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Posts Tagged ‘picks’

Thursday Night Football Pick – Week 15

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 11, 2008

This game between the Bears and Saints and Soldier Field is definitely intriguing.  In many ways it is a de-facto playoff game, since the winner will be able to keep their faint hopes alive while the loser is essentially eliminated for all intents and purposes.  The Saints have a solid record, but they are in last place in the brutal NFC South and probably need to win out to secure a playoff spot and even at that need some help.  The Bears are within spitting distance of the lead in the NFC North, particularly with the Vikings still facing the prospect of suspensions for the two Williams on the defensive line.  Both teams are coming off nice wins last week.  New Orleans was able to get enough offense (as they usually do at home) to overtake a hot Falcons team, while the Bears defense easily put the clamps on struggling Jacksonville.  

To me the Saints have way more talent than the Bears, especially on offense.  Drew Brees is having an MVP type season and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal, especially now that Reggie Bush is back.  His presence especially in the passing game has opened up opportunities for Marques Colston and Lance Moore to make plays,  Thing is, while the Saints have been awesome in the Superdome, they have been awful on the road on more than one occasion.  The game will be in the cold, wind and possible snow at Soldier Field.   This will be an interesting matchup in any case for the Saints offense because while Chicago has given up big plays on defense, they have proven very adept at stopping the run and forcing turnovers.  I think this matchup favors the Bears in that regard considering the elements.  For all of their fireworks, the road has not been kind to Brees and company, and you add an aggressive defense to the mix, it doesn’t bode well for New Orleans.  If the Bears defense is successful in forcing turnovers (especially early), they will be able to control the tempo with Matt Forte and not have to put Kyle Orton in a position to have to make plays.  The Bears know the Saints’ quick strike capabilities, so definitely expect a run oriented game plan from Lovie Smith.  

It is interesting to note that the Saints can never seem to catch a break.  This will be their third straight meeting in this series in Soldier Field (including the 2006 NFC Championship).  The Bears have in fact not played in the Superdome since 2003, owing to a Saints “home” game played in Baton Rouge in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina.  All told, this will be seventh meeting out of nine games in this series that will be played at Soldier Field since 1997.  The Saints have actually fared well in Chicago during that time, winning four of those meetings, but I just don’t see it this time.  The Saints are a track meet type team playing on the road in the elements against a team that is still alive in its division and will certainly be fired up by the home crowd in a night game.  The Saints have just been too up and down to rely on in a road game.  

The pick: Chicago 24 New Orleans 20.  Rest of the picks coming before the weekend.

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Week Fourteen Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 6, 2008

I’ll admit, the joke is on me.   Clearly I misfired on last night’s game.  Why don’t we just pretend I didn’t make a fool of myself with that pick?  Clearly I should have realized that the Raiders are always too much of a mess to rely on for a pick in any scenario, especially on the road.  I have to admit I really thought the Chargers had essentially given up on the season and that the Raiders had actually been playing well on defense and would be fired up for a division rival.   I really thought San Diego would not be able to throw the ball against them, but the Raiders secondary was not up to the task last night.  Last night’s performance by the Chargers was what we had actually been expecting to see from them all season.  They got an actual good game by LT, a 3 touchdown performance by Philip Rivers and an aggressive effort on defense.  I still think it will be too little too late for the Chargers, who must win out if the Broncos win on Sunday to even have a chance at the division.  San Diego is still an awful 5-8, and they do still have a trip to Tampa Bay, while the Broncos get to host the Chiefs and Bills down the stretch.  It will take a lot for the Chargers to end up as division champs.  Anything is possible in this wacky NFL season, but I just don’t see it.  Let’s forget about last night’s disastrous pick and let’s just move on to the rest:

Last Week:  11-5 (.687)   Season: 119-72-1 (.620)   Season record includes last night’s incorrect pick

– Dolphins over Bills:  Dolphins coach Tony Sparano really needs to need the league office a big thank you gift, because this Bills “home” game will be played in Toronto.  It my personal opinion that this is laying the groundwork for an eventual move of the Bills franchise to Toronto.  The Bills also played a preseason “home” game in Toronto, and are also signed up for two more regular season games there over the next four seasons.  The Bills ownership has long complained that they do not have the revenue to compete, and Ralph Wilson Stadium remains one of the oldest stadiums in the league (never mind that means it is one of the few genuine home field advantages that still exists, but since it doesn’t bring in revenue that doesn’t seem to matter anymore).  The Dolphins benefit big time in that this game will be played indoors instead of out in the wind and snow of Buffalo.  Miami should be able to run the ball, although Ronnie Brown has struggled recently, and the Bills crashed back to Earth last week in an embarrassing home loss to San Francisco.  I think the Dolphins defense will be able to force Trent Edwards into mistakes, and I think Chad Pennington will be able to make enough good decisions to be able to make plays against the Bills defense.  If this game was in actually in Buffalo I would be tempted to go with the Bills, but the neutral location eliminates any advantage whatsoever the Bills would otherwise have in this matchup.  Some Bills fans may travel, but really how many will make the trip in this economy?  Miami wins. 

– Patriots over Seahawks:  New England really shot themselves in the foot last week and is now in a position where they may need to win out to make the playoffs.  They trail the Jets by one game in the division, and also trail the Colts and Ravens in the wild card while being on the wrong end of tiebreakers.  In any case I think it is safe to say that after last week’s game, talk of the Pats keeping Matt Cassel and trading Tom Brady will be significantly cooled.  I still think Cassel has performed admirably this season, but he has not stepped up in a couple of big games.  The Patriots will be helped by a really friendly schedule down the stretch, including this game against a hapless Seattle team.  The Seahawks have looked lost from the word go this season, and Matt Hasselbeck’s return has not helped out the offense in any way.  NBC made a very wise decision to dump this sure blowout in favor of a more competitive game.  New England will roll, especially factoring in that Bill Belichick does not lose back-to-back games. 

– Jets over 49ers: The Jets had a letdown last week after they had won five in a row.  This week they should be able to regroup, although they do have the long trip west.  By the way, I never heard from any Jets fans explaining why they thought it appropriate to boo Broncos injuries last week, so if you’re still out there I’d love to hear from you.  Otherwise I will assume that Jets fans admit there is no justification for such poor and embarrassing behavior.  As for the team, I expect Brett Favre to rebound from one of his worst efforts of the season, and have little trouble picking apart San Francisco’s suspect pass defense.  If Thomas Jones has another big day, the Jets offense will be able to do whatever it wants.  The 49ers did get a surprising win last week in Buffalo, but they will not have the horses to keep up here.  Frank Gore’s numbers have really slipped the past few weeks, and if he doesn’t have a big game, the Niners have no chance.  The Jets withstand an early punch and then pull away for the win. 

– Colts over Bengals: This will be a guaranteed blowout.  I give the Bengals a zero percent chance to win.  Even if the entire Colts offense were forced to exit due to injury, I still give the Bengals no chance to win.  Granted, Indianapolis has been probably the luckiest team in the league this season.  The Colts could have easily lost in Minnesota week two, and in Houston week five if not for boneheaded plays by the opposing quarterbacks.  They also benefited last week from an outstanding game by their defense in a rare case where nobody on offense showed up.  Still, the Colts with Peyton Manning are not a team I would want to see in the playoffs, and that’s exactly where Indianapolis looks headed with their super friendly schedule down the stretch.  The Bengals have been awful all year, and changes have to be coming next season.  If they retain Marvin Lewis as coach, which it sounds like they might, then ownership really needs to get its head examined.  The Colts should have no trouble getting the offense back on track in this one and getting momentum going down the stretch.

– Titans over Browns: Tennessee bounced back in a big way last week against Detroit and is all but sewn up home field advantage in the playoffs.  The Titans sport a two game lead for the top spot in the AFC with four to play, and they kick start the home stretch with what should be a guaranteed win at home against a bad team that is playing out the stretch.  I still fail to see how anyone fancied the Browns as a true contender in the preseason.  To be fair, they have dealt with numerous injuries and will be forced into starting their third string quarterback in this game (Ken Dorsey), but Cleveland never had the look of a contender even in the preseason.  Romeo Crennel will surely be one of several coaches on the firing line at the end of the season, and I just don’t see the Browns being able to put up much of a fight on the road in this one.  Tennessee found its running game again last week, and they will have no trouble piling up yards on the ground against the Browns.  The Titans defense will also be able to force turnovers and control the line of scrimmage.  Tennessee has had 10 days to get ready for this one and this will be a game many viewers will be flipping away from early.  Titans roll. 

– Steelers over Cowboys: This was a really hard game to pick.  Both teams are coming off big wins and both teams will be able to make a lot of noise in the playoffs.  Marion Barber is slightly hobbled for Dallas, and though he will try to play, I think his not being 100 percent will really hurt the Cowboys running game.  This will allow the Pittsburgh defense to put pressure on Tony Romo.  I think the Steelers will also put the clamps on Terrell Owens and really make it hard for Dallas to move the football.   Despite all that, this game could ultimately be decided by how well Pittsburgh can move the ball against the Cowboy defense.  The Heinz Field turf is quickly getting a reputation for being the worst in the league, and it will be interesting to see if that is a factor also.  I do think Pittsburgh will be able to run the ball, and the Steelers seem to usually step up for big games like this.  If Pittsburgh plays as well as they did last week, they will be able to win this one as well.  The good news for Dallas is since this is an interconference game, it will not cripple them for playoff tiebreakers.  Pittsburgh wins. 

– Packers over Texans: Matt Schaub returns to quarterback the Texans, although Sage Rosenfels looked like he was finally getting some rhythm last week.  Houston has the potential to play spoiler for a lot of teams down the stretch, and they do have the talent to win a few games here and there.  I still think if everyone is healthy next season, they really could be a team to watch.  This however will be their first ever trip to Lambeau Field, and that’s usually bad news for opponents.  Green Bay has really been a tough team to figure, although they are still in the NFC North race despite their 5-7 record.  The offense scored 31 points against a good Carolina defense last week, but they still couldn’t figure out a way to win.  Green Bay’s problem all year has been their defense, so they will have an interesting matchup trying to contain Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton.  This pick is really more about a gut feeling than anything else.  I think Houston is more than capable of winning, but Green Bay has more on the line and they will have the elements and the crowd behind them.  I say Aaron Rodgers makes one more play than Schaub to lead the Packers to a win, keeping their slim hopes alive.

– Bears over Jaguars: This is a game matching two struggling teams.  Jacksonville has clearly given up on coach Jack Del Rio, and I wouldn’t be shocked at this point if they failed to win another game.  Del Rio is clearly on the chopping block at the end after his team was picked by many (including me) to have a really good year and possibly represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  Now, the Jaguars are in such a mess that David Garrard can’t even drop back to pass without tripping over one of his own linemen.  Fred Taylor has reportedly made comments that it’s the worst team he’s ever played on, and the chemistry is non-existent.  The Bears should roll in Soldier Field against this mess of a team, except for the fact that Kyle Orton hasn’t exactly performed well in recent weeks.  The good news for Chicago is they do have talented rookie Matt Forte in the backfield, and he should have no trouble running for more than enough yards to make up the difference.  The Bears defense certainly has its faults, but forcing turnovers isn’t one of them.  They’ll get a couple here and win comfortably against the fading Jags, keeping their NFC North hopes alive in the process.

– Broncos over Chiefs: Denver suffered an extremely embarrassing loss to the Chiefs in week four, and will clearly be looking for revenge.  The Broncos are certainly a hard team to figure because they seem to play to their competition, but if they lose this game it will be even more of an embarrassment than the week four loss.  The Broncos allowed Larry Johnson to rush for 198 yards in the first meeting, the most they’ve ever allowed to the Chiefs, but they have really made an effort to shore up their run defense since then.  The Broncos defense has been banged up, and may or may not get some of their injured players back, but they managed to force Brett Favre into one of his worst games of the year last week, and they will come after Tyler Thigpen.  Denver’s offense is clicking again now that Tony Scheffler is finally healthy.  The Chiefs will not be able to cover all of Denver’s receivers, and if the Broncos avoid turnovers they will be fine.  After the horrendous home loss to Oakland two weeks ago, Mike Shanahan will make sure his team is focused and ready for this one and will ensure the Broncos don’t take the Chiefs lightly.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the game was close owing to the nature of the rivalry and Denver’s propensity for letdowns this season, but I don’t see any way the Broncos lose this game and allow themselves to get swept by one of the worst teams in the league.  Denver wins. 

– Giants over Eagles:  I pick the Giants even in the wake of the Plaxico Burress debacle for a couple of reasons.  One, they are the best team in the league by far, so if there is any team that can overcome this kind of distraction, it’s the Giants.  Second, Tom Coughlin is the kind of coach that can keep his team focused in any situation.  It does remain to be seen what will happen with Antonio Pierce and his potential involvement, but I expect a big game from him Sunday as he welcomes the distraction of being back on the field.  Third, The Giants are playing a Philadelphia team that once again does not appear to have Brian Westbrook at 100 percent (despite his four touchdowns last week) and is still inconsistent.  I think the Giants defense will harass Donovan McNabb, and the Giants’ offense will run the ball effectively as usual.  I think the Giants will win, and it could well be by a lot. 

– Vikings over Lions: I thought about picking Detroit to end their winless slide here, but I just don’t see it.  Kevin and Pat Williams will play for the Vikings after their suspensions have been blocked in court, so Minnesota will have no trouble stopping the Lions’ running game.  Detroit looked so bad last week in every area, that I do not see how they will possibly be able to have any kind of offense against the Vikings.  Minnesota has Adrian Peterson and that will be more than enough offense for them.  This does seem like a trap game for the Vikings in light of their big win against the Bears last week and their division lead, but I think Minnesota will do just enough to win this one and keep their lead.

– Saints over Falcons: Atlanta won the first meeting at the Georgia Dome big, and I think the Saints will return the favor in the Superdome.  Drew Brees and company are much more effective at home than on the road, and the Saints do have Reggie Bush back after he had one game last week to get back in the swing of things.  I think the Saints will cause trouble for teams even though their playoffs hopes are about done because they have so much talent on offense.  Atlanta has proved it is for real with a road win in San Diego last week, and I think they will put points up in this game too.  Michael Turner scored four touchdowns in the first meeting, so the Saints will be sure to key on him, but a  hunch says that while the Falcons will score points, New Orleans will get a few more.  This will be an entertaining shootout and a good reason to have DirecTV.  I say the Saints win one of the higher scoring games of the year.

– Cardinals over Rams: Arizona is dominant at home.  The Rams stink on the road.  The Cardinals won the first meeting 34-13 and will win this one by at least that.  Nothing more needs to be said.   Arizona will have no trouble bouncing back from their loss in Philadelphia.  The Cardinals win the NFC West with a victory, meaning they will host a playoff game for the first time in their entire lifespan in Phoenix.  The apocalypse must be near. 

– Ravens over Redskins: This will be a better Sunday night offering than the originally scheduled Patriots-Seahawks blowout, although this could easily be a blowout as well.  The Redskins are quickly fading, and Clinton Portis really does appear to be hobbling now.  That is bad news when you hit the road to face the Ravens’ ballhawking defense.  Baltimore is quickly closing in on the Steelers, and while there may be slight concern about looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Pittsburgh, this one is for regional bragging rights in the Beltway.  Baltimore has an offense to go with their defense in this one, and I think the Ravens will stomp Washington from the word go and blow the Redskins right out of M&T Bank Stadium.  Baltimore is for real, and I would not want to see them in the playoffs. 

– Panthers over Buccaneers: This could well be the game of the week on Monday night.  Tampa Bay won the first meeting emphatically 27-3, but the Panthers are at home this time.  It will be critical for Jake Delhomme to not make mistakes because the Tampa defense will make him pay if he does.  Delhomme threw three picks in the first meeting and that was the difference.  I envision a strong run game plan from John Fox, as the Panthers will use both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.  The Panthers defense may not be as talented as the Bucs, but they can cause trouble for Jeff Garcia.  If the Panthers running game gets going, it will be tough for the Buccaneers to be able to keep up.  Both teams will make the playoffs, but the winner of this game could get a first round playoff bye which would be huge.  This will be a great game, and I think the Panthers will be able to pull it out.

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Thursday Night Football Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 4, 2008

We’ve run into a busy week in the Fischer household, so we’ll have a quick pick here on tonight’s game, and the rest of the games will be selected tomorrow, we promise. 

Needless to say this is a big game in the AFC West.  The Broncos will certainly be watching closely because they will all but clinch the division if the Raiders pull the upset tonight, needing only a win Sunday against the hapless Chiefs in that case.  San Diego has got to rank as one of the biggest disappointments in the league at a seemingly unbelievable 4-8 (I still say Jacksonville is a bigger disappointment, but not by much).  The Chargers have won just one game since Oct. 12, and that was a one point win over Kansas City thanks to a Chiefs missed two point conversion at the end of the game.  Strangely enough, the Raiders actually have more wins in that span than the Chargers, having beaten the Jets on Oct. 19 and the Broncos two weeks ago. 

What is most surprising about the Chargers has been the down play of LaDainian Tomlinson, who clearly has not been the best back in football this season.  Granted, the troubles on the O-line have something to do with that, but the Chargers offense has not been near as explosive as in past years.  Likewise, their defense has struggled without Shawne Merriman.  Their loss to Atlanta last week was nowhere near as close as the score indicated.  If not for a defensive TD, the Chargers would have been blown out.  The Falcons dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and had a dominant edge in every stat category.  The Raiders are also coming off a loss to Kansas City in which the score seems close but in which the Raiders didn’t play up to their potential.  JaMarcus Russell has really struggled at the quarterback position, and the running game has also been non existent most games.  The Raiders defense however has actually played very well most games, and they do seem to step up and play to the level of their competition.

Two weeks ago against Denver, the Raiders completely shut down the Broncos passing game and were able to force turnovers.  Two weeks before that, the Raiders held Jake Delhomme to just 7 of 27 and forced him into four picks.  Call me crazy, but I think Philip Rivers is about to have a very long night.  If the Raiders can shut down San Diego’s running game, which is possible with LT not being himself, and if Rivers is forced to win the game for San Diego, he won’t be able to.  The Oakland secondary is very underrated and is actually among the best in the league, especially Nnamdi Asoumgua, who should absolutely be a Pro Bowler.  If the Raiders can force turnovers, their offense might just be able to take advantage of them and put up some points against the Chargers.

Either way, this game will definitely be ugly.  Personally I might just watch more of the Texas-UCLA college basketball showdown as ugly as this game could get.  Something just doesn’t seem right about San Diego.  The Chargers have been in desperation mode for a month and have not figured out how to win.  If it didn’t kick in by now, it probably won’t.  When these teams played in week four, Oakland had a 15-3 fourth quarter lead, and that was before the Al Davis-Lane Kiffin divorce.  I smell something fishy here.  I think the Chargers are done, and Norv Turner should be as well at the end of the season.  San Diego never should have fired Marty Schottenheimer, and their mistake is quickly coming home to roost.

The pick: Oakland pulls the upset.  Raiders 17-13

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Week Thirteen Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 27, 2008

As usual buyer beware…..

Last Week: 9-7 (.562)  Season: 108-66-1 (.617)

– Titans over Lions: So apparently I have an inability to pick Titans games correctly.  When I pick them to win, they get beat.  When I pick them to lose, they win and make look foolish.  No doubt Jeff Fisher has a voodoo doll of me now because I stopped picking against them last week, and they ended up getting bombed by the Jets.  Tennessee is still in great shape, as they are still running away with the AFC South, and they still have a two game lead over the Jets and Steelers for the top seed and home field advantage in the AFC playoffs.  The Titans should have some concern though about their offensive line, which had been so dominant early in the year, and got absolutely blown up by the Jets last week.  Tennessee had been winning most of their games with running and defense, which is fine, but last week they found out that you do have to occasionally score points to beat the good teams.  Surely it would behoove them to give LenDale White more than the one carry he got against the Jets too.  The good news for Tennessee is that the have the perfect get well card this week in the form of the 0-11 Lions.  Detroit has actually sold out Ford Field for tomorrow (gasp!) after three straight non-sellouts and subsequent TV blackouts, but something tells me the fans won’t exactly be behind the home team.  Detroit is the only team I know of that could squander the 17-0 lead they let get away against the Bucs.  The Lions do traditionally get up for their annual Thanksgiving day home game, but even extra emotion will not help.  Even if the Titans fail to bring their A game on a short week, they should get several gifts from the hapless Lions to help them to victory.  Tennessee wants to erase the losing feeling, and they will have no trouble whatsoever here, unless of course my picking Tennessee to win is a jinx, in which case I’m sure I will be hearing from Jeff Fisher. 

– Cowboys over Seahawks: The Dallas offense finally looked like its old self again last week, and it’s no coincidence that it’s because Terrell Owens was heavily involved in the game plan.  You can say what you will about Owens, for even though he whines when he doesn’t get the ball and often makes it seem like he’s in it for himself, you can’t deny that the Cowboys offense is much more effective when Owens is featured.  His 75-yard touchdown catch really swung the momentum after the Cowboys sputtered early against the 49ers, and he finished with a season high 213 yards.   Dallas also seems to be playing with more energy after Tony Romo’s return.  The concern for the Cowboys is the running game hasn’t been quite as effective the last few weeks, and their defense gave up some big plays against the 49ers.  The Cowboys definitely have a favorable matchup here though, as Seattle is still struggling offensively even with Matt Hasselbeck back in the lineup.  If Hasselbeck turns it over multiple times the way he has in his first two starts back, it will be long day for Seattle.  The Cowboys know they have a brutal December schedule and they have to get this one to stay in the playoff race.  Dallas wins by a lot in their annual Thanksgiving day game.

– Eagles over Cardinals: The Thanksgiving night game is a good one this year, which is too bad because only 40 percent of U.S. households have access to the NFL network.  Even fewer people will see this game because many of them will be asleep on the couch thanks to all the tryptophan.  Arizona has a real raw deal here, because they have a short week and a trip to the east coast.  Even though the Cardinals flew out this morning and the game isn’t until Thursday evening, they still face the prospect of a very difficult away game, with a short week to prepare, and a trip across three time zones.  If this matchup were to take place on a Sunday a neutral field, I would pick the Cardinals without hesitation because they are actually the better team right now.  My brain says I should stay away from the Eagles in light of their awful performance in Baltimore and last week’s benching of Donovan McNabb, but my gut tells me the Eagles will bounce back with the home crowd and the big advantage of playing at home off a short week.  I believe McNabb got a rude awakening with his benching last week, and I think he will come back with a good effort.  I also see Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson employing a variety of blitzes that the Cardinals will not be able to plan for on a short week.  Arizona’s pass happy offense has had great success at home, but I sense they may struggle in this game on the road in the cold, especially if the weather turns ugly.  If the weather is bad, Arizona’s inability to run the ball could doom them.  Besides, this game is not really important to the Cardinals with their huge division lead, while the Eagles must win to stay alive.  Philadelphia wins.

– Bills over 49ers: I really felt Buffalo was left for dead before last week, and now I’m not really sure what to make of the Bills after their 54 point effort in Kansas City.  Is the Bills offense back?  Was that more a result of a porous Chiefs’ defense?  The answer like many of these things is probably somewhere in between the two.  Trent Edwards gave one of his better efforts in quite some time, including his rushing touchdown, and the Bills will need him to perform down the stretch to stay in the race.  Buffalo has several advantages in this game, not the least of which being they’re hosting a west coast team in an early kickoff.  We all know what that means in any case, but Buffalo has a huge edge in this case being that the weather is likely to be bad and they are hosting a team from a warm weather city to boot.  Meteorology aside, the 49ers run game looked awful last week in Dallas, and that doesn’t bode well for a trip to Buffalo.  The passing game has not been any more consistent with Shaun Hill under center than it was with J.T. O’Sullivan, and the defense has given up way too many big plays.  The Niners are very much a work in progress and are improving overall, but that will not help them here.  Buffalo wins.

– Dolphins over Rams: How bad are the Rams right now, seriously?  It’s rapidly getting to the point where i might consider picking the Florida Gators against the Rams.  St. Louis might get Steven Jackson back in the lineup this week, but their problems go much deeper than that.  There is a quarterback carousel right now between Marc Bulger and Trent Green, Torry Holt has essentially been phased out of the offense except for when he gets throws his way when the game is out of reach, and the defense has more holes in it than swiss cheese.  Miami knows they let one get away last week against New England, and they lost their composure in that game too toward the end.  Miami needs to get its running game going again down the stretch to be successful, for Ronnie Brown’s numbers have dipped dramatically over the last month.  This will be a good matchup for the Dolphins to get that back on track, and their passing game should have success too with Ted Ginn Jr.’s speed on the carpet in the dome.  Miami should win this one comfortably to stay in the race in AFC as they try to complete their turnaround from last year’s 1-15 disaster. 

– Patriots over Steelers: This will be another great game between two teams that historically have enjoyed a lot of success.  The Patriots offense might officially be scary again if last week’s Randy Moss sighting becomes the norm as opposed to the exception.  Matt Cassel continues to play well, and the defense continues to not break in key situations.  Pittsburgh didn’t play its best game against the Bengals last week, and they will need to be able to run the ball much better to have a chance in this one.  Willie Parker does not look like himself, and I wouldn’t be confident turning my running game over to Mewelde Moore in a key game like this.  One thing to watch in this game is that both quarterbacks, Cassel and Ben Roethlisberger, are among the league leaders in sacks, which is not at all a good thing.  That could make this a lower scoring game than expected, although I would also expect Hines Ward to have more balls thrown his way than last week, when he had just one catch.  Ward normally steps up in big games and that could help the Steelers, but a hunch says that the Pittsburgh defense won’t quite be able to contain Moss and Wes Welker if they are both playing well.  It seems strange to say this, but Cassel has been playing better than Roethlisberger in recent weeks, and that will end up being the difference in a narrow Patriots win. 

– Jets over Broncos: I’ll be honest, it really doesn’t look good for the Broncos.  Denver somehow still has a two game lead in the AFC West, but it’s looking like it could be possible we might see a 7-9 division champion here, and if it’s the Broncos that won’t be a good thing for their playoff prospects.  Denver is coming off a very embarrassing blowout loss at home to the Raiders, which is not a good omen as they hit the road to face the hottest team in the AFC.  The Jets are coming off wins at New England and Tennessee, and they played complete football in every phase against the Titans.  They’re running well with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington (who is quickly becoming one of the league’s best game changers), Brett Favre is playing some of the best football of his career, and the Jets are dominating the line of scrimmage offensively and defensively.  This is matchup that looks like it could well be a Jets blowout on paper, especially since the Broncos are making the trip east.  The Broncos ironically have played better on the road than at home as of late, but even if the Broncos offense comes out and plays its A game, I don’t see the defense being able to slow down Favre, even if Champ Bailey does play.  If the Jets avoid a letdown after their two big road wins, they should get this one without too much difficulty.

– Ravens over Bengals: This will be a complete mismatch in every way.  Baltimore bounced back nicely with a blowout of the Eagles, and they did it with offense and defense.  The Ravens could be a scary group, and one I wouldn’t want to play in the playoffs, if they keep up their offensive prowess in addition to their always tough defense.  Joe Flacco has played very well for a rookie, and their long term key will be getting the running game going in big games.  Defensively, the Ravens continue to be aggressive and force turnovers, and that will be bad news for Cincinnati in this game.  The Bengals offense moved the ball early against Pittsburgh last week, but they stalled quickly after the first drive.  It will be interesting to see how the Chad Johnson/Ocho Cinco/whatever his name is distraction continues to affect the Bengals’ offense.  Regardless, Ryan Fitzpatrick has not been the answer at QB and Cedric Benson has not gotten it done in the running game.  Oh, and Cincinnati’s defense also does not have a good matchup here.  Baltimore rolls, even on the road. 

– Colts over Browns: This should be another blowout.  The Colts are one of the hottest teams in the league, having pulled out another last minute victory in San Diego last week.  Inidianapolis has a really friendly schedule down the stretch, which clearly puts them in the driver’s seat for the top wild card spot in the AFC.  That is bad news for Baltimore, New England, Miami and perhaps Buffalo, who will all be fighting for the last spot in the playoff bracket more than likely.  The Colts have a very favorable matchup here, facing a Browns team that is in disarray again after a bad home loss to the Texans, and the news that Brady Quinn is done for the year with a broken finger he never should have tried to play with in the first place.  Derek Anderson does have a chance to take advantage of his opportunity to play out the string to get himself a job somewhere next season, but the Browns have no direction right now and they are facing a hot Colts team looking to solidify playoff position.  Even playing in the shadow of the Dawg Pound, Peyton Manning has no trouble here and the Colts roll. 

– Raiders over Chiefs: Dud of the game of the week, although it is a bitter rivalry.  Oakland blew the Chiefs out in week two at Arrowhead, and that was before the fans stopped showing up in Kansas City.  The Raiders really gave a surprising performance last week in Denver, and they actually come home with momentum.  The Chiefs defense was a complete embarrassment last week against Buffalo, and that should mean good news for JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden this week.  The Raiders defense has also played very well the past three games.  At some point, the Chiefs players will stop with playing with any confidence or energy, and we might have even hit that point already.  If the Chiefs fail to win another game and finish 1-15 on the heels of 4-12 last year, which would mean KC would have just one win in a 26 game stretch, it would be impossible for Kansas City to justify keeping Herm Edwards or General Manager Carl Peterson.  The Chiefs showed effort for several weeks in the middle of the season, but it hasn’t been there the past two games and that is a bad sign.  Oakland by contrast seems to be playing with more and more energy each week, despite the soap opera nature of their season.  The Raiders win their second in a row (gasp!). 

– Falcons over Chargers: I really fail to see how the Chargers are five point favorites in this game, even with them playing at home.  Atlanta is coming off a huge win over Carolina, and they have proven they can play both at home and on the road.  The Chargers had their entire season on the line last week in a night home game, and yet they failed to come up with the win, even knowing the division leading Broncos got waxed by Oakland.  LaDainian Tomlinson has just not been his usual self this season, and Philip Rivers has played solid but not spectacular.  It is clear that the Chargers’ defense really misses Shawne Merriman, and that will hurt them a lot in this game.  It is an interesting subplot that Michael Turner returns to face his former team.  Turner has proven his worth as a starter for the Falcons, especially in his four touchdown performance last week.  The Falcons are very much in the race in the NFC also in part thanks to Matt Ryan and the passing game, as well as their defense which has made plays when needed this season.  The Chargers should come out with an inspired effort at home, but we’ve been expecting that without results for weeks.  The Falcons prove they are for real by stealing one on the road here. 

– Giants over Redskins: This will be a critical game in the NFC East, but it will be more so for the Redskins.  The Giants are very close to having the division wrapped up, although they are still wanting to separate themselves for the top seed in the NFC.  Washington is clinging by a thread to the last playoff spot, but they have several teams breathing down their necks.  The Giants are by far the best team in the league, having proved it once again last week by winning at Arizona without Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress.  The Redskins are banged up too though, as Clinton Portis will once again play despite not being 100 percent.  He ran hard for 143 yards last week at Seattle, and the Redskins will need a similar performance on Sunday to even have a chance.  It seems like an eternity ago, but the Giants dominated the Redskins completely in week one, and something tells me the Giants could once again own the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in this one as well.  Washington is coming off a win, but it wasn’t exactly an impressive one in Seattle.  The Giants are a better team and they are coming in with more momentum.  A hunch says the Redskins are fading, and even if they play their best game it may not be enough here.  The Giants steal a close road win to prove why they are the best team in the league. 

– Panthers over Packers: This is a tough game to figure because both teams are coming off puzzling efforts in road losses.  Carolina’s offense woke up too late to make it close in Atlanta, and though Jake Delhomme played better, the normally dominant Carolina running game wasn’t very effective.  The Packers defense got destroyed in New Orleans on Monday night, and Aaron Rodgers threw two costly picks in the third quarter when the game was still competitive.  Both teams fell out of the lead in their respective division with last week’s loss, so you’ll see two desperate teams battling it out at Lambeau Field on Sunday.  I give Carolina an edge here because their ability to run the ball has been well documented and the Packers defense has really struggled against the run in most games.  If Carolina really does fancy itself as a Super Bowl contender, then this is they kind of game they need to able to win, on the road against an up and down team.  Aaron Rodgers should be able to make some plays in the passing game, but the Packers don’t have enough offense to keep up.  Carolina win a close one.

– Saints over Buccanneers: I’ve been back and forth on this game ten times in the last hour.  New Orleans finally looked like the way they were supposed to look offensively Monday night against the Packers, and they will be coming into this game with a lot of confidence.  I am more convinced than ever that Drew Brees is hands down the best quarterback in the league, and he should absolutely be the MVP.  Now that Brees has his receivers healthy, and with the return of Reggie Bush really appearing imminent this week, the Saints offense should be even more dangerous down the stretch.  The problem the Saints are facing is a brutal schedule, and the logjam of teams they’re competing with for a playoff spot.  The Saints beat Tampa Bay 24-20 in the first meeting week one in the Superdome, so the Bucs should be feeling confident they can reverse the result at home.  Tampa Bay’s defense is capable of at least slowing down the Saints’ attack, but they won’t be able to stop it completely.  The key for the Bucs is that they will need to be able to score enough points to keep up with the Saints, and if Brees and company are clicking that simply won’t happen.  A hunch says New Orleans will win on the road. 

– Vikings over Bears: The Sunday night game will be a good battle for the NFC North lead.  When these teams squared off at Soldier Field in week seven, it ended being a high scoring shootout despite the presence of two good defenses.  Both teams are coming off a win last week, which makes this game equally important for both teams, since the winner will have a one game lead in the division.  Minnesota’s defense really set the tone last week in Jacksonville with two turnovers in the first 90 seconds of the game, and their propensity for being able to force turnovers really gives them a chance to win a lot of games.  Chicago is coming off a blowout of the Rams, so they too have some momentum coming in.  Both teams can run the ball, so the difference will be which defense can better slow the other offense down.  Chicago can force turnovers, but they also tend to get burned for a lot of big plays.  The Vikings always bring pressure and that could spell trouble for Kyle Orton, especially if the Bears fall behind early.  The Metrodome will certainly be loud for this division rivalry, and the Vikings should be able to pull this one out at home. 

– Texans over Jaguars: It’s unfortuante that the Monday night game is such a dud with so many great games on Sunday that many people won’t be able to see.  I realize flexible scheduling would be difficult to extend to the Monday night game, but I think it’s something the league should at least look at for the last 3-4 weeks of the season.  At any rate, the Jaguars have to be a contender for the biggest disappointment in NFL history, and Jack Del Rio’s job has to be in real jeopardy.  The Jaguars running game has never been able to get going all season, and their defense has not been as good as advertised.  Looking at Jacksonville’s tough remaining schedule, it is very possible they don’t win another game if they fail to win in Houston.  The Texans have also failed to meet expectations of improvement this season, although the injury to Matt Schaub does have something to do with that.  The Texans actually came up with a somewhat surprising road win in Cleveland last week, and their defense really did an excellent job, albiet against the musical chairs quarterback situation in Cleveland.  This will be the first Monday night game the Texans have hosted at Reliant Stadium, which means they will be fired up.  If Jacksonville really is just playing out the string, Houston’s offense should explode for points in this one.

Bonus College pick: Oklahoma over Oklahoma State.  This will be one of the best college games of the season, but even in Stillwater, the Sooners are too complete of a team to falter now.  This will create a big time logjam in the Big 12 South.  Will it be Texas or Oklahoma advancing to the Big 12 Championship game?  I also think Alabama and Florida will both win this week (against Auburn and Florida State respectively), setting up a showdown in the SEC Championship.  Things may end up working out for the BCS Championship game, but I believe this year screams for a playoff more than ever.  Stay tuned next week for my proposal for a 16-team playoff and why it would make sense, but also why it is not likely to happen soon.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and I’ll post again after the Broncos-Jets game.

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Week Twelve Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 21, 2008

There isn’t a whole lot to say about Pittsburgh’s 27-10 win over the Bengals last night, other than the result did not come as a surprise.  The surprise was that the game was still 10-7 at halftime, but Pittsburgh’s running game eventually got going (strangely enough with Mewelde Moore, not Willie Parker) and the Steelers defense swarmed and stifled the Bengals offense after the first drive.  Pittsburgh dominated the line of scrimmage defensively in the second half, and offensively started to assert themselves by the fourth quarter.  Pittsburgh needed that game with a tough stretch coming up, and they know they’ll need to get the running game going earlier in games than they did last night to be successful.  The Steelers’ final touchdown drive was impressive, chewing time off the clock and converting third downs in business like fashion (This is why I thought ‘game over’ immediately after Cincinnati’s field goal to cut it to 20-10.  Why would Cincinnati not go for it on fourth and goal there down 20-7?).  It wasn’t a perfect performance for Pittsburgh by any means, but they got win and now have 10 days to get ready for a trip to New England.  Now, on to the picks, keeping in mind I am 1-0 so far this week for once:

Last Week: 10-5-1 (.625)  Season: 99-59-1 (.626)

– Chiefs over Bills: Upset alert.  The Buffalo Bills have really fallen off the wagon.  After a 4-0 start, and then 5-1, the Bills have lost four straight and five of six.  Trent Edwards’ play has really regressed after he had a really stellar first month of the season.  The Bills were in the game against Cleveland last week in spite of Edwards, not because of him.  His three first quarter picks really put the Bills in a hole, and for him to not complete even one pass to top receiver Lee Evans in the game in inexcusable.  There is a significant track record of young quarterbacks faring horribly in their first appearance at Arrowhead Stadium, so this is not where the Bills want to be playing right now with Edwards struggling so mightily.  The Chiefs played hard again last week against New Orleans, and they are desperate for a win especially at home, and they will find a way to beat the rapidly flaming out Bills.       

– Patriots over Dolphins: The Dolphins creamed the Patriots in the first meeting week three in Foxboro.  That was the game in which Miami brought out the Wildcat formation for the first time, and it resulted in five Ronnie Brown touchdowns.  This time the Dolphins get them at home, but Bill Belichick has now had time to study the Wildcat.   Let’s just say that Belichick doesn’t take well to being embarrassed.  He and his team will be much better prepared for the Wildcat this time, and they will be highly motivated to avenge the week three loss.  Miami has very quietly been one of the hottest teams in the league, having won four in a row, but they’ve barely won their last two against Seattle and Oakland.  If the Dolphins don’t give a better effort than they did in those two games they could actually be in big trouble.  New England isn’t afraid to play on the road, and they win this one here to once again make things interesting in the AFC East.

– Titans over Jets: I’ve learned my lesson.  I will not pick against Tennessee again anytime soon.  I’m sure Jeff Fisher is distraught that I am no longer picking against them.  The Titans are definitely for real, and they’ve handled three very difficult tests in a row, including two straight on the road.  They’re dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and Kerry Collins is playing so well that Vince Young has no hope of seeing the field this season or maybe next.  Is it possible the Young injury in week one is the best thing to happen to the Titans all season?  The Jets will provide another stiff test, especially since they are coming off their biggest win of the season in New England.  If Brett Favre plays as well as he did in Foxboro, this could be a very entertaining game indeed.  However, odds are the Titans defense will be able to come up with a big turnover late and they will continue their winning ways. 

– Ravens over Eagles: The fact that the Eagles allowed themselves to be involved in a tie game proves they are not among the league’s elite as once thought.  For Donovan McNabb to not know that a game could have ended in a tie is inexcusable (although to be fair, how many other players also didn’t know?  Probably more than you’d think).  Philadelphia also may not have Brian Westbrook, who is questionable again.  If he’s out, then it will be a Baltimore field day.  It may be all Ravens anyway even if Westbrook plays.  Baltimore will be hopping mad after waxed by the Giants last week, especially the Ravens’ defense.  The Ravens also know they can still see Pittsburgh’s taillights in the AFC North with a win.  An angry Ravens defense and a slumping Eagles team is not a good combination for Donovan McNabb and company.  Baltimore wins, and it could easily be by a lot. 

– Browns over Texans: This is easily the dud game of the week.  I feel sorry for fans in Texas that don’t care about the Texans who will get stuck watching this game on CBS.  Houston’s progress on offense has really stalled with Sage Rosenfels at the controls instead of Matt Schaub, although Steve Slaton is doing his best to carry the team on his back.  The run defense could be a trouble spot for the Browns after they got shredded by Marshawn Lynch last week.  Cleveland is coming off a big Monday night win over Buffalo, but Brady Quinn suffered a broken tip of his finger in the contest.  Quinn will try to play, but if he can’t go, Derek Anderson may get another shot to run the offense.  I am tempted to pick the Texans because of the Quinn injury and they fact they were able to keep it close against the Colts, but a hunch says the Browns will be able to get the win at home.     

– Vikings over Jaguars: I have officially given up on the Jaguars.  I have never had a preseason Super Bowl pick blow up in my face before the way I have with Jacksonville this year.  Jacksonville for whatever reason has not been able to run the ball near as effectively as they did last season.  This does not bode well considering Minnesota is among the league’s best at stopping the run.  David Garrard has certainly not been the problem, but the lack of a running game has hurt his ability to make plays in the passing game.  The injuries they’ve had on the offensive line have had a lot to do with that, but part of the Jaguars’ problem has been the defensive side of the ball too.  Jacksonville has given up way too many big plays at inopportune times.  That is a bad omen with Adrian Peterson coming into town.  If Peterson has a big day, Jacksonville is in real trouble in this one.    It seems strange to say the Vikings are more in playoff contention than the Jaguars but that is the reality.  Minnesota wins as Jacksonville’s free fall continues. 

– Broncos over Raiders: The Broncos have very quietly opened up a two game lead in the AFC West, and believe it or not they are only one game out of position for a potential bye in the AFC playoffs.  Denver destroyed the Raiders 41-14 in the opener in Oakland, but Denver did most of its damage against DeAngelo Hall, who is now a Redskin after the Raiders released him.  Denver still has half of its defense banged up, including Champ Bailey, who will once again not play.  The backups stepped up and played terrific against Atlanta last week, and the Broncos will need a similar effort this week.  The Raiders have actually run the ball well this year, and for all their struggles they have managed to keep it close in a number of games this year.  This is a huge rivalry, so the Broncos will need to be careful to avoid a letdown, but if the offense doesn’t turn the ball over than Jay Cutler and company should be able to have success offensively.  Oakland may have Nnamdi Asuomgua to shut down Brandon Marshall, but the Raiders do not have the secondary to contain Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler.  Denver wins at home to keep their AFC West lead. 

– Cowboys over 49ers: Dallas did not quite look sharp last week in Washington, but they were able to get a road division win.  It almost looked as though Tony Romo’s return lit a fire under the defense as much as it did under the offense.  Dallas in many ways is fortunate to be 6-4 considering the issues they’ve dealt with, but now they have a chance to take advantage of the friendly portion of their schedule.  Now that Romo is back, it seems like it should be only a matter of time before Terrell Owens starts putting up big numbers again.  The 49ers have played very hard for Mike Singletary the last two games, blowing out the Rams last week.  Even though it was the Rams, the Niners still had a 35-6 halftime lead, so perhaps their offense is starting to figure things out.  San Francisco is not a cakewalk anymore, so the Cowboys have to be careful, but they should be able to win this one at home. 

– Cardinals over Giants: I feel like I’m tempting fate picking against the Giants.  I do feel as though they did not get proper respect from anyone at the start of the season, especially national idiots who picked them to finish under .500.  I believe the Giants are the best team in the NFL, so this is definitely not a knock against them in any  way.  This is an interesting game because the Giants return to the scene of their Super Bowl win last year, which happens to be a place where the Cardinals have become very difficult to beat.  Arizona’s areal circus passing game has been very effective under the roof, and I believe the Giants will have trouble containing both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.  The Giants may be without Brandon Jacobs, and even if he plays he won’t be 100 percent.  If Jacobs doesn’t play, they could still get a capable performance from Derrick Ward, but it would still hamper the Giants’ offense a little bit.  Arizona has been dominant at home, and the Cardinals will be fired up for this one to prove they are for real.  There is also a chance the Cardinals could actually clinch the NFC West this week if things break right around the league.  The motivation will be enough for Arizona to pull off the upset in the climate controlled indoor environment, with a caveat that if there is a playoff rematch in the Meadowlands, the Giants would roll in the bad weather.

– Redskins over Seahawks: Washington is coming off two tough home losses, but they currently still hold the last playoff position in the NFC.  They know they’re going to have to take care of business against a weak Seattle team if they are to maintain that position.  Clinton Portis did play against Dallas, and while he was limited, it does indicate that he should be able to go against Seattle.  His presence is really the key to the Redskins’ offense because of his ability to block in the passing game and his ability to make plays in the open field.  The Seahawks did not look any more improved with Matt Hasselbeck under center last week than they did without him, and Seattle still looks like they’re going through the motions during much of the game.  This game is very important for Washington, while Seattle is playing out the string for a lame duck coach that has announced his retirement at the end of the year.  This combination adds up to an easy Redskins victory, even on the road. 

– Bears over Rams: St. Louis has been outscored 75-6 in the first half of their last two games.  That tells you all you need to know about how bad things are in St. Louis.  The Bears lost 37-3 last week in Green Bay, which means they’re also limping into this game.  Chicago is only a game out of first in the weak NFC North, so the Bears definitely still have something to play for unlike the Rams.  Chicago’s defense has really struggled in the passing game this year, but they have been outstanding against the run (except last week) and they still have the ability to force turnovers and make things happen.  I sense a monster afternoon for Chicago’s defense against a weak St. Louis attack, and the Bears should be able to get enough yards on the ground from Matt Forte to win comfortably.  As bad as the Rams are and as difficult as Bears tickets are to find in Chicago, it wouldn’t surprise me if this felt like a home game to the Bears with tons of Chicago fans in the seats.

– Buccaneers over Lions: The 0-16 watch in Detroit continues.  Actually, the Lions gave a great effort last week at Carolina, and were just a two point conversion away from tying it up in the fourth quarter.  Daunte Culpepper didn’t look near as lost and the Lions actually got great running from Kevin Smith.  The other side of the ball is a different story however, as Detroit allowed a franchise record running day for the Panthers.  Tampa Bay’s defense successfully contained Adrian Peterson last week, and the Bucs’ defense should be licking their chops about facing the Detroit offense, and they will be able to shut down the Detroit offense.  The Bucs’ offense has taken a hit with Earnest Graham out for the season, but Warrick Dunn is perfectly capable.  Tampa Bay rolls on the road.

– Panthers over Falcons: This will be a great game in the NFC South.  The Panthers are very quietly 8-2 and in bye position in the NFC, while the Falcons are in the thick of the race at 6-4.  The Panthers won the first meeting fairly handily in Charlotte, despite being outgained on the ground.  Carolina got 100 yards apiece from DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the ground last week and they should be able to have success running again this week.  This has the potential to be a really high scoring game, as the Falcons have ability to run as well, even though they were contained last week against Denver.  Matt Ryan is also not playing like a rookie and he is coming off a no touchdown game, so odds are he will bounce back.  I do give Carolina a slight edge in this game because it’s been three weeks since Steve Smith has had a big day and he is due for one.  If the Panthers can win a road game like this, they will prove that they belong in the discussion for Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.  

– Chargers over Colts: I am really tempted to pick the Colts here.  Indianapolis has won three in a row, and suddenly finds itself at the top of the wild card leaders in the AFC.  They are too far behind the Titans to catch them for the division lead, but the Colts are a team that would be really dangerous in the playoffs from any position.  Peyton Manning is really playing better, and the Colts finally got a 100-yard game last week from Joseph Addai.  The Chargers are really in trouble at 4-6, and they could potentially be facing a three game deficit in the AFC West with a loss.  The Chargers defense really gave a great effort last week in Pittsburgh, shutting down the Steelers’ running game and essentially holding them to 9 points (Pittsburgh also had a safety).  There was even a LaDainian Tomlinson sighting with a touchdown.  San Diego knows it has no more margin for error at this point, and for all the Chargers’ faults this season, they have not lost a home game since the opener against Carolina.  The Chargers have been particularly dominant in night home games, blowing out both the Jets and Patriots.  This is the Sunday night game, which means the crowd will be at a fever pitch.  A desperate San Diego team with nothing less than its entire season on the line will find a way to pull this one out and keep its faint pulse beating.   

– Saints over Packers: The Monday night game is one where both teams need a win to keep their season alive.  Both teams are coming off big wins, and a win here for either team will help them get momentum going down the stretch.  The Saints should get Reggie Bush back, and if they do he gives them a dimension on offense that they’ve really been missing the last few weeks.  With Drew Brees playing at an MVP level, and the Saints’ receiving core finally healthy, a healthy Bush would give the Green Bay offense another thing they have to worry about.  The Packers are actually coming off their best game of the season having blown out the Bears, and you really can’t say that Aaron Rodgers is the reason for their five losses as banged up as the Packers have been on defense.  This should be a very entertaining Monday night game, especially considering the Saints are playing their first home game since October 13 (which I’m sorry, that is ridiculous.  The league should not have allowed the Saints to be on the road that amount of time.  The Saints “home” game that was moved to London was a joke).  The Saints fans have waited a long time for the team to return, and they will provide the team with a big lift, helping them to a Monday night win.

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Jets-Patriots Recap plus Week Eleven Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 14, 2008

Well, for the second straight week I was incorrect on the Thursday night game.  Needless to say, I did not expect the Jets to jump out the way they did on the road.  Leon Washington’s kickoff return was clearly a momentum changer early, and the Jets offense was really clicking in the first half.  Give the Patriots a lot of credit for battling back from a 24-6 deficit and giving themselves a chance to win, even if they were unable to pull it out.  I really thought New England made the right call going for it on 4th down twice at the end of the first half, even though one of them was unsuccessful, because kicking a field goal when you’re down 24-6 does not help you.  The Patriots ended up scoring a critical touchdown before halftime that gave them a much needed boost for the second half.  Had they kicked the field goal to cut it to 24-9, odds are the second half would have turned out to be much easier for the Jets.

The last 20 minutes of the game (including the overtime) was simply a display of terrific football.  After the Patriots tied it at 24, the Jets chewed up more than seven minutes off the clock with a short passing game and a sense of purpose.  Brett Favre made the throws you would expect of a sure fire Hall of Famer, and when Thomas Jones capped it off with a touchdown to put the Jets up 31-24, you got the sense the game was still not over.  Even when the Jets got the ball back with just over two minutes to go, New England knew they could get the ball back with a stop.  Sure enough the Patriots got it back with 1:15 on the clock, and Matt Cassel evoked memories of Tom Brady, chewing up the Jets prevent defense with short passes to Wes Welker, and managing the clock beautifully.  His throw on the run to Randy Moss for the tying touchdown with one second left was phenomenal, and Moss did a great job hauling it in even with Ty Law draped all over him.  New England appeared to have all the momentum heading into overtime, even after the Jets won the coin flip.  

They did until Brett Favre answered Cassel in the overtime, escaping what looked like a sure sack to convert a key 3rd & 14 to keep the drive alive deep in his own territory.  Favre then made precision throw after precision throw, mixed in with hard running by Jones, and the Jets won it on a Jay Feely field goal 34-31.  It is unfortunate that New England never saw the ball in overtime, but their defense was unable to come up with a stop when needed.  I am one that does not think the overtime rule needs to be changed, even though a lot of times the team that wins the toss marches right down for a field goal.  New England had several chances to come up with a stop, and beyond that, Bill Belichick elected to go the safe route and kick the extra point and send the game to OT with one second left, rather than going for two and the win.  Clearly, that is a judgement call that does not necessarily have a right answer, as teams going for two in that situation are one for two this season.  I am one though where I would seriously think about going for two there if there is a chance my offense may not see the ball in OT.  Regardless of that, the Jets were able to pull the road upset in a very entertaining game and take control of first place in the AFC East.  That is exactly why the Jets signed Favre, for that kind of performance.  The Patriots will not go away quietly, but New York is in the driver’s seat for the time being.  If all of these Thursday games are bound to be this exciting, perhaps the Bengals may have hope next week in Pittsburgh?  I still say not likely.  At any rate, on to the picks, keeping in mind I’m already 0-1 this week:

 

Last Week: 10-4 (.714) Season: 89-54 (.622)

– Dolphins over Raiders: This has complete mismatch written all over it.  Miami has very quietly won three in a row, and can actually vault into second place in the AFC East with a win.  Miami is getting a fantastic year out of Joey Porter, and he has really energized the defense.  The Dolphins are also getting great running out of Ronnie Brown and (surprise!) Ricky Williams.  The Raiders are a complete joke in every way, especially when they’ve played on the road this year.  Even in a game where they forced Jake Delhomme into four picks last week, they still managed to score just six points.  Oakland will not be able to move the ball in this game, and Chad Pennington will not get rattled in the pocket.  The Dolphins have enough offense to win their fourth straight, setting up a showdown with New England next week.

– Eagles over Bengals: Philadelphia knows they must win this game to even be in the mix in the NFC East, especially since they have tough games with Baltimore and Arizona coming up after this one.  The Eagles had chances to win last week against the Giants despite getting dominated in time of possession, and have way too much talent to be stuck at 5-4.  Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook are actually healthy, and spells bad news for Cincinnati’s defense in this one.  The Bengals are coming off their first win of the year, and have showed signs of life at times this year, but they will not be able to keep up in this one.  Ryan Fitzpatrick under center against Jim Johnson’s ballhawking Eagles defense is not a good combination.  The lack of interest in ticket sales in Cincinnati also means there will be lots of green in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium.  Philadelphia survives an early punch and then pulls away late.

– Giants over Ravens: This will be a great game.  The Giants keep proving doubters wrong who picked them to falter after winning the Super Bowl last year, having won yet another tough road game last week in Philadelphia.  The Giants have great balance on offense with Brandon Jacobs and Eli Manning is playing at least as good as his older brother.  The defense has also been effective despite losing both defensive ends from last year’s team.  Baltimore continues to surprise at 6-3, having blown out the Texans not only with their usual tough defense, but now the Ravens have an offense to go with it.  Now that Willis McGahee is healthy again, the Ravens offense can cause problems for opponents in addition to the defense.  I expect a tough physical game from both teams that will probably come down to turnovers.  I take the Giants at home, but if the game were in Baltimore I would be really tempted to go the other way.  Still, the Giants are the defending champs and they will prove why by pulling this one out.

– Steelers over Chargers: Both teams are extremely desperate for a win.  The object the Steelers see in their rear view mirror that is the Ravens keeps getting closer and closer, and Pittsburgh wants to get that winning feeling back after losing two of their last three, both at home.  Ben Roethlisberger will start again for the Steelers and they will need him to take care of the ball.  Willie Parker really will be back this time, and that will help the Steelers offense tremendously.  San Diego has way too much talent to be 4-5, but it does seem very clear that they do miss Shawne Merriman more than anticipated on defense.  The Chargers know they can sill win the AFC West with Denver hobbling, and we keep waiting for the light bulb to go on.  Still, the Chargers barely beat Kansas City this week, and we know the track record of west coast teams heading east.  Pittsburgh wins a close one.  

– Colts over Texans: Houston’s best chance of beating the Colts came in September, when the Texans blew a 27-10 lead with under five minutes to play.  After Indianapolis made that comeback, and factoring the trouncing the Texans took against Baltimore last week, and there is no way Houston has any mojo heading into this game.  The Colts meanwhile have been red hot, earning back to back wins against the Patriots and Steelers.  Reggie Wayne has certainly picked up the slack for a struggling Marvin Harrison, and Peyton Manning is finally starting to look like his old self again.  Suddenly, Indianapolis has a very friendly schedule down the stretch, and the Colts look like playoff material.  Factor in that the Texans are still stuck with Sage Rosenfels, he of two fumbles in three minutes against the Colts last meeting, and there is no way the Colts don’t roll in front of the home fans.  

– Jaguars over Titans: I know, I know, I keep picking against Tennessee and they keep winning.  I keep waiting for the thank you card from Jeff Fisher any day now thanking me for continuing to pick against them.  This pick has less to do with Tennessee and more to do with Jacksonville, who finally got the running game going last week.  Okay, so it was against the Lions, but if the Jags can get a repeat performance from Maurice Jones-Drew, they will have more than a fighting chance against the undefeated Titans.  David Garrard having the ability to make plays with his legs will also be a factor in neutralizing the Titans defense.  Tennessee could not get the running game going at all against the Bears, and to their credit they adjusted and Kerry Collins played great, but Jacksonville’s defense is better against the pass than Chicago’s.  This is a fierce division rivalry that is always close, and I have a hunch the Jaguars will save their season and get to .500 by pulling out a tough win in front of the home fans.  

– Falcons over Broncos: I expect a high scoring shootout in this one.  The Broncos offense is back to form now that they have Tony Scheffler back in the lineup to stretch the defense, and Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal will benefit from great matchups against the Atlanta secondary.  One of them will be matched against former Bronco Dominique Foxworth, who routinely got burned in Denver, so as a Broncos fan I am licking my chops at that one.  Thing is, the Broncos are very thin at running back, having just signed old friend Tatum Bell this week.  Bell was selling cell phones in the mall last week, so who knows how good of shape he’ll be in.  Meanwhile, the Broncos defense is so banged up that none of their starting linebackers are available, although Champ Bailey may try to play.  Still, the Falcons are as red hot as anyone in the league right now, and are right in the mix in the NFC South at 6-3.  Matt Ryan is certainly not playing like a rookie, and he has an excellent matchup here against Denver’s 29th ranked pass defense, even if Bailey plays.  Factor in Denver’s complete inability to stop the run, and you also have big plays from Michael Turner and probably Jerious Norwood too.  I like Atlanta to win a close high scoring game in this one.  Side note, how ironic would it be if the Falcons beat Denver on a last second Jason Elam field goal?  My stomach churns as I type the sentence.  

– Chiefs over Saints: UPSET OF THE WEEK.  I may be nuts, but Kansas City has given terrific effort for three straight weeks, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion each time.  They lost to the Jets on a last second drive by Favre, they let a huge lead get away at home against the Bucs, and they lost in San Diego when Herm Edwards rolled the dice to go for two at the end and they didn’t get it (although that would not have been necessary if not for a missed extra point earlier in the game).  Remember the name Mark Bradley.  In fact you might want to grab him in your fantasy league if he is still available.  The rookie is rapidly emerging as a major threat in the Kansas City offense, and he and Dwayne Bowe actually have a very favorable matchup against the Saints’ secondary.  New Orleans has been up and down all year, despite an MVP type year from Drew Brees.  The Saints should get Reggie Bush back, and that will definitely help their offense in more ways than one.  Even though the Saints should score a ton of points in this game, something smells fishy here.  If Arrowhead Stadium is rocking, and the fans who have shown up this year have still been loud, than I think the Chiefs hard effort pays off in the form of an upset win.

– Packers over Bears: One of the league’s best rivalries gets renewed in the NFC North, and both teams are coming off tough losses.  This is the type of game where you have to throw the records out owing to the intense nature of the rivalry.  Chicago’s defense gave a great effort against the Titans, holding them to minus 5 yards in the first half, but their suspect pass defense ended up catching up with them in the end.  Kyle Orton will try to return for the Bears, and if he does it will really help take the pressure off rookie back Matt Forte.  Green Bay lost a bizarre game to the Vikings, where they lost despite getting an interception return for a touchdown and a punt return TD.  They would have won if not for a Mason Crosby missed field goal at the end, but it’s not often a team even has a chance to win after giving up two safeties in one game.  The fact that the Packers are back at Lambeau Field will be the sway factor in this one.  Aaron Rodgers should be able to make enough plays in the passing game to give the Packers a much needed victory, which will create a real logjam in the NFC North.  

– Panthers over Lions: Blowout of the week.  Carolina’s offense will be back to form after an off week against the Raiders in which Jake Delhomme was just 7 of 27.  The Panthers will have no problem moving the ball against the Lions to the point where last week’s offensive struggles will seem like a distant memory.  Steve Smith will have a monster day, and the Carolina running game will have a big day too.  The Lions seem unsure who will start at quarterback, but it won’t matter if it’s Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton, either one will have a big problem against Carolina’s attacking defense.  I can’t even come up with a feeble argument for how Detroit can even keep this game close.  They can’t run it, they can’t pass, and they can’t play defense, that about sums it up.  The 0-16 watch is on in Detroit, as the Lions schedule does not ease up after this game in any way.  

– Buccaneers over Vikings: This will be a very entertaining game.  I can’t wait to see the unstoppable force (Adrian Peterson) go against the immovable object (the Bucs defense).  Something has to give here, because Peterson is a threat for a big play every time, while Tampa Bay’s defense makes a habit of making even Pro Bowl offensive players look foolish.  If Peterson is taken away, Gus Frerotte will have a difficult time making plays in the passing game, so it will be important for the Vikings to be able to run the ball.  This game may well be decided on the other side of the ball, where it will be key for the Bucs’ offense to control the clock against the Vikings’ defense.  Most teams have had trouble running against Jared Allen and company, so the onus will be on Jeff Garcia to make plays.  Both divisions are really tight, so this a game that both teams really need.  I go with Tampa Bay because they’re playing at home, largely on the strength of their defense being at least able to contain Peterson.  

– Cardinals over Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck is back for the Seahawks, although it screams too little too late.  Mike Holmgren’s club is 2-7 and actually trails the Cardinals by four games in the NFC West.  Seattle actually gave a valiant effort last week in Miami, and Hasselbeck’s return and the home crowd should give the Seahawks a lift, but the Cardinals know this is a game they need too.  Arizona has to deal with the Giants and the Eagles in the next two weeks, so there is no way they want to head into that stretch coming off a loss.  The Cardinals struggled at times against San Francisco last week, but Kurt Warner still made the throws he needed to, and the defense came up with big stops at the end.  This is the type of game Arizona would have blown in the past, but not this time.  Even though the Seahawks will be fired up with Hasselbeck returning, Arizona will have enough to win this one, even on the road.  

– 49ers over Rams: The question facing the Rams is have they given up on the season?  St. Louis really looked like they didn’t care last week against the Jets, and that can only mean good news for Rams’ opponents the rest of the year.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Marc Bulger yanked in favor of Trent Green, and Steven Jackson is once again out of this game due to injury.  The 49ers played with a sense of purpose last week, and it looks like Mike Singletary is well on his way to turning things around.  If not for a crazy sequence at the end of the game, they would have upset the Cardinals, and this is the kind of game where San Francisco will be able to feel good about itself going forward.  Frank Gore should have his best game of the season, and should be able to run at will against the porous Rams’ defense.  There is talent on this Niners team, and they can begin the process of building momentum for next year now, starting with a big win here.  

– Cowboys over Redskins: Tony Romo is back for Dallas in the Sunday night game, and that will energize the Cowboys’ offense.  Dallas is also coming off a bye week, so they have had a chance to regroup.  For all that has gone wrong in Big D, they are still 5-4, and very much in the thick of the playoff race.  It is ironic that they have essentially switched positions with the Giants from last year.  Last year Dallas won the NFC East while the Giants floundered midseason and got it together at the end to win the Super Bowl.  If the Cowboys believe in history repeating itself, then they very much have a chance to make a serious run.  Romo’s return is definitely good news for Terrell Owens and Roy Williams, who has had the bye to get more comfortable with the offense.  The possible return of Felix Jones should also help Dallas get the running game going.  Washington, meanwhile, is also coming off a bye but they also got waxed by Pittsburgh in their last game.  to make matters worse, Clinton Portis is doubtful with an MCL injury.  Even if Portis plays he won’t be near 100 percent, and that will make things very difficult for the Redskins.  Even though Washington is at home, and even though it is a big rivalry, and even though the Redskins will benefit from a rocking crowd, Dallas shows they are back in the mix by collecting a huge road win on a national stage.  

– Bills over Browns: The Monday nighter seems like a big yawner compared to all the other great matchups this week, but it is very important for the Bills, who are already in last place in the AFC East despite a 5-4 record, and will further find themselves entrenched in that spot with another loss.  Buffalo has lost three straight, and their 4-0 start seems like distant history.  Trent Edwards has really struggled in the past month or so, but he has chance to get things together in this game against a Browns defense that gave up 447 yards passing to Jay Cutler last week.  Buffalo needs their defense to step up in this one, as the Browns will be sure to open things up a little more for Brady Quinn than they did in his first game.  Quinn developed great chemistry with Kellen Winslow immediately, so that could be bad news for Buffalo, but I say the Bills’ raucous home Monday night crowd will give them a lift early, and then Edwards should be able to pull something out of the bag in the second half to give the Bills the win.  Something to watch in this game also: both sets of special teams are capable of making big plays, including touchdown returns.  If one of these teams scores a special teams touchdown, it could sway the game.  Still, I like the Bills.

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Thursday Night Football Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 13, 2008

The NFL Network certainly lucked out with its Thursday night game draw this week, a titanic AFC East showdown between the Jets and Patriots.  Both teams sit 6-3, and both teams have been hot lately.  The Jets have won five of their past six games, including a 47-3 thrashing of the Rams last week in which they had a 40-0 lead at HALFTIME.  Granted, two of the other Jets wins in that stretch have come against the Bengals and Chiefs, but they also hung 56 points on the NFC West leading Cardinals (how strange does that phrase sound?) and they also won a tough division road game in Buffalo.  New England, meanwhile, has managed to win three of its past four, including a win over the Bills themselves last week in which they sealed it with a 19 play, 92 yard drive that took 9:08 off the clock in the fourth quarter.  Basically the Patriots were able to hold the ball for two thirds of the fourth quarter to seal the win, which is needless to say impressive. 

The winner of this game takes over sole possession of first place in the AFC East, so it’s obviously a critical game for both teams.  This is exactly the kind of game the Jets signed Brett Favre for, an intense division game on the road.  Favre has certainly if nothing else provided the Jets a spark, which is an understatement considering the Jets have already surpassed their 2007 win total.  The Jets have run the ball well with Thomas Jones, and that will certainly help them control the tempo of the game, especially in trying to temper the intense crowd of New England fans that will be on hand.   The Jets’ defense has also been playing surprisingly well as of late, so that gives them a chance in this game.  If they can get pressure on Matt Cassel, they will have a chance. 

Speaking of Cassel, the Patriots have gotten very good play from him over the past month or so.  He hasn’t put up spectacular numbers, but he has made the plays he has needed to and has not made bad decisions.  Sounds almost like a carbon copy of the 2001 Tom Brady doesn’t it?  The Patriots haven’t been getting the big plays from Randy Moss that they got last year, but Wes Welker is among the league leaders in catches, and they’ve found ways to score enough points to win games.  New England has run the ball effectively despite being gashed with injury at the running back position, and the defense has done a good job keeping them in games. 

The key to this game will be whether or not the Jets’ defense can get pressure on Cassel.  For all that Cassel has done well, he has been sacked a whopping 29 times this season.  Even in his best game against the Broncos, Cassel was sacked six times.  Even last week against the Bills, there were times where he didn’t necessarily look comfortable in the pocket, although he was able to make the plays he needed to.  If the Jets can rattle Cassel and force him into turnovers, it will change the complexion of the game considerably.   Keep in mind the Patriots won the week two meeting in New York 19-10 primarily because they were able to pressure Favre and make him uncomfortable.  The Jets will need to do the same to Cassel in order to win.

This will certainly be an intense, tight game throughout, but I have to give the Patriots a slight edge in this one.  They are playing a night game at home, they won the first meeting on the road already, and they’ve won 11 of their past 12 games against the Jets.  I think Favre will make enough plays to keep the Jets in it, but it won’t be quite enough.  While the Jets defense might be able to get to Cassel a little bit, the Patriots will somehow find a way to pull this one out at home.  Even with a short week to prepare, it’s hard to bet against Bill Belichick when the game is this close. 

The Pick: Patriots 20, Jets 17

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Week Ten Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 7, 2008

Obviously we’re off to a flying start this week after being incorrect on the Thursday night game, but as I’ve said I am ecstatic that I was wrong and the Broncos didn’t lose.  Before we get to the picks, bad news for the Broncos today, as Ryan Torain is done for the year with a torn ACL.  Is there anyone out there healthy enough to play running back?  Anyone?  We’ll delve more into the Broncos’ running back quandry next week, but in the meantime, on to the picks. 

Last Week: 8-6 (.571)   Season: 79-50 (.612)

– Patriots over Bills: This should be a great game.  Both teams are coming off close losses, and both are in the midst of a three way tie for the division lead.  The Bills will be fired up after losing two division games in a row, but I pick New England mainly because they always seem to win every time I give up on them.  Bill Belichick has done maybe the best coaching job of his career this season, and the Patriots should have enough in the tank to win this big division game at home.  Trent Edwards has not played well on the road, while Matt Cassel has done more than a serviceable job for the Patriots, especially at Gillette Stadium.  In a close game like this, it will be the quarterback play that will make the difference and I actually give the nod to Cassel in this one.  Keep in mind these teams meet in Buffalo the last week of the season, and that could be for the AFC East title. 

– Dolphins over Seahawks: This definitely has the look of a mismatch.  The Dolphins have to qualify as one of the league’s top surprises with a 4-4 record at the midway point following a 1-15 effort last season.  Miami’s run defense has done a superb job all season, especially last week when they held the Broncos to just 14 yards rushing.  This spells bad news for Seattle, which has to start Seneca Wallace at quarterback for one more week while Matt Hasselbeck recovers from injury.  The Dolphins are believing that they are a contender, while the Seahawks are on their way to what is easily the worst season in the Mike Holmgren era.  Couple that with the fact Miami is at home, and you have what should be an easy Dolphins victory.   This is my eliminator pick this week mainly because the Seahawks have been so atrocious. 

– Jets over Rams: New York is also involved in the three way tie for the AFC East lead, and they should be able to enjoy an easy home win in this one.  The Rams showed life the first few games of the Jim Haslett era, but they have very quickly come back to Earth.  Steven Jackson is benched for the time being because Haslett doesn’t believe he’s giving full effort, and the Rams defense got exposed big time last week in the loss to Arizona.  The Jets have quietly won three of their past four games, including a surprising road win last week in Buffalo.  Even if Brett Favre goes into his throwing gift interceptions mode, the Rams won’t have enough horses to keep up in this one.  If nothing else, the Jets should be able to get a big rushing day from Thomas Jones.

– Ravens over Texans: This game was originally scheduled to be played in week two, but was moved due to Hurricane Ike.  Houston has come back to Earth after a scorching three week period after a loss to Minnesota last week and the injury to quarterback Matt Schaub.  This plays right into Baltimore’s hands: backup QB (Sage Rosenfels) versus the always tough Ravens defense.  Houston still has enough weapons in the passing game that they’ll be able to move the ball some, but the Ravens are quickly proving that they deserve to be in the playoff mix.  Baltimore’s defense is quickly regaining its reputation as one of the league’s best, and that has allowed them to be competitive in every game this season, even on the road.  The Ravens get the road win to keep Pittsburgh within sight in the AFC North.

– Steelers over Colts: There is a question mark for Pittsburgh at quarterback: will it be Ben Roethlisberger or Byron Leftwich?  Either way, the Steelers are in good shape because Willie Parker is back to anchor the running game, and Leftwich really played very well last week in the win over the Redskins.  The Colts gave a gutsy performance in their win over New England last week, but Heinz Field is always a tough place to play, and Peyton Manning and company have yet to give two solid performances in a row this year.  The Steelers defense will not allow the Colts receivers to get separation, nor will they allow a hobbled Joseph Addai to have a big day.  Indianapolis still has more than enough talent to make a run for a playoff spot, but they face too tall of an order in this one.  Pittsburgh gets the home win in one of the better games of the week.

– Jaguars over Lions: I have once again fallen into the trap of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they can’t possibly fall flat on their faces in this one can they?  Jacksonville is an awful 3-5 after a surprise loss in Cincinnati last week, which means the Jaguars are at the very least a contender for most disappointing team this season.  My preseason AFC Super Bowl pick is really letting me down in more ways than one, but I still believe they are not out of it yet.  David Garrard has actually done a superb job despite the record, but the problem for the Jaguars has been their inability to run the ball.  That should change against a Detroit defense that has been gashed by everyone.  Daunte Culpepper gets the start for the Lions after being signed just last week, so it will be interesting to see how he plays.  I think the Jaguars will find a way to win this one on the road, but I have admit an upset is possible if Culpepper plays well.  If Jacksonville loses this one, it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my preseason predictions are good for nothing but kindling, but at least that would put me in good company.

– Bears over Titans: I smell an upset here, mainly because the Titans have won a ton of close games this season, and odds are that one of them will go the other way at some point.  I do put an asterisk by it in the sense that it is unknown whether Kyle Orton or Rex Grossman will get the start for Chicago.  In either case, the Bears will be extremely fired up for this one at Soldier Field, especially since they have an opportunity to extend their lead in the NFC North.  Tennessee has played great defensively, but Chicago’s defense has also forced a ton of turnovers.  If the Bears can win the turnover battle, which is not farfetched by any means as aggressive as their defense is, they will have an opportunity to give their offense a short field, which could easily make the difference in the game.  In typcial Tennessee fashion, the game will once again come down to the wire, but a hunch says the Soldier Field crowd sways the Bears to their biggest win of the year.

– Panthers over Raiders: This will be one of the blowouts of the week.  Carolina is fresh off a bye, and their offense is really clicking with Jake Delhomme and company putting up points.  Oakland is in shambles (what else is new) after releasing big ticket free agent signee DeAngleo Hall and getting shut out at home last week by Atlanta.  The Panthers have too many weapons for the Raiders to contain, especially now that Hall is gone.  Carolina is in position for a bye right now in the NFC playoff picture, and they know they have to keep winning to maintain it.  If I hadn’t already used the Panthers in my eliminator pool, I would be sure to use them here.  Carolina wins big. 

– Chargers over Chiefs: San Diego is also coming off a bye, and is still very much in play in the AFC West despite a 3-5 record.  Even after Denver’s win over Cleveland last night, the Chargers are just a game and a half back in the division with a very friendly schedule awaiting down the stretch.  San Diego for whatever reason has yet to consistently put anything together, but they have now had the bye week to figure it out.  They do get a Chiefs team that has really shown improvement and signs of life the last two games, but Kansas City has still not been able to win.  The Chiefs may well win another game or two before the season is finished, but it won’t come here.  San Diego wins easily at home to kick off their post-bye schedule.

– Vikings over Packers: I really went back and forth on this one, and in the end you might as well flip a coin.  This is a really intense division rivalry, and both teams have been up and down this season.  Both teams have experienced success offensively in recent weeks, and both have outstanding running games, so this has the potential to be a shootout.  The Packers won the first meeting at Lambeau Field in week one, but that was with Tarvaris Jackson under center for Minnesota.  Gus Frerotte has done an admirable job in the that role for the Vikings, and they have a lot of momentum after a home win against Houston last week.  The Metrodome will be rocking for this one, and that will ultimately prove to be the difference in this one as Minnesota jumps back into the NFC North race.

– Falcons over Saints: This game has the potential to be a shootout too.  New Orleans will be without Reggie Bush for one more week, which means the onus will be on Drew Brees and the passing game to move the ball, which they have been very effective doing all year.  The Saints are also coming off a bye, which has helped them recover from the London trip.  The Falcons have been a tremendous surprise at 5-3, and Matt Ryan is playing not only well for a rookie, but he has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league this season (and a borderline must start in fantasy the way he keeps improving).  Atlanta will have no trouble scoring points at home in the Georgia Dome, and they will pull out a narrow win at home in what should be a very entertaining game.   

– Eagles over Giants: The Sunday night game will be dynamite.  Not only is this one of the most intense rivalries in football, but this game matches two of the top teams in the NFL.  The Eagles are right in the thick of the NFC race even though they’ve battled numerous injuries at virtually every position.  Now that they are starting to get healthy, they are starting to show how good they can be.  The Giants are of course the defending champs and have been very tough on the road, including their win two weeks ago in Pittsburgh.  The Giants have to absolutely be considered at the very least in the top 2 or 3 teams in the league right now, and probably are the top team considering they are the defending champs, but a hunch says Philadelphia will get a tremendous lift from a raucous crowd that is still on cloud nine from the Phillies’ World Series victory.  Philadelphia wins what could out to be one of the best games of the season, not just the week.  Regardless of how this one turns out, both teams will be right in the thick of everything at the end.

– Cardinals over 49ers: It has to be a sign of the apocalypse to see the Arizona Cardinals hosting a Monday night game doesn’t it?  Or is it more of a shock that they have a commanding lead in the NFC West, and should pummel poor San Francisco in this one?  The 49ers have had the bye week to regroup, and they do have one of the league’s top running backs in Frank Gore, but that’s about all they have going for them.  No doubt interim coach Mike Singletary is intense, but no amount of intensity will be able to help the Niners stop Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin from running wild.  Remember when it was a question whether it would be Kurt Warner or Matt Leinart under center for the Cardinals this year?  That seems like ancient history.  The Cardinals with a win would be 6-3 and clearly on track to host a playoff game, no that would have to be a sign of the apocalypse.  Arizona wins this one so easily that viewers will flip away by the third quarter.

BYE: Bengals, Cowboys, Redskins, Buccaneers – these are the last of the byes this season

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Broncos Football on a THURSDAY???

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 6, 2008

I have to admit I can never get used to it when the Broncos, or any other NFL team, plays a Thursday game.  This is the fourth consecutive year the Broncos have drawn a Thursday contest (including two Thanksgiving Day games) and I still can’t get used to it.  I actually applaud the concept of getting more games on television for the fans, although I’m not sure NFL Network counts as a national broadcast at this point due to the fact numerous households still don’t get the channel.  At any rate, the Broncos face a very difficult task for numerous reasons: the short week, the fact they’re coming off a tough loss, the numerous injuries on both sides of the ball, and the travel on such a short timetable (to the eastern time zone to boot, where no pacific or mountain time zone team has won a game this season).  If that’s not enough, they get what is sure to be a raucous crowd at Cleveland Browns Stadium that will be excited for the debut of Brady Quinn.

My pick for the game is coming in a moment, but first a reminder that this is the first of a slate of Thursday NFL games every week for the rest of the season, so remember this if you are in an eliminator pool, have a fantasy lineup that needs to be set before the first kick, or even if you have players that may be involved in the game that you need to make a decision on.  In this space, I will offer a pick for each Thursday game before it kicks off, and then will follow up with the rest of the picks on Friday as normal.  So remember to look for the rest of my picks for week 10 on Friday, along with a recap of the Broncos and Browns.  

This is a very difficult game to pick because both teams are a mess.  The Broncos have no choice but to start Ryan Torain at tailback because no one else is left.  Andre Hall and Michael Pittman were placed on injured reserve this week, and Selvin Young won’t be 100 percent even if he plays.  The coaches do love Torain, but he didn’t look up to speed against Miami.  The Broncos also will likely still be without Tony Scheffler, who will take the extended time before the next game to try and get back in the lineup.  His absence has had a real adverse effect on the passing game.  Meanwhile, Denver’s defense took another hit with the news that leading tackler D.J. Williams will be out at least a month with a torn MCL.  This means no Williams and no Bailey (either of them).  Not to mention, the Broncos are sitting on a league worst minus 11 turnover margin in their past five games.  It can be argued that the Broncos are leading their division, but that carries no weight whatsoever for a team that has lost four of its past five games.  It actually came as a surprise to me to read today that the Broncos are just 20-20 in their past 40 games, and that frankly isn’t acceptable for us in Broncos Country. 

The Browns have finally made the long overdue decision to yank Derek Anderson in favor of Brady Quinn.  This is a move I have advocated for since the offseason, when Cleveland made the surprising decision to offer Anderson a 3 year $24 million contract, even though they had made a big investment in Quinn by making him their first round pick in 2007.  This season Anderson has been anything but great, ranking dead last among starting quarterbacks with a terrible 49.8 completion percentage.  While Anderson has been dreadful at times, Quinn is of course an unknown, having made just one appearance in mop up duty last year.  The timing of the decision to make the move to Quinn with such a short week to prepare also seems a little odd.  The Browns are coming off a loss to Baltimore in which they blew a 27-13 second half lead and watched the Ravens score 20 unanswered points to end the game.  Cleveland’s defense has struggled against the run this year, having given up 154 yards to rookie Ray Rice last week, allowing him to average 7.3 yards a carry.  The Browns’ 3-5 start is not what they were hoping for after knocking on the door to the playoff party last season.

Sometimes when you have two struggling teams going at it, it actually turns out to be a good game, and that could be the case here.  I really hope I’m wrong, but I think this game shapes up to be bad news for the Broncos in more ways than one.  I do think the Broncos will be able to run better than they did against Miami, and I also think Jay Cutler and the passing game will give a better effort.  I think the deciding factor will be the play of Quinn, and if he doesn’t panic in his first start, he will be guaranteed to find Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow open all night with the Broncos missing their top defenders.  Edwards against Dre’ Bly in particular makes me really nervous, with Edwards looking like he’s about to break out for a big game the way his numbers have been climbing the past few weeks.  If the Broncos can rattle Quinn early and maybe even force an early turnover, which they haven’t done all year, then they will be able to stay in the game and maybe even control it.  If they can’t, it will be another long night for the orange and blue.  I really want to pick the Broncos to bounce back, but the rational side of me tells me I can’t.  The short week, the trip east, the missing bodies, the lack of confidence, it will be too much for the Broncos to overcome.

The Pick: Cleveland 27 Denver 17 

I really hope I’m wrong…….

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Week Nine Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 31, 2008

Obviously my predictions need to be taken with a grain of salt, since I once again managed to be woefully incorrect on the World Series.  I have to admit I really thought the two day layover in the middle of game five gave the Rays an advantage, but alas, the Phillies got the job done, and deserve all the credit for doing so.  From the looks of the awful TV ratings, it seems as though I was about the only one to watch anyway.  (The ratings numbers can’t have been helped by Saturday’s massive rain delay and accompanying 10 pm. eastern start time, or by the Barack Obama ad running on seemingly every channel opposite the conclusion of game five).  Incidentally, not shockingly to those who know me, my TV was on the game, not on politics.  I realize that’s not a choice people needed to make in most time zones where the game didn’t overlap, but it did where i live in the Mountain time zone.  My viewing choice would have been the same no matter what party was on the infomercial.  Sports just flat trumps politics in my household, that’s the way it works.  We all clear on this?  Excellent!  Now to the picks:

Last Week: 8-5 (.615)  Season: 71-44 (.617)

– Bills over Jets: Last week the Jets barely beat a Kansas City team that they were supposed to destroy.  Frankly, Kansas City had the upset pulled off if not for some ultra conservative play calling by Herm Edwards on the Chiefs’ last possession they had with the lead, which resulted in a three and out, and allowed Brett Favre a chance to drive the Jets for a go ahead touchdown.  The Jets have turned it over more times than their opponents in their past three games, and they’ve somehow managed to win two of them.  That is not a recipe for success if it keeps up for the Jets.  Buffalo meanwhile is coming off a surprising loss to Miami, and knows they must win this one to maintain their division lead with a Patriots showdown looming next weekend.  I expect a big rebound game from Trent Edwards and I expect the Bills defense to force Favre into a couple of turnovers he won’t be able to recover from.  Buffalo gets the win at home.  

– Broncos over Dolphins: I know I seem to always fall into the trap of picking my team to win, but this is one that the Broncos should be able to get regardless of badly they’ve played recently.  They are coming of a much needed bye week, they are getting injured players back (Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley, Selvin Young), and the running game will also get the added bonus of Ryan Torain’s much anticipated debut.  If he is still available in your fantasy league, claim him now, because it’s only a matter of time before Torain is the starter.  Torain was the talk of training camp before he got injured, and he should shine in Denver’s system.  In any case, the Broncos offense should be able to get back on track in this game against a Dolphins pass defense that is ranked 25th.  Miami did get the win last week against Buffalo, and should be able to run the ball with Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat formation, but they don’t have enough offense to keep up if Denver is clicking.  The Broncos get a narrow home win.

– Jaguars over Bengals: I simply refuse to give up on Jacksonville.  How this team is 3-4 is absolutely beyond me.  If they can’t win their next two games (this one and the Lions next week), then I suppose there really is no hope for them.  I still think the Jaguars will be a playoff team when everything is said and done, but they need Maurice Jones-Drew to be more dominant, and they need David Garrard to manage the game better.  Jacksonville let a home game slip away against Cleveland, and they know that urgency is starting to settle in with the AFC race so tight.  Going on to road to Cincinnati and all the empty seats that await is not intimidating, and the Jags’ defense shouldn’t have any trouble harassing Ryan Fitzpatrick or shutting down Cincinnati’s less than stellar running game.  The Bengals’ passing game doesn’t have much hope either after Chad Johnson (or Ocho Cinco or whatever) and T.J. Houshmanzadeh have now both disappeared for weeks.  Jacksonville wins in a laugher here.

– Browns over Ravens: This should be a very good, low scoring, defensive game.  Baltimore clobbered the Browns in Baltimore week three, but this is always an emotional game for the Cleveland fans since the old Browns left for Baltimore in 1995.  Cleveland is playing infinitely better since that week three meeting, and gave a very impressive performance in Jacksonville that made me wonder if I wrote them off a little too early after their 0-3 start.  The Ravens have been very impressive too, and would actually be in playoff position if the season ended today.  Joe Flacco had by far his best game as a pro against the Raiders last week, and Willis McGhaee finally looks healthy.  That being said, if Derek Anderson can avoid costly turnovers against the Ravens defense, Cleveland will sneak away with a win in this one.  

– Texans over Vikings: In a mini-upset pick, I think Houston will continue their winning ways in the Metrodome.  The Texans have now won three straight, and their offense has looked more and more impressive each week (I’m still kicking myself for stupidly cutting Matt Schaub in one of my fantasy leagues after week three).  Houston’s passing game will cause all kinds of problems for a Vikings secondary that gave up 48 points to a less than explosive Bears offense before the bye.  Minnesota has had a disappointing start and has certainly failed to meet the preseason hype, and they will be a desperate team playing in front of a raucous home crowd, but I just can’t see how they’ll be able to contain Houston’s offense.  Even a huge day for Adrian Peterson may not be enough to keep up, and on a hunch I say Houston wins a close one at the wire.  

– Packers over Titans: MAJOR UPSET ALERT.  I’ve had a gut feeling on a couple of these this year (Cowboys-Rams being right at the top), and while I have by no means gotten them all right, I have a real gut feeling on this one.  Tennessee has no doubt been the league’s best team with their 7-0 start, and they’re coming off a real emotional Monday night win against the Colts, and that’s why I sense a letdown here.  The Titans have a day less preparation, while the Packers are coming off a bye and will be well rested and healthy.  Green Bay is also two weeks removed from their big win over the Colts, so they won’t have that lingering in the rear view mirror anymore the way it’s still fresh for the Titans.  The key for Green Bay is to avoid turnovers against Tennessee’s stout defense, but I think the Packers will be able to run with Ryan Grant.  If they can, Aaron Rodgers should have an opportunity to make some plays.  Tennessee is built to win a tight, low scoring game, but what if Rodgers has a big day?  Can the Titans offense keep up?  A hunch says Green Bay pulls the upset and knocks off the league’s last unbeaten team.  

– Buccaneers over Chiefs: Needless to say, I am not picking an upset here, although the Chiefs actually did show a surprise pulse last week.  They were actually able to run a little with Jamaal Charles, Tyler Thigpen gave a performance actually resembling an NFL quarterback, and the defense was able to force turnovers.  The problem for Kansas City is that they’re about to face a Tampa Bay team that is hopping mad after they felt they gave one away in Dallas.  The Buccaneers defense has been awesome all year, and Thigpen will find it much harder to move the offense against it than he did against the Jets.  The Buccaneers’ offense has been up and down this year, but it seems like the trend should be up against the Chiefs.  Jeff Garcia is a smart, veteran QB who will not be rattled by the Arrowhead noise, and the Bucs will be able to withstand the early Chiefs’ punch and have enough to pull away for a road win.  

– Falcons over Raiders: Atlanta was needless to say screwed last week in Philly.  Down by six with just over two minutes to go, and receiving a punt, this sequence ensued.  Despite the fact that Adam Jennings clearly didn’t touch the ball, the refs said he did, and gave the ball to Philadelphia.  Brian Westbrook sealed the Eagles’ win with a touchdown run two plays later, and the Falcons were robbed of a chance to potentially take the lead with plenty of time on the clock and roughly 60 yards to go.  Since there was over two minutes on the clock, replay couldn’t be initiated by the booth upstairs, and the Falcons couldn’t challenge because they used their three timeouts to conserve time on defense while the Eagles were trying to get a first down.  This is a ludicrous flaw in the challenge system: should the Falcons have been asked to save a timeout just in case of a blown call?  Of course not.  The challenge system does not take into account blown calls after all challenges have been used.  This is a rant better served for another column, but the point is the Falcons gave a very admirable performance on the road in a hostile road environment, and by all rights may have had the game stolen from them, and I say they will be highly motivated to make a statement against the Raiders.  Oakland looked awful in Baltimore (what else is new?), and it seems like the Raiders should already be trembling of the thought of a very angry, motivated Atlanta team.  Oh, and the Falcons just happen to have more talent.  Atlanta wins in the Black Hole, erasing the memory of a bad loss in Philadephia

– Giants over Cowboys: This NFC East rivalry always bears watching, particularly after New York’s playoff win in Big D last year.  Dallas is still without Tony Romo for one more game (he is expected back Nov. 16 after next week’s bye), so the Cowboys certainly face an uphill battle in the Meadowlands.  Dallas did sneak away with a much needed win against Tampa Bay, and could still find themselves 5-4 after the bye even with a loss here.  Still, the Cowboys are in flux for this one, with Brad Johnson looking over his shoulder at Brooks Bollinger if he has a bad start to the game.  The Giants continue to prove that their title last year was not a fluke, and that everyone who predicted them to miss the playoffs this year (and in many cases finish under .500) seriously missed the boat.  The Giants showed a lot of guts picking up a win in Pittsburgh in a physical game where a lot of teams would have folded up.  This one actually has the look of a blowout if the Giants continue to be able to run the ball effectively and pressure the quarterback they have all year.  The Giants continue to flex their dominance in this one.  Is a Mount TO eruption coming if he has another bad game?

– Eagles over Seahawks: Seattle came out of nowhere and blew out the 49ers last week, although that may not be saying much.  (The Mike Singletary press conference video you’ve surely seen by now says it all about the state of things there).  Given that, we’re not giving Seattle much credit for that one.  Matt Hasselbeck is still out and so are most of his receivers, and that can’t be a good thing for Mike Holmgren’s club over the long haul.  The Eagles showed how their offense is really dangerous when Brian Westbrook is healthy, and that’s another uh oh for Seattle.  Even though the Seahawks are at home, that won’t be much help against the Eagles’ pressure defense, which is sure to have a field day against Seneca Wallace.  Philadelphia is one of the best teams in the league when healthy, and they frankly should have no problem rolling here.  

– Bears over Lions: This is my eliminator pick this week.  Sure, the Lions showed some fight at home against Washington, but they folded like a house of cards when it counted.  Chicago’s offense gave a complete performance against the Vikings before the bye, and the defense has been swarming.  Even though the Bears have given up more points than usual, they’ve made up for it by forcing turnovers at key times and even scoring touchdowns.  This is not good news for Dan Orlovsky, who has not yet shown he can handle pressure well.  Couple that with Detroit’s inability to consistently run the ball, and the Bears defense should be in for a feast.  Chicago is tied for the lead in the NFC North, and they know they need to win this one with a big game against Tennessee coming up.  Chicago should win this one easily.

– Cardinals over Rams: This should be an entertaining game that actually has a lot of subplots.  The former St. Louis Cardinals return to Missouri to play St. Louis’ current team, the Rams.  Dick Vermeil, the coach of the Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl Championship team, is back to be honored in a pregame ceremony.  Kurt Warner, the quarterback of that team, returns as a member of the Cardinals, and is having a great year to boot.  Not to mention, the Rams are slowly showing signs of making a play in the NFC West, where no one has really managed to take control.  The Rams gave great effort in New England last week and if nothing else showed they are not lumped with the dregs of the league.  Arizona is the current leader, and they can extend that with a road win here.  The Cardinals took a tough loss in Carolina last week even though they showed they could play with the Panthers on the road. (West coast teams are still winless when facing an early kick on the east coast this year).  A couple of quick second half turnovers doomed Arizona last week, but their high octane passing game should have a big day indoors on the carpet at the Dome.  The Cardinals continue to surprise with a hard fought win, and a happy homecoming for Warner.  

– Colts over Patriots: Upset alert.  The Sunday night game is one that for the past few years has easily been the league’s showcase game.  These two teams have always battled at the top of the AFC, and had three memorable playoff meetings this decade.  Some luster is taken off this year’s meeting with the absence of Tom Brady and the Colts’ struggles this year.  The Patriots have shown a lot of gusto starting 5-2 without the league’s top quarterback, and came from behind to beat the Rams last week.  As Matt Cassel feels more comfortable, big plays are starting to open up for Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  Indianapolis is coming off two tough losses, but returns home and gets reinforcements.  Top running back Joseph Addai and run stuffing safety Bob Sanders are both expected to be back Sunday night, and that will give the Colts a huge boost in a game they absolutely must win if they want any chance of staying in the AFC race.  The rivalry nature of this game, and the desperation the Colts are surely feeling will be the swing factors as they pull off the upset at home.  One thing is for sure, I know with absolute certainly that Peyton Manning will not allow himself three bad games in a row.  

– Steelers over Redskins: The Monday nighter should be a great one, and it’s not because of the halftime interviews of Barack Obama and John McCain (in fact that should be an excellent time for a bathroom break).  The Steelers lost a tough one to the Giants last week, and will be looking to rebound on a national stage.  Washington is coming off a win over Detroit, but lost Clinton Portis to an ankle injury late in the game.  He still rushed for 125 yards, and says he will be ready to go for the Steelers, but is he 100 percent?  The Redskins have been one of the league’s top surprises at 6-2, and should be fired up for a Monday night game at home, but they haven’t faced a defense as physical as Pittsburgh’s since their week one loss to the Giants.  Pittsburgh will have a fire in their belly as well, and will be able to run the ball with Willie Parker.  If Portis is indeed beat up, the Steelers defense will smell blood in the water and force Jason Campbell to beat them.  Campbell has played well, but a hunch says the Steelers D will be slightly better.  Pittsburgh wins what should prove to be one of the best Monday night games of the year.  I believe the Steelers and Redskins are both playoff caliber teams, and an interconference loss shouldn’t be crippling to either one.  Keep in mind Washington already has all three division road games out of the way, which will really help them down the stretch.

BYE: Chargers, Panthers, Saints, 49ers

NOTE: Those of you need to submit picks and/or fantasy lineups before first kickoff, keep in mind that starting NEXT WEEK NOV. 6 the Thursday night games begin.  Make sure any picks and lineups are turned in accordingly.

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