This past week was a bit rough. 7-7 is nothing to brag about, so let us not dwell on the past and let us look to the future. Or at least this upcoming week. But before we get to that it has to be said, there was some amazing football this weekend. I hate the Seahawks and the Patriots as a fan, but as an unbiased observer it was a hell of a game. But the game that stole the show was that shootout between the Steelers and the Cowboys. 7 lead changes! 7!!!
I give the NFL and modern football a lot of grief sometimes, but when it is done right it is truly a joy to behold.
Now on with the picks:
New Orleans @ Carolina Panthers
Last week New Orleans lost on a fluke play. The Saints had tied the game in the waining moments with a touchdown and lined up to kick the go-ahead extra point, only to have it blocked and returned for two points by the Broncos. It was a tough loss to take, especially with the Falcons also taking a loss and giving up ground in the NFC South.
But that loss was nothing compared to the Panthers. Carolina was up 17-3. The Chiefs proceeded to score 17 unanswered points and win 20-17, extending their win streak to 5 in a row and tied for 1st in the AFC West. It was a devastating loss, at home, that all but knocked the Panthers out of the playoffs.
This is a must win for both team. The fact of the matter is I trust Drew Brees more than Cam Newton, I think Sean Payton is a better coach than Ron Rivera, and I think the Saints have played better all season than the Panthers. Therefore I like the Saints to win.
Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals
This is a tough game to call. Both teams have had flashes of brilliance and moments of ineptitude and neither one of them look playoff bound.
For me the biggest question mark is the Bengals defense. This is a usually stout group that has allowed opponents to score 210 points against them, while they have only scored 187 themselves. Having Tyler Eiffert back has not had the effect that many predicted and the running game has been as inconsistent as their defense. With a team that stacked with talent, one has to wonder how long Marvin Lewis will retained as coach.
The Bills are a plucky group that has had a tough schedule and were flat out screwed against the Seahawks. Tyrod Taylor has been fantastic, at times single-handedly willing this team down the field. Normally I would say that Taylor’s heart would not be enough, but as previously mentioned, the Bengals area shell of their former selves this season. The Bengals have seemingly reverted back to the Bungles. So I am going with the Bills on this one.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
After losing that heartbreaker to the Cowboys the Steelers will not only be out for blood, but they will also be fighting for their playoff lives. Neither of those elements bodes well for a woeful Cleveland Browns team that is fielding a practice squad every Sunday.
I do not think there is any way that the Steelers lose this game.
Baltimore Ravens @ Dallas Cowboys
The Ravens have a winning record as a by-product of competing in a fairly downtrodden division. Thus far the Ravens have survived on a combination of surprisingly stout defense and passable offense, but all of that comes to a stop when they face the buzz saw that is the Dallas Cowboys.
Ezekiel Elliott is making me look like a prophet. Not only is he the front-runner for rookie of the year (like I predicted), but he is also in the discussion for MVP (which I also predicted) and Dak Prescott has been so good that even Tony Romo has publicly endorsed him as the ongoing starter for America’s Team.
The Cowboys are rolling and it is going to take a much better team than the Ravens to stop them. Cowboys win.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Detroit Lions
How Gus Bradley is still the head coach of this team is a mystery. The Jaguars have to be one of the biggest disappointments of the season. With so much young talent and so little to show for it, one can expect major changes to take place within the organization this offseason.
But until that point they still have Gus Bradley drawing up terrible game plans for a mediocre quarterback in Blake Bortles. This will likely be a close game, because the Lions wouldn’t know what to do with a healthy lead, but like they have all season the Lions will pull off the victory in the end on the back and arm of Matthew Stafford.
Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts
We all have to acknowledge that the Titans are a much better team than we anticipated. The running game is more effective than most people predicted and Marcus Mariota has been tremendous given the lack of quality skill position players he has around him. And with that efficient running game, the defense has been surprisingly good.
The Colts on the other hand are a one-man team. Lets face it, the Colts have spent years neglecting their offensive and defensive lines and it has come to bite them in the butt. This will likely be a close game with the Titans controlling the ball and the tempo and the Colts making enough big plays to keep themselves in it, but in the end the Titans will get the W.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Last week the Bucs looked like they finally turned a corner, but to be fair that was against one of the worst teams in the league in the Bears (more on that later). But beating the Bears is completely different than going to Kansas City and knocking off the Chiefs who are undefeated at home.
The Chiefs have won 5 in a row and have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. The Bucs are just not good enough to beat a team of their caliber. Chiefs extend their streak to 6.
Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings
The NFL has figured out the Vikings. Blitz off the edge, forcing Bradford to move, and block up the interior to prevent a consistent running attack. Bradford has been very good for the Vikings, but they cannot have sustained success with him throwing the ball 35-45 times per game.
The Cardinals have taken a step back from last year, but seem to be hitting their stride going 3-1-1 in their last 5 games. Arizona’s success is predicated on Carsen Palmer minimizing his turnovers and David Johnson running like a bat out of hell. Fortunately for the Cardinals the Vikings’ defense is getting worn out and their offense has sputtered. I like the Cardinals to win and keep pace with the Seahawks.
Chicago Bears @ New York Giants
Jay Cutler has got to go. The game he played against Tampa Bay last week only happens when you do not prepare. The Bears made a monumental mistake when they gave him a 7 year $100+ million contract. Since getting that contract Cutler has gone through 2 general managers, 2 head coaches, and 3 offensive coordinators; thereby solidifying his reputation as a coach-killer.
The Giants’ defense has not been living up to the massive contracts they have been signed to, but they are more than a match for a Bears team that had 3 of their 5 starting offensive linemen injured in last week’s game and facing arguably one of the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.
Giants win and they win big.
Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Rams
Let the Jared Goff era begin, because apparently Jeff Fisher was the last to realize that you cannot win consistently in the NFL with Case Keenum as your starting quarterback. Unfortunately for Goff he is going against a suddenly hot Dolphins team that has won 4 in a row and is playing with a new confidence under rookie head coach Adam Gase.
The Rams defense has been spectacular given the horrendous circumstances they have consistently found themselves in, but even if the offense improves under Goff, I highly doubt it will be enough to keep pace with a surging Dolphins franchise. Dolphins make it 5 in a row.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are 4-0 at home and the Eagles are 1-4 on the road. That kind of says it all doesn’t it? The league has seemingly caught up with Carsen Wentz and Russell Wilson is making a strong case for MVP. The Eagles have obviously set themselves up well for the future and they have built a solid foundation upon which to build, but they do not have the weapons to consistently challenge that Seattle defense and they do not have the ability to contain Russell Wilson. Seahawks remain undefeated at home.
New England Patriots @ San Francisco 49ers
This game should be declared for the Patriots right now. It would considered a mercy killing for the 49ers. I do not know what the spread of this game is, but I would take the 49ers and give the points because this is going to be a slaughter.
Patriots win in a cake walk.
Green Bay Packers @ Washington Redskins
I have said for years that the Packers were completely overrated and that their success has been due completely to the phenomenal play of Aaron Rodgers. Well, even with Rodgers playing well by most normal standards, he is not playing well enough to carry this team of mediocre talent. And to be quite frank, I do not see that changing.
The Redskins have not been stellar, but they have been a very solid team that has been competitive in all of their games and they have the ability to score against any defense and the ability to stop any offense.
I like the Redskins to take this game.
Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders
The Texans are in first place in the AFC South…which is kind of like saying you are the smartest of the 3 Stooges or toughest of the Back Street Boys, etc.; it just really does not mean anything. Without J.J. Watt the Texan run defense has been abysmal and Brock Osweiler has not been worth a penny of that $90+ million contract.
But the Raiders have had no such problems. In fact the Raiders are running like a well-oiled machine with an elite offense and a rapidly improving defense, they have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with. They have a very real chance at making some noise in the playoffs and could even be a contender to the AFC Championship crown.
I like the Raiders in this game because they are superior in pretty much every way.