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Sunday, May 27 2018

NFL Predictions 2007: Week 16

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Upsets ruined me last week. I was just 9-7 straight up (147-77 overall) and 6-9-1 against the spread (101-99-8) with a 9-7 mark on the over/under (116-104-4). Now it gets tough because the final two weeks are often the toughest to gauge with varying levels of interest from teams who are out of it.

Pittsburgh (9-5) @ St. Louis (3-11): pick PIT -7.5/under 45
 
On paper it looks like the Rams won’t pose any threat to the Steelers as they chase down the last of this year’s 8 division titles. However, since going into the bye at 0-8 their play has been considerably better. Last week’s 33-14 loss to Green Bay was a bit deceiving. They had more total yards (364-279) and contained Ryan Grant who rushed 18 times for 55 yards. Their offense simply lacked the quick strike firepower. Pittsburgh’s problem was much different in their first home loss of the season. Jacksonville manhandled them in poor weather, rushing for 224 yards in a 29-22 win. This game will be much different in the dome. Pittsburgh doesn’t have much experience indoors lately. October 2006 was their last game under a roof, a 41-38 loss in Atlanta. Their Super Bowl run did travel through Indianapolis, but this will only be Big Ben’s fourth game inside. He has completed a sharp 65.5% of his passes for an average of 195 yards while totaling 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. This is a bright spot for a team having lost three of their last four road games, but they are also shell shocked on a short week with Cleveland having joined them atop the AFC North. The Rams are only 1-6 at home having only beaten Atlanta. This also might be the best team they have faced since September. Bulger could has been in a season long slump and goes up against a defense allowing the eighth lowest QB rating (76.1) and lowest completion percentage (54.6). The Steelers don’t budge in run defense either with the fifth lowest average carry allowed (3.8) and an NFL low 4 rushing touchdowns given up. I don’t think the Rams will totally give up and they aren’t as terrible as their record indicates. Still, this shouldn’t be a game where you hit the local bar to see if you don’t have NFL Network: Pittsburgh 27, St. Louis 16
 
Dallas (12-2) @ Carolina (6-8): pick CAR +13/over 42.5
 
This one is interesting because the venue might favor the Cowboys. They are 6-0 on the road having won four times by at least 11 points. The Panthers only recently broke out at home, winning their last two after starting 0-5. Four of those losses were by two touchdowns or more. Momentum is probably on the side of Carolina given their recent home success. They are coming off a big win over NFC West champion Seattle and can place pressure on teams they are trying to catch for the wild card. It will require Washington beating Minnesota, then losing to these Cowboys while the Vikings then also lose at Denver and New Orleans loses either to Philadelphia or at Chicago. In other words don’t count on that perfect storm. More likely they drop out before any of it matters, but they do have a fighting chance. Their run defense is third best in the NFL with 3.7 yards per carry allowed. Dallas would love to just run right over their opponent this week given the condition of Romo’s thumb. That part of their offense doesn’t get much play with Romo dating famous blondes, but their rushing average (4.4) is fourth best in the NFL. It isn’t hard to figure out why with Barber on the Pro Bowl as a reserve while three of his offensive linemen are starting. Defensively the Cowboys have been erratic, but their secondary has allowed the fifth lowest QB rating (73.6) while the team has collected 18 sacks (fifth) and 38 sacks (fourth). The only ding is losing Roy Williams who is suspended. That’s not enough for Matt Moore to succeed. He was good last week going 19/27 for 208 yards without a touchdown or interception, but can’t carry them against a better team. They just can’t score. Only once in their last eight games have they put up more than 17. Five times their defense has allowed least 31 and even with Romo banged up the Cowboys should move the ball: Dallas 26, Carolina 18
 
NY Giants (9-5) @ Buffalo (7-7): pick NYG -2.5/over 32
 
More than two decades have passed since Scott Norwood’s field goal sailed wide giving the Giants a Super Bowl win and starting the Bills on a string of four straight losses in the big game. Their last meeting was in 2003 with the Bills coming out on top 24-7 at the Meadowlands. That game was Bledsoe vs. Collins at quarterback. This time around the stakes are high as both seek out wild cards in their respective conference. New York is probably glad to be on the road where they have not lost since opening day. In six wins since they have not given up over 17 points with an average win of 20-13. The Bills are on a 6-2 tear, but were eliminated from the playoffs last week by losing 8-0 at Cleveland. Since 2004 they have mostly been competitive at 21-27 yet have never made a playoff game. New York is trying to make the playoffs for a third straight year. They have split their past six games, but need only one more win or a loss from either Washington or New Orleans to get in. Instead they’d like to gain some momentum. One way to do that is by being the team to pressure the quarterback. They lead the NFL with 49 sacks while Buffalo has 20, second fewest. Surprisingly it hasn’t translated to better pass defense. Both are in the middle of the pack for QB rating allowed with Buffalo (82.0) just ahead of New York (83.1). Eli Manning has been trying to take over this team after Tiki Barber’s retirement, but 22 turnovers isn’t the way to do it. He was just 18/52 for 184 yards last week. On the other side rookie Trent Edwards looks like a winner. They are 5-3 when he appears and he hasn’t turned it over in their last three games. He also hasn’t lost a fumble while taking just 9 sacks with 213 pass attempts, giving him a fighting chance against this rush. New York has a slightly better running game and a little better run defense. Brandon Jacobs had 130 yards last week in their 22-10 loss to Washington. Buffalo’s rookie Marshawn Lynch is just 60 yards away from 1,000 on the season despite missing three games. He has been steady if not spectacular. This should be a good one although I don’t expect a lot of scoring. New York needs to play as a team which is what they are as evidenced by having just one player in the Pro Bowl – as a reserve: NY Giants 23, Buffalo 17
 
Philadelphia (6-8) @ New Orleans (7-7): pick NO -3/over 46
 
These teams met in an entertaining playoff game last year. They also played a good one in the regular season. Both ended with the Saints winning 27-24. They are in the same uniforms on the same field, but this time McAllister and Bush won’t be on the field. They combined for 195 yards rushing in the playoff meeting. Now it’s up to career backup Aaron Stecker who has set a career high with 395 yards in his eighth season. As a starter he has 42 carries for 195 yards in two games with 53 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The Eagles counter with the fifth lowest rushing average allowed (3.8). The Saints are just behind (3.9) but face a much bigger threat in Brian Westbrook. He has piled up 1,896 total yards. They also have to worry about McNabb because only one team has allowed a higher opposing QB rating (95.5). Their 26 touchdowns allowed is the third highest total. Only 16 touchdown passes have been scored on Philadelphia, fifth fewest in the NFL. However, Drew Brees is hot and only once in his last 10 games has he failed to throw multiple touchdown passes and he has 10 games overall with at least 246 yards passing. Last week he was a razor sharp 26/30 for 315 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. New Orleans has won three of their past four games to sneak into wild card contention. After losing in the NFC Championship Game last year they have no Pro Bowl players this season. Perhaps that gives them a chip on their shoulder here. Philadelphia looked strong last week, but was motivated against Dallas. Now they are out of the playoff hunt and despite playing well on the road this season they have less motivation: New Orleans 26, Philadelphia 22
 
Green Bay (12-2) @ Chicago (5-9): pick GB -8.5/over 35.5
 
The last time Brett Favre appeared at Soldier Field it ended with tears as many wondered if he had played his final game. What a difference a year makes. After that meaningless 26-7 Packer win the Bears went on to the Super Bowl, but are now eliminated from the playoffs. Green Bay is a Dallas slip away from the #1 seed in the NFC and Favre sets a new record seemingly every week. The demise of the Bears has to fall on quarterback play. They have the fourth worst team QB rating (70.4) with the third most interceptions (20). Kyle Orton entered the fray last week and his only interception in 38 passes came on an ill advised heave down the field trying to rally them during a two minute drill. The Green Bay secondary has a solid QB rating allowed (77.2) to rank tenth despite allowing 21 touchdown passes, ninth most in the NFL. Neither run defense is stout, but Green Bay has given up just 5 rushing touchdowns, second fewest in the NFL while Chicago has allowed 16, third most. Neither back was a factor in the first meeting when Chicago scored a primetime 27-20 upset at Lambeau. Adrian Peterson has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry with a season long run of 11 yards. Ryan Grant has taken the lead rushing duties by the throat since assuming them after the bye week. In his 8 games of full work his numbers would extrapolate to 1,544 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns for a full season. However, his two worst games both came on the road in Kansas City and St. Louis. Last week felt like the last stand for the Bears, but they should muster some motivation from playing a division rival in the same way Philadelphia did while upsetting Dallas. Favre will remind his team how important this game is for them in trying to wrestle home field throughout the NFC playoffs. It should be enough because their offense has clicked while scoring 27+ in each of the last seven. The Bears have totaled 45 in their last three: Green Bay 31, Chicago 16
 
Cleveland (9-5) @ Cincinnati (5-9): pick CLE -2.5/over 43.5
 
These Ohio rivals met in a memorable week 2 game that ended with the Browns winning 51-45. Instead of being a bump on the road for the Bengals and a season highlight for the Browns it turned out to be a season long trend. Cincinnati lost their next three and started 2-6. They have yet to win consecutive games. Cleveland staggered to a 2-3 start, but then reeled off three in a row and has won four of their past five to put themselves on the brink of a playoff berth. As the season has worn on their defense has started to step up, limiting opponents to 15.5 points per game over their last four. Traditionally high scoring Cincinnati has fallen flat with just 14.0 points scored over their past three. The Browns have struggled against the run with the second worst average rush allowed (4.5) while the Bengals are in the middle of the pack (4.2). That advantage is offset by the hot running Jamal Lewis who has been over 110 yards in three of his last four games. Rudi Johnson hasn’t been right all season and it has killed the Cincinnati offense. Even with Derek Anderson capturing the imagination of viewers Carson Palmer still leads a slightly better passing game. However, Cincinnati has allowed the third highest QB rating (92.3) and the third most TD passes (26). Cleveland has given up an NFL worst 27 and a mediocre QB rating (84.9) themselves. In other words another 51-45 game isn’t out of the question. I expect the Bengals to come out fighting against their rivals with a pass heavy game plan. They will want to ruin Cleveland’s playoff plans. Ultimately the tide should turn for the Browns because it has been that way all season. Despite going only 3-4 on the road only one of those losses was by more than six points: Cleveland 34, Cincinnati 27
 
Kansas City (4-10) @ Detroit (6-8): pick DET -4.5/over 43
 
The bottom has fallen out for both of these teams. The Chiefs have now lost 7 in a row and scored just 12.0 points over the last six of those losses while giving up 26.3 points during the losing streak. The Lions have dropped 6 in a row and allowed 34.2 points in that stretch. Someone has to win even if neither team really wants to show up. Detroit will probably be more motivated after improving from last year’s 3-13 mark. Kansas City is a shadow of the team that went to a wild card game last year. They want to know if Brodie Croyle is their quarterback of the future and this is where they find out. He is coming off his best game as a pro with 217 yards passing and two touchdowns. Now he faces a team allowing an NFL high 27 touchdown passes, NFL worst QB rating (95.6) and the highest completion percentage (70.6) by far. If he can’t beat this defense they need to draft someone else. Rookie Dwayne Bowe could become the first rookie to pass 1,000 yards receiving if he can get 115 here. I wouldn’t bet against it. Detroit’s rookie receiver was taken higher in the first round at #2 and is next on the rookie list with 655 yards while both have 4 touchdown catches. At least these two guys will give viewers something to watch. Detroit puts up 26.7 points per game at home and with Kansas City’s scoring difficulties I have to favor them: Detroit 30, Kansas City 22
 
Houston (7-7) @ Indianapolis (12-2): pick HOU +9/under 47
 
The Texans have made some strides this season, but will have to wait another year for their first playoff berth as a franchise. Their first meeting with the Colts ended in a 30-24 loss, but it really wasn’t that close and they were totally unable to run the football. Indy is trying to finish the year just like it started, by winning 7 in a row. It hasn’t come easy in their last five wins, three of which came by a total of 13 points. Injuries have weakened their offense with most of their healthy starters making the Pro Bowl in Manning, Addai, Wayne and Saturday. The performance was sluggish in Oakland last week. That should change as they return home after playing three of four on the road. Houston was home in their past two, convincing wins over Tampa Bay and Denver. Since winning their road opener they have lost five of six road games. Quarterback play should decide this game because the Texans average just 3.7 yards per rush, fourth worst in the NFL while the Colts (3.8) aren’t far behind. Indy has a better backfield with Addai and Keith and a better run defense (3.9 to 4.4). Rosenfels has been a capable replacement for Schaub, but isn’t really the kind of quarterback who takes over a game. He can be counted out for 200 yards and a touchdown pass with at least one turnover. Manning obviously is a difference maker, but with the Colts locked into the #2 seed he won’t be on the field in the fourth quarter. Houston has a nice future with a young defense led by Ryans, Williams and Okoye. With so many players ailing Indy fields the “B” squad and they aren’t good enough to score on them: Houston 23, Indianapolis 21
 
Oakland (4-10) @ Jacksonville (10-4): pick JAX -13/under 40
 
The Jaguars should be making the AFC powers quiver after they mugged the Steelers at Heinz Field last week. Being snubbed as a team from the Pro Bowl should provide extra motivation. They have now won five of six overall and their last three at home. Their only issue this season has been dealing with the Colts who swept them. The Raiders just got a taste of that when Peyton Manning led a comeback 21-14 win. It was the sixth time Oakland has lost by a touchdown or less this season. The key here is running the football. Fargas is out for the Raiders after eclipsing 1,000 yards. Now it is up to Jordan and Rhodes who many expected to play a larger role this season. However, since a fast start with 424 yards in the team’s first 4 games Jordan has just 125 yards. Rhodes has only 19 carries. The Jaguars have a marginal run defense that is weakened without Stroud and Peterson not to mention several other injuries on the defensive line. The Raiders have been flat out run over this season with the highest average rush allowed (4.7). They did control Addai last week, but I expect a different outcome on the road against Taylor and Bay Area native Jones-Drew. At quarterback everyone wants to see more of JaMarcus Russell, but this is another tough situation as it was in Green Bay when Lane Kiffin left him on the bench. The Jaguars are #11 in QB rating (79.2) sacks (32) and completion percentage (59.8) with the ninth most interceptions (16). If the new backfield isn’t getting it done I expect Russell to sit this one out. On the other side is David Garrard who is incredibly efficient. Other than sacks the Raiders are in the top 10 for all the pass defense categories, but Garrard will be able to pick his spots. He also doesn’t turn the ball over with just four in 11 games. This will be a steady effort from a team getting into playoff form: Jacksonville 26, Oakland 10
 
Atlanta (3-11) @ Arizona (6-8): pick AZ -10/over 43.5
 
The Cardinals lost their “playoff” game last week in New Orleans and now just want to avoid losing 10 games for the first time since 2001. Seven of the past eight seasons they have failed to win 7 times. Their last non-losing season was in 1998 when the league had 30 teams and they were in the NFC East. The Falcons are probably wishing for realignment to the CFL the way they are playing. It is pretty bad when Bill Parcells turns you away to join the Dolphins, a 1-13 team. The losses are piling up and they aren’t close. During their current 5 game slide they have not come closer than 12 points, losing by an average of 32-11. The Cardinals have lost three of four to fall out of the race, but have been entertaining. Their last six games have produced an average of 58 total points. Warner has 15 touchdown passes over that stretch, but also 13 turnovers including 10 in the three losses. Neither secondary has stood out statistically, but even with the mistakes I would still rather have Warner over Redman or anyone the Falcons throw out there. Another edge for the Cardinals is their quietly solid run defense allowing just 3.9 yards per rush, eighth best in the NFL. Atlanta has the sixth worst (4.3) although offensively they are a little better (3.9) than Arizona (3.7). Jerious Norwood keeps waiting for his breakout game, but fans should just hope they keep losing to remain in position for Arkansas stud Darren McFadden. On the other side Edgerrin James is still plugging along. By that I mean fading into mediocrity. The last 34 times he has hit the field he has just 5 games with 100 yards rushing. When next season starts he will be 30 years old which is usually when running backs falter. He has also been missing from the pass offense with just 17 receptions, a career low even worse than 2001 when he played in just 6 games. He averaged 3.7 receptions per game with the Colts and has just 1.8 with the Cards. This game will be an indicator what he hast left for 2008, but they are definitely going to dispatch the Falcons: Arizona 33, Atlanta 14
 
Tampa Bay (9-5) @ San Francisco (4-10): pick TB -6/over 36.5
 
Patriot haters everywhere can rest a little easier knowing last week’s win by the 49ers probably put them out of position to draft Arkansas running back Darren McFadden with San Francisco’s first round pick. Another upset here is probably too much to ask for. The Buccaneers come in with a division title in hand as they fight Seattle for the #3 seed. They will need the Seahawks to falter because they lost to them 20-6 on opening day. Who knew that would wind up being a battle of division winners? Another piece of motivation will be Jeff Garcia facing his old team. His career hit the skids when he left San Francisco following the 2003 season as he struggled in Cleveland (2004) and Detroit (2005) over 17 games. Then he caught fire leading Philadelphia into the playoffs last year and has continued his success this season with his new team. In his last 19 full games he has just 10 turnovers. His efforts have been buoyed by a solid running game averaging 4.3 yards per rush, seventh best in the NFL. They have 15 touchdowns, fourth most in the NFL behind the likes of Minnesota, San Diego and Indianapolis who all have Pro Bowl running backs. Their guy is Earnest Graham who needs 123 yards to go past 1,000 for the season and has 10 of those touchdowns. He has been consistently productive with at least 74 total yards in his last 8 games while averaging 120.3. That would be 1,924 total yards over a full season which is Tomlinson or Westbrook territory. It could be tough sledding against the 49ers who give up just 3.8 yards per rush, fifth fewest in the NFL, despite having been run at the third most times (444). Tampa Bay has an even better run defense (3.7) and while San Francisco has the tenth best run offense (4.2) the schemes of Monte Kiffin should force them to pass. He recognizes a weakness when he sees it and they are dead last in team QB rating (62.2) while absorbing the second most sacks (48) with the worst completion percentage (53.5) and by far lowest yards per game (152.2) through the air. Tampa Bay allows the second fewest passing yards per game (174.5) and should make it difficult for Shaun Hill to have his third straight solid game out of nowhere. I take defense late in the season, especially when that team has something to play for. The 49ers surprised me with their effort last week. Not this time: Tampa Bay 24, San Francisco 13
 
Miami (1-13) @ New England (14-0): pick NE -21.5/over 43.5
 
When the Dolphins won last week it took a lot of the novelty away from this game. Everyone wanted to see a winless team against an undefeated team. Instead they have to settle for a team 13 games behind in the standings which would be a lot in baseball. For football it is a record. Miami was overwhelmed by New England 49-28 on their home field when they still had Ronnie Brown in the fold picking up 109 total yards. He has long since left the fold due to injury along with a few other players on a roster slim on talent anyway. It took them overtime to score over 17 points for the first time since, well, the last time they met New England back on October 21. By comparison it required dismal weather for the Patriots to be held to 20 points last week, a season low dropping their average to 37.3 points per game. Make no mistake, even if this team has already clinched the #1 overall seed they want records. A few will fall here. First will be the scoring record of 556 points set by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, a team that also had Randy Moss at wide receiver. Next will be Peyton Manning’s touchdown mark of 49 set in 2004. Even if they are at the one inch line you can expect Belichick to call for a pass. They will be throwing the ball until the clock hits zero. This is their chance to show everyone once again that nothing is wrong. Last week the offense was sloppy and while the weather is partially the blame they barely had more yards than the Jets (265-236) who aren’t exactly an offensive power. It’s a rout, and the only question is how much they pour it on. A lot: New England 52, Miami 7
 
Baltimore (4-10) @ Seattle (9-5):
 
Both teams have a bird as a mascot and both went to the playoffs last year, but that’s where the similarities end. The Ravens suffered their eighth straight loss last week and their once dominant defense has given up 29.5 points per game over that stretch. The Seahawks stumbled at Carolina, but are 6-1 at home this season while outscoring opponents 27-15. They are led by Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck who is having a career best year in almost every category. With 222 passing yards and 2 touchdowns he will set new season highs. He will be facing a defense without their starting corners and probably minus middle linebacker Ray Lewis, their heart and soul. Injuries have certainly contributed to Baltimore allowing the sixth highest QB rating (89.5) and fifth most TD passes (23). Seattle has allowed the fewest (10) and the lowest QB rating (69.0). Led by Pro Bowler Patrick Kerney they have the second most sacks (41). This is bad news for Kyle Boller who has been sacked at least four times in four of his last five games. They might throw Troy Smith into the mix, but I doubt it. Their best shot is to run against a tough Seattle defense allowing 3.9 yards per rush, eighth best in the NFL. They certainly have a better chance on the ground than the Seahawks who go up against the #1 run defense (3.8) with the third worst run offense (3.6). Shaun Alexander has been slumping badly all season, partially due to injury. In 12 games last year including the playoffs he had 1,073 yards while averaging 25.2 carries. This year in 10 games he has only 612 yards and 18.6 carries with just 3 total touchdowns after scoring 9 last year and of course setting an NFL record with 28 in 2005. They are comfortable having Hasselbeck win this game. His receivers are as healthy as they have been and against this tired, unmotivated defense they might even get some running in after all. Let’s stick with the average: Seattle 27, Baltimore 15
 
NY Jets (3-11) @ Tennessee (8-6): pick TEN -8.5/over 37
 
The Titans need some help to win a wild card, but they have a good chance to take care of their own business. If they can beat the Jets here next up is the Colts who will be sitting down as many players as possible to avoid injuries. However, they will probably be eliminated by the time their game starts because they need Cincinnati to beat Cleveland. If that happens the wind could come out of their sails, but Vince Young will help them finish strong anyway. Their run defense and run offense is better than New York. At this time of the year that is a big advantage. Teams are tired and players on a losing team tend to mail it in. The Titans could just run right at them all day. LenDale White needs only 40 yards to go over 1,000 and looks like the player some were surprised to see fall out of the first round in the 2006 draft. Over Young’s last six games his numbers translate to 3,648 passing yards over a full season so he can throw the football. His interception issues were a problem before last week though as he had 9 in his previous six games. The 18 turnovers this season is something he will need to work on, and it starts right here. New York is really bad this year when they aren’t playing Miami, 1-11 to be exact. Six of those losses are by a touchdown or less, but the Titans won’t let them stay that close. It might be Pennington again at quarterback over Clemens. Whoever it is faces a defense with the second most interceptions (20) and fourth lowest QB rating allowed (73.2). The Titans have generally played well at home and should send their fans home happy in the finale: Tennessee 29, NY Jets 15
 
Washington (7-7) @ Minnesota (8-6): pick MIN -6.5/under 40.5
 
Each team won in primetime last week and now they are back in what almost amounts to a playoff game. The Vikings can’t clinch a wild card by winning, but would need only a win next week at Denver or one loss from New Orleans (Philadelphia, at Chicago) to qualify. The Redskins require the same falter from the Saints plus a victory next week against a Dallas team playing to secure the #1 seed. This one should be interesting. The Vikings feature a pair of Pro Bowl starters at defense tackle which explains why opponents have yet to top 1,000 yards rushing against them for the season (951) with the second lowest average carry (3.0) and third fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (6). Portis is looking good for his fifth season over 1,300 yards rushing but has done his damage mostly in spurts. In three games against the Jets, Eagles and Giants he piled up 42% of his season total. As a team they have the ninth lowest average per carry (3.8). The Vikings lead that category (5.4) by a large margin with an NFL high 20 touchdowns rushing. Adrian Peterson is a lock for Rookie of the Year and will be starting at the Pro Bowl along with his lead blocker Tony Richardson and guard Steve Hutchinson while center Matt Birk is a reserve. Their recipe of running the ball while stopping the run has finally translated to wins over the past five weeks. I thought they were dead at 3-6 following a 34-0 loss in Green Bay, but they have proven to be resilient. Now they need Tarvaris Jackson to remember his role. On the year he has 12 turnovers in 10 games, 8 of which came in two outings including last week. He faces a solid if not spectacular secondary that is certainly playing their heart out for fallen teammate Sean Taylor. The Redskins counter with Todd Collins who has somehow won a game in relief and another as a starter when Jason Campbell went down. He hadn’t thrown more than 7 passes in a victory since 1997. Yes, 1997. In a hostile dome needing to throw the ball I don’t see Washington getting the job done. The Vikings have been good defensively at home allowing 15.9 points per game. The Redskins score 17.4 points per game on the road. Lately Minnesota has been playing well in all phases and that is the difference: Minnesota 22, Washington 14
 
Denver (6-8) @ San Diego (9-5): pick SD -8.5/over 47
 
When last these teams met the AFC West was a muddled mess. The Chargers won 41-3 at Invesco Field to leave both teams at 2-3. Since then San Diego has taken charge of the division race and lost only to wild card contenders Minnesota and Jacksonville. The Broncos scored an upset of Pittsburgh in their next game, but have also lost by at least two touchdowns three times as they fell out of contention. Last week San Diego demolished Detroit 51-14 and served notice they are a team to be reckoned with again. After all, they finished 14-3 last year losing by no more than 3 points. Both teams have young quarterbacks, but while Denver was expected to have a top secondary instead San Diego has the second lowest QB rating allowed (71.1). The Broncos have allowed the seventh most TD passes (22) while the Chargers lead the NFL in interceptions (27) by seven. Rivers has had an inconsistent season while Cutler has been very good in spots. Unfortunately he is on the road against a better defense. He also doesn’t have Tomlinson although Denver’s average rush (4.5) is the third best in the NFL while San Diego is seventh (4.3). Then again, the Broncos give up 4.5 yards per rush, second highest in the NFL. Even if the Chargers aren’t much better (4.1) you can see that every advantage seems to swing in one direction. Denver has gone 2-5 on the road and without some luck in the field goal department at the start of the season might be 4-10 overall. San Diego is 6-1 at home and hasn’t lost there since September. They have won eight of ten overall and will again impress people who are counting on Indianapolis meeting New England in the AFC Championship: San Diego 34, Denver 17
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