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Saturday, September 23 2017

NFL predictions 2013: Week 7

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This is starting to get annoying. It seems I am taking a little longer to warm up. I was only 10-5 straight up (58-34 overall) and that’s as good as it was last week. Against the spread I submarined at 6-9 (46-44-1 overall) and went 7-8 on the over/under (50-42 overall). Let’s try to turn this around.

Seattle (5-1) @ Arizona (3-3): This is a huge game for the Cardinals. They want to compete in the NFC West, and just failed in their trip to San Francisco. It took a physical toll on them and now they have to recover on a short week against a similarly physical opponent with a nasty defense. It’s not a great setup for them. Generally I love home underdogs on TNF if they are within reason talent-wise, but this looks like an exception.

 

The Seahawks are likewise dealing with some issues having traveled two of the past three weeks (Houston, Indianapolis) while coming off a pair of physical games in a row (Colts, Titans). It’s not like they are all that fresh on a short week either. I think this is setting up as a brawl, but in games like this I look at the running offenses. We know Seattle has the talent to ground and pound, but Arizona can’t match.

 

If it goes on the quarterbacks, Russell Wilson can help his cause by scrambling and making good decisions even in a hostile environment. Carson Palmer hurts his team with his lack of mobility against a fierce defense and poor decisions with a tendency to turn the ball over. That’s the key: Seattle 22, Arizona 17 (AZ +7/under 41)

 

Cincinnati (4-2) @ Detroit (4-2): No one is going to call this a Super Bowl preview, but it’s a great matchup between two teams leading their respective divisions. The Lions just won on the road in a game played outdoors and given their history it was a big one. The Bengals also hit the road and blew a 14-point lead before prevailing in OT against a Buffalo team playing with their third choice at quarterback. It wasn’t pretty, but they won. Of note, this is their third road game in four weeks and they have not had their bye week yet.

 

As for Detroit, they have to be tired as well having played four of their past five on the road. The two games they have been home at the dome were both high scoring affairs (34-24, 40-32) and I tend to think this one will be too, maybe just not that extreme. I would say over 50 points is very reasonable. Cincinnati has a great defense and pass rush, but the environment works against them. It looks like Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush are both up to the task, so offensively I like the home team’s chances.

 

The visiting Bengals have struggled to run the ball and in a game with a pair of pretty good defensive lines with crowd noise firmly against them, they are at a big disadvantage. Quarterback play is not going to sway the outcome too much. Andy Dalton can get the ball to his weapons and so can Matthew Stafford. They are both going to be rushed, and neither team is likely to run for over 150 yards to take the other team out of it. I’m picking an entertaining game and a close win for the home team: Detroit 28, Cincinnati 27 (CIN +3/over 47)

 

Buffalo (2-4) @ Miami (3-2): The season is still relatively young, but it has to be getting old for the Bills to keep losing games they could very easily win. The only time they have lost by more than 7 points (one score) is at Cleveland when their quarterback threw a pick-six while trying to lead them from behind in the final minutes. I’m not saying they should be 6-0, but 3-3 or 4-2 is very realistic. Their issue is poor play at the quarterback position, mostly because of injuries. Rookie E.J. Manuel has been relatively good, but Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel are just not capable of leading a team with average talent to wins.

 

The Dolphins have their quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, and while they have lost their past two games the bye week came in a nice spot to settle them down. Their task here is to focus on what’s in front of them instead of next week’s trip to New England with the AFC East lead on the line. It won’t be if they blow this game. Back to Tannehill, he certainly spent the bye week working on protecting the ball. It’s crazy to fumble 6 times (3 lost) and throw 5 interceptions in just 5 games. That’s far too careless.

 

I see Miami working the running game here with Lamar Miller, who needs to be given more of the snaps to get him going. The passing offense has spread the ball around with four players having 22-25 receptions, and that’s a good thing. It’s not an explosive downfield offense though because Mike Wallace has yet to spread his wings. Buffalo’s offense isn’t either though, and they have banged up players who are weary from a losing start to the season. Can they get up for this game on the road? I’m not so sure. I think the home team dominates this one: Miami 27, Buffalo 14 (MIA -7.5/under 43)

 

Tampa Bay (0-5) @ Atlanta (1-4): It’s not too early to call the NFC South, but it’s definitely too early to give up on the Falcons. Yes, Julio Jones is out and they are off to a dismal start, notably on defense. They still have plenty of offensive talent to get going, and surely used the bye week to assess what has gone wrong. Three of their losses are to winning teams (New Orleans, Miami, New England) and it could be worse. Just ask the Bucs.

 

Coming off the bye week didn’t help Tampa Bay. They went right back to losing and collapsed on defense giving up 31 to Philly, wasting a season high 20 from their offense. The last time they were on the road, a month ago, the Pats trounced them 23-3. I see a similar “effort” here. Atlanta is going to be relatively up for this game. They know everyone has to step up with Jones out, and with a couple wins in a row can play their way back into the wild card chase.

 

I have blindly backed the Falcons this year, probably too much at times, and in this case I’m going on a limb with them one more time. The Bucs come in with a rookie quarterback trying to deal with dome noise for the first time as a pro. Mike Glennon has some talent around him on offense, but he is going to make a few mistakes to take them out of the game: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 16 (ATL -7/over 42.5)

 

New England (5-1) @ NY Jets (3-3): Just when you thought New York was going to be a surprise contender, they get shut down by a winless Pittsburgh team on their home field and it’s the same old Jets. The Patriots, conversely, were on the ropes against an unbeaten team and pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat. Tom Brady is just a little better than Geno Smith. Just a little, right?

 

In the first meeting, won by New England 13-10, neither quarterback played well actually. The key was Smith’s 3 interceptions versus none for Brady. New York’s pair of backs (Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell) had 25 carries for 100 yards to keep them in the game while Stevan Ridley and the Patriot running game did nothing (2.3 yards per carry). Weather played a role, and at that time the rookie New England receivers (Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins) were a mess, catching only 5 of 17 passes targeted for them. It was the Julian Edelman show or nothing as he caught 13 of Brady’s 18 completions.

 

This time I expect much more from the Patriots on offense, but still a strong effort from the Jets on defense if that makes sense. This time New York will have to absorb stronger punches is what I mean, and they might. Vince Wilfork’s absence (and Mayo) means a robust running effort could put the Jets in business again, taking pressure of their rookie quarterback. It’s a bitter rivalry. Anything goes.

 

In the end it’s on Brady. His only loss this year was because the sky opened up in Cincinnati with the game on the line. It’s not like they are looking past this game to next week (vs. Miami) or don’t care about this opponent. They will come to play, and might actually be able to relax in the fourth quarter because I think they can exploit some things they didn’t the first time around: New England 27, NY Jets 17 (NE -3.5/over 43.5)

 

Dallas (3-3) @ Philadelphia (3-3): The Redskins won the NFC East last year, and the Giants have won a couple Super Bowl in recent years so nobody really expected these teams to be atop the division two games clear of their more heralded division rivals yet here we are. Everyone knows the Cowboys can score. Their offense has thrived other than two visits to AFC West foes (Kansas City, San Diego). That is to say, they are scoring 18.5 points per game on the road this year because they played the rest of their slate at home.

 

Should they be worried? Probably not because the Eagles don’t shut anyone down. All six of their opponents have scored 20-plus points and if it’s that kind of party you have to pick the better offense most of the time, and the better quarterback. It’s tricky when Tony Romo is involved. He threw for over 500 yards and 5 touchdowns against Denver before making the critical interception to lose the game. Nick Foles has hardly played as a pro and is in a new offense this year. After giving up 51 to the Broncos, the Cowboys held the Redskins in check last week and forced a few turnovers.

 

Rivalries like this are always fun to watch, and always hard to project. I like the offenses to open it up as expected and get this game into the twenties. Home field isn’t too big of a factor. Philly has the running threat in LeSean McCoy to really cause problems whereas DeMarco Murray might not be available, making it tougher on Romo. Still, the Cowboys have more offensive weapons and a better defense. It has looked shaky at times this year, but they have just enough to pull this one out: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 24 (DAL +3/under 55.5)

 

San Diego (3-3) @ Jacksonville (0-6): Everyone assumes the Chargers are going to roll here and that’s just not the case. The Jaguars are playing much better football with Justin Blackmon in the lineup and, of course, Chad Henne. They hung with Denver on the road into the second half last week. Yes the Bolts just turned in an impressive MNF win over the Colts and yes I know I just rhymed Bolts with Colts, but that’s not the point. The point is that San Diego now has to travel across the country to get up for a team they “should” beat. It’s different as a big road favorite, and it’s different in the afternoon compared to primetime.

 

Still, I like Philip Rivers to keep doing what he’s doing for the most part, spreading the ball around and feeding rookie Keenan Allen who is proving why he should have been taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Without too much analysis here I feel as if Jacksonville is ready to step up and bite someone. It wouldn’t shock me in the least bit if they won this game. There are some good players on this team and eventually it’s going to result in a win for them, just not this week: San Diego 28, Jacksonville 24 (JAX +9/over 45)

 

Chicago (4-2) @ Washington (1-4): It’s moment of truth time for the Redskins. Truth be told it was last week as wall, and they lost on SNF at Dallas. Now it’s really a “must win” game because a trip to Denver next week is almost certainly a loss. They recovered from a 3-6 start last season to win the division, but 1-6 is a different animal altogether. They need to tighten up on defense having let every opponent other than Oakland (starting the hopeless Matt Flynn) score 27-plus points, and create a little more pop on offense. It sounds simple, but it’s hard to do in a league with such a slim margin for error.

 

The Bears don’t care about any of this. Their focus is on the NFC North and it’s a three-way battle at this point. This is a great setup for them coming off a Thursday night game, relatively short trip east and with a bye week up next. All of their energy is going to be expended here. Yes, their next game (at Green Bay) is a big one but it’s technically “next month” and will not be on their minds.

 

Defensively I’m concerned about Chicago a little bit. They are giving up too many points, and if Robert Griffin III gets hot it could be a problem. Washington has the offensive options to hurt them if Griffin is up to it. I wonder if they are a little deflated after the primetime loss, but in reality it was the special teams that let them down. If they don’t allow a pair of long returns they might have pulled out the win. This is one of those games I have to pick against the grain. The Bears should win, but I don’t think they are going to: Washington 24, Chicago 21 (WAS +0/under 50.5)

 

St. Louis (3-3) @ Carolina (2-3): Into the season I thought both of these teams could be contenders if things broke their way. This is a key game for each team as they try to stay in the playoff chase. The Panthers have won a couple of knockouts (38-0, 35-10) over struggling opponents, but lost two heartbreakers (12-7, 24-23) early on or they might be breathing down New Orleans’ neck in the NFC South. The Rams have woken up on offense the past two weeks scoring 72 points in victories after their defense gave up 31, 31 and 35 points the prior three weeks in losses.

 

In other words, good luck trying to figure out which team is going to show up and flip the switch in this game. It could be either side really. I like the coaching for St. Louis with Jeff Fisher. He always seems to have the ace up his sleeve and know something the other guy doesn’t. Maybe now the offense really is in a groove, but I doubt it against this Carolina defense in this building. I like the Panthers to keep up what they are doing on defense, especially at home where they haven’t been in a month. This is a game they are going to be up for.

 

The Rams just played really well at Houston, but the Texans were reeling after getting beaten up by Seattle and San Francisco physically. This is a different deal. It’s closer to when they visited Atlanta and Dallas earlier in the year, giving up 31 points in both games (losses). I see the visitors fading a little. Cam Newton and the running game should move the chains for the home side and keep momentum in their favor while they ride the defense to victory: Carolina 20, St. Louis 17 (STL +7/under 42)

 

San Francisco (4-2) @ Tennessee (3-3): Right off the bat I can say this is a game that is harder to call than most people think. It’s true that the Titans are worse off with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback going up against a vicious defense, but they’re at home and have a pretty darn good defense at their disposal as well against an offense that has not been that great. The 49ers have scored 32-plus points in three straight weeks, but watching the games it’s not a dominant unit pushing around the opposition.

 

Defensively San Francisco has rounded into form the past three weeks, and that’s been the real story as they have allowed a total of 34 points in those wins. Doing so without Aldon Smith and Ian Williams is impressive. Working against the Titans is the fact that they are coming off two physical games (Kansas City, Seattle) and just traveled a long distance. They do have the home field here, and a bye week on deck so all of their energy is ready to be expended.

 

I don’t think this is a walkover even though I know the 49ers have a better overall roster. There’s something about the Titans at home, and even at just 3-3 they have been in all of their games this season. I expect them to fight here. Colin Kaepernick is facing a league that has adjusted to him and he needs to figure out how to flip the switch back on. This isn’t an opponent they can run right over, so he will need to make some plays. He makes just enough: San Francisco 23, Tennessee 20 (TEN +4/over 39.5)

 

Cleveland (3-3) @ Green Bay (3-2): It had to be scary for the Packers to lose two wide receivers last week, but on the road against the defending champion Ravens they found a way to win without James Jones and Randall Cobb. Their running game is back, and it make take some tweaking in terms of game plan but these guys are in it for the long haul. The Browns took a step back last week when Brandon Weeden was forced to return at quarterback, losing at home to Detroit 31-17. Maybe calling them a contender was premature, and unless they win here it definitely is because Kansas City, Baltimore and Cincinnati are their next three opponents. By Thanksgiving week they could be 3-7. I know, I’m jumping to conclusions but there it is.

 

I like what Cleveland does on defense, but it hasn’t always shown up in the final scores. They have allowed 23-plus points in four of six games and against Aaron Rodgers it won’t be easy to get below that number. Rushing Rodgers is the way to beat him, but they are on the road and won’t get a lot of help from their offense. Eventually it’s a situation where they are forced onto the field after three-and-outs too often and wind up folding. I don’t trust the Browns on offense because they haven’t topped 17 points other than against Minnesota and Buffalo who aren’t very good.

 

It’s not like Green Bay’s offense has been on fire, totaling 41 points in two games after the bye week and looking thin at wide receiver. However, Rodgers is in control and they can run just enough to help his cause. The defense has tightened up after the bye giving up 9 and 17 points, and should put up a similar number here. I think this is a boring result quite frankly. Maybe Weeden hits some passes to keep in interesting, but I doubt it: Green Bay 23, Cleveland 14 (CLE +11.5/under 46.5)

 

Houston (2-4) @ Kansas City (6-0): Raise your hand if you thought the Chiefs would be perfect through six? No one did, not even their own people. They are so good on defense that they lead the NFL in points allowed (65) even over the 8 teams who have played one fewer game. No one thought the Texans would be in a hold like this, but the NFC West just clobbered them the past three weeks. Losses to Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis by a combined 95-36 have them looking for answers.

 

The bye week (next week) can’t come soon enough for Houston, but first they have to deal with an undefeated opponent with another good team (Indianapolis) waiting on the other side. This bad start could roll to 2-6 in a hurry, but if they can grind out a win or two prior to facing Jacksonville twice down the stretch it’s possible for them to still contend. Eventually the Chiefs are going to have a letdown, but their momentum seems to keep building and last week’s 24-7 win over rival Oakland was electric as the crowd set a new record for noise in an open air stadium.

 

It’s not like Kansas City is a dominant team. Their whole offense is basically Jamaal Charles running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. But the defense is stifling and they finally have a quarterback in Alex Smith who understands the best play is often not turning the ball over to the other team. It’s a high scoring league and this defense has yet to allow an opponent to score more than 17 points. That’s a good way to win some games, and now they get a team with a quarterback controversy. There is blood in the water, and unless Houston can run the ball early and often it’s going to be a problem. I think they will run and stay in this game. Being away from home might actually help a little. It’s a close one, but I’m sticking with momentum: Kansas City 20, Houston 17 (HOU +7/under 40)

 

Baltimore (3-3) @ Pittsburgh (1-4): For a while now it seems like the division has run through these teams, but now both are looking up at Cincinnati. The Steelers finally got in the win column last week and have to feel some relief, especially on defense considering they had allowed 74 points in their previous two games and limited the Jets to 6. The Ravens didn’t pull out a win against Green Bay last week, but they battled to the end. This year has been a struggle for them, and this was their second close loss over the past three weeks. It’s something they need to solve if they want to return to the playoffs.

 

I can almost throw out the stats here because of the bitter rivalry factor. I know Ben Roethlisberger has been a winner against Joe Flacco, blah, blah, blah. This is a different year and now Flacco has a ring. He also has lost a lot of the players who helped him get that ring. Big Ben has likewise lost the ability to feel safe in his pocket. He has always been a guy who takes multiple hits and deals with the rush, but now he lacks the offensive options around him to compensate. The defense has also not been able to put him in position to help him out either. It’s going to be a fight, to be sure, and I could flip a coin on this one. I still like the Ravens just a little bit because they have the bye week on deck and the Steelers don’t have the look of a team ready to get on a roll: Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 20 (BAL +2/over 40.5)

 

Denver (6-0) @ Indianapolis (4-2): This is a big one. It’s premature to call it the AFC Championship Game preview, especially after the Colts laid an egg on MNF, but the Broncos are facing a team they might have to put away again in the playoffs at some point. Plus there is the huge matter of Peyton Manning’s return home. He is up for every game, but he is going to feel more juice here. He once threw 49 scores for this team and had a trio of 1,000-yard receivers. Now he has four guys on pace to surpass that, and might set a new touchdown record by going over 50.

 

There doesn’t seem to be anything stopping Denver’s offense. Certainly playing in a dome won’t bother Manning who played most of his career here. His team has already scored 49-plus on three occasions and last week’s 35 marked their low output on the season. Indianapolis has gone over 27 points just twice, against hopeless Jacksonville and in a big-time win over Seattle two weeks ago. They did suffer the big letdown, but with a bye week on deck should be ready to fire away in this one.

 

On defense the Colts mean business. They have held four teams to less than 20 points in six games. This is where they can find a way to get the job done. Their offense is capable of running at the Broncos and chewing up some clock with Andrew Luck at the controls converting third downs. Denver’s defense is suspect to be sure. It’s easy to say teams can score on the Broncos in garbage time when they have big leads, but that’s not the entire story. I think Luck keeps his team in this game and they have an excellent chance to win. They won’t do it though. This is Manning’s night and he won’t let it get away: Denver 28, Indianapolis 25 (IND +7/under 56)

 

Minnesota (1-4) @ NY Giants (0-6): When does New York stop the bleeding? They are on almost a bye week going fromTNF to MNF so the extra rest should help, but there are no answers in sight. The defense finally held an opponent to less than 31 points, but they still lost 27-21 in Chicago. The Vikings have yet to win on U.S. soil, returning from their triumphant visit to London and dropping a 35-10 decision against Carolina. It is so bad for them they have chosen to start newly acquired Josh Freeman at quarterback.

 

There was a time I would expect the Giants to rush Josh Freeman and terrorize him, but these days not so much. Now I look for Freeman to provide a spark to an offense that actually posted plenty of points in the first month of the season (24, 30, 27, 34) but only managed to win one of those games. The defense has yet to hold an opponent to less than 27 points, and the only time they held anyone below 31 they won the game.

 

It’s anyone’s guess how this turns out. Adrian Peterson is in mourning after his young son was murdered. Last week it was shock, this week it could be rage with the national spotlight on him in primetime. I seriously think he is capable of taking this game upon himself and running for over 200 yards out of sheer will. Eli Manning has to be tired of losing and he knows he can’t keep turning it over or the losses will keep coming. It’s a strange deal for them to be out of it this early and while I could draw up some weird scenario where they win the NFC East at 7-9 the truth is that they have yet to win a single game so what’s the point? I think they pull this one out, but it was a gut-wrenching call for me to make: NY Giants 24, Minnesota 20 (NYG -3/under 47)

 

 

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