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Sunday, July 15 2018

NFL Predictions 2010: Week 15


 Well this is getting kind of annoying. Believe me I am glad to not suck at this. However, it would be nice to actually excel once in a while. I trudged along at 11-5 straight up last week (129-79 overall) and at 62% for the season at least I’m much closer to the top than the bottom. Vegas would make a ton of juice off me and I would enjoy the atmosphere, but that’s about it. Against the spread I went 8-7-1 (101-97-10 overall) and I was 8-8 on the over/under (110-95-3 overall). Now about my ugly misses.


 Before I get to that I had Tampa Bay 19-17. They won 17-16 and it took a botched extra point. When I saw that play transpire live I was probably the happiest non-Bucs fan on the planet and we are moving on. I really thought Cleveland could run on Buffalo and some scoring would take place. Neither happened and the pick was way off. You might think I am chalking up Detroit’s upset over Green Bay to Rodgers leaving with an injury. I don’t. Flynn should have directed the win and if I had it to pick over again knowing he was in there I probably take them to win by a field goal instead of 11. The Lions surprised me.


No one set me back more than San Francisco though. I had them losing close. Seattle was overwhelmed. I should have paid more attention to the Seahawks being shorthanded at wide receiver given their inability to run. It was a dumb move on my part. I feel almost as stupid having picked Denver at Arizona, but I followed the herd. Plus I really expected the Broncos to run more effectively considering the running backs coach was promoted to interim head coach. It was a disaster. My, uh least dumb pick was the Jets over Miami. I had ‘em 17-13 and I would do it again. These AFC East games go low scoring late in the year a lot. Santonio Holmes makes the catch, or New York pulls off their usual heroics and it turns around.


San Francisco (5-8) @ San Diego (7-6): The playoffs start early for a lot of teams and NFL Network gets a playoff atmosphere even if the teams are a combined 12-14. The 49ers are actually closer to being in control of their own destiny and in the dreadful NFC West can afford to lose this game. The Chargers are also just one game back, and chasing just one team so why is this more important to them even against a non-conference foe? Well, because they are trying to catch the Chiefs who can actually play a little.


It has been beaten to death, but here are a few ways to put San Diego’s stat sheet dominance in perspective. Their #1 overall defense has allowed over 800 yards fewer than San Francisco and their #2 ranked defense has amassed over 1,000 more spanning 13 games. When the Bolts don’t screw it up with turnovers and mistakes on special teams they are tough to beat. They are not perfect even at home as the Raiders proved just two weeks ago. The 49ers are 1-5 on the road, but many of those were hostile environments. Weather not being an issue helps too.


Rookie Ryan Mathews has been a big disappointment, especially considering he replaced a legend in Tomlinson. However, if he can stay healthy a lot of the negative talk should melt away. In fact, paired with Tolbert in the backfield this already potent offense is ready for a playoff run. They dominated Kansas City last week and even without the threat of a passing game while Croyle was at the controls it was pretty impressive watching them totally snuff out a strong running team.


The 49ers are pretty confident having forced 5 turnovers last week against Seattle, but this is a dramatic leap up in competition. Traveling on a short week is always difficult as well even if it is a short plane ride. Playing with a lead Alex Smith had a nice game and has actually not turned it over in three straight. He will be under fire this week and while I like the ability of this offense to occasionally strike with Vernon Davis or even a sneaky screen to Brian Westbrook the consistency is not going to be there. Rivers will move the ball at will through the air and the running is mostly going to be an afterthought to protect a lead: San Diego 27, San Francisco 13 (SF -9/under 45.5)

Kansas City (8-5) @ St. Louis (6-7): Division leaders on both sides in the battle of Missouri? When these teams were picking in the top 5 at the NFL draft neither could realistically expect to have a division championship within reach a week before Christmas, but here they are. The Chiefs are in trouble though. They have Usain Bolt running them down in the form of San Diego and their anchor leg Matt Cassel just pulled a hammy so to speak.


Based on last week Croyle puts the Chiefs at a huge disadvantage offensively. Cassel really has been this team’s MVP because the running game obviously can’t do it without the passing element. San Diego’s run defense is better than what St. Louis brings to the table, but their home dome advantage makes up for some of that. This is the biggest game for them since their “Greatest Show on Turf” days. The defense is going to be fired up.


Neither team is going to have a lot of luck throwing the football. The defenses both can get after the quarterback, and allow a low completion percentage so their slightly below average yards per game numbers are deceiving. Again, the dome plus Croyle factor shifts the edge to the Rams there. Even with Cassel the Chiefs complete a low percentage and have been successful because of an insanely low interception total (4).


Does Kansas City come in and flex their running game? They almost have to because their defense has been touched up a few times on the road this season while going 2-5. A shootout is not going to go their way. Their best shot is slugging out a close, low scoring affair. St. Louis is thrilled to be back at home for just the second time since Halloween. Wait, what? Is that right? Yes, it is. They have spent four of the past five weeks on the road preceded by a bye week. Those are the breaks when you finish in last place. It is hard to imagine them coming out flat and once they get ahead things should be easier. This is going to be a good one even though I don’t see a lot of scoring: St. Louis 20, Kansas City 16 (STL -2.5/under 43)


Arizona (4-9) @ Carolina (1-12): Fans are funny. They really want the Panthers to lose this game and remain in position to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Players are different. Everything goes on film. If these guys want a job in the future, these games matter. As I mention often, pride is also part of it. The Cardinals showed some last week in demolishing Denver. John Skelton became the second rookie quarterback to win a start for them this season, which is interesting if nothing else.


Carolina has also played two rookie quarterbacks this season, but Tony Pike never started and has been placed on IR. Jimmy Clausen is the guy for now and the future could not be more uncertain. The draft is such a crap shoot and this is a prime example. Clausen was considered “pro ready” but that doesn’t mean “Joe Montana in his prime”. I’m not sure any quarterback, real or computer generated, could move this offense. Players are injured at every position and a lame duck head coach does not help matters.


As it is, Clausen has at least avoided a bunch of interceptions. He has 7 in 224 attempts and still never more than one in any game. On the other side Skelton’s first start was not exactly awe inspiring. He was 15/37 for 146 yards without a touchdown or turnover. The 43-13 final was more indicative of their 6-1 edge in turnovers and a lot of the scoring came late. In fact, if Feely’s fake field goal had failed the score would have been 15-6 midway through the fourth quarter. Can they come up with the same intensity on the road as they displayed while closing out this one at home? I doubt it.


This is the worst kind of pick your poison. Neither quarterback has much going on, but at least Skelton hasn’t alienated his star receiver as Clausen has with Steve Smith. We are after all talking about the two worst passing offenses in the NFL. It is worth noting, however, that Arizona is within a few yards per game of a handful of other teams. Carolina is dead last by almost 30 yards. Almost across the board the passing defenses are mirror images on the stat sheet. The Cards give up more yards per attempt and per game, but that’s it. I’m looking for both defenses to make life difficult for the rookie throwers.


Which rushing offense can bail their team out? The stats don’t tell the whole story because Arizona has a slightly better average per carry (4.5 to 4.3) which for me is more important than resting in the bottom 5 for yards rushing per game. The rushing defenses are both in the bottom 8 which is to be expected with the losses piling up. The edge there goes to Carolina and the home field should help as well. Fans in the stadium probably won’t be rooting for the visitors just because of a quarterback who might not even declare for the draft. Besides, putting their failure this season on Clausen’s shoulders is ridiculous and assuming Luck will save their franchise is flat out insane.


Call me crazy, but the Cards have been really bad on the road since knocking off the Rams in week 1. Four of their five losses have been by 12+ points. The Panthers usually get worn out because their offense can’t score and eventually give up more points than they should. I don’t see that happening this week. I like their running game a little more and if they can just win the turnover battle 2-1 I see them squeezing this out: Carolina 15, Arizona 14 (AZ +3/under 37.5)


Philadelphia (9-4) @ NY Giants (9-4): The NFC East is so competitive. I know everyone wants to bash the Redskins and Cowboys, for different reasons, but the failures of those two teams to me really underscore how tough it is to thrive in this division. Either of them would have won the West this season hands down, but those are the breaks.


This is a huge rematch of Philly’s 27-17 win last month. The Eagles can just about lock up the division with a victory because they draw two losing teams (Minnesota, Dallas) with interim coaches at home to close out the year. Playing better is one thing, knocking off a quality team on the road is quite another. The Giants play both of their remaining games on the road. Next is a trip to Green Bay, who will be desperate for a win and likely to have Aaron Rodgers back under center. This team has to know it is now or never because over the course of 60 minutes their destiny can change from possible division champion to out of the playoffs altogether.


In the first meeting Vick was limited relatively speaking. His only touchdown was rushing and he ran for just 34 yards. The Giants couldn’t mount much offensively and lost the turnover battle 5-2 to boot. Their defense tightened up in key spots to keep the game close. Two scoring “drives” for field goals without a first down following turnovers in the second quarter wound up accounting for the breathing room at the end.


Teams are starting to game plan differently for Vick now and New York definitely has the athletes to hold him in check. Whether or not you agree with it, the strategy is to knock him senseless either while he is running down field or even after releasing a pass. Andy Reid doesn’t like it, but I can think of a few dog lovers who might. Unless Vick is knocked out of the game it shouldn’t slow down this offense. The Eagles have come out of their bye week and scored 26+ points in six straight. Their defense is the question mark because only one team has failed to score 24 on them during that stretch.


On the other side, the Giants have put the hammer down defensively on two losing teams the past two weeks limiting the Redskins and Vikings to a combined 10 points. A lot was made of their odyssey to Detroit via Kansas City for a game against Minnesota that wound up being played on Monday night. It was a bummer to be sure, but I don’t see too much of a hangover effect. This is a divisional opponent and they are at home. Losing a day of preparation would be a bigger deal if they were on the road against a team they had yet to see.


Including the playoffs after the 2008 season the Giants have lost six in a row to the Eagles. Their last win was December 9, 2007. Not even two months later they were Super Bowl champions. It’s a lot of recent history to overturn. Injuries will play a big part as well. Steve Smith is gone for the season and the revitalized running game needs to help New York keep Vick on the sideline. Bradley and Graham being out on defense for Philadelphia could help their cause. I hate relying on Eli protecting the football because he has an embarrassing 24 turnovers, but they are now 4-0 when he does (1 total). Of course, all of those games were against bad teams. I might change my mind again while I’m typing this score. I have to take the quarterback less prone to turning it over, but it’s close: Philadelphia 24, NY Giants 21 (PHI +3/under 47.5)


Detroit (3-10) @ Tampa Bay (8-5): Every time the Lions go on the road there is a possibility history will be made. They have lost 26 in a row, an NFL record, away from their dome. As a franchise the Bucs can relate to that futility having lost, wait for it, 26 consecutively to begin their existence. They have left those days far behind though, having won a Super Bowl just a few years back. I don’t need to remind anyone Detroit has never even been to one.


Last week in Washington the Bucs got the kind of lucky break teams often need during a playoff push when a fumbled PAT snap gave them a win as opposed to dealing with overtime. It pushed their record to 8-0 against losing teams and with Seattle (6-7) on deck they can get to 10 without beating a single winner. Whether or not it is enough to make the playoffs this year is a different story, but good teams beat bad ones. There is no shame in it and no reason to apologize for it.


I’m interested in how up the Lions will be following an emotional win over division rival Green Bay. Even before Aaron Rodgers went out they were taking it to the Pack, and eventually slugged it out 7-3. The defense has not shown up like that often this season, but it showed their potential. Tampa Bay’s defense has been pretty consistent all year. Seven opponents have failed to score more than 17 points.


The advantage at quarterback goes to Josh Freeman who is trying to establish himself as the best out of the 2009 draft which included Detroit’s currently injured Matthew Stafford. Shaun Hill gives them a better chance than Drew Stanton, but there is no way of knowing who will start. The defensive difference is mostly in the interception and sacks column. Tampa Bay leads in picks 18-11 and Detroit has gotten the quarterback more (36-20). Freeman is poised though, and has a better running game to support him. He also faces a defense giving up a higher percentage of completions and has the home field.


Running the ball really sways this one in favor of Tampa Bay. Both teams are vulnerable defensively, but in a showdown of rookie running backs out of the Pac-10 the guy not drafted (Blount) should be a bigger factor than the first rounder (Best). Marinate on that for a moment. Blount is a punishing back and is getting stronger as the season wears on. Best has really never been healthy all season and has a game high of 78 yards. I’m expecting a low scoring game until the fourth quarter when the team with something at stake pulls away: Tampa Bay 23, Detroit 13 (TB -4/under 43.5)


Cleveland (5-8) @ Cincinnati (2-11): Suffice it to say the Ohio teams don’t have as much to brag about as the Missouri teams. As usual, this one is more about bragging rights. How bad have the Bengals been recently? Even though the Browns were reborn in 1999 as an expansion franchise, they are just 14-9 in the series since then. Last year’s 6-0 run through the AFC North seems like a lifetime ago. They have lost 10 in a row, the longest streak in the NFL this season. Fans are probably hoping for a couple more losses and another quarterback at #1 overall to same them from what has become of the last guy they took there – Carson Palmer.


Seemingly overnight Palmer has become a shell of his former self. Adding more options in the passing game was supposed to bring him back his glory days of 2005-2006. Instead, even though his yards are up his completion percentage stays down and the turnovers are out of control. The other side of the rivalry at least thinks they have an answer at quarterback. Rookie Colt McCoy is back starting and has clearly been the best of the trio Cleveland has gone with. All are completing a solid percentage, but McCoy brings energy (and yardage) to the offense.


It helps McCoy that Hillis should be able to run right over this defense. Both teams allow plenty of rushing yards, but the Bengals give up 4.7 yards a pop. Conversely, Benson has pretty much lost interest the past few weeks. He has rushed 45 times for 109 yards and please don’t make me do the math on how poor his average is over that span. There are times the Bengals have shown interest at home this season. In fact, despite going 1-5 only a second half meltdown against Buffalo stands out as a poor effort on their part. Cleveland has likewise been more competitive on the road than their 2-5 mark might indicate.


I thought they could run by the Bills last week and it didn’t happen. Something about fooling me twice seems to apply, but McCoy gives them an edge. He has a winning attitude and is going to motivate his team accordingly. The Bengals are in a bit of disarray. Their head coach is likely out and fingers are being pointed all round. If the passing game could be counted on to march in one direction without the killer turnovers I might take them to pull this off: Cleveland 21, Cincinnati 20 (CLE +2.5/over 40)


Buffalo (3-10) @ Miami (7-6): How in the world are the Dolphins 1-5 at home? For all of their inconsistency, things could get very interesting if they take care of business here. Next up is Detroit, who has not won on the road since 2007. The finale is in New England and it is possible the Patriots will be in position to rest players. Still, a lot has to happen for the Dolphins to steal a wild card. At least they are in it though. The Bills are just trying to be a thorn in the side of teams who are.


If the first meeting seems like it was a long time ago that is because it was. When these teams played in the season opener Trent Edwards and Marshawn Lynch were in Buffalo’s backfield, and Stevie Johnson was still Steve. Miami won 15-10 behind a dominant defense. The defense is still bringing it. Very quietly no team has scored more than 17 points against them over the past five games. Unfortunately, the offense has been inconsistent all season and mostly down of late. The past two weeks have added to the total of games failing to score more than 15 points which now stands at seven.


On paper this really does look like a mismatch, but divisional games have a tendency not to work out that way. Miami should stifle any rushing attack while Buffalo’s run defense has been shoddy all year. However, the Dolphins have shown a maddening resistance to running the ball at time. With slim playoff hopes on the line I expect them to come correct here. Their defense should set them up to run a lot. Henne throwing the ball is not a good idea. Buffalo’s counter is Fitzpatrick going up against a defense that can get after him. Wake is emerging as a big time sack artist. They need this one and should sweat it out: Miami 20, Buffalo 13 (MIA -4/under 40.5)


Washington (5-8) @ Dallas (4-9): Not all of the games have meaning, but this is a pretty good week for rivalries. Believe me, fans on both sides of this one care about the outcome. If anyone had said after the Redskins won 13-7 over the Cowboys to open the season that for the December rematch we would be watching Kitna vs. Grossman at quarterback eyes would have surely rolled. An injury knocked Romo out weeks ago, and now McNabb has been benched. Is Shanahan serious? His son runs the offense and is close with Rex, but no one really understands this decision.


The soap opera atmosphere has at least kept things interesting while the losses mounted for both teams. The Cowboys are a totally different offense during Garrett’s stretch as head coach, but the defense is just as bad. Rumors of sabotage are probably just that, but it is strange. If this offense had been around earlier in the season I can think of three games early on including the first meeting which might have been wins. Their backfield is still a question mark, but that’s what these last few games are for. Barber is apparently out. Choice took a step back last week and Jones has only carried the ball more than 16 times in a game once. That was two weeks ago in a win over the Colts.


Washington has backfield issues of their own, which is no surprise with Shanahan in charge. Torain was a beast with 172 yards last week, but can’t stay healthy. Williams did not make the most of his opportunities after Portis hit IR. If the running game is not working Grossman is a sitting duck. He is still Grossman right? There is probably a reason he hasn’t seen much action since an awful 2007 season which followed his Super Bowl campaign in Chicago. These are two of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, but clearly Dallas has the better opportunity to take advantage.


I’m looking for the Cowboys to do plenty of running the ball as well against a defense that at this point really doesn’t care too much. McNabb might play offense and might be in his first season with the team, but his benching is going to impact how the players approach this game. I don’t know if some guys really want to win for Grossman. On the other hand, the Cowboys are closing out a miserable home portion of the schedule trying to avoid going 1-7 in JerryWorld. Their only win was over Detroit, who was and still is in the midst of the NFL’s longest road losing streak. The team with more offensive pop usually wins a game like this when the defenses are already on the golf course: Dallas 34, Washington 17 (DAL -6.5/over 44)


Jacksonville (8-5) @ Indianapolis (7-6): More shocking, the Colts flirting with .500 or the Jaguars in position to seal the AFC South with two weeks to spare? I am going to say both equally. Jacksonville’s head coach Jack Del Rio grew up in the Bay Area as a Raider fan and his team seems to be borrowing their “just win baby” slogan from days gone by. Almost every close game has gone their way and when things got out of hand in four blowout losses during the first half of the season their confidence never wavered. Indianapolis has finally been victimized by having no running game because it has been coupled with their porous run defense and a bevy of injuries to receiving options.


The first meeting was a wake up call to the champs when the Jags won 31-28, but it seems like they have pushed the snooze button since. In that one Addai, Clark and Collie were healthy too. Of course, now word is coming out that Garrard is a game time decision for the crucial rematch. A hamstring injury is limiting him. He has to play and play well if Jacksonville wants to end Indy’s reign of terror on the division. His efficiency has been a key to their surprise success.


If Indianapolis has trouble stopping the run, Jacksonville’s weakness is the pass. Peyton Manning just needs to avoid the interceptions and particularly those returned for touchdowns. He shook off those issues on TNF as the Colts held off Tennessee. Speaking of which, the extra days of rest are going to help them adjust their game plan for the rematch. I’m all for that. I just can’t get off Peyton’s bandwagon. The Super Bowl loser’s curse seems to have struck them, but until they are dead I like their chances. Jacksonville is going to pile up some rushing yards with MJD. Eventually one of the quarterbacks is going to win the game. Well, maybe not. Either Peyton is going to win it with a touchdown to a teammate or lose it with an interception to a Jaguar: Indianapolis 27, Jacksonville 24 (JAX +5/over 47.5)


New Orleans (10-3) @ Baltimore (9-4): I’m not calling this a Super Bowl preview, but it is certainly a preview of two teams in contention. The Saints are quietly plugging along and more impressively Brees has avoided the Madden Curse although perhaps 18 interceptions would qualify. The team’s 5-1 road record screams toughness. Offensively, peaking is the appropriate word after a fifth straight trip past 30 points. The concern is that all of those teams currently have losing records. Their last winning opponent was Pittsburgh on Halloween, a 20-10 win. Obviously this is a comparable foe although the venue is a lot less friendly compared to their dome.


Two weeks ago in Cincinnati the Saints had trouble outdoors in cold weather, struggling past the Bengals 34-30. This is a big step up in competition. The Ravens are softer on defense than most people think, as shown at the end of last week’s OT win at Houston on MNF. They are on a short week and their secondary is definitely a weak spot coming in. Brees has more help in the backfield with Pierre Thomas healthy as well. This is going to be a fight.


Flacco has been consistent if not spectacular this season after the team added options in the passing game. Their running game has definitely fallen short of expectations though and now is the time for them to turn that around. The one stat jumping out at me is -10 for New Orleans in turnover differential. Those aforementioned interceptions by Brees are likely to create a short field for Baltimore here. Their task is converting touchdowns against a defense that has not given up many. This is a battle of top 5 scoring defenses and should come down to just a couple big plays. I like the home team to make those: Baltimore 17, New Orleans 16 (NO +3/under 44)


Houston (5-8) @ Tennessee (5-8): The only reason anyone is going to watch this game is to see Finnegan and Johnson fight it out. Both teams have fallen out of the AFC South race and are playing out the string. The Titans were embarrassed a few weeks ago, but that was with rookie Rusty Smith at quarterback. Their offense functions much better with Kerry Collins obviously and the presence of Kenny Britt is another plus.


The Texans have rarely struggled to score this season, but other than that one shutout of these Titans are porous defensively. It looked like things were going well during last week’s brilliant rally against Baltimore when their defense turned rock solid, but then Schaub’s pick six lost the game in OT. This is sort of like the resistible force against the movable object in a sense.


I have learned never to spend too much time analyzing a prior meeting in division rivalries because just a few weeks later a result can be overturned dramatically. I think that is going to be the case here. Chris Johnson is due to take over a game and Houston’s defense has to be crestfallen after not coming away with the win last week. Hitting the road after losing a heartbreaker on MNF is a recipe for disaster when it comes to a team going nowhere. Here is the thing though. We pretty much know the Texans are going to score at least 20 points. Can the Titans do that? Maybe, but it is still not enough: Houston 24, Tennessee 20 (HOU +2/under 47.5)


Atlanta (11-2) @ Seattle (6-7): Flying mascots meet in a battle of first place teams. On the surface this looks like a total mismatch, but the Seahawks are a totally different team at home. Last week’s embarrassing performance in San Francisco was pretty much par for the course for them on the road. They are not infallible at home, but the odds of them playing decent football go way up, especially against a team traveling from a couple time zones away. It also helps to face an opponent going on the road for the fourth time in five weeks. Thanks schedule makers!


The Falcons have overcome this quirk in the schedule to win seven in a row. They can run the ball a little, pass the ball a little and play a little defense. Piece by piece this team is pretty average, but when you add it all up they win games. The Seahawks are awful defending the pass and can’t run the ball. Those are glaring weaknesses and opponents take advantage of things like that.


Turnovers are of course a great equalizer and last week Seattle was taken out of their game by losing that battle 5-0. If they can keep it level here or win things might get interesting. Otherwise, Atlanta should take care of business with ease. I expect the Falcons to come out running because it’s easier. If it fails they will take to the air, but I don’t think it will. They keep finding a way this season and while I’m not ruling out the upset it was telling how Singletary called out the ‘Hawks for not being able to play last week. He was right. They need to wash the slate clean. In the battle of Boston College quarterbacks I am taking the one who protects the football. Shocking, I know: Atlanta 23, Seattle 19 (SEA +7/under 46.5)


NY Jets (9-4) @ Pittsburgh (10-3): I hate to say it, but New York is who we probably should have expected them to be. Last year they were 7-7, snuck into the playoffs when teams rested starters and bit a couple teams in the rear end to reach the AFC title game. They were never a dominant, elite team and adding a couple of pieces did not change that. The Steelers have been among the AFC powers for several years now and while not always at the top they do have a couple trophies in the case. Now what?


On paper this looks like a street brawl. The Steelers are by far the league’s best run defense and the Jets are third. Pittsburgh has the second most sacks (39) and New York allows clearly the worst completion percentage (50.7%) for opposing passers. Forget points being at a premium, first downs will be. The punters and field goal kickers are going to be important. Save your jokes about tripping the gunner.


Confidence is the big factor here. The Jets have none on offense. As a team it is time to point out they have beaten only one team (New England) that currently has a winning record and said team destroyed them in the rematch. Speaking of those Patriots, they are the only team that has beaten then Steelers since the calendar turned to November. Santonio Holmes is going to be seeking revenge on his former team, but Pittsburgh’s shaky offense has just enough in the tank to scratch out a victory here when Sanchez throws it away instead of to his waiting arms: Pittsburgh 13, NY Jets 10 (NYJ +6/under 36)


Denver (3-10) @ Oakland (6-7): Yet another rematch this week has the added flavor of a rookie starting quarterback. Everyone wants to see Tebow play and plenty will. Well, except for those in the Bay Area where the game is blacked out. The first meeting was an eye opener. McFadden piled up 196 total yards and scored 4 times. The Broncos managed only 11 first downs and lost 59-14 in front of their shocked fans. It was the beginning of the end for McDaniels as head coach.


Now there might be head coach problems in Oakland. Do the Raiders have to pay Hue Jackson more to retain him as offensive coordinator? They might need to just make him head coach and tell Tom Cable to beat it. Can you tell I’m not really questioning how this game will go? The weather is going to be dreary and running the ball is on the menu. In the first meeting we saw how that turned out. The only difference this time might be more of Bush who runs a little better in poor weather.


Tebow is not a passer. This might be harsh, but right now it is true. The Raiders are going to attack him and force the action down the field. His defense is likely to put him in an early hole. There is a chance Moreno does a little damage and keeps this one interesting in the first half, but eventually the Broncos are going to pack it in like they did last week in Arizona. They are going nowhere fast and the Raiders still have a shot at the playoffs: Oakland 28, Denver 13 (OAK -6/under 43)


Green Bay (8-5) @ New England (11-2): Life can be cruel and so can the NFL. The Packers might not have been sitting pretty heading to Detroit last week, but they controlled their destiny for winning the NFC North. Now they not only have to beat far and away the hottest team in the league on the road with a backup quarterback, they need help to win the division. Matt Flynn played poorly last week. It is tough coming off the bench, on the road and executing without the benefit of a running game. Even with a full week of practice the task is no easier here.


The Patriots are mad again. I’m not sure what ticked them off this time, but they love to show off in primetime when they are playing well and that is the case right now. Two weeks ago it was whipping the Jets on MNF. This marks their third nationally televised game over the past four and while I don’t see another 45 points like the previous two, a beat down appears likely. When Green Bay’s offense stalls, eventually the defense is going to wear down. I don’t really need to bore anyone with the stats here. The Packers are not the same team without Rodgers. The Patriots just avenged one Super Bowl loss by smacking Chicago last week and now get a measure of revenge here: New England 31, Green Bay 10 (NE -14/under 43.5)


Chicago (9-4) @ Minnesota (5-8): When the schedule came out the word “spoiler” probably was uttered, but it was the Bears who expected to be ruining the plans of the Vikings not the other way around. Instead, in a rare outdoor game in Minnesota on MNF things could get crazy. Joe Webb becomes the eighth rookie to start when he hits the field (after Tebow the previous day) and why the heck not? It should be interesting if nothing else.


Adrian Peterson is going to be running his tail off on the frozen field, but he is up against a top run defense. The Bears whipped them 27-13 the first time around and held AD in check. Assuming New England takes care of Green Bay this is a clinching moment for Chicago. They will want to handle their business now against a team unlikely to threaten their stout defense with an untested quarterback at the helm. It is hard to see it any other way. The Bears were exposed as not being an elite team last week by the Patriots. Everyone should have already known that. They are still a pretty good team and like it or not probably the NFC North champs even if it took a little luck to get there: Chicago 21, Minnesota 10 (CHI -7/under 33.5)




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