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Sunday, June 24 2018

NFL predictions 2013: Week 4

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That screaming you hear is my pain after a tough week. I kind of saw it coming. I went just 8-8 straight up (29-19 overall) but managed to also go 8-8 against the spread (24-23-1 overall) to remain in the black there. The lone bright spot was my 10-6 mark on the over/under (29-19 overall). I must admit, it was tough to pick a game like Chargers over the Titans 17-16, then have them leading 17-13 only to watch a Tennessee wide receiver clearly push off while catching the game-winning touchdown. Usually I don’t whine about misses like that, but it was a bad one.

David went 9-7 so now he’s 31-17 and ahead of me. 

San Francisco (1-2) @ St. Louis (1-2): Last year the Rams gave the 49ers fits, beating them and tying them in a pair of physical contests. Now San Francisco hits the road on a short week feeling beaten up after Indianapolis ran over them, and prior to that it was Seattle who did the same. The “Super Bowl Loser” curse is suddenly being talked about and that’s what happens when you lose a pair of games by a combined 56-10.

Colin Kaepernick is having his sophomore slump and it’s not hard to see why. He should have paid attention to Cam Newton’s second season and watched how teams adjusted to his antics to shut down the Panthers. Worse yet for the visitors, their defense is in disarray. The centerpiece to their defensive line Ian Williams is done, Aldon Smith is in rehab, Patrick Willis might not play and Nnamdi Asomugha is also unsure if he will go.

They are in turmoil, but the good news is that St. Louis does not have a dynamic offense. Their biggest concern might be dynamic rookie Tavon Austin’s ability to break a big play in some fashion. For the most part they should be able to keep Sam Bradford’s offense in check. Conversely, I expect Jim Harbaugh to “listen” to Frank Gore and feed him the ball. Running is about brute force and this offensive line has the ability to get it done. I see them grinding this out, especially with their backs against the wall. If they come in here at 3-0 they probably lose this one: San Francisco 20, St. Louis 19 (STL +3/under 42) 

 

Washington (0-3) @ Oakland (1-2): Things are not looking good for the Redskins. Their only saving grace at this point is the knowledge that last year they were 3-6 before running the table to win the NFC East. Their schedule this year will not make a repeat of that streak likely. They need a win immediately. The Raiders are kind of playing with house money. No one expects anything out of this team. The Broncos and Chiefs are casting a large shadow on them in the AFC West, allowing the Silver and Black to sneak up on teams and play spoiler.

I would call this game a coin toss. Washington’s defense is struggling, and that’s in part because they gave up the farm to draft Robert Griffin III. Oakland’s defense is actually pretty good even though last week they started, save one player, an entirely different group of guys compared to 2012 when they were bad. Go figure. Terrelle Pryor has the dreaded concussion so his status is unclear. I think he plays because the league says Oakland handled his injury properly.

Griffin is a much better passer than Pryor, but in their present physical health Pryor is a much better runner. Both are at risk for different reasons if they run. The running games each have a player to lean on, but it hasn’t been working all that well thus far for either Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden. It’s something both teams will try to change this week given the condition of their quarterbacks. I think this is going to feel like the Redskins are playing a divisional game. I look for tough, physical play and not too much scoring. It’s going to be tight and finally Griffin gets a win in dramatic fashion: Washington 21, Oakland 20 (OAK +3.5/under 44)

Seattle (3-0) @ Houston (2-1): This is a classic trap game for the Seahawks. They are playing very well obviously, and the Texans just got their helmets handed to them in Baltimore. Going off last week is very dangerous, and very dumb. Seattle brings an awesome defense to the table so even on the road they are in good shape assuming the offense doesn’t turn the ball over too much. Houston has a good defense too, and plenty of offensive options to make plays. They can win this game.

My concern for the Texans is Matt Schaub. They should have replaced this guy by now. He is far too average for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. At least they seem to have found a player to complement Andre Johnson, but it took them so long that now their star receiver is almost going need to be replaced himself in a couple of years. Russell Wilson is a smart quarterback, almost a mobile version of Troy Aikman in that he won’t always wow you with stats he just wins games by putting the ball in his playmakers hands. I can’t imagine this offense when Percy Harvin joins the fun. For now, they find a way to keep it rolling. It’s not going to be easy: Seattle 20, Houston 19 (HOU +3/under 42)

Chicago (3-0) @ Detroit (2-1): It seems like the Lions are getting too much respect in this game coming off their win at Washington. The Bears are looking to really grab control in the NFC North here and although it’s on the road in a dome I like their chances. Chicago’s offense has confidence again, and while the defense might not be dominant they can get the job done. Detroit seems to be on the right track again, but they really need Reggie Bush playing at full strength to win this. Is he read after taking last week off?

I see this as another coin toss. Bush makes his offense do great things, and last week’s road win was a good thing because they have struggled mightily outside of their dome. They are going to put everything into this one knowing how crucial it is if they want to compete in the division. I tend to like home teams in this spot, and Matthew Stafford still has Calvin Johnson. I know, Jay Cutler has Brandon Marshall. He also has that one blown throw in him to turn a win into a loss: Detroit 23, Chicago 21 (CHI +3/under 48)

Cincinnati (2-1) @ Cleveland (1-2): If things turn the right way, the Browns could finish tied atop the AFC North after the first month of the season. It might be time to start taking them seriously should they win this game. On the other side, the Bengals had their moment last week coming back from 30-14 down to stun Green Bay. Those are the games championship teams win over the course of a long season.

Most people thought Brian Hoyer at quarterback and no Trent Richardson at running back would doom Cleveland’s offense. Instead, Hoyer bombed away to Josh Gordon and they shocked Minnesota on the road. Now I see them coming home to get back to smash mouth defense against a team that can play that game too. First team to 20 wins this game and I’m not sure either team will make it. The Browns are fired up to face their rivals and the Bengals might let their guard down. It’s no walk: Cincinnati 20, Cleveland 17 (CLE +4/under 43)

Indianapolis (2-1) @ Jacksonville (0-3): The Colts absolutely served notice last week that they are contenders. I didn’t think they had it in them to go to San Francisco and run right over the defending NFC champs. With Trent Richardson in the fold their offense is more potent and obviously the defense can play some too having just shut down Colin Kaepernick. The Jaguars are a lost cause it seems. Their glimmer of hope here is that Maurice Jones-Drew can put up big games against this particular division rival. It’s also a trap game of course because no one takes these guys seriously.

I see Jacksonville as somewhat dangerous here because their offense got a chance to breathe against the backups in Seattle last week. Success feels good, even if it comes in a lost cause. They are going to be tired though because that’s a long trip and they did get the tar beat out of them. Indianapolis is tired too and will have travelled twice. After a few weeks it begins to wear a team down. I still like them quite a bit here, but I’m nervous about saying they blow them out. There is really no need to do that in the NFL. Teams just want to win and get on the plane: Indianapolis 27, Jacksonville 17 (IND -7.5/over 42.5)

NY Giants (0-3) @ Kansas City (3-0): This is one of those games where I say to myself, “Can the Giants really drop to 0-4?” and the same thing about the Chiefs being 4-0. Before the season it just didn’t seem possible. Now it’s staring both teams in the face. Tom Coughlin must feel like he’s in a nightmare with his old NFC East rival Andy Reid ready to throw dirt on his 2013 season’s coffin. Eli Manning had too many moving parts around him to get off to the start he expected. On paper his offense looks awesome, but in reality players are not totally healthy and guys fumble the ball to blow games.

The Chiefs might not be ready to challenge for the AFC West, but they have to be taken seriously. This is a great spot for them coming off after playing on Thursday night. They are rested and taking on a team that just played another road game and got hammered. What can New York throw out there this week that they didn’t last week? Arrowhead Stadium is going to be rocking and Eli’s line can’t protect him. His running backs can’t balance the offense. They are screwed. Kansas City doesn’t have a dynamic offense by any stretch of the imagination, but Alex Smith protects the ball and moves the chains. This week it might be good enough: Kansas City 24, NY Giants 14 (KC -4/under 44)

Arizona (1-2) @ Tampa Bay (0-3): Everyone is ready to bury the Bucs, especially with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon starting. It might be the best thing that ever happened to them. The Cards come in with a mediocre team trying to figure out a player they don’t have much tape on. Home field is a big advantage in the NFL and I think Tampa Bay rallies here behind their running game with Doug Martin and just enough passing plays to their capable wide receivers.

Carson Palmer gives Arizona a better chance to win because he can get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, but they still lack a running game to get them out of trouble when faced with a good defense. Tampa Bay has a really good secondary and can shut down the passing game by doubling up Larry Fitzgerald. If that happens, the visiting offense is in trouble. I think it could, and while this game has the potential to go any which way but loose I look for the Glennon era to start off on a winning note: Tampa Bay 21, Arizona 16 (TB -1/under 40.5)

Baltimore (2-1) @ Buffalo (1-2): The Bills were disappointing last week. I thought they should have beaten the Jets. Instead, C.J. Spiller continued to drive his fantasy owners to drink and they lost to a team that quite frankly isn’t as good as the Carolina team they were fresh off beating. Go figure. The Ravens are gaining momentum and need to stay focused here. They honored Ray Lewis with a dominant win. The division is still in their hands if they take care of business against a team they should beat.

I know Ray Rice is banged up, but Joe Flacco is not going to let them lose a game like this. E.J. Manuel is off to a decent start as a rookie. I don’t think he’s ready to beat the defending champs, even if many of their players are elsewhere. I see plenty of offense here actually and maybe turnovers keep Buffalo in it for a while. They play great at home: Baltimore 27, Buffalo 23 (BAL -3/over 44)

Pittsburgh (0-3) @ Minnesota (0-3): This one is in London, but it counts as a home game for the Vikings. So it’s not really a homecoming for Mike Tomlin who used to coach this defense. He might be looking for a new home if he loses. The Steelers are in trouble. There are two really good teams ahead of them in the division and they show no signs of being able to compete with them. The same goes for the Vikes actually.

I do like Matt Cassel starting for Minnesota. I think he gives them a better chance to win than Christian Ponder who is out with an injury. It’s a tough deal when you have a young quarterback struggling because you can’t really pull him out for a week even if it might be the best thing to do. This gives them a shot to see what Cassel can get done with Adrian Peterson at his disposal. “All Day” ran his mouth too much about 2,500 yards and now has to show a foreign crowd a little of what he was chirping about.

Big Ben is right at home of course, and is going to be throwing the ball all over the pitch. He still lacks a running game, but I’m not sure that really matters. This could be a wide-open affair. Both teams are in desperation mode and are going to pull out all the stops. Pittsburgh just got belted in primetime. Brian Hoyer’s Browns just shocked Minnesota on their home field. I’m going with the better quarterback: Pittsburgh 24, Minnesota 21 (PIT -1/over 41.5)

NY Jets (2-1) @ Tennessee (2-1): If you had told me either of these teams would start 3-1 I would have said no way. Barring a tie it’s going to happen. I think Jake Locker is starting to find his way in this league. I have been hard on him, and it did take a horrible call for him to get the win last week, but the throw was on the money. Geno Smith has probably too much confidence and at some point it’s going to blow up in his face. This might be the week.

These defenses can bring it. Both are in the top 10 for yards and points allowed. This feels like another game with the score in the high teens on either side. I think Tennessee is building momentum coming off that dramatic win. On the road I look for New York to lose a little bit of steam. This feels like an emotional pick because either side can really step up and take charge in this matchup. I’m rolling home team and more experienced quarterback: Tennessee 20, NY Jets 13 (TEN -3.5/under 41)

Philadelphia (1-2) @ Denver (3-0): If everyone sees something, like the Eagles going crazy on offense in the season opener, it seems like what happens when not as many people are watching doesn’t matter as much. Since that game Chip Kelly’s offense hasn’t been as great. The NFL might have already caught up to him. Meanwhile, in three different decades no one has consistently shut down Peyton Manning.

The Broncos are on fire offensively, and when they get some players back on defense this might very well be a Super Bowl team. I have to wonder if Manning might be tempted to retire on top after a win, records be damned, but that’s something to ponder in a few months. Philly comes in trying to match scores with a veteran quarterback who has more weapons at his disposal. LeSean McCoy is by far the best running back on the field, but Knowshon Moreno has quietly done a great job this year.

I look for this to turn out as expected. Both teams are going to push the pace and get after it. What is their motivation to change? Maybe Denver runs if they get a lead just to rest their defense, but I doubt it. Philadelphia has playmakers, so if they can win the turnover battle a shocker is always possible. I just don’t see it: Denver 38, Philadelphia 28 (PHI +12/over 57.5)

Dallas (2-1) @ San Diego (1-2): The Chargers have to be deflated coming back from Tennessee where they were robbed of a win they deserved. Looking up at two 3-0 teams in the division facing a competent foe puts them in a very serious mood. This is exactly the kind of game the Cowboys typically blow. They can’t stand being alone in first place growing their lead. The trap is set and I think it is going to spring.

Tony Romo and Philip Rivers are kind of similar in their careers having never taken a team to where most people feel like they should have. Rivers has lesser-known players at the skill positions, but he makes it work. Romo has stars all around him yet somehow they shrink when it matters most, or in a game like this that they don’t necessarily have to win. I’m taking the home dog here: San Diego 24, Dallas 20 (SD +2/under 47)

New England (3-0) @ Atlanta (1-2): The records really don’t mean much here. The Patriots have beaten two rookie quarterbacks and a team that just benched their quarterback. They beat the two rookies by a total of 5 points. The Falcons lost to Drew Brees, and last week let one get away from them in Miami. That’s almost to be expected because they are a different team outdoors. In this dome they are really hard to beat.

Tom Brady doesn’t care. He might have a couple more weapons to work with if Danny Amendola or Rob Gronkowski go, and even still he is ready to take on the doubters. I like his chances just fine. Steven Jackson was supposed to stabilize the running game for Atlanta, and now he’s hurt. Now it’s in the hands of Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers. I’m fine with that. New England’s backfield is kind of a mess too with roles being shuffled around much to the chagrin of fantasy owners.  

I think this game has a Super Bowl feel and is going to be awesome. All the stars are out in primetime and for once it lives up the hype. I’m going with the odds here because I don’t see the Falcons going 1-3 or letting one get away in this building. The Patriots can’t win them all either: Atlanta 28, New England 24 (ATL -1/over 49)

Miami (3-0) @ New Orleans (3-0): I think Drew Brees remembers that the Dolphins were worried about his health when they had the chance to sign him. It has taken them years to find a competent quarterback after Dan Marino’s retirement and in Ryan Tannehill they might have one. These teams both have defense going for them right now and that makes it interesting.

Let’s be realistic though, Brees loves primetime and while his offense hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard like years past, the potential is still there. Miami’s free agent pickups have paid off, giving them just enough offense to get the job done. Their backfield tandem of Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller might need to be sorted out for the offense to thrive, but so far so good. I think the Saints march on here, pretty easily: New Orleans 27, Miami 17 (NO -6.5/under 48)

 

 

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