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Monday, October 16 2017

NFL Predictions 2013: Week 16

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I slipped deeper into the abyss last week, too far to come back unfortunately. My straight up mark was 8-8 (144-79-1 overall) and while that isn’t terrible, picking winners isn’t all that hard. I was only 8-7-1 against the spread and with a lot of ground to make up that’s not good enough (103-115-5 overall). Worse yet I was an awful 6-10 on the over/under (113-109-4 overall). I don’t bet on games, and yet I feel as though I have “given away” everything I “won”. It’s not a good feeling. All I can hold onto now is hoping for a miracle final two weeks straight up, where I’m at 20th against the media mob. The leader is Fox’s John Halpin (152).

 

 

Miami (8-6) @ Buffalo (5-9): Great, let’s start with an extremely unpredictable outcome right out of the chute. The Dolphins have almost completely weathered the storm of losing two starting offensive linemen to a bullying scandal. Beyond their loss on the field, the distraction has been tough to deal with. Somehow they went on national television two weeks in a row, splitting those results amid the whirlwind. They split their next two as well, against good teams in San Diego and Carolina. Then the light switch went on with three straight wins.

 

Now they have to deal with a physical storm of the Mother Nature variety. Typically the Sunshine State guys have trouble up north in winter anyway, and now they’re facing a Buffalo team that beat them 23-21 earlier this season. Plus, the Bills tend to wreak havoc in games like this. They don’t care if they’re out of it. They want the team they’re playing to be out of it too. The one element giving me pause is this game not being a sellout and the absence of E.J. Manuel. In his place another rookie, Thad Lewis, gets the call. Of course, the latter part of that is kind of interesting because Lewis started the win in the first meeting.

 

In that first game, Lewis was far from great but he got the win. His completion percentage (65.6) was high, but he passed for just 202 yards with no touchdowns and an interception while taking 4 sacks. The pass rush is going to be huge here. His opposite number Ryan Tannehill lost the game before it started, throwing a pick-six not two minutes into the game helping Buffalo mount a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. Miami took the lead 21-17 into the final frame, but never scored again while giving up two field goals including the winner with less than a minute to play.

 

Turnover margin is such a huge factor. Miami lost the battle 3-1 and in a game that produced a grand total of 34 first downs with neither team cracking 300 total yards it’s even bigger. Effort is with the Dolphins, and they seem bonded together by this controversy. I think it’s enough to get them past the trap of the Bills who quite frankly are fairly even with them. Mashing the numbers, Buffalo should win the rushing battle 130-108 with a better chance to score on the ground. Miami is the projected winner through the air 245-215 with a pass TD edge. Each team is primed for three-plus sacks and the impact of those will determine the outcome here.

 

I’ll assume the two touchdowns on each side and that field goals determine the winner. Buffalo is 4-4 in close games having won the first meeting that way, but hasn’t played a bunch of tight ones over their past eight (two). Miami is 6-4 in the clutch and in their last seven it has been close six times. They are tested and when it comes down to the end I like their chances with a slightly more experienced quarterback and, of course, something to play for. Their resolve seems strong enough to offset the hostile environment and weather by just a little bit: Miami 23, Buffalo 17 (MIA -2.5/under 43)

 

New Orleans (10-4) @ Carolina (10-4): This is what football is all about. I hate that these teams played just two weeks ago, but I love that they are coming together here with the division title on the line. The Saints can wrap up the NFC South by winning by virtue of sweeping the series. A win by the Panthers makes it complicated with tiebreakers and the results next week. Either way, this game is huge. Neither team wants to be a wild card. Last time was a wash with Drew Brees directing a 31-13 statement win at the dome. He threw two touchdowns apiece to Jimmy Graham, who was hobbled at the time, and Marques Colston. Cam Newton was sacked 5 times and threw for just 160 yards.

 

I often measure teams on big wins and bad losses. The Panthers have just one bad loss (Buffalo) and for me it comes with a bit of an asterisk. Way back in week 2 the Bills stunned them with two seconds left when E.J. Manuel hit Stevie Johnson for the touchdown and 24-23 win. The Saints had a bad loss at the Jets, and suffered another one last week in St. Louis. They are shaky on the road, especially on natural surface, and everyone knows it. So what happens here? It’s a tough one to call.

 

Carolina is dying for this win. They are obviously ticked about the recent loss and their defense is prepared for payback. No one has scored more than 20 points in this stadium in six tries, with a total of 63 points allowed in those games (5-1 record). Can they keep New Orleans down? The Rams did last week, and in their past four road games the Saints have scored 20 (loss) 17 (win) 7 (loss) and 16 (loss). Those are scary totals to look at. Early on they beat Chicago 26-18 on the road and quite frankly it stands as their only solid effort away from home.

 

Absorbing this I just can’t back New Orleans here. They are going to have more success passing the ball, but Luke Kuechly is ready to have his moment here with everyone watching. The win comes on the ground where Carolina has a big edge. They can control the ball and the tempo with their rushing attack. DeAngelo Williams has a few tricks up his sleeve. Charles Johnson is going to get after Brees as well, likely forcing some mistakes. I just don’t get a good vibe expecting New Orleans to shake off their history of struggling in a spot like this. They were flat last week because they looked ahead. Their opponent kept their eyes on the prize and now they are ready to claim it: Carolina 26, New Orleans 24 (NO +3/over 46.5)

 

Dallas (7-7) @ Washington (3-11): This is such a great grudge match. Linebacker London Fletcher hasn’t always been a Redskin, but he announced his retirement hoping to fire up the fans for a win over the hated Cowboys here. How cool is that? I’m not sure he gets it, but it’s still awesome. Washington only has a couple wins since the calendar turned to October, but they were over two teams (Chicago, San Diego) who probably wish they could play them again right about now. Do they have a third damaging victory in them?

 

The Cowboys are dreadful in December, it’s just that simple year after year. They let the Bears go up and down the field on them with an MNF audience watching and followed it last week by allowing the Packers back from the dead in a 37-36 loss. This “defense” has now let seven teams score 30-plus points. Washington has allowed 27-plus ten times so we might be in for a shootout. Fittingly, the Cowboys have the guns on offense while the Redskins have to get creative with their weapons. Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is without some starters around him, and he’s trying to match scores with a team that has, pardon the pun, star power.

 

We should see both teams go over 400 yards here if the past is any clue to the future. I can’t say which team really has the edge if it goes that way. Cousins has to play well if he wants to get out of town via trade so that’s kind of a weird deal. Romo is battling the label of choker, but it seems like the running game is going to be leaned on more here to help him out. Ultimately I just don’t trust the Redskins to score enough to keep up here. Before last week’s 27-26 loss, they went on a four-week run scoring a grand total of 49 points. It will take at least 24 points to win this game and I don’t see it out of their offense, even if the Cowboys have struggled to stop anyone of late. They rise up here to keep their division title hopes alive. By the way, I should make mention of the first meeting won by the Cowboys 31-16. They were outgained by a bunch (433-213) and probably didn’t deserve to win, but I see them learning from their mistakes to earn a clean win and get the sweep: Dallas 28, Washington 17 (DAL -2.5/under 54)

 

Tampa Bay (4-10) @ St. Louis (6-8): I don’t think either team has quit and that’s a good sign for a losing team. The Bucs have been wiped out twice in the past three weeks, but beat Buffalo 27-6 in the middle of those losses and both the teams who beat them (Carolina, San Francisco) are likely going to the playoffs. They are on a 4-2 run since their 0-8 start and have beaten Miami and Detroit who have playoff aspirations. The Rams have won three of five, losing road games in San Francisco and Arizona while their three wins came over winning teams (Indianapolis, Chicago, New Orleans). Anyone who saw 3-2 with that schedule is lying.

 

Now it’s just a matter of St. Louis bringing intensity to face an opponent out of the race, strange as that sounds. The passing offenses should be equally mediocre here. The Rams have an edge because their quarterback has more experience while rookie Mike Glennon faces a better pass rush in a road/dome environment. The home team has a slight edge in rushing as well with Zac Stacy carrying the load. Bobby Rainey benefits from the turf because he’s quick though.

 

St. Louis is 4-3 at home and looking to secure a winning record for the home slate by taking this one. They have actually won here three times by double digits including last week over the shocked Saints. Tampa Bay split their dome games, losing in Atlanta and winning in Detroit. They are 1-5 on the road. I think you see where I am going with this. I don’t want to say the Bucs have quit because they clearly haven’t, but this is a tough place to get a win for them. Glennon is going to make his rookie mistakes while Kellen Clemens plays like a savvy vet. It’s just that simple: St. Louis 27, Tampa Bay 17 (STL -4/over 43)

 

Cleveland (4-10) @ NY Jets (6-8): Is this the end for Rex Ryan? His players reportedly have his back, but we know how that goes. I’m actually kind of impressed how much he has gotten out of this team with a rookie quarterback who was not prepared to get extended run, yet Geno Smith has pulled off some wins. Smith is better at home and that’s the main reason I’m rolling with New York here. The Browns might be out of gas. They gave all they had trying to win at New England and lost in shocking fashion two weeks ago, following it up with a 38-31 home loss to Chicago. Their defense is exhausted. Since the bye week Cleveland has allowed 27-plus points in five straight and if the Jets can score a little, they’re in good shape.

 

The Jets are 6-1 when scoring 18-plus, with the loss coming last week 30-20 at Carolina. Their defense certainly isn’t flawless having allowed 27-plus seven times this year, but only two of those were at home. Mashing the numbers, this is a good spot for New York to run the ball and stop the run. Cleveland counters with Josh Gordon catching passes, but first his quarterback needs time to throw. I think they blitz Jason Campbell into submission and this stadium has conditions that aren’t conducive to great passing efforts with the wind and elements. I don’t see an interesting game here. It looks to me like a game neither team really wants to play and if the clock rolls well that’s just fine. Incomplete passes stop it, and I don’t think there will be a lot because Smith won’t throw and Campbell’s offense won’t be on the field much: NY Jets 20, Cleveland 13 (NYJ -1/under 40.5)

 

Indianapolis (9-5) @ Kansas City (11-3): This is kind of an odd one when it comes to two winning teams bound for the playoffs. Both are already in, so it’s just a matter of positioning. The Colts know they are at home as the South winners. A lot would need to happen for them to earn a bye week though, so not as much is at stake for them. The Chiefs are in a really strange position fighting for the No. 1 overall seed and if they don’t get it they will be the No. 5 with likely no home playoff games. Even two wins is not enough for them if Denver wins out. Still, they are at home and need to keep the pressure on the Broncos so their focus is a little more palpable.

 

It’s not like the Chiefs are unbeatable here (5-2) but they are 8-0 overall against competition outside their division. Conversely, the Colts are just 4-5 when they aren’t beating up the AFC South. There was a time when Indy was slaying giants (49ers, Seahawks, Broncos) but then Reggie Wayne got hurt and the team went sideways. Young receivers are starting to step up, but not in time for a serious run this year, or in this game. Boiling down the numbers, Andrew Luck should be able to keep pace passing with Alex Smith but paper won’t hold up in this stadium. The pass rush taking on a team without a strong enough running game is going to be a big factor.

 

I know Kansas City can get their ground game untracked, but I only think Indianapolis can do the same. The visitors might come in fired up and get Donald Brown chewing up yards. It’s not the more likely scenario I see though. Indianapolis took apart Houston last week and that was fine. Unfortunately, in their past three road games they have allowed 27, 40 and 42 points. The offense in its current form can’t keep pace with that. In normal circumstances they can reach the twenties, but this is Arrowhead and I don’t see them scoring that much. After putting up 101 points over the past two weeks and 167 over the past month of games I see a confident offense ready to put away another opponent: Kansas City 31, Indianapolis 16 (KC -6.5/over 44)

 

Minnesota (4-9-1) @ Cincinnati (9-5): Will Adrian Peterson play or won’t he? It’s up in the air, but signs point to him suiting up. I’m not really sure how much damage he can do on the road against a likely playoff team trying to sew up a division title. The Vikings stunned Philly in a situation like this last week, but that was at home. It also put the Bengals on high alert. Obviously Marvin Lewis will be telling his team all about this group of backups posting 48 points. My thing is pretty simple though. Minnesota’s defense is awful. All of their opponents have scored 20-plus and twelve have scored 26-plus. The offense has been high-scoring most of the season, scoring 20-plus twelve times and 26-plus seven times, so let’s see what goes down here.

 

On the ground I think it’s pretty even on paper. Peterson’s health compared to a two-headed opposing backfield puts it in Cincinnati’s favor though. Through the air, I’m going with Andy Dalton over Matt Cassel, especially with the supporting casts. I’m not sure how Cassel did it last week, but on film the Bengals will break it down and make sure it doesn’t happen to them. They have too much on the line here to let Cassel do them in. I see them attacking him and forcing turnovers and sacks. Their running game will set up the pass and I look for an easy win over a surprisingly tough opponent for most of the season. Plus, the Vikings are more focused on next week when they close down the Metrodome: Cincinnati 34, Minnesota 24 (CIN -7/over 47.5)

 

Denver (11-3) @ Houston (2-12): It’s pretty easy for the Broncos, win and the top seed is theirs. They need to do it on the road, but with two teams with double-digit losses (Oakland next) on the schedule it seems like an easy path. When last seen they were getting held down by San Diego in a 27-20 loss on TNF. A couple extra days off probably were extremely helpful to them after that one. The Texans just played a couple road games, and last week looked spent in a 25-3 loss at Indianapolis. They certainly were energized for their last home game, a tight 34-31 loss to New England, but can they muster up the effort again here?

 

At some point I figured Houston would come up with a win, but now I’m not so sure they get out of their own version of the No. 1 seed, the first spot in the draft order. While losing twelve in a row, they have lost games by 3, 1, 3, 3, 5, 7, 3 and 7 points. If four of those games go their way we’re talking about a much more respectable 6-8 team closing out the schedule. Instead they’re back to lame duck quarterback Matt Schaub, third-string rusher Dennis Johnson and a backup tight end I’m not even going to name because you’ve never heard of him.

 

Yes, the Broncos are awful on defense. They can probably stop these guys though. It’s an odd deal because the Texans are a competent defense in terms of yards allowed for most of the year. They still give up a bunch of points because of Schaub’s pick-sixes and their offense putting them in bad spots. Ten teams have scored 24-plus on them and I’m going to say Denver clears that hurdle rather easily. Oddly enough the numbers crunch to Houston passing for more yards (276-266) but with Schaub that’s not going to happen. The touchdowns will go to Denver regardless. Rushing is pretty even too, this time with the Broncos ahead (116-106). This is why stats aren’t always helpful.

 

Wes Welker being out is the only bad news for Denver. Well, that and being on the road. They haven’t been held under 28 points on the road all year though, and even if the defense plays poorly as usual it really shouldn’t matter. Peyton Manning has his eyes on home field and isn’t about to let it get away with a loss in a game like this. There’s no Philip Rivers on the other sideline this time, and Schaub is good for at least a few screw-ups to seal his team’s fate: Denver 31, Houston 14 (DEN -10/under 53)

 

Tennessee (5-9) @ Jacksonville (4-10): No one’s going to watch this game, but I see it as a spot where the Titans feel they want to earn a little revenge and in the same stroke earn second place in the division. Six weeks ago they were at least dreaming playoffs at 4-4 when the Jags, who were 0-8 at the time, bit them 29-27. It started a 4-1 sure for them that was ended last week with a home loss to Buffalo. Still, Jacksonville has been playing with purpose of late so they’re not rolling over here.

 

In the last meeting, Jake Locker was injured early leaving Ryan Fitpatrick taking over in relief. His fumble with a few minutes left while trying to drive for a winning field goal sealed their fate. Tennessee lost the turnover battle 4-2, negating a big edge in total yards (362-214). They bottled up Maurice Jones-Drew, who might not play in the rematch. Mixing up the numbers potion I see the Titans doing more damage on the ground (120-98) and through the air (245-220).

 

Yardage didn’t help them the first time, but here I think they have a better shot with Fitzpatrick starting the game. As good as Jordan Todman looked last week, it just draws attention to him as someone the Titans need to stop. Their receiving options are thin and more players in the box is almost a certainty. Even though they didn’t get the win last week, I loved the comeback from Tennessee last week. They haven’t quit. Their offense has been mostly good for 27-plus in seven showing since the bye week and while the defense is shaky I kind of trust them to score more than I trust Jacksonville to put up points.

 

It’s hard for me to overlook so many bad weeks for the Jags on offense and hope for them to do something without MJD or Cecil Shorts here: Tennessee 27, Jacksonville 23 (JAX +5.5/over 44)

 

Oakland (4-10) @ San Diego (7-7): This is a great rivalry and I bet the Chargers wish they had the first game back. In a game shifted to primetime because of the baseball playoffs, Terrelle Pryor was razor sharp throwing for 221 yards and running for 31 more without a turnover. Philip Rivers had 411 yards passing, but threw 3 picks and his team lost the turnover battle 5-0 and the game 27-17. There’s not much to take away from that game because the Raiders were playing much better defense then, and have a different quarterback now.

 

This is kind of a bizarre setup because Oakland could run at these guys and do some damage to play the spoiler. Rashad Jennings is a decent player. Rookie quarterback Matt McGloin needs to protect the ball or none of it matters. It took a massive turnover advantage to win the first time, at home, so let’s be realistic about the chances for an upset on the road. This is the scene of the last game the Raiders played when they weren’t awful (Super Bowl XXXVII) and on that day they played poorly. I’m not sure what to expect here from them honestly.

 

Last week the Raiders couldn’t defend a simple screen pass and lost to the Chiefs 56-31. The previous week they made Geno Smith look like the rookie of the year losing to the Jets 37-27. Since building a 21-7 lead approaching halftime on Thanksgiving they have allowed a staggering 117 points in just over 10 quarters of action. I expect it to continue against Rivers and friends. Keenan Allen is on a roll, Danny Woodhead makes plays and Ryan Mathews is healthy. It’s not a good setup for the visitors and I think they get swamped: San Diego 35, Oakland 17 (SD -10/over 50.5)

 

Arizona (9-5) @ Seattle (12-2): Poor Cardinals. They are a blistering 8-2 outside the NFC West, but to make the playoffs they need to beat a couple teams inside their division who have already put them away. In the first meeting the Seahawks were only ahead 17-13 midway through the third quarter, but a pair of touchdowns put the game away for a national audience on TNF. Arizona managed just 234 total yards. Carson Palmer was sacked 7 times, and the tandem of Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington mustered just 25 yards on 16 carries.

 

Now they come in beaten up, playing at a stadium where Russell Wilson has never lost. Palmer is hurt, stud receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd aren’t at full strength, and signs point to them being in real trouble here. Defensively, Arizona can play but losing their slot corner the Honey Badger kills them. It’s a weakness Seattle’s offense will exploit. All year they haven’t stopped the tight end and this only makes the middle of the field more vulnerable for Wilson to hurt them passing or running. I don’t think there’s much else to say here. On paper the Cards could make this close playing solid defense, but their offense is not in shape to do anything so it’s a wipeout: Seattle 31, Arizona 6 (SEA -10.5/under 43.5)

 

NY Giants (5-9) @ Detroit (7-7): The Lions don’t have any time to cry over their shocking MNF loss on a 61-yard field goal. A smart mouth rookie got the last laugh over their all-world receiver and it has to sting. All they can do is shake it off and win this game. Next week they have to face an emotional Vikings team closing down the Metrodome and that’s no easy task. For the Giants, I don’t know what if anything is left in their tank. They were just shut out by Seattle on their home field and it was the second goose egg their offense has put up this season.

 

On the year, New York has struggled mightily to put up points. The few times they have scored 24-plus they mostly won (3-1) but now they’re going up against an offense with two weeks of frustration built up. First the Lions dealt with a snow game, then they were shut down by Baltimore. Talk about a Turkey hangover. Maybe their 40-10 win on Thanksgiving gave them false confidence. Looking at the numbers, both offenses should be able to pass the ball, but realistically the Giants are screwed in this spot. Victor Cruz is out, and Eli Manning is facing a ferocious pass rush in a raucous dome. Good luck with that Eli.

 

The best New York can hope for is to just run the ball and keep Eli from setting a dubious mark for most interceptions in a season. Honestly, they are in a horrible position here. Detroit is as angry as any team could be right now. Reggie Bush is going to terrorize a defense that has no interest in chasing him. Calvin Johnson doesn’t want to hear anyone talking about his drops. Matthew Stafford is ready to make up for throwing the pick to end the game. It all adds up to blowout for me: Detroit 31, NY Giants 14 (DET -8.5/under 49)

 

New England (10-4) @ Baltimore (8-6): This is one of the better rivalries when it comes to teams not in the same division. The Ravens have pushed hard over the past four weeks to make themselves relevant in their title defense and definitely made this game meaningful. The Patriots just had their season ended by these guys last year and would love nothing more than to effectively return the favor here. It’s a juicy matchup. Baltimore took longer to get in title defense shape than I expected, but now the defense is doing some things and the offense is just effective enough to pull out wins.

 

On MNF, the Ravens had no business winning in Detroit. They mustered only 305 total yards and needed every one of them in order for Justin Tucker’s sixth field goal to go in from 61 yards out. A 3-0 turnover advantage helped too. Still, they won. The Pats weren’t so lucky in Miami and as a result haven’t locked up the AFC East just yet. They are now 6-4 in close games this year, and their most recent wins have come over bad teams (Houston, Cleveland). It’s anyone’s guess which team we see here. It could be the team that rallied past Denver in epic fashion, but I doubt it. Their best ball is played at home. On the road they are just 3-3 and have lost three of their past four.

 

I wonder if Baltimore really has the kind of home field edge to take advantage of this. Yes, they’re 6-1 here and that’s impressive. They really haven’t beaten anyone of note though, other than Cincinnati. The rest of their takedowns were over teams with losing records. The loss came to Green Bay who had Aaron Rodgers. Is there magic left on this field? My biggest reservation is picking against the Patriots off a loss. They just don’t lose two in a row, pretty much ever. It’s hard to reconcile. I like Joe Flacco against this spotty defense, but he’s banged up. He also has no running game although against a defense like this that might change.

 

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks the NFL would rather have the defending champions in the playoff tournament over the team with an ugly bullying scandal (Miami) hanging over them, so there’s that too. Looking at New England on defense, they are consistently allowing 23-plus points (nine of past eleven) so if Baltimore can keep the ball and score they’re totally in this game. The Ravens are a little spotty in that regard though. Their high water mark is only 30. Nine times they haven’t been able to get past 20 and if they don’t get there in this one I don’t care what happened last week they aren’t beating Brady with that total. I look for a tight, exciting game and I’ve got Brady: New England 23, Baltimore 20 (NE +2.5/under 45.5)

 

Pittsburgh (6-8) @ Green Bay (7-6-1): Not too long ago this was the Super Bowl, but it won’t seem the same without Aaron Rodgers starting and since the Steelers are out of it. Yes, I know they still have a chance, but a lot has to go their way. The Packers control their destiny to win the NFC North oddly enough, and they just might get it done. Last week’s dramatic 37-36 win at Dallas might have turned the corner for the offense under Matt Flynn. Eddie Lacy can carry the running game and if Flynn can just do a little through the air it just might work.

 

Obviously Pittsburgh showed up on SNF as if they were still in the hunt, and it might be the case again here but they have to be a little spent. Three straight weeks they have played tight games and against some physical teams. It’s going to be cold and I have no idea what to expect from them. On the stat sheet I like the Packers to have the edge running the ball and that’s big given the weather conditions. The Steelers have the edge passing, but Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with a defense certain to come after him. Dom Capers at one time ran their defense so he’s certainly going to pull out all the stops.

 

Sometimes I call a game on feel. I feel as tough Green Bay gets this done at home. It makes more sense to me as the playoff chase unfolds. Sure, Pittsburgh could stay alive with a win but I doubt the scenarios play out in their favor. This result could make Packers-Bears next week a winner-take-all for the NFC North. With apologies to the Lions, I think it would be awesome and I’m picking it to happen: Green Bay 21, Pittsburgh 20 (PIT +2.5/under 45)

 

Chicago (8-6) @ Philadelphia (8-6): Flexing this game to SNF had some consequences to be sure, and wasn’t really fair to all parties involved at least potentially. The Eagles might have the NFC East secured before they hit the field if Dallas loses, making this game really a battle for the No. 3 seed. No one wants to play the Seahawks, ever, so delaying that inevitably I guess has some meaning but not very much. Because they are just a half-game up, there’s no way the Bears can clinch their division before this game starts. To me, they are the more motivated side any way I look at this. Philly can lose this game, and still win the division by beating the Cowboys next week in Big D. How interested are they in this game?

 

Perhaps the one thing working for the Eagles is wanting to prove that last week’s 48-30 loss in Minnesota was a fluke. They have to be embarrassed and this is national television after all. Their offense is consistently putting up points now, even if the defense totally collapsed last week. The Bears are coming off two great offensive showings (45, 38) and even though the defense allowed a total of 59 points in those games it didn’t matter. All of their games seem to be high scoring. Seven times they have been in games totaling north of 60 points. I expect another one here.

 

If not for Chip Kelly being how he is (crazy) I would expect Philadelphia to run the ball and control the clock. They will run, but the clock won’t be run down on their watch. Chicago can run plenty on them too. Both teams can pass as well, so I’m looking for better than 400 yards of total offense per side. Jay Cutler is the key factor here. He’s reckless and is prone to turning it over. Nick Foles has made a point of protecting the ball, only giving away a few picks in the past couple weeks. He will shine here in primetime I think and carry the Eagles to a win they don’t really need, handing the Bears a loss that doesn’t really hurt them: Philadelphia 34, Chicago 30 (PHI -3/over 55.5)

 

Atlanta (4-10) @ San Francisco (10-4): If they had it to do over again I’m sure the schedule-makers would have plugged in Seattle here to close down Candlestick Park. They couldn’t have known the Falcons would totally fall apart. As it stands, they come in with a skeleton crew trying to match up against a team still battling to make the playoffs. This is not a fair fight. Tight end Tony Gonzalez returns to the Bay Area for one last hurrah having played his college ball at Cal across the Bay, and he’ll certainly be at his best. So I’m sure will the aging-before-our-eyes Steven Jackson who prior to this season was on the rival Rams visiting here every season. Matty Ice might have a surprise big game in him, but we’re stretching here.

 

The 49ers are going to win this game and close down the stadium in style, probably by a wide margin. They will run Frank Gore at this defense a ton, and probably not even miss fullback Bruce Miller yet. Michael Crabtree is ready for a breakout game in his third outing of the season off an injury. Vernon Davis can be counted on for a big-time performance, and naturally Colin Kaepernick will want to make a small mark on a stadium he didn’t play in nearly as much as the greats Joe Montana and Steve Young. In the end, it’s all over but the final score: San Francisco 31, Atlanta 13 (SF -12/under 45.5)

 

 

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