This week, I went against my “gut feeling” on the Thursday night matchup and wound up 0-1 so far this week. I had said, basically, I think the matchup is decent-looking for the Bucs but they’ve yet to have that “breakout” game to show they’ve grown as a young team. I had a bit of a “feeling” that they could do it against Minnesota, but logic told me they’d have to show me a breakout game before I go picking them in any more upsets…and pointed to the game they blew @ the Giants as the biggest reason why.
Well, the Vikes aren’t the Giants, and the Bucs dominated them. I’m manning up here on it. That’s why they play the games on the field. Let’s take a look at the other matchups this week:
Carolina at Chicago:
The Panthers start game one of the post-Hurney “era” and should come out of the ‘chute with a lot of intensity and emotion. Too bad they’re playing the NFL’s toughest defense, allowing a paltry 13 points per game. The Carolina defense has been playing better; however, they’ve put MLB Jon Beason on IR and injuries are starting to pile up again. At least they have “Kuechly in the Middle” – their top draft pick who has a shot at defensive Rookie of the Year now that he’s taken over his natural position. Cam & company might score an early touchdown on emotion, but cracking that defense on a regular basis isn’t in the cards this week…meanwhile Cutler, Marshall, and Forte will cause issues while the Carolina D tries to keep NFL Roadrunner Devin “Meep-Meep” Hester from making big plays. I just don’t see the Carolina offense “improving” on emotion alone for 60 minutes in this environment.
Bears by 25
San Diego at Cleveland:
Actually a difficult game to look at. The Chargers have the edge in talent, but that beatdown they took against the Broncos has to smart. The Browns’ Trent Richardson is playing with a “rib cartilage injury” – which I know of several past players having and it’s extremely painful. Mike Ditka had that during his playing days and was in the hospital for 6 weeks. Rookie QB Brandon Weeden has started to look good in recent weeks and Josh Gordon is emerging as an explosive receiver, if a bit unsteady in production so far, but the potential is there. After the dust clears, I see…
Chargers by 7
Seattle at Detroit:
The word is out on the Seahawks’ defense. They also have the most physical corners in the NFL and they’ll need that in trying to keep Megatron under 100 yards and out of the end zone. Stafford has struggled of late, and won’t do better this week. Meanwhile, the Lions’ D is looking better, finally, but face “The Beast” and an improving dynamic rookie QB, Russell Wilson, who is as good as anyone with his touch on the deep pass…and the Lions’ secondary is horrible.
Seahawks by 6
Jacksonville at Green Bay:
It hurts just thinking about this one. The only saving grace for the Jags is that the Pack has limited firepower (for them) with Jennings out and Nelson hurting. Look for Randall “Tex” Cobb to have a monster game while the Jags’ MJD sits.
Packers by 31
Miami at New York Jets:
The Jets haven’t swept the Dolphins yet under Rex Ryan, and escaped a month ago with a 3-point overtime win in Miami. The Dolphins have improved since then, however, and are #3 in the NFL in rushing defense while being 28th against the pass. Mark Sanchez should be harassed most of this game since they couldn’t block DE Cam Wake or DT Randy Starks in Miami. The Dolphins should be able to run or pass and if Tannehill turns the ball over once or none, I think they could win.
Regis Joe Philbin has so far worked wonders with the squad he inherited from Tony Sparano, and he inherited as good a front-seven as there is in the NFL. With the Jets’ much-publicized O-line woes, Sanchez could be in for a longer day than we even expect, and I expect quite a rough time.
Dolphins by 4
Atlanta at Philadelphia:
The undefeated Falcons aren’t undefeated because of dominance; they’ve had their fair share of luck, too (see: Carolina game). However, we all know (or should) that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and Cam Newton didn’t just drop that 3rd down fumble by himself. However, I really like the way the Eagles match up against the Falcons. The O-line is the Falcons’ “weakest link” (going with the British theme this week), the Eagles have one of the top-3 defensive lines in the NFL, and if Andy Reid will actually do it, “Shady” McCoy should pound the rock close to 30 times in this game to take advantage of the Falcons’ poor (5.2 yds/carry) rush defense. One thing McCoy’s running will do is keep Michael Vick from fumbling…but the “wild card” will be how the Eagles’ defense plays with a new defensive coordinator. They’re at home, however, and that may be juuuust enough for the old geezers of the ’72 ‘phins to pop their champagne cork at dinner once again.
Eagles by 1
Washington at Pittsburgh:
I know the Steelers are still tough to beat at home, AND Dick LeBeau has a 13-1 career record facing rookie quarterbacks. The problem? No Troy Polamalu, and I’ve been saying for years that he’s the key to Pittsburgh’s dominance on defense. Without him, they’re “old and slow” as future HOF RB LaDanian Tomlinson said several times this week. The Steelers have injuries on the offensive line, Mendenhall is out, and the Redskins’ defense is awful. Logic tells me the Steelers win in a squeaker, but my “gut feeling” tells me…
Redskins by 4
New England vs. St. Louis @ London:
I’m wondering about Roger Goodell’s sanity. Sending a team called the “Patriots” to Mother England to try and kickstart an NFL fan base there? Are you kidding? What’s next, the New York Nukes playing in Tokyo? At any rate, the winner of this game will be the ones who handle the strange environment the best, and the Pats are a veteran team. Bradford’s offense doesn’t have the firepower to compete in a shootout, but the Pats’ defense will struggle in a slugfest, so this one’s all over the map. The Pats are kind of down this year; the Rams are rising – and I’ve said since week one the Rams are more dangerous than people give them credit for. I think it’ll be closer than most think, but in the end, it’ll be the…
Patriots by 5
Indianapolis at Tennessee:
The Colts have been playing inspired football since learning of their coach’s cancer. The Titans have kicked it up a level and Chris Johnson has gotten untracked. The Colts’ run defense is atrocious, giving up 4.8 yds/carry as opposed to the Titans’ 4.3. Oddly, the Colts are 7th in pass defense but opponents’ QB rating is a massive 102.2 – or 4th worst in the league. That tells me that Colts’ opponents tend to run a lot…due to the porous Colts’ rush defense, absence of MLB Pat Angerer, and forcing OLBs (former 4-3 DEs) Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney to do what they’re not so great at – defending the run.
Titans by 10
Oakland at Kansas City:
This is the train-wreck game of the week. Both teams stink, but the Raiders have at least shown resilience in their long come from behind victory against the hapless Jaguars last week. KC has burned me too many times already.
Raiders by 6
New York Giants at Dallas:
In a key matchup for the last-place Cowboys, I think Jason Garrett’s seat starts to warm up if he loses this game. The Cowboys, by virtue of the extra “star” power of simply being America’s Team, need a disciplinarian as a coach or they underachieve. While the Giants’ defensive backfield lacks that star power, the Cowboys’ offensive line does also. The Giants’ D-line does not. Jason Garrett won’t be the Cowboy’s coach next year and the fuss over that in earnest begins after this game.
Giants by 11
New Orleans at Denver:
Probably the highest-scoring game this week will be in Denver. Brees will be harassed by Dumervil and Miller. Manning will pick the soft Saints’ defense completely apart, and Saints’ TE Jimmy Graham isn’t close to being 100%. If Denver can keep the first quarter under control, they could win big.
Broncos by 17
San Francisco at Arizona:
A month ago, this would have been the biggest game of the week. The Cardinals will be starting John Skelton. Need I say more?
Niners by 21
Chicago over Carolina
Green Bay over Jacksonville
Denver over New Orleans
San Francisco over Arizona
In case you’ve used those teams:
Oakland over Kansas City
Seattle over Detroit
Tennessee over Indianapolis (but only if you’re desperate for a ‘steal’ game)