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Friday, November 17 2017

NFL predictions 2013: Week 9

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I finally had a week I can feel pretty good about. If not for going against my favorite team (Oakland) I would have been perfect straight up, but 12-1 (80-40 overall) is fine I guess. There are 21 people ahead of me, and Ron Jaworski (87-33) is still at the top of the pack. A computer (CBS Prediction Machine) is second (85-35). If you’re curious, two people did go 13-0 although since someone in the office pool I play in did as well I’m not going to offer details on their identities.

 

 

Against the spread I had some stupid mistakes and went 6-7 (59-59-1 overall) which is why I can’t seem to get ahead. It could have been a magical week on the over/under if the Miami kicker didn’t screw me. Trailing 27-17 to New England in a game I called 27-20 to the Patriots all he had to do was kick the ball and put the game over 44 ½. Of course, New Orleans led 28-17 in a game I called 30-17. All they had to do was run out the clock, or even kick a field goal to leave the game under 49 for me. Nope, Brees goes deep to Stills for a touchdown. We won’t even talk about my under 59 in the Washington/Denver game that was 7-7 at halftime. Yikes. So I went 9-4 (69-53 overall) and hope to do as well this week.

 

Cincinnati (6-2) @ Miami (3-4): This game is going to give me an ulcer. For the average viewer it seems like an easy call for the Bengals. They just rolled the Jets 49-9 right? This is a layup. Meanwhile the Dolphins just keep losing, most recently blowing a 17-3 lead at New England. They have a shaky offense, mediocre defense and at the moment seem pretty rudderless. All of that makes this a typical trap game for the visitors.

 

I love the resiliency shown by Cincinnati this season. They entered the year with expectations, went on Hard Knocks to put a target on their backs and have shown very well for themselves halfway through the season. The AFC North is theirs to lose. Their offense and defense are both top-10, which is typically a winning recipe. However, I don’t like their reliance on the passing game because if the timing is off things can go south in a hurry. Miami’s pass rush could make that happen.

 

I don’t know that either team can really win this game by running the ball. They are both likely to be at or around 100 yards for the game. It comes down to throwing the rock and protecting the ball. The turnover battle is going to be key. Cincinnati is -1 on the season and Miami is -3, so that’s not much help. I just have to take the better team here and hope nothing screwy happens, but I see this as a very close game without the crazy scoring we have seen from some of these TNF tilts: Cincinnati 24, Miami 20 (CIN -2.5/over 42.5)

Atlanta (2-5) @ Carolina (4-3): I felt like last week was the last stand for the Falcons in the desert and they failed miserably. Now they are the most talented spoilers in the league trying to bring everyone else down. It’s a sad irony that Tony Gonzalez is stuck having to watch his former team, Kansas City, at 8-0 with Super Bowl dreams. My deal here is that last year these teams played two high scoring games and split. The Panthers actually could have won the first meeting, but choked at the end. Now they are the team with something to lose, and that actually works against them.

 

A one-dimensional Atlanta offense is ranked just outside the top-10 even without their top two wide receivers in action, but won’t look like it here. Carolina’s defense is top shelf. Cam Newton leads an awful passing offense, but against a shaky defense I don’t think it matters. Maybe they get Jonathan Stewart back to bolster their running game which is already effective. The ability to pound the ball against a team that is effectively out of the playoff chase is key.

 

I like the team that is on a roll here. The Panthers got a couple extra days off after their TNF romp while the Falcons just had their playoff dreams crushed and of course never play as well outdoors on grass: Carolina 28, Atlanta 17 (CAR -7.5/over 43.5)

 

Minnesota (1-6) @ Dallas (4-4): Both teams are off ugly losses, but in much different ways. The Vikings just keep losing and have very little hope in sight. The Cowboys lost a thriller they should have won, yet somehow still stand atop the NFC East. Now they get a game they simply can’t afford to lose, at home, and if they blow this heads are going to roll for sure.

 

It’s kind of funny because these are two of the three worst defenses in the league hooking up. If Christian Ponder is feeling good this could get more interesting than the home team would like. They did somehow score 31 points on MNF after all, and I say somehow because it came on just 243 total yards of offense. The kickoff return score helped. Their defense is guaranteed to give up points though, having giving up at least 31 points to five opponents and barely holding the other two (27, 23) to much less.

 

For Dallas, the points for and against have been pretty erratic. They laid a few relative eggs scoring 16, 21 and 17 while losing two of those games. They allowed 17, 7, 16 and 3 in four games and won three of those affairs. I think it sets up nice for them to coast here. The blow up on the sidelines with Dez Bryant is the kind of thing that can light a fire under a team trying to get on a roll. They might have otherwise entered this game overconfident at 5-3 looking ahead to next week at New Orleans. Instead their focus should be firmly on the lowly opponent: Dallas 31, Minnesota 15 (DAL -10/under 48)

 

New Orleans (6-1) @ NY Jets (4-4): Buddy Ryan will be smiling down (or up if you’re into that sort of humor) from somewhere watching this game. His twin sons are going to duel from opposite sidelines trying to outsmart each other. Rex is the head coach of the Jets and seems to have saved his job with a solid start to the season although last week’s butt-whipping in Cincinnati didn’t show it. The truth is, they are good every other week and that has been the pattern all year. On the other sideline, Rob is the defensive coordinator for a Saints defense that has surged after a disastrous 2012 campaign.

 

It’s a total mismatch at quarterback with Drew Brees vs. rookie Geno Smith. Rob isn’t going to let the rookie off easy, of that you can be sure. Rex will need to get creative against Brees, but you can bet he’ll have his guys trying to knock him around. I can’t wait to see how this turns out. New York is certainly going to win the battle running the ball, and stands a good chance to have a big edge in time of possession. Brees isn’t as sharp outdoors in the elements, and he’ll get cold waiting on the sidelines if his defense allows long drives.

 

I think this game could get interesting, and might be fairly low scoring. It’s easy to perceive New Orleans as a scoring machine every week, but they were held to 39 points over the first two games of the season before getting hot. They also average 23 points scored in three road games, and that’s about where I see them here. Their defense has been terrific though, holding every team other than New England to no more than 18 points, and I find it hard to see the Jets going much over that. Their “boom” weeks were 27, 30 and 30 with two of those coming at home, where they have also posted 18 and 6. It’s a guessing game. I’ll take Sean Payton and Drew Brees: New Orleans 24, NY Jets 17 (NO -5.5/under 46)

 

Tennessee (3-4) @ St. Louis (3-5): This has to be one of the better games pairing up losing teams that I can remember. Both of these teams can play, but a few breaks have gone against them and that’s the difference between winning and losing. The Rams will be motivated by their head coach facing the team he basically coached for a generation, but have the unenviable task of tacking on another physical opponent on a short week. Teams coming off playing Seattle do not fare well.

 

The Titans, on the other hand, are well rested off their bye week and have Jake Locker fully back in the fold. Contrast that against Kellen Clemens at the helm of an offense that wasn’t good with the regular starting quarterback and I think you see where this is going. Both defenses can bring the heat, and at times are much better than their middling rankings would indicate. Against poor, fairly one-dimensional opposing offenses this could turn into a defensive struggle.

 

I know Jeff Fisher wants this win, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he somehow got it. However, last week his team put together possibly their best game of the season and still came up short. Can they really rev it up again less than a week later with a 3-5 record pretty much out of the playoff hunt? In the MNF tilt they could have pulled within two games of the division lead. Now it’s a losing proposition. Conversely, the visitors are trying to reach .500 with a wild card very much within reach. I suppose there is the whole “win one for Bud Adams” thing too: Tennessee 21, St. Louis 17 (TEN -2.5/under 39.5)

 

Kansas City (8-0) @ Buffalo (3-5): I was completely prepared to call this the shocking upset until I started to think about who might start at quarterback for the Bills. Jeff Tuel and Matt Flynn are getting reps in practice. If either of those guys is starting they have no chance whatsoever, and I’m not sure I can risk going against an undefeated team with a lights out defense in this spot given that possibility. Last year early in the season the Chiefs were swamped 35-17 by these guys, and maybe that result is weighing on my mind.

 

These defenses each have their bright spots, and while Kansas City gets more deserved credit it’s not like Buffalo can’t make plays. Neither offense is imposing, and neither team possesses multiple dangerous threats. They both like to run and hope for the best quite frankly, and obviously one team has done more to close out games. Points do matter ultimately, and I’m concerned by Buffalo’s inability to hold any teams below 20 points this year. Of course, last week was the first time they failed to score 20 (35-17 loss to New Orleans) so there’s that.

 

If the Chiefs score even 17 points, they win, as they have done twice already this season. The rest of their games they have made it to at least 23 and for all the talk of how overrated they are, they have five wins by more than one score. It’s completely accurate that they have yet to play anyone, having gone through a schedule of teams all below .500 other than 4-4 Dallas. However, the defense is good enough to keep them going here. Their +12 turnover differential also helps. I think they ride Jamaal Charles to another ugly victory: Kansas City 21, Buffalo 20 (BUF +4/over 39.5)

 

San Diego (4-3) @ Washington (2-5): This should be fun. Last week I kind of thought the same thing when the Redskins went to Denver and it didn’t turn out that way. This time we probably are going to get the offensive show fans like to see these days with productive offenses taking on suspect defenses. The Chargers have to travel across the country, which is never easy, but at least they are rested off the bye week. They were starting to get on a roll with consecutive wins over the Colts and Jags by a combined 43-15.

 

Washington is almost in a spiral. Their defense has given up 86 points the past two weeks and has now allowed 27 points in every game that Matt Flynn was not the opposing starting quarterback. Get your calculators ready. These pass defenses have each allowed over 270 yards per game, and San Diego has just 3 interceptions (Washington has 7) so don’t expect too many drives to be stopped by picks. The Bolts are led by the better pure passer and Rivers has been considerably more accurate, 15% better if you’re scoring at home.

 

Maybe the Redskins will stick to running the ball, and Robert Griffin III is going to do what he did the two games prior to last week, but that’s a guessing game. On paper, they should considering the Chargers allow an NFL worst 4.8 yards per rush. It’s not like they can stop the run either, so we’re back to the high-scoring thriller. Is Philip Rivers going to be in gunslinger mode and looking like Peyton Manning at the end of last week’s game in Denver? He might, but I think the Shanahans regroup here against another AFC West foe and steal a win: Washington 30, San Diego 28 (WAS +1/over 51)

 

Philadelphia (3-5) @ Oakland (3-4): Two of the top rushing offenses hook up in the Black Hole, but this is all about the quarterbacks. It’s back to Nick Foles for Chip Kelly’s “revolutionary” offense that has fallen flat at the NFL level. On the other side it is Terrelle Pryor, who hasn’t done much throwing the ball, but is a serious weapon in the open field running with the rock. There is a huge disparity on defense here, and that’s really the difference. The Raiders are amazingly a top 10 unit after basically starting from scratch on that side of the ball. The Eagles are almost the worst in the league.

 

Other than Denver, no team has really been able to hang a big number on Oakland’s defense. They are the only team to score more than 24 and the two times they allowed that much were aided by non-offensive scoring. On the flip side, the Raiders have had a tough time scoring. Philadelphia can relate, having put up 10 points total over the past two weeks. Their defense gave up only 32 in those games, but was gouged in the first month of the season for 27, 33, 26 and 52 points. It’s not like their offense has been inept all year, having scored 30-plus four times, but with Michael Vick sidelined it’s a different story. I’m calling an easy win for the home team and they are still in the wild card hunt: Oakland 24, Philadelphia 13 (OAK -1/under 45)

 

Tampa Bay (0-7) @ Seattle (7-1): Things are so bad for Greg Schiano that I actually heard the team was waiting to fire him until after this expected thrashing because they didn’t want the interim head coach to endure it. Well, I do think it’s going to be a thrashing, but there are signs the Seahawks better take the Bucs seriously even if this is in their version of Thunderdome where the other team never leaves alive.

 

Sidney Rice is lost for the season and Percy Harvin isn’t healthy enough to ostensibly replace him this week. They turned in a putrid offensive showing last week in St. Louis, a far cry from the group that has posted 28-plus points on four occasions this year. Naturally the defense looked awesome, holding a fifth opponent to 17 points or less. It was also the fourth time a team was unable to score multiple touchdowns on them this season and without two scores it’s tough to beat anyone.

 

We’ve already established Tampa Bay can’t win this one. Their defense has faded since the bye week, giving up 31 points in three straight. At the very least they are rested for the long plane trip having come off a TNF appearance while their opponent is on a short week from MNF. I just don’t think being tired matters here. It’s the effort level. Once Seattle knocks the visitors to the mat, so to speak, it should get ugly in a hurry. Mike Glennon has never played in a stadium like this and I expect a handful of mistakes from him to add points for the home team. Wash away last week and forget about Rice being out. This is a rout: Seattle 38, Tampa Bay 6 (SEA -15.5/over 40.5)

 

Baltimore (3-4) @ Cleveland (3-5): I hate having to call this game. It’s a rematch, but honestly it doesn’t make it any easier to call. Neither team made it to 300 total yards in the first meeting, won 14-6 by the Ravens who had the game’s only turnover and came back from a 6-0 halftime deficit. Jason Campbell actually appeared late in the game, and this time of course he’s starting. He handled last week at Kansas City extremely well given the circumstances and gives the Browns a legitimate chance to win this game.

 

Forget all of it, Baltimore is off a bye week and this is their moment to defend the title or wash out the season entirely. The offenses are below average here for different reasons. Cleveland’s defense is better and neither team can run the ball a lick. If the Browns force Joe Flacco to pass the ball a ton, turnovers could doom the defending champs. By the same token, Campbell is going to be tormented by a pass rush again and while he held up last week that’s no guarantee he does it again.

 

In two division games, Cleveland has played low scoring slugfests totaling 20 and 23 points. Baltimore’s other game in the AFC North was a 19-16 loss to Pittsburgh. I tend to think defense rules the day here again, just not as much as the first meeting. I can’t go with the dogs here because I don’t trust their ability to control the action and come through in the clutch. Even if the visitors are struggling to run the ball, they still have Joe Cool relaxed off the bye week to guide them: Baltimore 23, Cleveland 19 (BAL -1/over 41)

 

Pittsburgh (2-5) @ New England (6-2): The Steelers had their last stand in Oakland and blew it. I don’t know how they can hit the road against a team that keeps finding a way to win and gets it done. Of course, this is the NFL and anything is possible. The one thing working for the visitors is a defense struggling to stop the run. Without Wilfork and Mayo, the Patriots are not the same team. On offense, Tom Brady is coming off a horrific outing and is starting to pick up some doubters in his ability to carry an offense no matter what.

 

On paper this is two average offenses, and Pittsburgh has the far superior defense. If this game was at Heinz Field I probably would be calling for the upset. I feel as if it’s time to write the obituary for the Steelers though. They did everything they could to lose last week including two short field goals going wide right. The blown kicks helped them fail to reach 20 points for the fifth time already this season and it’s not like they lit it up the other two games (23 and 27 in losses). Yes, the defense has held opponents to no more than 21 points five times, but if it’s close who are you taking?

 

At quarterback I’m fine backing Ben Roethlisberger, but he has no help. New England for all their problems has still posted 23-plus points six times this year and while their defense is weakened we all know Bill Belichick is going to crazy glue things together. Their bye week is on deck and all of their effort will be focused on getting this victory: New England 24, Pittsburgh 21 (PIT +7.5/over 43)

 

Indianapolis (5-2) @ Houston (2-5): This was looking like a killer matchup when the schedule came out, but instead it’s a formality it seems for the Colts to take the AFC South from the Texans on SNF. The funny part about breaking this game down is that the home team has the better offense, both are above average, and the league’s top-ranked defense while the Colts are below average. This is why stats can be for losers at times.

 

Off the bye week Indianapolis has had a chance to absorb the loss of Reggie Wayne and formulate a plan on offense. It’s a bummer for them because they had been on a roll posting 27-plus points in four of their past five games. Houston is also off their bye week, and no doubt spent it working on making quarterback Case Keenum a competent successor to Matt Schaub. The Texans haven’t scored more than 20 points since week 2 and not coincidentally have not won since then either. It’s  nice to have the defense on the stat sheet, but allowing 23-plus points in your first six games isn’t great.

 

I think Keenum can sling it, and he will. What does he, or this team, have to lose? The answer is nothing, and on the road it makes for a tough situation Indy is in. As many big games as they have already won (San Francisco, Seattle, Denver) they aren’t really veterans at this situation on national television. Remember the MNF stinker at San Diego? They lost 19-9, looking like a different team than the one that won their other two road games by a combined 64-10. I’ll take the whole season into consideration and still run with them here because it makes the most sense, but this is no lock: Indianapolis 31, Houston 24 (IND +0/over 44)

 

Chicago (4-3) @ Green Bay (5-2): Where is Jay Cutler when you need him? This was going to be an awesome clash on MNF with serious implications in the NFC North. Instead it’s looking like the Aaron Rodgers show. Both offenses are in the top 10, but the Bears aren’t the same with Josh McCown at the helm. The Packers also have the better defense even with Clay Matthews sidelined. I’m trying to find a way this game ends up a different way, but I don’t see it.

 

Right now I see Green Bay getting on a roll. They are starting to run the ball and have a quartet of bad teams on their November schedule (Eagles, Giants, Vikings next). These guys are going to be 9-2 when they head to Detroit on Thanksgiving, and you can bank on that. Chicago is rested off their bye week, but with the Lions and Ravens on deck could be staring at 4-6 if they aren’t careful. Their defense has given up 30-plus points three times already and has not held a team below 21.

 

The Pack has gone 28-plus five times now and are peaking. Their defense had been on a roll allowing 9, 17 and 13 points prior to last week’s 44-31 win at Minnesota. It’s a rivalry game, but I don’t see anything funny going on here. It’s a comfortable win for the home team and no drama for the national audience: Green Bay 28, Chicago 17 (GB -10.5/under 50.5)

 

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