the run in the second half and were able to control the clock after the game went into the third quarter.  Luckily for the Redskins defense the Packers will not be running plays at the relentless tempo that the Eagles were on Monday night.  Unluckily for them they do have to face Aaron Rodgers.  Mike Vick missed a couple of throws when attacking the Washington secondary.  These are throws that the Green Bay quarterback probably will not miss.  I have to take the Packers here simply based on the fact that the Redskin defense looks to be as porous this year as it was last year.  Rodgers had a nice day tearing into a solid 49er defense on the road, just imagine what he could do against a below-average defense at home.  I do expect Robert Griffin III to play better this week, but seeing as how he is still a bit limited, it will be hard to pick his team to win against one of the better teams in the league.

Green Bay 35, Washington 27

 

St. Louis Rams (1-0) @ Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

The Falcons return home to face the Rams this week, looking to avenge a late loss to their division rivals last week.  Matt Ryan threw an uncharacteristic interception late in that one sealing Atlanta’s fate.  This time around he will probably play more cautiously against an underrated St. Louis defense.  It bears mentioning that this is the first time that Steven Jackson will be running against his former team, and he looked impressive in his Falcon debut (carrying the ball eleven times for 77 yards).  I expect him to carry the ball at least ten more times this week as Atlanta looks to suck the life out of the Rams and drain the clock.  Although much better than the New Orleans “D”, I don’t know if I can trust Tim Walton’s unit on the road in Atlanta.  The Falcons are nearly unbeatable there and they will be motivated to win this game so as not to fall too fare behind the pace set by the Saints.  I expect Matt Ryan and Atlanta to roll here backed by a solid performance from their defense.

Atlanta 31, St. Louis 13

 

Miami Dolphins (1-0) @ Indianapolis Colts (1-0)

This is the second time that Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck will meet up in Indianapolis since the two were drafted back in 2012.  The first time the two hooked horns, Luck and the Colts won in a thriller.  Also the young Indy QB threw for a career high 433 yards and did not turn the ball over.  It is possible that the Dolphins have lost a step from last year to this in their passing defense (although their rush “D” looked as strong as ever vs. Cleveland in Week 1).  If push comes to shove, I think Andrew Luck can shred this defense again, but he probably won’t have to this time around.  The Miami running game has me worried; they ran for only 20 total yards in their season opener.  Plus Ryan Tannehill is still too young to carry a team through a season all on his own.  Until I see an improvement in the Dolphin’s ground attack I will have an awfully tough time picking them to win on the road against a quality opponent.  Give me Indianapolis in this one.

Indianapolis 27, Miami 24

 

Carolina Panthers (0-1) @ Buffalo Bills (0-1)

These two teams came close to pulling off shocking Week 1 victories against tough opponents the last time we saw them on the field.  Buffalo was unable to close their game out and were nearly doubled up in terms of time of possession against New England, hence the loss.  For Carolina, they were able to shut down the Seattle rushing game with ease, but they were unable to do enough on offense themselves to down the Seahawks at home.  The Bills will look to run the ball against the Panther front-seven in order to try and take back some of the time they missed out on vs. the Patriots.  The only problem there is that Sean McDermott’s unit will be tough to run against.  Ultimately, I believe this game will come down to quarterback play, and quite frankly I trust Cam Newton a lot more than I do E.J. Manuel at this stage in his career.  This game could be a close one throughout and for that reason I am going to take the Panthers here.  Also, Week 2 seems to be Cam Newton’s calling card.  In his two career Week 2 games, he has passed for 342.5 yards per game and his team has scored 29.5 points per game.  This bodes well for them against a rebuilding Bills team.

Carolina 31, Buffalo 24

 

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

It is very tempting to take the Chiefs here based on the simple fact that Dallas needed to rely on 6 New York turnovers to win their game on Sunday night.  Kansas City is working on being more efficient with the ball and not so generous (after turning it over 37 times a year ago).  It is also bears mentioning that Andy Reid has coached against the Cowboys many times in his career, so he could have an inside edge as it pertains to how to beat them.  Despite this I am going to play it safe and take Dallas here.  To be blunt, the Chiefs will need to do more than steamroll Jacksonville before I can feel safe about taking them over good teams.  While the Cowboys are a very inconsistent squad, I do expect them to play better offensively than they did against the Giants.  This may not mean topping their 36 points that they threw up last week, but it could mean that they form more continuity.  This could lead to a string of solid drives that result in six point scores for them, not just field goals.  Dez Bryant will probably be motivated to outdo his 4-22-0 performance against the Giants, so I expect him to be more of a force this time around.  Additionally, the ‘Boys survived a scare with Tony Romo.  He suffered bruised ribs vs. the Giants so he will be good to go for this game in Kansas City.  Anyways, until the Chiefs prove to me that they can win a game vs. a competitive team I will refrain from picking them in games like this.  I’ll take Dallas in a tight one.

Dallas 24, Kansas City 20

 

San Diego Chargers (0-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)

With the offensive potential that exists in this game, it is fair to predict a shootout.  Both teams are going to be working on a short 6-day week after their Monday night games, so the schedule (in terms of preparation) favors neither team.  Where the Eagles have the advantage is in travel.  They have to head north from Landover Maryland while the Chargers have to fly across the country from San Diego into the eastern time zone.  This is always a tough challenge for a team that makes its home on the west coast.  It is going to be especially tough for the Charger defense since they have to take on a Philadelphia team that is capable of rattling off 50+ plays in one half (as evidenced by their 53 in the first half of their game vs. Washington).  The Texans were able to throw up 449 yards against John Pagano’s unit so it is fair to expect the Eagles to be able to move the ball against them in Week 2.  At the same token, Philip Rivers looked good, throwing for four touchdowns against a good defense.  He could find some receivers running free in a re-tooled defensive unit for Philly.  There should be plenty of offensive fireworks in this game.  I will take the Eagles here because they really left a lot on the table vs. the Redskins.  Also, that trip across the country can be brutal on the Chargers.

Philadelphia 38, San Diego 34

 

Tennessee Titans (1-0) @ Houston Texans (1-0)

Raise your hand if you saw the Titans dominating the Steelers on the road.  If so, raise your other hand if you believe they can do the same to this Houston offense again this week.  Okay, nobody should have to raise two hands because there is almost no chance that Tennessee shuts down the Texans on the road like they did to the Maurkice Pouncey-less Steelers.  The Titans won that game by dominating the line of scrimmage.  They completely shut down the Pittsburgh running game and were able to win on the early downs to force a lot of third and long situations.  That plan probably doesn’t work again this week since the Texans are perennially one of the best teams in the league on first and second down production.  Also, the Titans surrendered only 195 yards last week.  It will be much harder to contain this improved offense this time around.  I really think that Houston has the potential to be a top-5 offense this year.  They tore it up in the preseason and were able to throw up nearly 450 yards in their season opener this year.  Simply put, I expect the Texans offense to move the ball much more easily against the Titans “D”.  Houston should roll here, but do not be surprised if this game ends up being a lot closer than the final score that I am predicting.

Houston 34, Tennessee 16

 

Sunday, September 15th, 4:05 e.t.

Detroit Lions (1-0) @ Arizona Cardinals (0-1)

Honestly, this is the toughest game for me to choose for this week.  There are so many factors that go into this one.  For instance, each team looks much improved over last year; the Cardinals have a much better quarterback while the Lions have a more dynamic threat out of the backfield in Reggie Bush.  Calvin Johnson is a beast at wide-out for the Lions, but Patrick Peterson is a star on the rise who has the potential to stamp out the fire that is Megatron.  Each defense could have played better in Week 1, but both did have their moments (one defensive touchdown for Arizona and a containment of Adrian Peterson by Detroit).  So with two evenly matched teams, it could come down to as much as a coin flip.  But I’m not going to go that far.  I’m going to pick the Lions to win this one.  You can call this my gut-feeling of the week.  Conventional wisdom may tell me to pick an improved Cardinals team, but I just have a feeling about this one.  This should be a very good game either way.

Detroit 17, Arizona 16

 

New Orleans Saints (1-0) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)

It is going to be awfully tough to pick against the Saints after seeing that offense do some serious work against the Falcons.  On the flip side, it is going to be hard to pick the Buccaneers to win this game after they basically handed their first game of the year to the Jets (of all teams).  Therefore, I have no problem picking New Orleans to win this game.  However, I would like to point out that Tampa Bay has a knack for playing the Saints well in at least one game per year.  If Greg Schiano has this unit ready to go come Sunday, this could be one of the more entertaining games of the week.  If not, then it could end up being a blowout (much like the 41-0 stomping they had to endure in New Orleans last year).  Regardless of how it happens, I am going to roll with New Orleans here.  If Geno Smith can win a game against Tampa, then I feel pretty safe counting on Drew Brees to do the same.

New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 18

 

Sunday, September 15th, 4:25 e.t.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) @ Oakland Raiders (0-1)

This game will end up being the demolition derby of the week.  It features two worn down teams that will tear into each other with the loser looking like a wreaked car.  It could be interesting to see how Terrelle Pryor follows up is impressive performance in Indianapolis this week.  A couple of years ago, everybody would be clamoring to see both Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew square off.  However, in the year 2013 many people have forgotten just how good these two backs can be.  Honestly, I expect 100 yard performances out of each of them in this contest since both run defenses are nothing special.  This probably won’t be a 45-41 shootout, but I do anticipate a lot of offense in this game.  Because many field goals will be kicked, I am predicting a low score for this one.  I’m taking the Raiders because Terrelle Pryor serves as a wild card.  He should out-perform Chad Henne on the west coast this time around as Oakland wins their first game of the year.

Oakland 19, Jacksonville 12

 

Denver Broncos (1-0) @ New York Giants (0-1)

In the Manning Bowl, Eli has not fared so well against his big brother.  He is 0-2 and the Giants were outscored in those games 64-35.  This time around, the younger Manning is better and wiser than he was the first two times the two brothers faced off.  This bodes well for the Giants who are coming off of an embarrassing performance against the Cowboys on Sunday night.  Their problems at running back will be instantly helped with the re-signing of Brandon Jacobs this week.  While I don’t expect Jacobs to be a huge part in this offense, I do anticipate that he will be able to help ease the pressure that has been placed on David Wilson’s shoulders.  And speaking of the young back, I have a feeling his impact will be felt in this game with a big play mixed in.  For the Broncos and Peyton Manning, it is going to be awfully tough to top their 49-27 romp of the Ravens on opening night.  Furthermore, I do not see Peyton tossing seven touchdowns against this Giants defense (as beaten up as they are).  In fact, I don’t even see the older Manning throwing more than two touchdowns here; how is that for a bold prediction?  If you liked that bold prediction then you are gonna love this: I see Eli Manning outperforming his bigger brother in New York this week.  Call me crazy, but I see the Giants giving the Broncos a run for their money in this game.  I’m ready to believe anything after seeing the way that the first week of the NFL season shook out.  They say you are supposed to pick one upset per week, so here it is.  I like the Giants to squeak out a win vs. Denver at home this week.  Its about time Eli got the better of his older brother.

New York 23, Denver 20 *UPSET OF THE WEEK*

 

Sunday, September 15th, 8:30 e.t.

San Francisco 49ers (1-0) @ Seattle Seahawks (1-0)

In a week that will feature the two Manning brothers squaring off, this game is considered by many to be the game of the week.  Both teams were able to pick up one-score wins against inter-conference opponents last week, so momentum is behind each team.  Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick had superb weeks throwing the ball, Wilson with 320 yards and one touchdown and Kaepernick with 412 yards and three touchdowns.  Each proved that they could be effective pocket passers, and both defenses did a good job at containing their opponents offenses.  So, going into the week this game looks to be a stale-mate.  But consider this: the 49ers and Seahawks each struggled to run the ball last week.  The team that can get the ground game going first in this contest will probably be the team that wins the game.  For some reason, I like the 49ers to get Frank Gore going.  He will split time with Kendall Hunter who has the ability to rip a long run at any given time with his good burst.  This could also turn into a bit of an areal show as well with two quarterbacks who have the ability to throw darts.  I think the 49ers still have a bad taste in their mouth after they took one on the chin vs. the Seahawks in Seattle last year (42-13).  I look for them to use that loss as motivation in this game and I believe that the Niners find a way to win this game.  Not to mention, their win over the Packers says a lot more about their team than does the Seahawks win over the Panthers.  Sorry about that Carolina fans.

San Francisco 27, Seattle 25

 

Monday, September 16th, 8:40 e.t.

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

I want to take the Steelers in this game, I really do.  I just can’t bring myself to do it given the loss of Maurkice Pouncey.  I may sound like a broken record with this one but his loss absolutely kills Pittsburgh.  They had a tough time running the ball against a Titan defense that struggled to stop running backs last year.  Their offensive line was bullied by the Tennessee front-four last week, and the Bengals have one of the best lines in the league.  Geno Atkins may go bananas in the middle of the line if nobody helps out Kelvin Beachum at center.  The lack of a running game is the last thing the Steelers need given their thin line of receivers to throw to.  While the Bengals did not look good running the ball against Chicago last week, they did make some plays in the passing game.  Those same opportunities should be there this week with an aging Pittsburgh secondary.  The last time these two teams met up, A.J. Green had 10 catches for 116 yards.  His 9-162-2 stat-line from Week 1 vs. Chicago speaks for itself.  This man has the skills that allow him to dominate secondaries.  I really like the way this game looks for the Bengals.  They have a respectable pass defense and a front four that can be dominant.  This goes against a Pittsburgh offensive line that is in shambles and their paper-thin depth at the skill positions.  I don’t expect the Steelers to be blown out by any means, but I am not predicting an offensive exhibition on their part either.  The Bengals should win here in a defensive struggle.

Cincinnati 20, Pittsburgh 13

 

So there you have it, my picks for the Week 2 games.  Remember, I will be back at the conclusion of many of these to break them down or give my thoughts on their outcomes.  Please check back later to see my analysis!

Divisional Round Diagnosis: Breakdown of all 4 Games this Weekend (With Final Score Predictions)

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

This game will probably be a lot closer than many expect.  The Ravens have the momentum of winning the previous week while the Denver Broncos have the momentum of winning their previous eleven games.  It is entirely possible that the BYE week could throw Peyton Manning off a little bit, but that still may not be enough to slow him and the offense down.  If he is able to work the no huddle as he usually does, it could result in tremendous success for them.  If the veteran defense is gassed by the end of the first half (in the thin air of Denver, mind you) then that could set up a huge second half where the Broncos begin to pull away on the scoreboard; much like they did in Week 15.  In order to combat this, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will have to control the time of possession by feeding the ball to Ray Rice.  If he ever needed a huge game to redeem himself, then this would be a perfect opportunity for him after fumbling twice last week.  You also may not see as much of the no huddle given the air conditions.  Plus, Denver’s corners have the ability to shut down receivers on the deep ball, a.k.a. Flacco’s favorite type of pass.  The Ravens will need to stay out of second/third and longs in this game if they want a shot. With all of this being said, it is easier to say the Broncos have the advantage since they don’t have to change their style of play or be wary of particular situations.  The Ravens will keep it close, but Denver should emerge from this one victorious.

Denver 26, Baltimore 20

 

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

For one of these teams, the season will end the same way it began; in this very match-up.  There are a ton of differences in this game the second time around though, most notably the QB change on the San Fran side.  When the Niners beat up on the Pack during Week 1 this year, they did it with Alex Smith at the helm.  Now they have a much more explosive signal-caller and Green Bay has been susceptible to giving up the big play at times this year.  However, in contrast to the first game these two played, the Packers’ defense is building a ton of confidence.  They played well down the stretch and discounting two games against Adrian Peterson, you could consider them on fire.  After seeing what their defense did to another mobile quarterback in Joe Webb last week, it is easy to say that Dom Capers will attack another one in Kaepernick in a similar way.  The Niners will also try to run the ball with a plethora of different backs, all of which have completely different styles.  Despite all of this, the big key in the game will be third down.  Michael Crabtree has turned into one of the biggest third down-receivers in today’s game.  If the Packers can contain him, they will find that they are getting off the field on third down.  Having Charles Woodson back helped the Pack quite a bit last week and it will also serve them well this week.  Look for this game to become a battle of field goals and big defensive plays.  Normally a game like this would favor the 49ers, but on this day it will be the Green Bay Packers who take the cake.  They are clearly the team that has the most momentum and as everybody knows, in the playoffs the team that has the most momentum generally wins.

Green Bay 22, San Francisco 16

 

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

Everybody knows that Matt Ryan has struggled in playoff situations during his first three tries.  Also, the Seahawks come into this game on fire and are playing great defense.  Everything about this game tilts towards a Seattle win.  They probably do win this game, but not because of a Matt Ryan choke-job.  Instead, look for the Atlanta defense to be exploited at home with a strong running game from the road team.  All throughout the year, the Falcons have struggled to stop teams from running the ball against them.  They would fail to make tackles upon first contact and teams with bigger backs were running all over them.  Now, they are tasked with the challenge of stopping Marshawn Lynch in the playoffs… good luck with that.  If beast mode can get his legs churning in a pile of bodies, he will probably find himself picking up a good eight to nine yards per clip.  Obviously Mike Nolan knows this so he will probably pile players in the middle of the field and stack the box to stop the run.  The only problem with that is the Seahawks have a mobile QB who will be more than happy to take the edge if it is given to him.  He is also willing to throw the ball deep down the field if the opportunity presents itself.  The only thing that is going against the ‘Hawks right now is the health of their kicker Steven Hauschka.  They will be playing indoors on field turf, so that could prove to be really helpful.  Of course, it is entirely possible for Matt Ryan to have a monster game at home, but this time around you can’t blame him for the Falcons losing.  If Atlanta falls, it will be because of their defense.  Look for the young rookie to take his team to the NFC Championship game on the road against another solid team.

Seattle 37, Atlanta 32

 

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Houston’s sudden problems in the red-zone are really scary.  In this game, they will need to be throwing 6’s on the board, not 3’s.  If the  same Texan offense from earlier in the season shows up for this game, then it could turn out to be an instant classic.  In the first game these two played this year, Gary Kubiak’s team was down early and they had to get away from the run in order to catch up.  It is key for them to establish Arian Foster early in this one, given his recent success in the playoffs.  The Texans will also have to mix up their coverage schemes quite a bit in order to confuse Tom Brady because the first time around he picked apart their man-coverage.  Houston should consider blitzing a bit more with the hopes of getting Tom off balance and forcing him to make errant throws.  The Texans are win-less this year in games where they fail to create a turnover.  They are also 7-0 in games where they do not give the ball away themselves.  So, holding on to the ball will be a big factor for them if they want to win.  Meanwhile, the Patriots offense has had a full week to prepare for this game.  For that reason alone, they are lethal.  When Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have the #1 or #2 seed in the playoffs, they seemingly always make it to the Super Bowl.  The Pats are one team that you don’t have to worry about with regards to a BYE week throwing them off.  They will be well prepared for this one and should win with the strength of a throaty crowd on their side.

New England 31, Houston 20

WEEK 14 DIAGNOSIS: ALL 16 GAMES (WITH FINAL SCORE PREDICTIONS)

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders

There may not be any team hotter than the Denver Broncos at this point.  They are currently riding the longest winning-streak in the league and are playing well on both sides of the ball.  While John Fox and company seem to have gotten their act together, the Raiders look like they are falling apart.  Although they are not committing as many penalties as past teams have, Oakland is really struggling to keep up with some teams.  They have been unable to get a running game going and are quite a few steps behind on defense (seemingly) every week.  The team has to rely on 32 year old Carson Palmer to shoulder the load week in and out, and he is just not the type of quarterback who can do that.  Fully expect the Broncos to dominate in this one.  Their defense plays some of the best coverage in the entire NFL and they are quite stingy when it comes to the run.  Palmer may not even get his regular “garbage-time” stats in this one if Denver keeps applying pressure with their front four and are holding down base in the secondary.  Oh yeah, and they also have #18 to help them out, in case a solid defensive effort won’t get the job done.

Denver 37, Oakland 12

 

St Louis Rams @ Buffalo Bills

Nobody expected the Rams to play the 49ers like they have this season (going 1-0-1 against them).  Come to think of it, they are still loss-less (if that’s a word) within their division.  However, this game is going to be played on the road outside of the division.  It is actually outside the conference as a matter of a fact.  In those games this year, the Rams are an unimpressive 0-3 and are being outscored 89-34. Jeff Fisher has his team playing at a much higher level than in the previous handful of years, but they are not battle-tested for colder weather in December quite yet.  Also, the Bills played one of their best games last Sunday against Jacksonville.  Granted, it is Jacksonville, but they could have squared off with more than half of the teams in the league and won with their performance.  They were running the ball quite well and have developed quite the one-two punch with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.  The Bills will try and pound the rock for a majority of this game and will grind out a victory over this very hard-nosed St Louis team.

Buffalo 20, St Louis 16

 

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

This game is very exciting because Gus Johnson and Charles Davis will be on the call.  For NFL fans, this will be the first game this dynamic duo will commentate.  With Gus, every big play seems like it can be a play of the year.  His enthusiasm is something that is unprecedented by any other announcer, and how fitting this assignment will be, seeing as how this game could turn out to be a shootout.  Matt Ryan has not been playing his best ball as of late, and narrow wins over inferior teams have been the result.  On the other hand, Cam Newton has been playing very well.  He has not turned the ball over since Week 11 and the offense has looked good in the process.  If he is on his game, expect Carolina to leap out to a pretty big first half lead, say 24-10?  Unfortunately once the second half hits, Matt Ryan will come out and bring his team back, much like he had to do in the Week 4 match-up between these two.  The Panthers’ defense is slowly on the decline.  They will not be able to slow down the Falcons in the second half.  Ryan should throw 3+ scores and lead his team to a nice comeback victory in Charlotte.

Atlanta 34, Carolina 30

 

Dallas Cowboys @ Cincinnati Bengals

Every season the Cowboys seem to find themselves in contention for a playoff spot.  They fight, and fight, and fight, but when December comes they simply fall apart.  Perhaps this will be the year that they can finally turn everything around.  Meanwhile, the Bengals are on the rise again.  Last week’s victory over San Diego propels them to a decent 7-5 record.  Their playoff hopes were dealt a serious blow when the Steelers emerged victorious against Baltimore.  Now that they have Big Ben back, Cincinnati will most likely have to win out in order to make life a little easier on themselves.  With this type of desperation, the Bengals should come out highly motivated in front of their home crowd.  There is no doubt that the Cowboys will want to scale back on the amount of throws they have Tony Romo making, thus they should attempt to get a running game going.  Well, these Cardiac Cats have proven that they are not always easy to run against; therefore the Cowboys’ plan of action will be thwarted.  Romo will probably make a critical mistake late in this game that will ultimately cost their team a big win.  Let the December slump live on as the Bengals take down Dallas in Cincy.

Cincinnati 28, Dallas 22

 

Kansas City Chiefs @ Cleveland Browns

Unless you are a die-hard Chiefs/Browns fan, then most people probably do not care about this game.  However, there are a few storylines that are going on during this game.  For instance, the whole Jovan Belcher situation still looms largely over this team.  They got a big win at home over Carolina last week but are still in shambles over the whole occurrence.  Another win will help quell the sickness that this city is feeling.  The Browns are climbing their way back into relevance with the rookie duo of Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson and a solid defense.  If they want to prove that their stock is indeed moving upward, they will need to win against a 2-10 squad.  Plus, Romeo Crennel will be making his return to Cleveland for the first time as the head coach of another team.  His version of the Brady Quinn train will not be able to get the job done in the dog pound.  Trent Richardson will gash Kansas City’s defense and Brandon Weeden will not have to worry about winning a game with his arm like he did last week.  Cleveland should stand victorious at the end of the day.

Cleveland 17, Kansas City 13

 

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts

It took a late comeback on behalf of the Indianapolis Colts the last time these two teams met.  This time around, no such thing will be needed.  The Titans have been very un-impressive over the last few weeks.  Jake Locker is struggling to keep the ball out of the other team’s hands and Chris Johnson has been a no-show.  Their defense is not playing horribly, but they are not playing very good either.  Just last week they let a guy named Lestar Jean burn them for a 54-yard touchdown…  Absolutely no one ever saw that one coming.  Luck is very aggressive with his down-field throws and should pick up a couple of big plays in a nice win over the Titans.  Just as a side-note, the Colts are easily headed for the playoffs.  If they can’t win this type of a game then they may be in trouble come January.

Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 11 (why not?)

 

New York Jets @ Jacksonville Jaguars

It is difficult to pick the Jets to win two weeks in a row.  They have not done such a thing in exactly one year.  Their offense played horribly last week.  Luckily for them they were playing the only other offense that may be worse in the Arizona Cardinals.  If there is any other team that may be able to compete with the Jets in terms of playing some ugly football this year, it may be the Jaguars.  They have looked pitiful at times this season and have been unable to move the ball on offense; until Chad Henne took over.  Last week was not pretty for him, but they were playing in Buffalo against a desperate Bills team (in a driving rain storm.  He could have a bounce-back game against the Jets here.  It probably doesn’t matter who Gang Green starts at quarterback, they are probably going to look bad.  Despite all of this, they will somehow win this game.  There may be no reasonable explanation as to why, other than the fact that something funky is bound to happen.  Maybe if Tim Tebow gets some more playing time (provided that he is healthy), the Jets can win; that may be the best bet at a “reason”.  Anyways, New York should find a way to win back to back games for the first time this year.

New York 13, Jacksonville 10

 

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings

The Bears have to be a little rattled after allowing the Seahawks to drive right down the field in overtime against them, costing them their ninth victory.  Now they have fallen back into a deadlock with Green Bay who found a little bit of a running game against these Vikings.  For Chicago, a loss here would all but spoil any odds they had at winning the NFC North (unless they can edge Green Bay themselves next week).  Nevertheless, they will want to keep pace with the Pack by winning this game.  It is harder to outduel the Vikings in Minnesota though.  If they can jump out to a lead, the dome should be rocking and it will quickly become a hard place to play.  If the Vikings do gain a lead, it is very unlikely that they will lose it.  Their pass-rush should give the Bears a massive migraine and Jay Cutler may be begging for mercy if his o-line does not hold up.  Adrian Peterson will help shut the door with another stellar performance.  Yes, this pick is based on the idea that the Vikings will be able to gain a lead and hold it throughout.  It will not be an upset by any means, but it will be a shot to the gut of Chicago.

Minnesota 22, Chicago 17

 

San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers

As mentioned before, the Steelers will get Ben Roethlisberger back for this game.  His return could not have come at a better time for a team that is slowly gaining a head of steam with their surprising win over Baltimore.  The Chargers seem like they are in every game, but they always find some way to flub it up in the end.  There is good news for them though: they will not have to worry about making a big mistake with the game on the line this week.  Why?  Because the Steelers should have this game put away by the end of the second quarter.  Their defense is coming off of another solid performance against the Ravens (in Baltimore).  They should be able to build off of that by dominating the Lightning Bolts here.  Philip Rivers will probably make another couple of turnovers since he will have to be throwing the ball a lot during a comeback effort.  The Steelers lone loss at home this year came when Big Ben was out.  Don’t expect another one to come in Week 14.

Pittsburgh 28, San Diego 6

 

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With Andy Reid naming Nick Foles the full-time starter for the rest of this season, the Eagles have every reason to believe that Michael Vick will not be donning the green and silver in 2013.  Thus, this will be another preview of what is to come for Philly in the near-future.  This team has been running the ball well as of late, and they have been relying on it to keep them in games.  Considering the fact that Foles is still a rookie, this is a pretty good idea.  However, the Buccaneers are a team that swallows running-backs behind the line of scrimmage with regularity.  The Eagles like to create lanes that lead their rusher to the outside of the field.  This requires some lateral running… which will play right into the hands of Tampa Bay.  Philadelphia should expect little to no success running the ball (even if LeSean McCoy is good to go for game day).  Andy Reid is not an idiot though; he will probably work with Foles a little bit more this week with the anticipation that he will have to be throwing the ball a lot if the Eagles are to have a shot.  Tampa Bay did not play all that badly last week against Denver, and should find themselves victorious in this game.  All six of their losses have come against good quarterback(ed) teams (both Mannings, Romo, RGIII, Brees, and Matt Ryan).  Nick Foles doesn’t exactly fit this bill.  Philly’s defense is scary too, what with all of their busted coverages.  Josh Freeman loves to get the ball down the field in a hurry as well.  Vincent Jackson should have a monster game as the Bucs get back on the ball down in Tampa.

Tampa Bay 31, Philadelphia 20

 

Baltimore Ravens @ Washington Redskins

Both of these clubs are coming out of games against their division rivals.  One was victorious and the other lost.  Nobody would guess that it was the Redskins who were winners as the Ravens became losers.  This is how the chips have fallen, and this becomes a pretty big game for each team because of it.  The Redskins absolutely need to win this game while the Ravens want to win it.  A Baltimore loss coupled with a Pittsburgh win will make this division even tighter.  Things do not get easier for the Ravens either since they have a dates with the Broncos and the Giants coming up.  A win here will be much desired by John Harbaugh.  Is it out of line to call this an upset pick?  RGIII is playing like a veteran and the Redskins offense is quickly becoming the most exciting to watch in all of football.  Also, the Ravens may be without Terrell Suggs this week with a torn bicep.  The running game offered up by the ‘Skins will be nearly unstoppable in this game.  Add to that the fact that the Ravens are playing on the road and this one becomes even harder for Baltimore to win.  Joe Flacco may struggle yet again away from home.

Washington 35, Baltimore 21

 

Miami Dolphins @ San Francisco 49ers

The Dolphins have to be heart-broken after losing to the Patriots last week.  They probably played one of their best games this season and still lost.  That is about as gut-wrenching as it gets.  While that game was going on, the 49ers found themselves in another tough battle with the Rams.  They would later go on to lose that game as well.  Each team has a solid defense along with the offerings of a good young quarterback.  In this situation though, the Niners should impress the nation once again.  It is incredibly difficult for an east coast team to make the trek across the country into the bay area to take on the 49ers defense.  Miami will probably be a step too slow in a loss against Colin Kaepernick, who should get back on the 8-ball against a so-so Miami pass defense.

San Francisco 23, Miami 3

 

New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants

If the Saints aren’t already out of playoff contention, a loss in this game would make it official.  It is entirely possible that they will come into the Meadowlands very lethargic after losing badly on the road to Atlanta last Thursday night.  If this is indeed the case, then the entire nation will be raving about how the Giants are the “most impressive team in the NFL”.  That is what happened following their impressive win over Green Bay.  Speaking of which, let’s refer back to that game in order to help make this pick.  If a team possesses a great quarterback, it will not matter if they do not have the offensive line to protect them.  The Giants got after Aaron Rodgers in that game and beat him up quite a bit.  Last week the Falcons did a number on Drew Brees after causing him to throw five interceptions and holding him without a touchdown for the first time since 2009.  These horrific stats were because of the constant pressure that Brees had in his face.  This provides solid evidence that when a team cannot protect their quarterback, they will have major issues.  This trend should continue against the G-Men, who will be seeking another win after being blasted by the Redskins.  Drew will throw a touchdown, but it will be the Giants who ultimately win because they will be getting consistent pressure on the Saint’s QB.

New York 28, New Orleans 20

 

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks

Let’s make this one short and sweet: the Seahawks are perfect at home this year.  They have a great defense along with a great young quarterback.  The Cardinals have a horrible offense and do not have a quarterback… There is nothing that points to them winning this game.  They did beat Seattle back in Week 1, but that was during Russell Wilson’s first start in the NFL and the Seahawks were on the road (where they are nowhere near as effective).  This time around, Arizona has no chance.  Sorry Cards fans, this final score will not be pretty.

Seattle 17, Arizona 0

 

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

The Packers own Detroit in Lambeau.  This has been said countless times and will continue to be said until the Lions can beat them in Green Bay.  This is something they have not accomplished for almost a quarter of a century (21 years)!  With the way the Lions are playing right now, it is not very likely that they will win this year either.  To be fair, it is not like Detroit is losing badly.  They are just coughing up games late that they should be able to put away.  Look no further than the past two weeks.  They were winning by double digits against the Texans and the Colts at home and managed to lose both times on the final play of the game.  Talk about heart-breaking.  These days, the Packers don’t seem to be rolling up teams at home anymore.  They have not had an overly dominant performance in the frozen tundra since they spanked the Bears 23-10 back in September.  A big win over the Lions would provide a boost of confidence for them as they gear up for a big division showdown against the Bears next week.  Don’t think that the Lions will have nothing to play for… they would like nothing more than to screw up the Pack’s division champion goals on their own field.  Both teams should be playing with quite a lot of motivation.  Green Bay will make it 22 in a row over Detroit in Lambeau during what could quite possibly be the season’s first snow game (oh the excitement!).

Green Bay 41, Detroit 31

 

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Both of these teams have their eye on a first round BYE for the playoffs (after each come into this game having already clinched a playoff spot).  It is very unlikely that these will be the #1 and #2 seeds in the American Football Conference, therefore, the winner of this game may be guaranteed that spot (while the loser could slip to #3 or #4).  It is not a stretch to say that the winner of this game will pretty much earn themselves the #1 seed.  With their loss to Pittsburgh, the Ravens will probably not be making a first round BYE run, so they will be ruled out for now.  If the Patriots win, they will have tie-breakers over the Broncos (after beating them in Week 5) and these Texans.  However, if the Texans win, the Pats will slip to 9-4 and the Texans will jump to 12-1 (which will guarantee them a first round BYE in the very least).  There is probably no need to get this technical about it; all the viewers should know is that the winner will probably end up earing the #1 seed in the AFC.  On this day, it should be the Patriots.  The weather may end up not cooperating for this game and the Texans have already played in the rain this season and they were not very impressive on offense.  Since that game, the Texans defense has been torched a couple of times through the air.  They were able to settle down last week vs. Tennessee, but Jake Locker and Tom Brady are polar opposites.  Brady should give the Texans’ defense some fits in Gillette on Monday.  Do not be surprised if the Pats run away with this game either.  Unless the Texans’ offense plays perfectly, New England will win at home in December (what else is new?).

New England 34, Houston 24

 

Check back after the conclusion of each of these games for a breakdown/thought or two.

Week 13 Diagnosis: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins- Pre-Game Breakdown and Final Score Prediction

Very quickly, let’s examine the Monday night game between the Redskins and the Giants.  Washington has been playing well lately.  They have won two straight against NFC East opponents and came very close to beating the Giants the first time around.  Now they get a second crack at the defending Super Bowl Champions, this time in their backyard.  New York looked impressive last week against Green Bay after looking very flat versus Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.  Eli Manning keeps pin-balling back and forth between elite and non-elite status.  Their running game is sort of hit or miss these days and the defense is still suspect to giving up big plays.  The Redskins are going to try and run the ball down the Giants’ throat and settle for some hard play-actions.  The key for New York will be containing RGIII in the pocket and getting some pressure on him.  The G-Men should be able to do so and will win this game because of the duress that Robert Griffin will be under for a majority of this game.

New York 27, Washington 16

WEEK 13 DIAGNOSIS: ALL 14 GAMES FROM SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2ND (WITH FINAL SCORE PREDICTIONS)

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills

The Jaguars seem to have gotten a grasp of a passing game, which is something they have not had for years.  The Bills seem to be reverting back to their old form; the one where they could not win a game without a big play from defense or special teams.  Right now their defense is one of the worst in the league overall (at 26th overall), and there is no way they can count on Leodis McKelvin to return a punt every week.  Also, their punt coverage unit needs to choke down on big returns.  If they let another 75 yard punt return to happen again, then they may as well wave the white flag because their offense is not going to shoulder the load.  To this point the Bills’ offense has been taking a lot of heat, and despite what was said above they should still win this game.  Why?  Because their playoff hopes depend on it.  It is do or die for Buffalo, and they will pull one over on the Jags in Buffalo on Sunday.

Buffalo 23, Jacksonville 16

 

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears

There are some games that boil down to defensive battles, and then there are some games that boil down to DEFENSIVE BATTLES.  Okay, that was a little redundant, but hopefully the point gets across.  These teams do not always put a ton of points on the board and their defenses can shut a game out when they are on their game.  Both units are very similar in the sense that they do not need to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback all the time, and they play a lot of basic coverage because they each have the secondary to shut down go-to wide receivers.  This game is hard to pick since the Seahawks thrive at getting pressure on the quarterback with their front four, and the Bears offensive line is a big weakness of the team.  Also, they need this game more if they want to hold on to the #6 seed for the playoffs.  However, Russell Wilson is not the same on the road, and it will show in this game against an elite defense.  Look for him to make one or two costly mistakes that cost his team the game against the most opportunistic defense in the league.

Chicago 22, Seattle 14

 

Indianapolis Colts @ Detroit Lions

Offensive fireworks should fly in this contest that pits two of the top five offensive teams in the league.  The Lions took the Houston Texans to the brink on last Thursday’s game, so that could bode well for them in this game versus a team that does not always play its best ball on the road.  The Lions played almost flawlessly against Houston last week and almost pulled off an upset, so it is easy to say that if they play like that again then they should win this week.  However, the Colts are a pass first team and will not waste a ton of time trying to pound the rock if it is not working.  Also, they are not coming off of a short week after playing nearly five quarters against a division rival.  That said, they did not look overly impressive against the Bills in Indy last week.  Detroit looked like it once did last season.  Even though their playoff hopes are all but dead, expect the Lions to play with pride.  Remember, had Jim Schwartz not thrown the red flag on the 81 yard touchdown last week, the Lions could have won that game.  They should play with a sense of urgency this week and knock off the Colts in a thriller.

Detroit 30, Indianapolis 27

 

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

The Packers should be coming into this game with an “us against the world” mentality after getting shellacked by the Giants last Sunday night.  Their offensive line was just tossed to the side like a plate of broccoli and asparagus at a child’s party.  Aaron Rodgers was even pulled in the fourth quarter since Mike McCarthy was tired of seeing his star QB being slung around.  That’s gotta be the first time in his career that that has happened.  So, the Pack should come out on Sunday with a point to prove.  They will want to reassure their fans that they are a dominant team and they can stand toe-to-toe with major competition in the NFC.  Right now, the only winning team from this conference that they have beaten is the Chicago Bears.  How good are the Packers really?  The nation should find out when they come out and beat up on the Vikings.  Percy Harvin is listed as doubtful for this game, so the Packers will have one less threat to worry about.  As long as their offensive line can hold up and the defense can contain Adrian Peterson, Green Bay should have no trouble here.  This will be a good bounce-back win for them.

Green Bay 34, Minnesota 16

 

Carolina Panthers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Cam Newton looked like a boss last Monday night against the Eagles, but that was against a defense that has numbers comparable to Washington and New Orleans since Todd Bowles has taken over.  It will take more than a couple of busted coverages to prove that Cam is on the right track.  But the numbers do not lie.  When Cam does not turn the ball over, he wins.  In fact, the Panthers almost always win when they win the turnover battle.  With this stat in mind, the outcome of this game practically speaks for itself.  The Chiefs turn the ball over all the time.  If the Panthers cannot win the turnover battle in this game then they will have some major problems.  It is still a very questionable decision, relying on Brady Quinn to quarterback the team.  Maybe the Chiefs should give Donovan McNabb a phone call…  They are going to need a quarterback for next year because without one, this team may not be able to win.

Carolina 19, Kansas City 12

 

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins

This is the most underrated New England team that there has been in the NFL for quite some time.  When most people think of potential AFC Champions, they think of Houston and Denver, perhaps even Baltimore.  The Patriots are getting overlooked it seems, but knowing Bill Bellichick, that would sit just fine with him.  New England has the #1 offense in the league and is #1 in points scored per game.  Ryan Tannehill is not getting into any shootout with Tom Brady, that much is a guarantee.  The Dolphins’ defense should make this game interesting for a little while, but a second half outburst of points has become the norm for the Patriots.  Look for this game to follow the same mold as the Pats rack up yet another impressive win down in Miami.

New England 42, Miami 22

 

Arizona Cardinals @ New York Jets

The last time the Cardinals took the Field against the Jets, it was a disaster.  Brett Favre was quarterbacking for New York and he threw for a career high six touchdown passes in that game.  In that same game Kurt Warner was the head honcho for the Cards.  My how times change.  Nowadays people can find an abundance of mediocre quarterbacks on each sideline with an equally pitiful running game.  Someone has to win this game.  It could be a 2-0 final, or something of that nature.  The Jets have to be embarrassed after surrendering enough points to lose them the game in less than five minutes against the Patriots.  For some reason, it seems like the Jets are out to redeem themselves again…  The Cardinals are still searching for a quarterback who is actually worthy of the name.  Four picks from Ryan Lindley was very Sanchez-esq last week when they lost their seventh straight against the Rams.  The key to this game is going to lie with whoever can get their running game going first.  Believe it or not, this is something that the Jets will actually have an advantage in.  Thus they are getting the nod in this game, but quite frankly nobody will be surprised if they come out and get crushed.

New York 15, Arizona 10

 

San Francisco 49ers @ St Louis Rams

The Niners may be heading into St Louis with a big thank you card.  When these teams met in Week 10, the Rams injured Alex Smith which gave Colin Kaepernick a chance to take over at the quarterback position.  Since then San Fran has looked unstoppable on offense and could be considered as the top team in the NFC.  Remember the first time when the 49ers and Rams played, St Lois was up by two touchdowns when Smith left with a concussion.  Kaepernick was able to lead his team back and put them in a position to try for a win.  Of course, just by looking at their records one would know exactly how that game ended.  Going out on a limb here, it is pretty safe to say that this game will not end in a tie.  Jeff Fisher has his team playing well against others within the division, they are 3-0-1 against their NFC West rivals.  Unfortunately for them the 49ers come into town on fire, and they are given the Herculean task of trying to douse the flames.  That is not gonna happen.  San Francisco should roll here, elevating their record to an impressive 9-2-1 on the season.

San Francisco 34, St Louis 24

 

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans

The Texans need to be careful here.  They have been very lackadaisical in pass coverage during the past two weeks and they nearly lost to two teams that they should have beaten handily.  With this being said, the extended week should do Houston some good.  They played ten tough quarters of football over the course of five days and won both games.  The team had to be exhausted after that brutal stretch.  Now they get to go to Tennessee and take on the NFL’s wild card of the year team in the Titans.  Mike Munchack’s crew is worthy of this moniker because they will be a team that can play surprisingly well one week (check their games vs. Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Miami) and then come out an fall flat on their face during other weeks (like last week against Jacksonville).  This game could spell trouble for Matt Schaub and the Texans.  If they don’t jump out to a lead, the Titans are going to win this game.  Let’s call this one the massive upset of the week.  Jake Locker is going to play the game of his career here and Tennessee is going to shock the world with a thin win over rival Houston.

Tennessee 24, Houston 20

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Denver Broncos

Tampa put up a fight against the 10-1 (now 11-1) Falcons.  They took them right down to the wire with a back and forth 24-23 finish.  This is odd because Matt Ryan only threw only six incompletions on 32 tries (for 353 yards).  This tells one that the Buccaneers could have easily won this game had it not been for shoddy pass defense.  Well, things do not get any better when they travel to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  Denver has only lost at home once this year (against Houston) and are able to get into the hurry-up offense that Manning likes to run even better because of the noise level.  Mike McCoy will get the looks he wants with the Buccaneers’ defense, but most people already know that it is Peyton who calls most of the shots in Mile High nowadays.  The Tampa Bay defense may be gassed after a few possessions if the Broncos are able to move the ball effectively.  Since Willis McGahee is out, Denver probably won’t be trying to run the ball a whole lot to start the game.  Look for them to jump out to an early lead and for the defense to shut the door (courtesy of a big play from Von Miller or Elvis Dumerville).

Denver 37, Tampa Bay 33

 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have gotta be licking their chops for this one.  They will have a chance to sweep the Steelers for a second year in a row and all but guarantee themselves a division crown with a win at home on Sunday.  But Pittsburgh has other plans in a Charlie Batch bowl.  Hopefully this time the Steelers won’t turn the ball over eight times.  If they do, this game will become a laugher fast.  Todd Haley should have a decent game plan that works to Pittsburghs’ strength (without Big Ben)- and that is running the ball.  If the Steelers can establish any kind of running game early, then they might have a chance.  If not, then they will turn into the proverbial speed bump for Baltimore as they go flying into the playoffs with their eye on a first round BYE.  It is going to be tough for Pittsburgh to down the Ravens in Baltimore.  This is something that has not happened in almost two years (12/5/10) and it was against… the Steelers.  The bottom line is that Joe Flacco and company do not lose at home.  The possible return of Troy Palumalu could help a little bit, but it is unlikely that one player will drastically alter the outcome of a game.  This one probably will not need another Ray Rice miracle to settle, but then again stranger things could happen.  Baltimore should improve to 9-3 in this one though.

Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 9

 

Cleveland Browns @ Oakland Raiders

The Browns spanked the Steelers last week winning for only the second time against them in eight years.  This should leave them feeling motivated as they travel west to take on the Raiders, who look like the same old disappointing team that fans have gotten used to over the years.  Injuries have hurt the badly on offense, but much like the Eagles it is their defense that is the downfall of this team, not the other crippled units.  The Raiders spent most of their time getting beat down by the Bengals last Sunday in a 34-10 loss.  Since both teams are 3-8, this game wont mean anything besides building pride.  Right now, the more prideful team has to be the Browns.  They have been looking good lately, and play well enough to keep themselves in games.  Cleveland should be able to win for the fourth time this season in Oakland in what should be a street-fight of a game.  It will be one of those where each quarterbacks put up huge numbers but the scoreboard will read little change.

Cleveland 13, Oakland 6

 

Cincinnati Bengals @ San Diego Chargers

San Diego took a shot in the gut with a loss to Baltimore late in overtime last Sunday.  Now they have to worry about a Bengal squad that seems to have hit its stride after ending their mid-season slump a few weeks ago.  In the past, this game generally provided exciting action and was typically a close affair (as evidenced by scores of 27-24, 49-41, and 34-27).  This game will probably not end up all that close.  The Chargers will most likely come in and look like an uninspired bunch.  It is almost impossible to not be a balloon that just lost all of its air after losing they way they did a week ago.  Their playoff hopes vanished into thin air as well, leaving this game as one to help them finish out the year.  Cincy should pick up its fourth straight win here as they have their eye on some January football vs. a team like New England or Denver.

Cincinnati 24, San Diego 7

 

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

What more is there to say about the Eagles that hasn’t already been said?  They cannot block the opposing defense, their defense can’t make a stop if their lives depended on it, and to make matters worse their offense is playing with only four of its original eleven opening day starters.  Meanwhile, Dallas is looking like it could be heading for another December collapse.  Hopefully for Tony Romo’s sake he is able to pull his team out of the slums and win a divisional game in the twelfth month of the year.  DeMarco Murray is still listed a questionable for this game, and he will be a game-day decision.  As for LeSean McCoy, his status is not quite so promising.  He is listed as doubtful with a concussion.  Bryce Brown was a nice surprise last week for Philly, but his two fumbles are something that have got to be a red flag with this guy.  Any mistakes in this game and Dallas will end up winning.  It is very hard to pick the Eagles to win anything with the way they have been playing lately, but it would be just like the Cowboys to lose a game at home in December to a team within the division that is struggling mightily.  The Eagles should pull the upset here as Bryce Brown has another nice game.  By the way, Tony Romo’s arm just might fall off if he has to throw over 40 passes in this game.

Philadelphia 10, Dallas 9

 

There will be a post breaking down the Giants/Redskins game as well as some thoughts and reactions to all of Sunday’s action in the near future.  Stay tuned!

Week 12 Diagnosis: All 12 Games From Sunday, November 25th (With Final Score Predictions)

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

Without Jay Cutler, the Bears are almost helpless.  They looked rather pedestrian last week against the 49ers and there is no reason to believe that Jason Campbell will play much better this week.  In his defense, there is not much anybody can do when their offensive line is not blocking for them (just ask Michael Vick).  The problem with Jason Campbell is the fact that he holds on to the ball for too long while standing in the pocket.  Mike Tice should design plays where the ball comes out quickly to his big bodied receivers on slants, screens, and hitches.  With the return of Alshon Jeffrey last week and Brandon Marshall still split out wide, the Bears have a fighting chance to do this.  This should be the game-plan even if Jay Cutler is in.  As of right now, Cutler’s status for playing on Sunday is still up in the air.  The same can be said for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin.  His ankle injury held him out of the team’s Week 10 match-up against Detroit and it could sideline him again.  Look for Kyle Rudolph and rookie Jarius Wright to step up again as they did vs. the Lions.  Since each team might be missing a key player, this game will actually be played on even grounds.  In this situation it is easier to pick the team that is better all around.  That is why the Chicago Bears should win this game.  Things are made easier for them since they are playing at home and the Vikings are 1-3 on the road this year.

Chicago 20, Minnesota 16

 

Oakland Raiders @ Cincinnati Bengals

In Carson Palmer’s homecoming, there are a lot of things that point to the Bengals winning this game.  First of all, Andy Dalton is playing very well as of late.  Over the last two weeks he is 39-59 for 429 yards with six TDs and no picks.  That is good for a 129.4 quarterback rating.  AJ Green has scored a touchdown in nine straight games and looks unstoppable at times.  With an Oakland Raider defense that is giving up better than 375 yards per game, this should be easy pickings for Dalton and Green.  Expect the typical Carson Palmer game- one where he throws for a nice pile of yards, but the Raiders still lose by a couple of scores.  Their defense simply isn’t stopping anybody and they play another hot offense this week.  The Bengals should improve to 6-5 with a solid team win on Sunday.

Cincinnati 30, Oakland 13

 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Brown

This game reeks of an upset.  Charlie Batch will be filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich.  Cleveland has been playing well in their games lately and really should have a better record than 2-8.  Why does it seem like the Pittsburgh Steeler’s season resembles that of the Chicago Bears last year?  We have a team that is rolling with a 6-3 record and then suffers an injury to their quarterback and then falls off the table of relevance.  At least Big Ben should be back by the end of this year, and it couldn’t come at a better time.  After this loss to Cleveland, Pittsburgh fans will be praying for Roethlisberger to get better because if not, the Steelers are going to miss the playoffs.

Cleveland 15, Pittsburgh 13

 

Buffalo Bills @ Indianapolis Colts

The Bills are well rested coming off of their narrow victory at home versus a reeling Dolphins team.  Meanwhile, the Colts come limping back to Indy after being taken apart by the New England Patriots in Foxboro.  With these facts in mind, one would side with Buffalo here, but Andrew Luck should have a field day against a porous Bills’ secondary.  This game should be a shootout with the Bills trying to run all over the Colts with C.J. Spiller and Luck putting on an aerial display at home (yet again).  If this game does turn out to be a track meet, it is going to come down to the quarterback position and which one can put up the better numbers.  Andrew Luck at home vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick… anywhere?  Come on, this one should be obvious.

Indianapolis 36, Buffalo 30

 

Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags are coming off of a near-win in Houston last week with a strong performance from Chad Henne.  The Titans were sitting at home watching that game last week since they had a BYE.  Henne was able to do what he did against the Texans because they were not prepared for him to play.  The Titans will be and they even have an entire game’s worth of film from this year to look at, plus footage from previous action in Oakland and at home vs. Indianapolis.  The Jaguars will not have the element of surprise on their side this time around and it will show as Jake Locker puts up one of his better performances against a defense that ranks 31st against the pass.  Jacksonville should also get a steady dose of Chris Johnson, who should go over 100 yards in this game, as he usually does against this team.  Titans should win easily here.

Tennessee 37, Jacksonville 16

 

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs

Will the Kansas City Chiefs be put up enough of a fight to give Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos a scare?  Probably not, but this game is in Arrowhead so maybe they will have a home-field advantage.  Oh yeah, that’s right- the Chiefs are 0-5 at home this season.  So much for an advantage there.  Although Kansas City did provide the NFL world with an upset of the year vs. Green Bay last season, so there will always be a chance.  There really is no such thing as an upset in a division such as the AFC West, but it seems pretty crazy to think that the ice cold Chiefs can cool down the scorching Broncos.  Look for Peyton Manning to hook up with three different receivers for scores (none of which will be Demarius Thomas).  Ronnie Hillman should get a nice little opportunity to spin his wheels with the absence of Willis McGahee.  He should score a touchdown along with 75+ yards rushing.

Denver 33, Kansas City 12

 

Seattle Seahawks @ Miami Dolphins

This game will feature another helping of rookie QB vs. rookie QB.  The Seahawks are 2-0 against the AFC East this season while the Dolphins are 1-1.  Russell Wilson is not the same on the road so that will keep this game interesting.  Eventually it will become hard for the suddenly ineffective Reggie Bush to run against this rock solid Seattle “D” and Tannehill will have to put the ball in the air.  This plays right into the Seahawks strength and without a big-name receiver Seattle’s corners will be able to play a lot of one on one coverage while having Cam Chancellor play close to the line of scrimmage and Earl Thomas hawks over the top.  This cover-1 type look should be enough to give the Miami quarterback fits and force a few errant passes.  Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will be looking for interceptions, as will Thomas.  The Seahawks seem to be the better choice here since their defense will probably do more to confuse Ryan Tannehill than the Dolphins’ defense will to Russell Wilson.

Seattle 24, Miami 14

 

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Falcons are by no means on auto-pilot.  At one point this season it looked like they would sleepwalk into the playoffs with a division crown but since Week 5 the Buccaneers have taken off on the legs of Doug Martin and the right arm of Josh Freeman.  If Atlanta is not careful they could be surrendering a lot of ground to Tampa Bay with a loss on Sunday.  Matt Ryan is not in the dome this weekend and he is notably not as strong outdoors as he is indoors.  Last year the Bucs downed Atlanta on this very field in a hard-nosed 16-13 win.  Do not expect this game to be as low scoring since it features two teams with high-octane offenses which are much different than those presented last season.  While Josh Freeman could put up some dazzling stats, Matt Ryan will have the last laugh with a last minute touchdown in yet another close call for the Falcons.  Right now Atlanta is finding ways to win, no matter how ugly the game may be.  That is very admirable in a National Football League team, and that is why they get the tip of the cap.

Atlanta 33, Tampa Bay 31

 

Baltimore Ravens @ San Diego Chargers

Baltimore could feel like they are playing with a chip on their shoulder after being run out of Qualcomm last season in an ugly 34-14 loss.  They could come out all fired up and ready to return the favor for this season, but they will not.  In fact, there is a good chance that the Chargers will spring another upset again this year.  Phillip Rivers is having another down year and has been in serious need for a go-to wide receiver.  He may have found one in Danario Alexander, who has already put up stats comparable to Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal in half the amount of games.  He also has a nose for the end zone with three touchdowns in four games this year.  He could have a big game against a Ravens’ defense that is a shadow of its old self at this point in the season.  Rivers should be able to compile some decent numbers en route to a shocker over Baltimore in sunny San Diego.

San Diego 26, Baltimore 24

 

St Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals

There is not much to like about the Cardinals anymore (besides their defense).  They could not win a game last week that the Falcons practically handed to them and their quarterback tandem of John Skelton and Ryan Lindley is about as fearsome as Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn or Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.  Yes, it is that bad.  It also doesn’t help that they are facing the Rams this week, a team that ate their offensive line alive in Week 5 to the tune of nine sacks.  St Louis should be able to get the same amount of pressure on whoever the Cardinals have under center in this game.  This will be a low scoring battle, and the Rams generally thrive in these types of games.  Not to mention they have played all of their NFC West rivals tough this season.  On paper the Cardinals have the better defense, but overall the Rams are the better team and that is why they are going to win this game.

St Louis 17, Arizona 9

 

San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints

Without a doubt, this is a very intriguing game to watch.  The Saints are making a huge push for the playoffs as the 49ers bring in a talented group of players headed by a quarterback who will be making his second career start in Collin Kaepernick.  The 49ers defense is as solid of a unit as there is in this league, but if any offense can figure them out it is the Saints’.  Last year in the NFC Divisional game, New Orleans tallied 472 yards of offense against them.  The San Fran defense is looking about the same as it did last year, and it is easy to say that they are not looking strides better than they were about a year ago.  With that being said, there is no reason to believe the Saints will struggle mightily against them, especially at home.  If the 49ers defense does not hold the key to this game, then what does?  Of course it is their offense.  If San Francisco can get to playing the type of game they want to play, then they should win this game.  This game is going to be keep-away.  They will try running the ball frequently in order to keep the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands.  Let’s face it, this New Orleans defense is not stopping anybody and it should be quite easy for the 49ers to impose their will on them.  Time of possession in this game will heavily favor San Francisco, and because of that they will be able to win.

San Francisco 29, New Orleans 25

 

Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants

These two teams have been having completely opposite luck over the past month.  The Packers are 4-0 in the last four games and the Giants are 2-2.  The other story is the fact that Eli Manning has thrown only one touchdown to six interceptions while Aaron Rodgers has thrown 11 touchdowns to only two picks (this is all in these last four games).  Also, since Super-storm Sandy hit the Giants are 0-2 and have looked mediocre on offense.  Eli should be able to turn his fortunes around in a nice game against a middle-of-the-pack (no pun intended) defense.  Rodgers may be frolicking in a field of flowers when he sees this tattered New York Giants’ secondary.  If Andy Dalton can pick them apart, just imagine what #12 can do in the Meadowlands.  The Giants should be able to give the Pack a game, but in the end Green Bay should be able to pull this one out because of their ability to attack through the air.  It is a major strength vs. a major weakness.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this means bad things for the G-Men.

Green Bay 35, New York 28

 

The Pre-Game Breakdown of the Panthers/Eagles game will be coming soon.  Stay tuned!

 

Week 12 Diagnosis and Score Predictions (3 Thanksgiving Games)

Houston Texans @ Detroit Lions

This is a Turkey Day battle between two teams who had very different fortunes last Sunday.  The Texans barely won after they probably didn’t deserve to.  Matt Schaub had a career day tossing five touchdowns and over 500 yards in a narrow win against the hapless Jaguars. While that 43-37 shootout was going on, the Lions lost a game that they probably should have won with Matthew Stafford playing one of his worst games this season.  At this point you can pretty much stick a fork in the Lions; they have been devastated by divisional rivals in two straight weeks which never bodes well for a team in this league.  Detroit has not won on Thanksgiving since 2003 and have been slaughtered by good teams on this day before.  The Texans are coming in on fire after their exciting win, plus this team has not lost on the road since Week 15 of last season (excluding the playoffs).  Houston should be able to pick up the “W” here by running the ball with Foster and setting up the play-action pass, which the Lions struggle against.

Houston 31, Detroit 19

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys

After ripping apart a dopey Eagles’ defense, RGIII takes his show on the road to Jerryworld where his team will be in the national spotlight for the first time this season.  The Cowboys will get to enjoy this home cooking for the second of three straight weeks since they will play host to Philly next week.  A win here could propel the Cowboys to first place in the NFC East, provided the Giants lose to Green Bay later in the week.  If Shanahan’s Redskins pick up the win they will have a good chance at making a run for that same position with a 2-1 record within the division.  Remember, Washington did come withing a hair of beating the Giants earlier this season.  With this being said, it is time to pick a winner.  The ‘Skins are primed for a big win on the road here but the Cowboys should win here for no other reason than this game is still being played in November.  Plus Romo has never lost  on Thanksgiving so “America’s Team” will shine in the presence of an entire nation in a squeaker.

Dallas 21 Washington 19

New England Patriots @ New York Jets

Is there really any mystery as to who should win this game?  The Pats just got through with dropping 59 points on a 6-3 (now 6-4) team and the Jets are a hot mess this season.  After every win the Jets have this season, they have come back and lost the next week (usually in an embarrassment).  Although they played New England tough the first time around this season there is little to no reason why anybody should think the Jets can come out and play the same way.  The fact that they are one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL makes them difficult to predict.  They actually looked like a professional team last week vs. St Louis, but if any team can look great one week and then find a way to get crushed the next it is Gang Green.  The Gronk-less Patriots should win this game because they always find a way to get other people involved (check Julian Edelman from last week).

New England 38, New York 20

Later this week final score predictions and diagnosis of all other 13 games will be posted.  Stay tuned!

Week 11 Diagnosis and Final Score Predictions (All 14 Games)

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills

I’m calling this game the chocolate game.  Why?  Because the teams playing in it are like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get…  Yes we all know how this is going to end.  Miami is a team that can look so good one week, and then come back the next and lay an egg.  The Bills are not excluded from this discussion either; they may be the epitome of a “wait and see” team.  I will use their two games against division rival New England Patriots as an example.  They came out and looked good in Week 4 during the first half and jumped out to a 21-7 lead.  At one moment all of America thought the Bills would pull off the upset for the second consecutive year in Buffalo, then you blink and discover that the Pats threw up 45 points in the second half and turned the game into a blowout, 52-28.  Fast forward to last week where the Bills looked like they had New England on the ropes (until Fitzpatrick threw a costly interception).  Even though they lost this game, they looked like a halfway decent team in the process.  You can never know what Buffalo Bill team will show up from week to week.  As that thriller in Foxboro was going on, the Dolphins were getting pummeled at home by the Titans 37-3.  This was the same team that came out and embarrassed the Jets 30-9 and played a playoff-bound Indianapolis Colt team close the next week.  I am having a lot of trouble trying to decide who will win this game.  Each team can look very good at times and not so great at others.  The game will be played in Buffalo, but I am going to go with the Dolphins in this situation only because I think they will win the turnover battle.  I do not have much faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick to be smart with the ball and I think the Dolphins force a key turnover late to seal a close victory for Joe Philbin and bring the team back up to a .500 record.

Miami 16, Buffalo 13

Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons

Can the Falcons bounce back after suffering their first loss of the season?  Well they are playing the Cardinals at home so this one shouldn’t be hard to figure, right?  Not so fast, the Falcons have played in some nail-biters at home versus teams who were heavy underdogs (i.e. Oakland and Carolina).  In fact, they have not won a home game by more than six points this season.  Arizona is 1-3 on the road, but that one win came in New England.  Defense is the trademark of this team and they do have the kind of strategy that could drive an offense nuts.  They have the #2 ranked pass defense in the league and could possibly shut down the electric passing attack presented by this Falcon team.  Also, they have a MLB in Daryl Washington who gets after the quarterback just as well as any other in the game.  The Atlanta offensive line does not always fare so well against the blitz.  This game has all of the elements of a trap game for the Falcons.  Well here is a 180: I’m picking the Falcons to win despite all of this.  The Cardinals just do not have the same amount of firepower on offense that will match up with Atlanta’s play-makers.  Both #11’s (Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones) should have nice games for their respective teams.  I predict a touchdown from each of them.

Atlanta 27, Arizona 24

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers

For a moment let’s journey back in time and look at what happened when these two teams faced off in Week 1 this season.  The Buccaneers dominated this game with their defense; holding the Panthers to a franchise low 10 rushing yards in a game and picking off Cam Newton twice.  At the time nobody knew how good the Bucs run defense would be and how much Cam Newton would struggle this year.  I expect this game to go the same way (minus a lightning storm at halftime).  The Buccaneers should be able to control this game with their defense and keep the ball away from Carolina by running the ball on offense.  The Panther defense has exceeded expectations in almost every way imaginable this season, and they actually had one of their better games last week.  The Panthers really could be a four or five win team if their offense wasn’t so ineffective.  I place the blame on their run game.  In order to get back to the way they were last year on offense, the Panthers really need to be able to run the ball well.  Things do not look like they will get better this week since Tampa Bay will probably play close to the line of scrimmage trying to cut down on the option plays that Carolina ran so well against them last season.  It will be up to Cam at home to get the win because I don’t know if the Panthers’ defense will be able to bail them out again this week (Josh Freeman and Doug Martin are on fire right now- good luck shutting them both down).  Because the Buccaneers are rolling on all cylinders on offense, I probably should give them the “W” here, but I am not going to.  Cam Newton will break out for the first time this season and have a great game becoming yet another quarterback who can have their way with this sub-par Tampa Bay pass defense.

Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 23

Cleveland Browns @ Dallas Cowboys

After playing one of their best games of the season on the road in Philly, the Dallas Cowboys come home to take on the Cleveland Browns.  Since it is November I have to go with the Cowboys here, but Cleveland might give them a run for their money.  To start, the Browns have not been playing too badly as of late.  In their last four games the team is 2-2.  They played well enough to win in Indianapolis and gave the Ravens a scare in Week 9.  Also, the Browns really have not gotten blown out this season.  Their worst loss was by 14 points on the road against the Super Bowl champs.  Even though their record reads 2-7, Cleveland has been playing better than most people realize.  Their defense has had its fair share of struggles so far this season, but it has played well, especially when Joe Haden has been in the lineup.  When he has been in the Browns have only allowed an average of 17 points per game.  The offense has averaged scoring 15 points per game during that stretch so simple arithmetic will tell you that the Browns have been losing most of their games simply because they have not scored a lot of points.  Scoring points has also been a problem for the Dallas Cowboys this year, averaging 20.9 points per game.  This is odd considering that their offense ranks #9 overall.  So in a game that features two teams that have not scored a ton of points this year it may be easy to figure out what will happen in this game.  I do have a radical idea though: the team that scores the most will win the game.  This will be Dallas in Jerry’s Palace; but I expect a fight from the Browns.

Dallas 22, Cleveland 17

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions

Just when you think the Lions have gotten it figured out and are ready to make a run for a Wild Card spot, they fall on their face in a loss to Minnesota.  The Packers are just the opposite: they are on a hot streak and Aaron Rodgers is playing like himself again despite the plethora of injuries to skill position players.  Although the Pack hasn’t exactly been dominating at home against inferior teams (check Jacksonville and Arizona) they have been winning nevertheless.  They also own the Lions, going 17-3 against them in their last 20 match-ups.  Even though the Lions will be desperate for a win, there is too much to like here about the Packers.  They are coming off of a BYE so they have extra time to prepare.  Plus a win here would be a nice little sendoff to the Medowlands as they will take on the Giants next Sunday night.  Look for Aaron Rodgers to air it out against a Lion team that has to be devastated after a critical loss to Minnesota last Sunday.

Green Bay 34, Detroit 21

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans

I expect the Texans to ride the momentum from their big win in Chicago out through this game.  The Jaguars are a team that is having major problems on offense.  Maurice Jones-Drew is not expected back this week either.  To make matters even worse, they will take this mediocre offense and play the #2 ranked Texans defense.  I seriously doubt that the Jags will be able to gain any success on the road in Houston.  In the NFL this is as close as you are going to get to a sure bet for a team to win.  The Texans should handle Blaine Gabbert’s crew this Sunday.

Houston 34, Jacksonville 10

Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs

This game for me is like picking between the lesser of two evils.  Don’t get me wrong, the Bengals looked impressive when they blew out the Giants last week and I am not knocking them down a peg.  I am simply acknowledging the fact that Arrowhead can be a really tough place to play.  If there was ever a game where the Chiefs were primed for an upset it was last week against Pittsburgh when Ben Roethlisberger left with a shoulder injury.  They did hold their first lead of the season and even when Big Ben was in the game they were playing well.  How on earth they found out a way to lose that game against Byron Leftwich is beyond me.  When a team only has one win this late in the season it seems like nothing can go right.  I simply cannot pick the Chiefs to win right now with the way things have been going.  It is very possible that by the end of the game Matt Cassel will be on the receiving end of more boos than the Bengals are if he fails to have any success.  Also the Bengals may have a little bit of an added incentive now knowing that the Steelers could be without Roethlisberger for an extended amount of time.  This means the race for the Wild Card has gotten a whole lot more interesting.  Look for the Bengals to capitalize here.

Cincinnati 30, Kansas City 9

New York Jets @ St Louis Rams

Believe it or not I did have some trouble picking this game.  Every couple of weeks the Jets do come out and play some watchable football and this seems to be a game where they could get something done.  But let’s face it, the Rams’ punter John Hekker has a better quarterback rating than Mark Sanchez.  Sadly it is actually more than double: 158.3 vs. 70.4.  The Rams were also able to do the unthinkable and that is run the ball on the San Francisco 49ers.  They could have won that game had it not been for an illegal formation penalty eliminating the 80-yard pass hookup with Amendola in overtime.  I think St Louis gives the Jets all they can handle in this contest.  Hey, at least I’m spotting the Jets an offensive touchdown in this game.

St Louis 20, New York 10

Philadelphia Eagles @ St Louis Rams

Let the Nick Foles era begin.  He will indeed get the start this week following a serious concussion to Michael Vick who will more likely than not be heading off to a team like Buffalo next season.  If this is indeed a glimpse into the future then a good performance from this talented young rookie would be much desired for Philadelphia fans.  If you want to speak of talented young rookies, let’s talk about RGIII.  He has been causing headaches for a lot of defenses in the early goings of his career.  The dual threat resembles Michael Vick very much so, only his team’s fan-base actually believes in him.  Another promising young rookie in Alfred Morris looks to run for over 100 yards against the Eagles defense, which has not allowed an individual back to do this since the last time these two teams played back in Week 17 last season (Evan Royster).  I don’t expect the Redskins to run a ton of option plays until they establish a quick passing game.  It will be tough to fool the defensive ends who play in the wide-9, as well as the fact that the Eagles do not blitz a lot so they will be able to read this a little bit better than a more aggressive defense would.  Todd Bowles really turned things around last week when his defense played great against the Cowboys.  The Eagles have not played against a team that has a scrambling quarterback yet this season so this will present a challenge in and of itself.  The Redskins will probably confuse the Eagles with a lot of standing blitzes (much like what the Saints did).  Why wouldn’t you with a rookie QB behind a bad offensive line?  That could create a couple of turnovers.  The Eagles will drop their sixth straight, but finally score over 24 points against the second worst defense in the league.

Washington 34, Philadelphia 27

New Orleans Saints @ Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have given up an average of 47.5 points over their last two games.  Now Drew Brees comes to town, and has to be licking his chops after playing well against the division rival Atlanta Falcons.  If both teams don’t score over 30 points against each other I will be surprised seeing as how two of the top three passers (in terms of yardage) will be playing in this game.  Both teams are in a groove when they have the ball and it is games like these that make me forget that a pass defense even exists.  The winner of this game will be the team that can run the ball the best.  Chris Ivory has been playing very well with the absence of Darren Sproles.  His 56-yard TD run was nothing short of amazing last week.  Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram will also be getting the ball in a system that is as close to the 2008 version of the Giants “earth, fire, and wind” combination as you are going to see nowadays.  If the Saints can establish a ground game against a not so good Raiders’ run defense, then they will be golden.  Without Darren McFadden the Raiders will not be able to run the ball.  They will probably be playing from behind for a majority of the game as well.  The Saints should dominate this game on offense in a track-meet.

New Orleans 45, Oakland 34

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos

The last time these two hooked horns was a moment that will cause Peyton Manning will smile while Philip Rivers cringes about the mere thought of it.  A comedy of errors in the second half lead to a monster Denver comeback (from down 24-0).  This time around it is the Chargers who are looking to redeem themselves with a strong performance in the Mile High air where they have won three straight.  This is a case where if the Chargers can win against a strong division opponent then that could provide a huge boost of confidence for them as they vie for a playoff spot.  Philip Rivers said he was excited about matching up with Manning twice every season.  I wonder what he is thinking now after basically going all in and showing up with nothing but a high card.  A great game from him against a solid defense would spark his team and himself, but the likelihood of that happening is very slim.  Drew Brees struggled to get things going against the Broncos a couple of weeks ago, as did Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1.  The teams that were able to beat Denver have gotten a running game going against them.  If the Broncos can shut down Ryan Mathews and Ronnie Brown (plus whoever else the Chargers try to throw at them) then they will be in good shape for the rest of the game.  Peyton Manning should have another good afternoon against a team that is struggling to close out games this year.  The Broncos do not have that problem; they scored 19 points in the second half last week.  This one could be close early, but the Broncos will pull away late and make it look elementary.

Denver 38, San Diego 24

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The Patriots and Colts were always known for playing in big games.  This year the two will not disappoint; going in with identical 6-3 records in front of a raucous New England crowd.  Of course the same quarterback duel we have all come to know and love is not going to be featured in this late-window contest.  Instead we may witness the birth of a new one between a guy named Andrew Luck and one Tom Brady.  Luck will have to be on the ball this Sunday if he expects to win.  Going into the game with the expectation that you are going to have to score every time you have the ball may not be all that unrealistic.  If there was any year where a rookie quarterback could beat a Tom Brady/Bill Belichick team then this would be it. We have already seen it happen once in Seattle and the Pats sometimes do not look as sharp on the field as they have in years past.  I guess they are not as flashy with the passing statistics as we are used to with the emergence of a very good running game, but there is only so far an offense can go to cover up a bad defense.  Perhaps the acquisition of Aquib Talib will work wonders for a team that has been yearning for a top CB for a few years.  He will probably be handcuffed to Reggie Wayne for a majority of the game, giving other receivers such as TY Hilton or Donnie Avery a chance to catch more balls.  Luck also has the benefit of two great young tight ends in Colby Fleener and Dwayne Allen so there will be no excuses for any poor play on the offense for Indy.  Last year the Colts almost came back from something like 24 down in New England.  I am expecting a close game with back and forth action, just like the good ole days between Manning and Brady.  Much like many of those contests, Brady will come out on top after a late fourth quarter comeback.

New England 32, Indianapolis 29

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

With Roethlisberger out this Sunday, this game would seem as if it would be one-sided.  This is not the case for 2012.  In year’s past this has always been a defensive battle; one where each heavyweight dishes out punishment for a round and then waits in the corner and plans what they are going to do to the opponent next.  Nothing should change here despite the fact that the Baltimore defense is not a fearsome as it once was with the loss of a couple of key players.  Even when they are giving up a lot of yards in a game they are typically holding the opponent to a field goals, which causes the opposing score to be lower.  Pittsburgh’s defense is, once again, at the top of the league (as it has been for so many years).  They have the uncanny ability to take a good offense and shut them down (take a look at all four of their games with NFC East opponents).  There ain’t no way the Ravens will drop 55 on the Steelers.  With this in mind you should know that it will be a close game despite Byron Leftwich filling in.  That said, I am still taking the Ravens in this game to win their  third straight against their hated rivals, and third of their last four at Heinz Field.  While I do believe this will still be a close game it is not mind-boggling to say that Baltimore is the clear favorite to win.  For the Steelers. losing Roethlisberger is like losing vision in one eye; you will still come out swinging, but a few shots might miss and will ultimately cost you the fight.  (It does take a couple of boxing metaphors to describe this heavyweight fight).  The Ravens will stack the box in order to stop the run and force Leftwich to beat their secondary- that’s just not going to happen.  My vote goes to the road dogs here.

Baltimore 24, Pittsburgh 13

Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers

When the Bears stumble into San Fran, we can only hope the lights will stay on for this affair (remember Week 15 last season vs. Pittsburgh?).  I don’t care if we see two backup quarterbacks dueling on Monday Night, the main headline in this game was going to be defense.  The 49ers strength lies in the fact that they do not typically beat themselves with costly turnovers.  On the reverse side of the coin the Bears’ defense counts on their opponents to put the ball on the ground and make mistakes.  Of course the Niners have a great defense in their own right and will absolutely suffocate its opponents at times.  The Bears offense was missing some pizzazz once Cutler left with a concussion last week.  This is partially because Mike Tice dialed back the play-calling quite a bit with Jason Campbell in the game.  If Jay turns out to be a scratch it will be easy for the Bears to improvise.  I am sure they have prepared a game plan for both situations.  The 49ers plan will remain the same with or without Alex Smith on Monday night.  They want to run the football down their opponent’s throat.  The Texans had some moderate success with this last week and ultimately won the game because they could pound the rock.  For that same reason I am going to side with the 49ers at home here.  I think that San Francisco is able to run the ball (like always) and restrict the types of passes made from either Smith or Kaepernick since the Bears thrive with creating turnovers.  The 49ers are not exempt from making mistakes though.  I think Chicago still forces at least one turnover to keep this game close.  In the end it will be San Fran in the four minute offense draining the clock down.  If you missed the Bears and Texans game last Sunday night, this one is bound to be a repeat.  It is going to be a low scoring, hard hitting slug-fest that reminds us old-school football fans of what life was like in the ’80’s.

San Francisco 15, Chicago 9

One quick note here: from this point forward I will be labeling all of the games I actually see live with the title “Post Game Breakdown” and those I do not get a chance to see will be recognized as “Post Game Thoughts”.  I will be doing this hoping to eliminate any confusion in the future.  Thank you for reading and be sure to check back Friday for my Thursday Night Football recap and after Sunday to read my thoughts and analyses on all of the other 13 games from Week 11!

Week 10 Diagnosis and Final Score Predictions (All 14 Games)

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars

When these two teams got together in Week 3 it was the Jaguars who won, but after gushing about how Andrew Luck played last week (and really all year) there is no way I am going to turn my back on him now.  The Colts should be able to handle the Jags on the road this Thursday night.

The Jaguars have been bitten by the injury bug in the worst spot they could have imagined: running back.  After his injury during their week 7 scuffle with the Raiders, Maurice Jones-Drew is yet to take the field again.  It will not happen in this game either; he is already ruled out.  This means another starting role for Rashad Jennings who hasn’t been super impressive up to this point.  He has only been able to run for about 3.1 yards/carry so far this year and has scored just one TD.  The Jaguars do not have the best offensive line, and the team is in a trailing position a lot so they have not had much of a chance to utilize their running game.  I predict that the Jaguars will try to control the clock early in order to try and keep Andrew Luck and the Indy offense on the sidelines.  Jennings may be able to have a nice game, especially if Jacksonville can manage to nab an early lead.

Chances are this will not happen.  I do have a lot of confidence in what Andrew Luck can do when the ball is in his hands.  If he is able to play anything like he did last week then this game could turn out to be laugher.  Unless Blaine Gabbert can shoulder the load on offense, then I fully expect Indy to roll here.  Justin Blackmon has not gotten the chance to blossom yet and outside of him and Marcedes Lewis, the Jaguars wide receiving corps. is a collection of no-namers that a lot of people have not heard of.  The first time the Jags were graced with an 80 yard TD by Cecil Shorts.  I don’t mean to sound cruel but that is the very definition of a fluke win.  The Colts should redeem themselves here and make the jump to 6-3.

Indianapolis 31, Jacksonville 14

Oakland Raiders @ Baltimore Ravens

About a month ago there would have been no hesitation on my part to pick the Ravens in this one.  Baltimore plays well at home and the Raiders are… the Raiders.  A lot has changed in the past month though; the Raiders have played well on the road going 2-1 and the Ravens have not looked like themselves since the injury to Ray Lewis.  This could be because of the fact that they have played two straight road games.  Whatever the case, I do not expect this one to be a cakewalk for Baltimore.  The Raiders will put up a fight, much like they did in Atlanta, but will still lose.

If Ray Rice does not get the ball in his belly at least 20 times in this game then there will be a problem.  After seeing Doug Martin gash the Raiders’ defense last week Cam Cameron should make it a point to feed Ray Rice.  I understand that Joe Flacco plays much better at home than on the road, but come on- this one should be easy pickings.  Rice should chalk up a 100+ yard performance and score a couple of times in an important win for the Ravens.  They need to play with a bit of motivation in this game because Pittsburgh is coming for them in the standings.  A win for the birds this week will bump their record up to 7-2 and they will play the Steelers next week on the road for the division lead (since Mike Tomlin’s crew should stomp a mud-hole in the Chiefs on Monday night to improve to 6-3).  I think the Ravens will pick up the important win here.

Baltimore 34, Oakland 20

Denver Broncos @ Carolina Panthers

John Fox returns to Carolina this week in what should be a pretty interesting game.  The last time Peyton Manning played the Panthers, he guided his team to a 31-7 win which brought his team to 7-0.  This time around he hopes to guide his team to their sixth win of the year vs. a Carolina team that picked up their first win since Week 2 last Sunday vs. Washington.  Can Cam Newton and the Panthers make it two in a row, or will it be Peyton Manning marching out of Charlotte with his head high?

The Broncos found out that it was no easy task to travel into Cincinnati last week, but they did manage to skate by with a 31-23 win.  Had it not been for a Trindon Holliday 105 yard kickoff return, that game could have been a nail-biter.  The Panthers could present a bit of a challenge this week for the Broncos.  While everybody has been asleep on the Carolina defense, they have been able to hold opposing passers to 1,792 yards this year which is good for 13th in the league.  They have only allowed 9 passing touchdowns against them which is tied for sixth in the league.  The Panthers were finally able to get their running game going (be it against a shoddy Redskins defense).  They ran for 128 yards (4.8/carry) and 2 TDs.  Steve Smith finally erased the goose egg that he had in the TD column with a score last week.  Also, they probably should have won the week before in Chicago.  Let’s face it: the Panthers are playing better football so far in the second half of this season.  It was around this time last year when the Panthers were able to begin throwing up a bunch of W’s.  They could be primed to do it again with their remaining schedule.

Even though the Panthers could be on the right track I simply cannot pick them because of what the Broncos have: a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning, and the former Carolina head coach John Fox.  He could have some inside information on what the Panthers will be trying to do in this one.  There is just too much to like about this red-hot Denver team.  Their defense is also shutting their opponents down as of late.  The Broncos should have enough fire-power to win this one.

Denver 38, Carolina 16

New York Giants @ Cincinnati Bengals

After losing an emotional game at home against a tough AFC North opponent, the Giants draw another one in the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Bengals have been known to play the Giants close, as evidenced by final scores of 26-23 (NYG), 23-22 (CIN), and 29-27 (NYG).  Those are just the last three games these two teams have had together, and I have a feeling that this one will not be one-sided either.  Things will be getting really tough for the Giants soon; they have the most difficult schedule to end the year in the entire league.  They need this win to bring the team to 7-3 right before their BYE.

The key in this game is whether or not the Giants’ secondary can hold up.  New York has given up the second most pass plays of over 20 yards this season (45 to New England’s 48).  There is no doubt in my mind that Andy Dalton’s right arm will be on display in this one.  It will be interesting to see how the Giants choose to cover AJ Green.  I expect a lot of double coverage or one on one with safety help over the top.  If they do decide to roll with single coverage they may need an invisible force-field to prevent Dalton from getting the ball into Green’s hands.   Jermaine Gresham did impress last week and could also get quite a few looks this Sunday as Green draws coverage in this game.  I am still waiting for Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis to have his breakout game in a Bengals uniform.  Perhaps this will be the game he does; the Giants did struggle with Issac Redman who is the same type of back.

With all of the match-up problems the Bengals present on offense, the Giants match that with a nightmarish amount of play-makers on their team.  The Bengals defense has struggled with routes that break in between the numbers this season.  All of the Giants’ wide receivers love to run option routes towards that area of the field which could wreak havoc for Cincy on Sunday.  Eli Manning has had time to scan the field this season.  He is the least sacked QB in the NFL, and that is a direct reflection of how the offensive line has performed.  There have been times this year where the line has given him enough time to tie his shoe.  I do not expect it to be that way in this game.  The Bengals have done a good job with pressuring the opposing QBs this season, racking up 23 sacks.

I am expecting this one to be a good game.  Each of these teams have very different styles and methods to getting things done.  The Bengals just got through with seeing one Manning at home and didn’t play too badly.  Now they get the other one this week in a very important game.  The Bengals need a win to keep pace in the AFC and the Giants need to build a little momentum after failing to deliver the “perfect ending” to the Super-storm Sandy tale against Pittsburgh last week.  I wanted to take the Bengals in this one and came very close to doing so, but I will play it safe here and go with the Giants.  Eli may need a fourth quarter comeback in what should be a very high scoring game.

New York 35, Cincinnati 31

Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins

The Titans were beat badly by the Bears at home last week and are looking to right some wrongs against a pretty solid Miami squad.  Is this a get right game for the Titans, or are the Dolphins yet another bad match-up for them?  I think that Miami is the last team that they want to see after losing badly in Tennessee.

The Dolphins are about as fundamentally sound of a team as there is in the AFC.  They make smart plays, the don’t turn the ball over too much, and they swarm to the ball on defense.  I don’t see the Titans winning this game.  They are much too inconsistent for my liking.  Two weeks ago I picked them to beat the Colts.  They were rolling at the time after big wins against the Steelers and the Bills.  Then they came out and dropped two games to lower their record to 3-6.  To me it seems like they are still trying to find their identity on offense.  One week they are airing it out on offense and the next they are running the offense around Chris Johnson and his skill set.  CK2K is inconsistent as well.  One week he is running for 150 yards, the next he will do nothing.  This is the kind of team that will really surprise you every week.  They will either come out and play shockingly well or very bad.  In this game, I think I will stick with a team like the Dolphins.  They generally do what they have to do on the field.  Joe Philbin has them coached up really well.  I was impressed with what I saw from Ryan Tannehill last week.  He can have spot on accuracy.  I do have a gut feeling that Chris Johnson will have a nice game (even though the Dolphins are nearly impossible to run against), but Reggie Bush will do him one better.  This one could be a low scoring affair.  I’m going to go with the “Phins.

Miami 17, Tennessee 10

Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings

We have here two teams that are headed in opposite directions.  The Lions started off 1-3 in the first quarter of the season.  During the second half they went 3-1 with their one loss coming to the Bears.  Meanwhile the Vikings started off 3-1 and have since gone 2-3.  The winner of this game will be in good shape for the remainder of the season, and I predict that the loser will tail off.  I have to go with Detroit here.  They are heating up and looking more like the team that wen 5-0 to start last season.

Luckily for all fans of the NFL, Adrian Peterson did not lose anything with his ACL injury.  It is just as entertaining to see him run this year as it has been any other.  He still has that remarkable vision and the will-power to get first downs to help his team win games.  The offense has run through him and Percy Harvin to this point.  The only problem with that is the fact that Harvin is banged up with an ankle injury.  Injuries to that area of the body tend to linger throughout the year, and we may see a drop off in his production.  Not many teams are able to win games with a solid running game and no other offensive talent.  The Vikes may be in trouble, unless someone else is able to step up.

Detroit has injuries too.  Calvin Johnson has had problems with his knee this season that has limited him in practice.  The difference with the Lions is the fact that if Johnson went down, I would expect someone else to step up at wide receiver.  They have a quarterback in Matthew Stafford who can get the ball down field to anybody who decides they can get open.  I have more trust in a Lion’s offense that has proven that they can play at an elite level at points this season.

Even though this high-powered attack that the Lions bring to the table has been snuffed out at times this season, I think that this time around the Lions will have the edge.  Last season the Vikings (who finished 2-14) played the Lions very tough and could have won both of these divisional games.  I don’t expect Minnesota to lie down in this one, but I do think that Detroit will try to attack the Vikings through the air and bust this game open from the start.  If the game turns out to be a track meet, I don’t think the Vikings will be able to keep up.

Detroit 31, Minnesota 19

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots

The first time these two teams met this season, the Pats put up a record 45 points in the second half and ran wild on a Bills’ defense that didn’t show a whole lot of resistance.  Bill Belichick and his team have had an extra week to mull this one over and I expect them to pick up where they left off in Week 4.

New England 42, Buffalo 23

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints

This was one of the games that I had difficulty trying to break down.  I will give it a shot though.  The 8-0 Falcons are obviously sitting atop the entire NFL with their perfect record and have won all types of games this year against many different types of teams.  The Saints game against the Broncos proved to be a minor hiccup when they went out and laid out the Eagles last Monday night.  New Orleans has played pretty well since Week 4 and since this is a divisional game, anything can happen.  These two teams almost always play entertaining games and I am looking forward to seeing these two teams lay it on the line this Sunday.

Expect the ball to be in the air in this game.  I have a feeling that each team will try to establish a running game early and fail simply because the two defenses may be stacking the box early in order to put the opposing offense in 2nd and 3rd and long situations.  I can expect that both of these teams will be able to climb out of that type of hole, therefore I will have to tip my cap to the team that can sustain their drives the longest in this game.  The Falcons are great at drawing up 10+ play 6 minute+ drives that result in touchdowns.  The Falcons do a good job at finishing what they started.  Last week against Dallas was a little bit different.  They were unable to punch it in until the fourth quarter, but their defense held them afloat for a majority of that game.  The Saints at this point could not count on their defense to help them out if their offense is slowed down.  Take the Denver game for example.  New Orleans did not move the ball very well in that game.  A good team should be able to rely on its defense to stop the opponent, but that was not the case.  Granted, it was against a Peyton Manning led offense but there is no convincing me that this type of thing would not happen again if Drew Brees was off during a given week.  At this point the Falcons are doing whatever it takes to win.  The Saints are doing the only thing they can to win.  My trust in this game lies within Matt Ryan.  Atlanta has shown me something this year; I have picked against them in consecutive weeks and they won both times.  It is time for me to jump back on the bandwagon.  I like what is going on in Atlanta.  This just might be their year.

Atlanta 30, New Orleans 26

San Diego Chargers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I am not a big believer in the Chargers at this point.  They have yet to beat a team that has more than one win (at the time when the two played).  Philip Rivers can still be considered as an upper-echelon quarterback but what he has around him isn’t exactly the A-Team.  I think that he is trying to develop a chemistry with all of his new receivers while still favoring his old targets, which is usually a sign of disaster.  Back in 2009, he was able to stand in the pocket and scan the field for an open target.  Nowadays it almost seems like he is hesitant to deliver the ball to some of his new targets and he is opting to squeeze the ball in to his more “established” receivers. Also, after seeing what Doug Martin has done the past couple of weeks and what Josh Freeman has been doing most of this season, it seems almost criminal for me to pick against the Bucs.  Well, you can lock me up because I am picking the Chargers here.

Rivers may be in a perfect position to get his game right against the suspect Buccaneers pass defense which ranks 32nd in the league.  It may be hard for San Diego to get their running game going but they may not need it in this one.  Tampa Bay will probably jump out to an early lead, but Philip Rivers will take advantage of their defense and throw for a nice pile of yardage in a come-from-behind effort.    I am putting the Bucs on upset alert because their pass defense will not be able to hold back the Chargers aerial attack.  This may give a few San Diego fans feeling very nostalgic as they may get a reminder as to what the offense used to be like when Rivers was in good rhythm with all of his receivers   Just a side note here: I bet Rivers is going to be telling Vincent Jackson just how much he misses his big-play ability at the conclusion of this game.

San Diego 26, Tampa Bay 21

New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks

Russel Wilson leads all rookie QBs with 13 passing TDs, with 9 coming at home vs. only 1 pick.  The Jets have only won once on the road this year, and it was an overtime game that they could have just as easily lost.  We are still waiting to see some more of Tim Tebow, who has not had a huge impact on the season yet.  If the Jets score a TD, maybe Rex Ryan should do what he said he was going to do in August- go for the two point conversion.  That may be the only thing that could spark this offense in a game where points could be at a premium.  The Seahawks are undefeated at home, and I do not expect the Jets to change anything.  The ‘Hawks will soar higher than the Jets in this one.

Seattle 17, New York 8

Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles

Where to begin with this one… well lets start with the fact that the last time that either of these two teams won a game was back in Week 7.  When was the last time that either of these team was to score over 30 points?  We have to turn the calendars back to January 1st when the Eagles totaled 34 points against the Redskins.  Both of these teams have shared similar fates this season- failing to live up to expectations and committing a handful of turnovers.  Both Dallas and Philly are in must-win mode this week because the loser of this game may be looking forward to next year where they may see a new head coach.

The Eagles’ offensive line needs to shape up in a hurry.  If they play another game like they did on Monday night, then they will have to scrape Michael Vick up off the turf with a spatula.  I would be willing to bet that DeMarcus Ware is licking his chops right now because he knows he may have a couple of free shots at Philly’s QB on Sunday.  Rob Ryan will probably have Ware lined up at right defensive end more than usual so that way he can attack Vick from his blindside.  I expect the Cowboys front seven to put a lot of pressure on the Eagles by blitzing early and often in this one.  Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinwig should have a game plan ready for this though.  If he is smart, he will design a lot of quick passes, screens, and draws early in order to slow down the pass rush.  What I don’t understand is why the Eagles don’t have Vick doing some hard play-action passes into big roll outs to his left.  Unless the opposing defense decides to bring a dog blitz, then this should work.  Last week he delivered a 77-yard TD pass to Jackson on this type of a play.  If the offensive line is not holding up, then why not get Vick out on the perimeter where he can make more plays and use his athletic ability to dupe the defense into missing tackles on his scrambles.  If all else fails, give the ball to “Shady” McCoy.  He went bonkers on the Cowboys defense last season.  Plus they already have an airtight pass defense as it is so LeSean should get his fair share of carries if the Eagles want to win.

The Cowboy’s problems do not happen at the line of scrimmage, but rather deep down the field with interceptions, mis-communications, and dropped passes.  Tony Romo currently leads the NFL in interceptions with 13, but much like how I believe Vick cannot be held responsible for all of his turnovers I think that Romo receives the short end of the stick a majority of the time as well.  A couple of his picks happened when he was just trying to make a play, and others have come on those mis-communications with wide receivers.  They Cowboys are a couple of plays away from being 2-0 in the division and 5-3 in the standings.  The defense has done its best to keep the opponent from scoring this year, but there is not much anybody can do when the offense is turning the ball over and giving them a short field.  Turnovers have plagued both of these teams this year.  There is no doubt in my mind that the team that turns the ball over the least will win this game.

I do think the Eagles can work around their problems better than the Cowboys can.  If a team knows their offensive line will not hold together throughout a game, then they can game-plan for that.  Nobody can game-plan for poor execution, and that is what has hurt the Dallas the most all year.  The Eagles should win in a squeaker if they can manage the Cowboy’s pass rush better than they did against New Orleans.

Philadelphia 20, Dallas 17

St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers

If the Rams could not score any more than 7 points against the New England Patriots last week, then they will be hung out to dry this week in the Golden State.  I don’t say this much but the Rams might get pummeled by the Niners if they do not sustain drives.

San Francisco 27, St Louis 6

Houston Texans @ Chicago Bears

This is arguably the most intriguing game on the slate for the weekend.  It is a match-up between two teams with top 10 defenses that sit atop their respective divisions at 7-1.  For a majority of the week it was looking like Charles Tillman was not going to play in this game because he and his wife were expecting their fourth child on Sunday, but the delivery day was pushed back to Monday so he should be good to go.  In games like this with two teams that know how to get after the ball on defense, one must ask: which team is better suited to win in these conditions?  The Bears are playing at home in this one and do have the strength of their fans on their side.  The Texans are undefeated on the road this season and can air it out against a team if they have to, or pound the rock with their explosive young back in Arian Foster.  Because of their adaptability, I am leaning towards Houston in this one.

This one could be one of those in-your-face, bruising games with a lot of hard hitting and trash talking involved.  Punches will certainly be thrown (via Tillman trying to force his eight fumble this year).  JJ Watt will be looking for some more tipped passes and his 11th sack of the season.  The ball will probably be on the ground a lot because of incompletions.  The Bears and Texans really do match up well on paper.  For every star offensive player on one side, there is another to counter.  For instance we have Arian Foster vs. Matt Forte, Andre Johnson vs. Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler vs. Matt Schaub; this one is going to be good.

My key to the game is going to be the Houston pass rush.  If they can put a lot of pressure on Cutler, then I can almost guarantee that the Texans will win.  Case in point, the Packers brought down Cutler eight times in the Bears’ only loss of the season.  Carolina nearly pulled off an amazing upset victory when they threw Cutler around and sacked him six times.  Wade Phillips should consider sending a couple of exotic blitzes at the Bears Sunday night.  I don’t think their offensive line will be able to handle them all that well.  We may see more quarterback knockdowns than points in this one.  I am going to stick with the Texans, but it will not surprise me at all if the Bears win this game.

Houston 23, Chicago 13

Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Steelers are going to win this game.  The Chiefs can’t seem to get out of their own way with turnovers and poor play on the field.  I thought that they may be able to play a little better last week against the Chargers but that did not happen.  This game could be even uglier than last week’s debacle in San Diego.  Matt Cassel will need to play a turnover-free game if the Chiefs have any hope of pulling off the upset in this one.  I will revert back to what I said for the Jets @ Seahawks game: the Steelers are 3-0 at home this season.  I would not believe that they could hand Pittsburgh their first loss at Heinz Field on Monday night.  Then again, the Chiefs did almost pull off an upset against Pittsburgh last year with Tyler Palko at QB and I suppose anything is possible.  Like the old saying goes: “On any given Sunday…” or Monday in this case.  For this one I am going to go with “any given Thursday”, Thursday being draft night next April.  The Chiefs could be giving guys like Matt Barkley or Geno Smith a call in the very near future.   I have to go with the Steelers in this one.

Pittsburgh 28, Kansas City 10

Please check back later this week as I reflect on every single one of these games, right after they happen.  Thank you for reading!