Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Posts Tagged ‘picks’

Week 11 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 22, 2009

My apologies for last week’s incomplete post.  (For the record I blame the awful Internet at the Des Moines Marriott).  I thought I had included the Saints-Rams game but somehow neglected that one.  As such that will count as an incorrect pick.  In any case, more quickie picks here, realizing that I am already off on the wrong foot this week with a wrong pick in the Thursday night game (see my Twitter account).  That loss is included in the overall season total.

Last week: 8-7 Season: 96-47

– Jaguars over Bills: Jacksonville continues to surprisingly have a pulse.  I still think they aren’t a great team but they keep figuring out ways to win.  Buffalo is in shambles, and that means the Jags will win this one at home relatively easy.  Jacksonville is quietly sneaking into the wild card discussion.

– Patriots over Jets: New England is reeling after a blown fourth quarter lead in Indy, not to mention the now infamous 4th & 2 decision.  The Jets are coming off a home loss in a game they probably should have won.  I like New England here for two reasons: their ability to bounce back from adversity and a strong desire to avenge their week two defeat in New York.  Besides, Tom Brady has now long erased any doubts about his health.

– Bengals over Raiders:  Oakland is starting Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback.  That is all you need to know about this game.  Being that Cincy is definitely for real at 7-2, the only question here is margin of victory and what kind of TD celebration we’ll see from Mr. Ochocinco.

– Lions over Browns: If a game was played with no one in the stands, would it make the highlights?  Why anyone would pay any amount of money to watch this bore is beyond me.  It’s too bad there isn’t a rule allowing a tv blackout in both cities.  For picking purposes I go with the home team because I think Cleveland is just a bit worse.

– Colts over Ravens: This is interesting, but we’ve been down this road before.  When these teams square off, the Ravens defense holds Indy in check for roughly a half, and then Peyton Manning carves them up in the second half.  I expect that scenario to play out again, especially now that the Ravens defense isn’t what it used to be. (Last week doesn’t count because it was against the Browns).

– Steelers over Chiefs: Pittsburgh suffered a tough home loss last week, but they’ll have no issues getting well here.  This is another game where the only question is margin of victory.  I’m just wondering if there will be more terrible towels than Chiefs fans in the seats at Arrowhead.

– Chargers over Broncos:  I really want to go with the home team here but I just can’t do it.  Chris Simms is the likely starter here at quarterback, and the Broncos just haven’t been right since the bye week.  The offense isn’t consistent, and the defense is starting to wear down.  San Diego has not lost since the Broncos beat them in mid-October, and they will be highly motivated for this one.  I hope I’m wrong, but I go with the Chargers 24-17.

– Cowboys over Redskins: Dallas is coming off a loss while the Redskins are coming off a surprising win.  I wasn’t sure I would be writing that sentence, but there you go.  I expect the Cowboys to rebound in this one without too much difficulty and bring the Redskins back to reality.

– Giants over Falcons: Both teams are extremely desperate for a win, but at some point the G-men have to rebound.  New York is perhaps more desperate knowing they have to go to Denver on a short week for Thanksgiving, and therefore I will go with the home team here.  I do think the Falcons will keep it close with Michael Turner, but in the end I just think the Giants have to win eventually.

– Packers over 49ers: Green Bay has been somewhat of an enigma, but I think I like them to hold off the Niners at Lambeau.  The Niners may have gotten a win against Chicago last game, but I think that had more to do with Jay Cutler than anyone on their own team.  Aaron Rodgers is quietly having another very good year, and I like that to continue on Sunday.

– Vikings over Seahawks: This is yet another complete mismatch on tap for Sunday, especially in the Metrodome.  I still think the Vikings are every bit as talented as any team in the league and I stand by my preseason pick that they will win the Super Bowl.

– Buccaneers over Saints: Yes you read that correctly.  This could be somewhat interesting for New Orleans considering they are on the road and have struggled to beat some inferior opponents in recent weeks.  Tampa Bay meanwhile is starting to show some improvement and an ability to be competitive even when it is not expected.  The Saints also have the Patriots on tap next week.  So…..ah what the heck UPSET ALERT.  I think this shapes up to be a trap game for New Orleans, especially considering that Reggie Bush is officially out.

– Cardinals over Rams: What is it with the NFL and mismatches this season?  Arizona wins this one at home by a lot and without much extra effort on their part.  Arizona’s season in quietly showing a similar pattern to last year.

– Eagles over Bears: NBC somehow got stuck with a mediocre Sunday night game even though we are now supposed to be into flexible scheduling.  I think both teams have underachieved this season, but I think Philadelphia gave a better effort on the road last week in San Diego.  I just don’t see the Eagles losing three games in a row.

– Texans over Titans: A somewhat intriguing Monday nighter being that the Titans have won three straight and the Texans have started to live up to the promise they’ve shown the last three years.  I think Houston is showing they have the ability to be a playoff team, and I think they’ll win this one at home behind the Monday night crowd.

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Week 9 picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 7, 2009

Once again the weekend  has completely snuck up on me.  Let’s at least get some picks in. 

Last week: 7-5 Season: 80-34

– Patriots over Dolphins: Strange stat of the year: Miami is undefeated against AFC East opponents and winless against the rest of the league.  Last year they went into Foxboro and debuted the Wildcat to great success in a surprise demolition of the Patriots.  I don’t see a repeat this year, although this could be interesting.  In the end I like Brady and company showing up following a bye week.  New England wins a close one.

– Ravens over Bengals: This actually qualifies as a mini-upset since so many people are picking Cincinnati, and the Bengals did win in Baltimore already.  However, the Ravens defense proved last week they are still capable of completely shutting down an opponent, and they have an offense to go with it thanks to Ray Rice and Joe Flacco.  This will be a very good game, and I like Baltimore in a squeaker.

– Colts over Texans: This is a huge game for Houston in the sense that they have an opportunity to make a huge statement.  However, the Colts are playing lights out and shouldn’t have any trouble at home.  Incidentally, the Texans suffered a huge blow with the loss of tight end Owen Daniels for the season.

– Jaguars over Chiefs: My deepest sympathy if you’re stuck with this ugly game.  Jacksonville has Maurice Jones-Drew and the Chiefs have, well, ummmmm, let’s just say Jacksonville wins.

– 49ers over Titans: Tennesee did win a game last week, but now they head on a long west coast trip.  The 49ers have had several close losses and are due for a win.  They actually played Indy to within one score last week.  I like the Niners here.

– Giants over Chargers: The thought of the G-men losing four in a row is completely ridiculous.  The Chargers have won two straight but it’s been against the Chiefs and Raiders.  I still think the Giants are a playoff contender and they will step up with a big showing here.  Keep in mind the Chargers will have to deal with the east coast trip.

– Cardinals over Bears: Upset alert.  Call this one a hunch.  Arizona has been really up and down, and they seem to play best when no one expects them to.  The Bears have been best against mediocre competition, but somehow I think the Cardinals have the talent to win a game like this.  I also sense another pick or two for Jay Cutler.

– Seahawks over Lions: Detroit believe it or not is playing better, but they missed their best chance for a win last week against the Rams.  Seattle still feels like they’re in the NFC West race, and they smell blood in the water.  Seahawks win easily.

– Packers over Buccaneers: Green Bay now has the two Favre reunion games behind them, and now should be ready to focus on football.  Tampa Bay is the perfect opponent for Green Bay being that they are looking to get well.  Packers win easily.

– Falcons over Redskins: Another blowout here.  The Falcons showed well in New Orleans, and the Redskins have not come close to showing up at all.  Atlanta by a lot.

– Saints over Panthers: New Orleans is virtually unstoppable offensively, especially at home.  Carolina did get a nice road win last week, but reality hits them as they head into the Superdome.  Saints win with very little trouble.

– Cowboys over Eagles: This seem like an upset pick, but I really think the Cowboys are starting to play a lot better.  I know the Eagles will have Brian Westbrook back, but I have a feeling they’re due for a letdown after last week’s thrashing of the Giants.  I like Dallas here in an entertaining game.

– Broncos over Steelers: I am somewhat amazed how many people have quickly jumped off the Broncos bandwagon after one loss.  Virtually everyone is picking Pittsburgh to win this game, and while the Steelers have won four straight, two of them came against Detroit and Cleveland.  The Steelers also needed to two very fortunate defensive plays to beat the Vikings.  The Steelers’ run defense is still very stingy and Ben Roethlisberger is a terrific quarterback, but I like the Broncos to bounce back after last week’s embarrassment in Baltimore.   Denver will have the home crowd behind them on Monday night, and I like their ability to rise to the occasion on the big stage.  I like the Broncos to win 24-17. 

 

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Week Two Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 18, 2009

Last Week: 13-3 (.812)

Lots of good games this week.  Are a few upsets in the cards? 

– Bills over Buccaneers: It is a real shame Buffalo didn’t pull that game out last week.  The Bills had the game won until the few minutes, and that was without much production from T.O.  They’ll get well at home against a Bucs team that played hard against Dallas but is clearly in rebuilding mode. 

– Jets over Patriots: My mind tells me not to pick against Belichick and Brady.  My gut tells me that this Jets team could be much better than I ever envisioned.  The Jets will be fired up for their home opener, while New England was frankly lucky to win its opener against the Bills.  I like the Jets in a squeaker.

– Packers over Bengals: This will not be close.  Green Bay showed last week why they should be a playoff team.  Aaron Rodgers is on track for a great year and the defense looks significantly improved.  Cincinnati looks like it is once again on pace to under achieve offensively for their talent level.  Plus they took a devastating last second loss.  I like Green Bay easily here.

– Broncos over Browns: Denver may be winning ugly, but they are winning.  They should have lots of momentum after their amazing last second win in Cincy, plus this is their home opener.  Cleveland looks very shaky in every area except special teams, and Josh Cribbs can’t win games by himself.  I like the Broncos in another low scoring contest.

– Ravens 0ver Chargers: I like Baltimore in the mini upset here.  The Ravens may actually have some offense to go with their D this year, and that means I may have underestimated their ability to return to the playoffs.  San Diego looked extremely sloppy on both sides of the ball in Oakland, and that won’t fly against the Ravens, even at home.

– Steelers over Bears: This looks like it could be the game of the week on paper, but I have a feeling that the Steelers will win rather easily, even if the game is close for a half or even three quarters.  The defending champs have a proven track record of winning on the road in tough places, and the Bears will be without team leader Brian Urlacher for the year.  Jay Cutler continues to find out how tough things could be for him in the windy city.  I like Pittsburgh.

– Titans over Texans: Once again Houston has let me down when I pick them to be a surprise team, at least early in the year.  After a listless performance in the opener, I don’t like their chances to move the ball against Tennessee’s D.  The Titans nearly stole one in Pittsburgh, and they shouldn’t have much trouble winning this one at home.

– Chiefs over Raiders: I am having a hard time with this one because both teams are bad, but both played better than expected in the opener, even if neither actually won.  Matt Cassel is expected to play for Kansas City, and thus I like them in their Arrowhead opener. 

– Saints over Eagles: The game is at Lincoln Financial Field, but I like New Orleans to put points up anyway.  I also think the Eagles will have a very hard time without Donovan McNabb in there.  Whether it’s Jeff Garcia or Kevin Kolb won’t matter.  I think the Saints pull a surprise on the road.

– Redskins over Rams: St. Louis is clearly the worst team in the league.  Washington showed good effort last week against the Giants, and they’ll have no trouble breaking out in this one.  I feel sorry for you if you’re stuck watching this blowout.

– Vikings over Lions: A lot of people are going with the upset here, but I don’t see it quite yet.  I do think the Lions will be much improved by the end of the year, and they should be fired up for their home opener, but they will not be able to stop Adrian Peterson and they will not be able to run the ball against Minnesota’s defense.  It could be close, but I like the Vikings.

– Falcons over Panthers: Carolina has fallen about as quickly as any team in the NFL.  If Jake Delhomme has another bad game he could well find the bench.  The Falcons seem to have picked up where they left from their surprising season a year ago, and I don’t think they’ll have any trouble winning this one at home.

– Cardinals over Jaguars: A lot of people like Jacksonville but I don’t see it.  I don’t think the Jaguars are a good offensive team, and even though the Cardinals have an early slot east coast away game, they did finally show last year they could win on the road.  I think they’ll score enough points to avoid an 0-2 start.

– Seahawks over 49ers: This one could really go either way.  San Francisco pulled a shocker last week in Arizona, while the Seahawks shredded the awful Rams.  I think this is the type of game where a turnover or fluke play could decide it, and my gut says Seattle pulls out a squeaker.

– Cowboys over Giants: This is the first regular season game at the new Cowboys stadium.  These matchups are always close and home field generally means nothing.  In this case I think the Cowboys will be really fired up to make a statement, and I think it will be a tough environment for the G-men.  I like Dallas in what should be a great game.

– Colts over Dolphins: Indianapolis struggled offensively in its first game without Tony Dungy, while Miami looked more like the pre-2008 team than last year’s playoff contender.  I think the Monday night home field will help Miami, but in the end Peyton Manning knows how to win games like this.  I like Indy.

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Season and Week One

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 13, 2009

As promised, here are my official picks for the season (I know it’s right to the wire, but I did pick the opening game Thursday on Twitter so there is no cheating!)

AFC:

Division champs:

East: New England

North: Pittsburgh

South: Houston

West: San Diego

Wild Cards: Indianapolis, Buffalo

AFC Championship: New England over San Diego

NFC:

Division Champions:

East: Philadelphia

North: Minnesota

South: Atlanta

West: Seattle

Wild Cards: Green Bay, Arizona

NFC Championship: Minnesota over Atlanta

Super Bowl Pick: Minnesota over New England

Now, on to quickie week one selections:

– Ravens over Chiefs: Kansas City doesn’t know who will be at QB.  The Ravens have their usual nasty defense.  This will not be close.

– Cowboys over Buccaneers: Dallas needs to have a fast start.  They’ll get this one against a team in clear rebuilding mode.

– Saints over Lions: New Orleans offense will outscore Detroit in the Superdome, but Lions should win a game this year at some point.

– Colts over Jaguars: Peyton Manning and company show they are still a good team under Coach Dungy.

– Texans over Jets: Houston will be a surprise team this year.  They get started on the right foot at home.  It will be interesting to see how Mark Sanchez plays in a real game.

– Bengals over Broncos: Denver has uncertainty with injuries and personnel.  The Bengals have the look of an improved team in 2009.

– Vikings over Browns: Even if Favre doesn’t play well, Minnesota still has Adrian Peterson and defense.  Cleveland doesn’t have much to compete here even at home.

– Eagles over Panthers: Philly has high expectations.  I like them on the road, even though the Panthers will make this one of the better games of the weekend.

– Falcons over Dolphins: Surprise playoff teams from last year collide.  I like Atlanta on their home field in this one.

– Seahawks over Rams: Seattle will have a bounce back year now that half the team isn’t injured.  Rams don’t have much going for them heading into the season.

– Giants over Redskins: These games are always close.  I’ll take the home team here because of running and defense.

– Cardinals over 49ers: Arizona wants to show last year was not a fluke, and they are very tough to beat at home.

– Packers over Bears: One of the oldest rivalries in sports.  I like Green Bay to be a playoff team, and they will show why.

– Patriots over Bills: Buffalo will be improved with T.O., but New England has Brady back.

– Chargers over Raiders: Home field won’t mean much for the league’s official soap opera in this one.  Chargers roll.

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Super Bowl Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 29, 2009

Before we get to talking about the Steelers and the Cardinals, it’s interesting to note that this Super Bowl seems to be more under the radar than any that I can recall in my life.  This is especially true when compared to last year’s game, although to be fair just about everyone had a rooting interest one way or the other last season.  Patriots fans wanted to see Brady and company complete a perfect season, while virtually everyone else in the country was rooting for the underdog Giants to pull the upset.  For whatever reason though, this year’s game does not seem to be getting near the attention.  Perhaps it’s because people are still getting over the shock of the Cardinals making it to the big game.  Maybe it’s because this is a matchup that doesn’t have a lot of quote unquote star power (i.e. a Manning or Brady-esque player in the lead).  Perhaps the economy is a factor in that people are more concerned about the goings on in their lives.  Whatever the reason, the hype for this game does not seem to match that of previous seasons, and it seems like this game is really sneaking up on people this year. 

As far as the game itself, I think most people would agree that picking the Super Bowl is not the same as picking a regular game.  As I pointed out last year in my correct prediction of the Giants’ upset of New England, once the game kicks off, everything that happened during the season prior to that point is completely irrelevant.  Last year it didn’t matter that the Patriots were an unstoppable force heading into the game, what mattered was that the Giants figured out a way to slow them down.  The key play of that game, David Tyree’s incredible catch, could not have been predicted based on any amount of statistics and game data from the season or even in the previous playoff games.  The Super Bowl is a one game situation, and as such the unpredictable has the potential to decide the game.   Any team with a perceived advantage coming into the game is not guaranteed to enjoy that advantage during the game, and often times gets beat (see Giants-Bills in ’90, Broncos-Packers in ’97, Patriots-Rams in ’01, Giants-Patriots last year, and so on).  This makes predicting the outcome of the Super Bowl next to impossible in most years, because what happens after kickoff in the Super Bowl is often no reflection of what the numbers say should happen.  The old saying “any given Sunday” really applies to the Super Bowl, because anything can happen in one game. 

I think it is interesting that the Steelers are favored by seven points.  I agree that they are the favorite coming in, but a full touchdown seems like a lot.  I believe that the days of mega blowouts in the Super Bowl are over for several reasons, largely because of the parity of the league.  I think this is a very intriguing matchup because of the contrast in styles, but both teams have shown they can go against the grain of their perceived style.  The Cardinals are known for their passing offense, and it has been dynamic this postseason (especially Larry Fitzgerald), but in the playoffs they have also  shown they can run the ball effectively.  The Steelers are known as a power running team, and they  have run well, but they have also made big plays in the passing game during the playoffs (in large part thanks to Ben Roethlisberger being able to extend plays and avoid sacks with his escape ability). 

I actually think this has the potential to be a high scoring game.  Both teams have outstanding quarterback play, both have shown they can run the ball this postseason, and both have talented receivers.  Both quarterbacks have won a  Super Bowl before, so neither one will get rattled about being in the big game.   Pittsburgh does seem to have the much stronger defense on paper, especially against the run where they have been nothing short of dominant in two playoff games.  The Cardinals though have been very surprising with their defensive play in the playoffs, including the 5-interception effort against Jake Delhomme in the divisional round.  While I highly doubt the Cards will get five picks on Sunday, I think they do have better ability to cause havoc than people seem to realize.  All that being said, I have a feeling both defenses will end up giving up points on Sunday. 

Honestly, we could break this game down until we’re blue in the face, but the reality is this has been an NFL season of unpredictability for sure.  It has long gotten to the point where I am not surprised to see anything, including a Super Bowl appearance by the Arizona Cardinals.  Going with that theme, I think stats and trends,  numbers and even personnel don’t mean much in regard to picking this game.  In the theme of unpredictability, my pick is….

 Arizona 28 Pittsburgh 24.  It would just be too fitting for a season filled with wackiness and craziness not to end with the Cardinals winning their first championship since 1947.  The Steelers may have the history edge (5 Super Bowl wins to none), may have better tradition, and may be more impressive on paper, but favorites have not carried the day in the NFL this season.  Arizona wins the Super Bowl, and thus we have the ultimate symbol for the 2008 season of unpredictability.

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Divisional Playoff Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 9, 2009

We won’t discuss last week where I went a mighty 1-3.  I have no doubt that Ken Wisenhunt, Norv Turner and Andy Reid are hoping that I pick against their teams again this weekend.  Regardless, there are great games on tap this weekend so let’s get right to it.

Baltimore at Tennessee: The Titans won 13-10 in Baltimore in week five, thanks to a Kerry Collins TD pass to Alge Crumpler in the final two minutes.  I expect the rematch to be very much the same kind of game, low scoring, physical and dominated by defense.  The Ravens come into the rematch red hot, having completely destroyed the Dolphins last weekend.  The Ravens defense is playing well enough to evoke memories of 2000, when they won the Super Bowl.  In that playoff year, the Ravens won their divisional playoff game on the road against…..you guessed it, Tennessee.  The Titans were the number one seed that year too, and the Ravens were a wild card just like they are this year.  Over the years the Ravens have proven they are not afraid of playing on the road, so home field advantage won’t be much of a factor in this one.  Baltimore actually has more offense this year than they did when they won the Super Bowl, despite the presence of a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco.  The Titans meanwhile are well deserving of the number one seed, proving their worth for that spot with an impressive win over Pittsburgh in week 16.  Tennessee will also get the boost of getting Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch back along the defensive line, although center Kevin Mawae will not play, which will hurt the offensive line and the running game. 

In the first meeting, the Ravens were much more effective on the ground than the Titans, outgaining them 132-47.  This does not bode well for the Titans in the rematch in light of Mawae’s absence.  I don’t think the Titans will have much success if any on the ground as well as the Ravens’ defense is playing.  The running game will be extremely important in this kind of low scoring game that could be decided by turnovers.  Each defense forced two turnovers in the first meeting, so expect lots of them on Saturday.  I do have slight pause of picking a rookie quarterback on the road against the experienced Kerry Collins, not to mention I give Jeff Fisher a big edge in the coaching matchup over John Harbaugh, but I think the Ravens are just playing too well right now to be denied.  The Titans have the look of a flawed top seed, and the Ravens look like they might even be the AFC’s best team at the time of year where it matters most.

The Pick: Baltimore 20 Tennessee 10

Arizona at Carolina: This is a rematch of one of the more interesting games of the season, a 27-23 Panthers win in Charlotte in week 8.  Arizona actually had a 10-0 lead in the game, and even had the lead through most of the third quarter, before Steve Smith turned the game with a 65-yard touchdown catch along the sideline on the last play of the quarter.  It is interesting to note that the Cardinals outgained the Panthers thanks to a 381 yard day by Kurt Warner, but that the Cardinals were doomed by a lack of a running game and also seven penalties, not to mention an untimely Warner interception in the red zone in the fourth quarter.  DeAngelo Williams had a huge game for Carolina, gaining 108 yards on just 17 carries, and that was a big factor for the Panthers. 

What doesn’t bode well for Arizona heading into this game is that the Cardinals were 0-5 on the east coast during the regular season.  The other thing that doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals is the Saturday night weather forecast in Charlotte.  All things considered, the temperature won’t be that bad for the Cardinals (temps are expected to be in the 40s), but it is the 50 percent chance of rain that will seriously hamper Arizona’s passing attack.  The Cardinals may not have Anquan Boldin, who pulled his hamstring on his 71-yard touchdown catch last week against the Falcons.  In any case, the Cardinals will need a huge game on the ground from Edgerrin James to even have a chance, and I don’t see that happening against Carolina’s strong defensive front seven.  The Panthers have one of the league’s best running attacks with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and that alone gives them an edge in the playoffs.  Steve Smith is also the kind of playmaker that can turn close games in his team’s favor, as he did in the first meeting between these teams.  I think the Panthers roll in this one, in large part because I can’t see Arizona playing well on the road when it matters and also in part because I think Carolina is a focused team on a mission. 

The Pick: Panthers 31 Cardinals 17

Philadelphia at NY Giants: These teams split their regular season meetings, with each team winning the away game.  The Giants won in Philadelphia 36-31 in week 10, while the Eagles won at Giants Stadium 20-14 in week 14.  The Giants ran for an astounding 219 yards in the first meeting, including 126 from Brandon Jacobs, while they held Brian Westbrook to just 26 yards rushing on 13 carries.  In the second meeting, Westbrook ran wild for 131 yards and added 72 receiving with 2 touchdowns, while Jacobs was held to 52 yards, and the Giants mustered just 88 rushing yards total.  It is interesting to note that the second meeting was the Giants’ first game since the Plaxico Burress fiasco, and that the G-men stumbled to a 1-3 finish in their final four games, while the Eagles went 3-1 over their final four regular season games, and then won on the road in Minnesota last week.

Generally speaking, anything goes when teams are meeting for the third time in a season.  Neither team has any secrets from the other, so coaching influence is minimal.  I think the key will be which team will be better able to establish the run, because judging from the first two meetings this game should be within a touchdown either way.  Call me crazy, but I think the Eagles are in much better position to run the ball effectively in this game.  Brian Westbrook is healthy and red hot, while Brandon Jacobs was anything but healthy for the final four games of the regular season.  Even though he has had the bye to regroup, something tells me that Jacobs will still have a hard time in this game.  The Giants did get a huge game from Derrick Ward against Carolina in week 16, so if Jacobs isn’t 100 percent, Ward will need to step up.  I also actually like Donovan McNabb better than Eli Manning in this game based on the way each QB has been playing recently down the stretch.  Manning actually has a difficult matchup against one of the league’s top secondaries with Asante Samuel and Brian Dawkins, especially with the receivers still in flux (Memo to Dominek Hixon: stop dropping passes).  The Giants may have home field and may be the defending champs, but I think the Eagles have more momentum and are actually in better shape to win this game.

The Pick: Eagles 24 Giants 17

San Diego at Pittsburgh: This is a rematch of one of the most bizarre games of 2008, an 11-10 Steelers win in week 11 at Heinz Field that really should have been 18-10, thanks to an incorrect ruling by the official on the game’s final play that wiped out Troy Polamalu’s return of a lateral for a TD.  In any case, Pittsburgh won this game without scoring a touchdown, thanks to three Jeff Reed field goals and a safety.  The Chargers’ one touchdown came courtesy of LaDainian Tomlinson, who is highly doubtful for Sunday’s rematch with a groin injury.  Ben Roethlisberger actually threw for 308 yards in the first meeting, although he got carted off the field in the regular season finale against Cleveland.  He says he will play Sunday, but how effective will he be?  The Steelers did get a 115 yard effort from Willie Parker in the first meeting, and they will need that again on Sunday.  One thing that doomed the Chargers in November was that Philip Rivers had one of his worst games of the season, throwing for just 164 yards and two picks.  If they want to have a chance Sunday, Rivers can’t have that kind of repeat performance.  One thing is for sure, Darren Sproles is guaranteed to have a much more productive game than the first meeting, when he had just one carry for zero yards and caught just one pass for nine. 

It is really crazy to think that if San Diego and Baltimore both win, the Chargers would host the AFC Championship Game in a season in which they were at one point 4-8.  I’m not sure if that’s good news or bad news for the league, but that scenario could put the Chargers in position to complete the highly improbable run from 4-8 to Super Bowl champion.  That’s the thing about the playoffs: once you’re in, what happened in the regular season doesn’t matter.  This is game is a challenging one to pick because of Roethlisberger’s health, and also considering the Chargers are a red hot team playing on the road against a team that earned a bye despite playing the most rigorous schedule in the NFL.  Over the years the Steelers have actually fared much better in road playoff games than they have at home, so that makes it highly tempting to pick San Diego.  On the other hand, no team has made the conference championship game with fewer than 10 wins since Jacksonville did it in 1996.  I think the Steelers will be out to prove something after their home flameout against Jacksonville last season, and I think the Steelers defense will find a way to slow down Rivers and Sproles enough.  Either way, this should be the best of the four games this weekend.

The Pick: Steelers 24 Chargers 21

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Week Seventeen Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 27, 2008

Obviously last week was an embarrassing week for yours truly’s football picking ability.  We’ll just skip over that and move on to this week’s picks.  My apologies for the quickie nature of the picks this week. 

Last Week: 6-10 (.375)  Season: 147-93-1 (.609)

– Patriots over Bills:  New England needs the game, Buffalo doesn’t.  The wind wil be howling  so the running game will be key.  The Patriots are red hot and wind is not going to slow them down.  New England needs a win and some help to make the playoffs.  They win the AFC East if they beat Buffalo and the Jets beat Miami.  They need a win and Batlimore loss to Jacksonville to get a wild card, and that means they’re doomed to be the second 11-5 team to miss the playoffs in NFL history (1985 Broncos). 

– Dolphins over Jets:  This is a tough game to figure, but the Jets have been fading fast for a month.  The Jets do not in fact control their own destiny, and even with a win need either a New England loss to Buffalo (not happening) or a Baltimore loss to Jacksonville (not happening).  This means a Jets win would help New England, and somehow I don’t think that’s not going to be sufficient motivation for gang green knowing that their win only helps their rival make the playoffs.  Miami is certainly the league’s biggest surprise, and the number of close games they’ve had this year will help them here.  This would mean a Miami home playoff game one season after going 1-15.  The top five teams in the 2009 draft will have hope. 

– Ravens over Jaguars:  Jacksonville used what remaining energy they had trying to beat the Colts.  They have nothing to play for in this one, and Baltimore rolls easily for a win and clinches a wild card spot.  Look out for the Ravens in the playoffs.  This is the team no one wants to play.

– Bengals over Chiefs:  Ugh.  If you’re stuck with this game in the CBS early slot, you have my sympathy.  Whoever wins this game is so inept they can’t even lose correctly, and will only make their 2009 draft position worse with a victory here.   

– Steelers over Browns:  Pittsburgh is locked into the two seed and will likely rest some guys.  Romeo Crennel will be on the sideline for what is sure to be his final game as Browns coach.  It will be interesting to see if the bye will help the Steelers make a playoff run.   

– Texans over Bears:  Chicago has more to play for, but even with a win they still need a Vikings loss or a bunch of other help.  Houston has been really up and down but I have a feeling they’ll finish strong here.  The Bears are just too inconsitent on offense to keep up with the Texans if their offense is clicking. 

– Titans over Colts: Both teams are locked into their playoff positions (Tennessee the number one seed, Colts the five seed).  Both teams are likely to rest players and that makes this difficult to pick.  Strangely enough, I take Vince Young over Jim Sorgi. 

– Chargers over Broncos:  Winner gets the AFC West title.  Right now the Chargers have the momentum and the Broncos don’t.  Denver missed its best chance when they failed to beat Buffalo last week.  San Diego is out for revenge after Denver’s wild 39-38 win in week two.  I do think the Broncos will come out with intensity, but the Chargers are playing very well on offense and I don’t think Denver will be able to keep up without a running game (seven Denver running backs on IR now).   The one thing the Broncos may have going for them is Norv Turner on the  other sideline, but even his ineptitude will not be enough to cause the Chargers to lose this one.  I hope I’m wrong on this one because I hate to see the Broncos miss the playoffs three straight years, and I also think an 8-8 Chargers team in the playoffs would be a shame while an 11-5 Patriots team could be out. 

– Buccaneers over Raiders: Tampa Bay keeps its hopes alive with a win.  It is hard to imagine the Raiders coming out with any intensity on the road, and the Buccaneers should win this one comfortably.  The Buccaneers will then need an Eagles win over Dallas in the late game to get a wild card spot. 

– Cowboys over Eagles:  Dallas is team turmoil this season, and it seems like we can never know which chemistry mix will be on the field each week.  That being said, the Cowboys know they will miss the playoffs if they don’t win this game, and they also know they are lucky to still be controlling their own destiny after last week’s loss.  I also don’t trust the Eagles after their listless performance last week in Washington.  This will sound odd, but I think the Cowboys can make a serious run if they do manage to make the playoffs. 

– Vikings over Giants: Minnesota wins the NFC North with a win here, but they also get in with a Chicago loss.  The Giants have clinched home field in the playoffs, so at the very least they will sit Brandon Jacobs and probably will rest more guys in the second half.  This game means much, much more to Minnesota and that’s why I like the Vikings to bounce back and win this one at home. 

– 49ers over Redskins: Mike Singletary should have the interim tag removed from his title.  He has done a great job restoring effort in that organization.  Washington bounced back nicely last week against the Eagles, but that is too little too late.   I like the Niners at home in this one where both teams have nothing to play for. 

– Packers over Lions:  The Lions can’t have much realistic hope of getting a road win at Lambeau, even if the Packers have hit the skids themselves down the stretch.  If Detroit has any pride whatsoever, they can find a way to win this game, but if they had pride it would have showed up last week in their last home game against the Saints.  Say hello to 0-16 Lions fans. 

– Falcons over Rams: Atlanta can actually win the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss.  Either way they’ve clinched a playoff spot, a phenominal achievement considering how awful they were last season.  They’ll roll in this one against the hapless Rams. 

– Panthers over Saints:  Carolina wins the division if they can hold off the Saints.  This is an important game for the Panthers because they could fall to the five seed if they lose, whereas with a win they clinch a first round bye.  New Orelans poses a very tough challenge at home, where the Saints have not had any problem scoring points all season.  I think the Panthers will somehow find a way in this one, knowing the difficult road they face if they fail to win this one. 

– Cardinals over Seahawks: Arizona has clinched the NFC West, but they definitely aren’t playing like they deserve it.  Arizona was a complete embarassment last week in New England, and whoever gets the five seed in the NFC will probably be favored in Phoenix next weekend in the playoffs.  I think the Cardinals need to get their offense back on track and get some confidence in a big way this weekend or they are guaranteed toast next weekend.  The Seahawks got a win last week, but have nothing to play for here, and if Arizona plays to their true capaibility shouldn’t provide much resistance. 

So if my picks are right, here is how the first round of the playoffs would shape up:

AFC:   

BYE: Tennessee, Pittsburgh

(6) Baltimore at (3) Miami

(5) Indianapolis at (4) San Diego

NFC:

BYE: New York Giants, Carolina

(6) Dallas at (3) Minnesota

(5) Atlanta at (4) Arizona

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Week Sixteen Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 20, 2008

I was almost right last night.  The Jaguars gave the Colts a much better game than most thought they would.  David Garrard played extremely well for three quarters.  Maurice Jones-Drew ran hard.  The Jaguars played with emotion.  In the end though it wasn’t enough.  Garrard made a dumb decision throwing into triple coverage in the fourth quarter, and it resulting in a game winning pick six for the Colts.  Jacksonville had an impressive drive in the final two minutes, but Garrard missed a wide open Reggie Williams in the back of the end zone, and then suffered a sack on the game’s final play.  Jacks0nville played hard, but in the end the Colts showed why they are a playoff team and Jacksonville is not. 

N0w on to the picks, keeping in mind that there are several games where honestly I have no clue how they are going to go. 

Last Week: 11-5 (.687 )  Season: 141-82-1 (.632 )    Season record includes last night’s incorrect pick

– Ravens over Cowboys:  A rare Saturday night game, and this will be a good one.  In many ways this could be a play-in game for the playoffs.  If Baltimore’s loses they could fall behind New England and Miami.  If Dallas loses they fall behind Tampa Bay and possibly Atlanta.  This will be the final game at Texas Stadium, unless the Cowboys were to somehow host the NFC Championship Game in a series of highly unlikely occurances.  Tony Romo is hurting again for Dallas.  So is Marion Barber.  The Baltimore defense is not a team you want to be playing when you’ve got guys hobbled.  The Ravens offense got stymied last week, so this could be another low scoring game.  Dallas needs Terrell Owens to back up his words and come out with a big game.  If he doesn’t the Ravens will be in complete control.  If he does, the Cowboys have a chance.  The Ravens know they control their own destiny.  So do the Cowboys.  This game really could go either way, and the Cowboys will have the emotion of the last game at Texas Stadium, but Baltimore has frankly been more consistent this year, and I think the Ravens are way too good to miss the playoffs.  Baltimore wins. 

– Broncos over Bills:  Try number two for the Broncos to clinch the AFC West.  They host a Bills team with nothing to play for, so this is will be a much better opportunity than a game in San Diego next week.  Denver can’t afford to dig itself a hole early with turnovers, but if the Broncos come out and play they way they are capable, they should be able to hold off the Bills.  I’ll take Jay Cutler over Trent Edwards or J.P. Losman any day.  Edwards will apparently start, but he wasn’t effective before the injury, let alone now.   You can say what you will about the Broncos’ inconsitencies, but a hunch says they will come out firing and if all goes well they should put the Bills away early.   Odd stat of the matchup: 14 of the past 17 meetings have been in Buffalo.  The Broncos don’t get to host Buffalo very much, and I know that means nothing in regrards to Sunday’s game, but it is just interesting.  At any rate, Denver wins the AFC West. 

– Dolphins over Chiefs:  How the Chiefs managed to lose last week is still beyond me.  For any team to blow a 21-3 fourth quarter lead, and then a 21-10 lead in the final 75 seconds, is inexcusable in the NFL.  This makes it impossible for me to pick Kansas City in any scenerio.  Miami has a lot more to play for.  They must win this game to have any shot at the playoffs, and they know that.  Arrowhead will not be anywhere near full, and that will mitigate any advantage Kansas City would have.  Miami wins. 

– Patriots over Cardinals:  It seems so odd to think that New England can continue to roll in games and not end up in the playoffs, but that is what is likely to happen.  The Patriots will be rooting hard for the Cowboys to win on Saturday, because the Patriots only shot to get in is a Ravens loss.  I think the Patriots will not just win this game, but they will blow Arizona out.  The Cardinals will not have Anquan Boldin, they’ll be playing in the cold, they face the west coast team traveling east for an early kick disadvantage, and they are playing a desperate New England team that knows they have to keep winning.  Arizona has clinched the NFC West and knows they are the four seed, so they really have nothing to play for here.  The Patriots win, and will be rooting for Dallas on Saturday night. 

– Seahawks over Jets: UPSET ALERT.  I know this looks crazy, but consider this: the Jets are 0-3 on the west coast this year.  They got bombed in San Diego and lost two inexcusable games to San Francisco and Oakland.  This will be Mike Holmgren’s final home game as Seahawks coach, and I think the players will play hard for him.  I could really see the Jets being complacent heading into this game.  I know Brett Favre is the type of veteran leader that can prevent that, but I sense something out of the ordinary going on in this game.  It’s a reach, but I think Seattle wins. 

– Bengals over Browns:  Dud game of the year without question.  If you live in Ohio, I suggest you find a sports bar because you’re being shut out of just about every good game on Sunday to watch this garbage.  I don’t know who will win and I’m sure any0ne in Ohio cares either at this point.  I pick the Bengals for no reason other than Cleveland has not scored an offensive touchdown in a month, and I figure the Bengals ought to be able to get one with either T.J. Houshmanzadeh or Chad Johnson. 

– Steelers over Titans: Fantastic game, one I won’t be able to see because CBS only has one game this week, and of course I’ll be watching my Broncos.  The winner of this game will get home field advantage in the AFC, and I think Tennessee is picking a really bad time to go into a funk.  The Titans will be without top defensive linemen Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth, and that means Pittsburgh will be able to run the football.  The Steelers have sustained a brutal schedule, and they have proven time and again this year they can win on the road.  Tennessee has frankly yet to prove it can score points in truly major games to win.  I think the rest of the AFC is about to get the bad news that the road to the Super Bowl will go through Pittsburgh.  Steelers win a close one, yet again on the road. 

– Texans over Raiders: Houston will be a dangerous team next season.  The Texans appear to have finally found their groove offensively, and they have the talent on defense to do some good things next year. It’s too bad the Texans don’t have five more games to get back in the chase because they might be the hottest team in the AFC besides Pittsburgh.   Andre Johnson is a clear top three wideout in the NFL, and he has benefited from Matt Schaub’s return.  Oakland should be nothing more than a doormat for them in this game.  Houston wins easily. 

– Buccaneers over Chargers: Both teams must win to stay alive, so we can look at this as another play-in game of sorts.  Tampa Bay has lost two straight, but knows they have two very winnable home games to finish up.  San Diego must win and needs Denver to lose to force a big game next week.  The Chargers have played much better of late, but they needed some serious Kansas City ineptitude to win last week.  The Buccaneers get Jeff Garcia back under center, and I think they will get a big lift from the home crowd.  Philip Rivers will keep San Diego in the game, but I think the Bucs’ defense is ready for a shutdown effort after getting run over in the running game the past two weeks.  Tampa Bay let one get away last week, and they know they won’t have another chance if they lose this one.  Tampa Bay wins. 

– Eagles over Redskins: This is an interesting game.  The Eagles are another team that is red hot, but even if they win out they may not get in the playoffs.  Brian Westbrook is healthy once again and that means bad news for Eagles opponents down the stretch.  Washington has faded so quickly that Jim Zorn’s job is apparently now in jeopardy, even though three weeks ago he was being hailed as the right guy  in Washington.  The Clinton Portis-Jim Zorn fight seems like it’s adversely affected the Redskins, and it showed in their loss to Cincinnati last week.  Philadelphia wins to keep their hopes alive. 

– Lions over Saints: UPSET ALERT.  I pick for no other reason than there has never been an 0-16 team in NFL history.  I don’t see any reason why that should happen this year.  The Saints lost Reggie Bush for the year, and that hurts their offense.  Detroit is highly motivated, they will win this game at home. 

– Vikings over Falcons: Another good game.  Minnesota has all but clinched the NFC North, and the Falcons need to win to stay alive.  While this game may mean more on paper to Atlanta, I think Minnesota wins this one at home.  Tarvaris Jackson gets another start, and if he plays as well as last week, the Vikings offense could be in for a big day.  Atlanta could play well again in this one, and is a great story this year, but this will be a tough road game for them to win, and I can’t see them pulling this one out. 

– 49ers over Rams: Meaningless game.  Niners are playing hard for Mike Singletary, and the Rams are not for Jim Haslett.  San Francisco wins this one, and it could be by a lot.  Let’s move on to a more meaningful game. 

– Panthers over Giants: Monster game, good move by NBC to move this to Sunday night.  The winner of this game will clinch home field in the NFC playoffs.  I think this game is actually very simple.  The Panthers are the best team in the league right now, and the Giants have lost two straight since the Plaxico Burress fiasco.  Carolina will be able to run the ball no problem.  The Giants may not be able to if Brandon Jacobs doesn’t play.  I also sense another big game from Steve Smith.  Carolina wins. 

– Bears over Packers: The Monday nighter has lost a lot of its luster with the Packers eliminated and the Bears on life support.  If the Vikings win, the Bears are essentially out.  This could be entertaining because of the rivalry factor, but will likely mean nothing.  Green Bay has really fallen off the wagon last few games.  Chicago wins.

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Thursday Night Football Pick – Week 16

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 18, 2008

It’s quickly getting into crunch time.  As we start the second to last week of the season, we find a very intriguing matchup on Thursday night.  The Colts are the hottest team in football, having not lost since late October.  Peyton Manning has been playing much better over the past month or so, the passing game is clicking, the running game is going even with Joseph Addai hobbled, and the defense has been much improved with Bob Sanders back from injury at safety (sound familar?  His return sparked the Colts to their Super Bowl win two years ago).   They figure on paper to be a heavy favorite over the hapless Jaguars, even on the road.  Jacksonville has to qualify as the unquestioned biggest disappointment in the league this season.  After their 12-4 finish last year, playoff win at Pittsburgh, and great effort the next week at New England, I thought they were going to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  This easily qualifies as the most embarrassing preseason pick I have ever made.  Little did I know their offensive line would be a mess, the running game wouldn’t be anywhere near the same, and their dominant defense would suddenly show characteristics resembling an instruction manual on how not to tackle.  

Before you conclude that the Colts will win by four touchdowns, decide this game is not worth watching, and let your wife or girlfriend watch a rerun of Grey’s Anatomy instead, let’s consider a few things here.  The Colts are somewhat injury riddled heading into this game.  Joseph Addai claims he will play, but reports seem to vary on this.  We know Addai participated in practice on Wednesday, but will he be able to go?  Will he be full speed?  We don’t know.  Dominic Rhodes filled in nicely last week, but that was against the Lions.  Even Jacksonville is not that bad.  We also learned today that Marvin Harrison will sit out due to a hamstring injury.  Granted, Harrison has been invisible most of the season, but he’s still Marvin Harrison.  If he’s not in there, it will allow the Jags to focus more on Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.  The effect of these two injuries together is significant.  If the Colts can’t run the ball with Rhodes, it will play to Jacksonville’s advantage.  Harrison also not being in there means there aren’t as many receivers for Jacksonville to worry about covering.  Oh, and Bob Sanders is also questionable.  When he’s not in there, that’s bad news for Indy.  Which leads me to……

The previous meeting in week three.  Bob Sanders did not play.  This is one of the few games in which Jacksonville ran the ball well (and very well I might add) to the tune of 236 yards.  Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew each went over 100 yards, and Jones-Drew also added 59 yards receiving on four catches.  Sanders is one of the league’s best run stuffing safeties, and his presence makes all the difference in the Colts’ run defense.  Even if he’s in there but not 100 percent, his presence is a big plus for Indianapolis.  Jacksonville’s defense also had great success against Manning in the first meeting, intercepting him two times, including a 61-yard pick six by Rasheen Mathis.  

This is a division game.  The seemingly left for dead Jaguars rose up and stunned the Packers last week, and Jones-Drew ran well.  The Colts survived a much closer than hoped for win over the winless Lions.  Momentum means a lot in football, and it seems like the Colts are battling several injuries on a short week, not wanting to push guys if it means their playoff availability could be in question.  The Colts have a one game lead over every other wild card contender, so they know they are in good shape.  Even if they haven’t officially clinched yet, they are right on the cusp.  Jacksonville is playing for pride.  This is not a factor to be underestimated.  Many teams over the years, teams with nothing to play for can get highly motivated by bumping off a division rival late in the year and messing with their playoff hopes.  

Indianapolis is clearly the better team overall.  Everyone knows this.  Yet there is a reason why they play the games.  Last week I split my two biggest upset reaches (getting Houston over Tennessee and missing Kansas City over San Diego, but it was close).  I thought Dallas over the Giants was an upset pick at the time, but at best that can be only called a minor upset.  At any rate, this is a game that is not easy to pick, and that makes it worth watching.  I am convinced it will not be a blowout in any way, now the question is, who wins?  Do I dare go for another upset reach?

Thinking….

Thinking….

Why not, UPSET ALERT.  Call me crazy, call it a hunch.  Jacksonville 30 Indianapolis 27.  The Titans may still be leading the division, but something tells me the Jags will be highly motivated for a chance to sweep the Colts.  

Either that or I will have to write another embarrassing retraction on Friday morning.

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Week Fifteen Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 12, 2008

What a great game last night.  Who would have thought that the Bears would get an opening kickoff return touchdown and it wouldn’t be Devin Hester?  Or that the Bears would blow a sizable first half lead and watch the Saints take the lead with three minutes to go (naturally thanks to a Marques Colston sighting AFTER my fantasy team has been bounced from the playoffs)?  Who would have thought that Robbie Gould would make not only a clutch field goal to send the game into overtime, but also win it with another in OT?  The Bears defense did a very admirable job at least slowing down the Saints offense, including forcing Drew Brees into two picks.  Offensively, they did not get a great game from Matt Forte, but Kyle Orton did just enough to lead clutch drives at the end of regulation and OT.  Yes, the Bears benefited from a pass interference penalty on a deep ball, but the Bears took full advantage of the opportunity that gave them.  Make no mistake about it, the NFC North is not decided yet.  The Vikings may own the tiebreaker over the Bears, but Chicago still very much has a pulse.  For all of their faults, the Bears will not go away quietly.  As for the Saints, they are done.  How a team with so much talent can only be 7-7 is absolutely beyond me, but for starters they are going to have to figure out how to win at least an occasional game away from the Superdome next season.  Now, on to the picks: 

Last Week: 12-4 (.750)  Season: 132-75-1 (.634)  Season record includes last night’s correct pick

– Jets over Bills: The Jets have lost two in a row yes, but this is a must win game for them, at home in the division.  New York knows it’s in the midst of a three way tie for the division and can’t afford to slip up in this one at home in case it comes down to division record as a tiebreaker.  Buffalo is beyond fading, and probably will be forced into starting J.P. Losman again.  Even as much as Favre and company have struggled, they should win this one easily.  The Jets won pretty comfortably in the first meeting in Buffalo, so I see no reason why they would slip up here.  Watch for Leon Washington in this game, a hunch says he could be the X factor that makes the difference with the Bills loading up to stop Thomas Jones.  

– Dolphins over 49ers: This is definitely an intriguing game.  Miami is on the cusp of going from 1-15 to division champ if things break right over the next three weeks.  This is Miami’s final home game of the year, so they know they will need to take care of business.  Strangely enough, the Dolphins have had several close calls at home this year, surviving narrow wins at Dolphin Stadium against the Seahawks and Raiders in November.  San Francisco is definitely showing the promise that was expected of them early in the year, and with Shaun Hill at quarterback they are definitely dangerous for contending teams down the stretch.  The Niners have to be wondering if they wouldn’t be in the race had they gone with Hill the entire time the way he’s played the last two weeks.  While an upset is not out of the realm of possibility here, I think Miami will win a very close game.  The Dolphins will be able to run the ball, and Chad Pennington has proven he’s not normally liable for dumb mistakes to put Miami in a hole.  Miami’s defense has been superb and that will be the difference.  

– Patriots over Raiders: New England knows it is on the wrong end of tiebreakers right now for both the division race and the wild card.  All they can do is win their games and hope for some help over the next three weeks.  The Patriots do have the advantage of a friendly schedule down the stretch, so that will be working in their favor even if the tiebreakers aren’t.  Oakland has been a hard team to figure this year, for you never know when they will decide to care about a game or when they’ll just mail it in.  If the Raiders decide they’re going to play hard in this one, the Patriots offense could have trouble getting big plays.  If the Raiders decide to mail this one in, New England will have a field day.  Randy Moss makes his first appearance against the Raiders since leaving two years ago, so he will definitely be highly motivated for a big day.  I think the difference in this game will be that New England should have no trouble running the ball (start Sammy Morris if you’re still in the playoffs this week – trust me).  The Raiders are also not likely to get quarterback play no matter who is in there, and that will help the Patriots too.  It may not be pretty, but New England wins to keep their hopes alive.  

– Redskins over Bengals: Were it not for the Lions, Cincinnati would be the official joke of the league.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a Bengals fan.  No playoff wins since 1990 with complete ineptitude most of the time since then, and just when it looks like they get an explosive offense and a dangerous team, it implodes with embarrassing off the field behavior and a complete failure to take advantage of their talent.  Cincinnati really appears to have mailed this season in completely, and I still can’t believe Marvin Lewis could still have his job next season.  The listless Bengals are the only reason I’m picking Washington to win here.  I think the Redskins have faded also to the point where they aren’t considered a realistic contender anymore.  The Jim Zorn-Clinton Portis fight in the media can’t be a good thing either.  While I can’t blame Portis for being upset given that he was playing through all kinds of pain, Zorn is the head coach and therefore deserves Portis’ respect.  Despite all that, Washington is less of a mess than Cincinnati, and the Redskins will win an ugly game that I can’t imagine anyone in Cincinnati would actually pay money to see.  

– Ravens over Steelers: The unquestioned game of the week, and I won’t be able to see it because it is at the same time as the Broncos.  (Thanks a lot NBC for once again assuming anyone only cares about the NFC East).  I think there will not be many points scored in this one, think 13-10 or something along those lines, but it will be the most physical game of the year by far.  Pittsburgh is mad because the Ravens defense knocked out talented rookie Rashard Mendenhall for the year in the first meeting, while the Ravens for years have complained about Hines Ward’s blocking.  Needless to say these two teams don’t like each other, and if the first meeting is any indication (a Pittsburgh win in OT), this one should absolutely live up to the billing.  The Steelers were lucky last week against Dallas, getting a gift from a very poor decision by Tony Romo in the last two minutes, while the Ravens are really looking Super Bowl quality.  They completely shut down the Redskins last week, and they have an offense to go with their defense.  I don’t think they’ll explode in this one, but I do think Joe Flacco will outplay Ben Roethlisberger and that will be the difference.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Flacco is playing much better right now frankly.  If Baltimore wins, the AFC North is tied with two games to play.  Baltimore has been waiting for this game too long not to come out with a top effort,  and they will win at home.  

– Texas over Titans: UPSET ALERT.  Some of these have worked for me this year, others have not.  I do feel in this one that the Titans are looking very vulnerable.  They won against Cleveland last week but clearly didn’t look like they had their A game.  If they play like that against the Texans and their suddenly explosive offense, they will get beat.  Tennessee does have a very good defense, and their offensive line is among the best in the league, but something tells me that Matt Schaub is about to have his second big day in a row.  With Schaub back under center, the Texans are capable of putting up tons of points on anyone.  I really think Houston picked up a huge confidence boosting win in Green Bay last week, and I think that momentum will carry over.  The Houston crowd is always fired up for a home game against the Titans (remember they used to be the Houston Oilers, and Houston fans still haven’t forgotten).  I think that both teams will put up points, but in a shootout, and it sounds strange to say this, I would take the Texans’ offense over Tennessee’s.  This will simply not be the ground it out, control the clock game that Jeff Fisher loves.  Houston wins in a high scoring affair, and thus prevents the Titans from clinching playoff home field just yet.  

– Colts over Lions: Indianapolis by at least 30.  The red hot Colts at home against the 0-13 Lions.  Peyton Manning vs. a washed up Daunte Culpepper.  Detroit has no hope here even if the Colts have their entire starting offense AND defense forced out due to injury.  The Colts are the league’s hottest team and the Lions are making a run at the wrong kind of history.  Let’s just move on.  

– Packers over Jaguars: Two struggling teams in what was thought to be a good game at the start of the season.  I think Jacksonville is beyond hope frankly, and I really don’t think the Jaguars will win again this year.  It seems very foolish that I thought they would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl at the start of the year, but this is just not the same team we saw last year.  Jacksonville has been completely unable to run the ball, and their defense has not been near as good as in years past.  The Packers have struggled too (and it’s not because of Aaron Rodgers.  The Packers would not be leading the division with Brett Favre.  Unless he’s figured out how to play defensive line and stop the run).  Both teams are out of it, but I think Green Bay will find a way to get this one.  I think the Jaguars have given up on Jack Del Rio, and there is no way they will be motivated to play any game the rest of the year.  Even if Green Bay struggles defensively in this one, it won’t matter.  Packers win.

– Panthers over Broncos: I think this is Denver’s most difficult test to date.  The Panthers set a franchise record with 299 rushing yards last week in their win against Tampa Bay, as both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart topped 115 yards, each averaged over 7.0 yards a carry, and each scored two touchdowns.  The Panthers did that against one of the best run defenses in the NFL, and given Denver’s trouble stopping the run this season, even though it has improved lately, that does not bode well.  For the Broncos to have any shot in this one, Champ Bailey must play.  The Broncos can’t afford to have just seven in the box and hope to stop Carolina’s running game.  They must employ eight in the box to even have a hope of containing Williams and Stewart, which means they will have no choice but to single up Steve Smith.  If Bailey’s not in there, Dre’ Bly can’t be counted on to do that.  Carolina’s offensive line has been blowing people off the ball, so it will be interesting to see how the Broncos defense decides to play this one.  Denver does have the offensive weapons to keep up, but they are down to their sixth option at running back after the Peyton Hillis injury.  I think the Broncos will stay in it for awhile, but I just don’t see them winning.  Carolina wins to keep hope alive for the top spot in the NFC.  

– Chiefs over Chargers: UPSET ALERT.  I’ll be honest, I have no idea who is going to win this game.  San Diego finally looked the way they were supposed to against the Raiders, and they are still mathematically alive, even if it isn’t likely that they’ll win out while Denver loses out.  If the Chargers play the way they did last week, they should win easily.  Thing is, they have been woefully inconsistent all season.  We’ve been waiting for the Chargers to show some consistency this year, and they just haven’t done it.  The Chiefs have played very hard most of the year even if their record doesn’t show it, and they very nearly won the first meeting in San Diego if not for a failed two point conversion attempt at the end of the game.  Kansas City has good young talent, and if they can force the Chargers into mistakes, they will be very much in this game in the fourth quarter.  I do think Kansas City will win at least one more before the year is out, and I think the Arrowhead factor (even if it isn’t full) will be enough to sway the upset.  

– Cardinals over Vikings: This will be a very entertaining game.  Adrian Peterson vs. the Cardinals areal circus.  This will be an interesting contrast between Arizona’s high powered offense and Minnesota’s tough run defense.  Thing is, Arizona doesn’t run the ball much, so Minnesota won’t be able to play to its strength defensively.  Jared Allen will be able to pressure Kurt Warner, but since when has pressure ever bothered Warner?  The Cardinals receivers are guaranteed to put up big numbers at home no matter who the opponent is, so we know the Cardinals will put up lots of points.  The onus is on the Vikings to match them, and even with Peterson, I don’t think they have the horses to keep up in this kind of shootout game.  Minnesota is going to have do something to address its quarterback play in the offseason, because it really seems as though they have everything else they need.  It will be the lack of quarterback play that will doom them here.  Arizona wins, putting them in position for the three seed in the NFC, while the Vikings would still be in the North lead due to tiebreakers with a loss.  

– Falcons over Buccaneers: Another entertaining game in the south.  This could well end up being a play-in game of sorts for a playoff spot in the NFC.  It’s also very possible that both of these teams will get in.  Either way, both teams know this is a huge game.  Tampa Bay dominated the first meeting in Tampa in week two, but that was before Matt Ryan was very comfortable in the league.  This will be at the Georgia Dome, and Michael Turner has to be licking his chops after watching the Bucs’ defense get completely run over Monday night in Charlotte.  Is the Buccaneers’ run defense suddenly vulnerable?  You know they’ve worked on that all week, but even if they completely corral Turner, they still have Ryan and the passing game to contend with.  I think Atlanta will enough success in the passing game to put up points, and I really think the Tampa Bay offense is hard pressed to win high scoring games.  Antonio Bryant had the game of his life last week and it still wasn’t near enough.  Atlanta wins a very close game to put themselves in playoff position with two games to play.

– Seahawks over Rams: Seattle will win this one easily.  The Rams appear to be another team that has given up on the season, even with Steven Jackson back in the lineup.  The Seahawks will again start Seneca Wallace, but he actually played very well last week against the Patriots, and even he should be able to light it up against one of the worst pass defenses in the league.  Mike Holmgren has to be wishing he retired a year earlier, but he will have a rare win to enjoy here down the stretch of the season.  The Rams have had attendance trouble for years, and this will officially be a non-sellout and television blackout in St. Louis.  If you are one of the few in the country stuck with this game, I suggest finding a sports bar or using the time to catch up on yard work.  

– Cowboys over Giants: UPSET ALERT.  This will be a much better game than the first meeting, which the Giants won quite handily.  Dallas is in absolute must win mode to make the playoffs, and they will have no trouble getting up for a Sunday night game against one of their biggest rivals.  The Cowboys are coming off a frustrating loss in Pittsburgh, but they outplayed the Steelers for most of the game.  There are reports of friction between Tony Romo and Terrell Owens (is anyone surprised?) but Owens always gets up for big games, especially at home, and I really smell a monster game from him.  If he does come through, look out.  The Giants looked very exposed last week against the Eagles, and that showed the rest of the league that they can be beaten and aren’t invincible.  The Plaxico Burress mess seems to be affecting them more than first thought, and they still won’t have Brandon Jacobs in this one.  I still think the Giants have the inside track to the Super Bowl in the NFC, but it can’t be considered a foregone conclusion after their loss last week.   The Giants have all but clinched the division even with a loss here, so the Cowboys have much more on the line.  Dallas wins.  

– Eagles over Browns: Yawn.  ESPN must really regret that they are stuck with yet another Browns game.  How many is that now, 10?  I know it only seems like that many, but it seems like they get a night game every week.  How did anyone think Cleveland was a contender at the start of the year?  Yes, they did beat the Giants, but that was only one game.  This matchup should be case for extending flex scheduling to Monday nights, because really everyone knows how this game is going to go.  Ken Dorsey will look lost and confused, Brian Westbrook will run wild, and the Eagles will win by at least three touchdowns.  Philadelphia is dangerous, and they just might sneak into the playoffs.  That tie in Cincinnati and McNabb’s benching in Baltimore really seems to have woken them up and lit a fire under them.  The Eagles are not a team I’d want to see down the stretch, especially on the road.

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