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Tuesday, August 21 2018

NFL Predictions 2013: Week 8



There’s a song that says I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do. I would change it to “I always do” because no matter what I want to have a better week. Last week I was a respectable 10-5 straight up (68-39 overall) while going 7-8 against the spread (53-52-1 overall) and 8-7 on the over/under (58-49 overall). These aren’t bad numbers, but I keep waiting for the huge week to get ahead of Vegas and start to challenge the best of the best picking winners. At 68 winners I am eight behind Ron Jaworski who leads the way and rank #37 among the top 100 or so “pros” from the major networks. This does not make me happy, and I am working on changing it.


Carolina (3-3) @ Tampa Bay (0-6): The Bucs would like to stop (losing) here. In September they actually had a legit shot to start the season 3-1, losing three games by a total of 6 points. Those narrow defeats helped them spiral out of control. The defense has started to let up, as I typically will point out for teams starting to pile up losses, and that is the biggest red flag for trying to get in the win column. The past two weeks they have let up 31 points each in losses to the Eagles and Falcons, two teams missing offensive parts.


Suddenly the Panthers are a competitor in the NFC, and maybe they won’t challenge for a division title, but a wild card spot is not out of the question. In three of their past four games they have posted 30-plus points, albeit against losing teams. Guess what? They’re facing a big loser right here, and 24-31 points is a safe bet for them to put up. On defense Carolina has been pretty tough, not giving up a lot of touchdowns and holding four teams to no more than 15 points. They are facing a rookie quarterback and first-time starting running back as well.


I have seen some high-scoring TNF affairs this season when I looked for low-scoring tilts. Somehow I feel as if I’m going to get burned on this one if I project a little scoring. However, Tampa Bay has to be feeling pretty loose. They might be pulling some trick plays and squeeze in an extra touchdown they normally wouldn’t score. Carolina’s defense could add to the scoring with a defensive touchdown as well. I like Cam Newton to do his thing in primetime, and for Mike Glennon to fire away as many times as Vincent Jackson can handle. I’ll take the favorite here: Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 23 (TB +7/over 40.5)

NY Giants (1-6) @ Philadelphia (3-4): This is a really interesting rematch of a game played just three weeks ago in New Jersey. The Eagles jumped out to a 19-7 halftime lead with a 16-0 burst in the second quarter, blew the lead and then scored the game’s final 17 points to win 36-21. It took a 4-0 advantage in turnovers for them to do it though, and five of their drives stalled in scoring range making kicker Alex Henery a fantasy football hero.


Michael Vick makes this offense rev, and he’s in the lineup. Eli Manning counters with a lot of talent at wide receiver, but not much else on offense. There is too much pressure on him to do it all and he has responded with a ton of turnovers. Philly has a potent offense and horrific defense while New York is just below average on both sides of the ball. I think the difference here is turnovers like it was in the first meeting. Eli has to settle down, and the rest of the roster needs to play like there is still something to play for. It won’t be an issue against a bitter rival. Neither team is that good right now, and I don’t see either team in the playoffs. Still, I like the visitors in an upset: NY Giants 24, Philadelphia 21 (NYG +6/under 52)


San Francisco (5-2) @ Jacksonville (0-7): This is a classic mismatch. The Jaguars can’t score, having been held below 10 points already four times this season. The 49ers have a nasty defense that over the past four weeks has started to play up to their usual level. The reason is simple. After taking on three contenders, they have faced a string of teams unlikely to make the playoffs. It’s not just the defense getting it done either. The offense has gone 31-plus in all four of their recent wins, and five times this season. Now they face a defense that has allowed 34-plus four times.


It could get ugly, and I believe it will. Exhaustion is a factor in a game played overseas in London. Does Jacksonville really have it in them to put their bodies on the line against a physical team that is more talented? I doubt it, and I know San Francisco is up to this. About one-third of their roster has already played in London, and they need this win. The bye week is of course on deck for both teams, and I see the 49ers showing up ready to make a statement: San Francisco 31, Jacksonville 12 (SF -14.5/over 40.5)


Cleveland (3-4) @ Kansas City (7-0): Everyone is probably saying the Chiefs are the worst 7-0 team in history, and they better prepare themselves to make that the worst 8-0 team in history. The Browns come in with veteran Jason Campbell taking over  at quarterback and while the team sparked for a bit when Brian Hoyer grabbed the controls I seriously doubt we will see the same result here. This offense has mostly been stuck in neutral, putting up no more than 17 points in five of seven outings. Now they face a defense yet to allow any of their opponents to score over 17 points and you can do the math.


The first team to 20 is going to win this game, and I’m not sure either team will get there. Kansas City’s offense has done just enough to get them by, twice winning by 17-16 margins. As good as their defense is, the Cleveland defense is also quite stingy and can help keep them in this game with turnovers. Unfortunately, Alex Smith is a conservative quarterback known for protecting the ball. Even if the game stays tight into the final quarter I don’t see Jason Campbell leading a key drive to spring the upset. I do see field goals and punts galore with very few offensive highlights: Kansas City 16, Cleveland 12 (CLE +9/under 40)


Miami (3-3) @ New England (5-2): After the dominance of the Patriots for the past decade or so, the Dolphins can’t ask for much more than this. They can’t grab the AFC East lead here, but they can definitely serve notice they are in it to win it. Are they thought? Three losses in a row say otherwise and their season is on the line here. It’s looking like their 3-0 start was a fluke, even though they beat a really good Colts team in their building. Two losses at home against teams who are otherwise 2-4 (Baltimore, Buffalo) at home is not the way to win a division.


For New England, they have played a pair of 30-27 games the past two weeks and split them. Their true competitor in the division might be the Jets who just took them out in OT, a week after one of those “OK, we’re back” type of wins over the previously unbeaten Saints. How good is this team really? On defense, there are problems. Several key players are hurt, and the offense isn’t good enough to mask those issues, as they would have in years past. For crying out loud their passing offense is ranked behind Miami.


The Dolphins never want to run the ball though, and there is the rub for this game. They had to be watching Chris Ivory pounding away on the game film from last week and mull over the possibility of turning loose Lamar Miller – finally.  If they do that, there is no reason for me to believe they win this game and possibly handily. I’m not sure they do, and that’s why I still like the team led by Tom Brady against an average defense. He has lost enough (two of past three) and with the pressure of being only one up on the Jets they will be in assassin mode here: New England 27, Miami 21 (MIA +7/over 44.5)


Buffalo (3-4) @ New Orleans (5-1): Nothing is worse than having a week off following your first loss of the season, but this sets up really well for the Saints. They are at home, well rested, and facing an average team with an inexperienced quarterback. Their defense rocked in the first five weeks giving up no more than 18 points until the trip to New England. I expect them to get right back to business here.


The Bills have been an exciting team to watch all season. Only once has a game of theirs been decided by more than 7 points, and it was 30-24 until a pick-six late opened up the final margin of victory. They have allowed, and scored, at least 20 points in all of their games. It stands to reason New Orleans is going to be north of 20 here, but I’m not sure Buffalo will and that’s why I’m comfortable picking the Saints. They don’t need smoke and mirrors to stay in games and steal them late. They have Drew Brees. Heck, they don’t even necessarily need Jimmy Graham to win this game, and they might not have him. The Bills don’t have C.J. Spiller who would have been a valuable weapon to keep them close: New Orleans 30, Buffalo 17 (NO -11/under 49)


Dallas (4-3) @ Detroit (4-3): This is an intriguing matchup of the teams that annually host Thanksgiving games hooking up a few days before Halloween. The defenses are both near the bottom of the league, and believe it or not the Lions actually have the stronger offense on the stat sheet. The Cowboys come in on a defensive high having just shut down Philly 17-3 on the road. Detroit lost a tough one at home to Cincinnati 27-24 on a long field goal at the end. They have the edge being home in their dome and a bye week on deck to look forward to.


I also don’t like the Cowboys in a situation where they can relax. Now they are on top of the NFC East and feeling pretty good about themselves, probably overconfident. Their star receiver Dez Bryant is chatting about himself in relationship to Calvin Johnson who is probably laughing. Or quietly seething, but either way he’ll be ready. DeMarco Murray is out, and even if he’s not fully healthy his opposite number Reggie Bush presents an element on offense that gives the home team an edge here. There should be plenty of scoring, and Tony Romo is bound to make a crucial error to choke it away in the end: Detroit 28, Dallas 27 (DAL +3/over 50.5)


Pittsburgh (2-4) @ Oakland (2-4): This rivalry isn’t what it was in the 70’s, but it’s still fun to watch these teams get together. It might even turn into a defensive struggle reminiscent of a few of those battles back in the day. The Steelers are rounding into form on defense having allowed 22 points total the past two weeks in their first two wins of the year. The Raiders are above average on that side of the ball, but it hasn’t always translated in the points allowed department. Their offense has also been erratic, scoring more than 21 points just once. Of course, the Steelers have surpassed that mark only twice and lost both games.


So is this another first-to-20 wins the game? Yeah, I think it is. Terrelle Pryor gives Oakland the best chance to win games, but Dick LeBeau feasts on inexperienced quarterbacks and has Troy Polamalu healthy to wreak havoc. The Silver and Black are also a mess on the offensive line, as are the visiting Steelers but they have a study quarterback wearing a pair of Super Bowl rings. It should get ugly. Coaching is a factor here in close game. Mike Tomlin seems to have pulled his team back from the 0-4 start while Dennis Allen has yet to instill a culture of winning. It’s close though: Pittsburgh 20, Oakland 16 (PIT -1/under 41)


NY Jets (4-3) @ Cincinnati (5-2): Immediately I look at this and think the Bengals have to win. They do, right? It’s not that simple by any stretch of the imagination. Even with rookie Geno Smith at the controls, the Jets have only a slightly less impressive offense on the stat sheet and looking at the surrounding talent that’s hard to believe considering the Bengals have A.J. Green leading the way. On defense it’s a pair of top units, and the Jets have the edge.


The key for me here is the pass rush. I think Cincinnati can get after Smith and put him into bad situations on the road. He hasn’t been too bad on the road this year other than in Tennessee where they were swamped 38-13, but now it’s starting to get serious as the season wears on. This is the time teams begin to make their runs. The Bengals have been close in recent years and can smell taking the next step. Gritty wins like the past two weeks on the road winning twice by 27-24 margins are an example of their toughness.


I’m not saying New York can’t sweat out a win here. They can. I would rather go with the home team and more experience quarterback. The Jets expended a lot of energy taking down their rival New England last week and I think they will come here spent. Cincinnati has shown a lot of resilience this season and in a battle of teams who keep finding ways to win I like them by a whisker: Cincinnati 23, NY Jets 21 (NYJ +7/over 41)


Atlanta (2-4) @ Arizona (3-4): The Falcons are in trouble here. They just don’t know it. Last year when they were one play from the Super Bowl they came here and won by a 23-19 margin. Now their offense is on the bench and they expect to do what exactly? I know on paper they still have a top-10 offense, but the Cardinals have some corners who can figure out how to cover Harry Douglas while Roddy White and Julio Jones look on in street clothes. They can hold Tony Gonzalez to 100 yards or so and still win the game.


Offensively, I do worry about Arizona. Carson Palmer has no help from the running game, and turns it over too often. Most quarterbacks who have a weak offensive line and no balance on offense suffer this same fate. He has weapons though, and it’s not like Atlanta’s defense is stout this year. The Falcons have yet to hold a team below 23 points, and that includes Tampa Bay last week. It’s as if everyone saw them win a 31-23 decision over an awful team and declared them back in the wild card hunt. I don’t buy it.


Atlanta is always worse on the road and this is a tough place to play. Their offense has continued to put up points without key offensive components, but eventually it is going to catch up to them. The time is now. Arizona is fresh off a brutal double-header against NFC elite teams (San Franciso, Seattle). Now they get a third team from last year’s final four in the NFC playoffs. But if they can put up 20-plus points as they have been doing in most weeks  (five out of seven) this game is theirs for the taking. The Falcons are ready to flop, and I feel too nervous picking them here: Arizona 21, Atlanta 20 (ATL +3/under 46)


Washington (2-4) @ Denver (6-1): A game like this is a good one to show just how close the NFL really is from top to bottom. The Broncos appear to be the heavy favorite to crush the Redskins, but will they really? Their offense and passing game are the best in the NFL, but the unit they are facing is pretty good as well. Plus, Denver’s offense is even worse and I don’t want to hear anything about it being because of their offense. Beyond that, Washington has balance on offense and a neat little weapon in Roy Helu Jr. at their disposal. On the flip side, Denver has benched Ronnie Hillman for fumbling.


The Redskins saved their season last week, surviving Chicago 45-41 in a game they quite frankly should have won easily after Jay Cutler went down. Their defense is just not very good. The Broncos can’t play defense either, and it finally cost them a win in Indianapolis 39-33. If this is a game where the points flow on both sides, anything can happen. It could be similar to Denver’s 51-48 thriller over Dallas although I don’t see quite so many points going up here. Mike Shanahan wants to return home victorious and he knows running is the way to do that, thereby keeping Peyton Manning off the field. It works for a while, but eventually I think the Broncos handle their business and sweat this one out: Denver 30, Washington 27 (WAS +14/under 59)


Green Bay (4-2) @ Minnesota (1-5): Josh Freeman laid an egg on MNF and now the Vikings are back to Christian Ponder at quarterback on SNF. Nothing like watching your quarterback controversy play out on national television, huh? Ponder has millions of dollars and a new wife, but he has to know his career is on the line. I expect him to play like his future depends on it because it does. He has a motivated Greg Jennings against his former team and believe me the Packers probably wish their had him in the fold considering their rash of injuries at receiver and tight end. People are pointing to last year’s 37-34 thriller won by Minnesota with Ponder as a reason to think upset here and maybe they’re right.

Adrian Peterson is the key though, and he has suffered through a nightmare season on and off the field. He is part of an offense that really can’t move the ball, and defensively the team is even worse. Green Bay has a relentless offense, even though injuries have forced them to change it up just about every week. Their defense is average, albeit a notch down with Clay Matthews sidelined. One thing they are doing now is running the ball though, and that’s a big boost for their chances.


About the only thing that went right for Minnesota last week was allowing a season low in points against (23) but they have now scored a total of 17 points the past two weeks. I always say that at some point teams just quit and this appears to be a key spot for them to just that. It’s a rivalry game and it’s in primetime so those are two things keeping them going. Obviously they don’t want to look like trash on two different networks within a week’s time, but I’m not sure they can help it. I like the Pack to roll them here: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 17 (GB -8.5/over 46.5)


Seattle (6-1) @ St. Louis (3-4): Halloween comes a few days early for the Rams, and the nightmare begins with the opening kickoff. The Seahawks bring a nasty defense to take on a horrific offense that is now led by journeyman quarterback Kellen Clemens. Zac Stacy has been a boost to the running game, but that’s not saying much. This is going to be hard to watch. On defense St. Louis is below average and while Seattle doesn’t have household names all over their offense they do just fine.


Seattle is playing consecutive road games, but is on a mini-bye having played last week on TNF so the extra days will help them. Their defense hasn’t been suffocating in points allowed, having given up 20-plus in three of their past four, but this is a situation where they should revert back to the first two weeks of the season (10 total points). St. Louis had started to do some scoring prior to last week, but without Sam Bradford I don’t like their chances. On defense they flashed back to once again allow 30-plus points (fifth time this season) and while I don’t know if things get that bad here it’s certainly possible. This won’t be fun to watch: Seattle 27, St. Louis 10 (SEA -11/under 43)


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