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Tuesday, August 21 2018

NFL predictions 2014: Week 3

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The worst is behind me, thankfully. After two ridiculous weeks of NFL results I can finally settle in. Last week I was an abysmal 6-10 straight up (15-17 overall) and I honestly can never recall missing that many winners. I also went 6-10 against the spread (10-22 overall) but Las Vegas does not have a stranglehold on me because I was once again 10-6 on the over/under (20-12 overall). So there's that.

 

 

Tampa Bay (0-2) @ Atlanta (1-1): Football in Florida is not going well, yet again. At least college fans got a taste of a championship with the Seminoles of Florida State. In the pros, the three teams are a combined 1-5. It is hard to say if the Bucs or Jaguars are worse at this point, but clearly the Bucs came in the season with expectations of surprising some people. After last week's flat showing, a home loss to a Rams team starting some guy named Austin Davis at quarterback, the only surprise is how uninspired they look.

The Falcons were beaten up last week too, but they are always much weaker on the road and it was in Cincinnati against what clearly looks like a playoff team in the AFC. I have turned the page on that one and I am certain they have as well. This is TNF and the Georgia Dome will be rocking even more than in week 1 when they upset the rival Saints. Back indoors against a softer defense I look for their offense to rev right back into gear. Tampa Bay got a big game last week out of backup rusher Bobby Rainey (22 carries, 144 yards) but through two games their "twin towers" at wide receiver have been mostly ineffective. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson have 173 yards total this season, and 49 of those came on their longest respective reception. Their other 15 combined catches have therefore produced just just 124 yards for an 8.3-yard average. Not the explosive passing attack they had hoped for.

However, Atlanta's defense has been porous through two weeks. Of course, Cincinnati and especially New Orleans bring some firepower to the table. Tampa Bay will need head coach Lovie Smith to be at his best keeping them in this game. If they can stay close, things get interesting. If they fall behind, a team without a sack in this young season could start treating Josh McCown like a tackle dummy. I expect them to come out running and never stop, slowing the game to a crawl if possible. It will ultimately not work because it looks like "Matty Ice" has his group ready to compete this season. The offense is too much for the visitors here: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 20 (ATL -6.5/over 44.5)

Oakland (0-2) @ New England (1-1): Conspiracy theorists have often speculated the Raiders get shafted when it comes to the schedule. The early season slate certainly lends credence to that being a reality. In the opening month of games, they travel to the east coast twice and one of their two "home" games is across the pond. At least the frequent flyer miles will pile up. Maybe Mark Davis can trade those for a decent haircut. Either way, the first leg of their England double play is certainly the more difficult. The Patriots are a disciplined, well coached team, notably on their home field against a lesser opponent. 

This should be easy for New England. All they have to do is run right at Oakland, and eventually it will be a comfortable victory. Of course, it is never that easy in the NFL, or at least there is a chance for things to break against them. Rookie David Carr has played relatively well in his first two starts, but in terms of production the results are not there. He is now being asked to take a shaky running game with him on the road and try to match scoring drives with an offense led by Tom Brady. Good luck kid! Even if the NFL is all about passing now, team would rather run it because it is safer. Stevan Ridley will run until he fumbles. If he holds the ball, he might get it 25 times here and sail past 100 yards. If he does fumble, someone else will get it. Brady will convert third downs and this should be a rout. The Raiders might get some garbage points to make it look close at the end, nothing more: New England 34, Oakland 16 (NE -13/over 46.5)

San Diego (1-1) @ Buffalo (2-0): Are the Bills for real? Recent fast starts have not turned into playoff berths, so I am inclined to say they are not. In the meantime, they looked good on this field routing Miami last week. The Chargers looked great last week too, ending any hopes of the defending champion Seahawks running the table. It was a great win, but not one I am comfortable with them repeating. They possessed the ball and played keep-away for 42:15. Throwing out a 51-yard touchdown run by Percy Harvin, who stepped out of bounds, their opponents ran 12 times for 57 yards. Seattle quite simply never got going, and their defense gave up 10 third-down conversions. Going on the road, I doubt this happens again.

On the other side, how dominant was Buffalo really? They had just 13 first downs and had only one offensive touchdown. They won the turnover battle 2-0 and made a couple of big plays. I have often been burned by this team playing well at home in a game like this when I expect them to lose. Heck, it just happened. However, San Diego is the type of team capable of traveling for a victory. They are physically and mentally tough. Having played at home, followed by a quick jaunt to Arizona, fatigue is no issue for them. Donald Brown will need to acclimate to a more prominent role in a hurry to keep the offense in motion, and Antonio Gates is not going to repeat his three touchdown outing. They will do just enough to win: San Diego 23, Buffalo 20 (SD +2.5/under 46)

Tennessee (1-1) @ Cincinnati (2-0): Early on, it appears the Bengals are ready to do this. Their only obstacle is the health of wide receiver A.J. Green. If he can stay on the field, they are going to be in contention for the AFC North. The Titans had a great opener, routing the Chiefs on the road. Then they came home and got spanked by the Cowboys. What a difference a week makes. This type of inconsistency is what separates the pretenders from the contenders. DeMarco Murray ran them over, and here comes Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is salivating while looking at the game tape I am sure. Even if Green is out or limited, will it matter? They are going to run at them from the jump, coming off an outing where their backfield duo toted the rock 42 times. 

Jake Locker needs to play a lot better if he wants to stay with the team. He is not going to get much help from the running game here, unless he creates on his own scrambling. The first two weeks have proven that anything can happen in the NFL, but as the season progresses I get a clearer picture of what should happen. Here I am trying to figure out any way the Titans hit the road and look like they did in week 1 against a team that is much better than the Chiefs. I do not see it. I look for a sound performance from the home team and while it might not be a rout, the odds for an upset here are slim: Cincinnati 27, Tennessee 17 (CIN -6/over 42.5)

Baltimore (1-1) @ Cleveland (1-1): Wow, I thought the Browns had a chance this year to turn in some upsets it is looking like they might have bigger plans. First they turned in a stirring comeback to nearly take down the Steelers, then they finished the job against the Saints. I figured their defense would help them win close, low-scoring games. Instead, their totals have been 57 and 50. Now here come the well rested Ravens, fresh off a sound win over the aforementioned Steelers on TNF. Perhaps some of the spotlight is off them because Ray Rice is not the only NFL running back having issues with domestic violence. It is almost as if the position is cursed. First Rice, then Adrian Peterson, now Jonathan Dwyer. Even with the distraction lessened, now they might be without backup Bernard Pierce, putting a lot of pressure on Justin Forsett who is not a lead rusher. 

Last week, New Orleans came to this stadium and ran the ball successfully on the stat sheet, but two big runs produced a lot of the yardage and they did not have one player wearing down the defense. Their quarterback is Drew Brees, and nothing against Joe Flacco, but he is not in the same class. He also does not have the same weapons at his disposal. I am torn on this game. It looks like Cleveland should be able to ride their early season wave to a win. However, Baltimore is the battle tested team with the experienced quarterback and coaching staff. It is an interesting dilemma. Will the Browns be in for a letdown after their emotional win? Will the Ravens be able to duplicate their strong effort on extra rest? I never flip a coin to make a pick, but I can choose home field by the slimmest possible margin: Cleveland 20, Baltimore 19 (CLE +2.5/under 44.5)

Green Bay (1-1) @ Detroit (1-1): Did we learn much about these two teams last week? The Lions are a worse team outdoors, and perhaps the only thing to glean from their big loss is that their offense is best when they are playing with a lead. Three turnovers helped their offense go from a 35-point showcase in the opener to a 7-point dud. The Packers played pretty poorly in the first 6 1/2 quarters of this season, getting outscored 57-19. A pedestrian Jets offense was up 21-3 on them in front of their fans. They have Aaron Rodgers, and both sides of the ball got it going for a comeback win. At this point I know they have potential, just as their opponent this week. 

Due to injury, Rodgers only played in one dome last year and it was Minnesota. He threw for 285 yards and they won 44-31. He played in domes four times in 2012, and the team went 2-2. His numbers were good, not great, and the offense always scored at least 24 points. I expect some scoring here. This is the always popular shootout. Matthew Stafford has a better top receiver in Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, and this season one might even argue comparable overall options. Rushing successfully is always what beats a good quarterback, and this defense has the ability to do it. Green Bay's offensive line is weakened and the loud dome is not going to help. This is one of those games where I tend to pick the home team and hope. It gives me pause considering how poorly the Lions looked on offense last week, but in a wide-open NFC North they have to protect their home field: Detroit 27, Green Bay 24 (DET -1/under 53)

Dallas (1-1) @ St. Louis (1-1): Anyone who knows fantasy football is well aware of how much DeMarco Murray owns the Rams. Last week Murray helped the Cowboys run over the Titans on the road. Elsewhere, these Rams stole a win on the road over the Bucs thanks to Greg Zuerlein's four field goals. In his first start at quarterback Austin Davis handled himself quite well. After two weeks I believe Dallas is not as bad on defense as most believed before the season. They can function in stretches, even if their middle linebacker spot is a major weakness due to injuries or some sort of curse. St. Louis can bring it on defense, and might have just enough offense to keep things interesting this season. 

My big thing here is the running game. Bobby Rainey was all over these guys last week, and did not have the supporting cast Murray brings with him here. Tony Romo will be rushed, but not as much as he would have if Chris Long was in uniform. He has a pretty good offensive line working for him, and if the running game works they will be just fine. This could still go either way. Romo is turnover prone, as we all know. If he throws a pick-six, the outlook could change dramatically. Perhaps the Rams even get their running game going and get an edge in time of possession to take the pressure off their defense. I am going quarterback here: Dallas 20, St. Louis 17 (DAL -1/under 45.5)

Minnesota (1-1) @ New Orleans (0-2): If you had the Vikings entering this game with a better record than the Saints, congratulations on perfecting time travel. It will not remain this way for long. New Orleans needs this home opener in a big way. The schedule makers certainly helped them dig this hole, putting them in Atlanta and then outdoors in Cleveland to open. Still, they should have won both games and have no one else to blame. Minnesota had a glimmer of hope after their opening victory, but the Adrian Peterson situation crushed their offense. Matt Asiata is a plodder and Jerrick McKinnon is not ready for an expanded role in his rookie season. As bad as he has been in Jacksonville, they miss Toby Gerhart.

I see a huge mismatch here. New Orleans is angry, at home against a team not ready to match punches with them in any way, shape or form. There is hardly anything to this prediction. It's all feel. Minnesota just got hammered on the road against a contender and here comes another one. Their veteran quarterback Matt Cassel is nothing without a running game or defense to support him, and probably is starting to wonder when the team will turn to rookie Tedy Bridgewater. I rarely predict blowouts, so this one gives me pause: New Orleans 34, Minnesota 14 (NO -9.5/under 51)

Houston (2-0) @ NY Giants (0-2): Being good at predictions is easy, being great takes a little bit of luck and expecting the unexpected. The Giants just lost at home to a Cardinals team starting Drew Stanton at quarterback. In truth, they simply fell apart at the end of the game thanks in part to a punt return touchdown. Four turnovers were their undoing, and a good defense certainly played a part in that. The Texans were on the other side of a 4-0 turnover edge, and that is why they were able to wipe out the Raiders 30-14 on the road. They ran right over them with Arian Foster, who is uncertain to play here. 

Heading into this season, this was a tossup. Now that the perception is Houston being the stronger team, I am very tempted to go against the grain here. Eli Manning has to deal with J.J. Watt, but Oakland's offensive line managed him pretty well last week. Rookie Jadaveon Clowney is going to change that when he gets back on the field. Until then, he can be doubled up. As poor as Manning has looked, he is going up against a team led by Ryan Fitzpatrick. In this stadium, I give the edge to Manning. His team is against the wall early in the year facing an opponent that quite frankly might be overconfident at this stage of the season. In an ugly game, the star is running back Rashad Jennings: NY Giants 24, Houston 21 (NYG +2.5/over 41)

Washington (1-1) @ Philadelphia (2-0): After the first week, I would have not imagined giving the Redskins a shot in this game. Then Robert Griffin III's injury put Kirk Cousins in at quarterback and the offense went off. Now, there is at least a chance for an upset. The Eagles continue to do what they do best, which is score points. If a team can put up 30-plus points, wins are going to come. Few opponents can keep up with that type of production. Darren Sproles was the weapon of choice last week in Indianapolis, aiding another comeback win. How much of what Washington did last week was the Jaguars being terrible? Ten sacks is a big number, and it will not be repeated against this fast-paced offense. Therefore, it has little bearing on this outcome.

Division rival games are a different deal. Last year, even when they were in the midst of a lost season the Redskins stayed close here before losing 24-16. This is the first team to have faced Chip Kelly's offense for a third time, but it is a different coaching staff. Jay Gruden versus Chip Kelly should be a lot of fun to watch. Gruden will want to control the game with Alfred Morris. Kelly could care less. He just wants to score, and then score again. He probably thinks about scoring while washing his hair. When the dust settles, his team produces more points so this is a simple pick: Philadelphia 30, Washington 20 (PHI -5/under 51.5)

Indianapolis (0-2) @ Jacksonville (0-2): Almost everyone expected the Jaguars to be in this hole. The Colts, not so much. Fortunately for the defending AFC South champs, the worst of their schedule is over. They can easily vault right back to the top of the standings, and I expect them to do just that. On MNF, Andrew Luck ran out of magic. Now he has to take his dome team outdoors on the road, and this is a tough situation. However, this opponent has proven to be quite hapless early on. Their offensive line was crushed last week, and in the past six quarters they have been outscored a horrific 75-10. What can we expect from them here? Their best, I expect, because that is what teams do after getting embarrassed. 

The Jaguars are not what they were supposed to be on defense, and with the offense unable to do much the losses could pile up quickly. The Colts are soft on defense, but still very capable on offense. That's the difference here. They know how important this win is. Luck owns this division, much the way Peyton Manning did when he wore the horseshoe on his helmet. He will not let this win slip away. It might be close though, because weather is a factor, and they are traveling on a short week: Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 16 (IND -6/under 45.5)

San Francisco (1-1) @ Arizona (2-0): The odds of the Cardinals being alone atop the NFC West at any point during this season had to be astronomical considering both of the teams in last year's championship game are in the division. Well, here they are, even with Drew Stanton as their current starting quarterback. It worked last week on the road against the Giants. This week, it is a little bit of a different situation. The 49ers clearly are vulnerable on defense, but they are still a very good team. Last week their stadium opening was crashed by the Bears, who exposed their defensive deficiencies and limited offense.

The domestic violence issue is front and center here, with 49er defensive lineman Ray McDonald starting the game while the system plays out, and Cardinal backup running back Jonathan Dwyer suspended. There is not much else to say because I do not see either team distracted too much. It gives the announcers something to talk about, although San Francisco's radio man probably will bite his tongue considering he was suspended the first two weeks for his comments. On the field, we knew the 49ers were in trouble early on this year. Their defense has too many missing parts. Their offense was not going to be fixed by adding Stevie Johnson and having Michael Crabtree healthy. They are going to slug this one out, because the roster has enough studs left to carry them, and a scheme to force Stanton into mistakes: San Francisco 24, Arizona 20 (SF -2.5/over 42)

Kansas City (0-2) @ Miami (1-1): The Chiefs reversed course after a shameful week 1 loss at home to the Titans, giving the Broncos all they could handle on the road. Then again, I think they were playing a team looking past them towards a Super Bowl rematch. The Dolphins flipped as well, going from an impressive home win over the Patriots to a convincing loss on the road to the Bills. Home sweet home right? Florida in September is a nice advantage. Kansas City comes here with Jamaal Charles possibly out, and while Knile Davis looked good last week he is not the same caliber weapon. This is a pretty good defense he is facing as well. 

I see no surprise here. The Chiefs went up against a division rival and gave them a scare. It was more fluke than trend. Their offensive line is not ready for this pass rush on the road. The Dolphins are having a hard time keeping a running back healthy, but they should be able to move the ball through the air with Ryan Tannehill. If they had their backfield in order, it might be a blowout. Instead, it is more like a steady win for a team getting back on course, over a team now in a world of trouble: Miami 26, Kansas City 17 (MIA -3/over 41.5)

Denver (2-0) @ Seattle (1-1): Games do not get bigger than Super Bowl rematches. The Broncos were overwhelmed by the Seahawks 43-8, getting worked over from start to finish. It was never a game. Now, things are much different. The rules are being enforced differently this year. If Peyton Manning's receiving targets are allowed to run free just a little bit more, his chances of delivering them the ball on time to avoid the rush go up exponentially. Seattle was put away last week in San Diego, big time. They were literally run over. Forget about that game. It was on the road, and nothing is going to happen the same way here. This is a different atmosphere as well. The Chargers are just another team, and clearly overlooked by the defending champs.

I look for the Seahawks to get back to what works for them, which is running the ball. They never had the chance in their loss last week. The Broncos would love to maintain possession for nearly three-quarters of the game, but I am not so sure their running game has the ability to pull it off. Actually, I think this game will go much the way of my Super Bowl prediction. I expected Seattle to win, but not totally dominate. Denver gets their points this time, but not the revenge they seek because last week made the champs angry. They will not fall flat at home: Seattle 28, Denver 20 (SEA -4.5/under 49)

Pittsburgh (1-1) @ Carolina (2-0): The Panthers might be for real, again. Winning the turnover battle 3-0 was very helpful in drubbing the Lions 24-7 last week, much in the same way the Steelers were whipped by the Ravens 26-6 thanks to a 3-0 deficit in the turnover margin. Turnovers are impossible to predict, and change the results dramatically. I do not believe Pittsburgh is as bad as they looked, and the same goes for Carolina the other way. It was a big game for Cam Newton in his season debut though, and with the ground game stalled he carried the offense. 

Primetime is a factor here, with the SNF audience watching. Pittsburgh is just 6-9 under the lights since 2011 and that is a serious trend. They are well rested after playing on TNF though, so that works in their favor. It should be a tight, low-scoring affair. The league is seeing so much scoring that games like this have become pretty rare. Carolina might have their full backfield suited up, and that helps their chances quite a bit because Pittsburgh suddenly is unable to stop the run. I look for them to get this done and continue their early season success: Carolina 20, Pittsburgh 16 (CAR -3/under 42)

Chicago (1-1) @ NY Jets (1-1): Does it get much better than spoiling the stadium opening of an opponent? The Bears go from SNF to MNF on their road tour, visiting two of the most expensive stadiums in the league in the process. I am hard pressed to see how they can possibly muster up the energy, considering the travel involved, to repeat their effort. The Jets collapsed on the road last week, blowing a 21-3 against the Packers in controversial fashion, losing 31-24 when a "timeout" erased a potential tying touchdown. They are mad, and certainly want to show well in a rare primetime performance. 

The front line for New York is very good. They are going to make Jay Cutler throw the ball. He has the two wide receivers on either side to make them pay, especially against a patchwork secondary. However, if they can rush him into his patented poor throws, turnovers can shift the momentum of this game in a hurry. On the other side, young Geno Smith is going up against a soft defense. He lacks accuracy, but has the running backs behind him to move the chains. Four turnovers helped the Bears last week and Rex Ryan will put the clamps on his offense here as a result. The Jets want to keep it low scoring and protect the ball. They flip the script here and get a win: NY Jets 19, Chicago 17 (CHI +2.5/under 46.5)

 

 

NFL predictions 2014: Week 3 | 22 comments | Create New Account
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NFL predictions 2014: Week 3
Authored by: dbsmall onFriday, September 19 2014

Week 1, I went 12-4, straight up.

Week 2, I went 9-7.  So I guess I'm at 21-11, so far, which isn't bad.  It's so good, in fact, that I may stay ahead of norcalfella for a couple of weeks!

My risky picks for week 3:

 

ATL

SD
PHI
CIN
STL
HOU
BAL
GB
IND
NE
NO
SF
DEN
KC
CAR

CHI
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